Tag: Americana

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Recently, I have seen four movies about artificial intelligence. Ex Machina, the Machine, Automata and Her. I liked all four, but I could only recommend two because there is only so much time in the day. I think that this kind of selective elimination will become ever more present in our lives for two simple […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Suckers for Jesus! Or, Holy Kitsch!

 

I can’t call it “only in America,” because kitschy and silly, though harmless, religious trinkets seem to be a universal phenomenon. Still, there is something endearingly American about this online Christian storefront, selling Testamints, crucifix-shaped lollies, gourmet Scripture suckers, chocolate tulips (must be for the Calvinists), and little gummy Jesus “footsteps”: show that you walk in His footsteps by eating His feet!

“Take and eat… do this in remembrance of me.” In a religion based on the Eucharist, I suppose it’s not exactly blasphemous to consume Jesus in gummy form, though I doubt my grandmother would have agreed: she would have seen candy shaped like all or any part of Jesus as blasphemously irreverent, even if abstract religious symbols were commonplace in eats where she came from. Part of the wider Christian culture in America is to downplay aesthetic differences: high church or low, contemporary or old-fashioned, why argue adiaphora, huh? At the same time, aesthetics go to the heart of worship: whatever we think “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” means, it only seems fitting to give of our best (whatever that is) in acts of reverence. Religious kitsch occupies a funny place, not just strange, but amusing — and not just amusing to snobs who wish to disdain the rubes. The Babylon Bee, a favorite site of many of us here, often pokes fun at Christian kitsch, and it could hardly be said to disdain American Christians: it pokes fun at the kitsch because it’s run by American Christians.

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

One of my favorite things to do in Denver while visiting with my in-laws is hop in the car on a Friday or Saturday morning and hit garage sales. These events are fundamentally conservative and American, and happen to be great fun. Yes, you haul home good stuff you bought for a song, but these […]

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On Slack today, @exjon observed, “Condemning Nazis is the easiest political move in history. It costs Trump nothing.” I disagreed. There are a lot of ordinary people who fear that “Nazi”, at least these days, is chiefly a stick that elitists use to beat the proles. This fear, as many Trump voters like to put is, […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Dreamland – A Review

 

Billed as “the true tale of America’s Opiate epidemic,” Sam Quinones’s Dreamland is a pretty quick read considering it’s about 350 pages. The blurbs on the back promise “expert storytelling,” and I suppose it is. The storytelling is good enough to make me wonder how heavily Quinones selected for stuff that would make a good story, while other stuff, equally true and relevant, but less dramatic, got discarded along the way. Quinones focuses on the marketing of OxyContin as a safe prescription drug, its subsequent abuse, the spread of a new means of dealing black tar heroin, and the connection between these, telling the tale of several colorful characters along the way.

To Quinones, the spread of opiate use to white America – not just to impoverished “rust belt” regions, but also to the offspring of the wealthy, managerial class – is fraught with moral meaning, though perhaps contradictory moral meaning. Heroin tempts us when we’re too wealthy, when we’re too poor, because we feel entitled to pain relief, because we don’t feel entitled to stop when it hurts but instead succumb to pressure to tough it out by any means necessary; it tempts us when we’re underwhelmed by life, it tempts us when we’re overwhelmed… Opiates are both the new party drug and the new drug of social isolation… Addiction is simultaneously a moral indictment of American consumerist excess during the pre-crash boom, a testament to post-crash misery, and an illness which deserves less moral stigma than it gets. Forgive me for suspecting at times that, to Quinones, opiates serve mostly as a random moral generator.

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Waitress

 

She works in a diner called the Desert Rose which sits along the northwestern edge of Colorado, near the Utah border. It’s a small and undistinguished affair, worn and weathered but always brightly lit and burning like a little beacon in that high American wasteland. Triangles of cherry pie sit bleeding in the pie case, and strips of honey-yellow flypaper spiral down from the low stucco ceiling.

She was born and raised in a tiny mountain town one-hundred miles southeast. She grew up uncommonly good-looking, self-reliant, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes with all the other small-town girls and boys. She began working when she was in the eleventh grade, and she’s not stopped working since. Waiting tables is what she’s done for most of her life. She graduated high school but never went to college. After school, she drifted awhile, developed a taste for books, black coffee, practical knowledge.

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Strip

 

If there is a quiet space, they will pipe in music to fill it. Where the pipes don’t reach, the street performers swarm, busking for dollars (or $5.00 if you want to take your picture with them). The smell is unmistakable: a combination of cigarette smoke, booze, competing cherry and vanilla air fresheners, salted foods, body odor, perfumes, and waffle cones.

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Allen, Michigan’s infamous Honor Books — that mold-soiled shrine to social capital — is for sale. More

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Member Post

 

You were a pure shooter, a long shot. You were a star.  Another nobody black boy raised in a fractured home in middle America: a drunk father who worked twenty-five years for Clayton County, and a mother who loved you but was always too passive, it seemed, to truly care. More

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Hard Rock Miner

 

The hard rock miner died last night, a thin man, a strong man, with the soft-sad eyes of a thoughtful child.

His name was Neil. He’d been a miner most of his life. He chewed Copenhagen and played guitar (he loved hard rock). In Vietnam he’d been awarded the Silver Star for an act of great courage.

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Truck Driver

 

The trucker who lives next door is seldom home.

He’s a long-haul trucker, he’s over-the-road. He earns good money and does not spend. There’s something ascetic about him. He’s forty-five. His hair is long. He wears jeans and combat boots. Sallow and haggard, his face is handsome nevertheless. His willowy wife does not ride with him but stays at home. They have no children. The wife is solitary, long-legged and tan. She has a ponytail of sandy-brown. She smokes Marlboros. They do not rent but own. The wife spends hours in her garden, or she reads in her backyard. Her eyes are pensive. She waves to us but rarely speaks.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

Mr. Tom Wolfe accompanied his first novel, The bonfire of the vanities, with a manifesto, Stalking the billion-footed beast. (Available in pdf here.) This is an unusual thing to do in a novelist, inasmuch as he wishes people to read the work rather than consider it as part of the social life of the country. […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

Folks, I said the other day that Animal house is just un-American. I’m not going to link to it–just look on the popular feed, my post about the director, a Mr. John Landis got that big a reaction! I’m not sure I’m now famous or just infamous, but I’ll risk it all over again with a new recommendation. My […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Celebrating This Amazing Country

 
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Photo Credit: Flickr user Wally Gobetz.

What a remarkable country we have! It is filled with sites of natural beauty, monuments to heroes, paintings, sculptures, museums to honor our past, and institutions that are a tribute to our heritage and unique experiment in government.

Each of us has our favorites, those encounters that have touched us profoundly, changed our outlooks, and expanded our knowledge and appreciation of this country. One place that comes to my mind is the Korean War Veterans Memorial, pictured above (close-ups from the same photographer here and here). Out of all the war memorials in Washington, DC, it’s penetrated my soul with the tragedy of warfare and death like no other. Its grittiness still fills me with sadness and reminds me how fragile life can be.

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Recently, a member shared photographs of a unique bookstore that he often passed. So I thought this would be a good time to post a picture that I’ve had on my computer for years now. This innovation is parked on a main street, and it always gets me thinking: Why not? For minimal expense plus a bit […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Death of the Flockfather

 

Union-Products-Flamingos-960x691Donald Featherstone, father of the plastic lawn flamingo, died Monday. He spent his final days in a room with pink sheets and a pair of his long-necked, spindly-legged creations flanking the fireplace. His wake is tomorrow, and his funeral mass will be held this Saturday. Millions of his pink children, the tribe of Phoenicopteris ruber plasticus, will survive him.

My family taught me to sneer at the plastic flamingo. To look down my nose at it. Lowbrow. Trailer-trash kitsch. The problem with a flamingo, though, is you can’t really win a sneering contest with that hooked beak. Flamingos spend their lives looking down their noses at everything. Even the plastic ones, whose facial features are subtly altered to give them a cuteness few live flamingos truly possess. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, how often in the staring contest between good taste and simple happiness, happiness ultimately wins. As their creator would put it, “I loved what I did. It’s all happy things… They have been called very tacky, but more than not, they’ve been called fun.” His wife of 40 years would add, “Donald always said, ‘You don’t take yourself too seriously because you’re not getting out alive anyway.’”

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Firecrackers!

 

tankAre fireworks allowed in your area? If so, which did you enjoy this New Year’s? Which were disappointments that you wish you’d burned before you payed for them?

What fireworks of yesteryear earned their places in Valhalla? Have you forgiven your parents yet for black snakes? Is your closet full of poppers and candy cigarettes?

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