The dizzying drum beats, bright, floating tones of a trumpet or sax; the thumping undercurrent of rhythmic bass; the lively bouncing piano – all energized by the improvisatory buzz. This was the sound of one of the United States’ most crucial Cold War weapons:
It was long after midnight. I was sitting in a fancy bar, killing time while waiting for my train home. I’d been at Comic Con in Berlin that weekend and had a freebie with me, its package prominently featuring the image of a clumsily drawn cartoon character with a yellow dog. I considered keeping it in my bag, given that this was something you’d expect to see in the hands of a preschooler, certainly not in this setting dominated by high heels, suave suits, and classy cocktails. However, upon sitting down, I proudly put the cartoon on the counter. Instead of taking my order, the barkeeper set his gleaming eyes on the boy and his dog, smiled from ear to ear, and said only two words: Adventure Time.
What followed was a free whiskey for me and a passionate discussion about a cartoon show featuring a twelve-year old boy named Finn and his magical dog, Jake, who live in a candy kingdom. You might say this sounds like a story made for little kids. Actually, it sounds like a story made ‘by’ little kids. But the very adult barkeeper told me in absolute earnestness that Adventure Time’s (2010 – 2018) final season’s finale, which he’d just seen and which had its premiere in Germany on that very day, had moved him to tears. Now why is that?
The book’s cover says it all: It shows Apache students on their arrival at Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, an off-reservation school thousands of miles away from the students’ homes in the southwestern United States. The photograph at the bottom depicts the same students three years later in 1889. What a difference! Whereas in 1886, the children were wearing shawls, robes, and ponchos and had their hair done in different styles – some even wearing hats – in the photograph below, everyone is dressed alike in what seems to be grey, woolen, very tight clothing.
The “American Indian problem,” Arnold Krupat writes in his most recent book, Changed Forever: American Indian Boarding-School Literature, permitted “only two solutions, extermination or education. Extermination was costly, sometimes dangerous, and, too, it also seemed increasingly wrong.” The alternative was boarding or off-reservation schools. Although countless books and documentaries describe the boarding school system, relatively little is known about how the children themselves felt about their new environment, their daily chores and school routines. Krupat remedies this shortcoming by placing excerpts of those boarding school narratives in the appropriate cultural and historical context.
Perhaps you’ve toyed with the idea of becoming a professional writer, or you simply want to indulge in flights of fancy that you later commit to paper. Whether you turn your passion into your profession or rekindle the embers of that passion every now and then, there’s always something to learn from veteran writers. Since one of my passions is improv, I asked Anishnawbe writer Drew Hayden Taylor if he’d mind doing an improv interview with me. As someone who is used to scripting his characters’ responses, Drew was skeptical at first but warmed up to the interview in no time. During our Skype call, I sent him 10 rapid-fire questions one by one, which he, in turn, had to answer off the cuff. The result is a writer’s unadulterated lowdown on writing. Read more »
It’s never too early to think about the next semester. Perhaps you and your students would like to try your hand at podcasting. I have to admit that the first time around has its ups and downs, but after that it gets easier. Wiebke Fischer has already blogged on her experiences creating and writing scripted podcasts as a tool for learning English. Building on those suggestions, my students and I have continued to experiment with the potential of podcasting. In a project seminar, Leuphana University students from various majors came up with the idea to transform recorded interviews with American students studying in Lüneburg into 10-12 minute, theme-based podcasts named Elsewhere. The first few are already online.
After many hours of research, I’ve come to the conclusion that the vast majority of the most helpful teaching tools for creating podcasts can be found online. So don’t waste your money on useless how-to books.
This year, the team of the American Studies Blog would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas by testing your knowledge of Christmas trivia. We hope that you will pass ‘and’ pass on our infotainment to your family, friends, colleagues, and students. It is interesting to ponder how much other cultures have enriched American Christmas traditions. Without further ado, here’s our Christmas quiz for you:
Which one of America’s most beloved Christmas poems by Clement Moore appeared on Dec. 23, 1823?
Which group of German immigrants introduced the Christmas tree to the United States in the 1800s?
Which German American illustrator heavily influenced Santa’s popular image?
Which two other holidays are celebrated in the United States during the month of December?
Can you name at least 3 religious and 3 non-religious figures, icons, or symbols of the holiday?