Friday 29 February 2008

Election News: Webchat with Ambassador Tuttle

To mark the ongoing presidential race, Ambassador Robert Holmes Tuttle (pictured) at the United States Embassy in London is taking part in a live webchat about the 2008 Elections.

The webchat will be taking place on March 4th at 4pm, here. However, if you want to participate, you need to sign up first, here.

If you do take part, let us know how you get on. And if you visit the Embassy website, it's worth having a look around. They've recently branched out into the world of blogging.

Monday 25 February 2008

Research Seminars: Works in Progress

The Research Seminar this week is devoted to works in progress by two AMS PhD students.

Catherine Bater will be talking about: "Sherman Alexie: Storytelling and Communal Identities."

Sarah Thwaites will be talking about: "The Mirror of the Sea: Ishmael on Reflection."

Wednesday 27th February, 4pm, A2.51. All welcome.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Election News: Obama Moves Ahead

Barack Obama secured his tenth victory in a row in the fight for the Democratic nomination, yesterday, which has only compounded the sense of momentum that now surrounds his campaign. Salon and Slate provide analysis of Obama's victory in Wisconsin - and both focus on the ways in which he has eaten into Clinton's traditional support base.

But it may well be too soon to call a victory for Obama. The Democratic race may have legs in it yet. John Heilemann, writing for New York Magazine, argues that "the view in Clintonland [...] is that the Clintonites started hammering too late and too soft [...] Trust me when I tell you that you ain't seen nothing yet."

In other areas, Obama's campaign has been dogged by some controversy in the past few days - controversy that may build. As USA Today reports, Michelle Obama is being criticised for stating at a Milwaukee rally: "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country." And Obama himself is in another sort of trouble: he's being accused of plagiarism. To be specific, he's accused of lifting lines from Democratic colleague Deval Patrick. Dana Milbank (in the Washington Post) and Channel 4 have more information, and videos comparing the two are appearing on YouTube - like this one:

Whilst we're one the subject, why not refresh your memory about the UEA's own plagiarism policy, here.

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Research Seminars: John Wills

At this week's research seminar, John Wills (University of Kent), author of Conservation Fallout: Nuclear Protest at Diablo Canyon (University of Nevada Press, 2006), will be speaking about: "The Arcade Western: The Digital West Exposed."

Wednesday February 20, Arts 2.51, 4pm. All welcome.

Monday 18 February 2008

Letter from America: Will Greaves

Today's Letter from America comes from Will Greaves, who is currently studying at Reed College, Portland. Will writes:

Big Sur: Henry Miller waxed lyrical about it; Jack Kerouac chose it as the backdrop for a notorious breakdown; Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth brought a house overlooking it on a whim. Naturally, I had to see this for myself! To reach Big Sur – essentially an area of dramatic coastline formed over epochs as the Santa Lucia Mountains rose up from the Pacific – requires negotiating the frighteningly precipitous I-1 south of Monterey,California. Yet as the photo above shows, the switchback route provides spectacular views.

The state of Oregon is awash with covered bridges, quaint constructions built to help preserve the internal wooden trusses from the rain. For me,the portrait above, with its whitewashed bridge nestled between Fall foliage, captures a certain bucolic image of rural America.

Scary thought for the day: only just outside of liberal Portland, with its bohemian charm, such signs start popping up with startling frequency…

Famed as the epicentre of the ‘60s hippie revolution, Haight-Ashbury retains a powerful position in American countercultural history. As a wave of young beatniks, inspired by Kerouac et al, converged on San Francisco, the Haight area became attractive due to its relatively cheap accommodation. The neighbourhood housed many of those bands – from the Grateful Dead to Jefferson Airplane – whose music would provide the soundtrack for the 1967 Summer of Love. Though it just about maintains its air of iconoclasm, burnt-out hipsters now jostle for space with the throngs of tourists. And, sadly, Haight Street ends with a McDonald’s.

Thursday 14 February 2008

Readings: Christopher Bigsby, One Hundred Days: One Hundred Nights

In what will hopefully be the first of an exciting series of readings from new works, John Shrapnel, Niamh Cusack and Alun Armstrong read extracts from Christopher Bigsby’s forthcoming new novel, One Hundred Days: One Hundred Nights (Methuen).

Tuesday 12 February 2008

Research Seminars: Sarah Garland

UPDATE: Cancelled due to ill-health, to be reconvened at a later date.

This week's AMS research seminar is another home-grown spectacular. The UEA's Sarah Garland will be speaking about: '"A cook book to be read. What about it?": Alice Toklas, Gertrude Stein, and the Language of the Kitchen.'

Wednesday February 13. 4pm. A2.51. All welcome.

Thursday 7 February 2008

News: AMS Blog Gets International Profile

Stuart Towner Noble, founder of the excellent American Studies blog The Atlantic Community based at the Center for American Studies at the University of Southern Denmark, has given the AMS blog a kind mention in an article for the Danish Association of American Studies Newsletter. The article - "Trans-Digital American Studies: Blogging Without Borders" - has a lot of interesting things to say about academic blogging. The community is clearly growing. Any links that you've found that are worthy of notice?

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Election News: Super Tuesday Analysis

Andy Rudalevige shares his thoughts on Super Tuesday's results:

Twenty years ago, “Super Tuesday” broke onto the scene, with sixteen states holding their nominating contests in early March. Given that the single-day pile-up had resulted largely from a number of southern states moving their primaries up in concert, it was somewhat ironic that the beneficiary was Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis – who swept the northern states on the ballot while then Senator Al Gore and Rev. Jesse Jackson split the south. Such are the unintended consequences of electoral manipulation.

Likewise, this year the bunching up of more than 20 states on February 5 – more than a month earlier than the 1988 date then thought to be shockingly premature – was supposed to be the mechanism for ending the nomination races. Someone would spring to public attention during the four ‘table-setting’ contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina, then run that table on Super Tuesday.

Of course, it hasn’t happened that way. On the Republican side it came closest. But though Sen. John McCain’s strong showing yesterday brings him halfway to the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination, Gov. Mike Huckabee re-emerged as a factor in the race. Huckabee won five southern states including the largest, Georgia. Gov. Mitt Romney did manage to hold onto his adopted home state of Massachusetts – not a sure thing, given that during his four years as governor there he spent as much time as possible out-of-state saying insulting things about it – and he attracted 90% of the Utah vote. Otherwise his wins won him relatively few delegates. It is not entirely clear who is the “un-McCain” around whom conservative voters cold to McCain will coalesce – Romney has more resources, but Huckabee more grassroots enthusiasm.

On the Democratic side, the night ended in a virtual tie. Sen. Barack Obama won more contests, but Sen. Hillary Clinton the biggest states – California, most notably, where Latino voters turned out in huge numbers and favored her by a 2-1 margin. Still, the delegates in California (and some other states) are divvied up by Congressional district, so a statewide win in the popular vote may not translate into a win in the delegate count unless a candidate’s support is evenly distributed across those districts (53 of them, in California). By one count (CNN’s) Clinton leads Obama by 74 delegates – but even at that she only has 783 of the more than 2,000 she will need to win at the Democratic convention in late August. (Note too that some of those are so-called superdelegates – elected officials, mostly, who receive automatic delegate status at the convention, and who can change their minds about who they are pledged to…) It’s fair, then, to say the race is wide open. Next up: Kansas, Louisiana, and then, on February 12, the Chesapeake states, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. And those states who “didn’t matter,” because they weren’t voting in February – like Texas and Ohio (March 4), and Pennsylvania (April 22)? They might be the kingmakers after all.

News: Mardi Gras

Rex, the Queen of Carnival and King Zulu

In the excitement surrounding Super Tuesday, you' d be forgiven for forgetting that yesterday was also Mardi Gras - and, therefore, the culmination of carnival season in New Orleans. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, each carnival season has been significant in its own particular way. In 2006, it represented resilience in the face of disaster; in 2007, a commitment to reconstruction (that's still yet to materialise) and the rebuilding of tourism. This year, it might be significant that other issues seemed to dominate. As in the rest of America, Super Tuesday made its presence felt. Mardi Gras has traditionally been a time for satirical commentary, and this year was no different. As the Associated Press reports, Mardi Gras 2008 had a contemporary political twist that overrode the satirical targets of recent years (particularly FEMA). In the words of one local, carnival season seems to be returning to its pre-Katrina "Normal abnormalcy." Super Tuesday aside, the Mardi Gras traditions were in full force. As ever, the Times-Picayune leads the coverage, including profiles of this year's Rex, the Queen of Carnival, and King Zulu; Hulk Hogan was this year's King Bacchus. And who might they all be? Arthur Hardy has the answer. Below, footage of Mayor Nagin's toast to Rex - including one moment of minor controversy. In reference to Nagin's 2006 controversial pledge that New Orleans would once again be a "Chocolate City," this year's Rex assures the crowd that his speech won't cause offence - he promises it will be suitably vanilla.

Election News: Super Tuesday Results

The results are in - and, as you can see, it turns out that your opinions weren't a bad reflection of the way things turned out on the night. The New York Times has a continuously updated results table here. AMS blog voters predicted a big win for John McCain, and he certainly had a good night. But only one lone voice in the wilderness seems to have had faith in Huckabee's pull in the south. For now at least, the race continues. Mike Madden analyses the Republican primary campaign for Salon: "The GOP chases its tail." McCain's victory looks inevitable now, but things are still very unclear on the Democratic side of the fence. AMS blog voters clearly gave the nod to Obama, but things were nowhere near that decisive. Most analysts are calling it a draw. Patrick Healy analyses events for the New York Times, here.
Reactions? Share them in the comments.

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Election News: Super Tuesday

It's Super Tuesday. Confused? You're not alone. Speculation is rife as to what exactly the most significant day in the race to the White House will bring. Luckily, the internet is here to help you through the process:
  • Let's start with the basics. The Telegraph answers the key question, "What is Super Tuesday?"
  • Once you've got that straight, you need to know what's happening when the results start rolling in. Jeff Greenfield, writing for Slate, offers up some useful "Signposts for Super Tuesday"; Walter Shapiro, writing for Salon, points you in the direction of what to look for in the "Super Tuesday Showdown."
  • Not that Super Tuesday is likely to clear things up entirely. Speculation is already beginning about what happens after the votes are counted. Bill Schneider ponders "life after Super Tuesday" for CNN, whilst Nick Timiraos does some "Delegate Math" for the Wall Street Journal.
  • And finally: YouTube has created a site devoted to Super Tuesday: watch videos from voters, delegates and journalists here.
In the spirit of Super Tuesday, we're taking our very own straw poll in the sidebar. Who do you think is going to come out top on Tuesday? Vote now.

Monday 4 February 2008

Research Seminars: Richard Crockatt

This week's research seminar is an AMS family affair: Professor Richard Crockatt, author of After 9/11: Cultural Dimensions of American Global Power (Routledge, 2007), will be speaking on "American Nationalism and Democracy Promotion: A Clue To The War in Iraq."

Wednesday February 6, A2.51, 4pm. All welcome.