Tuesday 11 March 2008

Research Seminars: Sarah Churchwell

At this week's research seminar, our very own Sarah Churchwell (author of The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe (Granta, 2004)), will be talking about: '"What's the big idea?": Re-Reading Screwball Comedy.'

Wednesday 12th March, 4pm, A2.51. All welcome.

Plus: in advance of the paper, there will be a screening of Bringing Up Baby - tonight. Tuesday 11th March, 4pm, A4.16.

Monday 10 March 2008

News: AMS Careers Event - Wednesday 10 March 2008

The School of American Studies is holding a careers event this Wednesday. Here's the official description:

AMS, in cooperation with the Careers Centre, has invited American Studies graduates from a variety of professions and a range of past years to come and talk about their working lives, and in some cases the training they are currently doing, so that you can benefit from their experience.
  • What range of opportunities is available to an American Studies graduate?
  • How did these particular graduates decide on what kind of job they wanted to do?
  • How did they get into the jobs they are now doing?
  • What kind of training did they need beyond the degree?
  • How did their degree help them in choosing and doing their jobs?
Amongst those UEA graduates in attendance will be Razia Iqbal, the BBC's cultural correspondent. If you'd like a taste of what you can do once you leave AMS, here's Razia interviewing Scarlett Johansson and touring the set of the new James Bond film (click on the images for these and other examples of her work):

The event will take place between 1.00pm and 4.00pm on March 12 in the Elizabeth Fry Building. You will need to book a place. This can be done here.

Any questions to Richard Crockatt, r.crockatt@uea.ac.uk or tel. Ext 2289.

Election News: Campaign Song Special

In an election news special, AMS student Kirsty Callaghan presents a guide to campaign songs:

Campaign songs have played some kind of role in US presidential elections since George Washington’s "Follow Washington" in 1789 (a sample selection can be heard here). The 2008 presidential race is certainly no different. As in previous elections, the candidates have used a wide range of songs, trying to select ones that reflect their message as candidates.

Ben Harper’s "Better Way" has been used by Barack Obama's team at various points on the campaign trail:

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, allowed her supporters to pick their favourite from a list of songs for use in her campaign. The Clintons filmed a short video to announce the decision – a parody of the final ever scene of The Sopranos, with the fans eventually picking Celine Dion’s "You and I".

More recently, Hillary has revealed a new campaign song specifically targeting Latino voters, "Hillary, Hillary Clinton", available here.

John McCain has used Chuck Berry’s "Johnny Be Goode" and several of John Mellencamp’s songs, before Mellencamp requested McCain stop using his material, as happened when Bruce Springsteen asked Reagan to stop using "Born in the USA" and Tom Petty threatened to sue George W Bush unless he ceased to use "I Won’t Back Down".

However, arguably far more popular than the official songs are the unofficial campaign songs created by supporters, largely in favour of Obama. Will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas fame has created a series of pro-Obama videos, some musical and others spoken, which have proven to be immensely popular on YouTube. The first and most popular, "Yes We Can", which currently also features on the official Obama campaign website, has had 5,852,103 viewings since February 2nd. It consists of the speech Obama made following his defeat in the New Hampshire primary, set to music and starring, amongst others, Scarlett Johansson, John Legend and basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The second most popular, "We are the Ones", has had 830,294 viewings since February 29th and is less of a song than "Yes We Can", but rather consists of crowds chanting “Obama”, with various celebrities saying what change they would like to see, spoken in a combination of English and Spanish.

Not quite as popular, but with a still substantial number of viewings is an anti-McCain video made in a very similar style to "Yes We Can" - "John.he.is". Having been viewed 1,514,187 times since February 11th, the video features a selection of clips from McCain speeches and interviews, with several not-quite-so-well-known personalities singing along, before each realising exactly what McCain is saying, such as “That old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran? Bomb bomb bomb, Bomb bomb Iran.” The video ends with an alternative campaign slogan: “McCain 08 – ‘Like hope, but different'”. Hillary Clinton has not yet experienced the same kind of YouTube support as Obama, perhaps a reflection of Obama’s popularity amongst YouTube’s main demographic. All the Democratic and Republican candidates have taken part in YouTube debates, as a way of engaging and interacting with a wider audience, particularly young Americans, answering questions asked in video format by YouTube users.

All the videos have sparked some heated debates amongst their viewers, with "Yes We Can" having received some 56,353 comments so far. The ‘Comments and Reponses’ boards have become a place for viewers to throw insults at each of the candidates and at one another. They have served as a forum for political discussion, with viewers debating some major issues such as abortion rights, the war in Iraq and the qualities that make for a good President, with some questionable spelling, punctuation and usage of CAPITAL LETTERS!!!1

Sunday 9 March 2008

News: Tony Blair To Teach At Yale

It was announced on Friday that Tony Blair will be teaching at Yale University in the next academic year. As the Howland Distinguished Fellow, Blair will teach a seminar on faith and globalisation, organised by the School of Management and the School of Divinity. This cements an already existing relationship between Blair and Yale. His son Euan gained a full scholarship to pursue postgraduate study in international relations there, to no little controversy.

So which former international leader and/or celebrity would you like to see teaching in AMS? And what would they specialise in? Feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday 5 March 2008

Elections News: Super Tuesday II - Analysis

Andy Rudalevige offers up analysis of last night's events - exclusive to the AMS blog:

March 5, 2008: Will the Circle be Unbroken?

Rhode Island (easily) to Clinton, Ohio (comfortably) to Clinton, Texas (barely) to Clinton, Obama a landslide winner only in the Northern Kingdom of Vermont. And so we find ourselves back where we were a month ago, and two months ago, in a perfect tie. The Democratic race so far has traced an unbroken circle – what will happen, by and by?

Of course some things have changed since New Hampshire, or Super Tuesday – for one thing, Barack Obama has the lead in the overall delegate count (which he did not, after “Super Tuesday”). Indeed, because of Texas’s odd rules for delegate selection, even in narrowly losing the primary there he may wind up with more delegates than Hillary Clinton from that state. The math is not pretty for the Clinton camp.

But Clinton has nonetheless re-acquired the “comeback” moniker and the plausibility (even inevitability?) associated with her candidacy, a key intangible lubricant to the campaign engine that had been draining away, drop by small-state drop. Voters seem willing to re-examine Obama's candidacy, to get as much information as they can moving forward. Thus this is a race that will go through several more iterations, to the end of the primary calendar (see here for dates and places to come). We may yet end up with a convention that is not a coronation. Is that good news for the Democratic party (energized voters! lots of media coverage!)? It's worth remembering that in years past, and not so many years past, March 4 was a plausible date for the first primary, not the putative last, so we should not be swayed by media breathlessness about how late it is for Democrats to come together. Still, if the voters turn out to be mostly energized by their hatred of the other candidate - and one wonders how readily the new voters inspired by the Obama campaign will transfer their loyalties come November - all that media coverage may be of dissent, sniping, and backroom deals. And that in turn helps John McCain, who will have an open field to re-establish himself as the genuinely decent, independent-minded maverick of 2000, rather than the legislator who has voted in lockstep with the Bush administration and who, during this campaign, has largely renounced the honorable exceptions to that record.

The Clinton spin, as put forward with (I must assume) a straight face on Radio 4 this morning, is that the candidate who wins the Ohio primary must win the general election. Alas, this is ludicrous both in logic and history. The Clinton spokesman cited unnamed “scholars of the presidency” to make this point; as one such, though, I can state with some conviction that this “evidence” was pulled largely from the speaker’s nether regions.

What Ohio did suggest, though, is that Obama cannot win by out-pandering Hillary Clinton on economic issues. Bill Clinton, after all, was famously termed the “pander bear” by his 1992 opponent, Sen. Paul Tsongas; and, to be fair, Hillary Clinton is associated, through her husband, with the 1990s economic boom – though she spent most of the Ohio campaign running away from NAFTA, the North American free-trade agreement President Clinton rightly backed in 1993-94. Obama sought to decry NAFTA, too, but wasn’t as persuasive – perhaps because he was intellectually honest enough to know that NAFTA has little to do with the loss of Ohios’s manufacturing jobs -- and the suspicious leak of a memo from the Canadian government suggesting that he didn’t really mean what he was saying on the trail hurt him badly. Obama might learn from Ohio that he should be consistent in appealing to voters’ best instincts, not their worst. The Clinton campaign knocked him off his game plan there, and it worked.

The media did turn far more hostile towards the Obama campaign by the start of the week. Spurred partly by “NAFTA-gate,” this reflected fear that Washingtonians might have missed some skeleton in the Obama closet, and partly, perhaps, the Clinton camp’s incessant whining over what they claim is unfair coverage paid off. Less creditably, though, the new tone also likely derives from the national media’s incessant desire for “news” – and Obama winning is no longer news. It was time, most reporters might have felt, for a new turn in the dramatic flow of the race, and so they wrote the opening paragraphs of that new chapter. In any case, why would any political junkie, as national reporters must be, want this race to end abruptly? – this is the most fun they’ve had, well, ever.

Indeed, the only rationale for a quick ending would be – as Gloria Borges said, not quite tongue in cheek, on CNN last night – that they don’t want to spend the next month covering the campaigns in the less-glitzy parts of Pennsylvania. As a resident of that great commonwealth most of the time, I wish Gloria a very pleasant stay with my cousins in Scranton. Luckily they’re too nice to hold her snootiness against her. And suddenly they are elevated into key voters in this race.

A quick postscript. As disappointed as the Obama camp must be in the Texas primary results, it does stagger the imagination that one could plausibly be disappointed that a black candidate lost a statewide vote in the ex-Confederacy...

Election News: The Race Goes On

Last night's primaries were decisive in one way - for the Republicans, they confirmed what had already come to seem inevitable: John McCain is the official GOP nominee. But on the other side of the fence, things aren't getting any clearer in what is proving to be an endlessly interesting contest. Hillary Clinton achieved the comeback she needed, winning in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island - but what do these victories mean? How do they translate into the all-important issue of delegate mathematics?
  • The New York Times gives an overview of the night's events.
  • Walter Shapiro makes it clear that "It Ain't Over Yet", for Salon.
  • The Los Angeles Times profiles Barack Obama's reactions to the results.
  • The International Herald Tribune analyses the exit polls, to see who voted for who.
  • But the Washington Times is still pessimistic about Clinton's prospects, arguing that although the night's events "helped her regain support among her core voters" they "did not deliver the decisive margins that several Democratic superdelegates said they were looking for to keep her candidacy alive."
  • "Pennsylvania, here they come" - from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

News: Jena Revisited

We've been making mention of the ongoing troubles in Jena, Louisiana for quite some time now. Back in May 2007, reporter Tom Mangold visited the town for the BBC: "Race Hate in Louisiana" was the result. Last night, BBC2 screened Mangold's follow up, "Deep South Divide", a fascinating exploration of the escalation of racial tension in a Southern town. It's available on the BBC iPlayer here for seven days.

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Research Seminars: Susan Castillo

At this week's research seminar, Susan Castillo (King's College London), author of Colonial Encounters in New World Writing, 1500-1786: Performing America (Routledge, 2005), will be speaking about: "Race and Ethnicity in Kate Chopin."

Wednesday March 5, Arts 2.51. All welcome.

Please note: this week, the research seminar starts at 17.15.

Election News In Brief: Crunch Time

It's another historic day on the campaign trail: Clinton and Obama are poised for a potentially climactic face off in four states - most notably in Texas and Ohio. We'll take a closer look at the results tomorrow, but for now, take a look at what the pundits are saying in Slate, Salon, and the New York Times. One of the most notable talking points is Clinton's latest campaign video, below: ""It's 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House, and it's ringing..." Who do you want picking up that phone? Feel free to leave a comment.

Monday 3 March 2008

Website: The Edge of the American West

If you take a look at our skimpy selection of links to the right, you'll see that there's a new addition to the blogs section. The Edge of the American West is written by Eric Rauchway and Ari Kelman who, in their own words, "teach history at a fine public university at the western edge of the American West." Want to know what happened on this day in 1931? Then check out their latest post.