New Americana

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Finally! A Shutter Button For Your iPhone

There are many issues with the iPhone camera, but perhaps the most glaring one is the lack of a physical shutter button. The small sliver of screen one must touch to take a picture often leads to awkward hand movements and missed photos.

Red Pop hopes to change that by introducing an iPhone attachment that provides a big, red, physical button to make sure you never miss a photo again. For people who use their iPhone as their primary camera, this might be the perfect accessory. [Kickstarter]


The Pale King: A Review

It’s all inside me, but to you it’s just words – Pale King, David Foster Wallace

In his prologue to Infinite Jest, Dave Eggers described the novel as “a thing that will outlast him and you and me, but will help future people understand us–how we felt, how we lived, what we gave to each other and why.” While many authors do a tremendous job at mirroring the world and allowing readers the pleasure of navel gazing, Eggers reminds us that the mark of a truly gifted writer is the ability to describe the world while simultaneously cultivating an ethic. In other words, running beneath David Wallace’s prose is the persistent question: how should one live?

It is precisely that question that haunts The Pale King. The novel provides glimpses into the lives of a group of IRS workers in Peoria, Illinois–a place very few Americans have actually been, but all can imagine. In fact, Peoria has long been a bellwether for Americanness: the slogan “Will it play in Peoria?” was popularized in the 20th century as the town became known as the perfect test-market for not just products, but plays, rock concerts, and presidential campaigns. And what better place for Wallace to set a novel whose central question is how one should live than the neutral canvas of Peoria?

Read the rest of this entry »

150 Years.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – “Gettysburg Address,” Abraham Lincoln

The Civil War began 150 years ago today.

New Americana: A Love Letter to America

We had been everywhere. We had really seen nothing. And I catch myself thinking today that our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, [and] old tires
, Nabokov

New Americana is a blog about America and why we can’t help loving it. Here you will find a digital travelogue of trinkets and souvenirs that  add up to a country that is lovely, trustful, dreamy, and enormous. The objects that will appear on this blog are special because they reflect both a personal and a collective nostalgia. To use Nabokov’s example from the quote above: a dog-eared map is an item of personal nostalgia for Humbert Humbert, but it also an item of collective nostalgia for the rest of us because it represents that quintessential American experience, the road-trip. To be an American is to participate in that collective nostalgia.

At this point you might be wondering why I decided to title this blog “New Americana.” My sense is that a “new Americana” is necessary because many of the traditional objects of Americana (apple pie, the statue of liberty, baseball, etc) have been flattened into objects of patriotism. The crucial difference being that patriotism requires no participation: you’re either patriotic or you’re not. Somewhere along the way Americana became synonymous with this sort of flag-waving. If you’re looking for flag-waving, look elsewhere.

Through a combination of long-form essays, photos, videos, and other varieties of media, I hope to reestablish the distinction between patriotism and Americana and show that the key difference is participation. Put simply: Why go to Tea Party rallies when you can eat cheeseburgers and chop wood?

With luck, this will be fun.