Sunday, February 28, 2010

Being a native of the Chicago area, I was surprised to read about the magnificence that was the Columbian’s exposition and fair in Chicago in 1893. What I found even more interesting was how women were given the chance to demonstrate their abilities to spectators considering the fact that they were constantly denied the same opportunities as males in the art world. On this website I found more information on Mary Cassatt who was asked to create a mural for the fair. The mural was placed over the entrance to the Gallery of Honor in the Women's Building. It was 58 x 12 feet, but unfortunately was taken down and lost at the same time as the Women’s building.
The theme of her mural was “Modern Women” which went very well with the theme of the Women’s Building showcasing the advancement of women. The panel in the center of the mural was titled Young Women Plucking the Fruits of Knowledge or Science which depicted a group of women plucking fruit from the knowledge tree and passing it along to the younger generations. The other panels included Young Girls Pursuing Fame and young women engaged with the Arts, Music, Dancing in the left and right panels, respectively.
What really captured my interest on this mural is the fact that instead of creating a scandal demanding the rights of women to be recognized, Cassatt creatively and explicitly encouraged women to not let society keep them enclosed in their traditional “cult of domesticity.” She demonstrated her own independence and self confidence depicting bright colors and modern beliefs of the capabilities of women. Although there were some critics of the bright and intense colors she used, Cassatt claimed “I have tried to make the general effect as bright, as gay, as amusing as possible. The occasion is one of rejoicing, a great national fete.”
However, although I liked the message of respect for women depicted by the mural, I couldn’t find anything discussing whether or not she was referring to women of all color, or just white women. Although it was radical enough for that period of time, I think it would have been more interesting and more appealing since more people would be able to relate to it, making the purpose behind the mural even stronger.


In The Black Metropolis, we learn about Joe Louis and his rise to fame. Becoming as famous and popular as Louis was is easy in boxing; all you have to do is win. Louis did this very well, with an overall record of 65 wins and 3 losses, with the majority of his wins coming from knockouts. This incredible winning record shot Louis up on the popularity scale, making him a national hero.

He was supported by Franklin Roosevelt and met him at the White House. Almost every newspaper supported him making him one of America’s largest media celebrities of the time. To become such a celebrity, for blacks and whites alike, in the time Joe Louis did is an amazing feat. It gave African Americans something to celebrate towards a time of equality. He became a hero for all of America, including being used in war propaganda. Even when he fought white men, the media depicted Louis as the hero fighting against a monster. This type of fame is hard to achieve in any time period, but Joe Louis found a way to do it in one of the hardest times in history.

Community and Baseball

In Gregory's The Black Metropolis, we learned about the communities of Blacks in major cities with an emphasis on the different achievements, institutions and cultural elements created by and present in these communities. Being from a baseball family and a life-long fan myself, I was particularly interested in the part about the Negro Baseball Leagues and the impact they had on these Black Metropolises. Sports are one of those rare things that can unite entire communities while still fostering healthy competition and creating heroes. People like to be proud of their teams and feel involved with their success and triumphs as well as their heartbreaks and failures. Because of segregation, African Americans weren't allowed to play in the Major leagues, but they still wanted to play baseball, so from 1887 to 1952, Negro Leagues existed almost continuously in some way. Chicago played an integral role in many of these leagues, especially after Rube Foster created the Negro National League in 1920. The city had two teams: The Chicago American Giants and the Chicago Giants. The Chicago American Giants, Rube Foster's team, was one of the best teams in the league and was able to survive after the Negro National League folded, moving to the Negro Southern League. Many things can be attributed to this success, but the strong presence of the various media in Chicago, notably the Chicago Defender newspaper, and the amount of support from the community contributed to a hearty league that could only succumb to financial pressures of the Great Depression.

While Rube Foster is known as the "father of Black baseball,” he died in 1930 and missed some of the most noteworthy games in the history of the Negro Baseball Leagues. In 1933, the owner of the Pittsburg Crawfords, Gus Greenlee, created the East-West All-Star Game for the Negro teams, played through 1962, the majority of the games in Chicago at Comiskey Park. The distinctive element of these games is that the fans picked the pitchers through newspaper balloting. The Chicago Defender was the central newspaper for this voting, because it had one of the biggest and most influential circulations. It is interesting to see practical uses for this newspaper, which has been extremely significant in the various histories of the African Diaspora, music, entertainment and sports of this time, not only in Chicago but everywhere it had readers. People from all over the country could vote for players for the All-Star games, important, because players came from all over the country. Most of the players in these leagues came from the South, but the big teams were in the North. Generally, fan-bases are local, but there is also a strong connection between communities that send a boy away to play ball, and his new home team. I'm from a small town, and currently we have a hometown boy playing quarterback for a major NFL team. It has been interesting to watch his team, one hardly anyone local rooted for before he signed with them, become a favorite in our town. I imagine this was a common occurrence with the Negro League teams, and was made stronger through the influence of media outlets such as the Chicago Defender.

Grab your bag and grab your coat

James Gregory’s statement that “The great migrations of the twentieth century were worked into stories that had more to do with difficulties that with triumphs, with dreams unmet rather than with dreams fulfilled, with tragedy and failure rather than with simple heroics” immediately brought to mind the song “I and Love and You” by the Avett Brothers. Like the stories described in Gregory’s book, this song tells the story of people who “are headed north.”

The migration in the song is given a sense of urgency and desperation by the lyric “I cut the ties and jumped the track/for never to return.” The subjects seem to have reached a breaking point that has forced them to suddenly leave, telling only “the ones that need to know.” The lyrics also convey a wistfulness and sense of sadness, as the narrator in the song notes that “my hands they shake/my head it spins” while imploring “Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in.” Like many who left the South in the 20th century, the subjects are seeking a better life in the North, but a happy ending is in no way assured.

The Avett Brothers hail from North Carolina, and their music reflects a strong southern twang. Although nominally an indie rock band, they are heavily influenced by folk rock and country music. Like the country music Gregory discusses, the Avett Brothers have also seen their music commercialized. “I and Love and You” is the title track from their major-label debut, and many reviewers have noted that this album smooths out the rough edges of their previous albums in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience.

A Century of Progress?

On the topic of Chicago's 1893 Columbian Exposition, I found an article ( on the 1933 World's Fair. Strikingly similar to the Columbian Exposition, the World's Fair exhibited similar characteristics to the Columbian Exposition - they both showed the world the wonders of technology and progress that Chicago offered. However, the World's Fair did offer improvements in racial integration and inclusiveness rather over the Columbian Exposition. Lacking the offensive displays of natives that the Exposition's Midway offered, the World's Fair, subtitled "A Century of Progress", offered two fair exhibits on the African-American community in Chicago. One was a reproduction of the cabin Jean Du Sable, the first black settler in Chicago. The other was a building featuring the scientific, military, and artistic accomplishments of African-Americans in both Chicago and the greater United States.

Like the Columbian Exposition, however, the World's Fair also discriminated against African Americans. The exhibit celebrating African American culture was separated miles from the actual fair, in the South Side district of Chicago. African Americans were barred from eating in many of the Fair restaurants and were encouraged to attend "Negro Days" in an attempt to segregate the fair.

The Fair represented "A Century of Progress," both in terms of technology and in terms of social values, showing the greater maturity American and Chicagoan society showed towards it's larger African-American population, but also showed how far racial equality was for African American Chicagoans.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chicago History Museum

The Chicago History Museum seems to be a very interactive and detailed museum (though I've never been there) about the city's interesting past. The museum has a permanent exhibit called Chicago: Crossroads of America, which details the history of the city. One of the main focuses of the exhibit is Chicago as the transportation center and connecting point between the East and the West, as we discussed in class with the railroads. The exhibit has models of the towns and ships used, and original trains and L-trains that you can climb aboard.

On the site there are links to articles explaining and detailing the transportation history of Chicago, especially the transformation of Chicago into a major metropolis. One link from the page, from the Encyclopedia of Chicago, entitled Transportation described the advantages of Chicago's railways and location: "More significant was Chicago's role as the principal transshipment point between eastern and western rail networks. No city before or since assumed such a strategic position." After the train history that we learned, it also describes the development of the L-trains and buses, allowing for greater intra-city movement, and later the effect of airplanes and cars on the rail industry and transportation in general.

Part of the history of Chicago exhibit includes "In Our Own Words Teen Audio Tours" by students, about many aspects of Chicago's history. Some that were connected to our readings were the Haymarket riot. Students discuss the Haymarket memorial and explain how and why the Haymarket affair came to be. The student explaining the incident explained that eight anarchists were arrested, without a link to the actual event, and that the newspapers clearly lauded the police action (so we can kinda tell whose "side" the student seems to be on). They also have a segment on a fictional Great Migration story: a woman lived on a farm in the south, and the Chicago Defender made North sound great--the "Promised Land", no segregation, lots of jobs. So the woman in the story and her family saved up for train tickets and went to Chicago, where the streets were filthy and packed. The husband worked in industry and there wasn't very much money, despite the "golden opportunities" they had heard about, and there was still segregation and hatred between blacks and whites. They then explained the race riot of 1919 between whites and blacks, and said that despite the federal troops breaking up the riots the tension was not gone.

Also, many celebrations of Chicago in art and music, but some representations show the darker sides: the seamy "underbelly" of corruption and murder in the musical & movie Chicago, and the cold and poor aspect of the ghetto in "In the Ghetto" by Apache Indian.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Michigan Avenue Bridge

During the last couple of weeks, we have spent a significant amount of time studying the architecture and monuments of Chicago. In his chapter “the White City”, Alan Trachtenberg discusses the prominence of classical architecture in the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893. The architecture, combined with the general layout of the fair, created a harmonious and ordered atmosphere that stood in parallel to the chaotic, and corrupt city of Chicago.
In addition to examining architecture at the World’s Fair of 1893, our class also studied the advancements of trade and communication that the development of harbors, water canals, and railroads provided for Chicago. As William Cronin mentions in Nature’s Metropolis, the early Chicago boosters realized the importance of “making a landscape accessible to a market, which meant fostering regular exchange between city and country. Urban-rural commerce was the motor of frontier change…” (Cronin 48).
The Michigan Avenue Bridge, which spans the Chicago River, is located between the Wrigley Building and the tribune tower and combines the themes of architecture and landscape accessibility. The Michigan Avenue Bridge is a double leaf bascule bridge, which means that it is ‘moveable’ and uses a large axle called a trunnion to raise its two leaves so that boats can pass underneath. Daniel Burnham proposed the building of the bridge in 1909 as part of his vast development plan for Chicago, and when the bridge was completed in 1920 it served as the major thoroughfare between the north side of Chicago and downtown. The Madison Avenue Bridge was designated as a Chicago Landmark in 1991, and hosts the McCormick Tribune Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum in its southwest tower.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

1919 Chicago Race Riot

From the reading "The Southern Diaspora" and our discussion in class today I was particularly interested in how the 1919 Chicago Race Riot was portrayed in newspapers (especially in comparison to how the Los Angeles rights were later portrayed by the media, which I will hopefully be able to blog about in our L.A. section). I found two articles, one from The Manchester Guardian newspaper, which is actually a British newspaper that ran the story on the 1919 Chicago riot, and a present day article from the Chicago Tribune which recounts the story of the riots.

The first article:

was published on July 30, 1919 and recounts the riots by suggesting that it is the fault of the mass migration of African-Americans into cities that this riot broke out. “The conflict in Chicago is evidently a by-product of the negro exodus from the Southern States”. Furthermore, as our reading suggests, this article focuses on carnage, citing how many people have been killed and including a picture of a policeman carrying away the body of a dead man, which added to the sensationalist angle of the article. Interestingly, this article very clearly states the problem to be, “the invasion of white districts by a coloured population”. This article also sites the education of African Americans as a danger when they write, “the younger generation has been acquiring education, and many thousands of negro soldiers are returning to civil life with an altered outlook and enlarged ambitions”. Lastly it sites economic motive as a point of contention between whites and blacks.

The second article:,0,1206660.story

takes a very different approach to the incident as it as a post-civil rights movement outlook on history. The article starts by describing the incident in terms that are highly sympathetic to the black teenager who was killed in Lake Michigan, using the term “invisible line” and giving him identity by naming him. The article also strives to display examples of violence on both sides. As a cause of tension, the article sights the growth of the African population (due to the Great Migration) because they were promised “employment and dignity”. Lastly they sight the violence of whites against blacks who moved into their neighborhood thereby victimizing he who had been once the problem.

Love for Chi-Town Through Song

The opening of class with Kanye West’s “Homecoming” made me think about how many popular songs around today have been based on representing one’s hometown. Chicago is probably one of the most repped hometowns by rappers, rockers and alternative artists. Off the top of my head, I was able to think of more than five songs that mention the artist being from Chicago, including Lupe Fiasco’s song “Go Go Gadget Flow.” Since Lupe Fiasco is coming to Claremont soon, I thought it would be appropriate to mention how he is just one of the many artists who chose to write songs that show pride in their hometown of Chicago. From just reading the lyrics, you wouldn’t know that Lupe is talking about Chicago, because he doesn’t explicitly say the name, but he spends the whole song talking about how his city is the “best in the whole wide-wide world,” and claims that he is a “West Side representative.”

Rappers like Lupe are not the only ones to use their music to show their love for Chicago. The city, popular since becoming the “Black Metropolis” (according to Gregory) in the early 1920s, has raised and been respected by numerous other artists. Fall Out Boy mentions Chicago in more than one of their rock songs; folk-alternative rock band Wilco pays tribute to their hometown in “Far, Far Away”; and The Academy Is… honors their love for the city in “LAX to O’Hare.”

The homage paid to Chicago through the numerous songs show that the booming city that sprang up in the early 1900s is still loved for all sorts of people. And form the dozens of artists calling Chicago home, we can see that it is still a center for entertainment and music.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Devil in the White City

In “The White City,” Alan Trachtenberg highlights the idealism that inspired the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. He notes the desire of the designers and architects of the fair to capture an American spirit of beauty and unity. At the same time, Trachtenberg stresses the contradictions that lay at the heart of the Fair as social, economic, and political problems plagued the world outside of the spectacular gates of the Fair.

This idea of inside vs. outside reminds me of a book called The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. He documents the construction and experience of the World’s Fair coupled with the rise of a serial killer living nearby. The detailed account of the difficult and dramatic preparations undergone by Daniel Burnham and John Wellborn Root to construct the Fair sets the background for the exciting and overwhelming events, inventions, and sites presented at the Fair for the world’s consumption. This glorious and beautiful image of the Fair is contrasted with the heinous activities of Dr. H. H. Holmes who maintained a home in Chicago designed to help him execute and hide murder. I can’t remember how many people he killed but he preyed on young women who came to the city from the country in search for jobs and love in the craze surrounding the Fair. With these two opposing story lines, Larson reinforces Trachtenberg’s concept of the dual nature of the Fair’s presence in Chicago.

About the book:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chicago's Navy Pier Special Exhibit

Trachtenberg’s “The White City” focuses on the 1893 summer fair in Chicago in broad terms, taking into consideration location, architecture, and even race and gender relations involved with the planning and exhibitions placed there. Specifically, it takes time to mention the “Jubilee” or “Colored People’s Day” that took place, with former slave Frederick Douglass in attendance. While it was considered to be quite an achievement, Douglass said, “As if to shame the Negro, the Dahomians are here to exhibit the Negro as a repulsive savage.” (p.221).

In contrast, I looked at the closest thing to a fair remaining in Chicago: Navy Pier. As a native of Chicago, I have fond memories of visiting during my childhood, watching movies in the Imax theater with friends or going to watch productions in their model Globe Shakespeare theatre. Now, however, they are making special efforts to showcase Black History Month, something I do not remember seeing before (although it very well may have existed). Some of the contributors within their gallery include Barack Obama, Madame C. J. Walker, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglass. Coming from Navy Pier, one of Chicago’s most popular sites to visit (with over 8 million visitors annually), it will surely not be something to miss.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Obama Speech

This is the speech we read for class, if you want to hear along with the words.:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Art and Politics Collide Over "Cyrus Cylinder"

This article highlights many of the external issues that surround artworks, art collecting, art exhibition, etc. that we’ve been discussing this week in class.

Just a few hours ago, an argument between Iranian and British cultural institutions reached its peak, with Iran “cutting ties” with the British Museum in London. The dispute has been brewing for months, over a British loan (lack thereof, really) of a 6th century B.C. tablet called the Cyrus Cylinder.

The British Museum had agreed, over a year ago, to loan the tablet to Tehran for an exhibit being hosted by the Iranian government. However, due to “technical reasons,” as well as the turmoil that accompanied Iran’s presidential elections last summer, and many other political issues (think disagreement over nuclear programs, Western involvement in Eastern domestic issues, and the like), the deal was never completed. Sunday the 7th was created as the new deadline for the transfer, and again the tablet was not delivered.

The most relevant part of the article comes here:

"The Cyrus Cylinder has been turned from a cultural issue into a political one by the British," Baqaei said, adding that Iran "will sever all its ties with the British Museum, which has become a political institution."

What Vice President Baqaei is really highlighting, though, is the fact that issues of culture are also always issues of politics, institutions of culture are also political institutions. The two are inextricably linked.

Paradise Without the Poor

The Paradise without the poor concept has been in existence since people could build fences. Just as Jefferson’s house on a little hill secluded him from his neighbors, the gated communities and complexes of today continue to financially segregate our cities and towns. Recently, one of the world’s most exclusive housing developments has sold all but two of its mansions. Through strict rules and requirements, the community maintains an atmosphere free of hanging laundry, dogs, and the poor. Though in Russia, this example is no different than the type of financial seclusion seen in the United States. Like the Trump Tower sitting on top of skyscrapers and class systems, Monticello quite literally devised the blueprint for modern day American self-segregation. In “An American Icon,” the author portrays the idea of republican hermitage Jefferson so embodied, stating that,

“Houses shielded their faces from the street. They were surrounded with elaborate verandas and their entrances were concealed by recesses and porticoes…the use of nooks and bay windows would allow residents a measure of seclusion even when they gathered in the social spaces of the household.”(An American Icon. P.45-46)

Today, this idea is kept alive not only through the architecture, but by district planning. America is financially segregated, placing the rich within suburban gates or beyond toll roads to ensure the poor only visit in times of gardening. On the other hand, the lower class are dissected by freeways surrounded with commercial property and trapped by walls enabling the bourgeoisies to take the freeway from one Monticello to the next and never know what exists between.

Citizen Restaurant, Indian Food, and Culinary Prestige

Reading Vicki L. Ruiz’s article “Citizen Restaurant,” I was reminded of an interview with Krishnendu Ray, a professor of food studies at NYU, entitled “Can Indian food conquer America?,” regarding the potential for Indian food to break into mainstream American food culture. Ray argues that “when immigrants come into the country in large numbers, their food first becomes visible in the ghettos, then outside of the ghetto, but they don’t become popular to the larger non-insider audience until … the ghetto has disappeared.” Thus, Mexican food remains mired in the “ghetto” because many Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans remain poor. Conversely, Italian food has risen to a level of prestige as Italian-Americans have risen in stature from primarily poor immigrants to the middle class.

Ray sees Indian food as having the potential to reach both the prestige and popularity of Italian food, largely because many Indian immigrants to the US are middle-class professionals. This gives Indian food a jumpstart out of the culinary ghetto. However, “preference for another’s cuisine does not necessarily translate into egalitarian attitudes or even empathy” (6) according to Ruiz. I see possible sources of backlash against Indian food that might confine it to a less-prestigious, though ubiquitous, position, similar to that of Mexican food. First, as Ray notes that there are many Indians in “less professional fields.” Additionally, in an uncertain economy, Americans who fear losing their jobs to people half a world away may resist adopting the cuisine of that culture. Just as some view Mexicans and Mexican-Americans as unwelcome usurpers, helping confine Mexican cuisine to low prestige, so may some see Indians and Indian-Americans in a similar light.

[The full interview is from Can Indian food conquer America? by Thomas Rogers (, 1/10/2010).]

Home Sweet Home

Although I am not up-to-date on architectural developments of any sort I have noticed that modern architecture and "cookie cutter" houses have been steadily gaining popularity. Upton’s “An American Icon” mentions several reasons developments (and the homes inside of them that look so much alike) are popular: in today's ever changing society, money is extremely variable and one's income is never stable. Jobs are outsourced, families move at a fast rate (on average, every five years as per and chances are your home will be another person’s home within the next decade and hence it is economically wise to make it appeal to a broad audience.

Although those reasons are perfectly valid, I continue to wonder what homes say about us. Can we examine a stranger’s home today, the way we examined Monticello, and learn something about that person? Since psychology generally refers to the United States as an individualistic society - do “cookie cutter” homes reflect that, or indeed, must they seeing our current situation? What does that say about the makeup of our society? I actually stumbled across this site yesterday - - that pokes fun of the lofty and detached look of some homes (the website specifically pokes fun at modern architecture, but there are different forms of modern architecture).

I remember someone telling me about an organization called Casa Familiar (roughly translated into Spanish, it means either Family House or as I like to think of it, Familiar House). The organization constructs homes for families in San Ysidro, a small border-town near Tijuana, and takes into account the stories and needs of the families they are constructing the homes for. For example, since most families make a living by selling items from home, the organizations creates homes which are easily accessible from the streets, that are open to the neighborhood. I think that is an awesome project and that the homes really say something about residents. “Cookie cutter” houses in my opinion, don't say much about the individuals living inside them, but maybe do say something about our society.

Jamestown Virginia - "living history" celebrating the birth of America

The first settlement of Virginia on the east coast is arguably the starting point for the United States of Americas collective history and understanding of its culture. In our recent class talks about the significance of buildings like Monticello and Washington DC as a historical location, I thought to make a comparison to the “Living History” of the Virginia and Jamestown Foundation Museums based around the first colonial landing site of the United states. Virginia’s tourism and educational outreaches in its Museums and foundations celebrate over 400 hundred years since its discovery and formulates our learning and understand the origin of American identity and culture. There are numerous websites that boast of the “Living History” that the Museum offers;

“Today at Jamestown Settlement, the story of the people who founded Jamestown and of the Virginia Indians they encountered is told through film, gallery exhibits and living history. Expansive gallery exhibits and an introductory film trace Jamestown's beginnings in England and the first century of the Virginia colony and describe the cultures of the Powhatan Indians, Europeans and Africans who converged in 1600s Virginia. Outdoors, visitors can board replicas of the three ships that sailed from England to Virginia in 1607, explore life-size re-creations of the colonists' fort and a Powhatan village, and tour a seasonal riverfront discovery area to learn about European, Powhatan and African economic activities associated with water. In the outdoor areas, costumed historical interpreters describe and demonstrate daily life in the early 17th century.” –

I thought this presented a similar comparison to the NMAI in Washington DC. Like the NMAI, the Jamestown foundations goal is to represent properly the history of its location and significance and ongoing significance it has on American identity; creating a “living” breathing historical entity that educates about the origin of this country IN the location where American history started. Naturally understanding where and more importantly how the birth of the nation came to be is key to taking forth the legacy left behind by the settles over 400 years ago.

“Jamestown – from their sacrifice, our nation was born—Every American should stand here once” – Jamestown Foundation

Thoughts on economical imperialism

In Violent Belongings, Kaplan talked about the universal acceptance of the word “imperialism” by the people in the U.S, regardless of their political views. Nevertheless, what the two groups of people support is the “old” imperialism that instills democracy and universal values into a foreign country so that people in that country could raise their living standard. Recently, however, media in China have shifted their focus to a new pattern of imperialism originated in the United States. This new paradigm of imperialism focuses more on economic exploitation and finance supremacy instead of physically occupying lands in a foreign country. Take one of the poorest counties in the world, Haiti, for example: in the early 1970s the president Jean-Claude Duvalier was compelled to open up the market for U.S companies. As a result, these U.S companies monopolized the production of sucrose, the exploitation of Bauxite and other essential industries of Haiti. The U.S agricultural products also flooded to Haiti thanks to Haitian’s negligible tariff, and the domestic agriculture in Haiti was totally devastated in the competition in the end. It is apparent now that this kind of economical imperialism did not help people in Haiti become wealthier; instead, those American firms did become wealthier. The same can be said to China. After the successful Genetic Modified (GM) bean campaign in Argentina in 2004, the American companies have switched their targets to China. Goldman Sachs, the well known investment bank based in Wall Street, has stepped into breeding business in China from 2004. By 2008, Goldman Sachs has become a monopoly in pork breeding industry—they have the entire production chain: from breeding, slaughtering to meat processing. Now, Goldman Sachs has the pricing right of pork in Chinese market. The soybean industry in China is faced with the same difficulty as well. 60% of Chinese farmers are now using seeds produced by the leading GM seed company, Monsanto. Most of the domestic high-quality bean species have been wiped out by farmers seeking fast profits. Monsanto is sure to raise its price for seeds in the future. Could this new imperialism of economy benefit Chinese farmers/consumers in the end? I doubt.

Whether it was neoconservative’s or liberal interventionist’s view of the "old" imperialism, the struggle for the well-being of people in other countries such as democracy and human rights is celebrated. Encountering the new pattern of economic imperialism, are they going to justify it this time?

The Exploratorium

Being from the Bay Area, talk of interactive and unconventional museums immediately makes me think of The Exploratorium in San Francisco. An extremely interactive science museum, The Exploratorium is fun for all ages and definitely defies the conventional structure of a museum. Though it is comprised of mostly permanent exhibits and activities, The Exploratorium does feature a few traveling exhibitions and always has the most current and entertaining scientific discoveries and applications on display. There is no real structure to the museum, instead encouraging its visitors to wander around and "explore" (clever, huh?). A few of the awesome activities there include: the Tactile Dome, where visitors crawl through an obstacle course in complete darkness, forcing them to use their sense of touch to guide them, a special camera that takes pictures of shadows on a colorful background, a gigantic bubble machine, and many other activities that challenge the brain to stretch in new and innovative ways. An interesting note is that the Exploratorium is located right next to remnants from 1915 World's Fair, commemorating the opening of the Panama Canal, a connection to the topic of empire discussed earlier in this class.


While browsing articles and online exhibitions, searching for something that I found particularly interesting and relevant to this class, I discovered this exhibit on the website for the National Museum of the American Indian. I believe this traveling exhibition, IndiVisible, is representative of things we’ve learned so far in the course.

The exhibition focuses on the struggle for people from both African American and Native American ancestry to integrate into American culture, while preserving aspects of their own. The information from various sources are organized into four themes (policy, community, creative resistance and lifeways) to make the exhibit not only digestible for the average American, but also thought provoking. This exhibition raises questions about national and individual identity, what it means to be American Indian and African American and ancestry in America.

I thought this exhibition relates to the material in our course because gives people whose convergent histories were previously invisible or undefined recognition, similar to the way the National Museum for the American Indian officially separated and recognized the distinct and different histories of the American Indian.

The National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture co-sponsored the exhibition in order to thoroughly paint an accurate picture of the dual histories. Like the community-curated installations at the National Museum for the American Indian, IndiVisible makes use of wall text, historical objects, audio features, contemporary art and historical documents.

Riddles in Stone- Secret Architecture of Washington DC

When discussing art in the capitol, and in particular the development of Washington DC in last weeks class, it reminded me of a film I had heard about with regards to the design of America's capital city.
The documentary 'Riddles in Stone: Secret Architecture of Washington DC' was released in 2007, and explores the controversy and conspiracy theories over the design of the capital. Rather than believing that the city reflects America's new found freedom, some researchers maintain that occult architecture permeates the city and conceals a hidden secret agenda. It explores how the major cornerstones of the capital was laid by Freemasons, and so there is speculation as to whether the city was built in a Masonic pattern. Controversy is evident in the idea that the street layout, north of the white house, is shaped in the design of a pentagram. It also questions whether or not a Masonic square and compass extend from the Capitol building to the Washington Monument. This raises the question, that if America was founded upon the principles of Christanity, why does Washington DC appear to symbolize the Masonic Christ?
The documentary covers both sides of the debate surrounding the Washington DC street design conspiracy. I thought this was interesting in relation to Pierre Charles L'Enfant's original design of the city in 1791, and how his basic city structures could be (potentially) transformed into a different agenda.
I have included the trailer of the documentary below.

Avatar in 3D

So far in the class, some of the themes we have discussed deal with what it means to be an American to different people and the idea of an “American empire.” In class when Professor Pohl made a connection between the class readings with the movie Avatar, I was very much intrigued to see the movie. This past Sunday I told myself “Lindsay go watch the movie”and so I went to watch Avatar in 3D. As I was watching the movie, I was able to connect different instances in American history with the events that were happening in the movie. For example, like the Native Americas from North and South America who were colonized by the Europeans the Na'vi people of Pandora were removed from their home with the use of violence. However, unlike the Na'vi from Pandora, the Native Americans did not succeed in preventing the Europeans from taking away their lands, their goods, and way of life. As the movie ended, I thought to myself “Wow, it's better than what I expected.” The sky people represented the “American empire” as Green Fryd calls it.

Benjamin Latrobe and American Architecture

I found this article on the Washington Post about a documentary coming out tonight on TV called "Benjamin Latrobe: America's First Architect." Latrobe was an architect most known for his Baltimore Basilica and recruited by Jefferson to help design the Capitol. Jefferson and Latrobe didn't really get a long because Jefferson was not totally pleased with the design Latrobe had drawn. Latrobe was forced off the Capital project in 1817 because of financial issues.

In the documentary, they say "Latrobe didn't just import classical ideas from Europe into the nascent American republic. He enlivened and adapted them, gave them an austere simplicity, and integrated them with interior spaces that had their own vibrant energies and flow" (1, Kennicott). Latrobe’s influence is present across America one can see it in Greek temple like facades and dome capped off buildings (1, Kennicott).

This article about the documentary reminded me of our discussion of American Icon reading and the idea of a house and building significance in the American dream and ideal.

Here is the article if you would like to read it.

Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O'Sullivan

This article is about an exhibition that is almost open at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The exhibition is titled, “Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O'Sullivan.” It is a collection of photographs by O’Sullivan taken in the mountain and desert regions of the western United States between 1867 and 1874. This article relates the Wallach article about “The West as America.” The O’Sullivan exhibition is showcasing the American west in a romanticized way, even though the photographs were taken for scientific reasons. From the article: “[O’Sullivan] created a body of work that was without precedent in its visual and emotional complexity, while simultaneously meeting the needs of scientific investigation and western expansion.” The audience of this exhibition should question the nature of the photographs to determine the view of the West that they are presenting. It seems that these photographs, while cataloging the West, were also taken because the West was going to disappear. Maybe this exhibition will present the West from a new angle and succeed where “The West as America” exhibition did not.

Gun Control in the Capital

This article is about how NBA basketball player Gilbert Arenas is facing legal trouble for storing handguns in the Verizon Center locker room. According to Peter Nickles, the District of Columbia’s attorney general, “The District of Columbia is about as unique a place as there is in the country in terms of regulating firearms because of its need to balance safety with the Second Amendment right to bear arms.” Since DC is such as violent place, the issue of gun control is taken very seriously. This article details the history of gun control in the nation’s capital. The issue of violence in the capital is very interesting, since people tend to except the capital to be a shining beacon of democracy, where the principles of liberty and equality reign supreme. It is easy to forget that people besides congressmen and government officials live in the city every day and have to deal with issues that arise when living in a large urban center.

The Octagonal House

In the first unit we have seen how architecture has influenced both how a place functions and the perception it gives off. For example, Jefferson choose to place his housing for his slaves just below the hill so that they would be unseen by approaching visitors. This reminds me of the Longwood Mansion in Natchez, Mississippi. It is the largest octagonal house in the United States. The house however was never finished due to the start of the Civil War. However, the plans and part of the structure were completed, and now open to visitors, creating a place that was once meant for a private family, to now be a public historical artifact. It is interesting to see how civil war history put this house in a time capsule per say. The octagonal shape created a flow throughout the house, both for the planned occupants and for air. In a time when air conditioning did not exist, this clever architecture was a way of giving the occupants a luxury that others did not have. Another interesting fact about the house and its land is the first structure to be completed (the only one fully completed in fact) was the slave’s quarters. The family actually occupied them before the basement floor was completed in the house. Unlike Jefferson’s slave quarters, these were very prominent on the property. This prominence along with the unusual and elaborate architecture gave the impression to both the pubic then, and now that the family was very wealthy. Ironically, the lack of that wealth is what kept the house from ever being finished, and has left it in its current condition.


After spending a year at Georgetown University and being miserable I was able to find some beauty in the historic architecture that I walked through everyday. Georgetown serves as a great example of how modern architecture and historical buildings can be combined to create an incredible environment. The city consists of old, brick row houses that were built in the 1800s and newer buildings on M street and Wisconsin (the two major shopping streets). The idea that a city can have some of the newest trends being sold in the middle of a city that was founded in the early 1700s is something that is rarely accomplished. The architecture of the city is somewhat representative of the population that lives within it. The area is made up of mostly students (Georgetown University) and wealthy politicians. In a very ironic way the population is another example of how the "old" and the "new" can coexist to create a great environment.
I found this article from the Washington Post on the issues of race and gentrification. In Washington, DC, there's a movement to reinvigorate the downtown area with higher-end commercial space and housing. Though gentrification brings new business to previously lower-class neighborhoods, many of the renovated areas are populated predominately by African-Americans, who are being coerced to move in order to make room for the new buildings. Thus, gentrification is being viewed negatively by the African-American yet positively by the middle-class white communities. This reminded me of the article we read on Monticello, since the property was laid out to showcase the newer and fancier buildings of the estate, populated by the Jefferson family, while hiding the other more modest outbuildings inhabited by servants and slaves from the public.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

“The District Sleeps Alone Tonight:” A Look Past the Historical D.C.

When you think about Washington D.C. images of presidents, the white house and our nations capital tend to come to mind. It is a place that most Americans feel a kinship to because it is the foundation of our nation. But is there more to Washington D.C. than history and politics? The Postal Service’s song “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” can be interpreted as offering another view, of a much more lonely vibe. While it is about a fragmented couple, it attaches this sense of isolation and gloom to D.C. This flip-side view of D.C. offers a much more personal approach because it isn’t political or formal it provides people with a new perspective to resonate with the city. While the political institutions of D.C. create an atmosphere of formality, the reality is that it is called “home” to many. This perspective of D.C., one that is intimate and often suppressed, brings another dimension of D.C. into view. Washington D.C. will always be very traditional and provide a space that embodies the concept of togetherness within the United States, yet at the same time it is interesting to take a step back from all of the rich history of D.C. and look at how people view and experience it today.

For the lyrics:

Woo! The Superbowl was tonight! Let's talk about a racist team name...

Amanda J. Cobb‘s article “The National Museum of the American Indian as Cultural Sovereignty” spoke of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian as a victory for Native Americans because of its function as a tool through which they can gain an upper hand in the construction and representation of their identity. It seemed ironic in the face of the recent Supreme Court decision to not hear a Native American activist group’s claim that the Washington Redskin’s team name is offensive and thus should not be trademarked. Though the decision was based solely off of how much time had passed before the group made a claim, and not off of the offensiveness of the name, the attitude of the parties involved seemed to say a lot about the country’s attitude towards Native Americans. The team’s owner has stated that there has never been “even a whisper” about changing the name. I think it sad that in 2010, a team representing the capital of this nation will not even discuss changing its name when it is clearly deeply offensive and perpetuates negative stereotypes about a minority group. I think the fact that the activist group waited so long from the time that the team name was trademarked in 1967 is a pitiful excuse. It should never be too late for a historically underserved minority group to gain the momentum to take a stand against a major representation of oppression.

Look at this Washington Post article to find out more about the ruling, it’s where I got my information about it.

Constructing America's Past

Monticello Official Tours:

The practice of historic preservation in America reflects a tendency to examine the past through subjective, often rose-tinted glasses. While its official tour service touts Monticello as the “house that Jefferson designed and built for himself and his family,” Jefferson’s selection of already popular designs suggests that he was “an eclectic consumer of architectural images more than a creator” (Upton, 33). Artwork decorating the Capitol continues the tradition of a falsified past. Reliefs depicting only the white male experience helped contribute “to a fiction of the American experience…and reinforced these myths as a part of American history (Green Fryd, 6). Even the preservation of the nation’s folk tradition in the Library of Congress fell victim to subjectivity. Two of its protectors, John and Alan Lomax, purported to be impartial folklorists documenting the music in a pure and unadulterated form, but their efforts to both preserve and popularize folk shaped conceptions of our musical past (Filene, 620). When the National Museum of the American Indian and the “The West as America” exhibit each departed from such traditional representations of American history, they were assailed by critics.

The struggle to adhere to this rigid canon of history further manifests itself in the Whitney Museum’s "The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-1950.” Though it once thrived with controversial exhibits, the title of Jacob Weisberg’s article, “The Whitney on Prozac,” sums up the museum’s newly-changed character. “The American Century” exhibit bares no hint of historic revisionism and strives to avoid political incorrectness. In preserving American history through one authoritative voice, the Whitney, like many museums and historic sites, has degenerated into “a bland, textbook summary of American culture that eschews any explicit judgments at all for fear someone might disagree" (Weisberg).

“A Song for the Horse Nation"

This link discusses one of the recent exhibits that have been shown at the National Museum of the American Indian. The exhibit relates to the Native American horse culture and its rise and fall. It is fairly unknown that the native horse culture only survived for around 100 years, even though it seems like all recreations of Indians include horses.

The article continues to talk about the origin of the native horse culture. It is believed the horse culture began to rise in 1680 after Spaniards fled Santa Fe and left behind hundreds of horses. At the beginning, Indians were afraid of the large animals, but soon became some of the best riders in the world. With the introduction of horses to the Native American culture hunting became easier, leading to more food, better shelter, and better clothing. Transportation became easier as well. All of this allowed tribes to expand and flourish. Unfortunately, horses also led to increased trades with Europeans for guns that allowed the Indians to fight other tribes more successfully.

The more interesting point I would like to point out deals with the horse’s use for transportation. Even though the horse culture was not around for very long, it had huge impacts on Indian life through simplified movement over the land. But today there is a very different usage for horses. Other than for farming, horse use seems to be completely recreational to the majority of people around the world, especially in the United States. The severe contrast is easy to point out but extremely interesting to think about. Technology has the ability to wipe out a major resource, in this case, transportation by horseback.

IndiVisible at NMAI

This link talks about an exhibition at the National Museum of the American Indian titled: "IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas." The exhibition will cover several themes in the hopes of addressing the struggle of the people whose ancestors were both of African American and Native American heritage. Included in the exhibition will be a 10 minute video featuring interviews with the represented tribes from Massachusetts, to Oklahoma, to California, and several others. This along with the rest of the exhibition is intended to give visitors more evidence that the composition for the "Native Americans" is just as diverse in its history and customs as the non-natives that also live the United States. This exhibit can and should have a great impact on all its viewers, as they are asked to acknowledge the cruelties that these "Black Indians" had to suffer through, including "genocide and in the alienation from our ancestral homelands." It is an important exhibition because like all other cultures, wants to be accepted and appreciated for its existence.

When the museum opened in 2004, it did not receive as good of a response as other museums, probably due to the fact that it not follow the tradition structure of other museums. Its "natural" look and unorganized displays were an attempt to give the feeling of being made "for Native Americans by Native Americans." The fact that some of the critics didn't like its format tells me that they missed the whole point of its construction. The Native Americans for centuries now have had to adjust to the changes put upon them by the growth of the country around them. They way in which they formatted the museum could be seen as their way of saying that although they live in the same land as us, they do not have the same beliefs nor the same customs. They want to be accepted for who they are and the way they live. In addition, the IndiVisible exhibition could be of further support for this, since it depicts the lives of two groups of people that were forced to survive through terrible mistreatment. It should definitely contain very interesting stories and hopefully make future visitors appreciate the uniqueness of the National Museum of Native Americans for what it is: a small glimpse into a world inside our own.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Monticello as a Museum

This link is to a Museum Review in the NY Times by Edward Rothstein about Monticello. It discusses the opening up of Jefferson's house to the public and the new exhibits they have. I find this especially interesting, considering Jefferson's view of domestic space. As we read in class, Jefferson built Monticello to divide public and private space; most of the space went to himself, where he could work or study or contemplate presumably without distraction. However, as discussed in the article above, the once private dwelling and space is now open to the public, allowing all to see what Jefferson tried to conceal. Despite his efforts to put the slave quarters below the crest of the hill, emphasizing at least a front of equality and democracy, everyone can now see how he and the slaves on his property lived. In many of the rooms, "the lives of black slaves are inseparable from accounts of Monticello’s domestic life," (Rothstein)--unlike in Jefferson's own time, the slaves are given equal status with the owner of the house. Despite the original intention of the domestic architecture planned in Monticello, anyone, regardless of class or race, can stand in Jefferson's bedroom, or dining room, or go upstairs to visit his dome. This is definitely much more true to the spirit of democracy and equality than Jefferson's paradoxical call for freedom in light of his own practices, but it does change the intentions of the private space of homes (though Monticello clearly isn't a home anymore).
The article mentioned above also discusses Poplar Forest, a smaller, more secluded home designed by Jefferson to be a sort of getaway. The article says that archeologists "have uncovered the relics of slave quarters" (Rothstein), meaning this, too, was a house full of slaves that is now being open to investigation. Poplar Forest and Monticello are both being made accessible through tours and interactive exhibits, bringing the public into Jefferson's personal life. Monticello offers a unique learning opportunity, as a historic house, work of architecture, and museum, but one pauses to wonder what Jefferson would have thought if he could see the way his private space is being toured inside and out.