We’ve Got to Be Artists of Some Kind

by Jen Paton Chimamanda Adichie has a talk called “the danger of the single story.” She says, the “single story [that] creates stereotypes…that are not untrue…but incomplete.” Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture I watched three stories about American women this weekend: Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture (2010), the Diablo Cody written Charlize Theron “comedy” Young Adult (2011),…

How to Drive at Night

by Jen Paton There are, according to Randall Henderson, founding editor of Desert Magazine (1937-1985), two deserts in the American imagination. One is full of “venomous reptiles and unbearable heat…it is the desert visualized by those children of luxury to whom any environment is unbearable which does not provide all of the comforts and services…

Ways to Be American Abroad: A Working Guide

Every Sunday morning, over the simulacra of breakfast burritos, we have brunch. Sometimes, talk turns to language skills, our relative proficiencies in Russian. This one guy knows Arabic, used to live in Cairo. “How did you learn Arabic?” someone asks him. “How” was the question, not “why,” nonetheless: “I think for the same reason everyone in our generation wanted to,” this guy of my generation says, trying to catch my eye. I’m not having any of this answer, I already know. “After 9/11, I think…everyone just wondered how the hell this happened.” No, no. I don’t speak Arabic, we’re not even in an Arabic speaking country right now, but I’m still, like, NO.

An Education

by Jen Paton In America we believe in chasing our dreams. Our young people are smart and can do whatever they want to do when they grow up. They should chase their dreams even as our economy falters and youth employment hits its lowest rate since records began (that would be 1948). Even now, especially…

Let’s Talk About It

by Jen Paton This week, President Obama did a new thing with technology, conducting the nation’s first “Twitter Town Hall.” Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, noted in his introduction to the event that “millions of people around the world” use Twitter to “instantly connect to what is meaningful to them.” “Much of this conversation…

In Disguise

by Jen Paton The man disguised as Mirza Abdullah, better known as Richard Francis Burton, was overcome when he glimpsed Mecca for the first time. Burton spent years perfecting his language, his dress, his mannerisms, his very way of moving, to go undetected into a city forbidden to outsiders. And when he finally saw this…

A Good Scene

by Jen Paton “Everyone’s uniting again. It’s a good scene,” says a young man in this clip, on the day the world found out about Osama Bin Ladin’s death. One way to understand the news value of objectivity, that grail of modern news media, is that it has the goal of establishing the greatest distance…

Symptoms

by Jen Paton Some travelers to Paris, mostly the Japanese, are supposed to suffer psychologically when the real City of Light does not match up to the imagined one. The disease is called Paris Syndrome: “fragile travelers can lose their bearings. When the idea they have of the country meets the reality of what they…

For Reasons of Their Own

There has been much concern in the American media about Jared Loughner’s sanity, lots of talk about the fact we cannot comprehend the mind behind that cold face, talk followed by overextended attempts to mine that mind’s deepest veins. “If you think what happened in Tuscon is incomprehensible…” a 60 Minutes piece from last week…

Borradores

“The coming months will see a new world, where global history is redefined.” – WikiLeaks’ Twitter Feed, November 22nd Julian Assange may be some new kind of journalist, but he is without a doubt some new kind of historian, too. He and his organization often frame their mission in terms of redefining history, as above,…