Oct 172012
Great Difficulty in Translating Observations

What he refers to as the “stupidity” of the American masses, who are satisfied by the purely material advantages of this new civilization, is exceptionally irritating to the Eastern intellectual. Raised in a country where there was a definite distinction between the “intelligentsia” and the “people,” he looks, above all, for ideas created by the “intelligentsia,” the traditional fermenting element in revolutionary changes. When he meets with a society in which the “intelligentsia,” as it was known in Central or Eastern Europe, does not exist, he has great difficulty […] Continue reading >

Oct 132012
Through Other Lenses: American Robotnik Readings for October 2012

From the RSS Feed “If You Want More Jobs, You Should Want More Immigrants” by Steve Case, The Atlantic, September 11, 2012 – Read my lips. “How Income Divides Democrats, Republicans, And Independents” by Lam Thuy Vo, NPR Planet Money, October 1, 2012 and “How The Poor, The Middle Class And The Rich Spend Their Money” by Jacob Goldstein and Lam Vo, NPR Planet Money, August 1, 2012 Plus a series of articles at The Atlantic about the Millenial generation: “The Cheapest Generation” by Derek Thompson and Jordan Weissman […] Continue reading >

Oct 032012
It's "Banned Books Week" in America. Let's read!

It’s middle of the Banned Books Week, “the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read.” Throughout the country, “[h]undreds of libraries and bookstores draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events.” Banned Books Week highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community—librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types—in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those […] Continue reading >

Sep 152012
Through Other Lenses: American Robotnik Readings for September 2012

From the RSS Feed “How Books Shaped The American National Identity,” by NPR Staff, NPR, August 14, 2012 – The Library of Congress has published a list of 88 books “that have influenced [American] national identity.” “I, Nephi,” by Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, August 13, 2012 – “Mormonism and its meanings.” Topical. The Book Stack Carmen Bugan, “Burying the Typewriter: A Memoir,” New York: Graywolf Press, 2012 – Recollections of a life in the 1980’s Romania | BUY NOW Tyler Cowen, “An Economist Gets Lunch: New Rules for […] Continue reading >

Aug 192012
Through Other Lenses: American Robotnik Readings for July and August 2012

From the RSS Feed “Books Increasingly Show It’s All About Me” by Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard, July 11, 2012 – “Researchers who have scanned books published over the past 50 years report an increasing use of words and phrases that reflect an ethos of self-absorption and self-satisfaction.” “Immigrant Number One” by Jesse Green, New York Magazine, May 9, 2010 – Tracking down the first foreigner to go through Ellis Island. “Move over,” The Economist, July 7th, 2012 – Americans move for work less because the market is working. “Why Isn’t […] Continue reading >

Jul 052012
We Live in a Homesick Culture

While nineteenth-century observers celebrated the railroad, steamboat, postal service, and telegraph as working wonders, contemporary Americans express the same optimism about computers, cell phones, airplanes, and cars. Some celebrate the abundance of products available everywhere, created by the machinery of corporate capitalism. As consumerism has become pervasive in American life, the ability to buy a sense of home has become easier. Chain stores and brand names have made the material world more homogeneous and in some ways more familiar. These innovations, from fast transport to global marketing to instantaneous […] Continue reading >

Jun 172012
Through Other Lenses: American Robotnik Readings for June 2012

From the RSS Feed “Welcome to America, Please Be On Time: What Guide Books Tell Foreign Visitors to the U.S.” by Max Fisher, The Atlantic, June 1, 2012 – If you’ve lived in the U.S. this will come as no news, but a great insight from the outside nonetheless. “Most Children Younger Than Age 1 are Minorities, Census Bureau Reports” by U.S. Census Bureau, May 17, 2012, and “The Myth of Majority-Minority America” by Matthew Yglesias, Slate May 22, 2012 – Race is perhaps the greatest puzzle for the Central/Eastern […] Continue reading >

Jun 092012

When men are scattered in a strange country, the ‘consciousness of kind’ with fellow countrymen has a very special significance….To many an immigrant the idea of nationality first becomes real after he has left his native country; at home the contrast was between village and village, and between peasants as a class and landlords as a class. In America he finds a vast world of people, all speaking unintelligible tongues, and for the first time he has a vivid sense of oneness with those who speak his own language, […] Continue reading >

Jun 052012
Homesickness and the Dream of Return: The Problem With Going Home

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this review of “Immigrants and the Dream of Return”, a chapter in Susan Matt’s “Homesickness: An American History” about the impact of homesickness on immigrants between 1870 and 1920. Though the nature of immigration in that period differed from later ones, several of its characteristics apply to this day. Shifting from Homesickness to Nostalgia Even after they decided to stay stateside, a significant portion of immigrants continued to want to return. The longer they stayed, the more difficult the return. Matt writes, Despite the fact that they […] Continue reading >

May 292012
Homesickness and the Dream of Return: Ethnic Colonies

Read Part 1 of the review of “Immigrants and the Dream of Return”, a chapter in Susan Matt’s “Homesickness: An American History” about the impact of homesickness on immigrants between 1870 and 1920. Though the nature of immigration in that period differed from later ones, several of its characteristics apply to this day. Selling Home to Immigrants Entrepreneurial immigrants recognized the commercial potential of homesickness. Food in particular created a huge opportunity. In the diaries and letters they left behind, immigrants made it clear that next to their families and their family homes, […] Continue reading >

May 232012
Homesickness and the Dream of Return: Leaving and Staying

In “Homesickness: An American History” Susan Matt tackles the development of the emotion in the United States. As a nation of immigrants, America has abundant experience with homesickness. Chapter 5 titled “Immigrants and the Dream of Return” focuses specifically on the period between 1871 and 1920, when some 20 million immigrants journeyed to America, and has the most to say about the immigrant experience with homesickness, both then and today. Clinging to Dreams of Return New, faster and cheaper transportation technology in the late 19th and early 20th century enabled […] Continue reading >

May 132012
Through Other Lenses: American Robotnik's Readings for May 2012

From the RSS Feed “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” by Stephen Marche, The Atlantic, May 2012 – “American culture, high and low, is about self-expression and personal authenticity. The price of self-determination and self-reliance has often been loneliness. But Americans have always been willing to pay that price.” Social media is helping to raise the price. “Facebook Isn’t Making Us Lonely” by Eric Klinenberg, Slate, April 19, 2012 – There are at least two sides to every story. “America’s Secret Growth Weapon: Why Immigration Really, Really Matters” by Derek […] Continue reading >

May 112012
For Those About to Vote I Salute You

This weekend I’ll cast my first vote in an American election—the “May 15, 2012 Primary Election.”* It’s a big deal. Everyone remembers pivotal moments of their life: Slovaks where they were when Czechoslovakia ceased to exist and independent Slovakia came into existence; (East) Germans when the Wall came down; Americans where they were when the planes hit the Towers. I remember the exact moment I decided to apply for U.S. citizenship and be a part of this nation: on the evening of November 4th, 2008, as I watched Barack Obama […] Continue reading >

Apr 252012
Dick Clark and the Death of an Unknown Celebrity

Dick Clark passed away last week and the news left me unmoved. But as the narrative of Clark’s cultural impact unfolded over the next few days, once again I found myself scrambling on the acculturation treadmill. The NPR news segment identified Dick Clark as the TV host of "American Bandstand" and the New Year’s Eve countdown at Times Square; later I learned he had been the first American "television personality." Having seen the music show, which ran from 1957 to 1987, precisely zero times and the "New Year’s Rockin’ Eve" only for a […] Continue reading >