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 >

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 012012
Upcoming Central European Events in Portland, Oregon

Music Kafana Klub When: Tuesday, June 5, 8-10 p.m. Where: Al Forno Ferruzza Pizzeria What: Kafana Klub’s monthly performance of Balkan music (Bulgarian, Macedonian, Serbian, Bosnian, etc.) How much: $3 suggested donation 3 Leg Torso with Klezmocracy and Krebsic Orkestar When: Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 8 p.m. Where: Dante’s What: “3 Leg Torso goes all out for a wild evening sharing the stage with Klezmocracy and the Krebsic Orkestar. This is a show you’ll need to prepare for and do your warm ups. Hai-yah!” (courtesy of 3 Leg […] Continue reading >

May 252012
Celebrating Alphabet Creators and Faith Bringers

Yesterday, May 24th, was Saints Cyril and Methodius Day, an important holiday for Bulgarians and Macedonians, commemorating the creation of the Cyrillic alphabet and generally their culture.* Members of the Podkrepa Bulgarian and Macedonian Association celebrated the big holiday at the Podkrepa Hall in North Portland with a potluck and folk-dancing party. I learned about the event from the Northwest Balkan Events Google Group, where Kathy Fors, a member of both Kafana Klub and Krebsic Orkestar, posted the announcement. I showed up right at 7, and the Bulgarians made me feel […] Continue reading >

May 172012
Czech Theater Coming to Town...With Your Help

Join my new Ahoj PDX friend Kateřina Bohadlová on Wednesday, May 30th, at MacTarnahan’s Taproom for an evening of music and merriment to benefit a not-for-profit project of the Czech contemporary theater company Geisslers Hofcomoedianten. A founder of Geisslers, Kateřina is bringing the Prague-based troupe to Portland for dates from October 15th to 18th.  In addition to nightly performances of Moliere’s “The Miser” (see clip below) Geisslers Hofcomoedianten will also lead workshops with with students at PSU and Lewis & Clark College, exchange experiences with local artists, and meet with the community. For […] 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 >

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 >

Apr 152012
Through Other Lenses: American Robotnik's Readings for April 2012

Articles and Blog Posts "Rise of the Single-Woman Voter" by Hanna Rosin, Slate, March 13, 2012 – On the rise of the fastest-growing voter group. "These days your daughter, or even your mistress, is the better campaign target." "Sexuality, Independence, Economic Empowerment: A Q&A with Liza Mundy" by Marc Schultz, Publishers Weekly, March 16, 2012 – The author of "The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family" talks about a trend of women out-earning their male spouses. On the flipside, "America wants to […] Continue reading >

Mar 272012
Head-Spinning in America

The title of Bertrand-Henri Lévy’s "American Vertigo: Traveling America in the Footsteps of de Tocqueville" is both accurate and deceiving. Lévy’s prison tours are a thin pretext for his travels through the United States in 2004, an afterthought in the dizzy-inducing whirlwind of a trip.  Whereas Jean Beaudrillard spun, in "America," his account in terms of space (the desert), Lévy narrates the country as movement (the road). The result reflects the approach: Lévy breezes through the land in fragments and enumerations. Similar to any lengthy road trip, as soon as I settled into the book […] Continue reading >

Mar 192012
American Euphemisms and Evasive Thinking, Part 2

In his 1965 essay "On Evasive Thinking", Václav Havel bemoans a degradation of language from being "a means of signifying reality, and of enabling us to come to an understanding of it" to being "an end in itself". Havel saw the "verbal mysticism" or "ritualization of language" cause the word as such to cease to be a sign for a category and instead gain "a kind of occult power to transform one reality into another". Havel discussed this shift in the context of 1960’s Czechoslovakia, but the similarity with American […] Continue reading >

Mar 172012
St. Patrick's Day and Immigrant Holidays

Official, or federally recognized, American holidays derive from historical events (Independence Day/Fourth of July), religious traditions (Christmas), and national heroes (Martin Luther King Day). Among the unofficial but widely recognized and celebrated holidays, which include Mardi Gras, Easter, and Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day holds a special place: it celebrates the culture of an immigrant group.  Every March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day commemorates Ireland’s patron saint and the arrival of Christianity to Ireland in 12th century. About 12% of U.S. population, or more than 36 million people, reported Irish ancestry in 2008; the Irish diaspora […] Continue reading >

Mar 112012
Through Other Lenses: American Robotnik's Readings for March 2012

Articles and Blog Posts "How Your Cat Is Making You Crazy" by Kathleen McAuliffe, The Atlantic Monthly, March 2012 – If you’ve ever wondered about Americans’ love for pets and their odd behavior, a Czech scientist has found there may be a connection. "A Brief History of the American Pawn Shop" by Wendy Woloson, Bloomberg, February 9, 2012 – They’re a world unto itself. "Quitting the Paint Factory" by Mark Slouka, Harper’s Magazine, November 2004 – "There’s something un-American about singing the virtues of idleness." He sings it well. "How […] Continue reading >

Feb 172012
America the Hyperreal

Visiting and then writing about the U.S. has a solid tradition among the French, but it’s safe to say the late Jean Beaudrillard‘s 1986 work"America" hasn’t made the list of books covering their country that Americans would showcase. Even the most cynical among my new compatriots would hesitate to call their country "a giant hologram", a "blank solitude," or a "narcissistic refraction." Abstract hyperbole defines Beaudrillard’s "America". On the ground, it is the desert that defines Beaudrillard’s America. He can’t get enough of it because "you are delivered from all depth […] Continue reading >

Feb 152012
American Euphemisms and Evasive Thinking, Part 1

Last year’s final issue of The Economist featured an article exploring euphemisms—expressions that substitute neutral, ambiguous wording for a potentially uncomfortable one. The article “Making murder respectable” alludes to the experience every immigrant knows all too well as a cultural and language outsider. American euphemisms are in a class of their own, principally because they seem to involve words that few would find offensive to start with, replaced by phrases that are meaninglessly ambiguous: bathroom tissue for [toilet] paper, dental appliances for false teeth, previously owned rather than used, wellness […] Continue reading >

Feb 052012
Through Other Lenses: American Robotnik's Readings for February 2012

Articles and Blog Posts  "Paved but Still Alive" by Michael Kimmelman, New York Times, January 6, 2012 – How to take parking lots seriously as public spaces. "The US schools with their own police" by Chris McGreal, The Guardian, January 9, 2012 – Kids’ bad behavior gets increasingly criminalized; Foucault is laughing in his grave. "Five Things the Census Revealed About America in 2011" by Brookings, January 17, 2012 "The Caging of America" by Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, January 30, 2012 – “Why do we lock up so many people?” […] Continue reading >