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Friday, August 18, 2017

August 18-20, 2017: Birthday Bests: 2016-2017



[On August 15th, this AmericanStudier turns the big 4-0. So this week I’ve shared posts of birthday favorites for each of the blog’s prior years, leading up to this new birthday best list for 2016-2017. You couldn’t give me a better present than to say hi and tell me a bit about what brings you to the blog, what you’ve found or enjoyed here, your own AmericanStudies thoughts, or anything else!]
Here they are, 40 favorite posts from the 2016-2017 year on the blog:
1)      Virginia Places: Fairfax Court House: Learning more about things I thought I already knew has been one of the blog’s enduring pleasures, and that was most definitely the case with this post and series on Virginia sites.
2)      Cultural Work: Miner Texts: Any post in which I get to analyze John Sayles and Steve Earle is bound to be fun, but Diane Gillam Fisher’s Kettle Bottom might be the richest text here.
3)      MusicalStudying: Allegiance and Hamilton: Perhaps not surprisingly, Hamilton has been the subject of more posts than any other text in the past year. This was the first.
4)      Rhode Island Histories: Beavertail Lighthouse: Learning about things I knew precisely nothing about has been another enduring blog pleasure. Case in point here.
5)      Legends of the Fall: Young Adult Lit: Returning to middle school is always a risky proposition, but I loved the chance to revisit A Separate Peace and The Chocolate War.
6)      AmericanStudying The Americans: “Illegals”: Writing about one of my favorite TV shows made for a great week of posts, and this kicked them off.
7)      Birth Control in America: Esther at the Doctor: I’ve taught Sylvia Plath’s The Bell-Jar many times, but analyzing it through this week’s lens offered new insights on a key sequence.
8)      Black Panther Posts: Guns and Breakfasts: One of my favorite post titles, and an attempt to address the multiple, contradictory sides of an important community.
9)      American Killers: Bundy and Dahmer: Not sure I would have ever imagined I’d be writing about serial killers in made for TV movies, but we go where the blog takes us!
10)   ElectionStudying the Media: Ah, that halcyon final pre-election weekend. Everything may have changed the following Tuesday, but I think this post is still relevant.
11)   Jeff Renye on Stranger Things: The New Weird Made Old?: A Stranger Things series concluded with this great Guest Post, and a truly inspiring student conversation in comments!
12)   Thanksgiving and Supporting an Inclusive American Community: This was the first post in which I dealt directly with the election’s aftermath, and also the first in which I began to move toward my fifth book project.
13)   James MonroeStudying: Remembering Monroe: A series on the 5th President concluded with these reflections on whether and how to better remember Monroe.
14)   Fall 2016 Reflections: Conversations with My Sons: Maybe my favorite single post from the six and two-thirds years of blogging.
15)   Basketball’s Birthday: LeBron and Activism: My sons have just gotten into the NBA in the past year, and it was fun to take a closer look at this side of the league’s biggest star.
16)   2016 in Review: The Cubs Win!: There were far more serious 2016 news stories, and I engaged with them in this end of year series as well. But c’mon, the Cubs won the Series!
17)   21st Century Ellis Islands: A 125th anniversary series concluded with three very distinct ways to connect the famous immigration station to our present moment.
18)   Special Guest Post: Oana Godeanu-Kenworty on Thomas Haliburton and 19th Century Populism: Readers, take note—nothing makes me happier than when I’m contacted by someone who wants to share a Guest Post, and I was very excited at the chance to share this one!
19)   Luke Cage Studying: #BlackLivesMatter on TV: A series on another great contemporary TV show concluded with this multitextual analysis.
20)   NASAStudying: Sputnik and von Braun: Another example of a post for which I learned a ton, and which fundamentally shifted my perspective on the week’s subject.
21)   Women and Sports: Title IX: With the groundbreaking law under siege from Trump’s Department of Education, this post is more important than ever.
22)   History for Kids: Kate Milford’s The Boneshaker: The best book I read in the past year might well be this Young Adult novel the boys and I read together.
23)   AmericanStudier Hearts Justified: Appalachian Action: Man, I wrote a lot this year about TV shows I love. And I’m not the slightest bit sorry!
24)   Crowd-sourced Non-Favorites: The annual series concludes, as always, with my favorite crowd-sourced post of the year, the airing of grievances! Not too late to share yours!
25)   CubanAmericanStudying: Desi Arnaz: On Arnaz’s 100th birthday, he helped us consider a different side to Cuban American histories.
26)   AmericanStudies Events: Why We Teach at BOLLI: Expanding my adult learning opportunities has been one of the best parts of the last year. Here’s one prominent example!
27)   Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump: Sometimes a planned series of my own intersects with where the public conversations are going. This was one of those times.
28)   Televised Fools: Archer: I can’t say I was expecting to enjoy Archer as much as I have—but surprises are a good thing, in life and in blogging!
29)   NeMLA Recaps: Forum on Immigration Executive Orders and Actions: This could be the most important thing NeMLA ever does—but it needs your help to get there!
30)   Aviation Histories: Charles Lindbergh: For my own sake as much as anyone else’s, trying to dig past the controversies to recover the history behind the history.
31)   Animating History: Earth Day Animations: I hadn’t thought about Captain Planet or FernGully in a couple decades. It was fun to do so again!
32)   Civil Disobedience: Muhammad Ali: Commemorating anniversaries has become an important part of this blog, and the 50th of Ali’s draft resistance was an important one for sure.
33)   DisasterStudying: The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake: Did you know that William James experienced and wrote about the earthquake? Me neither!
34)   The Scholars Strategy Network and Me: Online Writing: This was a really fun reflection to write—and then it got picked up by John Fea’s great blog, which is even more fun!
35)   Star Wars Studying: Yoda, Luke, and Love: I loved the chance to share one of the boys’ and my favorite theories about one of our favorite galaxies.
36)   Matthew Teutsch’s Guest Post: Five African American Books We Should All Read: Getting to feature one of my favorite scholarly bloggers and five wonderful books made for a great Guest Post.
37)   The Pulitzers at 100: Angle of Repose: I’d been looking for a chance to write about Wallace Stegner’s moving novel for a while now. It was nice to finally do so!
38)   Mysterious Beach Reads: Tana French: Ditto French’s amazing series of novels—which are Irish, but AmericanStudies is large and contains multitudes.
39)   Representing the Revolution: Hamilton: I promised that the smash musical would return to this list, and return it did.
40)   Troubled Children: Dennis the Menace: Gotta end with another one of those posts I never would have imagined writing—and that, as always, I enjoyed a great deal. Hope you’d say the same!
Next series starts Monday,
Ben
PS. You know what to do!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

August 17, 2017: Birthday Bests: 2015-2016



Here they are, 39 favorite posts from the 2015-2016 year on the blog:
1)      Cape Cod Stories: The Changing Cape: One of my favorite things about blogging remains the chance to explore in depth topics about which I thought I knew a lot already—Cape Cod certainly qualifies, and this whole series was a wonderful reminder of how much I have to learn.
2)      AmericanStudying 9/11: The Siege: I can’t imagine a work of art, in any genre, that more Americans should see and engage with in 2016 than Ed Zwick’s prescient 1998 film.
3)      Given Days: The Great Molasses Flood: I never expected a Dennis Lehane novel would give me a week’s worth of topics, but The Given Day did, and this largely forgotten historical moment stands out.
4)      September Texts: See You in September: Little inside blog-baseball here: sometimes I create a series and then see what might fill it. The results are always surprising, and I hope as interesting to read as they are to search and write!
5)      AMST in 2015: The chance to share great AmericanStudies voices and sites is always welcome, and these three are just as worth your time in 2016!
6)      Before the Revolution: Crispus Attucks: Think you know all about Mr. Attucks, first casualty of the Revolution? Well, so did I until I researched and wrote this post.
7)      Siobhan Senier’s Guest Post on Dawnland Voices: Voices is one of the most important American anthologies ever published, and it was an honor to share these thoughts by its editor.
8)      21st Century Villains: Wilson Fisk: If I couldn’t write about an American character and performance as rich as Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk, why maintain this blog??
9)      American Inventors: Eli Whitney’s Effects: But at the same time, the cotton gin is just as crucial to a blog called AmericanStudies as is a streaming Netflix superhero show!
10)   SHA Follow Ups: Little Rock and Race: My first visit to Little Rock, for the Southern Historical Association conference, was just as inspiring as you would expect.
11)   Cultural Thanks-givings: Longmire: Am I sharing this post only because I got into a Twitter conversation with Lou Diamond Phillips thanks to it? No, but that doesn’t hurt!
12)   AmendmentStudying: On Not Taking the 13th Amendment for Granted: It’s not easy to really think through all the paths American history could have taken, and why each moment is so complex and central. But it’s important that we try, as I did in this post.
13)   Circles of Friends: The Darker Side of Friends: It’s also not easy to critique works of art that give us pleasure, but just as important that we do so.
14)   Wishes for the AmericanStudies Elves: Ida B. Wells’ Crossroads: There’s a reason this moment will be at the heart of my next book—there are few more inspiring ones in our history.
15)   AmericanStudying 2015: Trump: Hard to remember the way we felt about candidate Trump back in late December—but even more crucial to AmericanStudy his unprecedented and historically horrific campaign now, of course.
16)   DisneyStudying: Tom Sawyer Island: If you guessed that my first trip to Disney World would yield some rich AmericanStudies topics, well, you guessed right!
17)   21st Century Civil Rights: An MLK Day series concluded with some of the many current fronts in the ongoing battle for civil rights and equality for all.
18)   Colonial Williamsburg: The Governor’s Palace Maze: There’s nothing quite like researching and writing a blog post about a favorite childhood place.
19)   Football Debates: Missouri Activism Update: Our 24-hour news cycle culture moves way too quickly past stories on which we should linger—and the Missouri football team’s inspiring activism is one such story to be sure.
20)   TeacherTributes: Student Teachers: Every post in this week of teacher tributes was special to me—but this list of things I've learned from my FSU students stands out.
21)   AmericanStudying Non-favorites: “Africa” and Graceland: Paul Simon fans didn’t appreciate this one so much, and I got some reasoned and convincing pushback—but I still would call Simon’s album dangerously close to cultural appropriation.
22)   Rap Readings: Macklemore, J. Cole, and #BlackLivesMatter: This was a seriously fun series to think about and write, and these are songs and artists well worth your time.
23)   Montreal Memories: Anglais and French: I took a lot away from my first trip to Montreal, but perhaps most striking was the multi-lingual model the city offers us in the US.
24)   Puerto Rican Posts: The Statehood Debate: We’ve recently seen another troubling moment in this evolving and too-often-overlooked American history.
25)   NeMLA Recaps: Many Thanks: I loved everything about my NeMLA conference in Hartford, and about writing this recap series. But I have to highlight here one more time my overwhelming gratitude for all those who made it happen and supported it.
26)   19th Century Humor: Melville’s Chimney: This deeply weird short story had stuck with me for decades, and AmericanStudying it offered some much-needed analytical therapy.
27)   Remembering Reconstruction: The Civil Rights Act of 1866: The battle for whether and how we should remember Reconstruction during its sesquicentennial will likely continue for a good long while—and I fully expect to keep adding my voice to that debate.
28)   American Outlaws: Bonnie and Clyde: One of those posts where I started in a totally different place from where the research and histories took me.
29)   21st Century Patriots: Deepa Iyer: Highlighting contemporary critical patriots was a lot of fun, and I’d emphasize in particular this increasingly vital new book.
30)   Classical Music Icons: Florence Foster Jenkins: Before you see the Meryl Streep movie, read the Ben Railton post!
31)   Semester Reflections: A Writing Associate in Major Authors: The opportunity to share inspiring favorite FSU students is always a blog highlight.
32)   AmericanStudying 60s Rock: Jimi Hendrix’s Covers: From Florence Foster Jenkins to Jimi Hendrix—the six degrees of AmericanStudier!
33)   New Scholarly Books: Finding Light between the Pages: You should read all the wonderful books in this series—but for my birthday week, I’ll share this one on my own forthcoming project!
34)   The 1876 Election and 2016: If you need any more reason to see this election as a crucial one, history offers us a compelling such argument.
35)   Crowd-sourced Beach Reads: Crowd-sourced posts are always great, but the beach reads series brings out a particularly wide and deep group of voices and nominees.
36)   ApologyStudying: Lessons from Canada: It can be tough to let current events impact the blog when I’m trying to write and schedule them in advance—but it’s always worthwhile, and this post and series are great illustrations of that.
37)   SummerStudying: Irony and “Summertime Sadness”: Cleanth Brooks, Emily Dickinson, T.S Eliot, and Lana Del Rey—ain’t that AmericanStudies!
38)   Gone with the Wind Turns 80: Revisiting Rhett Butler: I enjoyed the chance to revisit the subject of my first article, and to see where my ideas have shifted and where they’ve endured.
39)   Modeling Critical Patriotism: Frederick Douglass’ July 4th Speech: No better place to end this list than with a figure and text that offer pitch-perfect exemplification of all that I’m trying to do, here and everywhere.
New Birthday Bests post tomorrow,
Ben
PS. You know what to do!