March 2008 - 20th March 2008
presentation wouldn't be complete without including a few observations
brief trip to the USA, this being my second. In the evenings after work in
Portland, I would arrive back at the hotel, switch on the telly and flick
through the channels. Apart from the news, I hoped I could pick up some
football (soccer). Not surprisingly, the only sport I saw being covered
night after night, was basketball. Whilst I was at (my friend) Barry's, we
did watch football (soccer) on the Fox channel. The Fox Sports
Regional Networks, or simply Fox Sports Net (FSN), are a collection of cable
TV regional sports networks, owned and operated by News Corporation.
I had thought that the Garden Hilton might cater for international tastes
but I had to remember that I was in the land of baseball, American football
and basketball. Though soccer has a strong following, it has never been
supported by the media. It is deemed non-commercial-TV-friendly.
Attempts have been made to change the structure of the game.
from an article in US Today in 2006, during the World Cup finals in Germany,
sports pundit Frank Delford asserts: "There's really a lack of
proficiency in the game. God didn't intend for us to use our feet and our
heads. Though what soccer players do with their feet and their heads is
extraordinary, it is in the same way that spinning plates is extraordinary."
In reference to soccer's offside rule, which prevents attacking players from
standing any closer to the goal: "That's simply un-American. We're all about
forward, forward, forward, in sports and in our society. From the 19th
century onward, we have not taken to soccer. It's almost as if it's not in
our DNA to like it." There are historical factors. "America was all
about being independent from Great Britain, so soccer's inability to stick
here really is a product of historical forces," says Randy Roberts, a
historian at Purdue University. "It's also worth noting that the sports that
gain popularity in any culture tend to have great appeal with the lower
classes. That's true with soccer in the rest of the world and with sports
like basketball here."
I was struck by the level of
individual acute obesity, higher than I would have expected it, not
just isolated cases. It's become a problem in the UK too, worryingly,
amongst juveniles. To quote wikipedia regarding US health: "Approximately
one-third of the adult population is obese and an
additional third is overweight; the obesity
rate, the highest in the industrialized world, has more than doubled in the
last quarter-century." It was however refreshing for me to see the
number of cyclists on the Silverado Trail in Napa and people on my hike in
the Columbia River Gorge. I wanted to be out there with the cyclists in the
glorious sunshine and even bought a book of Wine Country Bike Rides, for the
centre, Healdsburg, Sonoma Valley.
farm near Healdsburg on Highway 28.
Regarding the media, particularly television, I cannot say whether the TV
channels on view in the hotel I was staying at in Portland are
representative of the prime channels on offer but I found the coverage of
important topical issues somewhat superficial. Obviously
the Clinton/Obama/McCain USA Primaries featured in the news but coverage of
environmental issues e.g. global warming, was non-existent. Thom Hartman
wrote in his book "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight" (in reference to
America) that "Things may look good simply because we don't see or hear
what's happening". He went on to say "In today's news it's often the
large, multinational corporations who are at the forefront of planetary
environmental destruction, but also among the hundred largest corporations
in America are the five who own the TV networks that deliver the evening
news, which in no small part accounts for why Americans are so
ill-informed". Now I don't for one moment believe that all Americans
are poorly informed and my point is, this is not an attack on the people. It
is a comment about the corporate media. I was truly interested to find
out what Americans I met thought of the Bush Administration but was
reluctant to ask. I did meet someone on an internal flight who expressed his
opinion somewhat vociferously and he wasn't complimentary either. A friend of mine
who runs an Internet-based travel company stated and I quote: "There's a lot of deliberate manipulation of patriotic
emotion, however, amongst 'educated' people there is a strong anti-Bush
feeling. I have met some of these people and they're so embarrassed about
the USA's image. The problem in America is that a dissenter gets branded as
'unpatriotic', which is the ultimate sin". Who and precisely where are the
'uneducated', one might ask? The perception of being misinformed
certainly does not apply to folk I met and worked with on this trip.
Olivia, Carter and Alesya.
I truly believe that
most Americans are good, honest people! I think the problem
abroad is that people outside the USA don't really know what ordinary
Americans think or feel, other than how the population votes during
presidential elections, whilst not understanding the population demographic
and how that influences politics [in the UK the generalization, which isn't
necessarily accurate, might be that the upper class are politically
conservative and the working class left-wing]. For me personally, visiting
any country is not just about its sites and culture but about learning and
understanding the mindset of its people too. The view abroad might be that the
Bush Administration and its policies are seen as "the face of the nation"
and people therefore regard all Americans (unfairly so) as being the same as its
leader. One might argue that the same generalisation can be made of
Americans, in that "the world begins and ends at the west and east coasts"
[smiley]. The perceived dislike of Americans was echoed by non other than
Browne, who made the comment on stage in London at a concert I attended,
that, after reading a British newspaper, that he was shocked and annoyed at the
animosity towards America as a country. Jackson, lyrically, of course, is no
stranger to criticism of American politics and the role of the
Administration in global conflicts, in many of his songs. Political protest
came to the
fore in Browne's music in the 1986 album, Lives in the Balance, an explicit
condemnation of Reaganism and U.S.
policy in Central America. Flavoured with new instrumental textures, it was
a huge success with Browne fans, though not with mainstream audiences.
Many of the universities in the USA have traditionally had a strong
left-wing culture. What would interest me is what the influence of religion
might be in defining US patriotism. The comment regarding dissenters brings
to mind the case of the famous country band, the Dixie Chicks, to quote
wikipedia website: "During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq,
the band performed in concert in London on March 10, 2003, at the Shepherds
Bush Empire theatre. During this concert, the band gave a monologue to
introduce their song Travelin' Soldier, during which Natalie Maines, a Texas
native, was quoted by The Guardian as saying, "Just so you know, [...] we're
ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas." Though this
is the official circulation of the comment, the full text of the statement
Natalie Maines made was as follows: 'Just so you know, we’re on the
good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re
ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas'.
Directly after Natalie's statements on stage, co-band member Emily Robison
reportedly remarked that the band supported the American troops 100 percent.
The comment about President Bush, who served as
the 46th Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000 before his election to
President of the United States, was reported in The Guardian's review of the
Chicks concert. Shortly thereafter, the U.S. media picked up the story and
It is nothing new that
American musicians become engaged in political issues. The protest songs
during the Vietnam War are a prime example. The new album by Sheryl Crow,
entitled Detours, is no such exception in terms of the trend (see link
below). She’s spoken rather publicly about her advocacy for environmental
issues and peace. Though the album reflects her battle with breast cancer
and her recent relationships, it also deals with social and political issues
facing America: ".... where we are as a nation and the fact that we've
gotten so far away from what America was founded on. Our reputation has been
very damaged, and all this in the last seven years. How do we get back to
who we are, what we stand for?"
Dodds clan, front porch, Napa.
& his wife Kim on front porch, Napa; Barry and his brother Brian in the
kitchen of Barry & Kim's Napa home; The loving "young" couple.
from Heathrow took me home. I went in later that morning to my office. In
retrospect, I should have been in Napa for Easter, as the expected annual
icy spell hit southern England over the Easter weekend, and it snowed.
Ah, I could have been in Napa.......sipping that exquisite fermented Napa
grape! I have to say that I love the country and would make every
effort to visit again someday. Did somebody say that rock group Yes were
touring America in 2008?
One - Portland, Oregon: [
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- Napa, California: [
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