Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Talking American Nations in Oxford, Ohio, April 25

For those of you in southwestern Ohio, I'll be giving the McConnell Lecture at Miami University in Oxford this coming Friday afternoon on American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.

The talk, hosted by the Geography, Political Science, and History departments, starts at 2:30 in Schideler Hall, and there's a reception afterward to come speak informally. It's free and open to the public. More details in the poster image here:

Earlier this month, I gave my American Nations talks at the Governing Leadership Forums in Lansing, Michigan (Yankeedom) and College Park, Maryland (on the edge of Tidewater), and to Arlington, Virginia's Serious Book Club, and enjoyed all three. My next public talk isn't until July 14, however, when I'll be talking Republic of Pirates at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ancestral geography and American Nations at the Washington Post

Flying back from Washington, D.C. this afternoon, I was pleased to see Reid Wilson's piece over at the Washington Post featuring the U.S. Census Bureau's map of dominant reported ancestry by county and, yes, the American Nations map. As Wilson points out, there are a number of continuities.

For those unfamiliar with American Nations, note a critical difference at the outset. The map from my book is tied to initial settlement patterns, showing which of North America's disparate Euro-American colonizing cultures first settled which parts of the continent, laying down the institutions, expectations, and societal norms -- the "cultural DNA" as it were -- that later (and, often, much larger) immigrants had to deal with. Thus (largely English) Yankees may have guided and dominated settlement of the Western Reserve of Ohio or Michigan, but that doesn't mean they are a majority today -- or even a century ago.

That said, some remarkable continuities in patterns will likely strike you. First, as the book itself remarks about this census map, the people of Greater Appalachia are the ones calling themselves "Americans" when asked their ethnicity. (As former Sen. Jim Webb points out in Born Fighting, this is probably because many are not properly aware of their Scots-Irish ancestry.) Much of the Deep South has African-American pluralities and -- not surprisingly -- El Norte has Mexican or Hispano/Spanish pluralities (the latter, as discussed in the book, being the descendants of the early Spanish settlers of New Mexico.) Also: see that big blot of "English" dominance in Utah and surrounding states? Those are the descendants of the Mormon Migration -- overwhelmingly Yankees. Indeed, Utah regularly surpasses rivals Maine and Vermont as the "most English" states in the federation.

For fun, consider this map from the Canadian census, where Eastern Canadians of European background almost universally identify as "Canadian" (rather than "French/Quebecois" or "English" or "Irish") and those in Central and Western Canada never do. First nations people of course dominate First Nation (though in some of these sparsely populated areas, the map needs municipal-level data to draw the boundaries between Far West and First Nation.)

Finally, thanks to the Governing Institute for having me as their luncheon keynote at their Governing Maryland Leadership Forum in College Park yesterday; I enjoyed meeting and talking to many of that very sectionalized state's leaders. Also to the members of the Serious Book Club for a stimulating discussion of the book on the Virginia side of the Potomac last night; pleased the book has so many thoughtful followers in the Tidewater.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

American Nations and Belize

As a once-frequent visitor to Belize -- setting for part of my first book, Ocean's End: Travels Through Endangered Seas -- I was pleased to see one of their major dailies make use of my most recent title, American Nations. Inspired by the concepts they encountered in the book, Amandala's editorial board weighed in on Belize's national identity, arguing for a prominent place for its Ango-Creole culture vis a vis the Spanish-speaking Maya world which -- via Guatemala -- has territorial claims on the former British colony. (I wrote about the latter a decade and a half ago here.) Here's Amandala:

It is Belize’s black, English-speaking component which feels most threatened by the Guatemalan claim to Belize. In defining Belize’s national reality, however, it is precisely that black, English-speaking component which made us very different from Guatemala, the nation which has claimed Belizean territory...Using Woodard’s definition, we can argue that Belize is a nation which became a state on September 21, 1981. This is the reality which Guatemala seeks to reverse. This reversal is what we, the Belizean people, have vowed to resist.
Power to the people. Power in the struggle.

I'd say this: in American Nations terms, most of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Chiapas and other areas probably belong to a Maya cultural zone dating back thousands of years. Parts of coastal Belize -- along with the Bay Islands of Honduras, parts of the Mosquito Coast, and other coastal locales, might have claim to be a dominant Anglo-Creole regional culture under Wilbur Zelinsky's Doctrine of First Effective Settlement. Regardless, a country like Belize has long been bi-cultural in this regard -- tri-cultural if you give the Garifuna people their due -- and one hopes this will remain a source of its strength rather than strife.

Friday, March 28, 2014

NBC series based on Republic of Pirates to premier May 30

"Crossbones", the NBC drama based on my third book, The Republic of Pirates, finally has its air date.

The series, written by Neil Cross (of BBC's "Luther" fame) and starring John Malkovich as Blackbeard, will premier Friday, May 30, at 10 pm, the network revealed this week.

The book, a history of the Golden Age Pirates, was recently released in the U.K., Australia, and the rest of the commonwealth, and translations are forthcoming in Hungary, Poland, Taiwan, and Brazil. It's also available in Spanish and Danish and, of course, in North America.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Maine: judge blasts DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho

Regular readers likely remember Patricia Aho, Maine's industrial lobbyist turned the commissioner of environmental protection, who was the focus of my five-part, three-day series last June in the Maine Sunday Telegram and Portland Press Herald, as well as follow-up stories on the department's subsequent failures in regards to dam relicensing here and here.

In tomorrow's Press Herald, I write on a new development: Aho being blasted in a court decision made public yesterday, both for arbitrary decision making on behalf of a client of her former lobbying form, and for transgressing on acceptable behavior in regards to conflict of interests of this nature. The judge had some choice words for Aho, of which this is a taste:

“While this case might not present the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ which must exist for a Court to find ‘bias’ as that term has been defined by the Law Court, Commissioner Aho’s continuing participation in deciding upon operational and complaint protocols could be viewed as antithetical to the common notions of impartiality which Maine citizens understandably expect from decision makers in Maine agencies.”
There's more in the article and additional material in the opinion itself, which is posted with the article. Also in the completed version to post soon, find the latest on the (Democratic-controlled) legislature's efforts to increase oversight of the department, first outlined here.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Talking pirates with KUER's Radio West Feb 27

For all you pirate fans out there in Utah, I'll be the guest tomorrow on Salt Lake City public radio affiliate KUER's "Radio West" for the full hour, starting at 11am Mountain (1pm Eastern).

I'll be talking about my recent Smithsonian Magazine cover story on Blackbeard, my book, The Republic of Pirates, and anything pirate-related the listening audience wants to talk about.

Here's KUER's blog post for the show.

I most recently spoke on pirates on NPR's "On Point with Tom Ashbrook" and with UK lifestyle/culture blogger Female First (on account of the UK edition of Republic of Pirates having recently been released), and with my local CBS television affiliate here in Maine, WGME.

For those interested in American Nations, I'm speaking later tomorrow, Feb. 27, at the University of Southern Maine, but that won't help those of you in Utah much.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Speaking on American Nations, Portland, Maine, Feb. 27

I'll be speaking about the ideas in American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America this Thursday, February 27, at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

The talk is co-sponsored by USM and the Maine alumni group of Tufts University, my Alma mater.  It kicks off a 7pm in the University Events Room located on the 7th floor of the Glickman Family Library.

It's free and open to the public, but you do need to register. For that -- and more details -- visit this page.

Currently my next public American Nations talks are scheduled for late April in Oxford, Ohio and mid-November outside Des Moines, Iowa. But that will likely change, and a full event schedule is always available here.

For those more interested in pirates, I'll be speaking on that topic on Utah's main public radio station earlier in the day of Feb. 27. More details coming up in this space.