Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Is Pittsburgh in the Midlands?, a redux

One of the great American Nations debates is whether Pittsburgh should be in the Midlands (it should!) or in Greater Appalachia (which some argue for.) For the past five years, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staff columnist Brian O'Neill has been occasionally revisiting this question, starting in 2013, with a personal lament that I put his city in the Midlands, and again earlier this year, when he conceded the Appalachian label might not be quite right either.

This week he calls in a third party perspective with this delightful conversation with a self-identified Appalachian, Eric Jester, who argues for an Appalachian identity for the city.

"It's an ambitious man who defines the identity of a people who struggle [to] do so for themselves," Jester says. "The Appalachian in me loves the way a ridgeline dips into some tight little holler with a name like Scotia or Calamity; the way an orange stream dances around and under a tight winding road to the Youghiogheny; the way those fading miners' hoses sag a little in the middle."

Hope you enjoy the piece as I did.

For the record: I'm sticking with the Midlands, though I certainly agree that county-level resolution doesn't capture the subtleties of even first order regional cultural geography. But this placement is due to early settlement history, and to revealing events like the 1794 (Appalachian) siege of the city during the Whiskey Rebellion and not, as Jester writes, because of some "assumption that a beautiful city, a center of education and technology, and an historical hotbed of progressivism, could ever be associated with Appalachia." Greater Appalachia has a great many cities with most or all of those attributes -- Cinci, Louisville, Roanoke, Charlotte, Asheville, Winston-Salem, Nashville, Dallas, and Austin, just to name a few -- and the region pretty much gave us the "democracy" part of our liberal democracy, much to the trepidation of most of the Founders.

Now if only we could get Columbus's columnists to weigh in on that city's inverted status: Appalachian in American Nations, with many residents arguing for the Midlands.....

Friday, October 5, 2018

The making of Terry Hayes, independent candidate for Maine governor


Here in Maine, there's a four-way race to replace Governor Paul LePage, and I've been writing in-depth profiles of each of the contenders for the Maine Sunday Telegram -- pieces that ask who they are, where they came from, and what shaped their world view.

The final installment is in this week's Telegram, and is on state treasurer Terry Hayes, one of two independents in the race, who was effectively orphaned at 11, built a career in education, and served in the legislature as a Democrat before becoming state treasurer with largely Republican backing.

The other stories in the series are on Democratic nominee Janet MillsRepublican nominee Shawn Moody; and independent Alan Caron.

Hope you enjoy.

I last wrote detailed profiles of Maine statewide candidates for the Press Herald during the 2012 US Senate race, which was won by Angus King (I), currently Maine's junior senator.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

In Japan

I'm at the end of an enjoyable, whirlwind week in Japan. Unless, that is, the whirling winds of Typhoon Trami close Narita airport this late afternoon.

I came on the invitation of the Tokyo daily, the Asahi Shimbun, to present about the American Nations paradigm and its ramifications for the rise of Trumpism at the keynote panel of their Asahi World Forum 2018. Had the pleasure of hanging around the green room for a couple of hours ahead of time with Princeton University's Jan-Werner Muller, author of What is Populism?,  and Pascal Perrineau of Sciences Po, a leading expert on France's National Front. Muller, it turns out, shares my keen interest in Hungary (where I used to live and where his wife is from) and Perrineau is a regular visitor to New England, on account of a recurring visiting lectureship at Middlebury.

Here's Asahi Shimbun's write-up of our panel, if you read Japanese or can make sense of the Google Translate treatment of it. It ran with this dramatic photo of me making a point, probably about the Puritan conquest of Maine.

In the middle of the week, I spoke to graduate students and faculty at the University of Tokyo's Center for Pacific and American Studies on the kind invitation of Prof. Yasuo Endo, and then travelled to Kyoto where I finally met Prof. Yoshio Higomoto, who led the translation of American Nations into Japanese. I enjoyed speaking to his students and colleagues at Doshisha University which, funny enough, was founded by Yankee Congregational missionaries and has remained a leading institution in the study of the United States here, especially early American history.

I was able to spend a beautiful day visiting the temples, mountains, and river gorges of the Kyoto area before Typhoon Trami's approach compelled my premature departure from western Japan. Last night I wound up in the midst of the deserted, sprawling, and beautiful hillside temple complex in the city of Narita, not far from Japan's international airport where -- fingers crossed -- my flight will be departing just as Trami begins battering the Tokyo region early this evening.



[Update, 10/1/18: Wheels up on my flight home about an hour before Tokyo shut down its entire rail system for the first time in history. Typhoon Trami made a mess of that city of 35 million's Monday commute. Two people died elsewhere in Japan.]

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Making of Alan Caron, independent candidate for Maine governor

There's a four-way race to replace Maine Governor Paul LePage, and I've been writing in-depth profiles of each of the contenders for the Maine Sunday Telegram -- pieces that ask who they are, where they came from, and what shaped their world view.

The latest is on one of the two independents in the race, Alan Caron, whose life has included an eight-month prison term, brushes with militant radicals, successful community organizing, a career as a leading campaign strategist and proselytizer for an innovation-led "new Maine economy."

It follows last week's story on Democratic nominee Janet Mills and a one on Republican nominee Shawn Moody the week before that. The series concludes with independent Terry Hayes on Sept. 30.

Hope you enjoy.

I last wrote detailed profiles of Maine statewide candidates for the Press Herald during the 2012 US Senate race, which was won by Angus King (I), currently Maine's junior senator.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Big in Japan, Part III: the tour

Iwanami Shoten, the Tokyo based publisher, released a beautifully-executed two-volume Japanese language edition of American Nations a year ago, resulting in an enjoyable in-person interview here in Maine with the New York bureau chief of the daily Asahi Shimbun a few months later.

Now I'm headed to Japan to go on tour, so to speak. Like Wham!, but without George Michaels. Or music. Or the stadium-sized crowds of adoring fans. Ok, not much like that, but still fun.

On September 25, I'll be on a keynote panel at the Asahi Forum 2018 in Tokyo, discussing the populist threat to liberal democracies with fellow presenters Pascal Perrineau (foremost researcher on France's National Front), Masaru Sato (a former intelligence analyst at the Japanese Foreign Ministry) and Princeton's Jan-Werner Muller (author of What is Populism?).

If you are missing the Forum -- registration is now closed -- I will also be presenting on American Nations in two university colloquia that are open to the public.

The first is September 26 at 5 pm at the University of Tokyo's Center for Pacific and American Studies, at their Kombaba campus. Details can be found here.

The following day, September 27 at 4:40 pm, I'll be giving the same talk in Kyoto at Doshisha University's International Institute for American Studies on their Karasuma campus. Details in the attached image:



Hope to see you there.

[Update, 9/30/18: Here's a short post on my trip from here in the field.]





Monday, September 17, 2018

The Making of Janet Mills, Democratic nominee for Maine governor

With Paul LePage term limited, there's a competitive race for Maine Governor this fall. Over the late summer, I've been at work on a series of in-depth profiles of the four general election candidates seeking to replace him -- pieces that ask who they are, where they came from, and what shaped their world view.

The latest is on Democratic nominee Janet Mills and appears in this week's Maine Sunday Telegram. It traces her origins in a western Maine political family closely allied to the late US Senator Margaret Chase Smith through a half-century career in public service as a criminal prosecutor, district attorney, legislator, women's rights advocate, and attorney general.

It follows last week's story on Republican nominee Shawn Moody. The series continues with independent Alan Caron (on Sept. 23); and independent Terry Hayes (on Sept. 30.)

Hope you enjoy.

I last wrote detailed profiles of Maine statewide candidates for the Press Herald during the 2012 US Senate race, which was won by Angus King (I), currently Maine's junior senator.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Speaking on Maine's identity, history, future in Blue Hill, Sept. 16

I'll be speaking on coastal Maine's cultural and economic background in Blue Hill, Maine next Sunday, September 16 at the Esther Wood Room of George Stevens Academy.

The talk -- entitled "Four Centuries of Coastal Maine Lives and Livelihoods" is sponsored by Colloquy Downeast in collaboration with six local partners, including the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries the Ellsworth American, Brooklin Keeping Society, the Wilson Museum, and the Sedgwick-Brooklin Historical Society. These are themes I explore in the second of my books, The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier.

It kicks off at 3pm. Tickets are $5 at the door and include a light reception following the talk. There's a write-up in the American this week.

My next public talk thereafter is on the other side of the world: on American Nations at the 2018 Asahi World Forum in Tokyo September 25. Free book and a sake for anyone who makes both of these events in person.