Thursday, March 29, 2012

Panelist at Maine Festival of the Book, Mar. 31, 11 am

A programming note: I'll be joining fellow authors Tony Horwitz (Confederates in the Attic, Baghdad Without A Map) and Michael Willrich (Pox: An American History) for a panel discussion on the crafting of narrative history this Saturday, Mar. 31, at 11 am.

The event, part of the Maine Festival of the Book, takes place at the Abromson Center of the University of Southern Maine here in Portland. All the day's events are free, with free parking available as well. Also in the line-up Saturday: Angus King, Tom Allen, Lou Ureneck, Clark Blaise, Susan Henderson, Douglas Coffin and many others.

The festival officially kicks off tonight at 7pm, with a talk by the Library of Congress' John Cole. Tony Horwitz's-- tickets required -- is tomorrow, Mar 30, at 7pm.

For more, here's a write up on Saturday's events from the Portland Press Herald, and on the Festival at large from The Forecaster.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Talking American Nations in Kennebunkport, Maine, Mar. 25

For those in Southern Maine, I'll be giving a talk on the American Nations at the Louis T. Graves Public Library in Kennebunkport this Sunday, Mar. 25, at 2pm.

The lecture is part of the library's Pasco Lecture Series, sponsored by Kennebunk Savings Bank and the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation. It is free and open to the public.

Other public lectures on my schedule for Maine in the near-ish future include an appearance on a panel with Tony Horwitz and Michael Willrich at the Maine Festival of the Book in Portland, Mar. 31, and a lecture in Castine co-sponsored by the Castine Historical Society, the Wilson Museum and the Friends of the Witherline Memorial Library, June 27.

A full schedule of my speaking events is always available here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

College athletic conferences and the American Nations

When West Virginia University announced it was leaving the Big East athletic conference in favor of the Big 12, many asked if it was a cultural "fit". The answer, athletic director Oliver Luck tells the Times West Virginian, is yes, absolutely, and marshals American Nations to make his case.

“Appalachia is Scotch-Irish. It isn’t really geographical. It’s a cultural fit, and I believe WVU fits very well," Luck says in the piece. "Our only neighbors in Great Appalachia were Pitt and Cincinnati. South Florida doesn’t fit in there.”

He goes on to argue that the Big East may have itself gone astray by admitting Boise State and San Diego State to Connecticut, and that a complete restructuring may be in order. “The structure of college football needs to change,” he said. “You need someone to put some geographical and culture sense into it so you can be with schools like your own. Maybe we could have a Greater Appalachian Conference where you could have West Virginia, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech and Pitt.”

Friday, March 16, 2012

Former Irish PM John Bruton on American Nations

I was pleased to recently have run across this posting by the former Prime Minister of Ireland (and ambassador to the U.S.), John Bruton, about my latest book, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.

"One of the most original books I read in the last year," Mr. Bruton writes. "During my five years as an Ambassador in the United States, I spent a lot of time studying the voting patterns of different states and reading American history, and I have to say I find Woodard’s thesis to be fully borne out by my own observations."

Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. St. Patrick's Day is tomorrow, and I'll be certain to raise you a toast.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Morning Sentinel reviews American Nations

The daily newspaper of my childhood, the Waterville, Maine Morning Sentinel ran a nice review of my latest book, American Nations, today.

Reviewer Bill Bushnell calls it "controversial and thought-provoking...fascinating and perceptive", for which I'm most appreciative.

The review also ran in the Sentinel's sister paper, the Kennebec Journal in the state capital, Augusta.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lessig: "Occupy Americans Elect"

As regular readers of this space know, I'm one who believes money is having an increasingly corrosive effect on U.S. politics, distorting our elected representatives' policy agendas so as to conform to their donors' desires, rather than those of their constituents. On the national scene, Harvard law school professor Lawrence Lessig has emerged as one of the most vocal champions of reforming the system, and has laid out the problem and possible solutions in his recent book, Republic, Lost.

Now Lessig has a new e-book out, One Way Forward: the Outsider's Guide to Fixing the Republic, and a new short-term strategy in the reform effort: getting political outsiders to "occupy" Americans Elect for the cause. I had an opportunity to interview him earlier this month about his plan, and wrote this piece that posted yesterday afternoon at Washington Monthly.

Enjoy, and let me know what you think of his idea.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Lind on American Nations, the presidential race, and the media

Michael Lind's piece at Salon this morning -- "Behind the red state-blue state divide" -- argues that American regional political geography is central to understanding electoral politics, but is inadequately reflected in the media, which instead overemphasizes other factors.

Needless to say, I agree, and was pleased to find American Nations cited as one of the valuable works on the topic. But I even more heartily endorse the following argument further down in the piece:

"Why not invite scholars like [Woodard] who actually understand America’s regional cultures onto TV news studio sets? As part of election night coverage, wouldn’t it be useful for journalists to interview political historians and political scientists to put election returns into their historical regional contest?"

Let me humbly add that television producers might also contact Mr. Lind, one of the few public intellectuals who has consistently emphasized the importance of regional cultures in understanding current political issues.

For those who remain unconvinced, have a look at this map of the GOP presidential results by county thus far at the Washington Post, and delve into my recent analysis of the race over at Washington Monthly.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Super Tuesday and the American Nations

I'm pleased to note that the results of the ten "Super Tuesday" G.O.P. nominating contests fit very nicely with the political geography outlined in American Nations. Newt Gingrich, for instance, can't manage to win a single county in the regional cultures I call Yankeedom and the Midlands, which makes his nomination all but impossible. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum also have striking regional strengths and weaknesses, explaining their county-by-county performances in (culturally-divided) battleground states like Ohio.

But I ramble. For a discussion of all of this, check out my latest piece over at Washington Monthly's Ten Miles Square.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

On pirates in Wired Magazine

The new issue of Wired Magazine has a special section on pirates, and my book, Republic of Pirates, makes cameos in two articles within.

In one, Mary H.K. Choi asks if "Freelancers are the New Pirates" -- as a lifelong freelancer, I hope the answer really is 'yes' -- and includes some of my comment from our interview on the golden age pirates of the Bahamas, the subject of my book.

A second piece looks at the three pirate-related television series now in development in the United States, including NBC's "Republic of Pirates," which is based on my 2007 title. Angus Konstam provides some historian's comment on the settings and subjects of all three.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

On the Maine Today Media rescue in Down East

My Down East piece on the rescue of Maine's largest newspaper group, Maine Today Media, has been on newsstands for a couple of weeks, but just posted online. Alas, after our monthly magazine went to press, the original rescuers pulled out and were replaced by Donald Sussman, the wealthy husband of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (who's now considering a bid for Olympia Snowe's U.S. Senate seat.)

Still, three-quarters of the article is still relevant (really, it is), including the assessment of the damage Rich Connor left behind and the prospects and constraints the Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel face going forward.

For additional background on the MTM story, there's this piece from the twilight of the Blethen era and an assessment of the first year of Mr. Connor's tenure.

[Update, 3/3/2012: The Portland Newspaper Guild has put out their inside story of how the Sussman rescue went down, with some additional details about the Connor and Kushner/Harte episodes.]