Four alternative slices of American Life
Most everybody knows our country’s diverse landmarks and attractions – the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon, Disneyland – but not everybody knows about the Spam Museum in Austin Texas... or Leila’s Hair Museum in Missouri. Richard Faulk is a freelance writer and editor. He is the author of “Gross America: Your Coast to Coast Guide Of All Things Gross” which came out earlier this month.
There’s something keenly American about riding the rails. We meet kind-hearted hoboes in Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” hear the restless spirit in Woody Guthrie songs and cheer on Chaplin’s little tramp striking out for the Yukon.
The life of a working hobo isn’t nearly so romantic, especially today, when their numbers are few and rail security is fierce. Since 1900, many of those who can make their way to Britt, Iowa for the annual National Hobo Convention. Aaron Lake Smith is Senior Editor of Vice Magazine, where he wrote about hitching his own ride to Britt. His experience there led him to wonder if the American hobo has reached the end of the line.
Check out the accompanying documentary from Vice Magazine :
These days, there’s a reality TV show for every American hobby, lifestyle, income bracket, family situation, and even religious persuasion. Subjects range from the minutia of celebrity life, to the life-altering issue of teen pregnancy. A few months ago, we heard about a new show being shopped by No Regrets Entertainment falls into that second, life-altering category. It's tentatively titled Shunned, and aims to follow four ex- Ultra-Orthodox Jews from New York City who’ve left the faith for the sin-filled, secular life.
Check out Luzer Twersky's profile by Josh Gleason for WNYC.
Free to Be...at Forty
Forty years ago this month, the groundbreaking cultural phenomenon Free To Be…You And Me found its way into the collective subconscious of children across America.
The brainchild of actress Marlo Thomas, the project included a book, a television special, and an iconic record that – if you were a girl growing up in the seventies – likely got hundreds of plays on the family record player.
Free To Be...You And Me was an immediate commercial success, with the record achieving gold status several times over in the years after its release. Collectively, the album, book, and TV show won Emmy and Peabody awards, earned a Grammy nomination, and special honors from the likes of the National Education Association and the American Library Association. Its impact stemmed from its message of boldly bucking gender and racial stereotypes in a series of songs and skits voiced by an a-list cast, including Alan Alda, Carol Channing, Rosie Greer, and Marlo Thomas herself. Joining us to talk about Free To Be...You And Me, and legacy among those of us that still remember the songs is Laura Lovett. She’s professor of Twentieth Century U.S. Women’s History at University of Massachusetts Amherst, and co-editor of the new book, When We Were Free To Be: Looking Back And At A Children’s Classic And The Difference It Made.