Posts Tagged ‘history’

The American Future: A History, by Simon Schama

Working into the nightIt’s been a big evening of blogging for me, three posts on my personal blog, one on my professional blog and now a 3rd one here on Austin metro blogs. I wasn’t sure if should post this one here, or on my personal blog. As time passed though, I was more convinced I should post here.

Why? A few reasons. First up, while I don’t know too much American history, I found the first episode of the BBC’s “The American Future: A History, by Simon Schama” absolutely fascinating. Since Schama is a historian, I’m sure everything is historically accurate, if not perhaps a little biased in presentation, maybe. Why doesn’t BBC America have the balls to show this here before the election? For the intelligentry it raises some more interesting questions on their voting choices for November, in this episode, mostly about water.

Second, Schama’s “history” is running on the external display on my laptop, full screen in great quality. When the USA goes digital in February 2009, you might ask, where are the US offerings that are anything in comparison with the UK’s broadcast digital Service. not to mention the BBC iPlayer. I was lucky enough to be able to download this episode while in the UK last week, it cannot be accessed online from the US, so don’t bother trying. Here though is a small clip from the BBC YouTube channel.

Third, was doesn’t the BBC, and likewise it’s erstwhile real partner here in the USA, PBS and WGBS Boston, figure out some way of making BBCi programs available for a charge online here in the USA? I’d certainly pay more for BBC shows especially news and documentaries than I would for online music and books.

Fourth, the first episode of the series includes a piece on President Carter, where he says “Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns” and “if we succumb to a dream world, then we will wake-up to a nightmare”. Oh the ring of truth for this today. There is though a salutary lesson for the next President of the USA, if he wants to get elected for a second term. The circumstances of Carters second term election will almost certainly be the same, if not worse by then.

Scharma book on American plenty, that spawned the series is available from now and for pre-order for if you are prepared to wait until May 2009.

Will Congress Avenue Survive?

On my way to try out the new Conjunctured co-working space (which is a whole other story) today on my bike, I stopped to get a few breakfast tacos at the doomed Las Manitas Cafe.  Across the street, the abomination known as The Austonian (please don’t start calling Austin residents “Austonians” – we are Austinites!) is going up. In addition to losing Las Manitas as a business, a letter posted on the counter at Las Manitas made it sound like Congress Avenue could lose that block of buildings, completely, to the new Marriott property.  The letter on the counter indicated there will be a hearing of the Historical Commission this coming Monday, yet I could not find out any information on the City’s Web site today.

That little section of Congress, which is supposedly a National Historic District, is really a huge part of what I think of as Austin.  My grandparents ran a store on Congress when I was a kid, and I remember when Las Manitas was Avenue Cafe, Woolworth’s supplied all our pharmaceutical needs as well as tasty shakes and burgers, the elegant Scarbrough’s department store gave us a taste of big-city living a la Macy’s or Bergdorf’s, and the Picadilly Cafeteria was upscale dining.  How much of that essence, the feeling, of that past remain? I’m worried.  Maybe I’m overly sentimental, but we have historic districts for good reason in this country, and I hope there is some teeth in this one. 

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