Category Archives: Americana

Americana: YouTube

Legend has it that the motivation for one of the founders of YouTube was his inability to find Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. Uploaded by infobenissa.cat.

YouTube was launched in November of 2005, but its immediate ubiquitous presence on the web makes it seem as if the video sharing website has existed for much longer.  Created by three former employees of PayPal, legend has it that the idea for the site was born after one of the founders had trouble finding a video of Janet Jackson’s famous “wardrobe malfunction” from the Super Bowl Halftime Show in 2004.  The de facto site for just about anything in video format, YouTube now consumes as much total bandwidth as the entire Internet did in the year 2000.

Perusing the all-time most viewed videos on YouTube is a strange way to kill an hour.  Among the mind-numbing music videos by pop stars like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, there are cute kids doing cute things, a sneezing panda, the “Time of My Life” scene from Dirty Dancing, a ventriloquist act, and an entirely unarousing thigh massage video.  Oh, and that cat video that your aunt Carol thinks is so funny.

Uploaded by blog.delta.com.

It’s easy to think of YouTube as the first site you’d use to find a song you heard on the radio last week, or to see the trailer for the movie you want to see this weekend. But it’s also a resource for more practical uses, because no matter what you’re into, you’ll find it.  Detailing a ’55 Chevy Belair?  There’s a video on that.  Developing black and white film in a dark room?  Check.  Want 6-pack abs in a 3-minute workout?  Yep.

Every once in a while I’ll happen across a video of something cringeworthy or embarrassing, like a news anchor cursing when she didn’t know she was live, and it’ll make me hope that the worst moment of my life doesn’t wind up on YouTube.  Nobody wants their 15 minutes of fame to come that way, but it happens often.  The flavor-of-the-month pop stars with 600 million views will come and go, but thankfully, YouTube stars like Antoine Dodson and the Techno Viking will always be here to make the internetz a more interesting place.

 

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Holiday: July 4th Fireworks

Fireworks have been around for centuries, but they were mostly like large firecrackers until traces of flammable metals were added, and then they exploded in color. Uploaded by pinellasnewsboys.com.

They can be spectacular. In New York City, they exploded more than 22 tons of pyrotechnics a couple of years ago. Or they can be modest, a few minutes of “oooh” and “aaah” in small towns all across the country. Big or small, they reflect the pride Americans feel on their greatest patriotic holiday.

Uploaded by lilesnet.com.

The celebration probably goes back to 1777, the first anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In Philadelphia they rang bells, fired guns – and lit what firecrackers they had. John Adams, the second President, wrote, “”It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with…illuminations from one end of this continent to the other…”

Fireworks also evoke this line in the “Star Spangled Banner”: “And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air…” Historically, fireworks were known more for their sound, creating a loud bang but not much color. In the 1830s, trace metals that burn at high temperatures became standard, and suddenly fireworks were a visual treat as well. Unfortunately, video doesn’t do them justice, but here’s a part of the 2010 July 4th show in New York:

Americana: USS Constitution (“Old Ironsides”)

Commissioned in 1797, the USS Constitution is the world's oldest floating commissioned naval vessel. Though she serves primarily as an educational vessel, she's still seaworthy, and will take sail on July 4 to celebrate Independence Day. Uploaded by physicsbuzz.physicscentral.com.

Commissioned in 1797 and named by George Washington, the Constitution earned her nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812 when she defeated the HMS Guerriere. The ship also fought in the First Barbary War.

Uploaded by wikimedia.org.

In 1930 a rumor spread that she was about to be scrapped, having already outlasted the usual life span of a wooden ship. Then Oliver Wendell Holmes published his poem “Old Ironsides” in the Boston newspaper, and the public rallied to preserve the famous ship. The American people have rallied to her preservation ever since.

The Constitution is a frigate, with three masts and a wood hull. She remains the world’s oldest floating commissioned naval vessel. Today, she serves primarily as an educational ship, and tours are given most days by active duty Navy personnel. Her crew of 60 recognize theirs as a very special assignment. And yes, she is still seaworthy. In fact, USS Constitution and her crew will get underway from the ship’s berth in Charlestown, Mass. July 4, to celebrate Independence Day. Wouldn’t it be glorious to see her under sail again?

 

 

 

Americana: Duct Tape

Duct tape came into use during World War II, when it was used to repair everything from ammunition boxes to weapons, to Jeeps, to airplanes. Uploaded by wikimedia.org.

What holds America together? Is it our shared history? Our common sense of purpose, of what it means to be Americans? Is it the founding documents that have given us direction and hope? Much as these things help, the fact is that America is held together by duct tape.

Duct tape on Apollo 13. Uploaded by workingonthemoon.com.

This fabric tape sealed with polyethylene can fix just about anything. When the Apollo 13 mission encountered critical danger with its CO2 scrubbers, duct tape helped provide the solution and saved the lives of the astronauts on board. The ground crew member who designed the solution said, “I felt we were home free,” when he learned there was duct tape on board.

People disagree about whether the proper name is duct or duck tape, and about which usage came first. It’s generally agreed that the tape first came into use during World War II when it was used to repair Jeeps, weapons, even aircraft. There is one use, however for which duct tape isn’t allowed. And that is to tape up ducts. Apparently it doesn’t meet building codes.

Film Studio: Pixar

All of Pixar's films are among the top 50 highest-grossing animated movies of all time - and Toy Story 3 is number one. Uploaded by moviemobsters.com.

Hard to imagine how many films 20th Century Fox has made. Or MGM. Or Universal, Columbia, Paramount. But we know how many Pixar has made. Eleven. Eleven of the smartest, most charming, and most profitable films you’ll ever want to see.

The studio began as The Graphics Group, a part of Lucasfilms. True to his reputation as a visionary, Steve Jobs purchased the group. Disney saw how Pixar’s software could help its traditionally animated movies, as well as its potential making its own computerized animation films, and bought it. Jobs bought it for $5 million; when Disney purchased it, its value was $7.4 billion. Nice going, Stevie boy.

Uploaded by blog.coinjoos.com.

Here’s a complete list of the Pixar catalog:

  • Toy Story (1995)
  • A Bug’s Life (1998)
  • Toy Story 2 (1999)
  • Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  • Finding Nemo (2003)
  • The Incredibles (2004)
  • Cars (2006)
  • Ratatouille (2007)
  • WALL-E (2008)
  • Up (2009)
  • Toy Story 3 (2010)

All these movies are among the top 50 highest-grossing animated movies of all time, and Toy Story 3 is number one. Altogether, Pixar films have won 26 Academy Awards and seven Golden Globes. Not to mention the hearts of millions of fans all around the world.

Americana: Academy Awards

The Oscar statuette is 13.5 inches tall and weighs 8.5 pounds. Except for some slight streamlining of its base, it remains virtually unchanged since it was first handed out in 1928. Uploaded by reviewsinhd.com.

It was the boss of MGM, Louis B. Mayer, who came up with the idea. Like Andy Hardy – “Let’s put on a show!” He got the other studios to buy in on the idea, and the first Academy Awards presentation debuted on May 16, 1929.

That first ceremony drew 270 people for a brunch that costs $5 per ticket. Now, valet parking would be insulted with a $5 tip. The Oscar statuette made its appearance at that first show, and save for some minor streamlining of the base, is essentially the same today as back then. Wings won the first Best Picture; but then, if you know movie trivia, you probably knew that.

The Oscar show has been hosted by a wide variety of actors and comedians over the decades. The recent ones you know, but some of the earlier hosts included Will Rogers (1934), Frank Capra (1936), Fred Astaire (1951), and Jerry Lewis (1957).

Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker. Uploaded by lightstalker.org.

Because of the success of the Oscars, each entertainment medium gives out awards to pat itself on the back. The Tonys, the Grammys, the Emmys, various Critics awards. Shoot, everyone who puts out a 25-cent picture magazine in Nashville has some kind of Country Music award. But only one is a title that comes as close to British peerage as we have in this country. “May I introduce John Smith, John Doe, and Academy Award Winner Jane Doe.”

Americana: Life Magazine

During its peak in the 1940s, Life had reporters and photographers in all theaters of World War II, and brought the war home to America. By the 1950s, more people got their news from TV, and Life became more of a celebrity magazine. Uploaded by arts-wallpaper.com.

While there was an earlier (and a later) incarnation of Life magazine, this honor goes to the Henry Luce version (as in Time-Life) published weekly starting in 1936 and ceasing in 1972. Noted for its photojournalistic style, the articles were typically long on pictures, short on text. Not that literature was ignored, though; Life serialized Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea in 1952, along with his novella that came to be called The Dangerous Summer.

Uploaded by comcast.net.

Perhaps at no time was Life more important to America than during World War II. The magazine had reporters and photographers in all theaters of the war, and their stories and pictures brought the war home to ordinary Americans. At its peak, it sold 13.5 million copies per week.

As more people got their news from television, circulation figures for newsmagazines tumbled in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and despite numerous gimmicks (such as reducing the cover price from .25 to .19), Life eventually ceased weekly publication. It was resurrected as a monthly, then as a Sunday newspaper insert, but the magic was gone. Still, it provided Americans of an entire generation their graphic look at world events, and its photo library is still available for advertising and editorial uses.

Americana: Hollywood Walk of Fame

Cameron Diaz shows off her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce ruled that to get a star, you have to show up for the ceremony. So far, everyone has - except Barbara Streisand. Uploaded by haveuheard.net.

It stretches for 15 blocks along Hollywood Boulevard, and three blocks of Vine Street. That’s 1.7 miles total, featuring more than 2,500 stars. The biggest names in the entertainment industry are there, of course, but also a lot of people you never heard of, unless they’re your cousins. Who could ever forget Gregory La Cava, Fred Niblo, or Marie Doro? You’re right, we all could, and have. But something made them seem as worthy of a star as Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, Sidney Poitier.

Uploaded by dailycontributor.com.

Although conceived in the early 1950s, the first 1,558 stars weren’t finally ready for public view until 1961. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce administers the Walk, and it created a special committee to develop the criteria for inclusion and for selecting new honorees. Usually about 25 new stars are added each year. Stars are awarded in five categories: motion pictures, broadcast television, music, radio, and theater/live performance (added in 1984). Strangely, an individual can receive a separate star for each category, and only person has been recognized in all five – Gene Autry.

Some interesting facts:

  • The most common surname is Williams, and there are 15: Andy, Billy, Billy Dee, Cindy, Earle, Esther, Guy, Hank, Joe, Kathlyn, Paul, Robin, Roger, Tex, Vanessa.
  • The categories have been stretched to admit people who don’t really fit in one of the official five. Some of these include Magic Johnson, Muhammad Ali, and the Apollo XI astronauts.
  • Some stars celebrate fictional characters. Among these are Mickey Mouse, Godzilla, Lassie, and The Simpsons.

The Walk of Fame is said to be viewed by 10 million visitors annually.

Americana: Navy SEALs

They've fought in Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan - and in lots of places we'll never know about. Photo by Michael W. Pendergrass.

There’s an old saying, “Don’t send a boy to do a man’s job.” Since their creation in 1961, the Navy SEALs have undertaken special operations jobs that required extreme skill, flawless timing, and the ultimate courage. They’ve been deployed in such trouble spots as Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. At least, those are the places we know about. Given the nature of their missions, no doubt they have completed other secret assignments as well.

Uploaded by logisticsmonster.com.

The name SEAL derives from their operations on SEa, Air, and Land. They trace their roots back to World War II, and the Naval Combat Demolition Unit. Today, they are the special forces arm of the Navy, and among their missions are reconnaissance, unconventional warfare, hostage rescue, and counter-terrorism.

And, we’ve just found out, killing World Enemy No. 1, Osama bin Laden. As of this writing, it appears that a team of about 40 SEALs, 24 on the ground, invaded bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. They took out al Qaeda’s leader, recovered his body, brought out other documentation which may prove invaluable in helping break up cells, all without taking a single casualty. Today, all of America is more aware of – and extremely grateful for – the talented men who are proud to be Navy SEALs.

Americana: Soda Fountains

Technically, a soda fountain is the machine that dispenses drinks at a lunch counter. But it became the common term for the local hangout that served sandwiches and ice cream treats. Uploaded by lizrollphotography.blogspot.com.

Okay, those of you under 30 bear with me for a few moments. Long, long ago, before a Walgreens or CVS occupied every corner, communities embraced local drug stores. Besides dispensing prescriptions, they mostly sold over-the-counter remedies, along with a few extra items like writing supplies and batteries. But during their golden age, they also had a lunch counter that served sandwiches and ice cream treats. That section was called the soda fountain.

Uploaded by philadelphia.about.com.

Technically, a “soda fountain” is just the machine that dispensed drinks. But that became the generic name for the whole lunch counter. One of the main drinks that you don’t find much anymore was an ice cream soda, served with a mixture of chocolate syrup and carbonated water. And the guy behind the counter (seems like it was almost always a guy) was known as a soda jerk. Chances are tunes played on a juke box played in the corner, or maybe from a mini player on the counter.

I remember the counter at my drug store in the Stuart Gardens section of Newport News, Va. They’d make the absolute best chocolate milk shakes in one of those metal decanters; they’d fill your glass and leave the rest for you, too. No one’s quite sure what killed the soda fountain. Maybe it was the mega pharmacy, or maybe the deterioration of neighborhoods. Like drive-in theaters, a few of them still exist…and should be treasured as an irreplaceable part of American culture.

Americana: The Plaza Hotel

The Plaza Hotel opened in 1907, and almost instantly became one of New York's most famous landmarks. That's been helped along by its setting for a wide variety of films, ranging from Plaza Suite to Crocodile Dundee to Sleepless in Seattle. Uploaded by baldpunk.com.

When I made my first visit to New York City as an adult, I had a list of the sights I wanted to see as a first-timer. Like most people, I wanted to go to Times Square (quite a bit edgier back then), Rockefeller Center, and the Metropolitan Museum. But another destination was a place I considered the heart of New York – The Plaza Hotel. I walked through the lobby and thought of all the movers and shakers who had been there before. And I still love the place.

Uploaded by makeherup.com.

Located at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Central Park South, the Plaza has been an integral part of New York since it was built in 1907. At that time, you could stay in a room for $2.50 a night – expect to pay close to a grand for that room today. The Beatles stayed at The Plaza when they came to America in 1964. And Donald Trump once owned the hotel, saying, “I haven’t purchased a building, I’ve purchased a masterpiece – the Mona Lisa.”

Recently, The Plaza underwent renovation and is now 282 hotel rooms and 152 private condo units. No mention of The Plaza is complete without a mention of all the movies filmed there. Some of the more memorable include Funny Girl, Plaza Suite, Arthur, Crocodile Dundee, Scent of a Woman, and Sleepless in Seattle.

Americana: Stuckey’s

 

Started by a Georgia pecan farmer as a roadside stand for his crop, Stuckey's at one time had more than 350 locations and was an American highway fixture. Uploaded by leealumni.homestead.com.

What you see now, if you pass a Stuckey’s along the highway, is just one among many convenience/snack/confections stores along your route. But there was a time when one of the few available options for travelers was this oasis known for its pecan products. Back then, Stuckey’s was the stuff.

Uploaded by confusereviews.com.

You can’t make up a name like Stuckey’s, and sure enough, the company was founded in the 1930s by W.S. Stuckey, Sr. in Eastman, Georgia. Like hundreds of other farmers, he had a roadside stand along a main route to Florida selling his produce – in this case, pecans. Before long, Ethel Stuckey began making pecan divinities and pecan logs to sell at the stand. The business was so successful that they constructed a building. Then added a restaurant. Then gas pumps.

I suppose the rest of the story tells itself. At one point there were some 350 Stuckey’s locations across the country. Then America’s travel habits changed, competition increased, and Pet Milk purchased the company. Pet didn’t devote many resources to Stuckey’s, and the number of stores dwindled to 75. The Stuckey family repurchased the chain, though, and now has more than 200 stores in 19 states. They’re clean, and nice, and still sell lots of pecan candy. Even so, the memory of seeing that Stuckey’s sign on the highway and trying to persuade dad to stop is an enduring childhood memory.

Americana: Cheyenne Frontier Days

 

Frontier Days has been a part of Cheyenne since the end of the 19th century. It's not just rodeo, but a full range of activities and performances for the whole family. Uploaded by museevirtuel.ca.

You don’t have to love the sport of rodeo in order to enjoy Cheyenne Frontier Days. But it helps. Billing itself as “The Daddy of ’em All,” Frontier Days has been an annual mainstay of Cheyenne since its founding in 1897. Its rodeo competition is probably the largest of its kind in the country, and draws some 200,000 people during its run.

Uploaded by marriott.com.

But there’s plenty to do even if you don’t know a dogie from a doggie. There’s a large carnival midway with games and rides. There’s an Old West museum, a chuckwagon cookoff, a grand parade, an Indian village, free pancake breakfasts (yes, free), a Western art show, and a performance by Air Force Thunderbirds. And almost every night, a major musical act. The 2011 acts include Darius Rucker, Jason Aldean, Kid Rock, Mötley Crüe, The Charley Daniels Band, and Toby Keith.

The event is usually held over the last full week of July, so if you’d like to attend in 2011, that’s July 22-31. The capital of Wyoming has never become too “citified,” and it revels in everything Western during Frontier Days. So put on your cowboy boots and your Stetson, and enjoy a part of the country that most of us don’t know enough about. Cheyenne. Wyoming. The West.

Americana: Fender Guitars

 

Just about every famous rock guitarist has made his name using a Fender guitar. Rock history has been played on a Stratocaster. Uploaded by wallpaperstag.com.

Picture Leo Fender in his California electronics workshop in the late 1930s. Fixing phonographs, radios, and public address systems. Oh…and instrument amplifiers. He had ideas, did Leo. Ideas about perfecting the electric guitar that would lead him to form the Fender Electric Instrument Company in 1946. He tinkered, and fiddled, and created a masterpiece. The first mass-produced, solid body, Spanish-style guitar: The Telecaster.

Jimi Hendrix playing a Stratocaster at Woodstock. Uploaded by jasobrecht.com.

Think Jeff Beck, Steve Cropper, and George Harrison. Pete Townshend smashed a slew of them.

The next step was the Stratocaster. Which is only good enough for the likes of Eric Clapton, Dick Dale, and some guy named Hendrix.

There are other great guitars. Even other great American guitars. But almost everyone who picks up a guitar wants to own at least one Fender. It’s truly a great guitar. A Great American Thing.

Originally posted April 24, 2009.

Americana: Girl Scout Cookies

 

Look at the wide variety of cookies available. Let's see, there's Thin Mints and...and...oh heck, I like them all but I dream about Thin Mints. Photo by Ebba Ligouri.

They’re inescapable. Your niece sells them. They’re outside the local Kroger. Your coworker is selling them for her kid. So you buy a box.

From everyone. And before you know it, you have a caloriepalooza in your pantry. But, oh, are they good.

Uploaded by littlebrowniebakers.com.

Local Girl Scout groups started baking them at home as a fundraiser as early as 1917. They were sold for all of $.30 a dozen. It wasn’t until 1936 that the national Girl Scouts organization licensed cookies for production by a commercial baker. I remember going on a field trip to Richmond in elementary school to the FFV bakery, where Girl Scout cookies were produced. I thought they were all made there, but I learned later (okay, today) that they were actually prepared by 14 bakeries way back then.

Now there are two authorized bakeries, and up to eight varieties of cookies. But let’s face it, there’s really one. Thin Mints.

‘Scuse me, I’m going to go see if we have any in the pantry. Or even better, in the freezer.

Originally posted April 19, 2009

Americana: Culinary Institute of America

 

You can appreciate the quality of the training provided by the Culinary Institute by looking at its graduates, including many celebrity chefs, Top Chef winners, and executive chefs at leading restaurants. Uploaded by independnt.co.uk.

No cloak-and-dagger stuff for this CIA. Unless the cloak is a chef’s coat, and the dagger is a chef’s knife. The Culinary Institute of America is the country’s leading school for training serious chefs, with four campuses – Hyde Park, NY (main), St. Helena, CA, San Antonio, and Singapore. Yeah, I don’t get Singapore, either.

Uploaded by sherriallen.com.

The school was founded in 1946 to provide vocational education for returning war veterans. It’s an accredited college, offering Bachelor of Professional Studies and Associate of Occupational Studies degrees. It also provides continuing education courses for culinary professionals that lead to certification, with the highest level being Certified Executive Chef. And if you’re ever near Hyde Park (about 80 miles north of NYC, near Poughkeepsie), you can enjoy the students’ work at one of the Institute’s five restaurants.

The quality of the CIA is easily seen by the reputation of its graduates. Among those who’ve attended CIA are: Anthony Bourdain (Travel Channel), Richard Blais (Top Chef), Anne Burrell (Food Network), Marcel Desaulniers (Death By Chocolate), Harold Dieterle (Top Chef), Rocco DiSpirito (Rocco’s), Steve Ells (founder, Chipotle Mexican Grill), Duff Goldman (Ace of Cakes), Ilan Hall (Top Chef), Hung Huynh (Top Chef), Christina Machamer (Hell’s Kitchen), Sara Moulton (Good Morning America), Walter Scheib (White House Executive Chef), and Sherry Yard (Spago).

Kid Stuff: Baseball Cards

 

Every middle-age man thinks he'd be rich now if only his mother hadn't thrown out his baseball card collection. Sorry, fellas, but chances are they weren't in collectible condition. But you might actually like them better that way. Uploaded by zeprock.com.

Don’t pay any attention to all those bandwagon jumpers who decided in the mid-80s that baseball cards were the investment of the future. Their interest was as wide as the outfield and as deep as the chalk on the baselines. Real baseball cards have a historic and visceral appeal that transcends dollar values.

Uploaded by uk.ebid.net.

Not that it isn’t fun from time to time to pull out, say, the 1958 Al Kaline card and ponder its value. But I honestly get more of a thrill just looking at Al’s mug against that bright red background than I could ever get by selling it. I remember the smell of the gum that Topps inserted in each pack. And how it was often stale, and broke into pieces when you tried to chew it.

Baseball cards are a small part of what makes America special. Kids today look for rookies, embossing, and swatches from game-worn uniforms. But you can’t beat the old cards. They were from a simpler time. A sweeter time.

Originally posted April 3, 2009

Americana: The Gallup Poll

 

Here, George Gallup appears to be showing an early television audience that his research indicates Tom Dewey would defeat Harry Truman in the presidential election of 1948. Ruh-roh. Uploaded by mercuriusdigital1.wordpress.com.

I may not know what you think. And you may not know what I think. But since 1935, we all know what we all think – thanks to George Gallup and the Gallup Poll. Gallup first gained credibility by correctly predicting Franklin Roosevelt’s victory over Alf Landon, although today you’d have to say a trained monkey could have picked that race. Even so, Gallup set a standard for the public opinion industry by not accepting advertising, thereby making its findings more credible.

Uploaded by thegalluphouse.com.

Today, there’s hardly any social or political issue for which Gallup can’t give a reliable indicator of public sentiment. And not just in America, but in some 140 countries around the world. On any given day, Gallup can tell you the President’s approval rating, the percentage of Americans who exercise regularly, whether or not the job market is growing, whether people believe their standard of living is improving, and dozens of other fascinating subjects.

Of course, no one is infallible, and neither is Gallup. Like every other organization, it failed to predict the Harry Truman upset of Thomas Dewey in the 1948 presidential election. It also expected Gerald Ford to defeat Jimmy Carter. But polling methods and science has made huge strides since those mistakes, and Gallup will probably never make that mistake again.

Probably.

Americana: The Hollywood Sign

 

The sign originally went up in 1923 to promote a real estate development, and proclaimed HOLLYWOODLAND. The Depression took care of the real estate, and finally, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce rescued the sign. Uploaded by luxuryvacationsource.com.

By 1923, the little California city of Hollywood was already synonymous with the movie industry. The lure of “Tinseltown,” with its proximity to the ocean and its warm climate, attracted people – and people need homes. So a new neighborhood sprang up in the hills, and its developer erected a huge sign to feature his investment: HOLLYWOODLAND.

Uploaded by los-angeles-attractions.com.

Each letter was 30 feet wide and 50 feet tall, and was originally illuminated by lights around its perimeter. At night blinked in sequence HOLLY… WOOD… LAND. Over the years the sign became neglected, however, and the Depression put an end to the real estate dream. The sign became city property in 1944. Fortunately, the Chamber of Commerce recognized what a symbol the sign had become, and revived it in 1949. It removed the “LAND”, and rebuilt the H, which had toppled, briefly leaving the area known as OLLYWOOD.

But after another generation of neglect, by the 1970s the sign had again fallen into disrepair. And this time, it had to be completely rebuilt. That took place in 1978, and today the sign is protected as a National Landmark and its own Hollywood Sign Trust. Today, the sign is 450 feet wide and is visible from all parts of Hollywood. Interestingly, the sign appears uneven because of the contours of the mountain; but looked at directly in front from the air, it’s actually completely straight. Unlike the city it represents…

Americana: The Appalachian Trail

 

Pictured is McAfee's Knob near Roanoke, one of the most famous overlooks along the Appalachian Trail. Some 10,000 people have claimed to complete the entire hike. Uploaded by brickfish.com.

I’m sure that, among the thousands of people who read Great American Things, there are bound to be some who’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail in its entirety. All 2,181 miles, from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. Or the other way, depending on whether you’re a SOBO (southbounder) or a NOBO (northbounder). Along the way you passed through Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Uploaded by pennlive.com.

The original idea for the Trail  belonged to a man named Benton MacKaye. The New York Daily Post published his dream, and the ball got rolling. Or, rather, the people got walking. But the entire trail didn’t open all at once; the first section was completed in 1923, but the first person didn’t actually hike the trail’s entire length until 1948. Even so, the trail wasn’t completely marked until 1971.

The longest stretch of the Appalachian Trail goes through Virginia (550 miles); the shortest through West Virginia (4 miles). If you’re one who’s contemplating the hike, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy says you’ll take about 5,000,000 footsteps to complete it. Some 10,000 people have reported doing it. I think that’s great; but I had to go and soak my feet after just writing this post.