Amoeblog

Happy Discovery Day -- Real Geographic Discoveries of the Modern Age

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 13, 2014 04:42pm | Post a Comment

I will not make the argument that Columbus's arrival in the New World was insignificant merely because he was an absolutely awful person or because he didn't actually discover anything (which he himself maintained, claiming until his death that he'd merely found a different route to Asia). But think about this before you dismiss -- before Columbus, avocado, bell peppers, blueberries, cashews, cassava root, chili peppers, chocolate, cocaine, gourds, maize, peanuts, pecans pineapples, pumpkins, squash, tobacco, tomatoes, and vanilla were all unknown in the Old World and alcohol, apples, bananas, barley, cheese, coffee, mango, onions, rice, tea, and turnips, and wheat were unknown in the Americas. Imagine an existence without any of those and you can hopefully begin to get a taste of the importance of the Columbian Exchange. Imagine Italian cuisine without tomato sauce or gnocchi and you can't help but wonder if this is why Columbus is so dear to many Italians. Imagine, on the other hand, genocide, slavery, and old world diseases and you'll understand why he's even more hated by many others. 





 
We all know now that Columbus wasn't the first European to visit the Americas either -- but neither was Leif Erikson. Europeans had been living in the North American territory of Greenland since sometime between 876 and 932 CE when Gunnbjorn Ulfsson was blown off course and sited the world's largest island. Around 978, Snæbjorn Galti was the probably first European to set food on Greenland but we rightly don't make a big deal out of that since there were already Inuits living there and before them, an earlier people who'd arrived and abandoned the country -- and that cultural exchange was by most measures, less impactful on the planet.


The Divine Comedy - "A Seafood Song"

Greenland, of course, is just as much a part of North America as are the Bahamas (where Columbus landed) as are the US and Canada -- or Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Clipperton Island, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curaçao, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Navassa Island, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Saba, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Eustatius, Sint Maarten, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, and United States Virgin Islands, for that matter.



Crime & the City Solution - "The Bride Ship"
 

The fact is that people have been exploring for roughly 1.8 million since Homo erectus first caught that ramblin' fever years ago and identifying the first European to do something is a silly pursuit. Exploration and adventuring, on the other hand, is vital and something done by all good people (and plenty of bad). Most of the inhabitable world was discovered in antiquity but in the post-Classical age, new lands were still being discovered by humans around the planet -- especially Arab, Austronesian, and European seafarers. In the 15th Century, the more isolated islands of the Atlantic were still being added to maps with some regularity and discovery of islands in the Arctic and Southern Oceans continued into the 20th Century. Here then is a look at some of the real discoveries of the modern age -- previously uninhabited lands just waiting for humans to despoil them.





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MADEIRA

Madeira (image source: World for Travel)


Madeira was first claimed by Portuguese sailors in the service of Infante D. Henrique in 1419, who were driven by storm to an island harbor which they called Porto Santo. Settlement of the island began in 1420 and by 1433 it was known as Ilha da Madeira.



THE AZORES

Azorean chamaritta 

The Azores were known of in the 14th Century but humans didn't begin to colonize them until 1433. Before arriving, sheep were deposited to establish a food source for the colonists, who included Sephardic Jews, Moorish prisoners and African slaves, as well as Flemish, French, and Spanish colonists. Nowadays there are about a quarter of a million residents of the country.



CAPE VERDE

Morna performed in the documentary Dix petits grains de terre

The volcanic islands of the Cape Verde archipelago were discovered by Italian and Portuguese navigators around 1456. The first settlement, founded in 1462, was the first European settlement in the tropics. Located off the coast of West Africa, Cape Verde's economy was predictably built on the back of the slave trade but the African population was joined by Jewish refugees from the Inquisition, as well as Dutch, French, British, Arabs, Chinese, Indians, Indonesians, and other settlers.

Hispanic Heritage Month - Anglo America in Latin America

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 18, 2011 05:24pm | Post a Comment
For Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15), the focus naturally tends to be on Latino experiences and contributions in the US. The US is a nation of immigrants (founded by illegals, some would argue) and currently the largest group of immigrants arriving are from Mexico (followed by China, Philippines, India, Vietnam, Cuba, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Canada and Korea). 

Individuals' reasons for coming to the United States vary but behind general trends there's frequently the specter of American involvement in the politics of their native countries that have made conditions less bearable at home whether it be the funding of right wing death squads, corporate exploitation, economic imperialism, secret anti-populist wars, CIA-backed coups and assassinations, or the American peoples' insatiable appetite for marijuana, meth, cocaine, rubies and gold.

I've already written a blog entry about documentaries dealing with American Latino subject matter so here's a list of films dealing with Latino-American subject matter that also relate to American foreign policy.


    
 
   American Experience - Fidel Castro                            Aristide                                Fidel Castro - El Comandante

    

Che Guevara - Where You'd Never Imagine Him   CHE - Rise and Fall                                         Cocalero

    

   El Che - Investigating a Legend                     The Fall of Fujimori                            Fidel - The Untold Story
    
    

                The Good Fight                               
Castro - The Survivor                          The Spanish-American War

    


              The Hugo Chavez Show                 Pablo Escobar- The King of Coke        Pancho Villa - El Angel y el Fierro

    

       Pancho Villa - Outlaw Hero                       The Panama Deception                        Pictures from a Revolution

    

              Roses in December                                     La Sierra                                                Yank Tanks


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(In which the author celebrates our Nation's independence.)

Posted by Job O Brother, July 7, 2007 10:53am | Post a Comment

The Boston Tea Party. (What - no Massachusetts-sized scone?)

It was the Fourth of July, which I recently learned is some kind of holiday? I dunno. Something about a “united” something-or-other; I guess it’s about, like, this one country where they killed a bunch of British people by making tea in the actual sea (I’ve tried this myself and let me tell you, there is no amount of cream or honey that will overcome the fishy flavor) and gave out blankets to native tribes… or am I confusing that with the day we celebrate our ancestors surviving a hard winter by eating Stove Top stuffing and hiding eggs under kids’ pillows for money?

Whatever. In any case, my boyfriend Corey, our friend Lisa, and good ol’ Logan of Amoeba Music fame, decided to mark the occasion by seeing “Transformers” at the Cinerama Dome (right across the street from Amoeba).


For those of you lucky enough to not live in Los Angeles, you are so unlucky that you don’t get to watch movies at this theatre. I am totally spoiled, and happily pay the outrageous fee for the experience. Reserved seating, witty/snide employees, no commercials before the previews, and none of those (insert whatever cuss word you think has the biggest punch here) SLIDES that propose stupid questions like:

“Which action film did Bruce Willis star in as a New York cop named John McClane?”

a.) Agnes of God
b.) The Little Mermaid
c.) The Little Mermaid, Part 2
d.) Die Hard


Really – if someone is dumb enough to find this trivia challenging, they probably can’t read to begin with, so they’re wasting everyone’s time!

I mean, (and I’m digressing into one of those ‘when I was a kid’ moments right now – best to just skip ahead) I remember entering a darkened movie theatre and just… reveling in the hush; the stillness of it. It was like entering a church. And then there was the excitement of hearing that first “crackle” that let you know your film was about to begin. That was terrific!

Nowadays you’re constantly faced with commercials and fake radio stations that play whatever Top 40 crap the major corporations are trying to convince you is worth the insulting price they’re charging for their tired product.

“Clap your hands if you prefer Diet Coke to regular Coke!”

What?!

I already spent half my paycheck on a medium popcorn! Leave me alone!!!

(Author takes a moment to catch breath and remember what the point of this blog was… …is.)

Oh yeah… “Transformers”.

I had a real good time. I thought it was entertaining. I also thought it was… a minstrel show. That is, every person of color was outrageous and comical and met the “entertaining” stereotypes of today, whereas every person in the film that saved the day or fell in love was not only beautiful, but beautiful and white.


"G-G-G-Golly! That choo-choo just transformed into a r-r-r-robot!"
(One of many scenes from "Transformers")

But I didn’t turn to this film for cultural enlightenment, so I’m not particularly outraged. Movies like these are, after all, less about the political agenda of the studios and more a reflection of target markets – so we only have ourselves to blame for what we see.

The final half hour is bewildering, and I think most people will leave the theatres feeling as though the Decepticons weren’t the only things to be obliterated – the flimsy plot was, too. Again, not that I expected Dostoyevsky (from what I hear, he was a GoBots man) but the moviemakers perhaps gambled that we, the Audience, would be so hypnotized by the action that we wouldn’t notice gaping plot-holes. Well, we all noticed, but in the end, didn’t care.

This climax, a super-violent war between cars and aircrafts in which old landmarks are demolished and crowds of people rush around in terror and confusion, takes place in downtown LA, so admittedly, it took a while before I realized it was supposed to be significant, rather than just a panorama of a normal day in the Garment District. Those of you who don't live here won't have this problem and should be sufficiently thrilled.

The film smartly turned to some deft dialogue, mostly featured in the first third of the film, centered on the lead actor’s family. It was like they hired Woody Allen as a script consultant for that segment. But don’t worry, mallrats, the overwhelming bulk of dialogue was your standard fare of Hollywood clichés and shallow, moral posturing.


"I know we're on the edge of complete annihilation but could I, like, see your boob?"

Corey, who went in with high expectations, left furious; I, who hoped only to feel him up at some point during the film, left surprisingly satisfied by the spectacle.

As far as action goes, this film doesn’t come close to matching the original, animated “Transformers, the Movie”, which is very simply one of the most hyper, battle-heavy films ever made. The fact that my generation survived it while sucking on Pop Rocks and discovering Jolt Cola is testament to… uh…

…Something, I suppose.


The Original. (Check out Optimus Prime's package! Whoa!)

I remember, when the first film came out, the schoolyard was buzzing with rumors that it contained the word “Shit!” Never had my class been so excited about grammar.

If you’re gonna see the new “Transformers”, see it on the biggest screen you can find, with the most friends you can gather, and with the lowest expectations you can muster. You’re bound to at least chuckle while you roll your eyes.

And if you’re like Lisa, Logan and I, you will drive home slightly paranoid that the car you’re driving may, at any moment, reconfigure itself into a giant, sarcastic robot.