Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character
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WHAT IS IT THAT DRIVES THE SUCCESS OF AMERICA AND THE IDENTITY OF ITS PEOPLE? ACCLAIMED WRITER AND CONTRIBUTING EDITOR TO THIS AMERICAN LIFE JACK HITT THINKS IT’S BECAUSE WE’RE ALL A BUNCH OF AMATEURS.
America’s self-invented tinkerers are back at it in their metaphorical garages—fiddling with everything from solar-powered cars to space elevators. In Bunch of Amateurs, Jack Hitt visits a number of different garages and has written a fascinating book that looks at America’s current batch of amateurs and their pursuits. From a tattooed young woman in the Bay Area trying to splice a fish’s glow-in-the-dark gene into common yogurt (all done in her kitchen using salad spinners)
to a space fanatic on the brink of developing the next generation of telescopes from his mobile home, Hitt not only tells the stories of people in the grip of a passion but argues that America’s history is bound up in a cycle of amateur surges.
Beginning with Ben Franklin’s kite and leading all the way to the current TV hit American Idol, Hitt argues that the nation’s
love of self-invented obsessives has always driven the country to rediscover the true heart of the American dream. Amateur pursuits are typically lamented as a world that just passed until a Sergey Brin or Mark Zuckerberg steps out of his garage (or dorm room) with the rare but crucial success story. In Bunch of Amateurs, Hitt argues that America is now poised to pioneer at another frontier that will lead, one more time, to the newest version of the American dream.
ocean), even virtually (radio, Hollywood, cyberspace). From time to time, we go so far as to demand from our President that he find us a new frontier to swarm. In American culture, the cycle of amateurs clawing at the walls of professionalism has no fixed origin or duration. One can find it playing out continuously. The two need each other, feed on each other, and in the mythic course of American time—given new costumes, new eras, new characters—find themselves squaring off over and over again.
previously little known archaeologist now working for a private salvage archaeology firm” who “has no field experience in Paleo-Indian sites or complex late Pleistocene or Holocene sites” and “has published one rarely used prehistory textbook but otherwise has no apparent credentials.” Archaeology’s tribal relations are run by a caste system that goes like this. The Brahmins are the credentialed, tenured professors at known colleges. They publish in peer-reviewed journals. Beneath them are
pharmaceutical companies’ freebies, but only 16 percent thought they personally were vulnerable). We can excuse ourselves, literally, because we see so many legitimate excuses in front of us. Other people? Liars, baby killers, thieves. So are the Native Americans politically correct tools of the federal government? Are the scientists opportunistic liars relying on hokum to make an end run around the law? If you’re on the other side, absolutely. We naturally and easily create a world of order
Measurement of Spherical Aberration 2.31. The Couder Screen 2.32. Screen Test Procedure; Errors 2.33. Defects Other Than Figures of Revolution 2.34. Primary and Micro-Ripple 2.35. Zonal Defects 2.36. Local Retouching 2.37. Parabolizing 2.38. Retouching the Defective Parabola 2.39. Reducing Aberrations to the Focal Plane 2.40. Test Data Sheet 2.41. Interpreting the Test Data So I’ll take the yelling. Half a century ago, when the world first began to notice the corner of Haight and
career. It wouldn’t be hard to argue that eyeglasses were responsible for the Renaissance and gin up one of those books like The Potato: How the Humble Spud Rescued the Western World; or Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World; or Tulipmania: The Story of the World’s Most Coveted Flower and the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused. Call it: Eyeglasses: How Spectacles Saw a New World and Brought Forth the Enlightenment. Galileo quickly became adept at the difficult labor of grinding