Many think of 1776 as the defining year of American history, when we became a nation devoted to the pursuit of happiness through self- government. In Unfamiliar Fishes, Sarah Vowell argues that 1898 might be a year just as defining, when, in an orgy of imperialism, the United States annexed Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam, and invaded first Cuba, then the Philippines, becoming an international superpower practically overnight.
Among the developments in these outposts of 1898, Vowell considers the Americanization of Hawaii the most intriguing. From the arrival of New England missionaries in 1820, their goal to Christianize the local heathen, to the coup d’état of the missionaries’ sons in 1893, which overthrew the Hawaiian queen, the events leading up to American annexation feature a cast of beguiling, and often appealing or tragic, characters: whalers who fired cannons at the Bible-thumpers denying them their God-given right to whores, an incestuous princess pulled between her new god and her brother-husband, sugar barons, lepers, con men, Theodore Roosevelt, and the last Hawaiian queen, a songwriter whose sentimental ode “Aloha ‘Oe” serenaded the first Hawaiian president of the United States during his 2009 inaugural parade.
Sarah Vowell is a gunsmith’s daughter, in “Shooting Dad,” produced for This American Life (from Lies Sissies & Fiascoes). Sarah’s latest book is The Wordy Shipmates. (Music: “Rebel Rouser” Duane Eddy 1958 Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel, “Burnt Down With Feedback” Phono-Comb 1996 Fresh Gasoline, “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” Jonathan Richman 1990 Jonathan Goes Country.)
Joe Frank lets us eavesdrop on a father-son phone call between “Larry and Zachary” Block, from Joe’s hour Karma 3.
Host Larry Massett and several other sons try to get to know their “Lost and Found Fathers,” produced for Soundprint, with help from Barrett Golding, Brian Brophy, Bob Burrus, and Henry Dennis.
As part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project:Sarah Vowell Live @ KCRW. “I thought we could start with Loretta Lynn’s song ‘The Pill.'” Any set that starts w/ Ms Lynn has gotta be good. Read the transcript and d/l an mp3 of Sarah’s song pix at KCRW.
We hang with the mostly homeless protesters, and Scott Carrier, in “Lafayette Square” across from the White House.
“Memory Waltz” is from composer Oliver Nelson’s LP: The Kennedy Dream; A Musical Tribute to John Fitzgerald Kennedy., with musicians Phil Woods, Hank Jones, George Duvivier and Grady Tate.
Bonus audio: The Kennedy Dream “A Genuine Peace” (2:35 mp3):
We hear excerpts from All the Presidents’ Inaugurations:
• Calvin Coolidge— Inaugural Address, Wednesday, March 4, 1925
• Franklin D. Roosevelt— First Inaugural Address, Saturday, March 4, 1933
• Harry S. Truman— Inaugural Address, Thursday, January 20, 1949
• Dwight D. Eisenhower— First Inaugural Address, Tuesday, January 20, 1953
• John F. Kennedy— Inaugural Address, Friday, January 20, 1961
Audio artist Jesse Boggs choreographs a bipartisan “WMD Waltz.”
And more Presidents’ Inaugurations
• Lyndon B. Johnson— Inaugural Address, Wednesday, January 20, 1965
• Richard M. Nixon— Second Inaugural Address, Saturday, January 20, 1973
• Gerald Ford Remarks— On Taking the Oath of Office, Friday Aug. 9, 1974
• Jimmy Carter— Inaugural Address, Thursday, January 20, 1977
• Ronald Reagan— Second Inaugural Address, Monday, January 21, 1985
• George H. W. Bush— Inaugural Address, Friday, January 20, 1989
• Bill Clinton First— Inaugural Address, Thursday, January 20, 1993
• George W. Bush— Inaugural Address, Saturday, January 20, 2001
Audio by Jesse Boggs; video by Trent Harris, “Bushisms” (the cryptomusicology of Presidential patter):
The places we live and the people who live there; a desert, a city, two small towns, and another country:
Scott Carrier has a cultural history of the Great Salt Lake’s “West Desert,” a land of polygymists, bombing ranges, and toxic waste incinerators. There’s chlorine gas in the air, anthrax stored underground, and people who call the place home.
Sarah Vowell‘s childhood move from rural Oklahoma to small-town Montana was, for her, a change from the middle ages to a modern metropolis.