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  • Are you an American? Do you need to be complimented on your smarts? Almost certainly you can get satisfaction here:

    You Are a Smart American
    [Smart American] You know a lot about US history, and you're opinions are probably well informed.
    Congratulations on bucking stereotypes. Now go show some foreigners how smart Americans can be.

  • Of course, you might feel otherwise should you take the thought experiment suggested by Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts:

    I'd like to survey a cross-section of Americans and ask them how many active NBA players, Major League Baseball players, and "American Idol" finalists they can name. Then I'd ask them how many living American poets, playwrights, painters, sculptors, architects, classical musicians, conductors, and composers they can name. I'd even like to ask how many living American scientists or social thinkers they can name.

    He goes on to explain that it used to be different:

    Fifty years ago, I suspect that along with Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, and Sandy Koufax, most Americans could have named, at the very least, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Arthur Miller, Thornton Wilder, Georgia O'Keeffe, Leonard Bernstein, Leontyne Price and Frank Lloyd Wright. Not to mention scientists and thinkers like Linus Pauling, Jonas Salk, Rachel Carson, Margaret Mead and especially Dr. Alfred Kinsey. I don't think that Americans were smarter then, but American culture was. Even the mass media placed a greater emphasis on presenting a broad range of human achievement.

    Hey, I'm old enough so that I could come up with most of those names too. But Gioia's uncomfortably enough on-target: I'd have a real tough time naming any 21st-century equivalents.

    What happened? Well, I became a Philistine, of course.

    I note, however, that the increasing arts-illiteracy of the American people correlates strongly with the establishment of the National Endowment for the Arts. Whattya think about that, Gioia?

  • Apropos of precisely nothing: Genius hero Ken Jennings asks:

    What American cities have renamed streets (or sections of streets) near a stadium/ballpark/sports arena after a beloved local sports figure?

    There are no sports fans like University of Nebraska football fans, thought I. Surely there must be an Tom Osborne Avenue or a Bob Devaney Street right near the stadium?

    But no. Instead there's an Exegesis Street right near the stadium. That has to be one of the strangest names for a street, ever. What's the story there? I have no idea.

Last Modified 2018-04-26 5:03 AM EDT