‘O’ beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain’. Ah America, it’s that time of year again. It’s time to get out the fireworks, bring out the beers and celebrate cutting the apron strings to the old mother country. And thank God you did. After all, we’d never have these lovely slices of Americana you gifted unto us if you’d all remained tea drinking redcoats or, worse yet, Canadians.
So, just in time for Independence Day, we count down the 10 greatest things to come out of America, the beautiful……
1. The Internet
Is it really a surprise? That thing that completely revolutionised how we do everything, ever was invented in America. The internet has changed all our lives to the point that if someone were to pull the proverbial plug tomorrow morning, we’d all be rocking in the dirt in our underwear by lunchtime.
While what we experience as the internet – as in the set of interconnected data pages known as the World Wide Web – was invented by British computer scientist, Tim Berners-Lee, the infrastructure it sits upon was a mainly American funded feat of engineering. Involving such computer giants as Bob Khan and Vint Cerf, the internet was supposed to give superior communication means to the west in case of a nuclear war with the then Soviet Union.
Of course now it’s available globally and its architecture is free to use for all, thanks to Mr. Berners-Lee (even if connecting costs a little). So, rather than focussing too much its military means, we’d like to give a special shout out to the part it’s played in helping students ace (or cheat on) their school papers, for becoming the all-knowing impartial judge for every pub debate going and helping travellers avoid nights on the park bench.
2. American TV Shows
Say what you want about the creeping cultural imperialism emanating from the US, stealing our regional identities and replacing it with mock clones of American decadence, but who can live without at least the promise of another series of Game of Thrones?
What about True Blood, Girls, Boardwalk Empire – and that’s just current HBO shows. How about The Sopranos, Lost, 24, The Twilight Zone, Mad Men, Twin Peaks? Then there’s the never ending classics like the Simpsons and all those repeats of Friends… the list just goes on and on and on and the world would be a much duller place without them.
3. American Movies
Hollywood, the biggest dream-weaving, film factory in the world – by far. No one else has anywhere near enough cash to churn out, not only the number of films, but the number of big-ass blockbusters, complete with megastars, explosions and CGI spaceships, that America does. Without Hollywood, all we’d have to watch is, the very quaint Pinewood or Aardman productions or very intellectual European films, alongside some week-long-sleep-depriving Korean and Japanese horror flicks.
As cool as those options are, sometimes all you want is Bruce Willis abseiling down an office tower block, armed with a machine gun saying ‘Yippie ki-yay, motherfu…’. And that’s exactly what America gives you. God bless you for Die Hard.
Want to check out America’s film factory? Book a stay in Hollywood.
4. Coca Cola
This carbonated beverage was originally invented in 1886 as a medicine, but can now be found all over, since becoming the world’s favourite soft drink. Its original purpose? Well, the ailments Colonel John Pemberton claimed it could cure were many, ranging from headaches to impotence, but what he really sought to find was a replacement to morphine addiction.
Originally, the drinks stimulants were a combination of caffeine and cocaine (so in other words, replace one addiction with another), but the latter was removed in 1903. This left the job of ‘the pep’ to the much more palatable and, in today’s terms, legal, caffeine.
Of course, it’s now a completely safe drink that provides consumers with nothing more than a coffee-like kick. Even the sugar rush can be toned down with the company’s lighter ranges, Coca-Cola Light and Coke Zero.
5. Blue Jeans
Levi Strauss may have been born in Germany, but blue jeans are as American as apple pie. Originally, they were designed as hardwearing clothing for miners, ranchers and cowboys out in the American West. Since then, they’ve come to be the pinnacle of fashion around the world, taking on different shapes and sizes in each passing era; from the 1960’s and 70’s bell bottoms, to the ripped and ragged range of the 90’s up to the skin tight drainpipes of today.
Want to see the Levi’s Strauss building? Book your stay in San Francisco today.
6. Elvis Presley
OK so there are a few (make that a ton of) other American musicians worth mentioning, but why not give the King of Rock’n’Roll some credit. After all, he influenced other music legends such Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and many more. He even inspired the British Invasion bands, like The Beatles.
His, what were then considered, risqué moves (shaky hips) also no doubt also made their mark. Showing themselves in the excesses of musicians like Jim Morrison in the 60’s and 80’s American hair-metal bands like Guns’n’Roses and Mötley Crüe.
Fancy a trip to Graceland? Book your stay in Memphis, Tennessee today.
7. Toilet Paper
Sure, toilet paper doesn’t scream Americana in the same way that Coke, Levi’s or Rock’n’Roll does, but you use it every day. Think about it – your life would be a whole lot messier without it. So for that reason, we salute you, Seth Wheeler!
8. The Airplane
There’s always going to be dispute here, like ‘Michelangelo designed the first helicopter’, etc., but when it comes down to it, the Wright brothers are recognised as the first to complete a powered flight. This was recorded by an international organisation too, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, so we can’t accuse them of cheating by cuddling up to a wholly American organisation.
From that first powered flight back in 1903, we’ve gone through biplanes, monoplanes, twin-engine propeller driven aircraft, jets, all the way to rockets that can propel us into space. Not bad for a century and a bit.
So well done to the American Wright brothers for sending us on that beautiful path of discovery and exploration. You’ve made travel cheaper and easier for everyone, and made the world smaller and, arguably, friendlier. (Props to Henry Ford for making cars affordable too.)
9. American food
So what if America is the most obese country in the world? I mean, it kind of makes sense. Not only does the US make finger-lickin’ good grub, but they make it CHEAP and they make it FAST. Think hot dogs, pizza, burgers, burritos, donuts, milkshakes, coffee, and more. (Of course, America also has lots of tasty food that won’t give you a heart attack – give chowder a go or any Massachusetts lobster dishes).
Hispsters, providing endless opportunities for mocking, spoofing, and general dislike since 1999. Marauding around American cities like a plague of locusts, taking working-class areas and turning them into gentrified centres of coffee and craft beer, just in time for the suits to move in.
Of course, you can’t blame America entirely for this phenom. The UK and London has done much to cultivate its own little Hipster culture – also known as the Shoreditch Twat. Saying that, reader of the backpacking article, you’re a little bit of a hipster, aren’t you? C’mon, admit it!
Can you think of any more? Tell us in the comments!
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Thanks to IvanTortuga, anyjazz65, Evil Erin, chichacha, jdn, maticulous, fifty four photo, Les Chatfield, Tom Wigley, Mary Anne Enriquez and a.koto for the images off Flickr. Please note that all images were used under the Creative Commons license at the time of posting.