Where Forgottonia?

So where the heck is the lost state of Forgottonia? I forgot. Kidding.... bad joke. It's the western bulge of Illinois.

Why Forgottonia?

I have been fortunate enough to do two national radio interviews in the past week, and I must admit surprise that both hosts wanted to talk about Forgottonia. It wasn't much of a statehood movement... and I almost didn't put it in the book. But people seem very interested in this effort to cleave a new state from western Illinois.  Forgottonia's main export is high fructose corn syrup—and, believe it or not, that's what is pictured above. I know, it looks like drums of toxic waste, but it's not. Well...  
Here's a map of Forgottonia.

Spring Break - make a state

It's Spring break season, and for a lot of people that means a week of sunburn on the Florida beaches. Doing research for Lost States taught me just how coveted those beaches have been over the centuries--especially in the panhandle area. Five different countries jockeyed to own the place they called West Florida. In the end, America won... I guess that's a reason to party! ?

Fess, Daniel, and Transylvania

Fess Parker's recent passing has reminded many of his iconic portrayal of Daniel Boone in the 1960s TV series. Mr. Parker had a history degree and saw his series as a way to educate the public about the American story. However, I couldn't find an episode where the characters talk about the state the real Daniel Boone tried to create, called Transylvania.... which overlaid much of modern Kentucky. If he had been successful, we'd all enjoy the Transylvania Derby each year! (Trivia note: singer Pat Boone is a descendent of the real Daniel Boone.)

Henry gets traction

Maine's would-be breaker-upper Henry Joy is at it again... this week he's been pressing his plan to split Maine into two states. (He first pitched his plan in 1998.) Joy's quixotic cause is mapped and detailed on page 13 of Lost States. I love this guy.... he knows how to get great press coverage. Follow the link to a FoxNews story.

Listen to the national radio interview...

... on public radio's "Here and Now" program. With a little editing, they made me sound a lot more coherent than I really am. You can hear the full 8 minutes here.  (After you follow the link, scroll down to the bottom).

Maine to split?

There is a new push in the Maine legislature in the last few days to split the state into two states. The guy behind the proposal is Henry Joy, whose ideas are outlined in "Lost States" (He pleads his case every few years or so.) This time, Mr. Joy has a map--and it's remarkably similar to the one we created for the book (see above). Most folks think the idea is loopy, but Mr. Joy sure knows how to get press coverage... Here a few links: Fox news, Bangor News, Boston Herald. 

Lost States on national public radio

I did an interview on "Here and Now" which will air today (March 16) in most places. (Find your station here.) Host Robin Young picked five states to talk about... here is a link to maps of the five. 

Palin's blunder (part 2)

Politicians make mistakes. And it's fun to point them out. So I didn't shy away from President Obama's mention of the "57 states of America." However, if you watched the clip, it's pretty clear he simply lost his train of thought... he doesn't actually think the U.S. has 57 states. But Sarah Palin's blunder is in her book. She had plenty of opportunity to check her facts. So her confusion of Cedar Rapids and Cedarburg seems worse to me. And if you think it's easy to confuse these two cities, look at the birds-eye-view above. One is an urban metropolis, the other a sleepy farm town. It's like visiting Dallas, Oregon (Yes there is one) and then writing that you were in Dallas, Texas. C'mon!

Palin's geographic faux pas

A Minnesota newspaper is reporting a major geographic faux pas by Sarah Palin... and in a bizarre coincidence, I witnessed it personally. No kidding. Right after winning the nomination, Palin and John McCain made their very first campaign stop in my hometown of Cedarburg, Wisconsin. My family stopped by to see what all the ruckus was about, and I snapped the photo above. Turns out that in her memoir, Sarah Palin confused tiny Cedarburg, Wisconsin with much-bigger Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Palin apologists might say that she made so many speeches, how could she keep track? But c'mon, it was her first campaign stop! She could look it up pretty easily. And Cedar Rapids is in a different state... and 10 times as big. Personally, I can't tolerate a leader who doesn't know her geography. I don't want my president confusing places that sound a lot a like... "Invade Iraq? Iran? Whatever, it's only one letter difference. You betcha." Read the article documenting her error here. 

The city that wants to switch states

It's ironic that Utah and Nevada are adjacent; the two states couldn't be more different. In Utah, you can't get a drink. In Nevada, you can't NOT get a drink. The two states have only one real border down, Wendover, and as you can guess--it's bipolar. The Nevada side has 4 huge casinos, the Utah side has an Econo-lodge. And that means that one side of town has lots of money for good schools and roads and crime scene investigators--and the other side is dirt poor. A lot of people think the solution is to simply re-draw the state boundary, so that the east side of Wendover would be added to Nevada. There has been a lot of support for this over the years, but Utah isn't quite ready to let go. Too bad.  (For a larger version of the map, go here.)

How to win the Oscar

Here's how to win the Oscar: play the most movie-worthy real-life character in American history. The guy's name was William Bowles. Never heard of him? Read on: Here's a guy who gets kicked out of the U.S. military, joins a Creek tribe, marries the chief's daughter, consolidates several Native American nations, becomes their king, rallies the native people against an evil empire, gets captured and thrown into a Spanish prison, escapes, takes over a British ship, becomes a pirate—and there's more. In the third act he leads a ragtag force of 60 men in a takeover of  Spanish fort. A huge Spanish force is dispatched to capture him, but they get lost. Eventually, after a series of action-packed battles, he is betrayed, captured by the enemy, and dies in a castle dungeon in Havana. OK, we have to change the ending. But can't you see Johnny Depp in this part? Or who do you think he looks like? Who should play him on the big screen? (Oh, along the way, he started a new state.... which is why he's mentioned here... and in the book!)

Topeka's "consequences"

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Topeka, Kansas is changing it's name to Google, Kansas--for a month, in an attempt to attract Google's high speed fiber.  Smart. But if they are really serious, they ought to do the full monty and change their name permanently. There is a fascinating precedent in New Mexico, where the city of Hot Springs changed it's name to curry favor with a corporate leader. Back in 1950, Ralph Edwards ran the most popular reality show on television: Truth or Consequences. He held a contest--with the prize going to the biggest city that would change its name to help publicize his show. Hot Springs (pop. 4,200) won, and it remains  Truth or Consequences to this day. And this isn't some "honorary" name, it's the real deal. So buck up Topeka. (Read more about this curious tale in Lost States, which is in Barnes & Noble as of yesterday. More to come.)