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If you’re just tuning in, here’s a recap: I’m doing this big, really cool project. If you want to participate upload and send me a photo. It’s all automated, including the model release. A model release!? I know, it sounds ridiculous, right? But it’s easy-cheesy and there’s a good reason behind it.

The US DNA: Phenomenally Awesome
While traveling through China I met this French guy – or maybe it was Utah, life runs together, but I remember three things: the surrounding beautiful scenery, a surprising proliferation of Golden Arches and the like, and neither of us fitting in. We spoke in English instead of my non-existent French and he mentioned that he had studied English in France and later in the U.S. When he arrived in the States, he felt baffled because he thought he didn’t understand the English words he had learned. It was bewildering until he realized that Americans tended to overuse words and exaggerate their meanings. When someone said that the food at the local burger joint was awesome it didn’t actually inspire awe, it just tasted good. Or when a football game was phenomenal a phenomenon hadn’t occurred, but it was probably exciting. This was funny, but I understood where he was coming from. I explained to him that we Americans couldn’t help our exaggeration, it was just part of our DNA.

View From the Wing
It’s enlightening to hear views of the U.S. from those that live outside it; it’s a chance to glimpse yourself the way that others see you. Was there anything else that he found notable about Americans and our country? “American food can be good, but most of it’s terrible. It’s cheap, processed food covered in cheese and salt to hide that it’s terrible.” Taking in the 99 cent-style menus surrounding us, I couldn’t really argue.

“And I think many Americans are unbelievably big and very unhealthy. I’ve not seen this anywhere else in the world. It’s awesome.” Okay, fair enough; I’ve seen the stats, and I’m from Texas, the largest state in the lower 48 in every sense of the word. Go on. “And the t.v. news, everyone is worried. They are worried about getting shooted by someone or preparing to shoot someone. Why is this with all the guns?” Okay, compadre, your grammar’s slipping and it sounds like you’re poking that Gallic nose into a debatable interpretation of a poorly-worded amendment to some God-given rights. “And why all the suing? Everyone’s worried about the suing. Sign this so you can’t sue, don’t do this or I can sue.” The guy was starting to get on my nerves. “And the health care? Why don’t the people have the health care? My host family roommate has two jobs but his son of three-years-old doesn’t have the health care because it’s too expensive. I can’t understand this.”

I’d heard enough at this point. I’m all for listening to another’s views about my country, but when it stops making sense and sounds like French, I lose patience. I moved to leave, adding that he sounded like a Socialist. “Is this an insult of the English language?”
Actually, it’s one of the worst things you can call someone where I’m from – and only slightly better than a Communist.
“Is there something worse than a Communist?”
Yeah, a Pacifist, which all French are, but as a creative type I don’t like to insult with the obvious.

American Dreamz
He apologized for offending me and added that if I felt defamed, I could sue him, since that was a very American thing to do. I’m pretty sure that was another slight against my country since it’s part of the American Dream to be famous and I think he was implying that I never would be. I’m ashamed to say it, but I got a little riled up at this point. The man insulted my country and my honor and I couldn’t help it. I think it’s the Southerner in me – it’s just the way I was made. And I wasn’t about to be de-famoused by anyone from a third-world country.
“Listen, you SOB,” – to the ladies out there, pardon my French – “You’ve insulted my country and you may attempt to de-famous-ize me, but I will liberate your face right here and now.”
He said that liberate was another word that doesn’t mean what Americans think it means.
“That’s because we don’t speak French, amigo” and he may as well accept it ‘cuz that’s who we are. It’s part of our DNA.

I guess needing a model release is the same – perhaps it’s a pinnacle of our judicial evolution, a part of our superior court system. I can’t explain it, but it’s something we have to do. It’s part of being American. It’s just the way we’re made.

And if you’ve made it this far and you’re ready to get this portrait party started, en voilà.

And you? What’s part of your DNA? Splice it below.

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