Magic bus

  • Jon Kelly
  • 9 Sep 08, 02:13 AM GMT

So I'm in the US. Apparently there's some sort of election coming up soon. Do you reckon anyone might have any opinions about it?

Hello, my name's Jon Kelly and this is my blog. It's called Talking America, because I'm going to spend the next month or so doing exactly that - talking to and about ordinary Americans, trying to find out where this vast, extraordinary country wants to go at such a crucial time.

Jon Kelly with the BBC's busSee that big shiny BBC bus I'm posing beside? Well, we'll be spending a lot of time together over the next 38 days.

I'm hitching a ride from Los Angeles to New York, buttonholing all the people and personalities I encounter along the way in a somewhat kamikaze bid to extrapolate the state of the union.

This is all part of the BBC US 08 Talking America project, and I'll be joined by colleagues from radio and TV along this coast-to-coast odyssey, as we try to help the USA and the rest of the planet make sense of each other.

According to polls, the overwhelming majority of Americans believe their country is heading in the wrong direction. Well, being an inquisitive sort, I'd like to find out which way they'd like to turn instead.

I've always been fascinated by this place. When I was growing up in a small town in southern Scotland, everything about the USA sounded at once imposing and exciting.

We didn't have skyscrapers or Oreos or school shootings in Dumfries, for better or for worse. But like the rest of the Western world we were immersed in American music and American movies, American fast food and a way of life that took its lead from American consumer society.

I've never before visited any of the places on my itinerary. I'm sure that most people I encounter will take me for some know-nothing foreigner asking daft questions in a funny accent - an assessment with which I won't really be able to quarrel.

But the place I am very familiar with is the America in my head, the America of the imagination - and I'm curious to find out how closely my second-hand European prejudices actually conform to reality.

BBC BusWe hear a lot about how deeply this place is meant to be divided. The culture wars are back, apparently. What I'd like to put my finger on, though, is what common ground these supposedly intractable factions actually share - what it is that makes them American.

But I won't be alone on this truly multimedia journey. I'll point you to some of the reports produced by my radio colleagues, while BBC World News America's Jennifer Copestake has very kindly offered to share her video with me.

I'd like to invite you, too, to have a look at the Flickr stream we're running.

And thanks to this shiny new interactive age in which we all now apparently live, I hope we can get the rest of the world talking - about what they want from a superpower whose foreign policy, cultural dominance and economic well-being affect us all.

Above all, I'd like to hear what you have to say - about this blog (I can take it), about our coverage, and about your views on the issues we encounter.

I hope it's going to be a lot of fun. But if you'll excuse me, my jet lag is starting to make its presence felt. I'd better conserve my energy for the journey ahead...

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