Tag Archives | Americana

Alan Lomax: American Ethnomusicologist

Alan Lomax an ethnomusicologist, much like Bela Bartok, was responsible for the recording and preserving of American folk music in the 20th century, much of which has ceased to exist in a living form. Without the foresight and diligent cataloging performed by Lomax and his colleagues, the Americana not practiced in modernity would have been lost to history.

Alan Lomax was born to a pioneering folklorist, John Lomax, and employed by the Library of Congress from 1937-42 collecting folk music. Unfortunately, due to the dogs of war being unleashed, in 1942 the budget for collecting folk music was cut by Congress. Coincidentally, the FBI also began investigating Lomax off and on from 1942 until 1979 for some flimsy communist allegations. We can tell that Lomax was one of the good guys by a description given of him in an investigation:

An FBI report dated July 23, 1943, describes Lomax as possessing “an erratic, artistic temperament” and a “bohemian attitude.” It says: “He has a tendency to neglect his work over a period of time and then just before a deadline he produces excellent results.” The file quotes one informant who said that “Lomax was a very peculiar individual, that he seemed to be very absent-minded and that he paid practically no attention to his personal appearance.” This same source adds that he suspected Lomax’s peculiarity and poor grooming habits came from associating with the “hillbillies who provided him with folk tunes”.

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Freedom of Choice Degree Zero

Screenshot of Taco Bell’s “Routine Republic”

Screenshot of Taco Bell’s “Routine Republic”

A. S. Hamrah writes at the Baffler:

Soon there will only be two kinds of ads on broadcast TV: commercials for things that make you sick and commercials for things that cure the illnesses caused by the things that make you sick. That’s why fast-food ads are stocked with images of youth living it up, while Big Pharma ads feature old people enjoying themselves despite their afflictions. These two types of ads follow each other with an inexorable logic, alternating the vibrant primary colors of childhood with the washed-out pastels of old age. TV tries to create life in time slots. Drama and comedy are interrupted on schedule for servings of Chicken McNuggets and pills. On broadcast TV, those are the Ages of Man.

This restless flickering between life and death makes sense for a time in which the broadcast networks’ mission of offering entertainment for the whole family generates diminishing returns.

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Americanization Training At An Indian Call Center

graveyard400The most marketable skill in India today is the ability to abandon your identity and slip into someone else’s.

An American spends his summer at an Indian call center, including a boot camp in which new employees try to change their nationality in three weeks by shedding their accents, gazing at photos of Walmart, watching Seinfeld, and eating pepperoni. Via Mother Jones:

I am waiting for a company cab, now an hour and a half late, to drive me across town to a call center, where an Indian “culture trainer” will teach me how to act Australian. For three weeks, a culture trainer will teach us conversational skills, Australian pop culture, and the terms of the mobile-phone contracts we’ll be peddling.

Bright recent college grads pore over flashcards and accent tapes, intoning the shibboleths of English pronunciation—”wherever” and “pleasure” and “socialization”—that recruiters use to distinguish the employable candidates from those still suffering from MTI, or “mother tongue influence.” The lucky ones will secure Spartan lodgings and spend their nights (thanks to time differences) in air-conditioned white-collar sweatshops.

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Because I Can: How This American Celebrates Osama Bin Laden’s Demise (Video)

Adrian Chen on Gawker got in touch with the video's creator:
I made this video because I felt like it represented a feeling many Americans shared regarding the brave and daring actions of our service members who tenaciously and doggedly pursued Osama Bin Laden. I feel like it represents something in the collective consciousness of America at that particular moment in time. A cathartic release.
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Coca-Cola’s Secret Recipe Finally Revealed

Coca-ColaWell, no surprise there’s no cocaine in it (it hasn’t had that “health elixir” for quite some time) but interesting to note there’s one ingredient only Coca-Cola can get — fluid extract of coca (the leaves stripped of cocaine) — due to a deal with the DEA. Casey Chan writes on Gizmodo:

The secret recipe of Coke has been hidden and locked down for 125 years. But apparently, not anymore. This American Life says they’ve found the ingredients that make up the delicious bubbly cola and have revealed it to our delight.

The story starts with John Pemberton, a Civil War veteran who’s credited with inventing Coca-Cola. His original recipe was written down in a recipe book of various ointments and medicines that was passed down from generation to generation.

A photograph of that recipe, from that very recipe book, was taken in the Feb. 18, 1979, edition of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and only recently came to light when Ira Glass from This American Life stumbled upon it.

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‘The Empire Strikes Back’ & Others To Be Preserved By U.S. Library

VaderStar Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back is to be preserved by the US Library of Congress as part of its National Film Registry:
Each year, 25 "culturally" significant films are added to the registry, which was founded in 1989. Lucas's Star Wars and American Graffiti are among the 550 titles already selected for preservation. This year's raft of entries includes Robert Altman's 1971 western McCabe and Mrs. Miller starring Warren Beatty, Blake Edwards' The Pink Panther and Elia Kazan's first feature film, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, made in 1945.
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Peaceful Countries Do Not Celebrate Thanksgiving


"The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth" by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914).

Thanksgiving commemorates the successful harvest and a time the Pilgrims gathered to give thanks, sharing a feast with their Native American neighbors, who had made possible their survival in the New England wilderness.

“Come, Ye Thankful People, Come” written by Henry “Dean” Alford, the gifted Christian leader of the 19th century and distinguished theologian and scholar, is considered to be one of the finest harvest and Thanksgiving hymns in all of the hymnals of Christian singing.

Writers and textbook publishers of American history have generally omitted or, if mentioned at all, glossed over historic accounts of genocide and inhumane treatment of American Indian populations.

The mythology of the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights is a national story of great significance to the way the United States views itself.

The United States of America was founded on the fundamental principle of freedom of religion.… Read the rest

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Beneath the Surface: Nashville’s Flood of 2010

Almost completely ignored by the national media (eg. CNN’s big headline on May 3 was — and I cringe — “Catastrophic” Flood Being Ignored?, which was just an iReport), the flood destroyed thousands of homes and killed at least 34 people.

This is a first-hand account, posted on  “Confessions of a CyberCasualty”:

JoeBot, "Disaster Tourist" (Photo: Andrew Edman)

The rain came on May Day without mercy, drenching Middle Tennessee for nearly two days. The downpour finally let up on Sunday — May 2 — immediately drawing disaster-tourists with cameras in hand.

I join them downtown on 1st Avenue, by the Cumberland River. The water marker reads 47′, and it’s climbing fast. Gawkers gather around to document the progress.

The riverfront stage is completely submerged at this point, but that doesn’t stop the show. We all watch an endless parade of municipal trashcans, propane tanks, dock stairs, basketballs, and uprooted trees floating down the river.… Read the rest

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