Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Imaginary Wild West in "Real Imaginary" Situ

Every so often, I like to point out examples of the Imaginary Wild West in what can be called its "real imaginary" situ -- i.e., the American West. There are the theme parks, Olde West towns, SASS meetings, etc.

Here's another example -- a combination dude ranch and theme parklette in Texas, whose description reads almost word for word like the experiences you can have in some of the European (or Asian) places I've mentioned on this blog.

Texas ranch lets you play cowboy


Cox Newspapers

[. . . . ]

Here on the Beaumont Ranch, a combination dude ranch and events center that's a little Old West and a little small-town Disney, you can stay the night in a faux cowboy town, shoot a shotgun, do a little fishing and round up the cattle.

It's not exactly life as it was in the 1800s, but it does give city slickers a chance to get saddle sore without auctioning the family ranch on the courtyard steps.

Family-friendly Beaumont Ranch also comes with a family budget friendly price: rooms start at $175 a night and a pint-sized cattle drive experience the next morning is an additional $35.

We stayed in Chisholm Fork, the ranch's fake Western town. Our room, the Yellow Rose, was outfitted with a pull-chain toilet and claw-foot tub, plus a big comfy bed and a mini-fridge. We felt like we were sacking out in a movie set.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Bluegrass -- International Links

At the international bluegrass festival, La Roche sur Foron, France 2008. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber)

The web site of the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro Kentucky has a page with a good list of International Bluegrass Links -- bluegrass sites in a variety of countries as well as international organizations.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's Karl May Festival Season on European Summer Stages

Karl May Festival, Elspe, Germany, 2007. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Just a reminder that it's Karl May Festival season on a dozen open-air stages around central Europe....Here, in a sort of summer ritual similar to the pantomine shows at Christmas in England, stage presentations take place based on the adventure tales -- most of them set in the Wild West -- by Karl May, the German popular author who died in 1912.

May created the iconic Wild West heroes Winnetou and Old Shatterhand (I've posted a number of items on the blog about them.)

I've sampled a number of these festivals -- and I have to say they are fun. Recorded theme music from the popular Winnetou movies of the 1960s plays each time Winnetou or Old Shatterhand makes an appearance, and parents (who attended these festivals as children) teach their own kids how to boo at the villains. Some of the festivals also include little Wild West towns as part of the complex. The festival in Elspe, Germany (which I attended 2 years ago) even has its own special festival grounds. Last year in Berlin, the anthropologist/folklorist Dana Weber -- who is doing her PhD on Karl May Festivals -- introduced me to Prof. Markus Kreis, who has studied the phenomenon, and who showed us his photos of the Elspe Festival from the 1980s. They looked remarkably like my photos from 20 years later!

Stuff on sale at Elspe. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

As I wrote in an article a few years ago, the biggest and oldest of the festivals is the Karl May Spiele at Bad Segeberg, in northern Germany north of Hamburg and provides a model for the others.

Founded in 1952, the Bad Segeberg festival attracts more than 250,000 people a year to elaborate, highly professional productions presented on a striking open-air stage that incorporates a steep wooded crag as a backdrop.

The Bad Segeberg productions often feature popular German performers or actors famed for their roles in the Karl May movies of the 1960s or other European-made Western films. Its adjoining "Western city" features a Native American museum and a bookshop stocked with material on the Far West.

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This year its show is Der Schatz im Silbersee, an all-time favorite that also featured in 1962 as the first Winnetou Movie, starring the French actor Pierre Brice as Winnetou and the American ex-Tarzan Lex Barker as Old Shatterhand.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Translations of Druha Trava Lyrics Now Online

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

In advance of the upcoming U.S. tour of the "Czechgrass" band Druha Trava, DT's U.S. web site has posted the translations that I made (with David Kraus) of 10 of Robert Krestan's original songs. See them by clicking HERE.

The songs include some that the group will perform during the Sept. 3-Oct 4 tour.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Poland -- Me on Polish TV, Discussing European Country Music

Silesian TV interviewed me for the news piece they did on the Silesian Folk and Country Festival in Ustron.

You can view the clip by clicking HERE. (And please disregard how I'm identified..)

International Banjo -- Symbolism?

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

At the Silesia Folk and Country Festival in Ustron, Poland, the American banjo virtuoso Tony Trischka found symbolism in the men's room.... he guarded the door as I took the picture:

Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

"I'm someone who sees banjos everywhere," he said.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Poland -- Silesia Folk and Country Festival under way

Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I got in to Ustron, in the way south of Poland, last night, driving from Oswiecim (Auschwitz) of all places....and into the Silesia Folk and Country Festival. It still gives me a thrill? chill? quick hit of the odd? when I hear a Czech band (in this case "Drops" this afternoon), in the market square of a Polish village (Ustron is a spa town at the foot of the Beskidy Mountains near the Czech border) singing "All Across America." Aside from the great banjo player Tony Trischka, who plays with Druha Trava tonight, I'm probably the only American here.

Drops. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

This is called an International Folk and Country Festival -- last night highlighted singer-songwriters: a group called Czerwony Tulipan (Red Tulip), the Warsaw-based singer Tomek Szwed, whom I have heard at other festivals and also interviewed a couple of years ago, and an English troubador called Pete Morton, who "sang out" with an energetic set that I have to admit was a little too spiritually uplifting for my taste! A bit hit with the crowd, though, even though he sang in English.

Tomasz Szwed. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

This afternoon, I was interviewed by Polish TV-Silesia for the feature they are doing on the Festival for the evening news tonight -- will post the link when it is up online!

Last night's concert was free, as was the afternoon performance today on the market square. Tonight's costs 10 zloty, I think -- about $3. It will be a mix of acoustic and more rocky stuff, with DT and the Slovak band Peter and the Rowers, one of the top European country acts.

I MUST photograph the food stalls -- last night I kept eating little pieces of local smoked goat cheese, grilled til almost melting and served with jam. Yum. Most of what else is on offer is what I have come to recognize as festival fare -- grilled sausages and chops, and other meats of various varieties. Oh yes, and beer. And honey vodka...