Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Conference I wish I had known about.....

I just found out that this symposium -- on "Jews, Indians and the Western World Order"  took place Sunday at Columbia University in New York. Some of it sounds a tad, uh, academic -- but it certainly focuses on a lot of issues that I have been investigating. There are links to the papers at the conference web site, and I look forward to reading them.

The topics under discussion included:
In what ways are Jews and Native Americans similarly and differently “Other” to “the West”?
What has been the shape of historical interactions between Native Americans and Jews?
Do Jews and Native Americans share a relationship of particular significance?
Speakers and papers included:

Jonathan Boyarin --Trickster's Children: Paul Radin, Stanley Diamond and Filiation in Anthropology

Christopher Bracken -- If Indians were Jews: William Apess's Concept of Right

Sarah Casteel -- Sephardism and Marranism in Native American Fiction of the Quincentenary: Dorris and Erdrich's The Crown of Columbus and Vizenor's The Heirs of Columbus

Christian Cwik -- Sephardic Networks and the Guajira Peninsula Contraband in the 17th Century

Jennifer Glaser -- Sovereignty, Diaspora, and the Indigene in Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union

James Hatley -- Naming Adam Naming Coyote

Nimachia Hernandez --  “Coming Home in America: Native American and Jewish Participation in the Making of a National Narrative”

Noah G. Hoffman -- “Rothko with Reservations”

Stephen Katz -- A One-Sided Dialogue: E. E. Lisitzky’s Indian Poems

David Koffman -- Violence, Native Americans and the Winning of the Jewish West

Jack Kugelmass -- A Yiddish Traveler in Peru

Alan Mintz -- Three Constructions of the Native American in American Hebrew Poetry

Akim D. Reinhardt -- Contested and Overlapping Notions of Indigenousness Among Jews and Indians

Michael Rom “I Have Good Friends Amongst the Jews”: Louis Riel and the Chosen People

Rachel Rubinstein Tribes Lost and Found: Mestizaje and the Jewish Question

Zalman Schachter Shalomi For the Dialogue with Native Americans

David Seidenberg The Kabbalah of the Sweatlodge

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

USA - Movie cowboy stamps go on sale April 17

The new US postage stamps honoring western heroes of the silver screen go on sale Saturday, and there will be ceremonies and celebrations in several places around the country.

The stamps honor the movie cowboy heroes William S. Hart, Tom Mix, Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.

All four of the honorees had an enthusiastic following outside the US as well as at home.

Hart and Mix were before my time. But Roy Rogers and Gene Autry were childhood favorites of mine, and I still love their movies, which I now watch on DVD --  and I've got Gene's CDs on my IPod. Autry of course went on to become a fabulously successful businessman. In 2004, I had a visiting scholar fellowship to the Autry National Center/Institute for the Study of the American West, a wonderful institution in LA that Autry was instrumental in founding.

One of the ceremonies celebrating the stamps will take place at the Autry -- see the program by clicking HERE.
This is the first time Gene Autry has been featured on a postage stamp, and the Museum of the American West plans to recognize this important milestone with a lobby exhibition that will remain up through Founder’s Day in October. The cameo will include artifacts relating to all four cowboys, focusing on different aspects of their illustrious careers.  Gene Autry was a success in entertainment and business, and he always made time for his fans. He toured across North America, giving children of all ages the chance to see their favorite cowboy in person. Items on display will include a child mannequin with a Gene Autry Official Ranch Outfit and a Gene Autry Monark bicycle.
Other ceremonies will take place at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Norman, Oklahoma and at the William S. Hart Park and Museum in Newhall, California. Maybe elsewhere, too!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Czech Republic -- Strakonice festival program online

 The bluegrass band Relief plays at Strakonice 2007. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

The Strakonice Jamboree is one of the biggest bluegrass/acoustic festivals in the Czech Republic. Taking place at the end of May near the grounds of a castle in a small town south of Prague, it more or less kicks off the outdoor Czech festival season and draws the top names in Czech acoustic and bluegrass music, as well as foreign acts.

This year the Jamboree takes place May 28-30. The program is now up on line -- click HERE.

Strakonice was the first Czech festival I attended when I started looking into the country/bluegrass/western scene in Europe, and it was here that I got my introduction to many of the musicians, the history, and the trappings (and the tramps...) that I have experienced elsewhere.

An unusual fan, Strakonice 2004. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hungarian Rockabilly

I've just run across an entertaining article from 2007 about the Hungarian rockabilly scene, on the website The rockabilly scene  in some places is a sort of offshoot, or at least is incorporated, into the country scene (the German rockabilly band The Lennerockers has been touring for 25 years and is a staple at country events, such as last month's Country Music Fair in Berlin).

Some of the descriptive of the Hungarian rockabilly scene sounds like the way country fans describe getting involved with the music.
Since its birth, rock and roll has evolved into a dizzying array of scenes and styles. But the original, rebellious allure of rockabilly - a once-daring fusion of hillbilly boogie, swinging country and traditional blues that rocked the youth of 1950s America - has held its own as a music subculture, and is continually embraced by new generations of youth, including more than a few in Hungary.

Once the Prison Band finished their set, I asked Kid, a 19-year-old from Budapest, why he liked rockabilly. Short on English, he blurted out, "Rebel!"
But at least for Kid, it's an unusual kind of rebellion. He told me that his interest in the music and its accompanying scene was sparked by his parents, who listened to rockabilly when he was, well, a kid. It may have been hard or impossible to find Western rockabilly records during Hungary's Soviet era, but the music seeped in, mostly via bootlegs and radio waves.

When Hungary's ambassador to the United States, AndrĂ¡s Simonyi, made a well-publicized appearance several years back at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, he described how he and his brother used to listen to an old Bakelite radio at night that picked up Western music shows on Radio Free Europe, Voice of America and Radio Luxembourg. But some local rockabilly fans who grew up during the Communist era recall first hearing the genre via less "underground" channels.

Monday, April 5, 2010

REAL western towns, that stll figure in the imagination

True West magazine lists its Top Ten  real "wild west" towns that retain the look and feel that sparked the imagination -- plus a long list of other town to watch.

Number One is Virginia City, Nevada
Boardwalks still line the streets, showing off the remarkable collection of 19th-century buildings, abandoned mine shafts and thousands of archaeological sites. Some of its most notable buildings include the First Presbyterian Church, built in 1867 and one of the few buildings still standing after the Great Fire of 1875; the state’s oldest hotel, the 1861 Gold Hill Hotel; and the 1885 Piper Opera House. The Barbary Coast archaeological digs in 2000 have allowed for greater interpretation of Virginia City, where ethnicities mixed freely, as proven by one of the dig sites, the black-owned Boston Saloon.

Read full article here

Friday, April 2, 2010

Autry Museum -- Curator discusses exhibiting west and imagination

 Gene Autry exhibit in the Autry Museum. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

About five years ago, I was a visiting scholar at the Autry National Center/Institute for the Study of the American West. My project looked at how the "western myth" was created and marketed to the world... it fit well within this wonderful museum's exhibition, which includes big sections on the romance of the west and the west of the imagination and popular culture.

In this interview, Jeffrey Richardson, one of the museum's new-- young -- curators, discusses this imagery and its impact on various generations of visitors, including young people who scarcely know what a "western" is -- and mistake old TVs for game-boys... Richardson, the Autry’s associate curator for film and popular culture, sees his job as one that bridges old and new views of the West.
“That question of the fresh look is really apropos for the Western, because so many people do see it as a dying genre,” said Richardson, who is 33 years old. “How do you take what many people perceive as a dying genre and present it, not only to those people who appreciate the genre and grew up with it, but to people like myself, who did not grow up with the Western?”
Richardson said that, as a child of the 1980s, he wasn’t really aware of Westerns. That occurred later, when he gained an appreciation of history. He thinks the GameBoy-toting 8-year-olds of today have an even bigger hurdle to jump in understanding that legacy. So he tries to craft shows and exhibits  that appeal as much to them as to the 80-year-olds that likely saw those Westerns in movie theaters.

Read full article