Sunday, November 21, 2010

France -- Where to eat Western and buy western duds and other


Here's a link to "American Shop Avenue" -- an online one-stop shop for everything Americana...clothes, CDs, accessories, you name it.

It's run by the folks behind a chain of Country-western restaurants in northwest France called "Oncle Scott's country restaurants" -- a joint venture between Frenchman Laurent Marie and a former trucker and country singer Scott Randall Rhodes.

According to the Oncle Scott's web site, the two met in 1996 when Marie
was realizing his dream of exploring America. He had landed in New York, his backpack his only companion. Not seeing any cowboys in the city they call the “Big Apple,” Laurent decided to head for Texas. First by bus, then by car, Laurent crossed many states, including the state of Tennessee.

He stopped in Nashville, then in Memphis, and discovered the cultural richness there was to be found in America’s short history. Rock ‘n’ roll and country music were everywhere, and Laurent was already getting ideas for his future business.
Arriving in Texarkana, Texas, the young Frenchman was overcome by a fever so severe that he decided to discontinue his journey. He turned back towards the east, and it was in the town of Vicksburg, on the border of Mississippi and Louisiana, that Laurent pulled into a rest stop alongside the highway. Parked next to him was a cowboy polishing his four-wheel drive, so typically American. This is the beginning of the story, a story of friendship…

After brief introductions, Scott invited Laurent to have a drink and get to know each other better. Their conversation lasted three days! Three days during which Scott explained the heart of America and, especially, the heart of Americans. "With Scott, hospitality is written with a capital H," recalls Laurent. "He is the nicest and most sincere man I’ve ever known, he is always in a good mood and always ready to socialize …"

A while later, Scott was invited by Laurent to discover France…

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tonto Revisited (Geographically off Topic)

Sign at a "western town" near Ilz, Austria. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber


By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I just linked to a post by my brother about images of Native Americans in art and architecture in Syracuse NY... Sam's post was pegged to an exhibition at the ArtRage gallery in Syracuse called "Tonto Revisited" about stereotypes of Native Americans in advertising and elsewhere. I have posted pictures from Europe of such stereotypes, which are widespread around the world. (The exhibition on American Indians at the Ethnographic Museum in Berlin, curated by Peter Bolz, displays a collection of such Indian kitsch as part of its focus on "North American Indians: From Myth to Modern.")

What do Land ’o Lakes, Argo Cornstarch and Syracuse minor league baseball have in common? Stereotyped images of Native Americans. This exhibit is curated by Tom Huff, a Seneca/Cayuga artist living on the Onondaga Nation. It exposes the cultural mythology surrounding Native Americans. The images and objects associated with “Indians” are dictated and defined by the dominant non-Indian culture. Many of the resulting representations are culturally and socially incorrect, even racist, with exaggerated misrepresentations of Native Americans.
Huff’s collection of portrayals of menacing warriors wielding tomahawks, knives and bows and arrows found in posters, advertisements, toys, sports logos and more will be on display. He has been collecting “Indian Kitch” for over 25 years. While many may not think of them individually as destructive, this exhibit helps to illustrate how these pervasive negative preconceptions trivialize the tragedy wrought on indigenous peoples everywhere. We hope to both dispel the myths surrounding Native Americans and to encourage a new understanding of native peoples.
Tom Huff is primarily a stone sculptor working in a variety of stones, styles, and themes, traditional and contemporary. He is also a member of the CORA Foundation’s Board of Directors and has curated the November/December ArtRage exhibition, TONTO REVISITED: Native American Stereotypes. He has also curated The Nuclear Indian Series,  a solo installation and group exhibitions of contemporary Iroquois artists from the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy.
You can also view artwork and sculpture created by Tom Huff beginning in November at the Everson Museum, Oñgweson gyastoñh – Haudenosaunee: Elements, 11/13/10 thru 1/16/11 and at the Warehouse Gallery, Tom Huff: The Window Projects at The Warehouse Gallery, 11/18/10 thru 2/19/11.

(Geographically off-topic) -- Native Americans in Art and Architecture
Sculpture in Syracuse by Luise Kaish. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

My brother Sam Gruber has posted a thoughtful reflection about images of Native Americans used in art and architecture in Syracuse NY, on his blog about central New York state. He posts a selection of photographs showing Native Americans as heroic and submissive.
This month there are several local exhibitions related to art by and representations of Native Americans. New art of Haudenosaunee artists is on view at the Everson Museum in the exhibition Haudenosaunee: Elements. Popular and especially commercial and advertising images American Indians fill the walls of ArtRage Gallery in an exhibition of the collection of artist Tom Huff, entitled Tonto Revisited. Tom, a Seneca/Cayuga artist living on the Onondaga Nation, has been collecting “Indian Kitsch” for over 25 years.

Images of Indians are hardly new in Syracuse, a city situated in the center of the Onondaga Nation at the heart of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy. These exhibitions should make people even more attentive.
Read full post HERE

Monday, November 8, 2010

Movies -- New Canadian Documentary on Hollywood Indians

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

There's a new (or newish -- I think it came out last year) documentary out about the depiction of Native Americans in the movies. It's called Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian. It's made by a Cree filmmaker with the (iconic? ironic?) name of Neil Diamond.

The movie goes over territory treated in several books, including the landmark "Playing Indian" by Philip J. Deloria.

From first glance at the web site and trailers, it looks interesting (and fun) but seems not to touch the important depiction of Native Americans in the West German Winnetou movies -- or the East German Indianer films (or any other European contruct).

The National Film Board of Canada, which sponsored the movie, has a more sober trailer:

Interestingly -- the National Film Board also sponsored an earlier documentary -- "If Only I Were an Indian"  (1995)-- that looks at Native American hobbyists in the Czech Republic.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

France -- Country Music from France; Steve & Heather

My friends Steve & Heather, a country music act in France, have a new video with excerpts of their Country Party shows, filmed at several leading country venues in France. (Heather is American; Steve is French.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More on David Dortort, the Creator of Bonanza

"Bonanza" snack bar, train station, Lodz, Poland, 2005. photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I have an article in Tablet Magazine today, in which I write about David Dortort, the creator of the iconic TV show Bonanza, who died in September -- I wrote about his death in an earlier post -- and tell the story the related to me about how his Uncle Harry fought with Pancho Villa....
Some years ago, when I first visited Sikluv Mlyn, a Wild West theme park in the Czech Republic, I was startled by the music piped in to the lobby of my hotel. It was the unmistakable theme song from the iconic TV show Bonanza–sung in Czech.
Bonanza, which ran from 1959 to 1973, recounted the adventures of the tight-knit Cartwright clan—the patriarch Ben, his three sons Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe—and the goings-on at their sprawling Ponderosa ranch. Syndicated to dozens of countries and dubbed into languages ranging from German to Japanese, it was one of the most popular and widely watched television shows of all time and has had a tremendous impact in honing the image of the American West around the world.
But few viewers realize how deeply rooted the show was in, well, Yiddishkeit (and not just because two of the stars—Lorne Greene as Ben and Michael Landon as Little Joe—were Jewish).
Bonanza was the brainchild of David Dortort, a pioneering television writer and producer who died in September at the age of 93. The Brooklyn-born son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, Dortort had a lifelong commitment to Jewish causes; among other things, he and his wife Rose, who died in 2007, endowed cultural programs at the American Jewish University and Hillel at UCLA.
I discussed the Jewish underpinnings of Bonanza with Dortort during a lengthy interview at his home in Los Angeles in December 2004, as part of my ongoing research on the American West in the European imagination.
Read full story HERE

Hermann the German's new Album

"Hermann the German" at the Country Music Messe 2010. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The German country-western singer Hermann Lammers Meyer has sent me links to information on his new CD, "Nashville is Rough on the Living"-- including to this video clip of the song Honky Tonk Hearts.

I've seen Hermann, who sings, plays guitar and pedal steel guitar, perform many times -- mainly at the annual Country Music Messe in Berlin.

He has one of the longest careers in German country western music, dating back to the 1970s, and he has toured and played in Texas and elsewhere in the U.S. One of his most recent tours was eve further afield -- to New Zealand!