Amoeblog

The Rural Upsurge -- A Brief History of Country Cool and Uncool

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 2, 2014 02:20pm | Post a Comment
Country Mouse and Town Mouse
Arthur Rackham illustration for The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

Since the US's founding, Americans have steadily moved from the countryside to the city but the story of our pop culture has always been the product of a dialogue between the two worlds, with urban and rural fashions coming and going. While being country might not be cool again, it does seem that American television's landscape is once again overwhelmingly rural in character -- a world populated by catfish scammers, catfish hand-fishers, Sasquatch hunters, morbidly obese Mennonite mafioso, bootlegging bigamist Baptist beauty contestants, and other cryptozoological specimens. 43 years ago the television landscape was similarly dominated by rural caricatures when, at the end of March, the so-called "Rural Purge" resulted in a deliberate shift away from rural-themed shows to those set in cities.
 

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Americans have long generally migrated to the cities and their environs, including the suburbs, and today the percentage of America's population who live in the country is at an all time low -- about 16%. However, it wasn't until the 1910s that America's urban population overtook its rural. 

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Sing a song of eiderdowns

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 26, 2014 05:12pm | Post a Comment
It's blustery and breezy in Los Angeles today. A barely measurable amount of precipitation fell which inevitably resulted in chaos on the county's concrete freeways. I climbed out of bed at 5:30, an act made almost Olympian due to the combination of pre-dawn darkness, drops and drizzle, and the warmth offered by my eiderdown. 

Little Nemo in Slumberland
Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland

An eiderdown (according to the Collins English Dictionary) "a thick warm cover for a bed, made of two layers of material enclosing a soft filling" and thus not necessarily stuffed with the epidermal growths of the Common Eider for which the garment is named.

Eider Ducks
Eider duck female and chicks (with their eider down intact -- source: Thomas Reich)


As I fried hashed browns and veggie bacon in a wok and brewed coffee in the French press, my thoughts returned to eiderdowns, and to the songs which have celebrated... or at least mentioned them. "It's an eiderdown kind of day," as they say.

VideoDisc Day -- An introduction to the Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED)

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 19, 2014 10:30am | Post a Comment
RCA Selectavision VideoDisc

On 22 March, 1981RCA introduced  a brand new but curiously retro analog video format, the SelectaVision CED VideoDisc system. Today the CED (Capacitance Electronic Disc) is all but forgotten but even at its most popular it wasn't well-known and was much widely-adopted than contemporaneous video formats like Betamax, VHS, and LaserDiscs

http://www.pcmuseum.ca/
CED collection, Ron Treverton of Brantford, Canada (source: Personal Computer Museum)





In early 1981, shortly before the VideoDisc (as it was "commonly" known) hit the shelves of roughly 5,000 dealers across the USA, the first stainless steel, gull-wing doored DeLorean DMC-12 automobile rolled off of an assembly line in Northern Ireland whilst nearby, in Her Majesty's Prison MazeBobby Sands embarked on what would soon prove to be a fatal hunger strike. Meanwhile in America, I was entertained by Joel Schumacher's film, The Incredible Shrinking Woman... a film which would ultimately be released on LD, VHS, and (in edited form) on DVD-R  -- but never VideoDisc

Happy quasquicentennial, Orange County!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 11, 2014 03:00pm | Post a Comment
On this day in 1889, Orange County, California was born, making it 125 years young today. 


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Orange County

In early 1889, Pemberton Medicine Company (later Coca-Cola) incorporated in Atlanta, Colombia Phonograph (later Columbia Records) launched, Japan adopted the Meiji Constitution and the Eiffel Tower opened in Paris. Meanwhile in Southern California, the communities on Coyote Creek's left bank seceded those on the right bank and incorporated as the County of Orange. More precisely, on 11 March a bill was signed into law which allowed for voters to vote whether or not to approve the motion to incorporate -- which they did (2,509 to 500) on 4 June, 1889. But today's date is the one that is observed by most of Orange County's friends and family as its birthday.

It wasn't the first time county borders within California had changed. In the first half century after the US invaded and conquered Alta California from Mexico, the county borders have changed several times; San Bernardino County split from Los Angeles County in 1853, parts of Los Angeles County became Kern County in 1866, and in 1893 Riverside County was formed out of what had been parts of San Bernardino and San Diego counties. Several attempts were made and failed to establish Orange County in the 1870s and '80s.

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All-Female Bands of the 1960s - Happy Women's History Month!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 3, 2014 08:11pm | Post a Comment
The Carrie Nations
The Carrie Nations - a fictional band from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

In the first half of the 20th Century there were many popular all-female musical acts. In the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s there were vocal groups like The Andrews Sisters, The Boswell Sisters, and The McGuire Sisters. In the early rock/soul era, the so-called "girl groups" such as The Shirelles, The Teen Queens, The Paris Sisters, and The Chantels all achieved both artistic and popular success. However, none of these groups were proper bands. There were some all-female bands -- that is, groups comprised of female musicians -- but sadly most were viewed by many as little more than curiosities. You can read about them here.

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