September 30, 2012 @ 11:36 am
I've been posting about the Carolina Chocolate Drops and their efforts to keep old-time string band music alive. Bob Edwards today interviews another minority string band musician Henry Sapoznik, Yiddish radio historian and founder of Klez Kamp. He said something that resonated strongly with me, that he could turn the radio dial a quarter-inch and escape his sometimes claustrophobic culture for a little while. That was what TV and books did for me as a kid. I never spoke to a black person until I went to KY's Governor's Scholars Program at the age of 16, but I watched Good Times, Diff'rent Strokes, What's Happening, Gimme a Break, and lots of other "crap TV," television made for a momentary buck, fitting into a particular competitive economic ecosystem, the same way the old Yiddish radio shows were made in a moment, for that moment, with no thought for the future. They evolved to fit into a particular niche in space and time.
Similarly, I can't remember ever meeting a Jew until I was in college, but they were all over pop culture. Joel Fleischman from Northern Exposure was my personal favorite example, but they were everywhere. Mel Brooks alone. . .
Hour 2 is another Michael Chabon interview on his new book Telegraph Avenue, which I still haven't read (Bob doesn't podcast any more, but you can hear an earlier NPR interview). Chabon says he set the book in 2004 as the last time a big-box store could terrify an indie store, like a woolly mammoth at the end of an Ice Age, just as iTunes and the rest of the Internet is about to melt all the glaciers and put the big boxes out of business. I like the metaphor, despite the fact that my wife works for one of those stores, Barnes & Noble, which is not yet doomed like the mammoths and mastodons, as far as I can tell. It is instead adapting and reinventing itself, changing its inventory to reflect physical objects that can't be stored on a hard drive the way books can. Board games, toys, stuff like that. In other words, the population of their inventory is shifting by selection.