Thursday, July 27, 2006

Layout updates and local book review

Good morning! Blogger ate the gigungous post I wrote earlier. I'm a little salty. I'm hitting the road for the next 4 or 5 days as soon as the plasterer gets here (long story involving incompetent roofers), so new posts may be delayed. Although I do hope to see some of you at the Cranberry Township Barnes and Nobles for my reading 1-3 pm this Saturday.

Let me bring to your attention a couple of changes to Venangago-go - you can now sign up to get Venangoago-go mailed to you. Just enter your email on the left hand sidebar box. Also, I've got blogrolling listing new Venango County blogs as they post. My library badge has been updated so that it just shows Venango County authors. The Voices in My Head(phones) section lists local CDs I'm listening to (and that you can buy). Finally, you can download my updated Venango County Authors bibliography here. You need Adobe Acrobat to view it. Please comment on it - I need to know if I'm missing anything or if the methodology should be expanded or explained better.

The Derrick has a nice piece on Christian Life Academy's Center for History, the Arts, and Technology.

Yankee Zydeco Company will be @ Conneaut Lake Park - Conneaut Lake, PA on Sunday, July 30, 2006 from 1pm-3pm - a nice afternoon show for aold folks like myself who hit the sack at 10ish.

I stopped in the Franklin Library yesterday to find some publication information for Anna Mae and found that the YA section had added one of my (and my daughter's) favorite new titles to their graphic novel selection - Runaways. Marvel has always done the teen angst-y thing better than any other company (Spider-Man, X-Men, etc...) and they update the idea here with a group of teens who discover their parents are supervillians and cultists and band together to defeat them. One of the Runaways, Gertrude, has time traveling parents and ends up with a pet dinosaur with whom she shares a psychic link. And if you don't understand why that's as cool as a giant lizard wearing purple pants, then maybe you shouldn't read comics at all. :)

Is it geeky in here, or is it just me?

Anyhow, I also returned Pete Greene's new book, a history of the Franklin Silver Coronet Band, yesterday as well. Local histories walk a very fine line -- they have to be location specific, but not parochial; they can't focus on inside jokes or assume that their readers know anything about the area that their writing about, even if the readers have lived their all of their lives. In Musical Service: The Life And Times of the Franklin Silver Cornet Band , Peter Greene shows in that he understands the concept of these dual natures.

As a resident of the area, I can tell you that local history is a broken record that has been playing a fasely happy tune for years (currently espoused by local historian Neil McElwee) -- the robber barons were super, the workers were all happy, the drunks were all loveable, there were no Bolsheviks, anarchists or communist, even Pithole, the wickedest town in the East has been reduced to a one note joke --shucks, no whores or opium addicts here; it's a friendly sort of wicked.

Greene dodges the whitewash by focusing on the lives of these musicians. These artists aren't famous people; they're workers in the community -- the same people who, today,you see in your schools, at the mall, or at gym. He makes the point that the band, like the small town of Franklin, is made up of the individual, idiosyncratic, members. For instance, while he could have focused just on the band leaders, he also brings in the members of the Clown Band -- an off shoot made of members who, ". . . were expected to dress silly, act silly, and on more than one occasion, drink until they were silly" (314). Greene also avoids the pitfall of delving too far into national events. I don't care to read about national history -- it's all too broad; for me, the only history is local history, and Greene does his topic right with his assiduous research, for example tying in the upheaval of the 60s and 70s with how it was felt in a small town:

There's no question that at the age of 115 the band's concerts were a very old fashioned sort of activity, but they could still raise a small controversy or two. A continuing concern in the city had been hippies hanging out in the parks and just sitting on the grass. That summer, this item ran on the News Herald:
Two city patrolmen reported being stopped Thursday at 9 p.m. by two hippies who complained about the old people sitting on the grass in the city park.

Police said two
hippies stopped them and wanted to know why old people could sit on the grass in the park and they couldn't.

Police said they stated they were run out of the West Park for doing the same thing, just having their own concert.

Apparently the young people referred to the concert last night by the Silver Coronet band

In this short section, Greene shows off the strengths of the book -- clear writing, diligent research and an appeal not just to small town life but, as he does in his other books, Venango Talesand A Good Idea at the Time, how the small town life digests and reflects the tumultuous world that rages outside its (forcibly created) peaceful facade.

A final encouraging note is that Greene is an educator and, at least, 18 years ago, when I was his student, he teaches his students the same skills in writing. Our class had an assignment to research and write about a time period in our small town of Franklin. My project partner was my best friend, Mark McClusky. Today, McClusky is an editor at Wired and I make my living writing and teaching others to write. The guy must be doing something right.

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