HIFC Archive Index

e-culture newsletter, April 14, 2004

e-culture: Dust Bowl Ballads, Thirst, Bob Wills Day, More Great Events
April 14, 2004


Dust Bowl Ballads
"Thirst" Explores Water Issues
The Band Kept on Playing
Upcoming Events
Important Forums on Globalization
Coming Attractions

"On the 14th day of April of 1935, There struck the worst of dust storms that ever filled the sky." Lyrics that chronicle an American legacy are revealed in Woody Guthrie's Dust Bowl Ballads. As Howard Zinn wrote "The Peoples' History..." in 1980, Woody Guthrie sung it decades earlier. In his song, "The Great Dust Storm (Dust Storm Disaster)," Guthrie recorded the American experience of the great migration out of the dusty plains, on the hard road to the California Promised Land, "We loaded our jalopies and piled our families in, We rattled down the highway to never come back again."

We remember the Dust Bowl by the words of John Steinbeck in "The Grapes of Wrath," and in Woody Guthrie's "Dust Bowl Ballads." The decade-long drought of the 1930s was intensified by the excessive production of cotton and wheat on marginal lands, the impact of human development, and the overgrazing of cattle. Visually, the Dust Bowl is seen in photographs taken on the most severe days, like April 14, 1935, as the dark rolling clouds of displaced dirt approached towns across eastern Colorado, western Kansas, and the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma. Darkness descended on towns at mid day and blowing dust infiltrated homes and buried farms, filling the lungs of humans and animals, as it drifted east, sometimes as far as the Atlantic Ocean.

See photographs of the Great Dust Storm and the drought conditions of the 1930s in a new section we are working on:

Many Americans aren't aware that the drought conditions in much of the western United States have reached a condition worst than at any time in more than 100 years -- even worse the Dust Bowl. Since the 1930s, farming techniques have improved substantially, making the land appear to sustain development better because of less obvious soil depletion, but western regions are in a crisis. States like Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas are suffering tremendous economic losses in agriculture. Dangerous blowing dust conditions are returning with greater frequency. Reservoirs along the Rio Grande and Colorado rivers continue to decline from lack of necessary snowfall amounts in the Rocky Mountains. Montana and Idaho are facing another dry summer and the increased danger of massive fires witnessed over the past few years. Each year in the drought cycle amplifies in time it takes to recover.

We will continue to encourage education on resource issues in the West, as the impact on humans, plants and animals is more serious than ever before, as we continue our "Contradictions of John Wesley Powell" research, observation and educational travel programs in the West. Please contact us at info@houstonculture.org if you would like to be part of these educational efforts.

Learn more about the modern drought from the NOAA Drought Information Center:

"Thirst" Explores Water Issues

As water has become one of the most important subjects of the Twenty-first Century, we will show the film "Thirst" at the Rice Media Center free of charge on April 21, at 7:30pm, with John Pliger's award-winning documentary, "The New Rulers of the World." "Thirst" offers a piercing look at the global corporate drive to control and profit from water by telling the stories of communities in Bolivia, India, and the United States that are struggling with the questions of ownership of water as a resource.

Please join us for the free screening of these films at the Rice Media Center, Wednesday, April 21, 2004, at 7:30pm.
Get more information:

The films are being shown in conjunction with a conference on the "Impact of Globalization"

Listen for Victoria Masih and me on KPFT's "Progressive Forum," on Thursday, April 15, at 8:00pm. KPFT is a community radio station on the dial at 90.1 FM.

We will be talking about the important conference on the impact of globalization and the pair of enlightening films on global economic issues.

Get comprehensive Water Facts:

The Band Kept on Playing

In 1947, Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys were at the height of their careers. Through the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, even reuniting during the big one, WWII, Wills big Western Swing band kept on playing the good-time barroom jazz they made famous. If Woody Guthrie was the voice of the working class in the hard times he sang about, then Bob Wills was their great escape.

Before the onset of the great drought, Wills' family of cotton pickers migrated from East Texas to the red earth plains of the Texas Panhandle, to settle right in the heart of the Dust Bowl. As the leader of one of the most innovative bands in music history, Wills' success was up and down, much like the Blues musicians he idolized. Even when times were good, Wills maintained he would never share a drink with a rich man.

Bob Wills is celebrated on the last Saturday of April each year in the little town of Turkey, Texas, where he lived as a boy. Thousands of music fans, who love the music and life of the legendary fiddle player and bandleader, flock to the remote town from all over Texas and around the United States. At the festival honoring Bob Wills, you may even meet fans from Europe or find a film crew from Japan.

Learn more about Bob Wills:

To find out more about Bob Wills Day, and the week of events that precede the Saturday festival, please visit Turkey, Texas on line:

Bob Wills shared an interest in the music of different cultures and incorporated diverse traditional styles into the music called Western Swing. His popularity seemed to transcend races and nationalities. He thrilled the working class, stepped lightly in the Bible Belt, and made the social elite cringe. But these were segregated times and, in addition to natural disasters and world wars, the nation was divided -- torn by poverty, lynch mobs and "race riots." Wills appeared to be a man who made no stands on issues. In June, we will explore Bob Wills' role as quiet liberator, or noisy racist.

Upcoming Events

AREA K: A Political Fishing Documentary (USA, 52 min.)
(directed by Nadav Harel and Ramon Bloomberg)
Part of "A World Without Water: Documentary Film Screenings"
Presented by Voices Breaking Boundaries and Fotofest

Join Voices Breaking Boundaries and Fotofest for a special screening of award-winning film "AREA K: A Political Fishing Documentary," a story about how a clan of Palestinian fisherman from the refugee camps of Gaza and their Israeli counterparts living in the settlement of Dugit, Gaza strip, have to form a business partnership in order to share water for their livelihoods. For info on the film, visit www.wildfist.com/films/areak.html

New York-based Jewish director Ramon Bloomberg will be present at the event to discuss the issues raised by the film and will participate in a panel discussion along with Middle East scholar Ussama Makdisi. Ramon Bloomberg is a filmmaker based in New York City. Ussama Makdisi is an Associate Professor of History and the first holder of the Arab-American Educational Foundation Chair of Arab Studies at Rice University.

Music provided by accomplished pianist Loretta Parani and refreshments by Kairo Cafe, downtown's newest Middle Eastern restaurant. Curated by Eileen Maxson of Fotofest, and Nusrat Malik and Mohit Mehta of Voices Breaking Boundaries. For more information go to
www.voicesbreakingboundaries.org or www.fotofest.org

Friday, April 16, 8:00 PM @ The Axiom, 2524 McKinney
Director appearance, panel discussion and refreshments
General admission: $5:00
For reservations, call (713) 228-2052


Fiesta San Antonio
San Antonio, Texas
April 16 - 25, 2004


Emma Bunker, "The Distinctive Khmer Buddha: From Sacred Simplicity to Jeweled Royalty"
Co-Sponsored by Asia Society Texas and Museum of Fine Arts Houston

The MFAH recently acquired an 8th century bronze Standing Buddha from Thailand that beautifully expresses the sacred simplicity characteristic of the finest early Buddha images created in mainland Southeast Asia. The museum's Standing Buddha was probably cast in northeast Thailand, a region rich in metals that was part of the great Khmer Empire centered in Cambodia. For three hundred years, Buddhist and Hindu beliefs were popular among the Khmer. By the twelfth century, however, Buddhism became the state religion and images of the Buddha developed into richly jeweled images that emulated the appearance of the Khmer ruler in all his glory. Emma C. Bunker, Research Consultant on Asian art at The Denver Art Museum, discusses the distinctive evolution of the Khmer Buddha.

April 17th, 5:00 - 7:00pm
Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Brown Auditorium, 1001 Bissonnet
Admission is open to the public and free with general museum admission.
Admission is free for Asia Society and MFAH members.


Houston International Festival
April 17,18, 24 and 25, 2004


Amandla! A Revolution in Four-part Harmony (2002, USA, 103 minutes)
(Directed by Lee Hirsch; Audience Award and the Freedom of Expression Award, 2002 Sundance Film Festival).

Using a mix of interviews with previously exiled activists and musicians and archival footage of organized protests, Amandla! A Revolution in Four-part Harmony underscores the importance of freedom songs in the struggle to end Apartheid in South Africa [http://www.amandla.com].

Hotflicks at Helios - Starting this Sunday and the third Sunday of every month thereafter, Voices Breaking Boundaries will be part of Hotflicks at Helios. (411 Westheimer, 77006. 713-526-4648). Hotflicks at Helios is weekly film screenings, every Sunday, where obscure and independent movies and documentaries are screened. For more info visit http://www.heliosrising.org

Sunday April 18th, 8:00pm
Donations: $5.00
Featuring mostly organic vegetarian food for nominal charge



The passionate and rhythmic culture of Flamenco, Spain's Andalusian Gypsy inspired music and dance, will surely satisfy the aficionado of performing arts, and beckon the curious first timer for more. The Houston Society of Flamenco Arts (HSFA) together with the dance company, "Gitanerías Flamenco," will host a special appearance by world-renowned flamenco artists Laila and Adam del Monte during their Sunday concert. Flamenco veterans Lucia Rodriguez-Sanchez and Valdemar Phoenix lead the 20-year old dance troupe.

This year's spring performance, "¡Lorca!," is dedicated to themes made popular by one of Spain's most celebrated poets, Federico Garcia Lorca. "¡Lorca!" will feature Lucia and Valdemar's newest arrangements of Lorca's folksongs, including traditional flamenco themes such as buleria, solea, and tangos.

Sunday, April 18, 2:30pm
Talento Bilingue de Houston
333 S. Jensen

Tickets are $18


ERNESTO CARDENAL, Poetry Reading presented by The Rothko Chapel and Inprint

"Priest and Nicaraguan revolutionary, as well as poet, Cardenal epitomizes what makes literature live in Central America today." -Booklist

Ernesto Cardenal has always considered poetry as a powerful agent for constructive social change, and his poetry gives voice to the voiceless, speaking out against oppression. The author of more than 35 books in Spanish, many have been translated into English, including Marilyn Monroe and Other Poems (1965), The Psalms of Struggle and Liberation (1967), To Live is to Love (1970), In Cuba (1974), Apocalypse and Other Poems (1977), Nicaraguan New Time (1988), Cosmic Canticle (1993), and The Doubtful Strait (1995).

Born on January 20, 1925, in Grenada, Nicaragua, Ernesto Cardenal studied in Mexico, at Columbia University in the U.S., and with Thomas Merton at a Trappist monastery in Kentucky in 1957. Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza declared Cardenal an outlaw in 1957 for his support of the Sandinista movement. In 1965, he was ordained a priest and founded a Christian commune, Solentiname. During the revolution, Cardenal served as a field chaplain for the FSLN. After the triumph, he served as Minister of Culture from 1979 to 1988 and promoted literary workshops throughout Nicaragua. At present he is the Vice President of Casa de Las Tres Mundos, a literary and cultural organization based in Managua.

The program is free and all are welcome. Seating is limited and on a first come, first served basis. Fr. Cardenal will read his poems in Spanish, and an interpreter will translate them into English.

Tuesday, April 20, 7:30pm
The Rothko Chapel
1409 Sul Ross at Yupon


Oral Histories at the Eldorado Ballroom

The next program in the Eldorado Ballroom series is on Wednesday, April 21, 7:30pm. It will feature the great jazz singer, Jewel Brown, a Third Ward native who began her career singing on teen talent shows at the Eldorado. She eventually assumed the role of female vocalist with Louis Armstrong (for about five years), and has performed with a long list of jazz legends (including Dizzy Gillespie). Roger Wood, author of "Down in Houston: Bayou City Blues," will talk with Jewel Brown about her great stories and memories of o life in music.

Free admission
Wednesday, April 21, 7:30 - 8:30pm
Eldorado Ballroom
2300 Elgin St. (at Dowling)


Festival International de Louisiane
Lafayette, Louisiana
April 21 - 25, 2004


New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
April 23 - May 2, 2004

Important Forums on Globalization

Houston Institute for Culture will present a workshop on Local Economies and Local Cultures, which will present the "Case for Localism in Media, Business, Culture and Economy." The workshop will offer a historical and cultural perspective on globalization to help participants understand how the base of local ownership impacts independence and self-determination in the community. Participants will consider the positive impact of support for local business: support for neighborhoods and the city; better quality of life for families; wider base of ownership in the community; diversity of interests and cultures; and, as counter balance to the worldwide spread of limited ownership and homogenization of cultures/narrowing of interests.

The workshop on localism will be presented at a conference on global justice, with keynote speaker Kevin Danaher, author and co-founder of Global Exchange, and John Hart, an expert on Mexico's social and economic history. It will take place on Saturday, April 24, 2004, at First Unitarian Universalist Church, 5200 Fannin St. Call (713) 522-9850 to register. Registration is $20 (includes lunch); $10 for students and anyone who requests a reduced fee. Advanced registration is preferred.

At the conference, University of Houston history professor, John Hart, will be speaking about the U.S.-Mexico relationship as the laboratory of globalization strategies. We will offer more details about the series of workshops in our next newsletter.

Get more information on this important conference on the "Impact of Globalization"

There is also a conference to promote economic globalization at University of Houston on April 15.

Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks as we explore the difference between the proponents of corporate economic globalization and the socially conscious activists and educators who favor global justice. With our mission to promote cultural education, we will explore the issues with an emphasis on the value of localism in media, business, culture and economy.

Coming Attractions

In the next e-culture newsletter, we will explore the many activities coming up in Houston as part of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, including parades, festivals and Dragon boat races.

As part of our "This Day in Our Cultural History" features, we will explore two tragedies: the Texas City Explosion of April 16, 1947, and the Ludlow Massacre of April 20, 1914. And, we will consider what they mean to us today.

Thank you for supporting these great cultural and educational programs.

M  a  r  k @houstonculture.org

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