Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sixth Anniversary Post

On December 22, 2006 I started out on a journey by writing two blog entries. One was a brief essay on why I had chosen to write about bluegrass music and the other was a review of a history book by Doris Kearns Goodwin called Team of Rivals which is the source material for a current blockbuster movie called “Lincoln.” My first post had a comment put on it from a person I didn't know, the late Dr. Tom Bibey, who subsequently blessed my life as an Internet acquaintance and, later, close personal friend until his untimely death last August. He was the kind of friend a person only experiences a few times in a lifetime, and I met him on the Internet. Since that first blog entry my analytics tell me I have published 859 posts including uncounted numbers of photos, lots of opinions, and about 112 book reviews. Depending on how they're counted my site, it has been “hit” something over 600,000 times. But statistics aren't as important as the ways doing the blog and the underlying experiences it represents have enriched and widened our lives, our knowledge, and our friendships with people we didn't even know we were looking for. Today is the sixth anniversary of the beginning of this adventure,which has developed, changed, and grown us as the years have passed. Perhaps the biggest change that has occurred, is the role Irene, my wife of 48 years, has taken in so many aspects of its production. 

Let's take a look at a few statistics about Ted Lehmann's Bluegrass, Books, and Brainstorms. From December 2011 until today there have been 154 posts, a little less than one every 2.4 days. According to one of my hit counters, there were 137,789 page views, a decrease of about 11, 000 from last year, while Google Analytics places this year's total visits at 73,867 with page views at 108,838, a decline of about 20,000 from last year. I can't explain the decline in hits. Meanwhile, the blog was seen in 149 countries and territories. The top ten were: USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Italy, Japan, France, Australia, the Netherlands, and India. Except for central Africa, the blog received at least one hit in most countries. There's a huge hole in the middle-East where Iran sits.

What has the content looked like? During the year I wrote previews of every event we attended and from one to four reviews of each one, depending on how large an event it is and how much content there was to cover. In events where bands performed for more than one day, I only used pictures of them once. I also wrote book reviews of twenty-six books and posted about fifteen essays on a variety of topics surrounding bluegrass. To my pleasure and surprise, these essays are read with more frequency than I thought they would be. I want to thank the California Bluegrass Association for asking me to write a monthly column on their Welcome Page. It always challenges me to look deeper. The book reviews reflect my interests in a variety of areas, although I try to get to books which have bluegrass content in them, as a part of my mission to combine attending events and thinking about the larger issues confronting bluegrass. I have several books in the pipeline which deal with such topics as new media and copyright/pirating in the digital era. Many of the books I read and review have had implications for my thinking about bluegrass music and culture. I receive many books in ebook for as Galleys from their publishers in order to review them. I'm grateful to the web sites that promote these services and the publishers who make their books available to me.

During the past year, Irene and I drove about 20,000 miles while attending nineteen bluegrass festivals, four concerts, and two other bluegrass related events. We spent one hundred and forty seven (147) nights in our trailer on the road during the year. This year we traded for a new trailer which I've shown some pictures of. We stayed at hotels and motels for nineteen nights and with friends or relatives for five. Our largest single expense on the road this year has been gasoline. We have a geezer card (National Access Card) to cut down on our expenses and have found that staying in state, national, and Corps of Engineers parks is not only less expensive, but more enjoyable than large commercial parks. We attended two new festivals to us this year, the K.D. Bass produced festival on the Seminole Indian Reservation near Lake Okeechobee in Florida called Seminole Wind and the Top of Georgia Jamboree in Dillard, GA. We'll be going back to both as we continue to seek out new events to cover and new bands to see. We're very excited about the IBMA's move the Raleigh, NC, but know that we'll miss Nashville. It's been a busy and productive year.

Although I'm a little disappointed in the loss of readership in the blog, our spread across several platforms on the Internet has certainly increased the reach of our efforts. Our YouTube channel and the three Facebook pages have meant that many people who don't necessarily read my blog can follow our travels in various ways. Both Irene and I have our own Facebook pages. We include family and friends from other elements of our lives on them, and each represents our own interests and personality. At the urging of Henri Duchamps, publisher of The Bluegrass Legacy among other Facebook entities, we started Ted andIrene's Most Excellent Bluegrass Adventure, which has grown nicely and gives us a forum to discuss areas not worthy of an entire blog entry and to keep up with various goings on in our worlds. It has attracted 2,689 Likes and, when you count these people and their friends, has a reach of over 1,000,000 people, although I don't think it ever reaches near that many. All three Facebook pages are fun, and we're enthusiastic about keeping in touch with many people we've met or who've been attracted to our interests.

From when I posted a little song by Josh Williams called “Mordecai” on my YouTube Channel in May of 2011 until the end of the year, it had been viewed by 4,572 people.. That was pretty good performance performance for one of my videos. Then on January 22, 2011, I noticed that 204,476 people had viewed it in one day! It had gone viral, and I was frightened by the numbers of comments I had received in my email. As of today, it has been viewed by 1,738,947 people and still attracts about 12,000 views a month. It has been seen in 198 countries around the world. I've been interviewed by Japanese public TV via Skype and a clip of the video has been seen on The Today Show on NBC. It has been a spectacular ride. Last month it received just short of 13,000 views, as people continue to watch. If you haven't seen it yet, here it is:

Josh Williams – Mordecai – Video

The Josh Williams “bird video” has not only been good for Josh, I hope, but has been good for our efforts, too. Irene is sharing the videography with me, and we have now uploaded 561 performance videos from the festivals we attend. Our total views have reached 2,054,495. That means, without the Josh Williams video we have had 325,548 people visit our channel. Last month 25,295 people came to see other videos. I think they get there by searching the singer or the song and discover that's there's more to see. I think it's a powerful indicator of how use of the Internet is changing and how powerful a tool YouTube has become. The biggest problem for us is not having enough bandwidth to post all the videos we take in a timely fashion.

 In September I was nominated for IBMA Print/Media Person of the Year. It was a great honor to be on the finalists list. The late Marty Godby, who wrote a biography of  J.D. Crowe, won and congratulations to her. I'll probably submit my name again next year.

To wrap it all up, we're still pleased and excited by our adventure in bluegrass, the challenges and opportunities it presents us. We love the music and the people who choose to play it, in all configurations, and are happy to be involved in even a small way. As we begin the seventh year of our blog, we want to say “Thank You” to all the people who have helped by visiting and participating with us and also to wish you

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year
All our Friends
Ted and Irene Lehmann

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Behind the Kitchen Door by Saru Jayaraman - Book Review

After reading Saru Jayaraman's new book Behind the Kitchen Door (Cornell University Press, 2013, 208 pgs., $21.95), I'll never look at a restaurant in the same way again. Knowing the seven of the ten lowest paid jobs in the United States are in the restaurant industry, that the tipped position minimum wage is $2.13 an hour, that restaurant workers use food stamps at almost double the U.S. average, and that 80 % of tipped workers don't earn the U.S. minimum wage while their tips are stolen by management and they are forced to work sick because they have no sick days and cannot afford to take a day off has provided me with a wake up call about restaurant employees, whether they work in fast food, family restaurants, or fine dining establishments.

Jayaraman became interested in the restaurant business after the famed Windows on the World restaurant at the top of the World Trade Center lost every member of its staff who was at work on 9/11. She is now director of the Food Reasearch Labor Center at the University of California at Berkely. She graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Yale Law School. Working with the restaurant workers displaced when the restaurant business in New York collapsed with the World Trade Center, she and a group of displaced workers founded the Restaurant Opportunities Center to try to improve working conditions for restaurant workers throughout the United States through organizing, undertaking research, educating managers, owners, and employees to some of the problems in the industry, organizing demonstrations and boycotts, and publicizing the issues and problems. They currently operate Restaurant Opportunities Centers in nineteen cities as well as four COLORS restaurants where they demonstrate how fine restaurants can be profitable while maintaining equal opportunity and using locally grown and sourced sustainable food practices. 

Jayaraman catalogs how both race and color effect the jobs available to individuals and opportunities for advancement. She argues that the shade of employees becomes darker the further back in a restaurant you go. Hostesses and wait personnel are mostly white or light skinned, while bussers are more likely to be darker. She says that in New York she has never seen a white person washing dishes, and the black people who staff the dish washing stations are often darker skinned than  minorities working in other positions. She details the frequency with which darker skinned servers and wait people train white people to take orders rather than be allowed to advance into areas where their competence is clear. Furthermore, people of color who do advance to serving positions are more likely to be assigned to less high tip tables (near the kitchen door, for instance) or lower paying hours.

Working conditions in restaurants often are difficult for employees and dangerous for customers. Sexual harassment and discrimination are rampant in the largely male dominated cooking area of a restaurant. Women reported touching, feeling, and unwanted hugging as standard as well as seeking sexual favors in return for promotion or continued employment. Their opportunities for advancement were often limited to making salads and bakery products rather than having better opportunities on the cooking line. In the front of the house, waitresses are often fondled or have to endure unwanted comments from customers while not feeling able to complain because of fear of losing their jobs. All this is complicated because of the number of undocumented workers finding employment in the restaurant industry. Safety for workers and customers is compromised because restaurants do not often provide health care. Frequently cooks are forced to use spoiled ingredients rather than be allowed to dispose of them, making it more likely that customers will become ill. Sick employees cannot stay home sick for fear of losing their jobs, and no health care insurance is the norm. ROC (Restaurant Opportunities Center) seeks to educate individual restaurant owners as well as large restaurant chains concerning how these practices not only harm employees, but damage the bottom line of the restaurants themselves. Their COLORS restaurants in various cities serve as demonstration centers for humane treatment and workable relationships between management and workers that can positively effect profits.

Saru Jayaraman

 Jayaraman weaves the stories and lives of the people she has come to know and value through the narrative to give her story a more human face. She presents a woman from Latin America who settles in San Antonio, TX where she waits on table to support herself while attending high school and college while living in sub-standard conditions with her large, extended family. She tells of a man who came to America after the disastrous earthquakes in Haiti. She details the story of a man from Detroit who overcomes terrible home conditions to rise to ownership of a fine dining restaurant. Each of these, and other, individuals is ambitious to work in an industry they entered because jobs were available and came to love because of the nature of the work and the satisfaction it can provide. At times their stories may be complicated for some readers by their undocumented status, but there's no doubt about the ability and sincerity of many of these under appreciated people.

Saru Jayaraman and Fekkak Mamdouh are co-founders of the Restaurant Opportunities Center which began life as the Restaurant Opporunities Center of New York and then expanded as workers in major urban areas heard of their success. Their story is told in Behind the Kitchen Door. But the story continues as a movement and an organization designed to better the working conditions and opportunities of restaurant workers. As such it has a national web site as well as local web sites for local chapters of the organization. The book emphasizes local sourcing and sustainable agriculture as well as altered human relations and improved personnel practices in the restaurant industry. It is simply and elegantly told, while never dodging the hardships many of the workers face in their personal and work lives. The issues of justice and health are real, affecting every person who works or eats in restaurants from the plainest local diner through chains to the highest quality fine dining establishments. I was provided with an electronic galley of the book by the publisher through Net Galley.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Photo Retrospective 2012 - Part 3

Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival
Tunbridge Fairgrounds, Tunbridge, VT

Jenny Brook has emerged, since its move to the beautiful World's Fairgrounds in scenic, rural Vermont, as one of the finest bluegrass festivals in New England, boasting a distinguished national lineup as well as first rate regional bands from New England, thoughtfully designed workshops, an ongoing gazebo stage giving pickup and local bands an opportunity to compete for a lineup slot, and round-the-clock jamming. Since this is a retrospective look at the last year, I won't write about the 2013 edition, but it's gooooood!

Smokey Greene - NY, NE & Florida Legend

Jesse Brock (Beartracks, Audie Blaylock)

Julie Hogan (Beartracks)

Darrell Webb

Jenny Brook is Definitely Family Friendly

Blogger Photographs Dancer Andrea Norcross

Candi Sawyer & the late Lonnie Mathews (her Dad)

Lonnie Insisted on Coming to Jenny Brook
He died about a week later.

Patrick McAvinue (Audie Blaylock & Redline)

Smokey Greene

Mac Magee (White Mountain Bluegrass)

Hazel Magee

Randy Graham & Matt Wallace (Continental Divide)

Gibson Brothers Super-Fans
Shari Colvin-Daigenault & Betty Colvin 

Mike Barber (Gibson Brothers)

Leigh Gibson

The Gibson Family

David Staples, Shannon Gibson, Katy Daley, Maureen Staples

Rob Ravlin (White Mountain Bluegrass)

Chris Sexton (Nothin' Fancy)

Mike Andes & Tony Shorter (Nothin' Fancy)

 Evan Carl - Emcee

J.D. Crowe

Leroy Troy

Junior Sisk & Jason Davis

 Eric Gibson

Lonnie Mathews with his beloved 1939 Ford
Mafia Jug Band 

Chris Davis & Billy Hawks (Junior Sisk & Rambler's Choice)

Michelle Canning

Rhonda Vincent

Junior Sisk

Musicians Against Childhood Cancer
Columbus, OH

We always look forward to our trip to Columbus, OH in late July for Musicians Against Childhood Cancer, a benefit for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. During the four day festival, there are usually forty performances of top national bands and special performances by aggregations made possible by the presence of so many musicians in one place. It's a great event. One not to be missed, made better by the cause it raises money for. 

Aubrey Haynie

Jason Burleson (Blue Highway)

Adam Haynes (Grasstowne)

Alan Bibey (Grasstowne)

Steve Dilling (IIIrd Tyme Out)
with Adoring Fans 

Jamie Dailey (Dailey & Vincent)

Jesse Baker & Jeff Parker (Dailey & Vincent)

Michael Cleveland

Don Rigsby

Blogger at Work

Dale Ann Bradley

 Steve Gulley

Marty Raybon

Terry Smith - The Grascals

Wayne Benson & Danny Roberts (The Grascals)

Kristin Scott Benson & Steve Dilling

Brooke Aldridge

Cory Walker

Amanda Smith

Larry Sparks

Jim Hurst

Don Parmley

 Richard Bailey (The SteelDrivers)

Gary Nichols (The SteelDrivers)

Tammy Rogers (The SteelDrivers)

Doyle Lawson

Lauren & Leanna Price

Members of the MACC Children's Band

Clay Hess

Mark Newton

Josh Crowe (The Crowe Brothers)

Wayne Crowe (The Crowe Brothers)

 Chris Davis (Junior Sisk & Rambler's Choice)

Susan Sisk

 Larry Cordle

Irl Heed

Jerry Salley

Val Story & Carl Jackson

Justin Pyrtle (Grasstowne)

James King

Joe Mullins

Larry Stephenson & Kenny Ingram

Russell Moore

Val Storey

 Podunk - Norwich, CT

Two or three years ago, after years of hard work in a difficult environment, Podunk Bluegrass Music Festival had become a truly wonderful event, using its venue and even the city in which it was located to best advantage. Then, because of naked political malice, it was forced to move. Under the leadership of promoter Roger Moss, it relocated to a minor league ball park in Norwich, CT and experienced a major down year that was an artistic success, despite the small audience. The mixture of nostalgia, currency, balance, and innovation at Podunk exceeds any festival we attend. It doesn't deserve the hardships it's endured in the past couple of years. We look forward to attending it and supporting it again this coming August.

Randy Jones (Lonesome River Band)

Eddie Adcock

Dawn Kenney

Chad Graves (The Hillbenders)

Jimmy Rea (The Hillbenders)

Brandon Godman (Dale Ann Bradley)

Mike Sumner (Dale Ann Bradley)

 Kim Cyr & Barry Ford

Travers Chandler

Alan Spinney

Katie Penn Williams

Bobby Lundy

Greg Cahill

Jamie Johnson (The Grascals)

The Grascals

 Kathy Mattea

Kathy Mattea

Fellowship in Left Field

More Coming....