Author Archive
Digital
Musical

STAR WARS “IMPERIAL MARCH” DJ BATTLE

ABOUT THE INFORMANT:

My informant is a senior graduating this semester from USC. He is a biomedical engineer, and is the oldest son of two immigrants from China.

EXAMPLE:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uw0v6kkasMk

DESCRIPTION:

“This is this weird video I found a while ago when I was searching through the bowels of the internet. I guess it’s this DJ {DJ Skratch Bastid} like scratching the Star Wars song on turntables. Not the like heroic one, the one that Darth Vader comes out to all the time. But it’s like during this head-to-head DJ battle, and he basically just plays this out of nowhere and shuts it down.

It’s just such a classic song, you know? It’s legendary. To pull that out so spontaneously, to mash it up that way, it’s really unique. Because, like, everyone knows that song and Star Wars and Darth Vader. It’s just a show stopper.”

ANALYSIS:

The setup here is that two DJ’s are battling back and forth, with each DJ allowed a certain amount of time to cut and scratch the records of his choosing. The idea is that from the music and sounds that someone else made, using the turntables, a person can make a new song or beat to it.

This is similar to mashup culture in general; in fact it is most likely the precursor to it, as this whole DJ culture of mixing and mashing records together has been popular for several decades.

The idea of mashups in general already create some grey area as to who the writer, owner, and author of the piece of music is, considering that it someone, the DJ, is using other previously authored, by the artist, pieces of music, which are owned by the record label, to create new music.

This version adds a new wrinkle to it, in that the new music created is in fact a cover of the “Imperial March” written by John Williams from the Star Wars films. This is therefore a mashup of previously recorded material. The folklore here has a few different dimensions to it.

The Star Wars films are unequivocally one of the most iconic film franchises of all time with its music being equally as recognizable. The song in question is the theme to the villain in the film, one of the most famous villains in all of cinema, and therefore carries a sort of clout and power with it. For someone to use the song in a head-to-head battle is almost like asserting your authority over them because of the context behind it.

Here, the song takes on a new power to it than it originally did when it was featured in the films because it contains all of the lore of the Star Wars films behind it.

Hear the original “Imperial March” in the Star Wars films.

Foodways
Material

SALSA

EXAMPLE:

My informant’s family’s Salsa recipe.

A can of tomatoes (16oz)

A handful of cilantro from the bushel

A little less than a quarter of an onion

Two Serrano Peppers, unstemmed

Take all the ingredients above and blend them together. Once at a good consistency, not too watery, able to see slices of the cilantro in it, sprinkle the top with garlic salt to taste. Blend again. Serve with tortilla chips.

BACKGROUND/CONTEXT:

ANALYSIS:

This definitely has the feeling of definitive folklore, as it has been passed down from generation to generation, family to family, race to race, even making adjustments for people’s tolerance levels of spice. The recipe has now become the salsa recipe for so many different people and walks of life. For my informant in particular, what started as a way to taste and remember home, has turned into something that he has inadvertently passed along to his friends, who use it all the way on the other side of the country with their family and friends.

The salsa recipe seems to be more than just a recipe but also a story of this family. It is fascinating that they have kept the recipe, and passed it down to all of the parents, children, and children’s friends, swearing that the recipe is theirs, even though they do not even speak to the person who brought the recipe into their life. I cannot help but feel my informant’s grandmother remembers her estranged son, the same way my informant remembers him, every time she makes this or eats this. It is almost as though she is keeping his memory and presence alive because after all there are so many salsa recipes out there; why stick with the one that surely causes the most heartache?

Digital
Musical

SONGIFY THE NEWS

ABOUT THE INFORMANT:

My informant is a senior graduating this semester from USC. He is a biomedical engineer, and is the oldest son of two immigrants from China.

EXAMPLE:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hMtZfW2z9dw

BACKGROUND:

“Okay so first of all I have to start this one by saying there is obviously nothing funny about rape, sexual harassment, intruders, and whatever else happened here. That all said this is hilarious.

So I guess that this started by a news, like a news report, or cast, like a newscast that went viral. I guess this guy went into this family’s house, and then she like saw him or something and ran away.

But that all doesn’t really matter. The part of the story that is important is that they interviewed the victim’s brother. And right away he comes on screen, he just stands out. It’s just really funny. He just gets into the camera, basically calling out the guy, “You are so dumb. You are really dumb, fo real.”

“Hide yo kids, hide yo wife, and hide yo husband, because they raping everybody out here.” He’s so matter of fact. And animated. It is just perfect.

So I think that the video went viral. And then this group took it, auto tuned him, threw a beat over it and remixed it into a song. Which I actually think is kind of catchy. Like you definitely start bobbing your head to it.

But it also kind of makes it a little bit more emphatic. Like he looks less ridiculous now. It was almost always meant to be a song.

So then that went viral. Fast forward hundreds of millions of views and a few years later, and I’m watching that new show, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”. It’s on Netflix. Tina Fey made it. And the intro, like she basically, not Tina Fey, this other girl, Erin from The Office”. She was kidnapped as a girl. That’s the premise. So she got taken by this guy, who is like a cult leader. And so she is thrown into this cult where he brainwashes them to think that the world has ended. So the intro is them being found. Like by the police. So the beginning of the first episode is them being rescued, and then it cuts into this newscast. Where they go to interview the guy who found them, who is like just as animated as the guy from this video.

But then the video starts getting like remixed. Just like this. So then the theme for the show is actually a remixed version of the news coverage from the show. Which of course brought me back to this guy. And so I Youtubed it again. And I found their channel, and I saw that the guys who made this, actually made that video too. So I thought that was kind of cool.”

ANALYSIS:

This is unique because it is an example of how folklore actually infiltrated into the mainstream. After doing some research there was a video of the “interview” of the character from the television show who is remixed.  Meaning that the writers probably wrote the script for the interview, and then really gave it to the makers of the other songifyed videos and let them go to work, which is kind of cool.

The original of course is a mashup in that it is someone on television news being remixed. Who is the owner? Who is the genius? The man, the music, or the producer for choosing to interview him and keep him on air for that long? It really it could be argued any of them are. It is interesting then that the television show, which is on an entirely online streaming platform, Netflix, chose to tap into this internet folklore. It is savvy to attract the younger viewers, it’s catchy, and it is true to how it is that we interact with news stories like this normally.

general

PEOPLE COMING FROM ALL OVER

ABOUT THE INFORMANT:

My informant is a mother of three who lives just outside of Boston with her husband of over 30 years. She is originally from Cape Cod, the part of Massachusetts that is full of beaches and is a world known tourist destination. She is a lover of all thing water; she has worked extensively in water policy and water pollution as an environmentalist.

EXAMPLE:

“My grandmother had this lake house on New Hampshire that had been in the family forever. We have these massive family reunions up there; aunties, grandparents, cousins, uncles, everyone. We call it the New Hampshire House. So one year she told this story, about how when she and her husband bought the house. And he said he would buy it if people would come. If they would come to visit and use it.

And she is sitting in this great wraparound porch, surrounded by her family. Everyone is there. And my brother at the time was dating someone who had adopted a little Chinese-American boy. And so he is sitting there on the porch to, playing with the other kids.

So my grandmother looks down the porch. Sees him, and says, ‘And now they’re coming all the way from China.’

She’s since passed away, but someone tells that story every single time we have the reunion. It’s a staple.

CONTEXT:

“It’s just this house and moment where everyone truly does come. Everybody tries so hard to be there; no matter where they are living. It is so special to our family. We all put that weekend aside, regardless of where we are living, what we are doing, etc. Everyone makes at least 90% of the reunions for that weekend. And the family comes from all the corners of the U.S., and even other countries. And it’s all because they bought that house. People came to it. They still are.”

ANALYSIS:

I feel like she summed up the sentimental reason for keeping this story around pretty nicely. Obviously, there is something funny about seeing an old woman be slightly politically incorrect just because she doesn’t really know any better. That’s the joke. But anyone can do something funny. This stuck because it is true. For this family people drop anything and everything to come from all over to be at that particular house. Her husband willed it, and it became so true.

 

Customs
Foodways
general
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

PASSOVER

Interviewee: So my family was never really Jewish. My grandfather was always like, “I’m Jew-ish.” Or maybe that’s what my aunt said about him. But he never really practiced. He only went to Temple on the high holy days, like Rosh Hashanah, and even then it wasn’t guaranteed. So we never really celebrated it in our house. But I always keenly aware of the fact that I was different from other kids. And probably that mostly stemmed from me being Hispanic.

Interviewer: It’s hard to celebrate Hispanic culture. Like there are no Hispanic mainstream holidays.

Interviewee: Yeah and like living in the whitest town in the country. I tried to make my family celebrate Hanukkah, and my mom was always open to it even though she was super Catholic. She just loves God, I don’t really get it. But it never really worked out because my Dad didn’t celebrate Hanukkah as a kid, he celebrated Christmas. So that didn’t really work out.

But then my best friend since basically birth, his Mom is Jewish and his grandmother wanted to start doing Passover with them. So they invited us over for Seder. And now it’s become this big thing where I always look forward to Passover, I looked forward to it all year.

So we would get together and the joke was that he is half-Jewish on his Mom’s side, I’m half-Jewish on my dad’s side, so together the family makes an entire Jewish family.

And the thing about this friend’s grandmother is that no one in her family really likes her, but in my family we view her as a god.

Interviewer: How many times a year do you see her?

Interviewee: I make it a point to go see her whenever she’s in town. She’s really funny; she acts just like my grandmother, but she has this thick New York Jewish accent. “JR come over here, let me get a good look at you. Do a turn for me.”

So no one really likes her in that family, but in my family she is the bomb, everyone wants to hang out with her. So we would come over for Passover, and immediately she and her daughter would start fighting. It just made for the most entertaining Seders. She would be reading all slow, and her daughter would be like, “Mom you gotta pick it up.” So she would read it faster, and then at the end, she would be like, “Oh, we didn’t really do Seder this year, did we? I guess you’re not into it; you read it so quickly.” So they would start yelling and bickering.

We had some traditions with Passover that grew. Like my friend’s dad would always have the Elijah Glass. And then there is always a fight because there is a part with four children and there was four of us, me, my brother, my friend, and his sister. And there was a part with like the simple child and the wicked child. So we always fought over who was the simple child and who got to be the wicked child. You wanted to be the wicked one.

There was always the hiding of the motzah. My friend’s grandmother would hide the motzah in the house and kids would team up together and tear through the house to see who could find it first.

His grandmother would cook a brisket. So good. Motzah ball soup. We could get real Jewish.

Interviewer: And you guys didn’t really have the opportunity to get to eat that type of food?

Interviewee: We would never have that growing up. It was always like, “Ooh it’s Passover, we get to eat Motzah Ball soup.” The Seders were always super quick and not really religious. It was just fun.

ANALYSIS:

This is clearly a story about struggling to find one’s identity, as he says above that he never felt like he fit in at his all white school because of his race. I think that by turning to Judaism he found something about his difference to celebrate. That his culture no longer ostracized him from everyone else, but rather included him into this two family Seder. It is clear that the religious aspects of the dinner were not really that important because that was never why anyone really wanted to do it in these families in the first place. It seems like it is so much more about understanding and celebrating ones identity and background. With Passover and my informant’s friends grandmother, my informant was able to experience and celebrate what it was like to be Jewish; what it was like to be different. The grandmother served as the guardian into that world for my informant’s family.

Digital
Game
general

THE BUTTON

ABOUT THE INFORMANT:

My informant is a senior graduating this semester from USC. He is a biomedical engineer, and is the oldest son of two immigrants from China.

EXAMPLE:

https://www.reddit.com/r/thebutton/

CONTEXT/BACKGROUND:

“I found this thing, well actually, my buddy sent it over to me because he is the one who always spends his time on the internet, Reddit in general, and he showed it to me. It’s basically this button, I guess it’s been up since April 1st. Apparently it was supposed to be like an April’s Fools joke, you know? So that’s how it all begun.

The whole concept is that there is like this timer. And it is counting down from 60 seconds. And every time someone clicks it, then the clock resets back to 60. And so far, I guess like over 800,000 people have clicked it. And you can only click it once. And in order to be eligible to click it you must have a Reddit account from before April 1st, 2015. There is like a whole wiki that the people of Reddit created on it.

But essentially, it’s like never dropped to 00. Like the clock has never run out. Someone has always clicked it before the clock runs out, you know. So, like, some people just watch it. And some sites track it, I guess.

But then like, Reddit started giving you a badge with a specific color for when you pressed it on the timer. So like Anywhere between 60 and 50 you get a purple badge, and then it keeps working its way down the wire until you get Red, which is between 10-00.

But now what’s happened is that like a hierarchy, a class system has like been established. Because the color is shown on your profile. So they will have like the red, green, purple, whatever, and then if you haven’t clicked it, it’s gray. So now like Red is like the best, with Purple seen as the worst. And then gray is like the pacifists or whatever. Like they aren’t taking part. And their are subreddits about the colors.

So now everyone has like their own community. And then there’s been like fan fiction, comics, memes, all about these freakin’ colors and the button.

It’s absurd.

And then since it’s also never run out, everyone is kind of panicking too about what will happen when it does.”

ANALYSIS:

What’s so funny about this is that there is this community that has sprung up from just a button. It is now for some people a form of identity. I do not think I could have ever predicted that if something like this happened people would care about it this much. Of course, this obsession of the button is quite contained, but people take it seriously.

I think it is interesting that people have started creating forms of media all about the button, linking the community together through inside jokes and vernacular that only they know. It has become this cause, to keep the button alive, and then in that it has turned into a system that mirrors our own in terms of society and classism. On one hand, I would like to think that for some people it is pure satire, but I think for others they actually are buying into it. There is like a real pride from being in the red group. And there are inside jokes just based on what color you are. It really is a weird mirror of society in its own way.

Foodways
Material

THE CORN MAN

EXAMPLE:

Interviewee: Growing up, we kind of lived in I guess sketchier areas or whatever.

Interviewer: Okay.

Interviewee: But I kind of miss it because the corn man would come by.

Interviewer: The corn man?

Interviewee: Yeah. Well there were like pretty much only Mexicans where we were. So the corn man was the old Mexican man who would come by and serve elotes to everyone.

Interviewer: Elotes?

Interviewee: Elotes. Mayo, butter, stinky cheese…

Interviewer: Stinky cheese.

Interviewee: Yeah. You know the stuff you put on pasta. Parmesan. Stinky cheese.

Interviewer: Okay.

Interviewee: So yeah, mayo, butter, stinky cheese, and chili powder. He would carry like this big tub of corn. And then you would come out of your house and he would put that stuff on the corn. I mean, I love corn, but that is like the best way to eat it.

But then, you know we moved, kind of away from that area, so know we have to make it at my house, homemade.

Interviewer: Do you make it at school?

Interviewee: Yeah. Like if we’re barbecuing out here, I will throw some corn on the grill to and make elotes. But nothing will be as good as the corn man’s. He was like the ice cream truck man. Everyone, my parents, my brothers, the whole neighborhood would come out and get the corn man’s corn. And he would just walk up and down the street.

Interviewer: Hot dogs, hamburgers, and elotes?

Interviewee: Exactly.

ANALYSIS:

I like this example for a few reasons. One is that the actual corn man himself seems to be somewhat of a legendary figure in this community. He comes in, shelves out delicious corn, and then leaves. It also seems like it has a sort of “locals only” feel to it, in that these people only come around these specific communities. More gentrified, less ethnic neighborhoods, are not privy to what they are missing out on.

It of course adds another element in that she makes it herself too. First it was her family, trying to recreate that delicious corn they had once they moved from the neighborhood. Trying to use the corn to travel back to those moments of nostalgia, fittingly she makes the caveat that its better from the corn man himself, every time.

Then, now that she has brought the tradition and food to college it is now her trying to find home again. I like that she has passed it along to her friends, many of whom did not know about the food prior, inserting it as somewhat of a staple when they barbecue together, meshing these cultures and this nostalgic cuisine together.

 

Childhood
Folk speech
general
Humor
Narrative

WE DON’T NEED TO BE HERE

ABOUT THE INFORMANT:

My informant is a mother of three who lives just outside of Boston with her husband of over 30 years. She is originally from Cape Cod, the part of Massachusetts that is full of beaches and is a world known tourist destination. She is a lover of all thing water; she has worked extensively in water policy and water pollution as an environmentalist.

EXAMPLE:

“We don’t need to be here.”

BACKGROUND/CONTEXT:

“We have a saying from a family friend of mine, from the kids who are now like 30, 31 or so. But this was a long time ago when the youngest one was 2. They were visiting our house, and he decided that he did not want to be there anymore. There was this store, the cow store. It had all of these cows in it, singing cows on the walls.

So he just said, “We don’t need to be here”

It started because he asked, “Can we go to the cow store?” And they said sure, you know because it was like a perfect store for a kid. It had all of these cute cows in it. I don’t if it is still around. But they were staying at our house. Like sleeping over.

So he said, “Can we go to the cow store?”

And they said, “Sure, once we leave here.”

So then he said, “Can we leave. We don’t need to be here.”

It was so cute and funny. My husband and I say it all the time. It’s a good saying when we want to get out of something, but it’s kind of cuter because it came from the mouth of a babe.”

ANALYSIS:

This saying gets thrown quite a bit between the informant and her husband. I think it is a two-fold thing for them. For one, this was when they were newly weds, still young, fresh out of college. I feel as though people often want to recall those days, the good old days.

I also think that it started as something that was adorable; people like seeing kids say things so blunt, like that old T.V. show “Kids Say The Darndest Things.” But I think that after they said it back and forth a few times, it started taking on a new meaning. This idea that when they don’t want to go somewhere or want to leave someplace, that they have this code now, “We don’t need to be here.” It’s a cute way to whine. She even told me that her husband especially started saying it to their kids when the kids started to whine or complain.

Adulthood
Childhood
Foodways
Holidays
Initiations
Life cycle
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Mexican-American Christmas Eve

EXAMPLE:

ANALYSIS:

My informant tells me that despite her ethnicity, she does definitely not associate herself as being culturally Mexican. It is telling then that despite these claims, the part that she associates with the most in this tradition are the Mexican foods and treats that her family indulges in. Clearly tamales, Mexican chocolate, and the special breads do not make their rounds frequently, but when they do they are welcomed with open arms and mouths.

It is also a tradition that celebrates the liminal moments – the moments of transition. They open the gifts together at midnight on Christmas Eve, the moment when it exactly becomes Christmas. They celebrate that together. I also think it is interesting that they have the child transitioning to adulthood as the one who distributes the presents. It is a form of initiation and celebration for that person who is growing up. He or she is the center of attention for that moment.

Myths
Narrative

REBUILDING THE HARDWARE STORE

ABOUT THE INFORMANT:

My informant is a mother of three who lives just outside of Boston with her husband of over 30 years. She is originally from Cape Cod, the part of Massachusetts that is full of beaches and is a world known tourist destination. She is a lover of all thing water; she has worked extensively in water policy and water pollution as an environmentalist.

EXAMPLE:

“So basically the summer I was 16…well, my dad had a country hardware store on the Cape {Cod} that burnt down when I was 14. And there was no insurance on the building. My parents had a piece of land in Orleans that was once where the building stood.

It was this terrible fire. I remember in eighth grade cooking dinner for my siblings while my parents were down there. My parents were watching the fire, watching their store come down.

In fact, for the four days of Thanksgiving break we had a fire sale. We pulled out of the store what we could after the fire. All the smoky, gross items. And we set up on the driveway next to the burnt down business. It was like a flea market. All of us were working. Just to get any money to pay off the items in the store because we still owed money on them, you know? We hadn’t paid back the people we bought them from.

So we had no money. But we did have this piece of land. So my dad started stockpiling lumber. It was actually bargain lumber, like cheap lumber he could find, all in our yard. So after a year, no after a couple of years, he got all of the lumber he needed. So he built a new store. All by himself. One summer, everyday he would work on it. I would ride by on my bike everyday and see him, building it. “Hi, Dad.” I worked as a chambermaid at a motel nearby. Then I would ride back every night and see him, still working.

He built it all by himself. One day he hired one guy so that they could raise the steel beam in the middle, for structural support, but that’s it. He was out there everyday, by himself that whole summer. And I would pass by him everyday.”

COMMENTS:

“That’s something we often talk about. We remember how even when we had nothing, we literally rose from the ashes. He rose us from the ashes. We tell that story a lot in my family. He went on to own five successful hardware stores. That was the turning point. We all learned about struggling and not giving up from him there.”

ANALYSIS:

This story hits on a couple of different elements. Even though it itself is true, or at least as true as a story can be when someone tells it, with no real fantastical or folkish elements to it, it contributes heavily to this family’s folklore.

This family cites this as a moment when their fortunes and fate began to change. This is kind of a liminal moment in a way, in that it is the part in between utter devastation and financial success. When they talk about her dad, and the stores for that matter, they talk about this moment. The moment of rebirth, and “the turning point.”

It also adds to the lore of her father, a very highly regarded figure in her family. She is filled with pride when looking back at him, single handedly rebuilding this family’s hope. While the story may be grounded in reality, it adds to his legend. He would go on to be talked about and looked upon as this amazing figure in her and her family’s world. This is one of those moments that would be talked about repeatedly in this family, as his lore grew with it.

Lastly, I feel as though this informant attributes this as a lesson or a trait she inherited from her father. Seeing him at work everyday, after such a terrible thing happened, not giving up, had a lasting impression on her. I feel as though she uses it to learn the importance of hard work and resilience; that it helps keep her fire going.

[geolocation]