Oh! The Digital Humanities…

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I really enjoyed digital humanities. It was refreshing to put some technology skills to use that I hadn’t used in awhile. Although I’ve had some experience with blogging in the past, I feel this class helped me tighten up in some areas where I may have been slipping  – such as, regularly maintaining a blog and using tags and categories. As a public relations major, having an online presence is so important, I realize that I really need to work on mine. I think I’ll spend the summer sharpening my website and creating more content for it too. One of the most important things I think we learned about is the digital footprint. To me, being aware of this is invaluable information. Overall, I feel that I learned a lot, this was one of the neatest classes I’ve ever taken and an awesome experience to be a part of.

From Columbus to Greenwich: A Phil Ochs Photo Essay

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Photo Essay Project Review:

When I initially started this project, I thought that I would explore different factors that led Phil to become a folksinger instead of a journalist. I was shocked by the fact that he dropped out of university in the last quarter of his senior year. Knowing what I’ve gone through to finish school, I was mortified at the thought of doing what he did. I was intrigued to know what events led up to this eventual decision. As I began my research, I realized what an influential person Jim Glover was to Phil. Ultimately, I decided that the story should be about their friendship because that relationship progressed Phil to become the artist,and the man, we know him as today.

I found the project interesting. It was challenging to narrow down to just one topic because I learned so much during the research portion. It was difficult not to focus too long on a topic, or to get distracted by a new piece of information.

I wanted to make a video, however I just had too much information to keep it between one and three minutes. So, I turned to the photo essay instead, and ended up really liking it. Plus, it was pretty cool to try something I’ve never done before.

When it came to collecting content, I found that pretty challenging too. There just isn’t a lot of material out there for my topic. I ended up spending longer than I had hoped to looking for good content. However, the content I did find does a solid job of making the point.

If I could do it over again, I would narrow down the topic sooner.  I would have started collecting content sooner, and I would’ve looked for some video or animated some of the photos too. I edited this project using exposure.co, which was capable of including this sort of content into the project. I specifically chose this program because I had intended to use some video, but I just ran out of time. 

Overall, I had a good time making this photo essay and would definitely like to make one again.

Phil Ochs:The Journalism Behind the Man

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This week I chose to take a deeper look at the Phil Ochs song “Here’s to the State of Mississippi.” I wrote a Wikipedia article about the song, but it wasn’t enough to cover the deeply rooted motivations behind its lyrics, aside from his personal experience in the state. Ochs—the singing journalist, has undoubtedly covered many important civil rights issues in the song. Layers and layers of information are coming from the lines, revealing the depth of his knowledge. The meaning of the message is clear, however the stories behind the meanings go much deeper. For instance, when he states, “…and the speeches of the governor are the ravings of a clown,” it’s likely he’s referencing former Mississippi governor Ross Barnett’s “I love Mississippi” speech. A speech that is said to have fueled the motivation for the riot at the University of Mississippi Oxford campus, following the admission of its first black student. Annotating Phil Ochs’ lyrics allowed me to clearly see his journalism-based song writing method. It allowed me to connect his journalism background to his music. And overall, it’s allowed me to gain a deeper appreciation for Ochs as a journalist—something I’ve known about him, but never really understood until now.

Check out my annotations here!

Some of My Favorites from Ochs…

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Love me I’m a liberal

Check out this list of my five favorite tunes from Phil Ochs. Listen to the playlist on Spotify.

1. “Bound for Glory” (“All the News That’s Fit to Sing” 1964) : A tribute to Woody Guthrie

This song is a lovely tribute to Woody Guthrie, who greatly influenced Phil Ochs and many folk singers of Ochs’ time. He details the life of Woody Guthrie, telling the story of his travels across the United States. He talks about the inspiration that motivated Guthrie’s song writing such as, the dust bowl, standing up for union rights and promoting social equality.

2. “Here’s to the State of Mississippi” (“I Ain’t Marching Anymore” 1965): A Civil Rights Song

Following a visit to the state of Mississippi during the summer of 1964, Phil Ochs wrote “Here’s to the State of Mississippi.” He was moved to write this song after the things he saw and experienced during his visit. During this time, Mississippi had become the symbol of racism in the South. The state had a reputation for being the most racially divided and its leaders were among the most oppressive against black communities. He outlines some of the reasons why the state has such a reputation, from unpunished, secret crimes of police and government against blacks to failing school systems.

3. “Outside a Small Circle of Friends” (“Pleasures of the Harbor” 1967): A Condemnation of Social Apathy

The basis for this tune’s lyrics involves the story of five scenarios in which a community had a chance to stand up for someone, but no one did. The scenarios include the murder of a woman on the street, while neighbors ignore her cries, a car crash in which a car is hanging on a cliff, people living in poverty, a man who is jailed for publishing a pornography magazine and a man who is jailed for marijuana. This is indicative of Ochs’ “stick it to the man,” spirit, and his “wake-up society!” message.

4. “The Party” (“Pleasures of the Harbor” 1967): A Jazzy Stick it to Socialites

There’s a lot of satire in this song. A wonderful window into the humor of Ochs’ mind, this song takes you on a tour of a socialite party where he is the pianist. This is a very different sound for Ochs, there’s no guitar, only a jazz and lounge music feel. The lyrics paint an incredibly engaging picture taking you into Ochs’ outside perspective. He points out the things that are all wrong with this culture such as, appearing to be what you’re not, being vain, and senseless competition among peers. He makes his point by describing traits of certain characters at the party. This song resonates with me personally as I grew up in suburban community in which I never did and never would belong. However, my parents taught me to be proud of who I am and to be myself. I never bought the act I was surrounded with every day, so I did a lot of watching from “the outside” too.

5. “Love Me I’m a Liberal” (“Phil Ochs in Concert”1966): Calling Out Fiberals

We could really use Phil Ochs nowadays. This song may be truer now than ever before. Ochs sings about different political scenarios in which a liberal stands by what they say when it’s convenient. However, when the situation affects the liberal personally, or is too controversial they’re out of sight.

It seems like a trend to be on the liberal side nowadays. Sometimes it feels like everyone’s a liberal, but a lot of trendy liberals have never done anything beyond agreeing with a popular opinion or a post on social media.


To The Woody Guthrie Center We Go

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Photo Credit: WordShore https://www.flickr.com/photos/silversprite/

Phil Ochs fashioned his gold lamé suit after this one worn by Elvis.

I’m excited to visit the Woody Guthrie Center in downtown Tulsa, Oklahomafor this project. By reviewing the Phil Ochs Papers, donated by daughter Meegan Ochs, I expect to see materials that will result in a greater understanding of Ochs’ art and the man behind it. Additionally, I expect the Michael Ochs Collection will provide the same.

It was interesting to review the list of content included in the collection at the Woody Guthrie Center’s website. Some items I found intriguing included basic personal records such as, an application to the Diner’s Club, a prescription, and receipts for electric and gas bills. It’s pretty cool to see things that make Ochs a little more relatable, and show the ‘everyday’ aspect of his life. I’m also interested in Ochs’ journals and personal correspondences, something that displays his demeanor in his personal life beyond the music career.

My expectations for the visit are to take a tour of the archives and to learn more about the process of obtaining and preparing the collection. I also expect to learn more about this collection and other collections the museum is working on. I hope that we all gain more understanding about Phil Ochs, and that we all get to see the gold lamé suite.

We read a bit about the archiving process in an article called, What Do Archivists Do All Day? I found the article fascinating, and I’m wondering if I made the right career choice. Archiving seems like an interesting and rewarding career. I think I would enjoy caring and sorting through precious gems of history day to day. I hadn’t given much thought to all of the work that goes into archiving, and I certainly applaud those who do this.  I’m curious to know how long it took the Woody Guthrie team to asses and organize the collection, and how many took part in the process. I would also like to know if there’s anything in particular that the archivists were intrigued by during the process? What did they learn that they found interesting? What do they hope people will gain from this collection?

Phil Ochs Wikipedia Assignment: Reflections

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I’m thankful for the opportunity to learn about the contributions that Phil Ochs and other folksingers made to the civil rights movement. The first topic I chose to write about was the powerful civil rights song “Here’s to the State of Mississippi.” I was a little stuck on what my next topic would be, but as I began my research it revealed itself to me right away.  Initially, I found very little “verifiable” material about the motivation for the song or any analysis of the lyrics. However, when I ran across The Mississippi Caravan of Music I was singing, “I once was lost, but now I’m found!”

The Caravan was a volunteer supported, social justice campaign that united folksingers with black communities in Mississippi through music. It worked in conjunction with the Mississippi Freedom Summer Campaign, a statewide social justice program implemented in the summer of 1964. The goal of Freedom Summer was to register as many black voters as possible in a time when blacks faced many obstacles and risks if they wanted to vote. Imagine if registering to vote could put your life at risk.

The Freedom Summer Campaign made a big impact in passing the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This act made it illegal to deny someone the opportunity to vote based on their race. And I thought about it for a second before I realized, that I actually have the opportunity to vote as a result of these campaigns. It’s not just something that happened a long time ago, this directly affects me today. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard of these campaigns before, and I became obsessed with all there was to know about them.

So, what does all of this have to do with Phil Ochs? Quite a bit in fact. Ochs volunteered  with The Mississippi Caravan of Music. His experience that summer inspired the lyrics for the song “Here’s to the State of Mississippi.” It wasn’t just the way that Mississippi oppressed the black community through Jim Crow laws, etc. that fired up Ochs. It was the Ku Klux Klan murder of three civil rights workers that added fuel to the fiery lyrics in his song.  I can even speculate that specific details of the murders could be attributed to lyrics in the song. Ochs uses the line, “If you drag her muddy river nameless bodies you will find.” This can reflect the fact that the bodies of the victims were found buried beneath a dam. He sings about the cops of Mississippi, “They’re chewing their tobacco as they lock the prison door.” It was well known by locals, that the arresting officer who participated with the Ku Klux Klan murders heavily chewed tobacco. I wished I had more time to focus on analyzing the lyrics, especially since there was little to no research about the song’s connection to the murders. This is frustrating to me, because while there isn’t a verified connection between the lyrics and the murders—one can deduce. As a result, I wasn’t able to actually attribute the lyrics to the murders in my article, but either way the song’s message is clear.

The first time I listened to the song’s lyrics I was floored. The first thing I noticed is that not much has changed regarding civil rights between then and now. Ochs describes many of the same problems we face today with the Black Lives Matter movement. It seems like the civil rights movement reborn, and today’s problems are just Jim Crow part II. Secondly, I got chills, the song was incredibly moving (I’ve found a new favorite).

Plantation Pic

Visiting a plantation in Louisiana where my ancestors were enslaved, located in a parish near my grandparents’ hometowns.

The civil rights movement is a topic that has always been dear to me, mainly because of my grandparents who grew up in rural Louisiana during the era. From an early age, they told me stories about black history and showered me with materials about our heritage. We visited the National Museum of Civil Rights in Memphis, Tennessee too many times to count. And to be honest, it wasn’t really the stories they shared about black leaders, or the visits to the museum that had the biggest impact on me. It was the pain and shame that I saw on their faces when I would ask them about their personal experiences. They never shared too much, and I’ve learned to respect that. But it’s these kinds of personal connections that made this research process so incredible. It has left me with a feeling of gratitude, and a new respect towards Phil Ochs’ contribution to social justice and equality.

You can find my article about The Mississippi Caravan of Music here, and my article about the song “Here’s to the State of Mississippi” here, or just click on the titles in the post above.


Phil Ochs Wikipedia Assignment: Resources

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For the Phil Ochs Wikipedia assignment, I chose to write about the song, “Here’s to the State of Mississippi.” The first and most important source is an article in Broadside Magazine # 51. This article, written in 1964, highlights important details concerning The Mississippi Caravan of Music. The Caravan was a social justice volunteer campaign that connected folksingers with black communities in Mississippi during the civil rights movement. The author of the article in Broadside is Robert Cohen, founder of the campaign. This information is important because Phil Ochs participated in the campaign as a volunteer. His experience motivated the lyrics for the song.

The second source I acquired is an interview with Phil Ochs from the album, “Broadside Ballads Vol. 11: Interviews with Phil Ochs.” In the interview, Ochs briefly describes his feelings about the civil rights movement, and the impact that folk music can make in creating change.

The next source I found helpful is the book, “Music and Social Movements: Mobilizing Traditions in the Twentieth Century by Ron Everman.” This book briefly describes the purpose of The Mississippi Caravan of Music, and gives an account of the folk music scene’s increasing involvement in the civil rights movement.

Lastly, I used information from discogs.com to pinpoint the release date of the song “Here’s to the State of Richard Nixon,” this was a remake of “Here’s to the State of Mississippi.” Since this a site where you can buy the 1974 version of the LP, the information they provided is likely to be taken directly from the LP itself.

All Things Noise in Old New York

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Old New York

As a historian of sound, Thompson’s motivation for this project is “historicizing the act of listening.”

The Roaring Twenties is an interactive exploration of the historical soundscape of old New York City, it was researched by Emily Thompson and designed by Scott Mahoy. This project is the vision of Thompson, author of The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900-1933. As a historian of sound, Thompson’s motivation for this project is “historicizing the act of listening.”

Through this site, Thompson’s book is transformed into an interactive archive that includes a mixed medium of documented sounds in New York City around 1930. This site allows you to explore magazine articles, noise complaint documents, newsreels, clippings from the New York Times and other miscellaneous noise related documents.

The layout of the site is easy to use. You can explore sounds in three ways, by type of sound, by location of sound and by time of sound. Each way is a unique and engaging experience. The sound page categorizes sound by columns. To search by sound, you will select a type of sound, (subway, people, automobiles, etc.) To search by location, you will make a selection from an area on an interactive map and to search by timeline, you will make a selection from an interactive timeline.

From the design to the layout, I believe this site is wonderfully engaging. I’m delighted by the sepia tones and the ‘old-timey’ backgrounds which fit the overall content very well. I would say that the creators did a great job, by not only providing the content, but by also providing an experience.

R.I.P 6 o’ Clock News

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Digital media gives us plenty of options when it comes to retrieving the news. However, the information can get so jumbled in the midst of the constant news feed that is the world today. The growth of information nowadays can make us vulnerable to fake news. Fake news is an ever-growing discussion in America these days, and it seems to be getting worse everyday. The epidemic is a reflection of our habits, and a representation of our merging with technology.

Digital media news platforms are derived from the opinions and reflections of many. The constant battle among news organizations to be the first one with the hot story is damaging to society. However, it isn’t just the news organizations that are the proprietors of fake, or unexamined facts. There is an amazing amount of power that each one holds when they own a smart phone, computer or web device. As Laura Galante stated in her TED talk, Are All of Us Vulnerable to Fake News?, “this is a universe of the minds.”

In many ways, digital news has changed the way we see the world. It’s made us collectively more aware. As I said, news doesn’t even have to come from a news organization anymore to be considered by the public. For instance, social media played a big part in revealing sexual harassment scandals at the end of last year. Many turned to social media to share their stories and to call for action using the hashtag ‘me too’. In some ways, this was news. It wasn’t reported in print or on television, but almost anyone with a Facebook account could see the impact that sexual harassment has had on those near to them.

Receiving the news is no longer sitting in front of the television at 6 o’ clock. And receiving may not even be the right word to describe it. News today must be examined. My hope is that more news consumers would take the time to seek credible news sources, find a favorite and trustworthy reporter to follow, broaden their news sources and educate themselves on the facts concerning the news and the news organizations providing it.