Friday, December 31, 2010

Ode to YouTube - and a Woman Named Valaida

I recall life pre-Net. I lived a goodly portion of my life without instant access to the wit and wisdom of Ashton Kutcher, or knowing how much blow (and blowing) Paris Hilton did last night.

For decades my life was rows and rows of stacks and stacks of books. Typewriters and whiteout correction tape. Waiting for the print edition of the Sunday New York Times to arrive in my small town at midweek.

33 and 1/3 vinyl.

That was my access to the world as a child and young adult.

What's Dial-up, Daddy?
Hell, it changes so fast. Even the sound of a modem (ssssshhhhh, wack-wack, doodle-doodle, eeehhhhhhhh) is ancient history to a mid-teen. Soon, discussing what a Blog is, or how you sometimes read it on a machine at a desk, will be lost to the text-only gen.

It's changing every second. A cousin to my first computer, an iMac, is at The Henry Ford Museum already. Down the road - in about 18 months - your i-This and your Bluetooth that, your Flip-corder and your 3D TV will seem so ancient. People will laugh at images of us *TYPING*. With our FINGERS!!!

The commercials made these 50-pound bastards seem like so much fun.
And yet, though I remember my life BC (before computers) I still can't believe some of the wonders I missed. Maybe it's because I remember that I still occassionally feel the magic of it.

Golly, How They Do That?
"Letters" that are transmitted more quickly than I can type one individual letter of the alphabet.

Becoming good friends with someone you've never met. Online friends versus those old-fashioned RL friends.

Bing Maps and Google Earth.

And You-freaking-Tube. Where was that all my life?

As a writer and musician, I know all too well the downside: That we can get so much for free that we once might've paid for. And yet, I can't help soaking up so much of it myself, rolling around in it like my dog used to roll around in a good pile of wet sod.

So I end 2010 with a couple more of my YouTube discoveries.

This smoking, mysterious voice calling to us from 80 years past. Valaida Snow* performing Ellington's Caravan. And"I Can't Give You Anything But Love" And St. Louis Blues.

And wow, what a fascinating, tragic life - A black female trumpet player and singer from the Jim Crow South, accused of bigamy when she married a handsome teenaged dancer 10 yrs. her junior. 

An ex-pat in the late 30s. Legends of her being driven around Paris in her orchid-colored Mercedes. 

A controversial missing period of her life: Was she confined to a Danish prison for drug use or actually thrown into a Nazi concentration camp?

Whatever the answer to that, it's said she returned to the U.S. broken, and had an early death around age 50, in the mid-fifties. 

This woman who recorded 78s would've never imagined the technology that would bring her voice and story to us. And what a story.

[Bio info from Encyclopedia of the Harmlem Renaissance]