Friday, August 20, 2010

Answer: Finding "American Tongues" DVD

Here's what I did.  This took longer than I thought, so it's a nice problem. 

The goal is to find the documentary "American Tongues" -- so I thought I'd check YouTube first.  It won't be the DVD, but maybe it'll give me a pointer to a website that'll rent it to me.  

1. Check YouTube first. This gave me a lot of clips and teasers, but no information that was really useful.  

2. Search for [ American tongues documentary ]  This worked pretty well, and I found it quickly at the CNAM. (Center for New American Media)  You can rent it here for $85.... that seems high (for a DVD??) so I keep searching.  

3.After hunting around through the first page of results, I decide to add "rental" to the search...  [ American tongues documentary rental ]  With this edit I find lots of clips online, but again, nothing is proving to be useful.  

Interestingly, I find that claims to have it, but after spending 5 minutes trying figure out whether or not they have it (and failing), I give up and have a brainstorm.  

4. New idea:  Check my local library!  I do the obvious search [ Palo Alto library catalog ] to get to the online catalog, but I fail here as well.  Interlibrary loan?  Ugh.  Hard to get to and then the search seems to break, so I give up after another 4 or 5 minutes. 

5. I return to the previous search results (from step 3) and click on Roger’s Video Direct – Interesting.  THEY say it’s available “exclusively” in “P.O.V. 20th Anniversary Collection."  I'm not sure I believe that.  Information I've seen elsewhere suggests it's available as a "single" -- but this does give me another tack to take (that is, looking for the "POV 20th Anniversary Collection"--but I'll save that for later.  

But, heartened that they knew that bit of information, I start searching on their site.. .they don’t have it either!  Arrgh. All they have is the record of the documentary, and NOT the actual video itself.  

I keep cruising through sites… All the results are fairly low quality and I'm starting to get discouraged.  It's taken me 20 minutes to get here, and I still don't know. 

8. Another brainstorm:  check!  They index entire library collections, so I can also search for  DVDs!   I jump to, do a simple search for "American Tongues"-- click on the first result, then click on their link:  Find a copy in the library.   

Voila!  Success!  It's available at the San Francisco public library (and many local university libraries, but this is the only one open and available to me).  

9. I know the search problem was to find a rentable DVD, but after having such a poor experience in locating difficult-to-find DVDs, I would have accepted an online version.  At this point I would have checked  -- and had very quick success. has a link to the website with a 56 min copy.  It's not the DVD, but it's a good enough solution to the task. 

Search on!


  1. Only after I wrote this post did I discover that actually DOES rent this documentary at a very reasonable rate.

    Interestingly, I found this out by talking with a librarian who just-happened-to-know about Facets Movies. As it turns out, for whatever reason, Facets Movies does NOT allow Google to search inside their site, so I couldn't find them as a possible resource for movie rental! (Go figure.)

    1. Thank you so much! i have been trying to find this movie for years!