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Someone Called Lil Nas X, Some Familiar but Dangerous Old Town Roads, and the Crossroads of America on a Sleepless Weekend

After a long and mostly sleepless and stomach flu-afflicted weekend, which entailed an early-morning trip down to Oklahoma for the funeral of a beloved family member and a caffeine-fueled late afternoon drive back up I-35, and a near-wreck with some idiot who blew past a stop sign at ten miles an hour over the speed limit on the way home from the worship service we’d somehow made it to at the West Douglas Church of Christ, and then a much-needed nap and a couple of much-needed beers at Kirby’s Beer Store, we tried to catch up with the rest of the news. There was some cold comfort, at least, in finding that the rest of the world seems to have its own troubles.
One story that caught our eye was about some some rapper called Lil Nas X being removed from Billboard Magazine’s list of top-100 country-and-western top-sellers, where it had debuted in the 19th spot a few weeks ago and begun climbing up the chart. We’d previously never heard of Lil Nas X nor his his country-and-western song “Old Town Road,” but for various reasons we found it interesting nonetheless.
For the past half-century or so Billboard Magazine has been the definitive source of the weekly top 100 charts for American music and all its various branches, with all the authority of the Dow Industrial Average or the Bureau of Economic Analysis on the state of the broader economy, and for many years of our life we paid even more rapt attention to Billboard’s findings. The magazine has apparently dropped “Old Town Road” from its country-and-western charts because it’s insufficiently country-and-western, too, and as lifelong fans of country-and-western and all the other branches of the glorious tree of America’s music that all grabbed our attention. These days the debate about the culture is as dreary as the one about the economy, with the left talking all sorts of “cultural appropriation” nonsense about the interracial and cross-cultural pollinations that have made American culture in general and American music in particular so rich, and the right seemingly suddenly intent on making American great again with its own racialist agenda, and somehow some rapper called Lil Nas X and his “Old Town Road” is caught up in that.
We’re old and grew up in Kansas with all the kinfolk down in Oklahoma, so we also grew up with Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams and Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys and Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys and Buck Owens’ Buckaroos and Merle Haggard and his Strangers playing on the 8-track or AM radio, and thus have some pretty fixed ideas about what constitutes country-and-western music. We followed the internet links to hear (and watch) Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” and although it doesn’t meet our strict standards we wouldn’t kick it off the country-and-western charts. The recording has some bucolic lyrics and some banjo licks “sampled” from previous recording, the video features some old west imagery from some violent cowboy shoot-’em-up video game, and it’s as least as country-and-western as anything we find on the radio on two drives between Wichita and Oklahoma City on Saturday, or any of the godawful bumper music that New York City-born-and-bred Sean Hannity uses on the right-wing talk radio show where he’s constantly apologizing to his heartland audience for the New York-City-born and bred President Donald Trump.
“Country-and-western” is a vague enough term to encompass everything from Jimmie Rodgers’ primitivism to the string-laden elegance of Patsy Cline, “rock ‘n’ roll” ranges from the soft rock of Simon and Garfunkel to the hard rock of The Ramones, “jazz” stretches from Louis Armstrong to John Coltrane and beyond, and even the best of “it’s a black thing” “rhythm and blues” and “soul” and “hip hop” involve some talented white boys and European instruments and musical techniques who complicate the leftist racial narratives about that great stuff. Country-and-western is considered a white boy thing, but Rodgers and Williams and Wills and Monroe and Owens and Haggard always freely acknowledged everything they learned from their black friends, and we’ve found that if you want to fully enjoy the best of America’s great music you should set all of the left’s and right’s racial politics aside.
The definitions of “country-and-western” and “rock ‘n’ roll” and “jazz” and “hip hop” and the rest of American music gloriously diverse genres have mostly been defined by whatever the self-identified fans of those of genres have liked, and until recently they’ve done a pretty good job of it. Lil Nas X “Old Town” isn’t a great a recording by any of American music’s historic standards, but we’ve heard worse, and we hate to see it kicked off this week’s Billboard “country-and-western” charts, even if it’s still faring well on the “rhythm and blues” chart, which these days is the magazines old-fashioned way of saying “hip hop.” Billboard has always judged sales of “country-and-western” and “rhythm and blues” based on what the self-indentified “country and western” and “rhythm and blues” stores were selling, and although that’s harder to gauge in a time when all the kids are downloading their music off the internet it does seem that Lil Nas X was fairly popular with the country-and-western audience.
We rather like it that these young whippersnapper country-and-western fans are willing to embrace someone so obviously black he’s called Lil Nas X, and that black urban culture is culturally appropriating banjo licks and cowboy imagery, but we hope they all learn there’s better cross-cultural stuff on both sides of that divide, and start learning from that.
Meanwhile we notice that former Vice President and current Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden once again stands credibly accused of touchy creepiness toward women, and given the Democratic party’s currently strict standards that should be a problem for the him and the Democrats. We also notice that the leader of the erstwhile family values Republican party is President Donald “Grab ’em by the pussy” Trump, and that it doesn’t seem to be a problem for him or the Republicans. There’s also talk of Trump shutting down the border with Mexico, his ongoing trade wars and growing trade deficits with almost everyone else, most of the rest of the Democratic presidential field is so far to the crazy left that Biden’s creepiness toward women doesn’t seem so bad, and the economic and political news is almost as bad as what else is on the radio.
Even so, we’ll try to get a good night’s sleep and face another April Fools’ Day with help from the music and history of better times.

— Bud Norman

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One Prom Dresses and Cultural Appropriation

The news is chockfull of important stuff these days, from the “Russia thing” to the recently sluggish stock markets to the suddenly hopeful but still risky Korean peninsula, yet we couldn’t help noticing the big media brouhaha about a teen girl from Utah’s high school prom dress.
The headlines probably caught our eye because last Saturday we had a fine meal at the swank Larkspur Restaurant in the fashionable Old Town area of Wichita to help our folks celebrate their 62nd wedding anniversary, and the joint was filled with elegantly attired and undeniably gorgeous young women and the hilariously ill-fitted and conspicuously dorky-looking old boys who were taking them to the prom. Back in our high school days we considered ourselves too cool for a prom, even though an elegantly attired and undeniably gorgeous cheerleader who was also a straight-A student had made it clear she would be happy to escort us, and we were so precociously self-aware that realized how ridiculous we’d look in retrospect, so for hard to explain reasons we’ve taken a wistfully nostalgic interest in prom stories the last few years.
This prom story involves “cultural appropriation,” too, which is one of those cockamamie convolutions of the cultural left that always gets us riled up. If you’re not hep to the cutting edge of social justice, “cultural appropriation” is the deadly secular sin that white people commit whenever they find something appealing in a non-white culture and use it in their own lives. This ridiculous theory has condemned James MacNeil Whistler’s extraordinary Japanese-influenced paintings, Bix Beiderbecke’s lyrical contributions to jazz, Fred Astaire’s glorious tap-dancing, Elvis Presley’s most bad-ass rhythm-and-blues, countless admittedly tasteless fraternity parties, and now the prom dress of a Utah high school girl named Keziah Daum.
Daum posted some prom-night pictures of herself on “Twitter,” as teens seem to do these days, and by the time the photos went up to the big back east papers and then down to us they were what the kids call “viral.” What we saw from our faraway and thoroughly disinterested middle aged perspective was an elegantly attired and undeniably gorgeous young woman standing next to a relatively dorky-looking old boy, but what the more cutting-edge social justice warrior types saw was an undeniably gorgeous non-Asian woman elegantly attired in an Asian dress. That’s the sort of sort of thing that gets them riled up, and it was a social media contrempts that spilled over into the more old fashioned sort of media.
At the risk of sounding like the Trumpian sort of Republicans, it all strikes us as damned stupid. Both the anti-racist right and left used to agree that almost every culture had come up with at least some good idea or another, and that everyone should make whatever use they can of the best ideas, and that anyone who didn’t do so was being a racist. This sensible idea not only gave us those great Whistler paintings and searing Bix solos and show-stopping Fred numbers and rockin’ Elvis records, but also the great Asian-American and African-American musicians who have not only revived but reinvigorated the great European classical tradition, not to mention some pretty bad-assed black country-and-western performers. We’re grateful that Western Civilization adopted the Arabic numeral system, which makes our tax returns so much easier, and we hope the Arab world will eventually adopt some of our more sensible fading western traditions.
At any rate, we thought the young Daum looked quite elegantly gorgeous in her prom dress, and we’d proudly stand by her even in our disheveled and middle-aged dorkiness for a “selfie.”. We were born in the Phillippines while our Pop served in the Air Force and our Mom also served as military wife, and while they were there they travelled all over Asia and sort of went native. We grew up in a house filled with rattan furniture from the Philippines, the gorgeous sorts of Japanese prints that inspired Whistler, and our Mom had a wok in her kitchen long before any of the cutting-edge “foodies” did, and we have photographic evidence of how stunning she looked in the Asian dresses she used wear on special occasions.
Our advice to all our non-white readers is to help yourself to automobiles and electronics and democracy and whatever good ideas our crazy-assed people have somehow come up with, and not mind if we avail ourselves of the best that your crazy-assed people have somehow come up with. We also hope that gorgeous high school girl and her dorky-looking date in Utah both long remember their prom as a one of those great teenaged nights.

— Bud Norman

Scotty Moore, RIP and Good Rockin’ Tonight

During our daily efforts to find something in the news to write about other Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump or the rest of all that dreary business we happened upon an obituary for Scotty Moore, who died Wednesday at the age of 84, which only accentuated the decline of western civilization to our rockabilly-loving sensibilities.
Only the true rock ‘n’ roll aficionados will recognize the name, but they’ll all gladly explain to you that Moore was somehow one of those rare guitarists who made on a real mark on American culture. He grew up picking cotton and playing guitar with his musical family in rural Tennessee, then quit school after the ninth grade and lied about his age to join the Navy at age 16, then wound up in Memphis working in a tire factory and a dry cleaning shop during the day and at night trying to make a mark on the city’s world-class music scene. He was an acolyte of country virtuoso Chet Atkins, as is obvious on any listening to his playing, but he mostly liked to play jazz in a Les Paul style, and was more obviously familiar with the hard-edged blues sound of his adopted city, so of course he wound up in a very nasal and twangy and hillbilly band called Doug Poindexter and his Starlight Wranglers, which cut a couple of not-bad sides for the fledging Sun Records Company over on Union Avenue. Which wound up changing the course of American musical history in the late 20th century.
The guy who started and pretty much single-handedly ran Sun Records was a cotton-picking white boy from rural Tennessee, too, but he’d heard enough black folks singing the blues in those cotton patches that it was his greatest musical passion, and although he was also a some-time country fan and would occasionally release singles by the likes of Doug Poindexter and his Starlight Wranglers his business was mostly in such all-time great blues acts as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and James Cotton and Junior Parker and Pat Hare and the rest of Memphis’ top-notch blues talent. Those guys eventually headed north in the great black migration, though, and wound up signing with the Chess Records label in Chicago that had previously paid for the rights to the master recordings done in the Sun studios, so Sun Records boss Sam C. Phillips started looking around for some white guy or another who might be able to approximate that black sound he loved so much.
Sun Records had already released a record by “Harmonica Frank,” a ruggedly fine piece of folk art primitivism by some wrinkled white rural Tennessee sharecropper that even the most Afro-Centric ears would assume to be some wrinkled old black guy, and white honky-tonkers such as Roy Hall and Smokey Woods had already been playing a black-hillbilly miscegenation style of music for so long they were already old and ugly, but Phillips was looking for something more marketable to mid-’50s America. Sun Studios also made much-needed money by pressing vanity records for a reasonable fee for anyone who dropped in, and one of those customers wanted to make a hokey record for his mother on her birthday was such a good-looking guy that the the Sun Records secretary made a note of him, and she insisted that he listen to the hunk’s recording of “My Happiness,” and thus Elvis Presley wound up making his debut recordings over on Union Avenue. With his stripped-down primitivist philosophy of music, Phillips shrewdly decided to have Presley accompanied only by the reliably on-the-beat bassist Bill Black, and that guitar-pickin’ guy from the Starlight Wranglers who provided the best of their not-bad recordings.

By all accounts the recording session started horribly, with some desultory run-throughs of such corny fare of “My Happiness,” but after so many hours and so many cigarettes and so many sips of moonshine whisky and indulgences of whatever other vices you might have encountered at Sun Studios over on Union Avenue after midnight they started messing around in their hillbilly way with a 10-year-old and not well-known but definitively-black blues song by otherwise long-forgotten Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup called “That’s Alright, Mama,” and it sounded pretty damned good. They also came up with a blackened by rhythm-and-blues version of Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys’ definitively hillbilly “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” which also sounded pretty damned good and wound up on the B-side of a single that was a regional hit in both the black and white record stores of the segregated south, and set in motion the Presley phenomenon. That was followed by such hot wax as “Good Rockin’ Tonight” and “Trying to Get to You,” and with every white and black girl in the south hot for Elvis he was soon sold for a relative song to to the major label RCA records and its multi-media reach, and suddenly the bizarre miscegenation musical style of poor white trash and ghetto blacks called “rock ‘n’ roll” was an undeniable influence on American culture.
We hate to overstate anything, and abhor our cultural tendency to do so on almost every occasion, so we’ll admit that that rock ‘n’ roll might well have happened without Elvis, and that Elvis might have well happened without Scotty Moore, but we’ll still insist that seems the way it’s turned out.
The interracial music of Elvis and Scotty and Bill, as they were billed on that initial release, exemplified a cross-cultural tradition that had already been going in America from the beginning and through the note-reading masterpieces of African-American culture and the the suddenly polyrhythmic and intuitive styles of European-American had already been going on for decades, from the jazz age through western swing and those old and ugly rhythm and blues honky-tonkers, and the western civilization classical aspirations of Duke Ellington and the rest of the best of the black talent, so there are no essential people in a true republic.
Elvis Presley was undeniably good-looking and could surely shake those hips as well as any black man, and he could sure as hell sing, too, so there’s always a chance he would have made his mark without Scotty Moore playing the lead guitar, but we doubt it. Those first Sun Records releases were credited to “Elvis, Scotty, and Bill,” and although we liked the “Elvis the Original Hillbilly Cat” signature on the later releases we always thought the original credits summed the band up best. The lead electric guitar-playing on those original Sun sessions still strikes us as extraordinary, and the bass-playing by the the formidable Bill Back is still exactly on beat, and our favorite part of the masterpiece “Tryin’ to Get to You” is still that soulful solo by the not at all good-looking cotton-picken’ white boy playing that mean guitar. Scotty and Bill stayed will Elvis through the early RCA hits, and wound up in some of those embarrassing movies Elvis did, but they both eventually dropped out of he shadows of his good-looking spotlight.
Bill Black’s always on-beat “Bill Black Combo” had some minor rock ‘n’ roll hits, and Scotty Moore had some minor success doing studio work, but he mostly lived off his family’s various business, and both were memorably in on that epic Elvis “comeback special” on network television, but they were mostly confined to anonymity until Moore’s death. The Washington Post and The New York Times and all the polite media have taken notice of Moore’s passing, even if it’s left to such rockabilly-loving and impolite media as ourselves to truly fret about it, or the cultural decline that his little-noticed passing heralds. These days the ideas of fusing hillbilly and black music is derided as a politically incorrect “cultural appropriation,” and even ¬†the most anti-politically correct types probably have no idea who Scotty Moore was, and we’re left with only the heartening licks of a cotton-pickin’Tennesse farm boy’s prototypical rock ‘n’ roll.

— Bud Norman

Broadway and Dead White Men and the Current Race

Once again we have been shut out of the Pulitzer Prizes, a slight we’re starting to take personally, but in looking over the mostly uninspiring list of this year’s winners we were tentatively pleased to note that someone named Lin-Manuel Miranda won the drama award for a big Broadway hit called “Hamilton.” We haven’t yet seen the show, as we’re located way the hell off Broadway and are a few hundred bucks short of the price of a constantly sold-out ticket, but by all accounts and the snippets we’ve seen on YouTube it’s a hip-hop musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, so we can’t help but love the idea.
Although we aren’t particularly avid aficionados of the hip-hop genre, save for a cherished 12″ 45-rpm copy of The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and De La Soul’s more hippie-than-hip-hop “Three Feet High and Rising” album with the Johnny Cash samples, and a few other albums that mark us as “old school,” we are huge fans of Alexander Hamilton, the most controversial and under-rated of the Founding Fathers, and we think he’d be pleased to know that after all these years he’s a hip-hop star.
The idea seems counter-intuitive at first, given that Hamilton is a Dead White Male and one of the guys who established the Establishment and created Wall Street and was arguably the man most responsible for laissez-faire American capitalism, and would surely be a Republican freaking out over the national debt if he were alive today, which is pretty much the sum of all the fashionable and hip-hoppy left’s bogeymen. On the other hand, he was born out of wedlock in the Caribbean, he did immigrate to New York City to hustle his way into some sweet gigs, he did prove his bad-ass machismo in the Revolutionary War, he did have some undeniable sex scandals, he did wind up getting fatally shot in a duel over a “dis,” and all those bling-laden and soon-to-be-shot rappers obviously aren’t entirely averse to some red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism no matter how often they vote for Democrats, so there’s definitely some hip-hop material there as well. Call it the internal contradictions of anti-capitalism.
Hamilton was also blameless of America’s original sin of slavery, too, as he never owned slaves and was outspoken in his opposition to the practice and contributed generously to abolitionist causes despite having the rather modest income of a scrupulously honest public servant, so there’s no reason that a hip-hopper can’t embrace him, or any reason to think he might refuse that embrace. Given how Hamilton embraced all sorts of good ideas from all sorts of places, even from the English systems of government and economics that he had urged and fought a revolution against, we don’t think he’d at all resent a mostly Black and Latino and Asian cast trying to find the truth of his dead white male self in what was a pretty much all-white moment in American history. When white people avail themselves of the best ideas of other people’s cultures it’s now derided as “cultural appropriation,” which is one of the dumbest ideas that’s come along since Hamilton’s time, but at least the rest of the world can still help itself to the best what of white people have come up with. Call it the internal contradictions of cultural Marxism.
The once-prestitigious Pulitzer Prize is just the latest wet kiss planted on Miranda’s face by what’s left of the cultural establishment, which has already rewarded him with countless glowing reviews and Tony Awards and a reception at the White House where the First Black President admitted he found the whole idea rather counter-intuitive, but of course there’s lately been a backlash. Nobody’s complaining about “cultural appropriation,” yet, but now some are complaining that Hamilton is still a Dead White Male no matter how hip-hoppy his story might might be, and of course others are noting that he failed to end slavery, and at Salon they’re worried the play’s popularity might prevent Hamilton from being kicked off the $10 bill to make room for a woman or better yet a woman of color and maybe even a trans-gendered woman of color. The ethnic and sexual and otherwise diversification of America’s currency could just as easily be accomplished by kicking the slave-owning and Indian-oppressing President Andrew Jackson off the twenty-note, but Jackson was the founder of the Democratic party and plunged his country into the second-worst depression ever by his populist stand against the Central Bank that Hamilton had championed, so Hamilton might have to settle for a Broadway hit and hip-hop hero status.
Sooner or later a roadshow of “Hamilton” will hit Wichita, and we’ll try to scrape the cost of a ticket, which shouldn’t be three figures by the point. We might not like the show, but we like the idea.
One of the most Pulitzer Prizer-worthy reads we’ve come across about Hamilton lately was written by The Weekly Standard’s excellent Noemi Emery, who wondered “What Would Hamilton Do” as she¬†recalled how he swung the presidential election of 1800 to longstanding political enemy Thomas Jefferson, who championed an agrarian and aristocratic notion of individual liberty at odds with his own vision of an urban and classless notion of individual, because the alternative was Aaron Burr. Although Burr’s stated political views were far closer to Hamilton’s than were Jefferson’s, Hamilton’s personal political and professional dealings with Burr in New York City with had convinced him the alternative was “unprincipled both as a public and private man … for or against nothing but as it suits his interests or ambition,” and that “no agreement with him could be relied upon,” and that his presidency “would disgrace our country abroad,” and despite his own admitted failings he went with the flawed man who at least showed some indications of a sense of moral restraint. There was a best-selling novel by left-wing nutcase Gore Vidal about Burr, who luckily escaped two treason trials and shot Hamilton in the most cowardly way, but his life doesn’t offer the same lessons as the flawed but more admirable Hamilton.

— Bud Norman

Comedic Timing in “C.P. Time.”

We’ve been somewhat preoccupied this week with rehearsals for our annual brief appearance on the amateur theatrical stage, in a satirical song-and-skit fund-raising revue put on by some of the local media, but we’ve been able to pay enough attention to the news to notice that the Democratic Party’s putative presidential front-runner has thoroughly embarrassed herself in a similar effort.
Former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State and long presumed First Woman President of the United States Hillary Clinton volunteered for a comedy bit in the New York City’s Inner Circle show, which is apparently Gotham’s equivalent of our own Gridiron Show, albeit with bigger-name guest stars, and she wound up creating one of those racial imbroglios that inevitably result from Democrat politics. The bit involved Clinton, the more or less commie Mayor of New York City Bill DeBlasio and one of the black guys from the current Broadway hit “Hamilton,” and a joke about how DeBlasio had been slow to endorse Clinton’s candidacy because he was acting on “C.P. Time.” For those who don’t run in racist white circles or self-effacingly jocular black folk circles, “C.P. Time” stands for “Colored People’s Time,” which implies that people of color are congenitally unpunctual, but it all led up to the putative punchline that DeBlasio had been acting on “cautious politician time,” so there is a certain unsatisfying humor to the gag, but it seemed to fall flat with not only the audience but the broader Democratic primary-voting pubic.
As former professional drama critics and ambitious semi-professional satirists, we found the entire performance entirely second-rate yet rife with intriguing unintended ironies. There’s the fact of that black guy dressed as Aaron Burr from the big Broadway hit “Hamilton,” for one thing, because it’s an all-black-and-Latino cast celebrating in hip-hop fashion the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, which is so rich by itself. Hamilton remains the most controversial of the founding fathers, and the one slated to be expelled from the currency instead of the slave-holding and Indian-slaying but Democrat-party-founding Andrew Jackson, because he was the foremost founding father of America as a capitalist country and the only one who would inarguably be a Republican today, but he was also an illegitimate sire of a Caribbean family and a New York City urbanite and ardent abolitionist who envisioned a nation of similar strivers who wound up dying in a duel over a “dis,” so he’s actually a pretty likely hero for a hip-hop Broadway hit. We don’t even mind that some reportedly talented people of color have culturally appropriated this dead white male, and we suspect that Hamilton also wouldn’t mind, but we’ll resent on Hamilton’s behalf that he was somehow involved in this awful skit.
Neither Clinton nor DeBlasio exhibit any timing, and the presumably talented “Hamilton” star’s lines are clearly thrown off, and the part where he says he’s not comfortable with the whole “C.P. Time” thing hang more portentously than the punchline can stave off, and the funniest part is that both Clinton and DeBlasio are being criticized by even their most adoring press. DeBlasio might have thought he was immune by virtue of a black wife and half-black afro-wearing and fist-raising son, and Clinton might have thought she was immune by virtue of being the oft-betrayed wife of the first First Black President and the long presumed First Woman President, but they’re both still white and stuck with the comedic limitations.
Our own ventures on the amateur stage often entail some slightly uncomfortable humor about America’s convoluted race relations, and last year we had to refuse a local celebrity guest’s interest in a role because she was uncomfortable with a gag about a Starbucks barista telling a middle-aged white guy to “check his white privilege” and him responding that he hadn’t been laid in months, and challenging her to find a brother who would do the same thing, which got a big but obviously nervous laugh from our mostly liberal audience, but then again we’re not running for president as Democrats. If we were running for president as Democrats we’d know better than to frankly acknowledge such nervous understandings, and stick with a humorless scolding of any frank acknowledgements any Republican might make.

— Bud Norman

Appropriating Culture, While There’s Still Some Left

Although our day was largely occupied by a glum early morning chore and some evening amateur theatrical rehearsals and the latest slap-the-forehead sort of news from the presidential primaries, we found a moment’s bemusement from one of those “viral videos” that routinely invade our daily reading of the news. This one didn’t involve any cute cat shenanigans, but rather captured a confrontation between an angry black social justice warrior and a dreadlocked white hipster, which might not be so cute but is at least as hilarious.
Someone who happened to be standing on a nearby stairwell with one of those ubiquitous cell phone video cameras caught the aforementioned black social justice warrior, an employee of San Francisco State University, telling the aforementioned white hipster student who happened to pass by that he had no right to be wearing his hair in a dreadlocked fashion. Anyone familiar with the latest academic jargon knows that this is a matter of “cultural appropriation,” and even the obviously stupid black social justice warrior and the obviously stupid white hipster know that, and the ensuing conversation and inevitable reality-show scuffle about this utterly stupid concept is more ridiculous than even our crazy cat can come up with.
If you haven’t been keeping abreast of the latest academic hilarity, “cultural appropriation” means that if you’re white and Western you’re not supposed to enjoy much less make use of anything that some non-white or non-western culture ever came up with. Western mathematics should have stuck with the Roman Numeral system rather than the simpler Hindu-conquered-by-Islamic system, James McNeill Whistler should have never done those beautiful Japanse-influenced paintings, Elvis Presley should have never done that much-improved cover of “That’s Alright, Mama,” a very alluring yet very white friend of ours shouldn’t be doing her belly-dancing, and the Nazis were at least polite enough to eschew the “Jewish physics” of Werner Heisenberg and his notions of an atomic bomb. We’re not sure how such strict standards would have improved the world, but we’d sure hate to miss that Elvis recording and those Whistler paintings, and our friend is a pretty good belly-dancer and in any case she’s got a right and we’d hate to be struggling with our bills at the end of the month with Roman numerals.
We’re not sure how this post-racist concept would have worked out for our non-white and non-western friends as well. That angry black social justice warrior employed by San Francisco State University was probably intending to drive home after work in an automobile, which is a product of white and western culture, and probably expected to see herself celebrated on the Internet, which is a product of an industry that is oft criticized for being insufficiently non-white and non-western, and she seemed to be wearing pants, which is another white and western invention. We also notice that no one objects when such outstanding African-American musicians as Wynton Marsalis and Kathleen battle do their much-improved performances of classical Baroque music, which is about as white and western as you can get, and we’re at least grateful for that.
That dreadlocked white hipster by no means strikes us as an exemplar of white and western culture or or whatever third-world fashion he’s trying to state, and his bizarre rant about ancient Egyptian culture is as stupid as what his harasser is talking about, and his haircut is every bit as ridiculous as the current Republican party’s presidential front-runner’s, but we figure he’s also got a right, too. Our meanderings around the internet turned up a more frank and jive-talking black fellow who came to pretty much the same conclusion, so at least there was some bemusement.

— Bud Norman