If there’s something I DON’T want to write about, it’s cultural appropriation. It’s a no-win topic. So why tackle it? Because it keeps bubbling up in my circle of friends and acquaintances.

In response to a New York Times article, an NPR piece stated Commentary: Cultural Appropriation Is, In Fact, Indefensible. And it’s from there that I’ll describe the phenomenon:

“Writer Maisha Z. Johnson offers an excellent starting point by describing it not only as the act of an individual, but an individual working within a “‘power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group.’

“That’s why appropriation and exchange are two different things, Johnson says — there’s no power imbalance involved in an exchange. And when artists appropriate, they can profit from what they take, while the oppressed group gets nothing.”

This distinction is important, and I believe addresses Frank S. Robinson’s post about “the newest gambit of politically correct grievance agitprop.”

The phenomenon is not new, actually. According to the Washington Post, the term goes back to the 1970s or ’80s. Bo Derek’s cornrow hairstyle in the 1979 movie 10 was a REAL issue to some folks, but I’ll admit I didn’t get it.

Weekly Sift had this:

“Cultural appropriation is when somebody from a dominant culture tries to acquire fame and fortune (or just look cool) by using stuff created by a dominated culture…. Sometimes it’s done with respect and a share-the-wealth attitude. (Paul Simon didn’t just steal the South African sound, he toured with and helped popularize authentic South African bands.)” [There are some who would disagree.]

“Sometimes it’s annoying and disrespectful, but relatively harmless (like Anglos who have no idea what Cinqo de Mayo commemorates ‘celebrating’ by drinking too much tequila).

“And sometimes it results in a significant injustice, like Elvis becoming a musical icon while the black pioneers he imitated couldn’t get radio time.” Presley became a source of conflict in my own household growing up.

My father HATED Elvis, but I thought he was bringing his own rockabilly sensibilities to the mix. (Now, if you want cultural appropriation, look at Pat Boone, whose vapid Tutti Fruiti squeezed Little Richard’s version out of the marketplace.) I had none of Elvis’ music until I went to college.

I saw this article about a Portland, OR “burrito eatery being shut down after the two white women who ran it were criticized for making food from a culture that wasn’t theirs.” I believe one or both of them jokingly suggested they “stole” the recipe, which helped generate outrage. I find that was a most unfortunate outcome.

I would suggest that the denigration of a culture, especially knowingly, such as Ted Nugent’s headdress in this context could also be seen as cultural appropriation.

So I believe cultural appropriation, different from cultural exchange, exists, and it’s undesirable. But I accept I don’t always know where the line is drawn.

For ABC Wednesday

The Big Sick is your typical boy-meets-girl, girl-breaks-up-with-boy, girl-gets-very-sick, boy-meets-girl’s-parents rom com. OK, that was a bit cheeky, but not entirely incorrect.

The one-night stand that became a romance between stand-up comedian Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) and grad student Emily (Zoe Kazan) is the starting off point of the film. Yet it was Kumail dealing with her mother Beth (Holly Hunter) and father Terry (Ray Romano) which drives much of the middle of the film.

Also intriguing is Kumail dealing with his own parents, Sharmeen (Zenobia Shroff) and and Azmat (Anupam Kher), the former of whom is especially busy trying to fix him up with a nice Muslim girl.
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The Big Sick is based on the real-life courtship between Kamail and Emily V. Gordon, and written by them. I saw Kamail on The Daily Show recently talking about the writing process. On some of their real dates, they had radically different recollections of how a certain date played out, and they used that conflict in the script.

The movie showed real insights into the culture clash, the emotional tug-of-war between his family and his heart, without being pedantic. It manages to be quite funny while at the same time dealing with the emotions surrounding Emily’s …well, see the title.

I was really fond of this movie, and if anything, my wife more so, which we saw, naturally, at the Spectrum Theater in Albany. “They” say write what you know, and in plagiarizing their own experiences, Nanjiani and Gordon have avoid hitting any false notes. And in the current political atmosphere, it even seems especially timely.

The Big Sick was directed by Michael Showalter and produced by Judd Apatow. Some believe that, like some other Apatow works, it was too long, but at at a tick under two hours, I thought it was just right

Here’s the trailer. See the movie!

From that July 20 document from the Albany Board of Elections that I requested, I received candidates for offices in Albany County who petitioned to get on the ballot.

Unfortunately, the roster of the one topic someone actually asked to provide is listed as CITY OF ALBANY MEM COMMON COUNCIL, listed alphabetically, with no regard for the district, though I’m sure the Board will rectify this as the election gets closer.

So I went to the voter information section of the Board of Elections’ site and typed in the addresses from which the candidates filed. If any of these candidates are running for a different district, they can let me know.

1
Dorcey L. Applyrs (D, WF)
John O. Williamson (D, I)

2
Derek A. Johnson (D)
Marc D. Johnson (D, WF)
Mary Ellen O’Connor (D)

3
Ronald E. Bailey (D, WF, I)
Joyce Love (D)

4
Kelly R. Kimbrough (D, WF)
Elston Mackey (D)

5
Nigel D. Banks (D)
Cliffton Patterson (D)
Jameel K. Robinson (D)
Malcolm T. Thorpe (D)

6
James Ader (D, I)
Richard S. Conto (D, WF)

7
Sergio Adams (D, I)
Catherine M. Fahey (D, WF)

8
John J. Flynn (D)

9
Judy L. Doesschate (D, WF, I)
John J. Mahoney (C)

10
Owusu Anane (D, I)
Leah Golby (D, WF)

11
Alfredo D. Balarin (D, WF)
Clifton M. Dixon (D)
Beroro T. Efekoro (D)
Judd W. Krasher (D, I)

12
Michael F. O’Brien (D)

13
Ginnie Farrell (D, WF)
Joanne E. Genovese (D, I)
Timothy A. Looker (R, C)

14
Joseph M. Igoe (D)

15
Shauna M. Collins (D, WF)
Thomas C. Hoey (D, I)

So the Democrats will have their primary on September 12. But in several districts, some of the Democrats will face some of the same opponents in November, as candidates have been cross-endorsed by either the Working Families Party or the Independence Party.

No surprise: there are is only one Republican running, cross-endorsed by the Conservative Party, and one other Conservative. The Republican is in this case is running in my district and has been a candidate before. This time, he’s running, not against an entrenched incumbent, but in an open seat. But the party enrollment is not in his favor.

In five districts (but I don’t know which ones), the Working Family party is offering an Opportunity to ballot.

On one of our irregular-but-always-lengthy telephone conversations, the middle child asked me advice about this guy. They’d been friends, but he had become what I can only describe as toxic. (Actually, there are other other terms I could use about him, but I’m trying to keep the content here clean.)

He was that way to some other people as well, as I understand it. I once told her that he was a tool, and that became my sobriquet for him, in lieu of actually saying his name. “What’s the Tool up to now?” I’d say.

And then, after he was finally out of her life, he suddenly dropped dead. She wanted to know if she should go to the funeral. My counsel was that she should do what she felt moved to do. I have to tell you, though, that I wouldn’t have gone.

Yet she did, and appeared gracious to their mutual acquaintances in doing so. Hmm, graciousness – what a concept. In many ways, I think she’s a better person than I am, more compassionate. She does tend to wear her heart on her sleeve, whereas my feelings tend to be more internalized.

I’m fairly sure that I haven’t seen either of my sisters in person since my mother’s funeral in February 2011. But I very likely will see Leslie this fall. She is going to her high school reunion. I was perfectly happy to have blown off MY reunion last year – I THINK there was one – but crashing hers has enough emotional distance to tolerate.

Even though I was Student Government president at BCHS, Leslie was the real star in high school, both through performing and by the strength of her personality; I say this with zero jealousy, then or now. And the excitement of her trip east to see her classmates, based on social media, is very high.

The photo is from a fashion show at the Fowler’s department store in downtown Binghamton, NY some, OK, many years ago, when there WAS a Fowler’s department store.

Happy birthday, middle child.

Jaquandor, the blogger from the Buffalo area , posted a recording of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. He described it as “one of the towering masterpieces of all music (and probably of all human art).” Is this Beethoven’s greatest symphony? One could make that argument.

Beethoven’s 7th is among my favorite pieces of music. And the second movement, Allegretto, is one of the first pieces of classical music that I could identify.

7/2 seems deceptively simple. The melody line is the same note for a couple measures, and then another note for a could more measures. But the layers laced upon that melody line are absolutely gorgeous.

I remember a version of this section on one of those Warners Brothers Loss Leaders albums called I DIDN’T KNOW THEY STILL MADE RECORDS LIKE THIS (PRO 608, 1975), but I couldn’t remember who performed it until I looked it up.

Waldo de los Rios, an Argentine composer, conductor and arranger born in 1934, is “best remembered for his ability to transform European classical music into pop music.” Unfortunately, “a victim of an acute depression…, de los Rios committed suicide in Madrid in 1977.”

I became rather obsessed with finding a vocalized version of this movement, so much so that I actually purchased the piano music online and sang along several of the parts individually. The printed music is cited as being from “The King’s Speech.” It is heard in the movie as George VI (Colin Firth) delivers his first wartime speech.

I did not find what I was looking for – does it even exist? – but I discovered a couple of interesting variations.

LISTEN to:

Beethoven’s 7th Symphony in A major

La Chambre Philharmonique, played on period instruments and using period performance standards

The Proms

Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, 2nd movement

Waldo de los Rios

Sacris Solemnis – Son et Lumiere

Vocal Beethoven Seventh in the movie Zardoz

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