In 1941 in Cindy Walker’s native Texas, the sexual encounter described by her song “Cherokee Maiden” was not only frowned on, it was illegal. Texas had been the first state in the union to pass a law officially barring miscegenation.
If you had read in early 2016 about a National Policy Institute conference on the theme of “Identity Politics,” you might have assumed it was an innocent gathering of progressives. If you had attended, you would have been in for an unpleasant surprise. The National Policy Institute is an organization of white nationalists, overseen by neo-Nazi media darling Richard Spencer.
While Adorno claimed that to write poetry after Auschwitz was barbaric, hip-hop claims that it is necessary to write poetry after the barbarism of slavery. Its history, and its historical consequences, must be recorded.
A country song names something that has gone missing. Your first love, your only home, your last dollar. The singer is left to reckon with empty space, in words that inevitably fall short. If the lack produces desire, it also produces speech.
In 2007, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten and Grammy Award-winning classical violinist Joshua Bell teamed up to play a prank on commuters in Washington, DC’s public transportation system. Weingarten’s account of what he called “an experiment in context, perception and priorities—as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste” appeared in a Post article called “Pearls Before Breakfast.” It describes how Bell stood in the L’Enfant Plaza Station posing as a subway busker, and performed a selection of classical pieces typical of his concerts. He played them on his Gibson ex Huberman Stradivarius—a 300-year-old piece of wood that is valued at $3.5 million.
November 8, 2011. I was shooting pool at State College’s best dive bar when the bouncer came running in, his face flushed with excitement. According to TV news, he told us, the Penn State Board of Trustees had just fired football coach Joe Paterno. Though Paterno had already declared his intention to retire at the end of the season, after allegations that he had condoned an ongoing pattern of child molestation by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, the trustees decided they couldn’t wait. Paterno would not be coaching that Saturday’s home game.