June 22-26, 2015

Monday night I went to see Phil Cook & his new band the Guitarheels, along with some special guests, at Duke Gardens, the first night of a three-night stand, culminating in a play-through of Phil’s upcoming solo album.

To be perfectly honest, I was really only there to see Frazey Ford, the Canadian singer/songwriter whose 2014 album, Indian Ocean, is one of my faves of 2015.

I was feeling guilty about having completely missed Indian Ocean when it came out last fall, but subsequent conversations with friends, as well as a visual survey of the crowd at Monday’s show, have led me to believe that nearly *everyone* missed it.

For the folks at Monday’s show, that is emphatically no longer the case. The album was recorded in Memphis with the Hodges brothers, who were mainstays of the Hi Records house band, aka Al Green’s backing band for his classic 70s albums. It’s deep and funky and soulful and mournful and angry & joyous.

At Duke Gardens, those awfully big shoes were filled admirably by Phil & his Guitarheels, especially James Wallace on keys. Frazey sang a half-dozen songs with the band, several of them from Indian Ocean, and judging from the response (& what I saw at the merch table when I was leaving), I’m guessing she flew home to Vancouver without any leftover copies of the album.

Monday was also the pub date for Mark Maron’s WTF podcast interview with President Obama. It’s great. Go listen to it. They touch on policy here & there — particularly racism & gun control in the wake of the Charleston terrorist attack — but the primary focus is on Obama the man: his history, his self-image, how he sees the world, how he is able to function as a father & a human & a black man & also as the President of the United States. It’s a deep & insightful & funny conversation.

Tuesday & Wednesday were spent in part looking forward to the fall (and winter, and spring): Duke Performances 2015/16 tickets went onsale on Tuesday, and the Hopscotch 2015 schedule was released on Wednesday.

We bought a *lot* of Duke Performances tickets. Somehow gradually over the past 10 years we’ve transitioned from people who go to lots of rockshows in bars, to people who go to lots of performing arts series events which begin at 7:30 p.m. in auditoriums with semi-comfy chairs. Pretty much OK with that.

Speaking of comfy chairs, this week I got a Japanese Blu-ray copy of Prince’s Sign O the Times movie. I saw it in the theatre in Greenville, SC, in late ’87 or early ’88, with A. We had either just started dating, or were about to. I remember being totally ecstatic about the movie, although that might also have been attributable to A.

In any case, watching it this week triggered surprisingly few feelings of nostalgia about high school, or A, or anything, really. But I think that’s because that album has been an on-and-off friend of mine since the day it came out, so I don’t really associate it with a particular time in my life. I still know most of the words to most of those songs, and I listen to the record at least once or twice a year. And in my head anytime I want.

It’s a pretty good concert film, although the mix is weird. The drums are really loud — which is actually a pretty accurate representation of too many kick-drum dominated rockshow mixes I’ve endured over the years. It probably sounded awesome in the theatre, though.

In other news, the Supreme Court settled the marriage question, and Scalia very nearly blew a gasket. It’s kind of remarkable that he hasn’t literally suffered some kind of stroke or aneurysm, given his level of rhetorical apoplexy around the various Big Decisions of the past couple of seasons.

Reading the New York Times this morning, I was struck mostly by the coverage of the Republican presidential candidates — people who are ostensibly attempting to win the votes of a majority of Americans. They were not, generally speaking, generous or moderate in their reactions to the court’s decision. This despite the fact that something on the order of ~55% of Americans now support marriage equality (a number that is likely to continue to climb once people chill out & actually experience married gay people in their daily lives).

Is this just the ultra-polarized American politics of the 21st century? An open acknowledgement that their party’s nominating process absolutely demands endless pledges of allegiance to the views of the radical nutjobs at the far righthand fringe?

Or do they really believe that the sky is falling?

It reminded me of a discussion I read a number of years ago, as the FCC, Congress & the courts were trying (again) to grapple with the question of profanity on the nation’s airwaves. In 2002-2003, there was a series of un-bleeped cuss events on TV awards shows — Bono said “fucking brilliant!,” Cher said, of her critics, “fuck ’em,” and Paris Hilton talked about how fucking difficult it is to get cow shit out of a Prada bag.

Rather than launching an investigation into how & why these nitwits were being handed awards on national television, the focus instead landed on whether the use of common expletives in non-sexual/excretory contexts could be considered indecent under the FCC’s current guidelines.

This question wound up at the Supreme Court in 2008, which means there was quite a bit written about it at the time.

Unfortunately, all of my googling this morning failed to yield the specific article I remember reading. The crux of it was some quoted discussion, in which some participants (Congresspeople? FCC commissioners? lawyers? judges?) steadfastly claimed that *every time* they heard the word “fuck,” they immediately visualized an actual act of sexual congress in their minds.

The psychologist Steven Pinker has actually written about this topic, at length. Here’s a good one from the New Republic.

Anyway. This came to mind this morning because it occurred to me that there could conceivably be some segment of the population who literally cannot prevent themselves from visualizing graphic images of dudes blowing each other any time they even hear the phrase “gay marriage.”

And apparently some portion of that segment of the population must find this to be intensely uncomfortable.

It’s really the only conclusion that makes any sense to me. I can’t imagine that Jesus would have cared all that much one way or the other.

June 22-26, 2015

June 13-21, 2015

Ugh, another long gap. Part of that time was spent migrating from tumblr to WordPress, but that’s not really a reasonable excuse.

Let’s see: Last Saturday . . . was kinda just a chore day. The only entertainment of note was going to Gocciolina for their 1-year anniversary party/cookout thing. Which was fun, but not as much fun as actually having dinner at Gocciolina. One of these days we’ll learn how to plan dinner more than 30 minutes in advance, and then we’ll be able to eat there again.

We finally dug into Inside Amy Schumer — jumped right in with Season Three, under the assumption that the magazine articles & whatnot are correct & that the latest season is the best. (And, having finished 3 & moved backwards into 2, I think that was a reasonable assumption.)

It’s uneven — any show of its kind probably would be — but the sheer brilliance of 12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer should earn it some kind of permanent spot in the TV Comedy Hall of Fame. It’s utter genius. If you’re reading this & haven’t seen it, you can rent the episode for a couple of bucks on Amazon. Do it.

Or maybe watch 12 Angry Men and *then* do it.

I’m still working on reading Cadillac Desert. I paused it this week to take another stab at The Martian, which I had put down earlier because, honestly, it’s not that well-written. But last week I read this XKCD:

I have never seen a work of fiction so perfectly capture the out-of-nowhere shock of discovering that you've just bricked something important because you didn't pay enough attention to a loose wire.

Which is awesome, so I decided to give it another chance.

It’s close to exactly what that comic describes. The character development is so-so, some of the writing is kinda meh, but boy there’s a lot of carefully written narrative about engineering oneself out of an endless series of jams.

Anyway, life-wise, the week has been quiet — reading, surfing the web, etc. Being appalled at the news. The usual stuff. During the summer I’m in front of my computer less during the workday, which means I fall way behind on Twitter, far enough behind that I don’t even scroll back to try to catch up. It feels kinda weird.

Last night we drove down to Jordan Lake to look at stars through some moderately large telescopes, under the aegis of UNC’s Morehead Planetarium. It was cloudy earlier in the day, so much so that I was kind of gently agitating not to go, but M persisted and by the time we got down there, there were big patches of open sky.

So we stood in line for 15-20 minutes to look at Saturn through an ~8 inch telescope. It looked more or less just like this:

I try not to be a jaded 21st-century dude, and yeah, the awareness that the light hitting my eye had bounced off Saturn was cool. But still, come on. I have been totally spoiled by The Internet. Sigh.


June 13-21, 2015

In Indiana in the 70s, as in many other states, I assume, you got a new license plate every year. I have no idea how this tradition developed of making a ceremony of the changing of the plates, but it was a legit Grady family thing for a while. I’m posting this photo instead of any of the many earlier & probably cuter family photos because this is the first one in which my dad is wearing the beard that he has worn for the subsequent 35+ years. It would seem somehow weird to post one without it.

In Indiana in the 70s, as in many other states, I assume, you got a new license plate every year. I have no idea how this tradition developed of making a ceremony of the changing of the plates, but it was a legit Grady family thing for a while. I’m posting this photo instead of any of the many earlier & probably cuter family photos because this is the first one in which my dad is wearing the beard that he has worn for the subsequent 35+ years. It would seem somehow weird to post one without it.

so long, tumblr

Yesterday tumblr deleted the long-running Ask Coquette tumblog, which was one of the only reasons I joined tumblr in the first place.

They say it was her third DMCA takedown notice that did it. They also say that they tried to get her to go through the counter-notification process on her previous two strikes & she declined.

Maybe that’s true. Maybe it isn’t. 

But what’s irrefutably true is that those posts are gone, and with relatively little warning.

As far as I know, I never post copyrighted material that would trigger a DMCA takedown notice. But DMCA takedown notices are abused ALL THE TIME by people with their own weird agendas.

Although I’m not really posting anything here that is going to need to be archived in perpetuity, I nevertheless would prefer to have a little bit more control over the fate of my writing.

So: look for me at http://blog.rossgrady.org

so long, tumblr