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

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