From the sedulous to the surreal in cultural context

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A Trip to ZZ Top’s Tejas

December 10, 2015

Stepping into an album cover can be a surreal experience. One of my personal favorite ZZ Top albums is Tejas. Released November 1976, Tejas followed hit records Fandango! (1975) and Tres Hombres (1973), as well as earlier blues-rock offering Rio Grande Mud (1972) and the nearly eponymous ZZ Top’s First Album (1971). ZZ Top’s fifth long… Read More ›

Marco Rubio: The Eddie Haskell of Republican Politics

I didn’t really grow up in the South, but then again, neither did Marco Rubio. (As all good geographers know, Miami is officially somewhere in the Middle Atlantic, in an indeterminate and ever-shifting place between Metuchen and Washington Heights, like the island from LOST.) But we both know the quintessentially Southern importance of good manners… Read More ›

She probably doesn’t want my Progressive feminist sympathy, but I’m giving it to her anyway: Thoughts on the Republican Debate, Donald Trump, and Fox’s Megyn Kelly

  Was it just me, or was Thursday night’s Republican debate deeply, deeply weird? The entire event seemed farcical, as though we were all watching a Saturday Night Live sketch of the nuttiest idiosyncrasies of the candidates. And yet Lorne Michaels was nowhere in sight. Presumably, the sixteen men and one woman (of course) who… Read More ›

Steely Dan Postmodern: A Meditation on Sonic and Visual Artifice

“You go back Jack do it again Wheel turnin’ ‘round and ‘round You go back Jack do it again…”   Thus incants the first song on Steely Dan’s inaugural album, 1972’s Can’t Buy a Thrill. “Do It Again” is a song about gambling and revenge and weary despair, but taken on its own this refrain… Read More ›

Gay Marriage Bans, Crass Politics, and the Exploitation of Ignorance and Intolerance  

    Last week, federal District Judge Ginny Granade struck down Alabama’s “Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.” The law had the effect of banning same-sex marriage within the state, and most honest observers of the federal judiciary were not surprised to see it fail. The hand-writing has been on the wall for such state laws since… Read More ›

Selma, George Wallace, and the Real Legacy of White Resistance  

    George Wallace, Jr. wants you to believe that his father was unfairly represented in the Hollywood film Selma. The movie – produced by Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt, and directed by the outspoken Ava DuVernay – has generated significant controversy since its December release. Former White House staffer Joseph Califano and others have… Read More ›

Carefree/Blue Highways: On the Road with Mid-Seventies Malaise

In the mid-1970s America’s highways were apparently lonely places. Or at least they were a place where lonely people hoped to repair their fractured lives. Gordon Lightfoot’s tenth album, Sundown, was his most successful. The 36-year-old Canadian folk singer laid down the tracks in Toronto in November 1973. The record was out by January 1974… Read More ›

Huey Lewis and the News: The Applebee’s of American Music

  What does 1980s pop star Huey Lewis have in common with Applebee’s?  More than you might think. In 1983 Huey Lewis and the News put out their third record, Sports. They were following up on the success of their breakthrough second album, 1982’s Picture This. Members of the group had paid their dues in… Read More ›

A Tale of Two Rivers: Chance Encounters with the John Denver Sanctuary and Dan Fogelberg Memorial 

How do you memorialize a 1970s singer-songwriter?   Apparently, finding a river, a few boulders, a chisel, and some song lyrics is a good way to start. I discovered this truth by accident in June. While staying in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, for a sport history conference, I took my free Sunday afternoon (and my not-so-free… Read More ›


What to do when you move to a new place and decide against keeping cable? Any number of things spring to mind: Take long, humid evening walks, listening to crickets and sniffing the local flora. Take up gardening. Perfect your Jack and Coke ratio. Or, you could decide to listen to your entire vinyl LP… Read More ›


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