So plain. So perfect. One little string of plain brown wooden balls on elastic around my wrist. The notion that they’re from the Dalai Llama is wonderful, but even taking that away, the beauty in simplicity; the idea that they’re a gift from a dear friend who was thinking of me; the idea that something so basic is more than enough; are all powerful reminders about what really matters.
D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary about the spin machine inside the first Clinton/Gore campaign. All the heroism, all the mortality, all the churning stomach ups and downs that go into creating a perception, dealing with a reality that’s careening out of control and the gray areas in between. James Carville as an opinion shaping force of passion balanced by the ever cool, ever collected George Stephanopoulos as the even-keeled message precisionist are the pistons that power what is believed and cast off; and this is the moment where they emerge in all their defining glory. The story of a campaign, yes. But more importantly, it’s a playbook for how we come to see the message we take as the truth. So much brokered, bartered, marginalized or miscast to reinforce another perspective. For $9, it’s an education in mythology, sociology, government, media and human nature mastered and surrendered to.
Dark—almost black—Russian humor matched by shudderingly tender desire; those were the earmarks of rough’n'tumble troubadour Warren Zevon, the freak cousin of Southern California country/rock set. Enjoy Every Sandwich is an elegiac homage by way of Bruce Springsteen (his live “My Ride’s Here” alone is worth the price AND grounds Zevon’s importance), the Wallflowers (a charged “Lawyers, Gun & Money”), Don Henley (a rasta-tinged “Searching for a Heart”), Steve Earle (a raggedy resigned plea “Reconsider Me”), compadres David Lindley and Jackson Browne pair with Ry Cooder and Bonnie Raitt respectively (the Nawlins’ reelin’ “Monkey Wash, Donkey Rinse” and reggae-leaning “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”) and Bob Dylan (the rigidly roguish stoic “Mutineer”). But it’s the recountings that measure the man best. Son Jordan Zevon delivers a flat read of “Studebaker,” Billy Bob Thornton embraces “The Wind,” while Pete Yorn’s “Splendid Isolation” juxtaposes as it supposes the reality is what’s needed. Jill Sobule brings a gentle benediction of “Don’t Let Us Get Sick”—an apt benediction for a man who died of lung cancer and longtime collaborator/producer Jorge Calderon is joined by Jennifer Warnes for a fitting closing track: “Keep Me In Your Heart.” These 14 tracks provide permanent residency for as long as anyone cares to care.
From the people who brought you Curiously Strong Mints, now comes chewing gum. Very streamlined, spaceship looking pieces of gum that open the pores, clear the sinuses and freshen the breath post-snacks—and give you a burst of energy in the middle of those seriously long or dreary afternoons.
Who knows? The Great Pumpkin may just be waiting. Regardless, pumpkin patches across the country are putting up signs to “pick your own.” What could be more fun than romping through the vines, comparing one candidate against another, deciding about each pumpkin’s personality, then deciding this is the one that embodies your crew’s reality? Not exactly rolling by the grocery store, and yet so much closer to the source.
No matter how good a job your mother did, this slightly larger than paperbook volume offers gentle nurturing common sense advice that heightens kindness to oneself and others. There’s a grace to the way Stoddard suggests nurturing one’s being, even as it offers ways to navigate the world, other’s feelings and leading a complete life. With subject lines like “Don’t Save The Best For Last,” “Listen To The Wisdom of Your Body,” “Don’t See People For How They Could Be, But How They Really Are” and “Living Takes Time,” you have the sense of what’s going on here—and with the same understated elegance merged with comfort that marks her interior designing. Things crafts a worldview that draws heavily on that same sensibility.
One more hippy, witchy cure that is so simple, it works. As the tightness and throbbing begin to descend, get a small dish, a cottonball or a light bulb diffuser—and liberally shake some basil oil into it. Breathe deeply, counting to at least 8 and then exhale to 12 if you can make it. Give that a few moments, and be shocked as suddenly the oncoming freight train of pain has receded, leaving you perhaps a bit fatigued, but ultimately free of the headache that was destined to take you down.
A multi-faceted examination of cover subject Johnny Cash—along with a bonus CD of Johnny Cash covered that includes Steve Earle’s “Hardin Wouldn’t Run,” Waylon Jennings’ “Folsom Prison Blues,” Shelby Lynne’s “I Walk The Line” and Nick Cave & The Bad Seed’s “The Singer.’ Whether it’s the Dylan/Cash dynamic, the amazing love affair with June Carter, the troubled years or a strong overview of the career, British music magazine Mojo embraces the Man in Black and does it right. In addition, they give punk catalysts the Ramones the same multi-artist, various perspective treatment on the heels of Johnny Ramone’s death—offering a perspective on a band that was never as successful as they were notorious that grounds their tremendous impact by way of the Phil Spector End of the Century sessions, Johnny’s last (brutally candid) interview, the early days and the essential releases. Maybe the best pure magazine magazine since Crawdaddy—and that’s saying something.
If the notion that ownership isn’t a permanent state of being makes sense, then pass on the things whose time has past. And those things that you love especially are the most smile-inducing when you see the smile they evoke in others. Giving something you love to someone you love is exponentiating the goodness life’s given you. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
Swampy, phonkee, gritty, down home, fetid, hilarious and the same kind of wring the last drop of soulful that makes John Hiatt so stupefying. The son of a holy roller, there’s something sacred about his secularity that proves the spirit moves in all kinds of crazy ways—and takes a seriously warped worldview that is as extreme as it is stunning to bring it home. And for all the risibility, don’t miss the deep-seated sense of the human heart, hurt and healing that infuses his serious songs: this is a romantic old soul that understands steamy B-3 rising up from the mix, a well-placed guitar filigree or the wobbly edges of an extra fat bassline speak a language far beyond language. With a voice like flannel washed til there are bare spots, this is as comfortable, as downhome, as well lived as it gets. And nobody sports a metallic pink dress shirt and matching tie with such insouciance, which tells you everything you need to know about his ability to take the extreme and make it one more moment in a life of such moments.
3 a.m. Absolute crap food. No real value. And yet—
The futile reality of it all. A couple generations and no one will remember, let alone know. But a great song, a classic performance is etched across time forever. You can’t undo it, you can’t undermine it. You can only send those melodic flows, that well-turned lyric or utterly captured moment/emotion into the world, and see what happens. Because for as much as Rick James’ high living eclipsed his music, you can bet “Superfreak” will a song that lasts long after people forget his name. And so it goes for too many recordings to consider. It also gives the creatives an unspoken bar to clear.
A Valentine to Latin America, shot with such love for the natural backdrops that you get drawn into the beauty of a land that is our spiritual cousin, yet light years away from the way we’ve developed our America. Capturing the pivotal road trip across South America that helped galvanize noted revolutionary/insurrectionist Che Guevera’s populist sensibility, the crystallization of a man of the people is deftly balanced with the natural sparring of a 23-year old medical student being shown the world by his older best friend. And that’s what this is at its soul: a best buddies road trip movie that merges On The Road with “Easy Rider” with references to (Gabriel Garcia) Lorca and (Pablo) Neruda. Subtitled, but almost unnecessary as the sweeping camera work and attention to facial expression and detail tell the story beyond the dialogue. Visual poetry, the tableaus of the human soul and the inequities of lives never noted.
There’s something about the way Italians do soda. So intense, so jam-packed with flavor, so effervescent without being one giant bubble waiting to create new dimensions in your stomach. There is nothing more thirst-quenching, more cosmopolitan feeling than Italian soda, especially the citrus flavors - and the folks at Wild Oats have figured out how to recreate this gleeful mix at a price that makes it the kind of luxury that is a stretch not stupid. So go ahead and indulge.
What could be an odder pairing? And how would someone think of THAT? Yet, the staff at F. Scotts here in Nashville came up with the improbably combination, one that adds crunch to the deep purple vegetable, brings a whole other set of tastes to the table and gives you a reason to torment your friends with a faux adventurousness - because really, HOW daring are beets? Served in a salad of dressed watercress, it is unexpected, delightful and very, VERY good for you.
Out in the middle of a playground. The moon high, the mist rolling in. You have no age, just that free “wheeeeeee!!!” feeling that comes from the momentum of swinging back and forth. Right now, the air is just crisp enough to put you back in your own school days, bundled up in a heavy sweater, feeling the delicate moisture of the night settling on your skin as you sail back and forth like you can soar on your seat of wood and handles of chain. Everyone should do this once, or twice, a season. It loosens the linear, reminds you about the thrill of blood rushing through your veins and the timelessness of the things that define real joy.
The closest thing our generation has to a Lester Bangs, Klosterman’s Sex & Drugs & Cocoa Puffs was a manic rant about everything anyone who’s ever loved rock & roll might consider. Once a month, Klosterman tees it up and hits it long in the pages of Rolling Stone alternative Spin. Off the leash, Klosterman advances some pretty crazy theories, like the notion of the great dinosaur bands harvesting the songs of the wanna be new generation, and the young bands being tagged derivative rising to the challenge of writing new songs that sound as if they should’ve been from their influences’ glory era.
Once upon a time, a gingerhaired boy who played the dobro like lightning came to Nashville. . . and charmed everyone with his Dennis the Menace innocence. Time sweeps away, and the next thing you know, the boy’s become a man—and he’s legal and everything. Watching someone this talented come of age is inspiring, humbling and celebratory. And it reminds you the importance of milestones.
Quiet notes that drop like rain on water. An exhaled vocal that is inhaled desire spent. A ruminative meditation over what was so perfect, so easy, so just as it was supposed to be. Images fall and circle, memories of the gentle nature of ordinary that coaxes connections that move through your veins like morphine and adrenaline. Naked, vulnerable, present: there is no higher grade of eroticism. From Chesney’s “island record,” more a singer/songwriter celebration of a man finding his true essence in a steamy, humid place where the pace if slow enough for self-discovery than a blender-n-rum frothtail that is machined exuberance in the name of rum’n'tequila’n'memory/sunblock on the lam. Be As Your Are: Songs From An Old Blue Chair drops Jan. 25—but I’ll be haunted by this wistful hymn of spent sensuality throughout the fall.
No drama. No blame. No nothing. The however doesn’t matter. Nor the why. Sometimes not deconstructing is the answer; you lose time and ground, add stress, tie yourself in knots, but nothing can be done to change the reality you’re working with. Or as my father used to say. “It doesn’t matter; you’re in the sand trap now. Where you lie is where it is, and the next shot’s gonna have to come from there.”
A boutique devoted to funding the fight against breast cancer; non-essential, but every day accessories that come in two shades of pink, white and often black. We’re talking ball caps, boggins, scarves, tote bags, plus a leather bound journal, a beaded coin purse in concentric circles, the same idea applied to votive candle holders. It all comes together under the tagline: “Share Beauty, Spread Hope.” Amen.
Very clear: transparent. Whether it’s how you talk or what you’re looking into, it’s worth striving for.
Crunchy, yummy snack food. Just the nip when you’re looking for something that has some spark to it. Bite down, feel the bite of the hot Japanese mustard. Not so carb heavy and big on flavor, making a little bit of the wasabi peas go a long loooong way.
Though a brilliant guitarist who can etch with single notes and the amplitude of how they leave his instrument, the Dire Straits catalyst is an equally adept lyricist who draws moments, the tension of desire and desolation with a deft hand. His voice may be an old barn with a hint of tentative resignation, but he’s willing to walk through any emotion: joy, sorrow, want, bitterness, vulnerability. This is one of his more whispered efforts, but one that bobs and darts on shifting rhythmic tides with surrender as the songs move from the taut “sucker row,” the sweetheart tender “you’re all that matters” and the foreboding swagger of “song for sonny liston,” which credits nick tosches’ book about the prize fighter for inspiration.
Innocence. Hope. Ambition within reason. Tiaras. There’s something wide-open about the notion of small town girls being crowned, wearing sashes and waving at the community of familiar faces who’ve crowned her for that moment, that event, that town/county/whatever. With Miss America not having a television network to call home, the playing field is leveled—and the Miss Agriculture or Junior Senior Babydoll achieves a poignance to a time worth preserving.
Tender, deep, insightful, illumination, warm, wonderful - “Beautiful Dreamer” was writer/producer David Leaf’s labor of love, and it shows in every set-up, every transition, every time someone speaks. Smile was the mythic masterwork of Southern Calfornia surf’n'cars’girls guru Brian Wilson, the creative force behind the Beachboys molten golden sunshine and steep harmonies visionary. Yes, it felt good. But more importantly, the deeper you went into Wilson’s arrangements, the more musical nuggets, complexities and wells you’d find. Leaf shows you the why and what that went into it—and Smile more than delivers on the decades of hype. To put it on, to lie back, to close your eyes and to drift out on all those lapping waves of melody, harmony, lush arrangements and simple truths is to surrender to music at its purest. A 1, 2 punch of shimmering delight—even in the places where your heart breaks for both the agony and the beauty. A must seek for anyone who ever wonder what the hype was all about, because one viewing, one listen eradicates any sense of hyperbole in the name of a high communion of pop culture at the altar of elevated expression.
In Nashville, you can vote up until Oct. 28. Lots of locations, no lines. Wherever you are, check it out.
Yes, the recipe for Upsidedown Frozen Hot Chocolate is contained within—along with all their other crazy frozen slushy desert things. But what’s even better is every variation of desert—rendered in its most decadent, but executable form—right down to the most amazing chocolate buttermilk cake I’ve ever eaten [ironically at a kitchen table in a private home in Southern Pines, North Carolina]. New York’s Upper East Side at its finest—pink and white, home to celebs, including the late pop culture icon Andy Warhol who once paid his tab with drawings—right in the privacy and comfort of your own home.
Close your eyes. You can picture it in your mind. That golden lit from the inside out flash that is heaven outside in; and when it happens, you feel warm and calm and thrilled by the power of beauty and beauty of natural power.
Irony backed with ecstasy. For Marshall Mathers, it’s a flow-blown skewer fest, wide open mocking of celebrity culture with less-than-celebratory portrayals of Michael Jackson, Madonna, and even his own “8 Mile” hero during the clip. And just when the pressure seems about the burst, he hits the chorus, draws in some civilian contribution—and ejects the tension with the kind of catharsis that delivers. Given Miss Spears’ residence in the gossip columns, she might as well stick her thumb right on the sore spot—and press down. She does, too, writhing through too many sexually challenging scenarios to not force people to reconsider the realm of human capability and endurance. It’s a siren’s “if this is what you want, here you go” call, and for all but the most pervy makes the point in pretty direct fashion.
Cranky skin will be soothed and smoothed with this quick absorbing lotion. If you have the tendency to be cranky and dry, this is the answer to your mad desires—and at drug store prices. It just doesn’t get any better.
In the end, life is not a competition, it’s about how far can we take what we’re given. Knowing one’s capabilities and capacities allows you the thrill of pushing farther than you have, the ability to achieve dreams - and to seek new horizons. If we start with our own sense of what we’re able to do, truly embracing our natural talents and fountains of passion, then move beyond that, what more could we possibly want or hope for? And why would we want to?
Mark Kemp’s book is called Dixie Lullabye. If you’re trying to Amazon, this’ll help. The always amazing Hazel Smith passes on: If you’re going to make your own turnip greens, add a pinch of soda to the water - It’ll remove the bitterness, which you can’t cook out.