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All content copyright 2009 by Holly Gleason. Web design by Lauren Carelli.

December 2004

December 2004: Gwen Stefani, Long Winter Coats, John Leland’s Hip & the Unthinkable

Thanksgiving Leftovers/Real Mayonnaise

Turkey. A day or two old—the carcass that conveys the memories of the gathering of loved ones to celebrate the bounty of our lives. On a yeast roll perhaps. Or maybe Pepperidge Farm classic white. Or some high-priced uptown bakery multi-grain. But whatever it is—you slather on the real live Hellmans, add a little lettuce or cranberry sauce or stuffing, and it’s a second feast perhaps even more soul-stirring than the first.


Ume Plum Paste

When you’re run down, running too hot, too fast, too much, a pea-sized bit of ume plum paste dissolved in hot water restores one’s pH balance, creates an inner web of stroic resolve and keeps the train on the tracks. Not a miracle cure by any stretch, but the oddly earthy/salty/sweet paste gives one the sense of well-being even as it’s being swallowed by the steaming mouthful. Perhaps not something to drink for pleasure, it’s the kind of necessity that’s way saavy.


The Algonquin—44th between 5th and 6th, New York, NY

Ahhh, the heavy wood paneling, the painted ceilings, the energy that is the free-floating spirit of some of this nation’s greatest wits. Even if Dorothy Parker & Co. had not held court in the formal dining room, overstuffed lobby with its bric-a-brac and wonderful upholstery and aged leather, it would still be a fitting monument to classic Manhattan. Feel a little more worldly, a little bit more elegant, a little more rooted in something that has roots—and who knows? Maybe a bon mots or two might even roll from your pursed lips.

Love, Angel, Music, Baby—Gwen Stefani (Interscope)

The ultimate hip-hop/disco/test-tube baby, Miss Stefani steps out with solo debut featuring a dream crew straight out of the modern pop’n'urban jungle for a record that’s as effervescent and intoxicating as the hiccupping little girl voice our peroxide princess flexes with utter exhilaration. Whether matching with Andre 3000 for some verbal tittering on “Long Way To Go,” enlisting Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis for the kabuki dancentric “Harajuku Girls,” the Neptunes staccato/cheerleading pound-down groove “Hollaback Girls,” Johnny Vulture’s giggling come-n-get me feminine mystique “Tonight’s The Night” recasting “Bubble Pop Electric,” or former beau/equal dancemonger Tony Kanahl for “Crash,” the lush Dallas Austin-crafted pick-up-tears and accept the future of over “Cool,” the waifdiva leaves no doubt who’s in control of the dance floor!

Rosenblum’s Late Harvest Zinfindel

It’s like a port—only not infused with brandy. It’s a deep, sweet wine that’s not cloying, just sink-into-the-cushions-sumptuous. Not thick, either, or teeth-coating. The kind of wine that caps an evening with a quiet round note of fruit, fragrance and enough satisfaction that it can match a desert or stand alone, but make one feel sweetly resolved.

Fresh Spa Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas

All their ingredients smell good and feel better. The aestheticians are as much about making you relax as bringing your flesh to a higher plane. And the options are incredible. But the best part of the Fresh Spa is that the fees are redeemable in products—making taking advantage of what you’ve had done a matter of course rather than financial double jeopardy.Outposts in L.A. and N.Y.C., too.


Hip—John Leland

The New York Times cultural critic—and an early editor at both Spin and Vibe, in addition to Newsweek—takes an overview of the reality of hipness. What emerges is sociology, personal musing and more than a lot of insight. The perfect Christmas gift for anyone you know who thinks they are—or who wonders just what it is that sets the rarified few who truly embody the notion of hipness apart.

“Maria Full of Grace” Spectravision

If you’re in a hip hotel and have the opportunity to see this sub-titled Spanish language film that revolves around one young unmarried, pregnant girl scrabbling beneath the poverty line’s courage to survive, do. Maria recognizes the wall she’s faced with, becomes a mule, faces horrors far beyond getting busted, then victimized by the very drug traffickers she’s working for—and somewhere between scared to death and the adrenalin rush of “must get through” transforms into an adult who can face anything. A profile in a whole other kind of courage, because for all the terror, horror and dead-ends, Maria never loses her grace.

Crispy Gnocchi  9 Palms Hotel, Las Vegas

Potato dumplings—just fork sized—quickly sautéed in olive oil. What you end up with is light and chewy on the inside, golden brown and crispy on the outside. A side order is a perfect single serving for a light appetite with a salad or appetizer for the big eater. And dressed in a cream/white truffle sauce that’s neither too rich nor too pasty, the counterpoint only emphasizes the comforting simplicity of the gnocchi’s goodness.


Elyptical Machines

Easier on the knees. Harder on the breathing. Until one gets the knack, you’re as graceful as a stork with an erector set. But when it all finally comes together, it’s a work-out that will bust your butt, burn those calories and improve your balance. Sweating is a given. But building up your stamina is the first line by-product of making the commitment—and isn’t that the point of aerobic activity? Especially finding something that works your upper body at the same time?


Melodie Cannon (Skaggs Family Records)

Her voice is rich earth, fecund and a little smoky. Somewhere between Patty Loveless and Shelby Lynn, though not so insistent. Melodie Cannon offers fairly austere bluegrass with songs that do the lifting, living to do the informing and a willingness to not try so hard to convince us that the searing “Whiskey Lullabye” (already a hit for Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss) is a tragedy of lives falling through each other’s fingers, or that sense of gone that is the quick-picking “Westbound Trains.” Given that it’s Skaggs Family, you know the quality is there. Given that it’s a debut artist, digging a little deeper may be required, but the jewels that’re unearthed—garnets and amber, amethysts and emeralds—are treasures of the human condition. Produced by Buddy Cannon—known for his work with Kenny Chesney—and bluegrass icon Ronnie Bowman (The Lonesome River Band), there is room to breathe and sigh and cry.


Kabalah Candles

Save yourself from the Madonna/Gwyneth/et al mumbo jumbo. From the 
good folks at Slatkin & Co, who did C.Z. Guest’s two incredible fresh garden 
candles, each Kabalah Candle comes in a red tin container and boasts one of 5 different properties. There’s Safety From The Evil Eye, Sexual Energy, Happiness, Dreamstate and Spiritual Cleansing—and even if you don’t believe in what the properties they claim to impact, they smell pretty great. So don’t hate them ‘cause they’re linked to a religious movement du jour, savor them because they know how to intoxicate your senses.

Precious—Melanie Dunnea + Nigel Perry

What part of your body do you value most? And just as importantly, why? When you’re celebrated celebrity portraitists Melanie Dunea and Nigel Perry, you can pose that question a wondrous array of people—from Susan Sarandon to Johnny Depp, chef Mario Battalia to Meg Ryan to skateboarder Tony Hawke—and what they offer up might surprise you. Benefiting the Starlight Foundation, it will inspire excellence inward and out from your coffee table.


Tocca Extra Rich Body Cream

One of those thick, decadent utterly rich creams that you put on, let it sink in and experience how your skin was fresh from the womb. No matter how dry, how parched, how gnarly, the Tocca body cream in the old school jar will hydrate and celebrate the flesh that covers your nerves, muscle, sinew and soul. And the Cleopatra scent is a dizzying mix of cucumbers and grapefruit, making for a clean lush eau de you.


New Eyes

To go somewhere you’ve been too many times with someone who’s never been there is to experience the wonder that captured your imagination in the beginning. To take something that’s old hat and reinvigorate it with sparkle and magic is as simple as dragging someone with fresh eyes along, to see them swallow whole things that have become a given is its own wondrous alchemy; and it also opens up a portal of bonding where a transfer of joy is applied in the truest of all measures: friendship.

www.mcsweeneys.com

Days of actual martini dry wit are about as common as the T-Rex—though the mondo-dino’s brain could arguably have been bigger—so McSweeneys InternetTendency, which promises “Blind Bastard Child Will Be President One Day” is a Roquefort stuffed olive in the stirred, not shaken martini of life. With Dave Eggers, Ann Vogel, Andy Richter, B.R. Cohn, Richard Allison and Brian Bieber among the contributors and essays with titles like “Tales of Eroitica: Chuck Norris & Me,” “Winnie The Pooh Is My Co Worker,” “What Color Is Your Sippie Cup,” “Butterball Hotline,” “7 Questions for the Guitar Solo from ‘Stairway To Heaven’,” “Unfortunate Pinata Fillings,” “I Lost My Greeting Card Gig Because of My Drinking,” “Ike Turner’s Guide To Restoring America’s Honor” and “The Bible You Sold Me Is Clearly Defective and I’d Like To Return It, Please” explain everything. Read it and weep. With laughter.

Stanhope Hotel’s Rice Pudding

In a tall glass, with a long spoon, freshly whipped cream and a scooplet of homemade coconut ice milk. This is creamy dreamy cloudlike euphoria, light as you could imagine, slightly chewy from the rice and dotted with great big fat chewy raisins.

Casanova in Bolzano—Sandor Marai

The great lover meets the woman who will bring him to his knees. With a picaresque narrative, Marai—whose previous erotic-tinged fiction has earned critical praise—folds the story of one of fiction’s most colorful and imagination-capturing heroes into a cloak of humanity and celebration. For any man who’s had it all together always who ever loved a woman who was more than his match, this is a story with insight, wisdom and grace. For the rest of us, it’s one more opportunity to enjoy a playing field being leveled. Beautiful writing of a story that holds.


Long Winter Coats

Nothing is more romantic than almost sweeping the streets, winter coat flapping open or bundled shut, hands jammed in the pockets. It says “I can handle something this long and flowing,” implies mystery, evokes rogues and highwaymen and hidden contraband and treasure. A velvet collar and brass buttons heighten the effect, cowboy boots tweak it in a style-busting flourish and a scarf can be just so.


Origins Chocolate Bars

They’re an off-shoot of their Cocoa Therapy line, designed to marry girls’ great addiction to a skin regimen. But each high concentration real cocoa-laden bar also comes with herbal infusions to provide a broader function than merely sating a craving.. The “too-full tummy” bar is peppermint, basil and cardamom—known stomach-settlers, while the “help sweeten your sleep variety” boasts mandarin, lemon and chamomile, “brighten your spirit” is smacking laurel bay, pamarosa and cinnamon bark and “rev you up” is packing a quadruple KO of ginger, black pepper, bay and spruce. Heightening quality of life through chocolate—and they make cleansers, too! Whatta wonderful world this must be!


Prada Velvet Jeweled Shoes with the Arching Heels

Soft and lush. Sparkly and icy. The heels slope in, then arc out. Prada, who knows how to do decadence with soles better than anyone, more than delivers with these over the top high/thick-heeled mules and slingbacks. Wear a lobster bib if you decide to be bold and take them for a test stroll.


Hot Yoga (aka Bikram Yoga)

The temperatures push 100 (minimum) and you’re going to sweat buckets. But more than losing water weight, you’re going feel your muscles loosen up in ways mere exercise could never effect. And the warmer those muscles get, the deeper your ability to stretch—and the deeper you stretch, the more limber you will become. As an accelerated way to get in shape - just don’t get cocky and ignore your obvious physical limits—nothing beats it; and while you’re shedding toxins, you’re also releasing endorphins into parts of your muscles that normally don’t enjoy much flow. Even if you can’t human pretzel as you sit right now, fear not. A few sessions, some gentle stretching and your body will open up to you as if you were a 6 year old who could fall into the splits. Go at your own pace, find your own rhythm and get your range of motion back. In Nashville, the Hot Yoga Studio’s web site is: www.hotyoganashville.com

Fresh Rose Mask

Nothing is as yummy on your skin. Less sticky than honey, amber colored and soothing, Fresh’s Rose Mask gets gently rubbed on and begins infusing much needed moisture into your in-need-of-attention-skin. No matter what your deal is, this mask can be used 4-5 times a week, brings clarity and calm - along with hydration to the face’s most sensitive areas. Highly addictive, use at your own risk.


Jesse Kornbluth’s Mind

No mind is quicker, more culturally saturated or able to draw those connections with such lightning speed. And he’s got a laugh that savors all, a wonder that makes everything delightful and a gift for culling only the very best. A raconteur of the first order—those not only lucky enough to experience the sparkle firsthand need only go to www.swamiuptown.com to plug into a whole other way of looking at the world.


The Unthinkable

It’s not about wanting or even believing. It’s about the faith beyond words. 23 years ago, a friend had a wish that seemed ridiculous, he never gave up, he just accepted how it was. On December 16th, his wish not only comes true, it blows up in high style with big production and the joy of being at the peak of his wave. Another pal has had one love his entire adult life—and has spent the last several years whipsawed between her bad instincts and his blinding love; this Thanksgiving, it appears they’ve found the piece to bring them the peace of being connected. And then there’s the girl who finally realized that that boy who’s been in love with her and watched everything in her personal life crash into everything else might just be the one.
The unthinkable. Just because you’re not obsessing, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Just give it time and room and faith—and let nature deliver what it’s meant to.


Linda Clark’s Sailing The Greek Island/Bring Back the Pictures

The only thing headier than seeking out foreign places is reliving it with someone who just did. Not only do you get to see their actual pictures, you get to see the reflection of the moments beaming back at you from their shining eyes. For my dear Linda Clark, it was the Aegean Islands—where every shade of blue is just about retired because it’s so exquisite in that land of mythology and ancient history, there’s no reason to cast it in the dreary realm of our everyday life.


“Napoleon Dynamite” on DVD

Some things are even better in your living room. Coming of age the real way, geeky and proud and flying the flag of just who you are. Every young man I know younger than 25 is zealous in the affinity, everyone else is heartened by the story of an outsider fitting in. Delightful family viewing—that will be put on eternal return.


The Little Stuff Matters The Most—Bernie Brillstein


It’s easy to have a fantasy life about pushing buttons and people around while hiding behind the biggest acts in the business. But the reality is: the biggest acts usually don’t just happen, someone in the background who understands that small consistent plays yield long range results is aiding and abetting someone’s quest for the dream. Little Stuff is mondo-manager (Gilda, Belushi the Muppets, Lorne Michaels) and principle of Brillstein-Grey (“The Sopranos,” Brad Pitt, Jennifer Anniston, Nicholas Cage) Brillstein’s basic playbook. Learn the way of walking through this world—as much how-to as psychology of—and increase your chance of succeeding wherever, whatever your game. And at 165 undersized pages, it’s as easy to digest as breakfast at the Polo Lounge. Get it, apply it, see what happens.


Neon Mornings

You wake up in that strange no man’s hour when dawn isn’t yet a threat, yet the night is clearly over. You look out the window at the roads, almost barren, and the hotels still ablaze. Las Vegas never quite unplugs until it’s futile to keep burning the neon signposts—and as the black turns to purple, the fizzling light seems almost to grow brighter against the sky. To see where wild nights get vanquished by the power of nature, you just have to wake up on eastern time there in Sin City to understand where the real glory lies.


“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only 
thing.”  —Albert Schweitze

Do as I do, not as I say inverts the original parental cop-out. More importantly, it inspires us to live in a way that might inspire others without a word. We never know who may be watching, struggling, searching—and how our lives may impact theirs. It is the unrecognized moments that matter most; if we live according to Schweitzer’s tenet, we will most certainly leave the world and our fellow man much richer for having lived.


The Return of Real Country Songs

Start with Gretchen Wilson’s “When I Think About Cheating” and pour on the hair lacquer, Jungle Red polish and cheap champagne while back-combing your ‘do. Add in Lee Ann Womack’s string-soaked reality check “I May Hate Myself In The Morning (But I’m Gonna Love You Tonight).” Look to Terri Clark’s upcoming truth beyond the bottle recognition “I Wish It Were The Whiskey Talking.” Add it all up and classic traditional country ballads—with sobbing pools steel guitar and weeping fiddles—that careen between reckoning and responsibility seem to be heading for radio’s major arteries.

The Lost Appearing

Recently, a client decided to say my name on national television twice in 4 days. Aside from the grace of the communion of gratitude, it shook more people out of the bushes than I’d even realized I’d lost track of. Ex-fiancées and former attorneys and grade school classmates; in large part happy for the moment, thrilled to see dreams can come true, but also to remember how heady those moments were. In the aftermath of the “of course I remember,” it reminds me to be more careful about not losing track. After all, every person who meet is a treasure to make us richer—and who’s throw money or jewels away? You don’t do it cognitively, but the net result would be the same.

Spin, December

U2 on the cover, anchoring a pretty sweeping story of why personal at a time when you’d expect them to go global/political, further enhancing the humanity of the biggest band of right now—and littered with some very present, very human Norman Jean Roy shots of the band that match the desolate splendor normally crafted by the wondrous Anton Corbin. Plus, there’s a well-researched, way-deep examination of the last days and tortured life of depressive/gentle introspector/songwriter Elliot Smith and a pop-fly Q&A with Gwen Stefani on the brink of her solo album that’s just pure fun and candor. All the usual indie-cred mainstream cutting edge news, reviews and bands/games/culture you should know about it if you’re not creating the wave, but merely staying atop it. Well-written, beautifully shot, worth being up-to-speed on.