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

February 2008

February 2008: The Valentine’s Pre-Game

Julia Candle Calypso

Three wicks in heavenly scented soy wax, the simple squat glass circle rising almost four inches. It throws more light than you could imagine, and the odor - an intoxicating mix of sage, pine needles and cedar - is fresh, engaging, everything you’d want to come home to.

Bruce Springsteen “Classic 60 Minutes,” VH1 Classic

He is the poet laureate of working people, struggling people, marginalized people, real people - and with a bold heart and a blond Telecaster, he created a surging ’60s-steeped rock that rose from the discarded American rustbelt and Northeast to give heroism to the have-nots, the getting-bys and the anything-but-rich. In that rush of how-it-is Bruce Springsteen created a compelling modern musical take on our nation - and gave an awful lot of people something to believe in.

“60 Minutes” with their always unprecedented access, the ability to not just ask the hard questions, but production talent to weave those answers into truly revealing narratives that show where and how and why rather than tell not only expands their 11 minute network piece here, they reprise Ed Bradley’s original profile, done at a time when Springsteen had wandered into the wilderness alone to sort, to consider, to find his own way musically. It is a lot to take in, and yet… manageably handled, it covers the shifts, the reasons, the lessons and gives us the portrait of a legend who is still the best of what being a man should be.

An ongoing collaboration, watch for these shows on VH-1 Classic. For fans or merely people barely aware of the culture, it will draw you in, increase your understanding, inspire you to believe.

A Chant To Soothe Wild Elephants: A Memoir Jaed Coffin

Half-Thai, half-American, Jaed Coffin spent his youth visiting his mother’s homeland, but was raised in the U.S. where his cultural grounding didn’t quite straddle nor settle. During his stint at Middlebury College, the young man — whose last meaningful trip to Thailand was for his grandfather’s cremation and funeral ceremony at the Buddhist Temple - feels the tug to become an ordained Buddhist Monk and explore the spiritual grounding of his other birthrite.

What follows is a beautifully detailed, emotionally searching journey through a culture, a religion and one young man’s coming of age against an ancient faith that is grounded in peace, discipline and nonjudgement. His evolution, acceptance, conflicts and ability to put you in moments give this book a weightlessness with temerity that opens your thinking even as it takes you to a far more exotic place. A vacation, a soul-stir, a postcard from a whole other way of thinking…

http://www.amazon.com/Chant-Soothe-Wild-Elephants/dp/0306815265

Scarves as Headbands

Sure you can tie them around your neck, wrap them around your wrist, even use a large enough one as a tres chic sling, but this is as easy as it gets - and adds a certain panache to your hair, whether it’s long or short. Fold your scarf into a triangle, then begin folding from the single tip to the straight line in inch of inch-and-a-half sections until you’ve got a band.

Put it across the top of your head, bring the ends together, tie in a knot and let then ends dangle with a carefree jauntiness. Whether Hermes Classic, Vera Bradley modern paisley, Lilly Pulitzer’s Breast Cancer bouquets (actually oblong and ready for tying), some cotton batik Morocco find or homestyle bandana, the choice - and it’s implied expression your’s.

Geek

Ground zero for those people who are just smarter than we are… the ones obsessed by computers, science fiction, certain goth girls, bands that are quirky in a whole other way. This is geek life, and now there is a magazine dedicated just to them and what they like. Ingenius really: reviews of new computer games, clothes, films, books, music, destinations - and profiles of the uberGeeks who define the reality. Tim Burton, Rob Zombie, Tina Fey, Jorge Garcia, Tomb Raider, Tori Amos, Mars Volta… You get the idea, not get the magazine. All your pocket liner friends will appreciate you for it.

June Soundtrack Various

Quirky, adorable DIY word tangles - grounded in part in Moldy Peaches’ idiosyncratic “Anyone Else But You,” also sung by the movie’s Ellen Page and her d’amour Michael Cera. But it is Moldy Peaches’ Kimya Dawson who provides much of soundtrack in a small voice that takes the details and braids them into a perfect reflection of Juno’s psyche, like “Loose Lips,” which tackles IMing, self-mutillation, Bush impuging (with the ultimate expletive deleted) and the hilarious “Tree Hugger.”

The rest is balanced with tracks from the Kinks (“A Well Respected Man”), Belle & Sebastian (“Piazza, New York Catcher,” “Expecttations”), Mott the Hoople (“All The Young Dudes”), Cat Power (“Sea of Love”), Buddy Holly (“Dearest”), the Velvet Underground (“I’m Sticking With You”) and Sonic Youth (the Carpenters’ “Superstar”) to make an eclectic collection of songs that reflect the singular heroine of the quadruple Oscar nominated film.

“Broken English”  DVD

Parker Posey playing another lovable real girl caught in the cracks of how it is, being crushed the expectations of how it should be… 30 with a good job that bores her, no prospects and everyone around her settling down, Zoe Cassavetes directs a warm, toe-stubbing tale of too many bad dates, life with the best friend who’s half of a perfect couple and the urban reality that is a vortex swallows her hole. Until a very random meeting with a gorgeous Frenchman who is patient and willing… and gone.

Gena Rowlands as the concerned mother is charmingly smothering. Drea de Matteo as the best friend willing to fly off to Paris to find a man in the City of Lights with only meager leads - and who finds her own crisis of faith in the process is go-girl life support. But it isTim Guinee as the unlikely romantic foil who comes, charms, melts the resistance and then returns to his own country who brings not just Parker but the film alive. A smart indie film that is both romantic comedy, character study and downtown fairy tale.

Costa Rican Pineapple, Fizzy Lizzy

There is nothing to this except carbonated water and pineapple. Consequently, it is not nearly as sweet as commercial sodas or fruit. Nor is it hypercarbonated. Think of the effervescence (or rather lack of) as the equivalent of ice in a Coke in Europe - only this shift actually works. Because once the taste in its purest form stops being strange, it is not just refreshing, it engages you on a whole other level of essentiality. This is what fresh pineapple tastes like - in a much lighter, more quenching mode.

www.fizzylizzy.com

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter” Martin Luther Kin

It is so easy not to make waves, to pretend we don’t know. It is simple to just do our job, go home and say “it’s not my problem.” We live in a world of not wanting any trouble, of it being someone else’s deal. And yet, how can we believe in ourselves if we allow the things we know our wrong to continue. Is it a workmate saying something overly sexual to a coworker? Or someone knowingly not paying another what their worth? Is it a group of kids bullying another - but not your child? Is it hazing someone for being different - or making the judgements without finding out?

It is so easy to speak up gently, to raise the question, to suggest there might be another way. This isn’t about crusading, being strident, but introducing another way of addressing the issue, considering the difficulty, honoring those who might be able to be heard on their own. It is everything Dr. King’s dream was truly made of.

Increments

It’s not about the big leap, but the small steps that add up. Whatever it is you need to do, if you take it in pieces, apply patience, in a matter of time, it’s done. In our instant gratification world, where we want it all Right NOW, it’s easy to loose perspective on the accumulated achievement. But it is by building on where you are, slow progress that keeps moving forward that the impossible can happen.

Be satisfied with pushing your capabilities just a little. Next thing you know, you’re in a whole new league.

Third Rail: The Poetry of Rock & Roll edited by Jonathan Wells

A hodge podge of free verse. Inspired by songs, artists, concerts, attitudes. A fistful of images, moments, realizations strung from the ultimate pop culture thrust. Rock & roll forces you to feel, hurls you against the crux of the moment, releases the most primal of notions. Third Rail finds some of the world’s great contemporary poets capturing those sensations like butterflies in a net or fireflies in jar, weaving their own loose mesh of words to explain the undefinable.

All do not work, but they’re admirable in their grasping. Bob Marley. Guns N Roses. Janis Joplin. Elvis. Cher. Mick Jagger. Lou Reed. John Lennon. Even Whitesnake. It is disco. It is punk. It is the slashing lashing notion of the release music confers… and in the hands of Rita Dove, Josh Bell, Billy Collins, Philip Larkin, Allen Ginsberg, Yusef Komuniakaa, Paul Muldoon, it shifts form and often rises.

Scrimshaw Bangles www.jessicakagancushman.com

Made from resin - no walruses or elephants harmed!!! - these plucky little bangles capture moods and moments with a few quick words. “Lions & Tigers & Bears… Oh, MY!,” “Truly fabulous people never get dressed before lunch,” or “Fashion can be bought. Style must be possessed,” this is an offbeat luxury that’s as bohemian as it is chic.

Working a steady stream of “Wizard of Oz”isms, as well as classic movie lines, the random Winston Churchill, a few iconic declarations and scattered tv hooks, Jessica Kagan Cushman has created a way of punctuating the moment without ever saying a word. Personally, anyone who etches Courtney Love’s brazen yowl, “I wanna be the girl with the most cake…” is my kind of fashionista’s revenge.

Inverted Lake Pose

Think of it as turbo-Legs-Up-The-Wall pose. A bolster - or a couple pillows with enough body to not just collapse - gets placed against the seam between the wall and the floor. Sit sidesaddle and slowly lean down as you sweep your legs up and across, like a clock’s hands moving backwards. Settle in, spine straight, legs passively reaching up the wall. Hands at side or outreached. Eye pillow or not. Then breathe: slowly, deeply, completely. Experience your body completely at rest, feel the energy returning to your core. Simple, easy, enriching. To be calm and energized in a matter of 5 minutes - or as long as you can give to it.

Local candy bars

It is fresher. More personal. Idaho has the Idaho Spud Bar. Nashville has the GooGoo Cluster variations. Minnesota has the Nut Goodie (my personal favorite). Variations on milk chocolate, caramel, peanuts, marshmellow. They are humble, yet they melt in your mouth without the waxyness that defines modern mass consumption chocolate bars. As I travel I try to seek them out now, they are a wholly rewarding experience when you just need enough energy to tide you over til the next flight gets in.

Love Is NOT Brokered Extortion

According to FTD and Hallmark, as well as several overbooked, highly stressed restaurants with set menus, you don’t love if you don’t come across with some tactile exhibit of your amour. And yet, will the flowers be just as pretty in a week or two? The card that arrives just because less potent? Or the meal grabbed just to celebrate the way you look reflected in the other’s eyes?

That is the measure of true love. It’s not about inflated prices or an external arbitrary measure of emotion. Write a note. Draw a bath. Wink and promise there’s better where that came from. Because expressions that come without an expectational gun (and surtax) to your head is perhaps the most meaningful of all.

Down Blankets

No thicker than a traditional woolen blanket. Mine is raw silk, sewn with rectangular pockets to keep the feathers from shifting too aggressively and becoming lumpy. It is lighter than a wool blanket, yet it contains your body heat and keeps you warm in the chill of the evening. An absolute nocturnal revoluton.

Chateau Beauchene Premier Terroir 2004 Cote du Rhone

It is earthy, all like all grand reds. But it has the dust of the ages to it, and a sparkling sense of the light that has baked those vines and urged the fruit to come forth in its measured sweetness. Chateau Beauchene has a broad flavor, something that almost spreads out across your tongue and warms your body as it makes its way to your stomach.

A wine to make you consider the journey to this glass, this moment, these people you are with. Contemplative is normally for monks and poets, but halfway through your first glass of this beautiful deep red vintage, you will find yourself relaxing, drifting through the path you’ve followed and marveling at what you’ve accomplished.

www.chateaubeauchene.com

Tokyo, Oklahoma, All The People Are Talkin, Country Fried, Eye of a Hurricane

Just Came Home To Count The Memories, John Anderson

He has the voice of a chainsaw, growling and gravelling and churning up serious emotions without pondreing them. Back in the ’80s, John Anderson was the progressive traditionalist’s juke box hero - a guy who could sound equally at home in lush Billy Sherrill-style productions, tragic traditional folk songs and brazen r&b - and that foreward thinking vexed the establishment in a way that confounded his true ascendence.

A favorite of LA punk icon band X’s Exene Cervenka and John Doe, Anderson’s full-throttle attack on a song was primal, yet honed in on the emotional bulls-eye. Whether it was the funkily odd “Tokyo, Oklahoma,” a spine-melting take on Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love,” a hushed read of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” or the revved up bar room swagger of “Black Sheep,” Anderson could turn the songs inside out and leave people stunned by his controlled intensity. Anyone who thinks they like neon and Wurltizer jukeboxes needs to check out these missed classic recently reissued CDs.

The Return of J. Peterman

It was a place of whimsy, fancy, elegance. Lexington, Kentucky’s J. Peterman catalogue offered clothes from more refined, very exotic times and places. Flappers dressers and caftans, flyer’s jackets and striped nautical shirts. They evoked Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Kundera, Dinesen - and they put the whole jumble mess together in a way that made the wordly accessible.

For men, it was herringbone tweed pants and Gatsby or French farmers shirts. For women, floral dressed that tumble to the ground in weightless chiffons and silks or clung to the body in thick silk velvet. They did hats. Rhinestone brooches. Perfect sunglasses. And then they were gone. Now, however, they are back… and the thrill is our’s for the ordering.

“27 Dresses”

It’s mostly in 2nd run houses now, and I almost didn’t bother. But “Gray’s Anatomy” star Katherine Heigl is adorable in the tale of the lovelorn beauty who is ever the bridesmaid, never the bride - 27 times over. And just when she’s got her game on to make her move on the great love of her life, her boss played by Ed Burns, her sister swoops in and unknowingly sweeps him away.

Think Gidget meets Audrey Hepburn in “Funny Face” meets “Pajama Game” vintage Doris Day. As an escapist eye candy romp of pretty clothes, lovely flowers, heart-warming lurch to some kind of happy-ending, not to mention romantic foil James Marsden, who is all that and then some. To drift away from reality, to believe that Cinderellas, especially long-suffering good girl models, get their man in the end, this is heartwarming in just the right way for the prolonged blah that is February.

www.Novelaction.com

A genius service in this go green age. When quality paperbacks start at $8 and hardcovers are a minimum of $22 (and often $30), for $25/year, you can join the world’s biggest book exchange. Pick what you want from a huge list. Mail in an equal number of the books you’re finished with. The day they’re received, out go the titles you’ve selected. Or you can preship your books… and they will hold your total on account for when you do select new titles.

The shipping is a flat — $4.80 for up to 6 pounds. They donate a portion of the proceeds to Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic - to make the gift of reading even more available. And they eradicate the problem of what to do with that big ol’ book that you’re the only one in your family who would ever bother to read it. Send it in, save a tree, get something else. Fast. Simple. Bulk mail easy.

Red Lavender Zhena’s Gypsy Tea

Organic, of course. South African Rooibos, long on antioxidants and a slightly pungent flavor, gives this tisane its deep scarlet color. Add in mellowing lavender, and you’ve got a cup of warmth that picks you up and mellows you out, giving you a complex drink that takes you to places anywhere but where you’re sitting. Worth seeking out…

http://secure.gypsytea.com

Pigeon on the Ledge

Just sitting there, looking in. Intently. Considering what I don’t know, and yet it is most certainly looking at me. How odd… to be of interest to this creature of wing, sitting on a not-really ledge in a four walled brick Manhattan construction conceit. Yet there he is, watching - turning his head if I do mine, and making me wonder just how I look when no one can see me.

WSM: Air Castle of the South Craig Havighurst

It could merely be considered an exhaustively researched history of one of America’s greatest radio institutions, charting the rise and erosion of a radio station that brought the cultural phenomenon of the Grand Ole Opry to countless homes, connecting people across the nation. But what journalist Craig Havighurst has produced is far more important: a sociological take on the well-off who view a responsibility to the communities they serve.

What emerges here is a dignified sense of reasonable profits, investing in the meaning of the institutions and creating something that enriches the world not just the stockholders. As an argument for a more gentile, less profitcentric get-mine-more-now business ethic, it is one of the most compelling books published this year - and worth reading not for its detailed historic take on the broadcasting business, country music’s means of exposure and well-turned character studies and interpersonal dynamics, but for what it says about the way this nation was and the erosion of what we’re becoming.

Dulce de Leche Brownies Sweet 16 Bakery, Nashville, TN

They are evil. They are wonderful. They are vicious. They are classic chocolate brownies with a hint of something (chili? cinnamon?) But what makes these bad boys lethal is what’s on top… A rich, thick layer of dulce de leche, a narcotic Latin substance of condensed and thickened sweetened milk. To hear it explained is to go, “eh…;” to take a bite is to have your tongue explode with the creamy sweetness and a million bullet trains hit your veins.

Maybe more lethal than Cuban coffee, but not quite as sweet and absolutely more cocoay delicious.

www.sweet16th.com

Computer Wipes

Moist towellettes. For your computer monitor. Rip open the handy tin foil envelope, and remove. Wipe away the grim, the finger prints, the dust… everything that makes you squint… without doing any damage to that sensitive screen. When you’r done, you can clean up the rest of your laptop - or PC - with a product formulated specifically for the high tech needs/issues. Portable. Quick. Easy. Cleanliness is next to cyberworldliness… or something like that.

“Yes We Can” Will.i.am, et al

It is not about who you’re endorsing, but empowering ourselves and each other. From the quick hit production Wll.i.am - of funkpop monoliths the Black Eyed Peas - this recasting of Barack Obama’s key speech reminds us that power is our’s to accept. Sure, he’s got a plethora of pretty creative forces (Herbie Hancock, Tatyana Ali, John Legend, Scarlett Johansson, Kareem Abdul Jabar, Kate Walsh, Adam Rodriguez, Amber Valetta and Nick Cannon, but it’s really about people embracing a few simple truths… because much of what made America great were small gestures by regular people, especially regular people banded together/

Whatever it is you believe, embrace it. Stand up. Be passionate and kind, but strong and true. The things that make this nation great… strong and vital. And this clip shows lean creativity charged through with the electric current of inspration.

Orange Bitters

Bitters splashed in club soda, twist or squeeze of lime is very grown-up in the most non-alcoholic way. Dry. Spicy, yet something more… It is a drink with honor without booze in a drinking establishment - and it is quaffable with the same earthy adult flavor. But it is so, well, dry… and once you know, so very always the same.

Perhaps not exactly exotic, but certainly more piquant, Orange Bitters enters the fray, obviously more citrus, but also a bit fuller in flavor. Every bit the dusty earthen notion of the mother elixir from which it varies, yet sunnier, lighter, a bit easier going down. To vary the theme, but maintain the dignity - and perhaps demonstrate some 360 awareness of your hipper than hip barkeep, the knowledge alone is worth the order.

Tres muy luxe

Beyond. The ultimate indulgence The most everything possible. Spanish and French and perfect.

Zelda Loves “Wimbledon”

Not the tennis matches, the movie. After 15 years, the wonder spaniel who has more than a passing resemblanee to “Almost Famous” Kate Hudson has decided that she quite fancies “Wimbledon.” Put on most DVDs and she wanders off, clearly bored, though she sometimes comes back… But put in the Kirsten Dunst whiz-kid-tennis-player romantic comedy, and Zelda curls right up besides you and practically purrs with pleasure.

Whether it’s the hot shot kid getting knocked out, the more adult player persevering, the notion of self-effacement in the face of love - or rather love actually persevering, it’s hard to tell. But for a hot blond who’s seen and done it all, there are very few things that can get her to settle down and stay there. “Wimbledon” is one of those very rare things.

Blueberry Nights Soundtrack Various

Norah Jones’ cinematic debut came quietly and disappeared, but in the wisp of song it left in its wake is a soundtrack that elegantly melts time into a seamless mix of classic Otis Reddging (“Try A Little Tenderness”) and Ruth Brown (“Looking Back”) with modern roots/jazz/songwriters like Amos Lee (“Skipping Stone”) and Cassandra Wilson (Neil Young’s pining “Harvest Moon”). Just as importantly, it merges iconoclastic excavators like Ry Cooder (“Bus Ride” and “Eli Nevada”) with cut’n’pasters like Cat Power (“Living Proof” and “Greatest”) without dropping a beat.

Old chestunts get modern archivism (Devil’s Highway’s haunted “Wayfaring Stranger”), while standard-setters seek afresh (Mavis Staples’ “Eye On The Prize”). It is a funky, dusty, swampy gumbo with reverb, shuffling beats dragging vocals - and Jones’ languorously elegant opening track “Story” shining beyond place or era. Soul-sustaining, smart and a little raw, it’s a song cycle worthy on its own.

The extra day

Maybe it’s the onset of wisdom… Perhaps it’s the notion of enough is enough… Then again, it could be that this bug was just that awful. For whatever reason, I went with a complete and unconditional surrender. In bed. No leaving. Barely phone calls. Bullion or gingerale or weak tear or water, the occasional saltine or forkful of brown rice…

But really what did it was the extra day. Just when I was well enough to claw myself back into action, I didn’t. I still felt Hellish, and I continued my surrender. After all of it, what was there to prove? That I could be the boss of a microcosm that’d already dropped me to my knees? Or did I want to get well, stay well and be strong? Quit protesting so much, get back in bed, seriously get better. Period.

Potato Chips with Bleu Cheese Stony River

Thick hand-sliced potato rounds flash fried to still retain some moistness, the chips are whisper crisp. They are slathered in a not too thick bleu cheese sauce that is creamy, not gummy and its smoothness makes it almost more fondue than lumpy cheese gravy notion. The whole heaping plate is then punctuated with chunks of good quality bleu cheese, growing warm and melty from the heat below.

This is a grand late lunch with a girlfriend and a glass of chilled white wine. It’s sophisticated bar food, rendered with a certain elevation that makes it intriguing to the tongue. Yummmmmmy.

www.stonyriver.com

Louis Comfort Tiffany Stamps US Postal Service

So pretty. Like the leaded stained glass works themselves. A way to celebrate American craftsmanship and artistry - and remind each other with another soon-to-potentially-be-lost way of life: snail mail, how precious things that come from our own hands are. The letter someone takes the time to write or the card that has some merry, compassionate or warm greeting inside, the carefully rendered Tiffany glasswork - all should be commemorated and celebrated. Here the realities merge for the better.

Comfortable with Uncertainty, The Places That Scare You, Pema Chodron

When Things Fall Apart is the perfect disaster management program. Accept, settle, calm, feel, deal. In that, there are reservoirs of strength, tranquility, humanity and even humor - and from that basic life and thought manual, Chodron’s Buddhist wisdom emerges as a whole cloth of doing what we can where we are. It is so attainable in its flawed beauty, one is compelled to dig deeper… and in that, a hand rail for tricky but not imploded moments emerges in these two highly readable tomes.

Heated Bathroom Floors

You are in the shower, so nice and hot and steamy. You reach for a towel and begin rubbing the moisture in and off your body. It is such a blissful cocoon - and then… you step from the shower onto the icy tile floor! No more… A heated bathroom floor may be the ultimate luxury. It reinforces the heat that’d coaxed the kinks, the aches and the tiredness from your muscles and makes you feel that much more wrapped in a thick flannel cloud.

“Like Yesterday” Ryan Adams on Youtube.com

In the middle of a fictional ad for a vinyl only recording, “Like Yesterday” pours out. Is it one more attempt to get the attention of the woman who loves and is now gone? If you spin in the swirl of speculation around one of alternative music’s most unpredictable songwriters, it might matter. If you’re one of the ones who appreciate his ability to make small details stand out and tiny emotional ripples calibrate his being, this is one of those moments to savor.

In heavy black eyeglasses, playing straight for the camera, this is as sweet as Neil Young’s softest acoustic tremors. It is a song for what was, and shall remain always - if only in his mind. To distill memory, yearning and love, all you have to do is cut and paste in your web browser.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40KcTO3uZSY

Imelda Soap www.primalements.com

It is a white slice of hand-crafted soap, redolent with citrus, musk and vanilla and flowers. The lushness of the scent would be enough, but there’s more. Ensconced in the creamy white soap base are glycerine high heel shoes: pumps and slingbacs and mules. The shoes come in grape and crimson, pink, see through and sea blue - and they add just that touch of whimsy as they put a bounty of shoes, literally, in your hot little hands. Never has there been a better reason to wash your hands at ever turn…

Miso Soup for What Ails You

An accunpuncturist friend of mine recently told me that after “the bomb” in Hiroshima, many of the Japanese were given miso soup to neutralize the damages. It is healing. It is essence. It is the sort of thing that quietly goes about setting your system right. A miracle cure? No. A key factor in keeping your body in the best shape - especially this stealth-chemically-toxic world - possible? Absolutely.

An Orchid Named Al Kahwaty

He has a laugh like the Buddha - and you can hear the light in his smile all the way down the phone. When my mother died and I was between here, there, somewhere, he and his “60 Minutes” partner in crime wanted to send me flowers for help with a piece that had been fairly involved in pre-game set-up… and he never forgot.

So now there is a deep fuschia, nearly purple orchid with 7 blossoms on my dining room table. So lush, succulent, opulent even. It is the flora equivalent of the most exotic captured glance across a room in Morocco. And like the man who sent it, it has the sunniest disposition. Every morning, descending the stairs, there it is: an orchid named Al Kahwaty, saying “Gooood morning” without ever uttering a word.

Sleep Through The Static, Jack Johnson

It is a mellower rumination than some of Johnson’s percolating tropical/songwriter fare, and yet, the lulling nature of this will pull you out, make you think if you listen that hard. But mostly this is a song cycle about growing older, having children, the world we’re leaving them and the people who leave us. For the former surfer who’s always had a slightly skewed worldview - though one that was certainly sunny, multi-rhythmic and always gut-string driven - the pensiveness and the piano are a shift.

“If I Had Eyes” is truly lovely, and the opening “All At Once” set a quiet vibe. while “Losing Keys” is absolutely profoundly ruminative. Almost meditative, Sleep Through The Static gently lulls you into thinking deeper thoughts about the cycle of life, love and the earth… and it doesn’t feel like a lecture as it coaxes you through the reasons to believe to things worth considering.

“Everybody must have a fantasy.” Andy Warhol

Something you dream… you drift off to. A place, a moment, an achievement, a paramour. Something that isn’t, probably couldn’t but oooooooh… if. To not have the giggle inducing fantasy to climb inside and consider, something to play with when the drearies set in. Fantasies - as long as we remember that’s what they are - are the jimmies on top of the sundae: little bits of chocolate festivities that change nothing, yet make something wonderful all the more delicious, festive and fun.

Hot Pink John Deere Work Gloves

They are tough. And sturdy. Just like normal work gloves. Only, well, bright deep bubblegum. And they have the honest-to-besty John Deere logo embroidered on the top of the hands. Work hard; Muffy hard. They’ll make you smile no matter what kind of chore you’re tackling.

Chocolate Chile Pecans El Paso Chile Company

Lethal deadly. Smooth rich milk chocolate enfolds hot chile powder dusted pecans. There is spark and fire to the sweetness and the nuttiness of the pecans. It is a slow thing, unfolding on your tongue as the chocolate deepens and your tastebuds think they have it all figured out. But that moment that sizzles is what keeps you wanting more… the surprise, almost shock of it. Something so classic, the but so buttery and than pop! a piquancy worth noting. And sprinkled over ice cream makes for yet another dimension in this utterly unexpected chocolate’n’pecan confectionary mash-up.

www.elpasochile.com

“The Diving Bell & The Butterfly”

The story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor of French Elle and a bonvivant of such discernment, he cast the spell of aesthetics wherever we went. A father of two, a creator of beauty, a lover of life, it all ends suddenly… and then life must begin again. But how does one who lived so completely accept the circumstances that are basically the blink of an eye?

Julien Schnabel directs his third film, following “Basquiar” and “Before Night Falls,” creating his most visually gorgeous picture yet. But what is more compelling is the rawness of the emotions expressed, the lust, frustration, desolation and passion to regain what was. Jean-Do, as he was known, has a depth of memories, dreams, wishes - and they become a refuge along with the five women who impact his world as it was, as it is and as it evolves. Courage in the face of insurmountable realities, this is as inspiring as it is a work of art. Four Oscar nominations - including Best Picture - for good reason.

Gentleman Jigger Richard Bruce Nugent

Fans of the Harlem Renaissance - Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Zora Neal Hurston - will find this puckish book about social circles of the same era a comedy of errors and commentary on a culture not our own, especially with its focus on the almost unmentioned subculture of African American homosexuality. It’s not that it didn’t exist, it’s that it was never spoken of.

And so Nugent’s tale of light skinned Aeon who becomes a poet and his brother Stuatt, openly gay and a part of Harlem’s coterie of young intellectcuals defying authority both black and white. It is world’s colliding, privilege in the jazz age, hoodlums, gangsters, heiresses, glamour, “Niggerati Manor.” Only now published, it is the dark Gatsby with faar more reaching social overtones.

Letting It Go

Whatever it is - or was. However it felt. It’s over. Even if it just happened. It’s done.
There is only weight to hanging on. There is only lightness to letting it go.
The person who cut you off, stole your girlfriend, took your promotion, insulted your dream… they move on and don’t look bacl. Don’t you, either. Letting go sets you free from the things that not only shouldn’t bind you, they shouldn’t even catch your attention.

Yeah, Baby Silk Pants, Lilly Pulitzer

The name is pure Austin Powers. The material pure sumptuous silk. The pattern is lava lamp paisley in lemon and cantaloupe, turquoise, cerulean blue and a hint of pink. It is Lilly Pulitzer writ groovy and elegant and definition busting, These can be dressed up and show-stopping with an evening jacket or silky camisole and the right jewels. Or it can be dressed down to give the office an expected burst of exuberance with a basic turtleneck or cashmere cardigan. The point is to burst into the moment laughing - luxuriating in the material, celebrating the Technicolor world we’ve been given rather than slodging through the drearier we too often choose to accept.

Sucking Pineapple as Remedy

It is cold season. That means thick sticky stuff clogging my sinuses, clinging to my throat, glopping up my lungs. In a world that’s overmedicated, I try to find other ways… and when the lymphatic drainer said, “Suck pineapple,” I thought she was kidding. It’s not slimy, gross looking, evil tasting… it’s… a treat!

It also works. A very few pieces, held in your mouth. Don’t chew them, suck them like hard candy and feel the juice slowly ease and cut away the phlegm and the mucus. No extra chemicals, no side effects, just the delicious taste of pineapple fixing one of the worst symptoms of the common cold.

“Honey” Video Erykah Badu

It is a genius conceit on two levels. An old school vinyl record store where Badu comes alive on each 12” album cover the video’s object removes from the bin. She is Diana Ross, de La Soul, a Beatle from Let It Be, and any other number of iconic pop, rock and r&b figures - energizing and reminding us of the power of acts that made a mark, that they were remembered for a reason.

Delightlful as that might be, and as confectionarily soulful as “Honey” is, Badu’s record store excursion goes from a reverie of acts that matter, broken lining to her own roots, to a very powerful truth. There are the words: Support Your Local Record Store. Music is not a given, it’s a privilege: the people who make it possible need to be supported, from the musicians and the songwriters to the people who nurture the talent until it finds its audience and can sustain.

Sent to me as link through the always thought-provoking Rap & Roll Confidential - surely the music industry’s humanitarian conscience - it was a delight to watch and an empowering reminder of who’s hands the fate of vast and quality music truly lies in: our’s.

Mesa Sunrise Nature’s Path

Flax, corn and amaranth are the keys to this breakfast flake, which also includes sea salt and buckwheat flour. Gluten-free. Protein-rich. Omega-3. This is the uber-corn flake - and it has a crunchiness that stands up to mile. Sprinkle ginger and cinnamon on top, toss some berries in the bowl and you’ve got a quick fuss-free breakfast that packs a pretty compelling nutritional wallop.

www.naturespath.com

Change Is Inevitable. Growth Is Optional. Bumpersticker

There in the gridlock it was. A truer truth could not be shouted from the mountains. It’s not that things shall remain comfortable, as they are, as we wish them. No way. So if we recognize inevitability for what it’s worth, do we use it as a springboard to become better - or as an anchor to hold us down while we twist in our own gnashing protestations. Let go, grow light and rise. And if anyone asks, tell them a bumpersticker told you so.

Personal Libraries

In this age of cyberthis and computhat, the notion of personal libraries seems so decadent, yet outmoded. But there is nothing like the various color spines all lined up, the feel of perfect bindings and the scent of paper that is in various stages of aging. A personal library speaks volumes about who someone is, what interests they hold, what things they value. It is an instant journey into someone’s intellect, their whimsy, their passions, their soul - because what one reads says so very much about how someone views the world, what they cherish and how they choose to embrace life.

Looked at like personal libraries aren’t an indulgence, they’re a manifesto of who we are and a window into the worlds of people who intrigue us.

Snopes.

Now more than ever. With the proliferation of urban legends, www.snopes.com rose to be the turbo-debunker of all things cyber-murky. But with the plethora of scamdals (yes, scam-dals) swirling around all the political candidates - everything BUT Hillary is a hermaphrodite, Obama is actually the KKK’s Grand wizard and McCain thinks the war was a huge mistake seems to be arriving in my inbox - this venerable site sorts the wheat from the chaff pretty quickly.

There is too much at stake to guess, or trust even the most seemingly grounded internet factoids. Not since the days of little old ladies who were hard of hearing at sewing parties did the truth get stretched so wildly, though tragically, it’s not hearing loss to blame here, but greed and ambition. After all, in a time when we should be making the case about why a candidate has the qualifications, it’s just so much easier dragging someone else through the mud. Not that character isn’t critical, but the focus has shifted… and it’s the issues and ability to govern that seem less and less important. Snopes helps level the playing field.