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

December 2009

Swamp Dogg, Dinosaur Tail, New Orleans Saints

Dreaming While Wide Awake

It’s not that Scooter Carusoe didn’t give up… or the fact that the song got written… or left on the bunk in a sea of chaos… or even recorded. It wasn’t the 2 weeks at #1, not the reality that no one who knew believed that the secret could be kept – until the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame “Wish I Wrote That Song” honor… It wasn’t even the fact that it would get a BMI Award for being one of 2008’s Most Played Songs…

No, it was that moment when – taking the steps in 5-inch heels -- the publishing rights VP who knew the secret, whispered, “You have to see this…” and turned me around. There, with stars in his eyes, Don Was and his beautiful shining wife Lisa at his side, was Kris Kristofferson leading a standing ovation for a song whose roots lay in a wildly under-aged girl rebuffing men in bars and not wanting to cause waves.

There for a moment, the girl who loved songs more than anything from when she first heard “Angel from Montgomery” pouring from the radio watched the ultimate Oxford-schooled, William Blake-loving Icon Award-receiving master cheer for her little bit of truth and memory. It was a moment of wide awake, and how can this be… and it proves it can happen, even when it defies every bit of logic and requires just a little bit of brave that no one ever has to really know about.

“The Middle”  Wednesdays, 8:30   ABC

Everything “Rosanne” could’ve been if they’d not been so grounded to the lower portion of the middle… and perhaps the smartest about-as-far-outside-the-beltway sitcom that’s currently holding down a weekly timeslot. Patricia Heaton – a product of the great Midwest – anchors the one-woman’s-perspective show of what it means to be a Mom, a Mrs and a worker in the flyover – with the genius banter, how life really is scenarios and a charm of getting through more than by in spite of a less than “Gossip Girl” bottomline.

Anyone who’s not blessed to be in the top 8% and whose dreamtime isn’t devoted to imagining what that would be like… or even worse exercising their credit cards to geek that ideal… will know the heart, the shine and especially the laughter of right where we are right now. To see a brainy, not zany or punchline object, heroine who could be any one of us makes me almost wanna commit to my tv.

Those that don’t got it, can’t show it. Those that got it, can’t hide it.  —Zora Neale Hurston

Reality is pretty undeniable. Front what you want, if you can’t back it up, inevitability is waiting right around the corner. Pretend that you’re nothing special all you want, that light of your gifts is going to shine through all the cracks you can’t possibly cover up.
Don’t pretend. Either way. Just be.

East Nashville, Vol 3 More Music from the Other Side   Various,  Red Beet Records

Opening with the gravel-voiced Phil Lee, a real honky tonk texture who grinds the cutlery, the stems, seeds and remnants of 2x4s from lost hour bar fights, the third volume of Music From The Other Side is a picture perfect post card of Eric Brace’s neighborhood. Not just a random catch-all of the bands who play the Family Wash, Lipstick Lounge and the 5 Spot, but an inclusive collection of the songwriters and artists who’ve set their roots on the other side of the Cumberland River.

Kieran Kane, Amelia White, Chuck Mead, Anna McCue, Elizabeth Cook, Kevin Gordon, Tim Carroll, Peter Cooper & Lloyd Green and the late Duane Jarvis make this a one stop roots music extravaganza that is the antidote to mainstream, highly waxed and polished machine music. At times naked, at others, coltish, these are artists intent on making music close to the bone – and with the essence in tact. Some tracks come from existing albums, some recorded for the project, all artists information leads to more of what intrigues you.

Moroccan Rose Otto Bath Oil, REN

To put a cap full or two of REN’s Moroccan Otto Bath Oil into hot swirling bath water is to have the fumes rise heady and the turn just the tiniest bit cloudy and pink. Beyond the dizzying deliciousness of the smell, though, is the non-clinging way this totally organic, naturally processed oil absorbs into your skin and leaves your bath tub coating free. That’s right: no scale, no slime, no oily residue… what is not soaked into your flesh isn’t anywhere to be found on the enamel, speaking volumes to the purity of the product.

Dylan Thomas Reads

It is so easy in our world devoid of form, grace and to an extent formal manners to think of poetry as an art of the lost ages… long ago, far way, arcane and archaic. Poetry, though, is not some dusty, stuffy unbending thing, but rather words put together to breathe life into feelings, into feats, into what goes unseen. It is an electric truth in the right eye, and if not for the casual reader, then here is a way to sink into the glory of what was intended: hearing the poet inhabit his words.

Dylan Thomas was a brilliant reader – a man who could infuse drama, weave tenderness, capture the electricity – in a voice that was gravitas and temerity measured against the thrust of emotion. His “Under Milk Wood” was a designed for voices, to be read. Yet even his classic poems – Fern Hill, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, In Country Sleep and And Death Shall Have No Dominion – benefit from the pacing of spoken delivery. That beauty of the craft is almost paradoxical to the squalidity of a life of much drinking, weak lungs, far flung extramarital affairs that consumed and eventually extinguished the Welsh poet’s light at New York’s storied Chelsea Hotel in 1953 at the mere age of 39.

Burn, burn bright. Live large. Shine and rage and blaze – and gone.  To hear him read is not only to understand poetry incandescence, but to experience a firebrand in his essential glory.

Lying by the Pool

It’s harder than it sounds. Unplugging, Being. Not moving. Not thinking. To lie there, feeling the sun on your skin… and doing… nothing. Kenny Chesney laughed when I told him, then said “but you have to stay there. You have to make yourself.”

Like meditation, it gets harder before it gets easier. Still you sit. More effort into effortlessness than most things a do-er does. All the mental chatter like flying monkeys of wasted time, what could be done, what you forgot… and then it happens: you relax. Just sink into that, and let it happen.

Oh, and bring your sunscreen.

being normal – Bill Deasy

Bill Deasy has a voice that dust caught in a sunbeam, worn denim and just a tiny bit of Woodford Reserve folded into the Earl Gray, and that intoxicating blend of comfort and warmth seeps into his listener and unravels their tensest unknown places. Largely a romanticist working from a Rust Belt reality, the Pittsburgh singer/songwriter who was once half of the pastoral populist adult alternative Gathering Field, Deasy sketches heroines that are everything an urban-bohemian free spirit would hope to be.

A journey through shadows and life, the opening “No One Try and Talk Me Down” churns lightly, moves subtly and invites you in. From there, it is a patchwork of desire, realization and recognition – “Sweet Salvation,” “Traces of You,” “Whispered Words,” “Cry Hope” – that make life in the regular realm a bit more shimmery, a touch more lush. It is not just for rock stars and the indulged, it is for anyone who knows how to steal a glance, to touch a sleeve, to get lost in a dream that is wholly their own and savor whatever recognition is found in what was, is and possibly might be. Anyone yearning to escape their dreary state – even for a moment – need only to venture to www.billdeasy.com

Leopard Lounge Chesterfield Hotel, Palm Beach

It is old school and slightly fancy in a teased hair/big jewelry or pocket square in the Technicolor blazer kind of way. The ceiling is red and white painted frescos bordered with leopard print and jungle borders. The dance floor awaits. A piano player with a loop machine is ready to tiptoe through a repertoire of “New York, New York,” “Margaritaville,” “Pokerface,” “Desperado” and “Billy Jean,” designed to get the well-heeled and well-coifed to boogie oogie oogie til dawn.

Old school, this is not your modern dance club – or even disco – experience. Not quite cha-cha-cha, but certainly cocktails, pearls and an endangered mien of reveling at its most refined. To time travel back without any sort of hocus pocus, one need only hit Cocoanut Row and maintain their sense of humor.

Glass Flowers   Harvard Natural History Museum, Cambridge, MA

They are hand-blown, twisted and crafted in Germany many, many years ago. An art form in the service of science, creating lifelike models of flora from around the world… leaves and stems and blossoms, even the root systems and seed sacks. They are exotic and common, muted earth tones and vibrant colors.  They are something fragile, yet forever – singular and something –given the craftsmanship—never to be created again.

Anjelah Johnson: That’s How We Do It Comedy Central

Pretty, with shiny hair and an impish smile, former Oakland Raiders cheerleader Anjelah Johnson is a street girl with sense of humor that hits the rougher side of the way we live without flinching – and sideswipes every convention along the way. With the same deadpan this-is-how-it-is delivery of Sara Silverman – sans the whine and the aren’t-I-cute deflect button, Johnson understands that a pretty girl is twice as funny if she holds the line rather than pulling her punches… and she does.

The woman who created Mad-TV’s hilarious Bon Qui Qui bit about the nail salon – a quicksand proposition of communications gaps and up-selling – will give any woman worth her French manicure aching sides, and men are very clear understanding of what real price beauty.  This is the madness and frustration of the know-all, know-nothing press-on world pressed in the vice of a pretty girl who doesn’t care… and isn’t engaging. It is real. It is how. It is now. Well worth the hour you’ll spend.

Mona Lisa in Camelot Margaret Leslie Davis

When Jackie Kennedy made a commitment to raise the nation’s appreciation for art and general sense of taste, no one could’ve imagined the lithe dark-haired beauty’s clothes would become an almost national obsession – and her quest to renovate the White House would lure American treasures from some of America’s best families and great benefactors. But the woman know to her intimates as “Jacqueline,” also understood the power of imagination to fuel this transformation. To that end, she cast her nets beyond the 50 states, and so the soil of what could be a most enjoyable novel was prepped for Mona Lisa in Camelot, a quick reading book about one sphinx-like woman’s dream to see one of the world’s most mysterious paintings hang in the National Gallery.

Like the Art of War in a sheath dress, there is strategy and drama, will and wiles as a whispered promise from the French Minister Andre Malraux at Washington, DC’s National Gallery began the arduous wrangling for Leonardo da Vinci’s to, indeed, come to these shores and hang at the gallery. That something so small – in theory – could incite such controversy, drama and – ultimately in the U.S. – such a clamor to see speaks volumes for the potency of perceived value… and also the effectiveness of incremental maneuvering, unfaltering resolve and patience allowing all moments to play out.

That Kennedy had captured the French people’s imagination hadn’t hurt, nor the way she understood the politicians’ vanity. As a read, this is a perfect escape. As history, it is tiny corner that speaks volumes about strategy, clarity of goal, responding in the moment and the sheer joy of appreciation. A good read no matter your reasons.

Brown Suede Unlaced Ankle Oxfords Elizabeth & James

Ankle height boots that have the Victorian charm of oxfords – with all the punch-pattern detail and a tongue that stays to where the laces should be. A solid low heel and a loose around the ankle fit, these chocolate brown roughed out boots are comfort personified… and they are perfect with trousers, prairie dresses, funky skirts, blue jeans. Easily, this fall’s most valuable player.

Chocolate Chipotle Dusted Hazelnuts Trader Joes

A double thick coating of decent quality dark chocolate coats equally decent sized hazelnuts. That alone would make them dangerous. The pungent bitterness of the sweet cacao against the earthiness of the hazelnut – a perfect juxtaposition of tastes. But just when it seems that perfection is reached, the good folks at Trader Joes add the vexing element of a fine dusting of chiptole powder, adding a slow burning kind of burn to the mix – one that ignites the fiery elements in the chocolate, makes the nuttiness of the hazelnuts that much more alive. Delicious.

Cherries in the Snow   Revlon

It is one of those old faithful drugstore favorites: Cherries in the Snow, a nail polish that is red with so much pink you could hardly deem it obvious or brazen. There is innocence to this come-on, a sense of girlishness to the courtesan – and make no mistake, there is a strong note of courtesan to the deep flush of the lacquer.

Being that it’s Revlon, it’s easy to marginalize it away in this world of 8 and 12 dollar nail enamels. But if you let it set, it lasts just as long – and the sweet little man at the nail salon looked approvingly at my toes when he was done, smiled at me, closed the bottle and announced, “Oooh, pretty.”

“Orson Wells & Me”

A small film with two name brand stars – Zach Efron and Clare Danes – it’s an over-the-top story about a random casting (Efron) in big radio star Orson Wells’ Broadway version of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” and the real ways of show business. Charming in its innocence, lovely in its period evocation – and yes, a bit far flung in some of the scenery-chewing from the monstrous superstar.

Deflowering, the addictive power of coming together as a group to create and realize a well-turned story and the harsh light of where power resides and how that power can bludgeon anything in its path. Not bows and clean endings, but the reality that is the reality of how it is.

The Rod Stewart Sessions 1971-1998

Rock star unapologetic rake, Rod Stewart started as a nocturnal poet (“Handbags & Gladrags,” “Maggie May”) and evolved into a shameless hussy (“Tonight’s The Night,”  “Do You Think I’m Sexy”). In the moment, the white hot center blinded fans to the greater gift of his muse – and so the satin pants, the shag hair, the Puckish libido was what registered.

Alternate takes, demos, live performances. This is the comprehensive overview of a man who’s gone from folk-rock to cock-rock to disco, pop and mannered adult contemporary, all the while tackling each as if it’s his full reason for being. Four CDs that explore the evolution of a song, that capture the minutiae, that – frankly – make a damn good case for Stewart as one of rock’s great vocalists… whether it’s Dylan’s “Girl from North Country,” hard blues “I’m A King Bee,” obscurata “The Groom’s Still Waiting at the Altar,” vulnerable “Scarred & Scared” or unplugged “You Wear It Well,” this is a supple trek through a major career, one that enlivens the legacy and deepens the sense of merit for the songs chosen, the emotions embraced and the Ajax voice.

Rescue Energy Bach Remedies

From the people who give you the Bach floral remedies, including the always even-outtening Rescue Remedy, Rescue Energy is a quick hit blast of action power. Not quite a bolt, but a definite double down infusion of the ability to get through it. None of the weird edginess, either. Just a couple quick sprays, and a slight rising of one’s energetic reserves and clarity. Perfect in a pinch with no whang to push back later.

Zelda Is Sleeping

She is. Quietly. Deeply. Folded up like a fluffy butterscotch kitten on her little pink velver blanket under a weeping pine tree. She is peaceful and she dreams of bunnies and chipmunks surrendering to her jaws… quarry beyond her reach who will know their Zelda later… and she smiles. The way little Zelda smiled in response. The perfect rest of spaniels… forever and ever and more.

St Michael Miracle Necklace, www.Energymuse.com

The patron saint of protection, the reasonably priced leather thronged charm depicts St Michael slaying the dragon. There is also a small charm that says “Protect,” making the point to the cosmos. In a world of great unpredictability, St Michael is the man. No matter where one goes, what one does, he has already slain the mythic beast – and if you put yourself in his care, you have given yourself over to a higher form of grace.

Break Up Scarlett Johansson   Pete Yorn

Moody. Evocative. Meandering. Indeed, languishing. How Scarlett Johansen gets to be impossibly beautiful, Woody Allen’s muse and the anchor of “Lost In Translation” and possessed of a smoky alto that oozes sultry is one thing… that she has been so aptly matched with the scratch and dent romanticism of Pete Yorn is almost cosmic intervention.

Charting the course of a relationship’s demise on the rocks, this is mellow mood music that gently churns and lulls. Think Sade but more moody. Think Serge Gainesbourg exuding sensual ooze at Bridgett Bardot. At 29 minutes, this is not a work that requires commitment, but more weaves a melancholy breathy spell that sets a mellow tone for rainy nights and cerain kinds of cocktail parties.

The New Orleans Saints

13 and 0, then two straight losses. A never would almost is… and what seemed to be charmed, now seems to be a dreaming waking. But sometimes the tiny flaws aren’t a matter of running out of gas as a pressure valve to remove the history books and re-fire the engines. A little team that could in a city that badly needs is, Sean Payton’s Saints work hard, apply classic gamesmanship and lead with their hearts…

Do they win the Superbowl? Who knows? But to see a team that had no business dreaming dig in, hit hard, churn out 13 straight wins alone endorses the give it everything argument. Because until you do, how can you truly know? And why doubt that you can when it always remains to be seen?

Fuschia Jersey Cardigan w Roses, Anthropologie

Drapes and melts over whatever you’re wearing: tshirt and jeans, little skimpy dress, a sweater and a skirt. Not quite whimsy, but really frilly, just feminine in a way that evokes flowers without the fuss. And it’s asymmetrical hem creates an almost urban bohemian slant on a very romantic piece.

The color of deepest peonies, or a good true bottomless soul pink, this suggests the tone of lips that have been kissed for a good long time. And for those who prefer something a bit more classic and buttoned-down, there is also a deep true medium blue that you can sink into,

Fire Island Candle Cire Trudon for Barneys

Firewood… with a hint of salt. It’s a beach fire more than a campfire, and it has that smell of the ocean and the night. Clean, yet somehow consuming. And being a Cire Trudon scent, it permeates the air without overwhelming – yet doesn’t fade off as soon as the candle is extinguished. Slow burning, slightly more reasonable than Cire Trudon’s own candles and benefiting the world’s oceans, Fire Island is the most alluring of the line’s scents, but all evoke the seas and smells of paradise found.

Home Canned Tomatoes

They are sunshine in a Mason jar. Put up with love and basil. Ready and waiting on a pantry shelf. Home canned tomatoes are instant culinary conjureness: whether making the freshest tomato soup you’ll have all winter, breaking out the mozzarella for chicken Capri or merely whipping up a basic tomato/basil spaghetti sauce.reduction, this is the secret juju that will have your guests wondering.

Anyone lucky enough to be friends with someone who does their own canning is more blessed than they may realize. Those clear glass jars are more than home economics gone literal, they are the essence of the best of any summer’s crop – and they are ready to bring nature’s bounty to life any time you pop the top by unscrewing the cap.

“It’s Complicated”

An adult comedy that raises as many questions as the social conventions it skewers. Merle Streep plays a divorcee who’s found her own path – in the face of her ex-husband’s affair, then taxing trophy wife marriage – and peace. Through happenstance at their youngest son’s graduation, Streep and ex Alec Baldwin tumble into bed, and so begins a bawdy, sexy affair.

Only one problem: Streep’s architect played by a very awkward Steve Martin – whom the very adjusted to single life Streep ignores – is smitten, even as he’s trying to shake off the trauma of his own 2-year old divorce. What ensues is both ribald physical comedy, scalpel-free-yet-brutally-insightful commentary on divorce, trophy wives and the real cost of broken families and lost memories. To laugh, to think, to watch a grown-up film that embraces life as it is in a way that neither panders nor overly sentimentalizes is yummy indeed.

BONUS: Merle Streep feature, Vanity Fair
Leslie Bennett is one of Vanity Fair’s best profilers – and she takes on the legend and the humanity that defines Merle Streep. What emerges is a self-effacing portrait of a woman who was always committed to who she was over fulfilling the expectations of the star-making machinery. No finer argument for the school of to-thine-own-self-be-true could be made, whether its Streep’s longevity or the fact that the portfolio of super-shooter Bridgette Lacombe spanning the entirety of Streep’s career shows a great if unconventional beauty who only grows more striking over the three decades the pictures have captured.

Kitchen Sink Pose

Super easy back stretch that can be done anywhere you’re not on top of yourself – including hotel room sinks and most truck stop bathrooms. Stand three feet away and extend your arms. Bend at the waist and reach out towards the sink. Link onto the edge and let the weight in your hips gently pull you away and back, as you have your feet sink deeper and deeper into the floor ro ground you.

Lift up through the hips, even as you’re pulling away from the sink. Feel your spine stretch, your vertebrae gasp with love and relief. Feel your hips expand, the blood move and your shoulders release with total gratitude. Five to 10 deep slow breaths that fill your entire body cavity, Exhale the tension. Smile at how easy it is. How very very easy, indeed.

Superwoman Candy Kane

Blues belter Candy Kane has enough grit to have held her own in LA’s post-punk clubs, with a big voice and bigger sense of ambition. Her songs swung around the rafters like they were monkey bars and the columns of air pushed were canyon worthy. Kane, always a survivor, knew the blues intimately, yet never ever surrendered to the dark places – and that pluck and exuberance made her a woman to watch as she found her way, her craft, her sound.

You gotta love a full-throated woman who’s not afraid to growl “Marie LaVeaux’s my homegirl…” in “I Put A Hex On You,” bubble and churn “You Need Love” from a place of knowing just what you need to regain altitude, exuberantly embolden the listener to “Hey! Toughen Up” in a rolling blessing counting boogie and the plucky duet “I Like’Em Stacked Like That.” A woman in full, an unrepentant blues vixen who laughs and stomps and sizzles, this is one of the most empowering CDs you’ll hear this year.

Heroes and Villians David Hadju

The first ever anthology from the music critic of the New Republic, David Hadju brings intellectualism to pop culture without stifling its life force – and a far-reaching critic he is, too.  Quick to examine Beyoncé, Lucinda Williams and Taylor Swift, he is equally at home capturing a near perfect portrait of Wynton Marsalis, decrying Joni Mitchell’s later work and – in the vein of his comprehensive Billy Strayhorn tome Lush Life creating a cornerstone examination on both the personal and sociological/historical perspective of Ed Eckstine, the first black crooner – a la contemporaries Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby – who had a broad-based Caucasian appeal.

It is that ability to catch the historical impacts and societal precedents that have always Hadju just another rock critic. For the Eckstine piece, he conducted almost 40 interviews, considering segregation, the scandal of young white women swooning for a black vocalist and the way controversy could be career ending. His Positively 4th Street captured the East Village Dylan/Baez/Mimi Farina axis to perfection – and that interplay and meaning seeps through disparate subjects, ranging from Elvis Costello at 50, the White Stripes, Dinah Washington, Josh Groban to the role of blogging, the music of Starbucks, Kanye + Rick Rubin and Alan Lomax. To read these essays to reconsider contemporary music, no matter what starting point you come from.

Vitamin E Oil Walgreen’s Brand

You may have to ask, but do. An unassuming plastic bottle you’ll hardly notice with the big time beauty aids, but a world-class healer, softener, enrichener for your flesh – especially in the cold snap months. And no major tricks to use. Pour a few drops on the back of your hand – or where the dry skin is – rub it in gently. Give it a few minutes to penetrate. Look down and be amazed.

“Coco Before Chanel”

Once upon a time, there was a poor girl who dreamed of hats and had high spirits. She cast her will to the world, had grand lovers, changed everything about fashion. But in the end, it was singularity of spirit and the uniqueness of her will to be alive that ultimately created a fashion empire that remains the ni plu ultra of ready to wear couture.

This is the tale of the woman who was, how she became and the reasons that infused clothing with functionality, freedom, frisson and a sexiness that was unbound. To emobody’s one’s self is to be fully realized as a woman, and that was who Coco was!

Dinosaur Tail

It is a trick. Of the tail. For those moments that seem unsure, fraught, even intimidating. Close your eyes. Plant your feet. Slow your breathing. Relax. No, really relax – and let all the doubt and tension drain through your feet and into the ground. As it does, feel something begin to extend and grow from the small of your back or the base of your spine: something supple and strong, thick enough to hold and growing, growing, growing until it reaches the ground.

Imagine your dinosaur tail – extending from you, supporting you, balancing you and making it impossible to knock you off your feet. What could be more stabilizing than your primordial tail? And it’s as easy as shut your eyes, breathe, slow, imagine and believe. And I can tell you: it really, really works.

Swiss Dark Chocolate/American Caramel Flyer

Rich. Creamy. Decadent. Meltingly awesome. To feel yourself turned inside out in the dark chocolate, buttery caramel thickness dissolving on your tongue or surrendering to your molars, giving and offering up just a hint of cacao and salt is to be transported to the essence of not quite sweetness but decadence delivered via confection. A bit pricy for a “candy bar,” a pittance to be consumed by what is consumed.

Looking Forward To Things

Anticipation. The lovely notion of what’s coming. The idea that there is joy and communion just around the corner. There is nothing so thrilling in the tedium as that which we can wait to experience and know it is only a matter of time. Almost as thrilling as the actual experience, the waiting in these circumstances is an opportunity to savor and appreciate that which will be our’s – and that gives potency in ways that truly add kick to the charge of what’s to come.

Beet Salad

Suddenly the voguest of opening courses, the beet salad comes in many configurations: with endive and walnuts, feta or goat or bleu cheese, shaved with arugula and apples. Almost always dressed in a tart cider-vinegar-based dressing, though sometimes splashed with balsamic and hazelnut oil.

Beets – the bane of most people’s existence – have been liberated from the chafing dish prison of candied, stickied, pickled, Harvard and given a fresh, far more natural presentation. What emerges is an earthy vegetable that is a tiny bit sweet, meaty without being overly crunchy and chock full of vitamins and those oh-so-important antioxidants. A brave way to take a new turn on an old gustorial enemy.

Eye Renewal Cream ReVive

Puffy eyes? Dark circles? Fine lines? Wear and tear around the windows to your soul? There is no miracle cure, of coutse, but ReVive’s pump cream leaves the delicate eye area feeling tauter, fresher, more energized. It is a small fortune, but this is one of the few topical applications that seems to do more than a chilled chamomile tea bag – and when you’re criss-crossing the country, chasing dreams and trying to keep up with your career, this is a miracle applied dabbingly with your ring finger.

Give’em as Little As You Can… As Often As You Have To     Swamp Dogg

Swamp Daw-aw-awg, who gave us the cosmic meltdown “Total Destruction To Your Mind” returns with a flaming keys-derived covers album that takes his full-tilt bawdy vocal sensibility and delivers songs you’ve loved his no-mess manner. Gutter and gutteral, it’s all about the reinvention, baby… Whether it’s an undulating “Heartbreak Hotel,” a robust “Ain’t That A Shame” or an exhortive “Satuisfaction,” this is the Dogg’s tribute – as billed as subtitle – to rock & roll.

Moving through reggae (“I Shot The Sheriff”), vintage rock (“Johnny B Goode”), rhythm leaning blues (“I’ve Never Loved a Man {The Way I Love You}”) and Motown (“My Girl”), this is a supple, yet gritty DIY that’s ignited by the fervor Dogg brings and that rolling keyboard attack. But the surprise here is a voracious take on Springsteen’s pop breakthrough “Hungry Heart” that is a witness to how bad the average Joe can want it – which alone is worth the price of the disc.

Lavender Macchiato   La Crema,  Nashville, TN

There is no smoother, richer cup of coffee in Nashville. Period. And what they do when they get exotic borders on profane. Whatever you order,  prepare to be slackjawed. But this… this teeny little cup of white-capped jet fuel so delicately rendered with the taste of lavender is sweet and intoxicating and perfumey and wonderful. It almost defies description, beyond the notion of the heavenly cloud-like texture, the way the undertones of the lavender linger on your tongue and the slow moving warmth and kick of the caffeine moving through your veins.

Perhaps the single most addictive thing I’ve encountered this year.

Pazz & Jop Poll The Village Voice

It’s that time of year again… When our nation’s most comprehensive Critics’ Poll weighs in on the year in contemporary music. Guaranteed to be vast and acknowledge the most obscure, the most obvious, the most singular in its more than 1500 ballots, Pazz & Jop is a treasure trove of what you might’ve missed, oughta hear and things you’d never know about any other way.

Pick your favorite critics – as all ballots are also posted individually—to see what’s rocking their boat. Read through the myriad comments. Look for trends. Mostly be amazed by how much music is listened to in any given year and marvel at the fact that anything coalesces and emerges as a story.

Perfect Just As You Are Pema Chodron

Pema Chodron, the first woman to run a Buddhist abbey, has an easy laugh, a sense of truth and the ability to push back curtains without bludgeoning her listener with their own conflicts or blind-spots. These eight CDs are a comprehesive seminar – originally offered over a series of weeks – in the practices of the Four Limitless Ones: Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Joy and Equanimity.

With actual meditation instruction and exercises, explanation of the states, the obstacles and the ways to get there – and Chodron’s real life illustrations of each practice, Perfect Just As You Are makes higher states of being a journey more than a destination and empowers her listeners to root in the now, to seek their truth of being in its most true (not perfect) state and to embrace the broken places without judgement. Liberating, accommodating to evolution and inspiring in how accessible she makes joy, compassion and the ability to break our patterns, this should be required listening for everyone in this crazy world that rushes, pushes and often runs on breakneck self-interest.