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

November 2006

November 2006: 
Jim Lauderdale, Eau du Pork Roast + Holy Candles, Narwals + What’s Left


Country Ham Bisquit The Roanoker, Roanoke, Virginia

   The ham is salty, but with enough juiciness so you get the texture and the taste of the pork… The bisquit is lighter than air, fluffy but again with that moistness that makes it melt-in-your-mouth rhapsodic. This is a cultural manifest, but it’s also as close to culinary perfection as one can go with lard’n'flour’n'salt—and just enough buttermilk to get the job bound.

   Served up in a metropolitan town’s nerve-center, the Roanoker isn’t just a hub, it’s a haven. Everyone knows everybody, people are concerned about their community—and that care transfers directly into the food that is set before the diners. A must if anywhere in the vicinity.


Mint Rose Balm

   From the people who brought us the all-purpose soother Rosebud Balm, this latest innovation has a hint of mint in the mix to give chapped lips an added modicum of breath-freshening goodness. That brisk pepperminty note does wonders for picking up the tempo as soon as it glides across one’s lips. Packaged in a precious vintage tin, that’s as darling as it is useful, Mint Rose can be tucked into a pocket—and used without caution to soothe, ease and nourish parched lips, skin and cuticles.


My Country Roots Alice Randall w. Carter Little & Courtney Little


   One hundred Top 10 Play Lists, thematically derived for today’s downloadable MP-3/I-Pod world. Whether it’s Who We Are, What We Do, How We Feel, Where We Come From (And Where We Want To Go) or What We Believe In, this is a comprehensive survey course of all the flavors of rural music that make the genre vast. With a soupcon of humor, a vast appreciation of the heart of the oeuvre and a strong sense of cultural identity, New York Times’ best-selling author Alice Randall (The Wind Done Gone) and her impossibly cute collaborators Carter and Courtney Little mine the catalogues of George Jones, John Prine, Joe Diffie, the Jayhawks, Garth Brooks, Steve Earle, Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris, the Rolling Stones, Kenny Rogers, Waylon Jennings, Ralph Stanley, kd lang, TG Sheppard, Gram Parsons, Lyle Lovett, Lee Ann Womack and Merle Haggard among so very many artists who’ve had an impact on this genre (or this music on their own genre).

   With supplemental sections about films that derive their soundtrack from these uniquely populist formats (bluegrass, rockabilly, alt.country and beyond) and an atlas that serves as a treasure trove of places to be, see, eat, hear and beyond, My Country Roots makes every wrinkle and thread manageable. Starting in December, this becomes an interactive world - as www.mycountryroots.com extends the roots into cyberspace—where readers can add their insight, favorites and theories to the mix.


Barcelona & Modernity: Picasso, Gaudi, Miro & Dali 
Cleveland Museum of Art


   It was a time where a provincial town grew into the epicenter of the modernist movement as we know it. Dynamic, electric, alive—the Cleveland Museum of Art hosts the first appearance of this collection (in co-operation with the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya) through the new year. To say that the modernists’ take was “fantastic” hardly defines the extreme use of color, the transmutation of the obvious in the name of the evocative and the willingness to make emotion an extreme component in the works produced. Joyous, incredible, intense and highly suggestible, this collection offers art beyond verbage and the cohesion of a movement that changed everything.

Ollabelle

   Loose-jointed, lo-fi neo-hippie meanderings in the garden of traditional gospel. Five talented vocalist/instrumentalists come together while each seeking their own deals to make a joyful noise to the Creator and find uncanny chemistry in a downtown bar—and out of that comes wholly engaging rambles through a Joplinesque “Elijah Roc,” a techno-organic “John the Revelator,” an ebbing and flowing “Jesus Is On The Mainline” and a feathery expectational “I Am Waiting.”

   Two girls, three boys, one wonderful culmination of talent. For a spiritual Sunday morning that’s as soothing as it is stirring, Ollabelle offers in their self-titled debut a soundtrack for revelation and soul-searching of the faith rather than faltering. Exquisite in a plain burlap, pearls glistening in the hay sort of way.


Butterfinger Crisp

Butterfinger candy bars always had such promise, yet somehow delivered a damply dried out clay layer evoking peanut-butter mouthful that made the cheap chocolate taste even more waxen. Imagine the surprise to find a light, crispy torte of wafers, fluffy peanut butter covered in basic dimestore chocolate. FINALLY the promise pays off!!!

   Because every now and then, you need something quick, light and accessible to wallop that nagging treat jones. Not too heavy, too chewy, but more a quick cloud that’s as much about the peanuts and the buttery wafers as it is the chocolate. Delicious.

Raining Leaves

   The sun was shining, but something was dropping from the sky. You could hear the hushed sound of impact, even if nothing seemed to be hitting the skin. Stopping for a moment to really concentrate on the muffled impact, the collision with the leaves and branches, it hits almost soundlessly: the trees are raining leaves. It is the sound of like brushing like—and in that stillness, the quietest noises register, the beauty of the afternoon emerges and there’s a whole new way of looking at the grandeur of the flora.

“We should consider every day lost in which we have not danced at least once.”
      —-Nietzsche

   To make a joyful move unto the Lord… swivel, grind, bump, shimmy. There is a luxury in the freewheeling surrender to the rhythms, a grace to surfing the waves of sound and the exuberant liberation from the stiffness that most of life requires. To dance, even in one’s bedroom while buttoning your shirt, is to be free—from form, judgment, expectation. Even if no one else knows, it can be your personal insurrection, unseen, but completely inhabited.


Matchbox Shrines

   Worry dolls from Guatemala. Healing dirt from New Mexico. Turquoise for protection. Anasazi bean for purity and wisdom. This is a take-it-with-you temple for your intentions, prayers and safety—all tucked inside a matchbox, painted with a Blessed Virgin, a Sacred Heart or other religious icon.

   In a crazy world where nothing should be taken for granted, especially our faith, this is an instant tangible anchor. Hold it in the palm of your hand, talk to God or just be silent—and feel your tranquility rise.



shrineboxes@att.net

“The Queen”

   Duty. Dignity, Protocol. Obligation. In a world so far removed from our right-now, oh-wow reality, stoicism is premium, perception is disconnected from reality and public opinion defines how reaction is meted out. Helen Mirren is blazing as a woman caught in the confusion and crossfire of an old guard monarchy, the court of media churn and the loss of a one-time family member who also had come to reign through tabloid exposure and high-spirited charm.

   Beyond a relative examination of what happened, director Stephen Frears’ film considers the wages of private humanity and personal feelings on a crash course with public figures being property of the world—and the projection of grief and awareness as a universal rite. For anyone who’s ever trolled the internet and come up an “expert,” this considers the deeper truths that will always be unseen, the value placed on ceremony and the insidiousness of expectation, both personal and by the unknowing mass. Brilliant performances, but even more stunning questions/juxtapositions. Prepare to discuss.

Chellis Dress, White Hibiscus Avenue Lilly Pulitzer

   Jackie Kennedy meets Jackie Susann… a full-length, deep plunging halter shift dress that is elegant for day, yet sporty to wear like just any old thing… tossed-off, yet soignée for night. A navy and white retro print that is utterly clean, evoking nautical and working a floral that is anything but prissy. Strong, working the back and the clavicle, suggesting the feminine with its flourish underscored by steely resolve. Nothing could be sexier… or simpler.

www.corrico.com


Lavender Face Spray Burt’s Bees

   Wake up! Hydrate! Relax! Freshen! On the go, on the run, rush rush, ready, steady ahhhhhh… If the day has gone on far too long, the make-up is making your face feel tight or just the urban gunk has your face feeling like it’s hiding under a veneer of sweat, smoke and pollution, a few quick mists—and you’re back to being at the very least human, and quite possibly restored.

   With a machined metal bottle, this could sit in a briefcase without screaming metrosexual… and with the lavender scent, one could also plead an air-cleansing self-defense (in lieu of the slightly more evolved aromatherapy reprieve). Regardless, lavender face spray makes one happier—whether we’re looking at the one whose face is being sprayed or the one encountering the magic elixir.

Prince’s Vegas Residency Gig Club 3121 @ the Rio


   He may be the closest thing to James Brown young funk fans have… A man who’s overtly sexual reality gave pop music pause with Dirty Mind, Purple Rain, Sign O’ The Times and 1999, there was no denying the aggressive r&b genius that knew no fear of scraping the rafters with an uncompromising soul sensibility, rock attack—especially gnarling guitars—and enough techno-embrace to be as modern as the moments. Yowling, howling like a cat in heat, he challenged everything, gave as good as we got and offered to keep whipping the groove in a way even Jagger wouldn’t.

   To that end, he’s finding a way to flex the music gracefully and his approaching significant status. With a strong eye to the next thing(s) to come, the provocateur has set up shop at the Rio. With a $125 ticket, a midnight ball that lasts over two hours, it is incendiary stuff that mixes the hits with where his vision—which has been known to include Brown alum Maceo Parker and a stage show that is as fiercely musical, as it is physical—is heading.


What’s Left

   There’s not quite enough of any one thing, but a few bottles that are too well-loved to throw out the last few drops. The beauty of what’s left—as long as the scents don’t fight—is the concoction that forms can have consistencies that’re even more luxurious, results that are more than any one product on its best day. Shaving products, masques, conditioner, body crème—whatever it is, it’s a cocktail of luxe pampering thrown together by circumstance.

   Heck, tonight was a bathsoup of Epsom salts, detox minerals, seaweed soak. The water was an odd green blue, the temperature perfect for carrots, onions and celery and the scent heavenly. Leaning back, the tension and the toxins were drawn from me—and lying there, it was about as perfect a moment as one could imagine, hot water clinging to my skin, penetrating my muscles and easing my mind to a place where it was neutral at worst and lost in a suspended dream for most of it.

Ellen Willis RIP

   The feminist cultural considerer/original New Yorker pop music critic/teacher/writer and embracer of pleasure has passed - at 64 of lung cancer—and the saddest part are the sheer numbers who may not be aware that she ever lived. To instant catch-up, try Don’t Think, Smile: Notes on a Decade of Denial or No More Nice Girls: Counter Culture Essays for starters, or Beginning To See The Light: Sex, Hope & Rock-and-Roll if you can find it.

   This was a woman unafraid to feel, exult, call a spade a spade or embrace truth for the joy of even a shallow moment. To Willis, knowing what something was didn’t have to rob it of its pleasure, just as recognizing and identifying greed or hypocrisy weren’t treasonous experiences. A powerful voice, a laser like vision, a true critic in the most humanistic, discerning sense. She shall be missed.

Green Olives Stuffed with Feta

   There is that firm succulence that makes green olives seem so meaty. They have that saltiness that puckers the tongue, yet a definite sense of flesh and texture that give martinis so much of their naughtiness and pizzas a zot of playful. Stuffed with feta, though, they become a whole other kind of condiment or accoutrement; suddenly, the humble, almost plebian green olive unfolds into something that is worthy of consumption on its own.

   The normally flakey Greek cheese takes on a melting quality that oozes into the olive itself—and in a gooey creamy essence, it adds its tang to the brine for an expansion of both things core flavor and texture. Delicious in salads, scattered around—or stuffed inside—baked chickens, yummy with sandwiches and perfect just out of a bowl, perhaps with another dish of raw almonds, it’s a whole new way to embrace something so pedestrian that is anything but.

Waiting Is The Hardest Work of Hope
     Bass Street Missionary Baptist Church Granny White Pike, Na

   To keep faith when it makes no sense. To believe in the best when there’s absolutely no reason. To find joy where it seems utterly devoid. Those are the magic tenets that give hope wings. Knowing it’s a timetable of its own—not a slave to impatience of our’s or anyone else’s—is the secret to being well, strong, free in the face of great difficulty. It is the work, the place where the effort must be applied. Mandatory, and yet—what other option is there beyond “the work” of hope?

   No deeper truth can I imagine.

Narwals


   They are called the unicorns of the sea. Mammal-like creatures that live beneath the surface of the ocean with a horn growing—literally—from the center of their forehead. In a world of whimsy, where unicorns are merely conjured bits of idealized/mythologized horses, the narwal is as real as it gets, even as it embodies so much of what makes the illusionary unicorn special.

Bonus: Narwal: Unicorn of the Sea T www.threadless.com

Bob Dylan’s American Journey 1956-1966 The Morgan Library & Museum, NYC

   Easily one of the most eclectic, electric, prophetic, yet inscrutable songwriters of our time, Bob Dylan’s American Journey examines a young man with a penchant for folk music from Hibbing, Minnesota’s rise through the Greenwich Village storied, and political, “hoot scene” and straight up to his plugging in and turning on America’s youth to how charged rock music could be. Working in conjunction with Seattle’s Experience Music Project, the Bob Dylan Archives, Smithsonan Museum, the Civil Rights Museum and several private collections, the Morgan Library offers context and perspective to an artist whose rise and impact on our culture truly was “like a hurricane.”


Yoga for Golfers

   Liz Stewart, the woman who turned me onto this notion, explains that while golf is a game of strength and timing, it’s not necessarily about supple or limber. To suggest that golfers are not loose of hip or back is reason enough to know the need for this gentle loosening of all the places that’re access points to free motion.

Fresh Air

   Even if just for a few brisk moments… Throw up the windows, let the breeze move through everything in your house. As the temperatures drop, the heat goes on, the torpor slowly descends, leaving us to not even notice how stagnant our homes become. But fresh air—fresh air! There is nothing more enlivening for the soul, quickening for the pulse and cheering for the mind.

Bourgogne Blanc JJ Vincent 2005

   Mostly tasting aged in burlap, this de rigueur suburban quaffable has been viewed as anything but potable to my taste… And a dear friend who knew my bias snuck a bottle of this vintage into my house before ever identifying the designation. What a surprise, a sunny tasting white that had a resilience on the tongue that sparkled rather than stung like cat water…

   The difference? Assured by my friend that it wasn’t me—and another who laughed, “yes, you’re just about the oak”—it comes down to the where. Nothing like France to create a Chardonnay that is mild, yet full, present, dry, yet intriguing.


Spy: The Funny Years Kurt Anderson, Graydon Carter, George Kalogerakis

   There was nothing more sardonic or intellectually charged in the ‘90s than Spy - a respite for too many corporately bound travelers, wondering how their lives had atrophied into a dance of circuit riding for the bottomline. You knew your fellow philosopher about the pragmatism of surviving in the sell-or-be-sold jungle by the dog-eared copy of Spy being poured over in their First Class upgrade seat—and the under-the-breath chuckle their skewering of greed, celebrity, ecological hypocrisy, big business and dumb government elicited.

   Though in some ways, cyberspace has eliminated the need for Spy, the genuine appreciation of their wicked irony, mercilessly applied, never loses currency. Here it all comes home to roost, reminding one of the visceral comedic punch of words on paper, held between one’s fingers like a shroud of Turn or quick claim deed to some deeper relief.


Virginia Roses



  They have just a drop of cream to their whiteness… a pale kiss of not quite pink along the edges… Full heads that don’t quite clench, yet unfurl with such wide open arms, one can get lost just staring at the blooms. All the lushness that makes roses captivate, the succulence of the petals, the velvet texture of the flowers, the deep green stems that stand so strong.

   As the new star of a couple different grocery stores, Virginia roses offer both innocence and desire, a freshness and a beauty that is more sophisticated that the obvious crimson, pink or yellow. They are magic in their own way, and offer a hint of life as it can be.

Christmas Cards Chicago Art Museum

  Support the arts, find something unique to express seasonal sentiments and share the notion that art is accessible with all your lucky recipients. Whether your tastes run to classic art, black and white evocative photos, merry cartoonish, Japanese prints, retro feels or traditional holiday images, there is something for everyone. Recognizing that personal expression is a way of building understanding and offering oneself during the festivities (and they offer Hanukkah and Kwanzaa cards as well), the Chicago Art Institute exhibits their usual unflagging level of taste at prices that’re Hallmark competitive.

www.artinstituteshop.org


Essential Oil Blends Wild Oats

   Wild Oats does all the work for you… mixing essential oils to create the mood sought or state required. Imperative gerunds. Single words that are defining more than commands: Soothe. Invigorate. Breathe. Sensual. A few drops, and the transformation seeps into one’s being through the nasal passages, the pores, pulse points that have been graced.

   Some mixes are relatively straightforward: Soothe is just three notes (lavender, chamomile and ylang ylang), while others are complex cocktails of scent: Sensual boasts a fistful (rose, jasmine, sandalwood, labdanum, mandarin, ylang ylang and cassia). Regardless, they release inner streams of consciousness that take you places you might not get otherwise.


Indie Film Network Section Target

   Just when it seems that reasonable retail can’t get any more elevated, there in the movie section of Target is the fairly large Indie Film Network display. Drawing together a tasty collection of recent independent features, it is Pedro Almodovar and Sofia Coppola, documentaries and low budget provocateurs. Eclectic to say the least, anyone who thinks the red-dot-in-a-circle’s retailer’s DVDs are merely warmed-over blow-up action and soppy romances can guess again.


Paste November 2006 issue

   As a kind of alt-roots gumbo, Paste emerged five years ago as a thinking music lovers’ magazine, but has swiftly evolved into a cultural pulsepoint worth paying attention to. Think Rolling Stone back when it was a California-based publication, and you’re getting warm. With columns on books, games, faraway places, features on Richard Linklater’s “Fast Food Nation” and Levon Helms’ concerts at his home, as well as a 2300 word meditation on the delayed meaning and impact of “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” plus a cover feature on Beck, who just keeps reinventing and stretching his perception, this is as broad-spectrum and focused a pop culture monthly that’s actually driven by the creation (v. the love life) as exists.

   With a killer sampler tucked inside each issue, making you audibly connected to the content, as a value-added on-ramp to whole new worlds, this may be the best cultural coverage out there—and it just keeps expanding its realm. To know how, start here.


The smell of Cuban pork roast & Mexican Holy Candles

   Wafting up the stairs, permeating every inch of the house, this is an evocation of the indigenous ollifactory essences of Miami and Los Angeles… a completely intoxicating myriad of scents, both sweet (the scent of roses from the blessed virgin candles) and savory (the garlic in the mojo criollo), nourishing (the meat slow cooking) and citrusy (the lemon and lime juice in the marinade). Truculent, succulent, romantic in the most gustory, sensual way, it is a Latin feast of consumption adrift in the rooms of my very gringa home.

Drinking The Kool-Aid

   It is easy, especially when you’re on a roll, to believe all that people tell you. To sense that there is some glossy, glorious reality that supersedes our own humanity or that of others. But in that, we lose footing, begin to disconnect from compassion, from the opportunity to improve.

   To drink the Kool-Aid has almost Jonestownian overtones, swallowing what the sycophants offer as evidence of our exquisiteness rather than their invasive tentacles trying to use something they see to further their own reality. To maintain perspective in the realm of windfall is the challenge, yet to lose it is to begin the undermining of everything that has set one apart.


Country Superhits! Vol. 1 and Bluegrass Jim Lauderdale (Yep Roc)


   Jim Lauderdale is a journeyman purveyor of classic country, ranging from old school honky tonk to vintage weepers, tangy bluegrass to swing things. Along the way, he’s made two fistful of records that never got their due—even as his songs have given major hits to George Strait, Patty Loveless, Gary Allen, Mark Chesnutt, Dixie Chicks and Vince Gill.

   With this pair of wicked hip indie releases, the North Carolina artist/writer takes on form and content through the lense of neon, cigarette smoke and the Wurltizer’s glow. Somehow able to imbue hillbilly hooks with subtle emotions and strong turns of fate, there’s always more going on in a Lauderdale song than his melody craft would suggest. Whether your poison is the more acoustic, pickin’centric Appalachian bluegrass or the wavy sonics of steel-drenched, fiddle-tattoed country, these records demonstrate why Lauderdale’s almost every country star with roots’ secret weapon.

“Good, bad, happy, sad vanish like the imprint of a bird in the sky.”
       Chogyam Trungpa

  This, too, shall pass. So they tell us, but in that moment of crashing or soaring, it’s hard to get one’s arms or mind around it. Reaching for an anchoring metaphor, one need only consider that trail a bird leaves in the sky to understand how ephemeral what we feel is. A bird in the sky is there, then gone - leaving no mark, no hint, no suggestion it ever was. So, too, are the feelings that pass through us, catching our breath for a moment, then lost to the beauty of the horizon.

Bob Graham Sunshine Skyway Bridge St.Petersburg, Florida

   Jutting up across the bay—lots of open air and metal. It’s like flying over that deep blue water, above the terra firme, over the waves. If Tinkerbelle could hijack your body for one pure moment—it might be like this. But then in utterly American homage to the way we really fly, there beneath you are four radials, gripping the road, clinging to the blacktop and reminding you how gravity and attachment can work in concert.

   Flying across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge is the best of so very many worlds. During the day, it is almost a human rendering of Icarus—without the plunge into the sea. At night, it is more a concert of stars and sea and the wind across the water, the moment, your skin. Throw your arms out to the sky and feel the rush of being alive.

Gerald LeVert RIP

   There was something bawdy about Gerald LeVert’s voice: a mix of dusky brandy, velvet hands that knew how to pull the best out of woman’s body and the desire to plunge into the depths of whatever may be shared between the object of his attention and his own fine self. Never one to go straight up graphic, there was something about the implication of anything sung by perhaps the most visible member of the second generation of Cleveland, Ohio’s first family of soul that said ease back, let it happen.

   Best known for the innocent of eroticism and straight up embrace of being a common man “Casanova,” Gerlad LeVert gave as good as he got. With a smooth groove, lush harmonies and that smoky voice, LeVert delivered one of the records of 1987… and in that, he established truths about male/female realities that should be adhered to in terms of female aspiration and acquisition.

Body Pillow

  Sleeping the wrong way is just exponentially more challenging when one wraps their body around a pillow that can support a leg and encourage the pelvic cavity to be balanced when lying on one’s side. Ditto for the arms in the shoulder sockets. We forget that our body gets weighed down by gravity—and that essential law creates a wear and tear that may be unrecognized, but is absolutely incontrovertible. Not exactly a Teddy Bear, but in some ways, far more critical to waking fresh and kink-free.


Grimey’s Nashville, TN

  Back in the day—before big box retailers—the local record store was a hub of activity, a temple of commonality and cultural currency that allowed people to expand knowledge, deepen friendships and find the like-minded based on 12 inch slabs of vinyl. With growth came consolidation, and suddenly even national music chains like Tower—dedicated to knowing and loving music, and getting it in the hands of like-minded consumers—were a luxury beyond the realm of reason.

   Grimey’s Record Store, in a converted Victorian house, turns the tables back. With attention to what’s in stock, a passion for local titles and records that carry the current of emotions, experiences or just sonics that speak, this is the sort of communal convergence that music signaled two generations ago. In a world of foodies that proclaim “Buy local,” this is an even more militant—and necessary—manifesto: “Buy Local” so people can care about the music they sell, have passion about upcoming releases and embolden consumers whose tastes they come to know by heart.