Back to Home

Archive for August 2008

…One of the things that we have to change in our politics is the idea that people cannot disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism. The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America. So I’ve got news for you, John McCain. We all put our country first.

America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can’t just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose - our sense of higher purpose. And that’s what we have to restore.

~ Barack Obama, August 28 2008, Denver, Colorado ~

March 21 - April 19 Aries
Sign of the Ram; you’re adventurous, courageous, spontaneous. And you’re really really ready for the Labor Day Weekend, aren’t you? Yeah babe - it shows. You just can’t wait to kick back and relax for a few days before entering the last quarter of 2008. Here’s some history: President Grover Cleveland instituted Labor Day as a national holiday in 1894, after workers for the Pullman company walked out when the company’s owners laid off hundreds of workers and forced those who were left to accept devastating pay cuts. The workers lived in the town of Pullman, Illinois, a ‘utopian community’ built by company president George Pullman. The lowest paid workers lived in row houses (rent was deducted from their wages), small Victorian homes were reserved for managers, and a luxury hotel housed Pullman himself and guests of the company. The Labor Day holiday was a concession that President Cleveland finally made in order to get votes during an election year (he lost).

April 20 - May 20 Taurus
Taureans, I know you love comfort and stability and luxury and cleanliness. I know this, being a card-carrying Taurean myself. Well, this year is the 60th Anniversary of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap – yes, they’re still around and just as good as ever. Emmanuel Bronner was the third generation in a German-Jewish family of soapmakers going back to 1858. The liquid and bar soaps came to America in 1929 and Bronner established the company in its current form in 1948. Not only are the soaps (still) all-natural and eco-friendly and smell amazing, but each bottle is covered with densely packed, small text written by the original (now deceased) Dr. Bronner explaining his philosophy of life. Ergo: Love is like a willful bird, do you want it? It flies away! Yet, when you least expect its bliss, it turns around and it’s here to stay! Download the labels for all the soaps on the company website; read the timeline; watch the trailer for Sara Lamm’s film Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox (saving the world…one bottle of soap at a time) – buy the DVD and learn more about this interesting man and his vision. And go get yourself a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s!

May 21 - June 20 Gemini
Gemini – The Twins. As in, the Twin Cities. As in, the world’s eyes will be on Minneapolis-St. Paul next week when the donkeys do their dance on the world stage. What a summer, eh? First the Olympics, then the Dems, and now the GOP. I wonder if Prince will be in town for this shindig, or will he jet off to Vegas for a few days? In any case, there are so many great things to see in Minnesota’s capital (St. Paul) and it’s sister Minneapolis, there really isn’t time and space to talk about them here. But I’d like to tell you about the storied Lakewood Cemetery on Hennepin Avenue, considered to be one of the most beautiful final resting places in the country. The chapel, designed by architect Henry Wild Jones in the Byzantine style, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The cemetery itself is chock full of famed Minnesotans: Frank C. Mars (creator of the Milky Way candy bar), John S. Pillsbury (founder of Pillsbury and also 8th governor of the state), H. David Dalquist (inventor of the Bundt pan), Hubert Humphrey (as in former VP and also Minnesota State Senator), Karl Mueller (bassist for Soul Asylum), and Tiny Tim (no explanation needed, I hope).

June 21 - July 22 Cancer
Cancers love to cling. Well here’s something to cling to, you crazy kids. O Ye Jigs & Juleps! is a series of essays written in 1904 by 10 year old Virginia Cary Hudson, then a student at an Episcopalian boarding school. The essays were discovered years later in a locked trunk and the book was published in 1962, after which it became a national best seller. The ten essays cover subjects such as Etiquette at Church (Never punch people in church, or giggle or cross your legs. Crossing your legs is as bad as scratching or walking in front of people or chewing gum or saying damn), Education (Education is what you learn in books, and nobody knows you know it but your teacher), Personal Appearance (Personal appearance is looking the best you can for the money), and Everlasting Life (I sure am glad Jesus is going to be in Heaven because if I get in trouble he will be there to help me out). In Virginia’s essay on Sacraments she notes sagely, When you are little and ugly somebody carries you in church on a pillow, and you come out a child of God and inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven. They pour water on your head and that’s a sacrament. When you are twelve you walk back in yourself with your best dress and shoes on, and you walk up to the Bishop, and he stands up, and you kneel down, and he mashes on your head and you are an Episcopal. Then you are supposed to increase in spirit.

July 23 - August 22 Leo
Lionhearted Leos are creative, generous, and extroverted. You’ll no doubt love the new website for The Girlie Girl Army – Your Guide to Glamazon Living, in which Chloe Jo Berman and her posse break it all down for us. CJB is a writer, animal rescue heroine, radio host, ethical fashion expert, and the site describes her as straight up Prada, with a side of Patchouli and every intention of being the green Rachel Ray. She will soon have her own television show and she also has a book on eco-friendly beauty coming out later this year. The Girlie Girl weekly newsletter clues you in to all kinds of necessary information from gourmet food (usually vegan) to vintage clothing stores to great books to wacky news stories to interesting jewelry items and so much more, it makes my head hurt. Sign up for the weekly newsletter. Visit the archives. You’ll be fascinated for days.

August 23 - September 22 Virgo
Intelligent……meticulous……and above all, reliable Virgos will love the terrific Martini Loft Alcove located on the mezzanine level of Kansas City’s Aladdin Hotel. I know KC has a plethora of other fun places to visit but I was recently there for 24 hours (don’t ask, don’t tell) and I didn’t get to see much besides the Martini Loft Alcove – however I did see enough to know that this is a place I really want to go back and spend some time in. The Aladdin Hotel is listed on the National Historic Register and underwent extensive restoration in the Spring of 2007 to bring back the original art deco ambiance, now married passionately to a vintage hip ethos. It’s also right in the heart of downtown KC, just steps away from the ultra-groovy Power and Light District. The hotel rooms have been spectacularly redesigned and are at once classic and fabulously stylish. The hotel also has a brand new spa.

September 23 - October 22 Libra
Urbane, sociable, easygoing Libra ladies – have you ever had a problem finding a bra that really fits? No, I mean REALLY fits. There is absolutely nothing that feels so good as wearing a bra that fits correctly. Thanks to Alan and Lori Kaplan’s Bra*Tenders, a cozy den of undergarments of every size and stripe, you too can achieve this wonderful feeling. Aside from their 30 plus years of experience with theatrical, bridal, and full-busted custom-fittings and sales, the store also has an overflowing stockroom with panties, accessories, and hosiery in a vast price range. The other thing that makes them special is their one-on-one service. Because they spend so much time with each client, custom-fittings are only by appointment (call 888-GET-A-BRA). The only exception is for theatrical clients, of which there are many. Bra*Tenders is a staple for wardrobe supervisors and costume designers for Broadway shows, feature films, and hit TV shows.

October 23 - November 21 Scorpio
Being the magnetic, compulsive, mysterious Scorpio that you are, you have an insatiable need to have the newest gadget as soon as it hits the market. Therefore you have – naturally – the coolest cellphone du jour, the iPhone. You probably bought the original model and then upgraded it recently to the new 3G. Am I right? Of course right! Members of the tribe – I’m talking chosen people here – please to check out a couple of new iPhone apps targeted specifically for youse guys (thank you Kati, a blessing on your keppele!). There is the ParveOMeter - a timer that figures out the amount of time our kosher friends must take between eating milk and meat products. And there’s also iBlessing, which is an ingenious way to keep straight all the different blessings for whatever food or drink you happen to be ingesting, plus bonus blessings for after the meal and washing your hands. The best part? Both of these awesome apps are free. Oy! Such a bargain!

November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
Sag, you saucy wench you. You’re intellectual, optimistic, and you love to live the high life. If I may quote Smokey Robinson, my mama told me you better shop around. Deborah Mayer is the brains behind Shop Around Tours. After a lucrative career in entertainment Ms. Mayer completely reinvented herself to create this service catering to frugal fashionistas. Oh if only Carrie Bradshaw and her gang had known about this when Sex and the City was on the air. Basically it’s all about going to Italia, staying in four star hotels, and dropping cash on amazing bargains (think Prada, Gucci, Fendi et al). The November 8-15 tour of 3 Italian cities is completely sold out, but you can sign up now for next spring’s tour of Milan, Venice, Florence and Rome. And a tour of Tuscany is planned for October 2009. What are you waiting for? Andiamo!

December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
Even the practical, careful, patient Capricorns among us will be amused by the website of the week – UrbanDictionary.com, which was founded by software engineer Aaron Peckham in 1999. Time Magazine counts this among the 50 best websites of the year, and they’re a pretty reputable source. Literally hours of fun can be had here looking up crazy terms like mis-wave (To return a wave to someone you think is waving at you, but is actually waving to the person behind you. Usually results in embarrassment and introversion), deface (To remove a ‘friendship’ from facebook due to having either accidentally adding him/her as a friend or actually adding them and reconsidering later), and ideagasm (The physical manifestation of an idea so wonderful that it sends waves of ecstasy from the ears to the tips of the toes). There are even two books for sale that are compendiums of the material on the website, which is all contributed by viewers like you!

January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius ~ you GO, water bearer! You’re moving and grooving and surfing ze web, and someone sends you a link and you’re all excited to check it out, and bam! it goes nowhere. Quel pain in the ass! Well, now there is a site that you can go to check if the problem is your computer or not. Down For Everyone Or Just Me? is a brilliant little site that will tell you instantly where the problem lies. It was created by Alex Payne, a software engineer from Twitter. From Alex’s blog al3x.net: It’s running off of a tiny Gandi VPS and the code is a couple hundred lines (including templates) of Ruby, powered by the Sinatra micro web framework. I’m running four instances of the application behind Nginx, and save for the occasional slow request it’s been standing up pretty well (low load on the box, response times are usually fast). God I love it when they talk like this – it’s like Latin or morse code. Sexy!

February 19 - March 20 Pisces
The download of the week is for our romantic, sensitive, ichthyological Piscean friends and trends toward the ritual of the holiday weekend back in the olden days when people could afford to fill up the gas tank and travel for four days. Trains and Boats and Planes is Laura Cantrell’s first recording in three years, the first since the birth of her baby daughter. The digital EP contains Cantrell’s interpretations of a number of travel-themed classics like Merle Haggard’s Silver Wings, New Order’s Love Vigilantes, and the title song by Hal David and Burt Bacharach. Laura is quoted on her website: “I love these songs, and though some are a bit melancholy, that was part of the process. The songs allowed me to explore the emotional spaces created by some big changes in my life that had left me unsure of my bearings. And I’d always wanted an excuse to record a Bacharach tune.” Elvis Costello stated, “If Kitty Wells made Rubber Soul, it would sound like Laura Cantrell.”

several years ago i was fortunate enough to meet Katy Jackson, who is a web designer and Flash developer. she reached out to me to pitch an idea about a website i was producing and managing at the time and i ended up hiring her to completely redo the site - not once, but twice! she also worked her tail off getting this new site ready for me as i felt it was time to birth snoop* du jour from its original wordpress home.

my point being, if you need a terrific designer who specializes in both small websites for individuals and small businesses as well as large corporations with more complex needs, she is amazing. in addition to website design, she also does redesign of existing websites (see www.soozietyrell.com), multimedia components or full, all Flash websites, banner ads, html e-mail and newsletters, and search engine optimization.

see www.katyjackson.net for more info

March 21 - April 19 Aries
While we all wait in breathless anticipation for the magical text message from Barack Obama telling us who his comrade in arms will be, here’s some news you can use. You pioneering, enthusiastic, fearless Aries folks can get your democratic groove on with the Democratic Dream Mug (Its not just a dream - it’s a mug! Pour in a hot beverage and the country goes blue. You’ll be surprised how good it feels!) for only $12.95 from The Unemployed Philosophers Guild. They came to be in the last decades of the 20th century, when two brothers found their inner creativity in the midst of a dwindling academic job market. Although they still contemplate truth and justice, it is their enduring goal to fulfill the materialistic desires of the funny and sophisticated everywhere! Even better, most of the proceeds go to unemployed philosophers (and their associates) and a portion also goes to a few groups working on profound causes. They have scads of fab gifts besides the aforementioned coffee mug – e.g. a box of Atone Mints, an Axis of Evil Puppet Set, the Shakespeare Naughty Pillow (This pillow features the some of the naughty bits of Shakespeare. You can rest your head on it and dream of “making the beast with two backs!” 100% cotton. Machine washable).

April 20 - May 20 Taurus
Ah you self-indulgent Taurean brethren ~ celebrate these fine August days with the best ice cream you’ve ever tasted. I’m talking about Häagen-Dazs Reserve Flavors, holla! Did you know that Häagen-Dazs was started in 1959 in the Bronx by a Polish immigrant couple, Reuben and Rose Mattus? The company began with three flavors – vanilla, chocolate, and coffee. The name was made up to look Scandinavian but is actually nonsense words. In any case, check out their Reserve Flavors; fleur de sel caramel (Fleur de Sel caramels covered in a chocolaty coating blended into caramel ice cream with caramel ribbons and French sea salt accents), pomegranate chip (a creamy mixture of tart pomegranate, sweet cranberries and ripe, sun-warmed grapes with melting chunks of intense dark chocolate), toasted coconut sesame brittle (slivers of toasted coconut steeped in rich cream and coconut milk, blended with crunchy pieces of ginger-infused sesame brittle), and more. Swoon……

May 21 - June 20 Gemini
You’re adaptable, you’re versatile, you’re lightning quick, and you’re Gemini! Looking into your future, I believe that you will find the website mediabistro.com to be a virtual salon of interesting information. It’s one of those delicious cyberstops where I go to look something up and two hours later I wake up as if from a dream after being totally engrossed with a boatload of other information I didn’t even realize I was looking for. The site states that they are dedicated to anyone who creates or works with content (that would be, um, everyone I know). Their greater goal is to revolutionize the way creative/content industry professionals relate. Therefore they’ve created the AvantGuild network; a new guild for the new guard in media . . . a new version of the 14th century guild system – so that talented professionals in related industries can meet informally, mentor each other, work on projects together, and more. Memberships are reasonably priced and include tons of perks but the best perk of all is that you can view vast quantities of material on the site only available to AG members. And my day always starts off right with The Morning Newsfeed, which you can sign up to receive for free. This is a list of smart media news culled from sources like AP, The New York Times, Washington Post, Hollywood Reporter, etc. etc. Oh and did I mention they also have amazing classes in several locations around the country, and online?

June 21 - July 22 Cancer
Cancerians tend to be moody, emotional, and intuitive. You’ll no doubt love the story of a man whose life was saved by the Rolling Stones. Retired baker Sam Carter, of Stoke, England, had lapsed into a coma after contracting a severe case of anemia. He had been given only a thirty percent chance of survival by his doctors. His wife played him his favorite song through headphones, Satisfaction, the first single he purchased as a teenager back in 1965, and Carter woke up from the deep deadly sleep he was in. He was quoted in the press, “I suddenly had a burst of energy and knew I had a lot more life left in me and that’s when I woke up - to the sound of the first song I ever bought. I would love to thank Mick and the rest of the Stones personally - I feel they really did help wake me from my coma.” Go, baby, go!

July 23 - August 22 Leo
Leos should be proud to count reporter Helen Thomas among them. She’s been a member of the White House Press Corps since the administration of John F. Kennedy. She asks the hard and brutal questions that GWB would apparently rather not answer and is now rarely called upon in press briefings. She has traveled the world with Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton, and covered every economic summit. In 1972, she was the only newspaperwoman to travel with President Nixon to China during his breakthrough trip. Celebrate her extraordinary life by watching Thank You, Mr. President (part of HBO’s terrific Documentaries series). The film was directed by Rory Kennedy, niece of JFK.

August 23 - September 22 Virgo
August 28, 1963
was the date of the historic March on Washington, which sees its 45th Anniversary this year. It’s interesting that this incredible event which changed all of our lives in both nuanced and electrifying ways happened during the time of Virgo, a sign mostly known for being careful, precise and quiet. Washingtonians can mark the occasion this year Thursday August 28 at the Historical Society of Washington, DC, located at 801 K Street NW.  At 6:30 pm historian, filmmaker, and photographer Eric Kulberg will discuss his photographs in an exhibit that opens that evening and runs until the end of this year, March on Washington: 45th Anniversary. Reservations are requested, please call 202-383-1828.

September 23 - October 22 Libra
Need hundreds of songs about presidents, elections and politics? Looking for songs for a June wedding — thousands of songs classified by 42 love topics? May I clue you flirtatious, diplomatic, urbane Librans into the Green Book of Songs by Subject. Search their database – which classifies songs of all genres (including novelty records, TV themes, and commercials) by more than 2,000 themes, concepts or topics – and is continually updated. Professional Desk References, Inc. publishes the best-selling Green Book Of Songs Of Songs By Subject: The Thematic Guide To Popular Music and the GreenBookofSongs.com® Database subscription service. The project is the ongoing work of Jeff Green, currently VP of Aircheck, a Nashville-based trade publication company and previously Executive Director for the Americana Music Association in Nashville. He’s assisted by my dear friend Lauren Virshup, who oversees the company’s extensive business operations and contributes significantly to the GreenBookofSongs.com® Database content and search tools. Believe me, you’ve never seen anything like this. C’est magnifique!

October 23 - November 21 Scorpio
Scorpio Sister Marie Antoinette was born November 2, 1755 in Vienna. The 2006 bio film produced and directed by Sofia Coppola won the Academy Award that year for Best Costume Design. The film was actually made at the Palace of Versailles where the real Marie A. lived out her life as Queen of France. The movie is a stunning visual riot of colors and textures and is quite breathtaking as long as you don’t invest too deeply in its version of the truth. Oh and by the way Marianne Faithfull (visit Capricorn to see more about her) plays Marie’s mother. One of the film’s most endearing qualities is the soundtrack, brilliantly culled of 1980s New Wave bands with a few tracks from the present with the same sort of dreamy trancy feel. It’s our download of the week; you’ll eat it up with a spoon (along with your Haagen-Dazs reserve ice cream). Bow Wow Wow, Gang of Four, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the magnificent Plainsong by the Cure are only a few of the yummies in this delicious box of confections.

November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
Sagittarians will no doubt enjoy indulging their insatiable search for knowledge on the Snopes.com website. This is one of those endlessly fascinating islands on the world wide web, calling itself The definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation. Wikipedia says it is the most widely-known resource for validating or debunking urban legends, Internet rumors, email forwards, and other such stories of uncertain or questionable origin in popular American culture. The site is run by Barbara and David Mikkelson, who were married after meeting on the newsgroup alt.folklore.urban. They also founded the San Fernando Valley Folklore Society. The Snopes site is meticulously organized by topic and also features a message board for users to post questions about urban legends.

December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
Capricorns have every reason to be proud of their comrade/sister Marianne Evelyn Gabriel Faithfull, who is one of my all-time heroines. Briefly: her maternal great-great-uncle was Austrian nobleman Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (his novel Venus in Furs inspired the word ‘masochism’), her mother was a Baroness; while a convent schoolgirl she was discovered at a party by irrepressible impresario supreme Andrew Loog Oldham; she became a successful pop singer after the release of the Jagger-Richards ballad AsTears Go By was released in 1964; she became Jagger’s long time girlfriend; she was the famed “Girl in the Fur Rug” at the 1967 Redlands drug bust at Keith Richards’ country home; she became a heroin addict; she almost lost everything; she crafted the brilliant Broken English album in 1979; and yes, there’s more. A lot more. Read her autobiography Faithfull; her life reads like a modern-day gothic novel. A new album will be released at the end of next month. And if you get the chance to see one of her rare appearances, don’t think twice; just go.

January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
All eyes will be on Denver, Colorado next week when the Democratic Convention comes to town. Here’s a tip for you independent, humanitarian, intellectual Aquarians; the nearby town of Arvada (7 miles NW of Denver) is home to Black & Read, 4000 square feet of books, games, vinyl, and CD’s. Rows and rows of scifi, classics, reference, philosophy, and more. Stacks and stacks of multi genre CDS and vinyl. Sounds like heaven to me! All hail the independent book/record store. Support them wherever you find them. They are, unfortunately, a dying breed.

February 19 - March 20 Pisces
If there’s one thing that Pisceans love, it’s knowing what’s going on. In fact we can be a little bit on the controlling side, n’est-ce pas? Well thanks to Jeff Stark and his cohort Alita Edgar, you can be on top of just about every interesting cultural / art event in the vast boroughs of New York City. Their weekly list, Nonsense NYC, is a discriminating resource for independent art, weird events, strange happenings, unique parties, and senseless culture in New York City. Everything from street events to bike rallies to outlaw dancing to burlesque to open mikes - Nonsense covers the stuff that has no name, or a name that you feel really awkward and self-conscious saying out loud, like “underground.” They use what they call the rule of three in listing events; three different things going on in the event: DJs, bands, dancers, costumes, fire performance, theater, film, art, projections, fashion, an unusual space, or a host of other intangibles. Quoth the team: We believe that there is more to life in New York than getting drunk at slick new bars. We were frustrated when we moved here and couldn’t find a reliable source of alternatives, even though we knew that there were creative people making cool shit happen. Almost more annoying was the fact that certain groups we knew about weren’t always aware of one another. Our solution was to start a weekly list . . . Our goals are to help make New York a more interesting place to live, to encourage others to do the same, and to have more fun than just about anyone else. We’re particularly drawn to participatory culture, amateurism, and urban folk art. Subscribe here. And they accept donations, so send one in! They’re doing great work and deserve to be paid for this!

March 21 - April 19 Aries
Your pioneering, confident, energetic Aries self is probably looking at the calendar right now and saying, hmm – August – gotta hit the open road. It’s that time. Well, if you can afford the gasoline, go for it, you Ram you. If not, take a gander at Susan Session Rugh’s great new book Are We There Yet? The Golden Age of American Family Vacations. It’s a cultural history of the quintessential middle-class family vacation from the mid 40’s to the early 70’s. Rugh, an associate professor at Brigham Young University, presents a captivating subject in the first study of its kind. For those who remember being packed into the family car with your annoying little brother and driving across the highways of the USA, playing geography or other car games to pass the time, staying in little motels or camping out under the stars, learning about the country’s history by visiting its monuments, this book is a truly enjoyable read.

April 20 - May 20 Taurus
May 1, 1967 was the date that Elvis Presley wed his long time girlfriend Priscilla Beaulieu. And thanks to Mattel (they’re swell) you can now purchase a set of Elvis and Priscilla wedding day Barbies, dressed in replicas of their wedding attire, though the Priscilla doll could use a lot more eye makeup and her bouffant hair do isn’t as frozen in place as the real Mrs. P’s was that day. The packaging also contains a sticker reading Direct from Graceland. I don’t know about you, but this is one of those times where I just say – I don’t care what I have to do without; I gotta have this item. Although the real-life Elvis-Priscilla union only lasted 5 years, your dolls will live forever in the first romantic blush of their wedding day.

May 21 - June 20 Gemini
Rosanne Cash is our Gemini this week simply because she kicks ass and takes names. She was born in 1955 to country music legend Johnny Cash and his first wife Vivian Liberto right around the time Cash’s career was starting on its upward trajectory at Sun Records. She started her own career by singing backup for her dad, has written essays and fiction for The New York Times, Rolling Stone, New York Magazine and other publications, has a few books out as well, and is a Grammy Award winning singer and songwriter. Her most recent CD, Black Cadillac, received widespread critical acclaim in 2006 and she’s working on a new one now. Plus she’s an active and fascinating member of the blogosphere with Mrs. L’s Monthly. She writes about everything from books she’s reading to concerts she went to the best hotel room on tour, to outrage over school shootings, to the sorry state of the world, to family and friends and life.

June 21 - July 22 Cancer
The Zodiac sign of the Crab brought us guitar virtuoso Nils Lofgren, whose career began at the tender age of 17 when he joined Neil Young’s band and contributed to the acclaimed platinum album After The Gold Rush. He’s played with all the masters, and in fact is a master himself, and by the way also – it so happens – the nicest guy in the world. He joined Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band in 1984 and used to be introduced onstage by El Jefe as “a man as sweet as life itself.” That’s no joke. Not only does Nils have a new CD out – The Loner-Nils Sings Neil – solo acoustic versions of classic Neil Young songs (available on his website) but he also has a online guitar clinic on his website with downloadable quicktime lessons for the unbelievable bargain price of $20 per session. Seriously, what are you waiting for?

July 23 - August 22 Leo
Find an awesomely cool birthday gift for your Leo friends at the wildly entertaining cyber-store Uncommon Goods. Everything from a set of Hula Rocking Glasses to a Dear Diary hidden compartment flask to the Secret Lives of US Presidents Trivia Card Game to adult sock monkey slippers – all here, and much, much more. Every time I break out the credit card to purchase a unique gift here, the accolades come back in spades. And best of all, they feature handmade, recycled and organic products and are a part of the Social Venture Network (along with Ben and Jerry’s and Google), a socially conscious network of business that value healthy communities and the human spirit as well as high returns.

August 23 - September 22 Virgo
Intelligent, genuine, conservative Virgo – I have the perfect radio station for you folks. You’ll dig the blue jeans off of Sirius Satellite Radio’s brilliant Outlaw Country channel, Steven Van Zandt’s sanctuary for the rebels and renegades, rabble rousers and rogues of country music. They’re all here: Dylan, Loretta Lynn, Steve Earle, David Allan Coe, Emmylou Harris, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and of course all generations of the Hank Williams Dynasty. DJ’s include Shooter Jennings, Cowboy Jack Clement, Dallas Wayne, and truckin’ music authority RigRocker. Come in, come in, breaker 1-9. Dial up this station and open a tall cold one.

September 23 - October 22 Libra
The sense of harmony and balance that is enjoyed by our Libran friends will thrill to a visit to Clayton, the Pittsburgh home of art patron and industrialist Henry Clay Frick. More than 90 percent of the original family artifacts still reside in this beautiful 23 room Victorian mansion that sits on a remarkable tract of land in the residential neighborhood of Point Breeze. Also on the property: Frick’s collection of vintage automobiles, and the full sized children’s play house. You can also have a lovely, sedate afternoon tea in the Frick Café and visit nearby Frick Park.

October 23 - November 21 Scorpio
Scorpio, thy name is independence. Passion. Intensity. Well, all those and more can be found in the storied life and career of Pittman, NJ’s own Patricia Lee Smith AKA Patti Smith, American singer-songwriter-artist-poet. Get your seductive, art loving self over to the Film Forum to see Dream of Life, the just released intimate portrait of Smith by photographer Steven Sebring, who followed her around for ten years making this film. I still remember that revelatory moment when I first heard Land (from Horses) on headphones in my college listening lounge, and realized that this woman did, as she said, hold the key to the sea of possibilities. The word genius comes close. Ever since then it’s been, for me, a brainiac amour.

November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
Sagittarians can satiate that nagging centaurian sweet tooth with a delectable treat from Tate’s Bake Shop – physically located in Southampton, Long Island but also available in many many retail outlets throughout the New York region. Truly, their goodies are TDF – cookies, cakes, brownies, blondies, pies, you name it… they have it, and no one does it better. The crispy baked just right chocolate chip cookies literally are heaven on earth. You can order online too. There’s even a cookbook available now which includes the chocolate chip cookie recipe.

December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
There are Capricorns and there are Capricorns. But there was only one Edgar Allen Poe, born January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. Celebrate his genius with a visit to Edgar’s Café on W. 84th Street, tucked away on the block between Broadway and West End Avenue, so named because Poe lived in this building in 1844 and 1845 and even penned The Raven here. This UWS landmark is dreamy and quiet, an oasis from the shopping frenzies taking place but a few steps away on Broadway. The salads and sandwiches are great, but they are mostly known for their many and varied amazing desserts and coffee drinks. Order yourself a slice of cognac pumpkin cheesecake and ponder over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, who knows there might also come a tapping, rapping at the chamber door, only this and nothing more. Or not…

January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
The internets never ceases to amaze and delight, n’est-ce pas Mr and Mrs Aquarius? When prepping this column I often delve into the endless toybox the world wide web provides for inspiration. And it never disappoints. This morning’s discovery: Hotels of the Rich & Famous. This site reports on celebrity sightings at various establishments around the globe and also interviews the aforementioned R&F about their favorite places to park their multiple cases of Louis Vitton luggage. Did you know that Johnny Depp favors the St. Mary in Jamaica, the Hotel Jerome in Aspen, and the Beverly Hilton? Natalie Portman likes to hang her hat at the Ritz-Carlton in New York and the Portobello Hotel in London? That Hotel Borg is the favored dwelling of celebs and politicos since 1930 in Reykjavik, Iceland and has hosted William Faulkner, Ella Fitzgerald, and Marlene Dietrich?

February 19 - March 20 Pisces
Feed that squishy, romantic Piscean side of yourself with a visit to Only Hearts, long a staple on the Upper West Side (79th and Columbus) and now with a location in Nolita (Mott between Prince and Spring). Et voila, here’s a whole store full of heart-themed gifts from lockets to notecards to picture frames. Owner Helena Stuart has also started her own clothing line of what she calls inner outerwear, lingerie that can be worn as streetwear. Don’t forget the words of Kurt Cobain: She eyes me like a pisces when I am weak; I’ve been locked inside your heart shaped box for weeks.

March 21 - April 19 Aries
There’s nothing that would behoove you adventurous Aries folks more than a weekend midnight movie at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village. August 8 and 9 you can scope George Axelrod’s 1966 classic Lord Love A Duck starring a wickedly satirical Roddy McDowell and sweet young blonde Tuesday Weld. Let’s just say that Weld starts off as an innocent, shy teenage girl who wants to be popular and ends up as a movie star in Bikini Widow. That should be enough to get you into the theater tonight or tomorrow at midnight. The series continues every weekend through September 27 and ends with Roger Corman’s granddaddy of counterculture genius, The Trip (written by Jack Nicholson). The entire schedule is here.

April 20 - May 20 Taurus
Famed Taurean William Shakespeare once wrote: Summer’s lease hath all too short a date. To paraphrase: it’s August, bitches! Get your stubborn Taurus behind out there into the world and take in some fresh air, even if it is heavy with humidity. You’ll wish you had done so come wintertime when the air is freezing cold and hurts when you breathe. Move it and shake it, yo ~ before the ice age moves in on us and takes permanent residence like on that scary episode of the Twilight Zone.

May 21 - June 20 Gemini
Your dual nature will no doubt thrill to the news that David Byrne and Brian Eno have collaborated again for the first time in 30 years - and that’s gotta be cool. Everything That Happens Will Happen Today is released August 18th but you can download a free copy of one of the songs, Strange Overtones, here. A tour will commence on September 16th in Bethlehem, Pa.

June 21 - July 22 Cancer
One of my favorite crab people is Artie Wayne, who is and has been a songwriter, singer, producer, concert promoter, publisher, restaurant host and more during his storied career. He’s also a refreshing stop in the increasingly crowded blogosphere where he shares way cool finds like Simon and Garfunkel performing Sounds of Silence acoustically live on television; The Mighty Quinn by the awesomely underrated Manfred Mann; Society’s Child by shy, sixteen year old Janis Ian; and John, You’ve Gone Too Far This Time by Rainbo (AKA Sissy Spacek prior to her acting career!). AW is apparently working on a book about the music business – sign me up for that one, Amazon!

July 23 - August 22 Leo
Happy Birthday Leo guys and dolls! Yes, Teri, that means YOU! A great way to celebrate your birthday weekend is to crank up the dials to WFMU FM which is celebrating 50 years on the air today through Sunday. And don’t think you can’t listen because you don’t live in the area. Au contraire ma cherie ~ WFMU streams live on the web 24/7! Legendary DJ’s from years past will be dropping in all weekend to help celebrate – including Wildgirl, Vin Scelsa, and Danny Fields! Even the Hound will be back, Saturday August 9 between 3 and 6pm.

August 23 - September 22 Virgo
I know you Virgos are very concerned with not acting old – as are we all. Please to rejoice in HowNotToActOld.com which has loads of tips on how to not give away your age, assuming you’re older than Paris Hilton (who still qualifies as young). Writer Pamela Redmond Satran has written 14 books including 5 novels, and 8 bestselling baby-naming books coauthored with Linda Rosenkrantz. Besides her blog, she also writes for the Huffington Post and has a new book out called 1000 Ways To Be A Slightly Better Woman.

September 23 - October 22 Libra
Librans can satisfy their insatiable need for great documentary films this summer with HBO’s terrific weekly series which started in June with Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. Even though it has appeared that Showtime has kicked HBO’s ass this year on drama series, I’m here to tell you that these documentaries make for great television. Last week, Baghdad High showed us what it’s like to be a teenager in Iraq where a daily commute to school is fraught with roadside bombings. Quel teenage wasteland! Every Monday night at 9pm through August 25th a new film is shown. Pop some corn and settle down to leave your world for the duration.

October 23 - November 21 Scorpio
It’s about time, Scorpio cats n kittens – your basest selves will thrill to the newly opened Erotic Heritage Museum in (where else?) Las Vegas, Nevada. Over 24,000 square feet of permanent and featured exhibits pay tribute to the world of erotica. The Museum opened its legs, I mean, doors to the world on August 3rd and seeks to bridge the gap between that which is commercial and often misidentified as pornographic. No doubt Jesse Helms will be turning in his grave.

November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
Sagittarians know from crazy crazy love. Therefore this week’s download is targeted to our self-indulgent, sociable, flirtatious centaur friends. The song is Bernadette by the Four Tops and is a testament to complete and utter jealousy and obsession. This 1967 Motown hit was produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland and recorded at Hitsville USA. The stellar lead vocal is of course by the unbelievable Levi Stubbs. Listen to the raw urgency in his voice as he cries, Bernadette! They want you because of the pride that it gives; But Bernadette, I want you because I need you to live.

December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
In honor of a Capricorn born on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, I’m speaking of course of Elvis Aaron Presley here, I urge you to visit the 24 Hour Church of Elvis. Here in this pocket of madness on the internets you can purchase refrigerator magnets, stickers, pins, t-shirts, calendars, etc. etc. etc. Proprietor Stephanie G. Pierce has run this establishment since 1985 in Portland, Oregon. There used to be a physical store where weddings were performed, but that’s closed for the moment. In the meantime, flat top cats and dungaree dolls can celebrate The King with a refrigerator magnet.

January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
Our Aquarian of the Week is – yes – Paris Hilton. Girlfriend fired back a hysterical response to John McCain’s Britney/Paris/Obama TV ad from last week. Paris lounges in a leopard bikini as she explains her own energy policy to us (surprise, it’s pretty frickin’ awesome). Quoth Ms. Hilton: “That wrinkly white-haired guy used me in his campaign ad, which I guess means I’m running for President. So thanks for the endorsement, white-haired dude. . . I want America to know that I’m like, totally ready to lead.” Even her parents, who contributed $Hilton$ money to McCain, were horrified by his tasteless ad which compares Obama’s celebrity to that of their daughter and Britney Spears.

February 19 - March 20 Pisces
Fish People, here’s a novel you can curl up in for the entire month of August and read your brains out. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is the largely autobiographical tale of Roberts, who escapes after two years in an Australian prison where he had been jailed for a series of armed robberies performed when he was a heroin addict. He arrives in Bombay with an assumed name and forged papers and luckily meets a street guide who becomes his bridge to an entirely new world. That’s only the beginning; I’m still reading it. The book is so large and heavy it could conceivably be used as a weapon. Fall into this fascinating world like it was a gorgeous colorful silken pillow.