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Archive for December 2008

Bill Hicks once opined (and I agree): Watching television is like taking black spray paint to your third eye. That being said, the fact is that dramatic moments of all shapes and sizes were played out this year on the small screen, from the sublime to the ridiculous (most of it being more in the latter category). The year began with the writers’ strike which went on for about ten million years and impacted our lives in all kinds of ways. After a Busboy drought (no Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert) the daring duo returned to the screen early in the year sans writers – and, surprise surprise, were pretty much as hilarious and entertaining as ever.

The writers’ strike, among other things, ensured no new season of 24 would take place until 2009. I don’t know about you but I was fine with that decision; much as I missed Jack B’s constipated facial expressions (and sour-faced / annoying / but you gotta love her - sidekick Chloe) I was fine with not seeing a show this year where presidents were snuffed out. (And then we recently got a little taste of Warrior King JB on 24: Redemption to warm us up for next year)

The overwhelming TV presence this year was politics. But let’s get to that later. First I’d like to spotlight the best new show of the year, Alan Ball’s True Blood. Lip-smacking good. Here’s some fun; tonight (New Year’s Eve) you can catch a True Blood marathon on HBO 2 starting at 6pm. Bon Temps, Louisiana comes alive (in a manner of speaking) with this vampire romance between sweet telepathic Sookie (Anna Paquin) and sexy undead Bill (Stephen Moyer). Best characters: Sookie’s conflicted, demon-ridden, wisecracking best friend Tara (Rutina Wesley) and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) as the coolest, cutest, freakiest, most interesting short order cook ever. What else would we expect from Alan Ball, who created Six Feet Under and wrote the film American Beauty.

Other great shows this year, in no particular order:
-Always necessary – The Daily Show, The Colbert Report. The Colbert Report’s week in Philadelphia covering the heated Pennsylvania primaries was outstanding. Colbert at the Liberty Bell telling the guide “Let me tongue the crack of liberty.” Colbert singing the National Anthem with John Legend, beautifully. Hillary Clinton fixing the digital screen in order to prove she can handle any crisis, only to have Obama appear on it soon afterward by satellite (Colbert: Won’t Senator Clinton be glad she fixed that).
-CBS Sunday Morning – for the most part, educational and entertaining (except when they go off on boring tangents).
-Gossip Girl – a moral drama of the highest order, with the consistently best dialogue of any show methinks. Remember Blair trying to keep her cool when meeting her mother’s new boyfriend for the first time; “I am Grace KellyGrace Kelly is me.”
-Lost – best moment so far in a show chockablock with great moments: Ben turning the frozen wheel that made the island disappear. Say what?!?!?!
-Ugly Betty – eye candy with a moral lesson thrown in. And love, love, love Marc St. James (Michael Urie), the bitchy but soft-hearted assistant to diva ediatrix Wilhemina Slater (Vanessa Williams). Another reason to watch; Betty’s younger brother Justin (Mark Indelicato). His best scene ever (Season 1) – acting out the play Hairspray to passengers on the subway. Receptionist Amanda (Becki Newton) also hits many high notes. This show is blessed by brilliant casting.
-30 Rock – All of a sudden it’s all about Tina Fey. Well my altar to her went up years ago when she broke into the boys club at SNL. I’ve been a fan of this show since the beginning, believing (and rightly so, it appears) that if Tina Fey created it, it must be golden. And then there’s Alec Baldwin. My dream man.
-The Soup – I don’t dare chance a weekend without a bowl of spicy soup from Joel McHale and his sick crew. What’s great about this show is that it is a collection of the best moments of all the worst TV shows. McHale’s banter makes me chortle. Although I am getting a little tired of mankini. And when is Spaghetti Cat getting his own spin-off?
-SNL – When they’re good, they’re very very good, and when they’re bad they’re horrid. Sometimes both in the same show. But consistently great (even in bad skits) are Andy Samberg, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Casey Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, and Kenan Thompson. Amy Poehler, girlfriend, I’m going to miss you! Of course SNL had a huge year with all of Tina Fey’s Palinizations and such, of which more later.
-Hardball with Chris Matthews – you want to hate him, and sometimes you do. But maybe it’s his Philadelphia accent (my hometown too), maybe it’s because when he gets excited about something he practically foams at the mouth, but he’s hugely entertaining and I logged many hours of this show during election season.
-Countdown with Keith Olbermann – sometimes it seemed as if his voice was the only one speaking truth to power this year. Although he did go overboard many a time. Still, I love him madly and he’s earned a place at the top of my must-see-TV list.
-The Rachel Maddow Show – she’s smart as a whip, cute, and engaging. Her interview last night with tainted Illinois Senatorial candidate Roland Burris was a don’t-miss and if you did miss it, check it out here.

I have not caught the train on these yet but I know I have to soon:
Mad Men
Battlestar Galactica
The Sarah Silverman Program

Really good shows on the fringes of my radar, to be further investigated:
The Office
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List
Cash Cab
Chelsea Lately
Dexter
Tracy Ullman’s State of the Union

Reality TV Rubbernecking:
-Project Runway – this year was not so great, but Tim Gunn always delivers. He’s like the teacher you always wanted to have in high school.
-The Pick Up Artist – unbelievably bizarre reality show where a guy in what looks to be a flea-bitten furry top hat who calls himself “Mystery” teaches a bunch of geeks how to score with hot chicks. Mystery has his own language which is endlessly entertaining, my favorite being DHV-ing. This means ‘demonstration of higher value’ – in other words you’re supposed to work DHV’s into your conversation with the babe you want to snag. It’s like a reality tv show in Bizarro World. And Mystery himself, purportedly the biggest catch on the planet, obviously has a hair loss thing going, always wearing strange head coverings. What’s with the goggles? Possibly weirder than him are the sad losers that hang onto his every word.
-America’s Next Top Model – Child! This show can come up with some fun moments. Like when Tyra lapses into ethnic phraseology. Or when she spontaneously bursts into song on lines like ‘noted fashion photographer Nigel Barker.’ Is it me or does everyone behind her (Paulina, Miss Jay, etc) squirm a bit when she does this? Love that Whitney, a plus-size model, won the top prize this year. Love that Isis, a transgender model, was part of the homegirl gang recently. Lady Miss Tyra marches on, dashing barriers right and left!
-Living Lohan – in which Dina Lohan shows us why she should have had her tubes tied prior to getting married.
-Sunset Tan – the best thing about this vacuous show was the Olly Girls (Holly and Molly), two platinum blonde airheads and former Girls Gone Wild. They were fired and…hired back. Because the producers know what makes for good (AKA bad) TV.
-Paris Hilton’s My New BFF – in yet another sign of the approaching apocalypse, this show went on the air in the fall. The winner was Brittany Flickinger (can that be someone’s real name?). Everyone’s favorite: Onch, the girlboy. Stalker material: Vanessa, the runner up. Wikipedia gives us a gorgeous chart which explains why each contestant was eliminated. (At the elimination ceremonies, Paris would gaze sadly at the ousted hopeful and dismiss them with “TTYN” – talk to you never).
-Rock of LoveSeason 2 of this unbelievably sick show began in January and ended in April with Bret Michaels, a R&R has-been if I have ever seen one (and talk about hair loss) choosing Ambre Lake from a bevy of skanks to be his (gag me) rock of love. This show never disappoints in complete and total ickiness. You practically contract a sexual disease from watching it. By the way, Ambre didn’t last – I know you’re as surprised as I am – Bret launches a new season of this trainwreck Sunday night January 4 with Rock of Love Bus. Apparently he hops between two busfulls of so-called hot mamas while touring.
-Rock of Love Charm School – in which Sharon Osbourne was the plucky headmistress to a bunch of losers from both seasons of Rock of Love. Although she’s supposed to be teaching them to become ladies, she’s got them dressing in sexy jailbait schoolgirl uniforms. Sharon’s great though. And this show provided many hilarious moments with Lacey, Rodeo, Megan, Heather and the gang.
-A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila – I crown this show to be the one most like licking an ashtray. It was positively rank. And why anyone would choose Bobby over Dani is beyond belief. Seriously! If Tila had chosen Dani, I like to think they’d be living together in Florida in semi-marital bliss. Notice you haven’t heard from Dani since the show ended, which has to be the true test of a real person versus a made for tv skank. I wont even bother to go there with the spinoff show Domenico did. Just the bits I saw on The Soup were enough for me.

2008 Randomizers:
-Ryan Seacrest. He’s everywhere. Why?
-Britney Spears. Starting the year with no hair, stabbing cars with umbrellas, ending it with cheese grits cooked over the stove by dad and big hits (fazed cookies too I bet).
-Lindsey Lohan. Apparently now a card-carrying member of the Daughters of Bilitis, big Obama supporter although she later referred to him as “colored” (ouch!), and the real story behind her episode arc on Ugly Betty may never be told.
-Rachael Ray’s never-was Dunkin Donuts commercial due to her wearing a ‘terrorist scarf’ that looked like something a crazy Muslim would wear. I ask you. Can you think of someone less American than Rachael Ray? Because I can’t.
-Word of the Year: Meme. According to Wikipedia, a meme comprises a unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols or practices; such units or elements transmit from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. The etymology of the term relates to the Greek word mimema for mimic. Memes act as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate and respond to selective pressures. Well trust me; its still the word of the year.

From The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

From: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Political Asylum TV:
During the long-ass American Idolatrous Popularity Contest between HRC and BHO, I logged about 3 hours of MSNBC almost every week night. If I wasn’t home, I taped it. This had never happened to me before; watching news in this fashion. All of which led me to really believe that the lanky, cool junior senator from Illinois who refused to play dirty could pull this thing off. After watching him for many months, and canvassing, and doing everything I could to get him elected, I had absolutely no doubt in my mind on November 4th that he would win. What I did not realize was that he would win so big.

Some real numbers:
-Voter turnout increased by more than 13 million people this year, compared to 2004.
-The Associated Press reported that 136.6 million Americans voted in the presidential election, which is a 64.1 percent turnout rate out of more than 208 million registered voters. What a concept; we’re actually acting like a democracy!

Some wonderful moments over the long road to El Casa Blanca:
-McCain ‘suspending’ his campaign and canceling on Letterman. No one will ever make that mistake again, n’est-ce pas?
-Hillary’s 3 AM wake up call commercial in which the phone rings about fifty times before some half-seen female with glasses answers it, meant to scare the bejesus out of us. Somehow I bet Obama would have answered it on the first or second ring.
-The never-ending discussion over the Bradley Factor keeping white voters from voting for a black candidate. No one talks about it now that we have the Obama Factor.
-John McCain’s insincere smile. It always looked to me like he was suddenly remembering to smile. And the body language between him and Cindy was – well I am not going to go there.
-Cindy McCain’s plagiarized cookie recipe.
-The so-called terrorist fist bump practiced by Barack and Michelle Obama onstage when he announced he was the presumptive nominee.
-John McCain’s confusion about how many houses he owns. And cars! Must be fun to be that rich.
-The debates – McCain wandering around onstage and getting in Tom Brokaw’s camera shot.
-Joe the Plumber, the everyman that was suddenly world famous thanks to McCain, and turned out not to even be a plumber, owed back taxes, had newsmen camping on his lawn, and got a book deal. I’m waiting for the reality TV show. (Hey Joe, where you going with that plunger in your hand?)
-McCain and Palin stoking the fires of fear, ignorance, racism and violence at their sparsely attended campaign rallies trying to make Obama rhyme with Ayers. Trying to paint Obama as a scary unknown communist Muslim. And then McCain being surprised when a woman says she doesn’t trust Obama because he’s an Arab.

And then there’s Sarah Heath Palin. Oh the beauty of it. I doff my hat to McCain or whoever had the foresight to pick her as his running mate. Loyal readers will know that I have run on and on about this particular subject so I will only mention a few of my favorite things here:
-Her first moment in the spotlight, the RNC Speech where she you betcha-d her way into America’s heart. While daughter Piper studiously licked the hair on baby Trig’s head in the audience. While baby Trig was the special needs human football that had to be trotted out in the middle of that loud, germ-ridden arena so we could all admire SP’s motherly dedication to him. As that poor little thing slept through the whole shebang, unaware he was a symbol now and not a child.
-Her debate with Joe Biden. The May I call you Joe? moment where she tried to seem both vulnerable and charming behind the barracuda smile.
-The Charles Gibson interview where he asked if she believed in the Bush doctrine. After a long (for TV) pause where you know SP was frantically racking her brains for what the hell was he talking about, she quipped, ‘in what respect Charlie?” and a whole string of Charlie Charlie Charlie as if that would negate the fact that the emperor (empress in this case) had no clothes.
-The Team of Mavericks. The definition of maverick is an unbounded range animal, one who does not abide by rules. Okay then!
-Thanks but no thanks. The true story of the Bridge to Nowhere.
-Katie Couric trying to pin SP down as to what, if anything, she reads. And not succeeding.
-The turkey death clip that surfaced post election of Palin chattering away as turkeys are slaughtered directly behind her.
-Palin assuring us of her qualifications for a job one heartbeat away from the Presidency because she can see Russia from her house.
-Tina Fey out-Palining Palin and the classic moment when they switched places at the podum on SNL.

And then the final nail in the Bush coffin took place recently when an Iraqi journalist threw not one but both of his shoes at GWB during his farewell press conference in the green zone. Bush later shrugged it off saying, that’s what people do in a free society. Oh really? They throw shoes at world leaders to express their absolute horror, dislike and complete disdain?

From the ridiculous to the sublime… the best TV moment of the year was Barack Obama’s Election Night Speech at Grant Park. In which he said, Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long . . . As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends — though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too . . . And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

So ends my 2008 subjective diatribe about the year in television. I know I’ve run at the mouth quite a bit here. Feel free to comment away, and Happy New Year!



Who Killed Amanda Palmer
Amanda Palmer. Stunning. Heartbreaking. She’s going to be a supernova. Thank you Sandy & Harry for telling me about AFP.

The Way I See It - Raphael Saddiq. I did not know that they made records like this anymore. Back to the future. Thanks Laree B for turning me on to this.

Sunday at Devil Dirt - Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan. Clearly Mark L is the Leonard Cohen of his generation. Sal Nunziato at Burning Wood clued me in to this record.

Live: Hope at the Hideout - Mavis Staples. Stirring. Absolutely terrific. Again props to Burning Wood.

Dream Baby Dream Bruce Springsteen. (CD single) This Suicide cover was the set closer for the shows on Springsteen’s “Devils and Dust” Tour. Spare and haunting.

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The following are not 2008 releases but I either discovered (as in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) or rediscovered them again and fell in love with them again this year – in no particular order:

  • Jesus Christ Superstar (Original Soundtrack)
  • Nurds - The Roches
  • Peter Pan (Original Cast Recording)
  • Play It As It Lays - Patti Scialfa
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Original Soundtrack)
  • Will the Circle Be UnbrokenNitty Gritty Dirt Band
  • Hobo’s Lullaby - Arlo Guthrie
  • Wednesday Morning 3 AM Simon & Garfunkel
  • Nebraska Bruce Springsteen
  • Just about everything by The Kinks

O Best Beloved, the weekend horoscoop* column returns Thursday January 1st. in honor of finally kissing 2008 goodbye, i bring you SDJ’s list of the 12 best things of the year; a completely subjective list, in no particular order except for the 1st slot - cuz Obama is #1 no matter how you slice it:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1. BARACK OBAMAI spent much of this year being consumed by and working for Obama’s magnificent presidential campaign. I believe him to be a leader the likes of which we’ve never seen before. We’ve so desperately needed to hear those words we heard him speak during the moment of victory on November 4, 2008 in Grant Park, especially after the incredibly bloody, hateful, divisive road he had to walk on to get to the White House: We have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States; we are, and always will be, the United States of America. Two wonderful strong women are smiling down at him from the next world; his mother Stanley Ann Dunham and his grandmother Madelyn Dunham.

2. AMANDA PALMER - A tip from a friend whose taste I implicitly trust led me to see Amanda Palmer perform in November at New York City’s Webster Hall. I stared openmouthed at the stage for much of the night. She’s brilliant, she’s special, she’s beyond belief. There is no doubt in my mind that she’s going to be a supernova. Someday I’ll be telling people that yes, I was there, in the way people have told me they witnessed Nirvana’s CMJ gig (I think I was home washing my hair that night). Which reminds me - she’s playing the Bowery Ballroom at 2am on January 1st. Go. Just go. And next New Year’s you can tell people you were there. Because she won’t be playing at places that size for very long.

3. LYNDA BARRY - I was lucky enough to spend a week studying with writer/cartoonist Lynda Barry this summer at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. Picture going to summer camp again - but you’re an adult and therefore you can enjoy it even more than when you were a kid and had to do what other people told you to. And picture the very best teacher you ever had, a full week of studying with that teacher, who regularly inspires you to take your creativity to the next level. Made you laugh. Made you cry. And you’ll get a little bit of what that week was like.

4. DAY OF THE DEAD IN QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO - After a blissful week I spent in Mexico at the end of October, I’m now in love with the country, particularly the Yucatan. I was able to join with a community of beautiful Mayan women in preparing their Day of the Dead altar, tamale making, and participating in the Day of the Dead ceremonies when the wall between the worlds dissolves. What a beautiful custom, what a spectacular country, and what warm and lovely people. Not to mention the tamales and chocolate coffee.

5. DR. MARK HYMAN - My dear friend Gloria P clued me in to Ultrametabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss by Dr. Mark Hyman, formerly the medical director of Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Mass.  It was a life changing read; after dropping gluten, dairy, and sugar from my diet I realized a sense of health and well being I hadn’t had in years. Also, no longer eating any processed foods or high fructose corn syrup. Read it and try it; even just for a few days. You’ll be amazed at how your life changes for the better.

6. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN and the E STREET BAND - Bruce and his merry band were on the road again this year supporting the album Magic. The shows; electrifying, magnificent. Just when I thought he couldn’t possibly wow me any more (I’ve been seeing his concerts since 1978 - a staggering 30 years) he completely whips out the rug from under me and blows my mind again. During this tour he started a delightful practice of reading and honoring fans’ song requests on signs. Hence, many songs were played live (can you say Drive All Night?) that I never thought I’d see again except in my mind’s eye. Also, the mighty E Street Band suffered its first casualty; Danny Federici died in April of melanoma. I think we were all humbled to realize that Bruce and his paisans were indeed not superhuman and the fabric of that splendid musical texture they’ve created for so many years could be rent.

7. FACEBOOK / LINKED IN - Both these sites have changed my life, rekindled old friendships, found me new clients, and allowed me to keep in touch with people I thought I would never see again. Facebook is like sitting in homeroom but the teacher never coming in so you’re free to do whatever you want and even throw a paper clip at the cute guy across the room. Linked In is far more serious, yet endlessly entertaining in its own right.

8. RACHEL MADDOW - I pegged her months ago as someone who needed and deserved her own teevee show on MSNBC after admiringly watching her punt for Keith Olbermann. Apparently the suits at the network also realized her great potential and now she’s the hostess with the mostest. She’s so damn smart and likeable! Yay, Rachel, yay.

9. FRIENDS AND FAMILY - My friends and family are wonderful and I love you all. And undying thanks for your love and support. Happy 2009!!!

10. MR. BOY, MY CAT - Saturday May 10 was a big day here, the day that Mr. Boy came to live at my house. He’s a rescue, five years old, and a sweeter more friendly feline there never was. Thank you Teri L and Dorothy S for putting us together!

11. DEMOCRACY - This election brought so many new people into the political process (me, for one); it energized and moved me, it made me want to keep my eyes wide open and my mind engaged instead of burying my head in the sand. I want to know what’s happening and who’s doing what. I don’t want to go back to sleep.

12. BLOGGING - I started this blog one year ago and made a commitment to it. Blogging and the internet have changed our world beyond recognition. We can all have a voice. We don’t have to wait for a magazine publisher to hire us and pay us to write. Quoting Barack Obama again - We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.


March 21 - April 19 Aries

Oy vey gevolt! Get yourself in the Hanukkah spirit by watching Hanukkah in Santa Monica by Tom Lehrer. The eight day Festival of Lights starts this Sunday. Full Latke Alert! Dreidel Lockdown! Maccabee Mania! Thank you Lady Tabitha for turning me on to this delightful video (In December there’s just one place for me! Amid the California flora I’ll be lighting my menorah, like a baby in his cradle I’ll be playing with my dreidel) Tom Lehrer, for those who don’t know, is a brilliant singer/songwriter/satirist/mathematician. He crafted a number of fantastic songs in the 50’s and 60’s, the most famous of which are probably The Vatican Rag and The Masochism Tango. Catch some classic Lehrer here doing a medley of math songs (there’s a delta for every epsilon): I suppose nowadays when people think of Harvard and mathematics, they naturally think of Ted Kaczynski. Address that Aries energy to finishing up your gift shopping before the first menorah candle is lit! Here’s a suggestion: Songs & More Songs by Tom Lehrer, available from Amazon. Can you go wrong with a CD that includes Wiener Schnitzel Waltz, The Masochism Tango, and The Old Dope Peddler? More Lehrer fun here!

April 20 - May 20 Taurus
Stellaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!! Yes, they’re back. With a whole channel devoted to their zany antics over at My Damn Channel. Speaking of which, the Damned had the #1 video on YouTube this week with Big Fat Brain’s new episodic web series, Agency of Record (from the folks who brought you You Suck At Photoshop; they’re truly, madly, deeply ill). Speaking of which, Time Magazine included YSAP and the Damned in their Top Ten TV Episodes of the Year (the only non-TV series, alongside Colbert, 30 Rock, Mad Men, Lost!!!).  Speaking of which, Time also included Sir Harry Shearer’s Found Objects in its Top Ten Open Mike Moments of the Year. And did I mention, Flight of the Conchords will premiere its new episode next week on My Damn Channel – a full three weeks before HBO? Oh yeah and when you board your American Airlines flight to go home for the holidays, you’ll see a big fat mention of the Damned in this article about web video. And TV Week pegged the Damned as one of the five online video startups to watch in 2009. There’s a lot of ways to fall down the rabbit hole here. Taurus, call in a snow day and sit back with some hot chocolate and viddy this.

May 21 - June 20 Gemini
Note to self: consider Dartford, Kent, England. Here’s a town whose claim to fame happens to be that the Glimmer Twins had their formative years there. (That’s Mick and Keith, silly you). I’d like to thank Teri L for alerting me to this delightful story. Seems that a lucky 13 streets in Dartford will be named after Rolling Stones’ songs. Satisfaction Street … Little Red Walk … Ruby Tuesday Drive. The town council endorsed this brilliant idea last week. Council leader Jeremy Kite (his real name) said: “We are very proud of the Rolling Stones and it is a little bit of our history we can celebrate.” Dartford is also the home of the Mick Jagger Centre, “a live performance facility that aims to programme a high quality range of events and opportunities, in the Performance, Production and Participation of Music and the Arts for the communities of Dartford and North Kent Region“. My dear Gemini, indulge your inquisitive, novelty-loving side and join their email list, after which you’ll receive a warm welcoming note from someone who’s email address is @themickjaggercentre.com.

June 21 - July 22 Cancer
Have Yourself a Tacky Little Xmas (50 Ways to be Totally Tasteless This Holiday Season) with these helpful tips by Pamela Redmond Satran on the Huffington Post. I’m not sure if you home-loving crab people are as into tacky Christmas inflatables as I am (I love to count lawn inflatables when I’m in the suburbs at Christmastime) but I’m sure this list will delight and amuse you. (a few gems from the list: tie antlers on your dog’s head…bake nude, anatomically correct gingerbread men…smoke weed in effort to bond with stoner son home for the holidays) Satran is the co-author of nine best selling baby name guides including The Baby Name Bible and recently launched the new baby naming site nameberry and has also written a plethora of other hot titles. She also writes the blog How Not To Act Old and is the author of the brilliant “30 things every woman should have and should know by the time she’s 30” for Glamour Magazine (“a set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill and a black lace bra.”)

July 23 - August 22 Leo
If I know Leos like I think I do, music is an essential part of your needs. Food, shelter, and music. That about sums it up, n’est-ce pas? So hustle your muscle over to iTunes and download Why Don’t You Quit Leaving Me Alone? by Rosanne Cash on her 2005 release King’s Record Shop. Writes the inexplicable, inevitable, incredibly fabulous Holly Gleason: You never hear them coming… the ones that level you, take away your breath, buckle your knees. Those songs that hit the sweetest spot: you find yourself completely disoriented from how squarely they bag the emotional bull’s-eye, you’re not just speechless-you’re hoping nobody noticed. Read her treatise on this Benmont Tench song about a broken heart and much much more at the Don Cesar Hotel in St. Petersburg Beach, Florida. Before you finish the last line I guarandamntee ya you’ll be on iTunes like white on rice to download that sucker. Speaking of Ms. Gleason check into the most recent edition of her very necessary Yummy List here.

August 23 - September 22 Virgo
So don’t say I never told you anything, Virgo boys and girls. Here’s the coolest most awesome gift idea of all time, brought to you by……the U.S. Post Office. Say what?!?! Seriously, you can upload a photo and make your own personalized stamps. Perfect for Holiday cards, or give them as gifts! If you order by 5pm tonight (Friday December 19) and use expedited shipping, they can still arrive by Christmas Eve! Talk about branding for your company. Talk about an awesome way to send thank you cards for wedding presents. Talk about a unique way to send out new baby announcements. The possibilities are truly endless. You can buy them in seven different postage denominations ranging from postcards (26 cents) to package rate stamps ($4.60). You can even buy them in production rolls of up to 10,000 stamps for large mailings. I think this is the greatest idea ever, and I’d love to know who thought it up over there at the US Postal Service, because I would love to send them a handwritten thank you note with a photo stamp of my own design.

September 23 - October 22 Libra
If you find yourself in the City of Brotherly Love, O Libra, be sure and stop in to the Reading Terminal Market. You’ll love the bountiful selection of food, drink, and gifts that can be found here. I used to love tooling around this place when I was a kid… it was cool THEN and it’s been completely remodeled since for ultimate grooviness. Open every day of the week, the Reading Terminal Market at 12th and Arch Streets in Philadelphia ($3 parking, not a typo!) features an exhilarating selection of baked goods, meats, poultry, seafood, produce, flowers, ethnic foods, cookware and eclectic restaurants. Every Wednesday and Saturday, a 75-minute walking tour takes place in which a food writer reveals the 114 year history of the market. Tomorrow (Saturday Dec. 20th) meet Santa Claus between 12 and 2pm in the Green Court. Sunday the Bimas Klezmer Band will play a concert. If you live in the area, sign up for their newsletter so you don’t miss a thing.

October 23 - November 21 Scorpio
Oh no, I’m in love again. It happens so quickly sometimes doesn’t it Scorpio? Keri Smith, who’s blog wishjar must be visited immediately, is an author/illustrator turned guerilla artist. She is the author of several bestselling books about creativity including “Wreck this Journal” (2007 Perigee), “The Guerilla Art Kit” (2007 Princeton Architectural Press), “Living Out Loud –Activities to Fuel a Creative Life” (published 2003 by Chronicle Books), and “Tear up this Book! :The Sticker, Stencil, Stationery, Games, Crafts, Doodle, And Journal Book For Girls!”, (2005 American Girl). Her newest book, “How to be an Explorer of the World –the Portable Life/Art Museum”, was recently published by Penguin Books. In this guided journal, readers are encouraged to explore their world as both artists and scientists, who analyze the world around them in surprisingly similar ways, by observing, collecting, documenting, analyzing, and comparing. Smith challenges you “To document and observe the world around you. As if you’ve never seen it before. Take notes. Collect things you find on your travels. Document findings. Notice patterns. Copy. Trace. Focus on one thing at a time. Record what you are drawn to.” With a series of interactive prompts and a beautifully hand-illustrated package, you’ll thoroughly enjoy exploring and discovering the world through this book.

November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
And speaking of books, the site of the week is Flashlight Worthy – Handpicked book recommendations on hundreds of topics. You name it, it’s here. According to their site, this is a labor of love. There’s just two of us, but we try to add new lists when we can. As a little added encouragement, we get a small referral fee when you buy one of our recommendations from Amazon (and we mean small — usually just enough to buy a Hershey bar).  We hope, someday, that we earn enough nickels and dimes to let us spend more time on Flashlight Worthy. Most Sagittarians I know are great readers. This site will keep you amused for hours. Penguin Classics Nature Series List? Here. Great Books for Bird Lovers? Here. Books for the Serious Jane Austen fan? Here. Salon.com’s Favorite Fiction of 2008? Here – nonfiction list here too.

December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
Thanks to a tip from the aforementioned Pamela Redmond Satran, my Capricorn friends, I’d like to turn you on to moo cards. Moo is a printing company that produces beautiful products either using your own art, or designs from their own galleries. They make the most exquisite mini cards, business cards, holiday cards, note cards, StickerBooks, postcards, you’ve ever seen. Trust me on this because I just ordered some to promote this blog. My next purchase will be one of their StickerBooks – a pocketsized book containing 90 vinyl stickers on 15 individual sheets (6 stickers per sheet). You can have up to 90 different images on your stickers; graphics and photography work equally well. The print is high quality, full color, and the finish is a scratchproof gloss. Too freaking cool!

January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
Apparently a UFO once crashed into the woods near Kecksburg, Pa. on December 9, 1965. It was said to be an object of about 15 feet in length, with writing around its base that resembled Egyptian hieroglyphics. According to ufocasebook.com, It soon became common knowledge that some eager, interested civilians had made a trip into the woods before the Military gained control of the area. These few individuals were interviewed by Stan Gordon, and told an amazing story. They stated that they saw a copper-bronze colored, saucer-shaped object crashed in the woods. This craft was anywhere from 9-12 feet in length, and bore a gold band around its bottom. Some of the witnesses described writing on the craft which resembled Egyptian hieroglyphics. These few witnesses were quickly whisked away when discovered by Military personnel. Later that night, witnesses claimed that they observed a flatbed truck toting a large object, covered by a tarpaulin. Curiouser and curiouser! The 1990’s TV show Unsolved Mysteries heard about this and went to Kecksburg to do a show about it, constructing an object, according to Roadside America, shaped like an acorn and roughly the size of VW bus. Apparently the object is now displayed on Water St. in Kecksburg and a gift shop nearby sells souvenirs to document the event. Aquarians everywhere; get thee hence.

February 19 - March 20 Pisces
Writer Tony Sachs scores big with a lovely piece about tracking down the perfect menorah in nextbook. Sachs, along with buddy Sal Nunziato, used to run the world’s most perfect independent record store, NYCD, frequented by many of my Piscean friends. NYCD was the self-described Frances Farmer of the music industry (We both started our careers with big dreams and stars in our eyes; We quickly became the darlings of our respective industries . . . The cool people “got” us; The imbeciles were turned off by us; We both had our careers unjustly and prematurely taken away from us; We were both institutionalized, had lobotomies, and resumed our happy, if somewhat confused, lives; We both had songs written about us by Nirvana.) Both Sal and Tony are now freelance writers for the Huffington Post, among other things. Tony writes of his perfect menorah quest thus: The first store I hit, Hechal Judaica, is run by older men with long gray beards who resemble Talmudic scholars more than salesmen. I feel inadequately Jewish and thoroughly intimidated until I reveal the nature of my quest, at which point I’m invited into the inner sanctum—behind the counter  …. I’m intrigued by two menorahs. One is in the shape of a trumpet. Cheesy, but I’m drawn to it. Could this be the perfect menorah? … At Eichler’s, I nearly hit pay dirt. It’s a menorah that would do Diddy proud, were he a Jew. This baby brings the bling. It’s a beautiful silver wall menorah, with little ornate silver cups you fill with oil from an even more ornate tiny jug; mere candles will not do for this menorah. It has silver chains in front of the oil cups which resemble nothing so much as a velvet rope. All it needs is a little silver bouncer in front of the chains to say “Can I see some ID?” in Hebrew. Read the whole story and see the winning menorah here.



March 21 - April 19 Aries

My courageous, dynamic Aries friends; be it known that tomorrow (Saturday, December 13) is Santa Lucia Day. Santa Lucia is the bringer of light in the time of darkness. The story from this fantastic Santa Lucia Day website is that,  According to legend, Lucia was a medieval saint who carried food and drink to hungry folk in the province of Värmland during a period of famine. She was seen across Lake Vänern with her white gown and crown of lights. . . . In Sweden, the Lucia Day is celebrated all over the country in every home, school, and workplace on the morning of the 13th of December. All of the other Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway) celebrate Lucia as well. In each home usually the eldest daughter dresses in a white gown with a red sash and a crown of candles. She and her sisters wake the family at dawn and serve them a breakfast of sun-colored saffron buns and gingerbread cookies . . . At every workplace they make time for a special morning “coffee break” before the day even starts and a few ladies dress up as Lucias. At most public institutions, a table is laid ready with coffee, saffron buns and gingerbread cookies for the public to enjoy all that day . . . Lucia brings a message of lighter times to come during the darkest time of the year. It is a very festive atmosphere, full of good feelings, hope, and expectations . . . Lucia is often accompanied by star boys, an ancient tradition which dates back to the time when boys used to go door-to-door playing tricks, singing and begging for money to celebrate the winter solstice.

April 20 - May 20 Taurus
Bettie Page, 85 years young and a Taurus (April 22), shuffled off this mortal coil yesterday. She was the most famous pinup girl of the 1940’s and 50’s and her centerfolds adorned millions of walls. She had a few stage and television appearances, but it was a chance meeting that changed her life. On the beach at Coney Island in 1950, she met Jerry Tibbs, a police officer and photographer, who assembled her first pinup portfolio. By 1951, the brother-sister photographers Irving and Paula Klaw, who ran a mail-order business in cheesecake, were promoting the Bettie Page image with spike heels and whips, while Bunny Yeager’s pictures featured her in jungle shots, with and without leopard skins. Her pictures were ogled in Wink, Eyeful, Titter, Beauty Parade and other magazines, and in leather-fetish 8- and 16-millimeter films. Her big break was the Playboy centerfold in January 1955, when she winked in a Santa Claus cap as she put a bulb on a Christmas tree. Bettie was humbled at all the attention she got five years ago, when she attended Playboy’s 50th Anniversary party at the Playboy Mansion with Anna Nicole Smith.  Both Smith and Page made a grand entrance and enjoyed the special attention they received.  That evening they were photographed together in what was said to be the only time in the past 50 years that Page allowed her photograph to be taken. Funeral services will be next Tuesday with a private service and burial at Westwood Cemetery a few feet away from her blonde sex icon counterpart, Marilyn Monroe.

May 21 - June 20 Gemini
The Geminis among us are eloquent, intellectual, and just plain book smart. So how about taking a few minutes to give back to our troops? It’s really really easy. Whether or not you think we should be entrenched in Iraq, I think we can all agree that those who volunteered to go over there and defend our country deserve a huge round of thanks from everyone here. The mission of Let’s Say Thanks is to provide a way for individuals across the country to recognize U.S. troops stationed overseas. By submitting a message through this site you have the opportunity to send a free personalized postcard greeting to deployed servicemen and women. The postcards, depicting patriotic scenes and hometown images, were selected from a pool of entries from children across the country. All you have to do is click on your favorite design and either select the message that best expresses your sentiment or draft a personal note. The postcards are then printed on the Xerox iGen3® Digital Production Press and mailed in care packages by military support organization Give2TheTroops®. It takes less than 30 seconds to do this. Give a smile to someone deployed overseas who won’t be able to see their family this holiday season and let them know you appreciate them.

June 21 - July 22 Cancer
Ah Cancer, the homebody of the zodiac. If there’s anything you love more than feathering your lovely nest, well I don’t know what it is. Thanks to the internet, you can stay warm and cozy at home, make some hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps, and fire up the computer to go straight to A BetamaXmas. Thank you, whoever set this up. Basically it’s a website designed to look like an old rabbit-ears set playing old Betamax tapes, shows clip after Youtube clip of Christmas specials, commercials and holiday-themed episodes of television shows, all circa 20-25 years ago. Adjust the rabbit ears to get that perfect ‘grainy’ look.” Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock, jingle bells swing and jingle bells ring!! (Thanks Barry R for this tip! Also thanks to BoingBoing and Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish!)

July 23 - August 22 Leo
Speaking of Xmas TV, thanks to Cynthia Turner’s Cynopsis, I read this week that The iconic holiday Yule Log is back via iN DEMAND Networks …. iN DEMAND has jazzed up the Yule Log, which originated in 1966, by producing a hi-def version with crackling sound effects… Viewers may choose the Yule Log offered by WGN America as the network will air Yule Log: The Golden Age of Christmas over nine hours beginning December 24 at 9p through 6a on December 25. This Yule Log footage uses the fireplace of Colonel McCormick, the former Tribune Company President and Editor/Publisher of the Chicago Tribune, from his office at Tribune Tower in Chicago. This commercial-free holiday special will present classic radio programs such as It’s a Wonderful Life, Burns & Allen and Fibber McGee & Molly and more. All the Leos I know are suckers for tradition, so I figured if you don’t have a fireplace and a real yule log crackling away, you might want to turn on what my mother still calls the idiot box, relax with the video yule log, and toss back some spiked egg nog.

August 23 - September 22 Virgo
Virgos are detail freaks. Therefore I feel safe in assuming you’ve been wondering for years what the real story is behind the Motown Christmas Album (I know I have). Artie Wayne tells it like it was here and it’s beyond fascinating. My favorite part is when Artie and George Clinton throw Ivory Snow flakes around the office in the middle of summer to get in the Christmas mood so they can write a song for the album. Who sang that song on the record? None other than Michael Jackson. You can hear it here too. Also, assuming you’ve been good for goodness’ sake, treat yourself to Christmas Music Videos for 2008 chosen by Mr. Wayne.

September 23 - October 22 Libra
Imagine this, mon Libran ami; caramello al sale gelato. Yes, salt carmel; with pink salt from the Himalayas, a sea salt of fossil origin that does not have the typical iodine flavor of normal sea salts. By the way,  this fantastic product is not refined in any way and its typical color comes from its high iron content. Five different people, none of whom knew each other, told me that Grom has the best ice cream they’ve ever tasted. Hence an excavation was made with Friend Judy last weekend and I am here to testify that no one lied.  Grom opened their first store in Turin, Italy in 2003 and achieved instant success. They have two locations in Manhattan, in the village and on the upper west side, as well as one in Paris and several in Italy. Allow me to quote the great Gael Greene from her brilliant ice cream manifesto in New York Magazine, Grown-ups who never eat ice cream are instantly suspect. They probably hate sand, sleep in pajamas, never eat spare-ribs, and kiss with their mouths closed. What are they trying to hide?

October 23 - November 21 Scorpio
I don’t know a single Scorpio who doesn’t love to party, stay out late, gyrate on the dance floor, and like that. So I would like you to pause for a moment of silence for Elmer Valentine, who died this week. Valentine was a Chicago policeman who left the Windy City back in the Swinging 60’s and opened the Whisky a Go Go on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood. The club became legendary, hosting musical performances by the likes of The Who, the Byrds, (house band) the Doors, the Kinks, and others. The Beatles made it their first stop when they played L.A. in 1964. Plus all that, this club was the first to suspend dancing go-go girls in cages.  This proved so popular that it was copied all over the world. One of the dancers designed the official go-go girl costume of fringed dress and white boots.

November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
If there’s one thing that can draw a Sagittarian in, it’s the promise of a whole bunch of awesome information about Deep Soul Music. At least this is the case with the ones I know. I doff my hat to Sir Shambling, who is a man of a certain age whose passion for most forms of black music, especially soul and R & B, extends back over 35 years. During that time he has amassed a record collection of around 25,000 items, all lovingly cared for and indexed in the normal anally retentive fashion. He has contributed to a huge number of reissue LPs and CDs by way of info, record lending and compilation work, and has annotated about 300 of them. This glorious obsession was funded by his day job as the CEO of a low-rent housing organization, from which he has recently retired. Sir Shambling’s Deep Soul Haven is a lovely stop on the information superhighway and don’t be surprised if you lose all track of time. Listen to MP3’s. Read tons of fascinating articles. (Thank you Very Short List for this yummy tidbit)

December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
It was all over the news this week that astronomers have figured out by the position of the stars and planets at Jesus’ birth that he was most likely born in June, not December. Be that as it may, he’s still the Capricorn With The Mostest. And once upon a time, there was a rock opera called Jesus Christ Superstar written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. I recently remembered how brilliant this soundtrack was (even more so back in the arid early 1970’s) and downloaded that puppy from iTunes. $19.99 later (it was a double album, hence the price) it’s the only thing I’ve been bopping to all week. Even though it’s really about Jesus’ final days and his betrayal by J. Iscariot, it catapults me smack dab into the Christmas spirit immediately. What a great record! Not one clunker on here; the music is phenomenal; and whatever happened to Yvonne Elliman? And the lyrics continue to amaze and delight: Tell me what you think about your friends at the top / Now who d’you think besides yourself was the pick of the crop? / Buddah was he where it’s at; is he where you are? / Could Mohamed move a mountain or was that just PR? My new favorite calm-down method is to listen to Everything’s Alright while on the subway. I double-dog dare you not to immediately feel better while listening to this song.

January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
While your Aries friends are making their Santa Lucia crowns for tomorrow, you Aquarians can dress up as Santa for the Annual Santacon! Check for your location here, but if you’re in NYC the big day is tomorrow, Dec. 13. What is Santacon, you ask?  SantaCon is a not-for-profit, non-political, non-religious & non-logical Santa Claus convention, organized and attended for absolutely no reason. The Santacon in New York City starts at 10am sharp on Saturday; location to be announced here tonight (Friday) at 10pm. And here are the rules: Santa looks like Santa. HOLIDAY APPAREL IS MANDATORY. A Santa hat is not enough. Get a Santa suit. Buy a Santa suit. Make a Santa suit. Steal a Santa suit. Get creative: be a Secret Santa, a Santasaurus, Candy-cane, a Reindeer, a Chanukah Chicken, a goddamn latke, Stewardess Santa, Knight Rider Santa, Crusty Peace Punk Santa, the occasional Legless Reindeer, Chanukah Squirrel, Emo-Elf, or the Santichrist. Just don’t wear your fucking jeans. Talk about a don’t-miss! (Thanks Lisa Z for this tip!)

February 19 - March 20 Pisces
Have I got an independent bookstore for you!  I know the Piscean soul longs for complete and utter freedom. So I know you’ll dig Bluestockings, a radical bookstore, fair trade café, and activist center in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Bluestockings carries over 6000 titles on topics such as queer and gender studies, global capitalism, feminism, police and prisons, democracy studies, and black liberation. You can also find some good ‘ole smutty fiction. They also carry magazines, zines, journals, alternative menstrual products and other oddly hard-to-find good things. In addition to all that, they host readings, workshops, performances, discussions and films almost every night. Visit their events calendar for details on upcoming events, and when visiting the store, take a look at the community bulletin board to learn about other events happening around the city. And stop in to the café to pick up some fair trade, vegan, organic goodness! Next Tuesday, December 16th at 7pm – Naomi Wolf reads from Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries, her practical and passionate book which challenges us to reinvigorate American democracy and reminds us that we, the ordinary citizens, must take action to restore the promise of this nation.

March 21 - April 19 Aries
The Roches started out as a duo (Maggie and Terre) who backed Paul Simon on There Goes Rhymin’ Simon after Maggie, then 19, brazenly introduced herself to him in a building lobby at NYU. Simon later produced a track on Maggie and Terre’s first album, Seductive Reasoning, in 1975. Disenchanted with the music biz circa mid-seventies (and who could blame them), the two sisters moved to Hammond, Louisiana, becoming waitresses for a time (which later inspired their signature track The Hammond Song). Long story short, after moving back to New York, sister Suzzy joined the group, they became a Greenwich Village club scene favorite, were signed to Warner Bros. in 1978 and Robert Fripp produced their 1979 debut, The Roches, proclaimed Best Album of the Year by The New York Times. They disbanded in 1997, but still perform occasionally, usually around the holidays, like now. They’re playing tonight (Friday, Dec. 5) at the South Orange Performing Arts Center, at the Christmas Tree lighting in Battery Park Wed. December 10, and on Thurs. Dec. 11 at Tarrytown Music Hall with Loudon Wainwright. Tap into that famous Aries initiative and go, go, go if you can. And if you can’t, do yourself a favor and go to iTunes and download My Sick Mind and Factory Girl, both from their 1980 album Nurds: Factory Girl (the stunning lump-in-yer-throat reworking of a traditional Irish song) and My Sick Mind (a Terre Roche original and my favorite of all their songs). Watch a clip of them performing My Sick Mind here (Nobody knows, nobody knows, not even your best friend knows the bind you’re in). Oh hey, don’t forget their magnificent version of the Hallelujah Chorus. Visit their website and their MySpace page.April 20 - May 20 Taurus
Swing on by to WFMU Free Form Radio tomorrow (on your radio dial at 91.1 or online), when Terre T hosts Fleshtone Peter Zaremba and co. for some egg-noggin’, stocking-jamming holiday festivities live in the WFMU Studios Saturday, December 6th, between 3 and 6 PM on Cherry Blossom Clinic! They’ll be playings tunes from their new Yep Roc CD Stocking Stuffer” and rocking around the Xmas tree. Being a Taurus myself I know how much you love your Christmas cheer and your garage rock. And Hitsburg U.S.A.’s Fleshtones serve it up like nobody’s business. Their new CD is the perfect gift for music fans who hate run-of-the mill Christmas music, because, hey, The Fleshtones just want to rock and they’re not about to let peace on earth or good will towards men get in the way. Check out these sound samples on amazon. I don’t know about you, but I need to hear Christmas with Bazooka Joe right now.

May 21 - June 20 Gemini
Speaking of Egg Nog, put Ruth and Esther’s Egg Nog Revue on your calendar now for next Sunday December 14: Everybody’s favorite southern belles return to Ars Nova at 54th St. and 10th Ave. in NYC to spread some Bulls Gap, Tennessee holiday cheer. Scandalous single gal Ruth (Marya Grandy) and retired schoolteacher Esther (Mark Blankenship) will share their signature blend of neighborhood gossip, candid advice, and estimable dance moves. If things get wild enough, Esther might just reveal her secret egg nog recipe. Bring both your good and bad Gemini twin selves and be there or be square on December 14 at 7pm. Ruth and Esther sold out the house in August so don’t delay, get your tickets now.

June 21 - July 22 Cancer
I tell you this now because I know yon moonchild loves to plan ahead. So if you’re in Gotham on Dec. 26 and 27, save those dates for the Fab Faux. Never seen ‘em? OK, I know what you’re saying – Beatles tribute band, no thanks. But it’s not like that. Believe me; you can’t be more of a skeptic than me. Give me JPG&R or nothing. And then I saw them. This gang of top-notch TV-show-band musicians from both The Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O’Brien quite obviously worship at the foot of the four-headed godhead that was the Beatles. They are note for note perfect and not in an obsequious way. They are – simply put – marvelous. I went as a skeptic and ended up wiping tears of joy and amazement from my eyes. Now I try never to miss them as they weave their sonic magic with the best music in the world. At New York’s Terminal 5 on Dec. 26 they’ll perform Abbey Road and Let It Be from beginning to end in their entirety, and Dec. 27 they take on the formidable White Album. And yes, they do Revolution No. 9. You’ll dig a pony, I guarantee you.


July 23 - August 22 Leo
I know how you Leos like your viral videos; funny, topical, and sarcastic, and with Jack Black if at all possible. Submitted for your approval, Prop 8 – The Musical (a Funny or Die exclusive). Says The New York Times, the comedic song-and-dance diatribe about the California ballot initiative to define marriage as existing only between a man and a woman stars a cast of dozens, including John C. Reilly, Neil Patrick Harris, Maya Rudolph, and Jack Black as Jesus Christ. Of course anything with Maya Rudolph is a must see. Composer Marc Shaiman (composer of Hairspray) told the newspaper of record: In my credit, it says,“Written (six weeks too late) by Marc Shaiman.” I mean, yeah, it’s totally bittersweet . . . We were thinking of how to film it, and I said, “Well, maybe that first section should be all of us on a hill, with poppies, and it snows and we’re put to sleep, and then the Proposition 8 people are looking through the crystal ball, like the Wicked Witch of the West in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’” Because that’s what happened. We stupidly allowed ourselves to be lulled into a sense of, everything’s fantastic now, look – everything’s changing. And this couldn’t possibly be voted into law. This is just like some little peskything that we’re swatting at, and it will go away immediately. All I can say is; don’t miss this one.

August 23 - September 22 Virgo
Our Virgo brothers and sisters will no doubt enjoy a visit to The Hungarian Pastry Shop. Conveniently located across the street (1030 Amsterdam Ave. between 110th and 111th Streets) from the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, this cozy café serves up pastries, tea and coffee all day long. At one table you’ll find Columbia students reading textbooks and writing papers, at another table you’ll hear a gaggle of upper west side liberal hippies discussing Obama’s latest cabinet choices, and at yet another table you’ll see youngsters a-cuddlin’. The walls are covered with original artwork and you’ll feel like you’re either in Europe or perhaps the Greenwich Village of the Fifties. How many great ideas were born in this very room? Order your coffee, and discuss.

September 23 - October 22 Libra
Thanks to mediabistro’s galleycat column, I found this tasty item about indie bookstores: Random House sales rep Ann Kingman offers 11 reasons indie bookstores should consider blogging as a way to improve their business, from increased visibility on Google and community engagement to promoting in-store events and showing off employees’ authoritative passion for books….We’ve seen a few indie bookstore blogs, from Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, to Riverrun in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but we’re always on the lookout for more—feel free to mention your favorites in the comments section.(And booksellers may want to keep an eye on Kingman’s blog for additional advice…) Pull up a chair, Librans, and let’s talk about independent bookstores and how we need them in this country. Chain stores are for coffee and clothing……not books!

October 23 - November 21 Scorpio
‘Tis the season, am I right Scorpio? I mean the season for getting sick, for people coughing on you in buses and trains and germs taking up residence in and on you. Thanks to Rafat Ali’s paidcontent email newsletter, I learned this week of Johar Joshanda, a magical energizing and healing Pakistani black tea potion. Ali extolled its virtues on The Daily Beast: Johar Joshanda, a Pakistani black tea concoction, is the best natural energizer you will ever have. It works like magic on your cold and flu, and also great after a long tiring day or flight. Time Asia has called it “chicken soup for the Pakistani soul.” …Try any Pakistani neighborhood store in London, or New York. Note to self: find this stuff and drink it down.

November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
I know how Sagittarians love to plan ahead. So I’m telling you now to make sure and get MOJO’s special 1969 tribute issue, coming out in early 2009. The redoubtable Harvey Kubernik has contributed both feature articles to this issue as well as interviews with Graham Nash, Robby Krieger, Kim Fowley, and Merry Clayton. And speaking of Harvey the K, he’ll be a  featured interview subject in the nine week episodic series, Pacific Coast Sound, for the U.K.’s Smooth Radio network starting in March 2009. The series is produced by Vince Hunt for the indie production company Smooth Operations, which also creates music-related content for BBC radio and television. Among other musicians and authors to be heard on the hour-long weekly shows will be Van Dyke Parks, Hal Blaine, Jefferson Airplane’s Jack Casady, Luis “Louie” Perez from Los Lobos, Canned Heat’s Fito de la Parra, Carol Kaye, Chris Darrow, Alec Palao, Joel Selvin, Charles Cross, and Don Wilson of the Ventures. Alas, only our English friends can hear Smooth Radio, so fingers crossed the series gets distributed elsewhere also.

December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
Later this month, the most popular Capricorn of all time celebrates his birthday. To quote Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice in Jesus Christ Superstar: Hosanna Hey Sanna, Sanna Sanna Ho, Sanna Hey, Sanna Hosanna. How about a holiday trip to Christmas, Florida located east of Orlando - the town is basically an area on Highway 50 known chiefly for a very big post office and the largest alligator-shaped building (200 feet) in the world.  The alligator building is the home of Jungle Adventures, the largest gator farm in Florida. Frozen alligator meat is available in the gift shop. And nothing says Christmas like barbequed alligator, n’est-ce pas? You can also visit Fort Christmas, built in 1837 during the Second Seminole Indian War.  Tangentially speaking of Florida, check this out: Miami’s favorite son, Jim Osterberg (AKA Iggy Pop), becomes a CNN commentator for the series My City_My Life. Watch the trailer here and check it out this weekend on CNN.

January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
For most of 2008, I’ve checked the website of the Huffington Post several times a day. It began early this year when I became obsessed with the soap opera-American Idol democratic primary race (who could have predicted that it would end up with HRC as the next Condoleeza? Certainly not me). And when politics get too boring, I check out the Entertainment section to see what famous person did something stupid, or go to the Living section where there’s always something interesting. Like Gretchen Rubins piece 12 Surprising and Productive Brain Exercises. Rubin, whose own Happiness Project is also worth a visit, writes here of Dorothea Brande’s 1936 book Wake Up and Live. The book contains 12 mental exercises meant to make you keener and more flexible. Fascinating stuff that Aquarians will enjoy. Here’s one: Think for 30 minutes a day about one subject exclusively. Start with five minutes.

February 19 - March 20 Pisces
I don’t mean to be unkind, but the biggest lushes I know are Pisces-born. So therefore I offer you a hangover cure in these holiday times, courtesy of Divine Caroline. Divine Caroline is an oasis on the wonderful world wide web providing counsel on relationships, food, parenting, travel, style, careers, et al. Stories on their home page today include How to Save $500 in a Month; Milk - Does it Really Do A Body Good?; and a recipe for Chocolate Goat Cheese Truffles (um, sign me up). Divine Caroline is the flagship site of Real Girls Media, a digital network created by women for women.