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There ain’t no answer. There ain’t gonna be any answer. There never has been an answer. That’s the answer.
-Gertrude Stein

I don’t know if I can adequately describe what it was like when Freak Out!, the debut album of The Mothers of Invention was released on June 27, 1966. The 1960’s were finally becoming The Sixties by that point, the world was realizing that the staid and arid Fifties had left forever; people were dressing weird, acting weird, taking drugs, having sex, growing their hair. The radio stations were full of cool music by cool bands. And then into the middle of this cultural renaissance came Frank Zappa and his pals blowing everyone’s mind to smithereens with songs like It Can’t Happen Here, Who Are the Brain Police?, and Hungry Freaks, Daddy. We’re still not ready for these guys.

Third-grader Stella Ehrhart is my new hero. Eight-year-old Stella, who lives in Omaha, Nebraska, starts each school day the same way every day: she opens up a book called “The 100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century” and decides who she’s going to dress up like that day. She’s been doing this since the second day of second grade. She’s been Joan Baez, Rosa Parks, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Georgia O’Keeffe, Queen Elizabeth, Billie Holiday, Grace Kelly, Aung San Suu Kyi. Sometimes she strays from the historical theme to honor women of her own day; she has dressed up as her best friend Virginia (“My favorite costume,” said Virginia), her police officer Aunt Pam, and as the school principal. It’s stories like this that make life worth living, n’est-ce pas? You can see some of her costumes in this slideshow.

Speaking of cool creative girls with an attitude, Amy Gore & Her Valentines have a new album and video out. Gore, a Detroit legend, founded the Gore Gore Girls and helped to establish the modern American garage rock scene of the late 1990’s. “Gore Gore Girls mix Stooges spit with Supremes soul like an itching in my heart full of napalm,” raved the Village Voice. After a successful collaboration with cult-hero Nikki Corvette to form Gorevette, Ms. Gore steered herself straight into rock & roll with a power pop edge aided and abetted by Her Valentines (bassist Leann Banks; Jackson Smith on guitar; and Smokin’ Joe Leone on drums). Their first album, In Love, was released last week. Check out their brand spankin’ new music video for one of the tracks, “Fine Without You.”

This past weekend, the country of Bangladesh honored George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez for the staging of the celebrated 1971 Concert for Bangladesh a staggering 41 years ago. These two shows at Madison Square Garden were the first of their kind; organized to raise international awareness of a dire political situation and to fund relief efforts for refugees in the region who were fleeing the atrocities there. A best-selling live album boxed set and documentary followed. “In one day, the whole world knew the name of Bangladesh,” said Ravi Shankar many years later.

They called her the Lily of the Mohawks. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint, was canonized in Rome today. Tekakwitha, born in what is now upstate New York, died in 1680 at the age of 24 in Canada. Saint-wise, she kicked it old school for sure; after being baptized at the age of 20 she joined a Jesuit missionary and devoted herself to chastity, prayer, and sleeping on a bed of thorns. “Saint Kateri, Protectress of Canada and the first Native American saint, we entrust to you the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in North America,” said the Pope at the ceremony, “May God bless the first nations.” You can purchase beautiful hand painted saint medallions of Kateri or any of her glorious saintly brothers and sisters from my dear friends at Saints for Sinners in New Orleans.

Fifty Reasons to Watch the Sun City Video, thanks to the folks at Thrillist. We celebrated the music of Little Steven last week at Little Kids Rock and Tom Morello nailed this song to the ground, speaking eloquently of his school days at Harvard when he and friends built a shantytown on the campus to highlight the horrors of apartheid in South Africa. “I wrote my senior thesis at Harvard University about student uprisings in South Africa,” he told the sold out crowd at the Hammerstein Ballroom Tuesday night. “So imagine my wonder and surprise when in the midst of well-intentioned charity songs like “We Are the World” and “Do They Know It’s Christmas” Little Steven dropped a seven minute political bombshell called “Sun City.”” Per Thrillist: “Despite its incredible star wattage, the song never rose higher than #38 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, but there are thousands of reasons why you should watch the music video. In the interest of time and sanity, here are a mere 50.”

Gillian Flynn’s spectacular book Gone Girl, which I read earlier this year, started me off into an obsession with mysteries and true crime novels. One of the best I’ve read is Richard Lloyd Parry’s book People Who Eat Darkness: The True Story of a Young Woman Who Vanished from the Streets of Tokyo–and the Evil That Swallowed Her Up, which was published in May. Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, covered the case of 21-year-old Lucie Blackman for many years. This book is the story of how a young British girl set off for adventure in Tokyo, became a bar hostess as so many foreign girls do there, and was the victim of one of the most heinous crimes ever to be seen in Japan. It’s terrifying, fascinating, and a complex study of not only Lucie and her family and friends, but also the killer and Japanese society and the justice system in general.

Cute Baby Walrus Time! If you haven’t seen this beautiful video of a walrus calf getting fed at the New York Aquarium and then peacefully sleeping in the lap of the lucky lady who gets to do this for a living, then go here please. It will, dare I say it, warm your heart all the way down to your toes. This particular baby walrus is named Mitik, and he is one of many animals who reside in one of the five wildlife parks in New York City. You can see lots more cool animal videos thoughtfully curated for you by the Wildlife Conservation Society on their Youtube Channel.  The WCS was founded in 1895 to save wildlife and wild places around the globe. Their NYC parks include the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and Queens Zoo. More about their work, and how to help them, here.

Halloween’s on the horizon. Yes, my favorite holiday of the year is almost upon us. This year, thanks to Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, the world’s finest gothic soap opera Dark Shadows is back in the zeitgeist. Thanks to this you can trick yourself out as Barnabas Collins on All Hallow’s Eve this year, with a natty Barnabas cape, a Barnabas ring, and even a Barnabas wig so you can attempt to get the weird hairstyle going as well to complete the picture.  No matter what, you’re bound to do better than Mr. Depp, who, much as I love and respect him, just didn’t scream Barnabas to me. He made a much better Hunter S. Thompson methinks. In my mind, Jonathan Frid (RIP) is and will always be Barnabas Collins, the mysterious cousin from England who drops in on his Collinwood ancestors one dark and stormy night.

George McGovern has died at the age of 90. This was yet another huge plonk on the baby boomer heartstrings Chez Snoop du Jour due to the fact that the 1972 election when McGovern valiantly tried to prevail against Richard Nixon was the first election I ever voted in. I was in college at the time in Michigan, and I hitchhiked back to Philadelphia to proudly pull that lever. McGovern, born in 1922, was a war hero who later vehemently opposed the war in Vietnam (“I’m fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in”), and he became the first Democrat elected to the Senate from South Dakota in 26 years when he took office in 1962.  One of my favorite quotes of his, which resonates deeply today as we head towards the Presidential Election November 6, is this: No man should advocate a course in private that he’s ashamed to admit in public.

If you have any books, music, film, television, or other nugget of pop culture you’d like to submit to me for this column please contact me here

March 21 - April 19 Aries
Come on down, Aries, and indulge both your sweet tooth and your free-thinking sense of independence and adventure by stopping by the Barackolate Chip Cookie Sale & Voter Registration Table Saturday, September 20 from 11am to 3pm at 112th and Broadway in Manhattan. Me and my peeps will be there, signing up voters (New York state voter registration forms must be postmarked by October 10th in order to vote in the general election) (please check this website to find the deadline for your state) and selling the very latest in Obama buttons. Our table will be located in front of the aptly-named Liberty House, a socially and environmentally conscious women’s and children’s clothing shop which offers organic, natural-fiber items, many designed in places like Nepal and South America.

April 20 - May 20 Taurus
Taureans are known for their love of good food. May I suggest the perfect restaurant – B. Smith’s – conveniently located in New York City’s theater district on restaurant row (46th between 8th and 9th Ave.) as well as in Washington DC’s Union Station and on Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. You can’t go wrong here with this global-eclectic menu inspired by Ms. Smith’s interpretations of different world cuisines to create fabulous comfort food. And whatever you do, don’t miss the bread pudding dessert. It’s like going back to the yummiest part of your childhood.

May 21 - June 20 Gemini
Our independent bookstore of the week is Haslam’s, in St. Petersburg, Florida. Those born under the sign of the Twins are articulate, intellectual, and tend towards brilliance. Therefore I suggest you visit Haslam’s the next time you’re down in them thar woods. The store, which began in 1933 as a small used book and magazine store by John and Mary Haslam, is now Florida’s Largest New and Used Bookstore, run by a third generation of the family. Located at 2025 Central Avenue, you can’t miss this huge landmark to the power of the written word.

June 21 - July 22 Cancer
Sometimes a CD comes along that is seamless, not one wrong note in the entire thing, not one song you’d skip when playing it on your iPod. Even though you’ve played said item a hundred million times since its release, it never sounds irrelevant and tired. Such a work is the 1998 release Celebrity Skin by Courtney Love. Ms. Love, a card-carrying Cancer moonchild (July 9), exhibits a classic cancerian trait - a crab like tendency to have a hard exoskeleton but a soft romantic interior. She’s done other fantastic records (her first album, Live Through This, is so good it hurts) but this one is my favorite – it glistens, it gleams, it’s hard, it’s soft. If this had been released in the mid to late 60’s just about every song would have achieved massive radio airplay. Boys On The Radio is a classic 1966 radio hit. My favorite: Dying (Remember; you promised me; I’m dying, I’m dying please - I want to, I need to be / Under your skin). This record deservedly went multi-platinum and aced all kinds of “Best of the Year” kudos in 1998. If you’ve never heard it – download it. If you have it and forgot how great it is – play it.

July 23 - August 22 Leo
Next time your Leo wanderlust makes you yearn to hit the road, consider a trip to Seward’s Folly, AKA our 49th State - Alaska. Alaska is a fairly new addition to our great nation, having achieved statehood on January 3, 1959, at which time it increased the size of the USA by almost 20 percent. More than half of Alaskans live in the Greater Anchorage area. Close to Anchorage is a town that recently became infamous; Wasilla, home of Governor Sarah Palin, known to some as the Drilla from Wasilla. Pony up to the Mocha Moose like a local and order yourself a Sarah, so named because it is her favorite skinny white mocha. The Mocha Moose has been named best coffee/espresso establishment in the region for the past eight years. And they also carry t-shirts (choose from Official Coffee Supplier for Sarah Palin or Wasilla, AK - Where men are men and women are vice president), bumper stickers, and buttons in support of their most famous customer. For some of my thoughts on Alaska’s Governor, click here.

August 23 - September 22 Virgo
Speaking of strong females who have a very well documented religious bent, Hildegard von Bingen’s Feast Day falls in the month of Virgo: September 17, the date of her death in 1179. HVB was a German artist, author, composer, physician, herbalist, philosopher, linguist, naturalist, poet, visionary, and abbess. Her Ordo Virtutum has been named as possibly the origin of opera. She was the recipient of visions from a very young age, and her parents offered her as a tithe to the Church at the age of 8. Later in life, she fought the urge to record her visions, which made her physically ill. She wrote at the time: I didn’t immediately follow this command. Self-doubt made me hesitate. I analyzed others’ opinions of my decision and sifted through my own bad opinions of myself. Finally, one day I discovered I was so sick I couldn’t get out of bed. Through this illness, God taught me to listen better….These visions weren’t fabricated by my own imagination, nor are they anyone else’s. I saw these when I was in the heavenly places. They are God’s mysteries. These are God’s secrets. I wrote them down because a heavenly voice kept saying to me, ‘See and speak! Hear and write!’

September 23 - October 22 Libra
Even our usually balanced, cheerful, fair-minded Libran friends must be as shell shocked as the rest of us by the recent turn of events on Wall Street. May I refer you to the extremely well researched Dollar Stretcher website (their tagline: living better for less – saving you time and money since 1986). With sections ranging from Green, Family, Home and Auto, and more, this site offers a plethora of money-saving tips that, let’s face it, no matter what your particular financial situation is at the moment, you might benefit from. Featured articles include How I Paid Off My College Debt in a Year and 10 (free) Ways to Improve Your Health.

October 23 - November 21 Scorpio
Scorpios can count amongst their ranks the redoubtable Hillary Rodham Clinton, who, no matter what your political affiliation, I think we can all agree kicked some serious ass this year and cemented the Clinton brand forever in our consciousness. Too many women are still so upset at what they perceive as bad treatment of HRC that they are threatening to vote McPalin or – even worse – not at all. My best friend Rose made these awesome t-shirts - inspired by Hillary’s speech at the recent DNC - to spread the message about what is at stake. Quoth Rose, “We don’t have to love Obama. We just have to vote for him! The alternative is unthinkable! Please spread the word.”  Sizes available from Small to XL and worldwide shipping is available. Rock the vote as Hillary would want you to!

November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
I’ve got a handful of favorite websites and one of them is The Saint of the Month Club, as previously discussed on this list not long ago. Saintmeister Josh Gosfield weighs in on the USA’s current passion for change. Check out their new post here. You philosophical, erudite Sagittarians will find this of interest. Evaluate the McChange Agent yourself. While you’re here take a look at SaintMorph – takes a few seconds to load but oh so worth it!

December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
Capricorn is the very model of patience and perseverance. Their middle name is Discipline. Y’all would dig the fascinating and little known story of Jack Taylor of Beverly Hills, which can be viewed next Tuesday September 23 on the Sundance Channel. For more than 60 years, the fashionable custom-made suits Jack Taylor created for stars like Cary Grant, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Elvis defined Hollywood glamour, status and good taste. Now in his 90s, Taylor remains active and in demand even as he could be called an endangered species in the current era of shoddy workmanship and casual dress. Cecile Leroy Beaulieu’s fascinating documentary profiles the life and times of an outspoken and witty Beverly Hills icon as he discusses his career and commitment to excellence in men’s attire. I’d like to nominate Jack Taylor as celebrity judge on Project Runway for the next menswear challenge. Man, would he whip those brats into shape! Full disclosure: I did the photo research & clearances for this film. And it’s fabulous!

January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
Following last week’s story about Skye Denno, the punk rock deacon lager-drinking mom of two, I now bring you The First Lutheran Chuch of Punk, located in – I am not kidding here – Throgs Neck, New York. Once a month, Bronx Underground sponsors a concert in the church basement featuring up and coming bands of the goth, punk, ska, and hardcore ilk. It’s so popular it landed a piece in The New York Times. A group of kids with all the trappings of black clothes, piercings, and copious eye makeup jam the place and transport themselves to a place redolent with the smell of Christian teen spirit. Most attendees are in the adolescent netherworld which draws one to go out and party, but not old enough to go to a bar. Gives a whole new meaning to Jesus being the Rock, n’est-ce pas?

February 19 - March 20 Pisces
Pisces…..your traits of sensitivity and intuition can sometimes trend towards addictive behaviors and relationships that have a tendency to drain your energy rather than replenish it. With that in mind, you’re probably the best possible target for a vampire, so watch out. If the world presented by TrueBlood, HBO’s new Sunday night series, was real, you’d be in serious trouble. The series is based on the premise that vampires are legal in our society. The plot centers on Sookie (played by Anna Pacquin), a small town waitress who can read people’s thoughts. Best character: Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley), Sookie’s cynical, wise-cracking best friend since childhood. And then there’s Bill (Stephen Moyer), the handsome yet creepy 173 year old vampire who one day just shows up in Sookie’s bar and captures her heart. Not since Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows has a TV vampire on been so sexy.

March 21 - April 19 Aries
Long Branch, New Jersey is where it’s at. IT being the Inkwell Coffee House, to be precise. This place harkens back to days of yore when folks gathered around good food and caffeine to read and write poetry, talk into the wee hours, start rock and roll bands, start romances. It’s an old house at 665 2nd Avenue on the corner of New Court and 2nd with a number of cozy rooms to sit in. It’s primarily a college kid hangout but the walls are full of history (it’s said that Bruce Springsteen - who used to live around the corner - and his early drummer Vini Lopez birthed the band Steel Mill in this place, and it was definitely a vintage E Street Band hangout). It opens around 7pm and closes around 3am. Whatever you do, order the chicken salad (unbelievable) and the world’s most decadent Dutch coffee: a mix of coffee, butter, cream and sugar, topped with whipped cream. I know it sounds gross, but it is beyond the pale.

April 20 - May 20 Taurus
You’re in that deep dark goth mood again. Go with it, get right down into it, and get yourself to la belle France, Paris to be precise. Walk in the exquisite storied paths of Père-Lachaise Cemetery and visit the final resting places of peeps like Colette, Moliere, Bizet, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Isadora Duncan, Gertrude Stein, Jim Morrison. Do not neglect to visit the crypt of star-crossed lovers Abelard and Heloise, there since 1817. Traditionally couples and heartbroken singles leave notes of tribute to them hoping for eternal true love.

May 21 - June 20 Gemini
This week’s download is by the Monkees, but it’s not a song that was probably ever played on the radio. It’s a hidden gem from their (best) album, Headquarters, the one where they finally started playing their own instruments, in 1968. Low key, spooky almost, with the best Davy vocal ever, it’s truly lovely and aching. “A distant night bird mocks the sun…I wake as I have always done…To freshly scented sycamore…and cold bare feet on hardwood floor.”

June 21 - July 22 Cancer
Pay a visit to the Delacorte Clock in Central Park in New York City, located at 65th St. between the Wildlife Center and the Children’s Zoo. You’ve got to see and hear it to believe it. It was gifted to the park in 1965 by publisher/philanthropist George T. Delacorte and was designed to be an homage to European musical clocks. The animal figures that adorn the clock and rotate around it when it chimes were created by Italian sculptor Andrea Spadini. Nursery rhymes are played on the hour and half-hour every day between 8am and 6pm.

July 23 - August 22 Leo
Hey Leos and everyone else, don’t forget to honor your mom this weekend - it’s Mothers Day this Sunday. Visit the good people over at My Damn Channel and pick out a sick, twisted Mother’s Day video greeting. And congratulations to the Damned for winning 7 - count ‘em, 7 - Webby Awards this week. If you haven’t seen Wainy Days, You Suck at Photoshop, Harry Shearer’s Found Objects, and Harry Shearer’s music video for Waterboardin’, USA - well, you’re missing out. Go and view now.

August 23 - September 22 Virgo
Virgos, you are brethren to writer/musician Leonard Cohen, who’s been making haunting music since 1967 and prior to that was a published poet well known in his native country, Canada. His songs (Suzanne, Bird on the Wire, Sisters of Mercy, So Long, Marianne to name a few) are beautiful. But he also authored the remarkably strange and sensual novel Beautiful Losers, which was reissued after being out of print for many years. It’s the story of an obsession with 17th century Iroquois Saint Catherine Tekakwitha. Believe me, you’ve never read anything like it. Not for children.

September 23 - October 22 Libra
There’s nothing like a theremin . . . nothing in this world. If you grew up in the late 60’s you’ll remember the extremely strange gothic soap opera Dark Shadows which aired on daytime television from 1966 to 1971. It was the story of the many denizens of the estate of Collinwood, one of whom was a vampire, the suave and dapper Barnabas Collins (played impeccably by actor Jonathan Frid). You can now buy the episodes on DVD, and I can’t think of a better use for a DVD player. Get a taste for it by viewing a few clips on YouTube (like here, here and here). There are so many plot twists and turns that even now keep viewers entranced, not the least of which was that every time the storyline got a little old and tired, the writers would have the characters jump into a different century (existing in “parallel time”). My favorite character: Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall); a medical doctor who falls in love with Barnabas and tries to cure him, but actually is hoping to become one of his victims.

October 23 - November 21 Scorpio
Get off the TMZ and take a mindful walk this weekend. No iPods, no distractions - just you and your feet hitting the ground, listening to the sounds around you. It’s a form of meditation and you need it bad - we all do.

November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
Think back to the worst temp job you ever had and write a short story about it. There, now. Don’t you feel better?

December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
If you’re ready for a glorious time suck of epic proportions may I suggest the web site of Vanity Fair Magazine. It’s like the chinese boxes of magazine-land, one thing leads to another, and before you know it, five hours have gone by.

January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
While away the hours with the soundtrack of soundtracks from Beyond the Beat Generation, 24/7. All the music on this internet station was created between 1964 and 1968, and what can I say - no finer music was ever made, truly. Instead of DJ chatter, they use awesome audio of vintage advertisements. Any station that has as one of its backbones the 13th Floor Elevators is just hunky dory with this hippie chiquita.

February 19 - March 20 Pisces
You’re stressed and you need a vacation. Consider a trip to Kripalu Yoga Center in Lenox, Mass. - it’s like a massive new age summer camp for adults. And the food is great. Don’t miss the buddha sauce OMG. You don’t need to sign up for a workshop if that’s not your thing - they also have great R&R packages. Go there and breathe.