Back to Home

All things on earth point home in old October: sailors to sea, travelers to walls and fences, hunters to field and hollow and the long voice of the hounds, the lover to the love he has forsaken.
- Thomas Wolfe

Well, cats n’ kittens, here be mid-October and you know what that means; it’s those last few weeks before holiday madness descends upon the land. Be that as it may, I plan to be elucidating weekly on my pop culture discoveries of the moment from here on in, whether it be a new book or CD or a TV show or a museum or a restaurant, or, perhaps, a movie that I saw when I was 15 that it seems no one has heard of and that I really think you might dig. And without further ado…

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Cupcakes, because why not? So it seems some very twisted souls have come up with a collection of cupcakes inspired by the 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (which by the way is definitely worth a Netflix lookinto if you’ve never scoped it). Everything from crazy quotes from the book/film to Hunter’s glasses to a smashed cigarette to a drawing of Thompson to a demented clown face to lines of coke next to a rolled up dollar bill and a razor blade adorns these little confections. I think Mr. Thompson would have loved these.

Young Shorpy Higginbotham was a boy who worked the mines in Alabama in 1910. He died in a mine accident in 1928 and his name lives on through the Shorpy website, which does an incredible job of curating vintage photographs. The majority of these amazing images are black and white photographs from the turn of the century that are so amazingly crystal clear it’s really a window into the past. As in this incredible photograph of the Flatiron Building under construction circa 1902. You can also buy large-sized prints from the site suitable for framing, and be sure and get on their mailing list.

Are you crazy about your dog or just crazy? So asks best selling novelist and baby name expert Pamela Redmond Satran in her brand new book Rabid: Are You Crazy About Your Dog Or Just Crazy?, out this week from Bloomsbury Books. States Satran’s tumblr site: I like to think of Rabid as the Jon Stewart of dog books.  Or maybe the Rin Tin Tin of people books. This book will amaze and amuse you, and perhaps even frighten you when you see the lengths many of us go to include our furry friends in our everyday lives. Canine vegans? Pet feng shui? Here. Humans who’ve married their pets? Aqui. Dogs and Art; Dog Weddings; Doggie Daycare; martini-shaped doggie treats; all here and more, much more, as well as a fabulous selection of photos of canines in all shapes and sizes.

Little Steven Van Zandt gets Big Man of the Year Award: Tuesday night October 16th the non-profit organization Little Kids Rock celebrates its 10th anniversary of transforming children’s lives by restoring and revitalizing music education in disadvantaged public schools. This year they honor Little Steven Van Zandt with the Big Man of the Year Award at a gala event taking place at the Manhattan Center Grand Ballroom. Musicians including Dion, Elvis Costello, Tom Morello, Darlene Love, Southside Johnny, Gary US Bonds, Ruben Blades, and others will gather to tribute Steven’s prodigious musical legacy. Van Zandt also has his own non-profit organization, the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, which was formed in 2007 to provide a groundbreaking music-centered curriculum for middle and high school students.

Losers Lounge take on the Dusty Springfield catalogue at Joe’s Pub: Last weekend the fine, fine, superfine Joe McGinty, the Kustard Kings, and friends addressed the mighty archive of recorded work by one Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien – known to us all as Dusty Springfield. McGinty and psycho-cabaret singer Nick Danger started the LL back in 1993, originally as a piano singalong night in the East Village. Since then there have been over 300 shows honoring the canon of more than 50 different artists. The Dusty show was stellar as usual with a number of great guest singers as well as the formidable Connie Petruk, who brought the house down with the closing number “Son of A Preacher Man.” See them in December when they bring to life the storied career gems of Stevie Wonder.

Women’s Rights and Women’s Health: There’s been a lot of talk about these subjects this election year. This begs the age-old question of why the right wing always feels they have to push their beliefs on everyone else. Why can’t we trust women to know what’s best for their own bodies, their own families? Why does it always have to be this absurd absolutism – which seems to be more suited for a dictatorship or a monarchy, not a thriving democracy? Meanwhile, please read brilliant writer Marge Piercy’s poem Right to Life, which says it all. Here’s just a part of that: I will choose what enters me, what becomes / of my flesh. Without choice, no politics, / no ethics lives. I am not your cornfield, / not your uranium mine, not your calf / for fattening, not your cow for milking. / You may not use me as your factory. / Priests and legislators do not hold shares / in my womb or my mind. / This is my body. If I give it to you / I want it back. My life / is a non-negotiable demand.

The bravery of Malala Yousafzai: Last week the spotlight of the world fell on Pakistan and the shameful actions of the Taliban in attempting to assassinate 14-year-old Malala, a schoolgirl who tirelessly advocated on behalf of the right for girls to be educated in her country. Malala had been on the world stage for quite some time as the voice of Pakistani children, and girls in particular, for resistance against the dangerous extremism rampant in their society. The Taliban threatened her many times and finally made good their threat to try to kill her. She underwent surgery for shotgun wounds to the neck and head and has now been airlifted to a hospital in England. Millions of people all over the world rose up in outrage over the attack on this young girl, including in her home country Pakistan. The UN Special Envoy for Global Education took up the cry I Am Malala and created a website in support of her campaign to outlaw discrimination against girls. When she wakes up – and I say when, not if – young Malala will see how she has transformed the world by her bravery.

Project Runway Season Ten: Those of you who have followed my rants and raves through the years may realize that this is the first Project Runway season in a long time I haven’t blogged weekly about the show for the Huffington Post. Why, you ask? Well…there are a few reasons. One of which is that it’s a huge amount of work – hours and hours of work – for very little return. But more importantly, at least this season, is that the designers are a crashing bore. I don’t know if we’ve been spoiled with our Mondos and our Santinos in the past, but hella the pickings this year are slim. And now that the smoke has cleared and four of them (Fabio, Christopher, Dmitry, and Melissa) are left standing to show at Fashion Week, I have to admit there were whole episodes I just glossed over because of the snore factor. One episode left and we’ll know who the winner is, but based on their three representative looks for the judges this week, I don’t think any of them should make it. Catch the Season Finale this Thursday night October 18th on Lifetime.

The Sound of Cylons: Someone who is calling themselves Saul Tigh uploaded this gem a few days ago to Youtube.  It’s a reworking of the Simon and Garfunkel classic to tell the story of Gaius Baltar and his, um, giant fuckup in inadvertently handing the soulless killing machines known as cylons the key to destroying the known world on the brilliant series Battlestar Galactica (I speak here of the remade version which premiered in 2003).  It’s hilarious whether or not you’ve seen the series but if you have not, I urge you to check it out. I came to it late; it had been off the air for years when I finally succumbed to the advice of friends who assured me it was one of the best science fiction series of all time. They were right. You can see it on Netflix and rest assured, you will be just like these characters on Portlandia.

Hugh Howey’s series Wool: I fell down this rabbit hole a few months ago thanks to goodreads and I urge you to do the same. Writer Hugh Howey originally created a novelette about a dystopian society trapped inside of a huge silo buried in the ground. No one ever went outside, except the unlucky ones who were thrown out and died a miserable death in the poisoned atmosphere. As cream rises to the top, this self-published story became a massive bestseller, growing to several more novelettes, attracting global attention, and has now been optioned for a potential feature film by Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian. It’s available either in bite-sized chunks or in the Omnibus version. These characters continue to haunt me and the word cleaning will certainly never be the same.

+ + + + +

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
Aries, the Ram. Your impulsive, pioneering spirit will no doubt be energized and cheered by seeing Judith Owen Saturday night September 27 at the Metropolitan Room, a cabaret located on West 22nd St. between 5th and 6th Avenue. For the uninitiated, Judith’s is a unique, beautiful voice and her performances combine music with a running commentary about everyday life and the state of the world. For one night, put aside your worry about the implosion of our economy and join Judith, who was called “whip smart, soulfully cool and deeply introspective” by the L.A. Times. Her newest album is Mopping Up Karma (Courgette Records, a label Owen formed with her husband/collaborator Harry Shearer). Stephen Holden in The New York Times: She has the kind of wailing folk-jazz voice that slices away surfaces to touch vulnerable emotional nerve endings and leave you quivering. Come on down and quiver; I’ll see you there.

April 20 - May 20 Taurus
Our Taurus of the Week is my soul sister Tina Fey, to whom I offer heartfelt congratulations on the Emmy win(s) for 30 Rock. Seven awards this year went to 30 Rock, which starts its third season October 30th (special online premiere October 23). Ms. Fey, originally head writer (and performer) on Saturday Night Live, created this show about a television show producer and the challenges of putting together a variety show, and she also produces and stars in it. Alec Baldwin makes me cry with laughter every week. It’s almost better than an orgasm. In case you haven’t yet basked in its brilliance, there’s still time for you to catch up via DVD and iTunes downloads before Season 3. A couple of quotes just to reel you in further: Liz Lemon (Fey): I want to do that thing rich people do when they turn money into more money. Jack Donaghy (Baldwin): Now, there are 140 people on this show, so go out there and make 126 people very happy. One last caveat; Tina’s from Upper Darby, Pa. – my hometown.

May 21 - June 20 Gemini
During the sign of Gemini in 1967, June 12 to be exact, the album Dusty in Memphis by Dusty Springfield was released. A great year for great records, this one was produced by Arif Mardin and Jerry Wexler and engineered by Tom Dowd. Those three names on any album virtually guarantees a classic. Rolling Stone placed it as Number 89 in the Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time: …blazing soul and sexual honesty…that transcended both race and geography. The back-up singers were the Sweet Inspirations and the band was Reggie Young’s Memphis Cats. Read more about the fascinating story behind this record in renowned music historian Warren Zanes’ fascinating book Dusty in Memphis, part of the 33 1/3 book series. Zanes discusses the record and the book here.

June 21 - July 22 Cancer
Moonchild ~ you’ve got a tendency to stress out on occasion. Of course we all do, but your proclivity towards overemotionality sometimes works against you in destructive ways. May I suggest Ujjayi Pranayama, a yoga breathing technique which simultaneously relaxes and rejuvenates the entire body. It’s a great way to combat stress, or to get yourself into sleep mode, or to refresh yourself and get more energy. It is sometimes known as ocean breath. Ujjayi strengthens your digestive system as well as your nervous system. It is said that 20 minutes of Ujjayi equals a full night of sleep. Ujjayi is also believed to help lengthen the span of life by lengthening the breath.

July 23 - August 22 Leo
The indie bookstore of the week is Page 1 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Leos are courageous, positive, and creative, and love to read. This is the go-to store for you lion people when you’re under the sign of the Zia (New Mexico’s state symbol – based on an ancient symbol for the Sun by Native Americans of the region). Seriously, is there anything better than a great bookstore? I can literally spend hours going up and down the corridors perusing book titles. Page 1 also has a café and wine bar, so there’s no need to even leave the store, which was established in 1981 and sells new, used and rare books. Spend a day in there but make sure to get outside to see the stunning New Mexico sunset. Or shop online.

August 23 - September 22 Virgo
Virgo is a mutable earth sign ruled by Mercury. There are four mutable signs (Gemini, Pisces, and Sagittarius in addition to Virgo). Basically mutable signs indicate an astrological sign that falls within the change of a season – in this case, Virgo falls between summer and autumn. I say to you meticulous Virgo people, its time to place yourself squarely in the 21st century and make sure you’re listed on LinkedIn. Whether you’re in the job market or not, put yourself on the map with this online network of more than 25 million experienced professionals around the globe, representing 150 industries. And that’s just today – it continues to grow exponentially. Recruiters troll it to find employees. Use it to rekindle old friendships and professional relationships. I can honestly say it changed my life. Thank you Rhonda Markowitz, who first told me about it.

September 23 - October 22 Libra
The sun moved into Libra this week, so happy birthday Librans. With that said, Mercury also went retrograde on September 24 and won’t go direct again until October 15. Which means basically all communications are affected and can be delayed and disrupted. Computers break down. Trains are late. The up side is this is a great time for reorganizing things and reflection. If you’re anywhere near San Francisco, may I suggest the Saint John Coltrane Church as a stop on your metaphysical highway. This church was created in the name of Libran John Coltrane after Founders Archbishop Franzo King and Reverend Mother Marina King saw him perform in 1965. Being raised in the Pentecostal Church, Franzo King knew the presence of the Lord when it came through the power of the Holy Ghost. Seeing John Coltrane and hearing his sound that night kindled that familiar feeling he had known in childhood. It was the presence of God. Archbishop King refers to this as a “sound baptism” which touched their hearts and minds. Further investigation into this John Coltrane proved him to be not just a ‘jazz musician’ but one who was chosen to guide souls back to God. I can safely say you’ve never been to a church like this. Go in and reflect.

October 23 - November 21 Scorpio
Compulsive! Passionate! Magnetic! Mysterious! Can you say Scorpio! Well guess what; its time for the season premiere of Shoot the Messenger, Monday September 29 at the Green Room Theater. Shoot The Messenger is a comedy troupe performing a satirical wrap-up of the week’s news from the brain of Daily Show Co-creator Lizz Winstead. A live sketch comedy show incorporating multi-media elements, it presents the world as seen through the filters of fictional producers and on-air talent at Wake Up World, the worst morning news show in America. Each week Lizz interviews a media figure who digs deep and gets it right. They’ll give us the lowdown on the big stories that were buried (or ignored) by the corporate media mill. This week’s guest is Naomi Wolf, author of The End of America, and former consultant to both the Clinton and Gore campaigns. Naomi and Lizz will have a timely conversation about tyranny, the election, and what we can do to save democracy before it’s too late. Tickets here. Tick tock!

November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
Oh Sagittarius, you optimistic, intellectual, sensual folks. Stop the presses! Have you heard that chocolate is good for you? Yes – it truly is very good for your health in moderation. Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate makes lovely little dark chocolate squares in exactly the right size for an energy/health pick me up that you can pop when approaching the mid-afternoon slump. Their exceptional chocolate begins life as organic cocoa in Belize and the Dominican Republic. G&B makes chocolate bars, ice cream, and incredible hot chocolate mix powder. tells us that a small square of dark chocolate daily protects the heart from inflammation and subsequent heart disease. Read more here.

December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
Capricorns dig uncomplicated, simple food; comfort food. You would really enjoy the classic Manhattan coffee shop / Greek diner I stumbled upon last week – having passed it on the street for decades but never going in before. The Astro Restaurant is something out of Old New York and therefore sticks out like a sore thumb in the New New York, especially in west midtown on 6th Avenue and 55th Street. It is very rare to find a place like this that can still afford New York City rent prices. Check out the 2nd Astroburger Revolution with a plethora of crazy burgers (somehow I missed the first); including The Greek and The Real Greek.

January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
Water-bearing Aquarians love to know what is going on all the time so they can make a judicious decision about what deserves their time. Hence I want you to know about The Weekly Gigometer, presented by Home Office Records, an independent record label in Brooklyn with big plans for fine music and a penchant for exceptionally fine beer. This is what’s called a community service and a really great one. They are amazing. I love them. Subscribe. Throw money at them. Tell your friends about them.

February 19 - March 20 Pisces
Fish people traits include escapism and dreaminess. Well, let this be your wake up call! We’re creeping inexorably towards November 4, a day that will change all our lives, Americans or not. The beauteous Grace Helbig (AKA Daily Grace) channels Bristol Palin in My Damn Channel’s Voting is Sexy video which also imparts practical advice on where and how to register. The deadline to register in most states is early October. That means next week. Get on the good foot, people!