Back to Home

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