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

Corn and grain, corn and grain, All that falls shall rise again. ~ Wiccan Harvest Chant

A house is never still in darkness to those who listen intently; there is a whispering in distant chambers, an unearthly hand presses the snib of the window, the latch rises. ~ J.M. Barrie

Just like a ghost you’ve been a-hauntin’ my dreams, so I’ll propose on Halloween. Love is kinda crazy with a spooky little girl like you. ~ Classics IV, Spooky (1968)

‘Tis now the very witching time of night, When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world. ~ William Shakespeare

purchase from: http://www.mexicansugarskull.com/mexicansugarskull/SkeletonFolkArt2.htm

click on this image to buy these amazing papier mache skulls!


March 21 - April 19 Aries

Aries people should find themselves in an extremely creative mood as All Hallows Eve approaches. Get yourself hopped up for Halloween by downloading the song Walking With a Ghost by Tegan & Sara, from their 2004 release So Jealous. You know you’re as likely to hear about music that’s four years old as four minutes or months old here on SDJ; my only criteria is that the song be amazing. Walking With a Ghost was later covered by the White Stripes because Jack White knows a hit when he hears one. Tegan & Sara, in case you don’t know, are diminutive singer-songwriter identical twin sisters from Calgary, Canada. Their most recent album, The Con, was released in July 2007 and a new one is planned for next year. Walking With a Ghost is perfect power pop, just over two and a half minutes in length, and the ethereal feeling of the song will haunt you. Boo!

April 20 - May 20 Taurus
You have a tendency to be indecisive, weighing all aspects carefully before making any decisions. Even when it’s something like – um – carving a jack-o’-lantern. This year you can create your bright orange masterpiece and at the same time declare for your Presidential candidate. Please visit yeswecarve.com and grab change by the stem. Today’s featured pumpkins include one reading VOTE (with the ‘O’ being the Obama symbol) and another one reading OOOBAMA! You can share your own Barack O’ Lantern by uploading a photo the site and perhaps win an iPod Nano; submit a Halloween themed Obama event; or watch this video and carve for change.

May 21 - June 20 Gemini
Your inner child is much closer to the surface than that of the other signs. Since this time of year is all about letting said inner child roam free, no matter what your age, I suggest you get in the mood by reading James Whitcomb Riley’s wonderful colloquial poem, Little Orphant Annie – aloud – and to a little person if possible. When I was a little girl, my grandfather used to read me this poem and make me both giggle with joy and gasp in horror. It’s about a servant who comes to work for a family and entertains the children with scary stories about goblins. Each verse has a moral tale to tell; a little boy who wouldn’t say his prayers gets snatched away; a little girl who makes fun of her elders is made to disappear. The final verse reiterates that kids should mind their parents and teachers and help those less fortunate, and it ends (as every stanza in the poem does):
‘Er the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you
Ef you
Don’t
Watch
Out!’

June 21 - July 22 Cancer
Cancer folks are homebodies; nothing is more enticing to you than a warm, comfortable evening at home. And speaking of homes, mayhap you missed this wonderful piece in The New York Times a few months ago about The Pumpkin House. The Pumpkin House resides just north of the George Washington Bridge at 186th Street and Chittenden Avenue in Manhattan. It’s a three story brick house perched on a cliff which is the highest point in New York City. The best view of the house can be seen on the Circle Line as it passes by on the Hudson River. The house was originally built in 1925 by Cleveland Walcutt – a full two years before construction even started on the GWB. The nickname of the house is due to the fact that the lighted windows make it look like a carved pumpkin, even more so the case at sunset.

July 23 - August 22 Leo
Leos are ambitious, warm-hearted, and idealistic. Dare I posit that you might be an occasional Martha Stewart viewer, n’est-ce pas? And by any chance did you happen to catch the visit of Noah Scalin to Ms. Stewart’s show, he of the marvelous Skull-A-Day website? It’s really worth watching, especially when Martha takes a bite of his skull-shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwich. (Noah: “It’s better because it’s skull shaped”). I just never thought of Martha as a skull person, but perhaps that’s just me. Skull-A-Day was born when Noah decided in June 2007 to craft a skull a day for a year out of everything from rice to toy soldiers to toothpaste. Skull-A-Day’s 2.0 version welcomes submissions from readers and also sells skull puzzles, skull cubes, and a great book about the project. In addition you can now download two free Skullphabet fonts.

August 23 - September 22 Virgo
Your critical nature often intervenes when you’re trying to have fun, O Virgo. But because it’s the season of Ghouls and Goblins, it’s fine to let down thy hair and leap about madly. It’s the one time a year in your buttoned-up life you can do this and feel good about it! How about decorating the house in complete and utter Halloweenity? It’s not too late to visit Pushin Daises and place a rush order. Put the fun back in funeral with this totally sick site created by licensed funeral director Catherine, aka Cadaver Cat. “Being a funeral director and having some computer skills, I decided to merge the two together to create a fun, online store for funeral service professionals,” quoth Cat. Featured products include coffin earrings in blood red garnet, a hearse cookie cutter, a day of the dead skeleton garland, and an anatomically correct chocolate human heart. All ordered items will be immediately shipped in a coffin-shaped box.

September 23 - October 22 Libra
Librans are by nature gregarious creatures and hate to be alone. And on Halloween, depending on where you live, the little ‘uns are going to come a-knockin’. This year surprise them and their parents with vegan candy corn. Yes, seriously. The Urban Housewife has come up with a recipe for candy corn sans animal products, beeswax, and other icky stuff like high fructose corn syrup that’s in the regular store-bought kind. There’s just nothing that says Halloween more than bright orange and yellow candy corn. Our witch and wizard hats are off to The Urban Housewife who by her own admission is all about rock ‘n’ roll & a mixing bowl. Trick or treat!

October 23 - November 21 Scorpio

The word insatiable describes you to a T. You want to do everything and be everywhere. Scorpio, thy name is rapacious. And the blessed holiday of All Hallows Eve falls within your astrological sign. So too Dias de los Muertos – Day of the Dead. Celebrated mostly in Mexico, this holiday honors those who have passed from this life and are now in the next world. The ceremonies take place on November 1st and 2nd and date back to Aztec and Mayan times and even further back than those cultures. In some areas of the country, people honor their relatives by spending all night beside their graves. Traditional foods for the holiday include sugar skulls and an egg bread made to look like bones called pan de muerto.

November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
Sagittarians answer to no man (or woman). You’re the very picture of a free spirit. You even like scary movies, of which there are plenty opening these days. Go see Saw V, Quarantine, The Strangers. But when you come home at night with your honey and get all snuggly, imagine the look on his/her face when you romantically light these candles and, as they burn, appear to drip blood rather than wax. You know you have to order them. Now. For next weekend. Vite!

December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
Workaholic, patient, driven, disciplined – you Capricorns are all these things and more. Hey, how about releasing your inner Sarah Palin this year for Halloween and dress up like Alaska’s favorite Moose-Hunting Hottie?  Or – go all blue collar and put together an outfit that could conjure up either Joe the Plumber or Joe Six-Pack (hey by the way, are they the same person? I haven’t been able to figure that out). You wouldn’t even have to buy a costume to turn yourself into Joe; just a t-shirt and jeans that show the crack of your ass when you stoop over to pick up some candy to put in your workpail. Carry a plunger to make it look even more authentic. Thanks, Senator McCain, for creating the easiest and cheapest Halloween costume ever!

January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
Aquarians are creative, independent, and fascinated by crazy weird things. Well there’s no better place for you to be for this particular holiday than New Orleans. Parapsychologist Dr. Larry Montz calls the city “the most haunted city in America, per square inch, no doubt.” Read about some of the more haunted places in town here. Go on a haunted tour. Visit the voodoo shops in the French Quarter and buy amulets to protect yourself against evil spirits. Get yourself dolled up for The Queen of the Damned Ball on Friday Oct. 31 at Rosy’s Jazz Hall. Word has it that Lestat attends every year – in costume. There’s also the Krewe of Boo Parade, starting Halloween Night at around 6pm at Elysian Fields and Decatur. Read all about more NOLA festivities here. C’est si bon!

February 19 - March 20 Pisces
A true Piscean soul constantly battles between going towards the light or seeking the darkness. Well, find the darkest places listed here for your convenience at Haunted-Places.com, a Haunted Places Directory. You can find a state-by-state listing of current paranormal activity, true life haunting stories, ghost hunting equipment, paranormal certification courses, and more. Plus you can buy the National Directory of Haunted Places or the International Directory of Haunted Places – there’s a discount if you want to pick both up. They also sell the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Ghosts and Hauntings. And hey – this website won the Paracelsus Award given by the Alchemy Guild. That’s good enough for me.

March 21 - April 19 Aries
Take a gander at Scott McClellan’s Top 3 Viral Videos and while you’re at it, sign up for the Damn, News list at My Damn Channel.

April 20 - May 20 Taurus
Mercury is in retrograde O Best Beloved, and it shall be so until June 19. Taureans and all signs should be aware of what this means: anything to do with communications is in jeopardy during this time. It’s just a lot more possible during this period that misunderstandings can occur. Try to avoid launching new projects and avoid signing legal documents.

May 21 - June 20 Gemini
We’re on the aft side of Memorial Day Weekend now, and even though the calendar won’t say Summer for another few weeks, for most people it is, me included. Time to investigate the Gardenscapes of photographer Laurel Fink. Fink, a landscape photographer, created Gardenscapes Studio to produce garden and landscape images of extraordinary grace and beauty. She’ll capture your garden for you or you can purchase one of her images for your wall, and you’ll always be in the warm green no matter the season.

June 21 - July 22 Cancer
Download of the week is Darlin’ Be Home Soon by the Lovin’ Spoonful. This was a Top 20 hit in 1967. The band’s lead singer at the time, John Sebastian, wrote the folk-rocky masterpiece which swells with violin and bursts into sweet orchestral flame. Remember it here. So go and beat your crazy head against the sky, Try and see beyond the houses and your eyes, It’s ok to shoot the moon.

July 23 - August 22 Leo
Consider a trip to Barcelona, one of the finest cities on this planet of ours. And while there you must not miss anything designed by Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926). His eccentric, warped, neo-psychedelic Gothic style is unique and years before its time. He’s known as the leader of the Art Nouveau moment in Spain, but that doesn’t even come close to describing what his work is like. He designed a park and sculpture garden (La Parc Guell) along with several buildings, and the redoubtable La Sagrada Familia cathedral. See them all and marvel at this man’s twisted, innovative genius.

August 23 - September 22 Virgo
Seek out The House at Otowi Bridge: The Story of Edith Warner and Los Alamos by Peggy Pond Church. It’s a story not well known outside of New Mexico where it is a classic, about Edith Warner who came to the state for health reasons in the 1930’s. She opened a tearoom in her home, situated very close to Los Alamos at the time of the creation of the hydrogen bomb as well as the San Ildefonso Pueblo. This woman created a sanctuary in which both the highest ranking scientists of the age working on the creation of pure destruction sat side by side with the peaceful Pueblo dwellers drinking tea and eating slices of chocolate cake. The book is pure poetry, and the story will never leave you.

September 23 - October 22 Libra
One of the best-kept secrets of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band is the lovely and accomplished Miss Soozie Tyrell. Springsteen’s recent music has as it’s true heart center Tyrell’s violin. White Lines is her only solo album thus far; it was released in 2003 but is still available and really worth tracking down. Listen to a few of the tracks here - my favorite is the stunningly beautiful Ferdouganal.

October 23 - November 21 Scorpio
In this house it’s always Halloween, our favorite holiday. And it can be celebrated all year long, my dears, thanks to the folks at Pushin Daisies. Sez owner/operator Catherine, a licensed funeral director in Allenhurst, NJ: This site was created to remind us to take a look at the lighter side of the dark side of life. God, she’s sick - and we love it. Skull beach bags, skull toilet paper, coffin earrings, even skull and skeleton hand potholder sets, all here!

November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
Ever hear of dark tourism? Woot? Beanpole families? Learn about these and millions of other weird terms on Michael Quinion’s web site World Wide Words, where Quinion elucidates on the English language from a British viewpoint. He was studio manager for BBC Radio, curator of the Cider Museum, author of several books that examine language (Ologies and Isms; Ballyhoo, Buckaroo, and Spuds; Gallimaufry), and now provides citations and advice for the Oxford English Dictionary. Fascinating.

December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
Take your mouth on a flavor ride with a Pomegranate & Dark Chocolate bar from Haagen Dazs. OMFG, you will be amazed at this marriage of a silky smooth bittersweet dark chocolate shell encasing the soft, creamy fruit rush of pomegranate ice cream.

January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
My advice to you is to open a can of whoop-ass and have yourself a weekend! Suddenly remember that you have a doctor’s appointment this afternoon and leave early today.

February 19 - March 20 Pisces
Spare a thought this weekend for Max Ehrmann who wrote the Desideratra back in 1927. Read the whole thing here, since the 1960’s are over (: and it’s not plastered everywhere as it used to be 40 years ago. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.