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Herewith a completely solipsistic list of things that tickled my fancy this past week and that bear further investigation by The World Out There. IMHO.

Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live: She had me with her recent channeling of Ann Romney, but last night took the cake with her wondrous portraits of the Long Island Medium, Ellen deGeneres, and (most side splitting of all) Celia Gimenez, the eighty-year-old Spanish lady who painted over a 100 year old fresco of the face of Christ. I’ve got my eye on you, McKinnon. You’re now officially the one to watch on SNL. Gracias.

Not Fade Away, David Chase’s new movie: Well I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I have been waiting for this film to come out for what seems like years. The feature film directorial debut of genius David Chase (ahem, The Sopranos), it stars James Gandolfini, John Magaro, Jack Huston, Will Brill, Bella Heathcote, Brad Garrett and others and is the story of a rock group in 1960’s New Jersey. The music supervisor is Steven Van Zandt, so ’nuff said.  It’s due out in December from Paramount. Check out the trailer here.

The return of Homeland, on Showtime: Even if you didn’t watch the first season, or know anything at all about this show, you probably grokked that it swept the Emmys and also racked up a few Golden Globes. Apparently all this attention resulted in a huge ratings win last week when Season 2 premiered, and it did not disappoint. We find Claire Danes’ character Carrie puttering around in the garden and closing down her laptop when a news story about the Middle East pops up, until her old buddy Mandy Patinkin (um, J’adore) reaches out to get her help with an asset she recruited years before. Of course it doesn’t take much to get her on the plane to Beirut. And suddenly our Sunday nights look a whole lot better for the next few months.

Theatre Is Evil, By Amanda Palmer, racks up the establishment kudos: Rolling Stone named Amanda Palmer’s new album Theatre Is Evil one of the year’s best rock records. Palmer made world headlines earlier this year with her massively successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of this album, from which she raised $1.2 million. The record is kickass. The band is magnificent. Palmer is a goddess. You can stream and purchase the record here for as little as $1.00 in a Pay-What-You-Want scenario. Mark my words; she’s the Queen of Social Media and she puts on one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen. Plenty of chances to see if I’m right on that, here.

The Candy Bar of the Week goes to the New Smoked Banana Caramel Chocolate Bar by Vosges: I haven’t had it yet, but who needs to with a description like this: Smoked bananas blended into soft caramel, with a touch of Alderwood smoked salt and tucked it into the pockets of a 72% cacao dark chocolate bar. When tasting the bar, the smoke flavor is distinct with the smoky notes found primarily in the Mesquite smoked banana. Who writes these things? Vosges always comes through and I’m sure this is my tastebuds’ version of a rocket to the moon.

Janey Milstead, Editor In Chief of my favorite magazine, like, ever, TeenSet, located via Google!: Well, to me, this is Ultra Mega. Not only did I locate the website of Ms. Milstead, I also found out that while at TeenSet she wrote under many names and one of those was Shirley Poston, possibly my favorite writer…ever. All these years, I never knew they were the same person. To my teenage self this is the equivalent of the Mars Landing or some other huge scientific discovery. I’m still hoping to find someone has digitized all those TeenSet magazines, somehow, somewhere.

The Communication Cure, by Dr. Neha Sangwan: I was lucky enough to meet Dr. Neha at a nutritional seminar several years ago and have stayed abreast of her work ever since.  Sangwan is an internal medicine physician as well as a gifted corporate communication strategist who speaks internationally on the topics of conflict resolution, stress management, and wellness. This video sets out the premise of her upcoming book, and I guarantee you she’s going to be a household name when it comes out.

The 30th Anniversary of Men Without Women by Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul: Earlier this week, it was thirty years to the day of the release of Men Without Women, an album that, to be quite honest, I probably played more than any other record I own. Ten songs - a masterpiece of passion - the first solo statement from an artist who had already proven himself as an incredibly gifted songwriter, though until this album, not for himself. In July 2011, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes paid tribute to the record with a live show bringing those songs to life again, and you can now pay homage to it by purchasing SSJ’s version here.

Oh yeah; two guys who want to be President for the next four years were onstage together for 90 minutes in Denver: If you know me, you know how I feel. And if you don’t may I quote Immanuel Kant to you:  We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals. Under no circumstances would I vote for Mitt Romney to be President of a Block Association let alone the US, once I heard the story of Seamus strapped to the top of a car in a cage for hours during a highway drive. Laugh all you want, if you think this is trivial, but the mere fact that Mitt Romney did this; that the dog was ill and had the runs; that Romney pulled over and hosed off the dog and put him back up there, now soaking wet, to freeze in the wind; it doesn’t even bear thinking about. So yes, I was disappointed in Obama’s performance this week at the debate. But if you don’t want half the country, the poor, the unemployed, the 47% he spoke so disgustingly of when he thought no one but big money donors were listening, to be strapped on top of Mitt’s car while the special people ride inside as he races up the highway to glory — I beg you — don’t vote for him.

And lastly, if you need another reason to love Bruce Springsteen, he was part of a big campaign this week for gay marriage:
Springsteen joined The Four2012 Campaign, putting forth his macho Jersey stare right into your soul and blasting some strong words in support of marriage equality specifically in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington. Marriage equality is now a plank in the DNC’s platform, at last, and is sure to be a subject that will continue to be discussed as we head towards the Election on November 6.


in art, everything must be fair game, everything must be explorable, everything must be speakable, or we go BACKWARDS! we go DOWN!
~ Amanda Palmer ~

March 21 - April 19 Aries
Aries, my sweet. I’ve got two words for you: 1) Amanda. 2) Palmer. Hear me now and believe me later; she’s the real thing. There isn’t space here to wax on about her incredibleness so suffice it to say that this weekend she’s doing a play at Massachusetts’ Lexington High School (she’s a ’94 grad of same) called With The Needle That Sings In Her Heart. The play can be seen Friday night (tonight) and twice on Saturday, this weekend, yes, go there if you can (tickets available here until 5pm tonight). And if you can’t, glory hallelujah, the play will be webcast on Saturday night here. The play, which was written by Palmer with 23 students, is based on Neutral Milk Hotel’s 1998 album In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, which was inspired by the story of Anne Frank. The whole shebang was born of Palmer’s desire to come back to her alma mater to collaborate with former theater teacher Steven Bogart. And by the way, Ms. Palmer’s going to be appearing with Neil Gaiman on June 3 at Housing Works Books in NYC. Tickets here and going fast. Lucky New Yorkers can see her perform at the Highline Ballroom on June 5 (tix here), in LA on June 25th, and San Diego on July 24. If you’ve believed nothing else I ever wrote in this column believe this: Amanda Palmer is amazing. See her now while you can still get tickets.

April 20 - May 20 Taurus
Us Taureans, we love good food, yes, indeed we do. And recently we were privy to same, the southern soul food variety, at Murphy’s in Atlanta, Georgia, thanks to Katy J. Seriously: fried green tomatoes with delicious dipping sauce; cheddar cheese grits; eggs benedict with sundried tomato hollandaise. Add in a couple of Bloody Marys and oh man! what a meal. And there were about twenty other things on the menu we wanted, bad, but had to consign to another trip. Murphy’s has been on the Atlanta landscape for 25 years and people wait, as we did, in line for hours to eat there. If you’re lucky enough to live in the area – I can hardly think of a better place for a Mother’s Day Brunch. It’s this Sunday so plan on getting in line early. Free roses to all Moms!

May 21 - June 20 Gemini
Mercury – that foxy trickster – turned retrograde in the sign of Gemini on Thursday May 7. You know, even my friends who don’t believe anything else about astrology believe in mercury retrograde. Right on schedule for me Thursday morning I felt the retrograde presence when my computer suddenly stopped being able to burn discs. Then I went to a store to print photos at a kiosk that mysteriously stopped working when I used it. Typical M.R. stuff. If it has to do with machines or communications, just beware. And try never to sign legal documents during M.R. The retrograde period generally lasts about three weeks which is a stone drag, but there are – believe it or not – a few good things about this time. It’s a fine time to clean your house, do creative work (write, paint, make music), and sleep. Mercury goes retrograde four times this year – each time for three weeks or so – which is about one more time than usual. The planet Mercury turns direct again on May 31, though the effects can last until June 9. Keep your head down and don’t sign anything. Except for your rent check.

June 21 - July 22 Cancer
Cancer presides over home life and comfort. You love to be safe and secure in your feathered nest. And don’t we all like to snuggle up to the hearth with a nice glass of wine, n’est-ce pas? Therefore I’d like to suggest that you consider purchasing said wine at Artisan Wine Shop in Beacon, New York. If you’re anywhere near the Hudson Valley, Beacon’s definitely worth a day trip. And every Saturday you can pretty much count on a wine tasting with some delicious snacks at the shop. Call for times (845-440-6923), but generally this takes place in the late afternoon / early evening. You won’t find the ordinary group of labels here. Artisan specializes in lesser-known smaller-production wines, putting a great deal of time and effort into finding well-balanced, great-tasting wines. Proprietors Tim Buzinski and Mei Ying So are both graduates of the Culinary Institute of America and are delighted to help customers pick just the right bottle of wine for whatever occasion it happens to be. They’re also available as wine consultants and to lead private tastings and events. The current Wine of the Week is Tomàs Cusiné Geol Costers del Segre 2004; available for 31% off. Artisan Wine Shop is at 180 Main Street in Beacon (845-440-6923).

July 23 - August 22 Leo
I know that Leos love music of all genres and varieties. I’m sure you’d like to be apprised of the good work of the New Orleans String Project, which is all about making high-quality stringed instrument instruction accessible to inner-city NOLA kids. The New Orleans String Project believes in the importance of early music education to improve the well-being and overall quality of life for children. To enroll your child in this marvelous program, to send them a contribution for the wonderful work they’re doing, to donate an instrument, to read about the correct postures for playing the cello or viola, visit their website here. Thanks to Norena B. for this tip!

August 23 - September 22 Virgo
Hey, while you’re in Beacon picking up some vino at Artisan Wine Shop, stop by Mount Beacon Fine Art at 155 Main Street to check out the beautiful photographs of one of my favorite Virgos, Ronnie Farley. The show is called Earth Keepers: Portraits and Testimonies of Native American Women and opens May 9. Join Ronnie in celebrating the spiritual, strong women that she’s interviewed and photographed over the past 23 years. If you’re in Beacon this Saturday May 9 stop in for the opening night reception from 6 to 9pm. See more of Ronnie’s work here. She is the author of Women of the Native Struggle: Portraits and Testimonies of Native American Women, Cowgirls: Contemporary Portraits of the American West, and Diary of A Pedestrian: A New York Photo Memoir. A three year national tour of the Cowgirls photo series is currently on exhibit through the Mid-America Arts Alliance and appears from May 15 to August 16 at the Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis, Missouri.

September 23 - October 22 Libra
One of the best Libras you can find anywhere is Bruce Springsteen. Celebrate his magnificent career, literally From Asbury Park to the Promised Land, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. This exhibit, the first of its kind about Springsteen, will be on display through the spring of 2010. The first artifact-driven exhibit about Springsteen’s life and work includes several of his guitars, handwritten lyrics, posters and handbills, numerous photos, and the 1960 Corvette he purchased in 1975 after the Born to Run album catapulted him onto the national stage. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is open seven days a week (seven nights to rock, anyone?) from 10am to 5:30pm.

October 23 - November 21 Scorpio
Whilst in Atlanta, hanging out with Katy J. as mentioned earlier, we also visited the incredible Paris on Ponce – 50,000 square feet of Antique and Modern Detritus, a veritable bohemian warehouse located in the heart of midtown Atlanta. I know that you Scorpios like to keep on the cusp of what’s cool and suchlike. Paris on Ponce was created about eleven years ago by George and Judi Lee, who aimed to create an interesting experience where everyone is welcome to browse and dream. Which you will do, as you stroll through three buildings which include everything from 18th century antiques to new designer furniture at lower than wholesale prices. If you’re looking for something, chances are they have it in this incredible place. Plus, they have a spring sale on at the moment – up to 75% off. Slideshow here. Can’t make it to Atlanta right now? Check out their ebay store. Need an amazing place for a film or music video shoot – or a party? Look no further than the burgundy velvet nightclub Le Maison Rouge inside Paris on Ponce. It’s kind of like walking into 1920’s Paris. Rental info here.

November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
Sagittarius, the Archer, lover of travel and culture and idealism. Be the first on your block to experience the total awesomeness of the debut CD by Montreal’s Elephant Stone, The Seven Seas. Formerly of the band The High Dials, for which he played bass and sitar, Rishi Dhir started this new band in 2008. After leaving The High Dials in 2006 after six years, Dhir studied up on classical Indian music, which informs this new release. Dhir also played sitar on recordings by the Black Angels and the Earlies. The Seven Seas is true psychedelic pop and you can hear the sparkling, gorgeous tunes on Elephant Stone’s myspace page. Close your eyes and it’s 1966 again. And I mean that as the highest compliment. According to Rishi, we worship at the altar of Sri Ganesha, the Beatles, Ananda Shankar, and Indian food. Buy it here.

December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
I know that Capricorns love to support artists and writers and also love ethnic food and old New York. At least the ones I know have these characteristics. May I present the new book Sizzle in Hell’s Kitchen by Carliss Retif Pond, recently published by Gibbs Smith and available here as well as in your local bookstore (if you’re lucky enough to have one). Pond earned a masters in English Lit from the University of New Orleans and received a culinary education at Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu and the Ritz Escoffier School. She’s been a culinary advisor for Bloomingdale’s and a banquet coordinator for the Plaza Hotel. The book gathers ethnic recipes from 27 different cuisines in the colorful Ninth Avenue neighborhood of Manhattan, also known as Hell’s Kitchen. HK is internationally known for its diversity and the longevity of its restaurants, many of which are in the same family for generations.

January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
On a recent Aquarian-themed fact finding mission SDJ signed up for a three day free trial with Sirius XM. Whilst perusing the channels, we came upon the beauteous Elizabeth Cook, who has her own show twice a week on Outlaw Country, Channel 63. We’ve told you before how great Outlaw Country is - Steven Van Zandt’s sanctuary for the rebels and renegades, rabble rousers and rogues of country music. They’re all here: Bob Dylan, Loretta Lynn, Steve Earle, David Allan Coe, Emmylou Harris, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and of course all generations of the Hank Williams Dynasty. Cook’s show, Apron Strings, is worth getting up early for (it is broadcast from 6 to 10am on Thursday and Friday mornings). She’s fresh and awesome and just plain fabulous. She’s also got a bunch of records out, the most recent being the Rodney Crowell-produced Balls on Thirty Tigers Records, available here.

February 19 - March 20 Pisces
The website of the week was picked with our Piscean friends in mind. Creativity, sensitivity, and spirituality – that’s you guys. I know you’ll dig Crazy Sexy Life, the brainchild of author/filmmaker/motivational speaker Kris Carr. You may have heard of Crazy Sexy Cancer, the film which Carr wrote and directed about herself for TLC and Discovery Health. The site is a self-described supercharged health hub which gathers together resources and cutting edge experts in one easy to navigate hot spot. Kris has gathered a terrific Blog Posse (featuring Kathy Freston, Rory Freedman, Sara Melngailis, Chloé Jo Berman, and others) to augment her own writings on the site. Quoth the site: Whether you want to dazzle your guests with a rockin’ vegan dinner, embark on a juice feast, clean up mama earth, or connect with other like minded bright lights, you’ll find that, and a whole lot more here . . . An entire community loaded with love and support awaits you. Don’t miss their store which features one hundred percent vegan, cruelty free products.