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Bill Hicks once opined (and I agree): Watching television is like taking black spray paint to your third eye. That being said, the fact is that dramatic moments of all shapes and sizes were played out this year on the small screen, from the sublime to the ridiculous (most of it being more in the latter category). The year began with the writers’ strike which went on for about ten million years and impacted our lives in all kinds of ways. After a Busboy drought (no Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert) the daring duo returned to the screen early in the year sans writers – and, surprise surprise, were pretty much as hilarious and entertaining as ever.

The writers’ strike, among other things, ensured no new season of 24 would take place until 2009. I don’t know about you but I was fine with that decision; much as I missed Jack B’s constipated facial expressions (and sour-faced / annoying / but you gotta love her - sidekick Chloe) I was fine with not seeing a show this year where presidents were snuffed out. (And then we recently got a little taste of Warrior King JB on 24: Redemption to warm us up for next year)

The overwhelming TV presence this year was politics. But let’s get to that later. First I’d like to spotlight the best new show of the year, Alan Ball’s True Blood. Lip-smacking good. Here’s some fun; tonight (New Year’s Eve) you can catch a True Blood marathon on HBO 2 starting at 6pm. Bon Temps, Louisiana comes alive (in a manner of speaking) with this vampire romance between sweet telepathic Sookie (Anna Paquin) and sexy undead Bill (Stephen Moyer). Best characters: Sookie’s conflicted, demon-ridden, wisecracking best friend Tara (Rutina Wesley) and Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) as the coolest, cutest, freakiest, most interesting short order cook ever. What else would we expect from Alan Ball, who created Six Feet Under and wrote the film American Beauty.

Other great shows this year, in no particular order:
-Always necessary – The Daily Show, The Colbert Report. The Colbert Report’s week in Philadelphia covering the heated Pennsylvania primaries was outstanding. Colbert at the Liberty Bell telling the guide “Let me tongue the crack of liberty.” Colbert singing the National Anthem with John Legend, beautifully. Hillary Clinton fixing the digital screen in order to prove she can handle any crisis, only to have Obama appear on it soon afterward by satellite (Colbert: Won’t Senator Clinton be glad she fixed that).
-CBS Sunday Morning – for the most part, educational and entertaining (except when they go off on boring tangents).
-Gossip Girl – a moral drama of the highest order, with the consistently best dialogue of any show methinks. Remember Blair trying to keep her cool when meeting her mother’s new boyfriend for the first time; “I am Grace KellyGrace Kelly is me.”
-Lost – best moment so far in a show chockablock with great moments: Ben turning the frozen wheel that made the island disappear. Say what?!?!?!
-Ugly Betty – eye candy with a moral lesson thrown in. And love, love, love Marc St. James (Michael Urie), the bitchy but soft-hearted assistant to diva ediatrix Wilhemina Slater (Vanessa Williams). Another reason to watch; Betty’s younger brother Justin (Mark Indelicato). His best scene ever (Season 1) – acting out the play Hairspray to passengers on the subway. Receptionist Amanda (Becki Newton) also hits many high notes. This show is blessed by brilliant casting.
-30 Rock – All of a sudden it’s all about Tina Fey. Well my altar to her went up years ago when she broke into the boys club at SNL. I’ve been a fan of this show since the beginning, believing (and rightly so, it appears) that if Tina Fey created it, it must be golden. And then there’s Alec Baldwin. My dream man.
-The Soup – I don’t dare chance a weekend without a bowl of spicy soup from Joel McHale and his sick crew. What’s great about this show is that it is a collection of the best moments of all the worst TV shows. McHale’s banter makes me chortle. Although I am getting a little tired of mankini. And when is Spaghetti Cat getting his own spin-off?
-SNL – When they’re good, they’re very very good, and when they’re bad they’re horrid. Sometimes both in the same show. But consistently great (even in bad skits) are Andy Samberg, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Casey Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Will Forte, and Kenan Thompson. Amy Poehler, girlfriend, I’m going to miss you! Of course SNL had a huge year with all of Tina Fey’s Palinizations and such, of which more later.
-Hardball with Chris Matthews – you want to hate him, and sometimes you do. But maybe it’s his Philadelphia accent (my hometown too), maybe it’s because when he gets excited about something he practically foams at the mouth, but he’s hugely entertaining and I logged many hours of this show during election season.
-Countdown with Keith Olbermann – sometimes it seemed as if his voice was the only one speaking truth to power this year. Although he did go overboard many a time. Still, I love him madly and he’s earned a place at the top of my must-see-TV list.
-The Rachel Maddow Show – she’s smart as a whip, cute, and engaging. Her interview last night with tainted Illinois Senatorial candidate Roland Burris was a don’t-miss and if you did miss it, check it out here.

I have not caught the train on these yet but I know I have to soon:
Mad Men
Battlestar Galactica
The Sarah Silverman Program

Really good shows on the fringes of my radar, to be further investigated:
The Office
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List
Cash Cab
Chelsea Lately
Dexter
Tracy Ullman’s State of the Union

Reality TV Rubbernecking:
-Project Runway – this year was not so great, but Tim Gunn always delivers. He’s like the teacher you always wanted to have in high school.
-The Pick Up Artist – unbelievably bizarre reality show where a guy in what looks to be a flea-bitten furry top hat who calls himself “Mystery” teaches a bunch of geeks how to score with hot chicks. Mystery has his own language which is endlessly entertaining, my favorite being DHV-ing. This means ‘demonstration of higher value’ – in other words you’re supposed to work DHV’s into your conversation with the babe you want to snag. It’s like a reality tv show in Bizarro World. And Mystery himself, purportedly the biggest catch on the planet, obviously has a hair loss thing going, always wearing strange head coverings. What’s with the goggles? Possibly weirder than him are the sad losers that hang onto his every word.
-America’s Next Top Model – Child! This show can come up with some fun moments. Like when Tyra lapses into ethnic phraseology. Or when she spontaneously bursts into song on lines like ‘noted fashion photographer Nigel Barker.’ Is it me or does everyone behind her (Paulina, Miss Jay, etc) squirm a bit when she does this? Love that Whitney, a plus-size model, won the top prize this year. Love that Isis, a transgender model, was part of the homegirl gang recently. Lady Miss Tyra marches on, dashing barriers right and left!
-Living Lohan – in which Dina Lohan shows us why she should have had her tubes tied prior to getting married.
-Sunset Tan – the best thing about this vacuous show was the Olly Girls (Holly and Molly), two platinum blonde airheads and former Girls Gone Wild. They were fired and…hired back. Because the producers know what makes for good (AKA bad) TV.
-Paris Hilton’s My New BFF – in yet another sign of the approaching apocalypse, this show went on the air in the fall. The winner was Brittany Flickinger (can that be someone’s real name?). Everyone’s favorite: Onch, the girlboy. Stalker material: Vanessa, the runner up. Wikipedia gives us a gorgeous chart which explains why each contestant was eliminated. (At the elimination ceremonies, Paris would gaze sadly at the ousted hopeful and dismiss them with “TTYN” – talk to you never).
-Rock of LoveSeason 2 of this unbelievably sick show began in January and ended in April with Bret Michaels, a R&R has-been if I have ever seen one (and talk about hair loss) choosing Ambre Lake from a bevy of skanks to be his (gag me) rock of love. This show never disappoints in complete and total ickiness. You practically contract a sexual disease from watching it. By the way, Ambre didn’t last – I know you’re as surprised as I am – Bret launches a new season of this trainwreck Sunday night January 4 with Rock of Love Bus. Apparently he hops between two busfulls of so-called hot mamas while touring.
-Rock of Love Charm School – in which Sharon Osbourne was the plucky headmistress to a bunch of losers from both seasons of Rock of Love. Although she’s supposed to be teaching them to become ladies, she’s got them dressing in sexy jailbait schoolgirl uniforms. Sharon’s great though. And this show provided many hilarious moments with Lacey, Rodeo, Megan, Heather and the gang.
-A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila – I crown this show to be the one most like licking an ashtray. It was positively rank. And why anyone would choose Bobby over Dani is beyond belief. Seriously! If Tila had chosen Dani, I like to think they’d be living together in Florida in semi-marital bliss. Notice you haven’t heard from Dani since the show ended, which has to be the true test of a real person versus a made for tv skank. I wont even bother to go there with the spinoff show Domenico did. Just the bits I saw on The Soup were enough for me.

2008 Randomizers:
-Ryan Seacrest. He’s everywhere. Why?
-Britney Spears. Starting the year with no hair, stabbing cars with umbrellas, ending it with cheese grits cooked over the stove by dad and big hits (fazed cookies too I bet).
-Lindsey Lohan. Apparently now a card-carrying member of the Daughters of Bilitis, big Obama supporter although she later referred to him as “colored” (ouch!), and the real story behind her episode arc on Ugly Betty may never be told.
-Rachael Ray’s never-was Dunkin Donuts commercial due to her wearing a ‘terrorist scarf’ that looked like something a crazy Muslim would wear. I ask you. Can you think of someone less American than Rachael Ray? Because I can’t.
-Word of the Year: Meme. According to Wikipedia, a meme comprises a unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols or practices; such units or elements transmit from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. The etymology of the term relates to the Greek word mimema for mimic. Memes act as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate and respond to selective pressures. Well trust me; its still the word of the year.

From The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

From: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Political Asylum TV:
During the long-ass American Idolatrous Popularity Contest between HRC and BHO, I logged about 3 hours of MSNBC almost every week night. If I wasn’t home, I taped it. This had never happened to me before; watching news in this fashion. All of which led me to really believe that the lanky, cool junior senator from Illinois who refused to play dirty could pull this thing off. After watching him for many months, and canvassing, and doing everything I could to get him elected, I had absolutely no doubt in my mind on November 4th that he would win. What I did not realize was that he would win so big.

Some real numbers:
-Voter turnout increased by more than 13 million people this year, compared to 2004.
-The Associated Press reported that 136.6 million Americans voted in the presidential election, which is a 64.1 percent turnout rate out of more than 208 million registered voters. What a concept; we’re actually acting like a democracy!

Some wonderful moments over the long road to El Casa Blanca:
-McCain ‘suspending’ his campaign and canceling on Letterman. No one will ever make that mistake again, n’est-ce pas?
-Hillary’s 3 AM wake up call commercial in which the phone rings about fifty times before some half-seen female with glasses answers it, meant to scare the bejesus out of us. Somehow I bet Obama would have answered it on the first or second ring.
-The never-ending discussion over the Bradley Factor keeping white voters from voting for a black candidate. No one talks about it now that we have the Obama Factor.
-John McCain’s insincere smile. It always looked to me like he was suddenly remembering to smile. And the body language between him and Cindy was – well I am not going to go there.
-Cindy McCain’s plagiarized cookie recipe.
-The so-called terrorist fist bump practiced by Barack and Michelle Obama onstage when he announced he was the presumptive nominee.
-John McCain’s confusion about how many houses he owns. And cars! Must be fun to be that rich.
-The debates – McCain wandering around onstage and getting in Tom Brokaw’s camera shot.
-Joe the Plumber, the everyman that was suddenly world famous thanks to McCain, and turned out not to even be a plumber, owed back taxes, had newsmen camping on his lawn, and got a book deal. I’m waiting for the reality TV show. (Hey Joe, where you going with that plunger in your hand?)
-McCain and Palin stoking the fires of fear, ignorance, racism and violence at their sparsely attended campaign rallies trying to make Obama rhyme with Ayers. Trying to paint Obama as a scary unknown communist Muslim. And then McCain being surprised when a woman says she doesn’t trust Obama because he’s an Arab.

And then there’s Sarah Heath Palin. Oh the beauty of it. I doff my hat to McCain or whoever had the foresight to pick her as his running mate. Loyal readers will know that I have run on and on about this particular subject so I will only mention a few of my favorite things here:
-Her first moment in the spotlight, the RNC Speech where she you betcha-d her way into America’s heart. While daughter Piper studiously licked the hair on baby Trig’s head in the audience. While baby Trig was the special needs human football that had to be trotted out in the middle of that loud, germ-ridden arena so we could all admire SP’s motherly dedication to him. As that poor little thing slept through the whole shebang, unaware he was a symbol now and not a child.
-Her debate with Joe Biden. The May I call you Joe? moment where she tried to seem both vulnerable and charming behind the barracuda smile.
-The Charles Gibson interview where he asked if she believed in the Bush doctrine. After a long (for TV) pause where you know SP was frantically racking her brains for what the hell was he talking about, she quipped, ‘in what respect Charlie?” and a whole string of Charlie Charlie Charlie as if that would negate the fact that the emperor (empress in this case) had no clothes.
-The Team of Mavericks. The definition of maverick is an unbounded range animal, one who does not abide by rules. Okay then!
-Thanks but no thanks. The true story of the Bridge to Nowhere.
-Katie Couric trying to pin SP down as to what, if anything, she reads. And not succeeding.
-The turkey death clip that surfaced post election of Palin chattering away as turkeys are slaughtered directly behind her.
-Palin assuring us of her qualifications for a job one heartbeat away from the Presidency because she can see Russia from her house.
-Tina Fey out-Palining Palin and the classic moment when they switched places at the podum on SNL.

And then the final nail in the Bush coffin took place recently when an Iraqi journalist threw not one but both of his shoes at GWB during his farewell press conference in the green zone. Bush later shrugged it off saying, that’s what people do in a free society. Oh really? They throw shoes at world leaders to express their absolute horror, dislike and complete disdain?

From the ridiculous to the sublime… the best TV moment of the year was Barack Obama’s Election Night Speech at Grant Park. In which he said, Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long . . . As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends — though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too . . . And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

So ends my 2008 subjective diatribe about the year in television. I know I’ve run at the mouth quite a bit here. Feel free to comment away, and Happy New Year!

March 21 - April 19 Aries
The waxing gibbous moon is nearly full and it’s driving ya crazy, O Aries. You’ve been Palinized. Get over it! The Sarah Palin Affair is merely a distraction from the real show. It’s designed to siphon energy away from McCain v. Obama. Let’s get on message, people! Time’s a-wasting! You want to obsess over a strong woman? May I present the Reverend Skye Denno, 29 year old Church of England deacon and lager-drinking Sex Pistols fan. Read her story here. She’s freaking awesome. She’s a married mum of two who loves to go to the pub and see live music. She told the Daily Mail, “I think I love working for the Church because every day is different. Also, other than working for God you are really your own boss and it is nice to have that freedom.” Hosanna!

April 20 - May 20 Taurus
Taurus, I want you to Netflix my favorite flick of all time, Diner. It’s about five twenty-something young guys who spend 90% of their time hanging out together at a favorite diner located in Baltimore. One of them gets engaged to be married and this starts a whole new storyline in which they all start examining their lives and realize that they’re pretty much side-stepping real life by living in this diner-shaped cocoon. The film, brilliantly written and directed by Barry Levinson, was made in 1982 and boasts a bevy of now very well known actors. It could never be made today; their fees would be astronomical. Steve Guttenberg, Daniel Stern, Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Tim Daly, Paul Reiser, Ellen Barkin, for instance. My favorite scene; Rourke and Bacon are driving home at dawn from an all-night diner hang session and they glimpse a beautiful woman riding a horse from a distance. She’s very high end, old money looking, and they’re both transfixed. After a few moments of silence, Bacon says, “Do you ever get the feeling that there’s something going on that we don’t know about?”

May 21 - June 20 Gemini
You’re optimistic, creative, expressive, and you love to soak up art and culture. Celebrate the finer things in life with the October issue (and 25th/95th anniversary issue) of Vanity Fair Magazine. The magazine was originally launched in 1913. It’s second incarnation came about in 1983. There is simply nothing like it. It’s the only magazine I read cover to cover. Articles I didn’t even know I would be interested in are fascinating. This month the huge double issue (Marilyn Monroe is on the cover) pays tribute to its past and looks to the future. I always start with Dominick Dunne and this month he talks about his quarter-century of covering the rich and famous with fascinating anecdotal nuggets. The cover story is about the recent discovery of Marilyn possessions that raise new questions about her life and death. There’s also a succulent excerpt from Annie Liebovitz’s upcoming book, where she shares the stories behind some of her most well known images.

June 21 - July 22 Cancer
The ruler of the fourth sign of the zodiac is the Moon, its symbol being the Crab, known for dual personalities. At once shy and retiring, you can also be vibrant and gregarious. I’m thinking both personalities would benefit greatly from going to see the Fab Faux’s big ol’ psychedelic extravaganza 10 year anniversary show at Radio City Music Hall Saturday September 20th. And you can see the Faux on Late Night with Conan O’Brien Friday September 12th (as in tonight). I know what you’re thinking; Beatles tribute band, I don’t think so. But au contraire, this is no tribute band. These fellas are note for note, devout students of the Fabs. The Fab Five hail from the bands on the Conan and the Letterman show, so they’re the cream (tangerine) of the crop. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one). A ginger sling with a pineapple heart. See you there ~

July 23 - August 22 Leo
My favorite Leo this week is Tim Gunn, making it work every week on Project Runway as the steward to a posse of designers with varied backgrounds and skill sets. This season is good, but I have to say previous seasons did hold my attention a little more. However, Tim never disappoints. This week on the show, the contestants did an astrologically-themed challenge which was rather entertaining, to say the least. They had to team up with their former rivals who had been booted off the show in order to do the challenge; and then they were partially judged by a group of designers who had been on past seasons. During a party scene, Heidi Klum was actually disrespected to her face by one of the more egocentric whippersnappers and I was all, oh no you didn’t! And for some reason Suede is still there…the annoying one who talks about himself in the third person and looks like a refugee from Urgh! A Music War.

August 23 - September 22 Virgo
I have two words for you Virgo fussbudgets: Navratan Korma. Meaning Nine-Gem Curry. So named because of the nine different vegetables, fruit, and nuts in the dish. Thanks to the Andyman, I stumbled upon this dish in an Indian restaurant last week. And it’s really superfine. Order it with some naan and all is right with the world. For a few minutes at least.

September 23 - October 22 Libra
Libra, it’s that time again! Hit the books! Since my back to school days are over I will live vicariously through the wealthy, stuck up characters on Gossip Girl as they make their way back to Gotham from their summers in the Hamptons. In case you’re not clued in to the groove, the show centers on best friends Blair and Serena and their satellites of love. The narrator, who is never seen and remains a woman of mystery, knows and sees all and sends photos and provocative text messages to all and sundry. It’s to die for. The dialogue is genius. Recent Blair-isms: It’s like Roman Holiday but I’m Gregory Peck and he’s Audrey Hepburn! – and - Notice how my voice didn’t go up at the end? Not a question. Almost as addictive: the Gossip Girl Insider website.

October 23 - November 21 Scorpio
Hey Scorpio, want to live forever? Consider Portuguese Rice Pudding, a traditional dessert in Portugal. The dish, which contains white rice, hot milk, egg yolks, and cinnamon, is what Maria de Jesus of Portugal ate for her 115th birthday this week. She is believed to be the oldest living person in Europe and the second oldest living person in the world (the first is an American, Edna Parker, born in 1893). De Jesus lives in the village of Corujo in central Portugal and has six children. Feliz cumpleaños!

November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
Southside Johnny was born December 4, 1948 in Neptune, New Jersey and his voice is one of the 8th wonders of the world. One of my favorite writers, Sal Nunziato (who’s now launched his own blog: Burning Wood) describes the new Southside Johnny album Grapefruit Moon: The Songs of Tom Waits thus in the Huffington Post: {the} arrangements evoke the brilliance of such orchestrators as Oliver Nelson, Billy May, and Nelson Riddle . . . “Down Down Down” becomes a kick-ass jitterbug and “All The Time In The World” sends you speeding through the Riviera, looking for Blofeld. “Johnsburg, Illinois,” one of my fave Waits tunes, clocks in at less than 2 minutes on “Swordfishtrombones.” It’s a tad longer here, but after one listen, you are ready to kick a can down some boulevard in the rain, wondering just why she did you wrong. Every song will either put you in a Billy Wilder film or some saloon. All I had to do was read this review and ch-ching, iTunes, I’m resting in the arms of these songs right now.

December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
Capricorns love their pets! And if you don’t have a pet, there are plenty out there that need your love. Find a shelter and get a new furry friend. And in keeping with our ongoing election year theme, may I turn you on to the Presidential Pets Museum, located in Historic Williamsburg, Virginia. The Museum was founded in 1999 to preserve information, artifacts, and items related to the Presidential Pets. Over 500 items of interest are displayed for lovers of pets, Presidents and pet trivia. As it happens, nearly every President had a pet, both exotic and common, and one can learn about them all here. Currently the First Dog is Barney Bush, a Scottish Terrier. We’re all looking forward to Barney moving to a nice big ranch in Texas where he can have acres and acres to roam.

January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
Strange and unusual things fascinate you, Aquarians. Therefore I have no doubt that you’ll dig the Old Creepy Ad post on Weirdomatic.com (thanks Ilene). Sometimes it’s really scary what the human mind can conceive for advertising, writes Alexandra, the 23 year old author of this blog. A Gillette Safety Razor ad shows a baby wielding a razor and the tagline Begin Early / Shave Yourself. Say what???? Lysol (a concentrated Germ-Killer) for female hygiene! To relieve fatigue – get a LIFT with a Camel! Gadzooks, this stuff is really off the hook.

February 19 - March 20 Pisces

Those born under the sign of Pisces should consider treating yourself to something luxurious this weekend. You’re overworked and stressed out. I’ve got just the thing – Sabon. Check it: In the summer of 1974, in a small farming town in Israel, a young couple made soap in their back yard. Guided by an ancient aboriginal recipe they had stumbled upon during their travels, they meticulously blended various local herbs and flowers into their magical mixture of fragrant oils and lye…Today, with the same love and creativity that inspired the original bar of lavender soap, Sabon has somewhat expanded upon their soap line to include delightful and dreamy products for the body, the home and the soul. This spectacular collection of lotions and potions is now available in stores across Israel, Europe and America. Log on to their site, find a location near you, or order online. And breathe . . .

March 21 - April 19 Aries
I don’t know about you, but Barack Obama is definitely my new bicycle and has been for some time. Wired Magazine contributing editor Mathew Honan created his website in February of this year and it was a screaming success, like millions of hits - the kind of success web sites dream about. His site is simple and direct and provides mondo entertainment. On August 5th he will be publishing a book collecting all the things ‘America’s sweetheart of a senator’ has done for you, like dancing with your mom at your sister’s wedding. Shoveling the snow from your walkway. Leaving a comment on your blog. (I’m waiting…) Preorder it here.

April 20 - May 20 Taurus
Thanks to Sree Sreenivasan, Dean of Students and New Media Director Columbia University Journalism School and Technology Reporter for WNBC-TV in New York, I learned about Nike Plus. It was actually through one of Mr. Sreenivasan’s fascinating online video courses at the mediabistro website, of which more later. Get this: you can connect a pair of Nikes to your iPod nano and presto! you’ve got your own personal trainer. The iPod will log each step you take and keep track of it on a special website. It’s rather amazing. More info here.

May 21 - June 20 Gemini
As we move into the white hot heart of summer, dangerously close to the famed dog days of August, my thoughts naturally turn to where to find the best margarita in town. Rosa Mexicano is well known for their signature pomegranate margarita and they have three locations in New York City as well as Atlanta, Palm Beach Gardens, and Miami. The food’s divine as well. I have it on good authority that Barrio Chino and Dos Caminos, both in Soho, are also very skilled with the juice of the blue agave plant.

June 21 - July 22 Cancer
Knit One, Haiku Too is a pocket sized gem which incorporates stories, quotes, and haiku about knitting and how it grounds and centers us in our lives. Author and poet Maria Fire, a knitter since childhood, has been a lawyer, hospice director, and massage therapist. The book sparkles with snapshots of sweet moments. Maria as a fourth grader, sitting on the porch with her grandfather as he recited poetry by heart and she knitted by lamplight. At girl scout camp arguing with her best friend about where babies come from. Shaving her head in solidarity with a sick friend. Knitting socks for her father, who’s illness caused him to have cold feet. Her son, inspired by Baryshnikov, dancing at a recital with a long gold silk scarf she’d made.

July 23 - August 22 Leo
We lost Johnny Cash in 2003 when he followed his beloved June to the sweet by and by. But you can celebrate his music on Saturday July 26 at 8pm over at the World Financial Center in Manhattan – free – at The Big River Project: The Music of Johnny Cash. Artists from a variety of genres will cover well known and obscure Cash songs. Performing their own arrangements will be John Doe, Ollabelle, Laura Cantrell, David Bromberg, The Persuasions, Hymns, Catherine Russell, Marshall Crenshaw, and more. Check out Gary Pig Gold’s great column The Mantra in Black: Ten Reasons Why Johnny Cash Always Matters.

August 23 - September 22 Virgo
For the celiac-challenged among us, take heart: Glutino manufactures a couple of really good breads that you can eat sans gluten. Their premium fiber bread and premium flax seed bread are terrific. They also make corn bread, cinnamon bread, English muffins, and bagels. I’m finding their stuff in more and more health food stores and you can also purchase it online. For an unbelievably enlightening experience, try a day without gluten; you will not believe the health benefits of not eating it. Whether or not you have celiac disease, many people have a sensitivity to gluten and don’t know it until they remove it from their diet.

September 23 - October 22 Libra
In 1972 the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released the triple album set Will the Circle Be Unbroken. The ambitious project attempted to unite the folk-rock Nitty Gritty Dirt Band from Southern California with country legends like Roy Acuff, Mother Maybelle Carter, Doc Watson, Merle Travis, Vassar Clements and others. The album’s 38 tracks were for the most part recorded in one or two takes. It’s a reverent and moving document to the power of country music and sounds as fresh today as if it were just recorded. From Orange Blossom Special to Tennessee Stud to Sunny Side of the Mountain to Wildwood Flower, they’re all here and waiting for you at iTunes and Amazon.

October 23 - November 21 Scorpio
There are films and there are films. And some films have the power to shake you so thoroughly that nothing looks the same when you’re finished viewing them. Such a film is The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Directed by artist Julian Schnabel, it is the true story of Elle Magazine editor-in-chief Jean-Dominque Bauby, who suffered a massive stroke at the age of 43. A victim of the rare locked in syndrome, in which one is completely aware of his surroundings but paralyzed, Bauby was able to communicate solely through blinking his left eyelid, and dictated a memoir in this fashion which was published ten days before he died. All I can say is see this film and you’ll be forever changed.

November 22 - December 21 Sagittarius
Writing Down The Bones: Freeing the Writer Within was written in 1986 by Natalie Goldberg and resonates today just as it did then. It’s inspirational and vivid and moving and dare I say, just plain magical. Whether you’re an aspiring writer or just sad and tired, you’ll find a new way to view things with Goldberg’s techniques. Her rules: keep your hand moving, don’t cross out, don’t worry about spelling – punctuation – grammar, lose control, don’t think – don’t get logical, and go for the jugular (if something comes up in your writing that is scary or naked, dive right into it. It probably has lots of energy).

December 22 - January 19 Capricorn
Two words: Bruce Springsteen. Yes, he’s back with his merry band of E Streeters at Giants Stadium this week. July 27, 28, and 31. Beg, borrow, steal, do whatever you have to do, but go. I know it’s a stadium. So what. Just go. They just got back from a five week sweep of Europe during which many thousands of souls were healed and rejuvenated. And they actually performed Drive All Night for the first time in 27 years. Do I have to say any more?

January 20 - February 18 Aquarius
It’s that time again, O Best Beloved. And I say unto you, Make It Work. Yes, Project Runway is back. Episode 2 of the new season just aired and it’s the usual bitchy nonsense that we love to watch. Heidi Klum is her usual flawless Germanic ice princess self (you’re either in or you’re out), Nina Garcia stll scares the pants off everyone, and Michael Kors continues to act as if he is the Voice of the God of Fashion. And Tim Gunn - well, he’s my dream man. The web site can be as addictive as the show, with blogs, video outtakes, photo galleries and more. I’ll bet you’re not surprised to hear Ms. Garcia hates crocs. And we have to keep watching in case a new Santino or Christian Siriano reveals him/herself.

February 19 - March 20 Pisces
I just returned from the Omega Institute where I was privileged to spend part of an afternoon with Sister Alice Martin, who teaches gospel singing workshops there every year. She was Marion Williams‘ teacher and is currently the music instructor of the Bryn Mawr Haverford Gospel Choir in addition to serving on the music faculty of the B.N. Oakley Memorial Temple. There’s another chance coming up to take a class with her at Omega from August 10 to August 15 and if you want a really life-changing experience, honey, get yourself there and raise your voice in praise of God.

Dec 16

reality t.v.

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you say you’ll never watch it, that it is repulsive & completely off the map. go on, say it. i did. and then one day i stopped working 24/7 and its bony, wasted fingers crept in whist i was channel surfing one evening. and the next thing i knew, i was actually enjoying the larger than life drama on shows so rank and stupid that i couldn’t even admit it to myself. and no matter what else it has wrought, reality t.v. has brought us TIM GUNN ~ and he is just all kinds of delicious. carry on ~