Here’s the first entry in a hopefully ongoing series, in which the Arkansas Times staff (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlights things we’ve been enjoying (or, in Max’s case, not enjoying) this week.
For the last two days, I’ve been exclusively listening to a playlist somebody put together on Spotify that gathers some (or maybe all) of The Wire’s 100 Records That Set the World on Fire While No One Was Listening. I sort of forgot about The Wire, the British champion of avant-garde music. I used to pay $10 for it at Barnes and Noble back when I had no business spending $10 on a magazine. I was hungry for new music to listen to and the Internet was less awesome then. How ’bout modern advances? I’m less nerdy about music these days (I’m nerdy about other things now), but I’m still pretty hungry for new music. As awesome as it is to have a huge chunk of recorded music at your fingertips, I struggle to think of what to listen to on Spotify off the top of my head. So much of my musical discovery or rediscovery in the past came from browsing records or CDs or mp3 blogs. Spotify mostly sucks at browsing. So it’s great to come across this massive, 1,354 song, playlist. There’s a lot of challenging music in the mix that I’m not always in the mood to listen to (and most people are probably never in the mood to listen to), stuff by Albert Ayler, The Last Poets and The United States of America. But also more accessible albums that I’d never heard before that I’m digging, like jazz percussionist Kip Hanrahan’s “Desire Develops an Edge,” Gabonese singer/guitarist Pierre Akendengue’s “Nandipo” and “Kill City,” the album Stooges’ Iggy Pop and James Williamson put out in the late ’70s. — Lindsey Millar
I’d recommend skipping Taco Bell’s new breakfast. Lukewarm coffee, gummy tortillas and an ill-advised waffle wrapped around eggs, cheese and breakfast meat — all with little discernible seasoning, never mind that of the Mexican variety. “Hash browns” was a squared chunk of greasy, brittle crust with no potato interior. In a big rush, the drive-through couldn’t get the job done. — Max Brantley
I started reading Peter Matthiessen’s “Shadow Country” about a week before the author died. Matthiessen worked briefly for the C.I.A., co-founded The Paris Review, was ordained as a Buddhist priest and was the only writer ever to win the National Book Award for Fiction and Non-Ficiton — in other words, I always thought he seemed like way too imposing of a presence to even bother with. For whatever reason, though, I picked up “Shadow Country,” and have mostly kept with it, putting it down to read other things every couple of days. It’s a novel in three parts and focuses on a real historical figure, the owner of a sugar cane plantation in the Everglades at the turn of the last century named Edgar Watson, later nicknamed “Bloody Watson” after his neighbors decided he was a murderer. The world of the book is all mosquitoes and orange trees and panthers and alligators. There are rare bird collectors and a lot of drinking and a mystery involving an outlaw murdered in Arkansas — “the ills of our great republic as seen through the eyes of redneck fugitives, swamp rats, and smugglers around the back country,” as Matthiessen once put it. Anyway, I hope I finish it sometime. — Will Stephenson
My wife and I were led to the web series “High Maintenance” — a series of short videos on Vimeo about a guy biking around New York City delivering weed — via a recommendation from Slate’s Dana Stevens. Stevens began her review with several paragraphs of preemptive defensiveness: it’s not just a stoner comedy! It’s not just Brooklyn hipsters!
And seriously, this is amazing television (if you can call it that), charming and funny and sweet even if you have no interest in the product our unnamed protagonist is peddling. There are 13 episodes to date, ranging from five minutes to fifteen. You can watch them in any order, or as quick little treats, though we found them addictive and devoured them all at once (no code words, just talking videos!). I texted a friend to recommend it, and he responded, “No idea what that is,” then wrote back an hour later, “the only thing I care about right now is ‘High Maintenance,'” then again that evening, “I’ve re-watched all of them several times. I can’t stop.”
They’re similar in tone and pace to “Louie,” though a bit lighter. Despite the brevity of the episodes, they’re narratively rich. Weed is smoked in every episode, but it’s usually just the background noise of modern living. It’s not the dope that makes these little fleeting moments compelling — it’s the honest look at complicated human lives. — David Ramsey