Arkansas Times Recommends is a weekly series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we’ve been enjoying this week.
Two things this week. First, I recommend you get the hell outside tomorrow, because it’s going to be sunny and 62 degrees on Saturday. I think I’m going to go somewhere nearby in the Ouachitas to hike, but what I would really like to see this weekend are the caves and waterfalls of Lost Valley, the much beloved little trail on the Buffalo River near Ponca. My girlfriend and I went hiking there one morning in February and I came away ashamed that I had never set foot there before, having grown up only a couple of hours away. It ranks among the very best places in Arkansas. If you’ve caught yourself wondering lately whether or not it’s worth it to live in a state that can seem so painfully retrograde in many ways, go to the Buffalo to remind yourself that, yeah, it is. If you’re up for a more serious hike (the Lost Valley trail is only a little over two miles long and much of it is flat) there are of course plenty of other options nearby, such as the Compton trail-head loop to Hemmed-in-Hollow Falls.
Second, if you feel like you should get the hell outside in springtime and go hiking in Lost Valley but instead you find yourself yearning only for a pitch black air-conditioned storage unit, a nice pile of cushions and blankets and enough klonopin to estivate your way through to next winter, you should know you’re not alone. Read and share this New York Times article about why the suicide rate peaks in the springtime everywhere in the world.
When I first read this a couple of years ago, it was a minor revelation. For as long as I can remember I’ve had a period of intense and inexplicable unhappiness each springtime — “manic agitation,” as the article puts it — sometimes for a few days, sometimes for weeks and weeks. I’ve always been at a loss to describe or articulate it. On a conscious level, I’m delighted that everything is blooming and beautiful and I want to get out and experience the world, but down in some deeper place there’s a disjointed piece of chemical clockwork set into motion by the warmer air, the longer days, the redbuds, the lawnmowers, the horrible, buzzing fullness and lushness of young life. Overwhelming, disorienting, nauseating. Don’t read me wrong, I’m definitely not suicidal — but it’s true that spring works a strange havoc on some psychologies, for whatever reason. Fortunately, understanding that fact makes it a lot more tolerable, which another reason why science is such a wonderful thing. — Benji Hardy
As a designer, reading design news is nice. But only to a certain point. Design news is a quick way to feel dead inside. Reading stories about design is preferable. Enter The Great Discontent, a quarterly print and online publication that brings design back to it’s source, the people and experiences in design and all of design’s cousins. From the website, “Focusing on beginnings, creativity, and risk, TGD provides a memorable look into the lives of its subjects via long=form interviews and short features collected into a beautifully designed print artifact.” Wonderful! I recommend it. — Bryan Moats
Funkadelic was by far the greatest funk band ever inspired by a quasi-Satanic cult, in this case the Process Church of the Final Judgement — a group formed by ex-Scientologists who fled to a small Mexican village called Xtul on the Yucatan peninsula in the 1960s. Charles Manson was supposedly interested in the group as well, and may have been philosophically indebted to their so-called “processean” theology. Many of the original members of the church would eventually leave — according to Wikipedia — to follow a movement inspired by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, on whose books I would decades later write a near-unreadable undergraduate thesis. Wow!
Back to Funkadelic: If you check the original liner notes to their 1971 LP “Maggot Brain,’ you’ll find an odd rant apparently excerpted from the church’s publication. It ends: “As long as human beings fail to see THEIR fear reflected in these and a hundred other manifestations of Fear, then they will fail to see their part in the relentless tide of hatred and violence, destruction and devastation, that sweeps the earth. And the tide will not ebb until all is destroyed.” There’s another excerpt in the liner notes to their follow-up, “America Eats Its Young.” According to ‘Dean of American Rock Critics’ Robert Christgau, P-Funk even made an appearance in the original version of Ed Sanders’ book on the Manson phenomenon, “The Family,” but was excised before its release due to a lawsuit. I’m not sure what all this adds up to, but anyway I love this song. — Will Stephenson
Possibly more than anything else in life, my 4-year-old son loves to put together puzzles. The problem is, most of the puzzles that are marketed to children are too easy for a child who loves to do puzzles more than anything else in the world. I bought one puzzle of Disney heroes and heroines where all the pieces were exactly the same shape. What fun is that?
Turns out the French get the passionate child puzzler demographic. The company Janod makes a fantastic 200-piece double-sided puzzle of the Earth, with the Western Hemisphere on one side and the Eastern on the other. My son has probably done it 500 times and now he has at least some conception of continental geography. We got it at the Museum of Discovery gift shop. More recently, I found two very whimsical (and somewhat psychedelic) ocean and animal puzzles from another French company, Djeco, that are the best kid puzzles ever. Plus, they come with posters! — Lindsey Millar
Consider this recommendation a teaser. My long-planned ‘Top 15 Scandinavian Movies Available on Netflix Not Including Bergman’ post has been in the works for so long that its failure to actually appear has become a source of its own weight, since absence, and the spaces where meaning is possible outside of the actual, are in fact thematic concerns for a number of films on the unrealized list. So consider it my Chinese Democracy. Or my Norwegian Social Democracy. Whatever. One movie that will absolutely, positively make the Top 15 list if I ever finish is “We are the Best!” It’s about 13-year-old punk rock girls in Stockholm and everyone is saying punk is dead and teasing them for their hair and they start a band and sing a song called “Hate the sport” because they don’t like gym class. It’s terrific—funny and humane and smart. Watch it! — David Ramsey
Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, bills and laws are being passed all over the country as a preemptive strike for the legalization of same-sex marriage. These bills are being made into law despite their discriminatory nature, threat to the economy and the legal implications they hold. If anything the RFRA’s are similar to Jim Crow era segregation law — backed in religious rhetoric, protecting business owners and allowing segregation and discrimination and providing legal standing to those doing the discriminating. This is not a religious freedom bill, it is a morality bill. Defining who and what is acceptable under the guise of religion. I recommend that businesses who choose to discriminate based on their religious views take a look in their cash drawer and in their business account, if you can afford it go ahead, if not you might want to invest in a going out of business sign and for all consumers, buyer beware. — Kaya Herron