A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.
It's one of the scariest stories of international tension in recent memory. When Laura Ling and fellow news producer Euna Lee went to the Chinese/North Korean border to film a documentary about North Korean defectors, their guide took them north, past one of the most tense borders in the world, to visit a safe house in dangerous ground. Warily, the two soon backtracked south and were knocked out by the butts of two North Korean army-issue rifles, only to wake up in custody of the most diplomatically isolated country in the world. That's horrific enough by any standards. But soon, the two roving journalists were ordered to 12 years of hard labor with no appeal or chance of parole in a country where they couldn't speak a word of the language, unsure if they'd live to see the end of their sentence. Laura Ling's sister (and well-known TV journalist), Lisa, soon spearheaded a campaign to free the two, President Clinton hopped on board and the rest is history, soon written into a celebrated memoir written by the Ling sisters, titled "Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home." They're visiting the Clinton Museum to discuss those tense weeks and sign copies of their new book.
Little Rock likes Gringo Star and I suspect, judging from its regular jaunts into town, the band formerly known as A Fir-Ju Well is pretty fond of us, too. Truth be told, it's one of the best out-of-state bands to stay in touch with the local venue circuit. Maybe it's because the band's sentimental about our neck of the woods. Or maybe it's because the group's jangly, British invasion sound is guaranteed to pack music halls with sugar-toothed pop fans. The band is charming down to a formula, full of all the '60s idiosyncrasies the Davies brothers earwigged into your lobes as a child: taut harmonies, tambourines by the dozens and all the shaggy-headed swagger you can shake a Rickenbacker at. At its best, it's a band worthy to sit at the same table as its Atlanta-based peers (and recent tourmate) Black Lips. At worst, it's a fantastic throwback band that'll make even the most assless shimmy along. Openers Catskill Kids are doing a great job sporting the crown as Little Rock's "promising, brand new buzz band." Fronted by the Cronks, a local brother and sister duo hailing from Australia, the act works in that tense, restrained, hook-heavy sound done so well by Montrealers and the Quebecois. Expect a lot from these young guns. The night's bill is rounded out by fellow co-ed act, This Holy House, a moody, melodic Conway outfit that should be no stranger to regulars with a taste for the melancholic.
You may have heard, or read if you picked up last week's issue of the Times, that KABF is in a helluva way. We'll leave the specifics to the front pages of the paper; just know that Little Rock's long-standing, non-corporate voice for community radio and eclectic music needs a fast infusion of money to keep the doors open and its frequency alive. Thankfully, the station has a strong base of supporters who also know how to bring out a crowd, including local veterans Amy Garland and Brent Labeau, who team up for a duo set, religious revisionists Gospel Outlaws, blues act The Cruize Brothers, and many more to be announced. Thrillingly, as always, living blues legend Cedell Davis returns to town with backing band, Brethren. They're asking for a $5 suggested donation, but we suspect that's just them being humble: Peel off a couple extra bills for the station.