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The guide to Arkansas entertainment

Dining Review

Tastes right

September 14, 2017
Tastes right
But Brave New needs a tune-up. /more/

Dining Search

A&E Feature

'No accidents': A Q&A with Sherilyn Fenn

September 14, 2017
'No accidents': A Q&A with Sherilyn Fenn
On working with David Lynch, Audrey's wardrobe and 'Twin Peaks: The Return' /more/

Columnists

Max Brantley

Aid politics

The still-unfolding catastrophe in Houston is, first, a human tragedy. But when politicians try to tell you that a time of enormous human tragedy is not a time to talk about politics, it likely means the politics are embarrassing to them. /more/

Ernest Dumas

Climate blind

If there was ever a teaching moment for a nation or a culture on an issue of historic importance, wouldn't it be the late summer of 2017 for climate change? /more/

Gene Lyons

The deluge

If the American people, collectively speaking, had enough sense to come in out of the rain, the climate "debate" - long settled almost everywhere else on earth - would be over. /more/

Movie Reviews

Fear 'It'self

September 14, 2017
Fear 'It'self
Like its monstrous villain, King's 'It' returns after 27 years. /more/

Pearls About Swine

Bumbling Bielema

September 14, 2017
Bumbling Bielema
The numbing sense of complete disillusionment in the wake of a listless 28-7 loss to Texas Christian University on Saturday in the Arkansas Razorbacks' "true" home opener gives way to disgust when you see these statistical markers of failure. /more/

Blog Roll

Arkansas Blog

Hourly news and comment

Rock Candy

The guide to Arkansas entertainment

Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - 14:20:00

Wednesday's open line and video report


Here's an open line, plus a roundup of news and comment.

 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - 12:38:00

Arkansas Democrats fault governor for support of Graham-Cassidy health bill

RIPS GOVERNOR: Democratic Chair Michael John Gray.
  • RIPS GOVERNOR: Democratic Chair Michael John Gray.
Rep. Michael John Gray, state Democratic Party chair, has issued a statement critical of Gov. Asa Hutchinson for Tuesday's endorsement of the Graham-Cassidy proposal to repeal Obamacare. Gray said it would be "devastating" to the state.

Hutchinson claimed yesterday — counter to multiple other analyses — that the legislation wouldn't harm Arkansas financially, despite estimates of a loss against the Affordable Care Act of more than $1 billion in 2026 alone. Hutchinson touted the flexibility of the block grant proposal.

Gray disagreed:

"I give credit where credit is due. I commended the leadership Governor Hutchinson showed in the past on the health care issue when he worked with both sides to continue Medicaid Expansion under the new name “Arkansas Works.” The Governor's past leadership on this issue only underscores how disappointing it is that he is willing to embroil himself in such a desperate, extremely-partisan legislative Hail Mary that would end Medicaid Expansion in Arkansas as we know it.

"This is an about-face from Governor Hutchinson who as recently as July implored leaders from both parties to come together to work deliberatively towards strengthening the Affordable Care Act and in turn “Arkansas Works.” Even yesterday, he admitted that Arkansas Works remains in a “good position” if the Graham-Cassidy bill fails. On that point, we agree whole-heartedly. But, the facts simply don’t line up with the promises Governor Hutchison made yesterday about the legislation.

"The American Medical Association, the group that represents the vast majority of our doctors in America, said this legislation violates their golden rule of 'first, do no harm.'

"James L. Madara, the group’s CEO, elaborated, 'We believe the Graham-Cassidy Amendment would result in millions of Americans losing their health insurance coverage, destabilize health insurance markets, and decrease access to affordable coverage and care.'

"I urge Governor Hutchinson to reconsider his support for the Cassidy-Graham health care bill and return to his previous stance in support of bipartisan reforms to improve our health care system.

"I can promise you that if this legislation passes, it will be devastating to Arkansas. That is the truth."

 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - 12:25:00

A.G. Rutledge absent from bipartisan action against opioid manufacturers

click to enlarge LESLIE RUTLEDGE: One of only nine attorneys general missing from coalition pursuing opioid manufacturers. - GAGE SKIDMORE
  • GAGE SKIDMORE
  • LESLIE RUTLEDGE: One of only nine attorneys general missing from coalition pursuing opioid manufacturers.
Interesting coincidence this week.

National media reported that attorneys general from 41 states — a broad bipartisan coalition — had banded together to go after the opioid manufacturing industry.

The coalition issued subpoenas seeking information from opioid manufacturers Endo International, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Allergan, as well as additional subpoenas to Purdue Pharma. In addition, the group is demanding documents from distribution companies AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.

"Our subpoenas and letters seek to uncover whether or not there was deception involved, if manufacturers misled doctors and patients about the efficacy and addictive power of these drugs," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said during his press conference announcing the investigation. "We will examine their marketing practices both to the medical community and the public."
The coalition included Republicans from many states that Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has joined in a busy campaign of promoting a Republican political agenda through lawsuits around the country. Rutledge was not one of the 41, however.

Rutledge DID send a letter to health insurers this week urging them to consider encouraging alternatives to addictive opioids for pain treatment. She's also touted a program to educate kids about the dangers of drug abuse.

Why not join legal action about the practices that have led to exponential growth in opioid prescriptions and abuse (Arkansas is an abuse leader)? She's intervened to protect everything from polluters to those who discriminate against gay people.

Spokesman Judd Deere responded:

Attorney General Rutledge is committed to tackling the prescription drug abuse epidemic that is spreading across Arkansas with an all-of-the-above approach that includes education, prevention and treatment and could certainly include litigation.

 

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - 13:51:00

Matt Damon to portray LR charlatan famed for goat testicle implants

click to enlarge Brinkley
  • Brinkley
John Romulus Brinkley is one of Arkansas's greatest frauds, famed for his claim, fatal for some, that surgery to implant goat glands into testicles would restore virility. An early 20th century resident of  Vilonia (briefly, with one of his two wives), Brinkley amassed a fortune at his clinic in Texas. He moved to Little Rock after he met with competition from a cheaper quack.

Thanks to the upcoming movie "Charlatan," we might get to see Matt Damon handling goat gonads, birthmoviesdeath.com reports. The movie is based on Pope Brock's "Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the 
click to enlarge Damon
  • Damon
Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam," which sounds like it  could be a contemporary account of American politics. The adaptation for is being written from "Ocean's Thirteen" writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien. avclub.com says there's no director on board.

 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - 10:34:00

Janet Jackson at Verizon Arena: A Review

click to enlarge BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson

More than 23 years ago, I took a group of teenage girls from the Fort Smith Girls Club to see Janet Jackson in Kansas City. These girls had worked all summer to earn the trip: busting their tails racking up hours in everything from career development to fundraising to health and sexuality and, as a result, got to go see one of their — and my — idols. Of course, reality never lives up to the dream, right? So when we arrived at the Sandstone Amphitheater, it just made sense that the view from our lawn seats (the best the nonprofit Girls Club could afford) made the stage appear about the size of a postage stamp. Young, optimistic me was dissatisfied, unable to accept the reality that was. Then I saw a short man with a newsboy cap on backward and a lanyard around his neck.

So, I did what any sensible, safety-minded 20-year-old would do, and went up to the guy and started yammering on about how I was from Fort Smith, Ark., and had brought a dozen young teenagers to see Janet, and talked about how they’d worked all summer, and how one of them hadn’t ever even been on an escalator before this trip, and BLAHBLAHBLAH until he stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Can you get your group up on the hill by the bathroom in 15 minutes?” I practically screamed “YES!” and ran off to gather the brood. Somehow, I convinced my supervisor this was a great idea, and soon we had vacated our prime seats on the lawn (which we had claimed before the crowds began to gather in earnest) and voyaged to the bathroom where Lanyard Man was waiting. All was riding on this moment; if we had to return to the lawn, we would be relegated to the very back, where the aforementioned postage stamp would be considered a wide-screen TV.

It all worked out, of course. Lanyard Man gave us 20 second-row seats. I got him to sign my program. I shook his hand. Turned out he was Rene Elizondo, secret husband of Janet (at the time) and the man who held her breasts on the front of a very famous Rolling Stone cover. Let me break that down for you folks: I am one degree of separation away from Janet’s right boob (and therefore two degrees from Justin Timberlake’s right hand). But I digress. The concert was amazing. MC Lyte opened and we all screamed “Hey! Gotta what? Yo! Gotta get a ruffneck!” We marveled when Janet came onstage, so tiny, and danced and sang and held the crowd in the palm of her hand.

So, she had some big shoes to fill (albeit her own) when I went to see her Saturday night, almost two and a half decades later. And I had some high hopes upon arrival, where the opening DJ spun tunes from old-school Prince to modern Missy Elliott to Bell Biv DeVoe’s classic “Poison” (at which point the audience rose as one and began dancing with abandon). The stage was set for a good time, with show-goers wearing everything from leather bustiers and sequin pants to top hats banded with mirrors and tails emblazoned with “Janet 2017” in rhinestones.

Minutes before Janet took the stage, three stage-to-ceiling banners lit up with a stark video condemning domestic terrorism, fascism and white supremacy, the audio track declaring, “No human being is superior to any other on the face of this earth.” Electricity flowed through the crowd (6,304 in attendance). And Janet, dressed in a black asymmetrical waistcoat and leaning on a fashionable cane, appeared on the scene, fully bathed in spotlight. The bass line thumped from the floor, up through my shoes, into my gut. I knew she was small, 5’4” to be exact, but her presence was large, and I felt 20 again.

Until she began to “sing.” She had a large headset mic on that covered most of her mouth, so I wasn’t sure at first. But, in the first of a line of bad decisions, the show had large high-def screens on each side of the stage, from which it was plainly (and painfully) evident that Miss Jackson was not, indeed, singing live. And I have to call her Miss Jackson because, unfortunately, I’m going to be nasty.

The lip sync wasn’t great. It wasn’t anywhere near great. I’m pretty sure I knew more of the words to her songs than she did. Her dancing abilities had clearly diminished, as they naturally would over two decades, especially with her having had her first child within the last year. I mean, she's 50. And has a newborn. I get it, but it's like they're grasping at recreating 20-year-old Janet instead of focusing on what makes 50-year-old Janet amazing, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terribly disappointed. My date for the evening, a girlfriend of mine who, though was not of the group who went to see Janet the first time, was still a member of the Girls Club during said time, just wished she’d, “Take her hair down, put on some comfortable clothes, sit down, and just sing.” And for a hot minute there, we thought that wish was going to come true.

Janet came out (after a notably long absence while an instrumental interlude of “Again” played) in black and red track pants, a denim jacket, a checked flannel shirt tied around her waist (backward, for some reason), her hair tied up and a hoop earring with key dangling (hello, nostalgia!). She had a hand-held mic in addition to her headset, and she sat down on a stool, as if ready to get real. But did she? I couldn’t tell by watching from afar, and I was unconvinced by what I saw on screen. And by the time things took a turn for the better — when she pulled out some of her newer stuff and let the dancers do the dancing — it was just too little, too late.

Look, I’ve seen other reviews of this tour. I know I’m in the minority with my distaste for Janet’s return. And I might have been more forgiving, had the choreography been strong enough to mandate lip syncing. Instead, I thought, I could probably get a better version of lip syncing-Janet at just about any drag show, and that acts driven by a sense of nostalgia almost always look better in the rear view mirror.




 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - 10:29:00

'Definitely a Barb': a Q&A with Shannon Purser of "Stranger Things"

click to enlarge PURSER: As Barb in 'Stranger Things.'
  • PURSER: As Barb in 'Stranger Things.'


Although Barb only appeared in four episodes of the breakout Netflix series “Stranger Things,” the role catapulted first-time TV actress Shannon Purser into immediate stardom, with memes, hashtags and GIFs proliferating the internet. Despite her sudden demise in the nostalgia-fueled ‘80s sci-fi drama as the nerdy best friend to the in-demand and stereotypically beautiful lead Nancy (here’s where I admit I couldn’t remember her name and had to Google it), the character of Barb resonates with fans and critics alike, even landing Purser an Emmy nomination. Ahead of Purser’s appearance at the Hot Springs Spa-Con Sept. 23, we find out what it’s like to be thrust violently into the spotlight and why she believes she’s “definitely a Barb.”


When did you find out you got the part of Barb? Describe the setting, how you felt, what went through your mind.

It was actually the same day I'd gone in and auditioned in person for ["Stranger Things" creators] the Duffer brothers. I was seeing a movie with my mom and I believe we were the only two people in the theater. I'd been obsessively checking my email since the audition, and then I received one that said I'd gotten the part. I legitimately believed I was in a dream for a few days.

So, the Barb phenomenon, wow. GIFs, memes, even tattoos ... what has this all been like for you? What have been some of the more surreal fan moments that have come out of all of this?

I guess I had a feeling that the show would do well, but I absolutely never expected my character to receive any attention. When the internet rallied for Barb, I was so shocked. It feels so surreal. I'm so thankful to the fans. They encourage me all the time. It's been a whirlwind.

In a “Glamour” interview from 2016 you're quoted saying that you're "definitely a Barb ... totally dorky and weird" and that you don't have a problem with that. I'd love to hear more about how you related to the character.

I was absolutely the weird kid in elementary and middle school and I wasn't very popular. I kept to myself mostly and was constantly reading. I had some emotional issues and didn't relate to others well. However, I had one or two very close friends, and I've definitely seen them become more popular or leave me behind. I know they weren't being malicious about it, but I know how bad it hurts. It feels like betrayal when you're young. So I've definitely been a Barb.

What has it felt like to be thrust so quickly into stardom and have so much resonance with fans over what was supposed to be a minor character in “Stranger Things” but turned out to be many folks' favorite?

I don't really know how to describe it and I guess that's because I still haven't really been able to process all this. Whenever I think about the total transformation my life has undergone, my mind explodes. So I kind of have to keep rolling with it, for my own sanity. Being an actor has been my dream for so long. I'm so thankful that there are people out there who enjoy my work and who are rooting for me.

What was the most challenging aspect of playing Barb? Easiest? What was the transition from stage acting to screen acting like for you?

I guess the hardest part was not letting my anxiety get in the way of acting. I've been dealing with OCD and anxiety for several years and, while it's sometimes an advantage to be an overthinker, it also made me feel very nervous and insecure in my abilities when I didn't get things perfectly right as soon as I wanted. I like to think I'm much more confident now, but I definitely appreciate the crew for being so welcoming and encouraging. The rest came a lot more easily to me than I'd expected, which makes me think that maybe this is what I'm meant to be doing.

When you attend conventions what do you enjoy and what has it been like to connect with fans?

I love conventions! I'm a big nerd myself and a member of several fandoms, so it's kind of like being reunited with my tribe. I love chatting with the fans and meeting the other guests and just sightseeing!


 

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Fall Arts 2017

September 14, 2017
Fall Arts 2017
A look ahead at all the art, music, theater and film ahead. /more/

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Free energy

August 31, 2017
Free energy
In Camden, an innovative program is helping electric customers get expensive, energy-efficient upgrades, without feeling the pinch on their bill. /more/
 

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