Staff Picks: El Zócalo, Art Garfunkel, DIY terrariums and more | Rock Candy

Friday, May 22, 2015

Staff Picks: El Zócalo, Art Garfunkel, DIY terrariums and more

Posted By , , and on Fri, May 22, 2015 at 4:44 PM

click to enlarge A DIY terrarium
  • A DIY terrarium

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.

I recommend voting early and often for El Zócalo, Little Rock's grassroots resource center for immigrants and their families, in this grant competition sponsored by State Farm Insurance. It's for $25,000, and we — I'm a member of the El Zócalo board — very much need this grant. We need folks to vote every day until June 3 to have a shot at winning.

Listen: I absolutely hate social media promotional cockfighting like this, so please understand that the only reason I'd plug such a contest is if it was for a good cause. El Zócalo is the best of causes. It's a shoestring organization started a few years ago by one preternaturally dedicated person — my good friend, Sara Mullally Broussard — who recognized the need for an immigrant resource center in Central Arkansas. There's no other place in Little Rock for immigrants to turn who are in need of help navigating the cold concrete labyrinths of various American bureaucracies: School systems, health care systems, legal systems, social services, housing, and so on.

We provide a monthly food pantry and ESL classes with free child care, but perhaps more importantly, Sara and others at El Zócalo treat immigrants like what they are: People. We'll help struggling families pay their utility bills, buy a refrigerator, connect with an immigration attorney, assist with citizenship applications, find emergency housing, and more. In one case, Sara marshaled her resources to raise money to pay for life-saving dialysis for a man dying of kidney failure. It's necessarily piecemeal work, but it's hugely important.

Sara is moving away soon, though, and it's time for us to hire a salaried director to carry on her work. That can't happen without money. If we can win this grant from State Farm, we can hire someone to make El Zócalo into the organization it needs to be. — Benji Hardy

The overwhelming feedback I've gotten from devoted Arkansas Times Recommends readers is that the only recs y'all actually follow are for podcasts. So let me offer up a good one: "Death, Sex, and Money." This is from WNYC and it's hosted by the outstanding Anna Sale (full disclosure, I used to go to church camp with Anna). Ostensibly it's about death, sex, and money (the stuff we don't want to talk about but should, per the show's tag line). But really, this is just a very well-done interview show in which Anna Sale mostly talks to people about relationships. Sale has been called "the queen of the awkward pause" — she asks hard questions but she has an easy warmth. There's something very cozy about these conversations: relaxed, intimate, surprising. Basically, this podcast is like if Fresh Air was actually fresh instead of stale. The episode about how Sen. Alan Simpson saved Anna's love life (and talks about sex, dancing, and political fights in his own marriage) is an instant classic. Also check out her interviews with Bill Withers, Jane Fonda, and country music couple Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires. — David Ramsey
The award for "most underrated member of Simon & Garfunkel" will forever go to Art Garfunkel, who met Paul Simon in the 6th grade and would every day thereafter be haunted and undermined by his collaborator's louder talent. Until a week ago I was like most people, in that I assumed Garfunkel had broken up the band in 1970 to pursue an acting career that never quite took off, only to watch with bitterness and cold envy as Paul Simon continued on to critical and commercial success — to the cultural pantheon — without him. Poor Art Garfunkel, I thought. Like a folk scene Pete Best, an also-ran who got lucky and made the right friend in junior high. 

But so then a week ago I was driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains, listening to a '70s soft rock radio station that faded in and out of static, and Garfunkel's version of "I Only Have Eyes For You," off his 1975 album "Breakaway," came on and shocked me into respectful silence. The song is brilliant in the way it anticipates the mountain-magic-retro-daydream vibe that "Twin Peaks" would popularize in the '90s, and for the way it perfectly telegraphs Garfunkel's own bruised pathos. I jumped on his Wikipedia page when I got home and learned that Garfunkel is a longtime admirer of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, which I could have guessed based on this song. I also learned that he published a book of prose-poems in 1989 called "Still Water," about which none other than Jim Harrison wrote, "There is a lovely and intricate facility of language coupled with themes, however painful, that show Art Garfunkel has mastered another art form." I couldn't agree more. — Will Stephenson

Summer is quickly approaching. The weather is getting warmer, the days longer and the air just a little sweeter. The sweetness in the air makes me think of my grandmother’s garden and spending afternoons planting lamb's ear, gardenias, roses and an assortment of ferns and ivies. It was always a hard day work — the knees of my jeans were covered in dirt, my brow dripped with sweat and my shirt stuck to my skin. I’d be hot and exhausted, smelling like sweaty dirt flowers, with a smile the size of Texas on my face. We’d head inside to clean up, relax with a glass of sweet tea and sandwiches in the kitchen, and our day would be complete. It was rewarding, not just caring for another living thing, but knowing that I could do so much with my own two hands. I learned a lot about care and empathy, how delicate you have to be when separating roots, and how careful you have to be when watering so as not to drown the plants, how your action or inaction can affect someone else, how quickly life can end.

Now I know I’m talking about plants, but they are living and breathing beings as well. They will die from dehydration, malnourishment and abuse just like us. But as long as you care for them they will flourish and beautify any space they inhabit and ignite a prideful flame within you every time they grow. I miss that feeling and working with my hands, plus my apartment is severely lacking in the beauty department, so I’m thinking of growing some herbs or flowers indoors. In my research I found a few methods that may be really fun to try, including the glass terrarium. Terrariums are typically glass containers that are put together to create a miniature ecosystem suitable for plant life. Often times moss, ferns and other small leaved plant species are chosen to inhabit terrariums for their ability to grow without much maintenance in such a small space. Terrariums are quickly gaining popularity and the materials are rather easy to find making it a weekend DIY project. It may not be as rewarding or informative as the summers of my youth but I feel like a terrarium may do my apartment and spirit some good. — Kaya Herron

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