Staff Picks: Sims Bar-B-Q, Korean soap operas, Van Morrison and more | Rock Candy

Friday, May 29, 2015

Staff Picks: Sims Bar-B-Q, Korean soap operas, Van Morrison and more

Posted By , , , and on Fri, May 29, 2015 at 5:04 PM

click to enlarge SHERON RUPP
  • Sheron Rupp

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.

Sims Bar-B-Q — Why had I gone so many years without a visit? How could I forget that spare ribs are richer than back ribs and infinitely better when they have a good bark-like finish and Sims' nonpareil mustard-based sauce, augmented by a healthy squirt of the incendiary house hot sauce (you have to ask). The slaw is fresh. The potato salad, too. And don't forget greens unless you are a vegetarian. Yes, I said unless you are a vegetarian. The pigmeat quotient is high. Don't forget the 40's. Budweiser. None of that craft crapola here. Dinner and plenty of beer for six ran $75. Recommended. — Max Brantley

In the course of my day-to-day reporting, it’s become an almost unconscious part of the process to Google any significant proper noun I come across: Places, people, events, organizations, etc. The scariness of that slow creep towards Singularity aside — the casual reflexiveness with which I cast out those search queries as part of the everyday learning process indicates the Internet has already essentially become a mental prosthetic — it means I spend a lot of time wandering through the dusty halls of city websites and Topix pages. But then, there are the unexpected gems.

A couple weeks ago, I heard an interesting story about a health care provider in Elkins, Arkansas, a town of about 2,200 in the vicinity of Fayetteville. Do a Google image search for "Elkins Arkansas” — go ahead, try it — and amidst the dross of high school sports and decontextualized map fragments, a couple of startling pictures jump out. Turns out they’re by a photographer named Sheron Rupp, now in her 70s, who traveled in the Ozarks, Appalachia, Montana and Ohio throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, driving randomly down rural roads and striking up conversations with people on their porches and in their gardens. Elkins is among the places she visited. They’re beautiful images, simultaneously a melancholic keyhole glimpse into the almost-history of three decades past, and simple family photographs so evocative of the casual intimacy of a summertime front yard that I was sure for a second that I saw my aunt in one of them. (Nope, it wasn’t her.)

“Do you have a favorite story about one of your photographs?” an interviewer asked Rupp not long ago for Ahorn, an online photography magazine. “I prefer not to tell ‘favorite stories’ about my photographs, as that tends to fictionalize the lives of real people whom I do not really know,” she replied. “I was never interested in making something a spectacle.” — Benji Hardy

Because it's summer I recommend this specific song by Van Morrison, and also a strange personal essay by Nicholson Baker called "One Summer," published in the Washington Post Magazine ten years ago. It's a series of brief memories united by the fact that they occurred one summer in Baker's life. Like, for instance:

"One summer I lived in a house that was being renovated, in a bright yellow room, with a mattress on the floor. I woke up late and tried to type in bed. I was working on a story about a man who by chance runs into his brain on the street. His brain is wearing a jaunty hat and is in a hurry. It has some kind of a sales job. At night I walked to a restaurant called Gitsis Texas Hots and ordered two hot dogs and a cup of coffee and reviewed the day's work on "My Brain." The story was never finished."

"One summer I was on the verge of making a bologna sandwich. I had the tomato in my hand, and I'd opened the door of the refrigerator, and I was looking down at the jar of mayonnaise on the bottom shelf, and then I thought, No, no bologna right now. And I closed the refrigerator door. I was able to resist that bologna and put it out of my mind."

"One summer I sat at a table with Donald Barthelme, the short-story writer, while he drank a bloody Mary. He said he was planning to buy a new stereo system. I recommended that he go with Infinity loudspeakers." — Will Stephenson

If you've got Amazon Prime (and if you don't, I'm making a second recommend here that you get it ... $100 bucks per year for most of the stuff streaming on Netflix and them some, plus free shipping on most Amazon items), I'd like to recommend the stellar four-part documentary series "Witness," streaming now, which features the real-life stories of photographers who venture into the world's most dangerous places in search of the perfect image. Originally an HBO series, the series is a labor of love by the excellent action director Michael Mann ("Heat," Collateral") and the documentary filmmaker David Frankham. Current episodes on Amazon.com cover photographers working in Juarez, Libya, Rio and South Sudan. I've only made it through Juarez so far, but what I have seen is moving stuff: the story of young photographer Eros Hoagland, who risks his life on a daily basis to capture the horror of the Mexican cartel wars, all the while dealing with his own internal struggle over the death of his father, himself a photographer who was killed while taking combat photos in Central America when Hoagland was a boy. More than just another reality TV show, "Witness: Juarez" is a testament to the power a photograph can hold, and a hymn to those who put their lives on the line to bring back the images that move our souls. Highly recommended. — David Koon   

"The Moon Embracing the Sun"
  • "The Moon Embracing the Sun"

Korean Dramas are great entertainment and extremely addicting. I’ve found myself up in the wee hours of the morning, waiting on a video to buffer, all because I had to know what was going to happen next. They are like telenovelas on steroids, if that’s even possible. Korean dramas have taken the world by storm and here’s a handful of reasons why:

1. The plot is simple and the cast is small. At least compared to American and Spanish soap operas. Many of the dramas have been adapted from popular mangas, graphic novels and written novels so the characters and stories are relatively familiar. Korean dramas typically air in 16-24 episodes, centered around relatable subjects like friendship, love and family. With a small cast and well-written dialogue the stories are easy to follow and even easier to get hooked on. The characters tend to live simple lives which makes it easy for viewers to empathize with them and move through the series with their heart on their sleeve.

2. The production style is cinematographic gold. Korean architecture and design is very clean, neat and detail oriented. The production typically focuses on creating an insulated world through dynamic camera angles, visually appealing backdrops, and simplistic fashion. Overall the final product is easy on the eyes and keeps you wanting more.

3. The cast is attractive. Most of these dramas cast attractive Korean stars to play the main characters. These stars are typically in the industry as actors, actresses, singers, dancers, models and even television show hosts. Google Jang Keun-Suk, Gong Yoo, Kim Woo Bin, Lee Byung Hun, Shin Min Ah, Park Shin Hye and Yoon Eun Hye and you’ll see what I mean. They are poster children for perfection and are always paired to make the most attractive and loveable relationships.

click to enlarge "My Girl"
  • "My Girl"

4. The music. Most have their own original soundtracks with great songs that can stand alone from the scenes and movies themselves. The music is emotional, touching, and easily understood despite the language barrier. Some of my favorite songs are the theme song for “You’re Beautiful”, Gazer Razer from “Coffee Prince”, and the entire soundtrack for “My Girlfriend is a Gumiho”.

5. They are value oriented. The Korean culture places respect at the top of its priorities, with deference given to their elders and superiors. Everyone is respectful and many of the dramas showcase traditional values and wholesome relationships. K-Drama’s typically focus on inter and intrapersonal relationships such as romances, friendships, and familial relationships. These values and relationships are easy to digest and are portrayed in a way that touches the most empathetic bone in your body. The romance is almost always sweet and not too much, there are very few sex scenes if any, and there isn’t a lot of violence or gore.

6. The language and culture. Korean popular culture has been exported around the world through merchandising, fashion and entertainment and is taking hold in the United States through online viewing of K-Dramas and movies. In recent years South Korea made international headlines when PSY released his hit “Gangnam Style” but prior to that their entertainment industry was rapidly growing and influencing people all across Asia and Europe with great success. This success created a culture craze and has generated a buzz that cannot be ignored. There is an interest in all things Korean from around the globe including their cuisine and language. Many of the dramas feature traditional cuisine, recipes, and great cooking montages to boot. Although Korean is one of the more difficult languages to learn to read and write, watching the subtitled episodes makes it rather easy to learn key phrases and verbs through immersion. I spent an entire summer watching K-dramas with subtitles and by the end of the summer I could watch episodes without them. Now I didn’t understand every word nor could I have translated the scenes myself, but my brain and eyes could piece enough context clues and phrases together to keep up with the drama on the screen.

For me K-Drama’s are real life if it could be perfect. They have the perfect actors, perfect settings, perfect wardrobes, perfect story lines, and perfect endings. They offer a different and refreshing type of drama that is strides ahead of American television programming and a breath of fresh air. You can watch Korean dramas and movies online at DramaFever.com, myasiantv.com, and tv.soompi.com.

I recommend: My Girl, Full House, You’re Beautiful, Coffee Prince, Goong, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, Boys Over Flowers, The Moon Embracing the Sun and IRIS. — Kaya Herron

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