Staff Picks: Tequila popsicles, Google Sheep View, Sammi Smith, Iraq War literature and more | Rock Candy

Friday, June 19, 2015

Staff Picks: Tequila popsicles, Google Sheep View, Sammi Smith, Iraq War literature and more

Posted By , , , , and on Fri, Jun 19, 2015 at 4:19 PM

click to enlarge popsicles.jpg

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 celebrated my 22nd birthday yesterday and I spent most of the day reminiscing about birthdays past and summer fun despite the rain. One of my favorite birthday memories has to be my ninth. My Dad bought popsicle molds, a sun kettle and a new grill a few weeks before for the backyard barbecue my parents planned. I invited all of my cousins, friends from school and the neighbors' kids. The nights before, my Dad and I spent a few hours experimenting with the popsicle molds and different flavors. We made watermelon, strawberry, lime and mango popsicles by blending the fruit with sugar, honey and ice then poured the mixes into the molds. I patiently waited for them to freeze and ultimately fell asleep before they were ready. Anyways, the party was awesome, it was one of the hottest days that summer and the popsicles were a huge hit. All the adults lounged around the pool enjoying their treats and the kids ran free covered in sticky fruit juice asking for more. The popsicles quickly became a family tradition and an easy, less expensive way to beat the heat. It's been a long time since I've been home or had a home made frozen treat and the weather forecast this weekend looks to be a scorcher so I'm recommending this recipe. They're a little more grown up than I remember — ours' didn't use tequila — but I think they'll hit the nostalgic spot and keep you cool. — Kaya Herron

I've been reading Donald Antrim's first novel, "Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World." It's about a small, paranoid community in Florida who recently executed their mayor — publicly, gruesomely — and about the man who hopes to replace him, Pete Robinson, whose wife is meanwhile possibly transforming into a prehistoric fish. She undergoes "ichthyomorphic trances," that is, in which she believes herself to be a coelacanth. Also the previous mayor, who was sentenced to death for firing stinger missiles into the Botanical Garden reflecting pool, ends up frozen in Robinson's ice box. None of this is presented as being absurd or upsetting or even particularly surprising: It's like Antrim developed his own set of warped manners and emotional cues for the world of the novel. 

Antrim was recently the subject of a great profile in the New York Times Magazine, which judged him "one of our period’s true artists of anxiety." He writes beautifully — the plot sounds wild, but it's the sentences that you'll remember. It starts this way: "See a town stucco-pink, fishbelly-white, done up in wisteria and swaying palms and smelling of rotted fruits broken beneath trees: mango, papaya, delicious tangerine; imagine the town rising from coral shoals bleached and cutting upward through bathwater seas: the sunken world of fish." — Will Stephenson
click to enlarge Google Sheep View
  • Google Sheep View

This week all I have for you, Little Rock, is Google Sheep View. You'll see them wandering in their pens and out of them. Sheep in fields, on the road, on the lamb. You'll see braying sheep, baah-ing sheep, scared sheep, white sheep, pink sheep. All the sheep that Google has ever found, you can see, too. (Note: I tried to come up with some good puns, but it's Friday and I'm tired, so I'll send you to Yahoo instead.) — Caitlin Love

I recommend this, or really any, song by The Ljadu Sisters, identical twins from Nigeria who released a handful of brilliant, soulful Afrobeat albums from 1969 until 1979. The four albums available on Spotify, "Danger," "Mother Africa," "Sunshine" and "Horizon Unlimited," are all worth checking out. "Danger" especially is a standout (great cover art, too).

A comeback may be on the horizon. Here they are a couple of years ago, still looking stunning and dressing the same, and then again last year playing with an all-star band that included David Byrne during a tribute concert to another Nigerian cult favorite, William Onyeabor. — Lindsey Millar

A big, big recommend to author Phil Klay's masterful short story collection "Redeployment," which deservedly won the National Book Award in 2014. I finally got around to reading it recently, and it's clear to me that Klay, himself a former U.S. Marine who served as a second lieutenant in Iraq's Anbar province, has written the best work to come so far from our post-9/11 sandbox adventures in the Middle East, not to mention a worthy addition to the pantheon of great literature about young people at war, from "A Farewell to Arms" to "The Things They Carried." Bloody, disturbing, confusing, but always heartrendingly real, it's a book every American should read, if only to witness the physical and psychological meat grinder this country put a whole generation of soldiers through for dubious goals and uncertain ends. — David Koon

I don't know the country music pantheon like others do, but because I have a deep bias in favor of clinically depressed female singer-songwriters, I've developed a recent infatuation with a minor figure: Sammi Smith, who made a name for herself in the male-dominated outlaw country world of the 1970s.

Smith is best known for "Help Me Make it Through the Night," a Kris Kristofferson song later covered by Elvis Presley and Gladys Knight, but I first became aware of her music because of the inclusion of "This Room for Rent" on the Oxford American's 2005 Southern music compilation. If "This Room for Rent" doesn't break your heart, you should probably be in prison. It's her best track that I've heard thus far, but also listen to "But You Know I Love You," which is just somewhat less miserable, and the full-on self-pity wallow of "Birmingham Mistake," in which Smith sings of being an orphan: "Being born was my first big bad break." It's a brand of tearjerker country that handles heartbreak like classic gangsta rap handles aggression: So over-the-top that it should be laughable, so sincere that it wholly works, hitting some emotional spot well beyond the reach of any irony.

Wikipedia says, "She was only fifteen when she married Steel Guitar Hall of Fame and Night Club Operator Bobby White. They had three children. She would eventually have two more marriages. In 1967 Johnny Cash's bass player Marshall Grant discovered her singing in the Someplace Else Night Club in downtown Oklahoma City." She moved to Nashville, impressed Johnny Cash and got signed to Columbia, married Willie Nelson's guitarist, etc. Eventually dropped out of show business, moved to Arizona to work on Native American causes, started a cattle ranch, occasionally popped up on the Grand Ole Opry, died in obscurity, etc. You know the drill. — Benji Hardy

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