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Dining Review

Tastes right

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

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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/


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/

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Arkansas Blog

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The guide to Arkansas entertainment

Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - 16:05:00

ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

click to enlarge WANDA AND JIM VAUGHN: Leave most of estate to ASU. - ASU
  • ASU
  • WANDA AND JIM VAUGHN: Leave most of estate to ASU.
Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

The Vaughns, who promised the gift years ago, both held education degrees from ASU. Before retirement, she taught speech and drama and he was the principal at Hoxie High School.

They'd made other gifts to ASU over the years.

Their bequest, the largest received by ASU, will go to endowed professorships, a scholarship for future educators, art gallery support, student financial assistance and student life enhancement.

An ASU release detailed the Vaughns many interests. They collaborated in production of historical dramas such as "The Crowley's Ridge Story," "Mother of Counties" and "The Heritage Trail," in Greene and Lawrence Counties.  Vaughn served on the Arkansas Educational Television Commission and was influential in introducing high school Quiz Bowl competition. He also wrote educational books, computer programs and fiction about his boyhood home in Kentucky.

They'd served on a variety of ASU boards and also established the Jim and Wanda Lee Vaugh Athletic Endowment for athletes.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - 15:05:00

Tuesday's open line and the daily video

Here's your open line. Also a roundup of news and comment.


Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - 14:17:00

Bank of Ozarks announces new LR headquarters building

click to enlarge ARKANSAS BUSINESS
  • Arkansas Business
Bank of the Ozarks announced today that would build a 247,000-square-foot corporate headquarters on a 44-acre site at The Ranch on Highway 10, a project reported in the works by Arkansas Business last year.

When completed in 2019 or 2020, some 500 employees will move into the building, with a capacity of 800 to 900.

George Gleason
of Little Rock, the bank's CEO, touted the city as a lure for recruiting and said the new building would accommodate long-term growth for many years.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Mayor Mark Stodola were on hand for the announcement.

The bank has grown from a small bank purchased by Gleason in 1979 to 252 offices in nine states and is described as the largest bank headquartered in Arkansas.


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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 22nd-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!


Friday, September 15, 2017 - 17:29:00

This Weekend: A To-Do List

It's mid-September, and despite devastating weather aftermath for our neighbors to the South, Little Rock is about to have a lovely, warm fall weekend, the kind that organizers of the Turkish Food Fest and Legends of Arkansas were probably hoping for when they pinpointed this Saturday on their planning calendars.

Here are a handful of suggestions for how to spend it soaking up some music and art.

click to enlarge e71867ee6969876a345de9569f24a512.jpg

Little Rock Violin Shop: 10th Anniversary Garden Party
6 p.m.-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15. Little Rock Violin Shop, 316 E. 11th St. Donations.

If you didn't know Little Rock had its own violin shop: we do! The shop, owned and managed by violist Joe Joyner, is celebrating its tenth year in business, and they're throwing a garden party tonight with music from the Little Rock String Quartet and Bonnie Montgomery; a concerto competition with a $100 gift certificate to the shop as a prize; a cello-shaped pinata;* Scottish music for cello and violin; and food and drink with donations benefiting the Chamber Music Society of Little Rock and the Faulkner Chamber Music Festival. Organizers suggest parking on the street or at the MacArthur parking lot at 11th and Commerce streets. Check out our summer story on LRVS here.

Ian Moore

9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15. White Water Tavern. $10.

Speaking of violins, this former violinist is a seasoned rocker who's made the rounds with his band The Lossy Coils and as a sideman to Joe Ely, and his latest record, "Strange Days," manages to be effervescent and biting at the same time. Check out the title track below.

click to enlarge dsc00384.jpg

Turkish Food Fest

11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16. Raindrop Turkish House, 1501 Market Street.

For the 7th year in a row, the Turkish Raindrop House has been quietly holding an undersung food festival in West Little Rock off of Rodney Parham Road, and this year's menu includes kebabs, yaprak sarmasi (stuffed grape leaves), a cracked wheat salad called kisir, phyllo and cheese pies, Turkish spinach and cheese pastries, Central Asian dumplings called manti, Turkish potato salad, baklava, Turkish semolina pudding, honey cake and a lot more. You can observe ebru, a type of water marbling done on paper, get a henna tattoo or check out some whirling dervishes, Turkish folk dance or hear some Türk Sanat Müziği, a type of Ottoman classical music. Admission is free, but bring along some folding money for food and art.

click to enlarge Ebru
  • Ebru

click to enlarge 19366372_1048699131933014_1294876381226312479_n.jpg
Legends of Arkansas
2 p.m.- 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 16. North Shore Riverwalk. Free-$5.

This year, the outdoor festival is partnering with The Van to bring you an afternoon of crafts, food and tunes from Knox Hamilton, Rodney Block, Dazz & Brie, The Brian Nahlen Band, Mandy McBryde, Mark Currey and others. Admission is $5 for adults, and kids can come for free. There's a pop-up dog park for your canine companions, too. All proceeds benefit The Van, and founder Aaron Reddin will have a drop-off station set up for attendees to donate coats, blankets and socks to distribute to our homeless neighbors. Afterparty features Freeverse at Four Quarter Bar, 10 p.m.

  • Phillip Rex Huddleston
Katherine Strause and Phillip Rex Huddleston
7 p.m. Gallery 26, 2601 Kavanaugh Blvd., Suite 1.

If you caught any of Katherine Strauses's "Take Your Purse With You" at ESSE Purse Museum this summer, or if you've admired Phillip Rex Huddleston's "Southern Writers" series, this is the place to be tomorrow evening. Strause and Huddleston share a show on Kavanaugh through October 28. My current favorite of Huddleston's is posted above, an extrapolation of seven girls from a single girl, forthright and unguarded.

click to enlarge a3014923367_16.jpg

Attagirl Record Release Show, Brother Andy and His Big Damn Mouth, Shoplift
9:30 p.m. White Water Tavern.

One of Little Rock's tightest, loudest punk rock bands has a new record, "Cootie Catcher," and a show celebrating its release threatens to be similarly tight and loud. You're going to need something to regret Sunday morning, so too-many-beers-at-this-show may as well be it. Plus, they have a song called "Boxwine Supernova."  

*A previous version of this post stated that Little Rock Violin Shop's 10th anniversary garden party would feature a "cello-shaped pinata." It was, in fact, an actual cello, hollowed out, filled with candy and made the subject of a brutal thrashing.


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A look ahead at all the art, music, theater and film ahead. /more/


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Free energy

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