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Of Recent Note

April 2006

It’s the last Wednesday of the month, so it’s time for another page of what the writers have been watching, reading, eating, hearing, quaffing, and loving oh so much.

I introduced my friend Matt to Don Diva—a crazy niche publication dedicated to hip-hop and prison culture. Recently, he returned the favor by dropping Donk, Box & Bubble on my desk. It’s a magazine devoted specifically to a Southern East Coast subculture of car owners and ballers who trick out their Cutlass Supremes from the ‘70s (donks), ‘80s (boxes), and ‘90s (bubbles, thanks to their newly rounded contours). I couldn’t care less about car culture, but DB&B is to car magazines what The Monster Manual was to the Dungeons & Dragons universe: Page after page of eye-popping, gravity-defying excellence. The very premise—taking some of the shittiest American cars ever made and transforming them into expensively detailed (ostrich interiors?!), candy-colored sideshow freaks—is too fascinating to ignore. —Todd Levin

 

I’m big on Egyptian Musk perfume. Love the stuff. But when I recently discovered Demeter Fragrances’ line of delightfully literal fragrances, I added two new scents to my repertoire. They are—I it-shay you not—tomato and grass (the legal kind). Demeter manages to make familiar smells somehow perfume-worthy, sexy even. Aside from my two favorites, many others are well suited to ring in spring. Among them: dirt, dandelion, and mojito. I always thought I had no interest in smelling like soil, weeds, or a cocktail, but I was wrong. —Lauren Frey

 

The Today Show is my weekday morning addiction and timekeeper; I should be out of the shower before its dulcet opening tones, eating breakfast when they shoot over to the local station for the half-hour update, and out the door for the subway as they’re beginning the second segment after the break. But my allegiances on Sundays have recently shifted, to CBS Sunday Morning and the poetic Charles Osgood. The reports are longer, smarter, and more varied than those littering weekday morning shows, done almost in 60 Minutes style, but one of the best parts comes at the very end, when the talk stops and the camera shifts to the great out-of-doors for a minute or so. —Kate Schlegel

 

Calvin “Bud” Trillin’s recent New Yorker article about the death of Alice, his wife and sometimes straight man, was a doorstop. I sat down afterwards and called my wife. Maybe I was more touched than most because of how much I love his stories, especially for developing in me a need to eat my way someday around Kansas City, but maybe all of Trillin's fans called their wives, too. For Alice appreciation, his Tummy Trilogy collects most of his food writing (though it’s really more about eating than food) from the last 30 years in The New Yorker, Alice appearing in most stories, and then there’s Travels With Alice for very funny accounts abroad. Wonderful reading. —Rosecrans Baldwin

 

Cheap white wine is, at worst, as inoffensive as weak lemonade. Cheap red wine, though, can be so tannic and harsh that it can leave you with an upholstered mouth—especially if you’re drinking a cheap shiraz. So my go-to for an inexpensive red is the Ozzie brand Yellow Tail. Their Reserve Shiraz is usually $12 or less, but it has the mouth-filling intensity and berrylike sweet-tartness you don’t often find for under $20. Great with grilled meats, hearty red sauces, and even very dark chocolate, it’s also velvety enough to enjoy alone. —Liz Entman

 

Remember when MTV cared about outsiders and misfits? Beavis & Butthead. Daria. Huey Lewis & the News? Those days are long gone. MTV’s latest programming agenda is Crush The Weak, and the undisputed king of MTV’s new batch of winning losers is My Super Sweet 16. MSSS is a semi-reality show about rich, mean, spoiled kids who manipulate their parents into exercising their considerable financial influence to plan the most off-the-hook, must-attend 16th birthday event, evah! The subjects of the show are uniformly vain, cunning, greedy, socially exclusionary, and utterly self-absorbed—they’re like colorful piñatas for the Trenchcoat Mafia. And when they finally make their grand entrances at their SS bashes, you have to wonder if their party guests are screaming out of excitement or a suddenly loosed animal hatred. For 2006 I made a New Year’s resolution to never entertain myself with something I dislike on principle, but MSSS will always be the exception to the rule. —Todd Levin

 

Tape hiss is my secret weakness. Forget vinyl fetishes, audio tape is where it’s at. I give it 10 years before all the audiophiles ditch the record players, Harmon & Kardon tube amps, and Telefunken needles for old ‘80s shoulder-mounted beatboxes. People will examine the background pop and flutter of 10-year-old mix-tapes recorded on Maxell BASF-60 cassettes rather than futz with another wax cylinder. Steve Albini will disown all of his possessions in a fit of disillusionment.

Ariel Pink knows how to use all of that. He puts all his pop ditties through the filter and makes it like a secret. He’s wearing a lot of influences sleeve-wise (plenty of Beat Happening, Joe Meek, Desperate Bicycles, and synth pop), but House Arrest is still overflowing with enough original melodies to choke a pack mule. House Arrest flows seamlessly from his previous album, The Doldrums, and if he could make 10 more albums that all flowed the same I wouldn’t mind. —Llew Hinkes

 

In 1995, I declared Kool Keith the greatest MC in the world. I’ve given this award to many other hip-hop MCs, from Notorious B.I.G., MF Doom, and Nas to (regrettably, inexplicably) Justin Warfield and MCA. In 2006, the undisputed winner of that title is Ghostface. I’m sure he feels grateful. Fishscale is a breathless and lyrically complex approach to simple things like haircuts, steak dinners, and the inherent value of whipping your children with a belt. I have eight favorite songs already, and counting. —Todd Levin

 

Every Sunday at 1 p.m. you are not listening to WireTap on CBC Radio One, and your life, subsequently, is a little bit worse. Would you like your life to be better? Would you like to “eavesdrop as host Jonathan Goldstein, the funniest man in Canada, talks over the phone with some of the country’s best storytellers?” Oh, you would? Then do it. (For those already tuning in: Great! Isn’t it wonderful?) —Pasha Malla

 

I discovered Gesualdo because Werner Herzog discovered Gesualdo; in an interview, he describes hearing Gesualdo’s sixth book of madrigals for the first time and finding a new universe. I haven’t tracked down a recording of the sixth book yet, but the Hilliard Ensemble’s recording of Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories sounds incredible to my very untrained ears—incredibly cold some times and then very satisfyingly huge, warm, and expressive. Not a different universe, but very nice to listen to. —Rosecrans Baldwin

 

I’ve always been a bit embarrassed by my Paper Denim & Cloth jeans. I can’t help but feel a creeping sense of history every time I put them on, envisioning a future where people will regard them as I once regarded Sassoon and Jordache, i.e., strictly for Turkish dudes. Unfortunately, Levi’s, while clearly a manlier choice, have always eluded me with their baffling fits. 501 jeans are high- and tight-waisted with great, billowing thighs. 505s aren’t much better, and don’t get me started on the over-eager flare of 517s. Thankfully, Levi’s new Skinner cut puts an end to all of that. Low-waisted, slim-fitting, with a subtle flare—nothing comes between me and my Skinners (except my panties). —Todd Levin

TMN’s Contributing Writers know where to find the purple couch. Long live the pan flute, mini mafia, and Michael Jackson. More by The Writers