Of Recent Note

The Hot ______ of the Summer

In times of respite, the mind settles, focusing on what’s really relevant. Here are the TMN readers’ and writers’ hot picks: the jam that fueled parties all summer long, the show we turned down the A/C to hear, and more.

It’s summer, and it’s hot. Hot like a Woody Allen-directed ménage-a-trois. Hot like everyone’s new favorite 1960s-ad-agency TV series. Hot like blockbuster movies, seasonal fruit, melting popsicles on the porch. Then there are the unsung heroes of the summer, the categories no one thinks to profile; luckily, the TMN writers and readers are on top of that hotness. For August, we bring you the absolutely necessary in every category from fishing lures to contagious rashes for what’s hot this summer.


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The Hot Cool Treat of the Summer

Cherry popsicles taste like Triaminic. Grape popsicles taste like Robitussin. Sure, they’re still awesome, but Melona-brand frozen honeydew melon bars taste exactly like the real thing. I have no idea if the Korean scientists at Binggrae Co., Ltd., concoct these things from natural flavors or a bunch of smoking test tubes, but I also don’t care. If you can track one down (usually in a Korean-owned grocery store or mini mart) they’re a little piece of heaven—provided that heaven is composed of a bunch of frozen green oblongs on sticks. —Pasha Malla

The Hot Fishing Lure of the Summer

Every summer since I was five, my family went camping near Bridgeport, Calif., a tiny gem of a town tucked off Highway 395 in the Eastern Sierras. Every year since we finished high school, my brothers and our friends/girlfriends/wives have made the trip sans the folks. Among the primary objectives have always been copious beer consumption, a card game called Barcelona, and, most importantly, trout fishing. And every year since I was old enough (i.e., patient enough) to fish with a lure, Jake’s Spin-a-Lure has served me well. A simple rectangular design with polka dots and a standard treble hook, the Spin-a-Lure comes in a variety of colors and is great for trolling or spin-casting. I called the Twin Lakes tackle shop this week ahead of our trip for the lowdown, and Gold with Red Dots is apparently kicking major fish-ass. Based on past performances with this lure, this surprises me very little. —Eric Feezell

The Hot Cold Salad of the Summer

Are you adventurous? Do you enjoy delicious things? This is not a personal ad. It’s a pair of questions designed to suss out whether you might agree that ripe papaya with lime juice and extremely spicy peppers is the hottest cold salad of the summer.

A friend of mine did a study abroad in Indonesia, where a man she didn’t know picked up a very small pepper at a market and said to her intensely, “It’s tiny, but it’s potent.” Gross double entendre, but he makes a good point about the peppers. The ones you want to use here are really little, and kind of painful even in small doses. Slice up some of those, sprinkle them frugally on fresh papaya cubes, squeeze some lime juice over the mix, and eat it up, eat it up, rah rah rah. —Lauren Frey

The Hot Reason to Stay in Sunday Nights of the Summer

From the first moment of the promo for the premiere of Mad Men—the hypnotic beat, the impeccably stylish cast, the cigarettes and booze present in almost every frame—I was hooked. As each compelling episode passed, I fell harder for the series that propelled an ad deity anti-hero with a shady past and a wandering eye, and featured unabashedly complex women armed with pointy bras. Every once in a while a television series comes around that dares to elevate the bar. With the return of the second season this summer, Mad Men has now accomplished that twice. What sets it apart from the bevy of television dramas is that the emphasis isn’t primarily plot-centric—the 1960s backdrop provides some predetermined outcomes—but rather a delicious microcosm of how advertising, media, and pop culture continues to influence the human condition. —TMN Reader Liz Arrasmith

The Hot Quarterly of the Summer

Lapham’s Quarterly is a new quarterly that prints work from writers such as, oh, Aristophanes, Thucydides, Mozart, and Sun Tzu. Sometimes they also go for lesser-knowns like Rousseau or Dante or Alexander Hamilton. Maybe Gogol. Lapham’s minions pick a theme and prowl the archives for voices that speak to that theme with honesty, skill, and—often—breathtaking prescience. So far they’ve done issues on War, Money, and Nature, and all three have been absolutely spectacular. Their website calls it “the journal that enlists the counsel of the dead.” I call it my favorite magazine. —Anthony Doerr

The Hot Jam of the Summer

Maybe I’m super-old now, but I bought a song on iTunes based solely on hearing it in a movie trailer. That movie trailer: Pineapple Express. That song: M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” Jay-Z and Kanye West, you should be ashamed of yourselves: You just got out-swaggered by a girl. —Todd Levin

The Hot Weird Fruit of the Summer

I mean, do I ever stop talking about food? Not really. Until recently, my experience with figs was mostly limited to those of the Newton variety. Lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant altered my perspective considerably when the entree salad featured roasted figs stuffed with goat cheese. I’m pretty much going to be a fan of anything stuffed with goat cheese, but these were particularly delectable. Suddenly, figs were everywhere. The perfectly ripe ones at the local markets get priced down to avoid spoiling before they’re sold; cut them into fourths lengthwise, add a few toothpicks, and you’re one of those fabulous hosts who always has gourmet appetizers just, you know, lying around. —Bridget Fitzgerald

The Hot Dead Southern Author of the Summer

This summer I’ve been on a Faulkner bender. I am not sure why I thought multi-page sentences would be right for the beach, but here I am on the North Carolina coast with Absolom, Absolom! and Go Down, Moses. In college I took a Faulkner class where we sped-read our way through the Faulkner canon (at least that’s how it felt, knocking down a novel about every week); it’s an indulgence now to get to take them more slowly. Things aren’t all high-brow, though. I discovered a cycling magazine left behind by a previous tenant (Road Magazine), and I’m becoming so enamored of bike racing, I may shave my legs. Might improve my look on the beach, too. —Rosecrans Baldwin

The Hot TV-Show-to-Watch-Before-Its-New-Season-Starts of the Summer

Like most people, I never committed myself to the first season of Mad Men during its initial broadcast. Maybe it got lost in a crowded landscape of other quality programming. (The Wire, 30 Rock, The Office, Dexter, etc.) However, after some Emmy recognition and with Season Two of Mad Men looming, I finally succumbed. And I’m grateful. With each new episode, I’ve had a new favorite character, a new favorite cocktail, and a new favorite men’s suit. (You can have your Don Draper—Roger Sterling is Madison Avenue’s best dressed philanderer.) Sometimes the show’s many “can you believe people behaved like this in 1960s” references can feel like a sharp elbow to your bruised ribs, but it’s the quiet stuff that has kept Mad Men in “long wait” status at Netflix all summer long. —Todd Levin

The Hot Toilet Light of the Summer

Gentlemen: Do you regularly stand in front a toilet in the middle of the night? Do you ever well, er, ahem, miss? Do you ever, in an effort not to miss, switch on the bathroom light and blast your retinas to kingdom come? If you want to preserve both your eyeballs and your marriage, check out the NiteTrip. It’s a sleek little motion-sensing device you stand on the back of your toilet tank. Walk into the bathroom in the dark and—zing!—a little disc of pleasant light shines down on the toilet bowl. It’s perfect for late-night diaper changes, too. This little invention is brand new, but I bet by 2009 you’ll start seeing these things everywhere. —Anthony Doerr

The Hot Woody Allen Movie of the Summer

Not that there’s a lot of competition in the category, but this year’s pick is definitely Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The comedy centers on two college friends—staid, dependable Vicky (pitch-perfectly played by relative newcomer Rebecca Hall, who, interestingly, kind of takes the “Woody Allen” role in this one) and spontaneous, sultry Cristina (Allen’s current blonde trump card, Scarlett Johansson)—who decide to spend the summer at Vicky’s aunt’s house in Barcelona. The two quickly become involved with lothario painter Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem, smoldering as ever) and his estranged, suicidal ex-wife (Penélope Cruz, stealing the show). Removed from Allen’s usually stuffy Manhattan settings, the cast embraces the warm idylls of Spain, inspired to cut loose by colorful spaces, copious wine, and Gaudí’s architectural originality. As Allen’s Spanish diary indicates, these shooting conditions must have been hell. Just as naturally as the film celebrates the characters’ seeming frivolity and a plurality of romantic entanglements, the literary narrator gently and wryly pokes fun at their sexy foibles. The effect produces a set of fleshed-out characters we can not only see ourselves in, but feel free to laugh at, which, in addition to the air conditioning, is a delightful way to spend an evening at the cinema. —Erik Bryan

The Hot Go-To of the Summer

All summer long, I’ve garbed myself in wrinkle-free Geoffrey Beene fitted dress shirts. Fitted because they do fit better (they cup, but there’s room for milk); wrinkle-free because it’s summer and the material mimics that wicking thing you usually find in sports apparel; Geoffrey Beene because it’s attractively priced (sub-$14 if you trek to an outlet) and because the other hot thing of the summer is recession. —Andrew Womack

The Hot Culturally Pervasive TV Series of the Summer

At a hip Brooklyn flea market this weekend, I passed a small vendor of vintage kitchenware. Under its pitched shanty, there was a wall-mountable rotary phone, a series of classic steel toasters, a tin marked “sugar.” Above the display, a scrawled sign read: “MAD MEN appliances.” Who would have thought that a show on AMC could become so culturally pervasive?—TMN Intern Matt Robison

The Hot Rash of the Summer

Why do you have this horrible-looking rash all over your body? Why is it so goddamn itchy? Who knows! It’s contact dermatitis! Maybe your clothes got washed in a new detergent? Or your skin didn’t like that new necklace, or that new lotion? It could even be a reaction to some random thing you touched two days ago! Maybe you’re just allergic to life! What matters is that you are so itchy you think you might die! All you can think about is scratching those horrible little red dots away, but you can’t! Because scratching just makes it itch more! And there’s no cure for it, either! You can try corticosteroids, but they’ll probably only make things worse, so don’t even bother! You have to just leave it alone and hope it goes away in a few days, or maybe weeks! It is completely awful! Contact dermatitis: Catch it!Kevin Fanning

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