News and Notes
For people who are tired of "country music" that's little more than pop with a Southern twang, this collection of gems should be kept close at hand. The Carter Family recorded country music back before there was a widely accepted name for it, and when you hear their songs, you hear the land they came from, its history, and its sorrows. You also hear this Virginia trio's extraordinary talent. When you listen to classic songs like "Wildwood Flower" or "My Clinch Mountain Home" or "The Cannonball," you know immediately that this is country music you are hearing, and nothing but.
The Larry Sanders Show
Having picked up the first season on DVD, I wasn't really expecting much. I had vague memories of enjoying this show when it originally aired on HBO, but the interminably long off-seasons and relatively short shows (about 22 minutes) began to wear on me after a while. That said, I must have been insane. This show was nothing short of amazing from start to finish. And it holds up beautifully over the decade since its debut. Garry Shandling is Larry Sanders, a successful, but neurotic late night talk-show host. Rip Torn is near perfect as Artie, Larry's confidante and producer. The rest of the cast -- a large ensemble including Jeffrey Tambor, Janeane Garafalo, Bob Odenkirk, and others -- are superlative as well, and the writing is dead-on -- a great mix of old-school character-driven humor and razor-sharp satire of the entertainment industry. Let's hope the DVDs for seasons two through six are in the pipeline. Until they arrive, you can catch two episodes per night on Bravo.
The Bountiful Container
Maybe it was a steadfast refusal to accept my childhood chores -- lawn-mowing, weeding, raking leaves -- but whatever the cause, I grew up with a deep distrust of man's dominion over plant life. Couple that attitude with an uncanny ability to kill houseplants with the minimum possible amount of neglect and you can probably envision what my experience with gardening has been like over the years. Well, that's all changed. Because of this book? Not exactly. But this is the book that may have sent me over the edge. Like the teatotaller that finally tastes single-malt Scotch, I'm now on a perilous course that costs too much money and brings wild mood swings ("My broccoli raab is wilting!") In The Bountiful Container, the authors focus on growing things you can eat -- herbs, vegetables, fruits, and edible flowers. I was hooked from their opening description of a Greek salad grown entirely on an Athenian balcony. The writing is sparkling and their plant-by-plant guide to everything from Arugula to Zucchini is incredibly useful without being dry. Finally, the book is peppered with ideas for theme gardens that not only inspire, but provide ample guidance for those of us who have spent our entire lives believing that our thumbs were anything but green.