Staff Picks: Oliver Sacks, Seadragons, Guyanese pop and more | Rock Candy

Staff Picks: Oliver Sacks, Seadragons, Guyanese pop and more

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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.

Two things this week. First is Oliver Sacks' brief essay in the New York Times about his approaching death from terminal cancer. Sacks, 81, made his career studying and writing about the nearly infinite varieties of neurological oddities that can arise within the human mind (he wrote the book "Awakenings" and "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat"), which makes him uniquely well-positioned to comment on the psychological condition of facing mortality. What experience could possibly be weirder than that, after all? Synesthesia and visual agnosia surely have nothing on the knowledge of approaching death.

"I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude," he writes. "Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure."

Speaking of which, have you heard about the identification of a previously unknown species of seadragon in the oceans near Australia? Its being called the ruby seadragon, Phyllopteryx dewysea, and it's the third species of its kind known to man. It's thought this new species is colored red because it lives at lower depths of the ocean, which lends it camouflage thanks to the the selective way that water tends to filter out certain wavelengths of the visual spectrum (that is: the color red is less visible further down).

“All this time we thought that there were only two species,” said one of the marine biologists who made the discovery. “Suddenly, there is a third species! If we can overlook such a charismatic new species for so long, we definitely have many more exciting discoveries awaiting us in the oceans.”

When I lived in New Orleans, I bought an annual pass to the Audubon Aquarium for one year, and I remember the seadragons as being a highlight. The aquarium had representatives from both known species — common seadragons and their ostentatious leafy cousins — and my then-girlfriend and I would always pause for several minutes to watch them bobble around in their little half-sphere of water embedded in the wall, absurd alien toys somehow vested with terrestrial life. I wonder if I'll ever get to see a ruby one. — Benji Hardy

Here's a mix of disco, hip-hop, dub and dance music from Guyana, collected in the form of CD-Rs with cheap jewel cases. It was assembled by Dev Hynes, who records music under the name Blood Orange and who found all the music in a CD store in Guyana's capital city (also Hynes' mother's hometown), Georgetown. He describes it as the "multicultural landscape of Guyana," and I like the idea of thinking of a mix as a landscape. I also like the accidental, scattershot quality of the organization — it isn't definitive, or a document of anything at all except the local selection of one specific South American CD store in 2014. — Will Stephenson

Anything but Chick-fil-A. Anything. Church's. Popeye's. KFC. Wendy's. Tyson nuggets from the frozen food case. Anything.

How can so many people be so wrong? — Max Brantley

I direct your attention to this article from Huffington Post's Gay Voices editor Michelangelo Signorile on the passage of Arkansas's new LGBT discrimination bill, and how stealth "conscience laws" like ours may wind up being a blueprint for the GOP's latest tool to get out the hate vote to the Election Day. — David Koon

I have always had a sweet tooth and Charleston Chews are one of my favorites. I would put a box in the freezer, wait for it to get hard and smack it on the counter until I was sure every piece was broken. The little crunch sweet, chewy nougat and cold melting chocolate is irresistible. And now they comes in mini's — small, chewy and addictive (and don't have to be frozen). Life is sweet. — Kaya Herron

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