Staff Picks: Obama's 'Amazing Grace,' Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Arthur Russell and more | Rock Candy

Staff Picks: Obama's 'Amazing Grace,' Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Arthur Russell and more

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Arthur Russell
  • Arthur Russell

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.

Paul Laurence Dunbar, the African-American poet, novelist and playwright of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, would celebrate his 143rd birthday tomorrow. I recommend reading some of his works with care, including two of his poignant pieces on African-American history, "The Unsung Heroes" and "When Dey 'Listed Colored Soldiers," which are both about the Civil War. One of my all time favorite pieces however is the "Invitation to Love," which today is quite appropriate after the SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality. — Kaya Herron

The tough thing about introducing Arthur Russell, the great musician, composer and producer who died of AIDS in 1992, is knowing where to start. How is the guy who recorded "Close My Eyes" the same guy who recorded "Go Bang"? Or "Love Comes Back" or "Lucky Cloud"? One could imagine four different listeners, each of whom only likes one of these songs, with none of their choices overlapping. Russell is the only musician ever to have collaborated with Allen Ginsberg, Philip Glass, David Byrne, EPMD and Vin Diesel. Any starting point is only going to be misleading. Things are easier now than ever, though, for people new to his music. He's been the subject of great and comprehensive books and documentaries, plus several compilations that each approach different corners of his musical output. And now there's a new album, "Corn," released this month by Audika Records. It's nine tracks he recorded in 1982 and 83, and I don't know that it will be anyone's favorite of his records, but at this point that doesn't seem important — once you become interested in his music, you become interested in all of his music. — Will Stephenson

I recommend this disconcertingly exhaustive list of sardine brands and accompanying reviews. What a world we live in.

This won't be my last sardine-related Arkansas Times Recommends, just to let you know. — Benji Hardy

My recommendation is for this video of President Barack Obama singing "Amazing Grace" during his eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, one of the nine people killed during the church massacre in Charleston. There are moments when you realize that you are watching something that will live in history as long as there is a country called America. This is probably one of those moments. And suddenly, I remember why I voted for the guy twice. — David Koon

Buy a handful of small-ish cucumbers. I don't know what they're called, but it seems like they usually have bumps on them and they're considerably smaller than the ones you often see in the store.

Cut about four cups worth of em into coins.

Stir a 1/2 cup of sugar into two one cup of Apple Cider Vinegar until sugar is dissolved. Liberally salt and pepper.

Toss all that over cucumbers in a medium sized Tupperware. Wait at least an hour. They'll get progressively vinegar-y day by day, but I usually eat on them for at least three or four days. Perfect summer side. — Lindsey Millar

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