Arkansas Times Recommends is a series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.
A last-minute Halloween costume recommendation: Halloween does not play to my strengths. I am a cheapskate, and honestly, I'm not that skilled at putting together day-to-day clothes (said the wife, "You can't wear seersucker with corduroys!"), much less some kind of elaborate costume. But I had promised to go to a friend's get-together. After thinking over my options for a while, I decided to put on a sports coat and carry an issue of The Watchtower. My Jehovah's Witness outfit was voted scariest costume at the party.
"top kek," the name of a Turkish cupcake and the linguistic byproduct of a nebula of webspeak dialects.
If you aren't well-versed in weird Twitter and fall more in the "the internet is a fascinating place I want to learn more about" camp than the "the internet is mostly a cesspool where I check email, read the Arkansas Times and look for craft ideas on Pinterest" one (a rough approximation of how the Millar family breaks down, by the by), you should listen to this podcast about Pepe the Frog from always excellent "Reply All." It's a really fun and fairly pithy explanation of how a somewhat obscure indie cartoon character, a fairly grotesque looking stoner frog named Pepe, became the go-to meme for white nationalists for Trump to such a degree that Hillary Clinton now has an explainer about Pepe on her website. It's a good explanation, but listen to the podcast instead; it's much more fun. Along the way, you'll learn a little about the infamous messageboard 4chan and "rare" internet memes, the slipperiness of irony on the web and the etymology of international web speak, "top kek."
"Rescue Time" productivity log.
To all our computer-bound, GTD curious but not necessarily David Allen groupie, $47,476+ annual income workers of America who are suddenly puzzling over ways to keep track of your work hours so you don't trigger the overtime DEFCON1 alarm your boss is installing in her payroll software: consider installing Rescue Time on your Mac or PC.
This is not timesheet software, per se. It is more along the lines of activity tracking with the bonus of being able to see the hours associated with your activity.
Ideal for people who:
…want to be able to categorize and view their activity by one of 5 degrees of productivity, e.g. Very Distracting, Distracting, Neutral, Productive, to Very Productive.
…want to be able to say their time on Facebook is actually probably pretty productive overall since you admin your company's myriad Facebook pages. (You can dictate which software/website/
…want periodic overviews of your hours, how productive you were, and how it compares to previous periods via the RescueTime dashboard or emailed summaries.
…want help focusing and meeting productivity goals (some of the features are available only to premium customers).
…need a free solution.
…need it to integrate into Slack (albeit a limited sort of way, and for premium customers only) or other software.
…need to dictate when to start and stop recording your activity. (If you work from home, for instance, and have a hard stop on work duties at 6pm but still browse the web or watch a movie after 6, you can tell it to never record after 6. Or to never record on certain days.)
…prefer a hands-off, low maintenance tool but want to be able to tweak the nobs. I recommend logging into the dashboard on occasion and reviewing your activity to make sure you're getting accurate information. (So you can manage that "Very Distracting" two hours your kids watched Animaniacs on your second monitor while they hung out with you on "Surprise Bring Your Kids to Work Day" last week.)
Not ideal for people who:
…spend a lot of work time away from your computer or on other devices.
…have employers who need more precise in/out time, etc.
…need more powerful integration into other services or software.
…are afraid to know that much about themselves.
"Apotheosis of the Slavs' History"
I thought I had my bases covered when it comes to Little Rock’s ethnic grocery stores — and yes, I wince a little at the dated, whitebread ring to the assumed homogeneous American baseline implied by that moniker — but I was evidently wrong.
I shop at Sam’s or Mr. Chen’s when I need something East Asian (Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, etc), Ali Baba for Middle Eastern goods, Asian Groceries for dahls and curry components, and whatever tienda happens to be nearby for Mexican and other Latin foods. But what if I desperately need, say, pickled herring or a two-pound wheel of Bulgarian cheese? Turns out those and other sundry European obscurities are available at Indian Grocers, which is on Rodney Parham Road near North Shackleford (it shares a strip mall with Franke’s cafeteria, but if any culinary cross-pollination has resulted, I’m not aware of it).
Why exactly Indian Grocers — which, as its name implies, mainly purveys products from the subcontinent — carries such a large contingent of Slavic and Nordic goods is unknown to me. It’s wonderful, though. A dozen varieties of Ritter-Sport are on display inside the front door, and there’s a cold case crowded with delicate jars of caviars and roe spreads and fish bits at the end of one aisle. Eastern European cheese products coexist with blocks of paneer; pumpernickels jostle the chapatis in the freezer. I bought a loaf of Latvian rye bread, a tin of stuffed cabbage leaves, four pounds of red lentils, some pita and a passionfruit soda. I also randomly plucked what looked like a decade-old TV dinner from the frozen case, but it inexplicably rang up as $17.99 and I quickly backtracked. So: explore with caution.
Painter of Munich
Amphora of Hercules fighting Geryon, circa 540 B.C.
There's such a thing as a learned suppression of one's need to take things literally, and as far as I can tell, it's a vital prerequisite skill to have in your toolbox if you're a person who's studied Greek and Roman mythology, even casually. Sure, Aristotle tried to put his foot squarely down in the concrete, naming and classifying and dissecting and counting and defining, but isn't it Aeschylus' "Oresteia" that comes up in talk of criminal justice systems, or Euripides' "The Bacchae" that makes its way into conversations about smashing the patriarchy? There's something in the supple, slippery language of myth and drama that, when translated by a skilled hand, can set your mind spinning with poeticism and punch in a way that "Nichomachean Ethics" isn't likely to do.
That immediacy and red-hot imagery drips from the pages of Anne Carson's lusty Hercules-and-Geryon love triangle novel, "Red Doc>," and from its much earlier predecessor "Autobiography of Red." A compendium of otherwise Sapphic-sounding fragments weaves in non-ancient words like "kindergarten" or "sandwich" or "hockey practice" so seamlessly we spill over them without pause, and the reader is probably a dozen chapters in before marveling at how easily the literal slipped away, how easily sentences like "Don't pick at that Geryon you'll get it infected. Just leave it alone and let it heal, said his mother rhinestoning past on her way to the door. She had all her breasts on this evening" are absorbed, having forgotten the story's (loose) basis in ancient myth, on surviving pieces of Stesichorus' "Geryoneis."
Here's an excerpted chapter called "X. Sex Question," from the first book, in which inklings of lust become mutually acknowledged between Herakles and Geryon:
I better be getting home.
They continued to sit. They were parked way out on the highway.
Cold night smell
coming in the windows. New moon floating white as a rib at the edge of the sky. I guess I'm someone who will never be satisfied,
said Herakles. Geryon felt all nerves in him move to the surface of his body. What do you mean satisfied? Just—satisfied. I don't know. From far down the freeway came a sound
of fishhooks scraping the bottom of the world. You know. Satisfied. Geryon was thinking hard. Fires twisted through him.
He picked his way carefully
toward the sex question. Why is it a question? He understood
that people need
acts of attention from one another, does it really matter which acts?
He was fourteen. Sex is a way of getting to know someone,
Herakles had said. He was sixteen. Hot unsorted parts of the question
were licking up from every crack in Geryon,
he beat at them as a nervous laugh escaped him. Herakles looked.
Suddenly quiet. It's okay, said Herakles. His voice washed
Geryon open. Tell me, said Geryon and he intended to ask him, Do people who like sex
have a question about it too?
but the words came out wrong—Is it true you think about sex every day?
Herakles' body stiffened. That isn't a question it's an accusation. Something black and heavy dropped
between like a smell of velvet.
Herakles switched on the ignition and they jumped forward onto the back of the night.
but joined in astonishment as two cuts lie parallel in the same flesh.
Both books are astonishingly quick reads, due in part to the amount of negative space afforded to the page to lend the poetry its pulse and pace, and if I were pressed to explain why I find them so compelling and magnificent, I'd probably cite how willingly the reader suspends the literal in favor of the symbolic, how the books don't so much require the reader to disengage the literal and the logical; no such effort's even necessary; the poems have already led her halfway down a road of anachronistic myth before she even realizes she's taken a step.
Real life is generally crazier than anything fiction can come up with, even if we are severely lacking in magic space wizards here on Planet Earth. To that end, forgo the blockbusters and throw yourself a documentary film festival. Here are a few films to get you started:
"Keep the River on Your Right"
When artist and anthropologist Tobias Schneebaum left for Peru on a Fulbright fellowship, no one could have predicted what happened next. Looking for an escape from the rampant homophobia and anti-Semitism that had plagued him in his native New York, Schneebaum disappeared into the jungle, eventually taking up with the remote Harakmbut tribe. What follows is a tale of love, loss...and cannibalism.
One of the greatest documentary films of all time, "Okie Noodling" follows the exploits of the intrepid catfish hunters of Oklahoma and their non-traditional fishing methods. How non-traditional? Well, they catch huge river cats by blindly shoving their arms into underwater holes and allowing the fish to bite onto them. And if that sounds insane, wait until you see it in action.
"The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters"
While it's true that the filmmakers played fast and loose with the timeline in this classic video game doc, it's still a fun watch. Ever wonder what a "kill screen" is? Did you even know there are arcade game celebrities? This one is worth it just to get to know Billy Mitchell, the hot sauce slinging master of Donkey Kong and other classic games.
Alex Trebek recently made headlines for calling a Jeopardy! contestant a "loser" when she expressed an interest in "nerdcore hip-hop." For a look into the scene, there's no better film than Nerdcore Rising, which chronicles Damian Hess' (aka MC Frontalot) attempt to launch a music career by rapping about things like goth girls, text-based game series Zork and other aspects of geek culture. Full disclosure: I saw MC Frontalot a few years ago in Fayetteville and it was an amazing show. Suck on it, Trebek.