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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. This week, we recommend ways to spend your Labor Day holiday.
This holiday weekend, check out "Holiday Night," the newest album by K-pop juggernaut and 8- (formerly 9-) member group, Girls' Generation. "Holiday Night" is the group's sixth full-length album and features 10 tracks in honor of the 10th anniversary of the group's debut, an accomplishment in and of itself, since most girl groups in the K-pop industry don't make it past five years before disbanding. The insanely successful Girls' Generation is another story: they are the industry's representative group worldwide.
"Holiday Night" features two singles, "Holiday"and "All Night," the former a peppy, day-time pop track and the latter its disco night-club alternative with lots of bass. As always, no K-pop listening experience is complete without its accompanying music video. The "Holiday" video disappoints slightly as a milestone anniversary release, since it features the ladies, most of whom are approaching thirty, in outfits that remind me strongly of a back-to-school Old Navy ad. But the video for "All Night" makes up for it with a club setting, much stronger choreography, and glittering outfits.
If you don't make it through the rest of the album, it's no big loss, but if you're looking for a lovely sample of classic, old-school Girls' Generation, listen to track five, "Only One."
Read about labor organizing in Arkansas.
I know, I know — don't get mad at me — I'm not saying you have to spend your precious holiday, your only time off work when you can truly relax, reading about labor organizers of the past. But.....but.....okay, maybe I am going to say that because it really is a problem the way we think about labor organization in this country, and specifically in this state, and that maybe is the reason why we're all so tired and unable to have productive free time! We need better workers' rights and Labor Day should be used (at least a little bit) to think about why.
According to statistics from 2016, only about 5 percent of workers in Arkansas are represented by a union. That's not surprisingly: Wal-Mart famously busts even the faintest whiff of unionization. Don't worry though, instead of increased wages and allowing collective organizing, the Waltons dole out charity and, like an entire state that works as a mill town, we are supposed to thank them. Yay!
This weekend, while I can yell at Wal-Mart (and will) for its anti-union stance, it might be more productive to actually read about labor organizing in Arkansas. Firstly, because unions are not so pure good as my opening makes it sound. Often, they were used as a racist tool. One of the only "victories" of the first labor union in Arkansas came in the late 1850s and was decidedly awful. The all-white Mechanics Association lobbied the Legislature to keep slaves from learning mechanics, hoping to prevent the competition of poor black workers. It was the continuation of a longer concern for white workers in Arkansas; the duel atrocities of no cost slave and inmate labor, perpetrated by a rich class of slave owners, pitted white and black workers against each other. Who was going to get the job? White unions responded to these worries about loss of their wages not by condemning bosses, or calling for the end of systems that have people work without pay, but by casting the blame on black workers. The legislature ate it up.
Made up of many of those same oligarchic slave owners, Arkansas's governing body would not give up their free black labor and teach people mechanics, but they were more than happy to condemn free blacks in the state. In February 1859, they passed Act 151, telling all free blacks they had to leave the state by January 1, 1860. So, from the start in Arkansas, labor organizing has been perverted to hurt itself. But, there are hopeful stories, too. The Knights of Labor in Arkansas organized white and black rail workers alike for a successful strike in the late 1800's leading to a concession from the rail company. The AFL-CIO's first ever combination was in Arkansas, too.
And, reading up more this weekend, I'm going to try to soak up some of the good and bad from labor's past and hope for a better future.
I don't normally tout shopping as an activity, because to acknowledge that I love shopping as an activity is to reveal something shallow about my soul. Yet, I need to talk about Stifft Station Gifts.
It's that storefront on Markham Street just west of the Oyster Bar, and you've probably never been there because where the hell do you park? Well, you park in back, in the Oyster Bar lot, or in the moonscape lot at Markham and Johnson streets.
The shop looks deceptively small from the street, so when you enter it's akin to going into that tent the Weasleys borrowed for the Quidditch World Cup. It goes on and on, with rooms filled with dish towels and cotton totes and jewelry and vases in the shape of cacti and bicycle-themed doormats and dough bowl covers and milk pitchers and soaps and aprons and honey and Razorback-red items (no copyright infringement here) and lovely glass bottles with clip tops.
Stifft Station Gifts
And that's not all! There's also a room with lots of yarn for knitting and weaving and a couple of looms; lessons coming soon. So, make a trip, but not this weekend, because when the Oyster Bar closes, so does Stifft Station Gifts.
-Leslie Newell Peacock
Buy a grill. Now.
Recently, I inherited a gas grill; the first grill my wife and I have owned since a small patio-sized job we kept on the balcony back in grad school. This new grill has changed my life.
I've grilled on it every night for a week straight now: veggie skewers, sausages, grilled chicken, burgers, even a pan of baked beans, and it has been blissful. It helps that the grill we got is a solid old cuss, veteran of a thousand summer cookouts, so that it's got that perfect, greasy stank in every crease and crevice. Smokes like a tar kettle when you fire it up, the ghosts of burgers and steaks past quickly possessing whatever it is you're cooking. If anybody tried to clean that sucker, there would be war on the mountain.
Here at the end of summer, lots of big box stores are trying to unload gas grills, and given my own experience, you should probably run out and get one, right now. I'm sure to be cooking on mine far into the winter, bringing the smoky spirit of summer to our table even as the snow flies. Here's hoping you will, too.
John David Pittman
If you're anywhere near Little Rock for the Labor Day holiday, I suggest using the aforementioned grill to cook your designated driver dinner as a token of appreciation for safely accompanying you to the following:
Two poets best known for their work as the faces of Big Piph &Tomorrow Maybe and Amasa Hines (Asante), are sharing a bill tonight, and they're both flying solo. If you've seen both, chances are you haven't seen them like this, and I'd be willing bet that Piph's wordsmithery and Asante's crystal clarity of musical purpose will give you something to think on for the rest of the weekend.
2. Bazi Owenz at the All-White Bash, Club 428, Saturday, September 2, 10 p.m.
Get thee to Asher Ave. (4726 Asher, to be more precise) and behold Bazi Owenz, a Texarkana rapper, former nurse and crafter of the song I've had in my head for a month straight:
Don't you see me Cloud Nine vibin'
Rollin' my hips like they taught me in the island
Did they tell you that I'm so damn reclusive?
So when I finally leave the house, I really freakin' lose it
Also, the flyer for the Club 428 party contains the phrase "100 Free Glasses of Wine for the Ladies." Make of that what you will.
Sometime after brunch ends at 3 p.m. at Four Quarter Bar in Argenta, the bar turns its attention to "some 'fine' beers that dive bars across the country have built their empire of dirt from." If you've got a person in your life who shuns the city's craft beer offerings in favor of a can o' Schlitz, or even if you just overspent your means elsewhere this weekend, these $5 buckets/5 "dive bar" beers are where it's at.
Doug Dicharry (Dirtfoot) takes the stage at 8 p.m. And, as Stag is not known for pairing particularly well with sensible protein choices, the bar is serving what it calls "The Luther," a cheeseburger patty between two Krispy Kreme donuts.
If you are of sound mind and sturdy heart, I recommend carting a chair and a cooler to the loneliest spot in the deep woods you can find and settling in to read "Annihilation," the slim first book of Jeff Van Der Meer's uncanny Southern Reach trilogy. You could describe it in a variety of ways (bio-horror, New Weird) but it may be more relevant to list some of the comparisons it's garnered: Lovecraft, Kubrick, Bradbury, a little bit of "Lost." Here's a portion of the synopsis from the back cover that gives you the setup:
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide; the third expedition in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In 'Annihilation,' the first volume of Jeff VanderMeer's Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition.
Being so thoroughly detached from the natural world, our speculative anxieties these days tend towards anthropocentric nightmares ofsocial breakdown,totalitarian control, and technological horror. But in the wake of a historic natural disaster on the Gulf Coast, it's worth remembering that the original monsters all come from the wild; the forest, the swamp, the sea, the plains. That stuff still works, because lurking behind two centuries of Industrial-age neurotic tendencies, we've got a few hundred million years of evolutionary memory at play. "Annihilation" taps into the most primal setup for a story that there ever was: You're alone in a strange landscape, and something else is out there.
What I'm not sure is whether or not I recommend reading the rest of the trilogy. I finished Book 2, "Authority," about a month ago and it was twice the length and half the fun as Book 1. It remains to be seen whether or not I'll shamble on to Book 3.
My recent obsession and excuse for getting sun is flinging hunks of plastic at metal baskets – otherwise known as disc golf. Arkansas has a surprising number of courses in various public parks that are well maintained and within a few minutes’ drive. You can get started by purchasing a beginner’s kit at a sports/outdoors store for less than $40.