Ages 18+.

Chappelle's Block Party

You may have missed the live concert in Brooklyn. Then you might have missed it again when it was in theaters. Guess what? We got it! Dave Chappelle's Block Party, complete with comedy from the man himself. Also featuring the livest music from some of Dave's favorite artists: Erykah Badu, Common, Black Star, Bilal, Cody ChesnuTT, The Roots, Jill Scott and more. Will this be the start of more block parties from Dave? We can only hope...

Artful Reading

May Ray, Ernst, Duchamp = DADA? Yes, but not quite the whole story.
Daughters of DADA at Francis M. Naumann Fine Art is currently showcasing the works of 6 DADA women artists, and “adds a crucial chapter to the current DADA exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art”, writes Holland Cotter, art reviewer of the New York Times.

Perhaps the most outrageous and original among them is the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. With her tin-can bra and shaved head, she treated her body as a living work of art, causing historians today to recognize her preeminence as America’s first performance artist.

Holy Skirts by Rene Steinke is a vivid imagining of Elsa’s story – from her days in Berlin’s seedy burlesques, her many marriages and affairs, to her life among the bohemia of Greenwich Village. Intelligent and sensual, this highy readable novel is a finalist of the 2005 National Book Award.

Buckminster Fuller- Renaissance Man

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July 12 is the 101st birthday of Buckminster Fuller, architect, inventor, engineer and philosopher. Fuller is best known for his invention of the geodesic dome, one of the most revolutionary structural inventions of the twentieth century. Fuller was a rare combination of the romantic and the scientist, one who believed in the possibility of the impossible and with the technical knowledge to bring dreams to fruition. Check out one of his other inventions, the dymaxion house at the Henry Ford Museum.

Ken Lay, ex-CEO of Enron, is dead

Ken Lay

Ken Lay, convicted ex-CEO of Enron, has died.

Lay, 64, was awaiting sentencing on multiple counts of fraud, conspiracy and bank fraud, when he died of a massive coronary in Aspen, Colorado.

In his book, Conspiracy of Fools: A True Story, two-time Pulitzer finalist author Kurt Eichenwald, chronicles the stunning rise and devastating fall of Enron under Ken Lay's leadership.

Last year's documentary, Enron, the Smartest Guys in the Room, directed by Alex Gibney, exposes in shocking video and audio tapes, the depth of the greed and corruption that was part of the upper echelon culture. This much-touted documentary, which was nominated for and/or won several awards, spells out in heartbreaking detail, the thousands of lives wrecked by Enron's collapse.

A tortoise's observations of the human species and much more

Verlyn Klinkenborg, author of other books on the natural world and writer on the editorial board of the New York Times, has created a most disarming tortoise in his latest, Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile. In this wondrous tale or meditation, full of luxuriant language, humor and wry observation of the human species, Timothy in her elder years (yes, it's a female) is resident in the garden of pastor and amateur naturalist, Gilbert White, author, in real life, of The Natural History and Antiquities of Selbourne, the village where he lived.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #27

One of the hottest trends in reading is urban fiction. It’s a sure sign that it is no longer just a fad when The New York Times wrote about it. Alternately called street lit, hip-hop, gangsta lit, or urban fiction, it depicts life on the mean streets, and often prides itself in the authenticity and gritty details of drugs, crimes and violence. Lurid book jackets, profanities, explicit sex, and the lifestyle fueled by easy money add to its appeal.

I met T.J. Williams this week. A Princeton University student, he is not your typical street lit author writing in prison, but maybe that is why his debut novel 5 minutes and 42 seconds was so accessible for my first dip into this genre.

Oh, have no doubt, all the gritty elements are there (the drug-dealing, the illicit sex and the street culture) but it is also a thoughtful and often humorous exploration of the meaning of family and sexuality. Give it a try and check out this reading list for other suggestions.

Lena Horne

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Lena Horne, great lady of song, was born 89 years ago on June 30, 1917 in Brooklyn, New York. Horne broke the color barrier in film by being the first African American woman to sign a long-term contract with MGM. In 1943, she became famous for her song, Stormy Weather, which she sang in the movie of the same name. Because of discrimination, Horne was never given a major role in any of her films except Cabin in the Sky.

Horne also

New Fiction Titles on the New York Times Best Sellers List (7/2/06)

About fifteen years ago I stopped reading Robert B. Parker. After a terrific start with compelling stories and characters, his Spenser series became stale and dull. Several years later, there was a positive review in the New York Times Book Review and I gave him another look. Now a Parker mystery is a treat, pleasing in its predictability and effortless style. Perfect for a summer day.

At #6 is Blue Screen by Robert B. Parker: in this mystery Sunny Randall arrives in Paradise to investigate a mystery and hooks up with the Chief of Police, Jesse Stone; sparks fly, relationships change and a mystery is solved. The only unresolved question is whether we will meet Sunny and Jesse together again.

At #11 is The Wrong Hostage by Elizabeth Lowell: when her teenage son is held hostage by a Mexican drug kingpin, a divorced judge turns to a former lover for help.

At #12 is Baby Proof by Emily Giffin: after leaving her husband because he wants a child, a New York book editor begins to feel she may have made a mistake.

Beach Reads 2006 (#3)

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His Majesty's Dragon* by Naomi Novik. Alternate history set in the Napoleonic Wars, flying dragons and sea battles make for a fantastic read.

The Last Spymaster by Gayle Lynds. Young maverick CIA agent matches wit with a legendary spymaster. Complex and engrossing.

Looking for Mr. Goodfrog by Laurie Graff Searching for one's prince in the rather muddled urban dating pond. Deadly hilarious.

Love in the Present Tense by Catherine Ryan Hyde. An engaging encore from the author of Pay it Forward, on the many incarnation of love and the nature of family.

Make Him Look Good* by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez. Six women and their relationships with one Latin heartthrob. Sexy fun.

The Penultimate Chance Saloon* by Simon Brett. Comedy of sexual manners for a mature single guy, with wit and compassion. For fans of Julie and Romeo and Philosophy Made Simple.

The Virgin of Small Plains* by Nancy Pickard. Love and deceit behind a 17-year-old unsolved murder in a small town. A stand-along from the award-winning author of the Jenny Cain and Marie Lightfoot series. A must for Cold Case fans.

The World to Come* by Dara Horn. Two siblings are tangled up with a stolen Chagall of suspect provenance, Jewish folklore and family history. Intelligent and imaginative.

* = Starred reviews

Meet the Notebook Girls

Meet Sophie, Courtney, Lindsey, and Julia, four teens that began a shared notebook that served as a joint diary during their freshman year at Manhattan’s Stuyvesant High School. Reproduced from the girls’ notebook with handwritten entries as well as photocopied snapshots, sketches, etc., The Notebook Girls reveals with raw honesty what it’s like to grow up female in today’s world. A fascinating nonfiction read.

Catch an interview with three of the notebook girls (now college freshmen) as they talk about how their diary became a book.

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