CD | This time of year, we're all looking for a soundtrack for our summer cruising. One of my faves, Dwight Yoakam, is out with a new record that fits the description: SECOND HAND HEART. The skinny singer with the pulled-down cowboy hat has been pumping out honky-tonk country from Los Angeles since 1986, and he has just kept on getting better. Dwight Sings Buck (Buck Owens covers, that is) is a great record, and 3 Pears had him teaming up with the likes of Kid Rock and Beck. This new one is classic Dwight, with "Dreams of Clay" set to take spot among his best ever; his take on "Man of Constant Sorrow" gives that O Brother classic a little Chuck Berry/"Route 66" flavor. Yeah, he's still got it.
BOOK | After a couple of trips to L.A. over the past few years, I'm kind of stuck in a fascination with old Hollywood. So here's a fun take: OF ALL THE GIN JOINTS by Mark Bailey. I love how it's the kind of book you can pick up, open to any page and get kind of lost. It's organized by pre-1970s-era celebrity (Bing Crosby, Natalie Wood, John Wayne), and it delivers a little biography along with an anecdote about the subject's usually shocking drinking habits. Here and there, Bailey sprinkles in a cocktail recipe (like the legendary Musso & Frank Martini) or a sketch about a particularly notorious watering hole (like Don the Beachcomber). It paints a picture of Hollywood as one big party — it's amazing that any films ever got made in Tinseltown.
GADGET | What is it with me and flashlights? My junk drawer is full of 'em. A flashlight on a tripod? Hey, you never know when you'll need one of those. Many a Black Friday have I come home with a deeply discounted set of 10 mini-flashlights. I am literally like a moth to the flame. But I found a new, even cooler model! With camping season coming (not that I actually camp or anything), I offer you the ORBIT MINI-LANTERN. On the bottom it has a bright LED, but if you pull up the topper, you get a cool lantern you could hang in a tent. (Or, in my case, just play with over and over until you really need it and find that — of course — the batteries have run out.)