The first response to Nikka Costa's imminent fame—she’ll be everywhere later this year, count on it—will be "Damn, that’s a white girl?" But the consistency and confidence of this debut will be cause for similar amazement.
Where Chris Isaak Posts Up Against DeNiro And Nikka Costa Gets Called For Too Many Steps
There's hardly a better time of year for a sports fan than March. Not only are college basketball's conference tournaments quickly segueing into full-out NCAA tournament action, but baseball spring training is in full swing. It's a month filled with mixed messages. Is it all about rebirth (as baseball and spring begin to blossom), or is it about the end of things (as college teams drop one by one and winter wheezes its final wheeze)? To follow that theme, our planner for this week contains some contradictions of its own. We speak of TV shows, CDs, movies and video games (stay indoors!) and weather (go outside!). Ah, well, we trust that you'll know just what to do. It's not like you've ever really listened to us before.

You may have heard Nikka Costa's "Like a Feather" on a Tommy Hilfiger commercial; that stone soul-funk tune (with cutting-edge hip-hop production) is just one flavor on a stunningly assured album, "Everybody Got Their Something" (Cheebasound/Virgin). The first response to her imminent fame—she'll be everywhere later this year, count on it—will be "Damn, that's a white girl?" But the consistency and confidence of this debut will be cause for similar amazement. This singer/songwriter has the makings of a superstar… Fans of y'alternative have plenty of reasons for rejoicing, as the Lost Highway imprint gives an enhanced profile to music that blends classic country and roots influence with post-Beatles popcraft. There's no better exemplar of this approach than Whiskeytown, and their "Pneumonia," recorded in 1999 but held up by their label limbo (and featuring contributors like Tommy Stinson and James Iha). The album highlights singer/songwriter Ryan Adams' peerless melding of twangy authenticity and modern jangle. While the countrified material (like opener "Ballad of Carol Lynn" or the devastating "Don't Be Sad") shows his mastery of the tears-in-the-beer idiom, his forays into other styles—like the baroque-pop gem "Mirror Mirror"—are revelatory… While we're on the subject of shiny, irresistible new pop, you can't do much better than the Supers (Permanent Press), and the delightful comic-book packaging of their "Spklanng!" disc gives a nice indication of the candy-colored sounds within. But the opening track "Secret" is more than a Beatlesque pleasure; it could be the one jangle-pop tune this year that Hot AC Programmers fall in love with… Annetenna (Columbia) is the new project from Ednaswap co-founders Anne Preven and Scott Cutler, who authored the Natalie Imbruglia hit "Torn." When Howard Stern fell in love with the 'Swap version and began slamming it on his show, Columbia jumped in. You'll have to wait a bit for the band's full-length demonstration of its utter mastery of pop-rock songcraft, but you can get a nice indication from a four-song sampler now making the rounds. It includes "Ultraviolet" and the undeniable "Halo," which is in my personal Top 10 at the moment… —Simon Glickman

"The Chris Isaak Show":
Debuting Monday at 10 p.m. (ET/PT), Showtime's latest attempt to create an original must-see series a la "Sopranos" is a "Larry Sanders"-like Pirandellian romp about a real-life rocker starring Chris Isaak as himself, from writer/producers Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, the people that brought you "Northern Exposure." The promising first episode sees Isaak—having been dumped by his girlfriend when he refuses to spit in her face—seeking advice from his real-life mother psychiatrist and Mona, an actual nude mermaid from legendary S.F. club Bimbo's, who appears to be swimming in an aquarium through an elaborate system of mirrors. On location for a video shoot with his band, Chris draws the ire of his co-star Bai Ling's hyper-jealous, Jean-Claude Van Damme-esque boyfriend as well as a seemingly uptight production accountant. The latter not only reminds him of his old girlfriend, but she insists on doing a striptease in her motel room every night in clear view of Isaak's suite. The 17-episode series will feature a bevy of guest-stars playing themselves, including Minnie Driver, Stevie Nicks, Adam Arkin, Shawn Colvin, Jay Leno. Joe Walsh, Lisa Loeb, Vince Neil and Bret Michaels. Isaak is likable and natural in the title role, but the real find is drummer Kenney Dale Johnson, who plays his grass-roots-philosopher foil with aw-shucks, deadpan veracity.
—Roy Trakin

"15 Minutes": Funny how Andy Warhol's comment about fame has lasted over three decades, which is probably the level of irony director John Herzfeld—so effective in "2 Days In The Valley"—goes for in this black-comic meditation on the links between media, violence and celebrity. Sounds like turf that's been well-traveled, but the trailer's kineticism and the presence of Robert DeNiro as a celebrity detective who struts his stuff on the streets of New York City alongside his more idealistic sidekick Edward Burns could make for some promising moments. The plot concerns a pair of Eastern European thugs who wreak havoc and capture it all on a camcorder toted by the one who only wants to be Frank Capra. Kelsey Grammer plays a "Jerry Springer"-like host of a tabloid TV show, while "2 Days" star Charlize Theron has a cameo as an escort-service madam. The film moves like a rock video, and it seems like it builds some "Die Hard" tension, but isn't a movie that uses violence to make a point about media exploitation of violence just a bit disingenuous? Top music cue: God Lives Underwater's too-obvious cover of Bowie's "Fame."

"Company Man": Reminiscent of '60s political satires such as "The President's Analyst" and the great "Dr. Strangelove," this film is the brainchild of writer/co-director/star Douglas McGrath, Woody Allen's collaborator on "Bullets Over Broadway." The film satirizes the Bay of Pigs era—maybe it's a corrective for the overly somber "Thirteen Days"—with references to icons like John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro and the Woodman, who makes a cameo appearance as his bumbling, pre-Soon Yi self. McGrath plays a high school grammar instructor who fakes a career as a CIA agent, only to be hired by the agency and sent to a Cuban outpost, where he ends up trying to foil Castro's revolution. Sigourney Weaver co-stars as McGrath's henpecking wife, with Ryan Phillippe as a defecting Russian ballet dancer, Anthony LaPaglia as Castro, John Turturro as a crazed pro-Batista agent and Denis Leary as a double-agent.

"Simon Magus": This brooding fable about anti-Semitism and discrimination in a small Jewish village in 19th century Poland marks the feature-film debut of British director Ben Hopkins and stars Noah Taylor, who played the young David Helfgott in "Shine" and the hilarious British road manager in "Almost Famous." Taylor is considered the village idiot by his fellow townspeople, who treat him as an outcast, while he experiences terrifying visions of the Holocaust (he sees a train carrying dead Jews to hell) and chats with the Prince of Darkness himself (the always-superb Ian Holm). The plot concerns a young villager who wants to build a train station in the isolated town and must get permission to acquire the land from the town's nobleman (Rutger Hauer), a poetry buff who shares his love of literature with a young woman just returned from studying in the city.

"Get Over It": This Miramax production wasn't screened for critics, which means next to nothing these days. The cheerleading movie "Sugar & Spice" wasn't made available for journalists, either, and that actually garnered a few decent reviews. Don't know much about this one except it stars Kirsten Dunst, Carmen Electra as a dominatrix, Sisqo and Tom Hanks' oldest son Colin, who looks like he's paying homage to his father's "Bachelor Party" in this tale of a sensitive guy trying to recover from being dumped by his girlfriend. Like commissioner Bud Selig told the Toronto Blue Jays after trading David Wells to the ChiSox for a guy with a bum arm…caveat emptor, baby. —Roy Trakin

Knockout Kings: That'z right pimps, Latin Prince aka LPZeee iz once again in your dome, with anutha playalistic review of tha week, & I have to admit that my wife Dezarae kicks my ass at it. All tha egomaniacal, violent splendor of heavyweight boxing comes to tha PlayStation 2 with Knockout Kings 2001 by EA Sports. This title employs EA's new CyberScan technology, which allows tha boxers' faces to be accurately reproduced in full polygonal glory. Aside from tha graphical overhaul, tha game also features new modes of play and simplified control. Choose your champion from a stable of boxing's greatest, including Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, and Lennox Lewis. The new career mode allows you to play through several weight classes and to box at famous arenas all around the world. And tha soundtrack includes Black Eyed Peas, Dilated Peoples and more. So pleeeze believe it, playaz, you're going to luvvv this shittt. —Latin Prince

Until recently, listening to MP3 music was limited to sitting by your PC or playing it over a handheld portable player. Now the MP3 experience has taken to the highways. Visteon Corporation is bringing in-dash MP3 technology directly to consumers with its new MACH MP3 Music System, which will be available to consumers in mid-March and sold through the company's website at www.evisteon.com for $369. This innovation combines file-playback technology with efficient memory storage, and plays both MP3-encoded and prerecorded music CDs. The player also includes a full-featured AM/FM stereo radio. You can listen to up to 10 hours of music on just one CD. The MACH MP3 comes with a tool that Visteon claims makes it easy to install in your car—so what are you waiting for? —Paul Karlsen

"Familiarity breeds contempt—and children."
—Mark Twain

The Most-Watched Pot:
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Cambridge University's Trojan Room coffee pot cam is that it, more than almost anything still on the Web, shows just how far the Internet has come in eight years. Generally thought of as the first live image shown on the World Wide Web (over 2.4 million visitors have watched this pot since it was first put on in 1993), the coffee pot cam was originally devised by Cambridge scientist Quentin Stafford-Fraser, who got tired of traipsing down several flights of stairs for coffee only to find the pot was empty. "The image was only updated about three times a minute, but that was fine because the pot filled rather slowly, and it was only grayscale, which was also fine because so was the coffee," quipped Stafford-Fraser. So, why is it our site of the week? Well, it's a piece of Internet history that, sadly, is being "retired," because the computer lab is changing residence. Fare thee well, coffee pot, we hardly knew ye. —Jeff Drake

Thomas Jefferson, our 3rd president, was born April 13, 1743, in Shadwell, VA. Sure, everyone knows that he was the author of the Declaration of Independence. And everyone knows that he orchestrated the $15 million purchase of the Louisiana Territory (3 cents per acre for 510 million acres). Many people even know that Jefferson was a successful lawyer, architect, president of the American Philosophical Society and founder of the University of Virginia. It has also been noted that Jefferson died on July 4, 1826—the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. But who, besides us, remembers that he signed the Non-Intercourse Act in 1809? (It repealed the Embargo Act and wasn't saucy at all.) Best Anagram Of His Name: Foot jam freshens.

Upcoming Birthdays

March 9-15

9—Amerigo Vespucci & Emmanuel Lewis
10—Chuck Norris
11—Douglas Adams
12—Jack Kerouac & James Taylor
13—William H. Macy
14—Albert Einstein & Michael Caine
15—Ry Cooder

Special Events
March is Women's History Month
9—Full Moon & Purim
10—National Ski Joring Finals (Red Lodge, MT)
12—Commonwealth Day & Moshoeshoe's Day (Lesotho)

Nothing Says "I Love You" Like A Basket Of Burgers

If it's the weekend, it must be time for more rain in Los Angeles. It won't be as bad as it has been for oh, the past three weekends, but look for scattered rain late Saturday. Otherwise, skies will be partly to mostly cloudy, with highs in the upper 50s and lows in the upper 40s. The cloudy pattern should break next Thursday, so settle in with another cloudy week. Sun, why have you forsaken us? In New York City, it's gonna snow on Friday, but it won't be the end of the world, with accumulation under an inch and temps hovering in the mid-30s. Saturday and Sunday will be partly cloudy, with highs in the mid-40s Saturday, mid-50s Sunday. Lows will be in the low 30s. Saturday will be windy; maybe it will blow all of the snow away. And those heading to NARM in boy-band territory, Orlando, can expect pretty damn nice weather. Friday will see scattered rain, with a high of about 70 and a low of 50. Saturday will be a mix of sun and clouds, high in the low 70s, low in the low 50s. Sunday it'll hit 80, with a low in the low 60s. If you're down there, buy Old Man Pearson a drink—he could use one.
—David Simutis, apprentice meteorologist.

A top fashion photographer is coming to Eastland to find the new face of the '80s and Blair is positive she's it. The photographer surprises everyone by choosing Tootie, but the price of her photo session proves costly.

Mestel walks like a man. (10/22a)
And Q3 figures look good as well. (10/21a)
A Swift return to #1. (10/21a)
The Rumours are true. (10/23a)
Could she be this year's left-field anointed one? (10/23a)
Bring your umbrella.
Mulling possible surprises.
Why not wear a mask indoors?
What drugs will help us get there?

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