A Time For Records, Movies, Dead Presidents And Fixing A Hole Where The Rain Gets In
After a rip-roaring winter storm featuring actual lightning, it's clear and crisp here in SoCal, and the newly snowcapped peaks in the distance are beckoning the region's skiers, snowboarders and orthopedic surgeons. Meanwhile, the most popular indoor sport of the long weekend will undoubtedly be downloading like crazy before we're forced to figure out how Freenet and Gnutella work. Those are just a couple of the myriad possibilities that await us, kiddies, as we give thanks to past Chief Executives for giving us Monday off.

Mah XFL picks fer this weekend are... Aw, the hell with it. I jest don't care.

"Down To Earth": Now we get to see if Chris Rock is indeed the next Eddie Murphy, capable of opening a movie by his bad self. Paramount could use a new franchise. This is a remake of Warren Beatty's 1978 "Heaven Can Wait," which itself was a remake of Alexander Hall's 1941 movie "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" in which a young man dies and returns to earth in the body of someone else. Rock is—get this—a struggling comedian and bicycle messenger who is reincarnated in a rich old white guy. Now there's a stretch. This is the follow-up for "American Pie" brother/directors Chris & Paul Weitz from a screenplay with four credits, never a good sign. Notable as one of two movies opening this weekend in which "Ally McBeal" star Greg Germann (Richard Fish) appears. Soundtrack's on Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax. Let's see if it can eat into "Hannibal"'s audience. For more information, see www.downtoearthmovie.com.

"Sweet November": So what's it doing coming out in February? Yet another remake, this time of a 1968 movie starring Sandy Dennis and Anthony Newley. (How's that for a twisted romance?) Their roles are now played by Keanu Reeves and Charlize Theron as a workaholic and a "blithe spirit," respectively, who meet cute at the DMV, decide to have a one-month affair and then split. Bet you can't guess what happens next—not even if you saw "Autumn In New York" with Richard Gere and Winona Ryder. Directed by Irishman Pat O'Connor ("Circle of Friends") with a PG-13, so don't expect any nudity for Mr. Skin's website (MrSkin.com). Warner Sunset/Reprise is pitching the soundtrack, featuring Enya, Paula Cole, Stevie Nicks, k.d. lang and Barenaked Ladies, as a "Sleepless In Seattle" sleeper. And, as noted above, an appearance by the delightful Greg Germann. See www.sweetnovember.net for more.

"Faithless": Swedish director Ingmar Bergman has retired from the movies, so Liv Ullmann takes the torch, directing his script about an adulterous affair between an actress and her husband's best friend. You gotta admire Bergman, well into his 80s, still kicking with this steamy stuff. Hey, Woody, eat your heart out! There was a time that the arthouse crowd would flock to any Bergman film and the guy was so popular he was parodied by that famous short, "The Dove." Of course, most viewers are more familiar with him through the famous "Grim Reaper" scene in "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey," a deft parody of Bergman's "Seventh Seal." Whatever, if you like ticking clocks and creeping intimations of mortality, this is for you.

"Recess: School's Out": Disney's latest attempt to spin off some of their TV programming as they take the fourth-graders from their hit "One Saturday Morning" series and put them onto a playground straight out of "Saving Private Ryan." What's remarkable is how Nickelodeon has completely stolen the House of Mouse's thunder in this area as Eisner and company look to play catch-up. Too bad most of the audience for this is too busy trying to sneak into "Hannibal" to pay any attention. For more, see www.disney.com/recess. —Roy Trakin

Pete Yorn, "musicforthemorningafter" (Columbia):
It's been seven years since Beck formally broadened the musical palate, but hardly any of his fellow singer-songwriters has yet made much use of it—until now. On his striking debut album, New Jersey-born, L.A.-based Yorn lays a plethora of cool sounds over loops and digitized beats, but not as arbitrary flourishes—he employs them to optimize the dramatic impact of his smart, richly emotive songs. The tones and shadings Yorn favors suggest influences you wouldn't expect to find in the work of a neoclassic songwriter, some acknowledged (the shadowy axis of Joy Division and early New Order), others coincidental (New Wave icons the Only Ones—thanks, Ivana, for pointing out that one). This offbeat juxtaposition of classic songcfaft and aural adventurousness results in an album you just want to keep playing, because it continues to surprise while deepening in seductiveness. Particularly irresistible are "Strange Condition" and "For Nancy," both of which build to breathtaking climaxes through the course of each verse/chorus sequence. It's a bit early to make any grand pronouncements, but my first impression is that Yorn's album just may be the early-'00s equivalent of Matthew Sweet's early-'90s tour de force of songs, sonics and sincerity, "Girlfriend." —Bud Scoppa

Since President's Day is such a mediocre holiday—normally celebrated with mattress sales—it seems only fitting that we choose a mediocre president to celebrate. With that in mind, we offer…James Buchanan, our 15th president, was born April 23, 1791, in Cove Gap, PA. Nicknamed "Old Buck," Buchanan never married. His niece Harriet Lane served as "White House hostess." During Buchanan's administration, the table was set for the Civil War largely due to his passivity. Six weeks after Buchanan lost his re-election bid to Abraham Lincoln, South Carolina left the Union, and within a month, five other states had followed. The lame-duck Buchanan took no action against the South, which only emboldened the new Confederacy and gave seceding states time to set up a government and military. Best Anagram Of His Name: Jab ham nuances. —Jeff Drake

I'm Not Crazy—Instition! Proudly subtitled "Where the past comes to life—so we can promptly beat it to death again," The Institute of Official Cheer contains more hilarity than a single website oughta. Where to begin? Well, one can begin at the beginning, I suppose, with "The History of the Institute," and learn how a "Cupid-gelded man" formed such an illustrious (and curiously anti-Rosicrucian) establishment bent on the blocking of irony—in fact, he discovered irony in its chemical form. But there is so much more to explore on this website: The Orphanage of Cast-Off Mascots (featuring Cudahy Curly, the Quisling Pig), The Gallery of Regrettable Food, The Grooviest Motel in Wisconsin (perhaps even the world!), The Art of Art Frahm ("or, the effects of celery on loose elastic") and much, much more. There's hardly a better way to waste your time at work. —Jeff Drake

All you anal-compulsive music junkies with time to kill need to jump on your PCs RIGHT NOW and compare your fave rekkids of Y2K with the 586 rockcrits—including the noted HITS hacks Roy Trakin, David Simutis and yours truly—who cast their votes in the annual Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll.

OutKast's "art-hop" extravaganza "Stankonia" received the most votes—a mild surprise considering all the critical attention heaped upon Eminem's mega-controversial "The Marshall Mathers LP" (#4) and Radiohead's post-rock/anti-pop statement "Kid A." (#3). Veddy interesting. But what we couldn't help but notice (being trade-rag geeks) was (a) the intersection of critical acclaim and commercial success, a rarity in critics' polls of the last decade or two, and (b) the mindblowing fact that Universal Music Group's showing in the Pazz & Jop top 40—a remarkable 25%—approaches the conglom's league-leading marketshare. Actually, this phenomenon was significant enough to catch the watchful eye of the perennially provocative Robert Christgau, who's been counting critics' votes and making pronouncements about the totals for the entire 27- (or 28-) year-history of the poll. And we thought our jobs were boring.

"A full half of our [top 40] major-label albums," writes Christgau in his essay, "came from the megacorp I call UniMoth—11 in all, four of the top seven, on Interscope, Island, MCA, Motown, Giant, DreamWorks. But breaking last year's record of 14, 18 of our finishers were on independent labels, be these well-capitalized ventures by renegade bizzers from the philanthropic Danny Goldberg to the profiteering Richard Branson or tiny outfits like Le Tigre's feminist Mr. Lady or renegade bizzer Aimee Mann's DIY SuperEgo."

Actually, Bob gave UMG just a bit too much credit—Giant, as our faithful readers know, is a Warner Music Group label. But jeez, the idea that one outfit can dominate the marketplace while also getting the most critical props has gotta be some kinda coup. It just doesn't seem fair that one group has the most cake and gets to eat it too.

More interesting facts:

  • We count 10 Platinum or better albums among the top 40: Outkast, Radiohead, Eminem, #6 D'Angelo, #7 U2, #9 Jill Scott, #15 Erykah Badu, #16 Madonna, #19 Steely Dan and #29 Dr. Dre.
  • Island had two top-fivers: PJ Harvey (#2) and Shelby Lynne (#5).
  • Poll-topper OutKast (LaFace/Arista) is one of just two BMG LPs in the top 40, the other being distributed-label V2's Grandaddy (#27). We figured (hoped) we'd see ATO/RCA's David Gray among the top vote-getters, but he came in at a modest #51.
  • The highest-ranking indie act is Matador's Yo La Tengo at #8, with Mann at #11 and E Squared/ Artemis critics' darling Steve Earle at #13. Artemis also had the wild, the innocent and the E Street shuffling Marah at #21. Hip Chi-town indie Bloodshot hit a double with ex-Whiskeytowner Ryan Adams (#26) and Neko Case & Her Boyfriends (#36).
  • Unlike Christgau, we list Big Five-distributed labels like Grand Royal (#22 At The Drive-In), the aforementioned V2, Nettwerk America (#30 Coldplay) and Rawkus (#40 Talib Kweli & Hi Tek) under their respective releasing label groups, which puts our indie-label tally at 14 to the Grand Poobah's 18.
  • For the record, and with the above criterion in mind, Sony (topped by Jill Scott) and EMI had five each, while WMG (led by Madonna) had four. 10+14+5+5+4+2=40
  • Our fave rockcrit comment comes from Laura Sinagra, who writes: "To serve you better, Vertical Horizon is now Verizon." —Bud Scoppa

"Start every day with a smile and get it over with."
—W.C. Fields

Nothing: LP decided that he'd rather play golf in Palm Springs at the Urban Network shindig than do his work. So he left us with nothing. Two-way him and tell him how lame that is. Pleasebelieveit! —NOT Latin Prince

Upcoming Birthdays

Feb. 16-22
16—Sonny Bono & Ice T
17—Michael Jordan
18—John Travolta
21—Nina Simone
22—Julius "Dr. J" Irving

Special Events
February is Black History Month
17—Lantern Festival (China)
19—President's Day
22—Feast of the Incappucciati (Italy)

Three Days Off Means Three Hangovers
Yes, President's Day is a weak excuse for a holiday, but any time you get an extra day on the weekend, it's a good thing. Unless you work for a lame-ass music industry rag, and then you barely notice that there's a holiday at all, because you've been huffing paint thinner for a couple of days. Anyway, if you're not under house arrest and you live in the Los Angeles area, lucky you. Saturday and Sunday should be mostly cloudy with temps in the low 60s, dropping down to the upper 50s at night. On Monday, here comes the rain again, with similar temps. That's still better than it will be in NYC. Both Saturday and Sunday will have 25-30 mph winds, meaning the wind chill will be in the –5 to –10 range—brrrrrrr. Little matter that Saturday will be mostly cloudy and Sunday will be sunny—keep your ass inside. Monday is the day you want to venture outdoors; it'll be cloudy, with temps hovering in the upper 30s. In Hodgenville, KY, the nearest town to where Abraham Lincoln was born, the weekend will be mostly decent. Partly cloudy on Saturday and Monday, sunny on Sunday. Temps will go up each day, highs in the mid-to-upper 30s on Saturday and Sunday and mid-50s on Monday. Lows will range from the mid-teens on Saturday to the low 30s Sunday to Monday's upper 30s. Now go have another drink.
—David Simutis, apprentice meterologist.

After Natalie's first real date with a boy from neighboring Bates Academy, she receives a barrage of offers from his schoolmates who have heard she has quite a reputation.


Sometimes art and commerce are totally in sync. (3/26a)
Let's get the PARTY started. (3/26a)
Alternate title: Home Alone 3 (3/26a)
Live music on TV! (3/27a)
Giving home entertainment new meaning (3/29a)
Do you have to wear them to work?
Oh, that's a sports thing too? We just meant that we're losing our minds.
How we talk about the Coronavirus.
Can he crash on your couch?

 First Name

 Last Name


Captcha: (type the characters above)