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In a nutshell:
"The absence of 'The Sopranos'
has been... characterized by the algebraic logic of rhyme, reason and...incredible ape makeup...sorta like last year’s pot-planting...pair of Siamese twins...so fierce, so merciless, so full of...Moldy Peaches...polyester suits and... compressed air."
IT’S NOT THE HEAT,
IT’S THE WEAK-END PLANNER
Where We Answer All Of Life’s Complex Questions, Not Directly Or Cogently, But With Grunts And Hand Signals
July is fading—like a comic book left in a front window display at a store that specializes in comics, role-playing games and figurines. Oh sure, they’ve got pogs here. You have to look hard for ‘em—they’re in that air conditioner box that’s been turned into a "Priced To Move" bin—but they’re still there. You may have to really dig to find the good pogs, but…well…um, anyway, like we said: July is fading. Ready to take its place is August—hot, reliable August. Weeks ago, we tried to tell you that July was on the outs and that August was making its move, but you didn’t believe us, did you? Oh no, you said, July loved you. July would never leave. July told you this time it was forever. But wake up and smell the coffee, my friend. July is packing its bags. It's taking the photo albums, half the CD collection and those collectible spoons you love so much. You know the ones we’re talking about. The ones from all those great places you visited: Niagara Falls, Mount Rushmore, Omaha. Kiss that collection goodbye, amigo, coz it’s walkin’ out the door! Hmmmm. We’re terribly sorry for the jumbled nature of this introduction. We’ve been working really hard, putting in long hours cranking out both a magazine and a website. Maybe we should just check ourselves into a hospital. Yeah, that’s the ticket. We could blame it on "extreme exhaustion." People will believe it once they hear the phone messages we’ve left.

HEAVEN ON EARTH
Six Feet Under
(HBO):
The absence of The Sopranos has been tempered somewhat by the substitution of the hour-and-a-half that starts with Sex and the City and concludes with this macabre dramedy from American Beauty screenwriter Alan Ball (but, sorry, not Arli$$). I wasn't a huge fan of Beauty, but I did appreciate its mordant view of the not-so-discreet charm of the bourgeoisie, which is similarly seen through the funhouse mirror of Six Feet Under. Though it might not seem that the inner workings of a family funeral business in L.A. would be something you could relate to, the characterizations are uniformly real, complex and messy—as only reality can be. Young Lauren AmbroseMy So-Called Life's Claire Danes crossed with Christina Ricci, but even more alienated—and sexy Aussie Rachel Griffiths, as a sexually liberated but still hopelessly neurotic Mensa type, are the standouts, but every role is etched with absolute honesty. Peter Krause, who seemed smarmy in Sports Night, is right-on here as the ne'er-do-well, scruffy brother who has returned after his father's death to take his rightful place in the family business, alongside his neurotic, closeted sibling, played by Michael C. Hall. The latter gives a subtly fine performance filled with nuance and heartbreaking repression. Frances Conroy exudes some inner sensuality in her role as the matriarch, who was carrying on an affair with her hairdresser at the time of her husband's death and is about to enter a flirtation with a Russian florist. While the concept sounds broad, it's done with absolute drop-dead perfect comic timing, with whiteout fades replacing the traditional blackouts. And the whole embalming theme, with Freddy Rodriguez as the Michelangelo of dressing up the dead for display, is pretty fascinating. Plus, last week had the greatest bong-smoking episode this side of Jackie Brown. Where Ball's homosexual view of heterosexual relationships was a little heavy-handed in American Beauty, the episodic structure of this HBO series allows him to fill in the blanks with the precision of an autopsy. —Roy Trakin

BUDDHA OF COOL
Nick Lowe, The Convincer (Yep Roc):
Even before his New Wave-era heyday as a solo artist and producer, Lowe demonstrated his fluency in American roots forms as the leader of seminal pub-rock band Brinsley Schwarz. But starting in 1994, with the release of The Impossible Bird, Lowe has been paring his recorded performances down to the essentials—a good song, a reliable voice and the hint of a groove—with subtle but striking results. On The Convincer, he’s treading the common ground of unadulterated country and soul, where the songs are situational and characterized by the algebraic logic of rhyme, reason and melodic resolution. In his middle years, Lowe has become a master of this specialized (and largely dormant) idiom, which is at once witty and tormented, and as formal as the sonnet or the haiku. Indeed, "Has She Got a Friend," "Only a Fool Breaks His Own Heart," "I’m a Mess" and "Let’s Stay In and Make Love," among others, display a level of songcraft worthy of Smokey Robinson or Merle Haggard. That said, the wily veteran understands that, at certain moments—like the payoff of Johnny Rivers’ "Poor Side of Town," which he deftly covers—no words could possibly be as meaningful as "Doot-doo-doo-wah, shooby-dooby."—Bud Scoppa

TRAKIN’S PICKS TO FLICK
Planet of the Apes
(Fox):
Saw this at a media screening earlier this week, and I gotta say, I was a little disappointed. Tim Burton’s re-imagining doesn’t really add much to the original, outside of Rick Baker’s incredible ape makeup, which, while good, is still an uneasy cross between the Grinch and Chewbacca. The movie’s never boring, which is more than I can say for either of Burton’s last two outings, Mars Attacks! and Sleepy Hollow, but it never really takes off either. Mark Wahlberg is rather bland in the lead—he’s no Charlton Heston (whose cameo appearance as a simian patriarch generates one of the film’s few laughs when he utters his patented line from the first movie, "Damn them all to hell," this time referring to humans). Supermodel (and Driven eye candy) Estella Warren’s chief job is looking sultry while jealously eyeing the developing relationship between Wahlberg and cute apewoman Helena Bonham Carter. The soundstage set is kinda artificial and cheesy, which is probably why most of the scenes are shot at night. The only humor comes from the great Paul Giamatti (Pig Vomit from Howard Stern’s Private Parts and son of the late baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti, who suspended Pete Rose from baseball) doing schtick as an obsequious orangatun human slave trader named Limbo. Tim Roth is snarlingly mean as chief villain Thade, who gets heated up to a fever pitch, rolling his eyes back in his head and snorting whenever it comes to discussing the hated humans, but there’s little real menace conjured up. There’s precious little humor either, and a supposed love scene between Wahlberg and Carter ended up on the cutting room floor (for all you bestiality fans out there). The celebrated Twilight Zone ending stands the original Statue of Liberty surprise on its head but doesn’t really make sense. Yeah, it’s a popcorn-munching no-brainer of a summer thrill ride, but I expected much more from Burton. Suffice to say, it’s no A.I., which may please the majority of people who didn’t respond to that ambitious flick. The Danny Elfman score, which is also surprisingly generic, is available on Sony Classical, while the comprehensive website, complete with downloads, screensavers and ape trading cards, can be accessed at www.planetoftheapes.com.

Greenfingers (Samuel Goldwyn): A genial English comedy about convicts who discover a prodigious talent for gardening while in prison, starring Clive Owen, the British actor who received raves for his role in last year’s Mike Hodge-directed Croupier. Veteran English actress Helen Mirren co-stars as a connoisseur who sponsors the prisoners in a prestigious flower show. The movie was written and directed by Brooklyn-born Joel Hershman, who was inspired by an article in the N.Y. Times about the gardening triumphs of inmates at a progressive British corrections facility. The movie was co-produced by Sting’s wife Trudie Styler. The website, www.greenfingersmovie.com, tells you everything you might want to know about the movie’s costumes and locations, as well as suggesting some botanical sites to visit. From the trailers, this one looks kind of amusing, in a Brit kind of way, sorta like last year’s pot-planting comedy, Saving Grace. Could be clever counter-programming to the end-of-summer action-blockbuster glut before it goes straight to video.

Jackpot (Sony Pictures Classic): A kind of poor man’s Coen brothers, director Michael and screenwriter Mark Polish follow up their previous film, Twin Falls, Idaho, which was about a pair of Siamese twins, with this flick, starring Jon Gries, ex-Saturday Night Live star Garrett Morris and Daryl Hannah. It’s a road comedy about an aspiring country singer (Gries) who abandons his beautiful wife (Hannah) and family to set out on a nine-month tour with his trusty road manager (Morris) in their vintage 1983 pink Chrysler. Like the brothers’ first movie, this one’s named after a town, Jackpot, NV, and is the first of a trilogy whose next installment will be Northfork. The picture, which was shot with the same model digital camera used by George Lucas for the new Star Wars movie, also features Adam Baldwin, Crystal Bernard, Mac Davis, Anthony Edwards and Peggy Lipton. The C&W soundtrack on Milan includes the film’s ongoing leitmotif, George Jones’ "Grand Tour," alongside Patsy Cline’s "Sweet Dreams," Bobby Hebb’s "Sunny," Grandaddy’s "He’s Simple" and Stuart Matthewman’s original score. The evocative website can be found at http://www.sonyclassics.com/jackpot/index_launch.html.
—Roy Trakin

LP’Z PS2 GAME OF THA WEEK
Rugby2002:
Rugby is tha sport concerned parents should remind themselves of when they send their sons off to football—"Well, at least he'z not playing rugby." Contact sports don't get much more physical than rugby. Good thing too—tha dental industry makes enuff money. So fierce, so merciless, so full of brute force, it'z only fitting that rugby makes itz American gaming debut on tha PlayStation 2, tha system with tha true furious power to play this game! Rugby2002 takes all of tha roughhouse action from tha turf and puts it on tha screen for intense football of a different kind. While pure aggression/rage iz tha name of tha game, genuine ruggers get their due with a game studded with tha EA Sports trademarks. Official teams featuring some of today's rowdiest rugby players from across tha globe are put through championship matches in international stadiums like Murrayfield and Auckland…& how duz LP know this? Cuz I’m a fukkin PIMP! All tha players are proportioned with accurate height, weight & skill stats (such as tackling, kicking, stamina), and they're ready to play with full-up rugby moves like grubber kicks, dummy passes, tackles and pile-on rucks and mauls! Lace up for some dirty, unruly skirmishing and join tha scrum! —Latin Prince

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"Ain’t no man can avoid being born average, but there ain’t no man got to be common." —Satchel Paige

VALLEY VISTAS
Roach Clipping:
Out and about in the Valley this weekend? Do you dig blues and old-school soul? Then stop by Cozy's (14058 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; 818-986-6000) and check out Cafe R&B, which is distinguished mainly by the vocal power of frontwoman Roach, a siren of the first order. The band cooks nicely as well, mixing high-voltage originals with some smart covers. But ya gotta see Roach when she's belting—a HITS blurb once described as sounding like "Etta James riding a Harley out of an active volcano." Yeah, it was my blurb, but I meant it. Sat. night (7/28) at 9:45; tickets $10 at the door. —Simon Glickman

A NEW YORK MINUTE
It’s the Pits:
If you only go to one show this year, make it Peaches, Taylor Savvy and the Moldy Peaches at Bowery Ballroom this Friday. The Moldy Peaches can be summed up with one of their song titles—"Who's Got the Crack?" Taylor Savvy (who changes outfits about three times during his set) is the labelmate of Peaches, who'll get you all hot and bothered with her songs "Diddle My Skittle" and "Cum Undun."… Reports that Guided by Voices canceled their tour due to their drummer breaking his hand are only half-true. Their drummer did break his hand, but rumor has it that Superchunk's Jon Wurster will be filling in, so they'll still be able to make their Maxwell’s gig on Saturday… Fans of Kiki & Herb will adore Margarita Pracatan. She starts her month-long residency at Fez this Sunday. The Cuban song-butcher is a mix of flashy plastic rhinestone jewelry, polyester suits and a healthy dose of speed.
—Heidi Ann-Noel

PRESIDENTIAL FACT OF THE WEEK
James K. Polk, our 11th president, was born Nov. 2, 1795, in Mecklenburg County, NC. Often referred to as the first "dark horse" president, Polk became one of the strongest and most successful presidents of the 19th century. While campaigning, Polk publicly asserted that Texas should be "re-annexed" and all of Oregon "re-occupied." Even before he could take office, Congress passed a joint resolution offering annexation to Texas, thus precipitating a war with Mexico. After beating the Mexican army into submission in 1847, Polk got what he wanted with the annexation of California and New Mexico (the latter of which included present-day Arizona, southern Colorado, southern Utah and southern Nevada). California was the most valuable acquisition, and in December 1848, Polk announced that gold had been discovered there. Shortly after the end of his term, Polk settled into a quiet retirement in Nashville, he fell ill only three months after leaving office and died there on June 15, 1849. Best Anagram of His Name (without the middle K): Psalm joke.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR!
Upcoming Birthdays
July 27-Aug. 2
27—Leo Durocher (would have been 96)
28—Rudy Valee (would have been 100)
30—Buddy Guy (65) & Laurence Fishburne (50)
31—Evonne Goolagong (50)
1—Jerry Garcia (would have been 59)
2—James Baldwin (would have been 77) & Peter O’Toole (68)

Special Events
28—Central Maine Egg Festival (Pittsfield, ME)
29—Tisha B’Av & Procession of the Witches (Beselare, Belgium)
Aug. 1—Lammas

CURIOUS NEWS STORY OF THE WEEK
Better, Stronger, Faster:
Scientists at Japan's Kanagawa Institute of Technology have developed a bionic suit to help prevent back injuries suffered by nurses while lifting heavy patients. Every year more than 3,000 nurses in Britain take time off because of back problems, according the Royal College of Nursing. Reporting on the computer-operated Power Assist Suit, New Scientist wrote on Wednesday (7/25), "Sensor pads taped to the major muscle groups calculate how much force you need to pick up a patient. As you lift, the sensors send data to a microcomputer that triggers the business end of the system—a bunch of concertina-like limb and body actuators powered by compressed air." A commercial version of the suit will cost about $1,700 and could be available in two years. Early tests of a prototype allowed a nurse weighing 141 pounds to lift a patient weighing 154 pounds, to run as fast as a cheetah and to see great distances—all accompanied by a cool na-na-na-na-na-na noise. —Jeff Drake

YOUR WEAK-END WEATHER
With a Shout-Out to Former TV Weatherman Mark Feather:
One of the nice things about global warming: hot babes, less clothes—’nuff said. With that in mind, please note that, at the current rate of global warming, ocean temperatures are rising, prompting more shark attacks, and your skin will melt off of your bones in six-to-eight weeks. Thanks, Dubya. This weekend, if you’re thinking of heading to Denver for the Area: One Music Festival—and I’m not—Friday night will be partly cloudy, with an isolated thunderstorm or two and a low in the low 60s. Saturday will be partly cloudy with a high near 90 and lows in the mid-60s. Sunday will be a carbon copy. On the East Coast, New York Post and other tabloid paparazzi will endure partly cloudy skies, with highs in the upper 70s and lows in the mid-to-upper-60s as they stalk their latest targets. Sunday will see scattered showers late. Here in Los Angeles, the weekend won’t be quite as perfect as usual—highs in the low 80s, lows in the low 60s, but humidity is on the rise, so look for some stickiness. For God’s sake, people, go to the beach. —David Simutis, Senior Meteorology Correspondent

"FACTS OF LIFE" SUMMARY FOR THE WEEK
Tootie is hurt when her best friend Natalie becomes preoccupied with a new boyfriend.

A TICKING HITS LIST
Surely you have the time to take a look. (8/7a)
THE GREAT CATALOG GOLD RUSH
Is mining the past the future? (8/10a)
TIKTOK RESPONDS TO TRUMP'S BAN
The kids are not alright with Trump. (8/7a)
POP SMOKE GAINS, DABABY LEADS OUR SONG CHART
And the streams just keep on coming. (8/7a)
THE BABE & THE MULE
Interscope's co-MVPs (8/7a)
BTS BRINGS IT
They're so dreamy.
VOTE BY MAIL
It's a conspiracy, because everyone does it.
IS IT CHRISTMAS?
No, but we're thinking about cookies.
WOKE MUSIC
Protest songs that sound like now.
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