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How can I put this? Got it: The Donna Tartt book sucks. Save your money, save your time,
save your eyes.

WEAKEND PLANNER STARTS
THE COUNTDOWN

Only Three Workdays in the Next Nine;
Then We Hit the Home Stretch, Kids
Are we having fun yet? The best thing most of us can say about 2002, the latest offering of this sorry century, is that it's almost over. While there's an inarguable irony attached to a holiday named Thanksgiving in a year like this one, we can certainly be thankful to have fought our way through it. Now the good news: From the vantage point of this weekend, all that much-anticipated time off is spread out in front of us, so close that we can almost taste it. Bon appetit.

WEAKEND POPCULT TOP 10
1. Sigur Ros at the Wiltern Theatre, L.A.: These Icelandic explorers make Radiohead sound like a dance band and Coldplay a punk-rock group. Traditional only in their guitar-bass-keyboards-drums lineup, the quartet, backed by the Amina all-female string quartet, creates a riveting sound that goes from a whisper to a scream. Lead singer Jon Thor Birgisson’s ethereal vocals come across like Grace Slick meets Klaus Nomi, while his bowed guitar gives the music its rumbling bottom. The gibberish, made-up language, dubbed Hopelandish by the band, sounds just this side of intelligible, with phrases like “shine a light,” “asylum” and “it’s you” echoing over a wall of sound that puts the prog back in prog-rock and are more expressive than most singer-songwriters composing in English. Lest you think it’s all too highbrow, last year’s Shortlist winners prove to have melodies from here to Reykjavik. The group evokes the grandeur of “The Court of the Crimson King” and Pink Floyd, the underwater immersion flow of the new Beck and the avant-harmonic feedback of Glenn Branca and Mercury Rev. If they adopted a state-of-the-art laser show, these Norse gods of thunder could be playing arenas before they know it. —RT

2. Shaq comes baq: The Lakers’ humbling 3-9 start, suffered while the Big Rehabilitator recovered from surgery on the Big Toe, serves as a dispiriting reminder to fans of the three-time NBA champs what it feels like to root for , say, the Heat, the Grizzlies, the Warriors, the Knicks or, sad to say, the Clippers. But with Shaquille O’Neal expected to make his return tonight at Staples against the Bulls, we’re about to find out how big a difference one (huge and athletic) man can make to a struggling, frequently pathetic-looking team. The Big Difference… That’ll work, assuming Shaq can get them to 55-60 wins in the 70 regular-season games left. —BS

3. George Harrison, Brainwashed (Dark Horse/Capitol): Not surprisingly, death has proved a liberating force for this longtime student of Eastern religion, as the normally taciturn Quiet Beatle comes out with his most powerful, revealing set since the epic All Things Must Pass. Harrison’s guitar gently weeps, offering glimpses of his love of country-folk (“Any Road”), rockabilly (“P2 Vatican Blues [Last Saturday Night]”), slide (the instrumental “Marwa Blues”) and ukelele (on the music hall standard “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”). His voice seems to come from beyond on “Stuck Inside a Cloud,” which eerily evokes one of those videotaped wills, while “Brainwashed” is a tongue-in-cheek rant against the modern world in the style of “Piggies” and “Taxman.” Like the Japanese maples he tended to as a gardener in his final years, these songs were planted as seeds, then lovingly nurtured to full flower by longtime collaborator Jeff Lynne and son Dhani. —RT

4 Arnie Morton’s opens a restaurant in Burbank: My first Arnie Morton’s experience (never been to the one on LaCienega) was puzzling on several counts. Why did they choose to put a steak house on the ground floor of a generic modern office building? The bright lighting and blasting AC vents don’t add much to the ambiance, either. Why do they wheel around a cart full of raw meat to each table, then ceremonially exhibit it slab by slab, along with a live lobster, its antennae wiggling forlornly? Is that supposed to be appetizing? And where do they get the nerve to charge 35 bucks for a steak—excluding side dishes? Too rich, and too raw, for my blood. (The porterhouse was tasty, though.) If the place survives in this spot, it’ll most likely live off of NBC, Warner Bros. and Disney corporate plastic at lunchtime. —BS

5. Burger King Man: This festive rendition of "Carol of the Bells" recasts the holiday classic as fast-food anthem. Lifelike mouth animation not quite worthy of South Park helps draw the viewer into the world of the flame-broiled Whopper chef, paper hat and all. A fitting tribute to those whose elbow grease fuels the drive-thru grease ’n’ gristle industry as the joy of the holiday season approaches. Would you like an apple pie with that? —JO

6. Jill Kushner, Letters to Marissa Scarifoni: We’ll let you in on a secret: Pound for pound, inch for inch, Jill is the funniest person in the HITS cesspool. Along with her standup work, she has this one-woman show, which recently played to full houses for two uproarious performances at Hollywood's McCadden Place Theatre. Marissa, on the surface, chronicles an obsessive's notes to a long-lost friend, but Kushner uses this formula as a platform for a hilarious series of riffs on family, anxiety, sexuality and other sources of mortification. It's a tour de force from a gifted comic mind; keep your eye peeled for the revival. SG/BS

7. Donna Tartt, The Little Friend (Alfred A. Knopf): How can I put this? Got it: The book sucks. Save your money, save your time, save your eyes. —LB

8. Various artists, Plen: The History of the Attack Hamster 1977-2002: Veteran promo executive Michael Plen has put together a novel resume to showcase his 25 years in the biz. This CD links together the hooks to songs he’s been involved in promoting, from his days as a college rep at A&M in 1977 through his 15-year stint at Virgin. It starts with Styx’s “Blue Collar Man” and the Police’s “Roxanne,” includes his years at IRS (from Buzzcocks’ “Orgasm Addict” through Lords of the New Church’s “Like a Virgin”) and his amazing run at Virgin (remember Cutting Crew’s “[I Just] Died in Your Arms” or T’Pau’s “Heart and Soul”?). All that’s missing is Pigs on Korn’s rendition of “They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Ha.” To get your copy, e-mail [email protected], or better yet, give him a holler at (310) 435-1812. —RT

9. Your own sci-fi soundtrack: Quite by accident, I recently came upon BBC Online’s “Virtual Theremin,” a quaint desktop device that simulates the sonic properties of the weirdest-sounding musical instrument ever (you know, that high-pitched, oscillating sound from ‘50s science-fiction movies that sounds like a robot opera singer). Appearing as a musical “professor” on a quaint old TV screen, the app—downloadable for PC and Mac—permits users to manipulate the tone and pitch of the Theremin simulator; you can also turn on dope-sounding loops of beats, bass and keyboards. As an on-screen timesuck, it sure beats Solitaire. —SG

10. Walking the dog: There's something about moving at a dog's pace, with a dog's excitement (OK, I have a cocker spaniel) that sets the world to a whole different rhythm. You see the leaves turning, the grass struggling to not be washed away, the kids on the swing set and the folks struggling to get to those tennis balls. Draw that fresh air in-and know it's good to be alive. And if you're sucking up to the snoop, Shark Cartilage Treats. Good for the bones! —HG

TRAKIN’S PICKS TO FLICK
Die Another Day
(MGM)
Concept: Bond, James Bond returns once again, marking Pierce Brosnan’s fourth turn as 007, with the suave super-agent taking on yet another megalomaniac bent on world destruction. Advance word says this is the best Bond in awhile.
Stars: Brosnan, Halle Berry is Bond girl Jinx, Toby Stephens as the bad guy, with John Cleese as Q and Judi Dench as M.
Director:
New Zealand’s Lee Tamahori is best-known for his Maori thriller Once Were Warriors and American efforts Along Came a Spider and Mulholland Falls.
Thumbs Up: Tamahori’s direction is said to make this the most furiously paced Bond ever.
Thumbs Down: Will Brosnan look old-fashioned as an action hero next to the likes of Vin Diesel and Mike Meyers?
Soundtrack: The WB soundtrack features the Madonna title track, a Paul Oakenfold remix of the Bond theme and an original score composed by David Arnold.
Website: www.dieanotherday.com is the big-budget version of a website, compolete with image and video galleries, news and a link to a special 40th anniversary site.

The Emperor’s Club (Universal Pictures)
Concept: Dead Poet’s Society meets Mr. Holland’s Opus crossed with Goodbye Mr. Chips, with Kevin Klein as a classics prep school professor trying to educate his rebellious students.
Stars: Kline, Emile Hirsch, Patrick Dempsey, Rob Morrow, Edward Herrmann, Roger Rees, Harris Yulin.
Director: Michael Hoffman
(Soapdish, One Fine Day)
Thumbs Up:
Kline ages before our eyes, gets to chew scenery.
Thumbs Down: Once you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the movie.
Soundtrack: The Varese Sarabande album features original score composed by James Newton Howard.
Website:
www.theemperorsclub.com offers one more view of the trailer, in case you missed it.

The Friday After Next (New Line)
Concept: In this comic sequel to the successful Friday series, Ice Cube and Mike Epps play a pair of shopping mall security guards who learn some lessons about Christmas.
Stars: Cube, Epps, John Witherspoon, Don “D.C.” Curry, Anna Maria Horsford.
Director: Marcus Raboy, with a screenplay by Ice Cube and DJ Pooh
Thumbs Up: Always worth a few stoned laughs.
Thumbs Down: Unfortunately, you probably have to be high to fully appreciate it.
Soundtrack: The Hollywood Records album features holiday-oriented tracks by Westside Connection, Run-DMC, Tupac, Slave, tha Dog Pound, Snoop Doggy Dog (“Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto”), Swizz Beatz/Nas, Faith Evans/Jay-Z, Krazie Bone, Flipmode Squad, Rockwilder and the Temptations.
Website: www.Fridayafternext.com offers you a music video, a trailer, soundtrack information and the ability to purchase tickets.

The Quiet American (Miramax)
Concept: Adaptation of the Graham Greene novel about a cynical, opium-addicted Englishman and an innocent American CIA operative in Vietnam in the early ‘50s.
Stars: Michael Caine, Brendan Fraser, Do Thi Hai Yen.
Director: Australian Philip Noyce (Dead Calm, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) looks to update the 1958 version by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
Thumbs Up: Much-delayed release date hastened by rave reviews at Toronto film festival.
Thumbs Down: Will anti-American themes still hold up in today’s post-9/11 world?
Soundtrack: The Varese Sarabande album features original score by techno whiz Craig Armstrong.
Website: The Weinsteins can’t be too high on this one… The film’s not even included on the www.Miramax.com website.

Adam Sandler’s 8 Crazy Nights (Columbia) (11/27)
Concept: Animated comedy about a party animal sentenced to doing community service as a youth basketball referee.
Stars: The voices of Adam Sandler, Kevin Nealon, Rob Schneider, Norm Crosby, Jon Lovitz, Tyra Banks
Director: Seth Kearsley
Thumbs Up:
At last, a holiday movie with a Hanukah theme.
Thumbs Down: Isn’t Sandler a cartoon to begi with?
Soundtrack: The Columbia Records soundtrack includes Sandler’s new version of his popular “Chanuka Song.”
Website: www.EightCrazyNights.com offers a lively intro and a tour of the town of Dukesberry, where you can access a series of “webisodes.”

Solaris (Fox) (11/27)
Concept: Remake of director Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 Russian film (also being re-released this week) based on the 1961 sci-fi novel by Stanislaw Lem about occupants of a space station who experience an unsettling dementia. Described by director Steven Soderbergh as “2001 meets Last Tango in Paris.”
Stars: George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Jeremy Davies, Viola Davis.
Director:
Soderbergh (who also wrote the screenplay); produced by James Cameron
Thumbs Up:
Top director, top cast, reported glimpse of Clooney’s naked butt; has to be better than Full Frontal.
Thumbs Down: Wish it were McElhone’s naked butt. Will it be more Schizopolis than Aliens ?
Soundtrack: None
Website: www.Solaristhemovie.com allows you to explore the space station and learn about the movie.

Wes Craven Presents: They (Dimension)
Concept
: Craven as the modern-day Hitchcock returns to Elm Street with this psychological thriller about a grad student who keeps returning to the chilling nightmares she had as a child, only to discover—don’t tell me—they might be real.
Stars: None.
Director: Robert Harmon (the 1985 cult film The Hitcher; this is his first since 1993 Van Damme vehicle Nowhere to Run)
Thumbs Up: There’s a Bunuelian surrealism to the TV spots that mirrors Craven’s love of plumbing the depths of the subconscious.
Thumbs Down: Scary Movie has made it impossible to watch anything like this with a straight face, as if you ever could.
Soundtrack: None
Website: www.theymovie.com
suggests childhood fears can lead to adult schizophrenia as it allows you to clinically dissect the film’s story. Kinda creepy.
Roy Trakin

AN IVORY POUNDER
Ben Folds, Ben Folds Live (Epic):
Taking to the road playing just his trusty Baldwin piano, solo Folds proves to be the godfather of both emo and the big brother of John Mayer in a retrospective set that accentuates the interaction with his adoring fans. Autobiographical songs like “Army” and “Brick” come off best in this setting, while the cover of Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” packs the emotional wallop of Almost Famous. A true entertainer in the mode of Billy Joel or Randy Newman, the former drummer’s percussive attack on the keyboards manages to give the piano back its seminal role in rock. It would be a real mistake to take this one-time wonder boy for granted in the rush to anoint the next big pop tunesmith. —RT

A SMART-ASS ROMANTIC
Dolour, Suburbiac (Fugitive):
The pure-pop underground is bustling these days; the problem is there’s too much latter-day Eric Carmen and not enough Runt. That why the emergence of Seattle-based Shane Tutmarc is so welcome. A multi-instrumentalist and pop savant with the high-cheekbones and fluffy locks of an old-time pop idol, Tutmarc composes silky melodies that consistently resolve into delectable hooks, but his lyrics demonstrate that he’s a smart-ass as well as a romantic, rendering his band’s second album (but first on the radar) virtually sap-free. The Titanic collides with Bjork in “Iceland,” the singer suggests a radical resolution to a lovers’ triangle in “Menage a Trois” (which also features a stained dress) and in the title song, he laments, “Kissing you is like getting high on someone else’s drugs.” His sonic ambition exceeds his budget at times, but the strain of maxing out the tracks’ symphonic blueprints results in an effect that is endearing rather than disappointing—a sort of nostalgia for the future. The album climaxes with the lovely lament, “Too Old for Fantasy”; Tutmarc is all of 21. Bud Scoppa

GUY WITH THE GOGGLES' NFL PICKS OF THE WEEK
New York Giants 5 1/2 at Houston
Holy Bud Adams—these here ain’t the Oilers, and these fer dang sure ain’t the Bill Parcells New York Giants. Shore, the Giants is gonna win this game, but dang, if they score two touchdowns, it’s a scorin’ outbreak fer them. I gots to believe the danged ol’ Texans kin score 10 points, and iffn they do, it’s a danged ol’ win. I’ll take Houston and 5 .

Indianapolis +6 at Denver
Guess whut? The danged ol’ Broncos are having to use 52-year-old Steve Buerlein at QB. Guess whut? He’s better than the guy they been startin’, Bob Griese Jr. The danged ol’ Colts not only are they not gonna win this game, they lose in the big picture cuz they ain’t comin’ to L.A. either. Thee danged ol’ Colts is pretenders; I’ll take the Broncos and give the 6. —Guy W.T. Goggles.
(Year to date: 11-7)

THE RENO DUET
By Lisa Teasley
OK, we’ll come clean. We don’t actually own this serialized story, we just sort of borrowed it—and now we have to give it back. This is the final chapter we’ll be running on the site. To our readers who’ve been following along, please go to http://www.lisateasley.com/, the provocative narrative’s actual home. And please let us know if you want it to return. Many thanks to Lisa for sharing.

15)
Ursula
: Yucca Street is as hellish in the daylight as it is at night. Trash all over the sidewalk. Don’t know how Pennie can stand living on a street full of dealers, addicts and strawberries. Cops don’t care, drive on by making sure it stays contained where they want it to. Kids all over the street, selling their bodies. Where are their mothers?

Hope he’s waiting in front like I asked him to. Day he does something I ask him to do, is the day I fly to my plot on the moon.

 

Penguin: Why you have to honk? Can’t you ever come upstairs and see my place?

 

Ursula: I don’t have all day, Pennie, get in the car. Can’t believe you won’t even tell me your real name.

 

Penguin: Okay, it’s Ernest. And why you talkin’ to me like that?

 

Ursula: Ernest.

 

Penguin: Yeah, Ernest. And don’t wear it out.

 

And don’t laugh!

 

DENISE'S WEAKEND COCKTAIL
Some of you might be curious (a lot of you might give a shit less) about the escapade I “proposed” for last weekend. Well, I would love to report what happened, but I must keep it on the “down low” right now. I’ve had a very interesting week—that’s all I can say. Last night was the night that all of us pathetic females have been anxiously awaiting—the season finale of The Bachelor. We’re all free to enjoy our Wednesday nights once again, maybe even go out on a date or two and enjoy being single. The whole Bachelor phenomenon has taken over the females of the HITS office. We’re obsessed, even the unlikeliest of co-workers are addicted to the crying and cattiness. As it turns out, the bachelor picked the brainy brunette over the bubbly blonde. As he dropped to his knee to propose to the last beauty remaining from his harem, I found the hopeless romantic in me jumping for joy. This proves once again that I’m desperately in need of counseling or a good romp in the sack—you decide. It was much more fun when I hated the show. My cocktail of the week is dedicated to the place where all of us desire to be.

Between the Sheets
1 oz. Remy Martin cognac
1 oz. Cointreau
1 oz. Bacardi light rum
Dash lemon juice
Shake with ice and strain into a sugar-rimmed glass

The question I really want to ask is—what if Aaron really sucks in bed? Then he’s not such a great catch. Yes, he may be rich, charming and not bad on the eyes (although he’s not my type—I like the poor and unavailable), but if he doesn’t know how to work it, you’re screwed—or not. Even worse, what if he’s hung more like a mouse than a man? If that’s the case, then you’re stuck with quite a few inches short of the perfect man. I think his bedroom antics should be tested during the casting process. If these women are inflicting public humiliation upon themselves, then they should at least rest assured that he’s bringing an Italian sausage to the table, not a cocktail weenie. 

De’s L.A. bar pick of the week: All of this talk about cocktail weenies has gotten me thinking about my pick of the week, the Pig ’N Whistle on Hollywood Blvd. No, I’m not saying that the men who frequent this establishment are less than blessed in their lower regions, instead, the name makes me think of those gourmet delights, pigs in a blanket, which makes me think of cocktail weenies. This joint has gotten a face-lift, like many of the people who go there. They have multiple choices of beer on tap and an awesome outside patio area, which affords you the always-entertaining opportunity of people-watching on Hollywood Blvd. Ladies—now that your Wednesday nights are free again, grab some girlfriends, a beer, a patio table and partake in a guessing game as to which passersby are cocktail weenies and which are Italian sausages, then test your theory.

De’s diss of the week: NO WEENIES ALLOWED! At least no bending and twisting of them. My ill-fated diss of the week is not a bar, but instead an attempt at theater. Puppetry of the Penis, at the Coronet Theatre, has gotten tons of media coverage, but that doesn’t say anything about the quality of entertainment you’re going to experience. If you enjoy watching out-of-shape men play with themselves, then this show is what you’ve been wishing for. Five minutes of genital origami is about five minutes too much for the rest of us.

I think you should know that I’ve been feeling a little neglected lately, so e-mail me at the link below with your praises, suggestions, dating dilemmas, questions or basically anything to give me mail in my inbox. Until next week—hugs and kisses. Denise Bayles

Contributors: Kevin Badami, Denise Bayles, Lenny Beer, Karen Glauber, Holly Gleason, Simon Glickman, Guy W.T. Goggles, Mike Morrison, Jon O'Hara, Lisa Teasley, Roy Trakin

Editor: Bud Scoppa

REVENUE CHART:
RAINING CATS & DOGS
Starring Doja Cat, Nipper and Ms. Larry David (5/13a)
RECORDING ACADEMY LOCKS IN HARVEY MASON JR. AS CEO
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. (5/14a)
TIME TRAVELING
WITH CLIVE (UPDATE)
Beam us up, Uncle Clive. (5/13a)
ROCK HALL INDUCTEES:
NEW & OVERDUE
Todd gets in. Finally. (5/13a)
KG's HOT ALT SUMMER
She also reviews the best outdoor Bluetooth speakers. (5/13a)
RHYTHM, BLUES AND THE FUTURE
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
WHO'S NEXT?
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
JUST THE VAX, MA'AM
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
WORLDWIDE GROOVE
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?
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