If the politically correct police keep intruding on our culture, there will be nothing spontaneous left, with every Howard Dean-like outburst monitored and analyzed until it’s reduced to so much psychobabble. In a Big Brother atmosphere like that, you’ve gotta be subversive to survive...


A Shout Out to Those Who Won’t Be Shut Up, but Battle the Gatekeepers, from Radio Activity and City of God to Los Lobos, Go Betty Go, Public Enemy and Mel Gibson
With the media still wringing its hands over what is or isn’t appropriate, the censors are now threatening to pull the plug on premium satellite programming like HBO. There goes our freedom to pay $15 a month to see nudity and violence and hear obscenities in our own homes. The bluenoses and sanctimonious are gonna drive us back to the days of pulling on our raincoats and heading for the local "art" theater. Even something as innocuous as OutKast’s Native American routine for "Hey Ya!" on the Grammys has publicists scrambling to offer apologies to offended special interest groups. If the politically correct police keep intruding on our culture, there will be nothing spontaneous or real left, with every Howard Dean-like outburst reproduced and analyzed until it’s reduced to so much psychobabble. In a Big Brother atmosphere like that, you’ve gotta be subversive to survive and get your message across, which makes the following diversions all the more notable for their willingness to tweak the establishment by cloaking dangerous ideas in accessible genre guise.

1. Bill Fitzhugh, Radio Activity (William Morrow/Harper Collins): A breezy satirical mystery that recalls both the pop-wise patter of Carl Hiaasen and the obscurantist rants of Bob Lefsetz. After taking on the country music world in his last book, Fender Benders, Fitzhugh tells the story of a washed-up classic-rock DJ who stumbles upon, and tries to solve amateur sleuth-style, a small-town scandal involving the sleazy GM of sub-tertiary Mississippi radio station WAOR, where he has landed an end-of-the-line job. The author, through his main character, Rick Shannon, laments the passing of the golden age of FM radio into a post-consolidation broadcast world where music choice has been taken out of the hands of PDs (the monolith is called Clean Signal here), with more than a few meditations on the perfect on-air thematic segue. The plot plays out a little too predictably, but anyone who can digress into a discussion of how many British rock songs were inspired by Patti ("Layla") and sister Jenny Boyd ("Jennifer Juniper") or the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of Bobby Fuller is alright in my book. And while Fitzhugh evinces both noirish cynicism and fin de siecle resignation, Shannon never completely abandons hope, with his last request a song by the artist whose name he adopts as his detective pseudonym, Buddy Miles' "Them Changes." (Roy Trakin)

2. City of God (Miramax): This Brazilian film, reminiscent of both the documentary neo-realism of Jimmy Cliff in The Harder They Come and Hector Babenco’s groundbreaking 1981 movie Pixote, uses dazzling cinematic techniques to tell the story of a Rio de Janeiro street gang over three-plus decades. Oscar-nominated director Fernando Meirelles doesn’t flinch from the violence which rules these street thugs’ lives, but at the same time, he does provide a glimmer of escape, with the main character fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a photojournalist. While the sheer number of deaths begins to be numbing, the inexorable energy of these lives literally lived on the run is captured by time-shifting editing that creates a series of indelible characterizations. This gives what might be considered obscenity its human dimension, and pinpoints not only the tragic dimensions, but also the rare triumphs, amidst the dire, seemingly hopeless circumstances. (RT)

3. Los Lobos at East L.A. College, Ride (Hollywood Records): It’s not how the wolf will survive, but the fact he has. Celebrating 30 years as a band, and 20 after the release of their debut album of the same name, these veteran rockers returned to the stomping grounds they’ve never really left for a special acoustic show in front of an adoring crowd filled with friends and family. The pride of the hometown audience in their heroes, who have brought the culture of East L.A. with them as they’ve become a world-class act, seemed to inspire the band as they tore into the very same songs they’ve played at many a neighborhood wedding or block party back in the day— "La Pistola y el Corazon," "Cielito Lindo" and, naturally, "Guantanamera." The band will soon release a new album, Ride, which finds them collaborating with many of the artists who inspired them—including Bobby Womack, Mavis Staples, Richard Thompson, Elvis Costello, Dave Alvin, Tom Waits, Garth Hudson and Thee MidnightersWillie G. Long revered by other musicians, the band deserves popular acclaim and some long overdue commercial success. Perhaps the new disc can do what Supernatural did for Carlos SantanaNorah Jones’ amazing sales week has proven there’s a sizable audience of all ages for solid roots music that pays tribute to the past but looks towards the future. Not just a band from East L.A., Los Lobos are one of America’s national treasures and greatest rock & roll melting pots. (RT)

4. Go Betty Go: Four Latina girls in their early 20s from Glendale, CA, who bring the kind of pop spirit to punk-rock that’s been missing since the heyday of Blondie and the Go-Go’s, while recalling the roots of fellow L.A. Hispanic new wave groups like Los Lobos and the Plugz. Recently inked to influential L.A.-based indie SideOneDummy and currently working on a five-song EP, the group—consisting of Vilar sisters Aixa on drums and vocalist Nicolette—are already veterans of the Warped tour and three years on the local club circuit. Songs like "Go Away," "Come On" and "Worst Enemy" are filled with plenty of sass and attitude towards those who have wronged them, but certainly not at the expense of their girlish charms. Neither feminist nor butch-metal, the gals are all about assimilation, self-empowerment and battling cultural stereotypes without abandoning their heritage as expressed in bilingual anthems like "Mis Locuras" and "No Hay Perdon." (RT)

5. www.rathergood.com: Crazy. Nutty. Strange. Demon kittens punk-rocking. Folksy pandas rocking back and forth OD’ing to baked goods. And so. And yet. Just when you were sure it couldn’t get any weirder, this British cybersite devoted to animation/ imagination with a crack mescaline intravenous drip, takes you places you’d never think to go on your own, and even as you howl in hysteria, aren’t sure why you bothered in the first place. Hurry, hurry. Quick, quick. It’s a glorious thing indeed. (Holly Gleason)

6. Black & White M&Ms: What could be more subversive? Like the late caricaturist Al Hirschfeld or amazing Picasso pen-and-paper drawings, black & white M&Ms have a certain uptown, big-city chic to them that is in direct contrast to the primary-colored snack we grew up on. For all those goth kids, downtowners, punk-rockers and the like, this is a treat you can leave out for whomever to graze on. (HG)

7. Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (Def Jam): There are few people at the cesspool more white than me or Mark Pearson. Yet, there we were this week, listening to "Don’t Believe the Hype," and discussing how Public Enemy changed the face of the hip-hop audience by literally bringing the noise into pop music. The Bomb Squad’s production is full of James Brown samples, atonally layered sounds and melodies far from melodic. The album’s seething rage still resonates, and its politics, especially the Afrocentric views, are the kind of difficult-to-swallow ideas that help make white boys think about their un-earned position of power in culture. Plus, it’s fun to say "Flava Flav." (David Simutis)

8. Robert Sapolsky: The rabbinical-looking neuroscientist’s recent lecture as part of the Valley Cities Jewish Community Center’s "Provocative Speakers" series was a stunningly expansive meditation on genetics and aggression. Sapolsky is a great popularizer of science—funny, compassionate and quick with a trenchant metaphor. Zipping from diagrams of brain chemistry to anecdotes of baboon social organization and human rituals of war and propaganda, he painted a sobering, but ultimately hopeful, picture of how we primates are both powerless before our biological wiring and capable of creatively sublimating it. The evening sent me back to two of his volumes that I’ve read—the inspired essay collection The Trouble With Testosterone and Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, his ambitious overview of stress and physiology—and inspired me to buy one I hadn’t, A Primate’s Memoir. (Simon Glickman)

9. The Triplets of Belleville (Sony Pictures Classics): The critics have been blathering, but the charms of Sylvain Chomet’s French animated feature are in a decidedly minor key, recalling the quicksilver surrealism of classic toonmakers like Max Fleischer as well as Maurice Sendak’s children’s books. The story unfolds like a silent movie, as a doting grandmother travels to the mythical city of Belleville to recover her kidnapped Tour de France bike-riding grandson with the help of the titular singing trio. The movie has some of the emotional sweep of Finding Nemo, though the characters are too strange and abstract to actually relate to. Still, the inexorable forward motion of the tale offers a logic that is hard to resist accompanied by the sprightly, absurdist big band music which works in such perfect counterpoint to the shimmering psychedelic imagery. (RT)

10. The Shins, Chutes Too Narrow (Sub Pop): The latest from these Northwest transplants by way of Albuquerque is a little slice of indie-pop heaven. At times recalling the spooky melodicism of the Zombies, at others an ethereal beauty suggesting a more rural version of the 4AD camp, they create a shimmering sonic multiverse on tracks like the upbeat "So Says I" and the gorgeous "Saint Simon." Proof that indie doesn’t necessarily mean atonal. (SG)

One of the blessings of the DVD boom is that you can pretty much get any television show in history on disc. Yes, it’s worth shelling out the dough for My Favorite Martian or The Rifleman. You must have Bonanza. You’re a loser if you don’t own Green Acres. But the truth is, a significantly subversive contribution to American culture has been badly neglected in the DVD format. I’m talking about a weekly show that showcased the best and biggest songs of the week, from 1980 to 1986, often interpreted by the vocal stylings of Marilyn McCoo or the guest host, and best of scantily dressed dancers, who didn’t need a seven-second delay. Why isn’t Solid Gold available on DVD? Email me at [email protected] and tell me why there aren’t more puppets on music shows. (DS)

Seems like folks are havin’ babies like it’s a-goin’ outta style. You’d like to give your friend’s new bundle a nice gift, but gag at the idea of some pink cutesy toy—especially if said baby is the defiant offspring of your tattooed, Manga-reading, rock-n-roll pals. Enter L.A.’s own Renegade Babe, purveyor of customized baby blankets, T-shirts and bibs "for parents who'd rather go to Lollapalooza than to Babies 'R Us," to quote the website. Using luxe faux fur and heraldic designs, founder-fabricator Karen Allen makes blankies for PoMo royalty, and she’ll sew the little one’s name on it, too, if you so desire. Still, these items are for babies, so they’re 100% machine-washable, as are the black T-shirts with the company logo and the gray bibs bearing the legends "Spitfaced" and "Kid Vicious." Whether punk, goth, glam or just meat-and-potatoes rock, parents at last have something cool in which to swaddle junior. Be sure to mention the industry discount in your email. (SG)

The Passion of the Christ (Newmarket Film Group)
Premise: Mel Gibson
on the death of Christ, slow and agonizingly gory, in the original Latin with subtitles. "Mad Max, why has thou forsaken me?"
Stars: Jim Caviezel as Jesus, Monica Belluci as Mary, Rosalinda Celentano as Satan. Well, at least he’s not played by Shelly Berman.
Director: Gibson (for the first time without starring).
Thumbs Up: Prompting discussion and debate, bringing a focus back on religion.
Thumbs Down: But is it bad for the Jews?
Soundtrack: Integrity Records soundtrack features original score by John Debney.
Website: www.thepassionofthechrist.com includes film, cast and crew information, a trailer, group sales, theater listings, press clips, soundtrack information.

Against the Ropes (Paramount)
Based on true story of Jewish female boxing manager Jackie Kallen, who guided the careers of four world champions, including James Toney and Thomas Hearns.
Stars: Reconstructed Meg Ryan, Omar Epps, Joe Cortese, Tim Daly, Chartles S. Dutton (who also directed in his debut), Tony Shalhoub
Thumbs Up: Oh, I dunno. The possibility of an interracial romance between Ryan and Epps?
Thumbs Down: The studio’s been trying to put this into release for almost a year, which has to tell you something.
Soundtrack: None.
Website: www.againsttheropes.com has story information, stills & clips, cast & crew info, character information, downloads, quiz, trailer and news/updates.

Eurotrip (DreamWorks Pictures)
From the people who brought you Old School and Road Trip. A high school student goes overseas to meet a German e-mail buddy he thinks is a guy, but turns out to be a cute girl as he and his pals go from London to Paris to Amsterdam on their way to Berlin.
Stars: Newcomers Scott Mechlowicz, Jacob Pitts, Michelle Trachtenberg, Travis Wester, Jessica Bohrs, with a cameo by Matt Damon.
Director: Jeff Schaefer (feature debut), from the writing team behind Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat.
Thumbs Up: Is it another American Pie?
Thumbs Down: I have yet to see Old School or Road Trip all the way through, but my son told me they’re funny.
Soundtrack: Milan Records album features Wakefield, Goldfinger, The Jam, Chapeaumelon, Apollo 440, David Hasslehoff, Linval Thompson, Ugly Duckling and The Salads.
www.eurotrip-themovie.com is a pretty lively collage with info about the movie, a photo gallery, downlodes, games and media that sends you to "nude beaches," "red light district," "No age limit pubs," "Meet the Pope" and "Sexy Europeans."

Welcome to Mooseport (20th Century Fox)
A former President settles down in a small coastal New England town to enjoy his retirement, when he’s asked to run for mayor of the town against a local hardware store owner.
Stars: Gene Hackman, Ray Romano, Christine Baranski, Marcia Gay Harden, Fred Savage, Maura Tierney, Rip Torn, June Squibb
Genial hack Donald Petrie, who hasn’t had a decdnt movie since Mystic Pizza (Miss Congeniality, Grumpy Old Men, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Richie Rich) Disclaimer: His daughter played with my daughter on a club soccer team.
Thumbs Up: Can Hackman-Romano recreate the classic odd couple chemistry of Matthau-Lemmon?
Thumbs Down: Everybody apparently doesn’t love Raymond, especially us.
Soundtrack: None.
Website: www.welcometomooseport.com offers a trailer, synopsis and photo gallery.

It’s a birthday weekend for Jennifer Love Hewitt, whose 2002 Jive Records release, BareNaked, is highly underrated discs despite its eclectic, even intelligent, ear candy offerings. She turns 25 on Saturday (February 21). Should precious Jen decide to whoop it up in the Big Apple, she’ll have two main events from which to choose. On Friday (February 20), Living Colour play Red Bank, N.J.’s Count Basie Theatre (99 Monmouth St.), and on Saturday (February 21), The Edgar Winter Band suit up for a show at B.B. King’s Blues Club (243 W. 42nd St.). Good thing JLH likes oldies. She covered Janis Joplin hit Me and Bobby McGee on BareNaked. (Valerie Nome)

"It used to be that single women in their 30s were desperate and had something wrong with them," Candace Bushnell, who wrote Sex & The City, which ends February 22, tells In Touch. "And partly because of the show, that has totally changed. Now it’s empowering, fun and cool." (VN)

First, the bad news: it’s gonna rain in Los Angeles this weekend. Highs will only be around 60, and lows will be around 50. Stay inside feeling sorry for yourself for having to live in such a miserable climate. It’s not going to rain next Monday, but it’s probably going to rain all week after that. So, if you have to share the roads with people out here who are breaking and swerving at random to avoid raindrops hitting their car, have fun with that. All the way across the continent, it’s going to rain on Saturday and be all sunny on Sunday. Highs will be 50 on Saturday and only low 40s on Sunday. Lows will be right around freezing, a little colder on Sunday. Only five more months until heat wave season. (DS)

Thanks to Roy Trakin, David Simutis, Holly Gleason, Simon Glickman and Valerie Nome for allowing this Planner to not believe the hype.

What people are talking about right now. (9/23a)
It's been a while since anybody outpointed Bad Bunny. (9/23a)
A toast to Philippe and Alissa (9/23a)
Who's ready for Kyncl culture? (9/19a)
RIAA drops some stats. (9/22a)
New categories! New rules! New WTF!
It's the one you didn't see coming.
"Who took my passports?"
Allow us to apologize in advance.

 First Name

 Last Name


Captcha: (type the characters above)