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This week, I downloaded a bunch of mashups, including one of Christina Aguilera’s "Genie in a Bottle" and Sonic Youth’s "Dirty Boots" called "Dirty Bottle."
A WEAKEND PLANNER BROUGHT TO YOU IN THE ORIGINAL ARAMAIC AND ANCIENT LATIN SO NO ONE TAKES OFFENSE
Things Get Increasingly Grim for The Sopranos, Indie Cinema, Ben Arthur and Natalie Wood
March comes in like a Mel Gibson movie about Jesus and goes out like a Clear Channel station no longer carrying Howard Stern. The winter of our discontent is almost over, just in time for the spring of even more discontent, especially if you’re a Met fan. Yes, it’s that time of the year again. The weather thaws along with, hopefully, the culture, as The Sopranos returns, college basketball positions itself for the NCAA tournament and certain Democratic candidate John Kerry tries to beat around the Bush. And has anyone figured out yet what Robin Williams and Bobcat Goldthwaite were doing together at the Oscars?

POPCULT TOP 10
1. The Sopranos: David Chase’s remarkable series returns to HBO this Sunday after a 15-month absence (the last episode ran Dec. 2002) darker and more ominous than ever, opening with Meadow running over the now-absent Tony Soprano’s newspaper in the driveway and a bear foraging through the garbage in place of his beloved ducks. Tony is now living with his sister Janice in his late mother’s old house, and in the final stages of his divorce from Carmela, who is looking to take him for all he’s worth. Son A.J. is more sullen and angry than ever while various mobsters convicted in the real-life RICO violations in the mid-‘80s are out and back to reclaim their turf. Cast newcomers include Steve Buscemi as Tony’s cousin who comes out of jail and wants to go straight as a massage therapist, and a former mob boss played by a threatening Robert Loggia. Classic moment: a stroke-befuddled Uncle Junior watching Curb Your Enthusiasm convinced Larry and Jeff are really him and Bobby Bacala. Talk about art imitating TV imitating life. (Roy Trakin)

2. Peter Biskind, Down & Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance and the Rise of Independent Film (Simon & Schuster): The Weinstein brothers brought the notion of "indie" pictures into the mainstream—and they did it by playing the margins and upping the awareness. What started out as a good thing has spun off its access and become just as co-opted as everything it rebelled against. Biskind’s book looks at the dynamics, power plays, erosion and reality of how it all went down. Barbarians at the Gate for the cineaste set. (Holly Gleason)

3. Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Unclassified (Warner Bros.): The spiritual steel movement came out of the black churches and Randolph re-invents the steel guitar as something that is fire and buzzsaws! Imagine a rootsier Sly Stone trip with God in the middle and the spwaaaah reality bouncing off the wall and covering everything about the arrangements—and you’re getting warm. This Philly-based aggregation "turns the mutha out," to quote George Clinton and, to borrow from the vernacular, "That ain’t a bad thing." Anyone who’s ever thrilled by how death-defying swooping and looping the steel can be, will be breathless hearing what Randolph can do. And the elastic Tigger-styule groove (rubber and string and eternal energy) will send you into paroxysms of glee over how good music can make you feel. (HG)

4. Van Hunt (Capitol): The buzz on Van Hunt is already deafening, and given the assurance of his madly funky, smart, intimate, eponymous album debut, it’s about to get louder. The kid’s got a buttery soulman’s pipes, adventurous songwriting and arrangement instincts (with serious Sly/P.Funk/Prince damage) and badass chops on virtually every instrument. This ain’t neo-soul, kids—it’s much more interesting. Hunt himself calls the material "situation music," and the emotional depth and sophistication of these songs is almost as impressive as the wild and spacious grooves that underpin them. Get yer hands on a copy.(Simon Glickman)

5. Ben Arthur, Edible Darling (Bardic): This post-Dylan singer-songwriter and veteran of a pair of indie releases comes from Dave Matthews country in Charlottesville, VA, evoking both the dark-laced fatalism of Warren Zevon and the acid wit of John Lennon. In "Mary Ann," he sings about a female A&R exec, "All your grinding gives me/Zipper burn on my dick." But he’s just as capable of sounding like Tom Petty on the country-flavored "Keep Me Around," expressing the hope that his body be preserved after death. In the blues-busting title track, about a friend who raises pigs to eat them, Arthur croons: "The most beautiful angel/Is the angel of death/Vinegar-throated/Confused and bereft." Even morbid lyrics like these are enlivened with a pop sensibility that makes Arthur a more accessible and self-deprecating version of Ryan Adams. (RT)

6. Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, Music in a Foreign Language (One Little Indian/Navarre): Newest thing to make me feel old: it’s been 20 years since the release of Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’ pop-rock masterpiece, Rattlesnakes. Cole’s blend of melancholy and acerbic wit and his desert breeze of a voice have aged with impeccable grace, I’m pleased to say. His latest shows him in fine, if alternately sad and cranky, fettle. The largely acoustic settings are ideal for world-weary gems like the title track, the anti-L.A. lament "Late Night, Early Town" and the lovely "No More Love Songs." More Cole material is promised soon, including a "lost album" that has already reached mythic dimensions among his fans. (SG)

7. Mashups: DJ Dangermouse’s Grey Album, which I hipped you to weeks ago, shed a lot of light on mashups, the remix style of layering vocals from one song onto the music of another. If you’re a copyright lawyer, these generally unlicensed projects probably give you a heart attack. In which case, skip down to the next entry. For those of you without your briefs in a bunch, there’s a lot to be said for the creative mixing of say, M’s "Pop Muzik" with Public Enemy’s "Bring the Noize," which is one of the most popular mashups, or bootlegs as they’re called in England. There are a handful of websites and message boards trafficking in these, and they’re surprisingly easy to find, considering the grey area of copyright law they are treading in. This week, I downloaded a bunch of mashups, including one of Christina Aguilera’s "Genie in a Bottle" and Sonic Youth’s "Dirty Boots" called "Dirty Bottle." But the best one is a mashup of Ludacris’ "Stand Up" and Cameo’s "Word Up." Word up indeed. (David Simutis)

8. Chris Difford, I Didn’t Get Where I Am (DRT Entertainment): Along with A&M labelmate Joe Jackson, Squeeze was one of the most underrated of all the new wave bands to experience Top 40 success with songs like "Tempted," "Black Coffee in Bed" and "Cool for Cats." Fronted by lyricist Difford and musical partner Glenn Tilbrook as the poor man’s Lennon/McCartney, the group boasted sophisticated R&B-laced pop and clever wordplay. Difford takes an autobiographical bent on his first solo album, produced by Francis Dunnery, looking back ruefully at his old band on the Steely Dan-like sarcasm of "No Show Jones," with its refrain, "We were Simon & Garfunkel, the Monkees, Captain & Tennille, Lennon & McCartney…" leading to the kvetch, "Compared to others/We never got covers on tunes." In the country-fied "Playing With Electric Trains," he reminisces about listening to everything "from Julie Andrews to Jerry Garcia" on the family stereo, to the sound of a pickin’ bluegrass guitar solo that could’ve been played by Captain Trips himself. Difford’s Wild West fascination takes an even stranger turn on "Cowboys Are My Weakness," an unabashed paean delivered with a deadpan Glen Campbell homage whose camp grandeur is worthy of the Pet Shop Boys or an ironist like Randy Newman. (RT)

9. The Mystery of Natalie Wood (ABC): Pretty much a boilerplate biopic, though an apparently slumming director Peter Bogdanovich does manage to bring some of his film buff knowledge into scenes involving Wood and how she got the female lead in Rebel Without a Cause by seducing a cad-like Nicholas Ray. Justine Waddell has Natalie’s petulant distraction down pat, even though she doesn’t really look like her, but neither do the actors playing Christopher Walken, Warren Beatty or James Dean, while Michael Weatherly’s "RJ" Wagner is at least as much George Peppard. An over-the-top Alice Krige as the Russian stage mother from hell who pushed little Natasha a little too hard is not much more than a caricature, and Bogdanovich devotes the last 45 minutes to a minutely detailed recreation of the actress’ drowning death that doesn’t really satisfactorily answer what happened. Waddell’s chilly brittleness plays perfectly as the neurotic child star able to successfully transition into an adult sex symbol, which offers some sage career advice for the likes of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. (RT)

10. Women’s Basketball: My daughter Tara’s recently switched from soccer to basketball and I couldn’t be happier. At least in b-ball, you get a chance to show off your individual skills and score a little to boot. And while I’d never be caught dead watching women’s basketball on TV, I felt compelled to join my 13-year-old and her team to see Pepperdine go up against San Francisco over at Firestone Fieldhouse in Malibu. Now, I don’t know if you’ve seen a women’s basketball game lately, but they can do everything on the court but dunk and fundamentally, the game’s a lot more interesting then the men’s version. The competition is pretty fierce and while there’s always the occasional 6’ 4" player who looks like a ringer for the East German gymnastics team, there are a lot more lipstick ballers, if ya know what I mean. The very fact women have role models to compete like this can only be a good thing, even if they can—sorry Artie Lange—kick most couch potato male butts. Check out today's N.Y. Times article on the men who make up the practice squads of elite women basketball teams if you don't believe me. (RT)

CAPITOL IDEA
Last week I raved about the upcoming full-length album from Philly band The Capitol Years, which is so new it hasn’t been shopped yet. But the Shai Halperin-led four-piece will play the new material next Tuesday, March 9, at Mercury Lounge in New York (set time 9:30), so check it out for yourself. Their SXSW showcase is scheduled for midnight on Friday, March 19, at the Cedar Street Courtyard. More info on the band’s site, www.capitolyears.com. (Bud Scoppa)

NEW YORK MINUTE
Temperatures are rising and so are the sounds of the City. On Friday (March 5), Erykah Badu and Floetry light up Radio City Music Hall (1260 Ave. of the Americas), while David Crosby hits Wayne, N.J.’s Shea Auditorium (300 Pompton Rd.). Sting also kicks off a two-nighter at Beacon Theatre (2124 Broadway) that evening.

Saturday is the night-of-nights for Generation X. Better Than Ezra play Irving Plaza (17 Irving Place) AND, even better, Tiffany plays The Cutting Room (19 W. 24th St.). (Valerie Nome)

MISCELLANY
Daniele Luppi
’s An Italian Story (Belmondo/Rhino) is a zesty tribute to the kaleidoscopic score music of Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota and other Neapolitan geniuses... New York-based singer/songwriter Jason Darling is a witty fellow indeed, as evidenced by his Surprise Truck album Underground; Angelenos can catch him at the Viper Room on 3/12. For more info, pester Lisa... Our buddy Josh Mills has a treasure trove of punk—old and new—to play for you, including some live Dead Kennedys, an extremely noisy but nostalgic compilation by L.A. misfits Twisted Roots (whose 7" single has been in my collection since it was pressed), Boston’s The Thrills (the late- ’70s/early ’80s troublemakers, not the Cali-style Irish buzz band) and new/no-wave hellraisers The Bolides... When it comes to garage-rock, everybody’s got a different flag to fly. But these days, I’m bullish on Gold Cash Gold, whose Times Beach album Paradise Pawned Vol. 1 goes down like a shot of Jack every time... (SG)

FLYING IN FLORIDA
What does an unemployed writer with a death wish do for kicks? Go hang-gliding, of course. For the uninformed, hang-gliding is a sport usually performed by jumping off a cliff with an engineless plane. In the case of South Florida, where there are no cliffs, you are dragged in an engineless glider into the air by a plane before the cord is cut.

The sensation is unbelievable. One enters a cocoon-like contraption attached to the plane. The safety engineer then straps in your legs in and you ride piggyback over the pilot who is wrapped in a similar casing.

As I soared 2,500 feet above ground, the glider experienced a bit of a jolt when the cord from the tug plane was severed. Then, the hang glider floats alongside the birds, in a suspended state with the wind whipping right through you. In full view are fields, tinker toy-like cars and, in the distance, Lake Okeechobie. The pilot did a few turns into the wind, sending rushes through my body no drug could replicate. Up in the sky for 20 minutes, the hang glider gradually descended, landing on a tripod similar to training wheels on a child’s bicycle.

The high from the experience lasted two days, an amazing experience I not soon forget. The only problem was going back to having two feet on the ground. (Janet Trakin)

iPODLESS IN GAZA
When you’re on a limited budget, you’ve gotta be resourceful. Last year, for example, after missing the chance to buy TiVo while I still had some scratch, I learned to program my VCR so adeptly that I’m now able to make crisp analog copies of more than half the shows I attempt to tape. The keys to success are turning the cable box to the right channel and turning off the VCR. More recently, I’ve been forced to admit to disbelieving industryites that, no, I do not own an iPod. But I did replace my creaky four-year-old laptop with a brand-new Dell PC, and my world opened to the delights of iTunes; since then I’ve been obsessively loading faves into my library and organizing playlists. Now, I like to run with music, and I’ve heard plenty of iPod owners raving about the shuffle-play experience while they work out. So I came up with a digital-to-analog substitute, connecting iTunes to my stereo with a mini-jack-to-RCA cord, putting a cassette on "record" and letting iTunes decide what to put on the tape. The first time I tried it, though, I left on AOL while I was recording and at odd intervals inadvertently overdubbed "You’ve got mail!" over the music. Anyway, my solution ain’t sleek or elegant, but it’ll have to do for now. (BS)

YOUR WEAKEND QUESTION:
With David Lee Roth appearing as himself in an episode of The Sopranos, which I’m sure Trakin is writing about somewhere, I got to thinking. Here’s a guy who dressed and acted like a rock star to a tee. He’s the blueprint for outrageous behavior. But I wonder, he’s older than he was, a bit more conservative of a dresser. Where are David Lee Roth’s banana hammocks now? If you know the answer, please don’t email me at [email protected], I’m sure I’ll just be sorry I asked. (DS)

YOUR WEAKEND WEATHER
How about chilly and rainy on Saturday and cold and partly cloudy on Sunday. It might get up to the upper 50s, but it’s not Spring yet, NYC. Here in Los Angeles, I saw someone driving an electric car today. He had his window open because he was smoking. So confusing. Anyway, those of you in the rest of the country can choke on this: it’s going to be 80 degrees in L.A. on Sunday. But please don’t move here, there’s enough traffic already. (DS)

TRAKIN’S PICKS TO FLICK
Starsky & Hutch (Warner Bros.)
Premise:
Ironic remake of ‘70s TV show featuring one uptight, by-the-rules undercover cop and his more laid-back, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants partner with the gay subtext of the original made explicit and played for laughs.
Stars: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Snoop Dogg (taking the Antonio Fargas role of Huggy Bear), Vince Vaughn, Fred Williamson, Carmen Electra, Juliette Lewis, Chris Penn, Molly Sims, Amy Smart, Jason Bateman, Terry Crews, Richard Edson, Will Ferrell, with cameos by original Starsky and Hutch Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul.
Director: Todd Phillips (Road Trip, Old School) got his start directing the cult documentary G.G. Allin and the Murder Junkies.
Thumbs Up: Stiller and Wilson have perfected their comic timing in five previous movies, most memorably The Royal Tennenbaums and Zoolander.
Thumbs Down: Another campy remake of a ‘70s TV show isn’t much of a stretch.
Soundtrack: TVT Records album is a ‘70s-flavored compilation featuring Waylon Jennings, Barry Manilow, KC & the Sunshine Band, The Band, Dazz, Bill Withers, Starland Vocal Band, Eric Clapton, Edwin Starr, The Carpenters, Chicago, Average White Band and Leon Haywood.
Website: www.starskyandhutchmovie.warnerbros.com/ is divided into The Lowdown (story, production notes, filmmakers), The Players, The Evidence (Trailer & Clips, photos), The Drop (desktop wallpapers, screensavers, IM icons, posters) and The Goods (featuring games like "Who’s Your Wig Guy," "Pimp Name Generator," "Funky Iron-Ons, Pinball Arcade Game).

Hidalgo (Touchstone Pictures)
Premise:
Supposedly based on a true story, a Pony Express courier travels to Saudi Arabia to compete with his horse, Hidalgo, in a dangerous race for a huge contest prize, that sends the two around the world.
Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Malcolm McDowell, Omar Sharif.
Director: Joe Johnson
(Jurassic Park III, October Sky, Jumanji, The Rocketeer, Honey I Shrunk the Kids) is an underrated Disney house guy whose movies have had some interesting moments.
Thumbs Up: Now it’s time to see if Mortensen, who has climbed to stardom thanks to Lord of the Rings, can open a movie by himself.
Thumbs Down: Lawrence of Arabia meets Indiana Jones with probably a third of the budget.
Soundtrack: Hollywood Records soundtrack features James Newton Howard score.
Website: hidalgo.movies.go.com/main.html features film, cast & crew information, preview and downloads, preview, trailer, and related links.

 NOTABLE & QUOTABLE
"It’s that she doesn’t like me or she must be jealous," Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen star Lindsay Lohan tells amNewYork about her feud with Hilary Duff, which started because the two were dating Aaron Carter. Um, Lindsay, Hilary told this In Touch reporter at MTV’s New Year’s Bash 2004 that she thinks you’re crazy, and that’s about it. (VN)

Thanks to Roy Trakin, Simon Glickman, David Simutis, Holly Gleason, Bud Scoppa and Valerie Nome falettin' this Planner be itself again.

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