We were too busy watching the final episode of Sex and the City, trying to figure out who Hollywood hates least, Sean Penn or Johnny Depp, and if the Mets are better off with Matsui and Reyes than A-Rod. Ahh, hope springs eternal, except around this cesspool.
No More Sex and the City, but There’s Plenty of Arena Football, Apple Music Devices, New Rock Magazines, Compilations and Lou Reed to Go Around
The right moved inexorably this week to take our attention off matters of importance—particularly the economic doldrums, the threat of inflation and an unwinnable war—and tried to focus them on trivialities like gay marriages, a movie about Jesus and shock radio. It’s hard to believe the public will swallow this, but hey, what do we know? We were too busy watching the final episode of Sex and the City, trying to figure out who Hollywood hates least, Sean Penn or Johnny Depp, and if the Mets are better off with Matsui and Reyes than A-Rod. Ahh, hope springs eternal, except around this cesspool.

1. Sex and the City: Not being an early adopter, I came to embrace the witty, pun-laced dialogue and Woody Allen-like fantasy of an idealized Manhattan, and unlike most, felt the characters maintained their individual dignity right up until the end. Of course, giving Kim Cattrall’s Samantha cancer, Kristin Davis’ Charlotte a child substitute, Cynthia Nixon’s Miranda a mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s and executive producer Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Mr. Big sorta went for a traditional ending. And as sitcom endings go, this was somewhere between Mary Tyler Moore and Seinfeld in terms of satisfaction. Still, the notion that with love comes responsibility hit home, even if the raison d’etre of the show was always gay male writers fantasizing aloud about what women discuss with one another when no men are around. And while single purists resist the "bittersweet happy" ending of all four paired up with someone, isn’t catharsis the job of fiction? It’s real life that never ties up the loose ends. (Roy Trakin)

2. Sex and the City counterpoint: I found Carrie Bradshaw such a feckless idiot on the show that I could scarcely muster up any concern for the outcome. For a columnist—and judging from her shoe budget alone, a columnist paid like the CEO of a Fortune 500 company—who ruminates over some lumpy catchall topic each week, she emerges as one of the least introspective characters in TV history. How could this ostensible analyst of romance, relationships and mixed motives act like such a moron? As I’ve said before, I believe Carrie is constrained by the unforgiving laws of sitcom, which dictate that myopia and hubris send all its dramatis personae tumbling to the floor of life’s boutique on a regular basis. As to the other characters: Miranda was the closest to a credible human being, thanks largely to Cynthia Nixon, who regularly acted her co-stars off the screen. Samantha was a crude burlesque of a character to begin with (an impression amplified by Kim Cattrall’s mannered performance), and her "cancer lite" experience was among the most manipulative devices in the history of a manipulative series. Kristin Davis’ Charlotte, the time-warped priss, only got less charming as she became a Jew and the mother to a lapdog. The preordained and absurdly unlikely return of Mr. Big (oh, excuse me—"John"), reinforced two things I’d suspected: (1) There was no adolescent-femme wish-fulfillment the show wouldn’t stoop to, and (2) The departure of Chris Noth earlier in the series had deprived it of its one dry note amid the syrup and suffering. I had to see how it all ended, of course, but boy, am I glad it’s over. (Simon Glickman)

3. Arena Football: Avengers vs. San Jose SaberCats @Staples Center: It’s kinda fitting that the Arena Football Avengers are L.A.’s only pro football team, because the league is to regular football as TV is to reality. The game is played indoors on a 50-yard field that is about the width of an ice hockey rink, with padded walls serving as out-of-bounds markers. There’s plenty of scoring for those with attention deficit disorder, as well as a histrionic World Wrestling Entertainment-style announcer, booming heavy metal in between snaps and b-level celebs like Tom Arnold and Donnie Wahlberg on the big screen exhorting the crowd to "Stand with the Avengers!" No more minor league than the Clippers, and given the thirst for any kind of football between February and August, it could just catch on, especially with NBC covering the games and attendance hovering in the 15,000 range. Now let owner Casey Wasserman (grandson of "Last Mogul" Lew) bring back the NFL. (RT)

4. GarageBand: Apple’s GarageBand home recording software is a magical combination of Apple’s intuitive-use products and the precision of a Pro Tools-type interface. The program only works on newer Macs, which is a drawback, but it comes with preprogrammed loops of all the instruments you need—50 total—but probably don’t know how to play. All you have to do is drag them onto the track. You can also plug instruments directly in, using a USB adapter, merging your talents with the machine’s. Twenty minutes after installing the software, I had my own instrumental trip-hop track, with slow-tempo funk drums, string swells, upright bass, and horns. An additional instrument selection upgrade is available. It won’t replace Pro Tools, but it’s an amazing scratch pad. (David Simutis)

5. My Lunch with Vic Mizzy: Caffe Roma, on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills, is the place for lunch on Thursdays to catch all the music biz alter cockers. In one corner is ex-Spring Records boss Julie Rifkind, father of Loud’s Steve and veteran promo man Morris Diamond. Seated at other tables around the restaurant are the likes of malaprop comic Norm Crosby, songwriter/producer/ publishing exec Joel Diamond, veteran Borscht Belt comic Jan Murray and legal eagle Jay Cooper. Greetings are shared, hugs proffered. The 82-year-old Mizzy is an authentic Sammy Cahn, "gimme a C, a bouncy C"-type songwriter whose main claim to fame is penning the themes to TV shows like The Addams Family and Green Acres. He is comfortably wealthy on the royalties and lives atop a hill in Bel Air. His anecdotes of a lifetime in show business are recounted with a razor-sharp mind for details, especially his tale about meeting Doris Day and going up to thank her for making one of his songs a hit. "She was very gracious," recalls the dapper Mr. Mizzy. "Then she asked me for a $10 donation to one of her animal funds. What could I do? I paid her the money." The only thing missing was a rim shot and cymbal crash, which easily could have been supplied by any of a half-dozen Roma customers waiting for their salad and cuppa soup. (RT)

6. Fefe Dobson (Island Records): Punk-funk with go-girl candor. Fefe Dobson looks like your basic R&B street diva…until she opens that fist with a paring knife to the sternum voice of hers, jamming right into the heart of some pretty concise, pretty confrontational lyrics—and you know this shitzu bites! But that’s the good news. In a world of pliant girls, one who’s doing her own state-of-the-young-girl address with the frankness of "Just a Love Song" or "Didn’t Need You" (an indictment of an MIA father), this is the Gwen Stefani of the urban sidewalk kingdom or Alanis Morissette-styled rock-funk and rollovers. (Holly Gleason)

7. Tracks: At a time when the publishing industry’s in a funk, former Spin and Vibe editor Alan Light stakes his claim to the music the people with eclectic taste listen to. It’s not about BPMs, taut bellies, sex-sationalism or pushing the limits of shock, violence, nihilism or alienation to the breaking point. Smart, well-written pieces on music by writers who care more about getting the story than their reflection in the moment. If you love Norah Jones, Lou Reed, the idea of Steve Earle on the Beatles, or even a perspective on John Mayer that doesn’t make you feel lame and/or old, this must be the place we’ve all been waiting for. (HG)

8. Miscellany: The Scena (Emergent/RED) compilation George Jones: Live Recordings from the Louisiana Hayride, a bumper crop of ditties recorded between 1956 and 1969 for KWKH in Shreveport, had everyone in the office crying into the nearest available beverage—it’s a stunner... BMG Heritage’s Ultimate Daryl Hall & John Oates is two discs of mostly impeccable (and sometimes visionary) pop tracks... Capitol’s double-disc Torch Songs anthology traces the idiom from Ella to Norah, with lots of smoldering genius in between... On the 40th anniversary of the suave cartoon feline, Virgin/EMI rolls out Pink Panther’s Penthouse Party, a swanky platter of Mancini and remixes (by Fatboy Slim, Kinky and Fischerspooner, among others)... though tweaker’s new 2a.m. wakeup call (iMusic/Waxploitation) is unquestionably an album—born of mastermind Chris Vrenna’s creative forays in the sleepless wee hours—its stellar cast of vocalists lends it the quality of an inventive mix tape or soundtrack. The Cure’s Robert Smith, Palace’s Will Oldham, A.I.’s Nick Young and Hamilton Leithauser of The Walkmen are among the singers, and Johnny Marr of The Smiths guests on guitar for a track. (SG)

9. Lou Reed, Animal Serenade (Reprise): This upcoming double-live album from his performance last spring at L.A.’s Wiltern is the third in the classic trilogy of Lou live albums (after Rock & Roll Animal and Take No Prisoners). The disc includes his stand-up act (demonstrating how he made a living with four chords while strumming the intro to "Sweet Jane"; asking the audience if they thought L.A. was a "small town" or not, then remarking, "It's nice to nice to know there’s someone here from Long Island who drank the water"). As for the music, Reed’s remarkable band, including long-time cohorts Mike Rathke and Fernando Saunders, moves dynamically through a carefully chosen set of his less-well-known material. The set includes several songs from Berlin (including "Men of Good Fortune" and "The Bed") and such chestnuts as "The Day John Kennedy Died," "Dirty Blvd." and "All Tomorrow’s Parties," which features his current Tai-Chi instructor Ren Guangyi. A labor of love for WB’s Bill Bentley, the only thing missing is a promised DVD of the performance, which includes Lou cursing out a member of the audience who distracts him before the encore. (RT)

10. Jane Schaberg, The Resurrection of Mary Magdalene (Continuum): For all the DaVinci Code junkies, this is a little bit more real deal on the whole "truth" about Mary Magadelene. Opening by drawing Virginia Woolf into the mix, this is a scholarly tome well-researched and brave enough to debunk in the name of fact more than sensation. And Schaberg can turn a phrase as well as she can make a point. Consider this the master’s study into what the deal really was. (HG)

EARLY 2004 WINNERS: Think of Charlie Mars’ major label debut (it’s his fourth LP overall), coming in May on V2, as U2 with a southern accent. The Mississippi-based artist mates poetic lyrics, dead-earnest singing and big, ringing guitars on the most thrilling record I’ve heard in ages. Songs like "Close to Home," "Try So Hard" and "When the Sun Goes Down" build from intimacy to all-out grandeur. Wow. A preview EP is available now; Jim Merlis should have copies… The Honeydogs, a veteran alt-country band from Minneapolis, have made a startlingly ambitious concept album called 10,000 Years (United Musicians), which sets timely and corrosive subject matter in gorgeous smart-pop arrangements redolent of Jellyfish On his latest LP, Truthfully Truthfully, ex-Thrush Hermit mainstay Joel Plaskett (now fronting the band Emergency) reminds me of early Joe Walsh, particularly on the delightful "Extraordinary" —it's insanely witty with a killer narrative payoff, and it rocks with utter authority. The album’s just out in Canada on the way-cool label Maple Music… Transplanted Aussie Anne McCue counts Lucinda Williams and Richard Thompson among her fans, and it’s easy to see why, since she sings with the understated plaintiveness of the former and plays guitar with all the bristling authority of the latter. In fact, her debut album, Roll (Messenger), suggests that McCue is an even better guitarist than writer or singer—and she's really good at that stuff too. Key cuts: "Stupid," the title song and the potential hit "Tiny Little Song."… The Capitol Years, a Beatlesque garage-rock band from Philadelphia, is led by Shai Halperin, brother of our pal Shirley Halperin, the music editor of Us Weekly. The just-completed LP, teeming with clever and cranked-up two-minute gems, is up for grabs… Matthew Sweet has an as-yet-unreleased LP titled Living Things, recorded in his home studio with the estimable ensemble of Van Dyke Parks (keys, marimbas), Greg Leisz (guitars), Tony Marsico (bass) and Ric Menck (drums). It’s prime Matthew, but it’s different in an intriguing way… Kyle Riabko, a 16-year-old wunderkind from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, of all places, sings like Stevie Wonder and plays guitar like nobody’s business on his debut EP, coming next month from Aware I told you about the Ethan Johns-produced album from Maine-based iconoclast Ray LaMontagne in this space back in August, and it was gratifying to learn how many labels are lined up to sign him, despite the fact that the record—an amalgam of Astral Weeks and Otis Blue—sounds unlike anything on commercial radio…but then, neither does Norah Jones. (Bud Scoppa)

Simple, direct, to-the-point: What kind of horrible on-stage accidents happened before guitar pick-holders were attached to microphone stands? (DS)

There’s something for everyone in the Big Apple this weekend. Fans of girl-powered punk are sure to have a blast with Portuguese act Les Baton Rouge, who play Pussycat Lounge (96 Greenwich St.) Friday (Feb. 27) in support of their February release My Body the Pistol. Those looking for something more commercial will enjoy life to the fullest when Evanescence, Default and Atomship light up Roseland Ballroom (239 W. 29th St.) that evening. On Saturday (Feb. 28), Ginuwine, Jagged Edge, Joe and Avant will bring hip-hop to Beacon Theatre (2124 Broadway), and on Sunday (Feb. 29), Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy turn up in that same space. (Valerie Nome)

"I don't want to be an actress. I never did want to be an actress," Pamela Anderson told E! News Live. "And actually it's been very fun and silly and the fact that I've done as much as I have is just fun. I have retired." Aside from raising her two young sons, the first priority for Pam is launching a new clothing line featuring cruelty-free Uggs and lingerie. (VN)

Twisted (Paramount)
Premise: A female cop, whose father was a serial killer, and is now investigating a murder, finds herself the center of her own investigation when her past lovers start dying mysteriously.
Stars: Ashley Judd, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Garcia, D.W. Moffett
Director: Philip Kaufman
(Quills, The Right Stuff, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Unbearable Lightness of Being) moving from art back to commerce.
Thumbs Up: Can the usually capable Kaufman bring some depth to what appears a standard genre exercise?
Thumbs Down: Does it only seem like Judd keeps teaming up on lame serial killer films with guys like Morgan Freeman and Samuel L. Jackson?
Soundtrack: Varese Sarabande album features score by Mark Isham.
Website: www.twistedmovie.com includes trailer, profiles of cast and crew, stills, story synopsis, production notes.

Broken Lizard’s Club Dread (Fox Searchlight)
Five-man comedy troupe composed of alumy from my alma mater Colgate follows up Super Troopers with this tale of a Costa Rican resort terrorized by a machete-wielding serial killer who some reviewers have said isn’t acting fast enough.
Stars: Bill Paxton, Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, Erik Stolhanske
: Chandrasekhar
Thumbs Up: Wacky, R-rated Airplane-styled hijinks that plays to the college crowd.
Thumbs Down: Wacky, R-rated Airplane-styled hijinks that plays to the college crowd.
Soundtrack: None.
Website: www.clubdread.com offers a plethora of info, including about the film, downloads, video, photos, "The Lizard’s Blog," where to buy tickets, a schedule of on-campus screenings and a number of sweepstakes in an aggressive online campaign.

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (Artisan)
A remake/sequel toDirty Dancing about a lonely American teenager living in 1958 Havana, who has moved to Havana right before the Revolution with her parents, where she meets a charming and talented local dancer, who encourages her to discover her natural dancing abilities.
Stars: Romola Garai, Diego Luna, Mike Boorem, Jonathan Jackson, Sela Ward, cameo by Patrick Swayze.
Director: Guy Ferland (The Babysitter, Telling Lies in America, After the Storm) with a screenplay by Ronald Bass (My Best Friend’s Wedding, Rain Man, Entrapment)
Thumbs Up: Having the time of their lives with Fidel Castro.
Thumbs Down: Nothing could be as entertaining as the current Dirty Dancing 20 years later Visa commercial.
Soundtrack: J Records album features Wyclef Jean/Claudette Ortiz, Black Eyed Peas, Yerba Buena, Santana/Jorge Moreno, Christina Aguilera, Aterciopelados, Shawn Kane, Mya, Orishas/Heather Headley.
www.Dirtydancinghavananights.com offers downloads, soundtrack info, a description of the five different Cuban dances, story synopsis, cast and crew, production notes, trailer and photo gallery.

You’d think rain was a combination of earthquake, fire and riots the way it gets covered by the media here in the City of Angeles. In that spirit, I present StormWatch 2004, with HITS’ Doppler Radar providing all of the necessary panic-inducing information. It will be sunny with temps in the mid-60s this weekend, so be careful if you have to leave the house. The threat of temperatures in the upper 40s overnight has a lot of people concerned, as it’s been a day or two since we hit those lows. Across the country, where a little weather never hurt anybody, it will be mostly sunny with temps in the mid-40s and lows in the mid-30s. Stay sane. (DS)

Thanks to Roy Trakin, Simon Glickman, David Simutis, Holly Gleason, Bud Scoppa and Valerie Nome for not forsaking this Weakend Planner.

Twitter founder likes the sound of this deal. (3/4a)
Jay-Z's blingy mountain of cash keeps gaining altitude. (3/5a)
$9B IN 2020
Value keeps rising ahead of IPO. (3/5a)
Like moving to the apartment next door. (3/4a)
Let's hear it for ironic guitar-smashing. (3/5a)
A jazz chronicle of fighting the power.
After the snubs, the show.
In a phenomenal display of cowardice.
When vaccination schedules and touring schedules meet.

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