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"The mania for downloading music may be wreaking havoc with artists’ careers, but it is interesting to see how the ear trumps the eye when the computer takes over. Music is being consumed with no images attached—no videos, no TV appearances, not even album jackets."
——Alex Ross in
The New Yorker
WEAKEND PLANNER
HITS THE BOOKS
How Hot Is It? It’s Too Hot to Do Anything but Crack Open a Book, a Mag and a Cold One
L.A. has morphed into a remarkably vivid simulation of Houston during the last few days, to the degree, so to speak, that it’s impossible to poke at a PC keyboard here in downtown Sherman Oaks without dripping sweat all over it. Who’d’ve thunk toiling at HITS would resemble cranking though a spinning session at the gym? How hot is it? It’s so hot that the surviving laborers here in the cesspool speculate that the real reason Marc Pollack has chosen to stop being abused here in order to get more of the same at The Firm is that the AC works better over there—plus the daily schlep to pick up those Starbuck’s orders for the staff will be much less taxing on the other side of the hill.

All we can look forward to in the short term is a coupla days of downtime to prop ourselves up under the nearest vent and catch up on our reading, while wondering whether inscrutable Clippers owner Donald Sterling will match offers from other teams on Elton Brand and Corey Maggette and awaiting the decision from the Eagle County, CO, DA on whether to file sexual assault charges against L.A.’s most admired and adored local hero, Kobe Bryant. Incomprehensible? Sure. But so is what happened at the Santa Monica Farmers Market on Wednesday. These are strange times, indeed…

THE POPCULT TOP 10
1. Alex Ross, “Rock 101” (The New Yorker, July 14-21):
Everybody's still buzzing about John Seabrook's epic dissection of the music biz in the July 7 New Yorker, but this is even better. Stay with Ross' examination of rock aesthetics and criticism through its esoteric bits—his juxtapositions invariably pay off. This piece is breathtakingly insightful and eloquently written, with a good dozen terrific takes on a variety of pop-related subjects. Ross is The New Yorker's "serious" music critic, but his occasional forays into pop (e.g., a 2001 essay on Radiohead's importance) are must-reads. This is the kind of piece that'll make you say, again and again, I wish I'd written that. Here’s a typically spot-on take: “The mania for downloading music may be wreaking havoc with artists’ careers, but it is interesting to see how the ear trumps the eye when the computer takes over. Music is being consumed with no images attached—no videos, no TV appearances, not even album jackets. In the nineteenth century, the Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick dreamed of a world “purely musical,” beyond politics and personality. Such a world now exists in the form of the MP3.” —BS

2. Danny Goldberg, Dispatches from the Culture Wars: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit (Miramax Books): A political autobiography that traces the veteran record exec’s career-long tightrope act of balancing his ’60s countercultural liberal idealism and activism with the realities of both the music marketplace and the American political process. Plenty of good anecdotes about the making of the rock documentary No Nukes and his series of debates with Tipper Gore. The main thesis, an analysis of creeping boomer angst, effectively wonders how Democrats have allowed today’s popular culture symbols (and young voters) to be co-opted by the right wing. —RT

3. Bad Boys II (Columbia Pictures): Will Smith is Bronson with a sense of humor. Martin Lawrence is the wry foil with a face to pull for every complication. If the macho no-flinch quick-comeback reality doesn't square with the notion of Fresh Prince of Bel Air, figure it's acting. Smith has witnessed plenty—and who better than the guy who gave Muhammed Ali humanity to offer up the world's most nonplussed brush-offs in a movie that's all about the good guys having the anti-freeze in their veins, the best lines on their lips and a bit of righteousness coming through. For a Dirty Harry girl who can't wait for the next Bronson moment, this is one guilty pleasure I’m going to indulge in immediately. (Opens today; preview below.) —HG

4. The Lakers’ Surreal Summer: When the members of the 2002-03 Lakers scattered after their season ended May, badly in need of a revamping, no one could’ve predicted the events that would transpire during the ensuing weeks. The long-hated Karl Malone in Laker gold, sporting a #32 jersey, no less, and with Magic Johnson's blessing? Malone and Gary Payton walking away from tens of millions in order to put themselves in a position to win a championship? The highly disciplined role model Kobe Bryant, loving husband and proud first-time father, arrested for sexual assault? And most shocking of all, Shaquille O’Neal losing weight during the time off? How much does L.A. love the Lakers? Here it is mid-July, and it seems that all anybody in this town can talk or write about is this team, which is still three months from the beginning of training camp. Now, more than ever, the Lakers and their endlessly eventful ongoing saga are the quintessence of Tinseltown. Stay tuned. —BS

5. Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players’ L.A. Tour Stop: Since being profiled a few months ago in an adulatory “Talk of the Town” item in the New Yorker, this nomadic nuclear-family unit has become a fave of the pop intelligentsia. Father Jason plinks away on his battered keyboard, and 9-year-old, preternaturally wise, home-schooled daughter Rachel, pounds away Mo Tucker-style on drums, while wife Tina Piña mans the slide projector. Wailing away like David Byrne at his most earnest. Jason intersperses fumbling between-song banter (“It’s what we’re known for”) with word-for-word descriptions of the found images culled from assorted yard and estate sales. These include a Japanese vacation (“Mountain Trip to Japan, 1959”), the lives of two military nurses through the years (“Look at Me”) and photos from a 1977 McDonald’s sales meeting (the six-song self-proclaimed “rock opera,” “Opnad Contribution Study Committee Report, June 1977”). Crossing back and forth between unbearably pretentious and charmingly self-effacing, the rather humble trio have evoked a wide range of emotions, with naysayers accusing them of either exploitation or condescension. And if they can get overly cute at times, there are also ineffable moments when ordinary lives are somehow immortalized, with the inexorable sense of time passing before your eyes evoked in the unexpectedly moving “Look at Me.” Yeah, it’s a joke, too, but one that has the compassion and commitment that marks the strongest of family ties and a testament to the project’s homemade genesis. The band’s album comes out on indie Bar/None this September in an enhanced version that includes the relevant visuals. —RT

6. Alanna Nash, The Colonel (Simon & Schuster): Exhaustively researched, beautifully written and ultimately delivered with unflinching love of a good yarn, my dear friend Alanna Nash gets to the real crux of the Elvis Presley story: Colonel Tom Parker. Part carnie, part huckster, part scoundrel, part intellectual shark who never slept—this is the story of how his psyche was forged, how he walked through the world and all the places he went along the way to making Elvis—Madonna be damned—the biggest star in the world. It is a realm rife with questionable everything, and it becomes much clearer once Nash starts dissembling. Well told as a tale even if one cares not for the legacy of Graceland, a riveting read if pop culture or black-velvet paintings are what fires your desire. —HG

7. The Spinning Hall of Fame: The following 15 tracks never fail to produce whoops among shvitzing people on stationary bikes whenever they’re played during the course of a spinning session: Coldplay’s “Yellow,” Elvis Costello & the Attractions’ “Oliver’s Army,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Running Through the Garden,” Foo Fighters' "Times Like These," Elton John’s “Love Lies Bleeding,” John Mayer’s “3 X 5,” New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give,” Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ “American Girl,” Sam Roberts’ “Brother Down,” Spoon’s “The Way We Get By,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungleland,” Taxiride’s “Saffron,” U2’s “Walk On,” Barry White’s “My First, My Last, My Everything” and Dan Wilson’s “Cry.” And that's the God's honest truth. —BS

8. Promo Weasel Stupid Site of the Week: This one’s as cute as a bear’s ear: http://www.funny-pictures.com/ecards/bear/1.swf —TH

9. Walter Isaacson, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life (Simon & Schuster): Time magazine has a way of hiring beautiful writers, people who can make their prose flow like rivers and offer up analogies and metaphors that have a beauty all their own, drawing conclusions with an ease and a grace that is almost humbling to people who read a lot. Isaacson, who lives in the nosebleed range of the Time masthead, is one of the best of their best…and he has turned his attention, research abilities and especially his pen to Franklin, one of this nation's true renaissance men, who did so many things not only so well but with so much humor and style. —HG

10. Coreylevitan.com: Read about the adventures of the Torrance Daily Breeze staffer (who also freelances for Playboy and the N.Y. Post) as Little League baseball player, a porn film actor, a dog groomer, a pool cleaner, a race-car driver and a skydiving Elvis impersonator. The self-deprecating scribe never misses an opportunity to mock either his own lack of verticality or his “prowess” with the ladies, most hilariously on the classic “Corey’s Hall of Bad Hair.” —RT

SHINY ROUND THINGS
The Polyphonic Spree, The Beginning Stages of… (Good/Hollywood):
It’s Up with People on Texas peyote, Godspell re-imagined by Phil Spector and Brian Wilson, “Hey Jude” meets “Here Comes the Sun.” This Dallas 23-piece concocted by ex-Tripping Daisy Tim DeLaughter has been taking the rock world by storm with its gospel pop choral services, the Bee Gees and ELO meeting the goofy ethereality of fellow Southwesterners The Flaming Lips. Is it the Next Big Thing or the Emperor’s New Robes? This reissue of the band’s 2002 indie bow includes the 10-section rock opera and a 36-minute ambient breathing coda that makes Eno and Soft Machine sound like Metallica. On the four live tracks added to the CD, the Spree sound like they’re already moving to higher ground. This cult of good vibrations dares you to drink the Kool-Aid, praise the Lord and pass the Theremin. Roy Trakin

Minibar, Fly Below the Radar (Foodchain): These Cali-obsessed Brits have shifted their focus in the three years since their brief fling at major-labeldom, the promising, if problematic, T Bone Burnett-produced Road Movies. Where that album consciously appropriated the stylistic legacy of West Coast country-rock, the new LP aims for something more panoramic—an evocation of the mythopoetic American West found in movies, books and vanished icons like Route 66. The band’s present approach is similar to that of Tucson’s Calexico, but Minibar views the romantic West from its adopted home in L.A., stirred by childhood fantasies accumulated at a far greater distance. The voice of Simon Petty, the band’s frontman and principal writer, has acquired a character-enhancing rasp that’s well-suited to his present pursuit, while the atmospheric guitar and pedal steel of Tim Walker evoke the wide-open spaces in the manner of David Lindley’s memorable work on Jackson Browne’s early classics; the sound is further enhanced by the dense Hammond organ lines of Rami Jaffe, borrowed from the Wallflowers. The approach pays off most effectively on the vivid “New Mexico” and the centerpiece “Unstoppable,” whose old-fashioned waltz tempo gathers itself into a grand crescendo that brings to mind the soundtrack to a John Ford western.
Bud Scoppa

The Sounds, Living in America (New Line Records): This Swedish quintet recaptures the vibrant intersection of punk and new wave, evoking fond memories of early Blondie, Kraftwerk and Lene Lovich. Thanks to their punchy, economical songwriting (11 fleet tunes plus one bonus track) and singer Maja Ivarsson’s appealing mix of intensity and vulnerability, The Sounds do more than pick up a musical torch—they practically burn the house down with it. Raw guitars, whining synths and propulsive tempos mark the most aggressive material, such as the defiant title track, “Fire,” “Hope You’re Happy Now” and the envelope-pushing “Hit Me!” But when these Swedes dip into the disco noir of Rock’N Roll” and “Like a Lady,” they bloody up the dance floor like ABBA’s evil twin.
Simon Glickman

Electric Six, Fire (XL): “It would be awesome if we could dance,” suggests singer Dick Valentine at the top of “Dance Commander,” and the over-the-top ironic tweak he stomps from those words is just the first hint of what a rollicking, raucous rock & roll joyride this absurdist Detroit combine has perpetrated (hint: there are only five of them). Dinosaur rock, disco and vintage new wave all play into their exaggerated amalgam, as Valentine’s crazed frontman persona veers from steroid metal-man to falsetto-packing dance sleaze. “Danger! High Voltage” was a hit in the U.K. earlier this year (is that really Jack White echoing Valentine?), while the quasi-surf “Gay Bar” is the track of the moment. Don’t miss “Naked Pictures (of Your Mother),” “She’s White” or “I’m the Bomb” (“I suspect heavy gerrymandering at the singles bar”). Fun is not dead. Jon O’Hara

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Unlike most celebrities, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck claim they plan to play it cool when it comes to paparazzi on their wedding day. “If people want to be outside and they want to take our picture, then OK,” Jennifer told intrepid reporter Pat O’Brien on NBC’s Access Hollywood. “We're not going to be with the 24 million security guards. We wanna be just like, have a nice wedding…have it be a beautiful day…and if there happen to be cameras outside, then that's fine. We're not gonna obsess over them." —Valerie Nome

TRAKIN’S PICKS TO FLICK
Bad Boys II (Columbia Pictures)
Premise:
Martin Lawrence and Will Smith return as a pair of Miami detectives on a case that takes them to London, where they run into an undercover agent who’s pretending to launder dirty money.
Stars: Lawrence, Smith, Gabrielle Union, The SopranosJoe Pantoliano, Henry Rollins, Peter Stormare, John Salley
Director: Michael Bay
(Bad Boys, Armageddon, Pearl Harbor)
Thumbs Up: From the trailers, the duo’s charisma is intact, and the car chases look as spectacular as that huge budget can buy.
Thumbs Down: Can it overcome the public’s increasing resistance to sequels?
Soundtrack: P.Diddy’s debut Bad Boy/Universal release will be the #1 album in the country next week, with a star-studded lineup that includes Nelly, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Lenny Kravitz, Fat Joe, Mary J. Blige, Justin Timberlake, Loon, Snoop Dogg, Foxy Brown
Website: www.sonypictures.com/movies/badboys2/site/ offers a number of contest and promotions, the story, video, gallery, downloads, soundtrack info, trivia and a tour of “virtual” Miami.

How to Deal (New Line)
Premise:
Based upon a pair of young adult romance novels by teen fve Sara Dessen about a teenager who decides true love doesn’t really exist…until she meets Mr. Right.
Stars: Mandy Moore, Trent Ford, Dylan Baker, Peter Gallagher, Alexandra Holden, Allison Janney, Mackenzie Astin, Nina Foch, Glynnis Johns
Director: Clare Kilner
, who directed a British “office comedy” that has been compared to Bridget Jones’s Diary
Thumbs Up: Sensitive teen romance with a literary source.
Thumbs Down: For those under 20 only.
Soundtrack: Capitol/EMI album includes a surprising PoMo bent, with tracks by Skye Sweetnam, The Flaming Lips, The Donnas, Liz Phair, Beth Orton, John Mayer, The Music, Echo and Cat Stevens.
Website: www.howtodealmovie.com gives story info, photo gallery, “10 Q’s with Mandy,” “dating trent,” soundtrack, personality test, poll video gallery, a poll of the day, trailer, a “meet Many sweepstakes,” and a relationship report card.

Johnny English (Universal Pictures)
Premise:
Huge international hit based on the Rowan Atkinson spy spoof character which originated as a TV commercial for a British credit card company. English goes after a conniving Frenchman who steals Her Majesty’s crown jewels and looks to nab her throne as well.
Stars: Rowan Atkinson, Natalie Imbruglia, John Malkovich, Douglas McFerran
Director: Peter Howitt
(AntiTrust, Sliding Doors), with a screenplay by Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (who’ve written a pair of James Bond films in The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day)
Thumbs Up: Could be a comic franchise a la Inspector Clouseau, and just silly enough to stand out in a summer of stuffy pretension.
Thumbs Down: The actor formerly known as Bean is definitely an acquired taste, for those who think Benny Hill is a comic genius.
Soundtrack: Decca album features Robbie Williams track and score by Edward Shearmur.
Website: www.johnny-English.com has faux James Bond intro, a “training program,” “mission game,” photo gallery, trailer, plot synopsis, cast information, behind the scenes and production info.

Garage Days (Fox Searchlight)
Premise:
Australian film about a struggling young garage band in Sydney as they try to make it to the big time. After the group’s first gig is a failure, the lead singer goes out to pursue the most successful rock manager in the country as the other members of the band deal with everyday life issues that can tear a band apart.
Stars: Kick Gurry, Maya Stange, Pia Miranda, Chris Sadrinna, Brett Stiller, Andy Anderson
Director: Alex Proyas
(The Crow, Dark City; I, Robot)
Thumbs Up: Sundance Film Festival entry and international award winner could be a Spinal Tap/The Commitments-like sleeper.
Thumbs Down: Can a rock movie crossover from a rock audience?
Soundtrack: Mushroom Records album features D4, Supergrass, Motor Ace, Roxy Music, (International) Noise Conspiracy, 28 Days, the Jam, David McCormack, Joey Ramone, Moldy Peaches, The Hives and Tom Jones.
Website: www.garagedaysthemovie.com/ features updates, director/producer information, synopsis, pre-production, the shoot, crew, cast, trailer, soundtrack, etc.

Dirty Pretty Things (Miramax Films)
Premise:
An illegal Nigerian immigrant working as a night porter at a posh London hotel stumbles across evidence of a bizarre murder which may involve a famous surgeon and black-market kidneys, teaming up with a Turkish chambermaid and a Chinese prostitute to solve the crime.
Stars:
Amelie’s Audrey Tatou, Chjwetel Ejiofor, Sergi Lopez, Sophie Okonedo
Director: Stephen Frears
returns to The Grifters turf for this film after High Fidelity, Dangerous Liaisons, Liam, My Beautiful Laundrette.
Thumbs Up: Cool international cast, provocative trailer, superb director.
Thumbs Down:
Will this art-house entry outsmart itself?
Soundtrack: None.
Website: www.go-underground.com
links to a trailer, dossiers on the characters, plot synopsis, a description of the mystery.

NEW YORK MINUTE
Puddle of Mudd
, Trapt and DaMone will attempt to shake the Randalls Island turf on Saturday; Lisa Marie Presley and Chris Isaak (whose coif is patterned after that of Lisa Marie’s old man) team up at the Beacon Theatre (2124 Broadway) on Monday. —Valerie Nome

DENISE’S WEAKEND COCKTAIL
I don’t think I’ll ever figure out the whole dating thing, so I’m going to keep whining to you guys until I do. It’s a never-ending saga. I meet a guy, we click, we kiss, I feel butterflies, he seems into me and then he falls off the face of the earth. What in the hell? Where am I going wrong? If it were the first or second time this had happened, I wouldn’t be concerned, but it seems to be happening over and over again. It might be that I’m dating more than I was, in turn, leading me to more encounters with flaky guys. It’s so frustrating. I was venting about this matter to some of my gal co-workers when an interesting subject came up—Internet dating. Every day it seems like more and more of our lives are being consumed by www.something. We partake in cyber-shopping, cyber-banking, cyber-dating, cyber-sex—what’s next? Is physical contact outdated? My office-mates may have a very valid point. In this city, who has the time (or money) to go out every night socializing, hoping to meet Mr. Right or Mr. You’re Good Enough For Right Now? Does cyber-dating really work? And if it does, what happens to old-fashioned romance? Is romance, as we know it, dead? This week’s cocktail is dedicated to all of you gals, like myself, who don’t have the time or patience to tackle dating in the manner we were once accustomed.

Cyberlady
1 oz. Cognac
½ oz. strawberry liqueur
½ oz. Cointreau
Splash of orange juice and a dash of lemon juice
Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass

After the relentless urgings of my girlfriends, I’ve shelved my idealistic romantic fantasy of Prince Charming strolling up to me in a bar and joined Match.com. I’ve discovered there’s a plethora of single guys within a 25-mile radius of West Hollywood, and now they’re all e-mailing me—jeez. I fell like a casting director scanning through endless stacks of headshots. I need to hire an assistant to help me screen potential candidates and set up auditions. My pictures have only been online for two days, and my profile has been looked at 1,544 times, proving that this city is filled with tons of single and desperate people—myself included—and to my delight, a lot of them are hot! At first I was embarrassed to tell anyone I was joining. I thought joining a dating service would label me as a pathetic gal who couldn’t get a date, but now I view myself as an opportunist who is sick of sleeping alone. Either way, this should prove to be interesting and, in turn, give my dedicated readers more things to laugh at me about. Wish me luck.

De’s L.A. bar pick of the week: If you haven’t given up on the singles scene and it’s a meat market you’re hungry for, then Barney’s Beanery should be on your menu. Barney’s is practically a historic landmark in Los Angeles, and I’m sure a more than a few drunken customers have made a mark in their bedrooms after hooking up at this singles-filled joint. The crowd is laid-back, scruffy, testosterone-driven and not hard on the eyes, and you’ll have plenty chances to get up close and personal, because the place is always packed. With over 200 beers to choose from, a mammoth menu, video games, pool tables and karaoke, there’s a little something for everyone.

If you’re single and sick of it, put a stop to it and step into the future by surfing for singles. A lot of services offer free trials, and you’ll never know if you don’t sign on. You may not find Mr. Right, but you’ll definitely find enough suitors to distract you until your prince rides up on his white horse. If nothing else, it’ll make you realize you’re not alone in this big, bad, scary dating world. Happy hunting. Until next week—hugs and kisses. Denise Bayles

Contributors: Denise Bayles, Darren Cava, Holly Gleason, Simon Glickman, Todd Hensley, Valerie Nome, Jon O’Hara and Roy Trakin

Edited by Bud Scoppa

A HOLLY, JOLLY
HITS LIST
A December to remember (12/6a)
REVENUE CHART:
MALONE IS MONEY
Yet another post about Post (12/6a)
TAYLOR LIGHTS HER "CHRISTMAS TREE"
With lots of shiny tinsel (12/6a)
THE HAPPY WARRIOR OF THE RECORD BUSINESS
What a great guy (12/6a)
GRAMMY CHEW: WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE, ANYWAY?
Those who fail to learn from the past are destined to repeat it. (12/6a)
EGGNOG!
Ours is mostly bourbon.
MISTLETOE!
Delicious in salads.
CHESTNUTS!
Ours are roasting, but it could be these slim-fit jeans.
WEED!
An entire Christmas tree made of it. Is what we want for Christmas.
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