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All in all, [Curb Your Enthusiasm is] not quite as squeamish as The Office when that other David (Brent) is at his neediest, but it's still among the edgiest, what-will-happen-next entertainments anywhere.
WEAKEND PLANNER DISCOVERS ALL PUBLICITY IS NOT GOOD PUBLICITY
Fire Your Publicist, Hire an Image Consultant, Fly to Vegas and Annul Your Quickie Marriage, But By All Means Don’t Curb Your Enthusiasm
As the media multiply, it takes that much more impact to cut through the static and make an impact. But has dominating talk-radio debates helped—or hurt—Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, Pete Rose and Steve Irwin? No one seems to be running out to buy Spears and Jackson’s albums, plus they’re getting excoriated in the press. We’ll see what happens to Rose’s book, but just be thankful the Crocodile Hunter isn’t your daddy. Perhaps it’s better to stay out of the public glare, and just kinda sneak up on people, like Larry David… who seemed so much funnier when he wasn’t the greatest thing in comic misanthropy since W.C. Fields. As a famed philosopher once put it, "Keep your mouth shut and people think you’re a fool; speak your mind and they’ll know you’re one." Unless, of course, your publicist can get you a booking on the new Ryan Seacrest show. Unfortunately, Weakend Planner can’t keep its lame opinions to itself.

POPCULT TOP 10
1. Curb Your Enthusiasm: Even the great Larry David can fall short (still haven’t been able to sit through Sour Grapes), though the debut episode of the new HBO season was still masterful, especially the deal made between Larry and Cheryl Hines for their 10th anniversary, cursing out the guy in the electric wheelchair he almost runs over in his car and trying to pick up the girl with his unwieldy speed rap about bowling balls. But there were also some too-easy marks—making fun of the Italian waiter’s gibberish, the one-time-too-many "prick" argument with the Doctor, the "drooling" leitmotif. All in all, not quite as squeamish as The Office when that other David (Brent) is at his neediest, but it's still among the edgiest, what-will-happen-next entertainments anywhere. Looking forward to the eyerolling fireworks when Ben Stiller and Larry face off as the co-stars of The Producers. (Roy Trakin)

2. Cold Mountain: Yeah, Nicole Kidman’s hair is a little too perfect for someone who’s suffered through the Civil War, but that’s the point. This is director Anthony Minghella’s mostly successful attempt at a Gone With the Wind-style Hollywood epic for upper-middlebrows. Jude Law isn’t required to do much but react to what’s going on around him during his Homeric stroll, but those piercing blue eyes speak plenty. And while Renée Zellwegger seems like she’s barged in from a road-show production of Annie Get Your Gun—ditto the always-amusing, but seemingly anachronistic Phjlip Seymour Hoffman as a Fallstaffian, fallen preacher—some of the other supporting roles are memorable. Brendan Gleeson as Zellwegger’s fiddle-playing, sad-eyed dad and White Stripe Jack White’s awestruck troubadour both strike earth-bound notes in the midst of the poetic platitudes. Best of all, though, is the T-Bone Burnett soundtrack, which moves the series of painterly tableaux along with an inexorable fatalism, part Appalachian folk, part Sacred Harp Gospel, part Celtic mysticism. (RT)

3. Scott R. Benarde, Stars of David: Rock ‘N’ Roll’s Jewish Stories (University Press of New England): Way beyond Guy Oseary’s wafer-thin Jews Who Rock, this series of interviews at least tries to find the religion as well as the culture in the music. There are some prime anecdotes, especially Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan’s skill at blowing the shofar, Spirit’s member of the tribe Randy California phonetically teaching Jay Ferguson how to sing the Hebrew prayer on "Jewish" and David Lee Roth revealing how his anger at anti-semitism fueled his aggro on-stage behavior. And, of course, the inordinate amount of rockers who bought their first instruments with their bar mitzvah money. (RT)

4. Celebrity Mole Yucatan (ABC, Wednesdays 10 p.m.): Any TV show with Corbin Bernsen and Steven Baldwin (or whichever Baldwin brother it is) has a certain, rubberneck a carcrash appeal. A reality gameshow like Survivor, Celebrity Mole has one contestant whose job it is to sabotage the rest of the group. At the end of each episode, the players are asked questions relating to the identity of the Mole. The loser has to leave the show. CNN’s Anderson Cooper hosted the low-rated non-celeb version, but this B-list cast—Angie Everheart, Ananda Lewis, Dennis Rodman, Mark Curry, Keisha Knight Pulliam and Tracy Gold—have to deal with Ahmad Rashad. It’s catty fun at its best. (David Simutis)

5. Kid Rock: The language and subject matter may not be for the faint-hearted. But as the true heir apparent of the Southern rock mantle, this guy’s got it. Invoking Bad Company—right down to a redux of their "Feel Like Making Love," which may make you want to shower for hygienic reasons—this is the swagger and bravado that made Skynyrd famous. His "Jackson, Mississippi" alone proves the value of the genre…and when he’s not grabbing his crotch lyrically, he brings the dignity of this oft-maligned oeuvre to a slow boil. (Holly Gleason)

6. Texas Hold ‘Em: All the rage on Bravo NetworksCelebrity Poker, as celebrities go three rounds in the name of the flop, the turn and, finally, the river. This is as much about how you bluff as it is about the cards on the table. And if you’ve got a bunch of friends who like to laugh and have more-than-nominal powers of concentration (hey, I’m in the music business…), this is a killer way to while away an evening. Low impact, high stakes (if you like that sort of thing) and the potential for living room showmanship of the first order. (HG)

7. Michael Azerrad, "Punk’s Earnest New Mission" (N.Y.Times 1/4/04): The always-entrancing Azerrad, who was one of the frontliners on the grunge that moved a generation through Nirvana, turns his always-gentle insight to punk in the here and now. What he finds amidst the aggression that always symbolizes this most primal form of rock is a will for today’s emergent acts to reach out to their fans as a reinforcing element. Good Charlotte’s "Hold On" is the most emblematic—with a video that’s all over MTV showing survivors of their loved ones’ suicides—but Blink-182, Sum 41 and even Smash Mouth are reaching out a steadying hand to the young. All suggest, as bad as it is—hopelessness is common to us all—you can still punch through it. If this is the soundtrack of today’s Holden Caufields, the answers defy Catcher in the Rye realities, and the great Grey Lady not only fronts it in the hallowed Sunday Arts & Leisure section, they devote an entire page to it inside. With a new Vietnam on our hands, an economy that spin doctors explain because the obvious isn’t what they want us to believe, increasing levels of toxicity in our food, here is some good news. The music that seems so impenetrable to us grown-ups is sowing hope to a sector of the future that most needs it. (HG)

8. NFL Playoffs: I’m already losing interest, but here goes. Philly socks it to Green Bay, with Donovan McNabb getting the quarter-final laugh on racist pill-popper Rush Limbaugh. St. Louis bests Carolina in a battle of two QBs nobody but their family have ever heard of (Bulger, Delhomme). In the AFC, Indianapolis’ much-maligned Peyton Manning tops the one-dimensional Kansas City Chiefs, who have Priest Holmes and little else, while Tennessee ends New England’s winning streak with its superior defensive and offensive lines, not to mention Steve McNair’s arm and legs. (RT)

9. Post-Christmas Spirit: You share an office with Trakin long enough, and you start—shudder—thinking alike. Which is the only way to explain why Roy and I simultaneously rediscovered ’60s rock tribe Spirit over the holiday break, each unbeknownst to the other. I’ve loved my battered vinyl copy of 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus (recently reissued by Sony Legacy) since I was a sprout, but I pulled it out of the stacks two weeks ago and was stunned anew. Randy California and Jay Ferguson were both formidable songwriters, and 1970’s 12 Dreams showcases a dream combo of concept-rock ambition and pop economy on songs like the awe-inspiring "Nature’s Way," slinky rocker "Nothing to Hide," the anthemic "Morning Will Come," the ravishing fragment "Why Can’t I Be Free" and more. The disc captures a moment when psychedelia was maturing into prog (note the Moog solo on "Space Child" and the guitar excursion on "When I Touch You"), riffage was getting heavier and alienation was rushing to the fore. But hippie idealism hadn’t faded entirely, and 12 Dreams also has the melancholy shimmer of its vanishing days. Though dated in many respects, at times a bit cheesy and at others a tad overwrought, it’s a wonderful album from a band that deserved—and continues to deserve—more respect. (Simon Glickman)

10. N.Y. Knicks: Could my sports teams (Jets, Mets, Knicks, Islanders) be at a lower ebb? Are the Knicks turning into the Mets of basketball? As I sit and watch with disbelieving eyes Stephon Marbury’s homecoming at the Garden, the Knicks are down by 20 points to the Rockets, who happen to be coached by our own perpetually scowling ex-gym rat ruler Jeff Van Gundy, his remaining hair down to a wisp. Hey, only 37 days, 14 hours and 57 seconds (as I write) left until pitchers and catchers report. From Matsui to Reyes to Piazza sounds like poetry to me. (RT)

NEW YORK MINUTE
Get back into the swing of things with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy this Friday (January 9) when the group plays B.B. King’s Blues Club (243 W. 42nd St.). If that’s not your bag, check out the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the Hammerstein Ballroom (311 W. 34th St.) Also on Friday, Aaron Neville begins a three-night stand at Blue Note (131 W. 3rd St.) with Lizz Wright. The forecast for Saturday includes Sevendust, Il Nino and Element Eighty picking up Hammerstein Ballroom. (Valerie Nome)

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"Britney Spears and a friend took a joke too far by getting married." (Jive spokesperson Sonia Muckle)

Conspiracy theorists are all over this. How could the world’s most sought-after beauty act so desperate? Did she do it because of Justin? Was it a publicity stunt? Did she do it to spite her mom? Did she do it because she was drunk? Did she really want to marry this guy? Should we feel sorry for her? Is she the next Marilyn Monroe?

What does this mean for the future of marriage? Has this effectively destabilized wedding vows for generations of husbands-and-wives-to-be? Does she really think marriage is a joke? How does this help the gay marriage agenda? Will Vegas weddings ever be the same?

Does this prove that a woman won't be happily married to a man whose financial success pales in comparison to her own? Will these bums be left in droves thanks to Brit's example? Will getting a marriage annulled become "pulling a Britney"?

Will people still buy her albums? Who will like her now? Is she closing in on Michael Jackson for the title of most eccentric pop star? Is she really so far gone that she didn’t understand that getting married is serious business? Did she not realize she could have lost a fortune?

Will some think her spontaneity is a good thing? Will they like her more if they feel sorry for her? Will Justin dump Cameron and jump into the temple of love with Britney again?

WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?!

Discuss. (VN)

TRAKIN’S PICKS TO FLICK
It’s the dregs of January, where the studios dump all their bombs, so the pickings are pretty slim. This weekend’s top opening is Nick Broomfield’s documentary, Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer, the tale of Aileen Wuornos, portrayed by Charlize Theron to much Oscar buzz in the fictional film, Monster. Broomfield has previously done documentaries on Wournous (1992’s Aileen Wournous: The Selling of a Serial Killer) as well as Kurt and Courtney, Biggie and Tupac and Heidi Fleiss, all most notable for the intrusive role played by the boom-and-camera wielding investigative journalist himself. The subject’s way too downbeat for me, but hey, it’s certainly proven titillating to the public.

New Year’s Eve, I caught Cheaper by the Dozen at the Big Bear Theater with my family. I only mention it because of the fact many critics had it as their "turkey of the year," and while it’s no masterpiece, it’s at least an unembarrassing way to pass 90-some-odd minutes with your loved ones. In fact, Ashley Kutcher is a hoot as the narcissistic would-be actor/model boyfriend of the oldest sister who is terrorized by the kids. Even if Steve Martin is the most unlikely college football coach this side of Henry Winkler in The Waterboy.

YOUR WEEKEND QUESTION
The new 103.1 PoMo station in Los Angeles has been playing a lot of Soundgarden, which brings the first in what should be a series of three or four weeks of questions on this here site. What is Kim Thayil doing right now? Chris Cornell has struck gold again with Audioslave, drummer Matt Cameron has joined Pearl Jam, and bassist Ben Shepherd has played with Josh Homme on his Desert Sessions and Tony Iommi, among others. And though Thayil has shown up as a guest on a couple of obscure records, it doesn’t answer where he is and what he’s doing right now. If you know, email me at [email protected]. But I’m not just a taker. If you have a burning music-related question that needs answering, hit me up and I’ll pose it to the dozens of readers in hopes of finding an answer. (DS)

YOUR WEEKEND WEATHER
Here in Los Angeles, it’s been terribly cold at night. A couple of times, it’s dropped to almost 40 degrees. Brrrr. How’s it doing in the Northwest? Anyway, this weekend it will be mostly sunny, with highs in the lower 70s and lows in the low 50s. Perfect. Out there in New York, it’s also going to be perfect—if your idea of perfect is partly cloudy, with temps ranging from a high of 20 and a low of 10 on Saturday. Or maybe you’ll like Sunday a little better since the high will be in the low 30s and the low will only be in the low 20s. Keep your feet dry and your head warm. (DS)

Thanks to Roy Trakin, David Simutis, Holly Gleason, Simon Glickman and Valerie Nome for making this affair as festive as Liza Minnelli and David Gest's divorce proceedings.

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