My teams, they suck—all of them—and I’m still not used to it... The result is a catalytic brew of metal, alternative, Detroit psychedelic R&B and gutbucket roots... Now, if I could only TiVo my life... Just another tense family dinner? Ripoff! Nobody wants the beaten-up Prada purse on Canal Street... I can’t breathe, can’t sleep and can’t think. I’m in a major funk, and my body’s craving a change in season.
In Which We Ruminate on White Stripes, Mr. Right, Lost in Translation and Losing Teams
OK, after several weeks of agonizing difficulty at every level—financial, personal, physiological—we at the cesspool have at last been offered an explanation for the black cloud that’s been tailing us. It may be a dubiously metaphysical explanation, but we’ll take what we can get. Y’see, it seems Mercury’s in retrograde. Allegedly that’ll change soon and everything will be better. Here’s hoping.


1. I’m a Loser, Baby: As the football season ends its first month this weekend, I’m licking my wounds, armed with a newfound understanding of what Mets/Jets/Knicks/Islanders fan Trakin goes through every season in every major sport. My teams, they suck—all of them—and I’m still not used to it. My college faves, alma mater Notre Dame and local boys UCLA, are in a tight battle for lowest-ranked offense among the 117 major colleges (the Domers may have the worst offense in collegiate football history), while the Raiders and the Jets, the NFL teams I’ve followed since their AFL days, are equally toothless after each made it into the playoffs (and the Raiders got all the way to the Super Bowl). Injured QB Chad Pennington may make it back in time to salvage the Jets’ season (get serious, Bud), but it appears the Raiders may need to replace their sideline vats of Gatorade with Geritol if they want to get through 16 games, period—forget winning a handful. The danger for even vaguely superstitious fans when the teams they follow go in the toilet is the nagging tendency to identify with their failure or to see the plummet as some kind of omen. Hey, I know it’s ridiculous—so why am I struggling with it? You should’ve seen me as thoroughly mediocre Michigan State (which had lost at home the previous week to Louisiana Tech, fer crissakes!!) stymied Notre Dame whenever it seemed about to wake up the echoes; my body language in my chair was nearly identical to that of ND quarterback Carlyle Holiday as he stood, shell-shocked, on the sideline after being yanked for a truly pathetic performance. So now I’m tempted to switch horses for the rest of the season to a team that is actually contending for something. The obvious choice is the other local team, #3 USC, but it’s hard to ignore decades of loathing from both the ND and UCLA perspectives. Oregon (who beat Michigan after the Wolverines had shut out the Irish 38-zip)? Not with the worst uniforms in the history of organized sports. How about upstart Northern Illinois, 3-0 after improbably upsetting two highly ranked teams? Nah, they won’t get on TV enough. Oh, well, it’s just a month to basketball season…but then there’s the Kobe matter. A tough year, all round. BS

2. Living Up to Promises: Those of us who’d heard Rusty Truck’s album, Broken Promises (on the new Coda Terra label), had reason to expect a bevy of superstar guest appearances at the band’s 9/23 release party at Hollywood’s Knitting Factory. But the band, fronted by singer-songwriter Mark Seliger, didn’t need to resort to celebrity cameos. Following an into by a genuine cowboy poet, they delivered their solid, rootsy material with low-key confidence, and the music was sufficiently stellar all by itself. Kenny Wayne Shepherd did step up to play some flashy lead guitar, but otherwise the show belonged to Seliger and his superb band (notably keyboardist Rami Jaffee, guitarist/pedal steel whiz Ben Peeler and drummer Joey Peters). Of course, Seliger’s relationship with rock’s elite—he’s one of the finest portrait photographers ever to snap a singer’s likeness—probably got him access in the first place. But think about it: Would the Wallflowers, T-Bone Burnett, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Willie Nelson, Lenny Kravitz, Me’Shell Ndegeocello, Sheryl Crow, Rob Thomas, et al really have lent their time and talent as producers, singers and players to this project simply because Seliger took a nice picture? More likely, these talented folks regard Seliger as a musical peer, and rightly so. Just listen to vintage-sounding alt-country fare like the Jakob Dylan-produced "Never Going Back," Kravitz-helmed "Fool" or the Nelson duet "1000 Kisses," let alone the rollicking "Malibu Canyon" and the steamy border rocker "Candy" (with able backing vocals from Thomas), and you know you’re in the presence of a great musical storyteller. Seliger’s voice, though perfect for the stylistic territory, has a warmth and lived-in character all its own. It came off beautifully at Tuesday night’s show, and Seliger even treated the crowd to a between-songs story about photographing the late Johnny Cash.—SG

3. Wesley Clark: The liberal general is being touted as the answer to the Democrats’ prayers, even as questions surface about his flip-flopping on Iraq. Though Clark might be able to give a weakened Bush his marching orders, can he muscle past the pols who have de facto seniority in the national party system?—SG

Listening to Primetime TV: Switching the channel to NBC Wednesday night in anticipation of the season premiere of The West Wing, I caught the closing credits of Ed and encountered a familiar singing voice (familiar to me and a few thousand others, that is). It belonged to the gifted but obscure Ron Sexsmith, crooning to what had to be the largest audience that had ever stumbled across him—even if they had no way to tell who they were listening to (no music credit, natch). Fifty minutes later, a breathtaking art song with an operatic female vocal, one I’d never heard before, played over the extraordinary final scene of what I rate as an altogether brilliant episode, the first of the post-Sorkin/Schlamme era, directed, according to the show’s site, by Alex Graves, and Chris Misiano. There was no mention of the song on the site. Amazingly, only HBO shows document their soundtracks; when will the over-the-air networks get with it? In the last year, soundtrack albums from two adult-targeted network shows, CBSCrossing Jordan (DMZ/Columbia/SMS) and the WB’s The Gilmore Girls (WB TV/Rhino), have come out. The latter is a startlingly hip collection compiled by Gary Stewart (featured are Big Star, XTC, Black Box Recorder and Grant-Lee Phillips, for starters); the former consists of newly recorded cover songs produced by Craig Street (best known for his envelope-pushing work with Cassandra Wilson) featuring the likes of Wilson, Richard Thompson, Lucinda Williams, Joe Henry and series star Jill Hennessey, who turns out to be a skilled torch singer. This one’s tasty indeed. Both have been pretty much overlooked, which is a pity, because they put most contempo feature-film soundtracks to shame. I hope this minor phenomenon is a sign of things to come, as it should be, considering the ever-growing synergy between the two media.BS

5. Radiohead, live at the Hollywood Bowl, (Sept. 25-26): Proving that the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree, my dad checked out Radiohead in concert, at my insistence, last month. He said it was the best concert he’d ever seen and called me twice from the show, holding up his cell phone so I could hear them. This, from the man who has seen U2, Springsteen, Dylan, the Dead, CSN&Y, the Doobie Brothers and way more. He was already a big fan, emailing me about their show on DirecTV, but he wasn’t sure about the four-hour roundtrip drive. In his words: "It made be remember why experiencing live music is so essential to understanding the artistry and the energy of the performers. Until you see them live, it's like listening to their music on a scratched, mono LP." —DS

6. Alias, season premiere (Sunday night at 9 p.m.): It’s easy to relate to Jennifer Gardner’s Sydney Bristow of Alias in the season premiere of the ABC-TV spy drama. Last season ended with her waking up suffering a two-year memory loss, which is a lot like working in the music business. People presumed you were dead, you have no memory of how you got here, people are trying to kill you, you don’t know who you can trust, and there are lots of slow-motion scenes of hot women running from life-threatening danger. OK, maybe not the last part. Still, her boyfriend got married in her absence (he thought she was dead) and her roommate (actually a clone of her dead roommate) tried to kill her, so she’s got some other issues to deal with in addition to figuring out where those years went.—DS

7. The White Stripes at the Greek, L.A.: Jack White caps off his rise to rockstar godhead with a feverish, 90-minute blast of guitar histrionics and devil’s-music yowls in front of the third of three sold-out crowds. Meanwhile, ex-wife Meg White (whom he still refers to as his sister) is perhaps the most laid-back, elemental drummer this side of Charlie Watts and Mo Tucker. The result is a catalytic brew of metal, alternative, Detroit psychedelic R&B and gutbucket roots that is at once ancient and post-modern, but always tribal. Dylan’s "One More Cup of Coffee" was the revelation, but "The Hardest Button to Button," "Ball and Biscuit," "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground," "Fell in Love With a Girl" and, naturally, "Seven Nation Army," all hit their mark. And whenever they do take a breath, with Meg taking the mike for "In the Cold, Cold Night" or Jack crooning the McCartneyesque "We’re Going to be Friends," it adds a whole other potential direction for the duo to go in. And what makes it all work is the way the down-to-earth Meg grounds her increasingly self-absorbed partner with the kind of smirks and rolling eyes only an ex-mate can get away with.—RT

8. TiVo: I’m a latecomer to this digital TV replay device, mainly because I’ve tried to avoid anything that would increase my already-unwieldy viewing habits. Once you get that remote in your hands and discover the possibilities, it’s hard to turn back to "live TV." Gone are the stacks of unlabeled videotapes, the blinking numbers on the VCR, trying to figure out when a program begins and ends… and in its place an unlimited supply of 2 a.m. movies you’ve always wanted to see. Pausing live TV is also a hoot, as is the instant replay function and the ability to make commercials a blur. I could do without the recommended programs that suddenly appear in your "Now Playing on TiVo" folder, but the concept of "what you want when you want it" makes a mockery of the TV Guide and prime-time schedules. And it actually saves you time in the long run since you don’t have to stop everything you’re doing to watch a favorite show. Now, if I could only TiVo my life.—RT

9. "The Angry Left": Conservatives have a new catchphrase to fend off energized critics of the weakened Bush administration, as a Village Voice columnist recently observed. It might be effective for a while at silencing guests on the Sunday shows, but can the political culture of the right really be described as something other than angry?—SG

10. A Funny New Year: It’s Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year! Yay! What, no booze? No kisses from strangers? Just another tense family dinner? Ripoff! Well, at least on Saturday night (9/27) you can hear some brilliant comics—notably Andy Kindler, Laura Kightlinger and Beth Lapides—at the Uncabaret’s gathering at M-Bar (1253 N. Vine St., at Fountain). Admission is $10; doors open at 7pm, and the show starts at 8pm. Call 323-993-3305 or click the link above for rezzies.—


Duplex (Miramax)
A couple whose dream home is a converted duplex apartment in a perfect NYC neighborhood decide to kill the sweet little old lady currently living there, so they can buy it.
Stars: Ben Stiller, Drew Barrymore, Eileen Essell, Harvey Fierstein, Swoosie Kurtz, Maya Rudolph, James Remar, Wallace Shawn, Justin Theroux
Director: Danny DeVito
Thumbs Up:
Stiller and Barrymore could be a promising comedic team, and the supporting cast is top-notch.
Thumbs Down: DeVito hasn’t been very good lately (Death to Smoochy anyone?), and the film’s been sitting on the shelf for more than a year.
Soundtrack: None.
Website: www.miramax/com/duplex/ is pretty elemental, with just a cast listing and synopsis.

The Rundown (Universal Pictures)
A bounty hunter goes deep into the Amazon to capture and bring back an "escaped convict" to repay a debt, only to find it’s a young guy from a prominent family looking for gold. The two then team up on an adventure which brings them face-to-face with the town’s evil overlord.
Stars: The Rock, Seann William Scott, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Walken, Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting), Arnold Schwarzenegger cameo.
Director: Peter Berg (Very Bad Things)
Thumbs Up: Indiana Jones-style adventure comedy could ride The Rock’s star power into box office gold.
Thumbs Down: Looks very, very familiar, and can The Rock actually be the next action hero?
Soundtrack: Varese Sarabande album features score by Harry Gregson-Williams.
Website: www.therundown.com has production notes, a soundboard, a photo gallery, trailers and clips, downloads, sections on "Dangers of the Amazon," with various signs indicating things to avoid in the jungle, and an interactive "Get the Gato" game.

Under the Tuscan Son (Touchstone Pictures)
Based loosely on the true story of Frances Mayes memoir of the same name, which was a best-seller, about a married professor who moves to Italy with her husband, though it’s been changed to a single lawyer who now finds love with a hunky local.
Stars: Diane Lane, Raoul Bova, Sandra Oh (Arli$$), Dan Bucatinsky, Lindsay Duncan.
Director: Audrey Wells (Guinevere)
Thumbs Up: Neither Lane nor the Italian scenery could be too tough on the eyes.
Thumbs Down: The definition of a chick flick.
Soundtrack: Hollywood Records album features score by Christopher Beck (Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show).
Website: www.under-the-tuscan-sun.com has info about the movie, cast & crew, production notes, news, image gallery, articles, links and contacts.

My Life Without Me (Sony Pictures Classics)
A young mother of two who lives in a trailer behind her mother’s house covers up the fact she’s dying of cancer so that she can live her final months with freedom and complete a list of things she wants to do before she dies. That includes recording birthday greetings for her children, finding a lover for herself, a new wife for her husband and visiting her father in prison.
Stars: Sarah Polley, Scott Speedman (Felicity), Debbie Harry, Alfred Molina, Amanda Plummer, Mark Ruffalo.
Director: Isabel Coixet (Things I Never Told You), who also wrote the screenplay.
Thumbs Up: Debbie Harry as the mom? My how time flies.
Thumbs Down: Dying-of-cancer movies are so upbeat.
Soundtrack: None.
Website: www.sonyclassics.com/mylifewithoutme/ gives details on the story, director, production, cast, filmmakers, gallery and trailer.


Simon: Roy, is it just being "of a certain age" that makes Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation so enchanting?

Roy: Well, for a fairly young woman, she seems to understand the mindset of a guy in the midst of a middle-aged crisis... Wonder if it's all that Oedipal stuff she gets from her old man?

Simon: Could be, but what she captures between Bill Murray's character and Scarlet Johanssen's much younger woman is so delicate—balanced on the knife-edge of desire and sentimentality, but without falling over on either side.

Roy: Absolutely... And that scene where they're lying on the bed and Murray reaches over and inadvertently touches her foot is among the most erotic images in American films in recent memory... A return to romanticism.

Simon: I was thinking the same thing. Because we're longing for the characters to touch and they haven't, the intensity of that little gesture is enormous.

Roy: Another scene that touched me was when Murray sings karaoke to Bryan Ferry's "More Than This." The combination of that weird setting and the difficulty of singing that song seemed an epiphany to me.

Simon: Striking how Murray turned his SNL lounge-singer shtick into something deeper. Since more recent stars of that show have only been able to recycle their one-note characters onscreen.

Roy: What struck me as fascinating was the way Coppola did the film from Murray's point of view, though the underlying message was so female--that psychic connection is so much more important than sex. That's a mature message.

Simon: But delivered without preaching. And the supposedly "feminine" message is captured in a style that recalls some very masculine directors, notably Stanley Kubrick.

Roy: Dug the soundtrack, too... The closing Jesus and Mary Chain song, "Just Like Honey," really tugged at the heartstrings without being overly sentimental.

Simon: And "What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding," of course. Like a lot of the film, it reiterates this need for serenity. I felt Tokyo stood in for the chaos and meaninglessness the two characters feel in their everyday lives.

Roy: Definitely a sense of dislocation... Someone said the whole movie is about jet lag... By the way, I read where the female actress bimbo character played by Anna Faris was inspired by Cameron Diaz.

Simon: The insipidity of Hollywood culture is captured so perfectly it's almost agonizing to watch, and a perfect foil for the characters' quests. The DJ character who drops his spiel and says to Johanssen, "knowwhatI'msayin'?" and she says, "No, I don't." That was the movie in microcosm!

Roy: Scarlet Johanssen is superb, one of the best young actresses out there today. Loved her in Ghost World and The Man Who Wasn't There. Her vulnerability and openness is heartbreaking.... It all comes down to that opening image... Her bare butt in those nylon stockings... Haunting.

Simon: If Bill Murray's character thought like you, the flick would've been NC-17.


GIRL QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Paris Hilton, who stars in Fox's upcoming reality show The Simple Life with pal Nicole Richie, talked to Seventeen about what advice she gives younger sister Nicky: "Nobody wants the beaten-up Prada purse on Canal Street. Everyone wants the brand-new colorful Louis Vuitton one that no one can get. Guys don't want the girl who's been around the block." Well, Paris has been linked to a bevy of boy toys, including Sum 41's Deryck Whibley, Nicolas Cage, Leonardo DiCaprio

BOY QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Think life is lush for John Mayer, whose latest album, Heavier Things, debuted at No. 1 earlier this month? Think again. "When I see myself in a picture… I have a giant head," he told ABC News' Cynthia McFadden on Primetime Thursday. "I can't wear standard headgear or glasses." So that's what "Bigger Than My Body" means.

Not much happening musically in the City this weekend. Venture into Jersey and catch Skid Row, who play Double D's in Morristown on Friday. Kreep opens.—Valerie Nome


A Perfect Circle, The Thirteenth Step (Virgin): The legion of Tool fans who grab this set out of the box won’t be disappointed, as the second outing for Maynard Keenan and Tool guitar tech Billy Howerdell’s brainchild weaves plenty of edgy, angst-packed passages in with APC’s more atmospheric, dreamy moments. Opener "The Package" builds a sparse rhythm over five minutes to a grindy drone-riff climax, giving Keenan lots of room to stretch. "The Noose" puts an even tighter focus on vocal melody, before yielding to drummer Josh Freese’s insistent groove. Rockers "Outsider" and "Pet" turn up the Toolness, while "Nurse" finds Keenan’s vocal backed only by an ethereal Jon Brion arrangement of swimmy organ and haunting choral and string touches. Engrossing.—JO

Thursday, War All the Time (Island): On their major-label bow—and fourth release overall—this incendiary New Jersey quintet pushes the "emo" envelope. While explosive power chords and shrieking-against-the storm vocals are de rigeur, Thursday stirs in melodic surprises and extreme dynamic change-ups galore. Singer Geoff Rickly’s high, impassioned singing is often strikingly reminiscent of The Cure’s Robert Smith, while axemen Tom Keeley and Steve Pedulla expertly orchestrate an often-complex interplay. Standouts include the shattering opener "For the Workforce, Drowning," "Signals Over the Air," with its sonic shimmer and funky groove and, especially, the barreling, ambitious "Asleep in the Chapel," which is arguably the state of the form—a suite-like journey that builds to a stunning catharsis.—SG

Saves the Day, In Reverie (Vagrant/DreamWorks): The fourth album, and major-label debut, from Jersey’s emo quartet is light on the punk, heavy on the power-pop. Like post-power-poppers who understand the beauty of four chords such as Rooney and Sloan, the new album from STD shows a band that understands trends may come and go, but gorgeous, well-crafted songs with heaping spoonfuls of melody will never go out of style. Producer Rob Schnapf maintains a loose, classic-rock feel, with the vocals way out front on sunny tracks such as "Rise," but with plenty of meat in the guitars—check out "Morning in the Moonlight." Wake up to this Reverie and you’ll have a nice Day.—DS

June Carter Cash, Wildwood Flower (Dualtone): The grand matriarch of country music as part of the Carter Family and wife of Johnny Cash turns her final album into a retrospective of a remarkable career. Mortality hangs over the record like a shroud, but that indomitable spirit refuses to bend on Carter standards like "Keep on the Sunny Side," which she first sang as a little girl. When June sings, "And these lips are pale and cold" in "Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?" her grace notes manage to turn death’s sting into an affirmation of life. With son John Carter Cash producing, Johnny on vocals, and musical accompaniment from Carlene Carter, daughter-in-law Laura Cash and an assortment of cousins, nieces and even her granddaughter, this is a true family affair. This bittersweet farewell is both mournful prayer and joyous celebration of a life lived to the fullest.—RT


Is this month over yet? September has been horrible! Would somebody PLEASE make it rain? It’s been way too hot, way too smoggy and all work and no play for this gal. I’m in one of my "I hate L.A." phases, which I’m blaming on the total absence of rain and overabundance of smut in the air. I can’t breathe, can’t sleep and can’t think. I’m in a major funk, and my body’s craving a change in season. When you grow up with all four seasons and then move to a place with none, it can really wreak havoc on your moods. Living in Indiana, October was always my favorite month—leaves turn colors, cool days and even cooler nights, fireplaces, sweatshirts and Halloween! I never realized how much I’d miss that stuff once I moved here—at least I still have Halloween. This week’s cocktail is dedicated to all of us here in L.A. who are feeling a little off lately.

All Jacked Up Martini
½ oz. Jack Daniels
¼ oz. sloe gin
¼ oz. Midori
Splash of pineapple juice
Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass.

Since I’ve been working so hard lately, I’ve decided to treat myself and spend Halloween in NYC. I love New York and still can’t believe I haven’t moved there yet. It’s a proven fact that the only men I fall for are the ones who live in New York. I have major problems, but I’m sure that I’m screwed up enough that if I moved there the only guys I would like would be L.A. guys—nah, I doubt it. Do you think I can talk a tall, hot New Yorker into doing a rain dance for me—naked? That would definitely end this month on a better note. I can’t seem to find a single guy in this city who tickles my fancy—or at least good enough for me to let him stick around. I’ve been talking to my single girlfriends and have found out that I’m not the only gal having trouble finding a suitable man. Just when I think I’ve found one, some deal-breaker changes Mr. Perfect into Mr. Not a Chance in Hell. Is this unavoidable in the dating world? Will there always be a some insurmountable obstacle? And does everyone have that one thing about which they will not compromise? Here’s a list of some of the deal-breakers my friends and I have encountered—men, take note.

Top 10 Things That Make Us Run the Other Way

  1. He hates your dog/cat/mom/friends.
  2. He still lives with his parents.
  3. He’s employed as a "Background Actor."
  4. His breath stinks and he’s a bad kisser.
  5. Many of his sentences start with, "My therapist said…"
  6. He won’t put out.
  7. His wife called and asked why your number was on her husband’s cell phone.
  8. His ex-girlfriend starts stalking you.
  9. A hot bath and a book are more enjoyable than sex with him.
  10. He won’t go downtown. This is one thing no gal can live without!

De’s L.A. bar pick of the week: If you’re looking for a place to run, then Birds is the hidden jewel you’ve been looking for. This hot little joint is tucked away in the super-hip Franklin neighborhood known for artsy cafés, bookstores and up-and-coming actors. Birds is trendy without being pretentious and attracts a mellow (and rather attractive) group of patrons. The red décor and candlelight put even the most bitter and jaded single gals in the mood for love—or at least a nice romp in the sack.

Once again, I’d like to thank all of you who continually read my mindless ramblings and constant whining. You guys must really enjoy torture. I hope everyone ends September with a bang—multiple bangs, if you’re really lucky. I’m hoping to start October with one. Until next week—hugs and kisses.—Denise Bayles

Mestel walks like a man. (10/22a)
And Q3 figures look good as well. (10/21a)
A Swift return to #1. (10/22a)
The Rumours are true. (10/22a)
Could she be this year's left-field anointed one? (10/22a)
Bring your umbrella.
Mulling possible surprises.
Why not wear a mask indoors?
What drugs will help us get there?

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