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Iif you’re like us, you’re regularly checking your e-mail as you switch channels between war updates, the NCAA Tournament (slated for CBS, but bounced over to ESPN Thursday morning while CBS cameras searched in vain for signs of “shock and awe”) and the NBA.
WEAKEND PLANNER PONDERS
LIFE DURING WARTIME
As Things Get Ever More Surreal,
We're Glued to Our TVs and PCs
The last time we had a war, nobody was online; this time, everybody is. Thus, scads of political arguments, petitions and chatter (not only evildoers do it, Mr. Ashcroft) have been zipping around cyberspace, along with the requisite foxhole humor (like this riffage on government-designed emergency pictography). So, if you’re like us, you’re regularly checking your e-mail (just received the full text of a compelling overview in European Time by the eloquent and ever-dignified Brian Eno) as you switch channels on the Trinitron remote between network war coverage, the NCAA Tournament (originally scheduled to be on CBS, but bounced over to ESPN Thursday morning while CBS cameras searched in vain for signs of “shock and awe”) and the NBA (as we write this, the Kings just knocked off the Lakers in what has become the most thrilling rivalry in professional sports, and the Lakers take on the red-hot Spurs Sunday morning). It’s hard to know what to focus on lately…

FOR THE BOZOS ON THE BUS
As one fourth of the avant-comedy quartet the Firesign Theatre, Phil Proctor has helped put some of the direst political and cultural dilemmas of the past few decades into bracingly absurdist contexts. His email newsletter, Planet Proctor (or "PP"), carries on the tradition; Phil's given us permission to run the following excerpt about the war. We can only add our thanks and an admonition: FORWARD... INTO THE PAST! —SG

"When religion and politics ride in the same cart, the whirlwind follows." —From the Sci-Fi Channel's Children of Dune

SUPPORT THE TROOPS…but, perhaps, not the war? Although, as reported by L.A. Times analyst Doyle McManus, "It is time, a sharp-tongued administration official jokes in private, to "give war a chance.'" Or, as Terry Deibel, a National War College strategist, notes: "If the only tool you've got is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."

Times "Points West" columnist Steve Lopez uses the words of H. L. Mencken to say, "For every problem there is a solution which is simple, clean and wrong." But according to President Bush, "This is not a question of authority. It is a question of will." Should we make ours out?

We've known from the start that peace never had a chance. It was a coup d'etat and a fait accompli from the get-go, excuse my French; but as a citizen of the world, I can only hope (I can't say "pray" because I believe that the rule of religion has partly led us here) that it is over quickly and that the evil deeds of So Damn Insane lead to mass defections and his eventual internal overthrow.

Ex Secretary of State under "Big" Bush, Lawrence Eagleburger (goes good with "Free-doom" Fries) says, "We have mishandled the diplomacy—if you want to call it diplomacy—monstrously." I hope we do not mishandle the war.

"If we do get [Bin Laden], it's got to be good for a pop in equities and a decent pullback in bonds..." —Wall Street broker quoted by Steve Lopez

WEAKEND POPCULT TOP 10
1. MTV News: Russell Simmons
tells John Norris he's "disappointed"—compares their war coverage to Fox News. He may have a point about today's bombing-by-bombing headline segment, but the youth-culture network's emphasis on the human faces behind the war—from U.S. soldiers to Iraqi kids—and history lessons on regional conflict and Saddam Hussein—puts it well above most "serious" cable news outlets. At the risk of suggesting that Gideon Yago trumps Wolf Blitzer, I'd ask the following: Which one is parroting Pentagon briefings, and which one is getting reports from the participants (including potential victims) on the ground? —SG

2. 24 Hour Party People (MGM/UA Home Video): This chronicle of the life and times of Factory Records founder, Granada TV newsman and proud Mancunian Tony Wilson is the best movie about the inner workings of the music business since Sig Shore’s Harvey Keitel-starring mob drama Shining Star and Taylor Hackford’s The Idolmaker. It captures the seat-of-your-pants, borrow-from-Peter-to-pay-Paul roller coaster ride, with incisive performances by Stephen Coogan as Wilson, Sean Harris as doomed Joy Division leader Ian Curtis, Paddy Considine as a spot-on New Order manager Rob Gretton and Danny Cunningham as a drug-addled Shaun Ryder of Happy Mondays. The pace slackens when Wilson introduces the onset of rave culture and his famed Hacienda, but it climaxes with a grand scene where then-London Records head Roger Ames offers him $5 million for Factory, only to learn Tony doesn’t have long-term contracts with any of his artists. At once exhilarating and faintly melancholy, the movie ends with Wilson visited by a vision of God (which looks just like him, except with a beard), who tells him he made a big mistake by not signing the Smiths. RT

3. Fiction Plane, Everything Will Never Be OK (MCA): Yeah, it’s Sting’s eldest son Joe Sumner at the front of this self-described “anti-pop” trio (plus, on record, ace session drummer Abe Laboriel Jr., who powered Paul McCartney’s touring band). And, yeah, he sounds like Dad, with a similar proclivity for incisive lyrics—there’s no fighting DNA—but the kid is a more personal and personable writer, giving this stunning debut a warm intimacy. Guitarist Seton Daunt provides an upbeat lines in the manner of The Edge, in sharp contrast to Sumner’s dark lyrical turns—like this wink at the old man: “Every time I wake up it’s a brand new day/And I realize my body’s designed to die.” Gems include the perfect “Cigarette” and unforgettable “Hate.” Better than OK—beautiful. —JO

4. Colson Whitehead, The Intuitionist (Anchor/Doubleday): This is the first novel from the young Harvard grad, previously a TV writer for the Village Voice, whose most recent book, John Henry Days, received critical kudos. Like Ralph Ellison, to whom he’s been compared, Whitehead creates a parallel, invisible universe where elevator inspectors are the reigning intellectuals and the country’s leading lift manufacturers, which vie for their hearts and minds, fall into two camps—the right-wing, fact-worshiping, rational Empiricists and the leftist, touchy-feely, new-age Intuitionists. The material object of transcendence is the metaphysical "black box," a maguffin created in his dying days by James Fulton, the reigning philosopher from the Institute for Vertical Transport, who predicts a day when we soar to the skies purely on brain power in his groundbreaking three-part tome Theoretical Elevators. It’s a concept taken to heart by the novel’s protagonist, Lila Mae Watson, who is proud of her status as the first "colored" elevator inspector for an unnamed city that closely resembles Manhattan in an unstated era that could be anytime from the ’20s to the ’50s. She is now under investigation by her department, and being pursued by both sides, for the sudden collapse of an elevator under her jurisdiction. A remarkable first book from a writer who uses his color to get underneath our collective skins. —RT

5. Everybody Needs Shoes: Jeffrey New York is the high temple of shoes—insanely well-edited, incredibly breathtaking, impossibly nosebleed priced—in the unlikely locale of Manhattan's Meat Packing District (there's also an Atlanta outpost in Buckhead). But what really makes the trip such a pleasure is the presence of Troy, the wonder salesman, and Charles, the dear Frenchman, who not only know shoes but have a gift for sizing up their customers' souls and whims, and finding the soles to match. No matter your proclivity, you will leave with a smile and a sense of just what power-princess outerwear the right pair of shoes can be. Cited by Time Out New York as the best shoe sale in Manhattan. (449 W. 14th St., between Ninth and Tenth; 212-206-1272) —HG

6. After the Fox: Monday night’s record-release party for Return to Planet Earth (Oglio/Franklin Castle) by local singer-songwriter Kim Fox at the Hotel Cafe afforded fans of the poppy, well-produced album a chance to hear the songs in bare-bones form. It turns out that some of the tracks—particularly “Ladybug,” which sounds positively effervescent on the record—yielded previously unimagined depths when performed solo or in intimate, chamber-type ensembles by La Fox. She was joined on a few numbers by, among others, local pop scenesters Linus of Hollywood (who produced the disc) and Ben Eshbach (The Sugarplastic) on guitars and Probyn Gregory (Wondermints, The Negro Problem, Brian Wilson) on French horn (or, as a wag in the audience suggested, “freedom horn”). But it was the sound of Kim alone with piano that cast the greatest spell. Angelenos with a taste for intimate, vulnerable and supremely tuneful adult pop would do well to check out her set at Largo on Friday 3/28; she’ll be in Portland and San Francisco this weekend (click here for dates and venues). Plus, her latest merch includes such girly wear as a matching tank and disco shorts that say “Ms. Fox.” —SG

7. The Pianist (Focus): The first hour of this movie is as hard to watch as any Holocaust film I’ve seen, not least because of the matter-of-fact way in which it all unfolds. It even had me questioning the notion of capturing such degradation on celluloid, though the Kafkaesque, almost surreal sight of a disheveled Adrien Brody as world class pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman wandering around a bombed-out Warsaw is a direct reflection of director Roman Polanski’s own experience fleeing the Nazi occupation. During the final hour of the movie, Brody has hardly any dialogue, his increasingly gaunt face registering a horror not unlike painter Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” The film’s real message becomes obvious as “Never forget,” or “But for the grace of God,” with a special emphasis on the cruel arbitrariness of the violence. My only quibble would be, why should Szpilman’s survival be any more noteworthy than any other individual tested by the Holocaust—even if he is a brilliant artist. Does that make his triumph any more important, or is it just an excuse for the swelling, orchestral finale? RT

8. Icky Site of the Week: As a public service, we take this opportunity to make you aware of Ratemypoo.com, in case you accidentally encounter it on the "information superhighway." Don't say we didn't warn you. Do not, repeat, DO NOT go to this site. What is wrong with people? —JO

9. Liam Lynch, Fake Songs (S-Curve): If his kicky, left-field PoMo smash, the ultra-brief "United States of Whatever," sounds familiar, there's a good reason: Video auteur Lynch is responsible for MTV's brilliant but underappreciated gonzo sock-puppet variety show Sifl and Olly, where the song first appeared. Elsewhere on the CD, Lynch offers a duet with Jack Black and such homages as "Fake Bjork Song," "Fake Pixies Song," "Fake David Bowie Song" and more. A companion DVD is on the way. Click here for a CD containing the official recordings of Sifl standouts like "Fake Blood" and "Llama School." Plus you can go here for some other tunes from the show. —SG

10. Nowhere in Africa (Bavaria Film/Virgin): Germany’s nominee for Best Foreign Language Film is not only the best of the five nominees, it’s the year’s best holocaust movie. The narrative follows a Jewish family as it flees Germany, emigrating not to America or Britain but to Kenya, where the ruling English, rather than liberating the family members, put them into internment. While the film is hardly a comedy, it’s not a tragedy, either. Rather, it’s an utterly fascinating story, as three wildly diverse cultures collide during a particularly volatile moment in history. —LB

DUDE, I’LL TRADE YOU A TAPE OF OAKLAND ’78 FOR THOSE
More Grateful Dead Reissues:
Deadheads can add four more “expanded and remastered” reissues to their wishlists. Warner/Rhino is rolling out three seminal live discs, notably the resplendent Europe ’72, as well as Grateful Dead (Skull & Roses) and History of the Grateful Dead, Vol. 1 (Bear’s Choice). These all sound great and have lots of bonus material, but perhaps the most intriguing of the current batch is Birth of the Dead, a two-disc comp of mid-’60s recordings that chronicles their earliest incarnation. It’s fascinating to relive the Dead’s transformation from hard-charging hippie-dance-blues collective to the glorious traditionalists they’d become by ’72. Some of it even sounds good if you’re not high.
Simon Glickman

SHINY ROUND THINGS
Cave In, Antenna (RCA): On its major-label debut, the Boston-based Cave In is three bands in one—hard-slamming PoMo outfit, free-form prog-rock entity and melodic pop combo. Indeed, the 12 tracks of this 55-minute opus are so jammed with aural information that there’s barely room to breathe. Anthem-packed, Antenna comes off like a headbanger’s take on OK Computer, with soaring lead lines and elevated melodic payoffs over thrumming bass, pile-driving drums and hammering power chords. Amid all this activity, it’s the earnest, boyish vocals of Stephen Brodsky that give the band its personality. Brodsky’s a chameleon, coming off like OasisLiam Gallagher on “Beautiful Son,” Dave Grohl on single “Anchor” and Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers on the nine-minute epic “Seafrost” before the band shifts into interstellar overdrive. Credit up-and-coming producer/engineer/mixer Rich Costey (The Apples in Stereo, Fiona Apple—guess he likes apples) with keeping the myriad elements in sharp focus. Bud Scoppa

Ben Harper, Diamonds on the Inside (Virgin): Folks who only know this singer/songwriter/guitarist’s rootsier side may be stunned by the stylistic range he displays here. Opener “With My Own Two Hands” has the pulsating grit of a vintage Marley/Wailers track, the title song recalls Van Morrison in his prime and “Bring the Funk” grooves like a lost ’70s chestnut. But it’s on quieter fare like “Blessed to Be a Witness” and “Picture of Jesus” (the latter featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo) that Harper, who produced the LP, reaches his emotional peak. Its fun to spot the influences, but it’s more rewarding to let this heartfelt set wash over you. —SG

Hed (Planet Earth), Blackout (Volcano/Jive): The third time may well be the charm for these veteran SoCal rap-rockers, as they look to follow in the footsteps of supporters Linkin Park, P.O.D. and System of a Down. Clearly, the pressure’s getting to vocalist/leader Jahred, who’s poised on the verge of a paranoid breakdown on the vein-popping “Dangerous” (“I’m sinking/And I’m out of control”), a suitable soundtrack for WWIII. Transcending genre cliches thanks to the scratching of tableist DJ Product 1969 on the title track single and the Beastie beat of the rowdy “Crazy Life,” the band shows a penchant for stretching out. With the reggae rhythms of “Get Away,” the psychedelic acoustic folk of “Other Side,” and the dubwise melodica of “Carnivale,” the sextet could well emerge from the underground and connect with a mass audience. Roy Trakin

TRAKIN’S PICKS TO FLICK
Dreamcatcher (WB)
Premise:
Lawrence Kasdan does Stephen King, as four friends confront an alien force when they’re caught in a blizzard. Alien in the snow?
Stars: Morgan Freeman, Thomas Jane, Tom Sizemore, Donnie Wahlberg.
Director: Kasdan in thriller mode with screenplay by Oscar winner William Goldman. Is there any reason he should be able to do this? In a bit of a slump with last three movies Mumford, French Kiss and Wyatt Earp. What happened to the auteur of Grand Canyon?
Thumbs Up: A director trying to come back with a home run; an impressive cast.
Thumbs Down: Trailers scary, but haven’t we seen this before? And where’s the sex appeal?
Soundtrack: James Newton Howard score on Varese-Sarabande.
Website: www.dreamcatchermovie.com
has a flash intro that’s as intricate as a movie itself, along with access to a video, photo gallery, Kasdan interview, production notes, filmmaker’s journal, cast & filmmakers and video journal.

Spun (Newmarket Films)
Premise: Tweak epic is feature debut from controversial Madonna music video director Jonas Akerlund. A speed freak in need of a fix heads over to the home of a high-strung, ultra-paranoid crystal meth dealer, who proceeds on a crank-fueled search for his missing stash with the help of a bad ass bigtime speed manufacturer.
Stars: Jason Schwartzman, John Leguizamo, Brittany Murphy, Patrick Fugit (the kid in Almost Famous), Mena Suvari, Deborah Harry, Peter Stormare, Alexis Arquette, Eric Roberts and Mickey Rourke.
Director:
Akerlund directed Madonna’s current “American Life” video and worked on Prodigy’s “Smack My Bitch Up.”
Thumbs Up: Post-modern rat pack version of Drugstore Cowboy, Pulp Fiction done as an MTV video. Can Rourke pull off a Travolta-like hip comeback?
Thumbs Down: As self-indulgent as it looks. Plus, there’s a cameo by Ron Jeremy.
Soundtrack: Billy Corgan’s original music.
Website: A creative www.spunthemovie.com introduces the characters, gives links to reviews of the film, a trailer, a director’s cut trailer, cast and crew information, and even offers a video on how to cook up some meth.

View from the Top (Miramax)
Premise: Gwyneth Paltrow does some physical comedy as she moves through the ranks to become an airline stewardess in the ’60s.
Stars: Paltrow, Christina Applegate, Mark Ruffalo, Mike Myers, Candice Bergen, Robert Stack.
Director: Bruno Barretto (the Brazilian filmmaker who hasn’t had a hit since the 1978 international sensation Dona Flor and her Two Husbands) and Amy Irving’s longtime guy pal.
Thumbs Up: Paltrow an underrated comedienne, art design looks like a ringer for Spielberg’s Catch Me if You Can. Myers seems amusing in the trailers, and the cast is filled with comedic talent (Stack?).
Thumbs Down: Paltrow does Reese Witherspoon. One can dream, right?
Soundtrack: Country-pop-flavored Curb Records album features LeAnn Rimes, Jo Dee Messina, Kaci, Sixpence None the Richer, Sofia Loell, Tamara Walker, Anna Wilson, G.G. and Katie Cook.
Website: http://www.miramax.com/viewfromthetop/index.html is pretty elemental… Just trailer, synopsis and showtimes, thank you.

Boat Trip (Artisan Entertainment)
Premise: Some Like It Hot meets Love Boat, and they should be so lucky. Two straight men take a Caribbean cruise on the U.S.S. Calypso, hoping to get lucky, only to discover that they accidentally booked an all-gay cruise instead, as one of them meets a beautiful ship member that he wants to win over.
Stars: Cuba Gooding Jr., SNL’s portly Horatio Sanz, Roselyn Sanchez, Vivica Fox, Will Ferrell, Stern comic Artie Lange, Roger Moore, Richard Roundtree, Lin Shaye of Farrelly Brothers fame.
Director: Mort Nathan in his feature debut. Co-wrote Kingpin, the Farrelly Brothers movie, not the TV series.
Thumbs Up: Mindless fun and plenty of homosexual jokes. I mean, what could be bad about it?
Thumbs Down: Does the Norm MacDonald movie Dirty Work ring a bell?
Soundtrack: None.
Website: Google doesn’t reveal a dedicated website to the movie, which might be telling us something, but Yahoo offers a synopsis, showtimes and other pertinent info at http://movies.yahoo.com/shop?d=hv&cf=info&id=1808403236&intl=us

DENISE’S WEAKEND COCKTAIL
I’m having a very difficult time creating yet another amazing and witty column this week, with what was once the possibility of war turning to into a harsh reality. There’s a general “funk” throughout this country, and the world. Americans are afraid—whether or not they’re for or against military action. I am not going to use this space as a forum to voice my pro-war or anti-war attitude, probably because like most Americans, I’m caught somewhere in the middle, leaving me confused and scared. What I will do is remind everyone that no matter what your stance is on the war, we must send our prayers to the young men and women who are in the Middle East right now, lying in ditches, waiting to attack or be attacked—I guarantee they’re more afraid than any of us. My cocktail of the week is dedicated to all of those soldiers who have vowed to put their lives on the line for us, and their loved ones who are anxiously waiting for them to return home.

American Flag
1/3 grenadine
1/3 white crme de cocoa
1/3 blue curacoa

This is probably the most “difficult” drink I’ve had so far. In a shot glass, pour the grenadine, add the white crme de cocoa by pouring over the backside of a spoon (this will separate the alcohol) and add the blue curacoa (pouring over a spoon). If you’ve done your job properly, the ingredients will be separated, leaving a layered red, white and blue shot.

I hope the war doesn’t completely polarize Americans; I can only suggest that everyone take a second and remember the camaraderie all of us felt after Sept. 11. Spend time with your families, smile at the stranger on the street and be thankful for all that we have. I think we often take for granted how extremely lucky we are to have the freedoms that we have—there are many people in this world that aren’t as fortunate. I’m off my soapbox—for now. And to do my part, I’m going to do my best not to give anyone the finger when their driving pisses me off.

De’s L.A. bar pick (and diss) of the week: A great tragedy has occurred in Los Angeles, throwing, a hitch into everyone’s weekend plans—they’ve canceled the red carpet. OH, NO! What ever will we do without Joan Rivers bashing famous people? L.A. has come to a halt, and once again reaffirming to me that we’re all whacked here. Wednesday afternoon, when the rest of the world was concerned about the 5 p.m. deadline placed on Saddam Hussein, can you guess where all of the fine Los Angeles journalists were stationed—the Kodak Theatre. If you’re searching for the something to fill the void this Sunday, swing by the ultra-hip Viceroy Hotel on Ocean Blvd. in Santa Monica. The crowd is a mix of the normal upper-class showbiz types, Santa Monica socialites and young, pretty girls hoping to hook one of these nice guys. While the interior is fabulous, the service is slow and the drinks are pricey. But if you want to feel like you’re at a post-Oscar party, this place should do the trick.

Thanks to all of you who continually send me praise. I love it! Keep it up! Have a great week, and remember to be thankful for all of your blessings. Until next week—hugs and kisses. Denise Bayles

Contributors: Denise Bayles, Lenny Beer, Darren Cava, Holly Gleason, Simon Glickman Jon O’Hara and Roy Trakin

Edited by Bud Scoppa

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