Rock & roll may never forget, but neither did Bob Seger on his first tour in more than a decade, dedicating the song of the same name to a pair of 30-plus-year Capitol vets who were victims of the label’s recent consolidation: sales VP Joe McFadden and publicity doyenne Judi Kerr.


Hey Shecky, Don’t Forget to Turn Out the Lights When You Split
1. NCAA Basketball Championship:
I only pay cursory attention to college basketball during the season, mainly because my St. John’s Red Storm haven’t done shit since they changed their name from the racially offensive Redman back in the glory days of legendary coach Lou Carnesecca and alums like Chris Mullin, Walter Berry, Billy Paultz and Mark Jackson, et. al. But there’s nothing like an office pool and 64 (65 if you count the play-in team) squads ranging from upstarts glad to be there to perennial powers like Ohio State, Florida, UCLA, Kansas, North Carolina and Georgetown. This year, bracketologists have their work cut out for them, with any one of eight-to-10 teams capable of winning the six games it takes to emerge triumphant. This is the season that superstars like Ohio State’s Greg Oden and TexasKevin Durant rise up and show their NBA potential, while lesser-known players often grab the big rebound or make the deciding basket. That said, I’m going out on a limb and picking the hometown UCLA Bruins, last year’s runner-up, even if they did just lose to California in the Pac-10 playoffs, to win their first crown since 1995, when Tyus Edney hit that memorable baseline-to-baseline winning lay-up against Missouri on the day Charlie Minor died. Twelve years later, it seems they’re due for a return trip to the summit, with a stifling defense and an efficient offense led by Arron Afflalo, Josh Shipp and point guard Darren Collison.

2. Zodiac: For someone who dissected the serial killer mentality so thoroughly in 1995’s Se7en, one-time music video director David Fincher’s new film about the notorious Zodiac murderer, who terrorized the Bay Area in the late ’60s and early ’70s, concentrates less on the thrills and more on the tedious, procedural legwork by both the police and journalists assigned to the case. There are a handful of meticulously choreographed killings front-loaded in the first half of the nearly 160-minute film, though, ironically, most of the suspense occurs during the last 45 minutes, when protagonist Jake Gyllenhaal, a political cartoonist-turned-investigative reporter, works his way obsessively towards the chief suspect. The film earns its length with a meticulous rendering of the process, which in the final analysis, is more important than the actual result, now a matter of historical record. As usual, Robert Downey Jr. is dazzling as real-life Chronicle reporter Paul Avery, a coke-snorting, liquor-chugging dandy who struts through the newsroom until he gets burnt out by the chase, while Brian Cox shines as the late pompous S.F. divorce lawyer Melvin Belli, known largely for his role in Gimme Shelter helping the Stones secure Altamont as a site for their infamous 1969 free concert. The scenes of data-gathering in the age before computers is fascinating, as is the political suggestion that, like Charles Manson down in L.A., the Zodiac Killer helped put an end to the Bay Area's golden era of peace and love. While it probably could’ve used a few more killings just to keep the tension going, Zodiac is a commendably restrained view of how work can catch you in its grip until the very act of gathering knowledge and making those connections becomes not only a means, but an end in and of itself.

3. Bob Seger at the L.A. Forum: Rock & roll may never forget, but neither did this veteran heartland rocker on his first tour in more than a decade, dedicating the song of the same name to a pair of 30-plus-year Capitol vets who were victims of the label’s recent consolidation: sales VP Joe McFadden and publicity doyenne Judi Kerr. In fact, Seger has been at the label even longer than the two of them, scoring his first hit with “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” which he played, back in 1968. His Silver Bullet Band still sports original bassist Chris Campbell (circa ’69), sax player Alto Reed (from ’71), keyboard player Craig Frost (since ’80) and fellow Detroit rocker and ex-Grand Funk drummer Don Brewer, while a now silver-haired Seger sports a black T-shirt, jeans and the kind of headband that would get him benched by Chicago Bulls coach Scott Skiles. He plays a half-dozen new songs from his most recent album, last year’s Face the Promise, most notably a first set-ending version of Vince Gill's "Real Mean Bottle," dedicated to Merle Haggard, with a guesting Kid Rock, but it’s the early-mid-’70s anthems that galvanize the crowd. You half expect Tom Cruise himself to slide across the stage in his underwear for “Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll,” while “Main Street,” "Betty Lou's Getting," "Turn the Page," 'Travelin' Man" into "Beautiful Loser,” “Katmandu,” "Night Moves," “Hollywood Nights,” Against the Wind” and “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” raise the emotional temperature, the band as tight as anything this side of the E Street Band or the Heartbreakers, deftly mixing the funk and soul of early Motor City with the all-American garage-turned-arena-rock Seger arguably inspired. And while his voice doesn’t quite wrap itself around the high notes anymore, it still manages to convey the emotions of someone with a career longevity the likes of which we will probably never see again. Like I once wrote a long time ago, Seger may be a journeyman, but he’s our journeyman. It all made for a bittersweet evening, with the realization that, while rock groups will continue to fill arenas in the future, very rarely will they span the more than three decades Seger and his band earned the hard way. Let’s hope rock & roll never forgets him, nor the several generations of Capitol employees who helped make it happen. Bob certainly hasn’t.

4. A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints (First Look): First-time writer/filmmaker and punk-rocker Dito Montiel’s autobiographical pic about growing up absurd in Astoria, Queens in the ’80s is a combination of Scorsese’s Mean Streets and DeNiro’s A Bronx Tale, the latter also featuring character actor Chazz Palminteri. Palminteri plays the director’s overbearing father here, who, along with an almost unrecognizable Dianne Wiest as his slightly dotty, ineffectual mom, eventually drives Project Greenlight’s Shia LaBeouf to distraction, and ultimately, L.A. Film co-producer Robert Downey Jr. is Montiel as a grown-up, returning to his old stomping grounds after becoming a successful author to meet up with his old flame, Rosario Dawson, and try to make sense of what happened to him. The hand-held camera and naturalistic performances give the movie an authentic, documentary-like feel, featuring a young cast headed by a pair of Independent Spirit Award nominees in Channing Tatum’s doomed tough guy Antonio and stunning newcomer Melonie Diaz as the young girlfriend that Dito leaves behind. The film has the fresh perspective of its spirited auteur, along with a feel for setting and language that manages to bulldoze through some of its more self-conscious moments. An unabashedly indie production, Saints illustrates how you may be able to take the man out of the ’hood, but you can’t take the ’hood out of the man.

5. Rainn Wilson: I loved him as Arthur Martin in Six Feet Under, the strange boarder who gets off on nuzzling Frances Conroy’s head as her most unlikely love interest, but Wilson has outdone himself with the character of Dwight Schrute on The Office, the ultimate brown-nose geek willing to humiliate himself to curry favor with his boss, played by weasely naif Steve Carell. The recent episode in which Dwight attempted to catch a bat loose in the office, then is led to believe John Krasinski’s Jim is turning into a vampire, was side-splitting, as Schrute prepared to thrust a stake in his tormentor’s heart. Then, in last week's episode, after Dwight is reluctantly invited to a party thrown by a business associate, he launches into a full-scale inspection of the house, hanging on the banisters to gauge their strength, testing out a rocking chair in the children’s bedroom and finally, climbing to the roof to examine the chimney. It’s a spot-on characterization of a fastidiously anal, completely wrongheaded loser, the kind you might find in any modern-day workplace. Wilson didn’t disappoint, either, during a recent stint as host of Saturday Night Live, where the intro featured the show’s regular cast doing a spot-on parody of The Office, complete with those furtive, eyebrow-raising glances at the camera that mark the presence of a film crew.

6. Gary Marmorstein, The Label: The Story of Columbia Records (Thunder’s Mouth Press): Barely a chapter into this almost 600-page long history of the venerable record company, which sports its famed red label on the cover, I’ve already learned more than I ever knew about the origins of the modern recording industry. Columbia Records was actually founded in 1888 by Edward Easton, a stenographer and principal in the company based in Washington, D.C. (hence the name), which manufactured Graphophones, an early forerunner of the victrola, originally used for office dictation. Just like today, the technology came first, and uses for the invention only came later. The fact that music could be recorded and played back on wax cylinders was virtually an afterthought (Thomas Edison, with his competing phonograph, felt music “demeaned” his invention), as the label was launched with a selection of John Philip Sousa marches recorded by the U.S. Marine Band and black singer George Washington Johnson, dubbed the “Whistling Coon” after his hit of the same name, brought to the label by prototypical 19th century A&R man Victor Emerson. What’s striking is the role technology played in the growth of the industry, and how the format affected what was recorded and distributed, a factor still in place today in the wake of the digital revolution. A fascinating read that I have just dipped into, but will keep you abreast as I get deeper.

7. Mitch Myers, The Boy Who Cried Freebird (HarperEntertainment): In this post-Village Voice, Internet blog era, rock criticism is a dying art, snuffed out by a shrinking print market and the demands of tabloid journalism. But don’t tell that to Mitch Myers, a sometime contributor to NPR’s All Things Considered and a creative consultant to his late uncle Shel Silverstein’s estate, which no doubt helped him secure a book deal for this series of mythmaking essays inspired in part by past masters, especially the album review as fiction, practiced by Stone originals like J.R. Young, Nick Tosches and the late, great Lester Bangs. Well, I knew Lester Bangs, Mitch, and believe me, you’re no Lester Bangs, but I appreciate the passionate fandom that went into this collection. Only trouble is, too often the homage turns into a vampiric rip-off, as when he riffs on L.A. factotum Harvey Kubernik in the half-true/half-made-up “River Deep,” only to misspell the guy’s name in the acknowledgments. That’s just plain sloppy. There is also an apocryphal tale of how playing Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” on vinyl causes the instant meltdown of undercover aliens, a direct cop from Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks!, where Slim Whitman’s warble was used to make the invaders’ heads spontaneously combust. There are ruminations on such rockcrit mainstays as Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, Captain Beefheart, Nuggets, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, Richard Meltzer, Irwin Chusid, Albert Ayler, Harry Smith, Allen Ginsberg and the Fugs, but the whole thing comes off uncomfortably as a wannabe trying to resurrect past glories, which come to think of it, is what we’re all trying to do nowadays. Still, these extended riffs would have been better off inscribed on a series of stone tablets like prehistoric cave paintings, leading future generations to uncover the glory of rock and its mysterious origins in outsider music like blues, jazz, gospel, beat poetry, minimalism, soul, avant-garde, electronic, etc., offering a glimpse into a past that will one day exist only as collective memories, gradually fading for all those who follow.

8. The Definitive 200: The sounds of Brian Wilson crooning “God Only Knows” drew me like a beacon to Capitol’s famed Studio A in the Tower to mark the introduction of this list of 200 essential albums compiled by NARM retailers with the input of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When I walked in to see Wilson actually seated next to Al Jardine, I wondered if the press conference was called to praise the album or bury it, but the idea of a national marketing campaign, complete with in-store retail displays and dedicated end-caps, isn’t a bad one on the face of it, though it does seem like a last-gasp effort of beleaguered Boomers clinging on to relevancy, determined not to let the business be pried unless it’s from their cold, dead grasp. Already the list, which includes Kenny G but not a single Velvet Underground album, is causing controversy among the cognoscenti, but the point is not that these are the best albums of all time, they’re just the ones people are likely to keep buying in the year 2007 and beyond. For the most part, I would describe it as the top selling 200 albums, rearranged in some degree of critical hierarchy. I’m not defending it, by any means, but neither will you hear me criticizing any kind of marketing initiative aimed at the suffering retail sector. To view the whole list, which is rather predictably topped by Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, click here.

9. Dice Undisputed (VH1): Reality shows are often the stuff of humiliation, especially in the realm of so-called “washed-up” or “never-quite-were” personalities looking to make comebacks or merely reappearances in self-deprecating VH1-spawned “celebreality” vehicles like Surreal Life, Celebrity Paranormal or Celebrity Fit Club. Now, we have a bloated, balding, graying (when he’s not dying his hair) Andrew Dice Clay, 17 years removed from his triumphant sold-out Madison Square Garden performance, living in the Valley with his fiancée, a former wrestler, and two well-mannered teenage sons, vowing to return to the big time, in his case, to perform at the 70,000-seat Giants Stadium in New Jersey. He’s still got the same moves and, unfortunately, wears the same sleeveless shirts and black leather jacket, but this time, he’s playing the Stress Factory in Jersey and the Improv in Orlando, complaining about the size of his dressing room and ordering around his crew of flunkies, including dim-witted road manager Todd and implacable bodyguard Happy Face. You gotta hand it to the Diceman for being willing to show himself humbled in front of his longtime, real-life agent Dennis Arfa, who ignores him to take a call from Debbie Gibson, or his tacit acknowledgement that this may be his last chance to revive past glories. It’s all rather sobering, but the so-called reality bits are a lot less embarrassing than Dice’s actual on-stage routine, bleeped into incomprehensibility by its basic cable origin. It’s all weird and vaguely unsettling, as if the whole notion of fame and celebrity is being stood on its head and revealed for all its tawdry unpleasantness. Sure, you can’t help rubber-necking, but maybe the humane thing is to turn away—for Dice’s sake as well as our own. Of course, if you want even more "exclusive" content, log on to the V-Spot here.

10. Gripe of the Week: As much as it seems inevitable that the Democrats will take over the White House in 2008, there are several factors mitigating that possibility. First of all, I don’t see Al Gore entering this race any time soon, and if he waits any longer, it will be too late. The guy simply doesn’t have the drive or the stomach for the kind of infighting that needs to be done, and there’s no better example than the way he meekly gave up what should’ve been rightly his in 2000. I’m also not happy that big Dem supporters like Norman Lear are giving money to a variety of candidates in the early going, hoping that the contenders eliminate themselves before they have to declare an allegiance. That encourages the kind of in-fighting that has always marred the Democratic nomination process, with the perfect example David Geffen’s recent whiny dissing of Hillary Clinton. That said, it’s very hard to believe that either Hillary or Barack Obama can defeat a Republican candidate. After all, the Democrats haven’t had a President from outside the south elected since John F. Kennedy, with only Lyndon Johnson from Texas, Jimmy Carter from Georgia and Bill Clinton from Arkansas taking the big prize over the last 47 years. I don’t think it’s gonna happen in 2008, either. My guess is North Carolina’s John Edwards emerges with the nod, and chooses Obama, whose name, as Artie Lange points out, is too close to Osama to get elected himself (“That’s like a guy named Adolph running for President in 1944”), as his running mate. Now that’s the ticket…which could beat John McCain, Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani, for that matter.



Starring: Gerard Butler, Vincent Regan, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Michael Fassbender, Rodrigo Santoro

Synopsis: During the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, King Leonidas and 300 Spartans fight to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army in an effort to inspire all of Greece to unite against their Persian enemy. Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller

Thoughts: I saw a midnight screening of this movie and it’s unbelievable. It has got to be one of the coolest movies I have ever seen. What people forget is that this movie, although based on a graphic novel that of course has embellishments, it is mostly factual and a big part of history. The visuals alone are worth the price of admission. Be advised however, this movie is not for the squeamish as it is full throttle and holds nothing back.

The Namesake

Starring: Kal Penn, Jacinda Barrett, Irfan Khan, Tabu, Zuleikha Robinson

Synopsis: The son of Indian immigrants, Gogol wants to be a thoroughly modern American man, but he finds that his wishes are at odds with the traditional life his parents wish he would live.

Thoughts: This is defitnetly on my list for movies to see this weekend. The reviews have been sensational.

Fire up the grill. (5/24a)
Another week, another iteration (5/24a)
They're in the money. (5/24a)
A game of Monopoly on Capitol Hill (5/24a)
Redrawing the Mason-Dixon Line (5/24a)
Gosh, we hope there are more press releases.
Unless the Senate manages to make this whole thing go away, that is.
No, not that one.
Now 100% unlicensed!

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