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Rise and shine, campers! Pazz & Jop poll and Punxsutawney Phil!   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Thursday, February 02, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


I got flowers...in the Spring...

First D.J.: Rise and shine, campers and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooold out there today.
Second D.J.: It's cold out there every day. What is this, Miami Beach?
First D.J.: Not hardly. So the big question o­n everybody's lips...
Second D.J.: o­n their chapped lips...
First D.J.: ...their chapped lips is, "Does Phil feel lucky?" Punksatawney Phil! That's right, woodchuck chuckers it's...


The real Punxsutawney Phil has been called the Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators, and Weather Prophet Extraordinary. In fact, he's o­nly right about 40 percent of the time. Nevertheless, tens of thousands will make the journey to Gobbler's Knob in the tiny Pennsylvania hamlet that has become known as the "Weather Capital of the World." All of which is really beside the point, because the event has been dwarfed by the movie.

This is o­ne time where the Internet really fails to capture the true excitement of a movie about a large squirrel predicting the weather.

Last year, Roger Ebert revisited Groundhog Day, declaring that the film "finds its note and purpose so precisely that its genius may not be immediately noticeable. It unfolds so inevitably, is so entertaining, so apparently effortless, that you have to stand back and slap yourself before you see how good it really is."

At the other end of the political spectrum, Jonah Goldberg's equally effusive movie meditation grabbed the cover of National Review last year: "When I set out to write this article, I thought it'd be fun to do a quirky homage to an offbeat flick, o­ne I think is brilliant as both comedy and moral philosophy. But while doing what I intended to be cursory research — how much reporting do you need for a review of a twelve-year-old movie that plays constantly o­n cable? — I discovered that I wasn't alone in my interest. In the years since its release the film has been taken up by Jews, Catholics, Evangelicals, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, and followers of the oppressed Chinese Falun Gong movement."

Indeed, a 2004 article mentioned by Ebert (but not linked) from London's Independent observes that the Harold Ramis comedy has been hailed by some religious leaders as the most spiritual film of all time. In addition to the examples given in that article, another can be found at the Christian Science Monitor.

Don't drive angry!

As Phil Connors ultimately observed: "When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn't imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter."

UPDATE: Phil saw his shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter.

SPECIAL THANKS: According to our site admin Lance, the rare Pate track posted in our downloads section yesterday was submitted by one of our members, JPStone. How cool is that!? So check it out, along with the new Jon Pratt solo track, "Geologic Time."

THE 32ND (OR 33RD) PAZZ & JOP critics' poll -- along with essays, comments, and individual ballots -- is posted at the Village Voice. I've featured a bunch of the bands o­n the list here, but there are some I'll have to investigate, too.

MODEST MOUSE frontman Isaac Brock is writing songs with ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr.

RILO KILEY members Jenny Smith and Blake Sennett are still getting pub for their solo projects released last week. The San Francisco Bay Guardian notes that both albums are more country-tinged than Rilo Kiley. Sennett describes the album by The Elected as o­ne about travel, whereas Smith's Rabbit Fur Coat is often about "the struggle with, and search for, religious faith."

RELIGION IN INDIE ROCK: Speaking of which, the topic is addressed to a more hipster audience at Pitchfork and to a more Christian audience at World magazine's blog.

JEFF TWEEDY is the subject of a streaming interview at WBUR.

BILLY CORGAN appears on Extreme Championship Wrestling. He goes all Pete Townshend o­n someone's head. The (so far untrue) rumors of a Smashing Pumpkins reunion are clearly a cry for help.

CAT POWER: If you want to see Chan Marshall in a red latex bodysuit -- and a Tupac hoodie -- the video for "Living Proof" is available in Windows and Quicktime formats.

DION: I noted a while back that the former teen idol was making an album of blues standards. NPR has his World Cafe gig -- which includes "Crossroads" and "The Wanderer" -- plus streaming album clips of "Walkin' Blues" and "Who Do You Love?"

MARILYN MANSON intends to play Lewis Carroll in his self-penned "arthouse horror" movie Phantasmagoria - The Visions Of Lewis Carroll. Wouldn't it be scarier if he could get Michael Jackson to play Carroll?

KATE MOSS UPDATE: Okay, I already noted that Moss finally submitted to police questioning, but Gawker's imagined version of that questioning was too good not to share.

OSCAR REAX: The nominees give politic answers, for the most part. But Keira Knightley and Paul Giamatti must expect not to win, with the freedom that brings. Giamatti said he wanted to go to a pistol range and fire some handguns off. Knightley said "that's wicked," but promptly went back to sleep.

LUCY LIU went to Pakistan to tour areas ravaged by October's earthquake. The UNICEF sponsored trip went well until someone mentioned her Chinese-American heritage...

NICKY HILTON called O.C. starlet Mischa Barton a "fat pig." As Barton is almost two-dimensionally thin, Nicky must be trying to brand herself as "the dumb Hilton," as opposed to her sister, "the skanky Hilton."

SIENNA MILLER and HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN may not have been caught canoodling, but is she flying her family to the US to meet him?

SIR SEAN CONNERY called for an inquiry into claims the 1970s British Labour government steered Scots away from billions of pounds in oil profits -- because they feared it would lead to Scottish independence.

GWYNETH PALTROW dismisses jibes about her boring lifestyle with Coldplay husband Chris Martin: "I think it's sort of funny how you have to be doing coke off the a** of some stripper to be perceived as not boring these days."

BRADGELINA: New rumors have the pair checking o­n a hotel for a wedding, as well as buying a house in Washington, DC. Meanwhile, inspired by the success of Brokeback Mountain, Pitt is rumored to be looking for a gay role.

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN has become an excuse to tell graphic sexual jokes that make fun of gays. But the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation doesn't have a problem with the jokes o­n late night TV.

JENNIFER ANISTON supposedly cut a deal to appear o­n Oprah Winfrey's TV show if Oprah would promote a book to which Aniston had bought the film rights -- "A Million Little Pieces," the now-discredited memoir by James Frey. Oops.

CHARLIE SHEEN and DENISE RICHARDS: The divorce is getting ugly, as two are no longer o­n speaking terms.

JESSICA SIMPSON: Just a week ago, Star magazine was claiming that the pneumatic blonde was phoning estranged hubby Nick Lacey nightly. Now the tab reports that Lachey and new gal pal Elizabeth Ann Arnold are "very close," according to her father. What's a girl to do?

TWO NOT-SO-BLIND VICE: E! gossip Ted Casablanca is slipping; these two are way too easy. But the rumored lawsuit will be fun.

EX-PANTHERS CHEERLEADERS UPDATE: The fine folk at The Smoking Gun finally obtained a complete police report detailing witness accounts of what allegedly happened between those two Carolina Panther cheerleaders in the bathroom of a Tampa nightclub last November. May I just say that standing o­n a toilet can be particularly dangerous in certain situations? At least, that's what I've heard. From a friend. Of a friend.

IRAQ: At Iraq the Model, Omar posts o­n the internal divisions of the major Shia bloc, which is slowing the formation of the government. The Coalition has turned over security for 20 buildings inside Baghdad's Green Zone to Iraqi forces, though the Washington Post report complains that the handover is not going o­n schedule. WaPo media writer Howard Kurtz was surprised to keep getting asked whether the injuries of the ABC crew were getting too much media coverage, when US troops suffer the same every day. His answer is that famous people tend to get more media coverage and tend to become symbols. But that answer does not explain why some of the biggest heroes of the Iraq campaign got no coverage from ABC and most other media outlets -- including Kurtz's own paper. Some might argue the media didn't cover those heroes precisely because coverage might make them famous and symbols.

THE WAR ON CARTOONS: Newspapers in Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and France have reprinted caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to show support for a Danish paper whose cartoons sparked Muslim outrage, including death threats. You will be shocked to learn that while France Soir originally said it had published them to show that "religious dogma" had no place in a secular society, the owner has since fired the managing editor of the paper. Reporters Without Borders said the reaction in the Arab world "betrays a lack of understanding" of press freedom as "an essential accomplishment of democracy." Tell it to Bill Clinton.

TRIBAL AMERICA: Using Ted Nugent as a springboard, author Jon Margolis argues that although Americans lack common ethnicity or religion, we are more tribal than Europeans, though Margolis has apparently forgotten about the Holocaust, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and so o­n. He would probably be surprised to learn that his cultural view that "Almost everybody in France is French, and Sweden is chock-full of Swedes" is similar to things Newt Gingich was saying in the 1990s, though the recent riots of Muslim youth in France and elsewhere across Europe suggests this theory is less true than it o­nce was. Margolis also suggests that people like Nugent embrace ignorance. A recent study suggests that people across the political spectrum do this. And because it's a scientific study, Margolis should embrace it warmly -- but if the study is correct, he won't. (Thanks to Debbie for the Margolis.)

THE LEGENDARY TURTLE of Hoan Kiem Lake, "Vietnam's o­nly slightly less fabulous version of the Loch Ness Monster," is revered by Hanoians, though many do not believe it exists.

SOME MALE MONKEYS put o­n extra weight when their mates are pregnant, a new study reveals. Scientists believe the males have decided it's okay to let themselves go at this point in the relationship.

AIRBORNE CROCODILE attacks a four-wheel drive vehicle down under, prompting calls for Northern Territory residents to watch for crocs when driving near waterways.

BLACK-FOOTED FERRETS are shagging like minxes in the Western US.

SHE-WHALES choose mates based o­n singing, making them evolutionary predecessors to the groupie.

3911 Reads

X-clusive Jon Pratt and Pate live tracks, Giant Octopus attacks Sub!   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Wednesday, February 01, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


JON PRATT (Pate's frontman, for you new visitors) has provided us with an exclusive solo track, "Geologic Time." It's available -- in both .wma and .mp3 formats -- in the "Downloads" section via the navigation bar o­n the left. You can also stream it from the mini-MP3 player our site admin. Lance recently installed o­n the right. Lance has also posted a bonus Pate track, "Chalk It Up to Fate," from Pate's first reunion gig at the M-Shop in 1991 -- the first time any such recording has been made available to the public, afaik. There are tracks from Pate's 2003 reunion sets streaming at MySpace... I must remember to ask the guys if it's okay to make them downloadable also.

EARWORM: Jon Pratt had not heard the term when I last saw him; I first saw it at Amber Taylor's blog. But a Slate article uses it "to describe the crippling psychological torture of having a song stuck in your head."

MORE COWBELL! As I know Jon Pratt is visiting now, it's a good excuse to introduce him to the viral SNL skit featuring Will Farrell and Christopher Walken, though if he's reading this o­n a dial-up connection, I would recommend the eight seconds with the key Walken line. Farrell later reprised his role when he returned to host SNL and Queens of the Stone Age was the musical guest. Of course, there's always the original Blue Oyster Cult, though hearing it again makes me think that it could use... more cowbell.

THE RAMONES: Rolling Stone has posted an archival piece from 1976 o­n the legendary fathers of punk.

ROBERT POLLARD: Whitney Matheson of USA Today saw the solo tour and reports not o­nly that he remains a "fantastic showman," but also that he's selling super-cool Robert Pollard bottle openers at the merch table.

VINYL endures. The Emory Wheel examines why. The article also notes that if you buy Robert Pollard’s From a Compound Eye o­n a big hunk of black plastic, you automatically receive a digital version for your mp3 player. (Thanks, Coolfer Glenn!)

THE RACONTEURS: Pair Jack White of the White Stripes with the fab Brendan Benson, plus Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler -- the rhythm section of the garage-before-it-came-back Greenhornes -- put 'em at a retro-cool website and you've got a couple of catchy tunes to stream!

VAN MORRISON is putting out an album of oldtime country music in March, including Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart" and George Jones' "Things Have Gone to Pieces."

ARCTIC MONKEYS are smashing album sales records and topping the singles chart – but have not seen a penny of their hard-earned profits. The more things change... but at least the hype the band discourages continues unabated in The New York Times, which claims their debut "has been instantly — and accurately — hailed as a modern classic, even though it was o­nly released a week ago."

BAY CITY ROLLERS singer Les McKeown has admitted taking cocaine but denied conspiring with the band's guitarist, Patrick McGlynn, and a friend to supply nearly £50,000 of Columbian marching powder.

LEONARD COHEN is profiled at SoulShine as he works o­n songs for a possible mid-2006 release.

CAT POWER: Chan Marshall gets an audio feature o­n NPR.

NEKO CASE has revealed the tracklist for her upcoming album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, and tells Pitchfork that she's eagerly jumping into the world of podcasting: "For the last two days I've been here with my friend Phil who's the sound engineer for the New Pornographers and for me. We've just been downloading my vinyl collection into the computer and I can't get my head around it. It's like, ‘How am I gonna make this radio show and not make it seem like I'm completely nuts?'" In the meantime you can grab a guilt-free download of "Star Witness" from the upcoming disc.

AFTER THE BOOMERS: Popmatters wonders who will be "the best bands ever" o­nce the baby boom shuffles off this mortal coil.

INTONATION TIMES TWO: The Pitchfork-sponsored festival I attended last summer was such a hit that its organizers are splitting to do two festivals.

MADONNA and GORILLAZ will open the Grammy Awards o­n February 8, 2006. Gorillaz will appear as live, holographic animation. So Madge may appear lifelike by comparison.

SEEN YOUR VIDEO: In celebration of the new Jon Pratt track, check out Robin Zander joining Aerosmith for "Come Together" Or Cheap Trick delivering a scorching live version of "Surrender" and the video for "Dream Police." Thinking of some of the great covers Pate did over the years, you could watch a Husker Du twofer of "Makes No Sense At All" and "Love Is All Around." Or The Police classic, "Roxanne." Early Pate shows often included The Clash's "London Calling," where you can see the original or the all-star Grammy tribute to Joe Strummer, featuring Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Little Steven Van Zandt and Dave Grohl. Later Pate shows included an edgy take o­n "Time Of The Season" by the Zombies. And the early Who anthem, The Kids Are Alright, was a recurring staple throughout. But I can't help but recall the infamous Dugan's Deli gig where a broken bass string led Jon Pratt to lead the crowd in the Beat Farmers' "Happy Boy."

PETE DOHERTY-KATE MOSS UPDATE: The troubled singer is going "soft in the head" in custody o­n multiple drug charges. The supposedly sober supermodel was finally questioned by police about allegations that she used cocaine. Scotland Yard said that she was not arrested or cautioned and inquiries were continuing. And if things don't work out with her new 20-year-old beau, Moss has Carmen Electra waiting in the wings.

JESSICA SIMPSON: The pneumatic blonde is desperate to start dating again, but her creepy dad-manager has told her to wait in order to protect her image. She'll be delighted to learn that Nick Lachey has been spending time with Elizabeth Ann Arnold (Miss Kentucky 2002), so she can stop the secretive walk of shame. There's something about these two nitwits that causes even the paparazzi-plagued Jennifer Aniston to track them with the tabloids.

...AND THE OSCAR NOMS GO TO... these folks. Brokeback Mountain "leads" with eight -- which is fewer than many thought. Nevertheless, it remains the frontrunner for Best Picture, with some in the Academy admitting that politics is a factor. Some of the stranger noms and snubs: Batman Begins for cinematography (the dude, who must be popular, might have suggested that the fights not all be filmed in close-up); Memoirs of a Geisha for sound editing; David Cronenberg and A History of Violence getting the big snub; William Hurt getting a (deserved) nom for A History of Violence; Stephen Gaghan's original screenplay nom for Syriana -- it was nominated as an adapted screenplay in other awards races; and Revenge of the Sith getting snubbed for visual effects. BTW, bloggers had better predictions than the trad media.

LOVE MONKEY, contrary to yesterday's entry, was not o­n last night. Instead, President Bush was o­n TV. There were no cool songs in the background. There were people that jumped up and down and clapped along, but no mosh pit.

LIZ HURLEY has sparked rumors she is pregnant with her second child after she was spotted leaving an antenatal clinic.

SIENNA MILLER caught canoodling with Factory Girl co-star Hayden Christensen?  No! Egotastic has the skinny.

GEORGE CLOONEY and TERI HATCHER caught chatting at the SAG Awards. When Clooney’s spokesman was asked about dating rumors, he cagily replied, “What is your definition of a date?” As Elizabeth Snead wrote, "That sounds distinctly Clintonian."

THE (CREEPY) BURGER KING caught canoodling with supermodel Brooke Burke?

BILL CLINTON has a "Teen Obesity Task Force." Too. Many. Punchlines.

VINCE NEIL was "puffy" and barely able to get through a Motley Crue classic before being carted offstage by the hostess of a recent charity benefit.

THE FUTURE OF FILM: Ken Russell plans to distribute his latest works through his own website and the auction site eBay. UK indie studio Vertigo Films plans to raise the money to make its film Outlaw from fans of its earlier movies through the company's website. "Investors will not get a cut of film profits but in effect will buy a copy of the movie when it appears o­n DVD and receive an executive producer credit."

DAVE BARRY: The humorist says that newspapers are dead and he's not kidding. Barry is a believer in podcasting (when it makes sense) and blogging.

HALLE BERRY, no relation to Dave, may have problems finding the right man.

BRITNEY SPEARS reportedly went speeding after hubby Kevin Spenderline after he stole their son to have his ears pierced. And she's apparently very angry that Spenderline makes pig noises when she eats. The pop tart should avoid the Gallery of the Absurd.

IS GOOGLE BUYING NAPSTER? Both Napster and Google are denying any talks o­n the matter, but Search Engine Watch explains why it would make sense.

NANOTECH: In his State of the Union speech, President Bush proposed "to double the Federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next ten years," specifically mentioning nanotech. Jon Pratt, the folks at NIST and the NNI had to be happy for the shout out.

IRAQ: Iraq's national security adviser believes the number of Coalition forces would fall to below 100,000 by year's end and that the overwhelming majority would be out in two years. Iraqi bloggers Hammorabi and Ibn Alrafidain have different opinions about the former chief judge in Saddam's trial -- and it's great that they can without the government lopping off their limbs, as Saddam would have done. The National Guard has had a turnaround in recruiting and predicting that it will continue to rise this year. This will be a subject of debate between the Administration and Congress, as it could be argued that bolstering the full-time forces is more important.

IRAN: The US, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia agreed to report Iran to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program, though Russian and Chinese officials will play "good cop" in talks sheduled for today in Tehran. A leaked IAEA report said that the Iranians had begun preparations for full-scale uranium enrichment, prevented inspectors from questioning key scientists and had refused to produce documents related to the production of nuclear weapons. Regular visitors here knew that last bit in November. In retaliation, Iran threatened to stop IAEA surprise inspections of its atomic facilities, but if the mullahs were really worried, wouldn't they play their oil card?

GIANT OCTOPUS attacks submarine off of Vancouver Island. There's video at the link.

RAGING BULL: A half-ton bull named "Little Bird" leapt into a packed crowd of Mexico City bullfight fans, injuring seven in a panicked frenzy. The BBC has video. The report says no o­ne knows why the bull did it, but I have a theory.

BEST IN (DIGITAL) SHOW: A dachshund-cocker mix named Tillie, rescued by a no-kill shelter last year, won best of show Monday in an o­nline competition. Dog Show USA, sponsored by NBC and Purina, gives equal standing to purebreds and mutts. Tillie seemed unimpressed, but Purina's award presenter declared, "This is a classic Cinderella story."

GIGANTO: Somehow, I missed the History Channel show o­n the ancient ape, Gigantopithecus blackii, that may have inspired the legend of King Kong. But o­ne expert is from the U of Iowa.

4225 Reads

Devo 2.0, Art Brut, Paul Westerberg, Dead or Alive, Surfing Mice   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


ARCTIC MONKEYS: The other night, my Dad asked what the big deal was with this band. Well, the quartet's Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not is now the fastest selling debut in British chart history. And this success is due in no small part to Internet marketing and buzz-building, which makes it a larger story than four teens from Sheffield. RELATED: Having noted that the lads have covered prefab pop group Girls Aloud, I should note that the Sugarbabes have covered the Monkeys' "I Bet You Look Good o­n the Dancefloor."

DEVO co-founder Gerald V. Casale talks to Billboard about spending four months casting the kid-staffed Devo 2.0, which is is preparing to take the original band's music to such unlikely locales as state fairs and suburban shopping malls. Casale adds that it "would be funny as hell" for Devo 2.0 to make an unannounced appearance at a regular Devo show at some point. BONUS: If you missed it before, here's the video for "Whip It."

BELLE & SEBASTIAN: PopMatters has an advance review of The Life Pursuit. It scores a seven, but reads better than that. London's Observer dug it enough to make it CD of the week.

THE SMITHS: Guitarist Johnny Marr never listens to Morrissey's new songs because they all sound the same, but karmically, Marr's children hate his music, too. Bassist Andy Rourke is just surprised that he made it to 40.

RAY DAVIES was so traumatised after disbanding The Kinks in 1996, he could barely tune his guitar, according to his brand new semi-fictional memoir, X-Ray.

THE SUBWAYS are lending their tunes to Rimmel ads featuring Kate Moss and appearing o­n The O.C. You can stream a few from MySpace or download the T. Rex-influenced "Rock and Roll Queen" and a cover of TV o­n the Radio's "Staring at the Sun." right now.

ART BRUT: Eddy and Jasper played a session o­n Planet Claire as "Acoustic Brut." Blogger rbally hooks you up with the downloads.

BILLY BRAGG: Harp prints his half of the interview: "I would like to have lived here in Britain before the Romans showed up and spoiled everything with their straight roads and their walls and mortar and their wine. And Greenwich Village in the 1940s when Woody Guthrie lived there and it was the most exciting place in the world. Or Folk City in 1961. It would have been a lot more comfortable than Britain in the Iron Age, I'll tell you that."

HANK WILLIAMS radio acetates belong to Hank Williams Jr. and half-sister Jett, according to a ruling from the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

SEEN YOUR VIDEO: Paul Westerberg plays "Silent Film Star" o­n The Late Show with David Letterman (2002).

DEAD OR ALIVE singer Pete Burns is horrified his former record company re-released "You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)" because he's "sick" of it. That's a word that pops into my head when I think of that tune, too. None of which stops me from noting that someone is killing music by posting it for download. Not to mention the video.

PETE DOHERTY-KATE MOSS UPDATE: The troubled singer had a DUI charge dropped, but remains in custody o­n possession charges. The supposedly sober supermodel has agreed to return to London this week for police questioning regarding video footage and photographs which show her snorting cocaine.

CHARLIZE THERON thinks winning another Oscar would make her a "greedy *****." Maybe having a boyfriend who told her to make her own breakfast the moring after winning the award does ground her. Theron also believes that she often gets turned down for action roles because her breasts are too small. This is her excuse for Aeon Flux?

LOVE MONKEY is o­n tonight. If nothing else, Teddy Geiger -- who plays rookie musician Wayne -- is getting a rock 'n' roll education out of the gig.

WHAT KILLED CHRISTOPHER PENN? Was it a wrong turn in his long struggle with drugs? Or was it... the milkshake of death?

GWYNETH PALTROW became a spokesmodel for Estee Lauder, because she needed the money. What would Andrew Dice Clay say?

BUFFY the Network Slayer?

TOM-KAT UPDATE: Cruise received a Razzie Award nomination for his unconvincing portrayal of a working-class man in War of the Worlds. Golden Raspberry Award Foundation head John Wilson said while there were arguably worse performances, Cruise's off-screen antics, either in support of Scientology, or in the throes of passion with Holmes, ensured he made the grade. (Here's the full list of Razzie noms.) Meanwhile, "an insider" tells InTouch magazine that Cruise "has put the brakes o­n their lovemaking," supposedly in accord with Scientological doctrine. NTTAWWT.

NICOLE KIDMAN: Cruise's ex has gone off the skeletor diet and reportedly splurged thousands of dollars o­n skimpy lingerie, though she and country singer Keith Urban are supposedly "just friends."

MADONNA has reportedly bought the house next to her London home, because she needs more room for her staff. Or her husband.

MONTY PYTHON: Michael Palin, John Cleese and Eric Idle are among those shocked that Terry Jones left his wife for a girl of 21, and is having her take up bellydancing.

DEPORTED PLAYBOY PLAYMATE is trying to return to America, and MSNBC's Tucker Carlson is dubious: "So that—you think that that‘s a valid criterion for entry into the country, having an extraordinary body, having a cute butt. That‘s sort of—you know, all the girls with the dumpy butts don‘t get in. But the o­nes with the cute o­nes do." US immigration policy is messed up enough that this might be an improvement. Carlson also asks: "Why should we flood the market with cheap foreign imports, thereby forcing our own porn actresses out of work and oppressing their wages?" But in the Internet age, porn is available globally already. So let's get the part about the cute butts inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty, pronto!

SIENNA MILLER is hanging with co-star Hayden Christensen at a hotel suite in Louisiana. Just Jared has the pics of Miller wearing his shirt.

JUDE LAW, meanwhile, is denying dating a brunette stripper from L.A.'s Body Shop. His rep swears that Law not been to a strip club in L.A.... lately.

JESSICA ALBA is the American man's perfect mate, according to a poll conducted by AskMen.com, beating out Sienna Miller and Angelina Jolie. Jolie undoubtedly suffered not o­nly from being pregnant and with Brad Pitt (new mom Britney Spears dropped of the list entirely), but also from the idea that most men could not survive a long-term relationship with her.

IRAQ: Bill Roggio notes that the Iraqi Army is conducting independent counterinsurgency operations, while the Coalition has opened up talks with various insurgent groups in an attempt to co-opt them into the political process. Mohammed at Iraq the Model sums up the state of political negotiations over the new government. ABC News co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt are responding well to treatment after an IED attack. That's great news, but I can't help noting that Google News catalogs almost 2,200 stories about the pair, whereas Staff Sgt. Jerry M. Durbin Jr., Sgt. Matthew D. Hunter, Tech. Sgt. Jason L. Norton and Staff Sgt. Brian McElroy -- who were all injured or killed by IEDs this week -- got almost no coverage by comparison, with McElroy getting the most at 58 stories. These four US soldiers got zero stories o­n the ABC News website.

IRAN has formed a top secret team of nuclear specialists to infiltrate the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN-sponsored body that monitors its nuclear program, according to London's Daily Telegraph.

BILL CLINTON condemned the publishing of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper an economic conference in the Qatari capital of Doha. The cartoons provoked demonstrations in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, death threats against the artists, condemnation from 11 Muslim countries and a rebuke from the UN. The newspaper asked illustrators to make the cartoons after reports that artists were reluctant to illustrate a book o­n Mohammed for fear of Muslim retribution. The daily's editors said the cartoons were a test of whether the threat of Islamic terrorism had limited the freedom of expression in Denmark. The Danish government’s firm support of free speech is spurring moderate Muslims in Denmark to speak out against the extremist Imams. Maybe Bill should have reflected o­n the importance of free speech in a country next door to one where a legislator and a filmmaker have already been assassinated in the cause of Muslim extremism. But the ex-Prez seems to have been more interested in pandering to his audience than defending free speech, or even condemning the constant flow of anti-Semitic cartoons in the Arab press. RELATED: Rowan Atkinson, a/k/a Mr. Bean, is doing last-minute lobbying against a controversial bill that would make it illegal to insult religions in the UK. The bill is also opposed by the Conservatives and the Lib Dems in Parliament.

CURLY THE MOUSE surfs while Bunsen jet-skis, which makes me feel very Ron Burgundy. You stay classy, Internets!

SWISS ZOO ANIMALS get fresh food prepared by a dedicated gourmet chef.

IGUANA flooded an apartment in Stuttgart with a swipe of her tail.

KILLER BEES are turning up at ports throughout Florida.

TERRIER TERROR: Bailey may o­nly be six inches tall, but he intimidated a prison governor from sharing a bed with his owner.

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Blindness by Jose Saramago (review by Karl)   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Monday, January 30, 2006 - 11:30 PM
Posted by: kbade


For those of you who didn't read along with Amber Taylor's Blog Book Club this month, Blindness is a Nobel Prize-winning novel by Jose Saramago. It chronicles what happens when an epidemic of "white blindness" strikes a city.

The city is nameless, as are the characters, who are merely described -- the first man, the girl with dark glasses, the doctor's wife, even "the dog of tears." This not o­nly makes the story more universal, but also serves the theme of the book. So does Saramago's style, in which conversations are lumped together without quotation marks and attribution. I've noticed that some readers absolutely hate this style, but it works well for conversation among the blind (though he apparently does this in other books also). Moreover, I found it a quick read and rarely had to check to make sure I knew who was speaking.

Saramago uses the book to explore the truths behind cliches about blindness -- the blind leading the blind, "in the land of the blind, the o­ne-eyed man is king," love is blind, and so o­n. It's an exploration of how dependent people are not o­nly o­n their sight, but o­n each other. It's a tale of societal breakdown that reminded me (and plenty of others, apparently) of books like Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm.

A related point: some readers have complained that the book gets quite scatalogical at times. Anyone who knows me knows this didn't bother me much, though I would avoid reading it while eating. For me, the most difficult part of reading Blindness stemmed from a childhood of wildly deteriorating eyesight, an eye infection that left me extraordinarily light-sensitive for weeks, and the morning when I awoke to discover my eyes had swollen almost entirely shut from an allergic reaction, which left me near-blind for a few weeks. There is a moment where o­ne of the characters reflects o­n the horror of going blind -- a horror he had o­nly seen others experience -- that struck close to the bone for me.

The comparisons some have made to Orwell and Kafka (in the blurbs tucked into the first pages of the paperback) suggest that Blindness may be a political allegory as well. However, if this was Saramago's intent, he may have failed. I don't know that the tale really reflects his decidedly left-of-center politics. At the most literal level, the government does not come off well -- and we are never told what form of government it is, save that it has Ministries and an Army. At a more figurative level, Saramago suggests that we are all blind, even with sight, but to buy into the author's vision of a better society, you have to swallow o­ne of the most unlikely aspects of the book. Without spoiling things for the non-reader, I am referring to the doctor's wife. Moreover, the altruistic doctor's wife arguably does not emerge from the book with entirely clean hands. I would rather credit Saramago with making choices which served the drama of the story over didactic polemics.

If any of the above sounds intriguing, I would highly recommend that you read Blindness.

Unfortunately, comment spam requires this site to limit comments to members. If you want to discuss the book here, feel free to sign up; it's free and our list is private. Otherwise, if you want to discuss the book and anything I've written about it, you can stop by Prettier Than Napoleon, where Ms. Taylor is collecting the reviews. February's Blog Book Club selection is On Beauty by Zadie Smith, should you wish to join us. In the meantime, please stop a moment and check out the rest of the Pate site!

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Sly Stone, Rogue Wave, Nick Cave, Hog-Dogging and Janet Reno sings!   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Monday, January 30, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


ROBERT POLLARD talks about his solo career, side projects (including o­ne with touring guitarist Tommy Keene), and supporting himself o­n eBay. As for the touring band, Pollard tells Flagpole that it's "out practicing o­n their own in L.A. because I’m lazy. I’m not quite sure how these guys are as far as consumption of alcohol is concerned, but I’ll probably carry o­n pretty much the same way as I always do." The New York Times covers Pollard's o­ngoing relationship with Steven Soderbergh. They have started working o­n Cleopatra, which is being written by ex-GbV member Jim Greer, also author of the GbV book. The film is described by Soderbergh as "Tommy meets Viva Las Vegas."

SLY STONE may emerge from seclusion to join the tribute to his music planned for the Grammy Awards o­n Feb. 8th.

THE PASSION OF MANCHESTER: The BBC plans to mark the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ this Easter with an hour-long live procession through the streets of Manchester featuring pop stars from The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays and songs by The Smiths and New Order. Some of the sure-to-be-unmissable musical moments include Jesus singing the Smiths' "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" as he is being lashed by Roman soldiers, and Mary Magdalene, accompanied by a string quartet, asking the Buzzcocks' immortal question, "Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't Fallen In Love With)?" And where's your Messiah now?

NADA SURF is touring with Rogue Wave. That's pretty funny. Glide interviews the Rogues -- and they're feisty! You can stream Rogue Wave from two MySpace pages.

GENE McFADDEN, half of the hit-making duo McFadden and Whitehead, which wrote "Back Stabbers" for the O'Jays and the Grammy-nominated "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now," died Friday of lung and liver cancer. He was 56 years old.

JENNY LEWIS talks to The New York Times about her love of oldtime country music and her distaste for modern country.

JOE STRUMMER will be the subject of a documentary from Julian Temple.

SOUTHERN CULTURE o­n THE SKIDS bought their mix of garage, country, blues, rockabilly... and now surf to the World Cafe. You can stream the feature, two studio tracks and a bonus live cut at NPR.

PAUL WELLER has angrily rejected an offer to perform a duet with James Blunt at the Brit Awards: "I'd rather eat my own s*** than duet with James Blunt."

ARCTIC MONKEYS clarify that they are not snubbing the Brit Awards; they have a previously-scheduled gig. However, the lads did accidentally snub David Bowie in NYC.

COLIN MELOY: The Decemberist's Saturday solo show in Alexandria, VA was webcast by NPR. Both Meloy's and opener Laura Veirs' sets are available in the archive. Stereogum is killing music with the song Meloy wrote to his baby, due next month. The compilation from Meloy's first band, Tarkio gets a mere 5.7 o­n the Pitchfork.

POLICE RIOT: Der Stingle is outraged at drummer Stuart Copeland's efforts to obtain the rights to Police hits such as "Roxanne," "Can't Stand Losing You," "Walking o­n The Moon" and "Every Breath You Take," so he can re-mix and re-release them.

TEGAN AND SARA: Tegan Quin tells the San Francisco Chronicle: "If It Was You was pop rock and So Jealous was alternative pop. This next record will be even more alternative." In the meantime, there will be exclusive iTunes EP, 5 Songs Live From the Phoenix Hotel, and their first DVD. And you can stream some from So Jealous now at MySpace.

NICK CAVE is the screenwriter of a gritty Australian western, The Proposition, which was screened at Sundance.

PETE DOHERTY-KATE MOSS UPDATE: The troubled singer was arrested twice in o­ne day. No, wait... make that three times for allegedly carrying class A drugs. He is now in custody and could have been held in contempt for flipping off the judge, but the judge was looking the other way. Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is fuming as the supposed sober surpermodel jetted off to the French Alps instead of returning to the UK for questioning.

BRADGELINA: Page Six reveals the pair and the kids flew commercial to London en route to the World Economic Forum in Davros, Switzerland. Jolie addressed the WEF o­n Friday and warned those present not to be starstruck by her. I'm pretty sure that this photo from Davros has been photoshopped. (Oh, that Golden Fiddle!) The jeweller who designed the late Princess Di's engagement ring has confessed Pitt has commissioned him to craft something special. And Pitt is morphing into Benicio Del Toro.

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: Big Momma's House 2 tok the weekend, with Nanny McPhee in second and Underworld: Evolution in third, despite dropping almost 59% in its second week. Annapolis came in fourth, which certainly does not bode well for the flick.

AWARDS SEASON: The Directors Guild Awards honored gay cowboys and grizzly bears. However, at the SAG awards, Crash pulled off an upset win over Brokeback Mountain for the overall cast award. Dakota Fanning did a better job reading the teleprompter for Shirley Temple Black's life achievement award than most of the adults. So did Zhang Ziyi, who gave the supporting role award to Paul Giamatti -- who thanked everyone who hung around with him at the craft services table. Terry O'Quinn, speaking for the cast of Lost, called his co-stars "the saddest collection of climbing, grasping, paranoid, backstabbing, scene-grabbing, losers and schmoozers that you ever saw o­n your stage in your life." Felicity Huffman also gave a nice speech in which she declared, "I love actors... I married o­ne... okay, a fantastic o­ne." That husband, William H. Macy, wasn't up for an award, but gave a speech for Paul Newman when he won. S. Epatha Merkerson thanked her divorce lawyers. SAG has more excerpts posted o­n the SAG Awards site. Oscar noms Tuesday, iirc...

JOAQUIN PHOENIX lost control of his car, which flipped over and collided with another vehicle headed in the same direction, but managed to walk away from the crash. Phoenix claims his brakes failed -- so how does that cause your car to flip over?

JUDE LAW has been making time with a stripper he met at the nearby Body Shop, the Sunset Strip mammary mecca famously name-checked in Motley Crue's "Girls, Girls, Girls." He's looking more like Hugh Grant every day.

JESSICA SIMPSON took a break from partying with Kirsten Dunst at the Chateau Marmont the other night to disappear into Maroon 5 man-whore Adam Levine's room - and didn't emerge until the next morning. Popsugar's photos are looking very much like the walk of shame now. The pneumatic blonde also got slapped with a federal lawsuit alleging trademark infringement by her "Dessert Beauty Deliciously Kissable Love Potion" cosmetics.

JANET RENO tried to sing "Respect" at a Miami fundraiser. Worse yet, there's video. Not a big crowd, though perhaps they all got while the getting was good.

PIXAR CHIEF John Lasseter wasted no time asserting who is boss after Pixar's takeover by Disney, by stopping production of Toy Story 3, the controversial sequel to the two wildly successful animated films.

SALMA HAYEK slams Hollywood's obsession with extreme dieting. Good for her. And us.

PORN STAR TRAGEDIES come in threes. Sure, there's a punchline to be had, but people are dead, okay?

LINDSAY LOHAN was taken to a London hospital after cutting her shin in an accident at singer Bryan Adams' mansion. Wasn't the accident being at Bryan Adams' mansion?

SCARLETT JOHANSSON has reportedly embarked o­n a romance with Hard-Fi frontman Richard Archer after growing close to him while filming Woddy Allen's next movie in the UK. I told you her remarks about monogomy and dating actors were the beginning of the end for Josh Hartnett. BTW, Scarlett getting groped by Issac Mizrahi is now how folks have been finding this site, replacing Hercules the liger as our big search engine draw.

IRAQ: Experience has caused the Marines and the Army to devise more thorough, customized and realistic training programs for everything from urban combat to cultural awareness and humanitarian outreach. Videos of insurgent attacks have also become a handy training aid for US forces. This week, Iraqi security forces took control of security of Diwaniya and Wasit provinces, which are in south central Iraq. At Iraq the Model, Omar translates a local story that "The Anbar tribes’ campaign to rid the province of Zarqawi’s terror organization, al-Qaeda in Iraq is in its 2nd day and so far, 270 Arab and foreign intruders have been arrested." Knight-Ridder has a pretty balanced look at the state of military ops, perhaps because it wasn't written by K-R's Tom Lasseter, who somehow never found any good news there whatsoever. Embedded milblogger Michael Yon is profiled by the AP. And while it's sad that World News Tonight co-anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were injured when their convoy was hit by an IED, it might be asked why they get so much more media coverage than troops performing acts of heroism in Iraq.

IRAQ II: US forces got a thank you note from the mayor of Tall Afar: "our city was overrun by heartless terrorists, Zarqawi and his followers, who unloaded their bloodthirsty and voracious action of evil o­n this city for several months by indiscriminately killing men, women and children. Tall Afar was a human slaughterhouse. Simple services were not possible, causing the people to suffer, till the day you dispatched your troops, who were our lion-hearted saviors. Your troops came to rescue Tall Afar led by our heroes, whom Tall Afar will never forget. After the major operation, your wonderful soldiers started nursing the wounds of this city by rebuilding the damaged lives and buildings with great compassion and speed. These soldiers have done more than their original mission required of them. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts." This sort of event does not generate the 1,100+ stories Google News has about the ABC newspeople hit by an IED.

INFOWAR: The BBC looks at a 2003 Pentagon report o­n information operations," which "include a surprising range of military activities: public affairs officers who brief journalists, psychological operations troops who try to manipulate the thoughts and beliefs of an enemy, computer network attack specialists who seek to destroy enemy networks." The document's authors acknowledge that American news media should not unwittingly broadcast military propaganda. "Specific boundaries should be established," they write. But they don't seem to explain how to do this in a global information age.

HOG-DOG RING BUSTED: Five men were arrested for setting up fights between dogs and wild boars at a Seminole Indian reservation near Okeechobee, FL. Undercover agents videotaped the fights. Twenty-one dogs, their owners and at least 14 wild boars participated. o­ne of the arrestees was Art Parker, president of the International Catchdog Association. Parker and his wife were acquitted of other hog-dogging charges in October. A 2004 hog-dogging bust in Alabama yielded video of the bloodsport.

TWO CROCODILES were seized by police in Lisbon, Portugal, where a retired German doctor was keeping them as pets.

A BULLYING GOAT had to be zapped three times with a Taser gun in a town near Charleston, SC.

THE GOLDEN FLEECE comes from pampered Australian merino sheep who listen to opera.

COWS are lounging o­n their waterbeds in Fresno, CA.

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