THE WEEKEND STARTS HERE:
REVENGE OF THE SITH: As some of you learned, I attended the advance screening Thursday night. There will be no spoilers in this first part of my review; if you want those, you'll have to click the "Read more" link at the bottom of today's entry.
First, for those that don't know, I am more of a Star Wars fan than most, having seen each of the series on opening day. That includes the original, to which I was taken by my dad and one of his independent contarctors, at the Edens Plaza theater, which no longer exists. Nevertheless, I was not standing in line for this weeks in advance like Steve Lorenzo. Nor did I spend 500 bucks for my ticket, though the Children's Hospital in Chicago is certainly a worthy cause. Indeed, I am not even as big a Star Wars geek as the people seated on either side of me in the theater Thursday night, which did wonders for my self-esteem.
Second, everyone got a fair amount of swag for the buck. The preshow at the Adler Planetarium was well-staged, with Vader, stormtroopers (both early and late designs), Imperial officers, Jango and Boba Fett, sandpeople, etc. Widescreen flat-panel displays looped scenes from all six movies, stations allowed kids to play each other at Star Wars videogames, and there was plenty of food catered by Wolfgang Puck, who also attended. A number of collectibles were raffled off (none for me, alas).
Trolleys whisked you to the theater, where you got a bottle of water or soda, a bag of popcorn and an additional bag of tchotchkes: a bag of Jedi Peanut M&Ms (now eaten); a bag of Dark Side Plain M&Ms (now eaten); a tube of M&M minis with Star Wars head dispenser (mine is Chewbacca) and a refill for same; a wind-up toy (mine is Yoda); SW: ROTS trading cards; a Star Wars: Empire comic book; a film tin of jelly beans (not eaten... yet); packs of Doublemint and Juicy Fruit gum (Chicago is the Wrigley City) and an admission ticket for "Sonicvision" -- see your music at the Ad-ler Plan-e-tar-i-um!
Oh yeah, there was a movie, too. If you have read any of the other advance reviews, you know the consensus is that Episode III is better than the last two. I wholeheartedly agree. Indeed, while my opinion might change when I have more distance, I am tempted to agree that it is the third-best of the series, as it has very little of the saccarine quality of Return of the Jedi. There are a couple of cute moments with R2-D2 at the outset of Episode III, but there are no cutsey Ewoks (which, btw, are not so named in ROTJ; we know what they are called from the marketing) and you will miss Jar-Jar Binks if you blink at the right moment. Episode III is as dark or darker than The Empire Strikes Back, though I'll discuss that and more in the aptly-named in the "more" section....
FLASHBACK: Sylvia Hauser's rescued greyhound is in the hospital. Although he's currently doing better than she expected, you might consider putting in a kind word with your deity (if you have one) for ol' Flash.
FRIDAY TIMEWASTER DELUXE, courtesy of Sylvia, is Addictive Games.
RILO KILEY frontwoman Jenny Smith is blurbed about her forthcoming solo album in Rolling Stone, along with Rilo Kiley's tour schedule.
ON THE PITCHFORK: Neko Case tour dates. ALSO: A rave for the reissue of Gang of Four's Entertainment! and a lukewarm review of the Lucinda Williams live set.
ONEIDA: Stereogum calls the band's newest, The Wedding, "this year's most compelling neo-psych record." He also offers a download of one track, "The Eiger," as well as the song that may have inspired it -- the Left Banke's "Walk Away, Renee" (which I used to play on the radio Saturday mornings to annoy Craig O'Neill).
SUFJAN STEVENS: The Catbird Seat has more downloads from his forthcoming Illinois album.
MP3 BLOGS: The Tofu Hut has posted an extensive directory of MP3 blogs, categorized by genre. Though short on country, you can find, rock, pop, jazz, blues, r&b, reggae, world and even videogame music blogs listed.
PETE DOHERTY UPDATE: The trobled singer and galpal Kate Moss are rumored to be having some sort of marriage-esque blessing ceremony at the Glastonbury music festival.
HANK WILLIAMS, SR. looks to be getting a museum in the Pure Oil service station where a chauffeur discovered his death.
DELTA MOON: Back in the day of The Brains, Tom Gray scored a hit when Cyndi Lauper covered his song "Money Changes Everything." His new band is moving more toward the sound of Emmylou Harris.
HARRY SHEARER blogs a bit on CNN: The Most Trusted Name in Fun.
FOCUS GROUPING THE NEWS? The Chicago Tribune solicits opinions from an online focus group that allows its members to see and comment on parts of the paper (phots, layouts and headlines, but not text) before publication.
PENTHOUSE CLEANS ITSELF UP, but just a little.
THE REV. JESSE JACKSON has renewed his call for radio stations to "draw the line on dignity" and somehow managed to connect the issue of vulgarity in hip-hop to the renewal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Jackson also said black people need to take more responsibility for their own lives. "We need to respect ourselves. We must maintain our own dignity."
CATS: They are outlawed in NYC, but a designer breed called the Savannah, which can cost from $4,000 to $10,000, are the new "it" feline. Too bad The New York Times got the cute title wrong.
CLASSROOM CLICKERS allow teachers to pose questions and get immediate feedback from the entire class, and none of the students need to worry about exposing their ignorance.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM: Ryan Sager notes that "a smattering of Democrats and liberal activists are slowly coming to the conclusion that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to let the government decide who can and cannot engage in political speech." Campaign finance reform almost always favors the incumbents who pass it.
YAHOO! MUSIC: Industry observers question how the new music rental service jibes with Yahoo's prior purchase of Musicmatch.
WHAT'S NEXT IN DIGITAL ENTERTAINMENT? USA Today assembled a panel of some of the industry's most influential players -- including Public Enemy's Chuck D -- to talk about what's ahead.
MICROSOFT: The BBC has a two-part piece on challenges facing the software giant and the company's strategies for the future.
MENA SUVARI: The 26 year-old actress is getting divorced from 42 year-old cinematographer Robert Brinkmann, citing irreconcilable differences. Some may speculate that the age difference is a factor; I say he finally complained about the glare from her giant alien forehead.
LINDSAY LOHAN denies she's anorexic, saying that she's just been on a diet. No word on whether that diet involves throwing up meals.
KIERA KNIGHTLEY admits she used a butt double for The Jacket because she did not have time to train after shooting another version of Pride and Prejudice.
BOX OFFICE BLUES A MYTH? Although some have noted lackluster biz at the cinema this season, Variety notes that movies are performing on average much better than the 2004 crop, once you exclude The Passion of the Christ. This year's figures have yet to account for the power of the Force.
WHO YOU GONNA CALL? Alamo City Paranormal in San Antonio, among others.
PLASTIC RADIOS: Why? Because I like them!
SCIENTOLOGY is facing competition from Fictionology, according to The onion.
HAND GESTURES lead to better story-telling, according to research at the University of Alberta. Insert your ethnically-insensitive Italian joke here.
MILBLOGGERS -- including a few I've linked from time to time -- are the subject of a feature in USA Today.
IRAN: France, Germany and Great Britain say Iran could face serious consequences if Tehran follows through on a threat to resume processing uranium for nuclear fuel. The tough talk is supported in Washington, natch. Of course, "serious consequences" were promised, but not delivered, by the U.N. if Saddam Hussein did not verifiably disarm himself. At this point, the "serious consequences" might be seeking U.N. sanctions, which the West may not be able to get past Russia or China.
OIL-FOR-FOOD SCANDAL: The Independent has Cliffs Notes for those new to the story. Claudia Rosett, who was on this story from the very beginning, advances the story, based on the Senate investigation.
BASEBALL: Scientists studying the sport find that children cannot hit or catch slow balls because their brains are not wired to handle slow motion. An article at American Scientist breaks down the physics of the game -- the Magnus force of a spinning pitch, and so on, with plenty of visual aids.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON AND NEWT GINGRICH joined cheerfully yesterday to promote legislation on healthcare changes, as two polarizing potential presidential candidates pretend to move toward the center of American politics.
EXTREME IRONING: I'm not kidding, but the Extreme Ironing Bureau may be.
FLEXIBLE CONCRETE: What will they think of next?
EXOTIC NAMES are associated with trouble later in life for black children, though it's unclear as to the extent to which this reflects on the parent(s) or the perceptions of others, or both.