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Happy Independence Day '06!   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Tuesday, July 04, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


THE UNITED STATES celebrates the 230th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. As the Wikipedia notes, this is a little arbitrary: New Englanders had been fighting Britain since April 1775; the first motion in the Continental Congress for independence was made o­n June 8th; and the Congress voted 12-0 for independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain o­n July 2nd. Even so, the publication of the Declaration was momentous -- with our National Archives recovering from flood waters, the best way to see and learn about the Declaration may be through the Charters of Freedom website. But you can watch Mel Gibson, Michael Douglas, Renee Zelleweger, Kevin Spacey, Wynona Ryder and other Hollywood folk read the Declaration at YouTube, after a short introduction by Morgan Freeman, who squeezed in his narration between March of the Penguins and War of the Worlds.

Of course, the holiday more broadly celebrates the American Revolutionary War, and the Founders' unlikely victory. People with the highest standard of living and the lowest taxes in the Western World fought a sometimes unpopular war for our freedom. Early o­n, the Revolutionaries (also known as "Americans" or "Patriots") had the active support of about 40 to 45 percent of the colonial population. By 1779, there were more Americans fighting with the British than with Washington, which is why Washington needed help from the French, the Spanish and freed Blacks. You can separate fact from fiction regarding the sacrifices and fates of the Founders at Snopes. You can hear two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough read from the first chapter of his 1776 via NPR.

And yeah, I've got your Marvin Gaye and your Jimi Hendrix right here, via the Hype Machine. Back with the usual tripe tomorrow. Try not to blow a finger off, willya?

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The Prez, the PM, the King, the Godfather of Soul, the Man of Steel, etc.   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Monday, July 03, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


THE PRESIDENT, THE PRIME MINISTER, poorboys and pilgrims with families are all going to Graceland. President Bush, took Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi -- a self-described Elvis Presley maniac -- to the former home and final resting place of the King (after giving him an Elvis-heavy jukebox). They also had some fine Memphis BBQ and visited the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. CBS News has a nice photo gallery, though you may need to watch some video for the full flavor. There's even a Pate angle, as PM Koizumi said at Graceland that "I sometimes see the image of the United States as Gary Cooper in my favorite movie, High Noon." I didn't want anyone who was traveling this weekend to miss it. I recently rounded up a whole mess 'o' Presley video, but let's throw in audio of Marc Cohn's "Walking In Memphis" (live at KBCO), along with the King's "A Little Less Conversation" (JXL Remix).

JAMES BROWN: An interview with the Godfather of Soul in London's Independent reveals him to be more than a little eccentric. "And still we come back, for the simple reason that Brown is worth the trouble. He is often described as being, to black music, what Elvis Presley was to white - a serious understatement of Brown's stature. Presley, iconic as he was, was ultimately derivative; the most accomplished of the numerous performers delivering black music to white people. Without Brown, popular music would not exist in the form that it does today."  And if it's hot where you are, break out in a "Cold Sweat."

JOHNNY CASH: The posthumous American V: A Hundred Highways is released tomorrow, but you can stream the whole thing now. Not particularly festive, though.

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS, otoh, were festive enough playing WXPN and World Cafe Live o­n June 30th, which you can stream from NPR.

BIG BLACK is reuniting for a couple of songs at the September concert marking the 25th anniversary of the Touch & Go label. I might have to go see my ol' law school classmate, Santiago Durango.

THE FEEL-GOOD HITS OF THE SUMMER: The NY Post solicits odds o­n this year's candidates and posts a 50 year list of summer hits.

THE SUMMERTIME BLUES: There ain't no cure for them, according to Eddie Cochran, some murky video of The Who at the Superdome in '75, Blue Cheer from the Beat Club, and Bruce Springsteen & E Street Band o­n the Darkness o­n the Edge of Town tour.

STAX PROFILES: The latest set of Stax reissues is a series of 10 Profiles, o­n which fans, friends or associates choose their own favourite tracks by an individual artist. London's Independent particularly liked the compilation of Otis Redding selected by MGs guitarist Steve Cropper, who produced and co-wrote many of the soul giant's classic tracks. You can listen to a streaming Stax sampler via eMusic for free (but you have to sign up if you also want to download it).

GNARLS BARKLEY: London's Guardian calls them a 21st-century version of Sly and the Family Stone. Moreover, "(t)he Gnarls persona and the attendant costumes might well appear like some kind of Snap, Crackle and Pop gimmick, but they are (Cee-Lo) Green and (Brian) Burton's attempt to deflect attention away from themselves and towards the music."

LLOYD COLE is lightening up o­n Antidepressant, which is due in September. Until then, we have to make do with the audio and video at Lloyd's MySpace page.

BOB DYLAN need o­nly mention Alicia Keys in a song to get her "crazy excited." Not bad for a senior citizen.

PETE DOHERTY-KATE MOSS UPDATE: The troubled singer had to leave all his belongings at the front desk of a Paris hotel and make a round-trip to the UK to pay his bill. Meanwhile, the supposedly sober supermodel is spending evenings downing champagne and becoming dissheveled. And publishers have uncovered a "woeful poem" Moss wrote about Doherty and his addictions.

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: Superman Returns obviously took the weekend with 52 million bucks, with a total of 84 million since opening. That sounds like a lot of money, but in reality the box office is far less than super, falling between Batman Begins and The Fantastic Four, and less than X-Men 3 did in its three-day opening. And all of those cost much less than Superman Returns. In contrast, The Devil Wears Prada earned 27 million from o­nly 2,847 venues, making for highly effective counter-programming. Click, Cars and Nacho Libre round out your top five.

SUPERMAN RETURNS: In this case, Superman is Dean Cain, who found Lois Lane's behavior in the new movie to be disturbing. The latest Lois, Kate Bosworth, was voted the sexiest Lois ever, beating off competition from Erica Durance and Teri Hatcher. It's an o­nline poll, so it would be interesting to know how many Warner Bros. employees voted.

PIRATES: Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom had a lot of red wine right before a surprise greeting from the Prime Minister of the island of St. Vincent's. Oops. Jack Davenport, who courted Keira Knightley's character in the first Pirates, says, "I've never done a job where I've felt so much like a seedy uncle." Unsurprisingly, Depp said much the same thing o­n the DVD commentary during the scene where he and Knightley share an island. Knightley and Bloom suffered near-dehydration o­n the world's longest red carpet at the sequel's Disneyland premiere.

HEATHER MILLS McCARTNEY reportedly will accept a £10 million divorce pay-out from Sir Paul, rather than the £200 million she might have won. Maybe she's hoping that will stem the stream of porn from her past that has surfaced since the couple separated.

EVA LONGORIA and TONY PARKER are crashing Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban's honeymoon.

BRADGELINA may next adopt an older child, which could save o­n those nanny expenses.

COURTNEY COX-ARQUETTE and her daughter, Coco, were having some fun at the beach. Of course, Coco's next move was NSFW, because kids live to embarass their parents.

WOODY HARRELSON allegedly choked a cameraman. But wait, wouldn't Woody Harrelson be smart enough to realize that you're likely to be photographed if you choke a camerman? I didn't think so, either.

BRITNEY SPEARS syas she has an obsessive compulsive cleaning disorder. Which would explain why she can't seem to leave Spenderline.

DAVID HASSELFOFF was hospitalized following a freak shaving accident. No, really.

JESSICA SIMPSON and NICK LACHEY are officially divorced.

JESSICA BIEL, Esquire's reigning "Sexiest Woman Alive," and CHRIS EVANS (a/k/a the Human Torch) have called it quits after dating for more than two years. And before I start getting any e-mail, I had nothing to do with it.

NANOTECH: Scientists from MIT think nanotech could provide significant breakthroughs for solar energy. N.Z. Bear looks at the underlying math, which is sobering.

IRAQ: At ITM, Omar looked at the number and size of insurgent groups open to the national reconciliation plan, but noted an attack he suspects was made by al Qaeda to provoke followers of al-Sadr. Sure enough, fighting followed in the mostly Sunni Aadhamiya district in eastern Baghdad. After an initial drop, insurgent attacks in Baghdad have risen during Operation Together Forward, which seems to surprise Reuters, but not US commanders. This is what happens when you take the fight to the enemy. Interestingly, the informal numbers suggest that the increase in attacks has not increased the number killed, thoug July is off to a bad start. Meanwhile, conditions in some parts of Ramadi have improved to the point where the US can do "hearts and minds" work and advance reconstruction.

IRAN: State television has bought the rights to 65 episodes of the Teletubbies, with experts dubbing them into Farsi. Apparently, no o­ne told the mullahs about Tinky-Winky.

THE ACLU LOVES WHISTLEBLOWERS... until someone blows the whistle o­n the group, in which case it tries to censor any dissent.

WHEN THE FLOOD COMES, A frog helps a mouse. Awww... Bigger pic at the link.

A HAMMERHEAD SHARK caught off Boca Grande last month was impressive, not o­nly for its 3-foot-wide hammer, 14-foot length and 1,280 pounds, but also because it was carrying 55 shark pups. Pics of the shark and the pups at the link.

SUMA THE ELEPHANT was bereaved and inconsolable after her pachyderm partner of 10 years died of cancer, until she heard Mozart.

A RUNAWAY DOG returns home after three years in the wild.

AND A SPECIAL TREAT for everyone stopping by during a holiday weekend: The Bodydoubles International Twins Search. Oh. My. Somebody get Wrigley's o­n the phone.

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Another Review of Superman Returns   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Saturday, July 01, 2006 - 04:10 AM
Posted by: darthfeckey

Superman ReturnsSuperman Returns, and with much of the same explosiveness as the original with updated, edge-of-your-seat effects. Brandon Routh quickly and aptly fills the boots of the man of steel in his return to an Earth that has moved o­n, or as I would put it, gotten by to the ends of the realities in our own world.

We find another familiar charachter perfectly preformed, with the proper addition of a little sadism, by none other than Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor. It was interesting to see the former Usual Suspects' baddie showing us his brand of the greatest villian in comic history.

For lovers of the original, Superman Returns promises to be an action packed, emotional, surprise-filled ride that does justice to what I will call, for the time being, the Superman trilogy.

This movie made me remember what it meant to be a kid and humanity's capacity for good. We can be a great people, we wish to be, could this be the light we lack to show the way?  Take a look around and tell me we don't need a savior.

In the most bold statement I have ever made, I believe Chistopher Reeve would be proud.

More to come...

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Beach Boys, a Slew of Summer Songs, Jason Molina, and Some Pig   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Friday, June 30, 2006 - 08:10 AM
Posted by: kbade



...with THE BEACH BOYS, because it's summer, because folks my age will always remember their big concerts o­n the Fourth of July weekend at the Washington Monument (as with this take o­n "Catch A Wave"), and because my Dad just got broadband and can watch YouTube now. Given the time of year, I have to include this 1964 clip of "Surfin' U.S.A." There's also a nifty twofer of "I Get Around" and "'When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)" from their first UK TV appearance o­n Ready Steady Go! You can see Jack Benny intoduce these quick takes o­n "Barbara Ann" and "California Girls." Brian Wilson is writing with Burt Bacharach, sad over the state of the music biz, and still entertains the notion of working with the Beach Boys sometime. Brian just turned 64; "Good Vibrations" just turned 40. That link is to Brian's version, but you can also see the Beach Boys play it at Live Aid. Brian also did a nice solo take o­n "God Only Knows" in this clip from 1988.

MARKY RAMONE: The last Ramone standing will celebrate the band's 30th anniversary July 2nd with a first-for-him all-Ramones set for all ages. Given the Beach Boys lead today, I'll point you to the Ramones' cover of "Surfin' Safari."

THE SONGS OF SUMMER: Eureka's Times-Standard compiles an eclectic playlist.

WAY MORE SONGS OF SUMMER: I'm working o­n my 2006 Summer Mix, but in the meantime, here are some songs of the season from the Hype Machine. PAS/CAL - "The Bronze Beached Boys (Come o­n Let's Go)"; Sweet - "The Ballroom Blitz"; Urge Overkill - "Sister Havana"; Thin Lizzy - "The Boys Are Back In Town"; Terry Jacks - "Seasons in the Sun"; They Might Be Giants - "Birdhouse In Your Soul"; Fountains of Wayne - "Stacy's Mom"; Martha Reeves And The Vandellas - "(Love is Like a) Heatwave"; The Jam - "A Town Called Malice"; Wilson Pickett - "Land of 1000 Dances"; Kool and the Gang - "Summer Madness"; Sydney Barnes - "Summer Sunshine"; Jean Knight - "Mr. Big Stuff"; Reunion - "Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)"; The Vandals - "Summer Lovin'"; Beck and Sia - "You're The One That I Want"; Boston - "More Than A Feeling"; The Smashing Pumpkins - "Jackie Blue"; Alice Cooper - "School's Out"; Seals & Crofts - "Summer Breeze"; Belle and Sebastian - "A Summer Wasting"; Yo La Tengo - "The Summer"; Wilco - "Summer Teeth"; Pavement - "Summer Babe (Winter Version)"; Led Zeppelin - "Going to California"; Rolling Stones - "Country Honk"; Billie Holiday - "Summertime"; Pizzicato Five - "The Girl From Ipanema"; Smoosh - "Find A Way"; Ryan Adams - "Summer of '69"; Blue Cheer - "Summertime Blues"; Ramones - "Rockaway Beach"; Rare Earth - "I Just Want to Celebrate"; Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers - "That Summer Feeling."

ELEPHANT SIX UPDATE: Tiny Mix Tapes did some digging and found that reports of a Jeff Mangum project were greatly exaggerated.

JOY DIVISION: The Ian Curtis biopic Control will feature the music not o­nly of Joy Division and New Order, but also David Bowie, Buzzcocks, Iggy Pop, Roxy Music, Lou Reed, Sex Pistols and more...

THE POSIES are profiled in The Japan Times ahead of their slot at a 25th anniversary party for Shonen Knife. Ken Stringfellow talks about drawing o­n the past for influence: "It was sort of a problem that, as Jon and I were looking up and down the timeline of music for influences when we started playing, there was this punk ethic at work. At the time it was the o­nly reference allowed, so it felt like we were breaking the rules." You can stream three from the latest Posies album via MySpace. The first time I saw them was acoustic, so the pictured video is an acoustic version of "Solar Sister."

IS JASON MOLINA (Magnolia Electric Co., etc.) the new Robert Pollard? Molina has finished no less than six new albums -- including o­ne with Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker founder David Lowery -- though o­nly two will be released this year. Molina has been posting unreleased tracks o­n MySpace and you can stream plenty of Songs: Ohia via the Hype Machine.

JOHNNY JENKINS, a guitarist who worked with Otis Redding and influenced Jimi Hendrix, has died at 67. In 1969, what had been meant to be Duane Allman's solo album became Jenkins' first solo LP, Ton-Ton Macoute when Duane decided to focus o­n the Allman Brothers. Florida Cracker is killing music with a track from that album. Check out the comments there, too.

HALFTIME REPORT: As the first half of winds to a close, you may want to review the top ranked albums of 2006 (so far) at Metacritic and the Halfstravaganza posted at Coke Machine Glow. If you're a regular visitor here, you haven't missed much, but there are always a few strays worth investigating.

THE YOU TUBE HALL OF FAME is weighted in favor of sports, as it appears at the ESPN website, but there are plenty of cool clips mentioned, including some musical o­nes. ALSO: NBC will use YouTube to promote its fall television lineup, which means they almost sorta kinda "get it." But running a contest for people to make promo videos where you can't use any copyright footage from the show is lame.

PAM ANDERSON, as she promised, stripped down to her g-string in the window of Stella McCartney's London boutique in the name of PETA. And she looks pretty scary.

NOW SHOWING: Obviously, the big film this weekend is Superman Returns, which I reviewed o­n Wednesday and is currently rating 76 percent Fresh o­n the Tomatometer. Everyone else is clearing a path for the Man of Steel, except for the fashion-skewering counter-programming of The Devil Wears Prada, which is scoring 76 percent Fresh, and slightly better with the "cream of the crop."

BRITNEY SPEARS is is reportedly moving back to her home state of Louisiana, blaming the lifestyle in Malibu for hurting her battered marriage.

DENISE & HEATHER & RICHIE & CHARLIE & DAVID: Denise Richards is selling the Westlake Village home she bought last year following her separation from Charlie Sheen, which is a stone's throw from the home of her rival, Heather Locklear.

REESE WITHERSPOON, as you may know, is suing Star magazine for speculating that she was pregnant, based o­n photos the tab published. The magazine's response appears to be publishing more unflattering bikini shots and saying, "okay, you're just fat and bloated."

NICOLE KIDMAN, otoh, looks pretty good in a bikini o­n her honeymoon. Just don't get to close to her head.

CHARLIZE THERON was awarded the Los Angeles Film Festival's Spirit of Independence award, for making interesting choices in her career. And because if you were organizing a film fest, wouldn't you want her to show up?

NOW I WANNA BE YOUR DOG: The ol' Iggy Pop lyric works if you're the Target dog hanging with Charlize, but it's even better if you're Jessica Alba's dog.

TOM-KAT UPDATE: Cruise has reportedly refused to release pictures of baby daughter Suri because of his Scientology beliefs. Is that really a better PR spin than the initial story that he couldn't get Bradgelina-scale bucks for the pics?

BRADGELINA: The FBI and Massachusetts authorities raided a Westfield, Mass. home Tuesday night and seized photos of a baby shower held by Jolie and Pitt. The pics were allegedly stolen from Jolie's brother's digital camera when he took it in for repairs. That's him with Jolie in the pic at left. Meanwhile, Jolie has allegedly demanded Pitt remove all traces of ex-wife Jennifer Aniston from his Malibu mansion.

SPIDER-MAN 3: Film Ick claims to have plenty of spoilers, which may or may not be true. Proceed at your own risk.

JOHNNY DEPP has laughed off reports he will play Michael Hutchence in a new film about the life of the late INXS frontman.

KEIRA KNIGHTLEY begged film bosses to let her kiss Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, and gives him better marks than co-star Orlando Bloom.

IRAQ: Bill Roggio takes a detailed look at the insurgent counter-proposal to Prime Minister al-Maliki's national reconciliation plan. The US military claimed an advantage in the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq, saying raids since Zarqawi's death have forced many of its foreign fighters out into the open to be captured or killed. Coalition fatalities have continued to fall from the spike in April; I'm sure The New York Times will report this with the same gusto they gave to predicting in April that increased fatalities would become the new trend. The US military has found more old Iraqi WMDs in recent months, in addition to the 500 chemical munitions recently reported. As even these old WMDs could potentially be lethal, even in their degraded state, it's a good thing insurgents are not actively using them. According to Reuters, Democrats dismissed such arguments and said the weapons were not the "imminent threat" used to justify the war. So it's worth noting that Pres. Bush actually rejected the argument that we must not act until the threat is imminent. Obviously, people can disagree with that argument, but Pres. Bush has enough trouble speaking without others sticking words in his mouth.

AAYAN HIRSI ALI, the feminist critic of Islamic sharia law and former Dutch MP, whom I mentioned earlier this week, must take some small satisfaction in the news that the Dutch Government has unexpectedly collapsed in the wake of a failed attempt to strip Hirsi Ali of her Dutch citizenship.

FREEDOM o­n THE MARCH; With the Fourth of July looming, it's worth noting that huge anti-communist rallies in Santa Cruz are attracting protest babes ahead of a vote o­n autonomy for the region this weekend. And that yesterday's parliamentary elections in Kuwait wer the first to include women.

SOME PIG: Life imitates Charlotte's Web when the press learned that the pig who posed as Wilbur for the cover of an upcoming reprint of the classic children's book was destined to be sold at market.

RAT HOARDING UPDATE: Rat lovers are furious that a Petaluma animal shelter had euthanized more than 1,000 of the rodents taken last week from a man who had been hoarding the creatures inside his home.

PUPPY RESCUED: Emergency crews used a backhoe to dig out a six-inch sewer pipe to reach a 7-week-old puppy that was stuck there headfirst for more than five hours o­n Thursday. Awww...

DOG CUSTODY BATTLE looms over two dogs that survived Hurricane Katrina, as their old owners in New Orleans and their new o­nes in Florida may be headed to court.

A MARMOSET turned up running loose in San Mateo CA. Pics at the link.

AND JUST BECAUSE everyone I know will be disappointed if I skip it, don't you just hate waking up with a lightbulb stuck in your anus?

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SLGTM, Birdmonster, Islands, and Twinkle the Porcupine   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Thursday, June 29, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


THE PIPETTES are profiled by London's Telegraph, giving the backstory o­n theor run at mixing pre-fab pop with a punk DIY spirit. The article mentions that the band's new video for "Pull Shapes" recreates a scene from Valley of the Dolls, but it actually recreates the party scene from the kitsch classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. And since I've noted that here already (though we now have the original movie clip o­n YouTube), I'm also linking to the video for "Dirty Mind," so you can see how far they've come in a short period of time. As usual, there's plenty more Pipettes to stream from the Hype Machine.

ARCADE FIRE have recorded 15 songs for the band's next album and hope to record with a full orchestra in Budapest.

SATURDAY LOOKS GOOD TO ME: Good Hodgkins has an interview with frontman Fred Thomas about a band that -- as GH describes it -- is "on the verge of either falling apart or breaking through." Longtime Pate fans know all about that. You can stream some SLGTM via the Hype Machine.

THOM YORKE: The Radiohead frontman talsk to the L.A. Times about making his his don't-call-it-a-solo album with visual artist Stanley Donwood and producer Nigel Godrich: ""In the midst of it all there were two or three things that made Nigel and me go, ooh, there's something really direct here. Someone might even understand it the first time around."

TAPES 'N' TAPES: The band with the blog buzz talks to Marathon Press about a range of topics, including why they signed to XL Records and what members of the band think about The Pixies, Pavement and Rush.  You can stream four tracks that sound more like the former than the latter via MySpace.

THE BOTTLE ROCKETS got a nice write-up from the Kentucky Herald-Leader for cleaning up and making their new album, Zoysia.

SEEN YOUR VIDEO: I was in the mood for some power pop (when am I not?), so I decided to "Go All The Way" with the Raspberries from 1974.

BIRDMONSTER: Noise For Toaster interviews bassist Justin Tenuto about influences, pirates vs. ninjas, and PBJ vs. fluffernutter. I think he's dead right about music blogs, too. You can stream 'em from MySpace and download an entire set from WOXY.

THE FUTUREHEADS bassist David "Jaff" Craig talks to PopMatters about leaving Warner Bros. to make their second album. There's YouTube video embedded in the story, too.

ISLANDS mastermind Nick Diamonds talked to Pitchfork about the necessity of relentless touring and wanting to work with producer Jeff Lynne (formerly of ELO). He also sets the record straight about a Pitchfork review of an Islands live show. There's Islands in the stream at the Hype Machine.

RHETT MILLER: The Old 97s frontman has done o­ne of those "Music You Should Hear" lists for Amazon. It's all indie, but with no alt-country or Americana.

THE BET AWARDS: Apparently the highlight was a performance by Chaka Khan, Prince and Stevie Wonder. Follow the link to see the video.

BRITNEY SPEARS is pretty close to nude o­n the cover and in the August issue of Harper's Bazaar. BritneySpy's copies turned up allover the 'net. Don't say I didn't warn you. Perhaps she can plead insanity caused by the incessantly rapping Spenderline.

SUPERMAN RETURNS screenwriters Mike Dougherty and Dan Harris suggest they left the phrase "...and the American Way" out of the movie because it no longer means what it did back in 1945. Harris told Page Six: "I don't think 'the American way' means what it meant in 1945. He's an alien, from Krypton; he has come to Earth to be kind of a saviour for this world, not our country... And he has no papers." Dougherty adds, "He's not just for Metropolis and not just for America. What would happen with the immigration laws we have now?" The normally apolitical Tyler Durden has an historical response, to which I would add that the studio is probably thrilled every time someone says anything that might put people off of going to their 250 million dollar, 2 1/2 hour long movie.

PIRATES: Though Superman Returns is waving off any suggestion of a gay subtext (and rightly so, having seen it), Johnny Depp likes the idea of Capt. Jack Sparrow being sexually ambiguous. It's a whole rum, sodomy and the lash sorta thing.

BRADGELINA: London's ever-reliable Sun claims that Jolie has offended Pit's parents by refusing to dress Shiloh in the frilly pink outfits they bought as a gift.

JESSICA SIMPSON is telling E! News co-host Ryan Seacrest that she's not ready to date after her divorce, but someone else told Life & Style Weekly that the pneumatic blonde and comedian Dane Cook "looked like two people trying not to look like a couple but who really wanted to rip each otherís clothes off" last week at a Hollywood nightclub.

ASHLEE SIMPSON, meanwhile has reportedly tuned down a four million offer to pose for Playboy, for which we thank her, though she might be better at that than singing.

NICOLE KIDMAN and KEITH URBAN are honeymooning in Bora Bora. Obviously, some parts are more romantic than others.

JACKO has fired his business managers, has hired a New York firm "known for business restructurings and turnarounds" to oversee his financial affairs and is moving to Europe.

KATE MOSS was turned down by Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner, o­n the advice of his mother.

GWYNETH PALTROW: Contrary to internet rumors, Mrs. Coldplay is not working o­n an album.

KATE BECKINSALE should realize that if she's going to check out what's under her husband's towel at the beach, she shouldn't giggle afterward.

MADONNA is back home touring the UK, so she was surely thrilled to hear about this piece in the Daily Mail: "Why do Madonna's hands look older than her face?" Follow the link for an unflattering close-up.

SPIDER-MAN 3 is still a year away, but you can see the teaser trailer o­nline in Windows Media or Quicktime formats.

EDU-BLOGGING: The 73rd Carnival of Education is o­nline. This week it appears to be hosted by a homeschooler.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, speaking about religion and politics to a conference of Call to Renewal, a faith-based movement to overcome poverty, said: "Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith: the politician who shows up at a black church around election time and claps -- off rhythm -- to the gospel choir." That's pretty close to suggesting that Whitey doesn't have rhythm. If the Rev. Jesse Jackson was white, he'd already be demanding an apology.

IRAQ: At ITM, Omar reports details o­n the capture of o­ne of the Samarrah shrine bombers and is glad that Prime Minister al-Maliki has said clearly that amnesty will not be offered to killers of Coalition soldiers. Eleven Sunni insurgent groups have now offered to halt all attacks -- but with serious strings attached. And if you want to see the relationship of these groups to each other, here's a chart. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his country's special services to hunt down and "destroy" the killers of four Russian diplomats in Iraq. So far, no complaints from folks who think the US -- and Pres. Bush in particular -- alienates the rest of the world with cowboy talk.

FUGITIVE BEAR UPDATE: Bruno, the first bear to roam Gemany in 170 years, may have been shot dead, but there remains the sorting out of commercial opportunities. German toymakers said they were planning to produce a teddy bear to immortalise Bruno. Meanwhile, an entrepreneur plans to sue a hunter for shooting Bruno o­ne day after he printed hundreds of Bruno T-shirts with the slogan: "You'll never catch me."

IN OTHER BEAR NEWS, another fugitive bear named Boo smashed a heavy steel door and barreled through two electric fences to escape a second time from a resort in British Columbia. And the current "three bears" trilogy is complete with this report of a bear trying to squeeze its way through a kitchen window in Nevada City, CA.

MUFFY UPDATE: We now have video of America's longest python.

CHAMELEON SNAKE: A new species of snake that can change its skin color has been discovered by researchers scouring through swamps in the heart of Borneo.

IS THERE A TIGER prowling North Yorkshire in the UK?

TWINKLE THE PORCUPINE reportedly burrowed out of a farm visitors center in northwest England. Cumbria Police have warned the public not to approach the animal because her detachable quills can become embedded in skin. At least she is not as dangerous as Spiny Norman.

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