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The Smiths, Nellie McKay, Bishop Allen, Allen Toussaint, Country Bears   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Thursday, March 02, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


ARCTIC MONKEYS bassist Andy Nicholson notes that their success would probably seem stranger to them had it not been so immediate: "This is our first album and we don't know any better than what's already happened. This is normal for us. This is just how it works." Author and critic Simon Reynolds explains why he became a fan: "I just assumed from what I’d read that they’d be just another nowt-going-on-in-t'-rhythm-section indie-rock combo, fronted by an excessively cocky Northern lad singer, drawing an ever-more insular set of quintessentially English sources. o­n this occasion, though, the inbreeding has paid off: the family tree is narrow (Jam, Smiths, Oasis, Libertines, etc ), but for o­nce the result isn’t an enfeebled poodle, it’s a mighty attack dog spliced out of the most potent and poignant genes of their ancestors."

KIDS RULE: Arctic Monkeys may have broken UK records and entered the US charts at No. 24, but they are no match for the High School Musical soundtrack, Kidz Bop Kids and other music aimed at kids dominating the US charts. It won't be long until Apple Martin is making music and Issac Gabriel is reviewing it.

THE QUEEN IS DEAD: Twenty years later, the Belfast Telegraph has an article by guitarist Johnny Marr o­n the recording of the Smiths' most celebrated album.

NELLIE McKAY: Her album remains in limbo after leaving Sony/Columbia, but the video for "Real Life" has surfaced o­n the Internet.

KILLING MUSIC: The feds have secured the first guilty pleas for copyright infringement in Operation Fastlink, which is targeting the so-called "release" groups that are the original sources for a majority of the pirated works distributed and downloaded over the Internet.

HATING THE HUMMER: Multi-platinum bands like Talking Heads and Smashing Pumpkins have declined to license songs for Hummer commercials, but more modest indie bands like Caribou and Four Tet have also refused to help promote the gas guzzler.

SEEN YOUR VIDEO: One-hit wonder Mazzy Star plays "Fade Into You" o­n Jools Holland's Later.

BISHOP ALLEN is releasing an EP monthly. *Sixeyes has details and links to free MP3's, including "Eve of Destruction," which is a mutation of the P.F. Sloan/Barry McGuire classic with DNA from REM's "It's The End Of The World As We Know It" and Reunion's "Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)."

MY SPACE is killing music, though not in the way I normally us that phrase, accoring to an article in The New Republic (try registering as dumpstadiva51, password = bagladie): "Thanks to MySpace, young bands no longer need to start out by gigging, playing o­ne-nighters, making mistakes in near anonymity, learning what works, finding their voice through a dialogue with their audience--I mean a musical dialogue, not a chat..." I am shocked, shocked, that a lot of stuff o­n MySpace is crap -- as though most things in other forms of media are not. Author David Hajdu will thus be thrilled to learn that MySpace is branching into video a la YouTube.

ALLEN TOUSSAINT: The legendary New Orleans musician and producer stopped by the World Cafe, with streaming goodness from NPR, including an exclusive rendition of "Tipitina."

GARY GLITTER goes o­n trial today for child abuse charges in closed session at the courthouse in the Ba Ria-Vung Tau province of Vietnam. His lawyer is convinced Glitter will be convicted. Ouch.

JACK WHITE rants about Internet music critics o­n his website, but appreciates the irony of it. I think he's mistaken in believing that there were a lot of great music critics in olden times.

PAUL WELLER: The ex-Jam frontman says "there are more important things in my life now to write about than politics." But he still wants to blast London officials for retiring the iconic Routemaster model buses late last year.

JESSICA ALBA is threatening to sue Hugh Hefner & Co. for trying to make it seem that she appears in a "nude or semi-nude pictorial" for Playboy.

BRADGELINA: Pitt, who is becoming a UN ambassador (pretty sure you get that with your SAG card now), is demanding his mom choose between Bradgelina or Jen. Page Six claims that Julia Roberts pumped her camera operator for gossip from the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

MADONNA continues her downsizing by signing o­n to Coachella -- her first-ever festival date.

BRING OUT THE GIMP: It turns out that George Michael had some interesting items -- including a "gimp mask" -- in his car when he got busted o­n a drug charge the other day.

BRITNEY SPEARS: Spenderline may be a complete jackass who treats the pop tart like dirt, but at least this rumored cruelty is kinda funny.

JESSICA SIMPSON hubby Nick Lachey does not want you (or Argentina) to cry for him.

LOHAN LOWDOWN: Some folks have noticed that the hi-res version of the picture of Li-Lo to the right is probably NSFW.

TERI HATCHER: The face was not real and will be less spectacular in the future. But are she and George Clooney o­n the downlow?

CANOODLING CORRECTION: Page Six retracts its claim that Wynona Ryder and Liev Schreiber were caught canoodling in NYC the other night, now claiming that Liev is "blissfully committed to gorgeous Naomi Watts."

BECOMING JANE: Anne Hathaway is signed to a movie that could have the alternate title "Austen In Love."

PARADISE WHERE? A campaign against Paradise Now -- which portrays a suicide bomber as heroic and is nominated for this year's Best Foreign Feature at the Oscars -- is gathering pace. It doesn't help that the film is credited to "Palestine," a country that does not technically exist. No foreign film entry has, in academy history, been attributed to such a place.

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT: Rumors are rampant that the highly-acclaimed but ratings-challenged comedy has been picked up by Showtime for a 26-episode order.

CULT OF THE iPod: Silver Jews frontman David Berman, Modest Mouse's Issac Brock and actor-comedian David Cross are among those in the A.V. Club's first edition of Random Rules, setting their MP3 players to "shuffle" and commenting o­n the first few tracks that come up. PLUS: iLounge already has a review for the Apple Hi-Fi system announced o­n Tuesday.

EDU-BLOGGING: The 56th Carnival Of Education is o­nline.

GLOBAL WARMING: Scientists from NASA and Columbia University have used computer modeling to successfully reproduce an abrupt climate change that took place 8,200 years ago. This work is the first to consistently recreate the event by computer modeling, and the first time that the model results have been confirmed by comparison to the climate record, which includes such things as ice core and tree ring data. All of which may suggest that the Earth warmed and cooled prior to the Industrial Revolution and that the computer models used to chart global climate haven't been very good before now.

IRAQ: Bill Roggio writes o­n the pros and cons of al Qaeda funneling jihadis into Iraq. At Iraq the Model, Omar posts o­n controversy caused by Prime Minister Jafari's visit to Turkey. Al-jazeera reports o­n the impact of the Iraqi blogosphere. Democratic pollster Mark Blumenthal has more o­n the Zogby poll of US troops in country. Based o­n what Zogby told Blumenthal, it seems likely that the poll used cluster sampling (which has unique problems) -- as opposed to the purely random sampling Zogby suggested in his PR. And we don't know whether Zogby knows this and accounted for it in the results. Ralph Peters opines from Baghdad that "the reporting out of Baghdad continues to be hysterical and dishonest." Max Boot, returning from Iraq, wonders whether overall progress will be shattered by a spectacular act of violence such as the mosque bombing.

CARTOON JIHAD: The European Union issued a statement o­n the Danish cartoons of Mohammed and the riots opposed to them that "free media are indispensable to a free and open society" but added: "Freedoms, however, come with responsibilities." The Islamic extremists admit by their own placards that they are not interested in a free society and are often uninterested in peaceful protest, so the o­nly message being sent here is to the media -- that their governments will not support them against the mob. Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Irshad Manji, Bernard-Henri Lévy and other people of arts and letters seem to have a better grip o­n this than the EU.

COUNTRY BEARS are visitng the suburbs across California.

CAT CURFEWS: Four European countries today imposed restrictions o­n the movements of cats after a dead cat in Germany was discovered to have been infected with bird flu.

SNAKE CHARMERS clear the way for President Bush in India. Insert punchline here.

APES GOT CULTURE: Fifty years of research o­n gorillas, chimps and orangutans has shown they use tools, communicate, and sometimes shake their hands just because it’s cool. They are just waiting for humans to blow it... up.

4972 Reads

The Eames Era, Elvis Costello, Broken Social Scene, Koza and Cairo   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Wednesday, March 01, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


THE EAMES ERA: I kept meaning to mention this Louisiana-based pop (in a good way) band after it got good write-ups at Tiny Mix Tapes and Glide magazine last Fall. The Center Daily Times reports that days before the Double Dutch tour, the band's van was involved in an accident with a military vehicle that was part of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. You can stream a few numbers at MySpace and download a couple that -- imho -- are even better from SPIN.

WEALTHY ROCK LEGENDS complain about the state of the music business to Rosanna Arquette for a rockumentary. Aerosmith's Steven Tyler moans about the Internet, but the funniest comment may come from David Crosby, who says the suits "wouldn't know a song if it flew up their noses and died … . That's what puts Britney Spears, who is about as deep as a birdbath, in front of Joni Mitchell." Dave might want to avoid the "flying up your nose" metaphors.

PERE UBU has a new album slated for September.

ELVIS COSTELLO is jazzing up his back catalog with the Metropole Orkest. Stereogum is killing music with the jazz version of "Watching The Detectives."

GANG OF FOUR/KARATE KID UPDATE: Brooklyn Vegan is killing music with "Desire," a Go4 trak that appears o­nly o­n the Karate Kid soundtrack.

JAMES BROWN: Can you take me to the bridge? Yes, but not for much longer.

SEEN YOUR VIDEO: Although I've got cooler links stashed away, I was in the mood for this 1979 live clip of Van Halen playing "Dance The Night Away."

YOU TUBE seemed to be o­n the fritz for part of Tuesday, so anyone who missed yesterday's Johnny Cash set should check 'em out. Plus,we can now compare Johnny and June singing "Jackson" with a version from Joaquin and Reese in Walk The Line.

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE: Although the 16-plus collective builds collective buzz through side projects, Kevin Drew is talking about scaling down into more solo-based projects and movie soundtracks: "If we tour, it's gonna be so amazing just to [hit the road o­n a small scale]. Going into a restaurant, I've never been able to ask for a table for three, and that would be nice o­ne day."

NEKO CASE: At Chromewaves, Frank is killing music with the indie chanteuse's cover of Dylan's "Buckets Of Rain."

THE STROKES are amused by reports of their imminent demise.

ISOBEL CAMPBELL talks about touring with former Vaselines member Eugene Kelly instead of collaborator (and former Screaming Trees/Queens Of The Stone Age guitarist) Mark Lanegan: "He doesn't have that gravelly sound that Mark does. Eugene is more rich; more Glen Campbell-like."

PETE DOHERTY UPDATE: The troubled singer has been arrested yet again -- this time o­n suspicion of stealing a car and possessing illegal class A drugs. He escaped a jail sentence earlier this month, but was told he faced a prison sentence if he failed to comply with a community service order that requires him to attend a drug rehabilitation center. He has to return to court o­n March 8 for a review of the order.

CHARLIZE THERON and KATE MOSS apparently will not be playing lesbian lovers in a Dusty Springfield biopic that was rumored to be Ang Lee's next project.

THE FRENCH HOTEL, meanwhile, has warned Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron: "My acting coach told me I have a similar style of acting to her so we may end up vying for the same parts."

JENNY McCARTHY would love to haunt the French Hotel if she becomes a spirit after death: "I'd try and give her (Hilton) some really good spiritual direction in her life. I'd also love to f**k with her, whispering in her ear things like, 'Your clothes are dirty! You're totally out of style! Eat something!'" I don't wish Jenny ill, but those are some good suggestions for any ghosts with some free time...

PREGNANCY RUMORS: Liz Hurley and Britney Spears are trying to quash them.

MARRIAGE RUMORS: Nicole Kidman's rep issued what sounds like a non-denial denial: "The story is nonsense. I know of no wedding. I know of no wedding date. I know of no wedding plans." But is she engaged to Keith Urban? No answer.

OSCAR PREDICITIONS: Moragn Freeman thinks Brokeback Mountain will win because it is the "flavor of the month." Freeman preferred Capote. Filmjerk looks at statistics for possible upsets and finds a big o­ne -- favoring Keira Knightley for Best Actress, but adding: "I don't think Knightley is going to win, and I'd never predict her to win. I don't think Knightley thinks she's going to win."

KEIRA KNIGHTLEY: Ex-beau Jamie Dornan claims he split with Knightley because her fame and fortune made him feel inferior and insecure.

BRADGELINA: The couple is apparently arguing over where to have their child -- in the US or France. Surprisingly, it's Pitt who seems to be the smarter o­ne in this case.

LOHAN LOWDOWN: Li-Lo hasapparently run out of new men in her age bracket, as she's been spotted with ex-boyfriend Wilmer Valderrama of That 70's Show at 5:30 a.m.

TOM-KAT UPDATE: Star magazine has pictures of the couple vacationing in Tahiti. There's nothing like the trip to a romantic locale to show the world a couple is still together -- just ask Brad and Jen. Or Nick and Jessica.

DAVIE-BROWN INDEX REDUX: More results from the sophisticated celebrity-ranking survey have turned up in New York magazine. There have been rampant rumors that CBS would like to hire Katie Couric to anchor the Evening News, but based o­n the DBI's rankings of appeal, influence and trust, CBS should replace Dan Rather with Robert DeNiro. Just imagine how Bobby could grill an interviewee -- "Are you talkin' to me?"

ANNA NICOLE SMITH got a sympathetic audience at the Supreme Court yesterday o­n her claim that the son of the 89-year-old oil tycoon she married (when she was a 26-year-old topless dancer in Texas) tried to cover up legal documents that concealed parts of the tycoon's will that designated money for Smith. Insert your Clarence Thomas joke here.

LOST has the kind of rabid fandom that buys 15,000 copies of a book shown o­n-screen for just o­ne second, after a scriptwriter hinted that it had been chosen "very specifically for a reason." Entertainment Weekly senior writer Jeff Jensen thinks he's solved the shows mysteries. And -- like most significant others -- Dominic Monaghan is powerless to tell Evangeline Lilly that her bikini is not a good look.

IRAQ: The AP has civil war looming again, based o­n 68 deaths following the lifiting of the curfew. The Washington Post's report of 1,300 dead is not confirmed by anyone, which -- oddly enough -- the paper reports as the result of political pressure (though the evidence of pressure reported relates to other deaths). Elsewhere, the WaPo reports o­n a skilled and heroic helicopter pilot, Capt. Sarah Piro. At Iraq the Model, Omar notes that Saddam's trial just got interesting, as it moves beyond the ex-tyrant's antics to hard evidence he ordered mass killings.

POLLING THE TROOPS: A new Zogby poll headlined "72% Say End War in 2006" is getting play around the Internet. Unfortunately, Zogby (as usual) is keeping the questions and methodology secret, making it impossible to judge the reliability of the poll. For example, Zogby states that 25% of the sample is female. We know from the above-mentioned story o­n Capt. Piro that the active-duty forces are about 15% female. We don't know whether Zogby adjusted the sample or whether doing so would change the results. Even taking the numbers at face value, without knowing the questions, their premises and order, we have no way to know whether the answers merely reflect knowledge of US plans to significantly draw down the troops this year and the troops' estimate of when they think their mission will be finished. Indeed, taking the numbers at face value, Zogby could have headlined his press release "Most troops think some Americans favor rapid US troop withdrawal from Iraq because they are unpatriotic (37%) or don't understand the need for the US troops in Iraq (15%)." When you can write headlines that different, I suspect that the real picture is more complex than either suggests. A poll of the troops could be illuminating, but Zogby should be more transparent if he wants us to buy his.

IRAN: Steve Schippert notes that while everyone is focused o­n Iran's nuclear ambitions, its diplomatic strategy and support for Hamas and Hezbollah have serious ramifications o­n a shorter timetable.

KOZA and CAIRO have become play pals while Koza (the lion cub) stays in the nursery at a wild animal park in North Carolina. Cairo (a Mastiff puppy) eventually will find a new home when his lion friend gets a little too big and dangerous to wrestle.

PETA is suing RINGLING BROS. o­n claims that the circus hired an ex-CIA agent to spy o­n the animal-rights group.

A "CURTAIN" OF TWO MILLION BEES menaces a South Florida neighborhood after overruning the home of a dead man in South Miami.

RUPERT THE COCKER SPANIEL is helping a recuitment agency's employees quit smoking and lose weight.

3190 Reads

Ryan Adams, Os Mutantes, Johnny & June, Pig-casso   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


RYAN ADAMS: An Aquarium Drunkard is killing music by posting two unreleased Adams albums, 48 Hours and The Suicide Handbook. Turns out he already posted a "lost" Whiskeytown album, Those Weren't The Days.

NEW RELEASES: Old 97s frontman Rhett Miller's solo album, The Believer, is streaming in its entirety from AOL Music. Not to mention a couple of classic re-issues from ZZ Top -- Tres Hombres and Fandango!

CONSUMER GUIDE: Village Voice dean Robert Christgau's latest gives high marks to the aforementioned Rhett Miller, Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins (see last Friday's post for linkage), the chamber-pop of (Arcade Fire offshoot) Bell Orchestre (hear 'em at MySpace), Frank London's Klezmer Brass All-stars and more...

ROBERT POLLARD talks to PopMatters about realizing his dream to make a double album and selling his rarities o­n eBay. From A Compound Eye is still streaming in glorious Quicktime from Merge Records.

NEKO CASE: The indie chanteuse tells Billboard she slept with animals when she was a kid. Her label is still giving away downloads of "Star Witness" from her upcoming album.

OS MUTANTES: The Brazilian psychedelic rock legends are reuniting for o­ne night, as part of the Barbican's "Tropicália: A Revolution in Brazilian Culture" festival. This will be the band's first performance since 1973. In 1993, Kurt Cobain attempted to reunite the band, but they refused. Os Mutantes began their career as the house band o­n a Brazilian TV show -- you can see an early performance with Gilberto Gil and later, trippier performances o­n You Tube.

SEEN YOUR VIDEO: Walk The Line comes out o­n DVD today, so let's enjoy some Johnny Cash with a four-song set from 1956 that kicks off with "I Walk The Line," a much later performance of "I Walk The Line," a spirited clip of Johnny and June belting out "Jackson," and his funny take-off o­n "Heartbreak Hotel." Of course, anyone who knows me knows I would never pass up a chance to hook you up with a little "Ring of Fire."

GANG OF FOUR and THE KARATE KID? Stereogum finds a slightly embarrassing chapter in the funk-punks' past.

BONO received the Neruda Prize -- Chile's country's highest award for the arts -- from president Ricardo Lagos. "He moved me very much," Bono said of Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize winner and poet who died in 1973. Will Baude has often blogged o­n Neruda at Crescat Sententia -- here are three examples.

NEUTRAL MILK HOTEL and JEFF MANGUM: Someone is killing music with a slew of unreleased demos and live bootlegs.

BELLE AND SEBASTIAN gets a nifty write-up in the Euro edition of Time magazine. Singer/violinist Sarah Martin talks to NOW about fan reaction to the band's funkier sound o­n the new album, The Life Pursuit. SEMI-RELATED: Former B&S-er Isobel Campbell tells NOW that she hasn't bothered to check if ex-Belle beau Stuart Murdoch has written any songs about her for the new album before discussing her latest project with Mark Lanegan.

RUFUS WAINWRIGHT: It's no secret that Rufus is a Friend of Dorothy, but really... NTTAWWT.

PETE DOHERTY-KATE MOSS UPDATE: Contrary to British tabloid reports, Page Six claims the supposedly sober supermodel has dumped the troubled singer and has her partying with Arctic Monkeys after the NME Awards, later whooping it up at London's Cuckoo Club with Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. -- who denies any canoodling (he's engaged, natch).

REESE WITHERSPOON surpasses Juila Roberts as the highest-paid actress in Hollywood. She will pull down 29 million for upcoming horror film Our Family Trouble.

GEORGE MICHAEL was arrested over the weekend o­n suspicion of possessing drugs, but give him credit for admitting it was his "own stupid fault, as usual."

CAN'T BLOG THIS: MC Hammer is blogging from the "Where Are They Now?" file.

DENNIS WEAVER, known for his roles in Gunsmoke, Gentle Ben and McCloud, died of complications from cancer Friday at age 81, thereby completing the Don Knotts-Darren McGavin death trifecta.

VAUGHNISTON: Author-actress Nancy Balbirer, a former roommate of Aniston hints that the future Friend iced her nipples before auditions, and lamented her big butt and her nose, got liposuction, a nose job and a hairline adjustment. Aniston's flack vehemently denied Balbirer's claims of plastic surgery. The movie rights to Balbirer's book containing the thinly veiled Aniston character haver been acquired for Vince Vaughn's management company.

NOT SO BLIND ITEM: D-Listed asks, "Which unmarried Oscar nominee/heartthrob had an affair with a male wardrobe assistant o­n a recent project?" And then posts a photo.

JESSICA SIMPSON had an easy alarm code for the palatial Malibu-adjacent newlywed estate where Newlyweds was shot. But it was the TV show that made her look like a dumb blonde. Anyway, it's probably not her keen intellect that has Dane Cook's girlfriend jetting to New Mexico, where Simpson and Cook are shooting Employee of the Month.

KEIRA KNIGHTLEY likens the Oscars red carpet to a dog show. But she's excited to go, anyway.

LOHAN LOWDOWN: Folks studying these photos have noticed the tenn queen's apparently spontaneous nose bleed.

ARE BRUCE WILLIS and supermodel PETRA NEMCOVA dating? The answer depends o­n which o­ne you ask.

WINONA RYDER got possessive the other night at Von's o­n Bleecker Street when Liev Schreiber went outside for a smoke, according to Page Six. Schreiber has been linked to Naomi Watts, so o­ne wonders whether Ryder has taken to stealing boyfriends instead of clothing. Perhaps not; Watts seems to have her hands full of Capote director Bennett Miller.

KATE WINSLET was already getting kudos for her dirty talking, but now James Gandolfini says he's impressed with her swearing. Now that is saying something.

IRAQ: Bill Roggio has another situation report, noting both the the unity demonstrations being held throughout Iraq and the violence in Baghdad's Doura district (though it was pretty nasty before the mosque bombing). At Iraq the Model, Mohammed reports -- among other things -- that the Iraqi Army seemed to do well, or at least better than the interior ministry's forces. He also suspects that the political types will now have more resistance to clerical influence o­n the future government. And with the violence seemingly abating, the Washington Post reports that Baghdad's main morgue logged more than 1,300 dead since Wednesday.

PORTS IN A STORM: The Coast Guard said in December 2005 that questions about foreign influence, employees and operations made it impossible to assess the threat posed by a state-owned Dubai company's purchase of a firm that manages some terminal operations at US seaports. Although Clay Lowery, an assistant secretary at the Treasury Department, said at Monday's Senate hearing that these concerns were addressed, Sens. Susan Collins and Joe Lieberman said questions remained, even after an 85-minute classified briefing. A little noticed development is DP World's new promise to create an independent subsidiary to handle its US interests, which may be the compromise struck here. Such arrangements are typical when foreigners want to buy companies that manufacture parts for weapons sytems, etc.

IRAN has begun testing about 20 centrifuges used in enriching fuel and is making improvements at its Natanz nuclear facility, according to the IAEA. The agency was not "in a position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran," the new report added. Russian officials have down played progress o­n its proposal to enrich uranium for Iran. The European Union demanded that Iran reinstate full suspension of all uranium enrichment-related activities. The New York Times runs an op-ed by Prof. Barry Posen titled, "We Can Live With a Nuclear Iran." Posen seems to think the o­nly other option is a military invasion, ignoring options like sanctions, support for democratic groups in Iran or even airstrikes o­n known facilities.

PIG-CASSO, a/k/a Pinto, will be showing his works at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo o­n March 1st, which is National Pig Day. o­ne of the pig's paintings will then by auctioned o­n eBay.

AYILA THE BELUGA WHALE blows "bubble rings" for Japanese tourists. The BBC has Real video.

DOGS DO CALCULUS when playing fetch o­n the beach, though mathemeticians differ o­n whether they find the optimal path in a global manner or moment-to-moment.

THE CROCODILE ate my wedding ring, sweetheart! No, really...

DALAI THE CAT has been missing for two weeks, but he was blessed by the Dalai Lama himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking. So he's got that goin' for him, which is nice.

4723 Reads

On Beauty by Zadie Smith (review by Karl)   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - 01:50 AM
Posted by: kbade


NOTE: This is the second review for Amber Taylor's Blog Book Club. Welcome, readers... take your shoes off and stay a while! If you're o­n the home page, the usual stuff for Monday is directly below this post.

On Beauty is apparently an homage to E.M. Forster's work, particularly Howard's End, updated, with multiculturalism thrown into the mix. Had I read Howard's End, I might have found more cleverness in Zadie Smith's novel. But I suspect that On Beauty would o­nly have suffered more by comparison.

The book sets out to tell the tale of two families of academics. The first is that of Howard Belsey, a professor at an Ivy League university. The second is of that Monty Kipps, Belsey's academic rival, whose politics Belsey loathes and whose success Belsey seems to envy a bit. However, the narrative centers o­n Belsey's marriage (which is in trouble following his infidelity) and their children, who are entering or close to adulthood and searching for their own paths.

Unfortunately, I generally found myself not caring about any of the characters in the book. It takes a bit of skill to engross a reader (or, in the case of a mover, the viewer) with a tale in which no o­ne is particularly likable. I suppose Howard's wife, Kiki, is meant to be the most sympathetic, but she ultimately turns out to be not much different from Carlene Kipps, o­nly less self-aware. Moreover, none of the characters was so eminently dislikable that you could love to hate them, or root for the others by way of contrast. Perhaps this is a sign of the subtlety of Smith's prose, but the book -- particularly the first third -- left me flat. I liked the second act better, but was left unsatisfied by the third.

When I don't care much for a story, the nitpicking items grate all the more. Smith does not seem to have spent much time in the US, if her use of language is any indicator. The characters, particularly the younger o­nes, used words or constructions that American kids generally do not -- even those in the Ivy League. I also thought her portrayal of university politics to be surreal, though some might disagree. As Larry Summers resigns as president of Harvard with a big bootprint o­n his behind, the notion that a similar faculty would unanimously approve the oh-so-controversial Monty Kipps lecture series struck me as a little far-fetched.

I will say that Smith was quite evenhanded in representing the substance of the politics of the various characters. And there were scenes where I thought she captured the ambiance of the university environment well, such as her description of the poetry class field trip. Her treatment of Carl was also interesting in its suggestion of the ways in which academic study can destroy talent. But I've already heard that analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog -- the subject tends to die in the process. Thus, it was interesting, but not enlightening. And these small virtues would not induce me to recommend the book to others, except possibly Forster fans.

The main discussion of the book will be going on at Prettier Than Napoleon. Next month's selection is Saturday, by Ian Mcewan. Feel free to join the club.

5443 Reads

The Sex Pistols, The Hold Steady, Songwriters and Chimps with Tools   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Monday, February 27, 2006 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


DON KNOTTS, best known for his quintuple-Emmy-winning portrayal of Barney Fife o­n The Andy Griffith Show,died of lung cancer Feb. 24 at age 81. Successive generations would know him from movies like The Apple Dumpling Gang (co-star Tim Conway cited Knotts as his inspiration to get into showbiz), as the post-Ropers landlord Ralph Furley o­n Three's Company, and the mysterious TV repairmain in Pleasantville. Few know that -- like many other Hollywood bigs over the years -- Knotts got his start o­n a soap opera. ALSO: Darren McGavin, who starred in Kolchak: The Night Stalker and played the grouchy dad in the 1983 comedy classic A Christmas Story, died of natural causes at 83.

THE SEX PISTOLS -- true to form -- are snubbing the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The band has posted their scrawl for download at their website. And if you're in the mood, you can watch "God Save The Queen" o­n YouTube. I really mean it... man.

MP3 BLOGS: The Village Voice confirms what most suspect -- PR flacks are often responsible for advance tracks leaking o­n the Internet. At *Sixeyes, Alan suggests that MP3 blogs are "the hipster's American Idol," making bands like Arctic Monkeys and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah before they release an album (though CYHSY self-release theirs). Plus, Alan relinks to their music.

CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH: Speaking of which, the band which sold 200K copies of its self-released album gets profiled in London's Independent as their second British tour winds down.

ARCTIC MONKEYS talk to the Sun about their NME Awards hat trick and their next album. The Daily Mirror covers the band's distate for awards shows.

KILLING MUSIC: rbally posts vintage live Wilco. Muzzle of Bees has a set from Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama at the Apollo Theatre.

THE HOLD STEADY is profiled in the L.A. Times, with frontman Craig Finn revealing how The Last Waltz changed his musical direction.

SEEN YOUR VIDEO: Having posted the Bangles last Monday, I normally wouldn't do so today, but posting their version of "Walk Like An Egyptian" allows me to note that Stereogum is killing music with Henry Mancini's cover.

ROBERT POLLARD: In the Village Voice, David Marchese writes that "From a Compound Eye finds Uncle Bob dancing yet again o­n the distinction between prolific and profligate."

RAY DAVIES, PETE SHELLEY and JOHNNY MARR are among those who tell London's Guardian the stories behind classic tracks. Buzzcocks' Pete Shelley: "One night in Edinburgh we were in a guest house TV lounge watching the musical Guys and Dolls. This line leaped out - 'Have you ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn't have?'"

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE: Stereogum reports that the band's cover of "Puff the Magic Dragon" was rejected for the kids album noted here the other day. Which presented another opportunity to kill music by offering it for download.

RARE BECK TRACKS will surface o­n the soundtrack included with the DVD of the 1994 underground classic movie that inspired Beck's "Loser."

NICK CAVE talks to the Guardian about writing the screenplay for the brutal Australian western, The Proposition: "It was really exciting just to be o­ne cog in the machine. I had no responsibility for the whole thing. It wasn't my film, it was John (Hillcoat)'s film. I still feel like that actually. Although I have to come and do the f---ing interviews." He also reveals that he would like to write a record like Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, but finds it hard to escape his inherent style.

PETE DOHERTY-KATE MOSS UPDATE: The News Of The World claims that the troubled singer and the supposedly sober supermodel have been meeting secretly at Doherty's local pub. This sort of rumor cannot help Moss land one of the most lucrative contracts of her career with Calvin Klein...

KEIRA KNIGHTLEY was caught canoodling with Rupert Friend, who played the treacherous Mr Wickham in Pride and Prejudice, which -- coincidentally enough -- comes out tomorrow o­n DVD.

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE: Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion captured the top spot, but the other two new releases -- the animated Doogal and the Paul Walker-led Running Scared -- o­nly managed eighth andninth place, respectively. That would be proof that the dogs really are better than Walker in Eight Below, which came in second place, followed by The Pink Panther.

THE OSCARS: So-called experts like Richard Roeper and Tom O'Neil think the major races are more wide open than in past years. Internet bookmakers beg to differ: "This year, the major categories are a 'no contest,'" said Ben Eckstein, president of America's Line, a Las Vegas-based firm with a syndicated odds column that appears in over 125 newspapers across North America. The possible exception -- a real battle unfolding in the best supporting actor and actress categories.

SHERYL CROW underwent surgery for "minimally invasive" breast cancer, and her prognosis is excellent. Best wishes to her. Former fiancé and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong sent his, too.

BRADGELINA: The ever-reliable National Enquirer reports that Pitt and doctors are beging Jolie to pack o­n the pounds during her pregnancy.

BRITNEY SPEARS caught Spenderline in his undies o­n his baby mama's couch. Her hubby has reportedly been teasing her about driving with their son in her lap. The couple is reportedly in marriage counselling. Also, the pop tart is reportedly undergoing a course of "sound healing" from a yoga guru as she plans her career comeback. During the therapy sessions, which are based o­n ancient kundalini yoga practices, clients are exposed to sound vibrations as they lie o­n a special couch. Maybe that's how she figured out she hasn't been singing all these years.

SPIDER-MAN is the new black.

TRAILER REMIX: Spongeback Mountain. What would the American Family Association say?

JESSICA SIMPSON is rumored to be secretly dating her personal trainer. Her creepy manager-dad Joe could not pass up the chance to tell Nick Lachey, "You’ll never get half of everything in the divorce settlement" when the two crossed paths at a restaurant. And the pneumatic blonde is expected to earn a whopping 1,240 dollars-per-word in her next movie, Employee Of The Month, collecting a cool million for saying 806 words. Which is sorta like calculating what Ahnuld was paid for a movie o­n a per-word basis.

THE SOPRANOS: With the final full season starting March 12 (with a mini-season finale next January), The New York Times sits down with creator David Chase and lead James Gandolfini for "The Last Aria of Tony Soprano." (Try ID = yesterday80, password = tomorrow or use Bug Me Not.)

BILL CLINTON is looking for interns. About 25 of them: "The Clinton Foundation Intern Program offers a unique opportunity for growth, learning and meaningful service."

JENNY McCARTHY would love to take part in a sex orgy. Has she considered applyng for an internship?

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES: The Daily Mail has all of them o­n the Skeletor diet. The Sun has Eva Longoria piling o­n the pounds now that she has a boyfriend. Go figure, though Longoria suspected the DW staff of making her clothes tighter.

MISCHA BARTON: The OC hottie's scuzzy rocker beau Cisco Adler is denying the two are engaged, maybe because Page Six has them broken up, with Barton chasing Jake Gyllenhaal. NTTAWWT.

GERMAN CANNIBAL Armin Meiwes wants to make Barry Manilow, Hugh Grant, Robbie Williams And Liam Gallagher his next victims. What some people will say to get out of prison.

DEEYAH: The Norwegian-born star, nicknamed the "Muslim Madonna," received death threats after her latest video featured her stripping off a burqa to reveal a skimpy bikini. Deeyah notes the video for "What Will It Be?" also features Muslim women who have fought for freedom of expression. Asian music TV network B4U TV dropped the video after receiving threats. The Muslim Council of Britain accuses her of lying about her religion, speculating that she is actually a Hindu. The MCB is not the most radical Islamic group in Britain, though it did boycott last year's commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz because it did not commemorate the victims of the Palestinian conflict. You can hear the song at MySpace or see the Quicktime video at her website.

CARTOON JIHAD: The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published the cartoons of Mohammed, has won a Danish critical journalism award for its initiative. RELATED: Prof. Hasan Bolkhari, a member of the Film Council of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and a cultural advisor to the Iranian Education Ministry, thinks Walt Disney created Tom & Jerry to change the Europeans' perception of Jews. Which would be o­nly slightly less crazy if he knew that Tom & Herry were created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera and that Disney's cartoons were occasionally seen as anti-Semitic.

IRAN: An advisor to Iran's Revolutionary Guard said that if the US launches an attack o­n Iran, Iran will retaliate with a military strike o­n Israel's main nuclear facility. OTOH, Iran continues to play the delay game by claiming a "basic" agreement with Russia o­n jointly enriching uranium -- but with no immediate sign that it would suspend home-grown enrichment.

IRAQ: Bill Roggio rounds up coverage from Iraq to Asia to Australia of the aftermath of the mosque bombing, which has yet to escalate to civil war. Indeed, Shia clerics have ordered militias to protect Sunni shrines, violence o­n Saturday prompted Sunni Arab political leaders to rejoin talks with Shiites and Kurds. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, alleged to have played a role in the anti-Sunni violence over the last few days, publicly made peace with political and religious Sunni leaders, which suggests that he at least fely the need to do PR damage control. If the situation remains relatively stable after the curfew is lifted, the effect of the attack may be to unify Iraqis against foreign intrusion from al Qaeda and (other) Iranian-backed terrorists. ALSO: As I am often critical of the traditional press coverage of the war, it's o­nly fair that I note that Thomas E. Ricks has relatively balanced, sober, in-depth piece in the Washington Post about US efforts to keep terrorists from reaching Baghdad while the local forces get up to speed. BTW, while the latest Pentagon report is that there are no Iraqi batallions capable of fighting o­n their own, the number of Iraqi battalions capable of leading the battle, with US support, has grown by nearly 50 percent. And the number of battalions engaged in combat has increased by 11 percent.

CHIMPS USE A TOOL KIT: Chimps have been captured o­n film using "tool kits" to break into a termite mound for lunch. At Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, chimps will be shown how to use hammers. Then all they will need is the monolith.

MARLEY THE DOG has been on The New York Times bestseller list for 17 weeks.

CROCODILE WRESTLING Granny was honoured with a bravery award saving her friend as a giant croc tried to drag her from a tent. The man-eater broke her nose and almost ripped her arm off before her son Jason shot it.

JOEY THE CAT is the latest in a string of feline fire alarms.

SHOTGUN GOAT MARRIAGE: A Sudanese man has been forced to take a goat as his "wife" after he was caught having sex with the animal.

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