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Vampire Weekend, New Malkmus, The Kinks, Glowing Cats   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Monday, December 17, 2007 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: Karl


VAMPIRE WEEKEND perform "I Stand Corrected" -- a track from their upcoming album -- on Indie 103.1FM.  They were also on MTV recently, defining "crunk," and talking about David Byrne and blog buzz.  Bassist Chris Baio talked to Eye Weekly about the band's misleading name and turning their buzzworthy CD-R into a debut album.  Singer-guitarist Ezra Koenig tells the Boston Herald about the influence of his parents' record collection.  In the Guardian, Dave Simpson notes the band is just one of several seemingly influenced by  the exuberant and often polyrhythmic sound of African "hi-life."

BEST OF 2007:  Vampire Weekend has a Top Ten list at Filter, as does The National's triple threat, Aaron DessnerPitchfork had some of their favorite artists name their own for the most recent Guest List feature.

SHARON JONES and the DAP-KINGS performed a concert from WXPN and the Fillmore at the TLA in Philadelphia on Friday, so you can stream the whole gig on demand via NPR.

STEPHEN MALKMUS and the JICKS have a new album coming in March; the advance track is "Baltimore."

ROBERT POLLARD:  Pitchfork rounds up all things Bob, including a duo of releases due in January and February.  ALSO: Fmr GbV guitarist (and sometimes Pollard collaborator) Doug Gillard talks to Harp magazine about his work on movie soundtracks.

DAN FOGELBERG, the singer and songwriter whose hits "Leader of the Band" and "Same Old Lang Syne" helped define the soft-rock era, died Sunday at his home in Maine after battling prostate cancer. He was 56.

THE KINKS' video for "Father Christmas" from The Old Grey Whistle Test isn't hi-quality, but I know my former roomie Dale will want to see it.  BONUS:  Here's a faithful cover from OK Go.

ALL SONGS CONSIDERED offers a streaming holiday mix, including a sneak preview of the upcoming Magnetic Fields album.

MISSION OF BURMA is playing a January benefit for the people of Burma (and presumably not the gov't of Myanmar).

THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS:  A.C. Newman wants those who call his band dorky or geeky to take a look in the mirror.

JENS LEKMAN talks to Harp magazine about his new album and his first kiss.

AMY WINEHOUSE has reportedly wants a festive season binge before entering a  one-week rehab and detox treatment course in Israel.

I AM LEGEND, based on the 1954 sci-fi novel by Richard Matheson (adapted twice before  -- with Vincent Price as The Last Man on Earth and Charlton Heston as The Omega Man) is unfortunately like all too many modern remakes.  The film takes advantage of modern technology to create a far more impressive post-apocolyptic world than its predecessors.  But once you have absorbed that world, the movie devolves into a not-so-impressive zombie flick.  And, as Amber Taylor notes, gratuitously inserts Big Pharma as a villain.  Will Smith is competent playing Will Smith in generally-serious mode.  The German Shepherd who plays Sam apparently gets no credit, but certainly should.

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE:  Will Smith was Legend at the cinema, with a shockingly large 76.5 million this weekend -- Smith's biggest opening evah and the biggest opening for a December release evah.  That's right; bigger than LotR, bigger than Narnia. That's ginormous.  Alvin and the Chipmunks also did a surprisingly big 45 million -- about twice as much as studio estimates.  The Golden Compass tanked 65 percent to earn nine million -- ouch!  Enchanted dipped to fourth with six million, but I wonder if it may yet stage a comeback once word-of-mouth gets out on Alvin.  No Country For Old Men inched into the Top Five with three million, a mere 29 percent drop made possible by those Golden Globe noms.  Fred Claus skidded 51 percent to make 2.3 million.  This Christmas was right behind on a 54 percent drop, though it has already made 46 million on a 13 million budget.  Atonement moved into ninth place on an expanded release, making 1.8 million and a 15K+ per screen average.  August Rush rounds out the Top Ten with 1.7 million.  Juno made it to eleventh place on just 40 screens, with 1.4 million -- a whalloping 36K per screen average.

HELENA BONHAM CARTER & TIM BURTON have welcomed their second child, a daughter to joins four-year-old Billy.

BRITNEY SPEARS was denied admittance to the Four Seasons Hotel and disinvited from being a guest judge on Fox's American Idol.  OTOH, she was named Us Weekly's Worst Dressed Celeb of the Year, which has to count for something.

LINDSAY LOHAN used her celebrity to try and get Hannah Montana tickets for a friend's kids.  And it looks like she could get a gig with director Quentin Tarantino.

JESSICA SIMPSON:  Blonde Ambition, costarring Luke Wilson, will be hitting a handful of theaters in Simpson's home state of Texas before going direct-to-DVD.

RUPERT EVERETT calls Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, Diane Keaton, Woody Allen and Al Pacino "all just tragic parodies of themselves."  And George Clooney's Ocean's 11 series "a cancer to world culture."

HUGH GRANT outraged diners at a chic West End restaurant by openly snogging a mystery woman while a friend caressed her thigh.

ALEC BALDWIN offers to hold the 2007 Golden Globe Awards at his Manhattan apartment, to avoid problems with the writers' strike.

REESE WITHERSPOON and VINCE VAUGHN are not seeing eye-to-eye on the set of their new new film, "Four Christmases."

THE DARK KNIGHT trailer is online at one of the movie's viral websites, with plenty of shots from LaSalle St. in Chicago.  I can also confirm that the first six minutes of the movie -- shown in front of the IMAX version of I Am Legend -- is as good as others have said it is.  UPDATE:  Speaking of which, someone was very, very naughty.  Hope you get there before the lawyers do!

TERROR in the US:  Two men accused of plotting behind prison walls to launch Jihad-style attacks on military sites, synagogues and other targets in 2005 pleaded guilty on Friday to conspiring to levy war against the United States.

TERROR in the UK:  Investigators examining the bungled terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow six months ago believe the plotters had a link to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.  While officials stopped short of saying that the plot originated with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, or was directed by the group, they did say it was the closest collaboration they knew of between the Iraq group and plotters outside the Middle East.

TERROR in ALGERIA:  Two convicted terrorists who had been freed in an amnesty carried out the suicide bombings at UN and government buildings that killed 37 people, an Algerian security official has said.  Hey, you can't just lock terrorists up indefinitely; that would be, y'know, not nice.

IRAQ:  Oil production is above the levels seen before the US-led invasion of the country in 2003, according to the International Energy Agency.  Britain's weekend handover of Basra province will have a limited effect on security in Iraq's biggest oil region because rival Shiite warlords and local officials have been wielding the real power in the area.  Basra's police chief says the Brits left the city in chaos, though this was the subject of debate back in October also.  In addition, the Iraqi Army now has four brigades and an Iraqi Special Operations Forces battalion in Basra province... though the police chief might argue that is part of the problem.  Elsewhere in the south, Shiite leaders are reimagining Najaf as a new hub of Shiite political and economic power, not just for Iraq but for the entire Middle East.  Iran is playing a significant role in the plan, which would further weaken the Iraqi central government.  Kurdish leaders rule out a Kurdish state but stress they want a continued US presence in northern Iraq and a strategic alliance similar to that between the Washington and Baghdad.  More than 20 Turkish planes took part in airstrikes early Sunday against Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq, Turkish media reported.

GLOW-IN-THE-DARK KITTIES!  Just in time for the holidays!

MONKEYS AMOK in New Dehli, as the Indian government is cracking down on thousands of roaming monkeys after the deputy mayor reportedly died while fending off monkeys.  Let's go to the video.

A PUPPY in Cambodia teaches a drunken man not to urinate through the owner's fence.

SHARK 1, Kangaroo 0.

CRINKLY the UGLY SWAN may finally have a girlfriend.

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Van Morrison, AA Bondy, Magnetic Fields, Cutout Bin, Mutant Mice   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Friday, December 14, 2007 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: Karl



...with VAN MORRISON!  Arguably at the height of his artistic powers, live at London's Rainbow Theatre, July 24, 1973.  Your setlist includes "Warm Love," "Take Your Hands Out Of My Pocket" (Sonny Boy Williamson), "Here Comes The Night," "I Just Want To Make Love To You," "Brown Eyed Girl," "Moonshine Whiskey," "Moondance," "Help Me" (Sonny Boy Williamson, Ralph Bass, Willie Dixon), "Domino," "Caravan," and "Cyprus Avenue."

CHRIS CORNELL and his family were allegedly stalked by a man with a gun.

BEST of 2007:  Stereogum reveals the winners of the Gummy Awards, so that those who voted can rip on the selections in the comments sections.  Welcome to the Internet.  NME's list is also discussed at the 'Gum.  Baltimore's City Paper has an overall Top Ten plus writers' individual picks.  The A.V. Club Top 25 list has embedded audio.

AA BONDY:  His brooding brand of Americana impressed folks at the CMJ showcases this fall; Brooklyn Vegan has some background and embedded videos.

THE ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME inductees for 2007 are announced.  No real surprises, except that the Beastie Boys missed the cut.

MAGNETIC FIELDS:  An advance track from next month's LP, "California Girls," has nothing to do with the Beach Boys.

THE POGUES:  The Scotsman sorta reviews the band's pre-Christmas tour, which " is now as much of an institution as the traditional sport of offering amateur opinions on Shane MacGowan's wellbeing..."  Which means it's time for their classic "Fairytale of New York," which features Kristy MacColl by circumstance.

CAT POWER:  Matador has posted some video of Chan Marshall working on the upcoming Jukebox covers LP in a darkened studio.  Marshall is doing charity work in Africa before the album is released in January.

RICHARD BUCKNER talks to DC's Express about the value of having other players interpret his ideas.  There's a video at the link, and you can stream a few tracks via BucknerSpace also.

BRIGHT EYES:  Conor Oberst talks to the A.V. Club and reveals an understandable but (imho) misguided opinion about "crossover success."  It is possible to have commercial success without sacrificing artistic integrity.  I think he would be better off asking why people can not only buy his record, but also enjoy Britney Spears making a fool of herself.

THE ACORN talk to the 'Gum about their day jobs.  There are MP3s at the link, but you can also stream a few from Glory Hope Mountain via AcornSpace.

FEIST was interviewed and played "1 2 3 4" on the Today Show, where Al Roker confessed his secret love of the banjo.  This time around, her choir of indie all-stars is decked out in Feist-y letter sweaters.  I will say the Today crew knows how to do a light show.

LED ZEPPELIN reunion video was being yanked from YouTube without authorization from Warners or the band.

CARBON/SILICON:  Mick Jones and Tony James were interviewed for The Bryant Park Project, and squeezed in one of their songs.

THAX DOUGLAS is the subject of a new documentary, which will be insanely funny to a select few.

MARK MOTHERSBAUGH's career in Devo, movie soundtracks and beyond is the subject of an in-depth profile in the L.A. Weekly.

CUTOUT BIN 2.0:  This Friday's fortuitous finds can be streamed individually or jukeboxed at the new Pate page on the ol' HM!  It's a whole new world, people.

BRITNEY SPEARS -- and this will shock you -- really wasn't all that sick when she decided to blow off her court-ordered deposition, according to a source close to Spears.: "She did feel sick, but more than anything, she felt like she didn't have to do something just because she was told."   The pop tart had a quick recovery, too, based on the video of her driving around until 2 a.m.  People magazine has a sneak peek at her new video.

NOW SHOWING:  This weekend's wide releases are I Am Legend, starring Will Smith and currently scoring 54 percent on the ol' Tomatometer; the CGI-ed Alvin and the Chipmunks, which is scoring 28 percent; and The Perfect Holiday, which is scoring 20 percent.  Atonement and Juno expand to more screens.  The Kite Runner, currently scoring 63 percent, opens on 35 screens.

EVA LONGORIA & TONY PARKER are denying claims that model Alexandra Paressant slept with the NBA star.

TOM-KAT UPDATE:  Holmes tells InStyle magazine what turns on Cruise... and it's not weird per se, though Holmes might have wanted to go with something more conventional.

AWARDS SEASON:  Nominees for the 65th annual Golden Globe Awards were announced Thursday.  Kudos to Amy Adams and Cate Blanchett, as well as TV's Mad Men and The Tudors...but there were big snubs for movies and TV also.  Roger Friedman reminds us that the Globes are not a reliable predictor of the Oscars, largely because the Hollywood Foreign Press tends to favor big stars it can invite to the telecast.

DAVID HASSELHOFF was taken to hospital suffering alcohol poisoning twice in three days, according to reports.  Is he taking the official return of Knight Rider to network TV that hard? (KITT pics at the link.)  Both things will make it tough to jump in his car.  BONUS:  Revisit the Hoff's drunken pizza episode.

THE MOST OVERPAID CELEBRITIES, according to Forbes magazine.

THE TOP TEN AWKWARD MOMENTS of 2007, according to Time magazine.

AL SHARPTON:  Teams of federal agents swooped down on up to ten of the Reverend's close associates, demanding the flamboyant clergyman's financial records since 2001.  Sharpton reacted exactly as you would imagine.

ALIEN vs. PREDATOR 2:  You can watch the first five minutes online at Yahoo! Movies.

CARDSTACKER Bryan Berg -- who once taught design in Pate's hometown of Ames, IA -- and his record-breaking card buildings are featured in the Daily Mail, with embedded time-lapse video.  There are additional videos at his site.

AL GORE:  The former Veep's rise as a climate-change celebrity has proved highly lucrative.

NORTH KOREA may have given arms to Lebanon's Hezbollah and Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers, according to a report compiled for Congress.  Paris Intelligence Online, a French Internet publication that specializes in political and economic intelligence, is cited in the new report as saying that the program began in the 1980s with visits by Hezbollah members to North Korea for training and expanded after 2000.

PAKISTAN intelligence agencies claimed to have foiled an Al Qaeda plot to assassinate Pres. Musharraf and have arrested some activists of the global terrorist network.  The runup to the general elections next month has seen the breakup of opposition alliances and the emergence of a potentially powerful anti-establishment bloc which includes civil society (lawyers, sacked judges, doctors and journalists), militants and al-Qaeda.

IRAQ:  Bill Roggio maps the state of Concerned Local Citizens groups in 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces.  The Mahdi Army is using a new generation of youths, some as young as 15, to expand and tighten its grip across Baghdad, but the ruthlessness of some of these young fighters is alienating Sunnis and Shiites alike.   Civil defense members found 14 Iranian-made rockets in Wasit province, south-east of Baghdad and handed them to coalition forces, the US-led military said overnight.

CHARLIE, an eight-year-old Bichon Frise, threw the 15th annual World Pie Eating Championship into chaos.  Video at the link.

MUTANT MICE fear no feline!  Video at the link.

SCORPIONS on a PLANE panicked passengers and delayed a Vietnam Airlines  domestic flight by two hours.

UNICORN DEER snapped in the woods around Elma, NY.

FAMILY DOGS apparently saved a Queensland toddler from drowning after he fell into a dam.

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Ike Turner, Sharon Jones, Okkervil River, Trout Breakout   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Thursday, December 13, 2007 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: Karl


IKE TURNER, whose role as one of rock's critical architects was overshadowed by his ogrelike image as the man who brutally abused former wife Tina Turner, died Wednesday at his home in suburban San Diego. He was 76.  AOL has your photo gallery and Tubed clips, including 'Proud Mary' and 'River Deep Mountain High.'

SHARON JONES bristles at the notion that she is part of a trend: "People ask, 'Are you trying to create a classic soul sound?' I ain't creatin' nothing. Every time I open my mouth, this is what's going to come out."  And you can hear or watch what that was like when Ms. Jones and the Dap-Kings played Morning Become Eclectic, which is streaming via KCRW.  And you can see video of the recording of "Answer Me" over at the 'Gum.

OKKERVIL RIVER has released a free covers EP for the holidays.

LEVON HELM:  The legendary drummer-vocalist for The Band -- and his recovery from throat cancer -- were featured on Fresh Air and can be streamed via NPR.

BILLY BRAGG writes that the saddest thing about the Morrissey-NME spat is the singer resorted to the courts to stifle his critics: "Had Morrissey claimed freedom of speech in his own defence, I would have supported his stance.  Yet Bragg adds the caveat, "unless he has been misrepresented," which suggests he also supports Morrissey for going to court if he's right (and that he doesn't believe Morrissey is right).

JOHNNY CASH, with June Carter Cash, family and friends, on "The 12 Days Of Christmas."  Fish, meet barrel!

THE LEE VEES:  Guster guitarist Adam Gardner talks about his Hanukkah-themed side project with the Boston Globe.  You can stream a few tracks via LeeVeeSpace.

THE TOP 50 VIDEOS of 2007, with embedded videos, according to the staff at Pitchfork.

LED ZEPPELIN was talking about playing NYC after their triumphant reunion gig in London.

DINOSAUR, JR.:  Lou Barlow talked to The Daily Iowan about that band's successful reunion: "I like the idea of us being classic rock, in that Black Sabbath sense... I'm kind of down with that. I don't think we're as good as Led Zeppelin, but in a punk-rock or indie-rock sense, I do think we have that classic idea."

JESSICA ALBA: Knocked Up!  Cue Vader!  Alba and Cash Warren had split last summer -- reportedly because Alba wanted to wed -- but the two reconciled, obvs.

KEIFER SUTHERLAND is being deluged with fan mail in jail.

SHIA LeBEOUF:  Charges were dropped against the star of Transformers and the upcoming Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull by the Windy City Walgreens, where the glassy-eyed actor was busted last month on a misdemeanor criminal trespassing charge.

PAM ANDERSON & RICK SALOMON:  First comes lust, then comes marriage, then comes the couple in a (sur-)reality TV show.

GWEN STEFANI is starting a college-scholarship fund for students affected by this fall's California wildfires.  Stefani already donated about 160K in proceeds from her Oct. 30 concert in San Diego to the San Diego Foundation fire-relief fund.

BRITNEY SPEARS eloped with the shify Sam Lufti?  I'm not buying it, though he's the one telling the press that Spears skipped her scheduled deposition due to "high anxiety."  Fed-Ex's attorney indicated he "will pursue" a court sanction against the pop tart for failing to show.  Access Hollywood has a piece on her toxic diet of caffeine drinks and fast food -- as though that's the reason for her mood swings and the real threat to her liver.  And she is considering a role as the Virgin Mary in a new satire titled "Sweet Baby Jesus."

BRADGELINA was named US Weekly's Couple of the Year, which is amusing given that US Weekly has been needling the couple ever since they struck up a cozy relationship with rival People magazine.

EVA MENDES would rather go naked than wear fur?  Not really.

ARE TV NETS DYING?  NBC has quietly begun reimbursing advertisers an average of 500K each for failing to reach guaranteed ratings levels, the first time a network has taken such a step in years.  CBS, ABC and Fox also are doling out make-goods. They have blamed softness on a new ratings formula, but media agencies disagree.  The networks' problems emerged even before the Writers Guild of America went on strike November 5.

AWARDS SEASON:  What if they held the Oscars and nobody came?  Except for the Screen Actors Guild's awards, attendance of nominees at all of the major awards shows is a question mark, as they would have to cross the Writers Guild of America picket line.

THE FRENCH HOTEL is advertising her new line of champagne clad only in gold paint.  Sorry, this heirhead is no Jill Masterson.  Or Dame Shirley Bassey, for that matter.

ISLAMISM in the UK:  The daughter of a British imam is living under police protection after receiving death threats from her father for converting to Christianity.

PAKISTAN:  Al Qaeda and the Taliban are targeting the nation's nuclear sites.

LEBANON:  A car bomb attack killed one of Lebanon's top generals and at least two other people Wednesday, putting even more pressure on the country's delicate political situation.  Brig. Gen. Francois Hajj was considered a leading candidate to succeed the head of the military, if Gen. Michel Suleiman is elected president.  Suspects range from the "Syrian-Iranian axis" to the al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists whom the army crushed at the Palestinian refugee camp of Nahr el-Bared.

IRAQ:  Prime Minister al-Maliki established an Awakening council in Samarra, while an 800-man police force was formed in Wasit province.  The Shia factions that have feuded over control of Iraq's southern oil hub Basra have proclaimed a truce, as tipped here yesterday.  US-led troops killed 14 suspected insurgents and detained several others, including an AQI leader believed to be responsible for numerous deadly attacks against US-led forces, the military said Wednesday.  The AQI leader was reportedly in command of 300 militants and responsible for the kidnapping and killing of three Iraqi national guard soldiers.

THE GREAT ESCAPE:  Trout are snapped breaking out by jumping into an eight-inch pipe which brings fresh water into a trout farm near Alresford, Hampshire.

A SEA LION is recovering after wandering dazed and confused on the streets of San Carlos, Calif.

JELLY the CAT wandered back home with a copperhead snake wrapped around her neck.  The next morning, she was almost paralyzed, but is expected to recover fully.  Pic at the link.

...AND THERE WERE CHICKEN CARCASSES all over the highway.  Fowl pics at the link.

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More Zep, Dirty Projectors, The Darkness, Wii Dog   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Wednesday, December 12, 2007 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: Karl


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Art Goats, Wilco, Led, Zep, Best of 2007, Otis Redding, Kung Fu Monkey   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Tuesday, December 11, 2007 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: Karl


EDDIE ARGOS joins THE MOUNTAIN GOATS on a rendition of the MG's "Best Ever Death Metal Band Out Of Denton" at the Pineapple Folk Yuletide Gathering, Union Chapel, London.  Because nothing says Yuletime like a hearty chorus of "Hail Satan!" (Thx, LHB.)

WILCO has announced it will play "five shows exploring tha band's complete recorded works" at Chicago's Riviera Theater in February.  Details at the link.  Frontman Jeff Tweedy gets a decent profile from the Associated Press. There's also an alternate version, with some different material... which is kinda Wilco-esque.

LED ZEPPELIN played their first concert in 19 years, before nearly 20K fans at London's 02 arena.  The progenitors of heavy metal get rave reviews from the Guardian to the Sun, from the Telegraph to the Scotsman, from the NME to MTV, from the Times of London to the NYT to the Hollywood Reporter.  These gents may just have a future in the business of show.  JAM! has a song-by-song review.   Here's live footage in an ITV report.  And a few seconds of fan footage of the historic opening.  UPDATE:  And a minute of "Black Dog" from Auntie Beeb.  And some bootalicious "Stairway to Heaven."

NEW RELEASES:  Virtually nothing during the holdiay season.  The Bear Hands EP, the "I Hate CDs" compilation and the the Rumble Strips EP (again) are streaming via Spinner.  If you like the hippety-hop, there's new stuff from Beanie Siegel, Hi-Tek and the Wu-Tang Clan.

BEST of 2007:  Dodge is streaming tracks from his Fave 50 Albums at MOKB, along with honorable mentions and more.  I know I'll be checking out bands I overlooked.  PLUS:  Lists from Drowned In Sound and various music-bloggers are discussed at the 'Gum.

OTIS REDDING died in a plane crash on Lake Monona, Wisc., 40 years ago yesterday.  Check out his masterful appearance on Britain's Ready Steady Go! (Part1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)

CHRIS ISAAK, with a song he wrote almost 60 years ago, "Let It Snow."  Add in a Christmas music medley at KFOG, and you have your Twofer Tuesday.

KEITH RICHARDS, LORD of the UNDEAD, is reissuing his 1978 solo single "Run Rudolph Run" on iTunes just in time for the holidays.   The single went on sale Monday, prior to Richards' 664th birthday.

GOOD FOR THE JEWS played some of their "Putting the Ha! in Hannukah" set for The Bryant Park Project, streaming on demand (w/video) via NPR.

NICOLE ATKINS talks to Frank Yang at Chromewaves about the various styles on her Neptune City album, which comes out in Canada today.  I blurbed her last month, when she appeared on Letterman.

ROSANNE CASH back home recovering comfortably from her brain surgery last week.  Best wishes to her.

QUIET RIOT singer Kevin DuBrow died of an accidental cocaine overdose, the coroner in Las Vegas said Monday.

LINDSAY LOHAN is now banned from the Shutters on the Beach Hotel in Santa Monica after she spent three days in their holed up with her now ex-boyfriend Riley Giles, according to the ever reliable Star magazine. The terrible twosome reportedly spent their time depleting the mini-bar and leaving dirty towels and cigarette butts strewn about their suite... plus a bloody syringe that someone left lying on the bedside table on a room service tray.

BRITNEY SPEARS:  Gas station manager Sham Bahia laughed off the pop tart's theft of a cigarette lighter.  A photographer returned to the store Saturday and paid for it.  Meanwhile, Spears pal Sam Lufti is nowhere near the pop tart since Us Weekly exposed details of his seedy past.

THE FRENCH HOTEL was at the center of a bizarre nightclub incident when she comforted an Oompa-Loompa injured when the crowd rushed the stage.  She wants an Oompa-Loompa now!

ELLEN DeGENERES, trying to revamp her image after regifting her adopted dog Iggy, is teaming up with former Meow Mix owner Richard Thompson to rebuild shabby animal shelters across the US.

MICHAEL VICK:  ICYMI, the disgraced fmr Falcons QB was sentenced to 23 months in prison for financing a dogfighting ring and helping to kill pit bulls that did not fight aggressively.

GARY COLLINS will not be prosecuted for manslaughter, even though the man he hit the night he was busted for DUI died.

GEORGE CLOONEY will make his second trip to war-torn Darfur, though he's blunt about what he's done for Darfur so far: "You want the truth? Absolutely nothing. People can march and pat each other on the back, and concerts will happen, and the simple truth is there's still the exact same issues going on."

JACK NICHOLSON reckons he could have fathered as many as 9000 kids.  I'm guessing that's one more thing his lawyer would have advised against saying.

ATONEMENT and JUNO both did well in limited release last weekend, while John Cusack's Iraq war-themed Grace Is Gone did not (much like all the other Iraq-themed flicks this year).  NPR has a piece on Atonement with videos -- including a clip to match an excerpt from the book.

AWARDS SEASON:  NY critics pick the Coen Bros.' No Country for Old Men as best picture.  LA critics pick Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood.  I just hope an East Coast-West Coast gangsta war can be avoided.

THE DARK KNIGHT:  Those first six minutes of the Batman Begins sequel that got raves last week will appear as a preview in Imax theaters before "I Am Legend," which opens Friday.

INDIANA JONES IV:  USA Today has the poster for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull along with some very light spoilers (much lighter than others I've linked here before).

WALK HARD:  The first ten minutes of Judd Apatow's parody of rock biopics is online.  But to see Jenna Fisher you'll have to watch the clip for "Let's Duet."

VENEZUELA:  At Newsweek, Fmr Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda writes that Pres. Hugo Chávez tried to overturn the results of Venezuela's recent constitutional referendum but was rebuffed by the military.

AFGHANISTAN:  Taliban fighters ran away from the only major Afghan center they held after heavy aerial bombardment Sunday night.  Musa Qala had become the main center of drugs trading in Afghanistan.  However, they are expected to regroup and try to stage a counter-attack.  In Sangin, Taliban fighters hanged a 12-year-old boy from a mulberry tree, claiming he was passing information on Taliban roadside bomb attacks to police and British forces, Afghan police have said.

IRAN:  Students defied a clampdown on protests in Iran by tearing down the gates of Tehran university.  They chanted slogans against Pres. Ahmadinejad and carried placards saying "Live free or die", "No war, no fascism" and "Women must decide their fate, not the state."  They wrecked the iron-barred gates and threw stones at police, according to Iranian state radio, which said the protest ended peacefully.

IRAQ:  The Chicago Tribune reports on the new US base near the Iranian border.  Iraq's foreign minister insisted a new security pact with the Americans will set a time limit on the US troop presence in Iraq.  The LA Times claims Iraq remains balkanized in a piece on the need for national reconciliation and reconstruction in 2008.  Michael J. Totten interviews Marines with the 3rd Battalion 5th Regiment's India Company about pushing the insurgents out of Fallujah.  Guerilla groups in Diyala province are uniting to combat AQI, under the delightful name, "Direction of Revenge Operations."

KUNG FU MONKEY:  That chimp is fast as lightning.

EAT MORE BEAVER:  Advice from the Riverfront Times in St. Louis.  Levent Blayock says the party really gets hopping, with kids paddling each other and women screaming.

A GREEK PARROT is facing a $650 (£320; 444 euros) parking ticket.

AN ENGLISH PARROT is driving its owner insane by mimicking his mobile phone's ringtone.

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