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Star Wars, Hank Williams, Mena Suvari, Milbloggers and more...   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Friday, May 13, 2005 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade



REVENGE OF THE SITH: As some of you learned, I attended the advance screening Thursday night. There will be no spoilers in this first part of my review; if you want those, you'll have to click the "Read more" link at the bottom of today's entry.

First, for those that don't know, I am more of a Star Wars fan than most, having seen each of the series o­n opening day. That includes the original, to which I was taken by my dad and o­ne of his independent contarctors, at the Edens Plaza theater, which no longer exists. Nevertheless, I was not standing in line for this weeks in advance like Steve Lorenzo. Nor did I spend 500 bucks for my ticket, though the Children's Hospital in Chicago is certainly a worthy cause. Indeed, I am not even as big a Star Wars geek as the people seated o­n either side of me in the theater Thursday night, which did wonders for my self-esteem.

Second, everyone got a fair amount of swag for the buck. The preshow at the Adler Planetarium was well-staged, with Vader, stormtroopers (both early and late designs), Imperial officers, Jango and Boba Fett, sandpeople, etc. Widescreen flat-panel displays looped scenes from all six movies, stations allowed kids to play each other at Star Wars videogames, and there was plenty of food catered by Wolfgang Puck, who also attended. A number of collectibles were raffled off (none for me, alas).

Trolleys whisked you to the theater, where you got a bottle of water or soda, a bag of popcorn and an additional bag of tchotchkes: a bag of Jedi Peanut M&Ms (now eaten); a bag of Dark Side Plain M&Ms (now eaten); a tube of M&M minis with Star Wars head dispenser (mine is Chewbacca) and a refill for same; a wind-up toy (mine is Yoda); SW: ROTS trading cards; a Star Wars: Empire comic book; a film tin of jelly beans (not eaten... yet); packs of Doublemint and Juicy Fruit gum (Chicago is the Wrigley City) and an admission ticket for "Sonicvision" -- see your music at the Ad-ler Plan-e-tar-i-um!

Oh yeah, there was a movie, too. If you have read any of the other advance reviews, you know the consensus is that Episode III is better than the last two. I wholeheartedly agree. Indeed, while my opinion might change when I have more distance, I am tempted to agree that it is the third-best of the series, as it has very little of the saccarine quality of Return of the Jedi. There are a couple of cute moments with R2-D2 at the outset of Episode III, but there are no cutsey Ewoks (which, btw, are not so named in ROTJ; we know what they are called from the marketing) and you will miss Jar-Jar Binks if you blink at the right moment. Episode III is as dark or darker than The Empire Strikes Back, though I'll discuss that and more in the aptly-named in the "more" section....

FLASHBACK: Sylvia Hauser's rescued greyhound is in the hospital. Although he's currently doing better than she expected, you might consider putting in a kind word with your deity (if you have o­ne) for ol' Flash.

FRIDAY TIMEWASTER DELUXE, courtesy of Sylvia, is Addictive Games.

RILO KILEY frontwoman Jenny Smith is blurbed about her forthcoming solo album in Rolling Stone, along with Rilo Kiley's tour schedule.

ON THE PITCHFORK: Neko Case tour dates. ALSO: A rave for the reissue of Gang of Four's Entertainment! and a lukewarm review of the Lucinda Williams live set.

ONEIDA: Stereogum calls the band's newest, The Wedding, "this year's most compelling neo-psych record." He also offers a download of o­ne track, "The Eiger," as well as the song that may have inspired it -- the Left Banke's "Walk Away, Renee" (which I used to play o­n the radio Saturday mornings to annoy Craig O'Neill).

SUFJAN STEVENS: The Catbird Seat has more downloads from his forthcoming Illinois album.

MP3 BLOGS: The Tofu Hut has posted an extensive directory of MP3 blogs, categorized by genre. Though short o­n country, you can find, rock, pop, jazz, blues, r&b, reggae, world and even videogame music blogs listed.

PETE DOHERTY UPDATE: The trobled singer and galpal Kate Moss are rumored to be having some sort of marriage-esque blessing ceremony at the Glastonbury music festival.

HANK WILLIAMS, SR. looks to be getting a museum in the Pure Oil service station where a chauffeur discovered his death.

DELTA MOON: Back in the day of The Brains, Tom Gray scored a hit when Cyndi Lauper covered his song "Money Changes Everything." His new band is moving more toward the sound of Emmylou Harris.

HARRY SHEARER blogs a bit o­n CNN: The Most Trusted Name in Fun.

FOCUS GROUPING THE NEWS? The Chicago Tribune solicits opinions from an o­nline focus group that allows its members to see and comment o­n parts of the paper (phots, layouts and headlines, but not text) before publication.

PENTHOUSE CLEANS ITSELF UP, but just a little.

THE REV. JESSE JACKSON has renewed his call for radio stations to "draw the line o­n dignity" and somehow managed to connect the issue of vulgarity in hip-hop to the renewal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Jackson also said black people need to take more responsibility for their own lives. "We need to respect ourselves. We must maintain our own dignity."

CATS: They are outlawed in NYC, but a designer breed called the Savannah, which can cost from $4,000 to $10,000, are the new "it" feline. Too bad The New York Times got the cute title wrong.

CLASSROOM CLICKERS allow teachers to pose questions and get immediate feedback from the entire class, and none of the students need to worry about exposing their ignorance.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM: Ryan Sager notes that "a smattering of Democrats and liberal activists are slowly coming to the conclusion that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to let the government decide who can and cannot engage in political speech." Campaign finance reform almost always favors the incumbents who pass it.

YAHOO! MUSIC: Industry observers question how the new music rental service jibes with Yahoo's prior purchase of Musicmatch.

WHAT'S NEXT IN DIGITAL ENTERTAINMENT? USA Today assembled a panel of some of the industry's most influential players -- including Public Enemy's Chuck D -- to talk about what's ahead.

MICROSOFT: The BBC has a two-part piece o­n challenges facing the software giant and the company's strategies for the future.

MENA SUVARI: The 26 year-old actress is getting divorced from 42 year-old cinematographer Robert Brinkmann, citing irreconcilable differences. Some may speculate that the age difference is a factor; I say he finally complained about the glare from her giant alien forehead.

LINDSAY LOHAN denies she's anorexic, saying that she's just been o­n a diet. No word o­n whether that diet involves throwing up meals.

KIERA KNIGHTLEY admits she used a butt double for The Jacket because she did not have time to train after shooting another version of Pride and Prejudice.

BOX OFFICE BLUES A MYTH? Although some have noted lackluster biz at the cinema this season, Variety notes that movies are performing o­n average much better than the 2004 crop, o­nce you exclude The Passion of the Christ. This year's figures have yet to account for the power of the Force.

WHO YOU GONNA CALL? Alamo City Paranormal in San Antonio, among others.

PLASTIC RADIOS: Why? Because I like them!

SCIENTOLOGY is facing competition from Fictionology, according to The o­nion.

HAND GESTURES lead to better story-telling, according to research at the University of Alberta. Insert your ethnically-insensitive Italian joke here.

MILBLOGGERS -- including a few I've linked from time to time -- are the subject of a feature in USA Today.

IRAN: France, Germany and Great Britain say Iran could face serious consequences if Tehran follows through o­n a threat to resume processing uranium for nuclear fuel. The tough talk is supported in Washington, natch. Of course, "serious consequences" were promised, but not delivered, by the U.N. if Saddam Hussein did not verifiably disarm himself. At this point, the "serious consequences" might be seeking U.N. sanctions, which the West may not be able to get past Russia or China.

OIL-FOR-FOOD SCANDAL: The Independent has Cliffs Notes for those new to the story. Claudia Rosett, who was o­n this story from the very beginning, advances the story, based o­n the Senate investigation.

BASEBALL: Scientists studying the sport find that children cannot hit or catch slow balls because their brains are not wired to handle slow motion. An article at American Scientist breaks down the physics of the game -- the Magnus force of a spinning pitch, and so o­n, with plenty of visual aids.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON AND NEWT GINGRICH joined cheerfully yesterday to promote legislation o­n healthcare changes, as two polarizing potential presidential candidates pretend to move toward the center of American politics.

EXTREME IRONING: I'm not kidding, but the Extreme Ironing Bureau may be.

FLEXIBLE CONCRETE: What will they think of next?

EXOTIC NAMES are associated with trouble later in life for black children, though it's unclear as to the extent to which this reflects o­n the parent(s) or the perceptions of others, or both.

Read full article: 'Star Wars, Hank Williams, Mena Suvari, Milbloggers and more...'
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Feist, The Carter Family, BMRC, Live 8, Jennifer 8. Lee and more numbers   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Thursday, May 12, 2005 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


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Tour of the Living Dead, Veruca Salt, NED, The Guns of Simpson, etc.   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Wednesday, May 11, 2005 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


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U2, Lucinda Williams, Andy Warhol, Plenty 'o' sex talk and whiskey!   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Tuesday, May 10, 2005 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


THE REV. BONO: Jim DeRogatis found U2's first of four concerts in Chicago "every bit as phony, bombastic and manipulative as a Britney Spears concert, the Republican National Convention or a televangelist's miracle-working dog and pony show." Later, he writes: "If you missed the point, it was this: AMERICA'S WAR IN IRAQ IS BAD. But ever the politician averse to alienating any demographic, Bono, sporting a stars-and-stripes leather jacket as o­ne of several costume changes, followed that none-too-subtle declaration by reminding us to 'support the troops.'"

TINY MIX TAPES has a unique review of the new disc from Nine Inch Nails; a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

NEW RELEASES: Although the live set from Lucinda Williams is out today o­n CD, most of the action is in DVDs this week. The Live From Austin series adds DVDs from Richard Thompson and Son Volt, to prior releases of shows by Steve Earle, The Flatlanders and others. Lucinda Williams will have her own entry in the series out next Tuesday.

SUFJAN STEVENS announces a few tour dates in support of his Illinois album, including two in Seattle. Pitchfork observes: "We suspect this list of dates isn't complete, if o­nly because Illinois is nowhere to be found."

RENEE ZELLWEGER APPARENTLY HAS wed C&W star Kenney Chesney. I'm sure she would understand if I say, "Alright, alright, alright."

ANDY WARHOL AND RONALD REAGAN: Former Interview magazine editor Bob Colacello has written biographies of both and sees a number of similarities.

LINDSAY LOHAN: Defamer prints an e-mail from someone allegedly o­n the set for her most recent video shoot. The writer details behavior falling between diva and crazy, then predicts "another 'exhaustion' stay coming up real soon."

DOGS: A newborn baby abandoned in a forest in Nairobi, Kenya, was saved by a stray dog who apparently carried her across a busy road and through a barbed wire fence to a shed where the infant was discovered nestled with a litter of puppies. A story that warms your heart until the moment you realize what it says about humans.

IRAQ: The Iraqi Government says security forces have captured Amar al-Zubaydi, a/k/a Abu Abbas, a key aide to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. It said he helped plan an attack o­n Abu Ghraib prison in April, as well as a string of car bombings in Baghdad.

IRAQ II: American forces launched a major offensive against followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi near the Syrian border; U.S. military spokesmen said the offensive started o­n Saturday and that it had killed as many as 100 militants. The operation seems to be based o­n information obtained from Ghassan Muhammad Amin Husayn Al-Rawi, who was captured o­n April 26th.

IRAQ III: Arthur Chrenkoff has his regular round up of under-reported good news. Among the multitude of links can be found a report o­n how women in conservative Karbala are getting liberated through city's internet cafes and the news that the U.S. military has set a target of December for handing over responsibility for security to Iraqi army and police units, according to a classified document being circulated among senior officers.

THE HUFFINGTON POST, Arianna Huffington's celebrity group blog, went o­nline Monday, with posts from director Mike Nichols, Ellen DeGeneres, John Cusack and David Mamet, among others. A Newsday columnist observes that the "could be quite exciting - or a log-rolling, self-referential mess." Huffington does an interview with Newsweek, in which her explanation for why she lost the CA governor's race to Arnold Schwarzenegger sounds suspiciously like co-blogger Aaron Sorkin's screenplay to The American President. Gawker brings the snark to both the blog as a whole and historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. in particular. The Register runs a piece mocking an H-post by Hilary Rosen, former head of the RIAA, complaining about iTunes. But the must-read story may be Nikki Finke's L.A. Weekly column, which promises -- and largely delivers -- the "juicy behind-the-scenes story" of the blog's start-up.

THE NEW YORK TIMES commissioned an internal report o­n how to improve the paper's credibility, which is good, as admitting you have a problem is the first step to addressing it. Jeff Jarvis has a good summary, along with links to criticism and the full report.

GAY-BASHING HOAX: A rash of gay-bashing incidents at Tamalpais High School in Marin County, CA was the work of the head of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance, according to Mill Valley police. The girl has been suspended and could face expulsion.

GAY BRAINS? A compound taken from male sweat stimulates the brains of gay men and straight women but not heterosexual men, raising the possibility that homosexual brains are different, according to researchers in Sweden.

THE MOUNTAIN GOATS' John Darnielle is interviewed by Junkmedia, which still hosts Ken King's review of the Pate box set. Darnielle reveals: "Right now I am writing about monsters. I despair of writing a song that does justice to the awesomeness of the Mummy." He can't do worse than Stephen Sommers, can he?

WILLIE NELSON HIGHWAY UPDATE: After a bill to name part of Texas state Hwy 130 after the singer was nixed by two GOP state senators, Willie's lawyer fires off a letter stating that Nelson "must decline the request that Willie grant permission to name the toll road in his honor." Now there's some PR skillz.

BECK says he and his Dad have been helped by Scientology. Explains a lot.

CHICKEN CROSSES ROAD, is ticketed for jaywalking.

THE GREATEST DISCOVERY SINCE FIRE: A history of the microwave oven.

NANOTECH: A novel delivery system that transports gene silencing nanoparticles into tumor cells has been shown to inhibit a form of cancer in an animal model of the disease. Meanwhile, in Chicago, a group calling itself THONG (Topless Humans Organized for Natural Genetics) protested in the Eddie Bauer at 600 N. Michigan Avenue to question the safety of Teflon-treated and Nano-Tex clothing.

THE SILLY PARTY: If anyone thought that Monty Python had to work hard to lampoon politics in the U.K., o­ne need o­nly look at the long-standing tradition of candidates for seats in Parliament standing together for the announcement of the vote tally. One cannot help but think that o­ne of the candidates pictured here is Kevin Phillips-Bong. And you may enjoy the snark to be found throughout the photo gallery at the Guardian.

THEOCRACY is the surprising reason cited by Barbara Hall for the ratings slump of her television show, Joan of Arcadia.

FEMALE ORGASM TALK draws a crowd at Harvard University. Who'da thunkit? I'd quote it, but it's near-impossible to pick a favorite excerpt. Let's just say that at some point, a hand puppet is deployed.

DASHTON: Demi Moore allegedly told fashion designer Cynthia Rowley that Ashton Kutcher lacks stamina. Moore's PR flack denies the conversation. The question could be settled through the scientific method.

TOP SEXOLOGISTS met last weekend in San Francisco to try to keep up with society's fast-developing sexual trends. "These couples have problems that I didn't know how to deal with," said Olga Perez Stable Cox, president of the Western US region of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality. No, even I couldn't make up that name.

PIXAR ANIMATION STUDIO tripled its profits, driven by DVD sales of The Incredibles. And Pixar exec Steve Jobs said that he had taken part in "nice conversations" with Robert Iger, the new head honcho at Disney, about possibly renewing the studios' partnership.

MALT WHISKEY may help prevent cancer, according to a consultant to the drinks industry who notes that single malt whiskeys have more of the anti-oxidant ellagic acid than red wine. However, Dr. Lesley Walker of Cancer Research UK, pointed out that the same acid was found in fruit, and said she was "very concerned" that whiskey was being promoted as a cancer prevention agent without data to support the claim. Perhaps, but you can't get hammered o­n regular fruit.

STRESS can help people stay young, prolong life and help prevent chronic illnesses such as arthritis, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, according to Dr. Marios Kyriazis, the medical director of the British Longevity Society. If forced to choose, I'll take the whiskey, Nietzsche.

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James Brown, Cats, Penguins, Cougars, Theocracy, Satan, etc.   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Monday, May 09, 2005 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


THE FLAMING LIPS are tackling "Bohemian Rhapsody" for a Queen tribute disc. I hope that doesn't put percussionist Steve Drozd back o­n the horse.

CBGB AND TALKING HEADS: Stereogum links to a site dedicated to saving CBGB as a landmark and o­ne offering a download of Talking Heads' first show at the venerable venue.

RYAN ADAMS: Golden Fiddle really wanted to dislike Cold Roses, but ended up liking it.

THE DECEMBERISTS' Friday night concert can be streamed from NPR.

LOVE WILL TEAR US APART: The Observer looks back at Joy Division o­n the 25th anniversary of the release of its signature song, which also happens to be the anniversary of my release. Who'da thunkit? Explains a lot.

BENNIFER: E! o­nline and E! News, citing "multiple sources close to Garner and beau Ben Affleck," report that Jennifer Garner is three months pregnant.

BRADGELINA: Jennifer Aniston is rumored to be furious that her husband is breaking their deal not to date for six months.

WHORE COLLEGE: Get your diploma as a Graduate in Sex Work at the end of a o­ne day seminar. Then you won't care if she's got a face that would stop a clock.


BREAST REDUCTIONS are o­n the rise: over 113,000 women will elect to have their breasts made smaller this year, an increase of 11% from previous years.

KIMBERLY STEWART (Rod's daughter) gave her breast implants to Jack Osbourne (Ozzy's son). That's some weird symmetry I can't figure out.

GODFATHER OF SOUL JAMES BROWN, the hardest working man in show business, had a statue in his honor unveiled in Augusta Georgia o­n Friday.

BRIAN WILSON will put out a Christmas album in October.

ROCK SHIRTS FOR BABIES: Some of these seem inappropriate, but the Sonic Youth Dirty tee sort of works for an infant.

THE BOSS IS TOO HOT FOR STARBUCKS: Bruce Springsteen's Devils & Dust will not be sold at Starbucks coffee shops, because he's channeling Howard Stern.

COLDPLAY make U.S. singles history, but doesn't do as well as... the Spice Girls. Could be why Gwyneth seems a bit cranky lately.

LIVE AID II? Bob Geldof is deflating the trial balloon lofted by people in his office, though the possibility of a second concert event will be discussed at a meeting of the Live Aid Trust this week.

AUDIOSLAVE PLAYS CUBA in the first open-air concert by an American rock band in the communist country. The concert was given the rare approval of both the Cuban and United States governments.

REVENGE OF THE SITH: Variety digs it: "Whatever o­ne thought of the previous two installments, this dynamic picture irons out most of the problems, and emerges as the best in the overall series since The Empire Strikes Back." The London Telegraph concurs: "Lucas has created an eminently satisfying, albeit surprisingly violent, final instalment that brings the story back full circle to the first film. It contains all the ingredients that fans have come to expect: aerial dog-fights, swirling light-sabres, Jedi battles, evil droids -and it packs an emotional wallop."

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: The lucrative summer movie season suffered its worst start in years o­n Sunday, as the costly epic crawled into the No. 1 slot at the North American weekend box office with meager ticket sales of just $20 million. I saw it and thought it well done in terms of its acting and production values, but Kingdom suffers from two major flaws. First, for a battle epic, it lacks pacing, particulalrly as it runs two and a half hours. Second, while no o­ne should expect historical accuracy from Hollywood, I suspect U.S. audiences are not going to flock to a politically correct revision of history that makes the British Christians foaming maniacs while depicting Saladin and the Sacracen Knights as the epitome of chivalry and having the hero be a man who renounces God. Historians have blasted the picture, scoffing at the notion that Jerusalem was a peaceful, multicultural community at the time in question. The movie almost completely ignores the 450 years of Islamic jihad that preceded the events at issue. And in the real world, Saladin acted far differently than he does at the end of the film.

IRAQ: Iraq's parliament approved six new ministers o­n Sunday hoping to fill the political void that has stoked the insurgency, but o­ne minister turned down the job. Proposed human rights minister Hisham al-Shibli told Reuters he had been picked purely to placate Iraq's restive Sunni Arab minority: "This post was given to me without anyone consulting me. I was surprised when they nominated me. It was just because I am a Sunni," he said. "This is something I reject completely. I am a democratic figure... and I am completely against sectarianism." While accomodating the Sunnis may help tamp down the insurgency, a politician speaking out against sectarianism this soon in the country's democratic history may be a very good sign.

IRAQ II: Austin Bay writes about how history will view the Iraq war and the extraordinary story of the 19-through-35 year olds who are winning it, including part of his prior interview with former Sen. Bob Kerrey.

IRAQ AND THE HOME FRONT: When that high school student was suspended for 10 days in Columbus GA for refusing to end a cell phone call with his mother, a soldier serving in Iraq, you just knew the backlash from the community (near Fort Benning) would force them to back off. So why didn't the school officials have this sussed in the first place?

PETRA NEMCOVA, the supermodel badly injured in the south asian tsunami, is now able to walk without crutches and plans to return to NYC this week to start raising money for tsunami victims. She will meet with representatives of international charities and develop a plan for how to best help people in the region near Khao Lak, the idyllic area where she and her boyfriend (who was killed in the disaster) were staying.

IDOL GOSSIP UPDATE: ABC's controversial special Primetime Live o­n the talent show won its time slot, as did American Idol itself. Meanwhile, journos are concerned that the networks are training their guns o­n each other. J. Max Robins, editor in chief at Broadcasting & Cable, said it ''is valid to ask the question, 'If Idol were an ABC show, not a Fox show, would they be doing the story?'" No, Fox would; so what? And fwiw, Matt Drudge reports that days before the program aired, Paula Abdul's lawyer fired off a detailed two page warning to ABC News strongly denying any wrongdoing regarding Abdul and drugs... though the issue was not part of their investigation.

COUGARS: It wasn't all about American Idol last week: ABC News Primetime also examined the phenomenon of older women dating younger men. The Phat Phree site offers a guide to dating women in each age bracket.

CATS: One gets toilet-trained. Another is a dangerous fugitive under a death sentence in Chile.

PENGUINS are dying from chlamydia.

TALES OF THE FRIENDLY SKIES: Hit in the head by a shot fired from the ground, pilot Mike Spicer managed, with the help of his passenger, to get his plane safely back to the Clay Center, Kansas airport. In North Las Vegas, a passenger was forced to crash land a private plane Thursday after the pilot suffered an apparent heart attack.

JOHN BOLTON: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed its vote on embattled nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations after Sen. George Voinovich expressed reservations, but Voinovich hasn't bothered to meet with Bolton since. And we're not going to get to hear his ex-wife dish about his kinky sex life, as she says he didn't have o­ne. Insert your own mustache joke here.

THEOCRACY: At a recent academic conference at the City University of New York o­n "the real agenda of the religious far right," the central threat speakers raised was "theocracy." No speaker representing religious conservatives was invited to offer a rebuttal.

DISCOUNT DEVIL: The number of the Beast has been marked down from 666 to 616.

AL-QAEDA: So far, Abu Farj al-Libbi has refused to reveal the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and his key accomplices, but having learned that he was ambushed by commandos in burqas, it's nice to learn that al-Libbi also was disguised as a woman. European terror experts doubt that al-Libbi was the number three man in al-Qaeda, but even if he is not, imho, the fact that Pakistani forces were willing to undertake the operation (including dozens of follow-up arrests) in the border area sympathetic to bin Laden represents progress.

SOCIAL SECURITY: Bill Clinton urges his fellow Democrats to offer their own plan.

THE FDA is about to implement rules recommending that any man who has engaged in homosexual sex in the previous five years be barred from serving as an anonymous sperm donor. Critics accuse the FDA of stigmatizing all gay men rather than adopting a screening process that focuses o­n high-risk sexual behavior by any would-be donor, gay or straight. Probably true, but from a health perspective, that's an argument for broader rules, not against the o­ne being implemented.

CULT OF THE iPod: You can now get them from a vending machine in the Atlanta airport.

U.K. ELECTION: Although Iraq was the focus of the media in the election, the opposition's gains also bear out the old saying about politics being local. For example, Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos fame, writing in the Guardian, notes that Iraq eroded voters' trust of Tony Blair, but the Liberal-Democrats picked up votes o­n the economy and education policy in university cities like Cambridge. The Tories' marginal gains appear to be due in no small part to issues like taxes and immigration.

THE SECOND COMING OF UNDERPASS MARY: Less than 24 hours after being sprayed with mocking graffiti and lacquered in dark brown paint, the "Virgin Mary" emerged again to greet her flock Friday afternoon o­n the wall of a Kennedy Expressway underpass.

OIL-FOR-FOOD SCANDAL: Former Fed Chair Paul Volcker, who is heading the internal investigation of the UN. scandal, is desperate to get back boxes of information provided to Congress that are believed to contain information damaging to secretary-general Kofi Annan, to the point of claiming witnesses' lives amy be at stake and threatening the former investigator who provided the material under a Congressional subpoena.

CRAZY IN MARYLAND: The current home state of the Pratt family is ordering gas stations to raise prices.

HOWARD DEAN was supposed to attract indivdual donors to the Democratic National Committee, but the GOP raised twice as much from individuals in the last quarter.

THE SIMPSONS: Publicists not connected to the couple are gossiping that they could split could as early as next week. Which I would care more about if they were gossiping about Homer and Marge, as opposed to Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey.

UNBREAKABLE CODES? Australian scientists believe they have developed an unbreakable information code using a diamond, a kitchen microwave oven and an optical fiber to create a single photon beam of light they say cannot be hacked.

THE GERMAN AMBASSADOR in London complains that Britons continue to see the Germans as Nazis. Of course, it doesn't help when the tennis club hosting the German Open puts a photograph of Nazi Hermann Goering in the program and refers to the club's "golden times" after its Jewish members fled in the 1930s. To be fair, I must note that a neo-Nazi march in Berlin was stopped by thousands of anti-fascist demonstrators Sunday. However, the fact that 3,300 neo-Nazis gathered to protest what they called a German "cult of guilt" ought to give that Ambassador a moment's pause. Although I'm sure he's concerned about German kids being beaten by British kids, the anniversary of V-E Day might not have been the most diplomatic moment to complain.

KILLER CHILI POWDER: It is pure capsaicin - the chemical that lends habanero and jalapeno peppers their thermonuclear heat. It is 30 times hotter than the spiciest pepper, the Red Savina from Mexico, and 8,000 times stronger than Tabasco sauce. Although capsaicin does not actually burn - it fools your brain into thinking that you are in pain by stimulating nerve endings in your mouth - some medical experts believe that it could kill an asthmatic or hospitalise a user who touched his eyes or other sensitive parts of the anatomy.

DAVID ROSEN goes to trial Tuesday o­n charges of repeatedly misleading the Federal Elections Commission about contributions received to stage an August 2000 Hollywood fund-raiser for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton. Conversations recorded for the FBI by Ray Reggie, Sen. Ted Kennedy's brother-in-law, are expected to be key evidence. A partial transcript of the Sept. 4, 2002, tape obtained by The Times-Picayune in New Orleans captures a conversation rife with gossip about the seamy side of political life, including the sex, drugs and prostitutes enjoyed by big-name Democratic stalwarts.

TIME-TRAVELLERS' CONVENTION: I just got back from the big weekend convo. Or I never left. Anyway, I picked up a cyborg bodyguard o­n the cheap.

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