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Thankful I'm Not This Tom (abbreviated holiday edition)   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


HAPPY THANKSGIVING DAY -- the remembrance of gratitude for Native Americans teaching the Pilgrims some farming tips and celebration of the Pilgrims' rejection of communism. Writing from the Land of Lincoln, I can't help but note that Honest Abe first proclaimed the national holiday shortly before his assassination, with words that still have some relevance today.

RAY DAVIES of the Kinks has "Thanksgiving Day" available for streaming from the EP he released this week. Pretty good.

THE TURKEYS PARDONED BY PRESIDENT BUSH were asked what they would do now and got the inevitable reply: "We're going to Disneyland!"

RUTH M. SIEMS, who helped create Stove Top stuffing, has passed at 74 from a heart attack. Speaking of stuffing, don't look at this picture until yours is entirely digested. You've been warned.

I'LL BE BACK at full steam Friday, but simply must convey this breaking story:

JESSICA SIMPSON and NICK LACHEY SEPARATED: It's official. Last Saturday night, hubby Nick Lachey was reportedly at the hot Miami Beach restaurant Nobu with six girls, none of which was Jessica. Maybe Saturday is o­ne of the two days Jessica gets her hair bleached every week. No doubt Jessica will be consulting Jennifer Aniston about all this.

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Makin' a list, checkin' it twice (full-on multimedia edition)   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Wednesday, November 23, 2005 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


I HAVE FRIENDS IN TOWN FROM DALLAS this week and may not get to round up the usual suspects today. So with the holiday shopping season just around the corner, I thought I could at least give you a hand in compiling your wish lists with a list of what's been turning my musical crank this year, along with links for streaming or downloadable audio. It's certainly not a comprehensive list -- and some of these aren't available in the US yet -- but I figure most of you have heard or heard of bands like Son Volt and Wilco; if not, I just mentioned them, too.

ANIMAL COLLECTIVE: Their new album Feels, may be the band's most accessible to date, though it's very strange and atmospheric. It's streaming as the Album of the Month at Radio Indie Pop. Note there's a link to skip registration for the site.

THE ARCTIC MONKEYS don't have an album out yet, though you can buy their stuff o­nline. Fun, funky and punky, the boys know they've been overhyped, but there are reasons why so many got excited. You can stream a few from MySpace (though the page wasn't set up by the band). And *Sixeyes can hook you up to legal downloads of demos.

ART BRUT doesn't have their album out in the US yet, either, so the WFMU live set may be the best way to hear this punk-on-the-cusp-of-new-wave-with-generous-Modern-Lovers-influences band do their thing. Very tasty.

BIG STAR 2.0: In Space was almost bound to fall short of expectations for an album carrying the brand of Alex Chilton's legendary power pop combo... but it's still better than most of what you might hear o­n your radio. You can sample clips at the official site for the album.

BLACK KEYS: o­ne of the few bands that made me regret skipping Lollapalooza. Kinda like the White Stripes, but blacker and bluesier. *Sixeyes can link you to the legal downloads available through the band's label.

BRMC: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club took a rather large turn from JAMC-esque noise pop toward Americana o­n their latest album, Howl. You can stream the results, which are pretty darn good.

BRENDAN BENSON: his Alternative To Love is pure pop for now people -- the Raspberries, Beatles, Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and Wilco are all folded into the mix here, as you can hear at his MySpace page, with even more at his website.

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE: The shambling bohemia of prime Pavement with the dynamism of early U2 (plus brass) is still evident o­n this year's self-titled album, the follow-up to the collective's wonderful You Forgot It In People. The streams of the new album seem to have dried up, but you can see their video or stream their acoustic set from KCRW. A recommended live act, too.

CAT POWER: The Greatest isn't out yet, but you can download the title track from the album that may just be Chan Marshall's Dusty In Memphis.

CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH: Like the Arctic Monkeys, this band from NYC may have been overhyped o­n the irresistable story of a totally DIY band breaking nationally by Internet buzz -- the serpent that swallows its own tail. But if you stream a fewfrom MySpace or download from the band, their stuff (oft compared to the Talking Heads, though that's mostly Alec's vocals) holds up pretty well.

THE DECEMBERISTS: Colin Meloy's minor-key take o­n Robyn Hitchcock-esque psyche-folk rolled o­n this year; you can stream "Sixteen Military Wives" and three more at MySpace. A good live act also.

DITTY BOPS have their entire album of Americana streaming at their website, in both Windows Media and Quicktime formats.

DUNGEN: Bluesy, occasionally jazzy psychedelia, sorta like Cream, but Swedish. Check out the band's MySpace page. A good live act, too.

RICHARD HAWLEY has a retro style and a voice deep enough to be compared to Lee Hazelwood and Johnny Cash He has exclusive downloads at his site and Lonesome Music is killing music with a track from his current album, Cole's Corner.

THE HOLD STEADY: This Brooklyn combo is almost single-handedly making bar band music hip again, with lyrics as densely packed as the first two Springsteen albums. Download "Your Little Hoodrat Friend," stream the band's NPR gig and thank me later. A good live act also.

IRON & WINE: Sam Beam, the o­ne-man lo-fi Americana machine has plenty of MP3s and a link to MySpace via SubPop. Of course, he wasn't just o­ne man this year either, teaming with Calexico for an EP. As a bonus, check out Calexico covering Love at ACL Fest, in glorious Quicktime.

THE MAGIC NUMBERS: Sugary classic pop in a Beatles meets the Mamas and the Papas sorta way. The band has a couple at MySpace, but you can stream the whole album with the band's sampler.

MY MORNING JACKET may have covered "Freebird" in Elizabethtown, but the band's newest album, Z steps back a bit from its more southern-sounding predecessors. You can hear both styles at the band's MySpace page.

THE MOUNTAIN GOATS: John Darnielle's indie folk got more personal o­n The Sunset Tree. Sadly, you can o­nly hear samples of the songs at the 4AD site. However, the band doesn't seem to mind the unofficial site offering loads of downloads from the band's back catalog.

THE NATIONAL: More than a few bloggers who caught Clap Your Hands Say Yeah opening for The National ended up at least as impressed with the latter's amalgam of sounds, ranging from Country-rock to Britpop. And the band has downloads for you.

NEW PORNOGRAPHERS started as a bit of a side project for a number of Canadian artists from other bands, like A.C. Newman and Neko Case, but seems to be becoming the maing gig for many of them. Matador Records has audio and video, with the title track from Twin Cinema being a frequent earworm of mine.

OKKERVIL RIVER: As I'm late to this party, I'll repeat what I wrote at the beginning of the month. As far back as June, MSNBC ran a piece titled, "The stunning band you’ve been longing for," hailing the band's "orchestral countrified power pop." Frontman Will Scheff used to be a music critic for the Austin Chronicle and his lyrics are often compared to those of Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy. Black Sheep Boy and the impending Black Sheep Boy Appendix (due Nov. 22nd) pay tribute to 60s folk casualty Tim Hardin. There's streaming audio at the MSNBC link; you can download tracks from the band's catalog at the official website. And they have a MySpace page also.

SHARON JONES AND THE DAP-KINGS' Naturally remains o­ne of my favorite albums of the year. It's like a classic Stax or Atlantic R&B album that just turned up in a time capsule. You can get clips via Daptone Records. Another recommended live act.

SILVER JEWS: Although most found this band due to the involvement of Pavement's Steven Malkmus, David Berman's lyrics and more folkie stylings are a horse of a different color. Tanglewood Numbers is a little more rocking than American Water, as you can hear via MySpace.

SUFJAN STEVENS is topping many end-of-year lists, from the Amazon Editors' Picks to Information Leafblower's blogger poll. Deeply spiritual, multi-instrumental, sometimes controversial, there's no o­ne quite like him. Check out his MySpace page and the easily tempted may kill music by visiting Largehearted Boy, a blog from which I steal mercilessly.

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Neko Case, Art Brut, Ryan Adams, Pandas, Turkeys, Kangaroos   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Tuesday, November 22, 2005 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


THE CURRENT: The indie branch of MPR has an ocean of streams of cool bands just waiting for you -- The Shins, The Hold Steady, Bob Mould, The National, Rilo Kiley, Dungen, The Magic Numbers, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Brendan Benson, Crooked Fingers, Eels, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Feist, and many, many more.

CMJ AT 25: The mag celebrates in part with a list of the "25 Most Influential Artists" o­n college and non-commercial radio since the first CMJ gathering of the community 25 years ago. It also notes those Artists' predecessors and successors. (Thanks to Ken King for spotting this o­ne)

FAT POSSUM: *Sixeyes has kind words and a load of legal downloads from the label that is home not o­nly to bluesy indie-rock from the Black Keys and Heartless Bastards, but alo the garage of Thee Shams and the full-on blues of R.L. Burnside and Furry Lewis.

NEKO CASE and the Sadies' guitarists Dallas and Travis Good are interviewed about their brand of country music, as well as technical stuff in Guitar Player magazine.

ROCK FOR AGES: The Arizona Republic has theories o­n why some acts have longevity and others don't.

BOB GELDOF called o­n pop artist Peter Blake to do a Sgt. Pepper's pastiche for limited edition Live8 DVDs. Wish I had thought of that...

ART BRUT: You can (and should) stream the band's recent set for WFMU (the band's first US radio set) especially the lovely "Emily Kane." Plenty of Jonathan Richman references are sprinkled throughout these new-wavey numbers (Pate fans will love the U2 pastiche that pops up in "My Little Brother"), and bafflement by the band that we in the States know the lyrics when they don't have their record out here. (Love them Internets!)

PAUL WELLER: The former Jam frontman is to be honored for his outstanding contribution to music at next year's Brit Awards. He is undoubtedly thrilled to be following past awardees like Duran Duran.

PETE DOHERTY-KATE MOSS UPDATE: The troubled singer has reportedly checked into the same Arizona rehab clinic that just finished hosting the shamed supermodel.

LAURA VEIRS talks to The Stranger about working with a theme.

TAPES 'N' TAPES: This band from the Twin Cities cites Wire, Beach Boys, Pavement, Replacements, Pixies, Flaming Lips, Talking Heads, Television, Morris Day, and Lars Eric Mattsson as influences. YANP can hook you up with legal MP3s, or you can stream a few from MySpace. If you check out "Cowbell," you may end up with a fever... and the o­nly cure is... more cowbell!

TOP TEN EPs: Nice to see the format get some love, but someone at Stylus needs a history lesson -- these are all pretty recent.

RYAN ADAMS' upcoming album, 29, is streaming at Scenestars.

ON THE PITCHFORK: Interviews with Broken Social Scene and Sonic Youth's Lee Renaldo.

MORRISSEY answers his fan mail. The man has a way with words.

SUPER FURRY ANIMALS turned down two million bucks for the use of "Hello Sunshine" in a Coca-Cola ad.

CULT OF THE iPod: Apple Computer's iTunes music store now sells more music than Tower Records or Borders, according to analyst firm the NPD Group.

SONY CD COPY-PROTECTION DEBACLE CONTINUES: The Electronic Frontier Foundation, along with two leading national class action law firms, have filed a lawsuit against Sony in Los Angeles County Superior court. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has also filed suit.

BRADGELINA UPDATE: Pitt and Jolie make their first public appearance. Jolie says that motherhood was "the luckiest thing that ever happened to me." Using o­ne's wealth to jet off to various third-world countries to pick up orphans is an odd definition of luck, but whatever. Meanwhile, Pitt and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) battle over alpha-maledom.

ROGER DALTREY: The Who vocalist is talkin' 'bout his g-g-generation: "It's always frustrated me — rock 'n' roll and its statement about youth. Old age has its own problems, and it'd be great for Townshend to put those words into music." He also talks about contemporary bands.

BRITNEY SPEARS may be headed to Broadway, in hopes of getting a job for Cletus and hanging o­n to some of her own money.

FERGIE of Black Eyed Peas claims she hasn't had any work done. Yeah, right.

MADONNA is reaching a new low in trashy hooker fashion. Hubby Guy Ritchie is attempting to distance himself from Kabbalah, thinking it has done him no favors professionally. He's right, though most people don't pick a religion for career reasons -- not even Tom Cruise.

JASON SCHWARTZMAN (Rushmore, I <3 Huckabees, Shopgirl) is not o­nly pals with rocker Ben Lee, he toured Australia in 2002 as the drummer for Phantom Planet.

KIERA KNIGHTLEY: Pride and Prejudice opens wider o­n Wednesday, but her cover feature for Vogue is all about The Wizard of Oz.

HAROLD RAMIS also has a movie opening Wednesday. The Ice Harvest is doing well o­n a small sample of reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, but is it really among the most anticipated of the holiday film season?

CATHERINE ZETA-JONES reportedly demanded she be flown to a recent awards bash by private jet so that she and hubby Michael Douglas could smoke. A source was quoted by Britain's Mail o­n Sunday newspaper as saying: "She's quite a nervous flyer and it's the o­ne luxury she indulges in." Yeeeaahh... CZ-J and Michael Douglas are living the life of the Amish the rest of the year.

JOSS STONE is despondent over breaking up with boyfriend and music producer Beau Dozier (son of famed Motown hitmaker Lamont Dozier).

JESSICA SIMPSON and hubby Nick Lachey probably are not looking forward to reading any story involving Lachey, a porn star, her two friends, whipped cream and marital aids. Actually, "marital aids" would not be the right euphemism in this context.

IRAQ: Bill Roggio reports o­n the launch of Operation Bruins in northern Ramadi. This appears to be a cordon-and-search operation, with the US hoping that bringing in Iraqi troops and pairing them off with U.S. units can avoid ful scal operations like those launched in Tal Afar. In the Christian Science Monitor, Jill Carroll reports o­n efforts to keep insurgents from returning to towns cleared in Operation Steel Curtain. In a sidebar, Carroll also reports o­n the dilemma of being the o­nly person o­n a US patrol who spoke Arabic.

NBC's CHRIS MATTHEWS tells political science students at the University of Toronto that in the war, "If we stop trying to figure out the other side, we've given up. The person o­n the other side is not evil -- they just have a different perspective." If it will help Matthews figure out who the other side is, they are people who hack the heads off of journalists like Danny Pearl and other hostages. They hijack airplanes and fly them into skyscrapers. They are beings like Zarqawi -- a man renounced by his own family, but whom Matthews aparently feels is simply misunderstood.

THE NETHERLANDS: Islamist murders and threats have transformed the o­nce-tolerant nation into a place of armed bodyguards and fear. At Leiden University law school, professor Afshin Ellian, an Iranian refugee who has called for reform of Islam, notes: "It is not special in terms of Islam -- in Iran, it is normal to kill people who criticise Islam, as in Egypt and Iraq. It is legitimised by Islamic political theology, which says it is all right to kill someone if they are an enemy of Allah. But this is happening in Europe." Obviously, Chris Matthews must go to the Netherlands to tell eveyone how misunderstood the Islamists are.

MUSLIM LEADERS UNITE AGAINST TERROR: Islamic religious leaders in Indonesia have agreed for the first time to work with the government to combat the recruitment of militants, a move that marks a bolder approach by Islamic groups toward terrorism. Clearly, these Muslim scholars and groups have not heard Chris Matthews.

PANDAS have a new champion in Nicole Kidman, after seeing the National Zoo's new arrival Tai Shan in Washington DC.

TURKEYS bound for Thanksgiving tables fled a truck Friday o­n the New Jersey Turnpike. "I think we should be investigating this as an escape attempt," said Joseph Orlando, a spokesman for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.

KANGAROO may be renamed to encourage people to see them as tasty, rather than cute and cuddly.

SHEEP: In Norway, they eat the heads. A reason to be thankful as you dig into your headless turkey o­n Thursday.

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Rumble Strips, Link Wray, Gary Glitter (Hey!) and Coyotes   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Monday, November 21, 2005 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade


WALK THE LINE was pretty darn good. Perhaps not as compelling as Ray, or perhaps it had been so long since there had been a picture like Ray that it simply made a bigger impression. The PR about Phoenix and Witherspoon learning to sing and play was largely justified. Phoenix often sounds and occasionally looks like Cash; Witherspoon's voice will never be mistaken for June Carter Cash, but she captures some of her spirit and does not embarass herself. Indeed, while it is the love story that sets this picture apart from Ray, the performance pieces (which also include portrayals of Roy Orbison, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc. o­n tour) sustain at least the first half of the movie. Where Ray tended to focus o­n Ray Charles' recording career, Walk the Line focuses o­n Cash's life o­n the road and the degree to which it allowed his demons to express themselves -- both for ill and later for good (as in the gripping retelling of the Folsom Prison gig). One notable exception is Cash's audition for Sam Phillips at Sun Records, in which Phoenix is remarkable. The focus on touring works not only because it serves the love story, but also because it sharpens the contrast between the lifestyle of the popular musician and the rather stoic character of Cash, to some degree Carter and definitely their families. That stoicism occasionally makes the story seem less dramatic than that of Ray Charles, but it makes Phoenix's performance in particular all the more arresting in the moments when you can see the madness swirling behind that stoic facade.

HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE ruled the weekend box office, raking in an estimated 101 million bucks, with Walk The Line a distant but otherwise respectible second and Pride and Prejudice in the ten spot, despite playing o­n o­nly 221 screens. And the great thing about the Internet is that when French actress Clémence Poésy is cast as Fleur Delacour in Goblet of Fire, someone like Tyler Durden posts two clips of her topless in the French movie Bienvenue chez les Rozes.

THE TOP 40 BANDS IN AMERICA TODAY: When I pointed y'all toward the Information Leafblower list last week, I should have added that many of the bloggers polled have posted the lists they submitted for the poll, including David at Largehearted Boy and Frank at Chromewaves. Plus, there are reax to the list at DCist and the Nashville Scene blog.

RUMBLE STRIPS: Stereogum thinks this will be the next British hype band. I prefer the Arctic Monkeys, but Rumble Strips are a pleasant enough slice of soul-inflected British pop (the Stereogum post has a quote mentioning Specials-esque old school brass). Links to a video and legal MP3s at the link.

WILCO: Kicking Television: Live In Chicago is getting generally favorable reviews at Metacritic. The metascore is 79, though that's dragged down by a couple of negative reviews.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR: It's the season of the list. London's Guardian fears The Arcade Fire gets no respect.

U2 guitarist The Edge and producer Bob Ezrin are setting up a charity foundation to provide instruments to musicians affected by the Gulf Coast hurricanes.

PHIL SPECTOR plans to wed -- if he beats the murder charges hanging over him.

GARY GLITTER has been arrested in Vietnam, where police want to question him about alleged child sex offenses. UK officials have visited Glitter in custody. He was stopped at Ho Chi Minh City airport o­n Saturday by an official who recognised him from media coverage. He does tend to stand out in a crowd. When the officials visited, do you think they shouted, "Hey?"

CARLY SIMON insists neither Mick Jagger nor Warren Beatty is the elusive person behind the 30-year-old classic "You're So Vain," but won't say who it is about. Which is just as well, as I don't need the press.

NEW MUSIC ONLINE: PC World (of all places) points you to "Great Online Sources for Finding New Music."

SONY CD PROTECTION: Information Week thinks the corporate giant was brought low by bloggers.

MY MORNING JACKET bassist Two-tone Tommy tells The Pitch how the band ended up in Elizabethtown.

LINK WRAY, o­ne of Guitar World's 100 greatest guitarists of all time -- the inventor of the power chord -- has passed at 76. Pete Townsend of the Who, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Steve Van Zandt and Bruce Springsteen have been quoted as saying that Wray and his biggest hit, "Rumble," inspired them to become musicians.

XTINA AGUILERA apparently got married over the weekend; just don't ask any of the guests, who were required to sign a three-page confidentiality agreement.

MADONNA: A little-known Belgian songwriter won a plagiarism case against Madge o­n Friday, leading a local court to ban the megastar's song "Frozen" (from Ray of Light) from sale or broadcast in the country. Meanwhile, ABBA will make millions from the sample of "Gimme Gimme Gimme" used o­n her new single, "Hung Up." And it seems that the allegedly not-so-material girl is making all sorts of diva demands for gigs, even charity gigs.

JESSICA SIMPSON has been dumped by her publicist. So, how's the marriage?

BRITTANY MURPHY denies jumping a waiter in a stairwell while riding the horse.

COURTNEY LOVE started working o­n a new album in rehab.

KANYE WEST hates gay people. But he's working o­n it.

VAUGHNISTON: Aniston and Vaughn's comedy, The Breakup is apparently considered good enough to be rescheduled for June 2006.

FESTIVUS: Lisa Loeb and Jerry Stiller were to sing Festivus carols to promote a new book o­n the Seinfeldian holiday, co-written by Stiller and Loeb's boyfriend. But Loeb's new reality show will have her dating other people, which should provide fodder for the airing of grievances.

THE FRENCH HOTEL is being ordered to lose her "night monkey."

RUSSELL CROWE pleads guilty to assualt with a cellphone, is sentenced to a year of conditional discharge. Never saw that coming.


THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: Ain't-It-Cool-News reports good buzz from the first public screening of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. The BBC has a nice backgrounder o­n the enduring appeal of the book.

PETE DOHERTY-KATE MOSS UPDATE: Shamed supermodel Moss is backed by French fashion house Longchamp, which unveiled her as the face of its 2006 advertising campaigns. Moss has also been tapped to record a new version of "Fairytale of New York" with Shane MacGowan to benefit a group investigating the untimely death of Kristy MacColl, who did the original duet with Shane and the Pogues. Meanwhile, Dior designer Hedi Slimane has shelved a book of photos he made with the former Libertines singer. The Babyshambles album is getting a mere 56 at Metacritic. And Doherty's former manager is being obscured in the band's latest video, supposedly at the behest of Rough Trade.

IRAQ: Operation Steel Curtain continues in Rammanah, "a rural, agricultural region with dozens of small villages." Military officers tell Sens. John Warner, Carl Levin and Mark Dayton that they not o­nly needed more manpower but also had repeatedly asked for it. StrategyPage reports that US troops are developing a hate-hate relationship with journalists.

IS ZARQAWI DEAD? The Elaph Arab media website reported o­n Sunday that Zarqawi may have been killed in a gunfight in Mosul. The White House said Sunday that it was "highly unlikely" that Zarqawi was among the dead. Either way, Zarqawi's family has renounced him. That's some "hearts and minds" op the Z-man has going.

IRAN has a blueprint showing how to build the core of a nuclear warhead, obtained via the black market in nuclear technology headed by the disgraced Pakistani scientist, A.Q. Khan.

FRENCH RIOTS: Some experts and authorities fear the social discontent that found an outlet in the rampaging could evolve among a small minority of the rioters into a dangerous form of Islamic militancy. The AP continues its general line by noting that "Almost no o­ne believes radical Islam was a trigger for the rioting that began three weeks ago." And it may not have been the trigger. But the mutual desire for isolation among many in the Muslim and non-Muslim areas of France cannot be ignored.

JAPANESE STORK gets a beak job.

COYOTES invade the town where I grew up. o­ne is spotted near the IKEA store in Schaumburg -- obviously tired of the low quality of Acme products.

SPARROW UPDATE: The Dutch topple 4,155,476 dominoes, without killing any more sparrows. Video at the link.

TWIN CITIES DEER are breeding like rabbits. Recently, a big buck broke several windows at the state Capitol before bounding just a few feet away from Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his startled security detail.

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The Magic Numbers, Drive-By Truckers, Venomous Lizards and a Lemur   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Friday, November 18, 2005 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: kbade



HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE is still doing quite well on the ol' Tomatometer, but what did I think of it, and can I make it spoiler-free? (Yes, yes, hit the midnight show, sacrificing the obviously needed beauty sleep to fully service the Pate community.) Many of the reviews call this one the best yet. I'm inclined to disagree, because: (a) the first one had a great, tart sensibility I hadn't seen in a "family" film since Willy Wonka; and (b) even as someone who has not read the books (for shame!), I could tell that the proceedings here were being streamlined and condensed considerably, or Steve Kloves' screenplay wouldn't be quite so abrupt in spots. Nevertheless, this may be my second-favorite and I quite liked Prisoner of Azkaban. Given the constant (and increasing) problem for the series of trying to be complete enough for the fans of the books within even 2 1/2 hours, I thought it balanced the action set pieces and darker revelations against the the comic wizards-coming-of-age material fairly well, though I think the ultimate mystery was given away a bit early. GoF also points toward some of the larger themes that I presume are fleshed out in the later books (I may not read the books, but I do read about them.) Certainly, Dumbledore's speeches, both to the Hogwarts student body and to Harry at the conclusion are metaphorically timely. And I definitiely enjoyed it enough that I won't be regretting it as I'm slumped at my desk a few short hours from now.

WALK THE LINE: I'll be seeing the Johnny and June Carter Cash biopic this weekend and report o­n Monday. In the meantime, I have to say my all-time favorite book is Johnny Cash's autobiography "Cash" by Johnny Cash.

FRIDAY TIMEWASTER: Spot the Fake Smile. Can you tell the undisputed truth?

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE co-founder Brendan Canning thinks the band is a source of Canadian pride: "People are a bit tired of bigger different artists (who) I don't want to name being ambassadors for our country."

A COMPUTER PROGRAM THAT PICKS HITS has been developed by two Massachusetts Institute of Technology Ph.D. grads. The response is so specific at times that it can forecast how a single will perform o­n the charts and spit out a review, guessing what words will be used to describe it: "My instructor was Mr. Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you'd like to hear it I can sing it for you."

THE MAGIC NUMBERS and FEIST get better reviews as opening acts than headliner Bright Eyes in the Louisville Courier-Journal. ALSO: Brooklyn Vegan links you to The Magic Numbers streams and (killing music) MP3s.

THE ROLLING STONES, cranked o­n crumpets and baked beans, turned it up to eleven in San Francisco, much to the annoyance of the usually laid-back bay locals. One angry resident, Ted Weinstein, complained: "Just because they're too old to hear their music doesn't mean it has to be so loud."

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS' Jason Isbell talks to Creative Loafing about being the new kid.

INDIE GONE MERSH: Scott at Stereogum posts about commercial artistry. He has a link to the Coca-Cola sponsored movie scored by The Flaming Lips, but it may be easier to see the robot-laden video at them5.com The site also has a short film scored with Guided by Voices' "Back to the Lake."

THE UK MUSIC HALL OF FAME induction ceremony brought out the legends, with Prime Minister Tony Blair lauding the Eurhythmics, Pink and Floyd still sniping at each other and Black Sabbath stealing the show.

SONY COPY-PROTECTION DEBACLE: Boing-Boing rounds up the coverage to keep us up to speed o­n the story of Sony's dangerous rootkit. It looks like some heads will roll in the aftermath.

BONO spent ,700 to have his hat flown to him in Italy - first class. This is just o­ne of the "top 50 rock extravaganzas" compiled for Blender magazine. "We love pop stars at this magazine, but it is clear that in many ways they are complete idiots," said Clark Collis, a senior writer at Blender.

GARY GLITTER: Vietnamese authorities are searching for the former British rock star over his alleged relationship with a Vietnamese teenager. Glitter was convicted in Britain in 1999 of possessing child pornography and was expelled from Cambodia in 2002 for unspecified reasons.

TOM-KAT UPDATE: The Malcontent has posted a clip from South Park's "Trapped In The Closet" episode. E! gossip chief Ted Casablanca hears that Cruise and Holmes are not getting married any second now, but Perez Hilton hears they are.

JOHN MALKOVICH has vowed to stay away from stage acting until his children have grown up.

RYAN SEACREST and CNN's ANDERSON COOPER check out the size of eack other's... neckties.

GEOFFREY FEIGER, the high-profile attorney for clients like Dr. Jack Kevorkian and brother to Doug Feiger of The Knack, is under investigation for allegedly attempting to blackmail Michigan state Attorney General Mike Cox.

TARA REID: While early reports had the party girl behaving herself under the watchful eye of her mother at her 30th birthday party, the New York Daily News now reports that she was drinking straight from magnums of Champagne and had to be carried out of the bar by her friends at 4 a.m. Now that's the Tara we all know!

XTINA AGUILERA and her fiance Jordan Bratman are to wed this weekend in a secret ceremony. It's so secret that we know who designed her dress and those of the bridesmaids.

MARK McGRATH of Sugar Ray lands Pam Anderson and still gets no respect. Ouch.

BRITTANY MURPHY has been a very bad girl. Bad enough to get dumped by her agent and her manager for unspecified "personal" reasons. And in Hollywood, that's saying something.

CLARE DANES and JASON SCHWRTZMAN had to get tanked before kissing in Shopgirl.

MICHA BARTON had a wardrobe malfunction o­n The O.C. this week. So of course it's on iFilm already.

JESSICA SIMPSON planned a blow-out 32nd birthday bash for hubby Nick Lachey because she wanted to "show Nick how much she loves him and wants to make things work between them," a source tells Life & Style Weekly. Lachey reportedly told her, "Do what you want, but leave me out of it."

BRITNEY SPEARS was told by her psychic that that she probably would be pregnant again by early next year. Which would explain why the pop tart has reportedly already seen a divorce lawyer.

DENNIS RODMAN will play two games in Iowa with the Cedar Valley Jaguars of the International Basketball League.

BLACK FRIDAY: The holiday shopping season officially kicks into gear a week from now, but you can see what sales the stores are planning now.

OSAMA bin LADEN wants the US to convert to Islam, ditch its constitution, abolish banks, jail homosexuals, ban alcohol, gambling and women's photos in newspapers or advertising and... sign the Kyoto climate change treaty.

IRAQ: Bill Roggio looks at Operation Panther, which seeks to capitalize o­n three key al Qaeda in Iraq insurgents captured in Ramadi. US troops' discovery of 173 mostly Sunni Arab men beaten and malnourished in a secret Interior Ministry jail has sent a jolt of optimism through Baghdad's disaffected Sunni minority. Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) made headlines by calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops because he's seen as a "hawk." But Murtha called the war "unwinnable" a year and a half ago. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a frequent critic of the conduct of the war, disagrees with proposals to withdraw, to put it mildly. A CBS News producer tells Marines that he agrees that the coverage of Iraq is unbalanced, is amazed that there aren't more hero stories coming out of the war and that he was outraged by a recent 60 Minutes piece about the o­nce-deadly road to the Baghdad airport which the military has since secured. I confidently predict that CBS News' overall coverage will not change whatsoever.

SENS. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA) and TOM HARKIN (D-IA) got caught trying to get public buildings named after themselves.

AUSSIE LIZARD has classic rattlesnake venom, scientists report in the journal Nature.

SPARROW UPDATE: The story of a sparrow shot after knocking over 23,000 dominoes laid out for an attempted world record continues to get weirder. Not o­nly has a website been set up to commemorate the "Domino D-Day sparrow," but the site was also hacked by pranksters who put porn o­n the site.

ROADKILL including two deer, a coyote and a possum, were sneaked into a fraternity house at Ball State.

LISBON LEMUR limits locomotive line.

BUCK the DOG is rescued from a 70-foot sinkhole after being trapped for 16 days.

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