AS SOME OF YOU KNOW, I decorate more than one Christmas tree each season. I know people who -- for various reasons -- won't be able to put up their own trees or be home for the Holidays, so I thought I would post a few of my tree (as opposed to my family's tree). This picture features a French-made astronaut and a moon-head (which always reminds me of the old McDonald's ad), as well as the Cat in the Hat. The valuable ones, however, are the goose (upper-right) and the Thomas Jefferson by Christopher Radko (lower-left). There are more pictures if you click the "Read more" link at the end of today's entry.
25,000 CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, computer-synched to music by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, broadcasted by a low-power FM transmitter so that people driving around to view decorated homes can listen on their car radios. There's video -- with the music -- at the link. (Thanks, Debbie!)
BONO and THE GATESES may be Time magazine's Persons of the Year, but Paul Theroux, an author who knows Africa pretty well, is not a fan of any of them: "There are probably more annoying things than being hectored about African development by a wealthy Irish rock star in a cowboy hat, but I can't think of one at the moment." And then he gets critical.
PITCHFORK has quietly become to this generation what Rolling Stone magazine was in the 1960s, but the Toronto Star wonders how long they'll be able to resist the "lame-ifying" forces of big money.
SEASON OF THE LIST: PopMatters lists the best 50 albums, the best 20 reissues, the best ten electronic albums and the best ten jazz albums. There's a Top 50 Singles list on the Pitchfork. The Underrated blog has its "Top 25 (er 28) Songs of 2005." There's a Top 20 list from Questionable Content. A Top 50 Albums countdown has started at Stylus. And there's one at Rolling Stone, too.
ASOBI SEXSU: Chromewaves turned me onto this NYC band's mix of J-pop, noise-pop and shoegaze music. You can stream a few from MySpace, or download their cover of "Merry Xmas, Baby (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight)," which sounds more like the Raveonettes with the female vocal.
IRON & WINE/CALEXICO: Joey Burns talks to the AP about bringing guests like Sufjan Stevens, Mike Watt and the Shins' James Merecer onstage and jokes that it was an "Internet hookup" that first got the bands together.
HEAVY METAL has gone to the dogs.
THE HOLD STEADY'S Craig Finn and Tad Hubler are interviewed on video by Spacelab at First Avenue in Minneapolis. And they talk about Minneapolis, too. Not to mention Cheap Trick and Triumph. Also, there are clips of the band playing.
CLEAR CHANNEL COMMUNICATIONS is staffed with geniuses who set up a concert, theatrical and sports portal at livenation.com without noticing that livenation.net is a hardcore p0rn site.
BILLY JOEL is movin' out of his pad in Miami.
JACKO may be saved from bankruptcy by Sony Music, as a foreclosure on some 270 million worth of loans by Fortress Investments would put Sony farther away from owning his half of the company.
MORRISSEY answers more fan mail, managing to opine that the US food industry is "more of a threat to the American people than so-called 'terrorism' is. Am I bleating on? ..." (Well, now that you mention it...) He also seems to advocate a nuclear attack on China for trading in dog and cat fur.
PETE DOHERTY-KATE MOSS UPDATE: The supposedly sober supermodel unveils a clean-cut image in a new TV ad for Virgin Mobile.
BRADGELINA UPDATE: I guess we can figure out whose side Madame Tussauds is taking... Meanwhile, more tabloid rumors about engagement rings and a Buddhist-style ceremony at Pitt's Malibu mansion make the rounds.
ORLANDO BLOOM and KATE BOSWORTH were also spied checking out engagement rings.
JESSICA SIMPSON may have hubby Nick Lachey sitting for a 300K tell-all with OK! magazine.
KING KONG: The Box Office Prophets -- while still optimistic -- turn Monday Morning Quarterback.
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN was mocked by Nathan Lane on NBC's Today show, lecturing the fictional gay cowboys: "You're in the middle of nowhere! Get a ranch with the guy! Stop torturing these two poor women and get a room! What's the problem?"
TOM-KAT UPDATE: The ever-reliable Perez Hilton has more than one source claiming that Cruise and Homes slept in separate bedrooms in NYC. Gawker analyzes People magazine's "Star Tracks."
SCIENTOLOGY: The L.A. Observed blog hooks you up to a bunch of L.A. Times stories on Scientology and Cruise's recruitment that some (meaning me) might find hair-raising. ALSO: Lisa Marie Presley, Priscilla Presley, Danny Masterson, Giovanni Ribisi, Leah Remini, Jenna Elfman, Catherine Bell and Marisol Nichols attended the grand opening of a new state of the art museum -- Psychiatry an Industry of Death.
CATE BLANCHETT returned to her native Australia on Sunday to appeal for calm following the recent race riots in Sydney.
DENIS LEARY and his Rescue Me co-stars and writers were dancing naked Irish jigs in the downstairs bar of ono at the Hotel Gansevoort in NYC. Apparently, alcohol was involved.
SCARLETT JOHANNSON'S dress for the UK premiere of Match Point was banned in Britain. And E! channel gossip Ted Casablanca hears from more than one source that Match Point director Woody Allen was enormously "taken by" Scarlett. Enough so that Soon-Yi was dropping by the set.
NICOLE RICHIE loves the Skeletor diet.
ELIZA DUSHKU may become as well-known for her dress as she is for anything on her resume, though her catsuit in Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back isn't bad, either.
STACY'S MOM refuses alimony from Rod Stewart.
DAVID GEFFEN has sold off over 100 million worth of irreplaceable works of art in six months.
DARYL HANNAH may have Lyme disease.
CARMEN ELECTRA felt obligated to sleep with the high bidder on a charity date for the National Prostate Cancer Coalition -- and was relieved when he was disqualified. The bidder might also be relieved... if he ever heard the penne pasta story.
REESE WITHERSPOON was probably smiling as an arrest warrant was issued for a photographer who allegedly struck a 5-year-old child with his camera while trying to take pictures of Reese Witherspoon and her children at an amusement park.
IRAQ: The residents of Tal Afar now cheer US troops. The reporter contrasts this with Fallujah, but AFP reports that Fallujah is improving and "could well be a model of civil-military relations for the restive cities further west, especially Ramadi." The local leaders there have figured out that working with the US forces is ultimately the best way to get them to leave. Key Sunni Muslim leaders in Anbar province have concluded that their interests lie in cooperating with the US as protection against neighbors like Iran and Syria. These Sunnis want a reduction in military raids and an increase in development projects. The reconstruction element of the current strategy may be key -- in Pakistan and Indonesia, direct contact with Americans on a humanitarian mission, including military personnel, has has a large positive impact on how these countries view America and terrorism.
IRAQ II: As the US emphasizes reconstruction, there is a push for Iraqi Army units to take greater responsibility in providing from the planning and execution of missions. Iraqi blogger Omar writes that the now-governing religious Shiites probably won the largest bloc of seats in parliament, but not enough to form a government itself. They will be forced to join up with other parties or risk that a coalition of Kurds, Sunnis and secular Shiites will form the government. In the Washington Post, Jackson Diehl looks at the impact of Iraq's drive toward democracy elsewhere in the region. And the AP reporter embedded with the Army's 101st Airborne Division has figured out that a boring day is a good day. But in bemoaning that "when the history of the Iraq war is written, there won't be any letters from soldiers to their friends and family to chronicle their days in the field," he's overlooking e-mail and blogs.
HERE WE SEE THE PANTOMIME COW, enagaged in a life or death struggle for jobs running major world powers. Or it could just be Madame Tussauds again.
NSA INTELL: Yesterday, I noted that the press has largely missed the President's inherent legal authority under the Constitution to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance. Today, let's take a detached look at the politics of the issue. Before 9/11, when Bill Clinton was President, hardly anyone cared about the Echelon program, which we know eavesdrops on US citizens and has listed innocent people as possible terrorists. But after 9/11, if George W. Bush wants to eavesdrop on phone numbers found in al Qaeda's rolodex, Rep. John Lewis and Sen. Barbara Boxer think it may be an impeachable offense? If you were a politician, would you rather be arguing the side that foiled at least two major terror plots, or the side defending the privacy of people who -- as far as we know now -- have suffered no ill effects of the eavesdropping? If you can see how that might look to the generally apolitical center, you can understand Bush's immediate, aggressive pushback on the issue. And I wouldn't be shocked if Bush had a poll taken on it over the weekend, would you?
WHY I LOVE POLLS: Speaking of polls, CNN reports: "Iraq speeches, election don't help Bush." ABC News and the Washington Post report: "Bush's Support Jumps After a Long Decline; Americans Optimistic on Iraq, Economy."
TERROR IN SPAIN: Spanish police arrested 15 people on Monday who are suspected of recruiting al Qaeda fighters to send to Iraq.
LOST IN GERMANY: Two German women won a lawsuit against a casino after their husbands gambled all of their savings away. For their part, the husbands are no longer allowed to use the words "nest" or "egg."
PANDA REUNION: Sure, it happened last month, but it's still cute now. Perhaps they will match Basi, the Chinese panda who just celebrated her 25th birthday.
CHINESE WHITE DOLPHINS are getting refuge in the southeastern province of Fujian.
GIANT SQUID: Trapped in a block of ice!
GOATS may chew Kudzu for the City of Chattanooga, TN.
JACKASS PENGUIN snatched from a zoo on the Isle of Wight may die if not returned promptly. And yes, "jackass" is s type of penguin -- it makes a braying sound.