[NOTE: If you're checking in for the first time this week, keep scrolling past today's entry for Fourth of July pics and notes of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement.]
THE POSIES ARE NOT THE SERVICE from Chicago, but the first few tracks on Every Kind of Light have a minor-key funkiness that the men from Pravda could easily embrace. And "Could He Treat You Better?" sounds like it might have been written for the Artist Currently Known as Prince. It's all nice, but for the Posies' first album of new stuff in seven years, I kept waiting for the patented Auer-Stringfellow harmonies and power pop. Fortunately, the aptly-named "Second Time Around" serves up the frosting on the beater and will certainly get your moptop shaking, as will the Who-and-Move inspired "I Finally Found A Jungle I Like!!!" There's also some Posie balladry with "Last Crawl" and "That Won't Fly" and the strong closer, "Sweethearts of Rodeo Drive" which tries on some alt.country folkadelica and Wilco ambience to good effect. You can stream clips at the Amazon link above and keep up with Posie news at the band's official site.
SUPER FURRY ANIMALS wouldn't mind being a stadium band, but turned down a seven-figure payday from Coca-Cola.
THE NEW PORNOGRAPHERS are envious of Broken Social Scene.
PAN FOR PUNKS: Because you've always secretly yearned to hear Ramones tunes played on steel drums.
SUFJAN STEVENS' ILLINOIS album has been recalled from its scheduled release today, defeated by the Man of Steel. Well, the Man of Steel's lawyers, really.
TWIN CITIES INDIE STORES fight for survival between downloaders and the Big Box stores. Some are collectivising, some are getting themselves on the web, some are realizing that what they have to offer is personality. The Music Works' Paul Miller use to live by the credo: "This isn't a record store, it's a hangout." I think that's probably more important for indies today.
SON VOLT: The New York Daily News covers the new album and the new version of the band.
BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB announces its upcoming tour dates, many in cities harboring Pate fans.
ALTERNATIVE PRESS editor-in-chief Jason Pettigrew talks about 20 years of breaking bands. Here's one to make you feel your age: "A lot of the young kids who read AP now and are going to the Warped Tour -- they're young enough where, to them, Green Day invented punk."
LEVI STUBBS' TEARS: Renaldo "Obie" Benson, a member of the legendary Motown singing group the Four Tops, has died of lung cancer at 69. Stubbs and Abdul "Duke" Fakir are the remaing Tops.
LUTHER VANDROSS died Friday at age 54. The hospital did not release the cause of death but said in a statement that Vandross "never really recovered from" a stroke two years ago.
LIVE 8: Madonna sought a dressing room near McCartney, but wanted to be as far away as possible from Mariah Carey. Can't say I blame her. The poverty-fighting celebs made off with goodie bags containing thousands in swag. Many skipped TV to watch the Live 8 concerts online, thereby avoiding having the music interrupted so that some D-List reality TV celeb could interview drunks in the crowd. Album sales for Live 8 artists skyrocketed in the UK, with a Pink Floyd collection increasing 13-fold. The exception was the Libertines, who apparently suffered from former singer Pete Doherty's shamobolic cameo with Elton John. Doherty arrived late and apparently high on drugs. And if you're a regular reader of this space, you knew exactly what to expect from Doherty.
THE G8 SUMMIT: Bloggers of varying politics are going with Bono, U2 and others to the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. John Avarosis does a little photoblogging of the group's arrival in Edinburgh, as well as the protest in which he got detained. Charmaine Yoest questions Virgin mogul Richard Branson, finding that he and others with the onE campaign think the issue of corruption in African governments to be peripheral. Bob Geldof talked a good game on the issue in his open letter to the G8 leaders: "Let it be equally clear – at the same time, African governments must be free from corruption and thuggery and put in place recognised practices of good governance, accountability and transparency towards their own people and to the world." But if it's just talk, criticism like that of Simon Jenkins in the Sunday Times or the much funnier Mark Steyn in the Telegraph (starting with the late Linda McCartney and ending with Pete Townshend) will cut much deeper with people who aren't keen to have their tax dollars wind up in the pockets of tinhorn dictators.
THE G8, PART II: one of the great things about the internet is the ease with which media coverage of a story can be compared. For example, U.S. policy at the G8 and toward Africa in general. London's Guardian runs a story headlined, "Bush says: I put US interests first," with the lede: "George Bush sounds a warning today to those hoping for a significant deal on Africa and climate change at Wednesday's G8 summit, making clear that when he arrives at Gleneagles he will dedicate his efforts to putting America's interests first." London's Times runs with the headline "I'll drop farming subsidies if EU does the same, says Bush." A senior source close to the British G8 negotiating team last night welcomed Mr Bush’s comments, saying he had delivered a "major challenge to the European Union." And the Associated Press headlines that, "On Africa, Bush Is Very Much the Activist," though the writer can't help but note that it's a "surprise" to "many." The AP adds that, "Generosity toward the less fortunate in Africa appears to play well among some important domestic constituencies; it is particularly welcomed by some conservative Christian allies of the president." I'm sure that's also a "surprise" to "many." And while President Bush heads for Scotland with the lowest approval numbers of his presidency, he will not be ribbed by French President Jacques Chirac, whose approval number has sunk to 21 percent.
IDENTITY THEFT strikes Deborah Platt Majoras, the chair of the Federal Trade Commission, which is responsible for policing it.
CISCO, sadly, seems to be supplying Chinese law enforcement with censorship and surveillance technology.
TOM CRUISE/WAR OF THE WORLDS UPDATE: Brooke Shields fired back at Cruise after the actor criticized her for having revealed she had taken an antidepressant to cope with post-natal depression, calling his comments "a disservice to mothers everywhere" in an opinion column for The New York Times. Singer Rob Thomas has reportedly denied a rumor linking him to Cruise, adding that he was more offended by them saying "he's a Scientologist." War of the Worlds made an estimated 113.3 million for the six days since its Wednesday release, but don't let Reuters sell you spin about it erasing speculation that Cruise's antics could hurt the movie at the box office. WotW did score the second-higest July 4th weekend opening ever but it drops to fifth among all four-day numbers and to thirteenth on the six-day opening list.
WORSE FOR REUTERS than being taken in by some spin from Camp Cruise, a story on prospective candidates for the 2008 presidential race reports that "Chief among (Governors thinking about running) is actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger, which will come as some surprise to anyone who can read the U.S. Constitution, which currently bars him and others not born here from the office.
YOUR TAX DOLLARS: States spend nearly a quarter of a billion dollars a year on remedial writing instruction for their employees, according to a new report that says the indirect costs of sloppy writing probably hurt taxpayers even more.
SCHOOL DRESS CODES are being considered... for teachers.
BRADGELINA UPDATE: A UK tabloid reports a rumor that Jolie is three months pregnant. And that Jennifer Aniston -- the current Mrs. Pitt -- is devastated over it. When Pitt and Jolie showed up for Live 8, Jolie took a moment to deny the rumor. Pitt's brother, OTOH, has reportedly confirmed it to an Aussie mag.
GARFLECK UPDATE: Us Weekly reports that last Friday Affleck had what passed for a "bachelor party." How wild was it? At one point, his Chasing Amy co-star Jason Mewes went out to Starbucks for five iced coffee Ventis! But if anyone can make iced coffee exciting, it would be Mewes.
JESSICA ALBA punched a shark on the nose when it got too close while filming Into The Blue. Unfortunately, no one took a picture of that, so we have to make do with a picture of Ms. Alba just standing around in her bikini.
IRAQ: Iraqi deaths from insurgent attacks fell sharply in June, though this story is apparently under a press blackout in the United States. American troops on the Syrian border enjoyed a "red on red" battle between foreign al Qaeda fighters and Iraqi insurgents. Sunnis in Husaybah apparently did not take well to al Qaeda taking over main buildings in the city: "We thought they were patriotic. Now we discovered that they are sick and crazy. They interfered in everything, even how we raise our children. They turned the city into hell, and we cannot live in it anymore."
IRAQ AND PUBLIC OPINION: A CNN/USA Today/Gallup instant-reaction poll showed that President Bush apparently persuaded many viewers of his speech last Tuesday night to be more optimistic about the war in Iraq. However, this appears to be primarily a shoring up of GOP support, as the viewership of the speech skewed Republican. Democratic pollster Mark Blumenthal links to two papers by academic experts on public opinion during wartime that are now helping Bush craft his message. Also, it would appear that the Administration retains support among the "NASCAR Dads" that were much-discussed during the 2004 campaign; Defense Secretary Rumsfeld got a standing ovation at the Pepsi 400. Former Florida football coach Steve Spurrier elicited only polite applause from the same crowd.
THE TOP 25 UNANSWERED SCIENCE QUESTIONS have been compiled for the special 125th-anniversary issue of the academic journal Science.
NANOTECH: The Foresight Nanotech Institute is publishing a weekly news digest. And coming off I-Day weekend, Howard Lovy posts some quotes from Richard Feynman on freedom.
A NEW LEONARDO da VINCI DRAWING has been discovered under the surface of the "Virgin of the Rocks" painting which hangs at the National Gallery in London.
CULT OF THE iPod: Apple has announced that iTunes customers have subscribed to more than one million podcasts in just two days. KCRW podcast subscriptions exploded from 3,500 a day to 100,000. KCRW-FM General Manager Ruth Seymour anticipates the station may raise an additional million a year from podcasting, a big potential shot in the arm for its ten million dollar annual budget. The New York Times notes in its Business section that Big Media and Big Business are looking to jump on the podcasting bandwagon. ITunes' podcasting directory is also carrying videoblogs. And two New York teenagers were charged yesterday with murdering a 15-year-old boy for an iPod, the first fatality in a rising tide of similar attacks.
DOWNLOADING: British record labels and online music services are the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society and the Performing Right Society to a copyright tribunal because they think composers, songwriters and publishers are demanding too much in royalties. As the world moves more to the online model, there will be less and less need for record labels, so this seems very misguided on their part (the online stores are a different matter). U.S. labels are also fumbling around for a decent approach to downloading issues.
MYSPACE: The Seattle Times notes that more than 2,500 bands within 10 miles of downtown Seattle are on the music-oriented networking site, ranging from signed bands the Blood Brothers, Postal Service, the Shins and Vendetta Red, to local club stars Crystal Skulls, Blue Scholars, the Lights and Gatsby's American Dream, to total unknowns. So why couldn't they provide some direct links in the story?
TERRORISM AND ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: The Associated Press is running a series on the many pipelines in Central and South America, Mexico and Canada that have illegally channeled thousands of people into the United States from countries identified by the U.S. government as sponsors or supporters of terrorism. Part two of the series covers the U.S. "catch and release" policy for such illegal immigrants.
OUTREACH TO MUSLIM GROUPS A MESS: A national FBI project to improve ties between the Islamic and law-enforcement communities is approaching organizations that have issued incendiary statements against the U.S. Among the groups participating is the Muslim Public Affairs Council — an organization whose members have claimed Israel was to blame for 9/11, have opposed freezing the assets of Islamic charities linked to terrorism and have denounced several FBI arrests of suspected terrorists. Michael Rollins, the FBI's point man on the project, admitted that some groups involved are potentially objectionable, but added that if the program gets off the ground, "the FBI will have veto power over who participates."
FRANCE: On one hand, it's nice to know that despite differences over Iraq, France is working closely with the CIA im watching the transnational movement of terrorist suspects and developing operations to catch or spy on them. On the other hand, we probably shouldn't know about it.
NBC ANCHOR BRIAN WILLIAMS seems to have learned that it's probably not a good idea to compare George Washington to a terrorist, especially for the Independence Day weekend.
A TOP AL QAEDA FIGURE was offed by the Saudis in a dawn raid on Sunday, but experts warn the kingdom still faces a surge in attacks. Perhaps Saudis will stop funding terror groups if this continues.
KOSOVO: At least three blasts rocked the center of Kosovo's capital on Saturday, and one targeted the U.N. mission headquarters. So where's our timetable for withdrawal?
PRISON DEATHS: A federal judge said last Thursday that he will appoint an independent authority to oversee the health care system in California's prisons, so plagued with problems that inmates die of neglect or maltreatment at the rate of one a week.
DEMOCRATIC DIAGNOSIS: Armed Liberal begins with a takedown of law professor Brian Leiter, but also has some provocative analysis of Democratic fortunes, culminating with a picture worth a thousand words. The Washington Post runs a lengthy profile of DNC Chairman Howard Dean, written by Sally Jenkins, who normally covers sports.
SURF'S UP INLAND, thanks to artificial reefs that can produce breaking waves with different characteristics.
DOGS: Sam, a 14-year-old pedigreed Chinese crested, recently won the Sonoma-Marin Fair's World's Ugliest Dog Contest for the third consecutive year.
FIRE ANTS have learned to clone themselves.
KILLER COW UPDATE: Nigerian police have released a cow which they had arrested after it trampled a bus driver to death, but have charged the animal's owner with criminal negligence.
ALLIGATOR ATTACKS NORTH CAROLINA MAN while the man was swimming in a lake Sunday afternoon. I don't really care what the Five Man Electrical Band has to say about it, if there's a sign saying there are alligators in the lake, don't swim.
GREAT WHITE BUFFALO: Native Americans celebrate the birth of a white buffalo calf, which is to many what the coming of the Messiah would be to Christians. There's a picture of the calf with its non-white mother, who got an upgrade from "cow No. 9" to "Spirit Mother." Unless you're a Beatlemaniac, in which case being number nine would carry its own cache.
SINGING SEALS: An Australian researcher claims that males of two seal species in Antarctica woo potential mates by singing complex melodies. Lone leopard seals are like opera singers; Weddell seals prefer jazz.
A RUN-IN WITH A RAT has political fallout for a French Mayor.
SNAKES prefer the indoors when summer hits Amsterdam. That whole "Royale with Cheese" thing is looking less palatable at the moment.