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Beatnix, Zep, Stu Murdoch, Smithereens, Movies, Pig Spleens   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Thursday, December 27, 2007 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: Karl


THE BEATNIX play "Stairway To Heaven."  This is today's must-click selection.

LED ZEPPELIN:  Speaking of which, Captain's Dead has the reunion concert, which you can jukebox via the ol' HM.  Not great quality, but alright.

SHOUT OUT LOUDS did a chat and mini-set at the World Cafe you can stream via NPR.

BEST of 2007:  At I Am Fuel..., Heather Browne is streaming tracks from her fave albums, which she'll be discussing at the World Cafe on New Year's Day.  New York magazine's Vulture blog has posted Pitchfork's Top 100 Tracks as a Pie Chart.  The Rawking Refuses To Stop has posted the Best (and the Rest) of the Songs of 2007, which you can jukebox via the ol' HM.

BRIAN WILSON talked with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about being awarded one of this year's Kennedy Center Honors (telecast last night on CBS), favorite songs, meeting great people, etc.

BELLE & SEBASTIAN frontman Stu Murdoch has been scoring a movie titled God Help The Girl; you can stream a few songs from the soundtrack via the film's page on MySpace.  (Thx, Chromewaves.)

THE CAPSTAN SHAFTS:  Lo-fi, melancholic pop rocker Dean Wells is profiled in Crawdaddy! (Thanks, LHB.)  You can stream a few tracks online, too.

WILCO play "What Light" and "Impossible Germany" from Sky Blue Sky in their loft, because we did not have Twofer Tuesday yet this week.

SUFJAN STEVENS talked to the Sydney Morning Herald about being a youngest child, trying to control his output, and the effect of technology on humanity, among other things.  Yopu can watch him play and talk literature in Brooklyn via the 'Gum.

CAN'T GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD:  The IHT has a piece on earworms and musical memory.

THE SMITHEREEENS played some Christmas tunes and some of their hits at the World Cafe last week, now streaming on demand via NPR.

CHIP KIDD:  The acclaimed book cover designer (and author) is getting good reviews for his new band, Artbreak.  Kidd is best known for designing the iconic Jurassic Park cover and logo, but his designs for books like Naked (by David Sedaris) are equally striking in their own way.

SHANE MacGOWAN of The Pogues was profiled in the Guardian to mark his improbable 50th birthday on Christmas.

CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR is one of several movies I saw over the weekend, and was possibly the best of the lot.  Directed by Mike Nichols from a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, this tale of the Afghan War against the Soviet Union plays even more like a screwball comedy than Primary Colors or The American President... and probably hits closer to the mark of how the US Congress works than many more serious pics.  Tom Hanks is not a particularly convincing Texan, but he is funny, which is more important here.  Julia Roberts is not given much to do as Wilson's conservative ex-fiancee Joanne Herirng, but Philip Seymour Hoffman is given plenty of scenery to chew as Gust Avrokotos, the Orthodox, but unorthodox CIA agent who supervised America's biggest covert war ever.

Some movie critics, like Roger Ebert and Newsweek's David Ansen, have criticized the movie as not stressing that the Afghan "freedom fighters" would later become the Taliban, but they are mistaken about this.  The Taliban were not on anyone's radar screen before 1994 - significantly after the events depicted in the movie. The screenplay misleadingly suggests that US support went only to the Tajik faction led by Ahmad Shah Massoud, when much more went to the virulently anti-American Pashtun, Gulbaddin Hekmatyar.  However, the story at the last link incorrectly claims that Hekmaytar established terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan with Osama bin Laden and Abdul Rasul Sayaf.  To the contrary, Hekmaytar had become Prime Minister of Afghanistan, but was forced out of power by the Taliban in 1996 and went into exile in Iran until 2002.  OBL returned to Afghanistan in 1996, and cemented ties with the Taliban after they seized power; the camps came later.  So the story of Afghan "blowback" is considerably more complex than either the movie or its critics suggest.  The movie stays on solid ground by suggesting that the US erred greatly in leaving Afghanistan as a failed state.

JUNO:  Jamie Lynn Spears aside, if you think the story of a 16-year-old getting pregnant can't be as funny as it is poignant, think again.  Done badly, this could have turned into a low-budget after-school special, but Juno hits all the right notes -- primarily on the strength of the title performance by Ellen Page, but with really good support from almost all involved, particularly Jason Bateman as a putative adoptive father and J.K. Simmons as Juno's father.  The delightful indie soundtrack is just the icing on the cake.  This movie did not reach Top Ten on just 304 screens for no reason, so if it's playing near you, I highly recommend it.

WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY may disappoint at the box office, but that is all the worse for it being an enjoyable, if not gut-busting, send-up of music biopics like Walk The Line and Ray.  Indeed, you need not have seen these movies to enjoy Walk Hard.  John C. Reilly may not be a big enough name to open a movie (yet, anyway), but he sure can carry one, as he has to hit the dramatic notes of a biopic within the comic package... and sing.  Fortunately, the music is also up to the task; the title track was penned by early pate fave Marshall Crenshaw.  The downsides?  Too many of the jokes are too obvious, and Jenna Fischer is not given nearly enough to do (Kristen Wiig gets more as Cox's first wife and makes the most of it).

SWEENEY TODD:  I tell you right up front that most musicals leave me cold.  However, I do like Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, and this was playing across the corridor immediately after Walk Hard, so I made it a double-feature.  I would say the movie succeeds in what it sets out to accomplish; there's plenty of Sondheim, dark humor and fake blood.  I was unmoved, but if you're the sort who likes musicals -- and doesn't mind plenty of gore -- you might well enjoy it.

JAMIE LYNN SPEARS:  Multiple friends and family say the pregnant 16-year-old actress never wanted to be a star, with one family friend telling US Weekly that mama Lynne "treats her girls like a piggy bank."  The ever-reliable Star magazine insists that Casey Aldridge may not be the father.  Family members reportedly told Star that they believe the real father is a much older executive at her children's TV show, Zoey 101.

BRITNEY SPEARS could be fined or even jailed if she skips out on next week's court-ordered deposition in her ongoing child custody war with Fed-Ex.

EVA LONGORIA & TONY PARKER:  It looks increasingly like the paparazzi at X17 were taken by a hoaxer who accused Parker of cheating on Longoria and even fabricated herself.

THE FRENCH HOTEL:  The Hollywood heirhead's potential inheritance plunged after her grandfather Barron Hilton announced plans to donate 97 percent of his 2.3 billion dollar  fortune to charity.

BRADGELINA got their Christmas dinner at the McDonald's drive-thru window.  Jolie is reportedly treating the bulging veins on her arms, hands and forehead with caviar.

FERGIE & JOSH DUHAMEL are engaged?

QUEEN ELIZABETH II is the current star of the new Royal Channel on YouTube.  You can compare and contrast this year's Christmas Broadcast with her first such broadcast 50 years ago.

THE STANS:  In Afghanistan, the Brits and Afghans seem to be holding Musa Qala, which for 10 months until last weekend had been the most important stronghold of the Taliban in North Helmand.  More than 4500 Taliban insurgents have defected since 2005 and up to 4000 others have been killed in action against British and Canadian forces in southern Afghanistan, according to military intelligence sources.  Agents from MI6 entered secret talks with Taliban leaders despite Gordon Brown's pledge that Britain would not negotiate with terrorists, according to the Daily Telegraph.  Canadian Defense Minister Peter Mackay has accused Pakistan and Iran of supplying weapons to insurgents.  Suicide attacks are part of al Qaeda's plan to disrupt Pakistan's elections on Jan. 8.  Pakistani police stopped a 15-year-old boy they say was carrying a bomb made of dynamite and nails from gettnig into a rally by opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

IRAN:  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia's delivery of nuclear fuel to the Bushehr power station makes it unnecessary for Iran to pursue its enrichment program.  Nevertheless, Iran intends to continue its enrichment program, for the 19 nuclear plants it now claims it intends to build.  And Russia has agreed to sell Iran a surface-to-air missile system.  Meanwhile, the former commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards has become the latest leading "conservative" to attack Pres. Ahmadinejad over the country's high inflation.

IRAQ:  Though violence is down significantly this year, AQI is continuing to target the local security forces formed by the Awakening movements in the Sunni regions in the central and northern regions in Iraq.  The Times of London reports on the Diyala Rescue Council, a mixed Sunni-Shiite force fighting AQI that so far is not part of the Concerned Local Citizens or Awakening militias.  Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the commander of US forces south of Baghdad, warned Tuesday that Sunnis who fight AQI must be rewarded and recognized as legitimate members of Iraqi society -- or Iraq risks losing the hard-fought security gains of the past six months.  The NYDN has video of a carload of important AQI terrorists being shown to Allah by US Hellfire missiles.  A safer Baghdad rolled out the Baghdad Film Festival... though directors of the 40 foreign films at the festival stayed away.  Moreover, hardline Muslim extremists have forced many beauticians to move their trade underground.

CHARLIE the YORKIE swallowed a star-shaped Christmsas decoration.  X-Ray at the link.

WHITE RHINOS in Dublin swallowed holiday glitter to aid their fertility tests.

PIG SPLEENS confirm the National Weather Service three-month forecast for North Dakota.

MARCELLA the ELEPHANT assisted a marriage proposal at Blackpool Zoo, Lancashire.

SANDLER, a six-year-old border collie, saved his family from a fire, but perished trying to save the family's 17-year-old Australian shepherd.  Raja the cat escaped unharmed.

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Richard Hawley, Van She, Emily Haines, Led Zep, Goats Gone Wild   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Wednesday, December 26, 2007 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: Karl


RICHARD HAWLEY has a new video for "Valentine."  Never too early for that.

PHIL SPECTOR, sweetheart that he is, criticized Tina Turner during his eulogy at Ike Turner's funeral.

BEST of 2007:  Drowned In Sound posted its Top 50 Albums of 2007.  PopMatters adds a list of the best Americana albums.  ABCNews burnishes its indie street cred with a Top 50 list.  All Songs Considered is streaming tracks from the listeners' poll Top 25.

2008:  Stereogum looks at the year's upcoming releases and points you to British experts' predictions for 2008 breakouts.

RBALLY is back for a limited time, starting with R.E.M. fan club limited edition singles, but you can jukebox Radiohead, Sonic Youth and Wilco, too via the ol' HM.  (Thanks, Ken King!)

VAN SHE, a band I haven't blurbed in over a year, has a video out for "Cat & The Eye" that's a bit psychedelic without sounding retro.

EMILY HAINES of BSS, Metric and the Soft Skeleton was interviewed at Thirsty, which also posts the video for "Dr. Blind."

FEIST talked to Chart attack about SNL and getting a boost from infamous gossip blogger Perez Hilton.  (Thanks, LHB.)

LED ZEPPELIN:  Jason Bonham has put a dampener on the prospects of the band touring... but he's up for it.

AMY WINEHOUSE the target of a £100,000 gangland kidnap plot?  It's in the News of the World, so it must be true!  Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reports the signer won't be turning to Kabbalah for assistance with her personal trainwreck.  And the Sun claims the singer has been banned from no-strings visits to her jailbird husband after he failed a drugs test.

JAMIE LYNN SPEARS:  Nickelodeon is considering a special for its young audience about sex and love following the news that 16-year-old "Zoey 101" star is pregnant.  A generation of tweens may be traumatized by getting the "birds and bees" talk from Linda Ellerbee.  Teen magazines are shunning the younger Spears.  Britney Spears, however, reportedly bought sis a tank top with the words "Hot Mama 2 B" on it.

BRITNEY SPEARS nevertheless called up mama Lynne, and read her the riot act after receiving the news of Jamie Lynn's pregnancy on Tuesday, a source tells PageSix.com.  But Dr. Phil thinks Lynne is "is a great and dedicated mother."  Meanwhile, Spears reportedly spent early Sunday morning in a Beverly Hills hotel room with a paparazzi photographer who regularly covers the pop tart.  Beverly Hills analyst and addiction expert Marty Brenner says Spears is living in a "bubble of illusion" that "could end in suicide" if she doesn't get help.  Spears kicked off her holiday weekend with a bizarre trip around the greater L.A. area that included profanity-laced tirades, hours of aimless driving, scuffles with paparazzi, a stop at a hotel, and several trips to gas station bathrooms.

LINDSAY LOHAN:  Ex-bf Riley Giles tells the uber-reliable News of the World that Li-Lo has traded her dangerous drug habit for a manic addiction to sex: "We once did it four times in a row straight. That was crazy. Lindsay was insatiable. She'd demand sex again and again. We'd go at it for hours. She'd have worn out most guys."  So you may be shocked to hear that Lohan does not think the underage, unmarried Jamie Lynn Spears pregnancy is a big deal.

WILL SMITH is miffed that people misinterpreted his comments about Adolf Hitler.

BRADGELINA:  Pitt and Jolie were in N'awlins for the holidays (as planned), promoting post-Katrina rebuilding efforts.  In the new issue of Grazia magazine, Jolie admits she got too skinny this year but says she was bothered by all the negative scrutiny. 

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE:  National Treasure: Book of Secrets topped the North American box office with an estimated 45.5 million over the first three days of the Christmas weekend, beating the original's 35 million opening as expected.  I Am Legend slipped to No. 2 with 34.2 million.  Alvin and the Chipmunks slipped to third, with a still-impressive 29 million.  Charlie Wilson's War was fourth with 9.6 million; it is appealing mostlky to the over 30 crowd, so its numbers may pick up through Christmas.  Rounding out the Top Five was Sweeney Todd with 9.35 million; it's numbers dropped through the weekend, as the less-informed discovered it was a musical.  P.S. I Love You was sixth with a modest 6.5 mil.  Enchanted dropped from fourth to seventh, but seems likely to break the 100 million mark by the time you read this.  Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story debuted at No. 8 with a disappointing 4.1 million; this Apatow flick was not low-budget either, so this is going to be a big ouch.  The Golden Compass, however, plunged from third to ninth and is approaching atomic bomb status.  Juno, the indie teen-pregnancy comedy crept into the Top Ten on just over 300 screens with 3.4 million.  I'll have reviews for four of the above movies up later this week... but I've given you a hint as to one of my picks to click.

JESSICA SIMSPON:  Blonde Ambition opened on eight screens this weekend in Texas, grossing a whopping 1,300 dollars.  Creepy dad-manager Joe was an idiot to not to suffer the lesser embarrassment of going direct-to-DVD.

JACKO has been forced to undergo emergency surgery after his lip burst and collapsed, according to reports.

LEO DiCAPRIO back with his supermodel girlfriend Bar Rafaeli?  Looks that way...

JESSICA ALBA and boyfriend Cash Warren currently don't have plans for a wedding.  A source tells US Weekly, "She doesn't want to be pregnant in a dress!"

KATHERINE HEIGL has exchanged vows with musician Josh Kelley in scenic Park City, Utah.

IRAN:  Pres. Ahmadinejad gave a speech in Saudi Arabia last week stressing the need for global government by Islam.  Iran will be announcing bidding for 19 nuclear power plants, an MP was quoted as saying.

IRAQ:  The Iranian government has decided "at the most senior levels" to rein in the violent Shiite militias it supports in Iraq, according to US Amb. Ryan Crocker.  Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the biggest party in the Shi'ite-led government, called for US-backed, mainly Sunni neighborhood patrols to be more tightly curbed under government control.  There are plans to absorb about 20K men into the security forces, and Crocker said America plans to spend 155 million to help create new jobs and provide vocational training, with the Iraqi government matching that amount.  The Iraqi Security Forces is expanding with the Iraqi Army now growing to 61 planned brigades in 15 divisions while the Iraqi Special Operations Forces becomes the defacto 16th division.

IRAQ II:  Residents of Baghdad packed the capital's parks and amusement rides on Saturday, taking advantage of a lull in violence and the Islamic feast of Eid al-Adha to venture out of their homes in droves.  Iraqi Christians who fled a district of Baghdad that declared itself an al-Qaeda caliphate have returned home to celebrate their first Christmas in two yearsThousands of Iraqi Christians made their way to church through checkpoints and streets lined with blast walls, many drawing hope from a lull in violence to celebrate Christmas Mass in numbers unthinkable a year ago.  Talks are underway to reopen the key bridge linking Shiite and Sunni districts of the Iraqi capital closed almost three years ago due to bloody sectarian violence.  Approximately 1000 Iraqi citizens, of both Shia and Sunni religions, joined together on the sectarian fault line in Rawaniyah, the Karkh District of Baghdad, to march with one another in what they called a "Peace March", Dec. 19.


GOATS GONE WILD are the talk of a small Oklahoma town.  BONUS:  Fugitive goat gunned down by police outside El Paso, TX.

ADOLF, a German Shepherd crossbreed trained to give the Nazi salute, landed his owner in jail.

GREEN-GLOWING CLONE RABBIT ready to do what rabbits do in about three months.

THE SQUIRREL THREAT:  A militant squirrel crashed the grid in Eagle, ID last week.

PESKY BEAVERS near the Kern Recreational Bike Path in Bakersfield, CA, have been saved after a surge of response via email, blog comments, phone calls and more.  Let's face it; everybody likes the beavers.

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You know, Santa Claus and ho-ho-ho, and mistletoe and presents to pretty girls.   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Friday, December 21, 2007 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: Karl



...with BILLY MACK! Because "Christmas Is All Around."

A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS:  Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about.  Mental Floss has "The Real Story Behind A Charlie Brown Christmas (and why it almost wasn't shown)."

NORAD will be tracking Santa Monday night, per usual.

THE FLAMING LIPS perform "White Christmas" as only they can.

HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS:  The real deal, not Jim Carrey.  Then he slunk to the ice box. He took the Whos' feast. He took the who pudding, he took the roast beast. He emptied the ice box as quick as a flash. Why, the Grinch even took the last can of who hash.  BONUS:  The late Phil Hartman hosted a documentary on the making of the cartoon classic.

DAVID BOWIE & BING CROSBY'S cross-generational duet o­n "Little Drummer Boy."

THE YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS:  Many people believe human activity is causing global warming.  I blame Heatmiser.

CHICAGO CHRISTMAS MEMORIES:  If you grew up in Chicago (and I suspect other places), the season is not complete without watching the short cartoons of "Hardrock, Coco & Joe" (a story fantastic, a story so queer), "Suzy Snowflake" and the jazzy version of "Frosty the Snowman."

THE BEATLES fan club messages for 1963, 1964, 1965. 1966, 1967, 1968 and 1969.

HOLIDAY BIN:  Your stocking stuffers -- from Sinatra to Sufjan, from Elvis to El Vez -- are streaming from the Pate page at the ol' HM.

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: Pate even had a song titled "Rope Around The Moon," so watch the whole thing.

NOW SHOWING:  This weekend's wide releases are: National Treasure: Book of Secrets, currently scoring 43 percent on th ol' Tomatometer; Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, which is currently scoring 80 percent; Charlie Wilson's War, which is scoring 78 percent; P.S. I Love You, scoring 14 percent; and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, scoring 87 percent.  Atonement and Juno continue to expand -- to 297 and 304 screens, respectively.  BONUS:  Here's a fresh link to the first few minutes of Charlie Wilson's War, and a re-link to the first ten minutes of Walk Hard.

THE RAMONES:  "Merry Christmas, Baby (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)."

RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER:  Pull up an ice block and lend an ear!  Herbie wanted to be a dentistNTTAWWT.  BONUS:  Here's a re-link to the AFLAC commercial.

FESTIVUS:  For the rest of us.  It has been a very happy holiday for the Wagner Co. in Milwaukee, Wisc.

CHRISTMAS CAROLS FOR THE MENTALLY DISTURBED:  It was meant to be a lighthearted seasonal reflection on a serious subject. But not everyone got the joke.  Who'da Thunkit?

NAT KING COLE:  His chestnuts are roasting.

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David Byrne & Thom Yorke, White Stripes, The Boss, Squirrel Threat   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Thursday, December 20, 2007 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: Karl


THE BLACK LIPS are uncharacteristically laid-back in their new video for "Veni Vidi Vici."

DAVID BYRNE & THOM YORKE talk about the true value of music, carbon footprints, how much Radiohead made from the downloading experiment and more at Wired magazine's site.  Plenty of bonus A/V included.

THE WHITE STRIPES:  NPR's Morning Edition talks with Jack White about the "Conquest" single and collaborating with Beck on its various B-sides.  Bonus A/V at that link also, including the "Conquest" video and Jack on how the White Stripes came up with their peppermint candy color scheme, and about playing Elvis in the new movie Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

BEST of 2007:  Harp magazine's Top 50 Albums includes reax from Okkervil River frontman Will Scheff on topping the list.

BETTYE LaVETTE:  The soul vet was featured on WHYY's Fresh Air, which is streaming on demand via NPR.  You can also stream songs from The Scene of the Crime, which was recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., with the Drive-By Truckers and the legendary session musician and songwriter Spooner Oldham.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & the E STREET BAND told Paris Monday night that "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town."  But I still like the vintage video from Passaic, NJ in 1978.

INDIE BANDS have filed a class action lawsuit against RJ Reynolds and Wenner Media, alleging the unauthorized use of artists' names, unauthorized use of artist names for commercial advantage (right of publicity), and unfair business practices, arising out of a multi-page ad called 'Indie Rock Universe' that appeared in the 40th Anniversary issue of Rolling Stone magazine.

ANDREW BIRD's performance on KEXP's Secret Stage at the Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival is streaming on demand via NPR, under the heading "Favorite Sessions."

LILY ALLEN announced Wednesday that she is "thrilled" to be pregnant with her first child.  The father is Ed Simons of The Chemical Brothers.

PETE DOHERTY-KATE MOSS UPDATE:  The supposedly sober supermodel plans to sue to stop the troubled singer from spilling the beans about their former tumultuous relationship for a Brit TV documentary.

AMY WINEHOUSE:  Psychiatrists were called in to calm a 'screaming and sobbing' Amy Winehouse before she was arrested last night over an alleged £200,000 plot to fix her husband's assault trial.

JAMIE LYNN SPEARS, the pregnant 16-year-old sister of Britney, reportedly will be paid a million bucks by OK! magazine for a photo shoot when the child is born.  And her dad is "furious" with Jamie Lynn and ex-wife Lynne for selling the story.  Fed-Ex knew before Britney that Jamie Lynn is pregnant. 

BRITNEY SPEARS has been ordered to appear for a January deposition by the court hearing her custody dispute with Fed-Ex.  The pop tart has ducked four prior dates.  One of the requests Fed-Ex's lawyer reportedly made to the judge is that Spears not be allowed to make any requests to change the current custody status until she has been deposed.

LINDSAY LOHAN has a new best friend (and roommate?) -- Courtenay Semel, the daughter of Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel.  Meanwhile, her ex-con dad played the role of Joseph the other night in a far-out street-scene Nativity recreation in Times Square.

ORLANDO BLOOM has disturbed his neighbors -- including Charlize Theron and Scarlett Johansson -- by painting his £1.35million mansion black.  Black as coal.  Black as night.

EWAN MacGREGOR will play the romantic lead opposite Jim Carrey in "I Love You Phillip Morris," a dark comedy based on the story of Steven Russell, a married father who fell in love with cellmate in a Texas prison.  NTTAWWT.

EVA LONGORIA & TONY PARKER continue to deny he had an affair with French model Alexandra Paressant.  This time, Tony's lawyer issued a statement that Tony has never even met her.  So it's not a shocker that Parker has filed suit against against X17, the photo agency that published the model's claims and text messages.

JESSICA SIMPSON:  Her films may be going direct-to-DVD, but creepy dad-manager Joe is pitching the pneumatic blonde in a remake of Pretty Woman.  And after the poor performance of her new boyfriend, Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo at the game she attended last Sunday, wide receiver Terrell Owens told the media, "Right now, Jessica Simpson is not a fan favorite - in this locker room or in Texas Stadium."

TARA REID, on top of the plastic surgery disasters, is looking scary skinny in Bali.  Reid has admitted to suffering from anorexia nervosa in the past.

CHER, otoh, fears she may have to take daughter Chastity to the squeezing room.

AWARDS SEASON:  The People's Choice Awards will undergo a last-minute format change, courtesy of the writers strike.  Instead of handing out awards before a studio audience, the show will consist of magazine-style videos in which celebrities accept awards, thank fans and answer questions submitted to the People's Choice website.

STAR TREK RE-BOOT:  Sci-Fi wire has a piece on the problems plaguing any cameo by William Shatner.

THE HOBBIT:  Peter Jackson will not be directing the two Hobbit movies, but will have approval over all creative elements of both films.  Despite rumors that Sam Raimi, Alfonso Cuarón, or Guillermo del Toro will be taking over directing duties, sources say that no decisions have been made on that subject, nor has a writer been chosen.  John Scalzi theorizes that New Line settled its feud with Jackson beacuse The Golden Compass is cratering at the box office.

MEGAN FOX from the Transformers movie is looking rather hot in the Japanese version of Rolling Stone magazine.  I would normally save that for Gratuitous Friday, but I'm going to try to be holiday-themed then.

WALL*E:  Next summer's Pixar pic has an exclusive trailer running at WallSpace.

TERROR in FRANCE:  A French court Wednesday convicted five former inmates from the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of having links to terrorist groups, while acquitting a sixth man.

PAKISTAN's election commission upheld the decision to ban ex-PM Nawaz Sharif from January's general elections, eliminating a key opposition leader and a main rival to Pres. Musharraf.  Pakistan's military and intelligence agencies have quietly set free nearly 100 men suspected of links to terrorism.  Human rights groups and lawyers say it is to try to avoid acknowledging an elaborate secret detention system, but I would not rule out that it could be part of yesterday's hypothesized deal with militants to chill before the elections.  A former senior US official said that Pakistan was the "real front line in the war against Al Qaeda", but the "most frightening concern" is AQ's pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

IRAN:  A top Muslim cleric said on Wednesday that women who do not wear the Muslim headscarf should die.  Iran's growing relations with Nicaragua's Sandinista Pres. Ortega and Venezuela's Pres. Chavez are causing state department officials, former national security officials and counterterrorism researchers to worry that that, if attacked, Iran could stage strikes on American or allied interests from Nicaragua, deploying the Iranian terrorist group Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guard operatives already in Latin America.

IRAQ:  Though they are still dominated by Sunnis, the "concerned local citizens" patrols' make-up in Baghdad increasingly reflects the ethnic and sectarian community they are guarding. An increasing number of Shia are now joining their ranks, some in a bid to counter the influence of Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army in their area.

IRAQ and the MEDIA:  According to a new study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the portrait of Iraq that Americans received from the news media from Jan-Oct was in considerable measure a grim one. Roughly half of the reporting has consisted of accounts of daily violence. And stories that explicitly assessed the direction of the war have tended toward pessimism.  As the year went on, the narrative from Iraq in some ways brightened. The drumbeat of reports about daily attacks declined in late summer and fall, and with that came a decline in the amount of coverage from Iraq overall.  Because good news is not news, even when the status quo was bad news.  Go figure.

PETA is trying to wreck Christmas for Japanese whales.

DIESEL, a nine stone Great Dane/Alsatian cross, is just as good as a car alarm.

THE SQUIRREL THREAT:  Icanhascheezburger.com -- home of the LOLCats -- has a picture of a Secret Squirrel Training Facility.  It was submitted by someone named "karl," but I swear it wasn't me.

A WOLF walks into a bar...

FEMALE MONKEYS take a hint from When Harry Met Sally.

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Beirut, Georgie James, Nicole Willis, Pogues, Rescued Bull   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Wednesday, December 19, 2007 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: Karl


BEIRUT:  Zach Condon & Co, played "Nantes" and "A Sunday Smile" on the UK's Later with Jool Holland.  Don't forget that La Blogotheque shot unique live videos of the band for every track on The Flying Club Cup.

BEST of 2007:  Pitchfork unveils its Top 50 Albums of 2007.  You can stream or download a 2007 mixtape from Paper Thin Walls.   And don't forget Largehearted Boy's continuously updated list of lists.

GEORGIE JAMES visited NPR's Studio 4A for the Project Song challenge of writing and recording a song in two days.  Audio and video at the link.

ART BRUT frontman Eddie Argos talks to the Brisbane Times about the origins of the band, forming the "English Travelling Wilburys," and success: "The sort of success I'm after is to be able to meet my favorite bands."

QUEENS of SOUL:  The Philadelphia Weekly talks to soul singers Sharon Jones and Nicole Willis, who both note that they are better known in Europe than in the US... though both seem to hope to change that.  I've mentioned Sharon Jones any number of times, but I may have slighted Willis, so let me note that you can stream a few from Nicole Willis and The Soul Investigators at TheirSpace.

STEPHEN STILLS has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, according to bandmate Graham Nash, who said Stills is set to undergo an operation on January 3rd.

MALCOLM MIDDLETON:  In his own strange way, the Arab Strapper touches on the true meaning of Christmas with "We're All Going To Die," which is his bid for the UK's Christmas Number One.

THE POGUES' perennial Christmas hit, "Fairytale of New York," is being bleeeped (twice) by BBC Radio 1, which has roused the ire of Telegraph readers, among others.  I posted the uncensored video last Friday.  UPDATE: BBC Radio 1 has backed down, and will air the uncensored version.

DEVENDRA BANHART shares some of his favorite shows and records of 2007 with USA Today's Pop Candy blogger, Whitney Matheson, who put some outtakes in her latest streamable podcast.

THE POLYPHONIC SPREE:  GvsB has some excellent pics from the band's annual Holiday Extravaganza at the Lakewood Theater in Dallas.  Though holiday-themed, the sets apparently also included their relatively new show-stopping cover of "Live and Let Die."

AMY WINEHOUSE has reportedly vowed to kill herself if she is parted from her husband by a lengthy jail sentence.  And police believe that Winehouse herself may be linked to Blake Fielder-Civil's charges of allegedly perverting the course of justice.  The singer was arrested, questioned and released without filing charges, in line with standard British procedure.

JAMIE LYNN SPEARS: Britney's 16-year-old sister is knocked up.  The father is her boyfriend, Casey Aldridge, whom she met... wait for it... in church.  A source close to Britney Spears tells TMZ that the popwreck is "frantic" over the news.  Maybe all that talk about being a bad role model for young girls might finally sink in.  Mama Lynne Spears's parenting book has been "delayed indefinitely."  Who'da thunkit?

BRITNEY SPEARS, btw, gets nothing but high marks from the producer of her new video, which has received a mixed response from critics, amid reports the pop tart was digitally-slimmed down for the promo.

SIR PAUL McCARTNEY raised eyebrows as he left a charity event with a mystery brunette balanced precariously on his knee.  A source told The Daily Mirror: "Yes, she's very attractive but she's just a friend. She works for his company and organizes charity events."

JOHNNY DEPP has been named the best celebrity autograph signer for the third year running in the 15th annual survey of who's cool -- and who's cruel -- to autograph collectors by Autograph magazine.  Spider-Man and Ricky Bobby, otoh, have some 'splainin' to do.

JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT is not pregnant.  Or fat.  Just ill-attired.

THE FRENCH HOTEL:  When I joked that the heirhead wants an Oompa-Loompa now, I should have known better.

KATE HUDSON's explanation of her split with husband (and Black Crowe) Chris Robinson) is taken out of context, I hope: "We had Ryder, and we both sort of looked at each other and went, ‘Something's off,'" she said.  If it's accurate, it's a good thing the parents can afford therapy for the tyke.

TOM-KAT UPDATE:  United Artists and MGM have pushed back the release of Cruise's Nazi thriller "Valkyrie" from the July Fourth holiday frame to Oct. 3, 2008 -- ostensibly due to shooting delays and coincidentally from one of the best dates on the calendar to one far less competitive.  "Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography" is set to drop next month.  The NYPost's Cindy Adams claims it's not being published in Britian because it's too "scandalous" for the UK's celebrity-friendly libel laws.  The counter-spin is that biographer Andrew Morton, whose disclosures about Princess Diana's miserable marriage made him many millions, failed to discover anything salacious about the 45-year-old actor.  We won't have long to wait to settle that question.

DAVID HASSELHOFF and his ex-wife have agreed to share custody of their teenage daughters and reached a financial settlement, ending months of bitter wrangling played out in the celebrity media.  Ooga-chucka!

BRADGELINA:  Pitt tells Newsweek there is "not a chance" he will run for the US Senate... or direct.

MICHAEL FLATLEY is undoubtedly dancing a jig after a court ordered the woman who accused him of sexual assault to pay him more than 11 million bucks for making false allegations to extort money from him.

THE WRITERS' GUILD has denied waiver requests for the Golden Globes and Oscars telecasts, which also raises the prospect of boycotts by the stars, as noted here last Thursday.

THE HOBBIT:   Oscar-winning "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson has settled a feud with the New Line studio and will make two films based on J.R.R Tolkien's "The Hobbit."  There was no mention in the statement of whether Jackson would serve as director on the two films.

CLOVERFIELD "star" Michael Stahl-David talks to Ain't-It-Cool-News about the mystery-shrouded J.J. Abrams project.  The title may be unfamiliar to you, but you may have seen the trailer.  And if you haven't seen the trailer, you really should, though I might still prefer the teaser trailer.  Ain't-It-Cool-News has an advance review from Neill Cumpston, who is -- for those who don't know -- a strong drink of coffee.  By which I mean whiskey.

PAKISTAN:  A key suspect in the alleged Heathrow bomb plot was on the run after escaping from his police custodians after an extradition hearing in Pakistan. tHE police said they have laid formal charges against the two officers who were escorting Rashid Rauf, whois suspected in an alleged plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners with liquid explosives.  The extraordinary "escape" may point to a deal between the authorities in Islamabad and militants in an effort to ensure smooth national elections on January 8, but al-Qaeda remains a threat to this seemingly "inventive" initiative.

IRAQ:  The Shiite-dominated government has agreed to take over support of a US-funded plan that has organized thousands of Iraqis - including former insurgents and their sympathizers - into local security groups.  ABC News' Jonathan Karl and Luis Martinez sum up the Pentagon's quarterly report to Congress on stability and security in Iraq, including the economy and political reconciliation.  Security will be increased at Baghdad's mosques and other holy sites ahead of the Eid al-Adha holiday that begins today.  US troops uncovered a network of underground hideouts used by AQI in the town of Al-Eskandariah south of Baghdad.  Turkey sent hundreds of troops about 1 1/2 miles into northern Iraq early Tuesday in an operation against Kurdish rebels, but withdrew them later in the day.

IRAQ and the MEDIA:  The Washington Post reports: "Overall violence continues to decline in Iraq, although the rate of decrease has slowed since September and a few indicators have actually gone up in recent weeks, according to U.S. military figures released yesterday by the White House."  Glass half-empty much?  And as the numbers get lower any increase is that much larger of a percentage.  I guess this is why journalists are journalists, rather than mathemeticians.

A BULL was rescued from a well by clever firefighters in China.  It's like the Jessica McClure story, only with a bull.  And Chinese firefighters.

A FLATULENT COW that breaks wind on the hour has become Edinburgh's latest tourist attraction.

THE SQUIRREL THREAT:  The cagey rodents chew shed rattlesnake skins and then lick their fur with their snake-scented spit, to defend itself against predators.

PETA is trying to keep bears from entering a pizza-eating contest in Cincinnati.

MAN vs. DEER:  A Maryland man subdued a deer that ran through the front picture window of his house.

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