Thursday, February 26, 2004

THE SILVER SPUR CAFE in Sheridan, Wyo., one of our favorite stops on our 2002 road trip (see photo near bottom of page), stars in a Salon article about Starbucks. If you read the article, don't miss the letters about how stupid people are.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

"YOU DON'T SAY anything nice about Christina Aguilera." I hear it all the time.

Well, here goes:

Last night on "Saturday Night Live," her vocal impersonation of Kim Cattrall's Samantha Jones character from "Sex and the City" was breathily breathtaking, eerily perfect. Was she lip-syncing?

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

THE SOUNDTRACK to "50 First Dates" got me thinking about cover songs. Rock 'n' roll seems to have settled on three basic approaches:

  • The reggae or ska version, which is overused on that soundtrack and perhaps first hit it big when
    UB40 did Neil Diamond's "Red, Red Wine" (or was it when UB40 and Chrissie Hynde did Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe"?)

  • The dramatic change in tempo and mood, as in Joan Jett's energized "Love Is All Around" (the "Mary Tyler Moore" theme) or Tori Amos's calmed-down "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

  • The note-for-note imitation, perhaps most egregiously represented by the Lemonheads' version of "Mrs. Robinson." I sort of like the Ataris' recent remake of "The Boys of Summer," though. I always mistake it for the original at first, but it speeds things up just an eensy bit, to good effect.

    Best cover song? Many would nominate Hendrix's "All Along the Watchtower," but I got cozy with the Dylan version first and somehow I still like it better.

    My nominee: Romeo Void's "Wrap It Up." The Sam and Dave original, the Fabulous Thunderbirds cover and even the Eurythmics cover all sound basically the same. On the Romeo Void version, the tempo is faster, the arrangement is revamped and Debora Iyall's phrasing is so breathtakingly original that you wouldn't know it's the same song if not for the matching lyrics.

  • Wednesday, February 11, 2004

    LET'S PLAY "DOCTOR." Turn on your TV and follow along.

    Well, at least he uses his full name -- none of this Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura, Dr. Nick stuff. Oh, wait.

    OK, let's see, Greg SEE-nuh-moan . . . author, former cop, talk-show host, creator of the Phonics Game, therapist, dream analyst, advertising wiz. But doctor? Uh, no. He, apparently does, however, have "both a masters and doctorate in psychology."

    Ah, yes. The brilliant "we don't want your business" technique. Greg is definitely an ad wiz.

    Ten? Peanuts. Fifteen? Now we're talking. This is the capsules.

    And, oh, his associate Dr. Talbott. Last name only, so he's definitely a real doctor, right?

    No, but Shawn Talbott is "one of America's leading lifestyle experts." He holds a master’s degree in exercise science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a Ph.D. in nutritional biochemistry from Rutgers University, and he looks impressively youthful.

    LHJ, baby! Take that, New England Journal of Medicine! Eat my shorts, Lancet!

    Did I mention that the first non-doctor mentioned above was an ad wiz?

    Your tummy and your stomach.

    Fourteen pounds? Don't sell yourself short. Fifty-one pounds? In your dreams.

    Meanwhile, on the screen:

    Doctors? Where? (I don't call myself a "bachelor.")

    What money? Nobody ever said anything about a price.

    And this is interesting: Shawn Talbott is one of the reviewers on Amazon.com recommending one of Dr. Greg's books! Sure, I'd do something like that, but probably not if I had the money that these guys must be raking in.

    Wednesday, February 04, 2004

    I GET AROUND, sort of. The states in red on this map (created by the very cool World66 Web site)
    are the ones I've set foot in. The map will get redder this summer, when we brave the Deep South en route to Phoenix. The sad (senile?) thing is that I cannot remember whether I've been to Utah. I have vague memories of going to the Four Corners thingie, but when I think about it, I don't really think I've been there.

    Create your own map of visited states or visited countries. My visited-countries map would be pretty pathetic -- Canada, Mexico, England, France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany.

    Tuesday, February 03, 2004

    JUSTIN AND JANET AND . . . Howard Cosell? The late grandiloquent one makes a surprise appearance in a Sally Jenkins column. Speaking of death, also note photo of former 'N Sync member manipulating ghastly, corpse-themed ventriloquist doll.

    SPEAKING OF A&E's "Airline," since when does every passenger have to be sober enough to fly the damn plane? I'm all for ejecting the loud and obnoxious, but Southwest Airlines' lips-that-touch-liquor-will-never-fly-with-us preoccupation is bizarre.

    But Southwest is all smiles about the gospel singers who have never flown before, and who therefore (a) are amused by everything and spend the flight laughing like drunkards, and (b) are gospel singers and spend the flight singing at the top of their lungs like drunkards.

    Monday, February 02, 2004

    "MYSTIC RIVER" just didn't do it for me. I was ready to be impressed, given the reviews, but I've never quite reacted to a movie this way before. The cinematography was great, the acting was great . . . but it just wasn't a very good movie.

    The problem: It isn't much of a story. Once the truth becomes clear, the plot reveals itself as shallow and a little nonsensical. This is a movie-of-the-week screenplay done with big-time production values.

    And even while I was still in suspense, the movie never drew me in. I'm a sucker for emotionally wrenching movies, which this one tries to be, but I felt oddly detached even while I was enjoying the acting and the visuals. After the suspense was over and the one-dimensional story played itself out, it just kept playing itself out. The movie could have ended at any one of three or four spots in the last 40 minutes. Sorry, Clint.

    Oh, and if you get a chance to see the trailer for "Troy," which I suspect we'll all get to see a few thousand times in the next few months, you can rest easy knowing you've had a concentrated serving of Everything Bill Hates in Pop Culture. Farting-horse commercials and fake Jacksons disrobing real Jacksons on live TV are bad, but attempts to conjure the word "epic" with an anachronistic blend of ye olde costumes and state-of-the-art computer animation are worse. And don't get me started on American actors using British accents to play ancient Greeks.

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