popular thinking

hopelessly devoted to deconstructing popular culture and conventional wisdom, one blog at a time

MYSPACE SYNERGY: I've joined the world of MySpace.

Here is my profile.

Had to do it. Especially since I just wrote about MySpace and its ever-expanding role in the music industry. Here is the story, published in today's Boston Herald. Later, I'll add the so-called blogger's cut, wherein I include all of the other information that did not make it into print. Until then, enjoy!

A friend just told you about this great new band.
What do you do?
For those of you not already clued into MySpace.com, try this experiment.
Let's call your band "mynewband.'' Go online and type www.myspace.com/mynewband.
We're betting the band already has a MySpace page, where you can listen to up to four songs for free, see when the band will perform near you and find other fans.
Almost 31 million people have joined MySpace, with about 3 million more signing up each month. You'll find more than 500,000 bands there, including about 10,000 from Massachusetts.
"It's gotten to the point where if you're not on there, you're not in the game,'' said Jim Scordamaglia, manager of local rock band Aberdeen City. The group, which plays a NEMO showcase tonight, maintains its own Web site as well, but considers MySpace a necessity.
Scordamaglia said the ease in setting up a MySpace page and the social interaction the site provides allows all bands, from unsigned artists to major-label stars, to have better access to their fans.
With a catchy name, Somerville-based punksters Harry and the Potters have won a large fanbase, with 14,451 "friends'' and counting registered on MySpace. The band is consistently one of the top-ranked unsigned bands in the state for MySpace views and listens.
"We've been on MySpace for a little more than a year or so, and it's just been awesome, is all I can say,'' said guitarist Paul DeGeorge.
Harry Potter fans around the world stumble onto their site.
Holly Steiner, a 20-year-old student at Mount Saint Joseph College in Cincinnati, said her roommate turned her onto Harry and the Potters.
"I immediately found them on MySpace because I know that almost every band is listed there,'' Steiner said. "Typically, when I hear of a new band, I try to find them on MySpace because I know that I can hear that band's songs and determine whether or not the CD is worth buying.''
DeGeorge, 26, said his favorite MySpace feature is its invitation program, which allows the Potters to contact specific fans along their tour route. He also sometimes uses the site before hitting the clubs to check out the other acts on the bill.
"Ultimately, they have a page on MySpace. So I'm shocked at this point if they don't,'' he said.
Mike Poulin, a 17-year-old (Update: Mike is from Belchertown) High School student, said he heard about Harry and the Potters through his classmates who are hosting the band tonight. Poulin said he has discovered lots of other bands through MySpace.
"It is a great place for bands to get their names out there and easier and cheaper than a record label,'' he said. "Although I do not really go on any other sites, I know a lot of my friends and local bands go onto PureVolume.''
PureVolume.com is an Allston-based portal that also focuses on music, with particular emphasis on emo, punk and indie rock. It lacks the instant fan connections and the sheer size of MySpace, though it still garners about 300,000 daily online visits.
If MySpace is a blessing for up-and-coming bands, then it's a financial gift for established acts like Guster.
When Guster's manager, Dalton Sim, found that 60,000 MySpace members had listed the band in their personal profiles, he knew the band needed to sign on.
"That's like 60,000 kids that I can reach at the touch of a button,'' he said.
But first, those kids need to become MySpace friends of Guster. So Sim pays an employee $10 an hour to sort through all 31 million (and growing) MySpace profiles, looking for potential Guster fans.
MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe said music "was always part of the plan, but it wasn't the primary plan. Our initial plan was to create a portal around the social network.''
MySpace, which launched officially in January 2004, took over where Friendster left off, taking cues from Craiglist, Evite, MP3.com, Blogger, instant messaging and chat programs.
But the introduction in 2004 of a four-song stand-alone music player, and free bandwith, changed everything. So did R.E.M.'s decision to leak its latest record on the site. Tons of other bands have followed suit.
MySpace generated more than 500,000 streaming airplays of Nine Inch Nails' new record, With-Teeth, in an exclusive in late April, and the site is sponsoring the band's ongoing tour with Queens of the Stone Age.
"There have been a lot of changes in the music industry and there haven't been a lot of opportunities out there to discover new music,'' DeWolfe said. "It's good for us, too, because now all of the advertisers want to be associated with music and cool music sites.''
MySpace has become the fourth most-traveled Web site in page views and generates 12 percent of all online advertising. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. wants to buy the company. MySpace also plans to develop its own record label.
DeWolfe said the social interaction on MySpace makes it a viral marketing mecca.
"Friends tell friends tell friends - that's really the best way to discover new music,'' he said. "MySpace just really mirrors what happens in the offline world.''

JIMMY TINGLE REVIEWED: Katie Johnston Chase of the Globe weighs in with a fairly positive review of Jimmy Tingle's new one-man show, "Jimmy Tingle's American Dream." We saw the same show. She got more space for her review. I think mine manages to get more perspective on Tingle for those who do or don't know him well. Then again, I'm biased. Here is what I wrote in the Herald...

Satirist Will Durst once observed that the one-man show differs from a typical stand-up comedian's act only slightly, offering more theatrical qualities and life lessons.
Jimmy Tingle, who hosted Durst in his namesake Davis Square venue earlier this year, delivers on both counts in "Jimmy Tingle's American Dream.''
Befitting his "cafeteria Catholicism,'' Tingle's show has the air of a joking confessional.
He looks back to his beginnings at the Ding Ho in 1980, reminiscing about his fellow comics and their own pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. "Where do you see yourself in 25 years, Jim? I see myself in Davis Square! In a basement! Preferably on the Red Line!'' he said. "I have a simpler dream.''
Over the course of 90 minutes, Tingle shares how he and other Americans, from the Pilgrims to the newest immigrants, pursue their dreams here.
The old pope, the new pope, gay marriage, stem cell research, the ineffectiveness of torture and the war in Iraq, the messiness of democracy and of the Red Sox - they're all targets of Tingle's wit.
Noting the irony of picking the Big Dig contractors to oversee Iraqi reconstruction is fairly easy around these parts.
The clash between Tingle's abstinence from alcohol and the economic need to win a beer-and-wine license for his theater offers more rewarding laughs.
So do tales in which the comedian reflects on his own mortality.
At 50, Tingle has spent half his life onstage.
And he has had plenty of time since his 2002-03 production, "Jimmy Tingle in the Promised Land,'' to reflect on his all-too-brief prime-time career as the closing commentator on 60 Minutes II and to come to grips with running his own theater.
Amid the storytelling in "American Dream,'' the satirical barbs, a Q-and-A session and the very topical monologue, Tingle and director Larry Arrick still manage to construct a few stand-alone pieces of commentary that remind us how and why Tingle got on CBS in the first place.

"Jimmy Tingle's American Dream,'' at Jimmy Tingle's Off-Broadway, 255 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville. 8 p.m. Thurs-Sat, open-ended run.

Related: His official show/theater page.

LOST IN LOST: After watching the second season's second episode, we cannot be anything but frustrated with ABC's otherwise stellar Lost. One of those one step back, two steps forward kind of hours, where we get lots of backstory and flashbacks, and then right at the very end, glimpses of other inhabitants and at least one additional survivor (Michelle Rodriguez as Ana Lucia), who we already knew was going to show up. Ack! Now we have to wait another week to figure out what's really going on at the island. Anyone have a revised theory about the numbers, the Dharma corporation or Desmond?

MY FANTASY FOOTBALL TEAM IS SO LAST YEAR: You'd think having Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, Curtis Martin, Larry Johnson, Warrick Dunn and Donald Driver would help you win yourself a fantasy football league. If it were 2004, you'd be 100 percent correct. This year, however, suffering suck-o-tash! What in the h-e-double-hockeysticks is going on? Argh!

SPEAKING OF BIRTHDAY SUITS: This Lusty Lady has linked to me, not as a birthday gift, mind you (because how would she know?), but to illustrate how, despite the annoyance level of the song and the possibility that I'm not only going to get the melody stuck in my head but also in yours, it is a small world after all. Rachel found my site when she was writing about Jill Soloway for The Black Table, an online publication that just so happens to include a contribution by a former colleague of mine from Arizona.

IT'S MY BIRTHDAY: And I'll blog if I want to? Er, um, hey, wait a second...

Wallace & Gromit! Posted by Picasa

STOP-MOTION ANIMATION: I met Nick Park, creator of Wallace & Gromit on Monday morning for a brief chat at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston.

Here is the story I wrote that appears today in the Boston Herald...

What do Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Gumby have in common with King Kong?
They all made their screen debuts through the intricate art of stop-motion animation.
Most of today's animated projects rely on computer graphics, so to see not one but two new films based on stop-motion marks a happy coincidence for those who still practice the old-school, handmade techniques.
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, directed by Burton and Mike Johnson, opened yesterday. Nick Park and Steve Box bring Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, to theaters Oct. 7.
"It's a small club,'' said Joey Kolbe, who teaches animation at the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University and at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. "It really is. It's a whole different breed of animator. Sort of a hermit, to be exact, whereas the computer animator is more of a politician, if you will.''
Park, who created Wallace and Gromit as part of a student film project more than 20 years ago, acts like a proud parent while discussing his plasticine characters.
"The strength of Wallace and Gromit is that they are clay,'' Park said during a visit to Boston earlier this week. "Everybody's played with clay. They know how it's made. They admire it now because they could see how it's done. They can see the fingerprints.''
But making a movie through stop-animation requires patience.
Park took on a co-director to help oversee 30 simultaneous sets for his latest Wallace & Gromit film. "Each animator was getting through three seconds a day, so if were doing well, we would get about two minutes,'' he said.
Kolbe and Alex Hart, who teaches computer animation at the Art Institute of Boston, said technology has driven the medium more toward CGI and programs such as Flash or Maya. Disney recently announced it would drop its traditional 2-D cel animation division to focus on CGI, too.
That makes stop-motion "such a niche medium,'' Hart said. "You need all sorts of specialized drawing skills that are a little more scarce than are the computer skills or the drawing skills.''
When Hart worked with Kolbe at Olive Jar Productions, a Boston-based animation house that shut down about five years ago, he remembered one guy who worked only on ball-and-socket armatures. "He sat back in the shop on his lathe, making tiny little metal parts,'' Hart said.
Kolbe said the fact that "everything is tangible'' keeps stop-motion animators from defecting to more modern technologies. "Honestly, you can't do that with computer animation,'' he said. "You're limited to a pen, a board and a keyboard, or a mouse, if you work that way.''
Kolbe's clay and puppetry classes are popular, with waiting lists of 10 or more students per class. "These are courses I've never had any dropouts in,'' he said.
But he acknowledged that many more young animators turn to computers rather than clay, puppets and other forms of stop-motion.
"To breed a pureblood for the stop-motion animator, it'd be really difficult,'' he said. "I've seen it in a few of my students over the years, but they've been exceptional cases.''
Those who want to learn outside of class can turn to local outfits such as Handcranked Films in Waltham or the Gabriel Polonsky Studio in Belmont.
Anthony Scott, animation supervisor on Corpse Bride, runs the stopmotionanimation.com Web site, with dozens of links to other studios and practitioners of the art form and a message board with almost 4,000 registered members.
The Ottawa International Animation Festival, which ends tomorrow, also keeps the spirit of stop-motion alive.
Most stop-motion animators cite childhood inspirations for getting them so deeply involved in the process.
Willis H. O'Brien, who created King Kong in 1933, served as a mentor for Ray Harryhausen.
Harryhausen's work on several movies, most notably Jason and the Argonauts (1963), inspired both Park and Burton. And the Rankin/Bass holiday specials of the 1960s and 1970s - from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to The Year Without a Santa Claus - continue to delight TV audiences each winter, despite the dated technology.
Park couldn't dream of handing Wallace and Gromit over to a computer.
"There's something wonderful about getting a blob of clay and seeing what you can get out of it,'' he said.

M.I.A., AT THE PARADISE: The London hip-hop sensation with Sri Lankan roots showed up 15 minutes late for her gig Friday night at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. Or was that 15-minute DJ set intended to whip people into a frenzy? If so, it didn't work. The sold-out crowd wanted to see M.I.A., and she briefly addressed a mini-controversy regarding her first single, "Galang."

"Two days ago I got into a fight with someone because I licensed the song to Honda," she told the crowd. But she defended the decision, saying it's not Honda's song, but her song. "If they want to give me lazy money, f--- it!" she said. "And I'm a first-generation immigrant, so f--- it f--- it!" The crowd liked hearing that, enjoyed hearing the song even more.

GO SEE DJ HAZARD: Don't expect jokes about the Emmys, hurricanes, politics or anything current when DJ Hazard records his new stand-up comedy CD this weekend at The Comedy Studio in Cambridge.
"I tend not to have anything topical, anyway,'' Hazard said. "It takes me a long time to figure out what to say about something or somebody, and then when I do figure out what to say, they're dead.''
Or out of the public eye.
"Even the current administration, you'd think you have eight years to write something. Not me. I'd shy away from writing jokes about George W. Bush because he's a lame-duck president, and three years from now, these jokes won't work. Why bother?''
Truth be told . . .
"I'm lazy,'' Hazard confessed. "I write a bit, and it's like, OK, this is good for 10 years.''
Hazard has been making New Englanders laugh for longer than that, as a founding member of the Ding Ho Club. Louis CK cited Hazard as an influential mentor.
"Somebody said to me, 'Wow, you're like a raw naked nerve on stage. You perform like it's your last show ever.' I do. I always hope that it is my last show, that I'll get offstage, some wall will open up and aliens will say, 'You've done well. You've passed the test.' There'll be gobs of money, showgirls, a big throne, turkey. There's got to be turkey.''
"The nice thing about turkey is tryptophan,'' he said, referring to the protein chemical that puts people to sleep. Hazard calls it "God's gift,'' but wonders, "Why don't turkeys just fall asleep standing up? They're made of turkey!''

DJ Hazard, the official site.

DJ Hazard records a new comedy CD this weekend at the Comedy Studio, above the Hong Kong restaurant, 1236 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. Tickets: $9. Call 617-661-6507.

THE WHITE STRIPES, THE REVIEW: Jack White is a freak -- and a freakin' musical genius. Such an intense, commanding performance as he closed out a three-night run at the Opera House in Boston. Such a departure, too, from his appearance onstage with Loretta Lynn at the Grammys ("Yes, Miss Lynn. Thank you, Miss Lynn."). Fronting his familial duo, The White Stripes, Jack White showed he was in complete control, even when it might look to many in the audience as though he is completely winging it at times. In Being Jack White, maybe you'll decide to play a song on the piano rather than the guitar, maybe you'll bring the guitar with you when you sit at the piano, maybe you'll play the xylophone, maybe you'll let Meg sing a verse, maybe you'll tell Meg how to play the drums. Who knows? At one point in the first set (it'd be a misnomer to claim that The White Stripes perform an encore, when really it's more like a five-minute intermission between two equally powerful sets of music), Jack pointed out a kid standing alone in the balcony, applauding him and berating the "old fogies" sitting around him. Later, in the second set, Jack announced he'd adopted the kid as "my new son" and asked a roadie to make sure the kid gets all of their music. Toward the end of the set, the duo performed a Loretta Lynn song with Meg taking on vocals, a rousing version of "Seven Nation Army," then played "You Belong To Me," an old country standard (done by Jo Stafford, Patsy Cline, Bob Dylan and many others), although this time, Jack backed away from the microphone to sing the final verse specifically to an older woman standing near front row center. Kinda cute, kinda creepy. Sort of like at the end, when Jack White told us that "my sister thanks you" when talking about his ex-wife Meg. Um, OK. I didn't get a direct view of Meg for most of the show (my seats were front row, but farthest left, so a speaker got in the way of Meg). Instead, I saw her backlit shadow projected large against the other side of the house. Looked like Attack of the 50-foot Drummer! At times, watching her shadow bang on the drums made me think of Animal the Muppet. In a good way, naturally.

BIG UPS FOR MY COLLEAGUE, MICHELE McPHEE: In the latest issue of the Boston Phoenix, Mark Jurkowitz applauds my co-worker, Michele McPhee, for her new Monday police beat column in the Herald, and finally gets around to smacking the Globe for its Sidekick daily insert. McPhee deserves all the plaudits. She always tells me how much I produce for the paper, but my output is nothing compared to the daily load she carries for the front news section of our tab. As for Sidekick, I haven't been able to figure out what the Globe was trying to prove. When the Globe first announced the new configuration, we were led to believe that Sidekick could exist separately from the rest of the paper and even be sold that way. But really, it's just a mess. Now if they turned the entire Living/Arts section into a tab, that'd be something.

MORE BACKPEDALING ON BILL KOCH: Alex Beam's column today in the Globe offers an apology of sorts in this latest attempt to stave off a libel lawsuit. I say "of sorts" because the correction exists as an add-on "editor's note" to Beam's column.

9 p.m. Wednesdays, ABC (Ch.5, WCVB)
(4 stars out of 4 stars)
UPDATE: Spoiler, schmoiler. You know you want to know this stuff. And for those of you, like my TV editor, who ribbed me for giving the premiere four stars, let me say that I was going to give it 3.5 or 3 stars, until the final seconds, when they revealed the mystery hatch resident to be the guy Jack had met years earlier running the stairs at night in a football stadium. During that flashback, I wondered why the guy had a Down Under accent. Now I have even more questions, and more reason to want to tune in next week.

Do you like people who answer a question with a question?
If you say no, then how long will you put up with the maddeningly mysterious adventures on “Lost?”
While a handful of new shows openly copy from the Emmy-winning drama’s playbook this fall, “Lost” co-creators J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof demonstrate how much they’ve learned from supernatural predecessors such as “The X-Files,” cultivating a cult-like devotion to unraveling the truth behind crashed Oceanic Airlines Flight No. 815.
The truth may be out there.
But last night’s slow tease of a second season only reminds us that the more we know about these island castaways, the more we realize how much we don’t know about where they are, why they’re there or how they’re all connected.
For instance, we learn that at least one man lives in the hatch. He likes LPs and lava lamps, working out, injecting himself with unknown chemicals, and he has several matching uniforms, an arsenal of ammo and a series of mirrors that lets him see down corridors and up to the hatch opening.
But who is he? And why does the inside of the hatch door say QUARANTINE?
Shannon (Maggie Grace) hears voices in the jungle and sees young Walt (Malcolm David Kelley), who was kidnapped by “the others” (although she doesn’t know that yet) and whispers gibberish to her about “look through” – whatchu talkin’ about, Walt?
Hurley (Jorge Garcia) explains his theory on the cursed numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42) to Jack but he doesn’t believe it. Not yet, anyhow.
Kate (Evangeline Lilly) gets lowered into the hatch, only she doesn’t come back up, which leads us to believe she has met the mystery muscle man. Locke (Terry O’Quinn) follows; later, Jack (Matthew Fox).
We see more of the underground lair that looks like it continues to function on early 1980s technology (and 1970s AM radio tunes).
We also see Locke held at gunpoint.
We see in back-story how Jack met his future bride (and encountered the mystery muscle man on a nighttime run?).
But nothing on the fate of Michael, Jin and Sawyer, left wading in the ocean at the end of the first season. Nothing, too, about Ana Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez) or the other surviving passengers we’re sure to encounter later this season.
Last night’s episode, “Man of Science, Man of Faith” refers to how Jack and Locke have differing views on destiny and miracles.
It’ll be a miracle if we learn the destiny of “Lost” anytime soon.
With suspense like this, though, we certainly can wait several more Wednesdays to find out.

Related: Read today's Boston Herald to play the home game and see which sentence didn't make the cut in print: More questions than answers in 'Lost'

WHAT IT TAKES: If you're wondering what it takes to get the Boston Globe to stop saying bad things about you and your big fancy exhibit at the MFA, how about threatening a successful lawsuit? Hey, look at that! It worked. Presto change-o! Here's your nice review, Bill Koch. Almost makes you forget all the bad things they said about you. Or not really.

BLOGGING THE EMMYS: Why bother? I just remembered why people have stopped watching awards shows -- because they're not worth watching. And yet, I watched. Ugh. Even sat through part of the pre-show red carpet footage, just in case of what, I'm not sure. Anyhow. Here is what I wrote earlier today about the red carpet, which in retrospect, is more entertaining than watching the actual show. So enjoy...

Read this: For real show, hit the carpet (Boston Herald)

Joel Pott (center) of Athlete, at TT The Bears, Cambridge, Mass., Thursday, Sept. 15, 2005. Posted by Picasa

ATHLETE: Thoroughly enjoyed seeing these blokes from Britain live and up-close Thursday night at T.T. The Bears in Cambridge. And lead singer Joel Pott made sure everyone had a good time, despite the fact that the band had endured a tough 24 hours. Their sound engineer wound up in the hospital with nut allergies. Their bus, which was supposed to pick them up in NYC at 3 p.m. Wednesday after a cross-Atlantic flight, didn't show until 4 a.m. Thursday -- so they were weary before going onstage. Then they encountered technical difficulties during the set. Yet Pott kept the spirits light with his chatty, happy attitude.

"This is our very first own gig in Boston," Pott said. Later, he asked the crowd to "bear with me while I hand out instructions." He took a request from the crowd to play "Vehicles & Animals," even though it meant having Steve the drummer and Carey the bass player take a seat, which Pott said "makes them look like complete nobs. You're not nobs, though!" Pott chatted with the crowd between just about every song. When some of Steve's equipment went kaput, Pott asked for a beer (which he didn't receive until much, much later) then announced, "I'll tell you what. I'm going for a quick piss." He then jumped offstage and through the crowd to do just that. When he returned, the crowd applauded again, and Pott joked that there'd be no need for an encore now. "That'd just be stupid. It'd be embarrassing for us to walk offstage and come back now!"

Carey said that even though Athlete's first disc was up for UK's big Mercury Prize two years ago, the band has yet to break big on U.S. radio yet. Some of you may have heard them, as I did, thanks to a free iTunes download of "Wires" a few months ago. Maybe they'll get more of a listen this fall. They deserve it. You can catch audio and video footage either at Athlete's MySpace site or at their official site.

JILL SOLOWAY: Arrived late to the reading/performance by author Jill Soloway and her sister, Faith, at the Cambridge YMCA theater space Thursday night, but not too late to see the Soloway sisters sing and banter, not too late to hear Jill Soloway read from her collection of essays, Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants. Afterward, I introduced myself to the Soloways. Faith's exact words methinks were these: "Oh my, an actual man showed up!" Yet another reminder that for much of my life, I've either felt like (or sometimes even sought out an identity as) the other. Conservative guy at the liberal college paper. Liberal guy at the conservative daily paper. Poor guy at the rich man's party. Rich guy in the poor man's town. White guy in the majority-minorty party. Actual man at the all-female party, surrounded by feminists, lesbians, feminist lesbians, feminists and their whipped men. The more I thought about it, the more I wondered if I actually enjoy being "the other" more than being around people like me. Hmmmm. OK. That's enough self-reflection for one post.

COMEDY TONIGHT, REVIEWS TO COME: I'll be one of the judges tonight for the semi-finals of the Boston Comedy and Movie Festival's comedy contest. Shows at 8 and 10 p.m., so I better get along little doggy. Get info and tickets here. Brush up on some festival comedy and events here.

Been busy, so later tonight, I'll recap the comedy contest as well as review the two events I witnessed Thursday night (author Jill Soloway in Cambridge, and Britpoppers Athlete at TT's) when I get home.

WHY AM I ON TV? Ah, yes. Some of you may have read the previous post and arrived at that question yourselves. I go on NECN every Friday afternoon to talk up local happenings and entertainment -- and in doing so, promote my paper, the Boston Herald, and my weekly calendar page, Seize the Weekend.

This afternoon, NECN host Leslie Gaydos decided to throw a pop quiz my way (for her amusement or for the viewers, I'm not sure) and ask me about pretty much everything I had written on the page. Good thing I wrote it all, eh? Hope it looked and sounded fun on your end of the tube.

Here is today's column. Enjoy. Unless it's raining from Ophelia, in which case, pick only the indoorsy events.

MOCK ME ON TV: I'll be on NECN (New England Cable News) today in the 4 o'clock hour's "NewsDay" program -- which usually airs my segment live around 4:20 p.m., then repeats a half-hour later. If you've ever wondered what this blogger looks like and/or sounds like, wonder no more. Or, if you don't like to be shocked during the afternoon, continue to wonder for another week. This is a fairly new, fairly weekly gig for me now. Stay tuned.

GO SEE JILL SOLOWAY: You wouldn't peg me as the kind of guy who'd read a collection of 21st-century-feminist essays, but then again, why are you trying to peg me? You don't know me. And you probably don't know Jill Soloway. Tonight is your chance to correct at least one of those situations. Soloway comes to Cambridge tonight to read from her first book, Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants.

I talked to Jill earlier this week.

A reader at Jill Soloway's first book tour stop in New York City asked the author a simple question: "Do you hate men?''
Short answer: No.
But Soloway, whose first collection of essays is called Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants, does refer to the man she lives with as either her husfriend or partner, not her husband ("We do feel married,'' she said). And she would like to create an all-female haven, which she'd call Feather Crest.
"I'm totally ready to start a new land,'' she said. "I feel like it's a geographical representation of a burka. If we all hide in a land where men cannot have access to us, then we can make our own rules. No more Brazilian waxes!''
Then she walks past a Manhattan intersection to see that someone called the Naked Cowgirl has taken up residence.
"This is not good,'' Soloway said.
Her essays blend personal memoir and professional experience to explore broader themes in feminism, touching on everything from the porno-ization of America to the Lolita complex, comparing her own sexual past to that of Monica Lewinsky and Chandra Levy, casting new light on the likes of Kobe Bryant and lesbianism.
It's sexual, yes.
"But it's not dirty,'' Soloway said. "It's political. It's about making the object the subject.''
And it's also something she has become used to doing through the "Sit 'N' Spin'' comedy shows she hosts monthly in Los Angeles. On other stops of her book tour, comedians such as Sarah Silverman and Amy Poehler join Soloway onstage, as do actresses from Six Feet Under.
Soloway began writing episodes during the HBO show's second season and had become a co-executive producer by the series finale this summer.
Soloway got her big break in show business in the early 1990s when she and her older sister, Faith, produced "The Real Live Brady Bunch'' in Chicago, faithfully re-enacting episodes of the classic TV sitcom. Faith Soloway now lives in the Hub and will join her sister at tonight's Cambridge reading.
"We'd like to think we're the newfangled Smothers Brothers. The Soloway Sisters,'' Jill Soloway said. "So we'll have some sisterly banter.''
They'll also have readings by Lisa Carver and Merle Perkins, who appeared in a fifth-season episode of Six Feet Under, "The Rainbow of Her Reasons,'' as well as in local Faith Soloway productions including "Jesus Has Two Mommies.''
Jill Soloway also will show some bizarre press footage from when they launched the national tour of "The Real Brady Bunch'' here in Boston.
"We were deadly serious,'' she said. "It was as if they asked us to talk about the Holocaust. Except it was the Brady Bunch.''

The Center for New Words presents Jill Soloway and her book, Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants, tonight at 8 at the Cambridge Family YMCA, 820 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. Call 617-876-5310.

Related: Jill Soloway's home page
Related: Boston Herald interview

BUSY DAYS, BUSIER NIGHTS: Lots of stories in the production line, but you don't want to hear any excuses. Let's just get to it.

Boston Herald columnist Beth Teitell referenced me in her discussion today of that classic question, "How was your summer?" Not so important what I told Beth, or how she quoted me, as much as the general point I was trying to make. That question isn't so simple, although people who ask "How was your summer?" expect a simple answer (great, good, ok), much like most colleagues and acquaintances don't really want to hear your actual answer to the classic introductory chit-chat question, "How are you doing?" When talking about your summer, you usually go with your first instinct answer, when really, so many different things happen in one's life over the course of June, July and August, that you could have a terrible two months and one beyond magical month. But this is much too much talk about summer, when there are still a few days left to change your answers. So get to it, people!

Tuesday night I attended the "VIP" reception for the Taste of Boston, up in the State Room high atop 60 State Street. VIP, I guess, is code for open bar -- at least in this instance. Don't worry, Mom (and my probation officer!). Me no drinky drinky. Especially since I'm on the birthday boot camp plan. More on that later. Cannot say I dressed like a VIP, but I sure felt like one tonight when I met the New England Patriots cheerleaders at a private meet-and-greet function at Boston Billiards Club. The power of the press, like any power, easily corrupts, if you're not careful. Don't worry, blog fans. I'm careful. Be on the lookout for the fruits of my labor soon.

"Bushie, you're doing a heckuva job!"

That's all I can say after watching the 10 p.m. newscast tonight on FOX 25, which included this nugget from our president, which he delivered to the media today after surveying the scene in New Orleans -- TWO WEEKS after Hurricane Katrina.

And we quote verbatim: "My impression of (pause) New Orleans is this, that, uh, there is a (pause) recovery on the way, there is progress being made, but there's a lotta, a lotta serious and hard work that's yet to be done."

That's the best he could do after two weeks. Even in print with the non-comma pauses added, you still don't see the eye-blinking and lip-pursing and other body language -- which W. himself holds to be a very important indicator of other people's credibility -- that demonstrates just how out of his element the president is here. He really doesn't know what to do or what to say. That's not exactly comforting. What happened to the rough-and-tumble cowboy who rebounded from his initial failure on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, to grab the Big Apple by the bullhorn and rally our nation as one? Where did that guy go? He was not in New Orleans today. Mike "Can't Lead a Horse Show to Water" Brown may have resigned from FEMA, but that doesn't fix the problem where, as Harry S Truman was wont to say, the buck is supposed to stop.

MEETING VAL KILMER: Don't go dissing Val. I know what some people have said over the years about Mr. Val Kilmer, but don't believe everything you hear. I'll stick up for him even more after having met him earlier today as part of a press thing (is it a junket if it's within walking distance of the paper and all I got was a Red Bull?) for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which screened Sunday night as part of the Boston Film Festival. He was polite, charming and affable in the time I spent with him and writer/director Shane Black. I told him how last night, my remote control landed on an HBO showing of Spartan, a 2004 Mamet film he starred in that didn't get enough attention from anyone (and for the purposes of chitting the chat, does include a scene in which Kilmer's character stops to look at the front page of the Boston Herald!). I did not tell him how I can still quote lengthy passages from Real Genius, which remains a seminal moment in my teen experience. That movie, and his performance therein, helped shape my decision to turn to subversive wit as both a strength and a coping/defense mechanism. I remember him much more for that than his turn as Iceman in Top Gun (although when Black used Mr. and Mrs. Smith as an example of this summer's movie malaise, I retorted with a reference to this also being the summer of Mr. and Mrs. Cruise, which did get a glimmer of a smile from Messrs. Black and Kilmer). At any rate. Interviewing two people in 20 minutes won't always reveal as much as you'd like, and having the results then distilled into six newscolumn inches for the paper's Inside Track means relaying even less to readers. Let's hope it turns out OK.

I saw Kilmer and Black again tonight at a Boston Film Festival party at Bonfire (yes, chef/owner Todd English was in attendance) in which Kilmer received something called the Long's Jewelers Excellence in Film Award, which means, well, I'm not sure what it means. But that helps explain why Kilmer was in town today. It doesn't explain how, after making the rounds in Toronto, London and Venice in the past few weeks, how movie stars ever get adjusted to all of this hobnobbing and media junketeering and paparazzi-like attention.

CBS OWNS UP TO SURVIVOR SURPRISE: Sometime last week, CBS finally confirmed what fans already figured out -- two past Survivor competitors would return for this 11th edition, which begins anew Thursday. Everyone online seems to think the two returnees are Stephenie and Bobby Jon from the 10th edition in Palau (and the updated CBS teaser ad that has the duo in shadows would seem to confirm Stephenie's outline, at least), but that same ad also says the two to return are "the most popular in Survivor history," which, if you're to believe that, would make you suspicious. Then again, we here at Popular Thinking always put "reality" in quotes for a reason.

More curious is the debate some have made in the wake of Hurricane Katrina that we shouldn't have "reality" TV shows like Survivor making fun of surviving. Read some of the debate courtesy of Reality Blurred. I'll continue the debate later this week.

HELP WANTED: Third-base coach, Boston Red Sox. Apply now!

What's that, you say? The Red Sox already have a third-base coach? Really? That's like saying the head of FEMA can manage federal emergencies! Yes, that's right. We're jumping on the dump Dale Sveum bandwagon, because how many more times do we have to see baserunners sent home for easy plays at the plate before something gets done? I don't know Dale Sveum. I don't know his family. They might be good people. But that's no excuse for the bad calls he makes game-in, game-out. Something must be done, people. Just saying.

A TALE OF TWO CITIES: Twelve days after Hurricane Katrina roared across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and still, we're not getting the big picture. So much misinformation getting bandied about -- who will sift through it all to make sure we really know what happened and what's happening?

Example: CNN shows neighborhoods in New Orleans, from the French Quarter to the Garden District, that remain relatively unscathed. The Sheraton has had its power back on for almost a week. And yet, flip the channel to another multi-network telethon and you hear Ellen DeGeneres tell us that her city of New Orleans is lost and completely destroyed.

Example: Almost everyone in the mainstream media has been quick to play up any death estimates by the New Orleans mayor, when all of these estimates are nothing more than speculation. Just because the military has 10,000 body bags at the ready does not mean that there will be 10,000 fatalities. Reminds me of how, in the early fallout from Sept. 11, 2001, New York City officials were bracing us for casualties upward of 35,000, since that's how many people could have been in the Twin Towers. Sometimes it's better not to try to do the math until you know the equation.

We need to stop focusing so much on the few images we've seen over and over and over again, and remember the people and places who haven't gotten any airtime. Where are they now? How are they doing? What can we do to help?

FRIDAY NIGHT REVIEWS: Saw Lewis Black "and friends" at Emerson College's Majestic Theatre, then hustled over to Paddy O's for the final hour of Hothouse Flowers.

Boston Comedy Festival co-founder Jim McCue opened the show with a short warm-up set and "apologized" for his casual attire. Black then came onstage to thunderous applause to host the rest of the two-hour show. Black riffed about the start of the school year, had some new material about Mike "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job" Brown of FEMA, some other material about Boston, Ireland and Terri Schiavo. His friends for the opening night of the festival were Lynne Koplitz, local guy Tony V. and Mike Wilmot. I hadn't heard much from any of these comics live before, so I was surprised at how blue both Koplitz and Wilmot were for an opening night festival theatre show. I would've stuck around to network, but I wanted to catch the Hothouse Flowers over at Paddy O's and wasn't sure what time they were due to play there. Made it in time to catch the final 45-50 minutes or so, followed by a TRUE ENCORE. The band stopped playing, the lights went dark, the DJ began spinning dance tunes, but the crowd wanted more. Eventually, Hothouse Flowers not only retook the stage, but also began jamming along with the DJ's selection, "Play That Funky Music," as a way to transition back to their soulful Irish rock. I never figured out why Hothouse Flowers never became more popular. Seeing them in this setting, a small Irish pub in Boston, made only a little sense. A good fit. But you'd expect them to play to larger crowds.

LEWIS BLACK INTERVIEW: Lewis Black is flustered.
What else is new?
When Black phoned in from Atlanta two days after Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans and destroyed southern Mississippi, he had new reasons to bash the president.
"My favorite is this: He flew over it and said there's a long recovery. What a, what a - brilliant!'' Black said.
"He cut his vacation short. I'm surprised he even got up to look! But he had to - it was right next door. It's chaos down there. There's bodies floating. What do you expect people to do? That's not normal.''
`"This is the kind of happy snappy stuff I'll be doing.''
Fans of Black know that happy and snappy aren't his forte. Black, 57, has risen to national prominence in the past few years through a series of Comedy Central specials and his regular "Back in Black'' rants on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
So the tragic aftermath of Katrina cannot restrain him, particularly because it plays up to his mad-as-hell-and-he-ain't-going-to-take-it-anymore persona.
Black also found out that the Gulfport, Miss., casino he performed in earlier this summer was destroyed by Katrina.
"As if Mississippi was doing that well to begin with,'' he said.
Boston crowds aren't Mississippi crowds, though. That's a good thing for Black, who says he feels his rage is welcomed by the working-class, battered-down mentality of Hub residents.
"There's a bottom line of bitter in Boston comedy,'' he said. "I consider Boston the spiritual home of my comedy career.''
He arrived in town last night and has to leave Sunday because he's doing a movie.
"You have to realize by saying, 'I'm doing a movie,' and that sounds really good because it is really good, but I end up flying back and forth across the country,'' he said.
It's a Universal Pictures production called Accepted, about a kid who starts a fake college because he didn't get into school, then has to back it up when his parents want to learn more. Black plays the fake dean.
Look for the movie next year.
"And hopefully people will have gas and be able to get there,'' Black said.

"Lewis Black and Friends'' opens the Boston Comedy Festival. Black performs at 8:30 tonight with Lynne Koplitz, Jim McCue, Tony V. and Mike Wilmot; at 8:30 p.m. tomorrow with Alonzo Bodden, Kevin Knox, Don Gavin and McCue. Tickets: $35. Go to www.bostoncomedyfestival.com or call 800-233-3123.

THE BOSTON COMEDY FESTIVAL: It starts tomorrow. Look for my interview with Lewis Black then, too. And look for a review of his show after that. Anyhow. Here is a preview.

Read it: You can't laugh off Emerson's impact on Hub comedy (Boston Herald)

BLOC PARTY AT AVALON: Didn't get to see Sufjan Stevens in Somerville (sold out long ago) but did acquire last-minute tix to Bloc Party, which also supposedly had sold out a whiles back. So away my colleague Kerry and I went to Avalon, which, it being a Red Sox home game night, meant Kerry had to pay $30 for parking. That's why I don't have a car in the city. Well, that, and a lot of other reasons which we don't need to go into right now. Let's get back to the concert review. We arrived in time for the final two songs of The Kills. I thought the duo was OK. Kerry, not so much a fan. Neither were the folks from Aberdeen City, whom Kerry introduced me to during the intermission. The wannabe-hip crowd cheered almost every song by Bloc Party. I thought the quartet was solid, but really, not worth the faux encore. And considering we paid almost twice as much for Bloc Party as I could've paid for Sufjan, who would've been twice as much fun -- well, that kind of thinking leads to regret. And we cannot have that. Where are you, Stereogum, to help save me from this with your photo essay retrospective of Sufjan in NYC? Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed Bloc Party. They may go on to be as huge as the solder-than-sold-out crowd at Avalon implied. But I think I would've enjoyed Sufjan Stevens that much more.

SPEAKING OF GILLIGAN: There were other bigger stars who filled the role of TV's lovable goof, but none of them were quite as lovable in their goofiness as Bob Denver's "Gilligan."

Gilligan is gone.
The red rugby shirts with the white collars and the white fishing caps remain, but Bob Denver will never wear them again.
Sure, others will don the duds – whenever bored TV writers decide to spice up their mediocre sitcoms with a Gilligan theme.
TBS came calling to Quincy's Marina Bay not once, but twice, seeking a Gilligan-wannabe for its series The Real Gilligan's Island, which wasn't real at all.
How could you replace Gilligan, anyhow?
Some likely remember Denver as TV beatnik Maynard G. Krebs, of The Dobie Gillis Show, but it was his three-season turn on Gilligan's Island that cemented his status as one of America's most lovable goofs.
Gilligan debuted on CBS on Sept. 26, 1964. More than four decades later, he has outlived his competitors in syndication.
Perhaps his character endured because he always meant well, no matter how much he bungled his attempts to get off the island.
On his Web site, www.bobdenver.com, Denver told fans that he enjoyed Gilligan's slapstick comedy.
Viewers loved Gilligan so much that one anonymous bidder paid $28,750 to acquire one of his TV-worn shirts in 1999.
Denver, 70, and the other castaways only appeared on 98 original TV episodes over three seasons (all available on DVD).
But Denver reprised the Gilligan role for three TV movies and two aborted shows.
When he wasn't Gilligan, he was Gilligan-like in the short-lived Saturday morning show, Far Out Space Nuts. He later popped up in character on everything from ALF to Baywatch, The Simpsons and MTV's Road Rules.
He tried other roles, too. But once you go Gilligan, you never go back.
"When you've been part of a show that has made so many people happy and continues to do so to this day, it's hard to resent it,'' he wrote online.
Thanks, little buddy.

Related: Bob Denver's official site; 'Little Buddy,' Bob Denver, dead at 70 (Boston Herald)

WALTHAM DOES THE AMAZING RACE: Local band Waltham gets a primetime promotional push as its song, "Cheryl (Come And Take A Ride)," gets airplay on TV ads for the upcoming season of CBS' The Amazing Race. Good for them. And good for anyone wanting to relive early 1980s rock.

IT IS A SMALL WORLD, AFTER ALL: A week after Katrina, and still, plenty of shock to go around -- from the news and images on the ground to the lack of explanation from those who should be in charge. The other night, one of many stories to come out of New Orleans piqued my interest as the local TV newscast Sunday retold the tale of a guy who commandeered a bus out of the city and picked up strangers along the way. I was curious to hear exactly what the story was there, but I quickly became distracted when the guy they showed on the screen looked more than vaguely familiar. He looked like a guy I knew. A guy whose sister I dated back in the mid-1990s. And then the TV newscast put a name to his face and I was certain of it. Even though he was more than 10 years and thousands of miles removed from when and where I knew him -- Twin Falls, Idaho -- Sean Thorpe found himself in the middle of Katrina's wake. A Google search last night turned up no print article on him or his Katrina story. Google could locate his sister, so I e-mailed her. She replied, said he is doing OK physically, more info to come. All of this makes it more than difficult to focus on the often-trivial nature of my work. And that's a good thing.

KEEP AN EYE ON BLEU: Went last night to T.T. The Bears in Cambridge to catch The Everyday Visuals, Bleu and The Rudds. All three acts impressed. But as a newcomer to the scene, I came away from the show wondering how Bleu isn't already a big rock star...

Suffice it to say, I'll be using my power of the press to keep him in the public eye.

In the meantime, stream four of his latest demos on his official MySpace site: http://www.myspace.com/bleuelope

FALL FILM PREVIEW: I took part in our newspaper's seasonal look at mainstream cinema with this look at some of the, well, how does one put it diplomatically, less-than-original offerings coming to a cinema near you. The list below doesn't even include the many remakes and adaptations in the Hollywood pipeline.

Ah, autumn. Seasons change, leaves change, and yet the latest crop of Hollywood movies manages to look all too familiar.
We can picture how several of these fall films got pitched to the studios (cue the flashback)...

Underclassman: Nick Cannon plays a detective who goes undercover at a high school. Cannon claims he came up with the story by himself, but we remember 21 Jump Street. Cannon ain't no Johnny Depp. (Opened Friday.)

A Sound of Thunder: A guy goes back in time to hunt dinosaurs (The Lost World: Jurassic Park) but steps on a butterfly, and before you can say The Butterfly Effect or remember Homer Simpson's Halloween episode, "D'oh!'', all humanity will cease to exist unless, of course, another crew goes back in time, Terminator style, to save us all. (Opened Friday.)

The Exorcism of Emily Rose: Reportedly based on the true story of a German girl who died in 1976, but that was three years after Linda Blair's head-spinning turn in The Exorcist. Methinks we would've remembered hearing about a devil girl in 1976, especially if she were German. Just saying. (Opens Sept. 9.)

The Man: Let's match up a dorky white guy (Eugene Levy) with a cool black federal agent (Samuel L. Jackson) and watch the hilarity ensue. This rips off too many mismatched-buddy-cop flicks to even try to start a list. (Opens Sept. 9.)

Just Like Heaven: It's like Ghost only with strangers (Hearts and Souls) who forge an unlikely supernatural romance (Chances Are). (Opens Sept. 16.)

The Thing About My Folks: Think Nothing in Common, only with Peter Falk and Paul Reiser in the roles played by Jackie Gleason and Tom Hanks 19 years ago. (Opens Sept. 16.)

Flightplan: Jodie Foster loses her daughter on the maiden voyage of an airplane that she designed, which somehow manages to combine Panic Room, Titanic, Hitchcock and The Twilight Zone into one concept. (Opens Sept. 23.)

Serenity: Joss Whedon turns his failed TV show Firefly into a big-screen blowout. (Opens Sept. 30.)

Into the Blue: You liked Jacqueline Bisset in The Deep? Great. Now replace her with a bikini-clad Jessica Alba. What, no T-shirt? (Opens Sept. 30.)

Waiting . . .: Bored chain restaurant employees amuse themselves, which means, yes, this is a ripped-off spinoff of Office Space meets Fast Times at Ridgemont High. (Opens Oct. 7.)

Get Rich or Die Tryin': 50 Cent's 8 Mile. (Opens Nov. 9.)

WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG? I was supposed to see a comedy show last night, but I couldn't bring myself to it. I'd been avoiding the reality of our national crisis for too long. We all have. The siutation in and around New Orleans is more than untenable. It's unconscionable. How can the rest of America operate as though nothing has happened? Something tremendously tragic continues to unfold in New Orleans. People are dying needlessly. Many bloggers have posted links for the Red Cross, FEMA and other aid organizations. We must do more. We should've done more already. Aren't we all Americans? Or do the poor, the hungry, the tired huddled masses not matter if they're not in New York City? President Bush stood at Ground Zero four years ago and sounded tough with rescuers there. Where is he now? Where are we now? What is taking so long?

RACE, CLASS AND HURRICANE KATRINA: One blogger's notation of two competing cutlines in the post-Katrina world of N'Awlins (where the black kid is looting while the white kids are merely finding their groceries) gets taken the next step by Slate's Jack Shafer, who asks the obvious question -- why aren't more journalists talking about the fact that it's the poor black folk of the South who got screwed by the hurricane?

Related: The New Orleans Times-Picayune predicted as much with a five-part series in 2002. U.S. News & World Report also had a handle on the problem in July.

FREE STELLASTARR*: Just got home from a free concert by Stellastarr* at the Middle East Downstairs in Cambridge, thanks to corporate sponsor Smirnoff and radio partner WFNX. We got there around 8:30 p.m. to ensure our entry, although I don't think they turned anyone away, and opening act The Information didn't start until 10 p.m. The audience mostly behaved. Mostly. During Stellastarr's set, one guy ambled onstage, waved to the crowd, then put his arm around the bass player before hugging her and making a mess of things. Why no one tried to stop this is unknown. Singer Shawn had the quick wit to reference the Smirnoff ads by saying, "That's not drinking responsibly," then drew cheers from the crowd by suggesting, "Why don't we take him out back and kick the s*** out of him." Otherwise, Stellastarr* sounded great, playing a bunch of new songs. They return to Boston on Oct. 7 with a date at the Paradise Rock Club. Mark your calendars.

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