Friday, June 29, 2007

3000

BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O!


Only 26 men in the history of Major League Baseball (that's A LOT of men!) have collected 3000 base hits. Last night, one of my teenage heroes, and forever one of my favorite players, Craig Biggio, joined that class. He's number 27.

For non-baseball fans, you may be thinking "woop-di-doo...who cares!" I don't blame you. If you don't like baseball, I wouldn't expect you to care, so let me put this milestone into a universally understood perspective.

Achieving 3000 hits is like climbing Mount Everest 18 times, with no shoes! ... 3000 hits is like fighting a leopard and a cheetah at the same time, and winning! ... what Biggio did was like swimming upstream with salmon, during mating season, with 20 lb. weights attached to each ankle!

Now do you get it?!?! In other words, he's a super stud!

But along with that, # 7 has always been involved in the communities of Houston. He donates time and money. He's humble. He's turned down more money (dirty Yankee money!) to stay in Houston. He's loyal. He's not foul-mouthed. He's a classic ballplayer. A part of the old breed.

Congats Biggio! While 'roid heads chase home-run records with syringes hanging out their arms, you did it on good ol' sweat and hustle. I totally love you.

---
With Brad Ausmus at second base and two outs in the seventh inning, Biggio took the first two pitches for balls as the crowd began booing Cook for not throwing a pitch in the strike zone. He asked for a brief timeout and stepped out of the box.

"You just try to slow the whole process," Biggio said. "And that's all that I was trying to do today. You're hearing (the fans). I know they're loud, but I didn't hear them as loud as my sons heard them loud. And they were like, 'Man this place is just rocking.' So I hear it, but you don't hear it as much."

Once Biggio got back into the batter's box, he ripped the momentous RBI single to center, tying the score at 1.

Almost immediately, a banner was unfurled from the roof above the Crawford Boxes, displaying Biggio's likeness batting and the "3000" going down from his chest through his right leg.

Biggio, the all-time doubles leader among righthanded hitters, was thrown out to end the inning as he tried to stretch his 3,000th hit into a double. His teammates rushed out of the dugout and bullpen to surround him and his family between first and second. As hard as they tried, Patty and Craig Biggio could not stop their tears as they hugged on the field.
---


BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O! BIG-GI-O!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

PRIDE, TERRENCE HOWARD

I love Terrence Howard (see a few posts below). I love Terrence Howard in the new(ish) movie, Pride. The movie could've easily be called Water, because the H2O motifs run wild. Wild like a river. Sorry to frame that in such a cliche way, but Pride welcomes cliche. Its unchecked sentimentality is a refreshing break from our emotionally shallow film culture.

Terrence Howard portrays real-life, inner-city swim coach, Jim Ellis. Howard doesn't just wear this role on his sleeve, he let's his respect for Ellis come out in the performance. More than four times, Howard cries on screen ... and it never feels scripted. In fact, each teary moment feels like an after-the-director-said-cut aside that was caught on camera.

These moments are inserted into scenes unexpectedly. The story doesn't require them for clarity, but director Sunu Gonera understood the unique opportunity he had to lift Pride above "feel-good movie" to "feel-great movie". I don't doubt that actor's real emotions regularly come out on film shoots, but I can't help feeling that Howard and Gonera knew they'd stumbled onto something special in the editing room.

I suppose some will just shrug off Pride as a black version of Hoosiers-in-a-swimming-pool, or a Dead Poets Society with diving blocks instead of desks, but that would be unfortunate. Pride is more rewarding the longer you wade around in it. You want even more cliches??? YOU GOT IT!! ... Swim, don't sink, to see Pride. It's the feel good rental of the summer!

THE DARJEELING LIMITED

Wes Anderson's 5th movie, The Darjeeling Limited, is scheduled to open the New York Film Festival on September 28th. I think I would like to be there for that...

(Above are some screen shots from Entertainment Weekly)

Apparently, the three main characters - played by Schwartzman, Brody, and Wilson - are named Francis, Jack, and Peter. Dave Poland thinks this is some kind of nod or storyline or reference to Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Nicholson, and Peter Bogdanovich.
Coincidence? Maybe ... but Roman Coppola & Schwartzman (related to Coppola) co-wrote it, Wes Anderson is friends with Bogdanovich, and they all three worked for Roger Corman in the 60's.

Ah well ... does it matter?!?! It's still gonna rule!

THE BRAVE ONE

If I hadn't known this was the new Neil Jordan movie before I watched the trailer, ... then I wouldn't have known that this was the new Neil Jordan movie after I watched the trailer.

I think Neil Jordan is great. I'm excited to see what angle he takes on this vigilante genre film.

And Terrence Howard's in it!!

Jodie Foster? I think it's good casting. I really like her in the "tough female" role (Panic Room, Silence of the Lambs, Flightplan). It's a welcome return after her baaaaaaaaaaad perfomance in Inside Man.

The Brave One trailer -----> HERE

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A MIGHTY HEART

Cinematic genre journeyman, Michael Winterbottom, uses the crowded streets of Karachi to satisfy his "political thriller" fix. A Mighty Heart moves along at an aggressive clip, the camerawork seemingly inspired by Traffic and the work of Paul Greengrass.
But like all things Winterbottom, his latest film is just an exercise; a monied production that is emotionally bankrupt. This Winterbottom asthetic would play well in the world of the half-wired & barely there documentary, but real film fans will sniff out "fraud!" from a mile away. Perhaps Winterbottom needs a stint in the minor leagues. Chris Smith, and the Jarecki brothers await him.

A Mighty Heart has been pushed as a Jolie/Pitt production, so it's hard not to render Jolie's performance as the centerpiece of the film. To her credit, she does an credible job. Her looks get in the way, but she does her best to shake them off. Jolie isn't a great actress, but she's a smart one. She brings restraint to a real-life role that must have been emotionally taxing to even attempt to emulate.

Having said that, it's not a performance that deserves the mid-summer Oscar slobber that critics have been heaping on. Off the top of my head, Julie Christie, Katherine Heigl, Gabrielle Union, Parker Posey, and Kristen Stewart have all fared better. But give Jolie props, it mustn't have been easy taking cues from a director with no direction.

1,000 FILMS TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE! (cont'd)

Guardian continues with their film list...

Titles starting with the letters D-H.
A little shout out here to one of my Top 20 films: Distant Voices, Still Lives. It's still unavailable on DVD in the US, but if you live in a big city or college town you should be able to find it on VHS.

---
(Terence Davies, 1988)Davies' primal, poetic reimagining of his Liverpool childhood marked him out as one of British cinema's brightest talents. Two decades later, the funding has dried up and the backers have gone elsewhere. All of which only serves to make Distant Voices seem all the more tragic, and precious.
---

Monday, June 25, 2007

1,000 FILMS TO SEE BEFORE YOU DIE!

...so says the Guardian.

I'm a sucka-in-slow-motion when it comes to these types of canons.

Today they've only released A-C, which is good, b/c there is a lot to digest.

I'm sure I will have lots to say about this, but for now, let's celebrate the inclusion of one of the most underappreciated (and HATED by this person & this person) Abel Ferrara films:

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The Addiction
(Abel Ferrara, 1995) Ferrara's comic-horror vision of modern urban vampires is an underrated masterpiece, full-throatedly bizarre and offensive. The vampire takes blood from the innocent mortal and creates another vampire, condemned to an eternity of addiction and despair. Ferrara's mob movie The Funeral, released at the same time, had a similar vision of violence and humiliation.
---

The beginning of the 1000 films is -----> HERE.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

"TULSA" - RUFUS WAINWRIGHT

On Rufus Wainwright's new album, one of the songs I enjoy the most is the brief and silly "Tulsa". It sounds like an outtake that he decided to throw on the album for some comic relief, or punctuation, between songs. But that's not a knock. Sometimes recorded goofs translate into brilliant mistakes. (See Nirvana's "Endless, Nameless").

But "Tulsa" took on juicier meaning this weekend when I read in Spin that its about a random encounter Rufus had with Brandon Flowers of The Killers, in Oklahoma.

I had guessed it was about a fling, perhaps a one night stand, because the lyrics are adoringly cute, and the music is choppy and ends in dissonance ... just like a heartbeat when the head sees a new crush.

Here are the lyrics:

---
You taste of potato chips in the morning
Your face has the Marlon Brando club calling
And who would have thought that I'd owe it all to Tulsa?
And that fat guy with the green shirt that we both signed together
Once he hears the song, won't live it down forever

Your suit was the whitest thing since you-know-who
I fear that that savior I mentioned may be you
And who would have thought that I'd owe it all to Tulsa?
And that poor girl who waited in the rain for hours to meet me (not you, baby!)
Once she hears that song, won't live it down completely

And I owe it all to Tulsa, Oklahoma
This is just a reminder of the antique shop that I want to go back to and visit when it's open
In Tulsa, Oklahoma
Just in case you don't appreciate this song about you!
---

Of course, there's no real love affair between the piano man and the Killer, but this is Rufus at his best. I wish he'd inject more of this playfulness into his "serious" material.

Friday, June 22, 2007

"LEAVE ME (LIKE YOU FOUND ME)" - WILCO

While not near as ambitious, Wilco's new album, Sky Blue Sky could be seen as its Third/Sister Lovers...but in reverse.

Wilco went "experimental" with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born, before going straight with SBS. While Big Star went straight on # 1 Record and Radio City before going "experimental" with T/SL. Both bands made great music throughout these triptychs of albums, but neither Jeff Tweedy or Alex Chilton sound as comfortable and honest as on their third.

If you buy this, then Wilco's "Leave Me (Like You Found Me)" is Big Star's "Nighttime". Both feel like evening walks in the neighborhood. "Leave Me..."'s tired, bouncy piano, and preciously-plucked, walking bass line puts the pavement under Tweedy's melody and words.

"And down the city streets/People are climbing the trees/They're finally up off their knees/Honestly/You leave me like you found me"


But things aren't as hopeful for Tweedy...

"I sit on the couch alone/Where you sit when I'm not home/And I feel so close to you"


You feel for this sad man, but his lady friend is just doing as the song's title requests!

In the next song, he's still walking. "I'm walking/All by myself", the song begins, but the piano has a healthier bounce this time, making Tweedy sound like he's getting to the point of "pulling himself up off his knees".

Thursday, June 21, 2007

AFI 100 - THE UPDATED LIST

The American Film Institute just released a 10 year anniversary update to their initial 100 Greatest Films List. We could spend countless hours taking countless angles on this thing, but right now I'm most interested in what dropped OFF, and what popped IN ... in just 10 years time.

23 films dropped off the list from 1997. The biggest losers are Dr. Zhivago and Birth of a Nation. The former went from #39 to bzzzt, and the latter from #44 to bzzzt. (DW Griffith is redeemed, however, by having his Intolerence go from bzzzt in 1997 to #49 today.


The biggest winner was The General. It went from bzzzt to #17! Quite a feat for a silent film. Nashville (at #59) and Sullivan's Travels (at #61) also made strong debuts.

Now as far as the "WTF?!?, why did that film drop off?" there is The Third Man (#57 in 1997), Stagecoach (#63 in 1997), and An American in Paris (#68 in 1997) ... although none of those films are my favorite from their respected directors.

Still, it's frustrating that those three dropped off, while these films popped in: Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship of the Rings at #50, Saving Private Ryan at #71, The Shawshank Redemption at # 73, In The Heat Of The Night at #75, All The President's Men at #77, The Sixth Sense at #89, and Blade Runner at #97. I like some of those films just fine, but... eh.

True. Look at that list as a whole and you could make the "eh" argument for about 75% of them. It's just gonna happen when you have a large group of people voting on The 100 Best of anything. I prefer single lists from individuals. Those are much more interesting.

Still ... any 100 Best American Films list that doesn't include a Vincente Minnelli film has some VERY serious problems.

See the entire list ------> HERE.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

DAVID MAMET & THE UFC

David Mamet is currently shooting a film about The Ultimate Fighting Championship. To make things stranger, he's planning on using his regulars (Joe Mantegna, Ricky Jay, Rebecca Pidgeon) in the cast. Oh, and Tim Allen's in it.

A UFC movie with Tim Allen and Ricky Jay?!?!?

Gotta admit ... never saw that one coming.

---
Fascinated by the sport, which blends the brawn of boxing and agility of kick-boxing with the art of jujitsu and the head-banging of wrestling, Mamet wrote a story that revolves around many of his favorite themes — honor, deception and betrayal — set in the world of mixed martial arts."

Like everyone, I grew up with boxing, but everyone seems sick to death of it — it's all about whether Mike Tyson was going to bite someone's ear off or not," Mamet said during a break between scenes last week. "I'm interested in going backstage into this new world, especially since everyone loves backstage movies. You could say that the story is a lot like a story about Hollywood — it's all about honor and corruption."

Mamet grins. "In a lot of ways, it's an American samurai film. I think it's a script Kurosawa would've liked." (LA Times)
---

Monday, June 18, 2007

SEPARATED AT BIRTH (# 6)

The Body, The Blood, The Machine -The Thermals

Mapmaker - Parts & Labor

OSCARS GO FROM BAD TO BADDER

We've just been given more insight into why bad films, and bad perfomances keep getting nominated year ... after year ... after year.

Today the academy annouced 115 new members to its exclusive voting panel.

Among the ridiculous:

Antoine Fuqua
Jennifer Hudson
Billy Ray
Guillermo Arriaga
Eddie Murphy
Jennifer Aniston

On the bright side ... Steve Carrell, Aaron Eckhart, and Danny Huston are on board as well.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

SAWED OFF

When school districts in California, Rhode Island, and Utah enacted a "Zero Tolerance Policy" for weapons & drugs ... boy, they meant it!

---
Fifth-graders in California who adorned their mortarboards with tiny toy plastic soldiers last week to support troops in Iraq were forced to cut off their miniature weapons. A Utah boy was suspended for giving his cousin a cold pill prescribed to both students. In Rhode Island, a kindergartner was suspended for bringing a plastic knife to school so he could cut cookies.

It's all part of "zero tolerance" rules, which typically mandate severe punishments for weapon and drug offenses, regardless of the circumstances.

Lawmakers in several states say the strict policies in schools have resulted in many punishments that lack common sense, and they are seeking to loosen the restrictions.

"A machete is not the same as a butter knife. A water gun is not the same as a gun loaded with bullets," said Rhode Island state Sen. Daniel Issa, a former school board member who worries that no-tolerance rules are applied blindly and too rigidly. (Wash Times)
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Saturday, June 16, 2007

SEVEN DAYS, AND SEVEN NIGHTS

My awesome wife just bought me a pass ... no ... a BADGE to this years Fantastic Fest (Sept. 20th -27th)!!! I think I should take the entire week off work and blog about every single movie I see ... the great, the good, the bad, and the worthless. It's three months away and I can't contain myself!

Here is a still from one of the scheduled films, Flight of the Dead (it looks like Snakes on a Plane mixed with, well ... any zombie movie):


What is Fantastic Fest?

Fantastic Fest is a week-long festival featuring the best in new science-fiction, fantasy, horror, animation, crime, Asian, and all around badass cinema. The event was created to offer exposure to genre films which are often overlooked by the traditional festival circuit. We strive to offer acquisition, media and exhibition opportunities for undistributed films as well as to spotlight upcoming genre theatrical releases and give audiences a chance to see 35mm prints of repertory classics.

Fantastic Fest is held each year at one venue, the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on South Lamar in Austin, Texas. The Alamo Drafthouse was named the best cinema in America by Entertainment Weekly, and features food and drink served to your seat without any disruption of the movie experience.

We also strive to make the festival the most friendly, fun and exciting experience as possible for our out of town guests and visiting filmmakers. In addition to showcasing over 60 premiere genre features and 30 shorts, we host plenty of parties throughout the week as well as outings to local Texas institutions and always one serious barbecue run.

So if any of you freaks out there plan on attending - for a day, OR, everyday, like me! - let me know, and maybe we can sit next to each other.

Here is a partial list (it updates regularly) of what is playing -----> In 3 months!

Friday, June 15, 2007

A MIGHTY EGO

If you want to interview Angelina Jolie about her new film A Mighty Heart, you have to agree to, and sign, the following (click to see a bigger image):


All I would wanna ask Princess Angelina is what it was like to work with a hack director like Michael Winterbottom. Gawd...on set with those two? You'd have to raise all the ceilings to make room for their heads.

DOES "DOOLITTLE" ACTUALLY SUCK?

Something must be in the pop culture lovers water this week, b/c a whole slew of us have been making lists, rethinking classics, and dusting off our pre-Y2K cds.

Well, it's about to get BETTER!

Guardian asked modern rock/pop musicians to reveal the universally acclaimed albums that they just can't stand. It's cathartic. You should try it too!!! (in the comments section). There was a whole collection of essays about this very topic a few years ago.

So let's get to the good stuff...the part you're waiting for!
What do your favorite rock stars go "eh" too?

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*Craig Finn doesn't like LA Woman by The Doors

(bless you Craig! I love you even more now...)

*Wayne Coyne doesn' like Nevermind by Nirvana

("you don't find yourself ever longing to listen to it." ... uh Wayne, have you heard "Drain You"???)

*Green Gartside doesn't get the furor over Arcade Fire's The Neon Bible.

(Neither do I Green. In fact I don't get Funeral either!)

*That jerkface from Cornershop doesn't like Dark Side of the Moon.

(agreed....BUT YOU'RE STILL A JERK!)

---

The rest of the list is --------> HERE


As for me, personally? Some of the "classic" albums I feel haven't earned that title, are:

Funeral - Arcade Fire
Loveless - My Bloody Valentine
Spiderland - Slint
Nevermind The Bollocks - Sex Pistols
War - U2
Document - REM
1999 - Prince
IV - Led Zeppelin
Trans-Europe Express - Kraftwerk
Fun House - The Stooges
The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers





to be continued........

THE "PROFESSOR" AND THE "JOURNALIST"

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In November, the new United Artists will release its first production, Robert Redford's timely $35 million Lions for Lambs starring the actor-director as a contemporary university professor whose two former students (Michael Pena and Derek Luke) are Army officers marooned in Afghanistan. Tom Cruise plays a Republican senator who tries to convince journalist Meryl Streep to promote his pro-Iraq war views. (Variety)
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PFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFT!!!!!!

JUAN IN A MILLION

Juan In A Million is the name of a yummy breakfast taco place on East 1st street in Austin, TX. You should go there. They make great tacos, have good salsa, and the owner is friendly. He makes an effort to shake every customer's hand.

The owners of this very below average taco joint will just shake you down for $750,000. The city council gave them a "loan" (it's a forgivable loan) to help them move - to a location they already own (!!) that is right up the block from the current location (!!) - after Marriott bought the existing space to build a hotel.

I had a bit of sympathy for that place when I heard news of the Marriot coming in. I know a lot of people that consider it an Austin landmark. But sympathy begone ... especially after the owners started playing the good ol' race card:

---
Cynthia Perez, who runs the place with sister Lidia, calls the loan "urban renewal at its best" and blames the uproar on a "negative corporate-owned press" — and on race. "It's exacerbated because we're people of color," she said.

"It's very dangerous to have an educated Chicana," she said the other day outside the modest restaurant.
---

Juan In a Million FOREVER!


I'm not down with calling for or asking people to boycott things, but, personally, I will never eat at that place again...I'm gonna eat at JUAN IN A MILLION though!! ... ALL THE TIME!

Link to the wonderful Juan In a Million ----> HERE

Directions for JUAN IN A MILLION are ------> HERE

Thursday, June 14, 2007

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

Watch the trailer --------> HERE

It's doesn't look good (the image quality, not the movie), but it's something.

JOE DANTE'S "HOMECOMING"

Showtime's Masters of Horror series has been a wash for me. I've only seen Larry Cohen's Pick Me Up, Takashi Miike's Imprint, John Carpenter's Pro-Life, and now Joe Dante's Homecoming, but each one has been either a disaster (Pick Me Up, and Pro-Life) or a disappointment (Imprint, and Homecoming).

In past efforts, Joe Dante excelled in two separate corners of fun: sci-fi/horror-comedy satire (Explorers, Gremlins 2, The Burbs) and homages to film culture (The Howling, Matinee, Looney Tunes : Back in Action). Sometimes they criss-cross, and work, - like Looney Tunes - but with Homecoming, Dante misses his target, and fails.

Homecoming has it's roots in Bob Clark's disturbing - and surprisingly moving - Deathdream, about a Vietnam soldier that comes back from the dead for revenge and peace of mind. The soldiers in Dante's story come back to vote the current Republican president out of office. They want ballots, not "bra-a-ains".

This conceit is refreshing, and steers Homecoming away from zombie genre cliches, but Dante has his agenda so dialed-in on the Bush administration and political punditry (bad parodies of Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman, Karen Hughes, Katherine Harris, Ann Coulter, Jerry Falwell, and Larry King) that he loses focus on the soldiers.

The problem could also be in the brevity of the format that Dante - and for that matter all of the Masters of Horror directors - have to work within. The short films are tied to the roughly 56 minute time frame, and you sense the cuts and compromises that each director had to bend to in order to complete the final TV edit.

But Homecoming is not without it's moments. In one scene, a zombie soldier from the Iraq war wanders the rainy sidewalks. A diner owner motions him inside, puts a towel around him, offers him food, and expresses his gratitude for the soldiers sacrifice. It's an American getting the impossible opportunity to thank a fallen soldier, and it's touching. Dante should have stayed in this realm, because the rest of Homecoming is ... erm ... a quagmire.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

OBAMA CRUSH

THE GREATEST DEBUT ALBUMS (POST-1980)

********UPDATED again********

Good picks by everyone in the comments section!

Bryan, I think the 22 minute length is into EP territory...Call The Doctor is in ("the doctor is in"...ha ha!!...erm).

Sorry Matt. I agree with you on Charm..., but I don't think we can bend the rules on that one.

Here are the latest, with some others I thought of:
















******UPDATED******

So my friend Victor was listening to KEXP.org this morning and they were playing blocks of songs from debut albums ONLY!

Then he wondered "what's the greatest debut album of all time?".

Well, that's like dangling a golden cheetoh in front of me ... and I bit!!

Thing is ... I don't have the answer yet. And you must help!

We decided to limit the albums to anything after 1980. The "ALL-TIME" thing was tempting, but we concluded that it would cause too many blizzards in everybody's brainstorms ... especially while we're also juggling our "real" jobs.
****Multiple entries are welcome****

I haven't decided on my pick for GREATEST DEBUT ALBUM (POST-1980) yet, but below are a few albums that quickly come to mind:









LET IT RIP!
---
UPDATE

Both The Fire Next Time and Hobbes have raised an issue that needs to be qualified. Debut FULL LENGTH album is the question at hand. Thus, for example, Chronic Town or The Pixies' Come On Pilgrim would be passed over for Murmur and Surfer Rosa, even though, in fact, those EPs were the bands official recorded debut.

Newest nominees...













JESUS CHRISTGAU!!!!
















I was not aware of this until 3 minutes and 35 seconds ago, but MSN has picked up Robert Christgau's monthly Consumer Guide that used to appear in the Village Voice before something really stupid started happening over there.

Anyways, here it is for this month ------> Screw You Village Voice!!!

Rejoice! And tag it for repeated check-ups!