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icon Music March 31, 2000
Emperor Penguin
Mysterious Pony

If robots could party, this would be on the DJ's turntable. If The Tornadoes surfed with They Might Be Giants, this would be playing in the background. If Beck scored '70s industrial training films...well, you get the idea. With their trusty Korg synths and fuzzed-out guitars, Chicagoans Carl Saff and Bill Cameron make music that's electro-funky and ultimately irresistible.

icon Novels March 30, 2000
Henry Green
Loving / Living / Party Going
1929, 1945, 1939

John Updike, who introduces this volume of three stunning novels, is just one of the many well-known writers willing to use all manner of superlative to describe English author Henry Green and his literary influence. Green's main subject matter is the difference between classes -- his stories are set in castles, train stations, factories -- yet that does his work little justice. His true theme is language and the way, in the right hands, it can illuminate so perfectly the lives of humans. The dialogue is flawless. Every time Green's characters open their mouths they reveal themselves, utterly.

icon Wireless Web March 29, 2000
Sprint PCS

Imagine you're in a meeting at a client's site. It's running late and you're worried about missing your flight home. You flip open your Sprint PCS phone, connect to via the wireless web browser, punch in your flight number, and find out that your flight's been cancelled. Instantly, you're the hero -- your time pressures don't impact the client's project -- all thanks to the fine folks at and Sprint PCS.

icon Film March 28, 2000
Jane Campion
Holy Smoke

Kate Winslet never looked more beautiful nor Harvey Keitel more debased than against the vast sun-scorched landscape of the Australian desert. This is no blissful Walkabout, or spookily erotic Picnic at Hanging Rock--it's a polemic in the Outback. Radiating sensuality and righteous independence, Winslet thwarts cult-deprogrammer Keitel's attempts to repossess her, body and soul. Sisters Jane and Anna Campion match an edgy, funny screenplay with exquisite cinematography, ultimately making Holy Smoke worth getting in your eyes.

icon Music March 27, 2000
Pink Flag

Much like Big Star and the Velvet Underground, Wire didn't sell many records while they were around, yet their influence on music is astonishing. In the liner notes to a 1996 tribute album, Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo wrote "Wire struck me at the time of Pink Flag as one of the few art-punk bands to come out of the UK who seemed to be coming from the same place as NY bands such as Television and Talking Heads, which is to say, conceptually bent. Their early LPs, especially the first, were mysterious landmarks full of hidden codes and seismographic overtures which we are still unravelling today."

icon Novel March 24, 2000
Paolo Maurensig
The Luneberg Variation

There have been plenty of books and movies discussing chess as a life-destroying obsession, but this first novel by an Italian salesman transcends them all. A disturbing look at values and the difficult choices we all face, whether real or self-assumed.

icon Web Site March 23, 2000
Kev & Scott's AstrosConnection

Team sports fan pages usually stick to a standard formula: outdated roster, guestbook containing a single test message, and a few images stolen from other fan pages. Apparently, Kev & Scott didn't get the memo. Through a potent combination of free time, reader contributions, and Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill wine, they've managed to create the single greatest Houston Astros resource on the Web. That said, it remains debatable whether we need a site so detailed that it includes a full page on a long defunct scoreboard routine. However, if you actually do want to debate that, or any other Astros question, just bring your take to the TalkZone and be ready to back it up.

icon Film March 22, 2000
Alexander Mackendrick
The Ladykillers

Director Mackendrick combines William Rose's understated script with an ensemble that includes a sinister Alec Guinness and a baby-faced Peter Sellers. The result is a delightfully dark comedy of errors with a gang of bank robbers posing as a string quintet and their doting landlady unwittingly helping them move their loot. In the midst of well-known talent, Katie Johnson steals more than a few scenes as Mrs. Wilberforce, the little old lady who proves to be more than a match for the criminals.

icon Non - Fiction March 21, 2000
Philip Gourevitch
We Wish to Inform You...

In 1994, the nation of Rwanda collapsed into civil war -- a war that etched itself into the history books as one of the most efficient mass killings since the atomic bomb fell on Japan. In We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda, Philip Gourevitch chronicles the people who lived through the genocide, and, in the process, he crafts a book that honestly addresses the enormity of human cruelty and despair. Don't be afraid of these stories; they're too important for that.

icon Music March 20, 2000
Dr. Octagon
Dr. Octagonecologyst

Here, hip-hop pioneer Kool Keith dons his alter ego, teams with Dan "Automator" Nakamura (most recently of Handsome Boy Modeling School fame), and offers up some of the wildest rhymes heard before or since. Instead of rapping about girls, guns, and gangsta life, the good doctor throws down raps about space travel, surgery, and mental illness. If you're tough enough to appreciate the hard-edged lyrics, the doctor is definitely in.

icon Film March 17, 2000
Lars von Trier
Breaking the Waves

Passion - a mental state of strong, barely controllable emotion; strong sexual feeling; a narrative account of martyrdom.

A sad, chilling tale of passion and purity on a windblown Scottish island, Breaking the Waves is the story of Bess McNeill, a childlike girl who kneels in church, rebuking herself in the voice of God. She falls in love with a handsome Nordic roustabout and when he's mortally injured only weeks after their marriage, Bess finds a terrible way to save him and sanctify their love. Luminous acting by Emily Watson.

icon Memoir March 16, 2000
Nick Hornby
Fever Pitch

In America, it's soccer. Everywhere else, it's football. Fever Pitch chronicles one Englishman's obsession with football in general and the Arsenal club in particular. Beginning with his first home game at the age of eleven, Hornby examines the ups and downs of the true fan's devotion, and sheds some light on the bureaucracy, racism, and violence of the sport. For the most part, though, he explores the compulsion to spend "a huge chunk of his leisure time fretting miserably in the cold." Of course, there may be no explanation for such behavior. Sometimes you just have to play on.

icon Soundtrack March 13, 2000
Aimee Mann
Magnolia: Music from the Motion Picture

You can debate the merits of the movie, with its heavy-handed symmetry, overblown symbolism, and scene after scene of beautiful actors falling to pieces. But it's hard to deny the magic of the soundtrack, where Mann reasserts her position atop the hierarchy of singer / songwriters. It's well worth the twelve bucks you'll spend, if only for "Deathly," which director Paul Thomas Anderson claims is the lynchpin of the movie.

icon Web Site March 10, 2000

Mental ergonomics lesson: For every hour you spend reading news headlines, checking sports scores, or squinting over an information-dense portal site, take 10 minutes to free your mind. Load up Kaliber10000, a self-proclaimed "designer's lunchbox," for all the visual balm needed to soothe your aching brain. Strewn among the finely wrought icons and tight HTML, you'll find delicious bits of eye candy -- fascinating flash animations, killer design links, and an ever-expanding gallery of artful computer desktops.

icon Music March 9, 2000
Happy Already

"Play low on small kitchen radio," read the instructions inside Sportsguitar's Happy Already. Close your eyes and imagine these lovely pop songs floating in from Switzerland on a fluffy cloud of AM static, carrying the quirky guitar treatments of Roland Saum and the disembodied voice of Oliver Obert. With compellingly off-kilter tales of life and love, and lyrical phrasing that takes language to some fascinating places, you just might want to float along.

icon Non - Fiction March 8, 2000
Lawrence Weschler
Calamities of Exile: Three Nonfiction Novellas

One of the most lucid writers of nonfiction we have, Lawrence Weschler's work is equally saturated with concern for the complicated matters of life and a serious sense of whimsy. Calamities of Exile contains three pieces written for The New Yorker, each relating the tale of a man in exile -- one from Iraq, one from Czechoslovakia, and one from South Africa. Together the stories form a kind of palimpsest of moxie, politics, luck, misfortune, humanity, stubbornness, and the unshakable way that geography claims us.

icon Film March 7, 2000
Mark and Michael Polish
Twin Falls Idaho

Mark and Michael Polish are utterly, appealingly believable as conjoined twins Francis and Blake Falls. The brothers live a quiet, moribund existence in their dingy hotel room, sharing birthday cake and looking after each other. Enter Michele Hicks, acting an exquisite variation on the mother/whore motif, and you've got a particularly narcissistic exploration of the old adage, "two's company, three's a crowd."

icon Music March 6, 2000
Richard Thompson
Watching the Dark

It's enough to make you weep. If you're a guitarist, you'll weep because you know you'll never match the beauty that Richard Thompson manages to wring out of six strings. If your heart isn't made of stone, you're bound to weep at any number of gems from this three-disc retrospective. If "Waltzing's for Dreamers" doesn't produce instant and copious tears, I don't know what will.

icon Film March 3, 2000
Richard Lester
The Knack...and How to Get It

Sandwiched between A Hard Day's Night and Help!, Lester's Palme-d'Or-winning comedy is at once a period piece -- mid-sexual-revolution London -- and a timeless take on youth, insecurity, and the ineffabilities of attraction. The directing is precocious and inspired, and the performances rise to match, especially Michael Crawford as Colin, the skin-and-bones schoolteaching naif, and Ray Brooks as Tolen, the impeccably coiffed ladykiller.

icon TV Show March 2, 2000
Manes & Thomas
Digital Duo
check local listings

From Linux to FireWire to online shopping, hosts Stephen Manes and Susan Gregory Thomas "show you how the latest innovations of the electronic age really work--and how they don't." Sometimes cynical, always honest, the half-hour public-TV show has its share of hilarious moments. Manes once blindfolded an animatronic Barney doll and chuckled gleefully as the digital dino cried, "I don't like this game!"

icon Novel March 1, 2000
David Gates

Ignore the comparisons to Catcher in the Rye, this is a book you won't outgrow. But if you identify a little too strongly with the characters in novels, you may want to put Jernigan back on the shelf until you're comfortably away from bottles of gin, automobiles, and small firearms. You've been warned.

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