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Pete Townshend: Who, He? (and Us)

Pete TownshendPete Townshend is writing his memoirs. Or rather, he’s blogging them.

This differs from a decade ago, when Townshend signed with Little Brown to write his autobiography. Work commenced, but the book wasn’t finished. So now, Pete’s blogging his memoirs – on one of two blogs he’s launched in the last week or so to replace his online diaries. He can explain:

The backbone is complete, all the research is in place. And yet, because my creative and professional life is still so active, I feel I will never catch up with the present unless I retire simply to write. To retire, simply to write, when I am already a writer, presents a contradiction. So rather than endlessly write, I am going to publish.

I think this is brave and interesting, continued evidence of Townshend’s rare open mind, even as he cranks out another whopper of a Who tour at age 62. It’s a performance artist’s call.
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A Bad TV Show About Good Movies

David Niven and friendToday we focus on movies by way of a glitzy, Vegas-style revue show that has almost nothing to do with brilliant film-making. It’s Hoillywood celebrating Hollywood with schmaltz, and it’s evolved from a rather subdued black tie dinner at Sid Grauman’s theater to a megcast shown around the world and widely reviled for its length, its lack of pacing, and its tacky showbiz numbers. Through the years, there have been a number of “Oscar moments” by way of the television product – the streaker behind David Niven and Marlon Brando’s non-acceptance leap to mind. We’re celebrating the Academy Awards here on newcritics in words and commentary, but I thought we could use some video – at least as a preview of tonight’s madness. So I did some YouTube research and – after the jump – found some Oscar gold through the years. Enoy the preview!
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Walking the Red Carpet: When Stars Were Stars

Bogart's OscarWhen I was young, the Academy Awards still retained an unmistakeable aura of glamor and remove. There in one big room for one long evening, we all watched American royalty – the truly big names. The real stars. Cary Grant. Katherine Hepburn. Jimmy Stewart. John Wayne. Bette Davis. Lauren Bacall. Henry Fonda. Burt Lancaster. Bing Crosby. Bob Hope. Ingrid Bergman. Elizabeth Taylor. Laurence Olivier.
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Bob Dylan: Spinnin’ Those Cool Records

XM radioThe voice seems familiar, but the venue’s different. I’m driving down the highway, and there’s a guy on the radio talking about a record he’s about to play. I’m not sure what station’s on, but that voice…the emphasis on the last syllable of each sentence. The late-middle age growl. The cynical humor, a sardonic grin in every other word.

It’s Bob Dylan, deejay.

Then I remember. The car’s got satellite radio, XM to be specific and Dylan hosts a weekly one-hour show called The Theme Time Radio Hour on several of the couple hundred channels. This week’s installment, in honor of Valentine’s Day, centers on the heart. And it’s brilliant, half performance, half … ok, all performance. Halfway between an epic Dylan story-song and a chapter from his wonderful Chronicles book. Eclectic references – did you know that Valentines Day is named for three Christian saints? Or the riff after a Billie Holiday’s Good Morning Heartache: “I know a lot of people who’ve kicked heroin, but I don’t know many who’ve gotten off television.”
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Our Little Month-Old

Just a month ago, newcritics hit the feed-stream as an experiment: could a few bloggers come together to write about culture without killing each other. The answer, a month in, is a Beatle-like yeah. Not the bouncy 1963 “yeah!” but more a 1969-style, slouching “yeah…” Followed by “man.” Which is perfect really, because this is a secondary outlet for most of the authors here – a hang-out, a back room. We’ve got no expectations really.

What’s really, though, is the new conversation we’ve started – 15 bloggers (so far), dozens of commenters, thousands of readers. I’ll give you the basic stats: 45 posts and 181 comments, within 22 categories. More than 11,000 sessions and 50,000 pages. Small stuff still, but I’m enjoying the ride. And really, what a great lineup of bloggers. Think about the output in on month, and the variety of posts. If this was a magazine, I’d buy it.

But it’s not – it’s a blog. So you’re in charge here, to the degree I can control it. Your ideas and suggestions are encouraged. Your comments power newcritics. Roxtar says newcritics is “Slick as snot on a glass doorknob, and as cool as the other side of the pillow.” Love it! But we’re only a month old. Can’t hardly walk yet. But we’re learning to crawl. Stay tuned.

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The Fabulous Iggy Pop

Iggy PopWatching Anthony Kiedis sleepwalk through the motions while the rest of the Red Hot Chili Peppers delivered a technically brilliant and emotionally spirited set last week in Tampa, the mind of this 44-year-old rock fan turned to an elder of the genre. There were times when the lead Chili (also 44) acted like Iggy Pop, but man, he didn’t deliver like Iggy. He didn’t sell it. He didn’t leave it up there. He didn’t bleed.

Of course, the irony was rich – there were Kiedis and Flea doing their best Iggy impressions and raking in millions, filling arenas, and putting up hits all over the chart for a couple of decades.

Iggy Pop, aka James Osterberg from suburban Michigan, never put up the chart-toppers, never filled arenas, never toured in an armada of tractor trailers, elaborate staging, and handlers. Yet, four decades into his long and often strange career, Iggy Pop remains as influential as ever. Iggy turns 60 this year, the reunited Stooges have an album in the wings, and Iggy is the subject for the first full-blown, fully-researched biography of his long life. Paul Trynka, former editor of Mojo, has crafted a superb reader that captures the manic energy of “Iggy Pop,” and the restless, intellectual wanderings of Jim Osterberg. Iggy: Open Up and Bleed (due on April 17 from Broadway) explores the depths of madness and energy that have always keyed the Iggy Pop personal, melding the hypersexual wide-eyed rock-and-roll man-child with a fascinating cast of characters that tells the story of rock from the mid-60s to the latest playlists on iTunes.
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