back to the Black Table


THE OC'S "RETURN" EPISODE: After weeks of anticipation and interruption by playoff baseball, the beloved OC returned last Wednesday night, hell-bent on establishing itself as the next great nighttime soap opera for those of us who still long for the bygone Wednesday night super combo of Melrose/90210. They'll need a few more shows. Maybe the success of the show has gone to the producers' heads. Rather than having misunderstood anti-hero Ryan's character stay brooding and reflective, he's become a self-righteous, shorter, prodigiously bicep-ed version of Dylan McKay. As much as I can accept Ryan as lead dog, the show's success relies more on the quick-witted shleppiness of Seth Cohen and the consternation of his father Sandy, played brilliantly by Peter Gallagher's eyebrows. Yes, I understand the cockamamie plots keep the show moving and a consistent draw but the show took the schlock leap a little too early. Hey, it was bound to happen, but can we at least go through a full season without more "overdose-divorce/parent-child conflict/escape from a hospital" type storylines? Probably not. The return episode was a disappointment. I'm not off the bandwagon yet and as long as the theme song doesn't change they'll still have me for the first three minutes. Californiaaaaah! Heeere we coooome! C- -- A.J. Daulerio

ELEPHANT BY GUS VAN SANT: When Gus Van Sant remade Psycho a few years ago, essentially a shot-by-shot re-creation, its complete failure left his fans wondering one question: Why? But they didn't know the half of it. Why, exactly, did Van Sant decide to make a meditation on Columbine that has absolutely nothing to say? What's that you say? That having no point -- that the acts were senseless acts of aggression with no discernible motive or explanation -- you say that in itself is the point? Fine. Then why, in the midst of ponderous drivel that he'd love to pass as "art," does Van Sant insist on giving the killers little pop motivations, like playing Doom, watching Nazi videos and taking showers together? Why? Because he has nothing to say and just tries to mask exploitive pap in the guise of "serious art." Don't be fooled. This, friends, is total crap, pure and simple. D -- Will Leitch

THE STROKES "ROOM ON FIRE": Through the haze of uncooperative interviews promoting the new Strokes record, lead singer Julian Casablancas appears to be grappling with the notion of popularity. In short, the question: Can an extremely popular band still be arbiters of cool? Forget the songs, this question is at the heart of the Strokes' new record. Whether you like it depends on your thoughts on the last record and how you feel about the band. If you're one of those people who feel exclusivity is at the heart of coolness, that it's impossible to like something everyone else likes, then hop on the Backlash Bandwagon and be prepared to bemoan "Room on Fire" as "Is This It, Part II." But if you're willing to accept the Strokes as what they are -- a simple rock band that plays tight, catchy songs -- "Room on Fire" is what you've been waiting two years for. B+ -- Eric Gillin

BABY BLUE TEAM UNIFORMS: First the San Diego Chargers came out in their smooth-beyond-belief throwback 70s uniforms. Now the Denver Nuggets, perennial NBA stiffs, have maybe the coolest basketball uniform ever sewn up. This year, the Nuggets will rock the shiny baby blue road uniforms and it's about friggin time they did something interesting. The Nuggets take the trend to another level, though. I didn't know they could even make fabric that shiny. Forget those old-time "I remember Naismath" types who still think the


Celtics green jersey and a pair of ball-hugger shorts is the "proper" NBA look. Any team rocking a uniform that looks like it came out of a late night blow session with the cast of "Carlito's Way" can't be all bad. A -- J.F.

MY LITTLE STEAMER: Okay, I admit it. I'm getting old. I just bought a My Little Steamer on the Home Shopping Network and I love it. Love it. For thirty bucks, you can professionally steam your clothes. Its fast, its portable and it really works. Like anyone with a New York City closet, most of the time my clothes, even when clean and hanging up, aren't wearable because of the wrinkles and creases they get by being smooshed and wedged into my closet. But with my little steamer, in two minutes, those wrinkles are GONE! Like magic. T-shirt wadded up in the corner of your drawer? That looks like a job for My Little Steamer! My morning fashion crises are now a thing of the past. I love you, My Little Steamer! A -- kowgurl

McDONALD'S MONOPOLY GAME: While waiting on line at the local Best Buy, I noticed someone purchasing the Indiana Jones Trilogy on DVD. What was curious, was that he was purchasing it with McDonald's Best Buy dollars from the new McMonoply Game.That's right folks, with every triple-bypass burger you purchase, you are guaranteed to receive a Best Buy dollar in addition to the traditional Monopoly pieces. Up to 50 can be used at once, with no limitation on purchase. I was informed by an employee that it is not uncommon to see someone walk in with 50 of these things in their hand. McDonald's : beware. Not only did you make my toddler obese, but now he does not even leave the couch. C -- Dean Mekkawy

THE JUKEBOX AT THE LOCAL BAR: Living in the Midwest, we are used to benefiting from the latest technological advances a good six to twelve months after they are "the norm" on the coasts. Finally, a local bar has brought in a digital jukebox that allows its patrons to download and play just about any song ever recorded at a volume that makes the regulars sit up and take notice. No longer are we left to choose from "Pamana" by Van Halen or the most recent update from Eminem. We can introduce My Morning Jacket to the hot waitress without having to look like a stalker by bringing her a CD you burned for her. Here's to many a drunken night listening to enjoyable music and an end to the old standard of playing "China Grove" followed by "Sweet Emotion" as a nightcap. A serious improvement. A -- Smitz

DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME: The idea of changing Time itself on a whim is cool. But in reality, Daylight Savings Time is an archaic holdover from a time when people relied on candles all the time. Not just during massive blackouts. All it does now is steal an hour of daylight from our freetime in the evening and stick it in the morning - when we're trapped at work. Why are we doing this? Because Ben Franklin thought it'd be cool. People, he flew kites in LIGHTNING storms. Clearly not all his ideas were winners. If anything, we should reverse the whole thing and add another hour of sunlight in the evening. Sidenote: A+ to Alaska, Hawaii, & the eastern portion of Indiana for just ignoring the whole thing and never resetting their clocks. D- -- Joshua Lenon

CUTTY BLACK: I attended a party this past weekend that had Cutty Black listed as its liquor sponsor. Cutty Sark is whiskey, so I figured that Cutty Black would be a hellish, burly, lets-pick-some-fights kind of drink. No dice. Ad copy describes it as having a "smooth, sweet and naturally spiced flavor," reminiscent of "American male culture and the timeless feeling of American rock-n-roll." I thought it tasted like a bartender had maybe dumped some Ouzo into the whiskey, or perhaps an unknown vampire slipped me some absinthe in a dirty glass. Three people went to the hospital with alcohol poisoning at that party, and the promoter was suspended from his organization. Smooth, sweet, spiced justice. We had a seance after the party at which we summoned the ghost of Oscar Wilde, and even he remarked that Cutty Black was "really gay" when I spilled it on the Ouija board. D -- Justin Achilli

P. DIDDY'S SWEATSHOPS: The National Labor Committee recently released a report detailing horrid working conditions in a factory in Choloma, Honduras, where rapper P. Diddy's Sean John clothing line is produced. It highlighted such employee perks as daily body searches, mandatory pregnancy testing for female employees, grueling 12-hour shifts, and pay of less than a quarter for each piece of over-priced, ghetto fabulous swag stitched. Naturally, the Sean John camp claimed to have no knowledge of the situation, and found the rampant abuse of labor laws appalling. With the same factory also manufacturing Jay-Z's Rocawear, I am more than a little concerned as to what would be acceptable attire when next I journey to the club to get all crunk up and shake my bony Caucasoid tailfeather. There are only three words that can aptly describe this hapless situation, and they are, of course: Kathy Lee Gifford. F -- Z

OXY MAXIMUM VANISHING TREATMENT: It's a good idea to read the drug facts labeled on any product available in the pharmacy. Other acne-fighting treatments contain about 2% of an active ingredient; Oxy Maximum Vanishing Treatment is made up of 10% benzoyl peroxide and "may bleach hair or dyed fabrics." Heavens to Betsy! Like everything that's high-quality, it's sold in small quantities (one ounce) and costs more than you'd really want to pay ($5.49 at CVS). The directions suggest using it once to three times a day, but one application is enough. About ten minutes after application, my face felt taut as a drum (or Meg Ryan's new face). Also, my skin was itchy and dry for a few days afterward. All my zits vanished overnight, however. But getting rid of acne is not worth discomfort. This is a product that should be reserved for big dates in well-lit places. Note to the editor: a really great link would be to awful plastic It's truly captivating. B -- Erin Cheever