Resolutions, An American Boy and Wheelbarrow Freestyle

I 've never cared much for the tradition of New Year's resolutions. Life is full of enough disappointment, and it doesn't seem reasonable to just set yourself up for more. For example, say you have a friend who is 20 pounds overweight. Said chum resolves to lose this love handle, but soon realizes that it ain't happening and becomes a little depressed over the matter. Your pal then realizes his only solace will come from a box of Mallomars, and by next Christmas the 20 extra pounds has become 40. See what I mean? It's risky business.

In spite of this very well-thought-out theory, I've decided to make a couple of resolutions this year. First, I've resolved to stop calling Time-Life operators in the middle of the night trying to get them to sing "Dream Weaver" or "Ride Captain Ride" with me. Second, I've resolved to actually meet my deadline for this column. Third, I have promised myself that I'll stop watching reality TV in all its forms. The whole world finally knows these shows are just people being subjected to humiliation and the premises are not real. There can be no reason why anyone, even someone from Orange County, would subject him or herself to such obvious torture. Which leads back to a claim I made a year ago, that these shows are all scripted and performed by actors working for scale. It only looks "real" because the so-called actors are really bad. There it is: three things I can't possibly do for a whole year. Pass the Mallomars, please.

If, like a lot of people, you're bummed because you couldn't get tickets to see Steve Earle perform at either the Abbey Theatre in Durango or the Sheridan Opera House in Telluride, all is not completely lost. Beginning Jan. 4, the Abbey Theatre will show the film "Just an American Boy" director Amos Poe's slice of a few months in Earle's life last year.

At the time, Earle was embroiled in controversy regarding a song he wrote about John Walker Lindh that a lot of right wing nut jobs thought was sympathetic to the Taliban. In fact, one of the movie's best moments comes when some Fox News talking head compares the writing of the song to writing a sympathetic song about Hitler. Much of the film follows Earle as he responds to questions regarding his patriotism and political leanings. Earle is strongly opposed to the death penalty and seems to take any chance to share his views on the subject.

Amidst all this political talk are performance clips from last year's tour some are great and some are lackluster and poorly recorded. In fact, the sound suffers much of the time in "Just an American Boy." Music overlaps dialogue making it hard to understand what is being said and the subjects are often poorly miked.

One problem that often arises in a docu-diaries such as this is that, for the filmmaker, the project is a labor of love, thus much of the film's objectivity is removed. Although we see a couple of hints of Earle's legendary quick temper and there is a great scene where he demolishes a cheese steak, he is largely portrayed as a selfless defender of justice with few flaws. I don't know the man, but I doubt the movie's vision is accurate.

Despite the movies' shortcomings, fans of Earle will find "Just an American Boy" a valuable insight into that six-month period of his life. Non-Earle fans should, for once, enjoy watching a movie about an overtly political musician whose music doesn't suck. The movie begins at the Abbey on Jan. 4 and shows all week at 8 p.m.

Website of the Week: Anyone who has worked in the landscape arts for any length of time knows that an empty wheelbarrow is worth more than just something to haul back to the rock pile. You can ride in it, race it and even do little tricks with one. What you may not know is a couple of guys in England have made a fine art of wheelbarrow stunts, and you can see the fruits of their labor at . At the site you can read a short history of these tricksters and learn how to perform many of the tricks yourself. The site is not very extensive and hasn't been updated for a while, so your visit may be brief, but video clips of tricks like the "Superman" or "720 horse" will make the visit well worth it. Thanks to Liggett for the heads up.

Box Set of the Year: If twice in a row creates a tradition, then "Box Set of the Year" is full fledged.

2003's award comes from the geniuses at Rhino records. "No Thanks! The 70's Punk Rebellion" is four discs and 100 songs that capture the music that was called punk when punk was an attitude and not a fashion statement. Bands you've never heard of (Penetration, 999) are seamlessly mixed with that era's better knowns (Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads) to provide a snapshot of a scene that until now has not been accurately represented. The best part? This is a four-disc punk set without even one song by the Sex Pistols. Now that's good punk.

Were the Sex Pistols punk or junk? mpsheahan@




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