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The Strokes and the sickness

And a shameless plea for sympathy

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I love music-related hype. Even for bad music. When the Spice Girls' movie Spice World came out, I hosted a party on the night of its premiere before going to the theater. I even insisted that everyone at the party adopt Spice nicknames. I was Swarthy Spice. One of my friends was Plan Ahead Spice.

The only problem with getting caught up in hype is the inevitable disappointment when you finally get to see and hear what it is you were hyped up about. As those of you who saw it know, and those of you who didn't rightly suspect, the Spice Girls' movie was atrocious.

I'm incredibly excited about the Strokes. They're the most hyped band in ages. They just released their first album and critics are already calling them the future of rock and the best band in the country. Their press is so good that you'd be forgiven for thinking they've done something useful like cure cancer or rid the world of terrorism.

Their sold-out show at the Cotton Club Friday night was superb. It doesn't matter that even casual music fans can easily pick out their musical influences (imagine a new wavey Velvet Underground) because somehow it all works. Matchbox Twenty, Creed and Train probably will sell more records, but it has to break their hearts to realize that they'll never, not even for a second, be as cool as the Strokes. They're so cool they make me want to start a band. (If you wanna be in my band, e-mail me.) They're so cool that I'm reduced to calling them cool for the fourth time in this paragraph.

Oodles of poodles: The Poodle Club of Atlanta held its second Halloween Poodle Party last weekend in East Roswell Park. Although I am not a poodle owner, regular readers of this column know I'm a dog lover, particularly of dogs dressed in ridiculous outfits. So I couldn't pass this up.

I learned quite a bit about poodles at the party. Several people there told me that, with the exception of Border collies, poodles are the smartest breed. I'm not sure what, if any, practical effect being more or less intelligent has on the life of typical American dogs. As a dog owner, it seems to me that if your dog can sit, stay, not go on the rug and not eat the neighbor's child, then he or she is smart enough. It's not as though Border collies can carry on a conversation, write poetry or drive.

Although at times eerily like the movie Best in Show, the poodles and poodle owners I met were a friendly bunch. The dogs were much too distracted by each other and the meat cooking on the grill to pay much attention to me. The only awkwardness was the result of one woman who insisted on telling everyone that her poodle was trained as an attack dog. Introducing yourself to people by essentially saying, "Hi, my dog can kill you if I tell it to," isn't a great icebreaker. Although I do admire the sneakiness of having a poodle as an attack dog. It's kind of like disguising a commando as a Girl Scout. Who'd ever suspect?

It being Halloween, there were dogs in costumes. Even though it's apparently a very popular costume this year, thankfully, none of the dogs were dressed as Osama bin Laden.

Sick columnist: This was the point in the column where I was gonna talk about all of the Halloween parties that I was planning to attend Saturday night. Unfortunately, I came down with some sort of seasonal illness Saturday (not anthrax, but thanks for asking) and did not leave the house. Halloween is my favorite holiday, so that sucks.

Despite my illness, my competitive, self-promoting spirit could not be defeated. On Sunday, I bought a pumpkin at Kroger and carved the name of this column into it. It's in my front yard, with a candle, at this moment. I wonder if Richard Eldredge has a "Peach Buzz" pumpkin in his front yard. I doubt it.

From whiner to shiner: I caught angsty indie prog rock Shiner's set at The Earl late Sunday night promoting its new CD, The Egg. Their live show is more raw and indie-sounding than their records. Singer Allen Epley looks like Elliott Smith with much better skin and sounds like a Midwestern version of Bush prettyboy Gavin Rossdale. As horrible as that combination of traits sounds, even to me, I still liked it. Though almost entirely devoid of the swagger and sex appeal of the Strokes, sincerity and talent still go a long way.

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