Certainly all this buying is a boon to merchants. "Merchants," a recent episode of The Daily Show (weeknights at 11 p.m. on Comedy Central) pointed out, is the quaint term newscasters employ as a euphemism for "multinational corporations." Supposedly our fortunes rise and fall with theirs, though that worldview has been challenged by the Seattle anarchists I heard about on CNN. Not even the most intelligent political show on television, Chris Matthews' Hardball (also weeknights at 11 p.m., on CNBC?that's what the "last channel" button on the remote is for) noted the to-me-obvious irony that "anarchists" in this case to refers to people who oppose free-trade anarchy. Breaking "merchants"' windows during this absurdly consumptive season is vaguely appropriate (too bad a few manically overadvertising websites couldn't have been targeted too), but the WTO's shamelessness really demanded a more old-fashioned ritual. I realized this while watching some old coot in Vernon, Florida (which showed periodically last week as part of a loop of Errol Morris documentaries on the Independent Film Channel) talk about how much fun it was to tar and feather somebody. Think of how long Giuliani's pedestrian barricades would have lasted had this American tradition not gone out with the jitterbug.
My shame is that I've been hiding at home, watching cable, instead of scouting forthcoming events for Heimytown readers. This lack of courage is extremely un-Heimytown of me. But at least I've been watching actively! I've ascertained, for example, that the beginning of the week is best for public-access viewing, with the thunderingly stupid Liebography parody show on Sunday at 10:30 p.m. (Time Warner channel 56, and on 12/19 they're doing Alice Cooper and Ozzy) and then the underground hiphop video showcase Freak It Wit Da Fellaz at midnight (on Time Warner channel 57).
But I can't become a trash-tv critic, because even at my most courageous I fear to tread on the turf of ultrasenstive Dirty Sanchez.
So on to the events! Starting with ones that involve sitting still in front of a screen: The Church of St. Coltrane is a documentary about an actual San Francisco house of worship, dead serious about transcendence via Trane, and the subject of numerous short magazine pieces in 1995. None of those turned out to be as interesting as their topic promised to be, but maybe this movie is. I don't know because I haven't seen it (though I did recently catch Crumb again on the IFC?for my money it, Hoop Dreams, Hands on a Hard Body and Paradise Lost are the best documentaries of the decade), but I notice that the same series presenting St. Coltrane is next week screening a film about piss-drinkers called, Urine: Good Health, so there ya go. (Tuesdays, 12/21 & 12/28, 9 p.m., at Siberia Bar, downstairs in the 50th St. 1/9 subway station, 333-4141, free.)
On Saturday morning Symphony Space will screen the Gen-X touchstone Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It opens the theater's "Just Kidding!" series, but don't be surprised if the place is packed with wake-and-baked twentysomethings, and the few children in attendance are more frightened than amused. A psychedelic morality play in which the hero is best pals with his grandpa and the title character is an unconsciously sinister, boomer-aged dreamer, Wonka and its music endured while well-meaning-yet-ultimately-misleading hippies'-kids entertainments like Free To Be?You and Me and Kids Are People Too became relics. When many new parents were telling their cubs they could be and do absolutely anything they wanted, Wonka portrayed the truth: that children granted undue freedom and power become brats and deserve the horrible fates that ultimately befall them. Everyone who graduated from a good college into the Bush-era-recession job market feels Wonka deep down inside. (12/18, 11 a.m., 2537 B'way at 95th St., 864-1414.)
At the moment I relate best to Wonka's proud cathode-glutton, Mike Teevee. It's gotten so bad I'm seriously considering a visit to the Museum of Television and Radio for their new exhibit, opening Friday, of commercials that debuted during Super Bowls. Even I can't take those Budweiser frogs, though. Dang-ol' fratboy humor. It's not rampant consumerism that upsets me?it's bad taste. (12/17-2/13/2000, screenings every Tues.-Sun., 1 & 4 p.m., 25 W. 52nd St., betw. 5th & 6th Aves., 621-6600, $6, $4 st/s.r.)
No tv-addict is Heimytown's Generation-Y correspondent Shane Schleger, who is down for the cause of scouting events like Method Man is down with the Bizkit. Schleger says: "One happening deserving and in need of a jump start is the weekly Friday-late-night party at Mercury Lounge, 'And now for Something Completely Different,' presented in part by DJ $mall Change. Doors open sometime after midnight and things get started usually by 1 a.m. or whenever the live entertainment is through. Anyone over 18 can attend?a much-appreciated change from the strict 21-and-over policy that clubs like the Merc usually enforce?it only costs three dollars and kicks until 5 a.m. It's one of the finest showcases of non-superstar DJ talent on any regular basis downtown, with sets that truly run the gamut of styles and genres. The beats are heavy and dope, professionally laid-out and never intrusive. In one set, you might hear Latin-flavored house segue into the new Rakim single into King Tubby and so on and it all flows together well. There's been a decent turnout so far, but with a little more body heat in the cave-like basement, the party would be complete." (217 E. Houston St., betw. Ludlow & Essex Sts., 260-4700, $3.)
One thing to remember about this week is that it's the big one for not only merchants and revelers, but for sex pros and their clients, too. (I read that in Mistress Ruby's old New York Press column.) This year you can address that seasonal empty feeling through such generous events as "The Ball-Crushers Ball"?a party hosted by Extreme Fetish magazine as part of Saturday's "Click and Drag" party at Mother (12/18, 11 p.m., 432 W. 14th St. at Washington St., 366-5680, $15)?and Saturday's all-male "Spank Me Hard" gathering at FC29. (12/18, 11 p.m., 29 2nd Ave., betw. 1st & 2nd Sts., 539-3549, $5.) Slightly more arty is Susan Marshall & Co.'s full-evening modern-dance work The Descent Beckons, which makes use of 75 inflatable dolls. (12/14-19, Tues.-Sat. at 8 p.m., Sun. at 2 & 7:30 p.m., at the Joyce Theater, 175 8th Ave. at 19th St., 242-0800, $35.)
If that leaves you feeling dirty you can donate a coat or listen to a robed, bearded weirdo read the Bible. The coat drive is New York Cares' annual effort, and you can make a drop at any police department in the five boroughs at any time, or at any Loews Cineplex Theater during operating hours. (Call 223-CARE or check www.ny.cares.org for more sites.) The weirdo is named Marshall Weber, and he's says he's gonna pull a continuous, 72-hour solo reading of the complete Torah and Gospels, from sunrise on the solstice straight through to the morning of the 24th, all while clad in "Biblical garb." I recommend going Tuesday evening to catch the kosher- and sex-law passages in Leviticus. (12/21-24 at the Angel Orensanz Foundation, 172 Norfolk St., betw. Houston & Stanton Sts., 780-0175, free.)
Do-gooding, nonshopping, sex-law abiders should also check out Friday' s benefit for Anthology Film Archives, featuring John Zorn's Bar Kokhba. Named for the Hebrew rebellion crushed by the Romans just before the Jesus story started to catch on, the band features guitarist Marc Ribot and the percussion team of Cyro Baptista and Joey Baron. Honorary-Church-of-Coltrane-member Zorn, unfortunately, doesn't play in Bar Kokhba (he conducts), but this will be a good show anyway, and it's for a worthy cause. (12/17, shows at 6 & 9 p.m., 32 2nd Ave. at 2nd St., 505-5181, $15.)
The big pop show this week is Fat Boy Slim, Friday and Saturday at Hammerstein Ballroom. That expansive floor will look like 5th Ave. near Rockefeller Center, only without everyone's parents. Should be plenty of retarded fun for the tykes, though not as much as smashing some Starbucks plate glass. (12/17-18, 311 W. 34th St., betw. 8th & 9th Aves., 564-4882, $32.) Coming closer to that lofty goal is the dunderheaded Unband, whose live act remains the most resounding refutation of complexity, restraint and intelligence to be heard in New York 1999. They open for Liv Tyler's mom Bebe Buell Wednesday, along with the not-at-all-unintelligent Dr. Israel, who is quickly earning a reputation for succeeding where countless contriving DJ/musicians have failed. He blends reggae, jungle, rock and hiphop, yet actually comes up with good songs. (12/15 at Don Hill's, 511 Greenwich St. at Spring St., 334-1390, $10. The show is also Seconds magazine's X-mas party.) Also, David Pajo's Papa M, whose new Live from a Shark Cage is the best armchair indie-rock album of the season, plays twice this week, opening for tired Stereolab on Thursday at Irving Plaza (12/16, 17 Irving Pl. at 15th St., 777-6800, sold out) and on their own Friday at Mercury Lounge. (12/17, address & phone above, $8.)
Phil Kline's Unsilent Night, an ambient work for 100 boomboxes in motion, will have its annual performance on Saturday evening. Meet at the arch in Washington Square Park (12/18, 5th Ave. at Washington Square N.) and bring your own box. The procession eastward starts at 7 p.m. The press release says the Voice called this event "a marvellously fluid, traveling, spatial sound sculpture," but I don't believe it. The Voice may be goofy and ill-informed, but it knows how to spell. (227-6255 for info.)
That event is free, and so is admission to the frickin' Frick Collection the next day. Sunday 12/19/99 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Henry Clay Frick, a steel magnate originally from Pittsburgh. Note that he founded a museum?and a really nice one at that. (1 E. 70th St. at 5th Ave., 288-0700.) That's the kind of thing all rich people used to do to compensate for their incessant whining about taxes and restrictions on trade, so they didn't get their frickin' windows busted. Merry shopping.