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Until further notice, I’ve stopped getting my news from traditional
media. I was turned off by newspaper and television coverage of Iraq, Ohio,
and N.J. Governor Jim McGreevey’s “I am a gay American” speech. Celebrity
gossip, blogs and online porn lost their allure in one fell swoop after photos
of Tara Reid’s red carpet, post-op nipple slip appeared. Jon Stewart’s Daily
Show seemed like a good substitute, until I rediscovered the wit and wisdom
of 16th-century prophet Nostradamus, truly a man for our times, or, as I like
to call them, end times. His contemporary relevance is threefold. First off,
he was plump, shady and much admired by Catherine de’ Medici and others in positions
of power, which gives him a kind of Dick Cheney/Karl Rove appeal. Second, he
had questionable problem-solving abilities. Much like the Bush administration,
which believes tax cuts can heal a budget deficit, Nostradamus prescribed a
“rose pill” of his own invention — basically a big-ass dose of vitamin
C — as a cure for the plague. Finally, he was always predicting the apocalypse
in song. Well okay, maybe not song, but quatrains. It was a prescient technique,
as revealed by this lost set of predictions, which appear alongside concordances
from this year’s music news — events you never thought would happen, until they
did.

1. When obscurities revisit the long road/Blood will shed if
their power is seen to increase.
In April, the Pixies commenced upon
the single most unexpected reunion tour of all time — that is, until post-rock
originators Slint and U.K. power trio Cream both announced plans to play out
in 2005.

2. The song of the fishermen will cease/As a harp rings out
in the light of day.
Phish played their last show in August, dealing
the jam-band scene a death blow. Almost simultaneously, artists like Devendra
Banhart, Joanna Newsom
and Animal Collective kick-started a subgenre
that’s since been labeled freak folk, producing the year’s best and strangest
records. The artists involved sing shirtless and resemble Cat Stevens (Banhart),
play harp while wearing ol’ timey dresses (Newsom), and encourage people to
drop out of the rat race (Animal Collective). Overnight, being a hippie was
cool again.

3. As the land of ice advances on Oceania/It makes a bold claim:
“Every boy is a snake is a lily.”
Björk’s performance
of “Oceania” at the Olympics’ opening ceremony included the mysterious
lyric first cited by Nostradamus. To those of us who had consulted his prophecies,
it was no surprise what happened during the games’ quintessential event, the
marathon. A defrocked Irish priest named Cornelius Horan (a.k.a. the snake)
accidentally tackled Vanderlei de Lima (a.k.a. the lily), an unheralded competitor
who led the race into its 23rd mile. As Horan later explained, he was merely
trying to announce the second coming of Jesus.

4. Watch the old man of sand’s archive/For his teenage symphonies
to god will finally arrive.
Brian Wilson finally got around to releasing
his masterpiece, Smile, 40 years after he started work on it.

5. Crooked tears will spill from the pissoir/As the gangster
refutes tales of his own demise.
A half-dozen dates into the “Best
of Both Worlds” tour, golden shower advocate R. Kelly was publicly
humiliated when a member of Jay-Z’s posse pepper-sprayed him backstage. Kelly
was subsequently booted off the remaining dates, yet Jay-Z soldiered on, ignoring
the fact that Fade to Black, a documentary film about his 2003 retirement
concert, had just been released to theaters.

6. When two lone stars rise from the south /A third will seize
the mid-western states.
In September, mentally ill Austin musician Daniel
Johnston
released his most accessible record to date, Discovered Covered,
which matched original versions of his songs with covers by artists like Bright
Eyes, TV on the Radio
and Tom Waits. In October, Jandek, a mysterious
Houston artist who released 38 desolate records over the past quarter century,
with nary a photo, interview or Web site to explain them, made his first live
appearance at an avant-garde music festival in Scotland. Weeks later, a third
inscrutable Texan was -re-elected president.

7. A thin man approaches Venice decked in lace/He will dance
on the boulevard of dreams.
This explains Bob Dylan’s prolonged case
of WTF syndrome. In April, he made a leering cameo in a Victoria’s Secret ad.
Though some say he was merely playing out the lyrics to “Ballad of a Thin
Man.” (“You walk into the room/With your pencil in your hand/You see
somebody naked/And you say, ‘Who is that man?’ “), it was actually a portent
that the bard had decided to cash in big time. This fall he published Chronicles,
the first in a series of incidental memoirs, and 60 Minutes broadcast
his first television interview in 19 years just in time to remind holiday shoppers.
If you thought it couldn’t get any lamer, a few weeks back, a casting call went
out for choreographer Twyla Tharp’s follow-up to her Billy Joel–themed musical,
Movin’ Out. It will feature songs from Dylan’s early years.

8. Foresworn by all for his sky of diamonds/The captain charges
the citadel with his prize.
William Shatner released Has Been,
his collaboration with musician Ben Folds, only days after winning an Emmy for
his supporting role on The Practice. Many critics agreed Shatner is now
producing works of subtle humor and artistic merit.

9. The twins claim the dark man’s pledge/Silencing the hopes
of two pale men.
Bruce Springsteen’s pro-Kerry Vote for Change tour
ended decades of strenuously maintained political neutrality; Eminem’s
“Mosh” video was a last-minute attempt to sway the electorate against
Bush; but both were trumped in the battle for celebrity endorsements when gossip
spread that OutKast’s Andre 3000 would perform at the Republican National
Convention. It horrified most of their fan base, and the rumors turned out to
be false, but that didn’t stop Jenna and Barbara Bush from harnessing the buzz
for their dad by quoting “Hey Ya” in their convention speech.

10. A man of science chooses a stout consort/And a strange
chorus will ensure their fierce plans.
The cultlike Dallas rock collective
the Polyphonic Spree followed up their high-profile appearance on the
MTV Music Video awards in Miami with a brief two-song set at the Nobel Peace
Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway, an event hosted by Oprah Winfrey and noted Scientologist
Tom Cruise. It will air, after press time, on the E! channel, two days before
Xmas. I fear that none of us may survive.

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