Three is a Magic Number
Welcome to Two Thousand and...

I wanted to start off this first column of this brave new year with a bold pronouncement. Are you seated? Okay.

I, too, have cloned a human baby.

I’m not going to tell you how I did it, I’m not going to show you a picture or tell you the baby’s name, and in fact I’m not going to provide proof of any kind whatsoever. But I did clone a human baby. Really. I trust that this simple announcement, taken on faith, is enough to run the story on the front page of every newspaper in the country, and give it plenty of coverage on TV. Even CNN. I just love CNN.

Okay, fine, I didn’t clone a human baby. But I did manage to clone this column. Don’t believe me? Go here.

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A few days ago, I was hanging out at a friend’s house listening to old De La Soul tracks for the hell of it. We were waiting to head off to a Christmas party in Malden, and my friend thought he’d show me his expansive MP3 collection, most of which he’s ripped from CDs he owns. There are a few, though, he’s downloaded from the ‘net, including representative tracks from every De La record.

I hadn’t heard “Three Is a Magic Number” in a long time, and it was just as cool as I remembered. Since then, though, I’ve been noticing an almost supernatural recurrence of the number three, and because I’m anal and annoying, I thought I’d share some of those recurrences with my loyal readers. Ready? One, two, three…

Firstly, and most obviously, welcome to 2003. This column kicks off the third year of the online incarnation of Tuesday Morning 3 A.M. as well, and don’t think I haven’t noted the three before the A.M. there, too. It’s taken from the first Simon and Garfunkel album, although their third, Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme, is my favorite. (Incidentally, I have bandied about the idea of transcribing and posting the Face Magazine run of this column here, and I hope I never have that kind of free time on my hands.)

Lots of things come in threes – good things, celebrity deaths, triplets. During my not-so-selective sex life, I’ve even come in a few threes myself. (Ach…too nasty?) It took me roughly 15 hours (or five times three) to get to New England, and I have roughly three weeks left here before launching into the next uncharted phase of my life. And since I’ve been here, I’ve seen three movies, including one that’s the middle part of a trilogy.

The most recent film I saw was a documentary by Michael Moore called Bowling for Columbine that’s probably my favorite film of 2002, partially for lack of competition. It’s his third documentary, and while we’re on the subject, I’ve also noticed that many of the younger directors like Moore don’t hit their stride until their third film. David O. Russell, for example, didn’t knock one out of the park until Three Kings, which also has a three in the title. Kevin Smith delivered on his promise with his third, Chasing Amy. Even Spike Lee floundered around for a bit before his third film, Do the Right Thing, hammered it home.

And Moore’s third (not counting his foray into fiction, Canadian Bacon) is a wonder to behold, and should be mandatory viewing for every American, especially those with a shiny, happy, post-9-11 vision of this nation. For an exhausting two hours, Moore digs deep into the culture of violence in the U.S., quickly discounting the easy answers (guns, violent movies). He presents some interesting statistics – the U.S. leads every nation on Earth in shooting deaths per year, for example, by about 10,000. Other countries have the same violent films and TV shows we do, and even a similar number of guns. Canada, for example, has a number of guns equal to roughly 70 percent of its population, yet only a few hundred shooting deaths per year.

Along the way, he makes convincing cases for contributing factors, such as economic policies and a media that feeds on violence, but he comes away from this film with no clear-cut answers, a first for this often swaggering liberal. He does offer his most affecting examination of America yet, including first-hand testimonial and footage of the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. He helps two Columbine survivors make their case to K-Mart by trying to return the bullets still lodged in their bodies for a refund. And he even tries to wake up poor Charlton Heston to the realities of gun violence in an uneasy, uncomfortable scene of great power.

Many bands don’t get where they’re going until their third album, either. Notables include U2, whose War really solidified their sound and style; Wilco, who decided with Summerteeth that they didn’t want to be Uncle Tupelo or the Rolling Stones; and Radiohead, who famously made the best album of the 1990s with OK Computer. And with that clumsy segue into this column’s stated purpose, here’s a look at the next three months of new music:

January is traditionally barren, and this year is no exception. Near month’s end, we’ll start to see a trickle, including new ones from King Missile and P.M. Dawn, two bands that also came into their own on their third albums Happy Hour and Jesus Wept, respectively. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy launches his side band with Jim O’Rourke, called Loose Fur, on the 28th, and Billy Corgan also stages a comeback with his new band, Zwan. The album even has a typically Billy Corgan title: Mary Star of the Sea. Three words: get over yourself.

February has a few more interesting ones, including Ministry’s Animositisomina, Marilyn Manson’s The Golden Age of Grotesque, the Lost Dogs’ Nazarene Crying Towel, and the U.S. release of Life on Other Planets by Supergrass. Also coming in February is the Wilco-Minus 5 collaboration, Down With Wilco, that was dropped from its original label. Seems to happen to those guys a lot.

March, the third month, should see the new one from Ryan Adams, called Love Is Hell. I wonder if he paid Matt Groening any royalties for that title? Also in March, new ones from Anthrax, the Joe Jackson Band and Radiohead, who promise pop songs instead of quasi-atmospheric drivel this time. And if you haven’t gotten enough of Jeff Tweedy yet in 2003, the third of his projects hits on March 11 – a complete remaster and re-release of the three Uncle Tupelo albums.

Speaking of remasters, the complete Queensryche catalog is also slated for the repackage treatment in 2003. They fall into the previously mentioned category of bands, having been little more than a competent metal outfit until their third album, Operation Mindcrime.

Okay, enough of this. I’m off to watch one of my Christmas presents – the complete first season of South Park on DVD. Three DVDs, to be exact. I’m still waiting for another of my Christmas gifts – a box set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs. Season three, in fact. Next week, I promise I’ll get to that Phish review, but the week after that, the third week of 2003, I’ll be tackling the new live box set from Prince. Guess how many CDs? Yep, three.

See? It’s everywhere.

See you in line Tuesday morning.