Soul Coughing Comes to Dirty Danny's Defense


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true to my nature to neglect to remind readers that the Festival of Lights is not even a real Jewish holy day (too new), and that candles to compete with Christmas is a lame American invention. It doesn't take an intensive study in comparative religion to figure out that decorating a tree is more fun than spinning a stupid dreidel, and that even the corniest Christmas carol is a better song than "Hanukah Oh Hanukah." I say, give Jewish kids the Torah or give 'em a fucking break. The widely insinuated message that December is the month when people of all faiths come together to celebrate the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ is, actually, impossible to respond to without being a lameass (Kwanzaa, anyone?) or a Grinch. (See if you can guess which category my personal favorite response falls into. It goes: "He was not even one of the hundred greatest rabbis of his decade.")


Now for those Christmas tree lightings: The 100-foot one in Rockefeller Center gets lit on Wednesday, and you can bet your figgy pudding the place'll be packed. (12/1, 7 p.m., 50th St. betw. 5th & 6th Aves.) Lincoln Center is throwing its switch on Friday, and they're also going to have live jazz and Jamaican drumming. The evening's hosts will include the very promising duo of Telly Monster and Ernest Borgnine. (12/3, 7 p.m., B'way & 63rd St.) The Washington Square Park tree is scheduled to illuminate on Tuesday, in a ceremony that will include a parade to the nearby Loewe Theater for NYU's annual Holiday Sing. (12/7, 6 p.m., starting in the Park, 5th Ave. just below 8th St.; Loewe Theater is at 35 W. 4th St., near 6th Ave.) And Brooklyn Botanic Garden's "Blooming Lights" are on nightly from Thursday until Jan. 2, and include 33 different displays. (12/2-1/2/2000, 5:30-9 p.m.?last entrance at 8:30?at 1000 Washington Ave. at Eastern Pkwy., Brooklyn.)


Lights and guerrilla warfare are, to be sure, the common threads between Christmas and Chanukah. The only exception is that Christmas doesn't have anything to do with guerrilla warfare. But Dirty Danny Hellman's struggle against litigation-mad Ted Rall does! Soul Coughing, Girls Against Boys, Furious George and the Hangdogs are like the freedom fighters of Chiapas and their corporate-rock representatives. They are heroes for righteously defending Hellman against the deranged bully Rall, whose frivolous lawsuit is a grave insult to every real victim of an actual smear campaign. Rall's childishly vindictive nature will be his undoing?his public statements make perfectly clear that this rabid dickwad's true goal is revenge, not restitution?and the light of justice will shine. Just like the flame in the Chanukah story, and the one referred to in a dozen heavy-metal power ballads, it will burn on through the night. Unlike those, though, this fire needs mad fuel, so buy a ticket for the Free Dirty Danny Benefit and support Hellman's legal defense. (Sat., 12/4, at Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey St. at Bowery, 533-2111, $15.)


Speaking of punk-rock guerrilla freedom fighters, Fugazi is at the Roxy on Friday. (12/3, 515 W. 18th St., betw. 10th & 11th Aves., 645-5156.) Tickets for that show sold out a long time ago, partly because they cost $5 and partly because there are a lot more punk-rock guerrilla freedom fighters around here than New York Press editor John Strausbaugh wants to know about. Curiously, opening for Fugazi is a band reputed to be something else Strausbaugh doesn't believe exists: old guys who rock extremely hard. The Ex, they're called, and they're Dutch. Daniel Blumin of WNYU and Roomtone Records told me that the Ex's live performance is so powerful it can even make college-rock kids give up faith in their own wimpy bands. Those who'd like to witness such a badly needed public service but are shut out of the Fugazi show will have two more chances when the Ex play the Knitting Factory on Dec. 10 and 11. (That's Fri. and Sat. of next week, 74 Leonard St., betw. Church St. & B'way, 219-3006, $10.)


Still speaking of punk-rock guerrilla freedom fighters, only this time sarcastically, Rage Against the Machine will be flattering their tantrum-prone suburban audience at the Nassau Coliseum on the very same night Fugazi's at the Roxy. (12/3, with Gang Starr, 1255 Hempstead Tpk., Uniondale, 516-794-9300, $23.50.) This coincidence will spark an outpouring of arch humor in the local music press, as faux-radical sellouts try to convince readers that exposing people as faux-radical sellouts is passe. I haven't been a big Fugazi fan since Repeater, but the way the band affirms the possibility of real dissent?simply by continuing to burn through the night?is about as Heimytown as it gets. (Yet another punk-revolution moment on Saturday night: Brooklyn Babylon Cinema presents a midnight screening of the classic 1981 concert film Urgh! A Music War at 57 Jay St., two blocks down the hill from the York St. F station, 718-670-3719, admission free if you bring some footage of your own to show.)


Still speaking of tantrum-prone guerrilla types, Sen. John McCain will be interviewed onstage Sunday night at the 92nd St. Y. Limousine Liberals' favorite Republican presidential candidate knows how to play the uptown crowd, but I bet a few in the Y audience will be onto McCain's bullshit (Keating Five implication, bogus campaign-finance "reform," disingenuous tobacco bill), making for an interesting evening. (12/5, 7:30 p.m., 1395 Lexington Ave. at 92nd St., 996-1100, $26.) The other high-profile speaking engagement this week is Tom Brokaw's, Tuesday at St. Luke's School. The NBC anchorman might offer previews of his forthcoming followup to The Greatest Generation, which will be called The Greatest Generation Speaks. I'm waiting for the one where the Greatest Generation eats a puzzle piece and has to go to the hospital. (12/7, 7:30 p.m., 487 Hudson St., betw. Christopher & Barrow Sts., 924-5960, $20.)


A few more underdog heroes and modern-day Maccabees, and then we'll forget the holidays and get to the art: Our friends Last of the Juanitas will deliver a set of mostly instrumental metal as part of the Monday-night free series at the Cooler. (12/6, 416 W. 14th St., betw. 9th Ave. & Washington St., 645-5189, free.) On Tuesday, trips to Bhutan, Mongolia and Nepal, tickets to next year's Grammys plus antiques, jewelry and "celebrity items" will be auctioned off to benefit Tibet House. It's a Sotheby's event hosted by Philip Glass, Ethan and Uma. (12/7, 6:30 p.m., 1334 York Ave. at 72nd St., 807-0563, $100 adm., $75 kids under 35.)


The "Miracle on Madison" carnival is Sunday afternoon along Madison Ave. from 57th to 79th Sts.?every store along that stretch will donate 20 percent of the day's take to the Children's Aid Society. And charitable Film Forum presents a double feature of The Wild One and Easy Rider on Friday and Saturday, right across the hall from where James Marsh's Wisconsin Death Trip is showing through Dec. 14. (209 W. Houston St., betw. 6th Ave. & Varick St., 727-8110.) See Jim Knipfel's article in this issue for what you need to know about that one.


Strausbaugh weighs in: "Some fine-sounding chamber music concerts are going on this week. Two are at Columbia University's Miller Theatre: On Wednesday, the New York Woodwind Quintet and others perform works by the late Ben Weber to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death, and premiere new tribute pieces by composers including Ned Rorem and Milton Babbitt. Then on Friday, the Miller hosts the avantish FLUX String Quartet in what should be a coltish concert of lively works by John Zorn, Ornette Coleman and Conlon Nancarrow. (12/1 & 12/3, 8 p.m., B'way at 116th St., 854-7799.)


"Also, in what may be the most idiosyncratic concert space in town?the faux-Egyptian Temple of Dendur hall at the Metropolitan Museum of Art?flautist Paula Robison, pianist Kenneth Cooper and Chamber Orchestra are going for pure fun and frills in a concert called 'Mozart and the Italians,' the latter being Rossini, Donizetti, Paisiello and Cimarosa. Given all the expanses of glass, stone and rippling water in the cavernous room, the sound isn't nearly as good as in the acoustically warm wood-paneled auditorium down the hall?but visually, the setting's a riot. If the music gets dull you can just let your eyes and your mind wander. You get two chances to check it out?Friday and Saturday, both at 7 p.m. (12/3 & 12/4, 1000 5th Ave. at 82nd St., 570-3949.)


"And on a completely different note, our pal Steve Bonge?motorcycle customizer, movie actor and photographer?celebrates the 30th birthday of the New York City chapter with an exhibition called 'Hells Angels, New York City,' opening Friday, 6-9, at Greeley Square Gallery. Along with Bonge's photos, a selection of club memorabilia will be displayed. It's only up for a week, Dec. 3-9. (32 W. 31st St., 2nd fl., 868-6610.)


Lastly, there's a screening of Election with the cowriter present, Sunday at the American Museum of the Moving Image. It's one measure of this 1999 film's greatness that New York Press critics Armond White and J.R. Taylor both found it to be a parable conveying their own, diametrically opposed political opinions. Other reasons to see Election include the most devastating and hilarious attack on Generation X ever leveled?via Matthew Broderick's Ferris-Bueller-10-years-later character?and Reese Witherspoon's nuanced portrayal of a complex teenager every one of her hot-young-actress peers would have played as one-dimensional. Jim Taylor, who wrote the Election screenplay with director Alexander Payne, will speak after the 2 p.m. screening; the museum's teen film series concludes at 5 with Richard Linklater's artfully anthropological Dazed and Confused. (12/5, 35th Ave. at 36th St., Astoria, 718-784-0077.)


Free Dirty Danny! (And Happy Chanukah.)


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