The Lardy

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the fourth annual Lard Biscuit Achievement Awards! Round about every December, everybody just loves putting together their meaningless and self-important lists of the best and biggest accomplishments of the past year, so I'm getting into the act with my own awards ceremony that has utterly no significance to anybody besides myself. I don't care if anybody else gives a shit or not.

Without further ado, I hereby present the winners of the 2003 Lardies, bestowing the coveted and voluptuous golden trophy that honors only the most outstanding achievements in lardy goodness. The envelope, please...

Best Album of 2003

Elephant Elephant
The White Stripes

I am so disconnected from the contemporary popular music scene that I only discover a new artist I like about once every four years. When it happens, it's a pretty big deal. When I first saw the White Stripes on a late-night talk show, I was immediately intrigued by this duo who yielded a full-bodied sonic onslaught with just drums and a guitar. Jack and Meg White have crafted a masterpiece with Elephant, an album that sounds both fresh and familiar. In the manner of Led Zeppelin and the early Rolling Stones, the peppermint-colored pair fuse traditional blues with power-packed rock to create a sound that's well beyond merely derivative or "retro." I also saw the band play live this summer, which confirmed my hunch that within the next year or so the White Stripes will be the next Nirvana. Jack White is the best young guitarist around today, with all the talent and charisma to become a rock legend. And yet I still haven't figured out for sure whether he and Meg are siblings or a divorced couple. Would somebody please tell me?

Honorable Mention:
Marquee Moon: Remastered and Expanded Edition, Television

Best Movie of 2003

Kill Bill Vol. 1 Kill Bill Vol. 1
Quentin Tarantino

I was ready to write off Quentin Tarantino as a has-been, and the first trailers for his comeback with Uma Thurman slinging around a samurai sword just looked preposterous. It felt like Mr. Royale with Cheese had no business messing around in the domain of John Woo and wire-fu. And then Miramax decided to cut the movie into two releases. As much as I was expecting to hate it, Kill Bill Vol. 1 simply blew me away and won me over by the opening credits. It's not particularly profound or intelligent, but it's completely fun. Just pure fun. Tarantino does what he does best, taking a moldy old plotline and presenting it in an endlessly creative and spectacular fashion. He totally made me buy Uma as an action hero capable of hacking up 88 swordsmen all by herself. And once again, Quentin artfully selects vintage rock and R&B tunes that fit his cinematic work like a custom-written score. The blood-soaked half-a-film managed to be satisfying on its own terms, while leaving plenty of reasons to be anxious for Vol. 2. Quentin, I'm sorry I ever doubted you.

Honorable Mention:
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Peter Jackson

Best DVD of 2003 (Tie)

The Anna Nicole Show: The First Season, Led Zeppelin DVD
The Anna Nicole Show: The First Season

Led Zeppelin DVD

The arrival of The Anna Nicole Show was my most anticipated DVD event of the year, and the first season set is a blessing. At last I can watch the first 13 episodes and the Christmas special in crystal clear digital quality, without all those intrusive E! promos and news tickers running across the bottom of the screen. But the set is not quite perfect. A couple of scenes were inexplicably cut from the DVDs, and despite the "Uncensored!" billing, there's some pixelizing and editing still present, and even some that was added for DVD. (Why are they so chickenshit about showing J. Howard's urn?) And the scant deleted scenes touted as a DVD bonus were largely uninteresting. Since the Anna Nicole Show DVD was a tad disappointing, I felt it should share its Lardy award with an equally worthy release, the awe-inspiring Led Zeppelin DVD. Jimmy Page deserves recognition for performing one of the most miraculous restorations of old audio/visual materials ever undertaken. These various concerts were recorded about 25 to 35 years ago, most likely with less than ideal equipment and conditions, and the tapes were reportedly in bad shape at the outset of this project. Page spent years lovingly restoring the footage to unreasonably excellent quality, which could very well be the result of another one of his legendary pacts with Satan. The video looks great, but the sound quality defies all explanation. The 1970 show at the Royal Albert Hall in DTS 5.1 surround sound is one of the most impressive and palpable audio experiences imaginable, stacking right up against any reference quality DVD you can name, music or movie, new or old.

Honorable Mention:
Paul Weller: Live at Braehead

Best Comics Series of 2003

Promethea Promethea
Alan Moore, J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray

And for the third straight year, Promethea is the only ongoing comics series that's really worth a damn. But now the end is nigh. Alan Moore announced plans to mark his 50th birthday by "retiring" from mainstream comics to become a full-time magician, meaning that there are only a few issues to go before he wraps up Promethea. And the series isn't just coming to an close -- the title character is currently fulfilling her ordained duty to usher in the end of the world, so doomsday is at hand for the entire America's Best Comics universe. It's shaping up to be a vision of the apocalypse unlike anything that's ever been portrayed in comics, books or movies. These final issues are positively bristling with energy and creativity. If the comics industry can't come up with some reasonably competent new series to fill the void after Promethea finishes, I may be retiring from this washed-up business myself.

Honorable Mention:
Love and Rockets Vol. 2, Los Bros. Hernandez

Best Book of 2003

The Pythons: Autobiography by The Pythons The Pythons: Autobiography by The Pythons
Edited by Bob McCabe

I have a whole shelf of books about Monty Python, and I'm a scholar of all the history and legends behind the world's most brilliant comedy team. This new volume, a gigantic tome with over 350 pages and 1,000 photographs, is mostly made up of stuff I've heard before, but it's presented in a comprehensive and engrossing package. It's billed as an autobiography, but The Pythons is really more of an oral history woven out of interview excerpts and personal journal entries from each of the group's six members and a few close associates. Editor Bob McCabe has done a fantastic job of piecing together all the various bits, telling the Python story not just in chronological order, but also connecting assorted minor topics with a wild stream-of-consciousness flow that rivals a Flying Circus episode. It's especially fun when the Pythons' memories are in conflict or they disagree on who came up with which idea. There's tons of delightful pre-Python Gilliam artwork, and the childhood photos of Cleese and Palin are hilariously recognizable. And yes, even a bona-fide Python expert can learn a lot from the stories the chaps have to tell.

Honorable Mention:
Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman, edited by smoky man and Gary Spencer Millidge

Best TV Series of 2003

The Anna Nicole Show The Anna Nicole Show

Admittedly, the second season wasn't as purely enchanting as the first, with the producers foolishly turning to scripted scenarios and reality-show parodies rather than letting the star be her entertaining self. Nevertheless, this season produced some of my favorite episodes of the series, especially Anna Nicole's performance of The Taming of the Shrew, her art gallery show, and her date with the guy who won her "Bachelorette" contest. All great stuff. But then, I'm a sucker for anything that's got Anna Nicole Smith in it. There's still no official word on whether there will be a third season, although her recent unfortunate weight loss probably makes her a more marketable property. There's always the chance that new episodes of The Anna Nicole Show could show her regaining her gorgeous figure week after week as that TrimSpa crap wears off.

Honorable Mention:
South Park, Comedy Central

Best Web Site of 2003

StarROMs StarROMs

I always used to love video games, but in the age of the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox, I have entirely lost interest. It seems to me that all the games today are about eye candy and shit moving real fast in 3-D rendered environments, and have stopped being about fun. Practically the only games I play anymore are old arcade classics emulated on my Mac. The problem there is that downloading those game ROMs is pretty much illegal. But unlike the issue of online music piracy, there has never a practical way to buy classic game ROMs... until now! StarROMs is the first web site that sells legally licensed video games for use with emulation software. Currently they only sell Atari games, but they are said to be negotiating with other rights-holders to offer a wider selection of arcade classics. But for now, you can download Atari favorites like Asteroids, Centipede and Tempest for about two to six bucks each. Finally, us old-timers can play games on our emulators with a clean conscience. Visit StarROMs and remember what video games were really meant to be.

Honorable Mention:
The Onion

Hottest Chick of 2003

Valerie Lefkowitz Valerie Lefkowitz

For the first half of 2003, Anna Nicole Smith was a lock for this award. Then she got tangled up with those horrible TrimSpa diet gimmick charlatans and lost a lot of weight, at least temporarily, and thereby disqualified herself. So I had to find a full-figured beauty who felt no compulsion to alter her appearance, and I chose plus-size model Valerie Lefkowitz. Valerie has become a leading model in the plus-size industry since starting her career as a teenager in 1996. This has been a banner year for Valerie, with her work appearing in numerous fashion magazines and in advertisements for Nordstrom and Reitmans, as well as an unforgettable shot for Fruit of the Loom women's underwear. And you've probably seen Valerie on TV without realizing it, in that commercial for Zelnorm where all the women reveal the IBS drug's product messages written across their bare midsections. You can see more of this incredibly beautiful model at my friend Heinrich Saint-Germain's tribute site, Valerie Lefkowitz: An Homage.

The 2003 Lard Biscuit Person of the Year

Paul Weller Paul Weller

This year my favorite living musical performer released an outstanding concert DVD and a 3-disc collection of B-sides, and signed a new recording contract with the hip and happening V2 Records label. But most important of all, he toured the United States not once but twice. Weller has historically visited the U.S. only once every few years, so this is a welcome sign that things are changing. I got to see him on the first tour, a February date in Washington, D.C., and it was the most fun and memorable experience I had all year. When I saw Paul in 1997, it was in a fairly large theater, and I was seated far back in the audience. This time it was at a nightclub with no seats, and I got to stand in the second row. Here was a man whose music I have cherished for 20 years, performing with all his heart for two hours, a mere six feet away from me. I was flanked by a crowd of Weller fans who knew all the words and shared my thrill at the opening chords of an old Jam tune. The evening charged me up with a positive energy that made me feel like a new person, and thanks to the ever-resourceful Weller fan network, I have a permanent memento of the concert in MP3 format. I have to say thank you, Paul... you who bring joy into the world.

The 2003 Lard Biscuit Assholes of the Year

TrimSpa The Makers of TrimSpa

There is no sin greater than the willful destruction of supreme beauty, except for boasting about the willful destruction of supreme beauty, poisoning people's minds about the willful destruction of supreme beauty, and making a profit from the willful destruction of supreme beauty. Oh boy, the bastards at the Nutramerica Corporation are going to burn in hell.

The 2002 Lard Biscuit Achievement Awards

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