I haven't seen a new movie for *nine* days. Spent most of last weekend socializing, biking, cooking (made my very first crock-pot roast) and having very little on my agenda.

The Magnetic Fields' new album i is everything you could hope for in a follow-up to the gargantuan 69 Love Songs. Scaled down and synth-less, it's another fourteen ditties from Stephen Merritt's consciousness (all beginning with the letter I), and far more consistent than his interim releases with side projects The 6ths and Future Bible Heroes. Highlights include the lushly re-recorded "I Don't Believe You", the immaculately clever "I Wish I Had an Evil Twin", and the infectious '80s faux-electro pop of "I Thought You Were My Boyfriend". Closer "It's Only Time" is a sweet heartbreaker and shows how far an advance Merritt's made on his pre-69 Love Songs recordings. Not the Album of the Year by any means, but definitely a keeper and a grower. I'll write more about it later this month after I see them in concert at Berklee.

Sam Phillips' A Boot and A Shoe is also a grower; give me a few more weeks and I may deem it her best album yet.

As for increasingly quaint and dated network TV, I still think The O.C. is good-not-great, but as it sheds cast members left and right, it's gradually finding its voice. The everything-comes-to-a-head season finale could've been fatuous, but ended up exuding grace, thanks in no small part to Jeff Buckley's sublime version of "hallelujah" on the soundtrack.

The Survivor: All Stars finale, on the other hand, was dead-end predictable, the only joy coming from an operatic display of selfish, hurt feelings. I still want to believe Rob and Am-buh were playing each other to make a cool $500,000 each, and predict they'll go the way of Amazing Race-ers Chip and Reichen within a year or two.

Don't even care about the Friends and Frasier finales; they should've happened at least two or three years ago. Gilmore Girls, however, is as strong as ever after four seasons. I just hope the so-far-convincing Luke and Lorelai pseudo-courtship doesn't make the show jump the shark.