July 23, 2014

This Just In: Moody’s Cuts AC To Junk Status


It’s OK, gamblers: There’s always Chester.

This Evening: Party. Karamu. Fiesta. Forever.

>>> I’d like to, if I could, just take a moment out and squeeze in a personal shout-out typed out in code: BACAW! YIPYIP BWUDDY! RESPECT, BWUDDY! Roughly translated, that’s “Happy birthday to my very dear friend Jared. I love you dearly.” And how it came to pass that a whole bunch of us didn’t buy a block of tickets to tonight’s Lionel Richie/Cee-Lo show at the Susq in honor of the occasion is beyond me, but it’s not too late for you. I suppose we’ll have to settle for whiskey. Party. Karamu. Fiesta. Forever. Love you, buddy. And if you’re out there reading this just as a reader and are all like, “But Jared’s not my buddy, and it’s not even my buddy’s birthday!,” I say to you: It does not matter. Call your buddy. Tell your buddy: “Hey buddy! I love you, buddy!” Party. Karamu. Fiesta. Forever. Respect, bwuddies.

>>> Elsewhere: Sun Kil Moon gets into the transcendently heavy bummer that is his latest album at Union Transfer; Merge poster children Hospitality play JB’s; and TJ Kong does his regular Tom Waits thing at Jose Pistola’s.

The Way We Live Now: Cliff Lee’s Fart Is A Metaphor For And Answer To Everything In Your World Right Now

“SPLWAK.” That was the sound that came out of Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee‘s ass on Monday night, when he ended a post-game interview in the way that all post-game locker-room interviews should end henceforth and, indeed, should have always been ending. “SPLWAK.” If we are to call upon our expertise and our memories, cast down like mirror reflections, refracted through a golden prism that holds a lifetime of farts, we can say this about the fart:

It was a bit forced. And it was very much a comment on everything. And it may very well have left a skid mark.

Also, it is the question and the answer to everything Philadelphia faces this summer. (To say nothing of the Phillies themselves.) Tom Corbett’s middle finger to us and our schools? “SPLWAK.” The 4th of July Philly Jam Cursegate? “SPLWAK.” The guy who painted over the Kurt Vile mural: “SPLWAK.” Everyone who got indignant about it: “SPLWAK.” BEER GARDENS: “SPLWAK.” Comcast’s ongoing date rape of Philly’s very soul as it crushes net neutrality in the cradle of Liberty: “SPLWAK.” SPLWAK. SPLWAK. SPLWAK.

For his efforts, Cliff Lee earned a Keith Olbermann “Worst Person” nod which, given that Olbermann himself is still alive, is saying something. But we like to think that in that moment, Cliff Lee spoke for every one of us here in Philly. It’s been a cruel summer. It is, and will continue to be, the Summer of Splwak.


Breaking: Nutter Announces Jon Bon Jovi As Winner Of The 2014 Marian Anderson Award



Musically and philanthropically, Jon Bon Jovi’s work honors the spirit of America and salutes the principles that define our nation. Self-reliance, optimism and community are key concepts he embodies, not just in his music, but also in his charitable efforts.

On the other hand, Bon Jovi now joins a distinguished pantheon of previous Marian Anderson Award winners that includes Berry Gordy, Mia Farrow, James Earl Jones, and, er, Richard Gere. Press release after the jump, because I’m going to fix myself a drink now. (more…)

Your Dream Of Purchasing A Home In South Philadelphia Is Either Dying Or Dead


Over at PlanPhilly, they’ve been crunching on a new Pew/Econsult report about rising home prices in Philadelphia. What might be most notable, though, is chart-graph evidence of something many of us have already come to know either anecdotally or first-hand over the last year or so: Unless you’ve got, say, a cool $300K to play around with, South Philly is increasingly no longer an option. The area follows Fishtown, where houses have been hitting this mark with stunning regularity for years now, and whose insufferability has followed in direct proportion to said increases. Will East Passyunk be the next part of town that you, for various reasons, “can’t even?” And how long will it be until the bougie stank hits Port Richmond? Like sands through the hourglass, these are the unholy gentrification shitbomb days of our lives.


Watch The Hooters Play “Time After Time” At The Tower Theater In 1985 And Just Say “Wow”

Suspenders. Also: This song, so goopy and sentimental but still so good and at least half-Philadelphian. (But real talk, when Rob Hyman speaks the “I’ll be waiting” line, that is like, whoaaaaaa, bad touch.)

If You Thought The WHYY Radio Times Episode On Millenials Was Cringeworthy, Wait ‘Til You Hear The One On “Twee”

We made it through to about the 9:53 mark before we threw over our desks like Jesus in the temple of Shitty Think Pieces That Got Turned Into Books. THIS AGGRESSION WILL NOT STAND, MARC SPITZ.

Read Jim Kenney’s Letter Imploring Nutter To Sign His Weed Decriminalization Bill

Kenney-Campaign-HeaderYou have to give Philadelphia City Councilman-At-Large Jim Kenney this much: When he’s got an issue clenched in his teeth, good luck getting it out. And though so much of Kenney’s recent investment in the notion of decriminalizing marijuana in the city feels like a deposit in political bank for later — “See guys? I was on this! Vote for me in 2015!” — he is very much on the right side of the issue with his current bill, looking to make possession of small amounts merely a fine-able (as opposed to arrest-able) offense.

Thing is, that bill, as it stands now, is just sitting on Mayor Nutter’s desk, unsigned. If signed and then implemented, it would go a long way towards decriminalizing weed, and keeping lots of young (African-American) people out of jail for something that it is entirely bullshit to go to jail for. You could speculate why both Nutter and Commissioner Charles A. Ramsey don’t like the bill: It could put them into a fight and mess with state law (where weed is still very much, er, criminalized), or it could just be that Nutter doesn’t want to give Kenney what would immediately turn into a big political leg up in an upcoming mayoral race that has barely begun.

Either way, though, and for reasons both selfish and not-selfish, Kenney wants that bill signed. And so yesterday, he issued this public letter to the Mayor, leaning on him to sign it. He throws Nutter’s own words, and even his own blackness, at him in the process. He cites heartbreaking stats about the racial divide in arrests for weed possession. He even talks common sense. Read it below, and wonder: Is this the way this city can break this awful cycle for our young people? Or is it just a political gambit? Or is it, in all likelihood, a marriage of convenience?

Jim Kenney letter to Mayor Michael Nutter by PhiladelphiaMagazine

Oh Pardon Us, We Were Just Contemplating How One Might Recreate Sun Ra’s 1971 UC Berkley Course

Way back in spring of 1971, In 1971, beloved Philadelphia space jazz alien Sun Ra was artist-in-residence at UC Berkeley; as part of his duties there, he taught a course. Bearing the alternate titles “African-American Studies 198″/“Sun Ra 171”/“The Black Man in the Universe”/“The Black man in the Cosmos,” it was both a real deal, and a very heavy trip, man. Drawing on a wide array of texts, from The Egyptian Book of the Dead to Henry Dumas, Sun Ra used his materials the way many great teachers do — as objects to be broken down, deconstructed, and mined for truth:

Sun Ra wrote biblical quotes on the board and then ‘permutated’ them — rewrote and transformed their letters and syntax into new equations of meaning, while members of the Arkestra passed through the room, preventing anyone from taping the class. His lecture subjects included Neoplatonic doctrines; the application of ancient history and religious texts to racial problems; pollution and war; and a radical reinterpretation of the Bible in light of Egyptology.

Thanks to both the Internet and some deep Sun Ra scholarship, one could, if one wanted to, re-create the experience, using the syllabus found here.

We’ll see you in September.

July 22, 2014

This Evening: DIY And Retro Rock (And Letters)

>>> Doobies Bar on 22nd and Lombard is hosting another night of Pub Letters, for all of you who need free paper and stamps and a drink special to crank out that letter you’ve needed so badly for so long to write.

>>> Retro-metal specialists Serpent Throne are playing at Kung-Fu Necktie with three other riff-happy drone-heavy supporters as part of the Philly Psych Series.

>>> At the Rotunda on 4014 Walnut, Girls Rock Philly is putting on a show with Techne and Bowerbird showcasing original music composed for DIY electronic instruments, which might end up being the edgiest concert ever put on by an arts education nonprofit.

>>> LA free-jazz-funk-prog-whatever supergroup Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks will be at Johnny Brenda’s with Odwalla88.

>>> San Francisco garage-rockers The Fresh & Onlys will be at Boot and Saddle supporting their fifth expansive full-length album House of Spirits.

Dept. Of Doubling Down: SugarHouse Expands

Despite the fact that reports of crime in the area surrounding SugarHouse casino in Fishtown have differed alarmingly since a year after its opening, SugarHouse began work today on a $164 Million dollar expansion including a new event space, new restaurants, a new 30-table poker room and a parking garage. Supposedly, the expansion will create 1600 construction jobs and 500 more jobs once completed. Which would be great… if things were ever at all as simple as they seem at the outset.

A recent report by two city criminal justice experts, one from Drexel and one from Temple, found no significant increase in “violent street felonies, vehicle crime, drug crime or residential burglary” in the area surrounding SugarHouse. However, the abstract of the report states that “displacement” of vehicle crime and elevation of police patrol in the area may account for the lack of increase in crime. Casino-Free Philadelphia, a longtime opponent of SugarHouse, contests the report on the grounds that it doesn’t account for embezzlement crimes related to addictive gambling at the casino. Does that seem like a stretch? We can’t even say. Unfortunately, their numbers on these crimes are also inconclusive – specifically, “unknown.” But having recently been denied an appeal to quash the licensing of a second casino in Philly — to say nothing of casinos dying left and right in Atlantic City now, SugarHouse is left with but one option: To double-down on itself.

This Moment In Wikipedia: The Endless Ways To Cross The Schuylkill

The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, Bridge at West Falls; Philadelphia & Reading Railroad, Schuylkill River Viaduct; the Twin Bridges carrying US 1 northbound, and southbound; and Falls Bridge. Can you spot them all? No matter, that’s just a few of them!

We’ve lived here our whole lives, but it took a buddy who’s a die-hard train nerd to make us realize that there are a dizzying number of options for one to cross the Schuylkill, should one need to in one’s daily activities as, say, a hobo or Thomas The Tank Engine. This Wikipedia page itemizes them all, from here to Berks County. To what end you use this knowledge is up to know, but let’s predict the following for now: In a completely gentrified Philly, just years from now, each and every one of them will have a group of people wishing to turn each one into a “High Line-style parklet” of its own.

As We Speak, @RoyHalladay Is Eulogizing Chase Utley Using English As A Second Language

We’d say that you should read those bottom-to-top, but we just did and it makes no difference.

As the outro music begins to play on Chase Utley‘s LTR with Philly, a city mourns. With rumors swirling that he could go to to the Blue Jays or Giants and today being selected for a victory lap in the form of the Heart & Hustle Award, Roy Halladay has entered a fugue state on Twitter. Funny thing is, we sort of get what he is saying. And we feel it too. Is this farewell for the King Of The White Girls?

Eureka: Temple University Figures Out How To Kill Off HIV At The DNA Level

Researchers at Temple University have taken the first step toward curing HIV – not treating, curing. Using genetic surgery procedures, a team of researchers headed by Dr. Kamel Khalili, chair of Temple’s Department of Neuroscience, have for the first time successfully eliminated the HIV virus from human cells. Until now, it had only been possible to treat and partially control the HIV virus through medication. If these techniques are further developed and implemented clinically, it may be possible that the approach could “lead to a permanent cure for HIV and AIDS” and “would not only eliminate the virus permanently but also create a protection against a new infection or re-infection.”

At this point, though, the research is still experimental. The genetic surgery has been conducted in a laboratory setting on isolated cells, and it will take a lot more time and work to bring this option to patients. Dr. Khalili admits in the video above that the procedures are still “years removed from the clinical setting.” No matter what, this is big news. It just might be a while before it gets even bigger.

Right Now In The People’s Republic Of Comcast: Muwahaha, Did You Say “Municipal Broadband?”

Back in the mid-oughts, in a fit of wild optimism, Philadelphia dreamed a bold dream, and failed miserably. Admittedly, the dream was wild for its time — citywide wifi. And for a time, it even looked possible: Earthlink (hold your laughter), in partnership with the City of Philadelphia (hush now), came into town, mounted wifi antennae all over the place, these big clunky boxes all over telephone poles, and then… the whole thing shit the bed. But we had these boxes still, so Wireless Philadelphia, a non-profit that popped up in the wake, tried to get it going, and then… that whole thing shit the bed. And that was the end of the dream — and it was a good dream, designed to help bridge a digital divide that still exists on a massive level — of citywide wifi Internet in Philadelphia.

We mention all of this because a similar idea is in the air now — municipal broadband — and it is similarly being crushed by a GOP-led effort (aided, no doubt, by Comcast and Verizon’s increasingly massive lobbying efforts). Muni broadband’s existence makes sense if you truly regard Internet connectivity as a utility, and in some places, it even exists, and works.

But it will never exist here. So just get it out of your head. But then again, perhaps some version of it could conceivably exist here, though it would be a far cry from the public-minded ideal of a municipal utility with the purpose of serving all. Consider this scenario: Like muni wifi on a jacked-up Earthlink connection before it, muni broadband becomes a hot property for cities. Philly catches the fever. And since more and more, Comcast essentially owns Philadelphia (but pays next to nothing for the privilege), the city grants Comcast the contract. Comcast continues its ruse about how it wants to bridge the digital divide, all while monopolizing the Philadelphia market even more than it already has, essentially using city dollars to fund its own pipe-laying into every home, school and business in town. Whereupon Comcast can then overcharge and manipulate the market to an even greater degree than it does now.

Put that way, Philly getting muni broadband looks inevitable.

PSA: Please Help Crowdfund This Photo Studio For Kids Instead Of Whatever Dumb Thing You Were Planning To Crowdfund

Things that are not potato salad or pickles or your band’s LP, and thus, far more important: The children, who are the future, who need to be taught well and allowed to lead the way, with all of the beauty they possess inside. Some of them, as it turns out, attend Science Leadership Academy, where they are being taught an art and a skill that, while everywhere, is also kind of endangered. Photography. Real photography. Not selfies.

But as you probably know, arts education across the country is itself likewise endangered, and now has to compete in the crowdfunding arena, in the same space as your very personal one-man show about eating Doritos, set to headline at next year’s SoLow Festival. This is sick and wrong. So do please what you can, and give SLA’s Philly Public School Photo Lab project a look, will you? And maybe a few bucks? SLA is a great school and has already made some great inroads to the kind of high school photography program you yourself might have experienced if, say, you went to high school before America became a third world country whose priorities were so out of whack that teachers had to beg in the digital street for the materials with which to teach their kids. Seriously: Fuck your potato salad, son.

Bernie Sanders In Town This Week To Bernie Sanders Up The Place A Little


May we paraphrase the current Bernie Sanders attitude on whether or not he’ll be running for President in 2016? It goes something like: “I will only do it if I become convinced that everyone else who’s running is a complete numbnuts.” Which is to say that Bernie Sanders will be running for President in 2016. And this will be great, because Sanders is a one-man truth-bomb who could go a long way towards keeping things on the up-and-up simply by being around. But it could (read: will) also be very bad because, being an Independent from Vermont, he has no chance in hell and as such, candidates as well as media will most likely hold him up as an object of ridicule which sucks for Bernie personally but sucks for all of us nationally because Bernie will provide the window through which candidates will then feel okay cynically ridiculing things like truth, common sense and conviction. He is Hillary food.

Nevertheless, can we just say? We love him. We love everything about him. We love him for his policies — Bernie favors Scandinavian-style socialism, and we love Scandinavians — as well as for his manner. So often in his line of work, he is the only adult in the room. We mention all of this because Bernie is in town on Thursday to half-campaign/half-spit truth, and you could probably go if you wanted to. While you are there, seeing that he’s appearing in a union venue, you could also wonder if his way forward might not be to try and woo unions away from Hillary while also seeking large dollars from Silicon Valley, but also knowing that this is all a pipedream. A dude this good does not have a chance in hell of being President of a country like this. Sigh. What is Lillehammer like this time of year?

July 21, 2014

Spend Your Evening Falling Into A Deep Addiction Of Guessing Where Things In Philadelphia Are


… with GeoGuessr, this unbelievably sticky location-guessing game that is powered by Google Maps. If nothing else, it will prove to you what you already knew: You know this town one thousand times better than any Philly cab driver who has ever picked you up.

The Week Ahead In Music: Hometown Heroes

Why do you think it’s so seldom remarked upon that we are living in something of a golden age of rockmaking, both of the trad variety as well as boundary-pushing wild stuff, here in Philly? I mean, you know, outside of the usual rah-rah Philly service press whose job it is to always feign excitement. Is it because legit music criticism just about no longer exists at the local level? (Maybe.) Is it because of a general sense of overload? (Oh, probably.) Is everyone desensitized to genuine enthusiasm due to the Buzzfeedization of everything? (Yes.)

Whatever it is, consider this: These are the dog days of summer. From here to September, nothing you do now will ever matter. Could there be a better time to unplug, and just give yourself over to long afternoons and evenings of beautiful, crazy Philadelphia music? As befits this new golden age, there is a whole cast of extant future legends right now, working on levels both micro and macro. Will you be able to say that you were there? Or will you have to say, “No, I was drinking horrible microbrews that I recall nothing about, and taking photographs of my food?” Don’t be that guy.

On Thursday, Purling Hiss and Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band are somehow playing Spruce Street Harbor Park, for free, amidst people drinking horrible microbrews and taking photographs of their food, in case you need to begin by ramping down. These two groups both make fiery electric guitar music that bears the transcendent power of loud noise as well as this deep crazy classic-rock American undercurrent that is already inside you. Let it be inside you more.

On Friday night, Kurt Vile & The Violators open for Nick Cave at the Mann. Vile is the guy whose name is on that mural you may have heard about. It turns out, he makes records, too, and he’s pretty good. All joking aside, this is going to be a pretty special moment for all of us in the Philly freak tribe.

Meanwhile, XPN’s Xponential Fest this weekend in Camden also features a formidable Philly undercard hiding below its dadrock headliners: Man Man, Strand of Oaks, Commonwealth Choir, The Districts, The Lawsuits and Our Griffins all represent this place in their own way. (And god damn if that Strand Of Oaks record does not rip your heart out, show it to you, then drop it in a glass of rye.)

Finally, on Sunday, we see Philly rock at the intersection of influence and pushing forward: A Sunny Day In Glasgow, Pattern Is Movement and Myrrias all bear a different version of post-everything vision. They’re all at Johnny Brenda’s. Where are you?

The Week Ahead In Comedy: Ahoy, Ye Magnificent Sketchy Burritos

Iron Sketch: Like Iron Chef in that they use whatever stuff is lying around, but it’s better because they don’t make you eat it.

Free For All Comedy’s The Magnificent Seven returns to Boot and Saddle this Thursday to teach the world the importance of home-grown comedy done right. This week’s show will be installment number “VI” of the series, which is either 4 or 6 depending on how well you paid attention to Roman numerals in school. (I’m about XC% sure it’s 6.) Some (exactly 7) of Philly’s Philliest comics will be telling jokes in front of a light display that subtly changes color through out the evening. What color will the stage be by the end of the show? My guess is purple, but I have no inside information. I wouldn’t lie about that to you. Thurs., 8PM, $7.

When you hear the words Fighting Burrito, your instinct is probably flight, fight or dine. You are welcome to do probably none of those three things at the Adrienne Theater on Thursday evening for Fighting Burrito Comedy Hour. The show is BYOB(eer) and also BYOB(urrito), but I don’t think anyone has the nerve to eat a burrito during a comedy show. I suppose if you really wanted to you could bring a burrito, but laughing and eating at the same time is probably rude. Thurs., 9PM, $8 in advance/$10 at door.

There is no better way to turn your Friday night into a Saturday Morning than at Philly’s ONLY free sketch comedy competition, Iron Sketch, at Philly Improv Theater. Three teams made up of randomly selected writers will battle it out with 10 minutes of prepared sketch comedy. See how the groups were able to include this month’s mystery prop: TABLE! My prediction: We will see, on more than one occasion, a group of people sitting around a table. Just a guess, again, I could be wrong. We won’t know for sure until the show is over. Fri., 11:59PM, Free.

– Joe Moore

Joe Moore is the genial jerk who is head writer of sketch group Dog Mountain, host of monthly show Guilty Pleasures and a sketch comedy instructor. Hunt him down on twitter @TheJoeMoore.

[Photo courtesy Iron Sketch]