Shore Towns That Get Sandy Relief Shouldn’t Sell Beach Tags

As you may have heard, a bipartisan pair of New Jersey lawmakers are sponsoring a bill (S-2368) that offers the state’s dazed and shattered Shore towns a Hobson’s choice: Accept public funds to restore beaches from the ravages of superstorm Sandy and forfeit the right to charge beachgoers an admission price in the form of beach tags OR don’t take a dime of public money and charge at will. Read more »

It’s More Fun to Talk About Who Generals Are Screwing Than Who They’re Killing

The media has been asking all the wrong questions about the unfolding Peyton Place-like Petraeus saga. As I type this, the FBI is raiding Paula Broadwell’s home, and it’s been revealed that the top commander of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan is under investigation for “inappropriate communications” with Jill Kelley, the local girl made good who dragged this whole sad story out into the light when she told the FBI that she was being cyber-harrassed by Broadwell—so stay tuned. But I’m willing to bet Mitt Romney $10,000 that when this is all said and done, we will be shocked—SHOCKED!—to learn that powerful men have extramarital affairs, the FBI is now in the catfight-referee business, and everyone loves a good Zippergate among the high and mighty. And not much more. Read more »

America Has an Embarrassing Problem: Electoral Dysfunction

We seem to only think about the electoral system for one day every four years, and when that day passes and a winner has been declared, it’s out of sight out of mind. It’s like Groundhog Day with dangling chads. Every four years, like clockwork, we are shocked and appalled at how fragile, incompetent and prone to breakdowns our system for choosing our leaders has become. If our electoral system was a car, we would have traded up decades ago. Read more »

Help! My Sister’s Voting for Romney!

So, my sister’s gone rogue. Back in 2008, I successfully managed to woo her away from the sway of her Republican-voting husband with the sweet birdsong of hope and change. Actually, looking back, Oprah probably deserves more credit than I do. Back then she seemed to read, watch, listen and do whatever Oprah said she should. Not this time. Read more »

Dear Taliban, You Suck

A Pakistani student holds a paper showing 14-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai, who was shot on Tuesday by the Taliban for speaking out in support of education for women.

Dear Taliban, I’ve never had much patience for charlatans, sociopaths and fascists—or any combination thereof—who hide their perversions of justice behind the skirts of organized religion and false pieties. But you guys have raised the bar of that kind of douchebaggery to a whole new level. Read more »

Set Made in America Free!

Time is short, and Labor Day weekend is almost upon us, so I will cut to the chase: Made In America, the genre-bending, two-day concert curated by Jay-Z and sponsored by Budweiser to be held on Ben Franklin Parkway on Saturday and Sunday, should be made a free concert, and all ticket holders refunded the full ticket price PLUS the $15 in service charges. Why? There are many good reasons, not the least of which is it would create the kind of goodwill for the Jay-Z and Budweiser brands that money simply can’t buy. Read more »

An Oral History of the Mann Center

In the 20th century, presenting free classical music concerts under starry summer skies was one of the determinants of a city’s civility. This gratis dispensation of high culture to the lumpen proletariat was usually the providence of a benefactor who was able to marshal the resources of both City Hall and the local swells to make it happen. In Philadelphia, this was Fredric R. Mann. Perpetually formal, but with a gruff demeanor and a stogie forever clenched between his teeth, he was a big-hearted grouch whose savage beast was tamed by the sonorous music of the pre-rock-and-roll era: classical, opera, the scores of Broadway.

For nearly 40 years, Freddy Mann curated a star-studded summer concert series at the roofless Robin Hood Dell in East Fairmount Park, where performances were routinely shortened by the cruel impetuousness of the weather. He hatched a plan for a free classical music series jointly funded by the city and private contributors, and in the years that arrangement was in place, an estimated six million tickets to see the Philadelphia Orchestra were given away. In the 1970s, Mann finally convinced the city to build a new 13,500-seat, state-of-the art amphitheater on a grassy bluff in West Fairmount Park, where performers would be shielded from the elements by a vast cedar dome.

In 1978, the Robin Hood Dell West was renamed the Mann Music Center. While the venue thrived under Freddy Mann’s leadership, his death in 1987 at the age of 83 marked the onset of a period of drift and decline for his namesake performance space. The years that followed would see the venue wither in the face of crushing debt, declining audience share and stiff corporate competition, until it was nearly extinct by the turn of the century.

In the past decade, though, the Mann has mercifully experienced something of a renaissance, rebranded as a hip destination for indie rock, craft beer, and breathtaking views of the city skyline—a treasure to be celebrated and preserved.

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