People, Stop Killing Wild Animals With Kindness

Left: The Yellowstone baby bison. Right: The Wissahickon black bear.

Left: The Yellowstone baby bison. Right: The Wissahickon black bear.

One of the most embarrassing things I ever did was find a dog that wasn’t lost. It was near Second and Washington, while I was stuck in traffic. I saw a very adorable Beagle-y Bassett-y thing wandering along the perimeter of a park, but outside its gates rather than in. I drove around and didn’t see an owner anywhere — the area looked pretty deserted — so I concluded the dog was lost and in need of rescue. I pulled over, grabbed the befuddled dog off the pavement and stuck him in the back seat of my grandfather’s hand-me-down Oldsmobile. Then I drove somewhere quiet where we could talk.

“Are you lost?” I asked the dog, who stared at me with liquid eyes but said nothing. “Do you need my help, you precious cutie?” He did have a collar and tags, so I called a number and left a triumphant message: “I found your dog!” A few minutes later, a woman called back and said, “You found him! Thank god! We didn’t know what happened.” She said her husband took her dog to the same park every day, where he’d sit on a bench and read while the dog would roam around. Her husband always kept a close eye on him, she said, but on this day, when her husband raised his eyes from his book, the dog was gone. He ran around the entire park calling the dog’s name.

Where had this happened? I asked. Near Second and Washington, she said.

Uh-oh.  Read more »

Inside the Seriously Exhilarating Black Comic Book Scene

black-comics-marquee-940x540

A confession: I was never a big comic book fan.

Comics were just too expensive in Guatemala, where I grew up. They were also only spottily available — which wreaks havoc when you’re following a serialized storyline — and too full of American pop culture references for me to feel at home in their worlds.

And though I loved both writing and drawing, it was my intention to grow up to be a serious author. S.E.R.I.O.U.S. A writer who would look at social inequity and injustice and write about it so compellingly that readers’ worlds (and worldviews) would be rocked.

Well, you know what they say … girl plans and God laughs.

Almost a full lifetime later, I find myself noting that some of the writers/artists who do rock worldviews on regular basis choose comic books to do so.

On May 11th, Marvel’s Black Panther #2 dropped. Penned by National Book Award and MacArthur “Genius” grant winner Ta-nehisi Coates, Black Panther’s anticipatory buzz on social media was of such magnitude that even those outside of comic geekdom were excited about it. But Coates is only the best known of a large and stunningly talented generation of comic book mavens of color (creators, publishers, even retailers) who have made it their vocation to redefine the comic book genre for those of us who have come to it belatedly.  Read more »

Jim Kenney Made a Cameo in a High School Musical

Jim Kenney rehearses at St. Joe's Prep. Photo | Jared Brey.

Jim Kenney rehearses with Colin Coder at St. Joe’s Prep. Photo | Jared Brey.

Seated in the dark back row of a theater during the climactic scene of Curtains, a comedy musical murder mystery put on by St. Joe’s Prep, Mayor Jim Kenney leaned forward and rested his chin across his arms on the empty seat in front of him.

It was Saturday afternoon. Kenney had arrived toward the end of the first act. He was scheduled to give the student actors a pep talk during the intermission and make a cameo at the beginning of the second act. With those tasks behind him, he was just enjoying the show.

Curtains is sort of like a lighthearted version of Phantom of the Opera, in that its characters are putting on a stage production while an unknown killer keeps gumming up the works. The play-within-the-play, in this case, is called Robbin’ Hood. Robbin’ Hood — think Oklahoma, but in Kansas — is set in the old-timey Midwest, while Curtains is set in Boston in the late 1950s. Read more »

Penn Is Now Noting Disciplinary Violations on Student Transcripts

Terracotta Heraldry on the Duhring Wing.   | Steven Minicola, University of Pennsylvania  Communications.

Terracotta Heraldry on the Duhring Wing. | Steven Minicola, University of Pennsylvania Communications.

Last week, the University of Pennsylvania announced that students who violate its academic integrity, student conduct or sexual violence codes will no longer be eligible for Latin graduation honors — those “cum laude” notations that look so sexy on a diploma — or for inclusion on its Dean’s List. “In addition,” according to the official announcement, “when a student receives a sanction of probation, suspension or expulsion from the Office of Student Conduct or the Sexual Violence Investigative Officer, that sanction will be part of the student’s permanent record and, therefore, reportable outside of Penn.”

That means if you get caught smoking pot in your freshman year, or cheat on a test, or are convicted by a campus tribunal of failing to ask permission before kissing your boyfriend, your violation of school rules will now be fodder for potential employers and graduate schools. Read more »

The Writer Once Known as Danger Guerrero Is a Temple Grad — and He’s One of the Web’s Funniest TV Writers

Brian Grubb

Photo courtesy Brian Grubb

Danger Guerrero was a name you might know. No, not the Cuban League baseball player, but the writer for pop-culture site Uproxx. He’s done hundreds of posts there and written countless hilarious tweets. He’s one of the funnier writers working today. He’s also very popular: His post about Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow was shared more than 22,000 times.

Danger Guerrero was, obviously, an alias. And, in March, Guerrero revealed himself by writing: “My name is Brian Grubb. I am 33 years old. I am in a wheelchair.”

Grubb, grew up in Berks County and Allentown and went to Temple. He flunked out his first time. His second time, he did better in school — but fell off a loft bed one night and fractured the C4 vertebrae in his neck. But he eventually returned to the school, got his undergraduate degree and later graduated from Temple Law School.

I recently interviewed Grubb — who now lives in Allentown — about his former alias, his injury and how he became a writer.

Read more »

This Man Tried to Smoke Up Justin Bieber at Johnny Brenda’s

Justin Bieber at Johnny Brenda's

Justin Bieber at Johnny Brenda’s on Sunday night. (Photo: Mike Donovan)

When Noah Suzuki got the text, he knew he and his friends needed to get to Johnny Brenda’s immediately.

Suzuki, 24, was with his co-workers from the West Philly Han Dynasty. They had been doing karaoke at Bob & Barbara’s on Sunday night, and Suzuki got a text from his younger sister. She’d been a Justin Bieber fan since he was just a kid singing covers on YouTube.

“When he was a YouTube pop star sensation, my sister was in middle school,” Suzuki says. “And she was going to see him at tennis matches and mall shows. Indie Justin Bieber. She saw him, like, 35 times.”

And she’d texted Suzuki on Sunday night to tell him that Justin Bieber was at Johnny Brenda’s in Fishtown. He recounts the text: “Fucking call me, you need to go to Johnny Brenda’s and coax Justin Bieber to our house. This is not a drill.” Read more »

Justin Bieber Went to Johnny Brenda’s and Things Are Different Now

Most relationships have a breaking point.

In a healthy relationship, you see it coming far enough in advance to prepare a short list of grievances before going your separate ways.

Volatile relationships are harder to predict, but when the time comes, it’s nothing special — simply business-as-usual-chaos, a last straw waiting to happen.

It’s the neglected relationships you have to watch out for, those fragile unions running on the fumes of nostalgia and commitment, of long-dead in-jokes and stale scripts. Those are the ones that take a grand gesture to end, something big enough to shock all parties back into the reality they’ve been ignoring.

Something like Justin Bieber hanging out at Johnny Brenda’sRead more »

Seven Theories You Might Not Know About Where the Word “Hoagie” Comes From

iStockphoto.com | Jack Puccio

iStockphoto.com | Jack Puccio

We were really hoping we’d be able to trace a Native American origin for the word “hoagie” in celebration of National Hoagie Day today, but we couldn’t. We did, however, find these seven variations, some way more dubious-sounding than others. Get yourself a nice fresh hoagie (or, depending on your place of birth, a submarine, a torpedo, a zeppelin, an Italian, a hero, a grinder, a po’boy, a wedge, a spuckie, a garibaldi, a blimpie … ) and settle in to survey these suggestions. (Note: There is no National Spuckie Day.)  Read more »

What Spring Sounds Like in Windows-Open South Philly

Dickinson Square Park | M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

Dickinson Square Park | M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

There are a lot of ways to measure the arrival of spring in Philly.

Technically, it began March 20th, before the last snow of the year, weeks after that deadbeat groundhog waddled out of bed. Easter isn’t usually a bad benchmark—although that, too, was followed by snow this time around. I used to welcome it the first time my cat delivered a dead baby animal to the doorstep, but ever since Saffron retired, I go by a more optimistic milestone: the first weekend that the windows stay open.

Which is to say, finally, happy spring.

Did it feel good? In true Philly fashion, it was almost too warm. Did it look good? Let’s just say there were a lot of jean shorts and tube socks walking down my block Saturday afternoon. Did it smell good? “Sweet” and “breeze” very rarely go in the same sentence around these parts.

But damn, did it sound good. From Friday night through Sunday evening, last weekend was a pitch-perfect snapshot of the finest season in the finest city. (Brief disclaimer: I’m from here and can’t distinguish the rolling tide of the ocean from the rolling tide of I-95.)

This is what spring sounds like in windows-open South Philly:  Read more »

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