Philadelphians Who Deserve Murals Instead of Kurt Vile

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On Saturday, a Philadelphian decided to buff the Kurt Vile mural, causing shrieks of horror from hip Philadelphians and a Philadelphia public art meme.

People have said the reaction is overblown, but (1) it’s good when people discuss and debate public art and (2) of course it is. Literally everything on the Internet, even the most serious issues, can get overblown — there’s no sense complaining about it. But, sure, this isn’t the nose of the Old Man in the Mountain collapsing — the defacer has already apologized and even the artist says you should calm down. ESPO, aka Steve Powers, was similarly undisturbed about psychylustro covering up. “Nobody writing [graffiti] cares and any attempt to make it appear otherwise is click bait,” he told Hidden City (the Buzzfeed of Philadelphia Buildings, I guess) in May.

That is a point to take: Graffiti by its very nature is a transient art form, and murals come and go, too. David Guinn — who has more good murals in the city than anyone — once had four seasons in South Philadelphia. Now there are only three. The enormous Frank Sinatra mural is gone. Both were covered up by new residential construction, which is a better use of space than a mural. This one just disappeared in a more fantastic fashion. (And, obviously, the uproar was so great that it will be fixed up.)

But the mural got me thinking. I have passed the Kurt Vile mural several times where someone comments about how — while it’s cool — the mural is also an ad for his latest album. That’s weird, no? Did we paint a Boyz II Men album in the mid-’90s? (Not that they needed the increased sales.) A mural that’s also an ad is not exactly the end of the world: We have a mural for Jane Seymour’s jewelry line, after all, and a Vile album ad is certainly a better choice than that. But it got me thinking about other Philadelphians who deserve a mural, perhaps ones who aren’t selling anything. Time for some jokes mixed in with real suggestions!

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Cult Leaders and Ballet Dancers: The Strange Rock School Lawsuit

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Shutterstock.com

Each year, many up-and-coming ballet dancers from around the world audition for the “summer intensives” at Philadelphia’s Rock School for Dance Education, the prestigious 51-year-old ballet school on South Broad Street that claims “alumni in every major ballet company in the United States, on Broadway and in Europe.” In fact, this year’s summer intensives have just begun. And according to a new federal lawsuit, there’s one parent particularly upset with how things went last year. Read more »

Terry Gross Is Bad for the Country

Photo: William F. Steinmetz/Philadelphia Inquirer

Photo: William F. Steinmetz/Philadelphia Inquirer

Conventional wisdom holds that Terry Gross, host of WHYY-produced NPR staple Fresh Air, is the best interviewer in the business. Conventional wisdom is full of shit. Let’s start with her mannerisms. Sarah Miller captured them perfectly in her New Yorker parody “Gwyneth Paltrow Talks to Terry Gross About Conscious Uncoupling”:

GROSS: Okay, I wonder — could you maybe take — you know, like a typical scene from a breakup and describe it as though it were an opera? And then, maybe, could you describe the same scene through the lens of conscious uncoupling? Could you … do you think you could maybe do that, for us?

The hesitant, beseeching ingénue, so timidly obsequious — cut the crap, Terry. You’ve been doing this for 40 years. If you asked guests to strip naked and stick daisies up their arses, they would. Read more »

Philly, Just Get Over Wawa Already

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First, there’s the name. Wawa. A word that sounds like nonsense. Like baby talk. Like a sad trombone. Wah-wah.

Thinking, I guess, that I’m not originally from here and thus a little ignorant about such things, the Wawa lover will generally inform me, tone pious, that “wawa” is the Ojibwe word for the Canadian goose in the company’s logo.

I mean no disrespect to the tribe — neither the Ojibwe nor the Philadelphian — but no amount of etymology can change the fact that seven years into my Philly life, I’m still mortified to utter the phrase, “We’re going to Wawa for a Sizzli.”

My husband, a Philly native, will drive us 10 miles out of our way on road trips, past BPs, 7-Elevens, Sunocos, Dunkins and countless other pit stops, in order to hit up a Wawa for that Sizzli. Or, more often, for the coffee, which he swears is the best road coffee money can buy. The dark roast is above par, but it’s still just coffee. When a gallon of gas costs three times as much as the coffee you’re driving to fetch and the convenience chain of choice has closed so many city outposts that a soul can hardly even call it convenient, it’s time to question such devotion.

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#FreetheNipple: The Nipple Is Having a Moment

The Ta Ta Top

The Ta Ta Top

2014 is shaping up to be the year of the nipple.

First Scout Willis pranced around New York City topless. Willis was — justifiably — outraged by Instagram’s asinine community standards, which state that female nipples cannot be posted but extreme scenes of graphic violence are acceptable. Then, Rihanna got booted from Instagram for posting photos of a French magazine cover on which she appeared bearing her nipples. Meanwhile, actress-turned-filmmaker Lina Esco launched the hashtag #FreetheNipple and held a topless event in New York’s Washington Square Park.

“It’s not about sitting at the cafe with a glass of wine and no shirt on — it’s about the fact that a woman cannot sunbathe without her shirt on next to a man that has every right to do so,” Esco, who is making a film about the movement featuring Janeane Garofalo, told the Huffington Post in April. Since then, the #FreetheNipple movement has grown in popularity, bolstered by the celebrity support of Willis and Rihanna.

Nipples, it seems, are having a moment.

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“No Body Talk” Summer Camps: Is This a Good Thing?

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

Last week the New York Times ran an article on a couple of summer camps that enforce a “no body talk” rule. As one such camp’s founder, Vivian Stadlin, explains it, this means that while at camp, kids and counselors “take a break from mentioning physical appearance, including clothing. And it’s about myself or others, be it negative, neutral or even positive.”

My first reaction to the article was, “What a great idea!” At Stadlin’s camp, Eden Village, campers are taught to give compliments like “Your soul shines” or “I feel so happy to be with you.” Signs on bathroom mirrors read, “Don’t check your appearance, check your soul.” Another chain of camps, Rosie’s Girls, takes this a step further and covers mirrors completely, so that campers won’t even be tempted to judge themselves. Read more »

Is Orange Is the New Black Too Funny?

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Count me among the many who happily binge-watch Netflix’s most successful series, Orange Is The New Black. It has what most great shows have: nuanced characters, great dialogue and an interesting story arc with just enough ridiculousness sprinkled in to make the mundanity of everyday life seem entertaining.

Except, what Orange unpacks is a little more than mundane ordinary life. The show, which centers on the lives of the female inmates of the fictional Litchfield Correctional Facility, makes jail the centerpiece of its LOLs and hijinks, then snaps the audience back into the grittier realities for a pathos-driven push-and-pull to humanize the way we think about the incarcerated.

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