Four Lessons Philadelphia Can Learn from The Simpsons

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A scene from The Simpsons, “Jury of the Damned.”

I’m not (necessarily) proud of it, but I spent most of my weekend with The Simpsons. At best, I’m a casual fan, but on a rainy Saturday, FXX’s 24-hour, 552-episode Simpsons marathon proved to be a pretty seductive mix of cozy nostalgia, surprisingly timeless writing, and non-judgmental hangover company.

Then, things got weird. After six or so uninterrupted hours in Springfield, it became apparent that the allegedly fictional town is based on none other than Philadelphia.

Officially speaking, series creator Matt Groening claims that Springfield is inspired by a number of generic small towns, and the ambiguity of where, exactly, it could exist is a long-running joke on the show (trust me — I haven’t got off my couch in days). Briefly, the honor went to Springfield, Vermont, when Fox held a contest promoting The Simpsons Movie.

However, Philadelphians will recognize the mix of casual corruption, enthusiastic alcoholism, rabid fandom, and blood-sucking, soul-crushing monopolies as, well, home sweet home.

Personally, I’m OK with this — I can get down with a place where my jeans stay in style for 25 years. My issue is that Springfield has, over the years, figured out how to do Philadelphia better than Philadelphia.

Here’s what we could learn, or at least stand to remember, from our four-fingered friends.

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Robertses May Save Philadelphia Theatre Company

Suzanne Roberts Theater. Photo | G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Suzanne Roberts Theater. Photo | G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

The Inquirer reports on a $2.5 million plan to save the Philadelphia Theatre Company from financial collapse:

The rescue plan, which ties new financial support to a re-organization of the company, was instigated by philanthropist Suzanne Roberts, mother of Comcast chairman Brian Roberts and a longtime patron of the company, and was fleshed out with help from Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen. It calls for arts consultant Michael M. Kaiser, departing president of Washington’s Kennedy Center, to develop a new business plan that is more detailed than the analysis he has already provided at the behest of the Roberts family.

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3 Rules for Surviving (and Thriving) on Yelp

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My sister is a really good doctor. She runs two busy offices in South Philly. Her patients include CEOs of large companies and union workers from the neighborhood. She sees everything from colds to cancer and knows the best specialists in town. I wouldn’t let her cut my fingernails, of course. But that’s because she’s my sister and I still remember her as a bossy 15-year-old. But her patients I know love her.

Except for this one guy. He skewered her on Yelp. He complained about her office. He gave her a low rating. And what was worse, that she didn’t even know about it until somebody (that was a gloating me) told her about it. She barely knew about Yelp. But apparently, her office was listed there and a handful of people made comments — all great except for the one guy. And it really, really upset her. I get it — people don’t like to hear bad stuff.

Is your business on Yelp? You better check.

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3 Great Moments in PC Hysteria

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It’s been a busy week here in the P.C. States of America, with everybody defending everybody else’s right to be offended, with the usual head-spinning results. Let’s start at Ohio State University, which just fired the director of its world-renowned marching band for allowing hazing and sexual harassment to go on amidst its ranks. (You may have seen the band’s halftime tribute to Michael Jackson on YouTube last year.) One practice decried in a university report was the assignment of nicknames to new band members — nicknames that the university deemed degrading, such as “Jizzy” and “Twinkle Dick,” according to the august Chronicle of Higher Ed. Among the objectionable monikers the report cited was “Jwoobs,” given to a female Jewish student with large breasts. Read more »

10 Men You Should Unfollow on Twitter

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Earlier this week, the Internet was all aflutter with news of the latest feminist hashtag. #UnfollowAMan is a (questionably executed) satirical movement created by Buzzfeed staffer Katie Notopoulos and the premise is simple: Unfollow a man — or in Notopoulos’s case, all men — on Twitter. She writes that after doing some research about her typical Twitter actions she was horrified to learn that she was “using it like a locker room where jocular masculine sick burns are doled out each minute like 140-character towel snaps.”

So, she went on what she calls “a digital man cleanse.”

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Hey Jerk! Use Your Freaking Turn Signal!

Shutterstock.com

Shutterstock.com

The other day on my way home from work, when I was a block away from my house, I pulled over and called my son Jake, who’s back from college for the summer. I asked him to come out to the front porch and check if my left-hand turn signal light was out. He emerged onto the porch as I pulled up, and turned two big thumbs up as I tested first my left-hand signal and then the right one. “Both working,” he assured me when I got out. “What’s up?”

“Some jerk pulled right out in front of me at the four-way stop at Wilson and Franklin,” I told him. “I absolutely had the right-of-way, and I had my left-hand turn signal on. And he still nearly plowed into me. I figured the light must be out.” Because, really, why else would somebody almost drive into my car like that?

Jake shrugged. “I don’t know what to tell you. He was an idiot, I guess.” Read more »

10 Commenter Tropes That Should Get You Banned From the Internet

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If it were up to me, we’d just call it a failed experiment, like New Coke or Lindsay Lohan’s music career. We tried it. It went off the rails. And now we’re done.

But alas, with every day that passes, the comment sections of news websites persist. The argument in their defense is that they increase engagement and give readers an opportunity to have their voices be heard. Not for nothing, they also keep people coming back to the website, which is great for pageviews and thus, great for advertising which the journalism industry desperately needs to survive as the economics of the news business evolve.

So what’s the problem?

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I’m Pre-Gaming My 40th High School Reunion

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I spent some of this weekend trying to book a table for nine for lunch next Saturday, which turned out to be a lot more complicated than I thought. It seems a lot of places in my old hometown are only open for dinner on Saturdays. And that was a problem because my best high-school friends and I want to pre-game our high school reunion.

Well, not pre-game in the current college-student sense, as in “Get stumble-drunk before we even get to the party.” We’re not the drinkers we used to be, frankly. (And a couple of us never were drinkers at all.) But we want a chance to be able to talk and catch up without unfamiliar faces coming up to us in the dark and offering us hugs. (Note to reunion planners: You can’t read name tags in the dark.) It’s not like I never see my old high-school friends. A group of five of us have been getting together just about every year, sometimes with spouses, sometimes with moms, sometimes with kids, sometimes just by ourselves. We still get along, still make each other laugh and cry, just like we did when we were wearing hockey kilts, or “white shirts, dark skirts” for choir and band. Read more »

Get Off My Phone? Get Off My Ass!

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A few years ago, after receiving some bad directions from a man with a cool accent, I found myself embarrassingly lost in New Orleans’ French Quarter, en route to a destination whose name I can no longer recall. (I blame the Sazeracs.) So I decided to pull out my iPhone and punch the place into Google Maps to determine how not-even-close I was.

This, I learned, was a sight so troubling that strangers felt the need to inform me I was squandering what little time I had left here on earth.

An older man, who did not have a cool accent but did wear a hat with a feather in it (these guys always have hats with feathers in them), stopped abruptly on the sidewalk in front of me and placed his right hand on my left shoulder, like an uncle about to deliver bad news to a young nephew with a behavioral disorder.

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