How the USDA Screwed Up the American Diet — and Deprived Me of So Much Delicious Butter

Illustration by Matt Harrison Clough

Illustration by Matt Harrison Clough

Back in the late 1800s, Emperor Napoleon III of France offered a prize to anyone who could come up with a substitute for butter that would be cheap enough to be used by the lower classes. The winning spread, invented by a chemist named Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès and composed of rendered beef fat and skim milk, became known as margarine. Read more »

The Best Thing That Happened This Week: Springsteen Signed a Fifth-Grader’s School Absence Note

So back on September 7th, Mike Fenerty took his son Michael to Bruce Springsteen’s show at Citizens Bank Park. You remember that show — the one that went on for four hours and four minutes? Springsteen’s longest-ever U.S. show? That was also Michael’s first day of fifth grade at Masterman. Despite all that excitement, Michael enjoyed grooving to “Spirit in the Night and “Born to Run” so much that when he heard The Boss would be signing his new memoir at the Free Library, he begged Mike to take him. Only problem? That would mean missing school. “Why don’t we just get Bruce Springsteen to sign my excuse note?” Michael asked his dad.

Right.  Read more »

How Beyonce Made Football a Protest Space

Beyonce performs during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California, on Feb. 7, 2016

Beyonce performs during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California, on Feb. 7, 2016

When “Formation” came out during Super Bowl Weekend, the height of American consumption, culture and entertainment, the opening image of the music video featured Beyonce atop a police cruiser in a flooded New Orleans. There was much to be unpacked in the imagery that coursed through the video, and while many fawned over the instances and message of bad-assery accompanying all things Beyonce, there was an undeniable power in those images in a music video showcasing not only a renewed Beyonce, but also the best leveraging of her brand: politicized, policed and persistent Blackness.

There’s been a litany of thought pieces about her use of a New Orleans styled setting evoking not only the tragedy of southern racism — a thing we still like to assign to geography as if racism’s waters don’t dampen things here up North — but her supposed co-opting of Katrina, the flood that drowned a city and tsunami-ed a black population out of the city. It was seen by some as an insult, an affront to the actual ordeal. A friend who spent some time in New Orleans around Katrina shared this sentiment: “I feel some kind of way about her using the Katrina/New Orleans stuff though.” The argument here being that of cognitive dissonance; that Beyonce — famous, rich, beautiful, presumably untouched by the taint and turmoil of Katrina — was therefore somehow aloof about the importance of utilizing those images and that setting; that, in essence, she had no right to do so.  Read more »

Jon Dorenbos Advances to America’s Got Talent Finals

Jon Dorenbos

Jon Dorenbos performs in the semifinals of America’s Got Talent on August 30th | Screengrab via NBC

Most Eagles fans have come to terms with the fact that their favorite team is never going to win the Super Bowl. Never, ever. What if Carson Wentz is a Hall of Fame-caliber stud? He’ll be like Dan Marino — an all-time great who never won the big one.

That’s why Eagles fans have to settle for little victories. Such as: Jon Dorenbos could win a televised talent competition!

Dorenbos, a magician, has advanced to the finals of this season of America’s Got Talent. The Eagles long snapper learned his fate last night, when public voting moved him through the semifinals. Read more »

WATCH: Jon Dorenbos Kills It on America’s Got Talent Last Night

Philadelphia Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos appeared again on America’s Got Talent last night, and he did not disappoint. Using a fast-patter — as if he’d just done a rail of coke before going on stage — he had the judges long-snap footballs onto a map of the United States. (Heidi Klum delivered a perfect snap; Simon Cowell missed the map entirely.)

He then went through a convoluted shtick that seemed to be mostly misdirection — he made some “mistakes” during it, always a solid magician’s trick — before he pulled out a map from inside a notebook he’d given Howie Mandel. The map had the exact places where the four hosts had thrown their footballs! Read more »

Why Philly Is a Perfect Fit for America’s First Pro Circus Arts School

A 15-year-old man from Philadelphia performs on the steps of the Art Museum

Brian Ungar, 15, a student at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, performs on the steps of the Art Museum | Photo: HughE Dillon

This time next year, the first full-time professional training school for circus artists in the United States will be preparing for the start of classes. And it’ll be in Philadelphia. That’s right: City Hall is about to have some competition. And soon Penn won’t be the only school in the city educating clowns.

Okay, got the easy jokes out of the way. Today, the founders of Circadium announced its first day of classes would be on September 5th, 2017. “We’re beside ourselves,” says Shana Kennedy, founding director of the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts. “It’s been a long time coming: We’ve got the people, and the team, and the teachers and the materials.” The current School of Circus Arts is in Germantown; Kennedy said she’s currently in negotiations to take over an old church in the area for Circadium. There is a kickstarter, with groundbreaking expected sometime this winter.

“The United States lacks a dedicated facility for circus higher education,” Circadium says in its Kickstarter. “In a few cities, recreational schools host ‘pro-track’ programs, which offer a 1-year full-time training to serious students. None, however, come close to the standards of higher-level circus education programs in Canada, Europe and Australia. Students want to study circus intensively for multiple years, and by doing so, deeply explore the history of the art form, their own physical capabilities, and their creative potential.” Read more »

Trading Places Was Originally Written With Gene Wilder in Mind

Gene Wilder, if he were in Trading Places

Photo illustration

Today the movie world is mourning Gene Wilder, who died today at the age of 83. Wilder starred in a number of classic films, including several Mel Brooks films (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and The Producers) as well as the 1971 adaptation Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

But Wilder could’ve been cast in a film that is near and dear to many Philadelphians’ hearts: Trading Places. Three years ago, Business Insider called the Philadelphia-set and shot film the greatest Wall Street movie ever made, and did an oral history of the movie.

Director John Landis had this nugget of info: Read more »

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