Archive: January, 2008
Much like foul-mouthed Irishman Colin Farrel's 2002 stinker, Afro Ninja's most recent in An Escape Series has you locked in a phone booth, though there's no crazy sniper with you in his sights. For some reason, though, you're locked in a phone booth (bumbling ineptitude, I imagine) and you have to get out. Despite the fact that you probably haven't even seen a phone booth in something like 20 years, the game is still a fun, but really tough, little challenge to figure out. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's unbeatable without the help of the handy-dandy walkthrough link at the bottom of the screen.
The Phone Booth feels a lot like those old point-and-click adventure games, like Shadowgate, that I spent most of my youth playing. If you're not familiar with the games, all you have to do is click on various objects and around the screen to move around and pick up things that will help you on your way. Unlike the point-and-click games of yore, the cursor doesn't light up when you move across something you can interact with. That said, it'll take some guess work to get moving. If you find this one a little tough, try the earlier games as they tend to be a bit easier.
Play The Phone Booth here.
Unrelated, I wonder if Afro Ninja is related to this guy, who never fails to make me laugh.
Given the expansive and dreamlike nature of their records, it's not hard to see how some people could write off Band of Horses as a live act. Those people are truly missing out. If anything, the equestrienne collective are a must-see as they proved Tuesday at the TLA.
The group, bloated out to six members doubling their usually svelte three-piece, came out to thunderous applause before opening the show with "Monsters" off their '06 release Everything All the Time. "Are you guys ready to have some fun or whatever?" asked front man Ben Bridwell before kicking things off. "Well too bad, because here comes a slow one."
What followed was an excellent set of hits from both Everything and last year's Cease to Begin. Songs like "The Great Salt Lake" and "Weed Party" were given new life on stage by the pronounced drums, which gave the songs a new low not found on their records. I can't for the life of me find this guy's name anywhere on the net, which is a real shame considering how much his presence improved the songs.
Still, it was the tightness of the unit as a whole and Bridwell's impressive vocal work that made the show. Despite the inflated numbers and the presence of looser, jammier tunes like "The General Specific" and "Ode to LRC," the band was the definition of tight. And Bridwell vocals were uncanny. His haunting falsetto voice crooned and stretched but never broke. Pretty impressive considering the man looks like a gas station attendant.
The set mixed slower numbers like "No One's Gonna Love You" with anthems along the lines of "Is There a Ghost." However, the defining moment came near the end of the set when Band of Horses crawled into their best and most famous song, The Funeral. On record, the song is a head-bobbing anthem about life. On stage, the song becomes a monolithic wall of sound that rises like a wave, only to crash down and make the audience realize that something special is happening. To see such a well written song preformed to perfection is an experience like no other.
Believe the hype - you haven't heard Band of Horses until you've heard them live.
Holy shit, so I was pretty blown away by this show last night, but I'm gonna remain calm and be a cynical bastard about it. Here's why: gimmickry, the possibility thereof and the potential for backfire.
White Rabbits were loud, tight, rocked an incredible rhythm. They damn well better have, since the six-piece had two to three percussionists onstage at any given time. Dual drum kits rolled courtesy of Matthew Clark and Jamie Levinson, while a third guy - Adam Russell - milled near the back, playing bass sometimes, using a floor tom / tambourine / hand percussion others. Once or twice, one of the two kit drummers hopped to some other auxiliary instrument. But when all three percussionists were going at once, holy good God you just had to freaking MOVE and lose it.
Polyrhythmic instrumentation is by no means anything new, but White Rabbits uses it in this way that I'd say, really, it's their hitch, their defining point, the unique angle they bring to this indie rock thing. Aside from "The Plot," their songs aren't particularly hooky, but are nonetheless awesome in the full, roaring, intense sound they get with dual guitars, keyboards and yeah, the reverberating, multiform beats.
And there's the rub.
So often I've seen an emergent band with a great in-concert gimmick on their first record, that gets watered down or removed altogether for subsequent records.
Remember when Nick Stumpf fronted The French Kicks from behind the drums? The group opted to slide his kit to the forefront in a stage setup you never see - not even from Max Weinberg. Those shows were solid. Sounded great. But did you catch any of the later gigs where the band brought in a new drummer so Stumpf could stand up and front the band as just a singer? Boy, how much did they suck? I don't think the FKs have put out a bad album yet - 2006's Two Thousand was excellent and underapprecited - but I've got no desire to see them live again. No performance of their newer songs, good as they might be, could possibly be as impressive as French Kicks Mark 1.
Or how about The Shins? When they were touring as an opening act circa Oh, Inverted World, part of their charm was seeing Martin Crandall play those dreamy synth lines on a freaking bright red toy synthesizer his parents might've bought him when he was 12. Now let's look at last year's Wincing The Night Away tour, a sellout show at the Electric Factory. Crandall is making the playing the same dreamy synth lines, but he's standing behind two multi-thouand dollar, sterile, lifeless Korgs. Christ, dude, way to suck all the joy out of your live show.
Not that White Rabbits will - or are really capable of - these sorts of ill-devised personell / equipment choices. Like I said, heavy rhythm from multiple percussionists is kind of a defining aspect of their sound. In order to backfire like I described, their next album would have to be a huge, massive freaking departure into banalaty-land.
At the same time, I wonder how long they'll be able to make their hook last. Will they be able to be as intense as they were last night at Johnny Brenda's, two or three albums down the road? Or will the layers of percussion wind up being no more than an early gimmick that's jettisoned as the band progresses along its career and finds itself unable to resist the lure to streamline their sound into something more managable, something more conventional? I sure hope not, since I insanely dug what I saw. But only time will tell - and I'm not getting too excited just yet.
A: This pop culture fixture, who ESPN: The Magazine once called "smarmy [and] punchable," recently released the largest published trivia collection in American history.
Q: Who is Ken Jennings?
The 33-year-old Seattle native, of course, is best known as "the Jeopardy! guy," but he's also the author of 2006's excellent (and best-selling) Brainiac . Last week, he hit the bookshelves again with Ken Jennings's Trivia Almanac: 8,888 Questions in 365 Days (Villard Books/Random House).
The incredibly addictive 531-page tome hits you like a fact-shilling tsunami, each day of the year crammed to bursting with everything from date-driven ephemera (on this day in 1991, a New Mexico rock station played "Stairway" for 24 hours straight) to themed sets of craziness ("A Matter of a Pinion — questions about wings, avian and otherwise") to the stuff of twisted high school history quizzes ("Match each famous name to its owner's characteristic headwear").
Jennings (whose most triumphant Jeopardy! moment has been triumphantly immortalized on YouTube ) was kind enough to answer some of our burning questions about his book, his life and trivia in general via e-mail. Follow the jump to learn about his favorite non-trivial diversions, what weird stuff he knows about Philly and which presidential candidate he'd most want on his Quizzo team.
City Paper : As an occasional pub quiz player, I often find myself stymied by something as simple as wording. How important of a concern was the literal construction of your trivia questions for the Almanac ?
Ken Jennings: The layperson typically doesn't realize that trivia can't just be produced by opening the Encyclopedia Britannica to a random page and throwing a dart. Questions have to be composed very carefully. In just a few words you have to tell players what they're looking for with no ambiguity whatsoever (quiz show writers call this "pinning," because it "pins" each question to exactly one uncontestable answer), provide whatever hints you want the reader to know, and hide whatever information you don't want them to know, almost like a magician would. The best questions will even have a narrative arc, like a little short story — with a dash of humor, maybe, or a twist ending when the answer is revealed.
Above all, the listener has to care deeply about what the answer is, even if the subject is trivial. If the question or answer leaves someone saying, "Yeah, so?" then it fails. It's a tight, very demanding art form, like almost like writing a haiku or a villanelle. So yeah, the short answer is that every word in every question gets labored over carefully, to the point where I would often be telling myself, "Chill out, F. Scott Fitzgerald — it's just a trivia question."
CP: How did you organize all this information when you were putting together the Almanac ? Was it just one big Microsoft Word file?
KJ: I wish I could say I had a cabin in the woods papered with trivia questions on little scraps of paper, almost like Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind , but actually the whole thing took shape in two pretty orderly word-processor documents, one for the questions and one for the answers. The almanac has a day-at-a-time calendar format, which really simplified the process. I didn't have to build up a database of 9,000 trivia questions and then figure out how to divide them up into categories — as soon as I had a quiz, or an idea for one, I could figure out where in the year it might fit and immediately attach it onto the calendrical "skeleton."
I kept them in one big document rather than breaking them up by month for one simple reason: It made it easier to search for which facts I'd already used. By the time the first draft was done, I had dozens of duplicates in there that had to be methodically stripped out. You don't want to ask people for Indiana Jones's real first name or the biggest city in the Southern Hemisphere twice .
CP: Your Tuesday Trivia e-mail quizzes go out to players around the world. Are there any particular areas or countries that you've noticed score particularly high? Does somewhere really random like Luxembourg dominate?
KJ: The weekly Tuesday Trivia quiz on ken-jennings.com is pretty Americo-centric, a fact for which I had to apologize many times early this year when I attended the European Quiz Championships in Blackpool, England. Many European countries have a thriving quiz scene, it turns out. England and Belgium are the real superpowers, for some reason (Belgium?), but Norway, Finland, Hungary, Monaco, Estonia and several other countries competed as well.
CP: I've found that the most entertaining and fun parts of the Almanac are the themed sets of questions. Were there any themes that you really wanted to use, but they just didn't pan out in terms of finding enough (or the right) material?
KJ: Maybe it's just because I've been conditioned by a lifetime of Jeopardy! , but I really like trivia that comes neatly packaged in cutesy categories, as well. There was one quiz that ended up being shorter than I would have liked, because I had a hard time finding the facts to fill it out, but I hesitate to mention it because it's probably in poorer taste than almost anything else in the book. It's about killer trees: You have to match late celebrities to the kind of tree that killed them (in car crashes, plane crashes, skiing accidents, and so on). The quiz is probably called "Mourning Wood" or something hideous like that. Anyway, trees kill people all the time, but it's surprisingly hard to find out exactly what species of tree sometimes. I guess that never makes it into the police report. ("Authorities are looking for a large Manitoba maple ... ") I remember spending most of an afternoon on the Internet trying to figure out what kind of tree killed Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes of TLC, for example, but all to no avail.
CP: Which current presidential candidate would you most want on your pub quiz team?
KJ: If spouses can play too, I have to go Hillary here. She's bright herself, of course, but I was pretty impressed by Bill Clinton's puzzle acumen in that crossword documentary Wordplay . If spouses can't play, then Obama or McCain ... probably Obama. I'm a teetotaler myself, so we wouldn't even need Romney as a designated driver. Can you imagine playing with Huckabee? What if there were science questions? ‘No, no, it's a trick question! There were no such thing as dinosaurs! The earth is only six thousand years old!'"
CP: I don't have children, but I'm familiar with the bizarre phenomenon that is parental brinksmanship (particularly among dads). Do the parents of your kids' friends ever throw random questions at you and expect you to answer? What about in everyday life, like, a guy at the video store grilling you with obscure queries about Hal Hartley's early-early-early work?
KJ: I wish it was Hal Hartley questions at the video store. At least I'd have a chance at getting those right. Typically, it's even more random: The produce guy at the supermarket last weekend who took time out from misting eggplant to ask me, "What's the more common name for solid-leaf parsley?" Or the doorman at the hotel last week who wanted to know all nine vice presidents who succeeded to the presidency mid-term. I like to pretend that people like this didn't recognize me from TV, that they just ask questions like this to random passersby, possibly as a result of some sort of mental illness. It makes life seem a little more surreal.
CP: I'm sure there were times during the writing of the book when you just wanted to step away from your desk or computer for a second and decompress. What's your diversion of choice when you want to get away from work?
KJ: Unfortunately, my routine was typically to get up and look through the fridge. That's the only downside of working from home: I gained five pounds writing each of my two books. Healthier options (i.e. there was nothing good in the fridge) include shooting baskets out back, working on the mural I'm painting on my daughter's bedroom wall or taking my kids to the park.
CP: My dad gave me an original Trivial Pursuit set that came out before the fall of the Iron Curtain, and I was shocked by the amount of questions that were no longer correct. In your experience, what categories of trivia are the most susceptible to the ravages of time?
KJ: This happened all the time while I was writing the Almanac . I'd no sooner write that Julia-Louis Dreyfus was the only female SNL-er to return as a guest-host than Molly Shannon would be announced, making my fact obsolete. I'd ask a question about Duke being the only back-to-back NCAA basketball champs since UCLA, and then Florida would repeat. But politics is the worst. There are new members of the Cabinet pretty much every year, new senators every couple years ... anything you want to ask will probably be wrong by the time your book makes it to the "remaindered" bin. If you never want to be wrong, stick with history. They haven't updated, say, the French and Indian War in a long time.
CP: I read that you're planning a third book that will have nothing to do with trivia. Any idea of what it WILL be about yet?
KJ: Writing nine thousand plus questions for the Almanac about killed me. As trivia aversion therapy, it totally worked. The next book will be geek culture-related for sure, and a narrative book like my first book, Brainiac , but I haven't yet chosen between two ideas that I really like. And I'm in no particular hurry — if I write up a proposal, what if it gets bought by somebody? Then I might actually have to write the damn thing.
CP: Finally, I have to ask — are there any Philadelphia-centric trivia bits you've come across in your research that are particularly memorable?
KJ: There are a couple cool things about Philadelphia that I didn't know before writing the Almanac . I didn't know that the kudzu that now crawls all over the southern U.S. (and R.E.M. album covers) isn't a native plant. In fact, it's all Philadelphia's fault: It's a Japanese species that first invaded the U.S. during the Philadelphia Centennial Expo in 1876. I didn't know that the Elton John song "Philadelphia Freedom" was written as a tribute to Billie Jean King. I didn't know that the word "Pennsylvania" is spelled with just one 'n' on the Liberty Bell. And I didn't know that Rocky Balboa's real first name was Robert.
So CP's Brian Howard sent this game my way a week or so ago, and it's his fault I can't stop playing. Chain Factor is like Connect Four, Tetris, and Plinko had a baby. In the game, you drop discs, numbered one through seven, onto the board, one by one. The point of the game is to line the discs up in horizontal and vertical rows, thus making them disappear. It's a little confusing at first, and if you just start clicking away, it won't make any sense. The discs will only disappear when the number of discs in its row matches the number on it. For instance, if you have a four, a four, a six, and then drop a two into the row, the two fours will disappear. You'll also be given blank grey discs to drop, and they'll start to crack and eventually reveal a numbered disc that comes into play.
The real fun of this game begins when you start linking chains of disappearing discs together, hence the name of the game. They're pretty hard to plan at first, but you'll eventually start to get the hang of it. It's an oddly satisfying feeling to watch the chains unfold, kind of like when you'd clear a round of Tetris after that well was nearly full.
Go play Chain Factor here.
I think it's impossible to feel satisfied by William Mastrosimone's Extremities — and that's the point.
Marjorie (Alana Gerlach) overpowers an attacker in her home (Paul Felder) — a disturbingly violent scene staged expertly by Ian Rose — and faces an impossible question: What can, and should, she do with him? The smooth-talking, lie-spouting assailant taunts her with assurances that if she calls the police, he'll soon be released and will return to finish the job. He's probably just trying to scare her and buy himself time - but Marjorie takes the threat seriously, realizing that the only sure way to stop this serial "raper" is to dispose of him permanently.
Mastrosimone builds the variables carefully: we hear Raul's (his ethnicity suppressed in director William Roudebush's production) tangle of lies, and his all-too-plausible threats. But just as we're rooting for Marjorie to dispense justice, her housemates arrive. Mastrosimone frustrates our lust for revenge with both their high-minded ethical concerns (Does taking violent revenge make Marjorie no better than her attacker?) and their emotional responses (Did Marjorie steal Terry's boyfriend? Does she, as Patricia claims, parade around half-dressed, flirting with their men?), all heightened by Raul's devious manipulation.
Everyone's view — including ours — is filtered through personal agendas. Terry (Ginger Dayle) and Patricia (Kristyn Chouiniere) pit sympathy for wounded Raul against fear for their own complicity, doubt Marjorie's innocence and the inevitable selfish desire to just walk away from the problem. Everyone's right, and everyone's wrong.
Roudebush's production, despite its lapses (Dayle's cartoony dumb-blonde interpretation of Terry), dumps this huge emotional mess in our laps. The inevitable conclusion, we might all eventually agree, is the best resolution of an impossible situation. But Mastrosimone's point is to make our journey to peace of mind as painful and scary as Marjorie's, and in this, Extremities ably succeeds.
Top 10 Obscure Female Country Albums
My parent's South Jersey basement in 1976, my Dad's love of music, and watching a very bouncy Dolly Parton on that old RCA turn-dial television sparked my interest in all things twang. My vinyl collection has since grown to more than 1,200 albums. These are my top 10 female country singers of note.
1. Dolly Parton All I Can Do (RCA, 1976) and New Harvest - First Gathering (RCA, 1977)
Dolly Parton's an icon now, but both of these albums characterize her earliest, most authentic work. In 1976, Parton had already won many Country Music Awards for duets with Porter Wagoner. (She won "Female Vocalist of the Year" in 1975). Both of these albums were recorded before her mega-crossover hit "Here You Come Again" (1977) and her role as Doralee in 9 to 5 (1980). All I Can Do, the final album produced with Porter Wagoner, reveals a pre-Hollywood Dolly. And New Harvest - First Gathering, although it did not sell well, is the first album Parton produced on her own.
Notable tracks: All I Can Do: Dolly's precise Appalachian timbre brings jaunty commentary on falling in love with "All I Can Do" and "The Fire that Keeps You Warm." All tracks were written by Dolly, except a heart-wrenching cover of Emmy Lou Harris' "Boulder to Birmingham" and an uplifting take on Merle Haggard's "Life's Like Poetry." On New Harvest - First Gathering "Light of a Clear Blue Morning" is an anthem about her newly found artistic freedom, as "Holdin' On to You" and "Getting in My Way" speak to the challenges of moving onto a new chapter in life.
2. Sammi Smith Help Me Make it Through the Night (Mega Records, 1971)
As Kris Kristofferson's muse and Waylon Jennings' band mate, Oklahoma-born Sammi Smith paved the way for the outlaw era of female country singers by topping the charts with the title track. Smith's covers of "But You Know I Love You" and "Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down" are delivered with her characteristically smoky, on-the-road-again perfection.
3. Bobbie Gentry The Delta Sweetie (Capitol, 1968)
Following up her debut album Ode to Billy Joe, raven-haired Bobbie Gentry penned most of the songs on Sweetie to reflect her Chickasaw County, MS roots, including "Okolona River Bottom Band" and "Reunion." Listeners get a great taste of Gentry's gravel and grit pipes on "Morning Glory." In the 70's, Gentry had success doing duets with Glen Campbell and went on to write and produce most of her recordings, most notably "Fancy," about a self-affirming prostitute (the song was later covered by Reba McEntire in '91).
4. Melba Montgomery The Mood I'm In (United Artists Records, 1967)
Montgomery penned many of her own songs on this album, most notably the western swing song "Big, Big Heartache." Montgomery, nicknamed the "female George Jones," was also a successful, though lesser-known duet partner of the famous crooner.
5. Billie Jo Spears Mr. Walker, It's All Over (Capitol, 1969)
Billie Jo Spears had a top-10 country hit with this title track describing a Manhattan secretary who is weary of pawing office and city life and decides to return to her hometown. The pioneering working girl's country song could very well be added to the soundtrack of TV's Mad Men as the secretary pool's anthem.
6. Diana Trask Diana's Country (Dot Records, 1971)
In the early ‘60's, Australian country music singer Diana Trask was already a pioneer in Nashville, blazing the trail almost a decade prior to megastars Olivia Newton-John and Helen Reddy. On Diana's Country, Trask co-authored "Hope I Don't Feel Dirty in the Morning" and "Let's Keep Her Free (America)." Her most notable song, however, features a Bobbie Gentry-like growl on "Mama Said, Yeah."
7. Charly McClain Encore (Epic, 1981)
This little-known album features Charly McClain's number-one country hit "Who's Cheatin' Who?" which says, "Makes you wonder who's doing right, by someone tonight, and who's car is parked next door." She had the looks (and lyrics) of an early Shania Twain and the timbre of Allison Krauss mixed with Reba McEntire.
8. Rose Maddox Reckless Love and Bold Adventure (Takoma Records, 1977)
In 1936, Rose Maddox ("Queen of the Honky Tonk") began touring with The Maddox Brothers at age 11, singing on the radio and on the country music circuit. On Reckless, Alabama-born Maddox belts out her namesake tune, "Heart of a Country Song (Rose's Song)," and provides a honky-tonk rendition of Dolly Parton's "Tennessee Mountain Home."
9. The Carter Family The Best of The Carter Family (Columbia)
This quintessential family of country music has spawned countless country anthems that have since been covered by more contemporary musicians. This album, however, features Mother Maybelle Carter and her daughters Helen, June and Anita at their best. June's "Ring of Fire," Helen's "Poor Old Heartsick Me," and Johnny Cash's "Big River" makes this a collector's must-have.
10. Aunt Molly Jackson Library of Congress Recordings (Rounder Records, 1971)
Allan Lomax's collection of Aunt Molly Jackson's Kentucky coal miner protest and union songs were recorded a capella in 1935 and 1939. A politically active figure, Jackson set the tradition of storytelling that has long characterized 20th century country music (and influenced most of the other albums on this list).
So, like turn-based combat games but does the fantasy or sci-fi genre not really do it for you? More of a nerdy, politico? Oh, boy, have I got the game for you. In the aptly named Campaign Game, you can step into the shoes of presidential hopefuls Obama, Edwards, Clinton, Giuliani, Romney, and Thompson (is he still in the race?) and duke it out over sections of the country backed by a CNN-inspired soundtrack. You get to hire three staff members (a combination of fund raisers, operatives, hatchetmen, and spin doctors, each with their own abilities) to do your dirty work for you, too, but decide carefully what kind of campaign you want to wage.
Campaign Game is tricky and takes some getting to, but, basically, it works pretty much like our political system: the more money you have the better you'll do. Money fuels your abilities and actions, like smear ads, rallies, and bouts of flag waving. There's an added bonus, which I didn't try, in the game's multiplayer mode, so call up your friends of the opposing faction and start flinging some mud.
Play Campaign Game here.
Only a week in office, and Mayor Nutter is demanding that the new police commissioner, Charles Ramsey come up with a plan to tackle the city's crime by January 30, 2008. This has Ramsey scrambling around town holding six public townhall meetings to allow citizens to express their ideas and pose questions. The first was held last night at South Philadelphia High School, and for some reason I felt had to be there. Not so much that I had anything to say that would be different or earth-shattering, but I had to go see what this guy was about. I had doubts that many people would show up. Afterall, I attended a mayoral conversation a few months ago and there were about 40 or so people. About last night, I was wrong. There was no place to park in the school's lot. Just about every radio station and news channel were there. As buses stopped at the corner of Broad and Snyder, people by the dozens got off and joined the traffic that crept up the subway stairs to file into the school. By 7:05pm, the auditorium was about 60% full. But 7:15pm, about 70%, and by 7:30pm, there was standing room only. The room was mixed as far as age and race. After the principal of South Philadelphia High introduced Ramsey and gave him a 'Southern' t-shirt, the new commissioner took the mic only speaking for about 10 minutes. He stated that this was the night for the public to talk to him, so he didn't want to take up much time. Immediately upon instructing people to form a line in front of the microphone, people began to get up. Within 5 minutes, the line extended to the back of the auditorium. While I won't go over every issue that was discussed, I'll point out some points of interest. Well, interest to me. Ramsey frantically wrote as people talked. Sometimes, he'd give feedback, sometimes he'd say thank you, many times he corrected wrongful stats or cases (a woman referred to the shootings by cops this past weekend as murders, while Ramsey said they were 'fatal shootings'), and rarely, he cracked a smile or laughed. Mayor Nutter came in around 7:30pm to a crowd that stood on their feet and clapped. He spoke for about 5 minutes saying that the public needs to work with police to make the streets better, and also told the crowd that the police deserve respect and recognition for protecting the citizens. The applause that followed that statement was kinda forced and dry. After handing the mic back to Ramsey, Nutter shook hands with the police in attendance and chilled on the side and one by one, people stepped up to the malfunctioning mic. Here is a sample of some of things spoke about. - Forming a relationship with the Philadelphia police department. Ramsey stated that he wanted the specified police districts to have regular meetings with block captains and individual neighborhood groups. He also mentioned that the police department will be accesible for public concerns. - Ramsey vowed to work with the 10,000 men campaign and I quote "I'll definitely be there". - Making townwatches relevant and important. - A few people stood up to thank and praise Captain Bethel, who they claim is the example of how police officers should be and the relationship they should have with their community. Captain Bethel is in a South Philadelphia district (I believe). - Principal of South Philadelphia High School spoke about neighborhood wars and how they spill into the schools and suggested Ramsey work on that to ensure that schools are safe and a house of learning. Someone also brought up the safety of students to and from school. - Someone from the office of truancy spoke on how the police have been wonderful in working with them and hopes the commissioner will continue the good relationship and improve the system even more - Someone spoke on making businesses more responsible and getting them involved in the community on a level to reduce crime - Activities for young people came up over and over again. Ramsey says that he is looking into more programs for youth to keep them out of trouble and present alternatives to crime. A citizen also brought up having more family building activities in communities, and establishing the idea of family again. There's more... - The age limit of police officers was brought up. A man over the age limit spoke of how he'd like to help and be a cop, but the age limit stops him. - The issue of lighting on streets, back alleys and around abandon houses came up a few times. - A man stood up and asked a few questions about drug testing students, having cameras in schools that are monitored by police or appointed persons, and homeowners notifying police or having a required check on people renting rooms in their homes. Ramsey struck back by saying some of those suggestions were a bit extreme. He said that we can't go around treating everyone like a criminal and also reminded people to be careful of the civil liberties that they give up because they may never get them back. - Someone brought up the war on drugs and how it is dividing communities, families and the city. - A former correctional officer stood up and spoke of the Anti-Gun Protest that happened in Harrisburg last year. He stated that there were busloads there outside, but the NRA had people inside. He wanted to know how citizens can get their voices heard to those politicians. Ramsey again reinforced his open door policy and said he'd continue the 'buy back' type gun programs - "anything to get the guns off the street". I had to leave at 7:50pm. As I walked out, I noticed the faces of the packed venue. They were so different. As people spoke, they welcomed Ramsey and congratulating him on the new job. Then they introduced themselves - some block captains, singles mothers, teachers, counselors, bus drivers, former government employees, ex-cops, concerned fathers, members of organizations, etc. All desperate and ready for change and ready to help the city make that change. Ramsey talked big and appeared to not only hear, but listen to what everyone had to say. When I sat down and the meeting started, I was full of optimism. Seeing everyone come together and support each other and the betterment of our city made me feel good. Then walking out and seeing the faces, I got an eerie feeling that I'd been here before, seen the promises go unkept, and heard the talk more than felt the action. I walked in the rain to where I settled on an uneven feeling of anticipation, fear, hope and doubt. What else is there? Townhall Meeting Schedule
|photo | Mary Armstrong
The Arts Presenters conference is about the onliest thing in the world that could persuade me to head north in January. Five days of any kind of lively that can manage to scrape the cash together to put on a showcase at a highpriced Manhattan hotel or get itself booked into a nearby venue.
Yes, the folkies are in force: bluesmen Guy Davis and Eric Bibb are here. One showcase is titled Northern Realms, from which Le Vent du Nord reassures fans that while you may fondly recall the gorgeous and charming Benoit, the group continues to play with energetic dances and songs from Québec just fine without him. The Gothenburg Combo was charming, two classical guitarists so precise and delighted with what they were doing, everybody in the room grinned, too.
Hearing Strindberg and Steve Reich played next to Debussy's “The Golliwog's Cakewalk” -all on nothing more than two acoustic guitars is a real ear stretcher. Around the corner Salsa Celtica from Scotland convinced me with their live performance, something their studio CD had not. Yes, these guys have done enough listening/jamming in both traditions to now have pipes and tenor banjo seamlessly start up in a guajira and weave in a reel over the latin pattern. Add sax, four percussionist, one of whom is a Cuban vocalist, along with an able fiddler and the requisite latin keyboard and you have big fun.
Rock is not neglected here, from soft to raucous. Jeffrey Gaines was powerful, just himself and acoustic guitar. Watching Gaines feels like dreaming, his persona seems to swell and shrink, like a cartoon. He seems so candid, so intimate, yet he assures us, “It's all context!” as he talks about revisiting his Harrisburg roots. “I'm here [at Arts Presenters] cause of a promise I made in junior high [to “rock on!'].” His boys came out to see him when he played the hometown saying, hey we don't even listen to music anymore, too many kids, but “I saw you on TV!” Yes, he mused, it's context. It looks impressive when your face is up in giant monitors on either side of the stage, but here, playing in one of a line of banquet halls, competing with how many others, “Who are you?” So, he repeats, “It's all context. Create a context and I'm there for you!” pitching for work. He ticked off all the myriad gigs, from schools to... well, the only one he forgot was goat ropings.
At the other end of the hall Slamm! drummed and danced and got physical with drum kit and improvs -those plastic five gallon buckets sound just as good on stage as when the local drumkids press them into service. The group is sold by its association with “legendary drummer Carmine Appice” (“Do You Think I'm Sexy” etc) [according to the one-sheet]. Health problems kept him away.
Now he's gonna be sick all over again, because rhythm addicts didn't miss him. Ziolo and Veronica lead the way through set pieces and challenges, with Mattie and Felipe taking turns joining them. If you have any love for drums, keep an ear out for this new show.
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