Archive: October, 2009
And have lots of rings. No, but seriously, it's been super fun getting to our 1,000th post. Many thanks to all the readers and fellow bloggers who've been there with us.
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|Courtesy of Giant Dwarf|
When Sue Eggen started Giant Dwarf in 2003, it was just a hobby. She made a cloche hat for herself out of a recycled sweater, felt flower embellishment and buttons. The compliments ensued, and Giant Dwarf was born. 'I breathe, eat, sleep and dream of this business 24/7,' says Eggen.
When it was too warm to wear her cloche hats, Eggen fastened one of her trademark embellishments onto a headband, and voil': The rosette hair fascinator was born. Each rosette is made out of eco-friendly, wool-blend felt, which Eggen cuts and stitches into a bouquet pattern. The hair fascinators come in a variety of colors and can also be custom ordered. It's a crafty way to add color and nature to any outfit ' and it'll never wilt.
$30, Art Star Gallery & Boutique, 623 N. 2nd St., 215-238-1557.
Have you seen our clearly, childishly, obsessively excited Where the Wild Things Are coverage? The cover story? And the movie review? And and and the slideshow? Well OK then. In the cover, Lauren F. Friedman told you about the various incarnations the classic children's book has taken recently ' there's the Rosenbach Museum's Wild Things tours, the Urban Outfitters Wild Things leggings and even the Dave Eggers Wild Things novel, to name but a few.
We forgot to mention the Wild Thing Family Day taking place this Sat., Oct. 17 from noon to 4 p.m., at the Rosenbach (2008-2010 Delancey Place, 215-732-1600), for $5-$10 and kiddies under five for free. There'll be Sendak-inspired crafts, readings and tours. Sounds like a wild follow-up to seeing the film, kids or no kids.
|Courtesy of Hotel Palomar|
What's likely the greenest hotel in Philadelphia opened its doors today, showcasing its new digs in the American Institute of Architects building. In shambles, the 80-year-old building was gutted to make room for the lavishly frivolous, but environmentally frugal Hotel Palomar (117 S. 17th St., 215-563-5006). As the only hotel in Philadelphia registered with the US Green Business Council, the entire edifice is decked with sustainable materials. The floor of the chic lobby is laid with recycled glass and 100 percent wool rugs; the organic-friendly restaurant, Square 1682, is covered by soundproof cork ceilings; and the 230 guest rooms are furnished with certified wood beds, tables and chairs. Also, guests will find snack bars stocked with organic and fair trade coffees, teas and treats in the rooms.
But enough about the technical stuff ' let's get back to the art. Hoping to maintain the Art Deco aura of the previous building, designers have worked to establish an 'Art in Motion' theme. The lobby, hallways and rooms are lined with a variety of original works, many of which were made by local artists. One of the featured pieces is a Warhol-esque image of Ben Franklin that greets you before entering the lobby.
If you're looking to spend a romantic weekend here with your honey, you better be ready to shell out some green of your own. Prices for the rooms range from $199 to $400. The hotel, however, is offering guided tours for those interested in just taking a peek.
ART PHAG: amateur drag contest, walks through the park, new Queens of Pop party, LGBTQ night at Eastern State
Every Thursday, we give you this week's LGBTQ to-do list.
' Have you ever wondered what you'd look like in drag? Tonight, let loose and slip yourself into a garter and a pair of hose. If you like what you see, hit up Daly's Irish Pub (4201 Comly St., 215-533-2080) at 9 p.m., for free, where Donna St John will be hosting an amateur drag contest. It couldn't hurt. If you lose, no one will necessarily know it was you under that tussled wig, and if you win, then you just may have found a new calling. Give it shot. $50 is up for grabs.
' There's been a lot of excitement going on lately, especially with OutFest and the Equality March last weekend, so if you ask me it's time to take a moment to chill. I vote for a nice, relaxing walk in the park. On Sat., Oct. 17 at 11 a.m., for free,' join Philadelphia Family Pride members as they lead a kid-friendly excursion through Wissahickon Valley Park. This is a perfect opportunity to gawk at the beautifully changing fall foliage and not the shaking toosh in front of you on the dance floor. The group will be meeting at Valley Green Inn (Vallley Green Rd. & Wissahickon Dr., 215-247-1730). Bring a picnic lunch to nibble when the hike is complete.
' If you're like me, you love a good diva fest. That's why Silk City (500 Spring Garden St., 215-592-8838) gets my Dance Party of the Week award. On Sat. Oct. 17 at 10 p.m., for $5, three reigning, chart-topping princesses will be crowned the newest Queens of Pop. Farewell Mariah, Madonna and Whitney; hello Lady Gaga (pictured), Beyonc' and Britney. To celebrate the latest coronation into divadom, DJ Deejay will be spinning some of their dance floor favorites, including "Poker Face," "Get Me Bodied" and the now classic "Slave 4 U." It's about time Britney is recognized as the queen that she is. I bet Christina's going to be pissed.
' I'm not usually one for scary things, but sometimes a good haunted house is hard to resist ' especially if I'm not the only screaming dude in the place. On Wed., Oct. 21 at 7 p.m., for $20, there will be an LGBTQ night at Terror Behind the Walls at Eastern State Penitentiary (2124 Fairmount Ave., 215-236-5111). New this year is a long-deserted medical wing where visitors can explore bloodstained operating rooms, recovery wards for the craziest mental patients, and even a chilly, musty morgue where there still may be a body or two lying about. I'm getting scared just thinking about it. Be sure to take a strong man or a butch lesbian to protect you.
Itching for more gay events? Check out our LGBTQ listings.
There was something extra Frenchy about last night's Cirque du Soleil performance at the Liacouras Center. It seemed like every other group in the audience seemed to be swishing tight, accented syllables out of their thin, pursed lips. My guess is they were friends and family members of the performers, all of whom stayed true to the tasteful traditions of the dramatic circus fused with sideshow and street entertainment. I wasn't allowed to take photos, but I was so close to the stage that I'd have only gotten pictures of their derri'res anyhow.
This French-Canadian show sends you home wondering about things you couldn't even imagine with the help of psychedelics, like contortionists walking on their throats while resting their butts on their heads; a man dance-hovering horizontally inside a giant hula hoop; and a tribal-looking dude juggling fire with his bare hands, feet and mouth. Sacre bleu!
The performers don't just come out and do a few cool tricks that you want to go home and practice on your own. They put on full, 10-minute routines of physical elegance so bizarre that your imagination sits and takes notes while you question everything you've ever learned about gravity and the human body. The best part is they do it all in slippers ' sparkly, magical slippers.
Although there were no motorcycles in cages and not a lot of audience interaction, even the clowns, whose airplane sound effects sounded French, pulled squeals of laughter out of les jeunes enfants in the audience. There really is no ethnicity, age or class of people that wouldn't be fascinated by this show. Just watch out for those ruthless audience members ' they'll steal your seat as soon as you get up to go to la toilette.
"The nunchucks just take it 10 percent too far. But it's still badass": Q&A with Michael Jai White and Scott Sanders of Black Dynamite
At this year's Sundance, word started to spread about a midnight movie called Black Dynamite, an homage to the Blaxploitation era ' films like Dolemite, Foxy Brown and Shaft. The shocking part? It was actually good (read my review here). Michael Jai White stars as the title character, who must avenge his brother's death, take down the man and find out where those orphans are getting their heroin. Black Dynamite opens tomorrow at the Pearl and UA Riverview, so I sat down with White (who also co-write the film) and director/writer Scott Sanders to talk their love of Blaxploitation, the line between tribute and parody and White's feet.
City Paper: So how long have you been in the city?
Scott Sanders: Since yesterday.
CP: Do anything fun?
Michael Jai White: Well, this is fun, talking to you Molly.
CP: Aw, thanks. Have you ever been here before?
MJW: Well, I used to buy drugs here ' I'm totally just kidding.
CP: I figured. Black Dynamite would be so upset. So I know a little bit about the genesis of Black Dynamite. So [White] and Byron Minns were working on their own script and [Sanders] was working on your own script. Right?
SS: Well, that's kind of in the middle of it.
MJW: Basically, I came up with the idea and at first it was Superbad. I decided to take a photo of myself ' I rented a costume and took photos, which is the exact costumes right there [puts to the poster]. Scott and I got together for another project but he was asking what I was up to and I showed him the photo and he was like, 'Man, I want to be involved in it.' I've been wanting to work with Scott for the last ten years. So we got together and shot our own trailer and that we spent about $500 on. We sent that trailer to a colleague of ours, John Steingard, who wound up producing the movie. And John said'
SS: Why are you showing me a trailer from the 1970s. And I go, 'That's Mike.' And he goes, 'Okay, I think I raise the money for this.' We didn't have a script yet. And now that we money we had to write the script.
CP: So it was money first then movie later.
SS: Yeah, it was an odd way of doing it. I think the last scene in the movie was this pose [points to poster] and that's what started it all off.
CP: When you talk about trailers, viral marketing is such an important part of this movie.
SS: The weird thing that happened was that trailer we made for $500, we just posted it on our website to show people who were involved in the film. A Japanese website picked it up and from that Japanese website, it started spreading on all these film blogs. It was kind of like a mini-explosion. We hadn't even finished making the movie yet. That's when we knew that it's a different time and we've been a viral oriented film. When we did the real trailer in November, it shut down our server. We got some insane amount of hits, like 100,000 hits in a day or something. The whole thing needed to be readjusted. We've been very much an Internet related kind of movie. But it's just something that kind of evolved organically out of the project.
CP: So, Scott, you shot on Super 16, right?
SS: Yep, it's color reversal too.
CP: That's a really unforgiving film.
SS: It sounds like you just heard my rap. It's a really unforgiving film! We wanted to use Super 16 because it looked the best. It's one of those things you can't back into it. You should start from the beginning and make it look real. A lot of is just a mistake. Well, not a lot of it ' It actually looks great, spectacular in some shots. The stuff in the funeral? That looks fantastic to me. But when he's coming down on the White House lawn, you're supposed to see Black Dynamite's feet and they're actually my feet. And for some reason in every movie, I'm always playing Mike's feet. I played your feet in Thick as Theives.
CP: You're his foot double! Do you have ugly feet or something?
MJW: No! What do you wear?
SS: 10 '.
CP: What do you wear?
SS: You're supposed to see his feet but you can't see them because the blacks just got crushed on this shot. It was a pretty high tech shot with the crane and everything but it was worth it.
CP: But why did you decide to not go the cheaper route: Shoot in digital and do all of that stuff ' film scratches and what not ' in post?
SS: But that looks like, 'Oh, someone shot digital and put film scratches on it.' It looks stupid to me. Just because that's how everyone agrees that it looks, that's what it looks like.
CP: Yeah, it's like when you're listening to a song and you can hear that they over laid that vinyl cracking noise.
SS: It just looks like someone went somewhere and pressed a button that says, 'Here's what vinyl sounds like.'CP: So Scott, you starting out working with the Wayans brothers who have made an incredible amount of money on these parody films. So where do you where to draw the line between parody and homage as a filmmaker?
SS: My explanation starts in the original pose and photograph. This pose to me is badass but the nunchucks just take it 10 percent too far. But it's still badass. That's kind of the source of our humor, just a light touch with the satire. The original movies are pretty crazy to begin with. A 10 percent extra just makes it really funny and then you don't feel like you're straining for the joke. I read a review on Ain't it Cool, which I really liked that said when black Dynamite goes into the pool hall and closes the gate after they're insulting him, you laugh. But you don't laugh because it's ha-ha jokey-jokey funny. You laugh because you're like, "Oh my god, this badass is gonna kill this guy." It's a different kind of a laugh than in something like Meet the Spartans where they're kicking Britney Spears down a hole. That's a different kind of humor.
CP: Do you remember your first experience with Blaxploitation?
MJW: The first movie I ever saw in the theater was a Blaxploitation movie called Monkey Hu$tle, starring Yaphet Kotto and Rudie Ray Moore. Growing up, I'd go to the theater to every weekend, especially as a teenager to see my kung fu movies and they'd be double billed with Blaxploitation movies. It was like my introduction into that.
CP: I've always thought that was interesting, that whole connection between kung fu and Blaxploitation. You've got Wu Tang, The Last Dragon'
MJW: First of all, the kung fu is just cool as well. And then a lot of these movies are about the Chinese being oppressed by the Japanese. And i think there was something that was really kindred there. In the ghetto, in the inner cities, you revered strength. Somebody learning kung fu was very much a ghetto thing because whether people realize this, the first karate and kung fu schools were in the ghetto, plain and simple. Martial arts was a militaristic type of practiced form. You didn't have those in the suburbs. You couldn't open up a karate school in Beverly Hills or the suburbs. They were usually done by GIs and people opened them up in the ghettos and the cheaper areas and really the beginning of martial arts were coming from lower income places.
CP: And you Scott?
SS: My first experience in the movie theater ' here's the thing, I forgot what the movie was but I remember seeing the trailer for Sheeba Baby, with Pam Grier. There's this one scene in Sheba Baby and it stuck with me like peanut butter. There's this pimp who goes into a carw ash and Pam Grier puts a gun to his head and he says [mimicking voice], "Whatchu gonna do with that gun, Momma?!" And I was just like "Ok, this is something." It was great, it was part of a triple bill or something.
CP: So you don't even remember what movie was playing?
SS: I almost wanted to go back to the movie theater, just to see the trailer. I'm really big on Blaxploitation trailers, the whole aura of them. Adolph Ceasar who was in A Soldier's Story and passed away, like, 20 years ago, he did all the voice over for like 80 percent of Blaxploitation trailers so it always set the mood for them. [Deepens voice] He's the baddest mother that ever walked the face of the earth. Hide your mommas because Big Brother's coming and he's coming on strong. It's that voice, you know?
CP: That kind of plays into your whole viral marketing scheme. I think the way that movies, even smaller than Black Dynamite are using viral marketing is fascinating. Especially using Blaxploitation trailers because the hour and half may suck but that two minutes was awesome.
SS: That was in our heads because the movie is more concentrated like in a trailer, like an actual Blaxploitation movies. A lot of '70s movies are slow. Well, they're not slow, they're just slow parts in between the badass parts. We just wanted to concentrate all the badass parts into one thing to squeeze it all in. That's why Black Dynamite has five different plots. He's avenging his brother but there are drugs on the street and it goes all the way to top.
CP: That's your extra 10 percent.
SS: We're just squeezing it all in.
|Knopf, 172 pp., $24.95, Oct. 6|
The Igbo people of Nigeria periodically construct temples filled with clay sculptures of all the life-forms that inhabit their world: historical figures, legendary characters and individuals or scenes from their own community. When European colonial officials entered the daily lives of the Igbo, sculptures of district officers wielding a pipe and helmet began to appear. As colonizers spread smallpox south of the Sahara, human statues disfigured by the disease's telltale spots joined the displays.
Renowned Nigerian author Chinua Achebe describes this tradition, known as mbari, as an example of his 'precolonial inheritance ' of art as celebration of my reality,' in his new essay collection, The Education of a British-Protected Child. Achebe's reality has been intricately entangled with art both expressionist and manipulative. In these wide-ranging, dynamic essays, he examines the perils of mistaking art for reality, whether in the lofty chambers of world economic fora or from the fanciful visions of Joseph Conrad.
Once described by an Irish newspaper columnist as the inventor of African literature, Achebe is best known for the novel Things Fall Apart, about a Nigerian farmer who tries to resist the colonial regime imposed on his village by European missionaries. But a few years after that book propelled him to worldwide success, Achebe wrote a political satire about Nigeria that happened to culminate in a coup d'etat ' and was published two days before the young nation's first actual coup d'etat. He was acclaimed as a visionary by foreign critics, but nearly arrested by the coup-makers.
Achebe's writing has frequently bled into political realities more extreme than his own nuanced worldview. In 1989, he was bemused to receive an invitation to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. When he arrived and listened to top economists contemplating financial 'shock treatment' to jerk African economies out of their tailspins, however, Achebe suddenly realized 'that what was going on before me was a fiction workshop, no more and no less.' Their plans to devalue currency and remove food subsidies might have some abstract appeal, he informed the group, but they would devastate the lives of ordinary Africans.
When asked why his own art doesn't offer tidy solutions for the real world, Achebe writes, he rejects the 'uncomplicated, linear equivalency of sympathetic magic' that causes some African fiction writers to always reward their righteous characters and punish their villains. Many African writers, after all, begin writing in an attempt to revise the overly simplistic narrative of Africa composed by Europeans, according to Achebe. That's not to say African writers must rewrite history; merely that they must 'recover what belongs to them ' their story ' and tell it themselves.'
Even Achebe sometimes lets his fancies shape his recollection of history. In a reflection on Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria, for example, he remembers a rumor that Azikiwe had returned to Lagos to seek a teaching job after being educated in the United States: 'Whether this is true or not I don't know, and don't care! I like it; it ought to be true.' Achebe's surrenders to such delusions, however, are rare and usually mockingly self-aware.
These essays clarify ' or, at their best, further complicate ' the blurred boundaries between art and reality in discussions of Africa. Colonialism severely distorted African voices, Achebe is declaring, but the effort to unravel them from the artful edifice of imperialism is well under way.
Kind of like the "I'm Reading" Facebook app, but better, Bookish is site that documents the literature being read by people who are "creating, curating" and ' for those of us who have no artistic talent whatsoever, ahem ' "looking at art in Philadelphia."
It's fun to wonder if Lauren van Haaften-Schick's reading Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found somehow influenced the exhibit currently up at AHN|VHS gallery, which she co-founded; or if Libby Rosof, co-founder of artblog, will write about Lush Life on her blog. It also serves as a nicely curated, partially anonymous resource for book suggestions.
This Sat., Oct. 17, from noon to 6 p.m., Bookish will debut its first "lightweight zine" detailing artists' and curators' readings at the BYOTY (that's "bring your own table, yo") Book Fair at Little Berlin (119 W. Montgomery Ave., littleberlin.org). You've got until tomorrow, Oct. 15, to submit what you're reading for inclusion into the zine.
SPOILER ALERT: Check back later today when our site goes live to read more details about the BYOTY Book Fair, which we previewed in our upcoming issue, in the Agenda section.
|Courtesy of Mural Arts Program|
|Courtesy of Mural Arts Program
When I look at the murals of Stephen Powers, a Philly native and current New York resident, I get the feeling that I've just come across some of my Pop Pop and Grandma's secret love letters from back in the day ' I know they're OK to flip through now, but I still try to hide what I'm looking at out of some obligation to their secrecy; they give me that warm/fuzzy rush; they make the whole world seem young.
Painted onto 50 rooftops from 45th to 63rd streets along the El, "A Love Letter For You" was inspired by a series of graffiti works that Powers saw decades ago in Philadelphia, which expressed love from one man to the same woman, over and over. The "Love Letter" project has been up for a few months now, but Mural Arts just put out this nifty little map that shows exactly where each one is located.
I also just stumbled upon some of Powers' life story, written out in his artist's statement, and it's quite a read ' for starters, he grew up in a house with "24 cats and five humans" in West Philly. Click the jump to check it out.
Hello, My name is Steve Powers, I was born in Lankenau Hospital, but curiously enough, on my birth certificate they make a point of listing my birthplace as Overbrook, although I'm 100 percent certain that Lankenau is in Lower Merion. Lower Merion's price for rejecting me? Stolen Polo garments off the clothes lines and stolen paint and bikes out of the garages of the township. We're even now, thanks. My mother grew up in a rented apartment in a good looking building at Lancaster and Drexel, and by the time I hit the scene, had moved a block and a half away in a rundown slum house with 24 (yeah) cats and 5 humans that were doing their best not to interact with each other. we were joined by my little sister a little more than a year later, and our bizarro world Brady Bunch was complete. Dad we called Fad (pronounced Fahd), after my oldest brother's mispronounciation of dad. It was an awesome name, because he wasn't much of a father, and he passed through my life like a fad. Havent seen that fool in 25 years. he split when I was 15, when my latest and greatest interest was an activity that demanded that I have a distracted single-parent unable to grasp that I was running wild (well, mild) at all hours. So Earl, thanks for leaving, really, no hard feelings. and Mary Jane, Thanks for staying and keeping the lights on for when I (eventually) got home. So once my dad kicks the bricks, I go out and find me a real role model. a stand-up guy that's got his head screwed on tight and good data to unselfishly share with me, for nothing more than the paint I would supply for the lesson. Suroc, aka Nick-E-Dee, aka Falcon. pka Buford Youthword, a standup guy from Avondale street, showed me the ways and means of making a name for yourself. We painted this rooftop in 1989, well into my 5th year of marking surfaces, and 2 years after I painted my first rooftop on Market Street, a building Suroc took me to paint. The rooftops were the perfect location for work. Largely forgotten spaces on the tops of buildings that youth would climb and put their personalities on display for the passing trains and the pasengers who passed their commute looking at the names that encapsulated those personalities; RAZZ, ESTRO, MR BLINT, CREDIT, CLYDE, RAN and MANIAC to mention a few. Suroc and I spoke our piece alongside those guys and added to the visual cocaphony that was Market Street in the 80's. One day in the mid-90's it all got buffed brown. Nobody remembers when exactly, but it happened, efficiently, completely permanently. I find it interesting that no one noticed that a hundred full color walls suddenly went brown. That was always the problem with graffiti, for all it's efforts to communicate, most people don't understand it and if people don't understand, they don't take ownership, and your name gets taken down like a campaign poster in December. In our fame-addled America it's easy to understand the motivation to write your name, a lot harder to appreciate the unreadable result. If you did make your name easy to process, you leave your audience cold after the 10th time they've seen your name, never mind the 100th or the 1000th. 'I get it, you're everywhere except the electric chair, (shout out to JS), but I don't care.' So in creating Love Letter, thinking about the medium of marking that made me the artist I am today, thinking about the amazing West Philadelphia that gave me the inspiration to do it, and finally the commuters that ride the train, I'm looking to make colors and words happen on these rooftops and walls in a way that people will take ownership of the work. So if the buffman comes back around, people will shout him down.
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