Archive: June, 2009
The Cartel screened at this year's Philadelphia Independent Film Festival. Clearly, doing worse means getting more money. Or so it seems for public schools in America. Director Bob Bowdon's documentary, The Cartel, takes a deep look at the education system in America, and specifically New Jersey. The film examines why American public schools, despite the highest spending out of the world's largest industrialized countries, ranks lowest in educational effectiveness in the same group. Over the next 98 minutes, Bowdon explores the messed up world of education in America. There's the illiterate man who taught for years before anyone stopped him from being a teacher. Or the high school senior who said he only learned to multiply though 4 x 4. Oh, and he didn't really learn the alphabet until high school. While these cases are pretty extreme, Bowdon also shows how just the average student falls shockingly below students in other countries. It appears that our standards are low enough that we don't need to be able to identify Iraq on a map. If the low test scores aren't scary enough, the disappearing money should be. Bowdon rips apart the massive waste, and literal disappearance, of money in schools. From $30 million being spent on a football field at a failing school to The Hangover-like scenario of teachers taking field trip money for their own use, the school system appears to be falling apart. Even without blatant corruption, other financial flaws exist. Some janitors make six figure salaries. The administration costs for school districts absorb huge amounts of money that is meant for students. And the luxury car count in a school district parking lot? Appalling. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Bowdon does an excellent job touching on many issues going on in school districts, from bottom to top. He has the statistics and is able to support his film through what is clearly years of work and research. The film isn't just a Bowdon tell-all. He speaks with parents, students, administrators and others associated with the schools. He comes to startling conclusions about the teacher's unions power over the system, as well as the government bureaucracy that prevents charter schools and other education benefits from happening. Despite his many attacks on the system, Bowdon is also careful to remind viewers that not everyone in the system is a problem. Many teachers and administrators are passionate about their work, and make sacrifices for the betterment of their students. If you don't leave the movie feeling even slightly angered or a bit appalled that you were once under the thumb of the 'cartel' and are now dumber than your European counterpart because of it, then you need a reality check. Even as someone who went through private and parochial schools from preschool through college, I was still enraged at what I saw. This movie says it all, and is a must see for any American. Click here for a list of upcoming screenings.
Re-capping True Blood each and every week.
After arguing with Bill (Stephen Moyer) about new vamp Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll), Sookie (Anna Paquin) storms off into the dark woods. Left alone, she is charged at by a beast with the head of a Minotaur, and it scratches her little blond-haired body to pieces. Bill hears Sookie's screams with his heightened vampy-sense and flies to her aide. His vampire blood, which normally is a cure-all for humans when ingested (in a limited quantity, of course), is rejected by Sookie's body, and foam starts pouring out of the poor girl's mouth, rabies-style.
Desperate, Bill brings Sookie to vamp hang Fangtasia, and with the help of frienemy vampire Eric (Alexander Skaarsgard), enlists a local human doc who knows what's up with our fair heroine. Turns out, whatever attacked Sookie not only scratched her to bits but also left behind its poison. With a bit of patience and a lot of pain, on Sookie's part, the good doc removes the poison and Sookie gets seconds on Bill's wrist, only this time her body is more than eager to accept his blood.
When Sookie awakes, fully healed, she's the only one in the bar ' all the vampires have gone underground for the day. Suddenly, the perky human servant Ginger (Tara Buck) appears. When Sookie does some mind-reading, she uncovers that Lafayette (Nelsan Ellis) is chained in the bar's basement and she manages to grab a gun under the cash register. Weapon in hand, Sookie finds her friend, still fangless (unfortunately for all those viewers hoping to see Lafayette's sass taken in a monsterly direction). She convinces Eric to let him go, under the condition that Sookie search for some missing vampires in Texas.
While Bill and Sookie are away saving lives, Jessica (Deborah Ann Woll) sneaks out of the house and over to Merlotte's for some entertainment. Her preternatural glow attracts more than a few human eyes as she saunters in, but it's good ol' Hoyt (Jim Parrack) that really strikes her fancy. Jessica tests his true motives when she asks him to buy her a bottle of B+ TruBlood instead of a beer, revealing that she's isn't among the living. Hoyt's reply: 'Awesome.'
Over in Maryann's house of hedonism, Sookie's friend Tara (Rutina Wesley) and Tara's housemate and recent lover, Eggs (Mechad Brooks) share sultry looks as a party at the residence turns from puritanical to orgasmic. Maryann delights in her guests' wantonness, with bare breasts and grinding bodies abound. But it doesn't get truly sinister until the guests' eyes go all black, and you're reminded that Maryann is up to no good.
Jason's (Ryan Kwanten) still hanging out at the Fellowship of the Sun conference, but he struggles to justify the other members' hatred for vampires with his own more positive experiences with the undead. Pastor Newlin's wife Sarah (Anna Camp) seems to take an ever-increasing liking to Jason, in a more than spiritual way.
'Scratches,' ends again with an homage to the mysterious beast from the beginning, as Sam (Sam Trammell) is surprised to find his bumbling employee Daphne (Ashley Jones) join him in the lake for a nighttime skinny-dip. But she's got scratch scars on her back that look just like Sookie's. Leaving viewers with another mystery to add to the others, marking how much more there is in store for Bon Temps.
True Blood airs every Sunday on HBO at 9 p.m.
Monday: This guy Mike in TOTALLY MICHAEL plays ultra catchy synth pop and has a ton of fun doing it. His goofy demeanor is apparent in lyrics, like 'I am not a high class retail outlet.'
With Prizzy Prizzy Please, 8 p.m., $5-$10, Danger Danger Gallery, 5013 Baltimore Ave.,
Tuesday: Your favorite rap metal band is making the rounds once again! 311's hits like 'Come Original' and 'Amber' will grace the festival pier's stage tomorrow night. Get ready to sack up and Bro Down! 7 p.m., $49.50, Festival Pier, Columbus Ave. & Spring Garden St., 215-336-2000.
Wednesday: Algernon Cadwallader have the New Jersey emo sound pinned down despite their Phila habitat. Listening to this band will definitely help jog your memory of high school.
With Conversations with Enemies, 9 p.m., free, Millcreek Tavern, 4200 Chester Ave., 215-222-1255.
Thursday: One of the first and most important indie rock bands of all time, Sonic Youth plays straddled noisy rock with a slacker tone. PLUS, my friend's mom is in their new video!! How awesome is that? The best part is that she had never heard of the band until she was asked to be in it. Check her out above. With The Entrance Band, 8:30 p.m., $25-$27, Electric Factory, 421 N. 7th St., 215-627-1332.
Friday: Mexico City-born, NYC-based Magos Herrera brings out the big guns for her U.S. debut. Check out her Afro-Latino-stylings so you can say your heard her before they started blaring her over the Whole Foods loudspeakers. 5:45 & 7:15 p.m., Free with museum admission of $16, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 26th St. & Ben Franklin Pkwy., 215-763-8100.
Saturday: After the fireworks, make your way to Fishtown to see Jay Reatard. He plays punky retro garage rock with fast riffs and a snotty attitude. With TV Smith of the Adverts, 10 p.m., Johnny Brendas, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., $12.
Sunday: '60s folk singer Richie Havens performs a set of soulful pop songs. An excellent way to end the fourth of July weekend. At Upper Merion Township Building Park, 175 W. Valley Forge Road King of Prussia, PA 19046, 7pm. $10.
|Where's my Singles soundtrack?|
I'm going to read something this summer.
I'm only 70-something pages into my season-long Infinite Jest mission. Thoughts so far? Oh boy, it's gonna be a long summer. One sentence was longer than a page. Another contained five footnotes. One footnote spanned eight and a half pages, and read like a tiny type imdb. That said, I'm enjoying the way David Foster Wallace mixed casual humor with an impressive vocabulary and way too many details. Early on, I decided to write down words whose meaning I was not clear on, and words I had never seen before. Every so often I'll compile them here, with definitions provided by m-w.com ' except for the last one; I had to go to medterms.com for that. Next time I'll write down the parts of speech when I come across the word, for context.
wen (noun) an abnormal growth or a cyst protruding from a surface especially of the skin
lapidary (adj) having the elegance and precision associated with inscriptions on monumental stone
espadrille (noun) a sandal usually having a fabric upper and a flexible sole
martinet (noun) a strict disciplinarian
intercostal (adjective) situated or extending between the ribs
|I'm a grackle!|
grackle (noun) any of a genus (Quiscalus of the family Icteridae) of large American blackbirds having iridescent black plumage
apocopes (noun) the loss of one or more sounds or letters at the end of a word
festschrift (noun) a volume of writings by different authors presented as a tribute or memorial especially to a scholar
hypertrophy (noun) excessive development of an organ or part
titration (noun) a method or process of determining the concentration of a dissolved substance in terms of the smallest amount of reagent of known concentration required to bring about a given effect in reaction with a known volume of the test solution
deliquesce (verb) to dissolve or melt away
ideation (noun) the capacity for or the act of forming or entertaining ideas
hypocapnia (noun) Less than the normal level of carbon dioxide in the blood.
It's encouraging to know that, despite these crazy, rough economic times, new galleries in Philly are still popping up. Brion Shreffler reported on Dalet Gallery opening shop earlier today, and Salt Alt Gallery will also be having its opening reception later tonight. Its first exhibit is a hodgepodge ' five artists will present oil paintings, illustrations and "some glowing orbs of wonder," as owner Mike Michael Veneziale calls them.
Hop to the next page to see what the hell that means, as well as more pictures of the new space.
Opening reception Fri., June 26, 7-9 p.m., exhibit through July 30, Salt Art Gallery, 212 Race St., 215-939-7426, saltartgallery.com.
A barely audible synthesized patch of ethereality sounds, slowly plays a serene chord progression, grows. Two violins enter with a simple melody, viola and cello enter with a countermelody, electronics are introduced and before you know it you have been completely submerged in sound. Then the strings modulate, start a new melody and the building continues.
Icelandic composer/performer J'hann J'hannsson's music has been described as ambient, modern, neu-classical. He has won awards for film scores, collaborated with artists of all disciplines and succeeds in creating sweeping, cinematic overtures that paint intriguing portraits of modern life ' his first solo album, IBM 1401, A User's Manual is about the first computer to arrive in Iceland, his second, and most recent, Fordlandia explores the idea of a society's failed attempt at utopianism through allegorical tales about pagan rocket builders, overzealous capitalists, and dying mythological gods.
This spring J'hannsson embarked on his first ever U.S. tour. He'll use the same instrumentation as his recording (that is, when that lineup is not being supplanted by a 50-piece orchestra), but the featured musicians will be members of the American Contemporary Music Ensemble rather than the usual cast of Icelanders.
Sat., June 27th, 8 p.m., $10-20, w/ Lichens, St. Mary's Church, 3916 Locust Walk, thegatherings.org.
|photo by Fiona Diffley/camera-obscura.net|
Beautiful misery and hopeless romance.
It's always sunny in Philadelphia, and on Sunday (the most sunful day of the year) the Philly-based dream-pop act A Sunny Day in Glasgow played a show at the World Cafe. Actual Glaswegians Camera Obscura, however, showed up here on Monday, when it rained (a little), and their disposition was a tad shy of sunny, if not exactly dour. CamObs are a band that thrive on beautiful misery and hopeless romance, but their manner of wallowing is far from messy. In fact they're punctilious: they took the TLA stage at 9pm precisely, and spent the next hour (plus a tennish-minute encore) giving us robust renditions of their sturdily-crafted, starry-eyed indie-pop charmers. They're lovably demure onstage, shy retirers typifying UK twee to a tee (albeit, in the least ostentatious way possible), as led by head crooner/swooner/moon-june-spooner Tracyanne Campbell, in a frockish plum dress with a discreet bow in her hair, softly admonishing herself for making a bad joke. The crowd felt just as charmingly congenial, peppered with well-turned-out lads and lasses in button-downs and nifty print dresses, not so much prep-school or thrifty-hipster types as just normal, polite, nice-looking folks.
This reviewer was not quite so fastidious: I arrived as they wrapped up their opening number, the song that gives their latest lovely LP, My Maudlin Career, its winkingly apt title. But missing a song or two is little worry; Camera Obscura's quietly-achieved status as one of the very best indie pop outfits of the decade is based as much as anything on dependability and consistency: that is, their songs all sound the same, but in a way that makes you wish there were even more of them. Actually, they don't all: there are the (musically) upbeat numbers (like the Motown-ish "Honey In The Sun" and the dynamite new single "French Navy," which should have got more people dancing than it did) and then there are the all-out weepers, arguably the band's greatest fort'. They kept those to a minimum last night, perhaps in part because the absence of a string section would have robbed "Careless Love" of its ineffable climax (the new album's single greatest moment); but they did pull out the exquisitely melancholic 'oldie' (and my personal favorite) "Books Written For Girls."
There's sometimes the danger that the world-weary love-sickness of their songs translates into a lack of onstage energy, and these guys are hardly the most enthusiastic performers around. (The set's high-point showmanship-wise came when the percussionist/trumpeter wandered over to bash at the drummer's cymbals for a while during "Teenager.") After a particularly heartfelt round of applause following their set, the band returned the stage with Campbell offering a particularly undemonstrative "thanks very much, we really appreciate it." But when the encore consisted of three utterly impeccable songs (the two modern-classic singles from their last record, followed by its cozy crowd-pleasing closer), performed with such poise and understated polish, it was hard to want for anything more.
- My Maudlin Career
- Tears for Affairs
- The Sweetest Thing
- Eighties Fan
- You Told A Lie
- Books Written For Girls
- Honey In The Sun
- French Navy
- Come Back Margaret
- If Looks Could Kill
- Let's Get Out Of This Country
- Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken
- Razzle Dazzle Rose
Valera Iskhakov has returned to gallery stewardship only a block north of his former Pink Bridge Gallery, which ran from '98 to '04. Its first exhibit, Scent of a Woman, features many of his works.
Calling Philadelphia home since the early '90s, the Ukrainian-born artist produces compositions whose energy is matched only by a near-crazed work ethic bent on conveying unbridled emotion. He is prolific, amazingly keyed up to put us behind his eyes, and takes inspiration from the likes of C'zanne and Picasso.
But he says he doesn't wish to 'fill his work with ideas.' Instead, he stresses a balanced composition. 'If I stop to think too much about it, then I am not painting,' he says. 'And I am creating something artificial.'
High- and low-intensity colors offset each other with the objects in his arrangements ' women and fruit are his two favorite subjects, which he says are employed to achieve balance. Especially in his paintings of women, the distortion of form and color allows for the trick of teleportation that's behind all great art.
Joining him this month are Gregory Perkel, who seeks to convey the pleasures of the female form through simple line drawings, and co-owner Leo Vayn, who presents his photography.
Through July 30, Dalet Gallery, 141 N. 2nd St., 215-475-5438, daletart.com.
Mama-se, mama-sa, mama-coo-sa
I saw Michael Jackson perform at JFK Stadium, back in September of 1984, as part of the Jacksons Victory Tour. At the time I hadn't heard of the Jackson Five. I certainly hadn't heard of the mysterious sixth brother, Jackie Jackson. All I knew was 'Billie Jean' and 'Beat It' kinda stuff. "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" might've been my favorite. And that it was supposed to be the concert of the century. Now I can't seem to remember much. Here's what I got:
- My whole immediately family went, including my Aunt Maryanne. I'm not sure how we could afford the tickets, even for nosebleed seats, but my sister could be very persuasive when it came to these things. I remember the way a family vacation in Boston turned into a night when my dad and brother and I went to see Problem Child while my sister and mom went to see the New Kids. Problem Child is a bad movie.
- My brother also won a pair of tickets from Shop 'n' Bag in some huge promotional raffle kind of thing. But then we lost one, we think, because it fell through a hole in the glove compartment of our big green Chevy.
- The opening act was a guy who juggled grapefruit-sized disco balls.
- The Jacksons were dressed as monsters at some point? Is that right? Why would that be? I remember being scared.
- I think there was a spotlight specifically assigned to the glitter glove.
- There was a lot of girlish shrieking, and not just from the stage. I remember seeing one lady get taken away on a stretcher and thinking she was probably dead.
- Oh yeah, we got one of those official tour programs, that probably cost like 50 bucks. It was just a lot of huge glossy pictures of Michael, Marlon, Randy, Tito and Jermaine in, like, motorcycle gear and standing next to Lamborghinis and stuff. That's what was cool back then.
While most heavenly angels may only be given their wings after years of working for the Big Guy, Heaven's newest angel put in her time on Earth, working for a man named Charlie. Farrah Fawcett, pinup girl and actress of Charlie's Angels fame, died from cancer this morning. The 62-year-old had been battling anal cancer for three years.
Fawcett's death in a Santa Monica hospital followed her very recently engagement to actor Ryan O'Neal. The couple had been together since 1982, and have a son, Redmond, born in 1985. Before her relationship with O'Neal, Fawcett was briefly married to The Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors.
Fawcett, a Texas native, began her rise to fame in the '70's after dropping out of college in pursuit of a modeling career. Before anyone knew it, the unknown bombshell landed herself a role in Aaron Spelling's hit TV show Charlie's Angels, and was simultaneously plastered across teenage boys' bedroom walls. Her famous, record breaking poster, featuring a smiling Fawcett in a red bathing suit (see right, try to control yourself), soon made her the subject of every boy's wet dreams, and the model for every girl's late 70's hairstyle. Fawcett never lost her sex appeal, posing for Playboy topless in 1995, and again in 1997 at the age of 50. Both issues of the magazine became best sellers.
Outside of her sex symbol status, Fawcett is often best known for her role as Jill Munroe in Charlie's Angels, despite only being on the show for one season. She has been in the spotlight for more than 30 years, appearing in many stage productions and made for TV movies, for which she received Golden Globe and Emmy nominations. Most recently, Fawcett produced and starred in a documentary about her battle with cancer.
Between her moments of glory, Fawcett's life has had it's fair share of drama. Fawcett's abrupt departure from Charlie's Angels resulted in a lawsuit for breach of contract. And the movie career that she left the show for gave her a couple notoriously bad films. In her personal life, Fawcett made the tabloids for her allegedly abusive boyfriends, as well as a Joaquin Phoenix-like moment on David Letterman in 1997. Her son's blatant drug problems and arrests have also been widely publicized.
In the end, Fawcett's fairytale story of a gorgeous nobody rising to fame is a memorable one. Her legacy as both an actress and sex icon will live on in more than just VH1 episodes of I love the '70s. And flowing, feathered blond hair will forever be synonymous with 'Farrah.'
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