Archive: June, 2011
Marion Roach Smith’s guide to memoir writing made me want to do two things: learn more about Smith and write a memoir. I’d say that makes it a roaring success.
The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing and Life (Grand Central Publishing, June 9) lives up to its subtitle. Teeming with personality, it’s definitely out of the ordinary. Smith has no patience for writing exercises. Memoir writing, she says, “is serious work” that “cannot be reduced to generic writing exercises and prefabricated prompts.”
Her main points are simple and appear effective. One key guideline: Remember that “you are not the story.” You’re just the “illustration” of a theme that’s far bigger than yourself. Smith proposes an algorithm for memoir: “This is an (x) and the illustration is (y).” The x tells what the story is about at its heart, while the y is the incident you plan to describe. One example Smith offers: “This is about how anger withers the soul, and the illustration is my uncle Henry’s struggle for revenge.”
“Struggle for revenge” is one of the biggest topics Smith suggests. Generally, she encourages readers to keep things small, focusing on a moment or a day. Smith, who has written for a wealth of leading publications, teaches a class on memoir writing. Her students often come to the class planning to write on topics like “gender” or “revenge.” Way too big, she says. While your theme can and should be widely applicable, you the illustration should be concrete—perhaps a strange wedding you attended or “a day at the proctologist.”
Intrepid CP entertainment reporter Peter Chawaga sets out on a weekly mission to find the best, quirkiest and - most importantly - still operational record stores our town has to offer.
When you first walk into Manayunk’s Main Street Music (4444 Main St., 215-487-7732), it seems like one of the last stores on Earth that’s completely dominated by CDs. After looking around for a while, you’ll find a rack and a couple of shelves dedicated to new release vinyls and a few repackaged used records. Their collection might be small but Main Street should be judged on quality, not quantity. If you’ve ever brought home a record only to find that it's too scratched or worn to actually be listened to, you will appreciate Main Street’s eye for high-caliber merch. They bring in only new or lightly used records to save their customers from this kind of frustration.
The staff told me that there is a big market for new vinyl releases in Manayunk and even though they are looking to expand their collection, they have a solid group of loyal wax customers. Main Street Music also has a great website which features staff picks, concert news, the store’s soundtrack rotation and even a customer of the month section. With all this, Main Street Music seems to do all they can to serve the Manayunk community with new releases.
But providing great quality vinyl isn’t the only way Main Street keeps their customers happy. They occasionally bring in live acts (including Kate Nash and The Swimmers), host in-store album signings and maintain one of the most organized music stores I've seen in the Philly area. So the next time you’re in the market for new sounds or just want to hobnob with in-the-know music enthusiasts, you should cruise by 4444 Main Street.
Every Friday, Ryan Carey takes a look at who and what’s giving Philly the giggles …
As we touch on in this week's Agenda section, Colin Quinn's one man Broadway show, Long Story Short, traces the fall of all great civilizations, shining a light on the fact that we're repeating all the same mistakes. The former SNL Weekend Updater wanted to do an act with a consistent theme, and his long time friend Jerry Seinfeld got on board to direct what he calls a "history of the world in 75 minutes." Check out this video of some of what you'll get at his performance.
June 29-July 10, $51-$65, Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St., 215-985-0420, philadelphiatheatrecompany.org.
Christopher Seybert dishes on the week's best and worst moments in daytime talk.
Gene Eats His Words
When Gene Simmons appeared on The Talk Monday, the tension on set was undeniable. That’s because when his reality show, Gene Simmons Family Jewels, premiered in 2006, he was asked if it resembled The Osbournes, to which he responded, “No, ’cause my kids aren’t on drugs.” This sparked a war of words over the years between Simmons and The Talk’s only likeable co-host (besides Leah Remini, that’s a given), Sharon Osbourne.
Sharon confronted KISS’ lead singer live on the air, and he used his famous tongue to eat his words and backtrack. He said that he didn’t remember saying those things, but if he did, he was sorry. An apology was all Sharon wanted and that’s exactly what she got. Maybe this reconciliation could result in a cross-over show with the two legendary rock families…KISSing Sharon’s Jewels, anyone?
In the jovial rom-com A Swedish Midsummer Sex Comedy, now out on DVD, a group of friends — one of whom is played by Luke Perry — gather to celebrate what one character calls “a festival of fucking.”
Perry, on the phone from Los Angeles, explains that he didn’t know anything about the Swedish fertility festival before making the film. “I thought it was going to be like Labor Day or Memorial Day, where you play volleyball and cookout.”
The laconic actor pauses and adds, “The Swedes kick it up a notch.”
The lone American in the cast, Perry plays Sam, the best friend/best man of Emil (Daniel Gustavsson) who hopes to marry his girlfriend Susanne (Lisa Werlinder) at the Midsummer festivities. Over the course of the sunny day and equally sunny night, however, things go awry, and some bedhopping begins.
While the randy Sam seduces some women in the film, he also has a scene in a co-ed sauna, about which Perry recalls, “I go in [the spa] with a half-dozen naked Swedes, and the director’s wife flogs me on the back with eucalyptus leaves!”
Making a film about couples coupling, uncoupling and re-coupling was mostly an enjoyable experience for the actor. “The chemistry was so immediate and casual and cool — that it is a testament to how great the Swedish actors were to me. It almost made me want to get a big dragon tattoo,” he says with a big, hearty laugh.
Black Music Month rolls on. All June long, Critical Mass will be featuring videos of some of our favorite artists from now and then.
Gordon Voidwell can take you on a tour of the funk experience. Freaky, whimsical, sexy, politically conscious, tongue-in-cheek — he does it all, updated with the synth and rock touches du jour to keep every hipster party going.
His lead single, “Ivy League Circus,” couldn’t have a more telling title. Listening to Voidwell is a like walking through a carnival fun house. Whether or not you know what's coming, you're still in for a zany, good time. You can dance your way through, but please note that only the sounds are distorted in Voidwell’s hall of mirrors. He shows you a true reflection and delivers some hilarious social commentary. Gordon ain’t afraid to tell you about yourself. Entering the void means hearing about the disparities that made it.
Every pop star seems to be building a tribe these days; Voidwell’s already exists. If you wear multicolored leggings and think that it’s about time we all put socioeconomic differences to the side, Voidwell will swag you out and keep you in check simultaneously. Can we really ask for more?
Red Bull is known for hosting crazy sporting events, but their recent team-up with Phillies’ shortstop Jimmy Rollins goes beyond crazy, it's potentially record-breaking. Red Bull Ball Park Cranks and Rollins are working together to break the world record for the longest batted ball. As it stands, Babe Ruth holds this honor at 576 feet — nearly two football fields. Rollins is no Ryan Howard, though. At only 5’ 8”, his home run distances aren’t the things of legend. So where does this Phillies’ player get off thinking he'll beat the Babe? The Guinness Book doesn’t have any limitations on bat material, so Red Bull is bringing in science to produce a souped-up bat. According to Dr. Alan Nathan who helped devise the slugger in question, several rule-breaking techniques were used to make the ball propel farther than average. Sounds a little fishy, but we're rooting for him, nonetheless. Hit it over the Schuylkill, Rollins!
Mon., June 27, 11:45-1 p.m., Ben Franklin Parkway and 20th Street, redbullusa.com.
Tali Sharot's The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain (Pantheon, June 14) examines why we prefer to see the glass half-full — and how this is both a benefit and a detriment to our well-being.
After observing that individuals consistently overestimate the likelihood of positive outcomes, Sharot concludes that this tendency — termed the “optimism bias” by psychologist Neil Weinstein — must have an adaptive purpose. So, why are we unfailingly optimistic? According to Sharot, once humans were able to contemplate the future and, along with it, their own mortality, optimism became a necessary ingredient for the continuation of the species. Without it, she suggests, we might not find life worth living.
At first glance, Sharot’s argument seems severe. Do we merely fall prey to delusioneach time we anticipate future success?
To some extent, the answer is yes. The optimism bias inaccurately alters our perception of reality. It causes us to see the world through rose-colored glasses when, in fact, life is not so rosy after all.
Yet this does not mean we should cast off hopefulness. As Sharot explains, optimism commonly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we believe a positive outcome will occur, we are more likely to act in a way that will bring about that event. For example, studies show that patients who are optimistic about their chances of recovery after undergoing a major surgery have higher rates of survival than those who do not believe they will regain their health. This is because patients who expect to recover will take better care of their health than those who do not. They watch what they eat, make an effort to exercise regularly and follow doctors' orders.
Sharot therefore concludes that moderate optimism helps us achieve desired outcomes. At the same time, however, excessive optimism is likely to hurt us.
In conducting her research, Sharot found that extremely optimistic people were actually prone to seemingly irrational decision-making. Believing they will exceed the average life expectancy, extremely optimistic individuals, for example, frequently engage in high-risk behaviors, which ultimately prove detrimental to their health.
What can we learn from Sharot’s research? It would seem that optimism, like most things, is best in moderation.
Festival-goers can go wild this weekend at Taste of Philadelphia at Penn's Landing or the annual arts festival in Manayunk, but with all that to distract you, don’t turn a blind eye to the goings on in University City.
The 41st annual Clark Park Music and Arts Festival features nine bands, including Lion Versus, Arrah and the Ferns and Mount Joy. And 40 local vendors will set up shop, so bring some spending money. Toting kids? Don't worry about keeping them entertained — according to festival organizers there will be no shortage of games and activities made just for the little ones.
Sat., Sat., June 25, 6 p.m., 40th and Walnut streets, universitycity.org.
Later, walk a few blocks north to take part in the University City District and the Rotunda’s 40th Street Summer Series, offering up free concerts every fourth Saturday from June to September. This week's featured artists are the Sun Ra Arkestra and Elegant Cavaliers, a West Philadelphia drill team. Arrive early for free Rita’s water ice. And if that isn’t enough to satisfy your hunger, City Tap House (3925 Walnut St.) will offer food and drink specials from 6-10 p.m.
Sat., June 25, 12 p.m.-sundown, Clark Park, 43rd Street and Baltimore Avenue, clarkparkfest.wordpress.com.
- Full House: A Series of Cabarets
- Latin Roots and Rhythms
- Mayaunk Arts Festival
- Facts and Fables
- Walk for Animals
- Death Row @ Eastern State
Devoted poet/avid concert-goer/nerd-grrrl extraordinaire Jane Cassady's weekly horoscopes run in this space every Friday morning.
Cancer (June 22-July 23): The universe would like to recognize your outstanding achievement in the field of Surrealism, gift-giving and mix-making, and thank you for your ridiculously abundant music.
Leo (July 24-Aug. 23): Oh, Leo, the stars can’t thank you enough, for your open ears, your meticulous care of household pets, your refusal to let anyone give up the ghost, your stubborn dedication, and your tears, misspent and otherwise.
Virgo (Aug. 24-Sept. 23): Your fortune cookie says, “A golden investment opportunity is approaching." The stars humbly suggest that you invest in pajamas. Shop for pajamas the way ladies in novels shop for lingerie — full of purpose and possibility. Soon you’ll be a soft, cuddly thing, trimmed in ribbons and lace.
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