Archive: June, 2012
What could cause mankind to continue in a direction of consumerism, environmental destruction and apathy in spite of itself?
The Devil, probably.
This is one answer given to the woes of contemporary civilization that ravage the lives of the young stars in Robert Bresson’s 1977 piece, The Devil, Probably (or El Diablo Probablemente). The film was screened on a new 35 mm print at International House recently as part of a retrospective on the poetic French director’s 40-year career, and will be available on Netflix soon.
After a dark title sequence, newspaper articles report on the suicide of Charles, the son of a wealthy industrialist. Turning back six months prior, the bulk of the plot reveals the sick human condition that drove the kid to his end.
Bresson uses a cast of non-actors to convey an awkward, apathetic society that stands powerless in the face of its own looming demise. Time after time, Charles and his university friends muse tiredly over footage of oil tanker spills, seal clubbing, landfills, corporate devastation and other tragedies. In spite of the disdain toward destruction caused by “progress,” no one has the will to take a stand. In one memorable moment, a psychoanalyst tries to convince Charles that his disillusionment is a mental disorder curable with medicine — the youth responds that his only ill is “seeing too clearly.”
There are some who will take issue with a beautiful, wealthy European boy glorifying suicide, though this would miss Bresson’s point. Even if the actions that stem from Charles’ attempts lead to existential nihilism, Bresson critiques society at all ends and asks viewers to stage their own fights.
When Michael Nutter introduced the appearance of The Roots as the subjects and guests of honor at this year’s Mural Art Program’s Wall Ball at North Broad Street’s Vie on Thursday night, the rapping brought up getting a new rap bag.
“I’m learning the lyrics to “The Fire,” said the Mayor, renowned (or is it notorious?) for his repeated variations upon a theme, namely Grandmaster Flash. At least Nutter has moved into the 21st Century.
That’s how The Roots weekend officially began — with a room full of moneyed sponsorship sorts and mural artisans all noshing on Mark Vetri’s nibbles (those deviled eggs were dope) from Vie’s neighboring Alla Spinna with Bluecoat Gin specialty cocktails and guest appearances from Senator Vincent Hughes, filmmaker Sam Katz, Mural Arts’ subject Jerry Blavat and several other dance-it-up DJs like Brendan Bring’Em and Lee Jones.
“No one throws a party like Jane Golden,” said Nutter about the Mural Arts executive director. “Philadelphia has the most murals in the entire universe and she’s constantly hunting the galaxy for even newer ideas.” Later on, Golden would jump up and down on the stage at Vie when she was joined by The Roots themselves, who jumped along with her. Yes. That. Was. Weird. Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter also mentioned that he was a long time part of the Anti-Graffiti Network, the group that later turned into the Mural Arts Program. Success stories abound.
Two days later during the two-day, fifth annual Roots Picnic at Festival Pier, the band tore it up while backing Wale, De La and surprise guest Mos “Yasiin Bay” Def, the latter who thrilled backstage village dwellers with his good mood. Man, I nearly got hit in the head with a basketball when Def ran into me and excused himself. This wasn’t Queens 1989. Then again, The Roots did start the set by singing the Beastie Boys “Paul Revere” in tribute to the late great MCA (Adam Yauch) so there was that.
Next up for The Roots: July 4 at the Parkway with vocalists such as Daryl Hall joining them in free song as well as watching ?uestlove pack up his sister (Donn T) and his mom for the African safari he won ($7 Gs) in auction during Thursday’s Wall Ball.
Now in the midst of Beer Week, Philadelphians have the chance to satiate their ears as well as their throats. The craft beer craze sweeping this hops-happy city finds its roots in George Hummel’s Sansom Street store, Home Sweet Homebrew, which he opened in 1986 with his wife Nancy. The shop offers beer- and wine-making supplies for customers of all levels of expertise looking to join the vibrant brewing community.
In The Complete Homebrew Beer Book Hummel shares the his knowledge about the essentials of beer-making that won him the silver medal at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival. He'll be joined by brewing historian Rich Wagner, who will assist in elaborating on Philadelphia’s important place in the history of the homebrew, this Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Philadelphia Free Library’s Central Branch (1901 Vine St.).
Every Monday, Brittany Thomas rounds up the week's sure-bet live shows. This week: Antisect, Devin, The Ridden Fifths and more.
TUESDAY: A night of pure fun and catchy rock 'n' roll featuring London brothers band The Cribs and Brooklyn’s Devin. Both draw influences from some of the classic greats — Devin often mentions Iggy Pop while The Cribs invoke likeness to more modern-day rockers like The Strokes. 9 p.m., $15, Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., r5productions.com.
The first annual ReelAbilities: Philadelphia Disabilities Film Festival (which we told you about in this week's Agenda section) began its week of “films by and about people with disabilities” at the Painted Bride Art Center yesterday afternoon. The venue was decorated with works by students of Oasis Arts and Education, a Philly-based org dedicated to the cultivation of artistic achievement in people with mental illness or intellectual disabilities.
Guests were treated to a screening of Courtney Bent’s Shooting Beauty, a documentary that chronicles the filmmaker’s relationship with a group of individuals afflicted with varying degrees of cerebral palsy. In the film, Bent is an aspiring fashion photographer who jury-rigs several point-and-shoot cameras for her new friends and asks them to “document their lives in pictures.” Bent discovers that this practice yields critical insight into the lives of people whose identities are too often reduced to their disabilities.
During a post-film discussion, Bent described her subjects as a “vivacious, wonderful group of people.” She explained that photography gave this group a voice to express themselves and, simultaneously, these people “gave [Bent] a voice” by making her “feel confident and loved.” They inspired her to complete the film.
Bacteria is bad for you. When food starts smelling, it's time to throw it out. These age-old kitchen rules are generally good ones to live by, except for the hundreds of foods and drinks that actually require the growth of bacteria to make them taste the way we do — we're talking cheese, wine, cured meat and beer. As author Sandor Katz (aka Sandor Kraut) proclaims, “Eating bacteria is one of life's greatest pleasures.”
The unofficial "King of Fermentation," Mr. Kraut preaches the probiotic gospel, bringing ancient secrets of food preservation into contemporary kitchens. More than a food fad, Sandor points to fermented foods as a major contributor in his own continuing battle against HIV/AIDS. His books Wild Fermentation and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved are both classics in the world of grassroots and alternative food activism, filling a void in the literature on yummy bacteria. Tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at the Central Branch of the Free Library (1901 Vine St.), he'll read from his latest, The Art of Fermentation, providing recipes and ideas for the at-home live-culture foodist.
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Last night's Punk Rock Prom, at the Barbary's upstairs bar, Barbarella, drew a modest crowd of punk-rock enthusiasts, who came out in their finest glam gear to dance to New Radio's lady DJs Emily, Avalon and Ally, plus a smattering of guest turntablists. This "regular prom ... for punks," of course, showcased "all punk rock, all night."
It is hard for Debora Kodish, founder of the Philadelphia Folklore Project to imagine they are actually celebrating 25 years with a party and their first awards ceremony Saturday night at the Painted Bride.
“We started as a project to honor the centennial of the American Folklore Society.” Kodish recalls that the original folklorists of the 19th century were English literature specialists and anthropology scholars who felt entire ways of life were disappearing and they needed to “save” them. “They were sympathetic outsiders.”
PFP has developed its niche as a support organization, no deus ex machina here wanting to swoop in to the rescue, rather sympathetic outsiders who want to pull back the curtains to reveal resources that are available to communities who know how to ask for them. “We were only supposed to be a [one-off] project.” Then it became apparent that, “The groups that were custodians of the work had visions and needed help to get them funded — it was clear that folklore was underfunded. We started doing grant writing workshops from the beginning. We were trying to change the equation.” The figures she provides sound like success. PFP has expedited grants of “3.2 million dollars over the 25 years, going to over 350 artists.” Kodish notes that PFP has more than 1100 artists in their data base for researchers who need information on folklife of all nature in and around Philly.
The first projects for PFP were artisans in the Italian-American community around their original home at the Fleischer in South Philly. If you’ve ever gone through the main entrances of the old Wanamakers flagship store — now Macy’s — you’ve seen the mosaic art of Salvatore Cernigliaro. Those extravagant renderings of the JW initials were done by him during the building boom in the early days of the last century. Boom turned to bust, Cernigliaro turned to tailoring. His grandkids didn’t even know he’d ever done mosaics. This is the kind of honor and preservation that PFP promotes.
Kodish philosophizes: “We are a really little organization, [at] the place where folk arts and social change cross, both artist and activisits have a part. We want to amplify the voices. It’s been an incredible privilege.” Describing the genesis of a permanent exhibition at the PFP headquarters on 50th Street she continues, “When we were doing field work for the Folk Arts in Social Change we visited activists Bill and Miriam Crawford in their home on Parkside Avenue. Bill had been making a collage of all their rallies and protests on their dining room wall for over 50 years. We were lucky to raise the funds to save the collage when they moved out. The conservators loved the challenge! It has been featured in their journals.”
Plenty of party between the awards celebrations at this fundraiser: Kulu Mele with African dance and drums, Terrance Cameron, steel drumming and Elaine Watts Klezmer with Katt Flagg on accordion.
Sat., June 2, 6:30 p.m., $65, Painted Bride Art Center 230 Vine, PFP for info, 215 726 1106. More info here.
Every Friday, Ryan Carey covers the people and events that are giving Philly the giggles.
It's no surprise many Philly comedy fans are also fans of independent pro-wrestling. One such local promotion is known for blurring the line between sports-entertainment and comedy with post-vaudevillian characters and a flair for over-the-top theatrical silliness that earned it an international fan base. In the world of Chikara, anything can happen: Time can freeze. Dudes can use magic to hypnotize their foe. It's like Harry Potter with hurricanranas. The spirited family-friendly outfit picked up a bit where Extreme Championship Wrestling left off, but traded in the violence and vulgarity for whimsical costumes, rosters full of both humans and insectoids, and high-flying action that tributes both Mexican "lucha libre" and Japanese wrestling traditions.
Depending on your point-of-view, you can say that Chikara's charm is that it doesn't take itself too seriously — or you could say it takes itself SO SERIOUSLY that their commitment to any schtick or crazy storyline makes a spectator feel like an eleven-year-old kid again. Either way, Chikara is the pro-wrestling equivalent of a live-action comic book unfolding before your eyes — there's even a Chikara web comic that builds the mythology and back-stories of various Chikara characters.
As we told you in this week’s Agenda, you can check out their Internet pay-per-view Chikarasaurus Rex: How To Hatch a Dinosaur tomorrow at the Troc. In the meantime, enjoy my chat with Chikara's senior official Bryce Remsburg, who LOL readers may recognize as a founding, balding member of Philly sketch-comedy group Secret Pants.
Jersey punk veterans Bouncing Souls are playing the Troc Fri., June 8, a show which doubles as a release party for their latest album, Comet. Now, usually we do a haiku contest, but it'll be hard to top the Roots Picnic one.
So how's this:
1. Draw a picture of a bouncing soul and send it to us. Not a member of the band, but an artistic depiction of the abstract idea of a bouncing soul. Use whatever medium you like: pencil, pen, paint, MS Paint, Draw Something, the Sand Game, you name it. Actually don't use real paint, that seems like a lot of work.
2. Then take a pic or a screenshot of it and
3. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: I DREW A BOUNCING SOUL. No, you shouldn't mail us a physical thing. Let's keep this clean and digital.
4. Our favorite wins two tickets to the show.
Deadline is noon on Wed., June 6. We'll choose our favorite sometime that afternoon.
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