Archive: July, 2011
Each week, Dylan Williams reviews a new children's book that'll twinkle the imaginations of kids and kids at heart.
E. L. Konigsburg is one of the most iconic children’s authors of the 20th Century. She's the only author in history to have won both the Newbery Medal and the almost equally prized Newbery Honor in the same year. She has contributed shelves full of children’s works that have comforted and excited kids and adults all over the world. Her most recent Newbery Award-winning book, The View from Saturday (Atheneum, 1998), is perhaps the finest example of her literary prowess. Set in the small suburban town of Epiphany, New York, the book tells the story of Mrs. Olinsky, a paraplegic sixth-grade teacher who attempts to turn four bizarre but brilliant students into a winning team for the state’s academic quiz-bowl. As the competition heats up, Mrs. Olinsky and the team — known as The Souls — learn more about each other and begin to find their ways in the mixed-up world of sixth grade.
The tale is captivating and masterfully crafted. Blending omniscient third-person narration with first-person anecdotal interludes, Konigsburg uses the histories of the five principle characters to weave a complex web of a story with both an exciting plot and rewardingly deep characters. Kids will love the excitement of the quiz-bowl competition and the real-life applicability of the story; adults can enjoy the puzzling of Mrs. Olinsky as she tries to unravel and expose the kids’ true genius, as well as the skill with which Konigsburg ties the story together. A heartwarming and hopeful story perfect for academics, trivia enthusiasts, and the young at heart.
Each week, Peter Chawaga breezes past those big-name theater companies to turn a spotlight on the city's indie stages.
Bucks County’s Theatre Arts Center is not just a camp where kids get the opportunity to work off their excess energy. For 25 years, working professionals have been teaching children ages 4 to 18 the finer points of dramatic performance and producing shows on par with any professional company in the area. Their specialties range from classical and musical theater to jazz, hip-hop and vocal performance. I spoke with Theatre Arts Center’s founder, Kristine Lewis, and she told me that kids involved in the program usually go on to do amazing things. “I’ve had kids that have gone on to Broadway, film and television. We’ve had a boy who’s now the leading boy in Mary Poppins on Broadway, a girl who’s now in Sister Act on Broadway and a student that has their own TV series.”
Currently, Theatre Arts Center is performing Disney’s Alice in Wonderland at the Bristol Riverside Theatre and, although their actors are all students, they take performances seriously. The kids have been auditioning and working all year to prepare for this production based on the classic Disney movie (not the Johnny Depp version) and Kirsten says that the Riverside Theatre knows what they can do. “We’re the only school that’s allowed to perform there, we’ve been doing shows for them for the last 10 years.” Of course, the Theatre Arts Center is about more than just creating great live performances. As Kristine puts it, “the kids get to learn how to speak well, how to interview well and how to focus on a project and finish it. Negativity walks in the door, and creativity walks out. We try the best we can.”
Coming up next, they will be premiering their own version of Fame, followed by Frog and Toad and then a musical review. Visit their website to find out when their upcoming classes start and to purchase show tickets.
Each week, Emily Apisa puts together a rundown of book-centric events that’ll keep you “lit” like a lightning bug all week long.
[ Wednesday ]
➤ Dov S. Zakheim
This former adviser to President G.W. Bush offers a unique perspective on the political fumbles contributing to the conflict in Afghanistan. A Vulcan’s Tale: How the Bush Administration Mismanaged the Reconstruction of Afghanistan serves not as a gossipy tell-all, but rather as an analysis of the mismanagement of various governmental agencies. Reservations are required for this free and public event. Wed., July 27, 11:30 a.m., free, FPRI Library, 1528 Walnut St., 215-732-3774, ext. 303.
[ Thursday ]
➤ Josh Ritter
Best known for his singing and songwriting ability, Josh Ritter is branching out into the world of fiction with his first novel Bright’s Passage. The main character, a WWI survivor, suffers from PTSD and struggles to find security upon his return to civilian life. Ritter maintains his musical chops by infusing a lyrical quality to his prose. Joining Ritter at this author talk is Philly’s World Café Live radio host, David Dye. Thu., July 28, 7:30 p.m., free, The Free Library, Central Branch, 1901 Vine St., 215-567-4341.
[ Friday ]
➤ Fact-Simile Equinox Chapbook Release Party
Bookworms need neither karaoke machine nor disco ball to have a party, and Moonstone knows this better than anyone. At this chapbook release party, four readings will serve as the entertainment. C. McCallister Williams won Fact-Simile’s 2010 Exquinox Chapbook contest, and will be sharing some of his work. Also reading are poets Debrah Morkun, Andrew K. Peterson and Jess Wigent. Fri., July 29, 7 p.m., free, Moonstone Arts Center, 110A S. 13th St., 215-735-9600.
Wanna go see Death Cab and Frightened Rabbit next Friday? Of course you do. Well, the good people at the Mann have given me a pair to give away. And these ain't lawn seats.
Okay, here's what you need to do:
Draw a picture of a really scared looking bunny or some sort of menacing looking taxi cab (or both, whatevs) and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject GIVE ME DEATH CAB/FRIGHTENED RABBIT TICKETS.
We'll select our favorite at the end of the day on Thursday. Submit as many times as you like. Don't worry if you can't draw very well. Just have fun with it. Make us laugh. Maybe nobody else will enter this contest but you, so like if you send any old MS Paint sketch you'll totally win.
Death Cab plays with Frightened Rabbit Fri., Aug. 5 at the Mann. More info here.
Hey Conan fans, O'Brien's very public firing from The Tonight Show is the topic of a new documentary. During the whole shenanigan, film-maker Rodman Flender (an old Harvard pal of Conan's) was apparently following Conan's Twitter-fueled live tour, with cameras rolling. A humanizing documentary, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, is only being released in a handful of theaters around the country. But luckily, you can catch it at our nearby Colonial Theatre (227 Bridge St.) in Phoenixville.
When asked how The Colonial Theatre got so lucky to be on the short-list, assistant director Kirsten Van Vlanderson said: "We're big Conan O'Brien fans. When we heard about the documentary, we called the film's distributor, Abramorama, who we had worked with in the past, and told them we'd love to show it."
For tickets and showtimes, check Colonial Theatre's website or call them at 610-917-1228.
Matt Cantor puts Generation Y-ers on blast.
Rant of the week: I keep getting invites for Google+, and it’s stressing me out. Another social network? Another thing I have to check constantly or I risk missing an event, or losing touch with friends, or just being out of the general loop? It’s frustrating enough having to check Facebook, e-mail, and MySpace (Archaic, yes, but I still use that for music stuff). I’ve avoided Twitter and a personal blog, but with all my friends joining Google+, it looks like I’ll have to do it too.
You could say it’s a choice, that no one’s forcing me to use the site, and that is technically true. No one’s holding the proverbial gun to my head. But there really isn’t that much of a choice these days. I remember at the start of college, when I didn’t have a cell phone, and a friend told me he simply couldn’t hang out with me because tracking me down was too much effort. At the time, I thought it was crazy. God forbid he call my room phone. But now I almost understand him. Since becoming a cell phone user myself, the idea of being unable to immediately reach somebody does seem frustrating. I mean, come on, “making plans in advance”? Who does that, my grandmother?
My point is, I’m totally dependent on my cell phone now, much as I hate myself for it. It’s the same way with Facebook. Once something becomes a social standard, we have little choice over whether to use it. If I didn’t have Facebook, I hate to think of how many social events I’d simply never have known about. And it appears that it’ll soon be that way with Google+, too. Except that Facebook’s not going anywhere, so we’ll all have to check out both. Perhaps services like these will just keep piling on and on, and eventually, we’ll need to be at our computers 24 hours a day just to find out what’s happening — forget about actually attending anything.
Remember when the Internet was fun — something you wanted to do rather than something you had to do?
Natural hair care products are picking up steam in today's beauty market. To keep you up-to-date on what's out there, City Paper's Cassie Owens is spearheading a weeklong series that highlights locally based natural product manufacturers.
Beekman’s C.O.P.A. Soaps (438 E. Girard Ave., 800-315-5690) is a husband and wife team based in Fishtown that prides itself on utilizing environmentally green practices. To boot, all of their products are dye-free, fragrance-free and preservative-free.
The scents in their soaps are drawn from essential oils, giving you that aromatherapy-feel when you're in the bath. These aromas are no joke. They can stay in your bathroom and on your skin for hours, so I recommend picking a scent you love. My personal fave is the tea tree. After trying it, I felt like I had just walked away from Eden. But for those with super-sensitive skin/noses, they also make soaps that are scentless.
Today we're giving away two C.O.P.A. shampoo bars that are gentle enough for the hair and moisturizing enough for a good shave. To win, be the first to answer the following trivia question at email@example.com.
Q: What does C.O.P.A. stand for?
UPDATE: We have a winner. Congrats, Megan!
Reporter Meg Augustin takes you inside some of Philly's most fab dwellings to showcase our city's unique grasp on design and architecture. This week, instead of browsing through someone else's abode, she turns the cameras on her own one-bedroom flat in Fairmount.
Moving in with your significant other is difficult. You both have to get used to sharing a sink while you practice your nightly dental hygiene routine, they have to witness you through a fit when your crepes don’t turn out perfectly golden, and you have to get used to them leaving a trail of shoes throughout the house. However, for the design-inclined, one of the hardest compromises is mixing your style with your partner’s. Perhaps you’re style is shabby chic and your partner’s is minimalist modern. Surely, the modernist will scorn any whimsical shudders or antique mirrors and the shabbyist will find a hostile world in clean-lined sofas and glass table-tops. So how do couples pull it off?
When my partner and I moved into our Fairmount Victorian, we faced this same problem. My style leans toward more eclectic prints, patterns and decorations while my partner tends to me happier in clean, uncluttered spaces. As clutter tends to be a signature of my design tastes, I knew this wasn’t going to be easy. However, the new space with its white walls and solid wood floors offered a clean slate to reinvent myself. After limitless Apartment Therapy and Elle Décor pursuing, I began to be drawn to tailored, masculine silhouettes in feminine fabrics and patterns. The living room, kitchen and bar area echo that mentality while the bedroom takes on feminine shapes and patterns with a few masculine influences.
Man Cave is a testosterone-laden Monday feature that highlights the weekend haps of an everyday, pop-culture-loving Philly dude.
This Saturday I watched Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day attempt to plot the murder of their bosses. It felt a bit like I was watching a long episode of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia in a movie theater because the plot was about the grotesque plans by unrealistic jerk-offs and Charlie Day's performance was the funniest part. One feels both congratulatory and fearful of Day's fully established comedy shtick. He has cemented a successful "character actor" status, and that character is the infantile, panicky, fast-talking schemer we've grown to love over at It's Always Sunny. The congratulations are warranted, though, because prior to the Sunny show about our fair city, Charlie Day was a rather obscure comedy actor. This is his first leading role in a major studio comedy, and he really knocked it out of the park. The fear comes in when one notices the relatively limited lifecycle of such a character. If you recall, Jim Carrey only got a small handful of true victories before his shtick grew vomit-inducing, and was forced to reinvent his approach. Day's great and all, but one worries about how well he will fare with reinventions. I don't mean to pigeonhole him, and I certainly wish him the best. I just hope he paces himself now that offers are going to be pouring in.
Jason Bateman's gift for portraying morose reflection is part of what made Arrested Development such a win. He can often add dimension to an otherwise asinine comedy. Though, if I'm being honest, the attempt to give this film depth doesn't really work because at no point is it realistic that Batemen would ever agree to a murder plot (or even Sudeikis, for that matter). But that's fine, his character still has basic comedy value. You need a guy smart enough to make the other guys look like idiots, and a guy serious enough to make it funny when they all fall flat on their faces. It's like Krusty the Clown said, "Free comedy tip, slick: the pie gag's only funny when the sap's got dignity - like that guy! Hey Hal, pie job for Lord Autumnbottom, there!" And so was born Side Show Bob (but I digress).
Jason Sudeikis is also on a role. One of the best of a very strong last-quarter-decade SNL cast, Sudeikis has both straight-man utilities and madcap chops. If Charlie Day is the high-octane laugh zoo and Bateman is the purely reactive super-straight-man, Sukeikis straddles the mid-range comedy energy spectrum with deft skill. He is the Larry in this Three Stooges-esque tale, stepping occasionally into the Moe role when Day needs a slap in the face, or kicking it into ridiculous-mode if Day is required elsewhere for a time. This well-rounded talent seems the most likely of the three to have a long, dynamic comedy career, with Charlie Day likely to get stuck in the lowbrow end and Bateman often skewing melodramatic.
Natural hair care products are picking up steam in today's beauty market. To keep you up-to-date on what's out there, City Paper's Cassie Owens is spearheading a weeklong series that highlights locally based natural product manufacturers. Today, she starts with a few basics:
➤ Repairing hair? Hair is dead. And no, not vampire dead — I mean dead, dead. Your hair isn't Eric Northman, it can’t just heal. Products can cover your hair, but they can’t undo what’s been done. Damage to the cuticle is inevitable and irrevocable, and a slew of things can damage it — from brushes to sun exposure. If a brush can damage hair, there’s no use pretending that dyes and relaxers don’t. A more realistic goal than repairing the hair would be keeping it clean and properly moisturized. (And yeah, it’s possible to over-moisturize.) pH balance can make a huge difference. This video describes why and how.
➤ Don’t be scared when you see hair in the drain. Put simply, you are a mammal. Hair is your fur. Hair and fur shed. It’s a perfectly natural and expected stage of your hair’s growth cycle. At any given point, 11% of your hair is shedding.
➤ When you find yourself coveting the lustrous shiny locks from advertisements, stop. Shiny locks are an illusion created by light reflecting off closed hair cuticles ... and Photoshop. And unfortunately, in hair care, there isn’t always truth in advertising.
➤ Not everything you read on a shampoo bottle may be true, and a lot of the time, that’s perfectly legal. The FDA doesn’t regulate “aesthetic claims,” so a label can promise a laundry list of qualities without delivering them. A product can read “hypo-allergenic” or “all natural” and be far from it. “Cruelty free” can mean the product hasn’t recently been tested on animals, not that it never was. No way? Way. The FTC expects claims to have a study to back it, but the study needn’t have status or support from an academic institution. The FDA does mandate that companies list ingredients. If you want the truth, read the ingredients listing. Don’t know what menthoxypropanediol is? Check out this site.
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