When winter hits, birds fly south and humans go to Florida. To explain the human migration, we can look to the warm weather and great deals on flights, but the birds? Scientists have known for years that many species possess the ability to feel the Earth's magnetic poles. Like a sixth sense, the birds seem to gravitate south around the same time every year without the conveniences of complex reasoning or a GPS system. Husband-and-wife team James L. Gould and Carol Grant Gould were so intrigued by this phenomenon, they wrote an entire book on the subject.
Nature's Compass: The Mystery of Animal Navigation explains the science behind many species' sense of direction, from the monarch butterfly to the honey bee. They describe how a deeper understanding of the subject is not only fascinating science but essential to the goal of animal conservation. Both accomplished scholars in their own fields — evolutionary biology and science writing, respectively — the Goulds have published nine previous books on animal behavior. They'll speak tomorrow at the Free Library's Central Branch (1901 Vine St) at 7:30 p.m. The talk is free and open to the public.
Inside Butch Cordora’s Washington Square West studio, the local conceptual artist shows me the large, yet-to-be-framed mugshots that now comprise his latest exhibition, "Hot and Busted."
Cordora searched thousands of photographs (2,219 to be exact) on the websites of correctional facilities across the country until he found subjects meeting his aesthetic specifications: “Piercing eyes, square jaws — that kind of soap-opera beautiful, like 'Oh my God, you’re so hot.'” Oh, and they’re all Caucasian.
“I had wanted white guys on purpose,” Cordora explains. When browsing the different websites, he focused on the areas of the country where there would be a larger selection of light-skinned beauts. It would be “too easy,” he says, to add African-Americans, a race he notes is all too often associated with crime and punishment in the U.S. “For the white, straight, handsome male,” however, “the world is their oyster.” These are the kind of faces that HHo
One of the men resembles a young Brad Pitt, with a firm jaw and a faint smile. Some, however, have a more haggard appearance. One looks up with tourmented eyes from a head angle that’s reminiscent of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode III. With tousled hair and pallid skin, his beauty hovers just beneath the surface of obvious strain.
These photographs seem more mysterious and profound than the pop art-y paintings of Cordora’s last show, “Absolution Lab,” and his popular 2010 calendar “Straight and Butch” in which he posed nude with an assortment of naked heterosexual men.
The inspiration for “Hot and Busted” stems from Cordora’s visits to a friend in jail. Though the man in question will not be featured, Cordora claims his mugshot is equally captivating. “You look at him, you’d think he has the world by the balls,” says the artist. However, after 2 DUIs and a house arrest broken on account of soy-related cooking, Cordora’s friend was locked up for six months. The artist visited him every week, and “I just became fascinated – with jail, with the booking process, with the whole idea of taking your freedoms away.” Each mugshot in the show reflects the emasculation and defeat up to the point at which the photograph is taken, explains the artist. Each portrait is therefore not only a face but also a depiction of the harrowing experience of arrest that recalls the mistakes of his friend. “Hot and Busted” is about this push and pull between an attractive face and a crushing experience.
But who are these Luciferan adonises, the focus of the show?
Cordora refuses to reveal names or origins, and he’d prefer you guess their crimes – the list includes everything from armed robbery to failure to possess a saltwater fishing license. Similarly, these convicts and would-be convicts have no idea that their likenesses are being blown up to two feet by two feet and hung on a gallery wall. Questions of morality and legality tossed to the wayside, Cordora cares only that the viewer share his fascination with prison and the contradiction embodied by its most beautiful.
opening reception Fri., July 6, 6 p.m., through Sept. 2, Ven and Vaida Gallery, 18 S. Third St., 215-592-4099, venandvaida.com.
In attempting to make sense of the atrocities committed during the German holocaust, there are some figures that are often forgotten from the list of who to blame. Aside from military personnel working under Nazi orders, the party enlisted a range of physicians, psychiatrists and other “medical” specialists to develop racial health policies such as the mass sterilization of anyone determined “diseased.” These health professionals effectively medicated the racist doctrine of the party, bringing the evils of fascism into local doctors' offices and using the human body as an experimental site for furthering the Nazi agenda.
A current display at the Free Library's Central Branch (1901 Vine St.) focuses on the intersection of Nazi Party doctrine and medical theory during the holocaust. Titled "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race," the exhibit is part of a traveling program from D.C.'s United States Holocaust Memorial, and Sunday marks its final day in town. The subject matter isn't for the faint of heart (and not recommended for children under 11), but the exhibit fills an important place in our understanding of an incredibly dark period of human history. By chronicling the connection between medical practice and socio-political doctrine, viewers come away with a deeper sense of the power of “official” science in justifying hate. The exhibit is on view for free until 5 p.m. Sunday in the library's second-floor gallery.
One recycled bottle, a donation to a good cause — it's difficult to understand how our individual actions could possibly lead to larger change. But they do. In his new book Counterpower: Making Change Happen, Tim Gee focuses on the question central to any political endeavor: How do we make change happen? From anti-globalization to the Arab Spring, Gee takes an in-depth look at social movements to uncover why some are more successful than others.
He suggests that, while every effort toward change has concrete hurtles to overcome, the biggest challenge may be psychological. He points to the concept of counterpower — the power of the “have-nots” in the face of the “haves” — to back up his stance that every campaign is winnable if we can recognize our own strengths. A graduate of Edinburgh University, Gee has been a longtime political activist. His book is the result of his own experience fighting for change, as well as his work training other activists to be effective in their struggles. Monday, join him for a free discussion tonight at South Street's all-volunteer Wooden Shoe Books (704 South St.) at 7 p.m.
South Street crust punks with hungry dogs, angsty dark-clad teens who boycott high school: it's tempting to try to boil down the concept of anarchy to a few tired characters, yet, as Randall Amster's new book describes, the movement's history reveals a complex ideology seeped in the same nuanced debates that mark socio-political theory in all its forms.
A professor and respected philosopher in his own right, Amster's approach to anarchism is a refreshing break from scholars who've historically dismissed the movement as a kind of “anti-everything” ideology. Anarchism Today is a much-needed contemporary read, covering such topics as practical anarchism in action, local and global organizations, violence and the impact of anarchist philosophy on other systems of political thought.
From self-described anarchists and amateur sociologists to political scholars and concerned citizens, Amster's book is sure to broaden the conversation about an important theory that continues to shape the current social and political landscape. Join him for a free reading and discussion of the book tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Moonstone Arts Center (110A S. 13th St.).
Tired of the same-ol' mural walking tours? Take a gander at some of the work your neighbors and friends post daily all around the city. It's not sponsored, it usually doesn't have a signature and sometimes it's gone within days. Here's some I spotted this week in Kensington, Fishtown and NoLibs.
There's a lot going on at Philadelphia Museum of Art — soon the restored Rodin Museum will accompany the Main Building, the Anne d'Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden and the Perelman Building. And starting July 1, general admission will increase from $16 to $20 and will cover two days of entry to all facilities.
In addition, there will be a free shuttle service offered between the three buildings to ease the art viewer's travel time. Don't fret, the tried-and-true pay-what-you-wish admission policy will remain on the first Sunday of each month, and is now available on Wednesday evenings, along with extended visiting hours.
Although the admission prices are higher, so too is the "commitment to ensuring the Museum remains accessible to a wide public," says director Timothy Rub. Well, that and increased revenue.
Housed in an unassuming three-story rowhome, The Dive (947 E. Passyunk Ave.) features enough secondhand smoke to allow you to effectively puff a whole pack without touching a ciggy to your lips. You can while away the hours on dollar beers and microwave menu offerings with absolutely no natural light to remind you of the greater world. While this certainly has the potential to lure in hardcore drunks, don't let the description fool you. What makes the Dive great is its dedication to providing a no-frills setting for all the good things that can happen at a bar: compelling conversation, good company and the flowing exchange of revolutionary ideas.
Every few months, this potential is realized in the form of an organized reading on the Dive's second floor. A refreshing alternative to the city's more formal literary settings, Jaime Fountaine's Toiling in Obscurity is a free reading series dedicated to "showcasing the unpublished, unpolished work of the working class writers in Philadelphia," because, let's face it, most writers still need a day job and dollar beers are all they can afford. Forget the sterile quiet of Barnes and Noble or the stuffiness of the public library — your neighborhood bar is as good a place as any to hear some damn good writing. Check the next one out tomorrow at 7 p.m. Go to jaimefountaine.com for a list of future dates.
Lama Marut's bio is not that of your typical Buddhist monk: Born Brian K. Smith, the motorcycle enthusiast and former surfer descends from a long line of Baptist ministers. Changing the course of this lineage, Smith earned his Ph.D. in Comparative Religions before taking the name Sumati Marut when he was ordained into monkhood. Although his background may lead some to dismiss the authenticity of his particular Buddhism (yes, he's a white dude in a robe and he lives in Cali), his eclectic influences may be the key to his success. His video and audio podcasts are downloaded 25,000 times a month, and his Twitter presence earns him a spot second only to Deepak Chopra in the increasingly popular genre of inspirational tweets.
With his extensive Internet presence and commitment to spreading knowledge of self-awareness, Marut has developed a base of fans that connect to his unique blend of Eastern and Western religious practice, making him arguably one of the hippest monks around. This universal appeal is evident in his newest book, A Spiritual Renegade's Guide to the Good Life, in which he focuses on the concept of karma in applying ancient Tibetan practice to a contemporary world of consumerism, commercialism and info overload. Where the book could fall into new age cliches and posi-vibe-vagueness, Marut manages to keep his advice succinct and direct, providing specific meditations and plans of action for staying happy in a modern world. For some in-person wisdom, hear him speak tomorrow at Penn Bookstore (3601 Walnut St.). Sticking to the good karma theme, the event, which starts at 7:30 p.m., is completely free.
According to A Tribe Called Quest front man, Q-Tip, Industry Rule #4,080 is “record company people are shady.” Originally heard on the group's classic Check the Rhime, the statement has resonated with many musicians over the years, encapsulating the frustration of trying to make it in a music industry that seems to be based more on greed and profit than objective talent. Aspiring artists are often forced to choose between their own creative vision and the pre-packaged image into which record companies attempt to mold them.
As the music industry continues to shift with the rise of online file-sharing, it seems high time we revisit Q's Rule #4,080 and assess the current state of industry affairs. Philly's own Mural Arts Program has asked several key industry figures to join in a panel discussion. Among them are Marc Byers (Rockstar Entertainment) and CHOPS, producer for new-school hip-hoppers like Young Jeezy and Lil Wayne. These musical vets will reflect on their own experiences of sinking and floating in the waves of industry bureaucracy and provide advice for those just getting into to the bizz. This free event will be held at 327 South St., from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
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