Critical Mass 1.0
Our boy Scott Yorko wrote a fab Agenda piece for tomorrow's issue about the live Michael and Michael Have Issues show at the Troc, scheduled for tomorrow. But he just told us that it's been postponed. Here are the new details straight from the Troc:
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 12
@ The Trocadero
An evening of comedy with
Michael and Michael Have Live Tour
Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter
Tix: $24 / Drs: 7pm, Show: 8pm / All Ages
(This is the rescheduled date of the show on Thu. 10/29 that was postponed.
All tickets will be honored at the rescheduled show. Refunds are also
available at point of purchase)
So when you read Scott's piece tomorrow, cut it out and tuck in you 2010 calendar for the February 11 issue. Or in your gournal.
'I threw flowers in your face on my sister's wedding day.'
We were still waiting in the will-call line when 'The Strangers,' St. Vincent's first track from 2009's Actor (4AD), came blaring through the Electric Factory's walls promptly at 8. Damn. (It didn't help that the bitchiest guy in Philadelphia was ahead of us in line, whining that he shouldn't have to wait in such a long line.)
Opening for Andrew Bird, St. Vincent ' aka Annie Clark, former member of the Polyphonic Spree ' stuck with Actor tracks for the most part of her nine-song set, wavering between the exquisite, ambient swell that's become her signature and a much more dissonant, spazzier sound that I don't think anyone was expecting. As my boyfriend said, 'It's like she goes from Regina Spektor to Sonic Youth in the span of a song.'
Not that there weren't lovely moments amid the madness. 'Save Me from What I Want' started as a slow crescendo of harmonic oohs between lead singer and violinist, slowly building to a wall of perfect sound. By the end, that which had been pleasing to the ear had devolved into a sort of dragged-out, heavy-guitar cacophony with St. Vincent at the center, shaking her head like she'd heard an off note, or she'd fallen into some kind of trance.
But then she was back with 'Actor Out of Work,' thanking Andrew Bird for the opportunity to perform, thanking Philly for listening.
As the set went on, things got a little bit weirder. 'Black Rainbow' featured a white-bandana-clad flutist (who also rocked out on vocals, oboe and sax variously throughout the evening) and major bass notes that shook the floor. And all of a sudden, St. Vincent was tweaking out, like Marty McFly playing 'Johnny B Good' a little too futuristic for the kids of 1955. A strobe light as her background, she jerked and seized, as if to tell us this is what music would be like in another 30 years.
Last and most bizarre, Marry Me's 'Your Lips Are Red' took its time getting started as St. Vincent marched in place as if on a people mover, revving herself up and singing with her eyes closed. In her self-contained groove she might not have even noticed the shirtless, mustachioed guy who came on stage behind her and started dancing ' or, more accurately, thrashing ' with the violinist. The animal in St. Vincent didn't come out till this, the ninth song, where she alternated between Tourette's-inspired jerks and fetal-position squats, and her backing band followed suit, swaying and pulsing till the song reached its limit. With the coo of its final lines, 'Your skin's so fair, it's not fair,' the band came down from its high, morphing into an entirely calmer, more mellow sound, making way for Andrew Bird instead of completely blowing him out of the water.
1. The Strangers (Actor)
2. Laughing with a Mouthful of Blood (Actor)
3. Save Me from What I Want (Actor)
4. Actor Out of Work (Actor)
5. Now, Now (Marry Me)
6. The Party (Actor)
7. Black Rainbow (Actor)
8. Marrow (Actor)
9. Your Lips Are Red (Marry Me)
|R. Bradley Maule|
Things are getting rough this week. Now, on top of dealing with the cultural loss of TLA Video and Hellcat Girls, we'll have to come to grips with the end of Philly Skyline, a Web site that managed to make local architecture and development more interesting than we'd have ever expected. City Paper's own writer/gentleman Nathaniel Popkin and photographer R. Bradley Maule headed up the site, and with Maule packing up for Portland soon, things are coming to close. We suspected it was approaching its end ' posts have dried up since the start of October ' but it's still a bummer. We'll truly miss Maule's beautiful photos and Popkin's whimsical, nerdy essays.
On Monday, Variety reported that the New York Times is' getting into the motion picture business. Not only do they have a deal with HBO to turn their Modern Love column into a series a la Sex and the City, but they've also struck up a first look deal with Columbia Pictures, which essentially means Columbia gets first dibs on all Modern Love-related projects. (Modern Love, for those who skip the Sunday Styles, is column about various love stories ' both happy and sad ' written by someone new each week.)
I missed that the NYTimes signed with agency ICM and have been licensing pieces left and right. From the Variety piece:
Among the recent NYT content deals was the recent story of immigrant students planning a prom, which Jenny Lumet is scripting for Miramax; an article about a 12-year-old wannabe food critic that Lorne Michaels is developing at Paramount; and one about a small college football team paid to be crushed by bigger schools, which Universal is developing with Jack Black. None of the development projects has yet turned into a movie.
Obviously specific newspaper pieces have been licensed for movies before. Former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Mark Bowden's Killing Pablo 31-part series ' about the takedown of drug lord Pablo Escobar ' has been in development with the likes of Christian Bale and Chris Pine attached a various points (although, I'm sure it was the book that was licensed so the Inquirer most likely saw none of that scratch). Not to mention The Soloist, based on the book/columns of erstwhile Inky writer Steve Lopez. But I've never heard of a newspaper signing with an agency before, never mind singing a first look deal.
My real question is, especially with Modern Love, who is getting the pay day here? Is it the writer? The subject? Or the paper? The subject obviously will get some cash because most based-on-truth biopics need to buy life rights in order to go into production. And it's the writer who came up with the story. But where does the Times come in? Are they doing it for the publicity? Are they taking credit because they were the platform for publication? Or is it just a cash grab in light of newsroom cuts that will let 100 reporters go?
It also got me thinking about other news-related movies. I'm sure Isaiah Thompson could develop an entire epic about his adventures with Daily News columnist Christine "Chupacabra" Flowers. Maybe we could start licensing Bell Curve or something and I could finally gold plate my office like I've always wanted.
TLA Video AT 517 South 4th Street, a mecca of indie, arthouse and queer movies since it opened in 1985, closed it's doors yesterday. It's ironic that I found out when a co-worker sent me the link to a friend's Twitter account, with its 140-character eulogy; it's the evolution of the Internet that led to the location's downfall.
"They would have directors sections ' Robert Altman, Martin Scoresese, Antonioni. It was like an education where you would learn about genres or directors. They had this crazy cult section with movies from guys like Roger Corman," says Margit Detweiler, former City Paper managing editor who often wrote about pop culture in Philadelphia during her decade-long tenure at the paper. "It was really a film education there and a cultural hub."
TLA head honchos Ray Murray, Claire Brown Kohler and Eric Moore began TLA Video as a companion to their South Street rep house. "We showed old movies on a big screen and it was a business we were proud of. We saw early on that the writing was on the wall, with the advent of VHS that wasn't a viable business model anymore," says Moore, whose group sold the venue so it could become it's current incarnation of a concert venue. "Video stores had a good run for a quarter century now but the technology is the new writing on the wall. We either have to adapt to and change with the technology or go into a different business."
The store closure not only signals a change for TLA but for South Street as a whole. This marks the first time TLA has no had a presence on South Street since 1981. Moore chalks it up to evolution of both South Street itself and the movie-watching climate, but adds with a note of melancholy, "As I said to a friend yesterday, 'Capitalism is brutal.'"
TLA still operates video stores in Center City, Bryn Mawr and Chestnut Hill. The South Street store itself will reopen on Friday, October 23 and sell off its remaining inventory through Thanksgiving.
Looking ahead, Moore hopes that the TLA will remain an arthouse authority in the form of an online distribution company that will either stream content on their servers or point movie lovers in the direction of another site that can. Moore, who holds the position of chief technology officer, understands that his job is more integral to the company than ever. "This is all riding on my shoulders now. Help!" he says, laughing.
But the closing of TLA Video isn't simply a capitalistic casualty. Like the legions of other video stores that have shuttered their doors, from mom and pop to Blockbuster, it's the loss of a communal space where people with one thing in common ' their loves of movies ' can converse with each other. "That's to me, the single biggest lost as a society ' this place to go where we can talk about movies. I watched the Phillies game last night sitting on my sofa rather than with friends. The way I get my social community while watching the game is posting on Facebook. Does that help or hurt the local bar around the corner?" says Moore. "I wish I was Malcolm Gladwell who could give you something pithy about what's next in our society but I think we just don't know. The human urge to be social will ultimately win out, but we're in a period of transition.
Any Monty Python aficionado has to check out this vid from IFC. It's a Q&A with the five surviving Pythons ' John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin ' after the premiere of Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut), the upcoming six hour, mutli-day doc, which premieres on IFC this Sunday, October 18. It's been getting great review and my DV-R is already set.
Check it out, then think about how all you really want to do tonight is curl up and watch Life of Brian.
Sun., Oct. 18-Fri., Oct. 23, 9 p.m., IFC (Channel 96 for Philly-based Comcast subscribers)
|Courtesy of Hotel Palomar|
What's likely the greenest hotel in Philadelphia opened its doors today, showcasing its new digs in the American Institute of Architects building. In shambles, the 80-year-old building was gutted to make room for the lavishly frivolous, but environmentally frugal Hotel Palomar (117 S. 17th St., 215-563-5006). As the only hotel in Philadelphia registered with the US Green Business Council, the entire edifice is decked with sustainable materials. The floor of the chic lobby is laid with recycled glass and 100 percent wool rugs; the organic-friendly restaurant, Square 1682, is covered by soundproof cork ceilings; and the 230 guest rooms are furnished with certified wood beds, tables and chairs. Also, guests will find snack bars stocked with organic and fair trade coffees, teas and treats in the rooms.
But enough about the technical stuff ' let's get back to the art. Hoping to maintain the Art Deco aura of the previous building, designers have worked to establish an 'Art in Motion' theme. The lobby, hallways and rooms are lined with a variety of original works, many of which were made by local artists. One of the featured pieces is a Warhol-esque image of Ben Franklin that greets you before entering the lobby.
If you're looking to spend a romantic weekend here with your honey, you better be ready to shell out some green of your own. Prices for the rooms range from $199 to $400. The hotel, however, is offering guided tours for those interested in just taking a peek.
There was something extra Frenchy about last night's Cirque du Soleil performance at the Liacouras Center. It seemed like every other group in the audience seemed to be swishing tight, accented syllables out of their thin, pursed lips. My guess is they were friends and family members of the performers, all of whom stayed true to the tasteful traditions of the dramatic circus fused with sideshow and street entertainment. I wasn't allowed to take photos, but I was so close to the stage that I'd have only gotten pictures of their derri'res anyhow.
This French-Canadian show sends you home wondering about things you couldn't even imagine with the help of psychedelics, like contortionists walking on their throats while resting their butts on their heads; a man dance-hovering horizontally inside a giant hula hoop; and a tribal-looking dude juggling fire with his bare hands, feet and mouth. Sacre bleu!
The performers don't just come out and do a few cool tricks that you want to go home and practice on your own. They put on full, 10-minute routines of physical elegance so bizarre that your imagination sits and takes notes while you question everything you've ever learned about gravity and the human body. The best part is they do it all in slippers ' sparkly, magical slippers.
Although there were no motorcycles in cages and not a lot of audience interaction, even the clowns, whose airplane sound effects sounded French, pulled squeals of laughter out of les jeunes enfants in the audience. There really is no ethnicity, age or class of people that wouldn't be fascinated by this show. Just watch out for those ruthless audience members ' they'll steal your seat as soon as you get up to go to la toilette.
In conjunction with Design Philadelphia (which we covered in the Oct. 1, 2009, edition of City Paper), First Person Arts and InLiquid present the Welcome House, a 10-foot cube in which artists of all stripes settle in for a day and create. It's open-ended, inventive and often pretty wacky (we're talking knit-yourself-into-a-cocoon wacky). Our intrepid reporter Cristina Perachio's been at the House all week, observing, taking photos and reporting back.
|Photo | Cristina Perachio|
When I visited the Welcome House Friday, on an unusually warm October afternoon, the 10-foot cube was partially covered in orange, stenciled squares that reminded me of a kindergarten classroom. Maybe it was the bright colors, the way they were haphazardly stuck to the cube or the way the stencils seemed to be at totally random angles on the page. Whatever it was, it made me want to play tag, fingerprint or participate in a good ol' fashioned show-and-tell.
For the sixth day of the Welcome House free-form art festivities, Mary Tasillo and Michelle Wilson spent the day creating LOVE Park- and Welcome House-themed works on handmade paper with the crowd in the park. They used small screens to sift out the wet, pulpy orange mixture and then painted the sheets using stencils. The most popular stencils were the LOVE Park sign along with a bench and the word "welcome" in several different languages.'
|Photo | Cristina Perachio|
There were several skateboard-themed designs created by skaters scorned, but most of the designs looked like Rorschach inkblots in Crayola brights. This caught the attention of every 6-year-old in a four-block radius of the park.
There were two works, sitting side by side on the cube, that caught my eye. The one on the left was hung vertically and had a blue LOVE Park sign over a red bench with the words "casa" and "house" framing the word "safe"; the one on the right was hung horizontally and had a blue house and red bench with the word "house" written along the bottom in green and the word "safe" punctuated by a giant red question mark stenciled across the top.' The question mark gave the whole picture a look both daunting and unsure. I wonder if they were referring to the Welcome House itself, like so many other pictures created that day, or if it referred instead to the home of the artist.
|Courtesy of Varga Bar|
Our Critical Mass intern dishes on what it was like to be a Varga pin-up girl, after being selected by Varga Bar for its 2010 calendar. Interested? They're still accepting submissions.
It must have started with Bettie Boop. The pin-curled hair, the red lips, the long dress with the big slit ' or, thinking about it now, perhaps it was Jessica Rabbit? Either way, I grew up idolizing that old Hollywood style, and once I was too old for cartoons it was a different kind of illustration that caught my eye: pin-up portraits by Alberto Vargas, a Peruvian-born artist who glorified the American girl most notably in Esquire in the '40s and later in Playboy.
The Varga girls' ethereal, glowing sex appeal comes from their innocence, confidence and humor. Varga Bar (941 Spruce St., 215-627-5200), which opened in May, uses Vargas' art to decorate the cozy restaurant. The vintage-themed d'cor, complete with kitschy black-and-white tile, is centered around a handful of Varga girls painted over the bar.
But Restaurateur George Anni wanted to incorporate real, local women into the bar's theme. So he and Philly-based photographer Christopher Gabello launched the Make Me a Varga Girl contest this September. They set out to find 12 local women to be transformed into modern-day Varga girls for a 2010 calendar. 'We've received hundreds of submissions so far,' says Kate Ryan, Gabello's managing agent. 'We've had a really good response and girls are still contacting us.'
I entered a few weeks ago, and soon after, Ryan asked me to be a part of the calendar. Two days later, I arrived at Ettore Salon at 12th and Market streets to have my hair and make-up done for the shoot at Gabello's Center City studio. Owner Ettore Mastroddi welcomed me to the salon, but I could tell by a quick flinch that something was wrong. As I sat down with the hairstylist I could hear Ettore, just a few feet away, complaining that my hair was too short and it didn't go with Vargas' style. I shot a dumbfounded glance up at the hairstylist who, with a look of disgust, rolled her eyes and shook her head. 'Don't worry about him," she assured me.
After a quick battle with the owner about the hair extensions that were not going on my head, Ettore changed his tune when Gabello showed him one of my favorite Varga gals in a black leotard and tutu with short blond curls. Then Ettore was all smiles, and so was I, after an hour of hair and makeup complete with faux lashes and my favorite red lipstick. Ryan met me at the salon and took me by cab about five blocks (couldn't ruin the hair, of course) over to Gabello's studio at 15th and Sansom streets. Gabello and his assistant, Inna, greeted us at the small, ground floor studio. The shoot was to be styled with clothes from vintage-inspired Smak Parlor in Olde City, and the team led me to the rack of clothing. 'And here's everything from Smak Parlor!' said Gabello.
Where? I thought as I looked at the bare clothing rack strewn with a few scarves, nighties, undies and a pink silk robe that looked like a parka next to the rest of the attire. Damn. 'There's a bunch of accessories too,' offered Ryan. Well, maybe I could cover up with some oversized clip-on earrings? After reassurance from the team and a pep talk I prepared for myself, I put on my first outfit and prayed if I smiled big enough, no one would notice what I was or wasn't wearing. I grew up doing theater and tried to just pretend I was playing a part of one of the energetic Varga gals I admire. This was a bit of a challenge with Gabello's Radiohead playlist that could lull a rabid animal to sleep. But after the first few shots, I began to feel more comfortable and the team chatted and laughed through the next few outfit changes.
We played around with a few different poses and looks right out of the Alberto Varga book Gabello had in his studio. The shoot flew by and after a couple hours of cheesy smiles and pretending to know what I was doing, I was back in my street clothes wondering how I was going to make it to the subway without getting beat up with my hair and 20 pounds of makeup straight out of 1940. After Gabello sent me the proofs, I picked a handful of photos that I liked and thought were the most true to the Varga girl style. He'll do some Photoshop magic to make it look like the photos are illustrations, adding that glowing quality to them. The Varga Bar calendar will emulate the design of the old Esquire magazine calendars complete with a little poem next to the pin-up (such as 'June finds me asking daisies, if he loves or loves me not. They told me if he didn't that the moron should be shot!') The calendar will debut in December with a release party at Varga Bar and the 12 photos will be displayed in the bar.
Check out the Web site for more information.
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