If you listen close enough you'll hear police sirens in the distance, water pipes humming, Chinese sweatshop workers listening to Chinese language radio programs and singing traditional Chinese sweatshop songs. And yes, even a barking dog somewhere in the distance. This is the sound that surrounds the sound of Man Man, a cast of characters who rotate around one Ryan Kattner (a.k.a. Honus Honus), a grown fellow who was once a military brat who missed the 1980s pop music of the United States. Based in Philadelphia, but not part of the scene, the band mixes a lot of influences. Though (too) often likened to Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, and Captain Beefheart, Honus said "It's beyond flattering... but I just don't possess the same kinds of things those guys do." Their sound has also been likened to circus music, Viking vaudeville and manic Gypsy jazz, but the band has always insisted that what it plays is pop music. "Pop music has something catchy about it, whether it's a vocal or a rhythm or a keyboard line, whatever it is," said Pow Pow (real name Christopher Powell). Whatever their sound, they gained enough notoriety to tour with Modest Mouse (who they called "a gateway drug to better music"), and they're still at it. But enough with the words, time for some music videos! 10lb Moustache and Rabbit Habits are the two official videos, though Engrish Bwudd has inspired a number of fan-made vids, and even a belly dancing number. (More words and music inside) [more inside]
More than 30 members of the Opera Company of Philadelphia Chorus and cast members of La traviata performed a flash opera in the aisles of Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia. [more inside]
25 years after the siege at the MOVE house in Philadelphia ended with the police dropping a bomb on the house from a helicopter, killing 11 and destroying a city block, the Philadelphia Inquirer looks back on the events with contemporary footage and interviews with participants and those affected. The failure to rebuild adequately the houses that were devastated in the siege and fire remains an enduring scandal in Philadelphia.
The Franklin Institute Hawk Cam is giving viewers a close up look into the lives of a family of red tailed hawks who built a nest on an Institute window sill. Even better, there are babies! [more inside]
Opened yesterday, the Philadelphia Zoo's Lego-made exhibit, called ''Creatures of Habitat: A Gazillion-Piece Animal Adventure," features the work of world-renowned Lego artist Sean Kenney. According to Kenney, the 34 animals he created for the zoo took him over one year to complete--the largest project he's undertaken. Included in the exhibit are sculptures of endangered birds, frogs, tamarins, and a polar bear made with 95,000 Lego pieces.
Philadelphia is going to decriminalize Marijuana. Or maybe they aren't. Well, the police aren't going to stop arresting people. “We’re not going to stop locking people up,” said Lt. Frank Vanore. “We’re going to stop people for it. . . . Our officers are trained to do that,” Vanore said. “Whether or not they make it through the charging process, that’s up to the D.A. [more inside]
"Now his dream ship is languishing, forgotten by the nation she so proudly served. There must be a reason why this ship is still with us, after so much neglect and after so many years. It must be because we still have a chance to save her." Norweigan Cruise Lines, owners of the S.S. United States, have recently opened up bidding on the ship to scrappers.
Watch out, Pat’s, Geno’s, Steve’s and Jim’s. A new woman on the block wants to bust up the cheesesteak boys’ club. Espionage? Stakeouts? All is fair in love and chessesteaks.
Hugo Chavez owns it. New Jersey controls it. Developers and environmentalists covet it. And one brazen trespasser wants us to pay homage to its forgotten king. Welcome to Petty's Island, a fin-shaped slice of strange, in the middle of the Delaware River.
The Dirtiest Player. Was it only last season that Marvin Harrison was still catching TD passes for Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts? Now, in the wake of a brazen but mysterious Philadelphia gunfight - many details of which are reported here for the first time - the man who holds the NFL record for most receptions in a season may yet find himself with a permanent record of a different sort. (SLGQ) [more inside]
Legend has it that Phidippedes ran 26 miles to Athens from Marathon to announce the success of the Athenian army's surprise suicide attack against the far larger Persian army, starting a grand tradition: Dying during marathons. [more inside]
Open Letter to the Sudoku community and the organizers of the Sudoku National Championship about the potential cheating of Eugene Varshavsky during this Saturday's tournament. An unknown "man in a hoodie" shows up late and unregistered to the 2009 Sudoku National Championship in Philadelphia, and wins third place despite skipping the first two rounds. Second-place finisher and 2007 World Champion Tom Snyder accuses him of having a radio transmitter concealed underneath the hood, feeding him computer-generated solutions. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Varshavsky, wearing a stocking cap, defeated a grandmaster in the 2006 World Open chess tournament. Has competitive puzzling lost its innocence?
A LOVE LETTER FOR YOU is a series of 29 murals visible along the westbound El in Philadelphia. [more inside]
Native American Sites in the City of Philadelphia is a superbly illustrated exposition of the historical development of Philadelphia, with a focus on those few surviving Native American sites which lie under the urban fabric. Lots more excellent Public Archaeology is available from the Philadelphia Archaeological Forum. Bonus link: Philly's lost creeks and streams. [more inside]
Analyst Tim McCarver calls the Philly Phanatic "The best mascot in baseball." However, former Slim-Fast pitchman and ex Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda hates him. On being in the Phanatic costume Tom Burgoyne, who has had the role since 1993, says "I feel like I'm reliving my childhood." However, the Philly Phanatic is not always the funniest thing happening at Citizens Bank Park.
As part of what Mayor Michael Nutter has dubbed the "Plan C" budget, the Free Library of Philadelphia (the Pennsylvania city's public library system), chartered in 1891, will close all its branches and cease all services October 2, 2009, unless measures to raise sales tax and delay some pension payments are approved by the State Legislature in Harrisburg. The closing could be a huge blow for a city whose most famous citizen, Benjamin Franklin, founded The Library Company of Philadelphia, the United States' first successful lending library, there in 1731. [more inside]
More than 60 African-American day campers from Northeast Philadelphia were turned away from a private swim club because -- according to John Duesler, President of The Valley Swim Club -- "there was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion ... and the atmosphere of the club." Creative Steps Day Camp paid The Valley Swim Club more than $1,900 for one day of swimming a week, but after the first day, the money was quickly refunded and the campers were told not to return. [more inside]
Arthur Kade, Philly Celebrity In Training That’s what makes me Arthur Kade, people want to see the ups and downs of a rising star that is not interested in just being a celebrity, but a world class leading man who is human. [more inside]
Rev. George Whitefield, an 18th century preacher much admired by Benjamin Franklin, was an astonishing orator. According to a contemporary source, he "could make his audiences weep or tremble merely by varying his pronunciation of the word Mesopotamia. Garrick once said, 'I would give a hundred guineas if I could only say 'O!' like Mr. Whitefield.'"
Dr. John Rudoff is a cardiologist in Oregon, but before he entered medical school, he was the staff photographer at The Main Point, a coffeehouse in Bryn Mawr, PA associated with the early 1960s folk revival in the Philadelphia area. His photographs of the Philadelphia folk scene include unidentified local folkies, but also touring folk singers such as Dave van Ronk and John Hammond. Eventually, Rudoff got a press pass to the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where he took photos of Mary Travers sharing a moment with Mimi and Dick Fariña and Joan Baez with a pre-psychedelicized Chambers Brothers, but the most amazing discovery of all are the photos of when Bob Dylan "went electric." And now you can see Rudoff's whole collection, thanks to the magic of Flickr.
Hall of Fame member, Phillies broadcaster, and NFL Films announcer Harry Kalas passed away today. At least he got to make his World Series victory call.
The Philadelphia Inquirer's final frazzled days...
"This is the safest place these kids have," Mr. McMonigle explains. "No matter how crazy it gets here, no matter how bad the school is, it’s still better than what’s waiting for them out there when they leave. The irony is that after all the bitching and the moaning about how they don’t want to be here, at the end of the day you can’t get them to go home!" School of Hard Knocks is a heartbreaking 7-part series of articles about kids with behavioral problems in a Philadelpha high school. [2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7] [via mefi projects]
The future of soccer in America is black, female and from the inner-city.
What's the hardest dining reservation to score? French Laundry? Nope. El Bulli? Non. D.C.'s minibar? Not even close. [more inside]
"On the clock striking twelve he appeared slightly agitated, but he soon recovered, walked twice or thrice along the coach house, stopped to bark, staggered, exclaimed 'Halloa old girl!' (his favorite expression) and died... The children seem rather glad of it. He bit their ankles, but that was play..." So wrote Charles Dickens, describing the death of his pet raven "Grip," in a letter to a friend. Grip has an interesting legacy. Having served as an eponymous character in Dickens' Barnaby Rudge [full text] and subsequently inspiring Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven [full text], Grip has the distinction of being named a literary landmark. His taxidermied body is on display in the Rare Book Department at the Philadelphia Free Library.
Sadfilter: The death of Danieal Kelly. Danieal was a 14-year-old Philadelphia girl, born with cerebral palsy, who was denied care and neglected by her mother until her death of starvation, thirst and bedsores, shut away in her bedroom from her siblings. What had social services done to help her? Nothing -- until she died, and a scramble to falsify documents began. Nine people have now been indicted on various charges relating to her death and its investigation, including two case workers. The sight of one of her autopsy photos led the then mayor, John Street, to fire the acting commissioner of the DHS. [more inside]
The [US] National Trust for Historic Preservation has released its 21st annual list of the nation's Most Endangered Historic Places. Among them: Sumner Elementary School in Topeka, Kansas, (where Linda Brown tried to register for school, resulting in Brown vs. Board of Education); New York City's Lower East Side; California's State Parks; Philadelphia's Boyd Theatre, and several others. The previous 20 years of Most Endangered Historic Places can be found in the Archive. [more inside]
"When we're running, you can't tell. When people look at us, they don't point and go, 'Yeah, he's homeless, she's not, she's educated.'" Mahlum explained, "You look and say, 'Oh, look at the runners.' That's a positive association, because there's no separation." [more inside]
Reagan at Neshoba. Some time ago, a blog post was authored at Mahablog which suggested that movement politics can best be understood when their rhetoric is viewed as a series of metaphors, with an allegory made to a spectacular episode of Stark Trek: The Next Generation featuring Paul Winfield titled "Darmok". Picard and crew stumble across an alien race that speaks only in metaphor. The alien captain, frustrated by the failure to communicate, transports Picard to the surface of a planet, where they must learn to communicate or die. The alien captain does finally reach Picard, but dies as a result of his injuries battling an invisible predator. By way of comparison, examine Candidate Ronald Reagan's speech at Neshoba [audio, 57MB, via, additional context here]. Some pundits are claiming that it is an example of the Southern Strategy codified as dog-whistle politics, whilst others view it as an honest mistake, and others still find an inconvenient long sequence of other "honest mistakes". [more inside]
The world's largest operating musical instrument? Hear it here. New York Times article here. (Log-in may be necessary)
Amazing photo sequence from the Philadelphia Inquirer on the ironworkers building the top floors (45 - 55) of the Comcast Center. Not safe for those with Vertigo. Via.
Unconventional Wisdom: Vote Local, Impact National? The City of Philadelphia often serves as a test-market for the introduction of goods and services, due to demographics that are sometimes representative of the country as a whole. Many of the usual tenets of political conventional wisdom have not held true in this election. A city still geographically divided by the artifacts of redlining did not have a campaign reflective of the population's breakdown by race (although the results map [PDF] implies a racial deliniation, with a largely-white Northeast Philadelphia preferring candidate Knox). The candidate with the largest war chest and most TV advertising did not win. Incumbents with various amounts of local name recognition (and even the support of a BIG NAME) could not garner a simple majority of the vote. Tremendous Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) efforts by local labor and the party-machine proved fruitless. And save for some swiftboating and alleged dirty-tricks at the end, the campaign was fought cleanly. Given that, the recently completed Primary Election and Great Expectations for the Next Mayor of the City of Philadelphia may serve as an example of newly-evolving voter behavior, where a brainy policy-wonk is the people's choice versus the usual suspects.
Three chords and four noble truths: on Philadelphia's legendary Buddhist hardcore band of the 1980s, Ruin.
The Philadelphia Phillies, the losingest professional sports franchise in american history, lost again today. Long time coach and member of the 1980 World Series winning team, John Vukovich, died today after a second bout with brain cancer. The Phillies have now lost both their heart and their soul (sorry Mets fans) to brain cancer.
What is Philadelphia's trajectory in 2007? Seven cities are compared: Philadelphia, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh.
Taxgirl is a tax lawyer who invites you to ask her offbeat and unique questions about federal taxation in the United States, as well as Philadelphia-specific tax questions. She also covers the fun side of taxation and the not-so-fun side of tax evasion, usually the domain of Posse Comitatus and white supremacist groups, but lately extending in bizarre ways to celebrities like Wesley Snipes and Ron Isley.
Youtube video of Philly cops vandalizing Philly cop car. Can you say 'disciplinary action?'
Free hugs in New York City inspire free hugs in Sydney inspire free hugs in Philadelphia (Warning: Two YouTube links).
The Automat was a remarkable, culturally ubiquitous part of the history of both Philadelphia and New York City. The basic concept wasn't unusual, but the Art Deco style was unique. Now, BAMN! Food has revived the concept and the name.
Baseball's White Elephants: When the Philadelphia Athletics joined the American League, Muggsy McGraw derided the team as White Elephants ^. Though the team has moved on, the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society still follows the Elephant Trail.
Ever worry you're not having enough surreal experiences every day? Don't fret, today's Mascot Monday!
Newsfilter: While Philadelphia officials dispute with a local chapter of the Boys Scouts of America over its use of taxpayer-subsidized, rent-free property, despite a policy of open discrimination, the Republican-controlled federal government discusses legislation that would make it illegal for taxpayers to withdraw funding from any youth organization, including the Boy Scouts of America, regardless of its activities or stated policies.
Harry Olivieri, one of two brothers credited with inventing the Philly cheesesteak, has died at the age of 90: "Despite a heart condition, Olivieri had reportedly showed up at Pat's King of Steaks almost every day until about three years ago."
There's a myspace page for Q Lazzarus but you know she didn't create it herself. One of the biggest mysteries of modern Hollywood, how a singer could get a song on "Silence of the Lambs" but not appear on its soundtrack album, and a song on "Philadelphia" but not appear on its soundtrack album. And drop off the face of the earth. The mystery? In the age where one-hit wonders will to suffer any indignity to make a comeback attempt, Q Lazzarus disappeared. She's nowhere to be found. Maybe she's driving a taxi again.
Battle Cry, the youth arm of the Christian Reconstructionist (also called Dominionist) movement, is holding a rally in Philadelphia this weekend. They've already had events in San Francisco & Detroit. Create your own Battle Plan or just chat with other soldiers in God's Army. But not everyone is happy about it.
Farmadeliphication (fahr'muh'deli'fi'kay'shun), n. 1. The process of turning all of Philadelphia's vacant and abandoned lots into urban farms. n. 2. An entry in the UrbanVoids international design competition to redo Philadelphia's inner city.
Philly Zombie Crawl Do a little dance. Make a little love. Get dead tonight. Get dead tonight.
The cheesesteak -- a veritable cornucopia of heart-healthy ingredients on a bun. Pat and Geno make 'em in Philly (where else?), inspiring a rivalry not quite as intense as Sunni vs. Shi'a. (In bad taste, you say? Since when is a cheesesteak in good taste?) Some people put Cheese Whiz on 'em (a "Whiz wit"). Jim FedExes 'em. Philadelphians have strong opinions about 'em. The leader of the Free WorldTM eats 'em and then lies about 'em. Faux-fu, they ain't. Ever eaten one and lived?