Arts pick: society’s most troubling problems

cereality art
Today’s arts pick is a masterpiece that represents some of society’s most troubling problems. Though constructed of material commonly associated with childhood and innocence, the piece is an abstraction of the segregation and bigotry that pervade our culture.

The artist has chosen an unusual medium for this picture, one originally intended to act as a harmonious, complementary mixture. However, not only are the medium’s components separated by color (a statement about our tendency to self-isolate), they are arranged in a hierarchy, with the red focal point representing the upper-strata of the privilege pyramid.

This focal point is the springboard for further deconstruction of the work. The bull’s-eye location of the central element, as well as its red, dangerous color, symbolize the fragility of the hierarchy as the outer circles grow in number and power. The center cannot hold, and it is only a matter of time before the components decompose into their initial, heterogeneous condition.

This brilliant work of art is on display at Cereality, on the 3600 block of Walnut Street in Philadelphia. For more information about the gallery, please visit Mr. Scott Blankbaby.

Wildlife: has it made any progress?

Eight years ago, I asked an important question:

Why should we bother to protect wildlife if it won’t even pose for a few simple photographs?

In this era of austerity and tough budget decisions, it’s time to determine whether or not wildlife has become more cooperative and more deserving of our tax dollars. Below, my findings from a recent trip to Alaska.


caribou in Denali

First up, caribou. Like the mountain goats from the Montana trip, they remained distant. However, they thoughtfully positioned themselves against a gorgeous backdrop of snow-capped hills, streams, and endless, rolling fields. Moreover, they were everywhere and easy to find. Good job, caribou.

moose in wonder lake

moose in Wonder Lake

One of my personal goals on this trip was to see a moose. The first sighting was only a moose butt (not pictured), but as the week wore on, we saw many moose, each closer than the last. In fact, the last sighting–a mama moose and her calf on the bike path–was not a picture-taking scenario. It was a “please don’t trample us” scenario.

I applaud the moose for being plentiful. Their territorial behavior, however, needs improvement.

grizzly bear


Next we have the bears. The grizzly above gets points for proximity, though he should consider showing his face. Not just because people want to photograph it, but because this pose just screams RUG–presumably not an idea he’s trying to evoke.

black bear

Black bear near the train tracks

The black bear has the right idea. Four legs and a head, running around in the snow–definitely not rug material.

cross fox

posing and waiting for squirrels

In terms of actual posing, this cross fox did the best job. He conveniently perched by the side of the road and was very cooperative, sitting still for photos while waiting for a tasty squirrel to come along. A tasty squirrel did, in fact, come along; sadly, his picture turned out rather gory.


puffin, floating along

Moving on to the water animals, puffins get kudos for their sheer volume and for displaying themselves in a variety of photogenic ways: lined up on the ledge of a rock, flying underwater, and floating around near boatloads of tourists. Their big, orange feet and clumsy-looking take-offs add to their charm.

humpbacks feeding

feeding time for the humpbacks

We saw a group of six humpback whales who put on quite a show of bubblenet feeding. It’s a co-operative way of feeding and very rare, so huge bonus points for that. Furthermore, the bubbles they create tell photographers exactly where the whales are going to surface next.

My only suggestion for the humpbacks is to jump up more.

sea otter

hello, there!

Finally, the sea otter.  This little guy floated right by the boat and gave us a wave. Hello to you too, little guy.

Overall, wildlife has made vast strides since 2004. Unlike my experience at Glacier National Park, the wildlife of Alaska was very understanding of tourists and their desire to take animal photos. And there were no incidents of inappropriate behaviors.

Keep up the good work, wildlife–I fully support my tax dollars being used to preserve your habitats.

Angelique Kidjo at Long’s Park

Last weekend, Long’s Park brought back Angelique Kidjo for her second appearance in the Summer Music Series, a long-running program of free Sunday evening concerts.

Neither extreme heat nor rain stopped Angelique from giving an amazing performance.  She has a beautiful, strong voice; the ability to blend the world’s music into her own creations (“smoothies,” she calls them); wisdom; graciousness; and raw energy.

Not only did Angelique Kidjo get the crowd dancing (no small feat, considering the weather), she came down from the stage and joined us, making her way through the lawn chairs, greeting her fans, and smiling at babies.  And then she invited the crowd back up to the stage with her, turning the rest of the evening into joyous dance party.

Aside from the smoothies, my favorite part of the concert was her tribute to James Brown, who she says introduced her to the “beauty of the English language.”

Eric and I saw Angelique at Philly’s World Café several years ago.  It was a good show, but not as good as the Long’s Park performances—an outdoor venue with plenty of space to move around is the best way to experience Angelique Kidjo.  If you ever get a chance to see her, don’t miss it—her message is positive, and her music is world class.

PS Eric was unhappy with the way his pictures turned out, but I like the movement.  It wouldn’t be a true Angelique Kidjo show if she stood still for photos!

Nutter’s Nose

michael nutter
This is Michael Nutter, and he is going to run for mayor of Philadelphia. There is one large problem with this candidate, a problem that so far has been overlooked by the mainstream media.

Look at Nutter’s picture, specifically his nose. We can’t have a mayor with a nose like that! I’m no fan of John Street, but at least when he had his photo in Time magazine for being the worst mayor in the country, he didn’t embarrass us with a gigantic schnoz.

However, Nutter’s nose is not of his own making. This handicap was cruelly thrust upon him by the capricious forces of nature, and he deserves our help and compassion. Please donate to the Nutter rhinoplasty fund. Give what you can, and together we’ll ensure that Michael Nutter gets the fair candidacy he deserves.

Buy this Book

my new filing technique is unstoppable
Now I am an associate. You should buy my featured item (My New Filing Technique is Unstoppable), and I will make $0.80.

Chocolate: The Exhibition

chocolate chili bar
Chocolate: The Exhibition is on at Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences. The exhibit presents botanical factoids and explains the chocolate-making process, but it also describes chocolate’s cultural impact over the centuries. Not only did people shop with cocoa beans, they used the ability to grow cocoa trees as a factor when deciding who to conquer. And once the wealthy European set started drinking sweetened chocolate, the demand for sugar increased, which fueled the slave trade. I don’t remember any of this from the Hershey’s Chocolate World tour.

But let’s not kid anyone. The learnin’ is good, but half the fun of Chocolate: The Exhibition is the gift shop. Not the museum’s main gift shop, where they’re hawking Godivas and that clunky organic chocolate otherwise found at Trader Joe’s. I’m talking about the shop at the end of the exhibit, where you can buy exotic treats from all over the world. The dark chocolate chili bar rocked my world.

ecuador single bean chocolate
The museum is sponsoring many weekend activities throughout the exhibit (schedule), but here’s some highlights.

  • Sunday, July 11th: Anne Isham, author of Eat Chocolate Lose Weight: The Chocoholic’s Survival Guide and Practical Handbook will discuss “how to morph yourself from an indiscriminate, out of control chocoholic into a sleek, svelte sophisticated connoisseur of fine chocolate.”
  • Saturday, July 24th: Christina Pirello will be making treats and explaining some of chocolate’s health benefits.

Chocolate: The Exhibition runs through September 6, 2004.

Bring it on.

Fairmount snow

  • Milk? Check.
  • Stack of books and magazines? Check.
  • Blanket? Check.
  • Christopher Elbow spiced drinking chocolate? Check.
  • Leftover tortilla pie and shoo fly pie? Check.
  • Lawnchair to stake out parking spot? Tomorrow’s problem.

Bring it on.

UPDATE: Karl over at Philly Future is compiling a fun list of weblogger storm coverage. Sure beats Hurricane Schwartz.

snow at 22nd and green

22nd and Green

women's way snow

Women's Way

Secret family recipes: the new rules

It’s time to discuss family values and how they’ve disintegrated during the past fifty years. Take, for example, the matter of secret family recipes. There was a time when people respected secret family recipes and waited until marriage–a sacred institution that unites the culinary heritage of two families–to give them away.

But in these immoral times, anything goes. I know someone who shacked up with her significant other and gave his family her grandmother’s secret gingersnap recipe. Gave it away. Just like that, like it was nothing. The relationship eventually ended, and she’s probably roaming the streets even as I type this, handing out the gingersnap recipe to sketchy men.

Am I too old-fashioned? Is there a three date rule for secret family recipes? In an attempt to be more modern, I shall now reveal the S secret family recipe:

1. Cook a hotdog and slice it vertically.
2. Make some mashed potatoes and put them in the hotdog.

3. Melt a slice of American cheese on top of the potatoes.

To get the full effect, use instant mashed potatoes. Also, soy dogs can be substituted for regular hotdogs. And stop making faces; this recipe is better than it sounds, and your kids will love it.

One more thing: a hypothetical question. How long do you have to date someone before you get his secret chili recipe?

The spectacular American Idiot

American Idiot

American Idiot

I love of energetic music but don’t know anything about punk rock. It always seems so angry and shouty; I’d rather listen to indie rock, power pop, bluegrass, or twang.

Despite this ignorance, I recently found myself on Broadway for a performance of American Idiot, Green Day’s punk rock opera—a Christmas gift to Type E.

And it turns out that I love punk rock, at least when it’s choreographed on an amazing set and has strings and vocal harmonies. What a spectacle.

And now I’m the proud owner of my very own punk rock album: American Idiot – The Original Broadway Cast Recording. That counts, right?

Unusual lighting schemes

Last week’s All Wear Bowlers outing was my first visit to Old City’s Mum Puppettheatre. One of the best things about that space is the lights made of four-sided cheese graters. What a brilliant idea! The venue contains sconce lighting in the form of cheese graters attached to the walls; in addition, there are cheese graters hanging from the ceiling in both the lobby and the theater proper.

The graters’ holes cast eye-catching patterns and shadows on the walls of Mum Puppettheatre, and somehow the novelty of the lighting scheme sets the mood for something offbeat or creative to happen on the stage.

The cheese graters remind me of my favorite lights in Philadelphia, also located in Old City. Warren Muller is a local lighting sculptor who illuminates trash and found objects, with remarkable results (of course, this is the opinion of someone fascinated by giant typewriter erasers). One of my life goals is to own a Warren Muller piece.

You can see Muller’s work at bahdeebahdu, a showroom he runs in conjunction with interior designer RJ Thornburg. The gallery’s website has some terrific pictures of the light sculptures, but if you live in Philly, you should go down and see them for yourself.

If you can’t shell out thousands for a Muller piece, is selling some very nice cheese graters.