Philadelphia Film Festival

The annual Philadelphia Film Festival is underway. I have tickets to see eight movies between now and next Saturday!

  • Super Size Me: Could be very biased or very informative or both.
  • Everyday People: A day in the life of a failing Jewish-owned Brooklyn diner.
  • The Cordon: Drama about 1997’s anti-Milosevic demonstrations.
  • The Story of the Weeping Camel: A baby camel is rejected by its mother; a nomadic Mongolian family attempts to save it. The tears are welling up already.
  • Orwell Rolls in his Grave: Documentary about big corporate media.
  • The City That Shoves You Back: Six short films about the best and worst of Philly.
  • The Kite: A love story set on the Israeli-Lebanese border.
  • Hair High: Bill Plympton’s animated gothic-high-school comedy. Matt Groening and Don Hertzfeldt are involved. Yaaaaay!

San Francisco, I love you!

One of my favorite getaways is visiting Superwoman in San Francisco. I was sad to see her leave Philly back in ’05, but she loves her new home and is a most amazing hostess and guide.

san francisco collage

trips past

During past visits, we’ve seen the required tourist sites, traipsed around a goat farm and had a cheese class in the loft of its barn, hiked around Mt. Tam, ending up at the German Tourist Club, gone ollalie berry picking, taken a mole cooking class, explored many neighborhoods, and drunk countless cups of coffee, glasses of wine, and pints of beer.

This trip started with the traditional soup bowl of nonfat latte. It’s completely ridiculous.

bowl of latte

bowl o latte

We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and up to Petaluma in search of cheese. Somewhere between Petaluma and Sonoma is the Green String farm stand. Friendly people, preserves stored in antique furniture, jazz on the record player, and a gorgeous backdrop.

Green String Farm

Green String Farm

One final cheese stop at Vella, and on to lunch at El Molino Central. Good mole!

El Molino Central

El Molino Central

After eating, we switched from cheese mode to wine mode and did a few tastings: Robledo, Schug, and Gloria Ferrer.

View from Gloria Ferrer

View from Gloria Ferrer

Then back to town for happy hour and an event that shall remain unnamed.

happy hour

happy hour

On Friday morning we had a few errands, so we got our ridiculous lattes to go.

Then we toured the Anchor Brewing Company and learned about steam beer, stopped by the kitchen of Kika’s Treats and learned about cheese bread, and ended the night at AT&T ballpark, where we learned about Giants fans (they like Panda hats).

Kika's kitchen

Kika's kitchen

Saturday was the required trip to the Ferry Building market. But first we fortified ourselves with ridiculous lattes.

latte showdown

latte showdown at Ritual

Upon arrival, we ate a ridiculous breakfast of chilaquiles.



Then we bought some ridiculous garlic.

elephant garlic

Superwoman inspects the elephant garlic

And looked at ridiculous cabbage.

torpedo cabbage

torpedo cabbage

We ended the market trip by purchasing a ridiculous amount of cheese from Cowgirl Creamery.

Cowgirl Creamery haul

Cowgirl Creamery haul

It’s very tiring, doing these ridiculous things, so we went back to Superwoman’s apartment and enjoyed some Sauvignon Blanc on the patio. From there you can see a glimpse of the bay while listening to streetcars, foghorns, and wild parrots.

Filbert Street

Filbert Street

Though I didn’t leave my heart there (I think it might be in Philly WTH?), I did leave some sights unseen and some wine undrunk, guaranteeing a speedy return.

Spare a fruitcake for Moon Pappy?

Poor Moon Pappy. All he wants for Christmas is a fruitcake, but they’re getting hard to find. All the stores have fancy Italian holiday desserts like Panettone and Pandoro. Whatever those are, and don’t bother to tell me what those are because they sound like weapons in the War on Christmas.

Do stores no longer stock the classic and unfairly maligned delicacy that is fruitcake? Actually, some do.

Me: You don’t happen to have any fruitcake in here?
Williams Sonoma Guy: We do indeed, and it’s the best fruitcake ever!
Me: A bold statement.
WSG: It’s the only fruitcake I’ll eat.
WSG: But it’s not cheap.
Me: How much?
Me: No thanks.
WSG (looks around and lowers his voice): My recommendation is to buy a really cheap drugstore fruitcake and douse it in alcohol.

Excellent plan, WSG. Moon Pappy, I love ya, but you are not getting a $46 fruitcake for Christmas. Also, the fruitcake was large (as a $46 fruitcake should be), and Mrs. Moon Pappy has banned large fruitcakes.

PS It is tempting to ask if anyone has a fruitcake from last year that I can regift to Moon Pappy. However, thanks to the Internet, this story has a happy ending.

Arts Pick: unstable utopia

unstable utopia
Today’s pick is another piece by a popular Philadelphia artist. In many respects, it is similar to her last installation, reviewed here. Note the similarities–especially the limited palette and unstable medium. However, the new work is bolder and more innovative, perhaps even groundbreaking. The canvas has been cleverly placed in a high traffic area, and if the piece’s strategic location doesn’t attract the attention of passers-by, the contrast between the dark, solid background and the luminous subjects surely will.

Appropriately, the images at the bottom right of the canvas provide an overall sense of stability to the work. The flower and the unnamed amphibian represent a childlike, optimistic perspective of nature. This utopia, however, is overshadowed by the impending chaos in the upper-left corner, moving towards it in a classic z-pattern. And it’s this progression that epitomizes the piece’s theme. The artist has abstracted the violent forces that are ever-present in today’s world and depicted their impending detonation. Will the idyllic, pastoral scene survive the onslaught?

Franz Ferdinand versus the raspberries

How often in life do you get to have fresh, Lancaster County strawberries and raspberries at the same time? These moments are rare, my friends, and a cause for much celebration.

But life is full of bad timing and difficult choices. Tomorrow, Franz Ferdinand will be performing at the Union Square Virgin Megastore in New York City, and the plan was catch a train from Philly and rub elbows with the cool people. But how can I spend the day in NYC knowing that the strawberries await and are becoming less luscious with each passing moment? Can I allow Franz Ferdinand to prevent the raspberries from fulfilling their destiny as a delicious pie?

Sorry, Franz Ferdinand.
Continue reading “Franz Ferdinand versus the raspberries”


The first movie made in a country without movie theatres and directed by a woman where women are second class citizens would be worth seeing, regardless of how good it is. But Wadjda is good.

What is it about movies with bicycles? This one features a ten-year-old Saudi Arabian girl, Wadjda, who wants nothing more than to get a bike, even though her mother warns that “you won’t be able to have children if you ride a bike.”

Wadjda, however, is less about the bike and more about showing the daily inconveniences of being a woman in Saudi Arabia. And truly, I’ve never thought beyond the injustice of women’s treatment in that country to consider the countless daily inconveniences caused by the rules there. Relying on a driver to get you to work, controlling the volume of your voice around men, or, for example, directing a film via walkie talkie since you’re not allowed to speak directly to the male actors you’ve hired.

Thank you, Haifaa Al Mansour, for giving us this glimpse into your country. May your film be the first of many created by Saudi women.

Fahrenheit 9/11. Also, what is Ray Bradbury’s damage?

People everywhere are writing about Fahrenheit 9/11. I mostly agree with this review at IMDB, so I won’t add to the discussion except to say that, whatever else you think of him, Michael Moore does not make boring movies.

But why oh why is Ray Bradbury being such a cranky old curmudgeon about the film’s title? I hate speaking ill of the man; Fahrenheit 451, along with 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale, Brave New World, etc., represents one of my favorite genres: “apocalyptic futures that could happen if you all don’t pay attention.”

The internet has been full of angry Ray Bradbury stories for the past few weeks, but I got mad all over again when I heard Tuesday’s interview on the radio program Here and Now.

I hope this film sinks away and is forgotten.

Nice. If any filmmaker wishes to use the title of a Good Grief! post, he or she should feel free to do so. Words of Wisdom From Your Toilet, Dating Polar Bears, and Roy Orbison and the Infidel Ray would make fascinating documentaries.

Cheesesteak gate: politics as usual

cheese wiz
Having a weblog is great because you get to be a self-proclaimed expert on any topic. It’s all about being a micro journalist and fighting The Man. You better watch out, The Man, because there’s a bunch of people with laptops and broadband connections who are gonna bring you down.

I’m a uniter, not a divider, so I stay out of politics in this forum. Once in a while, however, a story comes along that I cannot ignore. The Cheesesteak Gate scandal broke late last week; the full synopsis is over at Eschaton.

It breaks down like this. Senator John Kerry visited Pat’s King of Steaks here in Philadelphia and ordered his cheesesteak with Swiss cheese. What is his staff thinking, letting him order a Pat’s cheesesteak with Swiss cheese? If Kerry wins the election, I hope he gets some better people working for him.

So then President Bush shows up in Philly and orders a Wiz with (translation: cheesesteak with Cheese Wiz and onions). Respectable.

However, Kathleen E. Carey from the The Daily Times found a source at Jim’s Place–an institution that has provided sustenance for the Bush entourage on previous campaign stop–who claims that President Bush actually prefers his cheesesteak without Wiz or provolone. Instead, he likes “cheese of the American variety.”

Oh, Mr. President. You say you’re one of us, eating processed cheese chemicals from industrial-sized cans, but it was all politics–an attempt to curry favor in a swing state. The next time you’re in Philly, stop by, and we’ll do a 3 AM Geno’s run in my ghetto car. Of course, Senator Kerry is welcome to come too. But for the love of God, don’t embarrass me by ordering some fancy highbrow cheese.

That Ain’t Fare

I got into a cab on Saturday night and was greeted by really loud Middle Eastern-style music. It sounded not quite right, and after a few minutes I figured out why. The music wasn’t coming from the cab’s stereo–it was coming from the two-way radio. Once the music ended, the airwaves filled with disgruntled chatter from cabbies all over the city.

Here’s the scoop, as relayed by my driver. Whenever a cabbie uses his radio to broadcast, a log is generated on the computer at the dispatch office. This log contains the vehicle number assigned to the transmitting radio, thereby linking every broadcast to a specific driver. But someone has managed to fix up a radio and prevent it from sending a vehicle number, and this miscreant has been torturing the Liberty Cab community ever since. The anonymous DJ has been playing hip-hop, Arabic, Chinese, and all other kinds of music–for intervals of up to ten or fifteen minutes–for the past several months. My first reaction was to admire the quirky way that a bored cab driver amuses himself. However, it turns out that the bonus songs are not so innocuous.

While a message is being broadcast on the cab radio, the system is essentially locked and no one else can transmit–including the dispatcher. So while our mystery man is spinning the hits, none of the other cabbies can get jobs, and people who have called for a cab are left to wait. So what motivates this guy? Is he a disgruntled employee? Is he deliberately trying to deprive his fellow drivers of fares? Does he broadcast when he has a customer?  So many questions….

If you’re ever in Philly and need a ride, grab a Liberty cab and ask the driver for an update. I’ll be curious to know how it all turns out.

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!