Friday afternoon at the Doubletree (BizTech@Wharton)

Friday afternoon at the Doubletree (BizTech@Wharton)

Saturday afternoon in Nazareth, PA

Saturday afternoon in Nazareth, PA

The Yes Men

Yesterday’s Marketplace had an interview with Andy and Mike, a couple of activists who fight “evil doers”:

In 1999, just before the big protests in Seattle, Mike and Andy set up a parody of the WTO website at the domain Some people mistook it for the real thing and wrote in with questions about all sorts of trade matters. Finally, Mike and Andy found themselves invited to conferences to speak as the organization they opposed. They scrounged up their savings, bought plane tickets, and went.

At these conferences, Mike and Andy put forth some outrageous proposals, such as recycling hamburgers in the third-world , encouraging democracies to adopt a free market model by selling votes, and introducing an “employee visualization appendage” (represented by a “three-foot-long-golden phallus”). But the real story is the reaction they got. For example, after the phallus presentation:

the audience rewards Andy with a healthy round of applause, but no questions. A reporter takes photos. As they wander around all that day, Mike and Andy come up again and again against a blank wall, until finally they find one woman who admits being terribly offended by Andy’s Appendage–because women can be factory managers too.

There’s a movie about all of this–it’s called The Yes Men, and it’s showing at the Sundance Film Festival. This could be a great documentary, even though it has a lot of potential to be unbalanced and preachy (Bowling for Columbine, anyone?). I hope the film emphasizes the satire and irony of Mike and Andy’s hijinks and allows audiences to draw their own conclusions.

Rodin and stuff

Philadelphia's Rodin Museum

These dog days of summer are drawing to a close, and life is slowly returning to the normal routine of “doing stuff” instead of “packing stuff” and “unpacking stuff” and “having nervous breakdowns and stuff.”

Last weekend I finally got to the Rodin Museum for the weekly 1 PM Sunday tour. Though Rodin had many influences, it was the city of Philadelphia that inspired some of his greatest works. For example, the piece pictured here, often erroneously attributed to an incident in Calais, is a study of SEPTA commuters waiting for the bus.

Other exciting upcoming stuff on the calendar:

  • Of Montreal is playing on Friday, August 26th at the First Unitarian Church. I don’t know anything about this band except for some mp3s.
  • The Philadelphia Fringe Festival (or the Live Arts Festival or whatever they call it now) begins on September 2nd. If anyone has a good tip on what to see, I’d be most appreciative.
  • 1812 Productions, my favorite Philadelphia theatre company, has good deals on 2005-2006 season tickets: three Tuesday shows for $30. 1812 is also hosting pay-what-you-can dress rehearsals that benefit ActionAIDS.
  • Accordion!
  • Barbara Ehrenreich is speaking at the Philadelphia Free Library’s main branch on October 5th.
  • Ike Reilly will be at the Khyber on October 9th!

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.

Boss-across-the-hall update

He is on this strange diet where he eats nothing but sunflower seeds, which of course is an invitation to swipe his big bag of sunflower seeds.

War against eighties

Bad news from the front of the war against eighties clothing. Dave the Lunabomber sends this picture from the King of Prussia Abercrombie and Fitch.

popped collar
In other news, Keeny D reports three Fourth of July mesh shirt sightings on the Ben Franklin Parkway. Things are heating up. Though these developments are daunting, we must not be intimidated by the enemies of good taste. Stand firm, and keep on fighting that good fight.

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

curse of the were-rabbit
Thumbs-ups to Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit! Shorter-running cartoons don’t always translate well to full-length features, but the Wallace and Gromit movie is a welcome exception.

The movie is Beauty and the Beast meets Inspector Gadget meets Godzilla, with a lot of bad puns and good music. The story begins with the townsfolk preparing for the upcoming annual Giant Vegetable Contest; everyone, including Gromit, dreams of winning the coveted Golden Carrot. However, there are pesky, veggie-gnawing bunnies who run rampant, threatening to eat the produce and spoil the fun. I won’t give away any more, except to mention that the movie ends with stinky cheese and fluffy bunnies, and what’s not to like about that?

For those unfamiliar with Wallace and Gromit and their previous adventures: Wallace is a homely, cheese-loving, nutty-professor-type Brit, and Gromit is his silent dog who likes to knit. Back in the nineties, this duo visited the moon to replenish their cheese supply, wrestled with a shady penguin and a pair of mechanical techno-trousers, and landed in the middle of a sheep-napping operation.

Links to Curse of the Were-Rabbit trailers are here.
The BBC has a Wallace and Gromit short film available for download.

Fishtown’s snake man

Fishtown’s snake man

Philadelphia Mural Arts Month

Why are a bunch of yuppie-looking white folks riding a trolley around North Philly? We’re on a mural tour!

Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program, which started as the anti-graffiti network in 1984, is the largest mural program in the world. Some critics prefer “real” street art, or they belittle the quality of the paintings, or they claim that the city is reaching its mural saturation point. But you know what? Many neighborhoods apply for a mural. People cry tears of real happiness at the dedications. And who wouldn’t want a splash of color, even if some artsy-fartsy types would call it garish?

Last Saturday’s tour–departing from Kensington’s Yards Brewery–was part of October’s Mural Arts Month celebration. A good time was had by all, though the surprised and amused looks we got from the neighborhood residents made as much of an impression as the paintings. There’s something about the juxtaposition of art and art tourists and the ghetto and the people who live there that makes me thoughtful and slightly guilty for not always appreciating my great Fairmount digs.

The Mural Arts website has an online gallery of murals, and the University of Pennsylvania’s Cartographic Modelling Laboratory maintains a mural database that is searchable by location, artist, and year. In addition to the Mural Arts Month activities, there are weekly mural tours from April through October.

UPDATE: My (shrunken) mural pictures are here.