Friday, May 31, 2013

Eastern State's Masquerade Ball

Eastern State's Dance Party on May 18th was amazing. The evening started with the surprise of a free Town Car ride to the ball. After arriving, the rain forced us to huddle under the main gate's tower waiting for the flashlight tour to begin.

Although the tour was cut short, the drizzly ambiance of the fortressed ruins against venetian masks and cocktail dresses set the mood for any B horror movie. Of course were it really a horror movie, my sexual orientation and gold high tops might insure I survive until the dance, but by no means make it out alive.

The dance began in the center tower, complete with open bar and appetizers. Music began on a wind up victrola, speak easy style, made its way through the 50s and 60s, and by the time it turned into a disco, we began to wander. Nearly every cellblock was open, lit in purples and reds. The closed cellblocks were fitted with Lynchian light displays creating optical illusions. I kept waiting to see the Man from Another Place.

Revelers were exploring decrepit cells, taking photographs against rusted cages. Working our way down one of the darker cellblocks, a lady in a simple black mask motioned to me, "Come with me, quickly."

I found myself in a room never open to the public, the prison priest's office, entirely covered from floor to ceilings in religious artwork painted by an inmate who found God and penitence during his detention at Eastern State.

Dancers performed under black lights, our host walked on stilts, and the ongoing entertainment lasted until midnight. Not to mention, I felt like quite a baller leaving Fairmount in a complimentary Escalade.  


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Provo Temple and the Church of the Assumption

A huge, 112 year old church in Provo, UT destroyed by a fire in 2010 has not just been salvaged, but nearly rebuilt. Gutted of its destroyed interior, the LDS's Provo Temple has been elevated forty feet in the air to add a two story basement.

An engineering feat, this begs the question why can't Philadelphia's Church of the Assumption, much smaller, at 164 years old, older, more in tact, and arguably more historic, be saved? The answer: Money. And the Mormons have a lot.

However, looking at the Provo Temple stripped of its interior it is nothing more than exterior walls. If we're willing to accept the fate of the Church of the Assumption and the fact that demolition is inevitable, perhaps we can look at another approach. Our city's historic powers that be can propose a compromise, allowing the owners to clear the lot and part with the structure if they can find someone, anywhere, willing dismantle the church and relocate it.

Philadelphia's Newspaper of Tomorrow

Smithsonian's Paleofuture blog offers a fun insight into our past predictions, what people thought the future would look like years ago. In March they ran a past look at the future of newspapers. An industry that fought radio, television, cable, and is now struggling against the internet, newspapers are no stranger to change.

An April 1937 issue of Popular Mechanics revealed the Neon Newsboys of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Newsies" still exist, usually at busy intersections during rush hour, but in the 20s and 30s they were an industry. To give the Inquirer an edge over rival newspapers of the time, the Philadelphia Record, the Public Ledger, and others, the Inquirer's newsboys wore battery powered neon lights that read "INQUIRER."

Possibly cost prohibitive, unsuccessful, or maybe even dangerous, it apparently didn't last long as I can't find a single other reference to these neon lit newsies.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tour the Ghetto of New York

A few years ago City Hall considered holding the tour guide industry to a higher standard, or at least its own. While the city does technically now require tour guides to take and pass a test on the city's history, budget cuts caused the idea to go the way of the smoking police.

Some applauded the idea while some found it a cheap way to grab a few bucks.

Honestly I've never taken a tour of Philadelphia, not even as a child. I'm sure there are plenty of history buffs walking around Society Hill and driving trollies and double decker busses, but I've always had a sense of adventure that's led me down my own paths.

Still, they're a great asset to our city and tourism industry and provide families a wide array of wholesome entertainment.

In New York City, on the other hand, one tour guide company reaching higher (or lower, rather), introducing what it calls Real Bronx Tours. It's exactly what it sounds like, and if the favela tours of Rio comes to mind, that's what they're going for.

Three times a week a tour bus ferries a load of tourists through some of the Bronx less desirable neighborhoods. Gawking at lines awaiting handouts from an historic church, predominantly white Europeans and Australians snap pictures of the "sights" that they can't find in Manhattan.

It looks to me like hipsters found a way to deal with the economy while sticking with an exploitative sense of irony. What these clueless idiots don't get is New York City isn't that far removed from what it was in the 90s, and they won't find "the ghetto" so cute once someone gets shot.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Post Brother's "Clap-Trap"

Post Brother's Goldtex Apartment building has been coming along remarkably despite months of daily protests wielding the union's notable carnival toy: a twelve foot inflatable rat, which in a slack jawed sense of 1950's "tough guy" symbolism, is now orange. I'm just guessing. I can't bring myself to research why it's orange, maybe it's just faded.

Assuming the building would near completion without anymore shady moves by the region's trade unions is kind of like hoping a giant turd disappears from a broken toilet in the middle of the night.

Well, they're back. Inga Saffron has the scoop.

According to Inga, Frank Keel, head of public relations for the Building Trades Council, stated that “concerned citizens (had) seen the incomplete state of the building, reached out to L&I." 

As a neighbor I have yet to meet one of these "concerned citizens," likely because most of those stalking the Goldtex site do so from a yellow tagged SUV and hightail it over the river before any of us are home.

Business Manager for Building Trades, Pat Gillespie, always unafraid of airing midcentury machismo called Goldtex a "clap-trap" which is "nowhere near ready for occupancy." Lucille Bluth, the matriarch of Arrested Development's fictional Bluth family, is the last person I've ever heard utter the phrase "clap-trap."

It's easy to look at Goldtex Apartments and assume it's not nearing completion, and Keel and Gillespie are playing right into this misconception. What neither understand is that no one cares. All seasoned Philadelphians see at 12th and Wood is an astoundingly iconic apartment building going up in record time. Consider our point of reference. We're used to corporations that spend three decades on environmental impact studies and design contests to build a park.

Public opinion for trade unions was already beginning to falter and these protests have managed to turn the tide. L&I will throw the unions a few more favors, but when Goldtex Apartments opens, Post Brothers will have proven to the business community that you can build in Philadelphia without union muscle.

At this point it's nothing but a game of face saving pride. Post Brothers have proven time and again that they're willing to dance. Unions are used to targeting Philadelphia developers, developers that routinely rely on kickbacks from the city or tax breaks. Their biggest misstep was targeting a developer willing to use their own cash. The desperate last ditch efforts to derail a project that will certainly open only proves the game is over.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

SEPTA Throw Down

State Representatives had a wild throw down over transportation funding last week, and one in particular proved once again that anyone can be elected a State Representative, as long as you're a first rate ass hole who isn't afraid to let people know you're a first rate ass hole. did a fine job itemizing the reasons State Representative Daryl Metcalf of Butler, PA is one of those first rate ass holes.

He called undocumented residents "alien invaders," stated that a non-discrimination bill wouldn't be needed if homosexuals didn't "wear their sexual desires on their sleeves," and called transit funding "more welfare."

State Representative Tom Killion did a brilliant job noting that the Philadelphia area is home to 32% of the state's residents and 40% of its economy. 

Metcalf's rant wasn't partisan nonsense. Republican State Representative Kate Harper of Montgomery County defended SEPTA as a necessary cog supported by the region.

The best line came from Killion, "If you help me pass legislation to keep all of the revenue the Southeast generates in the Southeast, we will be good to go and will never ask for anything else from the Commonwealth."

Philly Ranks in Stupedest Survay Evar

We all know that magazines and websites love to rank cities when they have nothing else to talk about. And we all know that even the most validated ranks are nothing short of bull shit. The truth is, unless you're dealing with a very specific item, you just can't compare any two cities.

That doesn't stop us from trying to peg the smartest, ugliest, and most corrupt cities, despite the fact that every city with more than a few thousand residents is home to a bevy of ugly brainiacs who don't pay their taxes.

On behalf of Movoto Real Estate, Yahoo! ran an article ranking America's Most Funnest Cities. Movato, clearly vested in California real estate, obviously tilted the rank to its own benefit, handing Oakland a number one spot and San Francisco number three. Yeah, that's right, Oakland, San Francico's dumping ground for crime and poverty ranked Movoto's most exciting city in the United States.

Philadelphia's real estate agents don't shy away from their own shenanigans, like calling Point Breeze, "Rittenhouse" or stretching Center City's borders as far north as Girard, but Movoto's variables to dub a city "exciting" are full of Class A ass hattedness.

Movoto uses ethnic diversity and park space to deem cities "exciting." Don't get me wrong. Diversity and parks make great cities great, maybe even interesting, but fun? I'm not sure. Miami is hardly the most diverse city in the United States, but only a very specific curmudgeon could visit and not have fun. It didn't even break Movoto's Top 10. Anchorage is basically one giant park. That's wonderful. But that doesn't mean you're going to have a wild night.

They'd be having more fun in Oakland.

Perhaps the most ridiculous inclusions are Movoto's age cap and penalizing cities that have a Walmart. I hate Walmart, but knowing it's down there doesn't fester in my mind and stop me from having fun. I guess that doesn't matter. After all, I'm 36, and apparently anyone over 34 doesn't know how to have a good time. 

Diversity and museums did help Philly make the top ten, below Milwaukee...MILWAUKEE. That in itself is enough to throw Movoto's credibility out the window.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Green Eggs and Rats

Last night rats were seen enjoying some green eggs and ham at Green Eggs Cafe. Actually, it looked more like a pizza party, but with "Green Eggs" in the name of the restaurant, it's hard not to joke. 

Management was quick to close, citing a broken sewer pipe. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Barely Human: Polk County, Florida's Tammy Glotfelty

Remember that episode of Saved by the Bell when Jessie Spano's intellectual curiosity got the best of her and an unauthorized science experiment landed her in court, defending herself against adult felony charges? No? I don't either. Would you believe it if it happened to Lisa Turtle? Still no? Then you're not Assistant District Attorney Tammy Glotfelty.

If you haven't heard of Kiera Wilmot you probably soon will. Here's the story.

Wilmot is a sixteen year old high school student in Polk County, FL. A good student with no disciplinary problems, she has the kind of scientific curiosity that MIT fights over. She also made a bad choice. She decided to conduct an impromptu science experiment on school grounds. By mixing toilet cleaner and aluminum foil in water bottle, she created a small explosion. The trick can be found on YouTube and has been the topic of reality shows along with what happens when you drop Mentos in Diet Coke.

It's a fun, harmless gag.

Twenty years ago it would have wound up on Nickelodeon or an afterschool special, ending with the kind of disciplinary action that teaches its audience a common life lesson. That's not the world we live in.

Wilmot was led out of school in handcuffs and now faces two felony charges, likely as an adult. What may be worse, Bartow High School's principal slapped her with an expulsion, forcing her to complete her high school career in an expulsion program, completely shattering any hope that Wilmot might be accepted to the kind of colleges that typically grant scholarships for this kind of scientific curiosity.

On paper, this might sound like part of our nation's growing paranoia. In the wake of the Boston bombings, it might even be an understandable, if misguided, overreaction. But that isn't the whole story. Kiera Wilmot is black, and the Polk County Sheriff's Department has done a fine job proving that Florida is still very much a part of the Old South.

Of course it's way too easy to make that generalization solely based on race. With schools banning dodgeball and peanut butter, it's not hard to imagine Jessie Spano being thrown in jail for anything remotely resembling a bomb.

However, any consideration was thrown out when, two days later, the same Assistant District Attorney decided not to prosecute a thirteen year old who accidentally shot and killed his brother. That was likely the right decision. After all, Taylor Richardson will forever have to live with this fact.

But why was the "boys will be boys" approach taken for an accident that resulted in a tragic death, and not employed after a harmless experiment blew up a water bottle? Why did Glotfelty cite the prestigious Roosevelt Academy in her decision not to prosecute Richardson, but not Wilmot's academic or disciplinary record at Bartow High School? One guess what color Richardson is.

Deciding to charge Wilmot as an adult is a reflection of a visceral double standard that lingers in our nation. Bartow High School's policy requires expulsion, but Polk County law doesn't require felony charges, and certainly doesn't require trying a sixteen year old child as an adult. These choices are entirely at the discretion of ADA Tammy Glotfelty and reflection of a racially hostile community itching to throw the book at any minority who steps out of line.

Join the Facebook page, sign the petition, and write the Polk County Sheriff's Department:
255 N Broadway Ave. Bartow, FL  33830
(863) 534-4800

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Chrysler Building Comes Out

First Hollywood, then pro sports, now buildings. In the nerdiest bit of satire I've read in a long time, the Chrysler Building comes out of the architectural closet. It's worth a quick "Ha."

Satire Wire - Chrysler Building Comes Out as Gay