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Archive for December, 2007

PRESS THE FLESH: Philadelphia, Meet Your Mayor

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

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INQUIRER: Mayor-elect Michael Nutter, ever aware of the finest political detail, plans to celebrate the first full day of his administration by having a flood of regular Philadelphians walk through City Hall, winding up marble and granite stairwells to shake hands with the man who promised “a new day, a new way.” On Jan. 8 – Nutter’s first full day as mayor – he wants the public to come to City Hall and shake his hand. There will be free refreshments in an event tent in the courtyard. “We’re hoping people will get a feel for the new feel of City Hall,” said Crandall. MORE

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THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP: Meet The New Meth

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

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WIRED: A nasal spray containing a naturally occurring brain hormone called orexin A reversed the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, allowing them to perform like well-rested monkeys on cognitive tests. The discovery’s first application will probably be in treatment of the severe sleep disorder narcolepsy.

Orexin A is a promising candidate to become a “sleep replacement” drug. For decades, stimulants have been used to combat sleepiness, but they can be addictive and often have side effects, includinginsomnia.jpg raising blood pressure or causing mood swings. The military, for example, administers amphetamines to pilots flying long distances, and has funded research into new drugs like the stimulant modafinil (.pdf) and orexin A in an effort to help troops stay awake with the fewest side effects.

The monkeys were deprived of sleep for 30 to 36 hours and then given either orexin A or a saline placebo before taking standard cognitive tests. The monkeys given orexin A in a nasal spray scored about the same as alert monkeys, while the saline-control group was severely impaired.

The study, published in the Dec. 26 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, found orexin A not only restored monkeys’ cognitive abilities but made their brains look “awake” in PET scans. Such a product could be widely desired by the more than 70 percent of Americans who the National Sleep Foundation estimates get less than the generally recommended eight hours of sleep per night. MORE

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RECONSIDER THIS: Barbarella Turns 40

Friday, December 28th, 2007

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clowes2-0133.thumbnail.jpgBY MATTHEW DADDONA When director Robert Rodriguez announced in May of 2007 that he would take on Roger Vadim’s 1963 cult sci-fi classic Barbarella, the rumors about who would play the title role circled the globe faster than an orbiting satellite. Jessica Biel, Rose McGowan, Lindsay Lohan and even Beyonce Knowles were all attached, or rumored to be attached, at some point. Barbarella turns 40 in 2008, and since 40 is the new 30, she’s holding up pretty well, not that anyone ever expected more from her than a few stoned laughs and a half-dozen hard-ons. Luckily for us, Rodriguez is on board for the re-make. If his riveting adaptation of Frank Miller’s Sin City is any indication, there’s hope he will do for psychedelic intergalactic orgies what he once did for gothic noir splatter: Make it sing.

After all, the original version of Barbarella was adapted from a comic as well. It was Jean-Claude Forest’s cheeky adult comic strip that laid the groundwork for the peekaboo spectacle of a then-29-year-old Jane Fonda writhing balletic through a zero-gravity strip tease during the film’s opening credits. If this does nothing more than establish the ruby-haired sex-bomb potency of Fonda’s Barbarella, I’m not complaining. And it’s not just a guy thing. Barbarella is a 21st Century gal, traveling through space unchaperoned, eschewing old school coitus for a sex-pill substitute, changing outfits like its her job, and ultimately being in charge of her gravity-free hyper-sexuality and not afraid to use it. Over and over and over again. Sigh.

The story, as much as there is one, traces Barbarella’s fantastic journey to the rival planet, Sogo, in order to findbarbarella2_1.jpg and stop the mad scientist Durand-Durand (yes, Virginia, that’s where they got the name) from destroying the universe with his ‘positronic ray’. Further complicating things is the Magmous, an evil presence that surrounds the planet and appears in the form of a huge lava lamp. Along the way she encounters Pygar, an astonishingly handsome angel whom she promptly shags; Marcan, a barbarian savior who shows her the old fashioned, non-pharmaceutical way of loving; and the Great Tyrant, an evil lesbian queen who can blur the line between fantasy and reality in her ‘dream chamber.’ Later she takes on the Excessive Machine, a sex organ which drives victims to death through excruciating pleasure — controlled by none other than that horndog madman Durand-Durand — and WINS!

Vadim’s shagadelic portrait of a sexually superior woman is so exaggerated as to become high-camp, not to mention a bottomless fount of future Austin Powers jokes. In an interview earlier this year, Rodriguez expressed his abiding love for Barbarella’s character and what she represents. The original movie’s 1968 producer, Dino De Laurentiis has come on board to produce the remake, along with Casino Royale writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade. Sometimes, however, a scantily-clad girl, a raygun and a dildo-shaped spacecraft is all you need.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Matthew Daddona is a freshman journalism major at Temple, although he is now seriously considering becoming an astronaut.

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ARTSY: Louden Up Now!

Friday, December 28th, 2007

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KILLADELPHIA: Shots To The Dome

Friday, December 28th, 2007

skullfade.gifINQUIRER: A man was shot in the forehead and shoulder just before midnight last night in the 5200 block of Spruce Street, a police spokesman said. Police said the shooting took place at about 11:50 p.m. The 27-year-old male is in critical condition at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. No arrests have been made.

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EARLY WORD: The Exploding Plastic Inevitable

Friday, December 28th, 2007
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Fastic Plantastic/Plastic Fantastic is a portable, evolving environment made of conduit, plastic bottles, mylar and bubble wrap. Through play and escape in this immersive environment one may return to daily life renewed and with greater clarity on how to live a life that is more caring for our environment, our community, ourselves and with consideration for future generations. Influential inspirations include Buckminster Fuller, fluxus and contemporary activist driven art collectives.MORE

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TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN: iMAYOR Changes Mind, Takes Pay Raise He Turned Down For 3 Years In A Row

Friday, December 28th, 2007

INQUIRER: The fuss, critics said, is about political deceit and the stoking of citizen cynicism.

money_tree_color.jpg “The mayor got credit from the public for turning down a big pay raise. Then, by the end of the term, he took it,” said City Controller Alan Butkovitz. “It undermines the credibility of the government.”

For some of those who have long been frustrated with Street, news of the retroactive raises was a fitting capstone for an administration that is seen to have struggled in its final years.

“This guy just doesn’t seem to have a shame bone in his body,” said Brett Mandel, executive director of Philadelphia Forward, an organization that promotes tax cuts and good government. “I wouldn’t be able to look at myself in the mirror if I’d done the things he’s done.”

Others wondered what the legal basis was for the payments.

“I think it’s outrageous. It’s basic political dishonesty, and I really question whether or not it’s legal,” said David Marston, a former U.S. attorney and Republican candidate for mayor. “It’s like he has the power tostreetcaricaturetweaked.jpg control the money-dispensing process, and he decided to dispense himself a little more.”

All of which hurts the city’s reputation and fuels citizen skepticism, said Zack Stalberg, president of the Committee of Seventy, the nonpartisan government-watchdog group.

“The real meaning of this, the $111,000 aside, is that it’s this kind of action that makes people cynical about government and, frankly, draws negative national attention,” Stalberg said, noting that the story was carried by the New York Times and other publications.

The $111,000 is the difference between the $146,000 salary Street has received for the last four years and the salary he would have received with a 2004 raise to $165,000 and cost-of-living increases approved by Council after that. Street’s 2007 salary would have been $186,000. MORE

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THERE WILL BE BLOOD: Benazir Bhutto 1953-2007

Friday, December 28th, 2007

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NPR: Charred vehicles burned in overnight rioting lay at the roadside in the town. A mob in Karachi looted three banks and set them on fire, police said. About 7,000 people in the central city of Molten ransacked banks and a gas station and threw stones at police, who responded by firing tear gas. In the capital, Islamabad, about 100 protesters burned tires in a commercial quarter of the city. Paramilitary rangers were given the authority to use live fire to stop rioters from damaging property in southern Pakistan, said Maj. Asad Ali, the rangers’ spokesman. Violent mobs burned 10 railway stations and several trains across Bhutto’s Sindh province, forcing the suspension of all train service between the city of Karachi and the eastern Punjab Province, said Mir Mohammed Khaskheli, a senior railroad official. The rioters uprooted one section of the track leading to the Indian border, he said. About 4,000 Bhutto party supporters rallied in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Friday and several hundred of them ransacked the office of the main pro-Musharraf party, burning furniture and stationery. The office was empty and no one was hurt. Protesters, carrying the green, red and black flags of Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party shouted “Musharraf dog” and “Bhutto was alive yesterday, Bhutto is alive today.” MORE

CNN: The Pakistani Interior Ministry said Friday the suicide bomber who killed Benazir Bhutto has been identified as belonging to a militant group with links to al Qaeda, Pakistan’s GEO TV reported. The ministry said the attacker was with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi — a Sunni Muslim militant group that the Pakistani government has blamed for hundreds of killings — according to the report. The U.S. State Department lists Lashkar-e-Jhangvi as a terrorist organization and said it had links to the Taliban.

REUTERS: ISLAMABAD – Pakistani investigators reconstructed a mangled human head on Friday hoping to identify the man suspected of killing opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in a suicide attack. “We have retrieved a head and it has been reconstructed. We also found fingers and we’re carrying out DNA tests to make a comparison between the head and fingers,” said Saud Aziz, police chief in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad. A Reuters reporter at the scene moments after the blast saw a portion of a head, including a blackened ear and half a face on the road. Police cordoned it off. MORE
NEW YORK TIMES: Slide Show Of Bhutto’s Final Moments
RELATED: A really excellent photo album of Benazir here.

[Acrylic painting by LAPATA]

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HEAR YE: The Magnetic Fields Distortion

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

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NOW PLAYING ON PHAWKER RADIO! CLICK HERE FOR TOUR DATES

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FANTASTIC PLASTIC MACHINE: You Don’t Know

Thursday, December 27th, 2007


Cool vid and the song is, um, fun enough.

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Arlen Specter Was Scheduled To Meet Bhutto Tonight

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

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Islamabad, Pakistan (Dec. 27) – Senator Arlen Specter lays flowers for former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto after her assassination. Senator Specter visited Bhutto’s local party headquarters in the wake of the assassination with Representative Patrick Kennedy (left) and U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson

UPDATE: Bhutto had been scheduled to meet hours later with US Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Representative Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island. Senator Latif Khosa, a lawmaker from Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party, said she had planned to give the lawmakers a report outlining complaints on “pre-poll rigging” by Musharraf’s government and the military-run Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. MORE

FRESH AIR: Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, a regular guest on Fresh Air, returns to discuss developments in Pakistan, where former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto died after an attack at a political rally that also killed at least 20 others. Bhutto recently had returned to Pakistan from an eight-year exile to challenge President Pervez Musharraf for the country’s leadership. Ahmed Rashid covers Pakistani politics and culture for various Western publications; he has written extensively about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the country. Listen Now [7 min 37 sec] [Editor's Note: Learn more in seven minutes with this guy than you would in 24 hours straight watching Fox or CNN]

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EARLY WORD: Free Speech Ain’t Free

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

anthonylewisbook.jpgPhiladelphia, PA (December 27, 2007) – The National Constitution Center, in partnership with the Freedom to Read Foundation, welcomes two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Lewis, one of the country’s most esteemed experts on the First Amendment and the author of the classic, Gideon’s Trumpet, to share his latest work, Freedom for the Thought That We Hate, on the importance of freedom of expression. Lewis’s new book tells the story of how the right of free expression evolved along with our nation and makes a compelling case for the adaptability of our Constitution. Lewis will discuss how our First Amendment rights were created and reveal a story of hard choices surrounding one of America’s great founding ideas. This program will take place on Monday, January 14, 2008 at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $12 for Constitution Center and Freedom to Read Foundation members, $15 for non-members, and $6 for K-12 students and teachers. Reservations are required and can be made at www.constitutioncenter.org or by calling 215.409.6700.

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THIS JUST IN: The Piano Man Is Comin’ To Town

Thursday, December 27th, 2007

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Philadelphia, December 27, 2007The Philadelphia Orchestra and Music Director Christoph Eschenbach will host an evening of eclectic performances on Saturday, January 26, 2008, to celebrate the 151st anniversary of the Academy of Music. Quintessential American singer, songwriter, composer and performer Billy Joel headlines in his first appearance with a major orchestra. Emerging artists Dísella Làrusdóttir, soprano, and Conrad Tao, piano, showcase stellar classical repertoire, and Blue Man Group show their colors in an original work with the Orchestra. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews hosts this special night, supported by main underwriter Blank Rome LLP. The Academy Ball immediately follows at the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue. MORE

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