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Archive for June, 2009

EARLY WORD: Let Us Now Praise Steven Wells

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

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PW: Most public battles with cancer are cast as heroic. Wells would have none of that bollocks. He was scared shitless, and said as much because it’s the only reasonable human response. He was mad as hell at the unfairness of it all, because, again, it is the only reasonable response. And by the end he was sick of it all—the pain, the indignity, and the boredom of dying. What made Steven heroic was his willingness to say as much for publication, in lieu of some phony brave face. If nothing else, he innovated the lost art of dying honestly. If there is anything to be learned from Wells’ cruelly premature passing it’s this: Life is not fair, and it’s later than you think. So enjoy yourself and plan accordingly. (Jonathan Valania) MORE

PREVIOUSLY: GOODNIGHT MR. WELLS: PW Writer Extraordinaire Steven Wells Loses Long, Public Battle With Cancer

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GHOULISH: Jacko Autopsy Report Leaks

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

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THE SUN: The examination showed the 5ft 10in star — once famed for his on-stage athleticism — had: PLUNGED to a “severely emaciated” [112 lbs.] It is understood anorexic Jackson had been eating just one meagre meal a day. Pathologists found his stomach empty aside from partially-dissolved pills he took before the painkiller injection which stopped his heart. Samples were sent for toxicology tests. LOST virtually all his hair. The pop pin-up was wearing a wig when he died and pathologists said little more than “peach fuzz” covered his scalp. A scarred section of skin above his left ear was entirely bald — apparently the result of a 1984 accident when his hair caught fire as he filmed an ad for Pepsi. SUFFERED several broken ribs as frantic rescuers pumped his chest after he collapsed in cardiac arrest. Four injection sites were found above or near to Jacko’s heart. All appeared to result from attempts to pump adrenaline directly into the organ in a failed bit to restart it. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: THE RESURRECTION OF MICHAEL

 

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PIMPIN’ AIN’T EASY: Richest Man In Town In Dispute

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

homerrichmargegogo.gifINQUIRER: Josh Kopelman doesn’t seem to agree. A book titled The Richest Man in Town calls the young enterpreneur/venture capitalist the wealthiest self-made person in Philadelphia. But Kopelman hated the title, said author W. Randall Jones, who traveled to 100 U.S. cities and towns to compile the collection of business wisdom, published last month by Hatchett Book Group. “He was very upset with me,” said Jones. Perhaps the reason was that others, like Richard Hayne, founder of Urban Outfitters, have better claim to the title. Hayne has been on Forbes’ billionaire list several times, but was one of dozens who dropped off because of stock-price declines. Still, in Urban Outfitters stock alone, Hayne is worth more than $700 million, based on yesterday’s market price. MORE

RELATED: How Urban Outfitters Found Richard Hayne Got So Rich

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CONTEST: Win A Sonic Youth Dream Date

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

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Sonic Youth is like a chronic girlfriend we keep breaking up with, if only because the make-up sex is so good. We’ve been on board — and occasionally off — ever since Bad Moon Rising, ever since we heard that mesmerizing wall of abstract expressionist guitars graffiti’d  with the immortal words: “A genius and a sex maniac, taking lots of drugs and fucking all day.” Man, nice work if you can get it! The just-out The Eternal is a remarkable late-period return to form from a band we’ve written off more times than we care to admit. Anyway, if you’ve ever dreamed of stealing your sister’s boyfriend, offing your parents*, hitting the road and setting the controls for the heart of the warm, narcotic American night — and who hasn’t? — have we got a dream date for you: Two tix to see Sonic Youth Thursday night at the Electric Factory. The first person to drop us a line at feed@phawker.com correctly identifying what SY song the line “I believe Anita Hill” comes from is our winner.

UPDATE: We have a winner! The response was overwhelming — the answer is “Youth Against Fascism (Song I Hate)”  from 1992’s Dirty. Thanks for playing, and stay tuned we will have a number of exciting concert ticket giveaways all summer. Why? Because we love you, ya big dummy.

*This is a joke, do NOT try this at home! 

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Super-rare and ancient footage of SY performing at the Gila Monster Festival in Death Valley 1/5/85

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MINNESOTA SUPREME COURT: Al Franken Won!

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

al_franken_1.jpgREUTERS: The Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday declared Democrat Al Franken the winner of a tight U.S. Senate race over Republican Norm Coleman, which should give Democrats the 60-seat majority they need to overcome procedural obstacles and push through their agenda. Coleman has said in published reports he is unlikely to appeal the state court’s decision to the federal courts. Under state law, the court’s decision gives Franken the right to occupy the seat, which has been up for grabs since last November’s election.MORE Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty has said he will certify the election winner based on what the state court decides.

NEW YORK TIMES: Norm Coleman, his opponent, at 4 p.m., announced that he had conceded and contacted Mr. Franken. Mr. Coleman stepped outside his home just a short while ago to give his news conference. He indicated that he and Mr. Franken had a positive, personal talk and he told the Democrat that being senator was the “best job he’ll ever have.” The Republican’s statement began this way: “Ours is a government of laws, not men and women. The Supreme Court of Minnesota has spoken and I respect its decision and will abide by the result. It’s time for Minnesota to come together under the leaders it has chosen and move forward. I join all Minnesotans in congratulating our newest United States Senator – Al Franken.” With Mr. Coleman’s concession, Gov. Tim Pawlenty will assuredly sign the certificate required for Mr. Franken to be seated. MORE

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INFINITE SUMMER: Let’s All Make Love In Jest

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

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["Butterfly Suicide II" by DoNotAttempt]

DaveAllenBYLINECROPPED_1_1.jpgBY DAVE ALLEN News of “Infinite Summer,” the just-launched group-read of David Foster Wallace’s massive and masterful tome Infinite Jest in just over three months — or roughly 75 pages a week — spread at a near-viral pace, at least in the literary world. The initiative, sort of an invisible national book club, launched on June 21st with both an official site and Facebook group recruiting “endurance bibliophiles.” If that sounds like you, get a move on because according to the web site: Infinite Summer is 9% complete. I’m not participating, in part because I read the book over the course of several months last year, beginning in the late summer and then wrapping it up in November. Between the time I started and the time I finished, Wallace committed suicide, depriving the world of a profound and deeply moral voice.

But be forewarned, much like James Joyce’s Ulysses, which gets a similar let’s-do-it! groupthink push every June 16th, aka Bloomsday, Jest frustrates expectations and so frequently interrupts the linear, cover-to-cover trajectory that the pleasure of progress, of feeling that you’re moving towards an end, is held at bay in the book’s vast thousand-page expanse. Still, Jest contains a number of elements that make it an almost-ideal summer read. The opening passage so effectively renders the radiation of heat off the sidewalk that it made me sweat. There’s outdoor recreation of all kinds, including the furiously competitive games at the Enfield Tennis infinite_jest_cover.jpgAcademy, where students play a nuclear-warfare-simulation game with incredibly baroque rules that bring to mind a warped version of Calvinball, the sport invented by Bill Watterson in the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes.” Mimicking the outlook of the teenagers at the Tennis Academy, a streak of juvenile humor runs through the proceedings. Geopolitical reconfigurations have turned the United States, Canada and Mexico into the Organization of North American Nations, or O.N.A.N. Yes, a masturbation reference, and other running jokes — which seems like too lowbrow a term to use; they’re more like humor-motifs — include the corporate sponsorship of calendar years (much of the action takes place in the “Year of the Depends Adult Undergarment”), the glorious butchering of English by French-Canadians, and the complete ineptitude of President Johnny Gentle, a staggeringly obsessive-compulsive former lounge singer.

The only rule in the aforementioned Calvinball is “Anything we make up” goes and a similarly improvisational vibe persists in Jest. Wallace’s polymath pedantry infuses everything: an extended passage on improvised tattoos gives way to clinical discussions of anti-depressants, which gives way to an elaborate depiction of freebasing cocaine, and the mechanics of mapping the streets and public transportation of greater Boston. Jest constantly shifts perspectives from halfway-house inmates, to overdosing transvestites, to government bureaucrats, and cross-dressing undercover spies, spanning an epic, albeit fractured narrative arc girded by voluminous footnotes which take up more than 100 pages at the back of the book. In a letter quoted in a fascinating if depressing New Yorker article published back in March detailing his final days, Wallace explains that the footnotes “mimic the information-flood and data-triage I expect’d be an even bigger part of US life 15 years hence.” The letter is from 1994, and the observation could not be more dead-on. Even though the novel’s channel-changer-meets-academic-paper aesthetic lurks behind the veil of fiction, the detail of “Jest” is so rich and engrossing as to suggest a mirror reality, one as meticulously rendered and flawed as our own.

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I, GAMER: The Agony Of Defeat

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

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BY ADAM BONANNI Last week, Jimmy Fallon earned his late night smack-talk stripes by beating Tiger Woods at his own game. More specifically, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 for the Wii. Although Tiger won a re-match on igameravatar.thumbnail.jpgthe Late Show, ensuring that the next edition of the game won’t be titled Jimmy Fallon’s PGA TOUR 11, but the damage was already done. Fallon’s humiliating victory over Woods was all over television, and innumerable clips of it currently reside on the Internet (you can watch a YouTube of it below). And consider that Gamespot’s review of the game called it “as close to perfect as any golf game ever made, with dead-on swing mechanics.” So what does it mean, at a time when more and more of our reality is played out on flat screens, when the world’s greatest golf player can’t even beat a second-rate talk show host at his own game?

Well, for one thing, it is glaringly obvious that Tiger Woods hasn’t spent much time playing the game that bears his name. Secondly, woods_vs_fallon.jpgFallon still wouldn’t stand a chance against Tiger Woods on the back nine of reality. It goes without saying that no game could replace the air-splitting ellipsis of a nine iron kissing the underside of a fresh white Titleist in a nest of dewy grass and launching it into low Earth orbit, or the faultless feng shui of a pro lining up a perfect putt. We seem to be getting closer, but a perfect copy of reality in games is clearly still a ways off. (Fallon actually played most of the game swinging with one arm.)

Recently, Jimmy Page echoed this sentiment during a press conference when he shit-talked the genre of music games, saying that it’s insulting that an absolute beginner can plug in and play some of the toughest, most intricate arrangements in music history. But the fact is he can’t — not without talent and the drive to spend years honing it. Likewise pimply teenagers are no more ready to storm the beaches of Normandy without going through boot camp, no matter how high a score they snag on Call of Duty.

guitar_hero_led_zeppelin_1.jpgDuring the same press conference, Jack White called it’s “depressing” that the kids are learning about music through Guitar Hero. Th’ hell? Call me a “new fart” but I don’t see how picking up a new favorite song from Guitar Hero is any different than hearing these songs on the radio. In fact, when I first took Guitar Hero II for a spin, I heard notes I never heard before in those songs. The allure of games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, and for that matter Tiger WoodsPGA 10 is that they provide young people with an entry into heretofore members-only realms of guitar gods and golf masters, and gives them a taste of what-could-be — if they put the work into it — in much the same way a field trip to a police station or a firehouse can put kids on the path to becoming cops or firemen.

And just to allay the fears of alarmists, the mind-blowing advancements towards realism in video games only obamaguitarhero_1.jpgmakes them better video games, not replacements for reality. Tiger Woods is no more in danger of losing his lucrative endorsements to a Wii top-scorers than Jimmy Page is to losing his hammer of the gods to the deftest of Guitar Hero players. While the technology behind games seems to expanding at an infinite pace, the objective behind anything released since the NES is simple: a strong sense of moving toward completing an objective. The motion may be similar, but mastering a golf swing in Tiger Woods’s game is a far cry from mastering a swing on the greens of the real world. Although not interchangeable skill sets, both move towards mastering an objective within their respective confines, and both are fun. But that is where the similarities end. Not even a quantum leap of motion sensor innovation will make agamer’s tennis swing a threat to Andy Roddick , but at the same time, as Tiger demonstrated last week, real world skill sets don’t always translate as well to the virtual world. But take a Wii tennis pro to Wimbledon, and their smug smile will disappear faster than Mario can say “Ace”. Still, that doesn’t make Wii tennis any less fun — and fun is the alpha and omega of why God invented video games. So enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.

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USELESS INFORMATION: Lohan’s MJ Twitter Tribute

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

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A picture of me, in my panties! Michael SO would have wanted this. [VIA TWITTER]

PREVIOUSLY: THE RESURRECTION OF MICHAEL

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DEATH ON THE PIAZZA: Drug Hit Plot Thickens

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

dnfront_1.jpgDAILY NEWS: Kidnapped and robbed by drug dealers in 2004, party planner Rian Thal turned mum after her release, refusing to identify her captors. The 34-year-old blonde’s silence spurred her rise “from hanger-on to one of the players,” a law-enforcement source said. She became a “big-time drug dealer,” supplying heavy quantities of her specialty, powder cocaine, to other dealers, and at least once sold Ketamine, an animal tranquilizer known as “Special K,” another source said. The revelations about her secret life emerged yesterday during Daily News interviews with law-enforcement and other sources familiar with her drug dealing and other activities.Homicide Capt. James Clark released surveillance videos of the well-orchestrated murders of Thal and Timothy Gilmore, a Detroit firefighter who was on disability, outside her seventh-floor apartment in the trendy Piazza at Schmidts in Northern Liberties on Saturday. Now, “some of her customers are suspects in setting up her death,” a law-enforcement source said. Listening to the fatal gunshots from inside her apartment was Gilmore’s unidentified friend,who came from Canal Winchester, Ohio, where Gilmore lived. After waiting for an extended silence, the friend calmly stepped over the bodies to escape, just as the killers had done only minutes earlier, police sources said. Gilmore’s friend was being sought by police. MORE

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OFFICIAL: Mousavi Loses Rigged Election

Monday, June 29th, 2009

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CNN: Saying it had completed an investigation into alleged voter irregularities, Iran’s election authority on Monday stood by its findings that gave hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad an overwhelming victory and sparked more than two weeks of chaos in the streets. There was “no tangible irregularity,” Guardian Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei told government-run Press TV after reporting that a recount of some 10 percent of the votes found no significant differences. “After this, the file will be closed and from today on in the presidential election, the file has been closed.” MORE

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80s FLASHBACK: Q&A With The Church

Monday, June 29th, 2009

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bobdobbins.thumbnail.jpgBY BARRY GUTMAN Twenty-nine years into their career, Australian quartet The Church – singer/bassist Steve Kilbey, guitarists Peter Koppes and Marty Willson-Piper, and, for the past 15 years, drummer Tim Powles – are back with a new album, Untitled #23. Don’t take that number literally – it’s much higher when you figure in B-sides and EP collections, re-mixes, jam albums, soundtracks and best-ofs, not to mention countless solo and side projects. The band that hit with “The Unguarded Moment” in Australia in 1980 and “Under the Milky Way” worldwide in 1988 is not going for the easy nostalgia buck. When they appear at the Troc this Wednesday night, July 1, they’ll play some fan favorites from ‘80s masterpieces The Blurred Crusade, Heyday, Remote Luxury and Starfish, but the set will also include several more recent songs of a hazier, gauzier and altogether more challenging nature. In advance of this appearance, I spoke with MartyWillson-Piper (not Australian, like Kilbey, Koppes and Powles; he’s a Liverpudlian whose speech has retained the sing-songy patterns of his birthplace) about The Church’s longevity, evolution and creative independence. Q&A after the jump.

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COMEUPPANCE: Madoff Gets The Maximum

Monday, June 29th, 2009

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WALL STREET JOURNAL: In sentencing convicted swindler Bernard Madoff to 150 years, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said he wanted to send a symbolic message. That sentence was the number of years the prosecutors asked for and the statutory maximum for the 11 counts Madoff pleaded guilty to in March. “Here the message must be sent that Mr. Madoff’s crimes were extraordinary evil,” Judge Chin said. MORE

BLOOMBERG NEWS: Ruth Madoff’s lawyer, Peter Chavkin, issued a statement moments after Bernard Madoff was sentenced today to 150 years in prison. No Madoff family members appeared at the sentencing. “From the moment I learned from my husband that he had committed an enormous fraud, I have had two thoughts — first, that so many people who trusted him would be ruined financially and emotionally, and second, that my life with the man I have known for over 50 years was over,” she said in the statement. Ruth Madoff will madoff_tree_1.jpgbe left with $2.5 million in cash under a settlement the Madoff family has reached with federal prosecutors. She may also be sued by investors. MORE

GUARDIAN: One of the biggest mysteries of the Madoff affair is what happened to all the money. Federal investigators involved in tracking Madoff’s missing billions are not even sure how much they are looking for. The amount ranges from estimated losses suffered by investors of $13bn to the $70bn which Madoff has accepted was attributable to his unlawful activities. So far Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee of Madoff’s collapsed firm, has recovered just $1.2bn on behalf of investors. It is a small return for a six-month investigation that involved the US justice department, the financial regulator the Securities and Exchange Commission, Picard’s office and the US marshals. If Picard is to narrow the gap between asset recovery and escalating investor losses, it now seems likely that he will have to focus more on those who did business with Madoff rather than rely on tracking down his personal assets. Although those assets give a fascinating insight into the fraudster’s lifestyle they cover only a fraction of investors’ losses. MORE

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SEPTA GIRL: The Only Ones

Monday, June 29th, 2009

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[Photo byEDWARD NOBLE]

BY PHILLY GRRL When not riding SEPTA semi-professionally for Phawker, I tutor kids K-12 on behalf of the Philadelphia School District. As part of my resolve to ride on every single bus route in Philadelphia, I blithely hop onto the 23 Bus for the first time to meet a student in Mt. Airy.  The bus is packed with the after-school student crowd. To the left of me, two schoolgirls in plaid, scarlet-colored uniforms are semi-surreptitiously eating large SeptaGirl_2.jpgslices of cheese pizza. To the right of me a woman is screaming into her cell-phone about a girl friend who cheats at cards at their weekly girl’s poker nights. “She’s such a bitch,” she says. “I can’t believe her!” I settle in to sleep. It’s a long ride from Center City to Chestnut Hill. Not even midway though the ride, the student calls me. “I can’t come today!” he says, sounding frantic. “Have you taken the bus yet? Don’t get on the bus!” Too late. I get up and stretch. And groan. It is raining. Hard. And I have no umbrella.

When I step off the bus near Broad and Allegheny, the rain is coming down full force. Potholes are filled to the brim with oily, rainbow-hued water. I grimly plow through the downpour to the C Bus stop and get there just in time to watch my bus pull away. Adding insult to injury, it hits a puddle that drenches me. I try to run after it, but to no avail. I start walking. The subway stop is about five blocks south of me. It stars raining harder. I duck into the pizza shop across from Temple’s dental school. The three men in the shop grin. I order a slice, plain. Behind the register, there is a large poster of the Obama family. I have seen this picture before and for reasons unclear in this version the dresses worn by the Obama women have been tinted a strange shade of green. The man behind the counter tries to hand me his Loony Tunes umbrella. “You know you got the hookup, girl,” he said. I smile back.

“It’s okay,” I decline.

I start walking again. At the platform, a boy with a tennis racquet stares at me quizzically. “Is it raining that hard outside?” he asks. “Or did you walk far?” I nod. He offers me umbrella. I demur. His classmates come down the steps. Temple medical students. I slip behind a pillar. I don’t want to see anyone I know. The students are all young. Some of them wear green and blue scrubs and carry large backpacks. They are Indian and Asian and Caucasian. They are talking about a party. Turns out tennis racket boy had been drinking hard that weekend. There are compromising pictures on Facebook. Someone slept with someone else. They laugh. The express comes by. They freeze and cover their ears. They are the only ones.

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