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Archive for June, 2011

IF YOU CAN READ THIS YOU ARE PROBABLY FROM OUT OF TOWN: 40% Of Students Are Illiterate

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Illiteracy +Crime_1.jpgINQUIRER: More than 40 percent of city students still can’t read or do basic math at grade level. MORE

RELATED: Literacy statistics and juvenile court:

  • 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.
  • More than 60 percent of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate.
  • Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help. This equates to taxpayer costs of $25,000 per year per inmate and nearly double that amount for juvenile offenders.
  • Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The Department of Justice states, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” Over 70% of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level. MORE
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ALBUM REVIEW: Bad Meets Evil Hell: The Sequel

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

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Hengeveld.jpgBY MATTHEW HENGEVELD If the collaboration of Eminem and Royce Da 5’9 seems a bit odd, or AstroTurf-y, it’s because it is. What’s true is that Eminem and Royce had a track together on 1999’s Slim Shady LP titled “Bad Meets Evil” and recorded a handful of non-album tracks, including a track titled “Renegade,” which eventually was re-dubbed with Jay-Z vocals and became part of the classic Blueprint album. However, “Bad Meets Evil” is more revisionism than reality. Eminem’s group D12, particularly lead-member Proof, had a falling-out with Royce and released a barrage of ‘diss’ tracks towards one another for several months. Although Eminem never publicly spoke against Royce, it’s well known that Eminem and Proof were childhood friends, and Eminem would likely stand with Proof against Royce, if asked. Royce’s D12 ‘beef’ resulted in his excommunication from the Aftermath community and placed Royce into relative obscurity. His next two albums Death is Certain and Independent’s Day were clunky, and mostly unheard by most hip-hop listeners outside of Detroit. In fact, it wasn’t until Royce hooked up with three other B-list rappers (Joe Budden, Crooked-I and Joel Ortiz) and formed Slaughterhouse, hip-hop’s version of “the Ginyu Force,” that Royce Da 5’9 once again mattered to hip-hop. You’d think by this time Eminem would have forgotten about his early-career colleague, Royce. Eminem has his own clothing line, and just released Recovery, the highest-grossing hip-hop album since the turn of the decade.

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LAW & ORDER: From Perp To Prosecutor

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

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PHILLY.COM: A veteran Philadelphia homicide prosecutor who was forced to resign last week was asked to leave because she accessed the expunged arrest record of a young prosecutor whom District Attorney Seth Williams personally hired in October. Sources told the Daily News that MK Feeney, who worked in the D.A.’s Office for 15 years, abruptly resigned last Thursday after digging up information about Kevin Harden Jr., a 25-year-old assistant district attorney who was arrested several times as a youth. Harden has been arrested a handful of times, mostly for drug offenses, sources said, and survived being shot five times in 2006. He has never been convicted of a crime, however, sources said. One colleague said that Harden had overcome a rough past scarred by drugs to become a good lawyer and an asset to the D.A.’s Office. “Kevin’s story is the best story of redemption that I have ever heard,” said Center City lawyer Lloyd Long, of Fitzpatrick & Long. “America is the land of redemption. If not in America, where?” He added that Harden never hid his past when he interned at the firm. Another prosecutor exuded a mixture of contempt and worry that Harden had been brought into the fold. “In the courtroom he is good – a superstar,” the prosecutor said. “I have no doubt about his legal ability. . . . But where do you draw the line? “A district attorney is supposed to be above reproach. . . . So, how does it look when you have a D.A. talking about not snitching?” In 2007, the then-college student discussed on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360″ that he believed that not snitching made pretty good sense in Philadelphia. “Look, it’s just a realistic thing, like I didn’t go to court when I got shot,” Harden said, according to a transcript of the show, which aired Oct. 11, 2007. “The cops can’t take care of me. I snitch on that man, and somebody come after my family. Then everybody going to be dead. The streets can handle themselves. Survival of the fittest.” MORE

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MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD: How Comcast Gets To Do Pretty Much Whatever The F*ck They Want To Do

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

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INQUIRER: The presidential motorcade will head for a 5:30 p.m. big-ticket fund-raiser at the Mount Airy home of David Cohen, Comcast’s executive vice president and a Democratic mahoff. MORE

RELATED: The president is listed as speaking at 8:30 at a private residence in Philadelphia, according to a copy of the president’s schedule, which the source confirmed as the Cohen event. Cohen oversees government affairs for the company. MORE

PREVIOUSLY: The bonds between the cable industry and the world of politics are coming into HD-worthy clarity these days. Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen will host a fundraising dinner for President Obama with contributors being asked to cough up as much as $100,000 to attend. Cohen spent part of his time last week defending Comcast’s decision to hire Republican FCC Commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker as a lobbyist only months after she approved the Comcast-NBCUniversal merger.  MORE

PREVIOUSLY: The proposed merger of Comcast and NBC Universal will be the first big test of the Obama administration’s stance on the hot-button issue of media consolidation. The $30 billion deal between the nation’s largest cable system and a Hollywood juggernaut will create a media behemoth that will undergo strict scrutiny by federal regulators appointed by Obama, who voiced concern about increasing media consolidation on the campaign trail. But the companies under scrutiny in the biggest media deal since the Time Warner-AOL merger are helmed by executives who have been long-time contributors of the Democratic party and have other ties to the administration. Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts made more than $76,000 in political contributions to Democrats since 2006, compared to $13,500 in contributions to Republicans. Comcast vice president and top lobbyist David Cohen made about $180,000 to Democrats in the same period, compared to $12,000 to Republicans, according to OpenSecrets.org. Cohen also helped raise more than $6 million for Obama’s election campaign. During the 2008 election cycle, Comcast’s political action committee raised more than $2.5 million. MORE


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THE DOG AND PONY SHOW: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About The Ginned Up Game Of Chicken Known As The Debt Ceiling Crisis

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

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MOTHER JONES:  On August 2 (or maybe a few weeks later), the US government will reach the legal limit on how much money it can borrow—a.k.a., the “debt ceiling.” It’s currently set at $14.3 trillion. The government borrows money to pay for everything from tax refunds to wars and veterans’ benefits, not to mention repaying our creditors, which include China, Japan, the United Kingdom, state and local governments, pension funds, and investors in America and around the world.A debt ceiling has existed since 1917. Before that, Congress had to provide its stamp of approval each time the Treasury Department wanted to sell US debt to raise money.  Putting a borrowing limit in place gave the federal government more flexibility to fill its coffers without going to Congress over and over. Lawmakers in Congress have raised the debt ceiling on many occasions, including eight times in the past decade, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said that failing to raise it and allowing the US default “would shake the basic foundation of the entire global financial system.”

What Happens If Congress Doesn’t Raise the Debt Limit? In a word: Catastrophe. At least that’s what Geithner told unclesam.gifCongress in January. In an ominous letter, he wrote that a US default would wreak havoc on the domestic economy and essentially result in a hefty tax on all Americans. That’s economics 101. If you default on, say, your mortgage or car payment, creditors consider you a bigger risk and as a result, it’ll cost more for you to take out loans in the future. The same idea applies here, too, except that everyone—consumers, cities, states, corporations, and the government—will pay higher borrowing costs if the federal government defaults, Geithner says. Not to mention that the government would run out of cash to pay the salaries of federal employees and members of the military, veterans benefits, Social Security and Medicare, unemployment benefits to states, individual and corporate tax refunds, Medicaid payments, and on and on. MORE

RELATED: Obama is dealing with radical hostage-takers who do not share his sense of responsibility. So when he asks these questions—Will the GOP truly prevent young adults from getting college loans so mega-profit-making oil companies can keep their special tax breaks? Will they really push the nation into a financial crisis to score an ideological point about supposedly out-of-control spending?—is Obama underestimating the opposition? Or is he posing rhetorical queries designed to position himself (especially in the eyes of independent voters) as the reasonable fellow in this dust-up? MORE

RELATED: Amid fears the United States risks default if lawmakers don’t raise the debt ceiling on time, some are suggesting President Obama could save the day by big-footing Congress. How? By invoking the Constitution and directing Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to keep borrowing even if it means going past the statutory borrowing limit. Really? They say default — and by extension, the debt limit — violates the 14th Amendment. The amendment states: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” MORE

RONALD REAGAN: The full consequence of a default — or even the serious prospect of default — by the United States are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate. Denigration of the full faith and credit of the United States would have substantial effects on the domestic financial markets and on the value of the dollar in exchange markets. The nation can ill afford to allow such a result. The risks, the costs, the disruptions, and the incalculable damage lead me to but one conclusion: the Senate must pass the legislation before the Congress adjourns. MORE

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POSTSCRIPT: The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

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Colonel.jpgBY COLONEL TOM SHEEHY Eddie Vedder was born Edward Louis Severson III on December 23, 1964, in Evanston, Illinois. Should this man ever decide to write his autobiography, he already has the title: “Longing To Belong” which is also the name of a song from his praiseworthy new album, “Ukulele Songs.” The need to have a relationship to people, places, and things seems to be an enduring theme running through much of Vedder’s music over the last two decades. As such, Vedder has made it his business to establish a very strong connection with Philadelphia which  harkens back to the first time he performed here when his band Pearl Jam made their Philly debut at J.C. Dobbs back in 1991.

Since that time, whenever Pearl Jam return to this area, Vedder often asks the audience “who was at that Dobbs show?” I was the promoter for that historic show, and before Pearl Jam took the stage that night, I had the opportunity to sit at the bar and have a conversation with Vedder over a few drinks. Besides enjoying the requisite dialogue regarding the then exploding Seattle music scene and a mutual love of basketball, I began to get the sense that this guy was somewhat more anxious about that evening’s show than most musicians I had spoken with over the years who were in pre-gig mode. Of course there was good reason for him to have a sense of solicitude. Here he was, at a club he never played before, yet two of his band mates already had a relationship with the room, as both Jeff Ament and Stone Gossard performed at Dobbs when they were in the band Mother Love Bone. Vedder also had the extra added burden of going on stage to perform material from the band’s first album “Ten” before it had even been released.

Through it all, Eddie Vedder rocked the house that night while fronting Pearl Jam and throughout that evening I found him so easy to bond with because it was quite apparent that this then-26 year old guy was searching for some kind of human reciprocity. Vedder’s ongoing need for connection probably emanates from his troubled childhood and since that time has manifested itself in the inspired art which he has created over the last 20 years with both Pearl Jam and through his solo work.

This yearning for connectivity was certainly in evidence last Saturday evening as a sold out audience at the Tower Theater Vedder_Tower.jpgwitnessed a truly wondrous performance and a rewarding lesson in the cathartic power of music. As a solo artist, some may lump Vedder in with the singer-song writer genre which dates back to the 1970s. That reference insufficiently portrays what it is this man does on stage. Vedder comes from a more traditional genus. He is more akin to the folk singer heritage that was prevalent during the 1950s and 1960s. That custom incorporated  conversation with the audience that was part musical presentation, part colloquy.

So, when this troubadour from the Northwest country hit the stage in Upper Darby over the weekend the exchange began with “Waving Palms” followed by a fierce rendition of “Can’t Keep”  which is not only the opening track of “Ukulele Songs,” but is also the lead song from Pearl Jam’s 2002 album “Riot Act.” It was Vedder covering Vedder. Stripped down to just ukulele and vocal, “Can’t Wait” took on a certain sense of urgency and immediateness.  The song’s strength came from its simplicity and simplicity was the modus operandi of the night. Instead of being surrounded by band mates, Vedder was encircled by ukuleles, mandolins, guitars, a pump organ, and a large reel to reel tape recorder. However, the most enthralling musical instrument was Vedder’s voice: a vigorous baritone in peak form.

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EARLY WORD: Greetings From Asbury Park

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

All Tomorrow’s Parties returns to the USA this September in the new location of Asbury Park, N.J. bringing an I’ll Be Your Mirror event to the iconic waterfront. For the inaugural U.S. I’ll Be Your Mirror, Portishead will curate and headline their first East Coast shows since 1998 on the Saturday & Sunday. As well as Day Tickets, ATP have to date been selling two types of weekend pass – ‘Three Day Jeff Mangum’ passes that include Jeff Mangum’s Friday show and guarantee access to one of the Portishead shows (as well as everything else at the festival) and ‘Three Day Portishead’ passes that do not give access to Jeff’s Friday show but give guaranteed access to both Portishead shows as well as the rest of the festival. Today we announce a third type of weekend pass… [details after the jump]

ATP I’ll Be Your Mirror London Mixtape by All Tomorrows Parties

Track Listing

  • 00.00 “…They Don’t Sleep Anymore on the Beach…” / Monheim – Godspeed You! Black Emperor
  • 13.19 We Carry On – Portishead
  • 19.44 A Cold Freezin’ Night – The Books
  • 23.04 Gazzillion Ear – Doom
  • 27.15 You Fucking People Make Me Sick – Swans
  • 32.20 Yang Yang – Anika
  • 35.11 Real Love – Factory Floor
  • 42.32 Infinity Skull Cube – DD/MM/YYYY
  • 45.51 Untilted – Helen Money
  • 51.42 “Four Spirits In A Room” Excerpt – Alan Moore & Stephen O’Malley
  • 56.50 Plaster Casts Of Everything – Liars
  • 60.43 8 Steps To Perfection – Company Flow
  • 65.23 Written On The Forehead – PJ Harvey
  • 68.49 Arabic Emotions – The London Snorkelling Team
  • 71.27 Wulfstan – BEAK>
  • 77.28 When My Baby Comes – Grinderman
  • 84.09 Paris Signals – S.C.U.M.
  • 88.30 Lovers With Iraqis – Foot Village
  • 92.18 Gratitude – Acoustic Ladyland
  • 96.29 Violence – The Telescopes
  • 100.01 Hannibal – Caribou
  • 106.15 Walk In The Park – Beach House

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The Hilarious Cultural Insensitivity Of Jon Stewart

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Oh, for Fox Sake – Stewart Eviscerates Stewart
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

So Fox News is currently trying to paint Jon Stewart as a racist for using his Amos & Andy voice when impersonating GOP-pizza-guy-for-president Herman Cain. Stewart responds with a funny-as-shit montage of his greatest cultural/racial/ethnic stereotype hits,  as if to say, ‘if you want to play the race card, let’s play 52 pick up, bitches.’

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WORTH REPEATING: Drove My Chevy To The Levy

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

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NEW YORK TIMES: You know the story of the Volt, don’t you? As the General Motors entry in the race to build a viable electric car — a race that includes the all-electric Nissan Leaf, a raft of Fords in various stages of development and an electric sedan that Tesla will soon begin selling — it may well be the most hyped American automobile since Lee Iacocca rolled out the Chrysler minivan. Begun four years ago, and championed by the legendary auto executive Bob Lutz, the Volt project managed to survive G.M.’s descent into bankruptcy, and emerge as the company’s great, shining hope, a symbol of what American car manufacturers could accomplish. Or so it’s been claimed. Cars like the Leaf and the original Tesla — a Roadster that cost more than $100,000 — are “pure” electric vehicles powered solely by their batteries. Classic hybrids like the Toyota Prius use a battery as a kind of add-on, to boost the gas mileage of a combustion engine. The Volt, however, is engineered differently. As long as the battery has juice, the car acts like an electric vehicle. When the battery dies, the combustion engine takes over, and it becomes an old-fashioned gas-consuming car. Once you recharge the battery, electricity takes over again. The experience of driving it meshes with the way we think about using a car. There is no need to plan ahead, for instance, to make sure the car won’t run out of battery life before we can recharge it. And the gas engine eliminates the dreaded “range anxiety” that prevents most people from embracing an electric vehicle. Indeed, G.M. likes to call the Volt an “extended range vehicle.” Motor Trend, the car enthusiasts’ bible, was so impressed that it named the Volt its 2011 car of the year. MORE

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AP TICKER: Gets Medieval On Flash Mob Violence

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Our top story tonight: Mob violence. No, not the Goodfellas/Sopranos kind of mob — I’m talking about flash mobs of violent black teenagers roaming the streets of Philadelphia looking for people to beat unmerciful — people whose only crime, best we can tell, was being white at the wrong place at the wrong time.

This is so not good. This is bad for Philadelphia — setting back years of revival and revitalization. This is bad for white people — justifying the worst instincts of the racist and the borderline racist. This is especially bad for black people, because if this keeps up, the hammer will come down — make no mistake — and it won’t be pretty. There will be curfews, there will be lockdowns, there will be police beatdowns. It’ll make Frank Rizzo and Atilla the Hun look like faggots.

To the people who did this, or have been involved in similar incidents around the city in the last year and a half, I beseech you to think this through. There are consequences for your actions, terrible consequences.

Not the least of which is you made the crypto-racist commenters at Philly.com sound like reasonable people — which is really saying something, because the commenters at Philly.com are hateful bottom-feeding trolls who look for every opportunity to demonize black people with offensive stereotypes. So congratulations on that.

Also, you made all the trigger-happy, paranoid Dirty Harry-wannabe types that refuse to leave the house without a concealed weapon seem like common sense people. Which really takes a lot of effort. So, again, fuck you for that.

But most hurtful of all is that your actions did to the legacy of Martin Luther King what a thousand cracker sheriff billy clubs, attack dogs and fire hoses could not. You shit on everything he lived and died for. And when you fuck with Martin Luther King — well, now you’re on the fightin’ side of me…

RELATED: A Small Army Of Assholes Beats Up Onion Editor

RELATED: The Onion Is All Fun And Games Until Somebody Gets Hurt And Then They Are Heartless Money-Grubbing Corporate Greedheads Just Like All The Rest

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Is It Time To Re-Name The Fencl Awards?

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

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[Illustration by ALEX FINE]

DAILY NEWS: The 12th Police District squad car creeps down Chester Avenue, in Southwest Philadelphia, turning the head of nearly everyone on the street. Onlookers squint, their faces tensing up in the sunlight. Passers-by crane their necks to get a better look at who’s behind the wheel before the car comes to an abrupt stop. Everyone watches as an officer emerges and dons his blue police cap, badge No. 2431 gleaming as the sunlight hits the silver at a perfect angle. “Hey Joe!” someone invariably shouts from the street at Officer Joseph Young, the district’s community-relations officer. Instantly, the tension lifts, the mood lightens and an exchange between police officer and citizen looks more like a conversation between old friends. Young, 59, who has worked in Southwest Philadelphia for nearly 25 years, is known as the go-to guy for nearly any issue – crime or otherwise – impacting the Southwest community. He is the winner of the 26th annual Daily News George Fencl Award for outstanding service. MORE

DAILY NEWS: George Fencl died in January, 1985. At the time he was chief of security for the Philadelphia School District, having retired from the Police Department with the rank of chief inspector in 1983, after 33 years on the force. Soon after his death, Chuck Stone, then senior editor of the Daily News, suggested that the newspaper create an annual award for a police officer who exemplifies the qualities of compassion, fairness and civic commitment that marked Fencl’s career. The first award was presented in 1986. It was during the turbulent ‘60s that Fencl, then head of the Police Department’s Civil Affairs Unit, earned his reputation for fairness regardless of the race or creed or cause of the protesters with whom he came in contact. When the award was created, Chuck Stone had this to say about Fencl: “George Fencl was the incarnation of moral integrity and professional excellence. He was able to transcend all races and nationalities. If we had several thousand George Fencls, we would have absolutely the best police force in the world.” MORE

CHUCK STONE: Ironically, George Fencl ’s death reminded us just how good a cop could be. At a time when the Philadelphia police force has been shaken by corruption in its highest echelons and widespread police brutality is further shattering public confidence, George Fencl ’s name brightens a dark sky like a full moon. He avoided physical abuse. He refused to violate constitutional rights. MORE


PW:  The leader of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Civil Disobedience Unit was Lt. George Fencl, a thick-necked man with slicked-back salt-and-liberty-bell-cover.jpgpepper hair. Fencl was a regular fixture at protests and demonstrations in the ’60s and ’70s. It was his job to monitor, identify, photograph and track dissident groups and their sympathizers. Fencl, dressed in his trademark black overcoat with a white armband emblazoned with the word POLICE, and his CDU boys would show up at demonstrations and photograph everyone in the crowd, taking down names and license-plate numbers of those participating. Sometimes Fencl’s men would brandish cameras that had no film, snapping away nonexistent pictures to intimidate and disperse protesters. 
 On a 1970 episode of NBC news program First Tuesday, Fencl bragged that the police had a list of over 18,000 names. He also enlisted an army of informers, some of which were criminals cooperating in exchange for charges being dropped and others the wives of police officers encouraged to join activist groups and report back to the CDU in exchange for “pin money.” […] Lieutenant Fencl was eventually promoted to inspector and led the first raid on MOVE. The much-coveted Fencl Award—“bestowed on a police officer who brings a unique blend of courage, integrity and determination to the job,” according to the Daily News , which co-sponsors the award—was named in his honor after his death 24 years ago.
 Fraser rolls his eyes when told of the Fencl Award. “He was a guy of bottomless unscrupulousness, and constantly involved in the harassment and intimidation of groups fighting for social justice,” says Fraser. “I think Fencl was very cynical about all this. Although he was not the smartest guy in the world, I am sure he knew, because everybody knew … that the SDS Labor Committee was avowedly anti-violent and in some corners of the SDS we were criticized, severely, for condemning Weatherman-like behavior, because it was destined to isolate the organization, it was immoral and it was politically suicidal. We said all these things publicly and he knew that.” MORE

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NPR FOR THE DEAF: We Hear It Even When You Can’t

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

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If you bite into a tomato between the months of October and June, chances are that tomato came from Florida. The Sunshine State accounts for one-third of all fresh tomatoes produced in the United States — and virtually all of the tomatoes raised during the fall and winter seasons. But the tomatoes grown in Florida differ dramatically from the red garden varieties you might grow in your backyard. They’re bred to be perfectly formed — so that they can make their way across the U.S. and onto your dinner table without cracking or breaking. “For the last 50 or more years, tomato breeders have concentrated essentially on one thing and that is yield — they want plants that yield as many or as much as possible,” writer Barry Estabrook tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “They also want those fruits to be able to stand up to being harvested, packed, artificially turned orange [with ethylene gas] and then shipped away and still be holding together in the supermarket a week or 10 days later.” MORE

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LOST & FOUND: Return Of The King Of Carrot Flowers

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

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PITCHFORK: ATP’s Portishead-curated I’ll Be Your Mirror Festival comes to Asbury Park, New Jersey September 30 – October 2. The fest’s roster already includes Portishead themselves alongside Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Swans, Battles, Ultramagnetic MCs, Cults, the Horrors, Mogwai, Deerhoof, and plenty of others. It also features the semi-reclusive Neutral Milk Hotel frontman Jeff MangumMORE

neutralparishilton_1.jpgRADIO EXILE: The story of Neutral Milk Hotel’s short existence has been told and told well (see Kim Cooper’s wonderful 33 1/3 book on the subject).  What is untold, and in many respects, far more interesting, is the influence of Neutral Milk Hotel.  There are five major themes that spring forth from Neutral Milk Hotel that you see repeated time and time again.  Jeff Mangum and his crew did not synthesize these themes; all existed prior to the formation of the band in the mid-‘90’s.  But, going back to the black hole analogy, all the matter in the universe existed before it collapsed into a singular point in space and time.  Similarly, these five pre-existing themes all collapsed into a singularity known as Neutral Milk Hotel before they were expelled outward into the musical universe, altered and defined by the impact of Neutral Milk Hotel. MORE

BONUS TRACK: Wilco“King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1″ [mp3]

PREVIOUSLY: Of all the bands to come out of the Elephant 6 collective — that loose-knit cross-country cabal of weedy bus-station transcendentalists and grass-stained pranksters — Neutral Milk Hotel was the least beholden to classic psych-rock neutralmilkalbumcover.thumbnail.jpgtemplates, yet somehow managed to evoke and advance them all at once. On 1998’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, Jeff Mangum’s mewling sunshine Superman melodies are colored by bare, ruined choirs of singing saw, fuzz bass, mariachi horns, bowed banjo, accordion, home organ and Salvation Army marching band brass. Produced by the Apples in Stereo’s Robert Schneider, these harrowing, heart-tugging tunes follow Mangum’s fractured yelp, soaring on wax wings toward the sun only to crashland softly on a surrealistic pillow of sound fashioned out of enough obscure instrumentation to give your average ethnomusicologist a Viagra woody–zanzithophone, euphonium, uilleann pipes and a shortwave radio. Like Jack with his magic beans, Neutral Milk Hotel proved that with little more than a pocketful of seeds and stems, you could grow a beanstalk to heaven. – JONATHAN VALANIA

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