BY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week, PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!
ON THE COVER
CP: Carolyn Huckabay really nabbed two profiles this week: Aaron Birk, the earthy, inspired graphic novelist, and Sam Barker, the protagonist of Birk’s “The Pollinator’s Corridor.” Birk brings the vision — honed through a nationwide tour of organic farms and forestry work in Central Park — and Barker lives it out on the page.
“There’s soil, there’s water, there’s Mongolian Buddhist superheroes,” he says with a laugh, eager to get into the specifics of the story he’s serializing for City Paper. Set in the Bronx, where Birk lived when he started the work, The Pollinator’s Corridor could really be about any urban space. And Sam Barker could be any kid who realizes his own potential.
Compelling and gorgeous, much of the book centers on taking a thought and acting on it. In one sequence, Sam’s classmate Natasha is dismayed by the mountain of discarded trash she discovers beneath a subway platform. Not content to walk away from the blight, she throws a glass bottle toward two cops idling at the scene, and lets them chase her through the rubbish. Standing dumbfounded amid the mess, the men realize the neglect that surrounds them, and call for reinforcements to clean it up.
Birk’s not some scoff-worthy NYC transplant; he’s been here for three years, and has put in stints at Bartram’s Garden and the Philly Fringe festival. Huckabay skims the surface of Birk’s personality, but shows just enough to leave us hungry for me. Good thing, too: CP is serializing portions of “The Pollinator’s Corridor” (serializing? that’s some Dickensian shit) in coming weeks. Till those installments arrive, though, dig this vision of Philly’s streets:
In what he calls a “retrofitted urban block,” Birk depicts bicycles trumping cars, windmills replacing satellites, and home upon home with solar panels, rooftop gardens, bee hives and aviaries.
I could totally get behind all of that.
PW: Oh, I guess you already got the skinny on this one, but let’s break it down once more. Brendan Skwire is a fired-up resident of Southwest Philly, an area that’s gotten the short end of many of Mayor Mike’s cuts. He’s pissed off, but eloquently so, and his blog Brendan Calling is making waves in hopes of making a difference. PW’s Kellie C. Murphy dives into what makes him tick and what ticks him off.
He’s more focused now on the city budget, City Council members and the slew of big corporations that owe the city millions in unpaid debt—most notably, the Eagles (which he often refers to as a deadbeat organization) and Sunoco.Referring to Nutter as a coward, “disgraceful” and a “disingenuous liar,” Skwire takes the mayor to task for choosing to cut desperately needed social services instead of collecting outstanding debts from his corporate buddies.“That’s the thing that’s blowing the top off my head now,” he fumes.
Skwire was reticent about being the subject of this article, and it shows: not much info on his family or his education. But his passion and insight definitely come across, so take note, blogosphere residents. You, too, mainstream journalists. Skwire is showing all of us what it means to be relevant: taking root in a community and developing a “beat,” attending meetings, putting in the legwork, recognizing that opinion has its place in informing the community. It might be symbolic of Web 2.0 or the “death of print,” but at the heart of it, Skwire’s a community organizer, both online and on the streets. And we all know what community organizers are capable of.
INSIDE THE BOOK
CP: Photo caption of the week goes to BABY, I NEED YOUR OVEN. E. James Beale speaks, and the axe falls. Look out, Ruben. I’m torn: I’m pro-all-ages venues, but anti-famous people with no discernible talent. God, A.D. is everywhere this week. Give this man the alt-weekly equivalent of the Pulitzer.
PW: High octopi-in-the-sky hopes. Hip-hop feuds just seem to find BMac, don’t they? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: World. Fucking. Champions. No need for shame, Liz: “Ojalá Que Llueva Café” is the jam.
WINNER: PW takes it, because Birk’s green, hopeful vision will never take hold if libraries, community centers and other urban cornerstones are gutted in the here and now. Rage, rage against the dying of the city.