PAPERBOY: Slow-Jamming The Alt-Weeklies

paperboyartthumbnail.jpgBY 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!


CP: Nathaniel Popkin assesses the legacy of famed city planner Edmund Bacon and, as he often has in CP cover stories, speculates about and imagines the city’s future. He hooked me in with his lede, rendered in sparking language and delivered from a new building on Drexel’s campus.

On the first morning of December, milky light streaks the city and the day gets going. I’m on top of cp_2009_12_17.jpgDrexel University’s new Millennium Hall, a 17-story residence designed by Erdy McHenry Architecture and structural engineer Cecil Balmond as a model integrating engineering and architecture. The tower, which stands on the rise of 34th Street, is wedged midblock on a small site that previously housed university tennis courts. Clad in offset stainless-steel panels and rotating to manipulate sunlight and views of the city, Millennium Hall seems to move. From the south, the panels give it the appearance of a tall, powerful woman whose skirts shimmer against the wind.

Bacon famously posited in 1959 that “in fifty years, no part of Philadelphia is ugly or depressed.” So how’re we doing on that? It’s… questionable. Popkin sticks with his vantage point in University City as he holds forth on both the present the future.

From the 17th floor of Millennium Hall, right on top of Bacon’s imagined 1976 World’s Fair riverside amusement center, this is just how the city appears. Fifty years of neighborhood dissolution is invisible, the one-in-four rate of poverty silent, addiction and desperation smothered by the glass. Bacon wrote convincingly of designing for people in place, but he often reverted to thinking of the city as I see it here, as a chessboard. He doesn’t go on to advocate ripping out the guts of entire neighborhoods, the way Bacon did, but he touts Bacon’s flexibility and foresight alongside the visions of current city planners and institutional visionaries. I’d dig some more specific recommendations — apart from destroying theDrexel Shaft, which I think we can all get behind — but, as usual, Popkin has me believing nearly anything is possible.

PW: A guide to New Year’s Eve dining and boozing. It’s fairly standard: best places to eat, to hear music (nice token inclusion of the Orchestra, by the way), and to buy clothes to make you look festive or fuckable. But among the recommendations of places to hang this year, there are a couple of gems. Catch this, and cock your head slightly to the side in bafflement. To wit:

If you attended last year’s New Year’s throwdown at Raven Lounge (1718 Sansom St. 215.840.3577., you know there were some very special guests—members of the masked metal band Slipknot. Weird, right? Turns out, they’d been hanging at the bar earlier in the year and had a blast playing board games in Raven’s first-floor bar. When they found out they’d be in Philly to ring in 2009, the band called owner Jonathan Hunter and made plans to surprise partygoers. Hunter promises more surprise guests at this year’s bash—and the return of his mom’s famous artichoke dip, so delish that DJ Chris Bretz is contractually guaranteed his own supply.

Shit, mask-metal and artichoke dip? Sign me up! So long as we’re not visited by other Ghosts of Nu-Metal past… a Limp Bizkit appearance would really get Twenty-Ten off to a poor start.


CP: Concussions: Ain’t they a kick in the head? “The musicians donned safety glasses”: Brilliant pull-quote for a brilliant musician. No question, there should be more New Pornographers song titles used as headlines. Resurrection: Worth a second coming?

PW: Getting to the bottom of all the top stories. MidAtlantic: a better region than restaurant. The new Barnes: Panic on the Parkway?

Maybe a little early on the New Year’s recs, PW? They’re solid, but they can’t top the spine-jangling optimism and panoramic photos that CP’s packing this week. Hats off to Nate Popkin and CP.

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