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: “People Who Died.” Pretty much says it all — two dozen short spots honoring folks who departed this earth in 2009. To no one’s surprise, CP led with Harry Kalas. Didn’t even need to put his name on the cover, just the man’s face, because that’s how widely recognized the man was — way more than just a voice. The other Philly-centric entries are thoughtful, well-chosen and even timely; they found room for Peggy Amsterdam, who passed away right before the New Year. Even more touching is that they devoted some space to PW scribe Steven Wells.

On June 14, Steven Wells filed his final column for Philadelphia Weekly. It was published June 25, one day after he finally succumbed, at the age of cp_2010-01-07.jpg49, to the cancer that had racked his body for years. The acid-tongued Brit ex-pat had chronicled his battle with this motherfucker of a disease over the years with a searing, brutal honesty; before that, Wells, aka Seething Wells, aka Swells, was an iconic writer for the U.K.’s big-shit music rag, New Musical Express (NME), who once received an ax from U2’s Bono with a note asking if they could “bury the hatchet.” He took on sexism and racism in rock ‘n’ roll. He wrote with a vigor and righteous belligerence and conviction of which most journalists could only dream; an obit in the London Guardian branded him “arguably, the last great British rock writer.”

But let’s go back to his final column, as Wells stared death in the face, and let him speak for himself, one last time (hopefully, our friends at PW won’t mind too much): “Why is it,” he asked, “that the people with the most profound stuff to say are also those who are the least capable of being able to express that profundity?”  Even as the cancer sucked the life from his bones, Wells never wanted for profundity — or perhaps more accurately, an endearing venom that made you angry, but more importantly, made you think.

So much for alt-weekly rivalries. The closing bit for Jim Carroll of “The Basketball Diaries” was a nice touch, too, though as I pored over the entries, I recalled seeing an alt-weekly in another city do this in years past. I don’t recall how local-centric that one was, and I like whatCP did with theirs, but then what to my wondering eyes should appear but “Portions of this story previously appeared in the Baltimore City Paper.” What? How did they get away with that?

01cov_big.jpgPW: Tara Murtha reports on the North Philly neighborhood of Hunting Park, its resurgence and the dedication of its residents to change the way it’s seen.

In the last few years, Hunting Park residents have organized. They’ve formed committees, held regular meetings, planted community gardens, contacted politicians. Now more than ever, their attention is focused on reclaiming the heart of the ’hood, the 87-acre woodsy chunk of Fairmount Park that lies in the center of the proud, complicated, struggling North Philadelphia neighborhood of the same name. Now, after building momentum with grassroots efforts the last few years, local activists are about to get what amounts to a miracle, especially in this economy. Last October, the Fairmount Park Conservancy, the philanthropic arm of the Fairmount Park system that renovated the Fairmount Water Works, unveiled a $20 million master plan to revitalize Hunting Park. The elaborate plan, led by landscape architect firm Wells Appel, is designed to restore the park to its former grandeur. The complete plan features everything from logical renovations like improved lighting to full sports and activity programming.

Murtha shows how neighborhood residents live today, and even taps into memories of bygone days, when the park was a friendly, welcoming spot that hosted family reunions. There’s folk wisdom in addition to reports of hard-bitten urban affairs here, including the knowledge that “as the park goes, so goes the neighborhood,” along with the surprising and somehow-hopeful figure that “more 10-year-olds than people of any other age live in Hunting Park.” So, really, the people who organized and lobbied, including superstar Ryan Howard, whose foundation is putting up money for the restoration projects, aren’t doing it for themselves; they’re doing it for the next generation.


CP: Nothing beats sewage for maximum eww-age. Homicides are down, but Isaiah Thompson’s ire is up. Sky Drops: not a tasty, ethereal-sounding candy. What will we eat in 2010? Ramen, fried chicken, our words if none of this happens.

PW: TSA, or T&A: On nudity and civil liberties. Good enough to wake the dead. Those ominous noises aren’t your run-of-the-mill gunfire. Morbid, but amusing.

After two weeks off, I’m back and ready to render judgment. I had CP pegged for a win, but instead it’s a “WTF?” What’s the deal with all this borrowed stuff? With an excellent (and entirely original) cover story, PW takes it.

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