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!


PW: The more I learn about Northeast Philly, the more fascinating it seems. Since my first brush with it, a little over a year ago at the German social club Canstatter Volkfest’s Oktoberfest, the Great Northeast’s mix of ethnic neighborhoods has inspired a couple of interesting stories — I can recall one about a progressive political candidate trying to gain a foothold there — but this week’s piece on displaced Iraqis tops them all.

The war in Iraq is “officially” over. U.S. forces in the country have been reduced to 50,000—down from 171,000 at its peak in 2007. Despite years of carnage reflected on the front pages of newspapers and on the evening news, increased bloodshed in Afghanistan and a sour economy has relegated Iraq to an afterthought to most Americans.

However, right here in Philadelphia, an ever-increasing influx of Iraqis is a testament to the consequences of war. Since 2008, about 300 families—who lost their homes during years of nonstop fighting they call “the situation in Iraq”—have resettled in Philadelphia as refugees, mostly in the Northeast neighborhoods of Castor and Bustleton, referred to as “Little Baghdad” by some. And each month, as more Iraqis who have fled their country are granted access to the U.S., the number grows.

But the community is off to a slow start. Language barriers have made integration and self-sufficiency difficult for many. And the recession has made the transition even more difficult. While resettlement agencies and other volunteer organizations offer some assistance, the residents are learning to lean on each other to overcome the challenges of starting a new life in an alien culture.

The Tariq family were some of the first refugees to arrive to the city, in May 2008. Memories of life back home—photos of the family in Baghdad and sculptures made by Numan—fill the living room of their subdivision home in a small development set back from Bustleton Avenue. More ceramics fill a shelf in the garage: Numan had been practicing his old profession as a hobby, working out of a shop near Allegheny Avenue and hoping to set up an exhibit sometime soon.

Iraqis among Chinese, Latinos, and Russians, along with other pockets of Middle Easterners… it’s wonderfully mind-boggling. Even with all the potential for ethnic and religious friction — the ignorant-white-person money quote: “We gave Iraq a free country…I don’t know why we need to be bringing various squabbling factions of Iraqis to us, bringing them here for what? When there’s no employment?” — the whole thing fills me something not entirely unlike hope.

[Photo by NEIL SANTOS]

CP: CP identifies all the best shows and the hot new trends in the arts this fall. Heading the list: bestiality? Someone call Rick Santorum!

How do you still shock people, when 9/11 and the Holocaust, rape and murder, have become clichéd joke fodder? When John Waters has conceded that he’s too tame for today’s 9-year-old? When a thing like the Internet exists?

You throw a bestiality-themed party. You install two stripper poles, a swinging trapeze and some blood-splattered shower curtains in your house, the same house you presumably invite your parents to for the holidays. You do a number at Bob & Barbara’s wherein you gnaw on a cow’s actual heart. You do another in which you tear off a dead chicken’s head with your mouth. You make a website catering to “can,” a fetish that celebrates “a damsel in distress being prepared as a meal.”

That’s the road Swellco & Swellco has taken, anyway.

“We thought: What do people never joke about? We want to do a show about it,” says Swellco & Swellco member Meagan Rumberger. “And of course, that’s bestiality.”

From there we move onto a dead hooker in a trunk and… you know, let’s change subjects, shall we? We have the venerable Chris’ Jazz Cafe checking its birth certificate (birther joke? couldn’t be), the Walkmen and their long-distance relationship, and the National Constitution Center’s warfare in art exhibit — no abstraction, please. Plus shows and shows and shows… fall arts season, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


CP: Suppose they made a pizza and nobody came… Ain’t no party like an “arterial roadway” party. Humans rights in PA prisons: Making China look good. To the new CP staffer (see last graf): Hi, I’m Dave, I’ll be alternately praising you and ridiculing you.

PW: I like my rain purple, not crooked, but I’ll take it. Hypocrisy in all its many forms. Late Night Cabaret, but no Nazi uniforms or Liza Minnelli. Where can I get a good rub in this city? Outside of Chinatown, that is.

WINNER: Gotta give it to PW this week. Even if “Little Baghdad” is more an idea than a neighborhood at this point, the way the many facets of the fledgling community come through is praiseworthy.

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