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: Whoa whoa whoa, talking flatware? This is NOT your father’s CP Writing Contest. A strange, affecting fable by Andrea Blumberg takes the top prize, and while, yes, there is a talking knife and spoon in this story, it’s not a Disney’s-Beauty-and-the-Beast she’s going for.

On a small hill there was a big house, and in the big house was a fancy dining room, and in the dining room was a long table, and on the table was a spoon. A teaspoon, in fact. Now, this teaspoon was very proud of her place on the table. She delighted in her ability to measure out the exact amount of sugar to drop into the grandmother’s cup of tea, and she loved the way her concave scoop made perfect swirling eddies in the tea, to mix the sugar in thoroughly. The teaspoon was content with her role in life, and she was happy to be of service.

Until one day she was set next to a wicked steak knife. She introduced herself to him pleasantly, but he sneered at her and said, “Look at you, so small and round and blunt! What good are you?” And so she told him about how she measured out the sugar, and how she mixed it into the tea. “And,” she said, “as for being small, well, I’m quite happy to be dainty.”

“Dainty?! Hah!” the steak knife replied. “With that bulging protrusion of yours? You don’t even lie flat on the table like a proper piece of silverware. Your hump makes you wobbly and unstable!” And he turned away and started eyeing up the butter knife.

The teaspoon was cut to the quick. No one had ever spoken to her that way before, and no one had ever suggested that she had a negative side. She was always so pleased with what she could do that she never thought about what she couldn’t do, or what she did badly.

The rest is worth reading. It’s surprisingly… human. The poetry winner is a little more… abstruse, I guess? No matter. Poet Allison Hicks took first prize AND a runner-up position. Impressive.

PW: The grand jury report on Kermit Gosnell’s West Philly abortion clinic was harrowing enough on its own. Tara Murtha’s account is so thorough and exacting that it’s almost painful to read. As well it should be — the layers of malice, inattention and downright ignorance in this case deserve careful unpacking and examination, because nothing so brutal and inhuman should be allowed in this city or anywhere.

Local negligence added additional layers to the complex matrix of oversight failure. For example, “Penn could not find a single case in which it with its legal duty to alert authorities” in cases where emergency room physicians had to treat ramifications of Gosnell’s botched procedures, as required under the Abortion Control Act.

As a private physician treating teenage girls in West Philadelphia, Dr. Donald Schwarz—currently Philadelphia’s health commissioner—noticed a pattern of his patients becoming infected with Trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted parasite, after appointments at Gosnell’s clinic. Schwarz testified to the grand jury that about six years ago, he “hand-delivered” a complaint about Gosnell’s clinic to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Yet in his two years as the city’s health commissioner, he did not check into Gosnell’s practice. In addition to his personal knowledge of problems, the Philadelphia Department of Health was aware that Gosnell never submitted a infectious medical waste removal plan—the reason fetuses and body parts littered on the premises.

Schwarz testified that medical waste regulations were established with the sole goal of making money for the city. “The department was told, apparently, to collect the money, make sure the plan came in, get the fee, and not enforce, that is don’t take action against people … This is a revenue-generating activity.”

The hand-delivered complaint did not exist among the records subpoenaed by the grand jury.

Though the report documents up-the-chain failures, the aerial-view conclusion regarding oversight is that even if all the proper protocols were followed and complaints filed, the state Department of Health would have continued ignoring warning signs, no matter what.

The accompanying timeline sheds additional light on a dark, dark stain on this city. Read with your nausea medication nearby: it’s hell to read, and I imagine it was even more hellish to report. Kudoes and yikes in equal measure to PW and Murtha.


CP: Clash of the Classical Titans. No more Madam President? From dawn til desk: A decline in discipline on the force. Lines from restaurant reviews that should be short story titles: “in the shadow of the 10-and-a-half-foot Buddha.”

PW: Gay marriage cited as number one reason to travel to Iowa. Voting stations! All hands on deck! Buster Poindexter? I hardly even know her!

WINNER: The strength of Tara Murtha’s cover story once again brings PW the title. If she keeps this up, we’ll have to name the trophy after her a la Vince Lombardi.

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