March 5, 2013 By Jordyn P. Kimelheim
Despite having existed since 1938, I’m saddened to report that very few young people have heard of the Philadelphia History Museum, and they are quite confused when you bring it up.
Dumb Friend: What are you doing this weekend, Jordyn?
Me: I’m going to the Philadelphia History Museum so I can write a PEX blog about it!
Dumb Friend: You’re going to the art museum?
Me: No, the Philadelphia History Museum.
Dumb Friend: Oh, you mean the natural history museum?
Me: No, the Philadelphia History Museum how is this at all difficult I hate you.
This is an unfortunate course of events, because the Philadelphia History Museum (also known as the Atwater Kent), which has recently re-opened after extensive renovations, is a very interesting place to visit. Without further ado, here is a list of my Top Five Favorite Things about the museum
1. The Map
The first thing you see upon entering the museum is a giant floor map (courtesy of Rand-McNally) of the city of Philadelphia. You can find your house! You can find your school! You can find the exact intersection where some old lady hit you with her car! (for the record, it’s 12th and Oxford and I wasn’t at all hurt. I knew you were worried). I’m a big map geek––I wasn’t 8th grade regional geography bee champion for nothing––so this display was a lot of fun for me.
2. Philly, the Stuffed Dog
The museum is filled with objects representative of Philadelphia’s past. One of these include the taxidermied corpse of “Philly”, a dog who bravely served in WWI…helping somehow. I forget what he did. But he’s stuffed and adorable and I love him
3. The Ridiculous Commentary
I dig how enthusiastic the curators of the museum are about their subject matter, but sometimes their copy is a bit…over the top. Here’s an example:
Wow, thanks Philadelphia History Museum. That’s not a downer at all.
I am a very vain person. Here is a photograph of me posing in the “Face to Facebook“ exhibit, which is filled with portraits of Philadelphia residents across the centuries.
As my over-age readers are well aware, Philadelphia has a flourishing craft beer scene. This special exhibit traces the history of the beer industry in the city, from colonial era breweries to current powerhouses like Yards and the Philadelphia Brewing Company. Don’t worry if the exhibit makes you thirsty––the museum is only a few blocks away from the Old City bar scene.
Overall, the Philadelphia History Museum is a great resource for anyone who wants to learn more about our city’s history beyond what’s presented at Independence Hall and the other traditional tourist attractions.
*all photos courtesy of Don Hopkins and his iPhone.
February 12, 2013 By Jordyn P. Kimelheim
Valentine’s Day is coming up, and for those of you in committed relationships (or with meaningless flings you feel obligated to hang out with for the holiday), the pressure is on to organize the perfect date. Sure, you could be cliché and go with dinner and a movie, but we all know that the bright young people of Philly are most impressed by activities found in the PEX Passport! Here are a few ideas for a very special General Education sponsored Valentine’s Day celebration with you and your sweetheart:
The orchestra is always a really classy date because you get to dress up and pretend you appreciate music that isn’t produced by The-Dream. This February 14th, the Philadelphia Orchestra is performing Carl Orff’s Carmina Burna, which they describe as “prais[ing] springtime, love, lust, and fortune.” Sounds hot.
Does your girlfriend like death? Has your boyfriend expressed interest in pursuing mortuary science as a career? Ever have the nagging feeling that your love life would be improved by spending more time dwelling on your own mortality? If any of the above applies, you might want take a trip to Laurel Hill Cemetery for Valentine’s Day! While the Cemetery’s “Till Death Do Us Part: The Love Stories of Laurel Hill” walking tour has already been held, feel free to wander around the graveyard holding hands. Maybe bring a picnic lunch?
If your S.O. is an English major or other sort of literary type, take them to the Rosenbach for a hands-on tour of the museum’s collection of love letters. Historical hearthrobs ranging from John Keats to Marlene Dietrich have their correspondence on display, so this is quite an opportunity. Also, let the record show that I went on a date to the Rosenbach once and it was super cute.
They have a giant heart you can go inside. Do I really have to explain more?
February 11, 2013 By Julie A. Zeglen
I like to think of myself as a theatre aficionado, mostly because I did shows in high school and have seen Wicked twice. Because of this self-title, I go into most productions with confidence in my ability to, you know, figure out what’s going on.
My cockiness did not serve me well with the Arden’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. Here’s the puzzling description to give you an idea of the imagination required of the show:
“Hamm can’t stand up. Clov can’t sit down. Neither can leave the single room they’ve shared for who knows how long. For them, the end is in the beginning.”
That’s it. Cryptic, right? The point, it turns out, is just that. Beckett meant for his play to be open-ended so that the audience could interpret it as they wished. And, if I’m being quite honest, the show (almost) lost me about an hour in. Why does that guy have leg braces, and what is keeping him trapped here? Why does that other guy want a dog made out of electrical wires? Where exactly ARE they?!
Luckily, the Arden felt my pain and offered a post-show discussion with the assistant director. I learned that an “endgame” is a chess term for the third of a round of three games when there are only a few pieces and options left, yet the game must be completed. This relates to the play because the characters seem to exist in a monotonous time warp with struggles that won’t quit. (Hint: it’s a metaphor for life.) I learned that Beckett wrote it as a reaction to World War II and the question of God’s existence. I learned that other audience members also thought the characters live in some sort of purgatory, and that the ending’s ambiguity left others pining for more, too.
The story itself doesn’t stray much from the plot of two guys in a room. Don’t worry about getting bored, though. To break up the potential monotony come theatre vets Nancy Boykin and Dan Kern, who also happen to be Temple professors, as the protagonist’s elderly parents. Their parts are slightly disconcerting because, well, they’re legless and stuck in trashcans. But they’re also melancholically hilarious, and Boykin’s character Nell offers my favorite line of the show: “Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.” The parents only show up for a few minutes, but they are heartbreaking in their helplessness.
Outside of the acting from all four performers, the play’s best quality is its set. I don’t want to spoil what the designers meant for it to represent – for that, you’ll have to either figure it out while watching or by staying after for the discussion – but it reminds of a wartime bunker, with industrial-looking ceiling fixtures and limited natural light. The theater is small enough so that the audience can feel as if they too are trapped in that dingy space, pondering the meaning of it all.
Now that I’ve had time to process its intricacies, I can better appreciate Endgame as a work of absurdist humor. If you’re willing to take this challenge, you can purchase tickets online for full price; however, student rush (only ten bucks!) is available at any performance. Just show up half an hour before the show is set to start, and bring your college ID. And this deal is also featured in the PEX Pass!
Endgame runs until March 10th. The Arden Theater is located at 40 N. 2nd Street in Old City.
Yes! It’s time! It’s time for the greatest, most wonderful day of the year!
IT’S TIME FOR HIPSTER DAY.
Hipster Day, as you may or may not ever have heard of, is a national holiday invented entirely by me in which the hipster masses of the nearby Philadelphia region ages 18-72 gather together to celebrate their complete incompetence in de-cluttering. Or taking showers. The definition is open to interpretation. Now, you might be wondering, “But Magali, we live in Philadelphia! We go to Temple University! Isn’t every day hipster day?”. And to that I’ll give two answers:
1) It’s Queen Magali, peasant.
2) You’ve never seen it quite like this.
Hipster Day is not like Thanksgiving (mostly because giving thanks for anything constitutes caring, which hipsters are allergic to), or Christmas (though they do wear those sweaters, so you’d be excused for thinking that). It does not come on the third Thursday of November, or the 20th of every month, or on the second lunar cycle of Venus. No, it does not take place on Wes Anderson‘s birthday. In fact, it does not fall under a specific date at all. Hipster Day is decided by a higher power, a force much more powerful than you and I. It is the deity that is R5 Productions, and they have picked this Sunday, December 9th, to host the annual Punk Rock Flea Market.
Ergo, Hipster Day!
Philly’s R5 Productions has been hosting this event for ten years, with over 2,500 people making their way through the Starlight Ballroom in a single day for some good old-fashioned Antiques Roadshow showdown. And what exactly does that entail? Over 300 tables of vendors selling silk-screened everything, jewelry, bicycles, laptops, furniture, power tools, books, videos, posters, home made clothing, used clothing, art, and a record fair across the street at Starlight Ballroom just in time for the holidays!
Also they sell some vegan food but I considered that whole lifestyle too offensive for my blog.
So when you find yourself unable to do anything other than stare at your monumental pile of finals notes and cry on Sunday, December 9th, why not take a break and wander round the Starlight Ballroom (461 N. 9th St.) from 11AM-5PM and get that Christmas list out of the way? Your $3 donation and all other proceeds go to keeping shows at the First Unitarian Church and other all-ages venues alive and kicking in Philly (my not 21+ self thanks you kindly). And while you’re there, remember to honor Hipster Day and reach out to a fellow hipster in need- sure, they might insult your non-organic can of coca cola and talk for hours about something called Vonnegut (some new kind of car, perhaps?), but it’s the holiday season. You can do this.
That’s it. I’m staging an intervention. I think this has gone too far. When you see something outrageous, you’ve got to speak out. Think of the children! Think of the example you’re setting for future generations! What would Sartre say? How do you go to sleep at night?!?!?!
I’m talking, of course, about the Barnes Foundation’s ticketing system.
For those of you hoodlums who were raised in barns and don’t know what the Barnes Foundation is, it’s a combination arboretum and museum collection established 1922 by Dr. Albert C. Barnes as an educational institution in Merion, Pennsylvania. Recently, though, it’s made a permanent move to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, on account of the rent expenses and the fact that nobody actually knows where Merion, Pennsylvania is.Unfortunately, between it being the hot new museum on the block and the fact that the Barnes’ small and intimate rooms require them to limit the number of people allowed in at one time, getting a ticket inside is… problematic. To say the least. Putting it mildly,. getting into the Barnes is like trying to get into the Illuminati. Like being on the waiting list of a Mulberry Alexa bag. Or getting Sufjan Stevens tickets. Quite frankly, it’s kind of unacceptable.
Whether you’ve got a thing for pipe-smoking horticulturists or don’t really get the hype, you’ve got to agree that as of now, the Barnes Foundation is the most exclusive museum in Philadelphia. It’s basically like Harvard’s finals clubs. Oh, sorry, I meant Final Clubs.
Which obviously just makes us want to visit it more. So without further ado, here’s my 3-step plan to finally, FINALLY getting in- and what to do once you’re inside:.
1. Book your ticketsin advance. Like, waaaay in advance. Trust me, after attempting to get tickets at the door only to be sweetly yet strangely creepily ordered to schedule a visit online twice, the importance of looking stuff up BEFORE going somewhere really sinks in. Plus, the BF Parkway is HUGE. Your feet will not thank you for the fruitless trek back and forth. Your wallet will thank you, too- tickets for the Barnes through the PEX Pass are only $10!
2. If you’re looking to make a trip out of it, come by The Barnes on First Friday! On December 7th from 6pm to 8pm, the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra is performing something called “Classical Grey”, which apparently features classical music featured in E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey. I’m not exactly sure why this EXISTS, but when the event description says “experience a provocative performance of classical music featured in the popular novels”, you know it’ll certainly be an… unforgettable night.
3. Watch this really cool PBS documentary about Dr. Barnes’ life beforehand, so you can sound educated and cultured when you’re walking through the halls with your date. “Oh, is that a Matisse?” “Actually, it’s a Rodin. Dr. Barnes found Matisse’s under $50,000 auction pricing to be plebeian and offensive. Duh.”
Follow these guidelines, and you’ll be set to go! Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t get into the Barnes now! FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In other news, my life is pathetic.
If you know me at all (and I suspect you do, you creep) then you’re probably aware that the more pretentious and absurd an activity is, the more interested I am in pursuing it. This is why I decided to dedicate my life to the study of English literature, after all. Pretentious behavior is my God-given gift, and I intend to use it freely. Notable exceptions include reading The Economist and attending Ivy League sporting events. Obviously.
Now, I’m not a fan of exercise. I’m pretty sure even those who only know me only minimally can pretty much figure that out on their own. However, when the sport in question dictates I wear a snappy wardrobe, my interest levels elevate about 30%. And that’s not just me talking- it’s a scientific fact.
The Philly Tweed Ride is an annual biking event that encourages riders to wear traditional British cycling attire while cycling around the city in ridiculous, dapper unity. We’re talking tweed jackets, pants, driver caps, the whole shebang. It’s basically Downton Abbey: X-treme Bike Edition, without the whole influenza thing. The fun will begin November 17th at 11:00 am at the Water Works (located behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art) and will circulate throughout the city, stopping at Penn Treaty Park for a bring-your-own-picnic, then ending at Rembrandt’s in the Fairmount neighborhood.
And with prizes for participants like ”Dapper Chap”, “Snappy Lass”, “Marvelous Mustache, “Magnificent Millinery”, “Stylish Steed” and “Picturesque Picnic” all being awarded, it’s pretty much a given that even if you can’t mount a bicycle without clutching an inhaler after 10 minutes (hello), you’ll at least get a nice view to help you forget the fact that you’re actually exercising.
So just in case you’ve been blinded by my wit and humor that you can’t remember any concrete information about the event at hand, here’re all the stats again. Hope to see you there!
Philadelphia Tweed Ride V
When: Saturday, November 17, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: Ride begins at the Water Works, 640 Water Works Drive
Cost: $1 Donation to Philabundance
More info: www.tweedride.phlbikes.com
The pleasure’s all yours,
October 27, 2012 By Julie A. Zeglen
Welcome to October, the spoooookiest time of the year! What better way to celebrate the very best season by creeping yourself out – historically! – at Eastern State Penitentiary?
Yes, yes, Magali already wrote about Terror Behind the Walls’s yearly spectacle of dudes in zombie makeup chasing you through the cells. But I argue that even if you miss such fun when the scarefest ends on November 10th, you could still check out the daily tours offered by Eastern State to get your fright buzz on.
Eastern State was in operation as a prison from 1829 to 1971 and is now a National Historic Landmark open to public tours, which include a peek into the former cell of famous gangster Al Capone. It’s not actually haunted, but the building’s Gothic-style architecture and well-maintained state of decrepitude (yes, that is what I mean) assign a sufficiently creepy feeling to visitors and passers-by.
The word “penitentiary” comes from “penitence” – an appropriate moniker, as this was the first jail to employ solitary confinement as a method of rehabilitation, which I imagine would make anyone pretty sorry pretty fast. Eastern State was also revolutionary for its radial design in which a person could stand at the exact center of the building and look down each of the eight halls.
Maybe visiting an old prison isn’t your idea of a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but it should be. The guided tours teach you the nuanced history of the place, but you’re also welcome to explore on your own and engage in exhibits like the restored Jewish Life memorial room and TowerCam! where you can pretend to be a tower guard monitoring your motley wards. Plus, Eastern State hosts several art installations throughout the prison to get you thinking about the concept of incarceration. My favorite is Alexa Hoyer’s “I always wanted to go to Paris, France,” a series of video montages of Hollywood’s depiction of prison life.
Eastern State is open every day from 10am to 5pm. I recommend leaving at least an hour for wandering, as the places covers 11 acres and has a seemingly infinite amount of nooks to peep into. It’s located at 22nd and Fairmount in the Fairmount neighborhood. You can take the Southbound or Route 16 to Fairmount and walk a few blocks west. Student tickets are $8, but with your elite PEX Pass status you get in for half-price! Being Temple Made has its perks.
October 26, 2012 By Jordyn P. Kimelheim
If there’s one thing I love in life (and believe me, I love a lot of things—admittedly, mostly food related) its boarding school narratives. Everything that has ever taken place at a boarding school is fantastic, from the Harry Potter series to Dead Poets Society to that one section of Jane Eyre where everyone gets tuberculosis.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that I greatly enjoyed Theater Exile’s recent production of The Edge of Our Bodies. Written by noted playwright Adam Rapp, the play made its Philadelphia debut during this fall’s Philly Fringe Festival. The Edge of Our Bodies is a one-woman play about Bernadette, who is sixteen years old, pregnant, and deeply troubled. The play primarily consists of Bernadette recounting her journey from her New England prep school to New York City to visit her boyfriend, and the misadventures she gets into once she’s there.
The parallels with The Catcher in the Rye are fairly obvious: running away from school, New York, teen angst, etc. In fact, The Edge of Our Bodies, which mostly consists of narration by Bernadette, does sometimes feel like you’re listening to an audiobook more than watching a performance. However, the play is so well-written and acted that I was perfectly content to lose myself in Bernadette’s story.
While The Edge of Our Bodies is no longer running at Theater Exile, you should still take advantage of their partnership with PEX and check out the other plays they have on deck for the 2012-2013 season!
This is probably not very queenly of me, but I have a confession to make to you peasants.
I am the biggest wuss in the history of the planet. I know it’s pretty unexpected, coming from someone who eats like a baby dinosaur, but it’s true. I get scared of everything. I refuse to even think about watching American Horror Story, even though Evan Peter’s face has often managed to almost convince me to give it a go. Horror movie plots recreate themselves in my head every time I walk a block in the dark (and I live in a SUBURB). To this day I cannot look at a stink bug without bursting into tears.
So it’s understandable, in a way, that I’ve lived in Philly for 10 years and not once have I dared to go explore Eastern State Penitentiary‘s Terror Behind The Walls. I mean, just think about it: scary prison that looks like the setting for an Edgar Allan Poe mystery + a seasonal holiday where it’s perfectly acceptable to wave murder weapons at people’s faces = the perfect haunted house. Eastern State Penitentiary spends months and thousands of dollars getting ready for the annual spectacle, which sets you loose on an 11-acre abandoned prison to explore all its nooks and cranies… which may house violent spirits and crawly things. In spite of this, TBTW has been lauded as the greatest holiday season entertainment since the presidential debates for years.
In the past, I’ve just kept my Halloween scares to re-watching Hocus Pocus for the 30th time (hey, it’s scarier than it sounds, Sarah Jessica Parker stars in it). But this year is going to be different. This year, peasants, I will get over myself and be a grown up. I will attend Terror Behind The Walls and disregard the fact that Eastern State was totally featured in, like, twenty ghost-hunter TV shows and everyone thinks it’s haunted by the ghost of Al Capone.
Good news though! The PEX pass lets you get an early recognition of cardiac arrest for for 50% off! So even if you die of fright, you can (literally) rest assured knowing that you’ll have some money left over to help your family pay for your funeral.
October 24, 2012 By Julian Otis
I have been going to the Orchestra more than usual this fall, but I have to say I am also excited and surprised by the artistry and musicality of the ‘Philadelphia Sound’. Over the past month I have been to performances of ‘West Side Story’, the Season Preview Concert, the Opening Night Gala, and a performance of Verdi’s ‘Requiem’. That is a crazy amount in a short time period but each show had a beauty of its own. (You can read about my ‘West Side Story experience here).
The Season Preview Concert was opened to the entire Philadelphia community for free. It gave everyday people a chance to experience this great orchestra. The special feature of this concert was that we heard pieces that will be featured in future concerts this season. In between sets we also got a chance to hear from the orchestra members themselves, about their experiences with the orchestra and special programs they offer during the season.
The Opening Night Gala was a fancy affair complete with Champagne toast, fancy ties and dresses. Renee Fleming was the special guest of the night and the concert featured orchestral vocal selections by Ravel and Strauss. The fanfare of the event was unmatched by the performance of Verdi’s Requiem with The Westminster Choir College. Everything about the experience was a joy to me. Many times I was covered with goose bumps, because of suspense of hundreds of voices singing softly ‘Grant us peace’
I encourage everyone to consider buying an EZ Seat U pass for $25. With this membership you have an opportunity to see Philadelphia Orchestra performances for the entire season. There is one tip to consider: the student tickets usually go on sale at noon on Tuesday, so be ready to click fast and get a great seat. Also be on the lookout for College Night Concerts every semester. I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite pieces from the community concert ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’.