Do Something Awesome

Dear Readers,

There’s something urgent that I want to tell you about. It’s so cool that I’m letting you know about it before I actually do it myself.

As I was browsing through City Paper this weekend I noticed ad for “Delicacy,” a French film from 2011 featuring Audrey Tautou (who I happen to have an enormous lady-crush on). I immediately googled it, and found out that the movie is playing at the Ritz 5, a fabulous movie theater that I consistently forget about. Ritz 5 is one of several Landmark theaters in Philadelphia. Landmark is the “largest theatre chain dedicated to exhibiting and marketing independent film” in the nation.

Students with ID get in for $7.25 any time except Saturdays & Holidays. Read as: students get in cheaper than they will to pretty much any other movie, even at matinee hours.

In addition to “Delicacy”, the Philadelphia theaters are featuring critically acclaimed films that you may have heard of including “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” “The Artist,” and “Coriolanus”.

The moral of this short story? If you’ve been wanting to expand your horizons, and want to sit in a cool theater on one of our hot spring days, check out the Landmark Theaters.

You’re welcome,

P.S. This is a great date idea. It’s cheaper than a normal movie and you get to seem cultured. Double win.

My Boots Were Not Made For As Much Walking As I Did On Saturday

This Saturday, my friend was visiting from UCLA, so we decided to brave the precariously grey weather and hoof it across the city.

We walked from my dorm at 13th and Cecil all the way to Penn’s Landing, weaving through a variety of neighborhoods and wandering somewhat aimlessly with the vague goal in mind of eventually getting to one of my favorite stores, AKA Music, (located right across from Christ Church). If you haven’t been there, AKA is an enormous warehouse that has a huge variety of vinyl, CDs, and posters. )As someone with a nearly diagnosable decorating addiction, the latter is my favorite aspect). Along the way we stopped at Wawa (truly the happiest place on earth) and picnicked in Independence Park (a hilarious place to tourist watch) before continuing toward the water.

After the music store, we headed toward Old City, which is so architecturally adorable that it (almost) excuses the exorbitant prices they charge in their vintage stores by making window shopping enjoyable on its own. After a string of super-expensive shops (what I call “grown up stores”) we found a spot that does bulk vintage, meaning they had several boxes of old t-shirts, that my friend got absorbed in browsing through for 15 minutes. He said it was like real-life internet surfing- he just kept picking things up, seeing if they were funny, and then putting them down until I dragged him away.

The rest of the afternoon was spent walking to City Hall, then back to the vintage store where I left the posters I had bought at the music store, then back to City Hall again to catch the subway back to Temple in the hope of saving my feet. The day was mellow, inexpensive, and entertaining- just walking around Philly and exploring was enough to occupy ourselves, which, for poor (& or cheap) college students living in the city, is a pretty comforting thing to know as we head into warmer weather.

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts AKA That Building With The Paint Brush

Here’s the deal: PAFA is really old and really prestigious in the fine art world. Their two buildings at 118-128 N. Broad St. (spitting distance from the Race-Vine subway stop) host a diverse collection of 19th and 20th century art in mediums ranging from sculptures to oil paintings to drawings.  I was pretty skeptical about checking this place out, since I’m much more of a contemporary art kind of girl (something about portraits of dudes in wigs just doesn’t quite do it for me), but I decided to go in with an open mind (after all, the $12 fee is waived for Temple students).

Here’s what I saw (and loved):

  • Gorgeous marble sculptures with perfect movement in the fabric of their draped togas
  • A Georgia O’Keefe painting (a nice surprise)
  • Pieces so old that the paint was cracking (I’m mentioning this as an awesome fun fact rather than a judgmental comment).
  • Lots of extremely realistic landscapes and portraits
  • One huge room full of stunning African-American art
  • A cell-phone guided tour led by Hennessy Youngman, a gangster rapper, and
  • Informational signs written by art critic Nathanial Snerpus. (To give you an idea, the first line of his explanation on “Why Fruit?” are chosen for still life paintings was, “Because they’re still, silly”).

What I learned:

  • Children in art are almost always creepy. Children in sculptures with big wide eyes and rolls of baby fat are particularly unsettling.
  • I can appreciate realistic art best when it’s a landscape painted on a huge canvas and looks out at some sort of vista, so that I feel like if I were there, that’s the angle I would be viewing it from. Before today, I had never been able to appreciate realistic art, but it was amazing to walk around the room of landscapes and feel like I was being transported between seasons and locations every time I took a step to the left.
  • I don’t care about portraits unless they are of people wearing particularly fabulous clothing (which some of the ladies featured definitely were).

I definitely recommend taking a trip to PAFA if you have an hour or two available. It’s free, it’s close, and it’s a good size (big enough to have something for everyone, but small enough to be able to get through) for a quick trip.

NOTE: PAFA currently has an exhibition featuring the work of  Henry Ossawa Tanner, who was admittedly quite talented, but not at all to my taste, so I’m not going to waste your time tip-toeing around compliments and my real opinion. If you’re into religiously themed work, go check it out. If not, don’t run too fast.

Philadelphia Arts Alliance

Where: The Philadelphia Arts Alliance is located at 251 South 18th Street, aka right across from Rittenhouse Square Park. It’s a quick walk from the Broad Street Line, and particularly beautiful at this time of the year when Christmas decorations are just starting to go up.

Cost: $5 for adults, $3 for students, FREE with your PEX passport.

When: Tuesday-Sunday, 11 am- 5pm (I went at around 1:30 on a Thursday)

Who (would like it): This particular exhibit is great for all types of people. Because it’s interactive and fantastical, it was a hit with the kids who we saw there (adorable), as well as each of the people in my group, whose art experience ranged from full-blown Tyler student to a friend who was just open to trying something new.

What: The current exhibit showing at the PAA is called “Let Me Tell You About A Dream I Had,” an installation created by Miss Rockaway Armada that embodies the adage that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. PAA is all about innovative contemporary art that inspires “dynamic interaction between audiences and artists,” which this exhibit definitely accomplishes. The best way that I can describe it is to tell you to picture that obligatory scene in every movie where someone does acid and ends up at a crazy bohemian circus (when I said this to my friends they didn’t seem to get it, so maybe this only happens in the movies I watch- if so, click the link and see what I’m talking about). It’s a multi-media art environment, so you can touch things, play around, watch a movie, listen to music, go behind the creepy curtain etc. The PAA is basically a really large, beautiful house, with lots of open space that has been transformed into another world.

How (I felt about it): If you couldn’t tell from the descriptions above, I fell head-over-heels in love with this exhibit. Of all the art installations I’ve seen in my life, this one ties for first place (with Black Acid Co-Op by Deitch). Maybe I just have a thing for Please-Touch-Museum-On-A-Drug-Trip experiences, but based on the reactions of my friends, I know I’m not making up how phenomenal this is. The materials are all ordinary things that come together to be something extraordinary. It’s only here until December 30, so get there ASAP.

A quote from one of the exhibit rooms:

“Papa Beutrino: He chased his dreams and was never paralyzed by fear of what may lay in the path ahead. His boldness and bravery inspired me and many from our crew. Crossing the Atlantic on a raft made of scraps was only one of his great feats. He just did his thing.

Tori Gets Lawlz-y at ComedySportz

Unprofessional title? Keepin’ it.

Anyway, as you may have gathered, I finally got to go to ComedySportz, a PEX activity that I’ve been super excited about for a while now. I know that this is longer than my typical post, but know that I’m not wasting your time, I just really really liked it.

I was planning to go the weekend before Thanksgiving, then couldn’t. I meant to go last weekend, but I was in a tryptophan coma and missed it. After lots of shuffling around, I got all the pieces to fit together- I had a friend, a ticket waiting for me at will call (thank you, Don!), walking directions and a subway token and finally got to check out the 7:30 pm show (there’s also one at 10 pm) at the Adrienne theater on 20th and Sansom Streets.

Essentially, ComedySportz is what the Olympic event in improv would look like. No obscenity (or you get shamed and have to sit with a brown bag on your head for a few minutes), no bad puns, and 100% improv-ed material. The teams are red (Jersey turnpikes) versus blue (Philadelphia Amish) are are made up of four players each.

The show consists of a series of improv games, some of which are judged by applause from the audience, others by pre-chosen audience judges and the rest by the referee (who, to give you an idea of the seriousness of the game, gave a point to the blue team when they asked for it, and took two away when a red player hugged him too enthusiastically).

At the very beginning, Referee Sean told us, “This isn’t television, this is Theater. I can see you,” which set the tone for the entire evening. Audience participation is crucial, and ComedySportz is serious about their commitment to theater as an art form.  From clapping to chiming in topics, to actually getting up on stage, the audience is treated as a living element of the show. When a huge group of people with reserved tickets walked in 10 minutes late, they were welcomed by everyone on stage and in the audience. The atmosphere is light and silly and the energy of the crowd is a huge factor in the kind of experience you have. Read as: go with a huge group of really fun friends that you know you’ll have a blast with.

Because it’s bound to be different every time, I won’t bother explaining which games they played or how they went, but I will tell you about the players. Each team member had a ton of personality and though you could definitely tell that it was the first show of the night and that they were warming up, each one had something inherently hilarious about them. For instance, one player had a contagious laugh that made me giggle every time I heard it. It was also evident that everyone had a theater background, if not for their stage presence then for their awesome singing voices that came out during random parts of games. You know those people that sing along to the radio and demolish the high notes without thinking about it? ComedySportz is where those guys go to thrive.

Singing–> music–> sounds–> this is the part where I tell you about my moment of stardom.

Whenever people in a show ask for audience volunteers, I always raise my hand because I assume I won’t get picked. Well, ladies and gentleman guess who got brought up on stage tonight? This girl, of course. The game was for the actors to create a scene involving two honeymooners in Alaska who get their room crashed by a random old guy. My job was the provide hilarious sound effects. When I say you get out what you put in, this is a perfect example. Before I went up, I was really enjoying myself but after I put myself out there and got a supportive, positive response from the audience and the players alike, I liked it even more. Because really, who doesn’t like being clapped for?

This is where I will put the picture of me with all the players, assuming I can get my hands on it. For the time being, enjoy this gem of me eating a lime.

ComedySportz performs every Saturday night at 7:30 pm and again at 10 pm. Because they are extremely conscious of keeping it PG during these performances (so feel free to bring your 5th grader cousin when she visits), they have recently added a raunchier version called The Blue Show, which happens on the last Friday of every month during the 10 pm show. As an enthusiastic potty-mouth, I’ll definitely be checking this out later this month.

Tickets are $12 for students with ID, but $10 for Temple students who bring their handy-dandy PEX passport. Read as: great deal.

Thanks again to Don who was kind enough to accommodate my ever-shifting schedule, to the players and of course the friend I coerced into coming with me.

The Not-Quite-Macy’s-But-Still-Thanksgiving-Day Parade

I am a big fan of exploiting seasonal topics. Thus, instead of telling you about a museum that you aren’t going to remember through your food coma later this week, I’ll tell you about something going on in your backyard that will help you make the most of your holiday.

There are no good Google pictures of the parade, and I love Pooh Bear, so this gets to be featured even though it's not totally related.

Apparently, Philadelphia has a Thanksgiving Day Parade. They have had this parade every year since 1920. I have lived in the area since 1998. I am clearly not a very observant person. For those of you who are either new to the area or, like me, simply watch the Macy’s parade on TV instead of making yourself aware of what’s going on in real life around you, this will be exciting news.

From  8:30 a.m.-noon on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011 (Thanksgiving day), floats, bands, dance teams and scores of other performers will parade through town starting at 20th and JFK Boulevard, continuing down JFK Boulevard to City Hall and then taking the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Philadelphia Art Museum.

If you can’t make it into town/ aren’t a fan of crowds, you can watch the parade on 6ABC where Phil-ebrities Cecily Tynan and Rick Williams will host and commentate on the festivities. In the event that you aren’t napping by 8pm, you can turn your TV back onto ABC and watch the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special (one of my personal holiday favorites).

Have a very happy Thanksgiving and get excited for next week when I visit Comedy Sportz at the Adrienne theater!

Behind the Scenes of Eastern State Penitentiary’s Terror Behind The Walls

First of all, Happy Halloween! I hope everyone has had a safe and shenanigan-filled Halloweekend.

Second of all, I have a confession to make in the spirit of journalistic full disclosure. I know I promised to go to Terror Behind the Walls, but then I remembered that I hate being scared, and decided not to. Luckily, my roommates all made the trip and thus enabled me to compile a list of tips and highlights for those curious about the experience. And just think, now you have a whole year to chew on these hints before deciding if you want to subject yourself to the terror behind the walls next Halloween. (See what I did there? I think I’m pretty clever). On to the list!

  1. Go with people you aren’t afraid to look like an idiot in front of. This is not a good first date idea. Yes, you’ll end up clutching them for dear life, but you’ll probably also end up crying and panicking, which isn’t cute.
  2. Bring a guinea pig who’s brave enough to take the lead. They’ll take the majority of the hits on being grabbed by surprise, giving you a little relief.
  3. Don’t caffeinate before you go. You’ll just end up giving yourself a heart attack or an anxiety attack or something which isn’t worth it.
  4. Try as hard as you can to avoid driving. Parking is challenging, particularly as you get closer to Halloween, and it’s a much better idea to just take the trolley, a bike, your legs…pretty much anything other than a car.
  5. Reward yourself afterward. Fairmount Pizza and Philly Water Ice are less than a block away from the Penitentiary, and are a satisfying way to end a night of fright.

Even with these tips, I’m not sure I’ll be woman enough to make the trip next year, but at least I feel a little more prepared for it and hopefully you do too. The most important thing at any haunted house type of experience is to remember not to take yourself (or your surroundings) too seriously and to have fun. As long as screaming is followed by laughing (which it definitely was for all of my friends who went), it’s well worth the trip.

Alone at Eastern State Penitentary

I’m going to preface this by saying that this would be an awesome date location. Since, however, I’m currently single and had no friends available to strong-arm into going with me, I ended up on an excursion to the very famous, very sinister, Eastern State Penitentiary all by my lonesome.

In case you weren’t aware, Eastern State pioneered the system of solitary confinement based on principles and penitence rather than punishment. Operational from 1828 until 1971, the prison is built like a castle, and is currently being kept as a “stable ruin,” such that it maintains its dilapidated charm while remaining structurally sound. Eastern State has housed numerous famous criminals, gangster Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton among them. The design for the building was chosen from a $100-prize contest and was the largest and most expensive public structure to date at the time of its construction.

The model for some 300+ other prisons worldwide, getting to tour the facility and actually sit inside of the cramped cells was an excellent motivator for me to avoid getting sent to prison. Equipped with a bed, a toilet and a skylight that was designed to allow prisoners to “let God shine through” as they thought about their crimes, these rooms are creepy, and require stepping over the doorway to enter, almost as if prisoners are in display boxes (without glass doors).

On my tour, I was given a headset and a map and was encouraged to explore the grounds. Going out of order, I found a number of cool sites. Art installations are incorporated throughout the prison, and provide interesting commentary and insight into prison life, how we view penitence, jail crimes etc. I had the pleasure of going on a five-minute mini-tour during which my guide showed me instances of grafiti or “inmate art” hidden in one of the cell blocks.

Of all the places I visited at Eastern State, the only one that truly made me shiver was the “hole” or punishment cell. When I walked in, I could feel suffering and suddenly found my heart feeling tight and my breath getting more shallow. I can’t quite describe what was so creepy about the experience, but I can tell you that I bolted out of there pretty quickly (did I mention that this is a great date location!?).

I definitely recommend this spot. The best ways to get there are either via trolley or bike (the latter if you can) which are both cheap and time-efficient. Also, Fairmount is a really cute area to hang out in- peppered with lunch spots and an adorable bookstore across the street from the prison, it’s possible to visit for an hour or a whole afternoon.

Moral of the story? Go there!

Note: I’m going back for Terror Behind the Walls, Eastern State’s famously freaky Halloween tour. Anyone interested in joining me can contact me at Also, I apologize that there’s no video to accompany this post. My beautiful flip cam ran out of battery ten seconds after I arrived. Story of my life.

National Constitution Center

Hey there, history fans- this one is for you.

If you make it through four years of college in Philadelphia and don’t make it to the National Constitution Center at least once, you have done something terribly wrong and should plan on moving to Canada because you clearly have no interest in your nation’s history. (How’s that for incentive?)

Aside from being a right of passage, (and being really easy to get to via subway) the NCC actually has some cool stuff. With a ton of permanent exhibits and feature exhibits, you’ll get a huge dose of history from all over the world (Diana and Napoleon are featured right next to George Washington) in what is likely the most engaging format you’ll come across.

Since the NCC is a huge deal, they get huge endowments, meaning that they have money to spend on things like enormous interactive exhibits, a movie theater, special events (and have you seen how gorgeous that building is?).  An added bonus to going soon is that Independence Mall is beautiful, and the perfect place for a picnic (coughdatecough).

Highlights (for me) going on right now include the “Spies, Traitors and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America” as well as Posters for the People: Art of the WPA”. Check out everything else the NCC has going on here.

Get your geek on, Temple.

Art Museum Part 2

I recently dragged my mom to round two of the Philadelphia Art Museum and I am sad to say that this excursion was significantly less impressive than my previous one. I went specifically to check out the “Unsettled: Photography and Politics in Contemporary Art” exhibit because it boasted work by my all-time favorite artist, Barbara Kruger.

Though the exhibit was designed to cover all social-political issues in the last 40 years, it lacked a distinct message, which made the pieces feel disconnected and the “meanings” behind the images contrived. Without proper context, a portrait of a gay couple performing fellatio is less a powerful statement and more pornographic. If you’re not an obsessed Kruger fan like I am, I wouldn’t bother make the trip.

Other exhibits on display in the Tuttleman building are “The Peacock Male: Exuberance and Extremes in Masculine Dress” and “Collab: Four Decades of Giving Modern and Contemporary Design“. The former boasts an array of flamboyant articles of clothing ranging from beautiful ivory vests to Phillies tracksuits. The latter exhibit is kind of like going through a high-end Ikea showroom. Though it was an interesting visual experience, unless any of these exhibits fall under the umbrella of one of your specific passions, I would recommend satisfying your curiosity with photos in the gallery below.