Pop art in Philly, part 1

June 30, 2014 – Pop art, or art based on modern popular culture and mass media, is alive and well in Philadelphia. In this two-part series, we’ll explore some of the pop art sculptures around the city in its downtown district.

The Clothespin; location: 15th & Market Streets
This odd sculpture, commissioned to commemorate Philadelphia’s Bicentennial celebration in 1776, is the brainchild of artist Claes Oldenburg. I’m not sure what a clothespin and the 200th anniversary of American independence have in common, but legend claims that if you look at it from the right angle, you can see a “76” in the steel springs of the pin. I can clearly see the 6, but the 7 escapes me.


LOVE Statue;  location: 16th Street & JFK Blvd.
Robert Indiana’s LOVE statue, created in 1970, is showcased in a few American cities. In Philly, the statue sits in JFK Plaza, appropriately nicknamed “Love Park” in honor of the pop art sculpture.

love statue

Your Move; location: Broad Street and JFK Blvd.

In the pop art world, even the most common items can be interesting.  Giant game pieces, including dominoes, Parcheesi pieces, Monopoly pieces and chessmen, can be found scattered about the Municipal Services Plaza, also known as “Game Piece Plaza”. “Your Move” is the work of artists Daniel Martinez, Renee Petropoulis, and Roger White. The group assembled the pieces in 1996.

parcheesi piece

chess pieces


Franklin’s Kite and Lightning Bolt; location: 6th & Race Streets

This stainless steel sculpture of a kite and a key by artist Isamu Noguchi was created in the 1950s in honor of Philly’s own Benjamin Franklin and his electricity research. Supposedly it sits at the same site where Franklin actually conducted the experiment.

Next Monday, we’ll highlight the wonderful works of art in Philadelphia’s South Street area, known as Philadelphia’s Magic Garden.

Ten quotable movie lines to use in a pinch

downloadJune 27, 2014 – In the movie “Mary Poppins”, the character Bert explains to Jane and Michael Banks that “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” is what to say when you don’t know what to say. Movie quotes are always appropriate in conversation, as well, and here are 10 of the best:

1. “Be careful out there among the English.” – The line from the movie “Witness” with Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis is a classic in my world. The old Amish man, Eli Lapp, says it to his family members every time they venture off Amish land, and I often say it to my son whenever he leaves the house.

2. “Toto, I don’t believe we’re in Kansas anymore.” – Who hasn’t used this quote from “The Wizard of Oz”, the very one Dorothy murmurs as she steps out of her black and white world and into living color? It might be slightly overused – all the good ones are – but it’s the perfect thing to say whenever you’re out of your element.

3. “Surely, you can’t be serious.” – We have the comic classic “Airplane” and the deadpan delivery of Leslie Nielsen’s comeback, “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley,” to thank for this gem. “Airplane” is loaded with quotable lines that work well in many situations.

4. “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.” – I’m not sure when this line would be appropriate, but I had to include it on the list because it is the most hilarious and dramatic of the bunch. Patrick Swayze, not really known for his stellar acting ability, delivers this cheesy line with perfection when he confronts Baby’s parents in the closing scene of “Dirty Dancing”.

5. “Show me the money!” – Admit it you’ve used this one from “Jerry Maguire” before. Life gives us plenty opportunities to make this claim just as Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character did when he negotiates a big sports contract.

6. “You can’t handle the truth!” – Like #6 above, the same is true for this line from “A Few Good Men.” I’ll bet you can deliver it as well as Jack Nicholson did when Tom Cruise questioned him in the courtroom scene, too.

7. “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” – Too bad this Rhett Butler to Scarlett O’Hara line from “Gone with the Wind” doesn’t have the same punch that it did in 1939 when it was scandalous! It’s still quite recognizable and useable, which is amazing for a 75-year-old movie line.

8. “Here’s looking at you, kid.” – Another oldie but goodie from the movie “Casablanca” that is well-known. Who doesn’t love it when Humphrey Bogart’s Rick whispers these words to Ingrid Bergman’s Elsa? Contrary to popular believe, the line, “Play it again, Sam,” was never used in the movie, but it deserves an honorable mention as another well-used line from this classic film because everyone thinks it was.

9. “Please sir, I want some more.” – This one is best said in a British accent if you can manage it, just like in the movie, “Oliver!” Master Twist, the brave boy that he is, speaks these words to the mean schoolmaster because he’s still hungry after the pittance given to him. One-way or another, we can all relate to not receiving enough of something.

10. “The new phone book is here. The new phone book is here!” – Steve Martin’s “The Jerk” is another one of those movies filled with quotable lines. Even though people don’t use phone books anymore in this technological age, this is still one of the best used by Martin’s character, who finds out he was adopted and is on a quest to discover who he really is.

Nobody does it better

imagesJune 25, 2014 – Happy birthday to singer/songwriter Carly Simon, who turns 69 today.

The daughter of Simon & Schuster founder Richard Simon is one of the most prolific artists of our time, with her career spanning 50 years. In 1964, she began performing as a folk duo with her sister Lucy. Ever since, she’s found a way to entertain with her own style.

Throughout her career, Carly has shared her talent with people of all ages, writing books for children, and an opera, along with the popular songs that have kept her on the music charts for decades, providing the soundtrack for my life. I adore most of the songs in her mammoth collection, but lately, I am drawn to the music she’s created with other artists, where she highlights her amazing harmonies.

Here she is singing with David Crosby and Jimmy Web at a 2000 “Tribute to Brian Wilson”, singing “In My Room”. Crosby and Web aren’t too shabby either.

To learn more about Carly and her amazing career, I highly recommend two great books. The first “More Room in a Broken Heart: The True Adventures of Carly Simon”, was written by music journalist Stephen Davis. It is an unauthorized biography, and Carly has stated that Davis does not have his facts straight, but I found it to be an interesting read.

The second book, written by Sheila Weller, is “Girls Like Us: Carol King, Joni  Mitchell, Carly Simon – And the Journey of a Generation”, was written with Simon’s cooperation, plus it includes compelling stories about my second favorite female singer/songwriter, Joni Mitchell.

Another milestone in Beatles’ history

imagesJune 20, 2014 — As if we needed another reason to feel old comes the news that The Beatles’ film — and my favorite of all of their films — “A Hard Day’s Night” celebrates its 50th anniversary in a few weeks.

Here’s an article from “The New York Post” naming 10 things you probably didn’t know about the film. And they’re right. I didn’t know them. Not even one.

If you’re a fan, watch for the film to appear in select theaters, and to be released on Blue Ray in honor of the milestone.

While I enjoy the entire Beatles’ catalog, I especially adore this time period when they seemed innocent and carefree. The Fab Four also proved they could act, too.

If you haven’t seen this comic gem, plan to see it on the big screen if it comes to your area. I’ve seen it more times than I can count on television, but 10 years ago, in honor of its 40th anniversary, I experienced in a theater for the first time, and it gave me a different perspective. Definitely worth the price.

Orange is the New Black: Torturing myself one episode at a time

orange_is_the_new_black_musicJune 18, 2014 – Any fans of “Orange is the New Black” out there?

I am more than half way through the second season and I am still not sure if I like the show. I’m leaning towards no, I don’t care for it, but something keeps me watching.

I felt the same during the first season, and pushed through to the end anyway, certain that I wouldn’t waste my time with the second season. Yet, when Netflix released it in early June, I gave in a few days after its debut, telling myself I’ll just watch one episode to see what happened after the cliffhanger. Just like M&Ms (I don’t particularly care for them either), one led to another, and then another, and so on.

The series, about a seemingly normal woman in her early thirties from an upper middle class background, who is sentenced to a year and a half in a federal prison for a drug-related crime she committed almost ten years prior, is praised by many. The series writer, Jenji Kohan, is the same writer who created “Weeds” for Showtime, and the premise is compelling. What’s not to like?

Still, I despise the feeling of dread I have at the end of each episode. I watch slowly because binging would throw me over the edge, and affect my dreams. I need time to forget what I experienced before I move on to the next episode.

That doesn’t sound like something you want to watch on television, does it? My harsh opinion has nothing to do with the acting. These characters have fine actors playing them. It doesn’t have anything to do with the writing, either. Kohan is a solid writer, and I enjoy her other work. My biggest gripe, besides finding it depressing, is that it’s difficult for me to watch women aggressively attack each other like they were … gasp! … men.

I’m not sure why it doesn’t seem as bad when male characters act violently on television and in the movies. Could it be it’s what we expect from them? I’m all for equal opportunity, even in prison. I suppose anyone who is locked up like an animal may act the same way, male or female. It says a lot about human nature, but I expect more from women.

I’ve never spent time in prison, yet the show is believable (and racist) depicting white women having heir own “neighborhood” in the big house, and the same for Hispanic women, and black women, who’s area is known as “the ghetto”. There’s plenty of interaction between races, but when it comes to sleeping, bathing, and eating, each race stays with their own. The prison guards are also portrayed poorly, as is the assistant warden, who is as corrupt as they come, accepting government funds to upgrade the prison, yet spending the money on her own needs so she can live in luxury. I’m sure it can happen. It is, however, cliché, and seems to be written like that only to make the female criminals look less guilty, and create a conundrum about who really belongs in prison.

Bottom line, it’s simply not entertaining to watch women act like barbarians. At least not to me. If anyone who reads this enjoys the show, please comment and tell me why. I’m curious.

So, why do I continue to watch? I’m not sure. It is a question I’ll have to tackle on another day. I’m pretty sure that after this season though, I won’t watch it again. Well, maybe just one episode if there is a cliffhanger.

The lavender fields are blooming in Bucks County

June 16, 2014 – You don’t have to go all the way to the Provence region in France to experience the beauty of lavender fields. Those who live near Bucks County, Pa., can take in the wonderful fragrance at Peace Valley Lavender Farm and Carousel Lavender Farm, both located near New Hope. Here are a few photos of each farm, and some fun facts about this amazing plant.

peace valley sign

Lavender was used 2500 years ago in the mummification process in Ancient Egypt. It is also said that Cleopatra used a perfume infused with lavender to seduced Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
It is said that Cleopatra used a perfume infused with lavender to seduce Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
Queen Victoria used to require that her furniture be polished with a lavender-based solution, and she also sipped tea infused with lavender to settle her stomach and ease her headaches.
Queen Victoria used to require that her furniture be polished with a lavender-based solution, and she also sipped tea infused with lavender to settle her stomach.
peace valley shop 2
Lavender has the following properties: antibacterial, antidepressant, analgesic, and antiseptic. During London’s great plague, people would tie bunches of lavender to their wrists to fight infection and bacteria.

carosel sign

The lavender bud is covered in tiny hairs that contain the essential oils.
The lavender bud is covered in tiny hairs that contain the essential oils.
Back in the Elizabethan times, when baths weren’t common practice, lavender was used to perfume clothes and bed linen.
Back in the Elizabethan times, when baths weren’t common practice, lavender was used to perfume clothes and bed linen.
In French classrooms teachers used to crush lavender to calm disruptive and nervous students.
In French classrooms teachers used to crush lavender to calm disruptive and nervous students.