Tuesday, January 13, 2009

One good thing in Philadelphia

Unless one is a Phillies fan or, for this week at least, an Eagles fan, almost everything in Philadelphia is heading downhill and has been doing so since about 1840. The mayor wants to cut the fire department and close libraries (which, after a late public-relations effort forced action, now may be reopened by private companies as, believe it or not, "knowledge centers.")

Philadelphia gas rates are going up even as rates around the Northeastern United States are going down, thanks to a bungled financial deal. Mail handling in the city is a shambles. A recently retired state senator from the city is on trial for corruption.

On the cultural front, I bought a classical music magazine Sunday that ranked the world's greatest orchestras. Where was Philadelphia? Top ten? Nope. Best of the rest? Nah. This put it behind not just its fellow members of America's traditional Big Five of symphony orchestras (New York, Cleveland, Boston and Chicago) but also the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony. What does Philadelphia get? A mention under "Past Glories."

But I forgot all of that for a moment Sunday because a new comics and video store has just moved in right near where I live. It's called RKO Video Rentals and South Philly Comics, and I found some good stuff there. I'd lost track of Harvey Pekar after he stopped publishing his American Splendor for a while, I believe because of his cancer (an experience he later wrote about in Our Cancer Year). Alan Moore many of you know about, and I may well write about V for Vendetta here sometime. And the guy working in the shop recommended Ex Machina, which I thought would be just an angst-ridden-ex-superhero comic but turned out to have delightful comic touches as well.

So thanks, RKO Video Rentals and South Philly Comics. You've given me something to read, something to write, and something to do besides complain.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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23 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Pekar and Moore two of the all time greats. Nice tip on Machina. Will look for it. Heres that clip of Pekar on Letterman you were talking about in a different posting.

January 13, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

Alan Moore many of you know about, and I may well write about V for Vendetta here sometime.

Please do.

In keeping with a noir comics theme,you could try to track down these two:

100 bullets
stray bullets

I've only read a few translated issues of each,but I've been impressed.

January 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, it was especially nice to find Harvey Pekar again. I don't remember how much of this I've mentioned, but I discovered Pekar years ago thanks to a housemate who was an aspiring cartoonist. I tracked down all the American Splendors to that time, then snapped new ones up as they became available. Then nothing for a while, and I just assumed Pekar had given up the comic. Then I heard about his cancer. Then I heard about Our Cancer Year, but I didn't know he'd published anything since until I found Our Movie Year, which is itself four years old now. So this is kind of like renewing acquaintances with an old friend.

January 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

So far, I'd say V for Vendetta is the best Alan Moore I've read.

And I've already tracked down the first 100 Bullets collection, another product of my visit with Sandra Ruttan and Brian Lindenmuth. I don't remember if they gave it to me, or if I bought it. In any case, I liked the good, gritty storytelling. I found one of the stories a bit contrived, as if its purpose was simply to show that the good guys don't always win. I didn't know until just now that the story was part of a much larger story arc that involves shadowy, secret organizations. Maybe Brian Azzarrello hit a bit of a narrative bump when he tried to move from telling stories to working with an overarching theme.

Re V for Vendetta, I found myself thinking that the story would probably be dense and heavy as a non-graphic novel. But with the art, it works wonderfully.

January 13, 2009  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

You've given me something to read, something to write, and something to do besides complain.

And, really, what more can one ask for?

I'm going to have to check out Moore's work one of these days. Once I dig out of the backlogue of wonderful titles that I've collected from this blog, that is.

January 13, 2009  
Blogger Brian O'Rourke said...

Nutter's cutting back on the fire department's budget? WTF?

Ah Philadelphia, the town that everybody loves to hate and loves to hate itself.

January 13, 2009  
Blogger Dana King said...

As a recovering musician myself, it's quite a shock to see the Philadelphia Orchestra dismissed in such a manner. One of my most vivid memories as a musician was auditioning at the old Academy of Music. (Needless to say, I lost.) Of course, the memory includes watching a roach the size of my thumb try to crawl into my trumpet case in the warm-up room.

January 13, 2009  
Blogger petra michelle; Whose role is it anyway? said...

The pendulum swings; in one direction everything is bleak and dreary, and in the other, it's a fall into a wonderland. Enjoy, Peter!

January 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Brian, read all about it here. This is a big thing in South Philly near the beginning of every new mayoral administration. Perhaps, though I was not around at that time, the neighborhoods there got used to special treatment under Frank Rizzo, and have fighting the shock of losing that special treatment since. Next thing you know, the city might even start enforcing parking laws on South Broad Street. Nah, that would cause a revolution.

The city, as a prominent historian said, has been going downhill since the way to the heart of the continent opened through New York, in the form of the Erie Canal, rather than through Pennsylvania. Re hating itself, Philadelphia continually relies on ephemeral stopgaps like casinos, locally filmed movies and rising real estate prices to boost itself. But the jewels of the city, the things that are spectacular and unique, one never hears about. I have Fairmount Park and the free concerts at Curtis Institute in mind. And take a look at the shape the John Coltrane house is in before you tell me Philadelphia really gives a fig about itself.

January 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Loren, I should go read the Boook of Ecclesiastes. There is a time to complain (lots of time, actually) and a time to refrain from complaining, and there can be great joy in both.

You might want to check out some interviews with Alan Moore avaible on YouTube. One series, labelled Part One, and so one, each part discussing a different work, is especially worth watching.

January 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, I don't think the Philadelphia Orchestra was dismissed. I don't think the article had bad things to say about the orchestra. But the ratings certainly ran counter to the orchestra's reputation. A colleague far more knowledgeable than I about symphonic music blames the decline on Christophe von Eschenbach and suggests that the orchestra can recover if it finds the right music director. To a relatively ignorant outsider like me, though, this was perfect fit with the Philadelphia pattern of greatness and decline.

The next time I attend a concert, I shall look carefully for players blowing cockroaches out of their brasses.

January 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The pendulum swings; in one direction everything is bleak and dreary, and in the other, it's a fall into a wonderland. Enjoy, Peter!

In two more centuries, Philadelphia might be back on top of the English-speaking world! Thanks, PM!

January 13, 2009  
Blogger Brian O'Rourke said...

Peter -

Normally, I shout it from the mountaintops how bad of a rap Philly gets. There's a lot to do in Center City and Olde City, and compared to New York, it's MUCH more affordable to live/work/play in Philly.

So that's why I'm the first to say "Bad, Philly," when I see something like this.

You might have woken the long-sleeping activist in me.

January 13, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

And I've already tracked down the first 100 Bullets collection, another product of my visit with Sandra Ruttan and Brian Lindenmuth.

I even read that post.Ouch!
Memory already deserting me at such a green age.

January 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

My memory is no better. I was unsure if I'd mentioned 100 Bullets when I wrote about the visit. But there's a good chance that if I write about a comic book/graphic novel, it has its roots in the visit, except for Harvey Pekar's books.

January 13, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Brian, I think I am less inclined than some to believe boosterism. Rendell as mayor liked to talk about his can-do attitude, and no doubt he got things done. But his kowtowing to buiness entailed flagrant disregard of billboard laws and ordinances about the amount of space that sidewalk cafes must allow for pedestrian passage, to name two. That exacted a certain cost in eroded respect for law and civility to the disdain I have for self-promotion.

And I'll start believing SEPTA's promotional campaigns when it starts making tokens, passes and change available in every station as opposed to merely bragging about the easy availability of passes and tokens. And don't even get me started on the fiasco with the regional rail ticket machines that would not accept new bills, and SEPTA's FAILURE TO REPLACE THEM.

January 13, 2009  
Anonymous marco said...

Mail handling in the city is a shambles.

Should I abandon all hope then or there's a slight chance Sandra Ruttan's books will arrive sometime in the coming months?

January 14, 2009  
Blogger Loren Eaton said...

Loren, I should go read the Boook of Ecclesiastes.

One of my favorite biblical books, incidentally.

Okay, booting up Moore speaking at Comics Britannia on Watchmen ...

January 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Marco, the trouble is usually on the delivery end. I mailed the books late, but it has been a couple of weeks now. I'd give it two more weeks, I'd say.

January 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And, no, the U.S. postal motto, "Neither rain nor snow ... " is not an English translation of "Lasciate ogne speranza ... "

January 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I studied Ecclesiastes when I was in grade nine. It's great stuff for a 15-year-old, the bleak kick of heavy metal but with humor and literary value.

January 14, 2009  
Blogger pattinase (abbott) said...

It really makes me sad that the city of my birth is racing the city of my death for the worst, formerly great, city

January 18, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yikes! Well, people don't tend to mention Philadelphia in the same breath as Detroit, which probably does not make you feel too much better.

January 18, 2009  

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