Thursday, May 7, 2015

When Philadelphia bombed itself 30 years ago

Andino Ward is an admirable dude. He's a child of God, an IT entrepreneur, a musician, a voiceover narrator, a good friend (He encouraged me to start this blog about 6 years ago), an outstanding example of what every parent should be ... and unfortunately, someone who endured what no father ever should. I found that out when we sat down for a revealing interview about his son, who was forever linked to the MOVE bombing disaster on Osage Avenue in Philadelphia on May 13, 1985.
Arriving to pick up his son from his ex-wife for visitation, he was informed that she had taken the child, renamed him "Birdie Africa," and went to live in the MOVE compound. Considering the number of alarming problems, dating back to the mid-'70s, that the radical, confrontational back-to-nature group had caused their neighbors, the police and the City of Philadelphia, it was the epitome of a worst nightmare.

For years, he unsuccessfully attempted to get custody. Then the Philadelphia District Attorney's office -- at that time the DA was future Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell -- made some outrageous proposals, according to Ward.
He watched the frightening footage on TV of emergency personnel allowing the fire to ravage Osage Avenue. That's how desperate the city was to rid itself of MOVE. Then Ward, unaware at the time that his son was the only child survivor of the blaze, got a shocker of a phone call from his father. The family later successfully sued the city over how the situation was handled. The boy had been severely burned. 

While the boy was healing, and very slowly adjusting to a normal life outside the cult-like environment of MOVE, there was the issue of changing his name.


Going on to graduate from North Penn High School -- even playing football for the Knights -- and for the most part quietly living his adult life, Michael Ward passed away in 2013. The coroner's official ruling was drowning due to acute alcohol poisoning -- a strange thing considering that he was conscious about his health.


The positive we can take away from all the struggle and tragedy is Michael Moses Ward had what can be considered an extraordinary life thanks to the love of his father, stepmother and sisters. Andino Ward was mulling writing a book at the time this interview took place.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Morrissey WHO?! Johnny Marr kicking butt and taking names

You may know that Smiths guitar wizard Johnny Marr has released two solo albums in recent years, but did you know he has a cover of Depeche Mode's "I Feel You" coming out on Record Store Day April 18? Yay! Johnny sings, adding some muscle to this tune.

I was hoping he'd play one of his signature solos in this recording, perhaps something like the short one he plays on Noel Gallagher's new song "Ballad of the Mighty I." About the only reason I would willingly listen to anything by those self-important snots from Oasis would be something like the jangle you hear 4:45 into this song.

AND a 2016 release date has been set for Marr's autobiography.

For good measure, here's my favorite of his outside of The Smiths, alongside of New Order singer Bernard Sumner. Jangle, crisp acoustic guitar rhythm and a wailing solo right out of The Smiths' heyday.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Last call for the Philadelphia Flower Show

We're headed into the final weekend of the 2015 Philadelphia Flower Show - the 8th largest flower show in the world, I hear. The weather this week really disrupted things, so I bet the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia will be jam packed. Here's a couple pictures I took during one of the snowy days we had. Happy Spring!

I like Disney/Pixar, and everything, but with the movie theme the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society was going with, I expected a broader cinematic representation.
The miniature dioramas of movie scenery were so popular that my wife and I couldn't get much of a view, except in passing. Too bad going on a weekday wasn't an option.
From what I hear, the Flower Show marketplace has gotten noticeably larger. Linger in that part of the convention center at your own risk because some of the vendors get kind of aggressive.
And bring extra cash because the Gene London display of Hollywood clothing and "The Butterfly Experience" will cost you extra. The food's pricey too.
A pleasant surprise is the variety in the Pennsylvania Fine Wine & Good Spirits tasting area. It's a lot more than just wine.
The show runs till 9 p.m. tonight and Saturday the 7th, and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday the 8th. Get tickets here. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What's next for local winners of CNBC "Restaurant Startup"?

On Tuesday March 3, chef Steve Latona was the toast of Montgomery County Community College, and the school's Culinary Arts Institute, after he and fellow culinary instructor Mark Bellini prevailed on an episode of the CNBC show "Restaurant Startup." In case you missed it, you can watch it here (You'll need your cable provider username and password):

"Now I can show this in class," Latona commented.
A viewing party featuring a screening of the episode and a buffet-style luncheon sneak peek of Smoke Kitchen dishes, held for MCCC staff and students of  The Culinary Arts Institute of Montgomery County Community College, was hosted (and catered) by Montco's CAI in Towamencin.

At top is a bowl of chicken and andouille sausage gumbo. Above is a plate with (counterclockwise from right) a piece of Smoke Kitchen rotisserie chicken; poblano turkey meatloaf; roasted potatoes; Brussels sprouts with apples, bacon and shallots; and a cole slaw with purple cabbage.

When the restaurant opens in the Malvern area, the menu will also have sides that include four-bean salad and macaroni and cheese. Before the chicken hits the oak wood fire, it's brined for 12 hours, Latona said.
"I would like to thank the students for supporting chef Mark Bellini and chef Latona. You are making us so proud of what we've accomplished," said Dr. Victoria Basteki-Perez. MCCC's provost and vice-president of academic affairs.
"What it's done for the school is amazing. I'm very proud of what he's accomplished in a short period of time here," said Francine Marz, director of the CAI of MCCC. 

Latona, who intends to continue teaching at the culinary school, shared that he and Bellini prepared sliders, chicken salad and side dishes that didn't make it into the broadcast. Security was also very tight on the set. He described being constantly escorted by what sounded like the Secret Service. Stepping outside for a breath of air involved the walkie talkie communication: "Taking the talent outside."  
When asked about their competition from Austin, Texas' Ms. P's Electric Cock Fried Chicken, Latona -- who hinted he would've liked to have tasted their chicken -- said they were nice people and had appeared on other competitive culinary shows before.
When Latona and Bellini's pledged money from Tim Love arrives, a long process to building the Smoke Kitchen begins -- including securing a location, permits and a liquor license.
Image courtesy of CNBC

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Review: The Psychedelic Furs at the Ardmore Music Hall

The old Brownie's 23 East was jumping Friday Jan. 9.
Perhaps thinking that people had forgotten about them, since they haven't released any new music since 1991, one of the truly great bands of the '80s booked a show at Montgomery County's Ardmore Music Hall. The Psychedelic Furs officially sold the place out a couple weeks before the concert date. So surprise guys, people do still find the music you made -- punk aggression with heartfelt, desperate longing (and a honkin' dollop of saxophone) -- very meaningful. My wife noticed that the audience skewed to people of our "certain age," and gave the evening a vibe of parties she enjoyed back in the day.
Richard Butler still has that wonderfully distinct, nasal, smoky, Johnny-Rotten-snarling rasp, so he sounds cool singing anything. 
Here's a story that appeared in Ticket that reveals that new Furs music is pending.
Priding itself on having good sight lines, my suggestion to the Ardmore Music Hall -- which is an interesting hybrid of a general admission/standing club like the Trocadero with a cabaret having precious-few bar seats -- would be to cap the sell-outs at a slightly smaller number. By the time the Furs took the stage for the roaring opener, "Into You Like a Train," the best view I could get was an under-somebody-else's-butt-level angle.
 Whew! When there's a sell out at Ardmore, get there about when the doors open. You have been warned.
But before I tell you more about The Psychedelic Furs' performance, here's a few words about an unexpected bonus -- an opening set by the Philly band Travel Lanes. Being a fan of the local hook-based roots rock bands Buzz Zeemer and Flight of Mavis, I recognized Frank Brown's voice, which my wife astutely observed has quite a bit of Elvis Costello in it. That led to me tweeting @djcaterina about them, and getting confirmation that yup, that is the Buzz Zeemer guy. Travel Lanes' highlights included the Buzz Zeemer songs "Break My Heart" and "Crush." The latter sounded even better than the BZ recording. They also put an ace spin on The Ramones' "She's the One."
They smartly promoted their Jan. 24 show at Dawson Street Pub, but the deadpan quip of "we're a local band, which you can see ... locally" came across as snarky and rubbed me the wrong way. Dude, you're opening for the freakin' Psychedelic Furs! That's a plum slot for a new group; embrace that with a smidge more gratitude and enthusiasm, please!
 The Furs hit crowd-pleasers like "Pretty in Pink," "Love My Way," "Heaven" and these killer tunes:


 They also mined their catalog for excellent songs like "Until She Comes," "Mr. Jones," "Only You and I," "Run and Run" (which lyrically is kind of a bookend companion song for "Pretty in Pink," IMO) and "Fall," which features this unforgettably sneering punk couplet:
Marry me and be my wife/You can have me all your life
Our love will never end/Parties with stupid friends
LOL -- damn!
Who'd have thunk it ... these songs have aged rather well, especially with the new life breathed into them by the band.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

HGTV is the root of all evil

Every once in a while, the pastor at my church gives a poignant reminder that for all the stressing we do over our material possessions, God doesn't care about all the stuff we have. Contrary to what that '80s bumper sticker said, he who dies with the most toys still dies, and you can't take any of it with you. Our American culture being what it is, that's a hard concept to process.
Take, for example, Home & Garden Television, which has been known to send me into fits of rage.
HGTV's mission -- despite my wife's Playboy Magazine excuse that "I just watch it to get decorating ideas" -- seems to be relentlessly brainwashing us all into believing that what we have is never ever enough.
"House Hunters" gives me such powerful feelings of inadequacy that I feel like blowing my brains out.

"I'd like to know where these neighborhoods are," my wife sometimes says after seeing list prices in excess of $500,000 for houses that are a modest 1,200 square feet. 
Even HGTV nice guys the "Property Brothers" are forced to appease this endless, annoying, greedy parade of whiners that "must have" more bathrooms than they'll ever use, "open concept," hardwood flooring (Have you seen how EXPENSIVE hardwood is?!), granite counter tops (cha-CHING) and stainless steel appliances.

What kind of a message does all this reality TV self-absorbed bitching and moaning send, when there are homeless people right in your "trendy, up and coming" neighborhood that would be grateful to have that house that you're pooh-poohing just because it doesn't have a swimming pool?
At the point my brain turned to mush during a recent marathon of "Love It or List It," [there's a freakin' dollar sign in the word "List" in the show's official logo!] that's when I lost it. This family was living in a pretty nice bungalow, which the husband unfortunately sabotaged by starting numerous improvement projects but never finished. The show's real estate agent, David Visentin -- who's probably the biggest HGTV whiner of them all -- showed the couple one house listed at $1 million and another at $1.25 million. 
I started pacing around the house, yelling: "ONE POINT TWO FIVE MILLION DOLLARS!?"
I get it that the show is shot in Canada, and these are Canadian dollars (I hear that, in typical fake "reality TV" fashion, some of the houses are not even actually on the market, but I will leave that alone). Still, if these idiots had that big of a budget to even be considering houses listed at $1,000,000+ each, why not invest in a contractor that knows what they're doing instead of ruining your house with unfinished projects that, in the long run, cost more to correct?
Eee-gads, these HGTV people are throwing around Monopoly money. Meanwhile, by the time I get that kitchen backsplash my wife covets, it'll be out of style -- perpetuating the cycle of "never stop improving." Or as I like to bluntly put it, spending even more money on stuff you know you eventually won't want any more.
All this, and you still can't take it with you.     

Friday, December 5, 2014

All About That Bass, my @$$!

  It's one of the dumbest songs of all time, on several different levels.

  1. Check out this analysis by somebody that tortured themselves by paying attention to the lyrics. 

2. The treble and mid-range are also important, so you can hear things like -- oh I don't know --  MELODY and LYRICS. If all I can hear of your music is the bass, how good can it be? The answer is that it isn't.

3. Living next to a 22-year-old knucklehead that has his stereo low-end cranked so high that it sometimes rattles our walls [Um, hellooooo? Dude, there's an invention called the *@!%$)#(* iPod so I don't have to endure your crappy taste in music! Look it up!!], and witnessing vehicles audibly vibrating from the music inside on Main and Washington streets in Telford Borough, I've become quite the connoisseur of bass. This song has no discernible bass line despite being "all about that bass." HAAAH??

4. There's a calypso melody in the refrain of this song, that I know has already been used and re-used, but can't place at the moment. And I could go on about its lack of artistic merit, but several others have already done that for me.   
...And furthermore ...

5.  What the heck is up with the anachronistic early '60s feel of the video? "Hairspray," I guess?

6. How the listeners of WXPN landed "Stairway to Heaven" on a 88 worst songs of all time list (but also put it in the 885 all time best - which is quite a conundrum), but failed to hit this song ...
OMG, you guys really let me down. For shame.