July 7, 2014

The Philadelphia Zoo today announced the birth of four African lion cubs, born June 26th to four-year-old Tajiri. The cubs are the first born at the zoo since 1996. It’s an expansion of the pride at the zoo’s Big Cat Falls, and is the first litter born to Tajiri and 6-year-old Makini.

“We’re very excited to welcome Tajiri’s new cubs, the first lions born at Philadelphia Zoo in 18 years,” Kevin Murphy, the Philadelphia Zoo’s General Curator, said in a release. “This birth, Tajiri’s first, is a significant contribution to the lion population in the U.S., and we are cautiously optimistic as Tajiri continues to be a fantastic mother.”

"Like newborn humans," the Philadelphia zoo helpfully adds in its release, "lion cubs are essentially helpless, relying on their mother for care."

To further this success story, just last year Tajiri was treated for a fungal infection she picked up before coming to the Philadelphia Zoo. She made a full recovery — the infection came from the Wisconsin soil, and was not transmissible to other zoo animals or humans. The Zoo sounds optimistic for more cubs from Tajiri in the future. “We will continue to be vigilant for any signs of a relapse, but we are very optimistic that this illness will not resurface in the future,” Dr. Keith Hinshaw, Philadelphia Zoo’s Director of Animal Health, said in a statement.

Tajiri came to the Zoo in 2012 from the Racine Zoo. Makini also came in early 2012. The zoo had cubs on the mind then, but noted that “matchmaking can be dicey among big cats.” Looks like the Philadelphia Zoo’s version of Tinder worked.

No word when the cubs will be put on display. The zoo is currently monitoring Tajiri and her cubs on video.

Photos courtesy of the Philadelphia Zoo

January 4, 2014
November 19, 2013
Swabbing his lips with chapstick, Stallone said he had a trilogy in mind for ‘Rocky.’ In Part II, Rocky would go to night school and enter politics and eventually become Mayor of Philadelphia. And in Part III, he would be framed by the political machine because he was too honest, impeached and wind up back in the ring at 37, broken down but happy.
Per this 1976 New York Times article, Sylvester Stallone’s original plans for Rocky sequels were much different. (via this entertaining ranking of Rocky movies)
September 19, 2013

Top 10 players on the Philadelphia Eagles, based on the U.S. News and World report college rankings

1. Zach Ertz - Stanford University (No. 5)
2. James Casey - Rice University (No. 18)
3. DeSean Jackson - University of California-Berkeley (No. 23)
3. Mychal Kendricks - University of California-Berkeley (No. 23)
3. Matt Barkley - University of Southern California (No. 23)
6. Jason Avant - University of Michigan (No. 28)
6. Brandon Graham - University of Michigan (No. 28)
8. Riley Cooper - University of Florida (No. 49)
9. Chris Polk - University of Washington (No. 52)
10. Brandon Boykin - University of Georgia (No. 60)

Note: Arrelious Benn is on injured reserve and out for the season, so I didn’t include him. He attended the University of Illinois, No. 41 on the list.

June 10, 2013
I think these stock photo models are running a disability scam.

(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4; credit to Fantasource for suggesting the third photo after my original tweet.)

I think these stock photo models are running a disability scam.

(Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4; credit to Fantasource for suggesting the third photo after my original tweet.)

June 3, 2013

Corey Brown, a Cardinal O’Hara grad and rising senior wide receiver for the Ohio State Buckeyes, attended an incredible block party in Philadelphia (or possibly Upper Darby, his hometown). He posted the above video of a dance-off between a Philadelphian and Mickey Mouse. This is my favorite Vine yet. There are so many awesome things in this clip:

  • The dude dancing against Mickey ends his bit with a nice right-left-right combination, including a knockout uppercut.
  • Mickey immediately comes back with a routine we only see the opening of, unfortunately. Even worse, at the very start of the clip it appears Minnie was dancing, too; unlike the other dancers, she’s wearing giant costume character shoes. Vine should have an algorithm that automatically extends the clip if it figures out there’s a dance-off involving Mickey and Minnie Mouse being filmed.
  • If you’re only half-paying attention, that guy in the red shirt who’s about to join the action appears to materialize out of thin air.
  • Look how enthralled all the kids are! I know this is not an official Mickey and Minnie Mouse, but Disney should look into some sort of official dance-off. It won’t be as good as this, but what could be?
  • The adults are pretty rapt, too. I think the one woman is teaching her daughter to dance, and I also liked the other person picking up a hat so Minnie doesn’t accidentally step on it and ruin her routine.
  • Right: And there’s the guy in the foreground in clown makeup, walking away from the scene.
  • My favorite, though, is the dude in the Punisher t-shirt, not caring about the whole scene. He doesn’t even give it a side glance as he storms through the crowd. Just like Frank Castle would want.
April 7, 2013

You know those re-cut trailers where A Christmas Story becomes a horror film or Psycho becomes a romantic comedy?

Well, ABC Family has made one of those (in all seriousness!) for Christopher Nolan’s gritty Batman reboot, Batman Begins, and the results are glorious.

True Confessions of a WrestleManiac

Late last month I read at Writers Night in America, a monthly series held by Dan Bruskewicz of the Philadelphia band TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb. I read alongside my friend (and Daily News gossip columnist) Molly Eichel. Since today is WrestleMania 29, here’s essay I wrote for it. (What I read was a little different—I always ad lib a bit during performances.) I’m a big fan of bad television, and pro wrestling is among the best in that genre. My picks are Cena, Brock Lesnar, Del Rio and Undertaker. I reserve the right to change this title, which I don’t like.

In the fall of 1990, the World Wrestling Federation began carting around a giant egg.

They’d bring it to every event and show it on weekly TV. No one from the WWF explained what was in the egg, but they promoted it for months: At the Survivor Series pay per view on Thanksgiving night, the egg would hatch. Since the egg was person-sized, most wrestling fans figured it would be the debut of a new wrestler.

I tuned in to Survivor Series on Thanksgiving. Announcer Mean Gene Okerlund explained the excitement. “Everybody has speculated to what might be in the egg,” he said. “Is it a dinosaur? Is it a rabbit? Balloons? Is it the Playmate of the Month?” With such hype — It could be a dinosaur! It could be a naked woman! — this 7-year-old wrestling fan was quite excited.

The egg hatched. Out popped… well, a man in a turkey costume. What followed was a horrible, 7-minute segment where the Gobbledy Gooker — yes, that was its name — danced around with Mean Gene. The crowd hated it so much they booed instantly. Look it up on YouTube. As soon as that turkey leapt out of its egg, the crowd turns on the segment.

There are not very many performances where you can attend and, if you don’t enjoy the act, you may let loose with hundreds or thousands of other fans and boo the execution. You haven’t booed me, not yet at least. Booing is uncouth at plays, musicals, the opera. I’ve never been to a concert where someone booed. Sure, fans boo at sporting events, but they’re booing bad performances, blown calls. They’re booing real life.

That night in 1990, the crowd wasn’t having any of it. It’s events like these that make me believe pro wrestling is America’s most underappreciated art form. It is not just the wrestlers, managers and announcers who are in on the act. The fans know pro wrestling is scripted, too. Sure, they care who wins and loses, but they’re in on the con. They are holding up signs to get on TV, booing and cheering almost on cue and, yes, occasionally rejecting the product entirely and trashing everyone involved in it.

Don’t believe me that wrestling is art? I have none other than French philosopher Roland Barthes on my side. “There are people who think that wrestling is an ignoble sport,” he once wrote. “Wrestling is not a sport, it is a spectacle, and it is no more ignoble to attend a wrestled performance of Suffering than a performance of the sorrows.” I don’t know what Foucault’s theories on wrestling were, but let’s just assume they were similar.

Furthermore, mock combat has a storied tradition in entertainment. In between gladiator-versus-gladiator and lion-versus-Christian battles, the Romans sometimes flooded the Coliseum to hold pretend naval battles. Most of the highest-grossing movies feature extensive combat scenes. War re-enactors pretend to fight at Gettysburg and cross the Delaware. And, who cannot enjoy the cutest mock combat of all, that of puppies and kittens.

I ask you, how is wrestling different from HBO’s Girls? Intense conflicts over something stupid, copious amounts of nudity and incessant flame wars on the Internet by fans. The only differences I can see: Wrestling has more violence, Girls has more nudity, and several million more people watch wrestling every week.

I probably enjoy pro wrestling more than Girls, but I guess I don’t think wrestling’s as artistically good. But that’s the beauty of it: Wrestling makes for great bad TV. When it’s good, it’s enjoyable. When it’s bad, it’s even better. The current flagship program of the WWE, Raw, is three hours long. Do you know how hard it is for them to fill three hours of content? I usually DVR it, later fast-forwarding to the parts I’ve heard are bad.

Hell, it’s even hard to come up with storylines for their big shows. Sunday, April 7, is the WWE’s flagship event, WrestleMania. This year’s top four matches are:

  1. John Cena vs. The Rock, for the WWE Championship. Rock is the wrestler-turned-movie star, Cena is the WWE’s current top good guy who popularized wrestling’s biggest crossover hit since The Rock, the ‘you can’t see me’ gesture. Rock beat Cena at last year’s WrestleMania. He wants revenge. This is standard wrestling stuff.
  2. Triple H vs. Brock Lesnar. Triple H is the chief operating officer of the WWE and is married to Stephanie McMahon, owner Vince McMahon’s daughter. He’s a former wrestler — Triple H stands for Hunter Hearst Helmsley, as his character used to be a pompous Connecticut blue blood — but still suits up for matches once or twice a year. Naturally, the storyline for this match is: Despite rarely wrestling, Triple H’s career is on the line. (My co-worker David Onda noted that Triple H is returning to avenge his father-in-law, claiming this is a story worthy of Shakespeare. I say this is better than a third of Shakespeare’s plots.)
  3. Alberto Del Rio vs. Jack Swagger. Alberto Del Rio is from Mexico, and he’s the World Champion. His opponent is a Tea Partier who wants Del Rio deported! This is only about two years out of date, so for WWE it is cutting edge. You’ll be happy to learn Del Rio is the good guy in this feud, and even when he was the bad guy he played a Carlos Slim uberbillionaire-like character. For wrestling, this is progress.
  4. The Undertaker vs. CM Punk. The wrestling PPV with the giant egg? The Undertaker debuted at that pay per view. He’s actually undefeated at WrestleMania, with a 20-0 record. In a fake sport, this is an actual result that kind of matters. He only wrestles once a year now, simply to prolong the streak. That would normally be the storyline. But a few weeks ago, in real life the man who once played The Undertaker’s manager, Paul Bearer — get it? — died. It’s since been turned into an angle, with Punk stealing the ashes of Bearer and carrying them around to torment the Undertaker. That it was done with the expressed consent of Bearer’s family doesn’t make it any less awkward to watch, though incorporating real life tragedy into wrestling storylines is a tradition. When Punk was WWE Champion, he mocked Jerry Lawler’s real-life on-air heart attack just a few weeks later. (The son of William Moody, the man who played Paul Bearer, said he was ok with it, but it was hard to watch.

Perhaps things like that don’t make WrestleMania sound very good, or even make any wrestling sound very interesting. Yes, it is frequently bad, offensive, disgusting and just plain lame. But it is the rare entertainment that is often better when it’s bad. I can’t really explain it. It must be art.

March 17, 2013
The diner from Seinfeld and “Tom’s Diner" makes a cameo in Season 6, Episode 20 of Law & Order.

The diner from Seinfeld and “Tom’s Diner" makes a cameo in Season 6, Episode 20 of Law & Order.

March 9, 2013