29 April 2011

Friday jukebox: David Malki ! at Wondermark

The premise: you get a book with a single word, and that single word describes how you will die.

Boom! And a Bear Comes Out from David Malki ! on Vimeo.

28 April 2011

Abortion math: lifetime incidence of abortion vs. breast cancer

Math day!

In 2007, about 827,000 voluntary abortions were reported to the CDC (CDC.gov). In 2009, the population of the U.S. was about 307,000,000 souls, about half of them women and girls (Census.gov). If about 40% of them are not in the childbearing years defined as ages 15 to 44, then we have about 307,000,000 people x 50.7% are female x say 60% are age 15 to 44 = some 93.4 million women in their childbearing years living in the U.S.

So 827,000 voluntary abortions in 2007 divided by 93.4 million women in that age range in 2009 = an annual rate of about 0.8% of American women age 15 to 44 having an abortion, about 8 in 1000 -- or 1 in 125. About 1/3 of all American women will have an abortion at some point during their childbearing years (Guttmacher.org, with links to primary sources).

Something with a yearly incidence of 1 in 125 and a lifetime incidence of 1 in 3 needs to be discussed with rationality and openness. By comparison, over their lifetime, women are more likely to get an abortion than to suffer breast cancer, which has a lifetime incidence of 1 in 8 (American Cancer Society, PDF).

I've said it before, and I'll say it again now. Everyone, and I mean everyone, knows a woman who's had an abortion. You're around women all the time who have had an abortion: in line at the supermarket, at your workplace, at your school, among your family, on your Facebook friendslist, and among the women you date. You know more women who have had an abortion than you know women who have had or who will have breast cancer. That's a lot of women whose healthcare isn't subsidized by federal funds except in cases of tragedy or crime (PDF), the way any other aspect of healthcare might be. And I've never seen a charity "race for the curette."

26 April 2011

Driberally tonight

Drinking Liberally is a weekly social gathering where progressives talk politics and get to know one another. In Center City Philadelphia, we meet on Tuesday nights at José Pistola's upstairs bar, where there are drink specials from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. And the more we tip the bartender, the more frequently he hands out free dishes of chips and dips. I hope to see you there!

José Pistola's is at 263 South 15th Street (15th and Spruce) in Center City, near the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music. There's a parking garage across the street, but as filthy liberal hippies naturally we suggest public transit; both SEPTA and PATCO will get you there in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

This week's topic: Take your pick, I guess, between Sabres vs. Flyers or morning suit vs. lounge suit.

"Come for the beer, stay for the check"

21 April 2011

When Holy Week and "magic week" converge

So it's Holy Week, and the anti-sex zealots have been out in force at the clinic where I escort patients.

It's also my monthly "magic week," when PMS makes me fly into a righteous rage about things like drivers ignoring "No Turn on Red" signs even in the total absence of pedestrians at the intersection, or people arriving 2 minutes late to a meeting, or the Delaware Board of Bar Examiners requiring 2 passport photos, official college transcripts, official law school transcripts, a good standing certificate from the Pennsylvania bar, a copy of my divorce decree, a copy of the paperwork from my trespassing arrest almost a decade ago, an electronic application, a paper application with 15 tabs' worth of notarized documentation, and $800. (Maybe next year.)

I'm also underemployed this week, while I wait for a letter from a literary agent in New York and a callback to set up an appointment with another client next week. But I just got a call that the wingnuts heard the weather tomorrow -- Good Friday -- will be beautiful so there will be a big crowd harassing my clinic all day.

I love it when a plan comes together.

19 April 2011

Driberally tonight

Drinking Liberally is a weekly social gathering where progressives talk politics and get to know one another. In Center City Philadelphia, we meet on Tuesday nights at José Pistola's upstairs bar, where there are drink specials from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. And the more we tip the bartender, the more frequently he hands out free dishes of chips and dips. I hope to see you there!

José Pistola's is at 263 South 15th Street (15th and Spruce) in Center City, near the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music. There's a parking garage across the street, but as filthy liberal hippies naturally we suggest public transit; both SEPTA and PATCO will get you there in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

This week's topic: Best recent pageload statistic ever:



Somebody at Homeland Security wants his secretary to get up and make him some damn coffee, now.

"Come for the beer, stay for the check"

12 April 2011

Cross-Philly transit in the 1860s

Today being the anniversary of the beginning of the U.S. Civil War, I was flipping through a slideshow on Life magazine's website and found this poster calling "Citizens of the Twenty-Fourth Ward" to a gathering at 38th and Bridge Streets, "On the Lot adjoining the Armory":



Uh, what's that? "Bridge" Street in what comprised the 24th Ward in 1863? An armory at 38th and anything around, what, where Presbyterian Hospital is now? I mean, I know there's an armory on 32nd Street on the Drexel University campus; but this poster couldn't be off by 6-plus blocks, could it? And, really, Bridge Street? That sounds so Frankford-before-they-renamed-Bridge-Pratt-Station, not West Philadelphia. And I'm almost certain that Philadelphia's city line didn't reach that far in 1863.

Oh, man, I gotta figure this one out.

So the 24th Ward has had other wards carved out of it a few times in the past, the first in 1866. So I had to find a pre-1866 map of the city, labeled with wards. Some interesting Googling brought me to a huge PDF of an 1862 atlas of Philadelphia. Here's a relevant screenshot:


I've had to seriously shrink the file size to make it the least manageable here, but here's the gist: The diagonal street is, of course, Lancaster Ave, then "Lancaster Road." The obscured name up top is Haverford Ave, then merely a "Street." Below, "Garden" is just that, simply Garden Street; and below Bridge Street is Hamilton Street, which is two blocks north of Powelton Ave.

Is that a trolley line on Bridge Street, too?

Now dig the modern map:


I had some trouble with this at first. At first, I thought the scale was badly off on the old map, but then figured it shouldn't be for 1862 cartographic technology. Did Bridge Street turn into backyards between Hamilton and Garden? Because isn't that old Garden the same as the modern Spring Garden?

In a word, nope. First, for orientation, it looks as though Crean Street turned into Warren Street at some point. I don't know who Crean or Warren was, or when the change happened. Also, the intersection of Lancaster and Haverford Aves used to be a broad open space, which I imagine was spectacularly hazardous in that era between the introduction of automobiles and the introduction of traffic lights. But here's the main thing: old Garden Street wasn't renamed Spring Garden; it was renamed Brandywine. It's Bridge Street itself that was renamed Spring Garden Street. What you see as a trolley line on Bridge Street is now the #43 bus on Spring Garden Street (PDF), a route that's been in service in one form or another since freaking 1842. Look what used to be over at the river:


That's the double-decker "MFRR" bridge -- it carried what was the Hestonville, Mantua & Fairmount Passenger Railway Company in 1884. (The Mantua side was connected to the Callowhill side by 1876, though it's visibly two different railroads here in 1862.) Before electrification, the line was served with horse-drawn streetcars, or "horsecars":

I'll leave a comparison with modern-day rush-hour commutes on SEPTA vehicles as an exercise for the reader.

But my point, and I had one when I started this post, was to figure out where this old armory used to be, and what's now in the Lot adjoining it. I mean, I don't even see an armory on the old map, though I have only that PDF I can zoom into it only so far. Maybe the armory is now the Mt. Pleasant Primitive Baptist church at 435 North 38th Street: it looks chunkier and squatter than it needs to be for a church, and maybe the U.S. Army or the Pennsylvania National Guard sold it cheap after the war ended. I'd like to find out, but would take more than some Internet research to try to find the property records. I think I'll go for a walk this weekend and see what I can see. In the meantime, never forget:



Injunction on Arizona's immigration enforcement law upheld in 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

The 9th Circuit's results are in, and survey says: Arizona, because it is a state, is not allowed to legislate regarding citizenship, which according to the Constitution is something only Congress has the power to do.

You can read the 87-page opinion (PDF), or you can read my plain-language explanation of their reasoning, from May, 2010.

Driberally tonight

Drinking Liberally is a weekly social gathering where progressives talk politics and get to know one another. In Center City Philadelphia, we meet on Tuesday nights at José Pistola's upstairs bar, where there are drink specials from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. And the more we tip the bartender, the more frequently he hands out free dishes of chips and dips. I hope to see you there!

José Pistola's is at 263 South 15th Street (15th and Spruce) in Center City, near the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music. There's a parking garage across the street, but as filthy liberal hippies naturally we suggest public transit; both SEPTA and PATCO will get you there in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

This week's topic: Making coffee in Afghanistan:



"Come for the beer, stay for the check"

11 April 2011

Also, Sidney Lumet, R.I.P.



Best to start with the opening titles.

Low attendance for art-house films? Don't blame Philadelphia audiences

I wouldn't say I'm having fun reading it all, so let's say rather that I'm feeling some validation that I'm not the only cinema enthusiast in this town who's had it up to here with the sad, sad state of independent, artistic, and repertory film in Philadelphia. From the Cinedelphia blog in the past few days:

Prince Music Theater: EPIC FAIL - A festival screening of a Sundance award-winning film, with the filmmaker in attendance, had to be canceled after everyone (including the filmmaker) had shown up, because the projectionist failed to come to work and nobody at the Prince knew how to run the projector and sound.

Cinefest continues to prove its lameness . . . UPDATED - Politics and internal conflicts ahoy at TLA and the Philadelphia Cinema Alliance threaten the continued presence of knowledgeable, talented programmers for the festival.

The Philadelphia Cinefest starts this week . . . - "[M]any of the festival's guests (John Carpenter, Lucky McKee) will be appearing via Skype rather than in-person[.]" That's a quote that speaks for itself. Even the industry doesn't take the Philadelphia film festivals seriously.

The city film festival used to be a full-contact sport for me. Now it's split into two separate festivals, plus separate weeks for films with an LGBT, Asian, and Jewish focus. It's a waste of time and duplication (quintuplication?) of effort to reinvent the wheel five times per year for all these festivals. All the festival participants -- the organizers, the venues, the filmmakers, and the audiences -- lose when we have, essentially, single weeks of recognition that aren't big enough to draw sponsors, media, and more important films. Philadelphia won't have a world-class festival until the organizers decide they want one world-class festival and work together to make it happen.

One last note on a comment in the "continues to prove its lameness" post referenced above. Joseph Gervasi of Exhumed Films is quoted as saying, "Our pals at Ibrahim Theater @ International House have all kinds of stimulating film programming all year round. The state of cinema isn't sad in our city; it's the state of attendance for the events of worth." You know, I love the I-House. The projection is great (unlike the woefully and embarrassingly underpowered projection and lousy, lousy sound at the Prince); the seats are great since they put the new ones in; and they bring so many great films around that I wish I could spend my entire weekend there. But you know what? That's the problem. In order to see all the films you want to see at the I-House, you have to spend your entire weekend there. When they bring a repertory film in for a screening, it's for one single screening. If you're not free at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday 23 April, for example, you will miss the sole screening of Harlan County USA that they're putting on. A couple of rarities from Lindsay Anderson and Ken Russell will screen one time only at 7:00 on Thursday 28 April. And Todd Haynes' Poison, a very important film in the American independent film movement of the 1990s? One screening, 7:00 on Friday 6 May.

Other repertory cinemas around the world get a print for a week and show it several times from Tuesday through Sunday. One scheme I've seen is to alternate the film with another by the same filmmaker or with other films of the same genre. It can be like a miniature thematic film festival every week; or it can be as simple as running the film once per night for three or four days, plus a Sunday matinee. But the I-House, after going through all the trouble of getting these fantastic new Janus prints and running them in their newly refurbished archive-quality booth, offers just one screening of every movie they get. And the blame goes onto the audiences?

It's like the vicious circle you can get in public transit ridership. You don't have a full train, so you cut the number of daily trains that run on that line. So fewer commuters take the train, because it doesn't run at a convenient time. So you run fewer trains because it's inefficient to run a train that isn't full. So fewer commuters take the train, etc.

Blaming the audience for the lousy state of attendance at venues like the I-House is a little rough. The I-House makes me decide between a single screening of a repertory film and a huge number of other entertainment choices in town. It really kind of killed me to miss Warhol's The Closet and Derek Jarman's Blue this past Friday, for example. I would have attended if there had been another screening -- but I had a professional commitment that directly conflicted that night. On Saturday I met friends for live music, so I missed Wakefield Poole's Bijou. I would have dragged alongbrought a guest, too, so that's some $24 or $32 the I-House didn't make last week.

Now, I don't know the screening agreements the I-House makes with its distributors (is it a fee per screening, or a fee for unlimited screenings while they have the prints?), and I don't know how much it costs to open the house (more than my $8, of course). And I know that they use the theater for other events, like live music, lectures, and summer bar exam prep. But as an entertainment lawyer and a non-profit arts attorney, and as a businessperson, I can confidently state that the I-House makes zero dollars when the theater isn't used at all. And I understand the issue, because I've been to screenings at theaters in the U.S. and in Europe where it's been myself and maybe two other parties in the house. But give audiences a break. Film screenings aren't the only "events of worth" in Philadelphia; but even when they are, they'd compete better if audiences had more opportunities to attend them.

08 April 2011

Pop quiz: Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board

Q: How many anonymous complaints about bottles of unregistered beers does it take for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to shut down three bars with no notice or opportunity to be heard?

A: One.

Q: How many murders, violent assaults, and non-anonymous complaints about noise, trash, and disorderly conduct does it take for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to shut down a bar?

A: Who knows?
Already this year, 12 people have been killed inside or directly outside of bars [in Philadelphia]. Only three had been killed at the same point last year.

With the increase in shootings, police districts have focused their attention on problem bars, especially at closing time.

But shuttering those truly troublesome bars is not something that happens quickly. It takes time, something that authorities blame on Pennsylvania's ineffective liquor laws.

Although police are forced to deal with numerous nuisance bars each weekend, the Public Nuisance Task Force - a unit of the District Attorney's Office - has shut down only three bars since 2008.

[ ... ]

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board can refuse to issue or renew a liquor license, but has no authority to close a bar.

The Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement investigates about 100 cases a month, said State Police Sgt. Bill LaTorre, but the bureau can only issue citations, conduct investigations and make arrests. An administrative-law judge can suspend or revoke a liquor license based on the citations brought against licensees by the bureau.

"The neighborhood has to be victimized for a matter of time in order for us to go into court," LaTorre said. "That's the system that's in place right now. The legislators need to look at the laws and update them. Until the law gets changed, nothing is going to change."
Clearly, the PLCB assigns more priority to enforcing paperwork in tony neighborhoods than to easing violent crime in sketchier ones.

Working through the government shutdown

I got nothin'.

I've been putting out little work fires all week, nagging colleagues who have blown deadlines, and going so far over my minutes on my cell phone plan that they even sent me e-mail about it.

I would say, "I can't believe they're shutting down the federal government over women's cancer-preventive healthcare," but I would be lying.

05 April 2011

No City Council candidate tonight at Driberally

Day late and a dollar short -- actually there won't be a City Council candidate at Driberally tonight, because DeMarco withdrew his candidacy a little over a week ago, though I only just heard. But! We'll still have beer specials and plenty of good company.

Come for the beer, stay for the check.

Driberally tonight

Drinking Liberally is a weekly social gathering where progressives talk politics and get to know one another. In Center City Philadelphia, we meet on Tuesday nights at José Pistola's upstairs bar, where there are drink specials from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. And the more we tip the bartender, the more frequently he hands out free dishes of chips and dips. I hope to see you there!

José Pistola's is at 263 South 15th Street (15th and Spruce) in Center City, near the Kimmel Center and the Academy of Music. There's a parking garage across the street, but as filthy liberal hippies naturally we suggest public transit; both SEPTA and PATCO will get you there in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

This week's topic: A Q & A with Democratic City Council (2nd District) candidate Richard C. DeMarco, Esq. He'll be speaking and then taking questions from about 7:00. We aren't endorsing Mr. DeMarco -- we don't endorse anybody, and we're not sure that a candidate would welcome our endorsement anyway -- but we do welcome non-recruiting visits, like this one, from candidates.

"Come for the beer, stay for the check"