Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hoot! Reviewing a Classic, With a Fresh Approach.

It is not easy to review paintings; it is even harder to review paintings of a master like Vincent Van Gogh.  Robin Rice did it in City Paper, with a fresh angle of observation and an informative review of a professional.

Many times have I read pieces on Van Gogh’s paintings; many times they fall into cliché. Rice’s review is different.

For one, Rice knows that most of the readers who want read about Van Gogh are somehow familiar with some of the symbolic paintings and the twisted personal life of him. So Rice chose to avoid reiterating the known facts. She picked some unique elements in Van Gogh’s paintings and the influences that Van Gogh received, which lead to his creation of these elements.

Second, in a short piece like this one, Rice maximizes her possibility to make readers gravitate toward Van Gogh’s exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She uses her professional critique to lead readers to two elements in Van Gogh’s paintings – Japanese compositional device of creating layers and the Impressionism of his dashed, parallel brushstroke.

Rice uses illustrative language to make it easier for non-painter readers to understand, for example, “a flattened, aerial perspective that tilts the ground up toward a high horizon line; elements cut off by the edges of the picture; foreground images acting as a screen in front of a background scene.” She also gave examples of some of the paintings that use this device. Once readers understand the concept, they want to see more and they will have a desire to go and analyze his paintings on their own. For me, this is the best effect an art review can achieve, intentionally or not.

– Text by Ning Shao. Image via City Paper.

Hoot! Trendspotting, With Quantification.

The Philadelphia Weekly article “Philly’s Homegrown Playwrights Enjoying a
High-Profile Boom” is an example of trend reporting. It reports that lately the number and prominence of playwrights in Philadelphia have gone up significantly.

The article written by J. Cooper Robb does this reporting admirably because its approach is measured. It shies away from uncritical boosterism on the one hand and carping criticism on the other hand.

The article achieves this measured approach in two ways. First, it sticks to the facts. It backs up its claim with data. When it claims that there has been an uptick in the number and visibility of playwrights in the city, the article identifies four playwrights and their plays. The article identifies which of those plays are currently in production in Philadelphia. The article also identifies which of those plays premiered in the city. And, to establish that there has indeed been an upsurge in playwriting in the city, the article recognizes that the city has by no means been without its homegrown playwrights or theater scene. Rather, as the article points out, what has happened is that a program that sponsors homegrown plays to be written and produced has recently come on the scene.
That program is called PlayPenn, and it has catalyzed local playwriting and theater production.

The second way that the article achieves this measured approach is by including a critical assessment of the trend. The article suggests that there is still a lack of support for local theater, notwithstanding the many institutions and talent that the city has. The article deftly offers this criticism within the context a quote from a local playwright, thereby—as the rationale goes for using quotes in journalism—offering an observation from someone that should know.

– Text by Charlie Chan. Image via Philadelphia Weekly.

Howl! Give Us The Secrets of Making Money!

The article “How Three Temple Grads Aim to Make Philly the Next Big Tech Hub” is a profile of Technically Media, a local media company that publishes a Philadelphia centered technology news website.

Written by John Paul Titlow, the article covers some of the basic ground that one would expect from a profile article. For instance, it talks about the development of the company, from its genesis as a mere idea among three graduates of the journalism program at Temple, to its development as a company with current plans to bring its brand of technology news coverage to other cities. Overall, the article aligns Technically Media as a new model for journalism or media organizations—small, technically savvy, and focused on and engaged with the local scene.

Unfortunately, the article presents an incomplete picture of what this new model
would look like. When it makes its central claim that these days “a media organization would have to go beyond simple reporting and ad sales,” the article states that such an organization instead needs “to rely heavily on other forms of community connectivity.”

Point taken, but what exactly “community connectivity” really means is not fully fleshed out, not to mention the fact that the phrase drips of jargon. Worse, the article skirts the issue of how exactly Technically Media uses this “connectivity” as a new source of—to put it bluntly—revenue. Instead, the article focuses on how Technically Media in many ways fills a real need when it comes to technology-related issues in Philadelphia.

– Text by Charlie Chan. Image via Philadelphia Weekly.

HOWL: Burned Up By Bad Yoga Story.

Avoid getting scorched by ‘hot yoga,’” is a story prepared by HealthDay News but it appeared on philly.com. It’s about the possible “dangers” of hot yoga, which is practiced in a heated room.  The story reads like a press release from the Hospital of Special Surgery in New York City, where much of the information derives.

There are many unanswered questions in this article.  What type of hot yoga is the article talking about?  Is it Bikram Yoga, in which the 26 poses are copyrighted and must be taught by a certified instructor who has undergone the intensely vigorous, nine-week Bikram yoga training?  Or is it another variation of hot yoga, such as power yoga, which is not subject to the strict rules of Bikram Yoga? Also, not all hot yoga is practiced in a room heated 90-105 degrees.

Because of its generality, I feel the publishing of this article is irresponsible.

There isn’t any research or balance.  Yes, of course you can get injured while performing hot yoga but this is true for all types of yoga, or any exercise regimen.  There are quotes from a yoga instructor who is a doctor but it wasn’t made clear if she is a hot yoga or Bikram yoga instructor, which left me suspicious.

I will say that the checklist at the end of the article is helpful but I’m sure some readers who were thinking about trying hot yoga were scared away by that point – especially with the use of “scorched” in the headline.

That is an extreme word to describe hot yoga.

– Text by Zenovia Campbell. Image via The Hairpin.

A Hoot! for Recognizing that the Media Obsession With Tiger Isn’t Healthy.

Early this year, I gave John Gonzalez a pretty hard time about one of his “columns.” Today, I am going to give him some love – on a piece he wrote about Tiger Woods, no less.

In Monday’s Inquirer, Gonzo explored the reception Woods received at the Augusta National Golf Club, home to the Masters. He opens the piece by noting the reverent manner in which Augusta’s members treat the golf course, noting that one section of the course (holes 11, 12 and 13) is referred to as Amen Corner, and many simply describe the course as “heaven.”

He then segues into the holier-than-thou treatment Woods has received from fans and media, which Gonzo believes, “Says as much about us as it does about him. Probably more.” Continue reading

A Hoot! For Treating the Tea-Baggers Fairly.

I withhold praise, I do. But Holly Otterbein’s cover story about the Tea Party in this week’s City Paper is admirable. Otterbein basically sets out to answer this question: What does the Tea Party look like in Philadelphia? Not in the exurbs of the city, but in the city itself.

The feature largely tags along with Diana Reimer, a Tea Party organizer who is actually from Lansdale, but is active in the city of Philadelphia and organized last year’s April 15 tax day protest in Love Park.

Otterbein relays how Reimer found the Tea Party (feeling disenfranchised, looking for a voice, and finding a suddenly loud one that aligns with common misunderstandings about how the nation and economy function), and positions Reimer as a fairly sympathetic person, who made a few missteps that were poorly timed to the nation’s economic collapse. Continue reading

Congrats on the Pulitzer. But This One’s a Howl.

You hate to rain on anyone’s parade, especially when that parade is being held to applaud that person for winning print journalism’s highest honor.

But, unfortunately, newly minted Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Wendy Ruderman of the Philadelphia Daily News is the author of my Howl for this week. Continue reading