Iron Pigs and Reading Phillies

It’s my second week recapping the tales of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and the Reading Phillies. I hope I have better news for those interested in the Phillies’ minor league teams.

The IronPigs (19-27) finish this week in the same place they were last week: 5th place in the International League North Division, 11 games behind Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. They began the week with a visit to the Buffalo Bisons who, at last place in the IL North, gave the IronPigs the opportunity to improve their record. The Pigs took advantage of that chance by sweeping the Bisons in a four-game set.

In the finale—a 7-1 IronPigs win—SP Antonio Bastardo (1-0) earned his first win at Triple-A with a strong outing. He pitched seven innings, giving up six hits and no earned runs with one walk and one strikeout. SS J.J. Furmaniak hit his second home run of the season off Bisons’ SP Nelson Figueroa (0-4), who took the loss. The IronPigs return home to begin a weekend series against the Rochester Red Wings.

The R-Phils (24-19) ended an eight-game road trip with a 5-0 victory over the Akron (OH)Aeros. SP Vance Worley (4-2) allowed three hits, one walk and two strikeouts in seven innings. 1B Brian Stavisky hit his first home run of the season off Aeros’ SP Jeanmar Gomez (4-1). The R-Phils went 6-2 on the road trip to stay at 3rd place in the Eastern League Southern Division and now return home to kick off a seven-game homestand against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

For more information on the Reading Phillies and the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, visit their team websites at readingphillies.com and ironpigsbaseball.com.

You can contact Kurt Hirsch at sportsrec@campusphilly.org

BTE’s Paper Empire Crumples

A couple months ago when I was planning out my concert schedule, I noticed an interesting trend. The bands of the ‘90s were making a comeback, including Better Than Ezra.

It’s funny, but I have The Baby-Sitters Clubto thank for introducing me to Better Than Ezra; their song “Good” was featured on the movie’s trailer. But I’m all grown up now and very happy to see that the bands of old have endured.

To supplement their tour—which kicks off tonight in New Orleans—Better Than Ezra has released their 7th studio album entitled Paper Emprire.

I found most of the album to be very soothing, something I was not expecting from a band that I used previously for the soundtrack to my air guitar sessions.

The band credits new drummer Michael Jerome as a “vital influence” to their “ever-evolving sound,” as they should; Jerome can definitely hold his own while not being too overbearing. This recent addition might be a factor in the chilled out direction of Paper Empire.

Better Than Ezra has been around since the late ‘80s, so it is only natural that the sound of the band would mature and progress. But I have to say that I prefer the earlier, dare I say, spunkier tunes.

Perhaps the slower tempo of Paper Empire is a natural result of the band’s evolution. But despite youthful sounding titles like “Hell No!” and “Nightclubbing,” I can’t help but feel like this might be a step back from classic albums like How Does Your Garden Grow?

I will confess that my outlook on this album is somewhat pessimistic, but I did enjoy “Hey Love” and “Wounded.” Those will probably find their way onto a “Songs to Fall Asleep to” playlist at some point.

For all you Ezralites out there, Better Than Ezra will be playing the Trocadero on June 17. Check out the Campus Philly calendar for all the details.

You can contact Cara Donaldson at cara@campusphilly.org

Employed or Unemployed…

That is the question.

This month, college seniors in the Greater Philadelphia area are facing something scarier than final exams and 15-page papers. I’m not talking about the possibility of failing a class. I’m talking about graduation.

It used to be that hearing your name called and the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” would signify relief. A huge ceremony was a reward for the four or five (or sometimes more) years of panic, stress and sadism. Now it’s the beginning of another harrowing journey: the journey of finding a job in this weak economy.

The fact that we’re in a recession is nothing new. Anyone with a beating heart and the ability to comprehend language knows that we’re in a heap of trouble. This economy is affecting everyone, regardless of socio-economic status, educational level and ability of denial.

The downturn is also leading to high unemployment rates; according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the federal unemployment rate is 8.6%. Pennsylvania’s unemployment level is slightly below the federal number, at 7.8%.

A college degree and a sparkling resume and interview used to be all you needed to get a job after graduation. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.

According to a May 9, 2009 article written in the York (PA) Daily Record, employers surveyed by the National Association of Colleges and Educators (NACE) planned to hire nearly 22 percent fewer graduates from the class of 2009 than they hired from the class of 2008.

Earlier this year, I lamented the fact that I am still in school after all these years. I looked on in envy as my peers prepared to receive their diplomas.

However, I consider myself lucky. I have another year to gain a clearer sense of what my career will be. While some people think this gives me more time to procrastinate my entry into the “real world,” I know that it won’t be long until it’s my turn to panic.

Stressing about your future career? Join Campus Philly for the 2009 Opportunity Fair on June 16 hosted by Saint Joseph’s University.

For more information, visit careers.campusphilly.org.

You can contact Kurt Hirsch at sportsrec@campusphilly.org

Deals on the Meals

As a college student, the money in my pockets seems to run a little low. But if you are like me and like to enjoy a nice meal with great atmosphere, then these next tips are for you.

The economy, we all know, has hit an all-time low which has resulted in restaurants begging for customers and introducing new ways to attract them. One of these is the prix-fixe meals, meals that usually include at least three courses at a set price.

I have made a list of my top three that I think all college students or anyone should hit at least once during the summer season. Although these restaurants are having great deals, it does not mean they slack on service. I have personally been to all three, and enjoyed my dinners enough to remember them.

The bronze medal of prix-fixe meals goes to the Reading Terminal. This is a place that every Philadelphian or non-Philadelphian should visit; it has a great atmosphere along with great prices. Usually, you would drop about $12-$15 per meal. But now the Terminal has established a $7.00 meal for certain participating stands. I fell in love with this place the first time I went because of the yummy homemade food and, honestly, prices no restaurant can compete with.

Silver medal goes to Marathon on the Square, a great place for prix-fixe meals. I went to Marathon on the Square for Restaurant Week and had a great experience; I received the same meal as many paying full price at other restaurants. It was a snug environment that was very attractive to younger crowds. You can receive a three-course meal for $25.00, great deal for excellent food.

Gold medal goes to—drum roll please—Susanna Foo. In another article, I mentioned Susanna Foo being a classier, more expensive restaurant on the square; that is why I am impressed that Susanna Foo has introduced a prix-fixe meal of $22.95 for a three course meal. This is a five-star restaurant in my book and the introduction of prix-fixe meals to their menu will allow more people to experience this phenomenal restaurant while not breaking the bank.

All three of these restaurants are definitely suitable for the typical college budget, especially when looking for a place for a special occasion.

If you would like to check out the prix-fixe meals in advance please visit their main sites at: readingterminalmarket.org, marathongrill.com and susannafoo.com

You can contact Samantha Bokoski at food@campusphilly.org

Local Players in NBA Draft

The 2009 NBA Draft will take place on June 25 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. While NBA fans salivate (or agonize) over their teams’ possible draft choices, Philadelphians and 76ers fans might not have much to be excited about. Most are pessimistic, while some take the apathetic approach.

While that attitude might be warranted, Philadelphians should be excited about the draft for another reason. There are four local college players who could be selected in this year’s draft.

I was going to channel ESPN’s Tim Legler and attempt to provide some of my own “expert” analysis. But since I am neither highly-paid or an expert, I’m going to analyze the “professionals’” thoughts with my own opinions regarding Temple’s Dionte Christmas, St. Joe’s Ahmad Nivins and Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds and Dante Cunningham.

Dionte Christmas ended his career at Temple with a second straight NCAA tournament appearance and a second straight first-round exit. While his postseason successes were limited to the Atlantic 10 Conference, Christmas still dominated in conference play. This year, Christmas led the conference in scoring with 19.2 points-per-game and was named Most Outstanding Player in the 2009 A-10 Championship. Christmas is one of only two A-10 players, along with Xavier’s Derrick Brown, to be invited to the NBA Draft Combine on May 28-29.

According to ESPN.com, Christmas will be drafted in the second round or maybe not at all. The experts at NBA Draftnet have Christmas going in the second round (35th overall) to the Memphis Grizzlies. Meanwhile, Collegehoops.net concurs with ESPN and has Christmas as a bubble-pick.

St. Joseph’s forward Ahmad Nivins also hopes to hear his name called out at MSG. Nivins tied with Christmas for the conference scoring lead with 19.2 points-per-game and was named 2009 A-10 Player of the Year and to the 2009 A-10 All-Defensive Team.

ESPN.com predicts that Nivins will also be drafted in the second round, if at all. NBA Draftnet doesn’t have Nivins on their board; Collegehoops.net also doesn’t have Nivins being drafted.

Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds submitted his name for early entry, but hasn’t signed with an agent, which gives him the option of returning to school for his senior year. Reynolds averaged 15.7 points-per-game this year and was named Most Outstanding Player in the 2009 NCAA Men’s Tournament East Regional. Reynolds scored the game winning basket with 0.5 seconds left to knock Pitt out of the East Regional Finals. He also earned First Team All-Philadelphia Big Five honors.

ESPN.com speculates that Reynolds, like Nivins and Christmas, could be drafted in the second round or not be drafted. NBA Draftnet and Collegehoops.net also don’t have Reynolds on their draft board.

Villanova’s Dante Cunningham enters the draft with high hopes. Cunningham averaged 16.1 points-per-game and 7.5 rebounds-per-game this season. He was also named Big East Most Improved Player and Second-Team All-Big East.

ESPN.com repeats the same forecast for Cunningham. NBA Draftnet and Collegehoops.net are a little more optimistic, with NBA Draftnet expecting Cunningham to go in the 2nd round (36th overall) to the Detroit Pistons and Collegehoops.net predicting him to go in the 2nd round (53rd overall) to the San Antonio Spurs.

Best wishes to all of the players.

To follow your favorites during the NBA Draft, visit nbadraft.net or the official NBA website.

You can contact Kurt Hirsch at sportsrec@campusphilly.org

Casino Free Philly

Talk with any Philadelphian these days and you’re bound to become involved in a discussion on the new casinos that will soon be part of the city’s landscape.

Mayor Michael Nutter, Councilman Frank DiCicco and the casino companies Foxwoods and SugarHouse have agreed to open casinos and slot machines in two key locations in Philadelphia, and many Philadelphians are NOT happy.

Foxwoods originally planned to build casinos along the Delaware River on Columbus Boulevard, but that project has been relocated to Center City at the Gallery at Market East and now, only recently, to the old Strawbridge & Clothier store at 801 Market Street.

SugarHouse, however, plans to stay on the waterfront property at Shackamaxon Street and will break ground in August on their interim casino and parking lot.

Backlash from residents has been strong, and in a PEW research study, 59% of Philadelphians surveyed disapproved of building in the proposed Center City locations for Foxwoods.

The mayor has promised that the plan will help revitalize the city’s economy and encourage tourism, claiming the public will grow accustomed to the idea after construction has begun. But members of the community have banded together to voice their concern.

Spearheading efforts to cancel plans for the casinos is Casino Free Philadelphia, a citizen-based campaign seeking to educate the public about the negative effects of casinos.

Jethro Heiko, founder of Casino Free Philadelphia believes the casinos will ruin Philadelphia’s reputation and encourage addictive gambling habits. To combat these long term effects, Heiko and his organization have tried to alert area residents to these dangers while actively speaking out against Foxwoods’ plans.

Heiko believes area college students in particular should become involved in Casino Free Philadelphia since they too are likely to be affected by the casinos in the near future.

“Tens of thousands of college students will have significant access to these casinos, and some percentage of students can become addicted,” says Heiko. “It will have a significant impact on the colleges and universities and Philly. There is the potential that students’ careers can be affected by gambling. The costs are tremendous.”

Casino Free Philadelphia’s upcoming event, “Beat the House,” is especially welcoming to young people who wish to become involved.

On June 6, the group and other community organizations plan to gather at a yet to be chosen slots parlor outside of Philadelphia and rally against the casino industry and their presence in Philadelphia. Heiko says this will help “people take action, rather than just talking about it.”

Heiko believes “Beat the House” will change the perception that youth aren’t socially active. “This movement is changing the image of people who oppose casinos and disproving the stereotype that young people don’t care about these types of issues,” says Heiko. “We’ve gotten a lot of support from students.”

But Heiko and his group have recently scored somewhat of a win. Last weekend, Foxwoods Casino asked state regulators for a two year extension on their plans to get a slots parlor open in Philadelphia.

People interested in participating in “Beat the House” are required to attend one of two training sessions on either May 28 or June 3 to gain more information about the cause.

Although the venue has not been decided, detailed information on the event is available at beatthehouse.org.

To learn more about the fight against casinos in Philadelphia, visit casinofreephila.orgor call 267-984-3493.

You can contact Aarthi Manohar at community@campusphilly.org

What Would Gloria Steinem Say?

Last week, I wrote about how Philadelphia was joining the ranks of Major League Soccer with a new franchise called the Union. Apparently, Philadelphia is gaining some passion as well. The Philadelphia Passion of the Lingerie Football League held tryouts on May 13 for their inaugural season this November.

What is the Lingerie Football League (LFL) you ask? It was born from the wildly successful Lingerie Bowl that began at Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004. Scantily-dressed women wearing not much more than pads and helmets descended upon Reliant Stadium in Houston to play during half-time. The Los Angeles Dream defeated the New York Euphoria by a score of 6-0 in the initial Lingerie Bowl.

The following year, the LFL was created and fielded four teams—the Los Angeles Temptation, the New England Euphoria (who had moved from New York), the Dallas Desire and the Chicago Bliss. Evidently, the mere concept of women wearing bras and panties wasn’t enough of a marketing strategy. The team names had to evoke a “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” reaction from their owners and potential fan base.

The obvious popularity of the league among its targeted demographic has skyrocketed. The Lingerie Bowl is aired on pay-per-view in 85 countries and there is now a LFL fantasy league. The LFL will field ten teams for the 2009-2010 season, including the newly formed Philadelphia Passion and the New York Majesty.

I don’t know if the LFL thinks they’re making women’s sports relevant by indulging men’s fantasies. Would men watch women’s basketball if WNBA players started wearing Victoria’s Secret? Maybe they’re not trying to make a giant peep for mankind, but it definitely sends a message to women that they need to turn up the sex appeal in order to get men to pay attention.

Forgive my feminist stance, but what would Susan B. Anthony or Gloria Steinem say about women traipsing across the football field wearing a Wonderbra? Would they have to strip to their Playtex in order to get someone to listen?

I’m not saying the LFL is ridiculous; if women want to traipse across stadiums in bras and panties, more power to them. The marketing geniuses behind this league deserve credit where it’s due. They combined a sport that already attracts a certain demographic and added a sexual appeal to tap into the demographics’ collective id.

While I’m no football purist, I’d like to think that Vince Lombardi and Art Rooney are rolling in their graves. But I could be wrong. They might be tuning into a matchup between the Philadelphia Passion and the Chicago Bliss on that big HDTV in the sky.

For more information on the LFL, check out the official website at lflus.com.

You can contact Kurt Hirsch at sportsrec@campusphilly.org

Foo for You

Rittenhouse Square is home to many of the most outstanding restaurants in Philadelphia, one of the most popular being Susanna Foo.

Susanna Foo is known for its mouth-watering Chinese cuisine. I know what you are probably thinking: “Chinese cuisine? You mean take out?” Susanna Foo is far from take-out and has earned its reputation as one of Philadelphia’s most superb dining experiences through unique twists on traditional Chinese food.

Not only does Susanna Foo stand out in cuisine, the atmosphere fits well into the Rittenhouse Square upscale environment; the restaurant sits right on the border of Rittenhouse Square Park and in the heart of a frequented shopping district.

Unfortunately, Susanna Foo herself has decided to sell the restaurant on Walnut Street to focus on her gourmet kitchen in Radnor, Pa. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Susanna Foo wanted to make it very clear that the closure was not because of the economy, but more for personal reasons.

Thankfully before the closing (scheduled to happen in August), I was able to try this exquisite restaurant. Upon entering the restaurant, I was greeted by a hostess dressed in authentic Chinese clothing who was very welcoming to us college students.

The restaurant consists of two dining areas—we were seated in the lower dining area, which is beautiful and very elegant. The ambiance was romantic and intimate. Boyfriends, if you are looking for a unique restaurant with a stylish flare to celebrate a special occasion, this is the place.

First, my guest and I shared the dumpling sampler for two. This appetizer was beyond mouth-watering, but came at a heavy price of $22. In addition to the appetizer, I had the Kung Pao Chicken with peppers and peanuts and my guest had the Teriyaki Glazed Scottish Salmon. Both were delicious. These entrees are priced at an average of $20.

With meals, prices and chic décor like this, one could only wonder what to wear. I know this is most important to the ladies, but men should definitely wear a nice collared shirt or sport-coat with khakis or pants; anything other than those clothing items would feel a bit out of place. Women, a nice dress would do very nicely, but don’t show too much skin.

I know this might be a tough price range to fit for college students. But if you avoid the expensive appetizer, you will be very satisfied with the service and meals.

This restaurant gets two-thumbs up from me. I am disappointed in the closing and would definitely recommend trying this before they close; it is such unique cuisine.

To find out more information on Susanna Foo herself or menu options at the restaurant, you can visit the main website at susannafoo.com

You can contact Samantha Bokoski at food@campusphilly.org

Old City has Age-less Style

Sometimes a hole in the wall is really just that—a horribly tiny cramped space full of stuff you would never buy in a million years buy. However, Art in the Age (116 North 3rd Street) is a hole in the wall only in the most literal of senses.

Walking down Third Street, the tiny store front is quite easily missed, an error you’ll kick yourself over later. If you can track down the store—tucked under a sign that mildly resembles the Free Mason crest—you’re in for quite a surprise.

Inside you’ll find a store that feels like what Urban Outfitters could be if it could hold tighter to the indie rock deal that made it instead of being sucked into the mainstream. As an avid Urban shopper, I’m finding that more and more of my clothing choices end up on prime time television (example: The Big Bang Theory).

However, the collection at AITA has a much more cohesive feel (more than the larger chains), creating a nice flow and many easily thrown together outfit possibilities. The overall feeling of unity stretches out from the clothes to the rest of the store in the form of books, posters and housing accessories. Couple a spree at AITA with a trip to Ikea and any dorm or college apartment has instant loft appeal.

Despite holding onto some higher end price tags, AITA has killer discount bins throughout the store; I’ve found amazing deals on things from great screen print tees to well priced women’s fashion.

AITA on Third is the flagship store to one of the best Philly upstart brands that I have seen quite some time. Combine that with their ability to mix sub culture with aesthetically appealing design and you’ve got a hole in the wall set to rip the whole wall down.

For more information on Art in the Age, visit their website at artintheage.com.

You can contact Steve Mohimani at artsculture@campusphilly.org

Summer Grassroots Organizing

If you’ve searched Craigslist for a summer job, it’s likely you’ve come across ads that say things like “fight poverty this summer” or “help reclaim civil liberties.” These posts and many others are put up by a growing number of grassroots organizations that are looking to staff their summer campaigns.

But what exactly is a grassroots campaign, and how do students get involved?

Grassroots movements are made up of community members, mostly volunteers, who wish to further a political agenda. In other words, they’re citizens’ lobbies that often look to move a piece of legislation, inform the public about a particular issue or cause and promote change through community outreach.

In Philadelphia this summer, nonprofit grassroots movements for any number of issues have taken off, from poverty to the environment to political activism. With the success of grassroots campaigning during the 2008 presidential election, special interest groups in Philadelphia and across the country have taken on this small-scale organization strategy and are furthering their causes by approaching people directly.

The Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger has launched one of Philadelphia’s premier grassroots campaigns, helping Philadelphians obtain food stamps by informing the public and forming a group of volunteer organizers to sign-up stamp recipients.

The group is reliant on volunteers in the community and, with public support, has developed a detailed program to decrease hunger in Philadelphia. Using government channels and additions to existing federal regulations, the coalition hopes to work with the mayor’s office and the state and federal government to enable Philadelphians to have greater access to the resources they need. This strategy requires a great amount of networking and community involvement, and grassroots campaigning has proven useful in communicating with various groups of people.

The feedback for the group has been strong, and they’ve seen high levels of involvement from many people throughout the Philadelphia area. The coalition takes on volunteers throughout the year, and they educate and train incoming staff on the hunger problem in the city. Area college students are encouraged to get involved, and local schools have responded with enthusiasm.

If you’re looking for a summer job and a way to further a good cause, find out more about the Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, or any grassroots movement that you feel strongly about, and start making your voice heard.

To learn more about the Philadelphia Hunger Coalition, their plan to combat hunger and grassroots organizing, call 215-769-0659 or visit hungercoalition.org

You can contact Aarthi Manohar at community@campusphilly.org