The Keystone Koppiness of our ConBiCen seems to have no end. Indeed, the foreplay since the Osage Avenue Burnout (judged deroofed, councilpersons either reviling or reviled, even the Mayor's tacky penchant for union-made suits) has made the consummation not very devoutly to be wished for.
In my ideal Republic, there would be fewer parades and more thoughtful public policy: The Convention Center looks as a case of too much to too little too late, a sop to the construction industry and unions that Phil and Philomena Philly will be paying for unto the third generation.
And Mellon Bank's clout in foisting a Greyhound terminal on Chinatown to make way for their new office tower is gross; the bank's obeisance to 24 local poets in the Mellon Dome would ring one hell of a lot truer if they sliced the melon of fiscal policy with a little more respect for one of our new wholesome ethnic enclaves.
Such dyspepsia makes me eagerly greet "Voices of Dissent," the citywide Counter Center put together through the Painted Bride Art Center and Big Small Theater which will stimulate us throughout the month of April. Even here, all is not hunky-dory. When I called the American Poetry Center, curious as to why the Poetry Week 1987 symposium, "Tradition and the Individual Talent at the Millennium" (March 28, 2-4 p.m., Philadelphia Colleges of the Arts), was not in the otherwise comprehensive "Voices of Dissent" mailer / schedule, I was told they had never heard of Joseph Brodsky, the symposium headliner.
Never heard of him?! I wouldn't have believed it, had I not encountered similar narcissism in the counterculture ten years ago. Elated by the fresh way the British were using TV to present poetry of the first rank, I organized Support-your-local-poet-live / Watch-a-world-poet-on-film sessions at a move house in Germantown. The local poets loved to preen, but they snappishly boycotted their world superiors.
Apart from a full agenda of exhibitions and performances, as well as imaginative efforts to package skeins of tickets through the fledgling Ticket Booth, Dissent's biggest gun is its "Symposium on the Arts as a Force for Social Change," to be held on Drexel's campus, April 10-12. You save $10 on the registration fee ($25-$50, based on a sliding income scale) if you pay before March 31. The form to fill in is part of their mailer: Send it to Jenney Milner, VOD / PBAC, 230 Vine Street, 19106.
Their three-day ideological hootenanny begins Friday morning with "Tours to Philadelphia Landmarks of Cultural Dissent." Actually, early arrivers are invited to a Dennis Brutus / Sonia Sanchez poetry reading at Old Reformed Church, Fourth and Race, on Thursday, April 9 at 8 p.m., on behalf of the poet / cultural historian Maragaret Randall, who is being harassed by a Reaganated INS.
Plenary V, on Sunday, April 12 at 2 p.m., features the same Sonia and political scientist Howard Zinn discussing "Political Art in an 'Apolitical' Culture," a highpoint in my personal checklist. We ought to end up with some solid speculation on what art can and should do to leaven our benightedness.
But the really open-minded should grapple, when all is said and done, with William Gass's piece in the April Atlantic magazine, on why we should ask art only to create objects worthy of disinterested appreciation. I mean, we do want a dialogue, right? Not callow self-congratulation of the kind which narrowed our moralizing in the 1960s.
I would also ask the counterculture to reach out to the establishment at two other points. The Organization of American Historians, muse Clio's craft union in our country, is having its annual convention in Philly, at the Wyndham Franklin Plaza Hotel, April 2-5.
I have been munching at the smorgasbord of its fat 190-page convention program. It is full of tasty, high-nutrient snacks for the dissenting mind. Not the least of its relevances is UC / Berkeley Leon F. Litwack's presidential address on Friday, April 3 at 8:30 p.m., "Trouble in Mind: The Bicentennial and the Afro-American Experience." Contact Lori Alexander at the OAH Job Registry about non-members attending.
I was also exhilarated to see that, since I left Academe, the OAH has started publishing a "Magazine of History" for junior and senior high history teachers, thereby withdrawing new historical insight from our ivory towers and investing it where it is desperately needed--in the median consciousness of these United States of Amnesia.
No fewer than 17 of the OAH sessions are devoted to various aspects of the Afro-American experience. In fact, OAH also has a winner of a sneak preview on Thursday, April 2 at 8 p.m.: a Mississippi Delta blues performance featuring Pete Seeger (working man and woman songs), Tracy Nelson (country / blues) and James "Son" Thomas (Leland, Miss., blues singer).
Another winner on April 2 is a free public forum at Penn (University Museum, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.) on whether the American consumer, U.S. government and the Third World can survive their debt problems (gulp!). Professor Solita Collas Monsod, the Philippines' Secretary for Economic Planning and one of the architects of President Cory Aquino's national economic recovery plan, will join her former teacher, Penn's Nobel Laureate Lawrence Klein.
Two other dissenter suggestions: Friday, March 27, William Sloane Coffin will speak on "For the World to Survive" at the historic Arch Street Meeting House at 7:30 p.m., part of the 307th annual sessions of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
And March 30 is also your last shot at the Balch Institute's fine visual essay on Chinese Women in America. The Balch is one of Philly's underused treasures. Its exhibitions and programs provide a year-long focus on America's unfilled promises as well as its increasing achievements.
Heh, who needs a $2.5 mill pavilion? from Welcomat: After Dark, Hazard-at-Large, March 25, 1987