Category Archives: Art & Culture

BOOK REVIEW: The Great White Whale Dick (Megan Park)

The Great White Whale Dick bills itself as the story of Trainor’s return to college after time spent volunteering in the post-Katrina clean-up. Most of the book deals with college life and the drama that comes with it- fights with housemates, relationships falling apart, struggling with classes, all set to the backdrop of Temple University, the “education oasis in the ghetto.” Nothing is off-limits, which may be both the book’s blessing and downfall.

The Great White Whale Dick is a cross between a private journal and a collection of essays. It’s intimate and interesting, but voyeuristic. There’s a graphic level of detail, especially when describing one of the author’s many sexual encounters. The obsessive style of writing may be owed in part to the writer’s propensity for Adderall-driven writing binges, something else that is described without hesitation in the book. The length of the book, 353 pages, combined with the subject matter, ensure it’s not a casual, fun read. Some parts can be difficult to get through- for instance, “Brendan Kash is a Thieving Sack of Shit,” reads more like a police report. There are (often grammatically incorrect) words on the page, but not much else coming through.

Reading through the memoir, it seems as though the author is his harshest self-critic and biggest fan. Much of the book comes off as a self-congratulatory record, a written pat on the back. There’s a lot of inner analysis and self-probing, as well. The reader gets a sense of working through Trainor’s problems with him, giving the book depth and appeal. The memoir culminates with “Cheese Sandwiches”, the story of the Trainor’s DUI and subsequent stay in jail. Instead of being one of the most significant parts of the book, it’s a missed opportunity. The author reflects on his ways and promises to change, but the writing seems insincere, more like a convenient way to end a memoir after an all-nighter on Adderall.

Screen Grabs: July 8, 2011

This week, we look at three new summer comedies: one funny, one moronic, and one German.

Herewith, a brief round-up of this weekend’s opening flicks, and the conventional wisdom surrounding them. In descending order of awesomeness.

Horrible Bosses

The Story: Three men with nightmarish work situations hatch a plan to eliminate each other’s bosses.
The Skinny: On paper, at least, you have three seriously funny leads in Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis, and a director in Seth Gordon (King of Kong, “Community,” “Parks & Recreation”) who would seem to be a solid choice for a dark comedy. So, how’s it hold up? About average, from what Scott Ross at Popcorn Biz reports: “it’s a second-tier effort that’ll leave you amused, but won’t change your life.”
Full Review: Horrible Bosses
Now Playing: The Pearl
Complete the Experience: While we don’t recommend killing any of your bosses, you can certainly complain bitterly about them over a fine martini at The Ranstead Room.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%

Vincent Wants to Sea
The Story: A man with Taurette’s Syndrome escapes from a clinic with an OCD patient and an anorexic to spread his mother’s ashes in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Skinny: Ralf Huettner’s comedy sounds suspiciously like a lot of other movies that have come before it. In fact, whenever we hear the words “road trip” associated with a film, it almost always bums us out. The City Paper’s Sam Adams would seem to agree with this assessment, writing ” There’s hugging and learning, but little insight or memorable detail.” And while we understand the title’s in translation from the German, still, yikes!
Full Review: Vincent Wants to Sea
Now Playing: Ritz at the Bourse
Complete the Experience: If a beach you want to explore, might we suggest the fine piece of coastline at LBI? Though we don’t recommend scattering ashes indiscriminately.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64%

The Story: A zookeeper in desperate need of romantic advice receives help from many of the animals he has been caretaking.
The Skinny: A broad, idiotic comedy from Kevin James (with help from Adam Sandler) is nothing new, but the mirthlessness is almost total and complete in this lazy film. It doesn’t help matters if reports are true that one of the animal wrangler companies involved with the film were, in fact, abusing the animals under their care. Our best advice would be to wait until your next cross country trip and catch it on the flight. Just don’t pay for the headphones.
Full Review: Zookeeper
Now Playing: UA Riverview
Complete the Experience: You can, of course, take in the beauty and grandeur of Philly’s own Zoo, just don’t expect to get a running commentary from the bears.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 14%

Screen Grabs: The films you should drop everything to see, and the ones you should avoid like the plague.

Beth Kephart’s next book cover revealed

Beth Kephart, a young adult novelist from the Philadelphia area, just revealed the new cover for her next book YOU ARE MY ONLY. Kephart’s next book will appear in bookstores in October. This quick description of the YOU ARE MY ONLY is on Beth Kephart’s blog: “A missing child. A devastated teen mom. Two girls—one traumatic event.” For a longer description of the book, check out the author’s blog post.

The Taste of Success!


“Taste of Success” was held on Friday, December 3rd from 6-8pm at the PNC Bank Center. Featuring a bake-off contest between food-industry entrepreneurs as well as a silent auction, all of the proceeds will be directly invested in programs for entrepreneurs—to assist them grow and maintain their businesses while lifting themselves out of poverty. Jack McDavid of Jack’s Firehouse and Michael Solomonov of Zahav were this years celebrity judges.

Content by Felicia Perretti

BOOK REVIEW: Matchless

Gregory Maguire, the master of re-envisioned fairy tales, has recreated Hans Christian Andersen’s tale “The Little Match Girl,” and in the process, made the best Christmas gift for literature buffs. Maguire made a few changes to the original tale; instead of being set on New Year’s Eve, Maguire’s version takes place on Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Also, where the original had the little match girl dreaming of her deceased grandmother, Maguire made it her mother. With this retelling, Maguire hoped to bring new resonance to the story of the poor girl who freezes because she can’t go home until she’s sold at least one match, a tale that, he writes in an afterward, “has come to seem too bleak for modern audiences.” Maguire succeeds in striking up the readers pity for this little girl, whose death unites two people and their families. Truly heartening, this holiday story is matchless.

Interview with Greg Trainor, self-published memiorist

Writer Molly Sprayregen interviewed Temple University student Greg Trainor, who recently published his memoir The Great White Whale Dick: A Memoir, which will benefit the Philadelphia Community Corps, through CreateSpace. The book is also available in e-book format through Trainor talked with about his decision to self-publish and the effect it has had.

MS: Why did you decide to self-publish?

GT: You know, you send out query letter after query letter to literary agents, and nobody wants to take a chance on anybody new, and, well, if you’re like me, I think, you know, if you read the first…I mean, I don’t know what you got out of the book, but I think if you read- they ask you to send the first 10,000 words or so, which is like basically the first three chapters. So what they got out of that was another Tucker Max, which I don’t think is what the book is at all. As far as the first three chapters go, yeah. So I think that didn’t go over with literary agents, and with being a new author, nobody wants to take a chance with you, so finally I decided. You know, writers in our generation don’t really need to wait, with all the print-on-demand options that are available, you can just put it out there if you’re actually confident with the book.

MS: At 353 pages, it’s pretty long. Did you cut out a lot of stuff, or did you just decide to include pretty much everything?

GT: I didn’t really cut out a lot, no. When I wrote it, the rough draft came pretty quickly, and after, when I was editing it, there were parts that I cut out, to protect the privacy of others, and stuff like that. There were things that I held back, but mostly I think I expanded on the rough draft. It’s hard to tell, ‘cause I would say when I was editing it-well, basically the way it worked was I wrote it, started writing January 6th, not with the intention of writing a memoir, I wanted to rewrite another book that was stolen, but I was just so angry, I couldn’t. So I decided I was going to just write a short story about what happened just to get over it, and three days later that short story was 75 pages long. And then a week later it was 150 pages long and I realized I was writing a book. And 28 days later I had a book.

MS: You talk a lot about the creation of your foundation, the Philadelphia Community Corps. Where is the PCC now?

GT: Uh, that is in process. Basically, you know, it’s been baby steps and I’ve been trying to figure out a way that I can do this again. In the beginning, it was a grassroots effort, “you know, I’m just going to use all my friends as volunteers”- and, uh, it was a big mistake. I picked the wrong people, I tried to force it, I was impatient. Basically, I’m a huge dreamer…and I paid for that idealism. So this time I’m trying to basically get it all formerly structured before I even bring anybody in.

MS: Any negative reactions to the book, from your family or friends?

GT: I think, when you publish this stuff, it’s out there and that it and you can’t take it back. And my family is going to have to deal with that, ‘cause it’s my life. And I hope that they enjoy it and support it, but if they don’t, that’s their choice. At a certain part, this is just who I am, and as a writer, you’re always going to take from your own life in some way. So even if it wasn’t non-fiction, people would find some reason to be upset.

The Great White Whale Dick is available via Trainor’s CreateSpace Estore.