Review: HBO’s “House of the Dragon” Season One

Arts & Entertainment

How the “Game of Thrones” follow up stacks up against its predecessor (Spoiler free)

Jakob Eiseman, Former Editor-in-Chief

HBO

The Entertainment Monarch of Yore

When “Game of Thrones” ended, in 2019, the juggernaut series had been on television for just under half of my entire life, and I must be honest: at the time I couldn’t care less about the series. “GoT” was the biggest property in television entertainment for so long, its fans were insufferably disciplic about it, fantasy just wasn’t really my thing, and I swear there was about a four or five year stretch where I couldn’t watch a talk show, listen to a podcast or even just converse with friends without hearing the names Targaryen, Stark or Lannister, and couldn’t go on social media without seeing the “Winter is coming” meme and I absolutely despised it. HBO, and the rest of the media, put “GoT” on an iron throne, and I hated watching a tyrant try to tell me what I should like.

HBO

Then the show ended, and almost unanimously the fanbase turned on a dime to hating the show with me, and in that I found a weird sense of camaraderie. After the embers had burned out from the dumpster (dragon)fire that was the final season, and I went a few years without having “GoT” shoved down my throat, I decided to give it a shot. 

You all were right and I’m kicking myself for that. I loved “GoT” and binged it over the span of a few months, learning everything there is to know about the world of Westeros and all of its crazy families and lore. I even read (most of) the first book in the series it was based on. So, when HBO announced that there would be a prequel series centering around the lineage of one of the show’s main characters, not only was I sold, but I was salivating and chomping at the bit to get more.

Enter 2022, I’m proud to say that although this wasn’t exactly the return of the king… it is a decent start.

The Second of Their Name

“House of the Dragon” is a prequel series to “Game of Thrones” set 170 years before the events of the original series, and, like “GoT,” is based on the literary work of George R. R. Martin. While “GoT” follows his series of fantasy novels “A Song of Ice and Fire,” “House of the Dragon” follows a supplementary work written in the style of several accounts of history titled “Fire and Blood.” Martin is known for his excellent use of worldbuilding and character development to drive forward complex political plots using convincing and endearing character moments. Time skips between episodes of the show could be a few days or they could be a few decades as the source material skips in this manner, recounting important moments of history rather than the whole of it.

Set in the fictional land of Westeros which is ruled by a long standing family of dragon riding monarchs, the Targaryens, “HotD” stars Emma D’Arcy (“Hanna”) as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen, the first female heir to the Iron Throne, and Olivia Cooke (“Ready Player One”) as  Queen Alicent Hightower, Rhaenyra’s childhood friend… and also step-mother…. yeah, show gets a bit nutty.

HBO

I have no problem with this casting — in fact I think that while D’Arcy’s performance thus far leaves a bit to be desired, and I think that Cooke is nailing her role and I am thoroughly impressed with what she has brought to the table — the showrunners Miguel Sapochnik and Ryan J. Condal made the daring choice to run the first five episodes of the series with a younger actress playing the childhood counterparts of these two main characters. And, I have to say, I think that Milly Alcock, who played a young Rhaenyra, and Emily Carey, the young Hightower, were so much better in their roles. 

Maybe it was because I was introduced to them first, but I felt so much more attached to their characters and seeing them grow and change as the show went on felt real and earned in opposition to their adult counterparts that I felt were stuck in their ways and somewhat stagnant through the final half of the season.

The show also features the devilish Matt Smith (“Doctor Who”) as Prince Daemon Targaryen, Rhaenyra’s uncle with eyes for the throne and fire in his blood, and Paddy Considine (“The World’s End”) as King Viserys Targaryen, Rhaenyra’s king-father that wants nothing more than to just be a normal nine to five dad, but is forced to uphold the peace of the realm by his seat on the Iron Throne.

I could list the rest of the main cast but as this is, indeed, a “Thrones” show, there is approximately 1 million names and factions to keep track of so I will leave it at this: The casting team at HBO is excellent, but when there are frequent time jumps that span more than 10 years at a time, no one is going to be perfect at finding actors to play older or younger versions of an established character, and I commend the actors for doing their best. They sell it, but I wish it were better.


Serving the Realm

I really did enjoy the politics in this show. There was action, there was sex, there was violence and there was even comedy, but above all else, the inner workings of characters wants, needs, betrayals, interactions, secrets and all of that great drama really set the tone for how this show is going to proceed moving forward.

The seeds of what teams will form, who will hate or love who and who is plotting their next move are planted so well that it does not seem like ham-fisted foreshadowing, but tasteful, realistic-to-character displays of what the characters are thinking without explicitly stating it. The characters were smart, emotional, endearing, truly evil, truly innocent, funny, warm and caring or cold and vengeful, and all of this was revealed through their interactions with each other, not so much through their own performance.

Beyond that, the worldbuilding, inspired by R. R. Martin, never ceases to impress me, with callbacks (call forwards?) to the original series in all sorts of types such as location names, family names, customs or plot points only ever discussed before now being seen, I did get a lot of enjoyment out of the season because I had seen the original, but these names and places are introduced in a way that makes them feel like a part of a real, living world. So, if you have never seen “GoT” that is perfectly fine. The world feels lived in, the cultures are distinct and stick to their rules and above all, the Targaryen family gets a chance to truly shine, one that is endlessly discussed in “GoT” but rarely seen, and one that new viewers will quickly attach themselves to as the most deliciously dysfunctional family of deadly dragon riders that is sure to draw most people in.

HBO

And speaking of dragons, the budget for this series must be astronomical because the CG dragons that appear far more often than I ever thought they could genuinely look great. Whether I watched on a 4K TV or on my phone, they looked, animated and sounded terrifying, real and believable. The world itself was also incredibly stunning, while there were several parts that really took me out of it, generally the set design, green screening and choreography of extras made every landmark distinct, memorable and in many cases, breathtakingly beautiful. Revisiting lands from the previous show was fun, and they changed them up significantly and exploring new parts of Westeros always triggered my interest and curiosity. I cannot commend them enough for their visual world design.

Also, shoutout to the theme song. Yes, it is exactly the same as before. Yes, it is still incredibly dope and deserves its flowers.

“I Did Not Wish for This!”

The politics, characters, worlds and visuals are about where my praise for the series ends and my criticism begins.

The plot is needlessly messy. As I mentioned, time skips are a common trend between episodes, and while that works sometimes, getting us through some months of downtime to get to the action, it often is incredibly confusing, even as someone who knows what to expect. When I was able to piece together what happened, the characters would discuss events that I would have wanted to see, and act as if those events were severely important to their current character makeup. I am a big proponent of “show, don’t tell,” and that is the opposite of so much of this show. If they were driving toward something so amazingly intense or exciting that we needed to fit these many decades into one season of television, I would understand, but to be honest the season finale was exciting, but it just wasn’t all that. 

HBO

The whole season builds us up to expect one character to turn on another, and in the finale, that is what we get, nothing more nothing less, just what was expected. Yes, next season is going to be bombastically action packed based on where we left off, but in comparison to the excitement of nearly every moment of the first season of “Thrones” and the dramatic cliffhanger that left people questioning, this first season just kind of ramps up and then plateaus, and I think filling in some of those time skip gaps could have gone a long way to continuing that ramp up, building excitement and further delivering on character interactions to support the plot, not constitute it.

Beyond that, the constant recasting of characters made them feel inconsistent. While I felt that at every phase, the characters interactions’ themselves were compelling, the characters alone were not, and I believe that is because the actors all brought a unique take to the characters due to time being passed. Without one consistent throughline for most of them, they kind of went off the rails. Their emotions and motivations came through well when interacting with other characters, but their decisions that affect the plot often do not feel earned.

I know I have made a lot of comparisons to “GoT” in this review, and while I feel that is warranted, I know a lot of people will be tuning into “HotD” with no background with the show, and I feel as though the series does a good job at dropping people into the mix. The problem is that I have built up that visual and storytelling language from watching the original that lets me pick up on what is coming next or what expectations of mine were subverted. I feel as though newcomers to the show may have some difficulty taking everything in because the series does no hand-holding whatsoever when it comes to the actual dynamics of the world. Just an added layer of confusion that may hinder the experience, but certainly not the end of the world. As a standalone series, I still think that “HotD” is very good with many flaws, but as a successor to “GoT” I think it is excellent, just with some notable drawbacks.

We Light the Way

HBO

I want to talk spoilers but I know the season finale just debuted so I’ll wrap this up by saying that if you have any interest in “HotD” or “Thrones” in general, I think you should give it a chance. I won’t firmly say that it is for everyone, but I know that it is very compelling and that the way it presents its world and characters is still the best of the best. Despite my criticisms, I did really enjoy “House of the Dragon” and I am really looking forward to season two. I can’t wait to find out how the line of succession in the Targaryen family will continue, and I think it is a real sign of the show’s quality that even though I had issues related to the events we skipped, I am still completely ready to see how the showrunners will present the future events to me and have full faith that they will blow me away. 

The world is just so enjoyable to live in for an hour at a time and the interesting characters, once they are established and re-established, do interact with each other in such satisfying ways that I am on the edge of my seat the same way for a hallway conversation as I am for a massive battle, and that is the magic of “HotD” that I hope to see more of moving forward. 

I’m going to ding the show for its issues and messy use of plot and pacing, but for everything else it is fantastic and absolutely worthy of a binge. “House of the Dragon” season one earns an 8/10 for me, and I am hopeful for the show’s future.

Featuring: Reading Terminal Market with CEO and GM interview

Features

Annie Allman shares the history and future plans for Philadelphia’s biggest tourist attraction

Jakob Eiseman, Former Editor-in-Chief

Image courtesy of Jakob Eiseman

The first time I came to the city of Philadelphia, I was tired, stressed, and incredibly overwhelmed. My mother and I wandered the streets of Center City asking for directions, getting heckled by hawkers, and bumped into by drunken Phillies fans when finally, we came upon a lively area with musicians, tour busses, street performers, and a bustling crowd of people all talking and cheering happily to create a low, relaxing murmur. As we approached, we quickly saw the gray, cold Philly we had been seeing come to life with movement and color, and the closer we got, the more we could hear the performances and smell a wonderful plentitude of smells. We finally came upon the Reading Terminal Market and thought, “when in Rome,” before opening the doors and being greeted with a loud boom of voices and a bright flash of liveliness. While I do not quite remember what I did, saw, or ate while I was there, I remember that I wanted to return, and when I committed to La Salle, one of the first things I did after moving in was return to the Reading Terminal, and I have been going back ever since.

For some of our new students or members of the La Salle community reading from across the country, the Reading Terminal Market is a vast open market living inside a National Historic Landmark that was once cooperating as a market and train station. The Terminal is filled with vendors of all types, from produce to meats to prepared foods to jewelry to clothing — anything you are looking for under the Philadelphia sun can be found within, and most of it is the best you will find anywhere in the city. 

Image courtesy of Jakob Eiseman

Dinic’s Roast Beef sports hangers where butchers from the Market’s early days would hang animals to be sold off in pieces.

Located in Center City along North 12th Street, the market spans more than a whole block, running from Filbert Street to Arch Street and nearly reaching back to North 11th. The market is about a five-minute walk from City Hall or a two-minute walk from Jefferson Station. With 2023 set to be the Market’s 130th anniversary, it has carried its roots from the first markets in Philadelphia from the 1600s when purveyors of goods would come to sell and barter to William Penn’s first residents. The formal market first opened in 1892, having over 250 vendors and 100 farmers bringing products regularly to supply local residents and businesses with fresh and quality goods.

Nowadays, the market looks quite different. First and foremost, no trains have run over the top of the market since the 80s, and the vendor spaces have increased significantly, with some even offering their own sit-down dining or walk-in grocer areas. Modernly, the market is still used as a major grocery hub for locals and for those looking to get their hands on some exotic products, but it also has an incredibly popular food culture featuring breakfast through dessert from cultures around the world, including the famous Philly cheesesteak, Amish baked goods, Korean corn dogs, Caribbean classics, Middle Eastern eats, Georgian cheese boats and almost anything else you can imagine. It also has a sizable art scene with linens, jewelry, pottery, souvenirs, and imported works of art from across the globe. You could go to the Reading Terminal every weekend for your entire life and never run out of new things to try or buy.

Image courtesy of Jakob Eiseman

Mountains of fresh produce line the avenues of the Reading Terminal Market.

The market’s CEO Annie Allman was kind enough to sit down with me over the weekend to share with me the history of the Market, their future plans, and some personal stories from the Terminal. Serving as the current leader of the non-profit organization that runs the Market for just over 18 months now, Allman says she has big plans for the market, and has already seen some significant changes go into effect since her taking the position. 

Like myself and many of our readers, Allman found her way to the market during her college education, graduating from the University of Pennsylvania. In January of 2021, Allman came to the market hoping to help transition it from its operations during the COVID-19 pandemic’s peak in Philadelphia to a new future that celebrated what always made the market special. 

The market never closed through the pandemic, as it is a grocer, but visitors were somewhat infrequent through its peaks, and some vendors suffered financially. “It was a ghost town. It was sad, and I think a lot of people had lost hope,” said Allman. She hoped she could put her experience in tourism and hospitality to work to bring some life back to the market and hope back to the heart of Philadelphia. 

Her team reached out to highly motivated, energized businesses and individuals that they thought could help bring a new vibe and feeling to the market. Now, nearly every vendor area is filled with many new and returning faces to the market, and Allman noted that over 25 percent of merchants are BIPOC, and more than 45 percent of vendors’ businesses are women owned or co-owned. 

Image courtesy of Jakob Eiseman

Sweet T’s bakery, Allman highlighted, “is believed to be the first Black-owned bakery in the market’s history, and that’s really a sign of how much diversity is coming to the market.” Many vendors are first or second-generation immigrants, and almost all merchants found within the market are local Philadelphians, some of whom source all of their materials and ingredients locally. The variety of people working in the Market and attending it is vast, and people from all corners of the city are present.

After just over a year and a half of reorganizing and filling up the market again, Allman says that they are “absolutely ready to shine,” and just seeing the crowds and feeling the electricity in the market on a Friday afternoon, I think they are finally back.

Now that the market has really picked itself back up after its pandemic lull, their next big project is to expand the market, not further into buildings, but out onto Filbert Street, building a large patio and setting up easily convertible blockers so as to allow for outdoors festivals or popup markets to take over the road. Allman says that they are not able to share any plans at this time, but that once the Filbert expansion is ready, Reading Terminal will be sure to take advantage of the space with unique and fun activities and markets that could not exist anywhere else in the city.

“The Market is a great way to experience a true Philadelphia tradition and really be a part of the city and its culture,” says Allman. Not only is it a Philly tradition, but it also has ties to so many parts of the globeand experiencing the traditions and customs of other cultures is truly representative of the melting pot that is the city of Philadelphia. 

In addition to being one of, if not the largest SNAP redemption site in the state, the Reading Terminal Market is operated by a nonprofit that seeks to keep the market accessible to people of all incomes and provide fresh products to residents of Philadelphia that may not have access to food in the same way as others. For the last two years, the Market has won the award for best public market, and Allman attributed their success to the persistence and resilience of small business owners through the pandemic. The Market has always made the support of small, local businesses a priority.

“I love this place because you can truly feel, smell, and taste Philadelphia,” said Allman. “After the pandemic, all of that social unrest in the city, and everything we have been through, coming to the market is a perfect way to enter a magic bubble of culture, experience something new and diverse, meet new people with new ideas and feel comfortable taking in the city in a wonderful organic space,” Allman described with fervor. “It truly is the best of Philly all in one place,” she concluded.

Image courtesy of Jakob Eiseman

If you’ve never made your way down to the Reading Terminal or if this was just the excuse you needed to get back there, I encourage you to check it out. It is truly a place unlike any other, and I hope our audience can see it that way too. Please click here to find a list of all current vendors within the Market.

La Salle hosts COVID-19 booster and flu vaccine clinics

News

Jakob Eiseman, Former Editor-in-Chief

John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

The updated COVID-19 booster is bivalent, meaning it contains components from two different strains.

La Salle University is set to host two on-campus vaccine clinics for members of the La Salle community in the Union Ballroom. It will provide those eligible with the updated COVID-19 boosters as well as this season’s flu shot free of charge. Any member of the La Salle community 18 years or older is eligible to attend. The first clinic will be held Oct. 12 from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., and the second on Wednesday, Oct. 19 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The clinics will only offer the updated COVID-19 booster to those who received their single dose of the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine or their second dose of their Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine series more than two months prior to booster administration. Those who have already received a booster to their COVID-19 vaccination or series, must have received the booster more than two months prior to be eligible for the new booster.

The updated COVID-19 booster is bivalent, meaning it contains material from two strains of the virus. It contains a portion of the original COVID strain that was known to be the cause of the pandemic since March of 2020, as well as a portion of the BA 1 Omicron strain, which was first identified late last year. By most accounts, those who received their original vaccine or series were protected heavily against the symptoms of Omicron, but not entirely from the virus itself. 

This new booster promises to raise immune system protection against COVID-19 and Omicron, as well as bolstering symptom resistance already granted by the original vaccine.

The La Salle University COVID-19 portal’s latest information states that since the beginning of this semester, 75 members of the La Salle community have contracted COVID-19. Continuing to mask, test regularly and shelter in place are still the most effective and simplest ways to stop the spread of COVID-19, but adding a first or second COVID booster to your arsenal is perhaps the best way to protect yourself from the virus.

In addition to COVID boosters, the vaccine clinic will also provide flu vaccines to those who request one. The CDC has stated that “while limited data exist on giving COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines… experience with giving other vaccines together has shown the way our bodies develop protection and possible side effects are generally similar whether vaccines are given alone or with other vaccines.”

Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and health policy at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine said in an interview with NPR, “If we have a serious influenza season, and if the Omicron variants continue to cause principally mild disease, this coming winter could be a much worse flu season than COVID.” He also said that this could finally be the year that we see the rise of the long-warned “twindemic,” a season in which COVID-19 and Influenza are just as infectious.

Even those that do not traditionally receive their flu vaccine are encouraged to consider it this season, as the possibility of a twindemic or flu outbreak on campus alongside steadily climbing late year COVID numbers could send the La Salle community back online if not kept in check.
To register for a COVID-19 bivalent booster, flu vaccine or both, click here or email COVID19@lasalle.edu for details.

Review: “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness”

Arts & Entertainment

Spoiler free review of the most divisive film of the spring

Jakob Eiseman, Editor-in-Chief

Header Image: Marvel Studios
Shot on Disney’s Volume studio, the visuals of “Multiverse of Madness” are really the key.

I have gone through a bit of a “hater phase” when it comes to Marvel Studios and their constant month-after-month output. Starting as a fan in my youth, naturally I followed the series of what is now well over 30 projects, including their recent forays into television through Disney+, and as time went on I was less and less impressed, chalking it up to me just losing my younger days and accepting that these movies really are mostly for children.

Most of their recent projects have disappointed me to such a degree that I regret going to the movie theater to see them or following them week to week on Disney+, and going to the theater or relaxing for TV nights are some of my favorite pastimes. I enjoyed “Spider-Man No Way Home” for the nostalgia, but other than that, I’ve been pretty bummed on Marvel for a long time.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is a sequel to 2016’s “Doctor Strange,” which follows the titular Dr. Stephen Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game,” “Sherlock,”) with a terrible, terrible American accent, a master of sorcery and magic who frequently pops up in these Marvel movies as a helper or savior character due to his wide set of abilities. While I loved “Doctor Strange,” due to its witty dialogue and stunning CG visuals, his appearance in other films left a bad taste in my mouth and I was not in any desperate need of a sequel.

“Multiverse” also serves as a direct sequel to Disney+’s 2021 series “WandaVision,” starring Elizabeth Olsen (“Wind River,” “Godzilla,”) as another magical weirdo, Wanda Maximoff. “WandaVision” is a series that started amazingly, dealing with horror, genre and form breaking, concepts of grief and loss, parenting and other very thought-provoking themes, but eventually descended into poorly choreographed, low-budget “pew pew” CG magic fights for far too long, boring me, and receiving a begrudgingly “good” rating from the Collegian.

I still held some, likely overly-elevated, expectations for their most recent project, and shoved off to the theater on opening night like a Stockholm victim in order to review it for the Collegian, and I am happy to report that this movie was not what I expected, was not what I wanted, but is still getting a glowing review, and I’m happy to have seen it when I did.

The good

Marvel Studios

So, judging from the fact that this is a Marvel movie review, you can probably assume that I’m not as much of a cinephile or film snob (a term of endearment, I promise) as some of the other members of the Arts and Entertainment staff. I like watching movies for the spectacle, and while I love to dive into plot criticism, learn and feel a connection to characters and feel that I have built up a deep knowledge of filmmaking and filmic language to genuinely debate visual texts, when I go to the theater or commit to a Blu Ray purchase, usually I just want to come out knowing I spent my money on an experience I won’t forget above all else, and that I will want to watch again. 

The main crux of “Multiverse” is that it deals with Strange traveling through parallel dimensions to quell a multi-world threat, propping him up again as a hero of his own story, while also resolving the character arc of Maximoff set up in “WandaVision,” and while I can say that this high-concept sci-fi, bizarro world setup seems “too zany,” they handle it well by leaning into the ridiculousness of it, and make it a spectacle of both visuals and rapid-fire storytelling.

While I don’t think the plot is necessarily great, it won’t be winning any screenplay awards, and the writing is cheesy as all hell, that actually added to its appeal for me. This is a popcorn movie, it is a point at the screen and laugh or scream at a cheap jumpscare movie. It’s funny, it’s genuinely scary in moments, it’s over-the-top and all of it is tied together with visuals coming from pouring millions upon millions of dollars into some of the industries best graphic production studios.

The score is also a highlight for me, accentuating memorable themes from previous Marvel projects while also adding in humorous twangs and frightening chords at the right moment. Musician Danny Elfman (“Men in Black,” “Edward ScissorHands,”) composed “Multiverse’s,” score, and as a big Elfman fan, I can earnestly say that while it does not top the harpsichord, mysterious score from the first “Doctor Strange,” it perfectly sets the tone for what this film is, and is consistently good throughout.

But, going back to its Marvel-isms, one of the best parts about “Multiverse” is that after it settles into its second act, it drops the formulaic superhero nonsense, and becomes its own directorial vision that is just so fresh, and proves to me that these movies don’t all have to just be recycled material aimed at making kids cheer. They can be for different audiences, and luckily this one was for me.

The bad

Marvel Studios

I’ll be the first to admit that this movie might have the worst acting I have ever seen from big name actors like Cumberbatch and Olsen, as well as a few cameo actors that won’t be named. Somehow Cumberbatch’s American accent sounds even more over-the-top than normal, and Olsen is totally phoning it in for the first half of the movie. The writing for these characters, as well as the newly introduced super-character America Chavez, played by Xochitl Gomez (“Gentefied,” “The Baby-Sitters Club,”) did them no favors. Chavez particularly got the short end of the stick, with a majority of her lines being so surface level that they aren’t memorable or so deeply emotional, but not earned because of the previous dialogue. I liked Gomez as Chavez and am excited to see more of her in the future, but in this film she did not have a good chance to flex her acting skills.

Once the pace is upped and it becomes more of a horror movie with a breakneck length between scenes, this goofy dialogue adds to its charm, but it takes about 40 minutes of listening to people act like robots to get there in what are supposed to be serious or humorous scenes that just feel like words being read from a sheet.

Honestly, the whole first act of “Multiverse” made me want to leave the theater. It’s the same exact flow as the beginning of any other big budget sci-fi movie, and made every character annoying and every plot point seem inconsequential. 

Also, I mentioned that the visuals are the key to “Multiverse’s” success, because for a large part, they are very good, and while not believable, are still a visual feast for those interested in CG technology. A criticism I do have, though, is that this film was almost entirely shot on Disney’s new studio The Volume, which uses giant LED panels to create what was previously a greenscreen background, giving actors something to naturally react to and also helping cinematographers more properly place cameras and light shots. It works, but it is definitely new.

For the most part, the backgrounds appear at least as believable as they were on greenscreen, if not more. But, I believe that production crews at Disney are still getting used to The Volume, and many of the fully CG-background shots were lit terribly, and looked so unnatural and off putting that I laughed out loud in the theater, probably to the chagrin of the packed opening-night crowd.

My final general criticism is that despite being called “Multiverse of Madness” there were only a few universes shown, and there really wasn’t that much madness. The first “Doctor Strange” film has about a 10-minute segment that was nominated for a visual effects Academy Award that takes Strange through so many unique, horrifying, perplexing and visually mesmerizing worlds, all while employing filmmaking techniques to make the audience feel as though they are experiencing it, and immersing them in a fully unbelievable and fantastical world. 

In those 10 minutes, I feel like I went on way more of a trip through a realm of ‘madness’ than I did at any point in “Multiverse,” and I also feel like I expected to see dozens of unique and fascinating backgrounds and visually unique landscapes in the sequel, but we only saw about 10 total, and only three different settings were used as tentpole locations for the plot.

And the Raimi

Marvel Studios

One of my favorite spectacle-first franchises is “Evil Dead,” and any adjacent campy horror-action b movies, and to my surprise, that’s exactly what “Multiverse of Madness” is, albeit with a much, much higher budget. Both “Evil Dead” and “Multiverse” are directed by Sam Raimi (“Army of Darkness,” “Spider-Man (2002),”) and Disney, much to my surprise, did not hold him back from doing what he does best: making a movie that you won’t forget, with editing, story beats, a visual style and overall unity that just make you go “okay, go off Raimi, I see what you’re going for here and I can’t believe someone paid you to do it.”

Raimi is known for his “horror” movies, but I am even hesitant to call them that. Because, while Raimi toys with some frightening concepts and source material, he usually stretches the scares so far that they are mostly a joke, causing me to jump at a loud noise, but immediately start laughing instead of walking home with my head on a swivel. There are jumpscares in “Multiverse,” and there are moments that made me sick to my stomach in terms of body horror (with the PG-13 rating actually making it a bit scarier, because what isn’t shown is sometimes more grotesque than what is) but I would never in conversation call this a horror movie. 

By the end, every scene can’t overstay its welcome because the story and set pieces just fly by so fast that you just have to let Raimi pick you up and take you on his wild ride. There are so many made up words, unbelievable mystical elements that break reality and any defined rules within the fiction and moments of violence or spectacle that are so insanely cheesy and riddled with self-referential humor or excitement, that eventually I just let my critical guard down and became a brain-dead audience piece pointing at the screen and cheering for an actor covered from head to toe in prosthetics doing some of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen on a movie screen, and I loved it.

Raimi is not without criticism though, I think most people agree. He has a vision, he commits to it and not a single concession is made by him to not reach it, no matter if it makes the film seem like an 80s b movie as a result. The most egregious example of this over-commitment to the Raimi style is in the editing. Like I mentioned earlier, many scenes are so fast that they aren’t even needed, but beyond this, the transitions and nature of the film being presented could not be more bizarre.

There is a circle wipe in this movie during a serious, important scene (yet another moment of me cracking up in a quiet theater), there are faces dissolving into scenes, the screen is stretched and pulled, there are extreme close-ups on nothing and most of all, there are so many times where we cut from one plane of action to another in asynchronous presentation, but are given no frame of reference for what point in time we are.

Also, again, Rami and his screenplay team are terrible writers of dialogue, and while this adds to the cheeseball movie experience, it does ruin some of the moments that are meant to be heartfelt, serious or grow the Marvel universe for sequels and spin-offs. Additionally, the treatment of some older fan-favorite characters, including Strange himself and Maximoff in many cases is repetitive, and shoves its message of self-discovery and forgiveness down your throat to the point where I want to un-discover myself by the end and never forgive Raimi for how he handled the story in this film.

Should you see it?

Yes, I really think “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is worth a watch… in just a few specific cases. If you love Raimi’s other work like I do (We don’t talk about “Spider-Man,”) you can’t be disappointed by this, even with its slow opening, because you don’t need character and you don’t need story to enjoy it for that, you just need to sit in awe at the fact that he made millions to make people hit each other with CG magic. If you are a Marvel fan, I also can’t say you shouldn’t watch this. Sure, you’ll probably hate the story and then go whine about it on every forum known to man, but there’s still a lot to love, Raimi-isms withstanding, and I think it’s a satisfying continuation of Strange and Maximoff’s stories. 

If you’re neither of those things, which is admittedly an ever shrinking portion of the pop culture audience, do not see this movie. It isn’t for you and you will hate it, I actually promise. You will either not understand the plot or the visual language or both, and will likely feel like you wasted your time and money watching a British man fail to be American while jumping around a technicolor, sometimes poorly lit background for two hours. Might I suggest you watch “Evil Dead,” instead?

For me, personally, as a perfect cross-section of my childhood love for Marvel and my modern love for Raimi, “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” is great, I can’t wait to see it again, and I’m giving it a shockingly high 7/10 for my final score.

Come yell at me with your concerns at JDEiseman1@gmail.com.

Editor’s Note: The only reason I chose to review “Multiverse” is because my first article written for the Collegian was a review of another Marvel film, “Captain Marvel,” and I wanted to see how I’ve grown as a writer and editor since. Thank you to everyone who has read my media reviews during my years with the Collegian. I look forward to writing many more, even after I graduate.

Supreme Court draft opinion suggests Roe v. Wade reversal

national politics, Politics

Jakob Eiseman, Editor-in-Chief
Header Image: APNews

“The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision…” states a draft opinion by Justice Samuel Alito which was recently leaked from internal Court communications to policy news outlet Politico. “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” reads the draft. 

Before diving deeper into the draft and the claims made therein, it is important to state that this is a draft opinion. While the draft was confirmed to be authentic, it does not yet represent any official decision or confirmation by the Supreme Court. While it is likely that the voting process ended with the majority opinion lying with an overruling, or at least altering of abortion laws as this opinion was drafted at all, the voting results are still unknown, and an opinion cannot be officially made public until a majority of justices sign onto the opinion claiming that it accurately reflects their determinations on the matter, and a Supreme Court ruling can have no affect on law until the official opinion is made public. 

Just the facts

While justices have changed their final votes between preliminary voting and final opinion, there is nothing to suggest now whether that will or will not be the case.

There is some speculation as to why Justice Alito would be tasked with writing this opinion, leading some to suggest that the draft does not reflect true discussions, this piece will largely avoid speculation and focus just on the facts of Alito’s draft opinion, and what its implications would be if it were accepted as is.

As quoted above, the opinion contains several sections that outright denounce Roe v. Wade, a landmark Supreme Court decision from 1973 that has repeatedly served as precedent on abortion cases. The main stipulation of the case is that criminalizing abortion violated women’s right to privacy as protected by the Constitution. The opinion also suggests an overturn of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, a 1992 case which made several changes to how abortion laws were interpreted in the United States, as well as instituting an undue burden standard into law that any state law that would impede a woman from receiving an abortion before their pregnancy progressed too far would be invalid.

Alito’s draft was first presented to the justices in February, but the information leak happened on Monday, May 2. The main repeated claim from the draft opinion is that Roe v. Wade protects women under a right that is not expressly protected by the Constitution. Claiming that the case has had “damaging consequences,” Alito calls for a full reversal, allowing for any state in the union to allow abortion procedures to take place within established frameworks, but also allowing states to place bans on the procedures or criminalize them.

Alito also hammers in on the idea of fetus viability, citing several critical works against Roe v. Wade and stating that one of the ruling’s weaknesses in regards to maternal health was in relation to its determination of “viability.” In the draft, he details the tenants of Roe v. Wade that directed state’s abortion regulation by trimester, stating that during the first trimester, the abortion should be approved by a physician, but gives the right to the pregnant woman to receive an abortion, during the second trimester, a state can regulate abortions by using maternal health laws and regulations at the state level, so long as it does not delay the procedure from happening until the window has passed and the third trimester grants states’ the right to ban abortions unless the pregnancy threatens the life of the woman herself.

Alterations have been made since, but using parts of Roe v. Wade as a reasoning for its overturn, Alito describes the framework set out by the ruling stating “Neither party advocated the trimester framework,” reads the draft, “nor should either party or any amicus argue that ‘viability’ should mark the point at which the scope of the abortion right and a State’s regulatory authority should be substantially transformed.” 

A concession that is made in the draft is that this overturning does not concern any other laws or rights other than those directly related to the termination of pregnancy, and that the precedent that would be set by the opinion cannot be applied to any other rulings or overturnings. 

What does it mean?

While Alito’s draft mainly targets Roe v Wade’s regulations for their constitutionality, reversing that ruling would likely result in a massive schism of states who ban or strictly regulate abortion procedures, and those that continue to allow them, likely along party lines.

The reasoning for the reversal is wholly political, but the ramifications should this draft come to fruition are medical, social, financial and societal in nature. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the protections that women have held for years will vanish in states whose representatives are actively seeking to put an end to reproductive rights.

Several states have “trigger laws” which would ban abortion in almost all cases if the Supreme Court goes through with this draft, with some going into effect immediately and others having a ticking timer. Kentucky, Oklahoma, Louisiana and South Dakota are often looked to when discussions of abortion bans come up, as their trigger laws would ban abortion throughout the state immediately. 

It is important to note that almost every state in the union that has trigger laws or that has historically banned abortion makes medical exceptions should the life of the mother be at risk due to pregnancy. However, there is also a history of laws in these states interfering with treatment in any case, making it difficult, and forcing women to move across state lines to receive the care they need to survive. Very few abortion banning states currently have concessions related to pregnancies caused by rape.

A conversation has sparked as a result of this leaked document discussing the true tolls this reversal would take. Many point to the fact that if abortion bans are left up to the states, that wealthy women, or those with support, will be able to fly or be driven to a state that allows abortions and receive help, while those that are in dire financial situations will be unable to receive this care, even in the case that they were raped. 

Some have been pointing to a Tennessee bill proposed this spring that would allow citizens to sue anyone suspected of receiving or assisting in an abortion. Should Roe v Wade be overturned and bills like this passed in certain states, risky or illegal abortions would now carry an even greater risk. While this is a specific case, this law would also allow a rapist to take their victim to court if they abort the fetus in Tennessee.

According to a data analysis by NBC News, 21 states and/or territories would likely continue to protect abortion rights, nine would restrict abortions with various laws, including Pennsylvania, and 23 would ban abortion altogether or except in situations where it is medically necessary.


Editor’s note: Please allow concessions as we are currently in preparations for final exams and simply do not have the time to perform such an analysis ourselves. We implore you to read further on quality news sites to get the big picture, and just use this as a jumping off point for your understanding of the draft and its implications, not a whole summary.

A reflection on entertainment media as a career path

Commentary

Jakob Eiseman, Editor-in-Chief

Header image: Mohamed Hassan via PxHere

I’m scared.

I’m scared because this is my last commentary article with the Collegian as an undergrad. I’m scared because in two weeks I’ll be a journalist out in the field with a B.A. in Mass Media and Communication and I still have no idea what I want to write about.

My whole life I have made entertainment media my hobby. I played soccer in the day and I’d come home and play “Smash Bros.” with my teammates, I’d go to school and wait all day to get home and watch a few hours of Cartoon Network, I’d play music and use what I learned about music theory to appreciate the score of a new movie that I saw and above all, no matter what I did from my childhood to now, I always knew that no matter how stressful my day-to-day life got, or how invested I got in my courses and different interests, that when I got home at the end of the day I was firing up a gaming console or putting a Blu-Ray in the tray, and that was my time away from the world.

The conversation that our entertainment is an escape from modern problems and that we take to these fictional worlds so we don’t have to deal with ours is well trod ground. But, I find myself in a particular place where I have a unique discussion to be a part of.

Learning journalism in high school, and exposing myself to the field of communication, production, word mills, internships and online publication in college, I can confidently say that I’m ready to enter into the field of journalism and write. During my time with the Collegian, I started writing as an Arts and Entertainment writer, doing movie and game reviews during my first year, incorporating my hobby with my writing skills. 

After that, I took over as editor of the Arts and Entertainment section for two years, writing thousands of words and dozens of pieces on entertainment media, the industries that produce them and the ways that entertainment is a part of our media and cultural landscapes. 

Then, when I took over as editor-in-chief, I continued to be immersed in the journalism landscape and learn how to manage, edit and work in a newsroom. Through my schooling, I learned how to more effectively cover topics like current events, politics, social justice, personal features, local news and more, and I branched far out from just writing movie reviews. 

I will be doing one year of graduate school here at La Salle University, so I have the time, but I have a decision to make: Do I enter the traditional news media market and enjoy more job security, a more defined pipeline and the ability to write about and describe important events that will help others become educated and informed, or do I go down the path of entertainment journalism, driving forward my passion for movies and games through reviews, industry breakdowns, interviews with internal members of the community and write for a crowd that also wants to be informed and keep up, but for their hobbies and love of escapism?

I’ve always considered the field of entertainment to be a hobby, but I am so deeply connected to it and I know its inner workings. I could make it a career. But, first of all, I feel this overwhelming stigma that entertainment is considered a less-than field by an ignorant majority, that by being in it, you are wasting your life, and you aren’t contributing to society. Second, if I was to ignore this feeling and accept that these people are wrong, I’m also concerned that by making entertainment a career, I would have to lose it as a hobby. At what point does watching a movie for work stop being fun and start being stressful? If I have to review a long video game before an embargo period, would I really enjoy it? These questions are a secondary barrier to my decision.

I still have this decision to make, but I also feel like 1. This stigma is not true and that there is a way for me to move past it and 2. There is a way for me to appreciate entertainment in my career without losing it as a hobby. To help me with this decision, I went and talked to some of my friends and mentors here at La Salle who have a lot sharper opinion at this time. After hearing from them, I hope I will be able to better inform my decision, and I hope anyone reading these interviews will take away what they need to hear if they are in a similar situation to myself.

Dr. Mark Lashley, communication professor, television critic and media researcher

I have taken three entertainment related courses with Dr. Mark Lashley during my time at La Salle: Media Criticism, Prestige TV and TV Comedy, the latter two of which I took as honors electives, showing how much thought, research, writing and analysis went into the courses. When I started having these thoughts about my own career, I couldn’t think of anyone better to come to at La Salle than Lashley.

“I got the sense pretty early that media, even purely entertainment media, have a lot to teach us about how society works, what we value and how we see ourselves,” said Lashley. This is how I have always identified with media, often being drawn to both the silly escapes from reality as well as the deep reflections of how we act as human beings.

“I often joke when I teach TV and film classes that I’m going to try to ruin the things we enjoy by over-analyzing the process and the messages in our favorite shows and movies, but the truth is that being a critical reader of media can really add to the enjoyment of it in a lot of ways. Knowing what a creator is trying to say, what methods they’re using to say it, and how we as the audience negotiate a meaning from that, helps us reckon with the power of messages and how stories are told,” he continued.

When I asked Lashley about my concerns regarding entertainment becoming work rather than a hobby in his own life, he said, “it is somewhat of a ‘job’ to keep up with the culture, but there are definitely way worse ways to spend one’s time.”

“I get that making entertainment isn’t typically a lifesaving, or even profit-generating, way of life. But the arts are important,” said Lashley, “we tend to argue a lot about different forms of entertainment, and negotiate their meanings, which I think is a testament to how much value we give these texts and how much meaning we find in them.” 

On the subject of entertainment criticism and journalism, where I may find myself, Lashely had this to say, “I think creating is valuable, but I think criticism is valuable, too. The problem here is that its value is diminishing in the journalism world, where outlets have reduced the amount of criticism they publish, and generally pay writers and freelances less than even a decade ago. That being said, having smart, informed people engaging in discourse can help audiences understand the themes and messages embedded in media, and can champion great, worthwhile art that might not otherwise reach the mainstream.”

“The world is always going to need entertainment,” concluded Lashley, and I couldn’t agree more. Being able to think, escape, wonder and get excited is such a necessary part of all of our lives and I cannot see a world where these things just up and left.

Audrey Walker, senior criminal justice student, future Pepperdine law student

A singer and member of the Masque of La Salle, Walker said that she has been intrigued by the music industry for years, but chose to study the legal system in college both for career fulfillment and for financial prospects. She recently committed to Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, and says that she will be pursuing entertainment law, working with musicians and other artists in the courtroom.

“I wasn’t originally planning on going into entertainment law, but when I realized I could marry my two interests in one career, I realized that it would be the most fulfilling area of practice for me,” said Walker.

“People have been participating in and going to watch performing arts since ancient times. I’ve always thought that there’s something intrinsically human about performances, and they contribute to a very universal, human society;” said Walker, “when the pandemic hit, concerts and other live shows were the first things to go, and I remember how distressed everyone seemed over that.”

I asked Walker how she felt those in entertainment adjacent fields can contribute to society. She said, “Because entertainment is an integral part of society as well as a reflection of society, people who work in entertainment in any way absolutely contribute to the progression of society. The entertainment industry doesn’t just respond to societal desires, it also creates and influences them.”

Jonathan Colella, senior communication major, La Salle TV host

Jon Colella is a friend of mine that I met and learned a lot from through the com department, us bonding over the fact that we are some of the few entertainment minded students in a department filled with sports journalists. He is an excellent creative writer, writing multiple scripts and plays for student organizations along with co-hosting La Salle TV’s entertainment media and industry show, “Backstage Pass.”

I asked Colella where he is in his career search, and he said, “Right now my philosophy is ‘Do whatever you can, when you can.’ Entertainment is hard, and I’m certainly not going to be picky going into it. I’ve played with the idea of making YouTube video reviews of video games, not necessarily for the purpose of becoming YouTube famous but really as a way to keep myself sharp and to attune my own craft for myself. I love reviewing entertainment media as I feel like I have a lot to say about most things because I’ve consumed so much, so I like trying to make fair reviews of products while attempting to be funny.”

On the subject of the stigma against media jobs, Colella had this to say “Not all art is entertainment media, but all entertainment media is art. In every single thing created for us there is something to take from it, intentional or not. There is always a message, always a story, always information. Even if there isn’t a message, that’s still a message. It’s just how these things work. I don’t consume media with the intention of distraction myself from a sh*tty life. I consume media with the intention of gaining something, anything, from it.”

“Entertainers are the heavy hitters of cultural identity and I feel like anybody who says entertainers are worthless are probably really boring… Everyone is important in a lot of weird ways you wouldn’t expect. So while entertainment doesn’t seem essential to humanity, it surely is,” he continued.

Colella said that during his time with “Backstage Pass,” he has heard many horror stories from the entertainment industry, but because he is so passionate about it, this does not discourage him. “Your career and passion is a very important decision to make, so it wouldn’t be fair to yourself to have someone else make that decision for you. If you want to pursue entertainment, even after you hear every terrible thing, and still decide you want to, then you should.”

Nolen Kelly, senior communication major, Collegian arts and entertainment editor

I can guarantee that if it wasn’t for our long, and often arduous, discussions and arguments over entertainment media, that Nolen Kelly and I never would have bonded the way we did, now working together on the newspaper and living together. Kelly has a deep knowledge of the film and television industry and all aspects that make up the properties that he watches. From mise-en-scene to lighting to shoot site, he knows it all, and that is why I chose him to become one of the editors for arts and entertainment when the time came.

“I’ve always lived my life trying to be good at the things that make me happy and chasing them and for me right now: that’s writing. I’ve always known I’ve wanted to write either creatively or journalistically and in my senior year here I managed to do both at the same time, so I could see myself doing either or both, hopefully, professionally,” said Kelly.

I asked Kelly what he thought about the modern media landscape and if he thought entertainment was more of a distraction or an important facet of life. “Entertainment can both push and halt the progression of society, in my opinion. You get your boundary pushers who do so well they move beyond entertainment and move into important or thoughtful commentary. There are also those who are only there for distraction purposes. I think both kind of need to exist together for popular culture and society to realize what they need to move on from or gravitate more towards.”

Reflecting on his time as a writer and editor for arts and entertainment in the Collegian, Kelly said, “If anything, being a part of the Collegian has cemented that all I ever want to do in life is to be in the entertainment industry. I could write original plays, movie reviews, community movie discussions, original scripts and/or fun rant pieces forever. The feeling of creating something with words and knowing someone out there is watching and enjoying what I made is enough motivation for me to make more.”

Reflection

What I have determined is that anyone that has any interest in pursuing entertainment in any way as a career, whether that be an actor, writer, production crew member, journalist, lawyer, advertiser or anything in between, should, because it is a really important industry that helps people around the world both escape as well as explore. Yes, escapism is important, and I would never say that someone is wasting their time by consuming media, but it is also a thought tool that can help people feel emotions, learn and become more in touch with the human experience over all. It is a beautiful thing that can be provided to us in a multitude of ways, and it truly is an important part of what makes us who we are.

I’m still uncertain about my future as an entertainment journalist, as I truly do love writing about news and politics and featuring important perspectives through written word that evokes understanding and emotion. And, as Lashley said, media criticism certainly does not seem like a well paid field. But, my superficial concerns regarding it now are alleviated, and I hope that going through this short reflection with me helped you feel more confident about your career choices, your media habits or your pairing of hobby and career in any field.

Let me know if you are or have been in a similar situation, and if you have any advice for a budding maybe-entertainment journalist, by emailing me at JDEiseman1@gmail.com.

Germantown challenged and changed by gentrification

Features

The Germantown community looks to redevelopment with equal parts apprehension and optimism

Jakob Eiseman, Editor-in-Chief

Header Image: Image courtesy of Jakob Eiseman
These modern apartments on Queen Lane sit where an affordable housing high rise once stood. The rent for the townhouses on the right is a minimum of 30 percent of a tenant’s monthly income even after receiving a Philadelphia HUD Rental Assistance grant.

In 2013, seven cities in the United States accounted for half of the nation’s gentrification. Philadelphia, which was listed as the fourth most gentrified city, has not changed dramatically in the last eight years. According to 2019 census data, between 85 and 88 percent of low-income households were cost-burdened prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning they contributed at least 30 percent of their annual income toward rent or housing expenses, which is only one percent lower than a similar study conducted six years prior. Housing costs have gone up and income levels have dropped lower since the pandemic, and while the city is experimenting with plans to alleviate this burden, the financial situation still persists.

Citizens of Germantown, a historic neighborhood in Philadelphia’s Northwest region, are no exception. One fourth of all Germantown households contribute 35 percent or more of their monthly income toward housing costs according to the 2019 Census American Community Survey, the most recent data on the subject. While the economic effects of gentrification can be unavoidable in low-income neighborhoods, gentrification also changes and dilutes the culture of neighborhoods by bringing in people who do not respect the traditions or local businesses. Germantown has experienced these cultural trends greatly in the last decade.

Infographic showing the rise in median household income in Germantown and surrounding neighborhoods.

Largely, gentrification is caused by wealthier individuals or groups of people who purchase land in areas with a low property value to further grow their income. These wealthy “investors” tend to go into adverse neighborhoods, buy up store fronts, buildings and houses among other properties under the guise of bringing in better opportunities for the neighborhood. In reality, this often forces people who live in these neighborhoods out of their homes and jobs as houses and businesses are bought up, property taxes rise and the cost of living and shopping locally increases. As families are displaced, the history that they, and their neighbors, carried with them leaves the neighborhood, often erasing cultural landmarks that once held sentimental value such as parks, schools or churches. 

There are several organizations that are giving people from Germantown and its surrounding areas a chance to become developers, moving into the community to build it up on their terms. Some members of the community endorse this as it is allowing them to redevelop and clear up some of its blight or deteriorated properties, but others deny that this is helpful and claim the bottom line is that new developments are rarely affordable for Germantowners and almost exclusively welcome outsiders with a higher budget into the area. 

Other community efforts have started, but require large numbers or consistent, long term effort from local non-profits — many of which simply do not have the time or manpower to succeed. The city of Philadelphia has also implemented some programs to help those suffering from the effects of Gentrification, but community members and developers alike often agree that these programs only act as a temporary bandage for the deep cuts of displacement and cultural deterioration.

Beyond just physical and cultural displacement, gentrification can also lead to increases in crime and homelessess as people are forced into worse living situations or take to the streets to pay their increasingly larger bills. Working with all of these problems in mind, there is a select group of community minded individuals who are actively working to keep Germantown’s culture, connection, style and most avidly, affordability and livability the same as they have been for decades through community meetings, non-profit and economic solutions, and staying aware of new developers moving into the area.

Chew and Chelten: What once was

“Germantown used to be a beautiful mix of people,” said Douglas Rucker, who has lived in the area for most of his life, “integration helped people come into the area and get out of bad situations.” Rucker, who works with the Chew and Chelten Community Development Corporation (CDC) recalls a time when Northwest Philadelphia was not only racially integrated, but culturally as well. The predominantly African American neighborhood is now seeing a movement of racial integration in many ways, but also a lack of cultural integration. 


Flying Kite

“We came, we saw, we conquered,” said Rucker referring to typically white developers who buy up land in the area without considering cultural displacement. Over the last decade, the population of Germantown has been slowly rising, but the number of new white people coming into the neighborhood is nearly double the number of people of color. Meanwhile, over the same period of time, the average household income in the area has risen.

According to their Federation of Neighborhood Community Centers page, the Chew and Chelten CDC is an organization operating out of the East Germantown area that looks to engage “youth and young adults through arts, culture and entrepreneurship programs for non-profit leadership development and career success.” Rucker says his team’s goal is to revitalize the immediate community around the Chew Avenue and Chelten Avenue intersection with a business district that is owned and operated by members of the Germantown community and their families. 

Through intervention and prevention of negative gentrification effects, Rucker hopes to, “see this area as it used to be: one that welcomes a sense of friendliness and community.”

Wayne Avenue: A look into Germantown life

West of Chew and Chelten is Wayne Avenue, which cuts through the center of Germantown. Traveling through the neighborhoods here, there is a sense that the people coming and going, sitting on their porches or frequenting local businesses are connected by their shared appreciation of this section of the city of brotherly love. Just one block off of Wayne at any stretch of the road there are similar but unique subsections of Germantown such as the houses neighboring the Happy Hollow Recreation Center. Here men and women clad in business attire wait for a SEPTA bus while young people play basketball in the nearby courts. 

WikiMedia Commons

A flea market takes place in front of the Happy Hollow Recreation Center on Wayne Avenue.

A short trip up the road, the homes have a similar style, architecturally, and feature signs that read “Peace,” “Integrity,” “Black Lives Matter” and “Respect for All,” as well as being home to the first front yard barbecues of the spring thaw. These places are home for their residents, and they shouldn’t have to leave because they cannot afford to live in the place they’ve lived for decades.

Germantown has many of these culturally distinct subsections that share an overall connection to the neighborhood, but diversify and create unique subcultures. They may be hidden from Wayne Avenue, but to their residents, these subsections are communities worth persevering.

Renewal with respect

Bruce McCall of TekLaw Properties is working in these small communities to renovate decaying properties while maintaining what makes each property and area unique. A Mount Airy resident and IT worker by trade, McCall took up real estate development in 2005 and has been working in North Philadelphia neighborhoods including Germantown since. With a majority of McCall’s renovation properties being located in Germantown, he has gotten to know the local culture and style well over the years.

“The more that Germantown’s history and classic look is followed, the more well received the project is,” said McCall commenting on his work in Germantown.

“TekLaw prides itself on responsible development with care. We are more socially based as we like to get input from neighbors instead of just throwing something out there and just stick whatever we want to the community,” said McCall. 

One of the key arguments against gentrifying an area, besides raising costs and lowering livability for residents, is that it fundamentally changes the appearance and general feel of an area. When working in Germantown, McCall seeks to avoid this by consulting local community organizations and Facebook groups, which McCall said “gives the neighbors a chance to have some say so on what their neighboring property will look like.”

Hidden City Philadelphia

Even if many community members work together to analyze incoming developments, not all developers will consult the community and some may end up taking advantage. Jumpstart Germantown looks to, “revitalize the Germantown section of Philadelphia, and surrounding communities through training, mentoring, networking and providing financial resources to local aspiring developers,” according to their website. The group helps developers get in touch with the community and learn how to preserve the cultural integrity of their properties while also renovating and raising the value of them. 

“Culturally responsible development is taking into consideration community needs and wants where redevelopment is happening,” Jumpstart Germantown director Angie Williamson said. 

Jumpstart Germantown

Jumpstart teaches residents how to physically redevelop a home and how to do so in a culturally responsible manner.

“Jumpstart Germantown focuses on blight removal — ensuring that homes in the area are returned to livable conditions and provide naturally occurring affordable housing in the community,” Williamson said. Jumpstart consults with and teaches local real estate developers from the Philadelphia area, allowing them to earn a profit by working in their neighborhoods.

“The impact is huge, and growing.  And the Jumpstart model is providing education, mentorship and financing to groups historically denied access to capital and the real estate development profession. More than 85 percent of our participants are women or people of color, which is reflective of the communities in which they are improving,” Williamson said.

Philly Office Retail

The Attic Brewing Company is a project developed in the heart of Germantown that attracts a major college crowd just off of Wayne Avenue.

“As Germantown’s popularity grows and more people realize its many benefits, the demand for, and price of real estate also grows,” said Williamson.

Livability and affordability

Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH) is defined by researchers at the Reinvestment Fund as “housing units that are affordable to modest-income families without subsidy such as the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.” As NOAH housing continues to develop in the area, Germantown has also lost several low-income housing options to decay and lost cultural landmarks to redevelopers refusing to be transparent with the community, raising concerns that the Germantown community may be losing its history. 

It took an active group of over 250 residents raising their concerns to a State Representative and State Senator to keep the Germantown High School building, which is over 100 years old, from becoming a shopping center. As of February 2022, Germantown High is not being demolished, but is being repurposed as apartments by developer Jack Azran, the same person who was planning to turn it into a mall, which has neighbors concerned for Germantown’s true heritage being preserved. Buildings like this are being taken advantage of all over Germantown, but 250 protestors cannot show up every time a culturally or historically significant home or business is bought up.

“I don’t think I would be able to purchase a home here now, at least in Germantown,” said Marie Monique-Marthol, an active member of Germantown Residents for Economic Alternatives Together (GREAT). 

Marthol, a Germantown resident since 2007 and transplant from New York City, says that, “real estate access for working-class to poor people, whether you are renting or plan to be a homeowner, has diminished significantly since 2007.” Mathol says that her neighbors and her receive daily phone calls, text messages and letters from developers requesting to purchase their homes for what she calls “the absolute lowest price.” 

“They are like sharks circling who detect a little blood in the water,” said Marthol.

GREAT via Facebook

Members of the Germantown community gather pre-pandemic for a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day celebration featuring a discussion of Dr. King’s concept of the “beloved community.”

When questioned about local development groups like Jumpstart, Marthol responded “I personally haven’t seen any development that doesn’t lead to displacement or a change in the economic mix.” 

Taking a different approach to redevelopment, GREAT has several programs that are trying to preserve Germantown’s community and culture through economic and community assistance. The group’s main counter to the effects of gentrification are Community Land Trusts, sections of property owned and operated by a non-profit that is influenced by members of the community to keep the rates affordable and housing or commercial land in the hands of longtime Germantowners. 

Citizens take action

Marthol, who says she moved from New York due to rising housing costs caused by gentrification there, was attracted to Germantown because of its community efforts, architectural style and historic value to the city. Although she has learned and experienced much of Germantown’s history, she, like many moving to the neighborhood every year, was not there to see the community build itself up after it experienced major divestment in the latter half of the 20th century — what Marthol refers to as “the lean times.” 

“When you remove the people who lived through it, you remove that history… the holders of history are more important to culture than the architecture,” said Mathol.

Freedom’s Backyard

Rittenhouse Town is a historic site in the Germantown area that was built in the 1600s when the neighborhood was first being formed. It is home to one of the oldest paper mills in the United States.

A way that Germantown citizens like Marthol can be proactive when it comes to protecting their homes and community culture is by participating in government exemptions such as the Real Estate Homestead Tax Relief Program or the Longtime Owner Occupants Program (LOOP). The Homestead Program is a simple application that homeowners can fill out and send to the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Revenue. According to the city’s website, to qualify, one must only own a home in Philadelphia in which they live as their primary residence. Once accepted, the property gains the Homestead Exemption leading to a reduction in assessed property value of up to $45,000

LOOP is the most direct counter force homeowners in areas like Germantown have against gentrification, as it directly assists those whose assessed property value (after applying for a Homestead Exemption) has risen by at least 50 percent in one calendar year. This can occur for a variety of reasons, but the most common and obvious reason is that when a developer moves into a low-income area and builds up high property value locations, the property tax of the surrounding area rises with it. LOOP limits a property’s tax increase to 50 percent, and while an increase of that size can still result in financial complications for some, the ability to limit the financial effects that gentrifying developers have on an area is currently the best way to preserve affordability.

Some members of the community such as Rucker see these governmental programs as beneficial to the community, but also as just the first step. 

“City officials do not do as much as they could, and they have the legislative power to help communities like ours,” said Rucker. He sees community redevelopment as a positive in many ways, especially when new developments such as high-end apartments bring talented individuals and diverse populations into the community, bringing back the integration he spoke of from the area’s past. 

Workers World

This demonstration at a city council meeting is one of many that have demonstrated Philadelphia’s citizens’ desire for policy change and fixes in the city to help people resist the effects of gentrification.

According to Rucker, if the city government will not intervene when developers try to take advantage of lower-income neighborhoods, then “it is up to the individual to become educated on how to protect their community, to protect the future of their children and families.” 

When developing in culturally rich areas like Germantown that also have abandoned or deteriorating properties, there is a fine line to walk between improvement and cultural displacement. 

Williamson says that when developing in the area, it is important to remember that “projects can be profitable and remain affordable,” and to “listen to the neighbors and pay attention to what the community wants and needs.” While even the leading industry executives are still somewhat unclear as to how development and culture can get along, and local organizations are doing their best to preserve their communities, there is still more that citizens of gentrifying neighborhoods can do, and plenty that those looking in from other neighborhoods can do to help. 

“If the locals rise up, come together and create what they’d like to see in their neighborhood, it would offset some of the negative impacts of new development,” said McCall, “I think it can be done but it would take some collaboration for sure.” When moving to an area like Germantown, supporting culturally responsible development and avoiding obviously gentrified developments is a practical way to add to and experience another culture without displacing those that built it. 

As was voiced by several Germantown citizens though, the city of Philadelphia is ultimately the place Germantown citizens should turn their criticisms toward, as more stringent policy changes could lead to the help that this community needs.

Editor’s Note: This article is a modified version of a story written as part of my upcoming indie publication Finding Philadelphia, and owes credit for some contributions to Myles Williams.

Results of the 2022-2023 SGA elections

News

Jakob Eiseman, Editor-in-Chief

Header Image: @​​lasallesga via Instagram

From April 1 to April 8, La Salle’s Student Government Association (SGA) ran elections and promoted campaigns by students running for the positions of student body president, vice president, secretary of academic affairs, secretary of business and senators for each class. SGA ran elections for their executive board from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 1, allowing members of the student body to vote on the four open positions. Although each position’s winner ran uncontested, the voting process was upheld for write-in purposes. The winners of the elections and representatives filling the positions are as follows:

Student Body President- Michaela Craner, Communication Sciences & Disorders 5-year

Student Body Vice President- Nikki Aquino, Biochemistry

Secretary of Academic Affairs- Junie Mertus, Biology

Secretary of Business Affairs- Will Goydan, Finance

Elections for class senators were held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 8, allowing students to vote for multiple candidates for each class senator position. The freshman class of 22-23 will have a chance to elect senators at the beginning of next semester after they have had time to live on campus for a period. The winners of each class senator position are as follows:

Sophomore Class Senators: Brisa Barrios, Biology; Isabel Najera, International Relations; Gwendolyn Karas, Secondary Education

Junior Class Senator- Mia Mattingly, International Relations

Senior Class Senators- Nina Kolodgie, Biology; Brendan Storino, Communication Sciences & Disorders 5 year

We had a chance to catch up with some of the newly elected members of SGA, and this is what they had to say: Goydan was to the book and simply said, “As Secretary of Business Affairs I will be in charge of managing proposals for different events and ensuring that SGA continues to make use of its budget in a way that best supports our community.” Meanwhile, the new student body president, Craner, said “I am so honored to be serving as your SGA president. Looking toward the coming year, I will be focusing on improving communication between the student body and SGA through various means as well as within SGA itself. Next year, I want to grow SGA’s presence on campus through surveys and outreach to other organizations, while strengthening the bonds between our members. Make sure to keep an eye out for our surveys and initiatives in the future.”

On Tuesday, April 22 at 6 p.m. an induction ceremony was held in the La Salle Union Compass Club, and all officials listed above are now officially sworn in as representatives of the student body. We at the Collegian look forward to working closely with SGA to communicate to and from the student body, and wish the new officials the best of luck in their representative and academic endeavors.

Traditionally, SGA has been governed by first collecting data and polling the student body on suggestions and desired changes before communicating those suggestions to the university’s governing bodies, and it looks like Craner will be upholding this tradition. SGA works with several university committees including those related to public safety, dining, campus life and curriculum. 

Archdiocesan Synod listening session held at La Salle

News

Jakob Eiseman, Editor-in-Chief

Header Image: Participants got to share their thoughts with church leaders in both a large group and individual discussion groups. La Salle University

From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday, April 4, La Salle hosted one of the largest Catholic inter-campus gatherings in the city since Pope Francis began the synod campaign in October of 2021. Students and faculty were invited from Chestnut Hill College, Gwynedd Mercy University, Saint Joseph’s University, Villanova University, Rosemont College, Holy Family University, Neumann University and several other Catholic institutions from Pennsylvania.

Synod on Synodality is a two year process established by the Vatican under the guidance of Pope Francis that looks to establish listening sessions like this across the world with the goal of growing the Catholic church globally in terms of its operations and manner of professing its faith. From the Vatican’s official Synod website, the process is described as a way to evaluate the role of churchgoers in communion and vocation, the participation of the faithful in the Catholic experience and how to help the Church better carry out its mission and serve those “who live on the spiritual, social, economic, political, geographical and existential peripheries of our world.”

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has already hosted over 18 listening sessions in the past month, but this was the first that featured a primarily higher education crowd. As young adults and educational leaders are those who will establish the next generation of all major organizations, including the Catholic church, having a meeting specifically for college-aged voices is a way to tap into a specific minority of the Catholic community that will one day have a significant impact on its future. On February 22 of this year, Ash Wednesday for Catholics, was the center of what the university referred to as Synod week, La Salle’s first major step into the process. Additionally in March, over 14 major universities within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia met for smaller listening sessions within their universities. This event is somewhat a culmination of both, bringing together passionate and like minded thinkers from across the city’s schools to discuss the future of the institution that has not always been favored by a young crowd in general.

While the press was not invited to the listening session due to the personal and tender nature of some of the subjects discussed by participants in the event, we were able to catch up with some students after the event to see what they thought about the Synod and this session in particular. “I attended the first Synod session a few weeks ago after Mass with only three other people so attending this session with a much larger group of people was very different. I really enjoyed interacting with other Catholics and Christians from varying schools,” said digital arts junior Grace McKenna, “I thought it was really enlightening to hear what others had to say and comforting to know I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling.” A large group of students and faculty gathered from many of the schools invited, meaning this was the largest event of this type that most students have attended thus far.

A large group of faculty and students from various universities filled the Union Ballroom.
La Salle University

“I am hopeful that this event will be helpful to the Synod mission and the Church overall,” said McKenna. Many students who attended were happy to share their opinions on what the church has been doing lately. “It’s a big deal that they are asking for the perspectives of not just the clergy but of the laypeople,” continued McKenna, “It was encouraging to see a lot of young believers gathering in one place discussing their hopes and fears for and of the Church.”

People from multiple faiths were invited to join in on the conversation, and psychology junior Bethany Macwana, a practicing Christian but not Roman Catholic, said  “I feel like the Synod experience is something really unique in our time. The last global Synod that happened was in the 1970s, so this is a very monumental and historical event.” “In my home church,” said Macwana, “there is only a pastor as the head of authority, so seeing someone in the Catholic faith from the ‘higher ups’ in attendance was pretty neat.” On La Salle’s involvement in the Synodal mission, Macwana said “I did gain more insight into the Catholic church and heard from other peers who are the same age as me who shared key moments in their spiritual journey. If it was not for the Synod, I would have not been exposed to something like this, so I do feel that La Salle should continue to participate.”

Finally, we were able to get a few comments from Rayna Alexander, an ISBT junior at La Salle who attended the listening session. “The event allowed for many perspectives to be heard and it felt great to be able to share with others who have had similar experiences,” said Alexander, “I feel the Synod gives me a place to voice my thoughts and frustrations openly while having others simply listen and understand my place. I definitely think the La Salle community should participate because all of our voices matter in making changes and solidifying the true value of the Catholic faith.” Alexander also expressed that she believes the event will make a real difference, commenting “With our voices, we are raising awareness and emphasizing concerns as we form into the leaders of our faith.”

Crime log — March 24 – April 1 | Foolegian

Foolegian, Satire

Saturday, March 26
09:30 pm —

PPD arrest 12 Christian Brothers in relation to an underground fight club being hosted out of Anselm Hall. One brother fled the scene and has not yet been found.

Sunday, March 27
08:00 am —

Local man arrested and charged with two counts of cycling outside of the bike lane on Belfield Ave.

Monday, March 28
11:00 am —

Absolutely shredded La Salle student arrested after setting off the Lunk Alarm at the IBC Fitness Center

Tuesday, March 29
01:00 am —

A case report was filed for an armed robbery off campus. A 6’6” 200 lb. La Salle basketball player had their wallet and smartphone stolen by a pair of tweens who’s older brothers go to Central High School. PPD reports the children did not have a gun, but a reflective Hot Pocket wrapper.

Tuesday, March 29
09:69 pm —

A La Salle student is accused of doing your mom.

Thursday, March 31
09:43 pm —

A case report was filed for disorderly conduct outside of the Wister Court Apartments. A middle aged man was reportedly throwing his own feces at the walls of the building screaming to be let in. (Oh wait, this one actually happened.)

Wednesday, March 30
05:00 pm —

A case report was filed for aggravated assault at a gender reveal party in the Peale House.

Wednesday, April 20
04:20 pm —

A case report was filed for two students in possession of marijuana in the St. Katherine’s dormitory. Report says they were escorted out by a member of Public Safety.

Wednesday, April 20
04:21 pm —

A case report was filed in relation to a member of La Salle Public Safety partaking in the smoking of marijuana outside of St. Katherine’s dormitory while escorting two students to the Public Safety Office. 

Wednesday, April 20
04:22 pm —

Real member of La Salle Public Safety apprehends the two students as well as the other officer, who was in fact a Public Safety impersonator. Shortly after all four individuals were arrested by PPD for the use of marijuana.

Friday, April 1
09:00 am — 

Reader of this crime log reportedly arrested by PPD for the use of common sense and over-analysis to realize this crime log is not real.