Access: bold as love

This is it, folks. Speak now or forever hold your peace. Tomorrow is the deadline to tell the National Park Service what you think of their proposal to put up a seven foot fence around the back side of Independence Hall, splitting Independence Square in half and reserving that half of what was intended to be forever a public place for a privileged few. What can you do? Well . . .
NPS COMMENT FORM. The best way is to use the COMMENT FORM specifically set up for the fence debate. These comments will be collected, read, and made available to the public via request -- Philly Skyline will follow up on it when this happens. Again, it's THIS COMMENT FORM.

EMAIL THE PARK SERVICE. Independence National Historical Park superintendent Dennis Reidenbach's office may be reached directly via his assistant, Claire Rozdilski. Her email address is claire_rozdilski AT

FAX THE PARK SERVICE. If you're honoring the integrity of the founding fathers by writing in oak ink with a feather pen, you can fax your calligraphic results to the superintendent's office at 215.597.1003.

COSIGN WITH THE CULTURAL ALLIANCE. Not much of a writer? Not much of a problem. The Philadelphia Cultural Alliance hates the fence as much as you do, and has written a letter which you can cosign, and which will be delivered to the superintendent's office. You just need to add your name and location. The form is HERE.
That graphic above? Click it. The Independence Experience chronicles last Friday, 25th August, as I paid Independence Hall my first visit in several years. Things . . . are not quite the same. Click that graphic, or just CLICK ME.

–B Love

30 August 06: Some weather we're having

Good lord, what a week. Let's cut to the chase like Ramon Ortiz is gonna cut to Chase Utley tonight (and Chase is gonna charge the mound and pound Ortiz's head in) for yr Happy Hump Day Umpdate.
  1. Da Market, she's a-softenin'. After several months of bubble talk, it would seem that some developers are finally shying away from brand new massive condo projects. Old City 205 and 1919 Market have each recently been shelved, and the Inquirer's Henry Holcomb reports that phase 1 of Marina View Towers has joined it. The hulking, fugly tower with the killer eternity pool right next to the west anchorage of the Ben Franklin Bridge is officially on hold right now, and one has to wonder what will follow it. Tim Mahoney's 1441 Chestnut is still a question mark while site preparation for Residences at the Ritz next door continues. (Whether it actually gets built or becomes the next high profile hole in the ground also remains to be seen.)

  2. Mad about Murano. The Murano, however, is full steam ahead, and at last Philly Skyline is there to join it. The fancy glass condo tower unconcerned with bubbles is laying foundation as we speak at 21st & Market. Check check check it: our brand new Murano section is live RIGHT HERE.

  3. Bubble market vs New Market vs Society Hill. What a mess. Speaking of high profile holes in the ground, the one between Front and 2nd, Lombard and South . . . oy vey. Will Smith wanted to build a W there and then he didn't. So we're getting a W up 12th & Race way. Next, there were four different variations by Daroff Design of the same tower to go there instead, including one with an observation nipple on top. Daroff's latest incarnation is a 19 story bunker with a cornice that looks like a handle for a lid over 95. The lowrise condos don't look bad and the garden that would go where the hole is now is grand . . . but the tower, yikes. As best as we can tell, the story goes: developer Ravi Chawla wants to build tower. Offers neighbors free parking to neighbors. Neighbors LOVE PROJECT. Civic association, usually full of neighbors concerned with parking, opposes project, except for neighbors with free parking. Hilarity ensues, including Society Hill's own cutesy "Fight the Tower" type web site. For further reading, have a look at these:
    • []
    • []
    • [Phillyblog discussion.]
    • []
    • ["Fight the Power" by Public Enemy.]

    Our thoughts? Build it, but good LORD redesign the thing. That thing makes Edgewater look . . . edgy.

  4. Mad about music stores. Well, it looks like all that mp3 downloading you've been downloading the last seven years has created another victim. As with State College's Arboria Records before it (which locked its doors for the last time on July 26), South Street staple Spaceboy Records has announced that it is closing. As with all awesome record stores who fall victim to the internet age, they're having a blowout sale on their way out, and just in time for YOU. The Roots' Game Theory and Bob Dylan's first record in five years, Modern Times, each came out yesterday. [Philebrity.]

  5. Happy Anniversary, Katrina! A year in and New Orleans still has less than half its population. Oof. Seems like a good time to roll out photo ops with the president and run anniversary stories on all the news channels. Well, I say we get in on the action too. You can relive the Katrina excitement of Philly Skylines past, or you can visit our cousin for our look at the Big Easy. [On a related note, happy first anniversary to Dmac for PWD.]

  6. Howard for MVP. It's going to happen. The Fightin Phils are a half game out of the Wild Card and RyHo just tied Schmidtty for the team record for homeruns in a season. And he's 26. (But only getting paid $355k -- RESIGN HIM.) Really though, a month's worth of games left in the season and dude has 48 dingers and 125 RBIs. Insanity. That the Phillies are still in it has largely -- mostly -- to do with him. Those homeruns aren't Pat-Burrell-down-by-ten-runs solo shots either. He's largely clutch (except with two outs and RISP, but who's counting?). RyHo, MVP.

Welp, here's hoping this day is treating you well. Tomorrow's got the next round of Independence Hall updatin', so do check in, won't you? Don't forget to contact the Park Service to tell them how you feel about the proposed fence if you haven't already. Details are below. We'll yank on YouTube and take it home with the doctors feelgood, the Traveling Wilburys. If this song doesn't make you feel good, you ain't got no pulse.

–B Love

28 August 06: Your opinion's days are numbered, so

Say hey, d'you hear they want to put a seven foot fence around Independence Hall? Sucks, huh?

Well, you can express your opinion to the people who need to hear it. The National Park Service has allowed the public comment period to go until September 1st -- and I attribute much of the credit for that extension to the Inquirer's Stephan Salisbury -- so if you are offended by the idea of a seven foot fence surrounding an icon of our freedom, let the Park Service know. If you are appalled that the very public square where the Declaration of Independence was read to the public for the first time 230 years ago is to be halved by a fence, let the Park Service know.

How do you let them know? There are a number of ways.
NPS COMMENT FORM. The best way is to use the COMMENT FORM specifically set up for the fence debate. These comments will be collected, read, and made available to the public via request -- Philly Skyline will follow up on it when this happens. Again, it's THIS COMMENT FORM.

EMAIL THE PARK SERVICE. Independence National Historical Park superintendent Dennis Reidenbach's office may be reached directly via his assistant, Claire Rozdilski. Her email address is claire_rozdilski AT

FAX THE PARK SERVICE. If you're honoring the integrity of the founding fathers by writing in oak ink with a feather pen, you can fax your calligraphic results to the superintendent's office at 215.597.1003.

COSIGN WITH THE CULTURAL ALLIANCE. Not much of a writer? Not much of a problem. The Philadelphia Cultural Alliance hates the fence as much as you do, and has written a letter which you can cosign, and which will be delivered to the superintendent's office. You just need to add your name and location. The form is HERE.
Remember, this fence is all on the National Park Service, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Homeland Security. Hardly anyone on the Philadelphia side is for it. Congressmen Chaka Fattah and Bob Brady, Mayor John Street, Governor Ed Rendell and Senator Arlen Specter have spoken out against it. The Inquirer's editorial board has spoken out against it. The Independence Mall Business and Residents Coalition is against it. Philly Skyline is against it. If you are against it, let the Park Service know. We'll be back with more on this story this week.

–B Love

25 August 06: A word's worth 10,000 pictures

Whilst oat & aboat last evening, I watched as the sky sunk from perfect blue into lazy hazy gray, a reminder that summer's still here to sock that funky, skunky humidity to us. I also noticed while riding up the Schuylkill Banks from Center City that Comcast Center's ironwork is climbing ever skyward, just as the ironworker I spoke with a couple weeks ago promised it would. So here I was checking out the view from the Spring Garden Street overpass watching and listening to hundreds of cars passing by when I noticed my own odometer passing a milestone. I've been rocking the Canon Digital Rebel XT since January, and that picture above? Number 10,001. (Wouldn't you know, #10,000 was a little blurry because the tripod wasn't stable yet.) Apropos, though, that the Philly Skyline is the subject of this milestone by Philly Skyline's official hardware. Clicking it opens a wallpaper version of it for ye.

We're heading out again this weekend, but we'll be back Monday with what we think might be the best in our Independence Park series yet. Check back for that, and right now, check below as we Yank on YouTube for the De La weekend classic roller skating jam named "Saturdays."

–B Love

24 August 06: Decorating for death

Pardon my anecdote, but what is up with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania? The Children's Hospital has taken every step to make children feel welcome, with large open spaces, lots of light, lots of colors, and visually stimulating stuff. The main lobby has this Pee Wee Herman breakfast machine like device that dings every so often. (Something similar was at the USAirways terminal at the airport not too long ago.) In short, it makes the hospital experience as pleasant as possible for the kids.

Meanwhile, the hospital for grownups next door couldn't possibly be more dreary. Perhaps it was all coincidence -- that it was my visit that was macabre, not the hospital -- and it's really a place where ill people needing treatment want to be. The Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, though cheesy looking on the outside (particularly when one considers it is replacing the once noble Convention Hall), will certainly be state of the art. But that's all down the road, and the present state feeds our experience. So here is mine.

My good friend Ra (who could probably use a web site update, nudge nudge nudge) was stone cold chillin' in the Founders Pavilion, so I thought I'd pay him a visit, bringing along a couple of the oft-heralded vegan cheesesteak from Gianna's. So I pick up the steaks at Gianna's and ride over to HUP. It's a big complex, and I'm not sure which one is Founders Pavilion, so I just ride up Civic Center Blvd (which I hope is renamed -- do we really need reminding that the Civic Center is no more?) and ask the guard at the parking garage. "Oh, that's back over at the University." "Really? The hospital system's over there too?" (I didn't know.) "Yeah, head back over there and you'll find it." Next thing I know, I'm staring at the big Penn map at 34th & Walnut with Founders Pavilion nowhere to be found, so I call Ra. "Dude, it's right off of Spruce -- look for the sign for Gates Pavilion and head in there."

Back over to Spruce it is, and right there is Gates Pavilion. Lock up the bike at roughly 35/Spruce, walk through the sliding doors. Reception lady points me toward Founders. As I head through this halogen maze, I think to myself that either this is not the main entrance, or this is some demented torture chamber for people they don't actually want to get better. When I finally come across the elevators, they are freight elevators, not passenger elevators. A nurse in blue scrubs with rubber duckies on them was getting on right then and there so I asked if I could too. She just looked at me so I got on. (I later learned that the passenger elevators were tucked around the corner in this dead end area -- so to get to them, you actually HAVE to pass the freight elevators.) I finally reach my destination, say hi and we chow down. [A more thorough review will come forth when my lazy arse gets around to the Great Cheesesteak Debate -- let's put an ETA of mid-fall on that -- but the short answer is: hated it. Govinda's > Gianna's. I still prefer the kind with meat and Whiz.]

We share some college memories, talk some politics and watch the sunset out the window (over the scenic cooling units of the lower floors) and I head on my way. This is truth: it took me three times as long to exit the hospital as it did to ride back across South Street Bridge to Philly Skyline HQ. See, I remembered the passenger elevators this time; took note of the four shafts as I waited. Got on on floor 10. There was already a guy on board. Stopped on five more floors on the way down (between 10 and G -- were any of the others running?). Get off and see EXIT sign above pointing left, go left. Notice that the only two remaining people on the elevator went right, think nothing of it. Head down long empty hallway, find self at same Gates Pavilion entrance I came in through, only that it is now closed, the reception lady is nowhere to be found, and there aren't any signs suggesting what I do, just the blaring sound of CNN's coverage of the favorite color of the guy who says he killed JonBenet Ramsey. Well, if the signs on the ceiling say EXIT, surely they must lead to an EXIT. They do, but the EXIT says "alarm will sound; hold door for fifteen seconds to exit." So I keep going, following more EXIT signs. Negatory, red rider. These signs just lead down even worse hallways with bike scuffs and torn drywall. Hrrrgh. Retrace my steps past the first entrance, head further into halogen maze. No people, just the sound of hospital beeps and JonBenet guy coverage. Two wrong turns later, I find myself standing in a hallway full of french fries (pictured below), steps away from what I will realize is the main HUP entrance . . . on Civic Center Blvd, about eight steps from where the garage guard sent me away. Wheee!

Ra, I look forward to the day you make regular Philly visits that don't involve hospitals, but until then, godspeed. It's understood that you're tough just to keep on keepin' on, but overcoming the hospital scene must make you that much tougher.

A couple other Thursday items . . .

SCHUYLKILL VALLEY METRO IS NO-GO? Not that any of us ever expected a federal government so predisposed with oil that it took our country to war in a place not involved in any way with terrorism (coincidentally leading to record oil profits and really high gas prices) to drop a couple billion on southeastern Pennsylvania for a transit system, but KYW has made a story out of two sentences by the Guv suggesting that the Reading-to-Philly Schuylkill Valley Metro project isn't gonna happen. It's true that the Philly Skyline staff would prefer a Septa improvement (read: overhaul, starting with a major makeover of its board of directors, including the shit-canning of anyone who DRIVES from the suburbs to their job) first, but an SVM to Reading would indeed be pretty snazzy, considering there are ZERO rail options to KOP/Valley Forge, and that SVM would serve that function, at last providing an honest-to-god alternative to 76. Lucius Kwok has a great web site about the Schuylkill Valley Metro. [And on a note related to our federal government, the Daily Show had a great segment entitled "The Many Moods of Bush" in response to the President's peculiar press conference after returning from Crawford. It's not on YouTube yet, and it might F up your browser, but it's worth the trouble on]

RYHO FOR MVP? It's not too far fetched, is it? The Phillies' recent success is most certainly a team effort, with a fire under the bum lit when Abreu, Bell, Franklin, Lidle and Cormier were dumped, but indeed it is true: the Fightins are a game and a half within the Wild Card lead. Philly Skyline doesn't need to tell you but we will anyway: we've been sounding the RyHo trombone since the dude was riding the Schuylkill Valley Metro to Reading. People were surprised last year when he hit 22 homeruns in 88 games. Why? He's been smacking the ball all through the minors. He hit 46 HR and had 131 RBI in Reading and Scranton in 2004. People came into this year expecting a sophomore slump. Scott Graham Slam still says idiotic things like "this kid is gonna be special." You idiot asshole ice cream flavor . . . he already is! (God how I loathe Graham and Wheeler.)

Right now this second, the 26 year old from St Louie has 44 HR, 113 RBI and a .292 avg with 36 games to go. Within the past couple years, we've heard talk that Albert Pujols is triple crown material. Well Poo-hole, you're gonna have to get past RyHo first. Michael Jack Schmidt's club record of 48 HR -- the year he won his own MVP and the Phils won their only World Series -- is going to fall, barring a work stoppage or global tragedy.

One might worry that teammate Chase Utley could take votes from him, and fair enough. You could see the disgust in Utley's eyes when Aaron Rowand crashed into him at Wrigley Field two nights ago. Rowand's lauded all-out-hustle cost himself the rest of the season and almost injured Utley, when Utley was clearly calling Rowand off. I'm sure Utley appreciates Rowand's hustle, but Utley doesn't appreciate when people don't do what they're supposed to. Rowand -- who was hitting .250 anyway -- did the wrong thing.

Anyway, Ryan Howard. As we head into September and survey the National League, only Pujols and perhaps the Mets' Carlos Beltran have proven as most valuable to their club as Howard. The MVP race will almost be as fun to watch as the playoff race itself. [ likes RyHo too.]

DUFFMAN, 2 FOOT BONGS AND THE G-HO INSANE CLOWN POSSE: Finally, our humor department sends its regards. Phillyblog isn't exactly regarded for its civil discussions, but a recent thread in the Southwest Center City section there turned out to be one for the archive classics. "Duffman," the owner of a new head shop called Pipe Dreams with a questionable graffiti-airbrush sign on South Street next door to Bob & Barbara's, decided to say hi to the neighborhood and invite folks to come check out his store. Whether G-Ho needs a head shop when Wonderland is so close remains to be seen, but many entitled new residents of the neighborhood seem to think not, to the point of causing such a fuss on Phillyblog that names were called, lawsuits involving slander and liable [sic] were threatened, and a whole bunch of free publicity was earned for Pipe Dreams. This new store had been an empty, graffiti tagged, litter strewn foyer as recently as three months ago. One would think that any new business is a good thing, even if it sells merchandise one might not use or endorse. Pipe Dreams advertises a humidor, but one won't find Ashtons, Punches or even Macanudos in it. One would instead find the freshest single-wrapped Phillie blunts one ever saw. One would also find an impressive selection of Illadelph brand t-shirts and glass bongs, but as with any head shop, you better not say "bong" (remember to say "water pipe" as if you'll be smoking tobacco out of it) or you'll get the boot. Hey man, if pulling tubes is your thing, Pipe Dreams is a good place to drop two-fitty for a new piece. There's also interesting local artwork adorning the walls. Just for the love of god if you DO go in there, don't tell the people of Phillyblog, else expect a lecture from the moral police. Just remember: not everybody loves Raymond.

–B Love

23 August 06: Talk amongst yourselves

Could it be? B Love and his opinionated pack of wolves got nothin' for an umpdate on this Happy Hump Day? Sorta. Our hands are in so many different cookie jars right now we done just got caught on a Wednesday with nothing important to say. However: some new stuff is coming later this week, namely more updates on the Independence Park situation and hopefully the Murano and da BVT.

–B Love

21 August 06: AT LAST: Lower Merion Love

Believe that. The long-coming Lower Merion Open Spaces photo essay is now ready for action. You can access it by clicking the image below this week's Monday Morning Looking Up.

  1. Philly Skyline: all Comcast Center all the time. Just so ya know, our Comcast Center section is up to date as of the weekend, when we ran into the Roots' Hub without his miswak stick on his way to Unity Day. We're still rocking Game Theory hardcore, which is funny considering it doesn't come out till next Tuesday. Anyway, Comcast Center's concrete core is on pause while the ironwork catches up -- it's on the 21st floor as we speak.

  2. That settles it: we're G-Ho. The debate may continue, and many may be confused (or better, offended), and Philly Skyline may get hate mail suggesting otherwise, but the name of this neighborhood is G-Ho! The city's resident expert in all things taste -- Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan -- confirms this with his second review in the hood, this time 22nd & Carpenter's Divan.

    That LaBan is spending time in the neighborhood validates our own trumpeting and promotion of our home neighborhood. South Street to Washington Ave, Broad Street to the Schuylkill River . . . where else in the city would you find, in one year, brand new Balkan, Turkish, Spanish and Italian BYOBs, Israeli and Australian cafes, sidewalk water ice and BBQ merchants, a head shop and two massive Toll Bros developments? All together now: WE LOVE YOU G-HO.

  3. Because history itself is not enough, here is your latest ridiculous tourism idea: CELL PHONES! Because why not? It's 2006 and everyone's got 'em -- from that guy sitting next to you to your mom to the cabbie driving you home -- so why not use 'em to learn about your country? Never mind the Ducks, never mind the Segway, never mind the Crazy Bike, and indeed, never mind those bicycle barriers . . . just mind your phone! It only adds $9.95 to your cell phone bill and eats up lots of minutes, and a visitor from Boston, Massachusetts has declared: "It's the best way to see Philly!" No word yet on whether it includes a free postcard of Ralph Archbold talking on a cell phone.

  4. Phils acquire Souderton native Jamie Moyer, 43 years young. But really, it's a good acquisition -- replacing Scott Mathieson with ANYone is a good thing, but replacing him with another solid lefty is good, even if he's old. It's especially good when you consider NL batters have rarely faced him in the past decade, and even better when you realize that the Mets' Tom Glavine may be done for the season and Pedro Martinez is already hobbled. Not that we expect to catch the Mets for the division, but you know, just in case we decide to get a little Wild. Props to The Good Phight for this ditty. [And to DMac for the heads up.]

  5. No JonBenet Ramsey news or commentary . . . EVER! That's the Philly Skyline promise, and we'll stand by it.

What we will do, however, is keep stacking up the positive promises of things to come. Remember all those months ago when we said we were doing an 'architecture of Rittenhouse Square' feature? Not a lie! And recently when we thought we'd take a look at the bridges of the Schuylkill River? Also not a lie! No, these things are all peaks into the future, like so many staredowns with Planet Pluto. Stare hard enough and you might even catch a glimpse of the new Bridgeman's View Tower and Murano sections.

Finally: big ups to Liz Jeffries, reprazentin' the 16686 live and direct in the 215.

–B Love

18 August 06: Coming this weekend:

Ok, by "tomorrow" we really meant "this weekend" for the Lower Merion Open Spaces dealio. It's just that it's so nice today that Philly Skyline staff can't possibly stay inside by a computer, so we're going to New York for the day. Y'all have a nice Friday now, and to get off on that good vibe, take a little drink from the loving cup. Just one drink . . . and you'll fall doooooooown drunk.

–B Love

17 August 06: Alllll righty

Greetings, good people of the Philly Skyline community. It's been a rough week, but with the quickness, let's roll out the current events.

SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE CLARIFICATION: Just to clear things up here: a few people contacted us after Monday's link to's list of failed icons, which included our very own Kimmel Center. Slate's list was not a top ten per se, but just happened to include ten entries, one of which was Sydney's Opera House. Witold Rybczynski, writer of the story and a professor of urbanism at Penn, made use of the Sydney Opera House as an example of an icon -- some readers interpreted it as an example of a success (with which I agree), but I interpreted Rybczynski's comments as the Opera House being not necessarily failed, but a "vague" icon of "what?" To be clear: I think that the Sydney Opera House is indeed iconic, that the Kimmel Center failed its expectations, and that the Freedom Tower is total crap.

MEANWHILE IN MANAYUNK . . . Dranoff's Venice Lofts are still under construction, despite the "Occupancy August 2006" message on its web site. I dunno, maybe they'll be occupied by the end of the month, but the base image above doesn't really suggest it will. Maybe that flood in June had something to do with it? Venice Island is, after all, in the Schuylkill River's flood plain, so to put a guess on it, once a year or so, Venice Lofts' tenants are gonna have to flee for higher ground. The first floor is all parking, though, and it really is tough to beat it for location in Manayunk, being at the foot of Main Street and right along the canal tow path. From whence comes this thought of Venice Island? It is but an extension of recent thoughts on . . .

LOWER MERION OPEN SPACES: As mentioned last week, I recently joined Ken Blackney on a tour of some grounds many see on a regular basis, but don't have reason to think about. These grounds are those which line the west bank of the Schuylkill River, east of the Schuylkill Expressway. Lower Merion Township's vision for the near future is very real, and sees an extension of Philly's Martin Luther King Drive west and north of Falls Bridge, where it currently ends. It's effectively a master plan for adding -- and connecting -- green space to Lower Merion.

Heading north/west of Falls Bridge, some land has to be negotiated with CSX, but beyond that, King of Prussia's O'Neill Properties has bought the former Georgia-Pacific plant, where it plans to build new condos and continue the trail along the River. (This is where the water tower rises above the Expressway -- where they put the Christmas tree on top every year.) On the other side of the Expressway from this, up on the hill, lie the West Laurel Hill and Westminster Cemeteries. Between these two cemeteries on top of the hill is the railroad bed formerly used by Septa's R6, which now terminates in Cynwyd. It used to continue on into Manayunk, across the Schuylkill Expressway and River via the large, arched stone bridge near the Green Lane exit and bridge. It has been out of use since 1992, but it is on the table as one of the proposed options for the Open Spaces plan. It is wide enough to contain both a trail and a shuttle which operates between Manayunk and Cynwyd. And, as an aside, there used to be a station stop between the cemeteries at which people in the early 20th Century would get off to spend a day picnicking in the cemetery (which in those days was not considered weird or macabre).

A higher priority than the R6 Bridge, though, is connecting the O'Neill land with the land between the cemeteries, which will require some creative engineering, but which is entirely possible. A stream trickles down the hill and under the Expressway into the River, and on either side of it, the unused land already belongs to the Township.

In addition to the R6 Bridge, two other bridges -- the Blackie and the Pencoyd -- cross the Schuylkill between Lower Merion and Manayunk. It is likely that one of these would be used for connecting the two sides of the River for recreational use.

So that's the intro; check the full story at Pictures of the land as it exists now are on their way -- they should be up by tomorrow.

LIBERTY BELL PAVILION AT PENN: The Liberty Bell Pavilion -- the Mitchell/Giurgola structure whose recent demolition we lamented -- has for months had a dedicated exhibit at Penn's School of Design, but we just found out about it? Not fair. Well, it ends tomorrow so get there quick. []

POLITICAL ONE-HITTERS: Dick Santorum is closing the gap Junior Casey built. That's like saying worms are closing the popularity gap established by slugs. Seriously, what have Pennsylvanians done to deserve such a gawd awful Senate race? [Inquirer.]

President Gee Dubya spent the day in the Keystone State yesterday, hopping on a Harley for a smirky photo-op, then stumping for Swannie in Lancaster. Not that Swann needed the Prez's kiss of death anyway, but the latest Quinnipiac poll has Ed Rendell's lead over Swann at 54-34. [Daily News.]

JOHN KRUK READS PHILLY SKYLINE. The Krukker, and apparently Harry the K, have my back. On Monday night's Mets-Phillies broadcast on CSN, John Kruk joined Harry and Larry in the booth, as Kruk was in town I guess to promote use of the Mobil Speedpass at hot dog stands. After busting each others' balls for a bit, they got to talking about the Mets' David Wright and Jose Reyes, and how they were each given contract extensions recently. He followed this thought with, "the Phillies have got to be thinking about locking up Chase Utley and Ryan Howard for the long term," to which Kalas hesitantly responded "you'd think." Kruk continued that it didn't seem coincidental that the team seemed more motivated since Bobby Abreu (a great player but not exactly known for his hustle) was traded and since Pat Burrell has seen less playing time. Which brings us to . . .

Rich Hofmann's column in today's Daily News. Hofmann considers Burrell's future role on the team while looking at the present, when Burrell is often taken out of the game in late innings and when he sat two nights in a row against the Mets (who he's traditionally hammered) in favor of David Dellucci, whose August numbers are on fire. It seems that as long as Pat the Bat can get his Irish Pub on, he'll stick by that no-trade clause and will keep his "best butt in baseball" in Philly's leftfield.

YANKIN ON YOUTUBE. But, let's not hope that today is a sign of things to come. Pat the Bat finished the day 0-4 with three Ks and 45,000 people's worth of BOOOOOOOOS. In his honor, we'll Yank on YouTube and take it home Pat Burrell stylee. Cheer up, big fella.

–B Love

16 August 06: May we suggest some Mozart?

–B Love

14 August 06: Mmmmmm . . . MMLU

With all the talk of high-end luxury condos over the past few years, the question that keeps coming up over and over is, "who's buying them?" And it's a fair question, considering all the proposals we've seen and the relatively low amount of corresponding construction. Keep in mind, though, nearly all of these conversations have a launch point of an on-site marketing sign (for example, 1919 Market, which appears dead in the water) or from an architectural rendering in a magazine (for example 10 Rittenhouse Square, which has GOT to have buyers but which is still a big ol' hole in the ground at 18th & Sansom) for NEW condo construction. The other side of the conversation, that's the successful end: the conversion.
Especially with older buildings like the Belgravia, the Divine Lorraine and the Ayer, all of which are undergoing extensive renovation as we speak, the conversion is just an easier process on all parties involved. And up in the land of the abominable nimby-monster, the Art Museum Area, several have undergone this same surgery with great success: City View, City View II (formerly One Buttonwood Square), and 2601 Parkway.

2601 Parkway, actually on Pennsylvania Ave, is an under-appreciated gem outside of architectural circles. In the 1930s, Joseph Greenberg was a prominent real estate developer who wanted a dramatic and massive apartment building. Paul Cret's firm was hired to design it, and design it they did -- they cranked out a number of different options (some of which are on display at the Athenaeum's Cret exhibit until August 25) before the winner, co-designed by Aaron Colish, was chosen. A fascinating blend of art deco, modernism and even cubism, it rises over Kelly Drive, but not overbearingly, even in spite of its size. It was also the tallest building built in Philadelphia in the 1940s. Click the graphic above to have a look-see at 2601 Parkway.

For Monday Morning Looking Up, let's get into rapid-fire mode before the latest Phillies observations.
  1. Kimmel Center: FAILURE. So says The Kimmel Center cracks the world's top ten in Failed Icons, but reviewing the list (which also includes the Sydney Opera House and Hong Kong's Bank of China Building, which are clearly NOT failures), I think that's a wee bit harsh. The Kimmel Center's, uh, brass was so disappointed in at least the cost overruns that it took Rafael Viñoly to court. The Kimmel's street level is indeed highly disappointing, particularly along Spruce and 15th Streets. But the glass roof? The glass is amazing, even if it looks like one of those aluminum storage sheds you see out the window of Amtrak west of Harrisburg. And, while Slate mentions Frank Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim Museum twice in its other top ten reviews as an example of successful icon, it suggests that part of the Kimmel's failure is that it was completely overshadowed by LA's Disney Concert Hall, which itself was Gehry's American carbon copy of his Bilbao design. The Kimmel deserves harsh criticism, but the Slate is off on its reasonings.

  2. Where do all the yuppies meet? South Street, South Street miiight be the right answer, but it's uncertain to tell right now. As reported by Julie Stoiber in Saturday's Inquirer, South Street -- the sidewalks and street itself -- is set to undergo a conversion of its own. The street and sidewalks could definitely use a do-over, and with a price tag of $3.5M, it can definitely be done in a way that retains the dying vibe of South Street funk and which doesn't resemble Exton Town Center. Plus one consideration is ditching the ugly-ass front-end parking area on 2nd Street and making it a plaza instead. Philly Skyline HQ is out here on the G-Ho end of South, but we got mad love for all o' South Street, so we'll be watching this one.

  3. ATTN Hotmail/Yahoo/AOL users: for some reason, your email services don't like-a the Philly Skyline reply. I've gotten a few bounces and have heard from a few folks that my messages have ended up in the spam filter, to which I say OH YEAH? Jess kiddin, you can use all the free email you want (though I'd recommend Gmail for least intrusiveness), but if you contact me, you might wanna add to yr safe list. I do my best to respond to all messages.

    HEADS UP: Phillies talk from here on out, yo.

  4. The week the Mets came to town: that's when the Phils' hopes at the division failed, way back in June. Swept, right on our home turf. Since then, the Fightins have fallen down the drain and gotten rid of several key players, only to find themselves still in the Wild Card race. Losing two straight to Wild Card leader Cincinnati is no way to improve on that, and with the big boss Mets coming to town, it seems probable that this week will spell out the rest of the season. But never mind that for a second -- let's revisit a topic from last week.

    Chase Utley had the longest hit streak in the Majors this year. He's batting .323 and is far and away the best second baseman in the league. He was a 2006 All Star. His salary is $500k. Ryan Howard is the reigning NL Rookie of the Year. He won the Homerun Derby and was a 2006 All Star. He's got MVP numbers, leading the NL in homeruns (41) and RBIs (106). His salary is $355k. While Pat Gillick cannot be blamed for the elephant salaries belonging to Pat Burrell, Mike Lieberthal and Randy Wolf (and where he should be credited for being able to unload Jim Thome's and Bobby Abreu's), he DOES need to prioritize resigning Utley and Howard, STAT. Just look at this.

    Anyone who's seen any bit of baseball this year knows how poorly the Phillies management has performed, AND how well the Mets management has. As we reported last week, the Mets rewarded their two star young infielders, Jose Reyes and David Wright, with contract extensions for their excellent performance this year. The Phillies' two star young infielders, Utley and Howard, have been their only consistent players all season, and are not stupid. Think Utley wouldn't want to don Dodger blue and be appreciated in his SoCal home? Think Howard wouldn't want to commiserate midwest-stylee with Scott Rolen on the perennial contender Cardinals? Please.

    For the love of god, Gillick, RESIGN UTLEY AND HOWARD NOW. This is your one shot at redemption for a shitty season.

–B Love

12 August 06: Saturday Sundae

Because really, why not? What better complement to this perfect weather than with a perfect delight of fresh blueberries, fresh mango and Breyers vanilla? It's the vanilla whose main specs are the specks, the vanilla that ain't vanilla. (Did-you-know? William Breyer cranked his first gallon of ice cream in Philadelphia in the years after the Civil War and opened his first parlor in 1882.) The blueberries and mangoes? If you can't pop into the Italian or Reading Terminal Markets, why not stop by Sue's Produce? Max's maybe? Reddi-wip topping and maraschino cherries optional.

–B Love

11 August 06: We gots friends on Fridays

Hey hey, whattaya say? A big hearty thanks to everyone who came out to the Sidecar on Wednesday, to Adam for being the host with the most (whiskey), and to everyone who's commented on the NY Times piece. This is gonna be a short-n-sweet Friday update, but on the order of keeping the good public abreast of forthcoming projects, the lids are off of the following: Lower Merion-Manayunk open spaces plan; the Bridges of the Schuylkill; Steve Ives' Philly green spaces; a reorganization of the Buildings section; a long-awaited Skinny update; the architecture of Rittenhouse Square; and much more than we have time for. Whose idea was it to make the world rotate so fast?

But these friends of ours, on this Friday, are two people we've had the pleasure of meeting in recent weeks.
  1. Chris Dougherty. Chris is a history student working for the Fairmount Park Commission. His blog, The Necessity for Ruins, revisits and questions the Reading Viaduct, examines the reclamation of lowhead dams in the Park, and most recently, retraces Ramcat's Irish Soupers in the Rittenhouse Square area. Check out his blog HERE.

  2. Sabina L. Pierce. Sabina is a photojournalist based in East Falls (a neighborhood which is also forthcoming on Philly Skyline). Her work for the AP has been featured in a ton of recognized newspapers, and her work with Barbaro has earned her a cult following. Check out her web site HERE.

The base image above is the view from 34th Street Bridge, a Paul Cret designed drawbridge connecting University Ave and Grays Ferry Ave. The land on either side of the southern half of it is to be the next phase of the Schuylkill River Park's southward expansion after South Street Bridge. At present, you can see the top of Comcast Center's concrete core peaking out from here, about two miles away. We're up to 33 August pictures in our ever expanding coverage of Comcast Center's construction, found here.

Have a good weekend, yo.

–B Love

9 August 06: Philly Skyline time warp: 1976

This week's Happy Hump Day Umpdate is gonna be short and sweet, and all in total celebration of freedom, independence, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Philadelphia's greatest tourist destination -- I mean besides Franklin Mills -- is, as you know, in jeopardy of being put under lock and key. It's bad enough that the ghetto-ass bicycle barriers with the happy American bunting are up there right now. I wrote about that last week, so two follow-ups you need to check out are:
New York Times: Writer Ian Urbina broadens the audience in the battle between the City and the National Park Service, including quotes from Mayor Street, Congressman Fattah, Governor Rendell, and some fellow named Maule.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Stephan Salisbury, who's been following this story for a few years, reports that the Park Service has extended the public comment period to September 1, from August 1. Did anyone even know that there was a public comment period? The NPS slyly posted its really long, verbose and bureaucratic 96-page PDF with little fanfare, with a single paragraph on page 86 mentioning the 30 day public comment period. Indeed, Salisbury's watchdog journalism should be credited for this extension, and if a seven foot fence splitting Independence Square bothers you -- and it should, if you are American and value the freedom President Bush loudly trumpets and are therefore appalled by the very irony that is his administration's plan to barricade this SYMBOL OF FREEDOM -- please make your voice heard by going HERE, wading through the tedious red tape, and contacting the Park Service.
Appropriately, today's Philly Skyline time warp finds us thirty years back, 1976, for America's Bicentennial bash, the home party of which was right here in the cradle of liberty. We're taking the rest of this BEEYOOTIFUL summer day off, so we'll leave you with a did-you-know list of 1976 events.
»January 18: The Pittsburgh Steelers defeat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 to win Super Bowl X. Lynn Swann, who would go on to be utterly annihilated in the 2006 PA gubernatorial election by incumbent Ed Rendell, is named MVP.
»February 3: The Philadelphia 76ers host the 26th annual NBA All-Star Game at the Spectrum.
»March 23: Coach Bob Knight's Indiana Hoosiers defeat the Michigan Wolverines 86-68 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia to complete the last undefeated season in NCAA Basketball history and win the National Championship.
»April 1: Apple Computers is formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
»April 23: The Ramones' self-titled debut album is released.
»July 4: The United States celebrates its Bicentennial. Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo hosts President Gerald Ford to speak at Independence Hall. [transcript.]
»July 13: The Philadelphia Phillies host the 47th annual MLB All-Star Game at The Vet.
»July 17-August 1: Summer Olympics are held in Montreal. The USSR wins 125 medals, more than all other competitors.
»August 4: An outbreak of an unknown disease kills 34 and sickens 221 at an American Legionnaires convention at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel, Philadelphia PA.
»August 9: John Candelaria of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a no-hitter against the LA Dodgers.
»August 9: R. Bradley Maule and Audrey Tautou are born into Planet Earth.
»September 9: Mao Zedong dies at 82.
»September 12: Alex Haley's 700 page novel Roots is published.
»October 1: CN Tower, the tallest freestanding structure in the world, opens in Toronto. Its Skypod, at 1,465 ft, is still the highest observation deck in the world.
»November 2: Jimmy Carter defeats Gerald Ford for the US Presidency.
»November 21: Academy Award winner for best motion picture, Rocky, is released.
»December 1: Tony Dorsett, running back for the 1976 NCAA National Champion Pittsburgh Panthers, wins the Heisman Trophy.
That was the Year of Our Lord, 1976. Come on down to G-Ho tonight -- the Sidecar at 22nd & Christian -- for a late night pint with the Philly Skyline crew, why don'tcha?

–B Love

7 August 06: An evening with Philly Skyline

My bad on the late MMLU this week. How's Monday Evening Lookin' Out sound? Y'dig?
  1. Trump ain't my Budd: City Paper's JF Pirro brings forth a not-talked-about-much element of the forthcoming slots parlors: gambling addiction. NABR has got the anti-slots (CasiNO, if you will) contingent all locked up, but what with the R being Riverfront, you don't hear much about Trumpstreet from that group. (And fair enough, they represent the riverfront neighborhoods from Port Richmond to Pennsport.)

    The Nicetown (not East Falls) site is somewhat an anomaly. It's big -- gargantuan -- and is partially occupied by Temple and the Salvation Army, but there's still a metric shit-tonne of space to work with, more so now that Trump's investors have bought the rights to the Tastykake building just down the way. We'll see how the PA Gaming Control Board lets this pan out, but I don't see how the Budd site WON'T get one of the licenses by the end of this year. I got some photos over the weekend of the Budd site as it exists right now, which you can access by the graphic down below. The graphic right next to . . .

  2. Popkin and GW: As we mentioned earlier, Nathaniel Popkin has a fond appreciation of Washington Avenue, the gritty, grimy, wide boulevard of industry and circus performers. His photo essay spans its length, from the Delaware to Grays Ferry, and is accessed by the graphic below.

  3. Dirty Franklin: Them skyscrapers up in today's graphic? Real nice replicas, found only at the new and improved(?) Franklin Square. We took a quick stroll through over the weekend to see what's what and y'know? It's not that bad. Everyone plays putt-putt golf now and then (though usually it's down-the-shore), and who doesn't like the sound of carousel music? The mini-golf is a mini-Philly, with that mini skyscraper collection (though perhaps they'll have to amend it when Comcast Center is complete), mini Philly rowhomes, mini Ben Franklin Bridge, mini Art Museum (you putt up the steps and into the Museum), mini Boathouse Row and mini Independence Hall. (No word yet on whether they'll construct a mini seven foot iron fence around it for accuracy's -- and security's -- sake.) The fountain, it ain't bad. It's the oldest fountain of William Penn's five squares, and thanks to Once Upon a Nation, it's active for the first time in thirty years. They've done a nice job bringing Franklin Square online, but it's still got some work to be done. The Firemen/Policemen Memorial is being restored, but it's in a sea of dirt; it doesn't even look like grass has been planted there yet. The sidewalks look great, but again, there's bare grass on either side. Still, worth checking out. We'll have a photo essay -- a mini photo essay -- on Franklin Square a little later.

    HEADS UP: the rest of your MMLU is Phillies related, so if you're not a fan, scroll on down.

  4. MONEY . . . the difference between the first-place Mets and the disappointing Phillies: i.e., how it is spent. It's not that the Phillies couldn't spend some money to assemble a winning team; it's that the management -- who Philly Skyline has blamed for their mediocrity all along -- doesn't spend it right. Omar Minaya is in his second full season as general manager of the New York Mets, managing to bring to town Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Paul LoDuca, Jose Valentin and Billy Wagner while unloading heavy contracts belonging to Mike Cameron and Kris Benson. To be fair, Pat Gillick hasn't even finished a full season yet, but his major additions have been Tom Gordon (three years Wagner's senior), David Dellucci (who went from being a starter with 29 HR to riding the pine), Ryan "The Steroids Don't Work" Franklin, Alex "Retire Midseason" Gonzalez, Abraham ".159" Nuñez (for two years), and uh, Sal Fasano. Oh, and Aaron Rowand, who has like eight hits since he broke his face. Who's he gotten rid of? To get Rowand, we traded Jim Thome, who's hitting .301 with 33 HR. Granted, he did the right thing by keeping RyHo; we're very grateful that he's in town, but we're 99% certain that he's only here because there would be riots and arson on Pattison Ave if we had traded the reigning Rookie of the Year in favor of an $18M/yr 35 year old. Gillick has also let Wagner go (to the first place Mets, as mentioned above). Gillick has also traded Vicente Padilla to the Rangers for a player to be released later. Gillick has also traded David Bell, and though we're not really sad about that, he was hitting 120 points higher than Nuñez and is a better fielder. Gillick has also traded Rheal Cormier, who had the second best ERA of all NL relief pitchers. And oh yeah, Gillick has also traded the most solid bat the Phillies have had over the course of eight years, to the Yankees, for virtually nothing.

    In short, Omar Minaya's decisions have made Pat Gillick look like a fool. The New York Times even dedicated an entire story to how futile the Phillies management is in light of the Abreu trade. But right now, Stand Pat has the chance to redeem himself, at least in the eyes of two players: Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

    Shortstop Jose Reyes (the dude who hit the grand slam last night) and third baseman David Wright (the popular handsome third baseman who RyHo beat to win the HR Derby) have won the hearts of even the biggest of a-hole Mets fans, just as real Phillies fans can see through the bullshit to know that Utley and Howard are the real deal. And? Minaya, in the past week, has rewarded his two young stars with deserved contract extensions: Reyes 4-yr, $22.8M, Wright 6-yr, $55M. Right now, Utley and Howard make a combined $850 THOUSAND a year. The two most productive, two most popular, two most clutch players on the team -- making $500k or less. To put this into perspective, Randy Wolf has pitched two games in the past 15 months and is worth $9.125M/yr. Jon Lieber, our 4-9, 5.71 "ace", is worth $7.58M/yr. Mike Lieberthal, whose last good season was his last contract year, $7.5M/yr. Even Nuñez is raking in $1.65M/yr.

    Don't think they don't notice those paychecks. FoxSportsNet Pittsburgh had hometown star Jason Bay mic'd up for All Star festivities, and Chase congratulated him on his recent contract extension. Bay thanked him and countered by asking when the Phillies were going to do the same for him. Chase couldn't answer, but to say that a lot of money was tied up in a lot of players. Well, a lot of that money is gone now. Let's use some of it to show we appreciate the effort.

    The parallels between the Mets and Phillies are many, but the end results are what you read in the paper. The Phillies can -- should -- chalk up two good items to a season's inventory of bad items, by signing Utley and Howard now.

–B Love

6 August 06: Washington never slept here

Let's be honest here: Washington Avenue is ugly. One of the old-timey Philadelphia throwback avenues of industry which used to have active trains running right down the middle. The Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad's shed stood (and still stands as a food warehouse) at the corner of Broad & Wash, now the southern anchor of the Avenue of the Arts. Washington's dissection of South Philly reveals a multi-flavored slice of life -- Irish, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, Black, White, Yuppie and Industrial -- and Nathaniel Popkin shares his recipe. Click the image o'er yonder to start the show.
Monday Morning Looking Up will resume shortly. It's a crazy bizzy week packed full o' good times so come on back and be a part of it.

–B Love

4 August 06: Piece-ably assembled: The crane of Murano

Click to enlarge:

Well whattaya know . . . all that earth moving at 21st & Market looks like serious business after all. Seemingly avoiding all talk of bubble bursts, the Murano is at last beginning to take shape, real live bullet-shaped shape. (Credit that comparison to Philly Skyline West Philly bureau chief Steve Ives, whose observations on the city's green space will be presented in a matter of days.)

The image to the left there was the Trader Joe's parking lot scene Thursday afternoon, piece-by-piece putting together the crane that's gonna help build the Murano, the slick, curved glass, 43 story tower designed by Chicago's Solomon Cordwell Buenz. Our photo section on it is, er, under construction, but that too should be up this weekend. Details and photos to come.

On a related note: is there really a better deal in all Philadelphia than a pack of TJ's sesame thins and a wedge of triple creme brie that lasts like four days for $4? I'm honestly asking.

* * *

Your patience and mine, they are rewarded. When architecture authority and caviar connoisseur Inga Saffron updates her blog, baby, she scoops. According to Ms. S, the Barnes Tower now has a middle-o-the-night companion to further piss off the entitled residents of the Spring Garden section. Developer Joe Federman has a Daroff-designed 40 story tower ready in the waiting for 19th & Spring Garden. She also reports that the McIlhenny Mansion (the brick house with the excellent foyer across the Rittenhouse Square alley from the Dorchester) is for sale, in two parts, totalling nearly $12M. Inga Saffron, droppin' science like Galileo drops a orange.

* * *

Phillies, you sillie Phillies. Pat Gillick holds a heatwave fire sale, trading Bobby Abreu for a Myspace user and a Snickers Bar to be named later, Cory "I Scream for Graham Slam" Lidle and Arthur "I got a 5.67 ERA but man am I dedicated" Rhodes have a war of words through the NY Times, and the next thing you know the Fightins have won 8 out of 10. Chase Utley's streak is at 35, RyHo's homeruns are at 36, Cole Hamels' Ks are piling right up, and all of a sudden it looks like the players care. Too bad they're in Queens for a three-set with the Mets this weekend. And yo, check out Chris Coste. G'won 'head with your .375 self, Coste! Sal's Pals can't be THAT sad these days . . . and Mike Lieberthal? He sure isn't playing like his contract is up.

* * *

Glassboro's soccer movement has taken another step forward. According to misnomer, the Kansas City Wizards of the Major League Soccer league, are poised for a move to the Delaware Valley. While Rowan University builds a soccer-dedicated stadium in Glassboro -- a good half hour south of Philadelphia -- the team would play temporarily at Franklin Field. That's the good news, I guess, out of a soccer team moving to Philly: that Franklin Field will have its first professional team since Marky-Mark had the fake Eagles in the stands for the filming of Invincible. But! Once they've moved out of Franklin Field and into their plush new digs in Glassboro, they should also be accordingly named. Glassboro Wizards kinda sounds like glass-blowing wizards. Hippies and the suburbs go hand in hand like soccer and the suburbs, so this is actually something we can get down to. South Jersey soccer bongs are closer than you think.

* * *

Speaking of fake pro athletes, it sounds like Rocky may not be moved to the Art Museum grounds after all. In what most people saw as a compromise, the statue was to be moved to the right of the bottom of the steps he helped make famous, as opposed to the top of them (where there is already a plaque in the ground with the imprint of his Chuck Taylors -- did people really used to cross train in flimsy little Chucks???). Well, high society says "by jove I think not!" The Arts Commission this week did not approve -- but did not yet reject -- the move, but it was enough of a sign to, well, make the news. Inquirer Arts Writer Stephan Salisbury has the article, but for the REAL story, check the comments section. If ever there was an arts-vs-ethic argument, this is it. "It's a movie prop!" "It's art!" "Prop!" "Art!" "Prop art!" "Pop art!" "Pop tart!" "Stop start!" "Adriaaaaaaaaaan!"

* * *
This weekend should be a good'n. As promised, Nathaniel Popkin's photo essay on Washington Ave will be launched, and I'll personally be hitting the trail to see just what Lower Merion and Manayunk have up their sleeves for an extension of MLK Drive and new greenspace. Will report back with my findings, fo sho. And in case you missed the first go-round, the Neighborhood Tourism Network has got another tour of Northern Liberties, Fishtown and Kensington planned for this weekend. Get yr tickets half price (10 clams) here. Enjoy the cool-down and see yous on the flip.

PS: let's take it home, Yank on YouTube and check how deep Jigga's Philly Roots are. Jay-Z, the Roots, and Philly's Jaguar Wright Unplugged, circa 2001. Jay's rumored to be doing a comeback album (shocker!). The Roots are touring, including a stop at the Electric Factory on August 17 (with Common), and their new album Game Theory was the Philly Skyline Record Review last week; it comes out August 29. Jaguar Wright? She's over here

–B Love

2 August 06: It's the dog days, dawg

But as you can see, temperatures are trending downward . . .

Yer Happy Hump Day Umpdate is a quick'n this week; lots going on behind the scenes at corporate HQ.

  1. PHILLIES: Seriously, at this point, what can we say that we haven't been saying all along? Chase Utley is awesome, Ryan Howard is awesome, and everyone else makes us wretch. Bobby Abreu was traded for peanuts and it hurts so see him in a Yankees uni, no one cares about Cory Lidle (even if he's spitting off some truthful fire), Rheal Cormier's best-ERA-in-the-bullpen was giftwrapped to Cincinnati . . . oi. At least we got rid of the steroids-using millionaire for whom they did not work, and David Dellucci will finally get a fair shot. Fidel Castro's been known to pitch and has free time these days -- maybe we can clear some room in the rotation for a Cuban righthander?

  2. WANAMAKER'S: Was Wanamaker's, then Hecht's. Was Hecht's, then Lord & Taylor. Was Lord & Taylor, now Macy's. Somewhere along the way, Mannequin was filmed, Ween changed "Wanamaker's" to "Woolworth's" because it fit better into the song, and the Christmas light show still goes on. The eagle's still there too. Eh, it's a Macy's.

  3. FRANKLIN SQUARE: Hey, a carousel and putt-putt golf with a refurbished fountain and newly paved sidewalks is a whole lot better than a homeless encampment, don't you think? We'll bring a full-on report to this very site . . . just as soon as it cools the F down.

  4. COMCAST CENTER: Hey now, it's August and that means it's time for the latest Comcast Center construction update. Word is that the concrete core is going to halt construction on August 15 to allow the ironwork to catch up with it. The core reduces in size because the footprints get smaller as the building climbs higher, so the cranes will no longer mount to the core. Once construction resumes, the core won't be more than five floors higher than the iron. As of today, 2nd August, the core is on the 34th floor -- 529 ft -- making it the 9th tallest building in the city, 29 feet taller than 1818 Market and just 19 feet shorter than William Penn's hat atop City Hall.

Big things are imminent: Nathaniel Popkin's walk down Washington Ave, and Steve Ives' look at the greenspace our city has to offer. All the other things we've been saying we're doing will be up soon too, on the REAL.

–B Love

31 July 06: Free our independence!

And independence most assuredly does not stand for these abominable, unsightly barriers. What in the mother of God are they thinking?

INDEPENDENCE National Historical Park -- "the most historic square mile in America" -- is yet again being threatened with nauseating irony, trickled down through the sieves of bureaucracy as decided by Washington, specifically the National Park Service. As reported thoroughly by Stephan Salisbury in the Sunday Inquirer, President Bush's forthcoming budget has $2M allotted for "security provisions" for Independence Park, including the erection of a 7 foot -- seven feet tall -- iron fence along the backside of Independence Hall, right in the middle of the Square where the 'bike racks' are now. It's disgusting, vile, and an insult to the local levels and citizens of Philadelphia.

Do tourists actually mind, though? Judging by the success -- the noise and the ubiquity -- of Ride the Ducks, apparently not. It's just the way it is, it's a post-9/11 world and you just . . . never know.
Horseshit. That's just the kind of fear that has seemingly driven every federal expenditure since 9/11. I know it, Arlen Specter knows it, Chaka Fattah knows it, Mayor Street knows it, and you know Governor Rendell knows it. If there's one thing that has succeeded since 9/11, it must be intel, because outside of the anthrax episode and the Beltway sniper, nothing of major human-inflicted consequence has happened on our home soil in the five years since. This collective success was not attained by building a fence around any historic attractions, not the least of which those which represent the very freedoms we stand up for in that same timeframe.

The street posts on the Chestnut Street side? Totally understandable. You want neither a hellbent lunatic nor an erratic Septa bus plowing through the front of Independence Hall. Screening to enter Independence Hall? That's also understandable, for similar reasons, and it can be done in a tasteful way which, let's say, does not involve an ill placed makeshift vinyl tents, bike rack barriers or the invasion of the original Supreme Court. But this?

A seven foot wrought iron fence, no matter how ornate and detailed (and given it's 2006, that's highly doubtful), sends the message "stay out; privileged visitors only; access restricted." The fence is to essentially replace the bike rack barriers seen above -- the bike rack barriers which effectively cut Independence Square, the park behind Independence Hall leading out to Walnut, in half. On July 8, 1776, the Liberty Bell had no crack, nor was it yet known as the Liberty Bell. It was just a nicely crafted and dignified bell residing in the tower of Independence Hall, then simply the PA State House. On that day, the bell was rung to gather Philadelphians -- Americans -- in this very Square for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Since that day, the site has been visited, used as a symbolic platform for efforts toward freedom, by the likes of Abraham Lincoln, women's suffragists, Martin Luther King and civil rights activists, gay rights activists, Nelson Mandela and others.

Since 9/11, those events have become historical minutia. Before it was torn down, Mitchell/Giurgola's exemplary bicentennial-era Liberty Bell Pavilion was in its last days used as the security scanning area for the new Liberty Bell Center, with metal detectors x-raying on the very spot the Liberty Bell once stood. Since 9/11, the arches on Independence Hall, along Chestnut Street between the main Hall and its bookends, the first Supreme Court and Congress Hall, cannot be passed through, as I used to do every morning on the way to work after moving here in 2000.

Is Independence Hall seriously considered a threat? Is this the Bush administration's way of confirming just how valuable our freedom -- the freedom which is on the march, the freedom seen taking shape so handsomely in Iraq and demonstrated so admirably in Lebanon -- is, to protect all its symbols at any cost? Freedom is so magnificently vital to the American way, that to ensure the safety of its very symbol, we must remove a little of itself! Where have we heard this before?

For the love of Ben Franklin, National Park Service, don't do this. Don't slap a security fence across INDEPENDENCE Square. Senator Specter, Congressman Fattah, Mayor Street, Governor Rendell . . . don't let them do this to us.

–B Love