28 February 07: A Bad Hump Day for Barbera

Sorry, disappointed Eagles fans, this billboard on the South Street Bridge is pretty much all you've got left of your magical seven game run. Garcia's gonna drive his 37 year old self in that Barbera to a payday in Chicago or some lesser team. It seems doubtful he'd be willing to pull another Browns or Lions type of stint, but . . . I mean, do people really think that Donovan McNabb is not the Eagles' best quarterback? Yeesh.

Eh, who cares, it's Phillies season. That said, here's an AJ Feeley edition of your Hump Day Umpdate.
  1. THE PENN PRAXIS RIVERFRONT PLAN: TANGIBLE RESULTS? Find out this Saturday at the Seaport Museum at Penn's Landing. All the discussions held at the forums in Port Richmond, Fishtown, Penn's Landing and South Philly culminate in the presentation of design ideas for the future of the Central Delaware Riverfront (Oregon Ave in the south to Allegheny Ave in the north). Philly Skyline is going to be looking for a focal point of Bridgeman's View Tower in the schemes. It should be a good time with lots of good ideas. It's from 3 to 5 Saturday afternoon at Penn's Landing; be sure to register, as it's gonna be a full house. (As an aside, you can revisit the Riverfront by joining Joe Minardi for his sixty photo tour from March 2005 or my stroll on the river with Praxis and the mayor back in November.)

  2. AND WHEN YOU'RE DONE THERE, SAIL DOWNSTREAM AND DRINK FIFTY BEERS: Once your head is full of great ideas on how to view the Delaware River, head just downstream to the Navy Yard, where by the end of the night your view of the River is sure to be blurred. The Philly Craft Beer Festival conveniently does not begin until after the Plan Philly event has ended. From 6 to 10 Saturday evening, sample from fifty different breweries for one cost: $37 now or $45 at the door. [Philly Craft Beer Fest.]

  3. CALLING ALL SKYSCRAPER FANS WHO WERE ALIVE IN THE 1980S: Philly Skyline wants YOU. One of our more frequent requests is for pictures of the city's 1980s building boom, specifically One Liberty Place. Alas, I was in Mrs Strong's 6th grade in Tyrone PA (instead of out taking ridiculous amounts of construction photos) when One Liberty Place was getting ready to open, so I got nothin'.

    If you have pictures of One Liberty (or any of the 80s/90s skyscrapers: Two Liberty, Mellon Bank Center, Blue Cross Tower, Bell Atlantic Building, the Commerce twin towers, or Two Logan Square before Bell Atlantic was built) and would like to share them with the world, we'd love to be your platform. We'll obviously assign credit where it is due, and perhaps we'll provide contemporary views to complement the photos you took in the 80s. If you're interested, please email "photos AT phillyskyline DOT com" (use a subject line of "80s construction photos" or similar). Muchas gracias, muchachos.

    As an example, here's one submitted by our faithful friend Arthur Petrella, taken in 1988 soon after One Liberty Place had opened, before the city's tercentennial City Hall cleaning and Blue Cross' logo adorned the building, and while Bell Atlantic was under construction.

  4. MURDER MURDER MURDER, KILL KILL KILL: (Ed. note: if you are my mother, please skip this item.) Here's a happy little nugget from our inner city crime bureau: Philadelphia, as of right now this second, the last day of February 2007, not only has a higher murder rate for 2007 than the other four Top Five US cities -- New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston -- Philadelphia has more TOTAL MURDERS than any of those cities. That is absolutely incredible. New York City has a population of over 8 million people. Philadelphia has less than a million and a half. And yet, two months into 2007, our side has more total murders, 60 to 51. That's 15% more murders than a city five and a half times larger than us. And this is while it's cold out! God help us all once the weather heats up people's crazy quotient. Arrrrrgh! [David Gambacorta, Daily News.]

    And people say we don't need more police? On a related note, the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 5 (the local police union) has endorsed Bob Brady for mayor. A press conference today will make it official. [Robert Moran, Inquirer.]

  5. AND THE PRESIDENT'S HOUSE WINNING DESIGN GOES TO . . . KELLY/MAIELLO! Congrats to architects Kelly/Maiello on being chosen for what will soon occupy the corner of 6th & Market, symbolically in front of the Liberty Bell Center and conveniently/uncomfortably directly across the street from the city's Visitors Center. Not entirely unlike Venturi Scott Brown's nearby Franklin Ghost House, K/M's President's House contains a shell of the house that once served the country's first two presidents -- including slaves. Intended to ignite open-aired discussion, the site will have interpretive panels and sound recordings about the complex historical time which shaped the future of the nation, while simultaneously keeping it dark. [Stephan Salisbury, Inquirer.] [Kelly/Maiello design explanation, phila.gov.]

Finally today, we'll pack February into the books with a Philly Skyline Philly Skyline taken last night, a view soon to be no more. This is all that's left of Pennsylvania Hall, the final holdout of Philadelphia's once proud Civic Center in West Philadelphia. As the University of Pennsylvania's Health System continues to expand, so too does the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This otherwise positive pairing of growth proved lethal for the triumvirate of Civic Center Boulevard's architectural stylings: the neoclassical Commercial Museum, the fabulously art deco and historic Convention Hall, and now the brutalist, four-story Pennsylvania Hall. What you see here is all that remains, and all that remains will itself turn to dust at 7 o'clock this Sunday morning. If you're into implosion parties, West Philly is the place to be on Sunday; however, because the building is so short, finding a good vantage point (short of booking a south facing room in Penn Tower) may prove tough.

These three buildings' replacement, of course, begins with the Rafael Viñoly-designed Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, already under construction at Civic Center & Convention. AND, we've just learned, the Perelman Center has been approved for a height increase, from the current six stories to fourteen stories. This is developing, so we'll post more as we learn it.

One has to wonder, with Pennsylvania Hall finally closing the Civic Center chapter of this section of Philadelphia, how long will it be before nominations are made to change the names of both Civic Center Boulevard and Convention Avenue? The Perelmans already have a building named for them; let's start the bidding at Amy Gutmann Boulevard!

As always, clicking enlarges.

–B Love

27 February 07: On Marian Anderson

As Black History Month winds down, it's fitting to stop for a moment and appreciate what a Philadelphia daughter was able to accomplish before Civil Rights was even capitalized. Marian Anderson was born 110 years ago today, a full century and then some before her South Philadelphia neighborhood had heard of any G-Ho.

The contralto singer was musically inclined from the get-go; she sang in the choirs at Union Baptist Church (19th & Fitzwater), where she also performed her first solo concert while still in elementary school. That same church helped to sponsor Marian's musical training, which led to an early career of traveling and performing, including multiple trips to pre-WWII Europe. She'd made enough of a name for herself that in 1936, she became the first black entertainer to perform at the White House. It was three years later, though, that she made her biggest headlines in similar company.

While touring the US in 1939, she was to have performed at the Daughters of the American Revolution's Constitution Hall in Washington DC, but her promoter was told by the Hall's manager that "no Negro will ever appear in this hall while I am manager." The ensuing outrage resulted in First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt revoking her DAR membership and instead helping to arrange a concert at the Lincoln Memorial, twenty-four years before Martin Luther King shared his dream there (which she also attended). The concert at the Lincoln Memorial drew 75,000 people and was broadcast via radio to millions.

In 1955, she became the first black soloist at the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York, and in 1958 she was appointed as a delegate to the United Nations by President Dwight Eisenhower. On top of these achievements, Marian received a number of awards and medals, including the American Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson in 1963, the UN Peace Prize in 1972, the National Medal of Arts from President Ronald Reagan in 1986, and a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1991. The US Postal Service also commemorated her with a stamp in 2005.

Marian Anderson died in 1993 at the age of 96, but the Union Baptist Church still celebrates her feats. Her residence at 762 South Martin Street is directly across from the church and serves as a museum to her history.

Explore PA History
Lakewood Public Library
Marian Anderson Historical Society
UPenn Special Collection: Marian Anderson, A Life in Song

There don't appear to be any clips of Marian Anderson's performance at the Lincoln Memorial on YouTube or Google Video, but this particular clip sees her singing for Leopold Stokowski, a prominent Philadelphian in his own right. He moved here from Cincinnati to lead the Philadelphia Orchestra, and in his years developed a "Philadelphia sound" that predates Gamble & Huff. If you'll pardon the Yuletide songs at the end of the clip, this is Marian Anderson singing Schubert's Ave Maria with Leopold Stokowski and the Westminster Choir in 1944.

–B Love

26 February 07: Lookin' up and lookin' ahead

Everybody's favorite 31 story bottle of Pepto Bismol had its lid screwed on at the end of last week, bringing the structural height to its pinnacle. Symphony House's Suzanne Roberts Theater is pretty well in shape, and the windows are a good two-thirds of the way up the tower. Buyers of the units ranging from $500k 1BRs to $3.7M penthouses will begin moving in later this year. Fortunately for them, the goofy mansardish roof will not be visible from the units. [Symphony House Condo.]

* * *

The New York train has finally left the station. Mark Adams and I joined forces a couple weekends ago to document that most Urban Philadelphian of road trips, the trip that involves no roads at all: the NYC weekender by railroad. Be it the Septa-NJT slow rider, the Acela Express or any Amtrak variation in between, a two hour train ride to the largest city in the country is an option not lost on many. So while you can make the argument that a New York photo essay has no place on Philly Skyline, we beg to differ, because no matter how loud and lascivious a weekend you have, you know in the end you'll just hop that train and be home by suppertime.

* * *

Aaaaand as promised, a rapid fire MMLU.
  1. BRETT MYERS AND CHASE UTLEY, VARYING IN DEGREES OF AWESOME: After the New York Daily News egged on Mets players Carlos Beltran, Tom Glavine and David Wright for sound bites in response to Jimmy Rollins' comments, Brett Myers fired back, saying "I hate the Mets. I want to beat them more than anyone else. What we need to do is make sure none of their fans get in our building. We shouldn't sell tickets to Mets fans." And this is a man that knows a thing or two about beating people. I like your attytood, Brett, and here's hoping the Phillies are able to filter out those loudmouths in those hideous jerseys (really, why did the Mets add black to that blue and orange ensemble? Isn't New York a fashion mecca? Did they have no consultants on this?) coming down the New Jersey Turnpike. [Courier-Post.]

    Meanwhile, Chase Utley was so inspired by last night's Oscar winner for Best Documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, that he has taken a pledge to, you know, not live like his jackass teammate Jon Lieber with his big-ass truck. It's very refreshing to hear of the occasional athlete with enough brainpower to think beyond the norm, in which millionaire athletes drive massive pimped out cars. The newlywed, newly rich second baseman signed his name at StopGlobalWarming.org, alongside the likes of Governor Ed Rendell and Senator Barack Obama.

  2. THE FIRST ANNUAL CHILI SKYLINE COOKOFF: Yessirree, ladies and gentlemen, it's true: your friends at Philly Skyline are sponsoring a chili cookoff to end all chili cookoffs, right here in the Ho. The fine folks at Tritone (including one Dave Rogers, who knows a thing or three about chili) have given us the stage the evening of Thursday, March 22nd. We're hammering out a few minor details as we speak and will have all the info you need -- rules, judges, cost, how do I enter?, etc -- right here in the next day or two. Suffice it to say, it's gonna be a rockin' good time, and maybe swinging by Symphony House for some Pepto on the way wouldn't be such a bad idea. One thing IS for sure: the delta blues stylings of New Pony will complement your Chili Skyline experience.

  3. SPEAKING OF BOOZE . . . The Navy Yard made national news a couple weeks ago for all the wrong reasons, and it's time to disassociate it from our image of the horrible massacre that happened there. Naturally, what better way to do so than by attending the Philly Craft Beer Festival, rocking and rolling at the southern tip of Broad Street at Philadelphia's Cruise Terminal. For the low low cost of $37 ($45 at the door), you can tie one on by choosing from fifty -- 50! -- breweries and watch the ships a-sailing on the Delaware. For a list of participants (from Yards to Magic Hat and back down to the always delicious Stoudts) and to save yourself eight bucks by purchasing your tickets in advance, hop on over to PhillyCraftBeerFest.com.

  4. THEN, WHILE YOU'RE HUNG OVER ON SUNDAY MORNING . . . Let the ever-expanding University of Pennsylvania Healthcare System help shake out the bugs -- really shake 'em out. Pennsylvania Hall, the brutalist companion to the long lost art deco Convention Hall, will be imploded bright and early Sunday morning, at approximately 7am. Septa has even issued a travel advisory to travelers on the Airport train.

There you have it. We'll leave this Monday with a Philly Skyline Philly Skyline from the rooftop, the same view as Symphony House above, just panned back a wee bit.

–B Love

26 February 07: SAVE THE DATE

Details are forthcoming, but mark it down on your phillyskyline.com: the calendar, 2007 now. It's on like Donkey Kong!

Your regularly scheduled MMLU will return shortly.

–B Love

25 February 07: The view from the top

A very special Philly Skyline thanks goes out to Paul Ricciardi and the good folks at Madison Concrete, the company at the literal heart of Comcast Center's construction. As we mentioned recently, Madison poured its concrete for the last time, raising the final height of the core of the building to 57 floors and approximately 920' (902' to the 57th floor, and 18-20' to house the mechanical structure). The steel framework will continue to climb to the final height of 975'. The south side's 'keyhole' cutout is already taking shape.

Paul was kind enough to share these images from the top of the concrete formwork. Click to enlarge.

As always, our Comcast Center section is HERE and is up to date with construction photos.

–B Love

23 February 07: Hodge podge b'gosh

Zip zip zip Friday Freakout hodge podge all over the place GO!
  1. 100 YEARS ON THE PARKWAY, FEATURING PENN'S OWN DAVID BROWNLEE: Center City District yesterday kicked off a celebration of the first (and indeed next) century of the Ben Franklin Parkway at the Art Museum. The always entertaining art historian David Brownlee gave a presentation on how the Parkway came to be, with passed over plans and historic photos. Interesting to note is the fact that 1631 Arch (the smaller Bell Atlantic building catty-corner from Comcast Center) predates the construction of the Parkway. Both Brownlee's and Paul Levy's presentations are available in PDF form at centercityphila.org.

  2. A LITTLE FURTHER UP THE PARKWAY . . . the No Longer Barnes Tower plan is falling into place, with a now much improved streetscape along both 21st and 22nd Streets, while maintaining the small park space along Pennsylvania Ave. Inga's got all the details, a nice write-up and high-res pictures from architects Burt Hill. [Changing Skyline.]

  3. I NEVER HAD DINNER WITH THE PRESIDENT. I NEVER HAD DINNER WITH THE PRESIDENT. I NEVER HAD DINNER WITH THE PRESIDENT. And when I see your ass again, I'll be hesitant. As if Phillies fans needed any more reason to hate the Mets, here comes the 2007 season. Jimmy Rollins' vocal support of his improved and positive Phillies team has been interpreted by some people as arrogance (really?) and shots at the Mets. Some people are stupid. Some people, including All American wonderboy third baseman David Wright. Wright stuck out his chest in response to J-Roll and said "Until somebody steps up and dethrones us, we're the defending NL East champs and we're going to act like it. As far as throwing out predictions and talking about it, talk is very, very cheap." (Carlos Beltran and Tom Glavine also sounded off.)

    The Wright Stuff also had a goosebumps moment last week, when he had dinner at the White House with the President, the superbly square journalist George Will, Padres closer Trevor Hoffman (who you might remember as the guy who last year blew the save that would have won the National League its first All Star game in over a decade) and Vernon Wells, the hundred million dollar centerfield for that All American baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Said the 24 year old Vitamin Water pusherman:
    "To have dinner in the White House, with the First Lady to my right and sitting across from the president, the leader of the free world, it was a once in a lifetime experience," David said with pride. . . . "Just to think that someday I'll be able to show that picture to my kids and my grandkids and tell them about what an incredible night it was," Wright said.
    Considering David Wright is 24 years old, his grandkids probably won't be old enough to sit on his lap for, oh, at least 40 years or so. That's a long time for history to determine whether Gee Dubya is on its side, and whether DW's grandkids' eyes will light up at pappy's story or wince in horror. NY Post.

    Muck the Fets anyway. Get on board the Phillies train. As ESPN's Jayson Stark asks in his Phillies preview, why not?

  4. WE'RE GONNA GO AHEAD AND NEED THOSE TPS REPORTS: Remember one year ago today when we kinda sounded off on the detractors to The Philadelphia School's proposal for the 25th & South site, because some whiny lady was actually complaining about the sound of children? Well HA HA, she's gonna have to deal with it! Of the four proposals for the City site up for bid, three were residential (two were luxury 'townhomes' and one was an ok looking six story apartment building with a horrible parking grate on the ground floor) and one was TPS' much needed expansion. With an announcement last night in the K-8 school's fantastic gymnasium (I can't overstate how awesome that gym is; I wanted the meeting to end so I could play some 3-on-3) attended by City Council President Anna Verna, it became official: TPS won the bid and will get its expansion. A new school building will be erected along Naudain Street (read: off of a busy South Street) and will use much of the existing structure, one component of green building it strides to achieve. [TPS.org.]

To round our this Friday, we're gonna get our shoes all muddy for today's Philly Skyline Philly Skyline. Live and direct from that jewel of Jersey livin', Pennsauken, we look southwest into the sun across a slushy Delaware River. Though this view in fact looks downstream, the tide had the crushed ice heading north. And even though you know this happens every single day, knowing what you know about geography, it still messes with your head to watch this massive river flowing the wrong way.

Don't be afraid to pop in this weekend; we have a feeling we'll be here.

–B Love

22 February 07: If you should go skating . . .

Continuing along with our thaw, we find ourselves on the forbidden side of the Brokedown Bridge With The View. A little further downstream from the next-to-last recent Philly Skyline Philly Skyline, this one (which you can enlarge by clicking) is a frozen (but melting) take on the classic postcard view casting shadow from the South Street Bridge. We're going to be spending a lot of time on that bridge over the coming days while we try to find holes for these square and circle pegs. Just uhh . . . mind the thin ice.

A few quick shouts for this 'ere Thursday.
  1. RECYCLING OUR SHOUT-OUTS: We've always been big on the stuff our friends o'er Illadelph way crank out, and the latest is no exception. The Shame of Philadelphia: Recycling makes a mash-up of information from RecycleBank, Next Great City, City Council and the Streets Department (which oversees recycling in the city) to form a view with which we agree but about which we are not surprised: it stinks here, but is taking baby steps to getting better.

    On a wild and crazy journey eight summers ago, I woke up on the couch of some friendly college students in Arcata, the seat of sticky-icky Humboldt County, California. They had an entire wall of dedicated, separate recycling containers: clear glass, green glass, brown glass, aluminum, tin, plastic, cardboard, newspaper . . . they separated freaking cardboard and newspaper! It's silly to expect ever seeing the same in Philadelphia, even after a hard fought recycling reform campaign, but we can certainly learn from examples set forth domestically. Arcata and Eureka are small towns, to be sure, but there wasn't a speck of litter in either town, and it all comes down to their collective sense of place. Our lack of recycling and the amount of litter here are directly related; but how exactly do you teach pride? I don't know.

  2. RECYCLING OUR SHOUT-OUTS, pt 2: We gave a nod to Matt Blanchard at Plan Philly yesterday for his I-95 chronicle, and today we do the same for his detailed look at Councilman Frank DiCicco's new legislation holding the two proposed casinos for his district to the fire. Lots of voices, including residents, longshoremen, city officials and indeed Sugar House and Foxwoods, weigh in. [planphilly.com.]

  3. MEANWHILE, DOWN THE SHORE: The guarantee of drawn out litigation on Delaware Ave is sure to please Atlantic City, which reported a 3% loss in January, the largest in nearly 30 years of gaming there. Part of that was thanks to the closing of the Sands, but surely at least some of it came from the onset of slots in Bensalem and Chester. AC is just taking it in stride, though, thanks to an approval yesterday of what will -- at 800' at Boardwalk & New Jersey Ave -- become the new tallest building in New Jersey, eclipsing Cesar Pelli's 30 Hudson Street in Jersey City. Additionally, a team of AC casino operators have proposed an express train from New York to Atlantic City. Big deal, eh Philly? Yes, it actually could be. There is no passenger-usable railroad directly between NY and AC, and as such the Northeast Corridor would have to be used.
    Details are being finalized for the new service, dubbed "ACES'' for Atlantic City Express Service. But in the current scenario, the trains would run nonstop on the Northeast Corridor tracks from New York to just north of Philadelphia, then head east and continue nonstop to Atlantic City.
    Très intéressant. These guys don't even have New Jersey Transit or Amtrak lined up yet, so it'll be interesting to see how it shakes out, considering that NJT might not appreciate an express line that starts in New York and includes no local (in-state) stops. Also, PA reps might ask for a stop on our side of the river if our rails are to be used, which thought of in another light, could present a new express line to NY a short R7 ride away (as we'd hinted at a couple weeks ago). [Asbury Park Press.]

It's Thirstday . . . relax and have a tall cold one, huh?

–B Love

21 February 07:
BREAKING: your skull under Comcastic ice bombs

Heh heh, "breaking". Sometimes I love journalism, sometimes I just think it's funny. I went to school for journalism and the only professor that did anything for me was later extradited from Panama, where he'd fled because he was wanted on several counts of child pornography and molestation. That? Not funny. The hand I was dealt? Awkwardly humorous, I suppose (especially considering one of the detailed incidents was in my favorite bathroom on campus. Ew). But yes, late-breaking news. Once it's broken, it's no longer breaking is it? Developing...

Along these same lines, that there's a picture from yesterday's ice hazard closing of 17th & Arch Streets. The snow-ice-snow storm must've done a number several hundred feet up earlier this week, considering the open air and all the steel to which it clung. Just a few days after falling ice from The Watermark nearly put da Skyline out of business, Ma Nature warmed things up a bit and super bad chunks of ice started falling to the street. To my knowledge, no one was hurt, and the three workers standing behind the caution tape weren't talking. I casually asked if they'd seen any ice themselves and I got blank stares. I asked again and the one guy seemed to speak for all three, saying "no comment." Well hmph! Just wondered is all.

Here we are on the other side, then, humpin' it up for an Umpdate.
  1. WARNING: FALLING ICE: Before we move along from Comcast Center, we'll just mention that we're up to date as of this morning over in ye olde Comcast Center section, including more pictures like the above from yesterday and a snazzy sunset from el dia de presidentes.

  2. DID YOU KNOW: THERE'S OTHER CONSTRUCTION AROUND TOWN? Huh, who knew! Also as of this morning, our Murano section is up to date, and a Residences at the Ritz section is being put together as we speak. A lot of people have asked about that (but no one has asked about Symphony House, go figure); we've been waiting until construction reaches ground level at 15th & South Penn Square. It's now reached that level, so expect the same kind of RATR coverage as with buildings past (e.g. Murano, Cira Centre and The St James). Please also note: a long promised 'general construction' section (under which other projects like Symphony House, Western Union, the Pearl, American Loft, etc would fall) is also being developed. There's a lot going on behind the scenes at Philly Skyline but only 24 hours in a day, nahmean?

  3. EYE 95: When Penn Praxis took on the challenge of overseeing a plan for the Delaware Riverfront, one of the most brought up topics was the very presence of I-95. In Center City, it serves as an unwanted moat (with an assist by Delaware Ave) to a forlorn Penns Landing, and in South Philly, Fishtown, Port Richmond and the Northeast, it's a gargantuan, noisy reminder that progress is not always successful. Matt Blanchard has put together one of the most comprehensive studies of 95 through Philadelphia for Plan Philly, with helpful links to phillyroads.com and pictures of 95's construction.

  4. BARBARA GITTINGS: Rest in peace. [Equality Forum.]

  5. MILTON STREET: Why even comment? The jokes write themselves every time he speaks. The problem is that the media (be it the Daily News or Fox 29 or whomever) keeps giving him the opportunity to remind people who he is. We agree with Michael Nutter here: Milton is a distraction. Just ignore him and he'll go away (back to Moorestown).

We'll send this umpdate off with a Philly Skyline Philly Skyline from o'er Drexel way, around sundown on Monday.

–B Love

20 February 07: A Christian journey

Here we go, here we go, here we here we here we go. At long last, Christian Street is before us. Twenty-seven blocks of it, from the ice covered anchorage on the Delaware at Pier 40 out to the steamy billows coming from the Schuylkill power station, and all the Italian Markets, Vietnamese hoagies, church spires, parking lots, housing projects, luxury condos, Wawas, Sidecars, aluminum siding and bricks along the way.

When you consider the central core of the city as the land between the two rivers and Girard and Washington, it's significant to note that Christian Street is the only two-way thoroughfare that is not considered arterial. It's far more neighborhood-y than, say, Spring Garden Street or of course Market Street. Girard and Washington themselves serve important use as a transit passage and an industrial causeway, respectively. Christian Street, then, patiently runs the length between the rivers uninterrupted, but without the burden of a dedicated utility.

Nathaniel Popkin has written a fantastic look back at how Christian Street came to be, from its unusual naming to suggestions to making it better. I joined him last week to hike its entirety and of course snapped pictures along the way. Click that graphic there to begin.

* * *

As thanks for your patience over the Lost Weekend of dead presidents, here's a Philly Skyline Philly Skyline taken yesterday evening above a mostly frozen Schuylkill River. Clickening it embiggens it.

–B Love

19 February 07: A face full o' Sno-Cone and the lost weekend

So it's Friday afternoon, right, and Nathaniel and I are putting the finishing touches on our Christian Street exposé. Taking a breather, I step outside to catch some fresh air and take a picture of two of Comcast Center. All of a sudden, CRACK! The last thing I remember is the spray of ice pellets from what I later learned was a chunk of ice the size of a dictionary that fell from The Watermark, the old folks tower at 18th & Callowhill which did not, like One Liberty Place, Mellon Bank Center and several other towers with falling ice thoughtfully did, have its sidewalk blocked off. When I came to, I rubbed my head and found myself on a snowy Plateau for your Presidents Day Philly Skyline Philly Skyline.

We're tying up loose ends as we speak to make good on the promise of said Christian Street essay, and other Monday Lookin' Up delights. It's cold out; grab your pull-over Starter parka and bundle up, bébé.

–B Love

19 February 07:

16 February 07: The good Christian

Top o' the mornin' and TGIF. Are we finally starting to shake off this piddly little winter storm?

I am embarrassed for our great state of Pennsylvania that three entire sections of interstate were shut down because of a freaking winter storm. Colorado must look at us and laugh. Seriously: it snows and sleets and freezes every single year. How is it possible that this is even an option? I once sat for ten hours in stopped traffic in the right lane of Alligator Alley in south Florida, but that was for a concert on an Indian reservation, so everyone stuck in the same traffic had a familiar vibe and the same destination. Plus it was south Florida, where it's warm in the winter. Being stranded on a frozen I-78 bumper to bumper with 18 wheelers is not something I would wish on even a Mets fan. On the other hand, emergencies and truckers being paid to move goods aside, why would you be driving on a freeway in a storm that drops seven inches of snow and then three inches of snow?

Anyhow. Check out our semi-snowy Philly Skyline Philly Skyline above (where as always, clicking enlarges). It was taken yesterday at about 11am, looking north on 17th Street from the object of our Friday affection, Christian Street. That little lady there in the picture is Kristina, Queen of Sweden, for whom Christian Street is named, and whose androgyny makes her an icon in the androgynous community. "But Christian is a man's name." Right you are, old chum. This will all be sorted out by Nathaniel Popkin, whose essay on how Christian Street came to be and my photos to accompany it will be live right here this afternoon.

Nathaniel recently wrote a piece on the state of Independence National Historical Park (this is before Wednesday's essay correctly deriding the National Park Service's closure of Washington Square) called Murmurs of Democracy at Independence Hall. It is HERE.

–B Love

15 February 07: My bureaucratic valentine: Loveless

Apparently the Sixers have some fans in high places. Yesterday evening -- Valentine's Day -- the city's and the state's achy breaky hearts were on parade in the most inconvenient of manners. The still-controlled-by-the-state-because-why-not-we're-Quaker-right?-ha-ha Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board okayed the closing of its 25th & South Wine & Spirits Shop Shoppe at 4pm yesterday for . . . I have no idea what. Inclement weather? Uhh, it snowed and sleeted the previous night, not last night. And 4 o'clock? Yeah, the hour before everyone with jobs gets home. On Valentine's Day. When lots and lots of romantic people buy wine, and lots and lots of anti-romantic people buy whiskey. Is not Valentine's Day one of the top three alcohol selling days of the year?

So, after we went ahead and got a six-pack instead of a bottle of wine, the missus and me sat down to a nice cabernet beef & scalloped potatoes dinner only to have the phone ring at 8pm. RUDE. Let that go to the machine. It's the city's recycling department, with a two hour two minute message telling us what we already know about recycling: to put it out no earlier than 7pm the night before and no later than 7am the morning of. Yeah, we live here, we know how it works. They left out the part explaining why they don't take plastics and why certain neighborhoods get no recycling at all.

But never mind those Pennsylvania cold fish, we've got these important announcements:
  1. TONIGHT: Mayoral Candidates Forum. The Next Great City project tonight gets to put its ten point agenda to work with the five mayoral candidates (no, Milton Street won't be there) at the Academy of Natural Sciences. The forum will be moderated by the Daily News' Flavia Colgan. Academy, 1900 Ben Franklin Parkway, 6:30-8:30. [nextgreatcity.org.]

  2. TONIGHT: Photography at Conspiracy Showroom. R.A. Friedman fashions himself an old timey photographer this evening at Philly Skyline's favorite boutique of ladies and ladies' things. His show opening tonight and running for the next month features photos of models wearing the stylings of Conspiracy's own Rose Greene. Six to nine tonight at 910 N 2nd Street. [City Paper.] [Conspiracy Showroom.]

  3. TONIGHT: I-95, Port Richmond and the future. Haven't been able to find much online about this, but State Representatives John Taylor and Mike O'Brien (covering Port Richmond/Fishtown and the Northeast) are holding a meeting tonight with neighbors about PennDOT's plan for reconfiguring the Girard Ave exit of I-95 and, gulp, the possibility of eminent domain because of it. Chances are it's gonna be a pretty emotional meeting, and it's at Mother Divine Grace School Hall, 7pm, 2612 E. Monmouth Street.

  4. SUNDAY AT MIDNIGHT (Saturday night): Chinese New Year. The Year of the Boar kicks off on Sunday with the annual parade at midnight in Chinatown. The Spring Festival lasts 15 days, from the new moon to the full moon. If you'll already be out and about on Saturday night, swing by on Sunday at noon for the second parade. Sunday, Arch Street, Chinatown. [phillychinatown.com.]

  5. MONDAY: first full Phillies workout. Pitchers and catchers reported to Brightblack Morning Light Field yesterday morning in Clearwater with some unexpected early guests including Chase Utley and Pat the Bat(!). Awesome, awesome, awesome. Apparently, everyone around town is as psyched as we are about the Fightin' Phils. Pat Burrell finally ended his offseason silence by telling reporters his foot feels fine, he didn't think he had too bad a 2006 (neither did we; we wish fans wouldn't have booed them as they did, and we hope they don't boo him at the START of a new season in which everyone is positive), and that the past (including Dallas Green's and Mike Schmidt's comments) is behind him. Dig it, Pat. Let's do this thing. [Daily News (Marcus Hayes).] [Inquirer (Jim Salisbury).] [Phillies.com (Ken Mandel).]

  6. TODAY: I sleep where I sleep. Mmmhmm. Mayor John F Street's already-indicted, living-in-Jersey brother Milton has announced that he too is running for mayor. (The Mayor's son Sharif is also running for Council At Large.) For opinions on Milton, let's go to the source for all 07 mayoral goodness, The Next Mayor:
    As for the pesky matter of his recent federal indictment for tax fraud? He said he didn't know why that would be an issue, since, in his words, he hasn't done anything wrong. He pointed out that he hasn't been convicted of anything.

    Reporters also asked him about the residency requirement to run for mayor. Street seems to live in New Jersey -- that's where reporters tracked him down on the day of that indictment. He didn't directly answer that question, saying instead something to the effect of, "I sleep where I sleep."
    Allllllll righty then! Should this actually become official -- like, he gets enough petition signatures and can prove he actually lives in the city -- perhaps he and Chaka Fattah would cancel each other out. [Inquirer.]

  7. YESTERDAY: The first and loudest predictable homophobic response to John Amaechi's announcement that he is gay. Tim Hardaway, oh Tim Hardaway. Mince not your words, dawg!
    You know, I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don't like gay people and I don't like to be around gay people. I'm homophobic. I don't like it. It shouldn't be in the world or in the United States.
    And here my money was on Shaq. Shaq is surely protected by what I guarantee was an immediate player gag order issued by David Stern's people as soon as the Amaechi rumors started floating around. Hardaway, though, is retired and is was a burgeoning NBA analyst. Way to kill your career, Tim! And in Miami . . . duh. What's Garrison Hearst up to these days? [Miami Herald.]

    The clearly smarter Amaechi has already responded openly:
    "Famously, they're saying in 2007 that homophobia is not an issue," Amaechi said. "While [Hardaway] is not a representative of the NBA or of straight men, there's no point pretending it's not an opinion that is out there."
    As we say, go on 'head, John Amaechi.

  8. TOMORROW: Christian Street. Nathaniel Popkin and myself had a wrap party for our Christian Street collaboration at Ants Pants this morning (followed by happening upon our friend Chris Doc, with whom we're also collaborating this weekend, and preceded by bumping into the inimitable Fen Branklin, who brought to da Skyline Powelton Village and University City). A great history by Nathaniel and new pictures by R.B. Maule go live tomorrow. And then . . .

  9. THIS WEEKEND: the quintessential Philadelphia weekend getaway. Which is to say: New York City. A lot of defensive or sensitive Philadelphians might say that New York has no place on this web site. It's a fair argument, but considering how infatuated and/or shamed by New York that so many of us are, the other side should be seen too. It's on that side that New York is seen as the perfect place to go get lost for a couple days and then come home from; to spend very little effort and hop a train to go have a great time, tossing our cares in the Delaware at the Trenton Makes Bridge along the way. That's what Mark Adams and I did last weekend, and our results will be posted here this weekend.

Until then, have a good'n.

–B Love

14 February 07: OOOOOOOOOH, Barracuda

SO, this ain't the end, I saw you agaaaain. I had to turn my heart away.

There's a lot of love and a lot of crushing heartbreak in this, probably my favorite rock and roll song of all time. I think the only song I like better than Heart's "Barracuda" is "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" -- the 12 minute version -- by the really exhausted, really pissed off Temptations with the Funk Brothers on the beat.

Anyway, the extremities of love from the song whose ringtone resides on my cell phone is how we're approaching this Valentine's Day edition of your Hump Day Umpdate. Barracuda!
  1. IT'S "UN-VALENTINE'S DAY" AT THE WACHOVIA CENTER: "Lonely hearts unite!" So begins the invitation from the Philadelphia 76ers to come see them play the Washington Wizards tonight. In other news, Philadelphia still apparently has a professional basketball team. Yes, if you are the type who gets mad at the rest of the world on Valentine's Day because you can't find love yourself, you should commiserate with people who actually bother to watch basketball so mediocre that the Sixers probably won't even get one of the top two draft picks, the one good thing about being terrible. Ay ay ay. [Sixers.com.]

  2. HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY, JOHN AMAECHI: The reason I got the Sixers' Un-Valentine's Day e-vite is simple: they put you on their spam list when you buy a ticket to a basketball game with a credit card. I did this most recently in November 2003, when the Sixers were still watchable, when Yao Ming was fresh faced and fascinating, and when John Amaechi rode the pine for the Houston Rockets. (I took the little picture of Meech in today's graphic from my second row seat during warmups.)

    As everyone knows, John Amaechi last week became the first NBA to publicly declare himself gay, and having played for as many teams as he did in a game so hetero, you have to hand it to him -- it took some guts to do so. (It helps that he has a book to sell too, I reckon.) In 2007, even the most mushmouthed of politically incorrect NBA player thought has a pretty good muzzle; thank David Stern's PR people for that. Allen Iverson is Stern's worst nightmare; thusly, AI hasn't offered up any thought on Amaechi that I know of. (That's not to say AI hates gay people.)

    Anyway, that's neither here nor there, and lots of people have written lots of ideas about closeted gay athletes and those who've come out later. Outsports.com contends that Amaechi's announcement will help place acceptance of gay athletes over the hump. Here's hoping.

    I was a senior Tyrone Area High School when John Amaechi was a senior at Penn State. I went to (and snuck into) a lot of their Big Ten games at Rec Hall that year, against Glenn Robinson's Purdue, Alan Henderson's Indiana, and of course the Fab Five's Michigan. My mom was friends with the lady who ran the TAHS basketball boosters, the organization who put together fundraisers and events for the basketball team. When they put together our senior banquet, Amaechi -- an Academic All-American and Big Ten top five scorer, rebounder and shot blocker -- was our guest speaker. My mom's friend let me tag along to pick him up in State College. En route, we shot the shit about the Big Ten, Penn State, and college, and we shared a table at the banquet. It was one of my better days of 1994; it's not often that you get to hang with famous guys who are 6'10", black, and have a British accent. Now, we add gay to that recountal. I think he's a swell dude. Go 'head, John Amaechi.

    [Outsports.com.] [Meech.org.]

  3. EVERY DAY IS VALENTINE'S DAY FOR COMCAST CENTER AND PHILLY SKYLINE: Thanks to an insider tip on Sunday afternoon, we were the first to post the YouTube video of the Comcast Center BASE jumpers, which also probably contributed to its being taken down -- sorry guys. Fortunately, Phillyblog member Topcat caught the video before it was removed and archived it at Photobucket HERE. Inexplicably, the usually fun-lovin' liberal Will Bunch shows his age in his disapproval of the adrenaline rush in Monday's Attytood.
    We lean heavily toward the book 'em approach. We don't want to have to dodge some reject from a Mountain Dew ad the next time we drive down JFK Boulevard. . . . Warning: Lots of exclamatory cursing, plus annoyingly stupid sub-Gen Y'ers.
    Homie. It was 6:45 in the morning on a Sunday. Annoyingly stupid sub-Gen Y'ers? Lighten up Will, and go easy on the generational labels. It's bad enough your Baby Boomers control damn near everything and love talking about Baby Boomers.

    But back to our favorite Valentine, Comcast Center. It was on this windy, sleety morning that we officially topped 1,000 pictures of its construction. The base photo in the graphic above, showing how the glass to the atrium is getting closer to completion, was three after the meaningless milestone. Our Comcast Center section now totals 1,011 construction pictures, plus pictures of the official model, plus several composites from official renderings, plus at least one hard hat tour of the site. Now that things like BASE jumpers and post-9/11 safety measures have the always-catching-up old-media talking and the general public noticing, Philly Skyline would like to sincerely thank everyone who's been with us for the ride. As we've said before, Comcast Center (née One Pennsylvania Plaza) is indirectly responsible for this very web site. It's all love, all Comcast Center, all the time.

  4. A LITTLE MORE ABOUT PHILLY SKYLINE: As this site has grown in material, it may seem like the photography a lot of you come here for has lessened. That's not necessarily true; we've just filled up the space between photo essays and neighborhood tours more frequently. Some photographic things we've got in the works right now:
    • An elaboration of Monday's observations on our northeastern megalopolitan transit holiday. Myself and Mark Adams will compare and contrast our results from that most Philadelphian of excursions, the New York weekend on Septa, New Jersey Transit, the Chinatown bus, or if you're high rollin', Amtrak. By the end of this week.

    As an aside, our good friends Steve Ives and Chris Doc independently also had a NYC weekend, Chris' to visit the City Museum of New York's Robert Moses exhibit, observations of which are HERE.

    • Neighborhood tours of Olney, Viet/Cambodian/Laotian South Philly, and Overbrook, likely in that order, over the next couple months.

    • The long lost promise of an in depth observation of the architecture on Rittenhouse Square. Let's say March.

    • New construction in G-Ho, the good, the bad and the fugly. Let's say April.

    • And then this joint effort coming Friday:

  5. A CHRISTIAN COLLABORATION: Coming this Friday to da Skyline, Nathaniel Popkin and I are looking at the life of Christian Street. Unless you're a historian by choice, the story of Christian is probably going to surprise you. It surprised me, and it surprised Nathaniel. From the original Swedes to the modern day Mexicans, Italians, Vietnamese, white, black, straight, gay, white collar, blue collar and otherwise, it's always been a bit of a melting pot thick on substance. Check back Friday for that.

    Meanwhile, though, be sure to check Nathaniel's archives HERE, or scroll down to the earlier post from today (Happy Valentine's Day, With Love, the National Park Service).

  6. BYE-BYE BLINQ: Lots of local blogs have paid their tributes to the fall of Dan Rubin's Inquirer-sponsored blog, Blinq, and here's ours. Blinq was probably the first triumph in the Inquirer's effort to familiarize itself with the web. It's still trying, and to the chagrin of some of the old heads there. It's got to be hard for traditional journos like Dan and Bunch and Inga and Dick Polman to balance the old practice (deadlines, ink without chance for revisions, established respect) and new technology (less restriction, impulsive thought that can be edited, but with some suspicion from the old guard; think George Will). All of the above writers have generally done a good job, but Blinq did it first. It's a shame that Dan is leaving Blinq, despite greater responsibilities as a columnist. We're sure he'll do well at that too, but at Blinq's expense. Too bad for us.

  7. PHAWK THAT NOISE: Props must be given where props are due, and they are due at Phawker for two items of popular music: the announcement that Arcade Fire is playing the Tower Theatre on May 5, and a stream of the same band's new album (which doesn't come out till March 6) on the Phawker Radio player jawn. Nice work, Valania and crew. [Phawker.]

  8. OH, SEPTA! OH, NEW JERSEY TRANSIT!: Just when we couldn't praise New Jersey Transit enough, they went and announced they're raising their rates by nearly 10% in June. Sheesh. Et tu, Piscopo? Still, we won't hold it against NJT, as those rate hikes retroactively account for quality service. We'd heard a rumor that they were planning an express route from 30th Street Station to Newark. How awesome would that be? They already operate out of 30th with the Atlantic City line, so why not? Unfortunately, our attempts to confirm this rumor had us playing NJT Phone Pac-Man all day and we got bored.

    And Septa? Poor, poor Septa. Why, their ticket machines had become so antiquated, they couldn't keep up with all this newfangled paper currency. Pity! So rather than spend some money to, you know, make those ticket machines a little newer and recognize the American dollar, they said "fuck it all" and just boarded them all up. That's it, end of story, finis. It is simply embarrassing. But hey, they've extended the hours of the always-pleasant sales windows, now open till 8 on the weekend! That's pretty great for everyone traveling after 8, isn't it? A cursory glance at the R7 Sunday schedule shows four trains after 8pm. I'm sure that, since it's Septa and all, they'll be considerate and waive the $2 surcharge for purchasing a ticket on the train. GUFFAW. [Daily News.]

  9. IT'S VALENTINE'S DAY, HAVE A HEART: To wrap up this ever loving Hump Day Umpdate, we're gonna yank it on home, back to a 1977 performance by the sisters Wilson of the greatest song in the history of rock and roll.

–B Love

14 February 07: Happy Valentine's Day!
With Love, the National Park Service

Why does it feel -- despite the recent announcement of the retraction of most of the security at Independence National Historic Park -- that the President himself is making the day-to-day decision-making at the National Park Service? Last week it was the annual insistence -- a mantra it has become for the simple-minded on the right -- on upping the daily quota of snowmobiles in Yellowstone. It is some kind of depraved test against the imagined tyranny of the regulatory class: you ought to be allowed to do whatever the hell you feel like on public land -- it's yours isn't it, drill for gas why don't you, turn that two-stroke engine, the more noise the better.

In what could be termed the opposite maneuver, they shut Washington Square yesterday -- Independence Square too, but I didn't have time to deal with that. On this, the 331st anniversary (February 14, 1776, before Hallmark got into the printing business too)of the publication of the third and complete edition of Thomas Paine's Common Sense, you need to know that your government, perhaps the President himself, as it could only possibly be, decided that because of snow (or was it slush?) you ought not to enjoy your park. Caution tape was strung across all seven entrances to Washington Square (and all those I could see of Independence too) after they had taken the trouble to power sweep all the pathways. Swept clean and closed. Why? Is it because a government this incompetent can't imagine -- can't imagine! -- keeping the pathways of an historic public square in the center of a bustling city -- that square itself filled with the remains of thousands of men who died to secure our freedom from the inveterate enemy of liberty, as Paine called George III -- free of snow and ice so that you may walk through it, stop to look at the white flakes gathering against the gray branches of the plane trees, or watch your child play? Is it because the NPS, like the rest of the federal government, believes that if it strikes fear inside you you are likely to cower and demand that bombs fall over Tehran? Is it because not since Andrew Jackson has there been a president so disdainful of the beauty, emotion, and pleasure of cities and city life? Is it because the NPS budget has been whittled away by the war-bill, the expensive contracts handed to Bush-family friends at Wackenhut or Johnson Controls or the other republican military firms who so brutally turned INHP into an ugly fortress? Is it because they thought they knew so well that you or I might slip in the slush, hurt ourselves, that it wanted to think, decide, protect us on our behalf? (Where the hell are all the libertarians while this is going on?) Is NPS really worried that if I fell and hurt myself I might demand to know why we have a national park service if it can't keep the shrines of our national heritage accessible to the public in the middle of the afternoon on day that produced rain and no more than a dusting of snow?

What is it, George? For five years you have taken from me my birth-rite as a Philadelphian to amble through, touch, and sit in the arcades of Independence Hall, to look upon my nation's heritage as my own, and thus to love my country ever-stronger. You -- selected from the rest of mankind (oh, you think you were), [your] mind early poisoned by importance; and the world [you] act in differs so materially from the world at large, that [you] have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when [you] are succeeded to the government are . . . the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions -- have made our nation so pathetic, incompetent, and impotent that upon seeing your grim yellow warnings that I, on my way to pick up my daughter, a first-grader at Independence Charter School, would yell into the platinum clouds: O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth!

I gleefully hurled your bullshit caution tape into the trash cans. Children smiled upon me. I asked them wouldn't they like to play in the park on a snowy day? By four Washington Square had already filled with those -- dogwalkers, children, mothers, office workers, and tourists -- who never realized what had (briefly, I presume, as the caution tape was taut and felt fresh) been taken from them.

Stand forth, eh? Let's get some answers, because I for one can't put up with this much longer.

–Nathaniel Popkin
Popkin archive

from a phone call asking why

M. Havelin at INHP told me that the caution tape was put up to keep visitors safe from icy conditions. When I asked her why they had done so after using their new expensive equipment to clear the paths, she had no answer. She assumed the tape was still up this morning at 11. I told her it wasn't. She asked if the paths had been cleared. I said no, people are trudging through. She said someone must have improperly removed the tape.

I asked her if putting up the tape was triage -- they have 72 miles of trails (trails!) to keep clear and limited resources -- if they can't get to it, they close it? After pausing a minute she said, yes. I asked her how they justify shutting down a city park in the middle of an afternoon which produced only slush. She said this isn't a city park.

She was defensive and angry and didn't understand my questions -- though she tried to be polite. The essence here is that they don't get their responsibility in operating a park in the middle of the city. Thus, paths and walkways and sidewalks are trails in their vernacular. Thus, they would treat a slushy day as an avalanche and put up barricades, not understanding that city life goes on, as much as the media would like us to hunker down and worry. Thus, she takes me literally when I say this is a city park.

Like any NPS line-worker who may or may not be a political hack she was defensive about not doing enough in a time of limited resources. She couldn't see the big picture, certainly. They're doing the best they can! she said. We have limited resources, she said, but I'd be willing to guess she cheered those critical tax cuts...

So we have an imagination-deficit. We also have a simple renunciation of duty. The Fairmount Park Commission, for all its budget woes and limited resources doesn't shut Rittenhouse Square. PennDOT doesn't close the Schuylkill Expressway. The NPS wants you to think it's doing you a favor -- but in reality it's saying we won't do even the very basic.

I think also the city has been timid at best in dealing with the NPS. It was mostly local and private money that paid for the $300 million renovation of the INH Park -- and yet they bully us over and over again. Philadelphia could simply demand as a matter of public safety that all "trails" in the park system be kept open and in safe condition at all times. A simple basic condition.

M. Havelin seemed shocked that the caution tape was down -- shocked and disappointed. I suspect by now it may be up again. That was the most she could understand of our phone call.

13 February 07: LIVE! AT! COMCAST CENTER!

SYYYYYYYYYYYYYKE. Haven't gone over to Comcast Center yet today, but I plan to, as Madison Concrete this afternoon runs its final pour on the concrete core, even amidst this Storm of the Century. Today's Philly Skyline Philly Skyline was taken during the 11 inch snowfall one year and one day ago. It's amazing to consider the amount of construction that has occurred in that same time span. A year and a day ago, the concrete workers had progressed five stories; 52 stories later, they're finished climbing. (Their work on site is far from done, though, as floors need to be filled in and so forth.)

UPDATE 1: Correction: Mother Nature wins out today after all, and the final concrete pour has been postponed, likely to Thursday.

Speaking of Comcast Center and amazing, we're gonna end this short post by yankin' on YouTube to share a stunt pulled off around 6:45 Sunday morning. Fellas: may your balls always be this big, and good on ya for beating me to BASE jumping Comcast Center. Rock.

It's interesting, though, that what is technically a crime (police apparently want to charge the two jumpers with criminal trespassing, reckless endangerment and risking a catastrophe) happened just as the Associated Press ran a story heralding Comcast Center's safety features in a post-9/11 world. Try The Metro, The Courier-Post, Forbes, The Inquirer or The Daily News for different runnings of the same AP story by Deborah Yao. Of those, only the Courier-Post's version features two pictures by AP photog Matt Rourke (also enlargeable and super cool).

By the way, CBS 3, the building is called Comcast CENTER, not Comcast TOWER. Yes, it is Comcast's tower and it will casually be referred to as "the Comcast tower" but it has an official name and that official name is Comcast Center.

UPDATE 2: Just sayin' is all, CBS 3. We ain't mad at cha though; right now, CBS 3's homepage has a killer 2-3 minute fly-by of Comcast Center construction (presumably from this morning) from a helicopter. Check it out HERE.

–B Love

PS: I don't really have much to say about the Navy Yard shooting (yet?) other than that it's horrible, sad, my condolences go out to the victims' families, and how the fuck did that dude sneak an AK-47 into a boardroom? Good lord.

12 February 07: Next to arrive on track four, the R7 local . . . maybe

Just another whirlwind weekend in the Apple, you know how it goes. I knew I was almost home when I waited nearly a half hour for Septa employees (two of whom during that time walked by cursing under their breath) to open the doors to the R7 on the cold Trenton platform. I realize Pennsylvanians -- Philadelphians in particular -- have a Jersey Complex, but honestly: could New Jersey Transit please just take over Septa trains? If NJT does things like have two totally empty cars attached to the train you're riding in spite of crowded open ones, you don't notice. On an NJT train, you also never think about how bad you gotta go, since they have lavatories. And once "all aboard" is announced at the train's origin station, you don't rush down the stairs with a hundred other people only to find the doors aren't open so you instead stand on a crowded, cold platform where every other person asks if this is the right train and what the hell are they doing in there?

Seriously Septa: the R7, in addition to the R1, should be your signature route. You NEED to do better. I've been taking that damn train to New York for nearly a decade, and to put a guess on it, I'd say the NJT portion of the experience is better than the Septa portion 99% of the time, and those trips have included healthy portions of the Hamilton cell phone crowd, the single mothers of bawling children in Elizabeth, and of course Princetonians in general. Septa has pulled out of Trenton when the NJT train was one minute late. Septa conductors have made me (and about a dozen other people) move from a roomier car to a crowded car up front because it "wasn't open", except that it was open, else how would I have gotten there?

At very least, the Septa circus rewards your tenacity with an entrance into the grandest train station in the country. Yeah yeah, Grand Central schmand schmentral. 30th Street Station, at least in terms of aesthetics in cities' central terminals, is simply unmatched, though Washington DC's Union Station is an easy second. (The current) Penn Station is an embarrassment to New York City, something the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan recognized in pushing for its move to the Farley Post Office across 8th Ave. That move is supposedly going to happen, but when is anyone's guess. Baltimore's Penn Station is nice, but small, and it's a considerable cab ride from Inner Harbor, if we are to use that as a landmark. Chicago's Union Station is decent, but its Great Hall feels less than that. LA's Union Station, with its spanish tiles and palm trees is quite pleasant, but being autocentric LA it's a bit of a relic (albeit a relatively active one).

30th Street Station, though, blows them all away. Chicago's Graham, Anderson, Probst and White designed this building to ultimately replace Frank Furness' Broad Street Station, which the railroads had outgrown and which, more importantly, was inconveniently a spur off of the main line. 30th Street's main hall is unparalleled, with an eight story, decorated ceiling, the huge statue of the archangel Michael and the general feel of a real train station. The din, the movement, the announcements, the clack-clack-clack of the train status board . . . Amtrak trains, New Jersey Transit trains, Septa regional rail trains, the El, the trolleys, all together in one happy, contiguous environment.

Except, no. In yet another shining Septa moment, they closed the pedestrian causeway that led travelers from the El/trolley platform into the main station via an underground tunnel in the 80s because it had apparently become dangerous and dirty. So rather than spend the money to clean it up and hire a cop to patrol it, they spent a boatload of cash to build a new headhouse at the northwest corner of 30th & Market, where rail travelers get to meet car travelers by first crossing a busy intersection of cars who've just exited the Schuylkill Expressway and then navigating the station's pickup entrance, where those travelers can hope that cars and cabs will yield to them. All of it, completely irrational and antithetical to the train transit modus operandi, and all of it necessary, thanks to Septa. It never will reopen either, as Bridgewaters Pub (get the kangaroo chili or the hummus, which is fantastic) now has a full-scale bar and grill resting where you'd leave that tunnel.

Still, even Septa can't bring down a classic like 30th Street Station. The 1930s beauty is even better now thanks to Cesar Pelli. The Philly Skyline Philly Skyline view above (taken Friday morning; click to enlarge) is the new staple of old-new juxtaposition. Cities grow and styles change, but old and new can coexist harmoniously without the need to borrow styles. Unless you're a dinosaur newspaper, I guess; yes, readers who emailed, I did in fact notice the Inquirer's "gee, it's cold" photo on the front page above the fold on Friday. Looked awfully familiar, didn't it? Ah well, consider us flattered. We'll go lookin' up here in two shakes.

–B Love

9 February 07:

Have a nyc weekend!

–B Love

8 February 07: 20,000 Ps of the P

This morning's Philly Skyline Philly Skyline is just a bit of a break from the norm. The significance of this picture holds a few levels, but the reason it finds itself enlargeable and clickable is that it was the 20,000th picture taken on my trusty Canon Digital Rebel XT. Time may be nigh a camera upgrade, but for now, it treats me well. That's 20,012 photos in one year and thirteen days, or 52.9 pics/day. Yao.

The subject here is the breathtaking ceiling and chandelier in City Hall's city council caucus room. The marble, the gilding, the angels, the keystones of seasons . . . City Hall is just as fascinating inside as out. It needs to be celebrated for all its good; that was the whole point of Nathaniel's City Hall essay

Consider this a preview of our long promised City Hall photo essay. We're chipping away at it, so it'll be live real soon. We'll be back in a bit; gonna go start on #20,013 and go up from there.

–B Love

7 February 07: I see the shapes I remember from maps

A big, big Philly Skyline thanks to our friend Matt Robinson for sharing today's double shot of Philly Skyline Metro Scenes Philly Skyline. Matt is the brains behind our cousin site, PittsburghSkyline.com (and like any good native western PA boy a huge Steelers fan). Do check that link for what I can guarantee you will be the best photos of Pittsburgh you have ever seen.

Matt's stellar photography isn't resigned to the three rivers, though; he has his 5D on his shoulder wherever he may roam, and those pictures are gathered on his other site, MetroScenes.com. He still hasn't touched down in Philadelphia (hint hint), but he did manage to say hi with these two images taken en route to Boston. Clicking enlarges, of course. The first one is the Philly core: Center City, University City, and the closest parts of South & North Philly and Fairmount Park. The second is an ode to the Schuylkill River, from Sunoco to Conshohocken; it's so crisp that you can pick out landmarks that make the shapes we recognize from maps.

* * *

It's Wednesday morning kids, and you know what that means. "IT'S TIME FOR A HUMP DAY UMPDATE, BE LOVE!" Right on!
  1. IT'S PAY-TO-PLAY WEEK IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT: State Senator Vince Fumo lobs a shot at the state, steps down, is indicted. (Does that void the remaining minutes on my phone card?) Usually upstanding Councilman At Large Jim Kenney wants to change the campaign finance game midstream because of a single stinkin' poll that has the guy he isn't supporting near the top of the mayoral race because said guy has a shit-tonne of his own money and Kenney's guy doesn't. All this despite Council's better efforts (led by other candidate Michael Nutter, who is very very against the repeal of campaign finance limits despite standing to gain from it) to establish a fair ceiling to campaign contributions. And today?

    Today at 10am, City Council holds the hearing on Darrell Clarke's bill we mentioned last month which would establish a new zoning district in a time when the city has finally recognized the need for zoning reform. Why would there need to be a new Industrial Transformation District, and why would it come from the Councilman who largely stood by Senator Fumo's side to wail against the Barnes Tower proposal? One might think it has something to do with Westrum's expanding Brewerytown Square development, which some vocal neighbors are against because it plops ugly 'luxury' down in a traditionally low income neighborhood without a thought to lower or mixed income options. That's not the developers' concern, it's the councilman's concern. And in this case, the councilman has not only sided with the developer, he's changing the rules for them. Read Brewerytown resident Al Alston and his neighbors' thoughts written in the Inquirer HERE.

    In summary, Darrell Clarke -- the Fumo ally who inherently opposed the Barnes Tower whose developers followed existing code -- supports the expansion of a development that does NOT fit into existing code so greatly that he is changing existing code so that it will, despite the efforts of his constituents. Stay tuned.

    Aside: MAD PROPS to the philly.com people for the Fumo graphic with his Fairmount home and the stock cruise ship photo. The Inquirer and Daily News are going to be covering this around the clock, and they're already way out the box. THIS is a good starting point.

  2. PHILS FANS, LET'S GIVE BIGGIE ONE MORE CHANCE: Phillies.com's Ken Mandel checked in with the team's always-potential ace following his three year, $26M contract extension and reports that he isn't the fatty boombatty he was at the time of his domestic dispute in Boston last year. Sporting a well groomed beard, Myers is 30 pounds lighter and seemingly in a better state of mind. (He's still only 26, so he's got years ahead of him.) He says he's learned from his mistakes, and for that we say "good on ya, Brett." Now go out there and get chummy with Freddy Garcia while you both secretly vie for designation as ace. Friendly competition is good; outdo the other, please. Cole Hamels is in on this too, y'know. [Phillies.com.] [Bad-ass Brett Wallpaper.]

  3. COMCAST CENTER & PHILLY SKYLINE, TOGETHER FOR YOU: By the official count, we're 16 photos short of a thousand on Comcast Center's construction, and that doesn't even include the hard hat tour, photos of the model, official renderings and our composites. The latest fifteen were added yesterday, taken on a whirlwind trip from sunrise at the Belmont Plateau, over to the Frankford Terminal Center, down to Gloucester City, back across the Walt Whitman Bridge and including stops in Parkside, Port Richmond and the Camden waterfront. Begin your trip HERE.

  4. LIFE DURING WARTIME: The title of today's post is of course borrowed from the Talking Heads song "Big Country" and totally applies to Matt's fly-by photos above. Alas, YouTube's got nothin' on "Big Country" so we'll yank it over to this classic, the pinnacle of the Stop Making Sense concert film, "Life During Wartime". I was gonna post this video of that song performed in 1979 (several years before the film) and make some comment how the film is overproduced and yada yada, but forget that. David Byrne's dancing and Bernie Worrell's zooted enthusiasm win out. I saw David Byrne at the Electric Factory less than two weeks after 9/11/01 and he introduced the song by saying "in some ways, playing this song now is inappropriate, but in many more ways, it's totally appropriate." Over five years later, it sadly still rings true.

–B Love

6 February 07: Cold blows the wind

As cold as you think it is outside right now, it's colder in Camden. (Colder still if you're Vince Fumo, oh oh OH!) On the Delaware Riverfront, the wind's dippin' the thermometer to at least -5, probably lower. Your friendly photographer's beard was frozen stiff in about five minutes.

Today's Philly Skyline Philly Skyline is a wide angle edition from about 9 o'clock this morning on the Jersey tundra. There aren't any good versions of the Ween song of this post's title, so we'll flip it and reverse it to the seagull soundin' summertime, when Deaner plays his guitar on the beach and Gener likes gyros.

–B Love

5 February 07: Monday I'm all high, get me out of TLA

All righty then, here's one more of these jawns before we start lookin' up on this frigid Monday Morning. The above is the first Philly Skyline Philly Skyline of the week, a wallpaper sized composite of a further tweaked projection for Comcast Center's final product. Might be accurate, might not. We'll see in about six months. We don't think it's bad for a guess, though.

In case you missed it over the weekend, we did some side by side by side comparisons. If you have Firefox or Opera or some other browser which allows for multiple tabs in the same window, try opening this picture, this picture and this picture in separate tabs to see Liberty Property's / Robert A.M. Stern's official rendering, a construction progress photo taken Saturday afternoon, and our projection of the completed tower, respectively. The most noticeable differences are the narrower width of the constructed tower than the drawn one, and other little ones like the presence of Edgewater and the crane at the Art Museum.

That last picture is among 18 new pictures added to our Comcast Center section, up to date as of yesterday.

* * *

Baby, it's cold outside, so we're gonna sit here with slippers on for the Rex Grossman Is The Most Awful Football Player Ever edition of MMLU.
  1. FOUR ALARMS GREATER THAN FIVE SPOT: It was with sadness that our Saturday morning was met with the news that one the few remaining old Old City spots was up in smoke. At the end of 2000, the wheels were already turnin' toward transforming Old City's nightlife from the chill Khyber-Sugar Mom-Soma-Five Spot vibe into the Bleu Martini-32°-Glam-Mint variety, but that special element was trying to hold on.

    The Five Spot did its best; Black Lily was a movement that launched careers (yo Jill Scott, yo Jazzyfatnastees, yo Jaguar Wright), and The Strokes set a new standard for it-bands when they spent a week at the Five Spot in May 2001. The Five Spot was struggling and long rumored for sale when it burnt down on Saturday. Sugar Mom's is still good for a Tuesday happy hour, but forget about the weekends. Soma is long gone (and replaced by the most ill conceived excuse for a rockabilly museum, A Bar Named Sue, named for a song Johnny Cash didn't even write . . . one has to wonder whether the Cash estate was contacted about use of JC's likeness on the bar's ads or the use of JC's version of the Shel Silverstein song on its web site, let alone if it would approve of either). The Khyber? It's still there and it's still got the best happy hour deal in town, but with Johnny Brenda's booking all the better bands that would otherwise play The Khyber . . . dot dot dot.

    Anyway, Five Spot, fare thee well in that nightclub heaven, and may it be in the old Old City, wherever nightclub heaven may be.

    As an aside, I wonder how many international travelers spent their first morning ever in Philadelphia hung over at the Bank St Hostel and listening to the sound of sirens and firefighters putting out a massive fire. "Huh, those tripadvisor reviews weren't kidding. Just another day in Philly."

    Our Swiney on the Spot happened by the sad scene and caught these pictures.

    ↑ Photos by Joe Minardi ↓


    Honestly, guys. At this point, it would just look better turned off. This view from Grays Ferry Ave reveals nine -- 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 -- bars of neon out on the south and west facing walls of One Liberty Place. Until Comcast Center is open and its evening lighting scheme is unveiled, One Liberty is still the pinnacle of the Philly Skyline, and at night when its crown is lit up, it had better look top notch. Except, well, it doesn't when this happens.

    We realize that changing tubes and lights and filters and lenses takes money and manpower, but well, isn't that money and manpower that's important enough to employ? If One and Two Liberty Place finally do convert to LEDs this year (as the Inquirer's Julie Stoiber reported in December), it will render this complaint pointless, since a couple clicks of a keyboard will eliminate the struggle to change the buildings' nighttime accents. Here's hoping that when it finally happens, One and Two Liberty coordinate their purchase, because even when all the neon is working now, One's and Two's colors don't match. For example, this picture. This was taken just before Christmas, when One Liberty Place was (not quite entirely) lit up in red-green-green. Two Liberty? We can presume they were going for a festive red and green, but let's just say we're glad the Eagles weren't playing the Miami Dolphins. Teal and orange? Yowza.

    A friendly Philly Skyline deadline suggestion for One and Two Liberty Place's conversion to LED: by the opening of Comcast Center. When Comcast Center opens, we can be absolutely certain that there will be much hoopla, a gala event with a ceremonious button-pushing for the building's lighting. Please, please, please, do not let One and Two Liberty place stay all jacked up for this. (Kinda like City Hall's re-lighting ceremony lit the building up while the scaffolding was still on the tower.) Come on Liberty Place, we're pulling for you. Now pull for us.

  3. BARNES TOWER NEARING APPROVAL OF STODGY NEIGHBORS, STILL REALLY TALL, WILL NO LONGER BE "BARNES TOWER": Joseph Slobodzian reported in Sunday's Inquirer that the developers of the Barnes Tower and the Spring Garden neighbors who decried its height are in agreement over a modified plan which reduces the tower's height from 47 to 37 stories.
    Joseph Beller, attorney for two Spring Garden groups and nine residents who have challenged the developers' building permits for the 47-story tower, said he believes there is consensus among neighbors supporting the modified plan for the project's first phase.
    It's a victory for the Spring Garden neighbors! Oh wait . . . it's still 37 stories. What's the difference? "Ten floors." Let's estimate a 37 story tower at 375 feet. That's triple Councilman Darrell Clarke's knee-jerk 125' height limit proposed in response to the Barnes Tower. What does Councilman Clarke think of this new version? What does State Senator Vince Fumo, for that matter? He's not too busy to comment on a modified Barnes Tower, is he? Is this in fact a fait accompli?

    And what of the name "Barnes Tower"? According to Mr Slobodzian's article, board members at the Barnes Foundation, whose move to the Parkway two blocks from this tower may or may not happen in our lifetime, objected to use of the Barnes name on this controversial tower. "You can't please all the people all the time, and those people all live in Philadelphia." (Thanks, Mitch.) Let's see, elsewhere around town we've got . . . Academy House borrowing its name from the Academy of Music, over which it towers . . . Museum Towers in Spring Garden borrowing its name from the Art Museum . . . Residences at the Ritz taking its name from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel next door . . . William Penn House drawing its name from the dude on City Hall. These naming conventions are generally tributes to nearby landmarks. The Barnes Tower would also be a tribute to a nearby landmark. But apparently the execs of the controversial Barnes Foundation/Museum want no part of a controversial Barnes Tower, so the developers will change it . . . to the Franklin Motor Inn Tower? The B&W? The Good Neighbor?

  4. TOILET READER SETS NEW STANDARD IN OMFG: It is as yet unclear whether it was all a big prank, but given the Center City Weekly Press' track record, we're gonna go ahead and say it wasn't. A huge hat tip to DMac for discovering the CCWP's Super Bowl preview. Syndicated from the Christian Science Monitor. From three years ago.

    Yes, the paper dated January 31, 2007 -- four days prior to Super Bowl XLI -- ran a preview for Super Bowl XXXVIII. You remember SBXXXVIII, the one where the Patriots defeated the Panthers after the Panthers defeated the Eagles thanks to Ricky Manning's three interceptions of Donovan McNabb's passes. The CCWP surely does. Just . . . wow.

    After further review, we're 99.9999999% certain it's not a hoax, considering the online version of the paper has REPLACED the SBXXXVIII preview with CLIP ART. Oh, but it is archived. Once again, DMac.

    [CCWP: we're not really football fans here.]

  5. OH, CRUMBS: Man, we're slippin'. For the second month in a row we forgot to shout out a noteworthy First Friday event. University of the Arts' Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery this month features an exhibit from the legendary (and Philly born) R Crumb called 'My True Inner Self'. It only runs until the 27th of this month, so waste no time.

That'll do for a Monday, won't it? Now that the Super Bowl has passed, we're gonna go pay out our gambling losses and count the days till pitchers and catchers report. LET'S GO PHILS!

–B Love

4 February 07: A Super Sunday prediction

Yesterday we recommended Firefox (and other users of tabbed browsers, i.e. non-IE users) try the following: open up this picture and this picture in separate tabs. Now throw this one in there for fun. In order, they are: 1. Liberty Property's/Robert A.M. Stern's official Comcast Center rendering, 2. a photo taken yesterday (Saturday 2/3) from the same spot on MLK Drive, and now 3. our projected rendering of what Comcast Center will look like upon its completion later this year (with a little help from Drew Mathes). We've all been astounded at just how reflective and indeed handsome the glass used on the building's curtain wall has shaped up. (Scroll down two posts for a close-up of the glass with a tripped out Mellon Bank Center in its reflection.)

So yeah, this is our prediction on how Comcast Center will look on the Philly Skyline on a sunny day less than a year from now. We hope we're right . . .

–B Love

PS: We're taking the Bears and the plus 7. That's a no brainer.
PPS: Man, what a terrible bet.

3 February 07: Buffalo wing gold

Click to enlarge our Saturday Philly Skyline Philly Skyline.

Taken at about 6pm, we're looking from Naval Square at Comcast Center's construction towering over a festive Mellon Bank Center. Some might say it's gold for the grand opening of the King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute, but we know it's because of the Wing Bowl. I mean, just look at this dude's face! (That photo is by the Daily News' David Malaletti, and more of his and other DN/Inquirer photogs' Wing Bowl pictures, should you wish to see them, can be found HERE.)

Back to Comcast Center for a second . . . if you have Firefox, open up this picture and this picture in separate tabs. The first is Robert A.M. Stern's and Liberty Property Trust's official rendering of Comcast Center, the one seen on the billboard on site and in official literature. The second is a picture taken today on MLK Drive from the exact spot the rendering was done. There are a number of noticeable differences in the update: the north-south girth of Comcast Center; the presence of Edgewater; seagulls vs scullers . . . kinda interesting.

Have a Super Sunday, won'tcha?

–B Love

2 February 07: Murder free in G-Ho on G-Ho Day

Whoopsie, Joseph Gambardello -- a lil typo in your Wednesday story about a murder sent our murder-free neighborhood into a panic. The thirty-first murder (already) of 2007 was not, in fact, "on the 2200 block of South Street" but rather, as Peter Mucha reported in the same paper, on "the 2200 block of South Sixth Street." Pretty big difference between 6th & Jackson and 22nd & South. Doesn't make it ok, but we G-Hos are a protective bunch and we don't like the prospect of murders that, y'know, didn't happen here, happening here. Teeny tiny mistake, yes, but a teeny tiny mistake that should not have happened.

Anyhoo, Happy Groundhog Day friends. Enjoy the bitter cold this weekend while it lasts, cos Punxsutawney Phil says spring's right around the corner. No predictions yet from Gus, the second most popular groundhog in Pennsylvania, but we suspect his money is on the Bears and the plus-7. Are you kidding me? A touchdown???

* * *

Some items of Philly Skyline significance for your SBXLI weekend . . .
  1. PHILADELPHIA RIVER CITY: A big thanks to Jim Rappoport and Daroff Design for the heads up. They've taken their large, conceptual project and made it more lifelike than the Sim City-esque renderings we'd seen before. This new composite uses a photograph taken very recently, as evidenced by Comcast Center's and Symphony House's construction. Click to enlarge:

  2. PHILADELPHIA, RIVER, CITY: The folks at Penn Praxis have set aside their Saturday to enroll the public in the latest discussion on how to address the Delaware Riverfront, with three panels scheduled for the day: The River, The City, and The Road Ahead. It's at the Seaport Museum (we'd presume that John S. Carter is not in charge of buying the food that will be served throughout the day, or anything for that matter) at Penn's Landing from 8am-4pm tomorrow. For more info and/or to sign up, go HERE.

  3. PHILADELPHIA, RIVER, BLOG: While we're down on the Delaware, we'd like to say hi to our new friends in the bonkers boat (Dockside), living their Life On the Delaware. There's something a little . . . corporate about it, but it doesn't come across as insincere or forced. There really are people making up a real life Riverfront populace at the moment, before construction on casinos are any more condo towers has started. Go say hi to Jackie and the gang over HERE.

  4. COMCAST CENTER, SHINY SHINY COMCAST CENTER: Our Cocmast Center section doesn't have a February section as yet, but our diagram is up to date as of yesterday. Because of high winds shutting down the cranes a number of days this week, the final concrete pours did not happen as yet, but there are only two left. Also, the steel is currently on the 49th floor, so with the next level of steel we should see the bottom side of the 'keyhole' cutout. The picture above is a close-up of the glass on about the 13th and 14th floors. That's Mellon Bank Center shining back through that kaleidoscopic reflection.

  5. THE MOONINITE MARTYRS: Dear Boston, Massachusetts, it is with maximal sincerity that I offer: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. Nothing like a couple of lit up cartoon figures flipping a bird to signal that Al Qaeda is among us. Boston authorities -- and media -- rendered that city a complete laughingstock thanks to its reaction. The people who think the Aqua Teen Hunger Force hoax prank ads were not funny are the reason they are funny. Well, they and the tv stations who actually fuzzed out the middle finger of a Lite Brite looking cartoon. Good god, people.

There's mayoral talk to talk, and we're gonna talk it with our friend Mary Patel like we mentioned last week. We'll get her thoughts this weekend before you can say "Peyton choked again." Or "holy crap, Andy Reid's kids are out of control." Or "man when did Jim Kenney go looney tunes?"

–B Love

2 February 07: HAPPY G-HO DAY

The cosmos have got a friend in Pennsylvania on this second of February, as the world looks in on Punxsutawney and, more locally, the region zones in with hungry eyes on the Wachovia Center. Pretty much every other web site in the city's got Wing Bowl on lock, so we'll leave that to them. (For example, Philebrity's got Sean Agnew on the live blog tip.) I do have to ask, though, for a city that hosts the Wing Bowl, why is it so hard to find good wings in Philadelphia? Yeah yeah, everyone says to try Moriarty's. Moriarty's are "the whole wing," and no matter how good they taste, it comes off as gimmicky. Some people prefer The Bayou in Manayunk, and while that place is good for a cheap pint, we prefer their jerk chicken to their wing of chicken. This is El Wingador's territory, so his shack up at 4th & Girard must be the place, I reckon.

But Groundhog Day . . . G-Ho Day if you will (and we will) . . . now here's a Pennsylvania Pastime. What better way to kick off Black History Month than by gathering 20,000 drunken white kids and 10,000 families on top of a Jefferson County mountain called Gobbler's Knob. (In all seriousness, Groundhog Day has been celebrated and practiced since the late 1800s, and Black History Month, though expanded from a Black History Week centered on remembering Frederick Douglass and dating back as far as 1915, has only been 'official' since 1976.)

I went to Punxsutawney for the first post-9/11 Groundhog Day, five years ago today, 02-02-02, the Phillennium. It wasn't anything like the Bill Murray flick; instead of being a small gathering in the town square, it's way up on a hill in the woods with thousands and thousands of people. The Pennsylvania Polka bit IS true though. The Gobbler's Knob revelers that morning managed to balance acute vigilance and whiskey warmth. That morning, the prognosticator of prognosticators, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted for the third straight year six more weeks of winter. That streak continued four more years until this morning.

At roughly 7:15 this morning, Phil did NOT see his shadow, thereby indicating an early arrival of spring. Never steering away from controversy, Phil's proclamatory poem included the lines:
global warming has brought debate,
though mild winter has been just great
Says you, rodent! Philly Skyline HQ is unanimous in its approval of snow, and right here on 2/2/07, we've had barely an inch for the entire winter. This week's Weekly Press had an unsigned editorial on the importance of snow HERE. This morning, the Inquirer has its own editorial on the current state of climate science HERE.

The preference of a snowy winter to a mild winter is a subjective one, but the choice to believe in global warming or to write it off as some theory is purely political. My dad, the most apolitical person I have ever met, even acknowledges that the seasons in the mountains have changed, that the table water which depends on snowfall is changed. NBC's Nightly News earlier this week backed a 2005 NY Times report that the White House Council on Environmental Quality (which is under close scrutiny by Congress on the suspicion that it tampered with climate science findings by suppressing its severity) was headed by a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute, a group largely funded by ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil, you know, the company who yesterday beat its own record with a total 2006 profit of $39.5 billion, yaaaaaay! One day later in Paris, the United Nations released its 21 page report, compiled by scientists from 113 countries, indicating the world IS getting warmer and will continue to do so. [MSNBC.]

But let's just blame it on the lousy French, call anyone who believes 'fabricated' reports that disprove Dubya a bunch of liberal pussies and go take a long drive as our own protest. Honk honk!

Back in Punxsutawney, the revelers are winding down, but we're gonna keep their spirit alive. Well, sort of. We're gonna yank on YouTube with another proud Pennsylvanian, Mr Bam Margera, as he and his crew head into the thick of it in Punxsutawney.

–B Love

31 January 07: Let me shoot them with my bop gun

Got to get over the hump. Got to get over the hump. Got to get over the hump. Got to get over the hump.

1-2-3 Umpdate go!
  1. CATCHING UP ON RESTAURANT WEEK: This is totally my bad. Since we bypassed MMLU on Monday, Restaurant Week got dissed and its Skyline mention got postponed to today. Not all is lost, though -- including tonight, there are three nights of good dinin' to be had for thirty bucks at umpteen million restos across the city. If we're putting in recommendations, we'd say Solefood, Farmicia, Warsaw Cafe and Susanna Foo, but hey, there's a massive list HERE.

  2. CATCHING UP ON THE NEXT GREAT CITY: Ok, this one has been a long time coming, but it's been under wraps. The wraps are now off and The Next Great City is here. It was under wraps because there are a number of Philly Skyline pics in the official NGC literature and they were planning an official launch, a launch which happened last week. Check the coverage in the Inquirer, Phily Business Journal and Metro.

    NGC is a coalition of several groups, individuals and organizations that are striving to make Philadelphia great again by offering a totally achievable, ten point strategy to the mayoral agenda. Many of the talking points -- creating public riverfronts, adopting modern zoning, energy efficient buildings -- have been repeated publicly ad nauseam recently, and it's because they need to be and because they haven't happened yet. A number of other ones -- expanding recycling, improving transit stops, stopping sewer backups and preventing flooding -- are so common sensible that it's kind of sad they haven't taken hold yet.

    It will be fun to watch these issues take shape within the mayoral race over the next three and a half months. Next Great City is a fantastic project and opportunity, and we're proud to be involved. [NextGreatCity.org.]

  3. SPEAKING OF ENERGY EFFICIENT: We love us some South Street, and we love us some energy efficiency. When Cecily Tynan tells us to open the blinds in the winter to warm up the house, we listen. When PECO tacks on a measly seven bucks to our bill to help develop its Wind Farm, we gladly pay it out. (Well ok, we were snookered on that one, but we can at least feel good about it.) When Comcast Center embraces things like fifteen foot floor-to-ceiling windows and waterless urinals, we look up and marvel. (And take like 1000 pictures.)

    Down here on South Street? Remember 1300 South Street, Nathaniel's what's-wrong-with-this-picture essay? Well, here's one idea to start righting this wrong. Philly-based Urban Green Partnership has proposed to build a self sustaining, eight story building at the corner of Broad & South, on the west end of the current Arts Garden (which, as Nathaniel said, is nice, but is in the entirely wrong location).

    While Comcast Center is going to be the most recognized and lauded green building in Philadelphia when it is completed, this mammajamma takes it a step further, wanting to create 100% of its own power via solar panels, rain water capture, and so forth. It also employs composting, uses recycled products, and is relatively cheap in terms of building cost. Before you go callin' people crazy hippies, get the full story HERE.

    Philadelphia yet again has a chance to grab brazen opportunity by the balls. Let's build it!

  4. THE SEGUE, IT WRITES ITSELF: Nathaniel's piece on City Hall's courtyard and Dilworth Plaza last week was pretty much the ringer in our City Hall Week lineup. Our bad, then, that we entirely forgot to plug his other essay from last week, which also falls in line with Next Great City. While 90% of the population would agree that Septa sucks, Nathaniel sees Septa for the good that it can be, and makes a plea for Septa pull itself up by its bootstraps, to make us love it. Transit works in every city Philadelphians loathe hearing themselves compared to -- Boston, DC and that godforsaken New York -- yet those cities work in large part because of transit. We can get there too. Read Nathaniel's take at Green City Journal.

  5. CHRIS WEBBER, GO TO DETROIT HELL: (Jess kiddin' Detroit, and C-U-Soon.) Seriously? Scott Rolen? Run out of town. Eric Lindros? No love lost. But Chris Webber? Seriously guy, eat a dick. We blame Billy Jean King for taking on your broke-down, over-the-hill, underachieving, overpaid ass in the first place, but to cry misery and "I can't wait to get out of Philadelphia?" Ugh. It seems like more of a chicken-or-the-egg -- the Sixers' sucking made Webber suck or Webber's sucking made the Sixers suck -- but to whine about how "rough" it was is just insulting. This guy is six foot ten and he shot under 40% from the field. Give me a break, C-Webb. [Inquirer.]

  6. GOT TO GET OVER THE HUMP: Okay, thanks for your patience on this super late Hump Day Umpdate. To take us over the hump and on home, we're yankin' on YouTube back to 1977 to see the legendary Parliament tear the roof off the sucka.

–B Love