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New York Times details four amazing art shows in Philly

It's an embarrassment of riches for Philadelphia art fans this season -- The New York Times profiles four shows at four local institutions. 

Rarely is it a better time than now for a trip to Philadelphia, where four of the city’s major art institutions are presenting exceptionally rewarding shows, each distinctively its own thing. ThePennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts offers a comprehensive retrospective of the career of Norman Lewis, the first such exhibition to be devoted to this African-American Modernist painter and one that invites viewers to consider Mr. Lewis’s place in the history of the country’s art. Dazzling the eyes and intriguing the mind, thePhiladelphia Museum of Art presents two centuries’ worth of American still-life paintings and sculptures, from John James Audubon’s images of birds and mammals to Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes. The Barnes Foundation has an astounding presentation of extravagantly ornamental antique works of wrought iron from a French museum, including door knockers with demonic faces and coffee grinders that look as if dreamed up by a steampunk artist. And the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania has a solo show of delightfully offbeat works by the self-taught New York artist Christopher Knowles.

Original source: The New York Times
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Spirit Airlines expands its offerings to and from Philadelphia

The budget airline will add new flights in and out of Philadelphia International Airport. 

Spirit Airlines  is expanding in Philadelphia, adding new nonstop routes to Detroit and Fort Lauderdale.  Once the flights begin on April 29, Spirit will fly to eight destinations nonstop from Philadelphia.

"We are excited to bring more low fare choices to more places for our customers," Mark Kopczak, Spirit’s Vice President of Network Planning, says in a statement. "Spirit continues to make flying more affordable in Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, and Philadelphia, enabling customers to visit places they previously couldn't afford."

Spirit will fly one daily round-trip flight on both routes, but it will face direct competition.


Original source: USA Today
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Local swimmer named Sports Illustrated's 'SportsKid of the Year'

Reece Whitley, a swimmer from William Penn Charter, earned the top honor in Sports Illustrated.

Reece had begun playing competitive basketball when he was seven — around the same time he began T-ball and swimming — and he was, of course, a post player. A self-described “solid mid-range shooter,” Reece could dunk on a hoop by the time he was 13, though he never dunked in a game.

While he still loves basketball, Reece, now 15 and 6' 8", is no longer on a team. But the sophomore at William Penn Charter School has won a junior national championship and holds five individual national age-group records in the pool, where he has become one of the top young swimmers in the country. His times in the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke last year qualified him to compete at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials this June in Omaha, Nebraska. He’s also become a role model for young swimmers in his community and wherever he travels. “I’ve had so much fun watching him grow, continue to love the sport, and advocate for the sport,” says Crystal Keelan, the head coach at Penn Charter Aquatic Club (PCAC). “As he’s maturing, he’s wanting to spread the word about swimming and making connections with people of all ages.”


Original source: Sports Illustrated
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Shining a light on Stargazy, South Philly's remarkable new pie and mash shop

Local food writer Drew Lazor goes deep on Stargazy, the British-style pie shop that recently opened on East Passyunk Avenue.

But what really sets Stargazy apart is the pie and mash itself, a simple but incredibly satisfying dish that has yet to have its moment here in the States. Understanding the appeal of this beloved blue-collar meal, Jacobson and others will tell you, is key to understanding the DNA of London’s working class. It’s that city’s original fast food — and if the early reaction to Stargazy is any indication, Americans are picking up on it quick.

Jacobson, who holds dual U.K./U.S. citizenship, originally crossed the pond for work ten years ago and hasn’t left. He’s cooked in a number of restaurants around the country, most notably a string of small, critically acclaimed, chef-driven restaurants in the Philadelphia area. But when it finally came time to go all in on his own place, Jacobson knew it was an opportunity to introduce something completely different. That something: an American approximation of the “proper” pie and mash shops of his childhood.

While not an everyday thing, Jacobson has vivid memories of visiting these tidy canteen-style shops with his father, who himself was raised on the stuff in London’s East End. The single-plate combination of a flaky-cased beef pie, mashed potato, electric-green parsley liquor and a right scoop of eels is the type of comfort food that sticks with you as much as to you.

“It was something I became more nostalgic for after I moved away and couldn’t have it anymore,” says Jacobson, who began poking around to learn how other pie men in the States did it. He quickly came to a realization: “Nationally, I couldn’t find a single shop. I thought, there has to be room for one.” As far as he can tell, Stargazy still holds that distinction a little more than three months in. 


Original source: Food Republic
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The Boss is coming to Philadelphia

Bruce Springsteen has announced a 9-week tour -- and he's making a stop in Philadelphia.

On Friday the 66-year-old icon announced The River Tour with the E Street Band, which starts Jan. 16, 2016, in Pittsburgh.

Springsteen will play 24 dates and wrap the tour on March 17, 2016, at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

Tickets go on sale Dec. 11. The tour also will visit Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and New York's Madison Square Garden.

Friday's announcement of the tour was made the day he released the four-disc "The Ties That Bind: The River Collection," which includes unreleased songs, the original 1980 "The River" album and more.

Before the tour, Springsteen will perform on "Saturday Night Live" on Dec. 19.


Original source: Associated Press via The New York Times
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The art gallery scene in Philadelphia is struggling

As multiple galleries close, the Philadelphia Inquirer seeks to explain what's going on in the local art world.

Rosenfeld Gallery, Gallery Joe, LGTripp Gallery, Artists' House, and Hooloon Gallery have all closed in Old City. The Vivant Art Gallery closed in October 2014, although it still operates online.

The closing of Rosenfeld marked the end of 40 years in the neighborhood where First Friday has defined the streetscape and embodied Philadelphia's claim as a city of art makers and sellers.

Gallery Joe, still operating privately by appointment, was in Old City for more than 20 years. Ditto Artists' House, which opened in 1991.
Is this just normal churn in a notoriously fickle and difficult business? Or does it herald something more momentous?...

"The traditional gallery setting and process of selling is not successful," said [sculptor Katherine Stanek]. "Patrons are changing. The greatest impact comes from the Internet. People are buying on the Internet. They can find whatever they want. They don't visit galleries.

"At the same time, these art fairs are going up. You can go to Miami or Chicago or New York and find a whole shopping mall of art."

Stanek hopes the prospect of constantly changing aesthetic sensibilities reflected in curated shows, plus the possibility of seeing art made and hung in a living-room-like space, will coax collectors away from their screens and the art malls.


Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
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'Creed' earns rave reviews, spotlights revitalized Philadelphia

The latest entry in the 'Rocky' franchise soars, and shows off a fresh Philadelphia. From A.O. Scott's New York Times review:

“Creed” is a dandy piece of entertainment, soothingly old-fashioned and bracingly up-to-date. The punches fly, the music soars (hip-hop along with Ludwig Goransson’s variations on the old Bill Conti brass) and the ground is prepared for “Creed II.” We’ll see how that goes. But for now it is sweet to have this lesson in the importance of fast footwork, brute power and brotherly love.

Reuters, meanwhile, took a look at how the depiction of Philadelphia has evolved since that original Oscar-winning film:

In the final scene of the movie "Creed," aging boxer Rocky Balboa stands atop the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and surveys the gleaming steel and glass office towers of the city's skyline.

The 72 stone steps look the same as they did when Balboa, played by Sylvester Stallone, ran up them in the famous training montage from 1976's Academy Award-winning "Rocky." But the view in "Creed," which opens on Wednesday in theaters nationwide, is clearer and brighter, reflecting Philadelphia's revival.

"In the 1970's, this city was right in middle of half a century of population decline," said Larry Eichel, director of the Pew Charitable Trust's Philadelphia Research Initiative. "In the last eight years, the city has grown by 72,000 people. That's not as much as other cities, but when you put it in the context of a half century of decline, it's an achievement."


Even the city's hipper side gets a shout-out.

In the original film, Rocky hung out in a bar so run down that in one scene his best friend struggles to comb his hair in a bathroom mirror so broken that only a fragment of glass remains.

In the new film, Adonis Johnson, the son of Balboa rival-turned-mentor Apollo Creed, leaves behind a life of privilege to walk in the footsteps of a father he never knew. The title character, played by Michael B. Jordan, hangs out in Johnny Brenda's, a bar whose 2003 renovation as a live music venue marked a turning point in the gritty Philadelphia neighborhood of Fishtown.


Original source: New York Times, Reuters
 

Philly's red panda cubs have names!

The Philadelphia Zoo's adorable balls of fur have finally been officially named.

There wasn't much suspense over the recent mayoral race in Philadelphia, but voters waited with baited breath over the results of a more recent election: what should we name the two panda cubs born at the Philadelphia Zoo this summer?

The Zoo announced the winning names on Friday, after tallying over 40,000 votes online. The brother and sister pair will now go by Betsy and Ben, and if you need that reference explained to you, go back to history class.

Betsy and Ben destroyed the competition, garnering 17,000 votes in a field of five name pairs. General Curator Kevin Murphy said he was "thrilled" to see so many people get excited about naming the cubs.

“There were some really great submissions and paring down the list wasn’t easy but we are happy with the end result. This was a great way to build excitement as well as welcome these two important cubs to the Philadelphia Zoo,” he said...

The pandas' birth isn't important just because they're so darn cute. The Philadelphia Zoo participates in the Species Survival Plan, a collaboration between zoos around the world to maintain healthy, genetically diverse populations of threatened or endangered species inside zoos.


Original source: Philly Voice
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Is Philly the saddest sports city in America right now?

Things are certainly woeful for Philly's four major spots teams right now. USA Today's For The Win makes the case that we're currently the saddest sports city in America.

The Philadelphia Eagles got embarrassed on Thanksgiving...and it underscores a sad truth: Philadelphia is the saddest pro sports city in America right now.

Some caveats, before everyone yells at me on Twitter: I am only speaking about pro sports cities, i.e. cities with pro sports. I agree that people in Twin Falls, Idaho have no pro sports, and thus are probably a sadder pro sports city. But for a city like Philadelphia, with a proud pro sports tradition and teams in all the four major sports, things are dire right now...

There are bad situations in other cities, for sure. But Philadelphia deserves better than this. They have proud fans (some of whom may be terrible people) but they’re loyal. These fans care. And they deserve better than what this city is giving them right now.

Fight on Philadelphia, good times are coming soon.


Original source: USA Today
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Five-story mixed-use project proposed for contested Bella Vista lot

A sure-to-be-contested project has been proposed for the long-vacant triangle-shaped lot at 6th and Christian Streets, right at the nexus of Bella Vista and Queen Village. The main issues are height and parking.

Developers are hoping to build a 5-story apartment building with a ground-floor restaurant on a vacant, triangular property...Neighbors spent years trying to get the property dedicated as a park. The property’s owner, Stuart Schlaffman, had previously allowed neighbors to clean up the property and plant flowers and shrubs there, though he says that he’s always intended to sell it. The Redevelopment Authority briefly made moves to try to acquire the property from Schlaffman, who also owns Condom Kingdom on South Street, but those plans were never realized...

Now, two developers really are hoping to build on the property. Dan Rosin and Raphael Licht met with near neighbors to discuss the proposal last week, according to Sam Olshin of Atkin Olshin Schade, the architects for the project. The purpose of that meeting was to get early feedback from the most-affected residents before a formal presentation to Bella Vista Neighborhood Association scheduled for next Tuesday.

Renderings of the proposal show a 57-foot building, rising to 64 feet at the top of a pilothouse, with glassy restaurant space on the ground floor. A commercial kitchen is included in the floor plans. The renderings don’t include a number of residential units, but a zoning appeal says the developers are hoping to build 12 apartments. No parking spaces are included.


Original source: PlanPhilly
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Mummers open up parade to ethnic organizations

The Mummers have long faced criticism for their insularity, but now they're opening up the parade to a more diverse stable of troupes.

The Mummers Parade, a long-running and extravagant Philadelphia New Year's celebration that has faced criticism for its lack of diversity and racial insensitivity, will welcome performances by ethnic groups for the first time this year, organizers said.

The change will help ensure the 115-year-old tradition — often called the city's version of Mardi Gras — continues and thrives, Mummers spokesman George Badey said.

Among the new participants is the San Mateo Carnavalero, a Mexican heritage organization.

"The Mummers aren't being dragged kicking and screaming into this," Badey said Tuesday. "The Mummers are full partners in this quest to make the parade more diverse."


Original source: The Associated Press via The New York Times
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The Slinky, born in Philadelphia 70 years ago

Turns out the Slinky, a staple of childhood for decades, was invented in the City of Brotherly Love. The New York Times looks back at its genesis. 

The Slinky, which first appeared in the Gimbels department store in Philadelphia 70 years ago this month, didn’t start out as a toy.

A mechanical engineer at a shipyard in Philadelphia, Richard James, was trying to come up with an anti-vibration device for ship instruments.

He knocked some springs off a desk and was startled when they took slinking steps, almost as if they were strolling away. He saw their potential as a plaything.

The simplicity of a Slinky belies its scientific complexity.

Each ring of a slinking Slinky is pulled up by another and pulled down by gravity in equal amounts.

Try holding the top of a Slinky, while letting the bottom dangle over a step. The bottom of a Slinky doesn’t move until you let go and the top of the Slinky comes down and is completely compressed.

Astronauts on the shuttle Discovery in 1985 found that the Slinky did not behave in weightlessness the way it does on Earth.
One astronaut said: “It sort of droops.”

More than 300 million Slinkys have been sold since Mr. James and his wife, Betty, demonstrated the toy at Gimbels.


Original source: The New York Times
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Local food writers launch podcast

Food mavens Joy Manning and Marisa McClellan have created Local Mouthful, a podcast focusing on all things local and tasty.

Podcasts can be a home cook’s best friend, teaching and entertaining us while keeping us company -- and they’re especially useful during the holiday season as we log extended hours in the kitchen...

Manning is the editor of Edible Philly magazine, a cookbook author and a former restaurant critic for Philadelphia magazine. McClellan is a canning guru and the author of several books, including the upcoming Naturally Sweet Food in Jars(Running Press, 2016).

The two met in 2002 while working admin jobs at a nonprofit outside of the culinary world. Coincidentally, both went on to pursue careers in food writing. Over the years, Manning and McClellan would take long walks around the city, discussing everything from farmers market finds to recent restaurant meals. 

“I often thought to myself, we should record this and do a podcast,” says Manning. 

Finally, in August they began producing weekly episodes in McClellan’s Rittenhouse apartment. Topics range from the best weeknight crockpot meals to favorite types of oysters. Many of the episodes include an interview with a guest, such as Joe Beddia of the acclaimed Pizzeria Beddia and P.J. Hopkins of Brine Street Picklery.?


Original source: Philly Voice
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Marc Vetri to sell restaurant group to URBN

In a stunning move, local chef and restauranteur Marc Vetri and his partner Jeff Benjamin have sold their empire to Urban Outfitters, Inc. The high-end flagship resto Vetri was not included in the sale.

Restaurant patrons will not notice a thing, Vetri said in an interview. "Nothing is changing. In meetings, everyone from Urban kept saying, ‘It’s more crucial than ever that you guys are at your restaurants.’ " Terms were not immediately disclosed.

With Vetri as president and Benjamin as COO, the Vetri Family will become a subsidiary of Urban Outfitters Inc., known as URBN. It will join a stable of brands that includes hip clothing retailer Urban Outfitters, female-focused lifestyle store Anthropologie, home and garden center Terrain, and apparel enterprise Free People, which operates both retail and wholesale arms.

Vetri Family partners Jeff Michaud and Brad Spence each will assume the title "executive director, culinary," and will continue their roles overseeing menu development and execution at all properties.

No branding or logo modifications are planned, and no employee moves are expected...

All of URBN’s current food and beverage brands will be folded into and managed by the Vetri Family. The restaurant veterans will also be tasked with helping Urban develop food and beverage concepts - a challenge both Vetri and Benjamin say they are very much looking forward to.

"It’s like after 17 years, Jeff and I are renewing our vows instead of getting a divorce," Vetri said, clearly energized by the whole deal.


Original source: Philly.com
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Penn named one of world's most beautiful college campuses

The West Philly university was included on a Buzzfeed list "25 of the Most Beautiful College Campuses in the World." It came in at No. 13. Check out the whole list here. 

Original source: Buzzfeed
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