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Move doc 'Let the Fire Burn' earns rave reviews

A new film detailing the Move bombing debacle -- and the surrounding circumstances that existed in 1985 in Philadelphia -- garners high praise. The New York Times gave the documentary a starred review.

Like an extended flashback or a prolonged bad dream, the film draws us into the story of Move, a separatist black organization and commune led by John Africa, which entered a cycle of belligerent resistance to authority, and suppression by the police, in the mid-1970s. Part of the achievement of the film’s director, Jason Osder, and its editor, Nels Bangerter, lies in orchestrating dual gripping dramas in constant dialogue, using footage from before, during and after the standoff.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete review here.

Inventing the Future: Monell scientists help analyze 'new baby smell'

The Monell Chemical Senses Center -- profiled here in Flying Kite -- was instrumental in a study that examined the power of "new baby smell."

Researchers asked 30 women -- 15 who had recently given birth, and 15 who had never given birth -- to identify mystery scents while their brain activity was monitored. When given the smell of newborns taken from pajamas, the women all showed activity in the same dopamine pathways that light up after ingesting cocaine, enjoying food, or other reward-inducing behavior...

Johan Lundström, a biologist with the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia and a study author, believes that women’s brains are hardwired this way to provide an evolutionary incentive. "We think that this is part of a mechanism to focus the mother’s attention toward the baby," he said. "When you interact with the baby, you feel rewarded." A similar process may apply to men as well, Dr. Lundström said, though he lacks the data to prove it.

Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.


Amazing pictures of the abandoned Spring Garden subway stop

The Atlantic Cities highlighted the local blog Streets Dept and their images of the abandoned Spring Garden subway station. The space is now covered with street art. Check out the amazing pictures. 

Riders can still get a glimpse of the old station, dimly lit and covered in graffiti, as their trains pass between Fairmount and Chinatown stations. Recently, local photographers Austin Hodges and Meredith Edlow joined Conrad Benner (who runs Philadelphia blog Streets Dept) to check out the former station as well as the portion of neighboring Fairmount station no longer in use.
 
Proclaimed by Benner on his site as a "mecca for graffiti artists and urban explorers alike," the former station was easy to find since it remains visible for SEPTA riders. "We had to walk on the tracks past a station being used," says Hodges. "Other than that it was fine."

Original source: The Atlantic Cities
Read the complete story here



Parsing the data on how people use The Porch at 30th Street Station

The Porch already feels like a local fixture after only a couple years in existence. University City District, lovers of data, have made an effort to examine how exactly people use the space -- there are infographics!

"But there are choices," says Seth Budick, the policy and research manager for the University City District. "There are a lot of choices people can make. They can decide to sit in the sun or in the shade, they can decide to sit on any one of three or four different seating elements, they can decide how to move through the space. And that’s really what we’re looking at, that’s the interesting question about a lot of urban design: What factors in the environment impact people's choices?"

Here's one example of what they learned:

Noise levels measured closer to busy Market Street were 10 times louder than those along Little Market Street immediately adjacent to the station – a partial explanation for why people tended not to linger there. The louder noise (70-75 decibels) was akin to a vacuum cleaner in your living room, the quieter sound (60 decibels) more like a conversation at close range... Instead, UCD is learning that a farmer's market doesn't quite work here, but a food truck rally does. Bistro chairs are nice, but Luxembourg chairs are even better. Also, no wants to relax right in the middle of a pedestrian highway.

Original source: The Atlantic Cities
Read the whole story and check out all the infographics here.
 
 

Philadelphia Land Bank effort could serve as a national model

Philadelphia's effort to consolidate vacant properties into a land bank could serve as a national model for cities.

If the City Council votes this fall, as expected, to establish the land bank, Philadelphia will join Syracuse, Macon, Ga., and a number of other cities that have adopted plans like it to encourage buyers who are committed to making improvements, instead of speculators, to acquire tax-delinquent properties...

Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, like those of some other older cities, are pockmarked with derelict buildings and overgrown lots that have been abandoned because of foreclosure, unemployment or the decline of manufacturing. The vacant properties cost the city millions of dollars to maintain, and they reduce the tax revenue that could come with occupancy. About 75 percent are privately owned, officials say, and many of those are tax delinquent.

If Philadelphia’s proposed land bank succeeds, its scope will become an example for other cities, like Detroit and New Orleans, that are struggling with large numbers of vacant properties and multiple city agencies that are responsible for them, said Frank Alexander, a professor of real estate law at Emory University and an author of many land-bank laws in other cities.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.


Manufacturing output in the region was up in September

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, manufacturing in the region was up in September -- firms reported a pickup in new orders, shipments and hiring.

The survey’s broadest measure of manufacturing conditions, the diffusion index of current activity, increased from 9.3 in August to 22.3 this month (see Chart). The index has now been positive for four consecutive months and is at its highest reading since March 2011. The percentage of firms reporting increased activity this month (36 percent) was greater than the percentage reporting decreased activity (14 percent).

The demand for manufactured goods, as measured by the current new orders index, increased 16 points, to 21.2. Shipments rebounded from last month: The current shipments index increased 22 points. The diffusion indexes also suggest that, on balance, inventories and deliveries were near steady this month, while unfilled orders increased slightly.

Labor market indicators showed improvement this month. The current employment index increased 7 points, to 10.3, its highest reading since April of last year. The percentage of firms reporting increases in employment (21 percent) exceeded the percentage reporting decreases (10 percent). Firms also reported a longer average workweek compared with last month, and the index increased 15 points, to 12.2.


Via The New York Times
Original Source: PhiladelphiaFed.org
Read the complete report here.

Philadelphia's cultural boom has led to expensive upkeep

Philadelphia spent time, money and effort transforming downtown into a hub for culture and the arts, complete with stunning institutions. All those assets require upkeep -- hence the city's next challenge.

Thanks to the arts, Philadelphia feels different today. But now that the building boom of new facilities is over, the question is whether the city and its benefactors can muster the support to become savior to the arts.

With operating costs up and philanthropy and ticket sales failing to keep pace, stress cracks are appearing in institutions all over town. Some groups, saddled with debt payments, are adjusting offerings to become more commercial. Others have declared bankruptcy or are contemplating it.


Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
Read the complete story here.

Adam Erace reps Philly's restaurant renaissance in the Guardian

Local food critic Adam Erace wrote about Philadelphia's ascendent food scene in The Guardian -- and gave some credit to the latest wave of non-native chefs.

Formerly the chef of the trendsetting Torrisi Italian Specialties in Manhattan, [Eli] Kulp is part of a recent wave of acclaimed chefs who've moved from New York to start a new life in the city that has long lived in the Big Apple's shadow. His fellow expats can be found captaining Philly's hottest restaurantsSerpico, former Momofuku chief Peter Serpico's solo smash, and Vernick Food + Drink, a two-storey dining room in ritzy Rittenhouse Square from Gregory Vernick, a veteran of Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

The new cooks on the block are discovering what homegrown chefs such as Marc Vetri, authority on Italian cooking and owner of five restaurants, including Pizzeria Vetri have known for a long time: Philly's easy-going pace, small-town vibe and affordability make it a great place to live – and eat. Immigrants, whether from New York or much further afield, have always been the reason for this.


Original source: The Guardian
Read the complete story here.

Globe & Mail details Philly food scene

Canada's top paper took a trip to Philadelphia and had great things to say about our local eats. (Though if we never hear the phrase "more than cheesesteaks" again it will be too soon.)

But it’s at Reading Terminal Market, a city institution since 1892, that I find perhaps the finest innovation of all. I’ve been told there’s a vegetarian cheesesteak to be found, and while my low expectations feature some sort of faux meat product (or maybe cheese on bread if I’m lucky), I’m game to seek it out. An inquiry at the front desk leads nowhere, so I follow my companion to "regular" cheesesteak seller By George. There, a small sign promotes a "veggie steak": roasted peppers, mushrooms, broccoli rabe, onions, tomato, spinach and cheese on a sesame-seed bun. After a hunt for a table – it’s lunchtime on a weekday – I open the foil wrapper and take a bite. This sandwich is no half-hearted concession to the meatless crowd: The vegetables are flavourful and warm, the provolone perfectly melted, the bread chewy yet yielding. Turns out, even the humble cheesesteak is up for improvements. I think the founding fathers would be proud.

Original Source: The Globe & Mail
Read the full story here.

Mighty Writers moves into Hawthorne Hall on Lancaster Avenue

Curbed Philly reports on an exciting development: Mighty Writers is moving into Hawthorne Hall on Lancaster Avenue.

While Hawthorne Hall patiently awaits its anchor tenant, a surge of youthful creativity is bursting forth just a few doors down.

On the western edge of the building cluster is the former home of Truelight Missionary Baptist Church, where its once-abandoned pews have been replaced with collaborative workspaces, a small performance area, and the seasoned influential voice of Annette John-Hall, Director of Mighty Writers West Philadelphia campus at 3861 Lancaster Avenue.

Founded in 2009 by former Philadelphia Weekly editor Tim Whitaker, Mighty Writers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that offers SAT prep courses, homework help, mentorships, and writing workshops to Philadelphia students between the ages of 7-17. The volunteer-rich organization has been a tremendous benefactor of academic growth in the wake of massive budget cuts to Philadelphia schools in recent years.


Original source: Curbed Philly
Read the complete story here.

Resourceful Levittown drama program earns high praise

Harry S. Truman High School in Levittown has one of the country's strongest drama programs. It was the subject of a lengthy profile in the New York Times.

[Drama director Lou] Volpe is one of those people who create astonishing success in the most unlikely of settings. Generations of his students heard him say, “If all we had was a bare stage with one light bulb, we could still do theater.” And the thing is, they believed him.

As the community was going to pieces, Volpe built Truman’s drama program into one of the best in America, and the school itself into something like a de facto high school for the performing arts. He and his assistant director, a student of his in the early ’90s, taught nothing but theater — three levels of it, plus musical theater. A third teacher, also a former student, taught theater to ninth graders....

Even though he didn’t speak in the idiom of the movement, much of what I observed in Volpe’s theater program could fit comfortably within the muscular language of education reform — with its emphasis on problem solving, standards, "racing to the top" and accountability. Theater is part of the "arts," an airy term, but the time his students spent with him was actually the least theoretical part of their day. With each production, they set an incredibly high goal and went about building something.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

The Atlantic Cities asks why water infrastructure is so neglected; Philly is an exception

Water infrastructure has been neglected nationally in recent years; Philadelphia, with its Green City, Clean Waters initiative, is actually an exception.

On its 2013 report card, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave U.S. water infrastructure a D. Even the nation’s best water systems are ancient -- we have over 240,000 water main breaks each year -- and unprepared for a mix of current challenges that includes climate change, tightening budgets, growing urban populations, and pharmaceutical contaminants. This spring, after record-setting rains, Detroit had no choice but to pour several hundred million gallons of raw sewage into the Great Lakes...

Occasionally, the political stars align. In Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter has turned a green infrastructure initiative designed to reduce combined sewer overflow -- the same phenomenon that has plagued Detroit -- into a quality-of-life issue and one of his signature achievements


Original source: The Atlantic Cities
Read the complete story here.

Comcast considering additional Center City towers

The city's iconic skyline could be getting an addition -- Comcast is considering another tower.

Details about Comcast's expansion plans are being kept under tight wraps, but the company appears to be focusing on constructing the first of several towers on a long, skinny, 1.5-acre site at 18th and Arch Streets, a block west of the Comcast Center. That building could eventually be part of a vertical campus including towers at 19th Street and Arch, and 18th and John F. Kennedy Boulevard.

Original source: The Philadelphia Inquirer
Read the complete story here.

Tune in to see local musicians play with the All-Star Orchestra

Members of the Philadelphia Orchestra are among the 95 musicians chosen for a national All-Star Orchestra. The group's performances will be televised weekly on PBS.

Even skeptics will concede that this project offers an amazing roster of accomplished musicians from America’s leading orchestras, including many renowned principal players. About half of the musicians come from New York organizations, including the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Orpheus, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and New York City Opera. The out-of-town ensembles represented include the San Francisco Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra and more.

For the players, as several explained in an article in The New York Times last year, this experience was something like a camp reunion, where old friends from conservatory days reconnected and caught up. In the introduction to the first program, Robert Cafaro, a Philadelphia Orchestra cellist, clearly speaks for many players when he says: "I had no idea it would be quite this good. This is probably the highest-level orchestra I’ve ever played with."


Original source: The New York Times
Read the complete story here.

Shared Prosperity, a local poverty program geared towards transparency, gains national attention

Shared Prosperity offers "one-stop shopping" for poor Philadelphians seeking services. The program also hopes to create jobs and improve early childhood education.

But with an array of public and private agencies providing different services in different locations, many poor people here are not getting the assistance available to them that could help them find work or qualify for benefits.

In response, Philadelphia initiated an effort this summer that offers "one-stop shopping" in local outreach centers to help people get all the assistance they need — with food, housing, job training, financial counseling, child care and other services — in one place.

The effort, called Shared Prosperity, is a response to the recent growth in the number of poor people, many of whom are not benefiting from the city’s current economic recovery, said Eva Gladstein, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity, which runs the program.


Original source: The New York Times
Read the original story here.
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