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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

Philadelphia has a new mayor, and some changes to the city charter

Local voters headed to the polls last week, electing a new mayor. And that's not all -- there are also changes on the state supreme court and to the city charter.
The banner behind Jim Kenney was decorated with children's green and orange handprints and read, "Welcome, Mayor Kenney!"

A little premature, as Kenney won't become mayor until he is sworn in Jan. 4. But he made clear Wednesday that the planning and transitioning had already begun.

Kenney addressed reporters for the first time as mayor-elect at Jackson School in South Philadelphia, the morning after catapulting past his rivals to a historic victory...

In short remarks and 25 minutes of taking questions, Kenney offered some new specifics of his now-familiar campaign promises, including providing universal, free pre-K to 3- and 4-year-olds, a goal he says will be worked into his first budgeting process next spring and start to unfold next fall.

Original source: Philly.com
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Local hummuseria Dizengoff to open kiosk in NYC's Chelsea Market

This quick-serve concept from chef Michael Solomonov and partner Steve Cook is preparing for world domination, starting with a stall at Manhattan's Chelsea Market.

Chelsea Market is using the former Ruthy’s Bakery space for another collection of kiosks, to open in January. The confirmed tenants are Dizengoff, the Philadelphia-based hummus stand from Michael Solomonov and Steve Cook; Berlin Currywurst from Los Angeles; Davidovich Bakery, a New York artisan bakery; Filaga, for Sicilian pizza cooked on a stone; Seed and Mill, selling halvah and tahini; Cappone’s Salumeria and Sandwiches, relocating from Gansevoort Market; and Li-Lac Chocolates: 75 Ninth Avenue (15th Street).?

Original source: The New York Times
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Philadelphia Media Network lays off 46; Philly.com hit hardest

The company that owns the Daily News and the Philadelphia Inquirer recently laid off more workers, another sign of the tough media market both locally and globally.

More than 40 staffers in newsrooms throughout Philadelphia Media Network have been laid off as the company seeks to consolidate its disparate editorial staffers to forge a single unified newsroom.

Today’s layoffs, which claimed a total of 46 jobs, were scattered throughout the company’s three newsrooms, said Howard Gensler, president of the Local 10 at the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia. Staffers at Philly.com were hit the hardest, with 17 of about 30 editorial employees losing their jobs. The Philadelphia Daily News also saw severe cuts, with 17 of about 60 editorial employees laid off. The Philadelphia Inquirer lost 12 staffers.

Morale in the company’s newsrooms is extremely low, Gensler said. Nearly everybody knows somebody who’s headed for the exits. Meanwhile, employees who didn’t get laid off are on tenterhooks waiting to see how they will fit in with the restructured newsroom because the cuts don’t take effect until Dec. 4.

Original source: Poynter.org
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Philly's adult literacy program earns praise in Huffington Post

Philadelphia offers first free online interactive adult-education program, brings innovation to this tough problem.

Five years ago, more than half a million adults in Philadelphia lacked basic literacy and work skills, imperiling their ability to land jobs and climb out of poverty, the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board reported. Yet at the same time, hundreds of literacy providers operated scattershot programs all over the city, albeit with few resources, fewer notable metrics and even less oversight...

Today, Philadelphia sponsors what organizers say is the first free online interactive adult-education program in the nation. At 30 literacy organizations and three campuses called myPLACE (Philadelphia Literacy and Adult Career Education), students learn together in groups (or cohorts), attend class in-person and online and work with a learning coach who sends them texts, e-mails, even postcards to keep them engaged and moving forward. The goal is to help them earn a GED, read at a community-college level and ultimately land a job. In just over a year, more than 3,000 adults have either completed basic literacy classes online, earned their GEDs or have been launched on a career path. The U.S. Department of Education's Digital Promise initiative has named myPLACE a model site. The organizers' goal this year: to reach 16,000 adults online, on their phones, in person or at home.

Original source: Huffington Post
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Philly-shot 'Creed' brings Rocky story into the next generation

Michael B. Jordan takes on the role of Apollo Creed's son in an upcoming film, which was shot in Philadelphia.

There came a time not long ago when the actor Michael B. Jordan realized he had to stop dying on screen, because it was killing his mom...

With his latest film, “Creed,” Mr. Jordan not only made good on his vow, but he also helped bring back a franchise. He plays an aspiring fighter named Adonis Johnson, the heretofore unknown son of the boxer Apollo Creed. Adonis journeys to Philadelphia to be trained by Rocky Balboa, played by — who else? — Sylvester Stallone.

The film again paired Mr. Jordan with Ryan Coogler, the director of “Fruitvale Station,” who in turn conceived of “Creed” as a deeply personal homage to his sickly father. Co-starring Tessa Thompson, of “Dear White People” and “Selma,” as Mr. Jordan’s love interest, “Creed” explores a different side of Philadelphia than the Rocky films do. While the story largely centers on the father-and-son-like bond between Adonis and an ailing Rocky, it is told through the eyes of young black millennials, showcasing the city’s hip-hop and dirt bike scenes.

Original source: The New York Times
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Target confirms two smaller, urban-style stores for Center City

Target, the chain juggernaut, will open two smaller urban stores in Center City.

The two stores will be what the company calls a “flexible format Target,” which has a smaller footprint than a typical Target store and looks to fit into the (mostly urban) neighborhoods in which they are located.

Metro Commercial Real Estate Inc. recently brokered the deals for the new Target stores in Center City. Tom Londres and Steve Niggeman, both principals at Metro Commercial, represented Target in the transactions.

While the two locations, one at 1900 Chestnut Street (about 23,000 sq. ft.) and the other at 1112 Chestnut (about 22,000 sq. ft.), represent smaller versions of the traditional Target store format, Target representatives told Metro Commercial that “guests can walk into a Target store of any shape or size and find great merchandise, helpful team members, clean, bright aisles and incredible value.”

Target had initially called these smaller-format stores City Target and Target Express, but now the company plans to simply call them Target and re-brand existing ones.

Original source: Chain Store Age
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