Monday, July 31, 2006

Tuesday Scrapple: Ed Snider teases us in the worst way

- Oh, snap: Comcast-Spectacor might sell the Sixers. It would pretty much be impossible to think of a better dream scenario for the Sixers, so we’re trying not to get our hopes up. But just imagine it: new blood infusing new life into the Sixers. Someone young, someone who recognizes the importance of making attending games enjoyable. (Seriously, young ownership would be so refreshing for this town.) So here’s hoping a Pat Croce/Mark Cuban-type has about $351 mil burning a hole in their pants. [Philadelphia Will Do]

- Philly Skyline speaks the truth. INHP don’t need no stinking fences. Especially in what is supposed to be a public national park. [Philly Skyline]

- Chase Utley and Ryan Howard continue to be the only reasons to attend Phillies games this year. But they are two very good reasons. Keep the hits/dongers coming boys. [SI]

- “Gosh, it’s funny you ask why we call it Antique Row when, in reality, there aren’t that many antique shops here any more. Well, it’s actually, you know, a funny story… you see what happened was, there’s this thing, think they call it the internets, and, well, long-story-short, people like food more than wood boxes. So we're thinking about a new name... how does 'For fuck's sake, this is Philadelphia, not Lambertville' sound?” [Inky]

- It’s possible that a MLS team could be moving to Philadelphia and taking up residence at Penn's Franklin Field temporarily while a permanent stadium can be built. Add Ronaldo to the mix and we’ll be season ticket holders. [Inky]

Thursday, July 27, 2006

USOC to city: Yea, about that… you’re not really on par with LA, San Fran or Chi-town

Maybe if the finalists were Houston, Milwaukee, Phoenix, St. Louis and Philadelphia, we’d still be in it. Apparently our rep has not improved internationally as much as we’d hoped.
Yesterday, the city was eliminated by the U.S. Olympic Committee from what had been a five-city competition to become America's candidate to host the 2016 Summer Games.

Surviving the cut were Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Houston joined Philadelphia in falling by the wayside. […]

USOC officials said the decision to cut Philadelphia and Houston was based largely on a survey the USOC conducted of 100 members of the Olympic community from around the world - the kind of people who ultimately will have the final say on where the Games go.

In that survey, said Bob Ctvrtlik, the committee's international vice president, it was "very, very clear that... the three cities, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco, were best positioned within the international sports movement to go forward at this time."

Philadelphia and Houston came in fourth and fifth, not necessarily in that order, in the technical analysis as well, USOC officials said.

"Reading between the lines, it's clear that our international reputation was our main flaw," said David L. Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast Corp. and co-chair of Philadelphia 2016, the local organizing committee. "And it was the one thing we had no capacity to address in the time frame that was available."
Pot of gold at the end of the rainbow…you’re pregnant:
The USOC did have some kind words for Philadelphia yesterday. Ueberroth called it "the most exciting city" of the five he visited and labeled the ongoing development of Center City "nothing short of spectacular." USOC chief executive officer Jim Scherr expressed his "sincere admiration."
So we got that going for us...

Reality check bitches: Philadelphia still dirty in the minds of the world, crazy creative clipart notwithstanding [Inky]

Monday, July 24, 2006

Breaking: Even Ari Gold is shitting on the Eagles

In last night’s episode of Entourage, Jeremy Piven’s character, Ari Gold, called the Eagles out for being dumb.

He was on the phone talking to Vince (Adrien Grenier) and asked him how he was doing, on account of him being fired a few days earlier from the starring role of Aquaman II for pissing off management. (ed. note: from memory)
Ari: How are you holding up?
Vince: Not bad, considering the LA Times called me the ‘Terrell Owens’ of Hollywood.
Ari: Hey now — the Philadelphia Eagles got rid of T.O. and look what happened to them... Aquaman II is going to make Speed II look like Citizen Fucking Kane.

That’s right. Andy Reid, Joe Banner, Donovan McNabb: even Hollywood knows you fucked up a team that could have easily won three straight Super Bowls. Hope you're happy.

What’s that Donovan? I can’t understand you when you’re dry heaving as you’re trying to talk. Pull the trigger, big guy.

Vince may be T.O., but at least he aint no yes-man []
T.O./Donovan ‘War of Words’ — and what do you know? Donovan sounds bitter and juvenile, while TO’s totally over it and just tells it like it is, like he always has... [Philadelphia Will Do]

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Breaking: David Auspitz and Vince Fumo vie for the revered title of Biggest Pompous Idiot/Gasbag in Philadelphia

The Barnes Tower dispute is back in the news. The developers have made some very worthwhile changes to the design. (Among them: “developers now plan to put all parking underground, move the entrance to 22nd Street, landscape the area where a fence would have stood, and possibly add street-level stores.” [CP])

Anyway, there was a meeting before the Zoning Board of Adjustments yesterday, where the usual crew of narcissistic neighborhood types showed up to bitch about the make-believe shadow that the tower was "going to cast over the entire neighborhood of Fairmount."

ZBA chair David Auspitz saw this as an opportunity for some grandstanding (above his normal amount) and seized every chance he had to make the project’s developers bow to his awesome power and authority.
In setting the tone for the hearing, chairman David Auspitz said, "I want to represent the people of Philadelphia."

He then quickly berated the majority developer, Dalia Shuster, for angering many residents by not initially holding a public hearing on the permit, telling her, "Stand up, let people see you."
After all, you ain’t representing Philadelphia if you don’t begin by yelling unintelligibly at everyone in your presence.
Lawyer Neil Sklaroff, who represents the developers, said a 47-story "slender, elegant building" would stand out not just in Philadelphia, but in the world.

"We want this to be the international building in Philadelphia," he said.

Auspitz, however, repeatedly berated Sklaroff for speaking of a 47-story tower when neighbors have said they did not want such a tall building.

"You keep trying to sell me the same suit, a brown suit," Auspitz said. "I want a black suit. That's what's wrong here. The brown suit isn't going to sell." […] "It's not going to be 47 stories," he said.
David Auspitz has spoken people. Heed his wisdom.

Seriously, the man has an
extensive background in architecture and urban planning. Oh wait, no he doesn’t. He used to own the Famous 4th Street Deli, so you know, he’s pretty well connected politically.

And that’s all the qualification he needs to be the most influential person involved in city planning in the great city that is Philadelphia.

So what about Vince? Remember last time we heard from him, he heroically (or sophomorically – you choose) threatened the developers that “this neighborhood has enough funds to litigate this for 20 years.”

What’d he have to say this time, you ask?
The lawmaker said he favored putting a few townhomes on the site.

"We do not want to be New York City," he said. "We are Philadelphia... . We are a city of neighborhoods. If you want to be New York, go to New York."
Vinny baby. We don’t want to be New York either. We do, however, want to be a city of healthy neighborhoods, with plenty of people on the streets, kids in the schools, and businesses making the money. And in order to do that, we need to welcome quality developments and the vitality and higher tax base that come with them.
He also said the developers were greedy and called them "piggish."

"This is a bunch of greedy developers trying to take money out of the city and go back to where they came from," Fumo said.

He said that if they tried to start construction, "I believe this neighborhood will lay down in the street. And I'll be right there with them."

"We're going to fight this no matter what it takes and no matter how long it takes."
Aww, poor baby. Vince, why are your diapers all in a bunch?

Oh, that’s right, because you’re seventy bajillion years old and haven’t had an original thought in your head since Dilworth was mayor.

Get over it Vinny. Philadelphia is moving on. Without you. Read about it for yourself.

Fumo and Auspitz agree: pissing contests are the coolest [Inky]
Surprise, Surprise: David Auspitz and the ZBA think urban planning is a myth
Of high-rises and small-minded batshit crazies

Philadelphia is the new Williamsburg Rucker Park

With all the hype of the hipster invasion, we very well may have missed the fact that Philly has become home to the best basketball proving grounds in the country.
That's exactly what today's Philly hoop stars have done to make themselves the nation's top batch of high school ballers.

They've taken the smarts and toughness Philly has always been known for and combined it with the prototypical size and strength scouts love. Evans and Robinson are already 6-foot-5 and have the talent and quickness to go against anyone.

Add to that an us-against-the-world mentality and it's an ideal combination for success.


If today's players ever need a reminder of how to play tough, they don't have to look very far. The face of Philly's pro hoops team for the past decade has been Allen Iverson, a guy most of today's ballers look up to.

And players don't have to be blessed with Iverson's killer crossover or otherworldly talents to play like him. At 6-foot, 165 pounds, Iverson has made a career out of driving into the paint and scoring against players a foot taller and 75 pounds heavier. His toughness and passion inspire Philly players and set the tone.

"I look up to A.I. because he's one of the smallest players in the league, but he has one of the biggest hearts," Robinson says.

Even high schoolers know that Allen Iverson is the shit.

Philly finally gets a crown — but it's not for anything official []

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Surprise, surprise: David Auspitz and the ZBA think urban planning is a myth

Kudos to the Weekly for their cover story this week.

Anyone who knows the slightest bit about urban planning knows how fucked Philadelphia’s planning code is and, as a result, how fucked Philadelphia will be for the next 30+ years if nothing is done about it.

That is, everyone except for David Auspitz, the chairman of the Zoning Board of Adjustments... who, conveniently, is in charge of giving out the all-important zoning adjustments to any (read most) new developments coming to Philadelphia.

(Note: It’s a very long article, so we’ve pulled out the most insightful passages. But if you have the time, you should definitely read the whole thing.)
Developmentally Disabled - As private developers flock to Philly, the need for centralized planning and a modern zoning code is greater than ever. […]

"Philadelphia needs to link planning with implementation."

But even the best-laid plans can't be executed until the city rewrites its zoning code. The last rewrite came in 1962, when planners cared more about cars than pedestrians, and no one had dreamed of luxury condos on the waterfront.

City Council has modified the code thousands of times since then—150 amendments passed last year alone. Now we have a 624-page zoning code that incorporates roughly 15 overlays and 31 residential zoning districts. (Chicago, with nearly double Philadelphia's population, has eight residential districts.)

"The zoning process is totally fragmented," says Levy. "It needs to be modernized. But first we need a large-scale master plan that doesn't sacrifice the neighborhoods."
It’s true. Levy is one of the few people in positions of influence in Philadelphia who recognizes good planning and actually practices what he preaches.
[…] Barbara Kaplan, who served as executive director of the Philadelphia Planning Commission from 1983 until May 2000, says she quickly realized the Street administration saw little value in city planning.

"I knew I couldn't be effective," she says. "A lot of people left because they couldn't stand not having any power, and now the commission is chronically understaffed."

Her successor, Maxine Griffith, stuck it out for five years—long enough to collect her pension.

Gary Hack, dean of Penn's School of Design, resigned as chair of the commission in 2004, citing frustration with the outmoded zoning and preferential treatment for politically connected developers.

Though cranes jut across Philadelphia's skyline in every direction, no vision exists for what the city should look like in even five to 10 years, says Karen Black, a consultant who wrote a report on zoning reform for the BIA. "If we don't decide who we want to be, someone will do it for us."
Again, the truf. Street, like Rendell before him, never saw much need for planning. Unfortunately, when you have a case of 'develop-mania,' as Philadelphia does, where developers dictate planning, you get a city built for cars and the rich people who drive them that will eventually crumble under the weight of its own superficiality. (Inga has been saying it for years. As has the Design Advocacy Group.)
[…] "A zoning code should make it easy to build projects you want and difficult to build what you don't want," consultant Karen Black says.

Variances are meant to be granted only when a property's unique characteristics—a deep slope or an adjacent railroad track, for instance—make it impossible to develop. Proposals for controversial businesses, such as strip clubs, should also trigger the variance process, Black adds.

"But that's gone out the window," laments Barbara Kaplan, the city's former planning director. "If anyone with political clout can get an exception, what good is the code?"

She cites Thomas Jefferson Hospital's seven-story parking garage that was recently completed at 10th and Chestnut streets on what was once a vibrant mixed-use block. The Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) granted the hospital seven variances, including ones for height, curb cuts and maximum vehicle capacity.

"We spent so much time testifying on the need for light and street life on Chestnut, and they gave it all away," Kaplan says, noting that it's no coincidence that Jeff is Center City's largest employer.

Some say the ZBA members have become de facto planners. For example, they now require all residential decks to be set back so you can't see them from the street. "And we said no more carry-out restaurants without eat-in tables," Auspitz says. "We want to create a sense of community."

If the ZBA is making these rules, the system is broken, asserts William P. Becker, an architect who chairs the Design Advocacy Group, a volunteer coalition that pushes for physical planning. When developers appear before a panel of mayoral appointees, "it brings political people into the process—people with no design expertise," Becker says.
There it is. The ZBA is evil. And it aint no joke.

But wait, to be fair, let’s give David Auspitz a chance to respond…
Auspitz takes issue with the characterizations. […]

Mayor Street's spokesperson Joe Grace counters that while the ZBA may not include planners or architects, it does have people with experience and knowledge about development.

Auspitz warns neighborhood groups to not be "fooled" by reform advocates.

"What we've got is a patchwork approach to zoning, but it's also the quilt that comforts and protects you from the cold," says Auspitz.
Ah. There’s the provincialism we’ve come to know so well. If it weren’t for folks like David Auspitz, we might forget we’re in Philadelphia.

But, alas, that is indeed where we are.

So we're going to have to deal with it. And what better time to start than now.

Honestly, we really don’t think Philadelphia can afford to wait for the next mayor to give its zoning code and planning procedures a comprehensive gutting/overhaul.

Let's hope Mayor Street has a similar epiphany.

Philly Weekly: Seriously, we just wrote more than 4000 words and we were really just getting started… [PW]
Design Advocacy Group: This is beyond fucked… time to cut through the bullshit people (PDF) [DAG]

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Meet Billy King — dream-crusher and soul-taker extraordinaire

We could give a long spiel about how Billy King is an insufferable puppet, one that is trying to trade Allen Iverson for a lunch date with Jessica Simpson and a copy of Laguna Beach, Season Two on DVD, but others have already done so.

Billy King consorting with another DevilThus instead, here are a few clips.

Clip #1 from [emphasis added]:
Last season Iverson's scoring average actually rose from 30.7 in '05, when former coach Jim O'Brien made him the focal (and sometimes only) point of the offense, to a career-best 33.0 under friend and mentor Maurice Cheeks. […] How many 25-year-olds, how many players, can produce those numbers? And when you think about watching the 76ers, is there any legitimate reason to do so if Iverson's not on the floor?

The fact that Iverson has been so ardently shopped by Philadelphia general manager Billy King is hardly surprising. King is a man teetering ever so slowly at the edge of his plank. Since taking over as the Sixers' top basketball official in '03, he has seen move after move blow up in his face. He's had a Steinbrenneresque run of coaches (Larry Brown, Randy Ayers, Chris Ford, O'Brien, Cheeks) while handing out or assuming rich contracts of players who can't play defense (Kyle Korver, Chris Webber) and one who can't remember them (Samuel Dalembert). Since Brown departed after the '02-03 season, Philadelphia has gone an unremarkable 114-132 and made one playoff appearance.

The reality in Philadelphia is that there is only one more move for King to make. Cheeks isn't going anywhere; the popular coach would likely have to struggle for another season or two to be shown the gate. The draft isn't producing […] And the Sixers' "core" of Dalembert, Webber and Korver are owed more than $100 million in salaries over the next few seasons. It's unlikely that they can be traded for anything of much value. For King, the only answer lies in dealing The Answer.

The problem is that unless King is able to land one of the aforementioned franchise players (which he can't), any deal for Iverson will be the equivalent of getting 30 cents on the dollar. From a sheer marketability standpoint the Sixers would need Rocky Balboa to start a couple of games to fill as many seats as Iverson is capable of filling. Despite its woeful record, Philadelphia was fifth in the league in road attendance last season (ahead of powerhouses San Antonio and Phoenix), a testament to the drawing power A.I. possesses.

Assuming King ignores all of that and places his own motives above those of the team, the smartest deal he can make will be with a club in his own division.
Clip #2 from ESPN’s Bill Simmons [emphasis added]:
Q. Waiting for Billy King to pull the trigger on an Iverson trade is like watching your girlfriend drink too much at a party. […]

A. That's been the most underrated sports subplot of the summer -- every horrified Philly fan dreading the news that Billy King gave away Iverson. It's legitimately cruel. Hasn't this city suffered enough? […]

Billy King golfing, because that's how he rollsOn paper, Billy King can't screw up an Iverson trade because Philly fans would see right through the stereotypical three-nickels-for-a-quarter trade that never works. They're too smart for it. At the same time, he's Billy King. He's one of the worst GMs in any sport. He shouldn't have a job. And he's absolutely going to screw this up. There's no doubt. Even worse, he's dumping Iverson because he's made so many bad moves over the last five years, it's the only way to potentially improve the team -- they have no cap room and nobody else with any trade value, and he has to do SOMETHING because he's one more crummy year away from losing his job. Does that sound like a valid reason to trade a 33-point scorer for 60 cents on the dollar? I didn't think so.

If I were a diehard Philly fan, I would be doing everything possible to stop the inevitably dumb trade that's about to happen -- launching anti-King Web sites, protesting outside of radio stations, chanting Iverson's name at baseball games, you name it. To borrow Brendon's "drunk girlfriend" analogy, there's still time to throw her in a car and drive her home before she starts puking all over the place.
Wow. Those guys are saying some pretty similar shit… that, basically, Billy King is a no-talent ass clown who’s trying to take down Allen Iverson to save his own skin.

Please don’t let him.

(And fuck Ed Snider, an even bigger idiot who should have relinquished his job to Pat Croce when he had the chance had we only been so lucky, for forcing King to seek a trade. Earth to Ed: you don't know anything about basketball; please stick to hockey... a sport we could give a fuckall about.)

Billy Jean King is not my lover []
Bill Simmons’ empathy — though appreciated — does us no good [espen]

Friday, July 14, 2006

Restaurant roundup: Looks like it’s time to head back to pen and pencil

- This week’s Sidedish reminds us why working in a restaurant is better than not working in one.
And then there are the employees, who, if you believe all the stories circulating, are constantly having sex in the walk-in refrigerators, in the manager's office and in between boxes of coffee cups and to-go containers in the storage closet. They're doing it after-hours, in restaurants with floor-to-ceiling windows, for the benefit of everyone walking by. [PW]
- ‘Amadita’ is not the last call for Jose Garces. Quite the opposite. He’s planning to open his third restaurant in a 6000-square foot place at The Hub at 40th and Chestnut. The deal is signed. Slated to open in January 2007. Going to be Mexican.

Moreover, the man is already looking around Rittenhouse for a location for restaurant number four.

In related news, we have it on good authority the Chef Garces will be bringing the elusive jamón Ibérico to Amada very soon. We can’t wait. Seriously. [Inky]

- There’s a new Korean place coming to the veritable gustatory alleyway that is Sansom Street between 15th and 18th. Giwa — a few doors down from Remedy Tea Bar — will be small, but we won’t hold that against them.

- Ferdinand is opening tonight in Northern Liberties. $2 house wines and $1 beers. Definitely fun. [Foobooz]

- Jessica Pressler reps G-Ho. Kind of. Pressler makes a cameo appearance in Rachel Inc.’s first newsletter back from sabbatical and discusses brunch spots, throwing some love to LaVa, Ants Pants and Balkan. And, more importantly, she's still funny. We are not alone when we say we miss Miscellany. [Rachel Inc.]

Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Starwood strikes back

When news came last month that Starwood was planning to locate one of their new Aloft Hotels at the Philadelphia Airport instead of in Center City, we were befuddled at their stupidity. And understandably so.

There’s no news on the Aloft front but it turns out Starwood has more plans for Philly.

Yesterday Starwood pulled their head at least half-way out of their ass with the announcemount of a new W Hotel & Residences to be developed at 1200 Arch Street. [pictured at right is an old rendering]
Basic deets: 250-room hotel, 95 condominium/residences, across from the Reading Terminal Market and the Convention Center, scheduled to open in ’09.
La-de-fricking-da. It’s great news and all but 2009? They must’ve heard about our unions.

In all seriousness, we are glad this is finally happening. As we’ve said before, we really don’t understand why there hasn’t been a boutique hotel/condominium mash-up in Center City earlier. (In the past decade — the Rittenhouse Hotel doesn’t count.) The condo boom and the dearth of hip hotels just seemed to lend itself, well, perfectly to the prospect of this type of development. Call us crazy…

Anyway, Starwood is apparently saying that their W Hotel brand is deserving of a Center City address, while their Aloft Hotel brand still only measures up to an Airport stay. We don’t quite figure and, again, emphasize that Ted Darnell and the Starwood Real Estate Group should relocate their planned Philadelphia Aloft from the Airport to Center City.

As far as local developers fare, Joe Zuritsky (Parkway) beat out Wayne Spilove. Bully for Joe. There's no love lost between us and Wayne.

Or between us and Joe for that matter. The fact that Joe operates city-killing surface parking lots in Center City makes us pretty much despise the man right off the bat. This development, however, coupled with 1701 Rittenhouse (complete with its hot, robotic underground parking system), which are both going up where Parkway surface parking lots currently reside, at least shows that Joe will give up his lots if you offer him enough cash.

Which is better than nothing.

Wow. You said it. That’s a really fucking awesome lead. No cliché in sight. [Businesswire]
Hotel Hotwire: More on Starwood’s plans for Philly
What’s next for Starr? Toppling Starwood?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

M. Night’s Moses complex

In the New York Times Sunday Book Review this week, the forthcoming book about M. Night Shyamalan (which we wrote about last week) is critiqued.
New work by important filmmakers is always hyped by early publicity, some of it flattering enough to have been written at gunpoint. Now M. Night Shyamalan has set a new high-water mark for this sort of sycophancy. He has deigned to allow Michael Bamberger, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, to follow him adoringly through every stage of the filmmaking process. The upshot is not just a puff article but a full-length, unintentionally riotous puff book.
Not exactly a promising beginning…

It continues:
Who is M. Night Shyamalan? The point is that you're supposed to know already. By some lights (namely his own and Mr. Bamberger's) he is an A-list Hollywood legend whose work is ablaze with beauty and wisdom. By others, he's the guy who made a mint with "The Sixth Sense," starred in an American Express ad and has now directed "Lady in the Water." The book makes landfall on July 20, a day before the movie does.

"The Man Who Heard Voices" isn't really the filmmaker's fault. His only serious misstep was allowing it to happen. It was Mr. Bamberger who met the auteur at a dinner party ("Night's shirt was half open — Tom Jones in his prime"), became awestruck ("What kind of power could he have over me?") and started taking deeply embarrassing notes.

How could Mr. Shyamalan have known that his Boswell would place him in a biblical light? The book finds some relevance for Night (as Mr. Bamberger calls him) in the fact that the word night, like the word day, shows up early in the Book of Genesis. It also describes an actress in Night's presence as "like Moses before the burning bush."
So he said he resembles Moses in a certain light. So what?

We imagine he gets that all the time. And deservedly so. He's the Dylan of filmmaking...

Sunday Book Review: M. Night barbecues chicken with perfect grill lines at his Main Line home, the grandest of all the horse-country estates [NY Times]
M. Night had his heart broken on Valentine’s Day too

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Best of Philly™ Bitch Fight — Philly Mag vs. Philly Style

Philly Style recently had their Best of Style party at the Crystal Tea Room, complete with models covered in silver body paint, portraits of boobies, former Apprentice contestants, sultry CBS3 reporters, pompous radio personalities and the like. (Bet it was awesome.)

Shortly thereafter came word that Philadelphia Magazine and Philadelphia Style Magazine are having themselves a little feud. And it's over their dueling “Best of” issues.

Apparently last year, Philly Mag lawyers sent a letter to the Philly Style folks telling them to stop infringing on their “Best of Philly” trademark.

So this year Philly Style called their awards “Best of Style” and placed “Best of 2006” across their cover so as not to offend.

But it turns out, that wasn't enough. Philly Style recently received another letter from Philly Mag allegedly saying that any use of “best of” causes confusion.

David Lipson, Jr., Philly Mag president, had this to say:
"You be the judge. Every July, 'best of' is blazoned across their cover, a month before ours… . 'Best of Philly' is our most valuable mark. We've already had people calling us, confused."
Then there was the interview with Philly Mag chairman D. Herbert Lipson that appeared in Folio:
"One of the things that drives me crazy are these luxury magazines. I think it's a threat to the way we do business," Lipson is quoted. The mag said Lipson, without naming names, believes such mags lie about their circulation numbers and "prostitute their editorial."
Philly Style president Dana Spain-Smith did not take kindly to the elder Lipson's remarks, which she thinks were directed at her glossy. She is said to be pondering a slander suit.

Meanwhile, Philly Mag is heavily pushing its forthcoming “Best of” issue – they’re even introducing the first ever "Best of Philly Day" on August 3.

And on July 26, you can go “Behind the Scenes of Best of Philly” at the National Constitution Center, where Philly Mag’s Editor-in-Chief Larry Platt wants to show you what’s fun (emphasis added):
“The most frequent question I get from readers concerns how we decide upon Best of Philly entries, since, unlike our imitators, ours is not a readers’ poll — it’s a subjective, authoritative list. So this is a chance to explore our process and tell us where we were wrong and why — after all, disagreeing with Best of Philly is part of the fun of reading it,” says Philadelphia Magazine Editor-in-Chief Larry Platt.
Reading the above quotes definitely makes it seem like Philly Mag is hearing footsteps. But as Philebrity points out, we’re not exactly sure their worries are warranted.

AroundPhilly, on the other hand, is happy to allude away in a feature on Dana Spain-Smith.
But as Style continues to take on a more active role in where to go when the sun comes down, and Dana Spain-Smith continues to inject her tireless enthusiasm, the "Best Of" awards could soon take on a whole new spin.

Or… the “Best of” awards could take on a whole new meaning — one that exemplifies exactly how to over-hype a promotional gimmick and drive it mercilessly into irrelevancy.

Philly Mag: Omigod, they’re totally stealing our shtick. It's too bad for them that kids from Jersey can’t read. [Inky, fifth item]
Philly Style: Whatev. Our great grandpa called and said that he wants his readership back. Oh, and the Main Line sucks. [Inky, fifth item]
Metaphor alert: Dana Spain-Smith stares down a Cobra… [Around Philly]
Best of Philly Style – chain edition [Philebrity]
In a display of unwavering fortitude, Philadelphia Magazine staff to stand behind their Best of Philly selections... at a NCC panel discussion [NCC]

Giving people in Philly something to cheer about

"That'll give people in Philly something to cheer about."
That’s what you could hear Ryan Howard say (to no one in particular) just after he won the Home Run Derby in Pittsburgh last night.

Not only is the man is a beast, but he actually cares about us poor bastards stuck at home watching the disaster that is the Phillies this season.

And we appreciate that.

You're a good shit, Ryan Howard. We like your style.
By hitting a sign with his last homer high above the right-field bleachers that reads "HIT IT HERE," Ryan won 500 flights from Southwest Airlines for one of the 38,702 ticket holders on Monday night at the Pittsburgh Pirates' home park.

Asked if he was trying to hit the sign, Ryan responded: "No, I didn't even know it hit the sign. But I heard that it hit the sign, and that's great that somebody got 500 flights."
Yep. Like it a lot.

Ryan Howard for mayor []

Monday, July 10, 2006

Somebody pinch us - Rick Nichols is on fire

We’ve gotten three great pieces from Rick in the past two weeks. Let’s recap.

First, there was “South Street west at its blooming best,“ an article about G-Ho’s piece of South Street and the many virtues of the newcomer Apamate:
Welcome to the other South Street, west of Broad, home to the funky backyard garden at the Jamaican Jerk Hut and, toward Graduate Hospital, the estimable pies at Lazaro's ($2 for a giant, thin-crust slice), and, recently, a lovely storefront cafe called Pumpkin. …

I say let the east end of South keep its sneaker franchises and Johnny Rockets and Starbucks. This end is for truer grit. But it's not exactly gritty. Which brings me to the latest addition, a paprika-colored boite by the name of Cafe Apamate.
Word, Rick. Word.

That apparently got his juices flowing. He followed it up with “Applebee's and the chainifying of the city,” a little ditty dedicated to all the chain restaurants assaulting Center City:
It is that Orwellian quality that gets you - the slavish display of the genuine to legitimize the fake. Buca di Beppo does it a few blocks south, and also the nearby Fox & Hound and Fado, the Irish pub franchise.

The ring of the chain zombies has surrounded the Convention Center (Maggiano's, Chili's and Hard Rock Cafe), and taken up position on South Broad's ballyhooed Avenue of the Arts (McCormick & Schmick, Capitol Grill, Palm, Ted's Montana Grill).

Across from the Borders on Chestnut you've got Olive Garden. There's a Ruby Tuesday's. And a Roy's.

You are not family in these places. Far from it. They are not, as Applebee's sloganizes, your "neighborhood grill & bar."
(As we’ve said before, we don’t much care for chains.)

And then just yesterday, he hit us up with “Mexican, everyday to elegant,” a piece about all the new Mexican spots adding some flavor to South Philly… with a splash of social commentary tossed in there for good measure:
It's been a busy and expansive five years since South Philly got its first taste of taqueria food…

On a recent Wednesday, the latest taqueria was gestating on East Passyunk Avenue, near where 12th Street crosses Morris. It's in the bones of an old, wedge-shaped hair-cuttery, its gray window grates still pulled gloomily down, but a festive sign already promising new life. El Zarape, it says.

Down the block, near Mancuso's ricotta shop, a combo called By Design was toying with a bit of jazz on the sidewalk. And along the stretch of old and new Italian eateries, the lone, gringo-owned Mexican-style place - Cantina El Caballito - was abuzz with the neighborhood's fresh-faced newcomers seated at the full-service tequila bar and outdoor tables.

Was the cantina anxious about El Zarape opening across the avenue? Hardly, manager Suzanne O'Brien said: "We think of them as the taqueria across from [our] liquor license."

Not quite the paranoid Geno's take on the Mexican influx, but, on the contrary, a confident and generously optimistic American one.

Rick, we have to say it: we like the ‘tude you’ve been sporting lately. Keep it coming.

South Street is alright, but only if G-Ho is involved [Inky]
Good god, the fucking casinos are going to kill whatever authenticity Philadelphia still has [Inky]
Some people in South Philadelphia actually like the influx of Spanish speakers [Inky]

Thursday, July 06, 2006

M. Night had his heart broken on Valentine’s Day too

So you may have noticed that the TV spots have started to run for M. Night Shyamalan’s latest movie, Lady in the Water, due out in theaters later this month.

(Ah, we fondly remember sightings of a sweaty Paul Giamatti in Rittenhouse last August, while he was in town filming.)

What you may not know is that the script for
Lady was the impetus for Shyamalan to split with his longtime movie studio, Disney.

What’s more, there’s a Shyamalan-backed book coming out on July 20 — one day before the theatrical release of the movie — that details the falling out between “the talent” and “the suits.”

We know. This is troublingly reminiscent of the “unauthorized” expose/documentary that the Sci Fi Channel did on Shyamalan (The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan) in 2004 to hype the release of The Village. Said Documentary turned out to be neither unauthorized or an expose.

But this time, the conflict appears to be legit.

The Man Who Heard Voices: Or, How M. Night Shyamalan Risked His Career on a Fairy Tale is a purported tell-all of the messy divorce between Shyamalan and Disney.

And one of the key episodes went down at Philadelphia’s own Lacroix restaurant. There, Disney execs told M flat out that they didn’t “get” the script for Lady. Needless to say, M was not pleased.
The book's most revealing scene is the tense dinner of Feb. 15, 2005, and its aftermath — referred to by Shyamalan's colleagues as "The Valentine's Day Massacre."

The setting was a fancy Philadelphia restaurant, Lacroix, not far from the farmhouse where Shyamalan, his wife and two daughters live. But from the start, the book says, the dinner seemed doomed. The tables were too close together, and "Night felt that other diners could hear their conversation."

Seated next to Shyamalan, Jacobson aired her problems with the script. Criticisms "came spewing out of her without a filter," Bamberger writes.

"You said it was funny; I didn't laugh," the book quotes her as saying. "You're going to let a critic get attacked? They'll kill you for that … Your part's too big; you'll get killed again … What's with the names? Scrunt? Narf? Tartutic? Not working … Don't get it … Not buying it. Not getting it. Not working."

Her words went over like spoiled fish. "She went on and on and on," the book says. "Night was waiting for her to say she didn't like the font" his assistant had printed the script in.
Evidently, M. Night is sensitive. After the meal ended, the director told Disney it was over. He then proceeded to break down and spent the next three days locked in his room, curled up in the fetal position, eating ice cream, listening to Tori Amos and having a good, long cry.

Philadelphia loyalties notwithstanding, we think the Disney exec might have had a point. Shyamalan goes as far as to put himself in the film's trailer. A cameo in your film is one thing. Putting yourself in your movie's trailer… that’s a tad much, eh? (We like the bit about the film critic getting mauled. That's real clever M.)

In the end, Warner Bros. financed the $70-million movie, which was shot outside Philadelphia last summer. The trailer is below.

(OK, we admit it. We’re still a little suspicious that this isn’t one of Shyamalan’s nutty jokes. He can't help himself — the man just loves him some twists.)

M. Night and Disney break up; new tell-all book gives the juicy details. That is, if any of the details of a director-movie studio relationship can be juicy. [LA Times]
M. Night Shyamalan presents the Valentine’s Day Massacre [Defamer]
Sci Fi Channel admits hoax and that, yes, they are all a bunch of uber dorks [CBS News]
Lady in the Water, we really hope you don’t suck [Official Site]

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A deck by any other name would smell as sweet

There’s been a lot of talk recently about Philadelphia being a pseudo-borough of New York City and the purported virtues of one city relative to the other.

That’s all well and fine but New York is New York. Which is fine; Philadelphia doesn’t want to be New York. It wants to be a strong, vibrant, economically-healthy regional hub for the foreseeable future.

In order to do so, Philadelphia should pick its battles. Work on its strengths while minimizing its weaknesses, if you will.

An article in Sunday’s Times underscores one such opportunity for Philadelphia — albeit a small, almost superficial one: make it easier for developers rehabbing old buildings and building new homes to add decks to said properties.
But outdoor property you can call your own — be it a garden, patio, terrace or even a balcony — remains a coveted commodity in limited supply, at least in the crowded environs of Manhattan. The homes that have these amenities come on the market less often than those without, and when they do, they typically sell at top dollar, and often quickly, especially at this time of year, real estate professionals say.

"Basically, outdoor space has become rare," said Jacky Teplitzky, a veteran broker and an executive vice president at Prudential Douglas Elliman. The inventory tightened over the years, she said, in part because developers in recent decades had concentrated more on maximizing indoor space and in part because owners have held onto these prize properties longer. Of course, zoning and design constraints have also affected supply.

Only 10.9 percent of all residential sales in Manhattan last year included units with some type of private outdoor space, down from 14.4 percent in 2000 and 18.3 percent in 1995, according to the appraisal company Miller Samuel. "The drop suggests that the properties with outdoor space — more likely large space like terraces and gardens — have a longer holding period and do not turn over as often," said Jonathan J. Miller, the company's president.
Granted, you have to take all of that with a grain of salt when relating it to Philadelphia, but still, consider Philadelphia’s vast neighborhoods of rowhomes. They lend themselves perfectly to decks... and roofdecks in particular.

Sure, there are a lot of decks already in and around Center City, but for every roofdeck there is, there always seems to be five+ neighboring roofs that are needlessly without.

There are literally whole blocks in G-Ho, Bella Vista and Queen Village on which one house will have a roofdeck with an absolutely amazing view, and you’ll be up there thinking to yourself, “Why in fuck's name is this the only house on this block that rocks a roofdeck?”

It’s a huge missed opportunity. Similar neighborhoods in Chicago are literally teeming with decks.

Is there a reason Philadelphia doesn't embrace decks?

The likely candidate, of course, is city bureaucracy and the difficulty in obtaining a required zoning permit to build roofdecks.

(Shocking, we know.)

We’ve had multiple people complain to us recently about how frustrating it is trying to get an OK from the city to build a roofdeck on a newly refurbished/constructed rowhome.

Does the city not realize how appealing deck space can be to would-be buyers or even would-be renters?

Apparently not.
iii. The deck can not have a roof, walls, stairs, or an enclosure beneath the deck.
In our admitted, unqualified estimation, those requirements pretty much make roofdecks all but impossible.

(Contrast Philadelphia's position on decks with Chicago's, whose website actually has an online "Guide to Porch and Deck Design and Construction," complete with a "Porch Application" design application.)

And it’s a shame too. Because roofdecks encourage city residents to embrace their environs. And we’re pretty sure that if there were more of them to go around, the city would find it a little easier to hold on to some of those creative class types they're so desperately trying to get to live/work here.

And ‘a little easier’ would be a good start.

Baby steps people. Baby steps.

No one in Manhattan has a roofdeck; moreover they're rare in Brooklyn [NY Times]
Phila Dept of L&I: Want to build a deck? Please see these impossible-to-follow directions []
Can Northern Liberties save Philadelphia? [Inky]