February 25, 2013
Poster circulated in Philadelphia to discourage the coming of the railroad, 1839, (ARC 513347). National Archives. (originally posted by rebeccaonion)

Poster circulated in Philadelphia to discourage the coming of the railroad, 1839, (ARC 513347). National Archives. (originally posted by rebeccaonion)

February 18, 2013

Yesterday, CBS News Sunday Morning had a cute little segment on the SS United States, the hulking ship currently docked in South Philadelphia across the street from IKEA. (The Sunday Morning recap says it’s across from “the parking lot of a strip mall.”)

The United States has been rusting away, still looking impressive, in the Delaware since 1996. The SS United States Conservancy is attempting to save the ship from the scrapyard, and their work is really the most interesting part of the report. (More important, of course is that the ship, built in 1952, was integrated.)

Conservancy executive director Susan Gibbs admits her grandfather, the ship’s designer, was “obsessed” with the ship and says her family thinks so too. Meanwhile, a CBS producer just happens to be a huge collector of memorabilia from the ship, furnishing his apartment with it.

I always love learning about people really into things I don’t know much about. Yes, part of it is that it makes me feel better about my own obsessions. (Oh, I own too many pairs of sneakers? At least my apartment is furnished with normal things instead of with the items that were on a ship built in the 1950s.) But it’s also because there’s no better way to learn about a subject than by talking to an obsessive.

To me, this is just an old ship a few miles from my place, and its rusted hulk is something I’ve described many times as “so Philadelphia.” I know it’s unlikely this ship will stay in Philadelphia — it’ll be moved, or scrapped — but it’s nice to know it was here for a while at least.

February 17, 2013

Friday night I watched some of the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, which featured about as many former and current players as it did celebrities. (Also: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan! My dad says he thinks Obama will play in one of these games once he’s done being president, which we both agree would be awesome.)

An early game highlight was Peeta Mellark banking in a set-shot three pointer. But Josh Hutcherson was also being abused by Philadelphia’s own Kevin Hart on the defensive end, with Hart taking something like 4 of the East’s first 6 shots.

After this drive here, Bruce Bowen decided to talk some trash. Obviously the former NBA defensive stalwart (and ex-Sixer, for a season) would be a great trash talker, but his game exceeded my expectations.

"You think you’re tough now, huh? That’s Philly. What part of Philly you from? You from Lower Merion."

What great trash talk! Digging a guy who won’t pass by comparing him to Kobe Bryant. He can’t even get mad since Kobe’s an NBA legend! I’d never heard this before, but then again I don’t take too many shots in pick-up basketball. (I have more of a Bruce Bowen defend-and-hack game, though I’m deadly from 15 feet when no one is within 15 feet of me.) But I’m totally going to use it when someone’s gunning so much they demand a comparison to Kobe Bryant.

Kevin Hart knew what he was doing, obviously, since he was named MVP of the game for the second straight year despite scoring only five points. Being the biggest non-athlete celebrity on the court might have helped. Sorry, Arne Duncan.

January 20, 2013
January 10, 2013

That time the Mummers waved confederate flags at a Republican House retreat

Last week, I wrote a piece about a ridiculous Mummers skit for The Philly Post. I did a little research but I had to write it pretty quickly the day after the parade. I was able to do a bit more (to satisfy my curiosity) and came across an incredible story from the March 1, 1990 edition of Roll Call.

It concerns a late February 2001 “Congress of Tomorrow” strategy retreat 60 GOP House members attended in Plainsboro, a Central New Jersey township about an hour from downtown Philadelphia. (The lede’s cute: “Leave it to the Republicans to hold a retreat at the stodgy-sounding ‘Merrill Lynch Conference Center’ as opposed to a posh hotel or resort.”) Most of the names at this thing are unrecognizable-to-the-general public now, but John Sununu (Chief of Staff for President George H.W. Bush), Dan Quayle (VP) and Newt Gingrich (then-Minority Whip of the House) attended. Okay, still not big names.

Anyway, here was the entertainment:

New Jersey House Members, including area Reps. Chris Smith and James Courter, played host, while the group was alternately entertained by Princeton singing groups, the America Boys Choir, and the “Philadelphia Mummers,” a plumes-clad entourage that waved Confederate flags to Dixieland tunes.

I’ve seen a few small Confederate flags in the parade, but not in a couple years. But, somehow just 23 years ago America was so different that prominent Republicans were entertained by confederate flag-waving jesters from a Mummers brigade. Also, the No. 1 song was by Paula Abdul and a cartoon cat.

Also, Philadelphia is in the North! Where was the outrage from the Union League?!

January 9, 2013
Tonight on Jeopardy!: Time-traveling Alex Trebek, from the past.

Tonight on Jeopardy!: Time-traveling Alex Trebek, from the past.

January 8, 2013
I date a lot, and most of my dates go like this: Grab drinks and maybe some food, and figure it out on the fly from there. It’s been a recipe for some success for me (claims the single man). Of my dates in 2012, I enjoyed all but one.

Good, right? No! Turns out I’ve been doing it all wrong. Earlier today Buzzfeed’s Anna North posted charts from HowAboutWe, a dating site where users suggest an activity. The piece, “How to Date Anywhere in the Country,” details dating info from the site for individual American cities.

Oh, Philadelphia.

The No. 1 activity suggested on HowAboutWe is “How about we take advantage of Pay-What-You-Wish day at the Museum of Art.” How about we go on a date and I prove what a big cheapskate I am! Also, this is really, really limiting: Pay-what-you-wish day is only the first Sunday of every month. The number one suggested date of Philadelphians on this site is one that can only be done 12 times a year.

But even more fun are the top five activities suggested. Here’s the list

BowlingBoard gamesDancingTennisQuizzoTriviaNumber four is my favorite. Who goes on tennis dates1? But as someone who dressed as Björn Borg for Halloween in 2011, you’d think I of all people would have been on a tennis date. Even better: I happened to date someone over the summer who played tennis twice a week right down the street. I should have known it wasn’t going to work out when she didn’t invite me to play.

A quick scan of all the cities shows Philadelphia was one of the few places where tennis cracked the top-5 in suggested dates. I’ve come up with a few alterations to the statue of William Penn the city should make to celebrate its place as the Tennis Date Capital of America.

1 “You do need two people,” an ex-girlfriend wrote to me over IM this morning, which makes sense. She also noted that Pittsburgh’s most popular date activity was board games. Detroit’s, too! In Cleveland dancing is No. 1, which makes me think Clevelanders court each other by dancing to rock ‘n’ roll at sock hops.

I date a lot, and most of my dates go like this: Grab drinks and maybe some food, and figure it out on the fly from there. It’s been a recipe for some success for me (claims the single man). Of my dates in 2012, I enjoyed all but one.

Good, right? No! Turns out I’ve been doing it all wrong. Earlier today Buzzfeed’s Anna North posted charts from HowAboutWe, a dating site where users suggest an activity. The piece, “How to Date Anywhere in the Country,” details dating info from the site for individual American cities.

Oh, Philadelphia.

The No. 1 activity suggested on HowAboutWe is “How about we take advantage of Pay-What-You-Wish day at the Museum of Art.” How about we go on a date and I prove what a big cheapskate I am! Also, this is really, really limiting: Pay-what-you-wish day is only the first Sunday of every month. The number one suggested date of Philadelphians on this site is one that can only be done 12 times a year.

But even more fun are the top five activities suggested. Here’s the list

  1. Bowling
  2. Board games
  3. Dancing
  4. Tennis
  5. QuizzoTrivia

Number four is my favorite. Who goes on tennis dates1? But as someone who dressed as Bj√∂rn Borg for Halloween in 2011, you’d think I of all people would have been on a tennis date. Even better: I happened to date someone over the summer who played tennis twice a week right down the street. I should have known it wasn’t going to work out when she didn’t invite me to play.

A quick scan of all the cities shows Philadelphia was one of the few places where tennis cracked the top-5 in suggested dates. I’ve come up with a few alterations to the statue of William Penn the city should make to celebrate its place as the Tennis Date Capital of America.

1 “You do need two people,” an ex-girlfriend wrote to me over IM this morning, which makes sense. She also noted that Pittsburgh’s most popular date activity was board games. Detroit’s, too! In Cleveland dancing is No. 1, which makes me think Clevelanders court each other by dancing to rock ‘n’ roll at sock hops.

January 4, 2013

Sarah and I were watching Jeopardy! before quizzo last night. What caught our eye was not the show but this commercial for Jackson Twenty-One, a place “designed for really nice people who love sports and love the arts.” We were still talking about it when we got to the bar. A friend on another team overheard: “Are you talking about that commercial that’s been on Jeopardy!?” Clearly, Mitch Leigh’s Jackson Twenty-One ad is the biggest hit of this week’s broadcasts.

Turns out that poster in the background isn’t a prop: Leigh won a Tony for composing Man of La Mancha! He also directed the 1985 revival of The King and I with Yul Brynner. According to Wikipedia, he wrote the “Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee" jingle. Good credentials.

On the website, Jackson 21, which is right next to Great Adventure, appears to be some amalgamation of Le Corbusier and Walt Disney: “A very special place where really nice people can live, work and have fun. Where you can choose from all kinds of new neighborhoods and quality apartments and houses. And best of all, where creativity, excitement, sports, shopping, dining and beautiful open spaces are all within walking distance!”

Except for the nice people part, that kind of sounds like Philadelphia. I wish Mitch Leigh the best with his project, but I wouldn’t want to be around that many nice people.

December 27, 2012
Not you, too, Philly.com.

Update: Sorry, the photo distracted me. Pennsylvania River of the Year? This award (which I hadn’t heard of) has a $10,000 prize! Also, the Delaware River won it last year “after months of bated breath and enthusiastic voting.”

Not you, too, Philly.com.

Update: Sorry, the photo distracted me. Pennsylvania River of the Year? This award (which I hadn’t heard of) has a $10,000 prize! Also, the Delaware River won it last year “after months of bated breath and enthusiastic voting.”

December 9, 2012