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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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Andrew Zimmern visits Philadelphia on 'Bizarre Foods,' hangs with Michael Solomonov

The Travel Channel show Bizarre Foods visited Philadelphia, and host Andrew Zimmern seemed to have a blast munching on duck hearts and fishing for shad.

Check out air times and clips from the episode here. 

Go vote! (And maybe win $10,000)

Philadelphians, head to the polls today! And as if participating in democracy wasn't enough, you could win $10,000.

One lucky Philadelphia resident could win a $10,000 payday just for casting a ballot in the mayor’s race.

Non-profit media organization the Philadelphia Citizen announced Thursday that a random voter will be selected on election day to win $10,000 just for voting. The lottery is sponsored by the Pamela and Ajay Raju Foundation, and is meant to encourage voter turnout in a city that has seen very low voter turnout in the last few years. The Mayoral election in 2007 brought out only 29% of eligible voters, the paper said, and only 27% voted in the primary this year.

Noting that voter turnout rates are down across the country—the 2014 federal election brought out only 36% of registered voters—the Citizen calls out Philadelphia in particular for having low civic participation. “It is especially galling here, where this country started and where every single one of us knows a myriad of problems that need solving,” the paper wrote. “Philadelphia suffers from chronic civic participation malaise. We could, as usual, stand back and wring our hands. Instead, we at The Citizen have decided it’s time for action.” Any voter is eligible to win, regardless of which candidate they select. The Citizen will select a specific polling location and a specific time, and the first voter to exit that station at that time will be the winner.
Original source: Time
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Terry Gross, a Philadelphia institution, gets the NYT Mag profile treatment

Terry Gross, the master interviewer, has become a beloved figure, and not just in Philadelphia. Her show, WHYY's Fresh Air, is syndicated nationally.

This fall, Gross marks her 40th anniversary hosting ‘‘Fresh Air.’’ At 64, she is ‘‘the most effective and beautiful interviewer of people on the planet,’’ as Marc Maron said recently, while introducing an episode of his podcast, ‘‘WTF,’’ that featured a conversation with Gross. She’s deft on news and subtle on history, sixth-sensey in probing personal biography and expert at examining the intricacies of artistic process. She is acutely attuned to the twin pulls of disclosure and privacy.

‘‘You started writing memoirs before our culture got as confessional as it’s become, before the word ‘oversharing’ was coined,’’ Gross said to the writer Mary Karr last month. ‘‘So has that affected your standards of what is meant to be written about and what is meant to maintain silence about?’’ (‘‘That’s such a smart question,’’ Karr responded. ‘‘Damn it, now I’m going to have to think.’’) Gross says very little about her own life on the air. ‘‘I try not to make it about me,’’ Gross told me. ‘‘I try to use my experiences to help me understand my guests’ experiences, but not to take anything away from them.’’ Early in her career, she realized that remaining somewhat unknown allows ‘‘radio listeners to do what they like to do, which is to create you.’’ She added, ‘‘Whatever you need me to be, I’ll be that.’’

Original source: New York Times Magazine
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Opera Philadelphia announces innovative new festival

Opera Philadelphia has announced an ambitious new event for 2017.

Over the past few years, Opera Philadelphia has been working on becoming the very model of a modern opera company. It has explored new formats — an opera about Andy Warhol in a warehouse — while continuing its commitment to tradition. It has received grants for innovative outreach projects, such as Hip H’opera in inner-city schools, and a composer-in-residence program. It has been met with critical and public acclaim. And yet, for all of its success, it had a problem — audiences weren’t growing the way that they were supposed to...

Opera Philadelphia announced Tuesday the launch of a new opera festival at the start of its 2017-2018 season. Called O17, the festival will blanket the city with opera — seven events in 12 days, from a traditional opera at the Academy of Music (Barrie Koskie’s production of “The Magic Flute”) to a piece developed by Daniel Bernard Roumain and directed by Bill T. Jones in the Wilma Theater to a double-bill of Monteverdi and a new work by Lembit Beecher, presented in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Selling out? Hardly. Exciting? Yes.

Original source: The Washington Post
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