January 11, 2008
History Slows a Casino
Yesterday casino officials confirmed they're putting the breaks on excavation of the site after the Pa. Historical Preservation Office opined that no digging should begin until the area is thoroughly investigated for antiquities.
Thursday's column looked at efforts from a group of Philadelphia history hobbyists to bring to light details about a British fort built on the site in 1777. They began their work after contractors studying the site failed to mention the fort in their first phase report. They history hounds have had some real success.
In today's paper, Jeff Shields reports that the fort and remains of Indian activity pose enough of an obstacle that excavation planned for next week will stop. The Street Administration issued a grading permit last week, on its last day of business.
The dude in the picture: That's John Simcoe, commander of the Queen's Rangers, loyalists who manned British Redoubt No. 1. on the Delaware. Simcoe, a bellicose Oxford-educated chap, would go on to found some town called Toronto.
While he's portrayed wearing red, historian Robert Selig said last week that the Americans who sided with the British and stayed at the fort wore green coats. The better to forage in.
Finally, here's the map of the fort drawn back in the day by cartographer Lewis Nicola. Torben Jenk and Selig found it this week at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, which has allowed us to publish it here.
January 10, 2008
Can a Revolutionary War Fort Stop a Casino?
That's a question raised by today's column.
I have no idea, but I'm a sucker for history -- particularly history skipped by the historians working for the casino's contractor.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will meeting Jan. 18 with those who have a formal stake in the matter. The casino will take orders from the Corps and the Pa. Historical and Museum Commission.
Meanwhile, the group I blithely call The History Boys today have been packing a Web site with details about British Redoubt No. 1, which Torben Jenk says was located by the Delaware, about 600 feet from where Laurel and Canal used to meet. That would place it about 480 from Laurel and Frankford, which is an intersection that exists in three dimensions.
What I loved about Jenk, a self-taught historian, is that he kept calling and emailing me as he dug deeper into the accounts from the day, the maps buried in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Our first conversation required more than an hour straight of typing as I raced to take down every word. How do you spell Cheval-de-frise? (An angled spike buried in the ground or river bottom)
He's British-born, a builder who concentrates on restoring old properties and studying the industrial history of his neighborhood, Kensington. I pulled his wedding announcement from the New York Times -- his father was among the Danes that helped rescue most of that country's 8,000 Jews and secret them to Sweden.
Hat tip to Hal Schirmer, Ken Milano, Rich Remer, John Connor. Also, Kellie Patrick Gates, a former Inky scribe has been covering this for Plan Philly with a fury.
October 16, 2007
Do It, Feel It!
Slate on the most disgusting commercial yet.
Oh, yes. Do click the video. It's a YouTube phenom. I;ve gotta tell my dad.
July 02, 2006
Firing Up The Blog Grill
What says Land of the Free better than 30 pages of strippers' mug shots? That's the Smoking Gun's tribute to July 4th in a look at "America's hardest working entertainers."
How about springing rapper Lil' Kim from her Philadelphia cell in time for the holiday?
Or a blog dedicated to cats that look like Adolph Hitler? (Didn't we just see some of these mugs on the Smoking Gun?)
How about the BBC's Top 10 American Anglophile bands, those stateside rockers who continue to find their muse in the British Invasion? (But Madonna?)
A meditation on what a Brit means by the word holiday versus what an American means.
A tribute to the Declaration of Independence signers who lost their lives or liberties? Or a modern-day Declaration that would call an end to partisan bickering? Read on for these, folks, as we fire up the holiday blog grill.
Mithras, who describes himself as "your basic, harmless Philadelphia pervert with a law degree," marks the day with a picture of the yellow Gadsden flag, with its coiled rattlesnake and motto, "Don't Tread on Me." Under it are the words of the late Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, (1898-1980) "The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom."
Grizzly Mama, a home-schooling, Aristotle-quoting Philly mom, honors those signers who sacrificed for the freedom we enjoy today. She recalls the five signers who were captured by the British, branded traitors and tortured before being killed. A dozen who saw their homes sacked and burned. Two who lost sons in the army, two more whose sons were captured. Nine who died from their wounds in battle or the hardship of war.
Ray at Phillybits has a free-ranging holiday reflection, spurred by the ABC 20/20 special "A Country Divided: Examining The State Of Our Union." He's struck by the movement over the past 28 years into a country increasingly sorting itself into camps and opposed to compromise:
It appears, to my anyway, that we have moved away from what we personally believe, to what we as specific groups believe. And what I guess I mean by this is not that we don't have our own personal set of values, or...a belief system that we fall back on as the ultimate justification for our opinions, actions, and decisions but rather, it appears we have given up individuality, that which makes us unique, in favor for the comfort, assurance, and safety of the like-minded group. The echo chamber, if you will.
Duh, meanwhile, links a different declaration to sign: Declare Your Independence From Politics Without Purpose. The Unity 08 movement is looking for people to sign their names to a paper that takes a stand against partisan bickering and polarizing politics. It holds these truths to be self-evident:
That elected officials should be public servants first and partisans second.
That to bicker is not to lead
That those bought by lobby money cannot represent the people.
And that to polarize the Congress is to paralyze the nation.
Too heavy for today? How about a playlist?
Bruce Warren, 'XPN's programming pasha and proprietor of Some Velvet Blog, queues up some appropriate numbers,including:
"If I Had A Hammer" by Pete Seeger, "Volunteers" by the Jefferson Airplane, "Know Your Rights" by the Clash, "People Get Ready" by the Blind Boys of Alabama with Ben Harper and Robert Randolph and "4th of July" by Aimee Mann.
I'd add "Fourth of July" by X, and a third song with that name by Galaxie 500, "America Without Tears" by Elvis Costello, and "Miss America" by David Byrne. Maybe "Looking For Lewis & Clark" by the Long Ryders. U.S. Blues by the Grateful Dead and Simon and Garfunkel's "America."
Or see if you could pass the U.S. citizenship test.
That too easy? The Free Library's got a pop quiz, covering 230 years in 10 questions.
If you're heading down to Geno's, maybe you'll want to find out what sort of American you speak:
This is what we speak:
|Your Linguistic Profile:|
|25% General American English|
|10% Upper Midwestern|
They got grinders at Genos?
January 09, 2006
Hard to resist The Daily Sally's "brushes with greatness" series - those well-told slices-of-a-former life where the recovering broadcast journalist found herself at the beach listening to the freewheeling Bob Dylan (he was a guest at the cottage next door), partying with pre-Watergate Carl Bernstein or working with the stylish and aloof Peter Jennings.
Sally Swift's tales take a bizarro turn with her latest:
I came home one afternoon weary from a road trip to find the house empty of its usual cadre of pals, pols and reporters. Enjoying the temporary solitude, I wandered into the kitchen for a piece of fruit -- to be confronted by a pair of overall-clad legs sticking out from under the kitchen sink.
"Hello?" I said.
"Hey," a disembodied voice echoed from beneath the porcelain. "I'm clearing a clog out of the trap, be done in a minute."
Keep this up, Sally, and I'm going to have to share the embarrassing story of the day Eldridge Cleaver stopped by to use our bathroom.
December 08, 2005
If you grew up around Philly on '70s radio, this post by DJ Robert Drake will bring back the sounds of Wibbage and The Boss Jocks, memories of Bananamobiles and the Steel Pier Showcase.
He's got a link to Hy Lit Radio, which my barber (in radio silence since the betrayal by WPEN) would gladly play if he only had a computer in his shop.
Trawling for art work, I found this page dedicated to the history of Philadelphia radio, Part 1.
December 07, 2005
You can guess the concept. Email them pictures of feverishly festooned neighbors' light shows. The Webmasters post them for all to admire.
But can they hold a candle to Colorado Street in South Philly? Surely there are some over-the-top day-for-night displays right here in the Delaware Valley that deserve international attention.
September 19, 2005
Philly Loves Leon Back - Eventually
Brit with shaved head travels from Times Square to the 'Hollywood' sign on $5-a-day, relying on the kindness of strangers, while three-person film crew documents the whole thing. (They get to ride in nice car, stay at comfy hotels, have proper meals - but won't help him.)
He calls it "Amazing Adventures of a Nobody."
Leon Logothetis, documentarian, arrived in Philly Sunday, courtesy of a free train ticket and bus pass he scored in New Jersey after happy adventures with hustlers and preachers and Port Authority grumps.
The kindness left as he crossed the Delaware.
First thing that went wrong was that I fell asleep on the bus and missed the drop off point by 2 miles. So I had to walk through Chinatown and get back to the city center.
After I got to the crew car (where Nick, the director, was watching a movie on the inboard DVD player) I asked a passerby if they knew where I could find a youth hostel. They pointed me in the direction of 2nd Street.
I got to this youth hostel, which was supposed to be the friendliest place in the town. It turned out to be managed by a managed by a rather obnoxious twit. He was extremely condescending to me and as you might guess, he said no.
Condescending? In Philly? This is hard to believe. Really. Rude? Yes.
'Why would anyone let you stay with them for free? Why are you even trying to do this? You are going to fail!' were some of his kinder words....
This attitude we recognize.
I was upset by his rather pathetic attitude so I went back in, gave him the website address and told him to look at it tomorrow and found out that in fact there were nice people in Philadelphia, although he obviously was not one of them! I hope you are reading this Youth Hostel Man!
Message to Youth Hostel Man: Please email us, and let us know if you have anything to add to his story.
The day brightened into a warm and fuzzy tale of the city that loves you back - well, after he's given the bum's rush from another Center City hotel.
Then I saw this guy in his house by a window and he looked nice, so I told him my story and he let me stay with him for the night! Can you believe this? I am writing this from his sitting room. I had $10 left, so I bought him some beer and myself some pizza and drinks.
Turns out the Philly guy, Derek, was a lifelong Eagles fan and so psyched about their destruction of the 49ers that he was in a giving mood.
Read all about it. Yeah, Nobody's got a blog. And a publicist. His website features a promo of the UK version of his travels.
Derek, you wanna talk about it?
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August 16, 2005
Holes in the Ground
For all of my neighbors with wheels on their houses but none on their cars, I leave you this video, which does in a minute or two what Jeff Foxworthy has taken a career to accomplish. That sure is a pretty cup rest.