My son was riding this Chinese bus

Good find on Philadelphia Weekly’s Will Do blog.

Chris Matthews, a Philly kid and MSNBC talking head, tried to talk about the Chinatown bus, and how his son took it to get home and vote. ‘Cept he kept calling it the Chinese bus, not that getting it right and calling it the Chinatown bus woulda helped most of the country know what the hell he was talking about.

So, yeah, though Matthews totally goes to bat for Philly on the reg, it’s fairly amusing.

Arrest that jaywalker

philadelphia-police-badge.jpgNew Philadelphia Police Commissioner Chuck Ramsey unveiled his comprehensive crime fighting report early this month. Lots was made of  initiatives to pump in new cops and lessen homicide totals with direct action, but a smaller plan is in the works.

An old suggestion by city cop Edward McLaughlin for Philadelphia to conform with most of Pennsylvania in a small and sensible way caught the attention of Ramsey and was included in his plan, as reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer today.Throughout most of the state, such quality of life offenses like littering, jaywalking and acting as a public nuisance require an officer just to write a citation, permitted the transgressor has proof of address. Since 1974, Philadelphia officers have had to arrest the person, and spend an hour or more bringing the individual to be booked and processed.

Don’t be too hopeful though. The change could take at least six months and could require a massive overhaul in processing, as there is the expectation for a huge upsurge in citations. We’ll see if Ramsey can fight Philly, where good ideas come to die.

Political ad of the century?

The embattled, corrupt, figurehead of the contemporary South Philadelphia Democratic machine, Vince Fumo, is running his reelection campaign for state senator, amid questions of his having to sell his Fairmount mansion – built more than ten years ago – to pay legal fees in defense of the usual sort of allegations of malfeasance. But, boy does he have an advertisement for you.

Check out presidential hair

All those years you spent collecting other people’s hair might not be as weird as we previously thought.23515282.jpg

For President’s Day weekend Feb. 16 to 18, The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia will be displaying a scrapbook that has locks of hair from each of the first 12 U.S. Presidents, according to the Associated Press.

This collection comes from Peter Arvell Browne, a Philadelphia attorney and scholar of natural sciences, collected thousands of samples of animal and human hair in the mid-1800s.

He wrote to the families of each president and asked for the samples, which wasn’t – they tell me – as strange as it might seem today. In the 19th Century, many families kept hair from deceased relatives.

The scrapbook will only be open to George Washington’s brown and gray hair, though photographs of the others will be on display.

Bill McDowell: Designing on Philadelphia's parkway

Interview and article prepared for the Philadelphia Business Journal, as filed yesterday, without edits, to run in next Friday’s edition.

mcdowellbill.jpgOh, Bill McDowell has built in Philadelphia before.

He was chosen as senior building executive for the design and construction of the new Philadelphia home of the Barnes Foundation on the back of a career of construction in this city.Now he’s charged with helping bring one of the most celebrated art collections in the world to the city in which he was born and raised.

“I have had a lot of experience in the city of Philadelphia,” McDowell, 50, said. Like helping develop the concept for the expansion of the Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse on the campus of St. Joseph’s University, and being involved in the planning of the 30th Street Station rail yards, and heading the redevelopment of Reading Terminal Headhouse, now the front of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, as part of the city’s Redevelopment Authority in the 1990s.

“But, by far this is the most important project I’ve ever worked on,” he said. “A project like this might just come around once in a century.”With the hiring of McDowell, who works with the architects, consultants and will hire the construction team, the new building’s design has begun.“It’s full steam ahead. Not only is this a go, it’s ‘can we go any faster?” he said. “The conceptual design process will be done this year, what it will look like. The technical aspects, we will continue to work on into 2009.”The first step is to design how the building will be situated on its future site, a high profile and, to some, controversial lot on Center City’s Ben Franklin Parkway.“I always thought the parkway in Philadephia is under utilized. The creation of density is what Philadelphia needs… to move it from being primarily an auto to a pedestrian route,” he said. “But we’re interested in retaning the qualities of the current building, to see the uniqueness and its intimacy preserved.”But one of Philadelphia’s sons has had to take a professional move to the ‘burbs, by the way of Lower Merion, the current headquarters of Barnes, for now.“For work, I have a 610 area code now, it’s tough,” he said. “At least my cell phone is still 215.”