• Spirit of Transportation

    There are two beautiful things in Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station that I like to stop to admire whenever I’m there. One is the Angel of the Resurrection war memorial, and the other is Karl Bitter’s 1895 Spirit of Transportation. I took these photos today before leaving for State College.

    Spirit of Transportation is arresting in the best way, practically demanding you stop to look on it. It’s monumental public art that comes from a time when we had greater faith in potential for art to redeem a mundane or unremarkable experience by placing it within a more meaningful context.

    It’s not simply kitsch or decoration, and that’s probably why it has survived Broad Street Station, its original home.

  • Billy Penn

    This piece on Philadelphia news startup Billy Penn caught my eye on Twitter this morning:

    Brady told the story of Billy Penn… [laying out] his ambitions for the site — millennially-targeted, mobile centric, civic-minded — to many media outlets before, but one of the most striking details came as almost an afterthought late in his presentation: the site is financed totally out of his own pocket.

    Brady will be out $225,000 this year, and “it’ll lose close to $500,000 before it gets anywhere close to turning this,” he says, “but it will take a while.” …

    That staff produces about five original pieces of content a day in addition to curating content about the city from a spectrum of sources, though an inviolable rule of the site is that content must relate to Philadelphia — no Oscars recaps there.

    I’m a fan of what Billy Penn is trying to be. When Jim Brady visited the Pen & Pencil Club sometime last summer, I walked from my Old City apartment to the little club on Latimer Street to hear his vision for the site. I was probably one of the first 100 subscribers to Billy Penn’s daily newsletter. It’s a great way to wake up and feel engaged with Philadephia no matter where I am. And as the “no Oscars recaps” rule suggests, it feel like a substantial rather than trivial sort of engagement with the news.

    If it gains the foothold it needs, it’ll be the we deserved rather than what we’ve got. That Billy Penn is described as “civic minded” is important, first because that’s really just “journalism,” and second because while contains some civic minded reporting, the average reader won’t find it through the morass of infotainment, Eagles cheerleaders pin-up girls, and clickbait that pervades the site.

  • In 2014 Philadelphia played host to Forbes’ “30 Under 30 Summit.” I didn’t attend, but I did see it come up in a number of friend’s social feeds over the course of the multi-day event. Forbes released its annual 30 Under 30 list last week, and with it word that Philadelphia will be the permanent host of the annual summit.

    This is another win for Mayor Nutter who apparently played a significant role in swaying Forbes’ decision. Obviously it’s a larger win for Philadelphia. Why?

    • “The October conference featured talks and appearances by big names from business and the political realm, including former America Online chairman Steve Case, Spanx founder-billionaire Sara Blakely, onetime White House intern-turned-scandal-figure Monica Lewinsky, and teenage Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai.”
    • “‘It reached 750 million people over social media,’ [Forbes editor Randall] Lane said – a measure that includes Twitter and Facebook shares.”
    • “…having successful young entrepreneurs from elsewhere make connections with local ones could pay off many times over if it leads to a local business’ growing or an outside one’s deciding to plant stakes in Philadelphia.”

    I distinctly remember a conversation from 2011 with a friend who had just moved from Colorado. “Why,” he asked, “do so many people I meet here make a point of telling me they’re ‘natives’—not just of the city, but even of the county and town? I’ve never experienced that before.”

    Anecdotally I think there’s a lot less mobility across Greater Philadelphia than in other major metro areas. And for a city its size, it has the challenge of a much higher rate of urban poverty than its peers. These things can create insularity, which among young people and professionals can lead to lowered ambitions simply because broader relationships might not form that otherwise would broaden personal and professional horizons.

    Which is why maybe the greatest reason Forbes’ decision is promising is for this small note in the article: “Additionally, dozens of attendees – rather than only a handful last year – would be invited to speak at schools across the city.” I’m planning to attend this year.