10 Strange Christmas Traditions to Make You Grateful for That Damned Elf on a Shelf

Left: "Gruss vom Krampus" by Unknown - Historie čertů KrampusUploaded by Kohelet. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons. Right: "Mari Lwyd (wiki)" by R. fiend - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Left: “Gruss vom Krampus” by Unknown. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons. Right: “Mari Lwyd (wiki)” by R. fiendOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

The Washington Post ran a story last week, later picked up by the Inquirer, about boomer parents who are ready to be done with Christmas but can’t be because their millennial kids won’t let them — and boy, did it hit home. Essentially, the gist is that boomer parents were so kid-centric that they now have entire rental storage spaces full of Christmas crapola they long to jettison, but that their offspring, who because of student loans and the lousy economy live in barely furnished hovels with no closet space, are neglecting to put up their own holiday decorations and instead want to be able to come home for Christmas and find everything exactly the same as it was when they were eight.

This story spoke to me in a big way because last year, in a break with tradition that absolutely shocked my kids, I didn’t put up a tree. For every single one of their then-respective 22 and 25 years of life, we’ve had a big ol’ tree that we all trudge out into the wilds of the local cut-your-own-tree place to secure and which we then drag home, erect in the living room, and festoon with lights and thousands of ornaments, each of which holds a special place in our hearts. Except what the hell do I mean “we,” because I’m the one who does the festooning, while son Jake plays video games and daughter Marcy watches Real Housewives reruns and my husband … well, I’m not actually sure what Doug does, but it sure isn’t decorate the tree. Read more »

Why Calls for Unity Won’t Solve Donald Trump’s Ugly, Anti-Muslim Bigotry


During this week of heightened attention to anti-Muslim views, our mayor-elect Jim Kenney’s call for unity in Philadelphia sounded more than reasonable. But it really bummed me out. This week’s events have thrown another harsh light on the powerlessness of calls for generic unity.

Just one day before Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., someone driving a red pick-up truck threw a severed pig’s head outside a North Philadelphia mosque. The choice of a pig’s head was a clear aggression against Muslims who follow a halal, pork-free diet. The act itself was a threat. In response, Kenney condemned what he recognized as bigotry, urging all Philadelphians to join him “in rejecting this despicable act and supporting our Muslim neighbors.” And in the usual move of any half-decent politician following a hate crime, he called for unity, saying we cannot allow hate to divide the city.

The point here isn’t to parse Kenney’s words — solidarity is important; it sends a message of support to threatened communities and helps create some kind of buffer against hateful threats. And in times like this, it’s instinctive to hope for a humane unity. The issue is, amidst calls for unity we end up ignoring that we’re fighting views that will continue to reject unity at all costs. In this case, we’ve got people who simply refuse to view Muslims as human beings. It’s that clear a dividing line.  Read more »

TeamGraham’s Benefit for Little Smiles

Eagles' Darren Sproles, Michel Sproles with Carlyne (who is due in February) and Brandon Graham.

Darren and Michel Sproles with Carlyne (who is due in February) and Brandon Graham. | HughE Dillon

On Monday, December 7, Zarwin Baum and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham and his foundation, TeamGraham, hosted a toy drive at Vesper, benefiting Little Smiles, a volunteer-driven nonprofit helping children in local hospitals, hospices, shelters and other similar facilities. They give them toys, and electronics, event tickets, VIP outings and fulfill wishes to bring joy to their lives.

Many of Gramham’s teammates came out to make donations, plus meet fans who brought toy donations or make monetary gifts during the event. On Friday Brandon Graham, Stacey Kracher, and staff from Little Smiles and Zarwin Baum will take the toys they collected and distributed them to kids at CHOP and Shriners.

Photos after the jump »

It’s Almost Christmas. Should You Tip Your Uber Driver?

I like to consider myself a pretty good tipper.

Then again, I suspect tipping is like sex and dancing — everyone walks through this world thinking they’re bringing something special to the table, when in reality they’re just not screwing it up royally enough to be publicly shamed.

So perhaps I’m an average tipper with the occasional flash of inspiration given the right lighting. Either way, I know how things work.

As a follower of the golden rule (“Tip everyone who could poison you or make you ugly”), I never leave a restaurant, bar stool or salon chair without handing over at least 20 percent. I understand that a delivery charge isn’t a tip, just as I understand that my dog groomer risked her life to tie that cute little ribbon around Murph’s neck. Around the holidays, I add a little extra across the board and leave a card for the mail carrier like a good Northeast girl.

And yet, I didn’t tip my Uber driver the other night. He was probably the most pleasant person I had interacted with all day, his car was immaculate, and he waited for me to get in the door before waving and driving off. Short of calling my mom, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

Why yes, it did feel weird. Read more »

Naked or Not, the Pirelli Calendar Is Just a Promotional Calendar


From left: Yao Chen, Patti Smith, Mellody Hobson and Serena Williams. Photos | Annie Liebowitz, Pirelli 2016 calendar

The Pirelli calendar never debuts without a fuss. It is, perhaps, the only promotional calendar that arrives in the mail with some swagger, that doesn’t risk a trip to the recycling bin if your insurance company pulls through with puppies in hats or kittens on windmills.

Usually, that’s because the Italian tire manufacturer casts barely dressed supermodels to ring in each month. This year it’s because … I’m not quite sure yet. But according to yesterday’s New York Times headline, “The 2016 Pirelli Calendar May Signal A Cultural Shift.”

To which I have to say: Really? Read more »

Was Urban Outfitters-Vetri Deal in Part About Loneliness?

Urban Vetri

There was a lot of head-scratching this week when Urban Outfitters, struggling in sales, purchased the Vetri Family restaurant group. I understand the concern over a beloved local figure and craftsman “selling out” to a corporation famous for flannel and failed attempts at irony. But Urban and the Vetri people have worked together for years, and two big Philly power players are a match made in business heaven. (For those still bummed: The crown jewel Vetri-name restaurant wasn’t sold. Marc Vetri and co. also pledge to oversee all their Philly restaurants as usual — we’ll certainly notice if they don’t.)

The most interesting thing about this deal isn’t the people involved. It’s one of the reasons Urban’s chief development officer, Dave Ziel, gave for the purchase: filling a social void. As Ziel told Philly.com, “We think retailing needs to become more experiential … I think there’s a craving for real socializing beyond social media.” Read more »

How Penn Just Ushered In the Apocalypse

We saw the writing (ha!) on the wall back in May, when Penn announced it would no longer be considering applicants’ scores on the essay portion of the SAT while pondering whom to admit to its hallowed halls. We winced a bit when we saw that the comments beneath a recent Daily Princetonian article on a student’s attempted suicide had devolved into a flame-throwing, name-calling brawl over whether “the person allegedly hanged themselves” was grammatically proper or not. We fell into a fever when we watched a privileged young Yalie scream at a professor to “SHUT UP!,” then fainted dead away when we read another Yale student’s defense of said screaming in the student newspaper, which featured the immortal line, “I don’t want to debate. I want to talk about my pain.” Really, we’d like to see that tattooed on every incoming Ivy League frosh.

Read more »

Philly’s 5 Creepiest Mascots


We did it, guys. We resurrected Gus.

According to the Pennsylvania Lottery, it was popular demand that brought the state’s “second most famous groundhog” back just in time for the holidays.

“Gus went into semi-retirement in early 2012 after a nearly eight-year run as our instant game ad mascot,” said Lottery Executive Director Drew Svitko of the beloved critter in the only press release worth reading. “In the years since, we have continued to hear from players who told us how much they missed Gus and wanted him to return. Simply stated, Gus is a Pennsylvania Lottery institution.”

Damn straight he is, Drew. Damn straight.

Granted, not everyone is happy to see Gus return, which is understandable. (Wrong and heartless and unfeeling, but understandable.) Read more »

Dear Philadelphia: Where Are My Freaking Pumpkins!?

I’m only going to ask this once: Where are my pumpkins, Philadelphia?

I know where they used to be. At one point, they were lined up neatly on my steps, smallest to plumpest, as if ready to march off to their first day of pumpkin school. Others were nestled safe and sound in my window box, which as of October became a shrine to Decorative Gourd Season.

When the first one went missing, I brushed it off. It’s my first fall in South Philly proper — where the Halloween decorations went up in September and the Christmas lights are already twinkling — and I admittedly went a little overboard while trying to fit in with my neighbors. I could have easily miscounted my many pumpkins.

When the second one disappeared, I stayed positive. Maybe someone walking by recognized my pumpkin’s potential and brought it home to help it live out its wildest pumpkin dreams. Perhaps my pumpkin was in a better place, living a life I couldn’t provide. If he was transformed into an award-winning pie or a first-prize jack-o’-lantern, I could have moved on in the name of “If you love something, let it go.”

But when I woke up one morning to a mere three surviving pumpkins, rage set in.

Maybe I’ll ask again: Where in unholy hell are my pumpkins, Philadelphia? Read more »

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