Philly Blunt

Freelance writer. Editor and web-video producer. Former Atlantic City Press and Philadelphia Weekly staff writer, City Paper managing editor/columnist and Dougherty for Senate campaign manager. Comments welcome here or emailed to brianhickey9 [at] hotmail. Now on: Facebook (Brian Hickey, in Philly) Twitter at Flickr at Be sure to check out Hickey on Divorce Court:

31 August 2008

Weekend Reading Roundup

Sarah Palin may be -- strike that, is -- the sassiest VP candidate this side of Spiro Agnew (hubba hubba), but there's something bothering me about Her Vixenness. (And, yes, I will continue to dance back and forth across the sexist line from here on out so as to totally, and wholly, piss off those crazy-ass dames and 12-cat-owning frumpeteers who are still whining that they shan't vote for Obama on account of how sexist he clearly is.) What is it, you ask? Why, lemme tell you: She hates nature as much as she loathes a lady's right to abort. Specifically, polar bears.

No worries here, Sarah. We're totally cool.

Which really surprises me, because she's a Krazy-Kooky-Konservative, and polar bears are as white as can be, naw'mean?

The American Petroleum Institute and four other business groups filed suit Thursday against Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall, joining Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's administration in trying to reverse the listing of the polar bear as a threatened species.
On Aug. 4, the State of Alaska filed a lawsuit opposing the polar bear's listing, arguing that their populations as a whole are stable and that melting sea ice does not pose an imminent threat to their survival. The suit says polar bears have survived warming periods in the past.
One of the plaintiffs in Thursday's lawsuit, the National Association of Manufacturers, lauded the choice of Palin as the Republican vice presidential nominee for reasons including her advocacy of oil and gas exploration, which many fear could be affected by the bear's protected status.

Gratuitous chick-with-gun video follows.

So, yeah, great move, Johnny Boy. Me(starting to)thinks that it's not a coincidence that every time you throw a party, nature decides to bear down on New Orleans with all its raw power. (Because you're stupid. And because you're evil. And nah-nah-nah nah-nah nah.) You know who else is evil? Whoa, Johnny, you're dead-on right: Vince Fumo, who (allegedly) used we Pennsylvanians' money so he could have a Oreck vaccuum cleaner in every last closet. Well, he dusts off the "Let's Git Some (Pity)" playbook this week and cries an unconvicing river to the Inquirer. Which falls into his trap by dropping it on the front page.
Showing his penchant for sensitivity, he compares his woes -- which were brought on by hubris, greed and unmitigated arrogance -- to someone suffering from cancer.

"I liken it to [when] the doctor says you have cancer. Well, you don't go in the corner over there and just die. You fight it. You get chemo. You get whatever you can get. You may win, you may not."

Psst, hey Vince, I saw my mom fight it, and she didn't win. Guess what: it's nothing like what you're going through, you pompous piece of excrement. It's going to be utterly redeeming to watch you get your tired, decrepit, delusional ass hauled out of court in cuffs, because you're a scumbag the likes of which most humans rarely encounter. May your cellmate dislike you from the moment he lays eyes (and hands) upon you. XOXO, Hickey.

Sorry about that; had to vent. Some other stories of note:

Hey Jers, you're long overdue for a big old hurricane.

Hey America, you're right: The income gap always widens under Republican leadership I think it's because they sell polar bear pelts at a markup, but others see it differently.

It is well known that income inequality in the United States has been on the rise for about 30 years now — an unsettling development that has finally touched the public consciousness. But Professor Bartels unearths a stunning statistical regularity: Over the entire 60-year period, income inequality trended substantially upward under Republican presidents but slightly downward under Democrats, thus accounting for the widening income gaps over all. And the bad news for America’s poor is that Republicans have won five of the seven elections going back to 1980.

Hey, world, Nicholas Kristof brings another horrific tale of suffering back from Darfur. I know the Olympics were pretty, but shouldn't we start smacking the Chinese around for their tacit support of genocide?

And last, but not least, 90210 is back, yo (check out this oral history in the Times, which failed to include Joe E. Tata, a cardinal sin to say the least. And I'm man enough to admit that I already programmed it into thee old TiVo. You know, a few minutes after I made sure Gossip Girl was the top-priority show for recording purposes when he returns tomorrow night. Dude, I can not wait to see what Serena did this summer, ohmygod.

30 August 2008

I just flew in from the mansion on Green Street and man are my arms tired

Hey-yo, and what's the deal with those airline peanuts, anyway? For those, and other witty observations, check this video from Stu Bykofsky's recent "comedy" night.

In the spirit of the event, here's the best joke of all: some people actually think Larry Farnese isn't Inmate Vince Fumo's puppet. Ba-dum-bump.

Food for Political Thought

What follows is an article I wrote on Nov. 3, 2004. Even Johnny Boy McCain's decision to go -- and excuse me for the bluntness, but there's really zero other explanation -- the "piece of ass" route in naming with potential veepette won't change the fact that, nearly four years ago, I saw the only way for America to redeem itself. (Still I be loving the "Palin" gets "tapped" headlines. I mean, c'mon headline people.)

Talk about a rude wake-up call. It was 5:40 a.m. EST when Andrew Card's smarmy mug materialized on the television. The bottom corner of the screen read Bush 254, Kerry 252. "We are convinced President Bush won re-election," said Dubya's chief of staff, noting that Tuesday was a "great celebration of our democracy."

Well excuse us if we aren't in the partying mood, Andy. While you accurately predicted Ohio voters would protect the stranglehold you and yours have on our White House, we're worried.

Worried about what's going to happen to our soldiers in, and soon to be heading to, Iraq or the next stop on Democracy's Global March.

About how much further John Ashcroft and the boys in the black helicopters are going to erode our civil rights. (After all, Georgie Boy doesn't have those pesky re-election concerns to cap his poison pen anymore.)

About how we're going to get the clean air and drinkable water we need to survive. (Or maybe even the stem-cell research that could've had Bush watching results with a living Ronald Reagan rather than holding an Election Night gala in a building named after the dead Gipper.)

About keeping our children from getting left so very, very far behind.

About, quite frankly, everything.

We wanted to hold out some hope for a miraculous John Kerry comeback victory. Truly, we did. But our dreams were dashed within hours, when he announced to the world that he'd be calling the Prez to concede.

Tuesday night, we heard all the pundits and politicos noting that the most pressing matter facing whomever wins the presidency is healing the nasty rift in an America more divided than it's been in quite some time. A noble idea, no doubt. But probably not a pry-are-oh-tee, if you catch our drift.

We begrudgingly accept the fact that somehow, more than half of America's voters pulled that nasty Bush/Cheney lever. (Doesn't mean we want to break bread with them any time soon.) We're just not biting on your spin, Andy, that the numbers show your boss has a bigger mandate from the people of any president since 1988. If you believe that, well, you're as delusional as the pundits and politicos who see some healin' on the horizon.

Now, we're proud that Philadelphians — namely young Philadelphians — got involved in the democratic process. They took the battleground right out of the state. (Note to you: Build on this). But today marks a time to move forward, in the spirit that almost affected commander-in-chief-style change. That'll be hard work, of course, considering that the president's going to be, well, pissed at the lack of love we showed for him the past few months.

To that end, City Paper is proud to bring you this "Bush Victory Survival Guide" complete with tips on how to go on living in this brave new world. On the following pages are, among other things, directions on how to become a Canadian citizen, what jobs we expect to offer some stability between now and 2008 (i.e., soldier) and tips on how to "dress like a rich white guy."

Sarcastic? We thought some of it was, until we woke up to Andy Card urging us to throw out the "Kerry Victory Survival Guide" we'd prepared with stars in our eyes. (If you want to read it, you'll find it posted in all its Dewey Defeats Truman glory on The illustrations surrounding this introduction, as you may have already noticed, would have helped conservatives adapt to the new world order that would have been ushered in by a Kerry victory.)

So, give it a read, folks. It just might come in handy when the onslaught begins. And remember: In 1,459 days, vote Obama.

28 August 2008

The Series Picks

So with football a mere week or so away, I need to sharpen thee old prognosticating skills. What better way to do so than with the Phillies/Cubs series.

Tonight at 8:05; LHP Cole Hamels (11-8, 3.20 ERA) vs. Chicago RHP Ryan Dempster (15-5, 2.85).

Cubs 8, Phils 6

Tomorrow at 2:20 p.m.; RHP Joe Blanton (1-0, 4.03 with Phillies) vs. Chicago RHP Rich Harden (4-1, 1.47 with Cubs).

Cubs 12, Phils 3

Saturday at 3:55 p.m.; RHP Brett Myers (7-10, 4.49) vs. Chicago LHP Ted Lilly (13-7, 4.23).

Cubs 3, Phils 1

Sunday at 2:20 p.m.; LHP Jamie Moyer (11-7, 3.81) vs. Chicago RHP Carlos Zambrano (13-5, 3.53).

Cubs 10, Phils 8

Workplace Injury

Why is my co-worker Conor Kelley curled up on the floor in the fetal position? Because, and I shutter to mention this publicly since it could be taken as a tacit endorsement, he just watched a video on, um, well, I might as well just say it: I won't hyperlink it. If you want to end up like him -- i.e. feeling sick to the stomach and ashamed of yourself, type it in yourself.

27 August 2008

As if we needed another jinx...

The big fat Sports Illustrated NFL preview just arrived and, lo and behold, who does Dr. Z pick to get to the Super Bowl? That's right, the (his prediction) 12-4 Birds. That's the good news. The bad? He has them losing to the Pats by three again, 26-23.

Standings Update

UPDATE: The Cubbies just finished off a sweep of the Pirates with a 2-0 win. So, make that 9.5 games.

With one game to go until the Fightins' head midwest to take on the juggernaut aka the Chicago Cubs, the standings are as follows:

Cubbies 82-50
Phillies 73-59 9 games back

Just thought you should know.

Juice Newton would be so proud

A dispatch from Saint Louis, via the right Rev. E. B. Webb, who is considering a move back to Missou on account of this:

Bar employees charged in alleged public sex acts
By Patrick M. O'Connell
FENTON — Four employees of a bar near the Meramec River have been charged with sexual misconduct for allegedly engaging in public sex acts with other women at the tavern.
Each of the suspects is charged with at least one misdemeanor count alleging acts in front of other people at the Queen of Hearts tavern, at 731 Larkin Williams Road, in November and December, according to warrants recently made public in St. Louis County Circuit Court.
The owner of the bar, Freda Brockman, also was charged with a misdemeanor liquor law violation for the alleged lewdness of her employees, according to warrants filed Aug. 14. Brockman, 74, could not be reached for comment.
A woman who answered the phone at the Queen of Hearts said the bar remains open.
The warrants describe the acts as "deviate sexual intercourse," including alleged oral sex between two women and displays of the breasts and genitals, in the presence of others in a public place.

A freelance gig

Got another column in the Metro today, complete with a PE reference. You can check it here. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to verbally torturing my Mets-fans friends who, I think, are on the verge of gouging their own eyes out after last night's Phillies' comeback.
I must enjoy these last 24 hours of Phils baseball, for I won't return to their side till Monday, when they'll be four losses heavier.

Photo taken from the N.Y. Daily News on principle alone

26 August 2008

Being a Cubs Fan = True Patriotism

Granted, I may be a bit biased, so I'll allow a newspaper in the city that's home to a baseball team that will travel to Wrigley this weekend to hand the hometown nine an easy four wins to take it from here. (That would be the Inquirer, located in Philadelphia, home to the Phillies, who are nowhere near as potent as the Cubs.)

The Vietnam War had ended a year before when two protesters dashed onto the field at Dodger Stadium, carrying something under their arm. It was an American flag, and as they tried to light it, Monday, then a Chicago Cubs outfielder, ran from center field to left and snatched it out of their hands.
On that day, April 25, 1976, he became an American hero.
Yesterday, Monday, now an announcer with the Los Angeles Dodgers, got another flag to add to his collection, one flown over Valley Forge National Historical Park. It was presented by Montgomery County Sheriff John P. Durante, a friend of the former major- leaguer, at a luncheon for about 20 in Norristown.
"I remember seeing it that day on TV," Durante said. "I thought then and I still do, what a heroic act."
The reason he did what he did, Monday said, was simple: It was the right thing.

Blue Hen Power

Seems that the University of Delaware as Best Academic Institution on Earth story has finally hit the masses on account of the Presidential election. A Bloomberg piece today makes the point that not only is the next VP a Blue Hen, but so will be the winning and losing campaign honchos.

Harvard? Yale? No, Delaware School Is New Epicenter of Politics

By Nicholas Johnston
Aug. 26 (Bloomberg) -- The academic epicenter of this year's presidential election isn't, as in some years past, Harvard or Yale. It's located between Baltimore and
Philadelphia at the University of Delaware.
The 265-year-old state institution in Newark, Delaware, boasts having produced Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Biden as well as the campaign managers for both Barack Obama and John McCain.
"We're just a political factory here," Joseph Pika, a professor of political science at the university, said with a laugh. "There's more going on in Delaware than people think."
The Democratic campaign of Obama and Biden is being run by David Plouffe, who answered the siren call of politics before graduating. The day-to-day management of the Republican presidential campaign is being directed by Steve Schmidt, who also left without a degree.

Now, I didn't know Biden (a little before my time) or Plouffe, but a little birdie who sat on my cyber shoulder the other day told me she was shocked that Schmidt has reached such a pinnacle, on account of his frat-boy partying prowess.
This unsubstantiated allegation is brought to you by a Hen who actually graduated and wants to see McCain lose worse than Mondale did.

Oh Glorious Day

Today's a good one. Why?

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Philadelphia Police Department has begun issuing Tasers to some officers.

I can hear the click-click-clickin' filling the late-summer air already, co-mingling with the singing birds and running water, a beacon of calmness and serenity washing over the city as a whole.

The Daily News has an absolutely rad slide-show about the cops' training. Sheeeeet, I might head on down to the Roundhouse and beg them to Tase me before I get home.

My proposal for "Oceans Fourteen: Gangsta Style"

I'm starting to love the throw-in international briefs in the Times. Like, a week or so back, the tiny story mentioning that there might be a wee bit of a problem in South Ossetia. Well, check this, in its entirety and try and tell me it don't be having screenplay written all over it:

TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) — The police in Mexico on Friday chased a man suspected of being an assassin for a drug cartel through the streets of Tijuana and into a crowded casino, arresting him and another man after hundreds of frightened gamblers were ordered to the floor, officials said.
Mexico’s federal Public Security Department said the two suspects were believed to be Rubén Ríos Estrada, thought to be a prominent gunman for the Arellano-Félix cocaine cartel, and Héctor Manuel Mora Mendoza, also suspected of being a cartel member. They were flown to Mexico City under heavy guard, the agency said.
Federal troops and police officers chased the suspects through the streets before the men entered the casino, the department said. Federal agents caught them as they gambled, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported, citing witness accounts.
The casino company, owned by Jorge Hank Rhon, a former mayor of Tijuana, complained to local newspapers that the police raid terrified and endangered about 1,300 customers.
The federal police said officers found a shotgun, two pistols, hundreds of bullets and five shirts emblazoned with police insignia in the suspects’ vehicle.

Yeah, I suppose that would be a little terrifying. Me hopes Nancy Botwin's new beau didn't have anything to do with it.

One area in which the Brits rule over us

One of my earliest memories of going to 700 level for a Birds game at the Vet was heading up the ramps, almost near the top, and seeing a dude sprawled out on the cold concrete. On his back was a Giants jersey. On his pants was a whole lotta urine. I've always figured it was his, but you never can tell, right?

This story (and the time pre-teen me was heckled mercilessly for sporting an Elway jersey) came to mind when I read Bob Ford's traveling-fan column in the Inquirer this weekend, kicking off the paper's printed variation on HBO's Hard Knocks series, following the team step by step over a week of preparation.

It would be nice to report that the Eagles legions who pack the airplanes, haunt the hotel bars, and roam the streets are goodwill ambassadors from our fair city, the kind of representatives who leave behind a warm regard for Philadelphia once they have departed. Unfortunately, that would not be entirely accurate.
The great majority of traveling fans are grown men. If one were to generalize about them, it would seem they like to wear uniform jerseys that celebrate other men - not that there's anything wrong with that - like to consume alcohol to excess, and are not slaves to their fitness regimens. The contingent often travels like a portable frat party from something less than the brightest house on campus.

You'd think we were savages, right? Well, not if you happened to also read the Sunday NY Times, which had a fan piece of its own.

Fan might not be the right word. Fanatic British travelers would better describe it. And good frickin' Lord do they tear shit up when they head over to the mainland. To wit:

Earlier this summer, flying home to Manchester from the Greek island of Kos, a pair of drunken women yelling “I need some fresh air” attacked the flight attendants with a vodka bottle and tried to wrestle the airplane’s emergency door open at 30,000 feet. The plane diverted hastily to Frankfurt, and the women were arrested.
In Laganas, on the Greek island of Zakinthos, where a teenager from Sheffield died after a drinking binge this summer, more than a dozen British women were charged in July with prostitution after taking part, the authorities said, in an alfresco oral sex contest.More alarmingly, a 20-year-old British tourist partied with her sister and a friend into the early hours in Malia also in July, then returned to her hotel room and — although she had d
enied being pregnant — gave birth. Her companions say they returned later to find the baby dead; she has been charged with infanticide.
And in Dubai, also this summer, a British man and woman who met during a drinking bout were arrested and charged with having sex on a beach, after repeatedly shouting abuse at a police officer who ordered them to stop.

Um, bravo?

24 August 2008

Cubs Baseball

(Photo from Chicago Tribune)
As I type, the Cubbies just took a 6-1 lead in the seventh over the miserable Washington Nationals. Not that big of an accomplishment, I know. But Lloyd from Say Anything is in the booth, and if I remember correctly, Lloyd ended up winning Ione Skye at the end of that fine film (even if he's Lloyd Lloyd all null and void to the boys hanging outside the Gas 'N Sip).

Does that mean the Cubbies who, if they hold on to this lead, will be the first team to 80 wins in the MLB will break a 99-year championshipless curse this year? Hell if I know.
I mean, truth be told, the more they win, the harder the inevitable fall will be. But they do have the Phillies coming in for a four-game weekend set this week, and that'll be a nice little boost to the win column, right? We shall see.
Have to close, though, with a great quote in today's Inky sports piece that sums it up perfectly.

Still, Cubs fans are fighting their better pessimistic judgment and refusing to ponder what it would be like to finally be champions after so many years of losing.
"That's like talking to somebody about sex who's never had sex," said Matthew Furlin, a Cubs fan for 29 years. "We've never had sex. What would we know it's about?"

The Sunday Funnies and More

Just got done watching the U.S. Men's Basketball "Redeem" Team take out the Spaniards. Good stuff, right? Very right.

In any event, my back's still aching so I've prescribed myself more couch rest, a sentence that enabled me to get through a bunch of reading material. So with no further delay, here are some stories that caught my eye.

Like, the Inquirer's look at the looming Democratic National Convention. It's no coincidence that the biggest night -- Obama Thursday -- will occur inside the new Mile High Stadium. Because it's the home of legends, the two-time Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos, the finest franchise in all of sport. The lead-up nights have a distinctly local flavor, though, with the man who hired John Timoney away from us (Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, who gives a good interview) on "One Nation" Monday, Gov. Rendell and Sen. Casey on "Renewing America's Promise" Tuesday, University of Delaware alum, diehard Birds' fan and our next VP Joe Biden on "Security America's Future" Wednesday.
Seems like the standard angle so far is that Biden can appeal to "working-class voters" who flocked to Hillary during the primary season. I'm getting really tired of the standard angle though, because nobody has the guts to call it what it really is. So, allow me:
They think Biden can chisel his way into the stone heads of bigoted white voters who refuse to pull Obama's lever solely because of the color of his skin. No, babies, we have not come that long a way -- yet.

Hillary's northeast Pennsylvania supports rallying before primary.

Speaking of the University of Delaware, caught an unusual story about three Hens getting robbed at gunpoint after a party just a bit off-campus. It's unusual because that type of crime rarely ended up in the police reports I'd have to scour twice-a-week for The Review.

Meet the new ocean, same as the old ocean? Yep. Medical waste washed ashore in Avalon. They call it a fluke. I call it punishment for chasing the partiers out of town, turning The Princeton into a friggin' Fado cousin and trying to be all hoity toity n'shit. The beaches reopened today (Sunday), but still.

Also in the Inquirer, an obit for Alfred Zappala, a class-act anti-war mainstay whose foster son Sherwood Baker died in Iraq and was featured in the solid Was It Worth It? series that ran under my watch at the paper I used to work at. My thoughts go out to his former wife Celeste Zappala and the rest of Alfred's family.

And finally, a front-page expose on the fact that people text when they shouldn't. Like when they're driving. Or crossing the street. (Emoticon use notwithstanding, a funny read.) My favorite vignette:
Web sites such as (for BlackBerry addicts) and (a mobile social network) carry war stories. One woman toppled a flower display at a funeral. A man at a wedding banged into the bride.

Banged into the bride, did he? Wonder how the groom-to-be felt.

Left to right: 1) Oh no she di'int. 2) Oh yes she di id. 3) Ooh baby, I like it when you text like that. 4) Oh, you too good for me now? 5) Mmm, that's right baby; you mine. 6) Where can I pick up some whipped cream?

From the NYT Magazine, a solid, cover-all-bases piece about Obama's true economic philosophy (Spoiler alert: He's nowhere near as liberal as the GOP-talking-point-regurgitating zombies would have you believe), and a profile of John McEnroe at 50. (Still an American treasure, fo'sho.)

There was a cosmic converence in the mailbox this week. Esquire came first, with Tom Brady on its cover. Then, GQ arrived, with White Jesus girlfriend Gisele sporting a bra, knee-high socks and nothing else but for an unfortunately-placed blanket. Damn you blanket. Damn you straight to hell (or a NE Pa. Hillary rally)!

What I enjoyed most about the Brady piece is that it reminded me of a "manager's retreat" that we had at a place I used to work for at which the boss I used to work for handed out copies of "The Four Agreements," a quick read that resides on the border of self-help and new-age gobbledygook. The story's not online yet, so I'll have to transcribe what writer Tom Chiarella made of a prop designed to help managers smile as they tried to do more (work) with less (resources).
It's a maddeningly sticky read, confoundingly self-apparent and densely self-congratulatory, written in standard new-age prose bilge.

Sounds about right.
As for Gisele in GQ, well, um, there were words next to the pictures, I hear.

23 August 2008

And now, the All-Time Olympic Moment, backwards

Bat Boy Spotted in Fairmount

Don't take my word for it; compare the pictures and decide for yourself.

I'll take "Dudes I'm Happy I'm Not" for $1,000, Alex.

Alex: A photo clue. Shown here, this Olympic sprinter is about to run the third leg of the 4x100 relay final against Usain Bolt, an athlete who represents the next step on the evolutionary chart and could damn well be more impressive than Michael Phelps. Yes, Brian...
Brian: Who is Jared Connaughton of Canada?

Alex: You are correct sir.
Brian: I'll take Swords for $2,000...

Total Eclipse of Larry's Heart

Press conferences tend to be boring, scripted affairs. And, in my 13 years of covering them, rarely have I heard a word that surprised me. Well, that all changed yesterday when Larry Mendte, the former CBS-3 anchor who got canned after the feds charged him with busting into his co-anchor Alycia Lane's e-mail some 537 times, took to the podium at his attorney's office at 5 p.m.
Earlier in the day, he pleaded guilty to one count of -- for lack of a better term -- cyberspying. Smart move. They had him cold. Then, came a 10-minute apology in which he basically told the world:
1) I nailed her.
2) My wife found out.
3) Things got ugly.
4) Alycia decimated my ego by saying I was old and washed-up, and talking smack on me to others.
5) I returned the favor by ordering a keystroke-capture device online, busting into her Yahoo account and spreading the juicy stuff out to gossip reporters.
6) I got caught and now want to be the poster boy for Internet safety, but only after the world knows about our "flirtatious, unprofessional and improper relationship."
7) I wonder who will play me in the straight-to-Lifetime movie. Is Fabio still available?

As taking a flame-thrower to the whole damn house goes, it was a classic performance. Should be interesting to see how it plays out image wise, though.
I'm of the mind that throwing mega-hot Alycia under the cement mixer will make the middle-aged-woman demographic go ga-ga for Lar-Lar, what with her being everything they wish they were and, thus, hate her.
Others think it'll go the opposite way, driving public opinion toward her. (As it stands right now, 61 percent of voters in a poll think he ought to do time. He won't.)
Only time will tell.

Here's the Inquirer's take. And the Daily News'. And the video that we grabbed for

And the Blue Hens shall inherit the earth

I got my text at 8:41:07 a.m.
You know, the one explaining that The Man Who Should Be Our Next President decided that a University of Delaware Blue Hen should join him in the White House.
So congratulations to Joe Biden, Class of '65. From Brian Hickey, Class of '95.
Do us proud.

20 August 2008

The Day of Reckoning? Nope, not today.

At least for this monkey (!!!) that was on the loose (!!!) in Tokyo today.

Run, monkey, run!!! (In case you haven't caught on yet, I have a loose-monkey fetish.) Tell your friends to avoid the long net of the Japanese law!
Why, oh why, can't something like this happen in Philly? The biggest excitement down thar now is making sure you walk between, and not through, the homeless-piss puddles.

Who's afraid of a Big Bad Lesbian? (And other Lady Talk)

I'm pretty sure there wasn't a media outlet or lonely blogger in Philly who failed to mention, yesterday, that Eagles' cheerleader Janelle Stangl (pictured below) was featured in this month's Maxim magazine as one of the NFL's finest pom-pom gals. Such is life in a championship-starved city knee deep in a slow-summer-news cycle.

What everybody failed to mention, in lieu of braggin' on Ms. Stangl, is that compared to the Dolphins' Lilly Robbins and the Bucs' Rachel Watson, Stangl's 1/4-page non-spread feels like an afterthought in print. (Remember that quaint notion, that everything isn't words on a screen?)
Neither here nor there, I suppose.
And the local angle's always a good one to latch onto.
But my favorite part of Maxim's September issue has to be Anna Kournikova basically inferring that young women need protection from mannish lesbians. To wit:

M: Just how "gay" is women's tennis?
AK: It was very open. Obviously, there are lesbian players, and it's no secret. It's a personal choice about how you're going to live your life, and that's it. As long as somebody doesn't push their views on you? Cool, good luck. I came to America when I was nine and I was always traveling with my mom or dad, so I was protected.

In other news, the right Rev. E.B. Webb XVI of the ATL reports on two items. The first has him contemplating a move north of the border:

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadians who may have become tired of being passed over as porn stars will have a new, home-grown outlet to showcase their erotic talents. Federal regulators have granted Alberta-based Real Productions approval to launch a new digital pornography channel, which promises to serve up at least 50 percent domestic content. ...
"I think as Canadians there is a bit of a tiredness in seeing all American stuff," Shaun Donnelly, president of Real Productions, said during an interview on Friday. "There is always that thrill for something that is local and you get the sense that these are people you can meet at the supermarket."

The second has him becoming a fan of Olympic archery because he thought one of the gals was a nudist. Which, it turns out, she isn't. On the Swedish Olympic team, that is. Because she's pretty nude here.

19 August 2008

Reading Roundup

Money is the upside of having multiple projects to complete at once. An inability to blogtend is the downside. That said, here's a bunch of quick-hit links for noteworthy stories I've recently encountered. Read till your heart's content, yo.

In a new book, “Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life” (St. Martin’s Press), James Hawes, a British lecturer and satirical novelist, considers the man behind the literary myth. According to Mr. Hawes, the myth is all penniless failure and tubercular despair, struggle and saintliness. The man is more dashing. He held a high-paying job, visited brothels and enjoyed some popularity, romantic liaisons and literary admirers in his lifetime. [NYT]

That is the side that Bustos rarely displays in public. Not the one who colors velvet posters. (“I bring them to life. It’s what I do. I like it.”) Not the one who stops and makes sure her teammates watch their step when it is slippery. Not the one who may be the most popular player because of who she is, not what she is. She is the rugged bomber with the long, braided ponytail in back and a scowl in front, generally scaring those who do not know her — opposing pitchers, mostly. That is the outsider’s portrayal, and Bustos does not seem to mind hiding behind it. Never mind that it is Bustos who is scared of the dark, of flying, of the ocean.[NYT]

Former Rutgers University star Darrin Winston, who pitched in two seasons with the Phillies, died Friday at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold Township, just two days after being diagnosed with leukemia. His death was announced by the Somerset Patriots, the Atlantic League team he played with for four years before his career ended in 2002. [Inquirer]

The jewel, and most expensive makeover, is Cherry Hill. That 47-year-old mall is going upscale by adding a Nordstrom department store, the region's second; adding high-end catches such as Apple, BCBG and Armani Exchange; building new restaurants; and replacing its food court with ritzier tenants.[Inquirer]

Federal and state court decisions three years ago left Pennsylvania's restrictive wine laws a shambles. A federal judge ruled in 2005 that Pennsylvania's prohibitions against out-of-state wine shipments were unconstitutional. He ordered the state not to enforce its bans on direct-to-consumer shipments. Ever since, Pennsylvania residents have been able to order wine to be shipped directly to their homes or offices. But many out-of-state wineries remain leery of the legal limbo and won't ship to Pennsylvania consumers.[Inquirer]

And when voids loomed, whirl was king: He'd put the pedal to the metal, stopping only to get arrested while driving naked in his Porsche (1996); or to pass out in a stranger's house, in a child's bed, and wake up with medics staring at him (1996); or to spend some heel-cooling time in jail (various). About five years ago, though, he decided to clean himself up, and so far, so good. Since then, he's continued to make movies, most of them great but small (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang; Good Night, and Good Luck; Zodiac) until Iron Man hit theaters earlier this year. And Iron Man has killed. Critics loved it, audiences loved it, ticket sales have shot past the half-billion-dollar mark, and suddenly Downey is sitting pretty once again. [Rolling Stone]

Since Rock has long refused to sell his music as digital downloads, fans who want to get "All Summer Long" — legally, at least — have to buy the album. (Other prominent digital holdouts include AC/DC, who have an album coming out this fall, and the Beatles.) "I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel here," says Rock. "Good music just doesn't go out of style, and if you hear a great song that moves you, you'll obtain it — by any means necessary." [Rolling Stone]

Immediately after the shooting, the media descended on the woodsy suburb of Omaha known as Bellevue (population 50,000), where Hawkins had been living, and began some hit-and-run reporting. But that soon sputtered out. After it was discovered that the shooter had a history of mental illness, the national media left town, and then when it came out that he'd recently been fired from a job at McDonald's, even the local guys dropped the story and went back to reporting on the weather. That was pretty much the extent of the digging, as if losing the opportunity to flip burgers was what drove the teen to murder. [Rolling Stone]

The truth is that the campaigns of both Barack Obama and John McCain are being inundated with cash from more or less exactly the same gorgons of the corporate scene. From Wall Street to the Big Oil powerhouses to the military-industrial complex, America's fat-cat business leaders know that the Animal House-style party of the last eight years that made almost all of them rich with bonuses, government contracts and bubble profits is about to come to an end, and someone is going to have to pay to clean up the mess. They want that someone to be you, not them, and they've spared no expense to make sure both presidential candidates will be there to bail them out next year.
They're succeeding. Both would-be presidents have already sold us out. [Rolling Stone]

15 August 2008

Loooooking sharp

So, I'm hooked on Facebook. I know. I know. I'm a decade late. But so what? Right? Because how else could a wonderful photo like this, of me and fellow 27 member Hank, make its way into The Tubes? That's right. No other way.

Helluva gut, right? Right.

And the First-Ever Birds' Fan of the Week Award Goes To...

... oh, that's simple: Come on down, Herbert Alex Simpson, you're living the dream!

PHILADELPHIA - Federal investigators have charged a Philadelphia man with trying to blackmail New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin by sending him letters threatening to expose a fictitious sexual tryst with two women.
Herbert Alex Simpson, 30, is accused of sending Coughlin two letters on July 30 and July 31, allegedly from women claiming to have had a sexual encounter with the coach in December when the Giants were in Philadelphia.
The letters demanded the coach pay $20,000 to $30,000 or his life would be made "a living hell by doing something to (his) family," according to court documents filed Thursday.
Investigators interviewed the women named in the letters, who said they knew nothing about them and never met Coughlin. The women also identified the handwriting as belonging to Simpson, a former co-worker who they said had written threatening letters to others in the past, authorities said.

Just one thing, H.A.S.: Have you ever seen Coughlin? And if so, you really think he's pulling strong?

Why I'm a Little Uneasy about this Whole Michael Phelps Thing

Yes, I've been watching the Beijing Games, even though the Chinese should be totally ashamed of themselves for:
1) Enabling Omar al-Bashir in Sudan.
2) Telling a 7-year-old girl she wasn't cute enough to be seen on TV. (See photo. The too-ugly one is on the left. Obviously.)
3) Killing Tibetan monks.
4) A wide swath of human rights violations.
5) Et cetera.

And to be sure, the games have been incredible, if not as juiced as the McGwire/Sosa home-run chase. (I mean, c'mon, that pool alone is shooting out world records like a rigged slot machine at Sam's Town casino). But is anybody else worried about the whole merging of sports and science and the inherent physical manipulation therein?

Check out this nugget from Sports Illustrated's piece on Michael Phelps' dominance to date.

For Phelps, with his 17 races, recovery is key. Exertion creates lactic acid, the athletic equivalent of kryptonite, and there are perfectly legal ways to minimize its residency in the body. Longer warm-downs, for one. Three minutes after Phelps's race, or theoretically when lactic acid production is at its highest, someone will prick his ear with a needle and that blood will be measured to see how many millimoles of muscular waste must be cleared from his system. Phelps will then swim easily until the readings drop to an acceptable level.
"We're mapping him all the way," Skinner says. "With so many races, we really want to stay on top of things to make sure he's staying on track and not getting too fatigued."

Ah, maybe I'm just being a bit too sensitive here. I mean, after all, Rocky still beat Drago even though "Death from Above" had all those fancy machines while Rock chopped wood in Siberia.

Just seems as if the innocence of competition is long dead if we've reached an era where we can measure "millimoles of molecular waste."
In any event, good luck Phelps, even if you're from the Syphilis Capital of the Universe, you're alright in my book.

Nutter and the Times Magazine

So yeah, everybody who trawls the papers, magazines and blogs for any sort of Philly-centric connection to a national/international story has already noted that Philadelphia Mayor/Wonderful Fancy-Bar Companion Michael Nutter played a major role in the Sunday NYT Magazine piece headlined, "Is Obama the End of Black Politics?"
In short, the theory is this: Nutter's decision not to back Barack is the true testament to the civil-rights eras heroes in that their struggle enabled him to support whom he wanted, for whatever reason he wanted. I'm down with that angle. But to get sidetracked on Nutter alone overshadows some very interesting nuggets from a fantastic Matt Bai story examining the rift between the older and younger generations of black politicians. Five of those nuggets appear after the photo of U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (SC), U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, U.S. Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama and Nutter.

1) Above his couch hangs a black-and-white photograph of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Charleston, with the boyish [U.S. Rep. James] Clyburn [of South Carolina] and a group of other men standing behind him onstage. When I visited Clyburn recently, he told me that the photo was taken in 1967, nine months before King’s assassination, when rumors of violence were swirling, and somewhere on the side of the room a photographer’s floodlight had just come crashing down unexpectedly. At the moment the photo was taken, everyone pictured has reflexively jerked their heads in the direction of the sound, with the notable exception of King himself, who remains in profile, staring straight ahead at his audience. Clyburn prizes that photo. It tells the story, he says, of a man who knew his fate but who, quite literally, refused to flinch.

2) “I don’t want in any way to seem critical of the generation of leadership who fought so I could be sitting here,” [38-year-old Obama pollster Cornell] Belcher told me ... “Barack Obama is the sum of their struggle. He’s the sum of their tears, their fights, their marching, their pain. This opportunity is the sum of that.
“But it’s like watching something that you’ve been working on all your life sort of come together right before your eyes, and you can’t see it,” Belcher said. “It’s like you’ve been building the Great Wall of China, and you finally put that last stone in. And you can’t see it. You just can’t see the enormity of it.”

3) But more interesting, perhaps, was the public reaction of Jesse Jackson Jr., the reverend’s 43-year-old son, who is a congressman from Illinois and the national co-chairman of Obama’s campaign. The younger Jackson released a blistering statement in which he said he was “deeply outraged and disappointed” by the man he referred to, a little icily, as “Reverend Jackson.” Invoking his father’s most famous words, Jesse Jr. concluded, “He should keep hope alive and any personal attacks and insults to himself.” ...
This newly emerging class of black politicians, however, men (and a few women) closer in age to Obama and Jesse Jr., seek a broader political brief. Comfortable inside the establishment, bred at universities rather than seminaries, they are just as likely to see themselves as ambassadors to the black community as they are to see themselves as spokesmen for it, which often means extolling middle-class values in urban neighborhoods, as Obama did on Father’s Day. Their ambitions range well beyond safely black seats.

4) “So Obama’s the first one out there on the ice,” [Newark, NJ Mayor Corey] Booker told me. “This campaign is giving other African-Americans like myself the courage to be themselves.”

5) A lot of black incumbents who supported Clinton now find themselves trying to explain how they ended up so disconnected from their constituents, and many are preparing for their strongest primary challenges in years.

Best New York Times Correction about the Cubbies in a Century

In case you were wondering -- and let's face it, you weren't, but I'm gonna share anyway --- the Cubs' magic number currently sits at 39 [Correction -- make that 37!].
Good news, fo sho. But my favorite Wrigley development of the week came in the Sunday Times (and sat on my desk a good week until rediscovering it, but hey, what can I say?)

An article last Sunday about the desire of Mark Cuban, the owner of the N.B.A.’s Dallas Mavericks, to also own the Chicago Cubs referred incorrectly to the baseball team’s championship history. The Cubs have indeed “won it all,” capturing World Series titles in 1907 and 1908.

That's right, two World Series victories. Suck it, Yankees fans!

13 August 2008

Back in the saddle

When I made the shift from writing to politics back in February, I wasn't sure whether I'd ever publish something in a newspaper again. Books? Screenplays? Magazines? Maybe x3. Well, seems as if the decision made itself for me. For today, one day shy of six months since my last story ran in the paper I used to work for, I have a column in the Metro. Of course, it deals with politics, so it's kind of in a gray career-move area, but still.

A Fumo corruption trial will foist yet-another national embarrassment upon a city that has seen voters reject the politics of the past (see Michael Nutter’s victory) in lieu of civic progress. I’m not saying Fumo’s guilty, although dogged Philadelphia journalists unearthed ample evidence to the contrary. But I am saying that Fumo should do anything and everything possible to save other people some money – not to mention give the city the gift of dignity – and reach a fair settlement before the gavel drops.
It’s time to clear those dark clouds from the sky and let the sun of good government, not salacious nightly-news stories, dry our dirty laundry once and for all.

To read the full (if 400 words can qualify as full) piece here.

12 August 2008

My new job

Not as in the new job I have. But the new job I want -- even if it really doesn't exist. To wit:

LONGMONT, Colo. - A man claiming to be a police detective tried to get an adult novelty shop to give him free X-rated videos, saying he wanted to make sure the performers weren't underage, authorities said.
He made three tries within nine days last month and was turned down each time. The store manager called police after the third try.
Authorities said Monday that the man showed a badge and left a business card from the Longmont police "age verification unit." Cmdr. Tim Lewis said there is no such unit.

All of which leaves me with one question for Cmdr. Tim Lewis: Dude, why isn't there such a unit? You should be ashamed of yourself.

11 August 2008

I Got Gun Fever!!!

So, I was up in the mountains for my buddy J.J.'s bachelor party this weekend (don't ask). And on the way up, I made a little pitstop at the Sunset Hill Shooting Range in Tannersville or something like that.
This is odd because:
1) I've never held a gun before,
2) Let alone fired one.
Well those days are long gone, suckas. Because I fired just about every last damn piece they had.

This is my AK-47. There are many AK-47s like it ...

I shot regular rifles. I shot sniper rifles. I shot nines. I shot a 45. Sheeeeeet, I even fired a grenade launcher, yo. But nothing, and I mean NOTH ING, compares to (something I think was called) the Remington 780 Magnum which, best I could tell, could take a friggin' tank to pieces. (With a blowback that may leave you with a brace around your back, like the one around mine right now.)

This is my Remington 780. There are NO other weapons like it...

My point here? Let's just say that It's Always Sunny episode where the fellas got gun crazy could happen to you. And when it does, you'll love it. Just like I do. Granted, weapons aren't toys, and gun violence is a total plague, but I think I may be looking at the issue a wee bit differently today. Gonna give it a few days before rendering judgement so as to let the adrenalyne dissipate.
Sorry I can't stay much longer, but I have a Remington dealer to find.

08 August 2008

My dad's a TV repairman. Got a killer set of tools. I can fix it.

I never thought this day would come, but damn you, three-day weekend. Damn you straight to hell (aka Northeast Philly.) Had I been working today, I'd'a seen something I've been waiting to see since my commute took me out Kelly Drive to the Falls:

A speeding car careered off Kelly Drive and into the Schuylkill River at the height of the rush hour this morning as rowers and runners looked on in horror.
The car sailed nearly 30 feet from the embankment before it plunged into the waters.
"It was just like a Charles Bronson movie," said Bill Ban, a rower who was finishing up his morning routine at 8 a.m. just north of Boathouse Row.

Mr. Majestic, lookie here: If it were a Bronson movie, dude would've jumped out of the car with eight guns to seek vengeance on the filthy Schuylkill water like he don't got a care in the world. And he'd have killed it dead. Real, real dead.
How do I know this? Oh, only because I'm a mere 24 hours from breaking a rule I told myself I'd never break: Hitting a gun range out in the Poconos as part of J.J.'s bachelor-party celebration. I'm told they have M-16s and Dirty Harry guns and a whole bunch of other stuff. Wild, right? Right. Hope I don't get me no gun fever, though. The world needs that like the dude who drove into the Schuylkill needs one of Milton's duck boats.

06 August 2008

Nigh, the end is

So, page A1 in the Sunday Times was a real uplifting read, if you find yourself uplifted by further evidence of the proximity of today to Apocolypse Tuesday. (Don't know why, but I always figured the locusts would arrive before Hump Day, but not at the start of the work week). We have:
-- our fine nation deporting people while STILL IN their hospital beds,
-- The Man trying to say Bruce E. Ivins actually killed himself (with the paper accepting such),
-- globalization getting slammed by oil prices (ok, maybe that's good, but the oil thing? One of the horsemen, fo sho), and

-- jellyfish taking over the oceans!!!

Things look good, oh yes they do. But buried as deeply as something can be buried on the front page of the Sunday New York Times is a passage in a story about Obama and the "delicate path" he must walk when it comes to class and race preferences. I'd argue that this one sentence summarizes absolutely everything that divides Americans rich and poor, black and white. And its an issue we'll need to talk about, openly, if we're to continue developing in -- dare I say -- a post-globalization world?

"... in his presidential campaign, [Obama] has unsettled some black supporters by focusing increasingly on class and suggesting that poor whites should at times be given preference over more privileged blacks.
His ruminations about shifting the balance between race and class in some affirmative action programs raise the possibility that, if elected in November, he might foster a deeper national conversation about an issue that has been fiercely debated for decades. He declined to comment for this article. ...
During a presidential debate in April, Mr. Obama said his two daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, “who have had a pretty good deal” in life, should not benefit from affirmative action when they apply to college, particularly if they were competing for admission with poor white students."

Think about it, haters.

05 August 2008

Why you're fat

From the NYT: "In 1970, the average American ate about 16.4 pounds of food a week, or 2.3 pounds daily. By 2006, the average intake grew by an additional 1.8 pounds a week."

A modest proposal

So, the City's Department of Human Services, an agency that faces innumerable challenges in its mission to protect Philly's kids and families, is under some well-deserved fire for enabling the horrificly depraved death of Danieal Kelly, a 14-year-old with cerebral palsy. As the Inquirer put it, this is a story rife with "allegations of villany."

(Danieal is center, back row; photo from Sunday Inquirer)

And yesterday, Mayor Nutter hopped into the fray, hammering those who let this poor child die and vowing change.
Just like officials have been vowing change for years.

"If you are not prepared to take the action that needs to be taken, if you cannot keep up and stay on top of things, then you should leave this city government right now," Nutter said, addressing himself to DHS employees. "We don't need you, and we don't want you."
Nutter's comments were easily his harshest critique yet of a city department and its employees. Although he campaigned as a candidate who would throw the bums out of City Hall, as mayor he has frequently gone out of his way to praise municipal workers. The vast majority, he often says, are diligent and dedicated people who get too little respect.
Nutter took care to repeat those sentiments yesterday, even personally thanking by phone four DHS employees who had tried to blow the whistle on the Kelly case. But his appreciation for good work was, for once, dwarfed by his prodigious anger at those who had so badly failed the 14-year-old girl.
"The behavior exhibited by public employees is unacceptable. I am furious at their actions," Nutter said at the news conference.

Let's be honest: Cases like this are going to keep happening until there's widespread, systemic change within the department. I don't purport to be an expert on this -- though I did edit Doron Taussig's fine piece about DHS a few years back -- but something's been swirling around my mind since the latest "deluge" of coverage:

Fine, so DHS is probably yet-another bastion of patronage, right? Well, why don't investigators look into how every last person involved in this case -- hell, why not department wide? -- actually got their job. Trace it all the way back to whomever initialed the top of their application for fast-tracking purposes.
Unqualified? Bring the weight of the system down on higher-ups who slid them into the jobs. DHS is not the place to put anybody but a trained, compassionate professional who will treat the position as a calling, not a nine-to-five job. And its high time the people of Philadelphia know who these people are, and how they got there.

Reading Roundup - Funky Bus Fare edition

Any time I have the opportunity to namecheck Frankie Smith of "Double Dutch Bus" fame, I take it. Because, quite frankly, it's the funkiest song of all time. And Frankie, who told me a couple years back that he was planning a comeback, is from West Philly.
Today is one of those times, on account of Sunday's AP piece in the Inquirer about New York City schools encorporating the izay-izay-iz-a-zumble-zaaaaa into its phys-ed program.

Ssssssh. Sugah.

In other great news, it seems as if:

One of our subs leaked radiation near Japan. (Rad!)

Scientists may have found a pill that replaces exercise. (Radder!)

Mark Cuban's bid to purchase the soon-to-be World Series Champion (insert jinx repellant here) Chicago Cubs has some owners on edge. (My vote's for him. Their votes won't be, on account of the insular nature of their little Old Boys network.)

From the Worthwhile Blogs file -- and it's not a very thick one -- comes the story of NY freelance photographer Steven Hirsch's rather intriguing Courthouse Confessions project in which the snapper photographs and interviews defendants who generally go unnoticed by society at large.

What I like most about this is that Hirsch removes himself from the product, letting the subject's words flow freely. (Fine, fine journalism.) Por ejemplo:

My name is Craig Lewis (pictured above, from Hirsch's site). Somebody had gave me a dollar that they owed me for two weeks on 125th. Street and Lexington Avenue and the police they seen it and talk about observed me doing sale. I never sold the dude a bag. The dude told them I never sold a bag of weed. They let him go and kept me. They give me time served for no apparent reason. For a dollar, for a dollar bill.

04 August 2008

Gee, that looks familiar

So, I caught a glimpse of the Philly Daily News cover on the way to work this morning.
My first thought: Awesome, somebody finally invented a time machine, cause I was up in Aug. '07 all over again.
Forgive me for being a wee bit prickish here, but if I were, say, managing editor of a paper that's seen many better days (gee, I wonder what that'd feel like), I'd make sure my writers dedicated themselves to telling new stories. Y'know, like, um, news? I say this, again apologetically prickishly, on account of the fact that this cover story about the Strawberry Mansion All-Stars little league appeared in the Aug. 23, 2007 City Paper under my byline...

... while this cover story about -- here it comes -- the Strawberry Mansion All-Stars little league ran in today's Daily News.

Now, to be fair, I think the DN squeezed an eight-inch story about the league into its pages in the days before my comprehensive piece ran. But still. Wherefore art thou, shamefulness?

As an aside, I have a stack of articles from the weekend papers to link to here (including one about double-dutch, yo), but I'm jammed up on another project. Check back manana, and I'll have them up.

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