March 31, 2008
It's the new url for Blinq, which is moving from Typepad to the Inquirer's publishing system.
I am in the process of moving some of my favorite posts over to the new blog.
If you go there, you'll find a moving version of the above image. You might even win a CD.
March 28, 2008
Say Goodbye TO A.J.
The Daily Examiner has served up a tasty slice of the local snarkosphere ever since A.J. Daulerio started blogging for the Philadelphia Magazine site one year ago. It was smart, smart-assed and featured, more than anything, good reporting and writing as he developed into a wise guide to what people were typing in these parts.
He came from Deadspin. He returns to Deadspin. Which is good, because his bio could not accomodate the names of any more publications .. Maxim, Gawker, Knot, the Black Table, Huffington Post, Deadspin, Oddjack, Deadspin (he likes Deadspin). Today's his last day. He gets to continue to live in his parent's gargage.
The printable version is that this is a great opportunity for me and I get to, essentially, have the freedom to do what I want, write what I want, watch sports, and be under the employ of a really great company and a really great friend. There aren't many jobs you can make a living at under those types of conditions. It's too good to pass up.
Ok, so I want the unprintable version. Meanwhile, here's a slab of his old roast.
Not THAT Big Damned Fish!
The big damned fish we're talking about wasn't Bill Clinton.
It referred to the picture that had been there, of a giant striped bass plucked from the Schuylkill.
Maybe it's that the pictures and the display copy update at slightly different paces on the home page, so this was just a momentary thing. We love Bill around here, you know? This was nothing like "Mush From The Wimp."
March 27, 2008
Snipery in Bosnia
Go to the American Debate if you want well-considered words on Hillary Clinton's "misspeaking" about having been under fire when she landed in Bosnia in 1996.
But stay here if you want to see newly discovered video of just how battle-tested she really was back in the day.
March 25, 2008
Lance Butler an aquatic biologist with the Philadelphia Water Department, sent it to me after I was asking after the health of the Schuylkill River.
"We’ve had this major resurgence," he said. "It's loaded with different species. I can give you 45 different species of fishes we’ve surveyed from the Flat Rock Dam to the confluence of the Delaware."
So he e-mailed a shot of a big ol' striped bass they netted from the tidal waters just below the Fairmount Dam. Note the Waterworks in the background. That's a Center City fish. It weighed about 30 pounds.
The reason I was asking? A Comcast show called "City Limits" airs Friday on the Versus network in which championship angler Mike Iaconelli fishes the Schuylkill. He's done the the East River, the Potomac, The Chicago River. Here, he's got six hours to catch and release three large-mouth and two small-mouth bass as the camera rolls and the clock ticks.
If you are a YouTube fan or watch fishing on cable TV you might recognize the Philly-born Iaconelli, who moved to Runnemede, N.J., when he was five and has fished the Schuylkill for a quarter century. The videos have titles like "Never Give Up!" and "Never Leave the Boat!" He is an excitable boy. Think the Jim Cramer of anglers.
One such video begins with him screaming "Big one! Big One! Oh my God! This is a giant!" as he reels in a scrappy bass, a species he calls "a little ball of muscle." That particular catch won him the 2003 Bassmaster Classic on the Delta. He's a big fish himself.
In person he is much more low key. I met him along the Waterworks Tuesday afternoon as the sun was low over the expressway and a dozen or so young men in hoodies fished for catfish. Iaconelli was touting the virtues of urban fishing - how the remnants of the river's industrial past creates challenging nooks and crannies in which fish gather to feed or hide from predators like Iaconelli (pronounced Ike-o-nelli).
The challenge, he says, is picking among the 20 or casts he knows -- or make up new ones on the spot to sneak his bait next to the sewer outflows and bridge pilings and barge ties and entice a hungry fish.
Below us the noise from the young fishermen rises. Someone has a hooked a channel catfish, a two or three pounder. "These are city kids who love to fish, Iaconelli enthuses. "It's what I'm talking about. Look at his face. He's using a spinner rod. I went out on this river with a $50,000 speed boat that does 70 miles per hour. Here you've got kids with equipment that doesn't cost $50.
"Look at his tackle box. It's tagged with graffiti! That's urban fishing right there!"
So back to the big damed bass. A beautiful fish, but could you eat it?
Not so much, says Mike Kaufmann of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. The state has issued a health advisory for stripers pulled from the tidal portions of the Schuylkill River. The commission recommends that no one eat more than eight ounces of the fish. A month.
Which means that baby could safely feed a few dozen of your closest friends.
March 21, 2008
Can We Handle The Truth?
One of the editors poked me with a stick yesterday; he wanted me to write about Barak Obama's speech in Philadelphia. As a result, I spent about three hours last night flopping around in bed like a fish on a dock.
It's not that I had ignored the speech. It was impossible to, seeing how everywhere I looked in the newsroom, people were watching, whether gathered around a TV, or plugged into their computers. But I was working on something else - a piece about the unmeritorious way that Pennsylvania picks its judges. Every time I started talking about judicial elections and the lack of minority representation, the conversation worked back to Obama's speech, in which he condemned the offensive remarks of his former pastor, The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, then went on with naked honesty to say things about how blacks and white see America.
"The most honest political speech I have ever heard," two people told me that day. Same exact words.
I went to sleep convinced that Obama had taken the third rail of American politics -- race -- and turned it into a balance beam from which he pronounced the most difficult truths.
And about 1 a.m. I woke up thinking we are not ready for the truth. I don't think we're ready for Obama. I thought we were. I was naive.
When my wife and I would talk about the Democrat candidates for president I kept telling her that her Hillary was unelectable. I'd recall the eight hours I spent in a room with her in 1985, as she sat in for her husband the goveror and talked to a dozen education reporters about school reform in Arkansas. I was blown away by her brilliance. And then I'd tell my wife that Hillary is just what the opposition wants. No one would energize the base like another Clinton to hate, and we'd be caught rehashing the past when the need to fix the present is so urgent.
Obama is the unelectable one, my wife, the reconstructed Southerner, would reply. Despite lip service, she argued, in the privacy of the voting booth too many white people will not be able to pull for a person of color. A few months later, I'm coming around to my wife's position.
After Obama's speech I went blog hunting, and the headline on the Politico site left me dismayed: “GOP sees Rev. Wright as path to victory.” They look at Obama. They see his angry pastor.
“It was a speech written to mau-mau the New York Times editorial board, the network production people and the media into submission,” said GOP consultant Rick Wilson, who was behind the 2002 ad that tied former Sen. Max Cleland, a Vietnam war-wounded Democrat from Georgia, to Osama bin Laden. "Beautifully calibrated but deeply dishonest." It didn't take long to spin poetry.
Hate was all around. In the words of the Clinton volunteer at a Philadelphia phone bank who told an Los Angeles Times reporter that he was voting for Hillary because "I love the Lord and I don't want a person named Al-Barack Hussein Obama to be our next president."
In the work of an aide to John McCain who was suspended on Thursday for spreading on the Internet a race-baiting YouTube video that mashes Obama's words with those of Rev. Wright, Malcolm X and the Public Enemy song "Fight The Power."
And in a posting on the BooMan Tribune, a liberal Philadelphia-based blog. The writer, an Obama supporter, had scored a seat at the National Constitution Center for Tuesday's speech, and afterward was walking through The Gallery when he sat down and searched for a wireless signal for his computer.
"An elderly white woman sat down next to me and was silent for a little while. Then she said, "That's where my tax dollars go."
I looked up at her, not knowing what she was referring to, and asked, "Excuse me?".
She nodded at a group of young early-20's black people (some with a baby carriage) walking by, and repeated herself. The people she was referring to were nicely dressed and appeared to be enjoying themselves as they window-shopped in the mall. I think I just mumbled something like "Mmmn" and returned my attention to my laptop. Then the elderly woman said, "Do you know that Hillary is coming here today?"
I nodded, "Yes. I just came from seeing Obama."
She frowned at this news and then said, "I'm very excited to see Hillary. She knows how to deal with (she swept her hand around to indicate the mall crowd) this." I excused myself.
Part of me wonders whether this anecdote was a bit of bloggy stagecraft to advance the Obama cause. But you don't have to make up something like this. It's everywhere.
It reminded me of what I heard covering Europe and the Middle East from 2000 to 2003. The Kosovars blaming the Serbs. The Serbs blaming the Americans. The Palestinians blaming the Jews, the Jews blaming the Palestinians. Each nation intoxicated by its own victimhood. Drying out is difficult when it feels so right to have been wronged. You don't have to go about the hard work of moving forward that Obama talked about in Philadelphia.
I listened again to the Obama speech Friday morning as I walked the dog. As he explained the resentments harbored by both black people and white people -- the two separate realities -- I remembered the last time I said something to set off a minor racial incident at work. I was talking to a cherished colleague, who is black, and she was mourning the number of minorities who lost their jobs at the paper during last year's layoffs because they were among the most recent hires.
At least it will be easier for them to get jobs, I said. I was trying to say something helpful. I wound up saying something hurtful. What made me think it would be easier? she asked. She didn't make eye contact with me again for days. I insisted to myself I was right. Wait a year, then we'll see. In fact, it has little to do with numbers, everything to do with perception. Each convinced we were right, each a little buzzed on our victimhood. At least we're starting to talk about this.
March 20, 2008
Fallen Tenor Giant
I spent the morning with Emily Brecker Greenberg, who I knew as the head of my local school board until I realized she was also the sister of Randy and Michael Brecker, the Brecker Brothers, whose music I've spent about 30 years listening to.
You might know him from the Saturday Night Live Band, or from solos on Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years," or James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, or Billy Joel's "Big Shot." He sat in with every pop star from Aerosmith to Zappa, and we haven't even started with the jazz stuff -- Miles, Mingus, McCoy, Herbie, Chick, Chet, Quincy, Jaco. Only he needed a second name, to distinguish himself from his trumpeter brother.
Emily, 60, grew up in the middle of the two in a musical household in Cheltenham. Dad, a lawyer, was a jazz pianist at heart. Emily played classical piano, but says that by 8th grade she sensed music was not going to be her career. Her teacher was not so convinced, however, and so made Emily wear leather gloves when she played electric bass with her brothers so she would't get callouses that might ruin her ivory touch.
Michael died last January from complications of leukemia. He had a rare blood disorder, and failed to find a proper bone marrow match. Emily made a promise to him, which is the subject of a column next week.
All this is to introduce this piece of music I found on the Web. A tribunte to the 6-foot-4 baby brother Emily called "Mikey." I keep playing it as I try to find the words to start the piece. It's called "Common Grounds," from a performance in Barcelona.
March 14, 2008
Did Comcast Build a Giant Memory Stick?
I kept thinking there was some sort of work stoppage, like the construction crew had bailed before finishing the job. I figured at least they were going to snap something on the top, but no.
To me it looks like a giant memory stick. The kind you shove into a USB drive.
My friend, The Perfessor, has a different view of what Philadelphia's tallest skyscraper resembles.
"Rebar. Rebar without the concrete."
Earlier he had likened it to a giant pigeon coop.
Jon Adams, a Penn law student who took that spiffy photo on the left, started off praising the building by e-mail, then noted how "alien and cold" it seemed, especially compared with that Second Empire classic on which Billy Penn stands.
Am I just a cretin? Would I not know great architecture even if I walked into it? (Ooh, my nose.)
I just sauntered around the newsroom soliciting opinions of what the tower looks like.
"That obelisk from 2001" one writer said.
"That stick that Superman throws that turns into the Fortress of Solitude," said another.
"A remote control," said a third.
March 12, 2008
Ok, so maybe you didn't set your alarm for 10:37 a.m. Sunday to hear me on WHYY-FM talking about Philadelphia's passion for the sweat suit. Maybe you didn't remember the time change. Or, maybe - if you're like my wife - you had other things to do.
No worries. Here is a link to the audio of all the Inky commentaries -- Rick Nichols on local beer hunting, Melissa Dribben on beating the financial blues, Jeff Gammage (a former college soccer player) on the splendors of Chester, Monica Yant Kinney on curious property tax rates, Inga Saffron on the latest important buildings we lost, and John Timpane on the virtues of the word youse.
Collect them all. Trade them with your friends.
March 11, 2008
Back To Youse
Basking in the free pub and ratings bounce for screening the last episode of "The Wire" at City Hall Sunday night, Mayor Nutter has announced a Big Top showing of "Back to You," the light-hearted Fox sitcom starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton.
This must be true. It comes from The Philly Turkey, the blog with the flavorful "News Youse Can Use" tag line. So when's the mayor going to adopt the mantra of another Grammer vehicle, "Philadelphia, I'm listening"?
And in unrelated but real news, the Yankees have signed Billy Crystal to a minor-league contract.
Back to youse.