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.
March 07, 2008
Blinq Is The New Barry White
First, a decision by Justice Scalia in Republican Party v. White, as well as the concurring and dissenting views. The case was about the First Amendment rights of a judicial candidate in Minnesota.
It read to me like Tolstoy in Russian. I am way out of practice. I asked Blinq's official counsel, my brother the lawyer, for a little sympathy, and he said, "It's not easy."
No, it's not. Call me crazy, but I think I'm with Scalia on this one. We'll see what I think when they cut my logic open and splay it across the conference table.
If any of you are stuck in traffic Sunday morning, you can hear Blinq on WHYY-FM around 10:37 a.m., doing a commentary about Philadelphia being the sweatsuit capital of America. It's a radio version of a column I wrote last year. A little investigative re-purposing for the Volvo and Vivaldi crowd.
The cool part was going into the studio at WHYY to record the bit, which is shorter than a normal column, and, I hope, funnier the second time around.
I have not so much experience doing radio or commentaries, but who needs experience when they have headphones like that? You slip them on, and the rest of the world seems a light year away. Your voice deepens, and you sound like a combination of Bob Edwards and Barry White. I asked if I could take them home to my wife.
February 22, 2008
Ghosts in the House
That's what I was facing Wednesday morning. For two days I'd written and rewritten this piece about the Kelly Street Chorus. The story was about a battered statue and some singers of old-timey music, with lots of quirky Philadelphia history, and I was getting nowhere.
A friend in Virginia once said that newspaper stories are like hamburger. If you handle them too much they start to rot. I was about to call in the men in hazmat suits. It just was going nowhere, paragraph after paragraph. Some nice words, no music.
I'd spent Friday night with the singers, then on Sunday interviewed a man, Ken Mobley, who'd devoted months to a wild goose chase through newspaper morgues, historical society archives, museum basements. He was after a bronze bust of the singers' first honorary conductor, Victor Herbert, the superstar of the Tin Pan Alley era. Herbert's bust used to stand in Fairmount Park. Then it disappeared.
The story was about today's Kelley Streeters' intense need to resurrect Herbert's image and story, and Mobley applied everything he new about history - he taught high school social studies - to make a most pleasing find.
But even a sentence that clear I could not write for some reason. So I did what I always do when stuck writing. I did more reporting. And in our newspaper morgue I got lost in the words of these old Inquirer columnists - Harold Wiegand, John Cummings - who championed the Kelly Streeters through the years.
There was a time, around the turn of the century, when most of the city's papers had their offices around old Kelly Street, which ran off 10th Street above Chestnut. Apparently, newspapermen used to know how to sing in addition to drink. They did both at the Dooner Hotel, where Herbert first encountered the group that honors him to this day.
After soaking this all in, I went back to my desk and started typing, and the damned thing started flying off my fingers. I'd like to thank the old newspaperman who must have entered my body Wednesday morning, and knocked this off in an hour or two. It was good for me, too.
February 20, 2008
Audio Killed The Video
We had all sorts of video queued up and ready to go to illustrate Monday's column on Josh Winheld, the 29-year-old author of a memoir of his life with Duchenne, the most-common form of muscular dystrophy. But we messed up. You could barely make out his words over the din of his ventilator.
Thanks to the Gray Lady, here's six minutes of video on Josh. The New York Times featured the Cheltenham native today in a piece on new tactics to treat those with the disease.
The Times says this about fighting Duchenne:
Rather than concentrate only on a cure, some researchers are now intent on developing drugs that may alleviate the effects of the disease.
But, absent a cure, too many doctors around the country still assume there is little or nothing that can be done for the muscle-wasting condition, parents and specialists say.
“We’re in a stone age with Duchenne,” said Dr. Linda H. Cripe, a pediatric cardiologist at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. She describes Duchenne patients as “a group of kids that pediatric medicine had forgotten, a group of lost boys.”
December 22, 2007
Waking Up To The Chumby
Go ahead, click the snowfall. If only I could get this Chumby to work like this in the paper. The beauty of the blog ....
Here's Thursday's column:
Yesterday I woke up to the future. Its name is Chumby.
The Chumby turned on at 6:50 a.m. as electronica pulsed from the “Groove Salad” Internet radio station playing on my leather-bound bedside companion.
My one eye unburied in a pillow now focused on a slide show of family photos: the wife, the dog, the kids scrolling across the little screen.
Next came text. First up, headlines from Google News — Hillary’s “warm and fuzzy tour,” South Korea’s new president, earthquake in the Aleutians. Then, local local: the starts of stories and columns from the morning’s Inquirer and Daily News. By the time the weather scrolled across — a graphic showing the temperature and forecast — I was sitting up, rubbing my eyes, ready to watch the animated cars that demonstrated the volume of traffic on the Schuylkill.
When I finished with stocks and ESPN scores, the Chumby showed the time again: 7:03 a.m. The information junkie in me had just started the day with a spike to the brain.
The folks at Chumby Industries insist that their electronic bundle of joy is still in beta, which means it’s not officially launched and won’t be until early next year. You can still buy one at Chumby.com for $179.95, which I did two weeks ago, or rather my wife did for me, as a present.
Naturally she hasn’t paid it a bit of attention, other than asking “What the hell is that?” the time I mistakenly set the alarm on “Klaxon.”
Think of the Chumby as an Internet alarm clock with decent little speakers and a color screen that’s responsive to touch. You set up the device on a Web site, and let it go to work pulling in the latest feeds. It requires a wireless network.
The beauty of your Chumby is that it’s yours — you can program it, customize it, hack it. Users are invited to write their own applications, called ‘widgets,’ though this is way beyond my competence. Since the first batch of devices shipped in August, users have created about 3,000 widgets.
No, I don’t own stock in the company. Yes, I am a bit of a geek.
Some of the things the Chumby can do: summon more than 100 Internet radio stations, from WFMU to KRCW. Play your Mp3s or iPod. Show the PandaCam at the San Diego Zoo. Reveal the latest entries on the PostSecret site or any other blog you tell it about.
You can control the order and timing of programming, set different channels that let you wake up to news and information and wind down to satire and snark.
You might wonder just how hard this thing is to program. (Actually, if you’re like my editor, you wonder why you’d want all that information flying at you when you could be lounging in bed with a cup of tea.)
If you can customize a Yahoo page without calling a 13-year-old for help, you’re in business.
I’ve been tinkering with the Chumby for two weeks now, and although quite proud of myself, I do have a complaint. Not about it, about me.
The Chumby gives me a blast of the day’s info-bits in less than 15 minutes. My worry is that it will satisfy my information hunger, filling without nourishing. Only a few of the newspaper stories and blog posts allow me to scroll down and read beyond a summary.
Maybe this will change with demand - everything about the Chumby seems to. But right now, the Chumby is one of those irresistibly shiny things that seems a mile wide and an inch deep.
The day mine arrived, so did a package from my brother containing a collection of Preston Sturges DVDs and The Best American Essays of the Century collection. Instead of reading the essays, I’ve been drawn to the Urban Word of the Day, Stuff on My Mutt and YouTube videos, transfixed by the endlessly new, and turned off by the timeless.
If the novelty doesn't fade, I’m afraid that my cuddly Chumby is going to be crushed by the growing tower of books that wait for me by my bed.
You can contact Daniel Rubin at 215-854-5917 or email@example.com.
November 12, 2007
The TV Pioneer and The Dirty Trick
Sally worked under Mal -- a founder of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists -- while a student at Annenberg, and uses her space today to relate a Brush with History Itself that Mal related.
In it, we learn a very juicy version of really happened behind the scenes to make John F. Kennedy triumph over sweaty, shadowy Richard M. Nixon during that 1960 debate that boosted TV's distorting influence.
It has to do with a TV legend's dirty trick and allegiance to one candidate. We're not supposed to have such things, let alone use them to sway elections.
Here's another account of Air Conditionergate, from Presidential Debates: Forty Years of High-Risk TV by Alan Schroeder
October 15, 2007
Snark of The Day
From the 'Couldn't have said it better myself' department, comes Simon Dumenco in Advertising Age:
Speaking of standards, thank you, U.S. News & World Report, for your "Rankings and Reviews" website, in beta (with a "Best Cars & Trucks" roundup) -- a spinoff of your various "America's Best" franchises. I can't speak for other Americans, but I know I have been dying for more arbitrary rankings of the best stuff in America as determined by America's third-best newsweekly.
May 25, 2007
I was trawling around for a Memorial Day column -- go to a VFW hall, check out a parade, talk about honor, service something like that. I called around to a few good men and women, then David Hamilton called me back. The Vietnam vet's got this Quixotic dream of seeing Tun Tavern, birthplace of the Marines, rise again along the Delaware River. A few obstacles face him, we discovered over a few double Dewars on the rocks. The piece will be in the paper Monday. Hamilton told me it wouldn't be a proper Memorial Day column if it didn't pack a punch.
Memorial Day, he told me, isn't about the beach and bbq. "Memorial Day is about dead people and crying wives and orphan kids." It should be in the paper Monday.
April 04, 2007
Did you know that Philadelphia is the sweatsuit capital of America?
This was a hunch, confirmed with a little calling around, and larded with some testimonials that show just how unbelievably great this town is to write about.
For the record, I'm wearing old jeans and a faded green t-shirt with a red-and-white plaid North Face shirt thrown over it to mask my shape.
March 28, 2007
Glitchy Glitchy Ya Ya Ya
We're still stuck in the mud here. No one has been able to comment on posts or visit the archives since our move to a new online publishing system a week and a half ago. Blinq's blunk. The 'why' part is complicated. There's lots to sort out still with the move, but the online folks are working on it.
So I haven't been posting, just working on the column, which I can report is now a full-time, permanent gig. I passed the tryout. I'll move to two a week shortly. Meanwhile, I've been trying to figure out the space requirements -- a blog can be any length, but a column requires me to tell a tale in 17 inches. It's a skill, and it getting a little easier.
I think writing for you all made it easier to write for the paper's readers who are hungry for voice. It's been an adjustment actually talking to readers on the phone instead of dealing by email. My favorite came today, after the piece on the H.J. Menningen collection of mid-century U.S. print advertisements.
Some guy named Marco from South Jersey left a message letting me know, "I saw your ad. Pretty good ad." He didn't really want to buy the 500,000-piece collection. He was looking for a few James Dean items. But I called him back and explained that it wasn't really an ad, it was a column. But he got the gist of it.