Sunday, January 30, 2005

ready-to-serve religion

In college, I had a professor who converted all his students to the Muslim faith. He walked the aisles and ordered everyone to read a statement he'd typed on a page. That's conversion, basically, and bam- you're done!

Whether you agree with him or not, he made a point about overblown statistics and religion. Tonight, surfing a favorite blog of mine, I ran into the third installment of Bitchitude's back-to-college adventures. Here, she tackles her own teacher issues:

"I don’t think she likes me, no really! I’ve determined that I don’t like her. Even though she seems nice enough, she has a bit of a control freak rep… let me explain… I’m not sure what’s up her craw, but it’s definitely something evil!"

Friday, January 28, 2005

t.o's ankle, kirk cameron's naval and so much more!

We Philadelphians know all about celebrity stalking.

Our Eagles made it to the SuperBowl after 275 years of intense preparation. The news of the day now involves a certain fibula and whether he'll be able to sing and dance in time for the big party at Jacksonville.

Along those lines are my barrage of letters to 80's TV icon Kirk Cameron. Kirk underwent an intense spiritual rebirth that also coincided with the death of his career. (As far as I know, he has been to Philadelphia...)

Do not despair, fellow stalkers. I give you the latest in comedian Andy Martello's quest for approval... I mean career!

Opus IV:

"You thought I forgot about you, didn’t you? You’ve been sitting in your fancy office reaping the benefits of another well-read cartoon strip. The sales are piling up and the checks from another best-selling compilation of your cartoons are pouring in once again. All this has gone on without a single peep from old Andy Martello. You have been living quite the happy-go-lucky and care-free existence these days, haven’t you, Berkeley Breathed..."

On a lighter, and certainly more poetic note, I am currently involved in a debate with this guy about tits and keyboards:

"While working for a small office machine repair company in Colorado, I received a frantic call from a customer. During her first day on the job in the hospital working for the hospital Administrator, her boss had handed her a rush job and her keyboard was throwing in extra spaces so fast she couldn't erase them and get her document completed..."

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

happy thomas crapper day!

On January 27th, let's all flush our toilets at 12pm to, erm, toast Thomas Crapper Day.

Crapper has had a lot of...misinformation slung at his legacy in the intervening years since his death. Snopes covers some of it here.

Crapper took out 9 patents between 1881 and 1896. However, none was for the 'valveless water-waste preventer' he is often credited with.

Alexander Cummings invented the first flush mechanism 50 years before Crapper was born. Joseph Bramah and Thomas Twyford further advanced the technology with a float-and-valve system.

Crapper should be lauded as "a merchant of plumbing products, a terrific salesman and advertising genius," according an article in Plumbing and Mechanical Magazine.

The Roto Rooter Web site says Crapper didn't invent the toilet, but it asserts he was associated with at least a component of it.

A man named Albert Giblin holds a British patent, nearly 200 years old, for the 'silent valveless water waste preventer.' The system finally allowed the toilet to flush effectively.

Giblin was 'an honorary Crapper,' an employee of Thomas's plumbing business.

Crapper probably bought the patents from Giblin. He then marketed the device himself, and ascended to the 'throne' of immortality.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


San Antonio Shoes
SAS Freetime
SAS Siesta
SAS shoes
Quakertown, Pennsylvania
Quakertown, PA

would the toolbelt diva freak out in a little snow?

Aunty Mapuana, columnist/editor at MBC, recently interviewed Norma Vally, the Discovery Channel's ToolBelt Diva. Read Mop's terrific article for Norma's perspectives on family, life, and how to handle cat calls.

It's schnaying. It's schnaying!! Pratt, another Philly blogger, will tell you why this is not the end of the world, folks. It is January, after all.

Pratt's devised his own weather ratings system.

Just a "general" 6-12 inches here in Philly. See... that's why these guys are weather forecasters and not stock traders.

Friday, January 21, 2005

not for the faint of heart

For the love of God don't click on this link!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

the hopeless pacifist goes to town

I've been working on a long-term project that looks at varied war philosophies. It's something I've let go until the last minute (I'm to have a polished draft in the next two weeks). Right now, I am reading up on some of the more classic definitions of Pacifism.

Jenny Teichman called it "anti-war-ism." A number of writers have analyzed these theories in conjunction with older notions of the Greeks. One such train of thought relies on the assumption that enemy aggression can be fought with civil disobedience.

In other words, were a combatant even to charge the borders of our country, at that point, the pacifists say (according to some interpretations) we could put them off with strikes. What would they do if the people refused them labor?

Sound familiar? For some strange reason, I've been fascinated with Ayn Rand since I was a child. Her classic "Atlas Shrugged" tells the story of the movers and shakers of the world 'going on strike.'

Looking at the time period in which the work germinated, would I be wrong to conclude Rand herself was a pacifist? I've never read that anywhere, yet the application seems obvious.

Of course, the book does not view enemy aggressors as Germans or Japanese. They are of many nations. Of everyone. And the movers and shakers are warring with them all.

Maybe it's the coffee and the late (early) hour talking, but I think I've invented a new category for Rand. The hopeless pacifist.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

virgin getting the last word

As potential story ideas go, Life Magazine published an intriguing cover piece last week: "The Journey of a CoffeeBean."

Okay, not necessarily intriguing, but it's a great idea that can be localized for usage by any enterprising journalist. Think of all the possibilities... clothing and apparel manufacturing, grocers' goods, heavy industry materials. Right in my neck of the woods, I have access to the number one producer worldwide of medical rehabilitation equipment/supplies. I've already pitched two ideas based upon the premise.

A passing note of interest: as we've all heard by now, Airbus today unveiled "the plane of the future." Double decker, seating capabilities upwards of 800 people. Not to be outdone, Richard Branson announced Virgin will create a plane with a casino, a gym, and a bar! Talk about getting the last word in.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

jury trials no longer required in the good ole' u.s. of a.

Calling all would be Lehigh Valley entrepreneurs... I came across a great name for a business.

In other news, on January 12th, the Supreme Court returned what the Washington Post called 'potentially the most significant ruling in years' on handling of criminal court cases. You heard it hear first. Jury trials no longer required in the good ole' US of A.

Yep, federal judges are no longer bound by 'antiquated' notions like sentencing guidelines. They've just been given carte blanche to pass out extra time behind bars to whomever they dislike, to whomever they think was given an unfair trial. Basically, they can play God.

For crimes at Abu Ghraib, the recent sentencing of military officer Charles Graner has called other things to my mind. Graner, a former prison guard in western PA at SCI Greene- a place Amnesty International visited and reprimanded for 'deplorable' prisoner treatment- had a connection to a man I wrote about earlier this year for Independent Bias.

Nick Yarris, a Philadelphia man who was wrongly convicted and served decades on the cusp of justice, was incarcerated with Graner as his guard for a time. Yarris got to know his psychotic personality quite well. In fact, in the IB piece, I broke the Graner/Yarris connection. It would be almost two weeks before Yarris told his same tale to the Washington Post (June 5 archives).

Here was a man who was exonerated, and yet still forced to spend another few months behind bars. After he'd been EXONERATED!

Do we really need to give federal judges these additional freedoms? Clearly, too many liberties are already being played with.

Visit Jeff Garis and the dedicated members of PAUDP

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

journalism and blogging

First, a big shout-out to Philly bloggers! Now, on with the news...

Poynter, one of the premier U.S. journalism organizations, takes an in depth look at blogging, its effects and impacts on journalism- and vice versa.

Steve Outing tackles the case from both angles. First, he says, journos should take a page from 'outside the box' thinkers in the blogosphere. On the other hand, bloggers and website writers on the whole need the accountability that traditional journalism offers.

When Poynter talks about accountability, they mean editing and community standards/responsibilities. Good old validation of gossip. These are things that only print publications and major online publications can afford.

I would expand that to include copyrights. We're living in a time of overall degradation of ideas, of people not taking credit for their own "work" before it trickles down into the public consciousness. The end result is no one knows what began with whom.

Or, what about the back and forth on a new ballfield for the LV? How much of that was Rendell's decision making, and how much was administration spin doctors testing the public? Why didn't journalists solidify the story more before they reported it?

If an article in the Philly Inquirer said, "Administration officials wishing to remain anonymous..." we all know what that means, right? Rendell has sanctioned these guys to go out and test the waters with a controversial measure that is under consideration.

So, when will journalism stop acting as a minefield for new political ideas? Rather than inform the public about what's going on right now, it just distracts them with propositions that may never come to be.

Monday, January 10, 2005

visit these terrific blogs

Experience is the best teacher. D Brooks spent a good portion of his professional career in the technology/corporate fields. He's seen it all. Now, he's tackling the newest instance of corporate whoredom- Google censorship. Didn't this company just go public not long ago, or was that Yahoo? Anyway, it seems they've got a conscience, and by that I mean an urge to purge all the real personality from their databases.

FYI: "crap" is a naughty word in Googlish.

Sue-happy people First, the chick with the coffee from Burger King. Then, the burgler in Baton Rouge who sued a homeowner for stabbing him. What's the answer? more restrictions to stop litigation? fewer freedoms as a result? Read Bitchitude's insightful commentary on this issue. Her outlook is much more sensitive than mine!

This is a capitalist, free society. Right to sue, right to marry, right to prosper. Right for Steve Forbes or Bill Gates or George Psoras or whomever not to contribute millions and billions to tsunami relief- may the big G one day go easy on their souls. But it is their own damn money (this means you, Rich!)

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

if he was my bush, i’d shave him off.

Last time I looked, this was the United States of America. Sure, the definition has changed under George Bush- wars and rumors of wars, endless ideology masquerading as foreign policy. But it’s only four more years. Hey, the original intent of the Founding Fathers has remained the same.

We are free to pursue life, love, and happiness- as long as it is not at the expense of others. We vote in elections (seemingly) and can voice our protests against the government. We have media outlets, letters to the editors’ sections, Internet web logs, and endless other choices to make our opinions known. We can make as much or as little money as possible. And really, all have an equal shot at success or failure. At least, that’s what the textbooks say.

It is a free- or, mostly free- country. Despite being an imperfect system, it is the best thing going. We’ve prospered in spite of ourselves. And regardless of this week’s mudslides on the West Coast, this country has led a blessed existence.

So, the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia rocked us in our red and green holiday homes. Aid forces in the forms of money and people moved en masse into the region. We’ve seen those home movies again and again. We’ve seen death, trauma, heard strange theories regarding warning systems and animal sensory perception. That’s the structured aftermath of tragedy. Endless analysis.

The United States is far enough removed and rich enough in resources to provide vast help for the suffering region. It does no good to shake a fist at the sky and ask “why?” Rather- aid groups know this- concentrate on “how?”

Last night, The Concert for Hope aired on TV. Stars from across the entertainment pantheon joined together to sing and play for tsunami aid. What a good and just cause. What a wonderful way for them to exert their influence.

And now, on the sidelines of all this ever-present grief remain the constant water-cooler conversations. You know what I’m talking about. I cited examples above. Go ahead and count the times in the past two and a half weeks that you’ve looked at others and said, “We’re lucky to live here.”

It was in that same breath that a good friend and co-worker of mine recently took up an old chord. “Where are the billionaires?” he asked. He started railing on Gates, George Psoras, Ten Turner, the Wal-Mart brood, and Richard Branson. “Why aren’t they raiding their massive piggy banks to donate to the effort? They have more money than they’ll ever need.”

I felt my blood boil. He’s a good friend. I love him, in fact. He wouldn’t hurt a soul- but at the same time, he doesn’t go out of his way to help anyone.

And this is what gets to me. All too often, he confuses Communism and Socialism with Capitalism. We live in a country where we are as free as we want to be. That includes selfishness. There is neither a ceiling to our capabilities, nor a cap to our earnings.

Communism and Socialism distribute wealth more evenly- and insists all or most facets of the system care for one another. Capitalism, instead, is very nearly an affirmation of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

All things being equal, the fittest of the herd shall prosper.

So, if their good graces extend outward, all the better. If not, inevitably, their reign will come to an end.

It’s envy, pure and simple. Deal with it. There are more ways to give to a cause than just money.

My apologies to the billionaires’ club. They may have donated big bucks to tsunami aid. But that’s not the point. They should do it because they want to, not because they feel like they have to.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

david lipsky, writer and saint all-in-one

The incomparable David Lipsky, writer and Rolling Stone contributing editor, actually emailed me not long ago. (Imagine the nerve of this man--taking the time to offer hope to wannabes everywhere.)

Here's the story... The first version of my blog still hangs frozen in cyberspace. (I've actually forgotten the password, though my friend Andy Martello might joke that it's "iLuvLipsky.")

I'd titled the journal space: "David Lipsky, Will You Be My Mentor?" I don't quite know what I was hoping for. I can't imagine what I expected, but it was nothing akin to the help this talented man would later deliver.

When I was 16, I'd first read Lipsky's wonderful article "Impossible Dream" in US Magazine. It detailed the life and death of Rent creator Jonathan Larson. I literally carried that article in my pocket for 5 years until it started to fall apart! I xeroxed and carried it for another 2, until I lost somehow lost it.

I was devastated. Every writer has an article or a book, something like that... Something they cherish- some standard they measure themselves and everyone else against.

So that first blog of mine still includes the same plea that I had posted on this blog, up through Christmas. 'Can someone please find me another copy of Impossible Dream?!'

He's emailed me several versions of the piece, including editorial notes and his own recollections on the genesis of story. Check this out:

I think this is a nice example
of how a piece comes together. I'm a huge Liz Phair
fan, and when I really liked a song of hers I'd tried
to get hold of as many demos as I could. It's also a
pleasure to hear a demo -- a confusing pleasure, since
the notes don't tick and follow the line you're used
to. And though demos are fun to listen to, they don't
tend to be an improvement over the final, shapely
thing. As the writer of the piece, my heart is with
the opening of Larson4. As a professional, I
understood and admired the changing and shaping that
produced 10, and accept that it's probably better.
And I'd bet you, in your readerly persona, are always
going to prefer the finished draft, the first one you
read. What too me seem like better ideas will sound
to you like false notes, like wrong turns that were
usefully not-made, en route to the piece you know.

His most recent book is Absolutely American. Intertwining stories of disparate personalities who attended West Point in the years leading to 9-11, Lipsky accomplished something truly amazing.

He made the prospect of war- the life of a soldier- engrossing.

temple alum steve capus, liberal bias, and more

Objectivity in journalism is a tricky thing. Alan Greenblatt of the St. Petersburg Times has expressed disappointment at a roomful of journalists who cheered a recent anti-Bush speech given by Norman Mailer. Greenblatt wrote, "But the least [journalists] can do, when someone makes a speech either bashing or lauding Bush or any other politician, is to sit on our hands."

Here's Bob Garfield discussing the Washington Post's Dana Milbank. Milbank, now a former White House reporter, was said to've infused his pieces with anti-Bush rhetoric. Milbank has defended himself, characterizing his writing as distrust of allauthority figures. This was his personality... his style. Where does voice end and bias begin?

Anybody who knows me has heard this example time and again. Temple alum Steve Capus- Tom Brokaw's producer on the former NBC Nightly News- made mountains out of the fact that Brokaw was the lone anchor to not don a flag pin in the aftermath of 9-11, and throughout the ensuing war.

Here's a great 2003 article from the Philly Inquirer about how Fox News leads cable ratings. Note the repeated references to "Baghdad Bob" versus, conservative policies at other networks.

And my first news-editor, Jon. I took over the local government beat from him. He was going back to school to become a teacher. We went to his last meeting together. There, he whispered in my ear the details about every person in the room. Who always sided with who. Who to look out for. Who never to be alone in a room with.

At the end of the meeting, during public comment period, Jon went to the podium. He started telling off everyone in the room who had treated him like dirt over the years. He thanked those who had helped him. After 5 or 6 minutes, the head councilman snapped his gavel.

Jon sat back down and smiled at me. "Don't ever do that, if you want to keep this job."

Monday, January 03, 2005

andy martello on ghetto boy online

Okay, I'm excited about this cause I hafta know where Ghetto Boy (or is it Bill?) gets his hats. Does he wear them on the radio? I guess he could be nekkid, huh?

There is a point here. I just found out my favorite funny man and freelance humor writer Andy Martello is going on Ghetto Boy Online Radio today.

An uncensored radio show with IM and call-in capabilities, it will be from 11AM to 1PM central time. Rebroadcast from 4PM to 6PM CST later the same day.

Here's additional info:

AOL ID – openroadradiox
YAHOO ID – morpheuseus

Phone#: 312-751-1957

Show your support. I command you! Okay... please?

Find out more about the talented Mr. Martello:

The website.

The stories.

medicare modernization act

Now, more news of bosses screwing former employees. Shh...PP&L is listening. Loyalty is a 4-letter word in corporate America.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute calls it “the ticking retirement time bomb.” Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) President Drew Altman says employee-sponsored retiree coverage is going, going, gone thanks to sky rocketing costs. Nationally, retiree premiums this year cost 24-27 percent more than last year.

Lobbyist Jim Norby has remarked names like Boeing and IBM are telling retirees ‘don’t be too proud to beg.’ On the Philadelphia stage, Pennsylvania Power & Light (PP&L) is a top-traded stock, yet they’re slashing benefits.

Of 300+ corporations surveyed, 18 percent- including a fifth of the Fortune 500- say they’re planning for retirees to maintain company coverage, but shoulder 100 percent of cost, said a new KFF study. Another 11 percent plan to terminate ALL access to ANY health coverage for future retirees.

If that isn’t bad enough, corporations re-working retiree health plans on the eve of Bush’s Medicare Modernization Act (MMA) actually need to be told to educate former employees about these adjustments.

Bush’s MMA, which will include a prescription drug benefit starting in 2006, had caused many analysts to speculate employers would dump burdensome retiree healthcare costs in the government’s lap. Much of alternative media also wrote MMA was a pat on the back for corporate RNC contributors.

And conservatives said Kerry wanted to socialize health-care?

The KFF report concluded double-digit increases in retiree premiums continue to hasten the trend to employee cost burden. Duh.

“Given the complexity of the new law, educational efforts could help ease the transition for retirees as MMA is implemented,” the report said.

Nearly 30 percent of employers said they would NOT educate their people about coverage changes.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

poor dick clark

Welcome to my 2005. I’m planning a red-letter year— aren’t we all?

I’m also thinking of last New Year’s Eve. Lincoln Center, second row, The Nutcracker. So close, we could spit in the orchestra pit. Later, we heard a guy on a street corner prophesying about the coming 365 days. I don’t remember what he said. I’ve been trying to for the longest time.