January 29, 2003

I'll tell you, those cable people can be pretty tough.

Reuters earlier this month reported that GEZ, the German television authority, spent months trying to extract payment, eventually determined to be overdue, from one Frau Walburga St of Ramsdorf, a small city near Cologne (Köln).

The GEZ, which collects a fee for every television set in Germany, sent numerous letters to Frau Walburga, delivering bills to the address of a Catholic parish in Ramsdorf.

Apparently frustrated by her lack of response, the GEZ threatened Frau Walburga with a penalty of 1,000 Euros (roughly $1,055).

The problem? "Frau Walburga St" has been dead for more than 1,200 years.

Said Frau is, it turns out, better known as St. Walburga. Born in Wessex, England, circa 710, she was a noted missionary and abbess in Germany in the late 700s. According to most accounts, she died in 779 or 780 at Heidenheim in Swabia. She was canonized in 880.

St. Walburga is a patron saint invoked against coughs, dog bites, famine, plague, rabies, and storms, and on behalf of harvests, mariners, and sailors, and the cities of Antwerp and Oudenarde, Belgium, and Gronigen and Zutphen, the Netherlands. St. Walburga's father and siblings are also saints of the Catholic Church: St. Richard the King, and Sts. Willibald and Winebald, respectively.

According to Reuters, Father Kart Terhorst, the pastor of the Ramsdorf parish, at first ignored the GEZ's correspondence, but eventually contacted authorities after they threatened legal action.

"This was quite embarrassing," admitted the GEZ's Eckhard Ohliger. "Unfortunately, mistakes happen."

That's exactly what I keep telling them. They're not buying the dead saint part, though.

[Picked up via the February 1 edition of the National Catholic Register. No link is available to the specific article.]

January 28, 2003

Today's French "word of the day" from Transparent.com, which offers a useful and free e-mail service offering such words in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, and English for Spanish speakers, is suivre, which means "to follow."

Transparent.com provides this example of suivre used in a sentence:

Une chose importante dont il faut se souvenir lorsqu'on rencontre des gens dans d'autres pays est de suivre leurs coutumes.

That is: "An important thing to remember when meeting people in other countries is to follow their customs."

Good advice, and advice so often given to, or thrust upon, Americans traveling abroad, particularly to Europe, and even more so, to France.

Funny, though, at least I've always thought, how few Europeans, and still fewer of the French, consider this same advice when heading to the U.S.

January 27, 2003

Philadelphia doesn't yet have what is known in New York as "the TKTS booth," but we're getting there.

The Philadelphia Fun Guide recently launched an e-mail service offering half-price tickets to shows, exhibits, and other special events in the city and surrounding area.

The first notices I received after signing up for the service have been very promising, including far more offers covering a wider range of interests and tastes than I would have expected.

I highly recommend the e-mail service to those living in, or who find themselves visiting, Philadelphia.

To sign up, visit the Philly Fun Guide here and then click on the link reading "Sign Up for ½ Price Tickets" in the upper-right corner, which will take you here.

January 24, 2003

Do you remember that old commercial for Radio Free Europe?

The one with somebody, probably someone well known, but I have no idea, singing, "They say the neon lights shine bright on Broadway . . ."?

Why were they showing that commercial in the U.S.?

Americans couldn't listen to RFE without a shortwave radio. All it did was make me feel sorry for Hungarians. I don't know why Hungarians, but it was the Hungarians about whom I was most concerned.

[Post-publication addendum (February 20): I remember now! About the Hungarians, I mean. Why it was the Hungarians of all the captive peoples of Eastern Europe about whom I was most concerned. There was a family of Hungarian origin living in my town who escaped Budapest during the post-revolution invasion by the Soviet Union in 1956, local legend having them swimming across some river with the kids on the parents' backs in order to get out of the country. I don't know if the story is true, but as I recall it now, it sounds plausible enough. I'm happy for them, even though one of the kids in the family, a guy about a year older than me, treated me like crap during junior and senior high school. If memory serves, and it probably doesn't, after he graduated he went on to some technical school to learn how to repair refrigerators or something like that. Way to go, Steve! Hope life is treating you well.]

January 23, 2003

Steroidal side-show freak Arnold Schwarzenegger, a/k/a Mr. Maria Shriver -- Who wears the posing strap in that family? -- is joining lame-oh couple Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick in the litigation game.

In today's Philadelphia Inquirer I read: "Schwarzenegger does not want his picture used without permission -- even if it is thumbprint size and used by an Ohio car dealership in a '33-House Month-End Countdown' sale ad in a local newspaper. . . . Schwarzenegger is suing the Fred Martin car dealership and its ad agency for $20 million. 'Such activity diminishes his . . . well-deserved reputation as a major motion picture star and risks the potential for overexposure of his image to the public,' according to the complaint filed in federal court by the actor's attorneys."

A "well deserved reputation"?

"As a major motion picture star"?

"The potential for overexposure of his image"?

Who are these people kidding?

"Come and get me, baby!"

I wonder if Schwarzenegger's litigation-happy stance will erode his standing among California Republicans. Probably not.

[Post-publication addendum (January 30): Garry South in today's Los Angeles Times writes about steroid man's hypersensitivity: "If the image-obsessed Schwarzenegger decides to run for governor in 2006, he's in for the shock of his life. . . . Maybe in the movie business you can try to bully and intimidate your way into total control over your image. But in a political campaign, it's a jungle out there. Heavy-handed attempts to silence detractors are more likely to make a monkey out of you than out of them. . . . [I]f Schwarzenegger does run, here's some free advice from someone who works in the Democratic trenches: That hat had better come from a head significantly less swollen than the one it now occupies. And he'd better be prepared to get off his high horse and take the low blows."]


The Smoking Gun offers one more reason -- if one were needed -- not to like Sarah Jessica Parker and her nerdy husband, Matthew Broderick.

The Greedy Couple

If Mr. and Mrs. Broderick believe their likenesses are worth anything near $15 million, their inevitable fall from grace is certain to be painful.

January 22, 2003

Okay, this story is almost a week old, but it's worth reading nonetheless.

Some excerpts:

"Police Capt. Thomas J. Quinn . . . said the dispute between Louis Rogers and his girlfriend, Vanessa Bellino . . . began Tuesday night and resumed yesterday morning.

"The fight was apparently over an empty gas tank, Quinn said. About 9:25 a.m., a furious Rogers started throwing household possessions from the window. He brandished a samurai sword from the balcony.

"Rogers tossed the couch, a birdcage with birds in it, and a television that crushed the back window of a parked car.

"'The next thing you know, the place was on fire,' Quinn said. Investigators said the fire appeared to have been set in some bedding in a closet.

"Next, Rogers dropped from the 25th-floor balcony to the one below, breaking into that apartment through the sliding glass porch doors.

"'The next thing you know, that place is on fire,' Quinn said.

"Rogers then lowered himself to the 23d-floor balcony to break into that apartment. A SWAT team officer arrived; Rogers hurled his cell phone at him. Rogers then started to go over the side of the balcony. A SWAT officer, Nicholas Campolongo, grabbed him around the wrist but was unable to hold on because he appeared to have a grip only on Rogers' sleeve.

"Police said it was unclear whether Rogers slipped or jumped. . . .

"Residents reported that Rogers and Bellino had a troubled history and that police often were summoned to the apartment. Quinn labeled their relationship 'volatile.' . . .

"Neighbors said Rogers exhibited erratic and dangerous behavior. Resident Mike Gallucci said he saw Rogers pointing a crossbow this summer from the balcony into the park. He fired the weapon, but the bolt was errant. . . .

"Resident Barbara Nocon was in the couple's apartment Tuesday night with an eye toward renting it for a relative; Bellino's lease expires next month. All of the closet doors were off their hinges and holes had been punched in them, she said."

With locals like this around, I guess I shouldn't be needling TBogg about San Diego.


The Associated Press reports: "Scorpions don't bother to waste venom killing a victim if they don't have to. Instead, they use a pre-venom that causes extreme pain and resort to the deadlier version only when necessary, researchers have discovered."

There's a joke in there somewhere but I haven't found it yet.


I know I could stand to learn a few things about frugality, but I refuse to take lessons in the subject from someone like Joel Sandler, the Main Line stockbroker recently convicted of trying to hire a hit man to kill his wife.

Just one example: "Linda Sandler said her husband would pee into a cup so he wouldn't rack up the water bill flushing the toilet." The contents of said cup would then be thrown out the window.

I don't know how things are out in Bryn Mawr, but I think the neighbors here in Center City would complain.

January 21, 2003

It's pretty cold here this week in Philadelphia. It's like Finland cold, only colder.

No matter. Only wimps can't take the cold. Right, Vaara?


The Coalition to Free Chestnut Street is up and running, gathering signatures on petitions, and pressuring Philadelphia Mayor John Street to reverse his previous decision -- made in secret, of course -- to bow to the wishes of the National Park Service and permanently close Chestnut St. between Fifth and Sixth Streets, the block running in front of Independence Hall, to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.

The result: A national monument that looks like a war zone, a beautiful urban park destroyed, traffic congestion, and millions of dollars lost by local businesses.

Independence Hall


The campaign appears to be working. After meeting with community leaders last week the mayor agreed to review the decision (see reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News).

The mayor's response is expected in February.

Let's hope Mayor Street does the right thing.

January 18, 2003

Don't miss the Rev. Justin Cohen in today's Philadelphia Daily News with "Sunday Morning: The Most Segregated Time of the Week."

January 17, 2003

I suppose if your city is at risk of losing its NFL team, can't field a respected symphony orchestra, has no world-class art museums or prestigious universities, and boasts that the local utility is the largest corporation in town, you might as well talk about the weather.

January 16, 2003

Are some of your most painful memories from childhood in any way associated with your mother’s visits to fabric stores?

The interminable wait. Nothing to do. Nothing to look at. Nowhere to go.


January 15, 2003

For nearly a year now I have enjoyed the benefits of a “premium subscription” to Audible.com, an online retailer of audio books.

One of my most recent purchases was Ann Coulter’s quasi-eponymous work, Slander. (Actually, it was part of the two-picks-per-month subscription, so I’m not sure I really bought it.)

Happily, the version sold by Audible.com is narrated by the author herself!

What a blast!

Listening to Coulter read Slander is like listening to your crotchety racist old uncle or neighbor yammering on about the lib’ruls, pinkos, lefties, homos, and ath’ists.

Except Ann’s voice is deeper.

Much deeper.

And she doesn’t look nearly as good in a black vinyl mini-skirt as your crotchety racist old uncle or neighbor.

[Note: This item was posted earlier today at The Rittenhouse Review.]

January 12, 2003

Hey, George Clooney must be a pretty cool guy.

He owns two bulldogs.

Bud and Lou

Says Clooney, who also owns a pot-bellied pig, Max, “[T]he bulldogs . . . are a pain in the ass, but they’re funny. They fart a lot.”

Same problem going on here.



Atlanta: 6