April 23, 2003

Hey, how about three cheers for Gov. Howard Dean (D-Vt.)?

Earlier today he took a strong and principled stand against the bigoted, ignorant, hateful, and disturbed remarks by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) about gay people and their relationships.

Now, as it happens, Gov. Dean, like former senator Gary Hart, is a blogger, a member of a higher species, if you will. And at his site today, Gov. Dean wrote an important piece in response to the ridiculous comments coming from the mouth of Pennsylvania's most junior senator, Rick Santorum (R):

I am outraged by Senator Santorum’s remarks.

That a leader of the Republican Party would make such insensitive and divisive comments -- comments that are derogatory and meant to harm an entire group of Americans, their friends and their families -- is not only outrageous, but deeply offensive.

The silence with which President George W. Bush and the Republican Party leadership have greeted Sen. Santorum’s remarks is deafening. It is the same silence that greeted Senator Trent Lott’s offensive remarks in December. It is a silence that implicitly condones a policy of domestic divisiveness, a policy that seeks to divide Americans again and again on the basis of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation.

It is a policy that must end, and it is a policy that will end with a Dean Presidency. This Saturday, April 26th, marks the third anniversary of the signing of the Civil Unions bill in Vermont. I signed that bill because I believe no human being should be treated with less dignity than others simply because that person belongs to a different category or group. I also believe that, as Americans, it is our duty to speak up when others are treated wrongly -- especially when others are treated wrongly by a member of the Senate leadership.

I urge all Americans, and members of both parties, to join me in condemning Sen. Santorum’s remarks. They are unacceptable, and silence is an unacceptable response. By standing up against such divisive rhetoric -- whether one is gay, lesbian, or straight -- we can begin to achieve the American ideal of equal rights for all people.

Not only is that statement gratifying, even amazing, get this: Gov. Dean is coming to Philadelphia! How often does that happen? I mean, someone important coming to Philadelphia? (Okay, I realize President George W. Bush was just here, but that was sort of a cameo, photo-opportunity thing.)

Gov. Dean will be in town for a fundraiser on Sunday, May 4, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Mixto, 1141 Pine St. (The requested contribution is a mere $50.) Afterwards, he will be walking the streets of Philadelphia for a "meet and greet."

For those of you in town that day, come and meet, or at least keep an eye out for, this most honorable gentleman, the event organized by Philadelphians for Dean.

[Note: This post, previously published at The Rittenhouse Review, is not necessarily an endorsement of Gov. Dean's campaign for the presidency.]


The 109th Running of the Penn Relay Carnival, more commonly known as the Penn Relays, begins tomorrow, Thursday, April 24, and, uh, runs through Saturday, April 26.

The location: The venerable and beautiful Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania.

You can find a full schedule of events by clicking here.

April 19, 2003

There's a great slice of life piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer today. It seems this fellow, Benjamin Harrison, 24, of Woodbury, N.J., killed his mother, Dolores Marie Harrison, carried her around in the trunk of his car, and then dumped her body in the Delaware River. (Or more likely, buried her, depending on which account one reads.)

After killing his mother, Harrison went to work for three days as normal, a routine that for reasons unclear to me shocked his co-workers. (If you're going to kill your mother, and I'm not recommending you do, and you wish to deflect attention from yourself, and I'm not recommending you do, I think going to work as usual would be one of your better strategies.)

The story, "Son Went to Job in Days After Slaying," by Nora Koch, includes the usual accolades to the accused: he was "a nice guy" and "a very private guy." And, of course, there's this obligatory note: "Neighbors said Benjamin Harrison and his mother were quiet and kept to themselves."

But here's the part that really got me:

Harrison told police that his mother died after he held her in a headlock during an argument, and that he left the body in his car trunk for several days before dumping it in the Delaware River near Camden, authorities said.

He had his mother in a headlock?


Not such a "nice guy" after all, I guess. "Private," I'm sure; I doubt he was opening his trunk to anyone over the course of those "several days."

But gee whiz, I've never even raised my voice to my mother, let alone put her in anything resembling a headlock, though I should add ours was a home in which I can recall being chastised for using the words "gosh" and "darn," which might explain why I say things like "gee whiz" an awful lot.

April 16, 2003

The woefully lacking in talent Ben Affleck and the sorrowfully lacking of anything except, well, you know, Jennifer Lopez in a remake of the classic film "Casablanca"?

Just one question: Is this the sixth or the seventh horse of the apocalypse?

If you share my opinion of this ghastly endeavor, please take a moment to sign the petition -- "Stop Them Before They Film Again!" -- today. (You will be asked for your e-mail address, but please know that it will not be published if you sign your name to this urgent and critically important appeal.)

Sadly, embarrassingly, even, not one person to whom I sent this appeal on a personal basis has signed the petition. Obviously, I have no clout. I suspect you have more. It's time for action.

[Ed.: This item subsequently was published at The Rittenhouse Review.]


Speaking of the weather, and we were, really, just below, the high in Philadelphia today topped out at more than 79 degrees.

In San Diego, at last check, the mercury reached a mere 62 degrees today.

Sorry, TBogg. Come to where the seethers are.

April 14, 2003

TBogg, one of the best blogs out there, is talking about the weather…again.

I detect a tinge of jealousy in TBogg's recent post about Saturday night's gathering of Philadelphia-area bloggers and their friends.

But, alas, once again with TBogg, it's really about the weather:

Apparently there is an impressive number of Philadelphia-based bloggers, caused, no doubt, by the high concentration of smart people combined with truly [expletive deleted] weather that keeps them inside, thinking and seething.

I suppose if I lived in the cultural and intellectual wasteland known as San Diego the weather is all I could think of to talk about, too.


I took two visiting friends to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra last Thursday, and for the first time I can recall, I was disappointed by the ensemble's performance, the orchestra under the direction of guest conductor Alan Gilbert.

I'll let David Patrick Stearns, the music critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, handle the evening's opening piece ("Conductor and 1913 Work Make Their Orchestra Debuts"):

Gilbert arrived at his guest-conducting debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra with a program pregnant with metaphor. The evening's main piece, Wilhelm Stenhammar's Serenade in F, Op. 31, is full of incongruent instrumental choirs, often in different keys, finding their way toward a musical common ground....

The orchestra made its way through its first-ever performance of this singular, 1913 masterwork that stands, sometimes indecisively, among the comfort of musical tradition, the terrifying possibilities of the future, and a tentative sense of Swedish national pride.

No doubt the players also were adjusting to Gilbert's being a conductor and not a substitute violinist, which he was during the summer of 1990 when a student at the Curtis Institute of Music....Too bad that his program, both by the nature of the music and the difficulties performing it, didn't give us a clear sense of his artistic personality.

Simply by programming the Stenhammar -- a piece I've loved for years but never heard live -- he has my gratitude, even if Thursday's performance was rough by Philadelphia Orchestra standards. The ensemble was audibly struggling to parse a language that, in many ways, uses eclecticism as a means to enshrine ambivalence....

Hearing the piece performed by something other than a provincial orchestra, even in a less-than-finished performance, was a thrill of sorts; there were any number of moments, such as the cool, laser[-]like consistency of Jeffrey Khaner's flute solo, that caught the heart of the piece.

Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 4, performed after the intermission by the orchestra and soloist Horacio Gutierrez, was for me similarly uninspiring. Citing Stearns again:

[I]t's a sizable work by one of the 20th century's great pianistic minds, and you never know when a pianist will seize upon the piece with a special fire. Soloist Horacio Gutierrez gave it a clean, sleek Ravel treatment, but failed to take a strong interpretive stand.

Stearns took more kindly to the orchestra's rendition of Ravel's Rapsodie espagnole than I did, though the critic also was perhaps a bit backhanded with his compliments: "[A]ny conductor who can't bring that one off with flair probably shouldn't be in the business. Gilbert delivered the flash, with an added bonus: He looked beyond the sound and deeper into the content."

The piece is still new to me, so I'm happy to give Stearns the benefit of the doubt. He knows far more than I do, after all, and I already have learned much from him.


Wait! Your Gloves Don't Match Each Other!

You know, if you're going to try to rob a bank, and do so as inconspicuously as possible, it's probably not necessary that your gloves match your shoes.

But it probably would be a good idea if your gloves matched each other, especially if, like Shaun N. Yawkey, you're a man dressed as a woman trying to pull off a heist in State College, Pa.

April 13, 2003

The first Philadelphia bloggers gathering was held last night, organized by the bright, witty, charming, and beautiful Nicole of Go Fish.

I actually arrived within a reasonable time after the starting hour and I had a terrific time. Many thanks to Nicole for her effort in assembling the, well, party.

My main regret was that I didn't get to speak with several people as much as I would have liked, and a prior commitment resulted in my missing the second half of the evening: the post coffeehouse bar-hopping.

I'll probably have some more comments to add later, but surfing around the web today, checking some of the other Philadelphia blogs, I was pleased and a bit amused to read this brief note at With Karate I'll Kick Your Ass, the remark falling within a discussion of some of last night's attendees:

Last but not least, Senate candidate Jim Capozzola himself, who doesn't look like any senator you or I have ever seen, unless your senator is a 40-ish Italian hipster.

I'll take that. In fact, I'll take that as a compliment. It might even be true: Susie? Jesse? Atrios?

Meanwhile, Danny Loss of No Loss For Words today posted this intriguing statement, but, alas, offered no observation about my own most assuredly decorous behavior:

I don't want to bore you with all the details of what was talked about, so instead I offer this observation: everyone's real life behavior mapped remarkably well onto their respective blogs.

Hmm…Do I resemble my blog(s)? An interesting question.

[Note: This item was posted earlier today in a slightly different form at The Rittenhouse Review.]

April 11, 2003

I've mentioned here before that I'm not much of a moviegoer, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy top-quality films, especially those from Hollywood's Golden Age. (Oh, and some of the really trashy stuff, too, as noted in this post.) Hell, my dog is named after the title character of one of the greatest films of all time!

And, not being into the celebrity-worship culture, I miss a lot of the really "hot" news. Thank God, then, for Rubber Nun, Sisyphus Shrugged, and Tbogg, from whom I learned Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez are planning a remake of…Get this…Are you sitting down?…Better yet, crouching before the porcelain god?…Casablanca.

The mind reels.

(Tbogg, by the way, has launched an online petition to stop this insanity. Please sign the petition before it's too late. And tell your friends, your family, your co-workers, even strangers on the street to do the same.)

April 04, 2003

Hey, little ol' San Diego is really coming around. Not only does it rank as the seventh-largest city in the U.S., a position certain to move higher come the next census, but the city gradually is proving it is, or at least has the potential to become, something more than the provincial military border town of its longstanding reputation.

Case in point: The recent donation of $120 million by Irwin and Joan Jacobs to the San Diego Symphony, the largest donation ever to an American orchestra by an individual donor, according to Symphony magazine. (For the uninitiated, Mr. Jacobs is chairman and chief executive officer of Qualcomm Inc.)

The Jacobs's donation comes in two parts, Symphony reports: $50 million as a bequest and $70 million over the next 10 years.

"The annual payments will bring the orchestra's endowment to a level among the twenty largest in the nation, and will also supply $2 million a year in general operating funds, boosting the budget by more than 20 percent," according to the magazine.

Given the difficulty many American orchestras are having with fund-raising this year, a donation of this size could put the San Diego Symphony on a path to something really big. And that's what I call philanthropy!

April 02, 2003

Last month I noted my discomfort with Tony Goldman's proposed -- hyped? -- new name for my neighborhood, "B3," which the real estate developer says is short for "Blocks Below Broad."

I'm pleased to learn others are equally mystified by this designation, the latest expression of dissatisfaction coming from Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Tanya Barrientos in "Name a Neighborhood B3? Developer Has to Bkidding" (March 29). Barrientos writes:

Goldman paid a lot of money to a slick marketing firm to dream up the nickname. And he loves it.

"It's how the street numbers go," Goldman explained when I said I didn't get it. "They're lower below Broad Street."


Broad Street runs north and south. Most neighborhoods are either east or west of Broad. And in Philadelphians' minds, the only thing below Broad is the subway.

"People think in terms of going uptown or downtown," Goldman told me. "When they're going toward Rittenhouse Square they're going uptown. On the other side of Broad they're going downtown."

He must have us confused with some other city.

I agree: "Huh?" Someone needs to turn Goldman's map of Philadelphia by about 90 degrees counter-clockwise. (Why do I have the feeling the "slick marketing firm" Goldman hired is in New York?)

Barrientos continues:

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for Goldman's project. I'm behind anybody willing to breathe new life into the mangy patches of Center City that still exist. [Ed.: Hey! I resemble that remark!]

But take it from me, Tony, that name isn't going to catch on here.

Although I share her skepticism about Goldman's mindset, Barrientos may be overstating things here. "B3" could catch on, but not if Philadelphians are supposed to accept the premise that the designation stands for "Blocks Below Broad." Given the North-South axis along which Broad St. runs, people might accept "Blocks Beyond Broad" or "Blocks Beside Broad," but "Below"? No way.

Turn your map, Tony!