July 30, 2003

Speaking of the New Hebrides, and we were -- though this post really has nothing to do with the New Hebrides, I just like saying that name -- my as-yet unsainted mother, God bless her, had a habit during my childhood and adolescence, a habit I understand she picked up from her own mother, i.e., my sainted Irish grandmother, of telling my siblings and I, on mornings when we weren’t exactly looking our absolute best, “You look like the wreck of the Hesperus!”

I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but it didn’t sound good. And now that I understand the reference incorporated in that tasty little aside, I’m really quite sure it’s not good. But it is funny.

She also had a penchant for saying, “You look like who did it and ran!” and “You look like Ish Kabibble!”

And the odd thing is that when Ish Kabibble -- who, it turns out, was a real person -- died, the New York Times published a photograph along with his obituary, and my brother P.M.C. (as opposed to my brother P.R.C.) really did resemble Ish Kabibble.

Oh, that reminds me. Time to make another therapy appointment.


Recently I ran across a New York Times travel article about Orkney, a North Sea archipelago, sort of “up” from Scotland, that, I learned at the same time, is located nowhere near the New Hebrides.

In the article, “Islands of Rocks and Mystery,” the reporter, Benedict Nightingale, wrote:

If you want terrific natural scenery, the place has it alright: lochs and rolling green hills, sheer sandstone cliffs that plunge in jagged brown-black rills to crashing waves, and encircling them all, a sky that is a subtly lighted dome of silver, blue or violet.

And I don't know where else you'll find so many and varied sites concentrated into so small a space. Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Pictish, Norse, even modern-historical: Orkney has them all.

What Nightingale doesn’t say, but clearly implies, is that the islands are practically deserted.

Sounds wonderful.

You see, that’s my idea of a perfect vacation: Visiting a place where there’s a pretty good chance I’ll be able to avoid speaking to another human being for 10 days.

July 29, 2003

Okay, so I’m on the phone this afternoon speaking with my cousin’s mother’s sister’s daughter -- who happens, circuitously, to be my sister -- about my father’s niece’s husband’s mother-in-law -- who is, well, my aunt -- about said aunt and her recent problems with her throat.

I mentioned to my cousin’s mother’s sister’s daughter, i.e., my sister, that I had told my father’s niece’s husband’s mother-in-law, i.e., my aunt, that she, my father’s niece’s husband’s mother-in-law, i.e., my aunt, should seek the intercession of the patron saint of throats.

Unfortunately, while speaking with my father’s niece’s husband’s mother-in-law, i.e., my aunt, I could not recall which saint was the patron of healthy throats.

In relaying this to my cousin’s mother’s sister’s daughter, i.e., my sister, she, my cousin’s mother’s sister’s daughter, i.e., my sister, interrupted me. “St. Blaise,” she said, matter-of-factly.

“Oh my God, you’re right,” I responded. “How in the world did you know that?” I asked.

To which my cousin’s mother’s sister’s daughter, i.e., my sister, responded: “Don’t you remember the annual ‘blessing of the throats’ when we were in school?”

Uh . . . no. I think I missed that. We switched out of parochial schools after I finished first grade.

God, what a great culture.

[Note to readers: If, after reading this, you’re not “rolling around on the floor laughing your ass off,” as they say, don’t worry. This entire post is based on a hilarious inside joke that I would love to share with you privately some day.]

July 27, 2003

Philadelphia magazine is out with its annual “Best and Worst of Philly” issue, that tried-and-true “let’s do something nice for our advertisers” number so beloved by regional magazines everywhere.

The article isn’t on the web -- that’s not how things are done there -- but that doesn’t matter because that’s not really what this post is about.

It’s about a former sports team of which I had never heard, the Philadelphia Bulldogs. Get this, the Bulldogs were a a roller-hockey franchise, and according to Philadelphia, which misguidedly listed the Bulldogs as Philly’s “Best New Sports Team” in 1996 (Could there have been much competition?), Tony Danza had something to do with it.

You can’t make this stuff up.


I sure hope Serena Williams has a best friend. The kind of best friend that will pull the aspiring fashion designer aside and say, “Keep your day job, girl.”


It’s 1:30 p.m. Do you know where your dog is?

I know where mine is.

Wake me in time for dinner

She’s still sleeping.

[Post-publication update: Mildred today finally arose at the supremely civilized hour of 3:45 p.m. Expecting brunch.]


Here’s a choice nugget from the “Arts & Leisure” section of today’s New York Times:

“Skin,” the first prime-time network series to take on what is euphemistically called the adult entertainment industry. And with a soupçon of Shakespeare, yet. “Skin” tells of the forbidden romance between a 17-year-old Mexican-Irish Romeo, whose father is the Los Angeles D.A., and a 16-year-old Jewish Juliet, whose father is a porn king. Or as the show’s Web site sums it up: “`Skin’ is about sex and race. `Skin’ is about politics. And most of all, `Skin’ is about skin: complexion, beauty, desire, attraction, obsession[,] and prejudice in contemporary Los Angeles.”

Almost makes you want to send L. Brent Bozell a check. Well, almost.


A Weekly TRR Feature

In Sunday’s edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer: putting hoagies through the security drill; checking out the new stadium; five dead from urban violence over the weekend; the psychology of the sports fanatic; and cutting it at the barber college.

July 26, 2003

My best friend is an avid gardener. I have, at this site, referred to her in the past as “a rapacious gardener.” I stand by that verdict.

Today she writes with an update on her gardens, both floral and vegetable:

We have lots of zucchini.

No!? Really?! You have “lots of zucchini”?

How . . . unusual.

I’m glad you’re not just around the corner, my friend, because I really, truly don’t need to wake up to grocery bags full of the annoyingly profligate green vegetable at my front door with the requisite cheery note about wanting to share your bounty with me.

That’s happened before. No, not from you, and that’s why we’re still friends, but from other, also decidedly rapacious, gardeners.


Why does the New York Times, alone, I think, among major American newspapers, insist upon abbreviating “Texas” down to the abomination that appears in its pages: “Tex.”?

Sorry, Andy, you can’t blame that on Howell Raines. Not that Sullivan’s overworked alien British ass would notice.


I’ve changed my mind. I don’t “wannabe” Lance Armstrong. Even for a day. I realized today that what I really want is to look like Lance Armstrong. Even for day.

Armstrong, by the way, really came through in today’s time trial. The fifth consecutive win is all his now.

July 25, 2003

Last night, amid the throes of insomnia, I came to the realization that I’m a “wannabe.”

I “wannabe” Lance Armstrong.

Even just for a day.

July 24, 2003

An entirely unintended consequence of the fact that, when I was growing up my father owned a supermarket, is that I have a sweet tooth that cannot be satisfied. Ever.

I love candy. And cookies, brownies, and milkshakes. Candy and variegated sweets in all of their gorgeous forms. Don’t even try to stop me.

The fact that my father owned a store, a haven that for years fed my unyielding hankerings -- the same yearnings, by the way, for which my parents paid dearly at the dentist’s office [Ed.: See nos. 86 through 93.] -- spared me that rite of youthful passage known as, well, “shoplifting.”

What? Huh? I need to rip off the Wheelers with a Milky Way bar to prove myself to you guys? I don’t think so. What the hell are we doing here anyway? Let’s go across the street. It’s free there. And legal.

I mean, please . . . I had at my disposal all the candy my friends and I could eat and then some.


But I’ve yet to grow out of this. I’m still a candy nut.

And today I tried something new, something called “Snickers Crunchier.”

I bought it.


I brought it home.

I froze it.

I broke it.

And then I ate it.

And in the immortal words of Homer Simpson: Uuuugh . . . Amazing!


Is there any doubt -- Could there be any doubt? -- Lance is the man?

Lance Armstrong, I mean.

The guy’s amazing. I don’t care what anyone -- or, better yet, no one -- says.

I’m not big into hero worship, but if I were, well . . .


If you’re not a morning person, so much so that even repeated slams on your alarm clock’s snooze button aren’t enough to get you going, I highly recommend setting your alarm so the first thing you hear is music you despise.

For a long time, I was doing well with WXTU, a country music station.

Completely by accident, this week I discovered a station that is even more effective: WJJZ, which specializes in a musical atrocity going by the name of “smooth jazz.”

A godsend.

July 23, 2003

The Philadelphia Orchestra continues its tradition of free public outdoor performances with a “neighborhood concert” in South Philly on Friday, July 25, at Capitolo Playground, 9th & Federal Streets, beginning at 7:00 p.m.

Rossen Milanov will conduct the Philadelphia Orchestra. Tenor Stuart Neill will perform.

Selections include:

Leoncavallo: “Vesti la giubba,” from Pagliacci

Verdi: “Questa o quella,” from Rigoletto

Leoncavallo: Intermezzo from Pagliacci

Rossini: Overture to Semiramide

Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 in A major, Op. 90

J.S. Smith (attrib.): “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Verdi: “La donna é mobile,” from Rigoletto

Puccini: Intermezzo from Act III of Manon Lescaut

Puccini: “Nessum dorma,” from Turandot

Sousa: “The Stars and Stripes Forever”

Heavy on opera, but the weather forecast is favorable, so be there.

I might.

July 21, 2003

Here’s the latest coincidence to come along and smack me across the face.

Last week I was checking the links of the sidebar at left, checking for accuracy, looking for stale or changed URLs, and so forth, and I happened to linger at the web site of Philadelphia’s Clef Club. I noted at the time that the club is on S. Broad St., a/k/a the Avenue of the Arts (though no one calls it that), but I couldn’t quite place it in terms of the cross street.

Then, a few days later, I was taking a cab to Center City West and we passed . . . the Clef Club. So now I know where it is.

Soon after, I received word of an upcoming event at the Clef Club, the August 15-16 appearances of the Freddie Hubbard Quintet, led by the legendary jazz trumpet player, Freddie Hubbard.

I hear you can get tickets to both of the band’s Friday night sets for the price of one at
The Urban Sound.

Sounds cool. Just like the coincidence.


Gee whiz, I wonder if the Ohio native who won this year’s British Open golf tournament knows enough to be embarrassed by this i.d.: “Ben Curtis, a 26-year-old Metallica fan from Kent, Ohio, was the toast of Sandwich, Kent, last night after he became the most unlikely winner in the recent history of the Open Championship.”

By the way, weren’t we just talking about Sandwich?


So James Brolin, husband of Barbra Streisand, has been selected for the role of former President Ronald Reagan in a planned miniseries on CBS.


The wing-nuts are going to really lose it now.


As the British government, and people, continue their efforts to get sundry lords and ladies off the dole, some peers are actually, get this, taking jobs and going to work.

In just the latest manifestation of this inevitable and no doubt painful trend, the 11th Earl of Sandwich, referred to in the United Kingdom as Lord Sandwich, has launched a new business in conjunction with Robert Earl, the founder of Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood.

They’re selling sandwiches.

But of course.


Walt Disney Co. plans to test market a new kind of DVD that will stop working after a fixed period of time, the New York Times reports today (“DVD’s Meant for Buying but Not for Keeping,” by Eric A. Taub).

A parent’s dream: “The Lion King” DVD stops working after the kids’ 1,000th viewing of the film.

Actually, Disney’s test DVD doesn’t quite work that way, and it isn’t really intended to stop this particular abuse of the technology, but it’s nice to imagine, isn’t it?

July 20, 2003

The Sushi Wars are heating up. If one can say that about raw fish.

The D.C. Sushi Society, which the Washington Post reports is “a small, all-Japanese club of restaurant owners and chefs,” is determined to save sushi from the unartful and unseemly encroachment of Chinese and Korean restaurateurs:

“Chinese or Korean restaurants, they know sushi is very popular in this country now,” said Kunio Yasutake, chairman of the society. “Some of them are not making it in the Japanese traditional way . . . so we try to educate people who don’t know [the customs behind] sushi.”[…]

Sushi-making is more than just a business, they say. It is a matter of tradition and honor.

“It’s not to say that the Koreans and Chinese can’t do sushi, but it’s kind of lost its authenticity, its authentic Japanese flavor,” said Kurt Kumagai, a Japanese American who used to own several sushi bars in the area and now distributes Japanese newspapers in the United States. “Basically, you are seeing the mass production of sushi.”

But Sue Kwun, a Korean who makes and serves sushi at her Italian deli -- Prego Again -- near Dupont Circle in the District, doesn’t understand why the Japanese chefs are so critical. She noted that she gets her fish from the same markets as Sushi Taro, which is down the block.

On several occasions, she said, Japanese men have come in and scolded her for selling sushi out of a refrigerator.[...]

Other non-Japanese restaurant owners said there’s more than a friendly competition between Asian ethnic groups when it comes to serving Japanese food. Some say they deeply resent what D.C. Sushi Society members have said about their establishments.

Obligatory geopolitical note:

Steve Yoon, a Korean who owns Yamazato Japanese Restaurant in Annandale, said the tension has its roots in the Japanese occupation of their countries in the last century. It was then that the rest of Asia was forcibly introduced to Japanese cuisine.

“Sleep with our soldiers! Buy our exports! Eat our sushi!”

Gee whiz.

And from the same article come two alarming reports. First, “Starbucks Corp. says it tested selling California rolls this year in dozens of stores in the Washington region,” and second, “some stores and restaurants sell seaweed rolls stuffed with lox and a dollop of cream cheese on top.” I’ll pass, thanks.


Boxer Bradley Rone is dead.

The (St. George, Utah) Spectrum reports (“Family, Friends: Boxer Brad Rone Died of ‘Broken Heart’,” by Jennifer Weaver, July 20):

All that was in his gym bag was a cellular phone, a pair of socks, $5[,] and a key to an apartment he will never open again.

Ohio native and heavyweight boxer Bradley Rone, 34, collapsed and died after the first round in a bout with Billy Zumbrun of Ogden [Utah] on Friday night. He accepted the last-minute offer to compete in the fight at the Cedar City Raceway on Thursday -- the same day his mother, Thelma Rone, died of heart failure in Cincinnati.

Devastated by her death, he was determined to win the $800 prize money to help pay for her burial expenses. But grief held deep inside was what friends and family say most likely killed him.

Of course, the fight’s promoter thinks that as well: “He died from a broken heart, not from anything boxing related,” The Spectrum quotes Sean Gibbons of Top Rank Inc. “The death of the guy was that he loved his mother, and he was just distraught over it.”

Ringside physician Dr. Randy Delcore, who cleared Rone before the fight and who performed CPR after Rone’s fall, suspects cardiac arrest.

Apparently the family agrees with the “broken heart” line, though I wonder:

The 259-pound Rone began boxing at the age of 23. He fought in more than 100 bouts and sparred with Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. He possessed an undocumented record of 7 wins, 41 losses.[…]

That’s not a great record. Rone obviously took quite a few hits over the years. And, well, judging from the photograph published in The Spectrum, he wasn’t exactly in top shape.


In an odd twist on familiar patterns of tourism that long have had Japanese and American men visiting Thailand, the Miami Herald today reports “Middle-age American and European women, looking more homely than sexy in sneakers and blue jeans,” are traveling in significant numbers to Jamaica, looking to get their grooves back.

Jamaican officials are not entirely pleased.

Jamaican locals are coping as best they can.


A Weekly TRR Feature

In Sunday’s edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer: North Philly girls meet “the dawg,” Prince Andrew; the Baghdad Zoo reopens to visitors; the demise of traditional animation; accounting for local tastes in classical music; and the dangers of teak surfing.

July 18, 2003

Speaking of gemakkelijk -- and we were -- Assistant Secretary of State of European and Eurasian Affairs Elizabeth Jones recently used that bon mot, in translation at least, during an interview with Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad in which she (sort of) defended Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s ignorant comments about “Old Europe” and “New Europe.”

Said Jones: “Het is een gemakkelijke wegwerpzin en het heeft geen enkele betekenis. Ik vind dat soort etiketten zeer nutteloos en geen juiste omschrijving.” [Ed.: Emphasis added.]

July 17, 2003

Philadelphia has two new sports stadiums in the works: Lincoln Financial Field, future home of the Philadelphia Eagles and, allegedly at least, the Temple University Owls; and Citizens Bank Park, future home of the Philadelphia Phillies.

As readers of the home blog, The Rittenhouse Review, already are aware, the Eagles, citing post “September 11” security concerns, have decided to ban “outside” food from Lincoln Field. There’s no word yet on whether Citizens Park will adopt a similar Nazionale Sicherheit policy there.

I’d recommend they not do so, because the ticket-price increases the Phillies announced yesterday, at least for the best seats in the new house, are going to draw enough bad publicity and ill-will among Philadelphia baseball fans. Note to Phillies management: Don’t make things any worse for yourselves.


I haven’t read Jennifer Weiner’s books. To begin with, I read very little contemporary fiction, and “chick lit,” which in my opinion is not necessarily a disparaging term, isn’t really my thing.

But I have every reason to believe that Weiner’s work is excellent, as I’ve been given that message from several normally reliable sources. (No, not the sorely misguided friend who recommended The Bridges of Madison County: “I love this book! I love this book!” So I bought it. And it was and remains to this day the only book I ever have thrown away. Yes, it’s true. I did that. And I think throwing a book away is like some kind of mortal sin. But the notion that someone might see it on my bookshelves was too embarrassing to bear, so in the dark of night, into the trash it went.)

Parsing through Weiner’s blog, SnarkSpot (Damn good name, by the way. Wish I had thought of it. Maybe that’s why she’s received a two-book deal valued “well into the seven figures” and I haven’t.) and her other web site, as well as various links from there, and by the way, don’t miss Weiner’s entertaining and informative essay, “For Writers,” I came across this comment in Philadelphia Weekly (June 26, 2002):

“I got a lot of email thanking me for setting the book somewhere other than New York or Los Angeles,” says Weiner. “In a way the city became another character in the story.”

See, now that’s cool. Refreshing. Different. Strong. Self-confident.

I love this town. And it’s great when a woman who could live anywhere -- and, of course, set her novels anywhere -- stays close to home, to Philadelphia, the strangest city you’ll ever love.

On a final note, Weiner reports at SnarkSpot that her dog Wendell is recovering from the vicious and unprovoked attack he received earlier this summer in Philadelphia’s Queen Village neighborhood, as detailed at SnarkSpot and here at Rittenhouse. Oh, and Wendell’s going to be in the movie!

[Note: This post was published earlier today at The Rittenhouse Review]


I never bought that “great romance” crap about Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Their relationship struck me as sort of pathetic and selfish, to say nothing of contrived.

Hepburn’s latest biographer, A. Scott Berg, seems to have bought it hook, line, and sinker, but Scott Eyman, in a review published in the New York Observer (“The Biographer Besotted: Hepburn’s Posthumous Power”), isn’t letting anyone involved off the hook too fast:

Any book on Katharine Hepburn inevitably circles around the quarter-century she spent with Spencer Tracy. On-screen, Tracy was a stolid, know-it-all Oberon who learned a few overdue lessons from her dancing Ariel. He stared and fumed; she smiled and moved languidly away. He kept her from getting too flighty, made her girlish, and she could calm the grumpy bear.

Off-screen, the situation was rather different. More treacle has been spilled about Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn than any couple since Abelard and Heloise, and Mr. Berg doesn’t help much. This is possibly because all the treacle was either spilled or stage-managed by Hepburn -- and she’s still doing it, even though she’s dead.

Mr. Berg sees her clearly, but only up to about arm’s length. He says, correctly I think, that “[Tracy] and Katharine Hepburn experienced the ups and downs of any married couple; but in never sealing their arrangement legally, they were able to retain an element of unreality in the relationship, a false quality based on neither of them being locked in.”

So far, so good. But when he asks Hepburn why nobody ever tried to get Tracy into Alcoholics Anonymous, she responds with a stuttering explanation that encompasses several different rationales, all blatantly phony: She points to Tracy’s own psychological cover-up that told him that as long as his drinking didn’t interfere with his work, it wasn’t really a problem. She also says, “Spencer Tracy was the biggest star in the world [sic], and I don’t think he would have been anonymous there for very long. And news of this sort would have killed his career.”

So she and, apparently, Mr. Berg would have us believe that Howard Strickling, the vice president in charge of publicity (or lack of it) at M.G.M. -- the man who could cover up news of Tracy’s room-shattering destruction, brawls, liaisons of various degrees of seriousness, not to mention boorish behavior that was by no means limited to the times when he was drunk -- would have been powerless to suppress the news of Tracy’s going to A.A. Mr. Berg’s acceptance of this manifestly lame rationale proves only that he was utterly besotted by Hepburn.

The truth is that nearly every quasi-romantic relationship that Hepburn had -- Leland Hayward, Howard Hughes[,] and John Ford as well as Tracy -- was with a man who was completely unsuitable for any conventional relationship. Hepburn wanted men who were as gifted and cantankerous as she was -- especially if they were tortured Irish alcoholics -- but she only wanted them up to a point. Co-existing with her caretaker streak was a strong sense of self-preservation: Tracy could never push her too hard about anything because he was basically dependent on her, at first because of his guilt over his drinking, later because of the interior and exterior corrosion wrought by the drinking. Hepburn would only have left Tracy if he’d gotten divorced -- and sobered up.

Not so pretty when looked at in that light.

July 16, 2003

Wow, the whole “PNP” -- that stands for “pee and poop” -- situation in Philadelphia is worse than I thought.

Philadelphia Daily News reporter Dan Geringer, who has the job in American journalism that I thought was reserved for Roger Ailes -- no not the blogger of the same name who has posted wisely on this very subject, but that creep from Fox “News” -- reports today from West Philadelphia:

The Daily News Stinkmeister got a desperate call from Raoji Prajapati, who said, “I have a newsstand at Frankford and Oxford, under the Margaret-Orthodox El station. They’re urinating in my Coke machine and in my Pepsi machine. You reach in there for a soda, you don’t know what you’re touching.”

Grabbing his gas mask, the voice of the pee-and-poop-plagued public sped to Prajapati’s pee-stained newsstand.

The urine stench emanating from the two soda machines brought tears to S-Meister’s eyes.

So did the thought of reaching into those machines -- after Prajapati pointed out the urine stains near their delivery holes.

The space between the machines was soaked in fresh urine.

Prajapati showed the Stinkmeister where pee ran around the base of his newsstand to where customers line up to buy papers, candy[,] and lottery tickets.

Then he pointed to nearby benches where the two leading urinators, Jimmy and Ray -- old school, weather-beaten, filth-encrusted guzzlers -- sat drinking amber liquid out of plastic Mountain Dew bottles.

“That’s not Mountain Dew,” Prajapati said. “That’s beer.”

When Ray stood up to stretch his legs, it was clear that he had defecated in his pants. He didn’t seem to be aware of it.

It’s a dirty job. I’m not really sure someone has to do it, but it’s still a dirty job.


A good friend has had the misfortune of breaking out with Shingles, a condition that, from everything I’ve ever heard, is particularly hellish. (Former President Richard M. Nixon, readers may recall, experienced a stress-related case of Shingles at the height of the Watergate scandal.)

I felt badly upon hearing the news. I thought there couldn’t be anything worse, until, that is, I took a walk over to Suburban Guerrilla where I read about the boy in India with flies coming out of his crotch.

July 15, 2003

They say God works in mysterious ways.

That’s for sure. Particularly when it comes to responding to the prayers of the faithful.

Sometimes you get what you want. Sometimes you don’t.

[Note: Second link via Vaara’s blog, Silt.]


As noted at The Rittenhouse Review and elsewhere, I’ve been spending some time recently teaching myself how to speak, or at least read, Dutch.

I’ve made some mistakes along the way, but even after those errors I feel confident in stating that when one knows English and German, it’s not that difficult to pick up a reading knowledge of Dutch.

It’s kind of a cool language, actually. I like the way it sounds. Easily my favorite word is gemakkelijk, which, roughly translated, means handy, easy, comfortable, or convenient.

I like not only the meaning of the word as it’s used it Dutch, but the way it sounds as well. But you have to get the first and last syllables just right. And that second syllable can be a little tricky as well.


Can you say that, boys and girls?


July 14, 2003

Hmmm . . . I wonder when TBogg and his neighbors will stop pretending they live in a real city.

Ditto the entire population in and around Phoenix, especially those so cranky, peeved, and insecure they took the time to write a letter to the editor of a newspaper 2,500 miles away.

July 10, 2003

The people who play The Sims online, at least as described in “Troublemakers in Paradise: Sims’ Mobsters,” an Associated Press story in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, are in an entirely different category from me, inept as I am on the PC version of the game.

Mobsters and “griefers” apparently have become a problem for many players, and devotees of the game aren’t too pleased. I can understand the anger of players subjected to harassment, but I could use a griefer’s help here at home, especially in dealing with the troublesome “Mimi.”

And the “griefed,” as one might call them, are fighting back:

Piers Mathieson and his wife, Jennifer, are hard-core Sims players. They log several hours most days.

After the Las Vegas couple distributed photos of themselves to friends, one griefer hacked into Mathieson’s America Online account and stole his in-game character’s possessions. Someone else posed as Mathieson and told other players that his wife had died of cancer.

“You start having to question who your real friends are, who you can trust, who you can’t trust,” Jennifer Mathieson said.

The two are founders of the Sim Shadow Government, a group boasting 1,000 members dedicated to cracking down on griefers where Maxis [the game’s manufacturer] could not.

Though the Mathiesons say they dispense justice, their online tactics can be rough. The couple say they have ransacked apartments, sent out their “troops” to urinate on others’ lawns, and once drove another player from the game.

Vigilante justice. Harsh stuff.

July 09, 2003

I think I’m missing something here: “Wimbledon Men’s champion Roger Federer has been presented with a cow at the Swiss Open in Gstaad.”


When it comes to World Team Tennis Billie Jean King is like a dog with a bone or something, I don’t know what.

Team tennis: An idea that never really came, went away, at least twice, and, I just learned today, is back again.

I also learned there’s a WTT team here in Philadelphia. Sort of. They’re called the Philadelphia Freedoms. They play in Radnor.

I don’t know that landing a franchise was all that difficult, though. Schenectady has one.

[Post-publication addendum (July 10): For more on the Philadelphia Freedoms and their star player, Martina Navratilova, see “A Fit 46, Navratilova Tackles Tennis League,” by Michael D. Shaffer, Philadelphia Inquirer, July 10.]


They’re testing the fire alarms in the building.

There has been a report of an emergency. Proceed calmly to the nearest exit and leave the building immediately. Do not use the elevators, use stairwells where necessary.

I’ve been hearing that helpful set of instructions over the intercom every five seconds for the last hour. And this is day two.

“Where necessary”? Nobody lives on the first floor. It’s necessary for everyone.

July 07, 2003

A few weeks ago I ventured out to the Atwater-Kent Museum, a small but wonderful museum focused on the history of Philadelphia. It was my first trek over there, and I enjoyed it very much. It’s small, and a bit haphazard in its collection as many city history museums are, but there are some real gems in the collection.

If you’re like me, and you’re probably not, you have an intense interest in antique toys. If you share my passion, the Atwater-Kent has an outstanding collection of toys dating back from the 1950s back to the Revolutionary Era. It’s in the first room on your right as you enter the museum, and it’s not to be missed.

The main gallery is equally interesting. Take your time going through it, because if you don’t you’ll miss some of the best things in the museum’s collection, including a lock of George Washington’s hair, ample memorabilia from the centennial celebration held here in 1876, and some incredible portraiture.

Here’s another tid-bit. Did you know that the original Stetson hats were made in Philadelphia? I didn’t either. Stetson was based in Philadelphia but, as a smart businessman, determined the East Coast market was too competitive for a new entrant. He saw growth opportunities out West and focused his marketing efforts out there, to much success and fame.

And did you know that half the people on the boat with William Penn on the way to Philadelphia from England died of smallpox? Neither did I. (Lots of people died on Columbus's voyages also. And on the Mayflower, etc.) It’s interesting to think how differently things could have turned out if certain famous figures in history had not survived their Atlantic crossings.)

The same weekend I ran across the construction site at Penn’s Landing, on the Delaware River, set aside for the Irish Memorial. It’s about time someone decided my people are worth recognizing. (Or half of my people. Or half of me.) I can’t wait until it’s completed.


Remember Brandi Chastain’s sports bra? It’s still around.

She still has it. She still wears it:

Four years later, the world’s most famous sports bra has not been sold on eBay, auctioned for charity or donated to the soccer hall of fame. It sits in a drawer in Brandi Chastain’s house, just another functional piece of athletic equipment.

“When the laundry gets low, I wear it,” Chastain said in a recent interview over lunch at her home.

Gotta’ love her retort: “It still works, you know. It’s not a one-time deal.”


I haven’t lived in Philadelphia for very long, but even before arriving I had been in and out of here a fair amount over the previous 15 years. I like this city. I always have. I love it, even. I really do. I’ve even taken a role here at TRR as a Philly booster. It’s not an easy job, and I assure you it’s a thankless job, but it’s one I’ll keep doing, at least until something better comes along.

Of course, my job isn’t made any easier when the Philadelphia Daily News, the tabloid that reflects the character of its hometown more than any newspaper in America (Neal Pollack told me that once, and I agree), runs a cover that reads, “PHILLY MOST FOUL,” packaged with a lead story headlined, “City’s So Pee-tiful, We’re Raising a Stink.”

Okay, so there are some trouble spots. But when it comes to human waste on public display, we’ve got nothing on New York.

The city just started living down “Filthy-delphia,” a holdover from the 1980s. What are we now? “Phila-smell-phia”?


I’m glad I gave up coffee. I would hate to have turned out like these people:

Madeleine Page, a psychotherapist from Philadelphia, wanted to talk about reassembling her secondhand commercial Cimbali, which she has stripped down to its parts. The effort, she said, will be worth it: “I couldn’t find a good latte.” . . .

“We’re in constant pursuit of perfection,” said Fortune Elkins, a Web designer from Brooklyn, who pulled espresso shots at Dallis’s $7,000 Faema machine. . . . “Coffee has 800 to 1,200 flavor components,” she said. “Also because wine isn’t cooked or prepared, that adds components. It’s an entire process.”

It’s a beverage, people. Not a lifestyle.

July 06, 2003

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you want something done right, do it yourself. If you want something done wrong, take it to Philadelphia.

Philly’s latest botched job: Friday’s opening of the National Constitution Center.

Everything was going well at the sweltering morning ceremonies. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor had received her award and completed her acceptance speech. The museum was set to open for its first visitors. Then, at just the last moment, when the dramatic unveiling was about to begin...chaos.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports (“Frame’s Fall Mars Opening,” by Jacqueline Soteropoulos and Anthony S. Twyman, July 5, p. A1):

After the scheduled speeches concluded, O’Connor and the 41 others on the stage were to participate in a ceremonial drawing of a giant curtain to unveil the center’s 40-foot-tall glass main entrance.

But when she and the others -- including Gov. Ed Rendell, U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, and Mayor John F. Street -- simultaneously tugged metallic ribbons to simulate opening of the curtain, they instead pulled down a massive piece of the stage scenery, in the shape of a picture frame.

It struck Specter, Street[,] and Joseph M. Torsella, Constitution Center president, injuring them slightly. The top beam of the frame, termed “very heavy” by Street, crashed to the floor directly in front of where O’Connor was seated in the first row.

“We could all have been killed there,” O’Connor was overheard saying into her open microphone as she and the others looked in astonishment on the massive beam lying almost in their laps.

It gets worse. Today the Inquirer reports the frame wasn’t put to the test beforehand “Fallen Frame Was Unsecured,” by Jere Downs, Sam Wood, and Joseph Tanfani, July 6, p. A1):

The 650-pound wood frame that toppled onto a stageful of dignitaries at the National Constitution Center’s opening was not secured at its top or its base, and had never been inspected, according to an official close to the investigation of the accident.

In addition, the official and other sources said, there was no run-through or rehearsal of the ceremony, though such rehearsals are standard practice in stagecraft.

Yep, that’s Philly, the city that brought you the MOVE bombing, the 1998 Army-Navy Game, Mayor Frank L. Rizzo, Legionnaires’ Disease, the Fairmount Water Works fire, and so much more: Getting it wrong again.


Okay, so Andy Roddick didn’t win the Championships. He has plenty more years ahead of him: 25 years or so, if he has the staying power of Martina Navratilova.

But that’s doubtful. I mean, who does?

In case you missed it, Navratilova, now 46, won her 20th Wimbledon title -- tying Billie Jean King’s record there -- nabbing another mixed doubles trophy, playing with Leander Paes against competitors half her age.

Actually, the runners-up, Andy Ram and Anastassia Rodionova, were not yet born when Navratilova won her first women’s singles title at Wimbledon in 1978.