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Archive: January 2006

Nervous Kaine, Victorious Herring

Gov. Tim Kaine didn't look or sound much like himself during his debut on the national stage after the president's State of the Union address. The governor, usually a confident and graceful speaker who ad libs with impressive control and sweep, seemed nervous and spoke painfully slowly at first. But as his Democratic response to the State of the Union moved along, Kaine's pacing returned to a more normal and confident level, and he settled into what was a fairly effective version of what are almost always lame attempts to counter the grandeur and power of SOTU. Kaine faced an...

By Marc Fisher | January 31, 2006; 10:53 PM ET | Comments (19)

Duck, Duck, Goose

In Virginia, libertarian instincts reign supreme--until they don't. In Virginia, you can carry a gun just about anywhere you like, and legislators in Richmond are eager to lift the few remaining restrictions, whether that involves classrooms, bars or day care centers. Virginia lawmakers for years have fought to protect your right to carry open containers of alcoholic beverages while you drive. And the good folks in Richmond are the national leaders in the battle to prevent the police from enforcing seat belt laws. Well, at least those bits are consistent. But when the legislators find some right they don't like,...

By Marc Fisher | January 31, 2006; 7:21 AM ET | Comments (10)

Mall Politics: Surrounding the Washington Monument

Unfortunate news just in from the Smithsonian's Board of Regents, who decided Monday to put the proposed National Museum of African American History and Culture on the Mall at the foot of the hill leading up to the Washington Monument. As the Post's Jackie Trescott detailed in a terrific piece , the Smithsonian had to decide whether to put the black history museum on one of the few remaining open spaces left on the Mall, or to do what Congress and virtually every urban planning group of any significance has repeatedly and strongly recommended: Start expanding the concept and definition...

By Marc Fisher | January 30, 2006; 4:37 PM ET | Comments (16)

Site of the Day: Chains vs. Indies in Silver Spring

Ok, here's an easy one: Red Lobster vs. Crisfield's. Slightly harder: Potbelly vs. Adega Wine Cellars and Cafe. No-brainers: Panera Bread vs. Mayorga Coffee Factory, or Cold Stone Creamery vs. York Castle. We're talking about the face-off between the invading chain eateries and the homegrown independents (as long as they survive, anyway.) The venue: downtown Silver Spring, though we could be talking about just about anyplace in the American streetscape. Blogger Andrew Lindemann Malone has spent several years riding this issue, and his verdicts come down pretty reliably on the side of the independents. Of course, we've all been to...

By Marc Fisher | January 30, 2006; 7:19 AM ET | Comments (36)

Upside Some Kid's Head on Euclid Street

We're walking along Euclid Street in Adams Morgan last night on the way to eat at Mixtec, my son and I, and we're a few steps behind a mom and her two kids, maybe 8 and 6. The younger one is telling the mom that somebody hit her at school today. Mom wheels on her daughter and delivers herself of this little lecture: "You get yourself in that bitch's face and you hit that f---in' bitch and you hit her upside the head, that f---, you hear me, you f---in' slam her so hard she don't know which way to...

By Marc Fisher | January 28, 2006; 11:15 PM ET | Comments (0)

Site of the Day: World's Fastest Art Assembly

If you've ever whined or been whined at about the idea of going to a Smithsonian museum, I've got your cure right here: Check out Jeff Gates' splendid blog, Eye Level, which at the moment is chronicling the return to life of the American Art Museum, which has been shuttered for the past six years for renovations. Some cool time-compressed video on the site shows the painstaking, three-day reinstallation of my favorite piece of folk art, James Hampton's "Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly," in a blazing three minutes. And there's some more serious stuff,...

By Marc Fisher | January 27, 2006; 2:23 PM ET | Comments (0)

How Laws Are Made--Now With Guns!

In the wild, wild world of Virginia, where men are men (but we'd better pass a constitutional amendment just to make sure) and good men are packing, it is apparently now necessary for state lawmakers to be armed while legislating. We learned this yesterday when Delegate Jack Reid, a Republican from Henrico County in the Richmond area, accidentally discharged his handgun in his office at the General Assembly building. He shot into his bulletproof vest, which was hanging on his office wall. No one was killed. Pardon me while I ask just a few questions: Why did Delegate Reid think...

By Marc Fisher | January 27, 2006; 5:36 AM ET | Comments (0)

Domestic Intelligence: Buzzing Your Spouse

Long ago, in the death throes of the Cold War, I met an East German woman who had been betrayed by her own husband. He informed on her to the East German state security agency, the Stasi. He told his control agent about his wife's political activities. When I met Vera Wollenberger just a few days after she learned what her husband had done, she seemed the definition of a shattered woman. (Full story from 1992 on the jump of this post.) Her voice could barely rise above a whisper. She kept the lights in her office off even as...

By Marc Fisher | January 26, 2006; 7:51 AM ET | Comments (3)

Escapes: Weekend in the Country

A respite from all things annoying, at a top-shelf country inn near Charlottesville that suffered a devastating fire just a few years ago -- I have the story on today's Escapes page....

By Marc Fisher | January 25, 2006; 11:47 AM ET | Comments (1)

Updates: New Dragon Chinese and Carvel

Two updates on recent reporting: 1) Right here on the big blog last week, I passed along news that Carvel, the legendary New York soft ice cream, is gearing up to make its D.C. debut (it's had a presence in the suburbs for quite some time, currently in Arlington and a while back in Rockville and elsewhere). Now, a reader with a love for all things Tom Carvel provides this fabulous trip back into the bowels of broadcast history--vintage Carvel TV commercials. Willyapleasethankyou. 2) In the column back in October--full text on the jump--I wrote about a Capitol Hill neighborhood's...

By Marc Fisher | January 25, 2006; 7:27 AM ET | Comments (0)

Further Adventures of the Anti-School, Anti-Sports Brigade--Part 276

In a society that loves to assure itself that it is oh-so-child-oriented, the war against kids is raging with renewed vigor. In Richmond, where state lawmakers nearly fall over each other competing to see who can concoct the wackiest proposals, the bizarre bill of the day is House Bill 1368, the Home Serenity and Tranquility Act of 2006. This feat of legislative creativity would ban all athletic activities on every sports field and every swimming pool in the state of Virginia, even apparently including indoor facilities, before 8 in the morning, after 6 in the afternoon, or at any time...

By Marc Fisher | January 24, 2006; 12:52 PM ET | Comments (28)

The E-mail Stylings of Jack Abramoff

As an accompaniment to today's column on the Maryland teachers who were stiffed by Jack Abramoff as his empire collapsed, here are a couple of Abramoff's emails to Eshkol Academy teachers who had written to him to find out when and if they were going to get their salary payments: First, from an Eshkol teacher to Abramoff: I am not asking for charity here, simply the reciprocal courtesy of being reimbursed for books that I bought in good faith for the students, including your own son. Sincerely, [teacher's name withheld] Abramoff responded six hours later: Wed, 30 Jun 2004 23:25:26...

By Marc Fisher | January 24, 2006; 11:22 AM ET | Comments (6)

Get Ready, Get Set, Get Depressed!

Yes, folks, it's time for another round of You Be The Editor, and in today's installment, we present another delight plucked from the work of the PR industry. Washington Post editors inexplicably chose to spare you from this incredible news, but the big blog trusts in your judgment and hereby presents one heck of a downer of a story, knowing that you will be able to handle the truth and make up your own minds about how this story should have been presented in the paper. You might think that today is the first day of the rest of your...

By Marc Fisher | January 24, 2006; 6:48 AM ET | Comments (12)

Achenblog Meets Raw Fisher--On the Radio

The announcement this month that Washington Post Radio will debut in March on the frequencies now used by all-news WTOP has many readers wondering what the new station will sound like and what impact this will have on the newspaper and here on the big web site. Those of us at the Post are also trying to find the budding Charles Osgoods, Rush Limbaughs and Howard Sterns in the meek masses of the newsroom. Dr. Joel Achenbach of Achenblog fame and I exchanged email about this venture and today we post that discussion on both blogs simultaneously, a simultaneous electronic...

By Marc Fisher | January 23, 2006; 7:38 AM ET | Comments (18)

Random Bits: Hockey Venues, Courtroom Tables, and Pherotones

A trio of oddities: 1) Why is NHL hockey, an indoor activity, presented for our enjoyment on the Outdoor Life Network? 2) Can you even begin to imagine the cocktail of arrogance and self-adoration that led Enron's Kenneth Lay and his lawyer, Michael Ramsey, to mount a protest to the judge in his upcoming trial over whether Lay will be permitted to sit at the table closest to the jurors? Ramsey's letter, available here courtesy of National Public Radio, is a testament to the ability of some lawyers to be so taken with their own importance that they believe...

By Marc Fisher | January 22, 2006; 10:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

Taxi Driver (What? I Can't Hear You!)

A reader writes: The one consumer issue that really eats at me in DC is the taxi mess. Istanbul has better taxis -- and they're pretty damn bad. Latest peeve: drivers (almost all) who speak on cell phones (sometimes even hand-held!) the whole time they're driving -- as though they weren't dangerous enough without distractions. I used to ask them to wait until I was out of the car to finish their conversations -- but after being KICKED OUT of cabs three times for asking this, I've given up. Who has time to hunt for a new cab? The reader...

By Marc Fisher | January 20, 2006; 7:09 AM ET | Comments (41)

You Be The Editor

The huge interest out there in blogworld in the internal workings of a big daily newspaper -- more than 800 comments earlier this week on our ombudsman's take on the Jack Abramoff affair -- leads me to wonder if you might want a peek at some of the crucial decisions that editors, the anonymous leaders of the newsroom, must make hundreds of times a day. Let's say you're an editor in the Style or Metro section. Part of your task each day is to sift through hundreds of possible stories and decide which ones you want on your pages tomorrow...

By Marc Fisher | January 19, 2006; 7:57 AM ET | Comments (15)

Cruiser Surfing--The New Police Sport!

D.C. resident Jason Lamberton, a former faculty member at Gallaudet University, happened to be looking out his window when what should come rolling down the street but a caravan of Metropolitan Police cruisers, with a uniformed cop riding atop the hood of the lead car. Yeeee-hah! Lamberton grabbed his new camera, a Christmas gift from mom and dad, and managed to shoot a few snaps of the joy ride, which he promptly posted to his blog. Who says Washington is a wonkish town?...

By Marc Fisher | January 18, 2006; 8:13 PM ET | Comments (9)

Cheating, Plagiarism and Other Things Academic

Nice confessional in Sunday's Outlook section by a very much ex-writer for one of those online companies that hawk college application essays. Bess Kargman's essay reveals just how overt these ventures are about selling essays that high school seniors can then pass off as their own work when applying for college. I wish the piece had named the company, but the decision not to do so was driven by the desire to focus on the ethics of the practice rather than devote much of the story to back and forth between the writer and the business's owner. Well, ok, but...

By Marc Fisher | January 18, 2006; 6:54 AM ET | Comments (32)

The Library Wars

The D.C. public library system -- an ugly monument to municipal indifference, the decline of civic involvement and the dominance of anti-intellectualism in far too much of urban America -- has been a horror show for decades. The buildings are sinking into disrepair with every passing year. The staff, despite some stellar librarians who fight for quality against all odds, includes far too many leftovers from the Barry years who have no business working around books. The board that runs the library system has, until recently, shown little interest in pushing the system up into the bottom tier of American...

By Marc Fisher | January 17, 2006; 1:31 PM ET | Comments (7)

Hail the Gods of Ice Cream--Carvel is Coming

Those of you who grew up in New York will know whereof I speak. The rest will think I have finally totally lost it. Washington is about to graduate into the heavens of ice cream, as the New York-based soft-serve franchise Carvel makes its District debut. The news came on today's Site of the Day, Inside the D.C. Bubble, which alerts us that CARVEL IS COMING to Columbia Heights. Banner went up next to the Wachovia Bank at 3325 14th St. NW, near the Giant Supermarket. Can anybody say CookiePuss? Does anyone remember CookiePuss? To be even remotely understood,...

By Marc Fisher | January 17, 2006; 7:03 AM ET | Comments (37)

A Drizzly Start

Politicians never learn. An American president died as a result of vanity: William Henry Harrison caught his death of pneumonia after insisting on standing outside in frigid Washington weather for his inauguration. It wasn't particularly cold at noon today as Tim Kaine took the oath of office as Virginia's new governor. But the rain kept coming, and of course neither Kaine nor outgoing Gov. Mark Warner, nor many of the other elected officials bothered to join the rest of the crowd in donning plastic bags over their finery. There was a glance of sunshine as Kaine took his place...

By Marc Fisher | January 14, 2006; 12:47 PM ET | Comments (9)

Wireless Colonial Life

Good morning from Colonial Williamsburg, where everything is just the way it was in the 1770s, except for the hundreds of Virginia National Guardsmen in camouflage, the dozens of reporters crammed into a lovely colonial house jammed up against each other on the floor typing madly on laptops, the stretch limos crowded with high-roller political donors, the busloads of high school band musicians, the huge grandstand filled with Virginia's top corporate executives and lobbyists, and the new governor of Virginia and his staff of eager young assistants wielding Blackberrys and cell phones. Tim Kaine will be inaugurated as Virginia's...

By Marc Fisher | January 14, 2006; 9:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

You Be the Auditor

Just when you think there's no such thing as government accountability anymore, along comes a nifty web tool that lets Virginians play auditor on every little expenditure the state makes, and I mean every last one. You can now track your state government's actions in remarkable detail right down to the governor spending $67.65 at University Florist on May 15, 2003. Like many other such goo-goo tools, this one may be more attractive in theory than in reality; not that many of us have the time to go rooting through each fund that the sprawling state government has. But...

By Marc Fisher | January 13, 2006; 7:38 AM ET | Comments (5)

Wal-Mart = Law-Tram

By the end of this week, Maryland legislators will decide whether to force Wal-Mart to spend far more on health benefits for its workers. But what's really being decided in Annapolis is whether to let Marylanders keep on lovin' Wal-Mart and its low prices, or to force state residents to see a connection between those low prices and the increasingly difficult lives led by Wal-Mart employees and the many other Americans whose jobs went bye-bye because of Wal-Mart's purchasing practices. The social issue culture wars of the 1980s and 90s have quieted down and, but for gay marriage and...

By Marc Fisher | January 12, 2006; 6:59 AM ET | Comments (60)

A Day at the Races

...But if you go, it'll be without the race info from your Washington Post. As the paper's sports editor, Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, explained to readers last week, you've seen the last of daily horse race stats in the Post: Beginning Sunday, The Washington Post Sports section will no longer publish daily statistical horse racing information from our local tracks. The drop in popularity in the sport and the need to cover new teams in the area, such as the Washington Nationals, have forced us to make this difficult decision. However, we will continue to cover the sport as before with...

By Marc Fisher | January 11, 2006; 9:23 AM ET | Comments (11)

Murder on the Next Block Over

David Rosenbaum, the New York Times reporter who was attacked by two robbers Friday night and died from his injuries Sunday night, lived a block away from me in the Chevy Chase section of the District. He died two blocks from my place. I never met him, but I'd seen him jogging by. One of the awful ironies of this tragedy is that he was attacked on what many of my neighbors consider the ideal Mayberry RFD block, a bunch of folks who are so close that they hold old-fashioned block parties. It's the kind of block where the...

By Marc Fisher | January 10, 2006; 6:58 AM ET | Comments (0)

We're Fat Disgusting Slobs! Or Not

Magazines love to rank cities and the editors of the mags that put out the rankings rarely even bother to argue that they have any methodology, let alone that said methodology has any validity. I'm happy to report, therefore, that something called Men's Fitness magazine puts Washington down as one of America's fattest and least fit cities. Washington "fails miserably in sports participation and commute times. Its nutrition scores are embarrassing..., and only a handful of cities are less sports-oriented." Only Nevada has a higher rate of alcohol consumption than the District, the magazine reports. But the very same...

By Marc Fisher | January 9, 2006; 2:56 PM ET | Comments (10)

Old Stern, New Stern, Rich Stern, Blue Stern

Howard Stern debuted this morning on pay radio, and even his new phone number, 888-9ASSH---, is designed to stick it to old-fashioned broadcast radio (and I suppose to family newspapers, too). Stern's maiden voyage on pay radio sounded an awful lot like his shows over the past decades, but for the dozens of F words and other explicit bits that would have the Federal Communications Commission racking up the fines were he still on the open airwaves. Stern aired with no commercials and proudly announced that he could hold his bladder and keep yammering throughout his show. Today's edition was...

By washingtonpost.com | January 9, 2006; 2:09 PM ET | Comments (0)

Where Not to Eat--and Site of the Day

Nothing like a haughty restaurateur and a gaggle of hungry foodies to make for a delectable little tiff. If you're thinking of eating at Buck's Fishing and Camping, an ambitious restaurant with a locally famous chef (Carole Greenwood), a frustratingly skimpy menu and some rather good food, make sure you keep your camera in your bag and your opinions to yourself, because you could find yourself on the wrong end of a legal order. That's what happened to Washington blogger Jason Storch, who, in service of his DCFoodies blog and his own tummy, visited the eatery on Connecticut Avenue...

By Marc Fisher | January 9, 2006; 8:01 AM ET | Comments (6)

Contest Winner: Maggie and the C&O Bicycle

Thanks to all who ventured into the C&O Canal Discarded Bicycle Photo Scenario Contest. You clearly have the panda, the president and Jack Abramoff on the brain--the three of them pop up in a remarkable number of your imaginations. And the winner is......

By Marc Fisher | January 8, 2006; 1:14 PM ET | Comments (2)

Build Your Own Story

Ok, folks, it's contest time here at the big show. A loyal and wise reader of the column and the blog passes along this photo he made the other day along the C&O Canal footpath in Georgetown. Trying to figure out what we're looking at here, my mind runs immediately to ugly stuff, but hey, we all have our own problems. I'm thinking we're seeing the aftermath of robbery, domestic squabble, child abuse, or some other urban mayhem. Maybe you have a more charitable mind. In any case, write up your scenario of what happened immediately before the moment...

By Marc Fisher | January 6, 2006; 10:46 AM ET | Comments (40)

Attention Wal-Mart Shoppers: Black Friday, Anyone?

Whatever will it take to make those nasty anti-Wal-Mart Americans into fans of the behemoth that only wants to be loved? Oh, the dancing smiley face! Oh, the nice old folks at the door! But of course when you're the all-powerful retailer that ate Main Street, it's hard to repurpose yourself as lovable Kong. So it's mainly derision and laughter that rain down upon Wal-Mart in the wake of the nifty bit of puttering around accomplished by blogger Jane Hamsher. Seems that when you plug in movie titles like "Planet of the Apes" on Wal-Mart's Web site, you got...

By Marc Fisher | January 6, 2006; 9:33 AM ET | Comments (2)

Fish Wrap

In the world of letters, disdain for the popular press comes free of charge with an advanced degree. It's always amusing to see how academics diagnose the problems of the news industry and then offer solutions that look awfully like that well-known, profits-assured business model, the fully subsidized university. The latest example of this condemnation-prescription combo comes in Commentary, from the esteemed Joseph Epstein. Epstein describes a news nirvana that survives in his memory and is based on a reality that never existed, a utopia in which ink-stained, ill-educated drunks in newsrooms nationwide produced unbiased accounts of the events of...

By Marc Fisher | January 5, 2006; 8:40 AM ET | Comments (13)

Radio Reeling--the Update and Analysis

Updating my earlier post on the radio whirlygig that hit Washington today: Three big headlines: 1) Z-104 is dead and gone. The rock/pop hybrid station searched unsuccessfully for a niche somewhere between DC-101's rock sounds and the more pop sensibilities of Hot 99.5, classic rocker The Arrow and the lighter, more adult Mix 107.3. Now, Z is history and 35 or so employees are looking for work. Z's demise follows the loss of rock stations in many major markets; New York now stands as the nation's largest market without any rock on the radio. 2) FM is king. This...

By Marc Fisher | January 4, 2006; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (61)

Richie Rich Edges Lex Luthor!

Ok, one more of those year-end lists that are miraculously ginned up by copy-craving editors in the waning days before all the writers vanish for the holidays: Forbes's List of Top 15 Super Rich Fictional Characters 1.Santa Claus 2. Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks 3. Richie Rich 4. Lex Luthor 5. C. Montgomery Burns 6. Scrooge McDuck 7. Jed Clampett 8. Bruce Wayne 9. Thurston Howell III 10. Willy Wonka 11. Arthur Bach 12. Ebenezer Scrooge 13. Lara Croft 14. Cruella De Vil 15. Lucius Malfoy I haven't the foggiest notion how they came up with this one. No, I actually know...

By Marc Fisher | January 4, 2006; 8:18 AM ET | Comments (5)

Shhh--Don't Tell Anyone, But Someone's Being Reasonable in the MoCo Sex Ed Debate

Montgomery County's battle over sex education--remember last year's debate over the cucumber videotape showing how to put on a condom?--is hardly over. The county is trying to revise the curriculum that a federal judge threw out, and the arguments continue to fly between parent groups supporting the county's efforts to give young children instruction on family matters and those who believe that the government should stay out of such areas. Here's a good point from one of the most vociferous advocates of the county's drive to instill more sex ed into the schools: There really are three sides or...

By Marc Fisher | January 4, 2006; 7:25 AM ET | Comments (1)

Fisher Food Finds

From the folks who brought you the Bombay Club, 701, and the Oval Room, Rasika, which opened in mid-December, is another of downtown Washington's new showcases of design and innovative cooking. The food is more trendy and inventive than at Bombay Club, more like a hipper version of Cleveland Park's Indique, but with a fascinatingly diverse ethnic mix of servers. We had a great evening with Ann, a pixie from Thailand, and with food that matched the design, which is a riff on early 60s kitsch. http://www.rasikarestaurant.com 633 D Street NW Washington, DC (202) 637-1222...

By Marc Fisher | January 3, 2006; 1:58 PM ET | Comments (2)

Site of the Day

http://www.dcchefsmagazine.com/ A dozen of Washington's top chefs have teamed to produce an online magazine consisting of profiles of these stars of the restaurant world. The celebrification of cooks continues apace, and while restaurants are indeed performance spaces and top chefs deserve the same kind of critical attention that is routinely awarded to theater directors and sports coaches, that attention generally should not consist solely of acclaim. So have a look, but with a sprinkle of skepticism. The story now up on the site is interesting if laudatory, and the site is yet another sign of the maturation of an exciting...

By Marc Fisher | January 3, 2006; 12:47 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Last of the New Year's Party Chatter

For some reason, there are 11 stories on Nexis's top ten list of most talked about stories of 2005. But at the various New Year's parties and brunches I attended over the weekend, not a single one of these stories was talked about by me or anyone else I heard yakking. Check it out: Most talked about news stories of 2005 Percentage of votes Source: LexisNexis, November 2005 Survey of 1,500 adults: Hurricane Katrina 97% The spike in gasoline/oil prices 88% The war in Iraq 83% The tsunami disaster 62% London terrorist bombings 36% U.S. Supreme Court nominations 35%...

By Marc Fisher | January 3, 2006; 10:09 AM ET | Comments (1)

Ignore Those Numbers in Your Bank Account: You CAN Afford to Buy a House Here

A new report from Moody's Economy.com looks at affordable housing across the country and concludes that houses have become only slightly less affordable in the Washington area over the past 20 years. I don't know about you, but in my reality, this says more about the foolish nature of statistical studies than it does about the Washington housing market. The study, cited in the New York Times last weekhttp://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/29/realestate/29afford.html , takes into account both the lower interest rates and the reductions in size of down payments, so that skews the result a bit. But still: Does anyone around here...

By Marc Fisher | January 3, 2006; 7:33 AM ET | Comments (7)

 

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