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Archive: April 2006

Hey Kids, How About A New School Holiday!

The D.C. government, where avoiding work is a high art, has a new idea: Yet another legal holiday! Last year, Mayor Tony Williams signed into law a measure that established April 16 of each year as Emancipation Day, commemorating the day in 1862 when Abe Lincoln freed Washington's 3,000 slaves and ended human bondage in the District of Columbia. Now Emancipation Day is a day off for public school students and city government workers. In a majority black city where Lincoln worked, that move made political and even moral sense. Now comes Ward 2 council member Jack Evans with a...

By Marc Fisher | April 28, 2006; 7:17 AM ET | Comments (19)

Virginia's New Odd Couple

This weekend, George Allen--the conservative George Bush loyalist who dreams of the presidency but first has to win reelection to the Senate--will appear in the kind of liberal political event that is more commonly associated with the likes of John Lewis, the last pioneer of the civil rights movement remaining in Congress. Why is Sen. Allen joining hands across party lines to lead a "racial reconciliation pilgrimage" to Farmville in Prince Edward County? Check your election calendars for the two answers: November 2006 and November 2008. When you're George Allen and you've glued yourself to President Bush over the past...

By Marc Fisher | April 27, 2006; 7:16 AM ET | Comments (11)

When Is A Poll Not A Poll? (Virginia Senate Edition)

The big news organizations haven't done much of their expensive polling yet on Virginia's Democratic primary in the U.S. Senate race for the seat now held by George Allen. And chances are that most, if not all, news companies will decide to pass on doing any polling ahead of the June vote, saving their money for the fall general elections. But this volatile news environment we live in abhors a vacuum, so here come the bloggers. Virginia's Not Larry Sabato, a political blog that used to be an anonymous venture but is now widely known to be written by campaign...

By Marc Fisher | April 26, 2006; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (11)

Washington's Polite Quintet

Given the wild swings of the political pendulum in the annals of District history, I suppose it's a trifle churlish to complain that the current field of candidates for mayor are a bit too...quiet. But there it is and here we are. I sat on a panel of questioners at yesterday's mayoral forum sponsored by the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, and spoke to a good many business leaders in the audience after the session, and the overriding concern that many of them shared was that the five Democrats running to succeed Tony Williams lack energy, imagination, passion and fresh ideas....

By Marc Fisher | April 25, 2006; 7:24 AM ET | Comments (3)

How to Get Your School on National TV

Score one for the guys at Gonzaga High. The District Catholic high school should be proud today of its students who last night used a bedsheet and some old-fashioned ingenuity to get their message in front of a national audience. The message was simple: "Go Gonzaga! Beat St. John's!" The venue: center field of RFK Stadium during last night's Nationals-Braves game. The game was stopped mid-inning when Atlanta catcher Brian McCann complained that a banner made of a white sheet was obstructing his view because someone had managed to hang the thing on the centerfield wall directly in the catcher's...

By Marc Fisher | April 24, 2006; 12:19 PM ET | Comments (13)

Wailing Geniuses of the Torrential Night

Up a narrow staircase on U Street on the rainiest night of the spring, the sax man nearly burst through the brick walls with the sound of a hundred jesters, the drummer pounded the snare with his open palms, and the guy on bongos pierced the conversation of two dozen dates with rhythms from another planet. We're at Twins Jazz, the gem of a nightspot on U Street NW, and Danny Thompson, a member since 1959 of the otherworldly Sun Ra Arkestra, is sitting in with a band led by David Bond, a Boston-based saxophonist, and Dr. Andrew White, a...

By Marc Fisher | April 24, 2006; 7:18 AM ET | Comments (2)

David Lee Roth Out, Raunch Boys In

Boy, this didn't take long: Broadcast radio, which for so long dismissed pay satellite radio as a sideshow, is now swallowing hard and accepting its own role as...sideshow. Rocker David Lee Roth, who succeeded Howard Stern on CBS-owned radio stations in seven cities after Stern made his leap to Sirius Satellite Radio, got the ax today "in the car on the way to work," he told listeners. Now CBS plans to replace Roth with Opie and Anthony, the raunch radio guys whose old show on regular broadcast radio came to a crashing end after they held a contest to see...

By Marc Fisher | April 21, 2006; 11:51 AM ET | Comments (7)

Type Well or You'll Find Fallwell (Not Falwell)

Your U.S. Supreme Court has blessed fallwell.com, which may come as something of a surprise to those of you who think of the high court as more the falwell.com type of folks. The Supremes this week took no direct action on the case of the dueling web sites--falwell vs. fallwell--but rather passed on the whole dispute. That lets stand a federal appeals court ruling protecting the right of a gay activist in New York City to maintain a "gripe site" designed to capture some of the traffic that was trying to get to Virginia preacher Jerry Falwell's site. Christopher Lamparello's...

By Marc Fisher | April 21, 2006; 7:27 AM ET | Comments (6)

Memo to Virginia Attorney General: Keep the Day Job

Not many people would look at Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell and think "stand-up comedian." After all, McDonnell's clean, crisp look and low-key manner seem more in keeping with his background as a graduate of evangelist Pat Robertson's Regent University law school. But McDonnell yesterday took on the task of making the big speech at the Shad Planking, Virginia's annual political ritual of schmoozing and roasting. McDonnell got off some good lines, aimed, of course, primarily at the state's Democrats: The Shad Planking is beloved by Virginia politicians. Mark Warner loves the Shad Planking, he says he has so much...

By Marc Fisher | April 20, 2006; 10:41 AM ET | Comments (8)

Props to the Peeps Man

Easter is over and now you have to deal with the peeps. Because the plain sticky truth is that the only one who really likes them is your weird cousin Alice and she's gone home to Pennsylvania and now you've got three boxes of Peeps on the counter and they will sit there and slowly--very, very slowly--harden until sometime next spring, just before Easter, when someone finally says, "Ok if I toss those Peeps?" Peeps, a product of the Just Born company in Bethlehelm, Pa., were not something I knew about growing up in mostly Jewish, Japanese and Puerto Rican...

By Marc Fisher | April 20, 2006; 6:26 AM ET | Comments (16)

Claudia Emerson: Substitute Teacher, Rural Letter Carrier, Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet

Not a whole lot of jobs for poets these days. So Claudia Emerson, who didn't start writing seriously until she was 28, worked in other fields. She was a substitute teacher, a librarian, a rural mail carrier, and owner of a used books shop. These days, she is a poet and a teacher of poetry at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, and, as of Monday, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. She writes about love and loss in "Late Wife," the book that won her the prize. The poems in the book tell the story of the...

By Marc Fisher | April 19, 2006; 6:25 AM ET | Comments (9)

From High Atop the Hay-Adams Hotel, the Glories of Washington

In all my years in Washington, I'd never before stood on the roof of the Hay-Adams Hotel, the gracious, elegant old pile of stone immediately across Lafayette Park from the White House. (You sort of know the view; it's the standard perspective from which the TV news cameras offer the overview of the White House.) The occasion last night was a party following on the announcement that this here newspaper had won a record four Pulitzer Prizes for stories that spoke truth to power and reasserted the credibility and importance of good old-fashioned newspapering in an era of heightened...

By Marc Fisher | April 18, 2006; 6:14 AM ET | Comments (10)

F This S: How the TV Nets Fight for Your Rights

CBS, Fox and ABC are rushing to federal court to protect your constitutional right. Which one? Why, it's the right to open a valve and let all manner of sewage flow into your home. The spineless Federal Communications Commission, which likes to pretend that it can do virtually nothing to halt the flow of trash into American homes, actually declared some over-the-air broadcasts indecent last month, ruling that CBS' The Early Show, Fox's Billboard Music Awards, and ABC's NYPD Blue violated community standards by broadcasting variations on two obscenities, the "F" word and the "S" word. In some instances, these...

By Marc Fisher | April 17, 2006; 7:38 AM ET | Comments (42)

The Day the Oldies Died

Here's an advance look at Sunday's Listener column on the death of the oldies in Washington and how the format change at WBIG solidifies radio's position as the most segregated American institution this side of church....

By Marc Fisher | April 15, 2006; 11:07 AM ET | Comments (2)

Look Who's Joining the Neighborhood Association

Why, it's Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, outgoing president of George Washington University! Trachtenberg, 68, announced recently that he is stepping down as prexy of GW after nearly two decades. During that time, Trachtenberg transformed GW from a mid-level, not terribly ambitious school into a high-quality university with a much more secure endowment and much stronger appeal in the admissions arena. He also changed the look and feel of Washington's Foggy Bottom neighborhood, taking over the old Howard Johnson's motel across from the Watergate and turning it into a dormitory, beefing up the school with a slew of new buildings, and making...

By Marc Fisher | April 14, 2006; 7:49 AM ET | Comments (12)

Takoma Park School Axes Apartheid Trip

This was inevitable: Takoma Park Middle School has finally scrapped its annual eighth-grade trip to Florida, a $600 per child adventure that unnecessarily divided an already split community by making young adolescents painfully aware of who is a have and who is a have not. Last year, when I wrote about the school trip that engendered so much cynicism that many parents and children came to call it the Apartheid Trip, quite a few students rose up in defense of a trip they considered a fun bonding experience. But the trip, in the end, was indefensible. In a school that...

By Marc Fisher | April 12, 2006; 8:30 AM ET | Comments (58)

Nats Opening Day Ups and Downs

At RFK today, the scoreboard said Mets 7, Nats 1. But Alfonso Soriano belted one out of the park and Ramon Ortiz looked good for three innings. Here's my own scorecard from the home opener: Good: The new Red, Hot and Blue BBQ stand out at Section 300. Pricey, but popular and complete with both the vinegar sauce and hot stuff with a nice kick. Bad: RFK remains the only stadium on Planet Earth without ice cream. (Sorry, packaged sandwiches and the always-reviled dippin dots simply don't count.) Good: They've finally done something about the volume of the PA system,...

By Marc Fisher | April 11, 2006; 9:16 PM ET | Comments (29)

Warning: Free T-Shirts Will Cost You

If you're heading out to RFK Stadium for the home opener today--or going to any stadium, county fair or other big public event anytime this summer--you're likely to run into those alluring giveaways in which credit card companies offer a free t-shirt, blanket, hat or tote bag if you'll just sign up for a free new card. It seems like an easy, sweet deal. You hand over your info--extra bonus: sometimes they don't even check to see if your data is real--and you get something free. What could be bad? Aside from the small risk of identity theft anytime you...

By Marc Fisher | April 11, 2006; 7:24 AM ET | Comments (0)

Report from 16th Street: Immigrants on the March

I just returned from watching the immigrant march along 16th Street in downtown Washington. About 14,000 marchers made the long walk from Meridian Hill Park to the Mall, where they are being joined by other supporters of expanded rights for illegal immigrants. The crowd moved peacefully and happily through the downtown streets chanting, mainly in Spanish, and waving signs and flags. The national banners of El Salvador easily outnumbered the American flags, but some in the crowd chanted "USA, USA" while others went with "Si se puede," which means "Yes, we can." Traffic is being stopped to let the demonstrators...

By Marc Fisher | April 10, 2006; 4:25 PM ET | Comments (53)

Inter-County Divider

Spring is a good time to check in on one of the eternal verities of the Washington area: The fact that in a place where most people insist that traffic is one of the most devilish problems in their lives, there is nothing remotely like consensus over what to do about it. The congestion conundrum is especially evident in Virginia these days, where the legislature has tied itself up in fruitless negotiations over how to pay for improvements to roads in the two or three most heavily trafficked parts of the state. (The rest of the state is so spread...

By Marc Fisher | April 10, 2006; 7:58 AM ET | Comments (0)

Inside the Sausage Factory: How NBC Fakes the News

Hey, look, we'll put some Muslim guys in robes, see, and we'll send them to a NASCAR race in Virginia, you know, where the rednecks live, and we'll give the guys prayer rugs and have 'em slap those babies right down in front of the speedway and have the guys kneel down right there, and we'll have the cameras rolling, and then when those racist rubes walk by and get a load of this, we'll get all their anti-Muslim venom on camera and we'll have ourselves one dandy TV show! You can just hear the glee in the voices of...

By Marc Fisher | April 7, 2006; 8:43 AM ET | Comments (0)

Nats Spots, Dots and Dogs

Today's column looks at how the Washington Nationals hope to revive the public's excitement over baseball's return now that Major League Baseball and the D.C. Council are apparently finished with their efforts to put political squabbling front and center. If you'd like to see the Nats' new TV ads, we've put them up on the site here ("Believer") and here ("Signs") and here ("Food")--unless you're lucky enough to have Starpower or Direct TV, you won't be seeing many Nats games on TV this year, and these ads are placed primarily during game coverage, on the theory that folks watching the...

By Marc Fisher | April 6, 2006; 6:04 AM ET | Comments (38)

Built On A Swamp and Other Myths of D.C.

The new history of Washington's Metro system by George Mason University professor Zachary Schrag attempts to disprove one of the great myths of this region, the widespread belief that Metro does not go to Georgetown because the snooty residents of that neighborhood lobbied hard against a train that would bring riffraff into their part of town. Schrag's evidence isn't impressing many folks who recall that there was indeed vocal opposition to routing Metrorail through Georgetown, and some of those residents are speaking out on themail, the excellent District newsletter (relevant posts about halfway down.) The debate prompted Matthew Gilmore, moderator...

By Marc Fisher | April 5, 2006; 7:29 AM ET | Comments (74)

Footnote on Oldies Song Contest: Why WBIG Chose "Shout!"

Nobody here guessed that WBIG would end its era as an oldies station with the Isley Brothers' classic, "Shout!" And now it can be told why the station chose that song to usher out the oldies era: The station's former boss, Steve Allan, recalls the key fact--when WBIG first debuted as an oldies station in 1993, the very first song it played was...."Shout!" "Too subtle for the room, to be sure, but a nice touch for the end of an era," Steve says. And now you know....

By Marc Fisher | April 4, 2006; 4:20 PM ET | Comments (0)

Lesson #1 From the Final Four: Big Game, Easy Ticket

After George Mason lost to Florida Saturday night, my plans changed. Instead of sticking around Indianapolis for the national championship game Monday, I was heading home to Washington. Losers get outta town. But first, I had to unload the two tickets I had to the big championship contest. Based on the prices I'd heard the scalpers bandying about on downtown Indy streets all day Saturday, I made all sorts of grandiose promises to my editor, RB the Sports Nut, who had scored Final Four tix for me when the good folks in Sports told us that they needed for themselves...

By Marc Fisher | April 4, 2006; 7:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

And The Winner Is...Shout!

Thanks to the many of you who entered the Guess the Last Oldie contest. Unfortunately, though your guesses were considerably more creative than anything the folks at Clear Channel were able to come up with, nobody picked the final song, or even any of the songs played in the last half hour. I'll use the judge's prerogative and award the prize to the entry that came closest in spirit, which was Marci W's "Louie, Louie," which is pretty near to "Shout!" in era and type of song. Marci, please email me at marcfisher@washpost.com with your postal address and I'll get...

By Marc Fisher | April 3, 2006; 4:51 PM ET | Comments (0)

Goodbye Oldies, Hello What...More 'Classic Rock?'

The current incarnation of Washington's oldies radio station, Big 100.3, is in its final hours. By 5 p.m. today, the station will die, to be replaced, according to executives at competing stations, by the market's second classic rock outlet. The new station will carry the same name and call letters, but a different selection of music, seeking to appeal to a different audience. 1 PM UPDATE: Here's how the station is describing the change, billed as an "evolution" to a lineup of tunes that dumps Motown, Elvis, anything pre-late 60s, and pretty much all black music. What you will hear:...

By Marc Fisher | April 3, 2006; 10:22 AM ET | Comments (0)

Final Four: Mason Loses, Mason Wins

Here's the Sunday column: Sometimes it's worth staying out past midnight, even if your carriage turns into a pumpkin. Even as thousands of George Mason University students stood, faces fallen, chants silenced, even as kids like John Macias and Ted Pokin considered the reality of the dance being over just 13 hours after they completed their 13-hour road trip to Indianapolis, even as the armchair experts under the big dome talked about Mason being outclassed, nobody doubts that the glass slipper will reap rewards for years to come. George Mason, the 18th century guy, refused to sign the Constitution of...

By Marc Fisher | April 1, 2006; 9:36 PM ET | Comments (0)

Final Four: What Time Is It?

Mason time. Eastern standard time. Time to see if the slipper fits. Time to spring forward one hour. The two big stories in Indiana this afternoon are the time and the game. Today's edition of the Indianapolis Star contains about half a dozen reminders to change clocks late tonight, including a front-page banner headline, an extensive story on exactly how to change a clock, and the paper's lead editorial, which bravely takes this courageous stance: "Our position: Hoosiers should sleep well after setting their clocks ahead...." The hoopla stems from the fact that tonight is the first time that Indianans...

By Marc Fisher | April 1, 2006; 2:02 PM ET | Comments (0)

Final Four: The Boys Are in Town

Indianapolis not being a regular on the high rollers' circuit, the beefy guys from Vegas looked confused. They were carrying big duffel bags and they didn't look like your typical college hoops fans, so I asked them what was in the bags. "Stuff for the game," one replied helpfully. Further investigation revealed that these gents--they wish to be known only as Richard and Morrie--like to go where the action is, and their particular brand of action is high-stakes poker. Inside the bags: The felt tabletops and other paraphernalia with which they can convert an ordinary Westin hotel meeting room into...

By Marc Fisher | April 1, 2006; 9:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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