Print Columns   |   Web Chats   |   Blog Archives   |  

Archive: August 2006

Farewell to Hecht's, DC's Last Hometown Department Store

Next week, the last local name in department stores vanishes from the Washington area. The death of Hecht's, following by a decade the demise of Woodie's and before that Garfinckel's, Raleigh's and Kann's, tells us not only about the diminished role that department stores play in American lives, but about the decline of the large family businesses that once formed the bedrock of local community and identity all across the land. Hecht's was named for a Baltimore family whose expansion into Washington was the move that made their store a true regional powerhouse. But Hecht's has not been locally owned...

By Marc Fisher | August 31, 2006; 8:14 AM ET | Comments (94)

D.C. Lets BeBar Be

When we last checked in on the row over BeBar, a gay-oriented bar that was trying to open on Ninth Street NW in the Shaw section of the District, a couple of local churches were trying to persuade city officials that Scripture required the District to refuse a liquor license to the bar owners. But D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board used the quiet of mid-August to dispense a ruling that clears the way for BeBar to open, which the business intends to do with a private gathering tomorrow and public hours on Friday. The bar plans to specialize in candy-themed...

By Marc Fisher | August 30, 2006; 7:19 AM ET | Comments (99)

The Mayor of Harrison Street

Every passing prompts sadness and reflection, but also regrets, and so it was last weekend that when I read Joe Holley's obituary of Kathleen Rubar Partridge, I was overwhelmed by my own failure to take the initiative to meet face to face a woman who had a century of experiences and thoughts to share. Mrs. Partridge, who died last week at the age of 99, lived a block away from me and was known as the "Mayor of Harrison Street." I didn't know that when I first started receiving letters from her a few years ago. Composed in a clear,...

By Marc Fisher | August 29, 2006; 8:17 AM ET | Comments (15)

Virginia's Heated Battle over Global Warming

Most Virginia taxpayers probably have no idea that they are paying for a state climatologist. But they are. Or at least were, until last week. And whether that climatologist is appointed and paid for by the state or by the University of Virginia, which, of course, is a taxpayer-supported public institution, the controversial fact is that said scientist, Patrick Michaels, is a vocal and vehement opponent of the idea that the Earth is warming, and because of that position, some utility companies that share that position have been hiring him as a paid consultant. Which smells to a lot of...

By Marc Fisher | August 28, 2006; 8:18 AM ET | Comments (21)

A Grocery Clerk's Fight: How to Live on $32,000 a Year

Bob Fustero took a pay cut from $60,000 to $32,000 when he retired on a disability from his job as a grocery clerk at Giant. Trying to make ends meet in pricey Montgomery County has propelled him into a very different world, a longshot run for county executive. Today's column looks at his world view and some of the topics that may be missing from the big campaigns. When Bob Fustero went to work as a grocery clerk at Giant in 1976, he made $5.50 an hour. The money wasn't exactly gushing in, but it was enough for him to...

By Marc Fisher | August 27, 2006; 12:51 PM ET | Comments (41)

Linda Cropp's Mystery Man

In one of Linda Cropp's new pieces of campaign literature, she depicts her main opponent, Adrian Fenty, from the rear next to the words "Blind Ambition." The mailing struck some D.C. residents as an odd image of Fenty: The man in the photo didn't look quite like the Ward 4 councilman, even if it's hard to tell for sure from the back. And the man in the photo appeared to be white. Now, Post technology columnist Rob Pegoraro has found that very same photo in a completely different context, at demo.com, a techie site with no political content. In...

By Marc Fisher | August 25, 2006; 1:42 PM ET | Comments (39)

D.C. Mayor: What the Neighbors Say

If you were running for political office, would your neighbors contribute to your campaign? Would their decision to do so--or not to do so--tell voters anything about who you really are? In the D.C. mayoral race, a nifty new tool that lets you plug in any address in town to see who your neighbors are contributing to reveals that some candidates haven't exactly made loyal friends out of their immediate neighbors. I plugged the four major mayoral candidates' home addresses into the program and found that Linda Cropp hasn't managed to bring home the bacon from her Gold Coast neighbors...

By Marc Fisher | August 25, 2006; 8:12 AM ET | Comments (19)

Tower Records: Seeing the Music

This was inevitable: Tower Records, for many music lovers the place where passions were born and raised, is going down the tubes--bankrupted by the digital revolution. In just 15 years, the number of chain record stores in the country has plummeted from 9,000 to 2,500, and there's no end in sight. Sure, it's easier and faster to download music, and you don't even have to put on pants to do it. But for more than 70 years, the physical act of going to the record store to discover and buy music has not only supported the recorded music industry, but...

By Marc Fisher | August 24, 2006; 7:47 AM ET | Comments (0)

Stealing from Children: When Schools See Only Test Scores

Everyone knew from the start that Andre Hornsby, the disgraced former schools superintendent of Prince George's County, was bad news. Even on the day his appointment was announced in 2003, the best anyone could say about him was that, as school board member Dean Sirjue of Bowie put it, "we need someone who can find the underlying problems of student performance and focus on that. Everything else will fall in line." The "everything else" was the fact that Hornsby came to Prince George's from New York having been fired from a school system where he feuded with the mayor and...

By Marc Fisher | August 23, 2006; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Marie Johns and the Sound of a Pinpricked Balloon

Marie Johns was, for a time, what passed for the exciting alternative in the D.C. mayoral campaign. The former phone company executive started out her race for mayor as a captive of corporate rhetoric, a political neophyte whose every utterance was a painful journey into the bland vocabulary and contorted sentences of the business management world. But Johns learned quickly, and in a matter of weeks, she was making her way around the city with a fresh collection of stories about Washingtonians she had met and about the fears and anxieties she'd discovered in a city torn apart by...

By Marc Fisher | August 22, 2006; 7:54 AM ET | Comments (0)

Macaca, Charlie, Don Rickles and George Allen

Many years ago, when Don Rickles was all the rage and a comedian who played a character named Jose Jimenez could reduce the Ed Sullivan Show audience to tears of laughter, my grandfather would occasionally call waiters "Charlie." This was meant in fun, without malice. The moniker was applied without regard to the waiter's ethnicity or physical stature. At worst, waiters seemed perplexed. At best, they thought it was funny. At a certain point, calling waiters "Charlie" no longer seemed funny, and my grandfather no longer used the name. Things change. Today, of course, any such jocular use of language...

By Marc Fisher | August 21, 2006; 7:21 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Long Tail Contains Neither Brain Nor Heart

Today's Listener column looks at the buzz about the "Long Tail" book that offers the hope that all that 90s hype about the Interweb might really have been true. But alas, it ain't. Much as we all love our little niche interests, and much as the computer allows us to find nifty little affinity groups for our musical and other passions, we still crave the sense of belonging and community that mass pop culture provides. Here's the column: According to a popular new book called "The Long Tail," the music that really matters on iTunes is the many thousands of...

By Marc Fisher | August 20, 2006; 11:26 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Time Factor

(Posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss) It gets tiring hearing people (who don't have any catastrophe in their lives ) say they don't have time to read, or visit with friends, or just take a moment to think quietly. No time? Researchers have pointed out that Americans today have more leisure time than most people every in history, considering they don't have to drag water from wells, harvest their own dinner, etc. We choose to have no time. Of course, there may be no time for us to read a book when we are driving our children from soccer tournament...

By Valerie Strauss | August 18, 2006; 1:10 PM ET | Comments (0)

JonBenet and Jumping to Conclusions

(Posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss) Upon learning that a non-family member is being held as a suspect in the slaying of JonBenet Ramsey, a friend told me that her first reaction was shame. She, like so many of us, thought someone in the family was responsible for the 6-year-old's death 10 years ago. The initial botched police investigation and the media leaks that came out over the years certainly fueled our interest--and our suspicions. So too, perhaps unfairly, did the parents' sexualization of their 6-year-old in the world of young beauty pageants (so aptly portrayed in the current movie...

By Valerie Strauss | August 17, 2006; 1:37 PM ET | Comments (0)

What is "The Real World" of Virginia, Sen. Allen?

(Posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss) Sen. George Allen's utterance of the word "macaca" to describe a man of Indian descent has been analyzed and reanalyzed for his intentions, and now his Senate campaign staff is in damage-control mode, as Michael D. Shear and Tim Craig report today in The Post. Did he intend to be insulting, given that the word actually means a genus of monkey or a racist epithet in France and other European countries? Allen himself said he wasn't and that "macaca" was a play on "Mohawk," a nickname given to S.R. Sidarth by the Allen campaign...

By Valerie Strauss | August 16, 2006; 12:19 PM ET | Comments (60)

A Question About 'High School Musical'

(Posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss) I've just watched "High School Musical" for the umpteeth time with my 'tween daughter, and it was as fun for her--and the gazillions of other young kids watching it over and over--as it was the first time she saw it. The question is: Why? For those who don't know, "High School Musical" is a Disney-produced TV movie that came out on DVD early this year and has been riding high on the charts ever since. The soundtrack hit No. 1 on Billboard, costumes are available, clothing lines are for sale, and, well, you get...

By Valerie Strauss | August 16, 2006; 11:10 AM ET | Comments (25)

Enough With The New

(Posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss) The front page of The Post has a key to a story in Style that says "Katie Couric prepares for her new job as CBS news anchor armed with new ideas." More new ideas. Swell. Lest someone call me stuck in the past (someone will anyway, and certainly worse,) let me say I appreciate new. I often prefer it to old. I saw a segment on a news show about how antique furniture sometimes comes with an added bonus--bug infestations which require professional removal--making me more secure in my preference for the contemporary. But...

By Valerie Strauss | August 15, 2006; 12:15 PM ET | Comments (8)

Questions About Security

(Posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss) I was reading a story by Craig Whitlock and Dafna Linzer in The Post about how the alleged plotters in Britain were caught: "It all began with a tip: In the aftermath of the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings on London's transit system, British authorities received a call from a worried member of the Muslim community, reporting general suspicions about an acquaintance." I gave a silent salute to the good ole' MI5, the British intelligence agency that had taken the tip (which might have been tossed or fumbled by other intelligence agencies) and run...

By Valerie Strauss | August 14, 2006; 12:37 PM ET | Comments (19)

Commemorating Sept. 11

A month from today we will mark the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon--as if you needed me to remind you. Actually, a Washington Post survey published in Wednesday's paper showed that 30 percent of Americans couldn't accurately state the year the attacks occurred. That leaves me glad that my memory lapses pale in comparison to others, though it renews questions about the national IQ. (Go ahead, tell me remembering this date doesn't matter.) Meanwhile, the entertainment industry is cranking out movies for the theater and television, and newspapers and...

By Valerie Strauss | August 11, 2006; 12:49 PM ET | Comments (31)

To Travel or Not to Travel?

(Posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss) Let's say you woke up this morning and were headed to the airport for a trip to London when you turned on the news and heard that a terrorist plot involving planes flying from the United Kingdom to the United States had been busted. Do you silently thank the British for breaking it up, remind yourself that air travel is safer than driving, and carry on? Or do you cancel your trip? Conflict around the world has given travelers plenty of opportunity in recent years to confront their fears and make calculated decisions about...

By Valerie Strauss | August 10, 2006; 12:54 PM ET | Comments (60)

Do We Only Sort-Of Believe in Global Warming?

(Posted by guest blogger Valerie Strauss) I'm glad the weather in the Washington area is only hot instead of scorching because I am sick of hearing people whine about the weather. Sure, sure, whining has its virtues: A sense of camaraderie develops among complainers ("Stay cool, my friend!"), and the topic is good for saving an awkward conversation ("So... how about that weather? Unbearable, huh?!") But some people complain so much that I wonder why they live in a former swamp with a two-centuries-old reputation for truly miserable summers. And on another level, I wonder if we all realize how...

By Valerie Strauss | August 9, 2006; 9:30 AM ET | Comments (51)

The Obsession With "Best"

(Posted by Valerie Strauss, guest blogger) Now "they" have invaded summer school. What was once a place for kids forced to take extra classes has become the cool place for those who want to keep studying--not necessarily out of love for it but so they can take even harder classes in the fall. Why? To boost their college applications, of course. Read all about it in reporter Ian Shapira's story in today's Post. I will give up on my lonely notion that perhaps kids do not have to spend summer with every single minute planned and stuffed with as many...

By Valerie Strauss | August 7, 2006; 12:22 PM ET | Comments (33)

Taking the Waters

After this week, we could all use a bath and a tall drink. So when I hit the mailroom and found a package from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, I was intrigued. Inside the package, a six-pack of bottled water from the WSSC, which supplies tap water to 1.6 million residents of Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Yes, bottled Potomac River water. Mmmm. While other bottled waters sell their wares by touting its freshness, clarity and purity, the WSSC has settled on this sales pitch: "WSSC has never had a drinking water violation," says the press release that accompanies the...

By Marc Fisher | August 4, 2006; 7:30 AM ET | Comments (8)

The Hundred Years War (Over TV Sports)

Washington area viewers now seem destined to finish out a second year without being able to see Nationals baseball games on TV, thanks to the endless battle between the Comcast cable behemoth and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos. Angelos snared the rights to Nats TV coverage as part of the blood money he got for not suing Major League Baseball over the birth of the Nats. This week, Angelos moved to bolster his argument that his Mid Atlantic Sports Network is a real sports channel that Comcast ought to carry by launching MASN as a 24-hour operation. Until now, it...

By Marc Fisher | August 3, 2006; 7:39 AM ET | Comments (0)

What Were the Odds of Mel Gibson Running Into a Jewish Cop?

The question of the week comes from Valerie Strauss, Post reporter and a creative dynamo who will join the big blog here starting next week for a two-week stint during my absence: We need a statistician to come in and determine for us exactly how unlikely it was that Mr. Mel Gibson, filmmaker and apparently not a fan of the Jews, in his moment of ultimate ugliness happened to find a cop who is Jewish. How rare are Jewish cops? I've met a few in Washington, New York and Miami, and there are perhaps a handful of prominent, high-level Jewish...

By Marc Fisher | August 2, 2006; 7:49 AM ET | Comments (0)

D.C. Mayor: Is the Field Starting to Thin?

My weekend wanderings had me strolling past the headquarters of two mayoral candidates whose operations appeared to be winding down. Both lobbyist Michael Brown and Ward 5 council member Vincent Orange came up pretty close to empty in last week's Washington Post poll on the D.C. mayoral race, and while no one has dropped out of the five-way contest quite yet, the sight of those two HQs all locked up just six weeks before the primary raised some questions. Staffers on several of the mayoral campaigns say that pride and inertia make it unlikely that we'll see any formal withdrawals...

By Marc Fisher | August 1, 2006; 7:48 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company