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Archive: October 2006

The Tragedy of the Dying Movie Houses

The roster of Washington area movie theaters shut down in the last few years is already depressing: the Biograph, Key, Cerberus, Fine Arts, Janus, Visions, Inner Circle, Outer Circle, Cinema, Jenifer, MacArthur, Paris, Studio, Tenley, and West End theaters closed, most of them to make way for CVS drug stores or to sit empty for year after year. Now add two more to the list of the lost: In the suburbs, one of the last of the second-run theaters, the Premier Cinemas at Jumpers in Pasadena in Anne Arundel County, shut its doors on Sunday, a victim of changing moviegoing...

By Marc Fisher | October 31, 2006; 7:39 AM ET | Comments (0)

Gallaudet's Grievous Misstep

The departure of Jane Fernandes, the embattled Gallaudet University president-designate, was inevitable. She had failed utterly to engage the students and faculty members who so vociferously and consistently protested against her ascension to the school's top job. She was unnecessarily and counterproductively bitter and even sniping in her public comments about the students and their motives. And she had apparently managed to tick off a large majority of people on the Northeast Washington campus. So when the school's board of trustees unceremoniously gave her the boot yesterday, it made sense that the people with the ultimate responsibility for Gallaudet would...

By Marc Fisher | October 30, 2006; 7:31 AM ET | Comments (264)

The Horror of Standard Time

The prospect of changing our clocks tomorrow night impels me to pull this column out of the archives; it's from 1999, but the central evil of time-switching holds true today: Washington, city of cynics, isle of inertia. We thrill to gridlock. Stasis is our comfort. And yet even here, we offer a home to champions of lost causes. We let them live in Lafayette Square, watch them wave signs on the Mall. We cheer them on when they lanch their third parties and march on the Lincoln Memorial. We admire our Mr. Smiths for their gumption. We are jealous of...

By Marc Fisher | October 27, 2006; 10:22 AM ET | Comments (28)

Going After the Wrong Guy: The Jemal Case

Doug Jemal, the feisty original who's behind the renaissance of many Washington neighborhoods, got off yesterday, in a jury decision that was as predictable and obvious as the District's climb back into vibrancy as an urban center. Jemal, the developer who put his money and his energy into places that virtually no one else dared to during the city's most depressed years, was acquitted of bribery charges, though the jury found him guilty of a lesser charge of wire fraud. Watching the jury earlier in the trial, it was easy to see that they weren't buying the prosecutors' overblown case--this...

By Marc Fisher | October 26, 2006; 4:12 PM ET | Comments (25)

Why Baseball Is Losing a Generation: Fox

In the ongoing analysis of the sticky mess that developed in Game 2 of the World Series, we're reading lots of very smart stuff about how the code of baseball inhibited Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa from getting the umpires to go after Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers for apparently using pine tar to alter the action of his pitches. But what got me about the pine tar incident was how it was discovered: Through the maniacal devotion of Fox Sports to the extreme close-up. The network's camerafolk see the World Series as a chance to provide American viewers with a lengthy...

By Marc Fisher | October 26, 2006; 7:05 AM ET | Comments (65)

Bobby Haircut and the WashPost

The last time I saw Greg Massoni, Gov. Bob Ehrlich's press spokesman, he was bemoaning the decision to have the governor spend valuable campaign time appearing on Washington Post Radio. The previous time I saw Massoni, he was whining about having had the governor visit the Post newsroom to make his case for reelection. "Why do we even bother?" Massoni said, peddling the all-too-common Republican campaign line about the supposedly liberal press and the purportedly harsher treatment that Ehrlich and other Repos get at the hands of papers such as the Post. Of course, this is largely a time-tested campaign...

By Marc Fisher | October 25, 2006; 7:54 AM ET | Comments (44)

Everybody Hates Us: Let's Eat Worms

A new book spelling out the many differences between Republicans and Democrats says that Dems have more sex in an average week than do Repos, but the Dems believe they have a lot less sex than other people. (Does this explain why the liberal alternative to conservative talk radio is so deadly boring?) In the book, "A Hopelessly Partisan Guide to American Politics," authors Ken Berwitz (GOP) and Barry Sinrod (Dem) survey Americans on their private lives and try to sniff out cultural differences between left and right. But what they found overwhelming agreement on is that Washington, D.C. is...

By Marc Fisher | October 24, 2006; 7:58 AM ET | Comments (0)

One Pundit Left Behind: Armstrong Williams

Armstrong Williams took a whale of a beating last year, when his contract with the U.S. government to promote the No Child Left Behind act led to a crackdown on "covert propaganda" efforts by the Bush administration. Williams lost his TV show, most of the clients for his newspaper column, and most of his work as a TV and radio commentator. But even before this weekend's settlement with the Justice Department--Williams has agreed to pay $34,000 to the feds in return for prosecutors not pursuing any case against him--the conservative commentator was on his way back into the media...

By Marc Fisher | October 23, 2006; 8:37 AM ET | Comments (0)

Steele's Timid Campaign

Here's today's column: Michael Steele looks like the most innovative and refreshing candidate in this fall's campaign. All puppies aside, his TV ads have been the talk of the town, not only for their striking style and the lieutenant governor's good humor, but because Steele is bold enough to take some shots at his party's orthodoxy. Steele clearly relishes breaking the mold. Even if his early steps away from the Republican line on the war in Iraq were tentative and clumsily anonymous, Steele has managed to portray himself as someone who understands the average Marylander's frustration with both parties and...

By Marc Fisher | October 22, 2006; 7:07 PM ET | Comments (0)

The NoVa vs. RoVa Storm

A Style section riff this week on the cultural differences between northern Virginia (NoVa) and the rest of Virginia (RoVa) will be remembered both for its excellent coinage of RoVa and for the stink that resulted when humor-impaired readers (both inside the Post newsroom and around the commonwealth) cried foul. The original riff had some good lines: In NoVa, people spend their dough at Starbucks, shooting the breeze. In RoVa, people spend time in the breeze, shooting does and bucks. In NoVa, they listen to NPR. In RoVa, they listen to the NRA. · NoVa has Crate & Barrel....

By Marc Fisher | October 20, 2006; 7:37 AM ET | Comments (0)

Sorry, Kid, You're Out of Kindergarten

Sarah Glover's granddaughter, Ashley, who is five, was thrilled to start kindergarten at Riverdale Elementary School in Prince George's County this fall. She was a big girl now. So imagine her sorrow and puzzlement when she was told earlier this month that she was being removed from kindergarten. Ashley and 217 other students in Prince George's schools were removed from their classes more than a month into the school year and shifted down a grade level when an audit revealed that they were just shy of the new minimum age for their grade. Every year for the past four years,...

By Marc Fisher | October 19, 2006; 7:13 AM ET | Comments (69)

Numbers Game: Single-Sex Couples

As Virginians prepare to vote on a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage, a new analysis of Census data says that the number of same-sex couples living in Virginia jumped by 43 percent--well above the national average rate of increase--between 2000 and 2005. The report, by a sexual orientation law institute at the UCLA Law School, is careful to note that the increases we're seeing here are most likely not only an increase in the actual number of same-sex couples residing in each state, but to some extent a jump in the willingness of those couples to report...

By Marc Fisher | October 18, 2006; 7:19 AM ET | Comments (164)

1.78 Million Marylanders Ignored

Memo to Candidates for Maryland Governor: Bob, Martin, you put on a fascinating show in your two debates this past weekend. One of you has an alluring casual manner that makes voters think of you as someone who's not faking it but is really telling it as it is. The other of you has an elegance and control of language that indicates a thoughtful and committed nature. Both of you seem to know your facts, even if those facts do conflict with each other a fair amount of the time. And each of you obviously despises the other. I gleaned...

By Marc Fisher | October 17, 2006; 7:16 AM ET | Comments (23)

Debates? What Debates?

It's been overshadowed so far by the Virginia and Maryland Senate races, but Maryland will indeed select a new governor in three weeks, and yet, neither Gov. Bob Ehrlich nor Democratic challenger Martin O'Malley seems especially interested in reaching out to Washington-area voters. Ehrlich and O'Malley have been squabbling like 12-year-olds over whether, when, and how to debate, and what they finally agreed to was two debates, including one that airs tonight at 7--on a Baltimore station. The tiresome debate debate has seen the governor insisting that he simply cannot debate after Oct. 15 because he'll be spending the remaining...

By Marc Fisher | October 16, 2006; 7:26 AM ET | Comments (0)

Good Vibrations: XM's Top 40 Time Tunnel

Here's Sunday's Listener column: Somewhere along the infinite corridors of time -- well, actually, Friday afternoons on Eckington Place NE -- a bunch of middle-aged adolescents who believe that Top 40 radio jingles are the key to the swirling maze of the past are busy re-creating 1967. In a windowless studio in the vast techno-complex known as XM Satellite Radio, Terry "Motormouth" Young each week transforms 60s on 6 -- XM's channel of hits from a pop music heyday -- into a real live Top 40 station from that era. Weaving together tape-recorded snippets found in listeners' attics, on eBay...

By Marc Fisher | October 14, 2006; 8:54 AM ET | Comments (5)

You Be the Columnist: Culpeper Steak

The owner of two well-reviewed restaurants in the Washington area reacted angrily to my Sunday column on the tensions in Culpeper over illegal immigration and the changing character of a once-rural town. The column featured town council member Steve Jenkins lamenting the loss of the smalltown atmosphere he loved about Culpeper, as well as the voice of a newcomer from Fairfax who celebrated the new blend of people and interests that are changing the face of downtown Culpeper. Michael Landrum, owner of Rays the Steaks in Arlington and Rays the Classics in Silver Spring, wrote this: As much as I...

By Marc Fisher | October 13, 2006; 7:58 AM ET | Comments (0)

Hostile and Abusive Feathers

With the wisdom of Solomon, the arbiters of justice and fairness at the NCAA have now decreed that the College of William and Mary may keep its longstanding name for its athletic teams--"the Tribe"--but must eradicate the image of the two feathers on the school logo. Yes, it has come to this. Quick history: Like many other colleges across the country, W&M wanted to keep its traditional team names and symbols, but the NCAA, in its zeal to cleanse campuses of any words or symbols that might refer to Indians, ordered the Virginia school to find a new name. William...

By Marc Fisher | October 12, 2006; 7:23 AM ET | Comments (0)

Double Parking Doublespeak

Mayor Tony Williams, at his best, would decide what was right for the District of Columbia and go out and get it done. Many people didn't like the pace or scope of development during Williams' two terms in office, but the mayor knew the city's tax base simply had to be rebuilt, so he just went ahead and did it. His belief in baseball as an economic development tool was unpopular in some quarters, but Williams just bulled through and he prevailed. But in too many other cases, the mayor caved to public outcry over his ideas and actions. Early...

By Marc Fisher | October 11, 2006; 7:58 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Ruckus at Gallaudet

The kids at Gallaudet are busy quoting from the Federalist Papers, citing Madison on how the existence of antagonistic factions in any political system leads to the infringement of other people's rights. This is heady stuff, and everywhere I've gone in the last couple of days, some people seem thrilled by the campus revolt at the nation's premiere college for the deaf. Gallaudet students have taken over the school's main academic building and are demanding that the university trustees reopen their search for a new president. But Gallaudet has already chosen a new prexy, its former provost, Jane Fernandes, and...

By Marc Fisher | October 10, 2006; 11:39 AM ET | Comments (95)

I Say Craney, You Say Senkaku--Political Islandhopping

War and peace, jobs and pay, life and death--oh, yes, and Craney and Senkaku, too. In the Virginia Senate race, the really important issues include knowledge of arcane world islands. I'll take Island Hot Spots for $200, Alex. Tonight's final debate between Sen. George Allen and Democratic challenger Jim Webb featured the latest in the candidates' fun game called Let's Stump the Opponent By Asking Him About Islands No One Has Ever Heard Of. Why islands? Heck, why not. This all started back in July, when, at the candidates' first debate, in the section of the contest in which the...

By Marc Fisher | October 9, 2006; 9:55 PM ET | Comments (12)

George Allen's Zen Ad: Can You Be Misquoted If You Were Never Quoted?

Sen. George Allen's latest TV ad features yet another woman who says Jim Webb is a bad man who doesn't like women. This time, we're introduced to Janice Buxbaum, a member of the first class of women to attend the Naval Academy. Buxbaum, like the women in an earlier Allen ad, purports to be upset even all these years later about a 1979 article that Democratic challenger Webb wrote in Washingtonian magazine. In the Allen ad, Buxbaum claims she is misquoted in Webb's piece. Which is odd, because if you read the story, you'll see she's actually not quoted at...

By Marc Fisher | October 9, 2006; 7:33 AM ET | Comments (33)

Culpeper's Immigrants, From South of the Border and From Fairfax

Here's today's column: For 300 years, Steve Jenkins's ancestors have made Culpeper their home. They farmed the land and built the town. A Jenkins was one of the first in town to sign up for battle when the Civil War broke out. Today, members of the family are high school football coaches, businesspeople and political leaders. So when he sees his home town overrun with traffic, when he sees dozens of men hanging out in a parking lot waiting for work, when kids in school are encouraged to take Spanish so they might better communicate with some of the newcomers,...

By Marc Fisher | October 8, 2006; 12:06 AM ET | Comments (0)

Into the Record Books The Ugly Way

Which is more important: Fulfilling the dreams of a good kid who deserves to make his mark on the world, or upholding the honor and traditions that all the kids are learning to cherish? In a small town in West Virginia, a high school football coach chose to go for the glory for one kid on his team, and his decision, chronicled today in Eli Saslow's Page One story about Matewan High School near the West Virginia-Kentucky border, has torn apart two coaches, two teams and two small towns, while giving anyone whose kids play sports something to think about....

By Marc Fisher | October 6, 2006; 7:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

Blogging Toward Blessed Silence in Alexandria

Very early in the morning--3 a.m. early--the dump trucks would rumble by David Henderson's place in Alexandria. Truck after truck, rolling into the Mirant power plant and then groaning back out, now full of flyash, a by-product of the coal burning that makes that plant the bane of many residents' existence in that part of town. So Henderson, a public relations executive in the District, decided to fight back. He started a blog. "I'm fascinated by blogs," he says. He already had a blog of his own on media relations. Now he added one to chronicle life two blocks from...

By Marc Fisher | October 5, 2006; 6:59 AM ET | Comments (0)

Foley Case: Why Parents Keep Silent--But That's No Excuse for Hastert

"you'll be way hot then" That's ex-congressman Mark Foley in one of the more PG-rated of his instant messages to a congressional page (WARNING: Linked material includes highly explicit sexual material). How is it possible that this didn't all come out sooner? If not only a community of pages but also some parents knew about these emails and messages and said nothing, is it then right to hold House leaders such as Speaker Denny Hastert responsible for not moving with greater haste to get Foley out of Congress and into the justice system? "at your age seems like it would...

By Marc Fisher | October 4, 2006; 7:22 AM ET | Comments (0)

George Allen's Seven Measly Words

"Some of this I've brought on myself." That's it. That is the entirety of what Sen. George Allen had to say to Virginia voters last night about the several controversies that have dominated the campaign in the past few weeks. This, the senator's campaign had announced, was going to be "an unprecedented two-minute statewide television address reaching out directly to Virginians." Finally, it seemed, Allen was going to explain "macaca," and his angry, defensive reaction to the public revelation of his Jewish heritage, and the various ugly accounts of his use of racist symbols and words over the years. But...

By Marc Fisher | October 3, 2006; 7:18 AM ET | Comments (0)

End of the World, Part 6574: Killer Fire Ants

In our continuing series on animals that seek to destroy us, I am pleased to present the killer fire ant, now making its home in Virginia. My favorite quote from a victim of these critters: "The way they bite, you would think they were the size of an alligator," said Carl Lohafer, a Virginia Beach resident who discovered colonies in his yard two years ago. "It was like a hot poker jabbing you." Now a Virginia Beach man has been killed by the killer ants. Of course, this being a critter-loving country, there are folks who love killer ants, just...

By Marc Fisher | October 2, 2006; 7:41 AM ET | Comments (9)

 

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