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Archive: December 2006

Mayor Fenty, Please Sweat the Small Stuff

A missive to the new mayor--from today's Outlook section, where you'll also find six other letters to Adrian Fenty seeking solutions to some of the smaller problems facing the District: Still running, huh? Every time I've seen you since your victory over Linda Cropp in the Democratic primary, you've been in extended campaign mode, making the rounds, talking to Washingtonians, dashing off to other cities on your Best Practices Tour. You say that once you take office this week, you're not going to change the hands-on, grass-roots style that made you so popular in your ward and won you the...

By Marc Fisher | December 31, 2006; 9:11 AM ET | Comments (1)

D.C. Tops Needless Death Highway Toll

A cardinal rule of writing about the District is to be wary of any ranking of the states that has D.C. at the very top or very bottom of the list. No matter how bad things are in the District, it's still important to be cautious about statistics that compare Washington to states, simply because of the difference in scale and the differences between large chunks of land that have a great variety of rural, urban and suburban settings versus the District's compact, all-urban environment. That said, we're #1 again, this time on a ranking of states by what...

By Marc Fisher | December 28, 2006; 8:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

Yenching, Walgreen, Premarital Sex

You all could probably write this post for me: Whenever I come along here to bemoan the passing of some neat old local places, some of you rib me for getting all weepy about vanishing institutions, whether it be Tower Records, college radio stations, the Lazy Sundae ice cream shop in Clarendon, or the always-imminent closing of AV Ristorante. (The obit for the AV has been sitting in the can for so long, it's gone through three computer systems at the paper.) So now that Yenching Palace, the District's oldest and most famous Chinese restaurant, is really closing, I'm...

By Marc Fisher | December 27, 2006; 8:57 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Godfather

Less than eight weeks ago, the Godfather was still getting on the good foot, still donning the royal robes, still answering to the name "Soul Brother Number One," still making professional critics weak at the knees. James Brown, for a significant chunk of the pre-Internet pop culture era, was, along with Muhammad Ali, one of the two most famous men on the planet. Brown died a couple of hours ago, the victim of pneumonia, impossibly hard living, and the ravages of a cruel world. He picked cotton and he played for presidents and kings. He was a bad guy and...

By Marc Fisher | December 25, 2006; 8:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

The View "From the Top"

The Listener this week visits the show that introduces audiences to a new generation of musicians... As a Chicago second-grader, Christopher O'Riley was listening to the radio one day and happened upon a concerto played by violinist Jascha Heifetz. Drawn to the sound like a moth to the light, the boy dug into his communion money and bought himself an FM radio. Now O'Riley is 50, a concert pianist who is perhaps better known as the Pied Piper of young American classical performers. As host of "From the Top" -- the weekly radio show that gives promising teenagers the chance...

By Marc Fisher | December 23, 2006; 11:38 PM ET | Comments (0)

What Was That About Virginia Going Purple?

Virgil Goode, the Muslim-loathing congressman from south-central Virginia, won reelection this fall by 59-40 percent over his Democratic challenger, Al Weed. It wasn't remotely close. In tobacco country, the man who led the fight for a wildly generous federal tobacco buyout, seemed unscathed by the fact that he was also known as "Representative A," the man who was identified in court papers as the congressman who took $46,000 in illegal campaign contributions from a defense contractor that was trying to win his support for a big fat federal gift. The MZM company got its $3.6 million federal earmark thanks...

By Marc Fisher | December 22, 2006; 9:25 AM ET | Comments (0)

The End of Blogging?

So soon? A media research firm is now predicting that the number of blogs will peak in the coming year as the phenomenon cools off. The British firm Gartner bases its prediction on the decline of blogs on stats showing that some 200 million people worldwide who had started blogs have already given them up. The pace at which people stop blogging will soon overtake the pace of creation of new blogs, the company forecasts. All of which doesn't mean that blogs will go away--though they will surely evolve into something else in the coming years--but rather that the initial...

By Marc Fisher | December 21, 2006; 8:04 AM ET | Comments (36)

Middle-Aged Claritin Fiends Stalk City

It's come to this: On a recent Saturday night, the wife and I and another couple got our jollies by subverting the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005. In service of my friend Joe's need for Claritin, the four of us took our places in the queue at the Dupont Circle CVS drug store, waited our turns and then, one after the other, purchased the maximum permissible number of allergy pills, an act that now requires asking a clerk to provide the nostril-clearing goodies, showing ID, and signing a logbook that is supposedly monitored by police. Yes, middle age is...

By Marc Fisher | December 20, 2006; 8:17 AM ET | Comments (80)

The Only Gadget Gift Guide You'll Never Need

"Where'd you get that?" the kids are always asking. The answer, almost always, is "It came in the mail." Thank goodness for the PR industry, which fills a columnist's mailbox with all manner of clutter, nonsense and, very rarely, a jewel of innovation or creativity. I take these items home for kid-testing, then pass them along to charities or the dump, depending on the merits of the product. Generally, the goods that flow in fall into four categories: #1--Fleeting Fun, But You'd Never Pay For It Yourself: This year's primo example of this category is the Marshmallow Blaster and...

By Marc Fisher | December 19, 2006; 7:45 AM ET | Comments (24)

WETA Comes to its Senses

Faster than anyone could have expected, more responsively than I thought possible, the governing board at WETA moved Friday to save the day for classical music lovers and young Washingtonians whose musical passions are still in formation. With the area's only commercial classical station, WGMS (104.1 FM), about to vanish forever as part of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder's expansion of his media empire, classical buffs and the region's performing arts organizations were in something of a panic. I heard from hundreds of people for whom the demise of WGMS, coming on top of WETA's move two years ago to...

By Marc Fisher | December 18, 2006; 7:38 AM ET | Comments (55)

America's Best Cities and Suburbs (Herndon?)

It's that time of year again, as publications gin up lists of rankings to get us all in a tizzy about whether United 93 can really be the best flick of the year or whether--get this--Herndon could be one of America's best suburbs. (I appreciate the charms of Herndon as much as the next fella, but when I asked the Business Week reporter who wrote the story how the town's debate over illegal immigration had figured into the ranking, she, um, didn't seem to have heard about that ruckus.) But there does seem to be a thriving cottage industry in...

By Marc Fisher | December 15, 2006; 8:02 AM ET | Comments (17)

Great Moments in Flackery: Going Commando

You don't need me to link to the Britney Spears photos; you've seen way too much already. But if you were wondering how someone was going to make a pile of dough off that particular sordid episode, wonder no more (Hey, Weingarten's on leave--somebody has to do this): Here is a verbatim excerpt from a pitch letter received by some journalists this week. Be thankful for media filters, folks--really, without some of the stuff we spare you, you'll live longer. Example: Got a story idea for you: With all the recent press on celebs (Lindsay, Paris and, most notably, Britney)...

By Marc Fisher | December 14, 2006; 12:26 PM ET | Comments (11)

Adventures in Customer Service: Your DC Gov't At Work

It's time to play You Be the D.C. Citizen. In today's game, I will provide the text of two missives I received in the mail on the same day from the District's Superior Court. Your mission is to recommend my proper course of action. Here we go: Letter #1: Dear Citizen: Your request for deferment was received and considered. Please be advised that your juror service has been deferred until 04/04/2007 at 10:30 AM. Please note this date and time on your calendar.... The Court extends its gratitude to you for your willingness to fulfill your obligation as a citizen...

By Marc Fisher | December 14, 2006; 7:26 AM ET | Comments (28)

I've Heard of Cellar Dweller Teams, But This Is Ridiculous

Nats fans have had fair warning from the front office: The 2007 edition of Nationals baseball will be a stinker for the ages, an extreme version of Rebuild 1.0, as the team spends zilch on this year in hopes of fielding a semi-decent team for the '08 campaign, when the new stadium debuts. But hardcore fans who nonetheless stay true to their team this coming season can now expect a whole new kind of reward--one that carries through even to their eternal rest: Yes, folks, Eternal Image Inc., makers of fine custom designed caskets and urns, is proud to announce...

By Marc Fisher | December 13, 2006; 12:19 PM ET | Comments (6)

The 30 Days of Xmas Shotgun and Rifle Raffle

If you're still hunting for that perfect Christmas gift, you may want to check in with the Princess Anne police department over on the Eastern Shore. The department has announced its "30 Days of Christmas Shotgun and Rifle Raffle." Let's see, the offerings include a Beretta Urika model 12-gauge, 28-incher, valued at $980; a Weatherby Mark V 243 priced at $1,350; a Beretta Extreme II, topping the value meter at $1,449; and more modest weapons, one raffled off each day, all month long. The Christmas Day winner will pick up a Savage 10 ML valued at $525. Tickets are $25...

By Marc Fisher | December 13, 2006; 7:36 AM ET | Comments (47)

Coda for the Classics: Public Radio's Failed Mission

The impending death of Washington's last remaining outlet for classical music is a tragedy primarily because of what happened almost two years ago, when public WETA dropped the classics in favor of a news/talk format almost identical to that of its main competitor, WAMU. As today's column details, the news last week that the owner of WGMS (104.1 FM), Bonneville Corp., is going to sell the station to Washington Redskins' owner Dan Snyder drives the final nail in the coffin of classical music broadcasting in the D.C. region. WETA (90.9 FM) dropped the classics in February 2005, with station...

By Marc Fisher | December 12, 2006; 8:06 AM ET | Comments (138)

The Whale Has No Famous Author

With that quotation from Melville's "Moby Dick," Washington architect Julian Hunt has published the first edition of a journal that bulldozes through the usually gentle rhetorical terrain of D.C. urban design and architecture. In DCenter, Hunt and a slew of others who care deeply about how this city looks and what that tells us about who we are set out to name the forces responsible for making the District "a place permanently obscured by political atmospherics," as Hunt writes in his introduction to the handsome, glossy magazine. How has the federal government managed to saddle the District with an incoherent...

By Marc Fisher | December 11, 2006; 8:14 AM ET | Comments (10)

Listener: The Deflating of Air America

The Listener column this week looks at liberal talk radio and its struggles in Washington and around the nation: Rush Limbaugh and other conservative radio talk show hosts have often noted that being on the outside, rallying the audience to action, is good for business. Being aligned with the party in power, not so good. If that's the case, the miserable condition of Air America, the two-year-old effort to create a liberal alternative to conservative talk radio, is likely to get even worse, perhaps fatally so. Air America has announced that it is negotiating with potential buyers to avert a...

By Marc Fisher | December 9, 2006; 1:06 PM ET | Comments (7)

The Challenge Index--Jay's Response

Here's Jay Mathew's response to my blog post from earlier this morning. It is kind of slippery here, with all that buttering up. But I refuse to be roasted without a few yelps of protest. The first complaint would come not from me but from the vast majority of Americans who have ever attended public high schools. You say that "using APs as a ranking tool puts enormous pressure on schools to add more and more AP courses, squeezing out creative classes, limiting what the best teachers can do in their classes, and turning high school into a dull...

By Marc Fisher | December 8, 2006; 12:16 PM ET | Comments (10)

Challenging the Challenge Index

Jay Mathews is the dean of American education journalists, a great reporter and a committed advocate for making schools better. He's also a great guy. And you know already that I'm gearing up to rip him. But really, it's not Jay I propose to rip, but his annual Challenge Index, which the Post plastered all over Page One yesterday (am I just jealous?) To rank area high schools, Jay takes the number of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate examinations taken by students at each school and draws conclusions from those numbers about how serious that school is about adhering...

By Marc Fisher | December 8, 2006; 8:00 AM ET | Comments (17)

The District Relents: The Group Home Story

Eugene Sampson no longer need fear being thrown out of his home, the only apartment he has ever had to himself. John Cook can rest easy about the D.C. government's threat to fine him thousands of dollars and haul him to jail. After my column Tuesday about the District's efforts to harass one of the city's best-run group homes for the mentally disabled, D.C. council member Phil Mendelson (At Large) jumped into action against the bureaucracy. L'Arche runs an extraordinarily comfortable and welcoming home on Ontario Road NW. There's plenty of room for several more residents than the city bureaucrats...

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

Your Handy Gun Guide: Libraries No, Parks Yes

George Allen has a parting shot for Virginians and all Americans: He wants to put guns into America's national parks. Ok, well, that's just George in his saddle-up mode, looking for a way to reassert his adopted cowboy identity, right? No such luck: Allen's impending departure from the Senate will not stop the effort to introduce weapons to national parks. No, Jim Webb, who last week displayed his own inability to control his impulses, is upfront about his own eagerness to get guns into America's most important vacation spots. (This is, as we saw in Webb's adolescent confrontation with the...

By Marc Fisher | December 6, 2006; 7:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Next Level of Smoking Ban

When a Silver Spring apartment complex announced that current residents would not be permitted to renew their leases if they don't agree to a ban on smoking, that looked like a new frontier in antismoking zealotry. But no: In several California towns, most recently in Belmont in the Bay Area, activists are pushing through measures that ban smoking entirely, with the sole exception of inside private, detached houses. That means no smoking in any public place, indoors or out. Interestingly, the tobacco companies are staying out of the fray in those California cases. They've measured the public rage toward smoking...

By Marc Fisher | December 5, 2006; 7:45 AM ET | Comments (0)

Does the Post Slight Virginia?

The Post's ombudsman, Deborah Howell, yesterday took on the age-old complaint by some Virginia readers that the newspaper cares more about Maryland and the District than about the place that is home to its largest contingent of readers and subscribers, the great commonwealth of Virginia. Her verdict: Guilty as charged, but not by much and it's getting better. The most damning quotation in Howell's piece came from--ouch--right inside the Post building, from the paper's vice president for circulation, David Dadisman, who said that "as a Virginia resident, I find the Post's coverage of Virginia news inadequate and given from a...

By Marc Fisher | December 4, 2006; 8:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

Word of the Year 2006

Insurgents. Sectarian. Dwarf planet. Podcast. Islamofascism. Reggaeton. Sudoku. Some of these are dated already, but one may yet be the 2006 Word of the Year. "Quaqmire"--sorry, that landed second place back in 2003. Was it clear even then? The people who publish the big red dictionary that's on many an office desk are conducting a survey to determine the Word of the Year, and the very existence of the contest tells us something about this year and where we're headed as a society. In previous years, Merriam-Webster relied on its scholars to determine the word that told us the most...

By Marc Fisher | December 1, 2006; 7:44 AM ET | Comments (56)

 

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