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Archive: March 2007

Public or Private High School: Does It Matter for College?

In affluent Washington area neighborhoods where the public schools suffer from mixed reputations (or worse), parents endlessly debate not only whether public or private education is best for their kids, but which path would lead to the precious puppies attending a top university. While most such driven parents merely talk about this, Leonard Jewler of the District decided to do some genuine research. A healthcare analyst, he focused on the D.C. public school his own child attended, Lafayette Elementary in the Chevy Chase section of the city. Taking advantage of a survey taken for a reunion of the school's...

By Marc Fisher | March 30, 2007; 8:19 AM ET | Comments (8)

Tim Kaine and Virginia's Third Rail

Gov. Tim Kaine made it plain in his campaign TV ads: Yes, he's morally opposed to capital punishment, but he did not intend to impose his personal views on Virginia. "I'll enforce the death penalty," he said in his TV spots. "As governor, I'll carry out death sentences handed down by Virginia juries because that's the law." True to his word, Kaine has allowed four executions to go forward already in his short time in office. And true to his core beliefs, Kaine this week vetoed bills that would have expanded the use of the death penalty in Virginia....

By Marc Fisher | March 29, 2007; 8:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Godfather is Back: Chuck Brown's New Tunes

"Chuck Baby," the catchiest tune on Chuck Brown's new album, "We're About the Business," features a guest vocal by KK, the daughter of the Godfather of Go-Go, in which she pays tribute to the one man other than Marion Barry who has managed to bridge the enormous generation gap on the streets of Washington. KK, like her septuagenarian father, captures the beat of the city, the disaffection of all too many D.C. kids and the enduring appeal of the District's greatest contribution to pop music history--Chuck Brown, the man who put a vaguely Latin beat together with a Top...

By Marc Fisher | March 28, 2007; 7:26 AM ET | Comments (65)

Madam's Organ to Save a Bit of Blackie's--If DC Allows It

Bill Duggan is a rare iconoclast to survive and thrive in the social conservativism of Washington. Duggan's bar in Adams Morgan, Madam's Organ, is the kind of place where you can hear blues or jazz deep into the night, the rare D.C. spot that wins a place of honor in Playboy's accounting of the best bars in the land. For more than three decades, Duggan has been pushing the envelope on 18th Street NW, whether running an arts collective, operating an edgy club, putting a huge pair of breasts up on a mural overlooking the neighborhood's main drag, or...

By Marc Fisher | March 27, 2007; 7:48 AM ET | Comments (22)

Gracias Papi: Talking About the Unspeakable

Yaneth is 14 and looks 18. David is 29 and could pass for 20. David works for Yaneth's father. David's on the make, and Yaneth is more than a little interested. The story has all the elements to make a steamy, sleazy telenovela on Spanish-language TV. But it's a comic book produced by Virginia's health department, part of a bold and refreshing effort to put aside politically correct language and confront a real cultural difference, one that clashes with American law and social standards. The comic book, an online version of which is here, will be distributed across the...

By Marc Fisher | March 22, 2007; 7:50 AM ET | Comments (24)

TMZ DC: Adventures in Political Flab?

The hot website TMZ.com specializes in exposing celebrity flab--sagging rear-ends, fallen faces, unedited rants, unexpurgated divorce files. Now that the site is planning a D.C. version of the product, the natural question is, Do we really have enough dirt and muck to support TMZ's "shocking new details" jones? TMZ relies heavily on paparazzi pix, and while there is a healthy freelance photography scene in Washington, they're mostly not the sort who spend their hours scheming on how to gain access to a good view of a junior senator's backyard pool. But the bigger question here is, Do Washington's celebs...

By Marc Fisher | March 21, 2007; 7:06 AM ET | Comments (21)

Know Your Neighbors: Who Has A Gun Permit?

Roanoke Times editorial writer Christian Trejbal last week decided to celebrate Sunshine Week in Virginia by providing readers of his newspaper with the complete list of all their neighbors who hold permits to carry concealed weapons. Now there's a real public service; if your neighbor is prepared to shoot someone who attempts, say, to mug him, you'd certainly want to know about it. Well, the ensuing howling was almost as big a riot as if Trejbal had tried to confiscate those guns himself. Readers went ballistic, so to speak. Folks threatened to cancel their subscriptions, demanded that the editorial...

By Marc Fisher | March 20, 2007; 7:48 AM ET | Comments (218)

The Seegers: Not Just Another Bureaucrat

If the full house at Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress Friday night looked like members of an academic symposium on Pete Seeger and other members of his illustrious clan, that was no accident: The crowd, professorial and very much from the Sixties, was there for the Library's Seeger Family Tribute, a day-long series of discussions followed by a concert starring the legendary folk performer and his astonishing family of musicians. Many of the Seegers grew up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, in a rambling old house on West Kirke Street where Charles Seeger lived as he moved from...

By Marc Fisher | March 19, 2007; 12:25 PM ET | Comments (5)

The Dark and Steamy Tale of the Capitol Tunnel Rats

John Thayer has spent 22 years of his life poking his way through the five miles of scorching, wet, dark tunnels that snake their way under the Capitol, Union Station, the Supreme Court and more than 20 congressional buildings. He figured he was working down in the filth and the steam to take care of his family in St. Mary's County, provide cooling and heating for the nation's leaders and save taxpayers' dollars by patching a century-old system of pipes and steam lines. But Thayer and the nine other "tunnel rats" he supervises in 160-degree conditions below the city's streets...

By Marc Fisher | March 19, 2007; 7:33 AM ET | Comments (7)

Webcasters Slam into Royal(ty) Pain

At Contemporary-classical.com, Adrian Koren plays music that most folks don't want to hear. But for those who relish exploring the classical works of the past century, Koren's Web radio station is a godsend. For just the $300 a year he pays Live365.com for bandwidth and music licensing, the Massachusetts software developer can share his beloved music with people around the world. For more than three years, Koren has led listeners -- a few dozen at a time -- to new discoveries, a process repeated tens of thousands of times on Web stations based in bedrooms, basements and attics. But a...

By Marc Fisher | March 17, 2007; 10:34 PM ET | Comments (27)

Dante, Pushkin, Longfellow, Neruda: D.C.'s Favorite Writers?

We've got politicians popping up on street corners and in traffic circles, and of course generals galore, and we even have especially well-done tributes to Gandhi and Einstein, but a far less noticed category of statuary in Washington is authors. Kim Roberts, editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, has come up with an impressive list of the writers who are immortalized in statues around the District, and the roster includes not only Francis Scott Key and the greats depicted on the exterior of the Library of Congress, but also Pushkin at GW, Dante (twice!) in Malcolm X Park and at...

By Marc Fisher | March 16, 2007; 6:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

Slumlords Never Die: The Wily Ways of David Nuyen

It's been almost seven years since I first visited some of David Nuyen's slums and reported on Nuyen's foul, filthy, decrepit properties in the District (you can read the original column on the jump.) Embarrassed, the D.C. government sprang into action. Well, sprang is a bit strong. After all, it has now been seven years, and Nuyen is still working the system, still maneuvering his way through various court cases, still--despite promises to the contrary--running substandard properties in the city. The District's attorney general's office has accused Nuyen of still owning four apartment buildings in the city, despite a...

By Marc Fisher | March 15, 2007; 6:36 AM ET | Comments (40)

Kosher Donuts, Now With Bacon

...Which, of course, makes them not kosher anymore, which is what has now happened to two Dunkin Donuts franchises in Potomac and Rockville. To the great dismay of kosher Marylanders--who recently voted Dunkin Donuts the runner-up in the Best Kosher Bakery in the Washington area category (#1 was Goldberg's Bagels in Rockville)--the local franchisee for DD, Jim Willard, says Dunkin HQ has instructed him that he may no longer modify the corporate menu at his establishments. That means Willard must now stock new menu items, such as DD's breakfast sandwich with sausage, which renders the whole shop unkosher. Kosher...

By Marc Fisher | March 14, 2007; 7:12 AM ET | Comments (52)

Now You Can Drink and Vegetate at the Same Time

The long and unnecessary battle between Shiloh Baptist Church and the District's first upscale vegetarian restaurant is finally over, and the worshipers of the fruit of the earth beat those who seek sustenance from on high. Vegetate, a lovely place near Ninth and P streets NW in Shaw, was an early pioneer along Ninth, one of the first businesses to try to see if the gentrification of the neighborhood and the addition of the new convention center nearby could add up to enough street life to support a high-end, niche eatery. But the restaurant that Dominic and Jennifer Redd...

By Marc Fisher | March 13, 2007; 7:31 AM ET | Comments (52)

When Terrorism Hit Home: Remembering Maurice Williams

In the stories told about the early years of home rule in the District of Columbia, the Hanafi Muslims' 1977 assault on the District Building, the B'nai B'rith headquarters and the Islamic Center has somehow morphed into little more than a chapter in the remarkable political ascent of Marion Barry, who was shot in the chest by a Hanafi gunman. But when dozens of politicians, journalists and others gathered this morning to recall that awful March day 30 years ago, the emphasis was where it should be: On Maurice Williams, the 24-year-old journalist for WHUR radio who was shot...

By Marc Fisher | March 12, 2007; 12:57 PM ET | Comments (0)

Next on the Daylight Saving Express: Make It Year-Round

President Warren G. Harding didn't like daylight saving time. If people want more daylight, he said, they should just wake up earlier. So in 1922, when the District had no law requiring shifting of the clock, Harding issued an executive order mandating that all federal employees start work at 8 a.m. rather than at 9. Private employers could do as they pleased. The result was a holy mess, as some trains, buses, theaters and retailers shifted their hours of operation and some didn't. Washingtonians rebelled, deriding Harding's policy as "rag time." After one summer of confusion, Harding backed down and...

By Marc Fisher | March 11, 2007; 8:39 AM ET | Comments (0)

Court to D.C.: Bring on the Guns

The U.S. Court of Appeals today threw out the District of Columbia's highly restrictive gun laws, ruling that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to own firearms. The 2-1 ruling, which the city will immediately appeal, threatens to bring gun shops and easy ownership of handguns back to the District. But while this is just the latest of a long line of skirmishes over the meaning of the Second Amendment, the judges in the majority--Laurence Silberman and Thomas Griffith--went out of their way to trash the legal theories behind the D.C. law. Arguments over the meaning of the...

By Marc Fisher | March 9, 2007; 3:02 PM ET | Comments (103)

Dig, Dig, Glub, Glub--DC's Underground Follies

It's all the rage in this height-restricted, land-scarce city: If you can't find open territory for your museum, school or government building, go down--dig deep into the ground and create new space for yourself. It's wildly expensive, but it gets around the problem of having nowhere else to build. The mother of all such projects, as the Post's Mike Ruane and Joe Stephens report today, is the Capitol Visitors Center, the megamillions boondoggle which is years behind schedule and obscenely over budget. But everywhere you look, you see builders deciding to dig despite the inevitable risk of flooding. Now,...

By Marc Fisher | March 9, 2007; 7:02 AM ET | Comments (26)

On Brains Turned to Oatmeal--The Local TV News Story

The deans of Washington TV news, Jim Vance and Gordon Peterson, sat down with Nathan's owner Carol Joynt the other day and the two anchormen were frank and funny about the decline of local TV news and their own extraordinary runs on the D.C. homescreen. Both Vance and Peterson started out on TV here in 1969, in an era when, as Vance put it, "television stations used to spend money to go find news." When the crowd at the Georgetown lunch spot ooohed over Vance's slash at the costcutting frenzy in TV these days, Vance calmed them: "Y'all just...

By Marc Fisher | March 8, 2007; 7:41 AM ET | Comments (11)

Banning Boobirds

What a wonderful lesson young folks learn these days: If you don't like something, ban it. Words, ideas, sentiments, emotions--they're all just pesky little problems that can be made to go away simply by deciding that they're not allowed anymore. We have now seen the sad attempt in New York to eradicate the "n-word" by passing a resolution against it in the city council (non-binding, but still.) If you want to see what creating legal taboos does for a society, take a look at Germany, where rebellious kids relish displaying banned Nazi symbols, made far more enticing because they...

By Marc Fisher | March 7, 2007; 7:37 AM ET | Comments (27)

Who Should Be in D.C. Wax Museum?

Madame Tussaud's wax museum is coming to Washington, to the old Woodies building downtown, and at least so far, there are no plans to include Marion Barry, Monica Lewinsky or Michael Jordan. Not the Squire, not Danny Boy, not Mr. Pollin. No Newt, none of the Supremes (neither justices nor singers), not even Dick Nixon. When the wax museum opens--this fall, the proprietor hopes--it will be Tussaud's third showplace in the United States and seventh on the planet. The emphasis here will be on politics--both Bill and Hill, GW and TJ of course, as well as celebs along the...

By Marc Fisher | March 6, 2007; 6:51 AM ET | Comments (70)

The Real Aim of Virginia's Transpo Deal

Should Gov. Tim Kaine take the Republican deal on transportation, or should he veto the bill and let voters decide this fall what they want to do about traffic and the commuting nightmare they face each day? My colleague Steve Pearlstein argues that Kaine should swallow some of his pride and give up the Democratic strategy of charging into this fall's elections with his party presenting itself as the only true guardian of Virginians' time. Pearlstein writes that northern Virginia will be better off making its own way, taxing itself for the improvements it needs in roads and transit,...

By Marc Fisher | March 5, 2007; 7:28 AM ET | Comments (0)

Flash: North Is Now North, Even in D.C.

For decades, while the rest of the planet agreed on the notion that north is up and south is down, the District government insisted that north is west, or left, or something. The idea, I suppose, was to add to the mystery and lore of the D.C. taxi system, with its strangely shaped zones, its uniquely meterless fare system, its wonderful array of cabs of all decades, and its fabulously overeducated drivers (my current recordholder is a guy from Eritrea who had two PhDs and escaped from a civil war by foot.) Now comes the Fenty administration with all...

By Marc Fisher | March 1, 2007; 8:41 AM ET | Comments (55)

 

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