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Archive: March 2008

10 Best Things About Nats Park (And Five Worst)

Grumpy editors, whiny stay-at-home fans, and other chronically unsatisfied types were virtually begging for the bad news from Nationals Park Sunday night. Surely, they said, it must have been a mess--the roads, the trains, the shuttle, the food? Well, not really. Even in a jam-packed press box, where you aren't worth your media pass if you can't find something that wasn't done right, the vibe was celebratory bordering on giddy. But nobody's perfect, so before moving along to the Ten Best Things About Nats Park, here are the obligatory Five Worst Aspects of Washington's new stadium: --The food lines...

By Marc Fisher | March 31, 2008; 12:03 PM ET | Comments (0)

What Do You Get For Your $611 Million?

So, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer, what did you get for your $611 million? A curly W mowed into the center field grass, a bright red clock of stars, a view of the construction cranes that count off a city's progress, a playground for a stressed-out people. All that and a game that turns grown-ups into kids and bonds children with their dads. Fans stepped off Metro last night, passed under arches of red, white and blue balloons, walked the red carpet along Half Street SE -- a street that until now served as one of Washington's ugliest back alleys --...

By Marc Fisher | March 31, 2008; 9:11 AM ET | Comments (0)

Poe's Epic Journey From Griffith to RFK to Nats Park

For Opening Day at Nationals Park, I visited with a man who has worked every one of Washington's great baseball venues over the past 55 years. Every place Alan Poe has worked has had its challenges. At old Griffith Stadium, there were no fixed seats out past center field, so Poe and the other ushers had to set up row upon row of metal folding chairs before each Redskins game. At RFK Stadium, there were so many obstructed-view seats that Poe was forever trying to mollify miffed patrons by finding them a more commodious location. And at Nationals Park, Poe...

By Marc Fisher | March 30, 2008; 8:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

Nationals Park: Tighter Rules, Friendlier Staff?

When the first two sell-out crowds visit Nationals Park this weekend--for Saturday's exhibition game against the Baltimore Orioles and Sunday's nationally-televised Opening Night extravaganza against the Atlanta Braves--everyone will be together in the same exploratory mode. Finding, getting to, and wandering around the new, $611 million stadium will be as much a part of the experience as the game itself. One group of people who are supposed to know their way around the ballpark already are the Nationals' gameday staff, the 400-plus ushers, ticket takers and ticket sellers who have toured the stadium repeatedly and attended frequent training sessions...

By Marc Fisher | March 28, 2008; 8:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

Bloggers of the Month: D.C. Foodies

How dumb was this: I met March's Bloggers of the Month and not a morsel of food was consumed. No, Amanda McClements and Melissa McCart and I sat in a windowless radio studio in the barren, windswept ruins of Washington Post Radio, where Raw Fisher Radio is recorded each week, and we talked food, which is what they do so well on two of the best of Washington's burgeoning menu of food blogs. McClements, a freelance food writer, is author of Metrocurean, a well-reported blog that mixes news of restaurant comings and going with features such as Five Bites,...

By Marc Fisher | March 26, 2008; 8:27 AM ET | Comments (4)

Schools Monday: Watch Your Language

Whether it's a Fairfax high school student whose tangle with the wife of a top administrator ends up as a nationwide debate over phone and web etiquette or a D.C. weekly newspaper that publishes the email traffic between a Washington Post reporter and the mayor's press aide, it's clear that we live in a time when no one quite knows which conversations may go public. Now, a Fairfax parent's decision to file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain a school board member's email that calls another parent "vile and toxic" is once again reminding us of the...

By Marc Fisher | March 24, 2008; 8:25 AM ET | Comments (20)

Taxi Fares & The American Dream

F or now, in the Silver Spring development of Dumont Oaks, there are more D.C. cabs -- dozens of them -- parked along the streets than there are "For Sale" signs on houses going through foreclosure. Hiwot Haileselassie wants to keep it that way. She and her husband work as architects in Rockville, but they credit their professional careers and success in this country to Washington's unique cab system. Only by driving a D.C. cab could her husband make the money and carve out the time that allowed both of them to go to school and climb the ladder in...

By Marc Fisher | March 23, 2008; 10:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Next Radio: How To Discover New Music

As the audience for AM and FM radio declines, start-up entrepreneurs and giant media companies alike search for the "next radio" -- a way to make money by helping listeners discover new music. Online music providers such as Pandora, Imeem and Last.fm provide an early glance at that next chapter in radio history. The search for a user-customized music "station" started in the early 1990s, when MIT's Media Lab created Ringo, a music recommendation engine that asked listeners to grade a few tunes and then offered them songs they might like. Now, CBS's Last.fm site has become the first of...

By Marc Fisher | March 22, 2008; 8:16 AM ET | Comments (0)

Juicy Campus: Free Speech, But Is It Fraud?

Even as students on campuses in Charlottesville, Annapolis and across the country urge fellow collegians to steer clear of the malicious gossip being peddled on juicycampus.com, the number of lurid and slashing personal attacks posted on the increasingly popular site continues to soar. The site, which I wrote about earlier this month, urges kids on 50 campuses nationwide, including the University of Virginia and the U.S. Naval Academy, to "give us the juice." The result is a catalogue of accusations of sexual promiscuity packed with real names of real students, many of whom don't even know they've been slurred...

By Marc Fisher | March 21, 2008; 8:22 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Papal Visit: Celebrity Vs. Spiritual

When Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Washington next month, he will ride around town in the famous Popemobile, speak to the faithful at a spanking new baseball stadium, and meet the president at the White House--the sort of acts we've come to associate with visiting pop stars, sports heroes and politicians, all celebrities of one sort or another. But of course the Pope is something quite different, and that's where things get a bit complicated. Archbishop Donald Wuerl stopped by The Post for lunch the other day and discussed, among other things, the conflicts that the Pope faces as...

By Marc Fisher | March 20, 2008; 8:17 AM ET | Comments (0)

Three Strikes And--23 Years Later--She's Safe At Home

After 23 years locked up, 11 of them in waist chains and handcuffs, Ollin Crawford -- the longest-serving inmate at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women who never murdered anyone -- headed home. Released yesterday afternoon, she plans to celebrate Easter with her family, including her adult son, who spent only the first seven days of his life with his mother before she was taken from him. "I never held a cellphone before," Crawford said as she climbed into her brother's car. "I've got roses, I've got balloons and I'm going home." Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D) told me yesterday...

By Marc Fisher | March 19, 2008; 7:55 AM ET | Comments (9)

Scorecard for Today's D.C. Gun Law Showdown

Grammar, history, intent, the District's unique role in the Constitution, and crime in contemporary society could all play major parts in today's historic Supreme Court session on Washington's handgun ban. You may need a scorecard to keep tabs on the 75 minutes of argument. (Good news is the court intends to release audio of this morning's session after it ends, sometime before noon.) First question: grammar. If the argument gets hung up on the grammar question that has divided gun rights supporters and opponents for many decades--what is the true purpose and meaning of the so-called preamble to the...

By Marc Fisher | March 18, 2008; 12:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

Schools Monday: Sorry, No Field Trips--The Testman Cometh

The memo went out to all D.C. school principals on March 3--from that day forward, for the next seven weeks, all schools are instructed to "suspend any non-instructional activities that take students and teachers away from the classroom." Translation: No field trips or other outside activities until after the week of standardized testing that starts April 22. Ever since Chancellor Michelle Rhee came into office, she has decried the hegemony of test-taking and test prep, promising audiences throughout the city that she is intent on restoring the art, music, physical education, science and literature lessons that have been squeezed...

By Marc Fisher | March 17, 2008; 8:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

Putting Mentally Disabled at Risk Is No Way to Cut Corners

Demolishing a building that dates back to the days of asbestos is a complicated business. You need to examine the construction method and, often, call in the men in white suits. When the Federal Aviation Administration decided to knock down an old guard shack last year on the grounds of the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center in Leesburg, no such precautions were taken. Instead, managers called in a crew of mentally disabled people and put them to work at the site, which had been found in 1993 to contain asbestos. Now, the FAA says, the agency's inspector general, federal...

By Marc Fisher | March 16, 2008; 8:41 AM ET | Comments (6)

Ritual AARP Eligibility Column

I hereby spare you the column that Local 479 of the International Brotherhood of Columnists, Pundits and Blowhards requires all members to write upon receiving, at the age of 49, the invitation in the mail from the AARP to sign up for the manifold benefits of being old in America. They ain't getting any $12.50 membership fee from me and you ain't getting the defiant, self-pitying, queasily jocular column that we've all read far too many times....

By Marc Fisher | March 14, 2008; 8:01 AM ET | Comments (17)

How Many Federal Agencies Does It Take To Say No To Nats Parking? Nine

In a little more than two weeks, when the Washington Nationals open their new stadium, many thousands of fans will be told there's no place nearby to park their cars. But two blocks from the ballpark, a 1,060-spot garage -- enormous enough to dramatically relieve the parking crunch around Nationals Park -- will sit empty, thanks to the federal government's rejection of the Nats' request to use the facility. Just how the U.S. Department of Transportation got to no reveals a great deal about Washington, bureaucracy and the enduring power of the security hysteria that has infected our society....

By Marc Fisher | March 13, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (14)

Making Sausage: A Reporter's Emails

Mike DeBonis, the Loose Lips columnist at the Washington City Paper, was frank with his readers about why he sought and published the juiciest emails traded by Washington Post city hall reporter David Nakamura and Mayor Adrian Fenty's communications director, Carrie Brooks: He wanted a holy cow story, of course, and he wanted also "to soothe the bruised reporter egos of LL [Loose Lips] and his reporter colleagues," whom Nakamura has scooped again and again on stories about Mayor Fenty. So DeBonis filed a Freedom of Information act request with the D.C. government and got himself a big pile...

By Marc Fisher | March 12, 2008; 8:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

Fenty In Year 2: It's All About The Leadership

The mayor walks into Ben's Chili Bowl at breakfast time and it's the hat--the dashing black wide-brimmed number he sports through the cold months--that first catches diners' eyes. Adrian Fenty is greeted with smiles, extended hands and a few quick requests for a word. This mayor is no Marion Barry: The room doesn't exactly fall silent. But Fenty is no Tony Williams either: He makes certain to exchange a couple of words with every potential voter in the eatery, and he's poised to act on each request, handing out business cards, passing reports of problems to the staffer at...

By Marc Fisher | March 11, 2008; 7:57 AM ET | Comments (0)

Schools Monday: At Long Last, D.C. Cleans House

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee got out the broom Friday and started the sweeping that three mayors and a battalion of schools superintendents promised, but never accomplished. About 100 central office workers were summarily axed, escorted from the building by security, given two weeks severance and a big fat thanks for nothing. The TV stations were there to watch with glee, but restrained themselves and aired video only of the fired workers' legs. The TV producers shouldn't have been so generous. After all these workers have done to relegate D.C. schoolchildren to lives of failure and unemployability, the fired...

By Marc Fisher | March 10, 2008; 7:06 AM ET | Comments (42)

Time To Fix The National Mall

Chip Akridge, one of Washington's most prolific builders, spends his morning jog checking in on his downtown office buildings and ranging across the Mall to visit Mr. Jefferson. Running in the early light, he's often swept up in a patriotic reverie, taking in the dome, the obelisk, the Wall -- the iconic shapes that symbolize democratic liberty. "I generally stop, salute and thank God I was born in this country," Akridge says. But these days, the developer is sending a different message about the place he runs through each morning. The Mall, Akridge has sadly concluded, "is a disgrace," a...

By Marc Fisher | March 9, 2008; 8:29 AM ET | Comments (38)

Listener: Agitated Fans Lose Smooth Jazz

Born in focus groups conducted in windowless conference rooms, named by a radio station consultant, derided by critics, smooth jazz vanished from Washington's FM radio dial as the month began. It was 14 years old. Actually, it was a listener who uttered the phrase that a consultant used to sum up this fusion of instrumental music styles. At a focus group held in Chicago by Broadcast Architecture, the firm that first sold radio stations on the new format in the early 1990s, a woman who was asked to describe the songs being tested blurted out "smooth jazz." What she was...

By Marc Fisher | March 8, 2008; 8:17 AM ET | Comments (0)

Scenes From A Changing City--Part Three

No imagination is required on the third stop in today's tour of changing places in the District: Columbia Heights' new DC USA retail complex, where a Target store opened Wednesday. Here, finally, is D.C. residents' second big box shop (the Home Depot in Northeast was first) and the first good reason to stay in town rather than venture out to the suburbs to buy clothing and the general store-type stuff that Target offers. Although many of the other shops in the mall at 14th Street and Park Road NW have not yet opened, the block was bustling this week...

By Marc Fisher | March 7, 2008; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

Scenes From A Changing City--Part Two

Second stop on today's tour of change in the District: A work in progress--Nationals Park, the $611 million investment by the city and the region's baseball fans that was sold to taxpayers on the theory that an urban stadium, like a downtown sports arena, could boost the much-needed expansion of the District's tax base. So far, so good: Although the economic downturn has slowed some building plans, there are lots of construction pits, cranes and earthmovers dotted all around the stadium district. I visited the ballpark this week to watch the first test of the massive centerfield scoreboard, a...

By Marc Fisher | March 7, 2008; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Scenes From A Changing City--Part One

What changes a city? What makes the difference between a dangerous and anonymous block and one that makes you want to stroll about and linger? Can physical transformation produce community? This week, change--or the prospect of it--came to three pieces of the District. I took a walk in each neighborhood to see how it felt. Coming up throughout the day, three reports, one every two hours until midday. First visit: A place that has changed only in theory. National Public Radio announced Wednesday that it will move its headquarters from a cramped office building on Massachusetts Avenue NW to...

By Marc Fisher | March 7, 2008; 8:05 AM ET | Comments (0)

At A Loss For Words Over Same-Sex Marriage

The votes to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland aren't there this year. There may be enough to legalize civil unions, but not if they are called civil unions. Can't call them domestic partnerships, either. Sorry. Nope, lawmakers in Annapolis are so hinky about the topic that they can't quite bring themselves to use words that describe what they are creating: a legal construct to give gay couples the rights and benefits that marriage grants heterosexual couples. Actually, to be more precise, make that lawmaker -- singular. As in C. Anthony Muse, chairman of the Prince George's County Senate delegation and...

By Marc Fisher | March 6, 2008; 7:41 AM ET | Comments (23)

Soccer Stadium Update: Calling United's Bluff

Mayor Adrian Fenty very much wants to keep the D.C. United soccer franchise in the District, but he does not consider a soccer stadium nearly as powerful an engine of economic development as the Washington Nationals' new ballpark on the Southeast waterfront. And the mayor seems unfazed by the mating dance between United's owners and Maryland politicians about moving the team to Prince George's County. "I don't think they really want to go to Maryland," Fenty tells me. The mayor says he is committed to examining proposals for a stadium at Poplar Point, across the Anacostia River from Nationals...

By Marc Fisher | March 5, 2008; 8:03 AM ET | Comments (0)

Va. Road Woes: Pay Or Stay Stuck In Traffic

Virginia Del. Bob Marshall, the Republican from Prince William County who is one of the last great crusaders in the General Assembly, follows his conscience, no matter how unpopular or inconvenient the results. Whether he's seeking to restrict abortion in any possible way or trying to restrict development that might damage the environment, he's fine with ticking off left or right. In fact, he relishes the idea. So it came as no surprise that it was Marshall who tossed a pipe bomb into the delicate structure that housed Virginia's multi-billion dollar transportation compromise. And when he won a total...

By Marc Fisher | March 4, 2008; 7:42 AM ET | Comments (0)

Pants Suit Update: Lawmakers Protect Pants!

Hard as it may be to imagine, there could be more Roy Pearsons out there somewhere, preparing to smack their local dry cleaner with multi-million dollar lawsuits because somebody damaged or lost some pants. And if you live in Maryland, you may soon be able to breathe easy and let out those pants, because your duly elected officials are on the job, protecting you and your garments. Legislators in Annapolis are scheduled to sit--most of them while wearing pants--today and hear testimony on House Bill 776, a measure that would for the first time spell out how dry cleaners...

By Marc Fisher | March 3, 2008; 2:10 PM ET | Comments (0)

Schools Monday: Language Made Foreign

UPDATED 2 p.m. WITH CHANCELLOR MICHELLE RHEE'S COMMENTS: Half a century ago, D.C. public school students on the honors track were required to take four years of foreign language to be graduated from high school. Today, fewer than one-third of D.C. public high schools even offer a four-year language program; most offer but two years, and some, only one. Now comes the reform brigade of Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty, and what do they want to do with one of the most critical areas of study, one of the few places on the education landscape where even...

By Marc Fisher | March 3, 2008; 8:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Campus Juice On Juicycampus.com

T.J. Bateman had never heard of JuicyCampus.com until a friend told him he had been discussed on the Web site, which urges college students nationwide to "give us the juice." Someone wrote, anonymously, that Bateman, a senior at the University of Virginia, is a "pretty cool dude, but I hear he is part robot." Could be worse, Bateman figures. "I thought it was pretty funny, but then I saw a post on the same page with a couple of racial epithets, and that rubbed me the wrong way. The anonymity lends itself to much more vindictive attacks." Such as one...

By Marc Fisher | March 2, 2008; 9:26 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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