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Archive: August 2008

48 Years Later, A Singer Finally In Demand

Here's today's column--with samples of Loraine Rudolph's songs embedded as links... Forty-eight years ago, an ambitious teenager with a whale of a voice and a dream born of evenings singing doo-wop on street corners found her way from Louisville to Detroit, to an apartment just upstairs from the Gordy family's recording studio. In 1960, Loraine Rudolph became a cog in the hit music machine later known as Motown. She sang back-up for one future star after another, toured with The Spinners, hung out with Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye and lived with Motown mogul Berry Gordy's sister and her...

By Marc Fisher | August 31, 2008; 7:25 AM ET | Comments (19)

Ben's Revives Jelly Roll Morton's D.C. Connection

Last week's 50th anniversary bashes for Ben's Chili Bowl were a blast. From Bill Cosby's on-stage quips about the verve with which the servers at Ben's whap the chili onto the half-smoke, to Roberta Flack's still-distinctive stylings, to a gathering of the District's political elite in a tent behind the Lincoln Theater, Ben and Virginia Ali demonstrated yet again that their hot dog stand on U Street NW is the improbable cultural crossroads of the city. Now comes blogger Mike Licht, whose wealth of info about Washington's past makes his NotionsCapital blog one of the city's most fascinating, with...

By Marc Fisher | August 29, 2008; 8:45 AM ET | Comments (4)

Leggett: The Audacity To Lead, The Folly Of 'Authenticity'

One thing we're not likely to hear Barack Obama speak about explicitly tonight is what his historic candidacy portends for the future for black politicians in this country. Obama will certainly celebrate what his candidacy says about how far this nation has come, but he tends to shy away from getting very specific about how black politicians can overcome historic white resistance to black candidates. But Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has no such compunctions about speaking frankly on that topic. As the highest elected official of one of the nation's largest and wealthiest suburban jurisdictions--and one where he...

By Marc Fisher | August 28, 2008; 1:25 PM ET | Comments (2)

Inside NoVa's Most Evenly-Divided Neighborhood

A couple of thousand miles from the yammering politicians in Denver, a world away from the TV news version of an America polarized into red and blue boxes, the Valley West neighborhood pool in Fairfax County in these last days before school reopens is a place where Republican moms are intrigued by Barack Obama and their Democratic friends wonder if this is the year to switch over to John McCain. Two friends, long loyal to different parties, debate the choice: "After Bush botched everything, I thought it was time for a change," says the Republican, a mother of two young...

By Marc Fisher | August 28, 2008; 8:56 AM ET | Comments (2)

From Glass Gem To Bunker: A D.C. Library's Sad Shift

When the District's troubled library system started tearing down decrepit old branch libraries with the promise of snazzy, modern replacements, part of the justification for the demolitions was that the old buildings were outmoded, expensive to operate and eyesores that repelled potential visitors. Certainly the library in Shaw in northwest Washington fit that bill. Long derided by neighborhood residents as a post-riots bunker that said volumes about the city's attitude toward its citizens, the library was a forbidding example of Brutalism, the school of architecture that specialized in unbroken expanses of concrete, literally walled off from the people the...

By Marc Fisher | August 27, 2008; 8:51 AM ET | Comments (27)

Could Mark Warner's Virginia Juggernaut Hurt Obama?

Ok, so Barack Obama didn't pick Gov. Tim Kaine to be his #2, but the Democrats' emphasis on Virginia as a--or perhaps even the--crucial swing state in this fall's campaign is hardly flagging. With more than 30 campaign offices spread around the Old Dominion, a torrent of TV spots on Virginia airwaves, and former Gov. Mark Warner as his convention keynote speaker tonight, Obama is making the biggest play for the state's votes in four decades. "You've got 44 years of history working against you," Warner noted in a phone call with Virginia reporters yesterday, but with 200,000 new...

By Marc Fisher | August 26, 2008; 8:20 AM ET | Comments (24)

Countdown to Futility: Nats '08

As this potentially historic baseball season enters its final month, our Washington Nationals are on track to post the worst record in Washington history, surpassing any misery that the forlorn Senators made legendary. Today, if you do nothing else, you must read Stephen Hunter's fabulous piece in Style on the power and the majesty of losing, and the one true way to cope. If you need an antidote to the acres of coverage of a political convention in which there is no news, this is your story. If you need to understand what newspapers can provide that the web...

By Marc Fisher | August 26, 2008; 7:43 AM ET | Comments (8)

Collect Them All: Politicians' Social Security Numbers

Let's see, here's the Social Security number of Dick Saslaw, the Virginia Senate's majority leader, and here's the number for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and here are a whole slew of Virginia legislators' supposedly private identification numbers. Betty "BJ" Ostergren has them all collected on her web site, not to abet identity theft, but to make a political point: If Ostergren, an activist from outside Richmond can collect dozens of public figures' Social Security numbers entirely from public records, what does that say about the role public records play in helping identity thieves rip off the rest...

By Marc Fisher | August 25, 2008; 8:54 AM ET | Comments (8)

MoCo Leader Goes For Gold On Slots

A s the two parties and the nation prepare for the Olympics of politics, let's pause to see how a master performs one of the most daring events. Watch closely now as Ike Leggett, the highest elected official in Montgomery County, goes for gold in Evolution of a Principle: In 2001, County Executive Leggett, a professorial gentleman with strong roots in the civil rights movement, was, by his own account, "undoubtedly opposed" to slots. He had stood by that position for many years. As late as 2005, he said state-sponsored gambling in the form of slot machine palaces "negatively impacts...

By Marc Fisher | August 24, 2008; 9:21 AM ET | Comments (19)

Desperation Time In D.C.: School Is Money?

The school renovations aren't going so well, the teachers are resisting Chancellor Michelle Rhee's ambitious plan to undo decades-old seniority and tenure rules, and student performance remains persistently miserable. Despite her great energy and stunning ability to push dramatic change through a historically resistant political structure, the District's schools chancellor is getting a little bit desperate. The evidence: Yesterday's announcement of a deeply cynical effort starting this fall to pay D.C. middle schoolers to attend school, behave decently and perform in the classroom. Yes, pay them, as in cash money. Rhee, Mayor Adrian Fenty and Harvard University economist Roland...

By Marc Fisher | August 22, 2008; 8:28 AM ET | Comments (65)

Can Lowering The Drinking Age Be The Healthful Move?

Next week, when President C.D. "Dan" Mote welcomes freshmen to the University of Maryland, he will inform them that the college police will enforce underage drinking laws "with terrific ferocity." And then he will turn around and, recognizing that most students do drink, tell the teenagers "to take care of each other when they see someone who's passed out, to take advantage of all of our services for students who abuse alcohol." "We have a real conflict here," Mote says, and he's talking not only about the College Park campus but about every university and about our entire society. We...

By Marc Fisher | August 21, 2008; 9:01 AM ET | Comments (18)

School Disney Trip: Sorry, You Can't Go On Any Rides

We're going to Disney! But we're not going on any rides. No, sir, no rides, no games, no fun at all. This is an educational trip, you see, so absolutely no enjoyment will be permitted. For nearly two decades, the kids in the band at Great Bridge High School in the Hampton Roads suburb of Chesapeake have traveled to Florida every four years to appear in winter holiday parades at Disney World and as part of the Citrus Bowl festivities. But this year, the Chesapeake school system decided it is no longer educationally appropriate for the high school kids...

By Marc Fisher | August 20, 2008; 8:43 AM ET | Comments (16)

D.C. Teachers March Toward Showdown Over Merit Pay

How far apart are D.C. school teachers and Chancellor Michelle Rhee over her drive to dismantle the 20th century, seniority-based structure of employment in the public schools? Well, within 15 minutes of meeting two teachers on opposite sides of the current debate, I heard threats to shut the system down if Rhee's merit pay plan goes into effect and warnings that a failure to adopt the new pay scheme could spell the end of the public system as we know it. Today on Raw Fisher Radio, I speak to two D.C. teachers representing sharply-divided factions within the school system....

By Marc Fisher | August 19, 2008; 8:47 AM ET | Comments (131)

Is There Also An Iced Coffee Line--In Virginia?

Many thanks to Steve Hendrix for two weeks of superb posts in the Guest Blogger slot here on the big show--Steve showed fabulous range and took us all on some delightful journeys, including his last contribution, last Friday, in which he explored the ancient and contemporary mysteries of the Iced Tea Line, that uncharted boundary between the Land of Sweet Tea and the Nation of The Unsweetened, a border that defines much of what's still distinctive about regions of the United States, and, Steve posited, a line that likely runs through Virginia. Sure enough, just minutes after Steve posted...

By Marc Fisher | August 18, 2008; 8:13 AM ET | Comments (16)

In Search of the International Sweet Tea Line

(Posted by guest blogger Steve Hendrix) This week's Random Friday Query is a burning question Marc and I have discussed in person but never presented for public debate. At what point as you travel down the Eastern Seaboard do you cross the International Sweet Tea Line? When do you enter sweet-tea territory, where genuine sugar-added-during-steeping tea is available at every restaurant? This is not just a culinary question, but a social one. The ISTL is the frontier line of the South, and presumably it's receding, a regional glacier shrinking as cultural homogeneity spreads in the form of franchise restaurants and...

By Steve Hendrix | August 15, 2008; 9:35 AM ET | Comments (64)

Chinese 'Truth' - Take Two

(Posted by guest blogger Steve Hendrix) Chinese officials continue to insist that three members of its women's gymnastics team are 16 years of age, despite documents unearthed by Western media organizations showing all three to be only 14. Critics accused the government of backdating the athletes' passports by two years to meet the minimum eligible age for Olympic competition. -- News Reports "And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed--if all records told the same tale--then the lie passed into history and became truth." -- George Orwell, "1984" BEIJING -- Chinese officials this week announced that George...

By Steve Hendrix | August 14, 2008; 9:15 AM ET | Comments (30)

Traffic 101: Here Comes a Fire Truck - What Do YOU Do?

(Posted by guest blogger Steve Hendrix) I was on North Capitol Street in Northwest last week when a fire truck came hurtling southbound. Well, hurtling is not the right world. Creeping is more like it. Inching, really. The civilian cars went into such a Keystone Cops ballet, sprawling across both lanes, that by the time the engine picked its way to the scene the fire was probably out and the owners already spending the insurance money in Florida. What do you do when a ambulance or fire truck comes barreling along, all sound and flash and urgency? If you're like...

By Steve Hendrix | August 13, 2008; 9:30 AM ET | Comments (21)

You Can Ride One of Mayor Fenty's Bicycles (But not the really good one)

(Posted by guest blogger Steve Hendrix) I have seen the future and it looks like something Pee Wee Herman would use to deliver pizzas. Heck, I've not only seen the future, I've ridden it around Dupont Circle. Have a look at it here. Tomorrow, D.C. transportation lords will unveil their long-awaited Smart Bike program (like the one Paris uses, and Barcelona and Oslo), making Washington the first major American city to provide this kind of grab-and-go bicycle for public use on short urban hops. (It's amazing that we beat Seattle or Portland to this particular Edge City punch.) The first...

By Steve Hendrix | August 12, 2008; 8:57 AM ET | Comments (46)

The Production Number Heard 'Round the World

(Posted by guest blogger Steve Hendrix) The least happy person in the world this morning is the person in charge of planning the Olympic opening ceremony for Vancouver in 2010. After what we saw in Beijing last night, that job became about as thankless as following your young classmate Judy Garland in the school talent show or being commissioned to paint the ceiling of the church next door to the Sistine Chapel. But it's not just the production designers of every future Olympics who are feeling hopeless today. The politicians, captains of industry and generals of those countries--of every country--are...

By Steve Hendrix | August 9, 2008; 9:12 AM ET | Comments (5)

If Paris Hilton Can Have an Energy Policy, Why Can't I? (Read on to win a million dollars)

(Posted by guest blogger Steve Hendrix) This is a serious (Friday) question: Why can't we use Happy Drinking Birds to solve our energy needs for centuries to come? You know the Happy Drinking Bird (see one here). Some call it a dippy bird, that glass tube thingee filled with red liquid, a feather glued to its tail and, inexplicably, a top hat glued to its head. It sits on a plastic stand and when put it next to a glass of water, the creature pivots forward, dipping its beak in the water then righting itself. It does this...forever. As long...

By Steve Hendrix | August 7, 2008; 6:21 PM ET | Comments (8)

Rendering Ceasar Right Into Federal Court

(Posted by guest blogger Steve Hendrix) As predicted by the true proprietor of this blog two weeks ago, the fight between the DC Historic Preservation Review Board and the Third Church of Christ, Scientist is going federal, and it's going fast. The fact that church supporters were able, at the height of the August doldrums, to scare up a crowd of supporting ministers and civil rights activists to gather this morning on the steps of the 16th Street building signals that they're ready to make a serious push. They're standing in the heat at this hour to announce the filing...

By Steve Hendrix | August 7, 2008; 10:49 AM ET | Comments (28)

No One Has Pointed a Gun at Me in Years

(Posted by guest blogger Steve Hendrix) The first question on my first Raw Fisher posting, was "How are you on guns?" I had declared independence from my colleague and idol Marc Fisher on dogs, cats and taxi meters, and this commenter was trying to find some air between us on the Second Amendment Fair enough. Guns are always good for some civil and measured discourse. So on a week when Congressional Democrats find themselves unable to keep their pandering paws off the District's registration laws, herewith are ten things I think about guns. 1. I like them. They're fun to...

By Steve Hendrix | August 6, 2008; 4:53 PM ET | Comments (11)

On the Merge of a Nervous Breakdown

(Posted by guest blogger Steve Hendrix) Since we only have a half-day today (they are changing the oil on the blog machine between noon Tuesday and noon Wednesday), let's tackle the following Hypothetical Driving Ethics Situation That Happens All The Time. What would you do? The situation: The stretch of the Inner Loop in Montgomery County where 1-270 meets the Beltway is pretty-much permanently jammed. Normal there is defined as bumper-to-bumper traffic moving at 45 miles-per-hour or slower. But at the far left is a lane that is almost always empty. It's a merge lane bringing cars onto the Beltway...

By Steve Hendrix | August 5, 2008; 8:41 AM ET | Comments (13)

Look Me in the Eye When You Rent That Movie

(Posted by guest blogger Steve Hendrix) Bye bye Marc! Have a good time! Don't worry about a thing. I'll have them in bed by 9. Okay kids, I'm babysitting Raw Fisher for the next two weeks, during which time the blog will officially be Pro Dog, Fine With Cats and Ambivalent About Taxi Meters. (Oh hell, let's be Pro Taxi Meter too. You might as well use the power you have.) I promise not to tell Marc if you wreak havoc until all-hours if you don't tell him I've discovered his basement fridge full of Yuengling. He left us a...

By Steve Hendrix | August 3, 2008; 10:48 PM ET | Comments (11)

Forgive Him His Spelling--This Guy Can Write

With this entry, I'm taking my annual break from the blog, which means you get to spend some time with The Post's Steve Hendrix, who is kind enough to play the role of Raw Fisher for a couple of weeks. Steve is a Metro reporter with a great eye for the strange, the beautiful and the outrageous. He's an explorer, a veteran of our Travel section who lives some of each year deep in the wilds of western Guatemala. And as you may discover, he can't spell. His spelling is so, um, special that he got a terrific Magazine...

By Marc Fisher | August 1, 2008; 1:53 PM ET | Comments (7)

From Now On, I'm Entrusting My Car Care To Marion Barry

"Watch out!" Marion Barry cried out to his aide and driver as a Metrobus pulled away from the curb just ahead of us. "That bus will hit you--he doesn't care." As I was toodling around Ward 8 with Barry a little while back--reporting yesterday's column on the eternal mayor's latest ideas about his home turf--Barry served up a steady patter of wisecracks about Metrobus. But Barry didn't want to talk about the specifics of his own mishap with a bus. Which is too bad, because, as The Post's Lena Sun reported in June, Barry, claiming his champagne-colored Mercedes was...

By Marc Fisher | August 1, 2008; 8:51 AM ET | Comments (25)

 

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