Saturday, December 31, 2005

I want my Krispy Kreme back.

My wife invariably works on New Year's Eve and this year she is in fact working all day - from 7 a.m. till whenever the last drunken customer staggers home. So this leaves me with a particularly long stretch of time to fill with the boys (two - ages six and two-almost-three). We're planning a party - the world's smallest New Year's cake ($4.99 at Superfresh. I coulda made it myself, but I am too lazy) and ice cream.

But I wanted to start the day right - a bath and a trip to the "Doughnut store," or what adults would know as the only Krispy Kreme outlet in eastern Pennsylvania. The boys love it, and so do I, even though it is miles and miles from our house and is in an unspeakably crappy section of North Philly. We'd go perhaps once a month.

So, after a refreshing bath this morning (the boys, that is - I don't fit into the tub), we hauled our butts up to Cottman Avenue to discover something horrifying - the Doughnut Store is Closed. Not just closed, but out-of-business, up-for-lease, gone-for-ever kind of closed.

Now, according to the Krispy Kreme website, the nearest Krispy Kreme outlet is a mere 55 miles from my house, in a place called Brick, N.J., followed by one in Baltimore, just 81 convenient miles from home.

In the scale of things, this is not a major problem, of course, but it is sad. I grew up in the South, where Krispy Kreme was a way of life - none of these gleaming white and green, well-scrubbed outlets that you see in the mall. No - Krispy Kreme in the Good Old Days was a grimy, slightly creepy coffee shop, often open 24 hours, found along seedy industrial roads in places like Alexandria, Virginia and Bristol, Tennessee. The coffee was good, the doughnuts were greasy and delicious, the green vinyl seats were cracked and stained, and the old guys drinking coffee at all hours of the night were extremely disreputable-looking. Taking my sons there, even to one of the new hygienic outlets, was a throwback to my youth.

Perhaps the doughnut gods will look favorably upon us and bring us a new Krispy Kreme outlet. Or perhaps allow us to move to a town with Krispy Kreme. In the meantime, no doughnuts for me - I just can't enjoy anything but Krispy Kreme. Yes, I know - they are heavy, oily and sweet. But that's what I like about them - that's the whole point. I can't stand the dry Dunkin' Donut variety. And I have tried making doughnuts myself, but they are really kind of a pain in the butt.

Happy New Year to me. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

My own humble contribution...

From, my wee dispatch on the Intelligent Design dispute. I hear one of my colleagues is working on a companion analysis piece, which isn't up at this moment, but should be interesting.

The more I read it, the more amazed I am

The deeper I get into the Intelligent Design case, the more astounded I am by what a complete, slam-dunk victory this is for evolution. The judge didn't just rule against intelligent design, he killed it, buried it and did a little dance on its grave. It's clear that the intelligent design people didn't simply fail to impress the judge, they actually managed to make him angry. Try this on for unusually tough judicial talk (a few select excerpts):

“We find that the secular purposes claimed by the Board amount to a pretext for the Board’s real purpose, which was to promote religion in the public school classroom,” Jones wrote.

“Both defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption that is utterly false,” he wrote. “Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, plaintiff’s scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.”

“It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy,” Jones wrote.

Jones said the Dover case was the result of “the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy.”

He derided the school board’s decision “breathtaking inanity” and said the resulting “legal maelstrom” was an “utter waste of monetary and personal resources.”


Judge smites intelligent design

The Federal Judge in Harrisburg has just ruled that the Dover school board was wrong when it required teachers to tell students about "intelligent design." The decision is a major victory for critics, but an astonishing defeat for intelligent design backers. The judge eviscerated them and their ideas.

Monday, December 19, 2005

I am trying to decide which I find more alarming

A president who knows what he is doing is illegal but just can't help himself.


A president who is blissfully certain that what he is doing is legal, cheerfully admits it to the public, and promises to keep doing it some more.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Horror. The Horror.

A couple of years ago, my wife's aunt gave us an odd little Christamas device known as a gumdrop tree. It is a stainless steel tree with small, artfully placed spikes on it. Onto these spikes, you stick gumdrops, creating an amusing and colorful (and edible) Christmas decoration.

Undecorated, it looks like this:

When it is festively decorated, it looks like this:

But today at the grocery store, the boys and I hit on what we thought was a terribly clever idea - we would buy gummy bears and decorate the gumdrop tree with the bears as a hilarious prank on mommy.

We got home and broke out the bears. There was, however, an unanticipated problem. The material in gummy bears is so tough and rubbery that you have to completely pierce the little bear to get it on the spike. After a couple of bears had been mounted in this way, I realized the effect was entirely too creepy and we abandoned the project. Judge for yourself.

I decided to go with Spice Drops.

A question worth asking

One reader writes on "A Really Sad End Pt. II:"

"you are right it is senseless and disturbing. there is a lesson in all this for the rest of us but i cant figure it out yet. any ideas?"

Which is a question deserving an answer. Or, lacking an answer, at least some thought.

I can't quite get my head around it. The flippant, easy answer, of course, is the lesson is to be careful who you help. The serious answer is that there seems to be a segment of society that has so little to look forward to, so little hope, and such narrowed perspectives that it seems perfectly reasonable to kill someone over a single lost paycheck (that he had nothing to do with anyway). What to do about it? God knows. If I had the answer I'd be running for office. Which I am not.

More Playmates acting up

Just days after news that Anna Nicole was being sued for being, well, Anna Nicole, comes news that some of her Playmate sisters are arrested for being, well, just like Anna Nicole, but perhaps more hostile.

Friday, December 09, 2005


Just had to share this.

To paraphrase Dave Barry, however, I do think that "The Flying Lemurs" would be an excellent name for a band.

A really sad end Pt. II

The saga of Terrell Pough took a really weird turn this month. Cops have charged two young men with killing him, apparently over some kind of dispute over a paycheck. Turns out, if cops are right, that Terrell worked hard to get his friend Antoine a job at his fast food restaurant. The restaurant closed and the owners stiffed both of them. Even though Terrell had done many favors for Antoine, it looks like Antoine thought Terrell could have done more to help him get his last paycheck. So he and a buddy ambushed him and killed him. If there ever was a senseless killing, this one is it.

Believe the hype

As a journalist, I am usually reflexively suspicious of hype. So when everyone began talking about Clap Your Hands Say Yeah over the summer, I figured it was just another case of Polyphonic Spree or Terence Trent D'Arby, critical darlings that amounted to, well, critical darlings and not much more. And I heard a couple of tracks from them on the radio and I wasn't impressed. But I ran across them on Napster and figured what the Hell, It's free (or almost) and I downloaded the album. And it grew and grew on me. I'm not sure I can describe it - it's got bits of John Lennon, bits of REM, large chunks of Radiohead (which I really don't like, but works here), some Violent Femmes, some Velvet Undergound, a little well placed Kings of Leon, and I-don't-know-what-all. But it's really damned good. I'll warn you - it takes two listenings at least, so if you're one of these give-it-five-seconds-and-move-on-types, don't bother. But this album will reward some patience.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Feed the World, Anna

I happened to be covering the Live 8 event for People in Philadelphia and saw Anna Nicole Smith's bizarre appearance there. She was indeed scantily clad - her "shirt" consisted of two rectangles that hung from a string around her neck. Each rectangle was composed of a dozen or so overlapping plastic plates loosely stitched together. Naturally, the whole thing did little to cover her most distinguishing characteristics, which were swinging free without a bra. The only things that kept her from being completely exposed were two Playboy logo pasties over her nipples. The effect was, shall we say, dramatic.

To make it weirder, she was scheduled to make some remarks, but at the last second her people announced that she would simply pose for photos and would not take questions. She had to be helped up the steps to the photo area. She thereupon proceeded to wiggle for the camera in a most remarkable way, and for an uncomfortably long time. People eventually began to laugh and someone cried out "Feed the World, Anna." She grabbed her breasts, wiggled them invitingly at the audience of journalists and cooed "ooooh, feed the world." Moments later, her people escorted her firmly from the stage.

My question is, how could anyone tell if she was drunk or not?

Friday, December 02, 2005

Ah, that explains everything.

I was pleased to hear the president note the other day that "the will to power cannot overcome the will to live in freedom."

I am sure that comes as a great comfort to the late leaders of the Weimar Republic.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Died too early

I find it never pays to read the obituaries page. Really, if you think about it, the obits page very rarely delivers good news (but there are exections).

But today is not one of those rare exceptions. I see today that Chris Whitley died at age 45 of lung cancer.

And this is a great pity. His debut album is certainly one of the best albums of the 1990s, but it got almost no attention in the public.

The music is wild, spooky, breathtaking and completely absorbing. It is at once intimate and huge. It's like driving across Utah on a bright, hot, sunlit day. It's hypnotic.

Of course, his later stuff was a little, well, offputting to put it politely. But the guy kept trying new things and wasn't afraid to put off his audience. He wasn't afraid to offend people. It probably cost him the public acclaim he deserved, but it marked him as a real rock hero, true to its spirit until the last.

You won't regret picking up a copy of Living with the Law. Give it a listen and you will see why I am sorry I ever opened to the obits this morning.

About damned time

This from the US Weekly website yesterday (don't even ask why I was looking at this site):In this week's issue:

EXCLUSIVE: Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey Announce Separation To Us Weekly 10pm EST

Now, officially speaking, I am terribly sad that my most-of-the-time employer People magazine didn't get the story first. For what it's worth, US claimed to have broken the news at 10 a.m., People at 11:30 a.m. Curse you, US Weekly.

But in real life, I must say: Thank God. Can we all stop talking about this now? Was there ever a story of romance and breakup that mattered less to anyone than this one? I suspect even Jessica's family is sick of this saga.

Am I wrong about this? Is there something about Jessica Simpson that I am missing, something that might make her matter?

Gosh, I wonder what Paris Hilton is up to this weekend?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

All Down Hill from Here Pt. 2

On reflection, I suppose there is a greater sign of creeping Fogey-hood than watching classic sports films. It is this:

I bought this with an Amazon gift certificate my dad gave me. I logged on intending to buy some books and CDs I was behind on, but then I saw that Amazon has a category for "Musical instruments." That got me thinking.

And $250 later, I have everything I need to be a major league guitar player. Except I don't know how to play the damned thing.

Fortunately, there is software to help one do this, so I am learning slowly. If all music involved nicely executed G, D, and A7 chords, I would now be a Claptonesque guitar god. Otherwise, I may have a way to go.

I do hope this completes the midlife crisis.

A really sad ending

A friend of mine here in Philly wrote this piece for People over the summer - it was a great little story about a guy named Terrell Pough, who at 19 was raising his daughter all by himself in tough inner-city Philly. It grew out of a larger project the editors wanted to do about single teen fathers who were raising their kids. Somehow the editors got it in their heads that there were lots of these guys. We looked and looked and looked, though, and only came up with a handful. And none really seemed to fit the bill. Except this guy. My friend here was very excited, spent a lot of time with him and his family. And a lot of good things happened to him as a result - someone gave him a car, the 76ers honored him and, I think, set up some kind of fund for his daughter, all kinds of good stuff. Life seemed to be turning upward.

Until this happened.

Now my poor friend is all torn up. I can understand, of course, but I told her she probably did a great thing for this guy. Had this happened without the People profile, he would have been lucky to rate a brief in the Inquirer, and maybe a short story in the Daily News. He would have died in anonymity, like so many guys in Philadelphia. Now he'll be remembered for the great thing he did, or was trying to do, in taking responsibility for his daughter. And his daughter will have a hell of a rememberance of her father, even if she never had time to get to know him.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

When John speaks, people listen

Bush is going to have a hard time with this one. Democratic Congressman John Murtha is a cranky old cuss and, at least when I worked on Capitol Hill, was a reliable vote for virtually anything that the Republicans wanted to do on the military front. But he was not a stooge for the Republicans - he is widely respected as a voice for military issues by both sides. It is going to look both churlish and partisan to attack what he has to say, particularly given that he said it with such passion. He's kind of like a Democratic John McCain, but with even more moral authority since he isn't quite as relentless in his courting of the spotlight. When Murtha gets up to talk, people listen.

Murtha's speech

Scott McClellan did his best, I suppose in responding, but let's face it - even Grover Norquist might be tempted to snort privately in derision at the idea that Michael Moore and John Murtha inhabit even the same corner of the universe.

Scott's answer

Of course, Murtha and McClellan both could do with a close reading of the real master of speeches on war:

Don't write 'em like this anymore

All downhill from here

Is there any surer sign of impending fogey-hood than finding ESPN Classic the most compelling cable channel on the air? I mean, really, I have only 500 channels at my disposal thanks to the magic of DirecTV. I can order dozens of movies. I can see high quality modern sports, played by living people, any time I care to. News. Music. Comedy. All at my fingertips. But hey, what’s that? The 1991 Sugarbowl? Cool. An obscure Cowboys-Falcons game from the early 1980s? I’m there, even though I can’t stand either team. The low point, of course, is I am sitting here watching the 1958 light heavyweight championship fight in Montreal where Archie Moore went 11 brutal rounds against Yvon Durrelle and finally dropped him. And I am enjoying it no end. It’s amazing how much more gentlemanly these fighters seem. And it’s also a little amazing to see the all white crowd howling for Archie Moore’s black blood, even though Moore was clearly a better fighter. All this just nine years before I was born.

Gosh, I wonder what ancient contest is on next. To hell with news. To hell with movies. I sure do hope it’s downhill skiing from the 1980 Olympics…

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

So weird it works

This recently came to my attention. It is, well, hard to describe. It seems to involve ancient children's songs with funky remix beats.

Leaving aside the embarrassing overtones of the band name (don't let your buddies see you buying this disc. And for God's sake don't download it on Napster. When the Feds finally come for your hard drive some geek at the FBI forensic lab will have a good laugh at your expense. Then swear out some sort of porn-related warrant), it is really sorta good. I think. In a kind of too-much-ecstasy at the rave kinda way. You will see.


Don't Taunt Happy Funball

This amuses me.


It does, however, bear a striking resemblance to this:

Side Effects

And even this:

Happy Funball

Remember: Don't Taunt Happy Funball

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Idle Pondering updated

I am told by a reliable source (i.e. someone who works rather close to Insight) that the magazine is not longer a serial liar (and believe me, it used to be. I too long ago worked dangerously close to Insight, as in downstairs at the Washington Times).

So what do you know? This may in fact be true.

Which leads me to wonder: What does the president do all day if he only talks with four people? What does he do with the other 23 and a half hours in the day? He cannot nap all the time, nor can he exercise all the time. And there is no brush to clear anywhere on the White House grounds.

So what does he do?

Ronald Reagan reportedly filled time watching movies, which makes sense given his former occupation. But it isn't as if George W. can fill his empty hours with governing Texas or prospecting for oil. Perhaps he is back to managing the Texas Rangers, if only in his mind.

Idle Pondering

This sounds true. But Insight is known for making shit up.

From the Drudge Report:

Bush rarely speaks to father, ‘family is split’
Tue Nov 15 2005 11:23:51 ET

President Bush feels betrayed by several of his most senior aides and advisors and has severely restricted access to the Oval Office, INSIGHT magazine claims in a new report.

The president’s reclusiveness in the face of relentless public scrutiny of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and White House leaks regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame has become so extreme that Mr. Bush has also reduced contact with his father, former President George H.W. Bush, administration sources said on the condition of anonymity.

“The atmosphere in the Oval Office has become unbearable,” a source said. “Even the family is split.”

INSIGHT: Sources close to the White House say that Mr. Bush has become isolated and feels betrayed by key officials in the wake of plunging domestic support, the continued insurgency in Iraq and the CIA-leak investigation that has resulted in the indictment and resignation of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.

The sources said Mr. Bush maintains daily contact with only four people: first lady Laura Bush, his mother, Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes. The sources also say that Mr. Bush has stopped talking with his father, except on family occasions.

A Late Start

So I've had this blog now for weeks. Months perhaps. I acquired it as part of a work assignment, working on a magazine story that never ran.

I've considered what to do with it, but I kept coming back to an unmistakable fact - I had nothing interesting to say.
So, I thought, why not turn this into a virtue? Why not make the first blog about nothing, with nothing on it? Some kind of postmodern statement, perhaps. Or a surrealist statement. Or whatever. It seemed like a good idea and made for briefly amusing conversation with my friends.

But, as it turns out, the bastards at have already considered this and made sure it cannot happen. If there is nothing on your blog, nobody can see your blog. I am forced to retreat and perhaps craft a post or two.

Another great concept on the ash heap of technology.

And moreover, after yet another magazine assignment that will never see the light of day, I have realized that it doesn't matter if I have nothing terribly compelling to say. It hasn't stopped anyone else. You see, I was forced to spend several hours trawling the blogs maintained by a bunch of 13 and 14 years olds on a site called Xanga (if you haven't been there and you are over perhaps 20, I don't recommend the trip. If you're under 20, you're probably already there).

I assume that I was no more interesting or deep at age 14 than these kids, but I am deeply grateful that my inane chatter was not preserved in print for all time. I shudder for these kids on the day that they run for office, or are named to the Supreme Court, and need to explain their teenage blog entries.

So welcome to my blog. We'll see if anything interesting happens.