The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, March 31, 2004  

Familiar Academic Stereotypes

Dalton Conley, director of New York University’s Center for Advanced Social Science Research, is a very, very angry man.

I don’t know why.

Perhaps it relates to his place in “the pecking order”?




That’s an Irish name, isn’t it?



That’s an Irish name, isn’t it?

Dalton Conley.

Dalton Conley.

That’s an Irish name, isn’t it?

Of this particular Dalton Conley I know little, if anything, and adding to what I know is not a great priority at the moment.

But since Conley himself traffics, apparently rather happily, and perhaps profitably, in stereotypes and smears, I’m going to assume he’s probably (merely?) one of “a brood” of, what, “12 or 14 an hungered children, sharing, when ‘Pa’ hasn’t spoilt the dole on his pints, tiny portions of weakened tea and sugared bread around the peat-fired hearth.”

Spare me. It’s been done. Far better and far worse than Conley’s performance in today’s Philadelphia Daily News (“Brood Awakening: Don’t Supersize Families”). And trust me, “brood” is Conley’s trite construction, not mine, and one that is to me, a man who is half Irish-American, a familiar, albeit subtle, ethnic slur regardless of who issues it.

Sure, Conley’s got himself a nice little title and position at New York University, historically not an institution that has been entirely friendly to the city’s Irish population, though one about which Conley no doubt feels extraordinarily proud given the massive obstacles he would have readers believe he has had to overcome throughout his life.

In today’s PDN Conley, who tells us nothing of his marital or familial status, rails on and on about the perils of large families and the hazards they purportedly present not only to society at large but to themselves: poverty, dependence, stupidity, all the usual crap psychiatrists and academics have foisted upon me my entire life, all of whom, I could (should) add, have known next to nothing, at least from the real world, about Irish- or Italian- or Catholic-American life.

Did you know, to take just one of Conley’s completely absurd factoids, “[M]iddle-borns [Ed.: That is, a second child.] are severely hurt by the addition of another mouth to feed: His parents are 25 percent less likely to send him to private school....”

The horrors!

You know what that means, don’t you? No Andover for you, Seamus!

Dalton is fixated on children and the tax code, which he believes “encourages” couples to have excess children (in my opinion, a dubious premise at best), seeking instead one that discourages reproduction. We’re just all too generous, he thinks. We’re crazily fostering a new generation of needy and dumb kids, according to this purported scholar.

I have to ask, though, why not advocate laws that are neutral on this supposedly crucial question? Instead of spending hours and money seeking to determine why children in large families are “destined” to fail, why not try to find out why the children of some large families succeed?

Some, that is, including mine. Or my parents’ family.

I’m one of ten children.

Proudly so.

And before you ask, and I know it’s your next question, because it’s always the next question, I’m the seventh of the ten.

And, yes, all ten share the same mother and father.

And, no, there are no twins, triplets, or multiple births of any kind.

And, yes, my parents are Catholic.

And, no, I have no idea whether that’s really why there are ten of us. For me, that’s just the way it has been, is, and will be.

And, no, don’t even dare to make some “smart”-ass remark about my parents’ sex life, because I promise what you’re thinking is neither original nor funny and, I guarantee, I’ve already heard it.

All ten graduated from high school and all ten hold bachelor’s degrees. Eight of the ten have master’s degrees, with one more in progress. Throw in a doctorate or two, completed, in progress, or intended, and just count the years of education and tuition paid.

Dalton, however, is thinking otherwise, asking, assuming large families are a consistent drain on society, “After all, do we really want to subsidize kid No. 9?”

“Kid number nine”?

I know her.

There’s a number nine in my family, in fact. A younger sister.

And what a burden on society she’s been!

She, the highly educated and brilliant archaeologist who currently is a professor of historic preservation at one of the nation’s leading institutions teaching the subject.

Yes, a veritable leech upon us all, she.

And guess what, and sorry, Mr. Conley . . . She’s reproduced!

Oh, and “No. 10”?

Well, he allegedly has the highest IQ in the family.

Of late he’s been teaching the brightest of America’s brightest college students.

A shame he was even born, isn’t it?

[Post-publication addendum (April 2): I’ve been reminded that according to family lore or scuttlebutt, the siblings’ highest IQ lies not in the hands, or head, of No. 10, but of No. 9.]

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A Rittenhouse Scoop, Or Near Scoop
Turnover at the Philadelphia Daily News

How’s this for some inside baseball?

The staff of the Philadelphia Daily News and the Philadelphia Inquirer just learned the following from their colleague, Daily News editor Zachary Stalberg:

Managing Editor Ellen Foley is leaving the Daily News to become Editor of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison. Deputy Managing Editor Michael Days will move into the Managing Editor’s job, which I consider the toughest and most important assignment at this newspaper.

Two other changes are taking place for now. Executive Sports Editor Pat McLoone and Rethinking Philadelphia Editor Wendy Warren are being promoted to Assistant Managing Editor. Both will report to Michael, along with the other department heads.

All of these changes are effective next Thursday, April 8. Ellen’s last day is the 7th.

Developing, as the closet-case dope in the goofy hat would say.

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In the Continuing Memory of Faheem Thomas-Childs

In the second stanza of his poem “Pioneers! O Pioneers!Walt Whitman writes:

For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
We, the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend, Pioneers! O pioneers!

And so, with that, I say:

Mark your calendars.

And I mean it this time.

Sunday, April 4, beginning at 2:00 p.m.

It’s the March to Save the Children.

The march will begin at Deliverance Evangelistic Church, the site of Faheem Thomas-Childs’s recent funeral, at 22nd Street and Lehigh Avenue, and will end at Thomas M. Peirce Elementary School, “Poppy”’s school, at 23rd and Cambria Streets. (According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, in the event of inclement weather the march will begin instead at Dobbins High School, 21st Street and Lehigh Avenue. [Ed.: The latest forecast calls for sunny weather with temperatures in the upper 50s.])

Pennsylvania State Representative Jewell Williams (D-Philadelphia County-District 197) writes in today’s Inquirer (“War on Terror? Homeland Security? Neighborhood Issues.”):

No longer can we allow fear to dictate our involvement or degree of participation if we are ever to break the wave of gun violence in our communities. How do we get involved? All of us must continue searching for ways to contribute to the solution - for a way to save ourselves and create the community and quality of life we rightfully deserve.

We must march when called upon; get active in our block and civic associations; play a super-active role in the lives of our children in their schools and in the community; demand a consistent dialogue and the engagement of elected officials in addressing the issues; and divorce ourselves from just complaining. We should ask: “What I am doing and what more can I do?”

The March to Save the Children on Sunday will be a movement led by children and youth to activate citizens across the region. Participants will send a message to communities to end the violence and become involved in the lives of our children, our schools and our neighborhoods.

The March to Save the Children is the beginning of a citywide movement for all communities and residents. We urge them to get active and get involved, to stay active and stay involved. The power of the people is always with the people. Not to use it is to lose it!

For those in the Philadelphia area not familiar with the neighborhood, allow me to direct you to the North Philadelphia station on the Broad Street subway line. From there it’s a short and easy seven-block walk, due west, to Deliverance Evangelistic Church, though there are buses running along the same path and anyone you pass along the way will be happy to put you in the right direction.

(Besides, if you happen to belong to or to attend, regularly or otherwise, a church with a small congregation, you’ve just got to see Deliverance Evangelistic. Every resident of my hometown could fit in there. In the front 20 rows of the first level, that is.)

This is not a “bad” neighborhood.

This is no time to be afraid for no reason.

Please at least think about participating.

Faheem “Poppy” Thomas-Childs

(For a touching story about the legacy of Thomas-Childs, see today’s Philadelphia Daily News: “Montco Kids Remember Slain City Schoolboy,” by Mensah M. Dean.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |



In today’s Philadelphia Inquirer we read:

To Our Readers”:

Starting on Monday, Amy Dickinson’s “Ask Amy” column will appear in this space on Monday[s], Wednesday[s][,] and Friday[s]. Carolyn Hax’s “Tell Me About It” feature will run on Tuesday[s] and Thursday[s].

What a waste. What a mistake.

I’m not a big fan of advice columns, that likely the result of an adverse reaction to same spawned and fostered by the past generation’s two self-styled titans of the genre, Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren (“Dear Abby”).

Dickinson is fairly new on the scene and, though it’s all really not my thing, I’ve enjoyed reading her daily column. She’s wise, intelligent, and fair, but not cloying, sappy, or self-referential. (Her latest column may be read here.)

Yes, Hax is good at what she does, but her audience is limited to frustrated 20-something frat boys and their insecure female companions.

So now I, or we, will read Dickinson just three days a week. I’ll survive. We’ll survive. But this is yet another in the Inquirer’s long string of inexplicable mistakes.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


And Siegfried & Roy

I’ve never been exactly clear regarding Penn & Teller. Frankly, I’ve long thought they were some kind of magic act or something, a notion I think was caused by confusion in my mind between Penn & Teller and Siegfried & Roy, but the latter aren’t really magicians either, are they? Or are they?

I don’t know. Either way, my pop-culture awareness being what it is -- namely, severely limited -- Penn & Teller have passed in and out of my consciousness over the years without leaving any indelible impression. The fact that I’ve never seen P&T perform anywhere, live or broadcast or taped, is, among other things, to blame. I admit I haven’t sought them out.

But an article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, “Expect Fur to Fly Over Penn & Teller Show,” by Jonathan Storm, who I always thought was a weatherman, has me itching to catch their latest performance, tomorrow, at 10:00 p.m. on Showtime.

According to Storm, P&T will be “taking on” (nod to the unbearably talented Tracy Ullman) Peta, the “animal rights” freaks who I’ve long known aren’t who you think they are.

I can’t wait.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Still Tight

Here we are, past 30 days after which I vacated my last apartment -- that in the building regular readers know as one “managed” by a certain “Miss Thing” -- and I have yet to receive in return my security deposit.

We’re not talking pocket change here, people; at least not what I currently define as pocket change. We’re talking about $2,120.00, plus interest.

You know, for a woman who “manages” a building in Center City, Philadelphia, in which there are, currently, exactly three black tenants living in the building’s 190 apartments [Ed.: I asked the doorpeople.], this woman has one helluva nerve.

Let’s do the math: 3 / 190 = 0.016, or 1.6 percent. (And that’s based on numbers of apartments, not numbers of residents. If we assume 1.25 residents per apartment, just for the “fun” of it, that takes it down to 1.3 percent.)

Damn. I don’t what kind of outfit she’s running over there, or whether this is intentional or merely some strange coincidence or happenstance, but if that’s not de facto segregation, I don’t know what is.

Hell, I think Villanova, one of the city’s most exclusive/expensive suburbs, is blacker than that.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Who Doesn’t?

Despite, or more likely because of, having worked in financial journalism for most of the last 18 years, I have owned, outright, only one stock in my entire life: Sotheby’s Holdings Inc., the parent company of the New York-based auction house, and that was a long, long time ago, and for a very short period in 1989, to be exact.

(I say “because of” because while my employers allowed employees, under certain well-defined circumstances, to buy and sell securities, I decided early on that any hoped-for profits would not be worth the questions that might be raised about my objectivity. I’m a helluva guy, aren’t I?)

Before, and even while, owning my Sotheby’s shares, I found the process of setting pre-auction estimates to be confusing, irrational even. (And that’s to say nothing of the industry’s other unusual practices, including private reserves, buy-ins, bridge loans, and all that unpleasantness about commissions in which Diana “DeDe” Brooks unfortunately became, uh, ensnared.)

And so, reading today’s New York Times, I was surprised, and yet not, to see that Sotheby’s has placed a pre-auction estimate on “Young Woman Seated at the Virginal,” after a long controversy now rather firmly ascribed to Johannes Vermeer, at a rather modest $5.4 million.

According to the Times (“ A Vermeer, Once Suspect, Will Be Offered at Sotheby’s,” by Carol Vogel), that is “a price far lower than what second-rate Impressionist paintings often fetch at auction. They [Ed.: Sotheby’s] acknowledge that the price is cheap but expect that the bidding will far exceed it.”

That’s an easy bet. So how does Sotheby’s explain its low-ball estimate? The Times reports:

“There’s every indication the painting will do a lot better because of its rarity and because Vermeer is such an iconic artist,” said Alexander Bell, head of Sotheby’s old master paintings department in London. “We wanted people to concentrate on the picture, not the price.”

Oh, okay, I understand now. (What?)

Anyway, New Yorkers, and those within reasonable traveling distance (Oh, wait, that includes me.), please note: “Sotheby’s plans to show the painting at its York Avenue headquarters in Manhattan from April 28 through May 9 and again from May 22 through May 27.”

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Does Ralph Nader Vote?

This morning I unsuccessfully Google’d around for a while looking for answers to these questions, questions I’m pretty sure already have been raised and answered: Does Ralph Nader vote? In how many elections in the past, say, thirty years has Nader voted? Where did such votes occur? Where does Ralph Nader live?

I subsequently sent these questions to the Nader campaign office. I look forward to sharing their responses with you.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, March 29, 2004  

The Inquirer Hands the Lady an Easy Assist

The Philadelphia Inquirer usually presents readers with a thoughtful mix of political news culled from its talented Washington bureau, other Knight-Ridder newspapers, and the Associated Press.

Now and again, though, the Inquirer falls down on the job, as it did today with “Don’t Label Her Traditional,” a miserable puff piece about First Lady Harold and the Purple Crayon by the normally reliable William Douglas. [Ed.: Registration required.]

Douglas quotes Mrs. Purple Crayon:

“I think I’ve done a really good job. I mean, I’ve spoken up about women’s rights, the women of Afghanistan, the women of Iraq. I’ve done the only radio address by a first lady, to talk about Afghanistan. I’ve talked about children’s issues. I was on Capitol Hill to brief the Senate Education Committee about early childhood on the morning of Sept. 11.”

Excuse me, Bill, was there no opportunity for a follow-up to that little performance?

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Pretending I’m Someone I’m Not

On a recent pleasant evening I went outside to sit on the front steps to smoke, to think, to see a world beyond my desk.

While pondering the meaning of the universe, and how to find a real job fast, a 30-something couple stopped and the following conversation ensued:

He: “Good evening. Do you live here?”

I: “Yes.”

He: “I assume your house isn’t for sale at the moment.”

I: “No, it’s not. I just moved in.”

He: “We’re looking for a house in the neighborhood. When was the house built?”

I: “1815.”

He: “What’s the square footage here?”

I: “About 48-hundred, not counting the basement or the garden.”

He: “What do the taxes run?”

I: “I have no idea. Someone takes care of all that.”

He: “How much do you think you would ask if you were to put it on the market?”

I: “Oh, gee, I don’t know . . .”

He: “Just ballpark it for me.”

I: “I really don’t know, maybe two-point-nine.”

He: “Okay, well, thanks. It’s a beautiful home. Do you mind if I ask what you do for a living?”

I: “I’m a writer.”

He: “You must be a damn good one.”

Look, when, like me, you’re unemployed, broke, and nearly homeless, you take your victories where you can. And I can proudly say I uttered not a single lie in this, for me, very amusing conversation. And, as you likely have inferred, the new digs are great. Things are looking up.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


If You Really, Really Have To

Madonna Ciccone is going on tour again.

As befits the aging, fading star, the tour provides an appropriate option for viewing the performance, one that enables her aging, fading fan base to avoid sitting with the riff-raff: the VIP package.

Each package includes: “1 excellent top price level seat; VIP laminate; VIP special entrance to the venue; and a limited edition collectible tour poster.”

Price: $700.00 per person.

That must be some poster.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


From Today & Days Gone By
The Main Line, Philadelphia, and Beyond

While conducting some research on an unrelated topic I recently encountered the following acronym: OMNWAHBP.

Recognize it?

The little ditty that goes along with it is: “Old maids never wed and have babies, period.”

Get it now?

Probably not. I didn’t. I found it in Millenium Philadelphia: The Last 100 Years.

The acronym stands for the stations on Philadelphia’s Main Line, now known within the SEPTA system as “the R5”: Overbrook, Merion, Narberth, Wynnewood, Ardmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Paoli.

I don’t know enough about the history of the Main Line to know why certain prominent stations currently served by the R5 between Bryn Mawr and Paoli, including a few of Philadelphia’s most posh suburbs aren’t noted, namely Rosemont, Villanova, Radnor, Wayne, Strafford, Devon, Berwyn, and Daylesford.

Anyway, here’s a recitation from a town north of here that even I can remember that may be familiar to some readers, one made all the more interesting because, while the Metro North line includes some of New York’s most exclusive suburbs, it is known as the “Harlem Line”:

125th Street, Melrose, Tremont, Fordham, Botanical Gardens, Williams Bridge, Woodlawn, Wakefield, Mount Vernon West, Fleetwood, Bronxville, Tuckahoe, Crestwood, Scarsdale, Hartsdale, White Plains, North White Plains, Valhalla, Mount Pleasant, Hawthorne, Pleasantville, Chappaqua, Mount Kisco, Bedford Hills, Katonah, Goldens Bridge, Purdy’s, Croton Falls, Brewster, and Brewster North.

Sometimes these things get in your brain and just stay there.

If your city has any regional railway acronyms, or if you just know your local line by heart and soul, send your thoughts to The Rittenhouse Review.

Why? Because I’m sort of a dork on subjects like this.

Post-publication addenda:

Reader D.H. writes:

I took the Long Island Rail Road into Manhattan for ten years (college and my first two jobs) before moving out of the New York area. I rode the Babylon line and know the stations after Jamaica well enough that I might have them used as my epitaph: Rockville Center, Baldwin, Freeport, Merrick, Bellmore, Wantagh, Seaford, Massapequa, Massapequa Park, Amityville, Copaigue, Lindenhurst, and Babylon.

The truly funny bit happened on a train in Florida. I was taking Amtrak from Palm Beach to Tampa (no I don’t know the stops), and shared a table in the dining car with a Florida resident. It turns out the woman was not a Florida native; she grew up on Long Island, and even though she had moved to Florida in 1980, could name, without my prompting, all of the stops on the Babylon line, including the ones I left out above. (About half the off-peak Babylon trains stopped at Lynbrook, and a few stopped in St. Albans. Very, very rarely on the weekends, a Babylon train will stop in Valley Stream.)

And that’s probably way more than you wanted to know about the Babylon line of the Long Island Rail Road.

Reader D.S. writes:

When I was a Haverford student living at Bryn Mawr in the late ’80s we learned it as “Original Mawrters Never Wed And Have Babies Rarely,” which does get you out as far as Rosemont [Ed.: But not as far as Paoli.], and where “Mawrter” is the campus term for a Bryn Mawr student or alumna.

Reader K.H. writes:

Seeing your post about the Paoli Local made me smile.

I went to Bryn Mawr and among us the mnemonic was just a little different: OMNWAHBR, for “Old maids never wed and have babies rarely.” [Ed.: Oh, the times they are a changing. (No e-mail on that, please. The credit goes to Bob Dylan.)]

I don't know why we included the “R” for Rosemont since no one ever went beyond Bryn Mawr. [Ed. Heaven forbid! Let alone to Paoli.]

There was also a peculiar SEPTA-related superstition involving the tunnel that went under the railroad tracks at the Bryn Mawr station. Supposedly if you neglected to hold a button on your clothing as you walked through the tunnel, you would fail your next foreign language exam.

I lived in Philly (near Rittenhouse Square) for a few years after college and miss it now very much. I enjoy your blog and your perspective on the city. Keep up the good work!

Reader J.G. writes:

I can relate, completely, to your post regarding railway memories. For several years I was (un)fortunate enough to commute daily between Boston and the bustling metropolis of Worcester, Mass.

As my apartment was only about 500 yards from the Worcester train station, I became intimately familiar with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s rail service. Not only will I remember, forever, the stations between Boston and Worcester, but also the odd manner in which they were announced at Boston’s South Station. The usual announcer used a strange mix of New England speed-talking and Southern drawl, to wit:

“The-five-thirty-five WUUUH-sturrr local boarding on track tewww. This train will make the following stops: Back Bay, Newton, WestNewton, AWWW-burrrn-daaale, Wellesley Farms, Wellesley Hills, Wellesley Square, Natick, West Natick, FRAAA-minnng-haaam, Ashland, Southborough, Westborough, Grafton, and WUUUH-sturrr. BORRR-dinnng now on track tewww!”

I’ve often thought it was strange how clearly that man’s voice stuck in my mind, although I must have heard those exact words recited upwards of five hundred times. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

It was almost a disappointment when the MBTA began operating express service to Worcester, which resulted in the more prosaic: “WUUUH-sturr express on track four, stopping at WEST Natick, FRA-ming-ham, GRAF-ton, and WUUUH-sturr.”

Arriving home twenty minutes earlier was, however, well worth it. As I now live in Boston, I commute via subway, which -- given the state of the MBTA’s equipment -- usually doesn’t have announcements at all.

Reader G.F. writes:

Wasn’t it in “Pepe le Moko” that Jean Gabin recites to the stunning Gaby the Metro stations of Paris, to which he can never return (the Kasbah being a bit short on public transportation)?

These foolish things can remind us of places we’ve lived that we’ve had to leave, and for those of us who get a kick from knowing where we are, they place us in our new homes and help keep us from being (and looking) lost.

For me, for trains, it’s the IC stops from the Loop to Hyde Park: Randolph/South Water Street (one great conductor used to call out “Big City!” when we pulled into this one -- did anyone ever use Water Street exit?), Van Buren (the Art Institute stop), Roosevelt Road/Central Station (odd, because the station itself was a blackened medieval pile half a mile from the platform by rickety bridges, probably not even there now), 18th Street (a bird perch), McCormick Place/27th Street (I don’t know about now, but IC platforms were really long and spanned blocks and this was a single stop. Go west and you get Bridgeport and Chinatown.), 47th/Kenwood (first of my ’hood stops -- the lakeshore begins to sweep east here), 53rd Street (really the south end of the 47th street stop and also HP business central), 55-56-57th (the heart of Hyde Park), 59th/U. of Chicago (well, it’s the Midway stop, but unless you want to walk back home from 63rd and through Woodlawn, wake up!).

There are other evocative lines: the Cambridge/Quincy Red Line (Harvard, Central, Kendall, etc.), for example, or the Santa Monica Blue Bus lines from Venice.

Here in Portland, Ore., my light-rail line has a Goose Hollow stop, which I think has a nice ring!

There’s a definite pleasure in anticipation of stops on a true line, quite different from looking for Exit 236 on I-x in a car.

[Ed.: The more we “gain,” the more we lose, I think. But I say that as one who was born about 30 years too late for his time.]

Reader J.C. writes (April 2): When I lived in New Jersey there was an announcer at the Newark Station who had a certain distinctive manner of speech and would announce the impending arrival of the Raritan Valley Line Train on Track Three (why was it always Track Three?) like so:

The next twain to awive on Twack Twee will be the Wawitan Valley Wine Twain, making stops in Woselle Pawk, Cwanford, Gawwood, Westfield, Fanwood, Nethewwood, Pwainfield, Dunellen, Bound Bwook, Somewville, and Wawitan. . . . Wawitan Valley Line Twain!!! Twack Twee!!!

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


It’s Always the Wrong Answer

To the millions of men reading today’s Wall Street Journal: Please ignore the article “How Do Men Make a Bold Statement? They Think Pink,” by Cecilie Rohwedder. [Ed.: Subscription required. Full text available by request.]

No, they don’t.

According to Rohwedder:

Long considered inappropriate for men in serious jobs far from beaches and golf courses, looking pretty in pink hasn’t been a goal of many males before. Pink is Barbie, Cinderella[,] and Victoria’s Secret. But suddenly, the color is making a serious bid for the wardrobes of mainstream men.

This spring, menswear designers, retailers[,] and style magazines are pushing pink. Fashion houses such as Italy’s Etro, Germany’s Hugo Boss and America’s Tommy Hilfiger are shipping clothes with hues that range from muted pastel to bright coral to screaming fuchsia.

Men’s style magazines are dressing masculine types in colors reminiscent of baby blankets or Pepto Bismol. In its current advertising campaign, knitwear maker Pringle of Scotland shows a man whose shirt and boots seem like shades of strawberry milkshake.

Pink boots? I’ll pass. You should too.

You know, for some 25 years people have been telling me I dress very well. Sure, there have been mistakes, some captured on film (and I’m still hunting down and destroying the photographs), including, I’m ashamed to say, a pink item here or there.

Like women, men need not to be told what to wear but to learn over time what works for them and what doesn’t. As noted, mistakes will be made, but there’s no reason to allow a Wall Street Journal reporter to send a well intentioned man off in the wrong direction.

My current wardrobe, which hasn’t been enhanced in several years, though I’m still pretty happy with it, might, by description only, be considered dull and boring. I’m fine with that, but when it’s all pulled together it works for me. At least 95 percent of my clothes are solid in color: no stripes, no prints, and no patterns. It includes only five colors: black, white, blue, gray, and beige/khaki (with two or three dark green items). All of my shoes are black, which, of course -- and I know you knew this -- means all of my belts are black. (Remember: Your shoes match your belt: in color, texture, and scale. Your socks match your pants, not your shoes.)

But consistency is the nemesis of the rag trade. Where would “men’s fashion” and the industry’s cozily affiliated magazines be if everyone dressed like I do? Nowhere. Who would buy a magazine that consistently featured men wearing only five different solid colors? Nobody. And I don’t really care. It works, at least for me, mixing it up with different textures and fabrics, and a combination of Gap/Banana Republic basics with a few high-end designer accessories.

Later, virtually contradicting herself, Rohwedder adds:

Some fashion arbiters say pink’s bright, cheery tints are a tonic for the times. “The world is a bit of a dark place right now. People want to go out and feel happy about themselves,” says Peter Nyhan, general merchandise manager for menswear at Harrods in London.

“I think there is also something in the Zeitgeist that says it’s more acceptable to wear color,” says Daniel Silver, one of two designers at Duckie Brown, a funky American menswear label whose “candy floss jacket,” a hot-pink tweed blazer, has been a brisk seller at Harrods.

Harrods. In London. In England. The very same place about which Rohwedder elsewhere in the article writes, “British bankers and barristers have worn pink shirts for decades.” Cheerio, ol’ chaps. Have at it.

Rohwedder’s article is so unhelpful she adds this irrelevant and uninformed observation:

There are signs everywhere that men are concentrating more on their appearance. Challenging the stereotype that men hate to shop, publisher Condé Nast is developing a shopping magazine for men.

Well, that statement would be interesting were it not for the fact that the magazine, Cargo, is not in development, but already is on newsstands.

The premier issue of Cargo, modeled after the women’s title Lucky, is on my desk at this very moment. It’s a wreck, though one thing is for certain: men’s magazine editors worldwide are going to go crazy trying to figure out how to make their various “gadgets” features -- advertisements thinly veiled as editorial content -- stand out now that there’s a magazine that, not unlike Vogue, cares nothing about the difference between the two.

And, as if to prove she’s completely clueless, Rohwedder unhelpfully ads [sic]:

Now pink is being embraced by some decidedly macho role models. British soccer star David Beckham, golf champion Tiger Woods [Ed.: “Macho”?], veteran rocker Mick Jagger[,] and rapper Cam’ron all have posed in pink recently. Earlier this month, the hip-hop duo OutKast was on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine with one band member wearing a pink tie, sweater and headband with pants in a loud, pink-based check.

Note to Ms. Rohwedder: Sometimes celebrities and magazines are, let’s say, encouraged to feature certain fashions. It’s not called “payola,” but it might as well be.

I’ll give her some credit, though. Rohwedder catches one fellow with the right line of thought:

London public-relations executive Simon Elliott, 38, draws the pink line at knitwear. “I don’t think twice about wearing a pink shirt and tie. But with a pink sweater, alarm bells would go off,” he says.

Definitely. And whatever you do, don’t tie that pink sweater “jauntily” about your neck and shoulders. Ever. If you don’t trust me on this one, go ahead and try it yourself. If you find your wife or girlfriend, to say nothing of your golf or tennis partner, suddenly becomes quiet and unconversant, or wants to head inside forthwith, you may not understand the reason, but they do.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Saturday, March 27, 2004  

Forget the New York Daily News
Turn to the Philadelphia Daily News

One of my favorite things about New York is the “Voice of the People” section (i.e., letters to the editor; see Saturday’s collection here) of the New York Daily News. Three words: Archie Bunker lives.

To be honest, missives from yours truly appeared in the “Voice of the People” section twice during my years in New York. In one letter I specifically mentioned how much I appreciated the feature because “I enjoy a little idiocy with my morning coffee.”

Yeah, yeah, we’re New York, we’re the center of the universe, blah, blah, blah, you can’t find anything like what we got here anyplace else.

Really? Try reading the letters to the editor published Monday through Saturday by one of my favorite (and I really mean that) newspapers in America: the Philadelphia Daily News.

The section has its cranky regulars, along with an abundance of correspondence from the incarcerated, and, now and again, some fairly sketchy letters -- almost always accusing the PDN of being “a liberal rag” -- from “readers” living in places like Lolo Hot Springs, Ida., Cheraw, S.C., and Hillsdale, Mich., none of whom, I’m willing to bet, has the paper dropped on his doorstep each morning.

Today’s Philadelphia Daily News, though, stands out for special mention, including as it does, a remarkably audacious expression of idiocy from one William Lattanzio of nearby Spring City, Pa.

Lattanzio writes, in a letter I unfortunately can’t find replicated at the PDN’s web site (Shame perhaps?):

I’m happy with the outrage at PGW’s billing policies. [Rittenhouse: The reference here is to Philadelphia Gas Works and I’ll spare you the background on it because it is neither interesting nor particularly earthshaking.] But PGW is just one problem out of [sic] many.

Welfare, Section 8 housing, access cards, etc., are all forms of [c]ommunism, plain and simple! Take from the people who are working and give it to the people who aren’t.

I did hear some good news. The [C]ensus [B]ureau says that by 2050[] whites will be a minority in America. Maybe then I’ll get a free ride, too.

Amazing, isn’t it? Idiocy, lunacy, totally dated John Birchism, erroneous punctuation, flawed capitalization, poor grammar, faulty diction, and to top it off: blatant, unabashed racism.

It would appear, at least to this self-professed Philadelphiaphile (a/k/a “Philaphile”) that this great city, in all its greatness, once again has exceeded the standards generally perceived to be set and maintained by New York.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


“J., M. & J.”
But Mostly Regarding the Latter “J”

Well, I just lost all interest in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, that when Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Okla., defeated St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, 64-62, to reach the Final Four.

In the past I’ve thrown around a phrase I am both proud and not a little ashamed to say I myself coined: “If you want something done right, do it yourself. If you want something wrong, take it to Philadelphia.”

That aphorism, however, doesn’t apply here.

In fact, the opposite is true, because, really, if you want college basketball done right, you really should take it to Philadelphia, and more specifically, to St. Joe’s. At least that’s where you can see it done right.

What a game. The Hawks almost had it.

What a team. Real athletes, real students, real men.

And one helluva coach.

By the way, aren’t we all just a little sick and tired of Duke and Connecticut and Georgia Tech and Oklahoma State and Kansas? (Well, Kansas is a different case, because they always choke in the tournament.)

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Assuming the Style Network is “Big”

Thanks to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Beth Gillin, I learned yesterday that Brini Maxwell, the retro home stylist whose program I used to watch regularly on public-access television in New York, now has her own show on the Style Network (the very existence of which I also learned from Gillin’s article), airing Friday nights at 10:00 p.m.

Truth be told, when I lived in New York I watched Brini’s program when I remembered it was on, and if I was actually at home, and if Lifetime wasn’t running one of their stock-in-trade terrible movies that I like so much. Similarly, I missed “The Brini Maxwell Show” last night, too. I meant to watch it, and now I can’t remember if I forgot it was on, or if I wasn’t home, or if Lifetime was running some masterful and memorable nouveau film noir featuring Joan Van Ark or Meredith Baxter.

I’m not sure Gillin will appreciate my saying this, but strangely enough she seems to be in her element while reporting about Maxwell and the new program. (“Retro Chick With Quite a Shtick.”)

Gillin writes:

On an outing in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood, she’s a vision of citrus hues in a vintage Bonnie Cashin jacket of lime, lemon, orange[,] and pink plaid, color-coordinated beaded earrings and flower pin, and severely pointed yellow shoes that, yes, hurt her feet. “But look at those kitten heels -- aren’t they adorable?” she asks. Her blond pageboy is perfectly arranged, her makeup understated.

So it seems almost rude to bring up the persistent reports that she’s not an actual woman, but a performer named Ben Sander. Brini sets the record straight.

“I am a woman,” she declares. “But the man who created me, isn’t.”

Now that was tastefully done, handled with aplomb even, and I mean by both Maxwell and Gillin.

See you next week, Brini.

[Post-publication addendum: For more on Brini Maxwell, see Edwin Drood. (Link thanks to Julia.)]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


What a Mess

Yes, I know, it’s been a light week again here at Rittenhouse.

The lack of posts, for which I apologize, resulted primarily from technical difficulties.

First, since Wednesday I have experienced some consistently erratic behavior on the part of my PC (and the oxymoron there is intentional). My PC, God bless her, is now four years old. What is that in dog years? In human years? Regardless, don’t fail me now, Gertie!

Second, I continue to encounter recurring problems with Blogger’s software, a frustrating situation compounded by the inability of Blogger’s support staff to comprehend even the simplest of explanations of the template-related problems I relate to them, combined with their seemingly innate ability to brush off my concerns as misguided, ill-informed, and irrelevant.

I hope to resolve all of these issues by Monday.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Reason No. 239

Monday is the day.

Monday, March 29.

That’s the day by which one must be registered with commonwealth officials in order to vote in the upcoming Pennsylvania primary elections, including the presidential primary.

The date matters to me, at least a little, because I recently moved from one part of Philadelphia to another.

In order to vote in my new precinct, my change of address form must be received by local election officials by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, March 29, 2004.

Procrastinator that I am, I finally mailed the dopey form Friday morning. I think I’ll be okay. If not, I expect to be able to vote in my former precinct, the polling place for which is a mere eight blocks away.

Like it matters.

You see, March 29 is the deadline for registering to vote in the primary. The primary election will not be held until Tuesday, April 27.

That’s us . . . Pennsylvania.

Big. And irrelevant. By design or by default. And frankly, we’re not sure which.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, March 23, 2004  

We’re Philadelphians!

Readers of Travel & Leisure and something called “AOL Travel” ranked Philadelphia dead last among 25 American cities ranked according to the appearance and stylishness of their residents.

So we’re ugly, huh?

And you may recall, we’re also fat, that according to Men’s Fitness magazine.

And as I’m sure you’ve heard, we’re mean, too. We, or at least some of us, recently ran MTV’s “Real World” out of town.

Though here’s some breaking news, just out on the wires: They’re coming back!

Speaking for myself, as a Philadelphian, I know I’m not fat. I’d like to think I’m not ugly. And I most definitely am not mean. Uh, wait. Strike that last one.

And I’m glad the producers of “Real World” changed their minds. It’s one heck of an opportunity to show the world we’re not fat or ugly, but for now, we’ll withhold a determination on that whole “mean” thing.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


It Can’t Be Done

A lovely little item from “Page Six” of today’s New York Post about Courtney Love, that horrible piece of trash that just won’t burn:

[Kofi] Asare says he was heading into Wendy’s around 8 p.m. last Wednesday when he saw Love flashing her breasts at paparazzi outside. “All I wanted was some chicken nuggets,” Asare says. “I saw Miss Love flashing everyone. I had to push the envelope. I figured, ‘This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.’ She flashed me so I was like, ‘May I?’ She was cool with it. It wasn’t like I was trying to do anything to degrade her.”

Rest assured, Mr. Asare, you did not. At this point, Miss Love, as you call her, is simply no longer degradable.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Saturday, March 20, 2004  

Check the Bloggers

For reasons known but not worth exploring or discussing here, at least now, my memory is failing badly. I’m not alone in that, at least when it comes to the general voting public, particularly diehards on the right, and politics.

And that’s why we should all be grateful for bloggers like Tim Dunlop of the Road to Surfdom for reminding us, or bringing to our attention, the fact that not so very long ago Secretary of State Colin Powell was confidently assuring Americans the invasion of Iraq was supported by “many . . . nations” that chose not to be publicly associated with the endeavor. (“The Coalition of the Silent,” I suppose.)

Each day, or most days, I read or at least scan many newspapers, and I’ve yet to see the connection Dunlop has made in any one of them.

Nice work, Tim.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Friday, March 19, 2004  

Watch the Mailbox!

When one sets up a wish list at one has the option or the ability to avoid seeing whether anyone has purchased something on one’s behalf.

Something about not spoiling the surprise and all.

I know I shouldn’t look, but occasionally I check, if only because, at heart, I’m still the little boy who can’t wait for Christmas morning. (Just ask my longsuffering parents.)

I sneaked a peak this evening, and all I can say is, “Wow!”

I’ve got four books and a DVD headed my way. I can’t wait, particularly since all of the purchased items are very much desired and needed.

When I first set up the Wish List I assumed I would never learn the identities of the givers. This was not correct. When the books or other merchandise arrive the giver and his or her address is provided, offering an opportunity for the recipient (that would be me), to send a tasteful and gracious thank-you note.

And I do, or I will, with respect both to gifts already sent and those on the way. (I’m running a little behind with my thank-you notes, including those related to gifts through, where, of course, donations are still and always needed and apreciated).

So, in advance, I say thank you. I love getting stuff in the mail; particularly stuff I really need, both for personal edification and for my growing collection of writing projects.

You people are the best.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


I Call it Screwing the Middle and Working Class*

Philadelphia-area residents interested in the ongoing issue of the estate tax, the repeal of which I might remind you is thoroughly reversible, are advised that Chuck Collins, co-founder of United for a Fair Economy and Responsible Wealth, and co-author, with Bill Gates Sr., of Wealth and Our Commonwealth, will be in the area on Sunday and Monday.

Collins will speak on Sunday, March 21, at 11:00 a.m., on “Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Accumulated Fortunes,” at the Philadelphia Ethical Society, 1906 S. Rittenhouse Square. Collins’s speech will explain the history, mythology, and policy of taxing inherited wealth in the U.S. and how changes in the nation’s tax laws have fostered and are encouraging economic inequality.

On Sunday afternoon, from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., also at the Philadelphia Ethical Society, Collins will be joined by UFE’s Dedrick Muhammad for a workshop on the growing wealth gap between whites and peoples of color in the U.S.

And on Monday, March 22, Collins will appear at White Dog Café (3420 Sansom St.), joined by Ed Schwartz, founder and president of the Institute for the Study of Civic Values and chairman of the Philadelphia Tax Reform Commission, for a “Table Talk” dinner and presentation, addressing the topic, “Shift, Shrink and Shaft: The Conservative Tax Agenda and What it Means for You.”

The cost for this event, which includes the speakers’ presentations and a discussion, along with a three-course dinner is $35.00 (tax and gratuity included). Senior citizens and full-time students will be charged $25.00 with advance notification to the White Dog Café. For reservations, call (215) 386-9224.

* “Screwing the middle and working class” are my words and not those of the UFE, Responsible Wealth, the Institute for the Study of Civic Values, the Philadelphia Tax Reform Commission, or the White Dog Café.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Thursday, March 18, 2004  

And Fun, Too!

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, responding to criticism of his January duck-hunting trip with Vice President Dick Cheney, today said in a written statement: “I never hunted in the same blind with the vice president. Nor was I alone with him at any time during the trip, except, perhaps, for instances so brief and unintentional that I would not recall them -- walking to or from a boat, perhaps, or going to or from dinner.”

Imagine that. Being alone with Mr. Number Two and not being able to remember a thing about it. Cheney must be some conversationalist.

And “unintentional.” That’s a nice touch. Sounds like Scalia was almost avoiding the not-all-that-vaguely creepy Cheney. Or maybe he just wants us to think he was.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


A Reporter Thinks Outside of the Blog Box

Finally! An article about blogs and blogging in a major newspaper that manages to cover the subject intelligently and creatively, and even more important, without mentioning, not even once, any of the members of the gruesome threesome that have formed the nut graphs of hundreds of articles in the mainstream media: Glenn Reynolds, Mickey Kaus, and Andrew Sullivan.

Congratulations are in order for Beth Gillin of the Philadelphia Inquirer for writing what I long had assumed was the unwritable.

You’ll find Gillin’s article, “A Boom Time for Blogs and Bloggers,” in today’s paper.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


On Thursday, For a Change

I may have to give up this little gig. Tina Brown just isn’t giving me enough to work with.

Today’s column, “Granddaddies of Rock-and-Roll,” is launched, straight off the bat, as is Brown’s wont, by reference to a fashionable New York party.

This time it’s the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction party held Monday night “at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria.” (Isn’t that place, the Hall of Fame, I mean, in Cleveland?)

You weren’t invited? Not to worry. Brown helpfully notes, parenthetically, no less: it's “to be televised Sunday.”

The column reads like a giddy middle-aged woman’s diary entry. And like there were just like soooo many cool rock stars there, and they all like looked really cool, and it was like cool because I there.

In reference to Prince, Brown writes: “We loved him then because he was so seedy and weird, but in his last six years of hibernation the world has gotten so much seedier and weirder than he ever was.”

Sometimes, in her inanity, Brown nails it, as she did with that observation. Of course, that’s most likely to occur when she writes facing her vanity mirror.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


The Strange Case of Delimar Vera

Delimar Vera, the six-year-old Philadelphian who last week gained the world’s attention when she was returned to her natural mother, may be quite a kid, but the adults in her life, every single one of them apparently, are certainly a strange bunch.

Credit the Philadelphia Daily News for trying to sift through the mess surrounding Delimar’s disappearance and seemingly sudden return home, a story that failed the smell test here from the beginning.

Read “Odd Twists Mark Delimar’s Tale,” by Barbara Laker, Nicole Weisensee Egan, and Regina Medina, but do so with pen and paper in hand. You’ll need them to sort out the convoluted stories and intertwining relationships among this very odd collection of characters.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


More About

Do your ever use, or at least remember, the phrase, “POW”?

I mean that in the acronym’s less honorable or horrific sense, referring here not to “prisoner of war,” but rather to “piece of work,” as in, “My Aunt M. [or My Aunt A., fully interchangeable the two] is a real ‘POW.’”

Now where was I going with this?

Oh, I remember now.

This particular fly-by-night doesn’t exactly qualify as a POW, but instead falls into the category of POC, or “piece of crap” -- no offense, of course, to one of my favorite blogs, World O’ Crap -- this classification resulting from’s inability for more than 36 hours and counting to accept almost any changes whatsoever to the Rittenhouse template, including its maliciously truncated sidebar.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, March 17, 2004  

I Feel Young Again, and Yet Not

Tonight I feel as if I’m sharing a bonding moment with my two newest nieces, C. and P.

I’m experiencing a mild outbreak of impetigo, if you can believe it.

I know, I know, as the kids say, “T.M.I., Uncle Jim!” (That means “too much information,” for the hopelessly clueless.)

It’s okay, though. It’s made me feel young again.

Then I looked in the mirror and I saw about 12 gray shoots -- that’s what I call them, shoots -- growing, without prior authorization or any permission whatsoever, just above my eyes.

That made me feel old. But they’re gone now. And I feel sort of young again.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


A Little Something Italian

How’s this for multicultural diversity?

A local chamber music group, the Amerita Chamber Players, an ensemble sponsored by the America-Italy Society of Philadelphia and comprised of (note the surnames) Nancy Bean, Lloyd Smith, Michael Shahan, Davyd Booth, and Richard Woodhams, tonight performed in concert at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel.

The Italian part?

Oh, well, that was included in the program, which featured works by Giovanni Battista Buonamente, Marco Uccellini, Antonio Vivaldi, Giuseppe Sammartini, Lelio Colista, Antonio Caldara, and Tommaso Giordani.

This is, in my opinion, neither a bad thing nor a good thing, it’s just a thing, an interesting thing.

The group’s next performance is scheduled for April 28, also at Temple Beth Zion.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Call Around First!

The other day I took a prescription to a national drugstore and pharmacy chain.

Price, all out of pocket of course: $74.99.

The price seemed high compared with what I recalled having paid at the little stand-alone pharmacy in my old neighborhood, but, my memory being rather unreliable, I thought perhaps I was making it all up in my head.

And so, to reassure myself and for future reference, I called the little stand-alone pharmacy in my old neighborhood and asked for a quote on the very same prescription.


Life to the fullest,” the national chain says of itself.

I guess it all depends upon which side of the register you’re standing.

Look, unless you’re truly desperate and in dire and immediate need, don’t take your prescription just anywhere. Call around first.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Editing at the Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society

I’m pleased to report I have a new job. No, it’s not a paying position, nor is it a full-time occupation -- though being the obsessive-compulsive type, who knows? -- but it’s still one I am eager to take on.

Recently I was asked to be the politics editor of the Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society, a journal edited by Ginger Mayerson. (Mayerson may be familiar to Rittenhouse readers through her association with The Hackenblog.) I was honored by the invitation and I accepted it immediately and with appreciation.

The JLHLS is out with its third issue. The latest number includes: “Explorations in Rye: Searching for Miss Mapp,” by Kathryn L. Ramage; “A Visit with J.F. Elouardio,” by Maxwell Maxfield; “Orchard Two” and “Two-Loon Blessing,” by Geoff Fernald; “Domestika,” by Kathy LaFollett; “The Moon Asks a Tough Question,” by Mick Harrigan; “Don’t Panic!” by Kitty Johnson; “It’s in Your Head” (Part 2), by Donatella DelBono; “These Poets,” by Mick Harrigan; “Naked Flying Babes,” by Ginger Mayerson; and “An Interview with Brooke McEldowney,” also by Mayerson.

You can read the JLHLS online or download the latest and previous issues in Acrobat PDF format.

The Journal’s editorial policy and submission guidelines can be found here. The deadline for submissions for the next issue is July 1.

And just to prove how contemporary and savvy the LHLS and its journal are, they have their own blog: The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society Authors and Editors Weblog.

Just rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it?

Only kidding. It’s worth your time.

I hope you will join me in supporting the JLHLS.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Totally Whacked

The Rittenhouse Review is experiencing some bizarre problems. Hence the truncated sidebar at right. I’m working on it. I think they are too, but with Blogger, one never really knows.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Or, To My New Neighborhood

The Philadelphia Inquirer today includes a special section on two of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, Old City and Society Hill, the latter being the area that recently became my new home.

Among the Inquirer’s articles about Society Hill:

Society Hill Emerged Amid Tumultuous Times,” by Stephan Salisbury;

Breaking Down the Boundaries,” by Linda K. Harris;

House Hunters Buying Into Vitality, Amenities,” by Eiles Lotozo, because, as you know, in such special sections of newspapers and magazines there must always be a tired article about real estate and housing prices;

Condos, Conversions Take Advantage of Rising Prices,” by Alan J. Heavens, because just one article about real estate is merely standard, a second moves the coverage into its own class of pornography, and that sells;

Living and Breathing History on Blocks Where It Was Made,” by Howard Shapiro;

Local African Americans Left Two Centuries of Landmarks,” by Murray Dubin;

Historic, Hip -- and Homey,” by Julie Stoiber;

Small-town Feel in the Big City,” also by Stoiber; and

First a Field Trip, Now a Dream Fulfilled,” by multiple writers from the community.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, March 16, 2004  

I Promise

Several readers have written to express concern or lament about the recent paucity of posts at Rittenhouse.

I apologize for that and I promise to do better.

I blame it on the house’s no-smoking-inside rule.

There are 44 steps from my third-floor bedroom to the main floor with its access to the garden.

(I know there are 44 steps because Mildred counted. And that wasn’t easy for her because she has but four fingers on each hand. Oh, excuse me, four claws on each paw, as one of her former veterinarians, Cindy Xanthopoulos, Chadds Ford, Pa., once disdainfully and condescendingly corrected me.)

I wrote more when I smoked more.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


We Deserve Better Than This

I don’t know if Inga Saffron, architecture critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, is large and muscular or small and waiflike or something in between.

But I do know she writes some of the most simultaneously intelligent and accessible architectural criticism appearing in the general-interest media in America today.

And I also know she, no matter her size, can, with her bare hands, or at least with words alone, single-handedly yet figuratively demolish the disappointing, almost insulting, several-ton bronze sculpture by Glenna Goodacre known as the Irish Memorial at Penn’s Landing, located near the Delaware River in Philadelphia, into a pulp of peat and potatoes and other hackneyed symbols, a fate the trite and tired sculpture so poorly deserves.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


District Attorney Pressing Charges Against Two Ministers

How far we have come. And so fast.

The Associated Press reports:

Two ministers were charged with criminal offenses yesterday for marrying 13 gay couples in what is believed to be the first time in U.S. history that clergy members have been prosecuted for performing same-sex ceremonies.

District Attorney Donald Williams [of Ulster County, N.Y.] said marriage laws made no distinction between public officials and members of the clergy who preside over wedding ceremonies.

Unitarian Universalist ministers Kay Greenleaf and Dawn Sangrey were charged with multiple counts of solemnizing a marriage without a license, the same charges leveled against New Paltz Mayor Jason West, who last month drew the state into the widening national debate over same-sex unions. The charges carry a fine of $25 to $500 or up to two years in jail. […]

Williams said he decided to press charges because the marriages were “drastically different” from religious ceremonies since Greenleaf and Sangrey publicly said they considered them civil. Some Unitarian ministers, Greenleaf included, were performing ceremonies for gay couples before the issue entered the national debate.

So is this what it’s come to? Arresting the clergy? Can anyone but the most fringy of the fringistas be pleased by such a development?

Many Americans, both black and white, object to parallels between the efforts of gays and people of color to achieve full civil rights (e.g., “Comparison is Wrong,” a letter to the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer by John A. Teets, Horsham, Pa.), but before long there will be no denying the obvious.

The battle to ban, block, and prevent gay marriage has yet to find its very own Bull Connor or Lester Maddox, but it’s not for lack of trying on the part of scores of aspirants, including Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.).

Musgrave, by the way, continues to write to me regularly. No, she’s not seeking a dialogue, she’s just asking for money.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Monday, March 15, 2004  

An Unscientific Online Poll

The American Family Association is conducting an unscientific poll (What other kind do rabid creationists conduct?), asking readers to express their current preference in the November presidential election presumably to be contested between Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), President George W. Bush (R-Conn.), and Egotist Ralph Nader (S-D.C. [?]*).

Take a moment and stop by over there and let the AFA know what you think.

* Spoiler. N.B.: There is some question as to where Nader maintains his domicile.

[Post-publication addendum (March 16): The AFA has taken down the presidential preference poll and replaced it with a petition about the vileness of MTV. I doubt the AFA was happy with the straw poll’s results. Last I checked Kerry had the support of 75 percent of participants. Either the AFA’s membership has suddenly started reading newspapers or somebody creeped the poll before Rittenhouse. (I’m betting on the latter.)]

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |


Useless Information

At the end of the check out process at the neighborhood supermarket, Super Fresh, the cash register spews out not only one’s receipt but typically a coupon or two and sometimes a brief informational item, normally something encouraging customers to eat more fruits and vegetables, advocating a blood-pressure test, or urging pregnant women to take folic acid.

After shopping at Super Fresh the other day I received not a coupon, but an informational ticket that read:

Did you know? Green beans cooked, boiled, drained without sale are only 9.85 net carbs per cup.


And I couldn’t care less.

I understand many people have lost weight relying on the Atkins diet, but, tipping the scales as I do at around 128 to 130 pounds, I don’t exactly fit the profile of the typical Atkins-ite.

And since I know relatively little about the rules governing the cult diet, I’m not sure whether the information provided by Super Fresh is helpful or menacing.

How many grams of carbohydrates are these people allowed to eat anyway? Would 10 extra grams really ruin one’s day?

The voice of moderation in my head suggests that if you’re worried about the carbohydrates in your string beans, you’ve taken things too far.

Besides, all that red meat you’re eating (and don’t worry, I eat it too), may be putting you at high risk for developing gout, according to a new study in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The same article, though, suggest the consumption of dairy products may reduce this risk. But eating too much dairy might put some men at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer.

You can’t win.

Moderation in everything.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, March 09, 2004  

A Six-Year-Old Can Do It

Delimar Vera may be only six years old but already she “gets” the media.

After being reunited with her mother, Luzaida Cuevas of Philadelphia, and facing an endless stream of reporters and photographers, Delimar had this to say to the media:

“Don’t come no more. Please, don’t.”

Better than that, though, Delimar, kidnapped six years ago and returned home just this week, is by all accounts so far handling the transition very well. She’s some kid.

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |

Sunday, March 07, 2004  

From the New York Times

As you read the excerpt below from a New York Times article about publisher Martha Stewart, “Stewart’s Celebrity Created Magnet for Scrutiny” (March 7), keep in mind these are two consecutive paragraphs from the same piece, written by Jonathan D. Glater:

“A woman who lords it over other people and who asserts her authority is going to provoke a kind of resentment that a lot of men who do the same thing won’t,” he [Dan M. Kahan, a professor at the Yale Law School] said. “There’s no question about that.”

That is not entirely true. Some of the peccadilloes of male executives certainly have come out in the course of their trials. Mr. Kozlowski’s $6,000 shower curtain received a good deal of attention from the news media.

Can anyone explain the connection between Stewart’s purported ill treatment of what Glater calls “underlings” and former Tyco International Inc. chief executive Dennis Kozloski’s purchase of a four-figure shower curtain, a bizarre badge of success that must have been purchased with the intent of hiding something, consciously or not?

You know, there are “apples and oranges,” and then there are apples and beach towels.

This is a case of the latter.

Call it the Picklerization of the New York Times.

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Friday, March 05, 2004  

For The Third Time!

Someone named Eric Carra, apparently of no fixed address, as they say, and a person who professes to have attempted to engage me in correspondence no fewer than two times in the past, today writes:

Date: Fri, 5 Mar 2004 11:55:30 EST
Subject: At it again, huh?

Y’know, Mr. Capozzola, I’ve only written you twice before. On those previous occasions, I pretty much said that you’ve been acting like a whiny little child.

I’m back, and you’re doing it again. Suggestion: grow up.

Eric Carra

I wish I could tell Mr. Carra that it is nice to hear from him again, but, honestly, I can’t recall having heard or seen his name before this evening.

Here’s a tip for you, Mr. Carra, a tip from a whiny little child: If I didn’t answer your first e-mail and I didn’t answer your second, and if I cannot recall having received either message, it’s safe to assume you had little, if anything, of interest to say in your ultimately unsatisfyingly one-sided correspondence (an assumption confirmed by the vague, unspecific, and pointless verbiage of your latest little missive), and it’s a safe bet I’m not going to respond to this one either.

Instead, I’ll just share it with everyone.

So nice of you to stop by, however. Do come back.

Wait a second. Eric Carra. Is that the name Norah Vincent is using these days as she runs around southeastern Pennsylvania and southern and central New Jersey as a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman pretending to be a man?

Deceiving people, hurting their feelings, shocking them for a bit of malicious fun, knocking things over . . . A veritable bull in a china shop, this one, professional ethics be damned.

Nah, it couldn’t be. Last I knew, Norah was going by Fred.

But the tone of the message does sound a little like her. Or like her nasty friend Lisa McNulty.

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Thursday, March 04, 2004  

It’s Better to Be Back

Writers -- like everyone I suppose, though in the case of scribes, authors, essayists, and critics, the feelings tend to be more intense -- are either loved or hated.

As one who is definitely both loved and hated, I’ve decided it’s better to be loved, if only from afar. And so, while the “short break” I announced on Sunday endured a little longer than I thought, the hiatus might have lasted still longer had I not received a few (a very few) e-mails like this one, from reader M.P. of Ohio:

You don’t know how many people check your blog on a daily basis. (I don’t either, but I’m one of them and I miss your posts.) Hurry up and get acclimated, moved, find a nice coffee place, take the dog for a walk, and then write!

That’s very kind, and thank you, M.P., and, as you can see, I’m back. But a few clarifications are in order.

First, I have a rough idea of how many people visit Rittenhouse on a daily basis. (Actually, it’s more of a wild guess, but I’m probably not too far off, two standard deviations at best. Not bad, right?)

Second, I don’t drink coffee. Not anymore. Pointless personal revelation: I used to drink six to eight cups a day.

Third, assuming you meant I might go to a coffee house to write, well, that wouldn’t work. Although I do some of my non-blog-related work in longhand -- mostly note-taking, random thoughts, tandem thoughts (I’m not sure what that phrase means but it just popped into my head as I was writing this), humorous lines, conversations overheard, and, I really shouldn’t say this, some really pathetic attempts at poetry and lyrics -- I don’t own a laptop or notebook computer.

That technology void combined with my not drinking coffee might lead the nice people at Cosi or Starbucks to call the cops about “some skinny little cranky guy who’s, like, just sort of loitering here.”

Fourth, Mildred does not take walks. This became a problem when I lived in my previous apartment: It was out the door, do the business, head back inside. So far it is much the same here. Fortunately, the new house has a nice-sized private garden that she adores. Comically, as is her style, Mildred is content to wander through the ivy and among and over whatever that plant is that grows on the ground and looks like ivy but isn’t ivy or maybe it is. (Note to self: Ask rapacious-gardener friend C.K.) She’s happy to sit out there unattended. This is the persona known as “Wilderness Mildred.”

Fifth, yes, writing. I must do more writing, and soon and fast and now and all that, and beyond that which is in my head or which during the past week has been scribbled in steno pads and on index cards, those being the tools of my trade, at least as I practice it. Rest assured I will shortly be writing furiously, on the blog and off as, despite the ready availability of steno pads and index cards, my head is spinning.

Unpacking came first, however, and as you all know, this the most miserable task in the world. (If you don’t have to move, don’t. Stay where you are. Put down roots. Deep roots. Trust me on this one.) Okay, unpacking is probably not the most miserable task ever. Something like cleaning Port-a-Potties is definitely worse, I think. But unpacking ranks right up there, and I know you know what I mean.

By the way, what’s with that commercial where the woman exclaims, “Cleaning the bowl is the dirtiest job in the house!” It is? Listen, lady, I don’t know what’s going on in your bathrooms, but nothing like that is happening around here. (And try cleaning out the bottom of the milk cooler in your father’s supermarket some time. Now that is a dirty job.)

But I digress.

The unpacking continues to absorb my time and attention, as did, briefly, though thankfully, a visit on Monday from one of my brothers. He was in the Philadelphia area visiting relatives. Something about a confirmation, I think. One of my nephews maybe. But I wouldn’t know.

And, I must admit, I snuck in two early matinees: “Monster” (Rittenhouse Rating: 2 Rs) and “The Triplets of Belleville” (Rittenhouse Rating: 1 R).* Look, if I’m going to write a decent screenplay, and I already have two in the works, I need to see more movies. (At least that’s what my auteur mentor keeps telling me.)

As for acclimation, M.P., oh, yeah, I’m getting acclimated. If anyone was worried that I was going to end up in a flophouse or something (and frankly, for a while I included myself in that group), rest assured I am in a good place. If you’re ever in Philadelphia and would like to stop by and curl up with some wine or tea, or even coffee, and have a nice long chat under comfy blankets in front of the working fireplace in my bedroom, just let me know. (Of course, if you visit in July or August, maybe I’ll just color something on scrap paper and paste it to the bricks.)

Incredibly, given how low I recently sank, I’m now living in what is without doubt the most beautiful of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. No, not Rittenhouse Square. The prettier, more civilized, neighborhood. Besides, I blog in Atrios’s shadow every day; I don’t need live in it too.

Every once in a while I want to poke the Rittenhouse reader that arranged for this transition, just to see if he’s real. I keep looking over his shoulder for wings and above his head for a halo. I don’t see them, but I know they’re there.

It really is better to be loved, or at least liked, than to be hated.

And it’s good to be back.

*Note: Rittenhouse film and movie ratings are based on a scale of 0 to 4 Rs, with 4 Rs being the highest rating.

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