Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Midnight Wrench Drop?

The Times Square Ball Drop is a New Year's Eve tradition -- a dumb tradition, but still a tradition.
But did you know that many other cities have their own midnight "drops" tonight?
No joke. Here is a list of some of the other drops:
Raleigh, N. C. - Acorn drop
Carlisle, Pa. - Car
Miami - Orange
Atlanta - Peach
Marion, Ohio - Popcorn
Harrisburg, Pa. - Strawberry
And my two personal favorites:
Mechanicsburg, Pa. - Wrench (Whoa - Watch out when that wrench drops!)
Dillsburg, Pa. - Pickle (Beats me why anyone would celebrate a "pickle drop" or droop.)
Groundhog Day. And strawberry, car, wrench and pickle drops. The Mummers. Something about Pennsylvania seems to attract sometimes silly faux-folk customs.

Corzine Sued On Secrecy

New Jersey Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean and Republican members of the Senate Budget Committee Tony Bucco, Kevin O'Toole, Steve Oroho, and Phil Haines have filed a lawsuit against Governor Jon Corzine. The Governor is violating the State's open public records law by refusing to provide documents that show what budgeted funds Corzine has frozen to address an at least $1.2 billion revenue drop and to pay for more than $100 million in spending bills he signed over the past month. State law appropriately grants the Governor the power to impound budgeted funds, and Corzine has claimed to be using the power, but refuses to say to what extent or to name the funds that will be impacted.
"Red flags go up when the Governor claims one day that he is freezing funds and using the impoundment power, but for the next month refuses to say by how much or identify the funds being impacted," said Kean. "We need assurances that he is being aggressive enough so we can avoid tax increases that make New Jersey more unaffordable."
"It would take ten minutes to copy a list of funds Corzine has put in reserve and share it with the public, but this is a governor who has brought his secretive Wall Street ways to Trenton and thinks everyone should just live with it," said Bucco.
"Republicans have offered specific, common sense budget cuts in the past and the public deserves to know whether the Governor is finally accepting them or if he is once again targeting property tax relief and aid to suburbs," said O'Toole.
"Corzine rejected previous calls by Republicans to scale back a grossly mismanaged and corrupt grant program for a handful of local governments and we made other constructive suggestions to make New Jersey more affordable," said Oroho. Oroho has pressed for reforming the program and scaling it back to 2002 funding levels, but the Governor has refused to accept the constructive suggestion and has targeted aid to suburbs instead.
"We want to work with the Governor to solve our State's budget problems, but it's next to impossible to do that when he refuses to provide basic information the public has a right to see," said Haines. "We can agree to disagree on policy matters, but there should be no disagreement that the Governor is required to explain how he is using his power."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hating The New Year

I know it's almost sacrilegious to say this in Philadelphia, but I think New Year's Day is the dumbest "holiday" ever.
And New Year's Eve ain't much better. I just don't get it. Never have gotten it, in fact.
New Year's Day signifies nothing. It's merely the first day of the year - just a unit of measurement, that's all. It's just a way to keep time, and a totally arbitrary one at that.
New Year's Eve is equally as dumb, if not dumber. All the hoopla about midnight on Dec. 31 is just plain bogus, simply an excuse for clubs and restaurants to make a big deal of nothing and charge you big bucks for it.
The rudest, loudest, most obnoxious people come crawling out of the woodwork on New Year's Eve. They don't get around very much (and don't go out very much) during the rest of the year. Trust me, you don't want to be around them.
I've actually tried to enjoy New Year's Eve in a public setting, but it's never really worked out. . . .

To read the rest of my column from today's Philadelphia Daily News click here.

Vote In Our Poll!

What will Obama's popularity be one year from now?
Will it be 70% or more?
Will it be 30% or less?
Will it be somewhere in between?
Vote in our new poll on Obama's popularity one year out.
You can find the poll at the top right hand corner of this page. Vote now!

The Year's Biggest Jerks

In no particular order, here's my list of the Ten Biggest Jerks of 2008:
Eliot Spitzer - Yeah, I'm all-powerful, all-knowing and always right. I can get away with anything -- anything!
Joe Biden - I knew if I stayed around long enough something like this would just fall into my lap. Gosh, this is great. Now I can say whatever I want and mean it!
Rob Blagojevich - F- - k them all! F - - k all those M- - - - -F - - - - rs!
Chris Matthews - It all started with a tingle up my leg!
Jesse Jackson - Obama? I think we oughta cut his b - - - s off!
Alan Greenspan - Turns out I wasn't so right after all. Oh well, never mind!
Jon Corzine - I'm a real financial genius. I can run this state into the ground!
Bill Maher - There is no God. And, I know this because I'm a great thinker and a great artist. In fact, I made a movie this year that no one came to see.
Phil Gramm - This is just a "mental recession" and America is a "nation of whiners."
Bill Richardson - Hey, amigo! You're not my amigo anymore. Doesn't matter what you did for me. I've got a new amigo. His name is Obama and he can do a lot more for me. Hasta la vista, baby!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Misuse of NJ State Cars

New Jersey State Senator Jennifer Beck is again calling for the State Attorney General to further investigate the misuse of New Jersey's state cars. A state audit was released last December which detailed the questionable use of state cars and state-issued credit cards used to buy gas.
"The blatant abuse of taxpayers' money is intolerable and those responsible need to be held accountable," Beck stated. "Anytime there is questionable, unethical or possible illegal use of taxpayer money the Attorney General should begin an immediate investigation."
The audit revealed that over the course of two years, the operators of 602 state vehicles made 2072 gas purchases where that amount purchased exceeded the gas tank capacity. It went on to say that annually 158,000 gallons of fuel are consumed without accurate documentation as to which car that fuel is going into, which equates to roughly $372,880. Additionally, in Fiscal Year 2007 the audit found there were 1200 same day gas transactions, many of which were deemed questionable and/or unreasonable.
"The report detailing the widespread abuse was issued in December of last year," Beck continued. "And one year later the Attorney General issued a boilerplate press release citing seven rank and file employees who pled guilty to stealing gas. Seven employees do not drive over 600 cars or use over 150,000 gallons of fuel in a given year. Corrective action must be taken, not only to prevent this abuse from taking place in the future, but also to ensure that those responsible for past misuse are held accountable."
Senator Beck first called for the investigation in October after a Senate State Government Committee hearing was held detailing the abuse.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

TeeeeOhhhh, TeeeOoohhhhh!

If there is one part of the Eagle's dramatic end-of-season triumph that is sweeter than any other part it is this: The relentless (and justified) ribbing that Terrel Owens is getting from Eagles fans and others who feel T. O. had it coming.
It's good to see the boastful T. O. get his comeuppance -- good to see him bowed.
How the mighty have fallen!
As an honorary Texan (and as someone who unabashedly LOVES Texas) I hate to see the Pride of Texas (and "America's Team") utterly humiliated. It's not a pretty sight. And Tony Romo seems to be a genuinely likable guy (notwithstanding Jessica Simpson). Understand, I've never shared that blind hatred of Dallas.
But T. O.?
Nah . . . I don't feel sorry for him.
In fact, it beats me why a classy franchise like Dallas even wanted him.
T. O. is getting what he deserves.
And the Philadelphia fans are, for a change, having the last laugh.
Yes, the Phillies have taught Philly fans how to believe in miracles again.
But that still doesn't mean we have to give up our lust for revenge.

Go, Mummers, Go!

You're not a real Philadelphian until you've been to the Mummer's parade. I'm not talking about watching it from the comfort of your living room, switching back and forth between the Fancies and whatever Bowl game catches your own fancy. I'm talking about being there, on Broad Street, stamping your feet against the cold (and probably getting them soaked in an early-morning reveler's urine.) It's not always pretty. And it's not always enjoyable.
But it's Philly, people.
Sure, there are those who say that the Mummers are just a bunch of overgrown juveniles tricked out in sequins and feathers, throwbacks to a time when people had patience for an eight hour two-step from South Philly to City Hall. Now, yawn, ho-hum, it's so passé. . . .

To read the rest of Christine Flowers' wonderful column from the Philadelphia Daily News click here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Doubtlessly Great!

There is no finer performance on the screen this year than Meryl Streep's portrayal of Sister Aloysius in John Patrick Shanley's film of his Pultizer Prize and Tony winning play, Doubt.
If you have not seen Doubt (which also stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis) get out to see it as soon as you can. It's a thought-provoking, intelligent, finely-acted, carefully-crafted movie that you will long remember.
Here's what Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today recently had to say about Streep and Doubt:
Heaven knows, if anyone could resurrect the movie-nun genre, which hasn't had an award-worthy Hollywood showcase since 1995's Dead Man Walking, it's Meryl Streep. Her austere role in Doubt could be her penance after wallowing in so much guilty fun (and grossing her biggest box-office hit ever at age 59) as a diva of a dungaree-donning dervish in Mamma Mia!
Stripped of makeup and shrouded in black, she's not just any movie nun, but a stern sentry of moral certitude circa 1964 known as Sister Aloysius. She's a primal force to be reckoned with in the film, based on the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning drama, opening Friday. With a Bronx squawk and righteous smirk, the record-breaking 14-time Oscar nominee who soon might reach No. 15 gives the full-blown Streep treatment to what could have been a stereotypical holy terror.
From her red-rimmed eyes that peer warily through utilitarian glasses as she patrols her school's nooks and crannies to the homemade shawl that wraps around her like armor, the no-nonsense principal is out to deflect any perceived threats to the children under her care. . . .
The most memorable cinematic nuns have some basis in reality, and John Patrick Shanley, who adapted his play and directed Doubt, drew from his own past. He sought out the technical advice of Sister Margaret McEntee, 73, who goes by Sister Peggy. She was his first-grade teacher at St. Anthony School in the Bronx and is the model for Sister James.
"She lived a life of anonymity and service, and it was my great pleasure to dedicate the film to her," says Shanley during lunch at one of his regular Soho haunts.
He believes the more mean-spirited portraits of nuns too easily discount the good such women did and the sacrifices they made. "I'm tired of people dedicating films and stuff to people who are dead. My point of view is, they can't hear you."
He certainly comes through loud and clear to Sister Peggy as she sits in the modest seating area of her living quarters at the scenic College of Mount St. Vincent in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. Much of the movie, including the church where Hoffman preaches, was shot here.
"He absolutely fascinates me," she says of her onetime pupil who used her former name, Sister James, in his 2004 play because he figured she had died. Thanks to her efforts, they reunited 48 years after they shared a classroom when she was 21 and he was 6. "I remember him from first grade. He was very quiet and reflective, a very thoughtful kid." . . .
As for filling Sister Aloysius' sensible shoes, Shanley says he didn't have to think too hard about who should bring his rigid traditionalist to life on the big screen. "If you walked out on the street here and asked 10 people who should play that part, they would have said Meryl," he says. "It's sort of a no-brainer. She is the person for the part."
BTW: Though she has been nominated for the Oscar 14 times Meryl Streep has only won twice.
And, it has been 26 years since she won the Oscar as the lead in Sophie's Choice, her second after a supporting trophy for 1979's Kramer vs. Kramer.

Results: Who Killed Christmas?

Our first poll was quite a success.
We asked: Who killed Christmas?
Most of you (33%) blamed lawyers, judges, courts and the ACLU.
The second biggest response was "all of the above" which included the lawyers and judges, multi-culturalists, greedy commercial interests, apathetic Christians and cowardly politicians.
In specific terms, apathetic Christians and cowardly politicians were at the bottom of the list. This is one time the politicians didn't get blamed. Greedy businesses and multi-culturalists tied for third.
So, most of you blame the courts, judges, lawyers and the ACLU for secularizing our society.
We'll have a new poll in a day or two.
Look for it!

Friday, December 26, 2008

GWB, Voracious Reader

From Karl Rove at the Wall Street Journal:
It all started on New Year's Eve in 2005. President Bush asked what my New Year's resolutions were. I told him that as a regular reader who'd gotten out of the habit, my goal was to read a book a week in 2006. Three days later, we were in the Oval Office when he fixed me in his sights and said, "I'm on my second. Where are you?" Mr. Bush had turned my resolution into a contest.
By coincidence, we were both reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals." The president jumped to a slim early lead and remained ahead until March, when I moved decisively in front. The competition soon spun out of control. We kept track not just of books read, but also the number of pages and later the combined size of each book's pages -- its "Total Lateral Area."
We recommended volumes to each other (for example, he encouraged me to read a Mao biography; I suggested a book on Reconstruction's unhappy end). We discussed the books and wrote thank-you notes to some authors. . . .

His reading this year included a heavy dose of history -- including David Halberstam's "The Coldest Winter," Rick Atkinson's "Day of Battle," Hugh Thomas's "Spanish Civil War," Stephen W. Sears's "Gettysburg" and David King's "Vienna 1814." There's also plenty of biography -- including U.S. Grant's "Personal Memoirs"; Jon Meacham's "American Lion"; James M. McPherson's "Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief" and Jacobo Timerman's "Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number."
Each year, the president also read the Bible from cover to cover, along with a daily devotional.
The reading competition reveals Mr. Bush's focus on goals. It's not about winning. A good-natured competition helps keep him centered and makes possible a clear mind and a high level of energy. He reads instead of watching TV. He reads on Air Force One and to relax and because he's curious. He reads about the tasks at hand, often picking volumes because of the relevance to his challenges. And he's right: I've won because he has a real job with enormous responsibilities.
In the 35 years I've known George W. Bush, he's always had a book nearby. He plays up being a good ol' boy from Midland, Texas, but he was a history major at Yale and graduated from Harvard Business School. You don't make it through either unless you are a reader.
There is a myth perpetuated by Bush critics that he would rather burn a book than read one. Like so many caricatures of the past eight years, this one is not only wrong, but also the opposite of the truth and evidence that bitterness can devour a small-minded critic. Mr. Bush loves books, learns from them, and is intellectually engaged by them.
For two terms in the White House, Mr. Bush has been in the arena, keeping America safe and facing down enormous challenges, all the while acting with dignity. And when on Jan. 20 he flies from Washington to Texas one last time, he will do so as he arrived -- with friends and a book nearby.

BTW: The President typically reads 50 to 100 books per year. I wonder how many of his "highbrow" critics can make the same claim?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Remember The Night

After arriving home from a glorious, traditional seven fishes Christmas Eve dinner I caught a wonderful old Christmas flick on TV last night: Barbara Stawyck and Fred MacMurray in Remember The Night (1940) from Paramount with an original screenplay by the great Preston Sturges.
Just before Christmas, Lee Leander (Stanwyck) is caught shoplifting. It is her third offense. She is prosecuted by John Sargent (MacMurray). He gets the trial postponed because it is hard to get a conviction at Christmastime. But he feels sorry for her and arranges for her bail, and ends up taking her home to his mother for Christmas. Surrounded by a loving family (in stark contrast to Lee's own family background) they fall in love. This creates a new problem: how do they handle the upcoming trial?
Nobody did Christmas like the great old Hollywood studios.
The studios knew how to use sentimentality, great stories, fine sets, and wonderful casts to create an old-home Christmas spirit tinged with pathos.
This movie also features fine character actors Bealah Bondi and Sterling Holloway.
Beulah Bondi was a favorite of directors and audiences and is one of the reasons so many films from the 1930s and 1940s remain so enjoyable, as she was an integral part of many of the ensemble casts (a hallmark of the studio system) of major and/or great films, including The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Our Town (1940) and Penny Serenade (1941). Highly respected as a first-tier character actress, Bondi won two Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominations, for The Gorgeous Hussy (1936) and Of Human Hearts (1938), and an Emmy Award in 1976 for her turn in the television program "The Waltons" (1972).
Sterling Holloway was known for his amusing appearance and distinctive voice. His long career led from dozens of highly enjoyable onscreen performances to world-wide familiarity as the voice of numerous Walt Disney animated films.His bushy reddish-blond hair and trademark near-falsetto voice made him a natural for sound pictures, and he acted in scores of talkies, although he had made his picture debut in silents. His physical image and voice relegated him almost exclusively to comic roles, but in 1945, director Lewis Milestone cast him more or less against type in the classic war film A Walk in the Sun (1945), where Holloway's portrayal of a reluctant soldier was quite notable. He played frequently on television, becoming familiar to baby-boomers in a recurring role as Uncle Oscar on "Adventures of Superman" (1952), and later in television series of his own. His later work as the voice of numerous characters in Disney cartoons brought him new audiences and many fans, especially for his voicing of beloved Winnie the Pooh. He died in 1992.
Thank goodness for Turner Class Movies!

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas In Italy

Today in Italy, Christmas trees are decorated, but the focal point of decoration is the Nativity scene. Italians take great pride in the creation of the manger, which was thought up in 1223 by St. Francis of Assisi, who wanted to involve the peasants in celebrating the life of Jesus.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City possesses a presepio from Naples that contains figurines carved from wood and dressed in garments of satin, along with 30 gold-trimmed angels of the Magi, all framed by majestic columns.
Bagpipes are the most common Italian Christmas sound. The zampognari, the shepherds who play the bagpipes, come down from their mountain homes at Christmas time and perform in the market squares. The playing of bagpipes is popular in the regions of Calabria and Abruzzo, and in the piazzas of Rome. The melodies played are adapted from old hill tunes. Modern zampognari wear the traditional outfits of sheepskin vests, leather breeches, and a woolen cloak.
The tradition of bagpipes goes back to ancient Roman times. Legend says that the shepherds entertained the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. Today, the zampognari perform their own private pilgrimage, stopping before every shrine to the Madonna and every Nativity scene.
Children in Italy believe in a female version of Santa Claus called La Befana, an old woman who flies on a broom and brings presents.
According to Italian legend, Three Wise Men asked La Befana for directions to Bethlehem. La Befana was asked to join them but declined three times. It took an unusually bright light and a band of angels to convince La Befana that she must join the Wise Men, but she was too late.
She never found the Christ child and has been searching ever since. On January 6, the Feast of Epiphany, La Befana goes out on her broom to drop off stockings filled with treats to all the sleeping children of Italy. Just as children in America leave milk and cookies for jolly Santa Claus, La Befana collects messages and refreshments throughout the night.
Buon Natale e tutti!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fred's at Barneys

While we were in Manhattan we dined at Fred's restaurant at Barneys.
Overlooking Lexington at 60th on the chic, upper east side this restaurant is a favorite of celebrities, businesspersons and and the greatest looking ladies who lunch.
Our lunches consisted of nothing more than salads and sandwiches but my-oh-my -- the portions are plentiful and the food is astounding. Did we mention that everything is fresh and beautifully prepared and presented? Plus, the service is top-notch and the people-watching can't be beat.
A member of the staff informed us that just last week Bruce Springsteen stopped by. Well, we're not fans of "The Boss" but how about this: Jack Welch, his wife Suzy, and Charlie Rose had lunch here recently, near the tables of Al Roker and Vera Wang.
Fred's will do significant damage to your wallet but we highly recommend it at least once.

NYC Christmas Windows

On the eve of Christmas Eve we decided to take a quick trip to Manhattan to check out the Christmas windows at some of our favorite stores.
As is our custom, we visited Macy's Lord & Taylor, Saks, Barney's and Bloomingdale's. Here's our take on this year's animated Christmas windows:
Macy's - Themed to Macy's appealing "Believe!" campaign, this years windows are whimsical and scattered with magic dust. The windows explain how Christmas ornaments, tinsel, Christmas lights and other elements and characters of the season (including Santa) acquire their special glow. It's like a journey through childlike fantasy factory with all sorts of beguiling contraptions, lots of bright colors and even interactive elements. True, a real live human was in the window tinkering with one of the machines while we were there but so what. Delightful!
Lord & Taylor - Lord & Taylor's windows (pictured) are always more traditional and this year is no exception. These are the most lush and elaborate windows and they are beautifully unified around the theme "My Favorite Christmas Things." Elaborate Victorian rooms, outfits, toys, characters, Christmas trees, Christmas ornaments and other favorites of the season abound in carefully crafted scenes that are highly detailed and enchanting. L & T has the only windows in the city that ascend and descend on pneumatic lifts and while we were there a workman was lowering one of the windows below so that it disappeared below the street surface. That was almost as fascinating to watch as the rest of the show. Elegant throughout!
Saks - The Story of Mike, the Flaky snowflake reminds children of all ages that you should simply "be yourself." The windows celebrate nouveau individuality, diversity, differentness and all those other politically-correct notions. After the other snowflakes watch Mike glide to the ground like a graceful feather they ape his unusual shape, manner and "lighter than air" quality. From that point on, snowflakes stop falling with a big clump sameness and start doing their own thing. Of course, the story takes root in an earlier time (pre-Mike) "when your parents were hippies." Just one problem with that: Hippie parents are now grandparents. Which brings us to . . .
Barney's - Always the most adventurous (and least animated) of the windows, Barney's opts for "Have A Hippie Holiday" and commemorates the 50th anniversary of the peach symbol. The windows are a celebration of the tired old sixties youth movement. Outfits are updated by present-day designers and created from sustainable material. The theme is carried out through the entire store and it's all heavy on peace, love, mindless sloganeering and drug-induced nonsense complete with quotes from Janis Joplin, Timothy Leary, Jack Kerouac, John Lennon and others.
Bloomingdale's - Christmas songs come to life in near-neon colored windows with lots of splash and dazzle - just like the store itself. Blommies has become almost a caricature of itself so the windows are a combination of nostalgia and kitsch. What we have here are old vinyl records combined with lots of shiny new bling. Inside, the store is covered in a shrill, hideous green with black and white as accent colors. Wear your shades.
Here's our ranking on this year's Christmas Windows:
5) Barney's - Heavy, with a tired message and a self-absorbed tribute to an irrelevant and largely useless generation. No mention of Christmas.
4) Bloomingdales - Holiday windows on the cheap with bad colors. Still, some acknowledgement of Christmas.
3) Saks - Yet another year of politically-correct pap with no mention of Christmas. Nice animation.
2) Macy's - A beautiful, unified, clever, meaningful campaign complete with Christmas. Bravo!
1) Lord & Taylor - Christmas, Christmas and more Christmas with elegant excess and lovingly-crafted details. Triumphant!

Caroline's Ambition

About a year ago, Neil Diamond finally revealed the inspiration for his song "Sweet Caroline." He of the impressive sideburns said that it was while looking at a picture of Caroline Kennedy in the '60s that he was moved to write his signature song.
Aside from the slightly creepy aspect of a grown man taking a prepubescent teen as his muse (although Dante did some mean stuff with his own Beatrice), it reminded all of us just how important the Kennedy family was - and is - to the modern American psyche. While I was never inspired to dedicate anything to Jackie's kid, I was always aware of her presence on the periphery of my consciousness. Unlike Grace Kelly's blue-blooded Caroline, Princess Kennedy seemed to be more approachable, more intelligent, and generally nicer.
Sweet. Yeah, that fit.
But I never actually knew what she did, much less who she was. . . .

To read the rest of Christine Flower's column from the Philadelphia Daily News click here.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Decorated Christmas Homes

There are always houses that Go All Out for Christmas.
You can catch some of them on "What's What That Decked Out Christmas House?" on the Home and Garden TV network.
Two of those homes are actually in South Jersey, on Mercer Street across from Town Hall in Cherry Hill. Lights cover every available inch on these neighboring homes. The overall effect is nothing short of spectacular. You can find the homes on Mercer Street just off of Haddonfield Road between Chapel Avenue and Route 38. Don't worry: You'll see the lights (and the traffic) before you reach the homes.
Not far from Mercer Street, more spectacularly decorated homes are found on Deer Road in Cherry Hill just off of Chapel Avenue east of Kings Highway. Proceed almost to the end of Chapel Avenue until you see the lights. Then, make a right and a quick left onto Deer Road. And entire block is flooded with Christmas lights.
The owners of these homes have given us a wonderful Christmas gift. They are blessed with the Christmas spirit and we thank them and share in their joy.
Don't miss these inspiring displays!

Big Holiday Movies

In no particular order, here are the big holiday movies that people are talking about right now. You'll probably want to see one or more of them:
Last Chance Harvey - Could this be the first really good Dustin Hoffman movie in a long time?
Benjamin Button - Unusual story. Big time Oscar contender.
The Wrestler - Mickey Rourke is back and triumphant!
Slumdog Millionaire - Hard to take but regarded as a "must see."
Doubt - Transcendent acting by Oscar winners Street and Hoffman.
Grand Torino - Classic Eastwood.
Frost Nixon - They'll be studying Nixon forever.
Revolutionary Road - Dicaprio and Winslet reunited amidst suburban angst.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

'Rich' Man, 'Poor' Man

"Friend of Working People" - Obama vacation site in Hawaii.

"Friend of the Rich" - Bush vacation site in Texas.
Pictures don't lie. While Obama vacations amidst lush $9 million tropical surroudings on Kailua Beach, Hawaii, the Bush family continues to enjoy relatively modest digs in Crawford, Texas (hardly a destination of the rich and famous).
It's easy to talk the talk. Walking the walk? Well, that's quite another matter.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas With Bee!

There are several FM stations that are now playing all Christmas songs all the time.
And Serius/XM satellite radio also has all-Christmas channels at 79 (classics), 81 (contemporary) and 113 (Bing Crosby and friends).
But our favorite Christmas station is The Bee - B101 in Philadelphia.
We like it because the Christmas songs are upbeat and catchy. The Bee creates a nice mix of newer songs and classics. But the accent is always on high-energy fun.
So, you won't get a steady drumbeat of the dreadful Little Drummer Boy or the terminally annoying Twelve Days of Christmas. And you won't have to listen to too many sad Christmas whines like Blue Christmas or I'll Be Home For Christmas.
And the commercial breaks are nicely spaced.
But here's the best part: The station clearly identifies every song and every artist. This way you know who and what you're listening to.
Find out what's playing right now on B 101 by clicking here.

Macy's Christmas Carol

Have you been to see A Christmas Carol at Macy's Philadelphia store?
If you haven't, head on over to the 3rd floor at the former Wanamaker store at 13 & Market for a real treat. Sure, you remember the enchanting animated story of A Christmas Carol from the old Strawbridges store.
Well, Macy's has given the whole production a badly-needed face lift. Oh, it's just as you recall. They haven't removed any scenes or characters from the walk-through story. But they have cleaned and painted the scenes and characters so that everything looks fresh and vivid. And they have oiled the animated figures so that they don't squeak anymore.
As you walk through the scenes this enduring tale comes to life and you begin to realize why this is such a compelling Christmas classic.
The colors and the lighting and the figures all work together to produce a delightful story for all ages.
And, while you're at Macy's center city store check out the animated windows along the Market Street side. This is another treat you won't want to miss.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Partying With Nochumson

Recognized as a "lawyer on the fast track" by American Lawyer Media, Alan Nochumson takes pride in "providing clients with practical and creative solutions to complex issues." Alan focuses his practice in real estate law, litigation, employment and labor law, and land use and zoning.
Last night, at the kind invitation of the wonderful Natalie Klyashtorny we attended the Nochumson firm holiday party at the sleek Bar 17 in the landmark Warwick Hotel and Residences just steps from Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. A former Chair of the Philadelphia Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, Natalie is one of the most energetic young lawyers in the city and serves as Counsel to the Nochumson firm. She too as been recognized as a "lawyer on the fast track."
We saw so many luminaries of the local legal community at the party including Dechert PR gurus Mark Tarasiewicz and Beth Huffman, the great Scott Sigman, Joe Prim, Fran Greisling, Lisa Goldstein, Eric Weitz, and one of the nicest guys and finest lawyers we've ever met, Harper Dimmerman. We also chatted with Kim Jessum and Jim Wells. Jim is part of the Haines Team at the firm of Haines and Associates led by former Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor Cliff Haines. Kim is with the Stadley Ronon firm and Kim informs us that she will run for the post of Assistant Treasurer of the Philadelphia Bar Association in 2009. We feel that Kim is a sure winner and while we're talking about Stradley, let's send a shout out to partner Andre Dennis and Chief Marketing Officer Gary Bagin - two of our favorite people.
Christmas is a wonderful time to mingle with old friends and make new ones and this Christmas seems to be no exception. As we move right along toward the Big Day we'll keep you posted regarding our activities.
BTW: Throngs poured out of the orchestra and ballet performances in the city last night and South Broad Street buildings were lit in bright alternating colors celebrating the season.
Now, everyone repeat after me: "Merry Christmas!"

Corzine's River Of Red

New Jersey Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean and Senator Jennifer Beck again called on Governor Corzine yesterday to publicly detail the steps he has taken to deal with a budget deficit of at least $600 million. Despite the fact that the deficit is growing every day as revenue collections sputter, the Governor continues to sign new spending bills into law without saying what will be cut to pay for them. A $600 million planned budget surplus for the current year has already been impacted by a $1.2 billion revenue drop that has yet to be addressed.
In 2001, the last time revenues began dropping shortly after the budget was signed, Acting Governor Donald T. DiFrancesco periodically released to the public a list of accounts he had frozen to protect against revenue losses. When he signed legislation that included new appropriations, DiFrancesco would simultaneously release a list of existing budget items that were frozen to accommodate the new spending. The public was kept informed of steps that were taken to address budget problems and provided the opportunity to comment and suggest alternatives.
"Governor Corzine needs to come out of the bunker," said Kean. "The Governor owes the public an explanation about what funds he will cut to address a revenue drop and pay for the spending bills he has continued to sign every day."
"The Governor has failed to embrace Republican budget savings ideas or offer his own ideas to address a growing deficit and new spending," said Beck. "The Governor needs to immediately step up to the plate and explain what he is doing to avoid a fiscal train wreck."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Macy's Philly Light Show

Yesterday we enjoyed the wonderful Wanamaker's Christmas Light Show at Macy's in Philadelphia.
Yes, to Philadelphians this is still the Wanamaker Light Show even though America's most glorious cathedral of commerce (the old Wanamaker store) is now Macy's.
Well, I'm happy to report that Macy's has done right by Wanamaker's and by Philadelphia.
The Great Light Show looks better than ever.
The magnificent three-story Christmas tree is back and it's absolutely dazzling.
And the 12-minute show's narrator is now the great Julie Andrews. Most of the parts of the show that you remember are still there: Rudolph, Frosty, the Winter Wonderland, the Clock Shop, the Christmas Express. The reindeer have been updated and look wonderful this Christmas. Rudi the Christmas bear is present but his role has been diminished and he was never part of the original show anyway. Also, the story of Marie and the Nutcracker is gone but that is a tiresome and hopelessly tedious tale anyway. Still, Marie and figures from the story remain as part of the panoply.
What's important is that Macy's has done a wonderful job with the Light Show and the tree is an absolute joy to behold. During the light show, more than 100,000 bright, energy-efficient LED lights combine to create fantastic Christmas images. The lighting display is accompanied by festive music from the world-renowned Wanamaker Grand Organ.
The Great Christmas Light Show is a 53-year-old tradition in Philadelphia and it's looking better than ever. Shows begin on the hour. Store hours vary by day during the holiday season. Call the store directly for exact info: (215) 241-9000.
BTW: For many years the store displayed a large lighted message below the Light Show that declared "Merry Christmas" in elaborate script and displayed the time of the next show. We were sorry to see that the "Merry Christmas" greeting is gone.

Help Neediest Kids!

A special message from our wonderful friends at Simon PR:
This holiday season, Simon PR is helping spread the word about Danger Season and Operation PJ Pile Up, a charitable project of a long-standing client, Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT).
Danger Season is the time of year when needy and abandoned children face cold nights without the warmth of a parent’s love and pajamas in which to snuggle. That’s why PREIT is collecting 25,000 new pajamas at its 39 malls in 12 states. Local malls include Cherry Hill Mall, Exton Square Mall, Moorestown Mall, Plymouth Meeting Mall, The Gallery, Springfield Mall, Voorhees Town Center, and Willow Grove Park.
The pajamas will be delivered to local children in need through PREIT's non-profit partner, the Pajama Program.
Now Simon PR is asking for your help!
Visit a PREIT mall near you and drop off a pair of NEW pajamas, sizes toddler to adult. For locations, visit To learn more about the Pajama Program, visit

Caroline To Be Senator

From Drudge and other sources:
When a powerful labor leader picked up the phone this week, he was surprised to hear the voice of a top aide to New York City Mayor Bloomberg. The aide made it clear: Caroline Kennedy [lose the Schlossberg] is going to be senator, "so get on board now!" Buttons are being pushed and strings pulled by the mayor, the New York Times plans to front [today]. The involvement has helped immediately elevate and coordinate the debut of Kennedy, who lacked an experienced political staff of her own.
But now, it is setting off an intense backlash among Democrats.
It's quite clear now that Caroline will assume her late uncle Bobby's Senate seat in New York.
What's not clear to me is why some Democrats are angry about this.
Look, I'm of a generation that naturally grants Caroline a wide berth to begin with. I admit it.
But, if Jesse Ventura can serve and Arnold Schwarzenegger can serve and George Murphy can serve and Lurleen Wallace can serve and Ronald Reagan can serve -- all because their names have (or had) drawing power -- then why can't Caroline serve?
A well-known name counts for something in politics.
But beyond that, Caroline is smart. She exceptionally well-educated. She certainly seems mature, reasoned, thoughtful and gracious. She a lawyer, an author and a public activist.
I don't think anyone's going to try to cut a deal with Caroline Kennedy or try to bribe her or try to push her around. Indeed, I have to imagine she will bring a great deal of dignity to the office.
In an age of jerks, crooks and outright thieves in office, what's wrong with Caroline?
She's better than Blago. Better than Spitzer. Better than Barney Frank. Better than 'ole Senator Byrd. And she's way better than John Edwards, William Jefferson and a helluva lot of other Democrats that come to mind.
In fact, she's head and shoulders above most of them.
So, I say "Go for it, Caroline. Show them how it's done!" And I wish her well.
BTW: Too bad Caroline didn't choose to come to Joisey and take on Lautenberg. She would have flattened that windy 'ole geezer in a New York minute.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why We Love Texas!

Those Jolly Justinians!

Last night continued the gala round of holiday parties in the city with the grandest and the best Christmas bash - The Justinians' merryfest at the Ballroom at the Ben.
If we mentioned everyone we saw and greeted at this traditional holiday event for the city's Italian-American lawyers and their guests we'd be here all day.
But we are picturing three of our favorite Philly lawyers (from left): Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor-elect Sayde J. Ladov, former Justinian Chancellor Barbara Capozzi and current Justinian Chancellor (and PR guru) Gina Furia Rubel.
True, it was a damp, icy, bone-chilling night outside last night. But inside the Ballroom with the Justinians all was warm, friendly, bright and beautiful.
Hundreds of merrymakers dined on fresh cold giant shrimp, crab claws and clams on the half shell as well as salmon, several types of pasta, roast beef, turkey and a huge Caesar salad. Also featured were cannoli, mini-pastries and chocolate covered strawberries.
And yes, the open bar attracted a large share of party-goers throughout the evening.
Buon Natale!

Obama Cuts Off Reporter

So, now Obama has already begun cutting off reporters and lecturing to them: "Don't waste your question!"
He hasn't even taken office yet and it's already beginning to get testy.
It's gonna be interesting, folks. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Favorite Christmas Classics

Have you voted in our poll?
We're asking: Who Killed Christmas?
You can vote at the top right hand corner opf this page.
Meanhwile, here are more of our favorite Christmas classics:
1) Have A Holly Jolly Christmas - The original version by Burl Ives is still the best!
2) I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus - The Jimmy Boyd original is tops! It reached number 1 on the Billboard charts in 1952, and on the Cash Box magazine chart at the beginning of the following year. The song was commissioned by Neiman Marcus to promote their Christmas card for the year, which featured an original sketch by artist Perry Barlow, who drew for the New Yorker magazines for many decades.
3) Christmas Time's A 'Comin (and I know I'm goin home) - Don't settle for anything less than the Bill Monroe bluegrass version.
4) It's A Wonderful Life - If you miss this class Frank Capra Christmas movie, you've missed Christmas itself!
5) A Christmas Carol - Watch ONLY the black and white 1951 movie version of this classic tale starring Alistair Sims. No others can match it.
Christmas reached a sort of zenith in America in the 1950s. It was a glorious time for home, family and Christmas. Maybe it was the aftermath of the war and the prosperity that followed that made everything so Christmasy. Or maybe it was just those crazy 50s novelty songs, all that sentimentality and brave new inventions like spray snow that made the difference. Who knows?

The Christmas Sweater

Richard Paul Evans, author of the runaway bestseller The Christmas Box calls Glenn Beck's The Christmas Sweater the kind of story that "will keep you warm even after you've closed the book." Comparing Beck's story to Mitch Albom's The Five People You Meet In Heaven, Evans says "this is the sort of gift you treasure long after the holiday has passed."
Well, a lot of people are treasuring The Christmas Sweater this holiday season. The book has only been on the New York Times bestseller list for four weeks and it's already number two on the list, topped only by Patricia Cornwell's Scarpetta.
Beck of course is also a wildly successful talk radio host whose program airs locally in Philadelphia on The Big Talker, 1210 AM which is also the home of our friend Dom Giordano and the great Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. And Glenn Beck's TV show will debut on Fox News on January 19.
Beck calls what he does "the fusion of entertainment and enlightenment."
And everything he touches seems to turn to gold.
Last night we were part of the sellout audience at The Kimmel Center's Verizon Hall in Philadelphia for Glenn Beck's live performance of The Christmas Sweater.
What can I compare it to?
Well, Beck seems to borrow heavily from the late radio host Jean Shepherd who was the co-author and narrator of the now-classic 1983 film A Christmas Story. The film was based on Shepard's own semi-autobiographical stories. Shepherd was a humorist and mesmerizing storyteller. Shepherd's oral narrative style was a precursor to that used by Spalding Gray and Garrison Keillor. And, in many ways Glenn Beck's tales are as dark as Shepherd's and Kellior's. But Shepherd had more subtlety. Still, Glenn Beck is free of the grouchiness, cynicism and ennui that seem to characterize Kellior and his musings.
Beck proclaims his tale is one of "redemption" and it certainly is thoroughly spiritual. Beck is a sort of conservative/libertarian, life-affirming inspirationalist who uses every means at his disposal to push and pull and tug his audience forward.
And all I can tell you is that the audience at The Kimmel last night loved being pushed and pulled and tugged. They loved the show. Beck received several standing ovations and then lingered afterwards to sign copies of his book for his adoring fans.
It was a Christmas lovefest for a man whose personal journey has inspired others.
BTW: Thanks to the good folks at The Big Talker for allowing us entree to this SRO show. It's clear that Glenn Beck is a winner for any radio station that is fortunate enough to air his program. Now, let's hope the new administration and Congress don't try to ban programs like Glenn Beck under the guise of a reincarnated "fairness" doctrine. God help us!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Favorite Christmas Songs

Some interesting notes about favorite Christmas songs courtesy of the Wall Street Journal:
Known in English as "Silent Night," "Stille Nacht" was written by Austrian priest Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber. They performed the song at a Christmas mass in 1818 accompanied by guitar, and the tune later spread across Europe.
"Jingle Bells," copyrighted in 1857 by James Pierpont (uncle of J.P. Morgan), was originally not a holiday song at all. It was written for a Thanksgiving church service, as legend has it, and was so popular, it was performed again at Christmas.
Several well-known tunes emerged from films of the 1940s and '50s. Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," sung by Bing Crosby in the 1942 "Holiday Inn," has become the most recorded holiday song to date, with more than 500 versions.
The "Singing Cowboy" Gene Autry initially balked at recording "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," thinking it didn't fit his image. His wife convinced him otherwise, and the 1949 song became his biggest seller.
Illustration by Tim Bower/Wall Street Journal

Seniors Not Junior

Christmas parties continued today with the gala "Santa Claus Christmas Party" at the Seniors in nearby Evesham.
When it comes to a Christmas party, there's nothing 'junior" about The Seniors. Shawn and Danielle Senior pull out all the stops and this year was no exception. More than 100 friends and relatives attended this all-day Christmas affair which featured plenty of great food, libations and a huge number of treats for the children.
There were tons of Ciruccis at the affair (including many Cirucci cousins) and plenty of Shawn Senior's baseball pals from Shawn's days as a standout player for Cherry Hill West High School and at North Carolina State and later with the Boston Red Sox organization. Shawn, a UBS broker, is a member of the South Jersey Baseball Hall of Fame.
Anyway, this year's event featured the traditional reading of "The Night Before Christmas" (with the Senior's 13-foot real, live Christmas tree as a backdrop) and the arrival of Santa Claus himself. More than 30 tots crowded around Santa -- all with wide eyes and high expectations. And, no one was disappointed.
The whole affair began at 1 P. M. and when we left at 6 P. M. a lively group of adults was still imbibing. Now that's one way to define "Merry!"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Call Him Irreplaceable

Frank Sinatra would have been 93 years old today.
It's just as well that Frankie's no longer with us because I don't think you would have wanted to see Frank at age 93. It probably wouldn't have been a pretty sight.
At the time of his death (at age 83) Sinatra's best years were surely behind him. And Frank wouldn't have wanted you to see him in such a diminished state.
Old Blue Eyes was a proud man who did his living while the living was good. He never missed a moment and rarely missed a beat. He knew how to swing.
I've never been a big Sinatra aficionado but one cannot really appreciate the Great American Songbook without paying homage to Sinatra. For six decades he was The Voice. He was the soundtrack of our lives.
From what I've read about Sinatra (and I've read quite a bit) I'm not sure that if I knew him I would have actually liked him. Frank himself knew that he was a moody, difficult, combustible personality.
But the talent always managed to shine through. As an artist, he was an extraordinary perfectionist: disciplined, hard-working, demanding.
We grant a wide berth to genuine superstars -- people who posses such incredible talent that it takes our breath away.
Sinatra was one of those people.
And so far, no one has replaced him. No one.

Congress' Godless Shrine

While we were in Washington last week we took a look at the new Capitol Visitor Center which rests entirely underground in front of the majestic U. S. Capitol.
The Visitor Center opened three years late and anywhere between $350 to $500 million over budget. When you start to approach a half-a-billion dollars over budget, you begin to lose count.
It's nice that visitors to the U. S. capitol now have spacious. modern restrooms; a place to rest their weary feet; a large, well-stocked cafeteria/restaurant; plentiful exhibits and art facts and a new wide-screen movie to welcome them to Congress.
And, as cranky, crusty old Harry Reid said: "Now, we don't have to smell the tourists." Well, we don't have to smell you, either, Harry! So now we're equal.
The movie is hopelessly homogenized and just this side of bland. I had to laugh when I noticed that no members of Congress were shown in the movie in any way that would make them identifiable. I suppose egos prevented it. If one member was shown, then all would require the same treatment - that's all 435 of them! Also, I suppose that would have dated the movie. But, hey -- Senator Byrd intends to be in Congress forever, so they could have shown him. And there are a lot of other members who feel they are immortal and they have no intention of ever vacating their offices.
As for the Vistors Center, I suppose it's worth a visit. But just keep in mind the observations of Senator Jim DeMint. Here's what he said:
The Capitol Visitor Center is designed to tell the history and purpose of our nation's Capitol, but it fails to appropriately honor our religious heritage that has been critical to America’s success. While the Architect of the Capitol has pledged to include some references to faith, more needs to be done. You cannot accurately tell the history of America or its Capitol by ignoring the religious heritage of our Founders and the generations since who relied on their faith for strength and guidance. The millions of visitors that will visit the CVC each year should get a true portrayal of the motivations and inspirations of those who have served in Congress since its establishment.
The current CVC displays are left-leaning and in some cases distort our true history. Exhibits portray the federal government as the fulfillment of human ambition and the answer to all of society’s problems. This is a clear departure from acknowledging that Americans’ rights "are endowed by their Creator" and stem from "a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence." Instead, the CVC’s most prominent display proclaims faith not in God, but in government. Visitors will enter reading a large engraving that states, "We have built no temple but the Capitol. We consult no common oracle but the Constitution." This is an intentional misrepresentation of our nation’s real history, and an offensive refusal to honor America's God-given blessings...
The fundamental principles of the freedom we enjoy in this country stem from our Founding Fathers’ beliefs in a higher power, beliefs put forth in the Declaration of Independence and manifest throughout our Constitution. If we cease to acknowledge this fact, we may cease to enjoy some of the freedoms we take for granted. We must not censor historical references to God for the sake of political correctness. And we must truthfully represent the limited form of government the Constitution lays out so that our "government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth." So help us God.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Who Killed Christmas?

Who killed Christmas?
Was it wimpy public officials like Washington Governor Chris Gregoire?
Was it the courts, lawyers, judges and the ACLU?
Maybe it was commercialism and greedy businesses.
How about snobbish multi-culturalists? Did they do Christmas in?
Or maybe it was apathetic Christians who did not fight back to keep Christ in Christmas.
What do you think?
Vote in our poll! Vote today at the top right-hand corner of this page.

Just Say 'Sayde!'

Yesterday was a Big Day for our friend Sayde Ladov as she made her debut as the Philadelphia Bar Association's Chancellor for 2009.

Sayde's been preparing for this moment for a long time. And, make no mistake about this: She's ready.
Sayde is one of the most dynamic and vivacious individuals we've ever encountered. And, she's also remarkably real. Let's put it this way: She's a person who knows her own heart; who follows her own instincts and who is not afraid of her own emotions. People are drawn to Sayde as a leader because they can see that she knows who she is and she knows where she's going. She makes people feel good; she gives them confidence in themselves; she trusts them and empowers them.
These are vital and rare qualities in any individual. In Sayde, they are stellar.
The Philadelphia Bar Association is fortunate to have someone like Sayde leading it into the new decade.
Read the Chris Mondics interview with Sayde in the Philadelphia Inquirer by clicking here.
Read Jeff Blumenthal's story about Sayde in the Philadelphia Business Journal by clicking here.
And keep an eye on Sayde during 2009. You're going to be hearing a lot about her.
Philadelphia Inquirer photo by Barbara L. Johnson

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Gaylord National Christmas!

Before we departed Washington yesterday we made a brief detour to the new Gaylord National Hotel and Resort at National Harbor.
We've long enjoyed Gaylord's Opryland complex in Nashville so we thought we'd take a peek at this newest addition to the Gaylord family.
Christmas at Opryland is dazzling beyond belief and you'll get a taste of that same spectacular Christmas at Gaylord National.
The centerpiece of Gaylord's celebration is the incredible Tree of Light (pictured). Standing 60 feet tall, weighing 7,000 pounds and made of synthetic glass, this one-of-a-kind tree is a work of art. Comprised of 110 individual hand-formed pieces of holly leaves and berries, the glass tree glows brilliantly from within, casting a festive mood throughout the atrium. The tree is actually suspended above the atrium and seems to literally float in the sky, It's a must see!
As you look up in Gaylord's giant atrium you will also be amazed at the Light-Cicles. These 50- to 150-foot-long sparkling icicles, accented by 100-foot gold ribbons, hang overhead and brilliantly light the ceiling of the 20-story atrium.
The Brightest Star features the classic Christmas story, choreographed with dancing water, whimsical lighting, fog and other special effects, also in the atrium.
And on selected evenings a 100 voice choir performs in a 40 minute show featuring favorite carols and songs. On top of all this, it actually snows nightly inside the atrium on Holiday Lane.
All of these treats and programs are available to hotel guests and day visitors and all of the events which I've just described are free.
The world-class Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center covers 41.7 acres along the banks of the Potomac River in Prince George's County, Maryland. Situated at the foot of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, Gaylord National lies just off I-95 on the Capital Beltway at the I-295 interchange. Located eight miles due south of Washington, D.C., the resort hotel is just 15 minutes away from our nation's capital

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Great Hotel

When it opened in the middle of the Boom Boom Years of the 1980s (America's modern Golden Age) the Grand Hyatt Washington was an instant landmark.
We were there for the opening weekend bash and we've been returning ever since.
Over the years Hyatt has updated and adapted the Grand Hyatt Washington. So, when you walk in today it's just as exciting as it was 20 years ago. Indeed, the spectacular atrium lobby and airy, spacious surroundings welcome you to a property that lives up to its first name and does honor to its surname.
Today, the large, comfortable rooms are done in a a sleek, tailored, understated style -- much like a modern boutique hotel, only richer and less spare. When we arrived in our room a selection of Washington area goodies including Virginia peanuts, sun dried cherries and Gifford's soft vanilla caramels awaited us. This is just another one of those "Hyatt touches" that make such a delightful difference when you stay at a Hyatt. The plush, king sized pillowtop bed was easy to take too. And, the spacious, well-lit bathroom and wonderful Portico Spa toiletries are added pluses.
Many hotels grow old after only a few years.
It takes hard work to maintain a great property and keep it looking and feeling great.
The Grand Hyatt Washington sets the standard: great staff, beautiful property, warm, friendly service, wonderful accommodations!

Favorite DC Restaurant

While we were in Washington we dined at Old Ebbitt, the oldest saloon in the nation's capital.
Established in 1856, it was a favorite of Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Harding and Theodore Roosevelt and is still a popular meeting spot for political insiders, journalists, celebrities and theater-goers. Its Beaux-Arts facade, mahogany and velvet booths and bars set in marble, brass and beveled glass are Washington at its finest, and The Oyster Bar at Old Ebbitt is D.C.'s most famous.
About a block from the White House, Old Ebbitt has been a favorite of ours for a long, long time.
At Christmas the restaurant is beautifully decorated and usually jam-packed as it was on Friday evening. The bar, the glorious main dining room and the adjacent rooms were all packed as was the lower private dining room. Reservations are a must at Old Ebbitt but if you make your plans early, you won't be disappointed.
We sat in the main room and the atmosphere was busy, loud and festive.
We enjoyed icy vodka martinis, traditional New England clam chowder, legendary crab cakes, rock fish, coffee and a butterscotch brownie sundae dessert that consisted of a chewy warm brownie surrounded by vanilla sauce and topped with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and fresh made whipped cream.
Everything was wonderful.
And all of this will cost you less than $100. per couple, tax and tip included.
But don't go for the tariff (though it is appealing).
And don't go for the atmosphere (though it is suitably elegant and unique with real, working gas lamps).
And don't go for the service (though it is professional and very efficient).
No -- go for the food. Because the food is Great American Food cooked just as you like it.
And while you're there you may also see some famous power brokers. In prior visits, for example, we've spotted the likes of Teddy Kennedy and Newt Gingrich.
Bottom Line: If you haven't been to Old Ebbitt, you haven't been to Washington.

White House Christmas

We've just returned from a quick trip to the nation's capital where we participated in a Christmas Home Tour.
And since we were in Washington, we knew there was only one home to visit.
So, we can report to you that the White House looks absolutely beautiful this Christmas.
Thanks to First Lady Laura Bush and the White House Historical Association, the White House staff and so very many tireless volunteers the White House dazzles with a "Red White and Blue Christmas." It's such a fittng theme!
We were lucky to be invited to see the White House decorations this year and we were ushered into the nation's most famous home early this morning for a tour.
This year's White House Christmas tree is an 18 1/2-foot Fraser fir. It's one of the most beautiful White House treeas we've ever seen. All of the many trees in the White House are real. And, the state floor is adorned with red beads, blue bells, silver stars and garlands.
More details on this year's White House Christmas:
-- The decorations were assembled by 92 volunteers.
-- Farmers from North Carolina provided 27 trees to the White House.
-- The White House is decorated with 780 feet of garlands, 282 wreaths and 412 poinsettias.
-- The gingerbread White House features replicas of the Bush family pets sitting in a rooftop sleigh and cookies resembling the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. The house took more than two months to make, 350 pounds of chocolate and 150 sheets of gingerbread. It doesn't look at all like a gingerbread house because it is covered in white chocolate.
-- The official White House Christmas tree is adorned with 369 handcrafted ornaments made by artists representing states and congressional districts.
-- The president and first lady sent out 1,250,000 Christmas cards and, yes we did receive one of those cards, just as we have nearly every year since 2000.
As we were leaving the White House we chatted with visitors from Texas who said they will be sorry to see their fellow Texan vacate the grand old house. And we all agreed that First Lady Laura Bush has been one of the best First Ladies ever.
This much seems clear: We won't be back to the White House for at least four years.
We don't expect any invitations and we're not looking to return until 2012 at the earliest.
So, we will treasure these wonderful memories.
And, God willing, we will be back.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Party Season Begins!

Honorees Judge Anne E. Lazaras and Mitchell Klevan (center) accept the Ben Levy Community Service Award at the Brandeis Law Society's Chanukah Party in Philadelphia last night. Joining Lazaras and Klevan were Brandeis Chancellor Lou Podel (right) and Brandeis Executive Committee Member Mayer Horowitz (left).
Last night's event began a round of holiday parties in the city and gave us the opportunity to say hello to so many legal luminaries including: Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor-elect Sayde Ladov; former Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellors Mark Aronchick, Alan Gordon and Larry Beaser; Judges Lou Presenza, Sandra Mazer Moss, Denis Cohen, Ida Chen and Marlene Lachman as well as newly-appointed federal court Judge Joel Slomsky. We also chatted with David Ladov, Lou Fryman, soon-to-be Philadelphia Bar Association Vice Chancellor Rudy Garcia, Arnold Machles, Adam Laver, George Newman and the wonderful new President Judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Pamela Dembe.
But we couldn't stay at the Brandeis event too long because we had to hurry over to the big White and Williams Christmas Party at the nearby Westin Hotel. There we were welcomed by our old friend Merritt Cole and we also saw former Philadelphia Bar Association Chancellor (and legendary Philadelphia lawyer) Joe Foster.
The White and Williams party is always one of the best events of its type and this year was no exception. We enjoyed baked macaroni with crabmeat, steamship rounds of beef and succulent fresh carved turkey as well as a variety of Asian delights -- appropriate since W&W now does a good deal of business in China. And of course the bountiful open bar kept pouring well past the official party "closing" hour.
On top of it all, we continued to run into lawyer friends on the street where we had the chance to say hello to Joe Crawford and Jerry Spivak.
It was a wonderful evening, full of dear friends and happy memories!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thanks, Chris Christie!

Christopher Christie has been an outstanding U. S. Attoney for New Jersey.
And he certainly deserves our praise and gratitude.
But I can't say it any better than New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Tom Kean. Here's what Kean (and others) have to say:
On Monday, Chris Christie finished his term as United States Attorney for the State of New Jersey. During the seven years Chris has served us, he has made New Jersey a safer place, a cleaner place and a better place for New Jersey families.
Public officials from both parties were prosecuted for corruption, 132 were convicted, and not one was acquitted. Corporate executives who cheated their companies and hurt their workers were successfully prosecuted. Terrorist plots were busted. It truly is a remarkable record of accomplishment for the State of New Jersey.
As an elected official, a resident of our great state - and as a friend - I want to thank Chris for his exceptional service.
Also from Senator Tom Kean, here are snippets from some of the editorials that have praised Chris Christie's record:
"Christie stands out as of one of the most active and successful of them all (US Attorneys)." — Star Ledger 11/18
"Christie has already done more good for New Jersey than some previous Governors...Christie's blitzkrieg helped create an environment where once-impossible reforms became possible." — Phila. Inquirer 11/25
"...Christie got results. And he did it in a state where a procession of state attorneys general have done virtually nothing to tackle public corruption." — Courier Post 11/30
"...capable and productive...was as bipartisan as he was dogged."— NY Post 11/23
"All New Jerseyans owe him a huge debt of gratitude for refusing to accept this state's sleazy status quo...has been central to the wave of reforms that have swept Trenton and is slowly spreading to county and local levels."— Bergen Record 11/19
I'm proud to join with Senator Kean in saying: "Thank you, Chris Christie! Let us hope and pray that New Jersey appreciates your service and turns to you again in the future."

Welcoming The World!

Hello Dublin, Ireland and Red Deer, Canada and London, England and Thunder Bay, Canada and New Dehli, India and Prague, Czech Republic and Ehlerange, Luxembourg and Ankara, Turkey and Waterloo, Canada and Brighton, England. Visitors from all of these towns and cities have come to our blog just within the past few days.
In fact, this blog has welcomed visitors from every continent!
And hello Columbus, Ohio and Hendersonville, Tennessee and Salem Oregon and Bloomingdale, Illinois and Rochester, New York and Carrollton Michigan and Easton, Maryland and Minneapolis, Minnesota and Selingsgrove, Pennsylvania and Bellevue, Washington and Austin, Texas and St. Louis, Missouri and South Gardiner, Maine and Springfield, Massachusetts and Miami, Florida and Chicago, Illinois (Is that you, Barack?)
We welcome everyone and encourage your comments and participation.
And while you're here, participate in our exclusive online poll which you'll find at the top right hand corner of this page.

Senator Knocks Corzine

New Jersey State Senator Gerald Cardinale has responded to reports that Governor Jon Corzine has paid a huge settlement to prevent the public disclosure of the unusual circumstances under which Rocco Riccio was dismissed from a string of patronage positions in which he was placed. Riccio was reportedly paid $362,500 in late-September after threatening to sue Corzine and make public the terms of his employment and eventual termination from a pair of taxpayer and tollpayer funded positions.
“Governor Corzine has once again opened his personal checkbook to prevent those with inside knowledge of his dealings from talking to the public,” said Cardinale. “By paying off Riccio, Corzine has prevented him from publicly discussing how he obtained two patronage positions or detailing the alleged improper political research he performed on taxpayer time.”
According to published reports, Riccio was asked to resign his position at the New Jersey Department of Human Services after allegations were made public that he had improperly looked at the tax returns of political enemies. Corzine then placed Riccio into another patronage position at the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, where he resigned after just two weeks and continued media scrutiny.
“On the same day that Governor Corzine hikes tolls on the Parkway and Turnpike, we are again reminded that the Turnpike Authority is a favored patronage pit for use by the Corzine Administration,” said Cardinale. “Maybe if Corzine had worked as hard to protect taxpayers and tollpayers as he does to protect guys like Rocco Riccio, hardworking commuters would not have to pay more at the toll booth today.”
The $362,500 paid to Riccio was not the first payout he received from Corzine. Following his resignation from the Turnpike Authority, Corzine admitted to paying his “friend” Riccio $10,000. Riccio is also the brother-in-law of Corzine ex-girlfriend Carla Katz, who received a reported $6 million payout from the Governor following their break-up.
“We knew that something didn’t smell right after the first $10,000 payout, and another $362,500 later, this whole situation just stinks,” added Cardinale. “The public deserves the details of Corzine’s $6 million payout to Katz and the nearly $400,000 paid to her brother-in-law. More importantly, it’s time for an official investigation into these matters to ensure that laws weren’t broken and that taxpayers are protected.”

Best Christmas Songs

In no particular order, here are ten of the best (and most original) Christmas songs I know:
This Christmas - This song has been getting more airplay in recent years. There are two good versions; one by Harry Connick, Jr. and another by Danny Hathaway.
Goin Home For Christmas - This haunting piece by Merle Haggard summons up so much feeling. It's a perfect pastiche.
Santa Baby - Don't buy any updated versions. Trust only the original by Eartha Kitt.
Christmas In Dixie and Santa Claus (I Still Believe In You) - Both by Alabama and both on Alabama's first (red) Christmas album. These are two of the best songs and this is one of the best Christmas albums you will ever find.
Christmas Was Made For Children - I really like the Mel Torme version on his album, Christmas Songs.
Christmas in New Orleans and Christmas Night In Harlem - Both feature the great Louis Armstrong with the Benny Carter Orchestra. Check them out on The Best of Louis Armstrong and Friends, The Christmas Collection.
When It's Christmas Time In Texas - By King George himself, George Strait. Full of wonderful imagery!
New York City Christmas - By the Cover Girls. This may be hard to find but it's got plenty of high energy. It turns up on a lot of compilation albums.
As you can see I like Christmas songs that evoke certain times and places.
That's because Christmas is a time for memories, dreams and imagination.
And these songs trigger memories, enrich dreams and enliven imaginations.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Help A Needy Kid!

“Danger Season” for children is here. It’s when temperatures drop and needy and abandoned children face endless cold nights without the warmth of a parent’s love and warm pajamas in which to snuggle. That’s why Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT) and its 39 malls have partnered with the national non-profit Pajama Program to deliver warm sleepwear and nurturing books to tens of thousands of children who until now have done without.
Throughout the holidays, shoppers can donate new pairs of pajamas or new books at each of PREIT’s 39 malls and the Pajama Program will deliver them to local children in need. The goal of Operation PJ Pile Up: 25,000 new pajamas and 2,500 new books for toddlers through teens from Monday, November 10 through Wednesday, December 31. Visit to find a PREIT mall near you.
“Children are most vulnerable during this time of year,” says Genevieve Piturro, founder and Executive Director of the Pajama Program. “We’re grateful PREIT has sought out our organization and supports our efforts to help children, especially during these troubling times. The need is especially great for pajamas and books for older children.”
Since 2001, the Pajama Program has provided more than 213,000 pajamas and books to children nationwide. Today, it has 73 chapters in 42 states nationwide. For more information visit

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Vote In Our Poll

You almost never hear the word "Christmas" anymore.
That's because Christmas has been secularized and homogenized into something called "the holidays" or "the season" as in Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings.
The Christmas that many of us once knew is gone - banished from the town square and barely visible in any public setting.
Who killed Christmas?
We want everyone to vote in our poll and tell us.
You can find the poll at the top right of this page.
Vote today!

Aunt Blabby Strikes Again

Aunt Blabby (aka Chris Matthews) came to Camden last night and couldn't resist mouthing off about Bush and Palin.
Apparently, the Blabberino loves it when you challenge him with dares like: "How low can you go, Chris?"
About Palin, Aunt Blabby said she's "a demonstration, in a weird way, of the importance of education."
And comparing George W. Bush to his father, Matthews opined: "Boy, does he look good compared to you-know-who. So much for human development and evolution."
Of course, this Blabbermouth should know about failed presidencies first hand since he was a speech-writer for one of the worst presidents of the 20th century, Jimmy Carter. Aside from the monologue where Carter said we were suffering from a malaise and blamed our problems on the American people, can anyone remember anything from any speech delivered by Jimmy Carter. Anything?
And what is is about Matthews that leads him back to ad hominem again and again?

Hugh Who?

A certain loquacious Philadelphia radio personality (who will be more than happy to tell you who he is) says the name "Hugh Jackman" just doesn't register with him.
"Who is this guy?" he asks. "And why is he the sexiest man alive?"
Can you believe this?
Here's a guy who can only hope to be one-hundredth of a percent as famous as Jackman and he's complaining about why we ought to know who Hugh Jackman is. And, he's also perpetuating the image of Philadelphia as insular, out-of-touch and downright clueless.
Maybe it's all a big joke.
Maybe he's actually hoping Jackman will come on his show to clear things up.
Well, Jackman is promoting his new film, Australia.
But Jackman doesn't really have to do much publicity since People magazine is happy to give him pretty much all the publicity he needs right now.
Who is Hugh Jackman?
Ask any woman alive.