Friday, January 30, 2009
This is Sam Epstein. He is my first cousin, once removed, and he was born at 4:36 yesterday afternoon in Atlanta, Georgia. Within an hour and fifteen minutes, his father - my first cousin, Mike - had posted the news on his Facebook page, and within an hour of that, there were pictures posted of the baby and more than 20 "mazel tov" greetings on Mike's Facebook page. (There have been dozens more posted since then, along with more photos.)
Big deal, you say? E-mail has made all of that possible for years, you say? Yes, that is correct. But the beautiful thing about this happy experience is that it was shared simultaneously with friends and family, all connected from across the country, and all celebrating TOGETHER on one page on Facebook. A shared digital experience - one that no one needed directions to find.
What makes this even more special is that I was able to experience the moment with both of my sisters in Maryland, my aunt in Virginia, and three of my other first cousins (from three separate parents) in Florida, Chicago and South Carolina all at the same time. And these cousins (and aunt) are people who I usually see one day a year, on Thanksgiving - and that's assuming everyone shows up!
In the past couple of months, I have gradually added all of these relatives - and others - to my Facebook family, and I have suddenly discovered that I am getting to know them all much better than by merely seeing them one day a year. We have conversations on line. I am learning what they like and dislike - what they do in their spare time - what frustrates them at work - and what their real life goals and dreams are.
After I posted my latest "Random List" on Facebook, my cousin Sarah, who is about 18 years younger than me, wrote this response:
"John Matthews... it makes me sad that we weren't same generation cousins.... I guess we'll just have to make up for it now that we're both adults!"
Facebook is actually turning my "one day a year" family into an "everyday" family, without all of the accompanied dysfunctional crap that usually goes along with spending too much time with your relatives. (All of you relatives reading this - you know I mean it only in the most loving way!) I even have one relative who totally wigs out at speaking to other family members - who is now having chats with other family members!
If this is happening with my family - with people ranging in age from 25 to 60 - it is certainly happening everywhere else, too. And no matter how cynical you are (and few are more cynical than me!), how can it be a bad thing to get to know and love your loved ones a little more?
Mazel tov to Mike and Mom, Lenea... and to Grandma Susie and Grandad David! I'm happy to know I won't have to wait until next Thanksgiving to see how little "Sam-I-Am" is growing, because I - or I should say, the Matthews family - have Facebook to keep us up to date together!
Thursday, January 29, 2009
1. I once interviewed Ben Affleck on the deck of an aircraft carrier in Hawaii, at the World Premiere of "Pearl Harbor", but my career highlight was covering Hurricane Floyd in 1999. I reported through the storm in Wilmington, NC, which was an adrenaline high, but then got caught while driving home, when high water closed I-95 - and I was stranded for three days!
2. I love my car - a 1997 Honda Civic that I bought new. It has 110,000 miles on it, and I aim to put another 100,000 on it, or perhaps give it to my son, who turns 16 in another year. The car has been paid off for 8 years and gets nearly 30 miles to the gallon. The only downside - no CD player - cassette only. Am I the only person left making mix tapes???
3. I plan to have my ashes scattered in the Seven Seas Lagoon at Walt Disney World. My wife meant it as a joke when she suggested it about 15 years ago, but I took her seriously. Now it's the plan. You're all invited!
4. I have really enjoyed reconnecting with so many people on Facebook. I've especially enjoyed trading daily banter with people who I largely knew only by name or by face back in high school, but whom I was not particularly friends with. I now regret not knowing you "back in the day". You know who you are!
5. Facebook, for me, is turning into "Six Degrees of Sue Raider-Kobren". Since joining Facebook, I have learned that Sue - who I went to Jr. high and high school with - worked as a teenager with a woman who I later hired at WMAL (Joan Doniger) and who has since become one of my closest friends. Sue and I have also learned - through Facebook - that our sons not only go to the same camp, but that they also were in "West Side Story" together at camp last summer!
6. My oldest friend (the oldest friend who I never fell out of contact with) is someone I met in my freshman year of college at Syracuse. We sang in choir together, and he introduced me to my future wife, who was his childhood friend. Jon was in our wedding, and is the Godfather of our oldest son. He also has a VERY cool life today. He's co-executive producer of "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit", and he's living the "life" in L.A.
7. You might have noticed by now - My brand of sarcastic humor sometimes crosses the obnoxious line. I regret when this happens.
8. As a result of number 7, I tend to care too much about pleasing people to compensate for being obnoxious - which, I suppose, is - in itself - obnoxious. Well - at least you've been warned!
9. There are a few people whose Facebook friendship requests I have ignored that I now regret ignoring, and I may just have to go back and "friend" them myself.
10. I love to vacation with my wife and kids, but I have been to Las Vegas alone several times and had a perfectly wonderful time all by myself!
11. With the exception of about 2 months in 1996, I have never worked a "9 to 5" schedule in my entire career, and the reason I stopped that "9 to 5" schedule in '96 was because I couldn't stand the traffic! For the most part, I've worked approximately 5 am - 2 pm, and I've loved it! No traffic, and the stores are empty when I get off work!
12. My relationship with my father is classic Harry Chapin. Just read the lyrics to "Cat and the Cradle", and you'll see what I mean. And I don't know how to fix it.
13. I was stopped once by a cop for speeding on the Big Island of Hawaii. When he looked at my license, he asked me what high school I went to, and I told him "Springbrook". He told me he went to "Richard Montgomery". Turns out Alex the Big Island cop was from Rockville. I did not get a ticket. LOVE that aloha spirit!
14. I enjoy planning vacations more than I enjoy going on them. I can be pretty obsessive. Last summer, before the missus and I went to Las Vegas, I managed to cut the cost of our rental car in half, simply by re-booking it 7 times in the last month before the trip. (There's a tip for future reference - always check on rental car prices, even after you've booked - they often fall!)
15. I used to take public education for granted until my wife became a school teacher. She works harder than anyone I know - and she spends hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars a year on her classroom for materials that neither the county nor the parents are paying for. You want to make your kids' teacher happy? Give her a Staples gift card!
16. I love Broadway musicals - and I'll go anywhere to see them! I saw a high school version of "Les Miz" last spring that knocked my socks off!
17. I don't consider myself to be particularly "green" or an environmentalist. I'm certainly NOT a vegan or vegetarian, and all of my shoes are leather. But I am, for some strange reason, anti-fur, much to my wife's occasional consternation. I just don't see, in this day and age with a big range of other attractive and warm materials available, the need to raise animals just so their fur can be harvested.
18. I spent about a year in high school being what was then commonly known as a "Jesus freak". I made new born-again friends, went to prayer meetings before school, went to Young Life meetings at night and tried to toe the line for Jesus. Ultimately, it didn't take, BUT it did do two vitally important things. First - it helped me cope with my mother's death. And second - it gave me a spiritual awareness and education that has stayed with me my entire life.
19. My "desert island" food is Ledo Pizza. My "desert island" movie is "Blazing Saddles". My desert island book is "The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook". I'm a pragmatist at heart.
20. Time to brag on my son, Brad. He is smart to a fault. He can get straight A's in school without trying, and that's his biggest downfall. The kid doesn't think he has to try, and he'll turn a slam dunk A into an almost-B because he'll ace the final exam, but forget to turn in half of his homework.
21. My Monopoly rules include keeping 500 bucks in the middle of the game board, to be won whenever someone lands on free parking.
22. Earlier this year, I discovered that the one cassette tape of music I owned from my college choir days had dissolved to mud. So I hunted down about 35 of my former college choirmates, launched a website for them, and invited them to send me their music. Now I have copies of every song I ever sang in college - and thanks to the website (http://www.hendrickschapelchoiralumni.com/), so do all of my choir friends!
23. I haven't really done it in several years, but one of my favorite summer pastimes is finding a spot on a boardwalk bench in Ocean City or Rehoboth, and watch people walk by. There's million stories on the boardwalk - most of them seemingly wrapped around teenage lust.
24. When I was in high school, I worked as an usher at the Roth Silver Spring theatre in downtown Silver Spring. It was the perfect high school job... Free movies, all the popcorn and soda you could down, and time between the shows to do homework! I also got about 15 of my friends jobs there - including at least a couple of my Facebook friends!
25. I've worked construction, I've covered hurricanes, and I've swept popcorn and soda off of rugs. But the hardest job I ever had was working at Hecht's in the domestics department. Standing on your feet and folding towels for hours on end is painful and tedious. And the after Thanksgiving sales? Fuggedaboudit!
This concludes this tour of the inside of my navel. My time is up. I thank you for yours!
The coffee retailer said on Wednesday that it would shut 300 more “underperforming” locations – 100 of them outside the US – after a 9 per cent fall in comparable sales in the last three months of 2008. It announced a first wave of 600 US store closures last summer.
The move will result in about 6,000 job losses, while an additional 700 corporate and support jobs will also be cut – half of them at its Seattle headquarters.
Howard Schultz, chief executive, said that since early December the company had seen a far more rapidly deteriorating global economy than it had expected before the holidays.
“The data shows that by virtually all statistical measures the pace of weakening in the business environment and global economy we were anticipating has been accelerating,” he said.
Mr Schultz has asked for his salary to be cut to less than $10,000 – from more than $1.2m previously – and the company is selling two of its three corporate jets, including a Gulfstream 500 delivered in December.
US comparable stores sales fell 10 per cent during the quarter, as fewer customers spent less on their visits.
International comparable sales also turned negative for the first time, with the biggest slowdowns seen in the UK and Canada, its two largest international markets. Starbucks has about 670 company-owned stores in Britain, and around 7,000 in the US.
The company said that it was also further reducing its planned new store openings in 2009, with 140 new US stores, down from its previous target of 200, and 170 new international stores, down from a previous target of 270. It is also cutting back on plans for new licensed stores.
The date was September 8, 1993. I was at a pretty good place in life. I was the morning drive news reporter at WMAL and living in Silver Spring with my wife of three years, Robin. Robin and I had been living in our brand-new townhouse behind Leisure World for just under a year, and we were looking forward to the birth of our first child, who was due sometime around Thanksgiving. We were scheduled, in fact, to start Lamaze classes the following week.
Robin had a pretty rough day at work - not so much because of her job, per se, but because she just didn't feel good. Pregnancy did not agree with my wife. She never did quite get rid of her morning sickness, and she had been diagnosed with pregancy-onset diabetes, which meant she had to test her blood several times a day. Mama wasn't a happy mama! When Robin got home, she complained of feeling like she had to go to the bathroom, but that wasn't it. A call to the obstatrician confirmed that my seven-month-pregnant wife was likely in labor.
We took a drive over to Shady Grove Adventist Hospital to get Robin checked out, under the assumption that they would stop the labor and send her back home. But by the time we got to Shady Grove, it was too late to stop the baby. He or she was coming!
My brave wife allowed herself about 30 seconds of grief before she set her mind to the next task at hand - undergoing natural childbirth without a minute of training for it, We were taken to a private delivery room to await the unknown.
A couple of minutes later, a nurse came in, and introduced herself - "Hello, my name is Sue". I took one look at her, and smiled. "Susan Berenter! It's been a long time!" I had gone to school with Sue Berenter all the way from Kindergarten at Cresthaven through graduation at Springbrook. We had never been close friends, but you don't share schools with someone for 13 years without having at least some sort of bond.
As Sue and I quickly caught up on old times - what I was doing for a living, how long she'd been a nurse, etc., we heard a groan. Oh yes... Robin.
I introduced Sue to my wife, and Sue snapped instantly into professional mode. She did a great job of calming mother and father down, and giving us the five-cent Lamase "pant, pant, blow" course in about ten minutes. Then she went about doing what nurses do before a woman gives birth... Setting up warming trays and machines that go "BING" and all of that other good stuff - all the while encouraging Robin and keeping her calm.
I don't know if every childbirth goes like this, but it did for both of our kids. The nurse does everything until it's time for the Mom to push. Then - and only then - the doctor comes in and basically catches the baby. It was great having Sue as our delivery nurse, even if the reunion was in front of my wife's gaping ... uh, well... you know. It was comforting to me to have a familiar face in the room to help us in a situation we had not expected. And it was comforting to Robin to have someone who was so good at what she did. Sue was a real pro!
Bradley Philip Matthews was born at 1:49am on September 9, 1993 - two months premature, but at 4 pounds, 9 ounces and 18 inches in length, still quite big for his gestational age. Brad was in the hospital for two weeks and had to wear a breathing monitor for six months, but beyond that, he was a real trooper! And we have Susan Berenter to thank for that!
Thanks, Sue - Wherever you are!
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
For the first time ever, we have a guest blogger on "Life On The Beach". My WMAL protege, Jen Richer, who launched me into the blogosphere, wrote this entry for her excellent blog, Wahine Report, and I'm stealing it because I endorse its sentiment completely! Enjoy!
Will someone explain decaf to me? No seriously...it's hard for an addict to understand why you would waste a perfectly good bevie....so what's the point?
Apparently you no-caffers are going to throw a temper tantrum with this new development from the Coffee Kings and I can't imagine what level of rioting to expect, but I can't imagine it to be a very energetic one.
Starbucks Ditches Decaf
(Seattle, WA) -- Starbucks is ditching decaf in an effort to save money. The cash-strapped company brews fresh pots of coffee every 30 minutes and was apparently pouring a lot of decaf down the drain. As of noon today, customers who want to have "coffee without coffee" will have to special order their custom cup of java and it'll be fresh brewed just for them. Bloomberg news says Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is trying to save 400-million-dollars by September in labor and product expenses. Part of that plan includes brewing smaller pots of coffee so there's less waste.
About a month ago, Linds and I bought the Costco size bag of Dunkin' Donuts coffee grounds and I have to say I have been completely spoiled. The coffee is amazing and as a caffeine addict I know my beans.
In an effort to save money, I bought over the weekend the Costco size Maxwell House and let me tell you, it was anything but 'good to the last drop.'
Regardless, I downed it so I could function at 5 this morning at the station to help with the weather closings, but that baby is headed right back to be exchanged for the yummie stuff.
So I have to ask, why would anyone drink decaf? It's not for the taste or connoisseurship. Decaffeinated beans are regular coffee beans that have been processed and stripped of their caffeine, but with it go some of the chemicals that contribute to aroma and flavor.
Wikipedia: The process is usually performed on unroasted (green) beans, and starts with steaming of the beans. They are then rinsed in solvent that contains as much of the chemical composition of coffee as possible without also containing the caffeine in a soluble form. The process is repeated anywhere from 8 to 12 times until it meets either the international standard of having removed 97% of the caffeine in the beans or the EU standard of having the beans 99.9% caffeine free by mass. Coffee contains over 400 chemicals important to the taste and aroma of the final drink; this effectively means that no physical process or chemical reaction will remove only caffeine while leaving the other chemicals at their original concentrations.
And, you obviously aren't drinking it for the side effect of a nice energy jolt. Is it for it's temperature or texture? If so, why wouldn't you opt for a tasty bev like cocoa?
Not like this affects me personally, but since you're reading this, you are going to get my opinion anyway: I think it may time to grow up and grab a real cup o' joe folks.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Monday, January 26, 2009
I ran across something on the internet today that was just such a family treasure in my youth... A song from an old 1966 comedy album of my mother's called "When You're In Love, The Whole World Is Jewish". Now, this album had an ensemble cast of mostly Jewish comics, including Phil Leeds, Lou Jacobi and a very young Valerie Harper - better known as TV's "Rhoda". It was largely a collection of skits featuring Jewish jokes.
How my parents came to own this album is beyond me, because my Dad was a hillbilly from Ohio and my Mom was from God-forsaken Indiana, and I'm pretty sure neither of them had ever met a Jew before they moved to the DC area in 1962... but I digress.
The biggest hit on this album was a song by Frank Gallop called "The Ballad of Irving". Irving was a Jewish gunslinger - "the 142nd fastest gun in the west" - and this song tells his tale. Please indulge me and listen to the song. Pay no attention at all to the video - it's lousy and will only distract you.
The song itself is full of Jewish stereotypes and would not come close to passing the political correctness sniff test in 2009. However, it still packs a few good chuckles, and, for me, brings back memories of childhood... Laughing my arse off with my hip Mom over jokes that I would not fully get until I was an adult married to a Jewish princess of my own!
"You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," he told top GOP leaders, whom he had invited to the White House to discuss his nearly $1 trillion stimulus package.
One White House official confirmed the comment but said he was simply trying to make a larger point about bipartisan efforts.
"There are big things that unify Republicans and Democrats," the official said. "We shouldn't let partisan politics derail what are very important things that need to get done."
A tricky game – and one that Rush probably can’t lose at. He’s getting that “made you look!” kind of attention that he and his base dearly love. While new President Obama will have to do this very delicately, to make it clear to most Americans that he’s talking about Limbaugh’s old-style partisanship and its receding relevance. Otherwise – Obama could get mired in the same-old “vast right-wing conspiracy” riff that made Hillary Clinton an object of hilarity among movement conservatives. But Obama’s clearly thought about it and on his third full day in office he advised Republicans that they “can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done” with the new administration. Of course Rush doesn’t want to “get along” – he wants to throw rocks at the White House.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Season five of LOST (the best show on TV) debuted last night on ABC, and I devoured it eagerly! It was virtually the first new thing on my TiVo since the middle of December when the first half of the TV season dried up for the holidays.
The season premiere was a 2-hour event packed full of new twists and turns, and I would love to tell you all about it, but I have already been waved off by some of my Facebook friends who have yet to watch it. Here's how the exchange went, starting with my status update:
John is still trying to wrap his head around last night's episode of LOST! 7:07am
Claire Meyerhoff at 7:28am January 22
Do not say another word! It's on my DVR and I haven't seen it yet!
John Matthews at 7:32am January 22
Claire - I'm not doing any spoilers this morning, but if you want to avoid them, I'd log off NOW. This place is rife with LOST fans!
Ann Wog at 7:32am January 22
John Matthews at 7:32am January 22
Is it a spoiler to say it was GREAT, by the way?
Claire Meyerhoff at 7:36am January 22
I'm going to watch it with my coffee instead of watching Morning Joe!
Don't worry, folks - I am not going to spoil anyone's day just yet, but it kind of makes me chuckle over how the fast-changing digital world we live in today has really changed the way things are done.
Back in the day, TV shows were the top watercooler topic at school and in the office... People couldn't wait to get to work to share thoughts about what happened on their favorite shows the night before. Now, it's the exact opposite... Someone will want to strike up a conversation about LOST or "American Idol", and they'll be stopped dead in their tracks by someone who has the show waiting for them on their DVR at home!
So now, there is apparently an embargo on discussing anything on television... I know this has been a point of contention in talk radio, where the hosts need to be current and timely - especially in morning drive. How can these hosts wait an extra day to discuss what was on TV the night before? The thing is - they can't! So if you missed last night's TV show, you need to miss this morning's radio program and stick to the ipod. Bad business for radio!
So how long is the appropriate chat ban on a popular TV program? I would think that it's certainly no longer than 24 hours, though your mileage may vary.
Ironically, just as we're building this "24-hour" delay into the social fabric, our world of social media has completely erased the concept of waiting to strike up a conversation with friends. Why wait until the next morning when you can text your reaction to a friend tonight, or get on Facebook and post your reaction on your wall?
Because you'll get messages from your time-shifting TV watching friends telling you to shut up, that's why!
So I won't chat what happened on LOST last night, but I will play a cool clip from the episode. Click on it at your peril! And buy a TiVo - the greatest invention EVER!
WASHINGTON – After the flub heard around the world, President Barack Obama has taken the oath of office. Again. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the oath to Obama on Wednesday night at the White House — a rare do-over. The surprise moment came in response to Tuesday's much-noticed stumble, when Roberts got the words of the oath a little off, which prompted Obama to do so, too.
Don't worry, the White House says: Obama has still been president since noon on Inauguration Day.
Nevertheless, Obama and Roberts went through the drill again out of what White House counsel Greg Craig called "an abundance of caution."
This time, the scene was the White House Map Room in front of a small group of reporters, not the Capitol platform before the whole watching world.
"We decided that because it was so much fun ...," Obama joked to reporters who followed press secretary Robert Gibbs into the room. No TV camera crews or news photographers were allowed in. A few of Obama's closest aides were there, along with a White House photographer.
Roberts put on his black robe.
"Are you ready to take the oath?" he said.
"Yes, I am," Obama said. "And we're going to do it very slowly."
Roberts then led Obama through the oath without any missteps.
The president said he did not have his Bible with him, but that the oath was binding anyway.
The original, bungled version on Tuesday caught observers by surprise and then got replayed on cable news shows.
The Constitution is clear about the exact wording of the oath and as a result, some constitutional experts have said that a do-over probably wasn't necessary but also couldn't hurt. Two other previous presidents have repeated the oath because of similar issues, Calvin Coolidge and Chester A. Arthur.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Friday, January 16, 2009
You think this is easy for me to write? I spent 20 years taking calls from angry WMAL listeners accusing us of being biased - usually to the left. I always thought the notion was absurd - that the media was more more interested in throwing light on a story than caring which political party was exposed by that light. But times - at least from my current viewpoint - have changed.
Perhaps it's just the pretense of objectivity that has been dumped. Fox News has been accused of being a conservative think tank for years, but I think it took MSNBC's glaring and deliberate lack of objectivity during the 2008 presidential campaign to really show where the media has gone. Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann not only showed their political stripes - they essentially dared anyone to challenge their right to do so. MSNBC at one point stopped using the pair as "anchors", and relabeled them as "commentators", but that pretense was dropped by last night, when Olbermann was back in the anchor chair for the President's speech.
But cable TV news is one thing... Now the Washington Post has basically thrown in the towel. Yes - it's making an effort to feign neutrality in the "A" section... But just take a stroll back to the Style section, where they are giddy with both the arrival of Obama, and the departure of Bush. TV critic Tom Shales could barely contain his glee at the President's farewell speech:
A President's Parting Words: Convincing, at Least, to Himself
By Tom Shales
Friday, January 16, 2009; C01
Only his remaining ardent supporters would probably classify last night's TV appearance by President Bush as reality television. On the other hand, detractors -- a sizable group, judging by popularity polls -- would likely say George W. Bush's farewell to the nation, delivered from the East Room of the White House, had the aura of delusion and denial.
You can read Shales' entire column here. You'll see him give credence to Mssrs. Olbermann and Matthews, and make the argument that the speech may have been Mr. Bush's best, if only because it was his last.
Lest you think this was an isolated case - just take a look at what happened when President-elect Obama paid a visit to the Post yesterday for an interview with the paper's editorial staff - Here's the pool account by NY Times reporter Helene Cooper:
Around 100 people--Post reporters perhaps?--awaited PEOTUS's arrival, cheering and bobbing their coffee cups.
Pool is holding in a van outside, while Mr obama does his washington post interview, and will exercise enormous restraint by ending report before saying what really thinks about this turn of events.
Staffers at the Post were defensive about that description of Mr. Obama's visit, but they didn't really try to deny their revelry, either.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
And has there ever been ham-to-ham combat seen on the silver screen to match Montalban vs. Shatner in "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"? (Apologies - I couldn't find a better clip of this signature scene on youtube!)
Adios y gracias, Sr. Montalban!
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
While his policies are indeed responsible for some of our pain, they certainly are not responsible for all of it - especially on the economic front, despite my mother-in-law's assertions to the contrary.
In the end, history will decide how Dubya did in the White House, but I do want to give him kudos for one thing. George W. Bush managed to hold his head high and bring a certain level of decorum - and maturity - to his Presidency by refusing to respond to the myriad of potshots thrown his way... something his predecessor struggled with a lot. Mr. Bush discussed his philosophy on name-calling with Larry King.
If President Obama takes nothing else as a lesson from President Bush, he would do well to follow this example.
For those of you who are not in the DC area, the inauguration may not be a big honking deal - at least in terms of being a holiday. But around the DC area, more than 400,000 federal workers have the day off, along with most private businesses in downtown DC and virtually every school district in the area. So local businesses are saying "Yes We Can" to every opportunity to make a buck!
Some of you people may enjoy what you read - others may think I'm full of sh**. Don't worry about offending me, because no one knows better than me how full of sh** I am!
Becoming a blogger has been, by far, the best byproduct of losing my job last year. It has given me a reason to keep my nose in the news and to get up in the morning... and as someone whose career has been devoted to keeping an audience, it's been nice to develop an audience of my own.
I know other bloggers who write purely for themselves, and I can understand that catharsis... But I have an ego to be fed and rants to be made! And I appreciate the fact that you lend me your ears - or rather, your EYES - on a semi-regular basis! Thank you!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
The number of people leaving California for another state outstripped the number moving in from another state during the year ending on July 1, 2008. California lost a net total of 144,000 people during that period — more than any other state, according to census estimates. That is about equal to the population of Syracuse, N.Y.
The state with the next-highest net loss through migration between states was New York, which lost just over 126,000 residents.
California's loss is extremely small in a state of 38 million. And, in fact, the state's population continues to increase overall because of births and immigration, legal and illegal. But it is the fourth consecutive year that more residents decamped from California for other states than arrived here from within the U.S.
A losing streak that long hasn't happened in California since the recession of the early 1990s, when departures outstripped arrivals from other states by 362,000 in 1994 alone.
In part because of the boom in population in other Western states, California could lose a congressional seat for the first time in its history.
Why are so many looking for an exit?
Among other things: California's unemployment rate hit 8.4 percent in November, the third-highest in the nation, and it is expected to get worse. A record 236,000 foreclosures are projected for 2008, more than the prior nine years combined, according to research firm MDA DataQuick. Personal income was about flat last year.
With state government facing a $41.6 billion budget hole over 18 months, residents are bracing for higher taxes, cuts in education and postponed tax rebates. A multibillion-dollar plan to remake downtown Los Angeles has stalled, and office vacancy rates there and in San Diego and San Jose surpass the 10.2 percent national average.
Median housing prices have nose-dived one-third from a 2006 peak, but many homes are still out of reach for middle-class families. Some small towns are on the brink of bankruptcy. Normally recession-proof Hollywood has been hit by layoffs.
All of this bad news only puts California more out of reach for me, which really just makes California more of a dream. We visit California as often as possible - one of my best friends lives there, just north of Los Angeles. We have been out to visit probably a half-dozen times in the summer, when the weather is 50 percent drier and 10 degrees cooler than it is in the Mid-Atlantic.
We love that there is so much to do within an hour's drive... That Disneyland and Mexico and San Diego and even Las Vegas are nearby. San Francisco is a day-long drive, but the drive back down the coast is incredible, and you get Hearst Castle as a bonus. Monterey. Carmel. The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obsipo is the funkiest motel in the world. Every room has a different design, and the men's room has a waterfall for a urinal! You can go to the grocery store there and see a TV show being filmed in the parking lot! And perhaps most alluring of all... California is halfway to Hawaii, making an expensive and difficult trip less expensive and less difficult!
Yes, I suppose these are all things that are not essential to enjoying a quality life, and I suppose California has crushing problems that I choose to ignore, including that it's the only place in America where traffic is worse than it is where I live now. Schools are bad. Immigration, illegal and otherwise, creates an unbelievable burden on public resources. There are earthquakes and mudslides and wildfires and droughts.
I also personally know people who have been chewed up and spit out by California. My friend, Jen, loves her hometown of San Diego, but is now proud to call herself a Washingtonian(Admittedly- part of the reason Jen loves DC is that she left her family on that other coast!). I once lost an employee to California, but when I offered her her old job back a year later, she took it gladly. Even my good friend Jon, who is literally living the Hollywood dream life - swimming pools and movie stars - says he misses the fact that all of his friends and family live 3,000 miles away.
But thank goodness for the hardships that make California a difficult place to live. If it was easy to make a go of it there, then no one would want to go. For me, the sounds of the Mamas and Papas and the Beach Boys will continue to drum around in the back of my head... and I'll continue my California Dreamin'!
Monday, January 12, 2009
A big hurray for Kate Winslet winning both Best Actress for "Revolutionary Road" and Best Supporting Actress for "The Reader". Winslet is this generation's Meryl Streep - simply the best actress working today, bar none. Plus, I've had a giant crush on/obsession with her since "Titanic". "The Reader" was an excellent film, and I highly recommend it... I still have not seen "Revolutionary Road", but with Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, how can it go wrong?
It's clear that "Slumdog Millionaire" is the can't-go-wrong choice for 2009... It swept all four categories it was nominated for, including Best Drama. I did enjoy "Slumdog", but I have to tell you - it reminded me a lot of "Sideways", which was the hot film during its own awards cycle a few years back. "Sideways" was a nice light comedy - a good rental, but otherwise a formulaic movie that really did nothing to advance the art of filmmaking. In other words, it was way overrated. So is "Slumdog Millionaire", in my opinion. This rags-to-riches tale of an Indian street rat winning the grand prize on the Mumbai version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" was fun, but completely predictable.
"30 Rock", "Mad Men" and "John Adams" won the big TV awards - No surprise there - all three are fabulous in their own right.
Did I mention Kate Winslet and her twin globes?
Well, while I guess we can be thankful that there is still some sensitivity and decorum when it comes to recognizing the late civil rights leader, I can now report that there is no such sensitivity when it comes to the inauguration of our first African-American president!
This is the top half of a full page ad that was in Sunday's Washington Post. Giant Food helpfully points out that the "West Wing Platter" is also known as "Wings of Plenty". And don't forget to use your Giant Bonus Card to get back even more "Change you can believe in"!
Oh - and because it's not a party without inauguration swag - well, Giant has you covered there, too!
I wonder whether, in this spirit of cooperation, Giant Food could help me find a way to work on Inauguration day. ABC News has called, and I am expected downtown at 6 am! Metro will be jammed, and the roads will be closed! Maybe if I just sent them a "West Wing" platter, I could stay home and call it a day!
Friday, January 9, 2009
Anyway - at the time I posted my Agnew story, I did not have a photograph of him with my parents... But thanks to my sister Jill, who never throws anything away, here are my parents, Jack and Linda Matthews, with Spiro T. ("call me Ted") Agnew and his wife Judy.
How cool is this? My Dad has been involved in real estate his entire career, and he's told me stories (though none specifically about Agnew) that basically, back in the day, builders would routinely include bribes in their construction budgets. You'd have a line for lumber, one for concrete, one for nails, and one for bribes for the building inspectors and politicians who made sure you received the zoning exception that you needed.
I guess this was just regular business for ol' Ted Agnew... Guess my Dad knows what Rod Blagojevich's constituents are going through, huh?
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Still, when you mix Thompson's camera presence, political knowledge and southern drawl, he has a great way of explaining what a stinking mess our economy is in... This video is a little long, but give it a spin anyway... We have no one to blame but ourselves... Thanks, Fred!
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
As such, with this new unexpected early morning workload, you can expect my blog to be a little leaner than usual this week, filled with useless fluff like this - A 2001 clip of largely-unknown Illinois State Senator Barack Obama giving his personal review of a restaurant on Public Access TV!
Oh - and for anyone interested, you can hear me anchoring the rest of this week at 9:02, 10:02 and 11:02 am on 630 WMAL!
Monday, January 5, 2009
Just read this rather breathless account from the Washington Post:
Just off the lobby at the Hay-Adams, where a lavish $65-a-plate Sunday brunch was underway, almost none of the well-dressed diners mentioned Obama or his family already ensconced in a suite upstairs.
Don't let the cool demeanors fool you, though, said one diner. "That's what everyone's thinking about even if they don't say it," Terrance Mason said later, a safe distance from the elegant dining room. "Just to be in the same building, to be breathing the same air. It's amazing."
Since moving to the District in 1999, Mason has run into the country's three most recent presidents. So with his 40th birthday coming up yesterday, Mason made reservations at the hotel's restaurant. What better way to celebrate than to go four for four?
Even before Obama's arrival, Mason noted, the 44th president had already made his mark on the city, or at least in the dining room of the Hay-Adams.
"I come here every couple months," Mason said. "I've never seen so many fellow African Americans up there before. He's already shaking things up, you know what I mean?"
A few tables away, one local family said they were so desperate for a glimpse of the future first family that the father had reserved a table for the brunch. So, decked out in their Sunday best, Jabreel Hampton and his wife and children slowly sipped their drinks, snapped photos and prayed that Michelle Obama or one of her daughters would somehow see their table and join in their mid-morning meal.
"I was thinking, 'They got to eat,' " said Hampton, of Damascus.
But instead, his family spent most of brunch nervously working out -- in vain, it turns out -- what they would say to the famous family.
"We love you," his wife suggested.
"We're glad that you're the president," his 8-year-old daughter offered.
It's not clear how close the Hamptons and other supporters will get to the Obama family in coming days and weeks, nor how much the Obamas will see of their newly adopted city.
By last night, when Obama's black limo pulled up to the hotel about 7:30 p.m., his new home had been transformed into a secured fortress. Steel barricades lined the sidewalks. Dual layers of concrete barriers cut off all paths to the hotel. All weekend, the hotel wouldn't even confirm that the Obamas would be guests. The most a spokesman would say was that its suites offered "an especially good view in the wintertime of the White House."
When the motorcade finally passed by, some in the crowd claimed that they spotted the president-elect, clad in a navy suit and blue tie, through the limo's windows. Others, including protesters busy demanding a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, missed it entirely.
Regardless of what they saw, many said they would be telling their children and grandchildren for years to come of this day, when the man who became president spent his first night with his family in the city they would now call home.
Folks - Barack Obama does not walk on water. He is a man. A man who is about to become President during the worst economy since the Great Depression. He cannot possibly live up to the hopes and expectations of his most devoted followers if they expect him to deliver miracles. He will be lucky if he can get to ANY of his major campaign initiatives in his first term, so he'll be campaigning for a second term from day one. And you won't be helping him at all with your lofty expectations.
To put this all in perspective, take a second look at this video that I posted during the campaign:
Sunday, January 4, 2009
This is a very familiar argument to me. Back in 1994, I was front and center in covering the controversy when Disney wanted to build a theme park five miles west of the Manassas battlefield. Opponents (who were well-funded by the wealthy residents of Middleburg, Virginia) were able to win the P.R. battle and eventually get Disney to throw up the white flag, even though Disney had won all of the political battles up to that point, including support in the state leguslature.
Disney CEO Michael Eisner told me in a 1996 interview that Disney had pulled out of Virginia because it did not want to continue to fight its battles on the front page of the Washington Post, nor in the courtroom, where opponents were promising to throw legal challenges which would have delayed construction for several years.
Now here's where the soapbox comes in.
Wars happen. We're lucky they haven't happened in the United States in a long time, but they DO happen around the world, and you don't see other countries preserving their battlefields the way we try to preserve them in the U.S.! What parts of Europe are NOT built on top of battlefields? How much more land do preservationists want to preserve? And why should this land, which was nothing more than a waiting room, be preserved?
I get steamed about this because the whole Disney saga was an exercise in hypocrisy. The land opponents were fighting over was not a battlefield - it was farmland located five miles away from Manassas. Opponents complained that Disney would bring strip malls and tacky t-shirt shops to the region, even though the very road that runs adjacent to the Manassas battlefield already had strip malls, convenience stores, and ironically, a huge Walmart less than a mile away.
"Disney's America" would have provided Prince William County with an industry and a tax base. Instead, Prince William largely continues its role as a bedroom community - a place where people go to sleep, but go to work some place else. As a result, with little industry to support the local economy, homeowners largely carry the tax burden there alone. In the current economy, this leaves the local government broke and has created a housing glut as prices have plummeted.
We have thousands of acres of land from Georgia to Pennsylvania preserved to teach our children about the Civil War, as well we should. There are many lessons to be learned from these important properties. But why is every square foot of land ever trod upon by a U.S. soldier worthy of being saved? One lesson that must also be taught is that after the war is over, life goes on. The airport on Long Island that Charles Lindbergh took off from on his flight across the Atlantic is now a shopping mall. At least they named the mall - Roosevelt Field - after the airstrip! Yankee Stadium is about to become a parking lot. Even Ground Zero in New York is being redeveloped into skyscrapers.
Is it really worth denying taxpayers a revenue source to protect a piece of land that is merely near a battlefield? I think my friend, John Butler, has the right idea about preserving land. He suggests, (in jest, I think) that environmentally sensitive land be paved over, in order to preserve it.
Sounds like a plan to me!
Friday, January 2, 2009
Thursday, January 1, 2009
See that little pink blob in the upper right corner of this Pepco map? That is zip code 20833, home of the "Life On The Beach" world headquarters and souvenir shop. Unfortunately, the 60-mile an hour winds yesterday took a toll on our HQ, leaving us without power - which was OK with me because I was at work! However, as day descended into dusk, a frozen Mrs. Matthews called me at ABC News, and together, we assembled an evacuation plan.
Checking the trusty Marriott points account, I discovered we had enough in our account to get a room at the Courtyard by Marriott in Rockville, so off we went to spend New Year's with the book of Mormon!
We had planned a quiet family games night at home... Robin would have cooked a bunch of naughty food, and we had planned to sit at the kitchen table and enjoy it with a game of Scrabble and Dick Clark's stroke. But when God handed us lemons, we made an evening of it, and enjoyed a nice meal at the Macaroni grill, followed by Scrabble by the fireplace in the hotel lobby.
We were so focused on our game, that we missed the ball drop altogether - Robin was in the middle of playing the word "Resize" with the "z" on a triple letter score at the stroke of midnight... But we were decidedly warmer than those nuts in Times Square...
By the way - we could have gone home earlier in the evening - I called home at around 10:30 and heard my answering machine - a sure sign that power was back - but by then we had committed to our evening - So, except for the two boys wrestling for control of the bedsheets in the bed that they shared, a pleasant time was had by all!
We found the power outage to be a fitting end to a 2008 that was difficult to say the least for our family... Here's to hoping that our lights stay on in 2009 - or that if they do go out, it will be due to a storm, and not because we couldn't pay our bill!
Happy New Year!