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What Is Early Word?
The Philadelphia Inquirer's experimental online "morning show", which began in Sept. 2005, went on hiatus in the summer of 2006, after a gradual shift to putting more of its content directly on

About the Host
Peter Mucha, husband and father of two, grew up in Cherry Hill and is a lifelong Philly sports fan. He's been writing and editing for The Inquirer for 18 years. His motto (at least for today): "If I'm not brief, give me grief."

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Tip on posting comments: After you click a comment link, select "other" or "anonymous" in the pop-up box. That way, you won't be asked for a password.

Early Word logo
The Inquirer's ever-evolving way to start your day. Email. Phone: 215-854-2388.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Winner Is ...
Two-year-old Colin Kuech of Glenside.
He'll get a copy of Kids Have All the Answers, a kid-illustrated collection of Inquirer "Kids' Talk" columns. On Friday, we asked for pics of children enjoying the snow.

Stephenie on SurvivorSizing Up 'Survivor' Finale
Stephenie Goes for $1 Million Sunday
Stephenie LaGrossa, who grew up in Glenolden, is sure making the most of her second chance on the CBS reality show Survivor: Guatemala. Read Stephenie's CBS bio. She's in the final four, and her competition is a whiny wilderness guide, a scrawny female sportstalk host, and a short fishmonger who's 42.

In other words: She has a great shot at winning the top prize, $1 million, on Sunday night's three-hour finale.

Except for a couple of problems: She totally backstabbed two members of the jury. Check out Early Word's report on how she betrayed Judd two shows ago. That North Jersey doorman's a loudmouth who won't forget or forgive.

Also, she was on Survivor once before, and was brought back for this gig, a ratings-boosting gimmick other players may resent.

Still, Survivor jury members often vote for jerks and Judases out of respect.

Here's what I expect will happen:

For more than an hour, this final show will bore us as players paint their faces, visit markers reminding them of departed contestants, and sit around on rocks or logs reflecting on life and the meaning of $1 million.

Must-see TV, eh?

Stephenie is such a good competitor, and has such a likeable attitude (even if she can't be trusted), she'll probably find her way into the final two. (This would fulfull a tip posted by Early Word last month.)

Who she faces depends on who wins immunities ... and that's why the strongest players are generally regarded as threats and voted out first. That means wilderness guide Rafe should join all the other men on the jury. Can't see fishmonger Lydia sneaking under the radar much longer.

That leaves sportstalker Danni and Stephenie. May guess is Danni would win. Fewer enemies, also likeable, admired for her comeback.

See also Survivor item below, on the Great Car Curse.

Probst has renewed his contract, by the way.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Question for 'Survivor' Fans
Would You Have Given Up the Car?
Cindy won a challenge and a Pontiac Torrent. Then host Jeff Probst gave her a provocative choice. Of 10 previous car winners, not one ever won the $1 million final prize, he said. So, would she like to expel the curse by giving a car to each of her four remaining rivals instead? More Pontiacs were driven up the road. She thought it over. She'd like to, she said ... but there were no guarantees, and why couldn't see be the first to beat the curse? She kept the car.

Curse won. Cindy got voted out.

Would you have done the same thing? I think I would have let the others have the cars.

'I Have Brain Cancer. What's YOUR Excuse?'
Yeah, what is my excuse, Fawn?

In an amazingly heartbreaking yet hopeful account, The Inquirer's Fawn Vrazo -- I don't care if she took the buyout, she's still ours -- somehow has the courage and guts and gratitude for life to write about telling her daughter the awful news: What started as breast cancer has become brain cancer.

This diagnosis might mean surviving two to three years.

"OK! I thought," she writes.


The headline above is her joking idea for a bumper sticker -- a message to "idiot drivers."

It's much more than that.

Now, after rounds of radiation, she continues, "Yet I am happy and calm and without stress, too. I found myself cheered just to be around to check out the ham prices. I feel as much in love with life as George did when he got back to the old Bedford Falls. ...

"Readers of these 'Cancer Chronicles' stories have often sent their prayers to me. I am utterly humbled by that -- prayers, for me, a stranger!"

This is why you should buy newspapers, people.

And why in reading, like life, you should hang on until the end.

Often the best things are found there.

Like the Fawn's expressions of happiness and gratitude.

And that bumper sticker. She's so right. What is my excuse?

Read the entire story. Visit her Cancer Chronicles Web site.

By 7:30 a.m., Center City was already seeing rain and slush.

Friday's Forecast: A Bit Overblown
The storm ended earlier than expected and dumped less snow, as Philadelphia streets were slushy by 8 a.m. By 8:30, radar showed the storm was nearly out of Pennsylvania.

Once again, hype fed Philly panic. People went to work early, hoping to beat the storm, and wound braving the worst of the conditions. Schools closed, when opening a couple of hours late would have been fine.

Were you annoyed? Did you waste time and energy leaving early? Should schools should have just opened late?

Or are you so cynical about forecasts, you're happy if they're within a couple hours and inches?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Win a Kids' Talk Book!
Email Your Best Snow Day Picture
Sledders. Snowman makers. Overly bundled babies. We'd like to post a storm of digital photos of area kids galavanting in the snow. Pictures taken Friday, Dec. 9, of course. At random we'll pick a kid to win a copy of Kids Have All the Answers, a book of writings and drawings by area students. Just email your snapshots to Early Word. Be sure to include names and town's name.

'Reality' Check
Local Guy Monkeys Way Into Martha's Top 3!
"Whoever calls a boss cute?!" a mock-shocked Martha Stewart shouted from her porch after Jim Bozzini of Gilbertsville, Pa., said, "She's so cute" to teammates Dawna and Bethenny. They were departing her estate after riding horses and playing Scrabble.

Yep, somehow, this loose cannon -- a Tyler School of Art grad and Philly marketing exec -- is still rolling around on the deck of NBC's "other" Apprentice.

Early in last night's show, he was actually hopping on a kitchen counter, scratching himself, and making monkey noises (see picture above).

Being goofy, though, he explained a bit later, was all part of his strategy. "I'm purposely being obnoxious," he said. "I'm thinking about what I have to do to win. Dawna is thinking about how much I bother her. That's good for me."

Sure enough, while filming a martini-sipping scene for a promotional video, Dawn instructed the drink deliverer not to give any to Jim. "He's already crazy. We don't need any alcohol in his system."

After their team's promo won out, both members of the other team were told to shoo (no point in prolonging this ratings loser), and Martha wrote two of her trademark no-thank-you notes.

Jim seems poised to make the Final Two. When Dawna looked baffled by Scrabble, Martha chided her, saying she had good letters, and joked about how apt one of Jim's words was: fluster. Ah, the Queen of Craftiness had sneakily staged an intelligence test.

Next week's hurdle: impressing corporate bigwigs in interviews. It'll be interesting to see if Jimbo (as he referred to himself during a recent call to WIP) can dish out dignity when he needs to. If he can, he might make the live two-hour Dec. 21 finale, with a shot to work full-time for Connecticut's famed ex-con.

For more, see the NBC show's Web site.

Sports Retorts
Positives From Monday Night Massacre?!
Liked this thread that "inout" posted on's Eagles forum.

First, his top plusses from the No-Battle-for-Seattle:
--Can't blame McNabb or T.O. for this one
--We won’t be on Monday Night Football next year
--Only 4 games left to lose this season
--No worries about season ending in NFC title game
--Reliving memories of those great Eagles teams of the mid '70s, '80s and '90s
--Eagles possibly 3rd best team in the state, after Steelers and Penn State
--Fan resilience and sense of humor is being severely tested
--Proof you don't have to overspend to be a lousy team
--Proof that just when you thought the Eagles were at rock bottom, they learned how to dig

Then some from other fans:
--Defense will be well rested for Giants game next week.
--Wide receivers can get jobs as hand models
--No E-A-G-L-E-S cheers at Citizens Bank Park next season
--I had seahawks defense/ST in my fantasy league. My highest point total of the season.
--No traffic jam after the game.
--More time to spend with your family during the holidays.

Adding a few myself:
--Maybe management will conclude: Ya think we got a lot of fixing to do?
--No bad karma left for next year.
--Can focus on drinking, eating and bs-ing during all playoff games.

What's another way to look on the bright side?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

3 Hot Topics
Is Katie Couric worth $25 million? This week, she might reveal if she'll jilt NBC's Today to be CBS News' evening anchor. More. Sure, she's perkier than bland Bob Schieffer, but do you really care who reads the news to you? OK, I have to confess I do prefer watching Elizabeth Vargas to her ABC co-anchor Bob Woodruff. More on ABC's new lineup.

Have a complaint about your wireless service? Cingular's the biggest carrier, but Verizon leads in satisfaction here and in most major markets, Consumer Reports says. More. Still, thousands of people have complaints and switch carriers, as Jeff Gelles wrote in his Consumer Watch column. We have trouble getting Verizon's signal anywhere in our house in Haddon Heights, even after upgrading the phone. What's been your experience?

What does "King Kong" mean to you? The Inquirer's Jeff Gammage has a smartly written piece on a movie mystery: Why does the King Kong story have such lasting appeal? Theories abound. It's a study of our inner brute. It's a statement about racism. It's a "meditation on the plight of the adolescent American male -- flustered by sudden awkwardness, tormented by unsightly hair, and baffled by how to get along with women." Me, I thought it was about the ultimate fantasy football pick and "I Don't Love New York" prejudice. Peter Jackson's mega-ape remake stomps into theaters next Wednesday. Read "A Konglomeration of meanings." Share your reaction here.

Sports Retorts
Are Iggles' injuries a valid excuse?
Sure we can blame T.O., tight-fistedness with the salary cap, and Andy Reid's arial obsession. But so many Eagles were disabled or severely hobbled this season, you can diss but can't dismiss this factor. Here's a list of significant players whose contributions were hurt by injuries:

Donovan McNabb, quarterback ... Todd Pinkston, wide receiver (that's him leaving training camp in early August after rupturing an Achilles tendon) ... David Akers, kicker ... Chad Lewis, tight end ... Jerome McDougle, defensive end ... J.R. Reed, safety, return specialist ... Correll Buckhalter, running back ... Paul Grasmanis, defensive tackle ... Hank Fraley, center ... Lito Sheppard, cornerback ... Tra Thomas, defensive tackle ... Dirk Johnson, punter.

Express yourself here. Or at least take part in our poll.

Fry consumption could also feed fuel production.

That's Happening Here?
5 Stories Fast
Dredge or else! Pa. tells N.J. Gov. Rendell has decided to get tough with the Garden State over a long-stalled project to deepen the Delaware River. Pa. wants big business from bigger ships, but South Jersey didn't like plans to dump all the muck there. More. See also DRPA commissioner's letter. ... South Jersey woman didn't know artworks were stolen. But when she offered them for sale through a Delaware County auction house, the FBI got involved. The three 19th-century paintings, worth about $125,000, were apparently looted from a German museum by U.S. troops during World War II. More. ... "Dad, Dad! There's a bear under the house!" The kids were right. Under their porch in the Poconos was a black bear. More. Maybe it had wisely fled North Jersey, which started a bear hunt Monday. ... Alternate energy source found in deep fryers? Georgia runs a steam plant on chicken fat, fryer grease, white pork fat, and beef tallow. Such stuff is nontoxic and cheaper than heating oil. That's why Philadelphia Fry-o-Diesel has a grant to harvest the gunk poured down the city's restaurant sinks. More. Hmm, how about liposuction as a fuel source? ... Academy of Natural Sciences has dug a financial hole. Chronic revenue shortfalls have to be overcome with better fund-raising. More scientists could leave. Research and museum projects could be in jeopardy. More.

Snakehead fishtank in academy's "Alien Invaders" exhibit.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dear Andy Claus,
I have been a good boy this year. I have watched every Eagles game. I even read all 6,000 stories about T.O.!

And even though some of my friends laugh at me for still believing in you, I know you haven't lost your magic. I still believe! I really do!

Well, as long as you bring me the right presents.

I have a list.

I'm not in a big rush. You don't have to deliver them this year. Just by opening game next year. Except for No. 11. That's for soon. And No. 12. That's for later.

Anyway, here's my list.

1. A stud defensive end.
2. A tall, fast, strong wide receiver.
3. A healthy quarterback empowered with audible authority and packages of hurry-up plays for 2-minute drills.
4. A fullback who can block and catch really, really well.
5. A running game.
6. Better linebackers.
7. A backup quarterback who can play.
8. More candid answers at press conferences.
9. Better time management.
10. A full refund for my T.O. jersey.
11. Free beer to get fans through the rest of this season.
12. And, of course, a Super Bowl victory next season, please, please, please?

I will leave out cookies and milk again, plus carrots for your reindeer. You can have the carrots, though, if you're sticking to your diet.

Thanks, Andy Claus! I really want to believe.

Peter Mucha

ps. You won't recall holding Liam Campiglia, then 15 months, of Haddonfield, for the "photo" above. See, I kinda put your face from an AP picture onto one The Inquirer's David M Warren shot last year at Cherry Hill Mall.

pps. I also have some friends with their own ideas. They'll post their wishes below.

Seahawks 42, Temple 0
Let the Venting Begin
The question is: Was last night's drubbing an omen for next season and beyond?

Has the team quit on coach Andy Reid for good? Do the players resent a front office that honors the departed, but seems not to care if any current players do depart?

You could blame turnovers for last night's loss. You could blame a ton of injuries for the debacle this season turned into. You could blame the backup quarterbacks, and say that's a problem that's easily fixed.

But does management have the will and insight to correct it all for next year? Or should we forget another trip to a Super Bowl any time soon?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Hot Topics
Can Eagles Fans Behave in the Snow?

In 1989, police escorting snowball-target Jimmy Johnson to safety.

Tonight, a snowstorm is likely to drop ammo into stands filled with disgruntled Eagles fans. As national TV cameras watch. Oh, it may not be pretty.

Maybe owner Jeff Lurie and sidekick Joe Banner should carry protective umbrellas if they come out for the halftime ceremony honoring Reggie White.

After all, our snow history is legendary. In 1968, fans, upset with a lousy team and a sorry-looking phony Santa, pelted the imposter with snowballs. The definitive story -- unlike the nonsense you'll probably hear repeated on tonight's broadcast -- was told in The Great Philadelphia Fan Book, by WIP's Glen Macnow and Anthony L. Gargano, two ex-Inquirer sportswriters. This was no merry old elf who could charm a mall. It was a 19-year-old kid wearing a Santa suit and an obviously fake beard, recruited right out of the stands. " I thought it was funny," the ersatz Kringle, Frank Olivo, told the authors, who tracked him down in Ocean City, N.J. Here's a fuller recap.

Then there's the "I didn't do it" tale of future mayor and governor Ed Rendell. A fourth-quarter snowball barrage in December 1989 scattered cheerleaders, decked an official, and led cops to escort Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson off the field (see picture). But the most lasting part of that story is that future mayor and current governor Rendell was spotted betting a guy $20 he couldn't reach the field. At first Rendell denied it to the Inky's Steve Lopez. Later, he called back to admit the truth.

I've posted the original Lopez column, "Honest Ed's True Confession." It's a classic. You have to read it. At one point, Lopez writes, saying this guy's too honest to be a politician:

"Maybe it's good he isn't mayor or governor. Can you imagine him in contract negotiations?"

No wonder in January, the Eagles cleared every flake that fell inside the Linc from a storm the night before the NFC Championship game. But even that had its harmful side, when a fan, James Phillips, worked for free for 30 hours without gloves and wound up losing eight frostbitten fingers.

Can you think of other incidents? Do you recall taking part in any? Post your comments here.

Also, vote in our poll.

Talk About It ...
But Who'll Defend the Lawyers?
"If lawyers want to know why they are the butt of so many jokes, they might want to listen to the claptrap coming out of some of their mouths," writes the Inquirer's John Grogan. He gives two examples. Let's talk about more.

Example One: Accused killer's girlfriend was "a witness and a victim." That's what attorney Robert D. Beyer said about the Lancaster girl who ran off with after boyfriend after he allegedy killed her parents. Grogan snaps back: "Call her young and confused. Call her dumb. Call her immature or infatuated. But please don't call her a victim. Don't insult the dead by cheapening that term."
Early Word: Kara Beth Borden (right) is only 14. And if she is also dumb, immature, confused or infatuated, she is still a victim in a way. What do you think?

Example Two comes from "the nearly famous case of the copulating coeds," as Grogan tags the tale of Penn students coupling in a dorm window.

He writes: "She has a lawyer papering the path to a lawsuit, telling us how emotionally shattered she is because someone noticed and snapped a photo? Oh, brother. She even filed a complaint with the university, claiming her privacy was invaded. Hello? Earth to Miss Modesty? Ya think your own behavior might have had anything to do with this?"

Early Word: Gotta agree. Reminds me of suing McDonald's for not warning you coffee can be hot. Glass windows are see-through? Who knew!

This morning, from left: Clark; fellow international adviser Najib al-Nueimi,
a former Qatari justice minister; Khalil Dulaimi, head attorney for Hussein.

Example Three: Ramsey Clark on his client, Saddam Hussein: "He had this huge war going on, and you have to act firmly when you have an assassination attempt." What, is Clark, a former U.S. attorney general, saying, "Yeah, my guy's guilty as sin, but he had his reasons" or "But your honor, it was self-defense"? See Slate's take.

Example Four: With friends like his agent, does T.O. need enemies? "Next question!" That's all Duke Law School grad Drew Rosenhaus could say when Channel 6's David Henry asked: "What have you done for your client, other than get him kicked off the team?" Well, Rosenhaus could have said: "Well, I also cost him a ton of money." Besides the nearly $765,000 T.O. lost for being suspended, now the Eagles want $1.725 million back from the signing bonus. More.

That's Happening Here?
5 Stories Fast
Firm foretold snowy December. A year ago, SDI Weather Trends of Plymouth Meeting, which specializes in very long-range forecasts, warned Wal-Mart, Johnson & Johnson, Anheuser-Busch and other clients. More. ... Despite limited funding, a Radnor biotech startup has four drugs in development, including one for a lymphoma, another for methamphetamine addiction. More. ... Taney and Tasker Streets is a hotspot for drugs and violence. The police call the South Philly intersection "a priority corner." Others call the area "Little Beirut." "It's the OK Corral around here," said a woman. "They just walk through casually shooting. Pow! Pow! Pow!" said her sister. Shootings are up in the city, and such neighborhoods are a big part of the problem. More. ...
Gadgets and gizmos help learning, school districts say. Palm Pilots, wireless laptops and iPods are becoming parts of the curriculum. (That's Shaun Burns with a handheld computer at Washington Township's Bells Elementary.) Kids are even blogging in Jenkintown. More. ... The area has a rich indie rock scene, pop music critic Dan DeLuca writes. One example is the CD Songs From the Sixth Borough, in which fresh talent covers tunes out of Philly's past. For example, "psychedelic fuzz-rockers Dragon City kick the set off with a loving version of Todd Rundgren's 'I Saw the Light.' " But it's "irksome" that the title of this fine collection suggests ties to New York. More.

Go to: Early Word = Philadelphia Inquirer = = Lighter Side

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