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

Friday, December 23, 2005

Stocking Stuffer
Early Word Regifts
Go ahead. Open these links. They were picked out just for you. Something to enjoy while Early Word takes a little time off.

Holiday Packages
Dear Andy Claus A list of what we wanted from the Eagles coach (pictured as Santa) for Christmas.
White House Dogs' Holiday Video The Barney Cam presents A Very Beazley Christmas.
It's a Lawn Inflatables Pandemic!
Santa Lovers: Do Not Read! The Onion has spoof: Karl Rove leaked St. Nick's real identity.
Someone Loves Fruitcake

Fun for the Kids
Kids' Talk Joke Book, Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.
Get the Weatherman! Pelt NBC10's "Hurricane Schwartz" with snowballs.
Replay the T.O. game! This is the only place he'll ever get more money from the Eagles.
Flyers Need a Mascot See the Fall Guy fall.

Other Ghosts of Early Word's past
Eagles Autopsy: What Killed the Season? In a series of posts (scroll down a bit) we played Sports Scene Investigators and examined this corpse of a season.
Owens Suspended! Is Season Doomed? Read 70 comments on a question whose answer is now clearly yes. Scroll down a bit, and read 65 more, under "T.O.'s New Remarks Go Too Far?"
Tell SEPTA, Unions What You Think One of Early Word's shortest post set its record for comments: 280.
A Seinfeld Halloween See costumed folks from a real TV-themed party.
Shedding Light on Harry Potter Mysteries. Clues for curious readers of HP and the Half-Blood Prince.
Mischievous Design Sometimes God acts like a 10-year-old.
Ultimate 'Fantasy' Football Draft No. 1 pick: King Kong.
World's Ugliest Dog Dies You thought we were kidding?

Enjoy your holidays. Thanks for visiting this year. We'll be back Jan. 3.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Talk About It ...
Share Your Last-Minute Gift Ideas

Here's one of mine: Customize recipient's favorite candy. My wife loves red, orange and yellow Jujyfruits but loathes the green and black ones. So I buy two boxes and create one with just her favorites. (As a humorous touch, I change the box to show nothing but "good" flavors by using cut-out images from the other box.) No biggie, but it gets a laugh and gets appreciated.

We also still use the "candy safe" I bought one year. It's just a kid's Superman safe, but now she can lock up candy so I can't finish it before she gets any.

You could also give a "coupon book" of jobs/chores/favors the other person could redeem any time. My kids have done this, and I always like it ... though I have to admit, I've rarely redeemed.

Have a similar tip to share? Post it here.

Boyfriend Fed Her Beef!
Cowabunga, he spiked her turkey sloppy Joe! She's "bothered." She's debating dumping him. Talk with him, says Carolyn "Tell Me About It" Hax. If he's apologetic, let it go. If not, let him go.

Ah, but Hax ignores the setting. This wasn't some private jab. This happened at his parents' house, making it a public mockery and possible conspiracy. They might have been in on the gag. Potentially, that's worse.

If you can laugh it off -- you're still alive -- more power to you. Seems he's hinting you take yourself too seriously. But I wonder how he'd react if you bake him bread or make him a meatloaf ... with ground-up bugs. Some books specialize in such recipes. Just wondering. Not suggesting. That just wouldn't be cricket.

War means sacrificing only civil liberties?
Good question from an Inquirer editorial. A strongly worded point: "Repeated tax cuts slanted toward the affluent have made this a war paid for almost entirely by funny money." How about an energy conservation policy? Disaster preparedness proved a disaster. Even homeland security measures are compromised. "War footing? Hardly. Let's end the double standard."

Where Are All the Sixers Fans?
Columnist Bob Ford seems stumped. Popular coach. Chris Webber's much better. Iverson's still exciting. His conclusion: "a crisis of faith. ... This team, as currently constructed, doesn't look capable of winning on a consistent basis."

Partly, I agree: Fans here have been through enough frustrations. Why invest your heart and money in another team with no championship chances?

But I also believe there are ways to rev interest. Pat Croce had a knack for the outrageous. (Bring back Little G!) Larry Brown's contrarian ways, clashing with A.I.'s independent streak, generated conversation. Now, what's there to talk about? Gee, Cheeks is nice?

Do something. The Ben Franklin lightning bolt show with lightning-bolt unis? Half-time samples of local plays? A Solve a Murder Mystery game in which fans keep getting clues? A Sixers Apprentice reality contest, in which a fan could win a job?

At least, tell fans like you mean it why this team will turn around.

Or do the most dramatic step of all: Trade Iverson. If he's neither the key to a title nor a draw, then jump into the future.

lit statue at Philadelphia City HallThat's Happening Here?
5 Stories Fast
My inflated snow globe's bigger than yours! Mix competition with the Christmas spirit and you get Mercer Street in Cherry Hill. Holiday figures, visitors and even a live Santa bask in the glow of 160,000 lights put up by just two neighbors. Hear them trash-talk about it. ... The holiday lighting of City Hall impresses most after-dark passersby. Pictured is a statue colorfully transformed. Some people express surprise they didn't notice the altered appearance before. That's because the French-designed display only started Nov. 30. Better see it soon. It'll end Jan. 1. ... Postal workers volunteer to help answer Santa's mail, for no credit and no pay, just personal satisfaction. No one answered North Pole-bound missives when custodian Maria Rossiter started with the Deptford post office, so in 1991 she took up the task. St. Nick has ghostwriters at other locations, too. ... The Sixers' Chris Webber paid cash for a Villanova mansion -- $2.6 million in cash. Has five bedrooms, an elevator, and a neighbor named Allen Iverson. ... Yesterday, on both sides of the river, services memorialized homeless men and women who died this year. Friends and social-service workers attended. Since 1990, the National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day has been held on the first day of winter.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Talk About It ...
Deal or No Deal? If's it the Phils, it's 'No Deal'
At least not recently. Last night, another big name moved, as the Yankees signed Johnny Damon away from the Red Sox. They say patience is a virtrue, but is that true with this off-season? New GM Pat Gillick has done little lately to refute his nickname, "Stand Pat."

Barbara Walters with Hellboy'Barbara Walters: Hell, Where Is It?'
Last night's ABC special, Barbara Walters: Heaven, Where Is It?, was so special, asking everybody from the Dalai Lama to Liz Taylor about the afterlife, that spinoffs are sure to follow. Just imagine: Barbara Walters: Hell, Where Is It? (That's her, interviewing Hellboy above.) ... Barbara Walters: Limbo, Where Is It? ...Barbara Walters: Atlantis, Where Is It? ... Barbara Walters: Victory in Iraq, Where the Hell Is It? ... Barbara Walters: Trenton, Where Is It? ... Barbara Walters: My Sense of Shame, Where Is It? and Barbara Walters: My Retirement, Where Is It? Email your ideas for more great shows.

Lipinski on Owens Web siteHe Bought Terrell Owens' Ring for $48,200
... And He Has No Regets
Remember Bob Lipinski? When Terrell Owens auctioned off his NFC Championship ring, the Mount Laurel landscaping tycoon shoveled out big bucks. Although proceeds went to hurricane victims, cynics will always wonder if T.O.'s altriusm wasn't laced with anti-Eagle bitterness.

(Not that he ever explicitly said: Na-nanny-na-na, who wants your ring, you cheap Super Bowl losers!)

Lipinski shows off his NFC championship ringIn late October, nearly a month after his winning bid, Lipinski, 48, sounded thrilled: "I just love T.O.'s passion for the game. He's a winner. I guess I relate to that because I have a passion for business and the will to win." See original Inquirer story.

But how does Lipinski feel now? After seeing the season get shot, ripped, bruised, ground down, herniated and suspended into a horror show, with truckloads of the blame dumped on T.O., hasn't the ring lost some luster?

"I love it," the self-made millionaire said. "It's worth more now because there won't be another one."

Good point: No more Eagles rings for T.O. Maybe no more NFC Championship rings for any Eagles for years. Besides, Lipinski said, T.O.'s days here may be numbered, but he's still "one of the most talked-upon sports figures in the country" and a future hall of famer.

Because the ring is "real big, with a lot of diamonds in it," Lipinski gets about five compliments on it every day, even from strangers. "The ring's going to create some business opportunities, no doubt about it. ... Nothing but positive comes from the ring."

"I was at T.O's party," he said. "He's been great to me ... first-class." Go to Terrell Owens' Web site, and there on the home page, leading off a gallery of photos from the A.C. birthday bash, is a picture of Lipinski with T.O. (See image at top.) "It was a happening party," with about 500 people and a happy Owens, Lipinski said. (Recall Early Word's report.)

Lipinski's sorry only about one thing: that the Eagles and T.O. parted ways. "I wish it could have worked out on all sides. He's a phenomenal player and it's a shame. ... I think everybody lost. The Eagles lost. T.O. lost. And ultimately the fans lost."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Talk About It ...
Let's send killers to Death Penalty Island. If killing is wrong, isn't wrong to kill a killer? Columnist John Grogan thinks so, though he's found a couple of cases so heinous he'd make an exception. Well, how about this for a reduced-guilt switch? You find a big deserted island and exile the worst convicted murderers there. No guards. No police. And if, as might be hoped, they all do each other in, no blood on society's hands. Airdrops of meals -- and weapons -- optional, according to conscience. If you figure out whether I'm kidding, let me know.

Bet the elephants would vote for the sanctuary. Zoos have figured out that elephants need roaming room to be happy. So ours has decided to ship its four pachyderms to new homes yet to be determined. Local petitioners, though, say the best destination is the 2,700-acre Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. Evidence is growing that elephants may be as intelligent and emotional as apes. So shouldn't we treat them with even more care and sensitivity?

A petitioner for Friends of Philly Zoo Elephants greeting shoppers Sunday at the Gallery.

Big deal or no big deal? Deal or No Deal began its debut week on NBC last night, ushered in with hype about predecessors doing boffo all over the world. It's like Let's Make a Deal without costumes or curtains. A contestant picks one of 26 model-held briefcases containing a written money figure, ranging from 1 cent to $1 million. As remaining cases get opened, eliminating various amounts, the tension builds. A "banker" offers bribes to make the contestant quit. Last night, a woman with a 1 in 4 shot at $500,000 turned down $138,000 -- only to have to settle for $25,000. Liked it. Didn't love it. At least nobody dissected or talked with the dead.

Host Howie Mandell and the model brigade.

Thought You'd Wanna Know
How to tell if you might get socked by the alternative minimum tax. Congress' failure to reform it could mean higher income taxes for millions. of people with incomes of $75,000 to $100,000. ... Blogging exploded in 2005, writes Inquirer blogger Dan Rubin. Corporations embraced them, as their workers spent more of their goof-off time reading them. Google the word blog and you'll get more hits than for sex or Jesus. ... East Coast climate could chill even as the globe warms overall, if the oceanic conveyor belt called the Gulf Stream slows down. Greenland was green 1,000 years ago, before the Little Ice Age ensued. An even wilder swing took place about 12,000 years ago, and scientists are trying to figure out why and what lies ahead. ... Beware of eating swordfish. The U.S. government didn't test it. When a newspaper tested a fillet from Singapore, the level of mercury found was three times the legal limit. ... 18 percent of people who had Lasik eye surgery have gotten it done again. New procedures and alternatives have complicated the decision for many seeking to get rid of their glasses. No one is sure of the long-term effects, but safety has improved over the last decade.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Talk About It ...
Making mistakes is why presidents need checks and balances. Experts are praising President Bush's speech last night for his admission of goofs in Iraq, like expecting to find weapons of mass destruction. Fine. But shouldn't this administration stop acting like it's infallible when it comes to treatment of detainees or spying on Americans? How can mistakes be corrected if individuals and judges aren't given a chance to question and challenge decisions?

Enough of the nonsense about Donovan McNabb. And I'm not just saying this because McNabb-basher Jerry Mondesire, back when he worked for The Inquirer, hung up on me once. (He was on deadline.) Last season, when McNabb was healthy and had T.O. as a receiver, the QB was great. Yes, he faltered in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl -- after being pounded into the ground on successive plays. And, agreed, he messed up some games this year, especially when he tossed a game-winning interception to a Cowboy -- while suffering from a succession of injuries. So could we please quit second-guessing his psyche about his lack of second-guessing Terrell Owens' barbs and Andy Reid's play-calling? Like it or not, wherever his head and his game and his racial self-image have been, he could re-emerge next season in a way you'll never predict.

Is 'King Kong' Way Overrated? My son, Alex, and WIP's Big Daddy Graham both say it smells like a big hairy ape. Alex said don't go, 'cause the acting's bad, the story's thin, and it's way too long. The movie's box-office take was less than expected ... perhaps for a reason? If you saw it, what did you think?

In 2003, Wyeth, waitress, Helga, at Hank's Place in Chadds Ford.
That's Happening Here?
5 Stories Fast
Craig LaBan looks back at restaurants he reviewed in "The Bells of 2005." Winners of 3 bells (out of 4) were Barclay Prime ("big rib steak and Kobe sliders are amazing"), Marigold Kitchen ("stunning Mediterranean ideas"), Southwark ("creative new American fare") and Sovalo ("possibly the best new Italian since Vetri"), all in the city; Evermay on the Delaware in Erwinna ("inspired new American cooking ... that is worth the drive"); and Majolica in Phoenixville ("one of the area's best new BYOBs"). No eatery reviewed this year got 4 bells.

Milk chocolate mousse in a candy apple, a dessert at Gilmore's French Cuisine in West Chester.

240 of Andrew Wyeth's Helga artworks are no longer at the Brandywine River Museum. The collection, entrusted by its previous owner, has been sold and shipped on to whereabouts undivulged. Wyeth's revelation that he'd secretly done paintings, including nudes, of neighbor Helga Testorf for years, caused a sensation in 1986. ...
A Bucks County collector paid way too much -- $2.2 million -- to reunite 2 historic guns. Two men who cheated him in a series of deals agreed to pay a $4.7 settlement and face prison time. The pricey pair of firearms (pictured): revolvers designed by Samuel Walker, Texas ranger, and Samuel Colt. "It's like having Henry Ford's Model T. From those guns, rusted and ugly, come all others," said an NRA curator, who called them national treasures. ... Here's a workplace with more mental illness than yours, and that's an asset, because Friends Connection in Old City counsels the mentally ill. Its president was once psychotic, homeless and suicidal. "Quite honestly, I saw more blowups at the law firm, in terms of people slamming doors and being rude to one another," said a new employee who's been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. ... New building in Philadelphia sometimes causes old neighboring homes to collapse. Bob Harvey lost his apartment building and all of his possessions, without any sign of compensation yet. "They literally took my land," he said. "They're storing dirt on it." The seven such cases this year prompted Licenses & Inspections to warn that it won't sign off on projects that lack plans to support the foundations of adjacent buildings.

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