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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, February 10, 2006

The Winter Yo-Lympics
Don't give two hoots about the real Games, starting today in Turin? Then imagine if Philly had its own extravaganza. Click button for each event lised below to switch illustrations.

(This presentation was written by Peter Mucha, illustrated by William Neff, and first published in The Inquirer in 2002.)

Two-man teams -- like Joey Merlino and Angelo Lutz -- see their lives go downhill, thanks to a judicious shove from federal prosecutors. Teams have to enter a dangerous stretch called "The Slammer" and sometimes don't reappear for years.
Think those sequined shirts catch the wind New Year's Day? Put a Mummer on the slope, have him slip on dem golden slippers.
Rowdy fans once pelted St. Nick at Franklin Field. Turnabout is fair play.

Two snowflakes hit a cow in Amish country. The winner is the first TV meteorologist to interrupt all programming and provoke bread-snatching supermarket panic.
Motorists frantically swerve to avoid craters. "Pit stops" are perilous! Drivers who break off a "double axle" also have to perform "synchronized estimating," where they team with body shops to get the max from insurers.
A wide-bodied city goes mano-a-mano with narrow-guage seats. It's a test of will, patience and sheer compression.

Yo-Lympics Extra: A Not-So-Helpful Glossary
Yo-pening ceremonies. Run up "the Rocky steps" is followed by traditional lighting of the soft-pretzel-cart Sterno.
Buy-athlon. Rejected nickname for Boscov's proposed answer to Clover Days.
Toe Loop. Now what are they piercing?
Triple Low Loop. Maneuver followed by tow truck trying to find where in blazes you called from.
Curling. Jersey girls take on South Philly fillies in a big-hair showdown.
Compulsories. What those shivering smokers are doing outside their office buildings.
The Romanian Judge. TV's 27th new courtroom drama.
Luge. Pronounced "loozh." It's French for "loogie."

Send Early Word your own ideas.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

And the Mouse Isn't Talking 

Pearl Parkey, 89, was having some Campbell's Kitchen Classics Bean With Bacon Soup in her Kentucky home, when she felt something in her mouth that wasn't bean and wasn't bacon. Daughter Phyllis Ingram thought it was a ball of fur, says the Associated Press. That's when the granddaughter piped up, "Mama, that's a mouse." There's more to this story, of course. But who knows what to think? Isn't it weird that less than two weeks after a needle allegedly shows up in a can of Progresso Vegetable Classics Minestrone in Wind Gap, Pa., a mouse supposedly shows up in a can from Progresso's chief rival? Now, I'm not suggesting in any way that there's some kind of shady industrial shenanigans sabotage deal going on here, or in any way insinuating that Pearl Parkey might be full of malarkey. Nope. Nor am I gonna drag in that case of the severed human finger fraudulently claimed to have been in Wendy's chili. Even if chili is kind of like soup, only thicker. Nope. I'm just wondering.

"We vehemently believe it's highly unlikely that this could have occurred," said Campbell rep John Faulkner. The company produces about 3 billion cans of soup a year, and the handful of allegations he's seen in six years with the firm were all proven false. In one case, what consumer thought was a rodent was really a clump of mold that had grown in a damaged can, he said. This object is apparently tiny, since the family estimates the "mouse" to be a week old. Campbell Soup sent a courier to pick up the specimen for a thorough examination, to determine (a) if it is a mouse, and (b) if it is, whether it's been cooked or not. Results should be known next week.

Wharton student testifies she didn't kill ex-lover's girlfriend
Here's a sensational story with Philadelphia ties that major local news outlets seem to have missed, probably because the trial's taking place in Delaware.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Decisions, Decisions About the Losers Parade
WIP's Anthony Gargano has been championing the idea of a late-spring parade to laugh in the face of Philly's defeats. To sarcastically salute past indignities. To just plain have a little fun. If we can't have a victory parade, why not a victimry one?

When Early Word wrote about this, the response was strong, but quite divided. Some, like Helmetman, declared, "Count me in!" Others preferred terms like "idiotic," especially at a time when the Flyers might be making a playoff run. (Half of the votes in a poll leaned this way.) Still others called for more positive pageantry, showing support and encouragement, or patting ourselves on the back for our love and loyalty.

(A few even cheap-shotted Gargano, apparently confusing this idea with ex-cohost Steve Martarano's call for a Boston Tea Party-type protest. WIP's Glen Macnow cleared that up: Gargano began talking this up back when Macnow was cohost.)

Clearly, you can't please everybody. But why shouldn't some positivity and "Let's Go, Flyers" be included? For example, take the name. Calling it the Losers Parade sounds as if fans are losers, giving the national media a new opening to mock our passionate partisanship.

We could embrace that challenge, or adopt another option: Like the Bummers Parade. The Time for a Title Parade. Or the Party-On Anyway Parade. Let's take a poll. Pull down the menu and click on your favorite name. If you come up with a better idea, email Early Word.
What's the best name for a parade to vent fans' frustrations? (Click arrow to make menu drop.)
Free polls from

Further, why not have all sorts of sections, representing different points of view? The You Gotta Believe Brigade could follow the Rotten Trades Troop. The Cheer-Us-Up Cheerleaders could escort the Affront to Our Front Offices Float. In other words, anybody with a message as a true Philly fan might pitch an idea and join in. The more the merrier. A truer snapshot. A heartier party.

The AP photos, by the way, are from an ignominious 1998 Eagles-Redskins game here.

Is 'Lost' About to Answer Its Biggest Mystery?
Yes, fans, we all know what it is: Why doesn't Hurley lose weight? Week after week, the horizontally enhanced castaway maintains his generous girth. Nobody took the question seriously, though. Indeed, I toyed with making it part of a list of "real questions" about Lost, like "Where's the outhouse?" "Wouldn't you think stinky people might occasionally swim?" And "What do they use for bug repellent -- heroin?" Then while googling I stumbled across an article that says this puzzle is about to be explained. "So why is his gut still the size of a couple of flotation devices?" writes Patrick Kampert of the Chicago Tribune. "In an e-mail, co-creator/executive producer Damon Lindelof and executive producer Carlton Cuse gave this teasing reply: '... That mystery, however, will be definitively solved during February sweeps ... well, as definitively as anything ever gets solved on Lost, anyway.' " Sweeps for Lost begins with a new episode at 9 tonight on ABC.

Low-Fat Study: Full of Baloney?
A new study was prominently touted on TV yesterday and in newspapers today. Its conclusion: A low-fat diet didn't help post-menopausal women cut their risk of cancer or even heart disease. Sorry, but this study has several major flaws.
(1) Only total fat intake was tracked, with no regard for cutting "bad" fats (saturated, trans). And we all know people, if allowed, would rather cut salad dressing than fries.
(2) Eight years isn't long enough to show much effect on cancer, which can take 20 years or more to develop.
(3) The goal attained, an average of 29 percent of calories from fats, isn't really that "low," and not impressively different than the control group's 37 percent. The reportedly beneficial Dean Ornish and Pritikin diets aim for 10 percent. And if 29 was the average, how many participants weren't "low" at all?
(4) Can you really trust people to accurately know and honestly report what they're eating? C'mon, be serious. Admitting scarfing extra brownies can be embarrassing.

Said Meir Stampfer, chair of the epidemiology department of the Harvard School of Public Health: "We have known all this for a long time, which is why this extremely expensive diet trial part of the Women's Health Initiative failed scientific peer review when it was proposed, and only was funded by political intervention by Congress. It never had much scientific merit because it was not testing a good diet." More expert comments.

Cooler Heads Deserve to Be Heard, Too
Another side to the cartoon controversy.

Baby, You Can Drive My Car
Oops, here she is. Story.

Speaking of Puzzles ...
Got a bit of a kick this weekend, when I found out (thanks to a woman who called me from Florida) that genius Parade columnist Marilyn Vos Savant ran a question I emailed: "What quality is shared by these words: on, art, time, crate, pleats?" She gives the general answer (posted today on her Web site) but lets you figure out the rest. For the full answer, click on "comments" below.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

That Morning Star
If you step out the door around 6:30 and look east, you'll see a brilliant light low in the sky. It's Venus, which at its brightest is outshone only by the sun and moon. From now till summer, Venus will gradually get higher in the dawn's early light. By year's end it will be in the twilight sky again, after passing behind the sun.

Inquirer photo by Laurence Kesterton

Joe Banner: Up Close and Personal
Apparently, the Eagles prez and COO (chief operating officer) is as Ch. 29's sports anchor Don Tollefson might say, "a goooood guy." Banner is tough as nails when it comes to negotiating contracts, but a piece in the Sunday Inquirer's Currents section reveals a more sensitive side. A TV show he hates to admit he watches: "The Bachelorette, when I get to snuggle with my daughter." Station his car radio is set on: "B101" (you were expecting WIP?). Song that picks him up: "How Sweet It Is," the James Taylor version. His favorite poet: Mattie Stepanek, a young boy who despite muscular dystrophy wrote hopeful bestselling collections of wishes for peace. His favorite book: Of Mice and Men. Book that influenced him: You Shall Be As Gods, by Erich Fromm, which suggests "God should be thought of as representing the best that human beings have to offer, and therefore we should live our lives 'as gods' defined in that way." Living person he'd like to join for dinner: Nelson Mandela. Person I admire the most in my field: "Drew Rosenhaus ... (just kidding). All the people I work with who are unselfishly committed to making us the best we can be every day, frequently at the cost of their own interests." Who knew?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Monkeys, Monster Love and More

An ad for Burger King.
What was your favorite Super Bowl ad? (Click arrow for drop-down menu)
Free polls from

Did you vote "other"? If so, was it for FedEx's cavemen or Bud's magic fridge? Email Early Word.

Did Seattle get shafted by Super Bowl refs?
Here's one writer who thinks so.

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

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