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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, April 14, 2006

Vet Memorialized With Parking-Lot Markers 

"I haven't seen anything about these and it looks as if they were recently installed, but the markers for the basepaths and goalposts at the Vet parking lot are finally in," a reader named Dan Costello emailed today. "Thought it was pretty interesting to see them in place yesterday afternoon as I was walking to my car from work. Enjoy!" Later he confessed: "I did 'drive' the bases with my pickup before driving home ...! Schmitty would have been so ashamed."

Above is a catcher's-eye view of where the Vet field was, with the home plate marker at the bottom. That's a closeup of the plate at left. To swap in pictures of the other markers -- Run the bases! Go from goal to goal! -- click on the buttons below.

Who'd Buy THAT house?! 

THAT house is the one in Lancaster County where six people where found slain this week. Looks nice, but could you live there? Good question, asked this morning on 'MMR's Preston & Steve show. The knowledge alone could creep you out forever, and then there's the fear of ghosts.
One caller said two women died in his house. One of them even died in his bed! "You're that good!" quipped one of the hosts (gotta learn which guy's Preston, which one's Steve). Then a woman called, saying her mom was a real estate agent, and you wouldn't want to know some of the stories. Like the woman who died and wasn't found for three weeks, and so her body "melted" into the floor and was actually dripping into the living room! After someone screamed, a host cracked, "It's Raining Blanche!" and before you know it, "It's Raining Men" was playing with the studio bunch singing "Blanche" instead of "Men."

You have any creepy haunted house stories? Post 'em here.

Also: Want to be a Morning Radio spy for Early Word? Shoot an email. We're looking for reports on memorable shenanigans.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Banner: Comparatively, Linc Aid Was 'Very, Very Small' 

Note: This piece was revised after the Eagles and some fans raised some questions and objections. Funding for the Phillies stadium, for example, was removed to make the numbers clearer.

Did the Eagles president just call taxpayers cheap? That's how I reacted yesterday afternoon while listening to a wide-ranging Q&A between Joe Banner and host Howard Eskin. Here's the quote, from a conversation about the funding of Lincoln Financial Field: "As compared to other cities in the NFL, we got a very, very small public contribution." Hey, Joe, can you spare "a very, very small" amount of change, say, oh, $181 million, or even double that? The city and state would like to have it back. It's insignificant, nothing really, you'll hardly miss it, a mere pittance, if you compare it, say, to the amount spent on the war in Iraq, let alone the gross domestic product of the Milky Way. On Aug. 3, 2003, an Inquirer article broke down the funding: "As part of the public-private partnership that built the $512 million stadium -- the state contributed $85 million up front and the city $96 million -- Philadelphia provides the Eagles with about $7 million per year to assist with operations and maintenance expenses." So every decade that cost means another $67 million. You could also argue that public coffers also took a big hit in another way: The Eagles got to keep almost all stadium revenue (while paying only token rent). So even though taxpayers put up about a third of the funding, the team retains all $139 million from naming rights, plus the estimated $50 million to $60 million from seat licenses," and many scores of millions more from luxury boxes, club seats, signage, parking and concessions.

Clearly, there's a huge range of ways to add up that "public contribution." Count just upfront money, "only" $181 million, and, yes, other cities seem far more generous. Cincy and Chicago made the highest such contributions to existing stadiums, about $440 million each, according to a N.Y. congressman's report. Compared to that, OK, you could argue semantics and contend the help with the Eagles' down payment was indeed "very, very small." (Especially if one ignores that the Patriots got only $75 million, while New Jersey has earmarked next to nothing for the $1 billion future home of the Giants and the Jets.) . But factor in two or three decades of maintenance costs and lost revenues (which other NFL cities retained for giving more upfront), and a lot of the differences dissipate, making the Philly deal seem quite generous.

Not saying, Joe, the Eagles are cheap. No, as you pointed out, owner Jeff Lurie invested $350 million in private money to create a great stadium, generously declining to seek more by moving the team to South Jersey or the suburbs. (Not to mention L.A.) So you're right, fans should be more appreciative. After all, as you said yesterday, "Jeff walked away from a very, very large amount of money." (Here, also referring to many millions, "very, very" seems properly used.)

In fairness, Joe, you did say about the stadium deal: "I don't want to come off as complaining, because we're satisfied. We made the deal, and I think it's worked out great for everybody."

It did. No complaints here either. Business is business, and the team, in a way, repays the city through taxes and civic excitement. But please understand, citizens aren't likely to like it when corporate welfare giveaways are called "very, very small." Even relatively speaking.

Note: To listen to a podcast of the interview, in which Banner addresses all sorts of sorts of Eagles issues in a frank and informative way, go to the "audio archives" at

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

How to Be a Publishing Action Hero 

Don't be fooled. Whether sitting in his book-cluttered office, or posing on nearby spiraling stairs, David Borgenicht only looks like a mild-mannered reporter for the Daily Planet. But whenever his wife, Lois Lane ... errrrrt, rewind. Forget the phone booths, forget explanations involving red kryptonite and tights, this guy's special powers kick into action in making books. Look! There on the shelves! It's ten or more versions of The Worst Case Scenario Handbook! It's Pocket Mom and Pocket Dad! It's My First Book of Business Ethics! Why, it's a whole slew of how-tos, often with wry high concepts that make you crack a smile. Down a narrow street in Old City lies Borgenicht's biz, Quirk Books, which is helping put Philadelphia back on the publishing map. It's not as big as Center City's 34-year-old Running Press, which also sports whimsical titles, like Pimp My Cubicle, He Talk Like a White Boy, and Farting Fred and the Dog Show. Indeed, Borgenicht got his start at Running Press, working his way up in about six years from Penn-grad editorial assistant to senior acquisitions editor, before striking out on his own in 1997. "I wanted to do some different kinds of books, and I had an entrepreneurial bug," he said. "I wanted to do my own thing, run my own company." So he began as a book packager, dubbing his enterprise Book Soup (with a wink to the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup). "We did very much what film and TV producers do," he explained. "We'd come up with ideas, put together the team that makes it -- writer, designer, illustrator, editor -- and then go sell it to another publisher." The enterprise soared with The Worst Case Scenario Handbook -- his extreme survival-guide idea, executed mostly by fellow Penn wordsmith Joshua Piven. The money helped transmogrify Book Soup into Quirk, a publishing rowhouse with about 20 employees, 25 to 30 titles a year, and yearly sales of $5 million and climbing. (Publisher's Weekly ranked Quirk third-fastest growing small independent publisher in 2005, ninth this year.) "That's without Worst Case," the line still put out by Chronicle Books, which also handles Quirk's distribution and sales, he says. While Quirk's titles often amuse (the Gnome and Garden is a "gnovelty" kit complete with mini mythical figure), Borgenicht almost always keeps practical appeal and target markets in mind. Even The Brick Testament, which reconstructs Bible stories with Legos, taps a progressive religious audience willing to risk a little irreverence. "I very much believe in the power of humor to educate, to entertain, to change the world maybe," he says. Quirk's best-seller so far, however, has been the far more practical Baby Owner's Manual, written by brother Joe with their pediatrician dad, Louis. (Joe had a baby first; David's daughter is 4, his son approaching 2.) Upcoming titles: The Superman Handbook, which will offer tips such as "How to knock out a villain" just in time for this summer's Superman movie, and Graceland: An Interactive Pop-Up Tour, a kitschy $40 collectible that Elvis fans and tourists can find this fall. Asked if he'd ever write How to Be a Book Packager, David Borgenicht said, ironically, that knowledge isn't everything. If he'd known upfront what he's since learned, he might never have ventured out on his own. He says: "I think sometimes it's better to be a little ignorant and just take that leap because you believe in it."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

McNabb Frustrated By Front-Office Inaction? 

Everything in the Eagles fishbowl gets magnified beyond reason. The latest example is how jumped on a Donovan McNabb quote and bounced all the way to Brett Favre-Duante Culpepper Panic City. The remark, from a lengthy article in the Delco Times that also details the QB's rehabbing and owner Jeff Lurie's pushing for QB-protection rules, reads: "Well, I mean, it’s somewhat frustrating at times when you’re seeing other players that possibly could help you out joining other teams -- especially in your division." OK, he might be alluding to a wish the Birds had signed back-of-all-trades Antwaan Randle El, who signed with Washington. But to speculate on deep-seated dissatisfaction that could lead to a departure, well, that's pretty premature. Especially since McNabb, ever the diplomat, goes on to say: "But we have our nucleus here. We have our guys that we know that can go out on the field and make plays for us. I’m sure the draft is going to help us in so many ways, so we just have to take full advantage of it." One might even say it's refreshing to hear the so-called company man give the
bosses a tweak. FYI, profootball talk also reports what remains on Donovan's deal, which pays less than T.O.'s this year and next: "McNabb is signed through 2013, with salaries that jump to $5.5 million in 2006, $6.3 million in 2008, $9.2 million in 2009, and $10 million in 2010. In the final year of his contract, McNabb is scheduled to make $16.21 million. "

I Got Robbed While a Camden Cabbie 

With yesterday's attempted cabbie strike, this is as good time a time as any to share my cab-driving stories.

Summer of '69 and '70, I drove Yellow Cab in Camden. (I think those were the years.) I'll never forget Charlie, an old gap-toothed inebriate who once had me slowly drive around, yelling to stop whenever he saw a woman in a front yard. Then he'd yell at her, "Hey, get in the cab! Hey, lady, get in the cab!" If she even looked up, he'd say, "I'm Jersey Joe Walcott! Get in the cab!" but no woman was buying this skinny old dude was the famous heavyweight later turned sheriff. Some of them said, "Go away, Charlie," which is how I knew his name. Between attempted (and always rejected) pickups -- honestly, I swear this is true -- he'd occasionally bounce off the seat, the only person I ever met who could burp and fart simultaneously.

Then there was the woman who got in the cab crying. Until she recognized a man in a car driving past. "Follow that car!" she hollered. Ah, impetuous youth. I followed. When the car stopped, a well-dressed couple got out and went into a restaurant on Broadway. My passenger crept to the door, and, hunkering down, peered inside. She returned, asked clueless me for a description of the other woman, then begged me to go into the restaurant and get a good look at her. Ah, impetuous youth. I strolled through to the men's room, used it, and got a good look on my way back. My female fare was upset at what I said, and had me drive her home. Must have been around the Fourth of July, because I remember the sound of amatuer fireworks going off.

It could have been the next night that I got robbed, because again I remember hearing fireworks. I dropped off a fare in a part of Camden normally I avoided at such early-morning hours. But as the couple got out one side, two young men, late teens say, got in the other. "Take us to North Camden," said one, sounding shaky. "No, your mom don't live in North Camden," said the other. "She live in Parkside." Guy doesn't remember where his mom lives? Yeah, right. I'm getting robbed, I figured. On the way to Parkside, I'm thinking of ditching the cab in the middle of an intersection and running into West Jersey Hospital. But I didn't, figuring at worst I'd be out some money. Had to be more nervous than I thought, however, because as I tried to back the cab into a spot under a streetlamp, and got the angle all wrong, I nearly hit a sycamore. Before I could straighten the vehicle, an arm comes around my neck, something is poked into my neck (a gun? a finger?), and I'm being asked how much money I have. They get my $21, and tell me to lie down on the front seat until they tell me to get up. I did, hearing the fireworks and thinking I'd just seen that trick on TV for giving a thief time to get away unseen. And, this is when something happened that shows life is the greatest writer. Suddenly, the front passenger opens, and there, staggering in the street, is a wino, holding a paper bag, I think. He takes one look, lying on the seat, parked at a bad angle, and drawls, "I don't want this cab!" and slams the door! I went to the nearest cab stand, just a spot on Haddon Avenue, and radioed the dispatchers, some of the gruffest women I'd ever met. But tonight, oh, were they attentive. Not that I sensed they cared. I was excitement! I told them where I was, and before I know it, another cabbie skids to a halt in the street, jumps out, waves a gun in the air, and says, "Where'd they go? Which way they'd go?" I lied with a pointing finger and said something like, "That way." Later, I got called to the police station to go through mugshots. No luck. Weeks later, I read in the Courier-Post that undercover officers had busted a cab-robbing ring. I got called in again. Another cabbie was looking at mugshots, puzzling over a few he picked out. An officer suggested, "How about this?" while tapping or swapping two photos. "Could that be the woman, and that be the man?" Clever cross-dressing bandits? The cabbie sat back and shrugged, rolling his eyes and saying he couldn't make that ID. I did make one. Face in one photo could have been one of my robbers. Soon, they brought that guy in wearing handcuffs. "Is this the guy?" I was asked. I said no, this guy was too tall, too light-skinned, too old. Was I sure? I wasn't afraid, was I? No, it wasn't him. When I took the job, Yellow Cab promised reimbursement if we ever got robbed. When I got robbed, Yellow Cab promised reimbursement if someone got convicted. Never saw that $21 again.

Monday, April 10, 2006

President Bush's Sneaky Plan to Erase National Debt 

Send a bill.

Hey, Our Ice Caps Are Melting ... 

Near Death Experiences? 

Health Care for All? 

Massachusetts has a plan. Might as well try something?

Laser Zaps Cellulite Safely 

Bacteria Makes World's Strongest Glue! 

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Urologist's Rap Rips T.O. 

"I never grew up at all, but I was raised on Long Island," said Rich Harkaway, 42, who lives in Moorestown, practices urology in Philadelphia, and jet-hops the planet as in-demand lecturer on prostate problems. While in med school at Penn, Harkaway became an ardent Philly sports fan, and now has season tickets to all four teams. Ownership of one set of seats, however, became problematic after his ex-wife fell for the contractor redoing their basement, he said. "There's more in their divorce agreement about how we split up the Eagles tickets than how we split up the children." He's happier than ever now, he says, enjoying time with sons Eric, 10, Andrew, 7, and girlfriend Lu. Harkaway has long dabbled at standup comedy, sometimes at open-mike nights, but mostly for colleagues, entertaining them with wacky songs about medical matters. Recently, though, after hearing Terrell Owen's "I told you so" anti-Eagles rap (hear it on T.O.'s website or read the lyrics), Harkaway wrote and recorded a retort called "Just a Fool," to the tune of "Bust a Move." He sent a copy to Angelo Cataldi, who played it and praised it on WIP's morning show. Now it's here, on demand, with a couple of ways to listen to the first two verses, along with the lyrics. If you'd like get in touch with Harkaway about the song, drop him an email at

Oh, and don't take the injury imagery seriously. It's just football-fan trash talk.

Just a Fool
(Sung to the tune of "Bust a Move")

Windows Media version:

this is an audio post - click to play

mp3 version:

this is an audio post - click to play

It was a new day dawning I was tired and yawning
There was no one on the road at like 6 in the morning
When my girl calls me up and says, "You hear this crap?"
"That fool T.O. just made a new rap"
Now I’d never leave her, but I don’t believe her.
Is he a rapper, a yapper or a wide receiver?
So I flip on the music and here it comes.
Sure enough that jackass is flapping his gums
About his brand-new contract and all his money,
How he got the last laugh and it's all so funny,
How he's so damn great and he just can't wait
To make them all happy in the Lone Star State.
But soon they'll be saying the same stuff we say
And your autograph will go for two bucks on eBay.
You think you're the man but you're not that cool.
C'mon, T.O., you’re just a fool!

(At right: Image of Owens as crybaby from parody "Child's Play.")

You and your chosen louse, this Rosenhaus,
I circled the day you'll be back in our house.
I got my VIP seats right next to Mr. Lurie,
A blindfold for my son if it gets too gory,
And we'll see you back in Philly, my loudmouth friend.
Let's see if you can play this year to the end.
Let's see you score a touchdown and try to gloat:
You'll have a fist in your face and a Sharpie in your throat.
We got B. Dawk and he'll be stalkin'.
We'll see who's the last guy standing and talkin'.
We'll see who can play right up in your face.
Maybe you can borrow Michael Irvin's neck brace!
But goodness' sake I doubt I'm mistaken
You're gonna wind up with more concussions than Aikman
Because a team means a team and you broke the rule.
C'mon, T.O., you're just a fool!

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