Trying to Make Sense of Senseless Sheridan and Germanwings Tragedies


He was 72 years old, a collector of antiques, the well-respected Cooper University Health System CEO, the father of four sons, married 47 years to the same woman. He was “mild-mannered.” He “made a living with his head, not his hands.” He had “a really strong relationship” with his family. That John Sheridan would kill his wife and then himself in their suburban New Jersey bedroom was so unthinkable that those sons hired their own forensic pathologist and staved off a declaration of their father’s cause of death for six long months, sure there had to be another explanation. An antiques dealer who knew Sheridan called the notion that he’d killed himself “ridiculous.” “If you’re going to tell me John did it, it was murder-suicide, then tell me why,” the wife’s brother challenged the Inquirer, in a story published hours before the Somerset County prosecutor’s office finally ruled the tragedy just that.

He was 27 and lived in a middle-class third-floor apartment in Düsseldorf, Germany. A neighbor said he was “very shy.” People who saw him recently “said he didn’t appear to be burdened.” Those who knew him said he was “quiet, pleasant and responsible,” according to the Wall Street Journal — right up until Andreas Lubitz locked his captain out of the cockpit of the Germanwings plane they were flying and plowed it into a mountainside.

Last week was a helluva week for the meek and mild. Read more »

The Best Thing That Happened This Week: Starbucks Said “Never Mind”

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the coffee company's annual shareholders meeting in Seattle on March 18th.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks at the coffee company’s annual shareholders meeting in Seattle on March 18th.

When Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced the company’s new social-justice initiative — having baristas write “Race Together” on coffee cups to encourage conversations about, uh, race — we here at Philly Mag shuddered, long and hard.

Hey, we’re journalists. We love us some coffee. And while we have a fancy in-house coffee machine — it grinds the beans right before your eyes! — we are journalists, so we prefer to watch someone else work. So we love Starbucks. Besides, what journalist today doesn’t have five bucks to blow on a caramel flan skim-milk latte?

On the other hand … we’re Philly Mag. And if anyone has learned the hazards of a flat white approach to the touchy topic of race, baby, we haveOh boy, Howard, we thought, you are gonna get schooled.

He did. Last Sunday, with its grand scheme mocked by everyone from Gawker to Twitter to NPR, Starbucks threw in the towel. No more messages on coffee cups. No more worrying that your barista will open up a dialogue instead of just getting you your goddamned coffee. Now we can all get back to not talking about that thing we all talk about all the time.

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How a Bagless Bissell Vacuum Cleaner Changed My Life

Not all vacuums are created equal. Photos |

I have a long and checkered relationship with vacuum cleaners. Such simple appliances, yet they can cause such angst. You plug one in, you run it over your rug, that’s it. Only it’s really not. Most vacuums don’t do a good job at the one job they’re supposed to do.

You know this. You’ve been in this same situation: There’s a speck of something on the carpet. You run over it with the vacuum. Nothing happens. You run over it again. Nada. Zip. You repeat your actions, with increasing annoyance. The speck remains immobile. Finally, defeated, you bend down and scrape the speck up off the rug with your fingernail.

A machine whose sole raison d’être is to remove specks from the carpet ought to be capable of that. Read more »

The Best Thing That Happened This Week: Bruno Lives!

God, what a winter. And then, on the first day of spring, we got hit with this? No wonder the whole city’s in a foul mood. If we’re not shooting or stabbing one another, we’re joining hate groups or stealing from each other or posting naked pictures of each other on Facebook or fighting about race. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that good things happen! Like … like … like Villanova becoming everyone’s darling in the NCAA tournament! (Nice while it lasted.) Or like a tiny dog trotting out of a collapsed building after three days lost in the rubble. Is that a tear of joy I see, you tough old town? Yeah. I thought it was.


The Real Reason Penn’s Tuition Is Going Up Again This Year

Penn has just announced that the cost of its undergrad tuition will go up by 3.9 percent this year. This is the sixth year in a row that our Ivy’s tuition hike has been 3.9 percent, demonstrating either that Penn thinks 4 percent sounds like a lot more than 3.9 percent, or that 39 is Amy Gutmann‘s lucky number.

If you think paying $63,526 to take courses like “Poetics of Screenwriting” and “Witches, Whores and Rogues” sounds a little steep, that just shows you don’t know the value of a dollar. Neither do I, apparently. I’m puzzled, because while Penn announced the tuition jump, it also announced that it wasn’t really a tuition jump, because financial aid would also be going up, to an all-time high of $206 million, which, the Daily Pennsylvanian assures us, “should keep attendance relatively affordable.” Hang onto that “relatively” like a drowning man. Read more »

The Death of the Professional Critic in Philadelphia

Illustration by Matt Chase

Illustration by Matt Chase

When I and my fellow boomers get together in our dad and mom jeans and yak about the good old days when we were growing up, I find myself at a distinct disadvantage. While I share a common cultural heritage with most of my cohort, there is one gaping hole. I never watched a lot of the television shows they watched, because those shows were what my mom called “vulgar.”

The Carol Burnett Show, Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies — all were forbidden. The Wonderful World of Disney, Bonanza, Flipper? Allowed. I know that the concept of a parent exercising such bald veto power over Petticoat Junction — or anything on a screen — is unthinkable to contemporary mothers and fathers. I’m not asking for their pity. I’m merely explaining why I grew up imbued with a sense that some items on the cultural table are more worthy than others. Read more »

The Best Thing That Happened This Week: The NRA Lost Face


Do you have a gun? Do you think I have a gun? Most media reports would have you believe that ever since President Obama’s election, we Americans have been arming ourselves to the teeth. But a new survey by the well-respected, independent research organization NORC shows just the opposite. Only 22 percent of us today own guns, down from 31 percent in 1985. So come out of that bunker. The NRA’s desperate efforts to overturn gun-control ordinances in cities like Lancaster and Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are the death throes of a lobbying bully that knows its time is coming to an end. For which citizens from Newtown, Connecticut, to Aurora, Colorado, gratefully say: Amen.


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