No, Thanks, Really, I Don’t Want Another Dog

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I wrote a story for the September issue of the magazine about some very nice dogs. I started working on the story back in February, so for a long time, whenever anyone asked me what I was writing, I would tell them about these dogs. This provided an opportunity for people who knew me to say, “So! I guess you’re thinking about getting another dog!”

This was especially true of my two kids, who, when they were growing up, frequently accused me of loving our dog more than I loved them. There was some truth to this. Homer, the collie/shepherd mix who shared our lives for 12 years, never once kept me waiting, never couldn’t find his shoes, never talked back, never got arrested. It’s been five years now since we had to have him put to sleep, and I guess that’s considered a suitable length of time for mourning, because suddenly everybody is convinced I must want another dog.

“Don’t you miss when we used to take Homer for walks?” my daughter Marcy will ask, apparently forgetting that she frequently had to be hauled out of the house kicking and screaming when it was time for those walks. “A dog would make it easier for you to make new friends,” my son Jake will say. He’s become convinced I need to “make some new friends your own age,” as he puts it, like I’m a socially inept sixth-grader and he’s the parent. He recently guilted me into paying $220 for a special tailgating parking pass at his college, to fulfill some fantasy he has of me clinking highball glasses with the parents of his football teammates before the games. But he’s not going to guilt me into getting another dog.

I don’t want another dog. Read more »

Apple (Yawn) Launched a New iPhone and a Watch Yesterday

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I find it difficult to get excited about new consumer technology these days. It may be a sign that I’m getting older or cheaper, or perhaps a bit more jaded about how much easier things need to be. I already blame my iPhone for my waning ability to remember things, and I hold Netflix responsible for how much time I spend sitting in one place on weekends: Binge sessions of House of Cards have become a priority in my home.

I also find it difficult to get excited about big Apple releases (like yesterday’s) because I’m not quite sure that Apple is at the forefront anymore.

When I heard about the iPhone 6 release, I wasn’t all that excited. In truth, I haven’t really been excited about Apple since Steve Jobs died in 2011. I’ve had the 4s for as long as its been out and it suits me just fine. I watched the release announcement yesterday, not because I wanted the phone, but because everyone else was — I thought perhaps I missed something.

What was missed yesterday was an opportunity, at least from a branding perspective.

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I Just Can’t Even With Jezebel Anymore

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I remember back in the olden days when I first met Jezebel, the distaff online blog of the mighty Gawker empire. It was like stumbling into the best party ever. The women who wrote for it — Anna Holmes, Anna North, Tracie Egan Morrissey, Moe Tkacik (who worked with me at Philly Mag for a while) — were like the coolest girls ever, except they weren’t mean to other girls, only to the rest of the world. I loved their writing, and I loved what they wrote about (even, a couple of times, when they were writing angry stuff about me). Jezebel felt like home in a way no other website I knew of did.

That was then. This is now — last Saturday, to be specific, when I clicked on a story on the site that was headlined, “Indiana Man Raped and Tortured His Wife Under Forced ‘Slave Contract.’” Who reads stories like that on a lovely weekend afternoon? The sort of people who love Law & Order: SVU, which would be me. My excuse is that I’m interested in the human mind and criminal behavior and emotions and love and hate. Anyway, the write-up, by Isha Aran, was pretty much what the headline described — just your average Midwestern rape-and-torture-ordeal tale. What got to me — what made me send myself an email with a link and the all-caps subject line PLEASE WRITE ABOUT THIS — were the comments following the piece. Read more »

The War on Household Germs Goes Nuclear

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Last weekend I was at the Shore with my relations, as I am every August at this time of year. We’d just finished supper, and as some of us got up to clear the table, I began putting the leftovers away. I packed some rice into a bowl, covered it with plastic wrap, and went to put it in the fridge. “You’re not going to put that in there now, are you?” my cousin Joan asked in horror.

“Why not?”

“If you put leftovers covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator before they cool down, they’ll give you cancer,” she said.

“What?” I said. “I never heard of such a thing.”

“It’s true,” my cousin Pam said, in a rare instance of backing up Joanie. “Some kind of chemical collects on the underside of the plastic wrap.”

“Did you ever hear of this?” I asked a nearby sibling.

My sister Nan shook her head.

“I think the fridge uses up more energy if you don’t let them cool down first,” my daughter Marcy said tentatively. “But I never heard of the cancer thing.”

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Four Lessons Philadelphia Can Learn from The Simpsons

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A scene from The Simpsons, “Jury of the Damned.”

I’m not (necessarily) proud of it, but I spent most of my weekend with The Simpsons. At best, I’m a casual fan, but on a rainy Saturday, FXX’s 24-hour, 552-episode Simpsons marathon proved to be a pretty seductive mix of cozy nostalgia, surprisingly timeless writing, and non-judgmental hangover company.

Then, things got weird. After six or so uninterrupted hours in Springfield, it became apparent that the allegedly fictional town is based on none other than Philadelphia.

Officially speaking, series creator Matt Groening claims that Springfield is inspired by a number of generic small towns, and the ambiguity of where, exactly, it could exist is a long-running joke on the show (trust me — I haven’t got off my couch in days). Briefly, the honor went to Springfield, Vermont, when Fox held a contest promoting The Simpsons Movie.

However, Philadelphians will recognize the mix of casual corruption, enthusiastic alcoholism, rabid fandom, and blood-sucking, soul-crushing monopolies as, well, home sweet home.

Personally, I’m OK with this — I can get down with a place where my jeans stay in style for 25 years. My issue is that Springfield has, over the years, figured out how to do Philadelphia better than Philadelphia.

Here’s what we could learn, or at least stand to remember, from our four-fingered friends.

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Robertses May Save Philadelphia Theatre Company

Suzanne Roberts Theater. Photo | G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

Suzanne Roberts Theater. Photo | G. Widman for Visit Philadelphia

The Inquirer reports on a $2.5 million plan to save the Philadelphia Theatre Company from financial collapse:

The rescue plan, which ties new financial support to a re-organization of the company, was instigated by philanthropist Suzanne Roberts, mother of Comcast chairman Brian Roberts and a longtime patron of the company, and was fleshed out with help from Comcast executive vice president David L. Cohen. It calls for arts consultant Michael M. Kaiser, departing president of Washington’s Kennedy Center, to develop a new business plan that is more detailed than the analysis he has already provided at the behest of the Roberts family.

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3 Rules for Surviving (and Thriving) on Yelp

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My sister is a really good doctor. She runs two busy offices in South Philly. Her patients include CEOs of large companies and union workers from the neighborhood. She sees everything from colds to cancer and knows the best specialists in town. I wouldn’t let her cut my fingernails, of course. But that’s because she’s my sister and I still remember her as a bossy 15-year-old. But her patients I know love her.

Except for this one guy. He skewered her on Yelp. He complained about her office. He gave her a low rating. And what was worse, that she didn’t even know about it until somebody (that was a gloating me) told her about it. She barely knew about Yelp. But apparently, her office was listed there and a handful of people made comments — all great except for the one guy. And it really, really upset her. I get it — people don’t like to hear bad stuff.

Is your business on Yelp? You better check.

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3 Great Moments in PC Hysteria

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It’s been a busy week here in the P.C. States of America, with everybody defending everybody else’s right to be offended, with the usual head-spinning results. Let’s start at Ohio State University, which just fired the director of its world-renowned marching band for allowing hazing and sexual harassment to go on amidst its ranks. (You may have seen the band’s halftime tribute to Michael Jackson on YouTube last year.) One practice decried in a university report was the assignment of nicknames to new band members — nicknames that the university deemed degrading, such as “Jizzy” and “Twinkle Dick,” according to the august Chronicle of Higher Ed. Among the objectionable monikers the report cited was “Jwoobs,” given to a female Jewish student with large breasts. Read more »

10 Men You Should Unfollow on Twitter

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Earlier this week, the Internet was all aflutter with news of the latest feminist hashtag. #UnfollowAMan is a (questionably executed) satirical movement created by Buzzfeed staffer Katie Notopoulos and the premise is simple: Unfollow a man — or in Notopoulos’s case, all men — on Twitter. She writes that after doing some research about her typical Twitter actions she was horrified to learn that she was “using it like a locker room where jocular masculine sick burns are doled out each minute like 140-character towel snaps.”

So, she went on what she calls “a digital man cleanse.”

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