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Thursday, February 27, 2003

A Not-So-Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Condolences to the family and friends of Fred Rogers. Like so many others, I, too, spent many hours of my childhood watching Mr. Rogers.

It is impossible to select among the many fond memories his show etched into my mind. That they persevere nearly 30-plus years later is a testament to a man who could talk to children without acting childish. Mr. Rogers had a unique ability to produce a show on a child's level without the flashy silliness so common throughout most "children's" programming. His most important tool wasn't whiz-bang techno effects, rapid-fire pacing or goofy songs sung by someone dressed up in a silly costume. He tapped into the most versatile and productive form of special effects: a child's imagination. I specifically remember many years ago the Neighborhood Trolley had broken down, so he deftly pulled out a miniature of the full-blown imaginary kingdom complete with matchbox-sized trolley, and instructed his young audience to make up a story on their own. Then he shut up and didn't say a single word for several minutes. In the broadcast world where "dead air" is a mortal sin, THAT was impressive.

Mr. Rogers also possessed a unique gift for "the wonder of the ordinary." My wife and I tuned in his show this morning after reading the news of his death. One segment dealt entirely with the noises fish make underwater and what a bubbling air filter sounds like to fish in a fish tank.

Having recently moved to Pittsburgh, Mr. Rogers was a neighbor in many ways. I think it an understatement that Mr. Rogers is the one person nobody would mind having as their next-door neighbor. So many times we hear stories on the news of adults committing unspeakable acts against defenseless children. A week doesn't go by that we do not see the picture of a missing or abducted child and the person suspected of taking them. Set against all this is the stable, gentle, almost grandfather-like image of Mr. Rogers. For 30 years he has in a way babysat for virtually every family in America, and I dare you to think of anyone you would trust more.

Shakespeare wrote:

All the world ’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.

If that is true, then Mr. Rogers played merely a single part, and in that part he was certainly a star of the show. The neighborhood will never again be as beautiful.

In Memoriam
Fred Rogers

Just can't keep his big mouth shut...
Chirac is getting France in deep doo-doo with everyone these days. Catch is excerpt from an article on, a web rag for French expatriates:

Poland slams 'condescending' Chirac

PARIS, Feb 25 (AFP) - Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek on Tuesday accused France of ignoring Warsaw's views with respect to the Iraq crisis, but called on the two countries to repair the damage to their troubled ties.

"France has recently had an attitude of impressive ignorance and paternalistic condescension with respect to Poland," Geremek wrote in a column published in the French newspaper Le Monde.

Last week in Brussels, French President Jacques Chirac lambasted EU candidate states from eastern Europe for siding with Washington on the Iraq crisis, hinting it could hinder their EU membership bids.

"They should have kept quiet," Chirac said, adding: "They are on the one hand not very well brought up and a bit unaware of the dangers that a too-rapid alignment with the American position could bring with it."

US and Mid-east visits to Paris are way, way down, and a number of countries are tired of France's arrogance, especially in view of their cozy relationship with Iraq.

France is also getting ready to do a 180 on Iraq. In order to save face, they've joined the chorus of voices ordering Iraq to destroy its al-Samoud 2 missile, which UNMOVIC has declared a violation of UN Security Council Resolutions.

My bet is they know their position is hopeless, and they risk international isolation if they continue accomodating Saddam. Now they need an excuse to join the party because nobody except Germany wants anything to do with them.

"Today's report confirms that, despite White House scare tactics, Social Security remains sound for decades to come.."

-? Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (NV) upon hearing reports that the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds will go bankrupt even earlier than predicted.

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