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May 17, 1998

Your Electronic Backfence

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Dear Neighbors:

So how did you like that cool mint Listerine that came with your Sunday newspaper today? My mouth feels like a million. I am also using the shampoo and conditioner delivered several weeks ago -- the only one designed to work WITH a blow dryer. These products are doing the world for me. Folks at my Skeptics Anonymous meetings are beginning to take notice.


Home alone no more. Several folks have expressed interest in carrying on the Home Alone Support Group heritage, so it looks like we will have management by committee. While the group introduces themselves to each other, send me a notice if you would like to be included on the Home Alone email announcement mailing list. (How's that for stringing nouns together?)


There's much happening in city politics these days. Most noticed, least relevant, but certainly most obnoxious is the Mayor's "Will he or won't he" campaign, noncampaign. Congratulations to Mark Fisher of the Washington Post, author of BarryWatch, for getting under the mayor's skin.

Also interesting is the candor of the three declared Democratic candidates. They say they still have not sussed through their campaign issues. As if there were a lack of problems in the city. Granted, the mayor no longer has much facto authority. However, the mayor is an elected, representative position. One would think the candidates could offer the voters more than "I want to be mayor to make my mother proud." All we need is to replace Machiavelli with Hamlet.

Jeffrey Itell May 17, 1998


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Williams for Mayor Draft
Ron Eberhardt (

The Washington Post story on a possible citizen-draft effort for the District's chief financial officer Anthony Williams to run for mayor was interesting (Metro, Page B7, Friday May 15, 1998). It is interesting not because I am prepared to sign-on to such a movement - rather because it opens a discussion and broaches a subject that begs for attention. What I am solidly convinced of is that NONE of either the announced candidates nor those who are likely candidates will make one ounce of difference in the District of Columbia. It is after all, a collection of the "usual suspects" amongst those announced and those who might. These very people have been around for a long time in various public offices. What has their service netted us so far? Not much I strongly suggest. In fact, I prefer to hold them accountable for allowing the District to become the totally dysfunctional and nearly bankrupt city it is. Each of these clowns is always prepared to blame someone else for their collective failures.

Therefore, the discussion of citizens ought to be exactly what this erstwhile group is about. Discovering who would make a competent, qualified and capable candidate of integrity beyond those self-serving persons who have announced. It is not too late for citizens to make a difference in the upcoming elections and finding additional candidates goes a long way to making that difference.


Wrap & Roll Paradox...and Dupont
Michelle Treistman,, professional lurker

Not that I care, but: if the Connecticut Ave. store was only getting weekend afternoon customers, and the Wisconsin Ave. store says it was drawing away their customers, and having customer's only on weekend afternoons is enough to close a store, than how has the Wisconsin Ave. store survived? Hmmn...

As for Market Day in Dupont Circle, if you can tear yourself away from the empty windows, I believe they are now located down the street next to Kramer Books. A much better, in-Circle-traffic, location, if you ask me.


Slogging It Out For The Kids
Jean Lawrence,

Ed Barron sez: "If you want better facilities and safer schools get down to the school where your children are enrolled and raise hell with that school's administrator. If enough people protest the deplorable conditions the schools will be fixed."

Well, gang, you better be patient. When I was in DC, I waged an 18-month campaign to get doors put on the stalls of the girls room in Eaton. The kids (and Moms when we felt the need) had to sit on the throne right out in front of little kids. Eighteen months. The principal did nothing. The custodian did nothing. I went to the blue part of the White Pages and looked up physical plant people at the school superintendent's office. I wrote, I faxed, I called. A year came and went. No doors. Finally, one day, painted plywood doors appeared. They dangled around funny and smacked the frames and didn't lock, but they did the job. Yeah, get involved, parents! You can write and fight your heart out and maybe, just maybe get basic services that everyone else takes for granted.


Taxicab Rules & Regs
Joan Eisenstodt

A non-driver, I use cabs frequently and have been surprised more and more about the number of SMOKING cabs -- where the driver has clearly been smoking in the cab .. the smell is horrific and for me and others like me who have allergies, the ride is awful.

I tho't our cabs were to be non-smoking .. or at least display a sticker one way or the other. (I know.. they are s'posed to be air conditioned too!) Anyone know what's happened and if the crackdown on stickers is the first step in maybe getting the cabs in line?


Penna. Av., S.E.Sidewalk Bricking
Joan Eisenstodt

The sidewalks of Penna., S.E. and environs are all being bricked .. they look lovely but no one doing the work or the merchants seem to be able to tell me why the City or Feds are going to what must be considerable expense to put in a bit o' charm .. rather than replacing police cars. Answers? Clues?

[Different pots of gold. The funds for these activities are not fungible. Folks are all over the Police Department for not spending available funds for police cars and other capital improvements. Even if it was legal, do we want to give the Police Department more money not to spend? Jeff.]


Parking Meters around Dupont Circle
Dianne Rhodes

This morning on my way to the Metro, I noticed that the beheaded parking meters along Sunderland Place and 19th Street were sporting smart new high tech heads. These meters have an LCD digital display and a flashing red light when they have expired. I was just wondering if there is any plan to deter vandals. These are located within the Golden Triangle area, so maybe enforcement is part of that effort.

[I believe the contract for these meters calls for them to be impervious to Godzilla...that ought to cover Vandals, Huns, and other barbarian invaders. Jeff]


The Self-esteem Myth
Ed T. Barron

The lack of learning ability and poor academic performance by District students has, often and vocally, been attributed to the lack of self-esteem of minority students. There's a wonderful article, "Dam'n, I'm Good" by John Leo in the 18 May issue of U.S. News that completely debunks this myth. The self-esteem movement has been a major factor in the dumbing down of schools, according to this article. Valid, and in-depth, research repeatedly shows that academic performance and self-esteem are not related. Researchers have also found that blacks have the same, or more, esteem than whites. This is probably even more true in our DCPS where the majority of schools have more black than white students. So, what's the real problem? The problem, which is endemic to most urban public schools, is the lack of good teachers who use a curriculum that stresses the basics with a good building-block approach.


Tourist Manners
Dorothy Persiflage

Joan Eisenstodt's posting about poor manners by some visitors certainly struck a nerve with Ms. Persiflage, although such wrath need not be limited to visitors, as locals can be every bit as annoying. Ms. Persiflage has observed -- over a decade of careful observation, mind you -- that there is sort of an unwritten rule about behavior in Washington theatres. The rule is: the quality of behavior is inversely proportional to the cost of admission, and the supposed level of "class" of the theatre and its clientele. This rule ("Dorothy's First Law") is in fact more generally applicable than most of that Mr. Newton's so-called "laws."

To prove it, attend a series of live performances at places like the Kennedy Center, the Arena/Kreeger Stages, and even (although slightly less so) the Shakespeare Theatre, and contrast behaviors there to those at the Woolly Mammoth, the Studio, the Source, or even Horizons. In the former group (higher priced) you will inevitably run into fellow theatre-goers who think it's actually possible -- or even chic -- to try to quietly (!) open a candy bar, and eat it quietly(!), the more so by doing it ever so slowly, drawing out the excruciating agony in a way which would only please a Pol Pot. Or the "lady" at the old Folger Theatre who thought she could "quietly" open and close a tin of tic-tacs, which she proceeded to do -- one at a time (!!!) -- and then "crunched" each one between her dentures.

One time Ms. Persiflage had the misfortune to sit right next to a female creature in the Kreeger who was actually chewing bubble gum, and making frequent "popping" noises within her mouth, as if those around her couldn't hear.

On the contrary, the more casually dressed, and sexually and politically ambiguous audiences one runs into at the lower-priced theatres, are much -- MUCH -- better behaved. Dorothy especially remembers with awe the intensity, interest, and respect paid by audiences to the performances in the old Source theatres (when there were three, on 14th Street). Of late Ms. Persiflage has decided to strike back. At the Folger, unable to bear the tic-tac distractions any longer, she leaned over and quietly insisted in the creature's husband's ears: "Would you PLEASE take those tic-tacs away from that woman!" To our pleasure, he did. And at the Kreeger, after ten minutes of pop-n-crack bubble gum nonsense, Ms. P leaned over to this other creature and positively hissed (at low volume): "Would you PLEASE park it under your seat, and save it for the intermission." The creature was obviously shocked, but complied, probably fearing what Ms. Persiflage's next move might be.

I think that the "Electronic Backfence" could do a public service by inciting readers to decide that they are mad as hell (at poor public behavior) and that they are not going to take it any more!" So there.

P.S. Ms. Persiflage is not a copy, by the way, and in certain circles pre-dates that other Ms.... with good manners.

---- Persiflage, definition:

1. Light good-natured talk; banter. 2. Light or frivolous manner of discussing a subject.


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Auto Repair
Nick Keenan,

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