Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hamels, Howard Preview Phillies Opening Day

The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce sponsored on Friday "Paint the Town Red," a Phillies opening week ritual for 30 years. Phillies Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, and new Phillie Mike Young took questions. Owner Bill Giles, CEO David Montgomery, general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr, manager Charlie Manuel were also on hand.

The Phillie Phanatic is red for Red Week.

Ryan Howard said he is feeling "pretty good." To get ready for the season, he channeled Cal Ripken. He played for two weeks straight during spring training. While he was candid that he is slower, he thinks he has found a way to be more efficient.

A bearded Cole Hamels acknowledged it was a "tremendous honor to be selected opening day pitcher." At spring training, Cole's fastballs were averaging 92 mph. He is hoping with cheering from the fans that it will get up to 93 mph.

Mike Young, who played in two World Series games as a Texas Ranger, made it clear that he wants to finally score a World Series ring. "Losing the World Series is tough," he said.

Hamels, who was first allowed to pitch at the age of 10, said, "There is nothing better than pitching a no hitter at Citizen's Bank Park.

Howard was candid that it is hard to come back after a losing season.

Both Howard and Young had good things to say about Phillies prospect Cody Asche. Hamels thought highly of pitching prospects Adam Morgan and Jonathan Pettibone.

Hamels and Howard's two favorite players were Ken Griffey Jr, and Tony Gwynn. Howards also added Barry Bonds to the list. Young picked Don Mattingly.

Owner Bill Giles, who said that ticket sales are down 10% this year, defended the price of Phillies tickets.
"They are cheaper than Sixers and Flyers tickets. People don't like the price they don't have to come."

Forbes magazine recently named the Phillies Franchise the 5th most valuable franchise in major league Baseball. Giles does not think it is likely that the Phillies will move up higher in the rankings.

"We were sold out three years in a row. But a lot of the value is determined by television rights. We can't compete with New York and Los Angeles," he explained.

Montgomery, who is a part owner, does not care about the rankings at all.

"I care about winning not the value of the franchise," he said,

He explained how they pick between two players with equal stats.

"If two players look the same on paper, then we choose the one with the better character. If they both have the same numbers and character, we go with the younger one. We bet on the future," Montgomery said.

Amaro assured that Delmon Young isn't an anti-Semite.

'He's a good kid from a good family. He was drunk and did something stupid that got a lot of attention because he was a celebrity. He was trying to protect the pickpocket," he said..

Cole Hamels was booed when he said that he had chosen Wichita State in his NCAA bracket.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Rebeck Talks Candidly about "Smash" Firing

“Seminar,” written by the creator of the television show “Smash” Teresa Rebeck, is running at the Philadelphia Theatre Company (PTC) until April 14. This is a return trip to PTC for Pulitzer Prize nominated Rebeck. Twenty years ago, she wrote her play “Spike Heels” as one of the first young playwrights in the PTC Mentorship Program.

“Seminar” is a comedy about 4 aspiring writers that paid $5000 each to take a writing seminar given by a famous author. Each of the writers has different and surprising reactions to the true, but cruel criticism from their tortured teacher. Many of them, in rotating combinations, found comfort in each other’s arms. Several are forced to deal with the truth and find their true writing destiny.

Pulitzer Prize nominated playwright Rebeck considers “Seminar” one of her most “precious” plays because it is about the “desperate courage and hope of all writers.” She denies that the play is autobiographical, but admits to adding bits of her experiences and personality to several of the characters. Leonard, the writing teacher, is partially based on a sadistic Manhattan writing teacher. 

“Everyone thinks that I am Kate, the young feminist writer. I was a feminist, but not that militant. I have been a writing teacher. I was impatient but I just hope that I was not as cruel as Leonard. Like Matt, I was reluctant to show my work,” she said.

Rebeck, who won both a Peabody Award and Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for her work on NYPD Blue, believes this the golden age of storytelling because advancements in technology have lowered the cost of telling a story.

She said, “You can now edit on your laptop. My friend made a movie for $15000 that was distributed nationwide,”
Rebeck encourages all aspiring writers to “create their own opportunity” by self –producing instead of submitting grant applications and facing possible rejection.

“I am not sure that art and corporate logic fit together,” she said.

Rebeck’s distaste for the studio system may stem from her very public firing as executive producer from “Smash.”  Steven Spielberg recruited her to the show when he fell in love with her play, “The Understudy”.
“The show is good. Angelica Huston (who plays the tenacious producer) told me last week the show is not broken. It was going to hit its stride in the second season like “West Wing.”

She attributed her firing to “panicking by NBC executives” and “gender issues.”

“There were 10 guys and me,” she said.

Rebeck, who is one of the most successful women writers in the country, feels that she has hit the glass ceiling in the television industry . She points out that playwrights get to keep their own copyright while television and film writers get paid  a lot of money but sell their copyright to the corporations. 

"Play writing is a collaborative horizontal process while television writing is a vertical process. Corporations stomp on you and your work and then steal it. Male writers have said to me that they do it to us also. But it is not the same thing. They have had one play on off Broadway while I have long of writing credits."

Her creative differences with NBC resulted from their requests to have the characters on "Smash" do things that they or the actors would not do. 

"They wanted to make "Karen" the main character, mean. I said that she could get drunk or angry but would never be mean. They wanted Angelica Huston's character to do icky things which Angelica would never do. She is a lady."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Preview Obama's Tour of Israeli Companies

While you might not be accompanying President Obama on Air Force One to Israel, you can preview the special exhibit, "Israeli technology For A Better World" that Obama will see at the Israel Museum during his visit on March 21.

The companies included in the exhibit are:

Phinergy, whose slogan is "The Future Is In the Air," has designed a battery that is powered by aluminum and air. It has three times the range of existing batteries. 

In this video, you can see the car speeding down the highway.


Mobieleye programs prevents traffic collisions by detecting and loudly warning about dangerous situations such as other cars traveling too close, pedestrians, or the auto itself veering into the oncoming traffic lane. If the warning remains unheeded, the system is designed to brake the car if necessary. BMW, GM, Ford, and Volvo have already installed the system in 1 million cars. By 2014, Euro-NCAP will list it as a standard feature.


The ReWalk exoskeleton suit with motorized legs allows paraplegics, such as Artie on "Glee," to walk.


MinDesktop's headsets are controlled by brain waves or facial movements. Thus allowing the physically handicapped to operate a computer.

Robot Snake

The snake robot special design, which includes computers sensors in every joint, allows it to enter collapsed buildings to gather intelligence for rescue crews. It assists in finding trapped persons and ways to safely enter the building.


ElMindA'S Brain Network Activation Platform allows scientists to measure many of the brain's activities noninvasively.

Bair Questions US Treasury Secretary Lew's Abilities

Former FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair questioned new US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew's ability to handle his job during a Q&A at The Atlantic's Economy Summit. She initially lamented that Obama did not reach outside his inner cycle to fill the position.

"The same voices are in the room. We have to get out of this rut," she complained.

Bair particularly did not like the choice of Jack Lew. She panned his overall intelligence by saying that "he is not a quick study". She is worried that Lew probably "will not take an assertive view of financial reform."

Even more troubling, she does not believe that he can handle one of his key responsibilities as Treasury Secretary.

Bair said, "As Treasury Secretary, he is chairman of the the Financial Stability Oversight Council. It is a key voice for financial reform.  He does not have a background in that."

An outspoken critic of administration, Bair continues to give the administration a low grade for their handling of the economy.

"We are not getting more jobs and lending out of this. It is troubling."

Bair, who wrote a vivid account of her time in office called "Bull by the Horns," made some interesting arguments for business to support more infrastructure spending.

She argued, "With interest costs, construction costs so low, it is fiscally irresponsible not to embark on major infrastructure spending. It would lower the cost of doing business."

She urged both sides to come together for a budget deal.

"The fiscal uncertainty, what is happening in Washington, affects the economy," she said.