The Phoenix Files

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Remembering Skip

During his years as a colleague at Haverford, and later as a friend, I observed Skip’s passion for conversation and writing, for helping institutions and persons grow, and for reminding persons of all ages of the difference they can make in the lives of others by caring and giving. Skip graciously shared that vision through his pen and his actions.


G. Holger Hansen

Remembering Skip

Skip was one of the very first people I met when I came to Phoenixville. Though I'd caught some pretty rough first impressions on my way in, Skip was one person who always managed to keep my hopes afloat while adjusting to a new place. Without ever actually saying so, Skip convinced me to stick around and simply keep searching for more people like himself. People who are invariably well-mannered and cordial as Skip was, people who see an individual and their stance on the issues as two different entities. People whose first reflex is to accept rather than judge, to befriend rather than reject. People who have empathy for every last person that crosses their path. This is all much more than I can say for myself, as well as the majority of people I've met along the road of life. That said, Skip's passing is truly a hit to not only our local community, but a major loss to our society as a whole.

Though my one year knowing and working with Skip seems momentary at this point, my friends and I have forged plenty of great memories with him that will last until we're able to sit and talk with him again. Having him over to the house for coffee and conversation on the porch. Filming the music video, enduring a long election night, and attending my first three-hour borough council meeting that, without Skip, may as well have been conducted in Chinese. He encouraged me to seize the opportunity to intern with the Devereux Foundation, a cause he believed in, that a semester later has changed the course of my life and my career forever. I'll always think of Skip whenever I get my hair cut too - if I did something different, he was always ready with a compliment that was sure to warm my heart - and turn my cheeks pink as well.

I wish Skip the best on the other side - I'm sure he's wasted no time in picking the brains of great people that, while on Earth, he could have only imagined having the opportunity to interview. And he's more than qualified to do so. To anyone headed upstairs from this point on, take heart. As the Reverend Horton Heat says, "you've got someone in heaven to talk with today, someone who knows just the right thing to say." Without a doubt, that person is and always has been our good old friend Skip Lawrence.

Christine H. Gibboni
Phoenix Correspondent

Unfinished Domino Theory Music Video for The Dash

Remembering Skip

On Sunday evening, I was both shocked and saddened when informed of the passing of Skip Lawrence. Of course, I got to know Skip through his work as a reporter and columnist for The Phoenix. in time, I realized that Skip was more than just a writer for a local newspaper.
I considered him a friend. Both of us got involved with politics back in the days of JFK. We would often trade old war stories with each other about the many elections events that we both had experienced.
I found Skip to be genuinely concerned about the community of Phoenixville. He reveled in the many amazing things that were happening in our town and the grater Phoenixville area. he didn’t just write about these happenings, he became part of the effort to make Phoenixville a better place to live.
He was a person of great intellect. he was a listener who always allowed you to have your say, even though he may have disagreed with you. This ability to listen was reflected in his many columns that appeared in our local paper.
Most of all, I will remember him as a loving, compassionate individual. he loved his family and especially the grandkids. He loved his fellow workers at the paper, his community and his country.
I share with the community the deep sense of loss and express my sincere condolences to his many friends and family.

Leo J. Scoda
Mayor, Borough of Phoenixville

New Financial Focus Focus with Fred Hubler

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Remembering Skip

Skip Lawrence was the Director of Development at Haverford College during the 1980's, and it was then that I first got to know him. My memories of him from that period were of a young and very handsome man, soft-spoken and slightly whimsical, as he remained throughout the years I knew him (soft-spoken that is, not young). My initial feelings about him, however, were those of envy; no matter how much work he had to do, his desk, which sat in the middle of the room that is now the Provost's office at Haverford, was always neat: filled with papers, but papers arranged in clear, precise overlapping rows that led me to think: here's a man that knows exactly where everything is. It was only years later, after he had left Haverford, in one of the many conversations I had with him, that I realized that Skip's gift was not that of neatness. It isn't that he knew where each of his papers was located; it's that he had a deep intuitive sense of the proper place for everything, including himself; the neat desk just came along for the ride. That's what allowed him, I thought later, to move with happiness and modesty (a genuine modesty, the kind that's indistinguishable from pride) through the different positions he came to occupy over the years. While he was at Haverford, we talked frequently, often about theology, often about literature and philosophy. Skip would sometimes recommend a book that he thought we should both read, and then we would talk about it; the one that I recall most vividly was a slim volume by Frank Kermode, one of England's premier literary theorists, that led the two of us into long conversations about literary discovery and literary appreciation. I cherished those conversations, and I cherish their memory.
Skip is also remembered at the college for his ghost sightings. Here's a passage from the informal history of the College:

"When Skip Lawrence was Haverford's Director of Development in the '80s, he was working late in what is now the Provost's office on the first floor of Founders Hall. Caught up in post-event details, he was jolted by a peculiar sensation: "I had the very strong sense of the presence of a woman." He heard the rustle of a long skirt as an unseen figure entered one of the office's doors and passed by his desk, exiting through the door on the other side of the room. It was Lawrence's only encounter with the spirit."

After Skip left Haverford, our meetings were infrequent and our conversations shorter. But they were no less memorable, and their memory no less cherished.



Aryeh Kosman
John Whitehead Professor of Philosophy Emeritus
Haverford College

Remembering Skip

The news of Skip's passing was shocking and saddening, but stunned me more than anything else when I learned. Skip always had such a vibrant curiosity and enthusiasm about whatever topic you were discussing with him, and even if you were at your lowest low, stressed out for whatever reason, Skip would be there with a sympathetic smile, a Marlboro Red already out and waiting for you to take it, and would simply say 'tell me about it'. He made it seem like whatever it was, whether it was the latest point of contention at a planning commission meeting, listening to you rant about whatever was irking you at the moment, or which coffee joint serves the best brew in town, was the most important thing in the world to him.

Skip truly cared about Phoenixville--not just the town, but the people. The issues. The history. It wasn't just his home. It was his passion. And that's probably why, to borrow a phrase from the one and only Dennis J. Wright, his columns might have seemed "big mind-boggling wordy" to some. Because he wanted people to be as excited and as informed as he was. It's like when you hear a song that blows your mind, or see a movie that is so awesome, you digest every detail. You're pumped. You're psyched. And you want to share that with everyone who will listen.

When I first met Skip, it was my first official night with the Phoenix and I was sitting on a meeting of a local planning body in order to learn how these things worked. I was told Skip would be able to 'show me the ropes' and give me some background information on the issues being discussed and the people discussing them. Well, mission accomplished. He mapped out for me who each member of the planning body was, how long they've been on it and what their stances have been on the various issues throughout their tenure.

No, seriously. He literally drew me a map. Scribbled on the back of his notebook, complete with drawings of the tables and chairs for both the commission members and the audience, little stick figures for each one, and notes by each person such as "stormwater is his pet peeve" for person A and "tends to disagree with majority on most issues...nobody likes him very much" for person B. He succeeded in informing me, in making me laugh, but most importantly he succeeded in making me care about what would have otherwise been a mind-numbingly dull meeting.

Skip wasn't just a walking Wikipedia page for Phoenixville. He was a caring friend, and even if I can't remember every great moment I've had with him, every meaningful conversation or debate, I always remembered how he made feel afterwards. I was somehow less stressed, walked away with something I didn't know before, and always had the feeling that a sympathetic and knowing friend was a phone call away. He was a safety net that, frankly, it sucks not having.

I only regret that after I left the Phoenix I didn't talk with Skip as much as I could have, and didn't treat him fairly in some discussions. We had a great conversation a month or so ago where we promised we'd get together to catch up. I'm sorry I couldn't keep that promise.

He was Phoenixville's champion, a hell of a writer and a loving family man. Goodbye, Skip.

Posted by
Brian McCarthy

Monday, April 27, 2009

Skip's interview with Lou Amici, Republican Candidate for Phoenixville Mayor

Friday, April 24, 2009


Paging Jimmy Jones

Am I the only one that thinks that if CFOs are going to start offing themselves, they need to do it in one mass, cathartic event? Someone should get to work on organizing this.

Is this the year they try?

The Florida Marlins, who have the distinction of being the only Major League Baseball team to have won the World Series in every year they’ve actually tried to win the World Series, are 11-4 and four games up on the Phillies and Braves. Philosophical question: if the Marlins run away with the NL East, will anybody in Miami care?

Bands that never lived up their names (random list, subject to change)

5. The Outlaws

4. Fear

3. Gallows

2. The Dictatortots

1. John Cougar Concentration Camp

There is nothing new under the Sun

I hate when I get deep into a conversation and realize that the conclusion my conversation partner and I just arrived at had already been covered by Bad Religion 15 years ago.

Micromedia and social devolution

What we’re facing now in the newspaper industry is an inability to deal with options. The inherent nature of the product means that we need to appeal to as many people as possible, and many newspapers around the country, in a desperate attempt to do this, appeal to no one. Thirty years ago, newspapers could put a sweeping national story on the front page and sell. There aren’t any sweeping national stories anymore. There aren’t even very many sweeping local stories anymore. Producers of entertainment and news media are now, to a certain extent, and will become more so in the future, very small voices disseminating to very small groups of consumers. I’m not sure this is a bad thing.

I’m not really a reader…

If you’re not reading Paul Oliver’s book review in the paper and on this site, you’re missing out. Good books, interesting thoughts on them. What’s not to like? Get on it, rube!

Look at me! (I’m a winner!)

No one entered the unofficial Phoenix Files contest from last week, but I’ll leave it open for another week. Hey look! Free lunch!

Favorite words of the week

5. Ancients

4. Mummery

3. Immolation

2. Arbiter

1. Flotsam


What is the paper used for U.S. currency made from?

Blog of the week:

Come on, who doesn’t love a collection of Ukrainian electoral maps, U.S. states labeled with their mottos instead of their names, maps of Europe that don’t include Germany (according to the info on the blog, the idea of spinning the country off into its neighbors was floated by a few crazies toward the end of World War II) and a by-county breakdown of who in America watches the most Jeopardy! This site is a wealth of useless information (which happens to be the best kind).

Out of thoughts. Shutting down now.

Posted by
Nick "Never Look Back" Danna

Thursday, April 23, 2009

News Something Grilled with Sal Paterno

Grilled Flounder with Asparagus

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hawk Mountain

Though Hawk Mountain is a bit out of the way (it's over near Hamburg), it's worth checking out as one of Pennsylvania's fine preserved lands. It's great to go now in particular because now until April 24 is the peak of migration for raptors, though they will continue migrating through May 15. There will be interns on site to help spot all types of raptors (like the turkey vultures in these pictures). Plus, because it's the 75th anniversary for Hawk Mountain, they are running
a 75 cent Friday program that allows you access to the trails for just 75 cents, which is an awesome amount. We've got nice days coming up this weekend and I would suggest taking the journey up to Hawk Mountain to enjoy the beauty of the surrounding areas (even if you don't love birds, the views and trails are a lot of fun). For more information about the preserve, visit

Financial Focus with Fred Hubler Episode 17: The Stimulus Package

Monday, April 20, 2009

WOW Phoenixville with Kim Cooley

Kim talks with Lisa about Earthmart's Programs and Services

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The shark that jumped itself

“What a sad damn statement this makes about your generation…”
-- Early Cuyler

Those of us that toil round the clock at here at The Phoenix (I type this at 4:19 a.m.) tend to start conversations that we can’t realistically finish in the 18.93 minutes per day that we have budgeted under the line item “Shoes, Ships, Sealing Wax, Cabbages and Kings.”

So it is with the conversation started, oh, several weeks ago, on the front stoop of The Phoenix about music and why 99.99999999999999999 percent of it released after, say, 2000, has been damn-near unlistenable. I’ll spare you the myriad theories discussed, mulled, rejected and refined. I will, since this is my blog, throw my particular theory out for examination.

Music (and by music I mean random or not-so-random noises arranged into certain orders so that they resemble rock and/or roll, or any sub-genre thereof; I stand mute on hip-hop, classical, Peruvian flute bands, yodeling and anything that involves the didgeridoo) sucks right now because it is so intensely self-aware that it’s unable to do much of anything. In short, it has become J. Alfred Proofrock. What dread force has music frozen in place, you may ask? Why, irony, of course. When I listen to what has been offered to me as “good new music,” I tend to get one very distinct impression: that what is coming out of the amps and mouths of those performing is a very low priority for those performing.

Those that know me know that what I listen to requires very little technical skill in order to produce. But it requires something that seems to be nearing extinction: sincerity in purpose and argument. I don’t get that sense of sincerity when I listen to newer bands. Here’s what I get: a cavalier attitude to their particular lyrical subject matter, an embrace of instrumentation chosen solely for its ironic value (Did we really need the two-minute keyboard intro? Did we really need the keyboard at all? Or are we just throwing it into the mix because, gasp, keyboards don’t belong in rock and/or roll songs! How deliciously ironic and, therefore, hip!), and a willingness to throw everything genuine about their music out the window if it means impressing jaded scenesters with how biting and flip they can be about what should be the most important thing in their life.

I won’t name bad band names here, simply because I can’t remember any of them (I have limited storage space these days, and most of it is taken up with line-by-line memorizations of the complete Aqua Teen Hunger Force series; and that I can’t remember any of the names is a shame in and of itself, for good band names are one of life’s little pleasures). I will say that I can only name three or four bands that I have become aware of since 2001 that have started with and maintained a sense of sincerity about what they’re doing, that it’s ALL not just some joke, that this might mean something to somebody in some way.

Without sincerity in purpose, you can throw every single one of my top-five all time records out the window. If Jesse Michaels is joking, Operation Ivy’s “Energy” is truly pointless. If you strip away earnestness and urgency, Minor Threat’s “Out Of Step” is, well, non-existent.

In fact, I dare say that there’s only been one irony-dripping record produced in the past eight years that I do enjoy: The Aquabats’ “Charge!!” Why do I like that record? After all, it is one big joke. Listen to it and figure out who the joke’s on, then you’ll know why I love it.

Super Special Bonus Content

Warning, the following would probably only make sense to a normal person at 4:30 a.m. You should really just come back then.

In doing some research for this post, I stumbled across one good band name which had been culled from the lyrics of a band that is, by far, the best thing that New Jersey has ever produced. It’s a shame the newer band isn’t too great, given that it got its name from my favorite song by the older band, but it got me to thinking that the older band’s lyrics are rife with tidbits that would make FANTASTIC band names. Here’s a sampling of potential band names, along with suitable genres, pilfered from just one song:

- “Burning Hand” (Swedish death/techno pop)
- “Prime Directive” (Math Rock; name probably taken, given its long history as a phrase)
- “Exterminate!” (folk rock bands that have set the collected works of Joseph Conrad to music)
- “Pile of Flesh” (only suitable for the name of a Lamb of God side project, but phenomenal in that role)
- “Pumps In Death” (Screamo, or hair metal when it finally makes its almost-certain comeback)

Unofficial Phoenix Files Contest: the first non-Phoenix employee that walks in the office, talks to me and names the band and song these are culled from, I’ll buy them lunch. You have to have known it without the benefit of Google, however. And I’ll know if you didn’t. Trust me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

New Financial Focus with Fred Hubler Episode 16

Monday, April 13, 2009

Nuking The Shark

Things That Have Nuked The Shark in The 2000's

10. The Wrestling Industry

Lesson: Competition Is Important!

9. Guy Richie
Hey Look Another Reason To Hate Madonna!

8. Adult SwimWe've Gone From Aqua Teen Hunger Force to Anime and Assy McGee, "Great, Now No One Can Watch It"

7. MSNBCMSNBC: They Start Slow, Get Confused in The Middle and Then They Lose

6. Radiohead
Hail to The Thief.... I GET IT! HA HA


Up Next on ESPN, What You Should Watch on ESPN

4. Oversized Women's Sunglasses

You Look Mentally Ill

3. Wes Anderson
And The Trick Gets Old. What Do You Expect From Someone Who
Hangs Out With The Wilson Brothers

2. The InternetIt Was A Good Idea, But Is It Really Worth It?

1. The Shark

Posted by
Matthew Byrd

Thursday, April 9, 2009

↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ← → ← → B A B A With Alex Hahn

Animal Crossing:

City Folk

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

News Financial Focus with Fred Hubler Episode 15: The Stimulus Package

Quick Charge Batteries

The majority of you probably have a digital camera, whether it’s a point and shoot or a DSLR. Or maybe you have a handheld gaming device like a PSP or even the newest DSi. If you don’t have those, then how about a laptop? And if you’re still batting 0 for 3, I bet you have a cell phone.

All of these devices use lithium-ion batteries, which last much longer than traditional batteries. Unfortunately, charging these batteries can take a couple hours and sometimes that can be a pain.

Great news though: there’s been a breakthrough in the understanding of how lithium-ion batteries work and the long charge time will become a thing of the past. Though it’s a lot of technical talk, scientists have discovered a way to get the ions to move faster through the battery and therefore charge faster. They’ve also discovered a material that does not lose its capacity to charge over time.

Now, how is this better for the environment (besides not having to dispose of so many dangerous batteries)? Well, it could change the face of hybrid cars and make cars that run fully on batteries even more popular. In addition to a quick charge, these new batteries would have a quick discharge, which would mean that hybrid and electric cars could accelerate better.

For more information, check out:

Posted by
Laurie Perini

Friday, April 3, 2009

On The Street: What Businesses Would You Like to See Open?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

↑ ↑ ↓ ↓ ← → ← → B A With Alex Hahn

Super Smash Bros. III


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The American Dream, the few and the many

Dear Nick,

“We don’t feel like what we thought our fathers felt like when we looked up at them as children,” you wrote, and that captured the heart of the matter for me.

That “a mortgage, two cars and 2.7 kids” has remained a definition of success for so long is a tribute to the same sort of marketing genius that required a cultural history of the 1950s and early ‘60s to be wrapped up in the neat package of Mad Men. It had to be an advertising firm.

There was even a sense then, as was once reported to me by someone who lived it as a father of three, that “in 1953, buying the house was not only an opportunity, but we regarded getting a mortgage almost a duty,” and he didn’t mean just a duty to his kids. Having that mortgage, those three kids and, yes (at least by 1966) two cars rose almost to the level of a statement of patriotism. It was a kind of a national security against the demons of Depression memories.

Funding all of those obligations was a “career,” and please note that “career” is a notion precisely as old, and only as old, as “consumer credit” is. The mid-century young “professional,” the new hope of the nation’s future, came with a ready-made life-story template and a freshly-minted credit card.

Well, of course, it was all an illusion. A comforting one for a struggling white middle class in so far as it appeared to plot out a definition of “better.” Comforting for the credit markets. But it was also a demanding illusion, and — need I say it? — the illusion has been making its back-end demands for some time now. It is making some especially serious ones presently.

And, all the while, the illusion left more people out of the Dream than in.

There may be an American Dream, but that version was never its proper definition. Time to put it on the shelf, next to the other, older myth of the yeoman farmer, another myth that comforted the few, demanded more of more, and purposefully left out the many.

But what the many has known all along is that few of us have careers; most of us have gigs. That paying the bills — whether or not the pile includes a mortgage payment, car loan payment or a bill for kids’ shoes — paying the bills is not a feeble definition of success.

By the way, I find myself channeling my father here. Never carried a mortgage. During the Depression, never turned down a one-week-long gig. Left school after 4th grade but finished high school part-time evenings, at forty. Never measured up, he believed, to his (early-century version) professional, mortgage-carrying father’s judgments of success.

Let me propose this: that it is neither career nor educational attainment, not occupational status nor where that occupation is carried out, but plain competence at living and working that should stand as the proper measurement.

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Joe Rooney's commentary to "LIFEBLOOD OF THE BOROUGH"

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