All of us here at Zeke’s Blog are all for bringing more sheen and gloss to downtown Reading. After all, we live in a crassly materialistic society and why not keep up with the Joneses?So it’s good news that the Berks County Community Foundation’s new headquarters near the proposed GoggleWorks Center for the Arts at Second and Washington streets will be the first environmentally friendly “green” building in downtown Reading.The foundation’s $1.5 million, two-story headquarters will feature geothermal heat pumps, water recycling, solar power and – get this – a grass roof. OK, I will squelch the temptation to make a cheap remark that perhaps all female visitors will be required to wear grass skirts.The grass roof will help reduce energy use by keeping the building cooler.By the way, if the term “green” building isn’t yet stitched into the binding of your vocabulary, its prerequisites are: Encourage urban redevelopment; be accessible by public transportation; use landscape and building design to reduce heat pockets; reduce water use by 20 percent to 30 percent; optimize energy conservation and use renewable energy sources; use local and regional materials or recycled materials; maintain indoor environmental quality; and use innovative design.All laudable goals, I might add. Can you imagine Cotton Street lined with such “green” buildings? People will be double-parked on every block as motorists rubberneck in awe.“I hope this building will be an example to other developers that it is possible to build environmentally friendly buildings in an urban setting,” said Foundation president Kevin K. Murphy.Hopefully, all the slumlords and crack house owners in downtown Reading won’t envision this “green” building concept as merely a fool’s façade.If all their blighted buildings suddenly would adopt the “green” house format, the abandon and fury that characterizes city zoning undoubtedly would vanish quicker than a street corner drug transaction.Of course, slumlords and crack dealers aren’t by nature exactly meticulous craftsmen, so the jury still is out. Still, there’s always the hope that they will realize that syntax and structure are everything.For instance, the Berks County Community Foundation’s posh new digs will make extensive use of technology. Computers will monitor the building’s internal systems and its conference center will be equivalent to meeting rooms owned by Fortune 500 companies. Sounds like a great place to hold state-of-the-art City Council meetings.Already the hi-tech wizardy of the proposed edifice has attracted Mayor Tom McMahon’s eternal optimism. “If it’s done right, it could be a national attraction,” McMahon said. Murphy, to his credit, kept things in a bit of perspective by saying: “This doesn’t mean that the average family, instead of packing up and going to Disney World, will come to this. But it will have somewhat of a tourism element for people interested in the technology.” I, for one, have canceled our family’s planned trip to Disney and instead will save our bucks to tour the Foundation’s fancy joint.I imagine, tucked away in the Second and Washington ambience, it’s going to sparkle like fireworks in a catacomb.
Danica Patrick never once flinched in the white gauze of the spotlight Sunday.A symphony in flamboyance, she showed plenty of pluck and grit in finishing fourth in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.Of course, everybody fell in love with the 23-year-old rookie and this time it wasn’t because of her flowing black hair and photogenic features.Rather, 300,000 people at Indy and millions watching on ABC echoed with thumping heartbeats alternating between stiletto and hatchet as Patrick made the strongest showing by a woman in the storied race’s 89-year history.In an unforgiving sport in which brave souls race at supersonic speeds all the while knowing that metal and flesh can be reduced to poisonous ash in the twinkling of a panicked eye, Patrick flashed fireworks in her eyes and displayed an indomitable will in her heart. Yes, she’s a sexy woman. But she’s also a thoroughbred behind the wheel — strong, fast and elegant.While America and the world had their throats gulp into their mouths, Danica courageously and miraculously overcame two rookie miscues.In so doing, she not only became the first woman to lead a lap at Indy, but she had the lead with a mere 10 laps to go. For fleeting moments, the Earth stopped spinning on its axis.Global emotions definitely were dancing the Bulgarian polka as we all screamed: Can she do it?Alas, her crew had gambled that she could make to the end of the 200-lap race when she took the lead on lap 172 when everyone in front of her pitted.And in the dramatic final laps that somehow seemed to be moving in terrifying slow motion despite speeds in excess of 200 mph,, she couldn’t run at full power, eventually sliding back to fourth as her fuel tank grew agonizingly drier than an empty promise. Had she taken the checkered flag, the marketing aftershocks hardly would have been baleful. No matter. Sprinkle her with stardust because she already glitters like jewel box awash in moonlight.You can wager we will be seeing plenty of her charismatic sun-kissed profile.
Remember when the conventional wisdom of a few years ago was that downtown Reading was facing doomsday? Experts and non-experts alike seemingly proclaimed that our city’s diagnosis was terminal.But that fatal snapping point never transpired. Still, back in the day when our downtown was deader than a convention of funeral directors, we all were scared witless about Reading’s future.After all, nothing stabs so straight at what is weak in an urban core, and bleeds it so pale, as an absence of hope.Fortunately, our frustration has ebbed because it found drainage and no longer floods our fair city with despair. The gates of urban renewal are opening a crack at a time and little breezes of hope are wafting in.Now it seems the city is close to a deal that would bring a 200-room convention-type hotel to a site across from the Sovereign Center arena in the 700 block of Penn Street.The upscale, full-service hotel would contain 200 rooms as well as ballroom-banquet space, an exhibition hall and meeting rooms. The meeting rooms are the marquee appeal because they could help Reading become a magnet for the convention trade industry.Since the outlets in Reading have drifted into the mists of yesterday, the city needs a new reason to become a destination. After all, the Pagoda alone isn’t going to attract the masses like moths to a light bulb.With the new hotel, tourists could be multiplying like locusts around here.At first blush, the hotel would seem to be a definite depot for dreams promising untold delights. Conventioneers dancing and prancing downtown when the daylight is dying would splash us with more nocturnal neon. Of course, mischief is curling all over my mouth as I ask this, sort of tongue in cheek: Will a healthy influx of tourists be a total positive?For instance, more tourists will mean more traffic. And more traffic will mean more folks scraping our fenders. And we all know that traffic jams make all of us children again when road rage hitches a ride in the driver’s seat.My role as a blogger is to reduce complexities to root matters. And I say the success of conventions in terms of economic impact depends on the type of conventioneers we attract.We need conventioneers who are willing to get loose and spend bucks in our restaurants, bars and stores.If we get milquetoast conventioneers who have nothing but moths in their wallets, the only winners will be the hotels. Granted, that’s not a bad thing. But the economic tourism windfall will be one-dimensional. So if Reading is to evolve into Destination City, we need conventioneers willing to party hardy to terminate the long days of ennui and frustration.So once the hotel sprouts from the sterile macadam of a parking lot, don’t be shocked and awed if you spot an army of conventioneers frolicking downtown while wearing nothing but party hats and whipped cream. That will be a good thing for all of us.I think.
OK, I’m watching “Today” on NBC this morning and I’m in trouble. I’m running late and I can’t figure out if my slacks are gray or brown.It’s tough being colorblind when you’re in a hurry. So I’m squinting at these pants, trying to decide whether to wear blue socks or brown socks or to walk on the wild side and go sockless to the office.And it’s not even a dress-down Friday.Suddenly, I no longer care about my pants or my socks. Matt Lauer is airing a segment about the nuclear fallout from a spicy TV spot by Carl’s Jr. starring a scantily clad Paris Hilton sudsing up a Bentley to the tune of “I Love Paris in The Springtime.” For the record, I can’t imagine how this sorry riff-raff ever gets on the air. I obviously find such trashy, sleazy attempts to sell a product to be utterly loathsome.But that’s just me. So I try to avert my eyes and recast my focus on my fashion nightmare.Yeah, right.I never even heard of Carl’s Jr. But I have now. I watch the entire segment, figuring if my boss is annoyed that I’m late — well, tough!By the way, Carl’s Jr. sells hamburgers. Not as many as McDonald’s or Burger King or Wendy’s, but they’d like to.Enter the saucy Paris Hilton into the equation. The heiress, who seems to have taken the invention of celebrity to an even higher (lower?) dimension, appeals to those 18-to-24-year-olds whose volatile hormones love to zealously swallow hamburgers. So I have a message for the poor dupes running those parental watchdog groups. Sex sells! Carl’s Jr. is merely doing some savvy marketing.They obviously can’t match McDonald’s or Burger King or Wendy’s media dollar for media dollar. So they opt for the provocative big-bang theory. Indeed, the traffic to see the ad on a URL Carl’s Jr. set up crashed the site for several hours. How’s that for a media buy, baby?Many folks love to roam into the realms of frothy fantasy. And Paris Hilton is hot and edgy right now among some demographics (males ages 13 to 96).So advertisers capitalize on her charms. Do some companies dilute the standards of good taste to pitch their products?Hello there! Of course they do. The monastic approach is for monasteries. And you won’t find any monasteries with a Madison Avenue address. The core of the quarrel, of course, is that this racy commercial shouldn’t be airing on children’s programming, etc.But for those of us who are 12 and over, it’s empowering to know that there’s a hamburger option out there besides McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s.And if we’re forced to ogle Paris Hilton in leather and lather while expanding our horizons, well, life’s a series of tradeoffs and compromises.
Dusty Rhodes, a self-proclaimed fat, bug-eyed slob of a pro wrestler, used to thunder from the ring: “I AM the American Dream!”Well, hardly, thank God. Otherwise, our dear Republic surely would be in the trash heap by now.Now, we have the “American Idol” competition holding America’s psyche hostage. Quite frankly, some of the past Idols have been false idols. Well, the wailing and gnashing of teeth across our land may end shortly. America could have a true Idol tonight. Live and in living color on Fox.The season finale starts at 8, so make sure the dishes and the kids’ homework are done before Ryan Seacrest flashes his pearly whites and Paula flashes her cleavage. Bo vs. Carrie. For all the marbles.Since this is my blog, I get to pick favorites even though I’m only good at picking my toenails.Although this whole business is ultimately decided by the vagaries of the voters in a mammoth parlor game of politics, Bo should be a slam dunk.Bo Bice is a Southern rocker with energy bubbling out of him. He spews charisma with every note, every movement.Carrie Underwood is a country singer whose strong voice is betrayed by a wooden delivery. Her stage persona is somehow robbed of vitality.Both have talent that hardly is threadbare. But Bo has style and substance — a dynamic double play.Not to mention that he’s skinnier than Dusty Rhodes.
Medical studies, I believe, exist in a vacuum. They’re unmindful of the past, uncaring of the future, existing only for the moment.How else to explain why scientists and doctors seemingly just ache for contradiction?By the time there is an emergence of a consensus, patients morph into cadavers. OK, a bit of hyperbole there, but you get the point.Here’s the latest evidence on why we should all develop attention deficit when reading these reports (actually, instant amnesia would be even better):Dermatologists have long preached that sunscreens are needed to prevent skin cancer. Now some scientists are questioning that because vitamin D increasingly seems important for preventing and treating many types of cancer.Indeed, some researchers think that splashing on sunscreen may actually contribute to far more cancer deaths than it prevents.Talk about shifting gears with facile ease! Now good ol’ sunshine and vitamin D are supposed to kick butt against lymphoma and cancers of the prostate, lung, colon and — get this –the skin.And here’s the real kicker: Getting enough vitamin D from food and fortified milk alone is hard to do, and supplements are problematic.So it’s best to work on those tans. Scientists now claim even if you get skin cancer, it’s rarely gonna kill you. But prostate, lung or colon cancer could put you on a cemetery shopping spree.Evidently folks now will be healthier and even look healthier. Nothing like a good tan to smooth out the dents in ugly ducklings!Of course, all this could change dramatically when the next study touting the benefits of living on the far side of the moon hits the medical journals. Stay tuned. And get some sun while you can.
When Gutenberg finished inventing the printing press — and before the Earth could turn much further — he quickly printed the catchphrase: Truth is stranger than fiction.It still is, my friends.For instance, as I write this, red-faced federal officials are panting to plug a legal loophole that allows convicted rapists and sex offenders to receive Viagra paid for by Medicaid.Isn’t that a wonderful use of our tax dollars, Mr. and Mrs. America?Poor guys who suffer from erectile dysfunction have to buy their own Viagra. And then there are convicted felons who obviously have no erectile dysfunction issues and we’re giving them Viagra!Won’t Jay Leno and David Letterman get a rise out of this! We should be giving these sex freaks a good whiff of emasculation, not chemically fanning their hardly flickering flames.For society’s sake, we should be helping sex offenders exorcise their dark demons. These guys — and us — are better off when they’re visibly relaxed.Instead, we instilling in them — on our nickel — a passion bordering on the pathological.And we all know what happens when we put out fires with gasoline. All hell breaks loose as these perverts pretty much go gangbusters.Apparently this perverse loophole is an unintended consequence of Medicaid law. Whatever the technical mumbo jumbo, somebody should have taken a hard look at the details.In fact, if you read the Gutenberg Bible the next time you’re bored in a hotel room, look for another catchphrase: The devil always is in the details.