Halloween creepy

OK, it’s Halloween and we all want to feel a chill racing through our hearts like a ricocheting bullet.

Today is the day above all days when we love the clatter of bones and the sight of mangled body parts oozing all sorts of goo.

Tonight is the night above all nights when we want to touch the darkness — indeed grasp it like a clot of coagulated blood.

To celebrate the holiday, I was reading about the world’s creepiest places.

And No. 2 on the list is the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia.

So it’s not a long drive to put our souls in the voodoo zone.

For more about the black magic floating in the air of the Mütter Museum, check out these juicy, gory tidbits about the place:

From the sliced human head floating in a glass case, à la Damien Hirst, to the gruesome collection of preserved presidential tumors and a plaster cast of Siamese twins Chang and Eng (as well as their actual conjoined livers), Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum is a must-see, especially for those who found the movie “Dead Ringers” oddly compelling. Part of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the oldest medical school complex in North America, it combines exhibits of pathological objects, surgical tools, and anatomical curiosities. Other wonders on display include the tallest skeleton in North America and a collection of 2,000 objects removed from people’s throats, each with its own case history. There is an almost gleeful disconnection between the museum’s mission—”to advance the cause of health, and uphold the ideals and heritage of medicine”—and the often shocking displays. High on the ugh-list are the painted papier-mâché models of the effects of gangrene and the wax faces with various eye injuries; the air outside is bound to seem fresh afterward, no matter what the weather.

Philly phinally philets phutility, a.k.a. Philly finally filets futility

Like a large peacock commanding center stage, Philadelphia is strutting like a bunch of Mummers today after the Phillies won their phirst World Series championship — and only their second ever — in 28 years.
The Phillies phinished off the Tampa Bay Rays in five games last night, posting a dramatic 4-3 victory in the shortest/longest Series game ever played — an encounter that was rain delayed for 46 hours.
Pholks from Philly aren’t used to such unbridled joy. They’re basically all Chicken Littles waiting for the sky to phall in on them. And it usually does. When it comes to their sports franchises, Philly phans have had to phace unendurable slop season upon season. They were phorever strangled by a contractive spasm of insufficient success. Waves of depression have lapped the town for decades, shivering synapses and deadening souls but not nerves.
To their immense credit, Philly phans never got jaded by losing. They steadfastly reacted to losing like a beautiful woman to cleaning toilets.
But now unbridled jubilation is the current emotion and it pheels like a phoreign substance to Philadelphians. But they don’t care. In fact, they’re punch drunk with this surreal and strange sense of euphoria. Snake tongues of joy keep phlicking in their phaces — whoo-eet!, whoo-eet! There hasn’t been such a phurious phlurry of jabs since Ali was in his prime.
I don’t know what got into the Phillies this season. But they reached into stores of energy and drew from cells never used and they now are champions of the world.
Maybe the Phillies’ Series clincher wasn’t quite the shot heard ’round the word. But it was enough of a shot to split Philly’s ties to phutility.
And aren’t we all enjoying indulging ourselves of the temporary literary license to substitute ph for f?

Obama and McCain dissin' Berks County

OK, Berks County ain’t all that bad, is it?
After all, we’ve got the Reading Phillies and the Reading Royals. The Reading Symphony Orchestra and the Reading Public Museum. The Pagoda and the GoggleWorks. Outlets and pawn shops. Pennsylvania Dutch and Latinos. Upscale suburbs and beautiful countryside. Crime and despair in the city.
Yep, we’ve got it all.
So why the hell aren’t we a bigger pin on the map when it comes to the presidential campaign? Obama and McCain have been all over the state but not here in Berks during the general election. Ditto for Sara Palin and Joe Biden.
Hell, Palin doesn’t even have to wear her GOP-purchased fancy duds to visit us. We’re not pretentious. I mean, have you seen how some folks dress around here? Disgusting! Biden can stick his foot in his mouth here. We won’t laugh at him. We’ll laugh with him. We stick our feet in our mouths more often than we do ring baloney.
Why can’t McCain barrel roll his plane and do an impromptu landing on the Road to Nowhere?
Except for a spring visit to Reading High, Obama hasn’t been in town since he shook my hand outside the Marvel Ranch and the clip wound up on the “Today Show” on NBC. That bump for Obama knocked Hillary Clinton right out of the primary.
We in Berks have a voyeuristic curiosity to see our candidates up close and personal. To see if they wind up with any shrapnel in their teeth after munching hors d’oeuvres while discussing where all our money went and why we need change since we’re all out of dollar bills.
With the election less than a week away, our hopes of seeing any of the Big Four around here are sagging like an old jack-o-lantern.
My jaundiced take on all this is if they’re ignoring us, perhaps we should ignore them on Election Day. That sure would mess up the arithmetic of their pollsters.

Zeppelin without Robert Plant would be on a staircase to hell

My eyes became like Frisbees today when I read the shocking news that Led Zeppelin is considering touring and recording without frontman Robert Plant.
This, my friends, is pure heresy.
I know guitarist Jimmy Page is the driving force that made Zeppelin the greatest rock band in the history of the universe.
But Zeppelin without Plant is like peanut butter without jelly or thunder without lightning. Or McCain without Palin. OK, just kidding about the latter duo.
Apparently Plant doesn’t want to reunite his former band mates and Zeppelin may proceed with another vocalist. God forbid, that’s just like having another cheesy tribute band.
Talk about a nasty storm cloud trespassing upon the sun.
I realize a lot can happen between today and the rest of time, but Zeppelin without Plant is an affront to all of us in the autumn of our lives whose spirits still are in the full bloom of spring because of Led Zeppelin tracks.

Brian Westbrook now eclipses Ben Franklin as the iconic figure in Philadelphia history

With the Phillies commanding the lemon-lime light of center stage in Philadelphia, the Eagles were doomed Sunday to the rote of assembly work as they built a 27-14 victory over the precocious Atlanta Falcons.

The story of a game that threatened to totter toward the despicable more than once was Brian Westbrook. His broken ribs seemingly wrapped in silver duct tape, the wondrous multifaceted weapon ran for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries and also found time to catch six balls for 42 yards. His 39-yard bolt for a TD wrapped up the game for the Eagles.
After the game, Westbrook defied imagination even further by cleaning all the litter from the Linc stands and then washed all his teammates’ uniforms. Stay tuned because he might pinch hit for the Phillies tonight in the World Series. It’s been a long time since Westbrook was the impressionable, in-awe kid from Villanova. Now he routinely turns in deeds that are expectedly heroic, dramatic and historic.
If you’re into record-keeping, Andy Reid won his 100th career game and now is 10-0 coming off a bye. And the franchise won its 500th game.
By the way, the Eagles are above .500 this season at 4-3 and they now have the thinnest shadow of a life after receiving last rites a few weeks ago.
Sunday, however, wasn’t totally one of serendipity. Donovan McNabb was back to misfiring high too often, prompting the Eagles’ brain trust to consider drafting several wideouts over 7 feet next spring.
But enough for now. I need to focus on the Phillies.

So just how many 5th Avenue Bars and Luden's cough drops covered in asbestos and benzene did you swallow?

The Reading School District has scuttled plans to build three schools on the former Luden’s candy property on North Eighth Street.
It seems the discovery of asbestos and benzene on the former industrial site has raised health concerns. Of course, with the alarming truancy rates in city schools, the pupils likely would receive minimal exposure.
The bigger question the rest of us have to ask is how many 5th Avenue Bars and Luden’s cough drops we consumed over the years. I guess we were swallowing asbestos and benzene while treating our sweet tooth and our cough.
I used to suck on Luden’s cough drops to fight sore throats as well. No wonder my sore throats felt like I had swallowed six-inch razor blades. Must have been the asbestos. Now my lungs must be uglier than James Carville.
Just goes to show you that you never know exactly what we are putting in our mouths. After all, remember those quaint old days when we thought tap water was safe. And then bottled water.
I guess if we are going to risk our health, we might as well go for broke with large bags of chips and enough Scotch to float a gondola on the Schuylkill.

Without frequent tutorials for our kids, America is trudging toward obsolescence

Talk about a pitch-black tale nobody in America once thought would be so.
Nevertheless, here it is, and if you are anything like me, you will read this with a magnum dose of incredulity: Your child is less likely to graduate from high school than you were.
But that’s exactly what the Education Trust, a children’s advocacy group, is proclaiming.
The organization goes on to say that more than half the states have graduation goals that don’t make schools get better.
And one in four kids is dropping out of high school. This is 2008, isn’t it? That dropout rate is incredible.
“The U.S. is stagnating while other industrialized countries are surpassing us,” said Anna Habash, author of the report “And that is going to have a dramatic impact on our ability to compete.”

Sexual cannibalism spawns healthier spiders

Spiders are not notorious for tears. They are not sentimentalists. Or romantics. Or hopeless prisoners of their emotions.
Consequently, there are no known romantic novels about spiders, who apparently don’t pour the Chianti prior to making love.
Well, it seems as if male spiders should don a cigarette and blindfold prior to bedding — or is it webbing? — a female spider.
Because the males are playing Russian Roulette.
If the females already have mated with another and are on track to hatch spiderlings, they eat all subsequent would-be suitors.
Which really puts a dent in the romantic mood of their dates.
Apparently these male-eating female spiders aren’t gobbling up the males just for the sick thrill of it.
Eating male spiders ensures they produce stronger and bigger babies. Evidently no pickles and ice cream for pregnant spiders.

Neversink Mountain is a Tiffany jewel glittering over Berks

As a kid I climbed all over Neversink. The wellspring of memory every now and then serves up a freeze frame from that era in my mind’s eye.
It was a good time to play in the woods. Darwin had yet to allow ticks to evolve into nasty creatures and hence nobody I knew got Lyme Disease back then.
I haven’t climbed Neversink in years, but it’s nice to read that the mountain hasn’t yet developed osteoporosis. It’s still standing tall and submitting to being lionized by the Berks County Conservancy and other advocates.
If this keeps up, Neversink soon will be trying to elbow aside Mount Penn as the large peacock commanding center stage in Berks.


Joy around here today is spreading like blotches. And the rapture figures to be booting up a level each and every hour for the next couple weeks.
The Phillies are going to the World Series.
Which doesn’t happen just every year.
Indeed, world championships and Philadelphia teams usually don’t meet each other’s eyes when they pass in the hallway.
A major Philadelphia sports franchise hasn’t won a world title since 1983 when the Sixers did it. The Phillies, of course, won the World Series in 1980 but lost Series appearances in 1950, 1983 and 1993. I was fortunate enough to cover the ’83 Series as a sports columnist and quarterbacked our 1993 coverage as sports editor.
Now I’m just a casual observer, but this Phillies’ team reminds me that the true high in life is competition.
These Phils come to play.
And maybe they’ll win the whole ball of wax and their overbearing and irascible fans, driven to the brink of madness for so many seasons, finally will have another parade on Broad Street. After all, the clips of the ’80 parade are morphing into grainy, flickering reels.
For complete details on last night’s epic National League pennant-winning effort against the Dodgers, check out Jason Weitzel’s Beerleaguer.