Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Welcome To The 21st Century

The P-G's Tony Norman has a good column this morning about our technological future. Tony earns mega-geek bonus points by working in highly relevant references to Rosie the Robot, the Borg, and Cylons.


Been Away Too Long

It occurred to me this morning that I've gone more than a week without posting. Let's see what we have missed during this time:

-- Every damn ThunderJournalist is claiming the Time Humanoid Life Form of the Year Award. Some have better ideas about who deserves it.

-- Danny Bonaduce doesn't back down from wandering street idiots with A/V equipment.

-- Mr. Rogers is not only dead; he's apparently extinct, as well.

I think that covers it. What's next?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cute Little Babies

It seems like many of my waking hours at home these days are spent sitting in front of the television set while feeding my two-month old son his bottle. I like it. Not only am I bonding with my boy, but I am rediscovering television in a big way. My favorite channel (as of this week, anyway) is National Geographic. Every time I turn it on, there is some kind of gripping documentary that is just too interesting not to watch. Like the one about killer baboons who steal babies from villagers' houses. Or the one that shows how baboons are so harmless that a naturalist can walk her little kids through a whole mob of the things and none of them care. That's what you call variety, folks.

Last week I caught a show called "In the Womb" that followed the course of a human pregnancy from the inside via some vivid ultrasound photography. I love stuff like this, and I enjoy sharing it with my kids. (Except for the beginning, where everything is about "penis", "vagina" and "sperm". They're not ready for that yet.) It gives them a better idea of where they came from beyond "in Mummy's belly".

When I found out that a second show called "In the Womb: Animals" was due to be broadcast last night, I made plans for another two hours of "can't miss" television. This was almost beyond fantastic, what with an insider's view of the development of unborn baby dogs, elephants, and dolphins. It was another "call the kids in!" moment of great television, after the scenes of a male dog pumping puppies into his bitch had passed, of course. I learned quite a bit about the three mammals appearing in the show. Did you know that baby dolphins begin to develop, then quickly un-develop, feet while in the womb? It would be kind of interesting if a dolphin ad a birth defect that allowed its legs to develop so that it could walk on dry land. Also kind of creepy. And did you know that dolphins' land ancestors are now believed to have been a type of critter called Pakicetid? If you watch the show, you get to see a brief CGI clip of Pakicetids milling about on a shore.

I'm looking forward to the next installment, which airs just over a month from now. National Geographic returns to the human bring for "In the Womb: Multiples". I do not know how they are going to outdo that one. They might as well quit while they're ahead.

Real Men Carry Their Wallets However They Damn Well Please

Normally I enjoy reading Tom Purcell's columns in the Tribune-Review. He's a funny guy who presents an interesting take on whatever subject he happens to write about. Yesterday he had a few things to say on the subject of manliness. One or two of those things struck a nerve -- almost literally -- with me.

Tom tells us that the practice of carrying one's wallet in the back pocket -- specifically, the right back pocket -- is "hard-wired into male DNA". This is in reaction to a sales campaign for some kind of purse called the "Man-n-Bag". It's for men, you see. The advertising includes a testimonial from a customer whose back pocket wallet had been giving him a misaligned spine.

I know where he's coming from.

Roughly fourteen years ago, a couple of co-workers -- the sort of guys who never mind their own business, and are always eager to point out what they perceive as another person's shortcomings to his face -- started giving me a hard time because of my habit of carrying my wallet in the front right pocket. I had been doing that since I was a child. Not only was it a personal habit, but it is more secure than sticking it behind your ass. Is a pickpocket more likely to get away with slipping something from your back pocket, or sticking his hand down the front of your pants? I didn't feel like going into the details of why I carried my wallet the way I did, and decided to give their way a try just to shut them up.

Peer pressure can be fatal, or at least crippling. Within a few days, I was having trouble walking. I could barely climb in or out of my car. I was sure I was becoming stricken with some physically debilitating ailment that strikes without warning. Another co-worker, someone with experience as a masseur and physical therapist, advised me that the onset of paralysis may be a temporary condition brought about by the new placement of my wallet.

I could have killed those other guys. The wallet immediately went back to where I had been carrying it, and when one of the two jerks asked why I was doing that again, I informed him that taking his advice was robbing me of the use of my legs. No one ever bothered me about it again.

Now, does it make me any less manly because I choose not to subject myself to sciatica? I think not. Tom Purcell ought to try moving his wallet forward. It's good for your health.

At least he's right about one thing in this column: Purses for men are a bad idea. Even the fanny pack looks good by comparison.

Sometimes You Just Can't Win

Pity the poor Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Let's start exactly one week ago, on Monday, December 4. In the wake of the encounter between President Bush and Senator-elect Jim Webb at the White House a few days ago, the paper -- normally a bastion of irrational psychotic anti-Bush hatred -- printed an editorial criticising Webb for his aggressive, confrontational manner in which he responded to the President's caring inquiry about the newly elected Senator's son, a U.S. serviceman currently on active duty in Iraq. The P-G explicitly accused Jim Webb of ungentlemanliness, discourtesy, and rudeness, while crediting GWB with having asked "a friendly question...a fair and decent inquiry".

As the Letters To The Editor of the past week have shown, the P-G is now reaping what it has sown.

After months and years of lambasting President Bush for the Iraq War, for his foreign policy in general, for his (somewhat questionable for those on the political right) conservatism, and for just about any old thing that occurs to the editorialists, the elder statesman of Pittsburgh's journalistic community has conditioned its loyal readers to regard any and all of the President's words and actions with nothing less than the utmost contempt. Those readers did not appreciate being told that the man they love to hate has done something "fair and decent".

The point of the editorial was that we should adhere to the time-honored principle that we should "respect the office, not the man". The letter writers did not make that distinction. What kind of "what fer!" did they give the paper?

On Tuesday, an outraged correspondent accused the P-G of displaying "Beltway mentality", then went on to imply that the President's daughters are a couple of drunks (has been true in the past) and that supporters of the war are tantamount to supporters of Nazi Germany, and finally concludes by calling the Bush family and pretty much all Republicans "barstool warriors".

On Wednesday, one reader essentially accused the President of trying to kill Jim Webb's son, while another suggested that Webb's behavior demonstrated that he was being "an officer and a gentleman". A third letter enigmatically postulated that "the Post-Gazette's blind fealty to the office of the president is rude and unacceptable" while calling for impeachment. A fourth accused the paper of "slipshod" journalism that endangers our troops because of one little editorial. From a selection of "web-only' (or should it be "Webb-only" at this point?) letters not appearing in the print edition, we find one guy implying that the President was trying to provoke Webb into a fight by being a bully, another guy is applauding Webb for giving us an applied civics lesson, and another applauds the P-G for standing behind the President in the matter.

Hey! How did that one get in there?

You may think that the readers got their points across by the end of Wednesday's letters page. But no -- the final shots came on Saturday morning in the weekly "Issue One" feature devoted to reader feedback on a particular topic. All three of them were on the same side of the issue: the first one took umbrage to the President's taking umbrage to Webb's callousness; the second refers to the 2000 election as the reason that the President does not deserve the respect that the office commands; and the third one thanked the moonbats who saw their letters published earlier in the week.

Well, then. It seems as though the Post-Gazette should consider itself thoroughly spanked. And if the outpouring of reader feedback didn't do the job, then the P-G's resident loony is there to lend a helping hand. Reg Henry is one of the P-G's lead editorial writers, but he must have out of the office on the day that the "Respect the Office" piece was written.

It's so much fun to sit back and watch the moonbats tear into one another like this.

A Second Chance At Greatness

This rules!

In a related development, this was really nice to read, too. Thank you for the words of support, Gary, and I will try to post a little more often for the edification of the traffic that you're sending my way!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

This World Is Indeed Different

I predict that, within five years, the entire internet will consist of bloggers posting YouTube videos. Considering the speed with which things move nowadays, it could be five months.

Why buck the trend? Here's my contribution:

I got confused trying to think of how many science fiction films inspired the look of this video. I'll simplify by saying that it looks like a combination of Coruscant and Robot City. I half expected a red robot who talks like Robin Williams to fall alongside the animated Bruce while Anakin and Obi-Wan whizz past in a flying car.

The ending was a little disappointing. After Eddie bit the "head" off of the helicopter, I wanted him to take a bite out of the world.

Furthermore, while I was watching this video on Comcast's "On Demand" service last night, my wife walked in and started dancing around the room with our seven week old son. I don't know which is weirder -- dancing to Iron Maiden, or dancing to Iron Maiden while holding a baby.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

No Stranger To Love

As a college student in the mid-1980s, I spent a lot of time trolling -- and occasionally contributing to -- the Star Trek Usenet newsgroup, which was abuzz with information (including spoilers) about a new series that quickly came to be known as ST:TNG. When the show debuted, most Trekkers didn't recognize any of the actors, except for LeVar Burton. Who were these people? What did they do before 1987? Usenet contributors set about researching the answers to these questions.

Yes, life was hell in the days before IMDB. You had to find this stuff out for yourself.

One night I was watching a tape of a video for a song by the 1986 version of Black Sabbath. The song, "No Stranger To Love", is basically a breakup song from the point of view of a guy who has just been dumped. Something about the woman in the video looked familiar. She looked tough, bitchy, and a little sad. With a haircut, she would look a lot like Tasha Yar from Star Trek. After a couple of viewings, I concluded that it had to be the same actress.

I duly posted my findings to the Star Trek newsgroup. I felt rather proud when one of the group's BMOC types mentioned it in a big post that accumulated numerous TNG actor sightings. It was an established FACT, because it was on the Internet. And I was the one who put it there!

To be honest, it was just speculation on my part, but the Tasha Yar sighting has been confirmed in numerous places, not the least of which is Denise Crosby's official web site. See? I was right all along.

Here's the video, so you can see for yourself.

I think a You Tube commenter put it best when he said, "All the good things: Tony Iommi, '59 Cadillacs & Star Trek. Excellent." Indeed. Life just doesn't get any better than that.

Sleep In The House Of Reason

This morning, I woke up around 2:30 when the baby started crying. I fed him a bottle, changed his diaper, and tucked him back into bed. He could go to sleep, but I couldn't. Time passed...and a little over an hour before my alarm clock was due to buzz, I got tired enough for a nice little cat nap before getting ready to meet the day.

During my brief sleep, I had a dream. A nice, vivid dream. A dream about bloggers. A dream that just cried out for interpretation. And, after a couple of hours with little else to think about, I think I have it figured out.

I, the "me" of the dream, was in a house. The occupants of the house were four guys named Chad, Saint Paul, JB and Atomizer -- collectively known as Fraters Libertas. This isn't the first time that I have dreamed about meeting the Fraters. (The last one involved a party celebrating the birth of Chad's firstborn a couple of years ago. People were lined up around the perimeter of the kind of room that you would find in a funeral parlor. And the Fraters appeared to be drunk.)

Initially, I assumed that the house in this morning's dream was Chad's house, since he does most of the writing at Fraters. He certainly did most of the talking. The other Fraters occasionally walked past and proffered insights into...whatever, I can't really remember what they were talking about. They all seemed to be sober, for what it's worth. But Chad was always by my side, frequently sticking his face in front of mine and going off on whatever topic he saw fit to comment on. He would do it while I was walking around, which was kind of freaky.

The dream ended when I stepped out the back door and found myself in the backyard of the house where I grew up. I walked over to the back of the yard and looked down on the dead end street at the bottom of the hill. Several houses had been demolished, and an Office Depot was under construction in their place. My last thoughts before waking up were, "This is the dumbest place to put any kind of store".

The "Office Depot coda" aside, I believe that this is the most rational dream that has ever played out on the inside of my eyelids. The house was not a home. The house did not represent any true physical structure. The house was a sort of virtual reality meeting place. The house was the Fraters Libertas blog itself. Chad does most of the talking, while the other three hang around waiting for a chance to say something? Sounds like the blog to me.

How interesting, to physically step inside of a blog and experience it as if it were a live conversation. It was fun. I'd like to do it again.

I have also figured out why I have the occasional dream about Fraters Libertas. The only opportunity I have had to meet any of these guys was during my visit to Keegan's Pub back in August 2005. They weren't there. I did not get to meet them. Perhaps I shall someday; until that time comes, I will be content to see them in my dreams.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Monday, December 04, 2006


Learned Foot conducted a poll the other day to determine which Iron Maiden CD he should listen to that afternoon. The poll lasted all of about, what, maybe two hours? And I missed it. Damn.

Doesn't matter. I would have had trouble choosing, myself. All of the options were winners. Foot even live-blogged the voters' choice. I look forward to a whole series of such Maiden liveblogs.

KAR's mascot dropped by to compliment Iron Maiden's mascot on his style.

My Body Rests, But My Mind Refuses To Sleep

The other morning, I had to get up in the middle of night to deal with, shall we say, baby-related issues. During the two-hour period between going back to bed and being startled to attention by my shrieking alarm clock, I dozed off and had a rather curious dream. Like most dreams, I only remember bit and pieces of this one. Something about Pittsburgh Pirates broadcasting teams from the late 1970s - early 1980s.

At one point, the dream took a rather odd turn. A family of three was traveling in their car. It took a moment, but I recognized it as the Mitchell family from the "Dennis the Menace" comic strip. Dennis and his mom, Alice, listened silently as the dad, Henry, ranted about idiots who piss him off. He must have pulled over, climbed out of the car, and set up a chalkboard near the side of the road to illustrate his point. This point is that there are three words for stupid people. He wrote each work on the board, spelling them out with hyphens between each letter. The first one I cannot remember, but I think it started with "M". The second was another "M" word, "M-O-R-O-N". And, "there's another name for these people -- JUSTIN! J-U-S-T-I-N!"

Now let me just say that I currently have no association, positive or negative, with anyone named Justin. I don't know why that name crept into my dream as Dennis the Menace's dad's preferred term for stupid people. I'll be days trying to figure that one out.

A few hours later, after I had awakened, my family was in the church social hall after Sunday School getting ready to go up to the sanctuary. My kids, especially the boys, like to run around like loonies, trying to burn off some of their early morning energy. We tell them to knock it off, we try to call them back, corral them, and even hang on to them like prisoners because we know that if we let go, they'll be back out there running around again. My biggest fear is that they are going to run into an old lady, or someone carrying a baby, and we'll be in serious trouble. Well. My oldest (9 year old) son was running around, not listening to our pleas to slow down. He was too busy watching the kids who were chasing him to watch where he was going. BONK. Straight into a big metal door! I laughed. I couldn't help myself! The door did my job for me. You can bet he stopped running after that. What a Justin!

In the afternoon, my wife was doing some long-overdue yardwork, for which she recruited some of the kids to help out. My younger daughter, age 4, got too close to someone using a rake and got bonked. She had a good cry, but ten minutes later she was back to normal, as if nothing had happened. Classic kid recovery. While this was happening, I was upstairs napping in order to make up for the lost sleep from the previous night. The only reason I knew anything about it is because I was awakened by the ringing of the telephone. "This is Allegheny 9-1-1. Someone just called from that number to report an emergency." I was a little stunned to hear this, so I ran downstairs to make sure everything was okay. My wife knew nothing about a 9-1-1 call, and the kids all looked active and happy. I ran back to the phone, told the dispatcher that there was no problem, suggested that one of the kids must have been playing with the phone, and apologized for the waste of time and resources.

Later on, when the yardwork was done and everyone was back inside, I asked each of my ambulatory sons if he had made any phone calls that day. Both denied having done so. Shortly, while the younger of the two (age 7) was distracted, I asked him why he made that phone call. "Because my sister was hurt and I wanted to tell the police", he replied. Gotcha! What a Justin! We are currently reviewing 9-1-1 notifications procedures with the boy.

In the evening, I made a shopping trip in order to stock up on groceries and household items. One item that we are in dire need of is vinyl shower curtains. Our current curtains are wearing out, and one in fact has developed a large hole right in the middle. I bought a ton of stuff at the store...and forgot to pick up shower curtains. I didn't realize it until I stepped into the shower this morning and saw the big hole staring me right in the face.

As you might expect, I feel like a big Justin in charge of a family full of Justins.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Geographical Awareness

There just are not enough maps in the world.

Ever since I was a small boy, I have been fascinated by maps. Almost as soon as I was able to read, I began to study maps. I loved the colors, especially the blue of the oceans. I loved the grids. I loved the wiggly lines that indicated rivers or boundaries. I loved the bumps that showed where the mountains were. Best of all, I loved the fun and easy way that I was accumulating knowledge that most of my peers (and far too many of my elders) would take for granted as we were growing up.

Map reading is one of the few things that did not lose its appeal when I had to seriously study it in school. (To give one example, I used to love reading fiction until I took AP English twenty-two years ago.)

When I was as young as ten, I was planning a cross-country road trip on a 1964 Rand McNally Road Atlas of the United States. (Nevermind that the book was older than I was, and almost completely devoid of ultra-modern interstate highways.) I would pop open a world atlas, pick a distant land, and use it as a base of operations to plan a conquest of neighboring countries. Occasionally, I would come across speculative maps with things like "How the USA could be reorganized as thirty-five states instead of fifty". My favorites, though, had to be historical maps. One of the best ways to learn about why things are the way they are is to find out how they used to be. (Have I ever mentioned that I am a History major?) Historical maps help you figure out the historical process that resulted in the world we have today.

If it sounds like I'm geeking out on this...well, I am. A friend sent me a link to a site called "strange maps", which doesn't really seem so strange to me, unless by "strange" it means "endlessly fascinating". Historical maps, speculative maps, humorous cartography -- they're all there.

I've managed to waste nearly two hours at the site. This is an easy addiction. Do they have rehab for map fanatics?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Since I've pretty much recovered from my post-election season ennui with newspapers, it's high time that I delved back into my prime source for blogging material -- the Pittsburgh Psychosis-Gazette. It won't be Reg or Tony this time. Nope, I have a new target for sarcasm and mirth. For far too long, I have ignored the PG's furry, four-legged mammalian correspondent, a professional babe of sorts who answers letters from readers on just about any topic, but primarily dishes out advice on lifestyles and relationships. She's relatively new at this, and thus has not ascended the pinnacle of self-righteousness formerly occupied by Ann Landers for so many years. Give her time; give her time.

I refer, of course, to Cat of "Cat's Call", who celebrates a birthday today, and responds to a reader's request to lay out her fondest happy birthday wishes. This is one of her more interesting columns, as it gives her a chance to branch out from the usual "you need to dump the jerk" sort of advice to her correspondents. Let's see what she wants out of life. First:

Having even one devoted reader is a wish fulfilled, but truth be told, I have more ...
Well, I'm reading it, though I'm not sure how "devoted" I am. Even if I were unmarried, I doubt that I would be sad enough to join the ranks of losers who email marriage proposals to her.
I wish the recent election to be a harbinger of things to come. It's not a party thing; it's a change thing and a voting thing.
Cat has referred to herself elsewhere as a "Registered Democrat But Currently Unimpressed with Both Dominant Parties", so this wish is consistent with her stated political philosophy. It could mean that the Dems aren't communistic enough for her tastes. However, the "change thing" in this election resulted as much from the alienated Republican base as it did from a Democrat ascendancy, so I can't really take issue with this one.
I wish my best friend and I lived in the same city. It would be so good for her.
Familiarity breeds contempt! My best friends are the ones I never see anymore.
I wish cell phone companies would quit requiring contracts. Sell a decent product and you won't need to lock us into a substandard one.
I have no issue with Cat's Call on cell phones, unless she is one of those clowns who chatter away while driving through traffic. I hate people who do that. Rudest bastards on the road, they are.
I wish politicians would own up to the egomaniacal maliciousness of TV smear campaigns. They should donate that money to charity -- it would make them look better, make us feel better and the money would actually benefit someone.
Not naming names, eh? If Cat is anything like my wife, she doesn't know the difference between a "smear" and "valid criticism". Actually, my wife does make a distinction, but in her world "smear" is when a Republican does it and "valid criticism" is when a Democrat does it. She's funny that way.

And I defy you to show me a politician who is not "egomaniacal". Egomania is a prerequisite for entering politics.
I wish people would stop saying, "Print is dead," because not only is it untrue, if it happened, they'd really miss it.
In the year 2000, I was selling books at Borders and loving every page of it. (I mean "page" as in books, not the Congressional kind.) That summer I signed on with high speed internet and openly proclaimed that books were dead; I could find plenty of reading material online. I sought, and found, employment in a different field. Six years later I am reading books as well as surfing the internet, and enjoying both. Print may not be dead, but it has some serious competition.
I wish naysayers would hop on board with stem cell because it saves lives.
I am under the impression that fully 80% of people who publicly weigh in on the subject of stem cell research don't know what the hell they're talking about. Informed individuals are neither for nor against stem cell research. There are different sources of stem cells. Adult stem cells are good, and have been proven to help. No one is harmed in the harvesting of adult stem cells. Same thing with umbilical cord blood. Plenty of stem cells there, and the newborn no longer needs the cord or placenta. People who take Cat's stand on stem cell research are advocating the harvesting of fetal stem cells. An unborn baby needs its stem cells to develop and grow. Collecting the baby's stem cells depends on the termination of the pregnancy. That's bad.
I wish I hadn't started to like football so much; it really cuts into my napping time.
I never watch football, so not a problem for me. Actually, game time is the best time to go shopping. The grocery stores are deserted.
I wish I enjoyed doing laundry half as much as the people in detergent commercials.
My wife and I do laundry for a family of seven. Cat is an energetic single gal. She shouldn't have to spend enough time on laundry to worry about whether or not she enjoys it.
I wish the Electoral College would take a cue from the dodo.
She wants the electors to go to Mauritius and drop dead?
I wish people would smile and say, "Hi" instead of staring awkwardly at their shoes.
Check again, babe. Those things they're staring at aren't their shoes.
I wish people would do what's right instead of what seems easiest. In the end, what's right is usually the easiest.
Which is why she is such a successful advice columnist. Not that we know whether any of these people ever take her advice...
I wish to be more like my parents. My mother has unending bravery, brilliance and grace and makes me laugh my arse off no matter how hard or scary life gets. My father's integrity is truly astounding, and he can spell Czechoslovakia on command.
Cat scores major points with me for using the word "arse". It's an ethnic thing. Also, the mental image of her arse shaking while she's laughing it off kind of turns me on.

On the other hand, the thought of her commanding people to spell Czechoslovakia to see if they can match the standard set by her father kind of freaks me out, so we're back to square one here.
I wish those hover-skateboards from "Back to the Future II" actually existed.
If they did, papers like the Psychosis-Gazette would be running editorials condemning the Big Hover industry and the obscene profits collected at the expense of hovering teenagers. Those things are damned dangerous, too, and only a Congressional Committee can deal with the scourge.
I wish elected officials would show up for votes, vote their conscience, say what they mean and mean what they say. And if they change their mind and admit it, good on 'em.
Two things:
  • Rick Santorum did, and he was voted out of office for it.
  • I now have this song stuck in my head. Thanks.
I wish that, just once, when someone says, "if that guy were alive today ...," the person would appear. I hope it's Thomas Jefferson.
They did that a couple of times on Bewitched, once with George Washington and once with Benjamin Franklin. I don't have a preference for who I would want to bring back, but it would be a blast to give him a ride on the interstate in my car with the windows down. He'd be so freaked out that he would die all over again.
I wish high-end makeup would go on sale. Why doesn't it?
If she's talking about KISS makeup kits, it's because Gene Simmons likes to take a nice big cut of all KISS related merchandise. (I assume this is what she means because the kits include Cat makeup.)
I wish the electorate would continue to vote. It's fun to see who "the decider" really is.
If you are familiar with the context from which the words in scare quotes was drawn, then you have to wonder whether Cat is advocating the abolition of the Executive Branch of federal government. (From my anti-bureaucracy, anti-spending POV, this idea has some merit.) All U.S. Presidents are deciders. Except Bill Clinton, who governed via public opinion polls.
I wish money did grow on trees -- in my back yard.
As a journalist, you have the power to begin advocating for a leaf-based currency. Hop to it!
I wish Dave Barry would show me how he does it.
I wish I were Dave Barry, so I can show her how I "do it". Heh heh heh.
I wish tragedies had happy endings.
Geoffrey Chaucer put it best when he said, "Tragedie is to seyn a certeyn storie/ Of him that stood in greet prosperitie/ And is y-fallen out of heigh degree/ Into miserie, and endeth wrecchedly". So no, they can't.
I wish everyone a healthy, warm and wonderful year to come.
Because that will give the PG more reasons to editorialize about the impact of GLOBAL WARMING! And bad news sells papers.
Cat's Birthday Call: I wish I knew then what I know now, and I hope I remember it later.
Good thing she's stopping here, because between this column and her own web site, I feel like I know too much as it is.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Be Fair To Kramer

So yeah, it's kind of sad, the direction that the career of Michael Richards has taken in recent days. Nothing he can say or do will rationally explain his outburst while attempting to deal with hecklers during a stand up routine. Some comics can get away with that sort of thing; a lot of them have an "inside joke" relationship with the audience. Richards does not, apparently. People did not go to his show expecting to be insulted in that manner. A good comic can bring down a heckler without attacking the heckler's ancestry, or threatening him with murder.

He was fun as Cosmo Kramer, but in 2006 Michael Richards has jumped the shark. Especially after he announced that he was running for the cover of Jesse Jackson.

Now, it's tempting to say that "Kramer made racially insensitive comments", since Richards is so closely identified with that one character above all others he has portrayed. But keep in mind that Kramer, the fictional personage, was based on a former neighbor of Seinfeld co-creator Larry David. The "source material" just happens to be named...Kramer. And he's not happy about the coverage of what "Kramer" said. From the front page of his official web site:

In no way do I condone or endorse what Michael Richards said or did. It is really annoying, and sad, that people are saying that Kramer is a racist. Michael Richards ceased being Kramer eight years ago. I would hope that the public would be smart enough to make the distinction between a character on a show, the person playing the character, and me, the person the character was based on.

Why should Kenny Kramer care? Because he is an entrepreneur. His is a great American success story, as he has turned his identification with a popular television character into a lucrative business opportunity called "Kramer's Reality Tour". He has fame, notoriety, and undoubtedly makes a decent bit of money with this venture. He has been running the tour for ten years now. As long as Seinfeld lives on in reruns, tourists will want to patronize Kenny Kramer's bus tours.

But -- as indicated in the disclaimer (disKramer?) quoted above -- people might identify the man with the character a little too much. Michael Richards's comments, which have nothing to do with Kenny (or Cosmo) Kramer, have potential to harm the man's business, to say nothing of tarnishing his name and reputation in general.

Which would SUCK, big time. No one should have to suffer the consequences of someone else's mistakes.

If I ever make it to NYC, I might just plan to take the tour myself. Kramer -- the real Kramer -- needs everyone's support. It would be a damned shame if his business drops off because of Michael Richards.

Well Hello There!

Good morning! How was your holiday? Mine was fine, thanks. Nothing much going on. Here are some boring highlights:

  • Watched just over half of the Macy's parade on Thursday. The first hour was mainly network shills babbling about nothing, with excerpts from show tunes interspersed between banter to keep things interesting. I especially enjoyed the Grinch musical number.
  • Let my wife do most of the work on the turkey and fixings. Well, I did make the gravy, but she doesn't eat gravy -- or most sauces and condiments, for that matter. Nothing like doing yourself a favor on Thanksgiving!
  • The power went out for about 10 minutes when the turkey had about 2 hours to go in the oven. That was a harrowing experience.
  • The following morning, I had to take one of my kids on a bus ride to a medical appointment. As we waited for the bus, I told him that a lot of people are off work the day after Thanksgiving, and we might have the bus all to ourselves. Damn if I wasn't right about that! If not for us, that bus driver's effort would have been for naught.
  • What was up with that Friday morning fog? That was kind of eerie when we came out of the Liberty Tubes. You couldn't see either side of the river. You couldn't see the river below you. It would have been a great setting for a horror/suspense film.
  • Not much interesting in the news. Well, there was, but not interesting enough to motivate me to blog about it.
  • I listened to the NARN radio programme for over three hours on Saturday before realizing that the whole thing was a replay of the previous week's broadcast. Either that, or Mitch and Lileks were reading from a script and had so much fun that they decided to do it all over again. I didn't mind. It's always a treat to hear Lileks.
  • We had a family birthday celebration. The highlight of our birthdays is always the Dairy Queen ice cream cake. The best part? The chocolate goo in the middle layer. Heaven!
  • One of my pet projects is digitization of just about every photographic image in my family's private collection. I have been very lax about this lately, so I took advantage of the long weekend to resume scanning with a vengeance.

Time to get back to some serious blogging. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Light And Warmth On An Otherwise Dreary Friday Evening

Last weekend, I discovered just how out of touch I am with local happenings.

It's no surprise, really; this has been an election year, and like any politically aware blogger, I have devoted most of my blogging effort to commenting on the big races. Sometimes it's easy to forget that that there is more to life than just who your elected officials are (or who you think they should be). There's a whole big world out there beyond the halls of government.

Case in point: On Friday afternoon, November 17, 2006, I could have gone home from work as early as 4 PM. I could have hopped on a bus that would take me one block from my office to one block from my house, and been sitting in my living room by 4:45. Instead, I decided to hang around the area and spend some time at the local library.

When it was time to go, I decided to take a bus to downtown Pittsburgh and transfer onto a trolley that would take me to my neighborhood. I didn't imagine that downtown would be very busy; it was one week before the "official" start of Christmas shopping season, and many downtown workers would likely want to kick off a few hours early, as many 9-to-5ers are wont to do on a Friday.

As I rode the bus into town, I recalled something that my father, who worked downtown for the better part of forty years, once told me. A visiting colleague from Philadelphia was astounded that Pittsburghers leave their offices and walk around downtown in the evenings, after dark. It wasn't like this where he worked. No one walked around Philadelphia at night, for fear of getting mugged, or worse.

Pittsburgh was a safe city. And in most places, it still is. I have no problem being downtown after dark.

As I reflected on this, my bus slowed down considerably as it entered the Golden Triangle. There should not have been this much traffic in this area on a Friday night. And, indeed, there was not. The bus was re-routed from its scheduled path because the part of Forbes Avenue that would take me right across the street from the trolley station was barricaded.

Was there crime? Did the police cordon off several blocks of the city due to some danger to public safety? Was Pittsburgh no longer a safe city?

I had my answer when I saw people walking into the blocked-off section of town. At the next stop, I got off of the bus and trotted back in the direction of Market Square. My fears were allayed when the drifting scent of funnel cake caught my nostrils. This, whatever it was, was a good thing.

After all, you can't spell "funnel cake" without "fun"!

There was more than just puffy powdered sugar pastry to attract the hundreds of people who had arrived in the city. Businesses were open, booths were set up across the square, and in the distance, bands were playing music before teeming throngs. Downtown Pittsburgh never looked so alive in the daylight.

Had I not been in a hurry to get home to my family, and possibly a nice hot meal, I might have hung around and joined the revelers. This sort of party only takes place once a year, otherwise I would be making plans to go back again very soon. I am resolved to pay more attention, in future, to fun stuff in the news. How was I supposed to know that it was Light Up Night?

The thing that most impressed me about Light Up Night is the number of families that I saw. Suburbanites like me do not normally think of downtown Pittsburgh as a place to take your kids. Yet, there they were -- parents and children, many riding around in nice comfy strollers. Small children! If only I had known, and been able to plan, I would have insisted on bringing along my brood! Next year, perhaps.

Just don't let me forget when Thanksgiving is. I might show up for work that day. I'll be the only one there. I would hate if that happened, but for the fact that it would be really cool. Just like visiting a haunted house -- no one here but me and some ghosts.

Orange You Glad You Tried That Brew?

A few months ago, my professional assistant left my employ to take a position in another state. So, the night before his last day working for me, I treated him (and some of his employees) to a night out at a local pub. Like most local pubs in a college town, this place has nightly $1 draft specials. That night was Blue Moon night.

I had never heard of Blue Moon before -- but I was willing to try it. In fact, I think I tried it close to a dozen times before I had to run and catch my bus. Yeah, I was drunk on the bus. First time in years I've gotten drunk. I rather enjoyed it until the next morning, when I awakened with a large sharp rock growing in the middle of my head. That was enough to remind me why I don't get drunk anymore.

Blue Moon is similar to other wheat beers that I have enjoyed in the past, in the sense that you don't realize that you are intoxicated until you stand up to walk to the rest room, only to discover that your legs no longer work. The one thing that distinguishes Blue Moon from other wheat beers is the preferred garnish -- a slice of orange.

Unusual? Yes -- but it works.

I didn't worry about who made it or where it came from because I was having too much fun drinking the stuff to care about its background. Chad the Elder at Fraters Libertas has put up a post this morning that explains everything that I should have wondered about Blue Moon, but never bothered to ask. It's a Coors product! I should have known. Coors is my favorite right-wing American brewer. Kudos to one of Minnesota's finest information sources.

I feel like going out and tossing back a few Blue Moons right now. And it's not even 7:30 in the morning!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Los Ann-juh-leez

Sometimes I really surprise myself. You would have thought that I would have had more to say about the vacation back in June-July. Now that election season is over, and everyone is weary of politics, perhaps I will post some vacation memories.

For now, though, I just want to say that I wish my experience had been more like this:

Look at that bum!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Someone Say EARWORM?

References here, here, here, here...and a few other places. Just follow the links; you'll get them all.

I have a contribution as well:

Just try and get that chorus out of your head. It can't be done.

True fact: This song was composed, sung and performed by the same man who played guitar on "Total Eclipse of the Heart" -- Rick Derringer.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Unexpected Post-Election Fallout

While everyone is talking about the losses suffered by Republicans in Tuesday's elections -- especially here in western Pennsylvania -- one local Democrat has chosen to remove himself from office, owing to his poor relations with his own party's establishment:

Allegheny County Councilman Rich Nerone resigned yesterday, citing both his growing valet parking business and disenchantment with the local political scene and the influential Wagner family.

Mr. Nerone, an Overbrook Democrat, submitted his letter of resignation just days after crossing party lines to endorse state Rep. Michael Diven, a Brookline Republican. He sent area residents a letter that arrived in mailboxes over the past weekend saying that Mr. Diven, a former Democrat, was "driven out" of that party and beset with "negative distortions" of his record.

Rich Nerone is (or was) the County Councilman for my district. To be honest, I had to go to the County web site to find this out. Nerone ran unopposed last year, so there wasn't much reason for me to invest a great deal of interest in the race. All I knew was that some Democrat had a free pass to an elective office.

In the wake of Nerone's resignation, we learn that he is not just some Democrat. He chose principle over party when he backed Mike Diven in this race. In doing so, he mended relations with Diven and followed in Diven's footsteps.

That surprised some, since Mr. Nerone ran an aggressive campaign to unseat Mr. Diven in 2004, when both were Democrats. Mr. Diven won then, but lost Tuesday to Democrat Chelsa Wagner. She's the daughter of 19th Ward Democratic Chairman Pete Wagner, and niece of state Auditor General Jack Wagner.

Mr. Nerone said yesterday that he should have been the Democratic candidate for the state House this year.

"That was my shot at that seat," he said. "I had commitments from people in the Wagner camp that I would have a shot, and then they decided to go with [Pete's] daughter."

Local politics is a real bear, isn't it? You can't trust anybody, even your supposed allies.

"There was never, ever any commitment to Rich Nerone about this race," said Pete Wagner.

Why did he back his daughter Chelsa?

"What can I say? It's father's love," he said.

This is the only dumb part of the article. Chelsa Wagner, based on her employment history, is as qualified for public office as any first-time candidate, perhaps more so. Even if she weren't qualified, I would expect her father to support her. We aren't questioning Wagner family relations, are we? Because that's how it sounds.

As for the future:
Council Democrats will pick a member of their party to take Mr. Nerone's place until May. Then voters will elect someone to serve through 2009.
You know what? If Rich Nerone's successor runs unopposed in three years, I'm going to write myself in. I'm going to tell my wife to write my name in. I know I won't win, but at least I'll be able to say that I received more than one vote, and that I had just as much support from Democrats as Republicans.

Local politics is fun!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Living In A Lollygag

You know, I actually like this song.

My Guy WON!

Hey, guess what? One of the candidates whom I voted for last night ACTUALLY WON HIS RACE:

18th District
U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, who also coasted to victory in his first two congressional elections, bucked the upheaval affecting some of his peers in Pennsylvania and across the nation.
He was never threatened in the race by underfunded Democratic challenger Chad Kluko, who was making his first bid for public office.
Despite a voting record supportive of the White House and GOP leadership in Congress, Mr. Murphy, 54, counted on voters recognizing him as a familiar face, concerned about community and constituent issues. The child psychologist also made a habit of besting Democrats easily in state Senate races in the South Hills before becoming a congressman the past four years.
"I ran this campaign like I run my office, continually focused on the local issues," Mr. Murphy said after being assured of comfortable victory. "How other people handle their campaigns -- I don't know how other people do it -- but I know we will be continuing to respond to local needs."
Yep. I've heard some extreme Republican-hating Democrats say what a good guy Murphy is. And he's a conservative, too. His ideology and registration aren't important to people around here; he represents his constituents. How many Congressman can you say that about?

As for the other races...what the heck is wrong with you people???

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I'm Pro-Something Or Other, And I Vote

Make that vot-ED, past tense. I try to hit the polls as soon after 7 AM as possible, every election.

In recent days, the political blogosphere has been rife with posts urging concerned voters to participate in last hour GOTV efforts. GOTV has never influenced me, one way or the other. My mind is made up well before the morning of Election Day. "Get Out The Vote"? I already got out my vote. Now I just need to go turn it in. I just ignore GOTV calls. That's what answering machines are for.

Embarassing fact: Until a couple of years ago, I thought that GOTV stood for "Grand Old Television", a Republican cable network. I was certain of this, and even more certain that there had to be some conspiracy theory to explain why I could never find it on my cable system.

But like I said, GOTV never swayed me anyway.

Back to this morning: I headed out around 7:20 AM to push the buttons on the screen. I like it. Even if my vote gets lost and doesn't count, I still like the touch screens. They are like toys. My area is heavily Democrat enough that I usually get to play around with at least one write-in vote. I don't waste it on the likes of Mickey Mouse, either. I vote for someone on the local committee, or a relative; whatever I decide, I vote for someone who lives in the jurisdiction of the uncontested race. My "candidate" always gives me a strange look when I tell him/her that "I voted for YOU!"

You would think that people would appreciate that kind of recognition.

I did not have to wait long for my chance at the toy computer voting machine. There was a crowd of people inside the front door, but those folks were hitting the church bake sale down the hall from the voting place. No one was in line when I got there. Compare that to two years ago, when there was a heated Presidential race and I waited in line outside for twenty minutes. Either no one cares this year, or they are going to show up later. I expected better turnout that early in the morning.

My votes went to all of the Republican candidates on the ballot. Rick Santorum...Lynn Swann...Tim Murphy...Bill Ogden. No one was running against State Senator Wayne Fontana, so I wrote in a relative. One of these days I'll mention it to him.

On the ballot question, I voted "NO". As much as I dislike voting "against veterans", as some people might be inclined to phrase it, there has been little or no mention of the bureaucracy involved in this initiative. Plus, ballot questions just smack of the legislature passing its responsibilities off onto the voters.

Six hours until the polls close. Have you voted yet?


Welcome Pittsburgh Post-Gazette readers -- or, to put it another way:

Good heavens, I've been discovered by the MainStream Media (MSM)!

Our new favorite righty blog, for this week: Ohligarchy. Our new favorite lefty blog, for this week: A Spork in the Drawer. This puts them in the running for Early Returns' Blog of the Year title. The winner gets Pennsylvania's 21 electoral college votes, as well as a handsome set of steak knives (and by handsome," we mean "fictitious").
Thank you, Mr. Toland and Mr. O'Toole. Are you sure I can be trusted with knives, real or fictitious?

Happy Election Day!

It's here. Already. Be sure to wish all of your friends, enemies, relatives, co-workers, classmates and complete strangers a Happy Election Day.

Why?, you may well ask. Just try it out. It's worth it just for the look on someone else's face. Priceless.

No matter who wins, life will still go on. Sure, there have been heated, emotional campaigns for most of the big races. You won't drop dead if your candidate loses. I hope not, anyway.

Back in 1992 I showed up for work the day after Election Day, and my co-workers (almost all Democrats) spoke to me as though someone in my family had just died. "You're not upset, are you?" Well, no, not at all. I woke up in the morning, walked out the front door, and everything looked the same. It's just politics.

What I really wanted to say, though, was "I can't believe Clinton won! I ran out the front door, tore my shirt, and dropped dead in the street!" I was just joking, but...

If you are so emotionally invested in this year's elections that you are in danger of mortal collapse when the returns come in, then let me take this opportunity to wish you one last Happy Election Day before you croak!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Joining Of Heaven And Earth

...metaphorically speaking, that is.

When I was a lad, I had a voracious appetite for superhero comic books. (Reading them, not eating them.) Every month I looked for the best Marvel and DC titles on the market. Loved them. Read them all over and over again. I still have a few tucked away in boxes at home.

At the same time, my grandmother was a regular viewer of CBS soap opera The Guiding Light. She must have gone years without missing an episode. The rest of the family knew all of the characters and situations, even if we didn't follow the show, just because my grandmother's interests rubbed off on everyone else.

It would have been unthinkable that my childhood passion and my grandmother's favorite television program would ever converge. Superheros battling evil on a serious television drama? Ludicrous!

Thirty years later, it's a new century, a new millennium, and times have changed. My grandmother, and those of her generation, have passed from this earth. Comic book heroes are all the rage in motion pictures, as well as animated and live action television shows. Every business is looking for some kind of angle to attract customers in some novel way. So why not put superheroes in a soap opera, and soap opera characters in comic books? It's a great idea for a crossover: Soap fans will want to see what their characters are doing in comics, and comic fans will want to see a superhero come to life on a daytime drama.

As it happens, my grandmother's old favorite, The Guiding Light, has gotten together with Marvel Comics to present a new hero called, of course, the Guiding Light. It's a lady. A blond lady with a sexy tummy. And do you know what? The concept works. Speaking as a comics fan, I can say without reservation that this show plays out exactly like a comic book story. And furthermore, the way that the character handles her newfound powers is done just the way that I would have done, had I ever acquired super powers. I haven't enjoyed anything comics related this much in years.

Naturally, there is a "super villain" behind the scenes. A mysterious, anonymous, unseen force for evil who seems to be part of an ongoing storyline that was not resolved in this episode. What sort of dastardly evildoer was the Guiding Light obsessed with finding during her forays into crimefighting?


Yes, the soap opera world's idea of a villain is someone who posts stuff on blogs. Am I offended by this? Not at all. There are plenty of villainous bloggers out there. Some people probably think that I am a villain. Having a blogger as the bad guy is a very hip, cool and contemporary thing to do.

If you want to see the entire episode, go to this page and follow the link. Four stars! Two thumbs up! It's fun.

As for my grandmother...I believe that if she were alive to see this show, she would hate it. But we would watch together anyway, just for the novelty of it all. And that's something that we would both enjoy.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Good ChicagoRay Graphic

This is from one of my blog partners at Murtha Must Go!:

Hot damn, she's gorgeous! (Diana, I mean, not Jack.)

Giving Credit Where It's Due

You don't see something like this very often. From Tony Norman's column this morning:

Speaking of empathy, two months ago I wrote a column criticizing Rick Santorum's use of his children in a political ad. In criticizing the senator for dragging his kids into one of the most acrimonious Senate races in the country, I may have stepped over the line by giving nicknames to his six kids. The nickname "Big Lisp" seems to have outraged people the most. I also denigrated the good work of Children Youth and Families (CYF), an Allegheny County agency that has dramatically turned itself around in the last decade. Had I that column to do over again, I'd make the same points minus the gratuitous insults. Those were unnecessary. Sometimes, I'm just evil. Ask my wife. See what laughing at a good movie and residual guilt can do to a person? Nope, I refuse to apologize for smacking Bush around. Do I look like John Kerry to you?
Plenty of letters-to-the-editor writers, bloggers (including me), and others did indeed react with outrage to Tony's column of September 15. It's good to see that he can express his regret while sticking to his core beliefs. I can respect that.

Thank you, Tony Norman.

In answer to his last question, no. Not at all:

The Bitter Sorrow Of Gainful Employment

Last night I received an email alert informing me that Lynn Swann is visiting the Eat 'N Park restaurant down the hill from my house this morning at 7:30, and then hitting the diner up the hill sometime after 8 AM. Naturally, I needed to get up early to go to work.

Drat the luck!

Perhaps I ought to quit my job and go on welfare. That way, I might have more time to do fun stuff, and it might even be a raise in pay for me.

Some other time, perhaps.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Meaningless Polls

Have I ever mentioned how stupid pre-election polls are? I believe I have, and my conclusion comes from personal experience. These things are obviously fixed from the start, yet the media continually reports results of the polls as if Election Day has already come and gone.

Why does the media give these unofficial poll results such extensive coverage? Because the polls are being conducted under the aegis of...THE MEDIA:

Democrat Bob Casey has opened up a 15-point lead over Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum -- more than double the lead the challenger held in September -- according to a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review/WTAE-TV Keystone poll released today. Casey leads Santorum 53 percent to 38 percent, with 9 percent undecided, according to the telephone poll of 626 registered voters conducted over five days ending Sunday. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
According to the Trib, a telephone poll of 626 registered voters sets the stage for the outcome of this year's election. Or does it? I've said it before, and I will say it again: The only poll that counts is the one that takes place on Election Day. But, now that these polls have been publicized, what impact can they have?

For one thing, there's the "Yes Virginia, There Is A Senator Casey" type of reader who says that if you see it in the paper, it's true. Who the heck votes for a candidate based on a paper's endorsement? Those are as meaningless as these polls. Yet there are people out there who will vote Casey over Santorum because the PG endorsed him, or because the Trib shows him way ahead in a poll of 626 people.

Then there's the registered voter who sees that his candidate is so far behind that he will stay home and give his support to absolutely no one. Rick Santorum is behind in the polls? That's it. No chance of winning! Let's just give it up and hand the office over to Bob Casey. (The hidden beauty of this is that it can work the other way: The Democrat who stays home because, as much as he would like to vote for Casey, Santorum is so far behind that Casey doesn't need another vote.)

Getting back to the Trib article, we see another impact of these polls: They give academic experts an opportunity to step forward and make pronouncements on these races:

"(Santorum) is falling further behind as voters seem to be rejecting his shift in course toward focus almost exclusively on the war on terror," said Keystone Poll director G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster County. "It's a campaign theme that's not working well," Madonna said.

Why not focus on the War On Terror? Santorum is one of the few politicians who is willing to look at the war from a "big picture" perspective. More people -- not just his constituency -- need to listen to what he has to say. Santorum presents his case from a historical perspective, unlike the leftists who act as if the world began in 2003. If the war is not working well as a campaign theme, it's a shame, because Rick Santorum is well worth listening to on this issue.

Based on the results of its own poll, the Trib is getting ready to stick a fork in not only Senator Santorum, but also the Republican gubernatorial candidate:

Casey's lead, combined with Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell's 25-point advantage over Republican challenger Lynn Swann, could portend disaster for Republicans on Tuesday, when voters head to the polls. Rendell, of Philadelphia, leads Swann, the former Steelers star from Sewickley Heights, by 58 percent to 33 percent, the poll shows.
Why? Because 626 people who were at home to answer the phone when the Trib called say so! Cue another expert from academia:

"It's clearly not a positive sign for Republicans in real competitive races lower on the ticket to have their headliners trailing this late in the campaign, but it's not necessarily a death knell," said Christopher Borick, political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. "Pennsylvanians have a clear record of splitting tickets."
He's right, you know. Keep in mind that Rick Santorum won his last election in 2000, when he was trailing in the polls up to the last minute, and in a state that Al Gore won over George W. Bush. In recent years, Pennsylvania has had a habit of re-electing incumbent governors to second terms, then switching to the other party for the next governor. Many Democrats elected to statewide office here have been moderate-to-conservative on many issues; conversely, a lot of our Republicans have tended liberal in a lot of ways. You can't judge the level of support for the smaller jurisdictions based on the leanings of the voters polled statewide. If you did, the results might surprise you.

Unless you're like me, and you recognize the folly of these things.

Here's a treat for you: Unlike most of these media polls, this one actually names names and gives more-or-less direct quotes. In the interest of saving space, the Trib samples one from either side:

Poll participant Charles K. Hillman, 68, of Monongahela, Washington County, said he will vote for Casey because he doesn't like the direction the country is going under Republican control. Hillman is upset that American soldiers are dying in Iraq in what seems to be "a civil war." "I do not trust Santorum, and I don't like Bush at all," he said. "I'm voting for a change."
Damned Republicans!

Walter J. Nichols, 42, of Commodore, Indiana County, said he will vote for Santorum because he is consistent in his views. Nichols likes Santorum's opposition to gun control and abortion. "Santorum has a platform he sticks with. He believes in what he says, and he stands for something," Nichols said. "Bob Casey seems to be the typical politician. Whatever you want to hear, he's going to say."

Damned Demmycrats!

Not surprisingly, Santorum's spokeswoman says that the poll doesn't mean anything, while Casey's boy says that it means everything in this race. Fair enough. That's how the spokespeople are expected to respond when asked about this kind of "news". The real story will be printed next Wednesday morning, when the results of the only serious poll come out. And those will be determined by people who are not waiting by the phone for the Trib to call.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Neighborhood Candy Bar Extortion Day!

Last night, on the way home from a short grocery trip, I was listening to 93.7 K-Rock, "The Rock of Pittsburgh", via my car's radio. For about twenty years, this station was called B-94, and was a prime example of corporate pop music radio. Everyone I knew hated it -- except for chicks. Chicks dug it. You knew a guy was in love if he started listening to B-94. He had lost his independence, because he was listening to "chick music".

But times change, and while other stations in the Pittsburgh market have taken over the "Top 40" format's audience, B-94 faded away. After a brief period of trying to find a new niche, 93.7 (now CBS owned) settled on a hard rock format. During B-94's heyday, 102.5 WDVE was the rock station in town, but eventually stopped playing most new music and is now the region's top classic rock station. In other words, they still play the same music that they were playing twenty years ago. All things return.

I've been a bit cynical about K-Rock's chances for success in this market. Every time a decent hard rock/heavy metal station comes along, it fizzles out and changes format in a few months. WXDX, Pittsburgh's "Alternative Rock" station, started out metal but couldn't make it that way in the grunge era of the early 1990s, so changed format accordingly. That was a disappointment; I liked a station where I could hear "Rainbow In The Dark" five times a day.

K-Rock seems like it has a better chance to last, due to two things:

  1. The resurgence of heavy metal music after years of grunge and alternative crap; and
  2. Corporate ownership (CBS) with national hosts to draw attention to the station.

The few times I have listened to the station, I was pleased with what I heard, but I wasn't convinced to become a dedicated listener. That changed last night, when I heard this on the ride home:

The K-Rock disc jockey said that he played it "for Halloween". And how appropriate. Everything in that video is so hokey, it looks more like a goofy masquerade party than a serious satanic ritual. It's also one of my favorite videos from the days of my adolescence. I especially like the part where the flying hammer makes the goat man explode. BOOM!

You just can't get that kind of quality entertainment nowadays.

Here's hoping to hear more early 1980s style HR/HM on local radio, and not just for Halloween. Have a safe and happy Halloween. Be nice to your trick-or-treaters, and they will be nice to you. Up the Irons!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pitt Full Of Casey

Pennsylvania Treasurer Bob Casey, Jr., visited my alma mater the other day, as reported by the campus paper. The big guns (local version) came out for this one:

The party came complete with speeches from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, State Representative Dan Frankel, Congressman Mike Doyle, Chris and Andre Heinz and Senate hopeful Bob Casey.
The Heinz boys! That's kind of embarrassing. Those kids follow the path of John Kerry. That's a hell of a substitute father figure to mature under.

Before the rally, students lined Fifth Avenue bearing "Bob Casey for U.S. Senate" posters and called for support from passing motorists and pedestrians. Rick Santorum supporters also took a stand along Fifth, holding posters and cheering for their candidate.

What's more obnoxious than a bunch of lawn signs up and down the street? A bunch of hand-held signs waving in your face when you're trying to drive down the street. (NOTE: I am not a great fan of lawn signs.)
In from the rain and armed with buttons, bumper stickers and signs, students and Pittsburghers welcomed Mayor Ravenstahl, who was the first to offer support to Casey's campaign. "We have the opportunity to change the way Washington is working," Ravenstahl said. "We can get rid of the Bush administration --- well, we can't get rid of the Bush administration, but we can lead the change by electing Bob Casey."
Pittsburgh's youthful mayor has a lot of appeal. He boldly and respectfully stepped forward to assume the position in the wake of Bob O'Connor's untimely demise, he has appeared on David Letterman, he bravely defended the honor of the city against the threat of Sienna Miller, and he installed the first-ever computer in the mayor's office.

On the downside, he is a big city Democrat. How else can you explain the "we can get rid of the Bush administration" slip? He sees George W. Bush the way that a lot of us see Hugo Chavez, or Ahmadinejad: As a threat to be eliminated. Every time a leading Democrat opens his/her/its mouth and makes a statement like that, I am more and more convinced that the Dems aren't just our rivals; they are the enemy.
Frankel took the mic next, asking the audience, "Have you had enough of rising deficits and reduced student loans? Have you had enough of incompetent foreign policy that has divided our country? We've had enough of Rick Santorum." Frankel predicted a "clean sweep" for Democrats in the coming elections because, he said, "this state, this city, this University has had enough."
I will admit that I know absolutely nothing about Dan Frankel, but he doesn't sound like the kind of guy I'll be sitting down and sharing lunch with anytime soon. He uses a rhetorical device that bothers me when politicians of either party employ it: "I am the spokesman for EVERYTHING!" Frankel lives in Pennsylvania, so he speaks for all Pennsylvanians! He lives in the city, so he speaks for all Pittsburghers! Frankel went to Kenyon College, so he speaks for everyone at Pitt! Oops. Well, Oakland (the city neighborhood in which the University is situated) is part of his district, but most people who attend or work at Pitt live in his district.

Perhaps a lot of people at Pitt have had enough of Dan Frankel, whether or not they can vote in his district.
Congressman Doyle followed Frankel and led the crowd in a cheer, spelling out "Pitt Dems" and calling for personal initiative to get out and vote.
No word on whether Congressman Dipshit used a megaphone and pom poms.
"Republicans are going to begin a campaign of 'fear and smear' now," Doyle said of upcoming political ads. "They're going to show you Osama Bin Laden, remember him? He's the guy who attacked us four years ago who Bush never went after."
And welcome to the Democrats' twilight zone! It's never "fear and smear" when Dems attack Republicans, but when the criticism goes the other way -- watch out! It's mean people being mean to nice people who are being nice, even when they are smearing their opponents.
Advising Democrats to ignore what he called "propaganda," Doyle said, "It's all about turnout now. I promise you, if we show up to vote, we win."
Yes! Listen to Mike Dipshit, Democrats; ignore "propaganda", and you will end up voting Republican. (I find it harder and harder to believe that this guy was ever a Republican.)
Repeatedly referring to current Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum as "George Bush's rubber stamp junior senator," Doyle said, "If we gain control over the House and the Senate, George Bush won't have any more rubber stamps and will have to answer to the American people he's been screwing over."
All of the talk about "rubber stamp" and "98%", referring to Santorum's record of voting to support Bush administration policies, is goofy. Santorum and Bush belong to the same political party. It would seem a bit odd if they didn't match nearly 100% percent on the issues. Find a Democrat who only voted with Clinton 98% of the time, and the Dems would tout him/her/it as an independent thinker who follows his/her/its own conscience.
"Eleven days to change America," Doyle said. "Do you want to do it?" The crowd responded with a standing ovation for the congressman.
Yes, we do! Let's vote Bobby Casey out of the public spotlight for good. Another good suggestion from the guy who otherwise doesn't know what he's talking about.
Following Doyle was Chris Heinz, the Republican-turned-Democrat stepson of Sen. John Kerry. "I don't get to talk about Rick Santorum very much," Heinz said. "In fact, this might be my last chance."
I'm very sorry to hear that. I didn't realize that Chris Heinz was terminally ill. Or perhaps he means that he's going to climb into a hole if Rick gets re-elected.
Taking advantage of the opportunity, Heinz said, "He is, in my mind, bar none, the worst senator I've ever seen in my life," a comment that drew strong applause.
Did his dad ever use such strong rhetoric? (I mean his real dad, not the Herman Munster who married his mom.) I know that John Heinz was considered a moderate, even a liberal, Republican, but he was a party man and generally well-liked by the public. Which side is using "fear and smear" again?
Planning to be out of town for the election on Nov. 7, Heinz brought his completed absentee ballot to the rally. Showing the envelope to the crowd, Heinz said, "I voted for firing Donald Rumsfeld, which felt good." Still, said Heinz, "I don't consider myself a partisan man. I am first and foremost an American. This is a democracy and just because a Democrat is going to be elected, doesn't mean we shouldn't be held accountable."
Bzzzt! Wrong! America is NOT a democracy, and never has been. When was the last time you got to vote on an issue and not a human representative? This is a representative republic with democratic elements. Not the same as a democracy. If it was, Chris Heinz would be able to vote for firing the SecDef. But he can't. The system doesn't work that way.

If I were scripting this rally, I would have had one of Casey's hippie supporters lighting up a smoke during the Heinz speech, and letting the wind blow a few hot ashes in the direction of Heinz's absentee ballot, thereby setting the paper ablaze. What a moment it would have been! I missed my calling. I should have been a filmmaker.
Casey took the stage last and was greeted by applause from the crowd and handshakes from the preceding speakers. He thanked the Heinz brothers for their support, and Casey said of their late father, "John Heinz grew up with wealth but understood he had an obligation to serve if given the chance, and I'm thinking about him today and thinking about this region, and I think the future looks bright."

But was he wearing shades? Or drinking Heinz ketchup straight out of the bottle, for that matter? (NOTE: I have always used Heinz ketchup at home, and probably always will. Ketchup is not political.)
Two student Santorum supporters shouted to Casey, "Where's your commitment to HIV/AIDS? Are you going to do better than Santorum?" "I'm going to do a lot of things better than Santorum," Casey said. "I put 10 specific plans forth in this campaign. The score right now is 10 to one. His only plan right now is privatize social security, and that is a bad plan."

Remember how Bill Clinton cured AIDS when he was elected back in 1992? Neither do I. Casey gets credit for quickly changing the subject, but then he disingenuously reduces his opponent's agenda down to one plan. Admittedly, privatizing social security isn't the most popular policy on the public's agenda, but it's not the only thing that Rick Santorum is about. How much has Casey had to say about terrorism and international affairs?
Casey's top concerns were improving childcare and reducing global warming. "If we invest in children in their younger lives, they're not only going to be brighter, happier people, but they're going to contribute more to society," Casey said.
I'm a father of several children, and it bugs me when some politician talks about "investing in children's lives". There is a perverse "get 'em while they're young" air about it. My children are my business, Mr. Casey, not yours. You and your ilk want to turn our babies into perfect copies of yourselves. They are unique individuals, and have been since the moment of conception. Do not mention them again. Shut your mouth and talk about something else.
He said that solving global warming was one of the government's responsibilities. "We have to have mandatory reductions of carbon emissions, because unless we confront this crisis, we might as well not have Congress or other governmental leaders," he said.
"Global warming" is climate change. It's been happening in cycles for millions of years. It's very arrogant to assume, as Casey does, that humans could affect climate change in such a short span of time, either for better or for worse. Whatever credibility he had to begin with is pretty much shot at this point.
"The urgency for change across Pennsylvania and across the country is a tidal wave," Casey said. "This is the year America says no to more of the same, no to divide and conquer and yes to a new direction."
This last bit is a meaningless generalization that sounds good if spoken by the right orator. Try to imagine Casey speaking these words, in his quiet nasally voice. It's horrible. Absolutely horrible.

And like Bob Casey, Jr., absolutely meaningless.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Greatest Political Ad EVER

In an age when wrestlers have become politicians...

...it was inevitable that politicians would start turning into wrestlers.

Interestingly enough, a young lawyer named Rick Santorum used to work for Vince McMahon. I wonder if he got some help from his old boss to set up this commercial?

Many years ago, Japanese wrestling legend Antonio Inoki made a rare appearance on an American TV show. Announcer Tony Schiavone told commentator Bobby Heenan that Inoki was an elected member of Japan's upper house of parliament, the equivalent of the U.S. Senate. Heenan said something like, "So this is like watching Ted Kennedy getting in the ring and wrestling?"

How about Rick Santorum vs. Ted Kennedy...IN A 15 FOOT HIGH STEEL CAGE? I'd like to see that!

It Just Gets Worse

Ever notice how the news just goes from bad to worse some days?

For instance, this morning's paper has an article about the Pork Authority's financial woes. This could be bad news for me because I use the bus to commute to work and back every day. But it's also par for the course; there's nothing Earth-shattering about it. Life goes on.

Then there is the story about the Old Order Amish couple who are having immigration problems with DHS. The Amish are not Islamic terrorists. Their case should have been given special consideration, and not allowed to get to the point where the man had to file a lawsuit. But this doesn't affect me personally, so I move along.

The next thing I read is an article about a "glitch" in Allegheny County's 911 system the other day that might have contributed to the death of a little baby. The system was down for hours, and the family was unable to contact a dispatcher for medical assistance. I have a two-week old baby at home, and I think about things like this all the time. Sure, this happened to someone else's kid, but it could have happened to mine. What if something bad happens, and we can't do anything about it? The news is starting to affect me.

So I turn away from the news, and visit one of my favorite sarcastically satirical blogs to read this:

WARNING: This post is not funny.
And it wasn't. Learned Foot, whom I had the pleasure of meeting when I visited Minnesota back in August 2005, and whom I consider a friend (distance notwithstanding), has entered a time of family crisis. His wife has been diagnosed with cancer.

This really hits home for me. One of my parents died of cancer when I was in my early twenties. It was a rough time, and not one that I would care to relive or wish on my worst enemy. Today, I am a husband and father of five children. My wife and I are in our late thirties, and pretty content with life in general. We never consider the possibility that something bad might happen to us. But it could.

And it has happened, to Learned Foot's family. And family is the silver lining in this cloud of bad news. Mrs. Foot has people around her who love and support her. She has people all over Minnesota, and at least as far away as Pittsburgh, whom she has never met, who are concerned and supportive in her battle against cancer.

With all of those thoughts and prayers behind her, I believe she can fight this thing.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Sexiest Political Endorsements Living In America

It's not often that I keep up with all of the latest culture and fashion magazines, but once in a while a cover will catch my eye. One such is the current issue of Esquire, which proclaims Scarlett Johansson to be "The Sexiest Woman Alive". A few years ago I might have agreed wholeheartedly with such a proclamation; nowadays, I am naturally skeptical of any such statement. Did Esquire examine every single woman currently alive? And what about this Scarlett chick? Is she really sexier than any other woman under the magazine's consideration, or is she just some cutie with big lips who does a passable job of putting on her makeup? Anyone who subscribes to Esquire should demand at least one makeup-free photo of each "sexy" woman photographed for inclusion. The consumer can decide whether or not she's really sexy after he sees what she really looks like.

In any event, that's not what I want to comment on.

The real main feature inside the mag is a lengthy feat of civic responsibility called "Esquire Endorses America". Esquire weighs in on every gubernatorial, senatorial, and congressional race in the country this year, making endorsements in nearly every case, and encouraging write-ins in a handful of unopposed races. It's rather impressive, considering that a periodical not normally know for the depth of its political coverage (such as it is) covers so much ground in one fell swoop.

Not surprisingly, Esquire leans decidedly left of center. If the magazine writers/editors get their way, America will be a Democrat stronghold for the next two years. (Which leads me to ask...who is going to cast their vote based on an Esquire endorsement? Is it that important to anyone? Or do you look at it as a bit of fun, as I do?) There are some special sections such as "The Cynthia McKinney Awards For The Worst Members of Congress" (mostly Republicans) and "The Nine Pillars of Congress" (mixed R's and D's, but mostly leftist). The overwhelming theme seems to be "Esquire endorses Democrats who act like Democrats, and Republicans who act like Democrats".

So what does this men's pop culture and fashion publication have to say about candidates for office in my area? Let's start with the Governor's race.

Lynn Swann (R) Ed Rendell (D)
Ed Rendell, the first "America's Mayor," has had a harder time fixing
Pennsylvania's woes than he did Philadelphia's--though a lot of the blame falls
to the Republican-controlled state-house. And despite efforts to thwart him,
he's tackled increased education funding and property-tax relief since taking
office in 2003.

Esquire endorses: Rendell

If this clown was ever "America's Mayor", then it's time for a new American Revolution. There's no mention that the Republican state house leadership was dominated by moderate "play along to get along" types. (Until this year's primaries, that is.) So, of course, those Republicans can be blamed. And no mention of Lynn Swann, outside of his name. As far as Esquire is concerned, this race is a referendum on the incumbent's performance -- as well it should be. I won't forget how Eddie has played fast and loose with the state budget. That's why my endorsement goes to Lynn Swann.

Rick Santorum (R)
Bob Casey (D)
See "The Cynthia McKinney Awards For The Worst Members of Congress".
Esquire endorses: Casey
Ah, okay. Let's go see why Esquire awards Rick this very special status.

For the love of God, people, it's long past time that Rick Santorum did his
man-on-dog, dog-on-man ruminations on his own time. WWJD? This one's a
That's it??? That's all this rag has to say about this race? Rick said "man-on-dog" once, and that makes him such a terrible Senator? It's nice to know that Esquire has such deep-thought, well-considered commentary on its pages or we just would not know who to vote for.

Seriously, Rick Santorum has been one of the most consistent politicians in Washington the last few years. Sure, he's made a few compromises here and there, but his beliefs and values are well-rooted. And if "by his enemies you shall know him" is anything to go on, then the incumbent definitely deserves a third term. One again, I thumb my nose at Esquire and heartily endorse Rick Santorum for Senate.

In one Congressional endorsement (Jason Altmire over Melissa Hart), Esquire lets loose with some shocking sexual ruminations of its own:

Want to see Rick Santorum in a dress?
No thanks. But if you want to mess around with Photoshop on your own time, it's no one's business but yours.

As for my own district:

District 18
Tim Murphy (R)
Chad Kluko (D)
Who is Tim Murphy? He's a guy who puts out lots of press releases about what he supports. Little of which is noteworthy.
Esquire endorses: Kluko

Does one not get the impression that the magazine didn't put a lot of thought into some of these Congressional races? Let me tell you something about Tim Murphy: He puts out a lot of press releases because he wants to keep his constituents informed about what is going on in Washington, and because he knows what issues are important to people in his district. He is, by vocation, a psychologist, and provides the Congress with a much-needed insider's view of what's wrong with health care in America, and what can be done to fix it. None of this may matter to the Esquire writers who sit in their posh offices, likely in an upper floor of a building somewhere in New York, passing judgment on things and people about which they know nothing -- and, unlike most bloggers, get paid for doing so. But I have been represented by Dr. Murphy at both the state and federal level for ten years now, and I know enough about him to say that I endorse Tim Murphy for re-election to the U.S. Congress.

HILLARY SEZ: Don't forget about me! I'm a "Pillar of Congress"! Watch out, I'm gonna be President someday!

Monday, October 23, 2006

New Pennsylvania Blog Resource

This morning I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I had been linked by a site called BlogNetNews.com/Pennsylvania. BlogNetNews is a new aggregator that "jumps a generation ahead of other aggregators" that is designed more for human comprehension than for search bots.

In addition to Pennsylvania, the site also has aggregators for Virginia, Ohio, New York, Texas, New Jersey, Florida, and California.

This is going to save me a whole lot of precious time trying to keep up with PA blogging.