Tube City Online

Filed Under: default || By jt3y

September 30, 2004 | Link to this story

The Bus Stops Here

Category: default || By jt3y

I'm trying to get myself into the habit of taking the bus to work. Not because of any great hippie organic environmental save-the-whales vibe --- I do drive two V-8 powered barges, after all --- but because I have to pay to park, and I'm trying to save a couple of bucks here and there. (The rising price of gas to fuel those V-8 powered barges is also a factor in my decision.)

It's a two-bus ride to work; I have to take one of the "suburban" feeder buses for the first ride, and then switch to one of the radial buses that runs directly to Downtown Picksberg. That requires changing buses either at the transit center on Lysle Boulevard in Our Fair City or out somewhere along the side of the road.

Yesterday morning, during the first part of the journey, I had an entire 54-seat coach to myself for most of the 20-minute ride. (The second bus I caught into Pittsburgh was packed to the roof; it lacked only a yak and some chickens to look exactly like a commuter train in New Delhi.)

I can't imagine how it's cost-effective to run a 54-seat bus to pick up two people. Mind you, I appreciate the convenience of being able to walk to the bus stop, and the trip did save me parking fees and gasoline. But even if both I and the high schooler had both paid the full cash fare (I used a pass), we wouldn't have covered even half of the bus driver's wage for that trip, much less wear and tear and fuel on the bus.

Of course, running nearly-empty buses isn't cost-effective. The Port Authority is planning to increase the base fare about 75 cents (from $1.75 to $2.50), eliminate many suburban routes, eliminate weekend and holiday service, and cancel any service after 9 p.m. unless it can get a $30 million subsidy from the state or federal government.

Our Fair City stands to lose out big time. The Mon-Yough area has one of the region's largest concentration of suburban bus routes --- a relic of the old Penn Transit and Ridge Lines days --- and I suspect they would be among the first to get the axe. (Local service around McKeesport was already severely whacked once, several years ago, which left many buses running only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. --- thus making them nearly useless for commuters.) All of the feeder routes in and around Homestead and Munhall would likely suffer as well.

The issue becomes whether you regard public transportation as a luxury item or a necessity. For someone like me, it's kind of a luxury --- I save wear and tear on my car and parking fees, and get to read the paper. A lot of conservatives argue that public transportation should be privatized for that reason --- they say that only car-hating hippie liberals ride the bus, and that autos help the economy. If public transportation is so necessary, they say, then let the private sector step in and run bus service.

They ignore their history. The private sector used to run bus service in Pittsburgh and nearly every other metropolitan area as recently as the 1960s. They couldn't make a profit at it --- which is how we ended up with Port Authority in the first place. And I don't see a lot of people wearing Birkenstocks and carrying Starbucks coffee on the buses in my neighborhood. I see a lot of single moms, minorities and the elderly, who either don't have cars or can't drive.

For the poor and senior citizens, who make up a large percentage of the Mon-Yough area, public transit is usually the only lifeline to work, the doctor, or the grocery store. (Fester had more to say on that angle a while ago, and he said it better than I can.)

As Jonathan Potts pointed out at The Conversation recently, there's probably some hyperbole in the Port Authority's announcement that's designed to force the state Legislature into helping it out; and there are plenty of places the agency could cut money (not extending Pittsburgh's par three, three-hole miniature subway to the North Shore, for one).

The Gospel According to Matthew says the poor "will always be with us." Conservatives want to get them off of the dole and into the workforce --- which is a good thing.

But if we want them to get to work --- or get to school so they can find something better than a minimum wage job, or get to health care so they're well enough to hold whatever jobs they find --- then we have to support public transit in some way, shape or form.

Which means the taxpayers end up paying one way or another, either directly in the form of food stamps and welfare, or indirectly by supporting public transit. Since public transit enables people to contribute to society, paying for it is probably a better bet than paying people to stay at home.

...

It's the stingy man who winds up spending the most: In reality, yesterday's bus ride cost me $12. Since the bus driver and I were basically by ourselves, he struck up a conversation and we wound up shooting the bull during the entire ride.

I was in such a happy mood by the time he let me out that I left my umbrella on the seat and didn't remember it until the bus was out of sight.

...

Maybe it's just not a good time to be in the transportation business in Western Pennsylvania. Travel agents are recommending that USAirways not buy any green bananas, according to U.S. News & World Report:

This time, U.S. Airways passengers realize it's not just bankruptcy as usual. Charles Wysor, president of Ambassador Travel in Pittsburgh, has been telling customers they should book flights with another airline if they're planning travel after January 1. Businesses in Pittsburgh, where U.S. Airways is the dominant carrier and offers nonstop service to 91 cities, are still flying the airline, hoping to help keep it afloat. But they're doing contingency planning. "I'm very concerned," says one corporate travel manager. She has analyzed alternative service to the 70 cities where her company typically flies and has come up with a mishmash of bad options that would normally require connections instead of the usual U.S. Airways nonstops. "I can't imagine what we'd do without them," she frets.


You could always take the train, right? Not so fast, says the Pittsburgh Business Times:

(In) November the Three Rivers will cease to exist, and the Pennsylvanian will begin a temporary extension to Chicago. Amtrak had extended the Pennsylvanian to Chicago in 1998 so it could carry mail, but ended that arrangement last year when it changed the train's schedule.


Early in March 2005, Amtrak will end the Pennsylvanian's extension to Chicago. The New York-to-Pittsburgh train's schedule will be adjusted in April. Ending Pittsburgh-to-Chicago service on the Three Rivers and the Pennsylvanian means several towns in Ohio will lose passenger-train service entirely, Amtrak said. ... In Ohio, cities including Youngstown, Akron and Fostoria will no longer have Amtrak service.


Hmm.

Well, as long as we don't live in any of the places where cars and bridges were washed away by flooding, we can drive to where we want to go, right? The BizTimes again:

(Energy) inventories are being strained by one of the worst hurricane seasons to hit the United States since officials began keeping records in 1851. As those storms swept the Gulf of Mexico over the last five weeks, they delayed or stopped oil and gas production and transportation. With high oil prices and cleanup efforts continuing in storm-hit areas, AAA predicted gas prices could continue rising.


Well, then. Who wants to leave Our Fair City, anyway?

Even if they did, who can? Our transportation options are down to Florsheims and Nikes. And, recently, rowboats.

...

Tip o' the hard hat to Peter Leo, by the way, from whom I stole the "par three, three-stop" subway bit. He writes much too infrequently these days, but he memorably teed off (or is that "T'd"?) on Port Authority inefficiency twice back in 2002. (Among his radical suggestions for improving PAT: "Require drivers to pick up passengers," and "Provide amenities for riders. For example, seats.")



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:20 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | one comment | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 29, 2004 | Link to this story

How Do You Like These Apples?

Category: default || By jt3y

Every week for the past two months, I've gone to the grocery store near my house. My buddy calls it the "House of Rancid Lunchmeat," but I haven't gotten anything rancid from the deli.

I did get some detestable apples there recently (you've got your Golden Delicious, your Granny Smith, your Red Delicious, and your Detestable) and they were utterly inedible.

Some apples are good for eating raw; some apples are good for recipes. These were good only for throwing at mean old ladies' houses on Halloween. But even that wasn't solely the fault of the House of Rancid Lunchmeat --- the apples didn't look good when I bought them. Since I have that Depression-era hunkie hatred of throwing away food, I finally gave the rest of the bag to someone I know with a farm, so that she could feed them to her horses. For all I know, the horses wouldn't eat 'em, either. Horses are not known for their fear of throwing away food; very few of them could be considered "thrifty."

I wonder who the horses gave the apples too? The pigs? They'll eat anything. I don't think they have pigs on her farm, though ...

Where was I? Ah, yes, in the middle of a story that's going nowhere, and which has absolutely no payoff. You may as well just go somewhere else now, because it's all downhill from here.

Anyway, every week I go to the House of Rancid Lunchmeat and write a check, and every time the cashier has to go to the office to get it approved, because the House of Rancid Lunchmeat only has one check approval machine. And since there's usually a line of people buying lottery tickets at the office, I wait at the checkout line patiently while the people behind me think of new and interesting ways to kill me with produce and things they can snatch from the displays near the cash register.

(I can see the scene at the coroner's office now: "How do you think they got a National Enquirer way up there? And check out this picture of Barbra Streisand on the cover! Did you know she's gotten heavy?")

This week, the cashier looked at me and said, "Have you applied for a check-cashing card?"

I said, "No, would that make this easier?"

She said, "Oh, my, yes! I wouldn't have to go to the office." And she handed me an index card to fill out.

"You know, you're the first person to tell me this, and I've been coming here for two months," I said. "Thank you."

I resisted the urge to turn around and tell the people fuming in line behind me, "See? It's not my fault!"

Good thing, too, because by now they were building a effigy out of Juicy Fruit PlenTPaks and preparing to set it on fire with blister-packed Scripto lighters.

...

Who the heck was Granny Smith, anyway?

...

Subdivided Bob is "nebby"; a reader helps him track the etymology of the word. It's better'n goin' to a liberry an' at!

...

The weekly newspaper in Crawford, Texas --- the small town where President Bush has his ranch --- has endorsed John Kerry.

Can you imagine how shaken the President must feel to learn that the 425-circulation Lone Star Iconoclast has gone over to his opponent? I can see him now, with his head in his hands. He turns to Karl Rove and says, "My God, if we've lost the Iconoclast, we've lost Prairie Chapel Road and the Tonkawa Falls RV park."

The Iconoclast's surprise endorsement is expected to have a wide-ranging impact on absolutely no one. Except perhaps on the Iconoclast:

At the Yellow Rose, one of a handful of businesses that have opened since Bush bought the ranch while he was Texas' governor, manager Teresa Bowdoin rolled her eyes when a reporter asked if she sold the paper at the store. "I'd just as soon burn it," she said. "I understand it's a free world, but sometimes I feel like they're shoving the free world down our throats."


Bowdoin said several local business owners had talked about pulling their advertising from the paper because of the endorsement. She said the Iconoclast was hurting itself by opposing the man who had brought fame and economic growth to town. "We'll never advertise with them again," she said.


Well, you know what a wise man once said: "There ought to be limits to freedom."

...

Meanwhile, hot on the trails of the startling revelations in Sunday's New York Times Magazine --- namely, that they have the Internet on computers now --- comes The Washington Post's poll asking for readers to vote for the best blogs. All of the usual suspects are represented: Lileks, Wonkette, Daily Kos, National Review Online, etc. Vote early and vote often.

Which reminds me: Monday is the deadline to register to vote in Pennsylvania. Forms are available at libraries and state offices, or register at the Allegheny County Division of Elections office dahntahn.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:58 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | five comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 28, 2004 | Link to this story

Progress Goes 'Piff!'

Category: default || By jt3y

Computer problems prevent much in the way of blather from these quarters today. My modem decided to go "piff!" which makes it difficult to upload items to the server. ("Piff!" is a technical term meaning that it stopped working without any apparent warning.) I did attempt to fix the modem, but banging it off of the edge of the desk didn't help.

If I can't upload my screedy rantings and inflict them on tens, if not dozens, of people, then what good are they? If a blog falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

(No, but it would be a good start, I can hear you muttering.)

Now, I get to dig out the 14.4 modem --- which will be like draining Lake Erie with a bendy straw. In the meantime, why not check out some of these fine blogs and Web publications?

Other things that regularly catch my eye on the 'net include Rip Rense's The Rip Post and Eric Zorn's Notebook.

And apologies to Bill Watterson for stealing (and re-wording) today's headline. It's not imitation, it's a homage, I swear.

...

A few quick hits of news: The very nice family from whom I bought the sleek, gray Mercury one year ago was almost wiped out in the flooding, reports Mike Bradwell in the Observer-Reporter:

At Community Motors in Canonsburg, owner Joe Mastrangioli spent last week talking with an insurance company. But as a new week began, he was uncertain how much money he would recover for the 150 new and used cars that were lost in the Sept. 17 flood.


The flood had the potential of being particularly devastating to car dealers, who carry inventory in the millions of dollars. Mastrangioli, who has one insurance carrier for his new-car stock and another for used vehicles, said Friday that he is disputing the money he was offered for the new cars.


Mastrangioli tells Bradwell that grateful customers have turned out to help the business get back onto his feet. Not everything is sweetness and light, however; how's this for proof that some insurance companies are running a racket?

He said he also learned that some "business interruption insurance" he purchased was canceled because his dealership's damages were caused by a flood. The coverage was to provide money to pay employees if the business was forced to temporarily shut down, he said.


See if you can parse this: You're covered unless the thing that you need the coverage for causes you to need the coverage, and then you're not covered. Basically, you can get the insurance as long as you don't need the insurance.

...

John Kerry drinks beer and watches football. Heck, he's got my vote.

...

I hope the Johnny Cash biopic now in production is better than it sounds like it's going to be, but Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash just ain't cutting it for me.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:41 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | No comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 27, 2004 | Link to this story

Return of the Tube City Bookmobile

Category: default || By jt3y

The weekend is a blur already. I spent Saturday screwing around with the sleek, gray Mercury, which looks like it's about to spit up an alternator after just 65,000 miles. The last Mercury used to cough out alternators at an alarming rate, too. You'd think that after 100 years of automaking, they'd be able to get little things like, say, electricity right. "Quality is Job One," eh? Well, curse you, Bill Ford Jr.!

Sunday I spent catching up on my reading. And my sleeping. I've decided that sleeping is my favorite hobby, and that like Ralph Wiggum, I'm very good at it. Go with your strengths, that's my motto.

Anyway, on Sunday I finished two books about the late nineteeth century and early twentieth. One was Vincent Curcio's enormous (700 dense pages) biography of Walter P. Chrysler, who founded --- that's right, Chevrolet. No, not really. Called Chrysler: The Life and Times of an Automotive Genius, the emphasis is really more on the times rather than Walter Chrysler's life.

Occasionally, Curcio detours from Chrysler's biographical details to make long excursions into American economics and the creation of the automobile industry. This helps to put Chrysler's work into context, but I suspect part of the reason that Curcio did it was because there wasn't a whole lot of source material about Walter Chrysler to draw upon. He died in 1940, and much of what was written about him before his death was vetted by the Chrysler Corporation's PR department. Then, too, he labored in the shadow of true pioneers like Henry Ford and Billy Durant, who were infinitely more colorful than Chrysler, and thus had contemporary biographers who were only too happy to leave reams of source material.

Thus, from Curcio's book, the best we can come away with is the impression that Chrysler was hard-working and hard-drinking, that he cheated on his long-suffering wife occasionally, and he had a talent for picking excellent engineers and designers. And that's about it. Walter Chrysler wasn't a radical visionary, he was a plodder; and he came to the auto industry fairly late, so he wasn't much of an innovator. These aren't bad qualities, mind you --- his methodical nature gave him the fortitude to persevere through numerous setbacks, and his late entry into the business allowed him to learn from other people's mistakes. As it was, his Chrysler Corporation, which he created from pieces of foundering Maxwell Motors, quickly leaped from the back of the pack to near-parity with General Motors and Ford, where it has stayed ever since.

And Chrysler had a Zelig-like ability to keep popping up around the big names in the industry --- perhaps he wasn't as colorful as Henry Ford or Billy Durant, but he knew them well. In fact, when Durant fell on hard times, Chrysler and other slipped him money to keep him afloat. Chrysler began his career as a railroad mechanic; and ground his way through several jobs and worked his way up to railroad management.

He made friends throughout the industry, and most importantly, kept them. When the American Locomotive Co. was looking for someone to take over their failing Pittsburgh Works, located on the North Side, an executive decided to give Chrysler a shot at turning it around. He did; and when that same executive, who also held a position on the board of directors at General Motors, needed someone to help stabilize GM, he thought of Chrysler again. Chrysler never looked back.

During his time in Pittsburgh, Chrysler and his family lived up in Bellevue Borough, where he regularly drove around the North Hills in a Stevens-Duryea touring car. According to Curcio, his neighbors on Seville Place --- now North Harrison Avenue, just off Lincoln --- remembered him fondly for years after.

Curcio also has several interesting anecdotes about the construction of the Chrysler Building in New York --- which was financed by Walter Chrysler himself, not the Chrysler Corporation --- but overall, this is not a book to be recommended to the casual reader. Also, I'd have enjoyed more images.

The other book I finished was The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson, a heavily-romanticized account of the construction of the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago interwoven with the story of a serial killer named H.H. Holmes. This book is very accessible to the casual reader, even if ... ahhh ... no. I'm not going to review it, because I read it as part of a book club I belong to, and I don't want to blab all my thoughts just yet.

...

Billy Durant, by the way, is the most intriguing character in the entire Chrysler book. Durant was a salesman and huckster who in the early 1900s, bought a whole bunch of small car companies (mostly using other people's money) and merged them into General Motors. He nearly gained control of Ford Motor Company, too. The people who had loaned Durant the money became alarmed at him reckless spending and pushed him out of the company.

So Durant borrowed some more money, created a car company named for French race car driver Louis Chevrolet, and used it to purchase General Motors again and install himself back as chairman. Then he began buying up a bunch of small auto parts suppliers --- including the predecessors of AC and Delco, which are still part of GM --- until he got pushed out of GM again.

Durant --- do you see a pattern here? --- borrowed some more money, purchased a bunch of small car companies, and created Durant Motors, which he intended to become as big as GM. (In fact, he tried to take control of GM a third time.) But his luck ran out --- the small companies he grabbed this time didn't have the agglomeration of talent that GM had, and Durant Motors went bankrupt during the Depression.

Rather than a biography of Chrysler, I'd love to see a book about Billy Durant --- or maybe a movie. I'm not sure who would play Durant --- Robert Preston in the movie The Music Man comes to mind.

I'm also not sure who'd go to see it; me and Durant's family, I guess.

There's more about Durant here, plus information about the short-lived Durant car. I also love the Durant song. What deathless lyrics: "I wanna drive a Durant. I wanna see if I can't ..."

...

In other business, what genius decided that men should wake up early every morning and --- bleary-eyed, groggy and half hungover --- scrape their faces with sharp scraps of steel? I had to plaster practically an entire roll of toilet paper to my face.

Jimmy Johnson of "Arlo and Janis" has the same problems, I see.

Brooke McEldowney's "9 Chickweed Lane" was good on Saturday, too --- in fact, I've had the same conversation with my own grandmother (though my response was not quite as witty by half).

...

I've long suspected that no one reads this Web page. Either I'm correct, or all of you folks are too polite to point out that I never answered the trivia question I posed on Wednesday. Namely, which infamous radio show was sponsored by Rexall Drug Stores?

Actually, Rexall sponsored several shows, but the only one that might be considered "infamous" was "Amos 'n Andy." By the time Rexall signed on as the sponsor in the late 1940s, "A 'n A" were already considered "politically incorrect," though they'd survive as a networked program on radio into the 1960s. This ad from 1954 --- the dawn of the civil rights movement --- is nothing short of stunning.

Yogi Berra was right; nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

And until tomorrow, good health to all from Rexall!



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:37 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | No comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 24, 2004 | Link to this story

On Top of the News

Category: default || By jt3y

It's probably too late by the time you read this, but Thursday's edition of The Daily News is a keeper because of the tabloid inside that celebrates the paper's 120th anniversary. It features historic front pages, old comic strips, and capsule bios of some of the paper's more colorful characters, including legendary art director John "Dink" Ulm, sports writer Merrill Granger, columnist M.F. Bowes, society editor Eleanor Kratzer, photographer Irv Saylor, and reporter Red McCurdy.

I got the last copy that the dairy store near my home had, so either people really wanted that tab, or else they were desperate to see what "Nancy" was up to. (I hope it's not the latter.) The News usually has back issues available at street price, if you stop in the lobby during business hours.

It's worth remembering that the News was once much more of a regional paper than it is now; but of course, Our Fair City was once much more of a regional power than it is now. Frankly, I'd like to see both the News and Our Fair City shake off a little of their self-doubt and behave with more of the swagger that characterized both from the teens through the '50s. The whole Mon-Yough area would be better off for it. During my year at the News (which did the paper no appreciable harm, so far as I can tell), the comment that made me cringe was when a former editor told me that there was no sense trying to compete with the Pittsburgh papers, because "we're only The Daily News."

Well, good grief, why don't we turn out the lights and go home? I thought. And I later said it to that editor --- which did not endear me, I fear. (I have that effect on bosses.)

It's hard not to argue that journalism and newspapers have improved, in general, since the 1950s. But as has been stated in this space before, many newspapers have also lost a sense of their communities, and by sanding off the rough edges of their reporters and editors in the name of "professionalism" and "diversity," they've also drained the color out of their columns --- thus losing a lot of what made them interesting to read.

All of the caterwauling, navel-gazing and back-seat driving done by the dozens of self-appointed journalism experts, from the Poynter Institute to partisan bodies like the Media Research Center and FAIR, hasn't really improved the products, as best as I can tell. Instead, it's only scared most newspapers into being timid, lowest-common denominator distributors of pre-digested pabulum.

However: In fairness to the News, it is showing more spunk and vigor in the last few years than I've seen it display since I first was able to read. Certainly there's more local content, and the editorial page is staking out actual positions on topics. Good on them, and I wish 'em another 120 years. I buy a News every day, and if you live in the Mon-Yough area, you should, too.

And go get a copy of Thursday's paper, if you can find it. It's worth it, if only to read a 1936 "Nancy" and see that "Nancy" wasn't any funnier then than it is now.

...

Still looking for your favorite Mon-Yough valley place or attraction. Send 'em to me at jt3y at dementia dot o-r-g. Best one received before November 1 will earn the submitter one free item from the Tube City Online store.

...

Gen Lucidi of the Woodland Hills Progress has a neat interview and profile this week of Chuck Blasko and The Vogues that's worth reading. I sent it to a family member of one of the Vogues, who tells me it's good, though there are a few inaccuracies. For instance, "Five O'Clock World" was featured in the movie "Good Morning, Vietnam," not "Good Morning, America." (Although wouldn't it be interesting to see Charlie Gibson and Diane Sawyer singing "Five O'Clock World"?)

...

As a occasional pinball player (a bad one), and someone who used to repair pinball machines, this story by Bob Batz Jr. in the Post-Gazette is disheartening:

The Professional Amateur Pinball Association briefly boasted a collection of 232 pinball machines, including a Blackwater 100, a motocross game of "mud, sweat and tears." That theme now describes PAPA's newly opened headquarters in Scott, just across Chartiers Creek from Carnegie.


Five feet of flood water rose over the flippers of the "Fish Tales" and other machines, destroying every one. It happened one week after renovations were rushed so the building could host more than 300 people for the PAPA 7 World Pinball Championships, Sept. 9-12.


More information at the Professional Amateur Pinball Association Web site. PAPA is not accepting donations of any kind, and is encouraging people to donate instead to registered charities (which I think is fairly noble of them). However, if they decide to rebuild, they may accept donations of pinball parts or machines. Watch their Web site for details.

...

To Do This Weekend: Pittsburgh Antique Radio Society holds its flea market, membership meeting and auction from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Brentwood Presbyterian Church, 3725 Brownsville Road. Call Bonnie at (412) 481-1563.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:32 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | No comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 23, 2004 | Link to this story

I'm Being Followed By a Crazed Cheerleader

Category: default || By jt3y

A tip of the Tube City Online hard hat to Officer Jim, who reports that the cheerleaders have gone wild at Linebacker U., according to the Daily Collegian of Penn State:

State College police reported that a woman walking through the area of the Student Book Store had refused the complimentary stickers the Penn State cheerleaders were passing out to those walking by the store.


Police said that upon leaving the store, the woman exited through a door farther away from the squad to avoid it. A group of people dressed in Penn State cheerleading uniforms then approached her and covered her with about 20 stickers, despite her protests, police said.


Sounds like a job for the cast of "CSI: Centre County":

SCENE: INT., EMERGENCY ROOM, MOUNT NITTANY MEDICAL CENTER, DAY.

WE SEE A STATE COLLEGE POLICE DETECTIVE (NED BEATTY) STANDING AT THE SIDE OF A GURNEY. LYING ON THE GURNEY IS THE VICTIM (GUEST STAR JUDITH LIGHT), MOANING SOFTLY AND GLISTENING WITH "BACTINE.") STANDING NEARBY IS A NURSE (EXTRA), HOLDING A TRAY OF WRINKLED AND TORN "WE ARE PENN STATE" STICKERS.

DETECTIVE: Can you describe the incident to me?

VICTIM: It was terrible ... all I remember is ... lip gloss, blond bangs and belly shirts ... and ... hands ... manicured hands putting stickers on me ... oh, God ...

(SHE BEGINS TO WEEP; DETECTIVE KNEELS AT HER SIDE AND TAKES HER HAND.)

DETECTIVE: I promise you, we're going to find these girls and make sure they don't hurt anyone else. If I have to crash every fraternity party in State College and lock down every Panera and Starbucks in town, I'll do it. (HE TURNS TO NURSE) Make sure you don't handle those stickers. We'll need to put those under the electron-scanning microscope back at the station. (STANDS AND BEGINS TO LEAVE ROOM. STOPS AND TURNS BACK TO NURSE) Or, because we don't have one of those, we'll just have a trained cow smell them.

...

You know, we get a lot --- I mean, a lot --- of junk email here at Tube City Omnimedia World Headquarters. If I had responded to every email offering certain drugs over the last month ... well, let's just say that by now, I'd have to have a team of flagmen following me around wherever I walked to make sure that it didn't get stepped on.

But I can't even imagine what mailing list I've been added to that solicited two of these emails in two days:

You're invited to shop for large selection of bombs and different kinds of rockets such as surface-to-air, surface-to-surface and weaponry available at reduced price. With the following types of rockets you will be able to commit terrorist attacks, destroy buildings, electric power stations, bridges, factories and anything else that comes your mind. Most items are in stock and available for next day freight delivery in the USA. Worldwide delivery is available at additional cost. Prices are negotiable.


Our clients are well known Al-Qaida, Hizballah, Al-Jihad, HAMAS, Abu Sayyaf Group and many other terrorist groups. We are well known supplier in the market and looking forward to expand our clientage with assistance of Internet.


I have a lot of pesky squirrels getting into my bird feeder, so I was going to order an S-8BM Unguided Aircraft Rocket, but the email goes on to say those are "not in stock." Darn!

The real danger, of course, is that one of these emails could find their way to the Penn State cheerleading squad, and I think we all know just what they're capable of.

...

Even more chilling ... what would happen if Cat Stevens got his hands on some Stinger missiles? We all realize now what a deadly threat Stevens poses --- not just to his own career, but to the nation. Thank goodness that he's been thrown out of the U.S.!

New York Newsday shows just what kind of influence that Stevens, who has changed his name "Yusuf Islam," has over terrorist cells:

On a tape of a secretly wiretapped prison conversation from May 2000, a lively comical discussion ensues as Abdel-Rahman and Arabic interpreter Mohamed Yousry attempt to remember Islam's English stage name.


"Add Yusuf Islam," Abdel-Rahman dictates to Yousry in Arabic. "That singer ... he was a famous singer, then God changed his life. That British singer."


"Lynne do you know this guy who was a member of the Beatles or something ... and now he is a Muslim?" Yousry asks.


"Is it Ringo?" Stewart asks puzzled. "Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr ... the drummer, and the third one who was never around, George Harrison?"


"Maybe," Yousry replied. "He is one of those. He was one of the Beatles."


"Oh yeah, he was the most famous," the sheik concurs in Arabic.


Those twisted bastards obviously have close ties to Yusuf Islam. And if it's not bad enough that they think Cat Stevens was a Beatle, now they're trying to allege that Ringo was the most famous one. Axis of evil, indeed!

Barry Banker suggested on WKHB (620) the other morning that next time, instead of flying, he should try riding on the peace train. (Rimshot.)

On the other hand, I have a possible new lyric for one of Yusuf's big hits: "I'm being followed by a mean copper, a mean copper, mean copper. Kicked off the airplane by a mean copper, a mean copper, mean copper ..." (Rimshot.)

Meanwhile, you can check out Yusuf Islam's Web site.

...

The Genius would have been 74 years old today.

...

I'm waiting for this hard-hitting interview, as reported in the New York Post:

Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly interviewed President Bush yesterday and will air the chat Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Topics range from his National Guard service, Iraq and the Swift boat ads to weapons of mass destruction ...


... and Bush's love of America, the flag and apple pie, as well as his manly strength and his fondness for soft, snuggly puppies and kittens.

Or am I too cynical?

...

Alycia sends along this link to her pictures of flooding in and around Our Fair City.

By the way, on Tuesday, I predicted that some news outlet would soon do a story on the impact the flooding had on pets.

A correspondent reports that one of the TV stations did just that story earlier this week; today, a story in one of the papers begins, "Many cats and dogs separated from their owners during the flood are lodged at local animal shelters ..."

It gives me no joy to have been correct in that prediction.

...

Nobody told me that Chi-Chi's went out of business last weekend! Ay, caramba!

All of the locations --- which included one on Route 51 near Southland Shopping Center --- have been shuttered. A few are likely to reopen under the name of one of the restaurants owned by the parent of the "Outback" steakhouse chain.

Just what we needed: More theme restaurants! As usual, nobody asked me, but you can get pretty decent Mexican food at Los Campesino, located on Route 30 in Irwin about a half-mile west of the Turnpike.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:37 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | two comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 22, 2004 | Link to this story

Selected Short Subjects

Category: default || By jt3y

A correspondent asks when I'm going to add some new tourist attractions to our McKeesport "visitors" page. Good point. It hasn't been updated in about 18 months. I'm taking suggestions; the attractions must be open to the public and not located in the city of Pittsburgh.

I tend to define "Mon-Yough area" as roughly bounded by the Parkway East to the north; Route 136 to the south; Route 51 to the west and the Turnpike to the east. Draw a circle about 10 miles in diameter from the junction of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers, and that'll catch most of it.

Send your favorite Mon-Yough valley place or attraction to me at jt3y at dementia dot o-r-g. Best one received before November 1 will earn the submitter one free item from the Tube City Online store.

...

The restaurant page needs to be updated, too; I've eaten at several nice out-of-the-way places in the Mon Valley recently. Check in a week or so.

...

President Bush will be flying over Western Pennsylvania to inspect flood damage today, but federal officials aren't disclosing the route of his helicopter for security reasons.

That sounds sensible. Unfortunately, it will also prevent us from expressing our true affection and gratitude to the President.

Just to make sure, every time you hear a helicopter today, I suggest running outside and dropping your drawers. Sooner or later, you're bound to moon the right chopper.

...

Joanna Blair reports in the Trib that the problem-plagued Alpine Village shopping center off of Scenery Drive in Elizabeth Township is nearly full under the township's management.

Alpine Village is now generating tax revenue for Elizabeth Township, according to the chairman of the municipal authority that runs it. Renters and other businesses are paying about $28,000 per year in taxes, and the complex broke (barely) into the black last year.

Unfinished sections of the complex are now filled, Blair writes, and the number of tenants has gone from seven to 12.

...

R.D. Summers of WWSW-FM (94.5) has compiled a "Top 100" list of Pittsburgh's favorite oldies, and counted them down on Labor Day. The complete list is online and contains many of the usual suspects: Number 1 is the incomparable "Since I Don't Have You" by Jimmy Beaumont & The Skyliners; Number 2 is "Oh, My Angel" by Bertha Tillman, which I can take or leave. (Maybe you had to be 17 when you first heard that song, and dancing with your first true girlfriend or boyfriend to love it. To me, it's just OK.)

But Number 3 is one of my all-time favorite records: "At Last" by Etta James. It never fails to give me goosebumps. Yikes!

Many of the songs were hits only in Pittsburgh, and most fall in the period between 1957 to 1965. Still, there's a wide range of musical styles represented (R&B, soul, jazz, pop, rock, country) by a diverse range of artists: solo artists; black, white and multi-ethnic assortments; girl groups and all-male groups.

I don't want to sound like a complete old poop --- I wasn't born with these songs were hits, but I know these songs. I'll bet most of the people in my parents' generation could hum all or most of them, at least if they grew up in Our Fair City.

However, I wonder: With all of the songs on "contemporary hit radio" sounding pretty much alike these days, what will a "Top 100 oldies" list look like in 2040? I suspect that with the homogenization of music radio from city to city, it will look pretty much the same, all across the country. I also suspect that none of the melodies of the Top 100 of, say, 1997 to 2004 will be memorable in 2040.

...

Kim Lyons of the Observer-Reporter struck just the right note of whimsy in her story about how the publishers of the "Yellow Book" confused Petersburg, Pa. (near State College), with Peters Township in their recent Washington County edition.

The publishers of the "Yellow Book," which is not published by any local phone company, also mixed up Canton Township (a rural suburb next to Washington, Pa.) with Canton, Pa., which is in northern Pennsylvania.

It all means many of the addresses in the Washington County "Yellow Book" are wrong. A spokesman for the company that prints the book says they don't intend to correct the mistakes until the next edition, due out in May --- so if you live in Washington County and your address is wrong, hard cheese.

I'm no big fan of Verizon, but it sounds like a good reason to stick with their book.

...

Since I was a kid, there's been a "Rexall" pharmacy in Liberty Borough --- Kessling's. Last time I checked, they still even had a soda fountain there (though I don't think they still make the treats there --- the ice cream and pop is all pre-packaged).

The Rexall name in the U.S. was once applied to thousands of drug stores, but the company went bankrupt in the early '80s. The American trademark was sold to a multi-level marketing company that's been trading on the Rexall name to peddle what some people consider suspect nutritional supplements.

But in Canada, the Rexall brand name is being resurrected for pharmacies by a big chain of drugstores. In fact, the Edmonton, Alberta, hockey arena is now called "Rexall Place," and a new tennis stadium in Toronto is also being renamed for Rexall.

Does anyone remember Rexall's slogan? Or which famous (actually, "infamous") national radio program that was sponsored by Rexall?

Answer tomorrow ... stay tuned!



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:16 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | No comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 21, 2004 | Link to this story

Flood Follies and Foolish Follow-Ups

Category: default || By jt3y

A correspondent wants to know: If Our Fair City rode out Friday's deluge with relatively few problems, why was Walnut Street closed in the Third Ward on Saturday and Sunday?

Brandy Brubaker had the story in Monday's Daily News:

In McKeesport, a collapsed sewer line caused headaches on city streets. Walnut Street between Eleventh and Thirteenth Avenue remains closed because of a buckled roadway. Part of Twelfth Street is closed due to a large sinkhole. Officials were unsure when the roads would re-open.


Alert Reader Alycia, aka "StuntViolist," promises flooding pictures soon from the Mon-Yough area, while our Washington County correspondent has photos from the Canonsburg area, which was especially hard-hit. Photos of flooding in Picksberg are available from kruckewitt.com (tip of the Tube City hard hat to Dave Copeland).

...

The News' Pat Cloonan writes a bi-weekly media column and has a recurring feature that he calls (I think) "McKeesport Media Watch," in which he elaborates on a theme we sometimes allude to here. Namely, that the Picksberg media only find their way to Our Fair City when something bad happens: a flood, a murder, a big fire.

Their Mon-Yough myopia (is that "Monoypia"?) was on view during the flooding coverage, when they kept mixing up "McKeesport" and "McKees Rocks," among other laughers. I also enjoyed how WTAE-TV kept running lists of streets that were closed without specifying in which town. The "crawl" at the bottom of the screen would say something like "CLOSED: ELM STREET." Gee, thanks a lot. That narrows it down.


One anchor introduced a segment on flooding Saturday with the voiceover, "Down in the Mon Valley, where they always have a lot of flooding after a bad storm, the pictures are pretty bad. Our so-and-so was in Slovan, and he has this report."

Slovan? The one in Smith Township, Washington County? The one that's on the way to friggin' Star Lake Amphitheater? (Oh, excuse me, the "Post-Gazette Pavilion.") That's about as far west as you can go from the "Mon Valley" and still stay in Pennsylvania.

Can someone buy the TV news people a map and a ZIP code finder, please?

...

Speaking of flood coverage, the Journalism and Media Dept. at Tube City Online --- better-known as the Poyntyhead Institute --- has been following the stories closely. Our head media researcher, Dr. Pica Pole, has a rule of journalism that dictates that by the third day after a disaster with no new developments, the newspapers will be scratching the bottom of the barrels for folos. Dr. Pole points out that we're now in Day 4.

According to Dr. Pole, Day 1 was "Flooding!"

Day 2 was "Tallying the Aftermath!"

Day 3 was "The Cleanup Begins!"

Day 4 was "The Cleanup ... um ... Continues!"

Today's elucidating stories in the local prints include an expose on the losses that car dealers suffered (a direct lift, as one of my tipsters points out, of a suggestion made by a TV news consultant at the Poynter Institute in Florida), and the scintillating news that people are buying a lot of stuff from hardware stores.

Has anyone done a story yet on how pets are suffering in the flood's aftermath? It's coming, believe me. Alert me if you've already seen one.

No one will be around in a few months, when people are still suffering the aftereffects ... or when their homeowner's insurance gets cancelled.

Still, thank goodness for severe weather. Otherwise, what would TV news report on besides car crashes and crime?

...


Aaron Barnhart, writer for the Kansas City Star and proprietor of TVBarn.com, is one of a few TV critics --- the great Tom Shales and Marvin Kitman are among the others --- who elevates TV criticism to something more than the standard celebrity fawning and showbiz poofery that so many newspapers and magazines do.

Check out this paragraph in Barnhart's review of the new Jason Alexander vehicle, "Listen Up":

So why do the wheels fall off this show so quickly? Hey, do I look like I work for cheap? Let the geniuses at CBS figure out why every new show of theirs that doesn't have the letters "CSI" in it is so terrible.


Don't hold back --- tell us what you really think, Aaron.

By the way, Barnhart says that CBS "heads should roll" over the faked memos, and he reviews the fall TV schedule from "first" (Fox's medical drama "House") to "worst" (NBC's boxing reality show "The Contender").

...

Get ready for a long wait if you use Route 30 in North Huntingdon Township. Craig Smith writes in the Trib that beginning Monday, Lincoln Highway will be restricted from Stewartsville to Circleville as part of a road-widening project that could take up to a year.

This would be a good time to buy your bumper stickers: "Pray for me, I still drive Route 30." Plenty are still available at less than $5 each (OK, a penny left, but cut me some slack).

The turning lane on 30 is desperately needed, but this could still be a real headache for people who live in the township. According to PennDOT, about 30,000 cars use Route 30 daily. There is no assigned detour, but I'd expect most people to wind up on already-clogged Lincoln Way, which should turn that congested two-lane cow path into a parking lot during afternoons and evenings.

If you don't live or work in the township, and just use 30 as a through route, you might look for other options. Nobody asked me, but Route 993 or Route 136 might be better detour alternatives, if you don't mind going out of your way.

...

Requiescat in pacem for Myles Zeleznik, a longtime basketball coach at Duquesne and West Mifflin North high schools, who died at UPMC McKeesport hospital on Sunday at age 89. Dave Brown wrote a solid obit in the Trib.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:35 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | No comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 20, 2004 | Link to this story

As a Comedian, Funny Guy Was All Wet

Category: default || By jt3y

I didn't mind brushing my teeth with beer --- in fact, I liked it so much, I went back and brushed my teeth three more times Sunday morning --- but have you ever tried to shave with cold water from the jug in the fridge?

No? It ain't pretty.

More to the point: Have you ever tried to go several hours without using the toilet?

You might be saying, "Well, I usually go all night without using the toilet, so what's the big deal?" The big deal is the psychological impact. When you're asleep, you're not thinking about using the toilet (or maybe you are, I don't know what kind of sicko dreams you're having.). If you're awake, and you do have a toilet available, and you don't need to go, then everything's likewise fine.

But if you don't have a toilet available, even if you don't have to go, you'll eventually convince yourself that you do. You may be trying to mind your own business (such as it were) but the fact that you can't flush the commode will prey on your mind. What if I have to go? I can't. I don't have to. But what if I do? Over and over again, you'll play through this scenario, until eventually, you convince yourself you do have to go. And then what? Stand out in the front yard? There goes the neighborhood.

Edgar Allen Poe couldn't make up that kind of internal struggle: "The Pot and the Pendulum." "The Tell-Tale Flush."

Friday's storms left Our Fair City and its environs in less dire straits than many other areas in Western Pennsylvania. There was the standard flooding on Route 48 and at Eden Park Boulevard; both River Roads --- Port Vue and Dravosburg --- were underwater for a time. And, of course, we had several ugly mudslides. (New tourism slogan: "Come for the bike trails, stay for the mudslides!")

But for sheer storm destruction, the Mon Valley had nothing to compare to Pittsburgh's North Hills and west suburbs. The water barely made it to Water Street downtown. A mere puddle! (Yawn.) Wake us when it gets to Centennial School, OK?

Still, Saturday morning, I awoke to find the water --- the kind in the faucets, not the kind in the streets --- running ve-r-r-r-r-y sl-o-o-o-w. Within an hour it was just gurgling. Shoot. I had things to do anyway, so I left the house for the rest of the day. By the time I get home, I thought, the water will be back on.

I got back at 8 p.m., unlocked the door and turned on the faucet. Nothing. Hmm.

Turned on the radio: No storm information. Just sports, sports, sports, infomercials, sports, sports, sports, sports, right-wing nutjobs, sports. (All this sports talk, and no one was giving out the Penn State or Pitt scores. Some localism on "Fox Sports Pittsburgh," eh?)

Truth be told, I don't live within Our Fair City --- I live just on the edge, in a suburb --- so I called our borough building to see if there was any recorded information about the water outage. Nothing.

I decided to call the police station --- on the non-emergency line, of course. Normally, I wouldn't, but water seems like a public safety issue, right?

Police desk: "



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:15 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | one comment | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 17, 2004 | Link to this story

School Could Help Propel Activity Downtown

Category: default || By jt3y

I have mixed emotions about the decision by the McKeesport Zoning Hearing Board has granted a variance to Propel Schools to put a charter school in the Executive Building on Fifth Avenue, Downtown.

On the one hand, I'm glad to see something coming to Fifth Avenue that will bring some life to the Downtown area. Will this be the first primary school Downtown in Our Fair City since St. Mary School on Olive Street closed, or am I missing one? Fifth Avenue may be a ghost street some days, but it's not dirty, and it's not dangerous. It just desperately needs some young people --- and their parents --- to liven it up.

On the other hand, I'm not sure I agree with the concept of charter schools. I fear they divert resources and energy from the public school system that would be better spent improving that system. (As a product of parochial schools, I have nothing against private schools; I just don't want my tax money being spent on them, and that includes Catholic schools like the ones I attended.)

Anyway, you can find out more information, and judge for yourself, by visiting Propel Schools' Web site. The McKeesport Area School Board rejected Propel's charter application, so they've appealed to the state. Pending a successful appeal, Propel wants to open its school Downtown in time for the 2005-06 academic year.

Propel's school in Homestead is already open, and early reports on it are enthusiastic. I'm open-minded enough to give them a chance.

...

I'm also open-minded enough to like Cyril Wecht. In fact, I would go so far as to call myself an admirer, even when he does things that aggravate me, like endorsing a Republican candidate over someone from his own party, as he did the other day. (It's a pity, too, because the one thing Joe Hoeffel's Senate campaign needs right now is a coroner. The latest polls show him nearly 20 points behind Darlin' Arlen Specter.)

Thus, it was nice to see him grab some ink in Salon the other day in an article about the 40th anniversary of the so-called Warren Report. Salon Editor David Talbot calls Wecht one of "a heroic and indomitable band of citizen-investigators ... all of whom refused to accept the fraud that was perpetrated on the American people."

Naturally, Talbot means the Warren Report is a "fraud." Being the geek that I am, I've read the Warren Report. I even have a copy.

I've also read Wecht's books, some of the conspiracy books and Gerald Posner's Case Closed (which Talbot savages, unfairly, in my opinion), and I've seen a bunch of documentaries as well as highly-fictionalized accounts, like Oliver Stone's JFK.

My uninformed opinion is that the Warren Commission set out to prove Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK, instead of trying to find out who shot JFK. They had their conclusion, and worked backward to the answers. It's not a good way to conduct an investigation, to put it mildly.

That said: The evidence compiled in the Warren Report is fairly compelling, and one is left with the feeling that, yeah, Lee Harvey Oswald was just crazy enough to do it. John Hinckley shot Reagan with much less provocation that Oswald thought he had. And besides the motive, Oswald had the means and opportunity. (The idea that Oswald couldn't work the slide on his Mannlicher-Carcano fast enough to fire the shots is bogus, by the way. It's advanced by people who can't do math.)

Could he have hit Kennedy from the School Book Depository? As someone pointed out to me the other day, Oswald "may not have been a great shot compared to other Marines, but compared to the average guy, he was pretty good."

Look, he had to hit a slow-moving Lincoln Continental using a military rifle with a telescopic sight. From that distance, he could have hit Kennedy and Connally with a handful of manure. The only way they could have made it easier for Oswald would have been if Clint Hill had been holding up a big bull's eye over Kennedy's head.

Was the Dallas police investigation incompetent? Well, considering they passed the evidence around the hallways so that the bystanders could handle it, and that, oh, oopsie, their prime suspect got murdered while in their custody, I think we could reasonably say they were incompetent.

Did the Warren Commission try to bury conflicting evidence? Yes.

Was the Secret Service derelict in allowing the President to travel through a city full of people who hated him, past the skyscrapers downtown, in an open car moving at 10 miles per hour? Gee, I dunno, you think? In fairness, though, it was Kennedy's political advisers who pushed for a trip through Texas, and they're the ones who wanted the car's top down, so that the public could see him.

But the people who produce posters with 78 different photos of Lee Harvey Oswald with circles and arrows pointing to tiny, minute imperfections to prove a conspiracy are the same ones trying to prove that Jerry Killian, using a professional-quality typesetter, snuck into his own office, late at night, and typed memos to himself that, when faxed to CBS from a Kinko's in Abilene 31 years later, could conveniently be used to discredit George W. Bush.

They need to give it up. Conspiracy theories do not help the national dialogue move forward. The very fact that we're still hashing around the Warren Report, or the President's National Guard service, means we're stuck in the past instead of focusing on future threats.

...

Besides, we don't need to make up conspiracy theories. The real news is bad enough. While the Bush administration is running around "painting smiley faces on Iraq," to use a phrase I saw a conservative writer use recently, military experts are warning that the occupation of the country is turning into a debacle --- and is helping al Qaida.

These wild-eyed leftists are from hotbeds of liberal thought like the Army War College.

...

From the Los Angeles Times:

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld mixed up Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden with deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein twice in a speech Friday. ... In Afghanistan, he told the National Press Club, "the leader of the opposition Northern Alliance, Masoud, lay dead, his murder ordered by Saddam Hussein, by Osama bin Laden, Taliban's co-conspirator." ... Later, Rumsfeld said, "Saddam Hussein, if he's alive, is spending a whale of a lot of time trying to not get caught. And we've not seen him on a video since 2001."


It could have been worse. I mean, he could have said, "You know, all those swarthy Arab guys look alike to me."

...

A Tube City Almanac correspondent asks when, exactly, former George W. Bush rival John McCain became such an apologist for his old nemesis's political campaign. My only conclusion is that McCain's re-election campaign in Arizona is tighter than it looks, or that he's worried that if his support of the President is viewed as weak, that he'll be targeted with a smear campaign by Republicans in that state.

Or, it's possible that McCain was brainwashed while he was a prisoner of war, just as the whisper campaign that was started against him in 2000 alleged. Maybe he's actually the Manchurian Candidate, and Barbara Bush must have shown McCain the queen of diamonds, which triggered his subconscious impulse to become a Bush water carrier.

But I think it's actually the re-election thing, even though McCain's challenger, a public schoolteacher named Stuart Starky, has been given about as much chance in Arizona as a snowball in ... well, in Arizona.

...

I used to like President Bush the Elder, even if I thought he was kind of out of touch ... like Fred MacMurray in My Three Sons.

But when I read things like these anecdotes, I start to wonder if he's not a cynical, frustrated conniver ... like Fred MacMurray in Double Indemnity. (Tip of the hard hat to Jonathan.)

...

Alert Reader Arden sends along this link to an article in Seattle's alt-weekly, The Stranger, in which writer Neal Pollack calmly expresses a few thoughts that may be on the minds of many Democrats:

A note to the leadership of the Democratic Party: Wake the f--- up, you pathetic wuss-bags! They're kicking your a--!


You disagree? You think you're "talking tough?" Here's a quote from your candidate, John Kerry, drawn from his "tough-talking" midnight rally after the RNC: "I'm not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq."


Good lord, by the standards of this year's Bush campaign, Kerry's statement was equivalent to "Bush is a great president and a vote for him wouldn't be wasted." ...


Democrats had better realize that people buy this s---. While they're saying that President Bush has failed to "provide jobs and healthcare to working Americans," the Republicans are saying that Kerry faked his war wounds. Sorry to burst your bubble, readers of The Nation, but Americans respond to lies, and the more vicious the lie, the more effective.


Gee, Neal, what are you trying to say? Tell us what you really think, don't beat around the bush. (Or the Bush, as the case may be.)

...

To Do This Weekend: White Oak Lions' Club presents "Kids' Day America" at the municipal building on Lincoln Way, from 12 to 3 p.m. Saturday. There will be free fingerprinting and scoliosis screenings, along with presentations on bike safety and crime prevention. Children can also explore a fire engine and meet firefighters. Co-sponsors include Rainbow Volunteer Fire Department and the White Oak police. Call 412-751-4991.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:35 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | No comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 16, 2004 | Link to this story

Ready, Fire, Aim!

Category: default || By jt3y

Yesterday, Fast Eddie got some bad news, so he shot the messenger, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer:

As Gov. Rendell's nominee to head the Gaming Control Board withdrew yesterday, Rendell blasted the news media, through clenched teeth, for "what you did... to one of the most decent, honorable men."


Rendell said that the criticism of Francis P. Friel was, in part, fed to news organizations by political opponents. It produced "the worst and most unfair result in my 27 years" in public office, he said, adding, "We have to stop trying to pick people apart."


Addressing reporters at a Center City news conference, Rendell asked, "Would any one of you out there want to be evaluated by one mistake you've made?


"Judged by the Frank Friel standard, I could no longer remain governor."


Now there's a chilling thought: Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll. Br-r-r-r.

No offense to his honorable high-and-mightiness, but when you're appointing someone to head a gambling commission, you really need to appoint someone above reproach. In case he hasn't noticed, there seems to be an unusually high proportion of alleged organized crime figures involved in gambling and gaming as opposed to, say, shoe repair.

Also, there's more than one "mistake." One of the "oopsies" that Gov. Rendell's appointee is accused of making includes testifying as a character witness on behalf of a mobster. He was also accused of taking $50 from a nightclub owner in 1974. And, it turns out he fibbed about his credentials.

That doesn't sound like someone who's above reproach to me. In fact, he was reproached --- by the Pennsylvania Crime Commission and a grand jury.

Furthermore, as the Governor of Pennsylvania, Rendell has at his command the resources of the Pennsylvania State Police, not to mention dozens of political operatives. It seems to me, an unimportant writer in McKeesport (Our Fair City), that a rudimentary background check would have turned up these problems with Mr. Friel's record. If the Inquirer could turn up these salient details, why couldn't his staff? It seems to me that someone who works for Rendell screwed up, big time.

The only other explanation is that Rendell knew about Mr. Friel's background, and thought he could just slip it past people.

According to Milan Simonich's story in the Post-Gazette, Rendell had "tears welling in his eyes" yesterday.

Oh, please, Mr. Governor, spare us the clenched teeth and histrionics. They're beneath you, and frankly, they insult the public's intelligence.

...

It's the end of an era at my beloved alma mater, as the last four Franciscan friars have stopped teaching at Serra Catholic High School in Our Fair City.

According to Jennifer Eisel's story in The Daily News (unfortunately, it's not online), the Franciscan Friars Third Order is strapped for manpower, and decided to place their members at St. Francis University in Loretto and at Franciscan University in Steubenville.

Principal Michael Luft told Eisel the departure of the friars is "a tremendous loss."

"Truthfully, it's been like losing family members," he said.

There are still four nuns at Serra, Eisel writes, and the friars may return for special visits and to celebrate Mass. In addition, the school will remain dedicated to Franciscan ideals.

Some of my favorite teachers at Serra were friars (so was Mr. Luft, if he happens to be reading this someday), and they definitely added something to the educational environment. It may be the reason I haven't been as outraged by the scandals in the Catholic church as some people I know; my experiences with the clergy were always positive.

Of course, we did have one friar whom we privately called "Crash" because he had several accidents with school vehicles, but it was done with affection. And my senior year, several of us collaborated on a recruitment video which teased the friars ("on Fridays, they're fish friars") was one of the lines I recall. (One of the brothers didn't get it. "You realize that 'friar' and 'fryer' are spelled differently, right?" he asked.)

Still, it's unfortunate, and I hope that pastors at the local Catholic parishes can step up their involvement at Serra. Young people deserve to know that most clergymen aren't substance abusers --- or worse.

...

Tired of the faked/not-faked CBS memos yet? The media isn't.

In any event, the thought occurred to me the other day that some low-level producer at CBS was probably asked to check those memos out, and probably didn't think it was a bit suspicious that the memos were word-processed because they had never seen anything but word-processed memos. Most low-level TV news employees are fairly young, because the jobs don't pay much.

The credibility of the entire network is on the line, perhaps, because no one at CBS was old enough to know that nearly all documents were produced on plain old typewriters until the mid-1980s. (How many 20- or 30-somethings have ever used a typewriter?)

It's a mystery why no one further up the food chain didn't immediately realize these memos were garbage --- or maybe it isn't. Throughout my mediocre newspaper career, I was continually amazed at the lack of knowledge of history that some reporters have, and their lack of intellectual curiosity. "Well, so-and-so said it, and we attributed it to him, so we're off the hook," seems to be the attitude of many reporters. (Or worse yet: "Well, I have to find someone to say this, so I can attribute it to someone," which is one step removed from, "I'm just going to make it up.")

The "attribution" excuse, by the way, was used in the 1950s by reporters covering "Tailgunner Joe" McCarthy's reckless accusations, even though they knew the charges weren't credible. Some reporters who were interviewed later basically said, "well, he was a senator, and we attributed the information to him, so what difference did it make if it wasn't true?" A half-century later, journalism has apparently not progressed at all. Some crackpot produces memos, and the information was attributed to the crackpot, therefore, CBS News feels it covered its bases. Maybe legally, but not ethically.

Still, if someone had just been intellectually curious enough to ask, "Well, what does a real U.S. Air Force memo from 1972 look like?" before those memos were aired on TV, this whole controversy would have been avoided.

...

(By the way: I know certain IBM Selectrics could type in Times Roman. But it's been proven on several Web sites that those typewriters were high-end jobs used by professional printers and typesetters. Also, attempts to reproduce the disputed memos on one of those IBM "Composers" have been unsuccessful. More to the point, it beggars the imagination to think that a lieutenant colonel who could barely type would have just casually banged out a memo to himself using a $3,000 piece of specialized graphic arts equipment.

(And finally, I have an IBM Executive, which also has been named as one of the typewriters that could produce documents like the memos. Believe me, an IBM Executive does not produce type that clean, or at least mine doesn't; I should know, because I was using mine last Friday to fill out some forms. Type samples are available upon request. Send $500 in unmarked bills, and I'll even type up some phony memos for CBS.)

...

Canadian fans to hockey players: Take a hike, eh?

The Ipsos-Reid survey of 1,000 Canadians, which has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, found that six in 10 say the teams' owners are being fairer and more reasonable than the players. Half think the dispute will last long enough to cancel the 2004-05 season, but almost two-thirds agree the NHL will rebound from the dispute and possibly become a better league. (The Globe and Mail)


To paraphrase the late Pittsburgh Press sports editor Chet Smith, if they were playing a hockey game in my front yard, I'd close the drapes, so I can't say I care one way or the other.

But as someone who was saddened when major-league baseball copped a walk a few years ago --- and has never really regained my love for the game --- I can sympathize with all of the hockey fans who are being left out in the cold, as it were. If there's no Stanley Cup awarded this year, according to the Globe and Mail, it will be the first time that's happened since 1919, when a flu epidemic forced the playoffs to be cancelled.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:11 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | No comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 15, 2004 | Link to this story

Cheap Shots and Selected Shorts

Category: default || By jt3y

A few weeks ago, I noted the startling resemblance between Dick Rickles and Don Cheney ... er, I mean Don Rickles and Dick Cheney. One of them is an insult comic, and the other is vice president, but after listening to the vice president speak, I'm not sure which is which.

In the interest of fairness, it's worth pointing out another similarity between a comedian and a politician, only this one is a Democrat. Let's see ... flushed complexion, angry finger-pointing, pudgy frame, wild hair ...

Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you the evidence that Al Gore is actually Lewis Black in disguise:




(Left, Associated Press; Right: Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Copyrights reserved by their respective holders.)

Just like Dick Cheney and Clark Kent, Black/Gore thinks that wearing glasses will disguise his real identity, but we know the truth. Obviously, Al Gore has been working the stand-up circuit for several years now.

He must have had a lot of gigs during 2000, because he sure as hell didn't spend the time working on his campaign.

(I wasn't the one who noticed the resemblance, by the way. Credit and a tip of the Tube City hard hat go to a poster at the Testy Copy Editors Web site.)

...

It's always worth checking in with Chris Livingston's "Not My Desk Daily Journal" to see what he's been up to. Why someone hasn't given this guy a book contract is beyond me; he seldom fails to crack me up.

I don't want to spoil the punchlines, but read what (he says) happened when he sent a book to a friend in Georgia, and then tracked it using the UPS Web site.

...

Subdivided Bob checks in on the passivity of Pittsburghers, who seem to do what they're told without complaining (even when they should), and composes the Pittsburgh Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to whine and moan about those things to people who are in no position to actually take action on my behalf, and the wisdom to realize that everybody but me is a jagoff.


...

Those wascals at Google are up to no good.

...

The fallout from the Georgie Bush National Guard memos continues. Where was this guy when Karl Rove or Dan Rather or pick-your-conspiracy-theory needed something to forge documents with?

By the way: Anyone who pays $200 for a Selectric is crazy enough to work for CBS News. I've garbage-picked them.

If you read the comments in this eBay seller's page, he's obviously pretty conservative. No doubt he took Vice President Rickles ... er, I mean Cheney to heart the other day when the vice president said that eBay is responsible for helping to lower unemployment. Who needs a real job with a pension and health insurance when they can sell on eBay, right?

See what I mean? It has to be Rickles in disguise. That's hysterical!

...

I'll say this for the President, he's no shrinking violet. In the face of mounting evidence (the faked CBS memos aside) that he shaded some of his National Guard service, he goes to speak to ... the National Guard!

Maybe he wanted to finish the six months he still owes them?

...

No wonder Clinton's heart gave out after he visited The Waterfront. Those wacky morning radio shows!

...

Simply superb. Someone --- MoveOn.org? --- should have this printed in every newspaper in the country.

Or, better yet, maybe, oh, the Democratic candidate for President might want to speak up and say this. You know, if he's not too busy making that goofy face he makes when he wants to smile.

He'd better practice that smile, too. At the rate he's going, he's going to need to smile on Jan. 20, when he watches the presidential inauguration on television.

(Tip of the Tube City hard hat to Rip Rense.)

...

Speaking of Yawn Kerry, his campaign strikes a blow for dignity with official Kerry for President playing cards. (Guess who the jokers are? No, not Nader and Dean.)

...

I thought the clerks on the New York State Thruway were surly. Wow! That's only because I rarely drive in Jersey, according to The Smoking Gun.

Say what you may about the Pennsylvania Turnpike; I've never had a clerk offer to fist fight me. "Welcome to New Jersey: Now get the @#$! out!"

...

"Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges!"

Yes, it's a Web site that tracks every known instance of that line in pop culture, going back to its debut in the 1935 novel The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, right through Tuesday's installment of the "Get Fuzzy" comic strip.

...

Wednesday's "Get Fuzzy," by the way, is a classic.

...

Erstwhile radio reporter and sometime Doug Hoerth guest Tom Leturgey has a blog.

...

I'm sure that these are cheap, Chinese-made imitations, but I still think it's a cool idea. What a neat gift they'd be for some nostalgia buff or vinyl record fan!

...

Does Kitty Kelley make this stuff up as she goes along? Beats me; I know her stuff is vetted by teams of highly-paid lawyers, so there must be some substance to it, or else she covers her tracks well.

Some of her stories seem to me to be a little too perfectly adapted to the left's preconceived notions of what the President is really like. On the other hand, as Hoerth says, I hope this anecdote is true, because it's too beautiful to be a lie:

(As) one of W.'s Yalie frat brothers tells Kelley, it's not the substance abuse in Bush's past that's disturbing, it's the "lack of substance ... Georgie, as we called him, had absolutely no intellectual curiosity about anything. He wasn't interested in ideas or in books or causes. He didn't travel; he didn't read the newspapers; he didn't watch the news; he didn't even go to the movies. How anyone got out of Yale without developing some interest in the world besides booze and sports stuns me." New Yorker writer Brendan Gill recalls roaming the Kennebunkport compound one night while staying there looking for a book to read --- the only title he could find was "The Fart Book."


Kelley leaves a crucial question unanswered: Namely, did Gill read it?

In any event, I hope it wasn't a scratch-and-sniff.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:41 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | one comment | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 14, 2004 | Link to this story

McKeesport Questions Answered, Cheap

Category: default || By jt3y

"KB," who moved to McKeesport in 1991, wrote this week with some great questions! (It gave me a chance to show off my command of useless information.) Her letter begins:

"The one thing I seem to notice most about McKeesport is that there are a lot of abandoned houses here. A lot of these house are huge and very beautiful and I started to wonder why no one lives in these houses, or why they are never offered up for sale. I was hoping maybe someone who runs this Web site is from a family that has lived in McKeesport for generations because I would love to know about these old houses."


Well, first, a belated welcome to McKeesport (Our Fair City) and thanks for writing!

Second, my family has lived in McKeesport for three generations --- on one side of my family, this was the first place they arrived after Ellis Island --- and like a stray cat that someone fed, we just won't go away.

Each of those old houses has a different history, I guess, but in general, here's what happened. It's kind of a complicated story.

About 55,000 people lived in McKeesport during World War II, which was the highest population it ever had. In fact, there may have been even more people living there, but they didn't get counted in the Census. Everyone wanted to live in McKeesport because of the high-paying jobs available for work in the steel mills and other factories. Lots of steel and parts made from steel were needed for the planes, tanks and ships used during the war. My grandmother worked in one plant --- called "Woodses' Works," after the man who founded it, named W. Dewees Woods --- that made steel parts for airplanes, for instance.

After the war, people started moving out to the "suburbs" --- in McKeesport's case, places like White Oak and North Huntingdon --- because the taxes were lower and the cost of living was cheaper. Plus, they were tired of the crowded and "dirty old city" and felt living out in the suburbs was cleaner and better. (Of course, if you've been on Lincoln Way lately, you know it's plenty crowded, and all those idling cars make it pretty dirty.)

That trend only accelerated in the 1960s and '70s, only people started moving farther out from McKeesport --- Penn Township and Pleasant Hills, for instance. In the 1970s, part of the problem was the energy crisis, which made those great old houses very expensive to heat in the winter. To some extent, people panicked unnecessarily, and sold their houses very cheap. All this caused the population of McKeesport to begin to seriously decline.

In the early 1980s, that suburban flight was combined with another problem: the steel mills in and around McKeesport started to lay off workers, and many eventually closed. Many younger people moved to Florida or Texas or California, or other places where they thought they could find jobs. Since no one was moving into McKeesport, they sometimes abandoned their houses. In other cases, people who were laid off couldn't afford to pay their taxes or their mortgages, and their houses were repossessed by the banks. Because no one wanted to pay the back taxes that were owed on the properties, they couldn't be sold.

By the 1990s, there was another problem; although the young families had left, many retired people stayed. When those older people started to pass away, sometimes their relatives didn't want their old houses; in other cases, they didn't have any relatives. Those houses were abandoned, too.

Today, that leaves McKeesport (and other towns, like Duquesne and Braddock, for instance) with a bunch of problems. There are great old houses that have been abandoned for so long that it would cost more to fix them up than it would to build a new house. There are other houses where so much in back taxes is owed that no one wants to buy them. And there are some houses that no one is sure who owns them.

It would be great if the city, or the county, or some non-profit group, could just take over these abandoned houses and tear them down or fix them up. Unfortunately, the laws don't make it easy. The laws are there to protect people's rights and prevent the government from taking over nice properties that other people wanted, but the people who wrote the laws didn't anticipate that there would someday be properties that no one would want!

"KB" continues:

"Back when McKeesport finally established itself was Huey Street known as 'Millionaire's Row'? That's what my boyfriend's mom told him it was called, because that's where all the 'well off residents' built their homes."


I haven't heard that Huey Street in particular was called this, but I know that the houses on Shaw Avenue were called "Millionaire's Row."

Generally speaking, by the way, in all of the old Mon Valley milltowns, the poor people lived near the rivers on the "flat" part of town, while the "well off" people lived up on the hills.

Believe it or not, living near the river wasn't considered a benefit back then. The rivers were filthy --- all of the sewage dumped directly into them --- plus the mills were always built near the rivers (they needed lots of water to cool off and run machinery), so the riverfronts had plenty of air pollution, too.

Also, before the dams and reservoirs were built on the rivers, the rivers flooded frequently.

One of the poorest sections of McKeesport, incidentally, used to be the part where the Youghiogheny River meets the Monongahela River. Known as the First Ward, it was considered a slum, and was cleared out in 1960 in the name of "urban redevelopment." The property was sold to U.S. Steel, which built the buildings that are now used by Camp-Hill Corp.

Now, of course, the riverfront is a hot property, and Mayor Jim Brewster would like to turn that "point" where the Yough and Mon meet into a recreation area. People in the 1900s would have been amused or amazed to think that someday a marina would be built on the river someday. (All those expensive new "townhouses" at the Waterfront in Homestead and Munhall would absolutely astonish them. So would the Waterfront, come to think of it.)

"KB"'s last questions concern the McKeesport-Versailles Cemetery:

"Is there any information on how big the cemetery used to be? ... I was also wondering if there are any old photos of Huey Street or the cemetery or any other street, because my boyfriend and I really would like to see what McKeesport looked like before all those pretty big houses became run down."


I don't think the cemetery was any bigger than it is now. In fact, I think it was probably smaller, and was added onto over the years as more and more people ... well, as more and more people died. (That's why they had to put a fence around it ... people were dying to get in. Haw haw haw. Sorry.)

As for photos, you're in luck. Out in Renzie Park is a great place called the McKeesport Heritage Center which is the official repository for old memorabilia --- photos, postcards, clothing, official city documents --- about McKeesport and vicinity. They have several photo albums full of just what you're looking for, along with some very large photos of McKeesport's neighborhoods and more.

You can also look at McKeesport's first school, built in 1832 down in the First Ward. (It was moved to Renzie Park when the First Ward was torn down.) The school has been restored, and it will remind you something out of a "Old West" movie or "Little House on the Prairie." There's no need to go to Disney World to see "fake" history --- we've got the real thing!

Officially, you have to be a member to do "research," but anyone can come in and look at the exhibits for free. Also, student memberships are either very cheap or free --- I don't remember which. I joined when I was in high school, and it's what got me interested in local history.

The Heritage Center is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and it's located next to the tennis courts --- behind the big baseball field. You can call (412) 678-1832 for more information. (There is no admission charge to visit, but you may want to leave a donation, or purchase a souvenir --- the entire museum runs on membership dues and donations.)

By the way, "KB," not only did I really appreciate your email, I also liked the quotes you signed off with:

"Some people dream of great accomplishments, while others stay awake and do them." --- Constance Newman


"The kind of ancestors we have is not important as the kind of descendants our ancestors have." --- Phyllis A. Wallace


Great words to live by, I think.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:53 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | four comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 13, 2004 | Link to this story

Schnook Looks at Books

Category: default || By jt3y

After spending my entire life (so far) in the Mon-Yough area, it amazes me that there are still places that I've never been.

Case in point: The old Potter-McCune warehouse on Walnut Street in Our Fair City, which I've been passing on a weekly or daily basis since I was an infant. Saturday's "warehouse sale" by Book Country Clearinghouse, which now uses the old Pomco building, was as much an excuse for me to poke around inside as it was to buy books.

Though the book bargains were pretty remarkable, too. I walked out with $150 worth of books for about $38, including some recent bestsellers --- like The Trust, Alex Jones and Susan Tifft's history of The New York Times and the family that owns it, and Taken For a Ride, Bill Vlasic and Bradley Stertz's unpacking of the Daimler-Benz takeover of Chrysler Corporation. Also, some P.J. O'Rourke, a biography of John McCain, and a bunch of reference books.

There isn't much inside to tip off the building's heritage, by the way, though some of the signage clearly dates to the 1960s or '70s, or even earlier. Inside, it's a fairly standard 1930s-style warehouse --- oiled wood floors and factory-sash celestory windows in the roof. One room (if I recall correctly, it had children's books stored there) was covered with tile and had several holes for water pipes. I suspect it was either a shower room or a food-washing area.

The warehouse floor was a little daunting; the books were stacked in piles in every room that seemed to have no rhyme or reason. One of the Book Country employees tipped me off; the books were sorted by publisher, and then stacked alphabetically. If you didn't know the publisher's name, they were more than happy to look titles up on their computers.

I was also amazed at the memory recall of the employees; one lady asked if there were any books on knitting, and a Book Country employee rattled off several titles and their approximate locations. I asked about one title, and the staff person was able to give me the exact aisle where it would be located. (There were no copies left, alas.) As someone who can't remember where my car keys, eyeglasses or checkbook are from day to day, I was impressed.

Of course, as a wholesaler of remaindered books --- titles that were returned, unsold, from bookstores --- the pickings could be hit or miss. There were 2004 World Almanacs for 75 percent off, but there were also quickie celebrity biographies of people whose 15 minutes of fame is long since forgotten. Do you want a copy of Bushisms, a collection of the President's malaprops? Book Country has an entire pallet-load --- or did, as of Saturday afternoon. Maybe they were all sold by Sunday.

I didn't realize that Book Country has sold off its retail stores, including the location on Rodi Road in Penn Hills. According to the employees I talked to, they deal strictly wholesale with other retailers now. If a discount store needs a mixture of low-priced hardcovers, they call Book Country, and an order gets pulled and sent out.

They also fill orders for large bookstore chains that find themselves suddenly out of a popular backordered item. I won't mention the names that were dropped to me, but you've heard of them. It's nice to know that such a business has found a home in Our Fair City!

Also, the Book Country folks were apparently gratified by the amount of community response that the weekend sale generated. The big parking lot at the warehouse --- which can accommodate many tractor-trailer rigs --- was packed, and folks were parking on the street. Several employees told me that the company may hold additional warehouse sales in the future. Watch this space for details.

...

Seen at Book Country, by the way: Brad Grantz, a Republican from Elizabeth who's challenging Democratic state Rep. David Levdansky in the 39th House District, which represents parts of Allegheny and Washington counties. Grantz is blogging his campaign at VoteGrantz.com.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I have worked with Grantz on some volunteer activities in the past.)

I don't live in the 39th District, but if Grantz is shopping the 75 percent off sale at Book Country, I guess we can assume he's for fiscal responsibility. And literacy, come to think of it.

...

As for fiscal responsibility, I should have exercised some this weekend and stayed out of Book Country, among other places; I spent more money than I expected to this weekend. Sunday, I took my own advice and went to a ham radio swap meet in Butler County, where I picked up a 1960s German-made Grundig shortwave set. It was cheap, but I still felt a little bit guilty driving home. There are things I need to buy more than another damned radio.

It's called a Grundig "Melody-Boy" (do you think that, perhaps, that name doesn't translate well into English?) and I can find next to nothing about it on the Internet. As you might expect, the controls are all labeled in German, and I had to largely guess what their functions were. ("Ein" means "on.") But it worked well; in the middle of the afternoon I was pulling in FM and AM stations from all over Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

So, I put the little set to good use as I worked around the house Sunday night, and checked in with a program that used to be a regular habit. Johnny Lightning's "Radio NewYork International," a potpourri of samples from pirate radio broadcasts, political rants, juvenile humor, 1960s radio jingles, international phone calls from all manner of lunatics and music. Lightning (not his real name, obviously) is himself a former pirate broadcaster who works a legit job now; "RNI" is as close as you can get to real, raw pirate radio on a licensed frequency.

Since it's broadcast over shortwave and (supposedly) isn't intended for a domestic audience, it's free from FCC obscenity rules. That means it's often vulgar; but it's also often very, very funny, even without the crudities. In fact, its funny moments are more spontaneous and its serious discussions are more thoughtful than 90 percent of what passes for commercial or public radio in the U.S. right now. They finally have a Web site, but you can check in live (if you have a shortwave, and if the weather conditions are right) on WBCQ (7.415 MHz) between 8 p.m. and midnight Sundays.

...

Speaking of radio, a reliable source phoned me Saturday morning to tell me that Clarke Ingram mentioned this Web site on WWSW-FM (94.5) Friday night.

If this was a shameful attempt by Clarke Ingram, heard from 7 p.m. to midnight Friday on 3WS, to get a plug, then it's not going to work! Sorry, Clarke, but Tube City Almanac doesn't give plugs that easily!

Nice try, though, by Clarke Ingram, who's also heard evenings and weekends on WKHB (620) in Irwin and sister station WKFB (770) in Jeannette.

...

In the comments to Friday's entry, Alycia points out that CBS News is rather (ha! ha!) forcefully defending its use of the National Guard memos that many people suspect are forgeries. And, as Alycia says, the typeface or "font" in the memos has been around since the 1930s, meaning that it's not inconceivable that the memos were produced in the 1970s.

All this is true, but unfortunately, the entire controversy detracts from the real issue: the President is attacking his challenger on his military record, when in fact, the President's military record is spotty, at best. Reliable sources --- not faked memos --- contend that his father pulled strings to get him into a Guard unit that was flying obsolete planes that had no chance of being used in Vietnam. And he didn't even show up for his physical in 1972, which means that he couldn't even be cleared for duty in those obsolete planes.

And that detracts even further from the real issue: What does it matter what the President or John "Yawn" Kerry or anyone else was doing 30 years ago? I'm more concerned what they've done for the last four years, or what they plan to do for the next four years.

All these "made-for-TV" dustups accomplish --- whether the Swift Boat nitwits or the doofuses at CBS who can't recognize an obvious fraud --- is to distract us from real issues: the outsourcing of American jobs, the ballooning deficit, the ongoing war on terror, and the war in Iraq. The latter two items are different, in my opinion, despite the best efforts of the incumbent to blur them together.

If I was a real cynic, I'd suspect that the President's advisers want us to be distracted by nonsense like faked memos for just a few weeks longer --- say, at least until Nov. 3. And it doesn't take too much of a conspiracy theorist to wonder who faked the memos in the first place ... perhaps an overzealous opponent of Bush's re-election?

Or was it maybe a Republican operative hoping to discredit Kerry, a la the "Canuck letter" that Nixon's campaign planted in 1972 to discredit Ed Muskie?

Karl Rove's helpers, after all, are the folks who planted rumors that John McCain was "mentally unstable" after having been a POW in Vietnam, and that Max Cleland, who lost three limbs in that war, was a "coward." Would you put some faked memos past them?

Or, maybe it's time to call the doctor; I think my lithium has stopped working.

...

Nice story last week by Chuck Gibson in The Daily News about the new commanders of the Salvation Army chapel in Our Fair City, Capts. Chris and Aubrey Stephens. The Stephens met at a Salvation Army function in 1978, Gibson reports, and they have two children.

...

Tomorrow: Almanac mailbag.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:53 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | No comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 10, 2004 | Link to this story

Next Month, He's Running for Homecoming Queen

Category: default || By jt3y

The Westmoreland County Commissioners used to give out stickers saying, "There's MORE in Westmoreland."

Maybe they meant more weird news stories. Weird, wacky, wonderful Westmoreland hit the national news again this week, after Joe Napsha broke the story in the Trib:

Greensburg police are investigating how a 48-year-old man posing as a woman and a cheerleader allegedly stole the identities of three women to obtain credit cards, took photos of high school cheerleaders and obtained numerous cheerleader uniforms and pom-poms.


Kelly Dawn Hullenbaugh's secret life came undone Friday night when police arrested him at his apartment after he allegedly was seen in the girls locker room at Greensburg Salem High School.


Yesterday, Napsha reported that Greensburg Salem school officials are boosting security because of this incident. I can appreciate their concern, but they'd be well-advised not to over-react --- how many 48-year-old men who think they're high school girls are running around Greensburg, for goodness sakes?

On the other hand, we probably don't want to know the answer to that question.

Apparently, "Kelly Dawn" had some "glamor shot" style photos taken of himself in his full cheerleading regalia. How'd you like to be the photographer who got that assignment? Do you think he walked into Olan Mills in his cheerleader outfit, or did he go to the Sears Portrait Studio? Or did he change once he got there?

By the way, KDKA-TV had an "I-team" investigation report about this on the news the other night, obviously chasing the Trib's story. It was about the least investigative investigation I've ever seen, even by TV standards. Marty Griffin breathlessly informed viewers that "documents obtained by KDKA news" detailed "Kelly Dawn's" alleged identity thefts.

Those "documents" turned out to be the affidavits of probable cause, which anyone can "obtain" by the difficult process of walking down to the magistrate's office and asking for them. These weren't exactly the Pentagon Papers.

KDKA also lingered over the "glamor shots" of "Kelly Dawn," panning the camera slowly up "her" legs in the style of a video about a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. It was, at best, tacky, and at worst, gross. In fact, the whole report --- about three minutes, I guess, though it seemed much longer --- seemed like an excuse for KDKA to show pictures of a guy in a dress.

Griffin also helpfully informed us that it "isn't illegal for a man to own a cheerleader uniform." Gee, I'm glad he cleared that up, because I was wondering which statute "men wearing cheerleader uniforms" fell under. I knew it wasn't in the state vehicle code, but I thought it might be covered by Title 3.

Most people get their "news" from TV, of course. Is it any wonder that Americans are so ill-informed?

Dumb pills aren't exclusively taken by KDKA employees, of course. I suspect they're distributed throughout the entire CBS corporate structure.

I'm no Dubya fan --- that should be painfully obvious, I think, to anyone who reads this treacle on a regular basis --- but any nitwit could tell that the documents that CBS News used to supposedly prove that young George W. Bush skipped out on his National Guard service are phonies.

They're done in Microsoft Word, for cripes' sake. As a frequent victim of Microsoft Word, I easily spotted all of the programs flaws ... I mean "features" ... on the memos. Especially that stupid superscript on ordinal numbers like "111th."

Pardon me, CBS, I mean, I'm no forensic expert, but IBM Selectrics don't do that. You could have had the cast of "CSI" review these things and figured that out. Edward R. Murrow, who's probably been spinning in his grave for years, has probably just increased his speed a few hundred RPMs.

As of last night, CBS was still standing by the authenticity of the memos. Sure. And the editors of Der Stern stood by the reporter who uncovered the supposed Hitler diaries in the 1980s --- almost until the point that he went to jail for fraud.

Speaking of reporters, why are they so afraid to speak plain truths? The headline in The Washington Post about this story reads, "Some Question Authenticity of Papers on Bush." Technically accurate, but wishy-washy. Why not, "Documents Look Like Forgeries, Experts Say"? "Some Question" makes it seem like there's a lot of doubt, when there really isn't. Any woman who worked in a secretarial pool in the 1970s would know that these things were fakes.

By the same token, why were reporters so slow to blow the whistle on the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth? Those bozos were lying their rear-ends off. Some of them had contradicted themselves as recently as a few years ago, and as the evidence now indicates, they had close financial and legal ties to the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.

Stating something painfully obvious that's based on factual information is not being partisan. Trying to appear "fair" and "impartial" does not mean that reporters have the right to put their brains in neutral, or that they have to parrot misinformation without questioning it.

In "fairness," maybe everyone has been too hasty to condemn CBS. Perhaps the network has another "scoop" up its sleeve: "National Guard had computerized word processors in 1972, U.S. demands royalties from Bill Gates!"

Probably not.

In the meantime, alert Dan Rather: I've got some photos that prove George Bush wasn't serving in the Alabama National Guard. They were taken with a digital camera. Also, I have proof that Kerry sold his medals on eBay in 1975.

I'm ready for my closeup, folks. Make sure you get my good side (hint: it's the part that hits the chair first).

...

I'm looking for Rick Santorum to introduce the "Cheerleader Uniform Protection Act" any day now to make sure situations like the one in Greensburg don't happen again.

...

Update: There are plenty of real documents available about George W. Bush's and John Kerry's military service at AwolBush.com.

...

To Do This Weekend: Book Country holds its first-ever "warehouse sale," 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Books on sale at the old Potter-McCune Co. warehouse, 3200 Walnut St., in the Christy Park section of Our Fair City, will be up to 80 percent off. Call 412-678-2400.

Also: Butler County Amateur Radio Association holds its annual hamfest and computer show from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Butler Farm Show Grounds, near Roe Airport on Route 68 east of Evans City. Call 724-586-1182.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:00 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | four comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 09, 2004 | Link to this story

Songs to Sing in a Shower

Category: default || By jt3y

Yesterday, as I changed my wet socks and shoes for the tenth time, I decided that --- considering the climate around here --- someone in Western Pennsylvania should launch a radio station with a format that was all rain songs, all the time. Maybe I will.

"We're all wet ... this is W-E-T-T, McKeesport, playing continuous soggy favorites." If you think the "Froggy" stations have fun coming up with obnoxious "frog" DJ names, think of the DJ names you could have on an all-rain radio station: Gail Storm. Curt Flood. Maxine Waters. Foggy Bottom. Johnny Rivers. What a lineup!

Imagine the jingles: "This is the WETT spot on your dial." The all-night show would naturally be called "WETT Dreams."

Or maybe not, and my brain is just waterlogged.

Anyway, I know I had enough rain songs stuck in my head yesterday to float a boat. No matter what I did, I kept whistling the bridge to this snappy number:

Just walkin' in the rain
Gettin' soaking wet
Torturing my heart
By trying to forget

That, a quick Google search determined, was recorded by Johnnie "Cr-r-r-r-r-y!" Ray in 1956, and went as high as Number 3.

It could have been worse; I could have had "Rhapsody in the Rain" by Lou Christie --- or as he's usually billed around here, "Pittsburgh's Own Lou Christie," as if there's a fake Lou Christie from Buffalo running around --- stuck in my head. Yes, I know it was popular, and yes, I know he's from Moon Township, but that song is excreable.

Christie, of course, also had a hit with "Lightnin' Strikes" --- another rain song that, like "Rhapsody," has sexual connotations. I guess it's only natural that a guy who grows up in Western Pennsylvania would get turned on by rain. Good grief, we have enough of it.

Now that I think about it, and I shouldn't, how many Pittsburgh natives who move to sunnier climes end up sexually frustrated? ("Doc, you gotta help me. My wife and I can only make love when I turn the sprinklers on outside.")

Speaking of Pittsburgh rain songs, one of the best is "Pennies From Heaven" --- the hard, swingin' version by Jimmy Beaumont & The Skyliners (sorry, "Pittsburgh's Own Jimmy Beaumont & The Skyliners"). It would also be high on my rain day playlist.

How about "Hello, Walls" by Faron Young? ("Tell me, is that a teardrop in the corner of your pane? Now, don't you try and tell me it's just rain.")

Who can forget "Rhythm of the Rain" by the Cascades (went to Number 1 in 1963, if I remember correctly), or "Raindrops" by Dee Clark (Number 2 in 1962)? That's worthy if only for Clark's hiccuping vocal ("It feels like ra-ain-ain-drops falling from my eye-eyes, fa-alling from my uh-eyes").

"Drip, Drop" presents a quandary. Which do I like better? The Drifters' original version has a gritty, authentic sound, but Dion's version is oh-so-cool. And they were both hits. My favorite lyric: "Why don't you mind your own affairs and button your lip, lip, lip --- I know when my girl's gave me the slip, slip, slip."

"Rainy Night in Georgia" by Brook Benton is a good one, too, as is "Stormy Weather" --- either Ella's version, which almost makes your heart hurt, or the Spaniels' beautiful uptempo version, which has the opposite effect.

For Our Fair City, where days of heavy rain invariably flood the appropriately-named Water Street and River Road, "Five Feet High and Risin'" by the late Man in Black is a natural (Number 76 on the pop charts in 1959):

The hives are gone, I've lost my bees,
The chickens are sleepin' in the willow trees,
The cow's in water up past her knees,
It's three feet high and risin'

I'd better knock it off; it's getting pretty deep in here already.

...

I'm not the only one obsessed with rain songs. Here's a whole list of 800 songs about rain, including the ones I named, and a bunch I've never heard of.

...

Tip of the Tube City hard hat to "Josh Reads the Comics So You Don't Have To," which has another good entry on that much-despised cartoon cat and the dreadful movie he spawned.

...

Professor Pittsblog tees off on the mercurial "Save Our City" advertising campaign recently launched by Pittsburgh Brewing Co. Asks "Pittsblog": "Save it from what?"

The campaign didn't do much for me, either.

I can think of one thing that would have "saved the city" about $3 million, plus countless legal bills --- if Pittsburgh Brewing had paid its water and sewerage bills on time, instead of dragging the case through the courts for three years.

...

"Wedding World," which has two stores in the Mon-Yough area --- Pleasant Hills and Monroeville --- has just gone toes-up, according to the Associated Press.

The company filed for bankruptcy and closed it doors days after reporters for Johnstown TV station WJAC ("We're Just Auto Crashes") uncovered hundreds of complaints against the chain. Channel 6 also claims that its investigation helped prompt a lawsuit filed this week by state Attorney General Jerry Pappert.

This leaves dozens of women unable to claim the dresses they've paid for, so if you see any brides this weekend wearing their old high school prom gowns, you'll know why.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:00 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | No comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 08, 2004 | Link to this story

You Don't Need a Weatherman, Period

Category: default || By jt3y

It's raining.

It will be raining tomorrow, too.

The rain will fall vertically, from the sky to the ground, in that direction, and will be followed by wet basements, puddles on the sidewalks, drowned worms, and soggy socks.

That's all you need to know about the forecast, but it hasn't stopped the TV weather fear-mongers from working themselves into a fine, white froth.

This is not to make light of people who are keeping a "weather eye" (ha! ha!) on the Mon and the Yough. I'm hoping that the water doesn't reach the Palisades or do any damage to the Marina, and I'm hoping that no one living in Our Fair City or the suburbs gets hurt, or loses any of their belongings.

I have a longer rant on this topic, but you'll have to wait until it shows up at Pittsburgh Radio & TV Online.

But in short, it's fairly obvious that Pittsburgh's local TV weather yakkers have nothing to report on when it's not snowing. As a consequence, they over-hype every single weather event of even marginal importance.

I sometimes worry about what will happen when we really are due for severe weather: Will people believe them?

Want some real, clear-headed weather information, that you pay for? Visit the National Weather Service's local forecast page.

...

If you're mad enough at the local weathercasters, I suppose you could do what James C. Johnson of Youngstown did, although I don't recommend it: He climbed the WYTV-TV tower and unplugged the station's Doppler weather radar, according to The Vindicator.

In this case, Johnson wasn't aggravated by the forecasts; he was angry that the mayor wouldn't talk to him about his campaign to get former U.S. Rep. Jim "Cap'n Hairdo" Traficant pardoned.

Once atop the tower, he unfurled a banner reading, "Pardon Traficant."

Johnson apparently planned to stay up there for quite a while. The Vindy reports that when arrested, he had a flashlight, electrical tape, compact discs, a CD player with headphones, and cigarettes.

But there's no mention of any ... um ... facilities. Maybe he figured he was going to let the chips fall where they may, as it were.

Good thing the cops got him, because it could have gotten messy in the Channel 33 parking lot.

....

(Warning: Tiresome political screed follows. Skip to the end for some geek humor.)

From the Tube City Almanac National Affairs Desk comes coverage of this speech by the Vice President of Bizarro World:

Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday warned Americans about voting for Democratic Sen. John Kerry, saying that if the nation makes the wrong choice on Election Day it faces the threat of another terrorist attack. ...


"It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States," Cheney told about 350 supporters at a town-hall meeting in this Iowa city. ...


Hours before Cheney spoke, the Congressional Budget Office said this year's federal deficit will hit a record $422 billion. Cheney, in praising Bush's tax cuts, noted that the CBO said this year's projected deficit will be smaller than analysts had expected.


He has to be the Vice President of Bizarro World, because what he's saying here contradicts all evident logic. (I thought that perhaps it was just the Evil Dick Cheney from the Star Trek "Mirror, Mirror" universe, but he didn't have a beard, and besides, I couldn't think of anyone who was much scarier than the real Dick Cheney.)

First, Bizarro Vice President says that if we elect Kerry, the terrorists will launch a "devastating" attack. That assumes that Arab terrorists really care who we elect, when according to the President, they hate us because of "our freedoms and our way of life." It shouldn't matter who the President is, by that logic. Besides, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center the first time, Clinton was President, and he was hardly unfriendly to the Palestinians.

But let's take Bizarro Vice President's argument at face value: Al Qaeda really does care who the President is. So, who would they be more likely to attack? A new President Kerry? Or a President who had just invaded and occupied two Muslim countries, including one that was a theocracy?

Second, the deficit spin is just a howler. The deficit is the largest in history, but it's smaller than the predictions, so that's good! Hell, we're practically making money! Drinks are on me!

I guess we should be lucky that Cheney isn't a podiatrist: "Well, Mr. Jones, I have excellent news. I have to amputate both of your legs."

"What? How is that excellent news? I came in with an infected toenail!"

"Yes, but I was going to amputate your arm, and I think I can save it!"

I guess I'd have a lot more respect for Kerry if he'd just step up to the plate and bat some of these fat pitches out of the park. Any chimp in a clown suit ought to be able to refute these arguments --- after all, I just did.

If Kerry isn't going to stand up for himself and fight, why should he expect anyone else to fight for him?

...

Alert Reader Jonathan reports that President Bush's campaign advisers are now trying to back out of the scheduled debates with Kerry. According to UPI, the debate that Republicans want to cancel is scheduled for Oct. 8 in Missouri.

Says UPI: "A presidential adviser who asked not to be named said campaign officials were concerned people could pose as undecided when they actually are partisans."

Or, they might be Martians! Or blood-sucking monkeys from West Mifflin, Pennsylvania!

Please. As excuses go, that ranks up there with "the dog ate my homework" and "the intelligence estimates were faulty."

Actually, I hear that Bush will only debate Kerry if it's behind closed doors. Also, he wants Cheney with him.

...

The British Navy is installing Windows-based software to control combat software on its vessels, according to The Register:

Vanguard class boats carry the UK's Trident thermonuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles ... Whereas most previous naval deployments of Microsoft Windows worldwide have been overhyped, and have dealt largely with non mission-critical, non-lethal installations, AMS really is committing the Royal Navy to Windows-based command, control and combat management systems.


I wouldn't trust Windows to organize my baseball card collection, much less run a naval vessel. How'd you like to be the sailor that gets this message during a battle: "We're sorry, your aft guns have performed an illegal operation and will be shut down."

Talk about your blue screens of death. (Tip of the hardhat for the link, by the way, to Daily Rotten.)



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:00 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | No comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 07, 2004 | Link to this story

Requiem For a Big Man

Category: default || By jt3y

Requiescat in pace to Westmoreland County Commissioner Terry Marolt, who died Sunday after a lingering illness at the age of 58. I always found Marolt to be a great interview --- cantankerous, plain-spoken, and always willing to thrust and parry with a writer. Perhaps that's because he had been a journalist himself for many years, at the weekly Laurel Group newspapers, and later at the Latrobe Bulletin and the Tribune-Review. Marolt was rarely one to brush off a reporter with "no comment," and his candor sometimes got him in trouble.

Marolt was also an oldies buff, having conducted a long-running program on WCNS (1480) in Latrobe until his health made continuing impossible.

A big man in more ways than one (he occasionally referred to himself as "Boss Hogg"), Marolt had recently dropped dozens of pounds off of his once-rotund frame as a concession to the kidney and heart ailments that were dogging him.

Pohla Smith and Rebekah Scott have a great obit in the Post-Gazette, while Pat Cloonan has the story in The Daily News. (The always-reliable Cloonan is the only one to mention the political implications, near the bottom of his story: the judges of Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court will meet to choose Marolt's successor, Cloonan writes.)

The Trib's obit is notable for its comments from publisher Richard Scaife, who rarely talks to the media (even his own paper). It says something about Marolt's appeal and personality that he was equally comfortable with internationally-famous millionaires and local officials in the Mon Valley.

Friends will be received Wednesday and Thursday at J. Paul McCracken Funeral Chapel in Ligonier. The funeral will be held Friday at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Ligonier.


Donations may be made to the Terry Marolt Education Fund, in care of National City Bank, RR 6, Box 98, Latrobe, PA 15650, which will provide scholarships for students from Laurel Valley and Ligonier Valley school districts.

...

Voters in Erie tell The Washington Post that they're sick of hearing about terrorism and Iraq:

"The economy is so bad. If we are such a great country, why don't we stay and help us? ... Take care of us for a change," pleaded Cathy Filipowski, 35, a dental assistant. These swing voters understand the importance of the war on terrorism and the gravity of the bloody crisis in Iraq. But they also see every day the abandoned buildings, for-sale signs on the houses and cracked, uneven sidewalks along 12th Street and elsewhere in this predominantly Catholic working-class community. They see a crowded emergency room at St. Vincent hospital, and the three recently shuttered public health clinics in the poorest parts of town. They see a municipality increasingly strapped for cash, but they take comfort that their city, the third largest in Pennsylvania, is merely in trouble and not in crisis, as is Pittsburgh, 120 miles to the south.


Ah, finally Pittsburgh has cast aside that "steel city" image. Its new image in the eyes of the national media? "City in Crisis."

Uh, gee, great.

...

John Kerry goes to Canonsburg, and while in Guntown, he inexplicably fails to visit either the statue of Perry Como eating ice cream or Sarris Candies' ice cream parlor.

Alert the Bush campaign! John Kerry hates ice cream!

More in Kathie Warco's story in the Observer-Reporter, including an interview with the family whose home was used as a backdrop: "Jody Rhome thought her husband, Dale, was joking when he asked it was OK if John Kerry stopped by their Canonsburg home for a visit Monday morning. ... 'I thought it was to give me a reason to clean,' she said, laughing.")

...

Coming soon: "Ice Cream Shop Veterans For Truth" blast John Kerry! Someone tell Matt Drudge.

...


Why does Robert Scheer of the Los Angeles Times hate America? Is it because he hates freedom and our way of life? Writes Scheer:

(Can) any reasonable person really disagree with Kerry's call for a "more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side"? The fact is, the money hustlers and Beltway power brokers know in their gut that Bush is in way over his head and Cheney is a loose cannon --- and that together they have alienated U.S. allies and enflamed the Islamic world while making only marginal gains against Al Qaeda. ...


Bush's convention acceptance speech was a clear ideological endorsement of the neoconservative vision that America can and should dominate the world with military force.


Yeah? If you don't like it, then go back to Canada, hippie!

...

Finally, when I was in school, all we had were crappy filmstrips on topics like "Old Hickory: Andrew Jackson's Wooden Underpants" and "J&L Steel Presents How Iron Ore is Turned Into Pellets In 45 Boring Steps." Boy, how times have changed, as Liz Zemba reports in the Trib:

An investigation continues into how a pornographic image found its way into a slide-and-video presentation shown to teachers, administrators and a small group of students during a Hempfield Area in-service day last week.


It was the best ... school assembly ... EVER.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:00 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | one comment | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 06, 2004 | Link to this story

Happy Labor Day ... If You're Off

Category: default || By jt3y

A late entry today: It's Labor Day, after all, which is when we celebrate our laborers by giving them a day off.

Well, most of them. As long as they don't work for a retail business. Or in a service job. Or for a public safety agency. Or, in many cases, for a newspaper, radio or TV station. And since most of the jobs being created over the past 10 years have been in retail and service industries, I'd wager that a lot more people are working this Labor Day than have at any time since World War II.

Now, if they're real lucky, the boss might pay them time-and-a-half for working on a legal holiday. Otherwise, for those folks stuck working today: Sorry, you're up the creek, but hey! Happy Labor Day!

--- History of Labor Day, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor.

--- Biography of the "father of Labor Day," Peter J. McGuire, courtesy of the AFL-CIO.

...

Had a good time Friday and Saturday at the National Radio Club convention in Rochester, N.Y., though I came back with a powerful case of hay fever as a result of tromping around fields looking at radio towers in the bright sun. That laid me out in bed for most of Sunday with a sinus headache. Still, it was worth if for the chance to meet a lot of talented people who I knew only from email, or from reading their articles in various trade publications.

One other thing: After driving the New York Thruway for two days between the Pennsylvania state line and Rochester, I promise not to complain about the Pennsylvania Turnpike for a while. The Thruway --- at least the western New York portion --- is poorly maintained and inadequately signed, though it is slightly cheaper than the Pennsylvania Turnpike (about 3.1 cents per mile versus 4 cents per mile). The big, sleek Mercury usually rides like a Pullman car over the roughest of roads, but the crummy pavement on the Thruway was a challenge even for its waterbed-like suspension.

And, as an extra added attraction, the New York State Thruway Authority is still paying bored and surly attendants to sit in the booths and hand out the toll tickets --- something which, in Pennsylvania, has long been handled by machines. Nice work if you can get it --- and you can get it if you try. (The pay isn't great; about $9.66 per hour, although I was making about that working for local newspapers in 1997, and I'm fairly certain that Thruway employees don't have to do "cop checks" at night.)

...

Obviously, when I wrote about our former President on Friday, I didn't realize that he'd be going under the knife today. I don't wish him ill at all, and I'm glad his heart condition was discovered before he became seriously ill. I've had several friends who had heart bypasses, and while the surgery is much more commonplace than it used to be, it's still a difficult procedure, and I wish him a speedy recovery. I hope that he'll be up and chasing skirts ... er, I mean, his dog Seamus ... in no time.

As a person, I'm sure he's a very nice guy, but I found Clinton to be a frustrating and disappointing President --- a description which I suppose could be applied to the current President, in my (never) humble opinion. In fact, I am starting to warm up to U.S. Senator Yawn Kerry, D-Monotonous, in part because he isn't exciting. His message seems to be: Straighten up, be nice to other people, don't take more than your fair share, and respect your neighbors. He's not running for President, he's running for Dad.

After three and a half years of a adolescent President whose message seems to be, "Do what you can get away with," and eight years before that of a teen-aged President whose message was, "Do whatever makes you feel good," it sure would be nice to have an adult as President, now, wouldn't it?



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 4:04 pm by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | No comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 03, 2004 | Link to this story

Selected Short Subjects

Category: default || By jt3y

I'm not saying that he is, but I'm not saying that he isn't.

It's just that I've never seen Don Rickles and Dick Cheney in the same room together at the same time, and I don't know for certain that they're not the same person.

You can judge for yourself by examining the photographic evidence assembled by the Tube City Almanac's crack investigative team (or is that the investigative team that's on crack?):



All I'm saying is, don't be surprised if the next stump speech that Cheney makes starts with the words, "Hello, dummies."

...

Speaking of photographic evidence, Martha Rial's photo of Laura Bush in the Post-Gazette the other day creeped me out. I'm not sure what was creepier; the Orwellian vibe that the President's giant floating head gave me, or the thought that Dubya might be ready to swallow the First Lady whole.

...

Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead, by the way. And if you get that joke, you're older than I am.

...

McKeesport City Council has unveiled the official portraits of the late Joe Bendel, former mayor of Our Fair City. Pat Cloonan's story in the News has several nice touches:

(One of the portraits) is a family picture taken for Joseph and Rosemary Bendel's 20th wedding anniversary, but abandoned four years ago in the old Carter DeNino studio along Shaw Avenue and Huey Street in downtown McKeesport due to damage from at least one footprint.


"We were in there with the Historical Society," Councilwoman Ann Stromberg recalled. "The place was in a shambles. We were ready to leave, and found it in the kitchen. There was a footprint on it."


But, the councilwoman said, city Administrator Dennis Pittman took it upon himself to restore it.


...

The Democratic Party of Georgia has crafted a fairly decimating response to Zell Miller, that shrinking violet, which hoists him with his own petard. You need a Flash player to view the short video.

Conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan calls the President's remarks Thursday night the "second best speech I have ever heard George W. Bush give," but characterizes Zell Miller's speech on Wednesday as full of "slurs," "smears" and "calumny," and Cheney's speech as one of "bromides and denial."

...

I exchanged some very nice email with Professor Michael Madison, author of Pittsblog, regarding his column about Pittsburgh's image and my subsequent critique. Frankly, I was rather flattered that he felt I was worth responding to.

When you see the amount of bile that gets spilled on the Internet, it's nice to know that there are still diamonds among the lumps of coal.

And of course, it's nice to know that there's still lumps of coal, like this rebuttal that was posted on Madison's Web page about yours truly:

Micheal, I wouldn't worry about this maniac's opinion. Quite frankly though his thoughts are pretty much par for the course in Pittsburgh. And the reason newcomers have problems in our city is because of freaks like this. The guy read what he wanted to read in your post. Summary? The gene pool in Pittsburgh is stagnant. Mike


Let's see: Ad hominem attacks? Check. Name-calling? Check. If only he had dropped Kerry's name a few times, I would have thought this was Zell Miller. And for good measure, Mike apparently has spelled his own first name wrong. His rhetorical skills leave me spellbound.

For the record, I'm not what's wrong with Pittsburgh. I'm what's wrong with Our Fair City. My research indicates that Mrs. Adele Spritzhaven, 78, of 713 Reifert St., Bon Air, is what's wrong with Pittsburgh.

...

Speaking of Our Fair City, some of you have wondered what's up with this affectation. Well, it's all part of my secret plot to improve Our Fair City's image by increasing its ranking on search engines.

So far, it's meeting with some success. Searching Google.com for the search string "Our Fair City" now returns the City of McKeesport home page as one of the top 30 choices.



Bwwaa-a-a-ha-ha-ha!

...

Alert Reader Arden informs me that the Man from Lake Wobegon is still on the warpath over the President, as evidenced by this opinion piece that originally appeared in the liberal magazine In These Times:

The party of Lincoln and Liberty (has) transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk.


Ooof. Paging Mr. Keillor, Mr. Garrison Keillor: Zell Miller is waiting for you in the lobby. With dueling pistols.

...

For those of us with a comic strip jones, "Josh Reads The Comics So You Don't Have To" is a very funny site.

Also, I stumbled some great online editorial cartoons (also very liberal) by David Craig Simpson at his Web site called "I Drew This."

Maybe I'm late to the party, because David Simpson apparently has been doing a Web comic strip called "Ozy & Millie" for several years; a quick search of the Internet turned up a devoted legion of fans.

Well, you know us Pittsburghers; we're always late for everything. The gene pool in Pittsburgh is stagnant, after all.

...

To do this weekend: It's the traditional last week of operations at (cue Andy Vettel Jr. voice) "The One and Only Roller Coaster Capital of the World!" My alma mater's marching band appears in tonight's "Fall Fantasy" parade on the Kennywood midway, along with bands from Carrick High School, Schenley High School, Perry Traditional Academy and Forest Area High School. Croatian Day is Saturday.

Kennywood will also be open for "bonus" weekends through Sept. 19, while "Phantom Fright Nights" run Fridays and Saturdays in October. Call (412) 461-0500 for details.

Also: Clairton NAACP holds its Labor Day picnic from 12 noon to 8 p.m. Monday at Clairton Park Lodge.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:00 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | No comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 02, 2004 | Link to this story

White Elephants on Parade

Category: default || By jt3y

Today, in honor of the Republican National Convention, we're going to talk about White Elephants.

Ha, ha! I slay me.

Seriously, the White Elephant I refer to is the old nightclub of that name that was located on Lincoln Way in White Oak. It was also known at various times as "2002" and "Dynasty," and began life as the Hotel Belvedere. An Alert Reader whose name is being withheld writes:

I just came across your Web site while doing an Internet search for information about the old White Elephant ... (My dad) used to always tell my brother and I stories about the heyday of the Elephant, where he spent a good portion of his teen years. I'm pretty sure the nightclub burned down, but I was wondering if you knew of anyone or anywhere I could buy pictures, or memorabilia, from the club. This would be about the best Christmas present ever. Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.


I've purposely obscured the writer's information in the slim chance that her dad might stumble across this and find out what his Christmas present is.

The only White Elephant "memorabilia" of which I'm aware is an Itzy Records compilation CD called "Pittsburgh's Favorite Oldies: At the Hop Volume II." It's got a sketch of the White Elephant on the front, and it ought to still be available in local record stores or over the Internet. Unfortunately, I don't think the CD has anything about the Elephant inside, and the sketch is fairly crude.

The club itself did burn down a few years ago; it was located next to the present White Oak municipal building. The outlines of the building's foundation and pieces of concrete can still be seen in the old parking lot.

Does anyone out there have other leads on White Elephant items that my emailer can use? Or would you like to share your memories of the White Elephant --- or the Twin Coaches, Ben Gross', the Vogue Terrace, and other Mon-Yough area hot spots?

Email j t 3 y at dementia dot o r g with your stories.

...

An Alert Reader who works in radio liked my riff on Rick Moranis' "Stairway to Heaven" story:

My favorite question is always something on the order of, "what time is the '70s at 7 on?" Well, duh.


And then there are the people who call in with something like this: "I heard a commercial on your station last Tuesday for the Renaissance Festival, and I'm not sure exactly what time it ran, or even if it was on your station, but I need the details and directions, can you get them for me?"


Feel free to tell those people complete misinformation: "Oh, that's at the sanitary landfill in Forward Township. Drive out Route 51 as far as Payday's, and then follow your nose." And make sure to give them your competitor's phone number and call letters, so they know where to lodge the complaints later on.

Besides, if they're going to the renaissance festival, they deserve every bit of abuse you can heap on them.

...

Fan mail comes from Nancy in Laurel, Md., who writes:

I stumbled upon your webpage and have been reading your blog every work-day at lunch. I can't tell you how much I enjoy your humor and appreciate having some information that my Mom may have missed in The Daily News. I live in the land of politicos and nit-wits (Maryland) and it's refreshing to hear a home-town voice. Somedays you really crack me up. So, fear not, there are probably more ex-pat's out here listening to what you have to say (and mostly agreeing) ... you have an audience!


I appreciate the kind comments, but I'm not sure what I find more disturbing: The thought that I have an audience, or the thought that people read this stuff while they're eating.

...

Now, back to our continuing coverage of Pittsburgh's image, or lack thereof, as Professor Pittsblog has a response to my Tuesday and Wednesday rants that's well worth reading:

I happen to like Pittsburgh, a lot. I think that it's a terrific place to live and that it's terribly underappreciated, especially by a lot of people who were raised here and who still live here. I also happen to think that Pittsburgh has a lot of undeveloped potential -- economically, socially, and culturally. To my mind, the notion that we need to get past steel is consistent with both statements. "Get past steel" doesn't mean that we should ignore or undervalue the contributions of steelworkers or the steel industry; it means that the future of the city and the region doesn't and can't depend on them. It's terrific to recognize, remember, and respect the past. It's not terrific to stop there and to believe that respect for the past is enough to sustain Pittsburgh into the future.


I didn't mean to imply the Professor himself was a snob, but I have heard similar arguments from people who definitely were looking down their noses at Pittsburgh and the Mon-Yough area. Perhaps I'm hyper-sensitive, and I saw snobbery (snobbishness? snobberism?) where it didn't exist.

I agree with the Professor to some extent, especially on this point: "I certainly didn't intend to provoke such a visceral reaction, but the fact I did suggests to me that there is something here worth talking about."

Anything that stimulates discussion on the topic of Western Pennsylvania --- where it's been, where it is, where it's going --- is useful. If Pittsburghers (and McKeesporters) have had one serious fault, it's been too often allowing "institutions" --- the newspapers, the foundations, unelected civic boards, corporations --- to set the agenda and the tone of public discussions. Jon Potts makes much the same argument in The Conversation today.

Over the last half-century, too many ideas have been imposed on Western Pennsylvania from "above," and have been placidly accepted by the voters and taxpayers. Not enough ideas have been generated in the communities by the people, nor have the people elected leaders who felt it was their responsibility to listen to the communities!

Meanwhile, Dave Copeland makes an excellent point: "(Perhaps) Pittsburgh's biggest problem is the perception of the people who live here. The people who s--- on it, the people who travel and are ashamed to admit where they come from or the mayor who cracks jokes in The New York Times about it being 10 years behind the times."

First, we need to shake Western Pennsylvanians out of their complacent, negative attitudes; and then we need to get them to do something about it, instead of accepting things as "fate."

I'm open to suggestions on how to do that, because I'm convinced we can't look to our elected officials for leadership.

...

From the Tube City Almanac National Affairs Desk comes this quotable quote: "Republicans sold us out with a generation of trickle-down economics that blew the deficit sky-high, drove poverty through the roof, and squeezed the middle class like a lemon at a county fair. They gave themselves the goldmine, and they gave the rest of us the shaft."

Now, who said that? Yawn Kerry? Teddy Kennedy?

Nope; it was Zell Miller, eight years ago.

Oh, I see. And Kerry is the flip-flopper. Gotcha. Check. Kerry flip-flops, but Zell "Bombs Away" Miller is just principled.

Senator Miller, speaking to Chris Matthews later yesterday on MSNBC's "Hardball," sounded like a man who has stripped his gears --- especially when he offered to come over and challenge Matthews to a duel in the street. (Tip of the hardhat, by the way, to Eric Zorn.)

And then, after Zell's tirade, along comes the mortician-in-chief, Dick Cheney, who makes Don Rickles look like Mr. Congeniality, to say that "a senator can be wrong for 20 years, without consequence to the nation. But a president, a president always casts the deciding vote. And in this time of challenge, America needs and America has a president we can count on to get it right."

Someone who thought that more tax cuts aren't the answer, and who is disgusted with the apparent lack of a strategy for winning the peace in Iraq, and who's concerned with the Bush Administration's complete lack of regard for transparency in government and civil rights, might say that's an excellent argument for voting for Kerry in November.

And another thing: Comparing the war in Iraq to World War II, as both Miller and Cheney tried to do, just doesn't cut it, in my estimation. In World War II, we had two large industrial powers --- Germany and Japan --- who were disrupting our shipping lanes in the North Atlantic, causing devastation to our allies in England and the European mainland, and who launched a sneak attack on one of our bases. In the most recent Iraq war, we had a corrupt dictator, weakened by 10 years of sanctions and bombing runs, who was a threat mostly to his own people.

Yes, yes, remember Sept. 11. I don't have to be reminded; I was in Shanksville that day. I also was at the memorial service a few days later. But Saddam Hussein, evil megalomanic that he was (and still is), wasn't responsible for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The people who were responsible are still running around Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, and they're being funded by our good friends, the Saudis. The war in Iraq changed that not one iota --- except to make the angry Islamic militants just that little bit angrier.

These kinds of speeches make great television, of course, and I suspect few viewers are going to take the time to parse this stuff out, except for those who are already politically active. Kerry is killing himself because he makes these layered, nuanced, deliberative speeches --- they read well, but on television, they look like so much dithering. Worse, his constant qualifications and his willingness to look at the opposite side of every issue give his enemies plenty of ammunition when they label him "indecisive." (What's the definition of a liberal? A guy who won't take his own side in an argument.)

By comparison, the arguments that Cheney and Miller made in their speeches seem strong and substantial on TV, but so do movie sets. Get behind them, and it's clear that they're flimsy and made of props that are designed only to look good on camera for a few minutes. They don't stand up to any close inspection.

Unfortunately, how many people get a chance to closely inspect a movie set?

Besides, most people wouldn't want to: It would spoil the illusion. I suspect a lot of people don't carefully examine political speeches for the same reason.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:00 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | three comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

September 01, 2004 | Link to this story

Upon Further Reflection

Category: default || By jt3y

Was I a little bit testy yesterday? Eh. Maybe I'm due for my distemper shots. Maybe, as Dick Skrinjar of PennDOT once told O'Brien & Garry, I need more fiber in my diet.

It could also be that I have a bad taste in my mouth from reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. In the book, which made The New York Times' best-seller list, the author takes low-paying jobs as a hotel maid, a waitress and a Wal-Mart clerk to see if she can survive on minimum wage.

Surprise! She really can't pay for rent, food and utilities on $5.15 per hour for 40 hours per week. This should come as no shock to anyone except the large corporations (I'm looking at you, Wal-Mart and McDonald's) who have successfully lobbied to keep the minimum wage low.

The book is ostensibly sympathetic to people who work in minimum wage jobs, and I'm sure Ehrenreich is; unfortunately, what really came through was that she holds manual labor jobs in contempt. The underlying theme of the book seems to be: "I'm too good to be cleaning toilets" or making beds or stacking things for sale. By extension, in my opinion, then she holds the people who do those jobs in contempt --- after all, they should be smart enough to know that their jobs suck, and should get better jobs, right?

I find that attitude insulting and unrealistic. In fact, it's not very different than the conservative philosophy that people who work in minimum-wage jobs deserve their lot in life --- that if only they had a little ambition, they could pull themselves out of the lower-income bracket and out of their minimum wage jobs. (But, you know, don't give them any help in the form of grants for college, and don't help them with their health care. The private sector and charities will take care of that.)

It never seems to dawn on Ehrenreich that someone needs to clean the world's toilets and empty the world's garbage cans, and that they deserve a little respect and dignity --- just as it never seems to dawn on conservatives that some people are born without the natural abilities to go to college or start a business. Does that mean they have no worth? Should they be condemned to live miserable lives?

Either way, it's economic elitism, and I say to hell with it, whether it's on the left or the right.

So, maybe that's why I'm aggravated by the attitude that Pittsburgh could amount to something if only it could get some mythical steel monkey off of its back. By extension, it's another kind of elitism: If only it wasn't for all these damned old, poor people, Pittsburgh wouldn't be half-bad. Never mind the fact that it's those damned old and poor people who built Pittsburgh in the first place, let's marginalize them --- and one way to do that is to tell them that steel doesn't matter, and in fact, it never did.

Well, maybe if we all wish hard enough, we can turn Pittsburgh into Berkeley, or at least Madison, Wisconsin! C'mon, Tinkerbell, you can do it! And we can all sit around drinking white wine, voting for the Green Party, and discussing Marxist philosophy and modern art!


Please. Pittsburgh is what it is. Take that, and build on it. Yes, we need to move forward, and we need to get over our historic suspicion of outsiders.

But enough with the historical revisionism; without its history, Pittsburgh is just a tired old midwestern town without any of the "character" that people supposedly find so "charming" in places like Bloomfield or Lawrenceville.

...

Speaking of living in the past, work on the Diplomat continues to lurch forward, and I do mean "lurch." I don't give my cars cutesy names, but if I did, the Diplomat would be "Puddles," because that's what it's leaving all over my garage floor. I recently stopped a really bad leak in the transmission by replacing the pan gasket, only to find that there's a separate transmission fluid leak at the speedometer cable.

The valve cover gaskets are also leaking, or at least I hope they are; if they're not, then the rear main seal is going bad. For those of you who know something about cars, the rear main seal is the gasket that keeps oil around the crankshaft, and it is installed between the engine and the transmission. For those of you who don't know anything about cars, just envision dollar bills with wings, flying away from your wallet; that's what happens when the rear main seal goes bad.

With help from a friend, I've installed a new electronic ignition and distributor on the Diplomat which (hopefully) will fix its uneven idle. Before I did that, I had to make sure I wasn't doing anything that would make the car unable to pass state emissions inspection. Luckily, I wasn't, because the thought of trying to repair the vintage-1984 Chrysler "computer" that was (badly) controlling the ignition system filled me with dread.

If you have questions about what the state emissions program tests ... and what it doesn't test ... visit the state Department of Environmental Protection's Drive Clean PA Web site. I found it useful. It even includes a history of emissions testing in Pennsylvania, and links to the stations offering the lowest prices on tests!

I wanted to get the Dippy street-legal by this fall, but the driver's side window still isn't working properly --- the gears are stripped --- and on a little late-night "shakedown" cruise to see if the new carb and power brakes were working properly, the gas gauge decided to stop working. Groan. I don't see any legal requirement that the fuel gauge gauge work, but it seems logical to me that it would be consider "necessary" equipment.

After all of this work, I expect that the Diplomat will be a valuable collector car someday. By then, of course, the water engine and perpetual motion machines will have been perfected, which will make the Dippy seem positively quaint, don't you think?

...

Rick Moranis, in an interview with a trade magazine called Sound and Vision, talks about being a radio DJ in Toronto:

Back in 1976, I had a conversation with a listener that taught me more about listeners and listening habits than anything else I came across in radio. The most requested song was "Stairway to Heaven." And every time I answered the request line, it seemed, the request would always be "Stairway to Heaven." ...


One day, I was actually playing it on the radio, and I picked up the request line and said, "CHUM-FM." And the guy on the line said, "Yeah, can you play Stairway to Heaven'?"


I said, "I'm playing it."


And he said, "I know. Can you play it again?"


I said, "Let me ask you a question. You love Stairway to Heaven,' right?"


"Yeah, it's my favorite song."


"And I bet you own a copy of it, don'tcha?"


And he said, "Of course I own a copy."


So I said, "Well, why don't you just put it on and listen to it?"


And he said, "Because I want to hear it on the radio."


As someone who has occasionally answered radio station request lines, I can sympathize. In fact, I think I talked to the same guy a few weeks ago. If we didn't have "Stairway," he said, "Freebird" was acceptable.

Another of my favorite listener questions is: "Can I make a request? What kind of music are you playing right now?" Well, duh, since you're obviously not listening to our station, sure I'll play your request, dipwad.

A personal highlight was the lady who called and asked, "Do you know the request line number for (our competition)?" Yes, and I'm sure Sears will gladly give you the phone number for your nearest Target store.

Here are some more stupid listener questions, courtesy of KRUD.com.

...

Tomorrow: Reader mail, including a request for information about the old White Elephant nightclub out in White Oak.



Search Tube City Online

Custom Search
XML: RSS FeedXML: Atom Feed
Posted at 12:00 am by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
Filed Under: default | two comments | Link To This Entry | Add to Technorati Favorites

Archives

Next Archive

Previous Archive