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Filed Under: default || By jt3y

February 28, 2006 | Link to this story

Don't Tell The UAE We've Got a Marina

Category: default || By jt3y

This isn't a place for discussion of national politics, because there are enough places on the Internet where you can get uninformed commentary on that. I try to confine my uninformed commentary to the Mon-Yough area.

But, the Tube City Almanac's National Affairs Desk has been following the Dubai ports kerfuffle with interest.

The President's supporters are accusing Democrats and those Republicans who object to the deal of being "racists." Says Alert Reader Jonathan, "Mickey Kaus wrote that Bush's response to legitimate concerns about this deal has basically been 'shut up, hicks.' He notes that it used to be Democrats who cried racism when they were losing an argument. It doesn't work any better for Republicans. (Especially when it used against other Republicans.)"

I'm inclined to agree with that. I have nothing against the people of Dubai (Dubians? Dubaites?) or any of the other emirates that make up the UAE. My problem is with the government of the UAE.

Sure, according to the Bush Administration, the UAE is helping us fight what the President calls "the war on turr." But available evidence indicates that Al Qaeda has been using the UAE as a financial and operational basis, and the UAE has either been unable or unwilling to stop this. Why should we turn over control of six major deep-water U.S. sea ports to them?

Some people are saying that a foreign company --- based in the UK --- is already running these ports. They ask, what difference does it make if that company gets sold?

Ah, but the company is not being sold to some publicly traded multinational --- it's being sold to a company controlled by the emir of Dubai. To me, that makes a big difference.

The analogy I would use is this: Imagine it's 1983. The company that runs six U.S. ports is being sold to a company controlled by East Germany. Do you think the Reagan administration would have gone for that?

Do you think Ronnie would have wanted the Stasi having access to our shipping information? Do you think someone might have been concerned that someone in the company would share sensitive information with the Soviet Union? I think they would have.

An emirate is not a democracy. It seems to me that if the emir of Dubai, for instance, wanted to rid his emirate of terrorists, he'd see to it.

Anyway, enough of that. I don't plan to comment again unless Dubai Ports World takes control of something in the Mon-Yough area. Say, the Mon Valley Speedboat Club or the McKees Point Marina. (Although that might mean we could get some decent Middle Eastern food Downtown, which would be a selling point, I think.)

And meanwhile, back here at home, it was wildly inappropriate for the county to erect this sign on the Jerome Avenue Bridge yesterday, and I hope someone will lodge a strongly worded protest with whoever it is that receives strongly worded protests:


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February 24, 2006 | Link to this story

A Proud Moment For Our Fair City

Category: default || By jt3y

This just in: At this hour, "the temporary" John McIntire is devoting his entire KDKA (1020) talk show to last night's incident at the Downtown GetGo.

McIntire says Our Fair City has the potential to become "the fake severed penis capital of the United States."

I'm trying to envision that painted on the side of the police cars and the fire trucks, and I'm just not seeing it.

McIntire is speculating that this couple was actually using the patented "Whizzinator," a device designed to simulate the human male member which can be filled with urine and used to beat drug tests.

I have just reviewed the products on the Whizzinator website, and now, I have to run off and wash my eyes out with bleach.

You know, I never thought I'd hear an hour-long discussion about McKeesport and fake penii on KDKA, formerly the radio home of "Uncle Ed" Schaughency, Ed and Wendy King, Rege Cordic, Sterling Yates and Mike Levine. On WEDO, sure, but not on KDKA.

Meanwhile, and I am not making this up, Giant Eagle management is assuring the public that --- in the interest of cleanliness --- the microwave used to warm up the fake organ in question has been discarded.

We can sleep soundly; our long, national nightmare is over.

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Posted at 9:41 pm by jt3y | Click here and put your ad on Tube City Almanac!
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February 24, 2006 | Link to this story

I Wish It Was An Oscar Mayer Weiner

Category: default || By jt3y

(Editor's Note: See update below.)

Some mornings I wake up and have absolutely nothing to write about (which you've no doubt noticed if you've been here more than once).

Other days, I wake up, turn on the radio, and the good Lord just drops a topic right into my ... well, my lap.

This, as reported by KDKA-TV, is what happens when we don't have a decent restaurant Downtown:

Authorities are now investigating a strange incident in McKeesport. Someone brought a severed male body part to a GetGo to heat up in the microwave, and now police are trying to find the culprit.

I'll give you two guesses which "male body part" was found. (Hint: It wasn't the pinky toe.) The Post-Gazette, though quoting KDKA, at least correctly identified the offending microwavable delicacy by its medical name, i.e. "the John Thomas."

McKeesport police say a man walked into the store, located on Fifth Avenue, and asked the clerk to use the microwave oven.

After the clerk noticed a strange smell coming from the microwave, she opened the door and discovered human male genitalia cooking inside.

The man ran from the store after she made the discovery. She then called the police. Some people were shocked at the news of the discovery.

"Some" people?

Naturally, I have a lot of questions:

  1. Since when are you allowed to bring outside food into the GetGo?

  2. Did he intend to ask for condiments?

  3. Did he buy it with his Giant Eagle "Advantage" card, and if so, does he have a chance to save money on his next gasoline purchase?

  4. How long did he keep it in the microwave that it started to smell "strange"? (It seems to me that a minute or two would have been sufficient.)

Incidentally, for those of you following along at home, this is the second severed-penis incident from Our Fair City to make the news (I'm holding out the possibility that there were many, many more that the media has covered up) in less than three years.

Nobody asked me, but someone might want to head down to 15th and Market and check the water treatment plant, 'cause something strange is going around.

In a related story, a corporate spokesman tells the Tube City Almanac that plans by GetGo to introduce a "John Wayne Bobbitt Dog" are on indefinite hold.

Although I usually stop at the GetGo at least once a week to get doughnuts, I could probably stand to lay off of those for a while anyway. Certainly my appetite isn't really strong right now.

Nevertheless, I think I speak for all patrons of the store when I say I'm sure glad he didn't ask to use the roller grill.


Update: It turns out that Percy was an impostor, according to the Post-Gazette:

Chief Pero said the woman who was in the store contacted police this morning and said the object was a sex toy filled with urine. Chief Pero said she explained it needed to be heated to body temperature for use in an employment drug screen she needed to take.

Then why did the clerk at GetGo say it smelled "strange"? I would have thought anyone who worked Downtown would be familiar with the smell of stale urine. Just walk past any of the bus shelters and take a big whiff.

There are still many unanswered questions. For instance, why was she taking the drug test using a male appendage? I mean, what the heck kind of a job was she applying for? And why would you heat it up in a microwave? Wouldn't the tester have noticed that the urine being supplied was a little hot? ("Gee, should steam be coming out of there?")

And seriously --- even if you did have to pass a drug test, would you take a plastic willie full of whiz to a convenience store and heat it up in a public microwave? Wouldn't you be a little bit more discreet?

I've said it many times before, but it bears repeating: We are in absolutely no need of our own Mensa chapter in the Mon-Yough area.


To Do This Weekend: The drama club at Community College of Allegheny County's South Campus is presenting scenes from plays by Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, 8 p.m. nightly in the auditorium. A donation is requested. Call (412) 469-6219. ... Also this weekend, South Campus presents the art exhibit "Bounties of Africans & Women: Two Centuries of Progress." Call (412) 237-4653. ... Jitterbug dancing returns to The Palisades ballroom, Fifth Avenue at Water Street, at 8 p.m. Saturday. Call (412) 678-6979.

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February 23, 2006 | Link to this story

We Get Letters

Category: default || By jt3y

I wanna tank all you wunnerful, wunnerful people out inna Internet lent for all offa your wunnerful cards anna letters. Tonight, Joe "Fingers" Carr and "Big Tiny" Little are gonna play a medley of state songs, but first, the orchestra issa gonna do dat ol' Duke Ellington standard, "Take a Train." An-a one an-a two ...

Sorry, I was channelling Lawrence Welk for a second. Let me pause to turn off the bubble machine while Stephanie Ax of Peabody, Kansas, asks:

"Do you have any info or photos of Rankin Wire Mill or Wire-Drawing Department, Braddock Wire Works in Rankin, or Braddock Axle Works. My family (grand father and great grandfather) lived in East McKeesport and worked at these places. I haven't been back to Pennsylvania for almost 30 years and probably won't get another chance to visit."

I can think of several possibilities: The Pennsylvania Department at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh or the Historic American Engineering Record of the National Park Service (which extensively documented U.S. Steel's National Works before it closed).

The Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, home of the Heinz History Center, might also have something in its archives.

Not sure if the Braddock's Field Historical Society can help, but someone there might know something.

Anyone else have suggestions? Write to me, and I'll give you Stephanie's address.


Now, let's have a word for your neighborhood Dodge dealers ... no, wait, on witda show. On a somewhat related topic, David Rosenberg, an archivist at the University of Pittsburgh, writes:

"I came across your interesting site and wonder if you had stumbled across mine? Click on special features, then on 'McKeesport and its Tube Works.' A name index of 12,000 employees at the Tube Works in McKeesport is online there along with much other stuff."

Holy moley, this is wonderful stuff. I have been promising for more than three years to get some National Works data online, and in my recent move, I finally started putting my musty, dusty archives into something resembling an "order." Some day soon, pending work on the book, I'll start scanning my stuff, too. Thanks, David!


Alert Reader Jeff D. writes:

"Don't know if you're familiar with Zack Weisinger. He just won a big award for his guitar playing at the International Blues Convention. (See the link.) He's from West Mifflin, an '05 high school grad and an amazing guitarist. Something for your site?"

It sure is. We Mon-Yough types who like the funky blues have to stick together, you know.

I have a great deal of admiration and envy for people who can write, read and play music. I love music, but don't have a lick of knowledge or talent, and I'm fairly sure that playing the tissue-paper comb or making motorboat sounds with my lips doesn't count.


I know the Super Bowl was two weeks ago, but we haven't gotten over the afterglow yet, have we? (And was it good for you? Sorry.) Anyway, Alert Reader Deane sent along a photo of the Steelers banner on his house.

I'm hoping I can put one of those up on my house for the Pirates some day. Sadly, I don't think the optimism of training camp is going to persist much past June.


The Almanac is non-partisan (we are, however, pro-common sense, pro-working people, and anti-phonies), but several people have written recently to announce their candidacy for office, and we're more than happy to print their messages.

  • Daniel Mator is running for state representative in the 25th Legislative District; he's challenging incumbent Joe Markosek in the primary.

  • Kim Carradine is also running for state House, but in the 38th District, currently represented by Ken Ruffing.

If you're running for office, and would like a link, I'd be happy to mention you here.

And while we are non-partisan, we're also anti-do-nothing politicians who vote themselves big raises while the elderly taxpayers of the Mon-Yough area are eating cat food, so this seems like a good time to remind everyone of just who voted for the big pay raise, and who voted against it.

Remember, all state legislators are up for re-election this year (state senators are only re-elected every six years).

If your legislator voted to line his pockets last summer (and they're all "hims" in the Mon-Yough area), then they obviously think they're worth the money. Encourage them to find a job in the private sector that has the same salary and perks they've given themselves in Harrisburg: Vote 'em out.


How Mon-Yough Legislators Voted on H.B. 1521

House of Representatives

Voting "no": Jim Casorio, Democrat, Irwin; Marc Gergely, Democrat, White Oak; David Levdansky, Democrat, Elizabeth; Harry Readshaw, Democrat, Carrick

Voting "yes": Paul Costa, Democrat, Wilkins Twp.; Pete Daley, Democrat, Coal Center; Joe Markosek, Democrat, Monroeville; Ken Ruffing, Democrat, West Mifflin

Did not vote: Ted Harhai, Democrat, Monessen.

State Senate

Voting "no": Wayne Fontana, Democrat, Brookline; Sean Logan, Democrat, Monroeville; Bob Regola, Republican, Hempfield Twp.

Voting "yes": Jay Costa Jr., Democrat, Forest Hills; J. Barry Stout, Democrat, Bentleyville

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February 22, 2006 | Link to this story

This Disclaimer Will Self-Destruct in Five Minutes

Category: default || By jt3y

A good friend of mine works for a Fortune 500 publicly traded company in Western Pennsylvania. (Having made the decision to actually stay in engineering school instead of deciding to become a newspaper reporter, he also actually makes money, which he uses to buy goods and services, but that's irrelevant.)

Anyway, as we've done on an almost daily basis since high school, we constantly send stupid information and pranks back and forth. Nowadays, however, instead of passing notes, sending vulgar postcards, or leaving snotty messages on each others' answering machines, we send emails.

They usually include really useful stuff, like this webpage where the "Froggy" radio stations are asking people to guess the make, model, year and color of a car that's been crushed into a cube.

But like I said, he works for a Fortune 500 company (I shall call it "Megacorp"), and when he sends this stuff, it comes with the following disclaimer attached:


This message, together with any attachments, may be legally privileged and is confidential information intended only for the use of the individual or entity to which it is addressed. It is exempt from disclosure under applicable law including court orders. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any use, dissemination, distribution or copy of this message, or any attachment, is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please notify the original sender and delete this message, along with any attachments, from your computer.

I suppose I'm breaking all kinds of laws by even quoting the disclaimer, right?

I'm sure this is something that Megacorp's servers attach to all outgoing email, so Megacorp doesn't know whether the email is a letter to a federal regulatory agency, a bid on a multi-million dollar contract, or a link to the website of the "Bumper Dumper" portable outdoor toilet.

Anyway, I've started replying to my friend's emails with confidentiality notices of my own, like this one:


This message, together with any bulls--t disclaimers, is completely insane, and may be confidential information intended for people who own Members Only jackets. Also, if the lawyers at Megacorp think that their stupid disclaimer exempts them from a court order, then they're dumber than a bagful of hammers, and the management should fire the entire f--king legal department. If you have received this message in error, then I feel very sorry for you, so please notify the original sender and delete this message, along with any attachments, then delete your hard drive.

Or this one:

This message, together with any artichokes, contains tiny electrons, neutrons and protons, and zips through the Interweb at the speed of light. It may also contain not more than five percent mouse turds by volume. It is exempt from court orders, the laws of physics, Newton's third law of thermodynamics, and the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. I'm really glad I'm not a f--king lawyer, because if I had to sit around and write stupid s--t like this all day, I'd get a rope, find a tree, and end it.

I'll admit that these are not subtle examples of wit in the class of Dorothy Parker and E.B. White, but they're the best I can do on short notice.

And now, if you'll excuse me, there are several attorneys from Megacorp here. It seems they want to remove those emails from my memory, using hypnosis, ancient meditation techniques, and a baseball bat.


On a somewhat related topic, at the same time the Bush administration was giving its official "okey-dokey" to the transfer of several American transoceanic ports to the United Arab Emirates, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (motto: "We do so know what we're doing") was conducting an anti-terrorism drill on its computers.

And what, pray tell, is one of the gravest terrorist threats to this great nation, according to our sworn upholders of law and justice?

Bloggers, says The Associated Press:

The government concluded its "Cyber Storm" wargame Friday, its biggest-ever exercise to test how it would respond to devastating attacks over the Internet from anti-globalization activists, underground hackers and bloggers.


Participants confirmed parts of the worldwide simulation challenged government officials and industry executives to respond to deliberate misinformation campaigns and activist calls by Internet bloggers, online diarists whose "Web logs" include political rantings and musings about current events.

Just so we're clear: The official position of the United States is that we face no danger if we turn over control of six important ports to a country which has been described as the financial hub of Osama bin Laden's terrorism network.

But it does face a serious threat from a 19-year-old girl in North Versailles who's ranting about the President, her cat, her job at Starbucks and last night's episode of "Smallville" on her LiveJournal.

Georgie, you're doin' a heckuva job.

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February 21, 2006 | Link to this story

These Voting Machines Don't Add Up

Category: default || By jt3y

About 90 percent of Americans have a checking or savings account, according to the Federal Reserve Bank and the FDIC. How many would be happy if they no longer received a statement, either in paper on online? And if the bank no longer gave them a receipt for their deposits?

"We're bankers," the bank would say. "Of course you can trust us."

I'm guessing a lot of people would start burying their money in mayonaisse jars under the back porch.

Or what if your company stopped itemizing your paychecks?

"We're doing your deductions accurately," your boss would say. "Don't worry. We'd never cheat you. Honest."

Bet you wouldn't work there very long.

So why would you want to vote on a voting machine that leaves no records and can never be checked?

In the wake of the 2000 Florida election debacle, the U.S. Congress rammed through legislation outlawing several kinds of voting machines, including the old lever machines popular in Western Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania officials have given blanket approvals to only three types of voting machines for use in the state --- eight others have been certified "with restrictions."

None of the approved machines leave a paper trail that can be audited. All of them use proprietary software that, for competitive reasons, the companies will not release for public inspection.

The feds have offered millions of dollars to Allegheny, Westmoreland and other counties to upgrade their voting machines --- but only if they jump and approve one of these "black box" systems right now.

This is a little like the car salesman who says that if you don't buy today, you're not going to get that super low price and the big factory rebate. And as you drive off the lot in your new chariot, you notice that the seat hurts your back and that the A/C smells like a cat with a weak bladder.

Conspiracy theorists are het up about this because two of the companies pushing these voting machines --- Diebold Inc. and ES&S --- have close ties to the Republican Party. The CEO of Diebold was one of the biggest fund-raisers for President Bush's re-election effort in Ohio in 2004, and promised to "deliver" that state to the Republicans. Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Hegel of Nebraska is the former chairman of ES&S's parent company, and still a major investor.

And Diebold and ES&S are the only two companies that have bid on the contract to replace Allegheny County's voting machines.

Personally, I don't see conspiracy here. I see incompetence and a rush to judgment. But I can understand why the conspiracy theorists have plenty of ammunition --- it's funny how all of the decisions are benefiting the party in power.

I'm less worried about the possibility of Diebold or ES&S trying to fix an election than I am about their machines going flooie and miscounting or not counting a bunch of votes. Most of these systems run on Windows-based computers, and it seems like every week, some new security flaw is found in Windows.

I wouldn't want a Windows-based computer doing anything critical --- imagine having a Windows-based pacemaker, for instance: "The application right_ventricle.exe has committed a fatal error and has shut down. The right atrium is in use by an unknown device. Abort, retry, bury?"

I guess the question is, do you trust Bill Gates with your democracy? (Personally, I don't trust him with my checkbook or my photos of the Dayton Hamvention, but that's me.)

The lever machines we use now are a lot of things --- 40 years old, complicated to maintain, large to store and heavy to transport. But they also work something like an old mechanical adding machine; when you pull the levers and press the button to record your vote, they print out a running tally on a long paper receipt. (That's what all the noise and clanking of gears means.) It also clicks up the totals on a mechanical counter.

So long as the machine doesn't run out of paper or ink, or jam, it will constantly record the votes. The paper record allows it to be audited later on for accuracy. And even if the power goes off, big levers allow the machines to be hand-cranked.

I'm not arguing for keeping those beasts, by the way. But I find it astonishing that in a country where you can go to Sheetz, order an MTO hoagie via the computer, and get a receipt confirming your toppings, that we can't seem to build a reliable electronic voting machine that leaves a paper trail.

It also astonishes me that more Pennsylvanians aren't upset about this. It's not too complicated to understand. It affects every single registered voter in the state, let alone the nation.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato is planning to announce his "preferred vendor" at tonight's county council meeting. Since both systems the county is considering are lousy, this is like deciding how you'd prefer to die --- suffocation or eaten by alligators?

Democrats and some Republicans are planning to pass a motion tonight directing the county's Board of Elections to consider other alternatives.

That's got Onorato steamed (I heard him interviewed on the radio the other day, and he sounded madder'n a wet hen) because the county could lose $12 million in federal cash if it doesn't buy the new machines this month.

But I tend to agree with Republican Councilman Vince Gastgeb, who tells the Post-Gazette, "If you make a mistake, it's going to cost a lot more than $12 million."

Yeah --- it could cost your favorite candidate (Democrat, Republican, or Whig, for that matter) an election some day.

Email or phone your county councilman or councilwoman today and urge them to support this motion.

In Our Fair City, Dravosburg, Duquesne, Elizabeth, Elizabeth Township, Forward Township, Glassport, Liberty, Lincoln, Port Vue, South Versailles Township, Versailles, West Mifflin and White Oak, it's Jay Jabbour ( or 412-350-6565).

In Braddock, Braddock Hills, Chalfant, East McKeesport, Monroeville, North Braddock, North Versailles Township, Pitcairn, Rankin, Swissvale, Trafford, Turtle Creek, Wall, Whitaker and Wilmerding, it's Dr. Chuck Martoni ( or 412-350-6560).

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February 17, 2006 | Link to this story

Good Evening, Mr. and Miss Anthropy

Category: default || By jt3y

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today. (Actually, there is no right side of the bed for me.)

So here's a few nice, hot steaming cups of cynicism for you today, served up with a big dollop of sarcasm and nastiness ... just the way you like it!


Homestead Borough Council is investigating possibilities for the construction of a new municipal building, report the P-G and the Valley Mirror. Currently, borough offices are housed in the Steel Valley Council of Governments Building --- formerly Homestead High School. (Everyone except the police, who are down in the old post office.)

Let me get this straight. Homestead Borough is an Act 47 financially distressed community, and has been since 1994. The property taxes are 10.5 mills, higher than any neighboring community: Munhall's taxes, for example, are 7.75 mills, West Mifflin's are 5.27, West Homestead's are 9.31, Whitaker's are 8.43. The borough also socks residents with a 1.1 percent wage tax instead of the usual 0.5 percent.

But Homestead Borough Council is thinking about taking on more debt by building or buying a new town hall. Does that make a lot of sense to you?

Me neither.

Since all of the municipalities that encompass The Waterfront gave the developers a big tax giveback to entice the shopping development to the Steel Valley, perhaps Homestead should also for office space there at a free or reduced rate.

Ah! But perhaps Homestead Council has a bit of an edifice complex these days, 'cause West Homestead just built a nice, new borough building.

Well, if they like West Homestead's borough building, why don't they just rent space there? It's literally a few blocks from the Homestead Borough line. Better yet, why don't they seek a merger with West Homestead?

Or ... maybe borough officials could build a monument to their own importance and send the bill to the few remaining taxpayers.

That's just me. I've been told before that I have an attitude problem.


Speaking of Homestead: Because of two fatal accidents and a bunch of near-misses, the borough is closing the Amity Street railroad crossing for cars leaving The Waterfront. All traffic must now exit via the notoriously jammed-up "flyover bridge" at the Rankin end of the complex, or onto the Homestead High-Level Bridge near the Loews movie theater.

I've said it before, and I will say it again: There is a special place in hell reserved for the so-called "engineers" who designed the access roads to The Waterfront.


Still plenty of free parking at Olympia Shopping Center in McKeesport, by the way, and easy access from Walnut Street and Route 48. I'm just sayin', is all.


The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee Lynn Swann is "proud" of his voting record, despite skipping 20 of the last 36 elections, and "despite once criticizing people who do not exercise their right to vote."

According to the Allentown Morning Call, when reporters tried to question him about his voting record yesterday, he walked away from them.

A spokesman says Swann was "running late" for a fund-raising event. Nice to see his priorities are in order.


Families of children in the Duquesne City School District are "not convinced" that closing the high school, and sending the children elsewhere, would be the best educational option, wrote Karen Roebuck recently in the Tribune-Review.

What would convince them? Duquesne has been under state control as a financially and academically distressed district since 2000. The board of control has already eliminated nearly every extracurricular activity in the district to save money.

Meanwhile, the state has to use sonar and post-hole diggers to measure the test scores for some of the kids, and the graduation rate is abysmal.

Instead of working for the best educational opportunities for the kids, however, the parents are attacking the messengers; mainly, state Sen. Sean Logan, who may introduce legislation to dissolve the school district.

Grow up, folks. Logan deserves a big "atta-boy" for speaking the unpopular truth.

On the other hand, nothing but scorn should be reserved for the officials of the surrounding school districts who are running and hiding rather than open their doors to Duquesne's students. They can make up whatever excuses they like, but to me, it stinks.

And anyone who lives in the Mon-Yough area can fill in the blanks as to the real reasons why the neighboring school districts are hiding.


Finally, from the Tube City Almanac National Affairs Desk: The Kenedy County Sheriff's Department has concluded its inquiry into the accidental shooting of attorney Harry Whittington by Vice President Dick Cheney.

According to the Houston Chronicle, "'The report is out, and no charges will be filed against anybody, and that's it,' said Sheriff Ramon Salinas III, who left his office without answering further questions."

Afterward, he and Barney went over to Floyd's Barber Shop, where they got ready for their dates with Miss Crump and Thelma Lou.

Points to ponder: Kenedy County has a population of only 400 people. So I'm presuming --- perhaps unfairly --- that the Kenedy County Sheriff's Department doesn't exactly rival New Scotland Yard in its crime detection prowess. And the ranch where Cheney and Whittington were hunting is some 50,000 acres, and is owned by one of the area's most prominent (and wealthiest) families.

Now, I'm not suggesting that the Vice President of the United States should be handcuffed, slammed into the back of a squad car, and whisked away to the station to be interrogated under the hot lights. (At least not for this incident.)

But am I the only one who suspects that this inquiry by Sheriff Salinas might not have been ... erm, how do I say this? ... the most strenuous police investigation ever conducted?


Don't I ever write anything nice? Sure. Right here:

To Do This Weekend: Carnegie Free Library of Braddock, 419 Library St., celebrates Black History Month and Presidents' Day this Saturday starting at 11 a.m. Events include stories for kids, crafts, and creation of a unity wreath. Call (412) 351-5357 ... The Kiger-Brannon Band brings their Southern-fried rock sound to Beemer's on West Fifth Avenue tonight at 9:30. Call (412) 678-7400.

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February 16, 2006 | Link to this story

On Top of the News in the 51 Corridor

Category: default || By jt3y

I haven't seen this widely reported, but the owners of the Daily News have purchased the 51 Corridor, the fledgling weekly newspaper serving the Brentwood-Baldwin-Pleasant Hills area. An old classmate of mine, Brian Krasman, has been named the editor.

Congratulations to Brian and the News staff are in order, and I hope the News is able to make it a roaring success. The addition of new content (much of it repackaged News stories, but some of it exclusive to the Corridor) has already improved what had been a fairly motley looking paper.

I've also noticed the News is picking up stories about Westmoreland County from its sister paper, the Latrobe Bulletin. I can only say that's a good move, too, especially if the News wants to hold onto --- and expand --- its sales in North Huntingdon, West Newton, and elsewhere.

Anything that ensures the News' long-term survival is a good thing for Our Fair City and the Mon-Yough area.

One suggestion which may or may not be worth the newsstand price of a 51 Corridor: The mailing address is now the same as the Daily News', zip code and all. That is not going to fly with people from Brentwood, Baldwin, etc., who think they're Pittsburghers. They (foolishly, say I) want nothing to do with Our Fair City.

So, I would strongly recommend that the News at the very least open a post-office box in Brentwood. Better yet, they should put some "drop boxes" for community announcements, ad copy, etc., at each of the local businesses along Brownsville Road, and put a small sales office in a prominent location along Route 51.

Ditto for the phone number ... call the number now listed in the 51 Corridor, and a pleasant voice answers, "Thank you for calling The Daily News." Smarter to get a Pittsburgh phone number and, at the very least, have it forwarded to McKeesport, where it can be answered appropriately "51 Corridor, may I help you?"

It's free advice, and worth every penny!

What can I say ... I nag because I care. Is that so wrong?

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February 16, 2006 | Link to this story

Yinzers Of The World, Unite!

Category: default || By jt3y

I'm working on a couple of rally cries. Anyone want to help?

"Say it loud! I'm a yinzer and I'm proud!"

"Let your yinz flag fly free, jagoffs!"

"We're here! We're yinzers! Get used to it n'at!"

"If it says yinzer yinzer yinzer on the label label label, you will like it like it like it on the table table table!"

(That last one needs work.)

At the risk of unleashing an avalanche of angry email and comments (given the size of the Almanac's audience, it would be more like a "shovelful"), I'm going to stand up and embrace the "yinzer" label.

The world of online correspondence and essaying ("blogging," a word I despise, sounds like something you do after drinking 12 bottles of Stoney's) is insular enough as it is, so I don't like to write too much about things that are happening at other people's websites.

But Professor Mike Madison, proprietor of Pittsblog, got shellacked last week after he used the word "yinzer" in a headline about the Steelers. ('Scuse me ... the Stillers.)

Instantly, the great vengeance and furious anger of the Stiller Nation swooped down and smote (smited? smat?) Madison:

Mike, I guess I shouldn't expect you to know this, but many Pittsburghers consider "yinzer" to be a classist, offensive word. It's a pejorative word that makes "jagoff" seem tame in comparison.

I'd equate Yinzer with Hick, just with different colloquial attributes. Neither's nice, so I prefer 'Burgher.

(Almanac aside: "Burgher"? Oh, spare me. That's as dumb as the idiotic "It's a 'Burgh Thing" ad campaign done by Iron City Beer a few years ago. Perhaps you've heard their new campaign: "Not paying your sewerage bill? It's a 'Burgh Thing.")

I once met someone who was from Mt. Lebo, who upon hearing where I was from, said, "Oh you really are a yinzer". For what it's worth, I didn't take it as a compliment.

How does it make you feel that your most commented on post is regarding a regional term for rednecks?

For what it's worth, I've never heard anyone use the term "yinzer" in a complementary way.

I would like to point out how inflammatory it is to people from Pittsburgh to call them Yinzers. I feel as if this is similar to in communities of Compton or Bed-Stuy where if you drop the N word and are not one you get shot -- the same should be said in Pittsburgh with the Y word.

On that last one, now, really, please. You're being sarcastic, right? If not, let's try a little experiment. Let's take a trip to a bar in Our Fair City or Duquesne or Munhall some night and talk to the people inside. I'll call someone a "yinzer" and you call someone an "N-word."

But first, let me know where you'd like your remains sent.

Do you ever get the impression that Picksbergers are just a teensy, weensy, itsy-witsy bit too concerned with their image? Is there a major metropolitan city more obsessed with its marketing perception than the Picksberg area (some of us consider it "Greater McKeesport")?

Evidence? Some columnist from Denver shot off his typewriter about Picksberg, and people didn't react to the obvious fabrications and errors --- they got incensed that he didn't like their town. Boo-hoo! They sent him insults and death threats.

An economic development guy from Detroit (economic development in Detroit ... ha! ha!) said the Motor City is "a lot closer to the lattes and laptops of Seattle than to the Rust Belt of Pittsburgh" --- and was forced by angry Steelers fans to apologize.

(By the way, I'm a regular reader of two fine online journals by Detroit-area residents --- one by the anonymous writer known only as "Detroitblog" and the other by former newspaper columnist Nancy Nall. If what they say is true --- and I suspect it is --- than Detroit is "close to the lattes and laptops of Seattle" like the Versailles Borough Building is close to the Palace of Versailles.)

And then there's the yinzer tempest in an web-pot.


Picksbergers, get a life. Why do you care what someone who's never been to this area thinks of it?

Businesses looking to relocate somewhere are not turned off of this region by the lack of an effective image campaign, or by its steel-making heritage.

Oh, they may be turned off by our 19th century transportation system, our patchwork quilt of competing municipalities and economic development agencies, and our byzantine tax code, but the fact that some schmuck from Denver, Detroit or Dubuque slags off Pittsburgh isn't the deciding factor as to whether an entrepreneur decides to locate a business here. (If it is, the entrepreneur isn't much of one.)

And you know what? All of you people upset because the guy from Denver called Pittsburgh "butt-ugly"?

Well, take a look at some of the litter tossed out of car windows by Pittsburghers --- not by residents of Denver --- along the major highways leading into the city. I have never seen so much litter anywhere else but Western Pennsylvania, with the possible exception of along the New Jersey Turnpike leading into New York City --- and that is not a flattering comparison.

Take a look at the weeds and dirt that have accumulated along some of our local bridge ramps and overpasses (the mess under the Whitaker side of the Rankin Bridge, for instance, is appalling).

Or take a look at the abandoned houses and buildings that dot the neighborhoods of the Mon-Yough area.

You know what I call those things? Butt-ugly. Instead of writing nasty letters to newspaper columnists, how about a few (not nasty) letters to your elected representatives?

Instead of calling Fred Honsberger to vent on the radio, how about calling the Allegheny County Department of Public Works or local PennDOT district office?

And instead of going to Steelers rallies, how about attending your next borough council or township commissioners' meeting? (Don't know when or where it is? Email me, and I'll find out for you. 'Cause that's the kind of public-service minded guy your Almanac editor is.)

Personally, I wonder how many people are offered a job around here, fly into town, and have to stare at piles of trash along the Parkway East, or have to drive past boarded-up, burned out buildings on Eighth Avenue in Homestead, and think that's Pittsburgh, and go home thinking, "There is no way in hell I am moving here."

In other words: You want to improve Pittsburgh's image? Then improve Pittsburgh. No amount of chamber-of-commerce puffery is going to pick up the empty pop cans and coffee cups along Lysle Boulevard.


As for the "yinzer" label, I first heard that 15 years ago in college, used as a playful insult by people from Noo Yawk and Noo Joisey. I just helpfully pointed out that if anyone knows about talking funny, it's people from Noo Yawk and Noo Joisey.

Geez, people, develop a thicker skin. Do people from Noo Yawk get enraged when outsiders don't like Noo Yawk? Gedoutahere. Fuggedaboutit.

As a yinzer, I don't mind being called a "yinzer." Heck, as a person of Slavic descent, I don't even mind being called a "hunky."

So, I refuse to get agitated about "yinzer." As a matter of fact, I take it as a matter of pride that Pittsburgh has a unique regional dialect. Few metro areas can claim that --- what's the regional dialect of Columbus, Ohio, for instance? Or Indianapolis? Or Seattle? You've got to be playing in the big leagues, like Noo Yawk, Chicago, Philly and Detroit, to claim your own regional accent.

By the way, if the experience of comedians like Jim Krenn and Buzz Nutley is accurate, then most Pittsburghers fully embrace their yinzerdom. Writes Scott Mervis in the Post-Gazette, nothing makes Pittsburghers laugh harder than jokes about Pittsburgh: "'You can never go wrong with jokes about the accent,' says local comic Auggie Cook. 'Just look at how well Jimmy Krenn has done with [his character] Stanley P. Kachowski.'"

Besides, there are many worse things to be called than "yinzer." "Clevelander," for instance. (Rimshot.)


P.S. By the way, I mentioned that columnist from Denver. It turns out that the Almanac has helped wrangle a sort-of apology from the Rocky Mountain News, according to Westword, an alternative weekly in the mile-high city:

There are so many things wrong with "Shot-and-Beer Pittsburgh Froths at Mouth," a January 18 effort by Rocky Mountain News columnist Bill Johnson, that counting them all would require a calculator with the power of a nuclear reactor -- but one stands out above the rest. Johnson described driving past a dude wearing a dress and holding a sign reading "I BET AGAINST THE STEELERS," but it turns out that this scene, which starred Pittsburgh-area resident Mike Gerrity, took place before Johnson was even in town. He actually saw it on a television news broadcast, as the Rocky acknowledged in a February 3 correction. ...

Several of Johnson's online detractors considered this part of his narrative to be a straightforward fabrication, and it's tough to dispute their logic.

Johnson doesn't bother to try, at least not in this venue. He sent Westword an e-mail stating that he had "nothing to say" beyond comments already provided by Rocky editor/publisher/president John Temple. For his part, Temple believes that the correction was an "appropriate" way to address Johnson's actions, which he sees as "sloppy" rather than devious. "I take it very seriously," he said, "and Bill does, too."

And nobody takes it as seriously as us yinzers! Today we redd up Picksberg, tomorrow, we redd up journalism! Because let's face it: It needs cleaned-up.

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February 13, 2006 | Link to this story

An Explanation

Category: default || By jt3y

Sorry for the lack of Almanac updates lately. I thought I just had the flu, but in reality, my doctor says I was accidentally shot by Dick Cheney. The symptoms are very similar, I guess.

An update is coming soon, I promise. Expect it to arrive well before the Greensburg-Findlay Township maglev, the Mon-Fayette Expressway, or those luxury condos that Regis Possino is promising to put in The People's Building.

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February 10, 2006 | Link to this story

‘My Name is Judge’

Category: default || By jt3y

This has nothing to do with the Mon-Yough area, the Steelers or any of the crappy half-baked themes ... er, fine, fine, quality content ... that have always been hallmarks of the Tube City Almanac.

And I have absolutely no intention of turning this into a pop culture website, because there are already many fine, fine quality pages ... er, I mean crappy, half-baked blogs ... that write too much about pop culture, or what passes for it.

On the other hand, I was a TV critic for a brief time (I think it was like 10 minutes), so I'm obviously just as shallow as anyone else.

Anyway, I have just finished watching what are probably the last four episodes of "Arrested Development" to air on the Fox Television Network (like David Letterman, I still want to giggle when I say that), and I think it may be some time before my pants dry out.

Fox, showing its usual support for any show that requires more brain power than "The World's Wildest Police Chases XIV," dumped the episodes on tonight with virtually no advertising or promotion. I only realized they were airing when I saw the TV listings in tonight's Daily News, and made it home just in time to see them. They might have been the funniest 88 minutes of current television I've seen in five, maybe 10 years.

I'm not going to repeat the jokes to you, because "Arrested Development" is definitely an acquired taste, and it took me several months to acquire it ... and if you haven't been watching the show, the jokes wouldn't make much sense.

Most of the jokes on "Arrested Development" weren't snappy one-liners. They were driven by characters and dialogue. (And frankly, "Arrested Development" might have become a little bit too self-referential over the past few months --- catering to its hard-core fan base. But for the fans, that has made the jokes all the sharper, and the acting has been superb, as usual.)

During the show, Fox ran promos for some of its new fine, fine quality shows, some of which will be filling the spots on the schedule that "Arrested Development" aired in. (I say "spots," because this show has moved more times than Mayflower. Is it any wonder that it couldn't find an audience? You needed a subscription to TV Week, an astrolabe and a Sherpa guide just to find it.)

One of the new Fox comedies is about a college graduate who moves back in with his parents. In hilarious scenes from hilarious upcoming episodes, he finds his best friend dating his aunt! He walks in on his parents when they're having sex! Ha ha ha ha ha! Can't you feel the hilarity already?

Me neither.

Another new Fox sitcom is about a young man and his wacky friends working for a wacky airline! Wacky, wacky, wacky! The guy who played Bookman, the library cop on "Seinfeld," also stars!

I smell "Emmy"! Or, possibly, "cancelled in a month!" It's hard to tell; I'm not quite over the flu yet.

You may have not have liked "Arrested Development," and that's fine. But years from now, people are going to look back on this little show like they look back on other relatively shortlived cult TV shows --- "WKRP in Cincinnati," for instance --- and say, "wait a minute ... they canceled this, and kept 'Everybody Loves Raymond' and 'According to Jim' on for years?"

Yes, yes, they did. Of course, "Everybody Loves Raymond" attracted millions of viewers every week. I'll bet that millions of people every week also enjoy biting their own toenails off. I'm not one of them.

Seriously ... "Everybody Loves Raymond," people?

Sure, "Arrested Development" may wind up on Showtime, but I'm sorry, I still get a pain in my wallet area when I think about paying for TV shows, and those pains shoot from my chest out into my arms when I think about paying for premium channels, so I'll just pass, thanks. (And a report in the Detroit Free Press today indicates that deal has probably fallen through, and that the producers are ready to toss in the towel.)

So long, Bluths. Sadly, we may never learn if the Saddam Hussein on trial right now in Iraq is the real Saddam Hussein ... or the "no scar" Saddam. But at least Jason Bateman has finally learned the truth about his sister, Justine. And I guess that's what really counts, right?

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February 09, 2006 | Link to this story

Super Bowl Wrap-Up

Category: default || By jt3y

In the wake of the Steelers' victory in the Super Bowl, I took a little break for a few days to catch the flu. On Tuesday morning, I briefly considered checking myself into a funeral home, but I got better.

Someone asked me if he was a "bad Pittsburgher" because he didn't feel any sense of pride or accomplishment in the Steelers' win. Well, since he didn't actually suit up and play on Sunday, I'm thinking: No.

I don't feel any sense of pride or accomplishment, either. I was extremely happy that they won, and I felt very good seeing Dan Rooney and Bill Cowher holding the Vince Lombardi trophy. Given some of the alternatives (the Irsays? Al Davis of the Raiders? Art Modell, formerly of the Browns/Ravens?), I prefer Rooney, and it's about time he had a trophy of his own --- the others belong to the Chief, after all.

I was also happy that the Steelers --- largely free of scandals (and Minnesota Vikings, I'm looking at you) --- won. I mean, would you rather see Jerome Bettis hoisting that trophy or Terrell Owens? Overall, this seems like a settled, well-behaved and decent group of guys, and it's gratifying to see that nice guys do finish first sometimes.

OK, so Roethlisberger's got a wild streak, and Porter leads the league in trash-talking, but basically, the Steelers come off as a team of regular people and seem unusually well-spoken for pro athletes. Ward and Bettis in particular have second careers waiting for them in the media; they're better already than a lot of so-called professional TV journalists.

But pride? Accomplishment? What did I accomplish? I'm happy for the Steelers. Isn't that enough?

Also, do I think it's "great" for the region, as some of the talking heads are arguing? Well, it's not harmful for the city. But I didn't see where the price of a gallon of milk dropped on Monday, nor did my taxes go down. Duquesne City School District is still on the verge of dismemberment. The Homestead High-Level Bridge is still falling down.

And when the Steelers were winning all of those championships in the '70s, it didn't save the steel industry in the Mon Valley. Four Super Bowls didn't keep our family and our neighbors from having to line up for government cheese.

Great for the region? Eh. It's a sugar rush. Once it fades, what do you have? An upset stomach and a headache.

Speaking of the 1970s Steelers, can we stop talking about them now? Thanks. I think the current Steelers would appreciate that, too.

Also, would it kill the Pirates to go .500 this year? I'm not asking for a World Series. Just don't lose more games than you win. Please? Pretty please?

We'll work on the Penguins (who after all, have two Stanley Cups since the last Pirates World Series win) next year.


Sunday night, after the game, I took a quick spin through Our Fair City and the suburbs to see what celebrations might be ongoing.

It might have been the first time since ... well, since the last Steelers Super Bowl win ... that there was a traffic jam Downtown on a Sunday night. Lots of people leaning out of car windows or sticking up out of sunroofs, spinning Terrible Towels. And when one Terrible Towel waver met another, of course, they started honking their horns at each other. (Sometimes they even honked the car's horn. Heigh-yo!)

It's been 26 years. How do you put it into perspective? The last time the Steelers won the Super Bowl:

--- U.S. Steel's National Works was coming off one of its best years, having shipped thousands of tons of pipe to Alaska and Texas, where oil speculators were trying to cash in on the energy crisis.

--- Its sister plant, Duquesne Works, was four years away from winning U.S. Steel's "Ironmaster" award for breaking a bunch of production records ... it would close before the ink was dry on the souvenir jackets.

--- Other steelmaking facilities in the city included Fort Pitt Steel Casting in Christy Park and Firth-Sterling in the East End. (Both had about another year to go.)

--- Cox's and Jaison's department stores were still in business Downtown. So were two five-and-10s (Murphy's and Green's), several shoe stores, National Record Mart, Wander Sales, Kelly and Cohen, and several jewelry stores --- off the top of my head (which is an odd place for a jewelry store), Goodman's, Morrow's and Gala's.

--- Downtown also had two functional hotels --- the McKeesport Sheraton and the Penn-McKee.

--- The old 15th Avenue Bridge was still open, and would be for another nine years.

--- Besides the Daily News, Mon-Yough residents were also reading the Pittsburgh Press, the Monongahela Daily Herald, the Irwin Standard-Observer and the Jeannette News-Dispatch. (The Homestead Daily Messenger had abruptly closed a year earlier, while the Jeannette "News-Disgrace" would limp along for another year.)

--- Century III Mall was only a year old. Eastland Mall still boasted Gimbels, Penney's and Woolworth's. (And Wiener World, as Alert Sometime Reader Dan always reminds me.)

What else was different in 1980 that I'm forgetting? Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments below.

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February 06, 2006 | Link to this story

Super Super Super Super Super

Category: default || By jt3y

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February 03, 2006 | Link to this story

A Message From The Tube City Tiger

Category: default || By jt3y

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February 02, 2006 | Link to this story

I Wonder As I Wander

Category: default || By jt3y

Bob Massie Toyota out on Route 48 has on display a bright yellow Scion xB SUV --- that's the little truck that looks like the box a Mini Cooper comes in --- with Steelers stickers on the doors.

I wonder how much Pittsburgh steel they're using in Japanese cars these days. My guess is not too much.

Gee, thanks, Bob Massie --- I almost think that's a jinx.


Meanwhile, according to Alert Sometime Reader Dan, one door away at the headquarters of King's Family Restaurants there's a sign: "Seattle's going to need a pity party." That's a reference to the "frownie" brownies that King's introduced a few months ago --- a six-pack is called a "pity party" --- and the brownies themselves are spoofs of Eat'n Park's "smiley" cookies.

They're good brownies, by the way. I'm not sure if they're worth 99 cents a piece, but considering that you'd pay more than that for stale pre-packaged cupcakes at the gas station, I suppose they are.


Bob at Subdivided We Stand reprinted the lyrics to the "Steelers Polka" by Jimmy "Jimmy Pol" Psihoulis the other day. I still think it's the best of all the Steelers fight songs. My favorite lyric is: "The Steelers are so great / And so hard to overrate / Good things will come to those who work and wait."

That line makes me smile, because it's such a typically Pittsburgh sentiment. Most Pittsburghers do believe that good things come to people who work for them --- which is why we have such a low tolerance for phonies, and so little regard for celebrity.

Without getting too maudlin, I think it's also why so many people felt betrayed when many of our steel mills closed ... they worked and waited all those years, and the damned things closed before they could retire. (If you'll pardon me bringing up Billy Joel for a second, his song "Allentown" captured the mood of the Mon Valley in the early '80s pretty well: "Every child had a pretty good shot / To get at least as far as their old man got.")

And without reading too much into the song, it kind of describes the success of the Rooneys and the Steelers over the years. They stick with their coaches --- Bill Cowher now, Chuck Noll before him --- through good times and bad, as long as they see they're working hard. They're willing to wait for the good things.

Anyway, back to Jimmy Pol: He has updated the Steelers Polka for the current team, though he apparently recorded the lyrics over the telephone. He's not as energetic as he was in the '70s --- but heck, he's 30 years older, too. You can download the new CD here; I hear it's also available at the Fun Party stores out in Westmoreland County.

Also available is a great new song by The Del Sinchak Band --- a homage to Jerome Bettis set to the tune of the old Bobby Bare hit "Detroit City." The first time I heard the opening chords, I thought it was "Detroit City." I'm pretty sure you can get that at Fun Party stores, too.


Fun Steelers fact: "Detroit City" was co-written by Mel T-T-T-T-Tillis, who appeared in "Cannonball Run" with ... Terry Bradshaw. How's that for kismet?


A search for "Steelers Polka" pulls up this transcript of a November 2000 story that ran on the Voice of America about Pittsburghese ... and was punctuated with Jimmy Pol's immortal classic.

One only wonders what the far-flung shortwave listeners of the VOA thought about chipped ham, jaggers, yinz and the Stillers. We should have blasted some Myron Cope around the world and really gave them something to talk about.


Bob also wrote about "Puhlahmahlu," the tongue-in-cheek tribute to Troy Polamalu by Pittsburgh's Mr. Devious. I've already talked to several people who didn't get the joke, despite the fact that the song is getting heavy airplay on KDKA (1020) and WDVE-FM (102.5).

OK, the joke is that the national TV announcers have been mispronouncing Polamalu's name. That's why the lead singer says, "Poh-lom-a-lu," and the backup singers say, "It's Polamalu."

Also, at least one person didn't realize it's a parody of the "Mahna Mahna" song from The Muppet Show (see video here), which itself was a parody of the 1960s jazz song (originally, the theme song to a Swedish porn film!) called "Mais Non, Mais Non."

And now you know ... the rest of the story.


Hines Ward, interviewed on KDKA yesterday, said he hates "Puhlahmahlu." "Whenever it comes on, I turn the dial," he said.

We love you anyway, big guy.


By the way: There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that The Rolling Stones are going to do "Puhlahmahlu" during the half-time show at the Super Bowl.


Finally, at the Tube City Almanac National Affairs Desk, there's this column about the State of The Union address by erstwhile custodian of the gorilla suit tradition, Mark Evanier. I can't add anything to it, except to say I concur, and I feel much the same way.

Money quote:

I don't hate the man. Dismissing someone as a "Bush-hater" is a too common way of trying to not deal with legitimate criticisms of a guy we elected to do an important job. I don't wish him ill or failure or anything negative because, as far as I'm concerned, he's driving the bus we're on and if he drives off the road, we all crash and burn. He just keeps failing to convince me that he knows where he's going or how to get there.

As Alert Reader Frank pointed out in a joke that's making the rounds, today is Groundhog Day. The State of the Union address was Tuesday.

"It is an ironic juxtaposition," Frank says. "One involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication. The other involves a groundhog."

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