Way Off Base

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 10:15 AM Written by

(and stealing signs)

Remember, in last Friday’s Notes, when I suggested that a good many of the G-20 protesters might better be described as G-20 narcissists, since the cause to which they seemed most deeply committed was the inflation of their own senses of self?

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Breaking News of the Week

Wednesday, 07 October 2009 07:50 AM Written by

(and of the obvious)

One of TRM’s most favorite readers and writers — we’ll call him Mr. R. — emailed this morning to call my attention to a headline on the CNN home page:

They just don’t miss a thing, he wrote. Next up: Biologists discover stripes on zebra.

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Dan Off Base

Tuesday, 06 October 2009 12:22 PM Written by

(in this, and next, year)

They were a long time in coming, but two political inevitabilities finally came to pass today: Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato formally announced his candidacy for governor, and he began introducing himself to crowds of open but skeptical onlookers as a man who has never raised property taxes.

It has been abundantly, and quite often maddeningly, obvious to anyone who lives in this region that Mr. Onorato would stake his claim to the former by loudly professing the latter, and that he believed his consistent-to-an-unconstitutional fault stance on property taxes and property reassessments would, if not get him into the governor’s mansion, at least make him a viable candidate for it. But anyone who’s paid any attention to the economic reality behind that political fiction should know how laughable that thought really is.

A system rife with unfairness and inequities? I’m not gonna change it.

The hard work it’ll take to fix that system and restore that fairness? I’m not gonna do it.

The straight talk and political leadership we need to solve a problem that has plagued us, and most other Pennsylvanians, for years? I’m not gonna provide it.

Mr. Onorato is deluding himself, and is trying to delude a whole lot of other people in the process, if he thinks that kind of performance — the studied nonobservance of a critical economic issue for the sake of sound bites and political grandstanding — makes him a good candidate for governor.

Though I suppose it does make him a perfect fit for the state legislature.

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The Radical Roundtable

Monday, 05 October 2009 09:10 AM Written by

(on the radio)

It’s time for another Blogger’s Roundtable on Pittsburgh Business Radio.

Tune in this afternoon from 5-6pm to hear us punditize on all things Pittsburgh and beyond.

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Signs of the Times

Monday, 05 October 2009 02:30 AM Written by

(the dog, the odd, and the ugly)

If it had been any other day of the week, perhaps these three signs, seen in rare and rapid succession late yesterday morning, might not have seemed so portentous. Or so hilarious. But Sunday seems like a fine and fitting time to see things that make you stop in your tracks, and wonder, and worry at least a little bit that they might mean something more than just their own, David Lynchean absurdity.

First: the Rescued Dog magnet affixed to the passenger-side door of a car gliding slowly through the parking lot at the Shadyside Giant Eagle. Its placement, centered immediately below the window, was odd enough. That it appeared directly beneath the profile of the passenger, a late-fifty-something woman half-scowling in her seat, was both bleakly funny and strangely unsettling. Either the tableau never quite occurred to them, or else the woman’s husband is making a statement for which he might someday learn her bite is worse than her bark.

Next, a sign affixed to an uncharacteristically barren frozen food case inside the Giant Eagle:  

Some of your favorite Eggo products are out of stock nationally. The manufacturer is working hard to fix this short term issue.

The rest of the sign directed me to the Eggo Waffles web site for more information. It contained none. Which means I’m left to ponder the worst. I’m guessing we would have heard by now if a couple of waffle-making facilities had been closed, or shut down for a wafflemakers' strike, or attacked by Al Qaeda forces who hate us both for our freedom and for our breakfast foods. So I figure there was just an early frost in Florida, or maybe in California, that wiped out a whole grove of waffle trees.

And, finally, yesterday's Walgreens ad, my favorite of the three:

Because you really can’t beat a severed arm and a severed leg, much less one severed limb and a fine black cauldron, for only $10. I’d like to see Wal-Mart or Target or that mall in Dawn of the Dead beat those prices. Though I’m gonna wait to do my shopping until next week, when I’m hoping they’ll be offering a similar deal on black cats and severed heads. Or maybe a nice discount on the per-foot price of bloody entrails.

Of course, if next Sunday is anything like this past one, when I go to buy them, I’ll probably run into a giant, Dennis Hopper with an oxygen mask, and some crazy lady with a log.

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Notes From a (Season-Opening) Friday Afternoon

Friday, 02 October 2009 12:25 PM Written by

(raising the banner of my mind)

For your consideration: another curious collection of thoughts, reactions, and observations that didn’t make it into a full-length post this week...

• As I write this, MSNBC.com’s third headline for the 2016 Olympic choice story is After Chicago shocker, Rio wins. First of all: Chicago not being picked was a shocker? Really? It’s that much better of a choice than Rio, Madrid, and Tokyo that we should be shocked that it was the first city eliminated from the Final Four? I can’t decide whether a lack of perspective that stunning comes from American homerism, American elitism, or the idea that President Obama’s knee-weakening star power could not possibly fail to seal the Windy City’s selection. Whatever the reason — since it comes from MSNBC, the MSM’s largest in-kind contributer to the Obama campaign, I’m guessing it’s that last one — the headline is absurd, the sentiment offensive.

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There's Something About Hockey

Thursday, 01 October 2009 02:30 AM Written by

(in honor of the nhl's opening day)

While it is true that no professional sport is as ill-suited for television as ice hockey — even in HD the puck can be difficult to follow, the speed and flow of line changes and late-rushing attackers are impossible to track, and the great, sweeping canvas of the ice must be rudely squeezed into a frame far too small to hold it — it is also true that no professional sport is better suited to live viewing.  

Baseball spreads half its players across a pasture, hides the rest in dugouts, and then, proudly aware that it is the only sport without a time clock, proceeds apace as though its fans do not have one either. Football, played on one hundred twenty yards of distant field in increasingly canyon-esque stadia, packs twelve minutes of balletic violence into sixty minutes of game time and two hundred minutes of real time. Basketball provides near constant action and often intimate attention, but when scoring occurs every twenty seconds, only the last hundred or so seem to matter, and they often unfold over such an excruciation of stops and starts and fouls and timeouts and team meetings that even the most dramatic finishes unfold like athletic arrhythmia. Soccer drops one lost ball amidst twenty joggers, offers almost as many riots in the stands as goals on the field, and is beloved only by a loose affiliation of drunkards, Europhiles, and overprogrammed eight-year-olds who have yet to convince me I’m missing anything of interest.

But there’s something about hockey.  

It’s a Canadian game, and many of the players have French or Russian names, so it’s not exactly an easy sell in the United States of Xenophobia. It’s the red-headed immigrant step-child of the American sporting world, dismissed, frowned upon, and condescended to by a great many people who do not understand it, have never seen it played in person, and are therefore in little position to judge. It barely registers on the radar of millions of so-called sports fans, with precious little print coverage and tv ratings somewhere between the abject boredom of bowling and the Kafkaesque torture of poker. It’s a bunch of guys in sweaters and shorts and ice skates, chasing a little rubber biscuit around a big, frozen parking lot.

But still. There’s something about hockey.

You feel it as soon as you walk out of the concourse and into the seating bowl; the chill rises off the ice and ripens the air, filling your lungs and radiating a cool, rousing energy throughout your body. You take a deep breath, then another, and step forward into the light, to behold a gleaming, glistening rink below. Freshly mown fields and polished hardwoods have their charms, but to my eye, neither can compare to the pure, pristine perfection of Zambonied ice. And it only gets better once the game begins.

The ice becomes the background, the playground, the blank canvas on which a dozen artists take their shifts and make their marks and paint their works of flowing, darting, crashing beauty. They skate with equal parts power and poetry, propelling themselves up the ice and back down again, starting and stopping and flashing, gliding and cutting and flowing, reaching speeds of twenty-five miles an hour suspended on just a few millimeters of metal. Imagine strikers, linebackers, catchers, and point guards all doing what they do; now imagine them doing it on ice skates, with bullseyes on their backs, in pursuit of a ball the size of your fist, as it hurtles toward and away from them and back at them again, at almost one hundred miles an hour.

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Politburo Headline of the Week

Wednesday, 30 September 2009 09:25 AM Written by

(c.c.u.of p.)

Depending upon your point of view, your life experience, and your penchant for selectively spun melodrama, what happened in Oakland over the weekend is either The Schenley Plaza Massacre or The College Kids’ Comeuppance. Or perhaps, like me, you’re somewhere in between: thinking that both sides made some mistakes, thought a bit too much of themselves, and now compound the problem by wanting us to believe that there’s only one side — their own, of course — to the story.

But no matter where you sit along that spectrum of spin, you should, I hope, be willing to agree that a headline lately breaking on the PG Now news feed...  

Pitt to allow lawyers for students in police meetings

...is a fine development, a good burst of common sense, and a rather chilling reflection of what the university, at least until a few hours ago, seems to think about our country’s proud jurisprudence.

That it took the ACLU of Pennsylvania to remind one of our commonwealth’s most distinguished universities that students charged with a crime and meeting with a tribunal of police officers have the right to legal counsel is sad enough. That this sort of thing happens on college campuses all the time, and that it is not just accepted but condoned by people who damned well ought to know (and think, and say) better is sadder still.

I’ve been fiddling with a post on this subject for a while now, and this headline, which puts the problem into relief as clear as it is infuriating, feels like just the impetus I need to finish. Stay tuned for that in the days ahead.

But for now, you can at least take comfort in knowing that someone at the University of Pittsburgh woke up this morning and realized there is, and surely should be, a difference between the administration of Mark Nordenberg and the party of Josef Stalin.

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