a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Museum to honor a Socialist

A small Pennsylvania town is set to have the first museum in the Keystone State dedicated to the Socialist movement of a bygone era.

The Charleroi Area Historical Society will convert the intact Goaziou print shop in the borough into a museum chronically the family’s ties a movement that was popular among laborers during the early 20th century.

Louis Goaziou, a French immigrant, opened the shop as a means to promote his Socialist propaganda in a newspaper, The Union of Workers. It appealed to coal and steel workers who wanted to unionize in southwestern Pennsylvania.

Goaziou, a leader in the Franco-American Socialist movement, engaged many high-profile members of the party to speak in Charleroi, including Eugene V. Debs, who ran for president on the party's ticket in 1912.

The society came into some money through an inheritance, and used it to purchase the 807 Fallowfield Ave. building from a descendant of the Goaziou family.

“To us it’s a part of our history, a unique part that has an international renown to it,” Nikki Sheppick, the society’s board secretary, told the Observer-Reporter Thursday.

The society hopes to have the museum open to the public in May.

Monday, February 23, 2009

iJustine for old people

My silly, silly podmates at the Observer-Reporter think I have an obsession with Justine Ezarik, otherwise known as iJustine.

Author takes a friendly look at Murphy's

Jason Togyer has the potential to become one of America’s great storytellers of the working-class condition.

His new book, “For the Love of Murphy’s” carefully tells a department chain's history through the eyes of the people who dedicated their careers to the most popular five-and-dime in the Pittsburgh region.

And their stories are rich with the spirit of the nation’s industrial heartland.

Take the one, for example, from Sandra Wilson, who worked the jewelry counter in a Murphy's in downtown Washington, Pa., during the late 1950s. A hot item one Christmas was a ring bearing a giant costume diamond that her silly boyfriend used in his marriage proposal. She accepted on the spot, and he gave her the real thing on Christmas Day.

But life on the job wasn’t so romantic for the Murphy girls who worked in the flagship store in McKeesport, Pa. One discussed how she would roll soda pop bottles across the floor to scare off rats before starting her shift. Another talked about being chased around the stockroom by frisky male coworkers.

These women were required to keep their clothes starched to a crisp and merchandise counters stocked and neatly arranged.

Dorothy Everetts, who worked in Mercersburg, Pa., said she now longs for the quality service customers grew to expect at Murphy’s.

“When you ask a clerk now about an item, they look at you as if you are talking in a foreign language,” Everetts told Togyer.

He made extensive use of the company’s archives to explain how the "Macy’s of Appalachia" went on to outpace the sales of its competitors before being raided by Wall Street hounds in the 1980s.

Togyer's book was published in hardback in 2008 by The Pennsylvania State University.

It’s a nostalgic read for anyone who fondly remembers their routine trips to the local G.C. Murphy Co. store and the smell of roasting peanuts or hot dogs sizzling on a griddle. The affordable stock that was spread out in orderly fashion somehow brought a certain level of calm to the chaotic lives of steelworkers and their families.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why Anne Hathaway deserves an Oscar

She’s the underdog but Anne Hathaway deserves an Oscar for best actress tonight for her break-through performance in “Rachel Getting Married.”

Hathaway sheds her princess image as Kym, a troubled loser who takes leave from a drug rehab unit to attend her more-perfect sister’s wedding.

The movie directed by Jonathan Demme is difficult to watch at times because it’s too heavy on a version of female drama that has been without anti-anxiety meds and martinis for too long.

The best scene involves a slug match between Kym and her distant mother portrayed by Debra Winger, who deserves to be punched for her long absence from film. Hathaway’s character goes on to attend the wedding with a black eye dripping in pancake makeup, while invoking immense sorrow from the bleeding hearts in the audience.

Hathaway’s competition is near insurmountable because she faces off against Meryl Streep and her brilliant performance as a stern nun in “Doubt.” That film could have been the front-runner for best movie had it not been for Danny Boyle’s fantastic “Slumdog Millionaire.” And everyone, including Time magazine, is saying Kate Winslet will steal the award from the pack for her starring role as a Nazi pedophile in “The Reader.” Winslet does come to the table with a sympathy card for having been nominated for Oscars three other times, only to go home empty handed. But her character isn't likable enough by any stretch of the word to deserve praise from the industry.

Oscars also should go tonight to Sean Penn for “Milk” and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams for playing opposite Streep in “Doubt.”

Hathaway just may be the surprise winner because Oscar has a history of being friendly to the beautiful actress who makes herself ugly for a movie and retains a bit of her charm. Remember Charlize Theron in “Monster?”

Hathaway is nowhere near as freaky as a serial killer, but in her movie, she gives us a perfect definition of the creature known as a junkie and how one always seems to wreck a family.

(Photo courtesy Sony Pictures)

Friday, February 20, 2009

A perky sale offer

boob job fund, originally uploaded by littleREDelf.

Dear Doctor’s Say Yes executives,

It’s hard out there for a B+ cup. Especially when everywhere you turn there are perky, perfect C-cups (or more) staring you in the face. Women like me are sort of becoming the VCRs of sexuality – we’re being phased out quickly by the ease and affordability of breast augmentation surgery much like the DVD made the VCR obsolete.

I’ll admit, I’m tempted to get a boob job every time I see Say Yes ads splashed in Cosmopolitan and Us Weekly magazines. While I’m happy with my particular set, I’m always trying to be a better version of myself. And sometimes I think upgrading to a nice, full C would suit me nicely. So, believe me: Your ads guaranteeing financing for everyone really tempted me for a few moments.

Then I see the newest advertisement boasting 25 percent off any procedure and the bust line of my dreams keeps coming into clearer focus. I’m already this awesome with my current mammaries so I’m sure that awesomeness level would increase by 12 percent with a lift. Then I think better of it, and it isn’t because of any moral or ethical issues.

Nah, it’s because I know a few chicas who have undergone the procedure, and despite their magnificent melons, they told me a few secrets about the whole ordeal that makes me a little uncomfortable.

For one, the life of an implant is about 10 years. I’m 28 now, and if I’m doing my math right, by the time I hit 38, I’ll likely need to have those puppies replaced. Your ad does not specify if the replacements also will be 25 percent off.

One particular friend also told me that she had to affix a belt around her bosoms and “exercise” her new found glory. I think it had something to do with keeping scar tissue at bay to keep the boobs from feeling like plastic tomatoes. I have a difficult enough time getting the rest of my body into the gym, so I just can’t commit to another routine right now.

So, I’m kindly asking that you keep me posted about any future discounts. DVD players were expensive at first too, but now you can pick one up cheap. Yeah, 25 percent off is a good deal, but BOGO is better – buy one, get one free.

That’s an offer I wouldn’t be able to pass up.

Warmest Regards,

Amanda “my cups don’t runneth over” Gillooly

iJustine in the big time

Justine Ezarik, the Internet itgirl and Scenery Hill, Pa., native, is now a TV commercial star as spokeswoman for mozy.com.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

You're 11 son - get a job

The summer of 1968 my parents decided it was time to find me a job.

So at age 11, mom told me to approach a local farmer for work at his small dairy operation. He agreed in a handshake to pay me $1 a day before leading me on a tour through his smelly barn and lush cabbage, bean, tomato and corn patch. He was to pay me in cash once a week.

For the next 11 days save Sunday, it was my responsibility to scoop the cow manure with a coal shovel from the barn stalls into a long narrow trough along its concrete floor. With each shovel, I dreaded the day would approach when I would have to clean up that sludgy mess, too.

The rest of the days were spent weeding and watering the garden before dusting it, unprotected, with a pesticide.

After day 11 passed and having missed my first payday, I asked the farmer for the money. He refused to pay up so I quit and walked the three miles that separated his scrappy farm from our house.

That didn’t set well with mom, who also went to work as a teen, never forgot the struggles of having lived through the Great Depression and knew the value of good work.

She drove us back to the farm, and ordered me to the man’s front door to tell him we weren’t leaving his driveway until he handed over my pay. He reached into his wallet, pulled out $9 and said that was all the money he had.

It was a compromise that mom accepted.

This had been a long-forgotten story I remembered the other day while talking with a friend about the economy being in a place similar to the manure pit in that barn and the struggles families are having to pay their bills.

We agreed it had important lessons to teach a child about hard work, earning a fair pay and standing up to an employer who cheats workers.

That said - we couldn’t imagine that many parents, today, would consider the thought of pulling their 11-year-old son or daughter away from their summer vacation to get a job.

Monday, February 16, 2009

NPR to discuss the Donora smog, briefly

One member of the national media isn't bored of the Donora smog story that turned 60 in October.

NPR dispatched a freelance reporter to the borough last week to conduct interviews for a broadcast tentatively scheduled to air on Earth Day.

Ann Murray of Pittsburgh used the new Smog Museum in Donora as a backdrop to discuss the nation’s worst air pollution event with Charles Stacey, a retired superintendent who survived the deadly air. Elsewhere, she interviewed Devra Davis, a leading expert on cancer who grew up in Donora and has written and spoken often about the killer smog.

The public radio station joins every local newspaper, The New York Times and a laundry list of other national media outlets that have marked the smog’s anniversary in print. The Weather Channel also began airing an hour-long docudrama about the smog in November.

Maybe editors and producers are taking another look at Donora because it became a catalyst for the nation’s first clean air laws, and there is a stronger case for problems associated with global warming. The struggling, decaying town is also a harsh reminder of the consequences of a decision by such a dominating industry as big steel to abandon a community it built.

NPR, though, is expected to give Donora just three minutes on its award-winning program, “This American Life,” from 4 to 6 p.m. April 22. It will be streaming, too, on Web.

(That's the Donora Smog Museum in the photo)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hey tambourine snob

Arrogance is an instrument that can kill the beat.

Kung Fu flicks will cure the blues

Kung Fu (2), originally uploaded by BrainErp.

“You will always be your child’s favorite toy.” – Vicki Lansky

“Everyone was Kung Fu fighting.” – singer Carl Douglas

By Amanda Gillooly

Some people head for church when they need a little reassurance after a rough week. Some people (mostly my close family and friends) head for the nearest bar stool.

While beer has always been a friend of mine, and Sir Harold the Great of River City Inn is always kind to me, after a day of worrying about work and handling the embarrassment that inevitably comes from a quasi-date blow-off, I seek out neither alcohol nor God.

Sometimes I just need my Dad. Unlike some of my contemporaries, who bemoan having to chat with the ‘rents, I seek out dear old dad. He knows where the center of the earth is, if you know what I mean.

And when I rush through the door, red-faced and Irish temper raging, he knows I don’t need reassurance or any sort of smoke blown up any orifice. Nope, Dad knows I need something far more important. Far more inspiring. Far less complicated.

Sometimes all I need is some Kung Fu. And if you ever stayed up late on a Saturday nights watching the “it’s-so-ridiculous-it’s-awesome” black-and-white Kung Fu flicks with your dad as a small child, you know as well as I do the therapeutic benefits.

I happen to love the genre because of its winning combination of arse-kicking martial arts, silly premises and really horrific dubbing.

Yesterday, while sharing a hot cup of Joe (black, Dad’s signature beverage), the subject of those nights watching Kung Fu came up in conversation and he said something I hadn’t thought of before.

“You know, I love it that ANYTHING – no matter how stupid – can be made into a Kung Fu flick,” he told me.

And while I was inclined to believe him, he did me one better. He told me about a movie starring the great Christopher Lee. If anyone else told me there was a movie about a Chinese, butt-kicking Dracula, I might have thought they were trying to take advantage of my admitted gullibility.

But I know Dad wouldn’t bust my chops about something so important to my quality of life.

Dad couldn’t remember the exact name of the film – it’s circa 1960-something – so I need a little bit of help finding the thing. And then owning it immediately.

I mean, come on, man. A Kung Fu horror movie? Dude, where has this movie been all my life.

He thinks it was called “Curse of the Golden Vampire” or something. I haven’t yet embarked on a Google quest; so if you happen across the movie (or one like it), please let me know.

Because I’m into it. And I’m sure my dad would appreciate it, too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Two lonely Terrible Towels

By Michael Jones

With gold towels whipping and ear-throbbing cheers following each Steelers touchdown, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., felt more like Heinz Field South than a neutral site.

But two hearty souls sitting in the Steelers’ end zone directly behind the uprights found themselves stuck in enemy territory surrounded by fans draped in crimson and white.

The fourth quarter might have looked bleak for Steelers Nation, especially for my father and I stationed in the suddenly raucous Section 123, but Super Bowl XLIII became one of the best experiences of our lives.

I never before gave one thought to attending a Super Bowl. The cost and pageantry of the whole thing made it seem like an impossible journey. But my dad, Howard, who lives three hours away in Jacksonville, Fla., somehow scored a pair of the prized tickets and we quickly planned our hectic itinerary.

That glorious Sunday morning began with the two of us hiking to the roof level of a dank parking garage just a few hundred yards from the stadium. By 10 a.m., it already was packed with Western Pennsylvanians partying and kicking back Iron City beers. Strangers from far-flung areas – Butler, Somerset, Cambria, Centre and Dauphin counties – instantly became close neighbors.

Three hours before kickoff, we left our tailgate and walked to the stadium anticipating heavy security. We snaked our way through the line and made it to the metal detectors, where security momentarily stopped me for unknowingly smuggling in a $1 bag of peanuts. They immediately confiscated my salted contraband and set me free.

We sat down in our seats to soak up the scene before introducing ourselves to a few Arizonans staggering to their spot a row away. It didn’t take long for us to realize we would be surrounded.

After initial jubilation from a couple Pittsburgh scores, the game and the atmosphere in our section began to change. Arizona appeared poised to score at the end of the first half and I turned to my father and suggested the ideal scenario would be a game-tying field goal. But my dad refuted that pessimistic prediction.

“Best-case scenario is a pick-six,” he said.

And then it happened.

A Steeler stepped in front of quarterback Kurt Warner’s pass and the players rushed down field toward our seats. I didn’t immediately know who intercepted the pass until a few seconds later when my eyes fixated on linebacker James Harrison’s unmistakable figure lumbering down the sideline.

What would become a 100-yard touchdown return turned into an 18-second cage match brawl. Steelers defenders formed a convoy around Harrison, blasting every Cardinal with the audacity to attempt to prevent the greatest play in Super Bowl history. The blocking was ferocious and players’ bodies littered the field from either exhaustion, pain or exhilaration.

When Harrison rose to his feet a few minutes later, he was greeted with a bear hug from head coach Mike Tomlin. The stadium erupted, except for our neighbors.

The Steelers rolled to a 17-7 halftime lead, but I felt queasy even when The Boss took the stage and rocked the stadium. Only Bruce Springsteen’s crotch-first slide into a television camera could distract me from thinking about what would develop in the second half.

Little did I or the other 70,773 fans know what we would witness. The third quarter was dull, but the fourth quarter made up for its lack of sizzle. Our section exploded as Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald streaked down the field directly toward our end zone with the look of a man prepared to maim anyone in his way. My father and I huddled together to weather the storm.

But the Arizona fans began celebrating their Super Bowl victory 2 minutes and 37 seconds too early. A man behind us threw up his arms and triumphantly shouted, “I can’t believe we won the Super Bowl!”

Neither could I.

That’s when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got to work at his own 12-yard line.
He scrambled, finding enough time in the pocket to hit receiver Santonio Holmes, the eventual Super Bowl MVP. Each time Roethlisberger eluded pressure, a teenage girl in the next row shouted, “He’s so lucky!”

“This is not luck,” I thought. “It’s Big Ben at his finest.”

The raucous celebration in our section dwindled to a light simmer when Holmes flashed open and sprinted 40 yards to the Cardinals’ 6-yard line. Meanwhile, the rest of Raymond James Stadium rocked, but I remained subdued and nervous, still clutching my Terrible Towel in one hand and my father’s shoulder in the other.

Then it happened. Big Ben chucked the ball to the corner of the end zone and Holmes caught it before immediately getting slammed out of bounds. Was it a catch? Did he have both feet down? Steelers Nation anxiously awaited the official video review. The stadium remained stunningly silent. Then, referee Terry McAulay returned from booth, raised his arms in the air and set Raymond James into pandemonium.

A LaMarr Woodley beatdown of Warner sealed the win. I hugged my father and shouted, “We won the Super Bowl, Dad,” And this time, there was no disputing that claim.

As confetti showered the field, most of the Cardinals fans slithered out of the section and into the cool Tampa night. I looked around and saw a few joyous Steelers fans celebrating in our section among the empty stadium seats. My dad and I hugged and posed for pictures in front of the swell of players and media that swarmed the field. After the emotional roller coaster we rode for nearly four hours, it was time to celebrate.

Even if I needed my Terrible Towel to dab a few tears of joy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Elvis in the sky with chess pieces

They do this light dance in old Las Vegas, Nev., across one of those covered downtown streets that planners across America once hoped would make a dying district groove on a Saturday night like an indoor mall.

Yet Fremont Street, shown above rocking to the classic Don McLean song, "The Day the Music Died," sets this city apart from the other LSD-inspired destinations that went this weird route and tanked.

It doesn't have the glitz of the newer uptown district along The Strip. But the unusual avenue has shops with cheaper T-shirts, casinos that Frank Sinatra once cruised and a great display of salvaged classic neon signs that helped to put Vegas on the map.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A shepherd's pie for the sloth

This shepherd’s pie isn’t your British great-grandmother’s version that baked for hours in a slow oven from a sticky recipe cooked up in the Middle Ages. It's for lazy cooks with hearty appetites these days, a blimey good version that will give them more time to veg out.


2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 - 12 oz. jar of Heinz Home Style Gravy - Bistro Au Jus
1 - 1 lb. bag of frozen Birds Eye Stir-Fry Vegetables (sugar snap peas, carrots, onions and sliced mushrooms)
1 - 1 lb. bag of Ore-Ida Steam n’ Mash garlic seasoned potatoes (some milk and butter)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Break up and fry ground meat in a skillet with garlic, salt and pepper, drain and spread into an 8-by-11-inch casserole dish. Stir gravy into the beef before creating a second layer with the frozen vegetables. Cook potatoes in microwave and prepare according to the instructions on the bag. Evenly cover casserole with potatoes. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until the potatoes brown to your liking.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Donora museum rolling out military exhibit

The town of Donora is lucky a local postmaster became the first president of its historical society.

Roman Koehler, who managed the Pennsylvania borough’s post office from 1905 to well into the 1940s, saved everything the government gave him, including posters he displayed to help sell World War I bonds.

“We’re very fortunate,” said Brian Charlton, curator of the society’s new musem at 595 McKean Ave.

His favorite wartime relic is a Gerrit A. Benker (1882-1934) poster, the artist’s most famous, titled, “Sure We’ll Finish the Job.”

Like many of the American portrait artist’s paintings, it features a workingman in the uniform he wore on the job. Nearly 3 million of the Impressionist-style posters were sold in the drive conceived to drum up support among labor for the war effort.

Charlton is putting together a military exhibit in approach of Memorial Day in what opened last year as the Donora Smog Museum. In a former Asian restaurant in the town’s blighted downtown, the museum has a remarkable collection of old photographs relating to the killer smog of 1948 and the town’s steel and zinc mill.

The museum is open from noon to 3 p.m. Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The society that formed in the 1940s is training volunteers to open the museum more often as summer approaches.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Big Arn, this one's for you

“Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place.”
-Mark Twain.

By Amanda Gillooly

Oscar Wilde said that a cynic is a man who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. I’m afraid with every headline detailing a global economic meltdown, of families losing their homes and jobs, and of people without belief in their government, their employers and themselves – and I fear the biggest loss of all is that of hope.

And while people look to our newly elected president for that hope, I’m just now beginning to realize that while Mr. Obama has the ability to share solace, it’s an emotion that’s always fleeting, at best.

No, times like these need more than calm – more than empty assurances that somehow, someway, we’re all gonna make it out of this economic crisis alive and well.

So I don’t look to Obama. And I don’t look to the financial prognosticators. And I don’t believe any number of charts and figures will help quell the anxieties that have been gnawing at my insides.

I look to my own personal hero – a man who’s long gone from this world but whose spirit still lingers. Even though he died Nov. 3, 1998, there’s not a day that goes by without him crossing my mind. Well, all of the minds of us who knew him.

Everyone should have a Big Arn – someone whose love for life outlived it.

His real name was Arnold Sales, and like the best of them, he passed away far too soon. I’ve always been convinced that perhaps besides the Dalai Lama, Mr. Sales may have known the secret to life.

His ever-present smile made others pale in comparison. His was beautiful and mysteriously confident. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about smiles like his. He said they only come around once or twice in life, and he’s right. When he smiled, there was always a warmth that seemed to overtake you. And no matter what you were feeling –anxiety, sadness, unbridled grief – you began to feel curiously that nothing might be so bad that there isn’t time for a laugh.

And despite his financial status (he and his lovely wife owned their own business and did very well for themselves and their wonderful family) Mr. Sales didn’t give a damn about the cost of anything. I think now it was because he knew it was the value of a thing that mattered.

And what he valued most, I think, was humor. To Big Arn, the best jokes came out of dark moments. And he taught me, if no one else, that even in those darkest moments, a person had to be nice.

I understand from his family (of which I am an honorary member) that the tag line for the store, “It’s nice to be nice” was a sort of running joke with Big Arn. He would tease his girls and say silly things like, “It’s nice to eat rice” and “I hate to have lice.”

But that was him: He was a silly dude. And that endeared him too me even more. But when it came to being nice, I think somewhere deep inside him he knew the importance not necessarily of niceness, but of kindess.

And I have a sneaking suspicion that part of the secret to his happiness was that he truly believed that it was nice to be nice…and not just for the other person’s sake.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Sprinkle joy.” And I don’t know if there’s a better way to describe Mr. Sales. He was, indeed, a sprinkler of the happy stuff.

So on the days when I wake up feeling like I could rip the highlights out of the rail-thin bleached blond that cut me off on the road, or I bemoan myself when I pay for a cup of coffee with my last five dollar bill, I think I’ll stop myself and think of my good friend.

And instead of grumbling, “Yeah, whatever. It’s gonna be a great day!” with a nasty sarcasm, I think instead, I’ll smile sincerely, and try to concentrate on being a little kinder.

Because if Big Arn taught me anything, it’s that if you practice kindness even in the worst of times, and you laugh even during the saddest times, you might just start to remember what has value to you.

And I bet Arnie knew that one day I’d get it: That what matters isn’t money. And it isn’t the title you have or the car you drive, or much of anything that consumes you with gut-rotting worry. Or anything much that costs money.

Nah, if Mr. Sales was here I think he’d clap me on the back and say, “Hey, home skillet! I think you finally understand that kindness does matter. And laughter? Home girl, laughter is the most important thing.”

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Google your way to germ-free air

365 - 196 - man flu, originally uploaded by the brownhorse.

The Web gurus at Google have launched a brilliant new service at google.org/flutrends to help warn users about locations where flu germs are multiplying.

They determine these danger zones by charting the number of times Google is used to search for such words as thermometer, congestion and muscle aches.

These folks are so good that they “outsmarted the CDC by exposing hot spots 10 days before the agency did,” Time magazine reported this winter.

It’s just one more example of how there are too many government agencies and companies in America that are run by folks who are dinosaurs in the land of technology.

If only the Google geniuses could figure out a cure for the nasty bug that has made three full circles around our newsroom at the Observer-Reporter for the past two months.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Watch out Ann: Big Girl's ready to rumble

Dear Ann Coulter,

You strike me as a woman who doesn’t mince words, so I’ll do us both a favor and cut right to the proverbial chase: I want a piece a’ you.

I’m ready to throw down. Me. You. A steel cage. A fight to the figurative death.

Now, I’ve always been more of a lover than a hater, but I feel compelled to challenge you in this violent way. I’ve been fighting the Irish rage that rises up in me every time I hear your baseless rhetoric.

And trust me, Ms. Coulter, it ain’t your politics that offend me as much as your character. Go ahead and hate liberals, I don’t give a damn. And I doubt they do, either.

Nah, my dislike quickly morphed into unbridled rage when I saw your recent appearance on a daytime talk show. I know it’s kind of your thing to be a bitch, but you were so much nastier than that.

Yes, it was Dr. Phil, and you were one of many panelists who weighed in on the inauguration of President Obama. You didn’t field questions as much as make personal attacks that had little to do with the issues at hand.

Being aggressive is one thing – and one thing that can sometimes be a necessity. But you were more than that. Your overblown opinion of yourself is more apparent than your so-called political know-how.

Indeed, you came off as a hateful woman who is entirely too impressed with her own feeble sense of sarcasm. And believe me, honey, you’re not fooling anybody. I’m sure I’m not the only woman out there who looks at your Skeletor-esque figure and sees the inner pock-marked fattie who had to use her scant wit to make it through those middle school years.

But it wasn’t necessarily that revelation that prompted me to challenge you to a cage fight. It was your Web site. There is a list of “Reporters who are allowed to interview Ann again.”

Below it is a list of articles I chose not to read.

Who do you think you are to decide who will interview you, sweet cheeks? So, Ann, I’m more than ready to battle it out with you to knock the obnoxious pretense out of your nonexistent booty, and maybe for something even more important.

I want to face off in that virtual steel cage for journalists everywhere. Because if you can’t get a decent haircut, you sure as hell can’t control the news, or the reporters like me who write it.

And even though I’m sure you have a killer reach, and even a respectable right hook, I know I’m a nastier fighter than you.

So name the time and the place, chica.

I’ll be there.

Warmest Regards,

Amanda “get ready to get fitted for a gold tooth” Gillooly

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The reviews should be great for this play

James McManus cried while watching The Weather Channel’s docudrama about the killer smog of 1948 that took place in his hometown, Donora, Pa.

Survivors of the nation’s deadliest air pollution disaster who appeared in the show delivered their stories “so matter-of-factly,” said McManus, an award-winning New York playwright.

“They weren’t asking for pity,” he said.

The show, “Killer Smog,” that first aired in November documents how pollution and stagnant weather caused 20 deaths in the area.

McManus, 34, doesn’t remember people talking much about the smog while he was growing up. He expected more emotion from a town that just seems to have accepted its destiny.

He was in his hometown a few weeks ago with the cast and crew of his play “Cherry Smoke” that is set in Donora in the 1980s when the steel industry was collapsing.

It undoubtedly will be filled with raw passion when it opens Feb. 21 off Broadway at The Kirk Theatre @ Theatre Row. The story involves an ill-tempered club fighter and his girlfriend who live on the banks of the Monongahela River.

The play earned McManus at 2006 Princess Grace Award in playwriting so it’s worth a trip to the Big Apple for its debut.

(Click here to watch the smog show)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Blame Frick for labor's love of party

“Meet You in Hell,” makes it clear why most American steelworkers have chosen the Democratic party over the GOP.

The author of the book about the bloody Homestead lockout of 1892 spells it out early: labor felt it had been snookered by management into voting for Benjamin Harrison for president in 1888, a Republican who defeated an incumbent for the office. Going into the election, Harrison promised tariffs on steel that would boost steel production and increase wages for steelworkers.

But once Harrison took command of the White House, Pittsburgh industrialists Henry Clay “King of Coke” Frick and his partner in steel, Andrew Carnegie, set out to bust a union at their Homestead works and reduce wages to increase their incredible profits. The deception set the stage for the infamous 1892 battle of Homestead.

While the relationship of Frick and Carnegie may sound like a boring read, author Les Standiford delivers their rag-to-riches stories as if these men were stars of a soap opera.

It begins with Carnegie, near death, sending a messenger to deliver a note to Frick, his neighbor on New York’s Fifth Avenue. Frick, still angry because Carnegie had thrown him under the bus at Homestead, agreed to the meet request before crumpling the note and throwing it at the messenger. “Tell him I’ll see him in Hell, where we both are going,” Frick quipped.

The line can be interpreted as an admission by Frick that he and his archrival deserved to be punished for their love of money and distaste of the working class. This was a man who chose greed over common sense when he hired Pinkerton guards to seize the Homestead plant during a strike orchestrated by the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers. The drama unfolded while Carnegie vacationed in his Scottish castle and shopped for something akin to a nickelodeon.

The 300 Pinkerton men who arrived by barge on the Monongahela River to secure order at the mill were not expecting much trouble. However, they were met by a mob of angry workers and their wives, who threw sticks and rocks at them. Another boat was lit afire and steered toward the guards, but it burned to the water before causing any injuries. Gunfire was exchanged over the course of a dozen hours, claiming the lives of three workers and seven guards. In the end, labor came out no further ahead, while Frick and Carnegie would forever become the poster children for ruthless capitalists.

Even a local minister condemned Frick, calling him a toad and the least-respected man among the nation’s labor force.

Labor’s love for the Democratic party became a tradition set in stone after Harrison competed just one term in office. He was defeated on the heels of that heated summer of 1892 in Homestead by Grover Cleveland, his Democratic challenger for the office of president. The city of Detroit later refused a gift of a library from Carnegie while he built hundreds of them across America.

And for generations to follow, steelworkers cursed Frick at the polls after pulling levers to vote straight Democrat at local, state and federal elections. The United Steelworkers of America in 2006 gave $2.4 million to the party that reclaimed control of both the House and Senate in the November election that year.

So it should come as no surprise that steelworkers endorsed Barack Obama in the November presidential election over John McCain, issuing this statement:

“He is clearly the candidate who can best lead our nation out of the dark period of economic decline created by the Bush administration’s allegiance to Wall Street profiteering at the expense of worker prosperity.”

Labor has a strong memory.