Monday, December 04, 2006

Take This Blog & Shove It

So… It has been awhile since we have had an updated blog. I apologize. My tardiness in posting a blog is inexcusable and is a disrespectful display against our scared domain. If there was an excuse for my lateness it would be the sensitivity surrounding the subject that I wish to discuss. Racism.

Unless you live in a barn you have surely heard about Michael Richards’ recent racist tirade. This rant has sparked a debate among all races regarding the use of the N-word and other racially offensive words. I am not going to pretend that those reading this blog have no idea what those words are, nor will I be even more na├»ve to assume that those reading this blog have never spoken a racially insensitive word in his/her life. The issue I have and desire to discuss is the level of comfort some individuals possess when speaking in such racially insensitive terms.

We have all been in this situation. The situation where someone chooses to tell a racial joke or begins a sentence with, “I’m not a racist but . . .” I personally hate those situations. I usually choose to respectfully listen and give my nervous laugh but inside I am anxious with uneasiness. Is there an etiquette rule in this situation? How do you tell your friend, uncle, taxi driver, etc. that you do not approve of what they are saying? I guess what bothers me the most in these situations is how those who choose to speak in racially insensitive terms are not concerned that the person(s) to whom they are speaking with might not be comfortable hearing those words.

The easy thing to do in this situation if you are the one hearing the racially insensitive comments would be to ignore them. To ignore the comments spoken would avoid an awkward confrontation ending in a lesson on racial sensitivity or anger fueled by embarrassment. Also, to ignore the comments spoken would allow the offending individual to continue his/her life comfortably speaking in offensive and racial terms. However, you are still sitting there feeling uncomfortable. Ignoring your lack of comfort in these situations defeats the purpose of the feeling. You are supposed to feel uncomfortable in these situations. If you do not, there is a problem.

There is a reason you feel uncomfortable. The uncomfortable feeling one gets in these situations is the cue to speak up. All that needs to be said is, “I am uncomfortable with your comments.” No self righteousness needs to coincide with the comment nor is this an opportunity to get on a soap box. With those six words you have the opportunity to change another person’s perspective. And now you have made the offending individual uncomfortable and maybe next time he/she will not be so comfortable speaking such offensive language.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Let's Rohm these streets.

The crunch of leaves beneath my Pumas quickens, as I come upon previously undiscovered Mt. Washington alley. The excitement brought by this happenstance revelation of a hitherto unbeknownst street, like that of an archeologist tripping over a brachiosaurus skull on his back patio, is even more pronounced now that I have lived in this neighborhood for some years. It never ceases to amaze that new streets, alleys, and ways are still being unearthed right outside our doors. As the Brain Trust’s undisputed cartographer I attempt to put down on two dimensional paper that which exists on this mountain in a dizzying 3-D panorama. The discovery of these hidden gems of paved connectors has fueled further research both as a pedestrian in search of lovely walking paths, and in adding to an exhaustive geographical understanding of this domain. As such I have compiled a list of some of my current favorite walking routes:

Sewer Way- A lovely way that extends parallel to Olympia Street. In reality it is a straight line extension of Olympia Road, (not to be confused with Olympia Street) a thoroughfare that was only later so named, most likely because the respectable residents of Chatham Village would never live on Sewer Road; but they do.

Piado Way- I love alleys like Piado. It stretches for 1 full city block between Olympia St. and Hallock St. Amazing. Octave Way and Alta St. are a similarly wonderful tracts spanning the length of 1 block between Hallock and Meridan, down by Olympia Park.

Off of Alta in both directions you find a lovely oddity of Mt. Washington geography called Athlone Way. Athlone Way is fabulous because it is a “No Outlet” street in two directions, accessible only via Alta St. It has a wonderful display of garbage cans, garages, retaining walls and fences. On the terminal south end there is an estimable tree with four trunks worthy of note. But what makes Athlone really special, is that it is a split road. While having no outlets south of Virginia Ave., it restarts on the North side of Virginia calling itself Athlone Street. It is impossible, therefore, to travel from beginning to end of Athlone, a characteristic shared by Sycamore and Piermont as well. Athlone Street can be accessed on either end via either the treacherous Piermont Street or by Beam Way, which is a tiny turd of a road that serves only to connect Athlone to Meriden. Athlone St. has a quaint view of the Olympia valley, Chatham Village, and also the tops of the USX Steel Building and the Mellon Building downtown.

But the featured alley of this post is the unparalleled (not literally, actually many streets run parallel to it) Rohm Way. When traveling up Rohm Way from Virginia Ave, this pot hole strewn road appears to go on forever. It has an eerie and lovely display of street lights. Then it gracefully and elegantly meets up with Piado way (see above.)

Rohm way is particularly interesting because of its unusual name. Pronounced both “ROM” and “ROME” by various residents, the origin of the name is shrouded in ignorance. I have no certain information to alleviate the aforementioned ignorance, but will supply a fair amount of conjecture in hoping to formulate a reasonable explanation for the name, through the process of elimination.

The most famous Rohm is the vile Ernst Rohm. This alleged homosexual pedophile was one of Hitler’s army officers and chief organizer of the Nazi storm troopers. Only NAMBLA (the North Americal Man/Boy Love Association) would name such a quaint alley after him.

The second most famous Rohm is Elisabeth Rohm. This former blonde Law & Order prosecutor was unceremoniously fired, her last lines being “Is this because I’m a Lesbian?” Which was odd, being that this subplot was evidently never even touched upon in the whole course of her tenure on the show. The street was thankfully not named after her.

The street is also not named after origami master Fred Rohm, nor B-movie starlet Maria Rohm, famous for appearing nude, then being murdered in most of her films. It is unlikely that contemporary figures like the unpopular novelist Wendy Goldman Rohm, Clear Channel regional VP John Rohm, or bartender trainer Chuck Rohm were deserving of the honor (though if any of you are able to contact me I would greatly appreciate it). Nor are the various companies with no Pittsburgh ties, like Rohm and Haas, and Rohm American. More promising possibilities include Dr. Joe Rohm a music professor of piano and jazz who has had a tenuous relationship with the University of Pittsburgh, or WWII vet Dave Rohm who was a medaled POW. Currently, Pittsburgh has Dr. John G. Rohm, the most recent in multiple generations of Rohm dentists, who were perhaps beloved enough to garner their name on a street sign. There is also an artist/sculptor famous enough to have his works displayed in the Guggenheim and the Pennsylvania Academy who may be worthy of the title, though being born in Cincinnati, Ohio, I banish the thought.

In fact, there have been Rohms and Roehms of German decent in the Pittsburgh region since the mid-1800’s as grave markers in Ridgelawn Cemetery and United Cemetery attest. But my top pick goes to a heroic Civil War veteran, originally of Juniata county, Ferdinand Frederick Rohm (b. 1864) who received one of the only 64 Medals of Honor bestowed upon Pennsylvanians in the war, for courageously remaining behind, under enemy fire, to attend to and remove an injured soldier from “great danger.” This alley deserves a patriarch as noble as this figure. Even if new information would come to light explaining who the real Rohm was, I would respectfully tell them to “shove it,” preferring to believe my explanation instead. The truth is probably much more pedestrian, and perhaps the mystery of the name makes the alley even more romantic. I encourage all to walk up this alley, preferably after dark to get the full effect, and remember all of those Rohms who this street may or may not be named after.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Blogging, judging, voting, etc.

I have to be honest, I never wanted to write a blog. The thought of it kind of freaks me out. This is the same person that loved to write journals but then got paranoid about the thought of people reading them, so then she stopped. I wasn’t even worried about people I knew reading them. It’s weirder than that. I was thinking that 20 years after I died, a great-granddaughter that I never really knew would find my journals and judge me.

So a blog… Do you know that once something is posted to the Internet, the image of it can never be deleted? I don’t know if that’s true, but I think I heard it on Law and Order.It’s enough to make you think - what if you wanted to take over the world, but when you’re making your bid for domination some geek finds the blog your wrote about [insert offensive topic here] and there goes that. No more world power. Think about it….

In any case, I like the thought of mocking blogs more than I do writing them. It’s just easier to do. Something about judging is really appealing.

Which leads me to the real subject of my blog, judging, voting and the power of the people.

As you all know, the MWBT&PC attempted a voter registration drive up on the Mount. The success of the drive aside, it was still an enlightening experience. I encountered people refusing to register because they were afraid of being called up for jury duty. Ironically enough, the idea that not registering to vote gets you off jury duty is false. State courts use driver registration lists. Which means that registered or not, you might be called for jury duty if you can drive. But I digress…

How frightening is that that a person may suppress their own right to vote because they are afraid of being on a jury? A jury!! Sure, it could be an inconvenience and you have no idea if you get to be called on an interesting case or a complete snoozefest. But that’s irrelevant. Being on a jury is a powerful thing. Women and minorities had to fight to get that power. The government today keeps getting more and more intrusive, as we stand aside thinking we’re powerless to say a darn thing.

Jury duty gives the people a direct check against the government. For example, say you get called to a jury because a criminal defendant made the rare decision to go to trial. That means that the government actually has to prove to you, and several other people that are nothing like you, that they really have the right person. Even if they do have the right person, you may decide that this act is not worthy of punishment. Or you think that the government should have done things differently and you acquit. Or you decide that the government is correct, and you want to send a message to people who affect your community negatively so you punish. Regardless of the outcome, you have power. Your voice is heard in a more intimate and immediate way than even voting in an election. To the people in that courtroom, your opinion could constitute the difference between a life in prison or being free. FREE! And not in the lofty and arrogant, we should fight to give these people freedom but in the immediate, “I don’t have to live behind bars” kind of free.

We have to overcome this negative image of jury duty. Because realistically, it is mostly the lower class that limits its power by refusing to speak out on elections and refusing to speak on juries. It’s ironic, considering that the lower class is more often personally affected by decisions made by an intruding government and the lower class is more likely to be in a courtroom - as a criminal defendant.

In the spirit of the (nasty) midterm elections, let’s give our community some power and promote the importance of voting AND being on a jury. I mean, how else are we going to get Mt Washington to secede and become its own city with its own mayor? That’s a big step on the road to world domination. Think about it….

Marie

Mount Washington Brain Trust & Pipe Club (sans The Kernal who is taking the photo) Posted by Picasa

M.W.B.T. & P.C. in action Posted by Picasa

Lord Johnson and Chairman Tom are blown away by the brilliance of yet another amazing idea. Posted by Picasa

The Captain and Lady Rivera contemplate a golden idea. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Brief History of a blog entry

I’ll be honest. I have felt like crap the last week. I haven’t been able to put together a coherent string of thoughts, much less a complete blog entry. Every time I have gotten started on a topic, my bad mood has just taken over and it’s spiraled into a pit of negativity. Maybe it was because all the topics I was thinking about related to local politics.

It started on a Monday.

Actually it was a Sunday. It started with the vibrating of a cell phone. “The blog is up. You have one week.” Finally my time to shine had arrived. Since the idea of a group blog had been presented, ideas had been drifting through my head. Alas, it was Sunday, and I was mildly hung over, and the Steelers were playing that night. Not a day to do much.

Monday I decided that my entry would be about the stupidity of the North Shore connector of the T. I came to the coffee shop following a shortened workday and hunkered down to do some serious research. Most of the research consisted post-gazette.com articles and letters to the editor. Opinions were generally split between two camps.

1.) This is a stupid idea that should be changed.
2.) This is a stupid idea, but we can’t change it or we lose the federal funding, so quit whining and accept it. If you didn’t like it you should have done something 8 years ago when it was initially brought up.

I won’t go deeply into my opinions because they are convoluted at their best and resort to childish name calling at their worst. One quote that just keeps going through my head is “A town with money is kind of like a mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows where he got it, and danged if he knows how to use it.” That conveniently comes from the monorail episode of the Simpsons. Anyway, needless to say the more I read, the more frustrated I got, and the less I wanted to discuss this topic.

By Tuesday I had decided that the smoking ban would be an excellent discussion topic. The Mount Washington Pipe Club and Brain Trust has discussed this extensively as has everybody else. The hard part of this topic is expanding my firm basic opinion beyond extending my support for the bill as it was passed by the Allegheny county council. There should be no indoor smoking in public places. This is the direction the country is going in, and Pittsburgh can either show some initiative and join in early, or bicker about details for a couple of years until a state or national law is in effect. Despite the recent progression, I still don’t have much faith that the latter won’t become what happens. But again that discussion would just sound negative.

By Wednesday I was thinking about just writing some tersely worded letters to Lawrenceville officials about dangerous driving spots near my house. The main problem with that is that it really isn’t interesting to anybody. Not even to me, the writer.

By Thursday I had slipped into procrastination mode and actually chose to do work and exercise to avoid thinking about topics to write.

Friday was the weekend. Time to party. I’d earned it.

Saturday I went to a wedding and was to busy eating and drinking and doing poor Mick Jagger impersonations to get anything done.

Sunday was a necessary day of recovery, accompanied by a dominant Steelers victory. That put an end to my dreams of writing an entry about firing Cowher, starting Charlie Batch, and basically rehashing every stupid argument I’ve heard on Pittsburgh sports talk radio of how to solve the Steelers problems.

Monday I decided to just do a brief recap of ideas of the past week. That, which is this, still didn’t come out so well. Oh well, a blog should be more about opening up topics for discussion than a direct display of opinions.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

It comes in threes

This blog, the first one written on the Mt. Washington Brain Trust and Pipe Club blogsite is in response to the three school shootings that have occurred in the past two weeks; Bailey, Colorado – 6 dead, Cazenovia, Wisconsin – 1 dead (school principal), and Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania – currently 5 dead. The most recent act of violence on school property took the lives of 5 Amish children. As a person with ties to “Amish Country” it deeply saddens me that an innocent and timeless community such as this has been affected by mainstream society’s desire to protect guns over every other human right including life. Sadly, we live in a society that has become desensitized to the news that yet another school shooting as occurred. How many individuals out there reading this knew that this most recent shooting in a school was the seventieth act of its kind in just this school year?

I have heard a variety of opinions on the matter. Many people have questioned safety in the school. Some have even suggested that maybe it is time for teachers to be carrying guns in school. (Yes, because that is how we solve problems in America.) Very few seem to have the opinion that there is a correlation between the rise in school shootings and the easy access Americans have to guns. In this country the federal government resorts to wiretapping in order to keep us safe from the evil fascist terrorist who wish to do us harm. In this state the government is attempting to pass a ban on smoking in order to protect us from the cigarettes that may potentially kill us. However, the subject matter of gun control is a very disputed and volatile topic. Some Americans will defend this right to the point of nonsensical jargon.

I have been told that we (Americans) have the right to own guns in order to protect ourselves. Even though I disagree strongly with this point, being a twenty-six year old woman who has managed in life without a gun, I would like to make it clear that I do not wish to take away American’s right to bear arms. I do however wish for more focus in this country to be on the regulations of gun ownership in order to prevent gun violence. That focus has to start with our government. As of September 2004 the federal assault weapons ban was allowed to “sunset.” This ban stopped the production of semi-automatic assault weapons and ammunition clips holding more than 10 rounds except for military or police use. Traditional guns designed for hunting and recreational activities would not be affected by this ban. Citizens of the Commonwealth may be interested to find out that Pennsylvania currently does not require buyers to obtain a handgun license or undergo any type of safety training prior to buying a handgun. Guns are also not required to be registered in our state. Therefore, the police have no idea how many guns could be in our neighborhoods. There is also no waiting period on gun sales in the state of Pennsylvania. Since there is no waiting period, police are not given any additional time to conduct further background checks. And lastly, there are no state restrictions on the amount of guns an individual can buy at one time.

I believe that by making stricter gun control laws we can lessen violence in this country. I would like to make it more difficult for individuals to obtain guns. Yes, this may mean that the little guy becomes inconvenienced; however, there are many individuals out there getting their hands on guns that should not be. From what we currently know the shooter in the Amish community had a history of mental illness. He also reportedly had a history involving the molestation of children (The inadequate sex offender laws topic will be saved for another blog). Individuals with this kind of mental heath history should not have such easy access to a gun. Sure, a person who wants a gun will get a gun. But does it have to be so easy for them?

If this is an issue that concerns you and you would like to make a difference please contact your state officials.

Pennsylvania State Officials:

Edward Rendell – Governor
225 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120-0002

Wayne D. Fontana - State Senator for Pennsylvania district 42
Senate Box 203042
185 Capitol Building
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120

Jake Wheatley -State Representative for Pennsylvania district 19
Irvis Office Building, Room 224
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120-2020

Michael B. Diven - State Representative for Pennsylvania district 22
East Wing, Room 164
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120-2020

Thomas C. Petrone - State Representative for Pennsylvania district 27
Irvis Office Building, Room 202
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120-2020