Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania’

Sad Irony

January 29, 2011

A common economic complaint in the United States these days is that our manufacturing base has eroded, meaning that we don’t actually make stuff here anymore.

It turns out that the tear gas canisters fired by Egyptian police at protesters yesterday were made in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.

Tear gas: a weapon of terror used in Egypt, made in Pennsylvania.

As a Pennsylvanian, I feel compelled to apologize and point out that we’re not all pusillanimous sacks of crap who are content to earn a living by making and selling instruments of terror to brutal dictators, although that’s meaningless cold comfort to anyone who’s actually had to inhale our home cooking in the last few days.

I’d hope we can all look forward together to a world where nobody has to face tear gas anymore, but as long as somebody’s willing to make it, somebody’s willing to buy it, and somebody’s willing to use it, I doubt that’ll happen anytime soon.

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Philly Sports Fans Behaving Badly

April 28, 2010

I’m not sure how on Earth I missed this one from nearly two weeks ago, but here’s an incident at a Philadelphia Phillies game that’s bad even by our standards:

Cops: Man Purposely Vomited on Girl at Phils Game

Apparently an off-duty cop from Easton, Pa. took his kid to a Phillies game. He said this: “When I say disgusting, there was not only insults and vulgarities directed at us, but also beer was thrown at us . . .  I actually heard the individual behind me say, ‘I’m gonna get sick’, then I couldn’t believe what I saw. He actually had his fingers down his mouth and into his throat to make himself vomit. He vomited and lurched forward and it was hitting my daughter.”

On behalf of Pennsylvanians everywhere, I’d like to take this moment to point out that the alleged perpetrator was from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. New Jersey is, as we all know, now most famous for being the home of exemplary individuals like “Snooki” and “The Situation” and, perhaps soon, this guy.

And it wasn’t even ten-cent beer night in Cleveland.

Oh, Bother.

March 17, 2010

Ives Galarcep is reporting, as of three hours ago, that the Major League Soccer players’ union will begin striking Monday if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement isn’t reached by then. Since Mr. Galarcep is also a regular columnist for Fox Soccer, I think it’s safe to assume that he has access to some pretty credible sources.

The Major League Soccer logo.

Will the 2010 season begin?

This just isn’t looking good. Although he does leave some glimmer of hope, since he also reports that negotiations between the players union and the league are still going full bore.

The weird thing about all of this is that this is the first big professional sports labor tussle I’ve ever seen where both sides genuinely seem to have very good and very valid points, and both sides are making arguments that make a lot of sense. The problem is that each side’s very good and very valid points are almost totally incompatible with one another. And, let’s face it, this isn’t the NFL or Major League Baseball, which could afford to take the hit of a work stoppage and come out okay on the other side.

Here’s Galarcep from a recent Fox Sports column:

Regardless of who is right or wrong, neither side can truly afford a strike. You can argue that league owners stand the most to lose, but neither side wins if the league’s foundation is shaken. There won’t be a winner or loser if a strike happens. Even if players are ultimately blamed for pulling the trigger on a strike, both sides will shoulder the blame for letting such an important season be ruined.

Look no further than the scheduled season opener on March 25 between the Seattle Sounders and expansion Philadelphia Union for evidence of the potential impact of a strike.

With a sell-out crowd [my addition: in Seattle, the Sounders actually outdrew baseball’s Mariners in average attendance per game last year at way over 30,000 in Quest Field] all but assured and the enthusiastic fan base in Philadelphia poised to make the cross-country trip to celebrate their team’s birth, the season opener could be a historic moment for the league, but a strike could wipe that out and do irreparable harm.

The expansion Philadelphia Union has already sold over 10,000 season tickets for 2010 and is well on its way to reaching its self-imposed ceiling of 12,000 season tickets. The soccer specific stadium that’s currently under construction on the Chester, Pa. waterfront and set to open at the end of June only has a seating capacity of 18,500, making sell-outs as far as the eye can see all but certain, provided the 2010 season actually happens and starts on time.

If it doesn’t happen, how many of those season ticket holders do you think are going to be angrily demanding their money back? And, of those, how many do you think will ever end up going to games in the future?

If Major League Soccer implodes due to its current labor problems, the real tragedy of all this will be for the people of the long-suffering city of Chester, Pa., home of the Union’s new stadium. Chester has been the picture of urban blight for the last half century. The new stadium is meant to be the first piece of a redevelopment effort for Pennsylvania’s oldest city following decades of neglect beginning on the Delaware River waterfront. What will happen if Chester is left with a white elephant soccer-specific stadium for a stillborn club in a dead league, rotting alongside everything else that’s been rotting there for the last 50 years?

Those who look at the current MLS labor situation and want to say, “It’s soccer. Who cares? It doesn’t matter to anybody except a few weirdo, hard-core fans,” had better take a long, hard look at Chester first.

Those among the players and among the owners who insist that digging in your heels, not backing down, and not blinking is the best way to go at this point had also better take a long, hard look at Chester first. And then blink. Please.

A Health-Conscious Gastronome’s Tour of Southeastern Pennsylvania

February 27, 2010

Via the Philadelphia Independence Twitter feed:

Help her out #Philly fans! RT @karinaleblanc Just got in trouble…Cheesesteak = not healthy. What else u got, Philly (that’s healthy)? #wps

Picture of a cheesesteak from Pat's in Philadelphia.
I’m shocked, SHOCKED, that this isn’t good for you.

Being expansion clubs, it’s likely that many Philadelphia Independence and Philadelphia Union players — not just Karina LeBlanc — are unfamiliar with the unique foods of southeastern Pennsylvania and are anxious to try them. It’s also likely that, being professional athletes, they would like to seek out healthy eating options.

While the cheesesteak — grilled mystery meat and onion shreds on a bun smothered in Cheez Whiz —may not be the healthiest dining option, we in this corner of the country have plenty of nutritious foods befitting highly active lifestyles.

Philadelphians cannot live on cheesesteaks alone, which is why there are many other gastronomic emblems of the city. Among them are the soft pretzel: carbohydrate-laden dough baked until fluffy, covered in big chunks of salt, and usually smothered in Cheez Whiz — okay, never mind about that one, either. But never fear, there are also cheese fries: nutritious, all-natural potatoes sliced into strips, deep fried until crispy, and smothered in Cheez Whiz — okay, this clearly isn’t working.

A plate of scrapple.

Scrapple. Appetizing, eh?

While the city of Philadelphia may itself be a cesspool of Cheez Whiz, the surrounding area will certainly have healthier eating options. Let’s look at that wholesome region called “the Pennsylvania Dutch Country,” to which the Independence headquarters in Downingtown is conveniently adjacent. One regional delicacy here is something called “scrapple.” Basically, you take whatever’s still left over after hot dogs have been made, grind it up and press it into a vaguely loaf-like shape with the consistency of chunky pudding intermingled with goo. The best way to serve scrapple is to cut it into slices like bread, fry them up in a pan, and them mash them up with a bucketload of ketchup.

This being Pennsylvania, you must know that there is only one kind of ketchup, and that is Heinz. Nothing else counts.

So maybe scrapple isn’t so healthy, either. But don’t worry, we also have things like “Lebanon bologna” and “sweet bologna.” These are tubes of mystery meat generally made from whatever’s left over after scrapple has been made and eaten in chunks. Another very traditional delicacy is something called “pig stomach,” which, you guessed it, is a pig’s stomach stuffed with sausage, potatoes, and spices, baked for several hours and basted in its own juices.

Shoo-fly pie.

Sugar goo and sugar powder. What could possibly go wrong?

Okay, maybe you can forget about meat-based healthy main-course traditional dining options around here. One good local vegetarian (but not vegan) dish is called “corn pie.” Healthy corn, potatoes, and celery are baked into a crusty pie with lots of eggs, butter, whole milk and heavy cream. Okay, maybe you can forget about all healthy main-course traditional dining options around here. But, I’m sure we have some healthy desserts and snacks.

One iconic Pennsylvania Dutch dessert is something called “shoo-fly pie,” which allegedly received its unusual moniker because it is so full of molasses and sugar that it attracts flies. It attracts so many flies, in fact, that you constantly have to shoo them away while eating it. We are also quite proud of our snack foods. The first commercial pretzel bakery in the nation was founded in Lititz, Lancaster County, and our local potato chips are much better than any national brand, probably because we fry them in lard instead of oil.

I won’t even bother getting into Fastnacht Day, and cup cheese should probably never be mentioned by anyone in polite company.

So, in summary, “what else u got” that’s healthy? Nothing. We got nothing. Sorry, folks. Wilkum, and try not to starve while you’re here.

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

January 6, 2010

I live in a very conservative, deeply religious, and rather rural area. That combination of factors means one thing: there are lots of roadside signs emblazoned with some random vindictive King James Version Bible verse telling passerby to repent or go to Hell.

Most of them hang over or under the mailbox in front of farms, and they are generally permanent signs that appear to be professionally made. Most often, the sings will feature one verse on the obverse and another verse on the reverse. They’ve been a regular feature of the landscape of the Pennsylvania Dutch country for as long as I can remember.

However, nothing lasts forever. Change is coming to Lancaster County, and I encountered evidence of this region’s social evolution while driving along a back road several days ago. For the first time ever, I saw an angry Bible verse road sign, not with a different verse on each side, but with a brimstone-stoked King James verse on one side, and the same thing in Spanish on the other side.

Can’t you just feel the approaching enlightenment? Lancaster County is slowly becoming multicultural in its passively-aggressive vindictive obnoxiousness. That’s progress, right?

The Death of Language

October 17, 2009

This BBC article published today got me thinking: what exactly is lost when a language dies out? Is the death of a rarely-spoken language always a completely bad thing?

They’re not merely academic questions for me; half of my family is Pennsylvania Dutch, and my grandfather can speak the language fluently. A century ago, it wasn’t uncommon to see bilingual street signs throughout central Pennsylvania in both English and Deitsch, the proper name of this region’s twisted offshoot of German (the word “Dutch” in Pennsylvania Dutch is a misnomer coined by English speakers who misheard the word “Deitsch,” which is derived from the German “Deutsch”). 200 years ago, such bilingual signs were even common throughout Philadelphia.

In the past, both languages could be heard spoken regularly in public places throughout eastern and central PA by people from all walks of life. Today, Deitch is generally only spoken in the home by members of the “Plain” religious sects, like the Amish and Old Order Mennonites, as well as a dwindling handful of secular old-timers like my grandfather.

So what happened? For one thing, improvements in transportation and communication technology wore away at regional isolation. As more people became more exposed to a wider world in which people did not speak Deitsch, English increasingly became the dominant language because it was spoken throughout the country. World events had something to do with it as well — after World War I, the number of people speaking the language began to dwindle. Then, my grandfather’s generation was largely the last of the non-Plain people to grow up speaking the Pennsylvania Dutch language at home, as well as the last born before the Nazi takeover of Germany and World War II; those things occurring together are not coincidental. Ironically, my great-grandfather, also a fluent Deitsch speaker and a World War I veteran, was chosen to serve as part of the allied forces in the occupation of the Rhineland following the First World War specifically because he could sort-of understand and sort-of make himself understood by the local populace there.

My Dad’s family has lived in this part of Pennsylvania for about 300 years, and they clung to the Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch sprooch (language) for about 250 of those years. There’s a lesson in that for all the anti-immigrant/English-only hysterics out there: English was NEVER this country’s sole language, and speaking English is NOT what makes you a “real” American.

All the same, my father and I grew up speaking only English at home. I’ve often wondered if we’ve lost an additional perspective on the world for not having grown up bilingual, but I’ve also often wondered if I wouldn’t have had access to the opportunities I’ve been given in life if I’d grown up speaking something other than English at home. I also seriously doubt that my father would have eventually married the daughter of an immigrant from Manchester, England who lived in both countries growing up if he’d been born into an earlier, more insular, time period.

There are now attempts to revive the language, led by academics at places like Kutztown University, like what has been done elsewhere in the world with Irish Gaelic, Welsh, and Hebrew. Part of me hopes fervently this succeeds. After all, I chose to take German over Spanish in high school and continue studying it into college for the same reasons some professors and younger people are trying to spark a Deitsch renaissance today: it’s part of my background, and I would hate to see it die out.

On the other hand, another part of me wonders what the practical point of all this is. What purpose does speaking Deitsch fluently serve? German (or Deutsch) is a useful international business language, but Deitsch isn’t Deutsch. If you tried to speak it in a boardroom in Frankfurt, you’d be barely intelligible to everyone else in the room, and, worse yet, you’d probably sound like something several notches below that of hick.

Is spending a significant chunk of one’s education preventing cultural memory from dying out more important than spending that time learning other skills? Increasingly, more people in places like Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, and now perhaps even here are saying yes. I’m not sure what the answer is.

From an Ex-Philadelphia Eagles Fan

August 15, 2009

Hi there. Pleased to meet you. I used to be a Philadelphia Eagles fan, before Thursday night. I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania — Lancaster County, to be exact — and I still live there today.

As someone who will be 32 in a few weeks, I can’t be called a young, fair-weather fan who can only remember the Andy Reid Era. Heck, my first memories of the team stem from the positively godawful Marion Campbell Era, which seemed bad at the time until the Rich Kotite Era came along.

The point is, I’ve followed the Eagles, and all of Philadelphia’s sports teams, through quite a lot, and I always believed that I always would, until that terrible, stupid Thursday, and its extraordinary consequences. In a move that has baffled just about everybody, the Eagles signed dog-torturer and dog-murderer Michael Vick to a two year contract.

I can’t follow this team any more. Period.

I know there are those who say that everyone deserves a second chance and that, yes, the NFL has in the past reinstated all kinds of crooks, murderers, and all-around scumbags back into its ranks, so Michael Vick certainly deserves a second chance.

I believe those people are, in fact, correct. My beef stems from the fact that it was the Philadelphia Eagles, of all teams, that signed him.

“Hang on for a second,” you might say to me, “so you’re just some hypocritical jerk who was okay with Vick rejoining the NFL as long as it wasn’t with your team?”

That isn’t what I’m saying. What I am saying is that out of all the clubs in the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles, which just happens to be the team I rooted for all my life, was the absolute worst possible one to sign Vick. The reason for that is something you may not be aware of unless you’re from southeastern Pennsylvania.

You see, Pennsylvania has a problem. Southeastern Pennsylvania especially, where a huge chunk of the Eagles’ fan base dwells, and my home of Lancaster County in particular, has a gigantic problem: just Google the term “Puppy Mills” and you’ll start to see what I mean.

But don’t take my word alone for it. Here’s Nightline’s:

And, of course, here’s part of Oprah’s well-known expose on the subject:

As abysmal as conditions in dog breeding kennels have historically been around here, over the last several years we have begun to make some (still all too small) progress toward cleaning them up. A lot of southeastern Pennsylvania residents, among them many, many Eagles fans, have fought long and hard to make that happen.

While it would have been seen as bad by some fans of any team for Vick to have landed in their city, it is far, far worse for him to have ended up in Philadelphia, given the region’s massive problems with the treatment of dogs in breeding kennels.

We have plenty of farmers around here who breed dogs on the side in horrendous conditions, and who see nothing wrong with doing things like shooting all of them when they’re ordered to simply repair a kennel and get veterinary care.

Consequently, the Eagles’ signing of Michael Vick, who, among other things, hung, electrocuted, and drowned dogs pretty much for the hell of it, carries a terrible symbolism: it is huge slap in the face to everyone who has worked so hard for the elimination of puppy mills around here, and it is absolutely unforgivable.

They Kicked A Man When He Was Down

May 2, 2009

Part of my family hails from Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania — specifically Pottsville, the county seat.

For the first time in my life, I’m ashamed of that. You see, a trial just finished there.

Luis Ramirez, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, was kicked to death while unconscious following a street brawl in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania late last July.

The all-white jury called it simple assault. That’s all. The defendants, popular local high school football players, were cleared of all murder, aggravated assault, attempting to solicit a cover-up, and ethnic intimidation charges.

One year ago, following the murder, the lawyer of one of the kids who testified in the just-finished trial, said:

“I think any time there’s a fight and any time you have one ethnic group fighting another, there’s going to be racial slurs,” he said. “I’ve seen that since I was a kid on a playground 20 years ago, but they never called it ethnic intimidation until very recently.”

“One ethnic group fighting another” seems to me to not only epitomize ethnic intimidation, but also to indicate that ethnic intimidation has been completely out of hand for a very long time. Neither that lawyer nor the jury apparently thought so, though. Nor did they believe that kicking to death an unconscious man lying on the ground constitutes murder.

Ramirez’s fiancee had this idea about the whole situation last year:

Crystal Dillman, his 24-year-old fiancee, who is white and grew up in Shenandoah, said Friday that Ramirez was walking her sister to a friend’s house the night of the attack.

“He was just trying to be a good person, making sure she got (there) safe,” said Dillman, adding she was relieved the charges include ethnic intimidation.

She says Ramirez was often called derogatory names, including “dirty Mexican,” and told to return to his homeland. Similar insults have been hurled at their children, ages 2 and 11 months, she said.

“I plan on moving out of this town as fast as I can. Not because I’m scared. I just don’t want to see my children have to deal with what their father dealt with,” Dillman said.

Unfortunately, who will be left to stand up to the pathetic, murderous, All-American jerks who remain?

We Can’t Stop Here; This Is Bat Country!

February 3, 2009

A network of caves, many of which are thoroughly inaccessible to humans, runs underneath much of the town in which I live. There must be an opening somewhere near our house, though. Many times in the summer we’ve seen groups of bats take to the sky around dusk from somewhere beyond our back yard. It’s an impressive sight.

Now that I think about it, I remember seeing fewer bats last summer than in the previous several years. I hope this isn’t the reason why.

An Update from Conservative Heaven

January 15, 2009

The ancient, decrepit elementary school slated to be replaced in a construction plan rejected by a 3-to-1 margin in a referendum here Tuesday was forced to shut its doors yesterday due to heating problems. It remains closed today. It will also stay closed tomorrow.

From the aforelinked article:

The school also has been plagued by roof leaks, which last month forced Maytown principal Sharon Hagenberger to vacate her office because of the threat of a ceiling collapse.

Maytown students will miss at least three days of school for the chimney work, and [superintendent] Riedel said Donegal plans to petition the state to waive the requirement that students get at least 180 days of instruction per year.

Actually, the district had to fix 60 separate roof leaks during Christmas Break in the school. No, that number is not a typo.

On the bright side, everybody’s property taxes remain absurdly low, which is clearly the only thing that matters to most people around here. Who cares that we’re denying hundreds of kids their basic right to an education and putting them in grave physical danger every time they do get to go to school?


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