Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Yinzer's Top 10 To Be Thankful For

Thanksgiving is here and to commemorate my favorite holiday of the year I put together a list of a Yinzer's Top 10 Things to be Thankful for. We here in the "Burgh" have a lot to be thankful for and the fact that Pittsburgh always brings people home for the holidays is just one of the many reasons why. Whether you still reside near our Three Rivers or have relocated these are 10 things that anyone with Yinzer blood should appreciate.

10. A free turkey with a minimum grocery purchase at Giant Eagle
9. Wearing an authentic Steelers jersey to Thanksgiving is considered "dressing up"
8. Fall weather and leaves of various colors
7. Primanti's gives us an excuse to take a "break" from heavy eating on Thanksgiving
6. We can say that the Pirates were accused of overpaying players (in the amateurs)
5. We are one of the most storied cities in all of sports
4. Pitt basketball will be on its way to another solid season
3. The return of Sidney Crosby to the Penguins (perfect timing don't you think?)
2. Backyard Brawl (regardless of records and WVU is trash it is a great tradition)
1. Realizing that Pittsburgh is a great place to live especially during the holidays

We here at The Blast Furnace wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Joe Paterno is not a scapegoat

Well, Paterno is out, and it's sad. It's very hard to watch news coverage of him in front of his house and not come away feeling for him as a person. He clearly is an overall good person who has the best of intentions and loves State College, Penn State and the football program. But he's not a victim and he's not a scapegoat. For better and for worse Paterno is the symbol of Penn State. For decades that meant being deified for all that there is to love about Happy Valley and now that means being held accountable as an integral part of an organizational hierarchy that didn't take seriously enough allegations of what is arguably the worst crime that can be committed.

Penn State as an organization had lost its credibility and the public's trust for the way it handled this whole mess. It just wasn't possible for anyone from within that hierarchy to remain in place without further damaging Penn State's reputation. It would have been insensitive to the victims and a tacit endorsement of the state of leadership. No matter what the individual levels of culpability prove to be, the school basically needed to push the restart button immediately, which couldn't happen with the individual who is most closely identified with the program still in place.

One of the most common sentiments I have seen among PSU supporters is that there was a mob mentality in the media that the Board of Trustees somehow succumbed to. But however distasteful self-righteousness and one-upsmanship in the media may be, there has also been a much more rational and non-emotional perspective in the dialogue and I think it is instructive that they all also come to the same conclusion that Penn State had no choice but to move on immediately. I want to share a few in particular that I think really clarified things for me:
If we can all agree that the allegations are horrendous and the organizational failing was epic, then I don't see how the football schedule should factor into the response. The news broke this week, so it needed to be dealt with this week. But I'll end on a more positive note with another Mandel column. While emotions are running high regarding Paterno's firing, eventually those emotions will begin to subside. As that happens, Paterno's legacy will evolve to be nuanced to consider both the good and the bad, which, utimately, is what he deserves:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sad Penn State - Perspective from an alum

As a Penn State alumni, I am obiously disgusted and disturbed by what is going on.  Reading the indictment made me feel even worse.  I literally feel like I was punched in the gut while reading everything that is coming out, and I believe it is only going to get worse.

There was a video that came out tonight showing loyal supporters out on Paterno's lawn, committed to him staying with the program.  After watching this, I struggle to find how anyone could support him staying at the program.  Has everyone forgot what has happened these past few days?

Joe Paterno was alerted to allegations of sexual misconduct by Jerry Sandusky back in 2002 by Mike McQueary.  Paterno states that what McQueary reported was not immediately clear, but I can only assume that he -at the very least- was told that Sandusky was in the shower with a boy.  That should have been enough for Paterno to alert authorities.  However, he failed to do so.  Not even the most die-hard Penn State fan can give a satisfactory excuse for this lack of response.

Following this event is where things get worse, and I have a feeling these events will be exposed soon. 

Paterno had to have met with Spanier, Curley, Schultz and other top brass following this event.  At this meeting, they must have determined to keep this in house, reporting only what they needed to.  To me, this is a cover up of the most horrific degree and signals a lack of institutional control. 

Let's not forget about McQueary, who has risen the coaching ranks following this incident.  McQueary is the head scout, who goes into homes and assures parents that their children will be in good hands at Penn State.  Furthermore, he does this with the full backing of Paterno and Spanier.  This disgusts me so bad, I cannot describe it in words.

Finally, let's not forget that Spanier stated he has unconditional support for Curley and Schultz.  This statement is incomprehensible in nature, and is unforgivable. 

I feel like I was lied to and completely let down by an institution I enjoyed attending so much.  I have absolutely no trust or support for any of the characters involved in this, and will not be satisfied until the proverbial 'house is cleaned.'  Curley and Schultz have already resigned, and Paterno, Spanier and McQueary have to be next.  The longer they stay at the university shows that they care more about themselves than the university, and it is disrespectful to the students, parents of former and current students, and the alumni.

And what can we do this Saturday?  I have thought long and hard about this, and it contradicts me greatly.  My conclusion is this: I will cheer for the student-athletes on the field, because they cannot be blamed for the ignorant and reprehensible actions of their coaches and administration.  However, I will never cheer for any of the coaches involved anymore, and will be absolutely embarrassed if any of them ever sets foot on Penn State's field again.

They do not represent what Penn State told me it stands for, and if Penn State has any moral character what-so-ever, they will get rid of these individuals before they cause any more harm to the University.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Paranormal Activity 3: Horrifyingly Terrible

In addition to seeing The Rum Diary I also recently saw with much anticipation followed by extreme disappointment, Paranormal Activity 3.

It was the week leading up to Halloween and I wanted to see this movie to finalize my preparation for one of my favorite holidays. In 2007 I saw the original Paranormal Activity and was the most scared that I had ever been in my life following a movie. The original was just that...original and scary. Even after I returned home my fears were not subdued until I checked the Internet and found out that the story was fiction. Although I missed the second installment of this series I wanted to see PA3.

Now to the movie. The plot was redundant and ridiculous. All of the gags, haunting happenings, and surprises had all been done in the first movie. The only difference was that children were involved this time. I thought that adding kids would add a new dimension to the movie and I am sure that the writers and directors did as well, but unfortunately it was not executed well. The story revolves around the daughters arguing about an imaginary friend named Toby who ends up being the phantom haunting the home. The ending was supposed to be a surprise, but it really was nonsensical and made me wonder why they added a "secret plot line" involving a nosey soon-to-be mother in law who somehow was communicating and channeling Toby to possibly take over the daughters of the home. Like I said...nonsense.

I think a movie patron said it best while we were waiting in line to enter the movie by saying, "this movie's gonna be dumb as f@#k." Well sir, you were right.

Pills rates Paranormal Activity 3 1/6 Irons.

The Rum Diary: Intoxicatingly Irresistible

A few weeks ago I was able to make my way out of a movie-going slump and see The Rum Diary starring Johnny Depp.

The Rum Diary is based on the late Hunter S. Thompson 1959 novel with the same title. The Rum Diary follows the story of former New York City journalist Paul Kemp and his move to seemingly glorious San Juan, Puerto Rico to work for the San Juan Star. Upon Kemp's arrival he finds that San Juan is not the vacation paradise that he was led to believe, but is a place where extremes exist in all respects. In the traditional and revered style of Thompson, Kemp pals up with veteran San Juan Star newsman Sala, played by Michael Rispoli and comes to rival a villainous real estate tycoon Sanderson played by Aaron Eckhart.

The movie is well acted by all those involved and incorporates great scenery, hilarious comedy, and an intelligent story line that makes this 120 minute movie fly by and leave you wanting more. Think Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas meets island paradise. This film even brings pride to the 'Burgh during one of the opening scenes as Kemp enters the San Juan Star and overhears a conversation reporting that star baseball player Roberto Clemente would be playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

This was a fantastic fun loving movie that always made me wonder, "what will they do next?!" I recommend this movie to all and rate The Rum Diary 6/6 Irons.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Best Bar in the Burgh......Kopy's

One evening while carousing on the South Side in our early twenties we stumbled upon a small bar off of Carson St. named Kopy's. I'm not sure whose idea it was or why we were even off the beaten path, but we decided to check it out. This turned out to be both one of the best decisions and eventual discovery that the Blast Furnace ever made.

As we walked into the dark and dingy establishment located at 80 South 12th St. we were greeted by a haze of cigarette smoke and two bar tenders, Ned and Kop', who were eager to serve us a drink from their large selection. They took our order and we were pleasantly surprised at the $2.00 we were charged for shots and beers (Note: beer prices have changed since the inaugural visit, but still great). Other than a few blue collar locals and being somewhat early for the weekend South Side crowd we practically had the entire bar to ourselves. The bar had everything that one could ask for: jukebox, dart board, pool table, pinball machine, and two TVs. We immediately filled the jukebox with dollar bills and started one of many dart games. As the night went on the crowd picked up and Blast Furnace members continued to consume cheap drinks.

Kopy's is not your typical South Side destination like Mario's or Jack's, but it captures the spirit of a hardworking blue-collar bar that Pittsburghers of yesteryear would be proud to frequent. No cheap thrills or gimmicks necessary, this is your grandfather's bar. The bartenders are always accommodating and pleasant and have even come to recognize our group after the many visits that we continue to make. Ned, Kop', and some of the regulars would always be amused when our Designated Driver Limo would pull up and a large group would suddenly pour into the inconspicuous bar. The solemn atmosphere would transform to a lively Blast Furnace fiesta in a matter of seconds. Kopy's really made a strong impression on us, one that would keep us coming back for years.

This is always our first stop of the night. An hour or so after leaving Kopy's we usually always ask ourselves why we left; the other bars being overcrowded and expensive. Whether it is mockingly chugging Old Milwaukee pounders with country music "legend" Neal McCoy's face plastered to the can or knocking back shots of Jameson, Kopy's is the place to catch up with friends. Even though we do not go there as much as we used to we still try to get there as much as possible.

A couple of years ago Ben State, Chris, Pils, Coso and I thought it would be a great idea to go for St. Patrick's Day and it may have been the best decision that we ever collectively made. Coso was the first person in the bar at approximately 10:00 am and we soon followed. For a good hour the whole bar was totally ours. Why fight the crowds at Market Square and Station Square when we had Kopy's. This may be a new Blast Furnace tradition as we followed the same plan the following year. The morning drinkers, aka alcoholics, were shocked to see a populated bar when they rolled out of bed on that fine Saturday morning. Although most may consider it a dive we consider it home.

After much deliberation I declare Kopy's the official bar of the Blast Furnace. Here's to Kopy's......the best bar in town.