Thursday, May 11, 2006

Under normal circumstances I get all of my news from a small and predictable list of sources: The Daily Show,, ESPN minus the .com, and random shit I overhear people talking about allowing me to pick up just enough buzzwords to smile and nod and occasionally add to a conversation about a hot-button topic.

When I come home, however, I am inundated with "news". I fall right back into my habit, from growing up, of reading the local paper cover to cover. This catches me up with local controversies, and allows me to see if anyone I went to high school with got arrested and/or divorced. Every once in a while, someone even writes a letter to the editor that isn't batshit crazy. More commonly, though, they look like my favorite one from today's edition.

I also get to watch the local news, which my folks watch endlessly. I gave up on watching any form of local news years ago, around the time when the local NBC station WPXI got to the point where this little bit I came up with was barely parody: "It makes up 20% of our atmosphere, scientists say we need it to live, but it is the cause of all household fires. Could oxygen be killing you....or your children?!" The problem with not living either in L.A. or within 50 feet of everything you need, though, is that you have to somehow ascertain what the daily weather is going to be, so local news is the standard fallback.

If local news is to be believed, the single biggest thing going on in our area right now is the decision of a local school board to suspend a 10-year-old for bringing a squirt gun to school. The second biggest thing is a student walkout over budget cuts at a suburban high school. The third biggest thing is a scandal involving boys at a suburban high school ranking their female classmates based on hotness and, um, skillz. (OK, let's be honest, the scandal isn't that they did this--they're teenage boys for god's sake; the scandal is that they wrote it down.)

The biggest story in international news (or any form of news other than contrivo-versies in our local schools), of course, is Ben Roethlisberger's trip to Switzerland to get in touch with his roots. We can only hope this ends better than it did for Levar Burton.

I also get to see all the commercials for candidates for local office, which I would normally be skipping through the magic of Tivo. (Oh, how I miss you sweet Tivo.) The favored style for state representative ads this season seems to be having a bunch of normal folks (just like you and me!) talk about how they just don't trust Candidate X's opponent, Candidate Y. It's not clear exactly why they can't trust Mr. Y--they just can't, dammit! But now I may have a new favorite, which I saw during today's noon news. Some 21-year-old is running for state rep, and his opponent is running an ad saying, "Can you really be qualified for the state legislature if you don't have children in our schools? if you've never paid property taxes?" Now, I will freely admit that I would have reservations about electing most 21-year-olds to anything. But it's good to know more generally that electoral restrictions on the unpropertied and childless are still in effect.

Western Pennsylvania: where it's always still sort of 1810 A.D....

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