Thursday, December 29, 2005

All-American Girl

Margaret Cho is not funny. She's also a lazy comedian. Her old stuff was OK, but her new stuff doesn't even attempt anything challenging or even inclusive. Don't be fooled by the people in the crowd laughing at her jokes, they are just laughing because they agree with her politically. Her 'jokes' consist of NO setup and NO punchline, just a political line thrown to the laughing hyenas in the crowd. It starts with declaring Republicans or their policies stupid, and then 10 seconds of declaring her views on why, and then she throws in a real zinger at the end, such as 'God is Beyonce'. ZING! HAHAHA! Whew. She's like an idiot Denis Leary in that she didn't steal her jokes from someone funny, she actually thought that this shit was funny on its own.

The set I took the 'God is Beyonce' punchline from actually doesn't even have a joke attempted in the final several's just a pep talk for the political goons in the crowd. Most people attending political functions try to pepper their set with some real jokes, but she instead installs declarations and insists that you laugh. You wait for the punchline, the rib-buster, but it never comes. One has to come to Cho's set with a previous set of beliefs to find almost anything funny, and that is not comedy. It's not. Sure, lots of comedy requires a base set of knowledge, but good comedy doesn't segregate its audience based on what their core values are, it segregates audiences based on whether they just like that form of comedy. Some people like blue humor, some like clean. But to just assume that slamming Republicans is comedy is to be insanely complacent and lazy.

I'm taking a multi-day break.

Chronic WHAT

An update on the little video that could, the SNL rap on Chronicles of Narnia. The NY Times did a piece on it 2 days ago, talking about the Lonely Island website that launched Andy Samberg's career. It also showed how stupid SNL is, in that only two skits written by Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer have made it to air. Yeah, with all those funny sketches they're currently showing on SNL, of course Lonely Island couldn't crack the lineup. BTW, here's the other one: lettuce.

We're Famous!

According to Yahoo News!, bowling is the fastest-growing high school sport in the nation. They cited Berks County though, which has had varsity bowling for near 40 years. They also cited Twin Valley as a school into it, implying that it is one of the better schools for bowling. This is only facetiously true, because for years the school competed in the much weaker Division II in comparison to where it stands now in the much more competitive Division I. Governor Mifflin, Wilson, or Exeter would have all been better schools to highlight, but at least they highlight Bowl-O-Rama as a place for youth to congregate. Bowling is nothing but good stuff for kids and young adults, ensuring that kids stay committed to something if they want to see improvement, and insisting that they learn manners and sportsmanship, as well as supporting teammates. A bowler can be as great as anyone, and yet if their teammates have bad games, the team will suffer.

For a differing viewpoint on all this, visit adeel's rant on obesity, as though bowling ensures obesity.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

She has man hands!

Rachael Ray (mag, wiki page) is a bit over the top. For those uninformed about Rachael, she is a celebrity cook on the Food Network who waives her hands around wildly, makes some fairly disgusting food (Salmon Burgers?), loads on the butter, and has a nasally voice which she uses to spit out a lot of annoying phrases. She has two television shows, a magazine, and multiple books and cookware out there. And now she appears on Leno, Oprah, and a myriad of daytime shows spreading her wares to the viewing public. However, I enjoy her in small bits because it's just so extreme. For those out there that hate her, join the club. Seriously. These people despise everything about her, even her regional colloquialisms. It's a bit elitist, but damn if it's not fun to read.

BTW, here she was 10 pounds ago looking pretty hot. She has a nice girl-next-door look to her. Thick's never been bad, not to most guys. But you do have to get by the personality, and the cooking, and the . . .

Is it true?

Today, let's all give each other shit we don't want. Oh wait, we did that Sunday. My bad.

Anyway, the Philly Inquirer has finally caught up with the rest of the world and declared a Center City Renaissance. It only started happening, what, 10 years ago. Why they must always highlight people who left New York City or looked over New York City before moving there is beyond me. Why not highlight the residents who have built the place for the past 25 years, the people that have lived there before the yuppies and hipsters moved in? Don't even get me started on hipsters...

Monday, December 26, 2005

Neverending VII

The Philadelphia Phillies also have sought to expand their Latino fan base through establishing a Latino identity of its team. Every year they host a Latino Family Celebration night, where rumba music and mariachis play in the stands. However, Cuban and Mexican are not the largest Latino nation represented in the Philadelphia region. This distinction belongs to Puerto Rico, and they were underrepresented at this year’s Latino Family Celebration night. While rumba music and mariachis can be enjoyed by all, the Phillies broke off from the identity marketing which other teams, such as the Mets, and the league has sought to foster.

The Phillies also have given out their own Latino Legends Award in order to appeal to Latino fans. By giving an award to past Phillies Latino ballplayers, they hope to use identity as a marketing tool. Once again, however, they have gone about this the wrong way. Namely, they simply do not have a great history of Latino ballplayers. Of the eight winners, most recently catcher Ozzie Virgil Jr., only Tony Perez was a hall-of-famer, and he only played for the Phillies for one year, in 1983. The rest of the recipients were mostly role players on winning teams. The problem the Phillies have is that past history of segregation and racism in their ownership and coaching ranks have caught up with them, and trying to market the ‘great’ history of Phillies Latino ballplayers comes off as insincere at best.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Doo Doo Brain

Git-R-Done...the most annoying phrase in comedy of recent memory. David Cross has decided to take on the phrase, mainly because the man behind it is a liar, and started it all. We all know Larry the Cable Guy by now, that Southern-fried genius of comedy, from his numerous Comedy Central specials and television show with the other pillars of Southern comedy, Bill Engvall and Jeff Foxworthy(Ron White, you're OK in my book). David Cross, on the other hand, is a liberal panty waist, a PC-fiend who toes the lines of mainstream society.

OK, maybe not. Cross is one of the funniest guys on TV, playing the role of Tobias Funke on the recently cancelled Arrested Development. Larry the Cable Guy, on the other hand, plays fart jokes and gross-out humor to the middling mainstream, and yet accuses Cross of being PC. Larry's idea of non-PC fare is calling people 'towel heads' and other nuggets that go down smooth to the wannabe-blue collar crowds he plays. He knows the shtick, and he plays it. Nebraska-born and raised, dropping in and out of his Southern twang at will, and purposely misspelling words and capitalizing everything online for his fans, he plays a section of comedy where people will take anything given to them, anything that resembles 'real'(but isn't, for 'Larry' or for them). Wannabe Southerners, I've seen them all over the place here in Pennsylvania, mostly west of Philadelphia. They call their bowling teams 'Git-R-Done' and repeat the catchphrase of 'that's funny right there'. They write ya'll in their emails. Then they go off to their 65k jobs and go home to their PA residence, where they've lived their whole lives. But not before they go buy some McDonald's from the local strip mall power center. Their kids sop it all up too, some going as far as to wear Confederate flags to school.

Meanwhile, David Cross, actually FROM the South(Georgia), is depicted by Larry and his fans as a 'PC Leftist' who, despite holding any and everything to task in his comedy, 'messes with his audience'. Messing with your audience? What a lame fucking excuse, a knee-jerk 'hey I'm still down with guys who got me here' reaction. It's like Allen Iverson who 'keeps it real' living in his 10 million dollar mansion in Gladwyne. I love Allen, he's my favorite player, but the guy can't 'keep it real' when he's making that much, and neither can you 'Larry'. Kudos for playing this up to the idiots who watch your show(all 5 of them), laugh at your act, watch your speials, buy your books, your key chains, and your women's tampons for their wives. I have to give you props, and I can't stop anyone from making money off chumps who want to buy into the act you've made for yourself. Just stop acting as though you're better than David Cross because he actually sees your for what you are, a schil and a fake who tap-dances for people who want fart jokes and jokes about their sister's moles.

Excuse me, I just pissed my pants.

Neverending Part VI

The importance of marketing the sport also falls to the teams themselves. They can interact with fans more personally, and know their markets much better. Most teams have Latino marketing programs, and these programs have developed rather rapidly. Only ten years ago there were still many teams without Spanish-language radio broadcasts, let alone massive marketing campaigns targeted towards Latinos. One team which has made amazing strides in targeting Latinos has been the New York Mets. The Queens-based Mets, long overshadowed by the Bronx-based New York Yankees in the Latino fan base in the city due to geography, the Mets found themselves in a new Queens, and have taken advantage of this fact. Queens is full of Latino neighborhoods, all within reach of the home of the Mets, Shea Stadium. This proximity has resulted in the Mets using one advertising campaign called ‘Los Mets’. Spanish-language became a huge tool for the team, as they advertised in Spanish-language newspapers, television stations, and provided Spanish-speaking employees. All of this is designed to integrate the Spanish-speaking baseball fan into becoming a Mets fan. This method has worked, confirmed by the abundance of Mets talk on the airwaves and the increasing status of the organization compared to that of the Yankees.

The Mets also use their own players as a way to market the club to Latinos. Last year they signed multiple Latino ballplayers, the most famous among them being Dominican-born Pedro Martinez. Martinez, formerly apprehensive with the media, now embraced them. The Mets used their Latino players to appeal to their burgeoning Latino fan base, in a campaign designed to promote its multiculturalism. However, some ballplayers themselves disliked this line of marketing, namely all-star Carlos Delgado. Delgado refused to give the Mets what he thought they wanted, which was a discount because the general manager was Latino and he was Latino. Instead, he signed with the Florida Marlins, but ironically was traded to the New York Mets after the 2005 season ended. The Puerto Rican born Delgado refused to play up his Latino heritage for a marketing campaign, despite other players openly saying they preferred the Mets because of this campaigning.

The Mets also recently teamed up with Puerto Rican-based Banco Popular Bank to make them the official bank of the New York Mets. This signaled Banco Popular Bank saw the Mets as a viable route to advertise to its customers, about half of which are Latino. This also showed the Mets to be savvy enough to understand that many of its fans use this bank, and the inevitable tie-ins that come with cross-industry marketing could further improve connections to their fans.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Never-Ending Story V

The World Baseball Classic is another way that Major League Baseball has attempted to infiltrate the growing Latino market, both in the United States and in Latin America. The Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela all have teams in the event, with the United States also having some Latino ballplayers. The explanation given by the league itself for starting the tournament is primarily marketing the game:
“The World Baseball Classic was created to provide a platform that will increase worldwide exposure of the game of baseball and further promote grassroots development in traditional and non-traditional baseball nations. The tournament’s primary objectives are to increase global interest and introduce new fans and players to the game. The World baseball Classic acknowledges and pays tribute to the tremendous growth and internationalization of the game.”
By playing the tournament, Major League Baseball, and other professional leagues around the world, will increase their fan base and make a lot more money. It is in the best interest of the league to make sure that as many nations as possible are represented, because they there is a link between identity and rooting interest. Americans root for the United States in the Olympics, just as people take pride in certain people of their race or ethnicity being the ‘first’ in something. Thus, the league made rather loose guidelines for becoming part of a nation’s team, such as only needing to be the son of a parent who has citizenship in that nation. For this reason, there is an Italian team that consists of fourteen professional ballplayers, all born in the United States, including all-star Mike Piazza as the starting catcher. Piazza, born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, went along with the identity marketing, saying that it would be better for the game if he played for Italy.

Similarly, Manny Ramirez is playing for the Dominican Republic, despite spending most of his years in the United States. Alex Rodriguez, on the other hand, declared himself as part of the Dominican team before withdrawing from the team completely, for fear of alienating any of his fans. He decided ‘not to dishonor’ either his country or his heritage. Though far from a closed issue, this speaks volumes about the problems of identity in baseball. The Italian team was described as the ‘Italian-American squad’, and thus a newspaper columnist had no trouble with the players on it. However, he then went on to lecture Rodriguez, and told him to that no one will ‘begrudge him’ should he choose the Dominican Republic. Then he begrudges him throughout the piece.

The article, and Rodriguez’s inability to pick a team, shows the problems of identity that many have with Latinos. At the same time he is Latino, and proud of it, and yet also proud to be born in the United States. The columnist wants him to pick a side, essentially making him choose between his heritage and his country. This controversy also gets tangled with marketing, as evidenced by Major League Baseball’s insistence that the matter is not settled. The player’s association chief operating officer, Gene Orza, explained that he knows Rodriguez is interested in growing the sport and that: “And having known and respected him since he was drafted, my suspicion is that, in the end, fans around the world will see Alex in a WBC uniform.” It is vital to the sport that Rodriguez participate and help draw fans, because entire idea of the tournament is to expand the fan base to make more money for all involved.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Pass that Chronicles of Narnia

SNL made something funny! Seriously! No, seriously!! I know most have probably heard or seen this, but the Narnia rap has probably been one of the wittiest things they've done since the last time Chris Parnell did a rap on the show. The show really should just be Parnell rapping for an hour and a half, because nothing else even warrants a chuckle. OK, the Dane Cook itchy sweater sketch was entertaining, but that's about it.

Anyway, click on the crazy delicious pic to access the video. You'll be pleasently surprised. Big props to Andy Samberg in this video, his facial expressions and actions perfectly mimick so many rappers. Next thing you know, Kanye West will attempt a song where he DOESN'T sample a previous work. Well, we can only hope.

And I ghost like Swayze!

Whoever said jazz was all-American?

The twelve winners also showed the current player bias. Six of the twelve winners are still playing in professional baseball, and no winner played before 1955. However, the winners represented the various nations from which Latino ballplayers come, including four from the Dominican Republic, three from Puerto Rico, two from Panama, two from the United States, and one from Mexico. The two United States players, Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez, were actually listed under the Dominican Republic, even though both players spent most of their lives in New York, and Alex Rodriguez has actually lived in the United States his entire life. Edgar Martinez, representing Puerto Rico, has also been on the mainland for his entire life. Likewise, Albert Pujols, the first base Dominican Republican winner, actually went to high school in the United States and is a U.S. citizen.

The thinking behind these designations becomes evident when one reads a columnist’s words describing some Latinos: “That’s certainly true in the Yankee clubhouse, where Rodriguez mingled not with Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams, but with Jeter, Jason Giambi and Tino Martinez (who despite his Spanish surname is about as all-American as they come).” Tino Martinez is thought of as all-American, while Bernie Williams and Mariano Rivera are not. Martinez was born to Cuban parents in Tampa, Florida, from the initial wave of immigrants in the 1960s. His light-skinned appearance and flawless English no doubt make him ‘all-American’, but the dark-skinned Bernie Williams speaks flawless English as well. Identity in professional baseball is as convoluted as it is in every other walk of life, which is how Martinez can somehow be all-American while jazz-playing, English-speaking, American citizen Bernie Williams does not get such a designation. There is little thought given to the racial identities given to players today, though skin tone plays a large role.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Nancy Reagan says Just Say No

There was also exclusion of some older Latino ballplayers, for more ‘name’ players who baseball fans might know more about: “The ballot over-represents the most recent period. I’m fine if it’s 50 percent, but it’s two-thirds from the past 20 years, presenting the image that Latinos just got here.” In actuality, Latinos have been in the major leagues since 1902, though at that point only light-skinned Latinos were eligible due to segregation. Major League Baseball molded the nominees so that people could recognize most of the names, and feel a connection to them. The creation of this connection is tying in the pride of one’s ethnic heritage in with marketing. Much of Latino-oriented marketing centers on pride development, such as ads showing the care of a Latino mother for her family.

This ‘pride’ played a role in other selections, as shown by the inclusion of Rafael Palmeiro, but the exclusion of Jose Canseco, both great recent Cuban players and both steroid users. Before being suspended for taking steroids, Palmeiro was painted in the media as a role model for children and a model Latino ballplayer, someone who was underrated and understated. Then came his vehement denial of steroid usage before Congress, and the eventual steroid test results. Canseco admitted to steroid use to promote his book, and has had brushes with the law in the past. He has appeared on reality shows, has been known for his gaffs in the outfield, and has been painted as a buffoon who just happened to hit four hundred and sixty-two home runs. While both broke the rules of baseball and the laws of the United States, the previous image of Palmeiro as a ‘golden boy’ led to decision to include him among the nominees but exclude Canseco.

Would you say I have a plethora of pinatas?

The Latino Legends Team nominees consisted of sixty Latino baseball players, ranging from hall-of-famers to current all-stars. The reasoning behind the promotion was However, some exclusions proved to be controversial, including those of Ted Williams and Reggie Jackson. Ted Williams was born to a Mexican-American mother who lived in El Paso, Texas. He hid this from most people, including the notorious racist Boston fans during the time he played in the 1930s and 1940s. One can wonder whether Williams was ashamed of his heritage, or simply hid it to avoid racism, but Reggie Jackson never hid his heritage. He even had the name Martinez in his name, and called ‘his people’ Hispanics. He even defended dating white women, which was near taboo during his playing days, by reminding his teammates that he was Hispanic. Jackson self-described himself, and still does, as Hispanic and African-American, but the hall-of-famer was left off the Latino Legends Team. The explanation Major League Baseball gave for this decision was that the nominees must have a ‘direct connection to their Latino heritage’. Heritage involves parents, and both had Hispanic parents. However, a spokesman for the league said that Williams’ inclusion would ‘cause havoc’. The inclusion of Latinos on a Latino Legends Team would only cause havoc if the intent was not a true representation of the best Latinos who ever played the game, but simply a marketing campaign which the sport used to help Latino fans identify with their favorite players. A key phrase in concluding that the team was used as a marketing tool is that the nominees should ‘represent the Latino community’. The Latino community that Major League Baseball envisions would not connect to Ted Williams or Reggie Jackson, despite their enormous accomplishments, but would instead need someone to relate to based on outward appearances.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Say Salsa! and get a 5 dollar discount

First Part of a Multi-Part Series on the Latino Marketing and Identity in Professional Baseball:

The amount of Latinos in Major League Baseball (MLB) has exploded over the past fifty years, and foreign-born Latinos totaling some twenty-five percent of the current players. The same goes for the Latino population of the United States at large, which has grown to become the largest minority in the country. It makes sense that professional baseball would seek to tap into this market, because the sport itself had seen declines due to strikes in past season, such as the 1994 strike which cancelled the World Series. They have gone about this in various ways, including both sport and team-specific campaigns. Most recently, the sport-wide Latino Legends promotion concluded during the October 2005 playoffs, but had several problems with it concerning identity and selection. The World Baseball Classic is also conceived partly as a marketing and identity project. More team-specific promotions include the Philadelphia Phillies’ multiple Latino awards and a New York Mets’ media blitz targeted towards Latinos in New York City. The majority of the marketing schemes target pride in being Latino, the identity of Latinos, and potential Spanish-speaking fans.

Major League Baseball has no doubt seen the numbers signifying that Latinos have become the largest ‘group’ in the United States outside non-Hispanic whites. Because pro baseball is a business, the attempt to infiltrate this market has been for the reason of making money. However, some statistics back up this trend to target Latinos more. From 1996 to 2000, most sports saw a decline in people who considered themselves fans of that sport. African-Americans and Latinos were both polled and professional hockey and professional soccer saw the biggest drops. Golf and professional wrestling saw large gains from both African-Americans and Latinos. Major League Baseball saw a 2.7% decline of African-American fandom during this time period, while Latinos actually increased 1.2%, making it the only sport besides golf or professional wrestling to see a gain from either group. The numbers show that interest in the sport has picked up, and that further marketing towards Latinos would probably be fruitful for professional baseball.

Latinos are becoming more interested in baseball, and Major League Baseball has tried to appeal to them in several ways. One major campaign was the recent Chevrolet Presents the Major League Baseball Latino Legends Team. The title displays the primary sponsor prominently, like much marketing in sports. The Chevrolet car company’s tie-in with baseball made sure that ballots for the team would be located in all Chevrolet dealerships. The rest of the voting took place on the internet, on Major League Baseball’s official website. No voting at ballparks, during games, occurred, even though millions of fans go to every team’s games. As a result, only one million and six hundred thousand ballots were cast, much lower totals than this year’s All-Star game. Why voting was not allowed at ballparks is a mystery. Even baseball’s executive vice president for business recognized a flaw in the voting: “I’d guess that more people go to a ballpark then to a Chevy dealership, but it’s pretzel logic to punish us for doing the promotion.” Though they recognized that voting would greatly increase if ballots were given to fans attending games, they chose not to use this method, for no reasonable reason. A sports marketing executive predicted Latino participation in the promotion would be miniscule, and this proved correct, as participation was miniscule across the board. ---

Saturday, December 17, 2005


The Lemon Law. Because your time shouldn't be wasted by idiots.

Friday, December 16, 2005

You Can't Please Everyone

A stunning rebuttal from Bill O'Reilly, on his TV show last night:

McBRIEN: But, Bill, it's only, it's a certain segment of the Protestant side, and I'm not -- I don't intend to diminish them or to put them down. But mainstream Protestants generally are in the same boat, as it were, as mainstream Catholics and their bishops.

Look, for decades, Catholics and mainstream Protestants have bemoaned the commercialization of Christmas, the using the religious aspects of the feast to sell products.

And what's happened -- two things have happened -- one is that this nation has changed. In 1955, Will Herbert, a very famous social scientist, wrote a book called "Protestant, Catholic, Jew." In 1955, that was the religious landscape of this country. The only real non-Christians in this country were Jews, and they were a small minority. Today, there are many, many millions of non-Christians beyond the Jewish community. And so, you know, business is business. It's out to make a profit, and it doesn't want to alienate potential customers.

O'REILLY: Yes, but that -- you know that's dopey, Father.

It's a Festivus Miracle!

Pre-Festivus Celebration Tonight in Center City!
Come for the grievances, stay for the feats of strength!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Festivus for the rest of us

Share in the joy of Festivus, the non-denominational holiday of my choosing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


This is a test post from

Monday, December 12, 2005

The forest stretched no living man knew how far

New Urbanism. What is it? Why should we care? Well, think about your ideal home. What do most people say? To get this, I will look at a poll done in 2000. Of course, attitudes could have drastically changed in the last 5 years. But away we go:

  • 54 percent of those responding think traffic has gotten worse where they live in the last three years;
  • 76 percent think their state needs to do more to manage growth
  • 56 percent strongly favor measures that would set aside green space, farming and forests outside of cities that are off limits to developers; and
  • 78 percent think existing communities should be revitalized or be given priority funding rather than encouraging new housing in the countryside.

So, what does this say? People want less traffic, less growth, more green space, and revitalization in their own exisiting communities. Certainly, there is something to be said for people saying one thing, and doing another. How do we put this poll in context with what we know to be true, that people are moving in droves farther and farther into the exurbs and away from the cores in the United States? By showing how the government itself is subsidizing this movement.

First, the FHA and VA Loans has subsidized housing for Veterans of various wars. Surely, this isn't a bad thing, but where these people have searched for homes has been increasingly farther and farther away from the core. The 'suburban myth', created long ago in our nation, has created generations of people who believe that the suburbs are the epitome of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and people have been innudated with this myth through TV show after TV show. Only recently have either programs truly acknowledged the core as a viable option for people to buy into, and yet properties are still overwhelmingly in the suburbs.

Secondly, the Federal Highway Acts, which started in the 1950s, increased construction tremendously on the highway system created for World War II. $25 billion was authorized for fiscal years 1957 through 1969 for the project(extrapolated out to 2005 dollars this would be over 172 billion dollars..pickpocket politics :D ). As a result, there was increased access to previously unavailable areas. Developers bought up the parcels along the highways by the thousands(and in big chunks), and built subdivisions all over the place. Eventually, as the people went, so went office space, and by the 1970s, office space was following the mass exodus to the suburbs. This created more and more traffic, and the solution was to throw more and more money at the building expansion of highways. What a solution!

Finally, there is a mortage deduction for people to help them buy a bigger house than what they truly can afford. Once again, the exodus to 'bigger' and 'better' is still being subsidized to this day. However, no on calls it subsidization. Highway funding is known as 'roads improvements', while transit funding is 'rail subsidies' or 'bus subsidies'. Interesting the wordplay which is involved for the exact same thing(and 'road improvements' are funded FAR more than other transit options on a federal, state and local level). Let's not even get into the tax rates as a subsidization for residents and businesses to move out. People complain of the high taxes in cities, and yet the major reason the taxes stay so low in farther out areas is the lack of infrastructure needs that they had for years and years, and then the lack of infrastructure development once people do move in. They ignore sidewalks, lighting, quality sewer systems, mass transit, and any other amenity which would be too 'city-like'. In order to not raise taxes on the local level, the state and eventually the federal level pays for the improvements through several programs(such as the ones above, plus others). What a racket.

Instead, a better solution would be to stop this subsidization by reclaiming the neighborhood. Smart growth's goals are a walkable environment, small lots, easy access to mass transportation, and overall a pedestrian friendly environment. These goals are achievable through fixing the zoning code of suburban and urban municipalities to bring back the idea of the town center and the pedestrian street. Reinstating the street grid in many areas is also vital, because it gives people many more options to get from one place to another, thus alleviating many traffic backups and problems. Creating too many one-way streets in cities has helped nullify a lot of the advantages of a street grid. This must be fixed. Also, another advantage of a gridded street pattern is that the streets can be made smaller. Streets that are smaller demand that drivers go slower, that pedestrians are catered to, and allows for on-street parking to further slow down moving cars. Safety for pedestrians is an essential element to the New Urbanist ideal.

This ‘New Urbanism’ is almost a rehashing of the way the United States developed in the Roaring Twenties. Development based around walkability, mass transportation, and in the integration of businesses and residences. By implementing these ideals, sprawl in the United States can be reined in, and can preserve the rural and urban environments while also improving them. Currently, this is a small movement mostly involving infill in urban areas and in converting green space to New Urbanist towns which end up skyrocketing in value. Increasing partnerships between governments and developers can help increase the development of more of these neighborhoods in order to increase the supply and bring down the prices of these. Right now, there are too few of these developments and this raises the prices of homes in these neighborhoods. Sprawl can be slowed down if zoning is changed to allow for multi-use buildings, if regional cooperation starts to occur to discourage development in exurban areas, and if more attention is made to the re-emerging central city.

Downtowns are thriving all over the
United States, and this can spread to adjacent neighborhoods and brown field sites if measures are taken to introduce New Urbanism in a widespread manner. New Urbanism is old urbanism with a paint job and a marketing campaign. It's a valiant attempt, and an actual plan, to make current suburban development environmentally-friendly and city-friendly, as well. With the inclusion of adequate transit, TOD(transit-oriented development) , and connections to the center of the city, New Urbanist developments can become benificial to the central city, rather than a leech, as most current suburbs act. New Urbanism itself, however, should be most important in rebuilding the 'Sun Belt' cities and re-invigorating the 'Rust Belt' cities of the United States. Ignoring the problems of cities, and actually seeking real solutions, will only further ignore the realities of our society.

It breaks no new ground, adds nothing. I enjoyed it a lot.

- Somehow, the idea of working on urban crime in colonial and post-colonial Latin American major cities does little to entice me on a day of football and relaxation. Although I have sought to decrease my procrastination this semester, I have largely discovered that while I do the research for a chosen topic well in advance, the actual writing comes a day or two before the paper is due, and then little revision is done. Surely I could continue adhere to this method and get average grades, but I seek above-average grades. Such is the way things unfold.
- I've stumbled upon a rather ridiculous blog, Antietam Watch. The blog consists of a Laureldale, PA resident rambling on about the latest happenings in the Antietam Lake controversy, and his biased take on the matter. His primary concern is the millage tax rate from Berks County. He fears that the 'wine and cheese crowd'(as he so calls any media person reporting on the matter, any businessman in Berks County not holding a Republican voting card, and any Democratic politician representing anyone in Berks County)are riling up the unknowledgable public on this matter, in order to serve their own purposes. Those purposes include raising taxes on the working and middle class and handing out contracts and such to their friends, also part of the 'wine and cheese' brigade. He calls this 'pick pocket politics' and, yes, he puts a space between pick and pocket.

The idea that politicians could be corrupt is not a new one, nor is it necessarily untrue. Every poltician is crooked, to some degree. To get anything done in government, as in life or business, working relationships must be made and concessions and cooperation must occur. A concession in the Antietam Lake case is that it will cost someone some money to buy it. Matt Heckman seems to want the free market to take care of the sale, and does not want his taxes to increase should the County of Berks get involved. He also wants all who puport to save Antietam Lake to pool money together and save it themselves, if they find it so special and in need of saving.

This is both illogical and unnecessary. As I tried to state in several comments on his blog, which were not approved for public viewing because they did not have enough petty namecalling to pass the censor, we, as citizens, already have a way to pool money together to achieve certain goals. This is called the government, consisting of a body of citizens who tax everyone to achieve goals ranging from public safety to snow removal. To suggest that environmental protection is an entirely private venue would also extend this notion to most other arenas where the public good is involved, including public safety and snow removal, to use two examples. Hardly anyone would approve of a pure private police force, or privately-funded fire companies, which would charge on a per usage basis. Those who would then be in need of the most help would be the most harshly affected, money-wise. Then why should we suggest that environmental protection, which tries to deal with problems which do not know political borders, should be a purely private endeavor? Antietam Lake's possible(and probable, should M.B. Investments become involved in the ownership)development would come at a price, and a large one at that. Soil erosion would occur with less trees on the land, creating harsher floods in an area which experienced harsh flooding merely a year ago. Learn from Birdsboro. Learn from the Delaware Valley boroughs which experienced tremendous flooding which ravaged their homes, their businesses, and their way of life. Yes, this is alarmist, and yes this is overkill. But flooding most assuredly affects more than Lower Alsace Township, and most assuredly is a realstic consequence of developing the land.
The Berks County government's proposal includes 7 million dollars(3 million from the county, 2.5 from the state, 1.5 from Lower Alsace Township), payable to the city of Reading, who currently owns the land. They would erect bathrooms and a few other park amenities, and otherwise keep the land intact and untouched for generations to come. In an area where land is being gobbled up by housing developers(such as Greth Development Corp., which started the entire controversy with its proposal of over 500 homes), the Berks County government is one of the few sane voices to realize that land protection goes a long way to maintaing and increasing the quality of life for residents all over the county. It sets a precedent that land should not be developed as though it were purely an economic commodity, but instead holds added benifits to society. It also would pay for the state-mandated environmental repairs. Also, the city would be able to use the money to fix part of its buget problems. Sounds like they're a bunch of crooks!
The M.B. Investments proposal includes only 2.5 million dollars but promises to let the city keep a 50% stake in the land, and keep water rights. On the surface, it sounds like a good deal. However, over 400 acres more in land would be sold to M.B. Investments, compared to Berks County. Also, in twenty years time, the issue would arise again. Putting off a problem does not solve it. It merely gives a problem to a newer generation. This is not a solution, it's a band-aid given by a company whose history has been one of irresponsible development and contracts with over-their-head local governments. Look at the 'borough' of New Morgan, an affront to those who favor good government FOR the people. It consists of approxomiately 23 people, and a huge chunk of land owned by Raymond Carr, owner of Morgantown Properties. It came about due to disagreement with the township about zoning and such, and now exists as a testament to how waste management firms will seek any and every imaginable way to get their way in a matter. Several proposals have come and gone, each time being shouted down by the nearby residents, and each time the law being flaunted and taunted. The only visible progress in the borough is the Conestoga Landfill. The funny thing is, I am a huge proponent of smart growth(which is the supposed idea behind New Morgan), but smart growth coming at expense of common decency is wrong. The borough was created under shady conditions, for a purely economic purpose, and this is wrong, no matter the 'good' result which might occur. Sprawl is tearing up the Morgantown area, but the solution is not to step around the government, but to work with the government to create a better plan. Morgantown Properties used a shady way to get around the government by creating its own tiny fiefdom. 13 years and counting, and the fiefdom is floundering, with no home or business yet built on the land save for the landfill. Development has been 'impending' for years now, and will likely be 'impending' for years to come. We can learn from New Morgan and not get into a partnership with someone whose record is one as shady and average as M.B. Investments. Learn from the Morgantown Properties boondoggle. M.B. Investments purports to have never developed a shred of land, save for a school. This is true, though its website fails to mention that its 'thousands of acres in Berks and Montgomery Counties' owned, that they also own several landfills and other waste management sites in Berks County and throughout the state of Pennsylvania, and other states. Apparently they don't count as developments. Though two different companies, the idea between both is the same: Making money, no matter how many people are affected.

Who do Angel Figueroa, Michael Schorn, Dennis Sterner, and Vaughn Spencer work for? The people, or M.B. Investments? I tried to find their emails online, but was unable to find anything other than a phone number to Mr. Figueroa's office. I won't post it because I don't like that sort of thing, but it is rather weird that none have a listed email address, when many other cities have this option, Mayor McMahon is quite visible online(blog, email), and everyone and their grandmother have emails available. Then again, this was a city that didn't have a workable website until Mr. McMahon entered office, either. The old Eppihimer regime must still have influence.