Sunday, May 19, 2019

Don't actually let him read this

To the Honorable William M. Peduto:

Sometimes you just get a feeling like you need some kind of change. I'm here to tell you I know what it is. Higher office, baby. You know what I'm talking about.  Go. For. It.  Here's why:

1) You're the mayor of a mid-sized city, which means running for the presidency isn't something you're too busy to do. Seriously, who's going to notice if you're AWOL?

2) In an era where everyone is trying to play identity politics, you appeal to the entire spectrum of mainstream, hard working Americans. From the out of work steelworker to the cyclist looking for a safe path to Whole Foods, you've got the kitchen table voter's back.

3) You're from Pennsylvania. PENNSYLVANIA. A state so important that Joe Biden launched his campaign from it multiple times in just the last month!

4) You had the tunnel vision to go after Amazon, and that's the same kind of ludicrous delusion it'll take to think you belong in this shitshow.

 5) You're a leader but you're not bossy. You're a liberal but you're not a neoliberal. You're able to stand up to people but no one thinks your voice sounds like a shrill, castrating she-devil when you talk. You've got the right stuff, Bill.

So do it. You know you can make a difference. You've certainly proven to us that you can tread water at the municipal level, time to take that show on the road. It would be wrong not to!


p.s. Please forward this to Rich Fitzgerald, Dan Gilman, and Rick Sebak if you see them. They're also invited to run for similar, if not identical reasons.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Folks, he said to no one in particular, I wouldn't normally do this, but some hallway derelict strode through here a couple of days ago spewing outrageous lies, and I feel the need to address those head-on, point-by-point.

  1. All of this is actually true. 
  2. I don't send this e-mail out every year. I send this e-mail out every two or three years. I never renew the registration for just one year because it's cheaper to do it for multiple years, and because I don't think I could stomach having to pony up money for it every year. I think our registration is up again next year, but I'd have to check.
  3. Yeah, this is pretty dead-on. I did start a post a couple of weeks ago when Ricky Jay died, just talking about how cool that guy was, and how I once saw him do a one-man show on the history of entertainment and street magic in New York in an off-Broadway theater, but nobody cares and I never finished it.
  4. At this point, I'd be happy to catch Chase d'Arnaud.
  5. Totally agree with this. But that doesn't mean that baseball can't still be fun. The problem with it is that if you're just enjoying it for fun, writing about it can sometimes make it less fun. I've been thinking about this a lot lately with regard to whether or not I'll do a Pirates season preview this year. I'd like to, but only because they're fun to write -- not because I actually care about the guys the Pirates break camp with. I care less about the Pirates now than I ever have. Last year, I didn't even attend a single game at PNC Park. The only ballgame I went to last year was a Dodgers-Pirates game at Dodger Stadium while I was out in LA visiting friends. That ballpark is its own kind of beautiful, right down to how the condiment dispensers at the hot dog stands seem like they're designed to waste more relish and onions than they allow you to use. I still love baseball -- I'll still get next year and watch west coast games, the A's, the Rays, and every Shohei Othani plate appearance, but I don't have the time or patience anymore to care about a team that has committed itself to sustained mediocrity. And I'll be the first to readily admit that I'll go completely nuts if they somehow get good again, and I'll enjoy it. And maybe that's fair-weather fandom, but I don't give two shits.
  6. Look, you went to Whole Foods. You chose to go to Whole Foods. You know that the parking situation there is an enormous logistical nightmare. That's what you signed up for. 
  7. I've been playing Red Dead Redemption 2 a lot lately. Specifically, I've been playing a lot of poker within the confines of Red Dead Redemption 2. Right now, my incentive to advance the narrative is to see if it allows me to play in a poker game with higher stakes.
  8. I finished the second season of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" last night. A lot of people have been shitting on this season compared to last season. I found it as delightful, if not even more so than the first. It's smart, it's quick, it's funny. And this season's episodes don't have the tendency to drag the way last season's did. I get what the New Yorker is complaining about. I just think they're wrong.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

I think we could be the most depressing place on the internet

According to a Google googling of "what's the most depressing place on the internet?" there's a subreddit where people piss and moan about the lack of a Half-Life 3.  I think we could beat that, if not for the catch 22 that we're too mediocre to generate any traffic.

Why is FTC such a bummer?  Let's do it in list form (no promise that I'll hit a round number like 10).

  1. We, as non-internet people, are kind of depressing. Matt takes pills for it, I have to stare into a  light box in the morning, and Nils...  Nils is fine.  He just logs enough windowless sweatpants hours to kill us weaker spirited creatures if we tried.
  2.  Every year at this time we get the email or the gchat or the silent treatment from Matt telling us he's considering cancelling the domain name subscription. Then a few months later we see that FTC is still a thing.
  3. There's this fleeting notion that maybe we'll do something different with FTC. You know, like aim our poor-man's-FJM style at the Peduto administration, or declare our nuanced position on New Left candidates. But who are we kidding? We're not going to write it and you're not going to read it.
  4. At this point in our careers none of us are going to catch John Legend.
  5.  Sports are pretty dumb and so are sports blogs. It wasn't always this way, but we can't pretend it's 2007 anymore. 
  6. Coming up with a 6th reason is harder than backing out of my spot in the Whole Foods' parking lot. Why did I come here on a Sunday? 
Maybe you feel differently, perhaps we're not the place you go when you need to sink deeper into the abyss.  I'll see if I can find a poll widget to get some accurate numbers on this. But not now.

For now you can use our comments section to let it rip regarding Half-Life 3.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Sweather weather!

In light of the Pirates' decision last week to decline Josh Harrison's $11 million option for 2019 (which I don't think any of us realized until today because Fuck the Pirates and Our Dystopian Toilet Society), I'm just going to leave this here.

They have some really nice merch available right now.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Let's blog about sports in 2018 at least once

Sports are dumb.  They're the opiate of the opioid crisis. Prove me wrong.

But here we are, on the internet. So let's do this.

1) Urban Meyer is filth. He's always been filth because you don't get to become the grand poobah of college filthball without filthing it up. For those who don't know, he employed an assistant coach who beat a woman regularly. The victim of the abuse is good friends with Urban Meyer's wife, and there are documented texts showing that everyone knew what was going on. Now Urban Meyer says he never heard of this. Here's what needs to happen, in roughly this order:

-Fuck that guy.
-Fuck that other guy.
-Send at least one of them to prison.
-Make sure both of them never end up on TV or coaching again.

In the coming days there'll be headlines like "will Urban coach again?" or "what will the Buckeyes season look like without Meyer?" Those are the questions that get children and women hurt. The correct alternative to asking or answering those questions is to stop giving such a shit about 19 year olds playing football.

2) While we're on the subject of deposed The Ohio State University football coaches, I'm nominating Tristan Thompson for The Woody Hayes Punch of the Year award. Apparently Thompson suckershoved Draymond Green at LeBron's ESPy afterparty because ... he's a dip shit? Let's be clear about something, I really like Draymond Green. I don't know if he's as raw skills good as KD or Steph, but he somehow brings as much value to the floor because of all the things he can do. Whether it's valuable or not, one of the things he can do is get under the skin of dummies like Tristan Thompson, a guy who I don't really care for because when he's not rebounding in space he's pretty much a dog at basketball.  Anyway, The WHP of the Year award isn't about who we like or who we don't like; it's about one roided up monster going after another because of sports.

3) While we're on the subject of Cleveland: ha!  

Kevin Love is going to get paid over $1 million per Cavs' win next year.  o/u says he plays in 12.5 of them.

4) While we're on the subject of white people in sports: oh shit, guys.

Let's start with Josh Hader, the Brewers' second-year all star closer. Someone used the internet to find out that this guy tweeted a bunch of bigoted stuff when he was 17 years old. Then all his teammates stood around in support of him while he man-cried in front of reporters while mumbling incoherently. THEN, the Brewers' fans gave him a standing ovation for, like, showing up at the game after getting choked up about this one time when he was racist and homophobic on the internet.

A few super important things here:

-All of his teammates showed up in silent solidarity, but think about it from the perspective of a player of color. What choice is there? Go to a reporter and say "I'm uncomfortable playing with this asshole"?  No way. Then you're the malcontent.  Maybe on some level there's a meathead jock solidarity thing at work, but if that's the case, where were the 24 other guys standing behind Adam Jones last year when he said it stinks being racially taunted by fans (here's some Curt Schilling clickbait related to that)?

-There is nothing special about the Brewers' fanbase. This is just who comes to baseball games in every baseball city. White people from the suburbs who feel indebted to a young player who man-cried for them so that he and they can continue to not learn.

-This situation is complicated because it's allowed to be.  MLB and the Brewers could have cut him off at the knees for being shitty, but they felt no pressure to do so. This guy's lack of punishment was then misconstrued as redemption. It's sick and stupid and predictable. MLB probably also figured there'd be more of this coming down the pike and they didn't want to set too draconian a precedent, lest they suspend a third of the league.

Guess what!  More did come down the pike!  This past week the internet coughed up two more punks: Sean Newcomb and Trea Turner.  Are they the problem, though?


And so is the fact that there's a team named the Indians!  And one called the Braves!  And one called the Texas Rangers, which may actually be the most offensive name of all because the Texas Rangers were some ex-confederate soldiers who formed a paramilitary posse for hunting brown people. Now they're just a paramilitary posse that hunts brown people. NOT a thing we want in this world. NOT a thing we should name a baseball team after as if it's something we want in this world.

Look, MLB is a racist pile of garbage. But that's not going to stop me from talking about...

5) The Pirates trading for Chris Archer!???  

Holy shit.

That's not a terrible move, if only because it unloaded Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows when their stocks were at the absolute highest. It's not a great, great move because it doesn't give the Bucs the additional 10 wins they'll likely need to come close to competing for the division.

Chris Archer has been consistently excellent with K/BB and consistently crummy with keeping the ball in the park. Of K, BB, and HR/9, Uncle Ray can do something about the HR, or at least that's the thinking.

There's very, very little reason for the Pirates to be buyers at this point in the season. This is an 80ish win team with a lot of players coming up on their expiration dates. I would have blown the whole thing up for prospects if possible. But whatever. We went from two prodigiously overrated schmucks to one solid starting pitcher. All we have to do in the offseason is sign Bryce Harper, trade for Mike Trout, and hold Clayton Kershaw's loved ones hostage until he agrees to pitch for us.  It's been done before!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Quit buying your kombucha at Whole Foods, you filthy sellouts

Over the last year or two, I've been thinking and having a lot of conversations about how Pittsburgh has changed in last decade, what that change means now, and what it means for the future of the city -- especially for the people whom, by virtue of birth, choice or other circumstance, were fully invested in the city before it showed the kind of promise that's led to years of obnoxious, clickbaity listicles, Portland comparisons and widespread use of the absurd term "livable."

These conversations really took off last October when the Pittsburgh episode of Anthony Bourdain's "Parts Unknown" quite masterfully distilled the questions fueling these discussions into a compelling, digestible 22-minutes.* And in the midst of one of these discussions, I wondered if Pittsburgh is getting just a little too precious for its own good. Like, is this city turning into a miniature top hat you'd put on a small dog so that you and the dog could have matching Halloween costumes?

I'm already worried the answer is "Yes." So when I see something like this, well...

Naomi Homison saw opportunity for real growth for her business when Pittsburgh Juice Company needed more space beyond its Lawrenceville location next to her brother’s yoga studio.

She bought the former 31st Street Pub at 3101 Penn Ave., a building with “good bones,” and asked other Pittsburgh food makers to become partners in a new venture, Heirloom Superfood Market. When renovations are complete, the market will open in late spring or early summer.

Though this reads like a letter from Portlandia Island, there's nothing terribly wrong here. The 31st Street Pub closed in 2015 after a 53-year run, the last 21 of which saw it reborn as the heir to the Electric Banana, hub of Pittsburgh's wildly underappreciated punk scene.** Apart from the objectively shitty aims and consequences of gentrification, there's nothing really wrong with this; re-purposing a vacant building doesn't displace anyone, and the Strip District hadn't really been a residential neighborhood for 40 years before developers started putting up condos and lofts targeted at wealthy yuppies and empty-nesters. Times change neighborhoods, beloved locales close. The way of things, circle of life and all that.

By placing orders together, her company and Pure GrubFickle Fox Fermented Foods and Frontier Cultures will lower their prices and be able to offer “amazing, hard to find ingredients” that include superfoods such as chia, flaxseed, hemp seeds and nutritional yeast.

::extended sigh::

With recent emphasis on plant-based diets and whole foods, it’s a good time to open a store offering natural foods and super foods, says Homison — even with big players in the market such as Whole Foods, East End Co-Op and Trader Joe’s. Sure, you can order coconut butter online, but some people “are conscientious enough that they don’t really want to be ordering, with all that packaging and shipping, just so you can get a thing of coconut butter.”

Did you feel that? That was me rolling my eyes so hard that it caused harmless but measurable seismic activity all the way to Van Meter, Iowa. 

Heirloom, she predicts, will fulfill a need. “This area, the Strip District and Lawrenceville/Polish Hill, has been dubbed a food desert and it’s a very real problem.

Of course. The Strip District is a food desert. It is also a craft distillery desert and a regional history museum desert. 

There are no grocery stores, let alone a place to find the real specialty stuff. And we’re going to have options, things that aren’t so scary for people who are afraid of healthy stuff.”

You know what I hate about the Strip? There's just no food. Like, anywhere. But it's not just that there isn't any food in the Strip District, it's that there's none of that really good specialty stuff. You can't get all kinds of fresh meat, fish, cheeses, coffee or pastries! And forget about exotic cuisines like Polish or Lebanese food, or the best goddamn banh mi you've ever had in your miserable life, lovingly handmade by a charming old Vietnamese woman in a tent standing next to a fabulous Italian restaurant and wine bar.


And we know people will love having us in that part of town because the one thing it has in spades is free, convenient parking -- you know, so you don't have a terribly long walk back to your car with that 60-lb bag of chia seeds.

For years, there's been this circuitous back-and-forth about what to do with the building we call the Produce Terminal. A big part of that conversation has been the mayor's desire to see it turned into a public market, and he'll go on to cite Seattle's Pike Place, Cleveland's West Side Market and Boston's Secret Warehouse in Southie Where You Go To Buy Imported Chinese Tom Brady Jerseys. Seemingly lost in the conversation about bringing a public market to the Strip is that the Strip already has a public market. It's called Penn Avenue.

For the uninitiated, the Strip District is the neighborhood in Pittsburgh known for one thing: food. If the Strip District is a food desert, Paris is an art desert. Wisconsin is a cheese desert. Seattle is an actual desert.

In 1996, documentary filmmaker and local hero Rick Sebak released "Strip Show" -- a 122-minute documentary entirely on this particular part of Pittsburgh. You can buy on the WQED-TV's website, where it's described thusly:
"The Strip District is a delicious old neighborhood in Pittsburgh. On most Saturday mornings, it's one of the best places on earth, full of hungry people, crunchy fruits, snappy vegetables, world-class street food, cool characters and tasty surprises."
But that was 22 years ago! Surely the neighborhood has changed substantially! To find out, I consulted local zine NEXTPittsburgh, whose neighborhood guides make it a fabulous resource for residents old and new. NEXT's "Things to do in The Strip District."*** Its subhead? "Once a hub for manufacturing and shipping, the Strip District is now a food and shopping destination unlike any other in the world." They offer nothing to back up that assertion, apart from 11 pages of comprehensive Strip District food-centric guidance.

Nonsense! Hogwash! East Coast Liberal Media Elite Bias! You sheeple believe everything you read on the Internet? Obama!

What do the experts say?

Food deserts are defined  as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.

Ah ha! Surely, the USDA's Food Desert Locator will confirm what we all know to be true: that the Strip, Lawrenceville and Polish Hill are bereft of food, and only we, the noble chia merchants at Heirloom, can save them!

Because you shouldn't trust my crude encircling of the neighborhoods in question, I encourage you to follow that link, plug in each neighborhood individually and see what the maps say. These are not, by any definition of the term, food deserts.

Is all of the piling on? Maybe. But when I worry about this city jumping the proverbial shark, this is exactly the shit that scares me:

To introduce Heirloom to the community, the partner businesses have planned a series of events in the months leading up to its opening, which they’ll publicize on Facebook and Instagram. The first event, in December, was a holiday retreat offering acupuncture and didgeridoo sound therapy. “It’s not just about food. It’s about overall wellness,” Heirloom says in a January 2 post on Facebook.

The only form of therapy with a didgeridoo I can fathom participating in involves violently smashing a didgeridoo.

Sure, you can order coconut butter online, but some people “are conscientious enough that they don’t really want to be ordering, with all that packaging and shipping, just so you can get a thing of coconut 'butter.”

To reduce packaging, everything at Heirloom, including coconut butter, will be sold by the handful.

I don't buy chia seed, in bulk or otherwise. And in the event I needed to, I would sooner buy it online from Hezbollah and have it sent directly to my residence in a comically absurd amount of packaging before I ever set foot in Heirloom.

And it's not that I have anything against healthy foods, organic produce, fad terms like "superfood" or small, local business. I don't.**** But for someone to make statements like this takes either incredible gall, a fundamental lack of understanding their setting or the complete absence of any self-awareness.

That's it. As always, your comments are not welcome.

*We're not reigniting the absurd conversation which followed the episode. If you want to bitch about that, go to Reddit or start your own goddamn blog.

**I was never big into punk, and I didn't frequent the 31st Street Pub. But my handful of visits were equally exhilarating and terrifying. My favorite part was the red LED scrolling marquee above the bar that read "FUCK" on the top line, and cycled through the names of nearly every other bar in Pittsburgh below it. FUCK THE BRILLOBOX. FUCK NEW AMSTERDAM. FUCK ROUND CORNER CANTINA. FUCK SILKY'S. It was wonderful.

***Full disclosure, I wrote an earlier version of this guide for NEXT in 2014, so I've been to the Strip before. Spoiler alert: they have food there.

****This is only 75 percent true. I have a tremendous problem with ridiculous terms like "superfood."

Saturday, October 7, 2017

FRANCO has a lot to say

I don't blog much anymore because ...well ... being histrionic about sports on the internet isn't what it once was for me. But whatever, Nils just had a baby and I only see Matt when I drive by him on the side of the road, so FTC, you're my only friend left. Here's what's going on:

Joe Girardi is an idiot. I think everyone is covering this, but let's pile on.

Here's a table that lists manager replay challenges in 2017. If you sort it by total successes, you see Girardi is #3 overall with 30 overturned calls; even more impressive is that he's correct a league leading 75% of the time.

All that is basically meaningless.

The only thing that matters is that a manager be aggressive with challenges in high leverage situations. The penalty for being wrong with a challenge is that you don't get to do it again for the rest of the game... unless it's the postseason, in which case you have to be wrong twice to lose your invisible red flag. There is basically no consequence at all for taking a long shot gamble during a high leverage situation, except losing the ability to take a potentially better gamble in a later, high leverage situation, assuming one comes around. So chalk this up to another guy who is paid millions of dollars to watch sports being risk averse.

Speaking of being risk averse, I can't help but think of how terrible Neal Huntington was this year. I love NH, and we at FTC were defending him before people knew what a Pedro Alvarez was. However, he chickened out in the worst possible way when it came time to trade Cutch and everyone else 29 years of age or older.

Watching Cleveland, it's hard to think of an American League team with more depth in recent years. This is a phenomenal roster, and they got that way by drafting well, getting lucky (after a string of years being snakebitten), and selling high.  Here are some people they traded away once:

Shin Soo Choo: 0.8 WAR in 2017
CC Sabathia: 1.9 WAR in 2017
Cliff Lee: retired
Jake Westbrook: retired

Here are some things they got back:

Corey Kluber: 8.0 WAR in 2017
Trevor Bauer: 3.1 WAR in 2017
Michael Brantley: 2.1 WAR in 2017
Carlos Carrasco: 5.4 WAR in 2017

Those four latter guys took a long time to pan out, but it happened and Cleveland is competitive because of it.  Had Cleveland let Sabathia or Lee walk after their Cy Young years, maybe they'd still be in the mix in 2017, but they wouldn't be the team to beat.

And that's the point. Trades alone aren't the ticket; drafting well, smart FA signing, good luck, you need it all.  I'm not asking the Pirates to reboot every other year. But they have to know that the window has closed for a Cutch-led playoff team.  Cole is under arbitration control for 2 more years and then he's a free agent. Cervelli and Harrison and Mercer are great complimentary pieces, but are just old, injured garbage on their own. Polanco and Marte aren't as good as we thought, but they're okay. Basically, there isn't anyone on this team that shouldn't be considered trade worthy.  And when that's the case, it's time to take a 75 win team down to a 65 win team and start building for 2020ish.

Finally, I want to say it's always bothered me that the Cleveland baseball team is deeply invested in racist iconography.  Growing up there, I was that kid with the vintage C cap that I bought at the Western Reserve Historical Society museum, because I refused to wear the Wahoo. The other kids made fun of me for wearing such a small brimmed hat. I told them that was historically accurate, and that their way of life was based on white washing genocide. Both points were true then, and they're true now. Hats really did have smaller brims in the 1920s, and America really is a horrible sham at best. I'm not looking for debate on that point (if you feel the need to debate it, read more books, preferably some written by people who don't look like you).

I'm just throwing this out there because I want to jump on the bandwagon with Cleveland-- really, I want to do anything at all Francisco Lindor tells me to do -- but the redface racism is unacceptable.

Onward, towards decency.