Saturday, February 27, 2010

What Hills Are For

OK, the stuff you have out there now is called powder and when combined with hills, it can be a lot of fun.

Pittsburgh native Collin Sander shot this with some friends while back in the Burgh from film school in LA.

Loved that the video ends by a hospital emergency sign. UPMC hates you guys.

Found this on Bittersweet Harvest.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Oscar Nominated Shorts At Harris Theater Feb 26- March 4TH

I really, really wish the Oscar people would cut the crap and show us more of the films they are nominating, especially the foreign, animated, documentary and short films we are less likely to see or know.

Well, Filmmakers has this covered, at least with the shorts.

Separate programs of the five live-action and the five animated short features. Digital projection.
The nominees for the 82nd Academy Awards announced Tuesday, February 2 were as follows.

Animated short films: "French Roast," "Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty," "The Lady and the Reaper," "Logorama," "A Matter of Loaf and Death."

Trailer for Logorama.

Live action short films: "The Door," "Instead of Abracadabra," "Kavi," "Miracle Fish," "The New Tenants."

See showtimes.

"Precious" Author, Sapphire Speaks At Cal U

Watch CBS News Videos Online

OK, this event happened Wednesday, and I missed posting about it. It must have been a pretty big honor for Cal U, to host a talk by someone who is now having her moment as a "star writer".

Hopefully, someone will post a video of her talk which was likely very good. Sapphire's 1996 book, Push on which the movie was based came from her experiences as a remedial reading teacher in Harlem.

New York is a place where one is always sharing space with people with very different backgrounds and circumstances. This movie rang very true to me.

"Sapphire said she was inspired to write a novel that was the "complete opposite" of most fictional pieces where "women lose weight, find a husband and ride off into the sunset in a happy, fairytale ending."

"I hope the film will make people have more compassion for girls like Precious," she said. "I want to show girls like her that education can change your life."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Fight To Cross A Bridge In Cleveland

Photo from Rust Wire

I've seriously thought about expanding the blog's name and mission yet again to include the maligned city of Cleveland, and all the area in between. Like it or not, Cleveland is the nearest neighboring planet of size and improvements in both places will be good for all.

A fight is developing, for the simple right of pedestrians and bikes to cross a major highway bridge there. You know, it sucks when people who live in the city inconvenience those who are just passing through. Perhaps the whole city should be labled an obstruction to highway traffic, like the South Bronx was.

"Residents in Tremont, one of Cleveland’s fastest growing neighborhoods, were cut off from downtown when ODOT closed an onramp last year that connected the area to downtown with virtually a straight line.

The bridge is going to be replaced anyway, beginning in 2011. So why not include such a path? It seems rare nowadays that the common sense, the public interest, and federal agency’s directives are on the same page. The Federal Highway Administration’s officially adopted policy for new transportation infrastructure, you would think, makes it easy for ODOT to give the path a green light:"

Dennis Kucinich, today took the issue to the house floor and the story was picked up by the Streetsblog network, which is emerging as an important grapevine for pro urban activists.

Pittsburgh Art Events 2/26-27/10

While there are a few things worth mentioning that are actually new this weekend, there are also a number of events that are being pushed as replacements for openings that were poorly attended during the first night of the big storm (wow... it's strange to think that it was almost a month ago).

Those include:

FRI: 6-11PM Lauren Toohey/Sam Thorpe @ Most Wanted Fine Art
SAT: ( I think) 7PM-ish Closing for West Virginia University's MFA program @ the Fast Forward Gallery
SAT: 7-11PM Jason Woolslare and Aaron Shafer @ Zombo Gallery
SAT: 6-9PM Nancy Haworth @ Panza Gallery

I'd be willing to throw down a lot of cash in a bet that I am the ONLY person alive who has seen all four of these shows. Like a fool, I made a point to get out and see all that art- even when the forecast called for several feet of snow. I made it, and I have to say that I can recommend visits to all of these venues.

Also, you can stop by at The Grey Box Theater in Lawrenceville on Saturday from 7-11PM for Future Tenant's "Party Like a Rock Star", its annual fund-raising event. It's $35, and includes an open bar, art auction, DJ, and dancing.

And finally, I'm planning to make a visit on Saturday (2-5PM) to the Michael Berger Gallery on the South Side for an opening reception for work by Scott Draves and Cheonae Kim. If you haven't yet visited the new venue for this gallery, you should make a point of it this weekend. It's upscale, yet strangely welcoming, and the stuff I've seen there has been consistently excellent.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A silly little TALENT SHOW … and other shenanigans : February 26TH @ Gooski's

A total cut and paste job from Blogski.

a silly little
… and other shenanigans

Can you play the harmonica, sing, contort, tell a joke, stand on your head, play music on a comb or dance to a ringtone? You have a chance for your five minutes of fame at a silly little TALENT SHOW (and other shenanigans) at Gooski’s in Polish Hill. Josie Ramsey, Mistress of Ceremonies, will thrill you to the tips of your toes with her one of a kind acts.

Expect the unexpected during an evening of entertainment by amateur performers. There will be prizes for best (and worst) act of the night. We will be raffling off the chance to place the cornerstone in the Polish Hill Community Bread Oven.

Our TALENT SHOW promises to be a rollicking good time. Join us for an enjoyably relaxing evening and show off those surprising super tricks that you have been hiding. Want to be on the bill for the evening? Contact Erin at 412-687-7987 or at by February 15. Plan on bringing your own props and other equipment.

a silly little TALENT SHOW … and other shenanigans
February 26, 2010
Gooski’s (3117 Brereton St) in Polish Hill
Begins at 7pm. $5 door

View Larger Map

Three Rivers Arts Festival Poster Contest: Deadline March 17TH

2008 Poster: Art By Brian Holderman

•The winning artwork will creatively represent Three Rivers Arts Festival's mission to connect the community to the arts.

•Artwork must measure 11 inches wide by 14 inches tall.

•Artwork must prominently incorporate the Three Rivers Arts Festival logo. The logo can be recreated or stylized to match your artwork but must be recognizable and prominent. Click here to download the Festival logo.

•Do not include the Festival dates, locations, website, or phone number in the artwork. This information will be added by the Festival outside the dimensions of the artwork.

•Posters will be printed in full color

And there are other prizes/ awards including a student prize.

- Grand Prize Winner: The grand prize winner will be selected by the Festival's Visual Art Committee. The winning artist will receive a cash prize from the Festival in the amount of $300, a featured blog post on the Festival's website at, a Three Rivers Arts Festival t-shirt, and 10 printed copies of his/her poster.

- People's Choice: All poster designs will be posted on for a public vote. The People's Choice winner will receive a cash prize from the Festival in the amount of $100, an invitation to the Festival's opening reception, a Three Rivers Arts Festival t-shirt, and 5 printed copies of his/her poster.

- Student Prize: The Festival Visual Art Committee will select a winner from entries from high school students. The Student Winner will receive a cash prize from the Festival in the amount of $100, an invitation to the Festival's opening reception, a Three Rivers Arts Festival t-shirt, and 5 printed copies of his/her poster.

- Staff Favorite: The staff of Three Rivers Arts Festival will choose their favorite artwork from among all entries. The Staff Favorite winner will receive a cash prize from the Festival in the amount of $100, an invitation to the Festival's opening reception, a Three Rivers Arts Festival t-shirt, and 5 printed copies of his/her poster.

Anyway, Lots of rules and details you need to read carefully.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Ballet Mecanique Robotic Orchestra: George Antheil's 1924 "Ballet Mecanique"

The Post has a great profile of a Eric Singer, a big player in Musical robots.

"The 1988 Carnegie Mellon University grad moved his wife, young daughter and in-laws here in August, and he has hooked up with local roboticists and musicians.

"If there's a brain drain going on it's in the direction of Pittsburgh right now, and I like that a lot," he says."

I'm finally starting to see the kind of trends I expected to see when I moved here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Terry Lee Trunzo: Long Gone But Never Forgotten DJ Returns To McKeesport

It can be hard to connect and make a mark in this region, but once you do--people remember.

Tube City, actually produced this amazing video about a long lost DJ who returned to McKeesport for what he thought might be a little trip down memory lane. What really happened was much more powerful.

"The sleepy 5,000-watt (daytime) AM station in the Elks Temple on Market Street was better known for its high-school sports broadcasts and ethnic programming than for rock-and-roll.

But Trunzo turned it into the unlikely top station for teens --- at least during his time-slot. And though the signal was limited to 1,000 watts at night, 1360 served as Terry Lee's launching pad for an impressive entertainment empire as concert promoter, record producer and owner of TL's Nite Train.

Pretty soon he was on TV as host of Channel 11's dance party show. And when 1360 became WIXZ, Terry Lee was the only disc jockey retained."

Slim rumors now are circulating that Terry may be thinking about moving into the area again. Terry will do another event on May 15TH.

Watch the video, it's really good and tells a more complete story.

Rendell Unable To Bailout Harrisburg

This is not a comprehensive follow up report to this post but you should get the picture.

The small city of Harrisburg which has missed major payments on 288 million dollars in municipal bonds it had backed will not be getting aid anywhere near what would be needed to clean up it's mess. (68 million is due this year)

What's disturbing here, is that the wad of debt in default here isn't regular city debt, but bonds issued by an "Authority", that Harrisburg guaranteed, just the kind of thing Pittsburgh and Allegheny county have done over and over. Often these promises are so obscure and complex, almost nobody knows what taxpayers are really on the hook for.

The bottom line is that there's no way the state was in any position to cover the amount involved but I doubt bondholders thought that. Too big to fail is the motto of government finance. If the Authority, can't pay, the city will step in; if the city can't the state will and so on up the chain--or at least that's what people thought.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Could Mount Lebanon Merge With Pittsburgh For Lower Property Taxes?

People not on the floor laughing their ass off --stop already- might want to think about it. Most would have laughed that something like this was remotely possible in the 1970's or 80's in the NYC area, and then pretty soon it started happening. Property taxes for individual homeowners in NYC are much lower than those in almost every surrounding area.

The universally held narrative here is one of escape. The city, is poorly run, has terrible schools, old infrastructure, absurd legacy pension costs; a small, fragile tax base and very, very high taxes itself.

This is all, largely true, but peak behind the myths and you find a host of suburbs, especially close to the city in similar financial positions, including the paradise of MT Lebo,a place that bears a good resemblance to the area I spent a lot of my life, Forest Hills, Queens.

Mount Lebanon

"Mount Lebanon was a farming community until the arrival of streetcar lines, the first line to Pittsburgh opening on July 1, 1901[2] followed by a second in 1924. After the arrival of the streetcar lines, which enabled daily commuting to and from Downtown Pittsburgh, Mount Lebanon became a streetcar suburb, with the first real estate subdivision being laid out in November 1901. Further, the opening of the Liberty Tubes in 1924 allowed easy automobile access to Pittsburgh. Between the 1920 and 1930 censuses, the township's population skyrocketed from 2,258 to 13,403. Today, Pittsburgh's mass transit agency, the Port Authority Transit of Allegheny County, or "PATransit," operates a light rail system whose 42S line runs underneath Uptown Mt. Lebanon through the Mt. Lebanon Tunnel, merges with the 47L line in Pittsburgh's Mt. Washington section. Mt. Lebanon's only platform station, Mt. Lebanon Station, is in Uptown Mt. Lebanon; the adjacent Dormont Junction and Castle Shannon stations are in neighboring municipalities. And as of the census[3] of 2000, there were 33,017 people living in Mt. Lebanon."

Mount Lebanon--Great Schools!!

"Mt. Lebanon is well known in the region for its public school system. Mt. Lebanon High School has been named a National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education each of the three times it requested certification: 1983-84, 1990-91, and 1997-98. The other schools have been awarded with similar frequency. The High School is also widely recognized for having one of the best fine arts departments in the nation.[citation needed] Mt. Lebanon School District plans to replace or renovate the High School by 2010.[citation needed]

Keystone Oaks High School is physically located in Mt. Lebanon, serving the youth of the adjacent communities of Greentree, Dormont and Castle Shannon. Seton-La Salle Catholic High School, a Diocese of Pittsburgh school, is also physically located in Mt. Lebanon.

The Mt. Lebanon Public Library, founded in 1932, is funded almost entirely by the municipality and county. Its home is a $4.2 million building, with shelves for 140,000 books, seats for 165 persons, and more than 50 public computers. When the building opened in 1997, it won an architectural design award and was featured in the architectural issue of Library Journal. Circulation is 563,000 items/year, and attendance averages 111 per hour."

Forest Hills

The neighborhood is home to upper-middle class residents, of whom the wealthier residents often live in the neighborhood's Forest Hills Gardens area. Historically, Forest Hills has been home to a large Jewish population, with more than ten synagogues located in the area. The community of Forest Hills was founded in 1906; before that, the area was known as Whitepot. In 1909, Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage, who founded the Russell Sage Foundation, bought 142 acres (0.6 km²) of land from the Cord Meyer Development Company. The original plan was to build good low-income housing and improve living conditions of the working poor. Grosvenor Atterbury, a renowned architect, was given the commission to design Forest Hills Gardens. The neighborhood was planned on the model of the garden communities of England. As a result, there are many Tudor-style homes in Forest Hills, most of which are now located in Forest Hills Gardens. However, there are currently a number of Tudor homes in particular areas of Forest Hills outside of the Gardens. What is credited as the world's first radio commercial offered homes in Forest Hills.

The southern part of Forest Hills contains a particularly diverse mixture of upscale housing, ranging from single-family houses, attached townhouses, and both low-rise and high-rise apartment buildings. South of Queens Boulevard, the Forest Hills Gardens area is a private community that features some of the most expensive residential properties in Queens County. It was subject to restrictive covenants until the mid-1970s.[3]

Forest Hills Gardens was named "Best Cottage Community" in 2007 by Cottage Living Magazine. The adjacent Van Court community also contains a number of detached single-family homes. There are also attached townhouses near the Westside Tennis Center and detached frame houses near Metropolitan Avenue. Finally, there are a number of apartment buildings scattered throughout the community. The most notable high-rise apartment buildings are The Continental on 108th St, Kennedy House, the Pennicle, and the Windsor.

The main thoroughfare is the twelve-lane-wide Queens Boulevard. Metropolitan Avenue is known for its antique shops. Forest Hills is easily accessible by subway, rail, bus and car. The commercial heart of Forest Hills is a mile-long stretch of Austin Street between Yellowstone Boulevard and Ascan Avenue, where many restaurants, boutiques, and chain stores are established. Restaurants are diverse; diners can find nearly any cuisine they desire.

Forest Hills has the multiple-link Forest Hills–71st Avenue express New York City Subway station at the intersection of Continental Avenue and Queens Boulevard. The local 75th Avenue stop is also in the area, and some entrance/exits of the express Kew Gardens–Union Turnpike station service the southeastern portion of Forest Hills. The neighborhood also has a commuter train station, the Forest Hills station of the Long Island Railroad, where Continental Avenue and Austin Street meet."

Forest Hills-- Great Schools!!

"In June 1998, US President Bill Clinton cited Forest Hills High School, "academic and extra-curricular excellence" - and it became one of only 124 "Blue Ribbon" schools nationwide. In 2000, US First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered the commencement address.. Jacob J. ("Jack") Lew, a 1972 graduate of FHHS, was then the Clinton administration's Director of the Office of Management and Budget, having been elevated to the post two years earlier."

Anyway, Forest Hills is considerably more densely packed with apartment buildings along Queens Blvd, built from the 1940's on and has a much larger population and while it had a history as a mostly Jewish and white ethnic area, it is today much, much more diverse than MT Lebo. Forest Hills is also more walkable and less car dependent.

Still the resemblance is very strong.

Both upper middle class commuter suburbs- built around medium capacity transit (Forest Hills, gardens was built when there was only the Long Island Railroad and I think street car lines)

Both, "Idyllic" with heavy doses of "garden city" and English Tudor.

Both reasonably walkable (not many big hills in Forest Hills)

Both have thriving shopping districts

Both, intensely proud of good local schools.

However, one massive difference puts them world's apart. Forest Hills, is part of NYC and attracts many former Long Islanders sick of nose bleed property tax rates.

Mount Lebanon has the opposite problem. Blog Lebo put this quote from a Allegheny Institute policy brief titled:

Mount Lebanon Schools Becoming A Taxpayer Nightmare.

"In this budget forecast scenario a Mt. Lebanon household with the municipality’s 2008 median income of $77,167 and owning a home with the median value of $190,000 – that is correctly assessed – will see school real estate taxes go from the current $4,580 to $6,437, assuming the home’s assessed value stays at its current level. This will be accompanied by a $385 per year earned income school tax, more if the household is fortunate enough to have its income increase over the next five years.

Then there is the earned income tax paid to the municipality along with property taxes to the municipality and county: another $2,400 per year – assuming municipal and county tax rates do not rise. In sum, under the projected tax increases the owner of a median value house could be facing well over $9,000 in local taxes each year by 2015."

I don't want to push this idea too far but it does show that a denser, more transit oriented Pittsburgh, with a larger mix of private employers, would in theory provide a much better deal for the average residential taxpayer. It's what's happened in NYC.

Be back with more thoughts and supporting evidence on this general subject.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Richard Florida: Creative Class Break

Eeeek here's another video of the slick, arrogant, articulate, know it all, picking on us again by saying the world is going to "reset" around the world's hip "Alpha Regions".

Should we listen? IMHO, Richard is pretty on the ball with his thinking. A nice little video here. Wondering what you think about him. A pretty bitter reaction to Richard broke out on Rust Wire.

His basic idea is that people live in cities because they want to and because they get tangible network benefits from living near other people. This by the way is also a Jane Jacobs view of the world.

To quote Richard in the video, "Place has replaced the corporation as the fundamental building block of our age."

I don’t think at this point this is really debatable anymore. It may very well be that large numbers of Americans still want to live in an isolated nuclear pod family with as little social relation to others as possible. The thing is that it’s now self evident that this just does not work on a basic practical economic level."

City Of Harrisburg Defaults On Municipal Bond : Vegas Monorail Default Looms

To start with, yes this falls somewhat outside this blog's turf, but the debt elephant at all levels, is becoming harder and harder to ignore--and believe me we have tried. As one blogger on here once said--it's the economy stupid.

"In Harrisburg, which is Pennsylvania's capital and has a population of about 47,000, a March 1 deadline is looming on a payment of $2 million out of the $68 million due this year for the financing of an incinerator plant. The facility has about $288 million in overall debt.

"Bankruptcy is inevitable," Mr. Miller says. "We are in a terrible bind." A budget passed Saturday by Harrisburg's city council didn't include any funds to cover the debt payments, according to the city clerk's office."

Meanwhile in Vegas, the non profit corp which operates the new monorail on the strip, has filed chapter 11 bankruptcy and is almost certain to miss upcoming payments on 600 million in outstanding Muni bonds.

"Ambac Assurance Corp., the bond-insurance unit of Ambac Financial Group Inc., is seeking to have the case converted to a Chapter 9 proceeding. The insurer contends that the company is akin to a municipality. A judge is set to decide on the petition later this month."

Perhaps the most interesting and important case was the Bankruptcy of Vallejo, Calif., which is trying desperately to renegotiate the labor contracts of city workers, after a sharp drop in property values crushed the tax base.

Who knows how this will all play out, but government debt and unfunded obligations must be an important factor in all our urban decisions.

Visual Acoustics @ Melwood Screening Room Feb 26th-28th

After seeing the stunning Palm Beach Modern show @ The Carnegie Museum, I got stoked to see this movie.

"Narrated by Dustin Hoffman, Visual Acoustics celebrates the life and career of Julius Shulman, the world's greatest architectural photographer, who died in July at the age of 98. His images brought modern architecture to the American mainstream and captured the work of nearly every modern and progressive architect since the 1930s including Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry. His images epitomized the singular beauty of Southern California's modernist movement and brought its iconic structures to the attention of the general public. This beautiful film is both a testament to the evolution of modern architecture and a joyful portrait of the magnetic, whip-smart gentleman who chronicled it with his unforgettable images."

Visual Acoustics Trailer - Watch more Movie Trailers

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Preserving Pittsburgh's Stained Glass Legacy

Today's Post Gazette, has a great video profile of a guy who works to preserve the vast number of amazing stained glass windows in area churches.

"John Kelly has devoted much of the past three decades to refurbishing old windows. His latest challenge is the restoration of three Gothic-style stained-glass windows from Sacred Heart Church in Shadyside."


A video of the interior of St. James church in Wilkinsburg.

Dock Ellis: No Hitter On Acid Video

About a month ago, Bittersweet Harvest put up this animated video, made by No Mas and the artist, James Blagden.

"In celebration of the greatest athletic achievement by a man on a psychedelic journey, No Mas and artist James Blagden proudly present the animated tale of Dock Ellis' legendary LSD no-hitter. In the past few years weve heard all too much about performance enhancing drugs from greenies to tetrahydrogestrinone, and not enough about performance inhibiting drugs. If our evaluation of the records of athletes like Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Marion Jones, and Barry Bonds needs to be revised downwards with an asterisk, we submit that that Dock Ellis record deserves a giant exclamation point. Of the 263 no-hitters ever thrown in the Big Leagues, we can only guess how many were aided by steroids, but we can say without question that only one was ever thrown on acid."

As more and more of the players and fans from that era or anyone with any memory of a Pirates winning season fades further away, it seems more important to remember.

Kids, don't try this at home. I am in no way advocating this--just sayin, this was a moment.

Photo Safari Of Pittsburgh Light Rail System: March 13

For a small city, we have a lot of chances to boost your art making skills and arts knowledge @ Pittsburgh Filmakers, The Pittsburgh Center For The Arts, Artists Image Resource, The Silver Eye and The Society For Contemporary Craft.

This group outing peaked my interest. Chances are I won't do it for cost reasons.

Saturday, March 13, 10:00 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Members, $30.00; Non-members, $37.00. Group size limited. Reservations required.

Looking forward to spring? Add a photo safari on the local light rail system to your calendar! Shoot while riding the incline, capture the early spring view from Beechview and get a unique shot of the Smithfield Street Bridge. Photography is not permitted on the light rail system, so don't miss this exclusive opportuntity to bring your camera along for the ride.

To register, contact Sylvia Ehler at 412-431-1810 ext 11 or email her at

Click here for info on upcoming Silver Eye classes and programs.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Steel City Con: Pittsburgh Toy, Comic and Childhood Collectibles Show- Feb 26-28 in Monroeville

A cut and paste job. Just add more !!!!!!!!!!

New & Vintage Toys, Gold/Silver/Modern Age Comic Books, Anime, Gaming, Sci- Fi/Horror, Godzilla, Military Toys, Slot-Cars, Star Wars, Action Figures, NASCAR, Johnny Lightning, Diecast, Movie & TV, Model Kits, Hot Wheels, Non-Sports Cards, Matchbox, Corgi, Disney, Barbie, G.I. Joe, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Mcfarlane Toys - Thousands of Collectibles at Extremely Low Prices!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday February 26, 2010: 2pm - 7pm
General Admission: $10 per day or 3 - DAY PASS for $20
(That's less than $7 per day!)

Saturday February 27, 2010: 10am - 5pm
General Admission: $10 per day or 3 - DAY PASS for $20
(That's less than $7 per day!)

Sunday February 28, 2010: 10am - 4pm
General Admission: $10 per day or 3 - DAY PASS for $20

Special Note: OVERFLOW PARKING IS AVAILABLE AT THE CVS BUILDING on the EAST & WEST WING PARKING LOT (formerly the Monroeville Expomart parking lots)
Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Free!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(That's less than $7 per day!)

Children under 12 - only $5 or 3 - DAY CHILD PASS ONLY $

Seriously, it sounds pretty good.

View Larger Map

And yes, it's that Monroeville.

Snow In A Real Livable City

OK, I noticed pretty quickly here how generally reluctant people are here to those who make even mildly critical remarks about the city and how it's run. You can't fool everyone all the time, so this condition quickly leads to war between those who want to look on the "bright side", and those who hole up on a hillside and call in to radio hosts to tell people the city sucks.

The truth I think most people know, is that the city is very beautiful and could be very livable if it was run better.

I mean sh-- Snow happens, and for the most part it should not cause a city that many problems-- even in large amounts, especially one in that does get some regular significant snow.

OK, I have to admit to finding it somewhat funny and sick that the city needs national guard troops to help shuttle people around and help with emergency response. Yes, many people live in out of the way places, on narrow winding streets (and that's a subject in itself) but--hello many of these streets were blocked and too narrow to be plowed because of parked cars.

The adult thing to say when a major storm is known to be coming is --get your car off any narrow street or it will be towed. Get your car off any major snow route or it will be towed. Move your car to one side of the street so we can plow and the other side the next day, so we can plow.

There is no such thing as a city without any chance of a lot of rain, or snow or some other natural problem and there can be no livable city run by children. (just look at yinz pension fund)

What are Yinz living in a Rob Rogers Cartoon here? Be back with more thoughts about snow.

Blog Not Dead But Needs Help

Hello, sorry for not posting, I've been pretty busy and distracted, partly by dialogs and interactions on other more active blogs like Urbanophile, and to a much lesser extent Rust Wire and others.

I guess, I also get down comparing the blog with what I hoped it would be--some kind of active forum to see and talk about the city and it's creative communities from a variety of perspectives and view points, both from inside the region and outside.

"Art, Urban Design, Transit, Chaos and all that. A blog about really making Pittsburgh into one of the country's most creative and livable cities."

I still want that and I know there are enough smart involved people here blogging to get together and do something like that. I think we can see a string of days or posts on here that give a glimpse of the potential.

I'm still looking for people who think they can add a few posts a month and comments are always welcome. (I mean comments beyond-- Great blog, if you need auto repairs go to Joe Sixpack)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pittsburgh First Art and Technology Festival On Penn Avenue April 2, 2010 is Wierd Science Wonderful Fashion, Wacky Fun For All!

If you've ever or never been to an "Unblurred" First Fridays art crawl on Penn Avenue (mostly in the 4800-5500 blocks), then your are in for a rare treat. The Geek Art + Green Innovators is a platform to showcase current, eccentric and electrifying innovations from the "green" and technology industries in Pittsburgh and beyond.

Some of the offerings will include tap dancing on salvage at the Dance Alloy, a cool too-human robot, called "Yumie" from CMU's Entertainment Technology Center, a solar powered car, an invention that turns children's play into energy, several technology and ecology art exhibitions (take your pick), or maybe you'll play a game of chess with Abe Lincoln or view an eco-chic fashion show that features a "blow fish" dress. It's all happening on Friday April 2--yes that's Good Friday--at GA/GI (Pronouced GAH-gee)! It all begins with GA/GI DAY children's activities from 10 am to noon at the Union Project, 801 N. Negley Avenue and then things move to GA/GI Night from 5 pm to 11 pm. on Penn Avenue. Get the Full details on their blog. Click here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Frostburn: Burning Man For Snowmen

The theme this week is winter, something I actually haven't experienced full blast in the six years, I've been here; until now. But one doesn't have to go too far north to hit an area of reliable, extreme winter weather which for some can be an attraction in itself.

"Activities are artistic in nature. Installations are brought and set up, and art and music are created on site. A 25-foot snowman is built each year and set ablaze, the centerpiece for a huge campfire, and a homage to the culminating event of Burning Man.

It is also a test of mettle: Last year the mercury dipped below zero and that didn't include wind chills. Keeping warm is a task unto itself, but the participants create thematic camps that help to that end. One is a sweat lodge, another is a giant volcano, the inside of which is a cozy rec-room with kitschy decor.

"Its empowering learning that you can camp in zero- degree weather, you have to fend for yourself and be responsible," said Tarka"

Frostburn 2010 will go from Feb 12-15th, @ Coopers Lake Campground about 50 miles north of Pittsburgh.I think online ticket sales for the event ended yesterday, but will be sold at the gate for $100 per person.

View Larger Map

I would love to hear your thoughts if you are going.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Photographer, Dennis Stock Dies

Living in Pittsburgh gets one a little more tuned in to the Obituary page. Dennis Stock, a very prolific and talented Magnum Photographer isn't anywhere nearly as widely known as many of his images.

Dennis Stock : Photos Of James Dean

Dennis Stock : Photos of Hippies

"Mr. Stock was one of those photographers whose names are not widely known but whose work is instantly recognizable. Perhaps his most emblematic image, taken in 1955, was that of a young Dean, on the cusp of stardom, walking through the rain in Times Square, shoulders hunched, a cigarette jutting from his mouth.

Two years later he began working on a series of portraits of jazz musicians. They were collected in his book “Jazz Street,” published in 1960 with a text by Nat Hentoff."

I couldn't come up with a compilation video of his Jazz photography so just follow the link.

More images

Documentary Salon will be screened at another time ...

Snow delay for Documentary Salon at Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Keep an eye on the Doc Salon blog for updates on when you'll be able to preview a significant piece of Rebecca Einhorn's Mythopoeic Times.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Joan Brindle @ The Irma Freeman Center For Imagination

See larger image and exhibition details here.

Sorry for a very half assed effort on this one. If you can make through the snow to Penn Ave's Unblurred, you will probably see a very beautiful show of mixed media works by Joan Brindle.

Joan throws pretty much any color, shape, material, decoration and memory into her work; a sure recipe for either spectacular failure or brilliant success.

I saw a few of her works at the center's opening group show of mixed media and salvage art and am very interested in seeing more.

Unlike many of the spaces on Penn, run by broke folks who have to keep regular jobs, The Freeman Center has regular hours.

This Exhibition will be up February 5 - March 13th

Gallery Hours are Saturdays 2 - 5 PM or by appointment

Joan's Artist statement.

“My work juxtaposes my enchantment with the intricacy, structure, complexity, and beauty of the natural world with an always-present sense of being overwhelmed and threatened by the same world’s aggressive fecundity, constant disintegration, decay and inevitable death.

My work is particularly influenced by the landscape, character, craft and culture of Appalachian West Virginia and Pennsylvania where I have lived most of my life. As a child, I roamed freely in what seemed to be the magic forests surrounding my family’s Beckley, West Virginia home. Now as an adult and a gardener by obsession, I create landscape collage with flowers, plants, trees, topiaries and found objects. The environment I am creating is my largest piece, which after thirty years remains a work in progress.”

View My Saved Places in a larger map

What's Up With The Title Bar

Some might be wondering about all the changing images on the tile bar. Trying to keep myself entertained and I guess stroke my ego by putting some images of my work up there. Actually a lot of these shots are details or more accurately ephemeral moments and transient installations that happen as I move pieces and components around.

The other stuff is from the very slim number of images of old pieces (mostly drawings) I come across online. Most of my work was hard to shoot and I never documented it right at all.

I would love very much to have the header bar display works by other Pittsburgh artists, but I don't know how to put an artist credit on and I don't feel it's right to do it without one.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Another plug for Cluster on Friday, plus Doc Salon

Taking a moment to plug the Cluster opening at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Ton of excellent new work, some pieces are enormous stretches for the artists - Connie Cantor will be unveiling a 14-foot behemoth of a painting made with layered veils of tiny marks, for example. Additionally it will be interesting to consider the breadth of media in the show, and whether or not it comes together cohesively.

Also on Friday night, the quiet gathering of Pittsburgh documentary filmmakers and viewers happens again. Documentary Salon will be meeting at Pittsburgh Filmmakers in the mini-Melwood screening room on the second floor at 6:30. The group will be screening a 50-minute segment of Rebecca Einhorn's Mythopoeic Times. If past conversations are any indication of the future, considered discussion will follow, moderated by documentary filmmaker and teacher Will Zavala.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Pittsburgh Art Events: 2/5-6/10.

This Friday is the first Unblurred of 2010.

Lauren Toohey and Sam Thorpe are together at Most Wanted Fine Arts for "Guests Undressed". In January they had an exhibition at ArtForm in Lower Burrell, and featured a "naked buffet". I got there too late for the show-it-all, but I enjoyed the work and the space itself. No doubt they'll keep it just as interesting on Penn.

Another highlight will be "Escape to Eyeball Island" at Modern Formations. Gabe Felice is currently one of my favorite artists, and he's a damned nice guy too. If you haven't been out to DV8 Cafe in Greensburg (where he's gainfully employed), you gotta come out to see him (and his work) now. This one's billed as "a concept show inspired by self sabotage, remote viewing, and prophetic everydayism". Maybe I'll even remember to return his Gary Busey movie to him.

Garfield Artworks has an all-photography show with Radikal Kats, Dennis Warner, Jason Collat, Maura Housley & Lindsay Husk. Jeffrey Schreckengost & Lisa Toboz present their woodwork and photography at the anarchist T-shirt store and gallery called Rebellious Nature (104 N. Graham St.), and "Unstill'd" includes site-specific installation work by artists of the Distillery 4 program. That's located at the mysterious Schmutz Lodge (5405 Broad St,).

Finally you can see 'You're a Cheese Sandwich" down in the 6th Ward at Fast>>frwd (3700 Penn Ave). It's all work by students currently enrolled in the WVU MFA program.

Pittsburgh Center for the Arts is unveiling "Cluster", a collection of pieces curated by director Adam Welch. It runs from 5:30-8PM.

Down in Lawrenceville Jason Woolslare rools out "Where's my Huffy", from 6-11PM at the Zombo Gallery (4900 Hatfield Street). I'm a big fan of Jason's colorfully-layered line paintings, so I'll definitely fit it into my schedule. And as a special bonus, Woolslare's colleague Aaron Shafer is filling a wall as well. Meanwhile Liz Reed has a series of photoscans at Coca Cafe (3811 Butler St). It's been awhile since I've visited that venue, but it's a charming little space to grab an espresso. The reception runs from 7-9PM. If bars are your scene, you can check out the drag queen portraits of Donald Rager at Remedy (7PM).


If you get some time cleared up during the afternoon, stop by at the Union Project in Highland Park (801 N. Negley Avenue) for the "I Made It! Mine" market, which will have all types of handcrafted items by local artisans just in time for Valentine's Day. It goes from noon until 5PM.

Too often I fail to blog about events in Braddock. But just because it's out of the way (1137 Braddock Ave), doesn't mean it's not worth the transit. Unsmoke Systems is featuring the work of graduates of the Art Institute of Pennsylvania. The opening reception runs from 7-10PM.

Handmade Love For Sale

Hopefully, this explains itself. 50 area artists and crafters listed!

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Porky Chedwick : 92nd Birthday Party

As an outsider, I still have a lot to learn about Yinz history.

The Post's Brian O' Neill, interviewed 92 year old, local radio legend,
Porky Chedwick, the "Daddio of the Raddio" after a call from Pat McArdle.

Seems Pittsburgh played a big but little known (outside of Pittsburgh) role in Rock and Roll history. From the Wikipedia.

"He began his career at WHOD in Homestead (which took the call letters, WAMO--an acronym for the rivers Allegheny, Monongehela and Ohio--in 1956), when the low-power AM signed on, August 1, 1948. When he responded to an ad in a local paper, advertising for on-air talent at the new radio station, his popularity as a play-by-play announcer won him a 10-minute Saturday sports and music show. The music portion was gradually exapanded, in response to the public's reaction. WHOD, known as "The Station of Nations," was created to serve the diverse European and eastern bloc immigrant population that worked the Pittsburgh area mills."

There he became one of the first DJ's in America to play R&B and Gospel, by both white and mostly black artists. Known at the time as "Race Records", but today as early rock and roll. At the time WHOD competed against stations like the 50,000 watt KDKA, with only a 1000 watts in power, yet soon drew a strong audience.

"Chedwick is given credit by numerous R&B/rock and roll legends, including Bo Diddley, Smokey Robinson, Little Anthony and myriad others, for giving their recordings their first airplay. Porky Chedwick is responsible for making Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania "The Oldies Capitol of the World", and for making the city a testing ground for new R&B from the early 50s through the 70s. The impact of Porky Chedwick's contributions far transcend the boundaries of the Steel City. He never received the notoriety-- or the paycheck-- of many DJs who followed in his footsteps, however his accomplishments are an indelible part of the local and national music and culture."

In 2008, Porky and his wife planned a move to Florida. In 2009, they were back.

"She told how they moved to Tarpon Springs near Florida's Gulf Coast in the summer of 2008, figuring they'd stay. But they went to the pool one day and he turned to her and said, "Did we just walk into the cemetery?"

She tried to shush him but he said, "These people are old." So when they came back to Pittsburgh that December, and he had to deal with some health issues, they decided to stay put. It's hard to leave a place where, as his wife puts it, "Porky walks in and the waters part."

From what I can tell Porky, didn't have the knack for either becoming rich or nationally famous. But he is the only Pittsburgh DJ in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I found this quote.

“Any entertainer of my era who say they don’t know who Porky Chedwick is— they’re damn lyin’! That’s the cat that played the records. I know.”

-- Bo Diddley

92nd Birthday Party For Porky Chedwick @
Spencers Down Under
West Miflin

From 7-11
No cover charge

PA Walks And Bikes Launch Party

OK, you might notice the blog's name change, an attempt to square the blog's name with it's content. Truth in Advertising is a good thing. My fellow contributors didn't vote on this, I did it since as the unpaid poster of the majority of content, I do feel a slight right of control.

A new group is being born allegedly to go beyond Bike Pittsburgh's concentration on urban biking and advocate a more complete view of a practical and sustainable city. Of course, the third leg of such a place-- mass transit is not mentioned. However, IMHO if you really, really get the other two down, transit access becomes much easier.

Another good thing is that it looks like this group intends to operate at the state level, which is very important since most road and transit issues are determined by the state or federal governments.

PA Walks & Bikes Pittsburgh Launch Party
Tuesday, February 2
7-9 PM
PRO BIKES Squirrel Hill
5876 Forbes Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15217 [MAP]

Monday, February 01, 2010

1934: A New Deal For Artists At The Frick

Morris Kantor: Baseball At Night

It doesn't take a genius to figure out why interest in the Depression era has come back. Both the Frick and the Westmoreland are having shows of the art from that period, the only time when a large percentage of working artists in America recieved direct checks from the government to work.

"There was a lot of despair ... and shame at being on government relief," says Ann Wagner, one of the curators of the "New Deal" show. For both artists and Americans at large, "these works showed there was plenty to be proud of in their home areas."

The somewhat hokey video above has images from exhibition although there's a chance not all are touring.

"From mid-December 1933 to June 1934, artists participating in the short-lived federal program were encouraged to depict the American scene, but were free to portray any subject. The 54 paintings in the exhibition were created by artists whose birthplaces spanned the country (and in some cases the globe), and who represent a distinctly diverse vision of America.

Pittsburgh artist Harry W. Scheuch (1906–1978) is represented by two canvases depicting the construction of the Cathedral of Learning on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Portraits, cityscapes, city life, landscapes and rural life are all captured in this exhibition which provides a unique and lasting visual record of America at a specific moment in time."

Some would say artists were "strongly encouraged", resulting in works that border on propaganda, but undeniably, a diverse and unique portrait of the period has been left as well as a good number of truely great works.

Palmer Hayden, The Janitor Who Paints

This one looks worth the price of admission but lucky for us, THE FRICK IS FREE!

From The Washington Times

"The Public Works of Art Project was also open to female, black and Asian artists, who were otherwise denied opportunities. Washington artist Julia Eckel used her New Deal salary to portray radio performers while New Yorker Earle Richardson used his to paint black field hands in the "Employment of Negroes in Agriculture" (sadly, the 22-year-old artist committed suicide a year later). Japanese-born Kenjiro Nomura depicted the farms around Seattle before being interned during World War II in a camp where he kept painting."

I hope to see this and come back with more thoughts.

The Frick Website has links to reviews.

Art Daily

USA Today

Washington Post (link didn't work)

Washington Times

Pittsburgh Tribune Review

1934: A New Deal For Artists
January 30–April 25
The Frick Art Museum

Indian Firm: Prime Focus, Playing A Growing Role In Creative Industry

The Indian Film industry hit prime time last year with Slumdog's 8 Oscars. Few know it's more behind the scenes role in the creation of this year's mega money maker, Avatar.

"The firm is steadily climbing the ladder to the top of the visual effects industry. Its staff has increased from four college-age kids to more than 1,200 post-production pros. After selling equity to a couple of top Indian entertainment firms to finance acquisitions, the company now boasts four studios in India, another in London and two more in the United States. And last year, the firm earned 3.67 billion rupees ($80 million) in revenue. But the company's biggest strides have been creative.

Prime Focus played an essential behind-the-scenes role in two of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters of 2009 -- Chris Weitz's "New Moon" and James Cameron's "Avatar." The company established itself as one of the cutting-edge firms in the visual effects business by producing about 10 percent of Mr. Cameron's path-breaking 3-D superhit and a whopping 80 percent of the shots for the second installment of the "Twilight" franchise."

This is where I strongly disagree with Richard Florida, who from what I have read, places almost all his chips on the idea that creativity trumps all and costs don't matter that much.

From what I can tell, costs matter a whole lot in more and more industries and lowering those costs can let one be more creative and take more risks.

A trend that should be good for places like Pittsburgh, which has a large supply of creative people and what should be a sustainable cost advantage. Will we take advantage of this?