Mar 20, 2008

'Burgh pins hopes on donuts

Things must be pretty grim downtown when the Post-Gazette gets excited about a Dunkin Donuts going into Market Square, along with two other cafes, in addition to the Starbucks that's already there.

And a new bar "will serve French wines, cheese and pastry-type desserts." (When is a pastry not a pastry but only like a pastry? Are they referencing Claes Oldenburg?) According to the P-G, "the bar will be 'very upscale' with a 'definite Paris feel to it.'" This I've got to see.

Mar 15, 2008

The gays have landed... in Pittsburgh!

The good news in Saturday's Post-Gazette is that homosexuals are inundating Pittsburgh. The bad news is, that report was delivered by some homophobe congresslady from (get this) Oklahoma who seems to have stumbled upon some old episodes of Queer As Folk on LOGO. See what happens when you subscribe to the digital preferred tier on Comcast?
Who's going to break the news to Queer Eye for the Straight Girl candidate Rep. Sally Kern that Andy Warhol, the most influential artist of the 20th century, and a gay man to boot, was from Pittsburgh? More importantly, who will explain to her who Andy Warhol was?

Mar 14, 2008

Nixed visionary idea of the past

At the Carnegie Museum yesterday I came across an architectural drawing by Frank Lloyd Wright and Allen Lape Davison for a proposed twin bridges project for the Point in 1947. It was breathtaking in it's ambitions to re-envision and reinvent the defining feature of Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately, it met with what have now become all to familiar results in this city-- unless it involves yet another redundant sports facility or a certain casino project and the looming parking garage that will tower over it.
Twin Bridges Project for Point Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

This drawing reflects Frank Lloyd Wright's plan to redesign the Point, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers converge to form the Ohio in downtown Pittsburgh. At the heart of Wright’s Point Park project was a civic center connected to the North and South sides of the city by bridges across the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers. Each bridge had three levels: the lowest for trucks, the next for automobiles, and a garden for pedestrians on top. A tall concrete tower rising from the civic center anchored the "stayed cable" for the cantilevered bridges and served as an antenna for radio and television transmissions.

Pittsburgh department store owner Edgar Kaufmann, Sr., paid Wright $25,000 to rethink the Point. Between 1946 and 1948, numerous drawings flowed from Wright's office to Pittsburgh, many executed by the talented Allen Lape Davison, who had grown up in Pittsburgh, studied at Cornell, and then joined Wright's Taliesin Fellowship in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Wright's plan was visionary, and the presentation drawings were seductive; but city officials rejected the project. They concluded that the experimental nature of the technology was too costly, the traffic plan too segregated, and the proposal failed to reflect the historical significance of the Point as the site for both French and English outposts in the 1750s.

Mar 6, 2008

Clinton and Obama opening campaign offices

As to be expected, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are opening campaign offices in Pittsburgh. Of the two, Obama seems more in touch with the area by opening his in East Liberty. But for some odd reason, Clinton has chosen to open hers Downtown, which is a pretty dreary, desolate and uninteresting place. A much better choice would have been...well, just about any other place in the city limits. She could have gotten gutsy (and hip) and chosen, say, Lawrenceville or The Strip.

Mar 5, 2008

Culturally vulturally yours....

Ø WYEP's Third Thursdays continues tomorrow at their Southside studios. This month it's Pittsburgh brother duo Br'er Fox.

Ø On Friday, the Andy Warhol Museum's Good Fridays has Akron/Family, four self-proclaimed “extremely nice, sincere and well-mannered young men from rural America who moved to NYC in 2002 to make music,” whose sound falls into the vague freak-folk category.

Go a little early to see the Ron Mueck sculptures, by turns mesmerizing and creepy. A video monitor on the top floor of the exhibit has a cool documentary showing his process for making the pieces.

Ø If you want a taste of what it was like to go to the movies before the advent of multiplexes, stadium seating, obnoxious ads and blockbuster culture hijacked the cinema and drove it over the cliff of appeasing shareholders of major corporations, AND you still haven't seen Juno, which won the Oscar this year for best original screenplay, here's your chance.

The Oaks Theater
in Oakmont is running Juno again, due to its winning the naked little gold man and also owing to its ongoing popularity. The Oaks was renovated a few years back to its original 1938 splendor. It's like stepping back in time and you'll be glad for the existence of this venerable theater.

Ø Andre Previn returns to conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra this weekend. On Friday and Sunday, he brings his Harp Concerto written for the PSO's Gretchen Van Hoesen for his return to Heinz Hall. On Saturday, the performance is at Scottish Rite Cathedral in New Castle.

And while I'm on the subject, tickets for the PSO's June 26th performance with Isaac Hayes are on sale for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's 5th Annual Community Partners Concert.
The Community Partners Concert is an annual collaboration with other greater Pittsburgh non-profit organizations. When you purchase a ticket, you designate an organization to receive the revenue.

Ø LAST CHANCE: Closing Sunday, March 9th at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts is Bedazzled: Stars, Pagans and the Cosmos by Suzie Silver.

Working primarily in video and performance, Silver explores themes of obsession, mythology, gender, pop music, desire, and ritual in the eight videos presented in this show. They include live action and animation.

On Sunday, Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest screens at Pittsburgh Filmmakers' second installment of "Hooray for Screenwriters!" at the Regent Square Theater.

And now for some good news...

After being rocked by Pittsburgh's low ranking in a Pitt gender-equality-in-pay study yesterday, I was glad to see some positive news about the city in today's P-G. Patricia Lowry's forward-looking Places column is always a good source for stories about Pittsburgh moving forward.

Rothschild Doyno Architects recently moved their offices to Penn Avenue in the Strip, taking advantage of a new program that encourages businesses to "go green"
It's the first project to take advantage of a new low-interest Urban Redevelopment Authority loan for LEED buildings and is striving for LEED-Gold certification. The loan's interest rate decreases as the LEED certification level increases.

"There are a lot of concrete block industrial buildings around the city," Rothschild said. "If as a small business we can pull off a LEED-Gold, we could be an example for other small businesses."

Green features include natural light and ventilation, individual lighting controls, soy-based concrete stain, carpet tiles and windows of spectrally selective glass, which minimizes solar heat gain.
Without rewriting Lowry's entire column here, she also mentions the innovative direction taken by EDGE architects founder Dutch McDonald, as well as the grass-root advocacy group Preservation Pittsburgh's search for a board of directors. In all, it's promising news for the area.

Mar 4, 2008

Comcast vs. Verizon

Did anyone see this report on

Have any stories to share about bundling phone, cable TV and Internet?

Gender pay gap embarrassment

A lot of the news about Pittsburgh's economic woes are local stories that don't travel far. But when the results of a major national study on gender-based pay inequity is released, it's a national story.

I heard it yesterday on NPR news but I didn't catch the numbers until I read today's Post-Gazette. It's bad:
Women make up 48 percent of the Pittsburgh area work force, yet female managers earned just 58.3 percent of local men and 89.5 percent of what women around the country made, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Women in management positions at local nonprofits fared only slightly better, earning 64.3 percent of their male counterparts.

This disparity can be attributed to a sluggish economy, stagnant population growth and a legacy of heavy industry, argued study co-authors Chris Briem and Sabina Deitrick of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Social and Urban Research.

Whatever it is, it's a saddening, deeply institutionalized indication of the backwardness of this once great city.

As Pittburgh gazes into its mirror searching to recognize its flaws, it must understand this is a BIG problem. It repells rather than attracts people to the area.

Mar 3, 2008

That damn casino

I wish I could think of something nice to say about... that... That THING, but I can't. As I was reading of the ongoing shifty machinations by Barden over the behemoth parking garage that will loom behind it, I was thinking instead of forcing him to scale back on size or put two stories underground as was specified in the original plans that were approved, why not DOUBLE the size of the garage. Make it as ugly as possible and teach Pittsburghers a lesson about giving an asset as valuable as prime waterfront location over to something as tacky as a casino.

Mar 1, 2008

PGH's Prodigal Sons & Daughters

There was an interesting piece in Saturday's Post-Gazette about a native's return to Pittsburgh. There are some parallels with my situation, the main one being "what is it about this place?" Growing up here, it gets under your skin. For me, however, getting out was a priority from the age of nine. At nineteen I moved to NYC and lived there for over two decades before moving to LA four years ago.

Now I'm back, more or less, with a wealth of perspective that could only be gained by living in a larger, more cosmopolitan city (or two.) And Pittsburgh is cool. Not in an easily identifiable way if you are looking for parallel experiences of places like NYC or LA or even Austin or Seattle.

It has many unique aspects that are peculiar and indigenous to the area, tied to its specific history. What's different here is there is no national media commodifying its cultural and social attributes. Local media and word of mouth are the conduits for this information, and they are pretty good at it too. But it stays local, giving it a certain cache, although a true Pittsburgher would never think of it in that way. (That's my innah Big City Perspective tawking.)

People don't flock to PGH "to make it big." But if you're looking for a liveable, low-key, ideally located medium-to-small city where, as the writer of the above mentioned article states, "normal" people can afford to own a home, then PGH is for you.

Of course it has its challenges too and it's still reeling from the steel industry's exodus a generation ago.

What's great to see is that the local blogosphere is thriving.

Burgh Blog, 2 Political Junkies, Burgh Diaspora, Angry Drunk Bureaucrat, Pop City and Pittsburgh Dish have got it covered.

However, the Pittsburgh edition of Metroblogging (a fairly heavily visited site in larger cities) seems to be a bust here.