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Archive for the ‘Pittsburgh Media’ Category

 

From latimes.com

From latimes.com

Sorry, Striking Distance. There’s a new favorite Pittsburgh movie in town.

Yes, I saw Adventureland, and yes, it was fantastic. And yes, there was a ton of Kennywood in it. And the 16th Street Bridge, and fireworks, and the Monroeville Mall.

But unlike that beloved mess of a cop drama, this movie is actually very good. It deals very realistically with the small traumas and triumphs that make up our youth – including the pathos and drudgery of working a minimum wage job at a place where everyone is supposed to have fun.

The story centers on James, who is forced by family financial troubles to go home to Pittsburgh and work all summer instead of trekking through Europe with his Ivy League friends, and his coworkers at Kennyw– I mean Adventureland. They all are refugees of sorts, with problems and failures in their lives that lead them to work there, and they are all recognizable as the kind of people you knew when you were young, and maybe still know now. 

There’s some funniness, and some sadness. There’s mature handling of substance use and sex, and did I mention? There’s lots and lots of Kennywood.

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Okay, enough moping. Time to get back to business.

Living outside of Pittsburgh, I generally don’t know when new CPOM is coming out until it’s already here. So sure, I’ve seen the previews for Adventureland, but the booths and hot dog stands are nondescript enough that I didn’t realize it was Kennywood until I read about it today in the PG.

OMG Kennywood movie, is this great or what

I totally have weekend plans now, and they involve seeing a movie alone. 

Seriously, isn’t that kind of the CPOM holy grail, seeing Kennywood on the big screen? The whole allure of CPOM is to recognize the things that are special to us, like a little private joke between us and the filmmaker – “Yeah, I remember that too.” And what sweeter memories are there than summers and roller coasters and cotton candy? Kennywood represents those things not just to nostalgic young adults, but also to generations of Pittsburghers who have flowed in and out of its gates, our grandparents and our parents and our kids.

Kennywood is a special receptacle for memories, which is what will make it the place to be again this summer. And will make Adventureland the place to be this weekend.

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book-jacket-front

Jim Wexell is a freelance writer who has covered the Steelers for ages, and now publishes SteelCityInsider.com. And he’s had an experience that inspires one specific emotion in Steeler fans.

Envy.

Deep, profound, unadulterated envy for Wex’s journey across the country for the Steelers’ entire road schedule in 2007, going to Steeler bars all over America, tailgating, attending games, and hanging out with the ultimate Steelers insiders – the players’ friends and family.

Lucky bastard.

Wex documents his odyssey in the book Steeler Nation, a fantasy travelogue that the rest of us can only daydream about. It’s eye-opening for ex-pats to see how very many of us there are out here, and how we find each other and come together everywhere. And it’s exceptionally engaging for the diaspora in that it meets us where we are, highlighting how much of our Pittsburgh identity we carry to wherever we land. And it also acknowledges the many ways that Steeler fans can be made instead of born – so many people grew to love what the Steelers have represented over the years, no matter where they are.

But the book is for all fans, in and out of Pittsburgh, because of the unbelievable fantasy-camp quality of Wex’s journey. For one thing, he gets to go to Hawaii – the ultimate dead-of-winter daydream for Pittsburghers. But more than that, he meets the families and friends of The Troy, The Harrison, The Ben, The Hamp, The Hines, and many more of our current icons. His interviews turn those larger-than-life personalities into people like us, with high school buddies and childhood mischief and triumphs and tragedies and heartache.

Some of the boys had golden childhoods full of love and fun and some had more pain and struggle than any child deserves. Either way, the book opens a window into the real lives of the men we so enthusiastically cheer on, and begins to make  some sense of the personalities that we see peeking through on the field. And at least for me, it makes it harder to judge them when they act stupid or do wrong. I think it’s pretty healthy to be reminded that under every persona, there’s a person, just trying to do the best he can with the tools he’s been given.

All in all, it’s a dream trip with a good message that the whole Steeler Nation can appreciate. Plus, Hawaii!

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The whole point of CPOM is to evoke a sense of place. That’s why pictures and stories of Pittsburgh are so vital for expatriates, because of their ability to transport us back to familiar places and emotions. And that’s why Post-Gazette photographer Steve Mellon’s Pittsburgh Revolution Series is among the very best at doing that. Today it’s the icy Allegheny:

20080216revothumb_308x142

Take a little time to peruse previous revolutions – he’s done Light-up Night, the Super Bowl victory parade, my beloved Forbes Field wall, Wholey’s, and Heinz Field. Plus some weirder places, like the medical examiners autopsy room, Rick Sebak’s office, and the unfinished new Children’s Hospital in Lawrenceville. There’s almost a year’s worth of archived panoramas. I think they’re all just for me, but you can enjoy them too.

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I was hoping to like the article in this month’s Pittsburgh Magazine entitled “A Love Letter to Pittsburgh,” by New York author Ellen T. White. After all, that’s what this whole blog is, right? A love letter? Nothing more affirming than reading something you’re guaranteed to agree with – makes you feel smart.

Not so much this time.

No better way to clue in Pittsburghers that you don’t understand them than to talk about how your first exposure to their city was a wedding at a “posh country club” where the bride was “Pittsburgh aristocracy,” the groom had “staggering good looks,” and the bridesmaids appeared “pulled from the pages of Vogue.” That’s how Ms. White’s “romance with Pittsburgh” began.

Mm hmm.

She goes on to describe meeting, marrying, then divorcing a designer from Pittsburgh, all the while quaintly infatuated with Pittsburgh and what she thought it represented – simplicity, authenticity, kindness. Which it does, but not to someone whose heart isn’t really in it:

Like every longtime New Yorker, I feared losing my “edge” but was determined to keep a firm grip on it. Working from Pittsburgh, I continued to take jobs in New York, where I had established a niche writing about luxury hotels and turning out funding proposals for not-for-profits with the efficiency of an assembly line.

She also transparently loved Pittsburgh not for what she found in it, but what it gave to her:

As luck would have it, the marketing chief for New York’s Museum of Modern Art was a transplant from the Carnegie Museum of Art. She hired me to write ad copy for the Museum of Modern Art and proposed me for managing editor of The New York Public Library – a recommendation that gave me the winning edge over a field of 350 aspirants. Curiously, national magazines were no longer tossing out my writing samples. Several gave me assignments for the first time.

In legend, of course, if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. Yet I seemed to be experiencing a professional phenomenon of another kind. Having started in New York, it was my Pittsburgh work and contacts that were giving me a leg up in New York.

Yes, she does wax poetic about a few landmarks – she mentions Forbes Avenue and the Cathedral of Learning. She name-drops Michael Chabon and Sally Wiggin. But it never rises out of the mire of condescension. She romanticizes Pittsburgh, but ultimately it was a forgone conclusion that Ms. White would choose living in NYC and writing books titled Simply Irresistible: Unleash Your Inner Siren and Mesmerize Men With Help From the Most Famous and Infamous Women in History over living in the ‘Burgh (as she affectionately refers to it).

But there’s no going back now on that decision made a decade ago. In truth, I am a committed New Yorker and happy to be.

So her longing for what she thought Pittsburgh could be sounds so much like the prom queen who remembers that special summer she spent “slumming it” with the lifeguard from the YMCA. She congratulates herself for how she broadened her horizons, how she’s in touch with what it means to be an “ordinary person.” But in the end, she’s just a tourist in a crown and sash.

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So, obviously, I haven’t been in on this Pittsburgh new media thing long enough, because R2P only just brought to my attention the rantings of disgruntled boomerang journalist Bill Steigerwald. This guy has about three things to say about his-hometown-and-mine, all nasty, and repeated again and again with only minimal change in syntax such that anything he writes about Pittsburgh sounds like it comes from the new magnetic poetry® set “local hatefulness.”* Yesterday he got out the “deindustrialized economy,” “religion of Steelerism,” and “inevitable decline into depression” phrase magnets and wrote a piece for newgeography.com accusing us of rearranging Terrible Towels on the deck of the Titanic:

Sunday’s Super Bowl game between the mighty Steelers and the upstart Arizona Cardinals – teams representing regions going in exactly opposite socioeconomic directions since 1950 – has eclipsed all non-sports news coming from Pittsburgh.

Pro football, which Pittsburgh continues to excel at despite 60 years of economic decline, brutal population loss and criminally inept public sector mismanagement, is a seasonal religion every fall no matter how well the Steelers do. But when the Steelers make it to the Super Bowl, as they did this year for an NFL record seventh time, the region and its 2.3 million people are paralyzed by a religious fervor that can be culturally embarrassing.

This isn’t the meanest thing he’s ever said about the ‘Burgh though. Not by a long shot. 

He got a lot of mileage on his assertion that Pittsburgh deserved a sympathy card instead of a birthday card for its 250th anniversary. He must have thought it was a clever little joke, since he used it twice – once for NewGeography and again for his day job at the Trib. Yes, they’re two different articles, but yes, they do both use the same little magnetic sound bites. He closes out the Trib column thusly:

But let’s face it: As our misgoverned core city turns 250, we Pittsburghers don’t have a whole lot to celebrate or look forward to — except maybe three or four Stanley Cups [sic] wins for the Penguins and the grand opening of the Port Authority’s half-billion-dollar North Shore Connector to Nowhere.

So instead of a 250th birthday card, on Tuesday someone probably should send Pittsburgh a sympathy card: “Sorry to hear of your long, slow socioeconomic death. Here’s hoping your next century is better.”

Now look here. I generally frown on the use of the perpetual ultimatum leveled at those who gripe about where they live – “Well why don’t you just leave [insert geographic location here] if you hate it so much?” – most recently worn out by suggesting anti-patriotism in anyone who questioned wiretaps or torture (“Why don’t you just go to Iran since you hate America?”). But seriously. He moved back to Pittsburgh. From Hollywood. I can’t think of anything worth saying except that tired old ultimatum (which, it appears, is the natural opposite of, “If you love Pittsburgh so much, why don’t you marry it?”, a phrase which I have often felt people in Austin stopped just short of saying to me for fear of looking immature). 

Of course, Mr. Steigerwald is entitled to his superior little opinion and his series of cue cards that represent it. And he’s entitled to spin things that aren’t really negative as egregious downsides – an economy that’s these days based in health care, higher education, and the public sector; or slow steady real estate growth instead of a bubble – like a school-yard bully who picks on whatever he sees first even if there’s nothing actually wrong with it.

But if he would just happen to like to pack up all that gloom and take it back to sunny Los Angeles, well, that would be pretty much fine with me.

 

*not real

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Read this! (Woy is hosting surprise guest blogger PittGirl – aka Jane Pitt – this week) (Why are you still reading this?) (Though it’s hard to escape noticing that for someone who wanted to disappear from public view, PittGirl has had a lot of surprise reappearances…) (She should just come back permanently. Stop taunting us, PittGirl!) 

Or read this! (Cat is even more cutting with her advice-seekers than usual – fun!)

Or read this! (Weird but satisfactory “post-game analysis” of the Madden 09 simulated Super Bowl XLIII played last week by some computer)

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