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Archive for the ‘Post-Gazette’ Category

Pittcetera

1. I don’t want to point out anything about how the Buccos are playing to start the season. I don’t want to add links to statistics or analyses. I just want to knock on wood and cross my fingers, toes, arms, legs, and eyes.

2. Is anyone else puzzled by the constant profiles of the guy who gunned down three police officers? Who is really that interested in what he thinks, where he grew up, and how he votes? Recent coverage of the shooter and his family, in the PG alone:

Believe me, I understand the desire to analyze and understand what makes a person do awful things. I watch shows about serial killers on A&E too (or at least I did when I had a house with cable in it). But how much real-time celebrity do we want to grant this guy, people?

Crazy guy, crazy family, horrible outcome. The end.

3. Why, Byron, why? No, you weren’t about to be our starting QB, but you were a helluva backup who got a lot of respect for what you did. And you got a lot of playing time for a backup dude, thanks to The Ben’s frequent dates with the injury cart.

Hope it works out for ya down in sunny Tampa. I’ll be keeping your “The.”

4. Entertainment Weekly likes Adventureland too. Plenty of people out there on the internet don’t, but whatever.

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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:

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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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Brian O’Neill of the Post-Gazette took on an impressive duty today – to be Pittsburgh’s ambassador to the Arizona reading public, to explain what it is to be us, and therefore what it is to be a Steeler fan. He did a lovely job. His Arizona Republic counterpart, E.J. Montini, wrote a similar epistle from Phoenix to Pittsburgh – interestingly, it’s a letter home. Mr. Montini is part of the diaspora.

Mr. O’Neill perceptively speaks of “the Pittsburgh of the mind” to describe the way that Pittsburgh is bigger than its actual size, greater than the sum of its neighborhoods, and it’s a term that resonates. He’s right. Pittsburgh isn’t just literally bigger, encompassing a whole Western Pennsylvania culture and way of life as well as the vast diaspora of the Steeler Nation. It’s figuratively bigger too. It means something more than just an old city built where the rivers made it convenient. For people like me who want to return, and people like E.J. Montini who seemingly don’t, and people like Brian O’Neill who are already there, it is a framework within us on which to hang every experience. Everything is measured against an undying reality: we are Pittsburghers.

It is as unfortunate as it is fitting that many fewer Arizonans are likely to read the two columns than Pittsburghers. The PG has both stories at the top on their webpage, in the Super Bowl box they have been running for two weeks. The Republic required me to tunnel through many links and wrong turns to find the essays there, where the first reader moved to comment spat that Mr. Montini should “go back to Pittsburgh so you can root for your Steelers.” 

He’s already here. In the Pittsburgh of the mind.

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Post-Gazette photo 

 

Post-Gazette photo

 

 

 

Unlike these lucky sons-of-guns, we couldn’t travel home to see the game in person. So we draped the living room in Terrible Towels, acquired beer and hot wings, and settled in on the couch. And by “settled in,” I mean jumped up and down, paced, galloped around, clutched each others’ arms, and swung our towels violently. 

The PF’s arrived just in time for the field goal on the opening drive – they had tickets to Jesus Christ Superstar in San Antonio yesterday afternoon, and for reasons that I can’t begin to fathom, Mrs. PF made them go (Mr. PF has referred to her as a Steeler fan by marriage). Mr. PF drove the speed of sound to get back for the game, and they knocked on the door just as The Jeff was trotting onto the field.

In our little four-person suburb (only 1,413 miles from Heinz Field, Google Maps tells me), we watched The Santonio – who has earned his “The” back – turn The Ben’s pointless throw-away into a stellar 65 yard touchdown reception; the Birdies nearly come back with two touchdowns, both set up by end-zone pass interference; Limas Sweed look like the fourth Stooge; The Troy in his imitable fashion just be right where he needed to be to get his first post-season TD; Willis McGahee get administered a hit by The Ryan that looked like it could have ended more than just the Birdies’ possession (career? life?) and Frontal Lobe Disorder Lewis pretend for like 5 minutes that he cares about human life; and Dan Rooney hold the Lamar Hunt Trophy.

It was such good stuff that I had to rush from the room coughing and wheezing when I got so worked up over The Troy’s interception that I suffered as asthma attack – he literally takes my breath away [rimshot]. And it was such good stuff that Mrs. PF admitted at the end that she liked it as much as the musical.

So sing along with me: PITTSBURGH’S GOIN’ TO THE SUPERBOWL!

P.S. Even more than I’m glad he has a nice long off-season to recover, starting now, I hope that McGahee will be alright. That was quite a hit. I hear he’s doing okay – join me in hoping that’s true.

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There are two kinds of people: those who love Michael Chabon, and those who haven’t read him yet. He is not just the King of CPOM – though he is definitely that, his first two novels being The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Wonder Boys – he is this generation’s ambassador from Pittsburgh to the wider literary and cultural world. In his stories set in Pittsburgh (and most of his stories actually aren’t), the city plays a character role, with its personality very much intact. That is a difficult proposition for an author who wishes to make the setting of the story part of the story itself – at least without resorting to caricature, as in “Sex and the City” or LA Confidential.

Even when Chabon’s books aren’t set in the city of Pittsburgh, its influence runs like a river through his work. He wryly refers again and again to the “character” of Eli Drinkwater, the fictional late Pirates catcher who was tragically killed in a car wreck on Mt. Nebo Road. More than any direct reference, though, is the daring and unconventional personality of his work, in which I see the unmistakable stamp of a Pittsburgh worldview. Chabon is devoted to plot, eschewing the post-modern sensibility which holds that good literature is somehow opposed to a “good story.” He is playful with theme and genre – exploring the lifesaving power of baseball, and unafraid of annoying critics with detective stories, horror, and comics. He is funny, self-referential, and in a way, artless.

Perhaps any city would love to see those unique qualities as shaped by its influence, but I think this column Chabon wrote for the Post-Gazette last spring makes clear his connection to the city. He refers to Pittsburgh as his hometown (though he was born in D.C.), but that’s not what seals the deal. It’s the connecting lines he draws from Pittsburgh to everything else. Reading about Jackie Robinson brings Roberto Clemente to his mind; being in the City of Bridges leads him to the realization that we live in a “Nation of Bridges.” Pittsburgh is in this man’s heart; hear his love:

It’s in those bridges that the hope and the greatness of Pittsburgh lie. Though they were built to serve the needs of commerce and industry, other fundamental human needs — for communication, for connection, for free passage through the world — also drove their construction. As with courage, a beautifully engineered bridge such as Pittsburgh’s Smithfield Street Bridge can be defined as grace under pressure, reconciling distances and bearing heavy loads with elegance and steel. Pittsburghers live in their neighborhoods, but they rely on the bridges they have built to teach them how to live together in their city, through a transfer of shared humanity, a mutual reaching toward the opposite shore.

In a deeply personal way, I identify with Michael Chabon. He was not born in Pittsburgh, nor does he live there now, but its soul informs his life and work. Perhaps one day he’ll come home too.

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…moving back to Pittsburgh. The Post-Gazette today reports a bit half-heartedly on an apparent initiative to publicize PGH’s reputed ability to weather the economic storm. I can’t tell if the author is trying to get us to take the Allegheny Conference on Community Development seriously or if he’s calling it out as a pointless charade. Should we be paying attention to this part:

BusinessWeek magazine said Pittsburgh is one of the best American cities in which to ride out tough times. Time magazine said Pittsburgh, on account of its tortoise-like approach to jobs and housing growth, is now bypassing the hares, the “one economic bright spot on Main Street.” Last month, Cleveland’s Plain Dealer wrote a love letter to our city, “The Steel City’s New Strength” — “a city that once defined Rust Belt decay might show the rest of the nation how to weather a recession.”

Or this part:

Let’s conveniently ignore the city’s crushing pension debt, the city’s crushing regular debt, and the fact that the city is still effectively in Act 47 custody, and the fact that many of Pittsburgh Mon Valley suburbs are nearly irretrievable.

Which is it? Are you picking on us, or patting us on the back? 

How vigorously should I protest that my motives for moving home aren’t about the bottom line? After all, I’m in Austin, which according to the article was the old place to go for economic growth. If the new place to go to protect your little pile of cash is Pittsburgh, what does that make me?

Hey Mr. Toland, let’s not sound so bitter that a bunch of guys who moved to D.C. aren’t running back to get a new job so they can pay for their Lexus, and be glad that the people who are moving to Pittsburgh are doing so because they really want to be there. 

I really want to be there.

I had not, however, heard before of the article in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer extolling our virtues. I’ve been trying to mine Cleveland.com to find it, but it seems to have disappeared like a Browns first quarter lead. Anybody have a copy they could share?

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1.  Front-page news at the Post-Gazette today includes this riveting story about two guys in California who sold a “device” to try to fool drug tests – they have been brought down by a federal court in Pittsburgh.  I wasn’t clear on how these dudes ended up on the radar of the Western Pennsylvania Federal District Court, until I recalled this fantastically entertaining episode from 2006 – the rubber penis in the GetGo microwave caper.  That was fun, wasn’t it?  If I recall correctly, I was stuck in traffic that day on the Parkway West when they thought it was an actual human body part and they were cordoning off the area and so forth.  I think we should learn more about this fascinating chapter in Pittsburgh history, yes?

Part of the settlement agreement reached with the couple who committed the act involved replacement of the microwave – so anyone concerned about the McKeesport GetGo microwave still having traces of human urine or hot fake penis device needn’t worry.

Also, this was apparently a story of international interest, as this article from the UK wryly demonstrates.  Okay look, if we’re worried about Pittsburgh’s image around the world, we should definitely focus less on what percentage of ‘Burghers smoke cigarettes and more on keeping our rubber penis tales under wraps.

2.  Cat is in rare form today, laying down some tough love for cheaters and cheatees.  Do you think the source of her secret power is in her eyeliner?

3.  Good morning, Mr. Grumpy-Pants.  So, Mr. Seate apparently didn’t like PittGirl.  Fine, not everyone has to like everyone else.  And since her archives are unavailable, I am unable to verify that she did or did not refer to Mr. Seate in conjunction with any excretory organs, but experience suggests that she probably did, and it was probably hilarious.  Guess he didn’t get the joke.  But what’s awesome about this column is the total lack of self-awareness.  He asserts that the purpose of blogging is to “mock” real journalists like himself and that blogs are pointless.  So what are we to make of this:

Several local blogs have shut down in recent months, including mine, which was as inane and self-indulgent as they come.

Thanks, Captain Pointless.

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