NEW SERIES: "WHAT'S AT STAKE?" IN NOVEMBER PRIMARY VOL. 3 ISSUE 33
Sept. 29, 2020 - Oct. 28, 2020
RIPPING THE TOP OFF 2020 ELECTION L AW S ELECTED OFFICIALS AND VOTERS-RIGHTS ADVOCATES ARE GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND TO EDUCATE THE ELECTORATE
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Climate Crisis and Corrupt Politics By: Larry J. Schweiger Free Shipping Paperback $29.95 or purchase an eBook for $19.00 (Read the first 25 pages for free) There is only one earth and our world is undergoing dramatic changes brought on by the climate crisis and other human-induced ecological disruptions. The world's top scientists studying these threats and the forces behind them have been warning us for decades to end the use of fossil fuels or face catastrophic consequences. Their long-ignored warnings have become more dire. Larry Schweiger has long been on the front line of efforts to enact rational clean energy and climate policies and has witnessed efforts to undermine our democratic system that has been rigged leaving America hoodwinked and held hostage to dirty fuels. Climate Crisis and Corrupt Politics pulls back the curtain on the central role of big oil, coal, and gas interests in American politics through the flow of money to fabricated entities for independent SuperPAC expenditures for mass deception through distorted advertising. Larry wrote this urgent message aimed at parents, grandparents and young adults who care about their children forced to live on the ragged edge of an unprecedented climate crisis. This book is especially for leaders who understand that we must act now with a "Green New Deal" scale response. Together, we must confront and overcome the many toxic money influences, reverse a failing democracy and retake the reins of government to enact policies that secure our shared future and the future of life on earth.
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | SEPTEMBER 29, 2020 | 3
STAFF Publisher/Editor: Charlie Deitch Charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com Advisory Board Chairman: Robert Malkin Robert@pittsburghcurrent.com EDITORIAL
Music Editor: Margaret Welsh Margaret@pittsburghcurrent.com Visuals Editor: Jake Mysliwczyk Jake@pittsburghcurrent.com Sr. Contributing Writer: Jody DiPerna Jody@pittsburghcurrent.com Social Justice Columnist: Jessica Semler email@example.com Contributing Photographer: Ed Thompson
Vol. III Iss. XXXIII Sept. 29, 2020
NEWS 6 | Ripping the top off 8 | Post-Gazette 9 | Post-Gazette timeline OPINION 10 | What's at Stake? 12 | Larry Schweiger ARTs & ENTERTAINMENT 14 | Associated Artists 15 | West End Canopy 16 | Jack Swing EXTRA 18 | Dan Savage 19 | Matthew Wallenstein 20 | Parting Shot
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PITTSBURGH CURRENT | SEPTEMBER 29, 2020 | 5
RIPPING THE TOP OFF ELECTION LAWS FROM EYE-CATCHING SOCIAL CAMPAIGNS TO A NEW WEBSITE, ADVOCATES AND ELECTEDS ARE TRYING TO MAKE SURE VOTERS GET THE LATEST NEWS ON ELECTION LAW CHANGES BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR
f you pay attention to various news reports lately, it might seem like voting in the upcoming General Election is going to be confusing. Last week, Donald Trump started yapping about ballots supporting him for president being tossed in the trash at a Luzerne County Election office. He used as a rallying point to push his false narrative that voting in Pennsylvania, and other states, this year will be rife with corruption. The ballots ended up discarded because they weren't contained in a mandatory "secrecy envelope," a task that must be completed for a vote to be valid, the Pa. Supreme Court ruled. So in an effort to educate voters, Allegheny County Councilor Bethany Hallam wanted to draw attention to the ballot issue. So, she took her shirt off. "Desperate times call for desperate measures," she tweeted in announcing a new educational campaign. The campaign features several Western Pa. elected officials topless with ballots and/ or secrecy envelopes covering their breasts. Hallam says she wanted to do something that would capture attention.
A screenshot of Keystonevote.com
I got the idea after the Pa. Supreme Court Ruling saying that mail-in ballots submitted without secrecy envelopes would not be counted," she says. "The media was using the term 'naked ballot," so I reached out to some friends and was like, 'Hey, I have this wild idea and everyone laughed..'" So far the campaign is doing exactly what it is supposed to. Since the launch last week, the story has been picked up by media outlets locally and nationally on news sites like People.com and The Guardian.
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Battling voter disinformation is a tall task in the upcoming election, but so is keeping voters up to date on all the election-law changes. That has led to the formation of Keystonevote.com, a non-partisan voter resource " dedicated to informing voters of the most up-to-date options and processes for voting in Pennsylvania." The group behind the site consists of Hallam, election attorney Chuck Pascal; attorney and system design and improvement specialist, Paul O’Neill, Jr; political consultant, Erin McClelland; and system design
and improvement specialist, Geoff Webster. Partners in the project include 1Hood, B-Pep, Pump, and the Voter Empowerment Education & Enrichment Movement. “There are a number of lawsuits challenging multiple election processes, from dropbox utilization to mail-invoting procedures and even voter signature validation. As an Election Board member, I am charged with updating the administration of our election process and informing the voters of those updates,” stated Hallam. “That’s exactly what this site does.”
PA G E 7
A group of Public officials are going naked so that your ballot doesn't have to. A new campaign reminds Pennsylvanians to put their mail-in ballots in their secrecy envelopes. Clockwise From Top Left: State Rep-Elect Emily Kinkead, Allegheny County Councilors Olivia Bennett and Bethany Hallam, Etna CIty Councilor Jessica Semler, Duquesne Mayor Nickole Nesby and Pa. State Rep. Sara Innamorato. (Photos: Jackie Cameron.)
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PA G E 7
ON THE PRECIPICE OF A POST-GAZETTE STRIKE, HEAD OF NEWSPAPER GUILD OF PITTSBURGH RESIGNS AMID SEXUAL MISCONDUCT ALLEGATIONS
eing part of the news instead of merely covering it, has almost become the norm at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the past two years. Between labor strife, late-night newsroom tirades, allegations of racial discrimination, layoffs, buyouts and racist editorials, there has been no shortage of headlines. Now in the past 20 days you can add impending strike and sexual misconduct allegations onto the pile of dysfunction at the paper. In August, members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh authorized a strike at the paper. The union's national office gave the go-ahead for a strike on Sept. 14. On Sept. 18, the union held an informational picket outside Post-Gazette offices. A larger strike was lated a week later on Sept. 25. However, on Tuesday, Sept. 22, a report by the news source Payday Report reported about allegations of sexual misconduct by Union President and P-G Staff Writer Mike Fuoco. The writer, Mike Elk, says the paper as well
BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
Former Post-Gazette staff writer and head of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, Mike Fuoco, at a press conference earlier this summer. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
as the News Guild's national chapter refused to investigate the complaints. For the past several years, Fuoco has been the forward face of the union and its negotiations. Elk reports one former P-G staffer as saying, “He needs to be held to account for his behavior, and it’s sickening to me how he’s putting himself out there as some kind of labor champion.”
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At the Friday rally, Fuoco was conspicuously in the background. By Saturday, he had resigned his union position ans his job at the P-G. The union and the paper have said they are investigating. Fuoco sent a statement in response to an interview request: "Suspiciously timed allegations against me, dating back decades, threaten to become a distraction as The Guild continues its fight for a
fair contract and an end to corporate abuses directed at its members. In light of this, I am stepping aside as President of Local 30861. Our local, one of the oldest and strongest in the industry, has a deep bench of leaders capable of continuing the fight." Fuoco did not respond when asked why he also resigned his position at the P-G as well as his spot at the top at the union.
NEWS One Of America's Most Dysfunctional Newspapers Tu e
The Post-Gazette begins negotiating the first union contract set to expire after the death of long-time P-G Publisher and family patriarch William Block. Allan Block says the staff is 'too big' and that the number of employees is 'feather-bedding,' and some of his employees 'can't write.'
Three months after its expiration, the-P-G and its unions reach a deal that features employee concesssions, it won't be the last.
Conservative P-G columnist Jennifer Graham writes egregiously distasteful, hate-filled column misgendering Trans Woman Caitlyn Jenner, angering its readers including LGBTQ advocates. It signals the start of a noticeable shift in the paper's editorial pages.
P-G Publisher William Robinson Block posts a Facebook photo of himself on the private jet of then-candidate Donald Trump. Rumors circulate the P-G will endorse Trump in November. A reported staff revolt results in no endorsement.
The News Guild's most recent contract expires. To employees chagrin, the P-G refuses to pay health insurance increases for the next two years. Ther guild filed a grievance and in January 2020, an arbitrator ruled that the P-G was required to pay the increases under the old contract.
p te m b e r
On January 12, John Block orders editors to remove a quote from Trump calling nations like Haiti as shithole contries. A week later on Martin Luther King Day, the infamous 'Reason as racism editorial runs, saying using the word racist is the new McCarthism stirring widespread community and P-G staff anger. Following the editorial and to protest stalled contract talks, editorial staffers stage a byline strike. In March 'Reason as Racism' author Keith Burris is named P-G Editorial Page Editor. In June, Burris fires editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers for lampooning Trump.
Top Headlines Key Dates In The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Saga
In the midst of tense labor negotiations, John Block enters the P-G on a Saturday night with his teen daughter and begins a tirade that staffers call, "Berserk." The union asks Block be barred from the building a psuchiatric evaluation. P-G management takes no action. The following week, Block appoints Burris executive editor of the paper, putting him in charge of the paper's entire editorial product.
The P-G announces its intent to phase out all print operations and become an all-digital product. The orinted product is now available just three days a week.
To protest ongoing labor strike, three years without a new contract and 14 years without a raise, P-F staffers go on an indefinite byline Strike.
Company offers buyouts in an effort to cut 24 newsroom jobs.
In the midst of Black Lives Matter protest, Burris bans two black journalists from covering protests saying they showed bias. Two protest-related stories were also pulled by management.
The P-G declares an impasse in contract negotiations and imposes a new contract. Unions at the P-G, including the News Guild authorize strikes. As strikes loom, News Guild president Mike Fuoco resigns as union head and from his job at the P-G.
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | SEPTEMBER 29, 2020 | 9
SINCE 2016, DONALD TRUMP HAS LED AN EFFORT TO DELETE THE TRANS COMMUNITY BY MARIA MONTANO - FOR THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT
Editor's Note: This is the first of a series of essays from community stakeholders and voters about "What's at Stake" in the upcoming General Election.
hat does it mean to live in a country that is actively trying to do everything it can to erase you and your entire community from existence? From the first day in office, the Trump administration has repeatedly shown how little they care for transgender people. One of his very first acts as president was to delete any references to the LGBTQ community from the official White House and other official government websites. To live in a country where some of the most powerful people in the world are doing all they can to strip you of your basic humanity is exhausting. They want to make it legal for doctors to refuse to treat me. They want to make it legal for shelters to deny me a bed if I were to lose my home. And they have even tried to demand that if I want to use
WHAT'S AT STAKE?
my civil rights to protect myself from discrimination that I would need to undergo genetic screening first. Every single day I get up and face a world that is filled with people attempting to dehumanize me. S A M call A D Ome N I Sa. predator, They (PHOTO: they call me a rapist. There H O WA R D K E R N AT S ) are currently at least 30 states where lawmakers are attempting to pass legis-
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lation that take away my rights, and criminalize my ability to live a public life. People proudly state that they would shoot me, or cause me physical harm because they are led to believe that I am a threat to their life, or to their children. Even though transgender people are more likely to be the victims of abuse and assault, our elected officials and religious leaders tell their supporters that I am someone to be feared. I’m othered, told I don’t belong, and that I am sick. At least 27 transgender people, primarily trans women of color, have been murdered in America this year, many of them being denied the dignity of be-
ing identified as their true selves even in death while our neighbors aren’t afraid to lead chants calling to kill us. Our ability to live is under threat each and every day. Being trans in America today means living in a state of fear and worry. It means wondering if the next time you gather with your community to celebrate joy or mourn a loss that you will be the next victim of a hate crime. It means watching a trans woman leading your state through a global pandemic having to demand being treated with basic dignity and respect from reporters and elected officials. It means watching an author whose stories captured the imagination of millions of
A June rally in McKeesport supporting Black Trans individual. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
people across the world use her platform to spout transphobic hate speech. It means watching as your hard fought rights are being stripped away and lost in the noise of all the human rights violations that this administration is guilty of. We have one choice in this election if we are going to begin the long hard work of taking back our rights and continue our fight for justice, and that means voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. A vote for Biden and Harris is a vote to stay alive to continue to fight for better. Our work and our fight doesnâ€™t end with mailing in our ballots or showing up on election day. We
must continue to speak out and demand justice. We must stand together as one community and fight for a future where transgender people are treated equally under the law and create a world where we can live our lives free from fear and discrimination. Maria Montano is a proud trans Latina woman and labor activist. She has spent the past 17 years fighting to improve healthcare for trans patients, helping pass legislation to protect and expand the rights of the trans and gender nonconforming community, and fights for workers to have a voice at work. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | SEPTEMBER 29, 2020 | 11
CONTROLLING CLIMATE POLLUTION IN PENNSYLVANIA
nyone witnessing record-breaking fires, unprecedented floods, and droughts can see we are facing a climate crisis. Thousands of peer-reviewed climate science studies reveal that we must now act boldly to avoid an even worse climate disaster. Yet, President Trump has abandoned all of Obamaâ€™s climate policies from the clean power rules, the auto efficiency standards, and Trump's announcement to pull the U.S. from the Paris Accord. The U.S. is failing to do its part to protect life on earth from an overheated planet. Witnessing this national failure, Governor Wolf signed an Executive Order seeking to join a successful 10-state regional approach to control carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a cooperative effort between Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the Commonwealth of Virginia. RGGI is the first regional market-based effort in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI started in 2005 when seven northeastern states signed a Memorandum of Understanding to reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector by implementing a regional greenhouse gas initiative. RGGI states then established
BY LARRY J. SCHWEIGER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST
A Trump re-election flag hangs across the river from the Clairton Coke Works. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)
individual carbon budgets and trading programs based on model rules. The first auction occurred in September 2008 with an effective starting date of January 1st, 2009. Since then, RGGI states have reduced their CO2 emissions while experiencing economic growth. The power sector carbon emissions in the RGGI states have declined by over 40% since 2005, while the regional economies have grown 8%. RGGI is working and can do much more. RGGI's is a nationally relevant example of how economic growth can coincide with pollution reductions.
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A Congressional Research Service report indicated that "experiences in RGGI may be instructive for policymakers seeking to craft a national program.â€? While Trump is in the White House, the notion of crafting a national program is not happening. Governors must look to regional efforts to curb climate pollution. Power plants in RGGI states must acquire pollution allowances equal to the amount of CO2 emitted. RGGI states sell their allowances through auctions. The ten participating states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative sold 16 million CO2 allowances in
2018 with an auction clearing price of $6.82. Bids for the CO2 allowances ranged from $2.32 to $10.00 per allowance. The 2018 auction generated a total of $110.4 million that RGGI states reinvested in strategic programs, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct bill assistance, and other pollution abatement programs. The revenue generated by the auctions are spurring innovation in the clean energy economy and creating green jobs in the RGGI states while ratching a regional pollution cap down. RGGI is currently in its fourth three-year compliance
OPINION period, which began January 1st, 2018, and ends in 2021. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is now seeking to join RGGI and participate in the next round of auctions. Power plants are a leading source of CO2 emissions, causing the Commonwealth to be one of the worst climate polluting states. On September 15th, in a contentious 13 to 6 vote, the Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board (EQB) moved to promulgate a regulation to limit carbon pollution from power plants. Under the proposed rules, power plants that emit CO2 need to purchase pollution credits compatible with other RGGI states. DEP modeling shows that by participating in RGGI, the Commonwealth will decrease CO2 pollution by an estimated 188 million tons between 2022 and 2030 while creating more than 30,000 jobs new clean energy jobs. This action will also cut acid rain pollutants (SO2 and NOx), reduce pollution-related illnesses, and premature deaths. The Attorney General will review the proposed regulations before they appear in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. At a later date, DEP will announce a public comment and a public participation period. No sooner did the EQB pass the pollution control rules when the Pennsylvania legislature acting as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the fossil-fuel industry, swiftly passed House Bill 2025 to block the Governor from curbing climate pollution. House Bill 2025 declares: “Except for a mea-
sure that is required by Federal law, the department may not adopt a measure or take any other action that is designed to abate, control or limit carbon dioxide emissions, including an action to join or participate in a State or regional greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program, including the RGGI, nor may the department establish a greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program, unless the General Assembly specifically authorizes such a measure or action by statute that is enacted on or after the effective date of this section.” The sponsors of the bill to protect big polluters included Representative Struzzi, Oberlander, Snyder, Pyle, Dush, Petrarca, Turzai, Saylor, Benninghoff, Masser, Reese, Metcalfe, Barrar, Millard, Tobash, Marshall, Nelson, Rigby, Rothman, Gleim, Greiner, Bernstine, Fritz, Goodman, Sankey, Ortitay, Schmitt, Gregory, Cook, Mustello, Kail, Dunbar, Owlett, Heffley, Grove, Keefer, Gabler, Kortz, Sainato, Moul, Longietti, Warner, Roae, Jones, Knowles, Hershey, Kauffman, Walsh, Everett, James, Diamond, Burns, Dowling, Topper, Pickett, Gaydos, O'neal, Delozier, Borowicz, Brooks, Rowe, Causer, Mackenzie, and Representative Rapp. The legislature has recently granted the frack-gas industry $2.2 billion in tax subsidies for a plastics plant and for other gas facilities. Still, this General Assembly acting in willful ignorance will not pass even modest climate pollution con-
trols embodied in RGGI. Representative Struzzi representing Indiana County, was the prime sponsor of H.B. 2025. Indiana has a cluster of aging coal-fired powerplants, including Homer City, Conemaugh, Seward, and several frack-gas power plants. Representative Struzzi, hellbent on preventing clean energy options, sent a “sign on letter” to lawmakers complaining "(s)ince Pennsylvania deregulated its electricity market, 19 coal-fired electric generating units have or are in the process of closing or converting.” These ancient coal plants closed were not competitive in an open energy market. Ignoring the cause of the closures, Struzzi did not do an objective cost/benefit evaluation of joining RGGI and never mentioned climate change. Instead, he used flawed economic arguments that ignored the current competitive realities of coal, and frack-gas and completely ignored the externalized environmental costs of climate change and air pollution when urging lawmakers to co-sponsor. The truth is, all coal-fired powerplants are in a death spiral with or without RGGI. The USA Today reported, "Prices per megawatt-hour for coalfired power plants range from a low of $60 to a high of $143, according to Lazard, a financial advisory firm that publishes annual estimates of the total cost of producing electricity… Wind is significantly cheaper: Unsubsidized, levelized prices per megawatt hour of electricity from wind range from $29
to $56… For solar electricity, unsubsidized, levelized prices range from $40 to $46, according to Lazard figures." Governor Wolf responded by vetoing the bill stating, “Yesterday I vetoed House Bill 2025. This bill ignores the dangers of climate change — one of the most important and critical challenges we face. House Bill 2025 would have prevented the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection from taking any action to abate, control, or limit carbon dioxide emissions in the Commonwealth without the prior approval of the General Assembly. It would have put a halt to our efforts to mitigate the impact climate change has on lives and livelihoods in Pennsylvania — including rulemaking currently being developed to allow Pennsylvania to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Allowing this legislation to become law would effectively deny that climate change is an urgent problem that demands prudent solutions.” RGGI will move electric power from dirty to clean sources while providing consumers with long-term cheaper energy. Much more needs to be done to wean us off of dirty energy, but this is an important step. The battle to rein in climate pollution through RGGI has taken an important step and deserves public support. PennFuture has been in the forefront of this fight. You can help by urging your lawmakers to support RGGI by going to: www.pennfuture.salsalabs.org/upholdhb2025veto.
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | SEPTEMBER 29, 2020 | 13
ASSOCIATED ARTISTS OF PITTSBURGH WINDING DOWN PANDEMIC GALLERY SHOW, 'SIX FEET'
ince the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the nation, visual artists have found themselves in a paradox. The shutdowns of the crisis’ early days left many artists with little to do and plenty of time. Conversely, finding a place to sell or display art publicly is considerably more challenging. But the landscape is shifting again as the oldest continuously-exhibiting visual arts organization in the country reopens its doors. On September 8, Associated Artists of Pittsburgh, or AAP, debuted its first public art exhibition since the pandemic began. Titled, “Six Feet,” the show features the work of 26 AAP member artists created after March 13, 2020, when pandemic restrictions came down nationwide. Included in the exhibition are works by Heather Brand, Tony Havrilla, Sandy Kessler Kaminski, and Daniel Shapiro, to name a few. The show was curated by a seven member exhibition committee, made up of volunteer artist members of AAP. One of the first pieces selected for the show was Dyvika Peel’s “Sub Urban,” a large-scale sculpture that resembles a fallout shelter. “Sub Urban” is constructed of two by four planks and styrofoam board, with vinyl tile sheet covering the internal structure. A genuine solid steel shelter door, weighing more than 150 pounds, completes the image. Peel took inspiration from her time in quarantine, which she spent away from the city. “During a lot of quarantine, I spent time drawing, huddled in
BY NICK EUSTIS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Dyvika Peel's Sub Urban
my partner’s family farm home,” said Peel. “One of the drawings I made was this underground shelter structure. Once I heard AAP was doing a show about quarantine, I knew I had to build it.” Peel was particularly interested in the luxury houses that dotted the rural landscape, many of whom share various design elements. These have been termed “McMansions,” large estates with a mass-produced quality. Peel wanted to impart that quality onto a potential future dystopia. “It’s supposed to resemble an underground storm shelter, but a more tacky, suburban version,” said Peel. “If quarantine and distancing is going to be the new
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normal, then maybe these would be the new McMansions.” The size of “Sub Urban” also influenced how the rest of the work in the show was laid out. “You have to go around it to see other pieces, you have to contend with it in some shape or form,” said Madeline Gent, executive director of AAP. The physical distance the piece creates in the space mimicked the social distancing measures people have to follow now, so Gent decided to carry that idea through the rest of the layout. “With the hang, we played off that idea of space creation and distance,” said Gent. “The labels are far away from the artwork, sometimes they’re in pods or clusters, sometimes they’re really
far away from one another, because that’s life right now.” Also focusing on the dichotomous nature of the pandemic is Josh Mitchel’s “Irreconcilable Differences.” The painting depicts what appears to be two figures lying on a bed, completely shrouded in fabric. For Mitchel, it examines how something as common to life as a bed can have many different connotations depending on what happens in it. “The specific imagery of a bed or cloth, it can be really beautiful, calming, silky and undulating,” said Mitchel. “At the same time, it can hide or conceal things going on within yourself, your life, your relationships.” For Mitchel, this idea has become extra relevant in the pandemic, as quarantine forces people inside, it also forces them to contend with their problems at home, whether those problems are with other people or themselves. Because of that isolating quality of quarantine, Peel hopes the exhibition will be able to foster human connection in this time, and allow a place for Pittsburghers to explore the dimensions and layers of this bizarre new era. “During this time, it’s important for people to feel like they can relate to other human beings,” said Peel. “If this show could echo some intimate feelings that others can relate to, I think it would accomplish something.” “Six Feet” will run until October 2 at 100 43rd Street, Unit 107. Viewings are by appointment only. For more information, visit aapgh.org.
PITTSBURGH MUSICAL THEATER LAUNCHES NEW OUTDOOR VENUE, WEST END CANOPY
f all industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, live performances are one of the most drastically impacted. Around the nation, organizations centered on live music and theater have had to radically rethink programming for this year and next. City Theatre, for instance, just concluded a very successful Drive-In Arts Festival meant to help address the incompatibility of live performance and pandemic restrictions. Following that example, starting October 3, Pittsburgh Musical Theater will be hosting a series of artist spotlight shows in their new West End Canopy outdoor venue. “Michael Misko: Magician, Comedian, Cracker of Wise” will be the first in an ongoing series highlighting local performers. This will be the first show open to the public at Pittsburgh Musical Theater since the pandemic cut their 2019-2020 season short in March. To solve the problem of how to continue staging programs, it was clear to executive artistic director Colleen Doyno that the organization needed to think outside the box. “Once we realized that this was not something shortlived, that this was something that was going to continue, our most important thought was…’How do we get that face-to face interaction? How
BY NICK EUSTIS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER
Pittsburgh Musical Theater's West End Canopy
do we get our artists employed again?’” said Doyno. Doyno and her team decided to investigate the possibility of creating an outdoor venue for live music and performances. Fortunately, Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s West End performance venue has a large outdoor parking area, an ideal space to erect a tent canopy. “We did purchase a 40’ x 100’ tent canopy,” said Doyno. “We erected it in late May. The ten of us on our team put it together.” Dubbed “West End Canopy” after the neighborhood it resides in, the tent theater is able to host live music and dramatic
performances for 200 safely distanced audience members. Over the summer, the tent also hosted classes and showcase performances for students of PMT’s performing arts school. The artist spotlight series will feature shows in October and November, as well as monthly performances next summer. The first will showcase Michael Misko, an internationally recognized magician and comedian based in Pittsburgh. “That’s meant for the audience to feel an intimate conversation and music with a local artist…, not being in a produced, scripted show, but instead seeing the heart of them
and hearing everything in their words,” said Doyno. While the tent will not be able to remain through the winter, plans are already in place to reconstruct the tent for programs in summer 2021. “It will be something we carry through December this year,” said Doyno. “We will take it back down, and in the middle of May next year, we’ll put it back up. We have a couple things scheduled for the months of June through October next year.” But before the tent comes down, PMT plans to stage a holiday special, encouraging members of the community to brave the Pittsburgh weather and immerse themselves in a magical winter wonderland. “We’re going to do a wonderful holiday celebration that involves the entire West End,” said Doyno. “It may be snowing, carolers will be on the street and we’ll have our winter coats on. I think it’s a way of bringing people out of their homes, away from their screens, and start to enjoy the world again.” “Michael Misko: Magician, Comedian, Cracker of Wise” will play October 3 at the West End Canopy, 327 South Main Street. Audience members must wear masks and receive a contactless temperature test before entry. For more information, visit pittsburghmusicals.com.
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JACK SWING RELEASES NEW EP, 'GET WHAT'S MINE FOR YOU'
n the stylish video for Jack Swing’s new single, “Get What’s Mine for You,” the band members -- frontman Isaiah Ross, drummer Alex Nelson and bassist Rowdy Kanarek -- engage in regular, everyday activities: Eating a nice meal, relaxing at the beach, playing guitar. In each case, however, something about the setting is more than a little bit … off. The video’s silliness lands, in part, because of the buoyant skillfulness of the song itself. But all together it hits something that isn’t always so easy to achieve: a cohesive aesthetic. For the video, frontman Isaiah Ross wanted to loosen things up a bit. A video from last year, for the song “Monkey Around,” featured suits and a dramatic storyline. “With this, I wanted to embrace the themes of the song in a light and visually pleasing way,” he says. “I think we’ve always had a track jacket kind of look, probably because of how much anime I watched as a child. So I definitely wanted to embrace that, to keep things colorful and fun.” “Get What’s Mine for You” is the title track from Jack Swing’s new EP, which comes close on the heels of
BY MARGARET WELSH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC EDITOR
Jack Swing frontman Isaiah Ross. (Photo Courtesy Shauna Miller)
the 2019 EP Supermoon. But in the space of that year, the band has taken a noticeable step in a direction that feels more comfortable, something palpably itself. Where Supermoon was looser, grungier arena rock, Get What’s Mine for You
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tightens things up, moving towards slightly cleaner tones, fuller arrangements, and a more confident swagger. Ross has described taking “an almost Strokes-ish approach to … Stevie Wonder songwriting,” which shows up here in the form of
heavy soul hooks, sharp garage-rock edges, and urgent, athletic vocals. “With Supermoon there was a lot that we were trying to achieve as a band,” says Ross. “On “Get What’s Mine,” we had taken that time to achieve all those things. … Just that differ-
MUSIC ence in experience and looking at the band with a very serious professionalism: I think it was a huge shift we had that year.” Ross -- who started Jack Swing in 2016 as what was more-or-less a solo project -- has been active in Pittsburgh’s DIY scene for years, playing in bands like Brightside and Skull Kid. At one point, he recalls, he was in six bands at once. But his first forays into music were as a rapper, which makes sense since his mom was the first female rapper from Pittsburgh to release a record, under the name Jazzi Love (“Now she’s a principal,” Ross says, fondly adding that the students call her the “Rapping Principal.”) It wasn’t until he was around 9 years old that he remembers first hearing rock music. Nowadays -- while Jack Swing is most certainly a rock ‘n’ roll band -- Ross has what he calls a “strained” relationship with the genre. “The things I wish that I got from rock music I’m actually finding myself getting from hip hop and rap,” he says, noting that, since that’s where he started out, there’s always some element of that genre in his songwriting. In some ways, he says, hip hop today embodies the same rebellious spirit as classic rock
icons like Led Zeppelin or Jimi Hendrix. “A big thing for me with Jack Swing is bringing those hip-hop themes and feelings and emotions to a band, with it still being a rock band, without necessarily rapping. Still giving that rhythmic energy and that same kind of emotional progression that I feel like I get with a lot of hip hop.” Lyrically, Get What’s Mine For You deals in the complex and often painful present. “There’s a lot on all people of color’s minds right now; even bigger than that, just all people,” Ross says. He, too, had a lot on his mind when writing these songs, but “Get What’s Mine …” in particular was an attempt to find a framework of empowerment. Making music, or playing in a band can sometimes seem frivolous. “It almost feels like, how can you ded-
icate yourself to something like this, with so many things going on? It was this realization that, regardless of what's going on, you kind of owe it to yourself to find ways to achieve these dreams that you’ve had for so long, while finding ways to be present in the fights that you feel you need to fight socially.” The EP was released by Walker Records, which Ross, along with his friend Matthew Williams of Brightside, launched earlier this year. Coming up in the Pittsburgh indie-rock scene, Ross recalls, “to see [another] person of color in any of these settings … I was very surprised. Which, for awhile I thought was super normal, but the older I got [it was] like, ‘This is weird.’” Lately, though, he’s seen that shift. “In recent years I've been seeing a lot more diversity ... just a much more
versatile scene all around,” he says. “It has a long way to go for sure, but it's been really cool to see that progress particularly over the last decade or so.” He hopes that Walker Records will be able to contribute to that growth. “One of the biggest things that we wanted to focus on was finding these diverse acts. Cause there really are so many of them in Pittsburgh, so many cool people doing cool stuff that just don’t really get [the attention] that they deserve.” The label’s first release by an artist that isn’t one of Ross or William’s bands is Kids Like Me, an EP from Swampwalk, Anna Hale’s wonderful gameboy-beat-based, lo-fi electro project. “Pittsburgh is a very old-mentality kind of town in a lot of ways,” Ross says. “I think one thing that helped me [as an artist] was learning to look bigger than Pittsburgh. It gets to a point where it feels super unmotivating when you’re looking at how the Pittsburgh music scene handles things on a day to day basis, or even long term. It's like, why am I doing this here?” For him the antidote has been to go see how things are done elsewhere, and then bring new ideas back to the local scene. “I feel like there’s a lot of work to be done in the Pittsburgh music scene,” Ross adds. “There are a lot of good people at the heart of it who are pushing to make that happen.”
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | SEPTEMBER 29, 2020 | 17
SAVAGE LOVE Savage Love Love | sex | relationships BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET I'm a thirty-something gay man married to a thirty-something gay man. For almost two years, we've been seeing another pair of married gay men around our age. They were our first experience with any sexual or romantic interaction outside of our relationship. The first six months were hot and heavy. We were together constantly and having sex almost every night. After the “honeymoon phase” ended, one member of the other couple (“Roger”) wanted to slow things down. Roger and I had some conflict over this, and I have to admit that I showed a pretty bad side of myself while grappling with insecurity. Eventually, Roger pulled me aside to talk one-on-one. He wanted us to be “friends who have sex sometimes.” Then, right after the COVID-19 lockdown started, Roger and I had another heart-to-heart on my birthday. After many drinks and a lot of making out we both said we loved each other. Roger walked it back the next day. “I don't know what you thought you heard last night,” he basically said, “but I'm not in love with you.” I was devastated. This isn't what I want. I am in love with Roger and his husband. I don't want to be “friends who have sex sometimes.” My husband is OK with just being friends with Roger and his husband, especially since their large friend group has adopted us and he worries we’ll lose all
these new friends if I end our friendship with Roger and his husband. I would really like to talk this out with Roger, but I'm not sure I can get through that conversation without DTMFAing him. I mean, which was it? Were we a fun sexy fling and nothing about the last two years mattered? Or was he in love with me but decided the conflict and complication of this relationship wasn't worth it? Which was it? Trouble In The Quad Roger doesn’t want what you want. That sucks and I’m sorry. But we’ve all been there. Falling for someone who doesn’t feel as strongly for us as we do for them, whether we’re dating as couples or singles, is always painful. But that pain is an unavoidable risk. And while it may seem unfair that you can only have Roger in your life on his terms, that’s the reality. That’s everyone’s reality, TITQ, because loving someone doesn’t obligate that person to love us back or love us in the same way that we love them or want the same things we want. But Roger can’t impose his terms on you. If being “just friends” feels like an insulting consolation prize after what the last two years has meant to you, if that’s not good enough, then Roger doesn’t get to be in your life. You can have terms too. Backing up for a second: You seem to believe that if the rela-
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tionship mattered—if Roger and his husband loved you and your husband and vice-versa—then it wouldn’t ended. That’s false. Something can matter and still end. Something can also matter more to one person than it did to another person. (Or couple.) You don’t have to dismiss or minimize what the four of you had because Roger has decided, for whatever reason, that being in a quad with you isn’t what he wants. And if you’re hoping to get this quad back together… and it’s entirely up to Roger… you’re going about it wrong. If Roger got cold feet due to the “conflict and complication” of being in a poly relationship, TITQ, then your best move is to avoid conflict and complication. If you think Roger told the truth on your birthday and lied to you the next day, then you need to demonstrate the kind of emotional maturity that makes you a more attractive partner to a person like Roger. And provoking a confrontation with Roger—staging a scene where you’re likely to dump up a guy who has already dumped you— will have the opposite effect. It will only confirm for Roger the decision he has already made. Your best bet—your best strategy—is to accept Roger’s offer of friendship and refrain from blowing up at him. You should also tell him, just once and very calmly, that you and your husband would be open to getting back together with him and his husband. Best case scenario, the quad gets back together. Worst case scenario, you have some great memories, a whole bunch of great new friends, and maybe once in a while a hot foursome with Roger and his husband. Two last things… I would love to see video of
you showing the “bad side” of yourself to Roger. Given the way people tend to minimize their own shitty behavior—all people do it, myself included—I’m guessing it was/you were ugly. If you’re prone to blowing up when you don’t get what you want, well, it’s understandable that someone who dislikes conflict and complication would start getting cold feet once the honeymoon phase ended. I’m not suggesting you’re toxic or unbearable‚ TITQ, only that different people have different tolerance levels for romantic conflict. But if what you want is for Roger to reconsider the decision he’s made, well, you might also wanna let him know you’re working on your approach to conflict. If you don’t want Roger to regret getting the quad back together and then quickly end things again, TITQ, or for the next Roger or Rogers who come into your life to head for the hills after their honeymoon phases end, you’ll talk with someone who can give you the tools to better handle conflict. And finally, TITQ, the other two men in this quad feel strangely inert—more like houseplants than husbands. I mean, you have nothing to say about how Roger’s husband feels and very little to say about how yours does. Is Roger’s husband interested in keeping the quad together? Besides not wanting to lose some new friends, does your husband give two shits? Because even if Roger decides he wants back in, TITQ, and that’s a big if, your revived quad won’t last for long for if your houseplants—sorry: your husbands—aren’t just as invested as you are.
ESSAY THE DUMBEST COP IN TOWN BY MATTHEW WALLENSTEIN - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER
kris spelled his name with a K not an H. He started doing that when he went to get a vanity plate and CHRIS with an H was taken. So he got a plate made that spelled it with a K. From then on it was Ckris. He grew up in the same town I did but was born 40 years prior. When I was teenager our school cop was named Officer Wimpy. The last name provided some pretty obvious jokes. When Chris was a teenager the town had officer D, who was a sort of court jester. Officer D was short. Officer D, by most all accounts, was stupid. Officer D had a plump Irish face and thinning hair the color of hay. He was an easy punchline, like the fool from an old film. There was one story where he was chasing a suspect. He ran down Main Street firing his gun into the air wildly and yelling stop, yelling halt. Between words he wheezed, sweat dripping off his chin, off his nose. He yelled police, he yelled get back here. He punctuated each phrase with shots from his gun until it was empty. The onlookers standing on the crowded street watched the person being chased move further and further as Officer D slowed and slowed. They shouted insults and laughed. He leaned forward, hands on knees, and desperately gulped at the air.
One afternoon around 3 p.m. Ckris was driving his girlfriend home from school. He planned to drive back down to Sears on Main Street where he worked after dropping her off. Not far from the police station he stopped at a red light. A beautiful young lady was walking down the sidewalk to his right. Ckris looked in the rear view mirror and saw Officer D barreling down the street. He was in his old army jeep but still wearing his police uniform. He had evidently just gotten off of his shift. Officer D had his head turned, watching the young lady swinging her hips down Centre Street. He crashed right into the back of Ckris’ ’56 Pontiac without slowing down. He jumped out of his jeep and ran over to Ckris. He was upset and apologizing. “I have no idea what happened. Something must have locked up or somethin.’ The brakes, I don’t know. I need to get it checked out. Anyway, sorry.” “Look-” “I’m a police officer so there is no need to call the police. I can pay you whatever the damages are. No need to make any phone calls, nothing like that.” Ckris’ car was rugged and there wasn’t much damage. He mostly just wanted to get out of there and go on with his
day. “Look, I don’t have time to talk, I have things to do. Watch where you’re going, officer,” he said. With that, Ckris put his car in gear and drove off. “He lives a building over from me in the same complex,” his girlfriend said. “He is nice enough, I guess, but he is a pretty lousy neighbor.” One weekend, not long after, Ckris picked his girlfriend up from her house. She lived in the part of town known as the heights. This was before the mall was put up and all those fast food places and vacuum shops and convenience stores. Back then there was just farmland, forest and fields. He knew a good place to park. There was a big open space with woods all around it. He drove in through a gap in the stone wall, turned the car around and backed into a spot near the trees. He was facing the road so he’d be able to see if anyone else drove in. A few minutes later headlights shone onto his car. They sat up. She began buttoning up her shirt. The other car pulled right up in front of them, the bright lights pointing right on them. A figure got out of the car. By the silhouette it was apparent that it was a policeman. He knocked on Ckris’ window and shined a flashlight into his eyes. Ckris rolled the window down.
“What are you doing here boy?” He moved his flashlight onto the face of Ckris’ girlfriend. “And you. Do your parents know where you are? Do they know you are parked out here with this guy? Doing whatever it is you’re doing?” He held the light on her face. As he did Ckris’ eyes began to adjust to the dark and the features of the policeman’s face started to form, the plump round cheeks, the Irish nose, all of it. “Excuse me.” Ckris said. “Yeah?” “Aren’t you the officer who rear-ended me on Centre Street?” “Oh gosh, ummm. Hey, well, sorry about that.” He turned right around and waddled quickly back to his car and turned it around and drove back out through the gap in the stone wall. They could hear the police car speeding down the road. Later on that year Ckris was walking into the Sears warehouse on Main Street. A truck pulled up and stopped at a light not far from him. Painted on the side of the truck were the words plumbing and heating. Officer D, no longer an officer, was driving. He and the law had parted ways. But for the right price you could see his butt crack while he bent over to fix your pipes.
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | SEPTEMBER 29, 2020 | 19
PA R T I N G S H OT
PITTSBURGH CURRENT PHOTO BY JAKE MYSLIWCZYK PITTSBURGH CURRENT | SEPTEMBER 29, 2020 | 20
Ripping the top of Election Laws. Labor Strife at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A new outdoor venue for Pittsburgh Musical Theater and a new albu...
Published on Sep 30, 2020
Ripping the top of Election Laws. Labor Strife at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A new outdoor venue for Pittsburgh Musical Theater and a new albu...