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CONTENTS

Vol. II Iss. XVII August 20, 2019 NEWS 6 | Checks and Balances 8 | Brewed on Grant FOOTBALL PREVIEW 10 | Steelers Preview 12 | Change of Plan OPINION 14 | The Non-Apology Apology 15 | Misogyny and Mansplaining 16 | Not Ready To Make Nice ART 21 | 23 | 24 | 25 |

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NEWS

U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler questions Special Counsel Robert Mueller. (Photo: PBS News Hour/Youtube)

CHECKS AND BALANCES

REP. RESCHENTHALER’S ATTACK ON ROBERT MUELLER IS BASED ON EITHER IGNORANCE OR DISHONESTY

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e’ve been told numerous times that the nation has become polarized like rarely ever before. Each side screams past the other over issues of the day. One big issue facing the nation is whether President Donald J. Trump’s actions are actually good for our republic. At Nate Silver’s poll-data website, FiveThirtyEight.com, Trump has enjoyed a shockingly consistent approval rating in the low 40s for most of his administration (with a disapproval rating is a similarly consistent 50+ percent).

BY DAVID DEANGELO - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM That’s Trump’s base and he’s sticking with it. As far as I can see, we the people are divided into two groups: the 40 percent that likes what Donald Trump does/has done, and the 50 percent that doesn’t. One way to determine who’s in what camp is how a person sees Trump’s behavior vis-a-vis Russian collusion/Trump obstruction. In an August 7 Tribune-Review opinion piece titled, “Mueller show’s over; it’s time to move on,” U.S. Rep Guy Reschenthaler (PA-14) defended

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Trump against the investigation led by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller. As a signal to which camp he’s in, he even called the investigation a “witch hunt.” Rep. Reschenthaler hangs his argument on a few points. The first can be found when he writes, “Now, after six hours of testimony from Mueller, the findings of his investigation and the takeaways from the hearing could not be clearer: There was no obstruction, no collusion.” To anyone who actually read

the report, however, that last part is obviously incorrect. All we have to do is to look at the second page of the second volume of the Mueller Report and we’ll see this: “[I]f we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment. The evidence we obtained about the President’ s actions and intent presents difficult issues


that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Take a close look at the third sentence – evidence obtained by the office prevented them from concluding that no criminal conduct occurred. And yet for former JAG attorney Guy Reschenthaler, the takeaway from the investigation is exactly the opposite. No collusion, no obstruction, he said. In reality, the report did not exonerate Donald Trump, and so Guy Reschenthaler is exactly wrong about this. But let’s take a step back to see what that means, for the representative, his constituency, and (most importantly) what he must think about his constituency. Let’s start from this point: the report is clear, for instance, that the OSC could not clear Trump from a charge of obstruction. They said they would if they could (but they couldn’t so they didn’t). From that point, we can either assume that Reschenthaler (or at least some member or members of his staff ) read the report and yet chose to misinform his constituents about the report’s contents. Or we can assume that no one in his office actually read the report and yet he chose to educate his constituents about a report he failed to read. Neither paints the representative in a good light, I’m afraid. He either didn’t bother to check or he did check and it didn’t matter. He just went with his party leader’s ever-present rant of “no obstruction” hoping, I suppose, that his constituents wouldn’t check his work. Now let’s move onto another of Reschenthaler’s points, namely that: “Perhaps most concerning was the complete disregard for the bedrock principles of our judicial system, such as presumption of innocence and right to privacy, throughout this process. As I pointed out during my

questioning of Mueller, Democratic Attorney General Janet Reno took great exception to publicly airing the target of an investigation’s dirty laundry. I agree that the drafting and the publication of some of the information in the report without an indictment flies in the face of the American justice system.” The only problem with the representative’s criticism is how off the mark it is. In the above paragraph, Reschenthaler links back to testimony given by then AG Janet Reno and her appraisals of the Independent Counsel Act (which expired in 1999, when Guy Reschenthaler was 16 and barely old enough to drive?). Special Counsel Robert Mueller was functioning under that part of the US Code that replaced the law defining the Independent Counsel. Complaining that Mueller’s office failed AG Reno’s criticism makes no sense at all. And you remember what the second page of the second volume of the Mueller report said? About how the office did not exonerate Trump? Reschenthaler actually starts a sentence with, “In fact, despite Mueller’s report exonerating the president....” This is simply incorrect. If Reschenthaler’s office doesn’t know the statement is incorrect then it’s simply a mistake (a huge, embarrassing, ‘ohmigod I can’t believe we screwed up this bad on the national stage’ mistake, to be sure). But, on the other hand, if his office knows the statement is incorrect, then this is what is known as a lie. So which is it, Representative Reschenthaler? Incompetence or dishonesty? Are you so bad at researching incredibly important issues of the day that you fail to correctly inform your constituents or are you simply lying to them? (Editor’s Note: Checks and Balances is a new twice-monthly fact-check column written by David DeAngelo, co-founder of the 2 Political Junkies blog, 2politicaljunkies.blogspot.com/)

CALL FOR HEALTH & WELLNESS VENDORS Join us Downtown in Market Square for a new weekly Health & Wellness Fair, an interactive and engaging lunchtime event every Monday June 3- August 26. It’s a chance for health, wellness and fitness professionals to connect to a wide variety of people from throughout our region with resources, products and services that encourage a healthy lifestyle.

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FOOTBALL PREVIEW

James Conner had 12 touchdowns in 2018 and looking to top that this season (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

STEELERS PREVIEW

TEN BURNING QUESTIONS FACING THE BLACK-AND-GOLD IN 2019 BY CHARLIE DEITCH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT EDITOR CHARLIE@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM Can JuJu Smith-Schuster adequately replace Antonio Brown? In a league full of assholes, violent offenders and whatever the hell Richie Incognito is, JuJu SmithSchuster appears to be the good guys’ good guy. He loves his bike, he goes to proms when asked and he uses his money and celebrity to help underprivileged kids get toys and glasses and food-insecure senior citizens to get hot meals. But beyond that, he’s a really good wide receiver and competitor. He’s the latest in a long line of wideouts to step into the Steelers limelight when his predecessor wore out his welcome (except for Hines Ward who was a constant for 11 seasons). That lineage since 2004 has been Plaxico Burress to Santonio Holmes to Mike Wallace to Antonio Brown and now JuJu Smith-Schuster. Brown still had a year left on his contract and posted a career-best 15 touchdowns last season along with nearly 1,300 yards. The other guys on the list were good when they left, but they weren’t that

good. So now, Smith-Schuster has to carry the load for a team that likes to throw the ball around. SmithSchuster saw a lot of balls come his way last year and while he had more yards than Brown, he had half as many touchdowns. But that could have stemmed from the constant conflict between Ben Roethlisberger and Brown, two megalomaniacs who constantly fought. When Brown didn’t get the ball, he complained loudly. When Roethlisberger felt like it, he’d rip Brown publicly like it was his birthright. But attitude-wise, Smith-Schuster isn’t an Antonio Brown-type player. That will go a long way to quelling on-field tensions and that, when combined with JuJu’s immense talent, means a lot more scoring opportunities. Can anyone adequately replace JuJu Smith-Shuster? Smith-Schuster’s success will also depend on who lines up opposite JuJu in that number two receiver position. That may be this team’s biggest unknown. A solid receiver

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in the two-spot takes pressure off of your top guy, allowing him to make big plays. Unfortunately for the Steelers, the options look a bit shaky. The team signed veteran free agent Donte Moncrief in the off season and he joins James Watson, Eli Rogers and a 5’8 Ryan Switzer as the Steelers main targets. Switzer will be a fun option out of the slot, and then it comes down to Washington, Moncrief and Rogers as the “best” options. Rogers and Washington (who was a rookie last year) have seen limited touches. And while Moncrief is the veteran, he’s never had more than 733 yards in five seasons and was only over 500 yards one other time. Will James Conner get 1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns? Yes. How do we know? Because fantasy football nerds are calling him a top-five running back. You can have all your fancy scouting reports, but at the end of the day, I’m following the advice of guy who smells like Cheetos and drinks an obscure IPA that no one has ever heard of. Will Bud Dupree finally live up to the Steelers expectations? Inside linebacker Devin Bush, this year’s first-round draft pick, has been getting a lot of attention this

preseason; and with good reason. His performance against Tampa in the first preseason game was stellar and he will be a force for years to come. The most intriguing story on the Steelers defense, in my opinion, is outside linebacker Bud Dupree. Dupree is a 2015 first-rounder whose talent came with a high ceiling. But he hasn’t lived up to the team’s expectations. However, the Steelers did exercise Dupree’s final-year option and are paying him $9.2 million. He’ll be a free agent at season’s end so his future not only with the team, but on any team, hangs in the balance. He told The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette, “That just puts more fire up on you to go out and have a great year,” he said. “Guys have their best years in their contract year. Confidence is a key with yourself and within your team and unit. I’d rather it be like this right now for one year. I’m going to go out and do my thing, help my team.” Is the Steelers offensive line the best in football? Once again seeking advice from the fantasy nerds, most outlets that rank these kinds of things have the Steelers in the top five, and most have them in the top three. But, I prefer to look at the intangibles. Like, in 2009, Ben Roethlisberger was sacked 50 times. The team began

Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns could give the Steelers serious competition in the AFC North. (Photo: Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire)


to rectify that problem through the draft in 2010. By 2014, they had assembled a line that has been dominant the past several seasons. Alejandro Villanueva, Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro are as talented as any other unit. Need more proof? Last year when Le’Veon Bell sat out, he was barely missed with James Conner running behind that unit. How much better can T.J. Watt get? After a solid rookie season, Watt blew up expectations posting a monster sophomore season from the right outside linebacker position. He had 13 sacks, 118 total tackles (50 of them solo) and six forced fumbles. He’s 24 years old and is now joined on the right side by rookie Devin Bush. So, if you’re planning to bet on Watt having a down year, put it on Jacksonville to win the Super Bowl instead, because there’s a better chance of that happening. Who will be the Steelers kicker, Chris Boswell from 2018 or Chris Boswell from 2017? The 2018 version of the Steelers kick was about as useful as a hockey puck at a baseball game. He missed seven field goals and five extra points. His field goal percentage tanked from 95 percent in 2017 to

65 percent. He’s kicking well in the preseason and it’s likely one of these two guys will show up on opening day. Which one is a coin flip. Is it time to take the Cleveland Browns seriously? It was time to take them seriously on the first game of last season when the Steelers ended up tying the Browns, who hadn’t won a game since some time in 2016. Cleveland ended the season at 7-8-1 and were no joke beating the Ravens and the Eagles. Baker Mayfield is probably going to be every bit the stud that the Browns hoped he would be. Nick Chubb is going to be a top back in the league and the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. means this team will compete all season and, if we’re not careful, be a contender down the stretch. How good will Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown be? One sat out all season, the other pouted and got a trade. No matter how you feel about either, these are two of the best athletes in the NFL. But we are going to be following their respective teams because we want to know how they will do. When it comes to Bell, we’re going to find out really quickly if he was as good as he was because of his own talent or because of the Steelers

Antonio Brown may be gone but his fur coat and sad face will stay with us forever. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

offensive line. Bell is a Jet now and they have one of the worst offensive lines in the game. Bell has done some amazing things on the field, and I can’t wait to see if he can do it alone. As for Brown, where do you start? He wanted out of Pittsburgh and the team obliged with a trade. The offseason was a chain of ridiculous events and his preseason in Oakland has been a side/shit show. First he gets frostbite because he didn’t wear proper footwear into a Paris cryotherapy tank, and more recently he’s walked away from the team because the NFL won’t let him wear his more than decades-old helmet because it’s not approved by the league. Brown apparently loves that helmet more than his toes, because he seems more upset about this. Will Brown have a big season year? That depends on Brown. He’s his own worst enemy and could just as easily shoot himself in the foot. Finally, and most importantly, will the Steelers players, ownership and fans stop engaging in activities that range from unnecessary to downright heinous? Yes, this is a football preview, but we’re well past the time of pretending that the game doesn’t have pretty serious issues, and the Steelers are no exception. Every

season, Deadspin does a great feature called “Why your team sucks.” It used to be funny to read these and laugh at the “shenanigans” of other teams. But the actions outlined in these pieces aren’t funny. The Steelers have problems that go beyond and are more important than on-field performance. Drew Magary wrote the Deadspin piece and he points out all of the Steelers blemishes. For example, fans seem to have completely “forgotten” that Roethlsberger has been accused of sexual assault twice. He’s also accused of being a jerk in the past, but if you want to look past that, it’s fine. But it says something unflattering about us as fans who can cheer for the guy now because he’s a gifted athlete. The other main issue is the increasingly violent behavior of fans in the stands. During a game last year against the chargers, several fights broke out, including one where a pregnant Chargers fan was choked by a Steelers fan. No security came to their aid, no police, nothing. In fact, if the Current hadn’t seen a photo that was taken by a sideline photographer, it might not have gotten exposure. It’s something we at least need to think about as the 2019 season draws near.

JuJu Smith-Schuster signs autographs at Steelers training camp in Latrobe. (Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

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Junior Wide Receiver Taysir Mack will be a key part of the Panthers airborne offense in 2019. (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

CHANGE OF PLAN

EXPECT A DIFFERENT LOOK FROM PITT’S OFFENSIVE ATTACK

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he fog hasn’t burned off the field yet, but Damar Hamlin is flashing in DB drills; backpedaling like Rod Woodson; coming up in run support like Donnie Shell. Taysir Mack is stomping on his routes and catching everything, including a nice onehander on a skinny post. The defensive line creates rhythmic steel drum thunder soundtrack for all of it as they crash into blocking sleds. But at this mid-August practice, it’s hard to get a sense of just who

BY JODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER JODY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM this Pitt team will be when they face off against the University of Virginia in prime time on August 31. For coach Pat Narduzzi, heading into his fifth season at Pitt, the biggest challenge may be to simply maintain some consistency throughout and not play themselves into a 2-3 hole to start the season. But there are question marks nearly everywhere. The linebackers are completely overhauled, with Saleem Brightwell moving to the middle where the coaches are

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confident the senior can provide essential leadership from his ‘mike’ position. Even so, the open competition for starting spots continues, with Chase Pine and Phil Campbell III leading the hunt. All the changes bring more versatility at LB than ever before. Rashad Weaver, the best defensive linemen on the team, tore his ACL in early practices and half of last year’s starters are gone. Senior Amir Watts will need to push the young guys at DT, but Narduzzi

went out of his way to praise redshirt sophomore Jaylen Twyman. “Really, it’s a three-man war in there, but Twyman is playing at a high level right now, maybe as high as you can get,” he said. “Jaylen is a gym rat, he’s in that film room as much as the coaches. He studies the game, he’s got a plan every day. That guy is about as focused as you can get. It’s amazing, his desire on the field.” Citing three freshmen, Keyshon Camp, David Green and Tyler


Damar Hamlin leads a talented, experienced Pitt secondary. (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

Bentley, Narduzzi said he feels really good about the depth on the line, even with the losses. Starring McKees Rocks native Damar Hamlin, the defensive backfield is loaded. Hamlin and fellow senior Dane Jackson are legit NFL prospects; both are electric, even during the most anodyne drills. Add sophomore Steel Valley product Paris Ford to the mix and the defensive backfield is dangerous. New offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, known as a passing master, is installing an entirely fresh offense, and there is reason to hope it won’t be so soporific as last year’s iteration. Whipple’s UMass team passed for 3,577 yards last year, with wideout Andy Isabella clocking 1,698 yards all by himself, nearly as much Pitt’s

entire production of 1,985 passing yards. The new focus puts intense pressure on junior quarterback, Kenny Pickett, to improve his accuracy from 58.1% if this offense is to take off. Four offensive line starters from last year are gone. Nolan Ulizio, a graduate transfer from Michigan, likely will fill one of those spots, as will redshirt sophomore Carter Warren, whose opening snap against Virginia will be his first. Can they keep Pickett upright in the pocket? And can they open holes for A.J. Davis, Todd Sibley, Jr., and prized four-star recruit, redshirt freshman Mychale Salahuddin? It’s not clear how the coaches will use the running backs, or if they’ll use some sort of three headed monster.

That said, replacing the production of Darrin Hall and Qadree Ollison who combined 2,300 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2018, is a monster task. The receivers look to be one of their strengths, with four seniors getting most of the work. Mack and Mathews looked particularly sharp in drills. “They’ve got unlimited potential. I think they can be as good as any group in the conference,” said wideouts coach Chris Beatty, highlighting the speed of Mack and Maurice Ffrench, the size of Mathews, and the attention to detail that Tre Tipton brings to camp, adding that they’ve all really embraced the new system, routes, and nomenclature. “They’ve been

really receptive to that,” he said. Nobody gets near the cone of silence where offensive gameplans are kept. But both running back Vincent Davis and tight end Will Gragg all but raved about working with Whipple, about his ingenuity and creative playbook. “Last year we relied on the run,” said Gragg. “But we can do a lot of things in the run game, pass game, RPOs, play action.” They will pass more, no doubt. Can Pickett be efficient and accurate with the new gameplan? Can Whipple’s philosophy be shaped to play to his strengths? Can the young guys on both sides of the line produce? Whatever it is, it will be different.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 20, 2019 | 13


OPINION

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n 1992, while defending a white man accused of ethnically intimidating a bi-racial couple, Lisa Middleman struck two African American women from the jury. Middleman is running as an Independent in November against Democratic Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala. Other media has written about the incident, but I wanted to check things out for myself. In reading through the transcript, I’m struck speechless by the argument she used to accomplish their removal. In the transcript Middleman told the court, “The next two are sort of a pair. One of these ladies - - this is a mean thing to say, one of these ladies was very fat, and I remember seeing that these two women were sitting together because they were the -- I think they were -- no, there was another black women -- when I initially walked into the jury room, I surveyed the jury, looked to see who we could select from. These two women were in the right-hand side and they were talking to one another, and I remember again because this one woman was very fat, and then when the jury was seated, these two women were together again in the -. They were still talking to one another during jury selection. And to be honest with you, this sounds very conceited, I don’t like fat women on my jury because I don’t want them to be jealous that I’m not fat.” She continued, “I mean, I don’t think -- I don’t have fat ugly people on my jury because I don’t -- it sounds like that commercial, don’t hate me because I’m beautiful, I don’t want fat, ugly women on my jury because I don’t want them to dislike me, and not be worried about the facts of the case, and I can’t remember which one of these women was the fat one, but they seemed to be friends, and I was

THE NON-APOLOGY APOLOGY BY KIERRAN YOUNG- PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM concerned about the one not liking me, and I was concerned about them being a block and…” The judge then asked, “Are there no heavyset white women?” Middleman replied, “I don’t think there was anybody even close. There were some plumper people, no fat people.” However, the assistant district attorney called Middleman out for the real reason behind her objection: “I think that Ms. Middleman was more concerned about the fact that if she had any blacks on this jury, that could be a problem for her, and therefore she used four of her five peremptory challenges to strike those jurors.” But Middleman stuck to her guns: “ I do not like big, fat, sloppy people on my jury -- If you’re that big and you’re that fat, you don’t care a lot about what you look like, and you don’t care about a lot of things. Being that big and fat shows a lack of discipline, a lack of something. I would add that maybe that’s discriminatory, and it probably is, it’s not -- people can’t always help being big and fat. … this is essentially a reasonable doubt case. You have to have precise people who will understand reasonable doubt.” After the incident became public, Middleman issued an apology on her campaign website August 8. “I’m so sorry and upset that remarks I made have hurt others. The content

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of the rhetoric is obviously untrue and shameful. There is no excuse for using this outrageous language, even satirically,” Middleman wrote. “My comments fed into fatphobia and anti-blackness and there is no place for that type of sentiment anywhere.” If Lisa Middleman becomes the District Attorney of Allegheny County, she will have to make decisions affecting the lives of African Americans. She is pledging to reform a justice system that incarcerates people of color at disproportionate rates. She will have the power to charge and not charge suspects, and she’ll have substantial influence over how juries will be selected in the county. In her mea culpa, Middleman said she was being satirical. However, she seems pretty serious in the transcript. Middleman’s decades-too-late apology is a misleading and failed

attempt to cover up her complicity in a system that continues to brutalize people of color and the systemic racism that is fostered throughout the criminal justice system. I can’t accept Middleman’s answers and neither should the African American community. I think Ms. Middleman’s nonapology and her lack of willingness to start a dialogue with the African American community is not only disappointing, but extremely alarming as well. If progressive Democrats continue to look past the African American community while trying to field candidates, they will never win. We know from past experience that if African Americans aren’t at the table, then we’re usually on the menu.

ROB ROGERS / Andrews McMeel Syndication


MISOGYNY AND MANSPLAINING

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BY JESSICA SEMLER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

ebecca Solnit wrote a book called “Men Explain Things to Me,” a collection of essays that illustrate the way women are silenced by the assumption that our voices and opinions carry less weight than those of men. This is the book that inspired the term “mansplaining” -- when a man comments on or explains something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner. One of my favorite times that I witnessed this phenomenon was a few years ago when I was working with Planned Parenthood. We had a big lobbying day. Volunteers, advocates, patients and physicians from all over the country Pinked out the capitol. Representing Western PA, I brought two badass women doctors with me to speak with legislators and their staff about the importance of family planning services and access to basic healthcare. During a visit to one Democratic congressman’s office, a male legislative assistant we met with talked over the physicians (who were women) and went on a diatribe about the healthcare system, and explained how hard it was for doctors. He was talking to two doctors! *Cue the Jim Halpert glance towards camera.* As a woman who puts very

informed opinions into the public sphere, not only do I have a steady mix of men explaining things to me, I have a lot of men who try to convince me that these well-informed opinions of mine are wrong, despite my actual lived experiences and being a subject-matter expert in different areas. With regularity, men I don’t know reach out demanding justification for why I think the way I do, or insisting I give them time for them to change my mind. Guys, I can’t stress this enough. Google is your friend. I am not. I’ve witnessed a fair amount of mansplaining this week. A woman I know matched with a seemingly rad guy on Tinder. Dude #1 was progressive, funny, and they liked the same music. They texted for a few days and made plans to go to a concert. He would buy the tickets, she’d pay for their drinks. While discussing date logistics, she asked what time they should meet, and he offered to drive. She informed him that she had a personal rule to not get into cars with strangers. This eventually led to him saying, “I have a personal rule that I don’t buy tickets for someone if they won’t ride in the same car and be afraid of me for no reason.” My friend didn’t go to the concert with this prince, despite the subsequent texts about what a great guy he was, that he had four sisters, and how offended he

was about her request. She offered to Venmo him the cost of her ticket. My suggestion for what to send to this person, who apparently has no awareness whatsoever that women live in a world of rape culture and murder? Or that the second-biggest killer of women after heart disease is men? Send him a Venmo request; an invoice for the time she spent explaining to him how dating works in two-thousand-fucking-nineteen. I’ve done this myself; I highly recommend it. Men often feel entitled to our time and attention. We don’t owe anyone emotional labor, especially if they aren’t showing respect, including acknowledging the fact that we might not want to talk to them. I began the Venmo bit years ago. A guy I knew kept asking me out, even though I was clear about not being interested. Eventually I sent a link to my Venmo account. Him: Are you in trouble, do you need some money? Me: No. But I’m going to need some type of payment if you insist on continuing this damn conversation after I’ve said ‘no’ multiple times. My personal adventures in mansplaining this week were a result of my last column, when I begged folks to not give presidential candidate Marianne Williamson the time of day. When I finish my columns and hit the button to send it to my editor, I have to just let go and let God. Maybe I’ll get hate mail, maybe not! When you talk about hotbutton issues like abortion, racism and misogyny, this is a reality. But this was the first time I had a handful of men request that the Current make corrections to my opinion piece, and scolded me for my tone. I guess I underestimated the Marianne stans! Here are some snippets from a couple emails below: • “Hello, I couldn’t find the email address of Jessica Semler... I’m not hostile, I don’t think crystals have healing energies, but how can I let them know some correct information about Williamson?”

“It might have been ‘witchy’ of you to write this piece on Marianne; but I think your formidable talents could have been used to more positive ends at this moment in history… And after all, are you a Good Witch, or a Bad Witch? I’d like to bet on the former.” My musician and activist friend Katy Otto summed up my reaction reading these: “It is wild to me that so many men think women who disagree with them owe them a debate.” Comedian Matt Goldrich quipped, “Joe Crowley is the only white man who never wanted to debate AOC.” Women don’t owe men time to be mainsplained to, nor do we need to justify ourselves. Our time is valuable. Now, I’d be happy to talk about “what kind of witch I am” or any “non-hostile crystal” talk, or any number of things, but I will be sending an invoice.

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933 Liberty Ave. 1.800.230.PLAN www.ppwp.org @PPWPA

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 20, 2019 | 15


NOT READY TO MAKE NICE BY SUE KERR - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM On August 14, 2019 the Grand Jury Report was released. Over 1000 victims at the hands of more than 300 priests across six dioceses.

Forgive, sounds good Forget, I’m not sure I could They say time heals everything But I’m still waiting I was not personally assaulted by a priest. My friends were. Some did not survive to their adulthood. I was one of the Catholic kids caught up in that mire of sexual violence, patriarchical oppression, and guilt. We were the victims of secondary trauma. We knew something was wrong, but no one listened to us. We heard the rumors and the stories and had our own traumatizing interactions with these predators. But no one listened to us. I grew up in Holy Spirit Parish in West Mifflin, a parish staffed by known predatory priests from 1984-2006. 22 years is nearly half of my life. To make matters worse, two of these priests are members of my extended family. I’ve been writing about these experiences for years on my blog.

I’m through with doubt There’s nothing left for me to figure out I’ve paid a price, and I’ll keep paying There are core groups of secondary trauma survivors from all generations of abusers. Our exposure to this toxic stew shaped our lives and that’s not something you just ‘leave’ or recover from by finding a new faith community. Most of us simply carried this distorted experience of Catholic faith forward as part of the church. We survived and our trauma was folded into the fabric of the institution. Those survivors became our

grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles. They became our teachers and coaches and Scout masters. Their trauma flowed through all aspects of our lives, shaping every institution - family, school, community, even workplaces.

I’m not ready to make nice I’m not ready to back down I’m still mad as hell, and I don’t have time To go ‘round and ‘round and ‘round It’s too late to make it right I probably wouldn’t if I could ‘Cause I’m mad as hell Can’t bring myself to do what it is You think I should I don’t believe most of you are listening to us now. I see more stories about the poor good Catholics trying to salvage their parish identity (and property) than I do about us. I see stories about how the Diocese is trying to avoid bankruptcy. I see thoughtful examinations of how a sincere believer moves forward in the midst of all of these disclosures, but no sincere examination of how the rest of us simply survived. If you listen to the media, we don’t have a unique communal identity; we are just lumped into the the disaffected “ex-Catholic” group of people who have left the Church. And that’s not quite accurate. People leave the Church for all sorts of reasons and the distinction matters. I have yet to see any expansive examination of this particular traumatic experience that defined the lives of tens of thousands of us in Pittsburgh alone. Personally, I think the Diocese should be forced to sell of every single asset to pay every penny owed. Sell the buildings, the cars, the houses. Sell Central Catholic and North Catholic and Oakland

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Catholic. All of the kids currently attending those schools can find new schools. A complete act of contrition requires complete reparations. That’s the only way forward. If it means a handful of buildings remain for worship and other activities, then that’s fine. You can still worship. You can start over and build a new Diocese on a foundation that’s not littered with the pain of the victims and survivors. I suspect it isn’t actually the buildings and items you want to hold to, but the idea that something about our collective Church that wasn’t part of this violent legacy of sexual violence. And that’s simply not true. There’s no part of the institution that remains untouched by this violent legacy. Yes, there are sliding scales of awareness and culpability. At least there was until this report was issued, giving no one a credible claim to ‘not know’ what has been happening. It is hard for me to feel compassion for someone upset that their Bishop misled them about financial donations - what do you expect from child predators? Acknowledging the legions of secondary trauma survivors requires first resolving the needs of the primary survivors and the loved ones of those who didn’t survive. It will take decades if not longer and that’s only with a determination to do it right. The Grand Jury had four core institutional recommendations. One year later, Pennsylvania has made zero progress on any of these issues. • Eliminating age limits for victims of sexual abuse in childhood to file criminal complaints. The law now requires they be made by the age of 50. • Opening a “civil window” to allow victims who have been barred by the statute of limitations to file civil suits against their perpetrators. The law now gives people 12 years to file a complaint once they reach age 18. No retroactive window is

provided. Tightening the law that requires teachers, clergy, police and a wide array of other professionals to report abuse. Language mandating reporting if a person suspects a child is “actively being subjected to child abuse” is vague, the grand jury said. • Eliminating nondisclosure agreements that bar victims from cooperating in criminal prosecutions. The Pennsylvania General Assembly remains complicit in the trauma and pain of every person named in the Grand Jury Report, as do the faithful Catholics working against reforms that they know will bankrupt their power base. Shame on every one of those people. I don’t have the luxury of forgetting or forgiving, not when I open the paper every day (except Tuesday and Saturday) to read about another disclosure or another allegation. My actual friends are struggling to come to terms with these crimes, a struggle that will likely continue throughout our lifetime. We are still waiting. •

Forgive, sounds good Forget, I’m not sure I could They say time heals everything But I’m still waiting Lyrics, Not Ready to Make Nice, Dixie Chicks, 2006.


Current Comics Rob Jones

SYNONYM RAISIN

18 | OCT. 23, 2018 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

by Andrew Schubert


ANDREA SHOCKLING

Phineus: Teen Wizard

By Barry Linck

© Barry Linck phinmagic.net

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCT. 23, 2018 | 19


Heroineburgh By H-Burgh and Zeus

Sucks to Be an Animal

By Sienna Cittadino

Jim Benton

CARTOONISTS CARTOONISTS WANTED WANTED pittsburgh current is looking for local artists who would like to have their comics featured on our twice-monthly funny pages.

20 | OCT. 23, 2018 | PITTSBURGH CURRENTemail: charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com


Best in Show

By Phil Juliano

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | OCT. 23, 2018 | 21


ART

Photos by: Ariella Furman

THEATRICAL SPIRITS

VIGILANCE THEATER GROUP EXPLORES THE OTHER SIDE WITH “WELCOME TO MOONSIDE”

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he theater world is filled with ghosts. From spirits that haunt theaters to spectral characters, a ghost is a playwright’s best friend, spooking the audience as well as the other characters. Audience members were haunted by a particular spirit, for example, during “Hollow Moon,” Vigilance Theater Group’s 2018 debut work. “People, especially during our beta tests, had so many questions about who is this spirit, why is she here,” says Renee Rabenold, Vigilance Theater Group’s director.

BY AMANDA REED - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER AMANDA@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM Vigilance Theater Group — consisting of Rabenold, Sean Collier, Ariella Furman and Dana Custer — answers those questions and explores this spirit’s world in “Welcome to Moonside,” a new, immersive theater experience that transforms the former Lava Lounge space into an otherworldly, mystical, neon place. “Welcome to Moonside” runs Thursdays through Sundays between Aug. 22-Sept. Nine characters will guide you through their world with one-on-one conversations and

traditional scenes. Earth is rotting, spirits are disappearing and no one can remember how to make things better. Some of the spirits think you can help; some think you’ll destroy Moonside. Audience members and the Moonside spirits must team up in order to save both Earth and Moonside. After a first successful Kickstarter campaign in 2018 for “Hollow Moon,” Vigilance used the platform again to raise money for “Welcome to Moonside,” completing the campaign in July.

After writing the script and securing funding, Vigilance found Moonside’s home in the Lava Lounge, which closed in 2016. The bar’s interior has been largely untouched for the past three years, featuring the same volcanoinspired light fixtures and rock pits as when the bar was in its heyday. According to Sean Collier, who wrote “Hollow Moon” and “Welcome to Moonside,” the strange space already encompassed Moonside’s essence when they began working on the set. “[It] was very fortunate for us

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 20, 2019 | 21


because we were looking around for a long time for some space that we could make really odd and bizarre, and we just happened upon a space that was already odd and bizarre,” Collier says. Although “Hollow Moon” viewers will have a better understanding of two characters who appear again in “Welcome to Moonside,” new Vigilance viewers will still understand Moonside’s happenings. “The story of ‘Welcome to Moonside’ has a beginning, middle and end that only has to do with what people are seeing on this night,” Collier says. According to Collier, the two productions are connected, but function kind of like the Marvel Universe. “You’ll get more out of Ant Man if you know about Captain America

and Iron Man, but there’s no reason that you had to have seen those first,” he says. Like “Hollow Moon,” the tone of “Welcome to Moonside” is a bit on the darker side, but not enough to give you nightmares, Collier says. “We are trying to make you a little creeped out,” he says. “We are not trying to traumatize you.” Audience members should not be afraid to interact with characters and each other. Doing so only enriches an audience member’s time in Moonside. However, this particular production functions like a videogame: you can participate enough to complete the main mission—the main plot— or you can only focus on the side quests — hanging out with one character throughout the entirety of the show. The level of involvement is yours

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to choose, and your experience in “Welcome to Moonside” will be different each time because of it. “Welcome to Moonside” has an improvisational aspect thanks to the audience’s ability to talk directly to characters. According to Rabenold, although the main plot points are set, actors must know their characters fully in order to answer any questions the audience members ask them. “It’s a lot of observation and listening. So it’s working with the actors to establish their characters. How do you feel about everything in this world? How do you feel about the other characters? How are you going to feel about the human visitors? And then expanding on how are you going to listen to what the patrons have to say and use that to bring them in and notice how they’re

feeling in this space,” she says. Collier says there’s information in the script that actors can use when talking to audience members. “When you feel it’s appropriate and you know someone is an audience member and is chatting with you enough that you feel they’ve maybe earned a little bit more of your time and attention, here’s something to tell them,” he says. But, coming up with characterization is a team effort, he says. “I can tell them a little bit about who their characters are and what they do but the details are ultimately up to them and that’s that’s always really interesting to see what they bring to what we’ve kind of created together,” he says. Collier sees these shows as a trilogy, with Vigilance’s next work expanding upon one particular character’s journey from “Hollow Moon” and “Welcome to Moonside.” Although he’s not sure what form it will take, it will encompass a new plot that is once again accessible to old and new Vigilance viewers. “There will be something that you [won’t] know if you’ve never seen one of our shows before you can still follow along,” he says. Seeing a piece of immersive theater can leave you jarred, vulnerable and unsettled, but also bonded with the rest of the audience members. Rabenold says that’s the beauty of it. “That’s why immersive is so cool. It’s taking all of these social skills that we use and we have to use them right now,” she says. “Theater has [the art of communication] but immersive theater is in action: You’re seeing the communication work being done. And that to me is just very exciting.”

“WELCOME TO MOONSIDE.” Vigilance

Theater Group. 8 p.m. Thurs. thru Sun. Aug. 22 to Sept. 8. 2204 East Carson St., Southside. $50. www. vigilancetheater.com


LAST ROUND NEW BOOK ON PITTSBURGH FIGHTERS IS A FINAL MASTERSTROKE FROM A LEGENDARY JOURNALIST

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BY JODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT LIT WRITER JODY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

arnegie and J & L Steel dominated Pittsburgh’s landscape, not UPMC and Google. Italian, Croation, Polish and Slovak was spoken all through the streets. The air was muddy with cinders and sulfurous foundry smells. And Harry Greb was the toast of the town. As much as Pittsburghers love our sports heroes, not many know the Pittsburgh Windmill, the 1923 middleweight boxing champion, except for a few boxing history fans. And there were few of these boxing aficionados as passionate and knowledgeable about the Pittsburgh fight game as Roy

McHugh. Certainly, there was no finer chronicler of the sport. McHugh wrote for the Pittsburgh Press, back when Pittsburgh was a two-daily-paper kind of town. He was a sports writer, editor and columnist, as well as a general columnist for more than 30 years until his retirement in 1983. He died this past February at the age of 104, much admired by his peers, respected by the boxing industry and beloved by many others. In 2011, McHugh co-authored Ruanaidh: The Story of Art Rooney and His Clan, with Art Rooney, Jr. But after his long and illustrious writing career, he left behind one piece of unfinished business: his complete, but unpublished, chronicle of Pittsburgh’s boxing history. Friend and fellow-boxing historian, Doug Cavanaugh, has just published McHugh’s pugilistic magnum opus, When Pittsburgh Was a Fight Town, posthumously, with an assist from David Finoli, author of numerous Western Pennsylvania sports histories. A freelance writer based in Los Angeles, Cavanaugh has written When Pittsburgh Was a Fight Town by Roy McHugh for boxing

magazine, The Ring. He and McHugh formed a friendship around their shared love of Pittsburgh boxers. Like sportswriting legends Grantland Rice, Damon Runyon and Shirley Povich, McHugh had the ability to capture something essential and unspoken about his subjects while simply getting out of the way of a good story. To open his chapter about Greb, the kid from Garfield who was champion in both middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions, he wrote: “Once upon a time in Pittsburgh every neighborhood saloon with a sports-minded clientele had a picture of Harry Greb on the wall, an unchanging presence behind the bar. The one in Frankie Gustine’s restaurant on Forbes Avenue in Oakland, a blown-up, hand painted photograph, belonged to Art Rooney. There was something oddly haunting about it. Almost absent-mindedly, Greb had assumed a fighter’s stance, but with no hint of combat-readiness in his attitude. The lowered head, the preoccupied gaze were suggestive, rather, of peaceful contemplation. He appeared to be thinking sad, profound thoughts.” Sitting at his typewriter, later a keyboard, McHugh resurrected a lost time, painted a technicolor portrait of a place, and breathed life back into fighters like the great Billy Conn. The original Pittsburgh Kid was light-heavyweight champion, one of the best fighters the city ever produced, but he was best known for his 1941 loss to heavyweight champ, Joe Lewis. Conn once ruefully said that everybody remembered that 13-rounder, but nobody remembered his 64 victories. McHugh lovingly writes of the convivial welterweight champ, Fritzie Zivic, who had a nose like a squashed tomato and “a flair for after dinner speaking.” With elegant prose, he breathes life back into the memories of lightweight Sammy Angott, middleweight Billy Soose, and featherweight Jackie Wilson, champions all. “Pittsburgh was a rabid fight town,” Cavanaugh recently told the

Current. “Everybody wanted to see a poor kid from the neighborhood make good -- not having to be enslaved to the foundries and the coal mines. You could see one of your own make it and it inspired all these people who were breaking their backs everyday.” Bob Smizik, former Press and Post-Gazette sports columnist, described McHugh as a meticulous craftsman. “Most guys would sit down and start typing. He would type a sentence, then you would see him just sitting there thinking,” Smizik says. “It might be five or ten minutes. Then he would type another sentence.” McHugh was what we used to call a man of letters. He read both daily papers cover to cover and some out of town ones, too; he read novels, histories and memoirs. In one of the final chapters he examines, “Why boxing?” He then takes the reader on a trip through the philosophy of boxing, from writers as varied as Paul Theroux, A.J. Liebling, Lord Byron and Joyce Carol Oates. “My favorite anecdote about Roy,” said Post-Gazette sports columnist Gene Collier, launching into a story of a long ago late-night walk through the Press newsroom. A cantankerous sports desk editor was asked to edit a story. How long is it, he asked? 55 inches [roughly 2,500 words], he was told. “He stands up, throws something down on his desk and says, ‘the best writer who ever walked in this building never wrote more than 20 inches!’ He was talking about Roy McHugh.” When Pittsburgh Was a Fight Town is now available through Amazon.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 20, 2019 | 23


Work-in-progress showing of empathy machine. Photo by: Kitoko Chargois

DANCE SPACE

SLOWDANGER PRESENTS AN EMPATHETIC SCI-FI DANCE DRAMA

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BY STEVE SUCATO - PITTSBURGH CURRENT DANCE WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

post-apocalyptic landscape, cyborgs and an all-powerful artificial neural conscious; no it’s not the premise behind the Terminator movies, but rather of multidisciplinary performance troupe slowdanger’s world-premiere work, empathy machine. The five-year-old slowdanger, comprised of the duo of Anna Thompson and Taylor Knight, will present the work August 30 & 31 at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater’s Alloy Studios. The work is a product of several previous iterations including an improvisation-based movement exercise at Canada’s Springboard Danse Montréal in the summer of 2018, a prequel of sorts to VLX, performed last October at 937 Gallery. This completed version picks up where VLX left off and uses the same creative team of VJ, projection mapper, and creative

technologist, Cornelius Henke (a.k.a. ProjectileObjects) who created a 16-foot in diameter LED light ring that became a central character in the work, and Carnegie Mellon University computational artist Char Stiles whose video projections for the work includes an open computer vision contour detector that is utilized to analyze the performers and project images of them during the performance as an aesthetic filter, says Thompson. “Technically, empathy machine is the next episode in the world of what VLX was,” says Knight. “VLX was about leading us toward this moment of something really intense happening and empathy machine is about the arrival to where we go from there.” In addition, empathy machine also “questions societal reflexes by desexualizing intimacy, and examines empathy as an ongoing

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process of sensitizing ourselves to our bodies, companions and environment,” say Knight and Taylor. Set to an original atmospheric electronic soundscape by Knight and Thompson that includes recorded material and live vocalizations (singing and text recitation), the hour-long dance-theater work, while keeping the same compositional structure of VLX, explores a new storyline with new choreography. Says Knight, empathy machine is the arrival of these cyborg-human characters who are looking to reinstate empathy and interpersonal relationship that was lost in the postapocalyptic ending of VLX.” Unlike the Terminator franchise, empathy machine’s version of “Skynet,” in this case the LED light ring, is a benevolent entity who sacrifices itself to help the discoball mask wearing cyborg-human characters regain their humanity and

empathy. Reprising their undefined roles from VLX will be performers, Knight, Thompson, Ru Emmons, Roberta Guido and Attack Theatre’s Simon Phillips. “In choosing performers to work with we look for folks who hold a strong sense of their own individuality,” says Thompson. “Performers who are also sensitive and willing to explore a broad spectrum of movement qualities.” The choreography for the work’s various sections is dished out in a wild-ride contemporary movement language mixing moments of quiet huddling and intertwining of dancer bodies with moments of quick moving abandon as dancers launch themselves about the stage. “We have a lot of sections where we are pushing the athleticism in the dancers’ bodies and that all has narrative meaning,” say Knight and Thompson. To see a video of excerpts from a work-in-progress showing at The Space Upstairs visit: https:// youtu.be/0j0T_ILsTnU. Knight and Thompson say they chose to perform the work not in the Kelly Strayhorn’s main theater space but in the smaller Alloy Studios for the intimate audience experience that the Alloy space offers. “The work is well-suited for a closer-up, semi-in-the-round audience setup,” says Knight. After its Pittsburgh premiere, slowdanger will tour the work to The Segal Theatre CUNY Graduate Center in New York for a preview showing on September 5 and to Washington D.C.’s Dance Place on October 5 & 6.

SLOWDANGER performs empathy machine, 8 p.m., Friday, August 30 and Saturday, August 31 at KST’s Alloy Studios, 5530 Penn Avenue in East Liberty. Pay What Makes You Happy! ticket pricing. For more information and tickets visit kelly-strayhorn.org or call (412) 3633000.


A SECOND LOOK

years makes a huge difference. “I’m 65. The character is 67 and I’ve got new life experiences,” he says. “I added different things to my acting tool box that I can reach for and use to help bring the character to life.” According to Bates, playing Aunt Ester is like “the Lady Macbeth for a black actress.” Being chosen to play her again is an honor, and she will use her late mother as inspiration for her performance. “I feel that I’m in a time in my life where my mother was, in fact, my Aunt Ester and I was her protegé and the torch has now passed to me,” she says. “Gem of the Ocean” features an all-female production crew, which excites Bates. “To put it in a season like this it is remarkable,” she says. Mark Clayton Southers, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company’s founder and artistic producing director, says his decision to have an all-female production

crew was an easy one. “Mr. Wilson’s plays traditionally have ensembles that are dominated by men and their stories. For this production, which features Aunt Ester as the lead, I chose to select an all-women behind-the-scenes production staff to help bring this story to life,” he said in a press release. Brown says it’s invigorating getting to tell the same story in two different ways. “It’s amazing because you do the same show and have two different visions.” he says. “It’s a great experience to see through the eyes of both directors and try to come up with the same story.”

GEM OF THE OCEAN.

Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company. 7:30 p.m. Aug. 24 to Sept. 22. $18.39-$37.50. 1839 Wylie Ave., Hill District. www.pghplaywrights. org

PITTSBURGH PLAYWRIGHT’S THEATER COMPANY REVISITS AUGUST WILSON’S “GEM OF THE OCEAN”

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BY AMANDA REED - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER AMANDA@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

ctress Chrystal Bates says playing the same character twice is like painting two pictures. “It’s like you did a watercolor before and now [you’re] doing it in oil,” she says. “We’re still working with paint, but it’s almost like a different medium.” In 2012, Bates played Aunt Ester in Pittsburgh Playwright Theater Company’s production of “Gem of the Ocean;” she will reprise that role with the production’s revival of “Gem” from Aug. 24-Sept. 22, which features multiple cast members from the 2012 production. The chronological beginning of Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle, “Gem of the Ocean” (2003) is set in Aunt Ester’s home for the troubled and lost. “Gem of the Ocean” is a story of redemption and spiritual awakening,

taking audience members from the Steel City to the City of Bones. The 2012 production was directed by Mark Clayton Southers and performed at the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater downtown. This time, it’s directed by Andrea Frye and will be performed outdoors at 1839 Wylie Ave. in the Hill District, the play’s exact setting. Wali Jamal will once again play Caesar Wilkes. For him, different choices are refreshing, especially when playing a classic character. “Different is always better because you don’t want it to be the same,” he said. “You don’t want to give the same performance, even though there’s seven years difference.” Kevin Brown played Eli in the 2012 production and returns to play Solly Two Kings. For him, seven PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 20, 2019 | 25


MUSIC MUSICAL EXPERIENCE

ON ITS NEW RECORD, LOCAL ART-ROCK QUINTET THE WORKING BREED DIGS INTO THE DETAILS BY MIKE SHANLEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

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“WHEN YOU CREATE SOMETHING, YOU HAVE TO LEAVE HOLES IN IT FOR THE OTHER PERSON TO CREATE THEIR MEANING.”

y day, Erika June Christina Laing studies the functions of the brain at CMU’s Machine Learning Department. So when she talks about her other work, as the singer and multi-instrumentalist in The Working Breed, it should come as no surprise that the band’s songs also have many layers, in terms of musical influences and lyrical metaphors. Unlike her neurological work, though, Laing believes that music shouldn’t be fully explained to the

listener. “When you create something, you have to leave holes in it for the other person to create their meaning,” she says. “Because if you try to define everything about what you’re doing, there’s no room for the other person to have an experience with it.” Hieroglyphica, the band’s debut album, contains plenty of rabbit holes for listeners to fall into, in addition to an array of art rock and jazz, with a healthy dose of humor. Starting off with a track, “Mo Fo Ro

Working Breed. Photo by: Kevin Kukler

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Ro,” the group might come off as a little light-hearted. (The title is a cleaned up version of the chorus line, “Motherfucking rock and roll.”) But as things proceed, arrangements get more complex and — even as the humor remains at arm’s length — some of the lyrics get a little dark. The Working Breed formed about five years ago when Laing met guitarist Mike Dugan and bassist Jonah Petrelli. She had sung in a few bands but songwriting was still new to her, so she sang an idea to them. “They looked at each other and [nodded]. And they started playing exactly what I had heard in my head to go with the song,” Laing says. “I was really impressed with how they communicated. It was exactly right.” The group began working on what would become Hieroglyphica three-and-a-half years ago. Laing was dealing with a family emergency at the time but pressed the band to get it started before she went home to Florida. Along the way, a few drummers came and left the group. Current drummer Jeremy Papay and his predecessor Kieran Bittles both appear on the album. Keyboardist/ vocalist Chloe Wiecz also joined during the sessions. With the group’s solid backing, Laing brings a few random elements to the sound. She regularly pulls out the trombone between verses, and she’s

also fluent on the trumpet. But the instrument that attracts the biggest response is the singing saw. Balancing the handle of the tool on her leg — its teeth pointing towards her — she bows with her left hand and manipulates the pitch with her right. Like her brass chops, this is no novelty performance either. Her tone on “Cicada” sounds like a cross between a theremin and a soprano vocalist. As an intro to the song, Laing found a sample of the exact species of cicada that she heard growing up in Florida, which gives the album its name. She also used skills learned at her day job with speech synthesis to create “Mimosa Pudica,” which has a synthetic voice that was speaking backwards and was recorded backward and then played forward, which displaces the accents and stresses of its words. It precedes “Sensitive Plant,” a metaphorical tale of the person who, like the actual plant, closes up on contact. Elsewhere on the album, “Turtle Race,” something of a power ballad, deals with the aftermath of a relationship and includes the line, “If you love somebody, you’re fucked.” Laing, who isn’t as cynical in person as that song might imply, revels in minute details, even going so far to record electromagnetic fields around an actual sensitive plant and upscaling them to an audible level. “There are animals who can see ultra violet and electromagnetic fields better than us. But we’re better than them? I don’t subscribe to that. I just think we should being a little more humble,” she says. Laughing, she adds, “I think that’s the deep thread in the record.”

THE WORKING BREED CD/ LP RELEASE SHOW WITH CELLO FURY, IAN INSECT, STRANGER DANGER CIRCUS SIDESHOW. 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24. Thunderbird Café & Music Hall, 4053 Butler Street, Lawrenceville. $12-$15. 412-682-0177


BLOCK PARTY

SPIRIT CELEBRATES ITS FOURTH ANNUAL SUMMER RECESS

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BY MEG FAIR - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MANAGING EDITOR MEG@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

he Spirit Summer Recess is a day-long experience of music, art, food and community. The smells from local food vendors waft around, the sounds of laughter and music dance off the patio and into the streets. In its fourth year, the party still has the same mission: bring together the best things in life: music, food and each other. “It’s tough to describe the energy, because it’s a 14-hour event that kind of runs the gamut,” explains Spirit co-owner Tom Barr. “It starts out almost wholesome, and kind of always ends on a surreal vibe, with a healthy dose of chaos in between... It’s pretty beautiful and very much a reflection of Spirit’s M.O. actually. There’s a little bit for everybody.” Before the existence of Spirit, Barr threw an event called the Bushwick Block Party in Brooklyn. Co-owners Jeff Ryan and Barr worked together at the time at the New York-based pizza shop, Roberta’s, and coowner Leigh Yock would visit from Pittsburgh to hang out for the party. So when Barr, Ryan and Yock opened Spirit, an annual outdoor party was a must. Spirit Summer Recess began four years ago, and the event has grown considerably. It still features live music and mural paintings, but now there are more vendors and moving parts. This year the street will be blocked off and the main outdoor stage moved to 51st Street. The event features 18 bands and dance parties like italo disco/ new wave/ post punk spinners Jellyfish, and the Make Sure You Have Fun dance tent. Picking the bands is very much a team effort between Yock, Barr, general manager Justin Strong and the staff of Spirit. As a result, the genres include everything from pop (Bjordan) to psychedelic rock (Astrology Now) to post hardcore (edhochuli), hip hop (Benji) and beyond. There’s even a ska band on

the lineup. That diverse charcuterie of sounds is very reflective of the taste of Pittsburgh’s incredibly varied music community. In addition to treats for the ears, live Spirit Walls mural painting will satisfy the eyes of attendees. This year’s artists include Danny Devine, Wavy Wednesday, Meg Shalonis, Shane Pilster, Aaron Regal and Bowen Schmitt. It’s a crop of artists curated by Brian Gonnella, who this year wanted to shine a light on local talent specifically. Since the inception of the event, the team at Spirit has been working tirelessly to manage a well-oiled party machine. But there are new challenges too. “A lot of production logistics have been dialed in, like power needs and permitting which makes for less stress, but things like changing diapers, stomach ulcers and lower alcohol tolerances have stepped in to even the playing field,” says Barr. Although things continue to grow and change with Summer Recess, some things stay the same. “Things that have been consistent and that we can always count on, Leigh [Yock] will lose her cellphone at some point during the event, Jeff will sleep in his car, and I will undoubtedly have to work brunch the next morning,” says Barr.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 20, 2019 | 27


Thumbscrew (Left to right: Mary Halvorson, Tomas Fujiwara and Michael Formanek). Photo courtesy of Amy Touchette

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TRIPLE PLAY

JAZZ TRIO THUMBSCREW SHOWCASES THREE DISTINCT MUSICAL PERSONALITIES

he photos on Thumbscrew’s second album, Convallaria, show the band posing in an undeveloped building. Considering the trio’s connection with the experimental jazz scene in New York, the locale might be misconstrued as a loft in that city. But the pictures were taken in Pittsburgh in the space that has since become Alphabet City, the performance space, book store and restaurant connected with the City of Asylum organization. The 2015 residency that yielded both Convallaria’s music and photos was the first of several trips that Mary Halvorson (guitar), Tomas Fujiwara (drums) and Michael Formanek (bass) have made to Pittsburgh. They have recorded three albums at Millvale’s Mr. Small’s

BY MIKE SHANLEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM Studio. Formanek and Halvorson have also brought other projects to town. “Once we got there for the first residency and really explored and interacted with the city, we totally fell in love with it,” Fujiwara says. “The vibe and the energy is such a hard thing to put your finger on. But it’s always resonated with us. It’s an urban environment but it’s a little more personal with a small town vibe than huge cities.” All three members of Thumbscrew lead other bands, but they launched the trio as a cooperative where everyone brings in compositions and has an equal say. Despite their busy schedules, all three of them are committed to making time for the project. Part of this can be attributed

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to each member’s strong musical personality. Halvorson has arguably the most distinct guitar sound in current jazz. “She’s very creative and spontaneous and has a very unique vocabulary. But her ideas and intentions are always clear,” Fujiwara says. “That is something that is really valuable when you talk about playing music that involves a lot of interaction, improvisation and interpretation. So there’s a real strength behind that.” The drummer says some of the same characteristics describe Formanek. “He deals with all the possibilities of the role of the bass equally. He can really hold a band together with a lot of strength and clarity, and he can also interact and step forward and make all the

creative statements that steer the band in a different direction,” says Fujiwara. By the time the trio performs at Alphabet City, they will have spent another week in residency, working not only on new originals but also on a set of unreleased compositions by saxophonist Anthony Braxton.

THUMBSCREW.

7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28. Alphabet City, 40 W. North Ave., North Side 7 p.m. Free, but reservations are recommended. Visit cityofasylum.org


Pat Coyle (Current photo by Jake Mysliwczyk)

BIG SCORE

budget home movie, Coyle laughs that it might be cool to bring Andrei Tarkovsky back from the dead for the project, since the EP actually contains samples from Tarkovsky’s film Solaris. “His movies are very dreamlike and really don’t follow any sort of conventional Hollywood narrative,” he says. Coyle studied film at Penn State, but never really explored a career in the field. “I was kind of overwhelmed by the idea of trying to pursue that more, the competitiveness of the whole film industry.” Drumming is his first love – he’s played in bands like Blod Maud and It It, in addition to his solo work, and he has done session work at the Mr. Smalls recording studio. But not going into filmmaking is something he regrets. “I love movies so much,” he says. “It’s something I’d love to come back to in some way, maybe combining music and film.” In September, Coyle takes a step that could lead him in that direction: moving to Los Angeles, where he’ll

pursue session work and whatever else might come his way. The EP release is his last Pittsburgh gig (for a while, anyway), and the nostalgia is already kicking in. “I’m going to miss how easy it is to collaborate with people here and the huge breadth of talent and kindness and [the] non-pretentious approach to things. I’ve been able to play in a bunch of bands and collaborate with a bunch of people,” he says. “I already miss everybody a lot, so it’s going to be bittersweet.”

PAT COYLE EP RELEASE SHOW WITH NATURAL RAT, ANTHONY HEUBEL & THE HIGH LONESOME BAND, THE CHILDLIKE EMPRESS.7

p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28. Alphabet City, 40 W. North Ave., North Side 7 p.m. Free, but reservations are recommended. Visit cityofasylum.org

PAT COYLE RELEASES A FILM-THEMED EP BEFORE LEAVING TOWN FOR LA

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BY MARGARET WELSH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC EDITOR MARGARET@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

n Patrick Coyle’s new solo EP, Iridescent Cue, each song centers on the perspective of a different member of a family unit. When writing the songs, Coyle wanted to capture the melancholic nostalgia of watching an old home movie, a feeling partly informed by his own wistfulness about adulthood, growing up and feeling less connected to his own family. But the storyline is more complex than that. “I was thinking it would be funny if … there was some sort of large-scale film production of the home movie.” Coyle says. “So in my head, these characters are part of a family but they’re also just playing members of the family.” While the music evokes that longing for home and childhood, the lyrics deal with the lives of the actors, “people trying to deal with their own relationship to movie making

and the obsession with fame and stardom and stuff like that.” It’s an amorphously meta concept. But the idea of a big-budget film version of a home movie seems like as good an analogy as any to artistic creation in general. What is a song or a record or a painting or a film if not a reframing and reimagining of our personal life experiences? The idea is “kind of vague and kind of swirls around in my mind,” Coyle admits. But, the emotional truth lands. “I guess, for me, the emotions feel good. Coyle says the EP functions as a score to this imaginary movie, but the songs stand on their own as cinematic shorts. It’s washy, moody pop, reminiscent of Andy Shauf’s gentle small-scale story-songs, or Sufjan Stevens at his most electronic. Asked who would direct the movie version of this hypothetical big PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 20, 2019 | 29


FOOD

Jaye Cooper. Current photos by Gab Bonesso.

THIS TASTES FUNNY: DINNER WITH JAYE COOPER AT ROSE TEA CAFE BY GAB BONESSO - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

M

eeting up with comedian Jaye Cooper felt like the old Abbott & Costello routine, “Who’s on First?” We agreed to meet up at one of my favorite Squirrel Hill restaurants, Rose Tea Cafe. I was running late because that’s how I roll. So, I texted Cooper that I would be there as soon as I could. I finally arrived to an empty

restaurant, confused as to where Cooper might be. I figured he was probably in the bathroom, but texted just to make sure. He told me he was out front. I walked back out front to find him and no Cooper. OK, now I’m thinking I read the text wrong. “Are you in the restaurant?” I texted back; he replied that he was. I walked back into the restaurant and still no one was there. At this point

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I assumed it was my mental state and I was hallucinating an empty restaurant. I texted back, “Do you see me?” At this point we realized that he was at the Oakland location and I was at the Squirrel Hill spot and “What” was on second. Thank goodness Jaye Cooper is one of the kindest comedians in the city. He showed up at the my

location 45 minutes later with a big smile and not a sense of annoyance on his face. I figured we should order our food and then start the interview. Since he had never been to Rose Tea Cafe, I encouraged him to try one of their famous Bubble Tea drinks with Tapioca. I always get the black tea/ coffee with milk, but Cooper tried the same concoction with almond


milk. I warned him that the tapioca balls can seem off-putting to some people, so don’t feel bad if you hate it. He didn’t: “It was weird at first, but I like it.” I ordered my go-to item at Rose Tea Cafe which is their Vegetarian Pan-Fried Noodles. Cooper wasn’t sure what he wanted, so the server basically designed an original dish for him. It was rice noodles, with hot beef, vegetables and extra chili sauce. Or as it will forever be known to me, The Coop Troop Original. The Coop Troop is the name that Cooper uses for his comedy fans. I only met Cooper about two years ago and we worked together for the first time last month. I had no idea how long he’s been doing this or anything about his comedy journey. Cooper started doing comedy almost 10 years ago after dropping out of the Pittsburgh Art Institute where he studied video production and digital media. Cooper said that the art part of school was not his problem. “At that time, I wanted to be the next Spike Lee. I wanted to be the next John Singleton,” he says.” But, the core classes, like math, that got in his way. “Math is my kryptonite. I hate math. I can get as far as geometry. The study of shapes and that stuff. Algebra? You’re throwing letters in there, you’re throwing parentheses and crap. People are telling me that’s a variable and I’m like no that’s a letter!” Cooper read about an open mic at the Smiling Moose and decided to go check out the show. Quickly after watching the amateurs struggle to make the audience laugh, Cooper felt that he might as well try. He quickly wrote some jokes on a napkin and asked the host if he could do a set. In that moment, he got the comedy bug. At this point in our conversation the food arrives and it’s piping hot. His looks like a reasonable portion for an adult. Mine looks like a family style portion. In my defense I am eating for myself and the voices in my head, so we’re basically a family. Cooper is a determined man.

Every year, the Pittsburgh Improv holds a comedy contest where the winner receives paid work from the club. It’s a contest that every comic looking to work at the club enters. Cooper has entered the past five years, and has made it to the finals each time, although he’s yet to win. He says making it to the finals every year is a really good way to get on management’s radar, regardless of the outcome. Cooper admits that the Improv tends to rely on the same group of veteran comedians to handle the open/feature slots, but he really just would love an opportunity to be in the rotation. He greatly admires the work of local comics like Terry Jones, Ed Bailey and T. Robe. Cooper credits a lot of his success in comedy to his mentor/friend Howie Mac. Cooper got his start on Mac’s PCTV show, “Off the Grill,” with fellow comedian Samantha Bentley who played Crazy Cakes. “I love Samantha. I think she is one of the funniest people ever, and I’m happy to see that she’s finally getting the opportunities she deserves.” We’re about 20 minutes into our meal at this point and our server asks if she can wrap up my food. I tell her that I’m still working on it. Five minutes later, she asks the same question and receives the same answer. This seems like the right time to mention that this was the last time we saw our server. Cooper says Howie Mac really pushes him, and Cooper acknowledges that the only thing holding him back in comedy is himself. “I’m anti-social. If it weren’t for Howie I wouldn’t even be doing it,” Cooper says. “Howie is very good at getting people involved. He is my best friend and my road dog. He definitely pushes me and tells me things like, ‘I have to make it for all of us.’ He’s my man.” I tell Cooper that I think I have enough for the story so I’m going to turn off my microphone so that we can just enjoy our food. We naturally spill (Bubble) tea about joke thieves and bullies in the comedy

Vegetarian Pan-Fried Noodles

community, but that conversation is off the record. We finished our meals and both realize that the time is up on our parking meters. He parked on the street so he was safe since it was now after 6 p.m., but I was in a private lot. I added money via an app while getting up to go search for our server. I returned to the table, unable to find one employee. Finally, a male server was in the dining room and I asked him to get my check. He responded with a look like I had just asked him to do a trapeze routine. He returned to the dining room multiple times without my check. Once again, I get up to search for someone, and, once again, I find no one. I go back to Cooper and say, “I need to go. I can’t keep paying for this meter.” He jokingly asks, “Are you thinking of dining and dashing?” “No, but yes,” I say. “I don’t know what is happening. Why won’t they

take my money?” I start to realistically contemplate the dine-and-dash, but how would that work? My editor will want a copy of the receipt and how will I explain that I robbed the Rose Tea Cafe during an interview for his paper? Rational Gab stepped in and gained composure. I walked back to the front counter and faked a coughing attack. It worked and I was able to pay the bill so that we could go on our separate ways. Cooper was heading to a comedy show where he was opening for Jimmy Kren, I had a Criminal Minds marathon to watch on the Sundance Channel and WHAT was still on second.

YOU CAN CATCH COOPER at 10 p.m. on

Saturday, August 24 at Club Cafe and at 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 31 at Arcade Comedy Theater.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 20, 2019 | 31


and electric. So many Black and brown faces from all across America, many of which have never been to Pennsylvania. There is a free buffet of Brazilian delights to keep us upright. A Florida Man brought us a bottle of White Henny. Wasn’t aware Drinking Partners had listeners in Florida. I still feel strongly that we should replace Florida with Puerto Rico as our 50th state, but there are some good eggs in the bunch. #NotAllFloridaMen Aug 10, 8 a.m.: I guess this is happening.

Fresh Fest. Photo by: Reddvision

DAY DRINKING:

KEEPING UP WITH PITTSBURGH’S CRAFT BEER SCENE BY DAY BRACEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CRAFT BEER WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM Aug 8, 4 p.m.: I’m at Cinderlands for the release of Surrealism, a Fresh Fest collaboration with photographer BamCrown who heavily uses natural shadows to add contrast to his work. Arie Cole is spinning next to him, and they have a chef frying up plantains for anyone looking to pair their Pancake Galaxy Banana Chocolate Chip Tartshake. I’m selling merch and desperately pleading with people to come to our festival. The artwork for the Surrealism can is stunning, and certainly one of my favorites this year. That Apollo from Eleventh Hour has a special place in my ‘80s baby heart though. Aug 8, 7 p.m.: I’m at Carmi’s for a Fresh Fest Kickoff Mixer. Ale Sharpton is in the building and pouring his collaboration with New Belgium called Piano Keys, an imperial stout with vanilla. Crown & Hops, Afro Beer Chick, Uncap Everything, and several other prominent Black craft influencers have traveled from across the country to be a part of the family reunion. The vibe is filled with love and excitement. It’s a bit

overwhelming. I didn’t take a shower today, and there are so many people to hug! Aug 9, 12 p.m.: I arrive late to Ace Hotel for the symposiums on inclusion in the industry hosted by Ale Sharpton. I walk into a packed room of people intently listening and engaging in meaningful discussions. I can’t believe so many people traveled to learn. I just thought they came for the beer. It was interesting to hear about the added hurdles some Black entrepreneurs go through to get a legit business off the ground or to be taken seriously as a skilled and knowledgeable representative of the industry, compared to their white counterparts. It was even more interesting to hear how they overcame those hurdles and to listen as they offered their assistance to those in need. Kiyas Delicias is serving empanadas outside, while New Belgium has a hazy, juicy Voodoo Ranger on tap. It’s a perfect lunch combo. Aug 9, 6 p.m.: The bottle share at Casa Brasil is already packed

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Aug 10, 9 a.m.: Didn’t you read the email? There was a map with a roster attached. Aug 10, 9:30 a.m.: Where the fuck is this Crystal Springs place? Google maps takes us right here. Let’s ask these feral cats if they have a clue. Aug 10, 10 a.m.: I’m at Steel City right now picking up beer. I’m sorry you can’t get up the ramp right now. I’ll be back shortly to sort it out. Aug 10, 10:30 a.m.: The contract says you get a 10x10 space, this is a 20x20 space. I need you to give us these extra tables back and MOVE YOUR GODDAMN VAN SO PEOPLE CAN GET UP THE RAMP! Aug 10, 11 a.m.: No. No. No. No. No. The port-o-johns can’t go there! Where did all of this random furniture come from? I’m sure someone has an extra jockey box you can use. I don’t know where your beer is, but it should be here soon. Is someone getting ice? Aug 10, 12 p.m.: DID YOU READ THE EMAILS?! Aug 10, 12:30 p.m.: Glad you’re enjoying the VIP experience. Sorry, I’m in a bit of a rush. Has anyone seen Chris? I left my shirt in his truck. Aug 10, 1 p.m.: I’m recording the Drinking Partners podcast

LIVE with Garrett Oliver and I don’t have a shirt. Exactly how I wanted to meet a god. The room is vibrant, tipsy and diverse. The conversation is meaningful and impactful. This is America at its finest. As Mr. Oliver plainly stated, “We were all supposed to be in the same damn room in the first place having a good time!” Aug 10, 2:30 p.m.: WHERE IS ALL THE ICE AND WATER?! Wait… Is that Rick Sebak working the desk?! Aug 10, 4:30 p.m.: I finally get a chance to take a few bites of food and enjoy a guitar solo by Elias Khouri. Everyone seems happy with the turnout. I tell them to strap in. We still have 2000 more people coming into this bitch. Drink up! Aug 10, 9 p.m.: Today, I saw what Pittsburgh could be if it were the most livable city in America for everyone, and not just the European population. Inclusion isn’t a charity, something you do to meet quotas. It’s a strength and humanity at its best. Using the hive mind to move us forward. Segregating cultures is like separating portions of a brain. Echo chambers are vacuums for ideas. Cross-culturalization is a breath of fresh air.


PITTSBURGH CURRENT

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EVENTS

THE CAN’T MISS BY EMERSON ANDREWS INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM FEATURED EVENTS IN AND AROUND THE PITTSBURGH REGION

AUGUST 21 Come down to Threadbare Cider House for a Women in Film Mixer. Items will be raffled off and the event is a great networking opportunity. Professionals and those who are merely interested in the industry are welcome, and a cash bar will be available. 6:30 p.m. 1291 Spring Garden Ave. Free. Faith@wifmpit.org or wifmpit.org

AUGUST 22 The Heinz History Center celebrates the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Live music, cocktails and activities will be available for all to have a good time. Kid discounts are available, and kids five and under get in free. Ticket prices also include access to all History Center exhibits. 6 p.m. 1212 Smallman St. $10 for kids 6-17, $20 adults. kmroberts@ heinzhistorycenter.org or heinzhistorycenter.org/events What is Ted Leo if not a bonafied national treasure? The indie-rocker founded Ted Leo and the Pharmacists in Washington D.C. in 1999. Before that, he played in punk bands like Chisel and Citizens Arrest, and that stripped down D.I.Y. ethos remains a central part of Leo’s appeal and accessibility. He’s never been a preacher or one-note moralizer, but he also gives voice to political rage and frustration. He’s a rousing protest singer in the way you might use that phrase to describe Joe Strummer or Billy Bragg, which is to say he’s – at his very heart - an artist of the people. Catch him on his next visit to Pittsburgh: on Thursday he brings the Pharmacists to Spirit. Control Top opens. 8 p.m. 242 51st St., Lawrenceville. $20-22. www.spiritpgh. com

AUGUST 23 The Andy Warhol Museum hosts the

$20,000, which went to disaster aid for Puerto Rico and benefited local homeless ministries. This year’s installment – happening Downtown -- will raise money for the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance. 2 p.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24 and Sunday, Aug. 25. 242 Forbes Ave., Downtown. $39.95-150. www.rockreggaerelief.com

AUGUST 25 School of Drag’s Showcase, the conclusion of the school’s seven-week program. Both students and instructors will perform. Admission is free on a first come, first served basis, and doors open at 6:30. 7 p.m. 117 Sandusky St. Free. warhol.org On Friday, Aug. 23, Hieroglyphics brings its 3rd Eye Vision anniversary tour to the Smiling Moose, marking three decades since the group released its first studio record. Founded in the early ‘90s by Del the Funky Homosapien, the members of the hip-hop collective (which also includes the group Souls of Mischief ) lived within walking distance of each other in Oakland, CA. That geographic situation fed their sense of artistic community, as well as an awareness of time and place. The members’ interest in jazz put them in line with groups like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest, but Hieroglyphics developed its own off-beat, freewheeling take on the Bay Area sound. Don’t miss a chance to celebrate a piece of hiphop history. Pittsburgh’s Selecta also appears. 8 p.m. 1306 E. Carson St., South Side. $25. www.smiling-moose.com

AUGUST 24 Contemporary Craft and the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh close their final exhibition in the Strip with a speaker series, featuring artists Jozef Bajus and Erika Diamond. The event is free with reservation, and audience members should arrive early to view the exhibit. 2:30 p.m. 2100 Smallman St. Free. 412-261-7003 or ssun@contemporarycraft.org

AUGUST 24-25 Now in its third year, Rock, Reggae & Relief has grown from one to two full days of live music, including performances by Gavin Degraw, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Ghost Hounds, Roots of Creation and more. Last year, the event raised over

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Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens invites everyone to celebrate Tomato and Garlic Day. Enjoy samples of these summer crops prepared by Doug Oster of Everybody Gardens, shop at an outdoor market, and bring your kids for the pot-a-plant and tomato mascot activities. 11 a.m. One Schenley Park. Free. phipps.conservatory.org

AUGUST 27 City of Asylum @ Alphbet City hosts Breaking Out: Voices from the Inside, a selection of readings and performances written by incarcerated writers. These selections celebrate the PEN America Prison Writing Award winners from last year, and will be read and performed by a cross-section of local artists. The event is free with reservation. 7 p.m. 40 W. North Ave. Free. 412-435-1110 or rsvp@ cityofasylumpittsburgh.org

AUGUST 29 Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council Diversity Catalyst Cecile Shellman hosts a workshop on Hiring for Diversity. The workshop covers issues of inclusion, accessibility and equity. GPAC members have discounted tickets and all tickets include lunch. 12 p.m. 810 Penn Ave., 7th floor. $5 for members, $10 for

non-members. 412-391-2060 or info@ pittsburghartscouncil.org

AUGUST 30 The Living Street may still be a slightly-under-the-radar gem of the local scene, but the folk-rock duo is undoubtedly poised for big things. Nick Guckert and Edward Angelo – old friends from Lower Burrell – have already put in the work, having played in 95 cities across the United States over the last two years. More recently, Pittsburgh rock elder-statesmen the Clarkes dubbed the Living Street a “band to watch.” It’s hard to disagree with that assessment, especially after hearing the new record, It Won’t Last, which the duo releases Friday, Aug. 30 at Club Café. It’s bright, radio-ready pop with an Americana flare, full of catchy harmonies and hooks that make you want to sing along. 7 p.m. 56 S. 12th St., South Side. $15. www.clubcafelive.com

AUGUST 31 The Pittsburgh Water Lantern Festival is happening in Allegheny Commons Park. Design your own lantern and watch them all float over the water. Child price tickets are available. 5:30 p.m. Allegheny Commons Park. $35 before August 30, $40 same day. Waterlanternfestival.com.

SEPTEMBER 1 End the summer with a Soul Food Fest: A Taste of the Burgh in Market Square hosted by Western Pennsylvania Juneteenth Celebration. Vendors, live bands, kids activities and more will be available. 1 p.m. 210 Forbes Ave. Free. 724-2059376.

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Savage Love BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET

I took Molly with my best bud. We wound up cuddling and telling each other everything. We didn’t mess around—we’re both straight guys— but one of the things I told him is that I would much rather eat pussy than fuck, and one of the things he told me is that he’s not at all into eating pussy and pretty much only likes to fuck. I think we’d make a great team: We’re both good-looking, athletic dudes and we should find a woman who loves to have her pussy eaten and loves to get fucked. I would go down on her and get her going (and coming), then he steps in and dicks her down (and gets her off one last time). What say you? Ultimate Package Deal I would say, “FUCK YES!” if I were a woman, UPD, which I’m not. And while I can’t promise you every woman will have the same reaction I did, some women most definitely will. I’m a male in my late ’50s. I went to a urologist for my erection problem, which was helped with ED medication. But orgasms are very hard to achieve, and the ED medication does not seem to make orgasms any easier to have. My girlfriend appreciates the erections, but I would also like to climax. This is very frustrating. Any advice? Pills Inhibiting Lusty Loads Tits and dicks both sag with age, which is why push-up bras and push-up pills were invented. And while ED meds do make it easier for a guy to get an erection, they can also make it more difficult for a guy to climax. Upside: You last longer. Downside: You may sometimes have sex without climaxing. Or you can shift your perspective and try to see this downside as a secret upside: Sometimes you get to enjoy sex without climaxing—and next time, when you do climax, you’ll blow a bigger load. I am a bisexual man who’s active in the sex-positive community, and

I love playing with couples. I was updating my Feeld profile to reflect this desire, but I realized there’s no consistent term for a male unicorn. So I listed “Male/Stag/Stallion/ Minotaur/Pegasus,” various terms I’ve seen people use. WTF, it shouldn’t require a whole line in my profile to run through all the terms! As the person who famously crowdsourced “pegging,” I was hoping you could work your magic and get everyone to agree on a nonbinary term that works for all sexual identities. Having One Reliable Name What’s wrong with “unicorn”? Unicorns—the mythical beasts— can be female, male, or, I suppose, genderless or genderfluid. They can be anything we want them to be, HORN, since we made them up. And while the term first came into use to describe bi women who weren’t just open to having sex with an established, opposite-sex couple, but open to committing to a couple and forming a poly triad, there’s no reason men and/or nonbinary folks who are interested in the same—hooking up with and forming relationships with established couples—couldn’t identify as unicorns, too. But are you a unicorn? People began to call those bi women “unicorns” because they were hard to find and everyone, it seemed, was looking for one. People interested in simply playing with couples aren’t anywhere near as hard to find. I’ve recently begun to experiment with a few kinky friends. One of them is a voyeur who is super into bukkake. I’d be open to a group bukkake scene, but how do I avoid contracting an STI? Anonymous Assistant “On me, not in me” was a safesex message crafted in the earliest, darkest, most terrifying days of the AIDS Crisis—and a bukkake scene, which involves multiple men ejaculating on one person, is all about “on me,” which makes

it relatively safe. So long as you’re careful not to get anyone’s come in your eyes (ocular gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia are all things) or on your hole(s), you won’t have anything to worry about. Is there a regional difference between people who use the word “come” versus people who use “jizz”? I personally only use the word “come” and rarely hear anyone use “jizz.” Do people not use “jizz” or do they just not use it where I live? Seeking Pretty Unnecessary Niche Knowledge I’ve seen maps that track regionalisms like “soda” versus “pop,” SPUNK, but I’ve never seen one tracking “come” versus “jizz.” Seems like something a sex-positive linguist might want to jump on. I’m a 46-year-old man and I recently met a 31-year-old woman. We have not had PIV sex yet, but we have enjoyed several nights of cuddling, spooning, etc. as the relationship progresses. She has made it very clear she wants our first time to be a fairy-tale evening, so we have yet to take things past mild foreplay. Plot twist: After two nights of us sleeping together, I realized she’s a sexsomniac. She had no idea until I told her, and she barely believes me. But if I put my arm around her to cuddle when she’s asleep, she immediately sexually responds to the skin-to-skin contact. On two occasions she’s performed oral on me. I’m not complaining, as this is quite possibly every guy’s dream. My question is around consent when dealing with situations like this. She’s My Dream Girl Unless your new girlfriend gave you permission to initiate skin-to-skin contact in the middle of the night—unless she not only didn’t have a problem with the first blowjob you accidentally triggered but explicitly gave you the go-ahead to trigger more—you have already and repeatedly violated her consent.

If she doesn’t want to do more than cuddle or spoon when she’s awake, you shouldn’t be manipulating her into blowing you when she’s asleep. Most people who are partnered with sexsomniacs prefer not to have sex with their partners when they’re unconscious, but some do—with their sexsomniac partner’s prior consent. It’s a gray area, because an unconscious person can’t offer meaningful, enthusiastic, ongoing consent. But unless there are details you’ve omitted—details like your partner saying, “I blew you in my sleep? Really! Neat! I’m happy to keep doing that!”—stop initiating skin-to-skin contact when she’s asleep or stop pretending you care about consent. (You should care about consent and you should stop.) I’ve been seeing a guy. We’re not really “boyfriend and girlfriend” and we’re not exclusive. Last night, him and my best friend and I were all hanging out in his bedroom. After a while, I went to sleep on the couch in the living room and left them in the bedroom. When I woke up, they were having sex. I had told them both it was okay for them to have sex with each other, but I didn’t expect them to do it when I was just in the other room. Unwelcome Personal Surprise Enraging Totally You’re not exclusive, UPSET, and you gave this guy and your best friend permission to fuck, and… they fucked. But you got something out of it, too: You learned an important lesson. Namely, no one can read your mind. If you give someone permission to do something with someone else sometime, and both those someones are sitting on a bed, you need to bring up any and all additional conditions before falling asleep on the couch in the next room. On the Lovecast, when your twin brother is a white supremacist: savagelovecast.com.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | AUGUST 20, 2019 | 35


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Pittsburgh Current, Vol. 2, Issue 17  

Pittsburgh Current, Vol. 2, Issue 17