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CONTENTS Vol. II Iss. I Jan. 8, 2019
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PENNSYLVANIA’S RESTRICTIVE INMATE MAIL POLICY MAKES GROUPS LIKE BOOK ’EM EVEN MORE IMPORTANT BY JODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER JODY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
t’s late Sunday afternoon. The basement walls of Garfield’s Thomas Merton Center are lined with handmade bookshelves from floor nearly to the seven-foot ceiling. Two banquet tables are pushed together to form a workstation. “What do you think the chances are that we have any books on mushrooms? He’s interested in mycology,” the volunteer says. “I had to look up mycology,” she laughs, still peering at the small section on gardening, still holding the letter in her left hand. Mycology, as it turns out, is simply the study of mushrooms. 6 | JAN. 8, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
About a dozen or more folks, like the woman earnestly searching for books about edible fungi, have shown up in this modest library to volunteer for the Book ‘Em Program. Book ’Em volunteers have been sending free books to prisoners since about 2000. The overhead is pretty low. Volunteers have to raise money to cover postage, packing materials, and some books that have to be purchased. Most books are donated, from ordinary people, and also from booksellers, like White Whale just a few blocks away. Book ‘Em purchases the others—crossword puzzles, dictionaries and textbooks,
mostly. Inmates throughout Pennsylvania write and request books. Volunteers at “packing parties” fill the requests as best they can, and then the books are shipped. They can respond to anywhere from 50 to 75 letters during one packing session, and average sending about 250 books per month. The entirely volunteerrun program is a straightforward, efficient, hands-on operation. Jodi Lincoln is one of the volunteers in a leadership role. She instructs everyone on the process of responding to inmate requests, protocols for packing to meet
the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) requirements, and generally oversees these packing sessions which take place on the first two Sundays of every month. Lincoln, 26, lives nearby in Bloomfield. In addition to the packing parties, she handles an assortment of tasks, from sorting and scanning prisoner letters, filing incoming book donations, and sometimes communicating directly with the DOC. As a self-professed book nerd who also cares about mass incarceration, it’s a good fit. “My mom was a librarian. She ran the local village library in the
summers [on Fire Island],” she said while talking about how cataloging books is old muscle memory. One of the things Lincoln loves most is being able to send the perfect book to a prisoner. There are just four ways that a prisoner in Pennsylvania can get his or her hands on a book. They can receive books for free from approved organizations like Book ‘Em and Books Through Bars in Philadelphia as well as through sometimes sparse prison libraries. Inmates can also purchase and receive books directly from approved booksellers. (Individuals, however, cannot send books to inmates.) The other option, the one that was pushed by the DOC in the fall, is ebooks. Prisoners earn very little working inside, making between roughly $0.34 and $0.52 cents per hour. The cost of purchasing a tablet and then purchasing ebooks on top of that makes ebooks completely unrealistic for some. “The idea of having a tablet, with glass features, with plastic features, with metal features … Even beyond safety concerns, these tablets are ill-made even when you buy them new,” says Jason Clearfield, another volunteer in a leadership role with Book ‘Em. “You get the cheapest possible product and then, well, the situation of a jail doesn’t seem hospitable towards a delicate electronic device.” Lincoln has a storehouse of prisoner letters and, with their permission, shares some with me. There are, naturally, prison libraries, but what is noticeable in the letters is that the facilities are often small, often lack the books a prisoner might want, or need, and that access is sometimes limited. The idyllic Shawshank library that we saw in the movies, with hundreds of books and Hank Williams records, doesn’t exist. The other recurring theme is that many of these men and women don’t have family who can help. Some have nobody at all on the outside. Others have loved ones who are stretched to their limits financially. Free books are
essential—Book ’Em shipments are a lifeline. “Most of us aren’t just sitting around waiting on time to pass,” wrote one prisoner housed at the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy, just outside of Pottsville in Eastern Pa. “A majority of these guys are educating themselves … When you see one of us, nose in a book, we’re gaining something, someone else’s words, accounts, reactions, whether fiction or other, good or bad, teaches us.” Things had been moving along pretty nicely for years. But Book ‘Em hit a difficult stretch this fall, when the DOC put a moratorium on prisoners receiving books in the mail. Per an August 29 DOC press release, “Secretary John Wetzel announced the immediate lockdown of all state correctional institutions because of reports of multiple staff members sickened by unknown substances over the past few weeks.” In addition to the lockdown, all DOC mailrooms were closed to non-legal mail. The DOC reported that between May 31 and September 1, more than 50 staff members and 33 inmates reported being sickened and were taken to outside hospitals. “Toxicology results confirmed the presence of synthetic cannabinoid in multiple instances of staff exposure. Lab tests confirmed inmate overdoses linked to synthetic cannabinoids and other illegal substances,” according to a press release issued on September 10. However, on September 7, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that none of the correction officers had been admitted for treatment or observation. And the DOC had not provided any toxicology reports for confirmation or comparison. According to Bret Grote, a lawyer with the Abolitionist Law Center, there is no evidence that the officers who got sick had been sickened by contact with mail or books. According to Grote, the DOC stance is essentially, “drugs are getting in, we don’t know how, it might be the mail.”
That was when the initial ebookonly policy was made. It also resulted in a seismic shift in the handling of mail. Regular mail is now processed through Smart Communications, a private company in Seminole, Florida. Outsourcing Pennsylvania prisoner mail to a Florida company will cost taxpayers $15 million over three years. Legal mail is handled separately and the matter is currently being litigated. After considerable legal pressure, the DOC backed off the ebook policy and instituted new policies for handling paper books. All books will be processed and searched for contraband at SCI Bellefonte (not far from State College). The prisoner packets will then be re-packed and shipped via UPS to the individual prisoners throughout the state. “I would ask that you not lose sight of the fact that the DOC has undertaken these measures to protect its staff and inmates. Drug finds, drug overdoses and drug exposures skyrocketed in the
past year,” wrote Amy Worden, a spokesperson for the DOC, via email when asked for clarification on the new book policy. “Close to 100 staff and inmates have needed treatment for either exposures or overdoses. One inmate died as the result of a drug overdose in March. “Drug finds, overdoses and exposures have decreased significantly since the new policies were rolled out. The presence of drugs in prisons threatens the health and safety of those who live and work behind bars and undermines security in all of the DOC’s facilities.” Still, getting the right books to the right prisoner is going to be challenging. “Making sure that everything stays together is definitely a concern for us,” Lincoln said. “Also how are they going to be paying for all the shipping of these books through a private carrier. Still, we’re really happy to be sending books. We just have to see how it plays out.”
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Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk
Through a friend, I contacted an inmate at SCI Albion outside Erie. Malakki (born Ralph Bolden) went inside when he was 28 years old. He was arrested in 1994 on armed robbery and murder charges. Malakki was sentenced to death, but had his sentence overturned on appeal and was subsequently resentenced to life without parole. He has been imprisoned for 24 years, nearly half his life. He is an avid reader and writer. Some of his favorite writers are Shakespeare, Cheikh Anta Diop and Toni Morrison. But books didn’t mean much to Malakki as a young man. He discovered the joys of reading in prison. By his own account, books have made him a much better man. He now works as a Certified Peer Specialist (CPS), which he explained via the DOC email system, “entails supporting those with mental health challenges. The goal is not to tell our peers what to do but empower them by discussing their options and stand by them when they fail. “We’re always on call on the blocks we live on and even at the
chow hall or in the yard I’m called into action. I go to the SNU (Special Needs Unit) in the evenings for a couple hours.” Malakki wrote that for himself, and for many other prisoners, books are like good friends. “Reading is paramount to help create a vision for prisoners who want to change. Places like Book ‘Em have tremendous resources to help us become better & not let the bad decisions of our personal histories dictate our future destinies,” he wrote. Even while incarcerated, humans are capable of remarkable growth and evolution. Reading is essential to that. For men and women already cut off from friends and family and quotidian interactions that we all take for granted, they are a lifeline of communication. In Trop v Dulles (1958), the Supreme Court case dealing with the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution (the amendment banning cruel and unusual punishment), Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote, “The basic concept underlying the Eighth Amendment is nothing less than the dignity of man. While the state has the power to punish, the Amendment stands to assure that this power be exercised
within the limits of civilized standards.” And further, “The Amendment must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” Not having access to books in the 1780’s, when literacy rates were lower, doesn’t seem quite as manifestly indecent as it does in 2018. One of the things that motivates Jason Clearfield to give his time to Book ‘Em is a desire to be part of the solution. “There needs to be a correctional apparatus,” he said. “The failure that I’m seeing in our institutions are provisions to correct. People don’t have the means to get better. If they don’t have a library, if there aren’t classes to take, if there’s not any structural things to help them make it outside of prison, then they’re going to relapse.” Back in the basement at the Merton Center, I pitch in. There’s a bin of letters; I grab one and get to work. That’s it in a nutshell. The letters are handwritten and extremely polite. Almost all open or close with something along the lines of, “Thanks for this great program,” “The chaplain told me about this program,” and “I really appreciate
the work you do.” Some inmates say they’ll take anything to read. Others have specific textbook needs as inmates prepare to take the GED or the SAT. Some want how-to books, with an eye toward working upon release. Others are more esoteric and specific. I got a letter from an inmate who was interested in learning more about anarchism. He also was really interested in punk music. I made my way over to the section where there were books on urban life, anthropology and the like. I figured I might find some books on political philosophy, including anarchism. I did. But the first book was hardback and the instructions on the envelope noted, “PB only.” Meaning, paperback books only. I put the hardcover back in favor of a paperback book titled In Defense of Anarchy. Patti Smith’s, Just Kids was in the memoir section. She’s a wonderful writer and it’s a good, gritty account of the early years of punk in NYC, so I grabbed that, too. I understood the real satisfaction Lincoln described in putting together a perfect book shipment for an inmate. After the packing session, I ask Malakki why he reads and writes. He says that he does it to hang on to his humanity, to live with his remorse, to expand his capacity to love, and to not disappear into institutional oblivion. “Reading begins the journey to discover what’s beyond your reach,” he wrote. “The people who work there (Book ’Em) are like Saints to us.”
THERE ARE SEVERAL WAYS TO ASSIST THE BOOK ‘EM PROGRAM.
Donate financially at bookempa. org/donate/. To volunteer as a book packer, come to the Thomas Merton Center, 5129 Penn Ave., Garfield on the first two Sundays of every month beginning at 4 p.m. To donate books, please check out the organization’s “books we need page” and its Amazon wish list (bookempa.org/ books-we-need/). PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JAN. 8, 2019 | 9
Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk
PRO-GUN ADVOCATES PROTEST PITTSBURGH’S PROPOSED FIREARM RESTRICTIONS BY MATT PETRAS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
undreds of gun advocates, some armed, gathered outside the City-County Building to protest proposed guncontrol measures Monday afternoon, welcoming speakers like Open Carry Pennsylvania founder Justin Dillon and “Kent State gun girl” Kaitlin Bennett. The protest follows the recent announcement by Mayor Bill
Peduto and Pittsburgh City Council Members that it was planning to present a suite of restrictive guncontrol laws that include banning the sale of semi-automatic rifles in the city. The announcement was a response to the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill last October. With these measures, council hopes to ban bump stocks and
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assault rifles within the city, among other gun restrictions. This has caught the ire of gun advocates who say the measures are not only wrong to pursue but also in violation of Pennsylvania state law. “I’m feeling pretty good,” Dillon told the Pittsburgh Current as the protestors were gathering before the event. “Of course, you can see that the turnout is pretty good. We’re
here assembling. This isn’t about one group. This isn’t about Open Carry. This is about gun owners uniting, all together. This isn’t about anyone else other than that, and that’s the only reason why we’re here.” After first gathering at the 1st avenue parking garage, the protestors walked to the City-County Building before the noon event. “Make America Great Again!” hats
and other paraphernalia celebrating President Donald Trump was worn by many of the men and women in the crowd. As they walked, some thanked police officers on duty in the area. “Watch out for the knuckleheads,” one told the police. Many held signs with varied messages supporting gun rights and condemning city council. Others were crass and mocked other protest mantras. One sign read “Black Guns Matter” with a picture of a black assault rifle on it.. Another referred to Mayor Bill Peduto as “Pedildo.” “The gun restrictions that the mayor’s trying to produce and trying to get Governor Wolf to go in with, it can have a ripple effect across the commonwealth,” said Dan Copeland, 36, a Springdale resident and wielder of the “Pedildo” sign. Copeland had two small guns on him. For about an hour, several speakers stood in front of a podium and addressed the crowd. While each had special areas of interest and different rhetorical flourishes, they preached one consistent message: the Tree of Life shooting was tragic, unjust and unnecessary, but additional gun regulations won’t help. Kelly Ann Pidgeon, head of Armed and Feminine, an organization that provides gun training for women, talked up the necessity of gun rights for women. She discussed it alongside historic civil rights victories for women like the right to vote and equal pay for equal work. Gun rights are also essential for women, according to Pidgeon. One lawmaker, republican State Rep. Aaron Bernstine, spoke at the protest. The crowd erupted approvingly after he lovingly called them “patriots” and “deplorables” and after he said Peduto and the council are breaking the law. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and the mayor and his cronies are trying to force these ordinances on law-abiding citizens,” Bernstine said. “We say no to them and we say to no to any other local
government trying to do the same.” Bernstine was surprisingly pleasant to this group of protesters after he claimed on Twitter last year that he would run over protesters “with bad intentions” if they blocked him. It should be noted that those protesters were unarmed and peacefully protesting the death of teenager Antwon Rose at the hands of of suburban police While Bernstine was speaking, a counter-protester emerged, brandishing a sign with “keep your guns away from our kids!” on it. Some booed, while others told their fellow gun-advocates to leave her alone. “This is important. She has a right to be here just like you and me,” Bernstine told the crowd. He also said she “may change her mind.” The speakers mostly stuck to guns, but, sometimes, they broadened the message. Bennett, who became a right-wing internet celebrity after her rifle-clad walks around Kent State, now her alma mater, went viral, slammed the proposed gun control measures and Peduto, calling him “Mayor PotatoHead.” But she also took aim at the media for how it covers guns, telling the crowd “the media is not your friend.” After the protest, Bennett told the Current that it’s sad that so many millennials don’t agree with her on issues like gun control. “I wish that I was able to convince everybody that I have the right opinion [and that] I am on the right side of this argument, but our media does not believe the same thing,” Bennett said. “Our media and academia, they push this gun control stuff and they push socialism, they push communism, they push this crazy idea of hate speech all onto these students, so no wonder why they don’t agree with me, because they’re being brainwashed by the media, by their parents and by their schools.” It’s easy to stumble across folks online criticizing the speakers for largely not being from Pittsburgh. Bennett told the Current that
Current Photo by Matt Petras
outsiders’ perspectives like hers are still valuable. “I came out to Pittsburgh because I support everybody’s right to selfdefense, even if I don’t live here,” Bennett said. “I think it’s important that citizens across this country support each other even if you don’t live in that city or that states because it will come to your state eventually.” Ann Schible, a 52-year-old who lives in Lincoln Place, was among the protestors’ Pittsburgh residents. “[I’m here] to support my second amendment,” she said. “Actually, to support every amendment, because they’re chipping away slowly by
surely. And to support my guns.” Despite coming from Erie, Dillon is willing to put up a fight against Pittsburgh’s city council. At the podium toward the end of the protest, Dillon challenged Peduto and the city council to a public debate. He said he’d doing something nice for Peduto if he agrees. “I’ll even personally buy you a cup of coffee and a donut,” Dillon said.
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WINDS OF CHANGE? PREDICTING WHAT 2019 COULD HAVE IN STORE FOR THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY BY SUE KERR - PITTSBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
It was a riotous time in 2018 for LGBTQ folx in Western Pennsylvania. What lies ahead for us in 2019? I think there are three key areas to consider. Non-Discrimination Protections We are not likely to see an inclusive statewide bill pass this year because of the ongoing reign of terror that is expected to continue under the Republican majority. But now that state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Cranberry) has relinquished his stranglehold on the House Government Relations Committee, there’s at least a chance that hearings can be scheduled, testimony can be taken and a committee vote can be held. Sadly, Metcalfe has moved to the committee that will impact our environmental legislation, so that’s far from a good tradeoff. Even within that momentum, I predict more municipalities will pass ordinances on the local level. This creates grassroots awareness of the issue and sends a clear message from municipal governments about their seriousness about the importance of respect and inclusion. As of October, 53 of the 2,562 municipalities in Pennsylvania have passed inclusive protections, covering about 33% of the Commonwealth’s population. Western PA currently has six local ordinances from the City of Pittsburgh, Erie County, Allegheny County, Mt. Lebanon Borough, and Ross Township. Efforts are underway but at an impasse in Johnstown and the city of Butler. All it takes is one
resident talking with one elected official to get the ball rolling in any municipality. I’d like to see these efforts start in areas like Altoona, which is the largest city in Pennsylvania without these protections. I’d also like to see it in important commerce regions like Cranberry Township, Greensburg, and Washington. Imagine if a community like Nanty Glo in Cambria County saw the economic potential to welcome LGBTQ folx by passing this ordinance and tap into the hundreds of LGBTQ people who want to rent, find jobs, start businesses in the Johnstown Altoona corridor? Safe affordable housing and employment brings new tax revenue. A monthly drag brunch and a drag bingo raises much needed funds for local charities, funds raised by people who buy food, stay overnight in B&Bs, and visit the sites. Its not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do. Those who live in Allegheny County can help generate the necessary momentum by working on these ordinances in your community. So far, we’re three down, 127 municipalities to go. Who’s next? School Inclusion Policies More and more public school
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districts are clarifying district policies around gender, Title IX, and gender identity, creating clear guidelines on the importance of allowing students to use facilities, including bathrooms, that are consistent with their gender and gender identity. Pennsylvania is at the forefront of this progress thanks in part to court rulings upholding the transinclusive policies of the Boyerstown School District. Anti-trans activists are trying to get the Supreme Court of the United States to overturn the Third Circuit Court ruling. We don’t yet know if the Court will even hear the challenge. In 2018, Lakeview School District in Mercer County released updated policies. West Middlesex School District, also in Mercer County, announced plans to consider the matter in early 2019. Pittsburgh Public Schools addressed these policy changes a few years ago. More school districts will follow suit with youth leading the way. I anticipate new school districts responding to the momentum out of Mercer County. It would be fantastic to see this energy in the Shenango Valley also lead to local nondiscrimination ordinances.
Bans on Conversion Therapy Seven Pennsylvania municipalities have banned conversion or ‘reparative’ therapy for minors under the age of 18. Some municipalities, like Harrisburg, have passed resolutions condemning the practice while they work toward an outright ban. Conversion therapy is the harmful attempt to force someone to change their sexual orientation to heterosexuality. This intervention is widely regarded by the mental health community, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, as ineffective and possibly harmful to children. Pittsburgh has a ban in place. A big concern is that this treatment is more often found in rural communities without any protections or resources for LGBTQ people. And adults can consent while parents can seek religious based counseling that is not governed by these bans. Restricting the practice is a tool, but there is a need to continue educating people about the simple truth that no one can be converted, cured, or healed from their sexual orientation or gender identity and
put a stop to these harmful practices for youth and adults in professional mental care as well as faith-based treatments. In general, what’s important to remember is that the Pennsylvania General Assembly has never successfully created, established or preserved a statewide right for the LGBTQ community. Marriage equality and second parent adoption rights came from court rulings, not Pennsylvania law. We’ve seen some changes including the appointment
of openly LGBTQ persons to important roles like Dr. Rachel Levine as the first trans woman to serve as Secretary of Health. Governor Wolf has established a statewide commission of LGBTQ individuals. Western PA has done our part with the election of John Fetterman to the office of Lieutenant Governor. We’ve sent allies like Summer Lee, Sara Innamorato, and Lindsey Williams to the General Assembly. But Pennsylvania remains far
behind the curve in terms of equal treatment, safe schools, affordable housing, environmental issues, healthcare, policing, and more when it comes to LGBTQ issues. While we celebrate the statewide accomplishments in all forms, we must continue to do the work that has tangible results - on the local level. If you live in a small town or a larger suburb, you have the power to bring these protections to your community. Western Pennsylvania is running far behind the rest of the
Commonwealth. Working on a local level with your chapter of PFLAG or GSA or a statewide group like the Pennsylvania Youth Congress is one way to find support. It just starts with one person.
PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JAN. 8, 2019 | 13
Hamilton National Tour. Photo by: Joan Marcus
‘A BLAZING POWERHOUSE’
HAMILTON’ LIVES UP TO ITS HYPE AS TOURING COMPANY BEGINS PITTSBURGH RUN BY TED HOOVER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT THEATER CRITIC INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
know you’ve probably been so laser-focused on the whole “Kate vs. Meghan” thing that you might have missed the local news: Hamilton’s in town. Oh, you did hear? Not since John Wilkes Booth made a surprise appearance in Our American Cousin has a theatrical event so blown up the cultural landscape. How popular is Hamilton? Mike Pence, who probably thinks you can “catch gay” from theater seats, saw it. What the hell happened? According to newly minted theatrical legend, Lin-Manuel Miranda (who made a splashy debut with 1999’s In the Heights) picked
up Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography, Alexander Hamilton, in an airport while on vacation in 2008. The show opened on Broadway in 2015 winning 11 Tony Awards, a Grammy, the Pulitzer and, most significantly, a place in the zeitgeist. So what makes Hamilton a phenomena? For starters, there’s ubiquity; everyone’s got his picture (psst, check that sawbuck in your wallet). He was a Founding Father, first Secretary of the Treasury, killed in a duel and that’s just the highlight reel.
Miranda took that life and wrapped it up into what is truly the first “contemporary” musical since Hair. Hamilton’s score isn’t your typical show tune buffet occasionally flavored with contemporary sounds; Hamilton is hip hop and pop, R&B and rap, soul and, yes, good oldfashioned show tunes. It’s the first musical in a long time where the music you hear on stage is the same you heard on the way to theater. In addition to non-traditional music, the production also features non-traditional casting; Washington,
Jefferson, Madison, Aaron Burr, etc. are played by men of color. The official title is Hamilton: An American Musical and the sound and look of the production proves to be exactly that – the bubbling melting pot of our American experience. So here comes the tour and, yes!, it lives up to the hype. It’s a blazing powerhouse featuring a young, vigorously energetic cast generating enough electricity to light a small city. Miranda’s music is insanely
“NOT SINCE JOHN WILKES BOOTH MADE A SURPRISE APPEARANCE IN OUR AMERICAN COUSIN HAS A THEATRICAL EVENT SO BLOWN UP THE CULTURAL LANDSCAPE.”
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entertaining and his ability to fuse so many disparate styles into a cohesive and compelling form is jawdropping. There’s so many stand-out moments I could literally start at the beginning and run through them all. But I’ll make mention of “Helpless” and “Satisfied”, two numbers from Act One. In the first – a bright, bouncy pop tune – Hamilton meets the young woman who will become his wife. In the immediately following “Satisfied” the woman’s sister, with a furious, hard-edged hip hop beat deconstructs the meeting we’ve just witnessed in real time but using the plasticity of stage time. It’s too folded in on itself to explain, but reveals that as a musical dramatist Miranda can work at the same level as Stephen Sondheim. As this production demonstrates, however, Miranda isn’t working alone. Say hello to the blistering theatrical genius of director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler and music supervision and orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire. The continual eruption of movement, an astonishing use of the physical space, the lucidity and shape brought to this sprawling story and the sumptuous color and texture illuminating Miranda’s music; these three men have taken virtuosity and polished it into brilliance. But what’s up with all this praise – you know I had a few problems, right? As he showed with In the Heights, Miranda is, at his playwriting core, a sentimentalist, if not an out-and-out Romantic. Hamilton – for all its extraordinary bells and whistles – is really just old-fashioned entertainment, like one of those Hollywood movies where a real person’s life is edited, sometimes severelly so, to fit the standard, cliched narrative with which audiences are comfortable. Miranda’s Hamilton is about Big Men with Big Ideas doing Big Things … and the womenfolk do nothing but fall in love and stay out of the way. The actual Hamilton seems to have been a complete whore who
used women for whatever he could get out of them, but since he’s the hero Miranda has to do some pretty fancy dramaturgical footwork to make and keep him likable. Aaannd… I’m a bit ambivalent about the color-blind casting. On one hand, without it I wouldn’t get to see Austin Scott set fire to the Benedum stage with his sensorynumbing performance as Hamilton. And I would have been denied Paul Oakley Stovall’s powerful turn as Washington. Hannah Cruz and Stephanie Umoh wouldn’t get to explode their stunning voices in the roles of the Schuyler sisters and Josh Tower couldn’t have brought such venality to Burr. But on the other hand – America is a hideously racist country. America has always been a racist country and our “greatness” was built by economic racism. Which makes hearing Americans say racism doesn’t exist especially nauseating. We love the stories we tell about ourselves, especially the one where we found the country as a beacon of freedom and liberty! We actually founded the country so the white male gentry on this side of the ocean wouldn’t have to give the white male gentry on that side of the ocean the money made off land stolen from the natives and the systemic exploitation of slave and immigrant labor. But here in Hamilton we were like a big Benetton ad right from the start! Don’t come for me, I know that’s not Miranda’s intent … and God knows the last thing I want to do is sit through yet another all-white musical. It’s just something to think about in the few seconds you have before you’re knocked out of your seat, blown against the back wall and then lifted up into the heavens by this theatrical miracle.
continues through January 27. Benedum Center, Downtown. 412/456-6666. www.trustarts.org
Hamilton National Tour. Photo by: Joan Marcus PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JAN. 8, 2019 | 15
Jill Lepore. Photo by: Dari Pillsbury
AUTHOR/HISTORIAN JILL LEPORE EXAMINES THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF THE U.S. BY JODY DIPERNA - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER JODY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
hese Truths: A History of the United States (W.W. Norton & Co, 2018) presents a history of the nation, from 1492 to the present, that is both top down and bottom up. As historian Jill Lepore says, history itself is always both of those things: events, movements and people are formed in relation and opposition to one another. A professor of American history at Harvard, she
has written several other books and is a contributing writer for the New Yorker. She took time to speak with the Current (answers have been edited for length—Lepore does not speak in soundbites) before her appearance at the Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, January 14 as part of Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures’ Ten Evenings series.
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Did you have a certain reader in mind when writing this? I actually think ordinary people need a non-ideological, nonpartisan American history that is hopefully delightful to read. There hasn’t been one since 1959. The reader of that book is my sainted mother—just a person who I would want to tell the stories that I learn about in the archives, as best I can. I want to talk about how we view historical figures in a modern context. I really don’t think the role of historical scholarship is to act as judge and jury. That’s not to say we don’t all have an obligation to do our reckoning with the past and our place in it. Sometimes people say, ‘Let’s not hear about George Washington as a slave owner, he was a man of his time.’ But that is to erase all people who were his property, who had lives of their own and are part of the American story. There’s not any place for an account of the past that erases women, that erases the story of slavery or puts them in a box, like a sidebar. Nor is there a place for the story of American history as a chronicle of atrocity. There’s a binary of books—the story of American atrocity and the story of American triumph. One reason I wrote this book was to insist that neither of those accounts is true— in the sense that neither is a full account. You’ve written a lot about populist movements, can you talk about that? One of the things that populism does is create a fiction of who ‘the people’ are and invokes the people in opposition to whatever the forces are that that generation’s populism thinks are oppressing the people. That definition of the people is often very narrow, very specific. And it becomes part of political rhetoric to use it. The founding fathers never defined what makes a citizen and this idea is an ongoing problem. The modern idea of citizenship is very much a 19th century idea. The American Constitution was drafted
before that historical moment. Those ideas hadn’t really congealed. They’re not talking about ‘subjects’ anymore because they don’t have a monarchy, so they’re talking about citizens, but they don’t have a fully developed political idea of what a citizen is. After the Civil War, the attorney general tasks a bunch of lawyers to try to figure it out. They go through all the statutes and they’re like, ‘we don’t know.’ It’s 1866 and it’s nowhere defined in law—they have to figure out what a citizen is because they’re going to be writing what become the 14th and 15th Amendments, referring to the freedmen and women as citizens. What does it mean when we say these people are citizens? I also wanted to talk to you about the Constitutional understanding of ‘person.’ The word ‘person’ is introduced in the 14th Amendment and is much debated at the time, mainly because Congressmen are like, ‘wait—do you mean women?!’ No one in Congress wants to extend these guarantees, privileges and rights to women. Person is also used to include people who are not citizens. There are certain rights for citizens and others for persons. It has huge influence today with regard to undocumented immigrants who are persons within the jurisdiction of the United States and therefore have certain 14th Amendment rights. What drove you to write this book? It draws on much of my earlier work. And it draws on incredible academic scholarship of the last half century that has enriched our understanding of the American past that hasn’t broken out of the academy. We have a very short attention span. We live in a media world where everything is treated very briefly, very quickly; our attention is diverted. The purpose of publishing this big crazy-long book is to say—some things actually require a bit of time, you have to slow down and think about the whole centuries long history.
Cemetary Series by Ruthie Stringer
BREW HOUSE ASSOCIATION DEBUTS ‘PROSPECTUS’ CURATORIAL PROGRAM BY AMANDA REED - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER AMANDA@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
annah Turpin, a curatorial assistant for contemporary art and photography at Carnegie Museum of Art, noticed a lack of art exploring the queer identity in the Pittsburgh arts community. So, when she decided to apply to Prospectus, a new curatorial program by Brew House Association in the South Side that aims to help curators develop their curatorial skills and vision, she noticed that the program’s focus on social issues was a perfect way to create her own show dedicated to filling that need. “I think, to me, this is kind of an untapped area of the art community and something new to be aware of and to talk about and get support from,” she says. Turpin’s curatorial work as part of Prospectus — “The Self, Realized: Queering the Art of SelfPortraiture,” runs from Jan. 10 to Feb. 9. Prospectus then continues with
“This is Not Romantic,” curated by Bishop-Root, which begins Feb. 21 through March 23. Prospectus is modeled after Distillery, a long-running program at Brew House Association that provides artists with mentors and opportunities for professional development. After seeing the success of Distillery, Brew House Association decided to develop a program that would provide similar opportunities for curators, according to Natalie Sweet, program director at Brew House Association. Sweet said the judging panel — consisting of three local artists and herself as a moderator — asked applicants to submit exhibitions that would focus on social issues and include local artists. Other submission criteria included a curatorial statement, a title for their show and how this program would help their careers.
“[We] wanted to see somebody that might have this opportunity as a stepping stone and then be able to use it to curate future exhibitions and continue to contribute to the local community through curating additional shows,” Sweet says. “We felt like that was a really strong possibility for these candidates.” After being notified of their selection in October, Turpin and Bishop-Root began the six-week intensive program, which included weekly meetings with local curators and experts in the field. They also received financial support to present their one-month exhibitions in a 2,700 square foot gallery space. Turpin’s “The Self, Realized: Queering the Art of Self-Portraiture” features 14 LGBTQ artists who embrace self-portraiture as a way of self-actualization. The exhibition features mediums like sculpture, video and installation to present the artists’ identities as “multidimensional, multilayered, and unique,” according to a press release of the event. Turpin, who identifies as queer, says her exhibition gives artists the power to use their practice as way of depicting themselves and defining their queerness, especially given the rise of more LGBTQ+ voices — and stereotypes — in media today. Self-portraiture, she says, allows artists to explore the complexity and multiplicity behind the queer identity. “An identity can’t be contained or understood within one or two boxes,” she says. Bishop-Root’s “This is Not Romantic” highlights the work of
three artists — Tyrone Brown, Ruthie Stringer and Regis Welsh — whose lives intersected at the Braddock Carnegie Library. The exhibition uses photography, sound and multimedia works to explore physical, social and metaphorical landscapes. Bishop-Root’s exhibition is built off of an ongoing friendship between Stringer — who works in the circulation desk at the library — and Brown and Welsh, who are patrons and frequent participants in library programs. According to Bishop-Root, Brown and Welsh would ask Stringer for books catered to their interests. Eventually, a more than five-year friendship developed between the three. Bishop-Root says this interaction is one of the many examples of the collaboration that happens naturally within the library. “I would say I didn’t find these people. They existed within the structure of the library,” she says. Despite the difference in programming, Bishop-Root says there’s a throughline between her and Turpin’s exhibitions: that the artists are in control of how they depict their being and existence. “I think that that’s really important that there are spaces in Pittsburgh where people have space to self-define how they’re seen and how they live. And so I do feel like that there’s kind of this consistent thinking around like, ‘what does it mean to have agency in how we construct how we’re viewed?’” she said.
Intersection Interspection by Tyrone Brown PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JAN. 8, 2019 | 17
Brian Quijada. Photo courtesy of City Theatre
ONE MAN SHOW
LATINO ARTIST EXAMINES HIS CULTURE’S HISTORICAL CONTEXT IN “WHERE DID WE SIT ON THE BUS?” BY NICK EUSTIS - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ike so many cities in America, Pittsburgh is a city of immigrants. Each wave of new arrivals brings their own traditions, cultures, and stories. How these stories intersect with the culture at large is a major focus for Pittsburgh City Theatre’s next upcoming performance. City Theatre’s South Side space will host Where Did We Sit On the Bus?, a hip-hop performance art piece conceived, written, and performed by Brian Quijada. “The play is a one-man show, and he actually live-loops the entire soundtrack on stage,” says Clare Drobot, director of new play development at City Theatre. “The music is created on stage, he’s playing ukulele and looping beats
and music to create this really special piece.” When writing Where Did We Sit On the Bus?, Quijada took inspiration from a moment during his elementary school education in Chicago. The class was learning about the civil rights movement, specifically Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycotts. After learning black people were relegated to the back of the bus, while white people sat in front, Quijada wondered where people like him would have fallen in that racial hierarchy. “He asked his teacher, ‘Where do I, as a young Latino man, fit into this?’,” Drobot says. “And his teacher responded with ‘Oh, next question.’” That moment became the basis
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for Where Did We Sit On the Bus?. Through storytelling and music, Quijada examines how Hispanic culture fits into history and everyday life, especially in a world that often categorizes people as “black” and “white.” “It feels incredibly prescient in how we talk about identity, culture and heritage in America, and it’s mixed in with the story of a young performer finding his voice,” Drobot says. Quijada uses his own family and life story to make these points, discussing his childhood in the Chicago suburbs. The son of Salvadoran immigrants, Quijada talks about his parent’s arduous journeys from their home country to America, in the hopes of making
a better life. After arriving, his father became a truck driver and his mother a housekeeper, trying to provide a stable life so that their children could reach success. Quijada also describes how his early storytelling was influenced by his heritage. He describes how he would conjure up tales about his last name for his peers on the school playground. “Quijada” translates to “jawbone” in Spanish, and he would tell his friends that this came from a distant ancestor who could swallow people whole. He also describes how this passion for storytelling transformed into his career in performing arts. A fixture in his high school theater department, Quijada describes looking to the audience during his
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Best In Show
By Phil Julia-
Sucks to Be an Animal
By Sienna Cittadino
D E T N A W S T S I N O T CAR
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eir comics featured th ve ha to e lik ld wou r local artists who urghcurrent.com fo g sb in tt ok pi lo @ is lie t ar en ch rr l: ai The Cu ly funny pages. Em on our twice-month
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according to Drobot. And she is sure that Quijada’s charisma and talent will absorb theatergoers. “People will fall in love with Brian,” Drobot says. “That’s the really unique part of this is seeing someone wear the hats of musician, actor, dancer, and writer all rolled into one.”
WHERE DID WE SIT ON THE BUS?
runs from January 19 to February 24, at Pittsburgh City Theatre, 1300 Bingham Street. For box office and show time information, visit citytheatrecompany.org or call 412431-2489.
Brian Quijada. Photo courtesy of City Theatre
performances, scanning the crowd for his parent’s faces. They only rarely attended, seeing theater as a “hobby,” not a professional pursuit. The evolution of their relationship in this regard is a focal point of the piece. The show initially premiered in Chicago and played off-Broadway before coming to Pittsburgh. The show will be directed by Chay Yew, who directed the play at Chicago’s Victory Garden Theater where he is the artistic director. “Brian is this incredible upand-coming talent, and Chay is a legendary figure in the American theater,” Drobot says. “It’s exciting to be a part of that connection between Pittsburgh and the national theatrical landscape,” Drobot said. Throughout the run of the show, City Theatre is offering several special promotions. Shows from January 19 to 24 will be “Pick-YourPrice-Previews,” where advance online tickets are offered for as low as $5, plus fees. Additionally, the
performance on February 2 is a “pay what you want” performance, where a block of tickets will be available for whatever price a patron can pay. The February 1 performance will be a particularly special event, titled “Green Room: Art and Afterparty.” The cast and artistic team will join a group of audience members in City Theatre’s Gordon Lounge after the show. House wine, Penn Brewery beer and snacks will be provided. Tickets for this special event are $30 and can be purchased online in advance with the promo code “GREENROOM.” There will also be special performances for those with disabilities. American Sign Language interpreters will be present for the February 19 performance for the hearing impaired. Captions and an audio description will also be available for those attending the February 17 performance. Ultimately, Where Did We Sit On the Bus? is a story that will resonate with the Pittsburgh community,
C O H E N
G R I G S B Y
T R U S T
P R E S E N T S
S E R I E S
N W EX EE T K!
TUESDAY, JANUARY 15 AUGUST WIL SON CENTER B OX O F F I C E AT T H E AT E R S Q UA R E 41 2 - 4 5 6 - 6 6 6 6 | G R O U P S 1 0 + T I C K E T S 41 2 - 47 1 - 6 9 3 0
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echo ’60s psych-rock but fit well alongside more blasts of punk noise like “Resistance,” which sounds a bit like Mudhoney co-opting The Clash. The latter – or the screechy, bombastic “Take A Bow”-- also puts them right at home in Pittsburgh alongside great indie/punk acts like The Gotobeds and The Zells. In other words, this thing shimmies, shags and roars – all to great effect. “We fit in well with ‘rock bands’ that are loud,” Bronder quips. “We’re always writing new material, going through different things in life, laughing at stupid stuff only we could find funny, reading media that makes us mad. This album is a reflection based upon these things.” Chris Boles, the founder of Redfishbowl, first checked out the quartet – which includes Bronder; guitarist/vocalist Spencer Geer, bassist Matt Ruppel and drummer Gordy Brash -- because he liked The Neffs, Brash’s former band. “[Bat Zuppel is] a phenomenal band,” Boles says. “In Pittsburgh,
Bat Zuppel. Photo by: Shauna Miller
LOUD AND PROUD
PITTSBURGH’S BAT ZUPPEL SHIMMIES, SHAGS AND ROARS BY JUSTIN VELLUCCI - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
ach Bronder, guitarist and vocalist for Pittsburgh’s Bat Zuppel, has simple motivations for pursuing the rockband lifestyle in The Steel City. “We all love playing live – that’s probably my favorite part,” says Bronder. “They have this amazing drink you can buy at almost all of the bars: beer. And you can just buy as many as you want until they make you leave.” The band’s next show isn’t exactly at a bar – Bat Zuppel plays DIY space
The Bushnel this Saturday, Jan 12 – but regardless of the venue the fourpiece is likely to deliver exactly that sort of party vibe. In November, the band released MIRROR | RORRIM on Redfishbowl, a follow-up to 2017’s Dylar. The new record, all 12 tracks of it, is a thing of beauty. It has a ragged, punky glory to it, even if the edges are sometimes a little more hooky and verse/chorus/verse-conscious than the group’s past outings. Songs like the excellent “Suspicion”
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they fit more in the punk scenes, but they hit that sweet spot in their sound that’s perfectly on the genre border. [They’re] heavier, accessible and not so abrasive, so that people outside of the genre will get into what they have going on – not just the music, but the stage presence and the identity.” Connor Murray, who runs the Pittsburgh cassette label Crafted Sounds and helped the band promote MIRROR | RORRIM, put it even more simply. “Bat Zuppel has found a method to the madness,” he said. “Pittsburgh punk done right.”
BAT ZUPPEL WITH CHERRY, DELICIOUS PASTRIES, QUEEN JESUS, WATER TRASH.
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MUSICAL COMEDY BY MIKE SHANLEY - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM iss Victory and Krish Mohan bars. They booked and promoted the have different criteria for whole jaunt by themselves too. successful shows during a tour. “Comics will go into bars and Victory, a singer-songwriter who expect nobody to care. But people performs solo and with her band that come out to see music shows Victory at the Crossroads, confesses in listening rooms give a shit more. to more capitalistic parameters: It’s not dinner entertainment. It’s money made, audience size, the entertainment,” Mohan says. merchandise sales. Performance “For a comic to be in that room, is important but “as far as I’m have a musician open and then go concerned, every performance up afterwards, the crowd is already should be great,” she says. engaged pretty heavily into what’s Mohan, a comic, focuses more on being said and played. So your jokes his performance: whether he hit the hit differently. And they probably hit material right, especially newer bits; more honestly.” whether the audience pays attention; The Victory Variety Review, and, significantly, whether people which celebrates Victory’s birthday want to talk to him after the show. this weekend, follows the template “If you didn’t do well, people are not they solidified through their travels. going to make eye contact with you Comedians Vincent Didiano because they don’t want to deal with and Liz Tripoli perform between that level of discomfort,” he says. musical sets by Don Strange (of When comedy and music are Strange Monsters) and Victory at presented in the same evening, the Crossroads. Brian Crawford, of things can get more complicated. River’s Edge Radio Network, serves This happened during a 2016 tour as host. It also retains another rarity that landed the couple in Fort at live music shows – punctuality. Wayne, Indiana at a music space that “When you go to [a comedy] had never hosted comedy. “They club and it says the show starts at 7 were really excited that comedy p.m., it starts at 7 p.m.! It’s not like was going to be there,” Victory says. a rock show where you have three “It was one of our most successful to five bands and it’s going to start shows. But it was so strange.” somewhere around 9 p.m. It’s much Music and comedy have been more structured,” Victory says. interlinked for generations. But Mohan has scheduled a similar Victory and Mohan see the pairing bill for the recording of his live CD as more than just jokes to keep at the Funhouse at Mr. Smalls on the audience interested engaged February 1. But before that happens, between bands. They put all the the couple will host that venue’s performers on equal ground. AcoustiCafe on Monday, January “When you do this kind of show, 14. Both played that long-standing there is a theatrical element to it,” open stage event over the years, Mohan explains. “It’s going to be an and Mohan notes that it helped him experience, not just another run-ofshape his material. “Being in the the-mill show. Everything is kind of music world is how I got better,” he curated.” says. The couple, who exchanged VICTORY VARIETY REVIEW. wedding vows last October, 7 p.m. Saturday, January 12. Hambone’s, 4207 embarked on their TransContinental Butler St., Lawrenceville. $5-$15. 412-681Tour earlier in the year. For four 4318. ACOUSTICAFE Hosted by Liss Victory months, they performed together in & Krish Mohan. 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14. The Funhouse at Mr. Small’s, 400 Lincoln Ave, venues ranging from DIY spaces and Millvale. Free. www.mrsmalls.com black box theaters to art galleries and
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Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk
BEING A PRIVATE CHEF WAS ALWAYS ON CHEF SHAUN’S MENU BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
he table is set for an eightperson dinner party at a beautiful Fox Chapel home on a recent Saturday evening. The guests will arrive in an hour and a half. At this point, you would expect the hosts to be breaking into a nervous sweat in the kitchen, frantically searching for that key ingredient they forgot to pick up at the store before deciding that there isn’t enough time to go get it now and begging Google for possible substitutions. But instead, an aproned man calmly unpacks his bags. The ingredients he takes out are placed
in tidy groups. A black carrying case is unfurled to reveal freshly sharpened knives. A gorgeous cut of beef is placed in the refrigerator. Scallops already sit showered with salt in preparation for the perfect sear. It’s easy to see that Chef Shaun Forsett has done this before— multiple times a week, actually. Chef Shaun is a private chef who tonight’s hosts have brought in to take their dinner party up a few notches. Tonight’s menu includes seared scallops with a parsnip puree, a golden raisin relish and fried onions, followed by a lentil salad with radicchio and goat cheese,
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and finally, filet mignon with a blackberry basil sauce on a bed of couscous and quinoa. A three-course, restaurant-quality meal will soon be served, not in a restaurant, but at home. And once the diners arrive, Chef Shaun will be doing a cooking demonstration, so that everyone can go home with some new tips and tricks. Handing the evening over to a professional allows the hosts to relax and enjoy the food and quality time with their guests. “It’s not an easy industry to break into because what you’re selling is something that the customer is
already familiar with,” Chef Shaun says. “They say ‘oh we do parties here all the time,’ and I say, ‘well, you can enjoy your party and have me do it.’ Tonight is Chef Shaun’s first time working with these clients. Some of his clients will have him cook for them a few times throughout the year; some people just have him come once for a special occasion, and other clients would barely eat at all if Shaun wasn’t preparing meals for them. Two of them are doctors that he brings a week’s worth of meals to on Sundays. Each week day Chef Shaun cooks dinner for the same family. He brings healthy meals to Steelers wide receiver Juju SmithSchuster (who apparently has a deep love of broccoli) twice a week. Other well-known clients include Steelers offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert, as well as John Wall of the Washington Wizards. Most of them hear of Chef Shaun through word-of-mouth, but some stumble upon his Instagram, @shefshaun, where he posts mouthwatering snapshots of his creations. Whatever the case: client lists like this aren’t built overnight. “Once I finished culinary school I went straight to private chef. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.” After spending 15 years as a social worker, Chef Shaun decided to give culinary school a try because of a close friend’s encouragement. His classes had him hooked instantly. The plan for Chef Shaun was never to go into the restaurant world, though. He knew his path even before he graduated. “Three months before graduation, I already had my business cards printed—I was ready to go,” Chef Shaun remembers. For a little while, he got back into social work to pay the bills as he built up his career as a private chef, doing events on nights and weekends until he finally got too busy for both and took the leap into cooking fulltime. It was scary, and sometimes
the phone would go a bit too long without ringing. “There were times I wanted to give up and not do it anymore. I’d sit around and sulk about it and then— boom—I get a phone call,” he says. Once in 2013, the call was from another chef saying they were going out of town and a client of theirs needed someone else to step in. That’s how Chef Shaun ended up serving Thanksgiving dinner for fifteen-time Grammy award winner Alicia Keys and her family. Chef Shaun isn’t interested in chasing celebrities, but he is understandably proud of what he’s achieved in his ten 10 as a private chef. He says it just goes to show that if you’re patient and persistent, the rest will follow. “I say everyone who’s passionate about something is going to get an opportunity to do something awesome,” he says. “When you stick with it, you never know what will happen.”
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Current Photos by Haley Frederick
THIS TASTES FUNNY:
OSSIA DWYER GOES TO BIRD ON THE RUN BY HALEY FREDERICK - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER HALEY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
first saw Ossia Dwyer two years ago performing stand up on stage at a taping of The University of Pittsburgh’s studentrun, late-night show, Pitt Tonight. She held nothing back as she shared hilarious stories of her awkward encounters and personal blunders— stuff you might be uncomfortable saying in front of a new friend, let alone a couple hundred strangers and the internet at large. I’m a bit surprised when I introduce myself to her after she walks into the restaurant and she seems a bit timid. Doing stand up comedy, she says, has really helped her to overcome a lot of the shyness
she felt growing up. “My family doesn’t believe I do comedy because of how shy I was,” Dwyer says. “I don’t think I talked to another adult that wasn’t my parents until I was like eleven. I was painfully shy.” She’s joining me in East Liberty for some hot chicken and frozen cocktails at Bird on the Run. We place our orders at the counter, carefully considering the 0-5 heat scale, before grabbing a table. The red and white checkered, country picnic aesthetic is a large departure from the original concept for the restaurant, which was meant to be a 90’s hip-hop themed eatery
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called The Coop. There was a public backlash when it was announced, as many people felt that a white couple opening a hip-hop fried chicken shop in a historically black neighborhood reeked of cultural appropriation and played heavily into racial stereotypes. In response, Chef and owner Adam Kucenic, who also owns neighboring restaurants Muddy Waters Oyster Bar and Kahuna, delayed the project for three months to reconsider its concept. I’m interested to see how well people have embraced Bird on the Run a year later. The restaurant is small with only about 30 seats that are mostly filled by 7 p.m. The line to
order grows steadily, as a number of customers take their orders to go. After our food arrives and I go to take her picture, Dwyer warns me that she has the tendency to blink in photos. I assure her that I’m certain it won’t be a problem. I page through the six shots I snapped, and somehow her eyes are closed in five of them. I wasn’t even using a flash. To me, Dwyer seems to be one of those people who has a knack for getting herself into funny situations. She takes advantage of it through her comedy, leaning in to the awkwardness in her everyday life. “At this point, I don’t think I can embarrass myself,” she says. “I’m like, ‘who else did this weird thing? Oh, nobody? That’s fine—I’ve got ten more to talk about.” One such anecdote that Dwyer shares over our sandwiches is the story of her dad meeting her boyfriend. Dwyer’s father flew in from Vermont, where she’s from, to see her perform in the Pittsburgh Comedy Festival. “I made the mistake of having him meet my boyfriend right before the show for the first time,” she says. “They sat next to each other as he’s watching his daughter do jokes about having sex with the guy that he’s just met.” The image makes me blush harder than the spices on the chicken. The heat scale at Bird on the Run is slightly overstated. Dwyer is a self-proclaimed “wuss” when it comes to spicy foods and she’s not batting an eye at her level one which is supposed to be “Hot.” I got a level two “Extra Hot”, and it warms up my face a bit, but I expected a good bit more. Personally, I would rather my meal by less hot than I can handle than more, but I think the set expectations and reality could be closer. All in all, It’s a good tasting chicken sandwich. It’s salty, wellseasoned, smokey and even a little bit sweet, with the tang of the mayo and the bite of the pickles on a soft brioche bun. We’re also pleased with the waffle cut fries, cole slaw, and
frozen cocktails. But, the beignets aren’t anything to write home about. Even though at 23 Dwyer is the youngest comic I’ve interviewed, she’s been doing stand up for a few years now, and she’s got some great achievements under her belt, like being chosen for a monthlong residency at Burning Bridges Comedy Club. “There are so many good comics in Pittsburgh and I always think of myself as a child compared to everyone else. When I started I was still in college, so everyone thought of us as these college kids with too much time on our hands, but then we stuck around enough to get good.” Dwyer’s comedy is often selfdeprecating, and she’s not afraid to “go there.” She tells me her mom is British and it all makes sense. She grew up with the U.K.’s dry sense of
humor that’s bursting with justbarely veiled euphemisms and that doesn’t pause for laugh tracks. “People think British people are very proper, but if you watch their comedy it is gross,” She says. “My mom has a very dirty sense of humor but she’s British so people are like ‘oh this proper lady,’ but no.” If you want to see her in action, Dwyer will be at Burning Bridges on Jan., 26 at 10:30 p.m. Right now, she isn’t quite sure where the comedy road will take her, but she’s having a good time. “I think I’ll just do it as long as I’m having fun with it and see where I end up,” Dwyer says. “I would love if comedy was my job, but I think I’ll always have it in my life because at this point comedy is a community and everyone watches out for each other. It’s a nice feeling. “
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Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk
BY BETHANY RUHE - PITTSBURGH CURRENT ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER BETHANY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
f the city of Pittsburgh had a neighborhood worthy of an attitude, it would be Oakland. It’s the hub for education, medicine, arts, culture, and technology. It has more restaurants per square mile than any other neighborhood. It’s home to the two largest nongovernment employers in the city. It gave the world both Andy Warhol and Dan Marino and has educated Nobel Prize laureates and Tony Award winners. And, it helped cure polio. It would be very easy for Oakland to be an unbearable, selfimportant ass, so full of itself that no one wanted to sit next to it at a dinner party. But that’s not Oakland at all. Rather, it beckons: “Come here. Come enjoy. Come learn. Come
play. Look, we have green space.” Oakland doesn’t want to keep its treasures locked up for itself, nor does it want to rub your face in its incredible good fortune. Oakland became the diverse cauldron of literally everything good in the world by welcoming everyone. How it got this way could be up for debate, it certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s largely comprised of institutions designed to attract outsiders, and not just from around the country but from around the world. Starting with a name you can’t avoid when you talk about Oakland: Carnegie. Carnegie Mellon University, arguably one of the best universities in America, attracts top-notch students, faculty and staff from pretty
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much everywhere. Within their walls they host people from all 50 states and over 65 countries. Over 6,320 of their 14,625 Fall 2018 student body was international, or about 43%. That’s a lot. And they don’t just attend school in Oakland. In many cases they live there. They work there. Through their very presence they butterfly-effect the very fabric of Oakland and people’s experience of Oakland when they visit. And visit they do. The Carnegie Museum of Art attracts visitors from all all over on any given day, but those numbers are currently off the charts. Right now they are smack-dab in the middle of the 57th Carnegie International, one of the longest running contemporary art exhibitions in the world. Held every
four to five years, started by Andrew Carnegie himself, the International attracts worldwide attention. Since the International opened in November, there has been an uptick of visitors from all over the US and the world. People from as far as France, Greece, China, UK, Ireland, Germany, and Vermont have descended upon Pittsburgh to visit. And that’s just the visitors. The artists exhibiting at the International come from Austria, Bahamas, Cameroon, Cherokee Nation, Colombia, England, Germany, Ghana, India, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, Navajo Nation, Nigeria, Nonuya Nation, Pakistan, Palestine, Scotland, Senegal, Switzerland, United States of America, and Vietnam.
But perhaps nothing is more representative of Oakland than University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning. Reaching into the sky 535 feet, it’s the second tallest university building in the world, behind the main building at the University of Moscow because Russia. Built in the early 1920s by then-Chancellor John Bowman, it is home to 30, about to be 31, Nationality Rooms. The Nationality Rooms are exactly what they sound like; representations of the heritage, culture, and history of each room’s namesake. They are painstakingly created to be an authentic, if not in material than in representation, experience for the senses. They are also, in all but two cases, functioning Pitt classrooms. When Michael Walter, the Nationality Rooms Tour Coordinator for almost 13 years, is asked how the rooms came to be in the first place, he is very quick to answer, “It was public relations.” He goes on to explain; “When Bowman was hired in 1921 he found out he had been handed a very challenging job. The biggest challenge was investing the people of the city of Pittsburgh into the University.” Walter continues, “He asked people why aren’t you sending your kids here? Why doesn’t the student body reflect the characteristics of Pittsburgh, with its multiple ethnic neighborhoods?” As the idea for the building, which was a necessity to meet classroom and office space needs, was being formulated, Bowman came up with an idea, along with the woman who would become the first Director of the Nationality Rooms, a sociologist named Ruth Crawford Mitchell, that perhaps there could be something in this building that would allow people to see a little bit of themselves. It should come as no surprise that four of the five first rooms dedicated in 1938 were German, Russian, Swedish and Scottish, reflecting the earliest immigration patterns of Pittsburgh. Walter estimates the Nationality Rooms see about 25,000
I know you are asking today, 'How long will it take?' Somebody’s Poetry Unplugged, asking, 'How long will prejudice is a night of spoken word andthe music visions of men?'... I come to blind featuring artists from to around the say you this afternoon, however country using the life and work of difficult the moment, however Martin Luther King, as frustrating the hour, it will not be inspiration. Poetry Unplugged long, because truth crushed to will be a night of TRUTH and earth will rise again. How long? Not POWER. long, because no lie can live forever. How long? Not long, because you shall reap what you sow. How long? Not long. Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne, Yet that scaffold sways the future, And, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, Keeping watch above his own. How long? Not long, Because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. AACC-AWC.ORG
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visitors a year, with an even split between guided group tours and those who opt to self-tour using MP3 players that give descriptions of each room. While they don’t keep data of where visitors come from, the MP3 player tours come in 10 different languages, with more to be added. “We really need German,” Walter said. Each room has their own distinct story. The Japanese room was actually built in Kyoto, taken apart like Legos, and rebuilt in the Cathedral. The committee in charge of the Armenian room was having a hard time getting enough Armenians to weigh in, so they went through the phone book, calling people whose last names seemed Armenian. While each is different, they all have one thing in common. They all, in
the words of Chancellor Bowman, represent the good things each culture brought to the United States. In talking about and walking around Oakland, it’s easy to see the impact so many different cultures have had on the neighborhood. Ethnic grocery and retail stores abound, often side-by-side. The Irish Design Center is a staple of the North Craig Street, and it’s nestled next to sushi restaurant Little Asia. While new owners Maura Krushinski and Tom Petrone might have only owned the business for 10 months, they’ve long been a part of the Oakland community. Tom grew up in South Oakland, on Parkview Avenue. “People like to say they grew up on the same street as Danny Marino. I say Danny Marino grew up on MY street.”
NEIGHBORHOOD HAPPENINGS BY BETHANY RUHE - PITTSBURGH CURRENT ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER BETHANY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
Oakland has something for everyone, whether you want to indulge a current passion or explore a new one.
FOR THE SPORTS LOVER
The original Forbes Field outfield wall. Forbes Field in Oakland is home to two of baseball’s most historic moments: Bill Mazeroski’s gamewinning homerun in 1960, and Babe Ruth’s final homerun in 1935. While Forbes Field was torn down in 1970, you can still visit a large part of the original outfield wall. You can touch a piece of history and head over to nearby Wesley W. Posvar Hall, which has the original home plate encased in glass.
FOR THE NATURE LOVER
Nationality Rooms. Current Photos by Jake Mysliwczyk 32 | JAN. 8, 2019 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT
Panther Hollow Watershed Trail The Panther Hollow Watershed Trail starts at Bartlett Shelter in Schenley Park and takes you from meadows, to woodlands, to streams, to a lake, under a bridge, to the
George Westinghouse Memorial then through the Steve Faloon forest, before winding you back to Bartlett Shelter. You can visit the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy website for tips on a guided tour, or stop in to the Schenley Park Café and Visitor Center for more information.
FOR THE SPIRITUALLY CURIOUS
The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh not only serves the local Muslim community, they also offer social services, such as a food bank and youth outreach. They also help advance interfaith dialogue across Pittsburgh through outreach and advocacy. They are open daily and encourage visitors and tours. You can visit icp-pgh.org for more information.
FOR THE LITTLE BIT OF UNDERGROUND ART LOVER
Carlow University, which hugs the end of Oakland before it blends into Uptown, is hosting “Dinosaur in the Dollhouse”, a collaborative exhibition of the paintings of artists’ Sarah Jacobs, Kristen Kovak, and Katherine Mann. The exhibit will be featured in the Carlow University Art Gallery starting January 31st. The title of the exhibit comes from Timothy App, a painting mentor to all three artists, who would tell the story to his students about watching his granddaughter play with her dollhouse. App would use that story as a metaphor for what painters do with images. ll be an opening reception in the gallery on Thursday, January 31, 2019, from 6-8 p.m. The reception is open to the public.
FOR THE ADVENTUROUS FOODIE
Mount Everest Sushi Named for a place not exactly known for its seafood, Mount Everest Sushi has endeared itself to Oakland locals and visitors alike. Serving up fresh sushi and poke might be enough for some, but not Mount Everest Sushi. They go one step further and offer such tasty treats such as a Sushi Taco and, of course, a Sushi Donut. And you don’t have to climb a single mountain to get there. Not even Cardiac Hill.
Ottessa Moshfegh feb 18, 2019 FEB 18, 2019
7:30 pm, Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland Tickets start at $15
pittsburghlectures.org PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JAN. 8, 2019 | 33
Current Photo by Jake Mysliwczyk
NEIGHBORHOOD CONVERSATION: CHATTING WITH MAURA KRUSHINSKI OF OAKLAND’S IRISH DESIGN CENTER BY BETHANY RUHE - PITTSBURGH CURRENT ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER BETHANY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM
aura Krushinski and her husband, Tom Petrone, purchased the Irish Design Center 10 months ago as a retirement project, the same day their grandson was born. Maura, the founder of Pittsburgh Irish Festival, has long been Ireland’s unofficial ambassador to Oakland, and now she gets to spend her days helping others discover the treasure of the Emerald Isle. No matter when you stop in, the teapot will be waiting. What are some common misconceptions people might have about a store that is all things Irish? I don’t know what people think when they imagine an Irish store, sometimes I think they think we’re spilling shamrocks over here. Not that we don’t have them, but as you can see, there are many things in here that are the craft of the country. Their food is some of their best kept secrets. People were sending away for their favorite foods. They were having a hard time getting the foods of Ireland, and they really wanted their favorites because that’s where they grew up or because they had a sense of having been there and really
fallen in love with the cuisine over there. So we have traditional black pudding, or blood pudding, minced pies, scones, white puddings, and boxties and butters and bangers… everything you need for a traditional Irish breakfast and then some. How did you fall in love with Ireland? Krushinski is very misleading. I’m Irish on both sides. My sister and I started the Pittsburgh Irish Festival 28 years ago, When you grow up in the heritage, it can be very casual. You know you’re Irish, you do irish things, you believe the stories, you eat the foods, you love the language, you love the music. Then, it takes hold in a different way. When we started the Festival the culture became alive for us in a much different way. All of the sudden it became a cause, a mission, a sense of purpose. We would perpetuate, we would create a place and a space, not just for the Irish in Pittsburgh, but the people who really hadn’t been introduced yet into the culture. What’s a typical day like at the shop? One of my favorite days was when a bunch of high school kids came
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in to get their $1.50 candy bars and then a university president came in to purchase some art. Two men were researching their surnames in the back, and a woman up front was waiting to talk to me about what to pack for her trip. We have a sense of community, a place where people can come. In the world of online shopping, it was a little risky to take on a brick and mortar business. But because of our belief in the product, and in the culture, and to create a community, we were very excited about this opportunity. People are excited to get back into the experience. How do you feel about being a part of the Oakland neighborhood? My husband grew up in Oakland.
This is his hometown, this is his turf. And he’s as at home here as he would be anywhere in the world. He really has embraced the culture, even though his family teases him that he’s gone too green (He’s Italian). These little best kept secret parts of the neighborhood are still thriving here in Oakland. Certainly what’s visible are the universities and the hospitals and the corporations, but these little parts of the neighborhood really still have a life of their own. They still have the people who grew up here, who come back here to shop, whose grandparents still live here. Oakland is a treasure. It’s a true multicultural treasure. And we are thrilled to be a part of it.
THE CAN’T MISS AMANDA REED - PITTSBURGH CURRENT STAFF WRITER AMANDA@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM FEATURED EVENTS IN AND AROUND THE PITTSBURGH REGION
Are you a women-identifying person looking to make your voice heard? Enjoy listening to and amplifying the words of women? “We Are the Weirdos: Live Stories, Told by Women” tonight at Mr. Smalls Theater gives those who sign up a chance to do so, pulling 15 speakers from a pool of applicants. Speakers will then have five minutes to tell their story for a night of community healing. 8 p.m. (Signups open at 7 p.m.). 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $7. www.wearetheweirdospgh.com
Adam Green — a musician, artist and filmmaker who is most known as half of the indie band The Moldy
Peaches — plays tonight at the Andy Warhol Museum as part its Sound Series, established in 2004. Green will play acoustic versions of songs from his second feature film “Adam Green’s Aladdin,” followed by a full screening. Shot entirely on papier-mache sets designed by Green, the film retells the classic “Aladdin” tale with help from eclectic cast members like Macaulay Culkin, Natasha Lyonne, Alia Shawkat, Jack Dishel and Francesco Clemente, with Green playing the titular role. 8 p.m. 117 Sandusky St., North Shore. $15 ($12 for members and students). 412-237-8300 or www.warhol.org To call the Cum Town podcast divisive is being diplomatic – as the satirical Hard Times headline put
it, “I Found Cum Town Episodes on My Boyfriend’s Phone and I’d Rather He Was Just Cheating.” In any case, despite his non-stop dick jokes and a laugh so hysterical that it fucks up sound levels, Stavros Halkias is easily the sweetest and most charming of the show’s three hosts. In 2012, he was named New Comedian of the Year in his hometown of Baltimore and he’s appeared as part of the New York Comedy Festival and Tig Notaro’s Bentzen Ball, among many other high-profile festivals. From his cheeky body-positive Instagram account -- which may put you in mind of an adult Anne Geddes photoshoot – to his tales of growing up in a family of Greek immigrants, Halkias’ self-deprecation (“My body type is snowman right now”) makes his winking zingers all the sharper. As he tweeted after we lost any hope of a continued Steelers season, “Hey Pittsburgh since u won’t be watching football this January why don’t u come out and watch comedy jan 11th at club café :)” Alex Homyak opens. 10 p.m., Friday, Jan. 11. Club Café, 56 S. 12th St., South Side. $16. www.clubcafelive.com
pus, the event features a program designed around glass and sound, featuring compositions by Nissim Schaul, Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh, Federico Garcia-De Castro, David Stock and Johann Hasler. 3-4 p.m. 4200 Fifth Ave., Oakland. Free. www. aliamusicapittsburgh.org
OUTrageous Bingo, tonight at Rodef Shalom Congregation, isn’t your grandma’s bingo — although you’re more than welcome to bring her along. The event combines bingo and drag queens for a night of family-friendly fun, all tied up with a message of tolerance and meeting people who are different from you. The night features 12 rounds of regular bingo with speciality prizes, with themes like “As Seen on TV” and “A Night on the Town.” 7:30 p.m. 4905 Fifth Ave., Shadyside. $20. www. outrageousbingopgh.org
Alia Musica, a local contemporary music ensemble and composer consortium devoted to cultivating new music and composition in Pittsburgh and the United States, presents its first concert in 2019 today. Taking place inside historic Heinz Chapel on the University of Pittsburgh cam-
From d-beat to blast beats, Funeral Chic offers a little something for everyone. The North Carolina-based band blends black metal, punk, hardcore, grindcore, and vocal patterns that might make the Beastie Boys jealous, and somehow end up NOT sounding like bloated, pretentious garbage. That’s a tricky thing to pull off, but Funeral Chic balances the best of all worlds, creating something deceptively simple and viscerally satisfying. Added bonus (or, for some, the biggest selling point): they’re virulently anti-fascist and have some, shall we say, choice words for cops. What’s not to love? The band comes to the Funhouse at Mr. Smalls Saturday, Jan. 13. Joy, WVRM and Lung Ripper also appear. 7 p.m. 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $10-12. www.mrsmalls.com. When Hank Wood and the Hammerheads come to town, it’s not just a show, it’s an event. The NYC band has some great records – last year’s self-titled release was arguably one of the best parties pressed to vinyl in 2018 – but they pale in comparison to the 3D, flesh & blood version. Unsurprisingly, frontman Henry Wood boasts an eclectic musical pedigree (his dad played drums with the Voidoids and his step-dad was an avant-garde saxophonist), and he and the Hammerheads know how to write a dang tune: they blend a hardcore sensibility with catchy garage rock riffs, hip-shaking basslines and wild, soul-stirring grooves, and more-or-less fill every inch of auditory space with high-grade ear candy. Thematically, many of the songs on Hank Wood and the Hammerheads boil down to “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” but a nice dose of gothiness in your dance music never hurt anyone.
Don’t miss out when the band comes to Blumcraft, Thursday, Jan. 17. S.L.I.P., Living World and Detainees open. 8 p.m. 460 Melwood Ave., Oakland. $8. All ages.
Don’t throw away your shot to sing your favorite tunes from Broadway’s smash “Hamilton” tonight with “Hamiltunes! An American Sing Along for Adults” at the Trust Arts Education Center, sponsored by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Pittsburgh Cultural Trust Education. Join local drag queen Amneeja Schnackenmuff for a night of singing and rapping selections from the 2015 musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda, which currently plays at the Benedum Center until the end of January. Pre-registration required. 7 p.m. Free. 807 Liberty Ave., Downtown. www.trustarts.org
If you were alive and listing to the radio in 1993, the Crash Test Dummies are almost certainly bouncing around somewhere in the back of your brain. The Winnipeg-based altrock band’s giant hit, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” comes up in conversation more than one might expect,
due both to frontman Brad Roberts well-deep bass-baritone voice and the song’s eerie vignettes of peculiar misfortune. On Saturday, January 19, the Crash Test Dummies bring their 25th anniversary to Jergel’s, where they’ll be playing that song, and the rest of God Shuffled His Feet – a record that I personally consider underrated, and trust me, I’ve got plenty of people on the band’s YouTube channel will back me up on that. 8 p.m. 103 Slade Lane, Warrendale. $28-42. www.jergels.com
Big fan of “Wild ‘n Out,” MTV’s hip-hop answer to “Whose Line is it Anyway?” that first aired in 2005? With “Wild ‘n Da ‘Burgh,” tonight at Carnegie Music Hall of Homestead, you can get a chance to see the antics live with “Dem Wild Boyz,” a fixture of the show consisting of Chico Bean, Karlous Miller and Darren “Big Baby” Brand. Be prepared for a night filled with disses and owns, mixed in with comedy and laughs. 8 p.m. 510 East 10th Ave., Munhall. $35-$55. www.librarymusichall.com
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NEWS OF THE BY THE EDITORS AT ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION WEIRDNEWSTIPS@AMUNIVERSAL.COM REGIFTED? Rakhi Desai of Houston didn’t think much at first of the gift she brought home from a white elephant party in mid-December -- a brown stuffed bear with a stitched-on heart. As she looked it over later, Desai noticed the words “Neptune Society” stitched on its foot “and then I started to feel, and it’s almost like little pebbles or rocks” inside, she told KTRK-TV. That’s when it hit her: The bear was filled with someone’s cremated remains. The friend who brought the bear to the gift exchange got it at an estate sale, so Desai called the Neptune Society, hoping to reunite the bear with the family it belongs to, but the organization doesn’t track the bears. However, there is a name on the bear’s tag, and Desai is hoping to find the owner through that. “(T) his bear is very special to somebody and belongs in somebody’s family,” she said. WEIRD ROUNDUP On Christmas Day, Deadspin.com shared a “verbatim” list from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission of emergency room visits paid by Americans who inserted items into various body parts, and shouldn’t have. An edited sampling: Into the ear: “Popcorn kernels in both ears, ‘feeds her ears because her ears are hungry’”; “Was cleaning ear with Q-Tip, accidentally walked into a wall, pushed Q-Tip into ear”; “Placed crayon in ear on a dare.” Into the nose: “Sneezed and a computer keyboard key came out right nostril, sneezed again and another one almost came out”; pool noodle; piece of steak; sex toy. Into the throat: mulch; “Swallowed a quarter while eating peanuts”; plastic toy banana. And finally, into the rectum: “Signif-
icant amount of string”; cellphone; Christmas ornament ball; “Jumped on bed, toothbrush was on bed and went up patient’s rectum.” LIKELY STORY Vanessa Elizabeth Helfant, 38, of Knoxville, Tennessee, floated a “dog bites man” defense at her DUI hearing on Dec. 13, arguing that several parked cars struck her on March 25, 2017. The jury, however, didn’t buy her story after hearing evidence: Witnesses at the scene followed Helfant to her destination, and when officers arrived and knocked on the door, Helfant called 911 to report people knocking on her door. WATE reported that she eventually admitted that she had drunk half a pint of vodka and smoked marijuana. Helfant, who had no prior offenses, was convicted and faces at least 48 hours in jail and her license will be suspended for a year. PEOPLE DIFFERENT FROM US Asparagus is healthy and delicious. But for 63-year-old Jemima Packington of Bath, England, the columnar vegetable is much more: Packington is an asparamancer, a person who can foretell the future by tossing the spears into the air and seeing how they land. “When I cast the asparagus, it creates patterns and it is the patterns I interpret,” Packington said. “I am usually about 75 to 90 percent accurate.” In fact, out of 13 predictions she made for 2018, 10 of them came true. What’s in store for 2019? Packington tells Metro News that England’s women’s soccer team will win the World Cup; “A Star Is Born” will win an Oscar; and fears over Brexit will be largely unfounded. Oh, and asparagus will see an all-time high in sales.
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Universal Crossword Edited by David Steinberg January 8, 2019
ACROSS 1 “Humbug!” lead-in 4 Two queens, say 8 Savory taste 13 Longtime shock jock Don 15 “Not to mention ...” 16 ’60s protest 17 Start of a quip 19 Sweater style with a letter-shaped cut 20 Methuselah’s old man 21 Tone up 23 In a way 25 Italian dish that takes a long time to cook 29 Part two of the quip 32 Flowering vine with a rich scent 36 Ile de la Cite’s river 37 A chip, maybe 38 Kenyan tribesman 41 With 11Down, night for amateur comics 42 Opposite of urban 44 Software manuals are written for them 46 Part three of the quip 49 More tranquil 50 Sycophant 1/8
55 Hardships 58 Heavy safari animal, informally 59 Who can be found in the Waldorf Astoria? 62 End of the quip 64 Roswell crash victim, supposedly 65 Egyptian goddess whose name consists of the same verb twice 66 “Garfield” dog 67 Secluded valleys 68 Formally surrender 69 Do some sums DOWN 1 Vampires’ marks 2 Acid in proteins 3 Sense of ___ (date’s asset) 4 Amigo 5 Sacha Baron Cohen title character 6 “Amazing Grace” ending 7 Talking points? 8 Permits to enter America 9 Popular cookies in a refreshing variety
10 Absorbed, as a cost 11 See 41-Across 12 Cartridge contents 14 The Amish, e.g. 18 Violin opening 22 Flipper 24 Al dente 26 Balderdash 27 Cartridge contents 28 Olympic legend Jesse 30 Sedona automaker 31 Artist’s stand 32 City voting districts 33 Accustom 34 Valuable violin, for short 35 Place to sip a hot drink alfresco
39 Singer DiFranco 40 Bad day for Caesar 43 Skin soothers 45 Seize illegally 47 Like the “-” end of a battery: Abbr. 48 Romp 51 Jimmy ___ shoes 52 In a way, casually 53 Loosened, as a knot 54 Did a model’s job 56 Angry reaction 57 Kind of mark left by a tire 59 Tail motion 60 The whole shebang 61 Deception 63 Bismarck-toMinneapolis dir.
PREVIOUS PUZZLE ANSWER
© 2019 Andrews McMeel Universal www.upuzzles.com
by Paul Coulter
Savage LOVE MEN AND WOMEN
BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET I’m a 40-year-old guy with a 30-year-old girlfriend. We’ve been together a year, and I can see a future with her. But there are problems. This girl comes after two minutes of stimulation, be it manual, oral, or penile. As someone who takes pride in my foreplay/pussy-eating abilities, this is a bummer. She gets wet to the point where all friction is lost during PIV and my boners don’t last. It’s like fucking a bowlful of jelly. Part of me is flattered that I get her off, but dammit I miss a tight fit! (Her oral skills aren’t great, either, so that’s not an option, and anal is a no-go.) I love to fuck hard, and that’s difficult when I’m sticking my dick into a frictionless void. Is there a way to decrease wetness? Help, please. Can’t Last Inside Tonight First things first: She’s not doing anything wrong, CLIT, and neither are you—at least you’re not doing anything wrong during sex. (When you sit down to write letters to advice columnists, on the other hand…) She can’t help how much vaginal mucus she produces or how much vaginal sweating your foreplay/pussy-eating skills induce, any more than you can help how much pre-ejaculate you pump out. (Her wetness is a combo of vaginal mucus and vaginal sweating—not a derogatory expression, that’s just the term for it.) And all that moisture is there for a good reason: It preps the vagina for penetration. In its absence, PIV can be extremely painful for the fuckee. So the last thing you want to do is dry your girlfriend up somehow. Now here’s something you are doing wrong: “It’s like fucking a bowlful of jelly,” “I miss a tight fit,” “Her oral skills aren’t great, either,” “I’m sticking my dick into a frictionless void.” You’re going to need to have a conversation with your girlfriend about this, CLIT, you’ll need to use your words, but you can’t have that conversation—not
a constructive one—until you can find some less denigrating, resentful, shame-heaping words. Again, she’s doing nothing wrong. She gets very wet when she’s turned on. That’s just how her body works. Too much lubrication makes it harder for you to get off. That’s how your body works. And this presents a problem that you two need to work on together, but insults like “bowlful of jelly” and “frictionless void” are going to shut the conversation down and/or end the relationship. So try this instead: “I love how turned on you get, honey, and I love how wet you get. But it can make it difficult for me to come during PIV.” If you don’t put her on the defensive—if you don’t make her feel like shit about her pussy—you might be able to have a constructive conversation and come up with some possible PIV hacks. If there’s a move (clitoral stimulation) or an event (her first orgasm) that really opens up the tap, CLIT, save that move or delay that event until after you’ve climaxed or until after you’ve reached the point of orgasmic inevitability—if PIV isn’t painful for her when she’s a little less wet. You can also experiment with different positions to find one that provides you with a little more friction and doesn’t hit her clit just so—perhaps doggy style—and then shift into a position that engages her clit when you’re going to come. And there’s no shame in pulling out and stroking yourself during intercourse before diving back in. Be constructive, get creative, and never again speak of her pussy like it’s a defective home appliance, CLIT, and you might be able to solve this (pretty good) problem (to have). On the Lovecast, who are furries and what do they want?: savagelovecast.com. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | JAN. 8, 2019 | 39
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