FYI! Starting next week and continuing through the end of March, the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History will be offering free admission on Thursday evenings. The special applies Thursdays between 4 and 8 p.m. Parking will be $5, and on March 21, the zero-dollar price includes admission to the CMOA Culture Club series. Cheapskates of the city, unite underneath fossilized dinosaurs!
The FX show The Americans was sort of a oddball sell from the start: Travel back to Washington, D.C., 1981, and watch a couple of embedded Soviet spies infiltrate our government.
But those of us who checked in found a fascinating drama, equal parts thriller and domestic melodrama. Political tensions — Reagan has just been elected — have never been higher, but equally problematic is the arranged marriage between the two spies (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys). The show is five episodes in, and has done a great job intertwining these two complementary narratives.
In case you need to root for the red-blooded Americans, the show also follows the FBI unit assigned to track Soviet spies; the chief agent (portrayed by Noah Emmerich) conveniently lives next door to the Soviet spies, creating a frission-filled who's-zooming-who suburban cul-de-sac.
The Americans also trades on the pleasures of "look at the old days," as we marvel at the clunky spycraft pre-microgadgets or the dreadful period wallpapers. And because we know history's outcome, that's yet another layer.
And it's not to late to get on board. FX is re-running all five episodes tomorrow night, Fri., March 1, beginning at 10 p.m.. Make a big bowl of popcorn, or set your DVRs. Or check your On Demand. Or catch up with online episodes. Regularly scheduled episodes air at 10 p.m., on Wednesdays.
A series of artist talks about exhibits at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts begins tonight. Details in Program Notes.
As usual, there are a ton of artists showing work right now at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Starting tonight, the artists and artist teams represented in the ten exhibits will be showing up to discuss their work.
Tonight’s first set of talkers include Stephen Chalmers, whose grittily lyrical photos of people with no fixed abode — from “snowbirds” to off-the-gridders — make up his exhibit Transience. Chalmers teaches at Youngstown State University. Here's a sample of his work:
Future talks in the series are scheduled for March 14 (with artists Jonathan Chamberlain, David Montano and William McAllister) and March 30 (featuring eight artists with work at the PCA).
All the talks, including tonight’s are at 6 p.m. The PCA is located at 6300 Fifth Ave., in Shadyside. Admission is $3-5.
Prelude to a flip-flop? To date, Gov. Tom Corbett has sounded distinctly downbeat about the prospects for the state expanding Medicaid under the provisions of Obamacare. But as fellow Republican wankers have taken that step -- New Jersey's Chris Christie being the latest -- Corbett has now announced plans to meet with Kathleen Sibelius, the cabinet secretary charged with implementing the healthcare reforms. It wouldn't surprise me if -- lo! -- the governor suddenly had all of his misgivings cleared up and decided to proceed after all!
We love Chris Briem over here at City Paper, though he does have a tendency to sometimes "bury the lede" -- put the newsiest stuff down deep in the story. I say that not to criticize -- for I am not worthy to untie his sandals and so on -- but to tell you that you should stick with it on his recent blog post about some potential financial nightmares at the Water and Sewer Authority. When I say I can't vouch for the accuracy of everything he says here, it's probably because my tiny insect brain isn't capable of fully understanding it. But I did get the part about where he said that quite possibly, the financial crisis "dwarfs whatever $$ was actually misused in anything and everything going on down at the police bureau." ... and yet " I bet the ink/$ ratio for the PWSA debt story will never crack a mill of coverage of whatever is going on down at the police bureau's detail office."
... To which the media says, "whatevs." And gives us this story about a special police unit that reported directly to Harper -- and seems to have not been terribly active on the "arresting people" front.
And speaking of stories that never seem to go away ... there's a "Where's Luke?" storyline emerging again -- there's even a Twitter account now. For my own part, I can vouch for the mayor's attendance at a political event last Thursday night, and am reliably informed he was at a ward gathering over the weekend. (Though he missed a Codefest event he was slated to attend that weekend as well.) When he didn't attend a campaign event on Tuesday night, his campaign staff told me that it was due to "his mother not feeling well." (Attendees of the event were told it was either a "scheduling conflict" or "somewhat of a health problem.")
In this week's issue, our own Bill O'Driscoll raised concerns about how much of "our" natural gas may end up being exported to other countries -- allowing drillers to pocket the profit while potentially dumping the environmental headaches on us. And so it's worth keeping an eye on talk about building a natural-gas export facility in Philadelphia.
And after a series of delays and an acrimonious debate, the Pittsburgh school board votes to sell off Schenley High School to a developer with plans to turn it into luxury apartments. There were rival proposals to house new school programs, but at least one board member apparently feared that Pittsburgh families wouldn't be able to send their kids there. Be interesting to see how many Pittsburgh families could afford to live in the new apartments.
The AB Film group at Carnegie Mellon regularly schedules current and classic films. Movies screen at McConomy auditorium on campus. Admission is $1 for CMU students (with ID), and everybody else only pays $3. More info and complete schedule here.
The tribute to 50 Years of Bond at Sunday's Academy Awards was pretty lackluster, a clips reel of explosion and bikini shots that was thoroughly blown away by a besequinned Shirley Bassey blasting "Gold-fing-GAH!"
Revisit some complete Bond films this week, at CMU. This mini-fest features four Bond actors.
Thu., Feb. 28.
Sean Connery stars as Bond, James Bond, in this 1964 outing.
8 p.m., 10 p.m. and midnight
Fri., March 1
The Spy Who Loved Me
Roger Moore gives the spy a whirl in 1977.
7:30 p.m. 10 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.
Sat., March 2
Bond goes blond, and broody; Daniel Craig is the Bond for the new millennium, in last year's outing.
7 p.m., 10 p.m. and 1 a.m.
Sun., March 3
The man with the perfect hair — Pierce Brosnan — plays Bond in this 1995 actioner.
7:30 p.m. 10 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.
Film-makers! Potential film-makers! People with an iPhone and a dream! Listen up.
Johnstown isn't so far from Pittsburgh, and each year the Johnstown Film Festival goes down in the summer. This year, the festival takes place Sep. 5-7, a little later than in the past. The JFF is calling for film submissions now: The deadline for entry is May 1.
The call is for short films — up to 30 minutes — and the entry fee is $10 per film. For more info on submitting, visit the JFF website.
Also of interest in the Johnstown category, and the film category: Johnstown's Heritage Discovery Center currently features "Cinema Judaica: The War Years, 1939-1949." The exhibit looks at Jewish film during and immediately after World War II. And next Thursday, March 7, the Johnstown Flood Museum will feature a screening of Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator.
A coalition of groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Black Political Empowerment Project today called for community input in the search for a new police chief and the qualities/agenda he or she should possess.
"This is a healing moment," said Tim Stevens, executive director of B-PEP, citing recent turmoil in the department as the result of a federal investigation into potentially fraudulent spending accounts. "This is an opportunity for us to move forward and hopefully create a future with regard to police-community relations that will hopefully be at a level we've never seen before."
Vic Walczak, legal director of ACLU-PA, said it was time to address leadership failures in the bureau that has led to high-profile incidents involving police officers — such as using plainclothes details known as "99 cars;" five off-duty officers shooting at a fleeing vehicle in the South Side; the beating of Homewood teenager Jordan Miles and other "countless crazy off-duty behavior."
"The worst part is not these incidents occurred," Walczak said. "But who's taking responsibility — not only for the incidents but standing up to say they won't happen again?"
Walczak said the ACLU and community groups were calling on Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and mayoral candidates Bill Peduto and Michael Lamb to pledge to comply with bureau management guidelines contained in the 1997 consent decree that led to federal oversight of the department until 2002; and pledge to diversify the force by race and gender.
"The police are becoming increasingly white and increasingly male," Walczak warned. But he said the ACLU "wasn't quite there" in taking the city back to court which led to the former consent decree.
Hazel Blackman, regional council member with Action United, said the lack of diversity leads to distrust within the black community. "We feel targeted because of the color of our skin," she says. "We have a problem of a trust."
The groups invited Ravenstahl, Peduto, Lamb and the public to participate in a public hearing on the matter that they say is scheduled for next Wednesday at 1 p.m. (though the meeting hasn't been confirmed yet by the City Clerk's office.)
Ravenstahl appointed Regina McDonald as interim chief, and said at a press conference last week he would not be looking within the current department for a replacement.
City councilor Ricky Burgess, who also spoke at the press conference, said he would not confirm any appointment that came from within the department. Burgess said he would be looking at a chief's specific attributes and administrative agenda for whether they were qualified and would improve relations within the community.
"The best way to improve public safety," he said, "is to improve community confidence."
Pittsburgh City Council -- where the motto is "better late than never" -- is now proposing that funds from police secondary details be transferred out of the police bureau itself, and be handling by the city's finance director instead.
And because I know you've been wondering ... yes, former state Auditor General Jack Wagner is still thinking of running for mayor as an independent in November.
"Nepotism lives!" reports WTAE-TV, which finds that nearly one in five top elected officials has a relative somewhere in the workforce.
Meanwhile, here's how balled up Congress is: Pa. Senator Pat Toomey -- who just won high praise from the ultra-conservative Club for Growth -- actually sounds more reasonable than some of his GOP peers on the looming sequestration cuts that go into effect by week's end. Toomey has a proposal -- which he plans to offer as legislation -- to give President Obama some discretionary power over how to enact those cuts. It's understandable that Democrats aren't happy -- Toomey's proposal keeps the overall dollar-value of the cuts in place, so it's like a choice between cutting off an arm with a chainsaw, or a rusty meat cleaver. But to hear the GOP insist that these cuts have to be carried out as stupidly as possible? Grim.
Our comrades over at the Philadelphia City Paper have a new report out on how the state's largest school-voucher proponent may have broken election law last year, by allegedly using other election committees as pass-throughs for its own donations. If such patterns of giving and the group in question, Students First, sounds familiar, it may be because we wrote last November about the closely-knit voucher network's activities statewide last year.
And finally ... a pair of brothers in Montgomery County are suing Anheuser-Busch, claiming it waters its beer down. You can almost hear a few other beermakers out there slapping their foreheads and saying, "You mean you can get sued for that?"
The board of Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre Co. has replaced artistic director Andrew Paul, who co-founded the company in 1997. Details in Program Notes.