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Friday, February 28, 2014

Posted By on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 3:22 PM

Next week, in honor of national Women of Color HerStory Month, New Voices Pittsburgh will be hosting its annual Kinks, Locks and Twists Conference. Now in its sixth year, the conference has expanded to include national speakers, an awards ceremony, and specialized tracks for adults and youth.

New Voices Pittsburgh is a nonprofit organization focusing on reproductive rights for women of color. Its annual conference brings together reproductive-justice and environmental-justice issues, providing a unique approach to women’s health and activism.

“All of the work we do is based on human rights,” says New Voices Executive Director La’Tasha Mayes. “We believe reproductive justice and environmental justice are pathways to human rights. We believe this intersection of environment and health is deeply connected, and overall, our cultural norms do not value the bodies of women.”

The three-day conference will feature a series of workshops devoted to topics like urban farming, fracking, the Affordable Care Act, healthy beauty, personal care, yoga, nutrition and exercise.

“Not only are we going to have a good time learning, but this conference is a good opportunity for building community,” Mayes says.

National speakers include: Ashlee Davis, of the US Department of Agriculture; Leslie Fields, of the Sierra Club; Ogonnaya Dotson-Newman, of WE ACT for Environmental Justice; Kimberly Inez McGuire, of National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and Women's Voices for the Earth; and Jacqui Patterson, of the NAACP.

“They’re awesome — we’re so excited to have them,” says Mayes, of the speakers. “We really think they carry weight in the environmental-justice movement, so we can learn some best practices from them.”

The conference will be held March 6-9 at Carnegie Mellon University. For more information visit

Posted By on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 1:30 PM

In a gallery on the first floor of the Carnegie Museum of Art, Sarah Moreno, a retired elementary school teacher from Bethel Park, sketched a man with tattoos spiraling out of the bottom edges of his black boxer briefs. Her pencil box lying between her knees, Moreno drew with her left hand, her light strokes contrasting with those of a woman sitting a few feet to her left, where thick dark lines punched out from the page.

Sarah Moreno draws at the museum

Moreno, who taught first- and second-graders for more than 40 years, said that drawing was something she’s always wanted to do but didn’t have time for. “I want to get out all these ideas before I die,” she laughed.

She was just one in a crowd of about 300 who attended last night's Drawing Experience with Nicole Eisenman, the internationally known artist who won the 2013 Carnegie International's Carnegie Prize.

The workshop was part of Carnegie Mellon's three-day DRAW2014symposium. Artists were clustered throughout the museum, drawing the live models stationed in different galleries. Eisenman had just shared her thoughts on the medium during her opening remarks: Drawing, she said, is “one of the first moments of recognizing agency in the world.” It “means more than to be represented by a line drawn across the page … It means to be allured.”

Moreno was excited to attend; the museum stopped offering art classes right around the time she got into art. “I always wanted to be an artist,” she whispered in the museum’s hall of sculpture as she sketched a female model with pierced nipples. “But I had to bide my time [with a more practical career].”

That’s part of what brought Moreno here tonight. The other part is the allure that Eisenman spoke about. A member of the Carnegie Museum, Moreno estimated she’d seen the 2013 Carnegie International show five or six times. And it showed: She pointed out an Eisenman painting she loves — “I’m With Stupid,” in which a clown-nosed boy wears a shirt printed with the same statement and an arrow pointing downward, his genitalia completely bare — as we wandered along the hall of sculpture balcony. This is where the Carnegie Prize winner also has a sculpture of a seated figure slouched over and texting — right next to a Roman copy of a Greek statue.

(“She’s so creative,” Moreno said later in the lobby, speaking about Eisenman. “There’s a sense of humor with her work that I enjoy, and yet there’s a serious side too.”)

Now that she’s retired, Moreno is turning her garage into a studio. Though she first claimed to not be an artist when asked for an interview, at the end of the night she made a different statement. “I think everyone’s an artist. But a lot of people get inhibited because they look at other people’s work and they think, ‘Oh I can’t do that.’ People say they can’t draw but I think everybody can draw. It’s just [a matter of] making effort and being free.”

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Posted By on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 12:20 PM

Public debate over a planned $3 million expansion of Lawrenceville's Thunderbird Café has been dragging on since at least 2012, and has been pending in a courtroom since last fall. Yesterday morning, both the cafe's owner and local neighborhood groups thought an agreement might finally be in sight.

But by yesterday evening, that seemed far less certain.

Even as the two sides had been closing in on a settlement, a judge's ruling -- which neither side had seen until City Paper informed them of it last night -- had decided the case for them. And while there are still various avenues for the popular Butler Street venue to expand, the ruling could mean even more delays for the project.

"It's absolutely been frustrating," says Mitchel Zemel, the Thunderbird's attorney. Owner John Pergal "has been trying to work with [community] groups from the beginning," Zemel added. "It's been a long road, and it's frustrating to get to this point and have this happen."

Posted By on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 11:42 AM

Tribute bands are pretty bizarre. Sure, it’s fun to see a band play songs you already know word for word, and it’s fun for bands to play those songs. But what motivates a group of musicians to move from playing covers to actively attempting to disappear into another band?

I was already pondering these questions when I walked into Altar Bar last Friday. There, members of Anti-Flag and White Wives — performing as Green Day — were opening for Pittsburgh’s very own Rage Against the Machine tribute band, RATM2. (The Catastrophe started the show with a collection of pop punk covers, which I missed.)

With “Green Day,” I had pretty good idea of what to expect. They were playing Dookie in its entirety, an album almost everyone of a certain age has owned at some point. They played it well and clearly had a good time doing it; the crowd seemed, more or less, to have a blast.

RATM2 ramped things up with audio of President Obama vowing to close Guantanamo Bay. My plus-one, a self-described “#1 Rage-head,” grinned at me. Could it be that these guys were … true believers? Then they launched into “Testify,” and it was … pretty good. Not bad at all, actually. The band was solid, and what Fake Zack de la Rocha lacked in funk, he made up for in charisma. I was quickly charmed. And then he started talking.

The first major offense was when Fake ZDLR held up an iPhone to take a picture of the audience, saying “One ... two ... three … make some noise for the Internet, yall!” My friend gasped: “Zack would NEVER say that!” And it IS hard to imagine the real ZDLR posting photos of his fans — or of anything — on the Internet. Fake Zack, you’re playing right into the NSA’s hands!

But the real jaw-dropper came when Fake ZDLR, after inexplicably comparing the pit to Sochi, segued into the topic of Pussy Riot. “Those bitches are fucking hardcore!” he proclaimed before — from what I could garner (it was hard to hear) — he began to make fun of the un-listenability of their music. Calling women bitches? Showing less than total solidarity with Pussy Riot? COME ON GUYS.

Which (sort of) brings me back to my original question: RATM was hugely popular, and many, many of their fans were (and are) indifferent or hostile to leftist politics. (Sup, Paul Ryan?) And, really, I’d be happy to listen to any band that can play a committed and passable rendition of “Bombtrack.” The best moments of the evening reminded me how great those songs are, and how much fun it is to hear them played really loudly.

But if you’re even going to touch the political stuff — which is such an integral (if sometimes cheesy and mock-able) part of the real band — why not commit to that as well? It’s hard to imagine why or how one could memorize all of those lyrics without internalizing more than “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.” But then again, can anyone in the year 2014 really take anything as seriously as Rage Against the Machine did? Could anyone in 2000? RATM2 may not be Rage we want, but it’s probably the Rage we deserve.

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Posted By on Fri, Feb 28, 2014 at 10:44 AM

Three performances remain for this taut cop melodrama, onstage at the New Hazlett Theater.

David Whalen and Patrick Jordan in A Steady Rain
  • David Whalen and Patrick Jordan in "A Steady Rain"

If you like stories of loyalty and betrayal on the thin blue line, this one’s for you, with strong performances by David Whalen and Patrick Jordan as cops and life-long friends whose bond begins to fray over ethical issues and the demands and dangers of the job.

Here’s Michelle Pilecki’s review for CP.

The show’s curiously structured as a sort of duologue: There are just two characters, they’re both onstage for the whole thing, and rather than interacting, they mostly take turns telling their own version of events.

It’s the latest in a recent run of local productions like this — one-actor shows Poe’s Last Night, South Side Stories, Underneath the Lintel and The Great One, plus Quantum’s Madagascar, which is made of three interlacing monologues. (And coming up is one-actor show An Iliad, at the Public.)

So nearly half of Pittsburgh's locally produced theater since Jan. 1 eschews actors responding directly to each other in real time.

Don’t get me wrong: All of these shows have their merits, and it’s probably a coincidence that they’re all running within two months of each other. This sort of storytelling is venerable in its own right. And of course, shows with small casts are attractive to companies because they’re cheaper to produce.

But I hope it’s not a trend. There’s too much life to be had in more “interactive” (in the onstage sense) shows, like barebones’ own vibrant 2013 The Motherfucker With the Hat and Point Park REP’s recent, corruscating Heads.

The New Hazlett is located at 6 Allegheny Square East, on the North Side.

Tickets for A Steady Rain are $30-35 and can be found here.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Posted By on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 2:36 PM

City of Asylum/Pittsburgh hosts an informational meeting tonight with representatives of artists from the Czech Republic for a community-based artists residency and free performances this summer.

The Archa Theater and its All-Star Refjudzi band will be in residence at City of Asylum. It’s seeking local musicians, actors, dancers, other performers and volunteers to participate in creating and performing in “a musical/theatrical event based on stories from within Pittsburgh’s refugee communities.”

Archa is a leading Czech Republic theater company. The band, led by American musician Michael Romanyshyn, combines music of different styles and various cultural sources. See more on the group’s Vimeo channel.

Archa and the band will be in residency in June, with free performances planned on June 28 and 29. Here’s more about the project.

Tonight’s meeting is at 330 Sampsonia Way, on the North Side, at 6 p.m. Email Julie Tvaruzek at if you can attend.

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Posted By on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 2:14 PM

The museum of cartoon art hosts a fundraiser costume party this Saturday. Come dressed as your favorite character ... or learn more first, in Program Notes.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Port Authority Police Det. Kevin Atkins

Several arrests are pending in the Port Authority's first known case of ConnectCard fraud, the agency announced this morning.

"We know that there have been four ConnectCards that have been fraudulently reproduced," said Kevin Atkins, a Port Authority Police detective.

The ConnectCard system, rolled out late in 2012, lets riders load cash or passes on cards roughly the size of a credit card, which can be swiped at any farebox. The agency has been trying to persuade more riders to use the cards, and hasn't ruled out price changes for cash users to speed the transition.

The fraudulent cards were loaded with monthly passes and sold, Atkins said, adding they were deactivated after Port Authority noticed an unusual spike in usage on the cards.

The agency released few details, but stressed that there was no data breach, and the ConnectCard system is less vulnerable than the paper-pass system it replaced.

"We're talking with the vendor at this time to better understand the risk," Port Authority spokesperson Jim Ritchie said.

Atkins said he could not comment on the number of people the agency plans to arrest, when those arrests would be made, how long the fraud was going on or how sophisticated it was.

Atkins said "several people" have been questioned, and the charges will likely include access device fraud.

The investigation is ongoing and those with information about the case may call Port Authority Police at 412-255-1385.

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Posted By on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 12:12 PM

Ten clergy members belonging to the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network were arrested and removed in handcuffs after they blocked the entrance to the USX Building, home to UPMC.

Protesters say they wanted to meet with UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff, and when they were denied entry to by building security, they blocked the doors refusing to leave. About a half-dozen police officers were on hand at the beginning, and it was obvious that at least some of the 100 or so protesters that gathered would be arrested. The large crowd moved form the plaza in front of the building, leaving the 10 faith leaders to block the door.

City police were patient with the protesters and when it became evident they would not vacate the scene willingly, they were cuffed and removed. Officers treated the arrestees — some of them elderly — carefully, asking them repeatedly if they were sure they didn't want to voluntarily leave the scene.One of those arrested was Rev. Rodney Lyde, who spoke to City Paper as he was led away in handcuffs.

"We attempted to deliver our declaration on behalf of the faith community of Pittsburgh to Jeffrey Romoff that we want UPMC to lead the way in helping people into the middle class. But Mr. Romoff didn't want to meet with us, so he sent his fine security who in turn called these fine officers and now we're being arrested," Lyde said. "I have no regrets at all. We're going to continue to push forward with what's right.

"God is on our side."

While there was talk that the protesters would be taken to the Allegheny County Jail and processed, a sergeant at the scene told CP that the protesters would be cited for criminal trespass through the mail and be given court dates. Officers then cut away the plastic handcuffs.

There have been regular protests at UPMC's Downtown headquarters for the past several months — part of an ongoing unionization campaign being led the Service Employees International Union. (Today's protest, for example, was preceded by a declaration from PIIN that "UPMC should lead the way in bringing people into the middle class by providing living wages, affordable healthcare and the environment in which people can speak with one another without harassment around the issues of good employment.") But today's event seemed to have a different tone from many other demonstrations. Some of the protesters showed a willingness to be arrested, while building security guards were more forceful in their exchanges with protesters and the media.

Those taking pictures or videos were told that picture-taking was not permitted in the plaza. In fact, a security guard tried to physically block a KDKA cameraman from filming the arrest.

Protesters said they were undaunted.

"We believe that this is such an important part of the future of Pittsburgh that many of us are willing to put our security at risk," said Rabbi Ron Symons, one of those arrested. "We believe this message has to come out from the community-at-large. We need to build a better Pittsburgh, a sustainable Pittsburgh and that comes only with sustainable jobs.

Was today's protest a sign that tactics were escalating, and that protesters would be risking arrest in the future? "I believe that it is," Symons answered, "and I believe that we are."

Posted By on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 8:46 AM

The museum of cartoon art hosts a unique fundraiser this Saturday — and perhaps one only this venue could get away with.

Guests are encouraged to show up as their favorite character, whether superhero, movie or TV personage, anime entity, stormtrooper or furry. It’s ideal for anyone looking for somewhere to play dress up between the last comic-con and next Halloween.

The party’s at Downtown’s Tilden Lounge. Prizes and trophies will be awarded to costumed attendees in multiple categories.

There’ll also be a live DJ, silent auction (for items including character costumes, original art, tickets to activities around town and more), light hors d’oeuvres, cash bar and “specially crafted Super Shots.”

Attendees must be 21 and over (and sorry — you’ll have to unmask at the door for the ID check).

The costume party starts 8:30 p.m. at the Tilden Lounge. Tickets are $20 and available here or at the door. A $50 VIP ticket gets you in for mingling at 7:30 p.m.

Tilden Lounge, a private club, is located at 941 Liberty Ave., two doors down from Toonseum.

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