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Monday, October 31, 2016

Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 2:49 PM

Though the first installment of her new young-adult series, The Amateurs, was only just released, bestselling author Sara Shepard says the books has already been optioned for TV.

click to enlarge Sara Shepard
Sara Shepard
Shepard's first and most successful series, Pretty Little Liars — which has spanned a whopping 16 entries, not counting two companion books — has become a popular television show since it premiered on ABC Family in 2010. It is currently in its seventh and final season.

The Amateurs (Freeform) involves 18-year-old high school student Seneca Frazier, who wants to discover what happened to a senior, Helena Kelly, who disappeared and was likely killed five years earlier. By connecting with the victim's sister and other interested parties on an online message board for cold cases, the curious group begins an investigation of its own.

Shepard, reached by phone, says that The Amateurs is the first book in a planned trilogy. But Shepard, who has already penned the second installment, says the series could possibly be prolonged like her others have been. "Pretty Little Liars was at first only four books, and then extended to eight and then more, so we never know," Shepard says.

While The Amateurs retains the mystery elements of her other similar series, it offers a darker tone inspired more by true-crime works like the Serial podcast, hosted by Sarah Koenig. "There are also a couple of male POVs which is fun to do because most of my characters have been girls," Shepard adds.

Regarding other modern fantasy young-adult novels, Shepard's interests skew toward the dystopian. She has enjoyed the Hunger Games series and The Thousandth Floor, by Katherin McGee. "I'm always reading YA — it's part of the job," she says.

Shepard grew up in Philadelphia, and moved back there in 2008 after earning her master's of fine arts at Brooklyn College, in New York. She moved to Pittsburgh in 2012. Her other YA series include The Lying Game — which was also adapted into a show on ABC Family — and The Perfectionists. Shepard also has two adult novels, The Visibles and Everything We Ever Wanted.

A free launch party for The Amateurs with Shepard takes place tomorrow at the Penguin Bookshop, in Sewickley, at 6 p.m.

The store is located at 417 Beaver St.

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Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 2:40 PM

Photo by Em DeMarco
This week's MP3 comes from post-punk band Empty Beings. The five-piece released Confront the Living back in September; It's full of dark riffs and sinister guitar tones, and probably wouldn't sound out of place on your Halloween playlist, assuming your Halloween playlist includes a lot of '80s goth and new wave. Stream or download "Culture Shock," from that record, below.


This download has expired, sorry!

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Posted By on Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 11:41 AM

Happy Halloween! Later tonight, kids will fill the streets of Pittsburgh for trick-or-treating. Today, we thought we'd wish you holiday greetings by sharing some of our staff's Halloween costumes from when they were kids.

Brace yourself for cuteness.

"I wanted to be a Power Ranger": Advertising Representative Blake Lewis
"I wanted to be a Power Ranger": Advertising Representative Blake Lewis

News Editor Rebecca Addison
News Editor Rebecca Addison

Art Director Lisa Cunningham
Art Director Lisa Cunningham

Music Editor Margaret Welsh (left) and her sister
Music Editor Margaret Welsh (left) and her sister
Professional Wrestler Mil Máscaras a.k.a. Editor Charlie Deitch
Professional Wrestler Mil Máscaras a.k.a. Editor Charlie Deitch

Graphic Designer Jeff Schreckengost
Graphic Designer Jeff Schreckengost
Marketing Design Coordinator Lindsey Thompson
Marketing Design Coordinator Lindsey Thompson

Production Director Julie Skidmore
Production Director Julie Skidmore
Web Producer Alex Gordon
Web Producer Alex Gordon

"Train Conductor is my second career choice after journalist": News Intern Stephen Caruso
"Train Conductor is my second career choice after journalist": News Intern Stephen Caruso
"A rootin-tootin' future cartoonist": WaynoVision Cartoonist Wayno
"A rootin-tootin' future cartoonist": WaynoVision Cartoonist Wayno

Music Intern Megan Fair
Music Intern Megan Fair
Interactive Media Manager Carlo Leo
Interactive Media Manager Carlo Leo

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Friday, October 28, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at 4:15 PM

Just announced minutes ago: Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday for the Breaking Bad star's Nov. 20 visit to City Theatre to promote his new memoir, A Life in Parts.

The Emmy- and Tony-winning actor will be joined by City's artistic director, Tracy Brigden, for a conversation about art, his life and career.

The event will take place at 4 p.m. General-admission tickets are $35 and include a signed copy of A Life in Parts. Seating is limited.

Discounts on fees are available to City Theatre subscribers who call the box office to order.

Tickets will be available at 412-431-2489 or at

City Theatre is located at 1300 Bingham St., in the South Side.

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Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at 2:06 PM

Social Justice Disco: Songs to Fight Fascists By is the feisty title of a planned album by the two notable local singers.

click to enlarge Phat Man Dee (left) and Liz Berlin
Phat Man Dee (left) and Liz Berlin
The Halloween-night performance, at The Funhouse at Mr. Smalls, marks the digital release of the first single and serves as a launch of an Indiegogo campaign to fund the entire project.

Social Justice Disco (which Man Dee says started as an April Fools joke, explained here) will include songs by such musical activists as Woody Guthrie, Billy Bragg, They Might Be Giants and local legend Anne Feeney, as well as original tunes. The band will include top area musicians including Mark Strickland, Carlos Pena, Mike Speranza, Miguel Sague III, Megan Williams and Jeremy Papay.

It’s the first collaboration between Man Dee, a jazz cabaret-style singer, and Berlin, a founding member of Rusted Root (and part-owner of Mr. Smalls).

The Oct. 31 show will include Man Dee and Berlin performing three songs from the CD, including the first single, “Fourth Reich Arising.”

The event is part of Mr. Smalls AcoustiCafe Open Stage series. The Funhouse is an intimate, club-style venue above the larger Mr. Smalls concert hall.

Doors open, and open-stage signup (for 18+) begins, at 6 p.m., with the 21+ open-stage signup at 7 p.m.

The Funhouse@Mr. Smalls is at 400 Lincoln Ave., in Millvale.

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Posted By on Fri, Oct 28, 2016 at 11:24 AM

Filmmakers Corner, the WQED TV show for local independent artists, returns with four recent shorts.

click to enlarge Randy Kovitz stars in his "The Beat Goes On"
Randy Kovitz stars in his "The Beat Goes On"
The hour-long Oct. 29 program includes an episode of “Guardians,” a dramatic web series starring Rejeana Palma, about a married couple “with dangerous ambitions.”

Also screening is “The End of Blessings,” by John Rice, a veteran filmmaker who teaches at Point Park University, from a script by Pittsburgh-based poet and short-story writer Jim Daniels. The drama, about an African-American cyclist and a older Italian couple he bikes past, has screened at numerous film festivals nationally.

“The Beat Goes On” is a drama directed by locally based actor Randy Kovitz, starring Kovitz and Bria Walker.

And “Happy Birthday to Me,” from the Carnegie Screenwriters’ group, won first place in this year’s 48 Hour Film Project.

WQED’s Minette Seate hosts.

Filmmakers Corner airs at 9 p.m. every Saturday.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 1:53 PM

One group was tasked with the issue of advocacy and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the black community. - CP PHOTO BY REBECCA ADDISON
CP photo by Rebecca Addison
One group was tasked with the issue of advocacy and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the black community.
According to a survey by the Persad Center of individuals in the LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS communities, only 15 percent of respondents felt their neighborhoods were friendly. Only one-fourth of respondents said they felt safe in health-care spaces and 29.7 percent said they felt safe in school.

"These are the issues our community is facing," Rev. Shanea Leonard, pastor at Judah Fellowship Christian Church, said at a gathering of LGBTQ+ Pittsburghers and elected officials last night.

The event was one of several community roundtables black elected officials in the Pittsburgh area — including state representatives Ed Gainey and Jake Wheatley, Pittsburgh city councilors Daniel Lavelle and Ricky Burgess, and Allegheny County Councilor DeWitt Walton — have held in the last few months. It was hosted by Judah Fellowship and New Voices, a reproductive-health organization, to "spill the T on" (or expose) issues of specific importance to LGBTQ+ people of color. 

"At this political moment, it's important to center the most marginalized people," said La'Tasha Mayes, executive director of New Voices. "As we talk both about Pittsburgh being the most livable city and the Black Lives Matter movement, it has to be livable for everyone and all black lives have to matter."

Among the issues discussed was inclusion and advocacy of LGBTQ+ people in the African-American community. Participants tasked with discussing this issue said negative attitudes about LGBTQ+ people within the black community are often the result of religious beliefs and the myth of the downlow: the belief that men in the community are identifying as heterosexual but having sex with men secretly. 

Essentially, this discrimination many experience in their own community carries over into their housing, employment and even health care.

"Thirty-one percent [of respondents] experienced a health-care provider reacting negatively toward them and their LGBTQ+ selves," Leonard said of the Persad survey. "That means folks are still — in this day and age, in this city — folks are still not open enough to accept us."

In the area of housing, LGBTQ+ teens are some of the hardest hit. As a possible solution, some at the event advocated for a LGBTQ+ specific homeless shelter because they said many youth in their community get kicked out of their homes because of their identity.

"The majority of homeless teens happen to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community. It's a real problem," said Leonard. 

And in addition to the role discrimination plays in preventing LGBTQ+ people from getting hired, it also plays a major role in their job performance and satisfaction. Participants said other workplace barriers include gender-binary bathrooms.

"Unemployment and underemployment remains a barrier for the LGBTQ+ community. I can't tell you how many folks I talk to where just getting a job and holding a job is an issue when they live in their truth," Leonard said. "And let's not forget that Pennsylvania is still the only state in the Northeast that still doesn't have a non-discrimination law. That means you can still be fired from your job, and it's legal because you are LGBTQ or perceived to be part of the LGBTQ community." 

The Persad survey also revealed problems LGBTQ+ individuals face when interacting with law enforcement. Seventy-three percent of respondents said they'd had face-to-face contact with police within the past five years, and of those, 14 percent reported verbal assault, 3 percent sexual assault and 2 percent physical assault. 

Organizers hoped the event would drive their elected officials to better understand the needs of LGBTQ+ people of color and to address their issues.

"There's so many organizations and efforts that don't focus on this particular segment of the community," said Mayes. "We're going to continue working with these elected officials because when has this ever happened before? We want to keep them engaged."

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Revisiting some of Pittsburgh City Paper's Halloween-themed Election Guides of the past

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 12:19 PM

This week's Scooby Doo "Trump Is Satan?!" cover isn't our first Election Guide/Halloween hybrid. Take a look …

"He lives, he tweets, he walks among us." In 2013, local artist Rhonda Libbey illustrated Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl as our take on Frankstein's monster: RAVENSTEIN.

We hired Rhonda again for our Election Guide in 2014 to illustrate the battle between Governor Tom Corbett and Democrat Tom Wolf. A few weeks later, Wolfman ended up defeating Dracula in the polls.

Don't know what to dress up as for Halloween yet? How about a Sexy Supreme Court Judge? In 2015, Editor Charlie Deitch declared the most important race in our Election Guide the battle for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Instead of scary, we chose to go sexy in an attempt to draw attention to a race often overlooked.

(You can still view our behind-the-scenes video of Theo Schwarz photographing this cover here)

But after this year's wild election year, it might be our cover from 2012 that people will be able to relate to the most.

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Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2016 at 10:59 AM

Every week we bring you a Spotify playlist featuring songs from bands and artists featured in the current music section (and yeah, ok, usually we do this on Wednesday, but nobody's perfect!) Take a listen below. 

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 5:47 PM

click to enlarge Part of the group gathered at the Jeron X. Grayson Community Center - CP PHOTO BY STEPHEN CARUSO
CP photo by Stephen Caruso
Part of the group gathered at the Jeron X. Grayson Community Center
About 20 people gathered at the Jeron X. Grayson Community Center, in the Hill District, on Tuesday night for Pittsburgh’s end of a Facebook Live town hall hosted by Fight for $15.

The national movement held a virtual panel that included residents from cities across the country to discuss the presidential candidates who best support their agenda of a $15 minimum wage, the right to a union, and affordable child care.

While workers participated in cities as varied as Milwaukee Wis., Sacramento Calif., and Charleston, S.C., the central town was Kansas City, Mo. There, Nado Villa, a correspondent for new-media network Fusion, and Terrence Wise, a fast-food worker in the Fight for $15, moderated a panel made up of four service workers, as well as a graduate student, each from a separate city.

“I did everything I was supposed to do, I worked hard, I finished school, and I still don’t make enough to save $100 each month,” said Dayla Mikell, a child-care worker on the panel.

Such remarks found sympathy from the local crowd of activists and community members, such as Lena Germany, a 24-year-old fast-food employee. While not officially part of the movement, Germany knows how hard it can be trying to survive off of minimum wage.

“There are mothers who can’t support their families,” said Germany, herself a mother of a 6-year-old son, Zyair.

Germany was fired from her last job, at McDonald’s, for missing work too often. The McKeesport resident says she had to take shifts off to care for her son, who is a heart-transplant patient. Because she couldn’t afford his medicine, she had to give Zyair up for adoption, which was finalized this year.

“I want to be stable if [Zyair] wants to go back to [his] mom,” Germany said.

After listing the goals of the movement, the panel moved onto the 2016 election. With 64 million people making less than $15 per hour, the movement was aware of its power as a force for change.

“We don’t care if the candidate is Republican or Democrat,” Wise said while moderating, instead imploring candidates to “come get our vote.”

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is in favor of raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour, and supports other cities' push to raise it still higher. However, she has not come out in favor of a national $15 minimum wage, which primary opponent Bernie Sanders attacked her for during primary season.

Republican candidate Donald Trump, meanwhile, has flip-flopped on the issue throughout the election, saying “wages are too high” during an early primary campaign debate, while later clarifying he is “very different from most Republicans” and would raise the national minimum wage without specifying by how much. The New York real estate mogul has since settled on raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour, while letting states set an “appropriate” rate.

Within the Senate race, the divide is clearer. In May, Democratic Senate challenger Katie McGinty announced her support for the Fight for $15 and for raising the minimum wage. Her opponent, Republican incumbent Pat Toomey, voted against a raise in 2014, claiming it would “wipe out hundreds of thousands of ... jobs.”

Issues like this have influenced Arthur Helms, a 60-year-old resident of the Hill District unaffiliated with Fight for $15, to vote Democrat “across the board.”

“If we don’t get the right party in office it will all be for nothing,” Helms said.

Helms, a U.S. Navy veteran, worked at Wendy’s for 20 years before retiring due to health issues he says were partially from Wendy’s “working [him] into the ground.” At the time he left the job, he was making only $9.20 an hour.

The veteran also said voting is key for young activists, as he saw not voting as a “a vote for Trump,” who Helms didn't think considered the issues of the African-American community.

He recalled the struggle of getting by on his low wage.

“I didn’t even know where my next meal was coming from,” Helms said. Even though he doesn’t work anymore, he still supports a $15 minimum wage as a way to support struggling families.

Chris Ellis, a Pittsburgh resident, organizer with Fight for $15, and Jimmy John’s worker, sees the fight as a way for workers to improve their lot as well as the lot of those around them.

“If we get $15, everybody will be happier,” Ellis said.

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