BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |
Friday, December 30, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2016 at 3:50 PM

Let's skip the whole "Fuck 2016" intro that seems to be ubiquitous in year-end lists this week and just jump into our most popular articles of the year. Sound good? Here they are.

News

For a year filled to the brim with surprises, it seems fitting that we kicked off the year with predictions from local psychics. When news editor Rebecca Addison first pitched the idea last December, she did not anticipate it becoming our most popular story of the year. But as the old maxim goes, "that's why you play the game."

"Three Pittsburgh psychics make predictions for 2016" by Rebecca Addison

Oh man, the timing on this. Frances Rupp's February edition of This Just In tackled some of former WTAE anchor Wendy Bell's questionable behavior just one month before she was fired for this Facebook post.

"This Just In: A look at local news online and on the tube" by Frances Sansig Rupp

One story that we'll continue to follow throughout 2017 is how Mayor Peduto will attempt to subvert and counter potential policies of the Trump administration. This was a good first step.

"Pittsburgh City Council introduces city ban on conversion therapy" by Ryan Deto

Arts

click to enlarge PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
Photo by Luke Thor Travis
Our news intern Tyler Dague did a great job capturing the weird kicks and thrills of an escape room outing.

"We go inside the escape-room phenomenon" by Tyler Dague

Movies

Even in a year of surprises, the fact that our most read movie review was a Swedish drama about a suicidal curmudgeon ranks pretty high. Where were the psychics on this one?

"A Man Called Ove" by Al Hoff

Music

Margaret Welsh's story about coming out in the Christian-music industry brought to light a lot of significant issues that don't get too much attention and clearly many readers connected with it.

"After a long hiatus, and high-profile coming-out, Christian-music veteran Jennifer Knapp moves forward" by Margaret Welsh

Food

click to enlarge CP PHOTO BY DREW CRANISKY
CP photo by Drew Cranisky
This one's not much of a shocker. People really like Old Fashioneds.

"The Old Fashioned never goes out of style" by Drew Cranisky

Stage

Chalk this one up to a flattering tweet from Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong.

"An American Idiot for the Black Lives Matter era" by Tyler Dague 

Sports

Pittsburgh likes its football and it especially likes being good at it.

"Wysocki: In terms of churning out talent, Aliquippa may be the greatest town in America" by Mike Wysocki

Thanks for reading. On to 2017.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2016 at 10:49 AM

click to enlarge Grab your free connect card before 2016 ends. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Grab your free connect card before 2016 ends.
Starting New Year's Day (Sun., Jan. 1, 2017), there will be a slew of changes coming to how riders pay for and ride on Port Authority of Allegheny County buses and light-rail cars. Most riders have probably been reminded hundreds of times by the media, Port Authority advertisements and bus drivers themselves, but Pittsburgh City Paper thought it prudent to offer one final reminder.

Also, Fri., Dec. 30, and Sat., Dec. 31, are the last days to get a free ConnectCard at the Downtown Port Authority Service Center at 534 Smithfield St., participating Giant Eagle grocery stores and a lots of other locations. ConnectCards will cost $1 starting Jan. 1, 2017. And you'll want to have one, because the cash fare is rising from $2.50 to $2.75; ConnectCard users will pay $2.50.

Since the $3.75 Zone 2 fare charge is being scrapped and all fares will be $2.75 or less, the changes should provide a boost to some suburban riders who rely on the bus to get around. And there are also some policy changes that could help riders with disabilities.

All the changes are outlined below:

Fares

  • $2.50 fare throughout whole system if using ConnectCard
  • $2.75 cash fare
  • $1 transfers using ConnectCard only (cash users will have to pay $2.75 again if transferring)
  • $1 fee to purchase new ConnectCards
  • 7-day pass available for purchase
  • Half-fare passes for people with disabilities will be available on ConnectCards, as will reduced-fare child passes eventually.
Riding
  • Pay-as-you-enter on all routes
  • Exit through back door(s) on all routes. (Riders unable to use back door can exit at front.)
  • Elimination of the Downtown free zone for bus rides. (Light-rail will still be free Downtown and to the North Shore.)
  • Suburban light-rail riders will operate on a honor system and will tap cards either in car or on receptacles on stations, starting July 2017.

Tags: , , ,

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 5:29 PM

The contentious rivalry between local ensembles Yoko Oboe and Oboe She Didn’t finally came to a close this year, making peace to create the new supergroup Oboes On Top. This loving homage to the oboe, fronted by notable local dentist Caroline Becker, is comprised of the previous groups' six tenor oboists (excluding holdout “Double” Reid Ciopelli for obvious reasons). You’d think the newly-formed sextet would opt for some harmonic range, but playing the oboe has never been about following rules. The all-tenor approach produces a stirring, borderline punitive timbre that calls to mind elementary school recorder recitals. Whether raising the roof with their no-holds barred reprise of “YMCA,” or riling up pep rallies with their disturbingly militaristic rendition of “Seven Nation Army,” O.O.T. now joins the ranks of Los L’Oboes and Oboe G.Y.N. among definitive entries in Pittsburgh’s storied oboe history. Thank God the two former rivals buried the hatchet this year. Let’s hope the violence is finally over this time.

2016 was Frobert’s last year on earth, but it was also among his most prolific. This year, the local outsider-folk auteur Frank Austin was featured in Vice and Pitchfork for his single “Don’t Smell My Coffin”; he finally broke into the college radio top ten with his 16th solo effort Frobsolescent; and Austin made his (much maligned) debut on Last Call With Carson Daly (spawning the famous “For shame, Carson!” meme). True to his curmudgeonly reputation, Austin maintained his moratorium on Pittsburgh media in 2016, which began 1990 when a young reporter from the Pittsburgh Press asked why he recorded solely on tape. His response: “Because tape is what I have!” Austin has never been confused for an amiable personality, but his music did the talking for him. Songs like “Crafton,” “Phone Bill” and “Let’s Make It Up” show that while some of his output was hard to swallow, at his core Austin was a brilliant, soulful songwriter capable of profound beauty. After 40+ years in the business — first with the seminal art-rock outfit JK Applesauce, and then with the lo-fi punk legends Toosh — Austin died at 71 from a severe heart attack in August. While the tributes were many and heartfelt, we know he’d just prefer us to keep listening to his music. Proceeds from album sales will go towards maintaining his Crafton home where he recorded every record of his career. With the help of his sister, the novelist Carrie Austin, 22 Grant will be renovated into the Frobert Museum in early 2018.

Don't be fooled by the name: Kids of Death is neither youthful or morbid. Comprised of a trio of childless uncles, KOD is a veritable institution of Pittsburgh eighties pop, what might’ve been called “normcore” had the term existed back then. The guitars were undistorted, the chords were unjazzy, the tempos were unfast and the lyrics were virtually devoid of metaphor. As singer Chip Grolsch told CP in 2011, “We started as a punk band, but we weren’t very good and we weren’t very punk. The punk crowds were kinder back then because there was so much less of it. We got by, made a couple records and a couple people bought them. But as we went on, we started to realize we didn’t want it. Piece by piece, our sound got cleaner and simpler and less aggressive over the years. By the time we put out Steal City in ’86, we started going by KOD and so most people had no idea we’d ever been anything but a pop group. The rest is history.” That history got the celebration it so sorely deserved this year when KOD performed Steal City in full at a 30th Anniversary party at Mr. Smalls. Let’s hope they’re around for another 30.

The world was introduced to the enigmatic force of nature known as AcoustiCarol at an open mic at Club Cafe in 2003 and needless to say, it’s never been the same. Carol Otis’ haunting falsetto needs no instrumental accompaniment, as she proved with her 2016 a cappella masterpiece Blue Jean Butterfly. Two minutes of the sultry “Dream Lotion” is enough to make a believer out of anyone. Though best known for her controversial performance of Exile’s “Kiss You All Over” at Mayor Peduto’s inauguration in 2014, which our own Charlie Deitch described as “upsettingly sexual,” Otis continues to defy expectations and break down walls well into her 70s. With Tim Tom (an album of Tom Waits and Tiny Tim covers) due in 2018, AcoustiCarol is proving once again that when it comes to music, no rules are unbreakable.

Here Comes Geoff finally broke through the cardboard ceiling this year with his minor novelty hit “(Let’s Order Beers From) The Pretty Waitress,” introducing his Rust Belt roadie charm to a whole new generation of listeners. Geoffrey Weleski is the lone member behind Here Comes Geoff, but his fans are many and rabid. According to his website, the “Ladies’ Night Lancelot” has performed at every bar in the city since first debuting in 1987. The legend goes that the 19-year old Weleski started bringing his acoustic guitar to the South Hills watering hole, Bolts (now closed), uninvited, and would sing songs in exchange for beer. He was underage, out of tune and incapable of maintaining any semblance of rhythm, but he was a hit. The “Happy Hour Hendrix” was born. Today, Weleski boasts a discography of 11 live albums (including the legendary Geoff at Jergels), thousands of shows, and three albums of originals. On the heels of “Pretty Waitress,” 2016’s Here Again proves Weleski is more than a jukebox, more than a barfly baritone, more than he was given credit for over his 25+ year career. Geoff is finally here and he’s not going anywhere.

After years of speculation, D.U.C.K.L.i.N.G. finally spilled the beans on the meaning behind their bandname. Don’t Underestimate Christian Kindness, Live in New Glory was a shocker for many of the city’s theistically unaffiliated, but that didn’t slow this Fox Chapel fivesome’s rise to metalcore royalty with their single, “The Hand That Feeds.” It didn’t stop there. The outfit’s sophomore effort ReawaKinding produced a half dozen hits popular in Australia, not least including “During The Flames,” “Hangman” and “She Is Risen.” With a third release, DUCKLiNG Psings Psalms, due in May 2017, this born again quintet is sure to rise again and again and again on the charts for years to come.

In a year replete with great losses to music industry, there was a sliver of a silver lining in the return of the iconic weirdo-rock collective JK Applesauce. The release of Rectangle Penis in July marked the end of a 33 year drought, following the departure of founding member Frank Austin in 1983. With the remaining founders deceased (Megan Lally, Justice Price, Jenny Watts, Matt Ang, Dino Washington, Claire Nunez, Davy “Bones” Walker) or in prison (Jack Watts, Bobby Mueller, Pete Gore, Leslie Berger), only Mark Appel lives on to carry the freak flag for this influential art-rock powerhouse. As Appel told Margaret Welsh in July, “JK Applesauce is bigger than me, bigger than Frank or Leslie or Dino or any of us. Our mission was and is simple: to invoke perfect discomfort, to manifest discord, to make melody cancerous and consonance a shivering fawn. JK Applesauce is poison and it’s delicious.” Well. However you want to describe it, Penis is a tour de force. “Scrimshaw Saul” is as close as the album comes to a single, but time has aged their funky aesthetic well, updating their lo-fi production with a more palatable sound. Of course, “palatable” is relative when it comes to JKA, but it’s nice to know that this monster of rock oddity is capable of evolving while maintaining its edge. As Appel sings on the title track, “Stop eating my cameras, I’m sick of looking at your shit, your rectangle penis is yesterday’s news, tomorrow is another it.”

Tags: ,

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 11:27 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
Photo by Luke Thor Travis
Pittsburgh's annual Menorah Parade traveled last night from the Rodef Shalom Temple in Oakland to the Waterfront shopping center in Homestead, where people celebrated the fifth night of Hanukkah under the Homestead Grays Bridge.

The festivities included games, food, live music by popular Jewish rock band 8th Day, and the lighting of a 12-foot grand menorah. Check out scenes from the celebration in our slideshow below by Luke Thor Travis.


Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Posted By on Wed, Dec 28, 2016 at 6:05 PM

click to enlarge Advocates for Martin Esquivel-Hernandez outside the Federal Building, Dowtown - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Advocates for Martin Esquivel-Hernandez outside the Federal Building, Dowtown
Updated 11 a.m. 12/29: U.S. Judge Donetta Ambrose of the Western District of Pennsylvania has accepted the plea agreement of Martin Esquivel-Hernandez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant and Pittsburgh resident currently facing deportation, which downgrades his charge to misdemeanor illegal possession of an identification document. He was initially charged with felony illegal re-entry, and if convicted of that charge, his deportation would be almost automatic.

In courtroom 3B inside the federal courthouse, Downtown, Esquivel-Hernandez pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 89 days incarceration, which will be considered time-served because he has spent the last eight months in detention, and no fine or supervised release will be imposed. Esquivel-Hernandez's lawyer, Sally Frick, said at the hearing that this misdemeanor charge and sentence of less than 90 days gives him a good chance at avoiding deportation.

"[Esquivel-Hernandez] knows he has immigration consequences upcoming," said Frick to Judge Ambrose. "So it's necessary for him to have only a misdemeanor and less than a 90 day sentence."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Hull, who is prosecuting the case on behalf of the U.S. government, agreed not to oppose the recommendation of lessening the charge to a misdemeanor and sentencing Esquivel-Hernandez to less than 90 days. Esquivel-Hernandez pleaded guilty to intentionally using another man's VISA document when he attempted to cross the border in Nogales, Ariz. in December 2011.

Esquivel-Hernandez spoke during the hearing, asking for leniency from Judge Ambrose before she accepted the plea and sentenced him. "I [used an illegal ID] because I needed to be with my family," said a teary-eyed Esquivel-Hernandez in Spanish. "Anyone would do anything, even the impossible, to be with their family."

Ambrose said she accepted the plea and granted a variance to only sentence Esquivel-Hernandez to 89 days because she believed he was telling the truth about his intentions to enter the U.S. and because he has been a positive force in the Pittsburgh community.

"I understand that defrauding the U.S is a serious crime, but I believe its true when [Esquivel-Hernandez] speaks to me, that you are some who is civic minded and loves his family," Ambrose said to Esquivel-Hernandez. "[Esquivel-Hernandez shows] nothing that threatens society in any way. I believe your motives were pure in coming here."

After the sentencing, Esquivel-Hernandez was taken by U.S. Marshals back to the private, for-profit prison in Youngstown, Ohio where he will be handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforce (ICE). ICE will then decide whether to deport Esquivel-Hernandez.

Guillermo Perez, of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, has been advocating for Esquivel-Hernandez and said after the hearing that this was a victory made possible by the seven months of advocacy by labor groups, faith leaders and immigrant and Latino activists. But, he added that now the groups supporting Esquivel-Hernandez must turn their attention to ICE.

Perez said that because of Esquivel-Hernandez's lesser conviction and sentence of less than 90 days, he is not a "priority" for deportation, under ICE's current guidelines. ICE has shown they often ignore these guidelines, but Perez said LCLAA will submit a letter to ICE detailing how Esquivel-Hernandez doesn't fit into any category for deportation and will ask the agency to practice prosecutorial discretion and release Esquivel-Hernandez.

"[President Barack Obama's] administration has said it deports felons, not families," said Perez. "Well, [Esquivel-Hernandez] is not a felon and he has a family."

Alma Brigido, Esquivel-Hernandez's wife, was present in the courtroom during the hearing. Together they have three children, including a U.S. citizen son. Brigido said in Spanish through a translator, that she felt good about the result of the hearing, because "in a way it is good news."

She is still worried about what ICE will do concerning Esquivel-Hernandez, but is not giving up the fight to keep Esquivel-Hernandez in Pittsburgh. "[Keeping Esquivel-Hernandez] here is something we have to fight for," she said.

———

On Thu., Dec. 29, Martin Esquivel-Hernandez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant and Pittsburgh resident currently facing deportation, hopes to reach a plea deal reached with Western Pennsylvania District U.S. Attorney Soo Song. It will give him a better chance at avoiding deportation, and potentially return him to his family.

Song contacted Esquivel-Hernandez’s lawyer, Sally Frick, the afternoon of Dec. 28 to notify her that the U.S. Attorney’s office was open to negotiating with Esquivel-Hernandez. According to Antonia Domingo, of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), which has been advocating for Esquivel-Hernandez for months, a deal has been reached that would reduce Esquivel-Hernandez’s felony illegal re-entry charge to a misdemeanor, and keep him off the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) “Priority Deportation” list. The plea deal still must be approved by a judge.

Esquivel-Hernandez has been living in Pittsburgh for more than four years, where he has been an advocate for immigrant rights, better Spanish-language service in public schools, and a devout parishioner at two local churches. In May 2016, he was taken by ICE the day after he marched in an immigrants-rights rally in Beechview. Esquivel-Hernandez had traveled more than 5,000 miles to escape gang violence in Mexico City and reunite with his family, who had immigrated to the U.S. in 2012 before him. He has no criminal record beside two minor traffic violations.

News of his potential plea deal was announced on Dec. 28 at a rally in front of the U.S. Courthouse, Downtown, where more than 80 supporters had gathered to call for his release. A previous plea deal was rejected last month by Esquivel-Hernandez because that new charge would have still been a felony, almost guaranteeing his deportation. Guillermo Perez, of LCLAA, said to the crowd that the new plea was a small victory, and that now the advocates must turn their attention to ICE.

ICE still has a detainer on Esquivel-Hernandez, and because he has been deported before, he is not guaranteed an immigration hearing. Kai Pang, of labor coalition Pittsburgh United, who has also taken up advocating for Martin, said that ICE should release Esquivel-Hernandez and return him to his wife and three children (the youngest is a U.S. citizen). Esquivel-Hernandez has been held at a for-profit, private prison in Youngstown, Ohio for more than seven months.

“What a waste of time and resources to try and deport this man who has helped this community so much,” said Pang at the rally. “This is the kind of person we want in this community.”

Mike Saber, a Swissvale resident, came out to support Esquivel-Hernandez because he wants to “make Pittsburgh a better place” and stand up for people being treated unfairly.

“We need to be an inclusive society,” said Saber at the rally. “Where there is injustice, there really cannot be justice.”

If the plea deal is approved by a judge, Esquivel-Hernandez will most likely be taken into ICE custody and possibly deported. Perez said LCLAA plans to submit a prosecutorial discretion letter to ICE that might convince them to free Esquivel-Hernandez. However, Perez notes that ICE has no obligation to release Esquivel-Hernandez and can deport him regardless.

Pang said at the rally that this is why the community must continue to fight for Esquivel-Hernandez's freedom. “We will be out here fighting until [Esquivel-Hernandez] is brought home.”

Margaret Philbin, of the U.S. Attorney's office, said local rules of the court do not allow the office to comment at this time.

According to Domingo, Esquivel-Hernandez's plea hearing is scheduled at 9:15 a.m. on Thu., Dec. 29 at the U.S. Courthouse, 700 Grant Street, Downtown.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Friday, December 23, 2016

Posted By on Fri, Dec 23, 2016 at 11:48 AM

click to enlarge A few members of City Paper's editorial staff with Santa Terry Jones and elf, Mike Wysocki - PHOTO BY JOHN COLOMBO
Photo by John Colombo
A few members of City Paper's editorial staff with Santa Terry Jones and elf, Mike Wysocki
Even if they won't admit it, most everybody loves some form of holiday music. I spent some time putting together what I think is a good mix of tunes to go with a Merry Christmas ("Zat You Santa Claus") to a not-so-Merry Christmas ("Don't Shoot Me Santa"). It's also got something from local holiday singing legend, B.E. Taylor and an almost six-minute version of "Angels We have Heard on High" by Donnie Iris and the Cruisers. Also, no letters, I know "Hazy Shade of Winter" isn't a Christmas song, but I fucking like it!

So sit back, listen and have a great holiday... Or don't, who are we to tell you what to do. Either way, we've got you covered.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2016 at 1:10 PM

If you’ve ever wondered why City Paper’s longtime lead theater critic, Ted Hoover, never reviews Shakespeare, we’ve left it to this ace nationally syndicated radio magazine to publicize the answer.

In a segment that premiered last week, Hoover explains why he thinks Shakespeare, despite centuries of adulation, actually stinks.

The seven-minute segment, available online, starts at about the show's 34-minute mark.

If you’ve never checked out Studio 360, this is a great excuse. The amusing yet insightful interview continues the program’s informal series on “things you hate that everyone else loves.” (Andy Newman, a Studio 360 producer, knew Hoover from Newman’s days, some years ago, as CP’s editor.)

Studio 360 (which airs locally on Sundays on WESA 90.5 FM) is produced by WYNC and PRI.

Tags: , , ,

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 1:07 PM

click to enlarge Denzel Washington with Fences producer Todd Black and executive producer Molly Allen - CP PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
Denzel Washington with Fences producer Todd Black and executive producer Molly Allen
In an interview last month, Fences star and director Denzel Washington mentioned a Hill District man who lives behind the house where much of the filming for the movie was done. According to Washington, the man, known only as Mr. Greenlee, frequently offered the crew coffee.

"The neighborhood was a part of making the film; the energy, everybody’s love for August," Washington said in the interview. "Mr. Greenlee, who lived behind the house we used for Troy and Rose’s house, became a part of the movie. He’d always come out, ask. 'Hey, what are you doing?' 'We’re shooting Mr. Greenlee.' 'All right. Want some coffee?' That’s all he’d ask, do we want coffee."

Last night, at a private screening of the film, based on the play by Pittsburgh native August Wilson, Washington took time out of his brief comments to recognize Mr. Greenlee for his hospitality.

The screening at SouthSide Works Cinemas was for local film cast and crew along with residents of the Hill District where much of the film was shot.

"I know you'll enjoy it. It started here. It's only right that we finish it here," Washington said. "This is our last screening. I wanted to get back here to Pittsburgh. August Wilson belongs to you. Pittsburgh belongs to you. Fences belongs to you."

The story of Fences, based on Wilson's 1983 play, centers around a man struggling to provide for his family in the 1950s.

"People have been asking me everywhere we go, what do I want people to get from this movie and I tell them, it depends on what you bring to it," said Washington. "For some it's mothers, for some it's sons, for some it's fathers."
click to enlarge CP PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
CP photo by Luke Thor Travis

Fences is one of Hill District-born playwright Wilson's 10 plays set in each decade from 1900 to 1990, known as the Pittsburgh Cycle. Paramount Pictures originally purchased the rights to the film in 1987, but it took nearly two decades for the film to be made because Wilson insisted on a black director.

“He's one of the greatest writers not just in American history, but world history,” Washington said. “It is a pleasure and honor, a responsibility and a privilege to bring this to the screen. The responses have been more than we could have imagined."

Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 11:45 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF WWE.COM
Photo Courtesy of WWE.com
Let’s be real here: I’m a huge fan of the wrestling entertainment industry. Each time I encounter a naysayer, those, “You know it’s fake, right?” scrooges and skeptical grumps, all I want to do is drag them to a live WWE event and let them witness the magic. There are few things in this world that feel more electric than descending into the 100s of the PPG Paints Arena to be greeted by an untouched wrestling ring accented with extravagant Jumbotrons bearing the namesake of the event.

Sunday night was no different, as the (albeit, pretty small) crowd was full of excitement from the young and old who gathered to watch fas
click to enlarge Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns at WWE Roadblock - PHOTO COURTESY OF WWE.COM
Photo Courtesy of WWE.com
Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns at WWE Roadblock
t-paced, carefully choreographed fights built upon dramatic story lines and hear some tremendous smack talk in the name of WWE’s 15th and final pay-per-view of the year, Roadblock: End of the Line.

If that sounds like a lot of pay-per-views, it is. The amount of PPVs, in my humble opinion, dilutes the opportunity for creative story lines or big shocks because there are just way too many to manage in addition to the weekly appearances of RAW and Smackdown Live. Everything that happened at this PPV totally could have happened on a loaded episode of RAW, but I’m hoping that we get a crazy RAW to complement the action witnessed at Roadblock.

That said, there was some incredible wrestling and storytelling witnessed at Roadblock: EOTL. Here’s the match-by-match breakdown:

Rusev def. Big Cass by Count Out
It is a real shame that his match was a pre-show event, because Enzo Amore’s smack talking was on fire last night (I’m still chuckling about the Wikileaks digs at Rusev’s wife, Lana the Ravishing Russian). There was so much RAW hype leading up to this event with the hotel room beat down of Enzo two weeks ago and the “Rusev and Lana: Behind Closed Doors” promo last week, so for this to be relegated to the pre-show was pretty odd. It also was rather by the book, ending with a count out so neither wrestler looked weak. I understand neither Big Cass nor Rusev can afford to look weak given their gimmicks, but the match’s outcome was no surprise.

Cesaro & Sheamus def. The New Day to become the new tag-team Champions

After just beating Demolition’s record as the longest reigning WWE World Tag Team Champions, The New Day lost in an incredible match to the odd couple of Cesaro & Sheamus. It was a bit of a shock to see the New Day lose their title so quickly after beating the record, but the extra cheating shenanigans seem to indicate they’re headed for a total heel turn, which should be pretty cool. The wrestling was excellent, Cesaro and Sheamus’ fake tag at the end to win the match was genius, and the crowd’s hilarious split reactions to Sheamus (boos) and Cesaro (cheers) was almost absurd. Overall, this match was a highlight of the night.

Sami Zayn def. Braun Strowman by surviving 10 minutes in the ring with Strowman
When WWE must put an explainer description on the results of this match, you know it wasn’t great. I’ll be frank, this match was a confusing waste of time. I have no idea who they’re trying to build up, the only good part was the last few minutes, and I don’t understand why they are wasting Zayn’s talent as a dynamic wrestler to pin him against some brute force whose gimmick is literally being big and scary and undefeatable, despite the fact he’s not even close to an actual championship story line.

Unless Nia Jaxx (the brute force, undefeatable woman wrestler on RAW’s roster) and Strowman start to feud, I really have no comprehension of what Braun’s shtick or purpose is. Give Sami Zayn a championship run or at least have him beef with someone that will give the crowd some fast-paced, high-flying action instead of this boring, predictable beat down nonsense.

Seth Rollins def. Chris Jericho

This match was a lot of fun to watch, complete with a little Kevin Owens interference to solidify the rift in JerichKO’s beautiful bromance. It was a necessary set up for what turned out to be the main event, and it showed off the prowess of both superstars. All around a great match to witness, even if I really had a hard time picking who I wanted to win because I love both superstars and their gimmicks.

Rich Swann def. TJ Perkins and The Brian Kendrick to retain the Cruiserweight belt
The Cruiserweight match was pretty cool. Swann is such an awesome, charismatic character. His intro music is fun, he’s so speedy and dynamic. The match was pretty good, technical as most Cruiserweight matches are, but there was noticeably less of the acrobatic action that makes this weight class fun to watch in the first place.

In response, the crowd was pretty quiet, but the character development of these wrestlers is split between three shows: RAW, Smackdown, and 205 Live, so you can’t blame the audience for being a little cold. The crowd did pop, however, when Neville aka “The Man that Gravity Forgot” came out after the match and tured heel, whooping everyone in the ring starting with Rich Swann. I’m excited to see what Neville does in the division.

Charlotte def. Sasha Banks in an Ironman Match in Sudden Death Overtime to regain the Women’s Championship Title
Charlotte arrived first, starkly alone after disowning her father, Ric Flair, and pushing away her usual allies in the name of winning on her own. It was refreshing to see her alone and assured, but the crowd erupted when Sasha Bank’s music began. Banks is just such a likable character for her scrappy youth and bravery. The minute the timer started for this 30-minute ironman match, the crowd was invested. It was tense, it was defiant. There were moments of shock, comebacks from both superstars, and so much tension, all of which built up to its conclusion in sudden death overtime.

As much as I didn’t want this match to be predictable, I think we all deep-down knew that Charlotte was going to win, as she always wins during PPVs and Sasha always wins on RAW. This match, thirty minutes of brain and brawn trying to outsmart the other for the most pins, had some excellent and impressive moments, but it ended the way it always ends. Charlotte Flair works a previously injured limb, eventually Sasha taps to the figure eight, roll the credits. This was supposed to be the end of Charlotte and Sasha’s long-standing beef (please, God, let this be the end), but I guess we’ll see on Monday Night RAW.
click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF WWE.COM
Photo Courtesy of WWE.com

Kevin Owens def. Roman Reigns via disqualification to retain the WWE Universal Title
I went into this match expecting a lot of the same old, same old, but I was pleasantly surprised by the action and big hits from both Owens and Reigns. At this point I desperately had to pee, but I stuck around until the end because I wanted to see who would overcome. Of course, Kevin Owens did not win fair and square (he’s a heel, after all) and won thanks to the interference of Jericho. Interesting that Jericho chose to go after Owens instead of Reigns to secure the DQ, but nonetheless we get that picture perfect hug of two friends forgiving each other after hard times. I can’t wait to see that friendship implode for good, because that feud is going to be magical.

My favorite part of this match may have been the surprise Shield reunion after its conclusion, complete with both Jericho and Kevin Owens getting hucked through announcer tables (swoon). Watching Reigns and Rollins team up, fist bump and all, was a super fun conclusion to a middling PPV.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, December 19, 2016

Posted By on Mon, Dec 19, 2016 at 5:00 PM

click to enlarge Chelsa Wagner - CP PHOTO BY REBECCA ADDISON
CP photo by Rebecca Addison
Chelsa Wagner
Several entities have been blamed for issues at the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority over the past few years. First customers had issues with inaccurate and untimely bills. Then the public was outraged by an across-the-board rate hike. And most recently, Pittsburghers have been reeling at news that the PWSA's water surpassed the federal lead limit.

Pittsburgh city government has blamed Veolia, the private company hired to manage PWSA, and Veolia has in turn blamed city government for the issues. And now Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner is bringing another party into the fold: the Allegheny County Health Department.

At a press conference today, the controller's office said the ACHD, had a responsibility to monitor the growing problem of lead contamination in the county to better protect and inform the public.

"The Allegheny County Health Department has not prioritized the issue of lead contamination in public drinking water," Wagner said. "The health department's stated mission is to protect, promote and preserve the health and well-being of all Allegheny County residents, particularly the most vulnerable. The safety of our drinking water is paramount for the safety of our residents. The rising lead levels that residents, especially within the footprint of PWSA have been subjected to, are not acceptable."

According to Wagner, ACHD has primary oversight over the 36 public water systems in Allegheny County, including PWSA. But that oversight comes by way of a verbal agreement, not a written one. Now, the controller's office is calling on the ACDH to secure a written agreement.

"No one locally should take the concerns of lead in the water, lightly, most especially the Allegheny County Health Department who as I said have primary authority for inspection and oversight of public water systems," Wagner said. "It's time for the health department to step up, it's time for county leadership to step up, as it's time for city leadership to step up."

The controller's office launched their audit in March 2016. Overall the audit found that moving forward, ACDH oversight is necessary to ensure acceptable drinking water quality at the PWSA and other water systems in the county.

"Our purpose in this audit was evaluating the county health department's performance with respect to water quality and drinking water quality," said Wagner. "We wanted to answer such questions as this: What is the Allegheny Health Department doing to confirm the validity of water quality data submitted by municipal water authorities? And I will tell you that's still a question that remains."

The audit's major recommendation is for the ACDH to take action to validate the testing data collected by the PWSA and to perform additional testing.

"To date there has been no effort to independently test and validate the quality of water in Pittsburgh. So when is this going to happen? This I believe is our biggest problem right now. We don't know what we don't know and our government, our county, our city governments are leaving us hanging and that is not acceptable, certainly not acceptable on an issue as critical as the quality of our drinking water.

"Our findings show that the health department has neglected to play a leadership role in confronting the issue of lead in our drinking water, with additional testing and monitoring and with better communication with the public. ACHD did not validate and they did not perform additional testing."

Wagner isn't the first person to question the validity of PWSA's testing. In a Pittsburgh City Paper article published last week, we talked to one of the country's foremost water quality experts who said the PWSA's methods were flawed.

"The testing by water providers is neither scientifically rigorous nor tightly monitored," said Wagner. "Reports have indicated that PWSA's testing was heavily concentrated in one of the city's most affluent zip codes, 15217, which is Squirrel Hill and Point Breeze ,and that also in past rounds of testing the vast majority of samples came from homes of PWSA employees."

And even Wagner isn't immune to the barriers Pittsburghers have had to testing the water coming from the faucets in their homes. A test she sent in August was lost and another sent in November has yet to be returned.

"A proper role for the health department, which is responsible for oversight, would be to examine the methodology used for testing, to determine if those methodologies are adequate, to perform additional testing and validate the results if that is necessary, and to determine the actual risk level when levels are shown to be high," said Wagner. "To date, no one has provided independent oversight or verification of testing. This is the point I believe should keep us all awake at night."

In response to the controller's office's recommendation that the ACDH validate testing, the ACDH wrote in the audit: "The ACDH, nor any other enforcement agency, actually performs the tests as testing is the responsibility of the public water system."

Among the other recommendations in the audit, the controller's office says the ACDH should implement public information and education efforts to make the public more aware if a water supplier is approaching or exceeding dangerous lead levels.

"Following the revelations in Flint, nearly 400 PWSA customers requested water tests," said Wagner. "But what many of those [customers] probably didn't realize is that at that time, their own water system, in the Fall of 2015, had been inching dangerously close to the EPA action level. Their own system was already reporting 14.8 parts per billion, just two tenths parts per billion shy of the action level set by the EPA."

Wagner emphasized the importance of better educating the public, saying that the extent of the harmful effects of lead remain unknown.

"We know that health experts and researchers stress that just because a lead level is below 15 parts per billion, it does not mean there is no risk. Quite the contrary," Wagner said. "In fact the World Health Organization and the EPA acknowledge that there is no safe level of lead in drinking water. Researchers studying Flint's water, have cited levels of five parts per billion to be of concern for the health of young children. And of course we now know that in the most recent round of testing PWSA did exceed 15 parts per billion. So it's certainly not a stretch to say we have a drinking water crisis here in Pittsburgh."

In response to the controller's call for better education, the ACDH said they were doing what they have been required to by the EPA. In their response they also noted that the "ACDH has responded to all queries from the public about lead in drinking water stemming from concerns about the Flint Michigan crisis."

Tags: , , , , , ,

  • Pretty Ugly

    @ James Gallery

    Mondays-Saturdays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Nov. 2