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Thursday, July 5, 2018

Posted By on Thu, Jul 5, 2018 at 2:49 PM

A screencap from Rika and Vix's YouTube channel
A screencap from Rika and Vix's YouTube channel
Her colorful blue head was sitting on a table and looking up at me smiling when I met Rika inside Downtown Pittsburgh's "Furryland" last week.

Rika is a furry. A blue Arctic fox, to be exact. She answered our call for local furries and graciously agreed to be photographed for our story on Anthrocon.

Rika, who also goes by "Vix N dwnq," prefers not to reveal her real name or say which neighborhood she lives in because she has a lot of fans she loves and appreciates - but she doesn't want them showing up unexpectedly at her front door.

Underneath the costume, Rika is a thin, cute 24-year-old. She speaks softly, but confidently, taking time to think over questions before she answers. She arrived at our photo shoot already dressed in costume and carrying her head. When she puts the fox head on, she gets into character right away: her voice gets higher and she waves, easily posing for the camera. A born furry model.

Behind the scenes: Photographer John Colombo poses Rika in Furryland - CP PHOTO BY LISA CUNNINGHAM
CP photo by Lisa Cunningham
Behind the scenes: Photographer John Colombo poses Rika in Furryland
Her first Anthrocon was in 2011, but she didn't identify as a furry until 2014. Since then, she's gotten local fame for her furry-themed artwork and her YouTube channel, which she said is the first furry-exclusive content channel to reach 100,000 subscribers. (She currently has 126,582.) On it, she records herself walking around in her fursuit, talking to the camera both in and out of character, and incorporates her original art into the videos.

Some of the best involve Vix (out of suit) talking with an animated version of Rika (in suit) together. Each video starts off with a high-pitched, cheerful "Boop boop!" It's adorable.

But her YouTube channel doesn't shy away from heavy topics, either. In a video last month that currently has over 20,000 views, she came out as asexual to her fans.

"I have people of all ages and gender identities come to me online and at cons to tell me how much I inspire them," Rika says in an email. "Some people have said I've saved their lives or made them feel welcome somewhere and that is always heartwarming to hear."

In another video that's a must-see for fans coming to Anthrocon this week, she teaches fans not to assume that all furries want to be touched or hugged.

Rika told us she has never been inappropriately touched while in her suit in Pittsburgh, even though she's been dressing in fursuits for years, including during Anthrocon, Pride, Arts Fest and other holidays.

But she wants people not to assume. For furries who want to head off unwanted touches, she sells a "Stop! Please Do Not Hug without permission" T-shirt.

She also designs characters, stickers and trading cards for other furries and herself, which she'll be passing out this weekend at Anthrocon. Plus, she made part of her own fursuit. Her friend made the body to her specs, and she commissioned the head, but she crafted the feet and hands.

A lot of furries on Twitter were shocked to see her holding a slice of pizza with her furry paws for the photo that ran with the article. Yes, pizza sauce did get on the fur. But Rika has a tip.

"Folex! I clean the stained area with Folex carpet cleaner and then wash them in the washing machine. Cold, hand wash, no dryer. Comes right out!"

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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Posted By on Tue, Jul 3, 2018 at 12:53 PM

When people take to the streets for several consecutive days, politicians tend to respond. The shooting death of Antwon Rose Jr., killed by East Pittsburgh officer Michael Rosfeld on June 19, has generated several protests over the past couple of weeks.

Now, one of Pittsburgh’s state senators is responding.

State Sen. Jay Costa (D-Forest Hills) will introduced a package of legislation aimed at improving police training at municipal police departments across the state.

“In the wake of tragic officer-involved shootings across the commonwealth, and the nation, I am developing and will be introducing legislation to address these situations,” said Costa in a press release. “I believe it is important that the General Assembly develop and enact legislation that provides improved training for police to know when to use force, particularly deadly force.”

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Posted By on Tue, Jul 3, 2018 at 10:12 AM

click to enlarge Pirates fans inside PNC Park - CP PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
Pirates fans inside PNC Park
Awoke Tuesday to a text message from a friend who had presumably been watching the Pirates "play" baseball the night before. It read: "when life gives you lemons, you make lemon ... f**k it, they're down 16, I need dopamine. Do they make dopeade?"

If only.

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Monday, July 2, 2018

Posted By on Mon, Jul 2, 2018 at 2:00 PM

CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
Sidney Crosby

We’re headed for another hockey season without hockey.

That is what Pittsburgh’s hockey fans should be thinking about a day after the NHL’s free-agent season opened. Instead, by the end of Day 1, most people were pondering other questions:

Are Jack Johnson and Matt Cullen secret ingredients in the Penguins’ next Stanley Cup formula? (Maybe. But think of them as flavor enhancers; the stew will be heartiest if Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang and Matt Murray are able to rest and properly train this summer, stay healthy and — in the cases of Letang and Murray — find their familiar forms heading into the playoffs next spring.)

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Posted By on Mon, Jul 2, 2018 at 1:56 PM

Pittsburghers are pretty patriotic. It was the Steel City that produced slabs of metal for tanks, planes, and boats during World War II. Patriotism is in our city's roots, too. Lewis and Clark's mission west started right here at the Point. So, it's no surprise that Pittsburghers go hard on the Fourth of July. This is our definitive guide on how to make your Fourth of July a little Pittsburgh extra.

1. Flags, flags, flags

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No Fourth of July would be complete without representing the good ol' stars and stripes. You'll notice many Pittsburghers have flags up year-round, but July 4th is definitely the day to go full on with the Red, White and Blue decor.

How to make it Pittsburgh extra?

In true Pittsburgh fashion of making everything Black and Gold, there is also a football variant banner. After all, you're in Black and Gold country. And what's more American than throwing the pigskin around? I think it could be argued that rocking any Pittsburgh sports jersey is about as American as rocking a flag shirt.

2. Burgers and franks

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Americans love their beef, and Pittsburgh is no exception. Burgers have become a symbol of the American diner, and hotdogs bring to mind good times at the local ballpark or strolls through Kennywood.

How to make it Pittsburgh extra?

Trade up that beef wiener for a kielbasa sausage. Go long-ways with a single sausage on a hot dog bun or cut two sausages at half the size on a burger bun. Liberally apply sauerkraut or Heinz ketchup.

3. Disposable cups and plates

On July 4th, we are not about that fine china life. Check your fancy table etiquette at the door. Just don't be an absolute pig—especially if you're at someone else's house. The last thing you need to worry about on July 4th is a bunch of messy dishes. Embrace the casual vibes.

How to make it Pittsburgh extra?

Yes, the red plastic cups are quintessentially American, but Pittsburgh's moving in a green direction. So, why not embrace this movement and opt for paper cups instead? It's 2018, and we have a lot more options than those dentist cups from the 1990s.

4. Pasta salad/potato salad

Bless the person that decided to call heaping portions of pasta and potato mixed with mayo a salad. Treat yourself this July 4th. We're not here to worry about carbs or calories. Embrace the excess afforded to you in this pretty awesome country and loosen that belt a notch!

How to make it Pittsburgh extra?

In Pittsburgh, we love our pickles and our condiments. Load up your potato salad with relish and mustard (and don't forget that paprika, too) to give your "salad" that Pittsburgh appeal.

5. Fireworks of questionable legality

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It wouldn't be July 4th without a touch of danger. We all have that one relative (the one that gets a little too excited around matches and gasoline) that comes equipped with fireworks straight from Nowheresville, Ohio. Our national anthem does reference bombs bursting in air. We're just really committed to recreating that on our backyard patio.

How to make it Pittsburgh extra?

Ask any Pittsburgher who Zambelli is and it becomes clear that this city has an unnatural obsession with fireworks. Fireworks are already a Pittsburgh staple, so just let 'em rip. Enough said.

6. Cornhole

What game works best with a bunch of tipsy friends loading up on carbs? Cornhole is that Twilight Zone anomaly where being buzzed is an advantage. There's no sharp objects or rigorous physical activity involved, so it's friendly for young and old.

How to make it Pittsburgh extra?

Make sure you achieve that perfect, balanced throw with a can of I.C. Light in one hand. Is it even cornhole if you don't have a drink, anyway?

7. Twinkle Lights

Achieve that hipster, Instagram-worthy aesthetic by throwing up some lights in your backyard. It may be the easiest way to transform your patio into a TJ Maxx commercial. Be the envy of your neighborhood by lighting it up. The electric bill will suffer, but your social life won't. Bonus points for Red, White and Blue lights to show your country pride. #murica

How to make it Pittsburgh extra?

We rep that Black and Gold, so go for gold lights instead of the standard white. It'll call to mind our city colors and bathe your entourage in the glow of warm light.

8. Cookie Table

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It wouldn't be a Pittsburgh party without a table dedicated to the cookie. Be extra and show your patriotism by throwing a little Red, White, and Blue into your sugar cookie mix. Elegantly place your confections on a platter, and now you're basically Martha Stewart 2.0.

How to make it Pittsburgh Extra?

Peanut butter blossoms have to make an appearance. Pizzelles are a welcome addition too.

9. Freeze pops

Freeze pops taste like the summers of childhood. I'm talking about the frozen sticks of corn syrup and dye placed in unusually heavy-duty plastic wrapping. (I can still feel the frustration of trying to rip one of these bad boys open.) Hand some out to the kiddies and have one for yourself. Cause you should ride that wave of nostalgia on July 4th. We are lucky to have grown up in a country that gave us pretty amazing childhood memories.

How to make it Pittsburgh extra?

There are some hardcore Otter Pop loyalists in this city, but you do you.

10. Water games

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Would it be a July 4th in Pittsburgh if it wasn't ridiculously hot? If you're not near a pool, grab some water balloons and Super Soakers to cool everyone down. The kids will love it, but who says adults can take part in the fun either? It's 2018 and being young-at-heart is completely acceptable. Leave your office-space decorum at the door.

How to make it Pittsburgh extra?

Many Pittsburgh neighborhoods are close to woods, so use the landscape for natural cover. You'll feel just a little bit more like Jason Bourne. *cue Moby soundtrack*

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Posted By on Mon, Jul 2, 2018 at 12:47 PM

click to enlarge Activist Jasiri X (right) and others protested Sunday outside of East Liberty Presbyterian Church - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Activist Jasiri X (right) and others protested Sunday outside of East Liberty Presbyterian Church
Typically marked by backyard picnics and fireworks, this past weekend before the Fourth of July instead continued Pittsburgh’s protesting trend.

More than 100 protesters shut down an intersection in East Liberty around noon Sunday. It was the latest of about a dozen protests in the wake of the shooting death of Antwon Rose Jr., killed by East Pittsburgh officer Michael Rosfeld on June 19. The Sunday demonstration was focused on the faith community’s role in advocating for the late Rose.

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