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Friday, December 27, 2019

Posted By on Fri, Dec 27, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Editor's note: As 2019 comes to an end, I've asked Pittsburgh City Paper's editorial staff to select their five favorite stories from this year. Relive staff writer Jordan Snowden's 2019 highlights below. — Lisa Cunningham
click to enlarge CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
The Music Issue // June 19, 2019
Man, oh man, did I get a lot of slack for this issue.
"What are they wearing?"
"Women in Pittsburgh don't look like this!"
"They need to put more clothes."

People were so enamored with, so distracted by, the cover (a cover that my friends and I, who regularly attend shows, posed for) that they missed the great coverage on the inside. I didn't expect for five women, who were showing a little leg, to cause such a ruckus. And it hurt.

The Music Issue was my baby. Besides posing for the cover, I curated each story, I edited them, I wrote the intro, I wrote the feature story, and I hand-picked a diverse selection of additions and changes in the Pittsburgh music scene — a scene that is thriving. The CP staff covered things like unconventional music venues in the city and how local promoters are adjusting to the boom in the concert industry yet, it was lost in the male-gaze and traditional views of how women should present themselves.

But The Music Issue is something I'm extremely proud of. I hadn't even been at the paper a year at the point that this came out. And I will continue to stand behind it.

click to enlarge The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s Fiddlesticks in action with (L) Resident Conductor Andrés Franco and (R) guest vocalist Katy Williams. - PHOTO: ED DEARMITT/PITTSBURGH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA.
Photo: Ed DeArmitt/Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s Fiddlesticks in action with (L) Resident Conductor Andrés Franco and (R) guest vocalist Katy Williams.
Q&A with Fiddlesticks // Oct. 16, 2019
It's not often you get to interview a mascot musical cat. This Q&A is one of my favorites because it's just pure fun — a healthy dose of positive content.

I had a blast coming up with questions to ask and Fiddlesticks gave amusing and engaging answers (I'm also 99.9% sure it's the first and only Fiddlestick interview out there). Like, did you know Fiddlestick lives in Heinz Hall? And his favorite food is macaroni and cheese? The editorial team was saying 'Fiddlesticks' for days.

click to enlarge INEZ plays drums at the YMCA Lighthouse Project - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
INEZ plays drums at the YMCA Lighthouse Project
INEZ releases her debut album // Dec. 18, 2019
I never felt an emotional attachment to a story until this one. I finished the story almost a week before the paper came out, and I had butterflies in my stomach every day leading up to its release.

I was excited to share INEZ's journey, one that was riddled with loss and hardship yet resulted in a beautiful album about her process of maturing. But it wasn't just about her, it was about the strong Black women in her life that lifted her up when she was down. (This is a recurring theme in INEZ's life and the Pittsburgh music scene, which I wrote about earlier in the year.)

So I was excited, but also scared. Did I give her story justice? Would others love it as much as I did? Am I doing my part to uplift the Black community?

I ran into local musician Clara Kent at an event a few weeks before. She thanked me for my support of the music scene and for helping give a voice to Black creatives that would otherwise be overlooked. "You don't know the impact you've had already," she said. "But remember, you don't need to do it all. You can't carry everyone on your back." Yet, I still constantly feel like I can do more. This story helped me believe in Clara's words. The love and support INEZ received was overwhelming. I'm doing the best I can, with my words, and people are noticing.

click to enlarge CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM // CP ILLUSTRATION: ABBIE ADAMS
CP photo: Jared Wickerham // CP illustration: Abbie Adams
Pittsburgh craft beer scene pairs well with local musicians // Oct. 9, 2019
&
A chat with Mumford & Sons' Winston Marshall // March 13, 2019
This is a two-for-one pick (sorry Lisa), because — keeping in the same vein of learning about myself — these two articles both helped me grow as a writer.

The beer piece allowed me to realize I can try longer, newsier stories — it's my longest story to date. I mulled over all the information I gathered for hours, stressed and overwhelmed, wanting to throw in the towel every second of the way. But I f*cking finished it, and it was the cover story for the Oct. 9 issue.

For the Mumford & Sons interview, I barely got any sleep the night before. Me, a little writer from an alt-weekly, was interviewing a member of an internationally recognized band. But then as soon as I heard Winston Marshall's voice on the phone, the knot of nerves I had melted away. He was friendly and easygoing, and it didn't seem like an inconvenience to be talking to me. It gave me the confidence and reassurance that I could interview anyone.

Tipsy on kombucha, not bad // Feb. 6, 2019
I got drunk at work via one of my favorite beverages and then proceeded to not-soberly write it at my desk. 'Nuff said. 

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Posted By on Thu, Dec 26, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Editor's note: As 2019 comes to an end, I've asked Pittsburgh City Paper's editorial staff to select their five favorite stories from this year. Relive managing editor Alex Gordon's 2019 highlights below. — Lisa Cunningham
click to enlarge 40th Street Bridge - CP PHOTO: ALEX GORDON
CP photo: Alex Gordon
40th Street Bridge
Bike courier cleans 40th Street Bridge // Feb. 27, 2019
Nothing against publicists or press releases, but it's always nice to find a neighborhood story organically. In this case, it was the story I stumbled on of Dani Kramer, a bike courier who took it upon herself to independently maintain the snow and trash on the sidewalks of the 40th Street Bridge. At the time when I started reporting on it, the bridge constituted a no-man's-land jurisdictionally speaking: PennDOT, Millvale DPW, and the city of Pittsburgh all rejected responsibility for maintaining snow and trash removal on the bridge's pedestrian walkways. But there was a happy ending: After years of advocating, the city finally took responsibility and Pittsburgh DPW has been handling it since.

click to enlarge The Dirt Rag peanut butter burger at Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
The Dirt Rag peanut butter burger at Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe
Serving burgers with peanut butter // Feb. 27, 2019
File this one under passion project: I love peanut butter on cheeseburgers and wrote a short history of the dish. I learned a lot but was also pretty satisfied that the answer as to why the unconventional combination worked was basically, "because it does."

click to enlarge Shantel Cummings, Connie Dorsett, Harrison Apple, Jojo Gilbert, and Dani Lamorte, in a promotional video for the One More Time Ball in 2013 - TRANSQ TELEVISION AT CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY
TransQ Television at Carnegie Mellon University
Shantel Cummings, Connie Dorsett, Harrison Apple, Jojo Gilbert, and Dani Lamorte, in a promotional video for the One More Time Ball in 2013
Pittsburgh Queer History Project // June 5, 2019
I'm always interested in stories about the intersection of digital and tactile media, and the Pittsburgh Queer History Project is a beautiful example of how to thoughtfully combine the two. The curator, Harrison Apple, enlightened me (and hopefully some of our readers) about lesser-known aspects of queer life in Pittsburgh over the past four decades. I won't forget our talk anytime soon.

click to enlarge Miles Saal - PHOTO: CORRINE JASMIN
Photo: Corrine Jasmin
Miles Saal
Exhibit commemorates Miles Saal's art // Oct. 9, 2019
Writing this story about the suicide of Miles Saal, aka Pittsburgh artist Yung Mulatto, involved talking to his parents and friends about intimate and painful memories, and I struggled to balance the desire to know more about him and wanting to respect the privacy and grief of the people I talked to. But everyone shared really beautiful and vulnerable stories with me, and I finished the story feeling more hopeful than I'd expected. There's no silver lining with a story like this, but it's encouraging to hear stories from strong people working to turn pain into positive change.

click to enlarge Princess Jafar at Kelly Strayhorn Theater in March - PHOTO: BETH BARBIS
Photo: Beth Barbis
Princess Jafar at Kelly Strayhorn Theater in March
Princess Jafar caps busy 2019 with two shows // Nov. 26, 2019
I've been a fan of Princess Jafar for a couple of years and was thrilled to finally speak with her for this article. Her public persona is fittingly acerbic and hilarious, but our talk was anything but. Generally speaking, questions like "what TV are you watching?" don't deliver the most memorable or relevant answers, but once Princess Jafar got going on Alf and Dick Cavett, it illuminated an unexpected connection to her work and comedy style that I think made it a pretty compelling interview. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Posted By on Wed, Dec 25, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Editor's note: As 2019 comes to an end, I've asked Pittsburgh City Paper's editorial staff to select their five favorite stories from this year. Relive staff writer Josh Oswald's 2019 highlights below. — Lisa Cunningham
click to enlarge CP PHOTO: JOSH OSWALD
CP photo: Josh Oswald
Figuring out what the hell they sell at Pool City // March 5, 2019
Pool City's biggest sellers are getting drunk and sitting down is one of my favorite stories of last year, because I got to fulfill my lifelong dream of going to Pool City. I was the only customer in there for most of my visit, there was broken glass on the floor, and I wanted to buy 90% of what they were selling.

Yinzer Mingle // Feb. 13, 2019
I came up with the idea for
Yinzer Mingle (like Christian Mingle) — a dating app for yinzers — during an editorial meeting where other writers were talking about how awful dating apps were. I knew then, I could make the worst dating app. It was great fun to animate a commercial for the app and create a mockup of how the app would work.

I voted for myself and won // Dec. 9, 2019
This story wrote itself. I wrote myself in for a commissioner’s seat in a local election — mainly because I thought HAD to vote for three candidates and I didn’t know who some were — and I won one of the three seats. When I went to a FedEx to get the election forms notarized for filing, the employees told me they didn’t have a notary and that Google has them listed incorrectly. That’s when another customer, who happened to be a notary with her stamp in her purse, notarized my forms for free. This was meant to be.

click to enlarge The Meadows Racetrack & Casino - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
The Meadows Racetrack & Casino
Playing the ponies Western Pennsylvania style // May 1, 2019
This story combined two of my favorite hobbies, drinking and gambling. It is also the longest story I’ve written and the most difficult in trying to find a common theme within my visits to different horse gambling spots. And I got to interview Bob Nastanovich, who would have talked about horses for days if we had the time.

click to enlarge SCREENCAP FROM WENDY BELL'S ANNOUNCEMENT VIDEO
Screencap from Wendy Bell's announcement video
Who invited Wendy Bell again?! // Aug. 29, 2019
I wrote this for all the people of Pittsburgh. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Posted By on Tue, Dec 24, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Editor's note: As 2019 comes to an end, I've asked Pittsburgh City Paper's editorial staff to select their five favorite stories from this year. Relive staff writer Maggie Weaver's 2019 highlights below. — Lisa Cunningham
click to enlarge The housemade cavatelli and sausage, potato gnocchi, and fennel salad - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
The housemade cavatelli and sausage, potato gnocchi, and fennel salad
LeoGreta is a Carnegie treasure // Jan. 23, 2019
In the past year, I've eaten a lot of food. LeoGreta, one of my first 2019 reviews, still sticks out as a favorite. The eatery serves a blissful list of simple Italian food that seems too good for its casual atmosphere. Nothing can replace the awe of the restaurant's house meatball.

click to enlarge The Mai Tai-ger Woods is Back and Lime in the Coconut. - CP PHOTO: MAGGIE WEAVER
CP photo: Maggie Weaver
The Mai Tai-ger Woods is Back and Lime in the Coconut.
Fat-washing cocktails // June 12, 2019
The first time I heard about a duck fat washed cocktail, I was disgusted. But after I sat down with Alex Dando, lead bartender at The Commoner, I came to respect the ingenuity behind fat infusions. Besides, there was no denying the intrigue of a cake-washed campari.
Veganism gets "manly" // Jan. 31, 2019
At the beginning of each year, marketing firms and various media outlets release trend predictions. This is where I first heard about 2019’s biggest prediction: veganism for men.

click to enlarge Top, left to right: collard greens, mac n’ cheese, and yams. Bottom: entrees of ribs and fried catfish, with cornbread on the side. - CP PHOTO: MAGGIE WEAVER
CP photo: Maggie Weaver
Top, left to right: collard greens, mac n’ cheese, and yams. Bottom: entrees of ribs and fried catfish, with cornbread on the side.
The cozy, welcoming soul food of Walmart // Sept. 11, 2019
I never expected to get great food at a Walmart, but that’s exactly what happened at Cornbread, a soul food restaurant located inside the superstore’s walls. Their fried catfish was some of — if not the — best I’ve had to date.

click to enlarge Three spiced rums from Wigle Whiskey - CP PHOTO: MAGGIE WEAVER
CP photo: Maggie Weaver
Three spiced rums from Wigle Whiskey
Pittsburgh distilleries making rum // March 6, 2019
2019 brought with it many things, and among the greats is Kingfly Distillery in the Strip District. This opening rounded out a trio including Maggie’s Farm Rum and Wigle Whiskey of local distilleries turning rum into a spirit to watch.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Posted By on Mon, Dec 23, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Editor's note: As 2019 comes to an end, I've asked Pittsburgh City Paper's editorial staff to select their five favorite stories from this year. Relive staff writer Hannah Lynn's 2019 highlights below. — Lisa Cunningham
click to enlarge CP ILLUSTRATION: JOSIE NORTON
CP Illustration: Josie Norton
Pierogi Mayhem // May 21, 2019
When I first pitched a story ruminating on the purses used by Pirates pierogis, it got shot down. A year later, I got my way, but boy did shit hit the fan! I thought I wrote a funny, mildly insightful article about gender, sports, and mascot culture. The story came out in mid May, when I was in California taking time off for the first time all year. I tweeted out the story in the morning, then went on a hike with my family and didn't have reception for four hours. The next time I looked at my phone, I had more Twitter notifications than ever before, mostly from male sports fans, aghast. Three or four different talk radio hosts talked about the story, and not kindly. A lot of people called me stupid and told me I was outraged for no reason. I was really truly not at all outraged, I just wanted to point out that it's funny that they make girl pierogies carry purses. It was both a scarring and learning experience.

click to enlarge Mia Macdonald and her houseboat - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Mia Macdonald and her houseboat
River life // July 31, 2019
Despite all its rivers, Pittsburgh is an unlikely place for houseboats, partly because the river isn't so clean, but mostly because it gets cold as shit. It was cool to learn about Mia Macdonald and her houseboat, Seamore, which is one of two or three boats docked at the the Bell Harbor Yacht Club in Blawnox. She told me a bunch of stories about craziness that comes with living on a houseboat, like the time raccoons broke in, or when her motorless boat nearly got swept away.

click to enlarge PHOTO: MAYA ELAINE
Photo: Maya Elaine
Learning about Lolita // April 10, 2019
I've always wanted to know more about Lolita fashion, a subgenre that is ripe for being misunderstood by outsiders. I knew almost nothing about the hyper-feminine, ornate outfits, the history, or the people who wore it. For the occasion of Tekko, a Japanese pop culture convention in Pittsburgh, I talked to fashion designers and community members who explained to me how fashion is undervalued, especially at a place like Tekko. They explained to me how it felt freeing to wear hyper-feminine clothing designed for the female gaze, as opposed to the male gaze. I learned that the name is completely unrelated to the sordid novel. I love learning about niche communities and subcultures, especially if they were fostered online, and this was one of the more interesting.

click to enlarge PHOTO: JONATHAN PRIME/UNIVERSAL PICTURES
Photo: Jonathan Prime/Universal Pictures
The derangement of Yesterday // June 26, 2019
Scientists are still figuring out why, but writing a scathing review is just so much more fun than writing a positive or middling one. I knew I would not like Yesterday, due to its batshit premise involving Beatles-related amnesia. But I also knew I would have a lot to say, because I was a huge Beatles fan growing up (my first concert was a Beatles cover band for which I won tickets on the radio). In this movie, the entire world forgets The Beatles ever existed except for one struggling musician who exploits the disaster. Enough time has passed that I can now say bringing back John Lennon from the dead was one of the more deranged things I've ever seen.

click to enlarge PHOTO: PAUL NICKLEN
Photo: Paul Nicklen
Still Life vs. Photography // Dec. 11, 2019
I was looking for a way to mix up the fairly straightforward art reviews I typically cover by writing about two exhibits in two different, but connected museums: A Delight for the Senses: The Still Life at Carnegie Museum of Art and National Geographic: 50 Greatest Wildlife Photographs at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. I hadn't been to either exhibit, so was going only on a hunch that there would be a connection between 300 year old still life paintings and modern nature photography. In the end, I probably could've written twice as much as we had room for. It was fascinating to view the two back to back.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Posted By on Wed, Dec 11, 2019 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge The Dec. 11 cover of Pittsburgh City Paper
The Dec. 11 cover of Pittsburgh City Paper
What is a world without information? A person without a phone? A city without a newspaper?

Earlier this year, Removed, a photo series by North Carolina photographer Eric Pickersgill, reemerged online through viral posts, showcasing “life without cell phones.” Before he took each portrait, the photo subject was asked to pose while holding a cell phone. Pickersgill then physically removed the device from their hands, leaving image after image of people staring into invisible objects: a couple in bed, kids on a couch, people at a dinner table.

click to enlarge CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
For this week’s cover story on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which is facing a contentious labor battle and a shrinking newsroom, we took inspiration from Removed and created our own photo series showing glimpses of life in Pittsburgh without a newspaper. CP photographer Jared Wickerham asked our models to pose throughout the city as if reading a Post-Gazette, then photographed them reading an invisible medium. One model sat at a bench in Downtown Pittsburgh, another at home, a third, in a coffee shop. Riding across the Monongahela River on a Port Authority light-rail car, model Carolina Loyola-Garcia took it a step forward, flipping through invisible pages with her thumb as nearby passengers pretended not to notice.

Pickersgill first began his ongoing photo series back in 2015, but his images continue to provoke heated discussions online every time they reappear. In his artist’s statement for the series, Pickersgill writes, “The joining of people to devices has been rapid and unalterable.” He refers to cell phones as a “phantom limb” and his series alludes to an obsession with technology replacing human interaction. Some online comments have said the series shows how “silly” our addictions are; that we are wasting precious time; that we should be spending less time on our phones and “more time living.”
click to enlarge CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
But for me, what’s most striking about both of these series isn’t the addiction to the missing objects, but the overwhelming sadness of realizing they could be taken away from us. Earlier this year, the Post-Gazette reduced its print distribution to only three days a week, after cutting down to five in 2018. (Pittsburgh is now the largest U.S. city without a daily print newspaper.) As the contentious battle between management and staff continues at the P-G — the staff is in the midst of a byline strike, withholding their names from stories as a public stand against management — what will soon be left?
click to enlarge CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
As a Generation Xer, I remember a time without modern technology, when I was unable to use a cell phone to access information on the spot, look up a meaning of a word, research a school project, write to my friends from across the country without having to wait for the USPS to deliver my letter ... or, to read a newspaper. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette isn’t just a print product. It’s one we read in print, on laptops, on cell phones, at home, on public transportation, in coffee shops. The publication's incredibly talented Pulitzer Prize-winning staff keeps the city informed, keeps politicians in check, and deserves better than how they've been treated.

What does a city look like without a newspaper? This week, we tried to show it through photographs. But really, let’s hope we never find out.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Posted By on Wed, Oct 16, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Think you have the cutest pet? Find out in this year's Cutest Pet Contest, presented by the Pittsburgh City Paper and Petagogy.

Enter a photo of your dog, cat, bird, or snake (in the appropriate category), and let Pittsburgh do the rest! The three pets voted cutest will win prize packages from Petagogy and have their photo featured in the paper.

Photos can be submitted until Wed., Oct. 30. Voting starts Thu., Oct. 31 and ends Wed., Nov. 6.

Good luck! May the cutest pet win.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Posted By on Sun, Oct 6, 2019 at 5:49 PM

click to enlarge James Conner waits to take the field inside the tunnel for introductions. - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
James Conner waits to take the field inside the tunnel for introductions.

No, this isn't a general game story. If you're a Steelers fan, you know they lost a wild game in overtime filled with turnovers and injuries to the Baltimore Ravens.

Instead, I wanted to share the one of the best piece of photo advice I ever received: "Go where everyone isn't."

Every week, photographers shoot photos as players are introduced one by one and enter the field through a cloud of smoke. We're fairly limited as to where we can stand for these, and it's typically in less than ideal spots. Last week I was able to take a bad spot I was given and make something (thankfully). But this week, I wanted to try something different.

I went up into the stands early and found a spot that gave me a different vantage point as the players waited inside the tunnel. They aren't groundbreaking photos and they probably won't win any awards, but it feels good to see something different at an event I've covered dozens of times. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. But I had fun and met some wonderful fans in the process!

click to enlarge Alejandro Villanueva waits in the tunnel before being introduced. - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Alejandro Villanueva waits in the tunnel before being introduced.

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Thursday, October 3, 2019

Posted By on Thu, Oct 3, 2019 at 11:22 AM

Emerging from Seattle’s burgeoning mid-1990s grunge scene, Candlebox found mainstream success with deep, lyrically driven melodies and big radio hooks. Power anthems like “Far Behind” and “You,” from the debut, self-titled album, exploded onto the charts, propelling the album to sell more than four million copies worldwide.

Later albums would showcase the band's versatility between emotionally charged, brooding ballads like “Cover Me” and groove-infused, straight-up rock 'n’ roll tunes, including “Change” and “Arrow”. The 2016 release of Disappearing In Airports found Candlebox revealing a more classic rock vibe with songs like “Vexatious” and “Supernova,” driving the album to debut at No. 9 on the Billboard Charts.

In 2019, the band will be touring domestically and internationally to support its 25th Anniversary, and the group has announced plans to start
writing and recording new music in the year ahead.

Enter to win tickets to see Candlebox at the Roxian Theatre Oct. 20! Buy tickets here.



Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Posted By on Tue, Oct 1, 2019 at 12:23 AM

click to enlarge Jaylen Samuels #38 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates his second half touchdown. - CP PHOTO: JARED WICKERHAM
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Jaylen Samuels #38 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates his second half touchdown.
Hopefully the Steelers season ends the same way their 27-3 win over the Bengals did on Monday night. Down 3-0 early to the Cincinnati Bengals following a fumble made it seem like Pittsburgh would continue its losing streak. Luckily the defense stepped it up and kept the Bengals from scoring while their offense slowly figured out how to move the ball down the field. Some timely sacks and turnovers coupled with a run game that opened up in the second half between James Conner and Jaylen Samuels gave the Steelers its first win of the season, improving to 1-3 on the year so far.

The Steelers next game will be at home on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens at 1 p.m.

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