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2007: The Year In Lists 

A guide to the political and cultural events that defined the year ... in handy list format for those who've already started to forget it,

Five smartest purchases former Councilor Twanda Carlisle made with taxpayer money

Jewelry: Acording to prosecutors, Carlisle spent $595.93 at Whitehall Jewelers for a pink-and-white sapphire pendant, ring and earrings, as well as a sensible three-year jewelry service plan. Thanks for protecting the taxpayer's investment, councilor!

Electronics: She went to Circuit City and dropped just $600 on a laptop and $181.87 for two televisions. At least we're not talking 52-inch plasma screens here; that would have been irresponsible.

Fur Coat: It was this piece of outerwear that topped every newscast on Oct. 29, the day her trial was originally set to start. She paid the now-closed Jerome Wolk Furs, of Regent Square, $4,494 for the mink. Way to piss off PETA before leaving public life.

Fictitious Health Study: This was the one that shut down the ATM. Had she never paid $27,195 to Lee Otto Johnson, who shares a home with Carlisle's mother, for a report on health issues facing her district, who knows if her spending habits would have come to light? But maybe the study did have an effect: We hear people in District 9 are suffering from at least one less headache these days.

Trips: Carlisle spent $428.40 on two airline tickets to Boston, $1,422 on a trip to Aruba and more than $1,500 for a trip to Las Vegas. Next stop: a stay at the Gray Bars Bed and Breakfast, also on the taxpayer's dime.

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5 Exciting Updates from our Media Partners

1. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Tim McNulty lost his Steelers ticket, then found it by Dumpster diving, and lived to tell the tale in the P-G. Hey, pal, stick to covering the arts -- the Dumpster beat is ours.

2. "The Man Station," a slate of talk shows with a testosterone focus -- at 93.7 FM was pulled from the dial after six months. Now where are straight males supposed to hear their perspectives represented on talk radio, for chrissake?

3. WTAE's Kelly Frey still knows her way around a stripper's pole. Bet you Bill Burns could never say that.

4. The divorce of Tribune-Review publisher Richard Mellon Scaife made the papers -- and how! We don't know how these sealed files got leaked to the public, but we hear it has something to do with the death of Vince Foster. Better look into it.

5. ESPN 1250's corporate overlords were shocked, shocked to learn that Pittsburgh sports talker Mark Madden has a coarse on-air personality. Confidential to ESPN: He actually doesn't play sports very well, either.


5 steps Pittsburgh took to wrest the streets back from the automobile

1. Liberty Avenue bike lane was inaugurated, providing a rare accommodation for cyclists along the city's constricted streets.

2. Second half of the Hot Metal Bridge opened, connecting walkers, bikers and rollerskaters between South Side and Oakland.

3. Pittsburgh rated favorably at WalkScore.com, a Web site designed to measure how walkable a place is. The site has got some glitches -- such as not taking into account topography or impassable railroad tracks -- but it still celebrates our compact city neighborhoods.

4. Pittsburgh Bike Map. A grant from the Heinz Endowments and lots of hard work from BikePGH meant the two-wheeling crowd had a map of their own, specifically designed to help bicyclists navigate our quirky streets, speedily and safely.

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5. Flexcar parked its share-a-vehicle fleet on Pittsburgh streets in May.


5 times Pittsburgh didn't look so good on national television

1. The Kill Point. Spike's mini-series was set and shot here and showed viewers we had: pushy local news crews; traffic tie-ups at Market Square; crazed Iraq war vets; banks with outdated interiors; and megalomaniacal titans of industry who operated above the law. Come to think of it, they captured the city pretty well.

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2. Beaver County's Own Super-Survivor Amber Brkich (along with her Beantown mate Rob Mariano) couldn't spell "Philippines" correctly, and thus the hometown hottie was cut from The Amazing Race.

3. Democrat Jason Altmire repped Western PA on The Colbert Report. Colbert poked and jabbed, and eventually, through the miracle of editing, got the Bush critic to intone "mission accomplished."

4. Rick Sebak filmed Pittsburgh's basement crappers for all to see in his latest hometown Valentine, Pittsburgh Underground. Ever get the feeling that you might be running out of local idiosyncrasies to document, Rick?

5. Some 5,000 YouTube visitors have watched video of WPXI's infamous Oct. 10 noon news pimping the station's new Hi-Def set-up ... all broadcast live from the parking lot with no scripts, teleprompter or graphics, because the very thing they were hyping was malfunctioning. "We're bringing you the news in a totally different fashion ... we're doing the weather outside, and I can actually feel it getting cooler." (Watch it in all its cringe-inducing glory: http://youtube.com/watch?v=B_OHdCQa8bs)


Most Innovative Local Gallery Shows (according to CP art critic Savannah Guz)

Connect 3 (Breath Yoga Studio with moxie Dada). The third annual collaborative exhibition fed a rapidly expanding new-age interest: experiential healing. Connect, featuring Allison Hoge's and Joan Ricou's sensuous canvases of saturated oranges and blues, was co-curated by Moxie's Christine Whispell and Breathe's Kristi Rogers.

Midsummer Night (La Vie Gallery). Bronwyn Loughren and Thommy Conroy co-curated this multimedia-palooza of work by Ladyboy, Valerie Lueth, Mary Mack, Elina Malkin, Jairan Sadeghi, Josh Tonies, Josh Welsh and Kathryn Young. From wall-bound vinyl cut-outs to silk-screened flannel pillows and ethereal "vintage tissue paper" ink drawings, it offered a remarkable, avant-garde assortment of objets d'art.

Conceived Bully (Digging Pitt). Curated by New Yorker JC One, Conceived Bully featured the work of Rhode Island's Magmo the Destroyer, Massachusetts-based MCA/Evil Design and JC One. Featured works distilled various influences -- from stenciled graffiti art, Japanese anime and political propaganda posters -- into three graphically thrilling, harmonious essences.

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Decode (Manchester Craftsman's Guild). New York media artist Jason Van Anden and Chicago weaver Christy Matson created works involving digital sounds, projections, videogames and robots. Highlights include Van Anden's generously proportioned interactive robots, Neil and Iona, and Matson's complex feedback loops recorded during loom work. Curated by MCG's Heather Powell.

New Works from Utopia (SPACE Gallery). In conjunction with the Australian Embassy and NYC's Robert Steele Gallery, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust brought these paintings by the Aboriginal members of Utopia's Dreaming Art Centre. A freehold cattle station belonging to the Anmatyerre and Alyawarre people, Utopia has fostered indigenous art since the 1970s. Intricately patterned acrylic-on-linen paintings reveal an alluringly mesmeric, surprisingly story-rich aesthetic.


Six Most Intriguing Local Dance Events (according to CP dance critic Steve Sucato)

The Pillow Project: by Volume. In a departure from her group's large-scale, multimedia dance-rock extravaganzas, artistic director Pearlann Porter in June launched the first of four small gallery performances at Construction Junction that mixed dance, music, art and video production.

The Joffrey Ballet at the Benedum Center. The venerable Chicago-based company kicked off its 50th-anniversary tour in February with a ballet-lover's program featuring George Balanchine's "Apollo," Laura Dean's "Sometimes It Snows in April" (from Billboards), Gerald Arpino's "RUTH, Ricordi Per Due" and Kurt Jooss's legendary anti-war ballet "The Green Table."

Aussie Invasion. March saw the Sydney Dance Company in Graeme Murphy's piano-based tribute Grand, at the Byham Theater. Them, the Cultural Trust's Australia Festival featured: Circus Oz; the U.S. premiere of Lucy Guerin Inc.'s quirky Aether, a work that combined childish behavior with avant-garde modern dance; and Chunky Move, with "Glow" and the "docudance" "I Want to Dance Better at Parties."

Dance Alloy Theater's Fragile. One of the Alloy's finest hours, the April program at the New Hazlett Theater featured Susan Marshall's "Arms," a duet of intertwining bodies; DAT artistic director Beth Corning's "Flight"; and the premiere of Donald Byrd's "No Consolation," a devastatingly emotional work about how we deal with grief.

Emio Greco/PC: Hell. Masters of "extreme minimalism," the Amsterdam-based company explored notions of hell on earth in an April program at the Byham that was the very definition of avant-gardism.

Kyle Abraham/Abraham in Motion: Fading Into Something Tangible. The Pittsburgh native with a New York modern-dance style capped off 2007 in December with a mixed repertory program at The New Hazlett featuring several athletic dance works danced with skill and polish and wrought with controversy.


Five Visionary Stage Productions (according to CP theater critic Robert Isenberg)
 
Pill Hill (New Horizon Theater). With its all-star local cast, slick set design and meticulous attention to detail, Pill Hill, directed by Mark Clayton Southers, was a brilliant exploration of industrial life and African-American relationships -- sensitive, funny, gutsy and tragic. Samuel L. Kelley's story was set in Chicago, but the themes were pure Pittsburgh.

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Le Grand Meaulnes (Quantum Theatre). Quantum is a fearless company, and sometimes this means some avant-garde stuff -- bizarro opera Kafka's Chimp, futurist romance The Voluptuous Tango. But Le Grand Meaulnes, staged outside the stone stables of Hartwood Acres and directed by Di Trevis, was pure Francophilic delight. We felt transported to fin-de-siècle Europe, and the energy of the cast was incandescent. Rivaling Meaulnes was Quantum's original adaptation of The Complete Works of Billy the Kid, staged in the former triple-X Garden Theater.

Echo::System -- The Desert: Evolution is fairly interesting on its own, but Grisha Coleman's dance-installation/science-fiction-performance-art-on-treadmills at the New Hazlett Theater made evolution a transcendent experience. We eagerly await her next surrealist saga.

The Comedy of Errors (Pittsburgh Public Theatre). The Public and director Ted Pappas did wonders with this screwball Shakespeare comedy. The towering set was a mishmash of punny Bardic billboards ("Duncan Donuts," etc.), and the cast exploited every chance for a Warner Bros. pratfall. This was updated Shakespeare done right.

The Oresteia Project (Carnegie Mellon School of Drama). Words can't describe co-directors Matt Gray, Jed Allen Harris and J.A. Ball's three-part, two-evening, gender-bending multimedia revision of the Aeschylus cycle. Aristotle may have pooh-poohed spectacle, but he never saw the students of Carnegie Mellon in action.


6 Reasons You Still Didn't Need Cable in 2007 (according to CP arts editor Bill O'Driscoll)

Chimurenga: A post-revolution solo trilogy. Zimbabwe-born Nora Chipaumire's dance with video and audio accompaniment at the New Hazlett Theater -- part of the August Wilson Center's inaugural First Voice festival -- was an emotionally devastating journey through her native land's modern history.

The Disappointment: or, The Force of Credulity. Amateur archaeology, colonial musical theater and the Korean War are just the start in filmmaker Brian Springer's heady docu-memoir about his family's bizarre obsessions. The Ohio-based filmmaker's surprisingly poignant work screened here at Film Kitchen (a CP-sponsored event).

"I'm Not Crying, Karl." The opening track on The Karl Hendricks Rock Band's raggedly glorious album The World Says (Surplus Anxiety Records) is a squalling rocker in which the Pittsburgh-based singer/songwriter sketches the postmodern journey from shamed vulnerability to self-medication to self-congratulatory cynicism.

Krishnaraj Chonat's "Untitled." Gleaming white hot tubs, complete with fluffy towels, gurgle with water amidst a sprawling drought-landscape in this inconveniently truthful contribution to India: New Installations, Part I, at the Mattress Factory.

A Question of Taste. Anger and resignation, idealism and disillusion collide in a jail cell in a fictional African nation in regional playwright Andrew Ade's splendid one-act play. An intelligently acted debut production, directed by Jeannine Foster McKelvia, highlighted Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Co.'s Theatre Festival in Black and White.

Velocity (University of Pittsburgh Press). The riveting debut collection from Pittsburgh-based poet Nancy Krygowski evokes life's complexity and hard lessons at once with deep feeling and devoid of sentimentality.


Four Totally Transcendental Live Music Experiences in 2007

Jan. 27: LaDonna Smith at Garfield Artworks. Improv violinist from Alabama has the Jefferson Presents ... crowd hanging on the end of her bow.

April 29: Daniel Higgs at Belvedere's. Maniac poet best knowm as the frontman of Lungfish neutralizes the effects of a somewhat disorderly drunkard in the crowd and defines love in several dozen ways.

Nov. 14: Horseback and Mike Tamburo at the Mr. Roboto Project. North Carolina's Jenks Miller's first album is good, and his set is perhaps even better as Horseback's tour with local favorite Tamburo stops in Pittsburgh.

Oct. 20/21: Fantastic Voyagers Festival at AIR. Baltimore's Anup Kishore Pradhan is an unexpected highlight of this Tamburo-curated event, which is peppered with big-name solo artists like Keenan Lawler.


Five Hard-Working Bands That Kept Their Pittsburgh Pride in 2007

Midnite Snake: After the already legendary release show in the hollow, Pittsburgh's psych heroes hit the road to bring their gospel to America -- even after a short tour earlier in the year based around a SXSW trip.

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Mike Tamburo: The local hammered-dulcimer dronemaster is known for hitting the road, often spending more of the year out than at home. He went out this year with Tusk Lord in the summer, then again in the fall with Chapel Hill's Horseback. In between, he brought friends in from elsewhere for his Fantastic Voyagers Festival, in October.

Zombi: Pittsburgh-born and sometimes-still-local (Steve Moore relocated once again this year to New York and released a solo album; Tony Paterra remains in Pittsburgh), the atmospheric instrumental duo toured the U.S. with Trans Am and Psychic Paramount to support their release on Relapse, then hit Japan for a few dates with Jesu in the fall.

Brain Handle: Pittsburgh punks released a new LP, then embarked on an epic six-week tour of the country; sales of homemade Brain Handle merch soared nationwide.

Girl Talk: Mash-up artist who wallowed in semi-obscurity in Pittsburgh for a few years blew up all over the place, hung out with celebrities, was in Playgirl, etc. and kept it real, reppin' other Pittsburgh artists when he could. What else is there to say?


Three New Twists on the Rock Show in 2007

Liquid Sundays: Dan Martin and Ryan Phipps introduced this new idea for 2007 -- once every other month, on a Sunday night, a feast of music and art descends on one of a number of South Side venues. A variety of musical acts and other features -- author readings, photography exhibits -- keeps things exciting.

Woodlab: Run by Sort Of Records, Woodlab is currently on hiatus, but for the better part of 2007 offered regular shows at ModernFormations Gallery by local and national artists, mostly acoustic or ambient. A compilation CD with new songs and artists was released in time for each show -- an ambitious project, which may account for the hiatus. Let's hope it's not over yet, though.

Punk Shows in Braddock: Supplementing the smattering of venues for punk shows in town, 2007 saw the rise of shows at both the Braddock Elks and Fossil Free Fuels. While a little out of the way, Braddock is accessible by bus and offers a good atmosphere for the diverse age groups checking out shows like Citizen Fish and The Pist.



Proudest moments in local government

1. Jim Motznik spent a month debating the licensure of cats -- a total waste of time, of course, because in city politics, the cats are the ones calling the shots.

2. County government instituted a controversial drink tax to pay for mass transit. Bar owners are outraged, and transit owners are conflicted, but backers say the move at least avoided a property-tax hike. But do we want a tax structure that rewards teetotalers who never leave the house? If we're not careful, the whole county could end up like Plum Boro.

3. Groundbreaking on the new Majestic Star slots parlor brought the promise of a bright new day, ensuring low property taxes, a thousand-year reign of peace and prosperity, and plenty of fun for the whole family!

4. State Sen. Bob Regola, a Westmoreland County Republican, was indicted for giving conflicting accounts about how his son's handgun ended up being used in the suicide of a teen living next door. Remember, folks: If guns are outlawed, only state Senators will have guns.

5. Finally! The Port Authority began its tunnel beneath the Allegheny River. For a while there, it seemed like we'd never find a way across that thing!


Great moments in corporate hubris:

US Airways. Thanks to cuts this year, the airline's local workforce dropped to 1,800 employees -- from a high of nearly 12,000 in 2001. After we built them a freakin' airport! Did you think we wouldn't notice, US Airways? Just because of that Steelers jet you unveiled this fall, with its cool Steelers logo on the tail and striking color scheme and the ... the ... mmmmm ... Steelers jet ...

UPMC. Ooh, a sign on the USX Building? Thanks, UPMC! While you're at it, could you broadcast that ad with the rowing team about 50,000 more times? It really makes me feel like you're committed to the region.

Pittsburgh Pirates. Here's a thought: How about performance-enhancing drugs for the ownership?

PNC Bank CEO Jim Rohr. Actually, we don't really care. We just wanted to shout at him for accepting tax subsidies on a new Downtown bank building, just like the Tribune-Review editorial page did all year. GIVE THE MONEY BACK, MR. ROHR!

Local broadcasters: It's bad enough that WDUQ's audience won't get to hear sponsor messages from Planned Parenthood -- thanks to the intervention of Duquesne University, the Catholic school that holds WDUQ's license. But local TV stations also declined to accept condom ads from Trojan this year. So KDKA is going to air the erotic delights of the public-affairs talk show KD/PG Sunday Edition, but it balks at advertising responsible sex? That's a mixed message, my friends.



Top Luke Ravenstahl Moments:

Stalking Tiger: The Mayor's crazy about Tiger Woods. So much so that he crashed a members-only event prior to the U.S. Open at Oakmont to meet him. Let's hope the mayor isn't also a fan of Hannah Montana ... because otherwise things could get weird when she comes to town.

The ladies' man: Women's groups were outraged when several city police officers with domestic-violence complaints in their past were promoted. They packed city council chambers in a dramatic airing of grievances -- while Ravenstahl attended a charity golfing event. "The people want to see the mayor at these events," he later explained. This is true, provided you define "the people" as "lobbyists for UPMC and the Penguins."

Ravenstahl the diplomat: He showed up at a Hill District meeting to discuss funding for the Hill District as part of a new hockey arena for the Penguins ... and stayed just long enough to suggest that local community groups are only looking for handouts. Hey, mayor: Next time a meeting like this comes up, you might be better off taking a private jet to New York City or something. You might bruise fewer feelings that way.

Ravenstahl unbowed: "I'm still going to continue to be who I'm going to be," Ravenstahl said after one scandal, "and go to concerts like I always have, and go to have a drink with my wife in bars." Truly, what politician governing more than 300,000 people wouldn't feel this way? Thing is, Ravenstahl was talking about his plans for breakfast.

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