Hampton, Gumberg, Fox, O’Brien, Weber, Green

Slide Hampton, 89The virtuoso jazz trombonist, bandleader and Grammy Award-winning composer and musical arranger hailed from Jeannette, where his sister gave him the nickname Slide. One of 12 children, he spent his entire life in music, beginning as a singer and dancer with a family band and progressing to trombone at age 12. The Hampton …

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PICT Theatre’s “Endgame”

“Endgame” is an enormous play set in a small room occupied by four persons who speak absurdly, recounting stories or delivering monologues apropos of nothing — as nursing home residents often do — prompted by memories that float into their minds from the effects of old age, disease, or boredom.  Written by Samuel Beckett as …

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A Classic Colonial

Houses are like people in many ways. They tend to get better with age as they develop character and the rich patina that comes from living, and being lived in. Up to a point, that is. And then they start to require maintenance, and eventually, if they last long enough, more serious renovation. Such was …

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History’s Lessons and Historic Mistakes

Angela Merkel’s Reputation Is Trashed – But Is America at Fault? Merkel’s reign at the top of Germany’s political apparatus was remarkable, and she stepped down as something of a secular saint with a 77% approval rating. But it’s amazing what six months can do. Previously in this series: A Coat of Varnish Part III, …

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Favorini, DeSantis, Johnson, Virdon, Diamond, Baskin

Attilio “Buck” Favorini, 78After earning a Ph.D. in History of the Theatre from Yale, the New York City native came to Pittsburgh in 1969 and spent 50 years here, founding the Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival, which became one of the top Shakespeare festivals in America. He joined the Pitt faculty and founded the university’s Theatre …

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The $3,000 Hippopotamus

“Lucy is dead” was the headline of the March 17, 1902 Pittsburgh Press article that announced the passing of Lucy Juba-Nile, the popular hippopotamus that had been dwelling at the Highland Park Zoological Garden (now called the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium) for the previous three years. Lucy had been ill for about a week. …

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Not Everyone Agrees with Us

Let’s Talk Nukes “If a third world war is such a crippling worry, how can the premise of NATO be credible? Its effectiveness has always depended on the belief that NATO is indeed prepared to run the risk of nuclear war.” — Martin Wolf in the Financial Times Previously in this series: A Coat of Varnish Part …

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Cohill, Corbett, Walton, Lewis, Wymard, Ford

Judge Maurice Cohill Jr., 92A national leader in juvenile justice, Cohill heard hundreds of cases involving juveniles and often had adults tell him how his influence had turned their lives around. He founded the nation’s oldest juvenile justice research organization, the National Center for Juvenile Justice in Pittsburgh, and was its chairman for decades. In …

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Reflections on Masculinity

In his award-winning recent memoir, Punch Me Up to the Gods, Brian Broome lovingly describes the antechamber of the now-defunct Hills Department store in his hometown of Warren, Ohio as smelling “like the emotions of a child. Pre-adolescent bacchanalia. It was dizzying. It was a roasted peanut, soft pretzel factory wrapped inside a chocolate-covered everything. …

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The 5th Northumberland Fusiliers

When Jim Zunic was about 10 years old, he got the shock of his young life. After he had enjoyed watching a TV series about Sherlock Holmes, the librarian at McNaugher Elementary School on Pittsburgh’s North Side encouraged him to read some of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about the fictional detective. “The librarian started …

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Posture of U.S. Weakness Encouraged Ukraine Invasion

What do Caesar’s Wife, Justice, and Military Deterrence Have in Common? “The lure of appeasement – in essence, a return to the policies pursued in many Western capitals for the past two decades – will be strong.” — Thomas de Maizière, former German defense minister Previously in this series: A Coat of Varnish “It is better …

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The View from Erie

Peering out at the choppy waves from the shore of Lake Erie, the businessman sees opportunity. The fisherman envisions a trout dinner. The tourist anticipates a boat ride. The farmer appreciates the plentiful water supply. The environmentalist frets about lake pollution. James Grunke, president of the Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership, sees all of …

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The Spring 2022 issue:

The $3,000 Hippopotamus

“Lucy is dead” was the headline of the March 17, 1902 Pittsburgh Press article that announced the passing of Lucy Juba-Nile, the popular hippopotamus that had been dwelling at the Highland Park Zoological Garden (now called the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium) for the previous three years. Lucy had been ill for about a week. …

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Professionals new to Pittsburgh

David Holiday is the director for the Center for Ethical Leadership and instructor of philosophy at Washington & Jefferson College. Prior to joining W&J, Holiday held the position of director of the Jackson Family Center for Ethics and Values at Coastal Carolina University, where he also served as lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and …

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Nettle: The Weed that Stings

What is a weed? A plant in the wrong place is a common definition, or as Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “a plant whose virtues we haven’t yet discovered.” But nettles — weeds to most of us — have virtues long discovered. Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary of eating very good nettle porridge. In Aesop’s …

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Cohill, Corbett, Walton, Lewis, Wymard, Ford

Judge Maurice Cohill Jr., 92A national leader in juvenile justice, Cohill heard hundreds of cases involving juveniles and often had adults tell him how his influence had turned their lives around. He founded the nation’s oldest juvenile justice research organization, the National Center for Juvenile Justice in Pittsburgh, and was its chairman for decades. In …

Spring 2022 Read More »

No More Love Letters

I have always been amused by Hollywood’s vision of writers at work. The writer is presented seated at a desk on which sits a typewriter or a computer. Suddenly the writer seems inspired and begins typing feverishly. The camera stays on him as he continues to type, and his manuscript grows page by page into …

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Darken Our Skies to Help the Birds

Who doesn’t love the sparkle of the Downtown skyline when cheering on the Pirates at PNC Park? I’ve sat marveling at the view across the water as the Bucs warm up and the stadium lights begin to come on. The glass, metal and stone are iconic of the Steel City. Then I imagine birds migrating …

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Infrastructure Bonanza

It promises to be a busy couple of years for Vincent Valdes. As the federal government begins to pump $1.2 trillion into the nation’s infrastructure, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission he leads is in the thick of discussions around how to spend the region’s share, which will be counted in hundreds of millions of dollars and …

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A Troubling Economic Picture

The Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area’s economy enters 2022 in much the same condition as it exhibited prior to the pandemic. That is, growing, but doing so at a pace below the national average and under the yoke of subpar labor market conditions. Even though the bar has been lowered as to what economic growth targets …

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Fuller Brook Dreams

I had seen the stream many times before, in my dreams. As someone averse to synthetic sleep aids, I’ve always relied instead on my mind to take me to one of my happy places: a rugged and undeveloped coastline with soaring seagulls and salty air; my grandmother’s kitchen table; a sweet stream flowing through the …

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Back to the Future

Most students in 19th century America walked to their local one-room schoolhouse to learn reading, writing and arithmetic in a classroom with a handful of other kids ranging in age and ability. With the youngest children seated at the front of the class, they memorized and recited their lessons. Once a mainstay of public education …

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Pittsburgh Opera’s “In a Grove” – a Revelation of Sound and Sight

In speaking of opera, French composer Claude Debussy praised what he termed “music that’s lit from within,” and this might be the best way to describe Pittsburgh Opera’s world premiere of “In a Grove,” a phantasmagoric reinterpretation of the eponymous story by Japan’s great modernist writer, Ryūnosuke Akutagawa.  The original narrative, published in 1922 — …

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What do I Know? Leslie Davis

My family is from New York, and my younger sister and I grew up in a suburban neighborhood on Long Island called “Five Towns,” which is about a 20-minute drive from Kennedy Airport. We were a typical 1970s family, except that my mother was an oral hygienist in a dentist’s office and loved her job. …

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College Students Wanted

When the United States slid into the Great Recession, throwing millions out of work, America went back to school. Older adults enrolling in community colleges or other two-year programs led a surge in enrollment that saw colleges add 2.5 million students from 2007-2010, a 14 percent enrollment spike. School administrators were elated. “We all thought, …

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Just Asking…Byron Stripling

Q: what’s the most interesting thing about your job?A: I get paid to do what I love! Q: what’s the best advice anybody ever gave you?A: Everything you want is on the other side of fear. Q: how do you start the day?A: It starts with gratitude for the gift of another day. As Maya …

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Weak Regional Jobs Picture Continues

Employers in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area shed 25,000 jobs from December 2021 to January 2022 – a 2.2 percent monthly loss, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Seasonal job losses are typical in January, but other data offer little hope that local jobs will snap back to pre-COVID levels. Annual revisions …

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A Little Slice of Heaven

My chainsaw is little. Like, really little. A baby chainsaw. The love child of gas-powered monsters that guys twice my size use to slice through the trunk of a 200-year pine as if it were a stick of butter. Those blades are as long as my leg. This blade, the one on my chainsaw, is …

Spring 2022 Read More »

Infrastructure Bonanza

It promises to be a busy couple of years for Vincent Valdes. As the federal government begins to pump $1.2 trillion into the nation’s infrastructure, the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission he leads is in the thick of discussions around how to spend the region’s share, which will be counted in hundreds of millions of dollars and …

Spring 2022 Read More »

America – Where Agency Flourishes

“In the beginning all the world was America.” — John Locke Previously in this series: On Agency Part VII Turning from China to the West Last week we observed human agency as it collapsed in Rome but was championed by the Germanic tribes that would eventually defeat the Roman Empire. The “freedom of the German …

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Night Out for the Aviary

The National Aviary’s “Gentlemen’s Night Out” at the PNC Champions Club at Heinz Field included cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a four-course dinner with wine pairings, live music, and an assortment of premium cigars. Michael Mascaro, Aviary trustee and Executive Vice President of Mascaro Construction, hosted the benefit which included guests: Pittsburgh Steelers alumni Matt Spaeth, Craig Bingham, and JT Thomas, …

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