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Confessions of an Introvert in Pandemic Times

Most people who know me would be surprised to hear that I’m an introvert. Sure, I can be social when I have to. But honestly, social situations drain me. I recharge by coming home and crawling into a dark corner all by myself, much to my wife’s chagrin. You see, I’m an INFJ. In the …

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The Triumph of “The Current War”

Since the emergence of drama two-and-a-half-millennia ago, the theater’s greatest enemy has always been the plague. It is no coincidence that during the fifth century BCE, as Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides were writing the first great tragedies, Hippocrates was writing the first great medical treatise, called the Epidemics. Theater, unlike virtually any other art form, …

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A Different View of the Neighborhood

In 1968, when Fred Rogers pushed through his famous front door for the first time, he brought with him more than kindness, compassion and a cardigan sweater. He brought more than Daniel Tiger, more than X the Owl, more than all the puppets who lived in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. What Rogers brought was less …

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Looking at the Block Family’s Record on Race

Book reviews traditionally talk about what’s in a book, but almost never about how a particular book came to be. This one has an interesting and unusual beginning. Nearly three years ago, following a controversy over an editorial called “Reason as Racism,” Allan Block, the chair of Block Communications, Inc., the parent company today of …

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‘I Am What You Make Me’

The American flag has flown on the moon proclaiming the nation that dared to walk on its surface. It was cheered in European cities and towns liberated from Nazi occupation by American soldiers during World War II. And it has been burned in protests against U.S. policy at home and abroad. It’s draped on the …

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June 15, 2017

I imagine you feeling the heat on your shoulder as you leave your apartment. Maybe you touch the spot where the sun warms you: two inches above and to the left of your clavicle. My neighbors planted their tulips in March—I don’t know why I didn’t tell you—and this week the buds opened wide, became …

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On a Pedestal, Spring 2021

Raising a racquet and more Armed with six years of success helping African American students prepare for the future through the game of squash, Steel City Squash (SCS) is preparing to build a new facility in the Larimer neighborhood that will dramatically transform its offerings. Built on a successful model, the athletic and academic program …

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Short Takes: “To Risk It All,” “Franco, Rocky & Friends”

In his book, “To Risk It All: General Forbes, The Capture of Fort Duquesne, and the Course of Empire in the Ohio Country,” historian and war scholar Michael N. McConnell sets his sights on the French and Indian War, and more specifically General John Forbes’s campaign against Fort Duquesne, the largest overland expedition during the …

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The Year of Fear

The first time the phrase “stay safe” stuck in my memory, I was watching a TV news broadcast. After the correspondent gave his report, the anchor thanked him and then with a concerned look said, “Stay safe out there.” It was actually jarring to me because I’d been a reporter and editor for decades and, …

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A Well-Deserved Drue Heinz Prize-Winner

In The Prince of Mournful Thoughts and Other Stories, winner of the 2020 Drue Heinz Literature Prize, Caroline Kim offers an expansive debut collection of stories that transports the reader across continents and centuries. Kim is a gifted writer of tremendous range—each story conjures a world unto itself. Throughout the collection, settings shift from the …

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In the WomanCare Waiting Room, I Consider Flamingos

The pink robes at WomanCare smell like bleach. I wonder how many times they’ve been washed and reused. I wonder how many women have worn the robe I am wearing, how many of them were fine, how many were not fine, where they are now, if they have healed, if they are still here at …

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Ode to the Nose

Somebody once asked Princess Di to name one thing she would change about herself. Without hesitation, she replied, “My nose.” Ah, the poor, long-suffering nose! Dissed by royals, no less. It’s the most maligned facial feature, but arguably the most indispensable. The eyes may be the windows of the soul, but the nose is the …

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Decorating the Silver Screen

Jan Pascale would be really great on a scavenger hunt. Fifty place settings of vintage Blue Willow china? A candlestick telephone? Camera equipment from the 1930s? A lineup of old, clunky manual typewriters? As a set decorator, she found all this and much more just for one movie, “Mank.” As Pascale said, “We did a …

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Necessary City

I’m walking in hard rain in East Liberty            no umbrella   keeping direction bythe Cathedral rising over the roofs of this city I swore            I’d never live in.   Nico and Kai shopin Giant Eagle. I know he’s taking good care of him   probably            making him laugh   feeding himcheerios. I could leave   get in my car and …

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Civility and the Algorithm

Polarity runs deep. Conversations are strained. Friendships are on edge. Might free speech and professional journalism rescue civility? It happened before. Human spirits were liberated when speech was freed. The town square became a metaphor for free speech. Free speech principles were not easily adopted. Dissension threatened feudal order. Kings were not amused. More than …

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On a Pedestal: Festival of Books, Contemporary Craft, Pitt’s Homewood Project

For the past couple of years, pandemic or not, Marshall Cohen has been meeting people and gathering support for his idea: the creation of a Greater Pittsburgh Festival of Books. A literate city with the history of erudition that Pittsburgh has should have such an event, he reasoned. And after gaining some key support—from sponsors …

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Civil Discourse

As I consider the divided state of our country, I imagine my father’s voice repeating an old adage to me. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” We can all agree that America has problems, though we’ll likely differ on what they are. Some will say the mob that former …

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Short Takes: “Further News of Defeat,” “Hallelujah Station and Other Stories”

When Autumn House Press began in 1998, they published poetry. In 2008, the Pittsburgh-based press expanded its offerings to fiction, and over the past decade, few small presses can claim to have published a catalog of work as reliably entertaining and artful. In the fall, Autumn House Press published two new story collections from up …

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Intersections: Poetry, Photography and Pittsburgh

In a 2006 lecture at Scripps College, art critic and L.A. Times reviewer Leah Ollman spoke on the overlapping aesthetic qualities used in photography and poetry, stating that “Each has a multiplicitous nature, and like any medium, resists a singular definition. Photography is said to be a slice of reality, a distortion of reality; a …

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Finding Jakie Lerner

“805 was a burner. where the hell is Jakie Lerner?” That was former racketeer Sam Solomon’s recollection of Aug. 5, 1930, the day when seemingly all of Pittsburgh bet on a single number: 805. When 805 hit, the city’s numbers bankers scrambled to pay the winnings. Many simply didn’t, and some skipped town to avoid …

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Letting Go

It was bound to happen sooner or later—Joe’s going off to college. I got a stay of execution for five months, given that his university didn’t open up campus for the first semester. You’d think I would have been ready. He was chomping at the bit to leave and kept himself busy for the past …

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Lee Gutkind on Writing His Memoir, “My Last Eight Thousand Days”

My memoir, “My Last Eight Thousand Days,” published in October 2020, had been a work in progress for at least 10 years—just as my life had been a work in progress for 70-plus. I think of the book and the process of writing it, digging deeply into my life, as a bridge from the Lee …

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