Culture

The Day Pohla Smith Voted

Daniel Webster, the statesman, lawyer and orator, was one of early America’s fiercest advocates for democracy, and he knew full well the importance of voting. He called it “a social duty of as solemn a nature as man can be called to perform…” I had occasion to think of Webster that October 2012 morning when …

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Monumental Decisions

After 500 years in the grave, Christopher Columbus continues to be controversial. Statues and monuments are coming down across the country. And the latest may be the statue of Columbus in Schenley Park, if Mayor Peduto agrees with his Art Commission. Five members of the 7-member Commission (two seats remain unfilled) decided the monument should …

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What’s in a Name?

For as long as I can remember, my family has lamented the misspelling and mispronunciation of our last name, Macpherson. When I see relatives I’ve not seen for a long time, we tell stories of gross misspelling or mispronunciation. The appended poem, written by my sister, provides clear instruction on pronunciation. My parents and siblings …

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On a Pedestal: Good Examples, Port Authority, Robert Levin, Executive Leadership Academy

It’s been an extremely trying time in our country these past six months, with the virus, the fear and uncertainty, the recession, George Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests and riots, the increasing orthodoxy of public discourse, and the pre-election anxiety. Many wonder what has happened to America as waves of fear and cancellation have …

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These Days, I Spend My Time in the Rupture,

THESE DAYS, I SPEND MY TIME IN THE RUPTURE, coaxed by the prosody of steel ground into steel. What I mean is I anticipate the fetter of railroad tracks and trains: how sleep still sieves in the space of noise. My father says I refused sleep as a toddler unless carried, rumbling through fields on …

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My Summer Vacation

It all started back in April, when the virus was young… I had big plans for making this the summer of exploration, intent on getting away from the quarantine/hunker down mentality and surrounding myself with the beauty of nature. The first plan was renting an RV in June and driving to Alaska via the Alaska …

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Murder, She Wrote

In 1980, three women hitchhiked to an outdoor peace festival in West Virginia called the Rainbow Gathering. Only one survived. Accusations and mystery swirled in the nearby town for decades. This juicy setup is perhaps the most obvious reason to recommend Emma Copley Eisenberg’s first book of nonfiction, “The Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life …

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The Day Women Took Over

Editor’s note: This year, as the nation celebrates the centennial of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution—ushering in women’s suffrage—Pittsburgh is claiming its own piece of the story through the Pittsburgh Suffrage Centennial. Learn more at www.pghsuffrage100.com. It was a hundred years ago this year that the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution became …

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Who Quotes Nero?

Poems have birthdays but no funerals. They somehow manage to outlive their creators as well as the times and cultures in which they were written. Why? How? Numerous answers have been given—some academic, others pedestrian, and still others with silence and a shrug. The common theme that appears in these various answers is that poems …

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Vacancy Inspection: Woodsboro Pike

I imagine her at these windows, looking out at fields in neat rows under a thin muslin of snow a week into the new year, emerging soft into the May air, ready for the combine in early November. She would know how the scene changes over the year, the exact angle at which the spring …

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My Date with Destiny

The late Elsie Hillman, Grande Dame of the GOP and former National Republican Committee Woman, called me early one summer morning, a few weeks before the republican national committee convention in 1988. Vice President George H.W. Bush was the presumptive nominee and a close personal friend of Henry and Elsie Hillman. Elsie explained that she …

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Under a Bridge

Since 1996, photographer Teake Zuidema has called Pittsburgh his hometown. For the largest part of that time, he photographed all over the country and world, but hardly ever in Pittsburgh. That changed in 2018 when he began to accept assignments to photograph musicians, dancers, ethnic minorities and roller skaters in the ’Burgh. When the pandemic …

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George Lange: Through a Joyful Lens

Internationally renowned photographer George Lange grew up in Squirrel Hill and recently returned with his family to live in his childhood home. He credits the joy from his Pittsburgh childhood with influencing his playful approach to photography, which often involves allowing his subjects to reveal sides of themselves that are not often shared. “I am …

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What the World Needs Now… Is Rod McKuen

Barry Alfonso, a writer living in Swissvale, has produced a book we didn’t know was needed. Chances are, if you remember Rod McKuen, you’ll know his popular image: a 1960s California pop singer-songwriter who also churned out best-selling volumes of poetry that non-best-selling poets considered the equivalent of Muzak. Indeed, Alfonso cites the assessment of …

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Colleges and Schools Can and Should Open in a Way That Does the Least Harm

Any untimely death is a tragedy. Our youth die in transit to and from schools and universities every year, but these institutions are not shut down as a result. Engaging in life involves some risk of death. COVID-19 deaths in youth are rare. Rational policies should aim to minimize such risks with no expectation of …

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Pittsburgh in Crisis

Editor’s note: 2020 has been full of calamity and adversity and it’s only June. Whether the pandemic and unprecedented economic shutdown or the more recent protests that have erupted here and across the world, the ordeals have ushered in a year that’s been unrecognizable from any that preceded it.  Photographer John Beale has captured images …

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Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste

By chance, in early January, I watched a Netflix series called “Pandemic,” so my sensors were attuned early for the virus news from China. I was initially surprised that people were slow to give it credence and that financial markets blithely reached all-time highs Feb. 19. Soon enough though, as virus news swept the globe …

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Photo as Fact?

Living through the COVID-19 pandemic will become another watershed moment in our lives, and we will be asking “Where were you when…” for years to come. I remember what I was doing when the planes hit the twin towers on 9/11, but the event that rocked my world was the assassination of JFK. I might …

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Larimer Field

Before every game, before they hit us infield, the coaches yelled, “Line up,” and both teams, twenty-eight Little Leaguers, formed a skirmish, from the plate, down the left field line until it ended at the cyclone fence on Lenora Street where the old Abruzzese who didn’t speak English, and didn’t know baseball, except DiMaggio, sat …

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A Template for a Life of Learning and Art

I am a sucker for process. my favorite part of the Andy Warhol Museum has always been the top floor, where Warhol’s wispy childhood sketches hint at his expert ability to replicate reality and also his interest in amplifying his favorite parts of it. When I look at those early pieces, I am reminded that …

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Tom Quirk

White beard and shaved head,A Merton-monkish masterWhose watercolor class put meThrough the wringer with itsTwenty-painting requirementFor my slow painstaking work.Impossible, and not just at first,But he kept me at it, down-Playing my complaints, offeringMaddening encouragements.By mid-term I’d begun to setMy figures against ever starkerBackgrounds till they wereBacked by nothing except The paper’s sheer white nap—A blankness …

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Mister Rogers’ Real Neighborhood

With the recently released film and documentary about Fred Rogers, the national spotlight is shining on the man who changed the face of children’s television. He was known internationally, but since he resided in Pittsburgh and created “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” here at WQED, he is often associated with the city. However, his roots are less …

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