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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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The Life and Deaths of Cyril Wecht

Stepping into his office to interview Cyril Wecht for a profile I had been commissioned to write for Pittsburgh Quarterly, I expected to encounter the intense, blustering and contentious person who had so often been depicted on the evening news. To me, at the time, Cyril was just another loud-mouthed local public official who had …

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Fairest of Them All?

Following the results of the historic November 2018 midterm elections, I found myself, at times, both amazed and appalled. My reaction was not as a result of the outcome of the midterm elections. Rather, it was the increasingly sharp divisions between the Republican and Democratic parties, which became even more strident over the next several …

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For the Small Hairs on My Ears

If I am turning wolf-like, a wolflight growing up within me now, how past fifty feels, fur just waiting to bristle, thistle, thorns, an urge to sleep at noon, pace the house all night, staring out through glass at strangers coming back from nearby bars— If I’m becoming something else, listening at the crack in …

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Perfection

Driving Rt. 48 I see the Lokay Lanes sign celebrating a 300 game and I am filled with longing. Never have I done anything the best it can be done; the feat must feel like the first big winter snow where new lovers shut themselves indoors stay in bed while white piles in inches on …

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Silver Linings, Part IV

We asked a broad array of Pittsburghers—the pandemic has certainly brought hardships, but what “silver linings” have accompanied it that have affected your life in a positive way? At least three important positives are evident in this time of challenge. First, professional silos are coming down, and we are making great strides in organizational collaboration. …

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Faith Through It All

Photographer John Beale shows creative worship during the pandemic.

Helping Animals With a Cookbook

As incomprehensible as it is to me that people would be cruel to animals, I find it equally amazing that an organization of loving, dedicated individuals exists to help these animals—by giving them new legs in the form of wheels. This was my inspiration for my first cookbook, “Sit, Stay, Eat” and what helped take …

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Silver Linings, Part III

We asked a broad array of Pittsburghers—the pandemic has certainly brought hardships, but what “silver linings” have accompanied it that have affected your life in a positive way? The pandemic has strengthened my faith in people. I’ve been humbled and inspired by our team members who courageously stepped up to meet the needs of our …

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Finishing the Cabin

In the Fall issue, I wrote about how five friends and I escaped the hunker-down COVID malaise last summer by building a 16-by-20-foot cabin on a remote island in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.). None of us had done it before, and by the time they left July 25, the footers, subfloor and four walls were …

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Silver Linings, Part II

We asked a broad array of Pittsburghers—the pandemic has certainly brought hardships, but what “silver linings” have accompanied it that have affected your life in a positive way? I feel richer for the depth of humanity I see every day working in senior living. Families and staff have worked so hard to keep our residents …

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Silver Linings, Part I

We asked a broad array of Pittsburghers—the pandemic has certainly brought hardships, but what “silver linings” have accompanied it that have affected your life in a positive way? Years ago, I was given the sage advice to always “listen to learn.” This pandemic delivered a whopper of learnings. Celebrate the good in our life—family, friends, …

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First Grill

Overused, grates still crusted with trimmings, it wasn’t much but a dented Weber picked up at a yard sale north of Jackson, a yard I remember because there were children’s books scattered in the weeds and dolls missing their legs but no one around my age, and though for fifteen cents you could take home …

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