Gershwin in Pittsburgh

George Gershwin will be forever associated with New York City. This most American of composers derived his inspiration from Manhattan’s energy, skyscrapers, jazz, nightlife, and evolving Broadway-musical art form. Nevertheless, in the 1920s and ’30s Gershwin and his music traversed the nation, often ending up in Pittsburgh. New York musicals and plays of the time …

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Retail Report: Holiday 2011

The holidays traditionally represent a key time for retail businesses. However, in Pittsburgh and across the country, retailers face an increasingly challenging atmosphere as shopping habits continue to change and a sputtering economy persists. In this context, we asked leading local retailers a handful of questions: What percent of sales occur during the holidays? What …

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Giving Footnotes the Boot

While I was reading an essay written half a century ago by the distinguished historian and long-ago colleague, Peter Gay, I got to thinking about footnotes. His illuminating piece turned out to be somewhat annoying to read because of all those footnotes! You get to the end of a sentence and that little superscript numeral …

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Major Dilemma

A few months ago, as graduates donned caps and gowns and set their sights on their futures, parents snapped pictures of the end that marked the beginning ​ The day after, however, graduates facing an uncertain future wondered, “Will I get a job?” The good news for recent college graduates is that 19 percent more …

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Road Trip

In May, my wife, Cindy, and I became the first Americans to drive from coast-to-coast in a natural-gas-powered vehicle. The idea first occurred to me last fall after retiring from EQT. I had the time, and the project intrigued me. First, I’m a believer in energy independence for America. We import more than 65 percent of …

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The Black Diamond

Before the civil war, what black community existed in Pittsburgh largely included Northern-born free blacks and runaway slaves, many of whom had traveled the Underground Railroad. This small black population would preside over a new generation of African-Americans arriving from the South. In that first Southern, black migration, the city’s African American population grew from …

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A different school of thought

Try to wrap your mind around this picture: Sara Pozonsky was born 37 years ago at home in an Eskimo village on Lake Iliamna in Alaska, while the village chief sat in her parents’ living room drinking coffee and eating cookies. Today, she drives a Buick Renegade SUV—”midsize,” she stresses—around the wilds of Washington County, …

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The forecast

For 2006, the U.S. economy’s prospects remain favorable, along with those of Asia, North America and, to a lesser extent, Europe. One key assumption underlying our sanguine global economic outlook is that crude oil prices will fluctuate within a $45 to $70 per barrel range, but average close to $55 per barrel in 2006, down …

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There is life underground

On a recent Friday evening, the balcony in the South Side’s Rex Theater was at a near fever pitch. Amid a buzzing crowd, models were sipping cocktails and slipping into their custom-made outfits while a new rock band, Magdalene, jammed on the stage below. The evening was conceived as a debut concert for Magdalene, but …

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Front and center

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It is a pleasure to be with you (And if you knew how frightened I am of speaking in public you would have pity on this terrorstricken speaker).” The thought expressed above is an all too common phenomenon for many who find themselves standing before an audience of strangers, all …

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Eye on the ball: Centerfielder McCutchen

Tuesday night, Aug. 25, 2009. There are 17,049 paying customers in PNC Park. If they are baseball fans, they are getting their money’s worth. True, the Pirates are out of pennant contention. They are the sole resident of last place in the National League Central Division, as they have been for much of the past …

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Bidding Farewell to a Difficult Decade

Though some purists might argue that the first decade of the new century did not begin until Jan. 1, 2001, and will not end until Dec. 31, 2010, the great mass of humanity marked the end of that decade last Dec. 31. Most observed its passing with relief. The last 10 years have been called, …

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Jazzy notes

On a painted mural behind the small stage of Pittsburgh’s newest jazz club, a singer in a dark red, strapless gown with a black bob hairdo sings to a sketched cityscape resembling Pittsburgh’s skyline at dusk. The real thing—Etta Cox—was there too, crooning standards “Teach Me Tonight” and “Misty” with the Harold Betters quartet, all …

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Making a Promise

Pittsburgh has a way of weaseling itself into one’s heart. My wife, a Midwestern girl raised in Sioux City, and I, an Arab boy born in Lebanon, moved to Pittsburgh in 1984. We brought with us our 3-month-old daughter, youthful idealism, boundless energy and lots of naïve inexperience. Into this mix, one year later, were …

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The face of Brazil in Pittsburgh

Five years ago, Brazilian conductor and composer Flavio Chamis set out to create an album with musicians from five nations at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild. Chamis and producer Jay Ashby decided to take things slowly, something unusual in the commercial music world. Three years later, in 2006, Especiaria was released. The album was picked up …

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A Grand Idea: Pittsburgh 250

It really was George Washington’s “grand idea”—the Potomac River was the true Gateway to the West. Joel Achenbach writes about it in The Grand Idea—connecting the tidewater of the Potomac to the headwaters of the Ohio would secure Virginia’s leadership among the new American states. So, perhaps it’s no surprise that almost 250 years later, …

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50 Years Ago…

To understand the culture of a region, one must consider how its residents view themselves, especially during a milestone event such as a major anniversary celebration. So, as Pittsburgh commemorates its 250th birthday, I decided to look in my library for several brochures from the city’s 1958 bicentennial. On the surface, looking back 50 years …

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A good lesson

Eleanore Childs may have had as many lives as Joanie Caucus, that trailblazing mom/feminist/late-in-life-lawyer of the “Doonesbury” comic strip — each reincarnation a mirror of the social upheavals of the last half of the last century. As the daughter of Sewickley pediatrician Robert Nix, a beloved figure in that community who, in the 1950s, helped …

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