CULTURE

[15] Phosphorus

At school I volunteered to set the lab stockroom in order. Sealed in a navy lab coat I took inventory. Gathered for disposal crumbling samples, mystery solutions. Rewrote acid-​rotted labels. Re-​pickled a funnel-​web. Marvelled at copper’s rosy gleam. Dusted the jar of white phosphorus, a sullen chunk stored underwater. Like…

Poetic Mission

With its deep pool of talented writers, Pittsburgh punches well above small-​city status, especially among poetry circles. Reasons for this embarrassment of riches include the exposure many local poets receive for work that wins them awards, ample workshops, university writing programs with strong reputations and a vibrant scene that features…

Lear in the Furnace: A Review of Quantum Theatre’s “King Lear”

Attending a Quantum Theatre production can be like traveling to one of those crazy destination weddings where they make you climb up some precipitous volcano to reach the venue, while you ponder the wedding planner’s sanity. You know the view will be fantastic, but is the journey worth it? In…

Underheard

1 He had the window seat. After take-​off he said, “My line is socks; what’s yours?” I said I was a writer. He smiled his least impressive smile. “What do you write?” “I hope they are poems.” ‘Where are you headed now? I told him I’d been invited to recite…

Treating Patients As People

Healthcare often gets treated as if the only issue is economic: Health insurance-​Goliaths Highmark and UPMC are in a coverage standoff; a “Medicare-​for-​all” bill that could cost up $32 trillion is unveiled in the U.S House of Representatives; insurance rates tick upward. But what about the emotional plight of flesh-​and-​blood…

New Faces at the Westmoreland

With a renewed interest in what kinds of people are represented in art museums, a new exhibition at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art offers some rarely seen faces. “Mingled Visions: The Photographs of Edward S. Curtis and Will Wilson” (March 30 – June 30) presents images of Native Americans taken a…

On Broken Hollow Bridge

Answering Darlene Howard’s snotty dare, I hoisted myself up to the handrail, as thick as a balance beam, but slick with summer rain and wet rust. Knees bent, arms out to my sides, I straightened, chin up, staring ahead. Kicking off my sandals, I took my first tentative steps, peeling…

Exuberance at the Warhol

Devon Shimoyama’s just-​ended exhibition at the Andy Warhol Museum proves the enduring power of Warhol’s work 30 years after his death and shows that the museum has no interest in becoming a shrine to a self-​referential and reverential hagiography. “Cry, Baby” brings a young talent to our attention, while simultaneously…

Short Takes: “Engineering Pittsburgh,” “American Dinosaur Abroad”

Without civil engineers, our world would fall apart. They are hidden brains behind what we civilians take for granted — all the marvelous methods for getting us from here to there, safe and sound. To observe its 100th anniversary, the Pittsburgh section of the American Society of Engineers has produced an indispensable…

An Eye-​Opener About Living Black in Pittsburgh

Damon Young recently bought a rather nice house a block away from me. Yet I don’t expect to be invited over, although I am about to lavish praise on his brave, incisive and witty memoir about growing up and living while black in Pittsburgh. Even a blurb-​ready assessment — Damon Young is…

Tragedy in a Box: A Review of “The Gun Show (Can We Talk About This?)”

A refreshing pragmatism infuses Quantum Theatre’s production of “The Gun Show (Can We Talk About This?)” (2013) – a kind of low-​tech, iconoclastic exuberance that’s reminiscent of the early films of Godard. It’s a classic one-​man, story-​telling performance – with some audience interaction – that comes off somewhere between Spalding…

Soft-​Core Pathos: A Review of Pittsburgh Public Theater’s “The Tempest”

Cleverness is not a Shakespearian trait. In fact, as we have found after more than 400 years, the more we try to shape him, using our own devices, the less he is able to tell us. This is because his chief mode of artistic engagement is the sublime – versus…

Kitchen

Its scent was more like the bread Grandma’s fingers shaped, rising warm to my nose than the ash of her Salem’s crushed in thick glass trays, her coffee cup ringed black after finishing a smoke. That candy jar glazed butterscotch, plump atop her laminate table we used for Go Fish,…

Short Takes: “Thank Your Lucky Stars” “Asia Ascending”

The pleasures of “Thank Your Lucky Stars” are doubled in the re-​reading. The 50 stories tucked into 189 pages encourage a binge. Most are short short, sometimes just a few paragraphs; about 10 are traditional-​length short stories (if size matters). But when you return to browse through the collection, images…

The Bad Old Days

You won’t get depressed by reading Richard Gazarik’s “Wicked Pittsburgh.” The retired Tribune-​Review reporter does not seek to darken the name of our fair city. He merely wants to gather, in one handy and readable volume, key stories of corruption, crime and skulduggery stretching back to the turn of the…
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