Tag Archives: Pittsburgh

Surprise! This Book Just Transformed Into My Worst Fear

I love Halloween because it’s the one time of year wearing a costume is socially acceptable. It’s the time you can be someone or something you’re not. You can taste what it’s like to be a monster, or your favorite fictional character, or a concept.

zombinatorLots of people in Pittsburgh, pretty much everyone apparently, wants to “taste” what it’s like to be a zombie—there are zombie walks, massive humans vs. zombies games on college campuses, zombie literature, a zombie store, and new zombie movies all the time.

Before I go any further, let me say this: I don’t scare easily.

Spiders? I put them outside so they can eat annoying bugs. Snakes? I had a pet snake when I was a kid, and the only reason I don’t have one now is because my dogs would probably try to eat it. Bats? I squeal with delight when I see one because I think they are super adorable (and they eat half their body weight in insects per night!). Insects? As long as they aren’t trying to bite me, dive bomb me, or fly into my mouth or ear, I don’t bother with them. And I love the ones that help my garden, like bees and lady bugs.

I do have one mortal fear, though: Zombies.

That’s right. I think bats are the cutest things ever, snakes make great pets, and spiders are my friendly household helpers, and yet I’m Terrified—with a capital T—of zombies.

It’s the idea that a monster could scratch you ever-so-slightly and yet still infect you with a disease that turns you into a mindless husk of a body with cannibalistic leanings. It’s the slow and relentless onslaught. The overwhelming numbers. That once they start coming, you can fight, but humanity’s demise is inevitable.

Walking Dead Book OneOnce, I tried reading The Walking Dead, and got ten pages in before I slammed the book shut. “Nope. No way. Not going to happen,” I told the book.

Miniature WifeLately, I’ve been stumbling onto zombie stories everywhere. This past weekend, I was reading The Miniature Wife and Other Stories by Manuel Gonzales, and BAM, surprise zombie story! I had to read it, because I have this compulsion about finishing books, and aside from the surprise zombies, I really enjoyed the delightful weirdness of the collection.

That night, I made my husband hold my hand after we turned out the lights, because I couldn’t stop thinking about the zombies and their gray teeth and slurping sounds.

bprdhellonearthoneLast month, I was reading B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, and BAM, zombies! I’ve encountered the traditional slow-moving raised-from-the-dead zombies in Hellboy before (and those don’t really scare me), but these were mindless mutated half-animal creatures that got turned into zombies from breathing a gas released from a gigantic monster. UBER CREEPY.

weliveinwaterEven Jess Walter’s seemingly normal collection about class and race issues, We Live in Water, contains a surprise zombie story. It’s not a typical zombie story—people are turned by taking a recreational drug that changes their brain chemistry—but it’s still a zombie story.

stitchedIf you look at the cover of Stitched by Garth Ennis, a writer I greatly enjoy, it looks like a war comic with some scary reaper dudes. NOPE. It’s about voodoo zombies who can’t be killed. I read this one anyway, but man did it freak me out.

All these zombie stories act kind of like zombies themselves. You think you’re safe and comfortable and then all of a sudden your best friend has become a flesh-eating monster, and you have to fight for your life. I think I’m safe and comfortable reading fun quirky short stories about miniaturized wives or class issues in a decaying city, and then all of a sudden I’m reading a story about zombies and I’m terrified.

I guess this is one of the risks of being a science fiction and fantasy reader in the zombie-obsessed 21st century. It makes a kind of sense—lots of people believe we’re all turning into zombies because of too much work, because we listen to the same talking heads and don’t think for ourselves, because there is always a new virus that does scary, scary things to the human body.

So I’m not going to stop reading these types of stories, even though they make me want to hide under the covers like a five-year-old afraid of the monster in the closet.

How about you? Do you love zombies? Hate them? What’s your favorite zombie story?

-Kelly

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Toi Derricotte & Vanessa German: Saturday Poets-In-Person

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Come join us on Saturday, September 20th, at the Main Library in Oakland, for the inaugural reading in our brand new series, Saturday Poets-In-Person. The series will focus on well-known Pittsburgh poets, with the featured poets for the first reading being Toi Derricotte and Vanessa German. Readings will take place from 3 to 4 pm on Saturday afternoons. Sign language interpretation will be provided for our Deaf community.

Toi Derricotte is an important American poet whose work resonates deeply with the sorrows and the joys of being human, utilizing elements of her own life to inform us all what it is to be alive in the late 20th and early 21st century. An award winning poet who is the co-founder of Cave Canem, an organization “committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets,” she was elected Chancellor of  the Academy of American Poets in 2012.

Vanessa German is a multidisciplinary artist based in Pittsburgh’s historic Homewood neighborhood. Her performances have been described by Creative Mornings  as being in a “style called Spoken Word Opera; a dynamic hybrid of spoken word poetry infused with the theatrical elements of Opera, Hip Hop, and African Storytelling.” Her love of Homewood, her personal courage in the face of adversity, and her performance work, the stuff of Pittsburgh legend, are well-known both nationally and internationally.

All readings will take place in the International Poetry Room on the second floor of Main Library. The poetry collection housed there contains over 4,500 books and is one of the largest standalone poetry collections in a public library in the US. The collection was begun by the Carnegie Library in collaboration with Dr. Samuel Hazo, the founder and Executive Director of the International Poetry Forum, with a few dozen books back in 1976 and has grown into a destination point for poetry lovers in Pittsburgh and throughout Allegheny County.

For lovers of the written word, performance art, or poetry, this is a program not to be missed. I hope to see you there. FYI, here is a flyer for the complete series. Just click to enlarge:

page0001~ Don

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Us vs Them: or, a Rust Belt Sibling Rivalry

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My regular late summer visit home to Cleveland was this past weekend with its requisite must do’s of each visit – family, friends, food, and cultural or sporting event. I’ve been living in Southwest PA nearly as long as I lived in Northeast Ohio, and the one constant over those many years has been the comments (some positive, but most not) from family, friends, co-workers, neighbors regarding the “other” city. If they only knew that each is more alike than not, and both cities have such great assets that citizens of each city should be eager to explore, and easy to do with such a relatively short drive down the respective turnpikes. And so I thought it high time that I point out some of the greatness of each city:

FOOD

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Who doesn’t need to eat, and make that part of any trip? Both cities have wonderful ethnic neighborhoods highlighting the melting pot aspects of each of these Rust Belt cities. Cleveland’s Little Italy  neighborhood near the cultural center of  University Circle, which hosted its annual “Feast” celebration this past weekend, is not to be outdone by Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood, nor is Polish Hill and the pierogies produced throughout Pittsburgh to be outdone by Cleveland’s Slavic Village and those specialty foods produced by the hearts and hands of Northeastern Ohioans. And while Clevelanders have the historic West Side Market to make their purchases of specialty meats, cheeses, produce and more, Pittsburghers are able to stroll the streets of their historic Strip District and stop in to make purchases at the likes of Salem’s, Wholey’s, and Penn Mac.

Hot Sauce Williams is a must stop in Cleveland for lovers or ribs, and soul food specialties, but in Pittsburgh you have to do a little bit more digging to fill your craving for mac and cheese or greens and other soul food favorites. Cleveland, and more specifically my childhood neighborhood of Cleveland Heights, boasts famous chefs in residence (Michael Symon, Michael Ruhlman and James Beard award winning Douglas Katz). Pittsburgh has many of its own top chefs in the local restaurant world… including James Beard contenders and winners Justin Severino, Kevin Sousa and Trevett Hooper to name only a few… where it will just be a matter of time before many of these become nationally known food stars.

SPORTS

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Now, be honest, we must all agree that Pittsburgh has a bit of a leg up on this topic with the many championships achieved by the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins throughout the decades (brought to light in the very excellent Heinz History Center’s Sports Museum), but Clevelanders have something Pittsburghers don’t – a professional basketball team.With the return of basketball’s prodigal son whose name shall still remain nameless among many of my Cleveland family and friends, it may be soon that Cleveland will be able to crow about a being a city of champions.

WATER

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Pittsburgh has three rivers, which come together at “The Point”,  and the spectacular bridge architecture and terrain that goes along with those geographic features. Cleveland, on the other hand has a river (which no longer burns!) and a Great Lake, complete with beaches, marinas and fresh walleye. A trip along the Mon or Allegheny is just as enjoyable as a boat ride along “north coast” beaches and down the Cuyahoga River, famous for having caught on fire back in 1969, as well as having a beer and festival named after it.

CULTURE

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Two rust belt cities only 2.5 hours from each other are so fortunate to have world class orchestras, not to mention museums of art housing some of the greatest works of art from world renowned artists (one of which is free to get in!) Pittsburgh has a wonderful children’s museum, both cities have fun science centers, Pittsburgh can claim the wildly eclectic Warhol Museum and Mattress Factory, while Cleveland is home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Pittsburgh’s contribution to the jazz world might be a surprise to outsiders, but with names like Eckstine and Strayhorn as part of the musical fabric of this town, this particular musical genre puts a plus in Pittsburgh’s column.  And neither city lacks multiple options for live theater venues for fans of Broadway, off Broadway, and home grown productions.

And of course…LIBRARIES

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What kind of librarian would I be if I didn’t mention the plethora of FREE resources available to residents of both cities and their surrounding suburbs through their local public library system!? For those of you here in Pittsburgh, the city has 19 neighborhood branches for you to visit via the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and if that’s not enough the entire county of Allegheny boasts a total of 70 library locations! Cleveland and Cuyahoga County are equally rich in their public library offerings –from the downtown branch on Superior Avenue to the outlying community libraries in Euclid, Beechwood, Berea and more.

Beyond the spectacular architecture of many of the original Carnegie libraries, many branches in both cities boast special collections worth the trip out of your own neighborhood. The A.C. Free Library in Carnegie, PA has a special collection of Civil War memorabilia for all you history buffs, and speaking of history, the Braddock Carnegie Library in Braddock, PA was the first Carnegie Library in the United States! The Main Library of the Cleveland Public Library system’s historic Walker & Weeks building is home to a large circulation collection, special collections and the Eastman Reading Garden, which is home to a fantastic collection of public art. And CPL’s Main branch even has a drive up window!

Now, before you start commenting below, I know that I left out A LOT of other assets both cities have to offer (alternative music scene, green space, urban agriculture, educational institutions, public transit, brew pubs, and more), but I’m going to leave those for you to discover and share with your favorite naysayer when you make your trip up to Cleveland or down to Pittsburgh, because I know you will after reading this, AND I know that you will be pleasantly surprised at the fact that these siblings are more alike than not!

-Maria J. (proud to claim both cities as “home”)

(all images courtesy of Google Image search)

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Home Again, Home Again.

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I have lived in Pittsburgh my entire life. I didn’t go away to college, I didn’t leave after I graduated, I stayed here for graduate school and I’ve spent my whole library career (so far) at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

I have zero complaints about this.

Yet twice recently I’ve found myself defending my choice to stay in Pittsburgh. I’m sure some of you have had someone say, “Sooooo, you just never left” in a particularly arch voice, implying a provincialism and xenophobia that I’m sure to be chock full of.

Yinz can kiss my dupa ‘naht. 

Garbella

Garbella loves us!

Let me tell you some amazing things about where I live. But promise not to tell anyone because we have enough people here already. We get lots of prestigious awards here in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh was listed as one of the best trips in the WORLD by National Geographic Traveler in 2012. This is a list that includes New Zealand, Croatia, Mongolia and Thailand!

We were voted the 4th Most Literate City in the US (because our public library rocks!) and voted Most Romantic by Amazon. Everyone knows that literate people are good at doing it. We are also regularly voted most affordable (6th), safest, most livable (29th world wide), and we have the NUMBER ONE ballpark (PNC Park) as voted on by Fox Sports. We have internationally known museums, theater venues and a bunch of other great art stuff.

According to to Economist Intelligence Unit “It’s official: Pittsburgh is best place live in U.S.”

Also: Cookie Tables.

In an admittedly piqued mood, I went to social media. Of course it turned into a Steel City love fest.

Here’s a snippet what other people had to say:

DO IT FOR SCIENCE!
If you were born and raised in Pittsburgh and never moved away, please explain why in the comments. Thank you!

  • I like it here. It’s the perfect balance of urban and natural landscapes. It’s inexpensive enough that I can afford to travel. The literary and arts scenes are solid. People are friendly.
  • I seriously feel like an outcast in other cities. I love cities like New Orleans, San Diego, Boston, etc… But no city but Pittsburgh understands that quirky, high strung, angry but funny, serious but carefree attitude people here have.
  • It’s home, it’s roots. I love other places too, but I fit Pittsburgh and it fits me.
  • Carton tea. Also, strangers are nice to each other, I can find at least one person that knows my gram, or uncles, or cousins pretty much anywhere I go and I want my kids to say “dahn” properly.
  • It’s home. I make sense here. Is that scientific enough?

There were another 30 comments. People love this place. (Though we nearly unanimously hate the weather.)

c3d6c6da8da0052fb44b1110.LMy favorite Pittsburgh book recommendation is Out of this Furnace by Thomas Bell

Out of this Furnace is one of my favorite books and my favorite Pittsburgh book of all time. Also, while I was working on this post, I discovered Thomas Bell and I share the same birthday! That kind of made my day. Anyways, Out of this Furnace follows three generations of an immigrant Slovak family- the Dobrejaks. Patriarch Djuro Kracha arrives in the mid-1880s and makes his way to Braddock, Pennsylvania. Working in the steel mills, Kracha’s bad decisions (money and personal) contribute to his downfall. Part two follows his daughter, Mary and her marriage to political idealist Mike. It is an amazing portrait of the immigrant experience in Pittsburgh, a fascinating look at the inhumane conditions in the steel industry, and documents the rise of unions and the people who fought and died for workers rights. I’ll say up front that it’s a heavy read, but it’s worth it. And you’ll love Pittsburgh even more for its history.

My response to why I never left? Everything and everyone I love is here. Why have you stayed? Or left?

Trzymaj się,

suzy

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I Learned How To Spell ‘Gyllenhaal’ Without Looking While Writing This

The last time Jake Gyllenhaal was in Pittsburgh was when he was filming 2009’s Love & Other Drugs.  Now, he’s back in town filming Southpaw. Directed by Hill District-native Antoine Fuqua—who led Denzel Washington to his Oscar win in 2001’s Training Day—the currently-filming drama follows the rising boxing career of Billy “The Great” Hope as his personal life declines. Sadly, this entry has no juicy behind-the-scenes anecdotes.  Sorry about that.

If Southpaw is anything like last year’s Pittsburgh-filmed boxing movie Grudge Match, I don’t have very high hopes.  Have any good sports movies even been made since Space Jam in 1996?

I didn’t think so.

Anyway, I’ll probably still see it because, as I’ve mentioned, I like seeing Pittsburgh on film.  And I like Gyllenhaal as an actor, even if I’ve always seen him as a teenager.  This is probably due to his roles in Donnie Darko, The Good Girl and the 2001 remake of Bubble Boy.  Even seeing him in the spectacular Zodiac and the wonderful Brokeback Mountain, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching a kid playing an adult.

Pictured: me in college enjoying Jake Gyllenhaal. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Collins

Pictured: me in college enjoying Jake Gyllenhaal.
Photo courtesy of Caitlin Collins

That all changed when I saw the two films that Gyllenhaal put out last year:  Oscar-nominated Prisoners and Enemy, both helmed by Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve.

I’ll talk about those two films on the next page.

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Hollywood of the East: A Top Ten List of Pittsburgh-filmed Movies

With Josh Boone’s adaptation of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars opening in theaters across the country today, the long history that Pittsburgh has with film continues to grow. In case you didn’t know, the movie was filmed around here last year in places like Oakmont, Bellevue and a soundstage in the Strip, just to name a few spots. Sadly, this isn’t a review of that film. I guess I’m not a prolific enough reviewer yet for theaters around here to give me advanced screening tickets and whatnot.

Anyway, I’ve previously mentioned Pittsburgh’s history with film and how much I love seeing our city on film. It seems like every week a new project is green lit for Pittsburgh and I couldn’t be more excited about all of it. The city is becoming so well known for its films that bus tours of filming locations throughout the city started on May 31.

And with good reason. Seriously, our city is beautiful.

 

All the talk of tours, Foxcatcher gaining early Oscar buzz and great reviews at Cannes and Aaron Paul and Amanda Seyfried chilling at Jack’s on the South Side got me thinking about all the Pittsburgh-filmed movies I’ve seen. So if you didn’t get any advanced screening tickets like me or can’t get out to the theater this weekend to see the latest addition to Pittsburgh’s filmography, maybe you can check out one of the following.

This is my list of the top ten films filmed in and around the Pittsburgh region.

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Howdy, Partner!

There have been many great partnerships throughout history – Orville and Wilbur, Hillary and Norgay, the Steves (Jobs and Wozniak), Rodgers and Hammerstein, Ben and Jerry,  the Curies, Bert and Ernie, Sherlock and Watson, Katniss and Peeta  -just to name a few. These partnerships, whether real or fictional, were formed over like interests and are a testament to what can be accomplished when people work together towards a common goal. Right here in Pittsburgh, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is creating some great partnerships with the goal of literacy throughout the city.

I’m extremely fortunate to be a part of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Office of Programs and Partnerships (OPP). Within this department which is housed at the East Liberty branch of CLP, we have a great collection of staff reaching out to a variety of groups in their own unique way, forming partnerships and conducting programs throughout the city to promote a variety of literacies within the community.

The BLAST crew regularly head out to the Pittsburgh Public Schools and related events, connecting with our city’s young readers and future leaders, aiding in early learning and literacy skills.

The Labs @CLP work at providing space and time for teens to connect to new learning experiences via technology.  Teens, an often neglected and misunderstood demographic, are able to engage with fellow teens and library staff through unique, technology-centered literacy.

LYNCS, of which I am a member, reaches out to various groups in Pittsburgh to provide a variety of literacies in neighborhoods, communities and schools. We run the gamut of providing pre-school story times, senior citizen technology programs, information and hands-on technology  at community events, and financial and job literacy to Allegheny County Jail inmates alongside our colleagues from the various neighborhood branches. In addition, the LYNCS crew has managed a temporary, pop-up library in the neighborhood of Allentown, bringing library services and programming to a community lacking easy access to our neighborhood branches and their services.  Over the past year and a half that we have been in this temporary setting, we have had the pleasure of working with great community partners to provide access to library services, unique programming and a community center for this often neglected and little known Pittsburgh neighborhood. A great result of the partnerships formed with various Allentown and other Hilltop groups, has led to the pop-up library  transitioning to the Allentown Learning and Engagement Center (ALEC), a project which would not have been possible without the partnerships formed with our community neighbors.

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LYNCS colleagues at an outreach event.

 

The entire staff of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is working to reach out to all of the city neighborhoods, not only through library services and programming within the neighborhood branches, but also through a variety of outreach initiatives encouraging literacies beyond its brick and mortar locations. We are happily building new partnerships, whether it’s at the circulation desk or in a city park, not just during this National Library Week, but every day of the year.

-Maria J.

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