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N’atman coming to theaters this weekend!

Hey Yinz,

The Dark Knight Rises premieres this weekend, and the world will get to see the N’atman in action! Early reviews say that the movie finishes strong. I just wanted to share this comic posted on the Pittsburgh Film Office’s Facebook.

Whip! Bam! Boom! Kapow!

When you’re sitting in the movie theater answering trivia (like what was Baby’s real name in Dirty Dancing?) and waiting for the Batman to start, I ask you to please take a minute and think about who lost when Batman came to town. Sure, the city won overall. The film industry brought jobs to Pittsburgh and stimulated local business. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl got to relive his college football glory days as a player for the Gotham Rogue. And Christian Bale discovered Braddock, which will be the backdrop for another Christian Bale movie, “Out of the Furnace.”

But there were two losers when Batman came to town. Last summer, I watched four or five people rip the leaves off two trees on the Bellefield Avenue-side of Carnegie Mellon University’s Mellon Institute in Oakland, presumably to make the trees fit the winter scene. (If you want to talk about jobs, there were two people on ladders ripping leaves off the trees and two to pick them up.) A year has passed, and  the trees are still alive, but their branches support only a dozen or so leaves.

This photo was taken in May – less than one year after the incident, shall we say. I don’t understand why the crew ripped the leaves off these two trees but left the middle tree unscathed. Perhaps this will be central to the plot! We’ll have to wait and see.

-Estelle

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Fireworks for the Fourth in Pittsburgh

Hi yinz,

Happy fifth of July! After getting home late from the Regatta, I didn’t have the energy to post photos of the fireworks. My fourth of July holiday was certainly happy with a cook out, shopping and the Regatta, but having a one-day holiday on Wednesday is rough. After a day of work and watching the Buccos sweep the Astros tonight (Zoltan!), this photo is pretty much all I can muster.

Pittsburgh is a fantastic place to watch fireworks because the three rivers converge at the point. I remember pre-recession fireworks being shot from three barges on the river. However, the fireworks were still great this year. I saw some fireworks that I don’t think I’ve seen before – ones that shot red and green streaks that scattered like marbles dropped on a hardwood floor. Though this photo is a little blurry, it’s worth sharing because this is what I imagine an alien attack would look like… A little too much like Independence Day, am I right?

I hope you had a happy fourth of July.

-Estelle

Better stop printing ‘jagoff’ if you ain’t a yinzer

Hi yinz,

In last week’s issue of the Pittsburgh City Paper, there was a great article about how Pittsburgh Post-Gazette executive editor David Shribman told his staff to stop publishing “jagoff” in the Post-Gazette and on the website. The memo to the PG staff can be read on Jim Romenesko’s blog.

Chris Potter, CP editor and author of the cover story “Let us now praise famous jagoffs,” weaves a quick and not-so-dirty history of the term “jagoff,” tracing the word back to the British Isles, with his analysis on Pittsburgh identity. What resonated most with this writer and native Pittsburgher was  the commentary about the new generation of Pittsburghers who long for the regional distinction earned by the old Pittsburgh working class – born in steel, boxing and jazz, as Teenie Harris saw it.

The truth is that I don’t say “yinz,” unless I’m speaking ironically or at least on this blog. My parents are immigrants, and I was raised in the ‘burbs – far from ‘sliberty and dahntahn. I am guilty of some lazy speak, as I take shahers (showers) before bed, watch out for “slippy” spots when it rains and use gumbands (rubber bands) to seal up a bag of chips. But I can’t be sure if I picked up on this so-called dialect unintentionally.

Pittsburghers love their regional code — evidenced by Kennywood’s Open postcards, Pittsburghese T-shirts in the Strip, restaurants like Taste of Dahntahn, bars like Jaggerbush, parking chairs, Pittsburgh Dad and even our own pronunciation of Stillers. One of my favorite episodes of Pittsburgh Dad features the Pittsburgh Dad trying to woo his wife on Valentine’s Day. He pours a tall glass of boxed blush wine for Deb and his signature Iron City beer into a wine glass for himself. It is a scene that embodies what I see in Pittsburgh – a place where a blue-collar worker can make a comfortable home for his family — with a “good living room” and a family room.

The Pittsburgh Dad many Pittsburghers imagine is a no-nonsense man who goes to church and tucks his polo shirt into his jean shorts. As I’ve gotten older, I see fewer Pittsburgh Dads and classic examples of yinzers, but also, I’m more aware of the physical and behavioral qualities that set Pittsburgh natives apart. Though encounters are becoming more rare, I still get giddy when I hear a Pittsburgh dad at the Regatta tell his son to quit being a jagoff or quit jagging off.

This creates a dilemma of what I call the “new yinzer” : For people who did not grow up hearing “jagoff,” are we entitled to reclaim it?

Potter asks:

“But ever since last winter, when I saw a billboard boasting ‘Yinzers save with Nationwide insurance,’ I’ve wondered whether our fixation on the local dialogue is itself a pretense. How long, after all, can we boast about our “authenticity” before we start sounding inauthentic?”

This blog, titled Pixburgh N’at because of the play on pix (as in pictures) and Picksburgh, is an example of what Potter is talking about.  The new yinzer is not inauthentic if he or she distinguishes himself or herself from the yinzers of the past.  Yinzer is a dialect and a culture that, like all others, is ever evolving. New yinzers can carry on the prized regional slang and quirks as they fit with the new image of the city.

At risk of sounding like a jagoff, but I do consider myself a new yinzer — as much as one can be with an English writing degree.

-Estelle

Portraits of Elaine

Hey yinz!

This weekend, I had my first portrait shoot! My good friend and fellow Pitt grad Elaine Short needed some pictures for her professional website. Elaine is a no-nonsense editor who needed some pictures that show a little of what she’s about but not in the awkward holding-a-No.2-pencil-while-leaning-against-this-tree kind of way.

Because I take everything seriously, I did a little research on author portraits and outdoor portrait photography. Some of tips I learned include:

  • Avoid direct sunlight (one website even suggested using a white truck to reflect light)
  • Wide-angle lenses generally aren’t appropriate for professional pictures.
  • Shoot wider because you can always crop later
  • Have the model hold something to avoid clenching fists and tensing arms

Most portraits of writers that I’ve seen have the writer looking deeply into the camera. Sometimes their arms are crossed or their hands cradle their faces. Often they’re in black and white. I wanted to convey Elaine’s exuberance and youth with vibrant summery colors and laughter. That honest laugh, however, can be tough when staring into a the eye of a camera. At the same time, I tried to avoid this sort of cheesy portrait smile:

Universal Studios - American Pie Family Photo

So, I told jokes. I urged her to “keep it loose.” A couple times, I suggested that she take a tip from Miss Tyra Banks and smile with her eyes:

I asked for her to show me her sexy face and Blue Steel, knowing a burst of laughter would follow. I think it worked. These photos are in chronological order. Maybe you can tell by the sun or by Elaine’s body language. We started with strong 3 p.m. lighting after a late lunch in Oakland, and around 7 p.m., we met up again for another session by the parking lot near the Shadyside Wine and Spirits on Center Avenue.

Elaine on a bench behind the Cathedral of Learning

Elaine said this pose has been done before, and she’s right. But she does it so well, and it’s nice to have options.

In Hillman Library

This shot happened after an awkward encounter with an admirer. Brush it off, E.

Getting a little silly here

This is my fave. Bridge, glasses, dress and smile.

Thanks for the opportunity, Elaine! This was so much fun!

All the best and lots of love,

-Estelle

Mirazozo: Is this what it’s like to walk through a rainbow?

Hey yinz kids!

Today, I went with my nephew and his family to the Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival in Oakland. The festival offered crafts, musicians, a petting zoo, free carousel rides, face painters, funnel cake and lots of other cool things kids love and adults might expect. The centerpiece of the festival — and a delight for young and old alike — was the Mirazozo, a giant inflatable sculpture. The luminarium is a network of radiant domes that has delighted visitors worldwide since 1992.

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Maybe I should say, “Is this what it’s like to walk through a kaleidoscope?”

If you haven’t seen it yet, you have one more day! Mirazozo will be open in from 9:30 to 5:30 tomorrow on Mazeroski Field. Admission is $5. It’s definitely worth it.

ImageHope yinz make it dahn,

Estelle

Art All Weekend in Pittsburgh

Hey Yinz,

It was a very cool weekend to be Pittsburgh. If you were willing to brave the freezing (C’mon wasn’t it just 80 degrees?) weather, you had plenty of events to check out. On Friday, there was the gallery crawl dahntahn presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. From 4 p.m. Saturday to 2 p.m. Sunday, the 15th annual Art All Night raged on in Lawrenceville. It’s a good thing Art All Night actually went all night because it was competing with the fire festival in Homestead dubbed Pyrotopia.

Here’s a slew of photos from my most eventful Saturday night.

Cool industrial space at 40th Street and Willow in Lawrenceville

I loved the contrast of the art against the steel beams, caution tape and florescent lights.

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I dig Bruce Lee art. He was such a philosopher.

Love this concept

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I'm just mad about this.

One of the things I love about Art All Night is that anyone could submit art, so you could have a drawing by a four-year-old kid next to a $900 painting. “No fees. No jury. No censorship.”

The painting on the left is one of the many stellar works by my four-year-old nephew. The painting next to it is my sister, Patty's, creation. A good sense of color runs in the family.

Image~~~~~~~~~ Pyrotopia ~~~~~~~~~

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This flame was set off with an electroencephalography (EEG) headband. It was fun to see the flame shoot up when the headband wearer (usually a kid) focused.

Pyrotopia is a new festival that featured musical acts, a torch set off by an electroencephalography (EEG) headband, a fiery game of Simon and other neat performances. The event took place at the Pump House, against the backdrop of the Rankin Bridge and the Carrie Furnace. There are some pictures I included because I thought they’d be cool for a fire version of the cloud game, where you see the objects in the abstract. Enjoy!

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The Pyrotopia version of the game of Simon

Glass artist from Forms in Glass Studios (Fig Studios) in Pittsburgh

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What do you see?

Evil potato smile?

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Yosemite Sam?

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An alien invasion (barge) passing by the Carrie Furnace

This was a fun, unique event that I would love to see again. My one greatest criticism was that the Tesla coil that was advertised was not running by 10 p.m., about when we left. There seemed to have been technical difficulties, which is rather unnerving. Does anyone know if they started the Tesla coil by the end of the night?

I hope you were able to check out some of these events this weekend and/or you’ll venture out next time.

See yinz later,

Estelle

I Made It! Market gifts to delight your Valentine

Hey yinz,

If you’re looking for something for your Valentine, stop by the old Joseph Beth Booksellers store in the South Side Works on Saturday for the I Made It! Mine market. The event is from noon to 5 p.m. 

I Made It! Market posted a list of artists who will be attending, so you can check them out before the event. There will be more than 55 local artisans and craftspeople attending. So, you’ll be sure to find fancy soaps, like those found at the Handmade Arcade, to pamper your sweetie as well as more unusual, usual suspects, including handmade jewelry, cards and stuffed animals. There are also some less conventional gifts for your loved ones, like dog treats shaped like pizza, fancy jams, pottery and painted eggs! I love these upcycled bottles.

Even if you don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, go ahead and treat yourself. I Made It! Markets are better than a box of chocolates because you never know what you’re gonna get. 🙂

Estelle