Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Blast Furnace's One Year Anniversary

Pittsburgh it's time to celebrate.  The Blast Furnace turned 1 on March 25.  We started slow and ended slow, but had a lot of fun in between.  We had over 20,000 page views over this time period from countries all over the world.  Over the year, we have seen some of our favorite restaurants and bars close, sports teams win and lose, profiled some of our favorite 'celebrities,' reviewed our hot spots, and reported on strange Pittsburghers acting well, like.....Pittsburghers.  Surprisingly our article Furries Invade Pittsburgh was our most viewed.  So to recap, here are some of this contributors favorite and most popular stories.

1.  Famous Pittsburgh Mustaches:  This one drew national attention when it was referenced by the Huffington Post's article on America's Most Mustache-Friendly Cities.  This article was very enjoyable to research and write about, seeing all these glorious mustaches on a daily basis and having celebrities showcase their upper lip hair to a national audience.

2.  Lenten Fish Fry Reviews - It is that time of year again for a true Pittsburgh sandwiches.  Former Pittsburghers just can't seem to find a great giant fish sandwich in their new town, well Pittsburgh has plenty of them.  We have our favorites and many are reviewed here.

3.  Where have you gone Matrix? - One of the Blast Furnace's favorite meeting places in our 20's, sadly it is no more.  Dancing, 50 cent drink night, and all around good times. 

4.  The Best Bar in the Burgh......Kopy's - Another classic hangout.  Cheap drinks, darts, jukebox, and friendly service make this South Side bar our favorite.

5.  Gene's Place, an Instant Hit - Wondering around Oakland in our early 20's and discovering Gibbons Beer.

6.  Pittsburgh RibFest Underwhelms and Infuriates - We've all seen and experienced the annual RibFest, this article describes the event perfectly.

This Blast Furnace blogger hopes year 2 will be just as exciting as year 1.  Pittsburgh is a special place with unique people so there will never be a shortage of stories and experiences which we all can relate.   I challenge all contributors to keep on researching, writing, and commenting to make this a regular stop for curious Pittsburghers.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Battle for Shell won by the 'burgh

Shell Oil

In another round of economic victory in Pittsburgh, Shell Oil announced its intentions to build its petrochemical "cracker" facility in Beaver County.  Western PA beat out the likes of West Virginia and Ohio in securing the contracts from Shell.

This ends a long courtship by the three states that saw each respective governor travel to Houston to pitch their bid for the new plant. 

Although this will bring the prospect of new jobs and economic prosperity, the realistic threat of environmental consequences looms largely in the background of the announcement.  Despite repeated assurances by large shale corporations that fracking poses no environmental threat, public opinion varies on the topic.

The most notable of these is the threat toward groundwater contamination, brought largely to light in the documenatry Gasland.  The director argues that fracking leaches carcinogenic and hazardous compounds into the groundwater, which could forever contaminate life-supporting watersheds.

With this announcement comes the realization that the company that was created by oil profits will now have five cracker plants domestically.  Shell continues to become a larger player in the Marcellus Shale development.

It is expected that the construction of the plant will require 10,000 new employees, and will require several hundred full-time exmployees once fully operational.  There has been no news regarding the potential of an office location at the industrial site.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Carnegie's Teenie Harris Exhibit

I recently visited the Carnegie Museum of Art to view the popular exhibit, "Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story" and was very enlightened.  Charles "Teenie" Harris (1908-1998) was a highly acclaimed African American photographer for the black newspaper the Pittsburgh Courier from the mid-1930s through the mid-1970s.  Mr. Harris captured images of politicians, celebrities, and daily life in Pittsburgh's Hill District neighborhood.  Nearly 1,000 of his estimated collection of 80,000 photographs are on display in the museum and are projected on the walls and organized into seven different categories (each 24 minutes in length):  "Crossroads," "Gatherings," "Urban Landscapes," "Style," "At Home," "The Rise and Fall of the Crawford Grill" and "Words and Signs."  In the adjoining gallery, all 987 black and white photographs are displayed on the walls organized by year with the option of a headset to hear descriptions of selected photos.  Computers are also set up to click through all the images with small narratives.  The final gallery of the exhibition is dedicated to an in-depth evaluation of Harris as an artist. 

Since I had the time I sat through the projection display of Mr. Harris' work.  I found "Crossroads," "Urban Landscapes," and "The Rise and Fall of the Crawford Grill" most interesting.  Crossroads featured some of America's most influential figures such as Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, MLB and Negro League stars, and famous jazz musicians that visited the city.  Tennie's photographs were mostly taken in the Hill District, but sections of Oakland, the East End, and Homestead are some of the towns also on display.  This exhibit is not only a history of African American life, but also a history of Pittsburgh and the transformation from thriving neighborhoods to eventual urban blight.  It was fascinating to see a bustling Hill District with businesses like the historic jazz club, the Crawford Grill, in its heyday.  The controversial construction of the Civic Arena also played a role in the changing landscape of the Lower Hill.

I highly recommend "Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story," but act fast as the exhibit ends on April 7, 2012.   Anyone interested in history like me will not be disappointed.