Monthly Archives: July 2012

Jesse Reviews Five Things

I love Jesse Landis-Eigsti. I love his name. I love the faces he makes. I love his writing style. I love his brain. 

I’ve never met Jesse Landis-Eigsti.

I’ve posted about his blog, Jesse Reviews the World, before and here is Jesse, in all of his glory, reviewing some things for you. I bet you’ll love him too soon.

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At Jesse Reviews the World, the creative process is very standardized. I awake in the morning, being Jesse. At some point in the day, some noun I encounter catches my eye due to its adjective-ness (Eg: Cabin in the Woods for its awesomeness; Cosmopolitan Magazine for its depressing-ness; the Pittsburgh road system for its dysfunctional-ness). I then sit down and manically write about that thing until I have properly explicated, say, Reeses Puffs. To cap off the review, I give the subject an arbitrary letter grade, just like in Elementary School. Two days later, my mother “likes” my review on Facebook. I repeat these steps every two to three months.

When I was given this chance to post on a blog that people actually read, though, I decided I didn’t want to blow it all on a single review. Instead, here are five Quickie Reviews in ascending grade level.

JESSE’S QUICKIE REVIEWS

People Who Talked Loudly Through An Entire St. Vincent Concert

I have a proposal. At the doors of concerts, the bouncers give every patron a questionnaire. It is filled with such questions as:

Do you think other people at concerts want to hear the music maybe? Y/N

Are you capable of taking a break from telling your own stupid stories for thirty frigging minutes? Y/N

Do friends and relations describe you as “a frustrating, self-centered poop-wad?” Y/N

If there are too many warning signs in a patron’s answers, the bouncer wedgies the guilty party and sends them on their way.

Dear People Who Talked Loudly Through An Entire St. Vincent Concert: I hope somebody farts non-stop during your wedding.

GRADE: F

“Chu” Graffiti

Man, Chu, your tag is just not that cool. A friend suggested that we write “Pika” before every instance of “chu” written on our fair city, so we’re all thinking about a cuddly Japanese cartoon character rather than your jagoff* graffiti. It’s tempting, but I’m not sure it’s possible to make lemonade out of these particular scribbly lemons.

GRADE: D

*Did I do that right? I’m new here.

Taco Bell

Taco Bell food is much like wine in a box. In college, it was deemed necessary, due to Low Funds, Irony, and the Pursuit of Fun Times, to ingest these things regularly. After graduating, however, imbibing either tends to fill you with intestinal regret…which turns your Fun Times Snack into a Somber Reminder of the Disintegration of Your Mortal Body. I still eat the Teeb (as we affectionately called it) from time to time, but it’s mostly for nostalgic purposes, and my guts always pay the price.

GRADE: C-

Call Me Maybe

I might feel differently if I worked in an environment where I heard it all the time, but I like this ubiquitous pop song. The chorus has those syncopated violins and cheery guitar squiggles, and the melody and lyrics were clearly written for good-hearted tweens to memorize upon a single listen. It gets demerits for its tendency to embed itself in my brain…in fact, it’s lodged in there now, ever since I wrote “syncopated violins.” It’s probably stuck in your head too, now. Crap! Sorry.

“Call Me Maybe” gets Bonus Points for the Cookie Monster parody: Share It Maybe.

GRADE:  B-

Comic Book Wizard

This one guy who works at the wonderful Copacetic Comics in Polish Hill has some sort of algorithm that lets him predict exactly what sort of graphic novel you will like. “I liked Habibi pretty well,” you might mention, and he’ll quickly supply you with twelve works similar in tone, content, or drawing style. Unlike some with encyclopedic knowledge, Comic Book Wizard doesn’t sneer when you look for something campy, nor does he ever try to show off. He just uses his powers for good, and I’m all the more literate because of it. Dear CBW, I don’t know your real name but you are my hero.

GRADE: A

Blam! Five things, all reviewed. You’re welcome, Pittsburgh; now you know what you should like.


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“Killing 100%” by Laura Kelly

Laura Kelly is Pittsburgh’s youngest, most connected mover and shaker you’ve probably never heard of.  She’s still in her twenties, and not even her LATE twenties. She has her hands deep into the inner workings of many local projects, one of which is Team Tassy, which you remember brought a young Haitian man to America for life-saving surgery. So much has happened since then and here’s Laura being her usual witty self as she writes about “Tass,” to whom she has practically been a mother, and what’s next.

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Growing up, my parents had very high expectations for my siblings’ and my grades. For example, in the 10th grade I got a 90% in math on my report card. For the rest of the school year a strict no TV, no computer, no friends, no smiling on school nights rule was enforced because, after all, if 100 enemy soldiers come over a hill and you kill 90 of them, those other 10 can still get you. To whom much is given, much is expected and all that jazz.

So when I asked Tassy how his Romeo & Juliet quiz went and he told me he got an 86%, I had to restrain myself from telling him about what those 14 enemy soldiers were going to do to him. Luckily though, someone recently told me that instead of saying the first thing that pops into my head, I should wait for thought number two and probably say that instead.

I waited patiently for what promised to be a stroke of genius to enter the ol’ noggin, and I’m so glad I did. What I thought of next was the memory of the first time I met Tassy. It was November 2010, and he had just landed in Miami from Haiti. After introductions and hugs, we put Tassy on the phone with another team member in Pittsburgh.

“Hello! …Very good, and you? …thank you! …that is the end of my English.”

Tassy handed back the phone, having exhausted the 13 words of English he knew.

When I came back from my very mid-90s sitcom flashback sequence to the present 86% conversation, I smiled at Tassy and said, “That’s great!”

And it was. Somehow in a little less than 18 months, this kid went from knocking on death’s door (and death would have been greeted with 13 English words) to a healthy young man, understanding 86% of a Shakespeare play.

Tassy wouldn’t be spouting soliloquies and sonnets if it weren’t for the hard work of some very special ‘Burghers. Heck, he wouldn’t even be alive.

Team Tassy, named after the man himself, has helped many other kids and families like Tassy since the Haitian earthquake in 2010. Lives have not only been saved, but qualities of life have been raised and people have been made self-sufficient.

Next Saturday, July 21, the Team is hosting what I think can objectively be called the coolest fundraiser in the history of fundraising. You know how people say they put the ‘fun’ in fundraiser? This event is going to put the ‘holy crap, this is the coolest thing ever!’ in fundraiser. (Fact: ‘holy crap, this is the coolest thing ever!’ was removed from the spelling of fundraiser in the mid-1850’s to conserve space in newspapers. I’m a Shakespeare tutor. I obviously know.)

The Great American Water Balloon Fight splashes in to (I had to)  Point State Park on Saturday, July 21 with concerts, food trucks, celebrity team captains and sweetbabyraysbbqsauce, So. Many. Balloons!

Register here and come on out! I’ll be the girl in the swim cap and ear plugs—I’m prone to swimmer’s ear.

Also, all those water balloons can’t fill themselves. If they could, I think we would probably be facing bigger problems than poverty in Haiti. I’m talking alien robot invasion problems.

Anyway, balloon filling parties are happening the rest of this week, so come on out, meet the team, check out the crazy cool filling stations and have an all around good time.

You can even smile, good grades or not.


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“Ballpark Figures” by Goob

I’m in Virginia and then on to the southern part of North Carolina for the annual family vacation, and I spent a good portion of the drive just trying to wrap my brain around the Freeh report. But that’s neither here nor there and I don’t honestly even know what that phrase means. 

I’ve invited some of Pittsburgh’s best to guest post while I’m away and here’s Goob. You remember him from the excellent “Shortcuts” post he wrote when I was in Mexico earlier this year and here he is talking about something we can all agree on these days … baseball. But he’s going to talk to you about baseball in a way that’s going to just make you drink in words like you’re dying of thirst.

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I will cheerfully admit that I am one of those people who has a deep affection for our baseball stadium. It’s a beautiful ballpark. I know that’s an old saw; the aesthetics of the park have been a hollow consolation for a while now, a refrain that has been taken to find weight and worth in a place that has only ever hosted a quiet, desperate futility. I think that people have thought I say such things because there was nothing else to say to the positive: nothing of any use happens down on that field, they might claim, so I am just clinging to the architecture, trying to salvage something of value from my ticket stub, trying to save some face.

That could be. But: I like the park. The park shows me wonders, from time to time.

There was that day several summers ago, hot and thick. The skyline was muted by the heavy air, the chiseled edges of the buildings softened in the haze. We sat up in the tall seats, the upper deck, the places they aim for when they shoot hotdogs from air cannons. The air was no less thick up there, and we had an excellent view of dark clouds, crawling toward us out of the west. When those clouds finally moved up over the West End, they dropped a mighty rain which slid like a curtain between us and the city, hiding it, backstage, until it could finish its costume change and be in place for the second act. The rain moved on, the city emerged, slick and clean and gleaming. The air became cool up there in the seats for a while.

On the field, they played on.

Several other summers ago, I treated myself to a mid-week afternoon game, getting a good seat on the Third Base line. It was a beautiful afternoon, sunny and cool, with good chatter in the stands even though so few seats were full. At one point, someone slapped a popup high into the blue, coming our way, and I noticed a remarkable thing: the ball stopped moving, and hovered there, near the sun, all of us staring up at it. Then I noticed that, although it wasn’t moving, it was getting bigger. I am not a professional baseball player, and I did not bring a glove, and quite soon after that I got hit in the shoulder with a baseball.

It bounced away and skittered under seats. In front of me, a fellow with a local jersey and a black and gold ball cap leaned down in his seat and picked up the ball from between his shoes. He looked at it, grinned at his buddy next to him, and then leaned across the aisle to put it carefully into the small hands of a little girl, visiting the park with her softball team. Her eyes never left that ball in her hands, even when she carefully said, “Thank you.”

On the field, they played on.

From time to time, they have Turn Back the Clock games at the park. The play takes on an air of historical enactment, the players sporting vintage uniforms, the uniforms sometimes difficult to look at. My absolute favorite of these was some years since, when they shuffled the calendar all they way back to before the war. They warned us over the PA system before the game that they were making some changes to recreate the experience of a game from that era. The players would be wearing uniforms of that era, with sloped caps and wide shirts. There would be no pierogi race, they said, no launching of hot dogs or t-shirts. The only thing coming over the PA would be the batter’s name as they stepped up to the plate. The only music would come from the organ. The only thing on the score board would be the score. The players took the field, and the sounds of the game became so much stronger: the soft thud of a ball buried in the catcher’s mitt, the murmurs and gasps of the crowd, the crack of the bat. The game became an artful space of pleasant dignity, and they played on.

(If I can say anything to the management, it would be this: more of those, please.)

So: go to the ball park, and look around. Look up into the spiderwork of girders. Peek into the corners, and stroll along the concourse. The park, the game, the city, they will all seem fine, and there will be spaces where you go to stand or sit where any or all of them will seem special. Go to take in an afternoon of summer sun, dodge a pop fly, let your day play out the way the game does. Keep your eyes open. See what happens. It’s a wonderful place for that, even when they are not winning.

And they are winning.


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In which Brad Pitt may have suckled at my teat

How’s THAT for a blog post title? I should just end this post right here because there is nowhere to go but down.

Back when I was anonymous, I had to put a first and last name to my email accounts and I certainly wasn’t going with my real name, because smarts, I haz ’em. And I didn’t want to use the usual Jane Doe. So in a moment of shear geniusness (geniosity? geniusism? geniutude? geeni?) I came up with Jane Pitt.

That also became my twitter name when I put @PittGirl to bed. @janepitt.

Do you know there is a famous person named Jane Pitt? I didn’t. Until Brad Pitt’s mother went and wrote a letter to a Missouri newspaper in support of Mitt Romney.

Now, we are NOT going into the politics of this thing, do you understand me? I don’t want to hear in the comments any sort of fight about abortion or homosexuality or gay marriage, got it?

What we are going to go into is the ridiculousness of those on Twitter who seem to think that I am Brad Pitt’s mother:

My name is very clearly listed as “Virginia Montanez” on my profile and I realize I’m getting older, but do I really look like I could have birthed a 48-year-old? Really? I’m seriously going to start moisturizing.

I considered tweeting back to these people all, “ARE YOU HIGH ON STUPID PILLS?!,” but I took the high road instead:

What?

Also, someone make me a new avatar with Jane Pitt wrapped in an American flag, riding a lawn mower, and shooting a gun in the air. Thanks.


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Truly, all aboard.

Oh, Mark Madden. That you would just bite me. So hard.

Once again, as happened last year, the Pirates are doing good, really good, so good they’re ten games over .500 ball and in first place by two whole games, and as also happened last year, the bandwagon talk has begun.

Not the bandwagon talk that I do, which is the positive bandwagon talk i.e. ALL ABOARD YOU MOTHERS! GET ON THIS BANDWAGON WHILE THE WINNING IS STILL HOT, THE MARGARITAS ARE STILL COLD, THE ATMOSPHERE IS STILL PARTY ROCK AND THE BEWBS ARE STILL PERKY AND BUXOM.

Because as has been the case every single year, by late summer the winning is gone, the margaritas are soupy, the atmosphere is funeral-wakey and the bewbs are saggy, coin-filled tube socks.

Now mind you, I am not talking about the Pens bandwagon or the Steelers bandwagon or the bandwagon where people hop off all “LATER, LOSERS! YOU HAVE SAGGY BEWBS!” as soon as a team loses two in a row. I am talking about the Bucco bandwagon onto which tired, losing-weary, beat-up, long-dejected fans hop aboard years after they jumped off unable to take the losing anymore. Unable to justify spending money, time, tears, and hopes on a team that never ever repaid the sacrifice in two whole DECADES. Unable to support a management they saw running a once glorious team into the ground. Unable to stomach loss after loss. Unable to lather up enough desire to take their kids to the ballpark to spend $100 just to watch a depressing shell of a baseball team that was on the receiving end of quite serious “just get out of the majors” talk.  Unable to care after player upon player with talent was traded away for stale Cracker Jacks and two cases of flat pop. Jason Bay. Freddy Sanchez. Jason Kendall. Adam LaRoche. Jack Wilson. Nate McLouth.

I have said this before and it obviously needs to be repeated: I will pat you on the back for sticking with the Pirates through thick and thin, for watching the same number of games every year regardless of the record, for attending the same number of games every year regardless of the record, for buying the same number of dollars worth of merchandise every year regardless of the record, for tweeting and blogging and facebooking the same amount of Pirates-related updates regardless of the record — but I will also put forth that the number of fans that can actually say they have done all of those things is quite small.

Wanting to support winners is HUMAN. Do you get that? I don’t think you can judge a person for walking away from the Pirates any more than you can judge a person for refusing to go see a band in concert once that band starts putting out shitty records. Sure there are some groupies who are going to still go to every concert, buy every CD and t-shirt, update the fan site every day, etc., but for the most part, it is HUMAN to want to support a good product and when the product stinks, it is human nature to walk away and say, “I can’t support that anymore. I just won’t. Show me a better product and I’ll be your customer again.”

That’s what is happening. Economics. The product is getting better. Fans can justify spending their dollars and time on the team again and my bandwagon is absolutely bursting at the seams with fresh blood and big bewbs and lusty wenches and drunk pirates and I would not have it any other way. It’s more fun this way. We’re a bigger family throwing bigger parties and making a bigger noise.

Now, you diehards, and I don’t know that I can call myself a diehard because I truly jumped back on the bandwagon with both feet only five years ago, I get that it kinda sucks that it’s harder to get tickets now, but would you rather be sitting in a quiet stadium scattered with fans, or a stadium packed to the top with cheering fans and hoisted brooms and flying Jolly Rogers and awkward zoltans?

And then ask yourself this. Which do you think the PIRATES would prefer? A stadium scattered with only the diehards or a stadium absolutely crushed with fans who have come to appreciate the good product?

We ARE family and this family has been put through the wringer for two decades and maybe this is the year we finally reconcile and be a real family again. So please, take this pat on the back if you never wavered in your love of the team, but put the bandwagon talk away unless you’re saying “all aboard.”

Who knows. Maybe this is the year I don’t light that sucker afire and roll it into the Mon.

Let’s go Bucs!


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