Tuesday, October 30, 2007
1. The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), a national, non-partisan organization based in Washington, DC, is sponsoring the event.
2. The meeting will be hosted by TV’s John Ratzenberger (‘Cheers,’ The Travel Channel’s ‘Made in America’).
3. The event will focus on Pennsylvania’s continuing loss of manufacturing jobs. Voters will be encouraged to ask candidates blunt questions about what they’ll do to help save U.S. manufacturing.
4. Attendance is free, and is open to the general public. Bloggers are encouraged to RSVP in order to reserve media seating and prime Internet access.
5. Post-show interviews with John Ratzenberger must be arranged via RSVP before the event.
To RSVP, or if you have any questions, please contact Steven Capozzola at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-393-3430. Official website: http://www.americanmanufacturing.org/keep-it-made-in-america/
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Pittsburgh's developing place in the postindustrial economy slipped away to Charlotte. Pittsburgh, along with any other Rust Belt city, wasn't in any position to do much about Charlotte's boom. All the strengths of industrial cities were now liabilities. As a result, people from all over the Northeast and Midwest flocked to Charlotte (among other cities in the Southeast). But perhaps more than any other Sun Belt city, Charlotte is a place built by outsiders from the Rust Belt:
Pittsburgh Steelers fans fill the Big Al's in Mooresville to near its 150-person capacity, with some watching from outside and listening to the game over an outdoor speaker.
"Right after church, you come here to get your second religious experience," Steelers fan Suzanne Holly of Mooresville said. She's a 20-year transplant from Irwin, Pa., who wore her Steelers jersey at the Mooresville Big Al's for last Sunday night's game...
...Each restaurant is bedecked with team memorabilia. The Big Al's in Mooresville displays autographed Steelers photos, an inflatable Steelers guy, banners and an original pennants. The Big Al's in Cornelius has Bills jerseys and photos and plays the team's fight song after touchdowns.
The Charlotte media doesn't have any problem catering to the economically displaced. As someone who spends a lot of time each and every day reading about the Rust Belt Diaspora, Charlotte is easily the most tolerant of its newcomers. In fact, Charlotte is more than the city that globalization built. It is the city that the best of the Rust Belt built.
Friday, October 26, 2007
A more regional approach can benefit not only inner cities, but their surroundings as well. For decades cities and suburbs have competed for jobs, residents and state and federal aid to ill effect. To change this, the Fund for Economic Future, an alliance of foundations in north-east Ohio, worked with civic and business leaders from 16 counties to launch a regional scheme in March. The plan includes supporting companies that build on local strengths, such as Cleveland's universities and medical centres (the Cleveland Clinic is America's leading hospital for cardiac care), and improving workforce training for high-tech manufacturing, health care and other understaffed sectors.
The Fund is also exploring ways for the region's various governments (754 in all) to share revenue and rationalise services. Tax-sharing schemes have helped other struggling cities, including Dayton, Ohio and Rochester, New York. Cleveland and some surrounding towns have already agreed to split taxes from businesses that move within the area; in exchange, Cleveland is providing water services.
I'm not a fan of the regional solution for economic revitalization. The geographic understanding of an urban hinterland is, in this case, dated. I wouldn't stand against any attempt to pool resources at the regional level, but I think the benefits from such an initiative would be modest at best. Considering the inherent opposition to regionalization, I doubt the cost and effort necessary to succeed is worth it.
I prefer the Globalization and World Cities' redefinition of an urban hinterland, which is a city's relationship network as opposed to the classic understanding of an urban hierarchy as existing over a contiguous area. The hypothesis is that a city's connectivity with its urban peers is displacing the importance of the economic interdependence within a region. In this regard, regionalization fails to improve a city's place in the global economy. What it might do is begin to reverse the process of hollowing out the city center via suburbanization.
“WORKIN' DOWN UNDER features the work of five contemporary Australian artists who, through diverse media and approaches, explore issues of identity across cultures and time, including its own demise,” writes Wood Street Galleries curator Murray Horne.
Hailing from a country of colonists and colonized, John Gillies and Christian Bumbarra Thompson reflect complicated relationships with the nation’s past. Gillies’ sheep in Divide are an apt metaphor for the quandaries of occupation, territory and genealogy. In looping a video clip of a traditional greeting between the artist and his father, Thompson suggests the eternal endurance of aboriginal culture--one that has already persisted at least 40,000 years.
And not to forget the good folks over in nearby Y-Town, there is a lot on tap for this coming weekend. All you Yinzers way out there in Butler (and Northern Allegheny) County head west for change to get your culture fix.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
I also realized how hard it must be for American children of Asians to visit these countries. They look like natives so are expected to speak and act like them. If their parents haven't made extraordinary efforts to acculturate them in the home country's ways, they are likely to encounter real difficulties when they visit.
Just to reinforce this observation, read Alan Paul's discussion of how Chinese expatriates manage their dual identities while living in China. Would second-generation Pittsburgh expatriates face similar obstacles if they returned to the city of their parents?
I don't know the answer to that question, but I figure that a direct bloodline to the Burgh won't buy you insider status. There might be a liminal experience of having a romantic attachment to Pittsburgh, but the recognition that the city or neighborhood doesn't love you back (at least in the same way).
I'm a Pittsburgher first by choice and second by marriage. While I appreciate the region's parochial and provincial charms, I also realize that particular place can never be my home. You can see the same tension in Mike Madison's post about suburban and urban entitlements in Pittsburgh. For me, there is only New Pittsburgh. And that's why newcomers are so important to Pittsburgh's future.
I also want to thank the Steelers' front office and public relations staff. You wouldn't believe their help and generosity. Or maybe you would. Maybe that's why so many Steelers fans lined up outside the locker room in Denver and cheered for both Rooneys after a loss. There's definitely a special dynamic that exists between team and fans.
My primary interest in Steelers Nation concerns the relationship between the fans. I'm only guessing, but I suspect that Mr. Wexell discovered something unique about the relationship between the team and the many lives it touches all around the country (and around the world). Steelers Nation is not a marketing department invention, like Red Sox nation. The way the organization is run as a business is what fuels that Pittsburgh pride in non-natives such as myself.
In the Rooneys we trust. Believe.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
No mayor ever got reelected by making it easy for his citizens to move to Atlanta, of course, even when that might be a pretty good outcome for the movers themselves. But just because local politicians will eagerly seek federal place-based spending doesn't mean that the feds should comply. A sensible federal approach for upstate New York would invest in people-based policies that improve the economic futures of the children growing up there. Education is the best tool we have to fight poverty. If the children of upstate cities were better educated, then they would earn more as adults—whether they stayed in their hometowns or moved to Las Vegas. And people-based policies may actually motivate states and cities to spend more wisely, in order to retain their newly educated and mobile residents.
Glaeser earns his policy conclusion by considering what Minneapolis and Boston, both cities are Buffalo-like losers in the climate lottery, have done right. Education seems to be the key variable for explaining the economic and demographic differences between Rust Belt cities that share similar liabilities. In this regard, I think we can be somewhat bullish about Pittsburgh's future.
While Glaeser does mention some possibility of retaining residents, do not misinterpret that statement as another Border Guard Bob policy. Glaeser is embracing population decline as inevitable and even desirable. His approach is to make sure that the people who do stay, for whatever reason, are better educated.
I should add that Glaeser, like Ralph Reiland, does recommend tax reform as part of the turnaround equation. But if Buffalo starts attracting businesses, the region will also need to provide enough talent to run those new enterprises. Pittsburgh is already at least one step ahead of Buffalo, with plenty of human capital to spare. What is left to do is to create enough jobs to use up more of that excess capacity.
Otherwise, CMU graduates will start moving to Buffalo.
Between 2000 and 2006, while the U. S. population was expanding by 18 million, the population of the seven-county Pittsburgh metro area dropped by 58,585. Take away the hurricane and that's the nation's largest decline in metro population -- the worst record in the country in attracting new people or keeping the ones we have.
Mr. Reiland goes on to link Pittsburgh's shrinking population to Pennsylvania's abysmal showing in the "2008 State Business Tax Climate Index." I'm no academic and I'm definitely an amateur policy analyst, but what geography training I do have helps me to notice an apples and oranges problem given the mismatch between the scales of analysis. Mr. Reiland's argument is so confused that I don't know where to begin.
Given the high state taxes, we would expect all of Pennsylvania's MSAs to be at the bottom of the net population change list. Furthermore, we would expect to see regional population growth at its most robust across the state line where taxes are not as bad. Do the net domestic migration rates of MSAs around the country correlate with state tax rates? I'll make a wild guess and say no, they don't correlate.
Mr. Reiland inadvertently describes the crux of Allegheny County's shrinking city problem:
And within this seven-county decline, Allegheny County leads the pack in driving people away, accounting for 96.4 percent of the population drop -- a net loss of 56,457 people out of the 58,585 total.
The hollowing out of cities is not the result of a negative state business tax climate. The problem cuts across a variety of state business tax structures. The answer to reversing Pittsburgh's population decline is not in Harrisburg. Now, if Mr. Reiland wants to discuss the meager job creation, that's another story.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I like the way our personal networks expand as a result of what we blog.
An example: Sharon Butler of Two Coats of Paint mentioned my blog to her colleagues with regard to the spam they were receiving in their university inboxes. I had the same problem and turned the stuff into "Poetry from Cyberspace."(If you're interested: http://joannemattera.blogspot.com/2007/07/sonnets-from-cyberspace.html)
Here's another: When I was in Montana last month for a teaching residency, an artist from the community, who had read my blog and with whom I'd chatted online, came to my talk and introduced himself.
The ways we're able to communicate as a result of our blogs--farther into cyberspace, or back into bricks-and-mortar real time--are amazing and wonderful.
I'm asked from time-to-time about why a non-native Pittsburgher living in Colorado would put so much energy into a blog about the Burgh Diaspora. My motivation is entirely selfish. I'm seeking to improve my knowledge and connect with like-minded people. I started blogging to start archiving my ideas and contribute to the HiveMind. I don't mind writing that the satisfaction I get from blogging has greatly exceeded my expectations.
Any chance of the Burgh Diaspora joining?
DevHouse Pittsburgh is an event patterned on SuperHappyDevHouse. We aim to become the premier Pittsburgh-area hackathon event that combines serious and not-so-serious productivity with a fun and exciting party atmosphere. Come to the DevHouse to have fun and get things done!
We're about rapid development, ad-hoc collaboration, and cross pollination. Whether you're a l33t hax0r, hardcore coder, or passionate designer, if you enjoy software and technology development, DevHouse Pittsburgh is for you.
DevHouse is not a marketing event. It's a non-exclusive event intended for passionate and creative technical and design people that want to have some fun, learn new things, and meet new people.
DevHouse Pittsburgh #1
When: Thursday, November 8, 2007, 6pm - midnight
JetBlue Airways Corp. said Tuesday that it will discontinue operations in Columbus and Nashville, Tenn., on Jan. 6, because of lagging business in those two markets.
"After more than 12 months of service and a detailed review of traffic and revenue trends in these two cities, we have decided to redeploy our assets," said Dave Barger, JetBlue's chief executive officer.
Dayton International Airport's management has talked periodically with JetBlue in efforts to persuade the low-fare airline to begin serving Dayton. The airport is still interested, spokesman Gene Conrad said Tuesday.
Dayton is served by nine airlines, with nonstop service to 22 cities.
Columbus is the only Ohio city where JetBlue operates. The next closest city to Dayton in the airline's operations network is Pittsburgh.
The hypothesis emerging from this bit of news is that JetBlue can capture Columbus passengers at its base of operations in Pittsburgh. I think my speculation has some merit given the discussions to improve the infrastructure between the two cities. My first piece of evidence comes from the Eastern Ohio Development Alliance (1999):
A 28-mile stretch between Cadiz and Newcomerstown is the only remaining gap in the four-lane highway connection running from the northeast edge of I-270 in Columbus all the way to the international airport on the northwest edge of Pittsburgh. When completed, this highway also will provide fast and easy access to I-77 for north-south travel and transport, including important direct links to regional cargo and passenger airports in Cleveland and Akron/Canton.
Part of the stimulus for completing this highway link is what Pennsylvania has done on its side of the border. Pennsylvania already has made major upgrades to U.S. Route 22, and work on the Findlay Connector, which runs south and west from the Pittsburgh International Airport, will begin in 2001. Pennsylvania's additional plans for further improving access to the airport will reduce drive times to and from Steubenville. These investments are critical, because they suggest that Ohio's strategy should be to complete the highway connection to Pittsburgh by linking U.S. Route 22 at Cadiz with U.S. Route 36 in Tuscarawas County.
Currently, at the eastern end of the macro corridor between Columbus and Pittsburgh, a modern four-lane highway (Route 22) connects Pittsburgh to Cadiz. At the western end, State Route 16 is being expanded to four lanes from Columbus to Coshocton, and then into Tuscarawas County via Route 36. All that's missing is the Cadiz-to-Newcomerstown connection--a straight shot of just 28 miles.
Improving the road between Columbus and Pittsburgh isn't a dead idea:
Economic development representatives, county commissioners, business leaders and others from a seven-county region stretching from Franklin County to Jefferson County are pushing ahead with efforts to have a four-lane highway connecting Columbus to Pittsburgh built.
The Columbus-Pittsburgh Corridor Committee met at the Hampton Inn off I-77 Friday morning with about 35 people in attendance. The group heard much about the Ohio Department of Transportation’s interpretation of the state budget and its impact on projects that aren’t in the construction phase.
The group wants a highway stretching from Columbus to U.S. Route 22 to provide a more direct link to Pittsburgh than exists today with congested Interstate 70 and I-79.
Standing in the way of the development of this corridor are advocates for Columbus as a regional center instead of a Pittsburgh satellite. The losers in this inter-regional competition are the people who live between the two cities. Just as Pittsburgh suffers from an irrational attachment to US Airways, the collective ego of Columbus was bruised with JetBlue's announcement to cease operations in Ohio's capital city.
With all due respect to Cleveburgh, the Columbus-Pittsburgh development corridor has some wheels. In fact, I think the Mon Valley should be more concerned with connecting with the airport than downtown Pittsburgh. With the retreat of US Airways from Pittsburgh, there should be plenty of underutilized capacity at the airport. Emerging in my mind (I'm sure I'm not the only one with this perspective) is an economic region centered at Pittsburgh International Airport.
Pittsburgh should take a couple aspirin pills for its postindustrial hangover. Pittsburgh needs policies to attract young professionals to the city. If we continue to ask the wrong questions, we will continue to receive poor answers. Anyone who states that he or she has a plan to stop the out-migration of young adults is either misinformed or engaging in deceit for political or economic gain:
Young adults do have higher rates of migration elsewhere than other age groups. And people with degrees generally have higher rates of migration than people without degrees - everywhere.
It's a national phenomenon that young educated people are more likely to leave, no matter where they live.
"Everywhere" includes spiky Creative Class hotspots. However, if someone does have an example or two of successful policies to stem the tide of out-migration, please educate me. I'm aware of initiatives to promote in-migration, some of which may work for Pittsburgh. And if anyone is asking mayoral candidates about their policy ideas as to how to attract young people to Pittsburgh, I'd love to see the evidence (as well as analyze the responses).
"We came to the organization's first-ever open house and bought season tickets then," said Kathy Pessalono, a Pittsburgh transplant whose seats are behind the goaltender.
"Gwinnett Arena is a wonderful place to watch hockey. You can see how enthusiastic the fans are every time the Gladiators do well.
"My husband and I started off being Pittsburgh Penguins fans. Then we became fans of the Atlanta Flames and then the Atlanta Knights. Now, we are Gwinnett Gladiator fans."
The same could be said of [Karen] Viskocil, who sits right behind the Pessalonos. Except she cheered for the Blackhawks while living in Chicago.
"I've always loved hockey, and I, too, have been a fan of the Gladiators since day one," said the grandmother of two boys — Dylan, 11, and Michael, 9 — who play hockey on a team based at the Ice Forum in Duluth.
"I bought season tickets because I wanted to support the Gladiators' family. The players have always been very nice and personable.
"From the very beginning, I've been doing a scrapbook for Mike Vigilante. I have all the respect for coach [Jeff] Pyle, Steve Chapman and [assistant coach] Cam Brown. The coaches, the players — all are gentlemen and great role models for the kids."
My passion for ice hockey was born watching the Erie Blades, who played in the minor league that inspired first the Nancy Dowd book and then the movie Slap Shot. With apologies to Steelers Nation, nothing captures the demise of the Industrial Heartland like the development of hockey hotbeds in the Sun Belt. Come to think of it, Slap Shot should be the official movie of the Burgh Diaspora.
Regarding the story about the fans of the Gwinnett Gladiators, I note the strong sense of community surrounding the team. The sport of hockey strikes me as a touchstone for a pan-regional diaspora identity (akin to the Cricket Diaspora). The way Chicago and Pittsburgh come together in a suburb of Atlanta is how we can begin to imagine a Great Lakes mega-region.
Friday, October 19, 2007
"Why are you asking me? I'd only been here a month."
That was Heather, the young Sports Information Director at the University of Northern Colorado upon being confronted on the matter of Aaron Smith's exclusion from the school's athletic Hall of Fame. Heather explained that some old men had to be inducted last year because of failing health. At the time, she'd only been the gatekeeper for a month. But faced with the pressure of a working camera in her face, Heather said that Aaron is already on next year's ballot and that his chances are "extremely strong" since "guys he played with are now taking a more active role here."
I spoke with Mr. Wexell on Wednesday night and I gather that his book is beginning to take shape. Listening to him talk about his experience on the road, I think he'll be able to describe how the Pittsburgh Steelers impact the lives and places well beyond the Pale of Pittsburgh.
Mr. Wexell asked me how I would write a book about Steelers Nation and we agreed that my approach would be quite different from his own. In fact, if I have one book in me, I'd write about Pittsburgh Diaspora and why I think it is unique. I'm also interested in exploring if and how Steelers Nation is different from any other fan base. Perhaps Mr. Wexell will touch on such distinctions, but you can be sure that his version of events will include one great tale after another. After all, Mr. Wexell is a fine journalist and a storyteller.
Pittsburgh could have an early edge. [Darren Jobling, an owner and director of business development for Eutechnyx], said he hopes to tap talent coming out of Pittsburgh's renowned training grounds for video game design, the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh's video game arts program.
"Pittsburgh looks to be a great base," Jobling said. "We like the fact that there are great university links and that there's not a lot of competition there at this time."
Pittsburgh is a frontier innovation market. There is plenty of intellectual capital in the region, but that potential is relatively under-exploited. The local pessimists tend to overlook such developments, instead focusing on past losses such as the move of Lycos to Boston.
Pittsburgh is situated to become a center of the virtual economy. The foundation already exists, but I don't think anyone has recognized this innovation cluster theme. Before someone directs me to evidence to the contrary, let me clarify what I mean.
Between startups such as Etcetera Edutainment and the social networking of Pitt in Hollywood, you only have part of the economic development story. The freelancing hub at Guru and the unique disposition of Pittsburgh's Diaspora comprise an emerging labor mobility landscape that few regions can rival.
My blog is a visioning exercise for Pittsburgh's niche in the global economy. Pittsburgh is an important nexus in the world geography of talent. The battle is to figure out the best way to translate that position into regional economic benefit. The good news is that domestic talent demographics (hat tip to David Campbell) are beginning to swing in Pittsburgh's favor.
There is considerable disjuncture between the location of talent supply and talent demand. Talent demand is centered in areas with overheated real estate markets (see Richard Florida's description of the Spiky World geography). Substantial talent supply is coming from a number of places struggling to gain a foothold in the post-industrial economy while the most geographically mobile are relocating to residences that they find the most desirable (in terms of climate, schools, etc...).
That Eutechnyx is seriously considering Pittsburgh is testament to this emerging strategy to secure increasingly scarce talent. The abundant labor that local universities produce, along with the relatively inexpensive real estate, make Pittsburgh attractive. However, there is still a proximity problem (which is why the world continues to trend towards the spiky).
I contend that the Burgh Diaspora can solve this proximity problem. Capital exchanges are much easier among people who already have a common cultural experience and established lines of trust. Face-to-face interaction is less important, relieving the burden of high economic rents that result from the need to concentrate talent in the same place.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Steve Smith grew up in Colorado Springs and has been a Steelers fan all his life, and he said that had to do the great 70s defenses. You probably don't know this Steve Smith. He's one of Aaron Smith's three older brothers. He played free safety on the same Sierra HS team in which Alex Molden played cornerback.
Aaron is the youngest of the Smith brothers and the biggest. He, according to Steve and Dave, also had it the easiest from a demanding and physical father. Steve and Dave were both kicked out of the house at the age of 16, but Aaron's mom finally left dad when Aaron was 12. They moved nearby so Aaron and the other brother, Kevin, could continue attending school in the Sierra district. But it may have been too close for Aaron's comfort because he slept with a sword by his bed just in case his father came around. Steve also added that their father's demanding ways helped toughen them up as Steve tried to put a spin on a tough story. Still, it sounds like a difficult way to grow up. Details, of course, are forthcoming.
If you have read Mr. Wexell's books, you can appreciate his skillful digging into the past of a player and capturing what makes a person succeed at the level of professional football. What makes his story about Steelers Nation unique is the shift of the perspective to that of those living outside of Pittsburgh. Aaron Smith is a quintessential Steeler, but life on the Front Range of Colorado is quite different from that of industrial Pittsburgh.
If you look, you can find the essence of Pittsburgh all over the world. There is a thread connecting this community and I expect that Mr. Wexell's forthcoming book will allow us to better understand it.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
Actually, I'm not sure that Mr. Yuhasz lives right downtown, but there are some benefits for choosing Youngstown as a bedroom community for the northern reaches of Pittsburgh's suburbs. Once Westinghouse settles into its new campus, I would predict the emergence of some opportunities for the champion of the shrinking cities movement.
I appreciate a perspective of the region beyond the usual Pittsburgh-centric approach. As high wage employment continues its concentration in the northern suburbs, Youngstown's prospects should dramatically improve. How does the Youngstown 2010 vision incorporate this development going on next door in Pennsylvania?
Youngstown does not appear to have a strategy to exploit the Cranberry boom. I figure that the growth in Cranberry is viewed as a threat to the future vitality of downtown Youngstown. Pittsburgh views suburban sprawl with a similar disdain. While Youngstown employs a policy innovation in its embrace of a declining population, the city fails to understand perceived regional liabilities as assets.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
The goal of the Blurgh is to be part of the solution.
It is the story of two people living in Pittsburgh 20 years from now. The city has a booming economy, a world-class transit system, a vibrant cultural scene, and opportunities everywhere you look.
It is a vision of what this city can become, and only one version of how we can get there. While the details in this blog will certainly be different than what actually transpires, the bigger themes will not. Pittsburgh is a city with massive potential, and that potential lives in its people, both those who currently live in the city and those who’ve moved away as part of the Pittsburgh Diaspora.
What is the Burgh Diaspora's vision for Pittsburgh? The Blurgh is another call for expatriates to help build New Pittsburgh.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Running a bit late, the pace was maddening – at first -- but then you learn to like it, even love it. It seemed like time was standing still. This is certainly a quaint, quiet, peaceful town. And it’s about what you’d expect in that this town of 1,900 has one stoplight, a bar that beckons to hunters, and several Western-style clothiers. The people are what you’d expect, too, particularly if you know Brett Keisel.
Keisel of course is Greybull’s most famous son. He’s a budding NFL superstar for the Pittsburgh Steelers and he’s even a better person. When you talk to Brett you forget you’re talking to an NFL player because he’s so down-to-earth. That also describes his family and friends in Greybull.
Mr. Wexell is now in Denver Broncos country, but Greybull is part of Steelers Nation thanks to Keisel.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
This was supposed to be a bit of a week off, but I keep finding gems. In search of Kimo von Oelhoffen in Richland, Washington, I instead found Ray Mansfield's family in Kennewick. It turned out for the better. In fact, the gigantic painting of the ol' Ranger on the side of a big sports bar makes Kennewick an official Steelers town. So is Wallace, Idaho. I walked into the 1313 Grill off the interstate and heard the buxom barmaid bragging about the Steelers to a couple of guys sitting at the bar. All I can say is that she'll make for some pleasant viewing on the DVD.
Now that Mr. Wexell is in tune with the Pittsburgh Diaspora, he is likely to find Steelers fans wherever he looks.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Two of the country’s best social scientists have been trying to understand this new life phase. William Galston of the Brookings Institution has recently completed a research project for the Hewlett Foundation. Robert Wuthnow of Princeton has just published a tremendously valuable book, “After the Baby Boomers” that looks at young adulthood through the prism of religious practice.
Through their work, you can see the spirit of fluidity that now characterizes this stage. Young people grow up in tightly structured childhoods, Wuthnow observes, but then graduate into a world characterized by uncertainty, diversity, searching and tinkering. Old success recipes don’t apply, new norms have not been established and everything seems to give way to a less permanent version of itself.
All the brain drain hype and the resulting policies that aim to keep young adults from leaving a region are out of touch with the social phenomenon of the odyssey. I've yet to discover a local human capital initiative that accounts for the need to explore. Pittsburgh is no exception.
I never read Homer's Odyssey, but I did spend an entire semester at university in the world of James Joyce's Ulysses. Joyce obsessed Dublin from afar, never to return. However, his Odysseus (Leopold Bloom) did make his way home. Likewise, Pittsburgh's heroes could come back. Brooks convinces me that focusing my own efforts on the Boomerang Class is the best path.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Before the game kicks off, I’ll have spent two full days investigating the football fans of Seattle, and it’s been difficult. Not everyone -- or even close to it -- has any interest at all in football. I went to the Space Needle and the first two fans I asked – with video camera in hand – were Steelers fans. I didn’t need them, but their stories were interesting nonetheless. I did find some Seahawks fans, but they’re really not too passionate. I scanned the famed Pike Place Market and could only find only one person – one, in a mass of humanity -- who was wearing Seahawks garb. It’s all on tape. So is the fan, Casey, who at first denied any lingering anger over Super Bowl XL, but it all poured out of him after a few probing questions. His main complaint is the call of incomplete when a Seattle receiver hit a pylon and the other is that two Pittsburgh residents were part of the officiating crew. I think he’s wrong on both counts, but I’m not too interested in looking it up. It always seems to be something with these so-called fans.
Once Mr. Wexell gets away from the local tourist traps, he will have an easier time finding Seahawks fans to interview. Canvassing Pike Place is like searching Times Square for rabid Giants fans. Then again, Seattle isn't Pittsburgh when it comes to football. That's the thread running through Mr. Wexell's trip. There are no football fans quite like Steelers fans.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
PANEL DISCUSSION ADDRESSES GENDER, HISTORY AND
POPULAR CULTURE IN INDIAN FILM
PITTSBURGH, PA (October 4, 2007) – How is Indian culture defined in entertainment? How do Indian wrestling traditions correspond with popular cinema and masculinity? These questions and many more will be addressed on Wednesday, October 24th, when the Mattress Factory hosts Gender, History and Popular Culture in Indian Film, the second of three BELOW THE SURFACE panel discussions produced in association with the museum’s current exhibition, INDIA: NEW INSTALLATIONS.
Assistant Professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh and specialist in Indian film, Dr. Neepa Majumdar will moderate the discussion. Additional presenters include Dr. Joe Alter (Professor of Anthropology, University of Pittsburgh) and Prajna Paramita Parasher (Associate Professor, Chatham University). Lively discussion and questions from the audience will follow the presentations.
The INDIA: BELOW THE SURFACE series provides an opportunity to better understand Indian culture through dynamic presentations and discussions with renowned experts in their respective fields.
“In essence, it's an opportunity for attendees to view clips of Indian films, listen to a panel that is passionate about the subject and respond with questions and comments,” says Anna Fitzpatrick, Director of Education for the Mattress Factory. “More importantly, it's about the Mattress Factory wanting to spend an evening with the public - relaxing with refreshments, looking at new installations, being exposed to something completely new, and walking away from the experience reflecting on it.”
A guided tour of the INDIA exhibitions will take place at 6:00 PM and the presentations will begin at 7:00 PM. The MF Café will be open for dinner and refreshments. Event admission is $10.00 ($5.00 for Students and Mattress Factory members).
Most of the fathers I’ve encountered on this trip get teary-eyed when they talk about that first game in which their sons were introduced as starters for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Salu Polamalu is more proud of something else. His son was first his nephew, Troy Aumua, of Santa Ana, California. Troy visited his Uncle Salu and Aunt Shelly in Tenmile, Oregon, when he was seven years old. He begged them not to let him go back and they didn’t. Later, Troy asked Salu if he could go by Polamalu at school. Those are the reasons Troy has made his father most proud. And after spending the day with the Polamalu family and friends, I understand why Troy didn’t want to leave.
Birth did not deliver me into the hands of Pittsburgh and the Steelers. I chose the city and its football team as the sources of my heritage. Many people tell me that they don't understand why an Erie native living in Colorado would expend so much energy blogging about Pittsburgh and its expatriates. Mr. Wexell's story about Troy's childhood might provide you with some insight into my motivation to adopt Pittsburgh as my hometown.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
The same goes for journalists, whose work we can read online. You can change misinformation and set the record straight, but your first gaffe often lives on in infamy on message boards and blogs. There is no glossing over what was written. That's a boon to some, but most people are either threatened by this dynamic or they fail to understand it.
Mike Madison cleverly provides us with an example of the latter. I think Mike knows full well the uneven ground where this clumsy lawyer is trying to tread. My point is that you can't keep a good discussion down, particularly one that has such a clear public benefit:
Neighborhood chatter being what it is, there's an interesting little drama unfolding nearby: A neighbor is re-landscaping a back yard, apparently with the permission of the Municipality, in a way that blocks one of the paved paths that Mt. Lebanites have used for decades as short-cuts between blocks of homes, as devices to sustain Lebo's walkable character, and as routes to our walkable schools.
I don't know the legal ins-and-outs of this situation. But Lebo has been down this path before, so to speak, and we've even talked about it on this blog -- not once, but twice!
Whatever the "right" resolution in any particular case -- and under some circumstances, I can imagine that blocking the path is the right thing to do -- I'd argue that most of these paved paths are *community* resources, not mere conveniences. They are there for a purpose, and they have been used for a long time for a reason. Both the neighborhood and the Municipality would be right to say so, and any particular homeowner who wants to throw up a gate or a fence or otherwise interfere with access should bear a very high burden of proving that use of the path causes some specific injury that can't be redressed in a different way.
Read all the comments if you like. They are still there. I'm not interested in archiving them here, but you can if you want to do so;)
But why should I care? First, I consider Mike to be part of my blogging community, which I highly value. He didn't ask me to do anything. I merely read his post at Pittsblog and I felt compelled to act. Second, I want to defend the kind of communal discourse that blogging generates. To help you understand what I mean, I quote a part of Alexander Solzhenitsyn's Nobel Lecture:
More important, much more important: countries and whole continents belatedly repeat each other's mistakes, sometimes after centuries when, it would seem, everything should be so clear! No: what some nations have gone through, thought through, and rejected, suddenly seems to be the latest word in other nations. Here too the only substitute for what we ourselves have not experienced is art and literature. They have the marvelous capacity of transmitting from one nation to another despite differences in language, customs, and social structure--practical experience, the harsh national experience of many decades never tasted by the other nation. Sometimes this may save a whole nation from what is a dangerous or mistaken or plainly disastrous path, thus lessening the twists and turns of human history.
I'm serious when I write that to art and literature we can add blogging. For the lie cannot survive in the light of transparency. What I hope my post demonstrates is that no one can sweep the truth under the rug in the blogosphere.
We're slated to have night kayaking on the evening of October 9th at 5:30 p.m. Here are the details:
· Format of Trip:
We will meet under the Clemente Bridge (North Shore) at Kayak Pittsburgh with a round of introductions and brief discussion. Before we can paddle we will discuss and practice: water safety, paddling techniques, entering and exiting a kayak. As we strap on our life jackets and grab the paddles, we'll prepare ourselves for the adventure that lies ahead. We will spend a little time getting comfortable paddling from the starting point. Then we will paddle up the Allegheny River as time permits. Then we will enjoy a leisurely paddle back down the river to Kayak Pittsburgh. Along the way expect beautiful views and lively conversation. The trip will last 1-2 hours.
· Equipment/Rental Info:
All life jackets, paddles, kayaks, and guide(s) will be provided. You must wear a life jacket the whole time you are in a boat with Venture Outdoors.
· Bathroom Facilities:
Bathroom facilities will be available at Kayak Pittsburgh, under the bridge.
· Clothing List:
All trips require you to bring and wear the appropriate clothing listed below. All participants should bring some type of filled water bottle. A small, reusable plastic drink container (Gatorade, juice, etc) with a sturdy lid works great!
What you wear on the river could get wet.
* Sweatshirt and/or rain jacket/windbreaker in case of inclement weather
* Swimsuit, Shorts, or Pants
* Water Shoes/Sandals/Old Sneakers (required) - Shoes must be worn the whole time to protect from such hazards as fish hooks. They should be able to stay on your feet even while swimming (no flip-flop type shoes).
* Optional: Dry clothes to change into for the ride home; Towel
We discussed the upside of his efforts. I think J'Burgh has the potential to better acquaint non-natives with Greater Pittsburgh. The region has much more to offer graduate students than just Oakland and Squirrel Hill. Students who develop a deeper relationship with the city are more likely to stay or return after moving away to start a career. At the very least, they can tell members of their community at home or where they eventually live about the wonders of Pittsburgh.
I left Phoenix on Monday morning for a 1 p.m. interview with Thomas Tull and Paul Sams in Hollywood. Tull produced “300” and “We Are Marshall”, among many other films; Sams has 11 No. 1 games in a row. They’re Hollywood wunderkinds, except I’m sure they despise the term. They’ve been brought together by Warner Brothers to work on a movie about Warlock’s rise to the top. That is the name of Sams’ games venture. The two weren’t as enthusiastic about the project until they realized each is a hard-core Steelers fan. Probably for that reason, neither of them is what I expected of Hollywood bigwigs. They had plenty of time for me and are down-to-earth people who live and die with each passing Sunday afternoon. Sams on Monday was enthusiastic and willing to help in any way. Tull is the same, but wasn’t over the Steelers’ loss to the Cardinals. He seemed pained by mine and Sams’ enthusiasm and lack of concern over the loss but said this is normal operating procedure for him and that he wouldn’t come out of the funk until the next game kicks off.
The Steelers connection can open a number of doors, though Mr. Wexell's road experience reminds me of the time I worked on the set of the movie Ethan Frome. Wherever I went, just dropping that I was working on a film seemed to write me a blank check for whatever I needed and people (in taciturn Vermont) were more than willing to talk with me. At times, developing social capital is remarkably easy.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
This was Fletcher's, at the corner of Bond and Aliceanna, a gathering place for Buffalo ex-patriots who, on this and every occasion the Buffalo Sabres and Bills play, assemble to drink Genesee and Labatt beer, gnaw on (what else) Buffalo wings and cheer for their heroes. When I was there, I estimated 80 to 100 people, all wearing Sabres blue and gold, such as Kim Perkins (left), a nurse, and Molly Clauss (right), a teacher. The place is owned by ex-Buffalo native Bryan Burkert (left), who, along with pal Rocco DiPietro (right), have supervised this calling together of the western New York state clan. Unfortunately for the Fletcher's crowd, the Sabres are down 2-0 to Ottawa in their NHL playoff series.
Interestingly, for the people who go to Fletcher's, the experience they share seems to go beyond the typical "ex-pats congregate in local sports bar" circumstance, say like Midwest snowbirds in Phoenix or Florida hanging out in a Chicago Bears saloon. This crowd is between 21 and 45, and most said they'd rather be back in Buffalo but many were forced to leave because of hard economic times back home. As a result, the educated young adult population of the Buffalo region is spread across the country.
A Sun colleague accurately described it as the "Buffalo diaspora.""This is about more than sports," said the 39-year-old DiPietro, who owns Il Scalino's deli in Little Italy. "You want the Sabres to win for your parents and your grandparents back in Buffalo where there's not a lot (economically) going on. We'd all rather be home enjoying this but we're glad to be able to come together here. When you look at it, though, it's almost like we're in exile."
While I like to prattle on about the uniqueness of the Burgh Diaspora, the story about the Buffalo Diaspora makes me feel guilty of hubris. The postindustrial diaspora experience informs a region larger than just Pittsburgh.
Since its inception, Art-iculate; Pittsburgh Creative Network online has generated visitors from around the world. Each month, new unique visitors navigate to the site to see the latest in Southwestern Pennsylvania art. We are happy to announce that for the month of September the number of visitors reached 8,303, with 1,529 of those visitors being newcomers to the site. We anticipate that by this time next month, we will be well over 10,000 views!
We are now in the process of upgrading the Articulate website to better provide you with the vital visual art information that you desire; by broadening idea exchange we will strengthen the communication pallet of the art community in Southwestern Pennsylvania.
As demonstrated by the above demographics, we know that we have the opportunity to report on the accomplishments from our region and to build national (and international!) awareness of our art culture. We have already been called "The Most Livable City" and we are striving to make Pittsburgh a major Cultural destination as well. People are watching and interested, so let's give them something to talk about and ample reason to visit our galleries, museums, and studios!
Not only is the Articulate website helping to expand awareness of our region's art to the world, but it also benefits you by providing access to vital information that leads to networking, exciting openings and opportunities, all that can immediately benefit the regions' artists. Articulate serves as the premier online resource and centralized hub for artists, galleries, arts organizations, and the art-viewing public for the Southwestern Pennsylvania area. In addition we publish the Pittsburgh Gallery Guide, the guide to local galleries and museums in the Southwestern PA region. With your help, Articulate will be able to provide you with all the resources you need. Whether you are an art gallery, an artist, an art organization or an art patron, we are devoted to bringing Southwestern Pennsylvania Art to you.
The website's demographic data reveal a few surprises. The State of Washington comes in first, ahead of California and Pennsylvania, for the number of visitors during the month of September. There seems to be significant interest in Pittsburgh artists in Sweden. I don't have any theories to explain this geography, but it does suggest some connectivity opportunities.
However, I'm going to continue to push East Coast Connected's co-location model. The first step is to settle on the scope of the region we will network. I suggest a contiguous area, roughly a triangle that includes Greater Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo. The partial states would be all of Western Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York, as well as Eastern Ohio and Northwestern West Virginia. This would be akin to ECC's economic development region of Atlantic Canada.
Toronto is unique in that the city is all things to Atlantic Canada. The relationship proposition is obvious and without equal. The connectivity map of what I would call the "Postindustrial Heartland" is much more complicated. For most artists in this region, New York City is the place. Given the proximity, Washington, DC is the location for young professionals to launch a career. The link to the Hollywood entertainment industry deserves mention thanks to the efforts of Carl Kurlander. Finally, the hub of entrepreneurial activity would appear to be Silicon Valley. Boston is another option, but what awareness I have suggests that the Bay Area as more important to Pittsburgh, as well as the other cities in the Postindustrial Heartland.
Not to be outdone, the folks at Pittsburgh Wine Festival are throwing a whiskey party at Heinz Field on November 2nd. As most of you likely know, Pittsburgh's whiskey roots run deep:
The heritage and history of distilled spirits in America is fascinating, with many pivotal events and landmarks in this region, from The Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 to Pittsburgh's mark on The American Whiskey Trail. "Our region is so rich with whiskey heritage" says Max Miller, Managing Partner of Raise Your Spirits, a Sensory Experience Firm that provides customized interactions with luxury spirits and products. "Any exploration of the evolution of the whiskey industry, its migration from Europe, and its importance in American culture, invariably includes western Pennsylvania. We look forward to the Pittsburgh Whiskey Festival being an exciting and anticipated tradition for years to come."
The functioning whiskey region resides in Kentucky and Tennessee. Pittsburgh's significance is historical, but that could change as the city rediscovers its past and embraces its identity.
Monday, October 01, 2007
The latest offering is no exception. The subject of the regular column, The Observer, fits in with my Monday deluge of blog posts. Pittsburgh's tradition of philanthropy is not a relic to be taken for granted. Instead, it is a global brand that could define the city's next era of success:
There lies the opportunity for Pittsburgh. What city is better poised to become the headquarters of that international industry than Pittsburgh? It was here that the modern philanthropy began with Carnegie and his famous thought that "He who dies rich, dies disgraced." It is here that philanthropy has grown and flourished more than anywhere else - some 100 years later, we remain No. 2 in philanthropic assets per capita, behind Seattle with its Gates-Buffett philanthropic merger.
Like philanthropy, the Burgh Diaspora is an under-appreciated asset. There are many others beyond those two. Read Pittsburgh Quarterly and rediscover what they are.
Edit: A recent Thomas Barnett blog post reminds me that one of the feature stories in this issue of Pittsburgh Quarterly covers Pittsburgh's business with China. What is the philanthropy angle?
While foreign charities are officially banned from soliciting charitable donations in mainland China, some large U.S. nonprofits are sniffing out ways to catch the new philanthropists’ money. The University of California, for example, has established a fund-raising arm in Hong Kong, which operates under different laws from the mainland. However, foreign charities need to tread carefully around China’s different approaches to philanthropy. The government is wary of giving too much financial and political independence to nonprofits, even if it has gingerly embraced them as a way to fight the nation’s widespread poverty—about 10% of Chinese people live on less than $1 a day. Mr. Wilhelm says there are about 340,000 nonprofit groups in China, although he says estimates run as high as two million.
Philanthropy is a growth industry and Pittsburgh should be a global player.
In the weeks before he graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2005 Chris Valasek eagerly hunted for a local computer science job nearby. The avid Steelers fan had always wanted work near his hometown.
But in job interviews he was told over and over again that he needed more work experience. He wound up taking an offer from a technology company in Atlanta.
Nearly two years later, Mr. Valasek has grown attached to the city's lively neighborhoods and soul food, as well as his job in the city as a researcher at IBM Internet Security Systems. He plans on staying for a few more years -- though he admits he won't be rooting for the Falcons this season.
Before you get too despondent, consider the second subject of the article:
Allison Blakely, a 24-year-old graduate of Northwestern University and a Colorado native, moved to Atlanta in October 2005 from Chicago. She picked the city over a job offer in New York and is now making $45,000 a year as a weekend producer at CNN. Ms. Blakely says she wasn't ready for the hustle of Manhattan and her salary probably wouldn't have covered the exorbitant rents.
Do you see a common thread between the two migrants? First, Ms. Blakely didn't return to Colorado after graduation. She didn't stay in Chicago, either. Neither twentysomething stayed in the area where they went to university. Neither twentysomething worked near his or her hometown. Second, both twentysomethings were looking for more than a better salary in Atlanta. Other factors, such as quality of living, weighed on the choice of location.
The third case study further complicates why young professionals choose one place over another:
Samantha Williams, a 23-year-old Georgetown University graduate, who studied history, says she sees Atlanta as a launching pad for the bigger cities. She came here in September 2006 and quickly secured a job as a program specialist at Communities in Schools of Atlanta Inc., a nonprofit working to reduce school drop-out rates.
I don't think we gain much by looking at Pittsburgh and Atlanta through the lens of "have or have not." How does Pittsburgh fit into the geography of young professionals? Pittsburgh is a wonderful place to pursue your college degree, which makes it a "launching pad" of sorts. It is also a relatively inexpensive place to live, which Ms. Blakely notes is a strong draw. I've long been an advocate of playing to Pittsburgh's strengths, which contrary to some critics of the region, does provide a competitive advantage.
As a region, we have wondered why our young people continue to leave the area, and we have explored many ways to encourage them to stay. However, maybe the problem is that we expect our highly skilled workforce to take a pay cut in order to remain in Pittsburgh -- in effect, to pay a "Pittsburgh tax."
I'll take the high road this time and forego the assumption that Ms. Paulson is suggesting that the solution to the out-migration "problem" is a higher wage. The explicit message is that the pay in the Pittsburgh region is not competitive, but people are willing to work for less in order to live there. The conclusion is that young people, more so than older adults, use an economic rationale to make a location decision.
Richard Florida provides the counter-narrative to Ms. Paulson's migration model. Take Tucson's brain drain as an example. Dr. Florida is mindful of the attraction of better income, but that's not the whole story:
"What we're looking for is communities to build on the creativity of everyone," Florida said. "It's about making your place an exciting place to live. It's a people climate - a sweet spot in the middle that is affordable."
There is an important social variable to consider when you predict the migration of the 20-something demographic that both Pittsburgh and Tucson would like to capture. If you know a young adult trying to make it in New York City, you understand what Dr. Florida is describing. Young adults pay a similar "tax" to live in cool and creative places. This is why the world is spiky.
Ms. Paulson should consider why college graduates leave Pittsburgh in order to take an unpaid internship in Washington, DC.
As someone pulling for the Steelers, I wasn't too upset by the loss. I figure that if they'd have won, they'd have been upset by avenging Seattle next Sunday; but since they lost they'll be focused and will beat Seattle. By my math, the Steelers are on track for a 4-1 start either way. That's why I was happy for Russ Grimm. I visited his post-game tailgate party outside the stadium. I congratulated Sean Morey, Kevin Spencer, Ken Whisenhunt and Grimm in that order. Whisenhunt was happy to see me, but reverted to head coach when I asked him if it was an emotional week. He has to be the man in charge of keeping an even keel and he did that. Grimm allowed me to turn on my recorder for an interview for the book. He told a friend he'd circled the game, but for the record told me that he really hadn't. His happy green eyes said otherwise.
For the Burgh Diaspora, there is only one team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, the Arizona Cardinals are emblematic of the migratory pattern of Western Pennsylvania. Russ Grimm, already a boomeranger, needed to leave the region once again in order to take the next step in his career. While he coaches for the wrong team, he's still a member of our Diaspora family.
We don't have a lot of any one thing, but we've got a little bit of everything. You want a great comic-book store? We've got that. You want Ethiopian food? We've got that. You want a sports bar where Pittsburgh Steelers fans gather on Sunday? We've got that.
Some people look at Charlotte, with all this chrome and glass uptown, all these sprawling suburbs, all this relentless growth, and they decide that we are a city without a soul.
We do have a soul. Our problem -- and our great strength -- is that our soul looks different every time you look at it.
I appreciate the author's understanding of a problem and a strength as two sides of the same coin. Pittsburgh's soul is the same no matter from where and when you look at it. I think the problems with this stable identity are apparent. Pittsburgh is risk averse and the region is struggling to create jobs. The flip side of stability is stagnation.
In order to thrive, does Pittsburgh need to be more like Charlotte? The Burgh Diaspora project is an exploration of the benefits of Pittsburgh staying as is. The strong sense of identity that expatriates possess allows them to thrive in highly dynamic environments such as Charlotte. Boomtowns lack such assets. Charlotte Nation doesn't exist.