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The Inaugural Wizard World Pittsburgh

on Wed, 07/22/2015 - 00:00

Comic book and pop culture conventions have become a hot commodity in the Twenty First Century. Comic-Con International: San Diego is considered the most prestigious of such gatherings, with Hollywood on hand to promote their latest film and television shows, while the New York Comic Con has set attendance records that top the 150,000 mark. Then there’s Wizard Entertainment, former publishers of Wizard and ToyFare magazines, which first entered the convention fray in 1997 when they purchased the former Chicago Comicon and have since expanded into cities across the country, including Albuquerque, Cleveland, Las Vegas and New Orleans. In January 2015, Wizard World purchased the former Pittsburgh Comicon, adding the Steel City to their ever growing roster of pop culture showcases and enhancing the region’s Geek Culture offerings in the process.

“We know there is a vibrant pop culture fanbase in Pittsburgh, and that other events have been successful there,” Jerry Milani, public relations manager for Wizard World, explains of the acquisition. “Fans from the area that attended our Columbus and Philadelphia shows indicated that we should take a closer look at Pittsburgh and we were pleased that everything worked out.” Milani adds that it can be long process to determine if a particular city is right for Wizard World. “We survey fans who attend our other shows in the region, as well as those who interact with us on social media,” he further elaborates. “Once it is established that there is a fanbase, we visit the city, determine if the convention center venue fits for our show, and start to work on potential dates that would fit our calendar, the pop culture festival calendar in general, and the convention center’s schedule. The process can take a couple of years until everything is in place.”

Out of This World! Jewelry in the Space Age

on Mon, 07/06/2015 - 00:00

Mankind has always had a fascination with the stars. The Sun was considered by many early cultures to be a god, for instance, and the constellations likewise held religious significance. The dream of travelling to the Moon and beyond was reflected in the Nineteenth Century novels of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, while the Twentieth Century continued the aspiration through the works of such sci-fi luminaries as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark and Robert Heinlein. With the advent of radio, film and television, sound and images were added to these narratives as the science fiction genre evolved and grew in popularity. Starting in the 1950s, meanwhile, the fantasy of space travel became reality, resulting in Neil Armstrong becoming the first human to walk on the Moon in 1969.

Mankind’s fascination with the stars is not limited to factual space explorations and science fiction space operas, however, but has spilled over into the culture of the times in other ways as well. A 2013 exhibit at the Forbes Gallery in New York City that was transported to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh during June 2015 showcases just one of the many ways that the realm of outer space has impacted our culture—in the form of jewelry. Out of This World! Jewelry in the Space Age contains an impressive and priceless collection of broaches, pins, pendants and earrings that pay homage to the significance that the stars and universe has had in the evolution of mankind, a blending of both science fact and science fiction into an art of wonder and beauty in its own right.

Jack Kerouac and the Pittsburgh Plymouths

on Mon, 06/29/2015 - 00:00

Does the road to Greenwich Village run through Pittsburgh? Apparently a number of Beats, poets and songwriters have made just such a journey, utilizing the Steel City as a “pit stop” on their way to New York City and the land of Bohemia. In 1968, for instance, Simon & Garfunkel—who spent a number of formative years in the Village—released the song “America” as part of their fourth studio album, Bookends. The narrator of the tune relates the travels of a young couple making their way across the United States in both a physical and literal attempt to “look for America,” and contains a line about boarding “a Greyhound in Pittsburgh.”

While that journey may have been fictional, another famous songwriter who likewise spent a fair amount of time in Greenwich Village embarked on a similar trek across the country almost thirty years earlier. According to John Show’s This Land That I Love (PublicAffairs, 2013), the famed “Dust Bowl Troubadour” Woody Guthrie made his own way from the Steel City to the Big Apple on foot and with his thumb, hitchhiking through a snowstorm in 1940. He was constantly met with the voice of Kate Smith singing the Irving Berlin-penned “God Bless America” along the way, however, which apparently irritated him to no end. By the time he reached New York, he was determined to compose a scathing retort, but later reworked his initial idea instead into an equally powerful anthem, “This Land Is Your Land.”