Israel vs Palestine

Written by Rob Rogers on .

Violence in the Middle East between Israelis and Palestinians is not a new thing. It is hard for me to understand why they can't just all get along. Both sides are guilty of inciting violence. But both sides would also benefit form some sort of peaceful solution. Why is it always so elusive? 

071114 Israel vs Palestine

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Oaks renovating; actress Caroline Fogarty back with movie at Hollywood Theater in Dormont

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .


oaksimg 33925483 primaryThe Oaks Theater is scaling back its movies while it renovates the 75-year-old venue to add a pair of stages inside the theater along with a full-service bar in the lobby and a kitchen upstairs.  
The Oakmont theater, which opened Nov. 18, 1938, will become a multipurpose entertainment venue that will still show classic and cult films but also welcome live music, speakers, improv and stand-up comedy and install cabaret-style seating in the back of the auditorium. A new manager and programmer, Joe Wichryk II, is helping to oversee the transformation.
“We’ve cut all of our programming except for the Moonlit Matinee series,” he said Wednesday, with “The Breakfast Club” proceeding as scheduled at 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and decisions about future bookings down the road. The theater’s website at and its Facebook page will have updates throughout construction.    
“We’re getting new electric service to the building and eventually we’ll have to stop showing films,” he said, although he expects the newly configured space with upgraded sound and lighting will be ready in September.
The changes, which will include a large stage in front of the screen and a second one in the back along with flex seating of tables and chairs, will cost the theater some seats. Capacity will drop from the current 430 to 300 to 350 and the traditional concession stand will give way to a bar and possibly light entertainment such as acoustic duos or a keyboard player.
The Oaks has been hobbled by having a digital projector but one that is not DCI or Digital Cinema Initiatives compliant, which means it cannot show some of the new Hollywood releases. However, its equipment will allow it to show older movies and to welcome filmmakers who want to showcase their work.
Some nights might feature both a live performance and a movie, either before or after, depending on the nature of the entertainment. The name of the landmark at 310 Allegheny River Blvd. is staying the same.
“We will still be the Oaks Theater. We want to continue to maintain the integrity of this longstanding tradition,” said Mr. Wichryk, who is also part of the Pittsburgh-based comedy troupe Hustlebot. “We don’t want to alienate people who grew up with it, we just want to add to the experience you get coming to the Oaks.” 
margaret reacts to surprise
as-high-as-the-sky-dvd-keyart-final-lrIn other movie news, actress Caroline Fogarty will be at the Hollywood Theater, 1449 Potomac Ave., Dormont, on Saturday for a 7 p.m. screening of the indie movie “As High as the Sky.” Ms. Fogarty (shown above in a still from the film) is a graduate of Upper St. Clair High School and Penn State University. 
In her first feature, writer-director Nikki Braendlin explores the fragile bonds between sisters. Ms. Fogarty plays Margaret, who is jilted by her fiance and manages her loneliness by obsessively and compulsively organizing her already perfect home. When her older sister and 10-year-old niece arrive unexpectedly for what seems like an indefinite visit, Margaret’s carefully structured life is thrown into disarray. 
Ms. Braendlin said in a press release, “I wanted to explore probable causes of these behaviors as well as potential ways to heal. I have experienced OCD symptoms and they worsen when I’m working through a particularly difficult time. I was interested in examining the ramifications of someone who has never learned to identify, and thus process, her emotions at all.
“Additionally, and simultaneously, the film explores the complex and diverse relationships among mothers, daughters and sisters.” 
Tickets are available in advance at or at the door for $8 for adults and $6 for seniors, children under 12 or students with valid IDs.
The movie, a winner at the Palm Beach and Sonoma international film festivals, is 91 minutes long and also is available on DVD along with such platforms as Amazon Instant, Hulu and Cinema Libre on Demand. 
And a couple of additiontal notes: 
Jeff Boller will lead free 3-D for kids workshops for children 7 and up, plus their parents, at the Penn Area Library in Harrison City at 1 p.m. Wednesday and the Norwin Public LIbrary at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursday. Participants will make 3-D comics and learn how to create 3-D art at home. Contact the libraries for information. … Findlay Zotter, a 2009 graduate of CAPA and 2013 graduate of Drexel University’s film school, has been accepted into the Directors Guild of America’s two-year assistant directors’ training program.


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Will Alec Baldwin join Will Smith in 'Game Brain' movie?

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .


Is Alec Baldwin joining the Will Smith movie based on the GQ article “Game Brain”?
He is in talks to join the movie about football concussions expected to start shooting in Pittsburgh later this summer, according to Mike Fleming of 
No word on what role he might, or even could, fill, in the story about a doctor who determined the damage inflicted on the brain of Mike Webster before the Steeler died of a fatal heart attack in 2002. 
Here is a link to the original Jeanne Marie Laskas story, a lengthy examination of a doctor’s crusade to reveal what really happened to players who met disability and death long before their time:
If you’re interested in a good overview, in movie form, track down “Head Games,” a documentary by Steve James who made “Hoop Dreams” and whose look at Roger Ebert called “Life Itself” will open July 18 at Pittsburgh Filmmakers’ Regent Square Theater. 
Here’s my review of “Head Games,” which got little attention when it played here in October 2012. 
If a copy of “Head Games” (3.5 stars) came with every parental permission slip for a child to play football or hockey or soccer, no one might ever give approval for their son or daughter to step onto the field or ice.
Take Cindy Parlow Cone, a retired professional soccer player and three-time Olympic medalist. Almost 6 feet tall, she scored half of all goals with her head and estimates she “saw stars” and much worse more than 100 times.
Closed concussion syndrome forced her to retire and while she acknowledges her parents know about her headaches, they don’t understand how much her problem interrupts her daily life. She developed a stutter at one point and uses her GPS because she can forget where she’s driving.
She’s a coach today and when one of her players gets smacked in the head on the field, she immediately subs them out. After all, some doctors believe athletes should quit after three concussions while others point to long-term problems after just one concussion in 15 percent of cases.
Or, as pundit Stephen Colbert quips in a segment included in the movie: “Why are you bashing your head into a 300-pound lineman? Your brain is a spongecake floating in a bone bucket. Stop now while you don’t have to wear a diaper.”
Or while you can remember the months of the year, in sequence, or don’t have the irrational impulse to commit suicide or have signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE.
It’s an incurable and progressive disorder in which protein deposits gradually compromise brain function. Young or middle-age brains show signs of dementia and damage typically found in much older people.
“Head Games” is about the country’s concussion crisis, well documented in the Post-Gazette thanks to a 2010-11 series by former PG writer Chuck Finder and regular reports about Steelers or Penguins sidelined with injuries.
But documentary maker Steve James, who directed “Hoop Dreams” and “The Interrupters,” not only concentrates on the pros but examines college standouts, high school students and peewee players who want to imitate their heroes and perform with an intensity beyond their years.
The movie was inspired by Christopher Nowinski, a former all-Ivy League football player, WWE wrestler, concussion sufferer and activist and author of “Head Games: Football’s Concussion Crisis.”
It also concentrates on what New York Times reporter Alan Schwarz found in a series about football concussions. It started with news about the brain damage suffered by former Philadelphia Eagle Andre Waters before his suicide at age 44.
One of the most poignant passages is about Owen Thomas, a junior at the University of Pennsylvania and a defensive lineman who played an aggressive brand of football. Despite his mother’s belief that he had never suffered a concussion, an autopsy showed his brain was in the early stages of CTE when he hanged himself at age 21.
Today, his mother occasionally listens to the happy birthday message he left on her cell phone the day before his suicide; it’s nice to hear his voice and she feels like she’s carrying him around with her, she says. His father finds it difficult to visit his son’s grave, marked by a black headstone with two engraved gray footballs celebrating his high school and college careers.
Mr. James interviews, on camera, a dozen medical doctors or Ph.D.s who have run tests, started a brain bank to bolster their findings, speak with authority and have differing opinions about age and concussion limits. One, for instance, suggests no one under 14 should play collision sports.
As thorough as “Head Games” is, it leaves some issues untouched, such as the value of the baseline tests many schools insist on or those headbands soccer players wear. And if a child wants to play a sport, is one safer than another? How can poor schools or parents press for certified athletic trainers?
Nevertheless, this excellent, eye-opening documentary puts faces, including some who passed through Steelers Nation only to meet tragic and premature ends, to a subject that shows no signs of disappearing any time soon. It’s as scary as any horror movie ever could be.


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City to consider new site for off-leash dog park in Mount Washington

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .



An acre of Olympia Park along Virginia Avenue and Hallock Street will not continue to be Mount Washington‘‍s off-leash dog park once a new site can be developed, possibly behind the park, near trails of Emerald View Park.

Mayor Bill Peduto’‍s office issued a notice that a compromise site will be worked out, with no specific details as yet.

The dog park was established two years ago with advocacy from about a dozen dog owners. It quickly had opposition from nearby neighbors who said they were not consulted.

Nearby resident Robert Ariass, who has lived on Hallock for 13 years, said his beef is not that there is an off-leash exercise area but that the site is too near to homes and that those residents could have been contacted.

“We never had a chance to talk about this,” he said. “Now the city wants to take away what should not have been established in the first place.”

Most off-leash dog parks are either in remote areas, such as the South Side‘‍s, Lawrenceville’‍s and in Riverview Park. An off-leash area that is not fenced in Allegheny Commons Park on the North Side is not remote but there no residents within 50 yards of it.

Mr. Ariass said barking in the evening prevents him from having a peaceful summer evening meal on his back porch.

But dog-park denizens say the site is perfect, with a slope that drains so that there is no mud, and that commotion is not as common as detractors say it is.

“People had been using this area before” a fence was installed, said Emily Matthews, a regular visitor with her dog, Thurston, a lab-pit mix.

If the park is moved to the wooded area where trails are, she said, dogs will be exposed to broken glass and ticks. “The trail area may not be accessible to older people, too,” she said.

“Everybody who uses it loves this dog park,” said Matthew Sill, Thurston's other half. “But the mayor is a cool guy, so he‘‍ll probably come up with something good.”

“I moved to Mount Washington to be near a park,” said Brandon Allen, who was in the park today with Emily and Matthew, their Thurston and his German shepherd Kila. “If they move it a couple hundred yards away, I understand. But there’‍s more noise from the baseball field than from these dogs.”

The mayor‘‍s office noted that its goal is “to provide an off-leash area... that is set far enough away from residential properties to limit impacts on neighbors.”

Public Works will be studying possible sites, during which time the city will honor the current dog park’‍s confines.

Photo of Emily Matthews, left, Brandon Allen, center, and Matthew Sill, with dogs Thurston, left and Kila.



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Keeping tomatoes blight free and healthy

Written by Doug Oster on .

blog early blight 628bThis is an example of early blight on tomatoes. It's easy to deal with as is blossom end rot. Don't panic about late blight either, we haven't seen it...yet. Photo by Doug Oster

Calls have been coming in to the Sunday morning radio show wondering what to do about early blight on tomatoes. Here's a segment from Pittsburgh Today Live on how to deal with early blight, blossom end rot and the dreaded late blight.



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