Monday, October 16, 2006

Ashlee Simpson to guest conduct at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

-Company hoping to start trend in arts world

Pittsburgh, PA – The past year has been tough for the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. In order to reduce expenditures the organization decided to let go of their live orchestra and move to recorded music. The unpopular decision prompted many protests and disappointed those who believe that live music is intrinsic to the experience of ballet.

In an effort to put these experiences in the past, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT) has decided to bring in Ashlee Simpson to guest conduct the opening weekend of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite for the 2006-2007 season. Simpson gained notoriety last October when she began lip syncing the wrong lyrics in front of a national audience on Saturday Night Live. While an embarrassment for her, the management at PBT saw a clear opportunity.

“It is a move that fits with our strategic plan, said Managing Director Robert Petrilli. “We have taken a lot of heat for playing canned music, but now the audience will be able to see a conductor, and it will be pretty darn close to the real thing. You can’t really see the orchestra anyway.”

Ashlee Simpson is currently training at the Juilliard School of music in a crash course on conducting. “Although she is a pop star with little familiarity with the art of conducting, she shows pretty incredible natural talent,” said Julliard’s principal conducting professor Marjorie Hamlin. Her regimen includes intensive training in conducting, including the new field of consyncing. Consyncing is similar to lip syncing, yet focuses on giving the effect of actually conducting music, rather than singing. “She is a natural,” said Hamlin.

Critics see the move as further degradation of the art. Claire Sharp, an ad-hoc professor at Duquesne University said, “To put someone up front to pretend to conducting is simply insulting the audience at a deeper level. It is saying ‘First we will take away the live music because that isn’t important and now we will give you an illusion of music to make you feel as if you are experiencing the real thing.’ These are dark days for the arts community.” PBT believes otherwise. “The PBT is on the cutting edge of the arts world,” stated Public Relations consultant Fred Bidfeld. “The writing is on the wall- the next step for ballet is on-demand from the comfort of your home. We are just fortunate to be among the first in the country to experience that trend.”

Whether insult or opportunity, the audience will judge for themselves when they see Ashlee Simpson seemingly conduct “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” this December.

Penguins to play at PPG ice rink starting in late November

-New arena still up in the air, fans and team react

Pittsburgh, PA – It has been a real roller coaster for Penguins lately. Hopes were high as fans thought they would see at least half a season two years ago, but league-wide contract disputes erased that possibility. Penguin fans got a shot in the arm when the team signed 1st round draft pick Sidney Crosby last year and then bought tickets to watch one of the worst teams in the NHL. Then Pittsburgh was hit with a mix of emotions last January when Mario Lemieux retired for the second time.

As if these troubles weren’t enough there is also uncertainty as to where the Penguins will call home in the near future. This question took on an unexpected dimensione early this week when Penguins executive Will McIntyre announced that if the city is not willing to support the proposal to build a new casino to house the Penguins in a new Mellon Arena, the Penguins will voluntarily boycott their home rink and start playing at the PPG ice rink.“This is an issue of fairness and representation. How is it that the city’s football and baseball teams both have excellent state-of-the art stadiums when we are suffering with this relic of the Paleolithic age?” asked McIntyre. “If this city is going to truly uphold the American dream, then I demand equal representation under government contracts, and that means a new home for the Penguins.”

There were mixed responses from fans over this new turn of events. “Hey, my buddy works in PPG 2, so I can just sit in his office, have a beer and watch from above- for free. That is pretty sweet for me. I just wish I could hear the game, but I’ll get a radio,” commented George Swanford of Carnegie.

Joe Hartel of Greensburg had another view, “This is a joke. I mean how can we expect other teams to take us seriously when we have a Christmas tree in the middle of the rink? I think this is bad news for the Penguins and for their loyal fans.”

However, not everyone is upset at the idea of the Christmas tree. Jenny Bitroff of Bloomfield thinks it might be just what the Penguins need to be competitive. “I think the Christmas tree will be awesome. I can’t wait to see the first guy get checked into the bottom branches and have to come out and shake off the needles. I think other teams will pick up on the trend and artificially place artificial Christmas trees in their rinks." The uproar is putting some pressure on the city government. “I don’t know how we are going to get new stadium funding,” said Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. “We will review such proposals and get community support for a new stadium much like past mayors have done.”

McIntyre sees otherwise. “It’s clear. The city promised us a stadium when Mario cut his mullet in 1996, which is as close to a contract as I have ever heard.” For now it looks like Penguin fans might be able to see their team, however, they might have to cheer for them as if it was Christmas morning. Every day and every game.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Other uncreative people have hope

Fairfax, VA – After gaining worldwide attention with his bestseller “The Rise of the Creative Class” and the great success of his follow-up “The Flight of the Creative Class”, fans and readers were shocked when Richard Florida announced on his website that his own creativity was “less than average”.

The press release that is causing the uproar was distributed two days ago as part of an effort on the part of the Richard Florida Creativity Group to promote Florida’s upcoming book “The Takeover of the Dull Class”. As part of the promotion Richard Florida agreed to take a creativity quiz in order to show that “even an economics professor could rise above such boring concepts as supply and demand, and be hip, fun, and creative”. To prove he was serious, Richard Florida took the quiz during a live web cast, so as to prove his transparency. When the results came up “not that creative”, the web cast was discontinued and viewers had the option of getting a discounted price on any of Florida’s books.

“I was kind of shocked,” said Jane Calihan, from Lincoln, Nebraska, “For the last couple of years I have been thinking that Richard Florida must be a creative genius. The test results showed otherwise; it makes me feel sad, kind of like nobody is really creative.” Jack Dolan of Gainesville, Florida, echoed these sentiments. “You know, you read so much about this creative class and you hope that they will come to your town and make it really cool, because then I could get a better job. I just figured that Richard Florida was one of them, but now that he isn’t, I am worried that there is no such thing as creative people.”

According to Florida’s new work there is an elite class of creative people that live in small caves and beautiful hidden valleys in the Rocky Mountains. From time to time they will fly out on winged unicorns and land in cities that are deserving of their presence. When they arrive in a given city, it is blessed by twenty years of coolness and the creation of hip cafés and art galleries. Florida’s new book describes the battle between the “Creatives” and those he deems as the “Dullites”, a class of people that often don’t understand artists or gay people. In the final chapters, America is thrown into turmoil as the “Creatives” and “Dullites” battle in cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Austin.

Florida released a brief statement the day after his web cast. “The results of my creativity quiz were a surprise to me and my colleagues. While I believe in the accuracy of my quiz, I am disappointed in my results. Someone who knows so much about creativity should probably have scored higher. However, I plan to study and retake the quiz in one month from now when I release my next book, “Your Not Creative and That is OK” Richard Florida was unavailable for comments when called for an interview.

Paul Johnstown is a contributing writer to the Prune, and is creative.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Supporters hail move as brave and visionary, while critics claim publicity stunt.

Pittsburgh, PA- In an unprecedented move yesterday, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato announced the merging of his back yard with his neighbor’s back yard. While back yard mergers have been discussed for over a century, no public figure or private citizen has actually implemented such a plan. While many of the legal details of the merger are still being worked out the reality of a single backyard between Onorato and his neighbors, the Jones family, is a reality. “I know that our merger is causing a lot of concern and people are wondering if they will have to merge with their neighbor’s yard. Please do not be concerned. As county executive I will never enforce such a law. However, I hope that the good citizens of Allegheny County will see how nice my backyard is and may consider what theirs would look like, should they consolidate grasses and flower beds, and remove artificial boundaries,” said a statement from the Chief Executive’s office yesterday.

According to sources close to the site of merging, the new back yard “just looks different.” Where there used to be a fence is now simply grass. Where there used to be separate flower beds, now the flower beds join together (and according to a few eyewitnesses, even have coordinated flowers). A neighbor who asked to remain anonymous noted that now the two neighbors actually share lawn care with each other, trading off duties of mowing and soon enough, leaf raking.

Critics claim that this is simply a way for Onorato to push forward on his “One grass, One lawn” agenda that he has been discussing for over a year. Onorato’s legislation would give tax breaks and other incentives to those citizens who would consider the consolidating their lawns. Sarah Halcroft, co-chair of the citizens group “One grass, Two lawns”, disagrees with Onorato’s plans. “First you have someone merging yards, then you have your neighbor wanting to merge closet space because I am not using all of mine.” Other critics have pointed to a potential loss of personal autonomy. Dick Reynolds fear that his kids will soon be out of work. “My sons’ used to mow Mr. Onorato’s lawn and now they are having to compete with the Jenkins’ kid to see who will mow the Onorato-Jones yard.” Both Halcroft and Reynolds expressed fear of where future lawn mergers may lead: “Communism.”

Supporters argue that Onorato is simply walking his talk and should be applauded for his efforts. “You don’t see every politician actually doing what they are talking about. I mean, that takes courage and I am proud of Dan,” commented Jamie Randolf, of “One grass, One Neighborhood”, a group advocating the creation of one giant lawn per neighborhood.

Mergers and consolidation of property has been discussed in Allegheny County since before World War I. The first attempted merger occurred in the Brookline neighborhood in 1907, when Jack Winters and Bob Rachet began taking out the fence that separated their two back yards. According to the historical records, Winters and Rachet were half finished with their fence-pulling when a neighborhood watch group invited them to an emergency meeting, where they surrounded the two and implored them to stop this “ridiculous act of sharing and so-called neighborliness and get back to living your lives as cordial, but distinct-backyard-owning neighbors.” Despite the two gentlemen’s protest, the neighborhood group won the day and even pitched in to buy a new fence that was stronger and higher than the old fence.

Randolf still remembers stories about the epic Winters- Rachet struggle and sees the Onorato-Jones merger as being critical to a one lawn movement that is seen as “uncertain” due to its critics which Randolf states, “will always believe that the grass is greener with a fence.”