Archive - September 2012

Pittsburgh hostage drama plays out on Facebook

Around 8:15 AM, a twenty-something individual walked into CW Breitsman Associates, a benefits administration firm in downtown Pittsburgh. He asked to speak to the owner, Charles Breitsman. As they entered a private office and the door closed behind them, Breitsman told his daughter to call 911. The office soon cleared of everyone but the two men, and for almost six hours the city had a full-blown hostage situation on its hands.

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Matt Stroud, who co-wrote our recent piece on the Republican National Convention for The Verge, has just written a follow-up on the Democratic National Convention.

Read it now on The Verge

Close to the edge: a week on the fringes of the RNC

Co-written with Matt Stroud

In every direction, Jersey barriers: heavy concrete walls used for deflecting cars and, in this case, slowing down human mobs. Just shy of three feet tall and chipped uneven from having been hauled back and forth to various worksites over the years, they’re now being used to establish a perimeter, within which one might choose to legally go and protest the Republican National Convention. In contrast to the rest of the city, which has been swept clean and done up in red, white, and blue in anticipation of the cash influx this event is supposed to provide, the lot we’re in now is a dusty, hot, and muggy mess, a good twenty minutes’ march from anyone of importance. There is no shade, and we’re feeling it — but not nearly as much as the sixty cops in riot gear who just marched into the box. There are also a half dozen protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church. Their signs bear legends like: “Too Late To Pray,” “Ye are of your father the devil,” and of course “God Hates Fags.” One sign features a picture of an Anonymous / Guy Fawkes mask in crosshairs.

We are in a tucked-away industrial expanse, sweating our asses off, while a couple hundred Anarchist and Occupy protesters dance provocatively and scream at the “God Hates Fags” creeps, to no real effect. This is definitely not the tightly scripted and “on message” Republican National Convention that we expected when we flew to Tampa.

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Beyond lies the wub: a history of dubstep

The atmosphere of Belvedere’s, a dive bar on Butler Street in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood — with its stage and pool tables and little in the way of ambiance — was completely transformed by the bass. It reminded me of a water jet cutter. Taking water and streaming it at such a high rate that it could slice into steel and marble? Genius. In the same way, the sound system was taking these records that, all together might not add up to much — a drum pattern and a bassline, some sound effects — and pushing them out at such a volume as to consume all the empty space in the room. I imagined that it might be transforming the molecules in the very air that surrounded me.

Under the right conditions, this is dubstep. The product of a handful of DJs and producers driven to forge a new sound, it is comprised of elements familiar to the London underground — drum and bass, two-step garage, hip-hop, for starters — yet it is still somehow very exciting, very different. Initially the sole province of tiny clubs and pirate radio stations, the last few years have seen a radical evolution of this mutant dance music genre, spurred on every bit as much by the internet as by the devotion of its fans.

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