90.5 WESA's Essential Pittsburgh

Essential Pittsburgh airs weekdays from noon to 1 p.m. and is repeated at 8 p.m.
  • Hosted by Paul Guggenheimer

Essential Pittsburgh is a locally produced program from 90.5 WESA dedicated to developing a deep, ongoing exploration of critical issues affecting Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.

Essential Pittsburgh features community leaders and newsmakers in the arts, sciences, technology, business, healthcare, government and education.

  • Call (412) 246-2002 from noon to 1 p.m. weekdays to participate in the discussion.  
  • Dial (412) 256-8783 to leave a question or comment before or after the show.  
  • Tweet your question to @esspgh. 
  • Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.
  • What stories are we missing? Send your thoughts to esspgh@wesa.fm 

This weekend will mark the launch of a new program celebrating Pittsburgh’s jazz history. Steel City Grooves: Celebrating Western Pennsylvania Jazz will chronicle the past, present and future of jazz in Pittsburgh. Joining us for a preview of this Senator John Heinz History Center Volunteer Ambassador Program is WESA jazz host Bob Studebaker.

Bob Studebaker gives us a taste of what to expect:

Friday Rundown: 3D Printing and Searching for General Tso

Jan 8, 2015
John / Flickr

These topics air January 9, 2014 at noon and 8 pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12 pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

The Evolution of 3D Printing

Earlier this week, SpaceX had to delay the launch of an unmanned cargo ship headed for the International Space Station. Some of that cargo includes spare parts needed by the Space Station scientists. But very soon, because of 3D printing technology, people in remote locations, such as the Space Station will be able to create their own spare parts and tools, on the go. Last fall, the first zero gravity 3D printer was sent to the Space Station and test parts have been created based on digitally downloaded designs. This news, along with the announcement of a large General Electric additive manufacturing facility coming to the Pittsburgh area, highlights the major advancements in 3D printing technology and its role in the future growth of our technology base. University of Pittsburgh professor, Howard Kuhn is a well known researcher and consultant in the world of additive manufacturing/3D printing. He joins us to talk about the advancements and evolution of the industry.

Searching for General Tso 

The new food documentary The Search for General Tso takes viewers on a gastronomic journey. The film’s producer is New York Times writer and Splendid Table guest host Jennifer 8. Lee. She’ll clue us in on the origins of General Tso’s chicken and other Chinese dishes that enjoy worldwide popularity.

Celebrating Pittsburgh’s Jazz Legacy

This weekend will mark the launch of a new program celebrating Pittsburgh’s jazz history. Steel City Grooves: Celebrating Western Pennsylvania Jazz will chronicle the past, present and future of jazz in Pittsburgh. Joining us for a preview of this Senator John Heinz History Center Volunteer Ambassador Program is WESA jazz host Bob Studebaker.

Young Men of Color Learn How to Interview Their Role Models

Jan 8, 2015
Crossing Fences

Since 2012, the Crossing Fences project has been using audio and radio to connect generations and continue the oral tradition in Pittsburgh.

The project, run by local radio program Saturday Light Brigade, gathers African-American students in neighborhoods such as Homewood, the Hill District, and Sto-Rox, and teaches them about audio engineering.

During this time, members of Crossing Fences and the students discussed role models within the community. The students then had to reach out to these role models and plan, record and edit an interview with them.

Joining us to discuss the project are Larry Berger, executive director and Chanessa Schuler, multi-media specialist of Saturday Light Brigade Radio.

Rob Rogers / Post-Gazette

In the aftermath of the shooting deaths of 12 people at a satirical weekly in Paris, what concerns does this tragic event raise for political cartoonists here at home? Award-winning political cartoonist Rob Rogers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Randy Bish, editorial cartoonist for the Tribune Review, discuss the Charlie Hebdo attack as an attack on free expression.

Winter Travel Destinations

Jan 8, 2015
Elaine Labalme / WESA

As the temperatures plummet, how many of us don’t pass some of our time dreaming of relaxing on a warm, sandy beach?

Elaine Labalme, who tweets about food and travel under the Twitter handle New Girl in Town, joins us to suggest beach destinations you can escape to this winter.

SLB Radio Productions / SLB

These topics air Thursday, January 8, 2015 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Terrorist Attack on Free Speech

In the aftermath of the shooting deaths of 12 people at a satirical weekly in Paris, what concerns does this tragic event raise for political cartoonists here at home? We’ll discuss terroristic threats to freedom of speech with award winning political cartoonist Rob Rogers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Randy Bish,editorial cartoonist for the Tribune Review.

Crossing Fences

Since 2012 the Crossing Fences project has been using audio and radio to connect generations. Their latest project helped African American males connect with leaders in their community. Joining us to discuss the project are Larry Berger, executive director and Chanessa Schuler, multi-media specialist of Saturday Light Brigade Radio. 

Winter Beaches

As the temperatures plummet, how many of us don’t pass some of our time dreaming of relaxing on a warm, sandy beach? Elaine Labalme, who tweets about food and travel under the Twitter handle New Girl in Town, joins us to suggest beach destinations you can escape to this winter.

Pittsburgh's Improving Water Quality

Jan 7, 2015
Joseph / Flickr

Although not as apparent today, Pittsburgh was once one of the top industrial cities in America- and one of the dirtiest.

Often described as “hell with the lid off,” Pittsburgh of old was a city of dark noons where workers had to change their white shirts during the day. Since the Steel City’s mid-century renaissance, the air quality has improved significantly.

Improving the water quality of the famed three rivers- which were often used as garbage disposal by past residents- has been a longer process.

But encouraging news came out of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection recently, when they announced that the Monongahela River had been removed from the department’s list of Rivers with Impaired Drinking Water.

The department’s Deputy Secretary of Water Management Kelly Heffner said that though this was a step in the right direction, there is still plenty of work to be done in Western Pennsylvania.

PA Gun Legislation in Limbo

Jan 7, 2015
Keary O. / Flickr

Last November, Governor Corbett signed into law Act 192, which allows Pennsylvania gun enthusiasts and groups to sue communities that have "lost and stolen" ordinances -- local laws requiring gun owners to notify police when a firearm goes missing. The law has supporters and critics. Post-Gazette reporter Chris Potter joins us to look at both sides of the issue.

A Story of McCarthyism in Pittsburgh

Jan 7, 2015
United Press / Library of Congress


"I have here in my hand a list of 205,” said Senator Joe McCarthy during a speech given in 1950.

“A list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department."

What the senator said was completely untrue, but it didn’t stop his tactics- which came to be known as McCarthyism- from spreading across the country.

The nation was gripped by a communist panic, and baseless accusations were soon flying in both the public and private sphere.

Sixty years ago, five employees at the Westinghouse Electric Corporation’s East Pittsburgh plant were fired for being named in McCarthy’s Washington hearings as “undesirable”. Historian and author Charles McCollester stopped by Studio A to recall what happened.

Joseph / Flickr

These topics air Wedesday January 7, 2015 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Southwestern PA Water Quality

The good news is a new study by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection reports improved water quality in the rivers of Southwestern PA. The bad news is more needs to be done. We’ll talk with Deputy Secretary of Water Management Kelly Heffner about the condition of the region’s waterways.

A Re-Examination of Local Gun-Control Ordinances

Last November, Governor Corbett signed into law Act 192, which allows Pennsylvania gun enthusiasts and groups to sue communities that have "lost and stolen" ordinances, local laws requiring gun owners to notify police when a firearm goes missing. The law has supporters and critics. Post-Gazette reporter Chris Potter joins us to look at both sides of the issue.

McCarthyism in Pittsburgh

During the first week of January 1955, five employees at the Westinghouse Electric Corporation's East Pittsburgh plant were fired as "undesirable" following hearings in Washington held by Senator Joseph McCarthy's investigations and subcommittee. Historian and author Charles McCollester recalls the event. 

Ohio Earthquakes Linked to Hydraulic Fracturing

Jan 6, 2015
Nicholas Tonelli / Flickr

Researchers at Miami University in Ohio have concluded fracking was most likely the cause of earthquakes that have taken place in the state.

Last March, 77 earthquakes occurred in Poland, Ohio, a town near the PA-OH state line. Reporter Julie Grant of the Allegheny Front joins us to discuss this recent report.

Would You Like to Buy an Ambassadorship?

Jan 6, 2015
Ryan McFarland / Flickr

In 2014, a number of President Obama’s US ambassador appointees were confirmed by the Senate, despite their lack of diplomacy experience. Appointees such as Noah Bryson Mamet, the new ambassador of Argentina, have never visited the country where they will be stationed.

While a president naming political appointees as ambassadors is not new, international policy experts such as Penn State International Affairs professor and retired U.S. Ambassador Dennis Jett are concerned.

In his new book “American Ambassadors: The Past, Present, and Future of America’s Diplomats,” he looks at the various paths to becoming a diplomat.

Jett joins Dan Simpson, another former ambassador and a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist, to discuss the role of ambassadors in this ever more globalized world.

Pittsburgh Neighborhood Focus: Allentown

Jan 6, 2015
Joseph / Flickr

Pittsburgh is made of dozens of neighborhoods, each with their own unique backgrounds, residents, businesses and other characteristics.

Business contributor Rebecca Harris focuses in on some of the city’s most interesting neighborhoods, and discusses her findings every first Tuesday of the month.

Today, she focused on Allentown, a neighborhood south of downtown and just up the hill from WESA’s South Side studio.

The "town" of Allentown was founded by an Englishman, Joseph Allen, in 1827, but most of its original occupants were German. Pittsburgh annexed the town in 1872.

Much has changed since then, as most of the original businesses have disappeared. But shops such as the Hardware Store have moved into the neighborhood.

Tuesday Rundown: Exploring the Value of Diplomacy

Jan 6, 2015
Lorenia / Flickr

These topics air Tuesday January 6, 2015 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.

Ohio Earthquakes

Researchers at Miami University in Ohio have concluded fracking was most likely the cause of earthquakes that have taken place in the state. Last March, 77 earthquakes occurred in Poland, Ohio a town near the PA-OH state line. Reporter Julie Grant of the Allegheny Front joins us to discuss this recent report.

Would You Like To Buy an Ambassadorship?

In 2014, a number of President Obama’s US ambassador appointees were confirmed by the Senate, despite their lack of diplomacy experience. Appointees such as Noah Bryson Mamet, the new ambassador of Argentina, have never visited the country where they will be stationed. While a president naming political appointees as ambassadors is not new, international policy experts such as Penn State International Affairs professor and retired U.S. Ambassador Dennis Jett are concerned. In his new book “American Ambassadors The Past, Present, and Future of America’s Diplomats” he looks at the various paths to becoming a diplomat. Joined by Dan Simpson, another former ambassador and a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist, they discuss the role of ambassadors in this ever more globalized world.

WESA Celebrates Al Condeluci

For more than 40 years, Al Condeluci has been instrumental in changing the lives of thousands of disabled people in the Pittsburgh area. His awareness and dedication started first hand, with his cousin Carrie, who had Down Syndrome.

Business Segment - Allentown

Cities are made up of a collection of neighborhoods with unique features and characteristics. On the first Tuesday of the month, business contributor Rebecca Harris will focus on one of the city’s neighborhoods. Today's focus is on Allentown. 

Adam Welz for CREDO Action / Flickr

Last month the state of New York voted to ban fracking. While many celebrated this news some saw their visions of an economic boom go bust.

Journalist Tom Wilber has been covering shale gas developments and gives a first-hand account of this latest news and emphasizes the importance of timing for this decision,  fracking's impact public health and social consequences and its relation to Pennsylvania.

"New York and Pennsylvania are different states in terms of their history with mineral extraction. I think that Pennsylvania has a different comfort level with mineral extraction, going back to the days of the anthracite coal mining. I think there is more of an acceptance of the downside of mineral extraction in Pennsylvania. [ In New York] It's foreign to people [mineral extraction]."

Allegheny Front reporter, Reid Frazier responds to Wilber’s point by reminding us that along with the attention of environmental groups, PA Governor-elect Tom Wolf has said he will be focusing on the public health implications of fracking in Pennsylvania.

Noah Papas / Abilife

Developing an assistive brace for people with Parkinson’s disease was more than a humanitarian act for Courtney Williamson; it was personal. It has also served as her entrance into the medical devices industry. 

As the founder of AbiliLife and a PhD candidate at Carnegie Mellon University,  Courtney has gone through six prototypes to create a brace that she describes as a "light weight and breathable" vest, which aims to be as easy as putting on a T-shirt.

Courtney explained her motivation and inspiration for the making the Calibrace, assistive brace: 

"My mother has had Parkinson's for about 25 years. I noticed she had a lot of trouble with her day-to-day tasks, primarily with her posture and with her balance. I looked constantly for things to help her and I couldn't find anything. This really started because I wanted to help my mom."

The brace is scheduled to launch in April of this year. 

Fittsburgh Are You Ready? Staying Fit in the Steel City

Jan 5, 2015
Calibe Thompson:Miami Fitness TV-46 / Flickr

It’s a new year and many are resolving to get in shape. Our fitness contributor and co founder of Fittsburgh Joe Vennare is on a mission to help Pittsburghers get in shape in 2015 by taking the Fitness Challenge. He’ll help us get started and fill us in on healthy events taking place in the Steel City in January.

Joe also shares his high hopes for the Pittsburgh community:

"For us, our mission is to make Pittsburgh the healthiest city in the nation."

Adam Welz for CREDO Action / Flickr

These topics air Monday January 5, 2015 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. Join the conversation LIVE between 12pm & 1 pm weekdays at 412-246-2002.  

New York's Ban on Fracking

Last month the state of New York voted to ban fracking. While many celebrated this news some saw their visions of an economic boom go bust. We’ll get a first-hand account of this latest development from journalist Tom Wilber who covers shale gas developments. We’ll also talk with Reid Frazier, a reporter for the Allegheny Front, about what impact, if any, New York’s decision could have on Pennsylvania and how the commonwealth’s shale industry may change under the governorship of Tom Wolf.

AbiliLife

Developing an assistive brace for people with Parkinson’s disease was more than a humanitarian act for Courtney Williamson; it was personal. It has also served as her entrance into the medical devices industry. We’ll meet Courtney Williamson and discover how Carnegie Mellon University is aiding in her passion for care giving.

Pittsburgh Fitness Challenge

It’s a new year and many are resolving to get in shape. Our fitness contributor Joe Vennare is on a mission to help Pittsburghers get in shape in 2015 by taking the Fitness Challenge. He’ll help us get started and fill us in on healthy events taking place in the Steel City in January.

What Governor-elect Wolf Faces in 2015

Jan 2, 2015
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Patriot News and Penn Live editorial and opinion page editor John Micek joins us to look back at a year that saw the election of a new governor in Pennsylvania.

When Democrat Tom Wolf takes over for Tom Corbett this month, he will face a host of challenges as he tackles an ambitious agenda.

Micek says that the election of Wolf was definitely the biggest political story of 2014 for the Commonwealth; the Democrat’s win broke with Pennsylvania’s longstanding “eight-year rule” by forestalling a second term for Tom Corbett. When Wolf takes office later this month, among his biggest challenges will be a statewide budget deficit of around 2 billion dollars.

Was 2014 as Tumultuous as 1968?

Jan 2, 2015
Seth Anderson / Flickr

Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman says when it comes to 2014, we probably haven't experienced as much turmoil in a single year since 1968.

From the riots in Ferguson and the nationwide demonstrations in reaction to police violence inflicted on African Americans to the debate over gay rights in the U.S., the American landscape was filled with social upheaval.

Tom Wolf / Flickr

These topics air Friday January 2, 2015 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA. 

Today we look at the political events that shaped 2014 at the local and national level, and what they can mean for us in 2015.  

A Year of Change for Pittsburgh

From a new Mayor to a new Police Chief, the City of Pittsburgh saw sweeping change among its leadership. Chris Potter of the Post-Gazette joins us to talk about Bill Peduto ushering in a new era of transparency in city government and how the hiring of Police Chief Cameron McLay will impact community/police relations.

A New Governor in Pennsylvania

Patriot News and Penn Live Editorial and Opinion Page Editor, John Micek joins us to look back at a year that saw the election of a new governor in Pennsylvania. When Democrat Tom Wolf takes over for Tom Corbett this month, he will face a host of challenges as he tackles an ambitious agenda.

How 2014 Compares with 1968

Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman says when it comes to 2014, we probably haven't experienced as much turmoil in a single year since 1968. From the riots in Ferguson and the nationwide demonstrations in reaction to police violence inflicted on African Americans, to the debate over gay rights in the U.S., the American landscape was filled with social upheaval. 

Jennifer Schatten

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back on our favorite Essential Pittsburgh stories and guests from 2014. Today we’re highlighting some of our favorite author interviews from the year.

To hear the full-length audio for this story, please refer to the original post.

Before Elizabeth Gilbert wrote her best-selling memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” she was known for novels about travel, adventure, and characters that defy convention. Elizabeth came to town for the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures Monday Night Speaker Series in November to talk about her latest novel, “The Signature of All Things,” and her return to fictional storytelling.

After the success of “Eat, Pray, Love” and “Committed,” she talked about what prompted her to return to writing novels and this one in particular.

“It had been twelve years since I wrote a novel, and I think part of me was a bit afraid that maybe I’d forgotten how to do it, and I wanted to aim high. I felt like I kind of have nothing to lose, so I wanted to write the kind of novel that I love to read.”

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

    

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back on our favorite Essential Pittsburgh stories and guests from 2014. Today we’re highlighting some of our favorite author interviews from the year.

To hear the full-length audio for this story, please refer to the original post.

The success of the Harry Potter books has proven that adults and children can enjoy the same literature. Pittsburgh based author Jonathan Auxier writes books for ages 8 to 14. He’s visited our show a number of times in the past year to review the work of other children’s book authors.

When Auxier first visited our studios back in February, he described his new book “Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes,” featuring a small blind orphan who happens to be the greatest thief who ever lived.

“The book is actually fairly dense on a word level. It’s got very complicated language structure. I was actually working out of a tradition of the eighteenth-century neoclassical writers like Samuel Johnson or Swift or people like that. But the story itself has a very childlike sensibility, and I love mixing that.”

Jacket Design by Eric Fuentecilla
Eric Fuentecilla / Penguin Books

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back on our favorite Essential Pittsburgh stories and guests from 2014. Today we’re highlighting some of our favorite author interviews from the year.

To hear the full-length audio for this story, please refer to the original post.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow” is a science fiction novel set in Pittsburgh, or rather a full-scale computer simulation of Pittsburgh, created in the aftermath of a terrorist attack that has destroyed the city. The book came out this summer and received good early reviews.

By the time this segment aired, the movie rights had been optioned by Sony Pictures -- an auspicious start to the literary career of cyberpunk author Thomas Sweterlitsch, a long-time Pittsburgher.

Among other things, WESA Morning Edition host Josh Raulerson asked Thomas when he started writing stories.

“I started writing when I was seven -- that’s my earliest notebook I still have. I remember very clearly writing stories about G.I. Joe. I think I was obsessed with the movie “Red Dawn.” So, all my stories were G.I. Joe/”Red Dawn” mashups. So, it’s kind of fun for me to go back because my mom had saved all of these notebooks that I’d filled up over the years, and they were just full of little horror stories that I was writing when I was nine and ten years old.”

Mark Schultz / http://www.markschultz.com/

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back on our favorite Essential Pittsburgh stories and guests from 2014. Today we’re highlighting some of our favorite author interviews from the year.

To hear the full-length audio for this story, please refer to the original post.

In 1996 Olympic wrestling gold medalist Dave Schultz was shot to death by John du Pont on the Foxcatcher Farms estate in Pennsylvania. What followed was sensational media coverage and a murder trial. Du Pont was found guilty and died in prison. A movie about these events, called “Foxcatcher,” was recently released in theaters. It’s based on a new book by Schultz’s brother and fellow gold medalist Mark Schultz.

We spoke with Mark Schultz in November about the true story behind his brother’s murder. Schultz explained to us that although he and his brother were Olympic medalists, they were still struggling to make ends meet, and that’s how they first got connected with millionaire philanthropist John Du Pont.

“He was the opposite of a coach; he was a bad example. We coached him! He was the biggest loser on earth, but he just inherited all of this money, and he was the only guy in the country willing to pay us to just compete. And with Title IV wiping out all the men’s wrestling programs, he was the only game in town.”

Best Author Interviews from 2014

Dec 29, 2014
Kate Ter Haar / Flickr

These topics air Tuesday December 30, 2014 at noon and 8pm on 90.5 WESA.

We’re looking back at some of our favorite author interviews from 2014.

Foxcatcher

In 1996 Olympic wrestling gold medalist Dave Schultz was shot to death by millionaire John du Pont on the Foxcatcher Farms estate in Southeast Pennsylvania. A movie about these events, called “Foxcatcher,” was recently released in theaters. It’s based on a book by Schultz’s brother and fellow gold medalist Mark Schultz. We spoke with Mark Schultz in November about the true story behind his brother’s murder.

The Signature of All Things

Before Elizabeth Gilbert wrote her best-selling memoir "Eat, Pray, Love" she was known for novels about travel, adventure, and characters that defy convention. Elizabeth came to town for the Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures Monday Night Speaker Series in November to talk about her latest novel, "The Signature of All Things" and her return to fictional storytelling.

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

Pittsburgh based author Jonathan Auxier writes books for ages 8 to 14. He’s visited our show a number of times in the past year to review the works of other children’s book authors. You'll hear our first interview with Auxier back in February, when he described his new book, “Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes” featuring a small blind orphan who happens to be the greatest thief who ever lived.

Tomorrow & Tomorrow

“Tomorrow & Tomorrow” is a science fiction novel set in Pittsburgh, or rather a full scale computer simulation of Pittsburgh, created in the aftermath of a terrorist attack that has destroyed the city. The book came out this summer and received great early reviews. It's been an auspicious start to the literary career of cyber-punk author Thomas Sweterlitsch, a long-time Pittsburgher. Hear an interview with him, conducted by Morning Edition host Josh Raulerson. 

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back on our favorite Essential Pittsburgh stories and guests from 2014. Today we’re highlighting our favorite science and sci-fi guests.

To hear the full-length audio for this story, please refer to the original post.

Just as it would be difficult for TV viewers to imagine Saturdays without Saturday Night Live, it would be equally challenging for public radio listeners to contemplate Fridays without Science Friday. The weekly call-in program engages listeners and scientists in lively conversations about all things science, and you can hear it here on 90.5 WESA on Fridays from 2 to 4 pm.

The host of Science Friday is Ira Flatow, an award winning NPR host and science correspondent who spent six years writing the well remembered Emmy-Award-winning Newton’s Apple on PBS as well as reporting on science for CBS. Ira started Science Friday as a radio show back in 1991, so it has been nearly a quarter of a century that the program has been on the air. Ira joined us back in June and talked about the interesting ways Science Friday has evolved in that time.

“We’re all about lifelong learning. And that’s why I think listeners are very interested in Science Friday -- because we’re teaching them something new every day, every week.”

Best of 2014: George Takei Talks Sci-Fi and Social Justice

Dec 29, 2014
Ryan Loew / WESA

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back on our favorite Essential Pittsburgh stories and guests from 2014. Today we’re highlighting our favorite science and sci-fi guests. 

To hear the full-length audio for this story, please refer to the original post.

In November, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra explored strange new worlds with the PNC Pops’ Sci-Fi Spectacular. The concert featured music from classic sci-fi TV programs and films, such as “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and “Star Trek,” among others. Actor and activist George Takei was one of the stars of the first Star Trek TV series and originated the role of helmsman Sulu.

Beyond Star Trek, there were many aspects of this man’s life and career to explore, including his role in the award-winning musical “Allegiance,” which is coming to Broadway in 2015. George sat down in studio with me in November. Among other things, we asked him about working in Pittsburgh on the show “Supa Ninjas” and his activism for Japanese Americans and the LGBT community.

“The imprisonment of innocent American citizens who happened to be of Japanese ancestry is parallel to the story of what the LGBT community has gone through and still will have to go through in order to be totally full American citizens.”

Holiday Hiatus and More Best of 2014

Dec 25, 2014
Michael Wyszomierski / Flickr

Essential Pittsburgh is on holiday hiatus. Please enjoy 90.5WESA's Holiday Programming in the meantime.

We will resume our "Best of 2014" shows on Monday December 29 with a science and SciFi themed show.

Ira Flatow, host of the NPR call-in science program Science Friday talks about how they've evolved over the last 25 years and found new ways to make science relatable.

Actor George Takei tells compelling stories about his experiences playing Helmsman Sulu on Star Trek, working on a TV show in Pittsburgh, and how his award-winning musical Allegiance connects with his activism for gay rights and Japanese American rights.

NPR Host Interviews in 2014: David Greene Reflects on Russia

Dec 23, 2014
David Gilkey / NPR

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back on our favorite Essential Pittsburgh stories and guests from 2014. Today we’re highlighting some of our favorite interviews with NPR personalities.

To hear the full-length audio for this story, please refer to the original post.

In November of this year, NPR Morning Edition host and former Moscow bureau chief David Greene came to Pittsburgh for a member event co-sponsored by 90.5 WESA and the World Affairs Council titled “Reflections on Russia.”

Many of those reflections were included in his new book "Midnight in Siberia," about a train journey into the heart of Russia. He joined us by phone from Washington D.C. to talk about what inspired his book.

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