Friday, April 1, 2011

The Mosque Rises Again...

Syria Mosque QR Barcode from Pop City Media
photo by Sam Lavery

Hey, Pittsburgh has a lot of talented people in the music biz. And they all didn't hone their chops in their parent's garage.

The City universities - Duquesne, Pitt, and Carnegie-Mellon - all have top notch music schools. And that niche allows for some interaction among the other departments. That's how Sam Lavery resurrected Oakland's Syria Mosque.

Sam's a junior at CMU who was conducting a research project delving into the digital recreation of historic places. He looked down the street, and where most guys his age would see an asphalt parking lot, he saw the Syria Mosque, one of the City's iconic rock and roll halls.

It helped that Lavery is a musician and into the history and evolution of music. It also helped that his mom worked the Mosque as an usher.

So he went googling for some images and memorabilia, toggled a few free web-based apps, plunked down the princely sum of $25 for various supplies, and viola - the Mosque is back among the living, at least for those of us that can operate a smart phone camera.

Sam digitalized the coolness of the Mosque - the lions, the building, concert clips, posters, ticket stubs, any and everything he could find, and by conjuring up some computer magic (OK, maybe it's not voodoo to CMU students, but it sure seems like a black art to graybeards like Old Mon) he linked them to some QR barcodes, white squares with black modules that can be scanned by your run-of-the-mill smart phone.

So hey, make sure the battery is charged, and take a nice spring stroll along Bigelow Boulevard and Lytton Avenue. It used to take a good imagination to recall the glory of the Mosque.

Now all it takes is a good eye to spot the barcodes (you can find the sites here; there are a couple of dozen of them in the neighborhood stuck on various poles and signs), and a quick point and click on the ol' cell to bring back the Mosque and its memories on your screen. Sure beats a stodgy ol' historic marker.

It's not rocket science; as Sam explains "QR codes are square barcodes that when read by a cell phone camera reveal a website link, audio clip, or image that the user is automatically redirected to. All you need to scan them is a phone with a camera and access to the internet."

Nothing is quite that simple; unless you have a 'Droid, you'll have to download a QR reader. Never fear - it's easy and you can't be the price; they're free apps.

Lavery's not done. He had some ideas about preserving the Civic Arena, and has his keyboard clicking at making Three Rivers Stadium his next field of dreams, or maybe the Homestead Steel Works.

And hey, wouldn't you love to relive the Porkfest at TRS or the Beatles invading the Arena one more time?

The Bangles - "Walk Like An Egyptian" Syria Mosque 1986

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