"The Meaning of Things: Pittsburgh's 21st Century Triumph Over 20th Century Urban Renewal" is the subject of a lecture Mindy Fullilove will give at 6 p.m. at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown. She is a social psychiatrist at Columbia University. The free talk is sponsored by Community Design Center of Pittsburgh. Reservations are requested: 412-391-4144.
Greensburg nonfiction writer Michael Sims appears as part of Writers LIVE @CLP at Carnegie Library, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland, at 6 p.m. Mr. Sims, a self-taught writer and author of five books, will present a talk and reading from his recent work, "The Story of Charlotte's Web." His meticulously researched biography explores the eccentric life and imagination of author E.B. White. Starting with the childhood influence of White's family farm in Mount Vernon, N.Y., where the personalities of the beloved characters Charlotte, Wilbur and Fern were shaped, Mr. Sims traces White's career from a writer for The New Yorker to the places in nature that inspired him to write the beloved American classic. A book signing will follow the program, and copies of Mr. Sims' book will be on sale. The event is free, but registration is encouraged at www.pittsburghlectures.org or 412-622-8866.
Comedian Ralphie May will appear at the Pittsburgh Improv, 166 E. Bridge St., in The Waterfront at Homestead. Best known for his debut on season one of "Last Comic Standing," Mr. May was voted one of Variety's "10 Comics to Watch" in 2008 and has filmed a record-setting three separate one-hour Comedy Central specials in three consecutive years, all of which were among the networks most highly rated. He'll film a new special on Oct. 1 at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee. He has a no-nonsense point of view and the ability to connect with a diverse audience by pointing out society's hypocrisies. He doesn't shy away from touchy topics or ethnic jokes, nor does he bite his tongue when society suggests, because he sincerely believes that as long as what he's saying is true, people need to hear it. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursday; 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. Friday; 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday; and 7 p.m. Sunday. For more info and tickets, $25, www.improv.com or 412-462-5233.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Pops celebrates the great sibling songwriters George and Ira Gershwin at Heinz Hall. Pianist Kevin Cole, whom the Chicago Tribune called "the best Gershwin pianist in America today," plays George's "Rhapsody in Blue." Vocalist Sylvia McNair sings standards such as "The Man I Love" and "I Got Rhythm." Marvin Hamlisch conducts "The Gershwins -- Here to Stay" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2:30 p.m. next Sunday. Tickets start at $29; 412-392-4900 or www.pittsburghsymphony.org.
Comedian Ron Placone hosts his one-man show "Madness in the Message" at Steel City Improv Theater, 808 Tripoli St., North Side, at 8 p.m. "How is a profit-driven mass media affecting democracy -- and what can we do about it?" Mr. Placone explores this question in a provocative multimedia performance of media criticism and comedy that's described as " 'The Daily Show' meets the BBC series 'How TV Ruined Your Life' with an academic edge." Placone promises a tour through a contemporary media landscape where advertisers, owners and special interest groups come first and the general public comes dead last. His call to action will resonate regardless of whether you're ready to Occupy Mellon Square or throw a Tea Party in the Mon. Admission, $5 at the door. For more information, www.ronplacone.com.