Good morning all. Hope your weekend was grand and not too spoiled by the disastrous Bengals loss/Andy Dalton injury Sunday, or, if you’re a UC basketball fan, their loss yet again to XU in the Crosstown Shootout. Luckily, I’m only vaguely aware of sports so I was just dandy. Anyway, news time.
Planned Parenthood of Ohio is firing back against Attorney General Mike DeWine’s allegations that the women’s health organization has been using a company that disposes of fetal remains in landfills. DeWine announced that Ohio will pursue civil penalties against Planned Parenthood over the allegations, which the AG says were discovered during an investigation into alleged sale of fetal remains for research. Donation of remains for research purposes is legal in other states, but illegal in Ohio, and the AG’s investigation found no evidence clinics in the state are engaged in the practice. However, DeWine announced that investigation did find three Planned Parenthood clinics, including one in Cincinnati, had contracted with a medical waste company that disposed of abortion remains in landfills, which he says violates a state law requiring such remains to be disposed of in a humane way. Planned Parenthood has called the allegations false and says the announcement is politically motivated. They’ve filed a federal lawsuit against the state for making the claims.
• A group of about 50 gun law reform advocates gathered in Northside Sunday to protest gun violence. National group Moms Demand Action organized the rally, which was one of many around the country aimed at highlighting the damage gun violence does to communities as well as pressuring politicians to pass tighter restrictions on the availability of firearms. One of the laws the group is protesting is House Bill 48, which would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring their guns into daycare centers, college campuses, churches and some government buildings. That bill passed the Ohio House and is now being considered by the state Senate.
• City of Cincinnati administration has proposed a 36-percent cut in funds to neighborhood community development corporations, and the heads of those organizations are crying foul. In an editorial that ran yesterday in the Cincinnati Enquirer, CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati head Patricia Garry said the proposed cuts would “cripple” CDCs. The non-profit groups work to create economic development and shore up housing and commercial space in the city’s neighborhoods. They include the Walnut Hills Redevelopment Corporation, the Avondale Comprehensive Development Corporation and a number of others, many of which signed the editorial by Gerry.
The groups rely on federal money from Community Development Block Grants and HOME programs that the city administers. Other programs receiving those funds from the city face much smaller cuts, Garry writes. Council’s Budget and Finance Committee will vote today on whether to slash funding to the CDCs. If it passes there, full council could vote on the cuts later this week. It's not the first time the city administration and Mayor John Cranley have sought to cut funds to CDCs, a move critics say is contradictory to his campaign promises to serve the city's neighborhoods first and foremost.
• Oh, yeah, back to the Bengals for a minute. The team is asking the county to commission a study from independent experts comparing Paul Brown Stadium to other NFL stadiums across the country and recommend possible upgrades. The county will most likely end up footing the bill for a good portion of any recommended improvements, much the way it paid $7.5 million of the $10 million it cost to put in a new scoreboard last year and $3 million for stadium-wide WiFi. Bengals officials say the upgrades could be necessary to keep the stadium competitive with other NFL facilities. The request for a study on upgrades is stipulated in the Bengals’ contract with the county, a deal that has been very controversial. Outside observers have called it one of the worst deals for taxpayers in sports stadium history. The $450 million stadium, approved by voters in 1996, has left the county struggling with debt and forced to shift funds from other revenue sources to cover the overall stadium deal.
• West Chester-based AK Steel has announced big layoffs at a Kentucky production facility, where as many as 620 workers will be out of work for an indefinite period of time. The move won’t affect all of the 900 employees at the company’s Ashland, Kentucky plant, but the news is still a big blow for the community, where AK is a major employer. The company says market conditions and low steel prices will force reductions in production, causing the layoffs. AK’s administrative offices are in West Chester Township, and the company also runs a large production facility in Middletown. That location has been hiring as recently as this summer.
• Finally, did Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s recent attacks on Donald Trump help Ohio’s big queso in his quest for the GOP prez nomination? Probably not. As the mainstream of the Republican Party begins to repudiate Trump over his statements about halting all Muslims from entering the U.S., among other inflammatory remarks, Kasich wants some credit. He’s been saying these things for weeks, by gosh, and people should recognize that he was early among GOP presidential primary contenders to call out the Donald. But it’s not really playing out that way, which leaves Kasich looking like he’s just crying out for attention.
“People are now beginning to wake up and say that this dividing is not acceptable, but I’ve been saying it for weeks, before anybody else even thought to pay attention to it,” Kasich said to reporters in South Carolina last week. “I’m glad I started it.”
Hm. Sometimes, though, being an early adopter doesn’t necessarily make you more popular. Kasich’s poll numbers haven’t really budged since his tangles with Trump, and more recent criticisms of the real estate magnate seem to skip over any mention of Kasich altogether. The Ohio guv’s attacks on Trump come as he works frantically to woo GOP voters, who so far have relegated him to single-digit returns at the polls.
Good morning all. It’s Friday. I’m ready for the weekend. You’re ready for the weekend. Let’s keep this news rundown brief today, k? Here's what I've seen floating around in the news and what I have written in my own reporter's notebook.
• The Hamilton County Board of Elections has released its report on last month’s rather rocky election day. The results, as you might expect, weren’t great. The report found that a crazy 84 percent of polling locations experienced difficulties that day. Those problems ranged from trouble with new electronic voting systems to poll worker errors and poll locations that closed earlier than the extended time ordered by a judge. The report is headed today to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who, let us remember, originally pinned voting difficulties solely on poll workers here in Hamilton County. Getting our polling situation worked out is a big deal, as Hamilton County was piloting a new voting system that will be extended to the rest of the state next year and because the county looks to be a pivotal battleground in perhaps the most important swing-state in the country for the next year’s presidential election. The BOE report recommends opening polls earlier and fixing bugs in voting software ahead of next year's elections.
• City of Cincinnati officials Wednesday unveiled a new plan to fight the city’s food deserts. The Grocery Attraction Pilot Program will provide financial incentives for the establishment of new grocery stores in neglected parts of the city and provide support for existing grocery stores in areas at risk of becoming food deserts. The federal government defines a food desert as an area where at least 20 percent of residents are below the federal poverty line and live more than a mile from a grocery store. Cincinnati has several such areas, including Avondale and tucked-away places like Millvale. Those incentives and support include tax abatements for stores that come into under-served communities and a waiver on the cost of food supply permits for five years. The city will front the cost of the permit inspection and provide faster, more flexible scheduling of those inspections for grocery stores in such areas. A proposed cooperative grocery in Northside, Apple Street Market, could be one of the stores eligible for that assistance. You can find out more about that project in our cover story about food co-ops and more about the city’s food access problem here.
• City Manager Harry Black confirmed yesterday that the city did not list the job posting seeking a replacement for ousted former Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, nor did the city interview outside of CPD for the job. Black defended that decision yesterday at a press conference announcing the hiring of interim chief Eliot Isaac as Blackwell’s permanent replacement, saying that Eliot, a 25-year veteran of CPD, is the best candidate for the job. Though many called for a national search for a replacement, Cincinnati City Council members said they supported Isaac in his new role. Council Wednesday voted to boost the pay range for the chief position from $136,000 to $163,000, though the original proposal by city administration would have put the top-level salary at $180,000. Some members of Council balked at that raise. Supporters on Council and in the city administration said that the pay bump was needed to secure Isaac as the new chief. Opponents of the raise said the city should focus on providing better wages to the city’s hourly workers. Isaac faces one more hurdle before he’s good to go as chief — he’ll need to relocate into the city limits from his home in Forest Park. He’s indicated he’s willing to do so.
• The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority today held its State of Metro presentation and issued its report on the future of its bus service. Big changes for the coming year include a new transit center in Oakley, smaller buses running more routes in the city’s under-served areas and smartphone-enabled ticket buying options. The announcement that Metro will run smaller buses comes after a near-strike by the Amalgamated Transit Union, which initially balked at the suggestion because Metro wanted to use drivers who do not have commercial driver’s licenses and pay them less money than current Metro drivers. ATU and Metro reached an agreement the day before a strike vote earlier this month, and now Metro will use its regular drivers to drive the smaller buses. Officials with the bus service announced at the presentation that Metro has balanced its budget for 2016 without raising fares or reducing service.
• Finally, some county prosecutors in Ohio are resisting widespread calls to reform the state’s grand jury process, including Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser. The push for reform comes after several high-profile police shootings of unarmed black men across the state, including the death of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, John Crawford III in Beavercreek and Samuel Dubose in Cincinnati. Earlier this year, Ohio Gov. John Kasich convened a task force on community-police relations made up of state lawmakers, community leaders and law enforcement professionals to study the issue. Reforms increasing transparency in the often-secretive grand jury process was among the recommendations that task force suggested. Gmoser told a state committee charged with deciding upon reforms to the grand jury process that the current process works well, and that changes will only compromise the sensitive nature of grand jury proceedings, which are secretive in order to keep from leaking information and biasing a potential trial jury.
Most of the theater onstage right now is holiday-themed — or at least family-friendly. If you want to take kids to see something, your best bet is Cinderella at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati, a contemporary take on the familiar fairytale — the heroine is a bookworm who prefers to sneakers to glass slippers. There’s lots of humor, especially from the loudmouthed and crass stepsisters in this telling, plus some fine musical moments. This show will be around until Jan. 3. Tickets: 513-421-3555 … Another good choice for kids is A Charlie Brown Christmas, presented at the Taft Theatre by Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati. You know the story, I’m sure (this year is the 50th anniversary of the TV special) but it’s a good bet that Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati is putting a version onstage that will let kids have a good time. Performances are at 2 and 5 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets: 800-745-3000 … Want to start a family tradition? There’s no better choice than Cincinnati Playhouse’s glittering, well-acted production of A Christmas Carol. It’s fast-moving and often funny (Bruce Cromer gives Ebenezer the full range of emotion, from crabby “Bah, humbug” to a joyous “Merry Christmas.”) It’s onstage through Dec. 30. Tickets: 513-421-3888 … The Covedale Center’s production of Mary Poppins isn’t their best work (it feels a tad long for youngsters), but it has great tunes and some memorable special effects — Mary flies and Bert walks up and down the sides of the proscenium — that audiences will enjoy. Through Dec. 27. Tickets: 513-241-6550
The Rock musical Rent, onstage at the Incline Theatre in Price Hill doesn’t exactly qualify as holiday or family entertainment, although its story does start and finish at Christmas (with “525,600 Minutes” in between). But this is an energetically acted and sung production for mature audiences. Through Dec. 20. Tickets: 513-241-6550 … If you can’t quite wait for The Force Awakens to open, you can get a small dose of Star Wars energy from All Childish Things at Know Theatre. It’s a comedy about some slackers trying to steal collectibles from a warehouse — they don’t succeed, but they learn a lesson about heroism that’s akin to the movie. Through Dec. 19. Tickets: 513-300-5669 … This weekend is your final opportunity to see As You Like It at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. It’s a delightful production of one of Shakespeare’s best comedies, but it’s wrapping up on Saturday. (Next week CSC opens Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some) on Wednesday.) Tickets: 513-381-2273 …The most entertaining non-holiday show this season has to be Low Down Dirty Blues on the Playhouse’s Shelterhouse stage. It’s pretty much what the title says: Three singers getting a little raunchy and having a lot of fun with some tunes about being up and down. Great performances and a really good time for grown-ups. Through Dec. 20. Tickets: 513-421-3888
Finally, if you a performance that’s simply feel-good, I heartily recommend going to Ensemble Theatre on Monday evening at 7 p.m. for their one-night-only annual presentation of Expectations of Christmas. It’s a round-up of holiday traditions, origins, music, facts and back-stories — presented by performers who frequent ETC’s stage. Admission is just $10 and all the proceeds go to Tender Mercies (an Over-the-Rhine agency right around the corner from ETC that provides permanent and transitional housing for the homeless with histories of chronic mental illness). Tickets: 513-421-3555 … or walk in on Monday and you’ll likely get in.
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
David Rhodes Brown's Warsaw Falcons and Nick Dellaposta's To No End could not possibly be any further from each other on the musical continuum.
The Falcons, recently reborn with the classic lineup of Brown on guitar/vocals, the thunderous John Schmidt on bass and the irrepressible Doug Waggoner on drums, are Rockabilly personified, heavy on the Rock and hypercaffeinated to the point of heart palpitations.
At the other end of the spectrum, Dellaposta's To No End is a Prog-tinted Blues unit with a propensity for lilting atmospherics and visceral Pop/Hard Rock anthemics.
Oddly enough, both bands are touting new releases, and each one is, in different ways, associated with a legendary entertainment figure. The Warsaw Falcons' new EP, Warsaw Falcons Live with Bobby Keys, features the work of the saxophonist sharing the title, one of Rock's most travelled and compelling sidemen who boasted near-membership with The Rolling Stones and sessions with Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, Carly Simon and three of the four Beatles, among many others.
To No End's new video for the track "Twisted Knives" from its third album, Remora, features the on-screen talents of Michael Parks, one of Hollywood's most versatile and durable actors whose television credits include Then Came Bronson in the late '60s and Twin Peaks in the '90s, and who has since become part of Quentin Tarentino's ensemble of reliable players.
The Warsaw Falcons' latest archive release is a five-song excerpt from a live recording done at Top Cat's in Clifton in the very early '90s. Keys, already a fixture in the industry (his iconic blowing was all over the Stones' Sticky Fingers, one of Rock's acknowledged masterworks), had played with Brown in Nashville and had become a semi-official member of the Falcons, eventually guesting on their 2003 album Right It on the Rock Wall.
At the time of the Top Cat's gig, Brown had just returned to Cincinnati to care for aging mother, and had reassembled the Falcons for occasional in-town performances. Bassist John Schmidt reclaimed his spot with the band, while guitarist George Cunningham and drummer Maxwell Schauf rounded out the quartet.
For the Top Cat's recording, the Falcons blew through a jumped-up set of band faves with Keys, visiting from Nashville to lend his towering sax fills. Although there was a good deal more material delivered at the Top Cat's set, the five tracks on the EP represent the songs where Keys was most directly and completely spotlighted. And Live with Bobby Keys might well stand as the most incendiary and pulse pounding 22-and-a-half minutes released this year.
The release starts with the rafter-rattling thrash of "Jello Sal," a five-minute Rockabilly workout featuring Brown's distinctive vocal rasp and his and Cunningham's slinky yet muscular guitar gyrations, grounded by Schmidt's bedrock solid bass and Schauf's technicolor timekeeping. On the EP’s second track, "Sometimes," Keys intros the song by thanking the Falcons for inviting him to the gig and pledging his admiration for Cincinnati and its desire to Rock and Roll.
"That's what we do," Keys declares in his authentic Texas accent. "Rock and roll!"
What follows is the Falcons' version of a ballad, a slow-cooking slab of meaty, bluesy Rock that gives way to its primal impulses and howls with blood-boiling intensity, even as the band maintains an almost laconic pace. Brown and the Falcons mix a jaunty Blues stroll with an effervescent Chuck Berry bounce on "You Can't Do That to Me," switching to spy-theme noir for the insistently smoky and sultry "Two Cigarettes in the Dark" and finishing with a pulsating version of Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels' classic cover of the Righteous Brothers' "Little Latin Lupe Lu," with Brown doing his best hip-twitching, lip-hitching impression of Elvis while the band kicks up its heels and swings with deliberate abandon.
Through it all, Keys — who passed away last year at age 70 — does what he always did best; find the emotional heart of the songs and then play the living hell out of them. Keys had the intuitive gift to know when to serve as a brilliant supporting accompanist or elevate his position to an equal partnership in the arrangement, as evidenced by his call and response lick-trading on "Jello Sal." Brown says there may be more recordings of Keys in the Falcons' extensive and as-yet largely unplumbed archive. Based on the results of Live with Bobby Keys, which was officially be released at a Thanksgiving Eve extravaganza at the Southgate House Revival, we can only hope there's a lot more.
Meanwhile, To No End's new release, Remora, the band's third album since forming in 2012, is not only musically dichotomous from the Falcons' EP, it's quantitatively different as well, with an additional 11 tracks over two discs. But, as noted, the one area where the two bands intersect is in their use of a celebrity guest to enhance their presentation.
With TNE, it's the presence of famed actor Michael Parks in the band's video for "Twisted Knives." TNE frontman Nick Dellaposta secured Parks' services for the video through Dellaposta's lifelong friend Josh Roush, whose journey is the subject of "Twisted Knives," perhaps the most personal and deliberately direct song he's ever written.
A decade ago, Roush departed Ohio for Los Angeles, where he has worked in the film industry in various capacities, which led to a position last year on the set of director Kevin Smith's horror film Tusk. During production, Roush met and became friends with Parks, who had a role in Tusk. When Dellaposta invited Roush to partner up to produce the "Twisted Knives" video (the two had worked together on TNE's first video, "Somethin' Wrong with You"), the pair decided to ask Parks if he would be interested in appearing the video, which is largely made up of eerie atmospheric footage that Roush has shot himself over the years.
As for the rest of Remora, Dellaposta takes To No End further down the similar path he and the band explored on last year's excellent Peril & Paracosm, which blended the Kenny Wayne Shepherd-meets-Warren Haynes
Blues direction of the band’s debut with a blistering ’70s Hard Rock energy. In addition, Dellaposta has divided Remora into a pair of 30-plus-minute sides that are stylistically distinct. The harder Side A is subtitled “The Underworld,” while the gentler and more contemplative Side B is themed “The Great Unknown.”
“The Underworld” songs clearly follow Peril & Paracosm's general blueprint, with Dellaposta and guitarist Grant Evans soaring and scorching with the intensity and focus of '70s guitar heroes like UFO's Michael Schenker and Budgie's Tony Bourge, polished to a contemporary but never overproduced shimmer. The opener and ostensible title track, "The Afterlife II (The Underworld)," is a perfect example of Dellaposta's modern Blues/Hard Rock translation, a riff-laden celebration of the forms painted with a new brush. The guitars careen and howl while the rhythm section of bassist Eli Booth and drummer David Nester provide a sturdy but flexible foundation for the song's shifty mood swing between jaunty minor key melodicism and darkly menacing wordplay.
Elsewhere, "Shatter" starts out with the reflective quiet of an O.A.R./Red Wanting Blue ballad but becomes more forceful and expansive as the song unfolds. "Everybody Talks" offers an indiosyncratic New Wave clockwork guitar motif that displays an interesting new songwriting wrinkle for TNE, while "Like Hell" and "Play That Card" show that Dellaposta's heart will never stray too far away from his KWS/Gov't Mule roots — even if they come out in fascinatingly different ways.
Remora's second "side," “The Great Unknown,” dials down the volume but not the songwriting intensity. Two songs from “The Underworld,” "Twisted Knives" and "Trash Day," are reprised on the second disc, with "Twisted Knives II" presented in an almost Folk/Americana light. "Trash Day" is similarly counterpointed between the pummeling Zeppelinesque boogie of “The Underworld” version and the lilting yet still powerful take of "Trash Day II.” And for sheer beauty, look no further than the acoustic heart-tug of "Hinterland Empire," a gorgeous evocation of The Beatles' classic "Blackbird."
While Remora's 16 songs would have fit comfortably onto a single CD, Dellaposta was clearly more interested in thematic continuity than production costs. Rather than interspersing Remora's more sedate songs with its amped-up fist-pumping anthems, Dellaposta and To No End show two different sides of themselves to suit your listening moods, further proof of his thoughtful creativity and amazing talent.
Warsaw Falcons’ Warsaw Falcons Live with Bobby Keys is currently only available at live shows (look for copies in brick-and-mortar, local-friendly record shops soon). Click here and here for show updates and more.
Hamilton County Court Judge Peter J. Stautberg, writing on Wednesday to order the hearing for Daniel Hamberg, pointed out that Ghiz was in error when she claimed Hamberg had admitted to beating 13-month-old Cohen Barber and might have been biased against the defendant when she handed down his 11-year prison sentence and $20,000 fine.
“The trial court’s remarks at the sentencing hearing and on the radio show made plain that the court imposed the maximum prison sentence based not on the sentencing purposes and factors, but on its disregard for the opinions of the defense’s experts and the unfounded belief that the victim’s death had resulted from an intentional '“beat[ing],' ” Stautberg wrote.
Hamberg received the sentence from Ghiz last April after taking a plea deal on involuntary manslaughter charges for his role in Cohen Barber’s death in 2012. Hamberg says the child fell down the stairs and hit his head. Prosecuting attorneys in his trial last year, however, alleged Hamberg shook or beat Barber. Prosecutors initially sought murder, aggravated murder, felonious assault and endangering children charges for the defendant, but later offered the plea deal, citing difficulty in getting murder convictions in cases like Hamberg’s from juries who don’t want to believe an adult would kill a child.
Heather Noonan, the child’s mother, told authorities that Barber would often jump down the small stairset into the arms of waiting adults. Noonan’s family would later call for Hamberg’s conviction on murder charges, however.
While prosecutors said they had experts ready to testify that Barber was shaken, several medical experts for the defense testified that the child’s death was brought about by a single blow to the back of the head and subsequent swelling and seizures, not from a series of blows or shaking. That evidence seemed to back up Hamberg’s assertions that while he might have been negligent in looking after the child, he did not strike or shake him.
Hamberg is a veteran of the Marines disabled by injuries he sustained while serving in Afghanistan.
During his sentencing, Ghiz blasted Hamberg for killing the child, then said on the air with 700 WLW's Bill Cunningham the next day that the child’s death “came from a number of different things, but they can’t pinpoint exactly what it was… a lot of people know that as shaken baby syndrome. I don’t know that that was the case here. I think the kid was just beat.”
Ghiz also asserted that, “He admitted to it. I don’t care if he had been president of the United States, he’s perfectly capable of behaving in an appropriate manner, and beating a child and admitting to beating that child, and pleading to that is not OK.”
The judge, who is a former Cincinnati City Council member, also shrugged off expert testimony that seems to back up Hamberg’s side of the story, saying that “you can get an expert to say anything.”
Ghiz handed down the maximum sentence, 11 years in prison, which Hamberg is currently serving. His attorneys appealed that sentence after Ghiz’s remarks, and now Hamberg will receive a new hearing regarding his sentence by another judge.
Stautberg was joined by Hamilton County Judge Sylvia Hendon in his call for a new trial. Judge Patrick DeWine dissented, citing procedural concerns he had with the court’s decision.
Irish-born director Lenny Abrahamson last charmed us with the post-modern indie drama Frank. It was a film about finding harmony and friendship — rather low stakes compared to his newest film. The 49-year-old director is hitting us where it hurts in latest effort, Room, a tense indie drama with its fair share of thrills that plays off of a screenplay from Emma Donoghue based on her novel of the same name. Abrahamson boldly and unapologetically drops us into Donoghue’s world. It’s a small shed inhabited by a mother, Joy (Brie Larson), and her 5-year-old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay). Held against their will by a caretaking yet maniacal captor, the room that they inhabit comes to be their physical world. But what is even more intriguing is the son’s understanding of the world that he has never been exposed to.
Jack hasn’t formed his beliefs based on his own observations. His mother has taught him that the room they inhabit is “Room” — what seems to be perceived by Jack as a separate dimension from the world in the same way that the world would be considered a separate dimension from Heaven or Hell. This makes plans for breaking out exceedingly troublesome when Jack’s mother is forced to use her son as the main piece of her escape plan. How do you explain to a 5-year-old when to jump out of a truck, where to run or how to get help when the boy has never even seen the light of day?
When they finally escape and are thrust into reality, neither of them is prepared for it. But both of them are caught in shock for different reasons. Joy must face the fallout from her parent’s divorce, an unwanted celebrity status when her story that becomes sensationalized by a ruthless mass media and the reclamation of a life once lost. Jack is thrust into a world he once thought uninhabitable. It shakes the foundation of his entire perspective, and the unraveling of his mother only makes things more difficult for everyone involved.
Led by Brie Olsen and Jacob Tremblay’s mother-and-son chemistry, the film unfolds at a pace and with a grace that is sorely lacking from too many pictures. The movie hardly drags for a second. Every detail of every conversation warrants something to consider beyond what we hear and see. As we come to witness Joy and Jack’s re-entry into the world as we know it, they must grapple with a loss of every sense of familiarity, having spent the last five years captive in their room. Joy and Jack are the only link each one of them has to a painful past.
Room signifies the beginning of what will be an onslaught of artsy independent films taking trips during awards season. As of this morning it’s garnered three Golden Globe nominations: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama (Larson) and Best Screenplay. From an industry perspective, I imagine it will have a similar role as Whiplash did for 2014’s movie season. It has an up-and-coming director like Whiplash’s Damien Chazelle. They share the quality of leading millennial festival darlings in Brie Larson and Miles Teller. And both of them had low figures at the box office — Whiplash brought in less than $15 million, while Room hasn’t even broken $4 million (this will change if it comes to be nominated for an Academy Award, as most distributers will re-release a film as did Whiplash’s Sony Spotlight partners when awards-hype sets in).
Ultimately, I don’t expect that Room has any sort of chance to do serious damage during awards season, but I can’t imagine a scenario where Brie Larson doesn’t bring home some sort of hardware for her efforts. She is absolutely stunning at every turn of the nearly-two-hour story. If someone beats her to the Oscar or Globe for Best Actress, it will be difficult to imagine someone being a clear favorite to win beforehand. It is impossible to take our eyes off of her every move in Room.
Larson likely finds herself now at a moment in her career that may soon take her places in the realm of Jennifer Lawrence, Mia Wasikowska, and Rooney Mara as some of the most discussed, beloved and talented Hollywood actresses of their generation. The emotional toll on Larson of portraying Joy in Room could only be imagined for anyone outside of the production process, but I can at least imagine that it will change the way Larson carries herself. Building off of her work in the heart-wrenching Short Term 12, Larson is no longer most notable for her shy-gal cuteness in 21 Jump Street.
Rather, she has grown into more mature material with a vastly daring emotional breadth. She has gained and exhibited whatever it is that makes an actress into a star, a character into a friend and a girl into a woman. Brie Larson — not unlike Joy — has seemingly grown up suddenly and without so much as a flinch. She still carries brightness about her, but now there is something more to illuminate. Brie Larson is no longer just a good actress. She is a rare talent worthy of our acknowledgment, our awe, and our admiration. Get to the Esquire before you miss her in Room.
Hey Cincy! Here’s the news today.
Happy holidays. If you like political drama, then the city’s streetcar is the gift that keeps on giving. The latest dustup comes over Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black’s memo to Mayor John Cranley and City Council late last week that questions whether the $4.2 million operating plan Council passed earlier this year will provide sufficient funds to run the streetcar. According to an not-yet-complete independent audit cited by Black, that plan could fall as much as $1.5 million short of the money needed to keep the 3.6-mile loop transit project running. That shortfall counts a $9 million overall financial pledge from The Haile/U.S. Bank Foundation to help fund operations of the streetcar in its first few years. The alarm comes from new independent projections about the operating costs and income of the streetcar when it starts running next year. The results of that audit have yet to be revealed, but preliminary numbers suggest the project might run between $750,000 to $1.5 million over budget. Hopefully, city officials, council members and media will wait until the full audit comes in before they start more interminable bickering about this shit. Oh, wait, too late.
• Cincinnati yesterday became the first city in the country to pass a ban on so-called conversion therapy, an often religiously based practice that attempts to turn LGBT people, often minors, straight. The legislation comes a year after transgender teen Leelah Alcorn committed suicide following bullying. Alcorn's parents took her to conversion therapy for a time. You can read more about the new legislation in our story published yesterday.
• The city today swore in its new police chief following the firing of Chief Jeffrey Blackwell earlier this year. Their pick? Interim police chief Eliot Isaac, who has been the only named candidate in the search for a new permanent head to the police department. City officials promised a national search for a new CPD leader following Blackwell’s ouster, though some have questioned whether that search was thorough enough and whether Isaac was intended to be the city’s pick the whole time. Yesterday, City Council wrangled over raising the pay grade for the police chief to $180,000 a year, which proponents said was a key bargaining chip in keeping Isaac chief on a permanent basis. Council ultimately passed a pay raise for the position, but Democrat Council members Yvette Simpson, P.G. Sittenfeld, Wendell Young and Chris Seelbach balked at the raise, saying the city needs to focus on better pay for its rank-and-file workers.
• According to personal finance website Wallethub.com, which regularly cranks out interesting factoids about cities, Cincinnati is the eighth-best place in the country to celebrate New Year's Eve. That’s kind of a strange ranking to me, since New Year's is all about the parties you go to, and parties are all about who you know at them. But Wallethub found other ways to quantify the quality of New Year's Eve festivities, including price of NYE party tickets, forecasted precipitation, legality of fireworks and other metrics. Cincy came out pretty well all things being equal — just behind Portland, Ore. and just ahead of Las Vegas somehow. So if you have great friends in every major American city (or the money to fly 100 of your nearest and dearest to any of them), or, hell, if you don’t have any friends at all, this ranking should give you a great idea of where to go.
• A week or so ago, we told you about a bill the Ohio General Assembly is considering that would allow concealed carry permit holders to bring their guns into day care centers, college campuses and private airplanes, among other places. Now U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who represents Ohio, is making news with his reaction to that bill. The Democrat says Ohio lawmakers are “lunatics” for considering such a law, citing mass shootings as among the reasons he thinks the bill is a bad idea. One funny thing to emerge from the debate: Concealed weapons will still be forbidden at the State House. Republican lawmakers call that an oversight. They also say Brown should learn more about the 2nd Amendment before calling them crazy. And on and on the gun debate goes.
• Finally, here’s a bummer bit of information. For the first time in decades, Americans who are considered “middle class” are not a majority of the country’s population, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. Pew’s data shows America’s middle class is receding quickly, now making up about 50 percent of the total population, a drop from 54 percent in 2001. Meanwhile, the ranks of the low-income and high-income are swelling, demonstrating the widening income gap in America. What’s more, an increasing amount of the earnings in America are heading toward that upper income group. In 1970, 62 percent of earnings went to the middle class. These days, it’s more like 43 percent. At the same time, high-income households are now taking home 49 percent of America’s aggregate income these days, up from 29 percent at the dawn of the 1970s. Pew considers “middle income” to be between 67 percent and 200 percent of America’s median household income, or between about $42,000 and $126,000 last year for a family of three.
I’m out. Later all.
Hello all! Let’s talk about news today.
Let’s play a rousing game of “would you rather” shall we? As in, would you rather take the upcoming Over-the-Rhine/downtown streetcar late at night when you’ve got your swerve on from your sixth OTR-brewed high-ABV craft beer, or early the next morning when you’re hungover and on the way to work? The good news: You might be able to do both. Cincinnati City Council’s transportation committee yesterday asked the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority to study whether it would be feasible to run the streetcar later than the initially proposed 10 p.m. weekday and 12 a.m. weekend cutoffs. Some businesses in OTR, as well as Mayor John Cranley, would like to see the cars run later Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to capture the weekend bar crowd. But Cranley also suggested the cars start running at 7:30 a.m., a time many streetcar supporters say is too late to capture early-morning commuters. Other plans put forth by SORTA would start operations at 7 or even 6:30 a.m., which streetcar boosters like more. A 7:30 a.m. start time would make Cincy’s system the latest-starting of all the modern streetcar systems around the U.S., supporters of earlier times say.
• A lot happened in Cincinnati’s startup scene over the past year, including big successes by minority entrepreneur support program Mortar, lots of activity from individual grant-giving philanthropy People’s Liberty, a big expansion by startup incubator The Brandery and more. All told, a ton of things happened in Cincy's entrepreneur-centered startup economy, and you can check out a whole year-in-review piece here.
• Amid rate hikes and investigations into possible mismanagement, will Hamilton County take over operations of the Metropolitan Sewer District, which is currently run by the city of Cincinnati? Not so fast, city officials say. Mayor Cranley and members of Cincinnati City Council have warned the county that they’re not ready to hand over the reigns just yet, and while they’re open to discussions about challenges MSD is facing, they’re in no mood to cede control of the enormous operation. Last month, county commissioners sent a letter to city officials proposing a new arrangement in which the county would take over management of MSD, citing price increases for ratepayers and allegations that the sewer district is being mismanaged. But the city says those allegations are baseless. Currently, the county owns much of MSD and the city runs the sewer system, per a 1968 agreement. Much of the current strife over the MSD stems from a federal court-ordered $1 billion overhaul of the sewer system.
• It’s a rough week to be into sweets, right? First, Kroger recalled some of its brownies yesterday on the worst possible day of the year, National Brownie Day (yes that’s apparently a thing). The retailer is pulling the brownies because they might contain walnuts, even though that isn't mentioned in any allergy warning labels. And this morning, the OTR location of Holtman’s Donuts had a kitchen fire that will shutter the location for an indeterminate amount of time. This is the most upset I’ve been about baked goods since that truck ran into Servatti last year.
• Ohio lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban charter schools from using public money to advertise themselves. Democrats in the Ohio Senate are pushing the legislation because they say public schools aren't allowed to use taxpayer funds to promote themselves to parents of potential students or to take political stands on issues, but that privately run but publicly funded charter schools do so all the time. The bill wouldn't prohibit those schools from using donated money or other non-public funds to advertise.
• The Butler County GOP failed to settle on an endorsement for any of the candidates vying to replace former House Speaker John Boehner in Congress. Boehner is retiring after a two-decade run in the House, mostly due to strife within the GOP between tea party conservatives and more establishment-allied Republicans. Butler County makes up a big part of Boehner’s former 8th Congressional District, and an endorsement from the county GOP could have been a big win for a candidate looking to take the party’s nomination in the upcoming special primary election. The district, which encompasses many suburban areas north of Cincinnati, is heavily
Republican, meaning that Boehner’s successor will almost certainly be decided in the GOP primary. Who that will be, however — and whether they will be allied with the more establishment wing of the GOP or a tea party insurgent — is still very much up in the air.
• Speaking of the GOP, the fight for the party’s presidential nomination has been a non-stop circus lately, and it’s mostly thanks to one man. Yes, yes, this is another blurb about Donald Trump. The real estate mogul’s comments earlier this week suggesting the U.S. prohibit any Muslims from entering the country caused a huge outcry, drawing condemnation even from many staunch conservatives.
Despite that, however, bigwigs in the Ohio Republican party say they would stand behind Trump should he win the nomination. At least one big local party name has diverged from that trend, however: Outgoing Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann, who has said that the party needs to distance itself from Trump's rhetoric. Presumably, other party leaders are still under the assumption that there is no way Trump, who has been the GOP frontrunner for months now, can actually win the nomination and that an establishment candidate like Marco Rubio will start surging in the polls any day now. Trump has been surpassed in some polls in the GOP’s first primary state, Iowa. Unfortunately for the GOP establishment, he’s been passed up by a candidate many hate just as much: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has continually helped goad tea party Republican representatives into defiance of party leadership in the House.
• Cincinnati Parks Director Willie Carden is under fire again. This time for messing with one of a reporter's all time favorite things: public records. Carden recently changed the retention schedule, a listing of public records available in the Parks Department for public use, without state or local approval prompting questions from State Auditor Dave Yost. But strangely enough, Carden appears to be unsure of what the retention schedule even is. The Enquirer reports when they asked him something about it while covering election issues, he responded that he didn't know what it was, and that it wasn't part of his administration. An attorney for the City Hall issued a statement saying the whole thing was a misunderstanding by the department's staff, who didn't know they needed approval prior to changing the schedule. The Parks Department has been under scrutiny in the past few months for top officials' pay and campaign donations brought on by Mayor John Cranley's election push for a parks tax levy, which failed at the polls.
• Cincinnati may get a new police chief by the end of this year, and it looks like he already might be getting a raise. City Council voted in committee yesterday to increase the top salary for police and fire chiefs to $165,000 a year. Former police chief Jeffrey Blackwell was making $135,000 a year when he was fired last September. The only candidate for the position is currently interim chief Eliot Isaac, who has hired Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke to negotiate his salary. City Manager Harry Black has said he hopes to have a new chief in place by the end of this year.
• The recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., the 355th in the country this year, has reignited the heated debate on gun control. While many have demanded further restrictions on guns, Boone County Sheriff Michael Helmig posted a message on his Facebook page requesting that those with conceal and carry permits carry their weapons for the safety of themselves and others. He called on his fellow Kentuckians to uphold the second amendment and protect the country from foreign and domestic terrorism.
• Several Greater Cincinnati school districts have made Niche's list of top school districts. The San Francisco-based start-up that uses data to rank schools put Indian Hill Exempted Village School District as ninth on its list of the 100 best school districts in the U.S. Also making an appearance is Sycamore Community School District at no. 66, Wyoming City School District at no. 69, Mason City School District at no. 79 and Mariemont City School District at no. 93. To see the list for yourself and an explanation of their methodology, or to guess my own home school district, which is somewhere on the list, but is far from Ohio, click here.
• Cincinnati's also made a list of one of the fastest growing areas for the creative classes. The Atlantic's CityLab found Cincinnati has a 21 percent growth in the creative class from 2000 to 2014. It's nestled comfortably between Salt Lake City and Charlotte. The post also has more fun maps and facts and figures so check it out.
• The Trump-Kasich war of 2015 continues. Gov. and GOP presidential candidate John Kasich has recently taken on the strategy of attacking fellow headline-grabbing GOP candidate and real estate tycoon Donald Trump. In response, Trump has released a 15 second video on Instagram that combines a speech given by Kasich with the sound of crickets while Trump is shown speaking to a roaring crowd, leaving just one obvious question for viewers: When will these two grow up?
• Trump has again succeeded in making headlines for another extreme, ill-informed statement. Yesterday, Trump called on the nation's leaders to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. until authorities have figured out exactly what happened in the Dec. 2, San Bernardino, Calif. shooting that left 14 dead at a social services center by two Islamic extremists. Trump's comments, unsurprisingly, have been met with criticism across the country from many including Rick Kriseman, the mayor of St. Petersburg, Fla., who tweeted Monday night that he was banning Trump from his city until "we understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps."
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While this time of year is the season to go out and explore various holiday happenings, sometimes it’s nice to have a quiet movie night. As a seasoned college student, some of my favorite times with friends are the nights we hole up in bed and watch a Disney film. So when I saw that the Kenton County Public Library’s main branch was hosting a free movie screening last Tuesday, I found myself venturing to Covington for the event. The screening was of the 1993 film, And the Band Played On, a docu-drama depicting the beginnings of the AIDS virus in America. The screening was held on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, as a way to spread education and awareness of the virus.My first worry was about walking in a few minutes late, but that concern was quickly doused when I entered the large but empty room. The film had already been started and was running through the beginning credits at the front, where dozens of vacant chairs sat in rows facing the screen. As there was no one in the audience to protest, I settled down, taking up more than my fair share of seats as I cozy. After about an hour, I looked around and noticed that I was still alone, a fact I attributed to the cold and rainy weather of the day.
The film itself was an interesting depiction of how the U.S. medical and political communities first handled the virus, especially in the wake of a changing presidential administration and the changing dynamics of the gay community at the time.
“This is the third year we have screened this film,” says Gary Pilkington, Adult Program Coordinator for the Kenton County Public Library. “At previous screenings, most people enjoyed the film. They don’t usually think about AIDS very much in their day-to-day lives, so this helped to re-focus their awareness.”According to Pilkington, it’s important to host events that bring attention to health concerns in the community. “We chose to screen And the Band Played On … to help the community understand that HIV and AIDS haven’t disappeared,” he says. “Most people don’t think twice about it unless a major celebrity reveals they have it or are HIV-positive … It has reached the point where it isn’t in the public consciousness as much as it had been, yet it is still a real threat to health.”
I learned a lot about AIDS from the film, since most of my prior knowledge had been brief training on how to safely avoid contracting HIV and AIDS from the lifeguard training I received years ago. While I personally enjoyed the film, it was disappointing to see that no one else took advantage of the free screening, but perhaps with better weather and more awareness the next showing will be packed.Find this event interesting? Check out similar events at the Kenton County Public Library: