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by Steven Rosen 02.04.2015 50 days ago
Posted In: Music, Arts at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Cincinnati's Lightborne Communications Helped Create Katy Perry's Super Bowl Show

When news came out yesterday that Katy Perry’s Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched and highest-rated of any in history that featured entertainment, there was celebration at Lightborne Communications, the video-production-services company in Over-the-Rhine.

Lightborne created all the animated video projections used in Perry’s 12-and-a-half-minute set, which featured a medley of abbreviated versions of her hits amid phantasmagoric and theatrical staging, costumes, videos, dancing and set design.

And while Lightborne President Scott Durban was wary about taking too much credit — lots of artists, obviously including Perry herself, were involved in the show — he did note that no other company involved in the overall production was based in Cincinnati.

Lightborne got involved because its Tour Visuals and Stage Content division already had been working on Perry’s ongoing Prismatic World Tour. (It also has done or is working on video for tours by Kanye West, Kenny Chesney and Fleetwood Mac.)

Dan Bryant, the head of that division, explained Lightborne’s involvement with Perry’s Super Bowl performance:

“We started working on the project very shortly after she was announced in October as the half-time performer,” Bryant said. “We had done over two hours of content for her Prism tour, so she was already familiar with our company and work. We got a call from her creative director, Baz Halpin, asking us to work on her Super Bowl show.

“As soon as we found out her set list, we started working with [Halpin] for some concepts that would work with the logistics and constraints of the show,” Bryant continued. “We started doing individual frames to capture the overall idea for a particular song. That process went into November. Once we arrived at a concept for each song that everybody was happy with, we started storyboarding them out to give an idea of what the flow of ideas would be for each song.

“Then in December we started doing animatics, taking all the different frames we created and stringing them out to songs in still-frame form so everybody could get an idea of what it would look like when finally animated. That took us to the middle of December,” he said.

“Then we started animating ideas to rough tracks for her Super Bowl medley. That’s when we started using a really amazing piece of software called D3. It’s simulation software, specifically designed about 10 years ago to simulate any live event on a software platform.”

Eventually, after some intermediary steps, Lightborne had a working 3D model of the University of Phoenix Stadium, the performance stage and all the key props. Its crew started loading its animations into that.

“It gave everybody on our team, including Katy herself, a really good idea of what our animated content would look like when projected onto a 160-foot diameter surface,” Bryant said. “That’s when it gets really exciting because you start seeing the idea come to life.”

In January, a four-person Lightborne team went out to Los Angeles to participate in rehearsals. A few days before the Super Bowl, everyone involved moved to Phoenix to rehearse in the actual venue.

Although everything went fine, Bryant said there was great nervousness as the actual Super Bowl game began. Lightborne was counting on some degree of darkness for Perry’s show.

“The first and second quarter went by extremely quickly, and my team on location in Phoenix and everybody else with the show was getting nervous because it was still light outside,” Bryant said. “They had the dome roof open and 15 minutes to show time it was still bright sunshine outside and the field was being hit by sunlight. Luckily some things happened in the game that had the quarter slow down, so it went off without a hitch."

Watch the full performance:


 
 
by Nick Swartsell 02.04.2015 50 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Answers in Genesis could sue Kentucky over ark park; Polls mixed for Kasich prez run; the 21-mile walk to work

What’s up, all? That’s a rhetorical question. News is what’s up, and here it is.

Answers in Genesis, the Christian organization based in Northern Kentucky that is building a Noah’s Ark theme park in Grant County, has said it will sue the state of Kentucky over tax credits the state rescinded in December. The state took back the tourism-related credits after controversy over Answers’ hiring practices, which stipulate potential employees must sign a statement of faith and other religious measures. Those violate employment discrimination laws and preclude Answers from getting taxpayer money, state officials say. Answers, on the other hand, says they have a right to require their employees fit with their religious values. They’re suing Kentucky for infringing on their religious liberty. The group also says that because the tax credits are sales tax rebates that originally come from the pockets of visitors, they don’t involve taxpayers from the state as a whole. The group has released a video outlining their side of the debate, which you can watch here. Warning: It’s like, almost half an hour long and is mostly a dude in an ill-fitting blazer talking to a lawyer while both sit in folding chairs. The group looks to build a 500-foot long ark and surrounding theme park, which it says will attract more than a million visitors a year.

• Here’s your morning dose of creepy: Hamilton County lawyers would like to limit testimony about the sexual behavior of Kenneth Douglas, a former county morgue employee who is accused of sexually abusing more than 100 corpses at the morgue from the 1970s to the 1990s. Currently, a federal district court is hearing the case against the county brought by the families of three of the deceased whose bodies were abused. The families say the county was negligent in allowing the abuse to happen. The county is attempting to block some testimony about other instances of abuse, including information Douglas gave to law enforcement about the number of bodies he abused. The county’s lawyers say testimony beyond the three abuse cases in question could be confusing and misleading for the jury. The families suing the county for millions say the other incidents show a clear pattern of behavior Douglas’ supervisors should have known about.

• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld has introduced an initiative to expand the city’s vacant properties registry. Currently, that registry keeps track of bank-owned properties that are currently empty and makes sure the banks aren’t letting them fall into disrepair. But there are loopholes in the system that Sittenfeld would like to close so the city can better hold property owners holding onto vacant buildings accountable. He’d also like to use some of the revenues from the program, which amounted to about $700,000 last year, for hazard abatement and stabilization work.

• Here’s more buzz, and some lack thereof, about a potential presidential bid for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found Kasich nearly even with prospective Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Ohio. Hillary took 44 percent of the poll. Kasich took 43 percent. The quintessential swing state, Ohio is shaping up to be very important for presidential hopefuls in 2016, as it has been in past elections. But how much of the above poll’s results are home field advantage, and how much does the poll say about Kasich’s primary chances? A lot and not much, it would seem. Another poll of GOPers in the state had Kasich with a lead over fellow Republicans, but not by much. Kasich led with 14 percent of the poll, followed by Scott Walker, who had 11 percent and Jeb Bush and Sen. Rand Paul, who each had 10 percent. That lead isn’t much to go on at this point, but it’s still quite early and Kasich could consolidate some of other potential nominees’ support as the herd thins. More troubling for Kasich, however, is the fact that in other Quinnipiac polls around the country, he barely makes a blip. He finished 13th out of 13 candidates in Florida, for example, and tied for 9th in Pennsylvania, his native state. In contrast with other potential nominees in his party who have national stature for one reason or another — Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Ted Cruz — Kasich will need to significantly expand his visibility in the coming year if he hopes to compete for his party’s nomination.

• Finally, you may have already seen this story about the Detroit dude who walks 21 miles a day to get to work. I think his situation is infuriating and sad but find his attitude inspiring. As a fellow pedestrian commuter (note: my walk is only about a mile and a half, I make it by choice, and only on days when it’s too cold to ride a bike) I think James Robertson is something of a hero. I think the issues raised by Robertson's daily trek are especially pertinent in Cincinnati; a city with a serious love of cars and a hardworking but less-than-ideal transit system. I couldn't help thinking about folks who have appeared in some of our recent stories about the working poor when I read this. Seriously, check this story out if you haven’t already.

 
 
by John Hamilton 02.03.2015 51 days ago
at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Forgotten Classics: Silverado

Reviewing lesser-known films that stand the test of time

As planet Earth drew closer and closer to the new millennium, the American cinema scene started to see a decline in a genre that was born here: The Western. That’s not to say there haven’t been any new Western films released — there have been quite a few. Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven was a hit in 1992 and even won Best Picture at the Oscars that year. But before that, in 1985, Lawrence Kasdan directed, co-wrote and produced a Western that deserves to be viewed in celebration of its 30th anniversary. That movie is Silverado.

Some of you are probably tilting your head at the name Lawrence Kasdan and wondering who he is. Well, he is responsible for movies like The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist and for co-writing the screenplays for a couple films you might know of, like The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark. He is also the co-writer of the upcoming seventh Star Wars film. Basically, this man’s work should be a delight for anyone to watch.

Silverado tells the story of four roaming misfits who come together to battle elements of each other’s past in the small Western town of — you guessed it — Silverado. There’s the mysterious gunslinger Paden (Kevin Kline) trying to escape his past; Mal (Danny Glover), a prodigal son trying to rebuild his family’s farm; and Emmett and Jake (Scott Glenn and Kevin Costner, respectively), two brothers who do what it takes to protect their loved ones from a cattle baron (Ray Baker) that’s avenging the death of his father at the hands of Emmett.

While each plotline works wonderfully and ties perfectly into one other, for me the strongest of them is the one involving Paden. While it doesn’t fully expose everything about Paden and his past, you get just the right amount of information to stay invested in him, and you want to continue with him and see where he goes.

When Paden is first introduced, he’s left for dead with nothing but his long johns. As the film progresses, you get clues to his past and what may have happened to him. The biggest hints are in the form of an acquaintance of Paden and Silverado’s corrupt Sheriff Cobb (Brian Dennehy). Cobb tries to lure Paden into joining his posse and every time he rejects or tries to stop the wrongdoing, Cobb knows what buttons to push. He continually makes threats regarding Paden’s new friend Stella (Linda Hunt), the owner of the local saloon.

Stella is also an incredibly strong aspect of the film. She’s a strong and fierce woman who helps Paden on his journey to redemption. One of her best moments is when she becomes fully aware of Cobb using her, and she hates it. “So good people are being hurt because of me,” she says. “That makes me mad. Some people think because they're stronger or meaner, that they can push you around. I've seen a lot of that. But it's only true if you let it be.”

This film is also a real spectacle when it comes technical aspects. It features marvelous cinematography with gives the audience shots that add so much more to the story and offer great symbolism. It also features a great music score by Bruce Broughton that is very reminiscent of the works of Elmer Bernstein and the stuff he composed for Westerns.

The film was only nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Original Score and Best Sound. The sound work done for the film is brilliant. The one thing that stands out is the sound design for the guns’ sound effects. Each gun is given a distinct sound that is only associated with that particular piece. Mal’s Henry rifle sounds booming and powerful over the regular rifles of the villains. And Jake’s dual nickel-plated pistol’s sound is quick and short to show how fast he is on the draw.

Silverado is a real treat full of great characters, great set pieces and a great sense of adventure. And if none of this sold you on the film, then maybe this will: Monty Python’s John Cleese plays a Western Sheriff. Yes, you read that correctly.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 02.03.2015 51 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Preservationists ask for $1.5 million for Memorial Hall; Obama's budget aimed at middle class, has huge military spending; would you drink Cincy chili-flavored beer?

Hey all. Let’s talk about news for a minute.

Now that Union Terminal looks to be on its way to renovation and Music Hall has received significant contributions toward the cost of its own fix-up, some preservationists have focused again on Memorial Hall. The building, which sits next to Music Hall on the west side of Washington Park, was designed by renowned architect Samuel Hannaford and built in 1908. Its needs are not quite as large as its gargantuan neighbor: The total cost for renovations is expected to be about $8 million, mere chump change compared to the $120 million Music Hall renovations could run. Development group 3CDC is one of the main drivers of fundraising efforts. It asked Hamilton County Commissioners yesterday for a $1.5 million contribution from the county. Though commissioners wouldn’t commit to anything just yet, Commissioner Greg Hartmann has said some contribution is likely since the building is owned by the county.

• So I’m not a beer fan overall, but I love a good porter on a cold winter day. You know what else I love on a cold winter day (like today, for example)? Cincinnati chili. Having established those facts, let’s just say I’m intrigued by a new beer debuting soon. Blank Slate Brewing Co. has created the Cincy 3-way Porter, which has subtle notes of the spices that make Cincinnati chili famous (or infamous depending on your palate). Again: I like Cincy chili. I like a good porter. But can this possibly be good? Of course I’m going to try it and find out. One note to consider: According to this story in the Business Courier, the malt used to brew the beer is smoked with the distinctive spices — they don’t go in the beer itself. That hopefully means it doesn’t taste like sipping on a serving of Cincy’s favorite meat sauce that just happens to be 7 percent alcohol by volume. Though, hey, I might be open to that, too.

• Is there a way the $2.8 billion Brent Spence Bridge project might be funded without tolls? Don’t hold your breath just yet, but anti-toll groups hope so. Anti-toll group Northern Kentucky United is touting a plan proposed by Sens. Rand Paul and Barbara Boxer that would raise money for the federal Highway Trust Fund by giving U.S. corporations tax breaks to bring more of their estimated $2 trillion in foreign profits back to the U.S. If some of that money flows back here, prodded by a tax break, it could be taxed and the receipts used on infrastructure projects like the Brent Spence Bridge. At least, that’s what Northern Kentucky United hopes. The proposal is very similar to one that President Barack Obama has tucked into his budget, which he released yesterday. The anti-toll group says that’s a sign that things could be happening on the federal level and that a plan to use tolls to pay for the bridge’s replacement is premature.

“There are details yet to be worked out, but the similarities between what the president has suggested and the bipartisan proposal out of the Senate gives us good reason to be optimistic,” said Marisa McNee of Northern Kentucky United in a statement on the legislation. “There is simply no reason to continue a rush to toll the Brent Spence Bridge when the White House and Congress appear to be moving towards an agreement on the Highway Trust Fund,” McNee concluded.

Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Steve Beshear of Kentucky presented their plan last week for the bridge, which includes tolls as part of the funding equation. Kasich has cited the increasing costs for the project while it’s delayed — $7 million a month, by some estimates — as a reason officials should move quickly. He claims there’s little chance the federal government will be forthcoming with funds for the project. Currently, the Highway Trust Fund faces insolvency this summer if Congress doesn’t approve new sources of income for infrastructure.

• The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and Cincinnati’s Police Department don’t reflect the area’s demographic makeup, according to data released by both departments and reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer. Hamilton County’s department is 86 percent white and 12 percent black, though the county itself is 62 percent white and 26 percent black. A similar disparity exists in Cincinnati, which is 48 percent white and 45 percent black. Yet its police force is 67 percent white and 30 percent black. Both gaps match up with many other police forces around the country. A study by USA Today found that 80 departments out of 282 in cities with more than 100,000 people had greater than a 10 percentage-point gap between the proportion of black officers and black residents.

• Yesterday was a day for budgets. In addition to the release of President Obama’s budget proposal (more on that in a minute), Gov. John Kasich also released his financial proposals for Ohio’s next two years. Kasich looks to cut income taxes while raising sales taxes, among other moves, which could place more burden on the state’s low-income workers. Kasich has also suggested an increased tax exemption for some of those workers, but that exemption is small and may only account for two or three bucks more in a worker’s paycheck.

On the income tax side, Kasich seeks to cut the state’s rate by 23 percent over the next two years and end the state’s income tax for 900,000 business owners grossing less than $2 million a year. To pay for that, the state’s base sales tax rate will go up to 6.25 percent plus county and local sales taxes. In Hamilton County, the sales tax rate will go up to 7.5 percent. This continues a trend toward relying more on sales tax to fill the state's coffers, something progressive groups say has made the state's tax system more and more regressive over the last few years.

All told, the state will take in $500 million less over the next two years, a nice hefty tax cut Kasich can point to in order to rally the Republican base should he decide to run for president in 2016. You can read more about the finer points of Kasich’s budget in our story here.

• Finally, here’s a breakdown of President Obama’s wide-ranging, $4 trillion budget proposal. Obama looks to raise taxes on corporations and wealthy citizens and give middle class families tax breaks. He calls that plan “middle class economics,” though staunch conservative (and fellow Miami alum) House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has his own name for it: “envy economics.” Those two monikers may foreshadow another long, arduous budget process between Obama and a mostly Republican Congress.

Other points of Obama’s budget: He has proposed the aforementioned plan for paying for infrastructure, a pay raise for federal workers and military personnel and a number of other proposals you can peruse in the story above. Also worth checking out: this breakdown of the budget by federal departments. Let’s play a little game of “one of these things is not like the other.” That’s right: Discretionary spending at the Department of Defense is a mind-blowing $585 billion. That’s more than every other department combined. Obama’s budget increases the DOD’s budget by 4 percent. That’s $23 billion — enough to increase the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget by almost 50 percent. Just leaving that right there for you to chew on.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 02.02.2015 52 days ago
Posted In: News, Taxes at 05:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Kasich Floats Income Tax Cuts in New Budget

Plan involves raising sales tax and bringing in $500 million less

Gov. John Kasich is touting half a million dollars in tax cuts in his new budget proposal, released Feb. 2. But Ohio’s tax scheme could get more regressive if state lawmakers take it up as is.

The budget proposal would lower income taxes by 23 percent over the next two years and pay for it by raising sales taxes by .5 percent. All told, the proposal means $500 million less in taxes for Ohio residents.

Critics say lower-income residents will benefit least from the proposal. Kasich’s budget allows for a tax exemption increase for as many as 3 million low-income Ohio workers. But that exemption would mean only an extra few dollars per paycheck for most low-income families, according to most analyses. Another part of Kasich's budget proposal would require those making just over the poverty level (a bit more than $11,500 for a single person) to pay premiums on Medicaid. Those premiums would start at about $10 to $20.

Among the biggest moves in Kasich's proposal: a plan that would effectively eliminate the state’s income tax for more than 900,000 people who own small businesses grossing less than $2 million a year.

Studies suggest that the bottom fifth of Ohio earners pay nearly 7 percent of their income in sales taxes, while the top fifth of Ohio earners pay less than 1 percent of their income. A study conducted by liberal-leaning think tank Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy found Ohio to have the 18th most regressive tax structure in the country.

"The Ohio income tax is critical to a fair tax system and one that pays for education, health and other key services," said Wendy Patton, a director at Policy Matters Ohio, in a January statement about the state’s tax structure. "Attempts to weaken it will either redistribute income from the poor and the middle class to the rich, or cut needed public services."

When Kasich took office, the income tax rate was nearly 6 percent and Ohio’s sales tax was 5.5 percent, though state lawmakers boosted it to 5.75 percent in 2013. Under Kasich’s new budget proposal, income tax will be just over 4 percent and sales tax will be 6.25 percent.

Conservatives have also criticized the budget. Critics on the right, including tea party-aligned state lawmakers, say most of the changes aren’t cuts, they’re “tax shifting” that doesn’t result in the state spending less money.

Kasich’s plan does call for some measures that could help lower-income residents, including raising the income level at which parents can qualify for subsidies on child care. Other parts of the budget progressives might find more amenable include an increase on taxes associated with fracking.


Correction: due to a typo, an earlier version of this post said Ohio's sales tax rate will be 6.5 percent. This has been corrected to 6.25 percent.

 
 
by Staff 02.02.2015 52 days ago
 
 
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Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend

A lot of stuff from Walgreens, Packhouse, Krueger's Tavern, Amol and more

Each week CityBeat staffers tell you what they ate this weekend. We're not always proud — or trendy — but we definitely spend at least some money on food. 

Danny Cross: A couple of my friends' girlfriends had a birthday death wish on Saturday night, taking a party of more than 15 to Krueger's Tavern. My girlfriend and I showed up late, kind of assuming everyone would be standing on the Vine Street sidewalk like a bunch of tourists. Apparently, Krueger's will seat your giant party as long as half have arrived, though, and no one was mad when the final two of us showed up like 40 minutes after the reservation time. Krueger's is owned by the same people who run Bakersfield and The Eagle OTR, and its concept is similar: loud, hip atmosphere; really good, relatively inexpensive food; and pretty great service considering how crowded and busy the place is. We split the Cuban sandwich, fries and a kale salad someone told us was going to be awesome (true). It's nice to have an OTR option aside from Taste of Belgium where you can sit down with more than four people without forcing the restaurant to rearrange the entire room. CityBeat food writer Kristen Franke had good things to say about Krueger's last week, so you should probably take her word for it. 

Jac Kern
: I’ll tell you where I did not eat: Bridalrama. Cupcakes and macaroons and cakes at every corner, and I didn't touch any of it. I was proud of my self-control until the next day when Jeff insisted on ordering Pizza Hut during the Super Bowl. And we're not talking some regular fattening pizza. No, we had to order the Triple Cheese Covered Stuffed Crust Pizza. So, needless to say, any pride I had left was gone at this point. I wanted to be disgusted by it but I reluctantly found it really tasty. 

Rebecca Sylvester: Best Friday night: ordered too much Indian food and went to sleep. Since it was obviously too cold to leave the house, my boo and I took advantage of the fact that Amol delivers and made someone else deal with the frigid 2.5-mile trek between their kitchen and my couch. The food was great, but the best part of the meal was the fact that their delivery minimum is $25, meaning it is just a dollar or two out of reach of ordering only two entrees, so we were (I was) justified in ordering A THIRD ENTREE for additional feasting. 

Mike Breen: I largely had a depressed, shut-in kind of weekend, for which I loaded up on supplies from that gourmet food haven Walgreens and barely left my apartment. The cashier told me we might get eight inches of snow over the weekend as I checked out; even though I knew that wasn’t true, I hoped my sad purchases were seen as “stocking up” for the impending Snowmageddon (or at least as treats I was taking to a Super Bowl party). I should have grabbed a bag of rock salt to make it look less pathetic.

Along with the wasabi-flavored almonds, the best thing I grabbed on my junk food spree was a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Truffle Trifecta, which I first discovered last year. It’s only available at Walgreens (which seems weird; B&J’s also has “exclusive” flavors at Target, which is somewhat understandable, but Walgreens seems to be a weird place to have to go to score ice cream). It’s Ben & Jerry’s, so of course it’s really good. And pretty simple — chocolate ice cream with marshmallow, fudge and caramel-filled truffle candy. It’s become one of my favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavors.

I was proud of myself for not devouring all of the crap food I bought. Seemed like a good purchase at the time, but I just couldn’t stomach eating the small bag of Ruffles’ Deep Ridged Bacon & Cheddar Loaded Potato Skins flavored chips I bought. But there’s always next weekend. Grammys viewing party at my place, y’all! 

Jesse FoxI wanted to get some film that I shot developed on Saturday and apparently the Walgreens in Highland Heights is the only place around here that still does that. I didn't want to drive down, go home and drive right back, so I went with my freelancer Catie so we could talk or something while we waited. The guys working said it would take two hours so we did what any respectable humans would do — we went and bought mini vodka bottles from the liquor store nearby and ate at Taco Bell. Despite ordering different things, the total of both of our meals was $6.66. The next day I woke up with strep throat, so thank you Taco Bell satan.

Maija Zummo: I finally went to Packhouse in Newport to eat some vegetarian meatballs. (My computer keeps auto-correcting that to "packhorse," which is an altogether different type of meatball.) I had been to the meatball restaurant in Corryville, Meatball Kitchen, which has a different vibe (you order at a cash register there). I had been warned that the Packhouse menu was a little bit confusing — there's a ton of choices and you fill boxes in on your menu with a marker to order — but it wasn't so bad. The waitresses help you navigate.

You pick a type of meatball — I got quinoa and veggie and the rest of my party got one of each other type of meatball on the menu: fried chicken, turkey and sage, something with sundried tomatoes and blue cheese, a normal meatball and then a lasagna meatball (lasagna shaped into a ball and fried). Then you choose a sauce (marinara, parmesan cream, some type of stew sauce, and a couple others) and how you want it served. You can get it on a sandwich, on a slider, on pasta, with Brussels sprouts etc., etc. There are like a million possible combinations. I got three quinoa meatballs on some boursin mashed potatoes with parmesan cream on top and a quinoa slider with cheese and marina sauce because, as a vegetarian, I never get to eat sliders.

Portion sizes were big and the quinoa meatballs tasted like little arancini; they were little fried tasty nuggets. I loved them a lot more than I expected because I hate quinoa. The rest of my party, however, didn't love their meatballs. There was some confusion as to which was which, like they couldn't tell the difference between the turkey and sage an the sundried tomato one. But I was happy, which is the most important part. They also have bottles of wine for $19, and the service staff is paid a fair wage so you don't tip, which is a cool novelty. I'd go back for more sliders and cheap wine, and my one friend wants to go back to tackle their eating contest, where you need to eat like 25 of the same meatballs in an hour or something. 

Samantha GellinI had brunch at BrewRiver Gastropub. It's a New Orleans-style place. The food was delicious but the prices ... not. The entrees were all in the $12 to $16 dollar range, so I opted for two "sides": two sunny-side up eggs and a small bowl cheese grits. The eggs were delicious; the grits, while tasty, weren't life-changing. My husband got poutine and eggs, and the beef short-rib gravy was really rich and delicious. It had strips of really tender meat in it. For anyone who doesn't have to watch their cholesterol, it's a solid choice. The server was a bit pushy and anxious to get our party of eight out the door by the afternoon closing time, though. I'm not sure I'd go back, partly because of the prices and partly because I'm over brunch dates. Maybe I'm just getting too old to be drinking three mimosas at noon.
 
 
by Nick Swartsell 02.02.2015 52 days ago
Posted In: Transportation, News at 02:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Sens. Paul and Boxer Team Up on Transportation

Bipartisan proposal would use tax cut to lure corporate bucks back home for highway fund

It sounds a little like an episode of a zany sitcom: a tea partying conservative from Kentucky and a classic California liberal team up to clean up some roads.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced Jan. 29 that he and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., would introduce a bill seeking to shore up the nation’s federal Highway Trust Fund. The announcement comes as fights over what to do about the nation’s looming infrastructure needs hit close to home.

The federal fund that helps pay for highway, bridge and transit projects could face insolvency this year if Congress doesn’t find new sources of money for infrastructure. In Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, local and state officials are currently wrangling over the $2.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge replacement project. The bridge is more than 50 years old and carries 160,000 cars a day — four times more than it was designed to hold. Cincinnati’s 83-year-old Western Hills Viaduct will also need to be replaced in the next decade at a cost of $240 million. Studies by engineers have found that both bridges are structurally obsolete, though not immediately unsafe. Federal funds could go a long way toward making those projects reality.

"I am pleased to be working with Senator Boxer on a bipartisan solution to a tax and highway spending problem,” Paul said in a statement. “The interstate highway system is of vital importance to our economy. All across the country, bridges and roads are deficient and in need of replacement.”

Paul and Boxer’s bill proposes what is, in effect, a corporate tax cut: lowering the U.S. repatriation rate, or tax rate for foreign earnings, in order to incentivize U.S. companies to bring money back into the U.S. economy from foreign tax shelters. The proposed law would allow companies to voluntarily repatriate some of the estimated $2 trillion in off-shore corporate profits at a discounted tax rate of 6.5 percent. The program would require companies use that repatriated money to help build the economy. The money must be used for hiring or research and development, for instance, instead of executive raises. Taxes from the repatriated funds would go into the federal Highway Trust Fund for roads, bridges and other transit projects.

Paul did not mention regional projects like the Brent Spence Bridge specifically in statements about the proposal, though he has been active in the past in working to secure funding for replacing the bridge. It’s unclear if and when such projects would see a benefit from the bill, or exactly how much money it would raise should it pass into law.

A U.S. Chamber of Commerce study conducted on a similar proposal in 2013 found that the move could boost America’s economy by more than $400 billion, according to a white paper released by the senators. President Barack Obama put a similar plan in his budget proposal, which he unveiled Feb. 2.

There are other proposals for shoring up infrastructure funds, both on the national level and here in the Tristate. Some in Congress have called for raising the gas tax, which currently helps pay for federal road and bridge maintenance. The rate hasn’t been raised since the early 1990s. But congressional Republicans, led by House Speaker John Boehner, have signaled they won’t support an increase.

On the state level, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear have drafted their own plans for replacing the Brent Spence Bridge here. The two say the project can’t wait much longer — they cite an estimate by engineers saying that the project gets $7 million more expensive every month — and that the federal government won’t come to the rescue any time soon. Their proposal involves a public-private partnership that would necessitate tolls, however, something that has caused bipartisan consternation in Northern Kentucky. Many officials there are dead set against tolls, which they say will hurt workers and businesses. That’s tipped Northern Kentucky United, an anti-toll group, toward Paul’s idea.

“There are details yet to be worked out, but the similarities between what the President has suggested and the bipartisan proposal out of the Senate gives us good reason to be optimistic,” said Marisa McNee of Northern Kentucky United. “There is simply no reason to continue a rush to toll the Brent Spence Bridge when the White House and Congress appear to be moving towards an agreement on the Highway Trust Fund.”

Kasich, on the other hand, likened counting on funds from the federal government to waiting on the tooth fairy in a news conference last week on his proposal.

Paul and Boxer are a surprising team. Paul, a tea party favorite and potential candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, usually takes highly conservative, libertarian stances on policy and spending matters. Boxer, on the other hand, is one of the chamber’s most liberal members. In her 32-year career in Congress, first as a representative and then as a senator, she fought for tighter gun control, more environmental protection measures and pro-choice causes. Boxer, who is 74, announced last month that she will not seek re-election.

“I hope this proposal will jumpstart negotiations on addressing the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, which is already creating uncertainty that is bad for businesses, bad for workers and bad for the economy,” Boxer said in a statement about the bill. “I will also be working … on other proposals to pay for rebuilding our nation's aging transportation infrastructure."

 
 
by Nick Grever 02.02.2015 52 days ago
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music at 11:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Beyond Idol Chatter: America Meets Jess Lamb

With her 'American Idol' journey, noted Cincinnati musician Jess Lamb is presented with numerous opportunities and challenges

For many Cincinnati natives, seeing Jess Lamb perform her audition in Kansas City for the American Idol judges was the first time they had ever heard her powerful and emotive voice or seen her honest, determined spirit. But for anyone who has their ears to the ground in Cincinnati’s local music scene (or has drunkenly wandered into Japps on a Tuesday night) knew that Lamb was more than ready for the limelight. Lamb has been performing all across town for years and has consistently turned heads with her stable of classics and originals, paired with her pronounced and technical work on the keys. (In 2013, Lamb was nominated for an R&B/Funk/Soul Cincinnati Entertainment Award and performed at that year’s ceremony, a mini-clip of which was used in her initial biographical segment on Idol.)

But a rise in local and national exposure brings a great deal of opportunities and challenges tied together. And it is those opportunities and challenges that my series of posts following Lamb’s experience will reflect upon. Lamb is an indie artist to the core; she writes and records with many different projects beyond her solo work. She plays all around town in the hopes of steadily increasing her visibility. But how does an artist used to local coverage deal with the sudden influx in national attention? What effect will American Idol have on local attendance or the reception at her shows? Will there be any long term changes or will this ultimately be a flash-in-the-pan experience for Lamb? These are the types of questions that will be explored as the show carries on.


Of course, to answer where Lamb will be going, it helps to know how she even became a part of American Idol. It all happened by chance.


“I went to Columbus for what they call the ‘Bus Tour.’ Basically you go down there and stand in front of executive producers of the show. From there, they just call you and tell you where to go next. You’re just playing the waiting game after that,” Lamb says.


Lamb and her friend’s spontaneous trip to Columbus led to the next stage of the journey — performing for Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. (one of Lamb’s musical idols). 


 


There was a month in between both auditions, leaving plenty of time to think and speculate. After the audition in Kansas City and the announcement of her participation on the show, Lamb has been speaking to the media while still finding time for her day job and performing at night.


With “Hollywood Week,” featuring the singers who made it past the initial auditions, approaching, Lamb’s Amercan Idol adventure is just about to truly take off. Here at home, she’s already seen a change in her local reception.


“I’ve felt a lot of support from the people that I look up to. Frankly, I’m shocked at the support. I’m shocked that a lot of people see where I’m going with this,” Lamb says.


After her audition aired, Lamb played a show in West Chester, where she was greeted by an entirely different type of crowd than the Main Street district mainstays. Instead of young people buying her shots, she was met by a group of older women who brought her flowers.


The crowds aren’t just growing at her shows either; her online presence has grown as well. American Idol fans have flocked to Lamb’s Facebook, Instagram, email box and Reverbnation page. So many, in fact, that Lamb is having a hard time keeping up with all the attention.


“There’s been so much [growth] on social media, so many great emails. I’m trying to respond to every email and I have to take hours out of every day to do it and it’s amazing, I love it,” Lamb says.


In many ways, that excitement is indicative of Lamb and her Idol journey thus far. It’s been a whirlwind of activity that is guaranteed to grow as the show progresses. But she has taken it all in stride and is taking every opportunity the show has provided her. We’ll just have to tune in to see what other opportunities arise in the coming weeks.


The Hollywood Week episodes of American Idol air locally this Wednesday and Thursday on Fox 19.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 02.02.2015 52 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
death penalty

Morning News and Stuff

Cincinnati rents on the way up; anti-toll group tells Kasich, "stay out of Kentucky;" Ohio delays six executions until 2016

Good morning all. Here’s what’s up in the news today:

City Manager Harry Black today announced that Thomas B. Corey will be the head of the city’s recently created Department of Economic Inclusion. The department is charged with increasing the availability of city contracts for women and minority owned businesses in the city. Corey is another former Baltimore official tapped by Black to lead a city department here. He was most recently The City of Baltimore Law Department’s Chief Solicitor. He will start Feb. 9.

• Average rents are going up in Greater Cincinnati, according to a survey commissioned by real estate company CBRE Cincinnati. Some of that is due to pricey new apartments in hot parts of town — the average rent on a newly-constructed apartment is over $1,000 a month in Cincinnati. But part of it is also swelling demand across all income brackets for apartments, according to the survey. You could blame pesky Millennials and our aversion to homeownership, but it seems like demand for rental units is going up across the board.

While we’re talking about rent, as we’ve reported more than a few times, Cincinnati’s affordable housing supply is stretched to the limit. There’s currently a 5,000-person waiting list to get a Section 8 voucher for one of the 11,000 units that accept them in the region. This Cincinnati Enquirer story questions whether that’s in part because Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority’s inspection standards have gotten too strict. The number of units that have failed such inspections has risen over the past couple years as CMHA started enforcing more stringent requirements on landlords. Some of the violations seem trivial — mismatched paint, hinges that need replaced — but others detailed in the story are serious, including windows that don’t open and mold problems. The story quotes one woman who actually had to move out of her home, and it was due to mold in the house. The Enquirer teased this story over the weekend with the provocative headline “Which County Agency is Leaving Residents Homeless?” But affordable housing advocates and neighborhood boosters have actually cheered the new standards. The story doesn’t mention a big piece of context: the abysmal conditions at some Section 8 rental units over the past few years. While reporting for this story published over the summer, CityBeat ran across truly shocking municipal code violations at Section 8 properties in Price Hill, for instance. These included sewage in rental unit basements, tenants without heat and water, doors that didn’t open and other major violations.

• Anti-toll groups in Northern Kentucky are fired up about statements Gov. John Kasich made last week regarding the Brent Spence Bridge. Kasich suggested that opponents of a plan to build a new bridge along one of America’s busiest shipping routes have their “heads in the sand.” That didn’t sit too well with the bipartisan group of lawmakers, businessmen and others who have come together to oppose the possibility of tolls for a new bridge. The group started a strongly-worded online petition that more than 2,000 supporters have signed so far. Kasich's plan, offered with Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, would create tolls to help fund the $2.8 billion project, but would also give a 50 percent discount to daily commuters and work to keep the price as low as possible. Opponents say tolls are unacceptable and that the states should reach out to the federal government for money to fund a more modest bridge update.

"On Wednesday, Gov. Kasich stood at a press conference – in a building that once housed companies he personally recruited away from Kentucky – and insulted Northern Kentucky and our elected leaders," it says. "If he cannot control himself, he should stay out of Kentucky."

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich has proposed funding in his recent budget that would create a new community health program aimed at reducing the state’s infant mortality rate, which is among the worst in the nation. The plan would fund community organizations to connect women in low-income areas with prenatal medical care available through Medicaid. Cincinnati's infant mortality rate is especially bad; the city has the second-highest rate of infant death in the nation.

• Ohio has announced it will delay all six executions it had scheduled in 2015 as it searches for new sources for execution drugs. The announcement comes after the state halted its two-drug execution method last month due to questions about its efficacy. Last year, an execution carried out with the two-drug method took almost half an hour, and the inmate involved was heard gasping for breath.

• The United Steelworkers Union yesterday launched one of the largest national labor strikes in recent memory. USW, which is seeking higher wages and better safety measures, called for nearly 4,000 employees who work in several oil refineries across the country to abstain from work until new labor contracts are signed with several major oil companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp. Experts say it could drive up gas prices as refinery capacity is limited. It’s the largest walkout since 1980, when USW held a three-month strike. News reports indicate that workers in other refineries may also join in the walkout.

 
 
by David Watkins 02.02.2015 52 days ago
Posted In: Events, fundraising, News at 10:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
dining out for life

Dining Out for Life Cincinnati Returns

Eat dinner somewhere that isn't your house, fight AIDS

Significant progress has been made since the 1980s HIV/AIDS epidemic, but there is still research and work to be done in finding a cure. Spearheading the movement in Ohio is Caracole, an organization that provides affordable housing and supportive services for individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS. 

You can help, too. 

The annual Dining Out For Life event encourages you to dine out at participating local restaurants, which will be donating a portion of your meal’s proceeds to Caracole. Participating in Dining Out For Life is easy: Choose a participating restaurant. Gather a group of friends and call ahead to make a reservation. Be sure to mention you're with Dining Out For Life and a predetermined percentage of your meal will go directly to Caracole.

Participating restaurants include: 
  • Arnold's Bar & Grill; 513-421-6234; Donating 25%; Lunch, Dinner
  • Bella Luna; 513-871-5862; Donating 20%; Dinner
  • Below Zero Lounge; 513-421-9376; Donating 100%; Dinner, Late Night
  • Blue Jay Restaurant; 513-541-0847; Donating 25%; Breakfast, Lunch
  • The Brew House; 513-961-9058; Donating 20%; Dinner
  • Buz; 513-533-2899; Donating 25%; Dinner
  • Green Dog Cafe; 513-321-8777; Donating 25%; Dinner
  • Kitchen 452; 513-559-0452; Donating 25%; Lunch
  • The Littlefield; 513-386-7570; Donating 20%; Dinner
  • Macaron Bar; 513-813-8181; Donating 100%; Dessert
  • Main Bite; 859-261-2483; Donating 25%; Dinner
  • McAlister's Deli Blue Ash, Crestview Hills, Kenwood, West Chester and Mason; Donating 20%; Lunch, Dinner
  • Park + Vine; 513-721-7275; Donating 100%; Dinner
  • T.G.I. Friday's Anderson, Colerain, Crestview Hills, Fields Ertel, Kenwood, Tri-County, West Chester and Western Hills; Donating 20%; Lunch, Dinner
  • Unwind Wine Bar; 513-321-9463; Donating 25%; Dinner
  • Washington Platform Saloon & Restaurant; 513-421-0110; Donating 25%; Lunch, Dinner
Note that Park + Vine, Macaron Bar and Below Zero are all donating 100% of their proceeds from your meal.

All day Tuesday, Feb. 3. For more information, visit diningoutforlife.com/cincinnati/.
 
 

 

 

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by John Hamilton 03.26.2015 4 hours ago
at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Reel Redux: Top 10 Good Remakes

Today, whenever the terms “remake,” “reboot” or anything like that pop up in terms of film or TV, people automatically assume the worst thing imaginable. While I won’t deny the fact that there have been several remakes that have been pointless, there have been a lot of remakes that have been very good and, in a lot of cases, have improved on a few aspects.

Now, I’m not claiming that the 10 I’m listing off are “better” than the original. Instead, these films (listed by release date in chronological order) are evidence that a remake is not an automatic seal of sucking.

The Magnificent Seven (1960, John Sturges)

I’m sure some of you saw this coming given what my first "Reel Redux" was about, but none the less this is still a pretty good film. A remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, this version doesn’t do too much different from the original film but it is still holds up through its fine acting, amazing music score and story.

A Fistful of Dollars (1964, Sergio Leone)

Another remake of a Kurosawa film, this time a remake of his film Yojimbo. In this film you see the foundations of Eastwood’s most famous screen persona, many of Leone’s trademarks and an awesome final duel. A good stepping stone for anyone wanting to get into Spaghetti Westerns.

The Thing (1982, John Carpenter)

Yes, believe it or not there are some good horror remakes, and this was one. John Carpenter’s remake of the Howard Hawks-produced The Thing from Another World ups the ante with the suspense and gore. This is not for the faint of heart. But it’s more than just a gore-fest — it’s a film with amazing suspense and atmosphere.

Little Shop of Horrors (1986, Frank Oz)

This music adaptation of the Roger Corman B-movie is a genuine delight and definitely improves on a few aspects of the original, mainly the special effects. That glorious Audrey II puppet is a testament to how great practical effects can be. Also, Levi Stubbs of The Four Tops is a perfect voice for Audrey II.

Beauty and the Beast (1991, Gary Trousdale & Kirk Wise)

This classic Disney animated musical actually has a lot in common with the 1946 French surrealist adaptation by Jean Cocteau. Both beasts have a similar design, both feature a castle of human servants that are also appliances, and both have a Gaston equivalent. But of course the animated version does do a few things differently, mainly musical numbers, funny side characters and, of course, being a cartoon.

Homeward Bound – The Incredible Journey (1993, Duwayne Dunham)

Here’s another Disney remake that proved its worth. A remake of the 1963 movie just called The Incredible Journey, this renditions seems to hold up for anyone because of the animals. All three have distinct voices and personas that make us love and root for them.

The Birdcage (1996, Mike Nichols)

A film by the late Mike Nichols and starring the late Robin Williams is a remake of a French-Italian film called La Cage aux Folle. With the combined comedic charm and brilliance of Williams and Nathan Lane, it’s no wonder why Nichols had a hard time holding his laughter during some of the scenes. My words won’t do it justice — you just have to watch.

Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003, Peter Jackson)

If we’re loosely defining the term remake, Jackson’s fantasy trilogy is technically a remake of Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings (1978) and Rankin/Bass’ Return of the King. If you’ve seen those animated films then you can see why Jackson’s are usually the preferred versions. Jackson's films create an epic fantasy environment, they have an amazing film score and feature some awesome battle sequences.

3:10 to Yuma (2007, James Mangold)

Many hold the original 1957 film as a classic and it is, but Mangold’s version doesn’t try to duplicate it. Instead he goes the action route, and it does not disappoint. The gunfights are stunning throughout the film. Also, the chemistry between Christian Bale and Russell Crowe is stunning, and it also has a great villain performance from Ben Foster.

True Grit (2010, Ethan & Joel Coen)

My first two listed were westerns and so we end with two westerns. The Coen Brother’s version of the manhunt of Tom Chaney is truly phenomenal. The Coens stay close to the tone and style of Charles Portis’ original book by sticking to the dryer tone, keeping it less romanticized and “Hollywood.” And it features some trying fantastic performances from everyone.

 
 
by Steven Rosen 03.26.2015 5 hours ago
Posted In: Visual Art at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
aclead_mapplethorpe_self-portrait700x615

FotoFocus Sponsors Upcoming Robert Mapplethorpe Symposium

Symposium will be co-presented by the Contemporary Arts Center in October

Last night before photographer Roe Ethridge's FotoFocus Lecture at Cincinnati Art Museum, FotoFocus' Artistic Director Kevin Moore announced the organization is co-presenting a two-day symposium on photographer Robert Mapplethorpe's work with the Contemporary Arts Center on Oct. 23-24.

It will mark the 25th anniversary of CAC's presentation of The Perfect Moment, the retrospective of Mapplethorpe's work that prompted conservative elements — led by then-Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. — to pursue criminal charges for alleged obscenity. (Some of Maplethorpe's work in the show was sexually graphic.) A Hamilton County jury cleared the museum of all charges.

Specifics for the symposium have yet to be announced, although indications are speakers from around the country will be invited. Also not yet announced is what, if any, works by Mapplethorpe will be shown and in what context.

Information should go on on the FotoFocus site when firm.

 
 
by Jac Kern 03.26.2015 5 hours ago
Posted In: Humor, TV/Celebrity, Movies at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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I Just Can't Get Enough

Jac's roundup of pop culture news and Internet findings

A terrified-looking local 2-year-old has become something of an Internet sensation over the past week. In a funny photo with a cute story-turned-viral image, Quincy Kroner posed with two friendly looking garbage men in front of their truck (as he held his own mini garbage truck toy).

 

Pictured: Internet gold.

Dad and Northside resident Ollie Kroner, who’s no stranger to CityBeat, posted the photo on Facebook, saying, “Quincy's been waiting all week to show the garbage men his garbage truck. But, in the moment, he was overwhelmed in the presence of his heroes.” The photo was shared by friends and family, then their friends and so on until the image appeared prominently on Tumblr, Imgur, Awkward Family Photos, Huffington Post and ABC News.

Despite the sudden fame, Quincy continues to live a low-profile, tiny human life. Read more here. (Worth noting is the writer’s choice to drive home the point that “it started with a sticker chart” and to include the comment "Garbage men get swole as hell and are generally the greatest people around.")

Stock footage provider Dissolve created a “faux” TV trailer using only stock video, and it appears only slightly more generic that a CBS fall lineup.

Just in time for Mad Men’s final season premiere, AMC paid tribute to the show with a bench resembling the Don Draper silhouette logo that has become so iconic. The bench — which I really need them to mass-produce — was unveiled in front of the Time-Life building, which Sterling Cooper & Partners has called home in Mad Men universe since Season Four. Jon Hamm was profiled in GQ’s April issue, and the show’s leading man shared some advice given to him from a guy who knows what it’s like to portray an iconic TV character and then, suddenly, not — Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston.

"It's hard, man," Cranston told him. "It's hard to let it go. It'll hit you a couple of different ways at different times."

But before you get depressed thinking about all of Mad Men joining Walter White and the other characters in the big TV set in the sky, there’s still a whole (OK, half) season of Mad Men to obsess and drink over, starting April 5.

Serena Williams made her own 7/11 video a la Beyoncé.

Almost as good as the original and how cute is it when she stops dancing to let that old man walk by? Definitely needed more azz, though.

Goodbye Zuckerberg, hello Luthor! Jesse Eisenberg lost his curly locks to embody his upcoming role as Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Check out his TRANSFORMATION (he just shaved his head) here.

The cast of Pretty Woman the movie’s 25th anniversary with a reunion on the Today Show. While it has been quite a few years since the last good hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold movie, don’t count on a sequel. They say there will never be a Pretty Woman 2. At least some things are sacred.

With that being said, of course there’s new remake news this week.

Fox announced that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson will return as Mulder and Scully in the network’s limited-series reboot of The X-Files.

The John Candy classic Uncle Buck is also getting a TV remake. Mike Epps and Nia Long are set to star in the ABC comedy. (This isn’t the first time Uncle Buck is getting the TV treatment — there was a short-lived series of the same name in 1990). Until then, go downtown and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face.

Some movies are getting turned into TV shows while some television series are getting reworked for the big screen. Finally, the Entourage movie trailer is here.

Who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory? Reddit user Euchrid_Eucrow posted an in-depth analysis on the Barenaked Ladies song “One Week” (yes, you’re reading all of this correctly) in the Fan Theories subreddit. S/He argues that that song — an upbeat Pop-Rock earworm full of random bits of early-Millennium pop culture — is about a man who killed his girlfriend and is slowly going mad as he stays in a room with the corpse. Internet!

Here’s Sarah Jessica Parker throwing fifty shades of shade at Tom Hanks at a hockey game.

Forget Resting Bitchface — Carrie Bradshaw’s got a very active bitchface.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.26.2015 8 hours ago
Posted In: News at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
gay-marriage-rights

Morning News and Stuff

Council passes resolution supporting same-sex marriage; street named in honor of Camp Washington Chili owner; anti-abortion activists target Boehner

Morning all. Are you as disappointed with the soggy gray awfulness outside as I am? Over the past few days I’ve been tuning up my bike, getting ready for spring. My plan was to get it out today and ride to work instead of walking. But this morning has been more kayak commuting weather, and since I don’t own a kayak, I’m working from home. Bummer. Anyway, let’s move on to news. This is the weekly City Council update edition, where I tell you about all the zany stuff our council members got up to yesterday.

First, council passed a resolution supporting marriage equality in the state of Ohio authored by Chris Seelbach, Cincinnati’s first openly gay elected official.

“The protection and equality we want is no different than what everyone wants," Seelbach said, highlighting the ways in which his life with his partner are the same as any married couple’s. Seelbach also drew attention to the continued court battles being waged by Cincinnatians against Ohio’s gay marriage ban. Among them is Jim Obergefell, whose case against Ohio’s gay marriage ban will be tried in the U.S. Supreme Court next month. Obergefell is seeking to be listed on his late husband John Arthur’s death certificate. The two were legally married in Maryland.

“Our city could have fought us, as our state continued to do, but instead our city stood on the side of love with a message that is resoundingly clear: We welcome, accept and love everyone,” Obergefell said in a written statement read by a representative from LGBT rights group Why Marriage Matters.

Six council members voted for the resolution, with Councilman Charlie Winburn voting against it and two, P.G. Sittenfeld and Amy Murray, absent from the meeting for unrelated reasons. Winburn applauded Seelbach’s advocacy for the issue, but said he didn’t agree with its premise. Winburn has been a vocal opponent of gay marriage. Cincinnati joins several other Ohio cities, including Dayton and Columbus, in supporting marriage equality.

• More council stuff: our esteemed deliberative body yesterday rejected another stab at a parking plan for Over-the-Rhine that would have created 400 permitted spots around the neighborhood. The plan would have cost residents in the area $109 a year, plus $5 each for guest permits. Some council members, including Seelbach, said the price is still a bit too high and probably not necessary to generate the revenue needed. “I think we’re close,” Seelbach said. “This is close to what we would support. But the annual permit at $109 is the highest in America.”

Vice Mayor David Mann said he expected the plan to pass.

“This continues to be a work in progress,” Mann said. “We’re very open to changes as we implement and see how it works … but I think it’s time to do something. It’s been in and out of committee for three months.”

• Council also named a whole block of Colerain Avenue in Camp Washington after John "Johnny" Johnson, who has been working at Camp Washington Chili in the neighborhood for a mind-boggling 64 years. That's pretty cool. The restaurant, which I have patronized many a late night after various shows, has received national accolades for its chili, which is awesome. Johnson's uncle started the restaurant in 1940, and he began working there in 1951after coming here from Greece.

• The road is long and difficult and every step is studded with obstacles. No, I’m not talking about an underdog team in the NCAA tournament, nor the plot of a Tolkien novel. I speak of the streetcar, which is facing yet another round of drama this week involving contracts for who will operate the transit system. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, tasked with finding employees to operate the streetcar, must choose between two types of bids: those from companies that will manage SORTA’s union employees and those that will hire their own. Democrats on council want SORTA to go the former route and consider only bids that rely on employees from the Amalgamated Transit Union, of which most of SORTA’s employees are members. A past effort by council to get more details about the bids in relation to this wish drew sharp rebuke from the Federal Transit Authority, however, which said that any attempt to change SORTA’s bid process could result in loss of federal funds for the streetcar. The feds provided more than $45 million for the nearly $150 million project.

"If confidentiality is not maintained,” wrote FTA attorney John Lynch in a Monday letter to SORTA, “that presents risks to the process and increases potential exposure to protests and legal action from the proposers. The council's proposed changes to the procurement process could be perceived as giving preferential treatment to one contractor over another."

Now a new motion proposed yesterday by most of council’s Democrats would direct SORTA to only consider bids in which SORTA employees are used to run the streetcar. That motion needs two more votes and isn’t binding — it’s asking, not telling, SORTA to hire ATU employees. That motion also leaves maintenance personnel out of the equation, which is important because that’s a sticking point in negotiations between SORTA and the ATU on what using union workers would look like. The two are tangling over a few specialized maintenance positions that require particular electrical engineering training. The ATU says whoever does those jobs should be union members; SORTA says it has the right to hire outside workers for those positions. Phew. So there you have it. Bids for operating the streetcar are due at the end of the month, and SORTA’s board will vote to award the contract in July.

• Here’s a completely unsubstantiated, unscientific observation: People named “Woody” seem much more apt to support legalization efforts for marijuana. First there was Woody Harrelson, and now we have Taft Broadcasting Co. Development Director Woody Taft. Taft and his brother Dudley are among the funders of an ongoing effort by ResponsibleOhio to get an Ohio constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana on the November ballot. The Tafts are just a couple of the big names in town who have invested in the legalization scheme, which would legalize production and sale of marijuana but limit commercial cultivation to 10 legal growers. That dimension of the provision has raised ire from other pot legalization advocates. ResponsibleOhio has modified its proposal to allow for home growth of small amounts of weed, but those growers would not be allowed to sell their products.

The Tafts would be part owners of a marijuana cultivation farm proposed in Butler County should the ballot initiative pass.

“Our current laws are archaic and cruel to the people in Ohio who need medical marijuana,” Woody Taft said in a statement sent out by the pro-marijuana group.

• Finally, eight protesters were arrested outside House Speaker John Boehner’s Washington office yesterday. No, they weren’t up in arms about his continued efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, or his moves to stymie Democrats’ immigration reform agenda. Nor were they there staging an intervention for Boehner’s all-too-evident tanning bed addiction.

Instead, they were all riled up about the fact that Boehner and other congressional Republicans haven’t moved fast enough on a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. The House was set to vote on the bill way back at the beginning of the year, but some moderate GOPers balked at the ban because it required a woman to report her rape or incest to law enforcement in order to qualify for an exception to the proposed law. Members of the Christian Defense Coalition, who were the protesters praying outside of Boehner’s office, say his failure to push that bill through is a “betrayal” of the pro-life cause. Boehner’s office shot back that he’s the most pro-life speaker in history, which seems a hard claim to fact-check considering abortion was illegal for much of our country’s history.

That’s it for me. Tweet me. Email me. You know the drill. 

 
 
by Mike Breen 03.25.2015 31 hours ago
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Music News at 10:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Heartless Bastards Announce New Album, Two Cincy Shows

Cincinnati-spawned band to release fifth album, play Woodward Theater in June

Former Cincinnati-based (now Austin, Texas headquartered) band Heartless Bastards have announced the release of its fifth album, Restless Ones, on the Partisan Records imprint on June 16. It’s the band’s first new full-length since 2012’s acclaimed Arrow, the group’s debut for Partisan. (The band took local group Wussy on tour after Arrow's release.)


The Bastards, who recently opened some arena concert dates for Rock music legend Bob Seger, also announced a string of tour dates beginning in June that will bring them back to Cincinnati for a two-night stand at Woodward Theater.  The band plays the newly remodeled/reopened Over-the-Rhine venue June 25-26 with opener Craig Finn (frontman for The Hold Steady).

A limited number of tickets for the Woodward shows are available starting today at noon through a special songkick.com presale. Click here for details


 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.25.2015 32 hours ago
Posted In: News at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

3CDC moves ahead with huge 15th and Race development; Ohio transportation budget includes obstacle for student voters; House to hear fetal heartbeat abortion restriction bill

Hey all, here’s the news today.

After some reconfiguration, 3CDC has announced it is moving ahead with its plans for development on the corner of 15th and Race Street. The development is set to include 27 affordable units of housing and 63 units total, along with more than 37,000 square feet of commercial space. It’s unclear what level of affordability the subsidized units will be, but 3CDC is applying for federal low-income housing tax credits and partnering with Model Group and Cornerstone Renter Equity on those units. The project will be 3CDC’s second-largest in OTR at 2.2 acres, just slightly smaller than Mercer Commons on Vine Street. The nonprofit developer had floated earlier plans that included a parking garage, but has nixed that idea after outcry from some neighborhood groups and historic preservation advocates. Instead, the project will include a surface lot behind buildings on Race Street.

• Suspended Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter was back in court today on a reprisal of sorts from her trial last  year, when she was tried on nine felony charges and convicted of one. She’s being tried again on charges that she misused a court credit card. The jury couldn’t consider that charge last time due to a legal technicality dealing with the language of the charge, then-Hamilton County Court Judge Norbert Nadel ruled. Hunter also faces retrial on the other charges in June after the last jury couldn’t reach a verdict. Hunter pleaded not guilty to the credit card charge. She faces a year in prison if convicted.

• If you attend City Council meetings as much as I do, you hear the name Jeff McElravy pretty often. He’s been a big part of the city’s Department of Trade and Development, a post the city recently announced he’ll be leaving next month. McElravy had been interim head of the department during the city’s negotiations to bring General Electric to The Banks before he was replaced by current permanent trade and development head Oscar Bedolla. McElravy currently serves as the city’s downtown development manager. He’ll leave that job, and working for the city, on April 20.

• Though I’m sometimes pretty critical of our hometown grocery giant, I’ll give Kroger this: They do pretty well when it comes to beer selection. Just last night I scored Rivertown Brewery’s Vanilla Espresso Porter there, one of my favorites. And apparently, it’s just going to get better. The grocery chain has announced it is increasing its stock of local craft beers by 30 percent, giving more shelf space to Cincinnati names like Rhinegiest, Madtree and Christian Moerlein. I usually prefer to hit up Party Source for my beer (worker owned, what’s up) because they carry some of the best crazy dark beers, but hey, I’ll go Krogering in an emergency.

• A proposed transportation budget the Ohio General Assembly is mulling includes a provision that could make it much harder for college students from out of state to vote. The provision requires residents to register their cars in Ohio, if they have one, and get an Ohio driver’s license in order to vote here. Conservatives who are pushing the measure say it’s designed to keep non-residents from voting in state elections. If you register to vote from a campus address, you have to re-register your car in Ohio, the new provision stipulates. If you don’t, your out-of-state license becomes invalid.

Some Democratic lawmakers have cried foul, saying it amounts to voter suppression and intimidation of college students, who tend to vote more progressively. Some Democrats have shot back with a counter-proposal. If students must register their cars to register to vote, it only makes sense they get in-state tuition as well, right? State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, a Democrat from Portage County, is pushing that exact logic in response to the Republican voter registration idea. She says the fees associated with car registration and license changes would be a deterrent for students and amount to suppressing their votes. Clyde and other Democrats have signaled they may not vote for the transportation budget if the provision isn’t removed.

• In other State House news, another abortion restriction bill will be up for a floor vote today in the Ohio House of Representatives. The bill would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat has been detected. Republicans there say they have enough votes to get the bill on to the state Senate, but GOP leaders there are worried the law could cause federal court challenges that might undermine other abortion restrictions passed in Ohio.

That’s it for me. Hit me up on Twitter or email me with your news tips.

 
 
by Katie Holocher 03.25.2015 32 hours ago
Posted In: Recipes, local restaurant at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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From Otto's Kitchen: Smoked Tomato Aioli

Chef Paul Weckman, owner of Covington mainstay Otto's, is getting ready to launch his second restaurant, Frida, in MainStrasse this May. Frida, named after Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, will be the first and only mezcal bar in town. Mezcal, of which tequila is a specific type, is really a community-oriented beverage, in both style and process. “Mexican moonshine, they call it,” Weckman says. The restaurant will also offer Latin-inspired street food, boasting tortas, empanadas, tacos and lime-zested wings. 

While you wait for Frida, recreate some of Otto's magic at home with the restaurant's popular smoked tomato aioli, which is served with seared scallops. It is also a great “go-to” condiment when looking to add a smoky hint. 

Smoked Tomato Aioli 
Recipe provided by Paul Weckman 

Ingredients: 
4 large ripe tomatoes 
3 cloves garlic 
6 cups mayonnaise (Hellmann’s) 
Salt and fresh ground pepper 
Hickory chips 

Instructions: On the grill, smoke tomatoes over soaked hickory chips until skins turn dark brown. Remove and add remaining ingredients with tomatoes to blender or food processor. Blend on high until all ingredients are mixed and aioli has smooth consistency.

Read more about Weckman's journey here.
 
 
by Mike Breen 03.24.2015 53 hours ago
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music at 12:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Ray’s Music Exchange Returns, "Rays" Stick Around

Popular late ’90s/early ’00s band reunites and announces off-shoot group, Rays

One of Cincinnati’s best groups from the late ’90s/early ’00s, Ray’s Music Exchange, is returning to the stage this weekend for its fourth annual reunion show. The band, which crafted a wide-ranging sound that incorporated everything from Jazz and Rock to Electronic, World music and beyond, performs at Over-the-Rhine's Woodward Theater this Saturday at 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance here and $18 at the door. Local video artists Big Bang Productions are providing visual backdrops for the concert.


Saturday’s show will feature most of the members that performed with the group throughout its run, many of whom now live out of town. Guitarist Brad Myers (who is set to release his own Jazz album on June 2) says that after the reunion the “local core” of the band — which will debut new material at the show — will continue to perform locally and regionally, carrying on under the name Rays. Joining Myers in Rays are Mike Darrah (keyboards), Michael Mavridoglou (trumpet), Nick Blasky (bass) and Jason Smart (drums). 


For those that may have missed out on Ray’s Music Exchange the first time around (or those who might want to complete their Ray’s collection), the group’s entire back catalog — including the live double album A Live Rayunion, which was recorded at the band’s first reunion show (and also filmed and released on DVD) — is available through most major digital music retailers. (Click here to check out the releases on CDBaby.)

For more on Ray’s Music Exchange, visit the group's Facebook page here


 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.24.2015 55 hours ago
Posted In: News at 10:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Historic Covington buildings get renovation; Kasich courts New Hampshire; Gannett and Starbucks mocked on Twitter for race initiative

Hey all. News has happened. Here it is.

First, let’s get this out of the way. I don’t watch football. Ever. But that doesn’t mean YOU don’t watch football. Or maybe someone you know? And heck, maybe you want to watch games that take place in the stadium you are paying for as a Hamilton County resident from the comfort of your own couch or favorite bar without having to pay the high ticket prices to see the game in person. That’s a perfectly understandable ambition, given that about many millions of our tax dollars are paying for the Bengals’ home. The good news is that almost every NFL team owner voted recently to end, at least for the coming season, the league’s policy of not televising games that don’t sell out. In fact, the only owner who didn’t vote to end the blackout policy is Bengals owner Mike Brown. Now, Brown says he supports televising every Bengals home game. But he’s concerned about the way revenue is split between home and away teams under the new agreement, which basically stipulates the home team will have to pay the away team if the game doesn’t reach 85 percent capacity. That does sound like a raw deal for small markets like Cincy, but so does voting to keep fans from watching games in the stadium they paid for. Glad I don’t care about football.

• Cincinnati developer Model Group will renovate 13 historic buildings containing affordable housing in Covington’s Mainstrasse district. The group will work in partnership with Welcome House, a social service agency based in the city, and use $700,000 in federal low-income housing tax credits for the project’s first phase. The project could also be eligible for historic preservation tax credits. The renovations will reduce the number of units available in the buildings from 51 to 43 but will result in larger living spaces aimed at single parents who need affordable housing. The project is expected to be complete in 2016. One building, 801 Main St., is a commercial space and will remain so after renovations wrap up.

• Yes, yes, we all complain about how crazy Cincinnati’s weather patterns are. I thought this was a tic common to many areas of the country, with nearly everyone thinking they have the craziest weather around. Turns out, however, that we have some scientific, or at least quasi-scientific, backing for our whining. Nate Silver’s data journalism project Five Thirty Eight ran some climate data on cities across the country and came up with the top places in the country with unpredictable weather. Guess what? Cincinnati is number four on the list. The analysis takes into account temperature, precipitation and a number of other meteorological phenomena. So yeah, next time you want to complain about the fact that it was 70 degrees yesterday and will be snowing tomorrow, go for it. Math is on your side.

• I’m a little late on this one, but in case you missed it, the push to get daily rail between Cincinnati and Chicago has some new supporters. The city of Norwood has signaled it is supporting those efforts, which are led by pro-transit group All Aboard Ohio. Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly, a Democrat from Indiana, has also pitched in on the cause in a way, telling state and federal agencies they should keep current rail lines open between cities in Indiana and Chicago so service can someday be expanded.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich is in New Hampshire today in what is his most straightforward presidential campaign trip yet. Kasich hasn’t officially announced he’s running for the GOP nomination for president (only U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has made that commitment) but there is simply no other reason for Kasich’s trip. He’s testing the waters in important primary states now, trying to boost his stature among Republicans who will have to decide who to nominate next summer at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

Recent polls show Kasich doing well in Ohio but drawing mostly a blank in other parts of the country. If the gov is able to make news in New Hampshire, or New York and Maine, where he travels next, it could boost his profile and put him in league with figures like Cruz and U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who have been in the national spotlight by virtue of their offices and high-profile stances (some would say antics) against Democrats and President Barack Obama. Kasich at times tacks more moderate (at least when it comes to things like Ohio’s Medicaid expansion and Common Core education standards) and has been active mainly in Ohio, so he has some catching up to do. But, heck, saying one crazy thing about how climate change isn’t real or about how we should abolish a couple federal agencies could get him some big attention.

• Hey, did you know that testing giant Pearson, which designs and administers the Common Core tests Ohio students are currently taking, collects student data — name, gender, race, scores — even though the state of Ohio, to which the company reports, doesn’t? And also, did you know that the company has been monitoring students’ social media profiles for leaked test questions? Well, now you know.

• Finally, oof. Reaction to “Race Together,” a new initiative in which two of the nation’s big corporations team up to “tackle the issue of race in America” has been predictably brutal, with many taking to Twitter to mock the idea. Starbucks and Gannett announced March 19 that they were partnering on the project, the first phase of which involved baristas writing #racetogether on customers’ cups and engaging them in conversations about our society’s race issues. Because that’s what baristas want to do first thing in the morning when they’re facing a line of grumpy, caffeine-starved customers.

Starbucks has also been distributing a special edition of USA Today featuring stories about race, which Gannett guarantees is mostly typo-free because race is a very important issue. A few critiques come to mind, one of which is that hashtags don’t work outside the Internet. Also, maybe when your leadership teams look like this and this, it’s better to listen, do some corporate self-reflection and seek feedback instead of trying to “tackle” an issue.

 
 
by Nick Swartsell 03.23.2015 3 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Red Bike to expand to NKY; did Mason break open meetings laws?; study: sprawl costs U.S. $1 trillion a year

Hey all. Hope you had a good weekend and are recovering from whatever NCAA tournament festivities you may have attended. Yeah, yeah, Xavier won. UC lost. The Dayton Flyers pulled out an upset over Providence Friday only to lose to the Sooners last night. Depending on who you were rooting for, you’re probably either nursing some slight heartache, the waning throes of a post-celebratory hangover, or both.

Anyway. Here’s what’s up in the news today.

Cincinnati's Red Bike is heading south. The city of Covington announced it has found funding for up to six Red Bike stations and will be working with the nonprofit to bring bike sharing to Northern Kentucky. The city has said it’s looking at locations near the Roebling suspension bridge, in Mainstrasse Village and other key places. The stations cost about $50,000 each. Cincinnati has 30 throughout downtown and uptown, spurred by a $1 million grant approved by Cincinnati City Council last year.

• A one-time 3CDC mover and shaker will now work for another big developer in Cincinnati. Former 3CDC Executive Vice President Chad Munitz, who left the developer in December, will soon start work with Mount Adams-based Towne Properties. Munitz played a big role in a number of 3CDC’s signature projects over his nine-year tenure there, including the redevelopment of OTR’s Washington Park. He’ll work to help Towne Properties identify new development opportunities in Cincinnati and beyond.

• Did Mason’s City Council violate the city’s charter and Ohio law when it held a last-minute special session to approve a tax deal with P&G last week? Some residents there think so. Mason’s council called the last-minute session Tuesday to pass a $34 million dollar deal that put the finishing touches on a $300 million plan by the company to expand a business center there. The trouble is, council gave only a day’s notice and scheduled the meeting mid-day during working hours, which could violate Ohio’s open meetings laws. Those laws require that the public business is done in a public manner with ample notice beforehand. The notice sent out by council about the meeting also didn’t stipulate a reason or agenda. Council immediately went into private executive session when it convened, then came out and approved the P&G deal. Critics, including some Mason residents, say it all seems secretive and not very public. Seems like they have a good point.

• ResponsibleOhio’s effort to make marijuana legal in Ohio took another step forward as the Ohio Ballot Board approved the group’s language for a proposed law it hopes to put on the ballot in November. ResponsibleOhio’s proposal would allow anyone over 21 to purchase and smoke weed, but would limit commercial cultivation of marijuana to 10 state-sanctioned growers. That detail has caused controversy from other marijuana legalization advocates. The group still needs to collect more than 300,000 valid signatures from Ohio voters in 44 of the state’s 88 counties by July to get the amendment on the ballot.

• Ohio is the 47th worst state in terms of its tax structure’s fairness to low-income people, a study by personal finance website Wallethub.com says. The report found that low-income Ohioans making $25,000 a year or less pay nearly 11.5 percent of their income in taxes, compared to 9.5 percent for high-income earners. By the way, Ohio didn’t do so great when it came to those top-tier workers, either. The state ranks the 41st best place for people making $150,000 a year or more.

• Here's a pretty interesting study that says urban sprawl costs America more than $1 trillion a year. Wait, so are they saying building highways on top of highways and more McMansions a 45-minute drive from major urban employment centers was an inefficient use of resources? Say it ain't so. Anyway, ignore my editorializing and check out the study. This seems like such a difficult and huge thing to calculate, and I wonder if any readers see things they've missed or other ways to frame the question of how sprawl impacts our economy.

• Finally, I think we all knew this was coming. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas announced this morning he’s running for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination. On Twitter. The simple tweet read, “I’m running for President and I hope to earn your support!” It also included a video of Cruz’s first campaign ad, a dramatic 30-second piece that shows people America-ing all over the place, riding motorcycles through the desert, welding things, playing baseball of course and generally holding small American flags in verdant parks the way we Americans are wont to do.

Notably missing: bald eagles dropping apple pies on our confused and cowering enemies. Otherwise, though, very American. Cruz is perhaps the most conservative of the many names that have been bandied about as a Republican nominee. The freshman Senator has been one of the most vocal opponents of President Barack Obama, especially the Affordable Care Act. Cruz played a big role in last October’s government shutdown when he engineered a bizarre faux-filibuster and other obstructive measures designed to block passage of a budget that allowed the ACA to remain funded. So he has that on his resume. He’s also a loud climate change denier, or at least skeptic, and generally opposes things that liberals and moderates are into.

 
 
 
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