Home - Blogs - Staff Blogs - Latest Blogs
Latest Blogs
by Staff 05.29.2015 136 days ago
at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekenders: What We're Doing This Weekend

Nelsonville Music Festival, Wine & Canvas, May Festival and more

Each week CityBeat staffers share their weekend plans: from dinner and drinks or special events to out-of-town concerts and stories we're working on. And some of us just watch TV.

Jesse Fox: This weekend I am shooting my first weekend of many summer music festivals. I will be traveling with former CityBeat intern, Catie Viox, to Nelsonville Music Festival to photograph a variety of amazing acts including Built to Spill, Black Lips and St. Vincent. Sunday, when I return, I plan to go by Riverbend to catch my friend Ben playing drums for this little band he's in called Dashboard Confessional

Jac Kern: Tonight I will be living out my dream of being a hair model while volunteering for the May Festival. With a big, flower-filled 'do courtesy of Parlour, I’ll be greeting patrons as they arrive at the longstanding choral festival beginning at 6:30 p.m. If you see me, say hi! The May Festival closes this weekend with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Other than that, I'll be keeping it 100 percent chill (Read: boring), playing The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and watching the season premiere of Halt and Catch Fire Sunday.

Emily Begley: I’m heading up to Dayton on Saturday night to check out Wine & Canvas, which advertises itself as “the painting class with cocktails.” Each class lets you try your hand at a different portrait, and this weekend’s project is “Colorful Elephant,” a close-up of a wistful-looking elephant rendered in blues and greens. I’m not the best painter in the world — especially when alcohol is thrown into the mix — so I’ll probably be figuring out where to hang a portrait of an elephantine blob Sunday morning.

by Nick Swartsell 05.29.2015 137 days ago
Posted In: News at 08:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

City applies for fed funding for Elmore Street bridge; Big step for Wasson Way soon?; tiny houses catch on in Cleveland

Hey all! News time.

First, a couple Cincinnati City Council things. Council yesterday voted to apply for up to $33 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER, grants for the proposed Elmore Street Connector project. The bridge, which would connect Cincinnati State to the West Side after the current I-74 exit there is removed, is expected to cost up to $44 million. Currently, the city and the state would split that cost, but the federal money could lower the burden for both significantly.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is undertaking a years-long reworking of the I-75 corridor, which includes changing interchanges that connect the highway and I-74 to uptown. ODOT’s original plans remove the I-74 exit onto Central Parkway, which carries traffic to Cincinnati State’s doorstep, but wouldn’t replace that exit. That led to proposals for an overpass over I-75 to relink the area with Beekman Street, which runs through South Cumminsville and other neighborhoods on the other side of the Mill Creek Valley. Despite the backing of area employers in the Uptown Consortium, the project has been controversial.

But the bridge won’t cause delays to other parts of the project as previously expected, ODOT now says. Last month, officials said that constructing the bridge, which Cincinnati State President O’Dell Owens has championed, could delay the construction of the Hopple Street ramp until as late as 2020. After the potential delay was revealed and business owners in Camp Washington raised objections, Owens wrote a letter to ODOT requesting that the Hopple project not be delayed by the I-74 bridge. In an email response to that letter yesterday, Ohio Department of Transportation Acting District Deputy Director Gary L. Middleton said that removing the current I-74 interchange and constructing the new bridge would not affect the construction time frame for the Hopple exit.

Owens has said the bridge would provide Cincinnati State students living on the West Side a vital direct link to the school. Economic impact studies touted by Mayor John Cranley’s office and undertaken by the Greater Cincinnati Economics Center for Education & Research in 2014 suggest that the bridge could have an economic impact worth millions, as well as reconnecting neglected neighborhoods like Millvale and South Cumminsville, which were cut off from the rest of the city by construction of the interstates.

Now, if we could just get some of those millions for more public transit options in Cincinnati….

• A major bike trail on Cincinnati’s East Side could soon be one step closer to reality. The city of Cincinnati hopes to have a deal to present City Council for purchasing the right of way along the mostly unused Wasson Way rail line by Monday, City Manager Harry Black revealed in yesterday’s City Council meeting. The right of way, currently owned by Norfolk Southern, is needed for a proposed 7.5-mile bike path stretching from Mariemont to Xavier University in Evanston. Plans for an extension into Avondale have also been floated. Securing right of way for the trail is a crucial step and one that needs to be taken soon, Black said. The city is in the final stages of applying for a share of $500 million in TIGER grants the U.S. Department of Transportation has made available this year, and owning right of way is an important part of winning those funds.

• The Greater Cincinnati YMCA released big renovation plans for its downtown location yesterday. The building was built in 1917 and is an iconic presence along Central Parkway. The branch closed in December for the work, and now the YMCA is rolling out its detailed plans for what it will look like when finished. Among the big changes: much more natural light in the facility’s two-story fitness center, lounges with 50-inch TVs, new weight-lifting equipment and preservation of the site’s running track. That last one is huge for me. Sign me up when they reopen. I hate treadmills and it’s very difficult to find a good indoor track these days. City Council yesterday voted to approve a tax exemption for the entirety of the improvements made to the property. The project will revamp the entire building and add up to 65 units of affordable housing for seniors. The work is expected to cost $27 million. The facility is expected to be open to the public again around this time next year. In the meantime, 12 other branches are open in the West End, Walnut Hills, Northern Kentucky and elsewhere around the area.

• A group of about 50 people gathered at Ziegler Park in Over-the-Rhine yesterday for a rally organized by Cincinnati Black Lives Matter in remembrance of unarmed women and trans people of color killed recently in police-related incidents around the country. Among those remembered was Rekia Boyd, who died in 2012 after off-duty Chicago police officer Dante Servin fired into a dark alley and shot her. Boyd was not involved in an earlier confrontation that led officer Servin to give chase to the group of people he fired at, and a Chicago judge found his actions “beyond reckless.” Servin, who says one of the group pulled something from their waistband and that he feared for his life at the time, was not punished for Boyd’s death. Organizers of yesterday’s rally in OTR said they wanted to highlight Boyd’s story and others as continued attention is paid to the shooting of unarmed men of color like Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and John Crawford III.

• Finally, Cincinnati isn’t the only Ohio city grabbing on to the tiny house trend. People’s Liberty grant recipient Brad Cooper has gotten a lot of attention lately for his project, which looks to build two 200-square foot houses in Over-the-Rhine. Cooper got $100,000 from People's Liberty to carry out that plan, but Cincy isn't the only city where enthusiasm is growing for the concept. This Cleveland Plain Dealer article details how the small, simple house movement is gathering steam in Cleveland and Toledo, where folks are making big plans to build similar tiny houses in urban areas.

That’s it for me. Tweet or email me with any story tips or just to say hey.

by Nick Swartsell 05.28.2015 137 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Shootings in Cincy at 10-year-high; Covington low-income housing causes controversy; Ohio sheriff deputy fired for racist tweets

Good morning Cincy. Here’s your news today.

While we’ve all heard the good news that is going down in Cincinnati, there’s one big exception. Some recent serious but mostly non-fatal shootings in Walnut Hills, CUF, West End and other neighborhoods (including a few right outside my house in Mount Auburn) have put gun crimes in Cincinnati at a 10-year high. That’s caused some to call into question the effectiveness of the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence, or CIRV. The program has produced good results in the past, though its funding has been uneven. But with gun violence on the rise, detractors like Councilman Charlie Winburn say it might be time to try something else. Winburn suggested getting rid of CIRV during a presentation of crime data at Tuesday’s Cincinnati City Council Law and Public Safety Committee meeting. Others, however, say the program, which relies on a number of methods including civilian peacekeepers, law enforcement home visits to repeat offenders and social service referrals, is doing its job and needs more support. Councilwoman Yvette Simpson suggested at the Tuesday meeting that more emphasis on social services and anti-poverty measures like neighborhood redevelopment might be part of the answer.

• Greater Cincinnati’s unemployment rate is at its lowest level in 14 years, according to figures released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Companies in the region added nearly 20,000 new jobs in April, the data shows, the biggest increase in the past three years. But the area hasn’t avoided a major pitfall that has accompanied economic recovery around the country — while the overall unemployment rate is down, economists say, so are wages in the region. Meanwhile, underemployment, or people working part-time when they want to be working full time, is up in the Greater Cincinnati area. That dynamic could keep the economy sluggish, experts say.

• A plan to renovate 13 buildings in Covington’s MainStrasse neighborhood for 50 units of low-income housing we told you about in March has run into opposition from some in the community, who are vowing to fight the development. Cincinnati-based Model Group and women’s shelter Welcome House have partnered on the project, which is slated to receive federal low-income housing tax credits through the Kentucky Housing Corp. About half of the buildings have already been green-lighted for those credits, and applications for the rest will be filed later this year. But neighboring property owners are upset about the fact those tax credits require the currently crumbling buildings on Pike Street to remain low-income housing for 30 years after they’re renovated. They say that will dampen private investment in the area and lower the value of their properties, and they’re asking the city to fight the state’s decision to award the credits. However, it’s unclear that Covington officials have any power to challenge the state’s decision.

• Yikes. A sheriff’s deputy in Clark County Ohio, where Springfield is, has been fired after he took to Twitter with some seriously racist thoughts about protests in Baltimore. That city experienced civil unrest last month after a man named Freddie Gray died in police custody under questionable circumstances. “Baltimore the last few days = real life Planet of the Apes,” Clark County Deputy Zachary Davis tweeted April 28. Another tweet that day suggested: “It’s time to start using deadly force in Baltimore. When they start slaying these ignorant young people it’ll send a message.” After the tweets were brought to the attention of Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly yesterday, Davis was immediately fired. “If you’re posting these type of statements then I don’t feel you can serve this community,” Kelly told the Springfield News-Sun yesterday evening. Good for him.

• Two of the most powerful Republicans in Kentucky, and really in the whole country, have been butting heads big time in the Senate. U.S. Senator Rand Paul, who as you probably already know is running for president, has been digging in his heals on a portion of the Patriot Act that allows the National Security Administration to collect so-called meta data on Americans’ cell phone calls. Congress has just days to renew that particular program, as well as other parts of the Patriot Act. Paul and other Senators on both sides of the aisle have refused to allow cloture in the Senate for a bill that would do that unless NSA cell phone surveillance programs are nixed or significantly reformed. Paul and other Senators have used procedural maneuvers to keep that from happening.

That, of course, hasn’t been great for Kentucky’s other Senator, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is charged with getting things passed through the chamber. This is especially awkward since McConnell has endorsed Paul for president. It’s yet another example of the complicated, fractious relationships that the GOP must navigate as it tries to take back the White House in 2016. Paul is playing the NSA card to appeal both to his grassroots, anti-government libertarian base as well as more civil-liberty minded independents. Meanwhile, rank and file Republicans want to see the Patriot Act renewal passed. Politics is awkward and complicated, y’all.

by Staff 05.27.2015 138 days ago
at 11:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
todo_park and vine

This Week's Dining Events

Cooking classes, wine festivals, pig roasts, Park + Vine turns 8 and more

This week's dining events, cooking classes and more for the culinary enthusiast.

Sunset Salons: Bourbon — Head to the Clifton Cultural Arts Center for barrel-aged wisdom from New Riff distilling’s Jay Erisman, The Littlefield’s John Ford and Molly Wellman. Includes samples. 6:30-9 p.m. $15; $20 door. 3711 Clifton Ave., Clifton, cliftonculturalarts.org.

Dinner & Dance: Texas Two-Step — Start with a quick 30-minute Texas Two-Step dance lesson. Menu includes Jamaican jerk baby back ribs, Texas jalapeno hush puppies, watermelon salad and more. 6:30-9 p.m. $140. Cooks’Wares, 11344 Montgomery Road, Harper’s Point, cookswaresonline.com.

Early Summer Pasta — In this class, prepare two summer pasta dishes: orzo with smoked paprika shrimp and pesto vinaigrette, and soba noodles with asparagus and prosciutto. 6-8 p.m. $70. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox Lane, West Chester, thelearningkitchen.com.

Grilling Cedar-Planked Salmon with Ellen — Learn to grill salmon on a cedar plank. Also on the menu: sangria, spicy red lentil dip, brown rice and barley pilaf, snow peas and deep dish brownies. 6-8:30 p.m. $65. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

Hone your Knife Skills — This class is all about building confidence in the kitchen, learning how to properly care for and hold a knife, then chopping, dicing, julienning and more. 6-8 p.m. $60. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox lane, West Chester, 513-847-4474, thelearningkitchen.com.

Bacchanalian Society Spring Gathering — Bring three same-brand Malbecs for tasting. Includes hors d’oeuvres from Keystone Bar & Grill. Benefits Cancer Family Care. 7-10 p.m. $15; $20 day of. Ault Park, 3600 Observatory Ave., Mount Lookout, bacchanaliansociety.com.

Healthy Smoothie Making Class — Learn how to make delicious health-smart smoothies. Registered dietitian/nutritionist answers questions regarding health/nutrition, disease prevention and cooking. Taste various flavored smoothies and meet other health-minded people. 5:30-7 p.m. Peachy’s Health Smart, 7400 Montgomery Road, Silverton, peachyshealthsmart.com.

All About Avocados — Beth Leah, certified holistic health coach, leads a cooking class centered on avocados. 7-8 p.m. Free. Whole Foods, 2693 Edmondson Road, Norwood, bethleahnutrition.com.

Longevity Celebration: Park + Vine Turns 8 — Park + Vine celebrates its eighth anniversary on Final Friday with live music, food, a photo booth and an ’80s-themed DJ. 6-10 p.m. Free. Park + Vine, 1202 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, parkandvine.com.

Indian Rice Workshop — Chef Madhu Sinha leads a class to learn to prepare chicken biryani, lemon rice and coconut rice. 6-8 p.m. $75. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox lane, West Chester, 513-847-4474, thelearningkitchen.com.

Friday Night Grillouts at Lake Isabella — Great Parks of Hamilton County hosts this weekly grillout at Lake Isabella. Items available a la carte. Dine on the outdoor covered patio by the lake, or in the air-conditioned chart room. Features live music. 5-8 p.m. Prices vary. 10174 Loveland-Madeira Road, Loveland, 513-521-7275.

Crafts and Crafts — Take a tropical vacation without leaving town by visiting Krohn Conservatory’s Crafts and Crafts event, bringing together their Butterflies of the Philippines exhibit, a handful of craft vendors and local craft beer. It’s a perfect evening to enjoy the colorful butterfly show while imbibing some adult beverages, including Filipino cocktails and food like roasted pork, chicharrón and fried peanuts. Must be 21.  5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday. $12; $15 door. Krohn Conservatory, 1501 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, 513-421-4086.

Oxford Wine Festival — The eighth annual Oxford Wine Festival features fine wines, craft beer and area artisans. Guests will receive five tasting tickets to same wines (or beers) from around the world. 2-10 p.m. $20; $25 at the gate. Oxford Uptown Parks, Oxford, Ohio, oxfordchamber.org

Tapas! The Wine and Food of Spain — On the menu: skewered food on toothpicks, grilled tomato bread, shrimp and mushrooms, Basque-style meatballs with asparagus, stuffed mushrooms, honeyed figs with Serrano ham, eggplant salad and crème de Catalan. Noon-3 p.m. $65. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

Swine, Wine & Shine Pig Roast — Anderson Pub & Grill is throwing a pig roast, complete with beer, wine and moonshine specials, plus a barbecue sauce contest judged by area chefs and food celebrities. Sauces must be submitted by 1 p.m. 1 p.m.-2 a.m. Prices vary. Anderson Pub & Grill, 8060 Beechmont Ave., Anderson, 513-474-4400, andersonpubandgrill.com. 

Great Parks Dinner Series — Celebrate Broadway at this dinner and a show, complete with classic Broadway tunes performed on stage. Menu includes chef-carved prime rib, chicken breast, lasagna, salad and more. 7 p.m. $29.95 adult; $14.95 child. Mill Race Banquet Center, 1515 W. Sharon Road, Winton Woods, 513-521-7275.

Mt. Adams Pavilion White Party — Dress in all white for the Mt. Adams Pavilion White Party. Features live music from steel drum band The SunBurners, DJs, a Caribbean-style buffet, frozen drinks and more. 7 p.m. No cover. 949 Pavilion St., Mount Adams, facebook.com/mountadamspavilion.

Bugs to Munch — Head to Sharon Woods to eat some bugs. Bring an appetite and open mind for an afternoon class on how to cook with bugs, including tastings. 2 p.m. $2; valid park pass. Sharon Woods Sharon Centre, 11459 Lebanon Road, Sharonville, 513-521-7275, greatparks.org.

Way Beyond Rice — Explore the versatility of rice cookers with dishes like steamed halibut with lemon dill rice, lemon chicken soup with orzo and more. 6:30-8:30 p.m. $70. Cooks’Wares, 11344 Montgomery Road, Harper’s Point, cookswaresonline.com.

Cincinnati Favorites: Recipes & Stories from The Findlay Market Cookbook — Explore recipes from the cookbook, including seasonal favorites from chefs like Jose Salazar and Fresh Table at Findlay Market. 6-8:30 p.m. $50. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

French Bistro Classics — Escargot Bourguignon, French onion soup, steak frites and tarte tatin. 6:30-9 p.m. $55. Cooks’Wares, 11344 Montgomery Road, Harper’s Point, cookswaresonline.com.

Quarterly Chef’s Table Event — Seven-course meal exploring the chemistry between food and wine. 6-8:30 p.m. $58. The Art of Entertaining, O’Bryonville, cincyartofentertaining.com.

by David Watkins 05.27.2015 138 days ago
at 10:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Queer City Spotlight: Judith Iscariot on Cincinnati's Drag Scene

Local LGBTQ news and views

After almost seven successful seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race, drag has been infused into mainstream popular culture more than ever before. Drag, once thought taboo by many, is now becoming widely accepted as an art form. The show produces an ensemble of drag queens, each with their own fan base, that go out and tour all over the world post-show. The RuPaul’s Drag Race queens, unofficially coined “Ru Girls” by season five runner-up Alaska 5000, fill up queer night clubs and bars with fans of all ages dying for a picture or even just acknowledgement from their favorite star. It has even been suggested that Drag Race and Ru Girls have saved or rejuvenated the queer club scene after a stagnant period of time. The show has given a group of historically unappreciated performers a platform to make music, act, promote philanthropic issues, make a living and share their art with the world.

But, of course, not everyone is cast in the 14-member ensemble — and some do not want to be. Some queens cite Drag Race as a misrepresentation of drag and reject even a conversation about the show. Others, mostly younger queens known as the “Drag Race Generation,” swear by it so religiously that their concept of drag is considered unrealistic or naïve.

Whether performing on TV or in local clubs, drag queens have become queer Rock stars. Being a hardcore Drag Race fan and drag culture enthusiast, I am left wondering why I have to travel to Louisville, Ky., or Columbus, Ohio to see my favorite Ru Girl and experience the best venues. What needs to happen to make the scene more engaging? Was Cincinnati ever a destination for queer nightlife? Will more big-name Ru Girls come to the local clubs or bars in the future? I asked Cincinnati alternative-camp queen Judith Iscariot to weigh in on the current state of the queer nightlife scene, the queer movement and drag culture in Cincinnati.


CityBeat: How did you create the name Judith Iscariot?

Judith Iscariot: Judas [from the Bible] is considered the number one traitor — the worst person in history. But if you delve into other stuff like in the gospel of Judas — which a lot of Christians ignore but a lot of scholars say there is just as much merit as in the other books of the Bible — Judas actually volunteered to be the betrayer. Jesus approached the apostles and said, “I am going to be betrayed by one of you,” and Judas was like, “I’ll do it,” knowing full well that he would take the blame and he would be scorned and possibly go to hell. I think he gets a bad rep because everyone sees him as this villain when in reality he’s kind of this tragic hero, and I think he is ostracized, villainized for all the wrong things. He’s misunderstood, and — not to sound like some grand character — that’s how I felt at the time in my relationship. That my ex-boyfriend and his friends and stuff made me out to be the bad guy but, in reality, I was just trying to do the best I could. I felt completely betrayed in the way I feel Judas was betrayed by his own God, rather than the way Jesus was betrayed by Judas. You have to get both sides of the story to see who the real monster is. I then came up with the character of Judith Iscariot, and I was like, “That’s genius.”

Judith Iscariot performing at The Cabaret

CB: Could you survey Cincinnati’s drag scene?

JI: The drag is very Midwestern. They all want to do the big hair, big padding, the outfits made by fellow queens of stretch fabric and spandex materials. Most people glue down their brows and draw them on and do really hardcore shading. It’s of course very different in the big cities like New York. New York definitely celebrates the club kid scene [NYC club personalities who wore elaborate and outrageous costumes in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s] where things are just really wild — bearded drag and all that stuff. L.A. is about glamour and — I hate the term — “fishy” queens [a widely used but recently controversial term describing a drag queen that looks extremely feminine or could pass as a cisgender woman]. In Cincinnati, it’s just kind of stagnant here, and the scene itself is very separated. It’s ruled by two different entities — The Cabaret [in Below Zero Lounge on Walnut Street] and The Dock [a dance club downtown]. The Dock is more of a young, hip scene and The Cabaret is more older clientele. I love The Cabaret because the demographic is more open to appreciate camp [an over-the-top, exaggerated style usually meant to be comedic] and not just glamour.

CB: It seems like the drag scenes in Louisville and Columbus have better opportunities for queens and clubgoers. Why do I have to travel to another city — that isn’t much different from Cincy — to see a Ru Girl, for example? What kind of club or change would you like to see in Cincinnati?

JI: We used to have Adonis the Nightclub, which was like our Play or Axis [popular dance clubs in Louisville and Columbus] — huge front video bar, huge dance floor, separate room with a big stage. The only reason it didn’t dominate the scene is because it was kind of a far drive away. It was a 15-minute drive east [from downtown], which isn’t bad, but a lot of people want to stay right in the city. I would love to see something like Adonis transplanted right into the city. We still don’t really have that in Cincinnati, but it would really thrive from a large, accessible dance club that features drag. That would be amazing.

CB: These days you cannot talk about drag culture without talking about RuPaul’s Drag Race. What are your thoughts about the show and how it translates from television to everyday drag scenes on a local level?

JI: I think it’s been both good and bad because the queens that really look up to Drag Race really kind of have to check themselves and realize that it’s just a television show. It’s meant to be entertaining. It’s not the 13 best drag queens in the country; it’s 13 different characters that they think would make an interesting cast. A lot of the older queens complain about Drag Race because they say it makes, you know, drag look awful, and it’s not what drag is really like. I would argue that because it kind of is [what drag is like] because it’s this fake, campy, larger-than-life mockery of, you know, womankind and reality television. A lot of bitterness just comes from queens who know they could never get on Drag Race. That doesn’t mean that they are any less talented than [the queens on the show] are. It just depends on what [RuPaul is] looking for in terms of creating a cast. I think everyone is just trying to jump on board right now when it’s really popular, but they don’t realize that the fact that Drag Race is on television — that’s revolutionizing drag, and drag will only continue to get more recognized.

CB: Do you think the success of Drag Race and Ru Girls touring has saved or improved the queer club scene? If so, what can be done or is being done to get more Drag Race girls to make a stop in Cincinnati?

JI: When I saw Raven [a fan favorite Ru Girl] at The Cabaret, I saw people there that I have never seen out before. It’s all these people that pay their $15+ to see Raven — I was just like, “Oh, cool!” It’s definitely filling up the clubs because when these Ru Girls come to clubs like during their season and right after, people go crazy for them. And they will pay whatever it takes to get in there and it’s just madness. Every time [a Ru Girl] comes to a club, that club is guaranteed to do well. Cincinnati isn’t a major destination for them. It’s Penny [Traition, a Ru Girl from Cincinnati who was a contestant on Season Five] at The Cabaret and, obviously, she knows a lot of the queens. She’s kind of the one who will bring them in most times … Cincinnati is not really on the radar or on the map. It’s Penny who [will use her connections] since they are already in Louisville or Columbus. Cincinnati is like a side project right now.

Until Cincinnati goes from side project to recognized city with a strong drag presence and scene, go see a show. Being on RuPaul’s Drag Race does not make you the best queen. Cincinnati has numerous talented queens at The Cabaret, (Ru Girl Detox performs June 24 during Cincinnati Pride), The Dock Complex and Club Glitter. Check them out and support your local queens! Bring dollar bills!

Rupaul’s Drag Race crowns the winner of Season Seven Monday night at 9 p.m. on Logo.

by Nick Swartsell 05.27.2015 138 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

New nonprofit will seek to boost streetcar; is Kasich getting soft on unions?; Rand Paul courts NYC hipsters

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

Streetcar advocates are forming a new nonprofit to help raise funds, encourage ridership and help sell advertising on the downtown and Over-the-Rhine transit project. The group will be called Cincinnati Street Railway, a nod to the city’s original streetcar transit authority. CSR will be a “non-political” and “fun” booster for rail in the basin, Haile U.S. Bank Foundation Vice President Eric Avner said yesterday at a Believe in Cincinnati townhall meeting at the Mercantile Library. The group will stay out of the fray on some of the car’s thornier issues, such as the push for an uptown extension, and will be focused on making Phase 1 of the project “as successful as possible.”

• Other key advocates for the transit project, including longtime streetcar booster John Schneider, who has led efforts to make the project a reality, Believe in Cincinnati Chairman Ryan Messer and Vice Mayor David Mann also spoke about the streetcar at the townhall meeting. Mann touched on the continued debate between the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, which will operate the streetcar, and the Amalgamated Transit Union, which staffs SORTA’s Metro buses. ATU is bidding to staff the streetcar as well, and Democratic members of council have insisted that the operating contract be awarded to union workers. However, five highly specialized jobs involving streetcar maintenance might have to be given to non-union workers, SORTA says. That’s tripped up talks between the transit authority and the union, and SORTA says it might have to go with a non-union streetcar operator, as the Business Courier reported yesterday. The transit authority is set to release the bids it has received to operate the streetcar on June 5. Testing on the streetcar begins in October. Mann says it would be “foolish” for ATU to lose the opportunity to run the streetcar based on those jobs, which he says ATU doesn’t have employees trained to do at this point anyway. ATU has proposed to SORTA that union employees be trained to do the specialized jobs, but SORTA has said that the training isn’t available in the tight timeframe in question.

• Over-the-Rhine-based Rhinegeist is expanding, opening a so-called “nanobrewery” at its distribution site in Columbus. That small brewery will only do experimental batches of possible new beers, and there are no current plans for a location like the one in OTR. The Columbus location won’t be open to the public and won’t sell beer. But Rhinegeist’s Bryant Goulding told the Akron Beacon Journal that he’s not ruling out a more public presence in Columbus in the future and that the Columbus brewery could supply some Columbus-exclusive brews down the road.

• The city of Cincinnati today official opens its Office of Performance and Data Analytics, as well as its CityStat and Innovation Lab initiatives. The efforts, which are City Manager Harry Black's first big initiative since coming to Cincinnati last year, are designed to bring a data-driven approach to city government. The programs are patterned after similar initiatives in Baltimore, where Black served in a number of roles. Black hopes to use data collected by the office to set performance goals for departments and zero in on problems in city services. The office has been given $400,000 in the coming biannual budget.

• Let’s go back to the Mercantile Library for a minute. Cincinnati Enquirer reporter John Faherty will become its new executive director, the Cincinnati institution said yesterday. The Mercantile is a membership library located downtown on Walnut Street. Founded in 1835 and headquartered in the historic Mercantile Building since 1909, the library boasts more than 200,000 volumes. The library hosts a number of high-profile literary events and public functions. Faherty has worked for the Enquirer for three years after relocating from fellow Gannett paper the Arizona Republic. He’ll leave the paper in June to take the reigns of the historic library.

• Is John Kasich getting soft on unions? The Ohio guv and GOP presidential hopeful was on the campaign trail yesterday when he said that Ohio doesn’t need a right to work law. A number of other conservative states have such laws, which forbid labor contracts between employers and workers which require all employees to be union members. Kasich has said outlawing that practice isn’t necessary in Ohio because the state doesn’t have a lot of contentious labor issues. That’s a strikingly moderate stance for the governor, who shortly after taking office in 2011 moved to eliminate public employees’ collective bargaining rights. That move was reversed by a statewide referendum in which voters overwhelmingly chose to preserve public employees’ union rights. Kasich’s statement on right to work comes a day after the governor eliminated collective bargaining rights for 15,000 home healthcare and childcare workers who contract with the state. So, you know, he’s still not that into unions.

• It’s official. Rand Paul is courting the hipster vote. The U.S. Senator from Kentucky and Republican presidential hopeful yesterday made a campaign stop at The Strand bookstore in Manhattan. It’s an amazing bookstore, but yeah. Also very hip. Anyway, Paul drew a big crowd to the store after he was invited to speak by co-owner Nancy Bass Wyden, who is married to Oregon Democrat U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden. You can read more about the appearance, and Paul’s efforts to win over young voters, in this New York Times story. The Strand has become a customary stopover for Democratic politicians hawking their newest books. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren recently dropped by promoting her new tome, though the Democrats’ likely presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has declined to appear there. Instead, she opted for a nearby Barnes & Noble to premier her latest book. Oof.

by Staff 05.26.2015 139 days ago
Posted In: Leftovers at 12:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
urbana airport cafe

Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend

Pie, burgers, bacon, corn on the cob and lots of Skyline

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

Ilene Ross: So in my never-ending search for the perfect pie, the BF flew me to the Grimes Field Municipal Airport on Sunday. Apparently this is a thing private pilots do: fly their planes to small regional airports for sport and a tasty meal. Since there was pie involved, I quickly overcame my lifelong fear of small planes and hopped on board. After about half an hour we arrived in Urbana, Ohio, and, no kidding, the housemade pies at the airport cafe are totally worth it! We had the coconut cream, but there are berry, apple, butterscotch and more. FYI, you can get there by car as well, and the town of Urbana would make a lovely day trip — although we never made it out of the airport.

Danny Cross: When in doubt during a weekend afternoon when the Reds are playing, I go to Zip's Cafe for a burger, beer and baseball. I'm kind of tired of watching the Reds lose, but I wanted a burger and to dip french fries in cheese sauce. The food was great and, as expected, the Reds disappointed by 1) losing and 2) allowing Cleveland to go ahead by four runs in the ninth inning, thereby removing the chance of my fantasy pitcher earning a save against them. And I think the Reds scored on my guy too, which was another negative. 

Nick Swartsell: In part to celebrate the long weekend and in part because my girlfriend and I both have miserable colds, we decided to go full Tom Haverford and treat ourselves. So we pan fried a giant piece of salmon in bacon grease and George Remus rye whiskey with just a little bit of chili powder. Yes, we did in fact crumble the bacon on top of the salmon as well. Actually, it was a bit more of a Ron Swanson type meal. We had some buttered asparagus and curried couscous with currants and dried apricots on the side. Very good; would do again. 

Casey Arnold: Being that Saturday had such perfect weather, my boyfriend and I were really hoping to find a place to eat outside. We talked over the list of usual spots when I remembered that we still hadn't checked out Incline Public House in Price Hill. Brian was ecstatic to discover that they had gluten-free beer, burgers and pizza. He quickly settled on a burger with a salad topped with their housemade maple vinaigrette dressing. I snacked on a few truffle Parmesan tater tots, which were as wonderful as they sounded, and landed on a delicious lemony pasta dish with shrimp and mushrooms. I think this might be our new favorite spot. 

Maija Zummo: Because we didn't have work Monday and I spent the rest of my weekend watching Hot Tub Time Machine 2, I wasted a bunch of money on Sunday and had a progressive dinner throughout most of OTR and some of Clifton. I started off by meeting my friend for a bloody mary and kale dip at The Eagle. Then we went to 1215 Wine Bar and had a great rosé flight. Nice big pours and you can play a game where you guess which wine is which based on menu descriptions. I only got one correct, but everyone wins because you can drink all the wines no matter what. Then we went to Kaze for their Tokio Happy Hour. Everything is cheap! Bottles of wine are half price, so we got one of those, and then their edamame (which they served uniquely chilled) is only $2 and veggie hand rolls are $3. It also overlaps with their daily 4-7 p.m. happy hour, so you can order from that food menu, too. And eat everything outside on their giant patio. Then we went to Neons (more patios!) and had some nice tequila strawberry (or raspberry) cocktails and tacos from Mazunte, which was manning the grill. Maybe only I had tacos. Then I petted some dogs, drank a little too much and ended up at Skyline. Had some bean and rice chili cheese sandwiches there and then grabbed some things to go for my husband who was at home — but also ordered myself some more chili cheese sandwiches. Shredded Skyline cheese is just really good.

Sarah Urmston: Since Memorial Day weekend is all about celebrating the good ol' USA, it was only logical to fire up the grill and throw down the most cliché items guaranteed to fill you in the most satisfying way possible. After my sweet man friend Bryan and I hit a Wiffle ball around the yard with an old plastic bat and swung around in his new hammock, we spent the rest of our day cooking steaks, corn on the cob, asparagus and roasted potatoes. He used all kinds of filet seasonings on the steaks while I loaded up the potato slices with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, oregano, parsley and Parmesan cheese. The asparagus wrapped in tin foil sat on the grill, covered in butter and more Parmesan cheese (you really can't go wrong with the stuff). The steaks were cooked medium-rare because chef Bryan knows exactly what he's doing. Since we ran out of plates for ourselves, we threw everything together and picked at it until it was gone. It was the best way to end a long weekend, and never have I felt more American. 
by Nick Swartsell 05.26.2015 139 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

OTR home prices head toward $1 million; Kasich cuts bargaining rights for home health and childcare workers; DOJ settlement with Cleveland police imminent

Good morning y’all. I’m back from vacation and ready to give you all the news and stuff you can handle. In case you’re wondering, my time off involved a jaunt to Chicago for a concert where audience members were encouraged to divide into two huge groups and run at each other high-fiving, trips to five Pilsen Mexican restaurants and a long night/early morning in a private karaoke room where they keep up the bootleg music videos, Red Bull, beer and Drake tracks until you die (I abstained from the beer and the Drake, but did drink way too much Red Bull). Then I came back to Cincinnati and promptly got sicker than I’ve been in a long time. Fun stuff.

Anyway, let’s do this news thing. Home prices in Over-the-Rhine are getting higher and higher, but you probably already knew that. What you maybe didn’t know is how close the neighborhood is getting to million-dollar homes. Recently, a condo on Central Parkway sold for $850,000, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. That’s roughly 4,250 nights in a private karaoke room in Chicago’s Chinatown, or, you know, 2,125 months (177 years) in an affordable apartment that costs $400 a month. While that huge figure is something of an outlier, the neighborhood is certainly heating up. The average sale price for single family homes in the neighborhood was hovering around $220,000 in 2010. These days, it’s nearly twice that at $427,000. Those developing high-selling properties in the neighborhood say that there’s more to the story than the big numbers and that they’ve put in tons of investment to bring the properties up to their current condition. Of course, the rise in values also raises questions about affordability in the historically low-income neighborhood. The amount of affordable housing in OTR has dwindled in recent years, though new additions could help that situation. Over the Rhine Community Housing, for example, just finished its Beasley Place building on Republic Street, which will provide 13 new units of subsidized housing in the neighborhood.

• Will a major federal lab end up in uptown Cincinnati? It’s a good possibility. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health is looking to consolidate two labs it currently runs in the city and is at least considering the possibility of building its new $110 million facility near the University of Cincinnati. NIOSH Director John Howard told the Cincinnati Business Courier recently that proximity to UC is a big consideration. Should NIOSH decide to build uptown, the development could play into a bigger push by area leaders to create an “innovation corridor” near the site of the new I-71 interchange along Reading Road and Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in Avondale and Walnut Hills. Uptown or no, NIOSH would like to keep the proposed 350,000-square-foot building within the I-275 loop, it says, in part because of public transit considerations.

• Speaking of public transit, don’t look to Ohio to start spending more on it anytime soon. The state legislature has dismissed suggestions that the state spend more on public transportation as it crafts the next two-year budget. Legislators in the GOP-dominated state house have brushed aside a $1 million study by the Ohio Department of Transportation calling for more spending on buses, rail and other forms of public transit. That study highlighted the growing need for public transit among the state’s low income and elderly, as well as the increasing popularity of a less car-dependent lifestyle among young professionals Ohio would like to attract. Currently, Ohio ranks 37th in per-capita spending on transit, despite being the nation’s 7th most populous state. The study recommended a $2.5 million boost in transit spending in the next year alone, part of a much larger boost over time. Even Gov. John Kasich, a vocal opponent of most transit spending, put an extra $1 million in his suggested budget for transit next year. But no go, the legislature says.

• While we’re talking about Kasich, let’s touch on his recent move cutting collective bargaining rights for home health care workers and in-home childcare workers. These workers aren’t state employees but contract with the state for some work. In 2007, then-Gov. Ted Strickland handed down an executive order giving those workers collective bargaining rights, which allowed them to receive health insurance from state worker unions among other benefits. Kasich promised to rescind that executive order during his successful run for governor against Strickland, but has held off until now, he says, to preserve the workers’ access to insurance. Now, the governor says the Affordable Care Act means that the workers don’t need unions to get health care, and that as contractors they shouldn’t be given bargaining rights. Kasich has long been a foe of collective bargaining — after taking office in 2008, he worked to end collective bargaining rights for all state employees. Voters later struck down his efforts in a state-wide referendum. Democrats and union representatives have cried foul at Kasich’s latest move.

“It’s a sad day when those who care for our children, our seniors and Ohioans with disabilities — and who simply want to be able to make ends meet while providing that invaluable service — become the target of a cynical political attack," Ohio Democratic Chairman David Pepper said in a statement.

• Finally, the big story today is happening in Cleveland, where questions about police use of force are swirling. Just days after courts dismissed manslaughter charges against Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo, a settlement between the city and the federal government looks imminent. In 2010, Brelo, who is white, fired 15 rounds into the windshield of a car, killing unarmed Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, both black, after a police chase that started when a backfire from the car was mistaken for a gunshot. That incident, as well as many others, were highlighted in a nearly two-year investigation by the DOJ into the department’s use of force. That investigation found what the DOJ calls systemic problems with the department’s use of force and the way it reports and disciplines officers who may have used force improperly.

U.S. attorneys are holding meetings with various stakeholders in the city today and are expected to soon announce a settlement between the city’s police department and the U.S. Department of Justice. The expected consent decree would put CPD under federal oversight and bring about big reforms for the department, which continues to draw controversy. Last year, an officer with the department shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice while the child played with a toy pistol. Charges against that officer are pending.

by Zack Hatfield 05.22.2015
Posted In: Film at 11:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
the joke

Foreign Film Friday: The Joke (1969)

This weekly series discusses the cultural and artistic implications of a selected foreign film.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a new Milan Kundera short story in The New Yorker. One of my favorite authors, I was intrigued to learn Kundera was releasing his tenth novel — the first in 15 years — later this year (in English; it was previously released in French). Though I enjoy reading Kundera’s work, the Czech author is known for taking umbrage at his books’ English translations. I began to wonder how he felt about his novels that have been translated onscreen, to film. 

Some quick Googling revealed he had served as either screenwriter or consultant on the only adaptations of his works, 1988's Unbearable Lightness of Being and 1969's The Joke, films that bookend the communist regime in the Czech Republic. Disappointed with Unbearable Lightness of Being, an American film starring Daniel Day-Lewis, I turned to The Joke. A film by auteur Jaromil Jireš at the crest of the Czech New Wave movement, its political tides swept the country during the end of the Prague Spring, a brief elision in the Soviet regime where democracy seemed attainable for a fleeting moment. 

I wasn’t disappointed. Not surprisingly, The Joke is inherently political, but its lofty themes of freedom thinly veil a more nuanced, personal narrative of intimacy and revenge. Told in effective jumps from the past and present, the film follows Ludvík, a man who sends a sarcastic jest in the mail to his romantic interest, Markéta, mocking Trotsky. The letter is read by his university comrades in the Party and they sentence him to six years in prison and the army, where he becomes the butt of his own joke. 

Jump to the present: Ludvík attempts to get revenge by seducing Helena, the wife of one of his betrayers from the Party years ago. The film unsnarls with an arid humor as Ludvík’s pessimistic outlook is upended by revelatory moments, often soundtracked by the film’s traditional music. The polyphonic chapters of Kundera’s novel are traded here for colliding tonalities between now and then, as the helixing of the visual tenses instill a sense of upheaval, of never truly being able to escape the past.

Cinematographer Jan Curík frames the imagery with a monochrome staccato to complement the frenetic visual grammar, and Jireš intercuts archival footage with the action to suggest the reality of the atmosphere. Voiceovers are capitalized on frequently, and add a dimension of helplessness that was shown in the book through multiple points of view. As Ludvík narrates his fruitless schemes, there’s a false sense of omniscience, even though it becomes clear that he has no control over his destiny. Jirês captures Kundera’s inimitable brand of existential romance, and Josef Somr plays the protagonist with an understated brilliance and ennui. Trying to convince Helena of his love, the godless Ludvík tells her, “It’s as strong as fate.” 

Kundera has suggested in interviews that all of his novels could have been titled The Joke or Unbearable Lightness of Being, and I found that true in this case, even though there is a clear heaviness to the causes and effects, in and outside the screen. Jireš was exiled after the movie was banned, and was pressured to erase The Joke from his filmography, a film whose weightlessnesses arrive in the form of old Folk songs, a practice that allows the characters to never forget their heritage. Cinema was Jireš’s way to remember, and his second film survives, thankfully, for us. 

It was alleged, in 2009, that Kundera was an informant for the Chezch secret police as a student, and turned over a Western spy who served 14 years after almost facing a death sentence. Whether or not this is true, it intensifies the texture of sin and ambiguity within the film, which Kundera co-wrote. Maybe it was a type of catharsis, a way to cope with his guilt. Or maybe it is the film’s final joke, leaving no one to have the last laugh. 

THE JOKE is currently screening on hulu plus as part of their Criterion Collection. hulu.com.

by Steven Rosen 05.22.2015
Posted In: Visual Art at 09:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
peggy crawford candid with raphaela-2

CAC Announces the Death of Founding Member Peggy Crawford

The Contemporary Art Center today announced that founding member Peggy Crawford died on April 18 in Santa Fe, N.M., where she had been living. She was one of three women who founded the CAC's precursor, the Modern Art Society, in 1939. She was able to come to the CAC last September to celebrate its 75th anniversary — an exhibition of her photography was part of the observance.

Here are excerpts from the CAC press release:

Contemporary Arts Center Director Raphaela Platow fondly recalled the impact that Peggy Crawford made on so many: "Mrs. Crawford’s life is an inspiration to me. As a young woman she was one of the three women founders of the Contemporary Arts Center (called Modern Art Society at the time), an institution she initiated, against all odds, in a moment in time when the Great Depression was still shaking the world and the second World War was about to erupt. It is so easy not to do something, to shy away from a great idea because of the many obstacles and hurdles in the way, a lack of resources, or fear of failure. But Peggy Crawford and her two companion co-founders created the Modern Art Society in 1939 because their lives urged them to do it. Mrs. Crawford applied the same passion, tenacity, and energy to her different life pursuits and I feel lucky that I had the opportunity to meet her and to spend time in her presence."

Born in 1917, Peggy Frank graduated from Smith College. In 1939, along with Betty Rauh and Rita Rentschler, she founded the Modern Art Society in Cincinnati, Ohio, which would become the Contemporary Arts Center.

The three founders had little  or no formal museum experience. For a year, their "office" consisted of a portable typewriter set up in a living room. At the start, the society had staunch backers and hard workers, but they had very little money and had only a borrowed gallery space in the basement of the Cincinnati Art Museum.

During the first year, the founders raised $5,000 to produce six exhibitions, each with a catalogue. Their first exhibition, Modern Paintings from Cincinnati (Nov.-Dec. 1939) showed their early commitment to showcasing up-and-coming local artists. 

The fledgling Modern Art Society mounted new and often controversial exhibitions, published catalogues, encouraged local artists and helped promote contemporary art collections and education. Between 1940 and 1951, the Modern Art Society exhibited such artists as Pablo Picasso (1940), George Grosz, Paul Klee and Alexander Calder (1942), Fernand Leger (1944), Rufino Tamayo (1947), Jean Arp (1949) and other new artists in abstraction, Surrealism, modern architecture and contemporary design. One of the highlights of this time was the Cincinnati showing of Picasso’s "Guernica" in 1940 because it represented the first and only time the important work was shown in the Midwest.

Peggy Frank married Ralston Crawford, a painter and photographer, who preceded her in death.

She is survived by two sons, Neelon (Susan Hill), and John, along with a stepson, Robert (Eldrid Crawford).

A memorial service was held at Kingston Retirement Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. April 30, 2015.