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by Staff 11.13.2015 12 days ago
Posted In: Arts, Benefits, Comedy, Culture, Concerts, LGBT, Music, Movies, Events, Fun at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Your Weekend To Do List (11/13-11/15)

OutReels LGBTQ film festival, International Wine Festival, Greater Cincinnati Holiday Market and more



“Fourth of July,” the centerpiece of Sufjan Stevens’ latest album — the stripped-down, Elliott Smith-esque Carrie & Lowell — is as intimate and revealing as anything in the crafty singer/songwriter’s songbook. It’s about Stevens’ long-estranged mother, the “Carrie” from the album’s title, who died of stomach cancer in 2012. Spare and moody, “Fourth of July” floats by like an almost surreal dream, as minimal keyboard atmospherics and Stevens’ hushed voice relay what it was like to sit at his mother’s death bed, culminating with the repeated phrase, “We’re all gonna die.” Read more about Stevens in this week's Sound Advice. Sufjan Stevens performs with Gallant Friday at the Aronoff Center. More info/tickets: cincinnatiarts.org.

'Gazelle: The Love Issue'
Photo: Provided
Since its inception four years ago, OutReels Cincinnati has pursued a mission to showcase LGBTQ issues through lectures and film. Presented by the Cincinnati Film Society, the festival returns to the Tristate this weekend with more than 20 short and feature films from around the world, screened over three days at the Aronoff Center. Among the productions are Gazelle: The Love Issue (pictured), a film about loss and personal creative expression, and Upstairs Inferno: The Documentary, which profiles the arson of a New Orlean’s gay bar in 1973 — the largest gay mass murder in U.S. history. Continue the discussion 10:30 a.m. Sunday at 21c Museum Hotel over brunch with members of the OutReels committee (reservations required). Find the full schedule at cincinnatifilmsociety.org. Friday-Sunday. $12.25 single ticket; $62.25 VIP pass. Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-621-ARTS, cincinnatifilmsociety.org.

Jungle Jim's International Wine Festival
Photo: Provided
Wine and dine at Jungle Jim’s International Wine Festival. More than 90 wineries from across globe — including California, Italy, Spain, New Zealand and South America — will be pouring 400 wines, all available for tasting. Live music sets the mood, and each country pairs food tastings with the wines offered. General tickets include tastings, a commemorative glass, food and live music. Connoisseur tickets provide an additional tasting experience with an international dinner-by-the-bite and open bar. 7-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. $25 driver; $65 grand tasting; $125 connoisseur. 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com/winefest

Maya Angelou accompanied the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in November 2013.
Photo: Provided by Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
We expect the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to perform great music that will entertain and inspire audiences. But this weekend’s concerts are the culmination of an annual project that goes well beyond the presentation of Classical music: One City, One Symphony is a collaborative initiative using music to bring together citizens from across the Tristate. Since 2012, the CSO has collaborated annually with community organizations for preparatory events that will crescendo with concerts at Music Hall on Friday morning and Saturday evening. Read a full feature on the concerts here. One City, One Symphony takes place Friday and Saturday at Music Hall. Tickets/more info: cincinnatisymphony.org/onecity.

Performance and Time Arts
Photo: Monica Furr
Cincinnati-based choreographer and dancer Diana L. Ford produces the newest Performance and Time Arts (PTA) show, sponsored by the Contemporary Dance Theater. On the bill are excerpts from Ford’s “Welcome to America: There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This Crap,” and segments from locals Regina Ford-Fowler, Ivy Pea, Robin Alicia-Clare Hoskins, Pamela Carter Pitts, Jeremy Reneau, Heru Lasana, Isabelle Provosty and Elissa Yancey in conjunction with LaMonica Sherman and the Winton Terrace Sister Circle — a diverse selection of artists, including poets, spoken-word performers, choreographers, dancers, visual artists and rappers — all focusing on social change and justice. In short, a typical outing for PTA. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. $12-$15. College Hill Town Hall, 1805 Larch Avenue, College Hill, 513-591-1222, cdt-dance.org.  

Greater Cincinnati Holiday Market
Photo: Provided
Get all your Christmas shopping done early at the Greater Cincinnati Holiday Market. Artists, boutiques and specialty stores from Cincinnati and beyond gather to sell their best holiday goods, flea-market style. This three-day event showcases homemade jewelry, food and accessories, as well as specialty clothing, household goods and kitchenwares. Check out cooking demonstrations at the Specialty Food & Treats show, and don’t forget to get a picture with Santa. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. $9; free for children. Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St., Downtown, cincinnatiholidaymarket.com

Kyle Grooms
Photo: Provided
Comedian Kyle Grooms spends quite a bit of time in Miami, where he once worked in television — he has a semi-regular gig there, but mostly headlines clubs across the country. Comedy fans might recognize him from his work on Chappelle’s Show or from his Comedy Central Presents special. “People judge you just because of how you look,” he tells an audience. “I didn’t know that was serious until I started wearing glasses. People started saying I looked smart. Huh? I ain’t smart, I can’t see! I didn’t go to Harvard, I went to LensCrafters.” Thursday-Sunday. $8-$14. Go Bananas, 8410 Market Place Lane, Montgomery, gobananascomedy.com.

'Low Down Dirty Blues'
Photo: Mikki Schaffner
In an after-hours jam session at a Blues club in Chicago late on a Saturday night easing over into early Sunday, musicians and singers are swapping stories and songs. And those songs are bawdy ballads from the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Big Mama Thornton and more. The cast includes Felicia P. Fields, a Tony-nominated actress for The Color Purple, as the proprietor of the club. Created by the guys who assembled several past Playhouse hits including Hank Williams: Lost Highway and Love, Janis, this show is here for the holidays, so get ready for some low-down, dirty fun. Through Dec. 20. $30-$85. Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, 962 Mt. Adams Circle, Mount Adams, 513-421-3888, cincyplay.com.

Tap & Screw’s TapFest features 10 locally homebrewed beers from the concluded 27th-annual local Bloatarian Brewing League Beer & Sweat homebrewing competition. At 5 p.m., an expert panel will award one of the finalists with the Judges Prize, which includes a brewery upgrade kit that will greatly enhance the brewer’s ability to replicate their award-winning beer recipe. Attendees will also have their voices heard when they decide the People’s Choice Award winner. 11 a.m.-2:30 a.m. Saturday. $15. 5060 Crookshank Road, Westwood, tapandscrew.com

The Mowgli's
Photo: Republic Records
The Mowgli’s follow the tradition of bands that start out by building a strong grassroots audience organically through touring and word-of-mouth, ultimately leading to broader mainstream success (think The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons or Dave Matthews Band). With an irresistible blend of Indie Rock, hyper-melodic Pop, hippie-tinged Folk and occasional splashes of Reggae and Hip Hop, The Mowgli’s sprinkle their infectious soundtrack with a potent message of positivity and hope. At their most exuberant, The Mowgli’s pound out fist-pumping anthems that preach love and its philosophical cousins (optimism, tolerance, brotherhood), but even at their most introspective, the California septet still firmly maintains a optimistic perspective. This viewpoint is not a trendy bumper-sticker aphorism, but a concrete mission statement — the band’s “Be a Mowgli” website and Instagram account encourage followers to spread goodwill and kindness. Read more about the Mowgli's in this week's Sound Advice. See The Mowgli's with Lights and Phases Saturday at the Thompson House. More info/tickets: thompsonhousenewport.com.

Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers
Photo: Provided
Appalachian music is famous for its high, lonesome sound, eerie harmonies and themes of doomed love, faith and longing for the wild beauty of a region extending from Southern New York down into Georgia and Mississippi. When it came to planning a concert that featured traditional and new Appalachian sounds, MUSE, Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir, turned to the legendary Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers, one of the few all-women Bluegrass bands in the region — or anywhere else. Each member brings outsize talent and years of experience: Ma Crow on guitar and lead vocals, Trina Emig on banjo and mandolin, Margie Drees on fiddle and vocals and Vicki Abbott on upright bass and vocals. Valleys Rivers Mountains: Our Life’s Journey is the concert title — one that has special resonance for Crow, who last performed with MUSE in 2002. Read more about Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers here. Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers perform with MUSE Saturday at Northern Kentucky University’s Greaves Hall and Sunday at St. Anthony Parish in Madisonville. Tickets: musechoir.org.

Photo: Provided
Peruse one-of-a-kind gifts for the holidays (or just because) at C-LINK Gallery’s annual SHOP: Cincinnati exhibition. Beginning Friday, the gallery inside Brazee Street Studios will showcase a treasure trove of handmade items crafted by local artists, including everything from jewelry, ceramics and ornaments to greeting cards, paintings and more. Get started 6-9 p.m. Friday at the first of two free receptions. Through Dec. 26. Prices vary. C-LINK Gallery, 4426 Brazee St., Oakley, brazeestreetstudios.com

Top area restaurants head to the Newport Aquarium to serve up dinner-by-the-bite, and sample craft beer, wine, spirits and cocktails from The Party Source. Benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. 7:30-11 p.m. $125. Newport Aquarium, Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky., lls.org/pages/soh/taste.

Poinsettia Express at Krohn Conservatory
Photo: Gary Kessler
Take a walk through a winter wonderland at Krohn Conservatory. The conservatory’s holiday floral show, Poinsettia Express, takes visitors through a charming array of floral arrangements whose colors resemble candy canes as toy trains carry peppermints through a village of gingerbread houses. In the Schmalz Family Holiday Village, see motionettes from the 1940s and ’50s Shillito’s and Pogues display windows, Santa music boxes, a 12-foot Christmas tree and even a model of a town inspired by A Christmas Carol. Through Jan. 3; special evening hours 5-7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 and Dec. 16-23. $7 adults; $4 children. Krohn Conservatory, 1501 Eden Park Drive, Eden Park, cincinnatiparks.com/krohn-conservatory

Ice Rink at Fountain Square
Photo: Provided
Temperatures may be in the 70s this week, but that doesn’t mean you can’t channel some early holiday spirit. Fountain Square’s Ice Rink is officially open, offering daily skating and special events (like frozen-turkey bowling Nov. 24) all the way through February. Rent a pair of skates on-site and spend the day in the heart of downtown. Open daily. $6 admission; $4 skate rental. Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, myfountainsquare.com

Photo: Mikki Schaffner
Mystery fans have a tasty treat in store for them at The Carnegie in Covington with this 1970 award-winning play by Anthony Shaffer. It’s a two-man show about a renowned mystery writer who loves to play games, but when he discovers that his wife is about to leave him for another man, he maps out a scheme that aims at dire consequences for his romantic rival. Matters soon get out of hand, resulting in as much humor as drama as the complicated story unfolds. Be prepared for twists and turns that will keep you guessing. That’s the fun of it, after all. Through Nov. 22. $18-$25. The Carnegie, 1028 Scott St., Covington, Ky., thecarnegie.com

'Robert Mapplethorpe'
Photo: Jeannette Mongtomery Barron
Seven regional curators have each chosen five new works by local artists that reflect how Mapplethorpe’s The Perfect Moment influences today’s artistic landscape. When the CAC presented that show in 1990, law-enforcement officials infamously and unsuccessfully prosecuted it on obscenity charges. Thirteen of Mapplethorpe’s own photographs will be displayed; many — if not all — were in the The Perfect Moment, including one of a naked 5-year-old boy, “Jesse McBride,” that was specifically cited in the 1990 prosecution. Also, 1980’s “Man in a Polyester Suit,” controversial for its depiction of a man wearing a suit but exposing his penis, will be shown. Read more about Mapplethorpe and The Perfect Moment here. After the Moment: Reflections on Robert Mapplethorpe continues through March 13 at the Contemporary Arts Center. More info: contemporaryartscenter.org.

'The Art of the Brick'
Photo: Cincinnati Museum Center
Millions of LEGO bricks are taking over the Cincinnati Museum Center. Anticipated exhibit The Art of the Brick features more than 100 artworks created by contemporary artist Nathan Sawaya using nothing other than LEGOs. Explore life-size human figures, a 20-foot-long T-Rex skeleton and replicated famous paintings, including “Starry Night” and “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” plus familiar sculptures like “The Thinker” and the Sphinx. Sawaya has also created a Cincinnati-themed piece that will be revealed when the exhibit debuts. Create your own LEGO masterpieces in the interactive Brickopolis, and don’t miss special themed days revolving around Star Wars, dinosaurs, superheroes and more. Through May 1. $19.50 adults; $12.50 children 12 and under. Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, 1301 Western Ave., Queensgate, 513-287-7000, cincymuseum.org.
by Nick Swartsell 11.13.2015 12 days ago
Posted In: News at 09:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Complaint: Cranley violated election rules; announcement about CPD chief search coming today; Kasich meets a rowdy crowd of seniors in New Hampshire

It’s Friday. It’s early. I haven’t had coffee yet. For all those reasons, I’m going to hit you with a briefer version of the morning news today. Think of it as fewer words between you and your weekend. You’re welcome.

So, did Mayor John Cranley violate election rules by literally giving a shout out to his park tax plan in a polling place on election day? That’s what a complaint filed yesterday by poll worker Mary Siegel alleges. Siegel says Cranley shouted “vote yes on Issue 22” inside the Urban League building in Avondale as voters cast ballots. That violates Ohio law, which stipulates campaigning must be done outside a 100 foot perimeter of polling places. Cranley has acknowledged that he made a mistake by discussing Issue 22 while he was in the polling place “for a few minutes.” Now it’s up to the four-member, bipartisan Hamilton County Board of Elections to decide whether to hold hearings to further investigate the incident. Board member and Hamilton County Democratic Party Chair Tim Burke says these infractions happen all the time, and that the mayor’s apology should be sufficient. Hamilton County GOP chair and BOE member Alex Triantafilou has called the allegations “disturbing,” however, and said he’d like to hear more from the mayor.

• Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black is set to announce news about the city’s search for a new police chief today at 10:30 a.m. at City Hall. It’s unclear exactly what the news will be, but a notice from the manager’s office mentions the “next phase” of the hiring process, perhaps meaning candidates have been identified for the job. The top cop spot is open after Black dismissed former CPD chief Jeffrey Blackwell in September after months of friction between Blackwell and city administration. Blackwell’s supporters say his firing was political — the former chief was brought on by Cranley predecessor Mark Mallory — but the administration says many in the department had trouble working with the former chief because he was disconnected from officers and could be intimidating to other staff members. Interim Chief Elliot Isaac replaced Blackwell. We'll update this post after the news conference later this morning.

UPDATE: City Manager Harry Black has announced Interim Chief Eliot Isaac as the only candidate for Cincinnati Police Chief. Black said the next step in the process will require Issac to go through a series of private panels starting Monday that will include members of the community, Cincinnati Police Department, clergy, business community and sentinels. Isaac has worked for the CPD for 26 years and has served as Interim Chief since September.

• Let's be real: Black Friday is brutal and depressing. But some retailers are stepping up to offer an alternative, including a local spot. Environmentally minded general store Park + Vine, on Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, has announced that it will be closed on Black Friday and will instead partner with local environmental group Imago to offer a six-mile urban hike from its store into Clifton. Part of the proceeds from that hike — which includes lunch from Park + Vine and other goodies — will go to OTR’s Holidays in the Bag, which supports local nonprofits. This year’s beneficiary is Future Leaders OTR, an entrepreneurship program run by OTR startup resource hub Mortar for low-income folks looking to start their own businesses. Park + Vine founder Danny Korman says he’s modeling his opt-out of the year’s biggest shopping day on outdoor equipment retailer REI’s recent pledge to close all of its stores on Black Friday this year. REI will give all employees a paid day off as a way to encourage folks to go out and enjoy nature.

Here are some short state news thangs:

• One of the Ohio Democratic Party’s top officials has officially switched her endorsement in the party’s presidential primary from Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders. Former secretary of state candidate Nina Turner announced yesterday she’s backing Sanders in his bid for the big office next year. That’s something of a blow for Clinton’s juggernaut campaign: Ohio is a must-win state in next year’s presidential contest, and Turner has been one of Clinton’s biggest boosters here. Turner says she’s interested in Sanders’ strong commitment to voting rights and income and wage equity, and will play an active role in his campaign.

• Another day, another report commissioned by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office claiming the Cleveland police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice was reasonable. This time, the report comes from a retired police officer in Florida named W. Ken Katsaris, who said that Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann had “no choice” but to shoot Rice on the playground where he had been reported playing with a gun that a caller said “was probably fake.” A dispatcher didn’t relay that last part, though, and video footage shows the cruiser Loehmann was riding in speed up within feet of Rice. Loehmann then jumps out and shoots Rice almost immediately. 

Advocates for Rice’s family criticized the release of Katsaris’ report by Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, who has released two other sympathetic reports written by former law enforcement officials calling the shooting justified. A grand jury is currently hearing evidence from McGinty’s office about the case to decide whether Loehmann should be charged in the shooting. Report author Katsaris also testified for the prosecutor’s office during a trial over the controversial shooting death of two unarmed black motorists in 2013. One-hundred-thirty-seven rounds were fired during that confrontation, which came after the two led police on a high-speed chase. The officer on trial during that case, Michael Brelo, was acquitted.

• Finally, Gov. John Kasich, one of the about 10,000 GOP candidates for the party’s presidential nomination, has had a rough stretch of late. He was booed at the last Republican debate. His low poll numbers aren't budging. And yesterday, he got heckled in a room full of senior citizens in New Hampshire for talking about defunding Planned Parenthood. To be fair, though, it was a mixed bag in terms of partisan issues. He also got pushback from some audience members when he discussed a modest minimum wage increase in Ohio. Yeesh. Tough crowd.

by Jac Kern 11.12.2015 13 days ago
at 02:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

I Just Can't Get Enough

Jac's roundup of pop culture news and Internet findings

The big news this week is not that Donald Trump is still an actual candidate for president, but that Saturday Night Live let him host last weekend. I mean, I’m as grossed out by Trump as the next woman, minority, immigrant, democrat or human with a brain, but I sure as hell was not going to skip the trainwreck to participate in some fruitless protest. Shouldn’t people be more upset that he’s running for president than that he appeared for probably 30 minutes total on a late-night sketch comedy show?

Anyway, the best part of the night, yet again, was Larry David. The reprisal of his impeccable Bernie Sanders impression set the show off and SNL even used David to joke about the protest — rumors swirled that one organization would pay $5,000 to anyone in the studio audience who yelled “racist” at The Donald during the show. Larry David is the Tina Fey of this presidential election.

Beyond that, most sketches poked fun at Trump in various aspects and many didn’t feature him at all. I was honestly more offended by the Trump-less, dated skit spoofingof M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls” video — which came out almost four years ago.

Highlights that don’t include America's Daddy Warbucks:

  • Jay Pharaoh’s Drake impression in the “Hotline Bling” skit
  • SIA!
  • Trump’s daughter Ivanka’s applause-less cameo. WOMP WOMP (she so pretty tho)
  • Drunk Uncle
  • Martin Short’s Ed Grimley randomly showed up in the Drake sketch. This just in: “Hotline Bling” is the new “Uptown Funk.” IT’S OVER.
  • Anything Beck Bennett did — he and Kyle Mooney need their own weird show.

And the publicity stunt brought the show higher ratings than it’s had in years.

I like pugs. I also like TV. So...

A local ice sculptor (#professiongoals) is competing on Food Network's Christmas Cake Wars.

Aziz Ansari ‘s new Netflix show, Master of None, is amazing. A true gem. Watch it now. You will accidentally watch the entire season, but it’s OK. Playing a version of himself, the show goes into a lot of race issues — casting minorities, minority actors stuck in stereotypical roles, stuff like that. One conversation Dev (Aziz) has with a fellow Indian actor touches on Fisher Stevens’ brownfaced role as an Indian in the Short Circuit movies, and how even when there are minorities represented on TV, it’s often by someone of another race. But I swear, it’s really hilarious…

This week Aziz wrote about the topic of race in Hollywood for the New York Times and even interviewed Stevens about the now-controversial role.

We’ve been waiting for this ever since her surprise performance at the Super Bowl, and now, Missy Elliott is BACK!

Snoop Dogg getting his own brand of weed products.

Oh, and about the not-controversial Starbucks cup controversy, D.J. Tanner says they aren’t offensive. So I think we can all move on now.

Starbucks War on Christmas?It's a red cup, folks. Until Starbucks puts a baby Jesus or nativity scene on the cup...

Posted by Candace Cameron Bure on Monday, November 9, 2015

by Natalie Krebs 11.12.2015 13 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Residents of Avondale apartment complex with collapsed roof demand action; More OTR businesses have opened this year than before; Representative introduces bill to cut Ohio unemployment benefits

Hey everyone! Here are your morning headlines. 

Residents of an Avondale apartment complex are demanding their landlords pay up after the collapse of the apartment's roof last Friday. Approximately 70 residents of the Burton Apartments have been living in a Days Inn since last week, and with the help of Legal Aid Society and the Greater Cincinnati Homeless Coalition are asking their landlords PF Holdings and the Puretz family to fix the apartment complex and, in the meantime, continue to provide temporary assistance. So far the owners, who are based out of New Jersey, have said they'll pay for just a week at the Days Inn, leaving the residents, which include 17 children, worried that they'll being kicked out of the hotel come this Friday. PF Holding and the Puretz family own other subsidized housing complexes in Walnut Hills and Avondale and are currently under litigation by the city for the poorly maintenance of those properties. One resident of the Burton Apartments told the Enquirer the complex was in such bad shape the week before the roof collapsed, they were using umbrellas in the hallways when it was raining. For now, residents are hoping to retrieve some of their possessions when the building is inspected tomorrow at noon by the city. 

Former restaurateur Liz Rogers is scheduled to be in court tomorrow. Rogers faces charges for impersonating a Cleveland police officer last March when workers arrived to repossess her car. She faces a maximum of 30 days in jail and $250 fine. Rogers was the owner of Mahogany's, a failed restaurant at the Banks. Last March, she was ordered to pay back $100,000, one-third of the loan that the city gave her in an effort to bring more minority-owned businesses to the area, and made the first payment at the beginning of this month. 

This time last year I couldn't stroll through Over-the-Rhine while satisfying a craving for macarons. Oh, how times have changed! The last 12 months OTR has seen 41 new, independent businesses open, more than double from the year before, bringing to the area new, typically pricier, beer halls, night clubs and fancy taco bars. On Tuesday the Chamber of Commence kicked off the seventh annual Shop Local celebration to bring Christmas shoppers to the area so they will no longer worry about where to find the best mini-cupcakes. 

A bill proposed by Rep. Barbara Sears (R-Monclova Township) would cut the amount of time Ohio's unemployed receive benefits in half. Sears' bill would knock the current number of weeks of unemployment from 26 down to somewhere between 12 and 20. Her plan comes as an attempt to pay off some of the debt Ohio has to the federal government. When the recession struck, Ohio had to borrow $2 billion from the feds and is still in the red for $774.8 million, which Sears says could come from cutting the unemployment benefits as unemployment is low in the state now, but opponents to the bill say that it unfairly goes after just one group of people and adds more hurdles for already hard-to-obtain benefits.  

A Utah judge has removed a foster child from a lesbian couple's home, citing he's found evidence that claims the 1-year-old girl would be better off with heterosexual parents. Beckie Peirce and April Hoagland were married last summer and are already the parents of two children and said they were planning on adopting the girl when a judge halted the process. The couple said they asked the Judge Scott Johansen for his evidence, but he has not produced it. Peirce believe the move was based on his religious beliefs, which are not known, but the Washington Post reports he is a graduate of Brigham Young University, which is operated by the Mormon Church. The church has recently voted to exclude kids of same-sex couples until they are adults.                                       

That's all for today! Email me at nkrebs@citybeat.com with any happenings in the city.

by Tony Johnson 11.11.2015 14 days ago
at 05:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spoonful of Cinema: Spectre

When it comes to the James Bond pictures that have hit theaters in my lifetime, none hold a more important place in my memory as Daniel Craig’s embodiments in Casino Royale and Skyfall. So when I saw Spectre, the fourth and final Daniel Craig-led installment in the iconic spy series, it was more than just a Bond movie. It was a conclusion to a span of my young life that stretches across more than nine years. The franchise reboot came at a time in my life when a love of movies was only beginning to mature. It’s been a long time. Come to think of it, I didn’t even have a Facebook account in the Casino Royale days. A lot has changed since the first time we saw Craig take on Bond.

But has James Bond changed with times? Sure. But his challenges and villains haven’t. There’s honestly nothing exhilaratingly new brought to the series with Spectre — unless if you count Bond occasionally seeming superhuman in gunfights (I expect better than the “all the bad guys missed eight times” shtick when I watch Bond films). It’s mostly the usual routine just blown to larger proportions. The Bond girl has vital information and there’s another girl he seduces for some other important leads. The bad guy gets a scar on his face and the cars are fast and the explosions are bigger than ever before. It’s great fun, but it felt a little too self-aware for 007. Occasionally Spectre felt stuffy when it could have flourished. I prefer my spy thrillers lean and mean, especially when James Bond is putting it on the line, and that is not what we got here.

Despite the shortcomings, the opening sequence brings us a scrappy, resilient 007 that we’ve come to expect, know and love. He follows an enemy target through the Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico City, up into a hotel and across a roof, all to the sound of the city and a pounding percussion score. Bond kneels and peers through a laser-sighted combat riflescope to take down some international terrorists. But when someone lights a cigar, the smoke exposes the rifle’s laser. It’s a mistake that, for the moment, costs him his opportunity to complete his mission. He goes on to inadvertently blow up a building, almost gets crushed by falling chunks of rubble, leaps to a safe platform, then falls conveniently onto a loveseat. He brushes himself off and chases his target through a grand showing of the Day of the Dead’s festivities, and at this point we realize how rhythmic the picture has been. Bond continues to chase the terrorist onto a helicopter, punching up the target and the pilot. The English spy nearly falls to his death before he takes care of his enemies, and after he comes inches away from flying the chopper into the holiday festival crowd, he flies triumphantly into the sunset, grinning to himself as he goes. Much of the sequence is shot in long tracking and crane shots.

Director Sam Mendes’ best moments of the film feel similar to the accomplishment of the first scene, with perilous encounters and gutsy execution from everyone’s favorite womanizer on government payroll. With the ultra sleek cinematography provided by Hoyte van Hoytema (The Fighter, Her), the tone of the picture — especially its action — seems all at once sophisticated and chaotic. Hoytema may well be a modern master at manipulating and capitalizing on a sort of spatial tension to coincide with what we witness. There are no problems with how the film is presented or how it looks. It’s the makeup of what the film presents.

A good example of what Spectre lacks may be Dave Bautista’s role as the mightily violent Mr. Hinx. Hinx is a massive, intimidating colossus who greets us by gouging a guy’s eyes out. He chases down our suave hero for a good portion of the picture, and he (almost) never says a word. He just fights, chases and ultimately meets his match in James Bond. It’s fine popcorn entertainment. But it doesn’t raise the stakes in the world of 007. It’s just more of the same. “I’m out of bullets,” he tells an enemy at a crucial moment. Maybe the writers were out of ideas.

The same sort of dissatisfaction can be said of Christoph Waltz’s role as the mastermind conspirator. He is trumpeted throughout Spectre as Bond’s greatest challenge yet. But the man known as Franz Oberhauser is not as effective as he is feared. He brings Bond into his lair to —guess what — be mean to him then kill him, instead of just kill him. You would think that people dealing with this particular spy would learn — you don’t capture him. Kill him immediately, or he will ruin everything. But even the most brilliant madman in all of Bond-world can’t figure that one out. It may be the most disappointed I’ve been with a Christoph Waltz performance.

I suppose it’s not cliché when a Bond villain gets duped twice in the same movie, though, and this one absolutely does. To his credit, Waltz’s villain does command a very narrow, automated drill through the spy’s head a couple of times, so he doesn’t go down without giving his enemy a good scare.

But I didn’t want a good scare with a couple of twists thrown in to catch me off guard. I wanted to seriously think there was no way Bond could make it out of the mess he found himself in. My generation’s 007 shouldn’t have gone out this way, but he did. He deserved better, if you ask me. He arrived nearly 10 years ago after a brief hiatus, ready to break our hearts and save the day. Now, as he goes, he leaves us empty-handed and wishing he had stayed for one last mission accomplished. But, just like the women he woos and loses and (almost) never fails to leave, we should only be glad we got a peek into the make-believe life of a daring, handsome, instinctive saboteur that is bigger than any single villainous counterpart, any single actor or any single movie. Period. 007 is a monument to Hollywood, to cinema, to blockbuster filmmaking that is engrained in the DNA of Western pop culture. And if we’ve learned anything about James Bond over the years, it’s that he will always be back. And when he does return, he’ll be looking a bit younger than when we last saw him, but we’ll recognize him. Whether its Jude Law or Tom Hardy or Chiwetel Ejiofor or someone I haven’t heard of, for around two hours we’ll only see James Bond. And he very well may learn a trick or two from those that have come before him. Let’s hope his opponent –— and everyone behind the cameras and at the writing tables, too — can keep up the pace. Grade: C –

by Brian Baker 11.11.2015 14 days ago
Posted In: Live Music, Local Music, Reviews at 03:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Ass Were My Ponys

After over 25 years of loving the Ass Ponys, CityBeat’s Brian Baker reflects on seeing the Cincy greats live for the very first time

The wholly unexpected announcement of a pair of reunion shows by one of Cincinnati’s greatest bands, Ass Ponys, inspired a sense of excitement within me that was matched only by the birth of my two children, the legal end of my first marriage and meeting the woman who convinced me to sign up for a 33-year-and-counting second hitch. 

You might think that's overstating a case, and I might think so as well, but the fact remains that I was beside myself at the thought of seeing Ass Ponys in action after a decade-long hiatus. And the reason was quite simple — I had never seen the Ass Ponys during their 17-year run.

As Ass Ponys frontman Chuck Cleaver has said many times since the reunion was trumpeted, the band was never nearly as popular here in Cincinnati as they were out in the wider, smarter world. That fact had nothing to do with the reality that I had never seen them play. I loved them before they'd recorded a single note of music.

My first exposure to Ass Ponys was their one-song appearance on WVXU's tribute to The Who in the summer of 1989, simulcast live from the station’s studios and appropriately dubbed “Who Cares.” Ass Ponys were among a stellar local lineup that included The Afghan Whigs, The Speed Hickeys, The Thangs, Human Zoo, Bucking Strap, SS0-20, Warsaw Falcons and many others. Each contributed a single song to the proceedings. Ass Ponys, accompanied by local guitar legend Bill Weber, roared through a Who rarity, "Glow Girl," an outtake that appeared on the 1974 collection, Odds & Sods. Having heard about them but never actually having heard them, the band’s R.E.M.-esque take on "Glow Girl" sold me in half a heartbeat. I taped all of the musical performances from “Who Cares” on that July evening (oddly enough the 20th anniversary of the moon landing — insert inadvertent Keith Moon reference here) and I cherish that cassette. Ass Ponys' rendition of the Who's archive gem remains a personal highlight.

Four months later, I took a job with a design/marketing firm and almost immediately began clocking serious overtime. Just over a year after that, I revived my freelance writing career as an adjunct to my full-time position, and hours that might have been used to see local shows dissipated like cigarette smoke in a cyclone. As much as I wanted to see Ass Ponys, the planet alignment of my ability to slink out into a night coinciding with one of their local appearances never occurred.

But I avidly followed the band’s recording endeavors. I bought Mr. Superlove and Grim upon release in the early ’90s, and my freelance writing activity earned me a contact at A&M Records, which resulted in Electric Rock Music and The Known Universe showing up in my post office box. I raged at the cosmos when Ass Ponys was dropped from the label's roster and exulted when they chimed with typical Cleaver "fuck it" bravado and re-blazed their independent trail with Lohio and Some Stupid with a Flare Gun.

Ass Ponys' catalog took on the gravitas of scripture for me, stone musical tablets engraved by the flaming finger of God and sent forth into the world to instruct the unwashed and convert the unconverted. They sang about loss and death and dysfunction and insanity with a cheerily twisted conviction that was infectious and transcendent, and I drank their bitter Kool-Aid with a smile on my face and their songs in my heart.

Obviously, just as the Ass Ponys blipped off area radar screens in 2005, Cleaver’s musical collaboration with Lisa Walker was blossoming, laying the foundation for a decade of Wussy brilliance (which continues next March with the release of Forever Sounds). Yet even as Wussy's star ascended, and the band's permanence was asserted, questions lingered about Ass Ponys' status. They had never regretted to inform their fans of their demise, never bid the faithful a teary farewell at the finale of a blaze-of-glory last show. Ass Ponys simply ceased to be, its members scattering to new situations and directions.

Maybe that's why the announcement of Ass Ponys' reunion shows at Over-the-Rhine’s Woodward Theater Nov. 6 and 7 was met with such an exuberant reception. As inauspiciously as the band retreated into the shadows, Ass Ponys planned their return with an equal lack of fanfare. But the loyal had little interest in allowing the band to shuffle quietly back into the spotlight. It was quickly apparent by way of social media posts that fans from around the country were already planning their Cincinnati pilgrimages to crowd the front of an Ass Ponys stage one more time.

With the Friday night show, after weeks of fairly intense rehearsals, the waiting came to an end and Ass Ponys steeled themselves to the task of presenting material that was, in some cases, close to a quarter-century old. Cleaver reported just prior to the show that he was likely the least nervous member of the band, revealing that bassist Randy Cheek had been up all the previous night thinking about their first show in over 10 years; presumably, guitarist John Erhardt (who plays with Cleaver in Wussy) and drummer Dave Morrison expressed similar signs of anxiety. But Cleaver also noted that the Woodward shows would be populated by the friendliest audiences Ass Ponys had ever attracted.

Friday's show began with a terrific set from Swim Team, which rocked a vibe that was part '60s-Pop melodicism, part Blondie-tinted New Wave edge and part Slits avant Art Rock eclecticism. Frontwoman Lillian Currens veered from a sweet Pop croon to a visceral Rock wail while the rest of the band provided an appropriately dynamic soundscape for her gymnastic vocals to pinwheel around in, creating a Riot Grrrl/Lana Del Ray mixtape. The quartet's brash and jittery opening set was the perfect introduction to what would prove to be an incredible moment in Cincinnati's musical history.

Given that I was an Ass Ponys stage virgin until Friday's glorious deflowering, I can offer no comparisons, no yardstick of performances past by which to measure the band's transfiguration into a contemporary unit. What I do know is that the four members of Ass Ponys have spent the last 10 years playing in some of the best and brawniest and most creative bands in recent memory, and that expansive breadth of experience couldn't help but elevate Ass Ponys' performance to an incredible new level in the modern context. Cleaver had noted during an interview on Class X Radio with Eddy Mullet and I the Monday before the shows that the band had discussed how to approach their material, with everyone agreeing it was best to relearn and rearrange the songs with their current expertise, rather than to recreate them note for note for the sake of some manufactured nostalgia.

The wisdom of that decision was proven with indelible and muscular versions of some of the best selections from Ass Ponys' powerful songbook. They went effortlessly from strength to strength, spitting and kicking and tearing through early classics ("I Love Bob," "Azalea"), A&M-era standouts ("Earth to Grandma," "Shoe Money," "Under Cedars and Stars") and late period wonders ("Butterfly," "Pretty as You Please," "Astronaut"), all with a renewed vigor and the hyper-electric jolt of pissing on an electric fence.

As usual, Cleaver was an engaging ringmaster. Three songs in, he noted in classic style, "Some things never change. I still sweat like a whore in church." He then recounted an observation made by a woman he overheard at an Ass Ponys show years ago: "I've never seen a man sweat that much without passing out." Throughout the night, people would call out unrehearsed requests which Cleaver fielded with a definitive "Nope." Cleaver explained the origins of songs ("This one's about a monkey …”) and kept up his standard patter-on-wry, but mostly he thanked the multitude for its dedication and passion, noting how humbling it was to see how many people drove and flew in from all over the country (rumor had it someone was coming from England) with the sole objective of witnessing the Ass Ponys' fresh splendor.

At the end, Cleaver announced — sarcastically and yet somehow lovingly — "This is the one that bought us our luxurious lifestyle," and the group launched into its MTV/college radio hit, "Little Bastard," the last in a long string of sing-along moments. If the show had gone on for another two hours, it would have seemed too short, but with the fading strains of "Little Bastard" ringing in my ears, I felt that my first and likely last live exposure to Ass Ponys was an overwhelming success and quite possibly an ecstatic religious experience.

As Wussy bassist Mark Messerly noted before the show started, the atmosphere at the Woodward was like a high school reunion "where you like everyone and you want to be there." 500 Miles to Memphis frontman Ryan Malott recounted how he had grown up down the street from Cleaver and had graduated with his daughter, ultimately crediting the Ass Ponys with sparking his interest in picking up a guitar and making his own music.

A lot of Friday's attendees had a direct connection to Ass Ponys' past and present. Vacation/Tweens drummer Jerri Queen (who would be opening Saturday's show with Vacation) helped produce and engineer the new Wussy album (as did Swim Team guitarist John Hoffman). The Ready Stance guitarist/vocalist Wes Pence, now bandmates with Cheek, was a contemporary of Ass Ponys with his ’90s outfit Middlemarch. Afghan Whigs bassist John Curley produced or engineered the first four Ass Ponys releases. Tigerlilies guitarist/vocalist Pat Hennessey was fronting The Thangs back in ’80s and ’90s, and was in a Fairmount Girls lineup with Cheek. Jim and Darren Blase helped maintain the Ass Ponys' flame by releasing the 2005 two-disc retrospective, The Okra Years, on their Shake It Records imprint.

Blase, freshly relocated back to Cincinnati after several years in Cambridge, Mass. (stop into Shake It’s shop and welcome him home), rightly noted that while Ass Ponys' influence is far-reaching and pervasive, no one, from the time of their first rehearsal in 1989 to the Woodward show we were anxiously awaiting, sounds quite like they do, a sound Blase likened to "an Americana Pere Ubu." No truer words.

The two Woodward appearances could well be the last we ever see these members on stage together. There are still plans afoot to reissue the band's long out-of-print catalog, and several people noted that both shows were being recorded, suggesting a live record could be in the works. And since Cleaver never says never, he answered the point blank question from a fan after the show — “Will you guys ever record again?” — with a nebulous yet hopeful, "Who knows?" 

Whatever happens, however it shakes out, my first Ass Ponys show was a blast. If more crop up going forward, I'll be there, as well. But you never forget your first.

by Natalie Krebs 11.11.2015 14 days ago
Posted In: News at 11:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Cincy tries to figure out just what happened on Election Day; SORTA looks at extending streetcars hours; Kasich interrupts his way through fourth GOP debate

Good morning! Here is your daily roundup of streetcar issues and past and future elections. 

Democrats and Republicans gathered in front of the board of elections yesterday scratching their heads and trying to figure out just what went wrong on Election Day when a series of glitches forced Hamilton County polling places to stay open two additional hours. Most of the blame was placed on the new electronic sign in system, which was programmed with the wrong cut-off date for voter registration, excluding as many as 11,000 people. The system's manufacturer Tenex Software Solutions, which created the system for $1.2 million and set the cutoff date as July 6 and not October 5, issued a public apology yesterday. But lucky for them, as voter turnout is generally low across the United States, official estimates put the number of excluded people around 4,000. Other culprits for the Election Day disaster include poor Internet connections, older poll workers unfamiliar with the new technology and problems with the machines reading old, worn down driver's licenses' barcodes  

Is your dream to ride the streetcar in a drunken haze Friday night post-OTR bar hopping and binge drinking? Well, Mayor John Cranley and SORTA are working to make that dream a reality! SORTA is thinking of extending the streetcars' hours before it's even made its debut to the public. Currently, the streetcar is scheduled to operate 6 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays and 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every other day of the week. Two plans have been launched that would generally start service a little later in the morning, around 7 a.m., and keep it running until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends, which conveniently coordinates with closing time for the bars. Mayor Cranley says he supports the streetcar operating later to support the growing nightlife in Over-the-Rhine and downtown. SORTA will submit the revised schedule to its board and City Council at the beginning of next year. 

The Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative by the Federal Housing Finance Agency has selected Cincinnati as one of 18 cities that will let local community organizations get first dibs before the general public on foreclosed properties owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. The project, which hopes to help cities that were hit the hardest by the housing crisis, selected cities that have at least 100 properties valued at less than $75,000. Cincinnati easily hit this mark with between 301 and 700 properties falling into this category. The program will launch Dec. 1 and also be extended to other troubled Ohio cities like Akron, Dayton, Columbus and Toledo. 

Gov. John Kasich might still be lagging behind in polls, but at least he's determined to be heard. In the fourth GOP presidential debate last night, Kasich got the second most air time, but obtained most of it by interrupting fellow nominees and moderators. In the process, he managed to get Donald Trump booed then himself booed when he said he would bail out the big banks and launched into an exchange with real estate tycoon Trump over immigration and fracking. The Columbus Dispatch reported that while Kasich's new aggressive tactics and moderate positions may be good in the general election, it might not fare so well for him in the primaries, where he is already the underdog and is easily overshadowed by the more extreme Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. 

Football, America's favorite sport, causes head injuries and concussions. So we should all be signing up little Billy and Jane for soccer, right? Well, turns out soccer also causes head injuries when players heading the ball, which looks impressive, but may actually cause a lot of damage later on. So the United States Soccer Federation, which oversees U.S. soccer youth national teams, has unveiled a new set of regulation, one of which is prohibiting children 10 and under with their precious developing brains from heading the ball. The move comes to resolve a lawsuit was filed by players and parents in August 2014 against FIFA, U.S. Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organization for failing to monitor all the head injuries.  

Email me at nkrebs@citybeat.com. I'd love to hear your story tips!      

by Nick Swartsell 11.10.2015 15 days ago
Posted In: News at 07:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jesse Jackson Speaks About Race, Activism at UC

Civil rights leader discusses racial equity, events in Cincinnati and at University of Missouri

Civil rights leader and former presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson visited the University of Cincinnati on Tuesday, speaking to students and activists for about 45 minutes on a number of topics related to recent national discussions around race, college activism and voting. Jackson’s remarks drew a packed house of about 100 at the school’s African American Cultural and Resource Center.

UC has been at the center of those conversations both locally and nationally after UC police officer Ray Tensing shot unarmed black motorist Samuel DuBose July 19 in neighboring Mount Auburn. The aftermath of that shooting has raised both renewed activism around racial inequities and racial tensions on UC’s campus.

Jackson has been in Cincinnati for the last two days, meeting with local ministers and business leaders before making his impromptu appearance at UC. During his talk, Jackson spoke about another university that has been a focus of the national debate on racial equity. Jackson returned often to recent events at the University of Missouri, where racial tensions in the past few weeks led to the resignations of university president Tim Wolfe and chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.

Student activists there staged protests and a grad student undertook a week-long hunger strike over racially charged incidents on campus and what they saw a subsequent lack of action by school administrators. The protests culminated in a move by university football players refusing to take the field until the hunger strike ended.

“It really shows the power of one dedicated person, one student who decided to fast to get everybody else’s attention,” Jackson said. “Sacrifice matters.”

Jackson encouraged students at UC to vote, to focus on academics and to be clear in demands for racial equity on campus and beyond.

“The agenda must correspond to the needs,” Jackson said about campus activism at UC, the University of Missouri and elsewhere. “The board of directors hire the president. The C-suites make decisions on a day to day basis. The faculty. The tenured professors whose jobs are secure in the academic world. The supplier contracts on this campus. The university lawyers. The advertising and marketing. All of this should be an agenda for change.”

A group at UC called the Irate8 that formed in the aftermath of the DuBose shooting has staged rallies, teach-ins and other peaceful efforts to advocate for black students on campus. The group is named for the 8 percent of the school’s student body that is black. The Irate8 points out Cincinnati’s population is 45 percent black and has pushed the UC administration to articulate a plan to boost diversity on the school’s main campus to better reflect the demographics of the city as a whole.

On Oct. 15, the Irate8 released a list of 10 demands for UC’s administration. In that list, the group asks that for establishment of campus-wide racial awareness training, disinvestment from any companies running private prisons, the hiring of at least 16 black staff and senior faculty members over the next three years and the doubling of the school’s percentage of black students on campus.

The group is also pushing for substantial reform to UC’s police force in the wake of the DuBose shooting, highlighting the large disparity between blacks and whites in stops and arrests by the department in the past year. In 2014, 17 whites and 52 blacks were stopped by the UC police force. Police issued 30 citations to whites that year and 119 to blacks.

Administrators say they’re working to address activist’s points. Meanwhile, racially charged statements similar to those that sparked tensions at the University of Missouri have cropped up on social media at UC, further increasing tensions at the school.

Despite those messages, however, Jackson said collaboration and diversity are the keys to success for activists at UC.

"The dream must include all of us," Jackson said, repeatedly admonishing student activists to build inclusive coalitions with other groups of all races on campus and beyond around student debt, voting access and other issues to achieve their goals. "The more people I include, the bigger my agenda gets."

by Kerry Skiff 11.10.2015 15 days ago
Posted In: Arts community, Literary at 04:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Beyond the Books

Pottery Demonstration at the Kenton County Public Library's Covington Branch

Every piece of art has a story, but what we don’t often remember is that the story of the artist can be even more enthralling. Donna King of River’s Edge Pottery Studio shared not only her trade but her history with a group during a pottery demonstration at the Covington branch of the Kenton County Public Library. The demonstration, which was scheduled for only two hours, stretched out as King engaged her audience in a series of stories.

She begian by slamming the clay on the wheel, making a large thump. “You’ve gotta get really really tough with it,” she explained. After centering the blob of clay on the wheel, King went to work on what she tells us is going to be a bowl. “With my students, the first thing I have them do is make a bowl,” she said.

As we watched, King masterfully poked a hole in the middle of the clay lump, eventually widening it out to form a discernable bowl shape. Once she was finished with it, King set it aside and grabbed a larger lump of clay, which she again threw on the wheel. This one was to become a vase, and King eagerly shared her technique for designing her pieces, which includes using a variety of objects to create patterns. Leaves, feathers and lace are a few of her standard tools, but she’s also used Hot Wheels cars, plastic placemats and pages from adult coloring books. “Sometimes I use a feather, sometimes I use sugar, and one time I actually used cat’s whiskers,” she said, laughing.

The library demonstration was King’s second at the Kenton County Public Library. The artist, who has been creating pottery for nine years, originally asked to display pottery for the Clay Alliance of Cincinnati, but when the library reached out requesting her to come give a presentation last fall, she gladly accepted.  “It’s just fun,” she said. “It’s just been an adventure.” The artist says she’s traveled all over the community doing demonstrations and classes and has worked with several Girl Scout troops and taught classes at Christian schools in the area, as well as teaching private or group classes. “I’ve had them as young as two years old, and up to 86 years old,” she said “People who say, ‘You know, I’ve always wanted to try that,’ and I say, ‘Well, now’s your chance.’ ”

Find this interesting? Check out similar events at the Kenton County Public Library:

Nov. 12: Scarf It Up: Learn to knit from a local hobbyist. (Durr Branch)
Nov. 17: Coloring for Adults: Unwind at the Erlanger branch with this creative past time. (Erlanger Branch)
Nov. 19: Holiday Sewing: Machines and fabric are available for you to come make a holiday gift. (Covington Branch)

by Nick Swartsell 11.10.2015 15 days ago
Posted In: News at 10:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Chamber hosts discussions on transit; workers rally for minimum wage increase; streetcar zipping around OTR

Hey Cincy. There’s a ton of interesting stuff going on today. Let’s talk about some of it.

• The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce this morning is hosting a series of discussions about transit in the region, and the event has drawn a packed house. The event comes on the heels of a less-than-stellar report about Greater Cincinnati’s transit options. According to that report, only 22 percent of jobs in the city are easily accessible by public transit, and only 58 percent across the region are within a 90-minute transit ride.

The Chamber’s event today features a panel discussion involving local transit officials and experts and a keynote address from former Zipcar head and transit expert Gabe Klein. Among the highlights: Republican Cincinnati City Councilwoman and chair of the Council’s transportation and regional cooperation subcommittee Amy Murray advocating for an expansion of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Metro system via a county-wide tax increase. That ask may appear on the ballot next November. Democrat Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, also speaking on the panel, pointed to the fact that the region is dead last among peer cities in terms of transit connectivity, and that this weakness could hamper economic growth.

Klein’s talk focused on the way transit can increase a city’s economic competitiveness, and how high emphasis on highways and lack of transit options can hamper a city’s walkability and its ability to attract young people. Klein also argued in favor of a return to density in city centers, especially density focused on eliminating the need to rely on cars to get to necessities.

“Making cities dense again, a place where people want to be, just makes sense,” Klein told attendees, arguing that increased density with less reliance on cars (and need for parking, for example) changes the equation for developers and residents when it comes to making decisions about where to build and live.

• Speaking of transit, the streetcar is taking its first trips under its own power today around Over-the-Rhine. You may see the shiny new orange and white vehicles, which look a little like space trains or something, making a 1.6 mile loop between the southern edge of Washington Park and Henry Street just north of Findlay Market. There won’t be any street closures along the route as officials seek to test how motorists and pedestrians interact with the new addition to traffic. The cars will travel very slowly most of the time — about three miles an hour — though at times the cars will be bumped up to 10 mph and occasionally all the way up to a top speed of 25 mph. The tests could take up to three days.

• About 20 local fast food, homecare and childcare workers gathered at City Hall this morning to advocate for a boost in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The demonstration was part of a larger group of events happening across the country today advocating for the wage boost with an eye toward the 2016 elections. According to organizers, walkouts, city hall rallies and other events are planned in more than 270 cities nationwide today. The group gathered at Cincinnati City Hall this morning will also rally in Norwood at noon. In addition to wage increases, the groups, part of the Fight for 15 movement, are also protesting for increased union rights in industries that aren’t friendly to collective bargaining. Organizers say today’s rallies are just the start of a year-long effort to put pressure on candidates and officials to take steps to expand collective bargaining rights and wages for low-income workers. More than 2 million Ohioans make less than $15 an hour.

• What’s the difference between jail and a cozy stay in a place you found on Air B&B? Here’s a hint: it’s not the price. Jail stays in some parts of the state can cost you an average of more than $70 a day, a report from the American Civil Liberties Union found recently. Those fees can add up. One man who has been booked multiple times on non-violent drug charges now owes the state more than $21,000 for his time in county jails. Not all jails charge booking or daily fees, but at least 16 in the state do. Generally, county commissioners decide whether or not to charge the one-time booking fees (which Hamilton and Butler Counties do) and the recurring daily fees (which they do not). The ACLU is asking the state legislature to create rules against those charges.

• Finally, is a dynamic duo of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the cards for the 2016 presidential election? Pundits have been opining on the possible dream team (or nightmare scenario/comedic and bumbling buddy movie in the making, depending on your political leanings) after noticing the two contenders for the GOP presidential nomination have been notably less than hostile to each other during debates and in the press. Kasich brings experience and well, one of the nation’s biggest swing states. Rubio brings youth and… one of the other big swing states. Of course, neither one wants to play Robin to the other’s Batman just yet and take the VP spot, but time could change that, especially if Kasich doesn’t take a big upswing in the polls in places like New Hampshire, the early primary state where the Ohio gov has said he must do well to continue his campaign.