Good morning! I hope everyone had a great weekend. I managed to go check out the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and learned a lot about our nation's history and got to see a signed copy of the Emancipation Proclamation. It's on display temporarily, so go check it out if you haven't already. But now back to the modern world, and here are today's headlines.
If I could choose one album to listen to for a month straight (because, let’s be honest, the whole “rest of your life thing” is far too unrealistic), I would choose Repave by Volcano Choir.
A buddy of mine showed this album to be about eight months ago. He was going through some pretty tough stuff at the time, and he couldn’t get enough of this album filled with sorrow, power and beauty altogether. Repave consists of tracks that can almost make listeners feel as if it was written specifically for them, and I understood immediately why he was so drawn to it.
Justin Vernon (best known as Bon Iver) took a different turn with the Volcano Choir project, breaking away from the sound of his album For Emma, Forever Ago, and the more tranquil sound Bon Iver brings to the table. According to a Pitchfork interview, Volcano Choir is supposed to be “fun.” This concept immediately causes me to smile, because as deep and emotional a man Vernon is in comparison to his previous work, it just makes sense.
Although I said I would choose to listen to this album for an entire month straight, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be going through a tough time in your life to enjoy it. It’s beautiful in an elegant way, when the (sound) waves crashing into shots of orchestrated sounds that rise up as the track time elapses. Their album cover of a rocky ocean simply speaks for itself. Although it isn’t clear whether or not the dark skies symbolize before or after a storm, I personally imagine it as both. These songs begin with slow rhythms, delicate strummed guitars and a light tapping on the drums. Some even begin with a voice alone. But at some point, it escalates. It kicks your ass, emotionally. And just like the worst things we may face in life, the storm ends. And it slowly, but gracefully, falls.
Whether you’re a Bon Iver fan or not, this album is nothing like what you’d expect, yet, everything you’d expect. Play it over and over again. Face your storm. And rock the fuck out when you do.
Hey Cincy! Normally, we’d be talking local news today, but it’s a bit slow and yesterday’s GOP presidential primary debate yielded plenty to discuss, along with I’m sure more than a few debate drinking game-related hangovers. So let’s talk about that, shall we?
As previously noted, this was a big day for Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who barely made the cutoff for the top 10 GOP contenders invited to participate. Despite being governor of the state in which the GOP will hold its national convention next year and choose its presidential nominee, Kasich narrowly averted having to participate in a so-called pre-debate “kids table” panel made up of also-rans like former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Hewlett Packard exec Carly Fiorina. That discussion presented a pretty sad scene inside the empty Quicken Loans Arena (the pre-debate panel wasn’t open to the public).
Kasich, however, was on the big stage with the GOP’s top national names and, by most accounts, made the most of the opportunity. While frontrunners like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush floundered a bit, Kasich was aggressive in pushing his balanced budget, tax cutting, privatizing vision, something he’s instituted in Ohio to rather mixed results. As we mentioned yesterday, though unemployment under Kasich has fallen in Ohio, the state’s median household income still lags behind its 1980s levels and the national median income. Kasich also got big applause for a somewhat dodgy answer to a question about gay marriage. Shifting from policy to personal life, Kasich said he would still love his daughters if they were gay. I would hope so. Meanwhile, the state of Ohio under Kasich spent tons of time and energy fighting a losing battle against marriage equality. So there’s that.
There were several fun moments at the debate, and by fun I mean terrifying because one of these guys could be the next leader of our country. And by “one of these guys,” I foremost mean Donald Trump, who has taken an early and stupefying lead among GOP voters, according to some polls. First, everyone got mad because the Donald wouldn’t declare himself loyal to the Republican party and didn’t rule out a third-party run if doesn’t get the GOP nomination. “If I’m the nominee, I will pledge I will not run as an independent,” he said, hilariously. That’s nice of him. That ticked off Rand Paul, among other candidates, and some high-school friend-group-level bickering commenced. The Donald also made inflammatory comments about immigrants and women, but that’s hardly news these days, right?
Interestingly, there was little talk of the economy in the
series of passive-aggressive tiffs debut debate. In fact, the candidates mentioned the middle class just twice, and one of those times was Christie referring to himself. Inequality got no mentions, though Kasich did nod to it obliquely in a couple statements. Maybe it’s because the topic isn’t exactly a winner right now for Republicans — unemployment is low, after all, and has been for a while. Instead, the GOP hopefuls chose to focus on “illegals” (their word) and the border, which they mentioned 25 times all together. They also mentioned Hillary Clinton nearly 20 times, which is a lot like talking a bunch about someone you say you don't care about. It just makes you sound like you have a crush on them or are scared of them. Or both.
So, did Kasich raise his profile with his performance? It’s too early to tell, but national commentators have at least tipped their hats to him post-debate, with some saying he came out on top.
That’s it for me today. Hope your weekend is good and debate free.
Hundred Days, a Folk Rock Opera onstage at Know Theatre, continues to be the go-to show of the summer. The story of a marriage that gets short-circuited by a fatal illness turns into a joyous 75-minute concert music written and performed by the dynamic duo of Abigail and Shaun Bengson, with five musicians and singers behind them. Rather than wallow in grief about having only 100 days, they celebrate their love by condensing what they imagine 60 years of life might have held. It’s a lovely story, told in an imaginative, contemporary way. Read my CityBeat review, which gave it a “Critic’s Pick.” Tickets: 513-300-5669
Cincinnati Shakespeare has three excellent comic actors onstage at the moment who know how to wring every possible laugh out of a satiric script. Geoffrey Barnes, Justin McCombs and Amanda McGee are performing The Complete History of America (Abridged), another script by the zany trio who wrote The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). I think this one tries a little too hard to be hilarious, so a few moments feel kind of lame, but these three players manage to pick things up, make a little fun of themselves and move right on with more gags, jokes, pratfalls, spit takes and costume changes. It’s an evening of hilarity. Here’s my CityBeat review. Through Aug. 15. Tickets: 513-381-2273
Cincy Shakes’ FREE Shakespeare in the Park tour continues this weekend with a 7 p.m. performances of Romeo and Juliet at Cottell Park in Deerfield (Friday) and the Community Park Pavilion in Milford (Sunday) as well as A Midsummer Night’s Dream — at the Community Pavilion in Glenwood Gardens, a Hamilton County Park.
Finally, if you’re willing to drive to Dayton for the Human Race Theatre Company’s first-ever Festival of New Works. The weekend offers a collection of readings of five scripts — three plays and two musicals — by local, national and international writers. The lineup includes full readings of Have You Ever Played, Dayton?, a play by Robb Willoughby, and Mann … and Wife, a musical by Douglas J. Cohen and Dan Elish based on the latter’s novel Nine Wives. There will also be three 30-minute “snapshot” readings: Karen Righter’s play, The Day After Epiphany; Central Park Tango, a musical by Nicky Phillips and Robert Gontier; and Scott Stoney’s adaptation of Some Self-Evident Truths, a play based on the journals of Lucille Wheat and Lois Davies. Open talkbacks with the creative teams follow the readings. The “snapshots” (Saturday at 8 p.m.) are presented and ticketed as a group. Readings will be held in the 60-seat Caryl D. Philips Creativity Center of The Human Race and The 212-seat Loft Theatre in downtown Dayton. Info: 937-228-3630 or humanracetheatre.org
Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
The big news this week: True love is dead. As we know, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner confirmed their separation earlier this summer after months (years?) of speculation. Similar rumors have circulated around Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith lately, probably because they’re always talking about how hot their marriage is like a couple of desperate stunt-queens. Despite a recent report confirming their divorce, the couple is denying it. But wait — there’s more. Another famous music couple actually confirmed their split: Reba McIntyre and husband of 26 years (and manager — did that make him Reba’s manager?) Narvel Blackstock. This comes weeks after more contemporary Country couple Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert addressed their breakup. I know, I know — all Hollywood couples are destined for doom — but nothing could prepare me for the news of the leaders of the First Family of Cool, Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, divorcing. TRAGEDY! Clearly there’s a national emergency, because freaking Miss Piggy and Kermit have added their names to the R.I.P. True Love list. I thought summer was the season for love.
File under This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: HitchBot. Some good-natured Canadian scientists created a good-natured hitchhiking, talking robot that could get rides from good-natured Canadian humans from Nova Scotia to British Columbia (basically, across the entire good-natured country). Anyone could pick up the bot and take it closer to his destination, documenting their travels along the way. HitchBot made it to Victoria, B.C., safe and sound — success! HitchBot later ‘hiked its way through Germany and the Netherlands before embarking on its first stateside voyage.
Naturally, we had to ruin
everything. On July 17, HitchBot started in Salem, Mass., with a destination of
San Francisco. It made it to Philly on Aug. 1 before being busted up by some
evil Americans. The scientists, being the good-natured Canadians they are,
aren’t taking it personally. BustedBot is coming home for repairs before making
another American excursion — starting in Philly — sometime next year. Oh,
Jumanji is getting a reboot next year, so I guess I might just bury myself underground for a while. Nothing is sacred. Here’s some more Sony Pictures flicks coming in ’16 and ’17.
And I guess while we’re being emotional, here’s audio of Chris Farley as Shrek — the late comedian was the original voice actor for the role; he died shortly before the film was finished and Mike Myers took over the iconic role (and clearly changed the character with his boisterous Fat Bastard-esque take on Shrek’s vocals). You may need to squeeze onto the donkey in your life as you listen.
Jesse Pinkman’s house is for sale.
Will Ferrell is working on a Funny Or Die comedy special for HBO called Ferrell Takes the Field, which follows the funnyman as he takes on 10 different positions for 10 different MLB teams in five games. This all went down March and somehow I missed that shit, because apparently Will played for the Reds against the Diamondbacks for the special during spring training. Ferrell Takes the Field premieres on Sept. 12.
And to end on the happiest of notes, here’s dream-BFFs Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence fucking jet-skiing together like a couple of babes. #squadgoals
Good morning all. Here’s what’s up on this rainy Thursday.
Cincinnati City Council yesterday voted to temporarily suspend an agreement with the University of Cincinnati Police Department that allowed that agency to make traffic stops on streets beyond UC’s campus. The decision comes in the wake of the shooting by UC officer Ray Tensing of unarmed motorist Samuel Dubose a half-mile from campus in Mount Auburn. Council voted unanimously to pull back a memorandum of understanding between UC’s police force and the Cincinnati Police Department that allowed UC officers to do things like make traffic stops and other enforcement efforts off-campus. Now, officials from UC, CPD, and the city are working to hammer out a better protocol for campus police in light of Dubose’s death and revelations about the university department’s increasingly aggressive stance in the neighborhoods around the school.
Traffic tickets and use of force incidents have increased dramatically in the past few years as the school has added more than 30 new police officers. UC police have drawn guns 16 times this year, according to documents reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer. Officers with that force did so only twice in 2014 and twice in 2013. Traffic stops in that time have gone up a staggering amount — from 615 in 2012 to a projected 3,400 or more in 2015, according to numbers cited by City Councilman Kevin Flynn. That increase has disproportionately affected people of color. Some 63 percent of those ticketed in the past year were African American, documents show. Council members say until those issues are addressed, UC police should hold off on making off-campus traffic stops.
• Maybe this seems like a small bit of news to the car-owning readers, but for folks like me it’s huge: Metro is making real-time bus data available to riders. This is an awesome feature for days like today, when it’s pouring down rain and I can look out my window to see an uncovered bus stop tantalizingly close to my house but too far away to sprint to once I’ve seen the bus coming. The public transit organization today launched a bus-tracking system that allows riders to call a special phone line, check out a website or download new apps to follow the bus they’re waiting for in real time. Riders can call 513-621-4455, visit go-metro.com or download Metro’s new free Bus Detective and Transit Apps to get the information. Info is available in English and Spanish.
• Cincinnati City Council needs one more vote to take up suggested changes to the city’s charter that would limit the mayor’s power. Among those changes is a provision that would end the mayor’s ability to pocket veto legislation by not referring it to council committees and another that would allow council to initiate the firing of the city manager.
The city’s Charter Review Task Force has been working on its suggestions for more than a year and this week delivered its final report on what it sees as pressing changes needed to the city’s governing document. Some of those changes don’t sit well with Mayor John Cranley, which is to be expected, since they would limit his power considerably. Council members P.G. Sittenfeld, Yvette Simpson, Wendell Young, Chris Seelbach and Kevin Flynn support the suggestions.
Flynn, who chairs Council’s Rules and Audit Committee, appointed the task force. Supporters on council yesterday said the city’s current charter is vague and that it never intended to give the city’s mayor the sweeping powers that position now has. However, opponent Vice Mayor David Mann says the mayor can’t actually legally use the pocket veto and that a winnable legal battle could ensue should he try against the wrong council member. In the meantime, putting the pocket veto issue up for a vote could mean council would be stuck with it if voters decide to preserve that power. That leaves a few wildcards: Council member Amy Murray is mum about her stance on the proposed changes. Christopher Smitherman wants to give the mayor more power, not less. That leaves Republican Charlie Winburn, usually a staunch ally of Cranley. But Winburn vocally disapproved of former mayor Mark Mallory’s use of the pocket veto provision and has made noises about supporting council’s ability to hold the city manager accountable. Will he side against his ally Cranley? It’s a cliffhanger. Should council pass the recommendations, they’ll go on the November ballot.
• Should drivers be required to give bikers in the city more room on the road? Some groups think so. About half of states require a three foot passing distance between cars and bikers on the road. Ohio isn’t one of those states, but the city has passed similar rules requiring drivers to give bikes at least three feet when passing them. Now some bike activists say that distance isn’t far enough for safety, and some are pushing to get rules changed. The League of American Bicyclists, for instance, has issued a new set of safety recommendations it says improves upon the three-foot rule. Will the city take up these recommendations? Only time will tell.
• Finally, let me set a scene for you. Tonight is the night. Cleveland is the place. In a dim hotel room somewhere near the venue for the first official GOP 2016 presidential primary debate, Gov. John Kasich is staring into a mirror adjusting his tie, making tough faces and gestures and mouthing the words to this song as it blasts in the background. Well, if he's not listening to that classic Eminem joint, he should be.
Kasich, the underdog, number 10 out of 10 among invited debate contestants, must know this is a make or break moment for his quest to grab the Republican nomination for presidency. He’s been here before, back in 2000, and this is probably his last big shot. He’ll have to spar with the national names — Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Scott Walker and yes, of course, Donald Trump — and also answer for his record, which on first glance looks strong but has some big weak points, as this recent editorial from Cleveland.com points out. Data suggests that his much-touted Ohio miracle is at times illusory. The state's median household income — $46,000 — is still less than the nearly $50,000 it was in 1984 when adjusted for inflation. We’re also well below the national average of $51,000 a year. Kasich has also presided over a disastrous turn for the state’s charter school system. He supports Common Core and has expanded Medicaid in the state. Some of these points will make him more vulnerable to a potential Democratic challenger. Some are things that hardline conservatives will hate him for. But all are fair game in the coming rhetorical bloodbath in Cleveland tonight.
That's it for me. E-mail or tweet at me with your favorite debate drinking games.
Good morning all. I dunno about you, but I’m pretty drowsy today after too much mid-week fun last night. But we’re going to push through together and get this news thing taken care of, right? Right. Here’s what’s up today.
Cincinnati is one of 10 more cities newly eligible for more than $100 million in federal grants aimed at getting folks with employment barriers trained to work in the tech industry. The city’s designation as part of the White House’s TechHire Initiative means the city can apply for that money to fund innovative programs with local partners that seek to increase the number of tech workers in the region, a big issue here. Currently, there are somewhere around 1,600 unfilled tech positions in the Greater Cincinnati area, and some industry experts expect that number to skyrocket in the coming decade. City officials say they hope to use the TechHire designation to get 300 Cincinnatians into tech jobs, especially city residents who have a hard time finding job training and work due to issues with child care, language barriers and disabilities.
• Watch where you’re flying that drone, bro. An unknown person yesterday flew one of the unmanned aircrafts into the Great American Tower in what I can only imagine was an attempt to pluck that dumb tiara off the building and dump it into the Ohio River. The drone was unsuccessful at that presumed task, however, and managed only to break a window. Glass fell onto the building’s parking garage, but no one was hurt. Flying a drone around downtown is illegal, though I hope someday in the near future our civic leaders will carve out an exception to that rule so I can have drones deliver pizza to my office window.
• In the aftermath of the July 19 University of Cincinnati police shooting of Samuel Dubose, UC has created a new position to help oversee the school’s police department. Vice President of Safety and Reform Robin Engel has spent two decades working with and studying police, UC officials say, and is the best person to lead the school’s police reform initiatives during the current crisis. You can find out more about Engel and her background in this story, which outlines the major challenges she faces ahead. One issue: the increase in traffic tickets given by UC cops, especially off-campus, and the pervasive racial inequity of those tickets. In four years, the number of tickets given by UC cops has risen from 286 to 932, and the share of those tickets going to blacks has gone from 43 to 62 percent.
• A year ago today, John Crawford III was shot to death by Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams in a Walmart there as he carried a toy rifle over his shoulder. Crawford was black and Williams was white. At the time, such shootings were an important, but tiny, blip on the nation’s radar. How times have changed. The police shooting death of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson five days later brought national attention to the issue, sparking deep unrest in the St. Louis satellite and around the country. Other shootings, including the recent death of Samuel Dubose at the hands of University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, have kept the issue front and center in the national spotlight. Now, a year after Crawford’s shooting, a federal investigation into his death continues and has yet to yield many new details. Rallies and gatherings are planned tonight at Courthouse Square in downtown Dayton at 7 p.m. and at the Beavercreek Walmart where Crawford died at 6 p.m. Crawford’s family will be appearing at the Dayton event.
• Finally, Gov. John Kasich got some good news yesterday. Over the past few weeks, when I picture Kasich, I picture an eager high school third-string quarterback on the sidelines beseeching coach to put him in the game. In this scenario, “coach” is the GOP and “the game” is of course the 2016 GOP presidential nomination contest. Yesterday, Kasich got word that he should suit up and start doing some warm ups, because he’s being called onto the field.
The Ohio guv made the cut for the first of six pre-primary debates, which takes place in Cleveland tomorrow. Kasich and U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky both eeked into the event, which has been limited to 10 slots. Kasich just edged past former Texas governor Rick Perry, who will stay at home in the Lone Star State, probably eating brisket and gazing longingly toward Cleveland. Just kidding. No one gazes longingly toward Cleveland. In any event, Kasich’s campaign announcement two weeks ago certain gave him a small boost — he’s now polling at about 3 percent, much better than the 1 percent he was at before he launched — but he’s still got a lot of work to do to catch up to GOP heavy-hitters former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and surprise quasi-frontrunner real estate magnate Donald Trump. Thursday’s debate may be a good chance for him to further set himself apart from the crowded field. Will Kasich’s surge continue? Will he pull off some kind of Rudy-esque triumph and make it to the big game? I would say the odds are long, but everyone loves an underdog.
Good morning all! Here’s the news today.
It looks as if the city’s streetcars will arrive a month or two behind schedule, though the delay probably won’t push back the transit project’s start date next fall. CAF USA, which is building the cars, anticipates needing at least another month past its Sept. 17 construction deadline to finish the vehicles and might need as long as November to finish. The delay isn’t entirely out of the blue — CAF relies on subcontractors whose provision of key components can run behind, and each vehicle must pass a number of safety and quality control tests that can push back delivery dates.
• The family of Samuel Dubose, who was shot and killed July 19 by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, has filed opening paperwork in what could become a wrongful death lawsuit over the incident. Audrey Dubose, Samuel’s mother, has asked a judge to make her executor of his estate so she can pursue the lawsuit on behalf of the estate. It’s the first step toward a civil suit, possibly against the university, Tensing himself or both. Dubose was unarmed when Tensing shot him during a routine traffic stop in Mount Auburn, about a half-mile from UC’s campus. Tensing stated he was dragged by Dubose’s Honda Accord and had no choice but to shoot him. Another officer corroborated his story in a police report. But Tensing’s body camera footage shows an entirely different story, revealing he shot Dubose in the head before his car started moving. UC fired Tensing and a grand jury has indicted him on murder charges. He’s out on $1 million bond. UC has also created a new position, the Vice President of Public Safety, in the wake of the shooting.
More details continue to trickle out about the case. Yesterday, the Hamilton County Coroner’s office revealed that a gin bottle Dubose handed to officer Tensing during the traffic stop did not contain alcohol, as originally reported, but instead held a fragrance mixture Dubose was using as an air freshener.
• Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan and representatives from other area districts met yesterday to kick off the Greater Cincinnati School Advocacy Network, a group of 41 local districts from Hamilton, Butler, Warren and Clermont Counties pushing back against state and federal mandates on teachers and education administration. The group’s meeting included calling out the increasing demands of high-stakes testing and data collection requirements among other unfunded requirements local districts say are overly onerous.
“Why does the state capitol need to know what class my child is in in third bell?” Ronan said at the meeting, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. “We struggle with the million pieces of data they want.”
But some education advocates say state-level accountability efforts are necessary to ensure that students are being offered a quality education and that push back against some of the testing and data standards is an attempt to dodge responsibility for school performance. Ohio Gov. John Kasich has supported some of these state-wide and federal mandates, including the controversial Common Core federal education standards. He has argued that the expectations are about preparing U.S. students to compete in a global marketplace.
• Republican state lawmakers are mulling a bill that would require welfare recipients in Ohio to pass drug tests. If applicants for assistance fail that test, they would be required to attend rehab and would be barred from state assistance for six months. State Rep. Ron Maag, a Republican from Salem Township, says the goal is to keep state funds out of the hands of drug dealers and to get help for addicts. Those who fail drug tests could still receive state assistance for their children through a third party, Maag says. The bill would set aside $100,000 for treatment of those who fail drug tests and would start with a test run in a few select Ohio counties. Similar laws in other states have had a rather dismal track record. A Tennessee law requiring drug tests for welfare recipients found only 37 drug users out of the 16,017 people tested. The state spent thousands of dollars on the tests. Further, the tests might not be constitutional, and the Ohio chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has threatened a lawsuit should the bill pass here.
• Here's something awful: the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit against the Kenton County Sheriff's office over an incident in which a sheriff's deputy allegedly handcuffed two mentally disabled children at a Covington school, despite the fact the eight-year-old boy and nine-year-old girl did not pose a physical threat to anyone at the time. The ACLU filed the suit yesterday over the incident, which happened last year.
• Finally, will Gov. Kasich get to take the big stage and debate other GOP presidential hopefuls at the first official GOP primary debate in Cleveland Thursday? It’s coming down to the wire. Though Kasich has surged following his campaign announcement last month, he’s still small potatoes. He’s polling at about 3.5 percent and is hovering somewhere around ninth place in some polls. Fox News, which is hosting the debate, has said it will limit space in the event to the top 10 candidates. The network is expected to announce which 10 will get in later today. Kasich did attend a kind of warm-up candidate forum in New Hampshire yesterday along with 13 other contenders for the Republican nod. Not making the cut in Cleveland, however, would be somewhat humiliating for the home-state governor.