CityBeat - Blogs http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs.engine.php <![CDATA[U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Ohio Same-Sex Marriage Cases April 28]]>

The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled a hearing that will decide the fate of same-sex marriage bans in Ohio and three other states. On April 28, the court will hear arguments over whether same-sex marriage bans in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Ohio’s ban passed as an amendment to the state’s constitution in 2004. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and other ban supporters say upholding the ban is about protecting voters’ rights to enact laws via the democratic process. But opponents equate same-sex marriage to now-protected civil rights such as provisions upholding voting rights and school integration that had to be upheld by decisions from the courts. They also cite more recent polls that show attitudes toward same-sex marriage are shifting.

Last year, a three-judge panel in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court in Cincinnati upheld the bans in the four states in a 2-1 decision, agreeing with DeWine’s argument. But there are signs the Supreme Court may not agree.

Other circuit courts across the country have thrown out similar bans. And in June 2014, the nation’s highest court struck down a 1996 federal law that effectively banned same-sex marriage in a narrow 5-4 decision. The five justices opposed to the federal bans included reliably liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer as well as moderate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who many legal experts believe represents the crucial vote for matters pitting liberals against conservatives on the court. All five justices who voted to strike down the federal ban remain on the court, though some have joined its more conservative wing in upholding other bans, most notably California’s 2008 ban.

Among the four cases to be presented in arguments over Ohio’s ban is a lawsuit against the state by James Obergefell of Cincinnati. Obergefell sought to be listed as the spouse of his terminally-ill longtime partner John Arthur on Arthur’s death certificate. The state refused to allow that, even though the two were legally married in another state. Arthur died in October 2013. 

After oral arguments, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the cases sometime in June.

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<![CDATA[Rhinegeist to Release Saber Tooth Saturday]]> If you live for IPAs or are just looking for a reason to get a lil tipsy this weekend, Rhinegeist is releasing its highly sought after and limited Saber Tooth Tiger IPA with a party on Saturday. 

The "prehistorically hopped" Imperial IPA has a bit of a bite, with notes of papaya, mango, peach and a clean, bitter finish (IBU 95). The launch party will be your first chance to get ahold of the beer, and the only place to get it to go. Each person is allowed to take home two 22-ounce bombers of Saber Tooth. That's it. They won't be filling growlers, howlers, crowlers or any other "owlers." 

The brewery opens at noon. Live music from Peter Dressman starts at 1 p.m., followed by Grady Burton at 4 p.m.

Free. Rhinegeist, 1910 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, rhinegeist.com.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Hello Cincy! Here’s a brief rundown of what’s going on in the news today.

As I told you about earlier this week, Cincinnati City Council passed a new dog law that levies steep civil penalties (up to $15,000) for dog owners who don’t control their pets. The law was changed just slightly before passage, cutting out criminal penalties that duplicated already existing state laws. Council also wrangled over the streetcar again (surprise) and passed a measure that would increase the highest possible salary for assistant city manager to more than $160,000, a big bump. That move came with some argument from council members Yvette Simpson and Chris Seelbach, who felt raising prospective salaries at the top sent the wrong message when frontline workers are receiving just a 1.5 percent increase in pay. Council did also approve a small cost of living allowance increase for non-union city workers as well at their meeting yesterday, however.

• Local craft brewers Rhinegeist got some bummer news yesterday from the state of Kentucky, though other craft brewers may feel differently about a bill that passed the state Senate. That bill, HB 168, prohibits brewers in Kentucky from also owning distribution companies. That’s bad news for Rhinegeist because the company is just three months into its River Ghost venture, which was to distribute their beer as well as other spirits in the Bluegrass State. Other craft brewers are elated by the prospective law, however, because it also prohibits brewing giant Anheuser-Busch from owning distribution in the state. Smaller brewers say giant brewing companies put their own beers front and center in their distribution, muscling the little guy out. Anheuser-Busch will have to sell or close its two distributing businesses in the state.

• The University of Cincinnati College of Law now has a female dean for the first time in its 182-year history. UC announced yesterday that it has chosen Jennifer Bard for the top position at the law school. Bard is currently a law professor and assistant provost at Texas Tech University. She’s highly regarded: She was also a candidate for the top job at three other law schools. Bard, who has a background in bioethics and public health, will do double duty at UC, also serving on faculty at the university’s College of Medicine.

• We here at CityBeat’s news desk (“we” being pretty much just me and editor Danny Cross sometimes) talk a lot about affordable housing here in the morning news and in our more in-depth reporting. And while it’s true that the rental market is seeing an affordability crisis, with rents going up and affordable units going down, the home ownership market is a different story. Cincinnati is one of the most affordable cities in the country in terms of owning a home, according to a recent ranking by website Next City. Cincinnati ranks fourth in the country, behind just Pittsburgh, Cleveland and St. Louis in the estimated yearly salary needed to afford the average house in the city. Of course, that’s still a firmly middle-class salary: about $33,500, which aligns pretty neatly with the city’s median household income of $33,700.

• Think back about four months or so, if you can, to a flap about Ohio Gov. John Kasich allegedly saying that he didn’t think Obamacare could be repealed. The Associated Press insisted Kasich made the assertion during an interview, while the governor said he only meant that Medicaid expansions in the states that had accepted money from the federal government couldn’t be repealed. Kasich asked for a correction. AP stood its ground. Sound nitpicky? Kind of, but it was a really big deal because repealing Obamacare is a GOP obsession and any Republican, especially one of Kasich’s stature, saying it wasn’t possible risked all sorts of slings and arrows from the party. Now, as Kasich seeks to gain the GOP nomination for president, and as Obamacare hangs on a Supreme Court decision, Kasich has finally wrung a correction out of AP. The news group now says it misunderstood him and that he meant to say that Medicaid couldn’t be repealed, not Obamacare in total. Right.

• The Department of Justice will not seek civil rights charges against Officer Darren Wilson or the Ferguson Police Department in connection with the August shooting death of unarmed black citizen Michael Brown. But they are not happy with the department. At all. The DOJ issued a scathing and, quite frankly, terrifying report about the Ferguson PD, citing numerous instances of racial bias, inappropriate use of force and seeming violations of citizens’ rights. Eighty-eight percent of the department’s uses of force were against black residents of the city, according to the DOJ. The report claims that the department has been functioning as little more than a revenue-collecting arm of the city’s government and that ticket quotas were established solely for the purpose of raising funds for the city. The revelations come as the country continues to grapple with questions around race and police use of force.

That’s it for me. I’m off to put together next week’s feature and an upcoming cover story and will be out tomorrow doing so, so this is goodbye for the week. I'll miss y'all! What do you want to see CityBeat dive into next? Hit me with it on Twitter: @nwarstell or e-mail me at nswartsell@citybeat.com.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Hey all. Let’s get this news thing going before the snow comes once again and grinds everything to a halt. Or just dusts the ground with a little inconvenient powder, depending on how much you trust weather forecasters.

Yesterday I told you a bit about 3CDC’s presentation to City Council’s Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee. During that meeting, 3CDC head Steven Leeper said the developer might cross the $1 billion threshold this year for investment made in the basin since it began in 2003. Let’s dig into my notes a bit and talk in more detail about a couple things regarding Over-the-Rhine the developers have planned.

One of the noteworthy projects on the group’s radar is a redevelopment of Ziegler Park on Sycamore Street. The park is across from the former SCPA building and just a block from Main Street’s active corridor of restaurants, bars and apartments. 3CDC head Steve Leeper said Ziegler’s revamp would increase the number of basketball courts and other active features currently found there. Removal of the courts at Washington Park during its 2010 revamp by 3CDC caused controversy among neighborhood residents, many of whom used the courts regularly. Leeper promised that while Washington Park’s character is more “passive” in nature, Ziegler would be a much more “active” park.

“There will be a lot more athletic activities going on there,” Leeper said, “and hopefully it will attract kids from the neighborhood who can spend their time in those athletic endeavors like we all did when we were kids."

• Leeper also outlined progress on three facilities for individuals without homes — two in Queensgate set to replace the Drop Inn Center and City Gospel Mission facilities currently in Over-the-Rhine and a third in Mount Auburn built to replace the Anna Louise Inn downtown. These projects have been controversial — advocates fought hard for years to keep the Drop Inn Center at its location in OTR and a protracted legal battle stretched on for many months between Cincinnati Union Bethel, which runs the Anna Louise Inn in Lytle Park, and Western & Southern Financial Group, which eventually purchased the property against CUB’s wishes. The new spaces are a bit further from the city’s center, though they do have a larger capacity.

• Speaking of the Drop Inn Center, its winter shelter will be open the rest of this week in response to dropping temperatures, according to a release sent out by the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless. Usually, the winter shelter is closed by this time of year, but with winter taking its time going away, the shelter will stay open a bit longer.

• Here we go again: More streetcar drama could be coming our way. There is currently a potential fight brewing over who will operate the transit project. Council has set a limit of $4.3 million a year on bids for running the streetcar. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority is taking bids on the contract, and there’s controversy over whether to use union employees for the job or not. Some council members favor that move, even if it costs a bit more, and they’ve asked  SORTA to negotiate with the Amalgamated Transit Union, which also runs the city’s bus service. But ATU has accused SORTA of dragging its feet on contract negotiations and trying to undercut the union by demanding a separate collective bargaining agreement for running the streetcar. SORTA says a separate agreement is necessary because the scale of the streetcar — just 30 employees at most — is much smaller than 750 people who run the city’s bus service. Union officials, however, says that SORTA is trying to get the lowest bid possible out of the union in order to drive other bids down as well. My guess is we’ll be hearing a lot more on this one. A decision must be made on the operator of the project by July.

• Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld today said he will stay in the race for U.S. Senate, ending speculation he might bow out after former governor Ted Strickland entered the race last week. Sittenfeld will face Strickland in the Democratic primary. The winner will face incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, unless he is felled by a primary challenger — an unlikely possibility.

“Since we launched our campaign, I have been more grateful than I can express for the enthusiasm, encouragement and support we've received,” Sittenfeld said today in a statement on social media and his website. “So I want you — my supporters and friends — to hear it from me directly: I'm all in. Ohio needs a forward-looking leader to replace Rob Portman and the broken culture in Washington that he's long been part of.”


• You might be able to walk around The Banks with a bit of the ole’ alcheyhol on Opening Day. For a while now, lawmakers in Ohio have been trying to pass legislation that would allow cities to designate open container districts where folks can have a beer out in public. It looks like the legislation is good to go, with enough support at the State House, and now local officials are telling the Ohio General Assembly to hurry the dang thing up so we can chug a couple Moerleins in public to celebrate the Reds beating the Pirates April 6. The bill looks likely to pass the House, hopefully with the two-thirds vote margin needed to put it into effect immediately. Local State Sens. Democrat Cecil Thomas and Republican Bill Seitz have introduced a bill in the Senate to speed the process up there as well. Now that’s what I call bipartisanship. If the bill passes, council will have to scramble to create and approve the districts, one of which looks likely to be the area around the stadium. Ladies and gentlemen, you have a month. Get to work.

• Hey! Do you want people fracking in state parks? It could happen soon whether you like it or not. Four years ago, Gov. John Kasich signed into law a provision allowing fracking on state land. He then pulled a fast one and declined to fund the commission that would give drillers approval for fracking permits on that land, basically circumventing the law he signed. Very clever. But the Ohio General Assembly, which is currently dominated by pro-fracking Republicans, is working to pass a bill called House Bill 8 that would bypass that commission. Proponents of the bill say it’s meant to help private landowners who want to sell drilling rights to wells that might end up under state land. But critics note that under the current version of the bill, so called “surface impacts,” or drilling directly on state land, are not outlawed and would be permissible if the law passes. The bill heads to committee next week and looks to pass there, after which it will be considered by the whole House.

• In national news, Supreme Court arguments begin in King vs. Burwell today, a lawsuit which could revoke health care subsidies for 7.5 million people currently signed up under the Affordable Care Act under the federal exchange. The core of the case is the contention that the language of the 2009 law does not allow the federal government to issue subsidies to people who went through the federal exchange, and that only those living in states that created their own exchanges are eligible for government help with their health care bills. It’s a nitpicky suit turning on a few words in a turn of phrase, but it could completely unravel Obamacare by making it unaffordable for those in the 34 states that did not or could not establish their own health care exchanges online. Many agree that’s the point of the suit, in fact — another attempt to repeal the healthcare system by throwing a legal wrench into its works. Just think! A pedantic semantics debate could leave millions without access to health care. And you thought clear writing wasn’t important.

That’s it for me. Hit me with those tweets and those e-mails: @nswartsell or nswartsell@citybeat.com

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<![CDATA[Watch: Electric Citizen’s “Light Years Beyond” Music Video]]>

Local Rock crew Electric Citizen (winners of a 2015 Cincinnati Entertainment Award in the “Hard Rock/Metal” category) just unleashed a new music video for its delicious slab of trippy heaviness, “Light Years Beyond.” The clip, which features some cool throwback visual stylings and was directed by David Brodsky, premiered on Vice’s music site, Noisey, today.


The track is off of the band’s great album Sateen, which came out last year on RidingEasy Records. Click here for more on Electric Citizen. And read CityBeat’s interview with the band from last year here.






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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Morning y’all. Here’s what’s up today. First, I have a couple previews of stories that will be in the print issue tomorrow. We’re taking a deeper look at these issues, but here’s the teaser:

I skipped doing the morning news yesterday so I could check out council’s Law and Public Safety Committee meeting. The committee passed a new dog law in the wake of several severe dog bite incidents in the past year. The law isn’t breed specific but would create three categories for dogs based on their behavior and levy fines on owners depending on the severity of a dog’s offenses. Simply letting a dog run free unattended would result in a $50 fine, while more violent behavior from the dog would increase civil penalties for the owner. The committee didn’t pass a competing ordinance proposed by Mayor John Cranley that would have required pit bulls to wear special collars among other stipulations.

“I’m hopeful that this will help the police and prosecutors crack down on bad owners, prevent dog bites and make this a safer city,” said Councilman Chris Seelbach of the legislation the committee passed. Seelbach was a vocal opponent of the breed-specific law proposed by Cranley.

While we’re talking about council, let’s get right into today’s 3CDC presentation to the economic growth and infrastructure committee. 3CDC head Steven Leeper gave a number of updates about the developer’s activities on the long-stalled 4th and Race project, 3CDC’s efforts to redevelop Over-the-Rhine, especially north of Liberty Street. Also included were updates on a huge project at 15th and Race streets and the developer’s proposal to create two community entertainment districts downtown. Leeper fired back at criticisms of the proposal from those concerned that the six new liquor licenses granted in one of the districts would be controlled by 3CDC. Some, including Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, have questioned whether a developer controlling the licenses violates the spirit of community entertainment districts, which were created to boost small businesses and revitalize neighborhoods.

“We’re not interested in controlling liquor licenses,” Leeper said. “This is a means to an end. We have several terrific restaurateurs, small businesspeople. Everyone we’re talking to who is going into this site is from Cincinnati.”

• A group of activists is holding a town hall meeting at Bellarmine Chapel on the campus of Xavier University tonight at 6 p.m. to discuss comments made by Norwood Mayor Tom Williams in a January letter to the city’s police force calling black leaders in the community “race baiters.” The group says it hopes to start “a conversation where we can talk together about how our community can be welcoming to all who live here, shop here, visit here and worship here.” A Facebook listing for the event says childcare and refreshments will be provided.

• The Cincinnati Police Department has released video of an officer-involved shooting that occurred Monday morning in Price Hill. Police say 24-year-old Christian Jackson had broken into his ex-girlfriend’s house when police confronted him. After Jackson pointed a shotgun at them, police fired 11 times, hitting Jackson twice, according to the officers. Jackson ran two blocks before collapsing. He was taken to the hospital and is currently in stable condition.

This story is strange: this morning I woke up to Twitter posts about a person named Adam Hoover being abducted from work this morning and driven around I-275 in the trunk of his car. He posted a Facebook update about it, claiming he couldn’t call 911 because he was afraid his captors would hear him. Law enforcement soon found Hoover and began questioning him, and local news picked up the story, though there were few details available. Now, it all seems to have been a hoax. Hoover, a local activist who helped organize vigils for Leelah Alcorn after her death in December, apparently made up the entire ordeal, authorities say.

"This is a young man dealing with some issues in his life right now and for whatever reason he decided to stage this kidnapping and abduction," Green Township Police Lt. Jim Vetter told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

• Did Hillary Clinton circumvent federal email secrecy rules when she served as secretary of state? A New York Times story reveals that Clinton often used her personal email accounts to carry out official business as SOS. That’s against recent rules that require federal officials to use government email addresses for official business so their correspondence can be tracked and archived. Some Bush administration officials, including Karl Rove, were heavily criticized during W’s tenure for using secret, private email accounts to discuss official business. Sounds shady, but heck, is this really such a great strategy when apparently the federal government can read your private emails anyway?

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<![CDATA[Jean-Robert's Le Bar a Boeuf Opens Today]]>
Jean-Robert de Cavel's latest venture, the whimsically titled Le Bar a Boeuf (literally translated to "beef bar"), opens today in East Walnut Hills' Edgecliff building (2200 Victory Parkway). The neo-French bistro will only be open for dinner to start, with lunch and brunch service following shortly after. 

“It’s taken us a little longer to open than we anticipated," says de Cavel in a recent press release. "We have a wonderful team in place and we are ready." 

The restaurant, which was originally slate to open in November, will feature a new take on classic French and American dishes. The atmosphere — a funky 70-person dining room and 20-24 person separate lounge, designed with help from HighStreet — is more casual than Table, with the intent that everybody will be able to share (at least the appetizers). A 35-person patio, with panoramic views of the Ohio River and Northern Kentucky, will open when the weather warms.

"It's not a classic bistro, like when I did Jean Ro," de Cavel told CityBeat in November. "This neo-bistro is something from the past you are familiar with but in a modern way." 

The menu features everything from escargot to calves liver and macaroni and cheese to ground steaks, with entree prices in the $11-$25 range. CityBeat dining writer Ilene Ross got a sneak-peek dinner at the restaurant this past weekend. She tried everything from the steak tartare and the lamb and beef burgers to snails in parchment and a pot de crème, saying "It. Is. Perfect." 

Le Bar a Boeuf's Chef de Cuisine is Mirko Ravlic with sous chef Travis Reidel, both from Table. Table's wine director Evan Abrams has developed the moderately priced and global wine list. The bar will also serve classic cocktails, and local, import and domestic beers. Local hospitality expert Richard Brown, who worked with de Cavel at the Maisonette and Jean-Robert at Pigall’s, serves as general manager, assisted by Leslie Brunk.  

The Edgecliff previously hosted restaurants, including The View, all of which rested on the laurels of location. De Cavel's vision is different. "I never want to promote the view; the view, for me, it's an extra," he said to CityBeat in November. "It's an extra thing. I want it to be a fun restaurant; a destination restaurant. Fun for the younger generation to the older generation."

Le Bar a Boeuf's current hours are 5:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 5:30-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations are available for early seating times (5:30, 5:45 and 6 p.m.). For more information, call 513-751-2333 (BEEF) or follow along on Facebook and Twitter @baraboeufcincy.



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<![CDATA[Macy’s Music Festival Becomes "Cincinnati Music Festival"]]>

A lot of people still call it “Jazz Fest” (a hold-over from some of its early names, like the Kool Jazz Festival) and more recently (as of last year) it went by the name of Macy’s Music Festival, but Cincinnati’s popular, long-running celebration of classic and contemporary R&B and Soul is now cutting to the chase and, for its 2015 edition, will be called the “Cincinnati Music Festival.”


The name and logo may be different (and the primary sponsor is now P&G), but not much else has changed. This year’s event takes place July 24-25 at Paul Brown Stadium on the riverfront. Tickets for the fest — which began in 1962 in Carthage as the Ohio Valley Jazz Festival and has featured everyone from Miles Davis and George Benson to Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye — go on sale this Saturday through Ticketmaster.com. 


This year’s lineup features Maxwell, Jennifer Hudson, The O’Jays, Joe and Luke James on July 24. For July 25, the event will feature longtime fest faves Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, plus Jill Scott, KEM, Avery Sunshine and Mali Music.


Click here for complete info on the 2015 Cincinnati Music Festival.

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<![CDATA[Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend]]> Each week CityBeat staffers and dining writers tell you what they ate this weekend. We're not always proud — or trendy — but we definitely spend at least some money on food. 

Mike Breen: I’m 74 years late to the party, but I had a late breakfast at the wonderful Sugar n’ Spice restaurant (which opened in 1941) in Bond Hill on Saturday morning. When we got there, my claustrophobia/social anxiety kicked in and I got a little grouchy because there was going to be a 30 minute wait for a table and the place is so tiny the “waiting area” is basically just standing or sitting smushed up against the walls near the entry door. But I’m glad I waited. It’s a really great place that has a lot of character, with its wild, playful murals and decor. The staff is remarkably friendly, the clientele is incredibly diverse and the food was delicious. 

I had a giant Greek omelette and it was one of the best I’ve ever had. Usually some of the flavors are lost when others attempt a Greek omelette, but in Sugar n’ Spice’s version my tastebuds could pick out every black olive, chunk of feta and piece of spinach. I also had a side of biscuits and gravy that were very fresh and delicious. (They also serve lunch and are open daily 7 a.m.-3 p.m.) I found out why it is my 10-year-old daughter’s favorite restaurant (her mom takes her often): the ducks (the waitresses bring around a bucket of various types of small rubber duckies for kids/adults to pick from) and the sweet treats (my daughter was presented with a tiny strawberry milkshake toward the end of our meal). The owner also walks around and offers little appetizer bites — the day I was there he had little nuggets of fried macaroni and cheese that were quite good. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. Great experience and great food. Because of this, it’s very popular, so expect a little bit of a wait. It’s worth it. 

Ilene Ross: Last Thursday found me eating an incredibly interesting lineup given my incredibly interesting schedule. I began the day by teaching a cooking class at Cooks’ Wares in Montgomery. The title of the class was entitled, “All About . . . Chicken,” and we covered the gamut from making stock to roasting a whole bird to creating tasty dishes with the stock and roasted chicken. That evening I was also honored to have been asked to be one of the restaurant judges at Cincinnati’s Finest Event for Cystic Fibrosis. Eleven restaurants participated, delivering delicious dishes, all in the name of a great charity. Two of my very favorite dishes were the celery root apple and clam bisque with a clam and cheddar arancini from chef Paul Barraco of 20 Brix in Milford, and wood-grilled lamb ribs with pomegranate and black pepper glaze and chopped edamame-herb salad with a yogurt-honey dressing from chef Jimmy Gibson of Jimmy G’s

After a quick bourbon in one of my favorite rooms in town — The bar at The Presidents Room in The Phoenix downtown — I headed to my second event of the evening, a party at the Pure Romance pop-up shop, hosted by my friend Pam Kravetz. Now, hold on, I know you’re thinking — that there isn’t much to eat there — but Pure Romance does offer flavored enhancement creams, and yes, we did get to sample them. 

On Wednesday night, my son and I had dinner at The Eagle OTR, and since we always order all the food at Eagle, I had plenty of leftovers for Friday dinner. On Saturday night my daughter, who was in town for a bit of wedding planning, and I headed to Le Bar a Boeuf for dinner. Now that the official opening has been announced for Tuesday this week, we wanted to make sure that everything was completely ready, and it. is. perfect. We dined on snails in parchment, beef tartare, both the lamb and beef burgers and of course french fries. For dessert we shared a pot de crème, which is so large, it’s more like a divine bathtub de crème. 

On Sunday we attended a bridal show at Memorial Hall. Caterers wooed us with nibbles and cake bakers wooed us with cake. A complete standout was Patricia’s Weddings and Custom Cakes Unlimited. The cake was super moist, and there were lots of flavors to choose from. Of course we had to sample all of them. Sunday night dinner was Bar a Boeuf leftovers while watching SPOILER ALERT Mr. Carson propose to Mrs. Hughes on Downton Abbey. FINALLY!

Danny Cross:  I met my buddy Luke at Keystone in Clifton to watch the Bearcats dunk on Tulane from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday. A little hungover and having not eaten to that point, I was very hungry. I got there in time to catch a glimpse of the brunch menu and almost ordered the breakfast tacos (three flour tortillas, scrambled eggs, chorizo, jalapeños, red onion, pico, Sriracha-lime sour cream) but a blueberry-vodka lemonade quickly appeared before me (yea, I ordered it), along with the lunch menu, which had about 10 more things on it I wanted to eat at once. I ended up playing it pretty straight — classic burger, bacon, fries. Luke ordered the hot wings, which caused me to consider flip-flopping, but I needed a lot of food. He ended up giving me three of them so it all worked out. 

We sat at the bar in front of two TVs with our game on, and the dude bartender was quite friendly, after a few minutes popping back over with a second blueberry-vodka drink — his own version ("You like blueberry vodka, huh?" "I mean, I'm no expert..." Luke: "Who is?"). It was pretty good — a little lighter than the lemonade version. He encouraged Luke to try about five beers in tiny glasses since for some reason my friend was feeling indecisive (just pick the one with the coolest tap handle, dumbass). We enjoyed our food and UC's thrashing of Tulane with little disturbance from the college kids sauntering about. We started discussing how shitty the neighborhood was when we went to UC and how bartenders were never nice to us back then, eventually concluding that we didn't know how to treat nice things during college and that throwing rocks at the rats in Hardee's parking lot was probably best for our psychological development during those days. 

Keystone is a solid place to watch sports. Two weeks ago there were so many Kentucky fans at Rock Bottom we could barely get our game on TV. "You don't live in Kentucky! You live in Cincinnati!"

Jac Kern: I went to Westside landmark Price Hill Chili on Saturday. Obviously the longtime neighborhood chili parlor is known for its take on coneys and three (or more)-ways, but I almost always order off their all-day breakfast menu. PHC's goetta and cheese omelet comes loaded with the savory breakfast meat and cheddar cheese, all folded in a super-thin eggy blanket with a side of toast and home fries. Super simple, but always a treat. I'm pretty sure if you visit PHC and order that, you're automatically a Cincinnati citizen, regardless of your actual residence.

Brandi Case (CityBeat Office Manager): Saturday I made chicken and dumplings with a chicken stock I made myself, from scratch. Southern cookin’ is so comforting; a perfect dish for winter evenings at home. We also had 7 and 7s to wash it all down. Seagram's is surprisingly very tasty.

Sunday we ate at Uno’s Anderson location and had their signature deep dish pizza. Create your own with chicken, spinach, mushrooms, onions and goat cheese. So good, so filling! And for dessert we had a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie with ice cream and whipped cream. Really heavenly. We also drank a lot of pints of Fat Tire amber ale.


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<![CDATA[Your Weekend To Do List (2/27-3/1)]]> After fans were teased by its brief availability online two weeks ago — a “bug,” they say — the next chapter of House of Cards is finally here. Since some of us are guilty of binge-watching both previous seasons, it’s been more than a year since many viewers have spent some quality time with the Underwoods. Let’s recap. 

On the brink of his impeachment, President Walker resigned at the end of Season Two. Walker’s wealthy confidant Raymond Tusk was arrested, knocking out two of Vice President Frank Underwood’s political roadblocks. After two seasons of watching Frank go to any length to secure his power, it seems he’s reached the pinnacle. Which means … 

Frank Underwood is the President of the United States of America. Terrifying. But that doesn’t solidify his reelection in the upcoming race. Wife and sometimes literal partner in crime Claire Underwood made some low and dirty moves last season. Despite Claire helping them both rise in the ranks, expect to see her question the couple’s actions and use her title as FLOTUS as she sees fit. 

And Doug Stamper was last seen lying in the woods. While trying to protect Rachel he sufficiently spooked her, leading to a chase and brick to the head. Fingers crossed for his (unlikely) miraculous return. 

If you do want to leave the house (or you finish the entire season before tomorrow night), here are some other things to do this weekend: 

FRIDAY 
Elton John
Photo: eltonjohn.com
Music: Elton John 
The legendary Sir Elton John will be at U.S. Bank Arena on Friday with his piano and backing band, performing hits from his prolific five-decade career. His 2013 release, The Diving Board, was his 31st album, and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road — the album with “Bennie and the Jets,” “Candle in the Wind” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” — just celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014. Warning: This show will probably sell out; he’s kind of a big deal. 8 p.m. Friday. $39-$149. U.S. Bank Arena, 100 Broadway, Downtown, usbankarena.com

The Total Look
Photo: William Claxton
Event: Art After Dark 
The Cincinnati Art Museum’s Art After Dark events are a great way to visit the museum after hours for socializing, art viewing and wine drinking. Friday’s Art After Dark event celebrates the opening of the museum’s new exhibit, The Total Look, an exploration of the creative collaboration between fashion designer Rudi Gernreich, model Peggy Moffitt and photographer William Claxton, featuring Mod garments Gernreich created in the 1960s and ’70s. Dress in your best ’60s-era ensemble for an evening of docent-led tours, dance performances by Pones Inc., appetizers and drinks. 5-9 p.m. Friday. Free. 953 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, cincinnatiartmuseum.org. 

Art: Final Friday/Reconstructed at 1305 Gallery 
Via the continued efforts of artist friends Michael Stillion and Melanie Derrick, 1305 Gallery continues to promote the work of quality artists more than a year after founder Lily Mulberry’s death. Final Friday, 1305 hosts Reconstructed: New Work by Michael Willett, a solo show of work by Willett, who graduated from DAAP’s MFA program and currently serves as an assistant professor of art at the University of Montevallo in Birmingham, Ala. His large-scale paintings and collages will be featured in an upcoming issue of New American Paintings, so check out his work while you can still see it for free. Through March 21. Free. 1305 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, facebook.com/1305gallery

Photo: Shen Yun Performing Arts
Onstage: Shen Yun 
Prepare to be uplifted and inspired by tremendous onstage energy as legends and classic heroes spring to life through historic Chinese dance. Sensational global performing group Shen Yun will take you on a profound journey through 5,000 years of Chinese culture, featuring the world’s most classically trained dancers accompanied by a live orchestra combining the best of Chinese and Western composition. Anticipate leaps and flips of Shen Yun’s aerial masters, thundering battle drums and singers’ soaring voices with dazzling animated backdrops that transport you to another world. 7:30 p.m. Friday; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. $53-$123. Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Downtown, cincinnatiarts.org. 

Event: Cold Night & Warm Spirits 
If you’re tired of the winter dredge, seek refuge at Ault Park’s Cold Night & Warm Spirits whiskey tasting. Enjoy some of the finest American, Irish, Canadian and Scottish whiskies at this social and spirited event, with live music and light bites. Bring your own cigar to enjoy around a roaring fire on the cigar patio. Benefits Ault Park. 6:30-10 p.m. Friday. $40. 3600 Observatory Ave., Hyde Park, aultparkac.org.  

SATURDAY 
Marlee Matlin
Film: ReelAbilities Film Festival 
The ReelAbilities Film Festival, dedicated to movies that highlight the abilities of those considered “disabled,” isn’t new. It was here in 2013. But it’s vastly different this year — in fact, it’s now the city’s highest-profile film festival because the local group Living Arrangements for the Developmentally Disabled has contracted to operate the national series of ReelAbilities festivals and wants to make the Cincinnati fest, which runs from Friday to March 7, a showcase. There will be more than 15 features from around the world. Highlights include guests like Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin at Friday afternoon’s awards luncheon; a touching film on Tuesday, The Commute, about a wheelchair-using man’s journey through the New York subway system; the Independent Spirit Award-nominated Stand Clear of the Closing Doors on March 7; and a documentary about the polio-afflicted great Rock & Roll songwriter Doc Pomus (“This Magic Moment”), which is being coupled with a tribute concert to him following the screening on March 6. Premiere Night Gala 6 p.m. Saturday. $150. More info at cincyra.org. 

Music: Chris Brown 
Yeah. He'll be at US Bank Arena with Trey Songz. So if you like Chris Brown, this is great for you. His tickets also cost more than going to see Elton John? 7:30 p.m. Saturday. $29.75-$199.50. U.S. Bank Arena, 100 Broadway, Downtown, usbankarena.com

Maple Sugar Days
Photo: Great Parks
Event: Maple Sugar Days 
Come celebrate the spring awakening of maple trees as you learn the craft of maple syrup making. Sweet tooths of all ages will discover how the clear, sticky sap is collected, boiled over a fire and transformed into syrup. Additionally, families can enjoy crafts, demonstrations and naturalist-led hikes. Maple treats, including waffles, ice cream and cotton candy, will be available for a small fee. Noon-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Free. Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve, 3455 Poole Road, Colerain, greatparks.org

Cincinnati Home & Garden Show
Event: Cincinnati Home & Garden Show 
According to the current weather forecast, most of our yards will still be covered in snow during the entirety of the 2015 Cincinnati Home & Garden Show. As depressing as that may seem right now, spring is (hopefully) just around the corner and it has already sprung at the Duke Energy Convention Center. Wander through fairy gardens, let your significant other try to coerce you into buying a hot tub or swoon over kitchens the size of your entire OTR apartment. Seriously. Your only other plans this week are working and shoveling the walk … again. Opens 10:30 a.m. Saturday. Through March 8. $13; free for kids. 525 Elm St., Downtown, cincinnatihomeandgardenshow.com

Xoe Wise
Photo: Provided
Music: Xoe Wise 
Singer/songwriter Xoe Wise moved from North Carolina to Chicago to follow her musical dreams and quickly became a local favorite. Wise has gradually moved from a Folk Pop style to a highly melodic and soulful Electro Pop/Chillwave approach since debuting with her 2010 album, Echo. Wise’s excellent 2013 EP Breakfast was well received, reaching the Top 20 on iTunes’ Singer/Songwriter charts and beautifully showcasing Wise’s sultry vocals and songwriting. This spring, Wise — who performed at the 2014 MidPoint Music Festival — will release Foreplay, an EP precursor to her anticipated full-length, Racecar Orgasm. 10 p.m. Saturday. Free. MOTR Pub, 1345 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, motrpub.com

SUNDAY 
Attractions: Mummies of the World 
The Cincinnati Museum Center’s once-in-a-lifetime exhibit features real mummies and artifacts, some dating back as far as 4,500 years. Discover how mummies are created, where they come from and who they are in an immersive, multi-media display. Through April 26. Non-member exhibition-only tickets: $19.50, $17.50 senior, $12.50 child. Cincinnati Museum Center, 1301 Western Ave., Queensgate, mummies.cincymuseum.org

Bravo
Attractions: Bravo the Galapagos Tortoise's Last Day at Newport Aquarium 
The Newport Aquarium’s 650-pound Galapagos tortoise Bravo — the largest turtle in the Midwest — is set to leave his Turtle Canyon home on March 1 and return to the Columbia, S.C., zoo. Upon Bravo’s departure from the aquarium, Turtle Canyon, also home to Thunder, an more than 100-year-old snapping turtle, will temporarily close for renovations. The greenhouse-like facility will re-open as a new exhibit in mid-March. During Winter Family Days, two kids get in free with each paying adult. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Through March 1. $23 adult; $15 kids. Newport Aquarium, Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky., newportaquarium.com

Event: Ohio Winter Food Festival 
Formerly known at the Taste of Northern Cincinnati, the Ohio Winter Food Festival celebrates the restaurants of Cincinnati’s northern suburbs. This friendly competition pits vendors like West Chester’s Troy’s Café, Parkers Blue Ash Tavern, Sharonville’s Brick House Bar & Grill and more against each other to win best in show. Taste each of the restaurants’ signature dishes and vote for your favorite. Noon-4 p.m. Sunday. $18; $20 at the door. Sharonville Convention Center, 11355 Chester Road, Sharonville, sharonvillechamber.com

August: Osage County at Clifton Performance Theatre
Photo: Jennifer Mahuet
Onstage: August: Osage County 
Tracy Letts’ 2008 play was a throwback to another era, a three-act, three-hour drama about a dysfunctional family colliding in the arid flatlands of the Oklahoma plains when their father goes missing. Not the usual fodder of contemporary drama (or perhaps because of it), the show won that year’s Pulitzer Prize for drama and Broadway’s Tony Award for best play. It features 13 vivid and vicious characters and a houseful of contentious, sometimes startling interactions. It’s going to be all the more interesting when this sprawling script is staged in the close confines of Clifton Performance Theatre, which has about 40 seats for this production. Through March 14. $20. Clifton Players, 404 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, cliftonperformancetheatre.com

Attractions: Falling Waters at Krohn Conservatory 
The Krohn Conservatory’s early spring floral show takes design inspiration from architect Frank Lloyd Wright (his 1935 modernist Pennsylvania home built for the Kaufmann family is called “Fallingwater”). The show features a Mission-style flowerbed that looks like a stained glass window made of hundreds of pansies, tulips and hydrangeas, as well as real stained glass windows created by local artist David Duff of Classical Glass. Through March 22. $4 adult; $2 child; $1-off coupon online. Krohn Conservatory, 1501 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, cincinnatiparks.com

TUESDAY
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Photo: Andrew Eccles
Dance: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater 
Alvin Ailey once said, “Dance is for everybody. I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people.” More than two decades after his passing, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is coming to the Aronoff for two days to deliver said gift of dance to Cincinnati. Among the six dances the troupe will perform over these two shows is Ailey’s most renowned and moving work, Revelations. Set to a series of African-American spirituals, Revelations explores both painful and splendid moments during the African-American journey. 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. $30-$75. Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Downtown, cincinnatiarts.org.
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<![CDATA[Freekbass Signs with Ropeadope]]>

Veteran Cincinnati Funk bassist/singer/songwriter Freekbass announced this week that he has signed a deal with the esteemed Ropeadope Records. Freekbass’ next album — the follow-up to last year’s self-released Everybody’s Feelin’ Real (which you can stream/purchase here) — is currently slated for release on the label early this fall.

“I grew up listening to artists and music on Ropeadope and it's such an honor to actually be a part of the label now,” Freekbass said in a press release. 


Ropeadope began in 1999, originally created by founders Andy Hurwitz and John Medeski to release the Project Logic album by Soul/Jazz/Hip Hop turntablist extraordinaire DJ Logic. (At the start of this decade, Freekbass was a part of a side-project band called Headtronics that featured Logic, as well as Particle keyboardist Steve Molitz.) Ropeadope has since put out an impressively diverse array of unique music, including releases by Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Charlie Hunter, Phish’s Mike Gordon, Antibalas, Christian McBride and Fusion ensemble Snarky Puppy, which won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance last year for its collaboration with Lalah Hathaway on the song “Something.” (You can read more about the label’s history here.)


Freekbass, who crafts a contemporary brand of Funk that mixes in shades of Electronica and Hip Hop, has been one the leading figures in the Cincinnati music scene for decades, starting with the popular ’80s Alt Rock band Sleep Theatre before holding down the bottom end for successful Funk crew SHAG in the ’90s. He started his solo career in the late ’90s and has released six full-lengths and toured relentlessly. His albums have featured some impressive guests; artists from Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell to Buckethead and DJ Spooky have appeared on Freekbass recordings. His stunning bass-playing skills have also lead to the release of several instructional videos and he was featured at the 2014 London Bass Guitar Show, heading up a master class/clinic and performing.


Here is Freekbass (with his band The Bump Assembly) in their most recent video release, for the song “Never Enough” off of Everybody’s Feelin’ Real



Read more about Freekbass in CityBeat's 2014 feature story here


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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Hey all! It’s Friday. I have work to do. Let’s keep this brief, shall we, while avoiding a stupid debate about the color of any pictures of women’s wear that might be floating around the Internet. (I see both blue and black and white and gold depending on when I look. Yes, I am special).

Paging Michel Foucault: Is it a good idea to put your county’s jail on a reality TV show? We’ll find out, I suppose. Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil agreed several months ago to let MSNBC film an episode of its reality show Lockup in the Hamilton County Justice Center. It hasn’t aired yet, but a trailer for the episode shows inmates cussing at people, thousands of dollars in smuggled bootleg cigarettes and loose tobacco, some guy bragging about stabbing someone else with pencils and another dude describing his situation as “some ho-ass shit.” All of which sounds like a party I went to a couple Saturdays ago.

The bloody post-fight scenes look less like a party, however, and it’s pretty clear a big part of the show is the voyeuristic thrill of watching human suffering. Gross. But I digress. County officials told Sheriff Neil that having the reality show feature the county’s jail was probably not a good idea, but Neil went ahead with the program after producers approached him about it. I’m torn on this. On the one hand, it’s important to show people what really goes on in our justice system. On the other, this kind of reality TV-style sensationalism seems pretty exploitative of the folks behind bars, does it not?

Neil’s office says the show is a fair representation of life at the justice center, so there’s that. Lockup: Cincinnati airs Saturday at 10 p.m. in case you want to watch it or, you know, maybe do something more positive with your time than watch people in cages get blood dabbed off their faces.

• Oh, good. According a newly released report by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission, the Ohio River received more than 23 million pounds of toxic material in 2013, the latest year for which data has been analyzed. That’s the most of any river in the country for the seventh year in a row, the commission says. The report cautions that despite the alarmingly large number, the river’s volume is also very large and the dilutive properties of all that water must be taken into account. But for comparison, the river receiving the next highest level of pollutants is the Mississippi, which saw more than 10 million pounds of toxins released into it last year. Much of the pollution in the Ohio River comes from nitrates, which are highly toxic to humans. Seventy-one percent of the pollution, according to the report, doesn’t enter the river until well downstream from Cincinnati at an AK Steel facility in Rockport, Indiana. So, uh, at least there’s that.

• A rally is planned tomorrow at 2 p.m. on Fountain Square for transgender murder victims killed in the last year. Among those victims was Tiffany Edwards, murdered last year in Walnut Hills. We first told you about Edwards during a long story we did on sex workers in Cincinnati and revisited her story last month in a piece on the challenges facing transgender individuals. Her alleged killer is currently on trial for her death. Tomorrow’s die-in will also memorialize seven other transgender individuals who have been murdered recently as a result of their transgender status.

• Ohio’s Senate race got a shout out in one of the nation’s premier news outlets. The Christian Science Monitor started off its preview of the 2016 Senate race with a long exploration of the brewing fight between former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, and Republican Sen. Rob Portman. Also featuring prominently in the coverage was Cincinnati’s own Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, who has raised more than $500,000 for his own bid for the Democratic nomination. The Monitor posits that the high-profile Senate race will make Ohio even more important in the 2016 election, a presidential race in which the state already has a vital role. The Republican National Convention will be in Cleveland and the NAACP National Convention will take place in Cincinnati next year, guaranteeing Ohio a place in the center of national politics.

• As I noted yesterday in a morning news blog update (yes, I sometimes update the post throughout the day, so you know, keep your eyes on the blog), the Federal Communications Commission yesterday passed new rules keeping Internet companies from developing dedicated fast lanes for certain content providers while throttling others with slower speeds. The rules basically treat the Internet as a utility, which means service providers must treat all legal content equally. That way, Buzzfeed isn’t able to kick Internet providers a milli to put some insipid post about whether a dress is one color or another on a faster track than a long-form video doc about problems with the death penalty. The FCC also struck down some laws in certain states prohibiting municipalities from establishing their own Internet service providers to supplement the slim pickings found in many areas. That’s also good news.

That’s it for me. Tweet (@nswartsell) or e-mail me (nswartsell@citybeat.com) with any news tips, observations about Hamilton County's own reality TV panopticon, or what kind of guitar amp I should buy. I’m daydreaming about new music gear.

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Cincinnati Theaters Generating Heat, Despite Cold Weather]]> Last weekend's snowstorm canceled performances at several local theaters (including the Cincinnati Playhouse), so you might have had several days without theater. Is it time to make up? I finally caught up with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's adaptation of Little Women​ last night, and I'm glad of it. While the weather is still cold and sidewalks still treacherously icy, the warmth generated by Jo March and her saucy sisters is a welcome tonic. Of course Louisa May Alcott's story of a temporarily fatherless family during the American Civil War is sentimental and, at times, rather maudlin, but the actresses at Cincy Shakes bring such vivacity to their roles that there's plenty to enjoy. Maggie Lou Rader is especially vivacious as Jo, the fiercely independent aspiring writer who insists on finding her own way in a world controlled by men; Kelly Mengelkoch is emotional, conscientious elder sister Meg; Caitlin McWethy is shy and loving Beth; and Courtney Lucien is Amy, the impetuous baby who matures in the second act. Annie Fitzpatrick is Marmee, their steadfast mother, and Justin McCombs is the spirited boy next door who captures the hearts of several of the sisters. The production is simply but effectively staged, enhanced by some subtle video projections and lovely choral singing of period hymns by the ensemble. It's a gentle story that beautifully conveys the virtues of family, sisterhood and feminine intellect in a period when such matters were not always top of mind. It's onstage through March 21. Box office: 513-381-2273, x1.

Last Sunday, while many of you might have been watching the Academy Awards, I was one of 15 or so people in the audience watching Clifton Players' staging of August: Osage County. That's not quite as pitiful as it might sound, since the tiny Clifton Performance Theatre has only about 40 seats for this production. You're right in the midst of the bitter wars being conducted by the combative Weston family, brought together by the disappearance of their father and their mother's relapse into drug dependence and impossibly difficult behavior. But each of Beverly and Vi's three daughters have problems, issues and complicated family situations of their own, so Tracy Letts' three-act, three-plus hour show offers plenty of juicy roles for some of Cincinnati's best actors. The show has typically been played on a big set, but the closeness of CPT makes August: Osage County a powerful evening of dysfunction that's right in your face. Need some heat despite the cold snap? This is your show. It's a Critic's Pick (CityBeat review here). Onstage through March 13. Tickets: 513-861-7469.

Performances tonight and Saturday evening will wrap up the run of In the Heat of the Night at Falcon Players in Newport (tickets: 513-479-6783), and Northern Kentucky University's Les Misérables continues through a Sunday matinee. The latter has been sold our for most performances, but if you show up an hour before curtain time, you can get your name on a wait-list for a seat.

For a glimpse of the future, check out my blog postings here and here from earlier this week with 2015-2016 season announcements for the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Cincinnati Landmark Productions (at the Covedale Center and the new Incline Theatre) and Cincinnati Shakespeare.

Rick Pender's STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.
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<![CDATA[Locally Based Project Seeks Musician Input]]>

Late last year it was announced that Brad Schnittger (member of the great local band The Sundresses) was selected as one of two "Haile Fellows" for 2015 by People’s Liberty, which provides $100,000 grants to local projects in an effort to “uncover opportunities to accelerate the positive transformation of Greater Cincinnati.”


The grant will allow Schnittger the opportunity to fully focus on his MusicLi (pronounced "musically") project, which is described as “an online music-business management dashboard for artists.” Artists who create MusicLi accounts will be able to use the service to digitally distribute and protect their music, and also enter it into the company’s licensing catalog, providing musicians with a nice alternative (or, if things go well, primary) revenue stream. MusicLi's “core principle” is described thusly: “There are wonderfully talented musicians in the Greater Cincinnati area, and if their music is digitally cataloged, published and made accessible for the purpose of licensing, this music can generate income for those musicians and make Cincinnati a better place to live.”


MusicLi recently launched a brief, 10-question survey to get some feedback from musicians to help guide the project’s direction. If you’d like to participate, click here. For more on People’s Liberty, this year’s grant’s recipients and complete details on their efforts and initiatives, click here


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<![CDATA[Forgotten Classics: Hook]]>

On Aug. 11, 2014, the world lost one of its greatest entertainers of the last century — Robin Williams. I can remember where I was when I heard about his passing. I just got home from my day job as a security guard at King’s Island, logged onto Facebook and the first thing I saw was the headline reading “Robin Williams dies at 63.” To say that I was upset would be putting it lightly.

I think I can say with confidence that the whole world loved Williams because he touched us with his movies, television shows and stand-up specials. Of course anyone who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s will list off countless movies that left an impression on them, be it his game-changing performance in the Disney classic Aladdin (1992, directed by Ron Clements and John Musker) or his heartfelt and inspiring role in Dead Poets Society (1989, directed by Peter Weir). But the movie I’ve singled out this time was a go-to rental for me when I was a kid, when video stores were still a thing. That film is Steven Spielberg’s Hook (1991).

I’m sure many people are calling shenanigans on this being a “forgotten” film mainly due to Robin Williams in the lead role and Steven Spielberg being the director. I would be amongst those crying outrage as well, but when I began to think about it I realized most fans know of it only because of the nostalgia factor.

When it comes to listing the best of Spielberg or Williams, there are other films that would’ve been listed before this one. Even Spielberg himself had stated that the final product isn’t what he wanted and that he basically wants someone to remake it. But I can say that the product we have is a more than suitable film: the story of the workaholic lawyer Peter Banning (Williams) who ventures off to Neverland to rescue his children who have been captured by villainous Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman). In that quest he discovers why his children were kidnapped — Hook did it to draw Peter Pan back to Neverland and fight him, and it turns out that Bannings is Pan. The catch is that Peter has forgotten who he is. Throughout the film Peter goes on a spiritual journey to rediscover who he is and rescue his children with the help of his ever faithful Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) and the Lost Boys.

Williams is absolutely flawless in this role. He perfectly conveys both the uptight and work-centered lawyer and the childlike energy of the boy who refused to grow up. The lesson he learns in the end is something that is very logical and is something that should speak to anyone — while we all must grow up, we mustn’t lose our sense of adventure and wonder.

Peter’s journey to that conclusion is drawn in comparison to his archenemy Captain Hook. Ironically enough, it’s the adult who stays at a more immature stand point. In the original J.M. Barrie story, one could says that Peter is the hero not only because he rescues his friends from the villain but also because he lives in the moment and doesn’t oppose over anything, while Hook is all about revenge and will not rest until he has it.

At the beginning of the film Peter has his mind set on only one thing and that’s being a lawyer. That singular mindset leads Wendy (Maggie Smith) to say, “Peter, you’ve become a pirate.”

Peter’s son Jack (Charlie Korsmo) almost becomes like Hook as well when all he seems focused on is bitterness and hatred towards his father. Hook focuses on Jack’s anger and uses that as a weapon against the now aged Peter. But this ties in with another reason why Hook can be a considered a villain — he lets his anger control his life. Peter and Jack soon realize how petty and how unfulfilling holding a grudge is.

While I do see a couple problems in the film, mainly in the script department, I can’t deny the fact that I still find this film enjoyable and well made to this day. This was also a film that truly displayed why Williams was so beloved: He made us laugh, cry, and gave us that warm feeling that we all pine for. I guarantee that in years to come, this performance — among many others — will be fondly remembered.

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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Hey all! Here’s the news today.

A well-known former attorney has filed a federal lawsuit against the Kentucky Bar Association to get his license back after it was suspended. Eric Deters has served three suspensions over his career for making false statements in court, failing to return a fee to a client and other infractions. The latest suspension was handed down by the Kentucky Supreme Court in April. The court has an agreement with the high court in Ohio, keeping Deters from practicing here as well. Now Deters says he’s served his suspensions and wants to go back to practicing law, and says the Kentucky Supreme Court should reinstate him. Deters retired rather than seek reinstatement in Kentucky and Ohio, and indicated at the time he had no interest in practicing law again in either state. He’s acting as his own attorney, which has led to this pretty amazing complaint:

"Deters is no saint," he writes of himself in his complaint. "He is a sinner. But Deters is fit to practice law. Lawyers are not a choral of angels." Choir? Corral? Whatever. Deters is too tough for the haters. “What Deters incurred, lesser men would have have crumbled long ago," he says of the emotional and physical toll his suspension has caused. He blames an infection that nearly took his arm on the stress and strife his suspension has inflicted on him.

• You can never ban the devil’s weed too early or too often. At least, that’s the prevailing wisdom on Hamilton’s City Council, which banned sale of the drug in the city limits yesterday in a 5-1 vote. Though marijuana is already illegal in Ohio, council members wanted to have a municipal ordinance in place just in case a potential ballot initiative legalizing the measure passes in November and all hell breaks loose. ResponsibleOhio, the group filing the initiative, still needs to collect 300,000 signatures by July to even get the measure on the ballot, but better safe than sorry, Hamilton officials say.

“It's just being prepared for what happens if anything happens whether it be legislature or amendment, it's just being prepared for the next step," Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller said.

• The Kentucky House passed a bill yesterday allowing the state to participate in public-private partnerships, clearing another hurdle for a toll-based Brent Spence Bridge replacement. However, several key changes were made to the bill to make it more friendly to Kentucky residents and lawmakers who may oppose tolls. These include requiring any tolls levied as part of a public-private partnership to expire once debt on the project is paid off, requiring analysis of any public-private partnership to make sure it’s the best way to do a project and requiring a majority of lawmakers on project oversight commissions be from the county where the project is happening. Next, the bill goes to the Kentucky Senate, where it will face opposition from GOP senators who are staunchly opposed to tolls on the Brent Spence project.

• Here’s another tidbit from Gov. John Kasich’s State of the State address earlier this week. Kasich devoted part of his speech to education in Ohio, defending his public school funding scheme and also his support of the state’s embattled charter school system. Kasich defended putting more money into that system despite low performance by many charter schools and questions about some schools’ integrity. He agreed that the system should have more oversight in the wake of allegations of wrongdoing at some schools across the state, but also defended schools that have simply been low-performing. Here, he made a pretty stunning statement:

“Let’s not judge someone as not doing their job because they’ve inherited a group of students who are just struggling,” he said.

Here’s the thing: This is the same (I’d say very fair and correct) logic many have used to defend struggling public schools the charter system was meant to compete with and do better than. That is more or less the whole reason charter schools exist, according to their creators and supporters. Sooo… blame public schools for their inability to educate students who struggle under the weight of very real massive systemic problems that make it difficult for them to learn, but don’t blame charter schools that take money from those schools and make their jobs even more difficult for the same thing. Got it.

• Speaking of Kasich, he’s finally getting some national attention as he steps up his efforts to run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. Maybe it’s not always the attention he wants — this story calls him out on his efforts to create a Rondald Reagan-inspired balanced budget amendment to the U.S. constitution — but on the other hand, if you’re a Republican governor looking to run for president, perhaps a piece in liberal Mother Jones magazine about how lame your policy ideas are means you’ve finally arrived. So, uh, congrats on the milestone, governor!

• Let’s talk about a former governor for a minute, specifically Democrat Ted Strickland, who just jumped into the 2016 U.S. Senate race. As we’ve already discussed, Strickland’s announcement earlier this week caused a big stir, and now he’s already getting hit by GOPers and concerned editorial writers across the state. Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges mocked Strickland’s entrance into the race on Twitter today, saying, “same old @ohdems. Can’t get their act together” in response to an article about Strickland possibly having to face Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld in a primary. There are worries that a very contentious primary could sabotage Democrat’s chances at picking up incumbent Sen. Rob Portman’s seat, which is dearly needed if Democrats want to take back control of the Senate in 2016. On the other hand, having two strong candidates could be seen as an encouraging sign for the party, and the early level of mockery from Republicans shows they’re taking the threat from Strickland seriously. It’s already clear this isn’t last year’s governor’s race, where Kasich straight-up didn’t acknowledge Dem opponent Ed Fitzgerald during a debate because he didn’t have to.

• Finally, the Federal Communications Commission is voting on net neutrality today. This is a huge day for the Internet. If you don't know what's up, uh, start reading.

Update: the FCC voted 3-2 to require internet providers to operate as neutral gateways through which internet service flows. That ruling prohibits providers from making so-called "fastlanes" that would provide higher-speed connections for some companies and content. Also today, the FCC struck down state laws prohibiting cities from establishing their own internet services, allowing municipalities to create their own internet services in places that may only have one (or no) reliable internet service provider.

That’s it for me. You know the drill. Tweet at me. Email me (nswartsell@citybeat.com). Messenger pigeon me. Whatever you gotta do to get those news tips and whatever else you want to talk about. 

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<![CDATA[Bunbury Music Festival Announces 2015 Lineup]]>

The Bunbury Music Festival will present its fourth annual three-day event on Cincinnati’s riverfront (Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove) June 5-7 this year (moved up from the usual July dates due to Reds/All Star Game activities). This morning, organizers of the festival — which was purchased by Columbus-based PromoWest Productions late last year — officially announced the lineup this morning. 


Bunbury 2015 will feature headliners The Black Keys, Snoop Dogg and The Avett Brothers. The rest of the lineup includes Brand New, Tame Impala, The Decemberists, Old Crow Medicine Show, twenty one pilots, Walk the Moon, Matt and Kim, Bleachers, Royal Blood, Manchester Orchestra, Father John Misty, Atmosphere, Temples, Shakey Graves, Kacey Musgraves, The Devil Makes Three, Reverend Horton Heat, Lindsey Stirling, Catfish & The Bottlemen, Jamestown Revival, Mikky Ekko, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, Mini Mansion, The Front Bottoms, Jessica Hernandez, Secret Sisters, Lil Dicky, machineheart, Go Analog, Bummers and Indigo Wild. 


So far, Cincinnati acts on the bill include Multimagic, Buggs Tha Rocka and RCA recording artists Walk the Moon, who have been touring relentlessly behind their sophomore major label release, Talking Is Hard (the band recently appeared on The Tonight Show; see video below). More artists are expected to be announced leading up to the festival.



One-day and three-day tickets for the 2015 Bunbury fest are available now. Click here for pricing and links.  

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<![CDATA[From the Copy Desk]]>

Good morning readers. I hope you're all surviving the bleak, cold, dark days of February better than I am. I can't stop myself from browsing the "Getaways" section of Groupon — five night, all-inclusive stay in Punta Cana? Sign me up! I'll go anywhere the sun is shining and the heat is brimming.

Someday, right? For now, though, I've got my coffee and a list of Words Nobody Uses or Knows from this week's issue. Let's get started.

My favorite word of the issue (or phrase, really) is in toto. It's found in Kathy Y. Wilson's editorial on the Oscars, a night, as Neil Patrick Harris so accurately said, where "we celebrate Hollywood’s best and whitest, sorry… brightest."

In toto: a Latin phrase meaning in the whole; as a whole (adv.)

In the issue: "Secondly, the voter finessed the fact that most members are white men — which is, in fact, the larger problem plaguing Hollywood in toto and it is the direct genealogical link to the white-out of this year’s Oscars and what’s fraught past racist Oscar races."

Though whenever I say in toto, I can't help but think of Toto, Dorthory's dog in Wizard of Oz.

Anyway, next up is the French word outré, pronounced OO-TREY.  (French words are the best, aren't they?)

outré: highly unconventional; eccentric or bizarre (adj.)

In this issue: "Later, during an interview for this story, Katkin explained his affinity for that band, which released several outré albums in the late 1980s and early 1990s."

Environs, another word of French origin, caught my eye too.

environs: a surrounding area, especially of a city; surroundings; environment (plural n.)

My mind is a little blown by this one. It's essentially just another word for environment and yet I've never heard of it.

In this issue: "It’s bitter wisdom that easily translates to certain local music environs where bands are neither nurtured nor respected."


The last word I have jotted down is rubes, but I can't seem to find it anywhere in the issue. It may have been edited out (or else I'm reading things that aren't there). I'm going to include it anyway. The more you know, the more you grow, right?

I love this word because Rubes is one of the many, MANY nicknames I have for my cat Ruby. She is also sometimes called Ruben, Princess Pastry Puff, Doot, Street Rat ... OK I'll stop there.

rubes: an unsophisticated country person; nickname of Reuben (n.)


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<![CDATA[Cincinnati Shakespeare Company Announces 22nd Season]]>

As I wrote on Monday, season announcements from Cincinnati theaters are a sure sign that warmer days are ahead. The temperature cranked up a few more notches tonight when Cincinnati Shakespeare Company announced its 2015-2016 season. It’s no secret that CSC’s history and stock-in-trade are plays by William Shakespeare, of which they’ll offer four in the coming months. But their broadened scope includes definitive works of drama and stage adaptations of literary classics by great writers. Here’s what will be onstage at 719 Race St. from August 2015 through June 2016:

THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF AMERICA (ABRIDGED) by Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor. Cincy Shakes has had tons of fun with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). But Long, Martin and Tichenor have been generating laughs with numerous other subjects, and this is one of their best works. (It was staged at the Cincinnati Playhouse 10 years ago.) This one is a wild ride through our nation’s past featuring three actors, who probably did not pass high school history, who set off on a whirlwind historical tour that’s finds laughs in many of our nation’s greatest hits and misses. This production is a “season extra,” not included in subscription packages. July 24-Aug. 15, 2015.

CYRANO DE BERGERAC (based on Anthony Burgess’s translation of Edmond Rostand’s 1897 French play). Cincy Shakes will kick off the fall theater season with this classic romantic tale of the valiant and clever Cyrano de Bergerac, with long-time ensemble member Jeremy Dubin in the title role. Cyrano epitomized panache: In fact, that French word a feather or a plume was the hallmark of this dazzling swordsman and brilliant 16th-century poet. But he has a flaw, a gargantuan nose. He loves the beautiful and brilliant Roxane but is convinced his clownish appearance means he has no chance with her. Unaware of his feelings, Roxane tells him she loves Christian, a handsome but dull solider; Cyrano intercedes by writing letters and verses to her as if they were from Christian. The play has wit, swashbuckling adventure and profound romance. Sept. 1-Oct. 3, 2015.

 Jeremy Dubin as Cyrano in Cyrano de Bergerac. Photo: Mikki Schaffner.

DEATH OF A SALESMAN by Arthur Miller, written in 1949, won multiple Tony Awards as well as the Pulitzer Prize for drama. The story of the waning days of an aging salesman who still yearns to make it big is one of the great plays of the 20th century. Cincinnati stage veteran Bruce Cromer will play Willy Loman, the show’s memorable loser. This poignant tale of an average man trying to achieve the American Dream, surrounded by his strident sons and his loving wife is an exploration of failure and success that still resonates today. Oct. 16-Nov. 7, 2015.

AS YOU LIKE IT by William Shakespeare is the first of Shakespeare’s plays for the season and one of the Bard’s most popular, a predictable bestseller for Cincy Shakes. This time it will be the company’s offering around the holidays, featuring ensemble member Sara Clark playing the spirited Rosalind, banished to the Forest of Arden with only her cousin and a fool for company. She dresses as a man for protection and comedy ensues in the woods where love poems to her are posted on the trees. The lovelorn poet is handsome Orlando, whom she tests while hiding behind her boyish disguise. This show is great fun because it features numerous comic characters, delightful music and warm-hearted romance. Nov. 20-Dec. 12, 2015.

 Sara Clark as Rosalind in As You Like It. Photo: Mikki Schaffner.

EVERY CHRISTMAS STORY EVER TOLD (AND THEN SOME!) by Michael Carlton, James Fitzgerald and John K Alvarez. Cincy Shakes finishes up As You Like It just in time to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its annual holiday hit, an irreverent look at umpteen BHCs — the show’s acronym for “Beloved Holiday Classics.” The evening starts out innocently enough as one character endeavors to perform a solemn reading of A Christmas Carol. But before long audiences are entangled in the stories of Frosty, Rudolph, Charlie Brown and George Bailey. Four of Cincy Shakes’ veteran actors (one as a highly inebriated Santa) send up everything from Dickens to Dr. Seuss. It’s another “season extra” (outside regular subscriptions) and definitely not for anyone who still believes in Santa. Dec. 16-27, 2015.

HENRY VI , PART I by William Shakespeare. The company has committed parts of several seasons to work its way through Shakespeare’s cycle of history plays. This year it’s the first of three parts that tell the story of Henry VI. Actors continue to reprise roles they’ve played for several seasons in two parts of Henry IV and Henry V. In this installment, the untimely death of Henry V puts his infant son on the throne, and the War of the Roses, pitting the houses of York and Lancaster against one another, is off and running. Jan. 22-Feb. 13, 2016.

JANE AUSTEN’S EMMA (adapted by Jon Jory). Cincy Shakes has struck gold with stage productions of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen’s novels of early 19th-century manners as adapted by Jon Jory, the longtime artistic director of Actors Theatre of Louisville. These shows appealed to audiences in part because the company has a corps of talented female actors (presently showcased in Little Women) who will find great opportunities in Austen’s tale about amateur matchmaker Emma Wodehouse who lives to meddle in others’ love lives. When she tries to set up her less than promising friend Harriet, the plan goes awry, and Emma must try to undo the damage. It’s another classic story of wit, whimsy and anxious romance. Feb. 26-March 26, 2016.

JULIUS CAESAR by William Shakespeare. Part one of a season-ending epic pairing of two of the Bard’s great plays begins with this tragedy about the brilliant general, a cunning politician and beloved leader of ancient Rome. Jealous Roman patriots decide his ambition is a threat to the Republic and assassinate him on the senate floor. The result is a civil war that tests friendships and loyalties; it also determines the fate of the Roman Empire. April 8-May 7, 2016.

ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA by William Shakespeare. The second part of the company’s special event offers this rarely staged epic sequel to Julius Caesar. The civil war has ended and the empire has been divided. Marc Antony heads to Egypt to rule his corner of the globe, but his plans are sidetracked by Egypt’s Cleopatra. Their love affair pits Rome and Egypt against each other and changes the ancient world forever. May 13- June 4, 2016.

Subscriptions ($143-$233) are sold in flexible sets of seven that can be used one per production or in other combinations. Subscriptions and single tickets are now for sale via cincyshakes.com or by calling 513-381-2273, x1.

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<![CDATA[Cincinnati Artist Shinji Turner-Yamamoto Attracts International Attention]]>

Shinji Turner-Yamamoto's 2012 Global Tree Project: Hanging Garden — two trees suspended by wire inside Mt. Adams' deconsecrated (and crumbling) Holy Cross Church — is now generally recognized as one of the high points of public art in Cincinnati in recent years.

In addition to proving inspirational for us in terms of what large-scale, site-specific art can be and what local artists can accomplish, it also has attracted ongoing international attention for him.

The latest development is his inclusion in an exhibition, About Trees, opening this fall at the Zentrum Paul Klee museum in Bern, Switzerland. For his site-specific work in the museum's main hall, he will work with a dying linden tree on the museum grounds.

The exhibit — part of a trilogy of related shows that continues into 2017 — is dedicated to the tree as a motif in international contemporary art. Turner-Yamamoto finds himself in some very impressive company. Others with work in the show include Paul Klee, Carlos Amorales, Louise Bourgeois, Paul McCarthy, Ana Mendieta and Shirin Neshat.

Meanwhile, a large-scale photograph of the Hanging Garden installation was commissioned by Caroline Kennedy, U.S. Ambassador to Japan, for the ambassadorial residence in Tokyo as part of the Art in Embassies Program.

Also, he will have a show at the Weston Gallery here next year.

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