CityBeat - Blogs http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs.engine.php <![CDATA[Cincinnati at the VMAs]]>

I tried to watch last night Video Music Awards on MTV, but it was such an awkward and confusing clusterfuck, I couldn’t take much of it, flipping through for a few moments before moving on out of embarrassment for the people on the screen. I usually like when awards shows are a little chaotic (and the VMAs are known for their often-desperate attempts to be “not your mama’s awards show”). And I actually have always enjoyed the pop-culture pageantry of awards shows in general. But on last night’s VMAs, the annoyance factor was so high, I couldn’t even watch it on a “so bad you can’t look away” level. It made me anxious and uncomfortable, like watching someone fumbling over their words and breaking down while giving a speech in public (kind of like Kanye on last night's show). 

It wasn’t really even the performances that made it so unwatchable (most were pretty solid for what they were). It was all of the in-between absurdity that made it so cringe-worthy.


Speaking of performances, some Cincinnati artists did well on the big stage. Walk the Moon has become so experienced with these kinds of high-profile appearances that it wasn’t surprising the band’s umpteenth performance of “Shut Up and Dance” was flawless. Airing during the opening of the pre-show “rainbow carpet” portion, I found myself thinking (as I do whenever I hear the hit on the radio), “You know, they have other songs, including a new single?” “Shut Up” was considered a “song of the summer” contender, though it’s been on the radio for like 15 years (OK, it was released as a single in September of 2014, but still). Then the band played the new single, “Different Colors”! And MTV promptly cut them off. (Even “Shut Up” was interrupted mid-song so the pre-show hosts could introduce the program, the clumsiness of which ended up being indicative of the overall mess the VMAs turned out to be.)



The weirder Cincinnati-related appearance came during Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ performance of their new single, “Downtown.” I was not aware of the guest artists on the song (OK, I was not aware they had a new song), so I turned it on just as Hip Hop legends Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee and Grandmaster Caz were rapping while walking down the street, thinking it was some cool old-school tribute the awards show was presenting. Then Macklemore came on and I reached for the remote, still unable to figure out what was going on. Then Eric Nally from late Cincinnati greats Foxy Shazam joined in, singing the chorus and doing some of his trademark stage moves and I officially thought I was just having a dream. 


Nally did a great job and he caused a lot of buzz online, mostly of the “Who was that guy?” variety (when the single was released last week, a bunch of idiots rehashed the “Eric Nally is racist” stories from back in 2013 when Foxy Shazam released the single, “I Like It.”)



It’s weird mash-up of a song, parts of which I like, while other parts I find tremendously aggravating. Which is kind of what the VMAs were. Is this the present state of popular youth culture? Throw a bunch of unrelated stuff together, put it in a blender and then just stare at the blender, not caring or knowing what the end result is? 


MTV/Viacom had something called the O Music Awards for a few years recently, honoring things like “Favorite Fuck Yeah Tumblr,” “Favorite Animated Gif,” “Best Tweet” and “Best Artist With A Cameraphone.” The O Awards ceremony seemed unscripted and filmed without any director whatsoever. It doesn’t appear the O awards are still a thing; perhaps last night’s VMAs were a sign that the network is turning its long-running awards program into the Os? 


The VMAs were largely just a big WTF moment that people would talk about/complain about/make fun of online. Which is probably exactly what MTV was going for and, scarily, perhaps the shape of youth-oriented entertainment to come. 


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

Good morning y’all. I’m still super-drowsy from the weekend, which means it was a good one, right? Hope yours was also great. Let’s talk about that news stuff, shall we?

A new report released today from the Greater Cincinnati Urban League highlights what a lot of folks already know, even if they didn’t have the specific numbers in front of them to prove it: The disparities between blacks in Cincinnati and the city as a whole are huge.
The report’s in-depth data further buttresses findings CityBeat published last week in an investigation into the city’s deep racial and economic divides, which you can read here.

The study, called “The State of Black Cincinnati 2015: Two Cities” details some of the disturbing realities for residents of the Greater Cincinnati area. According to the report, 76 percent of the city’s 14,000 families in poverty are black. Black men here die an average of 10 years sooner than white men, and black women die an average of six years sooner. The infant mortality rate in Hamilton County for black infants, 18.4 per 1,000, is more than triple that of white infants in the county. Black-owned businesses in Cincinnati are far rarer here than in other cities. We have 6.9 per 1,000 residents. Raleigh, North Carolina, on the other hand, has 18.8 per 1,000. The study is the first of its kind the Greater Cincinnati Urban League has released since 1995, and while it shows that the city has made great strides in police-community relations, it has much work to do in terms of economic segregation.

• Was training on the way for University of Cincinnati police officers that could have prevented the Samuel DuBose shooting? At least some officials with the department think so, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. DuBose was shot in the head and killed July 19 by UC police officer Ray Tensing. Tensing has been indicted on murder charges for the incident after his body camera showed him shooting DuBose with little warning after a routine traffic stop.

The department was in the process of buying new firearms training equipment in the weeks prior to the shooting, officials say. That training equipment could have prevented DuBose’s tragic death, UC Police Chief Jason Goodrich has said. In addition, more changes to training protocols could prevent a similar situation in the future, Goodrich and other UC officials say. These include more thorough monitoring of body camera footage, “contact cards” that better track the demographics of those officers stop and a new data system that tracks officers’ use of force. Records reported by the Enquirer show that UC police have increased their activity around the university campus in recent years, that officers have stopped and ticketed black motorists disproportionately and that officers have drawn their guns more frequently than in the past. Goodrich, however, says that some of that data is more complex than it might first appear — university officers have been called to respond to more felony warrants, which more typically involve drawing a weapon. The university has also increased the number of officers it employs, which has led to an increase in stops overall, officials say.

• In some lighter news, Kroger will begin installing beer taps and holding tasting sessions in some of its regional locations in order to, uh, tap into (ugh sorry) increasing demand for craft and local brews. Among the first stores to get the amenity this fall will be the new, enormous Kroger location in Oakley. The chain’s replacement for its current Corryville location will also get the taps when it opens in 2017.

• If you’re anything like my friends, you’ve probably worn at least one pair of Tom’s shoes in your lifetime. The company promotes a “buy one, donate one” model: For every pair you cop, a pair gets sent to people in a less-fortunate country. Tomorrow, the company’s so-called chief giving officer, Sebastian Fries, will be in town giving a keynote speech on Tom’s social enterprise model at the Cincinnati Museum Center, kicking off the city’s Social Enterprise Week. The series of events, created by Flywheel Cincinnati, is designed to celebrate and promote companies that have a social service dimension to their business model. Several locals involved in social enterprise businesses will join Fries in a panel discussion, and a range of other activities will take place throughout the week. 

• The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber has announced its support Mayor John Cranley’s proposed Cincinnati parks revamp funded by a potential property tax hike. But, uh, they’d rather you don’t try to spark up a joint in a future revamped Burnet Woods. The Chamber has also announced they’re opposing state ballot initiative Issue 3, which is ResponsibleOhio’s proposal to legalize marijuana in Ohio. That proposed constitutional amendment would make it cool in the eyes of the law for anyone 21 and up to smoke weed, but would limit commercial growth of the plant to 10 grow sites across the state owned by the group’s investors. The chamber says it’s concerned about the proposed constitutional amendment’s effect on workplace safety, saying it will negatively impact business’ ability to maintain a drug-free work environment. Both the state marijuana proposal and the county property tax hike will be on the November ballot for voters to approve or reject.

• Ohio Gov. John Kasich is moving on up in the GOP presidential primary. D.C. politics publication The Hill ranks Kasich number three on its August list of Republican primary contenders, a serious jump up from his previous spot at number 10 last month. Some polls put Kasich ahead of former Florida governor and presumed frontrunner Jeb Bush in key primary states. Kasich, however, still trails real estate dude and hair piece model Donald Trump, who is somehow lodged in the number one slot in the GOP primary circus sideshow, err, race. Kasich has some big challenges ahead, however, including some staunchly conservative primary states coming up he’ll have to do well in despite the fact many rabid conservatives perceive him as a moderate. Which is pretty weird and terrifying, given the guv’s pretty conservative record in the state.

• Finally, one time this guy from Ohio got a mountain in Alaska named after him right before he even became president. Turns out, that peak would later become the tallest in the country when Alaska became a state in 1959. But President William McKinley never visited Alaska, and the state officially changed the name of Mount McKinley back to its original indigenous moniker, Denali, in 1980. Now the federal government has also announced it will begin officially recognizing the mountain as Denali, not Mount McKinley, which really makes a ton of sense, given that naming it after McKinley was a decision made by some rando adventurer traveling with a couple prospectors who really seems to have done so on a whim. But the change has Ohio lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner, all in a huff. Many Republican lawmakers and even Democrat or two in the state have called the renaming a “political stunt” and a “constitutional overreach” by President Barack Obama, because of course they would say that. Meanwhile, there are some who believe that the mountain was named after McKinley in a sublime act of trolling against silver prospectors. McKinley, after all, was running on a platform advocating the gold standard.

That’s it for me. Tweet or email me with news tips or Mount McKinley-inspired rage.

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

Good morning all! Hope your Friday is starting off well. It’s gorgeous outside, so maybe cut work a little early if you can, eh?

In the meantime, here’s the news. A new study by the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center suggests that living in high-poverty areas might lead to more sickness among young children. Hospitalization rates for maladies like bronchitis and pneumonia among young children are very different across Hamilton County, the study found, with children in high-poverty areas making many more hospital trips for such problems than kids in better-off neighborhoods and suburbs. The study tracked hospital visits by census tract and found so-called “hot spots” with high hospitalization rates in low-income inner-city areas. Those areas often correspond with areas that have lower life expectancies and higher infant mortality rates.

The Children’s study illustrates just one of the many consequences of Cincinnati’s deep economic segregation, a set of dynamics we explore in depth in this week’s cover story. If you haven’t already, give it a look.

• This is pretty messed up: A Hamilton County Sheriff’s bailiff has been accused of stealing tenant property during evictions, selling it and pocketing the money. Deputy Bailiff Michael Garvey was arrested yesterday and faces charges of theft in office after officials say he took money and jewelry from the site of an eviction. He later tried to sell the jewelry. He’s currently being held in the Hamilton County Justice Center. Garvey has been a bailiff with Hamilton County for at least eight years.

• The Cincinnati Police Department is adding more officers to street patrols in a number of city neighborhoods starting next month. Twenty-four additional officers will patrol Districts 2 and 4 starting Sept. 13. District 2 includes East Walnut Hills, Evanston, Hyde Park, Madisonville, Pleasant Ridge and other East Side neighborhoods. District 4 includes Mount Auburn, Corryville, Walnut Hills, Avondale and other central neighborhoods. Chief Jeffrey Blackwell called the reassignments “phase two” of a safety plan that began with a 90-day summer initiative designed to curb an increase in gun violence in some city neighborhoods.

• U.S. Senate hopeful and Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is going on the offensive against his Democratic primary opponent Ted Strickland, slamming the former Ohio governor yesterday at a news conference on the steps of City Hall for his lack of opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. That project is a contentious oil and gas conduit that would stretch between oil-rich areas in Alberta, Canada and Texas oil refineries. Environmental activists have decried the pipeline’s potential effects on the local environments it will pass through as well as its overall potential to increase oil consumption. President Barack Obama might soon deny a permit to build the pipeline after years of controversy over the project. Strickland earlier this week commented that he wouldn’t weigh in on the “divisive” subject because it didn’t impact Ohio. Sittenfeld has taken issue with that.

“Leaders lead,” Sittenfeld said at the news conference. “They don’t bob and weave and evade and equivocate.”

Sittenfeld also used the 15-minute press event to challenge Strickland to a series of six debates leading up to the Democratic primary. Strickland thus far has not agreed to any public debates between the candidates, probably because he’s in a very strong position and doesn’t need to. Polls show him neck and neck, or even slightly ahead, of incumbent Republican Senator Rob Portman, despite Portman having a heavy fundraising advantage. Sittenfeld trails a distant third, and polls show him with little name recognition outside the Cincinnati area. Sittenfeld, however, says the race is still young and that his poll numbers and fundraising are improving.

• Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said yesterday that the MLB will decide by the end of the year whether or not to reinstate Cincinnati Reds hit king Pete Rose into the league, opening up the doors for Rose to be included in the MLB Hall of Fame. Rose was ousted from the league indefinitely in 1989 after an investigation showed he had bet on baseball while he was a manager of the Cincinnati Reds. He denied those allegations for a decade and a half. More recent revelations show Rose may well have bet on the game as early as 1984, while he was still a player-manager. Rose and his supporters argue he’s paid his debt for the wrongdoing and that he deserves to be re-admitted.

• Finally, state lawmakers are continuing to weigh a measure that would bring more accountability, and possibly funding changes, to the state’s charter school system. That system has come under fire lately after criminal investigations into charter school operators and revelations of data manipulation by the Ohio Department of Education’s charter school accountability arm. House Bill 2, which is currently being hashed out by state lawmakers, would put new accountability measures in place. Meanwhile, educational advocates, including the state’s teacher’s union and many local school leaders, are pushing lawmakers to address funding disparities as well. The way charter schools are funded now unfairly siphons money from public schools toward private, sometimes for-profit schools that don’t produce better results, advocates argue. Funding changes aren’t on the table yet for reform legislation, however, and it seems unlikely that the Republican-led Ohio General Assembly will take up suggested changes to the state’s charter funding mechanism.

That’s it for me. Email or tweet at me with news tips or fun stuff to do this weekend. I’m out.

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<![CDATA[Your Weekend To Do List (8/28-8/30)]]> FRIDAY

MUSIC: MARK MOTHERSBAUGH

Mothersbaugh Mania officially kicks off in Cincinnati on Friday when Mark Mothersbaugh — the co-founder of the great Post-Punk band DEVO, as well as an accomplished visual artist who studied his craft at Kent State University — appears at Woodward Theater for a concert sponsored by the Contemporary Arts Center. (The CAC is opening a highly anticipated retrospective of his artwork, Myopia, on Sept. 25.) Friday’s show will begin with a small orchestral group playing DEVO covers and Mothersbaugh’s scores for Wes Anderson movies, followed by a short “onstage dialogue,” and will conclude with him conducting an ensemble in “Music for Six Sided Keyboard” (pictured). 8 p.m. Friday. $60 seated; $30 standing. Woodward Theater, 1404 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, contemporaryartscenter.org

Third Eye Blind
Photo: Big Hassle
EVENT: TASTE OF BLUE ASH
Ever wondered what Blue Ash tastes like? Find out this weekend. Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Taste of Blue Ash features food from more than a dozen area restaurants (Delicio’s Coal Fired Pizza, Alfio’s Buon Cibo, Café Mediterranean, Mama Mimi’s and more), a craft beer tent, festival rides, strolling entertainers and special headlining musical performances from Third Eye Blind (’90s nostalgia, please never end) on Saturday and Thompson Square on Sunday. 6-11 p.m. Friday; 2-11 p.m. Saturday; 2-9 p.m. Sunday. Free. Summit Park, 4335 Glendale-Milford Road, Blue Ash, blueashevents.com

Joel Sternfeld’s photo accompanies Kathy Y. Wilson’s piece.
Photo: Cincinnati Art Museum, FotoFocus Art Purchase Fund
EVENT: ART AFTER DARK
Art After Dark celebrates the Cincinnati Art Museum’s new exhibit, Unknown Elements, which highlights anonymous photographs from the museum collection, paired with contemplative writings from local authors. The evening includes docent-led tours, a Hip Hop dance performance from Elementz, spoken-word and Short Order Poetry from Chase Public in the courtyard. 5-9 p.m. Friday. Free. Cincinnati Art Museum, 953 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, cincinnatiartmuseum.org/artafterdark. 

Germania Society Oktoberfest
Photo: Provided
EVENT: GERMANIA SOCIETY OKTOBERFEST
Get your fill of cream puffs, dirndls and Warsteiner at the Germania Society’s 45th-annual Oktoberfest — Cincinnati’s “original and most authentic Oktoberfest,” full of the best parts of local German culture, crafts and cooking. Tents serving an array of dishes like strudel, sauerkraut, schnitzel and sauerbraten will line the streets (and your plate), with more than 60 taps of both authentic and domestic beers, along with Bavarian schnapps. Guests can enjoy live music, German dance groups, carnival rides, games and a vacation raffle. Guten appetit! 6 p.m.-midnight Friday; 2 p.m.-midnight Saturday; noon-10 p.m. Sunday. $4. Germania Park, 3529 W. Kemper Road, Colerain, germaniasociety.com

Lily & Madeleine
Photo: Julien Bourgeois 
MUSIC: LILY & MADELEINE 
Lily & Madeleine might be considered Indianapolis’ answer to Over the Rhine. Though there is an obvious age and experience difference  — Lily & Madeleine were just teenage sisters when their first records, the EP Weight of the Globe and a self-titled album, came out in 2013 — there is striking similarity in other ways.  Both acts are primarily Americana-oriented singer/songwriter duos whose female singers deliver hauntingly lovely, introspective vocals on melancholia-tinged ballads and mid-tempo compositions. Lily & Madeleine play Madison live with Shannon Hayden and The Mitchells Friday. More info/tickets: madisontheateronline.com.

SATURDAY
Napoleon Maddox and Aiesha Little of the Midwest Black Speculative Fiction Alliance
Photo: Jesse Fox
EVENT: BLACK COMIX DAY

Comic book fans are a colorful lot, quite like the books themselves. This Saturday, the St. Bernard branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is honoring a historically underrepresented group in comic book culture: black writers, illustrators and readers. It’s part of an event called Queen City Black Comix Day, which was organized by Aiesha Little of the Midwest Black Speculative Fiction Alliance (MBSFA).  “We’re focusing on indie creators and illustrators because there’s a vibrant world outside of ‘the Big Two’ of DC and Marvel,” Little says. “Indie comics offer a larger variety of narratives, genres and viewpoints, and I think kids and adults alike need to see that.” Black Comix Day takes place Saturday at the St. Bernard branch of the public library. More info: midwestbsfa.wordpress.com 


EVENT: RAISE THE HEIGHTS PARADE AND FESTIVAL

The Kennedy Heights Arts Center, one of the best and most ambitious in the region, takes a great leap forward this weekend when it opens its new 10,500-square-foot annex in a portion of an old Kroger grocery store.  The overall site has been christened the Kennedy Heights Cultural Campus because the building also holds the Kennedy Heights Montessori School in addition to the arts center’s Lindner Annex. “This expansion will allow us not only to expand our programs to include digital art forms, but also to have a big open space for different kinds of performing arts and to host performances and concerts,” said Ellen Muse-Lindeman, the arts center’s executive director, during a recent tour of the addition. The Raise the Heights art parade and festival takes place 11 a.m-5 p.m. Saturday. More info: kennedyarts.org.


Starlit Picnic
Photo: Even Noga

EVENT: STARLIT PICNIC

Romance will be waiting at the Cincinnati Observatory’s first adults-only Starlit Picnic. Grab a blanket, packed picnic-dinner, drinks and a date and settle in for a special night. “This is kind of a little bit fancier, more adults-only, where people can bring their own drinks,” says Dean Regas, outreach astronomer at the observatory. “They can watch as the sun goes down on one side of the sky and watch the moon come up on the other side.” Telescopes are available, and astronomers will guide guests through a viewing of the heavenly lights. Bring flashlights and candles to set the mood. 7-10 p.m. Saturday. $30. Cincinnati Observatory, 3489 Observatory Place, Mount Lookout, cincinnatiobservatory.org.


Jane Decker
Photo: Provided

MUSIC: JANE DECKER

Jane Decker is just barely into official adulthood, but she’s lived a virtual lifetime of experiences, both personally and professionally. Her supportive mother and father encouraged her musical pursuits, and she was writing songs by age 10 — about the time both her parents received cancer diagnoses. Two years later, her father passed away and Decker recorded her first songs. Three years after that, the Cincinnati-based vocalist joined her first band, a blistering Punk outfit called Formulas, but she began therapeutically writing distinctly non-Punk songs. Her brother John offered to pay for her to record those artier songs and enlisted friends to help. Formulas broke up, Decker’s mother’s cancer went into remission and the stage was set for a fresh chapter. Read a full feature on Decker here. Jane Decker plays a free 1:30 p.m. show Saturday at Washington Park’s Taste of OTR. More info: tasteofotr.com. 


Taste of OTR
Photo: Tender Mercies

EVENT: TASTE OF OTR

The third-annual Taste of OTR is a family-friendly day of food, craft beer and live entertainment in Washington Park to benefit Tender Mercies, a nonprofit in the heart of Over-the-Rhine that provides housing to homeless adults living with mental illness and a variety of supportive services. Things kick off at 11 a.m. with a performance from Mamadrones and continue well into the night with more local music from the likes of Jane Decker, the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars, Multimagic and more. And fill your belly with food from an entire slew of local faves, like Eli’s BBQ, Kaze, Cincy by the Slice, The Chili Hut, Dojo Gelato, Taste of Belgium, MOTR Pub — the list goes on and on — while sipping on local craft brews. VIP tickets include deck seating and select special tastings. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday. Tastings $1-$6; VIP $50; $60 door. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, tendermerciesinc.org. 


Red Bull Soapbox Race
Photo: Provided

EVENT: RED BULL SOAPBOX RACE

Red Bull — known for hosting relatively creative and dangerous events like their Flugtag, where people build their own flying machines and participate in a competition involving flinging themselves off of tall things — has been bringing the joys of soapbox derby-ing to Mount Adams for several years. The competition consists of both design and creativity judging panels for the derby contestants’ vehicles and a daring timed race through Eden Park, routinely loaded with epic crashes and glorious triumphs from the charmingly unique homemade vehicles, built from materials ranging from cardboard to steel. 11 a.m. Saturday. Free. Eden Park, 950 Eden Park Drive, Mount Adams, redbullsoapboxrace.com. 


EVENT: MINI MAKER FAIRE

Grab the kids and head to the Cincinnati Museum Center for Mini Maker Faire, a celebration of creativity and invention spread across the rotunda, the center’s three museums and outside. This two-day show-and-tell features “makers” ranging from techies and crafters to homesteaders, scientists and garage tinkerers, all with the goal of entertaining, informing, connecting and growing community. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Museum admission required. Cincinnati Museum Center, 1301 Western Ave., Queensgate, cincinnatimakerfaire.com.


SUNDAY

'Fear the Walking Dead'
Photo: Justin Lubin, AMC

TV: FEAR THE WALKING DEAD

With the undeniable success of AMC’s The Walking Dead, it makes sense that the network would produce a spinoff. Fear the Walking Dead promises zombie-apocalypse action in the fictional universe fans have come to love, with a different setting, cast and timeline. So we move from years into the outbreak in Georgia (or, more recently, Virginia) to the very beginning in Los Angeles. Last week’s pilot might be deemed “slow” by some because the action and bloodshed was so minimal compared to the original series, but this companion is all about exploring the early days of this zombie virus — what happened right before the world turned upside down. That’s a huge chunk of the apocalyptic timeline we missed out on in TWD, as we experienced everything via Rick Grimes, who was in a coma for about a month when the fallout began. And Fear’s vision of the first cracks in society is intriguing. The show focuses on a blended family: High school counselor Madison and her children — Alicia, a laidback college-bound intellectual, and Nick, a troubled drug addict — and her English-teacher boyfriend Travis (whose ex-wife and son made a short appearance last week). Clearly this modern family dynamic will present realistic problems, like where to go when the world ends and your family is scattered across the city. 9 p.m. Sundays. AMC.


'The Complete Tom'
Photo: Provided

ONSTAGE: THE COMPLETE TOM: 4. DETECTIVE

Some theater al fresco? Queen City Flash is a flash-mob theater company working its way through Mark Twain’s adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn with imaginative, pop-up performances in local parks. This month they conclude their spirited four-part adaptation with Detective. Huck and Tom’s adventure involves solving a murder to clear an innocent friend. Tickets are free, but reserved in advance for a date and time. On the performance day, ticket-holders are emailed a map and parking instructions. Getting there — maybe to a Cincinnati park you’ve never visited — is part of the fun. As is the lively show. 7:30 p.m. daily. Through Monday. Free; reservations required. Locations vary, queencityflash.com


ART: UNKNOWN ELEMENTS

In art, as in life, context is key. An image that would otherwise be treated with contempt — or worse, blithe indifference — can be illuminated with only a few facts. Likewise, stripped of its context, a piece of art can become something else entirely as the viewer imagines a contextual framework for the art. This is the premise of a new photography exhibition at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Unknown Elements, which features 26 photos from the museum’s collection “about which some details are unknown.” Displayed in Gallery 212, the photographs range in date from the mid-19th century to the present day and are accompanied by written works from local writers — poems, short stories and other responses paired to selected images to serve as a “prompt” for viewers’ own reflections. Unknown Elements is on display at the Cincinnati Art Museum through Nov. 8. More info: cincinnatiartmuseum.org.


'A Hundred Minus One Day'
Photo: Provided

ONSTAGE: A HUNDRED MINUS ONE DAY

For two summers, John Leo Muething has presented Stone on a Walk, his low-budget theater company offering “short, sweet and cheap” shows. His goal is for you to walk away after an hour’s performance saying, “That was sweet.” 2015’s final production is the U.S. premiere of a touching comedy by Idgie Beau, an Edinburgh Fringe hit in 2013 about youthful innocence and living in the moment. The title — A Hundred Minus One Day — is from A.A. Milne: “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.” Through Aug. 29. $10. Simple Space, 16 E. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine, stoneonawalk.com. 








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<![CDATA[Stage Door]]>

At this point in the summer you have to look a little harder for theater productions. Most of our local companies are rehearsing for shows to open their 2015-2016 seasons. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see, especially if you’d like to enjoy theater in the great outdoors.

Queen City Flash’s performances of The Complete Tom, from Mark Twain’s tales about Tom Sawyer, are both outside-the-box and — literally — outside, popping up in different area parks for each evening their final romp with Tom Sawyers, Detective, is being presented. In this installment (the fourth of four), Tom and Huck Finn set out to clear a friend implicated in a murder. To catch one of these free performances, you need to reserve a ticket at queencityflash.com. At 4 p.m. on the day of the show, you’ll receive an email with details of the “secret” outdoor location. The production, creatively staged by Bridget Leak, features six actors who play multiple roles using puppets and quick costume changes.

Another outdoor adventure is in store for you if you track down a FREE Shakespeare in the Park performance of a modern-dress staging of Romeo and Juliet this weekend. You’ll find one at Seasongood Pavilion in Eden Park on Friday, another at the McDonald Commons Park Shelter in Madeira on Saturday and a third at Keehner Park in West Chester on Sunday; all performances are at 7 p.m. This series is produced by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and it will be toured (as will a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream) to local schools, community centers and other venues through May 2016.

If you prefer to sit in a theater, head to Covington where The Carnegie has a head start on the theater season with its mid-August production: Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s innovative Company, onstage through Sunday. Even though the show has been around for 45 years, its outside-the-box approach — no beginning-middle-end story, in particular, but rather a central character, Robert, who’s turning 35 but remains disconnected, despite his married friends pushing help toward relationships — seems timely. Although the Carnegie’s actors are a tad young and don’t really feel like the New Yorkers who Furth’s script portrayed, they do a good job with the songs, and Zachary Huffman does a fine job with the central role. Here’s my CityBeat review. It’s onstage through Sunday. Tickets: 859-957-1940

Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.

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<![CDATA[I Just Can't Get Enough]]> Serena Williams and Drake made out at Sotto. What did you do this weekend?

Serena was in town competing in the Western & Southern Open; Drake came to watch. The two celebrated Serena’s finals win with dinner at Sotto downtown and, apparently, a little mouth-on-mouth action. Drake also supported Serena at Wimbledon earlier this summer. NORMAL.

The brothers Hanson, the objects of my adolescent affection after my JTT phase ended, are now in the beer business. The still-dreamy-to-me trio of Zac, Isaac and Taylor have produced a pale ale appropriately called Mmmhops. It’s not available in Ohio, but you should be able to buy some online next month.

If you’re still following the Fat Jew on Instagram or Twitter, here are some reasons why you should consider cutting that shit off.

Play Cincinnati I-Spy as you watch the trailer for Carol:

I spotted Maury’s Tiny Cove (the restaurant in the very first scene) and various Downtown streets, and those Christmas shop scenes were filmed in Eden Park. The movie is expected to be released Nov. 20.

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night with pressing questions, like “What ever happened to Rayanne from My So-Called Life?” Well, don’t worry, because A.J. Langer is doing fine — much better than how her iconic ‘90s character probably would have fared (All that sex! Drugs! Wild hair!). In fact, she’s a damn countess. Step aside, LuAnn.

A.J. met British Lord Charles Courtenay in 2002 and they married in 2005. They have two kids. Real-life Rayanne swapped her title of a Lady for that of a Countess when Charles’ father passed away last week, making her husband an Earl. In other words, boring, boring, boring, Rayanne now has a castle. The title includes a 14th-century estate in Exeter, England. Get it, Rayanne!

Wanna attend the Gloss book release party that Marc Jacobs is hosting next month during New York Fashion Week? Well, first you have to be fabulous enough to get an invite — but that’s not all. The invite features a lengthy, descriptive dress code that includes "fur coats over lingerie," "Grace Jones butch realness," "riding in on a white horse" (literally?) and sequins — three times. Read my wedding dress code the full description here

Highly specific talent: This woman sounds exactly like Beyoncé. If Beyoncé did commercial voiceovers.

Rumors about a Sons of Anarchy spinoff were circulating before the seven-season show even concluded last year. The idea was a prequel focusing on SAMCRO’s origins with Jax’s dad John Teller and the rest of the Redwood Original. But FX is instead moving forward with a spinoff about the Mayans, a rival motorcycle club.

If you can’t wait for another Kurt Sutter series, tune into The Bastard Executioner, premiering on FX Sept. 15. The medieval war drama stars Sons’ Gemma (Katey Sagal, Sutter’s wife), True Blood’s Bill (Stephen Moyer) and, naturally, the multihyphenate Sutter as a prosthetic-covered character called “The Dark Mute.”

And speaking of spinoffs, Fear the Walking Dead, a companion series to the similarly-titled The Walking Dead, is now on AMC. See this week’s TV column to read more about the new series and other shows to watch this week.

If you find yourself in the Chicago area and need a new gig, this Craigslist gem is searching for a tour assistant for a cat circus. MUST LOVE CATS! ]]>
<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Happy Thursday, Cincy! Better yet, tomorrow's Friday. So here's today's headlines to make the week pass a little quicker. 

• Mayor John Cranley vetoed a Nov. 3 ballot-bound charter yesterday that would allow city council to meet in secret about certain topics, including property sales, the city manager's performance and some economic development deals. The charter amendment ballot initiative was passed by council on Monday with a vote of 6-3, with Councilmembers P.G. Sittenfeld, Charlie Winburn and Christopher Smitherman voting against it. Despite Cranley's veto, the amendment isn't dead. The mayor admits it could very well end up back on the ballot as council appears to have the six votes needed to override his veto. The mayor said he vetoed the amendment allowing Council to use executive session for transparency reasons. The special executive sessions would have been restricted to items like assessing the city manager's performance, buying or selling property, disputes possibly ending up in court, security arrangements and items required to be kept secret by law.  

• Have trouble paying your bills on time? So does the city of Cincinnati! A city audit from January 2014 through July of this year found that taxpayers spent an additional $130,000 from late fees on the city's electrical bills. Taxpayers have been shelling out just under $7,000 on average per month for late fees for the first half of 2015. The city previously escaped Duke Energy's late fees as the company didn't charge them to the the government until a crackdown in 2014. City Manager Harry Black says a fix has reportedly come out of the City's Innovation Lab, but Councilman Kevin Flynn has expressed anger over the fees saying it shouldn't have taken a year to catch. 

Ian James, executive director of ResponsibleOhio, the political action committee trying to legalize marijuana, has accused Secretary of State Jon Husted of intentionally putting confusing language on its Nov. 3 ballot initiative. James accused Husted, who opposes the legalization, of using the word "monopoly," which he calls a "loaded term" on the ballot to confuse voters. The term has been floating around the group's initiative a lot, which would enact a constitutional amendment to legalize the plant, but restrict its growth to just 10 commercial farms in the state owned by the PAC's investors. State initiative 3 as of now will read, “Grants a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes.” ResponsibleOhio says it's actually unfair to call it a monopoly when the amendment would allow for 1,150 retail stores that are not operated by investors.

In other weed news, gazing upon ResponsibleOhio's new mascot, Buddie, might make you feel like you've already smoked a couple Js. He has a marijuana bud for a head. Just gonna leave it right here for you to check out. The mascot has caused controversy because critics say he/she/it is too cartoonish and could be viewed as an attempt to entice kids to smoke weed.

• A Columbus charter school has abruptly closed its doors just after the start of the school year leaving 300 students stranded. FCI Academy was suspended by its Toledo sponsor, Education Service Center of Lake Erie West, for mismanagement, but apparently things had been going downhill for the charter school for awhile. The Columbus Dispatch reports that it found the school was keeping afloat for so long by deferring debt, borrowing money and not paying federal withholding and Medicare taxes. The school also received Fs from the state report card on things like graduation rates, gap closing and overall value-added. But despite these setbacks, the school is still determined to keep fighting, according to a note left on the school's locked door in front of its deserted parking lot on Wednesday. In the summer of 2014, FCI Academy laid off 17 employees, and a 2013 state audit showed a $700,000 operating deficit.  

• Former Ohio state deputy treasurer Amer Ahmed has been extradited by Pakistan to the U.S. to begin serving a 15 year sentence for bribery, wire fraud and money laundering. Amer was sentenced to prison by U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson of Columbus late last year. He and three co-conspirators were ordered to pay $3.2 million to the feds. He plead guilty to federal charges in 2013 then fled to Pakistan using fake travel documents. Ahmed served under Democratic state Treasurer Kevin L. Boyce until his defeat in 2010. During his tenure, he devised a plan to direct Ohio state brokerage business to a Canton securities broker. 

• One thing I noticed when I moved to Cincinnati is that people here love their chili.  Cincinnatians flock to the nearest Skyline after a long night of drinking the way the rest of the country flocks to IHOP. So with that, I am truly sorry to report the passing of the final surviving founder of Skyline, William Nicholas “Bill” Lambrinides on Tuesday at the age of 87. Lambrinides worked with his father, Nicolas, a Greek immigrant, and his two brothers, Lambert, Jim, Christie and John to open the first restaurant in 1949. The store has since grown to 110 locations to bring late-night happiness to folks in four states.

That's it for today! Email me with story tips!

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

Hey all. Here’s a brief rundown of the news this morning.

So, do you want to see your name written really big on something attention-grabbing and controversial that will zoom around downtown most of the day and night? Do you have hundreds of thousands of dollars you’re not quite sure what to do with? Here’s an idea: buy some naming rights to the streetcar. Officials with the newly-created Cincinnati Street Railway, a nonprofit promoting the streetcar, are reaching out to marketing firms to help design advertising packages for corporate sponsors for the project. Similar marketing pushes in other cities with streetcars have netted millions in advertising revenues to go toward operation of the transit systems. Locally, some officials say the naming rights could net as much as $250,000 a year, though others say the project’s controversial nature makes it uncertain if big local corporations will want to put their names on it. A suggestion: maybe reach out to deep-pocketed, eccentric megalomaniacs? Perhaps Donald Trump will want to raise his profile here in town next year? What could be better than seeing The Donald’s giant face careening toward you on the front of a streetcar as you spend time in OTR just before the election? Though, hm, come to think of it, streetcar supporters may not be his target demographic.

• I’m not sure this is much news to anyone, but I’m going to say it anyway. We have an amazing library system here in Hamilton County. From its Maker Space to its innovative programming and events to the sheer amount of material available to check out, we have a rare thing here. And the numbers show it. Last year, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was the fifth-busiest library in the country, checking out more than 18 million items, according to data from the Public Library Association. Now, granted, at least a couple hundred of these check-outs were me borrowing the library’s DVD copies of the Bill and Ted movies, but still. Pretty impressive. The library moved up a spot on the ranking from 2013, when it was the sixth-busiest in the country. More than 600,000 people have library cards with the system. Not bad for the country’s 28th-biggest metropolitan area.

• Local faith leaders and activists are demanding more community involvement in changes the University of Cincinnati is undertaking in the wake of the Samuel DuBose shooting. Dubose was killed last month by UC police officer Ray Tensing after a routine traffic stop. Since that time, the university has vowed reform of its police department, including adjustments to off-campus patrols and joining in on the city’s collaborative agreement, which Cincinnati Police Department already abides by. That agreement was drawn up after the police shooting death of Timothy Thomas in 2001 caused days of civil unrest in Cincinnati. Activists and faith leaders are asking that UC compensate the DuBose family for his death, as well as submit to an external investigation into the school’s policing practices. A group including community activist Iris Roley, University of Cincinnati activist Alexander Shelton, Bishop Bobby Hilton, Pastor KZ Smith and others met with UC officials yesterday in a private meeting later described by Shelton as “tense” at times. UC President Santa Ono and newly-hired Vice President of Safety and Reform Robin Engel were among representatives for the university.

• Damn. Here’s the Columbus Dispatch throwing down about charter school transparency. In an editorial published today, the paper slams state officials for not releasing documents about the Ohio Board of Education’s omission of some data on poor-performing online charter schools in the state. The failure to include that data in reports about charter school performance led to an inflated evaluation for at least one organization that sponsors charters in the state. ODE official David Hansen was responsible for that data collection. He resigned following revelations of the omissions. His wife, incidentally, heads Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign. He’s a big, big supporter of charters in the state. The Dispatch, along with a number of other publications, has filed numerous public records requests for documents about the decision to withhold the less-than-flattering charter data, according to the editorial. And now they’re getting tired of waiting, it seems.

“If state Superintendent of Education Richard Ross is not covering up something embarrassing or illegal at the Ohio Department of Education, his recent actions aren’t helping his credibility,” the piece begins.

• Let’s circle back around to Donald Trump, since he’s leading national GOP presidential primary polls, and it seems like the whole world is kinda revolving around his circus of a campaign at the moment. The Donald  may well have taken it upon himself to offend Spanish-speaking Americans as much as possible lately, which is a questionable campaign strategy at best. In the past, Trump hasn’t done himself any favors with this large portion of the American population, describing Mexicans immigrants as "rapists" and criminals. But in true Trump fashion, he’s taken it a step further. Yesterday, he had Spanish-language news station Univision's lead anchor Jorge Ramos physically removed from a news conference for asking a question out of turn. He eventually let Ramos back in, but the exchange was heated, awkward and really just a bad idea all around. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists fired off a statement last night condemning Trump for the confrontation. Spanish-language media has covered Trump more extensively than mainstream media because the leading GOP contender keeps talking about his immigrant plan, which includes building a wall along the southern border and ending birthright citizenship.

That’s it for me. See ya tomorrow.

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<![CDATA[Third Cincinnati-Related Film to Screen at New York Film Festival]]>

The Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission — or an enterprising arts-tourism travel agent — might want to look at organizing a charter from here to attend the New York Film Festival from Sept. 25 to Oct. 11.

Previously announced at the fest were two dramatic films shot in Cincinnati — Todd Haynes’ Carol with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, and the closing-night world premiere of Don Cheadle’s Miles Ahead, a biopic about Miles Davis.

But another film with strong Cincinnati connections — Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art — has been named one of 12 documentaries to be showcased at the festival. Its screening dates are Oct. 1 and 4.

Its director, James Crump, was photography curator and chief curator at Cincinnati Art Museum from 2008 until resigning in 2013. And its executive producer is Ronnie Sassoon, the Cincinnati-born widow of hairstylist Vidal Sassoon. Crump in 2007 had directed Black, White + Gray, a documentary about the relationships between Robert Mapplethorpe, Sam Wagstaff and Patti Smith.

Among the 11 other documentaries in the fest are Field of Vision: New Episodic Nonfiction by Laura Poitras, whose Citzenfour won an Academy Award this year, and In Jackson Heights, the latest from Frederick Wiseman.

Who knows? There might be others with strong local connections, too.

Here are the Film Festival’s program notes for Troublemakers.

“The titular troublemakers are the New York–based Land (aka Earth) artists of the 1960s and 70s, who walked away from the reproducible and the commodifiable, migrated to the American Southwest, worked with earth and light and seemingly limitless space, and rethought the question of scale and the relationships between artist, landscape, and viewer. Director James Crump (Black White + Gray) has meticulously constructed Troublemakers from interviews (with Germano Celant, Virginia Dwan, and others), photos and footage of Walter De Maria, Michael Heizer, Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, and Charles Ross at work on their astonishing creations: Heizer’s Double Negative, a 1,500-feet long “line” cut between two canyons on Mormon Mesa in Nevada; Holt’s concrete Sun Tunnels, through each of which the sun appears differently according to the season; De Maria’s The Lightning Field in New Mexico; and Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, built on the Great Salt Lake in Utah. A beautiful tribute to a great moment in art.”

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

Good morning all. Here’s the news today.

Cincinnati City Council yesterday moved along at least one charter amendment proposal, putting it on the November ballot for voters to approve. That amendment would clarify when council can meet in executive session, away from the staring eyes of the public. Ohio state law allows some use of executive session for municipal governments, and the charter amendment proposed would specify limited times when council could get together for discussions behind closed doors. Those include discussions about certain sensitive property transactions, ongoing court cases, security measures for city facilities and personnel, certain information about development deals and some discussions about the city manager’s job.

The Charter Review Committee, a group charged with suggesting changes to the city’s governing document, had suggested four other amendments. At least one of those, a measure that would clarify how long the mayor has to refer legislation to council committees, seems to have died on the vine. While it sounds arcane, the issue has big, contentious implications. The mayor’s ability to hold on to legislation amounts to a so-called “pocket veto,” critics on council claim, or a way for the mayor to effectively kill council actions he doesn’t like. Mayor Mark Mallory used this power more than 200 times during his time as mayor. Cranley is opposed to the amendment, but he also claims that the pocket veto isn’t a real thing. Some council members agree, saying that the mayor clinging on to legislation could be challenged in court. One thing is clear, however: an amendment won’t clear up the issue. Advocates for the measure fell one short of the six council votes needed to put the amendment on the November ballot.  

Other amendments, including one that would give council the power to fire the city manager, are hanging in there and might be considered next week, just short of the deadline to get the proposals on the November ballot.

• In other council news, a new tax levy for parks improvement will also go on the upcoming ballot. The property tax boost of 1 mill would mean that owners of a $100,000 home would pay about $35 extra a year. Council’s vote is somewhat symbolic. Organizers of a petition drive collected enough signatures throughout the city to put the initiative up before voters. If voters approve the measure, it would raise about $5 million a year. About $1.25 million of that would go toward park maintenance. The rest would go to new projects decided by the mayor and the park board. Parks funding has been cut in half in the last decade and a half, Cranley has noted.

• A long-held tradition for Cincinnati parents is over, at least for now. Folks in the Cincinnati Public School district looking to get their kids into magnets like the Fairview German Language School will no longer be able to sign up on a first-come, first-served basis, but instead will be entered into a lottery system. That will eliminate the yearly camp-outs that parents undertake as they wait to sign their children up for those schools. CPS has cited fairness and safety concerns for ending the first-come, first-served practice. Last year’s camp out lasted 16 days. Enrollment for CPS’ high-demand magnet schools has several tiers. First are priority students who already have a sibling attending the school. Then a number of seats are set aside for students whose nearby schools are among the district’s lowest performers, an effort to offer those students a chance at a better education. The rest have been up for grabs. Until now, seat availability was through the first-come, first-served approach. Now, a computer will randomly choose who gets to enroll.

• City officials and business leaders yesterday launched Union Hall, a facility in Over-the-Rhine that is touted as a one stop shop for entrepreneurs looking for help in launching start-ups. The site on Vine Street houses startup incubator The Brandery, Cintrifuse and CincyTech, all of which are aimed at helping get startups off the ground. The historic building, which has been a brewery, night club and speakeasy, will house about 100 employees.

• A former Cincinnati Police captain is appearing in an ad advocating for legalized marijuana. Retired Capt. Howard Rahtz, a member of a marijuana policy task force led by Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, is seen in the commercials supporting ResponsibleOhio’s legalization effort arguing that the state’s marijuana laws don’t work and that it’s time to reform them. Rahtz touts his time as a Cincinnati police officer, saying he learned a great deal about drug addiction during his service. Opponents of the ResponsibleOhio measure, which would legalize marijuana for anyone over the age of 21, but restrict commercial growth to 10 sites across the state, say they’ll be airing their own commercials. Groups like Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies say ResponsibleOhio’s plan amounts to an unfair monopoly that will only benefit the group’s rich investors.

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<![CDATA[Spoonful of Cinema: <i>Straight Outta Compton</i> (Review)]]>

When N.W.A. first arrived, the group was a revelation — a musical explosion of aggressive lyrics and explicit subject matter. When its legendary record Straight Outta Compton dropped 27 years ago, it may very well have marked the inclusion of gangsta rap in the mainstream conscious of pop culture for the first time. The rap group, comprised of Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and DJ Yella, became the voice of a pissed off generation of street kids who had been subjected to and paid witness to the worst of the War on Drugs, police harassment and brutality and Reaganomics.

So here we are, more than a quarter of a century later, and the story that N.W.A. was telling in 1988 sounds all too similar to the domestic issues we face as a nation today. While Straight Outta Compton the album was current, Straight Outta Compton the film is characterized by a triple balancing act of paying tribute to the godfathers of gangsta, the biopic-necessity of gritty truth-telling and exuding modern relevance.

The film begins before the group comes to exist. Before they become pieces of the world’s most dangerous Hip Hop group, Eazy-E is pocketing stacks of cash (or not, when he gets stiffed) from dope deals and ducking from the police. Ice Cube is venting mightily with a pen and pad, and doing his best not to get beat by local gangsters. Dr. Dre is begrudgingly DJing for an L.A. club that distances its image from what the club owner calls “that gangster bullshit.” Ren is just a small-time MC, and DJ Yella works the club discs with Dre. Eazy wonders how long he could survive in the drug game, Cube is full of rhymes targeted at everything he has to deal with and Dre is escaping into his G-funk production dream world at his mother’s strong disapproval.

As we watch the stories unfold — which primarily revolve around the trio of Eazy, Cube and Dre — we also witness the blossoming of three exceptional young and relatively unknown actors.  Jason Mitchell nails the loose-canon, true gangster attitude of Eazy-E and adds touches of guilt and tinges of pain. O’Shea Jackson Jr., the son of Ice Cube, is surprisingly superb in his first significant acting performance as his father. The resemblance is astoundingly striking — from Jackson Jr.’s appearance to his laugh, voice and smile, there could not have been a better or less conventional choice as to who could play Ice Cube. Corey Hawkins portrays Dr. Dre. It’s a tight race amongst the three to determine which star shines the brightest — not in dissimilar fashion to the icons they emulate — but perhaps Hawkins is the most impressive, if not the most qualified. Hawkins’ experience ranges from playing Shakespeare’s vital Tybalt role in a Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet to being recently named as the actor to take on Heath in The Walking Dead, and his experience and natural talent are both are on full display in Straight Outta Compton. If Hollywood has its head on straight, these three actors can help to close the cringe-worthy diversity gap in the movie industry.

The actors and director F. Gary Gray carry an expansive, sometimes sprawling collaborative script to impressive places in Hip Hop history that were all sparked by N.W.A. From their initial, practically overnight explosion of popularity to the subsequent contract dissatisfaction and departures of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre from the group, the movie becomes something that it may not have intended to be but is rewarding to witness — it serves as a re-telling of West Coast Hip Hop’s rise through the spectrum of N.W.A.

We get a taste of early Hip Hop dis-tracks when Ice Cube leaves for New York City to start his own rap label, Lench Mob. We witness bad contracts from Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) and violent intimidation from Suge Knight, which serve as opposite sides to the same coin of Eazy-E’s tragic fall from rap stardom. We watch Dre work out production kinks with Snoop Dogg, the D.O.C. and Tupac.

Straight Outta Compton is a treat for Hip Hop fans, and as a huge fan of N.W.A., Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, I can say that my expectations were easily satisfied and my highest hopes exceeded.  It’s a strange formula for a blockbuster hit. Think about it — a picture produced by the artists (Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, the Eazy-E estate) with the most to gain monetarily from its success shouldn’t be good. It should be a two-hour commercial. But it is good, even though the cast is essentially a collection of unknowns with the insertion of the producer’s son as a lead. But it does work, and it works brilliantly, and I can only hope that Ice Cube’s Cube Vision video production studios aim to make more Hip Hop and street pictures.  

The film works brilliantly on two levels. The first level is at face value — we get to re-witness one of the most —if not the most — exciting moments in Hip Hop. The second level is revealed when you peel back the layers and ask yourself why the story of these kids from Compton in the late ’80s is just as relevant as it was then. The things that they were saying on record, the journalistic qualities unique to Hip Hop (and perhaps Folk music) that showed what life was really like — I don’t think the film is trying to keep those ideas and frustrations bottled up in the era of Reagan and Bush 1. Instead, the film is really about what we face today, how things haven’t changed enough and that if artists don’t feel the responsibility to shine a light on unfortunate circumstances the way that Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and DJ Yella did, then maybe things never will change. The film is as much a message to the future as it is a reflection of the past. And it’s a whole hell of a lot of fun, too.

Grade: A-

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

Good morning y’all. Hope your weekend was as fantastic as mine was. Yesterday I finally made it down to the Taft Museum to check out their exhibition of Edward Curtis photographs. Curtis spent 30 years in the early part of the 1900s photographing Native American tribes across the West. His work is technically stunning and in some ways, pretty problematic, contributing to some stereotypes and perceptions of Native peoples as a “vanishing race” living bygone lifestyles. The exhibit is interesting— the photographs are beautiful and the underlying questions they bring up are worth wrestling with.

Anyway, this isn’t morning art blabbering, it’s morning news. So let’s talk news, eh? The thing that caught my eye around town today is this story about the former King Records site in Evanston. I’ve been hearing buzz that part of it might be in danger, and turns out that may be true. The owner of one of the buildings at the historic site, which hosted early recording sessions by James Brown and a number of other significant musicians, has applied for a permit to demolish the structure. That’s led to an outcry from historic preservationists, music historians and general boosters for Cincinnati. The city’s planning commission Friday declared the site a local historic landmark, echoing a similar declaration by the city’s Historic Conservation Board. City Council has to give final approval to the designation, which it could do next month. In the meantime, the owner’s demolition permit application is on hold. Will the city be able to save this historic landmark, which could cost up to half a million dollars to stabilize? We’ll see.

• Stressed about pollution? Take a deep breath. Or maybe, uh, don’t. A new report says Cincinnati is among the worst cities in the country when it comes to air quality. Website 24/7 Wall St. analyzed air quality data from the American Lung Association and determined that the Greater Cincinnati metropolitan area is the eighth worst in the country for air pollution. The report compares the area to California’s central valley region, which landed seven cities in the bottom 10 of the air quality list. Like that region, Cincinnati is in a valley and has fairly high traffic volumes. But that’s not the only culprit here: coal plants play a big role in air pollution around Cincinnati, the ALA suggests. Take heart, though. We’re not the only Ohio city on the list. Cleveland came in at number 10 in the most polluted air ranking.

• So there’s a new interchange going in on I-71 into Walnut Hills and Avondale, and the State of Ohio has purchased millions in property near the future on and off ramps. Specifically, the state has spent nearly $4 million on 83 parcels of land around the project. When all is said and done, the state will have purchased 140 pieces of property, officials say. That’s part of a bigger land-buying frenzy in the historically low-income neighborhoods. The $106 million interchange looks likely to change the face of the area around Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and Reading Road, with new development featuring a proposed tech corridor and other big developments. We first reported on the interchange last year. Stay tuned for more updates on how the development will affect Avondale, Corryville and Walnut Hills.

• Here’s your daily dose of Kasich news: does the Ohio governor and GOP presidential hopeful talk straight on the campaign trail when it comes to Ohio’s economy? Not quite, according to some fact checkers.  A recent Washington Post article dug into some of Kasich’s favorite claims about his role in Ohio’s economic recovery and issued one and two-pinocchio ratings (some shading of the facts and significant omissions/exaggerations, respectively) about his claims. Kasich’s claim that Ohio was “$8 billion in the hole” when he took office, for instance, doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, according to the Post article. The state’s actual budget for the year Kasich took office saw significant revenue increases from an economic recovery that began before Kasich’s term, leading to significantly less shortfall than Kasich’s claim.

• Speaking of Kasich, we live in a world where I can say the following and it’s not just some vulgar joke I would text to my friends but actual (debatable) news: Deez Nuts has endorsed Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the GOP presidential primary. Deez Nuts is the name assumed by a 15-year-old Iowa farm boy who somehow raked in 9 percent of the vote in a recent poll of that primary state. Mr. Nuts has also endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. He is of course endorsing himself for the general election.

• Finally, in other GOP primary news, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was in Ohio recently courting the tea party and the Koch Brothers at the billionaire industrialists' Americans for Prosperity Summit. Bush promised to uphold the staunch conservative values of slashing government spending and you know, making it easier for rich folks to get richer at the summit. The event in Columbus drew a big group of conservative activists as well as a large number of protesters.

That’s it for me today. E-mail me your news tips or tweet at me with, well, whatever you want.

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<![CDATA[Your Weekend Playlist: August Vibes]]>

Old, new, weird or blue – I can’t get enough. 

“Thunder Clatter” – Wild Cub

This hand-clapping, shoe-tapping goodness is by far one of the best new jams I’ve came across, making it impossible to skip when it comes up in my track library. It’s upbeat, it’s joyful, and you’ll find yourself singing the final phrase, “I feel it all in the center of it all, you’re the love of my life — the love of my life” over and over again because it’s so damn catchy. (Not to mention, sweet as a peach.) Wild Club is an American Indie group that defines itself by the brand of '80s-inspired Electro-Pop, with “Thunder Clatter” becoming their most successful track. Listen for yourself and see why.

“My Wrecking Ball” – Ryan Adams

Hands down one of my favorite artists of this lifetime. I first discovered Mr. Adams when I got stranded in Arizona after Cincinnati got hit with the blizzard of the century, and I couldn’t find a flight home. (Not complaining.) I gratefully sat outside in the desert air reading Brain On Fire, in which the author talks about how her best-kept memory was hearing Ryan Adams play. And I soon learned for myself about this man — not only known as a beyond talented musician, but his approach on stage is ridiculously comedic, with a touch of thought and wisdom. “My Wrecking Ball” live at Carnegie Hall is one of my favorite tracks to play. It’s a stunning song filled with so much life, and at the very end he draws a laugh from the audience after dropping his hands onto the keyboard and saying, “I really can’t fucking play this thing at all.”

“Nocturne” – Wild Nothing

I’m starting to notice this bouncy, '80s theme in a lot of contemporary music lately, and this song is perfect example of that exact vibe. It’s a track that’s meant to fade in and out of style, with pops of a deep, deep echoing voice flowing after each verse. Not to mention, the guitar is incredible. Lead singer Jack Tatum’s unique voice and song structure creates a sound that can almost be heard in any setting. I choose Wild Nothing for drives to work, writing at my desk or even when I eat dinner on my couch. No matter what the setting, this song easily fits.

“Drag” – Day Wave

If the artist Day Wave had to go by one phrase, it would read: “I fucked up but I don’t really care.” It’s a quick beat with softly voiced lyrics, giving off the vibe where you want to dance along but also emotionally feed into what they’re saying. Day Wave’s latest track “Drag” is easily heavy on the sounds, and although the lyrics are quick, they’re so simple to catch on to. It’s repetitive without driving you crazy. And sure, it ends before you know it. But that’s all the more reason to play it over again and again and again.

“You Really Got A Hold On Me” – She & Him 

Zooey Deschanel (She) and M Ward (Him) have seen individual success within their own careers, but together they turn out to be a surprisingly perfect duo. “You Really Got A Hold On Me” is one of the best examples of how these two artists compliment one another best as Ward’s voice echoes behind Deschanel’s elegant, classic sound so delicately. This song makes it easy to get swept away into a sway with someone you care for, and them swaying you right back. It’s meant to be her unhealthy yearning for him, and the lyrics go, “You treat me badly…I love you madly.” We’ve all been there…right?

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<![CDATA[Your Weekend To Do List (8/21-8/23)]]>
FRIDAY
EVENT: CINCY BREW HA-HA
If 50 comedians performing over the span of three days doesn’t get you laughing, the annual Cincy Brew Ha-Ha beer and comedy festival has just what you need to give your silly streak a pulse: beer. Lots of it. With two 100-seat beer gardens and plenty of beer booths serving up everything from locals to craft favorites, Brew Ha-Ha plans to satisfy more than 20,000 thirsty and laugh-seeking Tristaters with plenty to drink and an impressive lineup of comics: Headlining Thursday night is Adam Ferrara (Rescue Me, Paul Blart: Mall Cop), Friday night is David Koechner (Anchorman, Anchorman 2) and Saturday night is Brandon T. Jackson (Roll Bounce, Wild ‘N Out with Nick Cannon). You’ll either be laughing your way to a full belly of beer or drinking your way to a day full of laughter. Or both. 5 p.m.-midnight Thursday-Friday; 4 p.m.-midnight Saturday. Free admission; $5 for wristband; $1 beer samples; $5 full servings. Sawyer Point, 705 E. Pete Rose Way, Downtown, cincybrewhaha.com.

San Fermin
Photo: Denny Renshaw
MUSIC: SAN FERMIN
San Fermin’s second album, the recently released Jackrabbit, picks up where its debut left off, delivering lush soundscapes and boy/girl vocal tradeoffs. The Brooklyn-based band’s founder and creative driving force, Ellis Ludwig-Leone, has a thing for conceptual grandeur, and with Jackrabbit he again examines lives, whether human or animal, immersed in high-stakes situations. The jaunty, ebb-and-flow title track finds its central character encouraged to, as delivered by new singer Charlene Kaye, “run for the hills and don’t look back.” The very next song, the lilting “Astronaut,” features vocalist Allen Tate as a stark counterpoint to Kaye’s clean midrange, his deep baritone altering the mood immediately. See San Fermin with Lemon Sky, The Ridges, Sweet & The Sweet Sweets and Orchards Friday on Fountain Square as part of the MidPoint Indie Summer Series. myfountainsquare.com.

EVENT: INDIE CRAFT MARKET
Love shopping local? Love handmade goodies? Head to Fountain Square Friday night for the Indie Craft Market, featuring handmade crafts, work from independent artists and more, plus live music from local Indie bands. Love shopping local? Love handmade goodies? Head to Fountain Square Friday night for the Indie Craft Market, featuring handmade crafts, work from independent artists and more, plus live music from local Indie bands. 5-11 p.m. Friday. Free. Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, myfountainsquare.com.

The Magic Lightnin' Boys
Photo: Provided
MUSIC: OHMSTEAD
Ohmstead (founded by and named after late Cincy band The Four Ohms) has been providing an eclectic mix of music in the great outdoors for the past 14 years. This Friday and Saturday, Ohmstead returns at the VFW campground in Franklin, Ohio (9728 Claude-Thomas Road), about 40 miles north of Cincy. Popular local Reggae/Roots/Jam/Rock crew Elementree Livity Project plays both nights. Friday, music kicks off at 3 p.m. with Reggae/Rock band Rockstead, while Hip Hop collective YNO/Treehouse also performs. Touring acts on Friday include Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and Jahman Brahman. On Saturday, music at Ohmstead begins at 11 a.m. Local acts include Freekbass (who doesn’t play a lot locally), Junya Be, The Magic Lightnin’ Boys, Don’t Fear the Satellites, The Ohms, Souse, Eyeris Wide and The Almighty Get Down. Glostik Willy and Tropidelic are some of the national/regional artists performing Saturday. Presale tickets are no longer available. There will be general admission tickets available at the gates starting Friday. Visit ohmstead.net for the full schedule, ticket and camping info and more. 

Chase Public’s Mike Fleisch and Scott Holzman promote “empathy through creative practice.”
Photo: Jesse Fox
EVENT: RESPONSE PROJECT
For Response Projects, creatives prepare and share a 10-minute response to a work of art. The popular event’s third installment takes place Aug. 21 and will spotlight Cathy Wagner, Matt McAllister, Mark Mendoza, Megan Hague, Loraine Wible and Holzman, who will reflect on the poetry of Sappho.“In general, I’m an advocate for all things Chase Public and creative endeavors grounded in empathy and community,” Daniel says. “It’s been a great opportunity to share my work and my perspective, but to also hear the work of others, to be inspired by others, to meet new people and collectively share ideas and ambitions.”She says she loves these events for their “connectiveness” — they break down any sort of separation between performer and audience. They create a collective effort and exchange between everyone. Chase Public’s third Response Project takes place Friday at its space in Northside (1569 Chase Ave., Suite 4). More info: chasepublic.org

'A Hundred Minus One Day'
Photo: Provided
ONSTAGE: A HUNDRED MINUS ONE DAY
For two summers, John Leo Muething has presented Stone on a Walk, his low-budget theater company offering “short, sweet and cheap” shows. His goal is for you to walk away after an hour’s performance saying, “That was sweet.” 2015’s final production is the U.S. premiere of a touching comedy by Idgie Beau, an Edinburgh Fringe hit in 2013 about youthful innocence and living in the moment. The title — A Hundred Minus One Day — is from A.A. Milne: “If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you.”  Through Aug. 29. $10. Simple Space, 16 E. 13th St., Over-the-Rhine, stoneonarock.com.

SATURDAY
EVENT: SHAKE IT UP COCKTAIL FESTIVAL
Jungle Jim’s is a wonderland of exotic food and booze, and their new Shake It Up Cocktail Festival celebrates the end of summer with just that. Say goodbye to tan lines, pool parties and flip-flops with expertly crafted cocktails and mixed drinks, and imbibe an atmosphere full of flair bartenders, expert mixologists and more. 6:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday. $40; $15 non-drinker. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

EVENT: BEST FRIENDS AND BREWS
A night filled with everyone’s two favorite things: furry friends and beer. This tasting event supports the SPCA of Cincinnati, featuring food from local restaurants, music by the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars and a raffle. Last year’s event sold out, so get your tickets quick. 7-11 p.m. Saturday. $25-$125. SPCA Cincinnati Sharonville Shelter, 11900 Conrey Road, scpacincinnati.org/events.  

Bonsai Show and Competition
Photo: via Facebook
EVENT: BONSAI SHOW AND COMPETITION
The Bonsai Society of Greater Cincinnati descends on Krohn Conservatory for its annual weekend-long fall bonsai show and competition, Nature in Miniature. The group, one of the oldest bonsai societies in America, aims to foster the study and appreciation of bonsai (the Japanese artform of growing miniature trees in containers) and related arts, and this juried exhibit gives viewers a chance to see hundreds of bonsai in various stages of development. In addition to the plants themselves, guests will also learn about techniques for creating and caring for bonsai. Food trucks, a beer tent and live music round out the weekend. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $4; $2 children. Krohn Conservatory, 1501 Eden Park Drive, Eden Park, cincinnatibonsai.com, cincinnatiparks.com/krohn

BootYard Bash
Photo: Will Hoge
EVENT: BOOTYARD BASH
OTR goes Country for Washington Park’s inaugural BootYard Bash. The park transforms into a real-live honky tonk with free Country music, Western-themed games, craft beer and a variety of other family-friendly events to get your boots stomping. Bands include Jeremy Pinnell, The Black Lillies, Carter Winter and headliner Will Hoge at 8:30 p.m. 3-10 p.m. Saturday. Free. Washington Park, 1230 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, washingtonpark.org.

 
EVENT: AN AFTERNOON WITH THE BEER BARONS
Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum has been the final resting place of many a famous Cincinnatian, from lawyers and politicians to our beloved beer barons. And Spring Grove celebrates our malty past with an afternoon dedicated to exploring the graves and stories of famous brewers through docent-led motor-coach cemetery tours and a party in the Rose Garden. Enjoy history with a side of beer and food as beer-brewing establishments manned by non-dead people, like representatives from Christian Moerlein, MadTree, Rhinegeist, Rivertown, Blank Slate and more, provide attendees with samples of their most popular and most unique beers. Food will be provided by Funky’s and Queen City Sisters, and Buffalo Ridge Jazz Band will put on musical entertainment. 4-7 p.m. Saturday. $40.  Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum, 4521 Spring Grove Ave., springgrove.org.  

Publicist UK
Photo: Scott Colby
MUSIC: PUBLICIST UK
The anticipated new bar/music venue Northside Yacht Club (in the space formerly occupied by Mayday) is officially open. This weekend would be the perfect time to check it out, as heavy, compelling Post Punk newcomers Publicist UK (featuring members of Revocation, Municipal Waste and many other notable bands) brings the tour for its debut album Forgive Yourself (released this Friday) to town to help break in the club. 8 p.m. Saturday. $5. Northside Yacht Club, 4227 Spring Grove Ave., Northside, facebook.com/northsideyachtclub

Comedian Tyrone Hawkins
Photo: Provided
COMEDY: TYRONE HAWKINS
Comedian Tyrone Hawkins has been bouncing back and forth between Seattle and his hometown of Cincinnati for a few years. He placed third in the 2012 Seattle International Comedy Competition, which led to a string of headlining dates throughout the West, and he’s currently working on a new hour. “I’m incorporating music now with a keyboard I have on stage,” he says. “I hit a couple of piano bars to try some of the new stuff out.” He’s also done some TV work for his old friends, the Herbert Brothers. They were the duo that created the million dollar-winning Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” ad in 2007. Showtimes Thursday-Sunday. $8-$14. Go Bananas, 8410 Market Place Lane, Montgomery, gobananascomedy.com.  

SUNDAY
Cincy Summer Streets
Photo: via Facebook
EVENT: CINCY SUMMER STREETS
Now in its second year, Cincy Summer Streets blocks off a neighborhood’s main drag to cars and traffic for a day of biking, skateboarding, yoga, cornhole, Frisbee, chalk art, giant Jenga and much, much more. This weekend, Cincy Summer Streets is taking over Northside, blocking off Hamilton Avenue between Pullan and Spring Grove avenues, so kids and adults alike can mix, mingle and play in the street, while enjoying the last few weeks of summer. Expect surprises from local vendors. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Free. Hamilton Avenue, Northside, cincysummerstreets.org.

Bookworks XVI
Photo: Provided
ART: BOOKWORKS XVI ARTISTS WALK-THROUGH
In an age dominated by digital media, the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, in conjunction with the Cincinnati Book Arts Society (CBAS), hosts an annual Bookworks exhibition in the atrium of the downtown public library featuring the work of local area book artists to remind readers of the tangible and artistic qualities of books. On Sunday, participating artists will be on hand to discuss their handmade books with visitors to the library exhibitions, the 16th-annual Bookworks and the Keith Kuhn Memorial Exhibit. Twenty-eight artists participated, including Judy Dominic, April Foster, Lou Kroner, Sally Murray and Carole Winters. The exhibition runs until Sept. 7. 2 p.m. Sunday. Free. Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Main Branch, Main Atrium, 800 Vine St., Downtown, cincinnatibookarts.org.

'Company'
Photo: Mikki Schaffner
ONSTAGE: COMPANY
The Carnegie is staging Stephen Sondheim and George Furth’s musical that broke the mold back in 1970, opening a new direction with a concept about friends advising a 35-year-old bachelor about the virtues and challenges of marriage. The show offers a series of vignettes rather than a continuous story that starts and finishes. It was a surprise hit in the day, and it continues to be a show that connects with audiences after more than four decades. Memorable tunes include “Being Alive,” “Sorry-Grateful” and “Getting Married Today.” Through Aug. 30. $18-$25. The Carnegie, 1028 Scott Blvd., Covington, Ky., 859-957-1940, thecarnegie.com.

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

Good morning all. Here’s the news today as we gear up for what I’m sure will be a rad weekend.

How's that crime plan going so far? At the beginning of the summer, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell was asked by City Manager Harry Black to draft a 90-day plan to reduce the number of shootings in the city, which has seen a major uptick in gun crime (though not murders or other violent crime) since this time last year. The plan to deploy more officers in busy places and spots where kids play and to create curfew centers for young people, was delayed at first by the June 19 shooting of officer Sonny Kim, but parts of it were implemented July 1. So… has it been working?

Blackwell touts CPD’s efforts at keeping crime rates from rising during a complicated summer full of major events like the MLB All-Star Game, outside incidents like the UC police shooting death of Samuel DuBose and the increasing challenges associated with the region’s heroin epidemic.

Shootings this summer have been up 30 percent over last year, and other violent crimes are roughly the same as past years. But that’s not necessarily the whole story. Taking a longer look at crime data, it’s apparent that the city’s recent uptick falls in line with past crime trends. The 291 shootings that have occurred so far this year are identical to the number for this time in 2013. Looking at data over a three-year period, violent crime is down nine percent.

What’s more, many cities across the country have experience much greater upticks in crime this year, including big surges in Baltimore, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Mayor John Cranley has said that’s not good enough, however, and has vowed to continue reviewing data and strategies to bring crime down. Blackwell has also offered further steps, including keeping the city’s recreation centers open later so teens have places to go after they’re out of school. A $50,000 grant from private donors will help pay rec center staff during those extended hours.

Opposition is coalescing against Mayor Cranley’s recent proposal to raise property taxes to pay for a $100 million parks revamp. That measure, which will be on the November ballot, would include big changes to Mount Airy Forest on the city’s West Side and Burnet Woods in Clifton. Those changes don’t sit well with opponents, who say proposals they’ve seen so far remove far too many trees and change the character of the urban woods entirely. Mayor Cranley has said that early plans for the parks were preliminary and not final designs. One showed a restaurant in Burnet Woods, for instance, a detail that has been removed since.

Opponents of the plan, including local attorney Tim Mara, also object to the way in which the plan would go forward. Mara says he’s part of a “diverse” coalition opposed to the park plan, which will be launching a formal campaign in the coming weeks. Mara’s complaint: Should the ballot initiative pass, it would vest power over changes to the park with the mayor and the park board, giving Cincinnati City Council no say in what would be done to the parks. Cranley has vowed that any changes to the parks will go through a long public review and comment process. A number of major businesses have backed the plan, including United Dairy Farmers and Kroger.

The property tax boost would raise about $5 million a year, money that would then be used to issue bonds for the rest of the cost of the proposed projects. About a quarter of the money raised would also be banked for future park maintenance and upkeep.

• There is now a build-your-own donut bar in Cincinnati. Top This Donut Bar at University Station near Xavier allows you to just stroll in like you own the place and start dumping bacon and Andes bars and raspberry goo all over your donuts. That sounds amazing and I’m so glad it’s not on my walk to work.

• Let's head uptown, where the new Kroger they’re going to (finally, finally) build there. The Kroger on Short Vine in Coryville will be twice the size of the current store, which looks like a place your grandmother would have shopped in the 1970s when the fancy store across town wasn’t convenient. The new location will have more prepared food options, beer taps, and a number of other amenities. A replacement store at the location, near University of Cincinnati, has been in the works for a long time. Demolition on the current store will begin soon, after which the new store should be open in 12-14 months.

• We’ve all been there before, right? You’re in a shady corner of your local coffee shop or whatever and someone approaches you, looks around, and is all like, “Hey man, what do you think about some weed?” Well maybe that’s just me and I hang out in weird coffee shops. Anyway, the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce will be holding listening sessions around the region so representatives of some of its 4,500-member businesses can give their two cents and help the organization determine how to come down on November’s marijuana legalization ballot initiative, a state constitutional amendment proposed by ResponsibleOhio. That proposal would make marijuana legal for anyone 21 and up, but would limit commercial growth to 10 sites owned by the group’s investors. The first listening session is taking place this morning at Coffee Emporium downtown. The next three will take place on Aug. 26 from 9-11 a.m. at Panera Bread locations in Newport, Union Township and Springdale.

That’s it for me. Hit me up with any news tips here.

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<![CDATA[Stage Door]]>

Theater slows down this time of year as most local companies are readying to launch their 2015-2016 seasons in September. You’ll find two newish productions on local stages — Company at The Carnegie in Covington and 9 to 5 at the Incline in East Price Hill. Stephen Sondheim’s Company is a solid production with a nice turn by Zachary Huffman in the central role of Robert. There are lots of well-performed tunes by a young cast and some able musicians. Here’s my review. I’m not so enthusiastic about the third show of the Incline’s inaugural season: 9 to 5 is a weak offering after the successes of The Producers and 1776. That’s largely due to a script that’s pretty stale and silly, as I mentioned in my review. It’s based on a 1980 movie about a chauvinistic boss and three women who give him his comeuppance. Dolly Parton played a feisty secretary in the movie and had a hit with its title song. When the movie became a 2009 stage musical, she wrote the songs. They don’t add much. Cincinnati Landmark must have pulled out all the stops for the first two shows this summer; this one looks like they cut some corners. These two productions continue through Aug. 30.

This is the final weekend for Hundred Days at Know Theatre. This Rock opera has been an unqualified hit for the 18-year-old Over-the-Rhine venue. I gave it a Critic’s Pick and I’ve talked with several friends who have gone back to see it a second time. Abigail and Shaun Bengson sing their way through a tragic love affair — a marriage cut short by a terminal disease — that ends up feeling pretty joyous since they choose to celebrate their “100 days” as if it was the 60-year marriage they had hoped for. Great concept, great execution. Get a ticket if you can: 513-300-5669

Rick Pender’s STAGE DOOR blog appears here every Friday. Find more theater reviews and feature stories here.

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

Good morning y’all. Here’s what’s happening around the city and beyond today.

Former Mason mayor and state representative Peter Beck was sentenced today to four years in prison on 13 felony convictions related to his role in defrauding investors by luring them into giving money to a failing technology company. Earlier this year, Beck was convicted of fraud, theft and perjury charges, though he was also found not guilty on 25 other charges. He faced up to 50 years in prison for his role in Christopher Technologies, which was already insolvent when Beck and other company leaders convinced investors to put money into it. Beck and his partners then spent that money elsewhere, leaving investors with nothing.

• The big story today is a big scum fest. Basically, some scummy hackers hacked a scummy website for gross married people to hook up with other people they aren’t married to and released a bunch of information about the site’s clients. Some of those clients used city of Cincinnati or other public email addresses to register for the site. Now some scummy news organizations are rolling around in the scum shower and we’re all just super gross and implicated by all this.

Recently, hackers broke into dating site Ashley Madison, which helps folks have illicit affairs. The hackers released reams of information about who uses the site, and lo and behold, accounts were created with email addresses corresponding to a city police officer, fire fighter and sewer worker. Other accounts with local public ties include one with an email address from someone in the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, Cincinnati Public Schools and one from Kenton County Schools.

This smells fishy to me, though. Who is dumb enough to use their work email for this kind of thing? Further, is it really in the public interest to know who is trying to sleep with whom? Just use your private email address so we don’t have to hear about it, right? This whole gross thing is why I don’t want to get married, use the Internet, or really deal with people in any other way whatsoever. Thanks guys.

• The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, which as its name suggests, is a giant business association here in the state, yesterday voted to oppose ResponsibleOhio’s marijuana legalization constitutional amendment. The OCC is citing workplace safety concerns as the reason for its opposition. The organization is another big opponent of the constitutional amendment, which voters are set to approve or deny in November. ResponsibleOhio’s proposal would legalize weed in Ohio and create 10 marijuana farms throughout the state owned by the group’s investors. No other commercial growers would be permitted, though a small amount of marijuana could be grown for personal use with a special license. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association and a number of other large organizations have come out in opposition of the effort. Meanwhile, many statewide unions and other organizations and public figures have come out in support of the proposal. It’s shaping up to be a big battle right up until the ballot. You can read our whole rundown here.

• If I told you that someone you know was trying to illegally buy drugs overseas in order to kill people, would you be alarmed? I guess that depends on who you roll with. If you roll with the State of Ohio, for instance, it might not be news to you at all. The federal Food and Drug Administration has said not so fast to the state’s plan to import drugs from other countries so it can resume executing people. The FDA says Ohio’s plan to obtain sodium thiopental, which it can’t get in the U.S., is illegal.

The state’s plan has been necessitated by U.S. companies’ refusal to supply the necessary drugs for executions and by a highly-problematic 2014 execution here that used a replacement two-drug cocktail. That combination caused convicted killer Dennis McGuire to snort and gasp during his execution. It took him more than 26 minutes to die using the replacement drug cocktail, and similar combinations have caused other, sometimes gruesome, irregularities in executions in other states. After McGuire’s execution, the state placed a moratorium on carrying out the death penalty until it can secure more humane ways to execute inmates. There are currently no executions planned this year, but the state has 21 slated starting next year and stretching into 2019.

• It’s a good thing Ohio Gov. John Kasich isn’t running for king of America. If he was, teachers could kiss their lounges goodbye. Kasich made that strangely aggressive statement yesterday during an education forum in New Hampshire, a vital early primary state as Kasich battles with the hordes of GOP presidential hopefuls for a national look at the nomination. Kasich told an audience on the panel that if he were in charge, teachers wouldn’t have lounges where “they sit together and worry about ‘woe is us.’ ” Kasich went on to praise the work teachers do, but said teacher’s unions create an environment of fear and scare educators into thinking their wages and benefits will be taken away. Huh. Maybe it’s the low wages, high work hours, constant testing and uncertainty about funding that is playing into that mindset, but yeah, you’re probably right. Having a lounge to sit in definitely plays into the fear factor somehow. Next up: All teachers must eat in their cars at lunch time and not talk to anyone else at all.

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<![CDATA[Spoonful of Cinema: <i>Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation</i> (Review)]]> I went and saw Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation twice in the last week and a half. It was an absolute blast the first time around and the second opportunity was too hard to turn down when I found myself at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, Calif., last Wednesday afternoon. It is a doozy of a cinema house, and if you find yourself in the land of make-believe (that is, Hollywood), I do recommend an escape to the famous theater for a tour and a showing in their IMAX auditorium.

But back to Mission: Impossible 5. The high-octane action flick is a blast to the very past of its origins. The first Mission: Impossible arrived nearly 20 years ago. Ethan Hunt, the uncannily able, righteously insubordinate agent of the IMF (that’s the Impossible Missions Force) is as heroic as ever in huge thanks to none other than Tom Cruise. Cruise is his usual self — sharp as they come, quipping one-liners and putting his ass on the line for the old-fashioned Hollywood thrill of watching someone do drastically dangerous things as we watch from the comfort of a cushioned theater seat, throw popcorn at our faces and slurp on our sodas.

But Hunt is not without his team, and his team is a well-rounded crew both in what they contribute to Hunt and what the respective actors contribute to the chemistry. Simon Pegg gives us the silly, sarcastic surveillance wiz Benji Dunn. Jeremy Renner gives us the seriously stressed IMF Field Operations Director William Brandt. Rebecca Ferguson is the mysterious secret ally to Hunt, who holds the key between the IMF and their most dangerous enemies, known only as the Syndicate.

Together the team works from Washington, London, Paris, Vienna and Casablanca in their desperate attempts to thwart what seems like an unstoppable force of cruel international intentions. Along the way, we get Ethan Hunt and Co. in their finest form. They race through tunnels and alleys and mountainsides by foot and by car and by motorcycle. They infiltrate high-security premises with masks and soft steps and deep-water diving. They keep us laughing, on the edge of our seats and constantly wondering, “How can they get out of this mess?”

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation lies in its star, the Undeniable One, Mr. Cruise. But perhaps the most important piece of M:I–RO’s meticulously crafted Hollywood formula is its story, script and direction, all of which were crafted and brought to life by Christopher McQuarrie, with story assistance from Drew Pearce (set to write the upcoming Ghostbusters reboot).

McQuarrie’s expertise at the typewriter is as evident now as it was when he penned the Bryan Singer-directed, Academy Award-winning screenplay for 1995’s The Usual Suspects. No line is wasted. When viewers aren’t chuckling, we’re learning about the Syndicate — who they are, what they want, how Hunt might be able to stop them. Above all, McQuarrie knows how to paint Cruise as a charming lead. McQuarrie has written three other scripts (Valkyrie, Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow) that have featured Cruise as the lead man.

And the charm is what drives the film at the end of the day. Because we’ve all seen Mission: Impossible before. We’ve all seen Tom Cruise save the day (practically every time we see him, actually). We’ve all seen explosions and motorcycle races and we’ve all heard big resounding chords played on horn sections as high-flying stunts are performed on-screen. So what makes this time around so special, perhaps the best Mission Hunt has seen in his five-installment, 20-year span?  It’s something difficult to describe.

What sets M:I 5 apart from so many other stupid Hollywood blockbusters is its ability to keep us constantly on our toes, unsure of whether we might be laughing at a surprise punch-line or gawking at a dangerous stunt or discovering some top-secret information. Rogue Nation accomplishes that rare, perhaps unprecedented feat of taking a Hollywood franchise beyond its own limits without uprooting its foundation in its fifth installment. Like the Fast & Furious franchise, the Mission: Impossible universe seems to only get more and more fun as each installment finds its way from studio back-lots and extravagant shooting locations to the cinema houses. It is a brilliantly young-at-heart balancing act that buoys the end result upwards toward Hollywood awesomeness in a silver-screen summer that has been sorely lacking in good old-fashioned fun.

Grade: B+

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<![CDATA[This Week's Dining (and Drinking) Events]]>
WEDNESDAY 19 
Canning Classes — Learn how to preserve your garden’s harvest with this canning class. Workshop features the latest recommendations based on USDA guidelines on safely canning vegetables and other low-acid foods. Geared toward beginners. 6-7:30 p.m. $15. OSU Extension Office, 5093 Colerain Ave., Mount Airy, hamilton.osu.edu.

All About Avocado — Romaine salad with avocado, citrus vinaigrette, bacon and summer tomatoes; Moroccan-flavored crispy shrimp with orange and avocado salsa; tomato, avocado and black-bean salsa with tortilla chips. 6-8 p.m. $70. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox Lane, West Chester, thelearningkitchen.com.

THURSDAY 20
Cincy Brew Ha-Ha — If 50 comedians performing over the span of three days doesn’t get you laughing, the ninth-annual Cincy Brew Ha-Ha beer and comedy festival has just what you need to give your silly streak a pulse: beer. Lots of it. With two 100-seat beer gardens and plenty of beer booths serving up everything from locals like Braxton, Rivertown, MadTree, Ei8ht Ball and more to craft favorites like Dogfish Head, 21st Amendment, West Sixth and Fat Tire, Brew Ha-Ha plans to satisfy more than 20,000 thirsty and laugh-seeking Tristaters with plenty to drink and an impressive lineup of comics. Headlined Thursday night by Adam Ferrara (Rescue Me, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Definitely Maybe), Friday night by David Koechner (Anchorman, Anchorman 2, The Office) and Saturday night by Brandon T. Jackson (Roll Bounce, Wild ‘N Out with Nick Cannon, Tropic Thunder), you’ll either be laughing your way to a full belly of beer or drinking your way to a day full of laughter. Or both. 5 p.m.-midnight Thursday-Friday; 4 p.m.-midnight Saturday. Free admission; $5 for drinking wristband; $1 beer samples; $5 full servings. Sawyer Point, 705 E. Pete Rose Way, Downtown, cincybrewhaha.com.

A Showcase of Summer Fruits — This menu highlights summer produce. Learn to make chilled melon gazpacho, Caribbean jerk chicken tacos with mango salsa, pork tenderloin with berry-rosemary sauce, quinoa pilaf with goat cheese and kale, and strawberry shortcake. 6-8:30 p.m. $50. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

Fish: Season, Sear, Sauce — Oven-fried cod with homemade tartar sauce over rice pilaf, white-wine poached salmon with caper sauce and paprika tilapia with garlic chipotle butter. 6-8 p.m. $80. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox Lane, West Chester, thelearningkitchen.com.

FRIDAY 21
Date Night: Delicious Scallops — Green salad with toasted pine nits, oranges and balsamic vinaigrette, then sea scallops with spiced corn and pickled red onion topping over celery-root mash and sugar snap peas. 6-8 p.m. $165 per couple. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox Lane, West Chester, thelearningkitchen.com.

SATURDAY 22
Shake It Up Cocktail Festival — Jungle Jim’s is a wonderland of exotic food and booze, and their new Shake It Up Cocktail festival celebrates the end of summer with just that. Say goodbye to tan lines, pool parties and flip-flops with expertly crafted cocktails and mixed drinks, and imbibe an atmosphere full of flair bartenders, expert mixologists and more. 6:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday. $40; $15 non-drinker. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

A French Bistro — A French bistro meal accompanied by Bordeaux wines. Includes country pate, steak fries, French cheese and pot de crème. 6-8:30 p.m. $50. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

Row x Row Dinner — Cocktails, dinner prepared with produce and meat from Gorman Heritage Farm and other local organizations, music by Sound Body Jazz, dancing, silent auction and raffle. Benefits Gorman Heritage Farm’s Educational Programs. 6 p.m. $35. Gorman Heritage Farm, 10052 Reading Road, Evendale, gormanfarm.org. 

Summer Celebration Presented by Red Shoe Crew — Pizza, drink specials, and a cornhole tournament, all benefitting Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Cincinnati. Noon- 3p.m. $10 wristband; tournament fee $40 in advance; $50 at the door. Goodfella’s Pizzeria, 1211 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-3625. 

Gourmet Grub for Good — Amateur chef competition and silent auction. Benefits Community Shares of Greater Cincinnati. 7-10 p.m. $45. Mayerson JCC, 8485 Ridge Road, Amberley Village, 513-475-0475. 

Best Friends and Brews — A night filled with everyone’s two favorite things: furry friends and beer. This tasting supports the SPCA of Cincinnati, featuring food from local restaurants, music by the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars and a raffle. Last year’s event sold out, so get your tickets quick. 7-11 p.m. $25-$125. Sharonville Shelter, 11900 Conrey Road, scpacincinnati.org/events.

An Afternoon with the Beer Barons — Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum has been the final resting place of many a famous Cincinnatian, from lawyers and politicians to our beloved beer barons. And Spring Grove celebrates our malty past with an afternoon dedicated to exploring the graves and stories of famous brewers through docent-led motor-coach cemetery tours and a party in the Rose Garden. Enjoy history with a side of beer and food as beer-brewing establishments manned by non-dead people, like representatives from Christian Moerlein, MadTree, Rhinegeist, Rivertown, Blank Slate and more, provide attendees with samples of their most popular and most unique beers. Food will be provided by Funky’s and Queen City Sisters, and Buffalo Ridge Jazz Band will put on musical entertainment. 4-7 p.m. Saturday. $40. Spring Grove Cemetery, 4521 Spring Grove Ave., springgrove.org.

TUESDAY 25
Grilling with Ellen: The Flavors of India — Indian spiced shrimp, Tandoori-style kebabs, spiced lemon rice with cashews, green beans with fresh tomato relish, cucumber mint raita and mango tart. 6-8:30 p.m. $65. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

Pan Sauce Workshop — Learn to create quick, flavorful pan sauces and use those techniques to dress up three favorite proteins. Make pan-roasted chicken thigh and orange brandy sauce, pork tenderloin with grape and thyme red-wine sauce, and salmon with rosemary-lemon sauce. 6-8 p.m. $75. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox Lane, West Chester, thelearningkitchen.com.

WEDNESDAY 26
Risotto Workshop — Learn to make basic risotto, then make a rich, wild mushroom and bacon risotto, and a roasted butternut-squash risotto with romaine salad. Chef will also demonstrate dessert risotto made with vanilla and orange. 6-8 p.m. $70. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox Lane, West Chester, thelearningkitchen.com.

THURSDAY 27
Taste to Remember — Talented area chefs come together to benefit the Children’s Hunger Alliance and the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the American Culinary Federation. 6:30-9 p.m. $60; $40 YP. 20th Century Theater, 3021 Madison Road, Oakley, childrenshungeralliance.org.

Weeknight Jerk Chicken — Prepare rub and jerk chicken to pair with cooling cucumber yogurt sauce and creamy polenta with roasted red peppers. 6-8 p.m. $70. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox Lane, West Chester, thelearningkitchen.com.


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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]> Now that ResponsibleOhio's initiative to legalize marijuana is officially on the Nov. 3 ballot, opposition has formalized against constitutional amendment that could legalize a weed monopoly. Yesterday, a coalition called Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies launched its coalition against the constitutional amendment that would only allow 10 Ohio farms to grow and sell the plant. The coalition includes the Avondale-based Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. In a press conference at the Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus yesterday, the group raised concerns that legalizing marijuana could increase its access to children and teens as well as give the false perception that the drug is safe. Cincinnati Children's Hospital told the Business Courier that it is particularly concerned with kids getting their hands on candy and baked goods that contained marijuana. The group was also concerned that the measure would allow an individual to possess a up to a half-pound of pot, or enough to roll about 500 joints. 

• ResponsibleOhio isn't the only constitutional amendment voters will face in November. State lawmakers have put a second initiative on the ballot to block the monopoly-centered business model ResponsibleOhio has proposed for marijuana farms. So what happens if the two conflicting amendments pass? According to Secretary of State Jon Husted, the amendment to block marijuana would prevail because it goes into effect first. 

• Hamilton County's public health department found Indian Hill residents can expect on average to live 17 years longer than Lincoln Heights residents. A study by the department's epidemiologists looked at 13 measures of health found a 17-year difference in life expectancy across the county most heavily coordinated with your zip code. The rates of heart disease, cancer and stroke were significantly higher in lower-income areas than in higher-income areas. Norwood, Lincoln Heights, Lockland, Cleves, Addyston and Elmwood Place have life expectancies between 69.9 and 73.3 years, while Indian Hill, Montgomery, Evendale, Wyoming, Terrace Park and Amberley Village have life expectancies from 81.8 to 87 years.

• Gov. John Kasich told CNN he regrets supporting the Iraq invasion in 2003, but does support sending American troops back to the Middle East to fight the Islamic State. The GOP presidential nominee said that he made his decision a decade ago based just on erroneous reports of weapons of mass destruction, and had it not been for that small detail, he never would have supported it.

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