CityBeat - Blogs http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/blogs.engine.php <![CDATA[MidPoint Music Festival Announces First Acts for 2015 Event]]>

Cincinnati’s MidPoint Music Festival (owned and operated by CityBeat) recently announced that tickets for the late September festival were on sale, as well as a new date format (instead of Thursday-Saturday, 2015’s MPMF will take place Friday, Sept. 25-Sunday, Sept. 27). Now the first artists slated to appear at MPMF have been unveiled. 

The first batch of MidPoint 2015 acts includes pioneering British Shoegaze band Ride, Canadian Electro Pop duo Purity Ring, Indie/Electronic up-and-comers Sylvan Esso, experimental artist tUnE-yArDs (aka Merrill Garbus) and diverse Indiana songwriter Strand of Oaks. The rest of the initial lineup announcement features Zola Jesus, Cathedrals, Matthew E. White, Pokey LaFarge, Moon Duo, Betty Who, K.Flay, Beach Slang, Sarah Jaffe, Ryley Walker and Truly


More artists (as well as specific schedule and venue info) will be announced in the coming weeks as the Over-the-Rhine/Downtown festival approaches. For the latest updates, tickets (a limited amount of early bird passes are still available) and more info, visit mpmf.com. Artists interested in showcase consideration can still apply through mpmf.com through May 17. 


Here's a sampling of some music clips from this round of MPMFers:








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<![CDATA[Paul Mecurio: Life on the Street]]>

Of all the comedians who have TV shows based on their lives, Paul Mecurio’s story would seem like a slam-dunk for any network. Now it seems, someone is ready to take a shot.

“I’ve got a great showrunner and writer working on developing my life story,” says Mecurio, a former Wall Street lawyer-turned-comedian, from his home in New York City. “It’s a show about a guy who thinks he’s got his life figured out, which is what I thought, but then gets bitten by this bug to do comedy while he’s doing these huge merger and acquisition deals on Wall Street.” For years, Mecurio led what he calls a “secret double life,” sneaking away from his job to go do comedy in all manner of seedy bars and comedy clubs. He has no shortage of crazy stories from those days.

“One time this guy I was opening for made me take him to the Brooklyn to buy coke before the show,” Mecurio recalls. “The end of his act was to take a piece of dental floss and floss his nasal passages through his mouth.”

During another performance, while he was supposed to be in an important meeting at work, one audience member stabbed another right before Mecurio went on. The victim pelted the would-be comedian with bloody napkins. When he got back to the office, his boss screamed, “Where have you been? Why is there blood on your shirt?” Whereupon the other bankers and lawyers in the meeting calmly debated the best way to get blood out of a Brooks Brothers shirt.

Once he took the plunge and started doing comedy full-time, though, Mecurio sold his apartment and most of his belongings and moved into a 10-by-12-foot room. “I was living in this building with two ex-convicts, two recovering addicts and a 300-pound phone sex operator who sold Herbalife diet products,” he says. With little more than a hot plate and a bed to his name, he performed night after night, even under the most trying circumstances. “I got audited by the IRS,” he says. “They asked, ‘Where’s all the money?’ ” They didn’t buy the idea that he quit Wall Street to become a comedian. “No one would do that,” the agent told him. To make matters worse, his car was damaged in a flood and inundated with seawater.

After having second thoughts, Mecurio went back to Wall Street at the behest of a friend who had just become head of new department at one of the major banks. “I went back and recreated my life and then was miserable,” he says, He’d sworn off comedy, vowing to never do it again. “But then two months later I’m doing it again like an alcoholic sneaking out for a drink,” he says.

Living the secret double life again, Mecurio was back in the comedy clubs at night and got good enough to be included in a TV show with other stand-up performers. That’s when his cover was blown. “I had forgotten about it,” Mecurio explains, “and I was at this client’s office in Arizona and he comes in and says ‘Hey, I saw you on TV last night. You were doing some kind of stand-up routine.’ ” Mecurio thought he was dead. “So he pauses and says, “my investment banker is a comedian, how great is that?’ ”

Mecurio left Wall Street again, this time for good, a few months later. “I didn’t enjoy my second tour of duty,” he says. His second go at comedy went much better, as he was gradually getting better spots and gig and coming to the attention of the producers of The Daily Show.

Mecurio became a writer and occasional performer on that program, earning an Emmy along the way. “I took [the job] thinking the show would get canceled in a few months,” he says, laughing. However, he stayed on for seven years before deciding to move on. “The show eats up all of your time,” he says. “I felt like I was missing a lot of opportunities to do stuff as a performer.”

He still does the audience warm-up for the show when he’s in town, which lets him to what he loves the most. “I always wrestled as a writer there, but I learned a lot,” he states. “But I just like having the ability to have my voice be heard and not constantly feeding someone else.”

Toward that end, Mecurio headlines clubs across the country and is a regular panelist on a variety of cable chat shows including Red Eye and Hannity on Fox News, as well as various shows on VH1 and ESPN.

PAUL MECURIO performs Thursday-Sunday at Funny Bone on the Levee. Tickets and more info: funnyboneonthelevee.com.

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<![CDATA[Reel Redux: The Revenant]]>

The most recent recipient of the Best Director Oscar, Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman), will have a new film for 2015 —The Revenant. This movie tells the true story of early-19th entury frontiersman Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), who was mauled by a bear during a trapping expedition and is left for dead by his hunting partners (Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson). But it turns out that he’s alive and is now on a quest for revenge.

Some of you are probably tilting your head and wondering why I’m talking about this film instead of something like the new string of Disney live action adaptations that are coming up. The reason is because this is essentially a remake of a 1971 Richard Harris (the original Dumbledore) movie called Man in the Wilderness. It’s a similar story but with names changed, more characters added and the main character, Zachary Bass, is only targeting one person, Captain Henry (John Huston).

I think Man in the Wilderness is an underrated gem from the ‘70s about a man’s struggle for survival and what motivates him to continue his quest. But even though this is a film that I like a lot, I don’t have a problem with it being remade.

First of all, it is trying something a bit different with the story and style. For one thing, Iñárritu seems to be sticking closer to what actually happened. He’s keeping it to just about Glass and his three hunting companions, which I’m sure will be very engaging. In the original film it just kept the drama between the relationship with Bass and Henry all the while trying to juggle more than a dozen members of the expedition; with this small group of characters we get a chance to get engaged with all of them.

One interesting aspect that Iñárritu is doing is that apparently he is filming in natural light — no studio lighting, no artificial lighting or anything. This could add a really nice flavor to the movie. This could help emphasize the survival aspect especially given the fact that it’s in the summer time in a rather untamed part of the country.

Now, as for the casting choices, I’m mixed when it comes to the choice of Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass. I mean, there’s nothing really about him that screams mountain man or frontiersman. But then again this could a very good role for him; it’s very different from his usual parts where he typically plays an overly confident one-percenter type or a wide eyed dreamer. It could be right up there with his performance as Calvin Candy in Django Unchained as something different and surprisingly suiting. Though I still would have preferred the original casting choice — Christian Bale.

As of right now, this is a film I’m really looking forward to seeing. Yes, I do recommend the original Harris film, but this new retelling may inspire those in the future and may bring in a whole new audience. Remakes/retellings are not always a bad thing, people, it’s best to keep an open mind. 


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<![CDATA[Leftovers: What We Ate This Weekend]]> Anne Mitchell: What would you make for dinner if you opened your fridge and saw pork jowl, bee pollen, sorrel and ancient-grain bread? If you’re chef Nick Marckwald from Hen of the Woods, you’d make a panzella salad with bacon and French breakfast radishes, and a yogurt and bee pollen dressing. That’s just one of the amazing things I got to taste on Saturday as one of three judges for the Raid the Garden chef’s competition at Gorman Heritage Farm’s Savor the Season.

Bryant Goulding from Rhinegeist and Grace Yek from WCPO.com shared the arduous task of eating delicious things with me. The competition is set up with two preliminary rounds and then a final cook-off between the winners. There’s a basic pantry stocked with goodies from Whole Foods in Mason but each round has “secret ingredients” that no one knows until the clock starts to tick.

While DJ Mowgli spun tunes, Brad Bernstein of Red Feather Kitchen and Martha McGinnis from Whole Foods went up against last year’s champ, Jaime Carmody in Round One. Carmody, of Out of Thyme, is a personal caterer and cooking instructor, and she’s a calm but determined force when you put her behind a butane burner. The mystery ingredients for the first round were foraged ramps — a chef’s darling of spring — Grateful Grahams, Fab Ferments' Beet Kvass and quail. Chef Jackson Rouse of The Rookwood, emcee of the event, assured me that he loves to cook quail, but 20 minutes is not a long cooking time for tough little game birds. All three of the chefs in this round did an amazing job of plating up pretty food, and McGinnis’ dish had a Cordon Bleu-worthy sauce, but Carmody managed to get her quail closest to done, and won the round.

Marckwald was up against James Dean Gadd from The Rookwood, and Mike Florea of Maribelle's eat +drink in Oakley, the founder of the local friendly chef competition, Food Fight. Florea put together an earthy cassoulet style dish with white cannellini beans, and Gadd nearly won the judges’ hearts with two simple words: candied bacon. Oh, yeah. But Marckwald’s dish wowed us — as judge Goulding said, “They’re all good, but I’ll still be talking about this one tomorrow.”

Mixologist Lance Bowman from Japp’s saw that we were working up a powerful thirst, and brought us each a sorrel-inspired cocktail to go with Course Two. We also got to revive ourselves with Nitro Coffee from Deeper Roots and a new local product, Hopwater. For the final round, though, there was no better pairing than a Rhinegeist Hustle.

The final competition is for dessert, but the ingredients aren’t all sweet. Maverick Chocolate from Findlay Market supplied their hand-crafted Espresso chocolate bar, but there were also morel mushrooms and fresh thyme. Chef Carmody whipped together a chocolate cream-of-wheat garnished with spicy tortilla crisps that was a big bowl of comfort food, but Marckwald wowed us with chocolate pancakes with cranberry, morel and thyme gastrique. 

Besides Raid the Garden, Savor featured chef demos from amazing talents like Todd Kelly of Orchids at the Palm Court, Allison Hines of Butcher Betties, Jose Salazar, Ryan Santos, Patrick Hague of Dutch’s Larder, and Marcus Hazel from Cincinnati Cooks. There were food trucks and wonderful food purveyors like Sheltowee Mushroom Farm, and cocktail pairings from Japp's Bowman with crostini from Julie Francis of Nectar. Savor is spring’s best food event — mark your calendar for next year now!

Ilene Ross: On Thursday night my daughter and I attended the dress rehearsal of the DAAP fashion show to watch my niece, a senior, debut her fabulous collection of sportswear. The show was amazing, but unfortunately we had arrived with empty stomachs. Luckily there is a little market right next to the student center, so I grabbed some small plastic cups filled with cheese-like product, yucky tasting grapes and cheap crackers for us to nibble on. When I asked my daughter why the grapes tasted so foul, she looked at me with a straight face and said, “preservatives.” On Friday morning a very sweet person showed up expectantly at my doorstep with a donut from Holtman’s because I had a not-so-great week. Whoever said food isn’t love is an asshole — at least in my book.

On Saturday night I hung out at Japp's with my pal Molly Wellmann — something I don’t get to do enough of because of her ridiculously busy schedule — while she tended bar for a bit. She made me the most perfect Manhattan, and when she was done working, we walked around the corner to Neons, met up with her boyfriend Bee and had some burgers from Taste 513 who were grilling there.

Casey Arnold: Friday and Saturday were pretty average days. Sunday Funday became a tour of OTR. I biked down and met with three friends for brunch at Kaze to start. We shared a delicious carafe of brunch punch, which consisted of pineapple and rum. We also got some tasty shrimp sliders and shared their delicious french fries. We subsequently hit up Neons and Goodfellas. Our final stop was Kreuger's Tavern, where we shared hot beer cheese and a pesto spread in front of the open doors by the patio. We shared a carafe or two of gin and juice to finish off the afternoon which had become evening. It was one of the best Sundays I've had in a while. Viva la spring!

Maija Zummo: I went to brunch at Sugar n' Spice on Sunday. We only had to wait like an hour, which is a relatively short amount of time for the ol' SnS. We ended up getting the "honeymoon" table, which is a one-sided booth where you sit next to your dining partner and both face the same way. A little odd if you were having a business lunch, but pleasantly quirky otherwise. I ate a huge veggie omelet and a side of wispy thin blueberry pancakes. Their omelets are seriously huge — like a Chipotle burrito. I hate cooking eggs at home because they freak me out — they are like little sunshine mucus globs — but I love eating them. 
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Hey all! Hope your weekend was grand and you did something fun to kick off bike month if you’re into that kind of thing. I am, and I spent some of my weekend biking — for a news story. You’ll find out more about that Wednesday though.

Anyway, here’s what’s up in the news. After a $10 million donation by American Financial Group and Edyth Linder, wife of AFG founder Carl Linder Jr., Music Hall is just $10 million short of the $125 million required for much-needed renovations. The historic Cincinnati landmark, built in 1878, hasn’t seen major work in 40 years and needs interior updates to its acoustics and seating, among other work. Also helping get closer to the goal, businessman Harry Fath and his wife Linda have pledged to boost their donation toward the renovation project from $2 million to $4 million. That’s all huge news for the building, which was cut last summer from a proposed sales tax increase that is currently funding renovation work on Union Terminal in the West End.

• Two top administrators at the School for Creative and Performing Arts will be leaving their posts, Cincinnati Public Schools Superintendent Mary Ronan announced Friday afternoon. Principal Steve Brokamp and Artistic Director Dr. Isadore Rudnick are both being reassigned at the direction of an oversight board for the school. The move comes as CPS searches for an executive director for the magnet school, a hire suggested by an outside consultancy group brought in to assess the school’s management. Students aren’t happy that Rudnick is leaving, protesting outside the building on Central Parkway today and taking to social media with the hashtag #reinstaterudnick.

• As Cincinnati gets more attention from national media outlets for the new restaurants, bars and other attractions springing up downtown and in Over-the-Rhine, more folks have visited our fair city. Specifically, and astounding 24 million folks visited the Queen City in 2013, spending $4.4 billion, according to a new study released by regional tourism groups The Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, meetNKY and the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network. That’s a boost of 4 percent per year since 2009. All that money put nearly half a billion dollars into the coffers of the state of Ohio and local governments.

• Here’s a pretty incredible New York Times breakdown of social mobility by county. The interactive map is built on a study by Harvard economists that looks at social mobility in terms of how much income a child will make by age 26 as a function of what county they grow up in. The more likely a low-income child in an area is to add to their household income as they grow up, the more income mobility that area offers. The results: Hamilton County is worse than roughly 75 percent of counties in the United States.

Poor children in Hamilton County can statistically expect to lose $810 from their household income. That’s not evenly distributed, though: Poor males will actually do better over time to the tune of $700, while poor females will do much, much worse — statistically, they can expect to be down almost $2,700 by age 26. Nearby Warren County, however, is much different. There, children can expect to see their household incomes rise by $2,500 by the time they’re 26, and that rise is nearly equal among males and females. The study uses reams of data for every county across the country to paint a big picture of what income mobility looks like in America. The New York Times story is especially neat because not only does it map every county, but it will anticipate, based on your location, which county you’re interested in seeing. When I pulled up the story, it already knew to go straight to Hamilton County. Impressive.

• Finally, the ranks of Republicans officially running for president swelled today as Dr. Ben Carson announced his candidacy. Carson, a renowned and history-making neurosurgeon, has become something of a conservative celebrity in recent years and has garnered millions in funds for his campaign already. Much has been made of the fact that Carson is African American. Conservatives, including Hamilton County GOP Chair Alex Triantafilou, have touted Carson’s campaign as a sign that the GOP is a diverse and accepting party despite "stereotypes" to the contrary. Despite the fanfare, however, many Republicans including Carson himself acknowledge he’s a long-shot. He has little political experience and polls show him trailing other contenders such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. A particular Carson weakness: his tendency to say pretty inflammatory things, including claiming that legalized same-sex marriage will lead to legalized bestiality and calling Obamacare the worst thing to happen in America since slavery. Youch.

That’s it for me. Tweet or email news tips and/or your favorite summer bike routes. I can’t wait to get out and ride some more.

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<![CDATA[Call Board: Theater News]]>

While other Cincinnati theaters hustle to get their seasons announced in order to ramp up subscription sales, Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati has built enough faith with its audiences that they'll start signing up sight unseen. Artistic Director Lynn Meyers tells regulars that they'll be pleased, and they take her at her word; she adds that if they aren't happy with the shows she picks, they can have their money back. No one asks for it.

Of course, ETC presents shows that haven't appeared elsewhere in our region yet, typically premieres that have only recently been onstage in New York City. And they're given productions with great acting and beautiful design so well assembled that many shows have extended runs. (That's happening with the show concluding the current season, John Patrick Shanley's Outside Mullingar, which opens on Wednesday with a stellar cast that includes local stage veteran Dale Hodges and Cincy Shakes Artistic Director Brian Phillips. ETC has announced it will run a week longer than initially indicated, now closing on May 30.)

For its 30th season, ETC has assembled three regional premieres and a revival of a musical it staged to great acclaim in 1999, with a TBA slot (March 22-April 10, 2016) that's likely to bring another show that's been a recent Broadway or off-Broadway hit. Here's the lineup announced over the weekend:

Luna Gale (Sept. 8-27, 2015) by Rebecca Gilman: The show recently received the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award, and it was considered by many to be a strong contender for the Pulitzer Prize in drama. It portrays the moral dilemma facing a social worker with a crushing caseload and personal baggage. She must decide whether to leave a child with neglectful drug addict parents or place her with a grandmother who is a religious zealot. It's a complex and disturbing work about faith and forgiveness that doesn't offer easy answers for the lifelong after-effects of abuse. Its first production was in January 2014 at the Chicago's Goodman Theatre. It's slated for productions at Cleveland Playhouse and Actors Theatre of Louisville in the coming season, but ETC's happens first.

Buyer and Cellar (Oct. 13-Nov. 1, 2015) by Jonathan Tollins: The one-many comedy was a big New York hit in 2013, telling the story of an out-of-work actor who takes on the odd job of playing shopkeeper for Barbra Streisand in the basement of her lavish Malibu estate. It's a fanciful imagining of what one does with decades of memories and acres of memorabilia. Performing the piece will be Nick Cearley, a Cincinnati native who has appeared at ETC in next to normal and The Great American Trailer Park Musical.

Cinderella (Dec. 2-Jan. 3, 2016) by Joe McDonough, David Kisor and Fitz Patton: ETC's holiday show is a remount of its contemporary take on the classic fairy tale that demonstrates that being smart can be truly beautiful.

Grounded (Jan. 26-Feb. 14, 2016) by George Brant: It's another solo show, described by one critic as "ardently humane," about a woman who's an ace pilot reassigned to operate a remote-controlled drone from a windowless trailer near Las Vegas. It's a hit at New York City's Public Theater right now featuring Anne Hathaway in a production directed by Julie Taymor. Hunting terrorists by day and returning to her family at night, the boundaries begin to blur between the desert where she lives and the one she patrols half a world away in Iraq.

Violet (May 3-22, 2016). Jeanine Tesori's musical won the Drama Critics Circle Award and the Lucille Award for best musical when it premiered off-Broadway in 1997. It was a local award winner, too, but not seen by many who have come to love ETC's offerings. The score features American Roots tunes as well as Folk and Gospel styles. Violet's story is set in the 1960s; she is a young woman disfigured in a childhood accident who dreams of a miraculous transformation through the power of faith provided by a televangelist. It was one of ETC's best early productions, and it's a great choice to cap off a celebration of three decades of fine theater.

Subscriptions are currently available. Call 513-421-3555 for information.

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<![CDATA[Stage Door: Durang and One Dang Funny Dysfunctional Family]]>

Christopher Durang's witty comedy Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike opened last night at the Cincinnati Playhouse. If that title makes you think of Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, well, that's part of the playwright's comic plan. But his script reassembles some of those wry comic elements with a few modern twists. The three characters with Chekhovian names are siblings with wildly divergent perspectives; "Spike" stirs things up by being more physical than intellectual. You don't have to know any theater history to have a good time with this play, especially when Vanya launches into a 10-minute rant about what's wrong with the modern world — referencing everything from postage stamps and technology to global warming and a lot of TV from the 1950s. It's hilarious. This show is being staged at theaters all over America this season. For more about Durang, read my Curtain Call column. Through May 23. Tickets: 513-421-3888

The Covedale Center has carved our a meaningful niche in the local theater scene with staging Golden Age musicals, and they're opening one of the best this weekend, Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music. It was the final show by the pair who created Oklahoma, South Pacific, Carousel and The King and I. Thanks to the movie featuring Julie Andrews, I don't really have to tell you what it's about. But I should mention that the stage version has a bit more of a socio-political edge to it: Two of my favorite numbers (that didn't make it into the film) are "No Way to Stop It" and "How Can Love Survive?" — pay attention to them for some sassy songwriting. The show is onstage at the West Side theater through May 24; tickets: 513-241-6550

Several worthwhile productions are finishing their runs this weekend with Sunday performances. That includes the searing psychological and political drama Death and the Maiden by Diogenes Theatre Company, featuring Annie Fitzpatrick, Michael G. Bath and Giles Davies at the Aronoff's Jarson-Kaplan Theater. Tickets: 513-621-2787 … Cincinnati Shakespeare is winding up its staging of the great comedy of love and combat, The Taming of the Shrew. (Read my review here). Tickets: 513-381-2273 … And if you've ever struggled to connect with a play by the Bard, you might enjoy John Murrell's Taking Shakespeare at Dayton's Human Race Theater Company. The latter is about a disillusioned college professor asked to tutor her dean's son through a freshman class in Shakespeare. The subject is Othello, and their wrangling helps them learn more about one another. It's some fine acting, with Jon Kovach, seen frequently on Cincinnati stages, as the opinionated but drifting young man. Tickets: 937-228-3630


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

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<![CDATA[Musicians Pay Tribute to Influential, Gone-to-Soon Singer/Songwriters]]>

Tribute albums are typically divided into three categories. They’re either a) bankable artists covering high profile subjects (or, infrequently, famously known cult figures); b) cool/respected artists covering cool/respected artists; or c) some weird hybrid of the first two. 

Two recently released tributes fall squarely in the second category, with Avett Brothers frontman Seth Avett and rising Americana/Rock vocalist Jessica Lea Mayfield taking a quietly beautiful stroll through a sampling of Elliott Smith's exquisite catalog on Sing Elliott Smith, and Frames frontman and solo artist in his own right Glen Hansard honoring his great hero and friend Jason Molina on It Was Triumph We Once Proposed: Songs of Jason Molina, which was available last month.


There are odd connections between the two projects. In the general point of interest sense, both are posthumous tributes. Smith died in 2003, apparently by his own hand, and Molina succumbed in 2013 after a long battle with alcoholism. And on a more personal level, by the sheerest of coincidences, I've interviewed both of the subjects of these two tributes.


Back in 2000, I spoke with Smith while he was still touring on Figure 8, which had come out earlier that year. And in 2003, I was assigned a feature on Songs: Ohia, fronted and braintrusted by Molina, who had just finished an album he titled The Magnolia Electric Co., which marked the end of Songs: Ohia and the shift to the band named after his new album. Both were fascinating and heartfelt conversations with artists who were amazingly self aware but not at all self absorbed, quietly brilliant songwriters who had an almost pathological need to extract their musical impulses from the dark well of their ultimately troubled souls.


Hansard — who came to prominence as the voice, guitarist and primary songwriter for Irish Rock band The Frames before establishing a side project (Swell Season) and solo career and hitting semi-big with the movie Once and his soundtrack, featuring the Academy Award-winning hit "Falling Slowly" — was so inspired by Molina's deeply emotional and confessional songcraft that the first fan letter he ever sent to a fellow artist was to Molina. Back in 2005, two years after I'd interviewed Molina, I had the rare opportunity to witness the pair's personal and professional bond firsthand.


At my second South by Southwest experience, I followed former The Onion music editor Stephen Thompson to see a Frames appearance at one of Austin's innumerable daytime parties. Stephen was a huge Frames fan and the band knew him well; he had done enough to help expose the band to American audiences that they thanked him in the liner notes to Burn the Maps.


When we arrived at the venue, the band members were wandering through the crowd just prior to their set and Stephen made a beeline for them. He introduced me to The Frames, but there was a dark, diminutive and somewhat familiar presence in the circle who was clearly with the band but not as a member. Glen Hansard spoke up, in his pudding thick Irish brogue, and said, "This is Jason Molina."


I shook his hand and reminded him of our phone conversation and the Rockpile feature two years previous. He greeted me warmly and we talked about what we'd seen at the festival to that point and what we hoped to see going forward. We spent a good 10 minutes in this convivial manner, right up until The Frames took the stage and were announced. After that, his unwavering focus was on the band; he watched and listened as though he was occupying the front pew in church during a sermon he knew for an absolute fact would change his life for the better. He stood in rapt attention, soaking in every word, every note and every nuance and with good reason — The Frames were a mesmerizing live force back then.


At the set's conclusion, Molina immediately swiveled toward me and we exchanged jaw-dropped exclamations of disbelief. Within a few minutes, Hansard made his way to Molina's side and the two began critiquing the performance, Hansard pointing out the flaws and Molina categorically dismissing them. I laughingly thought to myself as I headed to the door and the next party, I'll bet their roles will be diametrically reversed when Magnolia Electric Co., the band that Songs: Ohia had morphed into, plays later this week and Hansard is the fan in the front row. It reminded me of something Molina had said regarding the fact that he was already thinking past the album he had just finished. 


"I can do better," he said without hesitation. "My next one, I'm already sweating it. Since the day I walked out of the studio, I've been working on the next one. I don't feel like this one failed, but I'm still looking for the better one."


I thought about Hansard's face as it must have looked while he watched Molina's appearance in Austin, Texas, a decade ago, and imagined the sadder but equally beatific visage he must have exhibited in the studio as he was translating the five tracks that comprise It Was Triumph We Once Proposed. This brief and beautifully executed EP serves a similar purpose as Hansard's distant but never forgotten fan letter, as he pays loving tribute to his long personal friendship with Molina and to the work that first illuminated his immense talents to the world.


Hansard assembled a group of longtime Songs: Ohia/Magnolia Electric Co. collaborators/friends to record a heartbreaking quintet of Molina compositions, all Songs: Ohia tracks and all lending themselves perfectly to Hansard's passionate and sensitively wrought translation. Molina often worked at the creative intersection of Leonard Cohen and Neil Young, and Hansard taps into that shivery vibe with a true fan's boundless devotion and a true friend's immeasurable grief. On the one-two punch of the powerfully poignant "Being in Love" and the achingly beautiful "Hold On, Magnolia," Hansard illuminates the raw, wrenching wisdom of lines like, ”We are proof that the heart is a risky fuel to burn," and the prescient "You might be holding the last light I see before the dark finally gets ahold of me." And just like Molina's life and amazing musical output, Hansard's It Was Triumph We Once Proposed is both immensely satisfying and far too short.



The other contender for Most Amazing and Deserved Tribute of the Year is Seth Avett and Jessica Lea Mayfield's Sing Elliott Smith, a (relatively) spare and loving bow to one of this generation's most insightful and contemplative songwriters. After his shredding turn with Portland’s Heatmiser, Smith turned down the volume for his home-recorded solo debut, Roman Candle, which was followed by his equally nuanced eponymous sophomore album and then the jewel in his crown, 1998's Either/Or, which director Gus Van Zant cherry-picked for his soundtrack to his masterpiece Good Will Hunting. Smith scored an Academy Award nomination for his song "Miss Misery," and the success of the soundtrack and his almost uncomfortably vulnerable performance at the Oscars vaulted him into a spotlight that he never actively pursued.


By the time of our 2000 interview, Smith had managed to come to uneasy terms with the maelstrom of fame that resulted from Good Will Hunting and Either/Or's tangential success. It had required him to think about his work in pedestrian ways, to explain it in a fashion that would be understandable to people with little understanding.


But through it all, Smith remained true to his own process, trusting that, regardless of outside opinions, expectations or interests, he continued to create the kind of music he wanted to hear in the manner that he wanted to create it. And he knew that, no matter how much anyone involved in his career wanted him to pull Either/Or 2 out of his magician's hat, the only thing that would truly satisfy his artistic nature would be to create what came out of him organically, without being conjured or forced.


"I don't think it was on my mind," Smith said about making the Beatlesque Figure 8 in the wake of major-label debut XO, Either/Or and Good Will Hunting. "I was just making up songs the way I always do. I mean, it was never going to sell millions of copies, so there wasn't that kind of pressure."


That may well be why Sing Elliott Smith is so incredibly successful as a tribute. Smith's songbook is among the most revered in contemporary music and the acclaim that has been lavished on Avett and Mayfield since their debuts is both effusive and deserved. Given all that, there's little risk involved at any level of this project.


The blending of the two principals' voices was the only unknown and that particular question mark is definitely straightened into a boldface exclamation point with Avett and Mayfield's brilliant opening duet on Either/Or's "Between the Bars." Avett's stylistic path from Punk provocateur to rootsy Americana troubadour to genre melding alchemist is a pretty fair match to Smith's own journey, and Mayfield's weary optimism lines up well with Smith's gloomy hopefulness. Together, Avett and Mayfield are the perfect translators for Smith's hushed (and not so hushed) odes to the anguish and bittersweet joy of love and modern life and they coalesce almost effortlessly on brilliant lines like, "Nothing's gonna drag me down/To a death that's not worth cheating." 



It's moments like that one from "Baby Britain" that make Sing Elliott Smith resonate so clearly from start to finish. It's particularly poignant when Mayfield takes the lead on "A Fond Farewell" — from the album Smith was working on at the time of his death, released posthumously as From a Basement on the Hill — and she sings words that seem so startlingly prescient coming so close to Smith's sad end; "A little less than a happy heart/A little less than a suicide/The only thing that you really tried/This is not my life, it's just a fond farewell to a friend/It's not what I'm like, it's just a fond farewell to a friend/Who couldn't get things right."


Avett and Mayfield offer a broad core sample of Smith's amazing catalog (only 1995's self-titled sophomore album isn't represented), and the pair's affinity for and love of their subject's work is evident in every trembling note and emotional lyric. At almost 37 minutes, Sing Elliott Smith is a full album but it feels impossibly short and is over well before the listener is ready for it to be done. If ever there was a release that warranted the often-dreaded subtitle of Volume 2, it would be Sing Elliott Smith.


It seems only proper that the final words in this piece should be reserved for the subjects of these two tributes. First, an interesting comment from Jason Molina about his songwriting process led to a philosophical statement about his musical belief system.


"I almost write the music at the same time I'm trying to think of who could best put this onto tape, and that goes right down to the engineer," he noted. "Maybe it's a cowardly way to work because I don't take all of the burden onto myself, but ego should never be part of the music."


And finally, Elliott Smith addressed the media's tendency to label him as "melancholy," which morphed into an explanation of the simple reality that labels have tried to manipulate and contradict throughout their long and checkered histories.


"As soon as someone calls you a songwriter, you automatically get the melancholy tag," Smith admitted. “Also, 'Why aren't you playing dance music?' and 'Why are your songs so sad?' They're just clichés. If it wasn't those, it would be different ones. You can't always expect people to relate. There are all kinds of people, and some people understand each other and some people don't. NSYNC sells nine million records, so there's nine million people that can relate, and I'm not one of them. So even if you sell millions and millions of albums, there's always going to be somebody who doesn't get it. If you want to be creative and do what you do, it's going to be kind of idiosyncratic."


Long live the idiosyncratic artist, and the memories of those who left us way before their creative dreams were fulfilled.


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<![CDATA[Urban Artifact Now Open in Northside]]>

Northside’s Urban Artifact Brewing opened its doors last week, hoping to push the envelope by displaying a finessed brand and aesthetic by reinvigorating old styles of beer and celebrating local artists of all genres. Residing in a renovated church, the brewery is collaborating with restaurant Meatball Kitchen and has big plans for the future as a destination to hear live music. 


“We love Northside and we love the neighborhood, so that was at the top of our list from the beginning,” says Scott Hand, who opened the brewery with partners Brett Kollmann Baker, Scott Hunter and Dominic Marino. Hand, a DAAP graduate, was working as an architect in Chicago when he and Marino, a musician and artist, began talking about opening a brewery. Knowing the financial restrictions they would face as a new business in the Windy City, the duo relocated to Cincinnati to begin the project. 


Hand was familiar with the process of reconstructing an old space, so when St. Pius X on Blue Rock Street, formerly home to Queen City Cookies’ bakery, became available, the team thought it was the perfect fit for their vision. Originally, Hand and Marino had planned to open Greyscale Cincinnati, a multi-use performing arts facility and craft brewery in the former Jackson Brewery on Mohawk Street in Over-the-Rhine. But plans and funding change, and the Northside church’s sanctuary, gymnasium, next door rectory and other open spaces have now become Urban Artifact, a brewery and event space still focused on blending music (their music label retains the Greyscale Cincinnati name) and unique beer, but with an additional spotlight on good food, design and elevated branding. 


“Because of branding, we made a point to reuse a lot of the church and what was already there,” Hand says. “This is a lot harder than just gutting it and starting from scratch. Most breweries are in warehouses or large rooms; our brand and beers come together for a unique experience.” In the final renovation, the team highlighted the church’s historic features, like its stained glass and old columns. They’ve also kept the radiators and reincorporated the 1940s maple floors they plied up from the gymnasium, now home to brewing equipment and fermenters, as finishes in the main church building’s lower-level taproom.  


Featuring old things while incorporating contemporary necessities was crucial for Urban Artifact. Most of their beer styles, which utilize wild yeast, bacteria and other captured local cultures, are from the Prohibition days — brewers Hunter and Baker both have backgrounds in chemical engineering. Hand’s favorites are the Maize, a Kentucky Common-style beer, and Harrow Gose, a bready beer of German origin. “The Gose is the most enjoyable for me, and it’s a light beer so I can have two or three without feeling bad about it,” he jokes. The brewery will also focus on experimental wild and tart ales, listing the ale’s pH and other information in the taproom to add an educational element to the experience, and will have local Skinny Pig Kombucha on tap as a non-beer fermented alternative.


The brewery also partnered with Meatball Kitchen, leasing part of rectory’s first floor to become the restaurant’s second location. Food runners will unify the two buildings and make Meatball Kitchen available to everyone. (Currently, Meatball Kitchen is set up in a corner of the taproom until the restaurant renovations are complete.) Hand says the partnership was a natural fit due to their similar aesthetics. 


“[Meatball Kitchen’s] Short Vine location has a similar feel — old wood, exposed pipes and things. The menu really identifies with our beers as well,” he says. “I think they are redesigning and making little changes to their menu to make our collaboration more cohesive.”


The brewery’s lower level, which can hold about 200 people, is separated into two parts — the taproom and a listening lounge — in addition to a beer garden outside. Every Wednesday, the listening lounge will feature Cincinnati Jazz institution the Blue Wisp Big Band, which features brewery partner Marino on trombone. The band has been performing every Wednesday night since 1980, but lost their home last year when the Blue Wisp Jazz Club closed. Hand says the “Cincinnati cultural icon” will be at Urban Artifact indefinitely.


In terms of other live music, the brewery scored Soul/R&B/Funk band The Almighty Get Down for their opening night last Friday and World-Fusion band Baoku last Saturday. While powerhouse local bands are flocking to Urban Artifact, they are still looking to book less established, up-and-coming local bands of any genre for other nights. (Hand encourages interested bands to contact Marino at dominic@artifactbeer.com.)


The four partners are working hard to have a successful first week of business, but Hand has big plans for the future. The lower level renovation is complete, but the main floor sanctuary is phase two. As a music enthusiast with an architectural background, Hand’s main passion is acoustics. His goal in the next couple of years is to create a “formal but flexible” space for ticketed events, live theater, receptions and eventually big-ticketed performers in the sanctuary. 


“I do not want it be your typical standing space,” he says. “It will not be the environment where you blast bands to the loudest decibel and come out with your ears ringing.” 


Hand says performers would have the opportunity to record their live shows for personal use or redistribution. He hopes creating the ideal acoustic space will attract larger name performers.


Urban Artifact, whose motto is “Wild culture” for their beers and their brand, focuses on creating a unique product, building promising partnerships and including local artists and culture in their brewery. “We have identified what we’re best at and we do it well, but the best thing is that we come together in the end and figure out how to get things accomplished best as a team,” Hand says. “I think we are pushing the envelope for what a finessed brewing aesthetic is and how that affects the overall experience.” 


Urban Artifact is located at 1660 Blue Rock St., Northside. Hours are 4 p.m.-midnight Monday-Thursday; 4 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Friday; noon-1:30 a.m. Saturday and noon-midnight Sunday. For more information, visit artifactbeer.com.


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<![CDATA[Your Weekend To Do List (5/1-5/3)]]>

Stuff to do for athletes, aesthetes and people who love celebrating spring produce.


FRIDAY

Party pre-marathon with the FLYING PIG WEEKEND

On your mark, get set and go to the 17th annual Flying Pig Marathon. Come and see thousands of runners and walkers of all skill levels take part in this beloved race (a Boston Marathon qualifier). Stand on the sidelines and cheer or register and take part in a course that travels along the streets of Cincinnati, Covington, Newport, Mariemont, Fairfax and Columbia Township. Along with the marathon, the Flying Pig weekend features a series of events. 

  • Friday: P&G health and fitness expo at the Duke Energy Convention Center
  • Saturday: Toyota 10k downtown; Family Fun Festival at Yeatman's Cove; Tri-State Running Company 5k from GABP; the P&G health and fitness expo; a kids' marathon; IAMS flying fur race for dogs and their people; Flying Pig pasta pig out at Schmidlapp Lawn.
  • Sunday: Moerlein Lager House viewing party and breakfast (starts at 6 a.m.); Flying Pig; some more half marathons; Michelob Ultra victory party at Yeatman's Cove.

See a full list of events and prices online. Marathon starts 6:30 a.m. Sunday; marathon registration is $115. flyingpigmarathon.com.


Cheap AAArt
Photo: Paul Coors

Buy some CHEAP AAART

Local artist and curator Paul Coors (an Art Academy of Cincinnati grad and co-founder of former OTR art space Publico) will exhibit and host a silent auction — with assigned low starting figures and minimum raises — of his own artwork made within the past 10 years on Friday and Saturday at his Brighton loft/exhibition space, The Ice Cream Factory. True to Coors’ legacy of engaging musical acts in his art shows, friends of the artist will DJ over the course of both evenings including Bridget Battle (Tweens), Chris Burgan (Platter Party Records), Jordan Bronk and Sebastian Botzow (the DJ duo behind the monthly Fogger set at Rakes End), Floyd From Ohio Johnson (of Ohio Against the World fame) and Yoni Wolf (WHY?). 5-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Free; all ages. The Ice Cream Factory, 2133 Central Ave., Brighton, paulcoors.co.


The Sound of Music
Photo: Covedale Center

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the SOUND OF MUSIC with a live performance

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s great musical theater collaboration — The Sound of Music — has been in the news recently, celebrating the Academy Award-winning movie’s 50th anniversary. If you’d like to dig further into the past (56 years ago it won five Tony Awards in its Broadway debut), you’ll find it onstage at the Covedale Center. It’s the story of a young woman who fails at becoming a nun. But she loves to sing and that wins over a motherless family and their stern father. It’s been a winner since 1959, and it’s sure to please audiences in this production staged by Ed Cohen and Dee Anne Bryll. Through May 24. $21-$24. Covedale Center for the Performing Arts, 4990 Glenway Ave., Western Hills, 513-241-6550, cincinnatilandmarkproductions.com.



SATURDAY

Derby Day Soiree at Neons
Photo: Wellmann's Brands

Get drunk on mint juleps at Neons' DERBY DAY SOIREE

The Kentucky Derby takes a two-minute race and turns it into a weekend of festivities throughout Louisville — drinking signature cocktails, exclusive parties and many out-of-town celebrity guests in elaborate millinery. But why should Louisvillians have all the fun? Neons is gathering Cincinnatians together to craft derby hats, sip on three different kinds of juleps (in 2015 official Kentucky Derby glasses) and watch the race in their second annual Derby Day Soirée. The event also features live music from the OTR Bluegrass Band featuring members of the Comet Bluegrass All-Stars. 2 p.m. Saturday. Free. Neons, 208 E. 12th St., Over-the-Rhine, neons-unplugged.com.


Wilder
Photo: Wayne Litmer 

Wear a fancy hat to the WILDER EP release party at the Southgate House

Americana/Country group Wilder was formed last year by singer/songwriters Kelly Thomas and Randy Steffen after their previous projects had come to an end (Thomas’ Fabulous Pickups and Steffen’s Sleepin’ Dogs). Building into a full band and establishing a presence on the local club scene, Wilder is now set to release its debut EP with a special show Saturday at Southgate House Revival. Falling on the same day as the Kentucky Derby, the 9 p.m. show will have a derby theme (Wear wild hats! Drink mint juleps!). Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome Sound, Mad Anthony and Danny Mecher and the Home Demos are also on the bill. Admission is $5 (or $7 if you’d like a copy of the EP on CD). 111 E. Sixth St., Newport, Ky., southgatehouse.com.


Savor the Season: Farm to Fork Celebration
Photo: Jamie Stoneham

Celebrate spring at Gorman Heritage Farm with SAVOR THE SEASON

The phrase “farm-to-table” gets a literal translation at Gorman Heritage Farm’s annual Savor the Season celebration Saturday. This epicurean adventure, in partnership with Slow Food Cincinnati, focuses on reveling in spring’s bounty from the 122-acre working farm and farms around the area. Top local chefs — including Jose Salazar of Salazar, Allison Hines of Butcher Betties, Todd Kelly of Orchids, Ryan Santos of Please and more — will be offering tasting samples of dishes that highlight seasonal produce, and chef Julie Francis of Nectar and Lance Bowman of Japp’s will be creating cocktail and food pairings. Don’t miss the “Raid the Garden” competition (CityBeat dining writer Anne Mitchell will be one of the judges), where chefs enter into a Chopped-style food competition. The event also includes food trucks and vendors, music from DJ Mowgli and garden/farm workshops, like composting 101, chickens in your backyard, beekeeping and more. 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday. $25-$35; $10 for Raid the Garden only. 10052 Reading Road, Evendale, 513-563-6663, gormanfarm.org.


Cincy-Cinco Fiesta on Fountain Square
Photo: Provided

Party on Fountain Square for the CINCY-CINCO FIESTA ON FOUNTAIN SQUARE

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with the Fiesta on Fountain Square. This authentic Latino festival is designed to share all aspects of Latin American culture, values and traditions with the Cincinnati community in a fun, family-oriented event. Live entertainment throughout the weekend includes performances from Latin band Tropicoso, Cincinnati Balia Dance Academy, Mariachi Zelaya and more, plus food from the likes of La Mexicana, Cuban Pete and Empanadas Caribe. A special children's area will provide free games, crafts, prizes and other activities. All proceeds benefit Tristate charities in support of the Hispanic population. Noon-11 p.m. Saturday; Noon-7 p.m. Sunday. Free. Fountain Square, Fifth and Vine streets, Downtown, cincicinco.com.


GeoFair

Buy some rocks at the GEOFAIR

The 50th annual GeoFair is Cincinnati’s largest gem, mineral, fossil and jewelry show. This year’s theme is “American Mineral and Fossil Treasures,” with displays containing private, university and museum-quality specimens, along with vendors and wholesalers, a swap area and free fossil, meteorite, mineral and gemstone identification. Demonstrations include gold panning, geode cracking and gemstone polishing. Children younger than 12 will receive free mineral and fossil specimens upon entry. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. $9 adults; $3 kids; free for uniformed scouts. Sharonville Convention Center, 11355 Chester Road, Sharonville, geofair.com.



SUNDAY

Make cooing noises at ZOO BABIES

Celebrate the newest arrivals at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden during the entire month of May, where you'll find the cutest baby faces from all over the globe. Follow the six-foot-tall pink and blue stork statues displayed throughout the zoo to lead you to baby African lions, penguin chicks, bonobo monkeys, a whole litter of African painted dogs and more, as their big eyes, miniature sizes and playful personalities melt your heart. Through May. Park admission $18 adults; $12 children and seniors. 3400 Vine St., Avondale, 513-281-4700, cincinnatizoo.org.


Betsy Wolfe in The Music Man
Photo: Murphy Made

Take in a lightly staged matinee of THE MUSIC MAN

As Hugh Jackman declared in his 2009 Oscars performance, “The musical is back!” Musicals and movie-musicals have lodged themselves in the mainstream consciousness though film productions like Les Miserables (in which the aforementioned Jackman starred) and Into The Woods (an Oscar-nominated adaptation of the Sondheim classic) and various frequent Broadway touring productions, like those at the Aronoff Center. Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conductor John Morris Russell is giving us another angle through which to experience a classic musical, resurrected this weekend. The Pops’ semi-staged performance of 1957’s The Music Man features Broadway veterans Will Chase and Betsy Wolfe in leading roles, plus hundreds of local artists from Playhouse in the Park, CCM’s musical theater department, May Festival Chorus and more. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday. $20-$103. Music Hall, 1241 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine, cincinnatisymphony.org.


Laugh at VANYA AND SONIA AND MASHA AND SPIKE

Vanya, Sonia and Masha are mismatched siblings, named by academic parents who had a yen for community theater. Now late in middle age, Vanya and Sonia continue to live in rural eastern Pennsylvania on the family’s farm with a few cherry trees. (Durang constantly drops reminders of Chekhov, dollops of amusement for anyone who recognizes them.) Their lives have some angst and ennui, but they aren’t doing anything about it. Through May 23. Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, 962 Mt. Adams Circle, Mount Adams, cincyplay.com.


The Contemporary Arts Center’s new lobby includes a café, Collective CAC, with ample seating.
Photo: Jesse Fox

Grab a coffee at the CAC's new lobby and check out REMEMBER THE FUTURE

Blah concrete no longer dominates the Contemporary Arts Center lobby. A mere decade after its opening, the harsh environment needed a change. “We wanted the lobby to be the movie trailer for what’s upstairs,” says CAC curator Steven Matijcio. Architect Zaha Hadid’s vision of an “urban carpet” that draws visitors from the sidewalk has been realized with a colorful mural blanketing the walls, lights on the concrete pillars and the welcome desk front and center. A neon sign over the entrance reads “Contagious,” reflecting the vibe enjoyed at the café and in conversations on comfortable couches. Even though they resemble thunderclouds, chandeliers by Cincinnati sculptor Matt Kotlarczyk perk up an overcast day. The CAC needed to seize control of space, time and light. 


Upstairs Daniel Arsham’s Remember the Future is anchored by a gray mountain of hundreds upon hundreds of pop culture artifacts cast from volcanic ash, obsidian, quartz and glacial rock. Yet colorful, not-so-distant memories stir as the viewer circles the heap and notices boom boxes, video game controllers, keyboards, cameras, turntables, guitars, film reels and videotapes. 10-4 p.m. $7.50 adults; $5.50 educators/students/seniors. 44 E. Sixth St., Downtown, contemporaryartscenter.org.


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

Good morning y’all. Like yesterday, I’m once again groggy this morning, but for different reasons that have everything to do with the news. So let’s talk about that.

Last night a group of about 300 gathered outside the Hamilton County Courthouse to protest inequities in the nation’s justice system and to express solidarity with Baltimore, where civil unrest has broken out after the April 18 death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. Gray died from injuries he sustained while in police custody. The rally and subsequent march through downtown and Over-the-Rhine, which drew more than 100, were peaceful and lasted about four hours. No one was arrested, though there were a few tense moments as protesters tried to enter a highway on-ramp and the Horseshoe Casino. Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell was present at the protest last night, and this morning appeared on CNN touting the city’s protest response protocols, which have been adopted by the U.S. Justice Department as an example of how police should respond to such rallies.

Update: Gray's death has been ruled a homicide and the six Baltimore police officers involved will be charged. Officer Caesar Goodson, the van driver, will be charged with second-degree murder, Baltimore State Attorney Marylin Mosby announced today. Other officers involved in Gray's arrest will face lesser charges.

“I heard your call for 'No justice, no peace,' ” Mosby said at a news conference. “Your peace is severely needed as I work to deliver justice for this young man.”

• Drug overdose deaths in Ohio have hit record numbers, according to a report released yesterday by the Ohio Department of Health. In 2013, 2,210 people died of overdoses in the state, a 10 percent increase in a year. It’s especially grim here in the Greater Cincinnati area: About 440, or 20 percent, of those deaths happened in Southwestern Ohio’s Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Warren Counties. Here in Hamilton County, deaths have increased 30 percent since last year, according to the report. More than 40 percent of those deaths statewide were caused by heroin overdoses, by far the biggest single cause of drug overdoses in the state. Heroin overdose deaths have spike sharply in the last four years, overtaking cocaine overdoses in 2012 as the leading cause of overdose death.

• Yesterday I told you about how the Cincinnati Enquirer swapped out a headline on a news article about a murder in OTR while taking criticism for its handling of that story. Several high-profile Cincinnatians have since called out the Enquirer for coverage they call sensationalist. You can read more about that, and CityBeat editor Danny Cross’ analysis, here.

• We all have needs. I maybe need to get around to buying a car eventually. Cincinnati needs better public transit. Ohio Gov. John Kasich and other top officials need $9.6 million worth of small aircraft to hop around the state in. The state has purchased two Beechcraft airplanes for officials to use on state business. State officials say the planes are needed replacements for older aircraft with rising maintenance costs. One of the shiny new planes holds nine passengers, the other six, and in case you’re wondering, yes, they do have all the necessary modern avionics equipment on board, including an entertainment center and the oh-so-vital wine bottle chillers because god knows you can’t drink room-temperature white wine while you’re floating somewhere above Youngstown on official state business.

• Speaking of Kasich, his profile is rising as he continues to kinda sorta run for president. I read this pretty long Atlantic article about him yesterday. The piece literally calls him a jerk and make him sound a little like he has attention deficit disorder. But the in-depth Atlantic piece also talks about his strengths, including his energy and his sometimes-gruff but sometimes-endearing plainspoken ways. Some other magazines and national publications have taken a closer look at Kasich over the past week or so, including conservative mag the National Review, which thinks his bid is a no-go. I’d tell you more about their article, but talking about the National Review makes my soul hurt so let’s just stop there, shall we?

• Speaking of the 2016 presidential race, Cincinnati’s uh, favorite (?) son Larry Flynt has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. Good thing for Clinton? Bad thing for Clinton? Unclear. Flynt says he’s mostly behind Clinton because she has the best chance of winning and she’ll be able to appoint two or three Supreme Court justices, bringing the nation’s highest court under a decidedly liberal sway. Flynt was an ardent supporter of Clinton’s husband, former president Bill Clinton. He doesn’t have any illusions that Hillary is about to take him on the campaign trail with her, though.

“I’m sure that Hillary doesn’t necessarily approve of everything I do,” he told Bloomberg Politics.

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<![CDATA[Rally in Solidarity with Baltimore Draws Hundreds]]>

More than 300 gathered outside the Hamilton County Courthouse today to protest racial disparities in the justice system and express solidarity with Baltimore. More than a week of unrest has gripped that city after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died in police custody there April 18. Gray sustained severe spinal injuries while riding in a police van, slipped into a coma and died from his injuries.

The Cincinnati rally was the latest of several that have taken place downtown in the last year after the  shooting death of unarmed teen Mike Brown by white officer Darren Wilson brought national attention to the issue of racially-charged police-involved deaths. 

After the rally, a crowd of more than 100 marched down Central Parkway, through Over-the-Rhine, and to the Cincinnati Police Department District 1 headquarters on Ezzard Charles Drive.  From there, a smaller group of about 40 took a zig-zagging route past City Hall and Fountain Square. That group had a couple tense standoffs with police at the eastern end of Fifth Street near a highway onramp and in front of the Horseshoe Casino. All told, the protest lasted about four hours, winding down about 10 pm.

The protests were peaceful and did not result in any arrests, police said, though one protester was briefly detained on Vine Street and issued a citation for jaywalking. 

Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell

Police speak to activists on Vine Street at an April 30 rally protesting inequities in the justice system
Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell
Nick Swartsell

Activist group Black Lives Matter Cincinnati organized the rally. Among attendees were long-time activist Iris Roley, who was a key participant in forging Cincinnati’s collaborative agreement which arose from civil unrest here14 years ago. That unrest was sparked by the 2001 shooting death of unarmed black man Timothy Thomas, the 16th person of color shot by Cincinnati Police over the course of a few years. Also in attendance were State Senator Cecil Thomas, police officer and Over-the-Rhine transit activist Derek Bauman, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell and others active in the community.

Black Lives Matter Cincinnati activist Rashida Manuel speaks to the crowd at an April 30 rally
Nick Swartsell

Many attendees said they were concerned about wider disparities in the justice system beyond police actions.

“They are stealing our people off the streets. 2 million black people are in prison and no one is talking about it,” said rally attendee Alexander Shelton. Shelton, and many others, decried socioeconomic conditions that have led to higher rates of arrest, incarceration and wrongful conviction for people of color, including lack of educational and employment opportunities, the isolation of black urban neighborhoods and the stereotyping of black males as dangerous "thugs."

Shelton also called for an awareness of other struggles, including those in the LGBT and workers' rights communities. Several who took the bullhorn in front of the courthouse echoed that sentiment.

Many also came simply to honor the lives of people of color.

“We’re to remember,” said co-organizer Rashida Manuel. “We’re here to remember Freddie Gray. We’re here to remember Maya Hall, the black trans woman who was killed in Baltimore last month. We’re here to remember Mike Brown, we’re here to remember John Crawford, and so many others I can’t possibly name. We’re here to remember Timothy Thomas. We’re here because we’re tired.”

John Crawford III was shot two days before Brown in Beavercreek. His father, John Crawford Jr., attended the rally and spoke briefly to the crowd.
Nick Swartsell

This post has been corrected from an earlier version that misstated Freddie Gray's age.
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<![CDATA['The Salt of the Earth' Held Over at Mariemont Theatre]]>

Documentaries about photographers have the difficulty of making still photographs hold our interest in a medium that is about — obviously — moving pictures. The contemplation and meditation that successful still photographs elicit tend to get lost when your eyes and brain are trying to keep up with something traveling at 35 frames per second. It's like trying to admire an elegant home from a speeding train.

A recent (and very good) film about a photographer, Finding Vivian Maier, solved that problem by turning the story of why she was so overlooked in her lifetime into a mystery.

The current film The Salt of the Earth, about the questing, humanistic Brazilian-born photographer Sebastiao Salgado and directed by Wim Wenders with Salgado's son, Juliano, may be the best documentary about a photographer ever.

Salgado deserves it, too — his years-long, book-length projects chronicling the hardships humans endure in their search for work (Workers) and safety from war and famine (Migrations), as well as his elegiac images of the earth itself (Genesis), mark him as one of history's most important photographers. And he's still active at age 71.

Mariemont Theatre has just announced the film will be held over for a second week, starting tomorrow (Friday).

The Salt of the Earth accomplishes its profundity by beautifully melding the best traits of film — tracking shots, close-ups, essayist commentary and interviews presented as monologues, color cinematography, music — with deep feeling for the subject and his work. Wenders presents Salgado's monumental black-and-white photographs superbly. He slowly shifts between them and his own filmmaking. It deserved the recent Academy Award nomination it received.

Wenders is the German director of some classic narrative films (Wings of Desire, Paris, Texas) who, with his documentaries Pina and Buena Vista Social Club, showed he could find inventive and life-affirming ways to depict on film the work of other artists he respects.

Wenders in The Salt of the Earth can be solemn when it's called for — Salgado's work at times makes you wonder if the human race is doomed to cruelty to hardship. But it's also optimistic, as when chronicling how Salgado has restored to health his parched, dying family farm in Brazil.

We're fortunate that the Mariemont has elected to hold this film for a second week. I saw it last Monday and the crowd was small, so many of its intended audience might not yet be aware of it. It really deserves to be seen on a big screen. and it's rewarding for all those who take film and photography seriously.

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<![CDATA[The Enquirer's OTR Shooting Coverage Was a Huge Mess]]> A few years ago, a friend and I were walking down the street in Over-the-Rhine from Neons to somewhere north on Main Street — maybe MOTR, maybe our friend’s place at 13th and Clay, might have been heading back to a car. I’m not really sure — it’s been three or four years now since people started coming back to the (mostly nighttime) amenities in the neighborhood. 

Just before we turned the corner from 12th onto Main, gunshots popped off behind us. We turned around and saw some dude running south on Sycamore. We bolted onto Main and jumped into a storefront doorway until things calmed down, called the police and then continued on our way. I followed up and found out that the man we saw running away neither died nor killed anyone.

It was a scene that has grown less common in recent years in the area, as the push of development has moved much of the drug dealing and related violence outward into other neighborhoods. In January WCPO reported that violent crime in OTR was down 74 percent since 2004, in part due to development and evolving policing tactics.

Such facts didn't deter The Enquirer from freaking the hell out yesterday when one of its reporters witnessed a shooting in front of a bunch of popular OTR restaurants. Reporter Emilie Eaton was on the same block when 30-year-old Gregory Douglas was shot around 9 a.m. near Vine and Mercer streets, fled a short distance then collapsed and died. Police today issued a warrant for the arrest of Darnell Higgins for the murder.

It's been a sad day for a lot of people: families and friends of the deceased and the accused; those who witnessed such violence up close.

It’s also a sad day to consider the state of local media, considering the response we've seen so far to The Enquirer's collection of coverage. It started with the reporter's first-person account of witnessing the shooting. Then came a news story questioning the neighborhood's safety, for some reason quoting the Hamilton County Republican chairman and a lone neighborhood resident saying he didn't feel safe these days. Soon afterward, a more formed version of the story was updated online — this time the headline tried to cleverly play on the word "dead" (“Gunfire in OTR brings morning to a dead stop”). The headline was later changed, “After fatal shooting, no easy answer in OTR," though the insensitive quip lives on in the story's URL.

The Enquirer’s decision to frame Douglas’ death as a question of whether or not OTR is safe for those of us unaccustomed to witnessing violence is generating the type of online debate (/clicks) the "newsroom of the future" was meant to induce. It has also been heavily criticized.

Here’s former Cincinnati mayor Charlie Luken on Facebook:

Here’s Derek Bauman, an OTR and mass transit advocate/suburban police officer, who wondered on Twitter why the first source in an early version of the “Is OTR safe yet” story quoted the county GOP chair before anyone else. Alex Triantafilou’s take? “There is more work to be done to make our city as safe as the suburbs."

Eaton's first-person story was published just hours after the shooting occurred. "A stray bullet could have easily missed the victim and hit me," she wrote. "The gunman could have come around the corner for me. I'm lucky to be writing this story right now."

The story elicited strong response from readers, but perhaps not the kind the Enquirer was picturing. About 20 wrote comments questioning the appropriateness of the piece, many along the lines of this:

As writers molded dispatches from the scene into The Enquirer’s larger collection of reporting on the incident, debate continued on social media. Enquirer writer John Faherty took to the comment section of Eaton's article to defend her.

Those of us in the media don’t enjoy criticizing each others' work, and we realize most people in the industry are dedicated and passionate. We respect colleagues at other media companies, especially when their dedication to the craft is evident.

Eaton clearly had a shitty morning. Her decision to immediately get back to doing her job is admirable.

Unfortunately, the collection of work to which she contributed was misguided, made worse by the classlessness with which Enquirer editors showed along the way. Publishing right-wing digs at inner-city neighborhoods has been a longstanding tradition at The Enquirer. Using a play on the word "dead" in a news story about a murder is the type of move that would get a college newspaper in trouble. It shouldn't be OK at any self-respecting daily. 

There's no way to tell which “content coach” might have shaped yesterday’s coverage. Any number of web editors could have written such an offensive headline — the newsroom of the future isn't set up to catch these things. Newsroom morale has been known to be low at Gannett papers across the country, and many of us actually feel bad for the many talented people struggling to produce quality work under such restrictive guidelines. 

Ultimately, reporting that might have culminated in an articulation of how opposite worlds intertwine in front of our eyes every day instead became a question of whether it's smart to eat and shop near poor people.

Later versions of the story noted that the lunch rush on Vine Street continued as usual just hours later, suggesting that maybe the question of whether or not Vine Street is safe had already been answered. 

"I'm not worried about it," said Mike Georgitan, a general manager at Pontiac BBQ on Vine Street. "It might affect lunch today – maybe," he shrugged. "But then it will pick back up."
A person is dead, and the cycle of poverty, crime, drugs and violence that gripped Over-the-Rhine long before a Japanese gastropub opened at 15th and Vine is still occurring all over this city. The Enquirer would be wise to demonstrate an understanding of these forces rather than following the path of least resistance to Internet debate.

It would be a lot more compelling than a description of how witnessing violence makes a typical white person feel.]]>
<![CDATA[I Just Can't Get Enough]]>

James Franco is coming to Cincinnati two shoot not one but two films this May. The actor/filmmaker, who will always be Daniel Desario to me, will be working on two movies simultaneously: Goat, a frat hazing film based on the memoir King Kelly by Brad Land, and The Long Home, about bootlegger Dallas Harden, adapted from William Gay’s novel of the same name. Franco is on to produce Goat, which stars Nick Jonas and Ben Schnetzer; he’ll produce and direct The Long Home. The latter film’s cast has not been announced yet, but a recent Facebook post by Franco mentioned the movie along with Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games series, Union, Ky., native), Timothy Hutton (a bunch of TV dramas I've never seen + Ordinary People), Keegan Allen (not to be confused with Andrew Keegan), Ashley Green (all the Twilights), Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Jim Parrack (True Blood) and Scott Haze (lots o' Franco flicks). Let’s ponder while looking at a topless Franco:

In a Salon article about HBO's Silicon Valley that called out the show’s “woman problem,” the writer mistakenly reported that Silicon’s Kumail Nanjiani is the same person as Big Bang Theory’s Kunal Nayyar. OOF.

Look at this: Women Having A Terrible Time At Parties In Western Art History

The Full House sequel show you’ve been wishing for is finally coming, and the cherry on top of this nostalgic cake has to be the fact that Kimmy Gibbler will return! Fuller House is set to premiere on Netflix sometime next year and will focus on D.J. (Candace Cameron-Bure), Stephanie (Jodie Sweetin) and Kimmy (Andrea Barber). Adult D.J. is a vet, she has two boys and is pregnant with another, and the show picks up with her being recently widowed (R.I.P. Steve?!). Aspiring musician Stephanie moves in along with single mom Kimmy and her teenage daughter. It sounds like a pretty fucked up plot until you realize it is exactly the same as the original, but with ladies. Remake ALL THE THINGS with ALL THE LADIES!

John Stamos is producing and will pop in from time to time as Uncle Jesse, but the rest of the original cast is still up in the air. This could be a big pile of awful, but one thing gives me hope: Stephanie is still pursuing her entertaining dreams!

A masked hero in the UK is going around spray painting penises around potholes to try to get them filled faster. Best part: they’re going by the name Wanksy.

Inside Amy Schumer’s third season just started, and already there have been some epic musical moments. She pays tribute to the It Girl of body parts, the butt — watch out, eyebrows are comin’ for that title — in “Milk Milk Lemonade” and gives One Direction a realistic makeover with “Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup.” 

David Ayer revealed Jared Leto’s Joker look for the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. Let the mockery begin!

Cecily Strong hosted “nerd prom,” which is the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and not Comic-Con. See the SNL star’s full speech here

Obama addressed the crowd beforehand and, thankfully, Luther the anger translator was on hand.

Apparently any time more than two stars of a past TV show/movie are in the same room, that constitutes a reunion. So I guess there was a Lizzie McGuire “reunion” with Hilary Duff, Lalaine (Miranda) and Jake Thomas (Lizzie’s little brother whose name I can’t remember and won’t look up). Considering Gordo, Lenny and animated Lizzie weren’t there, this is truly a weak reunion. Sorry. Read more in this TIME article (seriously).

If you need a massive dose of Beyoncé in a short amount of time:


New movie trailers: Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling accidentally go to a strange sex party in The Overnight; Tyson Beckford’s answer to Magic Mike, Chocolate City (dear god).

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

Hey hey Cincy. So I’m a little groggy today after spending, oh, I don’t know, over three hours binge-watching the latest few episodes of Mad Men last night. This is unlike me — I don’t normally watch TV and shows about sad rich dudes aren’t usually my jam. But watching Don Draper, Pete Campbell (especially Pete Campbell, who looks like a smug Frisch’s Big Boy come to life) and co. get their comeuppance is great. Anyway, I’m going to try and muddle through the news in my drowsy state. Let me tell you about all the stuff that’s been happening.

The epic dramatic series that is Cincinnati City Council aired its latest episode yesterday, and there were some big developments. OK, that’s obnoxious, sorry. I’m going to stop now. Among the more exciting moves: Council passed a measure giving the city the go-ahead to apply for nearly $29 million in federal TIGER grant funds for the Wasson Way bike trail, an ask we first told you about in this story.

Council also passed a resolution that prohibits private police groups from operating with police powers in Cincinnati. The decision comes after a man in Tulsa, Oklahoma died earlier this month when he was shot by a 71-year-old private police officer while laying on the ground handcuffed. Use of private police in Cincinnati dates back to 1983 and is relatively small — two companies employing about 10 people that provide police services for events, apartment complexes and places like the Regional Chamber of Commerce. Members of council, including Councilman Christopher Smitherman, who introduced the legislation, stressed that the decision wasn’t a reflection the service of private police agencies and was made based on legal liability issues for the city.

Chief Lester Slone of Cincinnati Private Police said the decision was unfortunate and will probably put the agency out of business. Slone has served with the CPP, which employs seven private officers, for 32 years.

• Later in the evening yesterday, Mayor John Cranley and City Manager Harry Black announced the city has reached an agreement with public employees in regard to the city's pension obligations. The agreement is a big deal, city officials say, finally fully accounting for the city's huge $682 million pension obligation. Both the city and public employees gave up some things to get to an agreement. Retired public employees will no longer get a cost of living increase on their pension payments in their first three years, for instance. Pension obligations have been a major governing issue for many cities, hobbling the finances of struggling cities like Detroit for decades.

• A newly released police report says Kings Mills transgender teen Leelah Alcorn wrote a brief suicide note the fateful night she jumped in front of a semi-truck on I-71. The note, which was uncovered after her death, simply said “I’ve had enough.” The police report also reveals that Alcorn had recently researched suicide prevention organizations and had written an online message to a friend recounting past suicidal thoughts.

• The Cincinnati Enquirer changed a headline on a story about a shooting in Over-the-Rhine from one making a play on the word “dead” to something more neutral. The original headline, about the shooting death of a 30-year-old man on Vine Street, originally read “Gunfire in OTR brings spring morning to a dead stop.” The headline now reads “After fatal shooting, no easy answer in OTR.” The story asks whether the shooting will affect business and perceptions of safety in the neighborhood.

The change comes as the Enquirer’s coverage of the shooting raises controversy on social media. An emotional first-person account of the shooting by an Enquirer reporter drew a slew of comments questioning the appropriateness of such a story.

“Why would this tragic event become a story about the reporter?,” one commenter wrote on Facebook and the Enquirer’s site. “Even if she did experience it, let's keep the reporting on the facts of the news event. I was okay with her expressing the shock and fear, but when it shifts into her expressing pride for her job and patting herself on the back for doing it…well, we've quickly lost focus of the sad news event that just happened. Not the right time and place.”

• A huge union’s Ohio chapters have put their weight behind a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. United Food and Commercial Workers Union local chapters 75, 880 and 1059 have endorsed efforts by weed legalization group ResponsibleOhio, the union said in a statement yesterday. UFCW represents 18,000 workers in the Greater Cincinnati area. ResponsibleOhio looks to gain enough signatures to put legislation on the November ballot that would legalize the purchase of marijuana for people over the age of 21. More controversially, the group’s proposal would also create 10 grow sites around the state run by its investors. Those would be the only sites permitted to grow marijuana for commercial sale. After controversy around this part of the plan, the group amended its proposal to allow home growers to grow small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The group claims it has collected 250,000 of the more than 300,000 signatures it needs.

Here are some quick, statewide hits:

• Gov. John Kasich will order Ohio police departments be held to a statewide standard when it comes to their use of force. That standard will require officers to avoid deadly force except in situations where their lives are clearly at risk among other stipulations. Kasich will sign an executive order to that effect, he says, one step in implementing suggestions from a statewide community-police relations task force Kasich created in response to police-related deaths of Tamir Rice in Cleveland and John Crawford in Beavercreek. The announcement comes as unrest simmers in Baltimore, New York City and elsewhere around the country after the deaths of black men at the hands of law enforcement. Kasich commented on several of these deaths, most notably Freddie Gray’s in Baltimore. “I don’t think you can break your own neck,” he said about the ongoing controversy around injuries Gray sustained in a police van after he was taken into custody. Gray’s spinal cord was nearly severed during a ride to a police station, and his windpipe was crushed. He lapsed into a coma and later died due to his injuries.

• A state law allowing the creation of open container districts where folks can drink right out in the open passed the Ohio legislature yesterday. That’s the biggest step necessary for Cincinnati and other cities to be able to create spots that mimic places like New Orleans’  Bourbon Street. Cincinnati hopes to create a district in time for the MLB All-Star Game in July.

That's all for me. Tweet at me. Email me.

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

Good morning y’all. Here’s what’s happening today.

Activist group Cincinnati Black Lives Matter tomorrow will hold an event in solidarity with Freddie Gray, who died in Baltimore police custody April 19, and those protesting his death. The group says it will meet at 6 p.m. outside the Hamilton County Courthouse. More than 400 people have signed up on a Facebook event set up by the group.

“We will stand in solidarity with the women and men of Baltimore who have decided to protest the defacto execution of Freddie Gray,” the group says on the event page.

Law enforcement authorities say they’re aware of the planned event and will plan accordingly. Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil has said the department will work to allow peaceful, lawful demonstration, and Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said the department is striving to work with peaceful demonstrators. 

Protests broke out in Baltimore after Gray died of an apparent spinal cord injury he received while in police custody. You can follow news from Baltimore at fellow alt-weekly the Baltimore City Paper's website. They're doing crazy good work.

Most of those protests have been peaceful, but a few have spilled over into violence, and the governor of Maryland had called in the National Guard and other law enforcement agencies. The Butler County Sheriff, for instance, has sent a six-person SWAT unit to Baltimore. The unrest in Baltimore is the continuation of a national debate over treatment of blacks at the hands of mostly-white police forces across the country sparked by the police shooting death of unarmed 19-year-old black man Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. last summer. Meanwhile, tensions in other cities, including Cleveland, continue to simmer.

• The former Deer Park country club bartender who is charged with making threats against U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s life pleaded not guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court. Michael Hoyt was arrested after sending an e-mail to Boehner’s wife saying that he could have slipped something into the Republican’s drink on any number of occasions, but didn’t. When authorities arrested him, he told them he was Jesus and that Boehner was “evil” and needed to be killed. Hoyt has a history of mental illness, which his defense attorney says explains his actions. The U.S. District Court recently found Hoyt mentally competent to stand trial.

• Are fancy-schmancy glass bottles and frosted beer mugs not your style? There’s a new beer festival coming to Cincinnati this summer that might be more your speed. Washington Park will host the Cincinnati CANival, which, as you might surmise from the name, will celebrate the city’s best beers sold in convenient, portable aluminum cylinders. The festival is being organized by the same folks who bring you the Cincinnati Winter and Summer Beerfests, and will feature more than 125 varieties of beer. Tickets go on sale Friday.

• The big news for Cincinnati and the rest of the country, of course, is yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court hearing on Obergefell v. Hodges, a combination of past cases from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee on the legality of states’ same-sex marriage bans. So … how did it all go? Will the court force Ohio to, you know, step into the 21st Century? Well, first, it’s a bit of fool’s errand to try and divine how the court will rule based on the questions they asked at the two-hour plus hearing. We won’t know for sure until the court actually rules on the case, which could happen as late as June. But, it’s interested to parse what was said in that hearing, and, as you might expect, the court’s nine justices were split along ideological lines in terms of their questions and apparent leanings. The court is currently pretty evenly weighted, with a couple justices who are reliably liberal in a way that almost assures they’ll side with same-sex marriage advocates and a couple who are so conservative they’ll almost certainly side against. Take Justice Antonin Scalia, for instance, who let loose with this pretty tasteless joke during the arguments. If anyone is a deciding vote, though, it’s Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate justice in most matters. Kennedy has written majority decisions in past court victories for same-sex marriage advocates, but he also struck a skeptical tone with his questions this time around.

 “This definition [of traditional marriage] has been with us for millennia,” Kennedy said during a question to attorneys for the plaintiffs. “And it’s very difficult for the court to say, ‘Oh, well, we know better.’ ”

But later, Kennedy also highlighted the importance of acknowledging the dignity of same-sex couples. Other justices also hemmed and hawed in their questioning, so, you know, it’s hard to divine what the court will do. There was a lot more to the arguments, and the justice’s questions. This great rundown in the Washington Post is worth a look-through if you’re curious to untangle all the legal wrangling. For a more light-hearted view of the proceedings, this Politico piece is pretty hilarious.

• In other national news, the Democratic primary for the 2016 presidential election is about to get more interesting. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont will announce Thursday that he’s planning on seeking the party’s nomination, according to the New York Times, challenging Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Sanders isn’t really part of the Democratic Party, though he does meet with them and vote with them most of the time in the Senate. He’s an avowed socialist and looks to shore up support from the Democratic Party’s left flank, perhaps capitalizing on demand for a more liberal alternative to Clinton.

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<![CDATA[Queer City Spotlight: The Jenner Interview]]>

Disclaimer: Although Jenner gave ABC, some news outlets and Jenner’s family permission to use "he," "him" and "his" pronouns until people become comfortable with the change, I am using gender neutral pronouns "they," "them" and "their "and dropping Jenner’s first name out of respect to an individual that has dealt being misgendered for a large portion of their life. Jenner also has not released their preferred name.

The black and white photo showed what appeared to be a twentysomething with a shaggy bowl-cut. The person was smiling, mouth open, revealing his probably perfect pearly whites as he looked off camera. Who is he looking at? Is he in mid-laugh or mid-sentence? What made the old photo interesting, despite it being posted on Instagram by Kylie Jenner in the first place, was how the person’s chiseled muscles and hairy abs contrasted with the tight clothes that concealed body parts our society likes to label “vulgar” and “inappropriate”. The last place I looked was in the eyes. I had noticed they were looking away, but I never really looked in their eyes and tried to read them. The eyes in the photograph read as distant, unfocused, not fully engaged. Was I just looking at it in a different light because my prior knowledge and context changed? The Instagram post read, “daddy throwback. #Tonight #DianeSawyer #ABC #love”.

I had a lot of positive and negative anxiety about the Bruce Jenner Interview with Diane Sawyer. My two biggest passions — the queer rights movement and popular culture — were center stage, about to sing a dynamic duet under a hot spotlight. The iconic event would change my view on the direction of the trans* movement, how I view the Kardashian family — a guilty pleasure turned complete obsession, especially with Kim K. — and how the public views a community they have little knowledge about. Waiting for the interview to start, I was clueless as to what was in store. I only knew the duration of the interview and sneak peeks I viewed online. While I was confident I knew Jenner’s announcement after viewing the illegal paparazzi shots published by the New York Daily News of Jenner in a dress, I refused to give into the stereotypes I made based on photographs. Jenner was the only reliable source. I did not think it was a public relations scheme to promote a new reality show, but I wondered how it could last two hours. What are we in store for — two hours of ignorance and the same pictures on rotation from the 1976 Summer Olympics?

As the interview began and progressed, I was pleasantly surprised with Jenner’s well-informed, genuine responses and the educational presence of the interview. I appreciated the inclusion of newsworthy events from the past couple of years, interviews from other transgender figures and the visual approach the interview took in terms of explaining and comparing terminology. Here are the good and bad moments before, during and after the interview that I found the most interesting:

  • Morning talk show host and personality Wendy Williams has made controversial comments about Jenner for years and received flack again the morning of the interview. Then on Monday, she repeated that Jenner was “deceptive and really fame hungry like the rest of the family.” Here is my take on this: Even if the interview was a publicity stunt (which I do not believe it was), it almost does not matter. It educated a record 17 million people Friday about gender and sexuality. For many viewers, it was their first time hearing specifics about the subject. Jenner’s documentary series — premiering on E! this summer — was not mentioned until the last half-hour of the interview, and according to E! Online, writers will consult with GLAAD, The Kinsey Institute and other Ph.Ds. This makes me think the docu-series will have the same educationally driven tone the interview attained.
  • Diane Sawyer played the part of uninformed mainstream America perfectly as she struggled to grasp the difference between gender identity and sexuality, changing her wording but essentially bringing up the same theme multiple times and asking the same questions about gender identity versus sexuality throughout the interview. I thought it was quite comical in the moment, but in retrospect — if Sawyer was playing the part of “at-home-viewer” — it showed society’s inability to grasp nonbinary ideals and accept an individual’s state of unknowing.
  • Jenner shades the Kardashians. Being the Kardashian fanatic I am, I was shocked to realize 30  minutes went by without even mentioning Kim K! Jenner proved critics wrong in a tasteful, informative program without typical Kardashian sensationalism and not many people on social media noticed the family’s absence — proving Jenner really did have the only real story all along. Gasp! *cries in corner* Kim K is still American royalty to me!
  • Kim K is the most accepting? Khloe is having the hardest time?! Jenner explained that Khloe has experienced a lot of heartache with the loss of her father, Robert Kardashian Sr., at an early age and then alluded to her ex-husband Lamar Odom’s downward spiral toward the end of their marriage. Jenner says Kim, on the other hand, is the easiest to talk to about the transition. One of the lighter moments was when Jenner quoted Kim saying, “Girl, you got to rock it, baby. You got to look good! If you’re doing this, I’m helping you. You’re representing the family. You got to look really good.”
  • Jenner’s four children from his first two marriages — Brandon and Brody, who we occasionally see on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and Burt and Casey (Jenner has another daughter?! Literally, how did I not know this?) displayed unconditional love. It’s always special when former The Hills star Brody Jenner reappears on television, but his brother Brandon had me swooning as he and his man bun sat by Jenner’s side in full support. But where were Kendall and Kylie?
  • When a big televised event is on, social media goes wild with Vines, Tumblr gifs and tweets making fun of highlights from the show. When I scanned social media during commercial breaks, I saw inconsiderate and transphobic content, of course, but positive responses outweighed the negative drastically according to my newsfeeds.
  • Jenner clarified they are not a spokesperson for the transgender community, but mentioned daily struggles the community goes through. “The suicide rates, the murder rates, the difficulty for especially black female women” were issues Jenner shed light on.
  • One of my only complaints is Jenner answering Sawyer’s questions about their political views. We learned from the interview that everyone deserves to live an honest, authentic life. Individuals are entitled to support the political party of their choice. It just bothered me that someone in a newfound position of power to be a role model, which they are and will continue to be, would publically associate with a traditionally anti-queer political party. Jenner lost some clout and credibility I gave them — after an emotional, informative interview — when they said they thought Republicans Mitch McConnell and John Boehner would be receptive to a conversation about trans* rights… Newsweek reached out to both individuals. No comment. Shocker.
  • Jenner’s mom got me choked up again at the end. Eighty-eight-year-old Esther Jenner, who was described as “rather conservative,” sent in a video message from her home to tell Jenner how proud she was. “I was very proud of you when you stood on that podium in Montreal,” she said. “I never thought that I could be more proud of you, but I’m learning I can be.” *chills*
  • After an iconic, progressive and informative two hours spent challenging gender roles and learning about gender identity, Diane Sawyer feels the need to close on a sexist joke made by the Soviet athlete Jenner defeated at the Olympics. He asks, “How could I have lost to a woman?” Really?
  • “I’m saying goodbye to people’s perception of me,” said Jenner. “I’m not saying goodbye to me because this has always been me.” Enough said. Respect.

But Jenner was not the only one making national headlines that day. Cincinnati received coverage, but not for anything noteworthy. Senate, a gastropub in OTR that occasionally picks a celebrity or current event as inspiration to name and create the Dog of the Day, featured the “Bruce Jenner 2.0” Friday. The dish, described as “part hot dog part taco,” had a beef frank sliced in half and filled with taco toppings. After experiencing outrage on social media, Senate issued an apology and donated the proceeds to The Heartland Trans Wellness Fund. This whole situation is wrong for multiple reasons.

In 2014, transgender folks received an unprecedented amount of media attention. Actress Laverne Cox, model Carmen Carrera and author Janet Mock reestablished how reporters and talk show hosts speak to trans* individuals by speaking out when they felt uncomfortable or triggered in interviews and making it an on-air educational opportunity. One of the main themes in these interviews was America’s fascination with transgender genitalia instead creating conversation about the trans* suicide rate or homeless queer youth. The bottom line was that trans* public figures wanted to be valued for more than what is in their pants. Sexual reassignment surgery is typically the final stage of the transformation, but not required or done by everyone. It is a monumental and hyper-personal moment for individuals that continue on in that journey. The “Bruce Jenner 2.0” was a symbol of how privileged individuals and businesses appropriate minority groups, even for just one day of media buzz, and increased revenue. Senate’s actions were regressive to the strides Cox and others made in regards to how we speak to trans* people.

The Jenner interview was unprecedented and a major success for trans* visibility, but it does not change the suicide rate or the fact that seven trans* women of color were murdered the first eight weeks of 2015. Visibility in the media and educating the masses is crucial to the movement, but it must translate to policies and how mainstream society treats transgender people. Jenner is not the first to show public displays of bravery. As the trans* rights movement continues on and we meet new faces, let us not forget the historical events like the Stonewall riots and the unspoken queer heroes that paved the way for Jenner to come out and educate the nation on primetime television.

Growing up, you always hear that eyes are windows to the soul. If that is true, why is it the last place we truly look? Why is it so romantic and out of the ordinary when you are on a date and the other person describes your eyes in great detail, as opposed to generalizations like, “You’re beautiful,” and “You look so hot in that”? During Jenner interview, I saw it all in their eyes — the pain, the relief, “her”. I saw it again as they replayed scenes from Keeping Up with the Kardashians. When now-ex-wife Kris made fun of Jenner’s clothing and style, what I perceived as annoyance when I watched the episode years ago I now perceived as hurt and pain in Jenner’s eyes. In the flashback scene of Khloe referring to Jenner as a strong male presence in her life, Jenner looks deep in thought and distant.

Context changes a viewer’s perception, and we need to start paying attention. Reflecting back on Kylie’s Instagram photo of a young Jenner, I realized that I had to get past the short jean shorts and cut-off tee to truly see the photograph. You never really know someone’s life or the journeys they are on. Here was the model “masculine figure,” but inside Jenner was filled with emotions and feelings most people cannot begin to understand. Like society’s fascination with what transgender folks have below the waist, we could not see that Jenner had a lot more depth to him that we presumed. Jenner’s closing advice for people was to “have an open mind and have an open heart.” This ideology can be translated to different aspects of our life and the relationships with others, especially those we do not know. Together we are all connected, making up collective humanity. We are one.

Watch the full interview with Jenner and Diane Sawyer here.

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<![CDATA[This Week's Dining and Food Events]]>
Events, tastings, classes and more to feed your inner foodie.

WEDNESDAY APRIL 29
Oyster Festival — Washington Platform’s Oyster Festival features more than 40 different oyster menu items. Through May 2. Prices vary. Washington Platform Saloon and Restaurant, 1000 Elm St., Downtown, washingtonplatform.com.

Wine Down Wednesdays — The sixth annual Wine Down Wednesday at Greenacres benefits Oyler School in Lower Price Hill. Enjoy a wine tasting, light bites, live entertainment and silent auction. 6-9 p.m. $80. Greenacres Arts Center, 8400 Blome Road, Indian Hill, green-acres.org.

Taste of the World Food Tour — Take a guided foodie tour of Ohio’s oldest public market, Findlay Market. Includes stops and tastings at six merchants. 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Wednesdays; 3-4:30 p.m. Saturdays. $20. Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, cincinnatifoodtours.com.

Burger and Beer Wednesdays — A burger and a pint for $10. 9:30 p.m.-midnight. Fifty West Brewing Company, 7668 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, fiftywestbrew.com.

An Authentic and Classic Mexican Meal — Learn how to make an authentic three-course Mexican meal, including cold Avocado soup, chilaquiles, fresh tomatillo salsa and a traditional vanilla flan. 6-9 p.m. $65. Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State, 3520 Central Parkway, Clifton, culinary.cincinnatistate.edu.

Homemade Pasta Workshop — Chef Bridget Lieb will teach you to make your own linguini using an Italian manual countertop pasta machine. Noon-2 p.m. $70. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox lane, West Chester, 513-847-4474, thelearningkitchen.com.

THURSDAY APRIL 30
ArtWorks Breakfast — This third annual event celebrates the mission of ArtWorks and its local youth, public art and community impact. At the end of the breakfast there will be an opportunity to engage with the nonprofit, as well as learn about volunteer opportunities. 7:30 a.m. Free; donations welcome. Duke Energy Convention Center, 525 Elm St., Downtown, artworkscincinnati.org.

Hands-On: Low-Country Shrimp Boil — Shrimp boils are the ultimate summer party meal. This easy, one-pot meal features shrimp, sausage, corn and potatoes. Also learn to make spiked lemonade, blackberry cobbler cake, pimento cheese and buttermilk cornbread. 6-8:30 p.m. $65. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

Tap That Thursday — Tapping new rare kegs every week. Chef Michael Shields creates specialty hot dogs to pair with the latest brew. 5 p.m. BrewRiver GastroPub at 2062 Riverside Drive, East End, brewrivergastropub.com.

FRIDAY MAY 1
Food Truck Fridays — Mt. Carmel Brewing Company hosts a different food truck at the brewery every week. 5-9 p.m. Prices vary. 4362 Mt. Carmel-Tobasco Road, Mount Carmel, mtcarmelbrewingcompany.com.

Date Night: Homemade Ravioli — Couples learn to make and fill ravioli. 6-8 p.m. $145 per couple. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox Lane, West Chester, thelearningkitchen.com.

SATURDAY MAY 2
Kentucky Derby Buffet and Simulcast — A four-course buffet with a live derby simulcast. Reserved seating available. 10 a.m. $45-$50. Turfway Park, 7500 Turfway Road, Florence, Ky., turfway.com.

Derby Day Soiree — Neons hosts its second annual derby party, with live music, food, a variety of mint juleps and more. Also doubles as a Cinco de Mayo party. 2 p.m. Free. 208 E. 12th St., Downtown, facebook.com/neonsunplugged.

Kentucky Derby Party — Classic Kentucky derby dishes, with prizes, raffles and other drawings. Mint juleps will be served in commemorative derby glasses. 3:30-7:30 p.m. $10. Parkers Blue Ash Tavern, 4200 Cooper Road, Blue Ash, parkersblueash.com.

Sushi Basics — Learn the proper way to prepare sushi rice, and then make a California roll, spicy tuna or salmon roll, nigri and chef Calvin Tam’s spicy mayo. Noon-2 p.m. $65. Jungle Jim’s, 5440 Dixie Highway, Fairfield, junglejims.com.

Peachy’s Cooking Classes — In this 90-minute cooking class, watch Peachy make health smart turkey lettuce wraps with kohlrabi enchiladas. Noon-1:30 p.m. $30. Peachy’s Health Smart, 7400 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, peachyshealthsmart.com.

Simple Health-Smart Cooking Class — An informal and interactive class to learn how to prepare and cook healthy and tasty meals. 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. $139. Cincinnati Nutrition Counseling Center, 7400 Montgomery Road, uc.edu/ce/commu.html.

Kids in the Kitchen: Mother’s Day Brunch — Kids can learn how to make an awesome Mother’s Day brunch of quiche Lorraine, crepes with bananas and caramel sauce, and chocolate-dipped strawberries. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. $50. Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State, 3520 Central Parkway, Clifton, culinary.cincinnatistate.edu.

Savor the Season: Farm to Fork Celebration — Local chefs team up with Gorman Heritage Farm for a celebration of spring’s bounty with tastings, competitions and farm demonstrations. 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m. $35; $10 Raid the Garden competition only. 10052 Reading Road, Evendale, gormanfarm.org.

Blues, Brews and BBQ — Five drinks, seven food courses and live music from Dirty McQueens. 4-7 p.m. $35; $30 advance. The Art of Entertaining, 2019 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, cincyartofentertaining.com.

Shrimp Three Ways — Learn to prepare fish three ways: panko-crusted, in tacos and rubbed with chili and paprika over cheesy grits. 5-7 p.m. $75. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox Lane, West Chester, thelearningkitchen.com.

SUNDAY MAY 3
Park + Vine Salsa Making Competition — In the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, P+V hosts a salsa-making competition. Create your own bowl and enter the contest or just sample the salsas of others. Judges include Dave Cunningham of The Comet, Jennifer Gleason of Sunflower Sundries Farm, Andrew Gomez of Gomez Salsa and chef Andrew Mersmann of Django Western Taco. 3-5 p.m. $10 to taste; $15 to register. 1202 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, parkandvine.com.

Flying Pig Viewing Party — Watch the race from the Moerlein Lager House, with a breakfast buffet on the deck. 6-11 a.m. $16. Moerlein Lager House, 115 Joe Nuxhall Way, The Banks, Downtown, moerleinlagerhouse.com.

Frisch’s Founders Day — Celebrate Dave Frisch’s birthday by dressing as Big Boy. Go to any Frisch’s restaurant and get a free big boy while in costume. 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Prices vary. Greater Cincinnati Frisch’s locations, frischs.com.

TUESDAY MAY 5
Camp Washington Chili’s 75th Anniversary — 75-cent cheese coneys and discounted chili prices, live music, giveaways and cake from the Cake Boss. Noon. Prices vary. Camp Washington Chili, 3005 Colerain Ave., Camp Washington, campwashingtonchili.com.

Pork: Season, Sear & Sauce — Learn to make pork three ways: brined, glazed and on an open-face sandwich. 6-8 p.m. $75. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox Lane, West Chester, thelearningkitchen.com.

Peachy’s Cooking Classes — In this 90-minute cooking class, watch Peachy make pad Thai with tofu and vegetables and health-smart egg rolls. 5:30-7 p.m. $30. Peachy’s Health Smart, 7400 Montgomery Road, Montgomery, peachyshealthsmart.com.

Pop-Up Tasting — Food from Provence, France with a flight of three paired wines. 6-8 p.m. $25. The Art of Entertaining, 2019 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, cincyartofentertaining.com.

Wine Tasting and Food Pairing — 20 Brix pairs food with the wines of Sean Minor. 6:30 p.m. $55-$75. 20 Brix, 100 Main St., Milford, 20brix.com.

Phoenix Restaurant Group Chefs Wine Dinner — Chefs Chase Blowers of The National Exemplar, Jeremy Luers of The Presidents Room and The Phoenix, and Josh House of Golden Lamb present a five-course wine dinner with wines from Cadence Winery. 7 p.m. $60. National Exemplar, 6880 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, nationalexemplar.com.

WEDNESDAY MAY 6
Five Courses for Clovernook — Nicola’s presents a dinner to benefit the Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Five courses with a cash bar and silent auction. 5:30 p.m. $150. Nicola’s, 1420 Sycamore St., Pendleton, clovernook.org, nicolasotr.com.

Taste of the World Food Tour — Take a guided foodie tour of Ohio’s oldest public market, Findlay Market. Includes stops and tastings at six merchants. 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Wednesdays; 3-4:30 p.m. Saturdays. $20. Meets at Daisy Mae’s Market at Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, cincinnatifoodtours.com.

Burger and Beer Wednesdays — A burger and a pint for $10. 9:30 p.m.-midnight. Fifty West Brewing Company, 7668 Wooster Pike, Mariemont, fiftywestbrew.com.

Potato Crusted Cod — A high-end menu focused on creating impressive potato-crusted cod. 6-8 p.m. $75. The Learning Kitchen, 7659 Cox Lane, West Chester, thelearningkitchen.com.
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<![CDATA[Morning News and Stuff]]>

Good morning y’all. Here’s the news today. There are a ton of things happening, so I’m just going to give you a brief rundown of them all.

A controversial Ohio marijuana legalization effort has a new booster. Cincinnati State Technical and Community College President Dr. O’dell Owens announced yesterday that he supports a ballot initiative by ResponsibleOhio that would create 10 state-sanctioned marijuana grow sites owned by the group’s investors and legalize the purchase of marijuana for people over the age of 21. Could future Cincinnati State students study marijuana agriculture? Could be.

“ResponsibleOhio’s marijuana legalization amendment will allow thousands of Ohioans to own and operate their own businesses and will create over 10,000 new jobs for Ohioans,” said Owens in a statement. “It will encourage new training programs at our state’s community colleges, which already play a vital role in developing talent for emerging industries.”

ResponsibleOhio says that Owens is not an investor in the $20 million effort, which will need to gain 300,000 signatures by this summer to get the proposed law on the November ballot.

• Does Cincinnati need more police on the streets? That’s what the city’s police union says. Police Union President Kathy Harrell told Cincinnati City Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee yesterday that the group would like to see 134 more officers join the 1,001 currently serving. Harrell says the department frequently experiences “Code Zeroes,” or situations in which no officer is immediately available to respond to a call. Harrell said some of the problem lies with the fact that nearly 300 officers are currently assigned to special units. Those units do good work, she said, but pull police away from general duties like responding to calls. City Manager Harry Black has said he will be adding money for more new recruits in next year’s budget. One question that comes up from this: If crime is at historic lows and Mayor John Cranley touts the fact that he’s added police, how many officers specifically do we need? Cincinnati’s police force is currently proportional to other comparable cities. Before Cranley’s boost, the city already had 3.3 officers per 1,000 people, which is the same as cities like Pittsburgh and higher than cities like Columbus.

• Cincinnati City Councilman and U.S. Senate hopeful P.G. Sittenfeld hasn’t raised nearly as much money since former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland entered the race to challenge Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Their story asks if Strickland’s entrance into the race has slowed Sittenfeld’s campaign fundraising. Sittenfeld’s campaign says that’s not the case and that it has had some of its best fundraising days recently. The 30-year-old councilman was raising $10,000 a day starting in January, but after Strickland announced his candidacy that rate fell by half. Sittenfeld still bested Strickland in fundraising, netting more than $750,000 to Strickland’s $670,000 in the last fundraising reporting period. Despite that slim and perhaps receding  monetary edge, Sittenfeld is a big underdog in the race against Strickland, who has statewide name recognition and endorsements from Democratic bigwigs.

• One of the big arguments against shuttering poorly performing schools in Ohio, including controversial charter schools, is that doing so disrupts students’ education and cuts into their academic performance. But that’s not true, according to a study released today by think tank and charter school sponsors the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. The institute, with the help of researchers from the Ohio State University and the University of Oklahoma, looked at 198 school closures across the state of Ohio from 2006 to 2012. What they found was that students at those schools actually performed far better when the moved on to other schools after their poorly performing charter and public schools shut down.

“The results of this study shatter popular myth that closing schools hurts kids academically,” said Fordham’s Ohio Research Director Aaron Churchill in a statement. “Students usually make a soft landing. After closure, children typically end up in higher-quality schools, and they make strong academic progress.”

• Today is the day. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in what is potentially the biggest same-sex marriage case in history. Their decision could decide whether states are allowed to ban same-sex marriages and whether they can refuse to recognize such marriage performed in other states. The case features several plaintiffs from Cincinnati, as well as others from Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee. Amazingly, folks who want to witness the arguments started lining up as early as last Friday outside the Supreme Court. A ruling in favor of marriage equality seems likely, given that the Supreme Court has already struck down a federal same-sex marriage ban. Even opponents of such marriages are expecting a ruling in favor of marriage equality, both here in Cincinnati and nationally.

• The other big national story is the unrest in Baltimore over the past couple days in response to the police-related death of Freddie Gray. Tens of thousands of protesters have swarmed the streets of the city decrying the unarmed 28-year-old’s death while in police custody. Gray, a black man, was arrested two weeks ago by Baltimore police and dragged to a police van. At some point before he arrived at the police station, Gray suffered a severe spinal cord injury. He slipped into a coma and subsequently died. Unrest around his death has often been peaceful but at times has lapsed into violence — more than a dozen fires have been reported in the city, a number of police have been injured by rocks and other thrown items and some vandalism and looting have occurred. Fans at a Baltimore Orioles game Sunday night were kept in the stadium for a time as protests intensified around the stadium. Despite this, Orioles’ Chief Operating Officer John P. Angelos sided with the protesters who were peaceful, making some very cogent points during a Twitter argument with a sportscaster who criticized the protests. You can read his tweets here.

Angelos tied the unrest to the deep economic and racial divisions in Baltimore. The mostly black population where the riots broke out suffers from a 19-percent unemployment rate. The city’s black population suffers an infant mortality rate nine times that of its white population. These systemic conditions, folks like Angelos say, along with the unequal treatment of blacks in the justice system, are reasons why police killings of unarmed black men continue to elicit such anger in places like Baltimore, New York City, North Charleston, S.C., and elsewhere. As we explored in a feature last month on Cincinnati and police shootings, it will very likely take more than police reform to heal those wounds.

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