Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Nashville's Gigantic New $623 Million Convention Center

Nashville has almost finished building its Gigantic New Convention Center.  This new center appears to be at least twice as big as our Duke Energy Center, and looks way, way better.  They spared no expense on this thing -- the design is aggressive and the materials and detailing are impressive.  The fit and finish of this building appears to be on par with our Aronoff Center, although this new convention center is obviously many times larger and cost a staggering $623 million --  adjusted for inflation more expensive than Paul Brown Stadium or any public building built in Cincinnati's history.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Did any Hipsters ironically vote for Romney?

Did any hipsters ironically vote for Mitt Romney?  This is the question I asked the internet late last week, and the internet responded:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Apparently The Velvet Underground played Music Hall in 1966

If you visit the CAC's current Andy Warhol show, the institution congratulates itself near the exhibit's entrance with a display case full of memorabilia documenting Warhol's 1960s CAC exhibition and a visit by his Exploding Plastic Inevitable in 1966.  That's right -- The Velvet Underground featuring Nico played Cincinnati, specifically the Music Hall Ballroom (the upstairs ballroom, not Springer Hall).  

A recent photo of the ballroom, site of countless charity events,
high school dances, and...The Exploding Plastic Inevitable.

No telling how many people showed up for this event (there were no photos from the actual performance in the display case), but not unlike Iggy Pop throwing the Peanut Butter at Crosley Field in 1970, oddly -- and totally unlike local sports milestones like Pete's Hit or The Freezer Bowl -- nobody who wasn't there claims to have been there.  The CAC's security guard would not let me take a photo of the display case, so not unlike the Velvet Underground performance itself, you're going to have to believe me that the invite card and The Enquirer's review clipping physically exist.

Why should you care?

You should care because of the many contradictions in Andy Warhol's sprawling legacy, none is greater than his relationship with the band he "managed" back in 1966.

Where does the contradiction lie?

Lou Reed himself has stated in defense of his songwriting something like "if this was literature, nobody would care, but because it's music these subjects are controversial".   Meanwhile, the entire thrust of Andy Warhol's artwork was a total shattering of the comforts of classicism and a replacement of it with a terrifying future.  Of course, 50 years earlier, the four tenants of Modernism (Formalism, Naturalism, Primitivism, and Instrumentalism) were a self-conscious break from classical themes, but they all met dead-ends, in some cases because they only cosmetically obscured what were in fact classical pursuits.

What's so important about Andy Warhol and the handful of pop and conceptual artists who were any good is that their artwork anticipated a future in which nobody read serious literature or criticism and the population's impulses were influenced only by the faintest echoes of the pre-industrial period.  By critiquing how all that classical stuff strove to never be forgotten (so much creative activity is of course a vain grasp for immortality), Warhol was at once achieving immortality while ignoring rather than attempting to bury the undead.

So by the mid-1960s, Warhol was silently calling for all artists and art lovers to quit doing what they had been doing and start only caring about fame and "liking" (in the way we click a Facebook like these days) things.  According to Warhol, anyone who attempted to create anything classically sublime, anyone who did academic analysis of anything, and anyone who ignored him was a sucker.  Sure, they might be able to eek out a living on the art world's periphery, but the real game in town, from the advents of movies and TV onward, was going to be something as trivial as the great literature was great -- and you had better embrace it rather than attempt to beat it back.

A near perfect analogy exists in the Orwell/Huxley dichotomy -- pop culture and schools still lazily refer to Orwell (deviously, many who make Orwell references are in fact employing O'Brian's tactics while doing so), when Huxley's prewar vision of the future has proven much more accurate.  It was in fact proven accurate almost immediately -- his Brave New World Revisited was published in 1958 while Clement Greenberg, et al., were busy celebrating abstract expressionism.  

Fifty years on the world hasn't caught up, though.  Sure, tons of people visit Andy Warhol exhibits every year around the world.  Many still get upset because it isn't classical art.  They still are looking for that singular Mona Lisa masterpiece, or it disguised as something like Guernica.  They want a visit to an art museum to still be a reverential thing -- but Warhol's work is generally as mindless as a daytime commercial for Elk & Elk (The cow head & silver pillow installation on exhibit currently at the CAC is so wonderfully mindless that I can't stop thinking about it!).

Which brings us back to the matter of The Velvet Underground. 

So Warhol himself created stuff -- tons of it -- that was mindless but has nevertheless achieved immortality.  Meanwhile, The Velvet Underground is an immortal group for the exact opposite reason -- because those albums [and their mystique] are so classically good.  Sure, the music is superficially "experimental" in that it was a break from the era's blues or folk-based Rock & Roll, but its lyrical themes are decidedly classic.

Fast-forward to the present day, and all this pop crap, especially Disney Channel alums and Dub Step, is actually Andy Warhol's visual art made into music.  So if he were still alive he'd be listening to today's mindless pop music rather than those dusty old Velvet Underground LP's, and would silently criticize anyone writing blog posts about how great they were.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Afghan Whigs Shatter Eardrums, Silence Skeptics

From the strike of the first downbeat last Thursday night, the sound of the Afghan Whigs was so dominating that I felt foolish for having entertained -- even for a moment in the year leading up to their homecoming -- the thought that the band might be overhyped.  I didn't just feel stupid, I felt throughout the performance as though the band was humiliating me for having dared to doubt them. 

Various reviews of last Thursday's show have appeared that have wasted time rehashing tired Afghan Whigs topics like Greg Dulli's stage banter or the band's inexplicable lack of mainstream success.  I don't care about any of that.  What I do care about is what was so incredibly special about what we were hearing last Thursday night -- and what we heard was an extremely loud band that was also extremely musical.

What do I mean by that?

What I mean is there are a lot of loud bands out there.  I have seen loud bands live that were totally horrible (Korn!) and a lot of hardcore and punk bands at basement shows that were as impotent as they were loud.  

What was so remarkable about Thursday's performance was that at times the wall of sound took on the characteristics of a drone.  All sorts of things were swirling through that sound, and by sheer willpower (the equipment was basic and didn't change) the band kept introducing new sounds within that sound deep into the set.  Each of the nearly 20 year-old songs were reborn Thursday night not because of their clever rearrangements but because they were pushed by perfectly tuned guitars through face peeling Mesa/Boogie amplifiers by a group of dudes who know what the f___ they're doing.  

This clip is far from the highlight of the evening (which I think was Going to Town), and doesn't really illustrate what I was just discussing, but it's the best that has been uploaded so far:

I left Bogart's Thursday night not wanting to go out and start a band, but was instead demoralized by the thought that no band I might put together could possibly rock as hard as these guys.  And I was demoralized further by the thought that even if I were to do so, the tastes of the youth have changed so disastrously away from real rock & roll that there could never be a payoff -- certainly not a monetary one -- and little chance of a triumphant moment like what the Afghan Whigs enjoyed last week.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Whatever happened to The Gamble House's onsite caretaker?

I didn't pay much attention to the Gamble House issue until I was recently told a rumor that connected all the dots.  The rumor is too sensational to repeat online, but I do want to share an interesting detail I found while doing a straightforward Google search: 

Turns out the Gamble House had an onsite caretaker from 1969 until at least 1997, when Cincinnati Magazine published a feature on him and the house.  According to the article, the house was still in a perfect state of preservation, including all original furnishings.  But sometime in the 2000s this caretaker either died or moved away (I was not able to find any information on him) and the Greenacres Foundation conspicuously did not hire a replacement.   

Around 2009 or 2010 they hired some guys to move all the antique furniture out and trash the place.  So this house could have been this really nice place for the public to visit and see a 100 year-old mansion with original period furniture, and such an arrangement would have cost the foundation hardly anything.  Instead they tore the place up so it now needs at least a million dollars in work just to make it useful for something or somebody.  Their official story doesn't add up in the least, but our non-functional media is snoozing as usual.  

Here is a link to the 1997 article:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Clint Eastwood steals empty chair gag from Cincinnati's Murray Seasongood

This past week we were treated to the old empty chair gag courtesy Clint Eastwood.  If you have studied Cincinnati history in the least you know that Murray Seasongood pulled this stunt way back in 1923~ while working to destroy Boss Cox's political machine:

The Republican government agreed to a series of public debates, but after seeing the disastrous results of Seasongood's debate with Vice Mayor Froome Morris, the remaining debates were cancelled. Seasongood then carried on, with an empty chair standing in for the administration.

Okay, not quite the same situation, but nevertheless the empty chair thing has been around for awhile.  The above passage was copied and pasted from this website, but if you want more insight into the magnificent bullshitter that was Murray Seasongood, head down to the main library when you have some time and glance over Murray Seasongood: Selection from Speeches 1900-1959, or if you're made of money just one-click it at  

Oh, and it was Murray Seasongood, more than any other single person, who smeared Cincinnati's Rapid Transit Loop and caused our subway project to be abandoned.  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Cincinnati still owns part of the Blue Ash Airport

As of September 1, 2012, these are the approximate revised property lines in Blue Ash:

Red marks the triangle that Cincinnati just sold to Blue Ash and will become the Blue Ash Airport Park.  Meanwhile, the strip in blue, including the runway, is still owned by the City of Cincinnati.  It is valued at about $20-25 million and there has been no public discussion of its fate.  

Originally, the airport's hangars and fueling facilities were to have been relocated into the wooded strip at center-right.  I didn't follow the sequence of events closely so I'm not sure if Cincinnati never applied or was not granted permission by the FAA to do this.  Either way it's not happening, so this strip of land is either going to become even more of the Blue Ash Airport Park or it will be sold off to private developers.  

So in the next 5-10 years another $20 million is coming to Cincinnati's capital improvement fund, and no doubt we'll have another round of cage rattling courtesy Chris Finney.  Oh, and considering how confused the media was by what just took place in August, count on another round of misinformation.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Riverside Drive bike lanes vs. Pacific Coast Highway

The City of Cincinnati has restriped Eastern Ave. aka Riverside Dr. with bike lanes.  Suddenly, many people believe biking on Eastern Ave. aka Riverside Dr. is safe.  But as someone who has biked this road over 100 times, and has biked pretty much every other main road in the city, I say with confidence that it was just about the easiest and safest road to bike in Cincinnati before the lanes.  


Because it's level and there's no traffic on it.  No other road in our area fits that description.  Why is there no traffic on it?  Because it was bypassed by Columbia Parkway in 1937.  

Meanwhile, out in Malibu, CA, there is only one street, period.  It's the famous Pacific Coast Highway, and despite these less-than-ideal conditions, bikers are making it happen out there.  I took this photo on a visit last month:

Fact is, people who bike, hike, run, climb, and surf in California make us look like wimps.  So next time you hear someone complaining about bicycling conditions in Cincinnati, remember this photo, and know that there's not just one, but thousands of people in California who wouldn't even blink at whatever some Cincinnatian is complaining about.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

MTV's fake 1995 visit to King's Island...

When cocktail party conversation turns to MTV's The Grind, yours truly will be quick to mention the show's phony 1995 visit to King's Island. After weeks of radio ads, upon arrival it was revealed to be a bit of a scam -- it wasn't actually THE Grind, but rather the sale of the brand name to some sort of touring DJ outfit.  I remember there being some sort of set they built around the DJ stand, but I don't remember there being any MTV logo, there definitely weren't any video cameras, and certainly no yo-yo-yo this is Eric Neiss from The Grind.

Anyway, the event was completely horrible.  It was basically what you're about to see below, except on a concrete patio in the Waterworks section of the park, and substitute all these people for Kings High School students wearing Taz shirts and No Fear visors.  Skip ahead to 3:21 to catch a glimpse of the dude wearing the ski goggles (if you can stomach another minute, he reappears with a referee whistle):

The detail I do remember quite well from the night was trying to meet up with some Colerain girls using a King's Island pay phone -- calling them with the pay phone's number earlier in the day, then standing around said pay phone around 9pm for them to call back saying if they were coming or not.  

Interestingly, this circa 1991 report on The Real World by Entertainment Tonight (the world's first reality show, and where The Grind's Eric Nies got his start) insinuates that the producers intentionally outfitted that apartment with only one telephone:

So in case you're wondering...I knew with that pay phone nonsense that I was setting myself up to look really dumb in front of my friends if the girls said they were coming but didn't show up. But by the mid-90s my prowess on Cincinnati's teen club dance floors was legend, and just minutes after they did in fact arrive and we took to the dance floor, they turned around a left were fighting all those swarming Kings High School girls for a piece.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kathy Wilson's Bunbury Critique in CityBeat

Jane's Addiction @Bunbury
Photo by Jake Mecklenborg
The internet's response to the Bunbury Festival has been a bit much -- any and all criticisms have been shouted down by a gang of hissing cobras.  And by criticisms I mean remarks by people (usually over 30 years old) pointing out the silly pretenses of such a festival -- one that borrows heavily from the multi-stage alternative festival model (even the title -- lollapalooza and bunbury function similarly in the context of alternative rock music festivals) pioneered by Perry Farrell.  Then, there has been a flippant attitude shown by the young (white) people toward Jane's Addiction -- with said young (white) people seemingly unaware of Farrell's role in inventing this type of festival back in 1991 AND the two incredible studio albums he recorded with Jane's Addiction in 1988 and 1990.  

Wednesday I sat down with CityBeat at the Clifton Skyline, as is my weekly routine, and laid eyes upon this:

Finally somebody said what needed to be said about this sort of music festival and the prevailing musical activities of college-educated whites. To expand on Wilson's remarks, the Bunbury Festival existed as a backdrop for camera phone photos that could be posted like trophies on Facebook, then "liked" by a cascade of "friends".  It existed to give Cincinnati some semblance of indie cred for creative class recruits who waste their time caring about indie cred.  It was commodified culture, period.  

But the even deeper issue which Wilson should have but didn't address directly is that music is almost always about economic class -- it either functions as an agent of the oppressor or as a heroic act of the oppressed.  Where it gets tricky is when the oppressor tricks the oppressed into thinking a particular song, performer, or genre is a declaration of defiance, and trickier still when the oppressed are tricked into playing oppressive music (but all that is the subject of some future post).  

Let's turn the clock back for a moment to Woodstock, where 28 year-old Richie Havens concluded his festival-opening performance with this wonderful improvisation: 

The next summer, Iggy Pop threw the peanut butter at Crosley Field:

Skip ahead to the 2000's and not a whole lot is happening for the white middle class.  Their music is neither a call to act out against their oppressors (who are as often themselves as the wealthy) nor a celebration of a modest life nobly lived.  Their primary activity is the advertisement of their accumulation of photos of themselves in social situations on Facebook.  

And again we must revisit the matter of the music of Jane's Addiction.  Those first two studio albums are way, way up there in the rock pantheon.  No, not quite Dark Side of the Moon (heard of it, you Euro-DJ leg-humping hipster?), but Ritual de lo Habitual, especially, only missed that lofty perch by a hair.  It's everything that everything since about 2000 (including Jane's more recent albums) isn't.  It's The Real Thing -- a work that sought change in part through pursuit of a secular ecstatic state, that characteristic which artist Dan Graham discussed in his 1984 film Rock My Religion:

Hardly any of the new music that has appeared in the past 10 years has been any good, meaning most young people haven't seen a good live rock & roll band comprised of people their age. At Bunbury, there wasn't any band who was really pissed off, any band who was really celebrating life, or anyone who did anything outrageous. No assumptions were challenged and no minds were blown. But thanks to Woodstock, Lollapalooza, et al., those outcomes are insinuated in the marketing of today's music festivals, and of course it's there in all the "liked" Facebook camera phone photos generated on Cincinnati's riverfront this past weekend.   


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Minnesota Parties Hard on the 4th!

Today I had a connection in Minneapolis and saw these boaters out on one of Minnesota's many lakes. I was a bit jealous that I was stuck up in the airplane and not partying on that island!

Here's a close-up of the action:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

We March planning July reunion shows

Athens, Ohio's We March is playing their first shows since their 2009 break-up.  I'll be out there for the July 5 show at The Union in Athens.  They're also playing a wedding reception on July 6 and a club in Cleveland on July 7.

The band formed in 2000 or 2001, played about 500 shows, and recorded three studio albums: Life in a Bubble (2002), The Madness Ends Here (2004), and 2007's, Creator/Destroyer (2007).  There is also a live album called Waste Management which includes a different version of No Man's Land, the monstrous 17-minute track that concludes Creator/Destroyer.   

Unfortunately, Matt Toledo's Athens Musician Network website, which had hundreds of pre-youtube videos of shows in Athens (including the best videos of We March) was taken down recently after a 15-year run.  None of the videos that are on youtube are particularly good, although this one is okay (plus, I'm in the crowd if you look close):

Also, I made this video on my computer awhile back for one of their album tracks:

Be there!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Get to know King Records on Youtube

One-by-one people have been posting various King Records singles on Youtube, and it's one knock-out after another.  

Sadly my story -- that of a Cincinnati native who didn't even know King Records existed until I moved elsewhere -- isn't an unusual one.  While living in Kansas City in 1996 I saw a DJ play nothing but King Records singles for two hours straight.    

It was all stuff like this:

King Records recordings are now played regularly by the DJ's on medium-wattage WNKU, but otherwise they continue to wallow in obscurity, as does the King Records building itself.  

Do yourself a favor and type "Cincinnati King Records" into the Youtube search bar and spend some time getting to know the seemingly endless number of killer tracks recorded 30 feet from I-71 in Evanston.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Brent Spence "How to Survive a Bridge Collapse" Fear Campaign

The Brent Spence Bridge Rehabilitation/Replacement Project is totally out of control.

Listen to these crazy radio ads sponsored by a union pushing the Brent Spence Bridge project:

There is no need for the Texas-sized bridge project as currently proposed and there is no way to fund its construction cost entirely with Ohio and Kentucky state gasoline tax revenue. In order to get it built, some combination of a federal earmark and tolls will be necessary.

Recently some area residents received this outrageous mailer from a labor union:
[Click Here for a larger version of this graphic]

How to survive an up-close & personal with the Ohio River if the Brent Spence Bridge collapses as you cross:

So what, exactly, is going on?

The Democrats, as should be expected, are looking to ensure that the unions who back their campaigns are awarded bridge construction contracts. But I bet this desperate ad campaig years before construction commences is a response to the anticipated Republican strategy -- to carry out this enormous project under the auspices of a private-public partnership.

If a private company builds the new bridge, they might be able to avoid high-priced union wages, meaning our "bridge collapse" union friends will have to move back into mom's basement and watch construction on the project's official web cam. The public will be dazzled by the capital savings promised by the Republicans, and probably won't be able to figure out that by avoiding the standard bidding processes, construction contracts will be awarded to Gov. Kasich's cronies.

But it gets a lot more interesting when the matter of toll revenue is considered. In the case of state turnpikes (not interstates), toll revenue first repaid construction bonds and is now mostly used to pay maintenance costs. In those cases where excess turnpike or bridge tolls are used to fund other items in the state budget, they might be abused, but they certainly are not paid as dividends to shareholders.

But if a private company builds the new Brent Spence, excess toll revenue WILL be paid out to shareholders. So if everything works out like they say it will and the use of non-union labor saves Ohio and Kentucky, say, $100 million in construction costs, over the ensuing 30+ years much more than $100 million that would have been returned to state coffers will instead go into the pockets of Kasich's cronies.

Let's take this one step even further -- no doubt, written into any private-public agreement, "THE COMPANY" will have the right to deny any future company from entering into a similar private-public agreement at a nearby river crossing that needs replacement or other improvements. This might mean that the privately-held new Brent Spence -- and only the Brence Spence -- will be improved, funneling an increasing share of cross-river traffic through its toll gates. The agreement might go so far as to prohibit any competition from public transportation, meaning no rail transit link will ever be built between Kentucky and Ohio.

So with all these unknowns, maybe the labor union and its fear campaign is the lesser of two evils.