Monday, December 22, 2008

Something for you to read, Part 13

Check out this article on Jean Shepard, the man behind A Christmas Story and long-time radio icon. The piece reads as a thoughtful once-fan memoir, and has a tragic element that is as believable as it is sad.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Something for you to read, Part 12

Plenty of interesting stuff on the old series of tubes this morning, but here are a few I think worthy of your attention:

(1) An intriguing and heart-rending article from the Financial Times (originally published in the spring. I believe but wish I could not believe the fact cited in the article that more humans are enslaved today than at any other time in human history.

(2) A brief polemic by the amazing George Packer, an anti-poetry at the Inauguration screed that, despite my support for poetry and greater public awareness of it, makes a lot of sense.

(3) A pretty excellent, lengthy piece in the NYT that ties the continuing economic collapse to the rotten ideologies of the current White House occupants in such a compelling way that even the last standing market conservative has to say, "yeah, you got us there."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

spreading the wealth

As we all know, it is particularly important these days to spend our few disposable meager dollars wisely and, whenever possible, locally. This weekend I did my best to hold true to that. I think I did a pretty decent job.

I've been looking forward to this past weekend for quite some time, both for the opportunity it provided to support some of the cultural/commercial institutions I'm fond of and to get my holiday shopping finished.

Friday I hit up Day 1 of the Asterisk auction, buying some great lamps and tables outright and placing introductory bids on a half-dozen or so pieces. I had been grumping about during the afternoon and had all but made up my mind to make it a quick trip in and out of Tremont, but I ended up sticking around the gallery for longer than expected and when I finally left, before I got to my car I got a call from a friend in the neighborhood that wanted to meet up for dinner. I decided to go for it and hit up the new cupcake place and Visible Voice while I was waiting. The ladies at the cupcake place were super sweet (which bodes well for the baked goods) and the dudes at Visible Voice not only tipped me off on the new Cleveland brewery I mentioned yesterday, but also called and found out what the new special sandwich of the month for December is at Melt when it came up in conversation.

When I met up with my friend and his wife, we drove around the neighborhood for a while before deciding to grab dinner at Fat Cats. By the time we settled on that choice, we were in the wrong corner of Tremont, and when I went to pull a u-turn, we caught sight of the new gourmet chocolate and beer store, where we made a quick stop, snagging 6-packs and chocolates before getting back on the road to dinner.

Dinner was nice, especially in terms of the company. It was a relaxed, pleasurable meal, with lots of laughs and good conversation. We stuck around a while after settling the check, probably to our server's chagrin, but I think we made it up to him on the tip.

Saturday I ventured over to Waterloo, where I enjoyed a cup of coffee and some nice chit-chattery with the fine folks at Music Saves and Shoparooni as I bought a couple christmas gifts. I also came to the realization that my sister is the only "cool" person I'm buying presents for, and as much as I might like to, I don't think the rest of my family will appreciate the idea of me just spending all my money on cool things for her since all they want are gift cards to places where I refuse to buy them. After Waterloo Road I hit some other east side stops and finally made it back to the home hood. I didn't feel like going home, for whatever reason, so I grabbed my latest road book and went into Pub on Lee for a Christmas Ale.

(Note of explanation: By "road book" I am referring to the book I always have stashed in my car, in case I find myself waiting for something and pining for the written word. They are usually short, of topical interest, and of the nature where you can go a few weeks between cracking covers without losing to much of the point. Currently, the road book du jour is Robert Conquest's classic Stalin and the Kirov Murder, which is quite amazing.)

Although my firm intent was to have one beer and then go home, when I was at the end of the first beer I realized I still had a half-chapter to go and figured I'd drink another. When that one was down to the dregs I was in the middle of an interesting conversation with the manager and another patron about Civil War prisons, by the end of Christmas Ale #3 the conversation was still riveting, though the topic had changed to assassination attempts against Hitler. I was in a stupor after #4 and managed to disengage from the bar stool. I then went home, watched sappy movies about teen pregnancy, and blogged nonsense before having a cute long phone call with an ex from college that never seems to disappear from my life (which is a nice thing).

Today I woke up, did some work at home, and then went to meet a friend for brunch at the Beachland Ballroom. The Beachland brunch is a wonderful thing, though everyone I try to convince of this thinks I'm crazy. I truly believe its menu competes with any other in town, with the added bonus that there is never a wait YET there is always a cool person or three spinning excellent tunes. Today I had a lovely coconut risotto with grilled apples and pears, a billion cups of coffee, and a crazy agua fresca concoction. After eating, my friend and I (and her friend) popped into Shoparooni (again), where I dropped $80 on the print I'd almost purchased the day before and six bucks on some killer old man soap.

Next, we crossed the city and hit up Bazaar Bizarre. It was my first time in the former American Greetings complex, and that place is such a cool use of post-industrial space. The bazaar event was cool, and I was able to snag most of my remaining gifts, including a cool neck-tie clutch purse for my hipster sister, a t-shirt for my hard-rock lovin' brother, a pendant thing for my mom that was purple enough that she'll wear it and funky enough that I didn't mind buying it for her, and a repurposed old work shirt for my trendster other brother.

After the bazaar I hit up Tremont again to see which items I had successfully bid upon at the Asterisk fundraiser. Turns out I was almost entirely shut out, but the one piece I did win was a cool mid-sized painting by Dana Depew that is already proudly hanging in my hall corridor. I also got a great price on a piece held over from the previous show, now gracing the wall above my sofa (or, rather, Smelly's sofa, as she's the one that sits on it). After leaving the gallery (but not before doing my best to help Dana lighten the keg of Labatt Blue in the entryway), I decided to pick up a sandwich for home at the delicious place across the street from Visible Voice. Natch, it was closed, as it has been every time I've tried to go in the last few months. Perhaps it is out of business? If it isn't, it will be soon with its hard-to-predict service hours, though I digress. I stuck out with the sandwich shop, but since I'd already parked I figured I'd stop into the new record store that has opened in Tremont. This didn't make a lot of sense, as I am not exactly an owner of a record player, but fuck it, right? I went in, very quickly perused the limited CD section, and then snagged a couple art-zines and indie comic books, including the best titled thing I've seen since Jonathan Lethem's You Don't Love Me Yet: "Every Girl Is the End of the World For Me" by Jeffrey Brown. While I was checking out and talking to the owner dude about cool Houston neighborhoods, I got a text from a friend saying she thought she just passed me in Tremont. Twas I, I responded, and we scheduled a quick impromptu brew session at a nearby watering hole. It was a nice, unexpected event, and I enjoyed the hour.

Eventually I made my way home, poorer by quite a bit but in possession of some nice gifts and some great work by talented local artists. As the weekend closes out, I feel like I accomplished my goals, both in terms of crossing things of my shit-to-get list and also putting a small amount of cash back in the hands of some of the folks that make Cleveland as good of a place to live as it is.

light and frenchy

Although I've always found Sofia Coppola to be a bit of a poser with the incredible luck of having the daddy she does, I do admit that she has hit the nail on the head with this commercial.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Welcome to Indigo Imp!

I don't know how this happened without me hearing a single peep, but apparently a new microbrewery has opened in downtown Cleveland. I suppose it helps I haven't read a Scene in a few months.

Regardless, I only learned of this new addition last night, when I rudely invited myself into a conversation between the staff and another customer at Visible Voice. Apparently you can only buy this fine ale at the brewery store and a single other location, Lilly's Handmade Chocolates in Tremont (another place I never checked out until last night and is also worth patronizing).

They've only released 2 different beers so far, a blonde and a winter one. At 12 bucks a sixer, I decided only to splurge on the winter six-pack, but my friend snagged a blonde six-pack and his wife had the genius idea to swap halvsies. Long story short, I have three of each cooling in my fridge, and if I remember to, I'll post my thoughts after I crack one.

It might be a bit, maybe a special occasion (if anything special ever happens to me again), as the price is kinda high. If $12 is too steep for you, even to support a new business actually making a home in downtown CLE, you can get them for a few bucks cheaper at the actual brewery. Check the website for the d's.


This weekend has been chock full o' stuff and is only half way over. I'll post more later about the events, but right now today's greatest hits consist of the following:

- Getting my oil changed FOR FREE (Thanks Simon's on Lee Road!).
- Christmas present shopping at Music Saves.
- Bumping into the ex for the first time since breaking up in August.
- Getting afternoon drunk on 4 Christmas Ales.
- Telling my dog I would not be giving her bedtime kisses because I saw her eat a fly. She either didn't understand my words or didn't care, as she ate another one, and then proceeded to spend the next 10 minutes raping her 2 foot tall Stitch doll (as in Lilo and Stitch) that has been her "lover" for the last few years. I'm still not giving her bedtime kisses.
- Now I'm watching Juno and bizarrely wishing I'd knocked someone up when I was in high school, justifying this total nonsense with the knowledge that if I had, the little bastard would be around adolescence by now and I'd probably be back in the black. That or I'd be living somewhere under an assumed name, working for cash under the table, not holding my breath for any father of the year awards.


Yes, I know. I'm losing it. It is gone.

Nevertheless, anybody want to set me up with their single friend? I like brunettes.

I'm only half serious. Or half joking. Whichever you prefer.

genius, parte dos

Oh my lord.
I am so bored.
Held the hand of Satan.

Oh Laura,
what has happened to you?
Held the hand of the devil.

I was on MTV.
Everybody was lookin' at me.
Held the hand of the devil.


"I got a lot of walking to do, and I don't want to wear my-y-y worried shoes."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

a smile

I was scrolling down the page on Andrew Sullivan's blog when I came across this picture - the result of my eyebrows bouncing and smile cracking was so sudden it almost hurt a little bit. In a good way.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Morning Observations

As I climbed into my car this morning, I was waiting to see when my mood would turn dark. Not if, but when, as sometime between locking my apartment door and arriving at my office, it never seems to fail that I get grumpy. I blame this on the fact that I hate going to my office. In my line of work, I can usually work from just about anywhere, but some days I just have to go in. And it is NEVER for something I want to do. Hence the bad mood.

The last couple of morning drives I found myself feeling really anxious, a new development that I blamed on the cd in my stereo, JJ Magazine's Be Happy Love. This is obviously a spurious correlation, as I really like that album and there is nothing anxiety-inducing about it at all; it just happened to be the same thing I listened to both uncomfortable mornings. (To further expand on how much I like this album, it might be my single favorite album I've purchased by any of the several talented indie bands from Cleveland, and that's really saying something. Even as good as it is, though, I think it makes a better complement to the drive home from work rather than the drive to work. The Hot Rails cd is the best to-work local cd. The Unsparing Sea album, which is Be Happy Love's chief rival for my favorite local album, is beautiful but should never be listened to during any car ride related in any way to work, going or coming. But I digress).

So, as I settled into my car, turned the key, and the last half-dozen seconds of Track 6 played, I thought about changing the disc. But then I got distracted and started backing out of the driveway, and next thing you know I'm driving down Cedar, heading toward Hell, I mean, work.

As I'm sitting at a stoplight, I accidentally lock eyes with a woman in the car on the other side of the light, waiting for it to change so she can continue on in the opposite direction as me. The contrast betweeen her youthfulness and complete seriousness was striking and a little weird, so I look away to my right, where I notice the occupants of the hatchback in the lane adjacent to me. There is a hipster looking bearded dude in the front, and he's turned around and talking to a young woman in the back. There is no one in the passenger seat. This puzzles me, so I go into super-creepy mode and peer harder, and notice there is a baby seat in the back, next to the woman, the kind of seat for newborns. I start watching the couple, realize they are doing a cute but likely joint-numbing over-the-seat hand-holding thing and how nervous and happy they both appear. This makes me smile and feel a little choked up.

All the way down Cedar, from Lee Road to the crazy turny area just past the Cedar-Fairmount hoopla district, these folks are next to me, and I can't stop wondering about what is going on in there. I also find myself driving very carefully, like I'm sure the new dad driver is also doing. Of all the cars I don't want to get in an accident with, it is this one. (Plus I have a headlight out and my tags might have just expired, so I'd totally be the bad guy if anything accident-oriented went down.) Even when we come up to the aforementioned crazy turny part, by the rapid station, when faced with the terrible decision of whether to speed up and cut the happy family car off so I can get in the turn lane I want to be in OR fuck myself traffic-wise, I go for the self-sacrificing option. Eventually we turn in different directions and I make it to my parking lot a few minutes later. I'm actually in a good mood at this point, doing a little driver seat dancing and gloved drumming on my steering wheel. Clearly the JJ Magazine/anxiety hypothesis was flawed. I'll have to find something else to blame.

I park, walk to my office building, and notice a dude that is seriously a spitting image of V.I. Lenin just sorta hanging out. To be specific, secretly crossing the Gulf of Finland pre-revolution Lenin, with the sailor's cap and the disguise. Though with the traditional goatee. OK, that technically is a contradiction, but work with me. (It was something like this picture plus this beard from this one.) I want to ask him if this look is on purpose (I'd bet a lot of money that it is), but figure that'd be rude, so keep it to myself. By doing so, I decide I have earned a few more karma points, added on to the several I picked up by being a self-conscious driver around happy couple with the infant, and catch the elevator to the floor where my office is. (Note: I give myself karma points for just about anything.) I don't take the first elevator that comes available, as there is a guy who is probably my creepy rival and seems certain to talk to me in the elevator, which makes me infinitely uncomfortable, but another one comes almost immediately and I take it. Probably my reward for not making a comment to Lenin Wannabe Guy. I'm still waiting for the morning drive good karma payback, but that'll probably take a while, as it is certain to be big.

I get off the elevator feeling pretty good about myself and realize that I want a cup of coffee but there is no time for me to buy a cup and get to my morning appointment. So I do what any narcissistic jerk would do, particularly someone who spent his elevator ride wondering about the form in which his morning drive good karma payback would come, and decide I'll just steal a cup of coffee from the break room where a handful of colleagues have established a community coffee station. You are supposed to donate cash or coffee, but I never donate either one, yet occasionally pilfer a cup of coffee. Yes, yes, I am a bad person, a free rider, the very personification of the age-old collective action problem. Whatever. The coffee is never very good, always lukewarm yet reheatedly gross, so I don't feel bad. And for the record, this does not affect my karma point tally. It just doesn't.

At least not the karma point tally I was thinking about. Apparently there are several, as I think I have a specifically coffee-themed karma account. That would explain the three separate times I spilled my pilfered coffee, including once on my hand when it was still hot and once on my sweater in front of onlookers. I probably deserved that.

I sneak the coffee and ride the elevator back down, en route to my appointment, silently wishing very bad luck to the maintenance dude that still hasn't changed the lightbulbs in my office and the young guy with metal blasting out of his ipod earphones. (Sidenote: Why is it that 98% of the folks I ride elevators with that are listening to headphones at a volume where I can not only hear it but can make out most lyrics, even with my poor hearing, are listening to speed metal? Why can't it be something good?)

I get to where I'm going, and notice that an attractive woman I see from time to time is present and that she has recently dyed her hair a nice shade of brown. It was previously a streaky blond and the new shade is a serious improvement, given my aesthetic preferences. I think this and smile at her, a half-second after I sip my now lukewarm coffee. I only realize this might not be the best timing when the first drip of coffee droplets hung in my moustache falls and hits my lower lip and relodges in the hair on my chin.

That's right - creepy guy with a beard full of creamer and coffee leering at a woman who is now certainly regretting the coloring that is drawing her unwelcome attention. That's how I started my business day.

Not half bad, if you ask me.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Go See This Now!

I just got back from my Monday ritual (flick at the Cedar-Lee and reduced price beer at Parnell's), only on a Tuesday. The film I saw was "Let the Right One In," this tremendous Swedish vampire movie. It might be the best movie I've seen all year. You should really go check it out. I might go and see it again before it leaves the theater, which will probably be at the end of next week.

The film is sub-titled and has all sorts of interesting little sub-themes, from pre-teen lovers communicating in morse code to Cold War politics to bullying (with a kid that blends the worst of Flick from "A Christmas Story" and Tim in "River's Edge") to 70s Euro-rock to, of course, vampirism. The cinematography is beautiful and the script leaves dozens of small yet compelling questions unanswered in the most wonderful way. The film's fashion is compelling, too, as it resembles almost perfectly what you'll see among the audience members at any random winter Beachland Ballroom weekday show. This makes sense, of course, as the film is set in a suburb of Stockholm in the early 80s.

After the film and the drink, I hit up Richie Chan's for some house lo mein. Is it just me, or does the name of that restaurant remind anyone else of Los Angeles? The food was a lot like LA, too, in the sense that it was generally superficially attractive and mostly tasteless. They did, however, make the dish for me sans onion, so I guess I shouldn't hate.

Mega-serious endorsement

I need to tell you: I love Gateway Animal Clinic. And especially Dr. Abby. The difference between Ellie's care at Gateway the last two times versus the nightmare at Mandel is not just night and day, it is like the sun and the moon.

If you have pets and are wondering where to go, you can't beat Abby. You might be able to tie Abby - there are certainly plenty of good vets in Ohio - but you can't out-and-out beat her.

Thanks Gateway!

Monday, December 1, 2008

CLE-: Asterisk Gallery's Visual Roast of Clevo

This past Saturday I finally had the pleasure of checking out Dana Depew's latest showcase at his gallery, Asterisk, in Tremont. I've been impressed with Dana's art and, perhaps even more so, his curatorial ability since I moved here. A few months ago, though, I started to realize that his eye and organizational skill seems to be getting better each new show. I raved about his "Counting Days" group show (about the pending departure of our current not-so-dear leader Dubya) in October and thought a show of its type couldn't be topped.

And then he goes and does it again with the CLE- show. I can't remember the exact name of the show, as the postcard is in my car and it is way too fucking cold and crappy rainy to go out and get it now, but we'll just refer to it as the show where a whole host of local art talent each took their shot at visually expressing the blighted suffering it is to be an artist in Clevo.

A number of uptight folks got their panties in a bunch over this show - most notably the douchey lames at the Greater Cleveland Partnership who actually threatened legal action against the gallery. That's right, folks. The development organization in charge of revitalizing the cesspool that is the NEO economy is spending its time hassling artists rather than, you know, helping deal with the problems of our community. If I was a supporter of that group you can better believe I'm rethinking my 2009 commitment. Kinda smacks of RNC donors and how they felt after hearing about Sarah Palin's $150k shopping spree. Then again, though, if you are only now getting irritated with the boneheaded moves of the GCP, you probably haven't been paying attention to the last couple years of disastrous PR activities they've been floating, with the ridiculous Cleveland+ campaign Exhibit #1. (Prediction: If Dana and company bring this show back in a few years, there will be plenty of critical energy spent on roasting that loser of an ad campaign just as there was on duck eggs like "Cleveland's a Plum" and "Cleveland: Love it or Leave it" and "Cleveland: You gotta be tough." Welcome to the club, fellas.)

But I digress. My point is not to burn the GCP folks, as much fun and as necessary as that might be, but rather is to praise the cultural vitality of the CLE- show. It really is quite wonderful and worthy of serious public praise. (Or will saying so get me a cease-and-desist letter, too?) Moreover, I think it was, despite superficial appearances, an empowering artistic exercise. After all, the folks showing their work here are Cleveland artists, folks that haven't left for greener cultural pastures but rather have been slamming their work out, day after day, dreary ass winter after dreary ass winter, determined to bring their aesthetic message to the orange and brown huddled masses, like it or not.

So, without further ado, please cast your gaze on the photos below. My apologies in advance - to you and the artist - as the photos don't do anything justice. Let me know if you have questions about any of the work - most of the artists there aren't identified. And if you fall in love with anything, let Dana know, as many of the pieces pictured here are likely still available for purchase.