Time of the Season

It was fun while it lasted. Jasen Dixon set up The World’s First Zombie Nativity Scene in 2014. He says he almost didn’t bring it back this year and definitely won’t next year. The display faced legal challenges and a certain amount of outrage during its first two years but it seems things were fairly quiet last Christmas season. From the beginning, the display had at least as many fans as detractors, and, while the number of those in favor has increased, the number of those actively opposed has fallen dramatically. For some it was a practical matter. After 27 misdemeanor charges and $13,500 in fines were dropped early last year, Sycamore Township officials decided “It’s not worth the expense…”.

In 2015 I included a couple of daytime pictures of the Zombie Nativity in some comments tacked onto a Christmas time blog post. This year I snapped both day and night shots. I ended my 2015 comments with the observation that I thought “…a new local Christmas tradition has been established.” Whether or not you think that was right depends on whether or not you think the word “tradition” has any business being associated with something something that lasts just four years.

The title for this post comes from a 1968 hit song from the band The Zombies. I listened to a lot of stuff from them back in the day but I’d been smitten by zombie music long before. I remember singing along to this Kingston Trio recording from an older cousin’s collection as a pre-teenager. In searching for that 1959 performance I discovered a really cool one by Rockapella and another by the great Harry Belafonte.

Seventy-Six Years After

Thursday was the seventy-sixth anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. On the day following the attack, President Franklin Roosevelt called December 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy” and it does, even though public events marking the day are decreasing. That’s to be expected as the number of people with personal memories of the day gets a little smaller each year and other horrible events occupy the memories of following generations.

The town of New Richmond, Ohio, holds a Pearl Harbor Remembrance event each year on the Sunday preceding December 7. When it began, about thirty years ago, approximately twenty-five Pearl Harbor survivors attended from the surrounding area. For my first time there, in 2011, just three remained and only one, Joe Whitt, was healthy enough to be there. The others have since passed on while Joe, at 94, continues to attend the event and share his memories.

This year I also attended an event on the actual anniversary of the bombing. The VFW Post 7696 event at West Chester Township’s Brookside Cemetery was the only one that turned up in an online search. Things began with a recounting of key events surrounding the attack.

A Soldier’s Cross ceremony followed. A bayoneted rifle is thrust into the ground then “dog tags” are hung from it. Boots are then placed in front of the rifle and the cross completed with a helmet placed atop the rifle. The event concluded with a rifle volley and the playing of Taps.

This year’s Pearl Harbor Remem-brance Day was  a little bit different for me by virtue of having visited Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial for the first time in the spring. The opening photo of the Arizona’s anchor is from that visit as are the three on the right. My journal for the visit is here..

The singing of a familiar medley of service songs was part of Sunday’s activities in New Richmond. As the songs associated with each of the five US military branches was performed, veterans of the branch stood. It seemed to me that close to half of the crowd stood at some point. Later, one of the speakers asked all WW II veterans to raise their hands. I counted three including Joe Whitt.

Book Review
Transforming Cincinnati
ArtWorks Cincinnati

It would be nearly impossible to spend any time at all around Cincinnati and not notice that its mural population has been increasing. I’ve noticed but I didn’t understand. I didn’t understand that ArtWorks Cincinnati, a name I sometimes noticed being associated with a new mural, wasn’t just a company hired to paint some pictures on some walls. I started to understand that aspect of Cincinnati’s murals just a little when ads for Transforming Cincinnati started to appear that included pieces of the back story. At that point I thought I understood the book’s title but, as I learned when I attended the big premier nearly two weeks ago, that was probably what I understood the least. The official launch took place on November 18 at a “Book Premier & Artist Signing” hosted by Joseph-Beth Booksellers. I attended with the idea of getting a copy with a few autographs in it. I got so much more.

Part of the back story I was starting to hear concerned Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory challenging ArtWorks to create murals for each of the city’s 52 neighborhoods. That was in 2007 and ArtWorks was already well established. Their previous projects included 2000’s Big Pig Gig where 425 full sized fiberglass pigs were decorated and displayed around Cincinnati. For those who don’t know, Cincinnati was once the largest pork-producing city in the world and was known as “Porkopolis”. In the decade since they accepted the mayor’s challenge, ArtWorks has completed 147 murals in 37 neighborhoods.

That is essentially what I knew when I arrived at the launch. John Fox, the book’s editor, served as MC for a panel of artists who answered his questions and told some stories. Thinking I understood the book’s title, I expected to hear about how a mural had transformed an ugly building or brought some brightness to a dreary corner, and how all those murals worked together to transform the city. I did hear a little of that but I also heard about how the projects had transformed people. It wasn’t long before I grasped the connection between ArtWorks and “creative job-training”. The fact that I don’t live in Cincinnati proper is the only excuse I have for not seeing this earlier. ArtWorks doesn’t just go into a neighborhood and paint a mural they think is cool. They work with the neighborhoods to design a mural that is appropriate and they do it — and create the mural itself — with the help of young apprentices. When possible, those apprentices come from the mural’s neighborhood. As ArtWorks founder Tamara Harekavy explains in the book’s introduction “These usually are the teens’ first paid jobs, certainly the first time they’ve been paid to make art.” That is creative job-training in every sense of the word.

As I listened, it became apparent that it wasn’t just the teen apprentices who were transformed. Designers, project managers, and teaching artists were all affected by the projects. Even famed nature artist John Ruthven, who helped reproduce his painting “Martha, The Last Passenger Pigeon” on a six-story building, talked glowingly of working with the teens and seeing his work on such a giant scale. The mural was painted in 2013 when he was 89. That’s Ruthven on the left side of the photo. Tamara Harekavy is on his left, then mural artists Jonathan Queen and Jenny Ustick, and book designer Christopher A Ritter.

So what about the book? All I’ve talked about so far is my buying experience. Well, it’s a fairly large format (9 x 12) photo book about murals. Therefore the bulk of its pages are filled with pictures of murals and more pictures of murals. These are typically accompanied with the names of everyone involved and that includes the Youth Apprentices. But there are also descriptions (and pictures) of the process, extra information on some murals, and a couple of maps showing mural locations. Many of the mural pictures are, as might be expected, an accurate as possible recording of the actual mural and nothing else. Others show a considerable chunk of the mural’s surroundings. This is something the book’s creators made extra effort to do since the murals are intended to fit into and enhance their locations. There are also several fold-outs that provide wonderful four-page views of selected murals including the aforementioned “Martha, The Last Passenger Pigeon”.

Transforming Cincinnati, ArtWorks Cincinnati, Orange Frazer Press (November 2017), 9 x 12 inches, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1939710-765
Available from ArtWorks CincinnatiOrange Frazer Press, and in store at Joseph-Beth Booksellers Cincinnati.

A Post-Refurb Peek at Music Hall

Cincinnati’s Music Hall reopened on October 6 after an 18 month $135 million renovation. I didn’t make it to that grand re-opening. Last Sunday’s third and final performance of “American Originals, Vol 2” was my first time inside the building since I attended the MusicNOW Festival in March of 2016. That was not the final event preceding the shut-down but it was among the last and it prompted my A Pre-Refurb Peek at Music Hall post. I selected the photo at right to open this post as the closest thing I’ve got to the photo that began that article. There’s a more inclusive exterior shot here.

Although these photos do not attempt to duplicate any of those in the earlier post, they do make it obvious that the chandelier that once hung over the lobby, and which I sort of featured in 2016, is gone. Apparently it was decided before renovations started that this chandelier, as well as some others, would not be coming back.

I also took a look at the balcony and gallery before I headed to my seat. Note the panels above the orchestra pit area. They’re to improve the acoustics of a place I didn’t even know needed improving.

That chandelier that hung above the main lobby is one of the three now hanging in Corbett Tower. A drop ceiling was removed and the nineteenth century stenciled design recreated. Previously blocked windows have been cleared to let in more light and provide views of Washington Park.

With all the gawking I did at the new and freshly uncovered beauty of the wonderful old building, I was at risk of forgetting why I was there, but I didn’t. Last year the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra put together an “American Originals” project featuring the music of Stephen Foster and several world class performers. This year it was the music of the World War I era and another batch of world class performers. Specifically those performers were the Steep Canyon Rangers, Pokey LaFarge, and Rhiannon Giddens plus tap dancer Robyn Watson.

With the orchestra always adding that something extra, the artists performed alone and in various combinations. The finale was a rousing version of “I Ain’t Got Nobody” with all hands on deck. In fact, it was more than just all hands, the audience was encouraged — quite strongly — to sing a couple of lines. That’s Pops Conductor John Morris Russell doing the encouraging. The entire performance was recorded and a CD will be available. I assure you it’s safe to buy; I did not try to sing.

I ended the 2016 pre-refurb post with a shot of Springer Auditorium’s 2,000 pound chandelier from floor level. The closest I’ve got to that this time is a shot taken from the balcony. The chandelier is a relatively new addition to the 139 year old building. It was added during a 1969 renovation. That meant there was talk of removing it but public outcry kept it from going very far.

I’ve called this a peek and it isn’t a particularly good one. Among the much better photographs out there are those in an online gallery at Cincinnati Refined. I’ve provided even less of a peek at the concert. CityBeat published an excellent review of Friday’s performance which was essentially the same as what I saw Sunday. That review is here.

Five Fives

I’ve walked in a DAV 5K every year it has existed. It all started with a single event in Cincinnati in 2013. Six cities hosted events in 2017. Veterans Day fell on Saturday this year, and three of those cities, including Cincinnati, held their 5Ks on that day. The other three took place a week prior.

I cheated a bit when I signed up this time. The online registration form included a drop-down list for indicating how many previous Cincinnati DAV 5Ks you had participated in. The “Cincinnati” part is what made it tricky. Last year I was traveling and took part in the inaugural DAV 5K in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Apparently believing that someone misinterpreted an abbreviation was easier than believing someone had entered the event from 650 miles away. When I picked up my registration in Tulsa, someone had crossed out Ohio and written in Oklahoma. Somehow that eased my conscience when I clicked “4” on that list. The count was right; It was just off a few hundred miles.

The first official activity of the event is the motorcycle roll-by. I was more or less in position near the back of the pack when I heard them rumbling behind me and turned to snap a picture. Thanks to the magic of auto-focus, I have a rather crisp rendition of the sign post. Somewhat less crisp is the photo’s actual subject matter. I did a little better as they passed by where I stood.

The scene in this picture should be familiar to anyone who has followed my DAV 5K career. I’ve posted a photo of the crowd leading me under the start banner every year except the very first, and that year I included a shot of the banner from the other side as the cyclists were about to take off.

The temperature at the start was in the 20s and I believe that’s the coldest it has ever been for the event. I’m thinking that may explain the dearth of entertainment or maybe it’s just become old hat. Other than the faithful Saint Xavier Marching Band providing some pep from their usual spot. there was just one musician on the route. He jumped into Lynyrd Skynyrd’s  “GimmeThree Steps” as I approached and that was what I was still hearing as I moved out of range.

I don’t know whether the motorcycles follow the entire route or take a short cut but a long line of them are parked near the finish each year. The riders stand on the median offering hand slaps and encouragement to all the participants. Not everyone takes advantage of the hand slaps but there aren’t many who couldn’t use a little encouragement at this point.

Here is another familiar scene but, unlike the scene at the start banner, the crowd has gotten rather thin. Despite what you’re probably thinking, it’s not because I’ve left them in my dust. There are a few (141) behind me but much more than a few (2147) ahead of me. In an alarming difference from past finishes, my time did not improve over the previous year. This year’s 1:03:55 was a full 19 seconds higher than last year’s time. Although it’s possible that the Tulsa course is itself faster (I did beat my previous Cincinnati time.) I fear that my pace has peaked and the glory days are over.

Here are links to the previous DAV 5K blog entries: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.

BLINK Cincinnati

It’s big. Twenty blocks big, they say. The southernmost installations are in the Banks area south of 2nd Street; The northernmost is a little north of Findlay Street. That’s where the twenty block measurement comes from. In between, displays can be found in an area three or four blocks wide. The simplest description of BLINK is that it’s a light show. Colorful images, such as the one at right, are projected on buildings throughout that twenty block area of downtown Cincinnati. Thursday was the first night; Sunday is the last.

I made it Thursday night, but not as early as I should have. I had thoughts of parking in the Washington Park and catching the nearby opening night parade. I was way too late for that, however, and could see that streets around the park were blocked off. I turned onto Walnut Street and headed toward Fountain Square. As I drove, I grabbed the picture at the top of the article from the car. Vehicle traffic was heavy but nowhere near what I’ve frequently seen in the past. It was foot traffic that was unusual. It didn’t approach gridlock levels either but it was certainly heavy throughout a large area. At this point, I wasn’t really surprised to see the Walnut Street entrance to the Fountain Square Garage closed. I was, however, feeling a little discouraged and the blocked entrance added to that. I decided to swing around to the other side and if it was also closed, as I expected, I would simply head home and try again on another night.

I did not have to cut and run. The Vine Street entrance was open and there were plenty of spots open in the garage. After a brief look at the area around Fountain Square I headed toward the river. These two photos are of the eastern side of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. The lighted tops of the PNC and Carew Towers can be seen in the first one. All projected images are either constantly changing or in motion.

South of the Freedom Center, seesaws with illuminated beams occupy an area between it and the Roebling Bridge. I walked beyond the seesaws and looked back north for the second picture. Images are projected on all three sections of the Freedom Center. On the left are the PNC and Carew Towers with the Scripps Tower on the right.

The Great American Ball Park, home of the Cincinnati Reds, is a participant with a large display of the event’s name and and a series of baseball themed images.

Food and beverages are available in a number of Hospitality Areas and there are several locations with live music. The first picture is of The Mambo Combo who were performing on the Freedom Center Stage. The second is of the Queen City Kings performing in the Saint Xavier Backlot. The King City projection, with rotating tape reels, is on the rear of Saint Xavier Church. I kind of wanted to talk with the young lady in the picture about what she was reading but I didn’t.

There was another snag besides my late arrival. As stated in the online FAQ, “BLINK is designed around the Cincinnati Bell Connector Streetcar route.” Around 9:00, when I decided to take the streetcar to the north end of the event, it was not moving. It wasn’t the streetcar’s fault. A section of 5th Street was blocked for what I assume was an accident. Yellow police tape crossed the streetcar track. When any part of a loop is blocked, the whole thing, in effect, is blocked. I chose not to walk the fifteen or so blocks so I missed a considerable portion of the exhibits. Just more bad timing on my part.

SCA Conference 2017

When I travel to a conference or festival, the journal often begins to lag once I’ve arrived and organized activities begin to take up most of my time. When there is no travel involved, when the event is in the city where I live, that lag kicks in immediately. With the 2017 Society for Commercial Archeology Conference being just twenty miles from my home, there was no “trip”, only non-stop conference activities. There was just no time for the journal until the conference was over. All four days have been posted at one time. 

The trip journal is here. This entry is to let blog only subscribers know of the trip and provide a place for comments and questions.

Then There Was One

Keith Emerson died in March of last year; Greg Lake followed in December. Carl Palmer looks like he might be around forever. Keith was 71. Greg was 69. Carl was the baby of the progressive rock trio that ruled the 1970s but even the baby is now 67. At 67 Carl Palmer is nearly as quick and powerful as he was at 27 and quicker and more powerful than just about anyone else at any age. Of course, there is a lot more to Carl than speed and power.

I first saw Carl Palmer in 1971 when Emerson, Lake, and Palmer opened for The James Gang at Cincinnati Gardens. There were two openers that night. One, Free, I knew of and had heard a song or two. The other was completely new to me. ELP blew me away that night with such force that, until I looked up some concert details earlier this week, I had totally forgotten that Free had appeared between them and the headliners.

For starters, they sounded good. Nobody sounded good in Cincinnati Gardens but ELP did. What I mostly remember of Greg Lake that night was his singing. I know he played bass and guitar and may have even temporarily wowed me with his playing but it is his voice I remember. Emerson grabbed everyone’s attention. The synthesizer was new and exciting and seemed capable of delivering every sound imaginable. And Keith Emerson was its master.

But the drummer got a lot of my attention, too. At the time, I was an active (ever so slightly) drummer myself and, while I wasn’t particularly good, I knew enough to realize that this guy was great. Carl Palmer didn’t just pound on his massive kit; He played music on it.

I saw ELP once more but, while I was just as impressed with their individual performances, I was actually disappointed in the concert as a whole. It was 1977 and they were touring with an orchestra. A former co-worker thought this was possibly the best concert he had ever attended and an on-line article I just discovered gives me new appreciation for the accomplishment but it just didn’t do it for me. Part of what made my jaw drop back in ’71 was that three guys sounded like an orchestra. I didn’t find a 58 piece orchestra sounding like a 58 piece orchestra nearly as impressive.

There was no orchestra for Friday’s show at Live at the Ludlow Garage. Nor was there a keyboardist or vocalist. Carl occasionally stepped forward to introduce a song or tell a story and that’s what he’s doing in the first photo. Paul Bielatowicz stuck with his six string electric. Simon Fitzpatrick played both a six string bass and a ten string Chapman Stick.. A Chapman Stick can mimic a variety of instruments and both guitarists worked with plenty of effects. It wasn’t ELP but it was three guys sometimes sounding like an orchestra. We had joked about the possibility of getting a two hour drum solo. It was anything but. Carl had some very talented musicians with him.

Of course, it was Carl that everyone came to see and he did not disappoint. There were a couple of time he sat quietly and gave Paul or Simon a chance to show off a little but he never left the stage during the hour and a half show and wasn’t sitting quietly at all for most of it. No, it wasn’t 1971 again but it was closer than I had any right to expect.

Trip Peek #59
Trip #123
Alternate Dixie

This picture is from my 2015 Alternate Dixie day trip. Even though I spent a night away from home. I called this a day trip since I documented none of the drive home. Two different paths between Cincinnati, OH, and Lexington, KY, were recognized by the Dixie Highway Association during its lifetime. The purpose of this trip was to drive the later of the two. It also served as an end-of-winter break. The route passes through the real towns of Independence , Falmouth, and Cynthiana and next to the faux town of Punkyville. I continued beyond where the routes reconnect in Lexington and spent the night at the Boone Tavern in Berea. I did a little research while there that including taking the photograph of the DH cotton bale sign that would be incorporated in the cover of A Decade Driving the Dixie Highway.


Trip Peeks are short articles published when my world is too busy or too boring for a current events piece to be completed in time for the Sunday posting. In addition to a photo thumbnail from a completed road trip, each Peek includes a brief description of that photo plus links to the full sized photo and the associated trip journal.

Concert Review
Paul Simon
Riverbend Music Center

A couple of recent posts spoke of how “I’m not moving like I used to.” Neither am I going to concerts like I used to. I still like live music and often catch both local and big time performers in smallish venues but when it comes to large venues and super stars, I’ve become pretty selective. I don’t like the large crowds and the various hassles that go along with them. I don’t like the large ticket prices. Adjusted for inflation, the third row Beatles ticket I bought for $5.50 in 1966 would cost $41.64 today. My twenty-first row seat at Saturday’s Paul Simon concert was more than twice that ($91.50) though that might be justified. The sound system did seem much improved over three Vox amplifiers and some microphones. But most of all I don’t like the outrageous and unavoidable fees that are stacked on top. Those fees added more than 25% to the Simon ticket. How the hell did we let that happen?

So when I do attend a big crowded high-priced musical affair you can bet it’s someone I really want to see. It’s probably someone I’ve wanted to see for a long time but just never quite managed so that seeing them has become something of a bucket list item. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that the performer and I are both within kicking range. That was the case with last summer’s Steely Dan concert and is the case with a Van Morrison show I’ll be attending this fall. It was the case with Paul Simon.

Maybe Paul’s lost a little vocal range or can’t kick as high as he once did but how would I know? He delivered every thing I hoped for. The songs he played came from every part of his career and I knew almost all of them as did almost all of the audience. The eight piece band made me think of a cross between the Mothers of Invention and the E Street Band. They weren’t quite as tight as the E Street Band but the range of instruments and the levels of talent were pretty close. And they weren’t as loose as the Mothers but they did show a ton of flexibility. Everybody played multiple instruments — even the drummer played a mandolin at one point — and they were all good.

Paul played an acoustic guitar for “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” and when the song ended a stage hand approached with a solid-body electric and they swapped. As Paul was strapping the new instrument in place he responded to shouts from the foot of the stage with “You want to hear it again?” The acoustic guitar came back and Paul and the band delivered another rousing verse or so. Maybe he’s done that before. Maybe he does it a lot. But it seemed spontaneous and we all loved it.

There were two encores. Paul had carried a baseball cap on stage and it hung on his mic stand through most of the show. I believe he carried it off with him at the end of the first set but might be wrong. I know he did after the first encore because it was on his head when he and the band came out for the second. He held it up and explained that the lower case ‘e’ on the hat represents the Half Earth Project which will receive all profits from the current tour. I am only slightly familiar with the project, which proposes to dedicate half the surface of the Earth to nature, but do not doubt its worthiness. In  my mind, both the project and Paul’s contribution connect with “How much is enough?” One species doesn’t need or benefit from manipulating every inch of the earth. One rock star doesn’t need or benefit in any real way from grabbing every dollar on earth. Paul and many musicians continue to perform long after banking enough money for several lifetimes because that’s simply what they do and folks like me and the road crews appreciate it. Wouldn’t it be a great thing if more people accepted that there really is such a thing as enough. The band did three songs in the first encore and four in the second. Then Paul brought them all to the front of the stage for a bow. Many shook hands with fans before walking off . Paul remained on stage alone.

He picked up a guitar and stepped to the mic. “Anger is addicting,” he said, “and we are becoming a nation of addicts. Look around and see who the pushers are.” That’s what I remember and what I recorded on my phone as I left my seat at concert’s end. Another review has it slightly different and there are reports of other variations at other concerts. He then ended the show with “The Sounds of Silence” which I’d been waiting to hear live since 1965. When it was over he moved a few feet to his left and stood the guitar in front of him. He seemed to study the crowd as he allowed the crowd to study him. After a few moments he moved to the other side of the mic and did the same thing. Aloha.