Book Review
Cincinnatus
Rusty McClure & David Stern

cincinnatus_cvrWhen this blog’s About page mentions reviews, it says they will not include “the latest novel”. When I wrote that, I was probably thinking “any novel”. I don’t read much fiction these days and I did not really expect to be reviewing any. I waited long enough to read this book that it is no longer the latest novel so my claim is still good. So is Cincinnatus.

One day months or maybe years ago, a friend told me about a really good book he had just finished but, when he looked for it to loan to me, it couldn’t be found. Another day months or maybe years ago, I attended a lecture on Powell Crosley given by Rusty McClure, co-author of the non-fiction book Crosley. I had read Crosley; Had actually bought a copy at a signing when it was first published. The lecture was quite interesting and, at its conclusion, everyone was given a paperback copy of Crosley. We were also given a hardback copy of a novel. As I said, I don’t read much fiction and I figured that something someone was giving away copies of wasn’t worth my time to read. I put it in the stack of stuff to be read if I ever get snowed in for three months with no internet connection. Then, on another day just a couple of months ago, my friend once again brought up that book he had mentioned previously. It had been found and he had enjoyed reading it so much that he had read it again. That is not normal behavior for my friend or very many other people. That must be a really good book. Yes I would like to borrow it. Then, as he talked more about the book, I realized it was the very novel that sat at home scorned and unread. I decided to reconsider.

Crosley is a very good book. McClure and Stern are clearly good writers. However, the ability to produce good non-fiction does not always translate to the ability to create good fiction. I was still a little skeptical when I finally wiped the dust off of my copy of Cincinnatus and opened it. After a little back story set in 1938 Florida, the book’s action begins in modern day Columbus, Ohio, and fairly quickly moves to Cincinnati. At first my skepticism had me seeing the use of local names and landmarks in a harsh light. Maybe the authors were trying just a little too hard to convince the reader that they had been to Ohio. Despite my friends recommendation, I found myself wondering if this was like those customized books from Santa Claus that kids like to read because their family’s names are in them. Was this fun for Cincinnatians to read purely because it talked about Cincinnati? But, even as I asked myself that, it became apparent that the answer was no. The adventure was rolling and, while it was nice to know what Cincinnati’s Fountain Square looked like when the plot traveled there, it wasn’t necessary.

Any fears that the novel would drown in Ohio minutiae were unwarranted. The plot visits California, Florida, and a few other places and everywhere the details do what they’re supposed to do — make the story believable. The book is a thriller. Political thriller I’m guessing is the right description. There is ample well researched history and more than a smattering of golf which I’m confident is as well researched and accurate. And there’s some accurate real science and some of the “science fiction” variety that is accurate enough.

The action is almost non-stop and the twists frequent enough that predicting who shoots who is rather fruitless. Maybe my description so far makes the book seem shallow. It isn’t. Now and then the reader might look up from the page for a while to follow some thought on politics, or technology, or religion that the book hatched.

I enjoyed reading Cincinnatus a lot but I don’t expect my fiction/non-fiction ratio to suddenly flip flop. I guess that could change, though, if I could be guaranteed a Camp Washington Chili appearance within the first hundred pages of every novel.

Cincinnatus: The Secret Plot to Save America, Rusty McClure & David Stern, Ternary Publishing, November 1, 2009, 9.2 x 6.2 inches, 523 pages, ISBN 978-0984213207

Congrats WNKU

bwphhOnce again I was within minutes of posting a Trip Pic Peek when I decided to do something like what I did a couple of weeks ago and make a quick post with a picture of my favorite thing from the week. I didn’t do much this week. We had record-for-the-date temperatures and snowfall and I spent a few days battling a cold. It was all I could do to see sixteen bands.

My favorite radio station, WNKU, celebrated its first thirty years and raised a little money for the next thirty with a two night event at The Southgate House Revival featuring fifteen performers each night. A Saturday pre-show party with one of the performers from Friday and two new additions brought the total to thirty-two. I didn’t see them all. That would have meant staying up way past my bedtime. I concentrated on seeing acts that were new to me and, having seen both night’s “headliners” before, I was able to cut out early each night. However, I did stay a little later than planned on Saturday. I intended to listen to just a few songs from Buffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle but ended up staying for their full set. They are this week’s favorite thing.

When I first started hearing of them, I kept putting a “The” in front of the name and thought it odd that these two bands kept getting booked together. I eventually learned that it was a single group and this week I learned that Buffalo Wabs isn’t a band. It’s guitarist Matt Wabnitz’s nickname. Their website says he handles “most of the vocal duties”. That may be true but The Price Hill Hustle (Casey Campbell, Ian Mathieu, and Scott Risner) all sing and the harmonies are fabulous. They’re almost as much fun to watch as they are to listen to. It’s kind of hard to see but that really is a log chain that Casey’s playing that snare with.

Here’s the full line-up, with the acts I saw in bold:

Friday – Wild Carrot500 Miles to Memphis, Jason Wilber, Will Kimbrough, The Tillers – Alone at 3AMFrontier Folk Nebraska, Noah Wotherspoon Band, Arlo McKinley & the Lonesome Sound, Charlie Mars – My Brother The Bear, The Great Wide Open, The Repeating Arms, Honey & Houston, The Part-Time Gentlemen.

Saturday –  Chardez, Nikki LaneJason Wilber – The Bromwell Diehl Band, The NewbeesBuffalo Wabs & The Price Hill Hustle, Noah Hunt & The Scotty Bratcher Band, The Cliftones – William Matheny, Ben Knight & The Well Diggers, Tyler Childers & The Food Stamps, Hocking River String Band, New Country Rehab – Willow Tree Carolers, BMV, The 220 Breakers, Nick Dittmeier Band, The Ready Stance.

Dinner and a Movie – Cincinnati Style

asmdm01I put Wednesday’s screening of the movie Sign Painters at the American Sign Museum on my “maybe” list as soon as I heard about it. It was moved to “probably” when I learned dinner would be included. When I found out the museum’s almost neighbor Camp Washington Chili would be doing the catering, I bought a ticket. I’ve eaten at CWC many times and I’ve eaten many things there but never a salad. I don’t believe it ever occurred to me that they would even have a salad. It was quite good and apparently can be had with grilled chicken at the restaurant. Who knew?

asmdm02asmdm03The beverage table never really got crowded but I hit it before even a hint of a line formed. Local (Mount Carmel & Christian Moerlein) and “other” beer was available along with wine and soda. I made my food line pass after the initial rush. There were 3-ways and coneys in addition to the aforementioned salad and they even had cold-cut sandwiches. I’m guessing those were for the out-of-towners.

asmdm05asmdm04The tables that were empty when I took my picture of the beverage table, were filled as soon as the food was served as were other tables throughout the museum. Paint trays and cans held a variety of movie-appropriate sweets and one pail was filled with small paper bags so you could carry a supply of Lemonheads, Charleston Chews, Bulls-Eyes, Necco Wafers, and other goodies into the viewing room.

asmdm06asmdm07asmdm08As showtime approached, a drawing of museum founder Tod Swormstedt (accurate enough to identify him should he ever go missing) was replaced by the real thing and Tod introduced the movie. Two large screens were filled by a pair of synchronized digital projectors so everyone had a good view. The event had sold out several days earlier. I don’t really know what that means but something like 200 attendees seems a reasonable guess.

Sign Painters features interviews with a number of painters plus quite a bit of footage of some of them at work. A few of the painters are in their thirties but most are older and there is, as you might expect, plenty of talk about the good old days when sign painting was a thriving profession. There is no question that automation and the availability of cheap — in every sense of the word — product have wreaked havoc on the field but not everything is doom and gloom. There are still people who feel called to paint signs and there are still some customers who appreciate the value of hand crafted advertising. In particular, large wall signs are often seen as worthwhile and they remain something that takes a human touch.

At one point in the movie, I found my mind returning to thoughts of a couple weeks ago. I was loosely following an online discussion about ghost signs. Ghost signs are always old so they are almost always faded and they often, but not always, advertise something that is no longer available. They can be considered eyesores or glimpses of history. People may tend to lean one way or the other but opinions are often of the “it depends…” sort. I believe my participation in the discussion was limited to sharing a link to a local radio story on ghost signs. The story uses the words “art” and “pollution” but that’s really just another way to say “history” and “eyesore”. In the movie, when a large and fading hand-painted advertisement is painted over — by hand — with a new and very different advertisement neither of the signs seem very important. It doesn’t matter whether some history gets covered over or if an ugly wall is made beautiful. What matters is that an art form, a skill set, a profession gets to breathe a little.

The museum’s parking lot is not huge and, in addition to the chili and beer and candy and movie, there was free valet parking. I tucked a couple of bucks into my shirt pocket for a tip but by the time my car was pulled up to the door, I’d already heard what the valet would say to me. “No, I can’t take that. No tips. We’ve been taken care of.” Me too.

Cincinnati the Exhibitionist

cte01I visited a few museums this week. One reason was that I realized some temporary exhibits I wanted to see would be ending soon but there was also a lot of happenstance involved. For those of us spared desperate last minute shopping, the week before Christmas seems to be rife with days needing to be filled with something and a little catching up fits nicely. This post will wander a bit but will eventually get around to explaining the nose shortage revealed in the photo above.

cte02cte03cte04Early in the week, I attended the Mummies of the World exhibition at Cincinnati Museum Center. No photos were permitted in the traveling display so I’ve included a picture of the museum’s resident mummy, Umi. Mummies of the World will be in Cincinnati through April 26. The third photo is of the museum’s giant Christmas tree backed by Union Terminal’s brightly painted half-dome. For those who feel a little disoriented by that shot, a more traditional view is here.

cte08cte07cte06On Friday, I went out for breakfast then decided it would be a good time for an overdue visit to the American Sign Museum. There is so much here that it’s often near impossible for me to know if a sign is truly a recent addition or simply something I’ve not noticed before. As I gawked my way around, founder Tod Swormstedt made a point of saying hello and verified that a couple of signs in the local area were indeed newly placed. I clearly remember driving and walking by the Wizard sign many times in the wild but do not recall ever being inside the Clifton area record shop. Tod also gave me a little behind the scenes tour that included a recently acquired 1944 sign truck that will be used in parades and other promotions.

cte10cte11This year’s Fotofocus was in October and, with the exception of Treasures in Black & White at the museum center, I pretty much missed it. However, some related exhibits are still in place. One of them isn’t too far from the Sign Museum so I figured this was a good time to visit it as well. Good thing, too. It had just two more days to run. Documenting Cincinnati’s Neighborhoods at Hebrew Union College contains examples of the work of three local photographers from the middle of the 1900s.

cte13ncte12Maybe realizing how close I came to missing the Neighborhoods exhibit scared me because I next headed straight to the Taft Museum where two photo exhibits were in progress. I didn’t really need to hurry, I suppose, since both Black, White, and Iconic: Photographs from Local Collections and Paris Night & Day: Masterworks of Photography from Atget to Man Ray continue through January 11. No pictures were allowed in either exhibit but amateur photos of photo masterpieces aren’t all that appealing anyway. On the other hand, what I believe is a fairly recent policy change, not only allows but encourages non-flash photography in the other areas of the museum. The two photos here are of displays in the museum’s annual Antique Christmas exhibit.

cte14That opening photo was also taken at the Taft. A trio of reindeer stands in the lobby with an oval cutout that allows anyone to be photographed as one of the group. Apparently red noses were once available so that adding a Rudolph like touch was an option. That option, it seems, was quite a bit more popular than anticipated which led to it currently being unavailable. BYON.

Take It from the Top

lufs01Cincinnati’s official Christmas tree lighting took place Friday night. Though temperatures would be in the 30s, it promised to be a dry evening and I decided to attend. I reached downtown in plenty of time to visit the observation deck on the 49th floor of the Carew Tower. This was the city’s tallest building until the Great American Tower surpassed it in 2010. But, even though the newer tower is taller (665 vs. 574 ft), it sits a bit farther down the river bank and the Carew deck remains, by 79 feet, the highest point in downtown Cincinnati. It overlooks Fountain Square with its ice skating rink in place for the winter. That’s the 1871 Tyler Davidson Fountain at its center and the big green thing at the lower edge of the photo is the 53 foot evergreen that will be lighted shortly after dark.

lufs02lufs03lufs04lufs05These four pictures offer glimpses of the view north, east, south, and west. Looking north, WLW-T’s broadcast tower is visible at about a mile and a half distance. To the east, the building with the “tiara” is the aforementioned Great American Tower and that’s the Scripps Center blocking the view of the Great American Ball Park. South of town, the 1866 Roebling Suspension Bridge crosses the Ohio River beyond the PNC Tower and National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Slivers of Cincinnati’s two stadiums are just visible at at the edges of the picture. Baseball’s on the left, football on the right. In the fourth picture, the river heads on west and away from the tangle of interstates.

lufs08lufs07lufs06Here’s a picture of the just-out-of-frame Paul Brown Stadium. The iconic Union Terminal is northwest of Carew Tower so was not included in the four directional photos and I’m including a photo of the Roebling Bridge by itself because it is also an icon and because I just want to.

lufs09lufs10lufs11Before leaving the building, I paused on the second floor to check out the Netherland Plaza’s Gingerbread City and a Tribute to the Shillito’s Elves. There’s a gingerbread Roebling Bridge behind that Great American Ball Park. The displayed elves are just a few of the many used in Shillito’s Department Store displays in the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. The third picture is of the Carew Tower lobby.

lufs16lufs15lufs14Outside, decorated carriages were lining up next to Fountain Square and the decorated but not yet lighted tree. On the square, skaters were having a great time while the less adventurous strolled through Cincideutsch Christkindlmarkt.

lufs17lufs18I strolled around the square for awhile myself then headed off for some dinner. When I returned the square was packed and rocking and the countdown was only a few minutes away. To even the score, I grabbed a shot of Carew Tower from beside the fountain

lufs20lufs19At the end of a rousing countdown, Mayor Cranley threw a switch and I snapped a picture of the freshly lighted tree through the back of the stage. Fireworks were close behind and I snapped a few pictures of those, too, even though I felt kind of silly taking pictures of fireworks that were being shown on the giant video screen right in my line of view.

lufs21Tis the season to be jolly.

Did It Again

dav5k2014_01I have now participated in every one of the Cincinnati DAV 5K events. All two of them. Entries were up a little in the second 5K Run/Walk/Roll/Ride and it now has a companion event in San Diego. Cincinnati’s second DAV 5K took place yesterday, November 8. San Diego’s inaugural DAV 5K is scheduled for today, November 9.

dav5k2014_02dav5k2014_03This year, a long line of motorcycles roared past the waiting runners and walkers a few minutes before the starting gun was fired. Most, if not all, were ridden by veterans most of who would park their bikes and stand near the end of the course to cheer and thank those on foot.

dav5k2014_05dav5k2014_04As I did last year, I started (and finished) near the back of the pack. This year, however, I was alone. Dave, who had sort of recruited me for the first event, was on his way to Akron. A couple of weeks ago, when we last spoke, Dave told me he would be dashing off to something as soon as the walk was over and that it would be best if we drove separately. I sent a text when I left home to start coordinating a starting-line hook-up only to learn that he had forgotten the walk and had started his dashing early. I was left all alone except for the couple of thousand runners and walkers surrounding me.

dav5k2014_06As expected, those bike riding veterans were lined up near the finish encouraging and thanking everyone that passed by. As I explained last year, I walk similar distances often enough that I didn’t really need the encouragement but I still appreciated it and, even more so, the shouted “Thank you”s. I exchanged hand slaps and thanks with many of those standing by the road. But there were several people, especially in the trailing part of the herd I traveled with, who no doubt welcomed and benefited from the words of encouragement as well as the cheers. Quite a few people were pushing wheelchairs or strollers or walking with a cane and for them a 5K outing was far from easy. Those people were not, incidentally, all behind me.

dav5k2014_07There were 2147 people who crossed the finish line this year compared to last year’s 2035. A fellow in a hand-cycle covered the course in 14:01. The fastest runner did it in 17:14. I did it in 1:08:29. That’s a little quicker than last year’s 1:12:41 but I can explain. Part of the difference is that it was noticeably colder than last year and I was probably moving a little faster. But I have little doubt that the main reason for the more than four minute difference was that Dave wasn’t there setting the pace and giving me the proper motivation. There were almost forty people behind me this year. I can do better.

dav5k2014_09dav5k2014_08The brief closing ceremonies included a few awards and some words from DAV National Commander Ronald Hope. Bigger — and no doubt warmer — post-race celebrations immediately followed with different Banks area bars set aside for “reunions” of the various branches of the military. This draft dodger slipped away feeling a little better about myself and with a deep appreciation for our veterans.

I Care Not How. Only If.

yvyvWe fought a war to get this country going then gave every land owning white male above the age of twenty-one the right to vote. A little more than four score years later, we fought a war with ourselves that cleared the way for non-whites to vote. Several decades of loud, disruptive, and sometimes dangerous behavior brought the granting of that same right to non-males a half-century later and another half century saw the voting age lowered to eighteen after a decade or so of protests and demonstrations.

dftv1Of course, putting something in a constitution does not automatically make it a practice throughout the land and I am painfully aware that resistance followed each of those changes and that efforts to make voting extremely difficult for “the other side” are ongoing today. I don’t want to ignore partisan obstructions and system flaws but neither do I want to get hung up on them. I meant my first paragraph to be a reminder that a hell of a lot of effort, property, and lives have gone into providing an opportunity to vote to a hell of a lot of people. Far too many of those opportunities go unused.

There are so many ways to slice and dice the numbers that producing a fair and accurate measure of voter turn out may not be possible. A Wikipedia article  on the subject includes a table of voter turnout in a number of countries for the period 1960-1995. The United States is at the bottom. The numbers are nearly twenty years old and open to interpretation so maybe we’re doing better now or maybe we shouldn’t have been dead last even then. But even if you want to think we are better than that, being anywhere near the bottom of the list and having something in the vicinity of 50% turnout is embarrassing… and frightening.

dftv2In the title I claim to not care how anyone votes. That’s not entirely true, of course. I have my favorite candidates and issues. I’ll be disappointed in anyone who votes differently than I do but not nearly as disappointed as I’ll be in anyone who doesn’t vote at all. I’m reminded of parents working on getting their kids to clean their plates with lines like, “There are hungry children in China who would love to have your green beans.” I’m not sure what the demand for leftover beans is in Beijing these days but I’m pretty sure some folks there would like to have our access to ballots and voting booths.

Taste of Tarbell

tot01According to this blog’s “About” page, it may contain “just about anything other than politics or religion”. This post is a clear violation of that description but I feel it’s a fairly minor one and I’m hoping that it is one that can be forgiven. There is no question that Jim Tarbell is a politician but he is a lot more than that and Tuesday’s “Taste of Tarbell”, the event that marked the start of his campaign for Hamilton County Commissioner, seemed to be more than a political fundraiser.

Jim Tarbell has been a member of Cincinnati’s City Council and has owned two Cincinnati legends, Ludlow Garage and Arnold’s, on the way to becoming one himself. He lost a 2010 bid for a county commission seat and his late decision to run this year forces him to do it as a write-in. Specific reasons for the decision can be easily learned elsewhere. They are not the reasons I attended the campaign launch. I attended because Jim is someone who loves Cincinnati and Hamilton County and who I think will do his best to do what is right for them. That and the fact that it was a darned good party.

tot02The Comet Bluegrass All Stars were nearing the end of their set when I arrived and I caught just the last few notes of something that Katie Laur was singing with them. They did one more song but I was chatting through most of it and got no pictures. There was a cash bar and a pair of impressive layouts of a great variety of food brought in by friends. That encouraged mingling and chatting and it wasn’t until Ricky Nye, who I’d been doing a fair amount of that chatting with, sat down to play that I got my first picture.

tot04tot03Though I missed the actual announcement, I picked up on the migration and asked enough questions to learn that everyone was wanted in the main hall for a photo shoot. Several photos were taken of the mass of people, including me, wearing masks like the one shown at the top of the article. After that, Jim delivered some speechifying and a little harmonica playing. A tune with Katie Laur was planned and she joined Jim at what seemed like the right time but Jim wasn’t quite done talking. It was not an outrageously long speech but, after a couple of minutes, Linford Detweiler got the biggest laugh of the night when he brought out a chair for Laur. At the proper time, Brad Meinerding joined Jim and Katie for The Tennessee Waltz which, as Jim explained, was apropos of nothing but “we like it”.

tot05tot06With that, Jim and about half the crowd headed back downstairs for more mingling while those that remained were treated to a rather intimate performance from Over the Rhine. Meinerding stayed on stage to help Linford  and Karin perform about a half dozen songs beginning with Meet Me at the Edge of the World.

Lasse die Guten Zeiten Rollen!

ofjpAttending a John Prine concert in the middle of America’s largest Oktoberfest may have been the highlight of my week but it wasn’t the only musical event involved. Honky tonk ribbon cutting came before and Revival rocking came after. Here, in the order of their appearance, are the things that filled the last week of summer for me.

Early this year, Outlaw Magazine, which is about music rather than law breaking, launched something called the Last Honky Tonk Music Series. Taking its name from a song by singer-songwriter Wayne Mills, who was shoot and killed in Nashville last December, its purpose is “Sustaining the Artists, Sustaining the Venues, Sustaining the Community”. Every state is to have at least one venue in the series and Ohio now has two.

lhtrc02lhtrc01On Thursday, John Nawrocki and I attended the ribbon cutting ceremony that launched the first Last Honky Tonk Music Series performance at Friend’s Backyard Grill in Clarksville, Ohio. Clinton County officials help owner Rhonda Friend cut the ribbon.

lhtrc05lhtrc04lhtrc03Once the “formal” stuff was out of the way, Dallas Moore got on with the honky tonking. By pure coincidence, I’d seen — but not heard — Dallas about two weeks ago at Ohio’s other Last Honky Tonk Music Series location, Win Place or Show. By another, perhaps not so pure, coincidence, that was only the second time I’d stopped at Win Place or Show in the last few years and Dallas was setting up on both occasions. Of course, both stops were to enjoy the outside deck on sunny afternoons which is why I make no claims regarding the purity of the coincidence. That first time, more than a year ago, gear for the whole band was being carried in and I made sure I was gone before they got plugged in. On the most recent stop, it would be a solo performance but I still ate and left. In hindsight, I wish I had stayed. I have seen the Dallas Moore Band in the past and have not enjoyed them very much. On Thursday I discovered that I do enjoy Dallas as a solo performer. I’ll definitely hang around the next time I encounter him alone and I might even give the band another listen some day.

ofz01The John Prine concert was Friday. I got my ticket a long time ago and, because it would be in downtown Cincinnati, even had some vague plans about going down early for dinner and strolling. A few days ago, when I finally got serious and realized that the concert coincided with the first day of Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, those vague plans became very solid and darned near perfect.

ofz04ofz03ofz02Cincinnati’s first Oktoberfest, at least the first of the current run, took place in 1976. With attendance in excess of half a million, it is considered the largest in the United States. I haven’t been to Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in several years and when I did go it was likely to be on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It turns out that Friday evening, with a somewhat smaller crowd, is a much better choice. The only things missing, besides the Saturday afternoon World’s Largest Chicken Dance, are the carnival rides which don’t get turned on until morning. That not only keeps the number of tikes down but prevents a regrettable tilt-a-whirl ride with a belly full of goetta and Hudy.

ofz05Anchored by Fountain Square, Oktoberfest Zinzinnati occupies five blocks of Fifth Street. A few blocks to the south, the Christian Moerlein Lager House has their own party going on under an immense “authentic Munich-style Oktoberfest tent” they call ÜberDrome. It looks like I captured Moerlein’s commander-in-chief, Greg Hardman, in my picture although I didn’t realize that until I was editing the picture for posting. I’m guessing that many stick with one place or the other though the walk between Fifth Street and the Lager House isn’t all that much longer than the walk from one end of the ÜberDrome to the other.

jp03jp02jp01I got back to Fifth Street with just enough time to add a bit of strudel to the goetta and Hudy before heading inside. John Prine‘s voice isn’t quite what it was in the ’70s; very few are. I’m sure his recent bouts with cancer haven’t helped but the funny songs are no less funny and the touching songs are possibly even more touching. He’s definitely still got it. That’s Amanda Shires, who opened the show, singing with John in the third photo.

bella1bella2bella3Just like Prine and Oktoberfest, I prefaced my third show of the week with a party. This was a birthday pawty for a Great Pyrenees named Mia Bella. I understand that Bella was even greater (by several pounds) at the time of the party than when the poster was created. There were beef, vegi, and turkey hot dogs, each with its own cooker, along with paw and puppy patterned pastries. Note that Hudepohl fits in at smaller gatherings just as well as at big city festivals.

simo01The third show was in the Revival Room at Southgate House Revival in Newport, Kentucky. I first saw JD Simo in Nashville in 2009 and have been looking forward to seeing him again ever since. He was a hired gun in 2009 but has been fronting his own trio, SIMO, for about three years. They have been here once before but I just could not get to that show. This time I made it and was every bit as blown away as I expected to be. The only thing disappointing was the crowd.

simo02simo03simo04I don’t believe there was ever more than forty people in the audience. That made it nice for those of us that were there and the trio sure didn’t slack off because of it but this guy deserves to be seen and heard by a lot more people. In 2009 he impressed me in Nashville where remarkable musical talent fills every stage and sidewalk. In Newport, there were times when I thought I might be having a 1968 Jimi Hendrix flashback. I don’t mean that JD imitates or sounds like Hendrix but seeing the virtuoso guitarist fronting a driving power trio naturally triggers comparisons with Hendrix, Cream, James Gang, Mountain, and the like. SIMO handles the comparisons well.

Celebrating Diana

diana-1I wavered on going to see Diana: A Celebration at the Cincinnati Museum Center. The Center attracts some of the world’s best traveling exhibits and I generally make a point of taking them in. Some, like the Dead Sea Scrolls, I start planning to see as soon as I learn of them. Others, even though I fully intend to see them, I just sort of work in “whenever”. Until something reminded me of it on a rainy and idle day, I wasn’t even sure that I would be attending this particular exhibit.

My lack of commitment was not due to any dislike for Princess Diana. In fact, I think she probably did as much for the good of the world as any public figure of her time and a lot more than most. I simply don’t have much interest in royalty in general and nothing in the description of this exhibit aroused much interest in it. Gowns and jewels were not the only things on display but they are what advertisements and descriptions mentioned the most. To be fair, the relatively small amount of time that separates Diana’s life from the present no doubt has a lot to do with my lack of interest. I couldn’t wait to attend the Cleopatra exhibit in 2011 and I’m sure I’d eagerly work a display based on Queen Victoria or Catherine the Great. Of course, those women were all rulers while Diana was not and that may have as much to do with it as time.

I think a desire to not regret not going was a large part of my decision to go. I went and enjoyed it enough to not regret going. The exhibit and my level of enjoyment were pretty much what I expected. The only surprise was the demographics of the other attendees. A young man scanned my ticket at the entrance. About halfway through, I encountered an older fellow wearing a museum ID badge who seemed to be doing some sort of status check on some of the displayed items. At roughly the same time I spotted a guy listening to one of the optional audio guides along with a woman I took to be his wife. I saw something on the order of fifty attendees as I made my way through the exhibit. Only two of approximately half a hundred patrons were male and only one — me — was certifiably there of his own volition. In hindsight, perhaps I should have anticipated that but I hadn’t. Clearly, the trappings of a princess are of much greater interest to those who are at least physically qualified to become one than to those who are not.

diana-2No photos are allowed in the Diana exhibit. The picture at left is from the companion exhibit, Daughters of the Queen City, which honors women noted for their charitable work in and around Cincinnati. Among the women featured were Louise Nippert, Mary M. Emery, and Patricia Corbett whose names even I recognize. Diana: A Celebration and Daughters of the Queen City continue through August 17.

diana-4diana-3While at the museum, I took in two other temporary exhibits. Medicine, Marbles and Mayhem displays items retrieved from 19th century privies. Aside from their intended purpose, privies were used to dispose of just about anything and many details of life in in the good old days can be learned through “outhouse archaeology”. Medicine, Marbles and Mayhem runs through May 26.

diana-5diana-6Treasures in Black & White: Historic Photographs of Cincinnati is quite accurately described by its title. At the risk of angering princesses everywhere, I have to say that this is what I enjoyed most on this museum visit. Every photo depicts something important from Cincinnati’s past plus many of them work as pure art. Some artifacts, such as a Ruth Lyons guest book, augment the photographs. The book is displayed near a photograph of Liberace signing it and opened to show his entry. Treasures in Black & White runs through October 12.