About webnerbob

A Cleveland and Ohio State sports fan who lives in Columbus, Ohio

Shadowbox Live

IMG_2470Part of the concept of Food Truck Summer is to make more of an effort to experience all of the diverse things that Columbus has to offer.  In furtherance of that salutary goal, last night Kish and I joined Mr. and Mrs. JV at Best of Shadowbox Live 2014.

Shadowbox is a local sketch comedy/performance troupe.  Although the group has been performing for 25 years and I’ve lived in Columbus that entire time, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never seen them before.  Last night, therefore, I was a “virgin” — and the Shadowboxers tend to shout out the presence of virgins to the entire room of patrons.  It’s a small price to pay for getting your first taste of this talented collection of performers.

A few background points about Shadowbox.  It’s in the Brewery District of Columbus, and its got a good performance space.  Parking is cheap (only $3) and readily available.  There’s a bistro section where you can have a drink or order food before or after the performance, and you can also eat in the performance space itself. The food is a cut above what you would expect for a performance venue.  I had a grilled chicken sandwich that was both tasty and reasonably priced.

IMG_2472If you choose to eat in the performance hall, which is what we did, you’ll be waited on by the same folks who will be performing.  So, we ordered our nachos, pastas, and sandwiches from a friendly woman who, a few moments later, was convincingly portraying a teenage skank up on stage.  The performers even wait on you during intermission, and return after the show is over to cash you out.  Needless to say, they really work hard, so if you go, leave a generous tip — they clearly deserve it.

The show itself runs two hours and alternates between sketch comedy and songs performed by a full rock band.  We sat in the section nearest the performers and were so close to the stage that you could feel the bass vibrations through the floor under our feet.  The band occupies one end of the stage and the sketch comedy occurs at the other end, with lighting changes allowing sets to be changed on the darkened part of the stage.  It’s a very quick-moving show, and the amphitheater design of the performance space ensures that there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

The comedy parts of the show were quite good.  I particularly liked the Cold Feet, about a long-married couple’s odd reaction to renewing their vows, Coming Out and Going Home, about a gay guy who finds a surprising reception when he confesses his sexual orientation and another preference upon returning to his parents’ home from college, and Good Driver Discount, about designing properly PC TV commercials for an insurance company.

As good as the comedy was, I thought the music was even better.  The house band really puts out the sound, the staging and costumes are great, and the music pieces showed that the performers had talent to burn.  My favorites were the creepy I Put a Spell On You, sung by a female performer with a fabulous voice, a sultry, incense-burning rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, which is seen in the picture at the top of this post, and Prince’s Gett Off, which absolutely kicked ass and closed the show with a bang.

One other great thing about going to Shadowbox — you can buy tickets for upcoming shows for a significant discount and get some other freebies.  We bought tickets to a future show and got free tickets to two other events.  We’ll be back.

Cones And Arrows

IMG_2474Today is day 2 of the Challenge New Albany weekend, which means more cones and arrows around our neighborhood and on the Yantis Loop walking path.

Today it’s a Half Distance Triathlon and an Olympic Distance Triathlon that begins at Alum Creek State Park and ends just down the street, which means we’re marooned again.  After seeing men’s, women’s, and children’s events this weekend, I’m expecting that the red cones will be brought out next weekend for the first New Albany Infant Crawlathon.

Doubling The Airline “Security Fee”

Last week the “security fee” the federal government charges to airline passengers more than doubled, from $2.50 per passenger to $5.60 per passenger.  The increased fee was part of a budget agreement that Congress and the Obama Administration worked out last year.

IMG_2260I don’t have a problem with the concept of “user fees,” and I view the “security fee” as falling within that category.  I think user fees are a fair way of paying for services that some Americans use, but not others.  Every American needs our military, for example, but not everyone needs the blue-shirted Transportation Security Administration folks who remind us to take off our belts, look at our drivers licenses, and wave us through scanners.  Why should people who don’t regularly fly on airplanes pay for services that are used only by regular air travelers like me?  And with all of the nickel-and-diming that goes on with air travel these days, from baggage fees to food fees to other obscure charges, who’s going to notice an extra $3.10?

The problem I have is that the money raised won’t be used entirely for the TSA, or apparently for services that are directly related to air travel security.  I recognize that the federal government is one huge bucket, and it’s hard to precisely account for specific payments, but if you really want to implement a “user fee,” the proceeds should go solely for the service being used.  Otherwise, you’re just using the fee as a thinly disguised tax to raise general revenue, and you’re targeting just one group for the tax hit.  That’s not equitable, and it’s destructive of the fairness principle that make user fees a sensible approach in the first place.

Red Cones In The Morning

IMG_2460Red cones in the morning, North of Woods take warning!

Well, that’s not quite a saying, but whenever you see red cones across the streets in our North of Woods neighborhood on a weekend morning, you know there’s another walking, running, or biking event going on in New Albany.  Today, it’s part of the Challenge New Albany series and is a triathlon competition, so on our walk today Kasey and I saw lots of runners and bikers — and even the full complement of the New Albany Mounted Patrol, which was out in full force.

Having our streets blocked regularly is a pain, but I’ve grown reconciled to it over the years.  Our neighborhood is one of the most centrally located in New Albany, within easy walking distance of the “downtown” Market Street area and the golf course.  Traffic detours and red cones now and then are just part of the price we pay for being close to the library and the post office, and we wouldn’t trade that proximity for anything.

Red Plate, Blue Plate

IMG_2457Kish was on the road today, so I continued Food Truck Summer with the assistance of the Jersey Girl and the Origamist, who was making her first visit to Dinin’ Hall today.  There we found a food truck I haven’t tried before:  Red Plate, Blue Plate, which specializes in what they call Southern Coastal Cuisine.

Was it good?  Let’s just say that if this food is what they really serve on the southern coastline, I know where I’m heading on our next vacation.

JG and I got the shrimp and grits — cheesy grits topped with onions, mushrooms, celery, and nice, plump, juicy grilled shrimp.  Boy, was it succulent, and served nice and hot.  Fortunately for JG and me, we were given a plastic spoon to eat it with, because we snarfed it down so quickly if we had been given a metal knife and fork we probably would have set the place on fire from the sparks.  This dish was super-flavorful and cheesy (that is, cheesy in a good way).  I’m not sure, but I think I beat JG in our race to be the first to reach the bottom of our plates — and when it was done I was sad there was no more.

The Origamist decided on the Charleston, a sandwich made of very delicately fried shrimp, fixins, and special sauce on a roll served with barbecue chips.  It looked so good I had to restrain myself from knocking her to the ground, grabbing her plate, and sprinting into the distance to eat the sandwich.  When deciding what to order, the Origamist asked if the sauce was hot, and the proprietor responded, with a twinkle in his eye, that his food is not about heat or spice, but about taste.  Touche!  He’s right, too.

One Band Member’s View

Every Ohio State graduate I know is proud of the Ohio State University Marching Band — which any true Buckeye knows as The Best Damn Band In The Land.  That’s why the recent report about TBDBITL, and the dismissal of band director Jonathan Waters, is very hard news to take for the members of Buckeye Nation.

One of my friends is father to a daughter, Jocelyn Smallwood, who played Sousaphone in TBDBITL and dotted the i in Script Ohio during the Michigan game — an incredible accomplishment I wrote about in this blog several years ago.  She loves the band and respects Mr. Waters — and she also happens to be mentioned in the report because her band nickname is “Donk.”

Jocelyn offers a different view on the recent report and the dismissal decision.  If you’re interested in seeing what one band member has to say about the issues, you can find Jocelyn’s thoughts here.

The Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout

Mr. and Mrs. America, are you tired? 

Are you tired of being overweight and out of shape?  Are you tired of buying expensive rowing machines, treadmills, and stairsteppers that now just gather dust in your bedrooms and basements?  Are you tired of solitary workouts that simulate some form of martial arts and are performed to stupid music ?  Are you tired of lurching from exercise fad to exercise fad like a young child who can’t make up his mind about which toy he really wants at Christmas?

DSC04139In short, are you yearning for an exercise regimen that doesn’t require cumbersome machinery, will produce results, provide companionship, add years to your life, and require the kind of disciplined, long-term commitment to exercise that you know is the only way to produce meaningful fitness results?

Let me introduce you to the Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout!  It’s all described in this easy-to-read book, The Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout.

You start by acquiring two dogs.  We’ve all read the studies that show that people who have a canine companion live longer.  Imagine what having two dogs will do for your life span!  But here is where the science of the Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout comes in — because the scientific choice of the two dogs will make your exercise regimen even more meaningful. 

You don’t want two dogs of the same breed, or disposition.  No, Mr. and Mrs. America, you want two dogs that are as different as day and night.  One should be small, shifty, always surging ahead, and completely untrustworthy when it comes to bowel and bladder discharges.  The other should be a heavy, stubborn, slow-moving load.  Let our book help you make the right choice!

Then, when you’ve acquired the dogs, feed them.  This is a crucial step in the Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout plan, because we all know the end result that inevitably occurs when dogs are fed.  That’s right — it means you need to walk those dogs and pick up their poop.  And that’s where the sheer magic of the Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout really happens, because the process of walking two radically different dogs and picking up, bagging, and tying off their poop combines every known form of exercise in one fantastic workout!

DSC04130You’ll get the benefits of walking — but at the same time you’ll be pulled in two directions by your tail-wagging friends.  You’ll work the upper body by relentlessly pulling the stubborn, overweight dog on the walk, restraining the energetic dog that wants to run away, then holding back both dogs as they suddenly start lunging and barking at any strange dog that crosses your path.  You’ll also work on your balance, develop ballerina-like grace, and improve your eye-hand coordination as you learn to avoid leash entanglement by dogs that suddenly veer in unpredictable directions and you must spin and transfer leashes from hand to hand behind your back, often also juggling filled poop bags in the process.

Speaking of poop:  your midsection gets a workout from constantly having to bend at the waist to pick up the droppings, and trying to do it as quickly as possibly before the unforgettable odor is permanently embedded in your nostrils.  Then work those fine motor skills by tying off the poop bag as you continue to walk dogs that are never as fast moving as they are immediately after they’ve taken a dump and want to promptly evacuate the tainted area.

And finally, feel the adrenalin surge when the stubborn, overweight dog makes a dead stop at random points during the walk, almost wrenching your shoulder out of its socket and requiring you to pull her forward.  Feel the blood rush scour every scrap of plaque and cholesterol from your veins when your dogs embarrass you by misbehaving when other well-trained dogs walk by.

And know, all the while, that you’ll be doing the Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout for every morning, rain or shine, brutally cold or blastingly hot, for as long as your two devoted companions share your little corner of the world.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  You can get the Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout book for only $29.95, a 50 percent discount from our normal price.  Operators are standing by!  Call now, and we’ll throw in, completely free, two sturdy dog leashes and a pack of 50 dog poop bags stamped with the Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout so that you’ll think of this great product every time you bend over to do your duty.  Feel the burn!

Black Radish Creamery

IMG_2448The California Girl has been back in Ohio for less than two weeks, and already she’s become mildly addicted to the jams and preserves prepared by Black Radish Creamery, a local central Ohio outfit that Kish and I discovered recently at the New Albany Farmer’s Market. 

Two weeks ago we bought several of the Black Radish concoctions in anticipation of the California Girl’s visit with the California Guy.  We grilled out the night of their arrival and prepared chicken on skewers glazed with the Black Radish peach preserves, and it was a hit.  But the California Girl particularly relishes the King B, a combination of black raspberries, cane sugar, organic lemon juice, lemon zest, sea salt, and vanilla bean.  Needless to say, it (like the California Girl herself) rocks.

The California Girl is leaving this weekend, and charged me with the mission of going to tonight’s Farmers’ Market and picking up a few more jars of the King B while she and Kish are off visiting their cousin and The Ultimate Cheapskate.  So the Farmers’ Market is where I found myself an hour or so ago, trying to control two straining, surging, misbehaving dogs while I fished out my wallet and bought some more of the fresh, fruity goodness in a jar.

Mission accomplished, California Girl!  The King B awaits your return, and I hope you take it back to the West Coast and give your Golden State buddies a taste of what Ohio has to offer.

The Secretary Of State’s Security Screening

On Tuesday U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in the Middle East trying to arrange for a cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian fighting in Gaza, met with the Egyptian President.  Prior to the meeting, Kerry’s aides had to go through a metal detector, and Kerry himself was scanned with a security wand.

Reuters reports that such a security screening of a high-ranking U.S. official is “unusual.”  I’d say it’s unprecedented.  I cannot remember any instance where the American Secretary of State was screened, or wanded down, prior to meeting with a foreign dignitary.  And, it’s hard not to feel a certain sense of schadenfreude at seeing a guy who is usually ushered from meeting to meeting by limo and subject to elaborate courtesies have to undergo a security scan like the rest of the masses. 

Obviously, though, there’s a more important issue at work here.  We know the Middle East is a place where symbolism is important and people are deeply sensitive to perceived slights; showing the sole of your shoe can be viewed as a deadly insult.  I’m confident that the security screening was an intentional effort to send a message; no one could reasonably believe that the Secretary of State was packing heat or posed a security threat.  The message therefore has to be that the Egyptian government doesn’t view representatives of the American government as needing special treatment, and they wanted Kerry and his aides to understand that new reality in a very tangible, personal way.  With the incident being widely reported, and with the groupthink mentality at play in the Middle East, the Egyptian view may well be shared by other governments in the region, too. 

If American diplomats are treated like security threats by governments in countries that we hope will help to keep the peace in that deeply troubled region and American power and influence in the Middle East in fact is waning, it is bad news for America and bad news for the world. 

Pastor Andrew’s Thank-You To LeBron

I’ve mentioned our nephew Andrew Kishman before.  He is the pastor of the Miller Avenue United Church of Christ in Akron, in a neighborhood that has fallen on very tough times.  Helping the people — of all faiths — who live in that decayed, dangerous place is a tough challenge, but it is a challenge that Andrew is willing to tackle.  Our whole family is proud of him.

IMG_2269This morning Andrew wrote a wonderful piece about his thoughts on the decision of LeBron James to return to his roots.  It’s an interesting take that you’ve probably not seen elsewhere, because it is written from the perspective of someone who struggles every day to give hope to kids whose situations seem hopeless.  Andrew thinks that this famous athlete’s recognition of the pull of the community from whence he came, and his interest in giving back to that community in the way that only athletes can, might just provide that hope.

I think it’s nice of Andrew to thank LeBron — but I also think it would be nice for LeBron, and others, to thank people like Andrew.

Knights And Carrousel Horses

IMG_2442The Columbus Commons is all decked out for the summer, with a king-size, on-the-ground chess set available for the scholarly gamers, a carrousel ready for the young and young at heart, and cool grass, good food truck options, and flowers for the rest of us.  It’s a cool location, and getting cooler every day as more people move into the new apartment units that border the Commons and two other large developments are under construction just across the street in two directions.

Getting rid of the old enclosed City Center mall and replacing it with green space that can also serve as an entertainment venue during the summer months is one of the best things that has happened to downtown Columbus.

IMG_2445

Car Names

Yesterday I was driving in downtown Columbus, in line behind one of those generic, ubiquitous, slow-moving SUVs. I looked at the colossal rear end of the vehicle and saw that it was called the Buick Enclave.

The Enclave? Now there’s a car name.

The Enclave is both evocative and designed to appeal to a very specific segment of the population. Evocative, because the enormous car actually looked like a big, boxy, rolling chunk of metal capable of sheltering a healthy segment of the population from the ravages of the outside world. Of limited and specific appeal, because no one who buys an Enclave is looking for anything sporty or daring. Nope, they want safety, and comfortable seats, and lots of cupholders where they can store the drinks they’re sipping in happy security as ugly, dangerous reality slides by outside their windows.

Car manufacturers do a pretty good job with names that define the vehicle itself, like the Mustang, or the Challenger, or the Nissan Cube. The Buick Enclave, I think, has to have a place in the Pantheon of great car names. But should it concern us that there apparently is a healthy market of American car buyers who are looking for a rolling enclave?

Arcadia

20140722-173126-63086197.jpgI’m back in Cleveland for another stay at the fabulous Hyatt Arcade. Its lavish interior decorations, glittering flourishes, and gold paint seem well-suited to Cleveland’s new attitude. With LeBron James coming home and the Republican National Convention on the calendar for 2016, the residents of The Best Location in the Nation all seem to be walking with smiles on their faces and a spring in their steps.

Time To Skip A Few Fundraisers

Yesterday Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California was asked about whether President Obama should alter his current schedule, which includes attending a number of fundraising events, so that he can focus more on some of the crises in the world, such as the downing of the passenger jet over the Ukraine by pro-Russian forces, the surge by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and the escalated Israeli-Palestinian fighting in Gaza.  Senator Feinstein’s response was delicately phrased.  She said that the world would very much respect his “increased attention” to these matters, because the Leader of the Free World needs to lead in such times.

President Obama has attended a lot of fundraisers during his tenure in office.  The Washington Post recently calculated that he has held 393 fundraisers while in office, which is more than George W. Bush’s total during his full two terms but not quite as many as Bill Clinton’s record.  It’s not hard to understand why Presidents like fundraisers.  By definition, it’s a friendly gathering — after all, everyone else in attendance is ponying up thousands of dollars to be there, and obviously they’re not paying that much for the food — and at the end of the event the President can see tangible results and tote up the money he’s raised to support candidates who will support his agenda.

The Obama Administration no doubt would contend that the President is fully in touch with his national security team and capable of dealing with these crises whether he’s in the Oval Office or wearing a tux at some glittering event.  Maybe . . . although the combination of world events and the mess at our border raise legitimate questions about whether the President is fully in control of events.  In any case, I think Senator Feinstein has put her finger on something significant.

Appearances and messaging are important in today’s world.  It’s hard to successfully characterize something as a crisis if you can’t be bothered to change your schedule and skip non-essential events in order to work the phones with international leaders and build working coalitions to deal with the problem.  When the President goes to fundraisers in the midst of these events, he’s implicitly communicating that he is more concerned about Republicans than he is about the Middle East, or the Ukrainian separatist activities, or the influx of unaccompanied minor illegal immigrants.

Senator Feinstein recognizes that — and, I suspect, so do the perpetrators of the events that have given rise to these crises in the first place.  I think it’s time for the President to skip a few fundraisers.

Silicon Valley

Thank God for HBO On Demand!

I missed Silicon Valley when the show was first aired earlier this year.  Over the weekend, though, I sat and watched all eight episodes from Season One in one sitting, with only an appropriate mid-season bathroom break.  It was tremendous, and I would argue that the final episode of Season One ranks as one of the great single episodes of any TV sitcom, ever — right up there with the Death of Chuckles episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show or the Seinfeld episode about The Contest.

If you haven’t seen the show, the plot is straightforward.  Four computer geeks decide to start their own company, with a product based on an advanced compression algorithm one of them has developed.  The show is a satire of the Silicon Valley culture — drenched in cash, but also insisting that it is altruistically making the world a better place — and is chock full of memorable characters and scenes.  It’s about time we saw a lampooning of the technology/money culture in America, and this show really delivers — with a few detours into Satanism, American immigration policy, technology shows, billionaire egos, and some other sources of hilarity.

The principal actors on the show — Thomas Middleditch as the vomiting software genius, T.J. Miller as the brash and self-deluding Erlich, Martin Starr as the deadpan, Satan-worshipping Gilfoyle, Kumail Nanjiani as the acerbic Dinesh, and Zach Woods as the boring but capable Jared — are spot on in their depiction of nerds and geeks trying to find their way in the cash culture, and the rest of the cast is equally good.  The writing is terrific and sharp.  If you haven’t seen it, give it a try.