Friday, September 26, 2008

Orchestra critic demoted

Updated Tue. 9/30:

Plain Dealer editor Susan Goldberg has demoted the paper's classical music critic, Donald Rosenberg, apparently because she felt he was unfairly critical of Cleveland Orchestra director Franz Welser-Möst. She reassigned him to general arts writing, taking him off the Orchestra beat, which he had for 28 years. The decision comes after years of complaints about Rosenberg from Orchestra supporters.

This is a big story in national media and classical music circles. Here are links to the major articles:
-Thursday's New York Times article: “They’ve taken my career away from me,” Rosenberg says.
-Monday and Tuesday blog posts from Baltimore Sun classical music critic Tim Smith: "Music critics are hired to deliver critical opinions. If those opinions are not popular with some people, tough."
-Wednesday's Plain Dealer profile of Welser-Möst by Rosenberg's replacement, Zack Lewis.
-Wednesday's Cleveland Scene article: "What part of critic don't they understand?"
-Rosenberg's post-orchestra work this week, on his ballet, modern dance and classical music blog.
-PD reader rep Ted Diadun writes very cautiously about Rosenberg getting the boot.
-The Los Angeles Times classical critic says he likes Welser-Möst but thinks the Plain Dealer has damaged itself.
-A Wall Street Journal classical critic asks whether PD publisher Terry Egger should be serving on the Cleveland Orchestra's board.

Check out Cleveland Magazine's coverage of the orchestra and the newspaper: Andy Netzel's article on the orchestra's financial troubles, from June 2007, and my profile of Susan Goldberg, from this March.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cleveland Magazine Politics debuts

I've started a new blog, Cleveland Magazine Politics. Through the fall, I'll report on presidential candidates' visits to Cleveland and look at Ohio's role in the national election, keep you updated on Cleveland's transforming local politics, and let you know whether our past problems with our voting system have been fixed. I'll report from political events, let you know my thoughts on the latest news, and provide insight about our city's political personalities.

Euclid Ave. is open

At last, Euclid Avenue is open again, all the way from University Circle to downtown. I took it to work today for my first look at the all-but-finished Euclid Corridor project.

The street looks completely different from the wide, empty, forlorn, tired road of a couple years ago. One lane of car traffic in each direction weaves between a bike lane, left-turn lanes, bus lanes, medians with bus stops. It all looks sleek and silvery. Even the industrial no-man's land just east of E. 55th is spruced up a little, with a banner mural and a new wood fence decorating a derelict building.

We'll see if the $168 million cost was worth it: if businesses do redevelop along the new streetscape, if the electric buses and faster bus commute attract more riders who use it as a link between downtown and the hospitals. Also, some bugs have to be worked out (such as better signs for left turns at intersections such as E. 55th -- I got stuck behind a guy who didn't figure this out.)

But as a driving experience, I like the new Euclid Avenue. Our long-barren Main Street looks attractive and cosmopolitan again. My 12-minute drive, from Mayfield to E. 14th, showed off some of the city at its best, from the fountain-filled plaza between the new Cleveland Clinic buildings to the straight-on view of the downtown skyline, opening like towering gates at Playhouse Square.

Table Talk

I walked into Fahrenheit recently and was blown away by the beautiful new tables that fill the dining room. The tops are maple and oak and are stained a rich cordovan brown. They are finished to silky smoothness and polished to a high shine that glows in the candlelight. I actually caught a server pause from clearing to stroke the surface. She saw me watching, blushed, and said “We all love them.”

What got me in the door to get a close look at these tables was both personal and professional. They are custom designed and made locally by APOC, aka A Piece of Cleveland, a company that my son Ezra Taxel and three partners launched a little less than a year ago. They deconstruct buildings all over town- as opposed to demolishing them- rescuing wood and other materials that otherwise would end up in the waste stream. In their shop they bring flooring, molding, studs, beams and doors back to pristine condition and then create furniture, countertops, and unique household accessories. The process is called upcycling and it’s at the cutting edge of the sustainability revolution. To say I am a proud mother is definitely and understatement. His equally proud pop, Barney Taxel is responsible for the fine photo.

But as a food writer my job is to follow and report on restaurant trends. None is more significant right now than implementing green principles. So I have more than parental pride motivating me to write about what Fahrenheit’s owner Rocco Whalen and his partners have done by commissioning APOC to make tables for the Tremont restaurant. The decision does all kinds of environmental good, saving trees, turning trash into raw materials, and conserving resources by eliminating the need for tablecloths which must be trucked to and from the laundry, washed and ironed. The tables are made from wood pulled from two houses, one in Westlake and the other on W.65th, and like all APOC products, they come with “rebirth certificates” that provides a bit of local history. There’s no bigger Cleveland booster than Chef Rocco, so it seems especially appropriate that he’s furnishing his place with stuff culled from the city he loves.

The APOC team is now hard at work making new tables for Starbucks at Cedar and Fairmount in Cleveland Heights. The wood they’re using was originally in a warehouse on E. 71st and what was, until it came down recently, the city’s oldest school building at Stannard and 50th. It will definitely add some local flavor to every cup of coffee they serve.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ray's Indoor Mountain Bike Park

In the October issue's Best Of Cleveland package, we name Ray's Indoor Mountain Bike Park as the city's best artificial wilderness. (I'll add a link to the story once it's posted.) It's a 103,000-square-foot former warehouse remade as a half-mile cross-country bike course of rocks and wood.

If you'd like to see it for yourself, but you're not a mountain biker, this Cool Cleveland party (click here, scroll down) on Oct. 16 gives you a chance. If you are a biker, Ray's opens for the season on Oct. 18.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Art of Exercise

Exercise is boring if you ask me. So I like to combine my efforts with food and culture.
That’s why my favorite weekend workout includes things like gelato and sculpture.
Here’s the routine. One a nice, sunny Saturday the husband and I suit up in t-shirts, jeans, and walking shoes. We hike from Cleveland Heights to University Circle, a round trip of about five miles. Sometimes we go through Lakeview Cemetery; otherwise we take the Mayfield Road route. There are hills to climb on the way home insuring some cardiovascular benefits. Our destination, now that it’s open once again, is usually the Cleveland Museum of Art . The renovated galleries are spectacular. The gorgeous colors on the walls and an abundance of natural light make the pieces pop. Familiar works are seen as if for the first time- very exciting. I was entranced by the 19th century marble Terpsichore, Muse of Choral Song and Dance in the Neoclassical Gallery. She looked as if she might step down from her pedestal and kick up her heels at any moment.
Back to the exercise plan. Our start time corresponds with lunch, so we stop at Presti’s Bakery for stromboli and a slice of pizza. Thus fortified we continue our exertions. We head home between 3 and 4 PM, the coffee-break hour. At this point there are serious decisions to be made- should we go to Corbo’s Bakery and Cafe for cappuccino and cannoli or Anthony’s for gelato? We have done it both ways and found each equally satisfying. Arriving home me and my guy feel righteous and pleased with ourselves. The cars stayed in the driveway. Leg muscles were engaged, and we burned calories (thus balancing those we consumed) rather than fossil fuel. Local businesses were supported. Our minds were expanded. But most important of all as far as I’m concerned- I enjoyed myself and that means this is one exercise regimen I’m likely to continue.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Braylon Edwards Part 2 (On LeBron James)

I'm surprised this quote didn't get any play in the local paper today.

When Browns Wide Receiver Braylon Edwards was asked if LeBron hanging out on the Dallas sideline bothered him, he smiled, then said:

"As I've gotten to know LeBron, LeBron isn't a Cleveland guy. LeBron only plays for the Cavaliers, and who knows if he even likes the Cavaliers? He doesn't like the Indians. He doesn't like the Browns. He's a guy from Akron who likes everybody but his hometown. I don't know how that's possible, but it is what it is, and he is who he is. You know, it's LeBron."

For the record, when an extremely intoxicated man asked Edwards who he picks in the Ohio State vs. USC game, he looked at him dismissively. "Come on, man. USC." His Michigan brethren shouldn't be bothered by that response.

Braylon Edwards Part 1 (on Fantasy Football)

Who is at the top of Browns Wide Receiver Braylon Edwards' fantasy football wish list this year? Braylon Edwards.

Last year one of his buddies drafted Fantasy Braylon before Real Braylon had the chance. He couldn't stand it. He offered some big names for fantasy him.

"After week two, I traded Marvin Harrison and Stephen Jackson for me. It worked out," he said Tuesday night, at a news media event sponsored by Yahoo! last night at Lakewood's Harry Buffalo.

Rams Running Back Stephen Jackson was the consensus second overall pick last year in Fantasy drafts — and fantasy football has become a bigger deal every year. Some 11 million people are playing fantasy football this year.

Braylon, however, is considered a borderline first-round draft pick in most fantasy talk online.

Tremont traffic gripe

This morning in my e-mail inbox, I got this report from the Tremont West Development Corp.:
As many of you are aware, the W. 14th Street entrance ramp to I-90 eastbound was closed to traffic in late May 2008 after Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) inspectors noted abnormal movement in the connection between the ramp and the I-90 Innerbelt Bridge.

The Department expects an updated, 3-Dimensional inspection report in mid-September which will help the agency to better understand the problems between the ramp connection and the Innerbelt Bridge as a whole and determine a solution to the problem. The ramp will remain closed indefinitely as this high-tech inspection report is reviewed, evaluated and possible repair or replacement methods are conceptualized.
OK, I have dealt with city/county/state governments for a long time. I know how long this junk takes. But four months to get a report? Then who knows how long to draft a plan, secure funding, get permits, and so on and son on? When you live in Tremont and have friends on the east side off the bus route, this ranks pretty high on the pain-in-the-ass list.

And one more note: Their suggested detour is ridiculous.
Motorists may detour west via Abbey Ave., on to W. 20th Street north, east over the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, north on E. 18th St. and east on Prospect Ave. to I-90 eastbound.
Any Tremonter knows to hop on 490 to 77 North to 90 East. Wind through downtown? Come on.

Get Out

Before the warm weather days and nights of this season are just a memory, I decided to make time for some serious patio pleasure. I’ve been cruising outdoor dining and drinking spots and have a few off the beaten path recommendations that may not be on everyone’s where-to go list.
-Visible Voice Books in Tremont started pouring wine this summer and opened a little garden courtyard where patrons can enjoy it. The narrow brick-paved spot, set back from the street, is outfitted with tables and chairs, pots of flowers and tiki torches. Get your Merlot, Chardonnay and Prosecco by the glass or the bottle. I lingered until 10 pm closing on a Friday night.
- The food’s nothing out of the ordinary but you can’t beat the fabulous lake view from the terrace of the Boardwalk Café at Quay 55 on North Marginal Road. It’s a beautiful way to get some fine scenery, fresh air and sun along with lunch or a cup of coffee.
-Le Petit Triangle Café on Fulton has tables right on the sidewalk out front. The view is urban and the European streetside charm a good fit with the menu of crepes, quiche, and the traditional ham sandwich known as a croque monsieur.
-Henry’s at the Barn is an Eden-like hideaway in Avon. A gas fed fire-pit and big stack of blankets means we can continue hanging out here even when cool temperatures take over. The food’s amazing and I highly recommend a glass of Swamp Tea to go with his South Carolina Low Country cooking.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

"Streetcar" by Jasper Wood

Last weekend, when I posted photos from my visit to the Veterans Memorial Bridge and subway tour, I wrote that a mesmerizing film was playing there.

Images of streetcars rolling through Cleveland were interspersed with close-up shots of the passengers. Old ads, scenes of what I think is the West Side Market, and footage from inside the subway (the underground streetcar stop at Detroit and W. 25th) flew by, accompanied by spare music in an old acoustic blues style.

At the film's end, I was happily surprised to recognize the filmmaker's name: Jasper Wood, who helped organize a legal defense fund in 1967 for d.a.levy, the Cleveland Beat poet. Wood was a photographer, art gallery owner, publisher, jazz critic, and filmmaker who died in 2002.

Wood's film, "Streetcar," was shot in the early 1950s, just before the streetcars stopped running in Cleveland in 1954. It was not shown in Cleveland until 2007.

"This is not really a film about streetcars," Wood's son, Christopher Wood, a librarian in the Cleveland Public Library's downtown history department, said in a talk last year. "This is a personal film made by a person who lived city life."

The film is now online through YouTube. I've linked to it above. It's 15 minutes long and in two parts -- click the top box first.

If you liked it as much as I did, and are curious about the filmmaker, you can also watch his son's 2007 talk online: part 1 is here, part 2 here.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Fannie Lewis

Today, we learned 12 candidates are running to replace Fannie Lewis on Cleveland city council this fall. The wide-open race shows how hard it will be to succeed her, and how Lewis herself made the task even harder.

I first met Lewis at a meeting in city council’s huge, ornate chamber. She sat next to a fellow reporter and complained about then-mayor Mike White’s habit of outsourcing legal work to law firms with a sly infidelity metaphor: “When you spend more money outside your home than in your own home, you know what that’s called, don’t you?”

Some councilpeople’s words were like fog, clouding your vision, leaving you in the dark. Lewis’ words were like lightning, striking and illuminating the most prominent points, crackling with conflict. Her one-liners were so good, an editor and I once broke the rule that a story shouldn’t start with a quote, because she captured the atmosphere of intimidation ex-White lieutenants Bill Patmon and Jeff Johnson once created: striking at his critics like raving wolves, she said.

Not everyone liked dealing with Lewis, though few would admit it. She was eccentric and unpredictable, with a sometimes-fuzzy memory. A tough negotiator, she always tried to get more for her constituents from companies wanting to come to her ward. Some businesspeople probably still don’t like her signature ordinance, the Fannie Lewis Law, which requires major city contractors to have a workforce of at least 20 percent Clevelanders.

But she got results. Chester Avenue is lined with bright new houses, the fruits of her labor. Hough, though still poor, no longer merits its bad reputation from the 1966 riots. And she’s not done. Several councilmembers say that on her deathbed, Lewis named former opponent Stephanie Howse her successor. Ward leaders say Lewis wrote a letter insisting she’d name no one. Ward 7 voters have to sort it out. Even in death, all of Hough turns on her will.

McMickle jumps in

Another familiar name has jumped into the race to succeed Stephanie Tubbs Jones in Congress: Rev. Marvin McMickle, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church. McMickle ran for this seat in 1998, losing to Tubbs Jones, and ran for U.S. Senate in 2000. Yesterday, I called Marcia Fudge (see post below) the front-runner for the job, and she probably still is, but McMickle is also a strong, well-known candidate.

Click here to see our piece about McMickle in our Influentials issue this April. We've also written about two of the other candidates: Jeff Johnson, in our 35th anniversary issue this December, and Bill Patmon, in our coverage of the 2005 mayor's race (click here and scroll down).

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Marcia Fudge, front-runner

With county commissioner Peter Lawson Jones deciding not to run for Congress, Warrensville Heights Mayor Marcia Fudge is now the front-runner to succeed Stephanie Tubbs Jones in Washington next year.

Fudge was Tubbs Jones' chief of staff and protege, long considered a possible successor to her.

You can read Cleveland Magazine's January 2007 profile of Fudge here.

The local Democratic party is holding a Sept. 11 meeting to choose who will take Tubbs Jones' place on the November ballot. That candidate will be heavily favored over the Republican in the heavily Democratic district. Mayor Frank Jackson and former U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes plan to interview the candidates and issue an influential endorsement. Others running include former state senators Jeff Johnson and C.J. Prentiss and former Cleveland city councilman Bill Patmon.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Still Hopping

I went to a media gathering in honor of Great Lakes Brewing Company's 20'th anniversary. The socially and environmentally conscious local beer maker has crafted about 50 varieties of sudsy goodness since 1988. To mark their double-decade shelf life, six new brew tanks were installed.

Easier said than done. Their historic building on Carroll, off Lorain and West 27th, already cramped, doesn’t offer much room for maneuvering. To get the three-story steel cylinders in place, holes were cut in the roof. A sky-high crane was positioned on site and some seriously skilled guys hoisted what looked like space capsules up and then ever so carefully and slowly lowered them down into the tank farm. It was a pretty dramatic way to deliver the message that GLBC is growing better and bigger and doing it right there in Ohio City. My pro photographer husband Barney captured the moment with a cell phone. There was definitely a happy vibe rippling through the crowd of invited onlookers. But things definitely got even more cheerful when our brewery tour guide and host Pat Conway, who co-owns the business with his brother Dan, announced “Time for some beer.”

We raised seven (not so big) glasses of lagers, ales, and stout to toast the occasion, each one paired with menu favorites from the past including pretzel chicken and chocolate torte made with Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. It was a great night of eating and drinking (sensibly of course). But don’t assume the fun is for professionals only. Tomorrow, September 4, Happy Hour lasts all day and into the evening until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday are designated Customer Appreciation Nights, and on September 9, there’s a special brewmaster’s dinner, open to the public by reservation.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

20 Wins? We Told You So ...

Who could have predicted Cliff Lee's amazing 20-win season? Us!

Check out this ditty, which was made before the season started:
Cliff Lee becomes the team’s first 20-game winner since Gaylord Perry in 1974. Bet you thought I’d say C.C. Sabathia here, right? Sure, it’d be just as pretty if it were C.C. who broke the drought, but Lee has a nasty repertoire and none of C.C.’s training issues.
OK, so it was from our April 2006 issue, but that's still before the season started. We were just a little ahead of our time. As for this season's prognostications? We're hoping they'll come true in 2009.

Oh yeah, mark it down, the Browns will go 6-10 this year (which was the prediction I made well before they went 0-4 in the preseason).


Last night on sunny Labor Day evening at Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians pitcher Cliff Lee became the first 20 game winner of the 2008 Major League Baseball season. For the 23,000 fans in attendance, they were not disappointed on Monday night. Lee was outstanding allowing only 5 hits and no walks while striking out 4 batters in a complete game. In fact there was a sequence when after allowing the first 2 hits of the game, Lee put down 21 straight batters and pitched like a man possessed.

In the dismal season that has overtaken the Tribe due to injuries and a lack of production early in the season, it’s good to see a bright spot in Cliff Lee. Through all the trouble he had last season, being sent down to the minors to regain his focus. He then started the season competing against Aaron Laffey to make the 5th spot in the rotation. To now, where he is responsible for 20 of the Indians 66 wins and has the best winning percentage in baseball.

Cliff Lee became the first Indians pitcher since Gaylord Perry in 1974 to win 20 games. In fact, Cliff has won 20 of first 22 decisions this season and has a A.L. best 2.32 ERA. He could (and rightfully will) win his first A.L. Cy Young Award. I am just happy that I was one of those lucky fans that was able to witness this remarkable night at Progressive Field. Congrats Cliff.

Brian Schmoldt

Life changing

Earlier, I promised a fanboy review of the Silver Jews concert this weekend at the Beachland Ballroom.

I've been trying to evangelize this band, passing out CDs of my favorite songs to neighbors, people on the bus, whomever. My neighbor Krista agreed to join us for Friday night's show. She said she listened to the music on iTunes the night before, found it a tad off-key and yet somehow beautiful. The lyrics were brilliant, she said, and she had to hear more. She said she loved it, and she would be buying some CDs. I said, "Was it a life-changing experience?" She hesitated, but then agreed.

Lead singer/writer David Berman is a tad awkward in concert, but that adds to the charm. After he got going, he really found his groove. He had most of the crowd won over before he even walked on stage. After the concert, his wife and the band's bassist, hung out with the fans after the show for a bit. I've met her once before, and she remembered me (including specific details) and even came by a tad later to say goodbye when she was leaving. It was a fanboy's dream come true.

The concert started with my favorite song, and I'll end this post with Berman: