Monday, July 30, 2007

The New, Pt 2: The Blogs

The Web 2.0 version of includes some "community blogs." Among these are two political blogs, one from the right and one from the left. Each blogger has been posting quietly for nearly a week now.

As of now each blog reads almost like a caricature of a blog. The lefty is all anger and out there; the righty brims with smug condescension. On the left we have Blog of Mass Destruction (If I were Matt Hurley I'd sue the bastard) written by The Reverend. On the Right is The Political Guru by a blogger going by the same nom de blog.

According to disclaimers in the "About" section, both blogs are entirely independent:

    This blog is written by a private citizen who has no connection to the Akron Beacon Journal or In no way does what he writes reflect the opinion and views of the Akron Beacon Journal or We do not edit or censor these blogs. The views and opinions belong to the author of this blog. We invite you to comment on their postings
At first blush, I was unamused. OK, at first blush I was a little hurt that, despite corresponding with a number of reporters, I didn't get a call. After chilling on that and reacquainting myself with my humble place in the media landscape, I still wasn't impressed with the blogs. So I wrote a somewhat snotty email to a contract address (I asked three times "Where did you get these guys?") The reply is somewhat illuminating:
    This month we took a big step and opened our doors beyond the newsroom to engage our community in voicing their opinions by blogs, reporting and publishing news and photos. We identified the two bloggers you currently see in our forums. We felt that they had intelligent comments and presented two different points of view. Since we were doing away with our forums - we asked them if they would be interested in blogging. Both agreed and this what you see today. They do not get compensated by us - nor do we edit them - we have asked them to "keep it clean" in that there is no profanity or offensive discussions. We set them up on our blogging platform so we can track the traffic to the site.
First, lets consider the news that they are doing away with the forums. Can't say I disagree with the decision. I never travel far into the forums without despairing over the generally harsh and negative tone, and especially the casually racist invective. I am a little surprised to be getting the news in an email as I haven't seen it in the ABJ yet. So if you heard it here first, blow Joe Hallet a kiss for me.

Back to the blogs. As the email says, neither blogger was blogging before the ABJ got in touch. And it shows. Mass Destruction lurches from conspiracy paranoia (Was Pat Tilman Murdered?) to name calling (The GOP: The Party of the Tiny Penis.) Aside from the blogger believing things that I don't, the blog simply isn't persuasive. When I write, my intended audience is people who haven't yet made up their minds. The effect of this blog on undecided readers would be, well mass destruction.

Political Guru is more sober, though not above childish swipes. PG's major problem is that he neither argues nor writes well. OK, he doesn't argue well and writes horribly. Blogs are often rife with typos in posts, what with the limited time and resources and all, but he writes the following in his profile
    I am also very active in today's politics, as being as what you might call middle aged, and having young children, I still follow the belief that one person can make a difference and so can you.
There are at least three sentences in their, desperately searching for periods so that they can escape their road gang shackles.

More bizarre, he writes back-to-back posts that contradict. One upbraids Hillary Clinton for suggesting in the last debate that Barack Obama would meet with unsavory regimes without preconditions and in the next he lauds Romney for attacking Obama with essentially the same charge.

All in all, both blogs are exactly what the blogosphere doesn't need more of: echo chambers full of piss, vinegar and regurgitated national blog material. Normally, I give new bloggers a little breathing space to find their voice. But I really care about blogging as a means of improving political discourse, so a media organ like the Akron Beacon Journal holding these up as examples of what political blogging is disturbs me.

Aside from the obvious suggestions embedded in the critiques (tone it down, think about persuasion, mix in a style manual), I have a couple more as someone who has been doing this a while.
  • Link more. Both blogs cite information without including links. Not only a breach of blog decorum but it ultimately undermines the argument.
  • If you get information from a national blog, say so. I can't stand it when I seen an argument laid out, then click on the link and find out it's not a newspaper, but a blog that laid out much of the argument already.
  • Stop pretending you are the only blogs in the state. Neither blog has independent Ohio blogs on the blogroll. Forget the Pages, no BSB, no RAB, nothing. Political Guru I write it off to inexperience, but lots of people are going to take it as MSM arrogance.
  • Yes, about that MSM thing. You are part of it now, for both good and ill. As the comments rack up, understand that you wear the same gloss as the Beacon. Deal with it.
  • At the same time, you are now part of the long, proud tradition of American journalism which we complain about only because we know it can be better. Conduct yourselves with a level of professionalism and be the mass media you would want to consume.
  • Be transparent about where you are coming from. It's OK for PG to favor Mitt Romney, but say so. And for God sake, since both insist on being anonymous, if you are working, or even volunteering, for a candidate, let the audience know. Assume the truth will out and stay ahead of it if you want to maintain credibility.

Ohio Dot Com Goes Web 2.0

For months we've heard that the Akron Beacon Journal was planning to revamp its website, As promised yesterday, the new site rolled out today:

The major changes are better navigation, some new widgety things on the front page, some tools for allowing people to post their own content and some new blogs. I'll deal with the first two this post. The blogs and community news features need their own post later tonight.

Navigator, Navigator

The site already provided a navigating experience far superior to the Plain Dealer's diabolical It seems like three quarters of the time I get lost in the labyrinth and Google my way to my destination.

The new includes a Departments bar on the top that drop down menus when the cursor rolls over them. It saves some steps for a reader with a definite destination. It always bugged me to have to click onto the News page, then click Breaking News to get there. Now it's accessible from the front page.

So far it looks like the website is spotlighting harder news on the front page. Usually it's sports or a Jewel Cardwell-style feature that gets top billing on the home page. We'll see what happens down the line.

The forum commenters don't like it. No really -- people commenting in the forum who have something negative to say. I know -- just shocking.

The most serious complaint is that the new font is too small -- usually remedied with a key stroke or two. Aside from that, people are kvetching because it's new. They'll get used to it. It also sounds like Internet Explorer is having more difficulty reading the CSS than Firefox -- I've been having no problems. This is pretty much the opposite of the usual situation.

Something Widget This Way Comes

Taking departments out of the sidebar frees up some high-value real estate. Top billing on the sidebar goes to a Most Popular Stories list -- an obvious choice, but a good one. Below that is a list of the paper's blogs. Given the daily traffic blogs generate, it makes sense to offer a prominent menu. Blogs are among the most difficult things to track down on

Below the meat of the home page -- the center column field where the day's top stories appear -- is a community events calendar. Just dead solid obvious to offer that service, but few papers do. Moreover, the calendar allows people to input their own events. Personally, I wish it was associated with just because I like that site. Alternatively, it would be cool if the service would allow people to embed the feed onto a blog or website.

That's below to the right. Below to the left is a small box currently offering a link to a contest for free tickets to a show and below that a window for the latest news video offerings. So far, in the numerous times I've surfed by today the window hasn't slowed down loading which is my usual complaint.

Aside from that the site it taken up with fairly non-obtrusive advertising and a menu at the bottom labelled "Inside" That menu gives the paper a low-key chance to promote a story -- like the current lead there about marijuana grow-out operations in suburban houses.

Overall, the look is cleaner and the navigation is a bit better. More importantly, the site has added functionality -- all that citizen input stuff -- without bogging down the page with a slew of new link lists. Offering that many additional pages while making navigation easier rather than harder is an accomplishment. So congrats to the ABJ.

Now they just need some readers.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bloggapalooza: Good Food, Good Friends, Good Tunes, and Whatever the Hell Happened Between Vessels and Naugle.

The Good

Went to Bloggapalooza yesterday and had a fine time. Apparently the downstaters who attended are having a Rashomon moment over one incident, which I will get to. Whoever's at faulth, that's an unfortunate harshing of the mellow.

Speaking of harshing, I got there well late because my five-year-old pitched a screaming meemie about me leaving and it took some time to calm her down. As a result I missed the alt/emo band about which, Oh well. But I also missed Chucklef*ckers which was a real loss. I heard they had a good set and, according the George, Carrie Callahan killed. This is as good a time as any to mention that Carrie's blog started a mite slow but I've been enjoying the hell out of lately. So much so that I'll probably add it to my blogroll the next time I'm doing that sort of thing.

Frankly, I went mostly for the company. My schedule doesn't allow me to make it to meetups any more and I haven't attended a MTB in maybe nine months. So the great joy was f2f convos with folks there. I recall seeing Jeff Hess, Bill Callahan, Wendell Robinson, Tim and Gloria Ferris, Scott Bakalar and Anthony Fossaceca (who was here but now is here). Jerid Kurtz and Eric and Joseph from the Plundercrew showed up about mid-afternoon and Jill showed up a bit later than that. At some point we ran into, I believe, Chas Rich and someone introduced us.

George was there pretty the whole time, of course.

In addition to enjoying music from The Elderly Brothers, I picked up an excellent pulled pork sandwich from Wild Bill's BBQ and roamed the booths at the arts festival. I had a long talk with Anastasia Pantsios of the Free Times while I rummaged through the used CDs she was selling at the rock flea market. We talked about the MedMart/Convo Center controversy which is Topic A in Cleveland these days. (And I bought discs by Duke Robillard, Dar Williams and Pavement from her.)

Best of all I bought a pot from a woman whose work I saw in one gallery once but didn't pull the trigger and had seen nowhere since. Few pottery styles have felt like the one that got away like this, so it was great serendipity to have another chance. She makes coil pots and indents the coil about every 3/4 inch, then glazes only the inside. The effect looks from a distance like a basket made of rope fiber.

The Bad

Oh, you wanted to hear about the Naugle thing. Well, some time during my street wanderings -- I think during the Elderly Brothers set -- I saw the unmistakable figure of Matt Naugle talking to Tim and plodding through the front door of the Beachland Tavern. This was not, frankly, a welcome site. After Matt's last excursion to way on the other side of The Line -- publishing Jerid Kurtz's father's twenty-year-old arrest record -- I mentally crossed him off The List of People for Whom I Have Any Use Whatsoever.

Still, it was a time for celebration. And I can be civil to people I dislike. What's more, there has been -- hmmm -- call it offline tension between myself and some other liberal bloggers. So I showed up mentally prepared for the possibility of Working Things Out. So I did the civil thing. I walked back into the Tavern and up to the pod of Bill, Anthony and Matt, and introduced myself to the latter. Conversation continued and all was perfectly civilized.

At one point I asked Bill about the aftermath of S.B. 117 which got us talking about community wi-fi which led Matt to interject his objections to it. For about two minutes I tried to talk to Matt about community based wi-fi but alas I was out of my depth. It didn't strike me that Matt knows significantly more than I about the subject, so we briefly exchanged general talking points about markets and government. Bill arrived shortly and bailed me out. At just about that time, the Columbus folks showed up, so I disengaged to greet Eric and company.

Matt and Bill talked. And talked. Ghetto Wisdom went through sound check and started their set. The GW was only two dudes, by the way: Rapper E&J and the keyboardist. I didn't quite get why, but the result was a set a little more mellow than last year's. Yes, I personally put my hands in the air, etc. And I got my own picture of the PlunderShuffle. But all in all, not the barnburner of Bloggapalooza 1.

Oh yeah, the Naugle thing. So early in the Ghetto Wisdom set, he and Bill went outside to continue their conversation. I didn't keep a clock on it, but conservatively it lasted an hour an a half. Maybe as much as two. Bill seemed to be having an OK time and we were all happy not to have to pretend to be nice to Matt.

Fast forward a bit. I'm talking on the street and look back at the Tavern. Eric and Matt are having an apparently intense conversation. The expression on Eric's face is one of Deep Concern, but it could well have been the sort of "I don't want to have to kick your ass" Deep Concern you see when people who don't like each other talk at a gathering like this. Anyway, I didn't see pointing or yelling and didn't see any angry expressions. I also didn't see much of it, just enough to know something of significance was being discussed.

And a bit later I heard that Matt had left after the conversation.

The Ugly.

So this morning Jerid posted that Matt had "provoked an altercation:" "After personally attacking virtually every blogger in attendance at the non-partisan blogapalooza, Matt Naugle surprised all tonight by injecting partisan politics into Meet-the-Bloggers second birthday." What I gather he means is that Matt has personally attacked people on his blog, then showed up at a party to hang with them. Which, as Jerid says, is a form of provocation.

I actually haven't yet been personally attacked by Matt (unless you count being called reasonable by Naugle which in context, yeah that's close), but friends have including some really ugly backchannel stuff that truly shocks me. My instinct was, as I said, to be civil. But if Matt had attacked me through my family, I wouldn't have even made that effort.

And it did piss me off that after hurling feces for these many months he showed up an put us all in the uncomfortable position of having to deal with him. And he is the only guy blogging on the right I'd say that about. Mr. Boring and I agree on nearly nothing, but when we see each other it's not an effort to get along. He's a genuinely nice guy who understands the difference between political differences and personal animosity. Ben Keeler has thrown his lot in with the three libs Paul tapped to take over the Carnival and we haven't had a single problem yet. This isn't difficult.

For most people. But Naugle is just a nasty piece of work. Feminists say "The personal is political;" for Matt the political is personal. And just so I don't have to go all False Equivalency Police on y'all, I agree with anyone who objects to making fun of Matt's speech impediment. He stutters. OK. I have friends who stutter, and most of them are smarter than me. But Matt has gone so farther, deeper and nastier, he's long given up any claim of just desserts.

Matt gives his own version of the event and I can't say much to contradict what he says. Still, it's hard for me to fault Eric for going into his grille. And frankly, Matt is probably lucky that Eric took the point instead of Jerid who, by the Code of Manliness Matt pretends to subscribe to is utterly within his rights to administer an ass-kicking.

And I have to say that Matt saying he could take either guy is simply uproarious.

The sad coda to Matt's post reads:

    So I hope Jerid got the type of rise out of me he was hoping for. And nothing that silly Jerid and Eric post about this situation will change the fact that: I won. Not only was I the bigger man for not fighting, but my blogging has paid off. I get under their skin and the left HATES me. . . Liberal bloggers can’t stand that there is a conservative blogger in Ohio who has a loud mouth and is willing to use the left’s tactics against them. And believe me- As we get closer to the 2008 elections, my work on RAB will only become uglier, harsher, and tougher as I work to defeat Democrats. And I will continue to enjoy every minute of it, without a single regret.
Well as far as "winning," I say simply: Scoreboard! Last I checked, the far right that Matt represents had its head handed to it last fall.

As to the rest, see above. There are plenty of conservative bloggers who are tough and smart and loudmouthed and even harsh. There is only one who provokes an emotion close to hate -- though a mixture of pity and contempt more accurately describes my response. My response in it all is to ignore Matt, regardless of what ugliness he coughs up on RAB. If it weren't for some quality posters on RAB, I'd delete it from my roll.

And frankly, if Matt insists on showing up at an event I'm attending, next time I'll probably ignore him there as well.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Your Weekend Randomness

*Don't expect much Saturday. I'm heading to Bloggapalooza and not planning to get much blogging done.
*I attended the Akron bloggers meetup Thursday. I'm hoping to get a list of attendees and post something about it.
*I'm totally against the new Underdog movie. Underdog was my guy -- er, my anthropomophized dog -- when I was a lad. I even had the rapid-fire theme song memorized at one point. Now they are taking the names and turning it into a live-action film with dogs as U-dog, Polly Purebread and Riffraff. Appalling. People once said Brandon Tartikoff would put a dog in Hamlet. But even he would know not to put a real dog in Underdog.
*I'm baffled by Michael Vick's apparent involvement in dog fighting. Generally when jocks get into trouble, it's the result of some human frailty. Often the case plays out like a Greek tragedy. This is just a guy who has it all risking it for the sake of bloodsport. ????
*By the way, DisneyChannel dot com has an extended Underdog preview which includes about twenty jokes, none of them funny. And not one rhyme. Unforgivable.
*Just heard about the trade for Kenny Lofton. He's having a good season and is a quality guy. If he finishes his career here, I'll be happy about it. What the Indians need is for Hafner to emerge from his protracted slump, but absent that, I'll take Kenny.
*I'm late to the party, but I'm feeling the push for impeachment after this week. I mean, W. Bush does know we have a Constitution, right?

Now here it is, your Moment of Ten:

1. "Bandit Queen," The Decembrists
2. "Nobody Knows You When Your Down and Out," Derek and the Dominoes
3. "Earn Enough for Us," XTC
4. "Sleep on the Left Side," Cornershop
5. "Jump Up," Elvis Costello
6. "Walk All Over You," AC/DC
7. "Make You Feel My Love," Bob Dylan
8. "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)," Neil Young and Crazy Horse
9. "Slow Leake," Lafayette Leake
10. "You Upset Me Baby," B.B. King

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Crazy Fringe or Rotten Core? You Make the Call

Earlier this week, Powerliner John Hineraker asked rhetorically "isn't it a bad thing for a political movement if its core members are, in large part, stark, raving mad?" Well, generally yes, but . . .

The occasion was his comment on a protest at a Hillary Clinton event in San Francisco by an anti-war group called Breasts not Bombs. As you might guess, this is a group of anti-war activists, mostly women, who protest with public displays of nudity. (If you are thinking of clicking through that link, NSFW. If you are thinking of clicking through for all the wrong reasons, don't. Just sayin'.) So he refers to the protest and drops these questions about the core members of the movement -- presumably the anti-war movement, not the clothing-optional movement -- being crazy.

This is so typical of how the right finds the most extreme instances of left-wing silliness and sprays that same gloss on everyone who disagrees with the administration about anything that I couldn't let this one pass. Hinderacker's post is too target-rich.

First off, I'm not sure I'd go with crazy here. These folks may be crazy, but the particular protest isn't. I'd give it an A for attention-getting -- which is the point -- though it would get a D-minus for actually persuading people. Still, flawed tactics don't equate to crazy.

Still, I'd concede, perhaps daffy. But the daffy Breasts not Bombs protesters hardly constitute the "core of the movement." The movement, last I checked, includes some 66% of Americans. BnB meanwhile is the very definition of a fringe group. San Francisco is the home of the group, yet they pulled together only three protesters (judging from the photos) for the protest at Clinton HQ. A high profile event like that and they manage a mere six breasts. More generally, this protest is the first I've heard of the group, and I read pretty widely about the anti-war movement.

While I concede our daffy fringe, I find it far more disturbing when a conservative mainstay flogs long-discredited Vince Foster conspiracy theories. Isn't it a bad thing for a movement if one of its most visible spokespeople is either persistently dishonest or pathologically paranoid?

State v. Carswell: SCOhio Doesn’t Recognize a Conflict When It Sees One

As noted last night, the Ohio Supreme Court handed down its long-anticipated decision in State v. Carswell. The defendant claimed gay marriage ban passed as a constitutional amendment in 2004 nullifies that part of the statute defining the crime of domestic violence that applies the statute to unmarried couples living together. On a 6-1 vote, the Court found against the defendant.

As Republican as the Ohio Supreme Court is, the ultimate result in the case posed a challenge to the Court. On the one hand, the conservative result would be to find the domestic violence statute constitutional. Conservative judges generally hesitate to overturn statutes as unconstitutional, especially when the rights claimed are not property or Lockner-era due process.

On the other hand, conservative jurisprudential methodology is supposed to include strictly interpreting the plain language of statutes and constitutional provisions. The plain language of the two provisions certainly appears to require finding that the statute conflicts with the new constitutional amendment. To reconcile the tension, the Court basically fudges.

First, the relevant provisions. Chapter 2919.25 of the Ohio Revised Code defines "domestic violence" basically as causing injury to a family or household member. The code further defines terms as follows:

    (F) As used in this section and sections 2919.251 and 2919.26 of the Revised Code:
    (1) “Family or household member” means any of the following:
    (a) Any of the following who is residing or has resided with the offender:
    (i) A spouse, a person living as a spouse, or a former spouse of the offender;
So the statute is defined in terms of familial relations and the familial relationship for unmarried couples living together is included because of its similarity to marriage.

Meanwhile, the gay marriage ban at issue reads as follows in relevant part:
    “Only a union between one man and one woman may be a
    marriage valid in or recognized by this state and its political subdivisions. This
    state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for
    relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design,
    qualities, significance or effect of marriage.”
So this certainly looks like a slam dunk. The state isn't allowed to either create a marriage-like status for and unmarried couple, nor may it recognize such a status, regardless of what the couple does short of getting married. The way the court finesses this is by holding at length that the domestic violence statute doesn't create a marriage status, and all but ignoring the fact that the statute recognizes the status. Here's the conclusion of the court's argument:

    The state does not create cohabitation; rather it is a person’s determination to share some measure of life’s responsibilities with another that creates cohabitation. The state does not have a role in creating cohabitation, but it does have a role in creating a marriage. See R.C. 3101.01 et seq. The state played no role in creating Carswell’s relationship with the alleged victim. Carswell created that relationship.
True enough, but it's hard to argue that the statute doesn't recognize a legal status for unmarried couples living together, a status which includes features of marriage. Throughout teh opinion the court never comes to grips with the second prohibition in the ban -- recognizing a marriage-like legal status.

Things get downright surreal in the syllabus:
    The term “living as a spouse” as defined in R.C. 2919.25 merely identifies a particular class of persons for the purposes of the domestic-violence statutes. It does not create or recognize a legal relationship that approximates the designs, qualities, or significance of marriage, as prohibited by Section 11, Article XV of the Ohio Constitution.
So according to the Court, the statute identifies Carswell as being in a relationship that is tantamount to a familial relationship without recognizing that relationship. As Justice Lanzinger puts it as she introduces her dissent:
    Because of an understandable need to uphold the domestic violence statute as it is currently written and to avoid the unintended consequences that result from the passage of Section 11, Article XV of the Ohio Constitution, the majority misinterprets the amendment, thus saving the statute from being declared unconstitutional.

And that's pretty much at the heart of all of this. As the Court's tortured logic writhes on the page, it looks for all the world that the Court was more interested in saving the stature of the gay marriage ban than forthrightly interpreting the two clashing provisions.

When a court punts on the hard questions like this, it generally spells trouble for cases further down the line. Among those coming are Rep. Tom Brinkman's suit against Miami University for offering benefits to same-sex partners. While the Court's decision may not be a political win for gay rights supporters, the Court has put itself in quite a corner for cases like that one. After all, Miami University has merely identified people who are eligible for benefits. It hasn't created or recognized any legal status. Right?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Carnival Number Seventy Five

Jill has the latest up. Significant developments: Two Three new bloggers, Columbuser , NEOBabble and King's Right Site. (Jill also counts Into My Own, but OhioDave made his debut in Carnival #72.)(And now suddenly I sound like someone writing a letter into Marvel Comics.)

NEOBabble also marks the first time to my knowledge that a blog affiliated with a mainstream media outlet appears on the Carnival. Yes we are bloggers and by reputation we are supposed to be all in the grille of the MSM and all, but when we say all are welcome, all are welcome. Yes, I'm looking at you, Eric.

EDITED per Jill in comments.

Ohio Supreme Court Rules in Carswell

The Ohio Supreme Court today released its decision in State v. Carswell, the case in which a domestic violence defendant claimed that the gay marriage ban overturns that part of the domestic violence statute that applies to cohabiting, unmarried couples. H/t to Equality Ohio who just sent me an email alert.

The result is not surprising -- the Court upholds the DV statute notwithstanding the new amendment. Here's the syllabus:

    The term “living as a spouse” as defined in R.C. 2919.25 merely identifies a particular class of persons for the purposes of the domestic-violence statutes. It does not create or recognize a legal relationship that approximates the designs, qualities, or significance of marriage, as prohibited by Section 11, Article XV of the Ohio Constitution.
BTW, in Ohio the syllabus is the supposed to be the only part of the case that has weight as precedent.

I'll try to take it in and write a more detailed post later. I'm kid-free for the next day or so and might actually be able to do some substantive blogging.

Krauss and Dawkins Discuss Science and Religion

The July issue of Scientific American runs a dialog between Oxford biologist and uber-Atheist Richard Dawkins and physicist Lawrence Krauss from Cleveland's Case Western about how science should respond to religion. The online edition has an extended version of the conversation. Given the two scientists' contrasting temperaments, the conversation is surprisingly low-key.

On the other hand, it is unsurprisingly frustrating. Dawkin's response to the question -- how science should respond to religion -- is to call religion "bad science" and argue against it at every turn as he would any other bad science. Dawkins' method of persuasion consiste of reminding people he is smarter than they are and calling those who disagree with him ignorant. While his argument is popular among fellow nonbelievers, he has unsurprisingly failed to inspire mass exodus from houses of worship.

Krauss's approach is better, though it would hard to get much worse. Krauss is more an evangelist for science than against religion. He will argue against religious beliefs that conflict with scientific evidence but not against faith itself. And when he does argue against such beliefs he tries to do so in a less-dickish way than Dawkins.

While I liked Krauss's passages much better than Dawkins's I have two quarrels. First, Krauss unfortunately describes his method of persuasion as "seduction," which he should stop doing pretty much now unless it is his ambition to be quoted in every Answers in Genesis fundraising letter for the next ten years.

More fundamentally, Krauss's approach at best might get people interested in studying science. What he does not offer is an effective strategy for persuading people to find constructive means of resolving disagreements between religion and science.

Just as the press "doesn't get religion," neither do an awful lot of scientists. However much contemporary theologians put a rational gloss on faith or however much outfits like the Discovery Institute try to put build an empirical case for God, fact is religion is a non-rational enterprise. I don't try to justify my faith with much more than the belief at the core of my being that God exists. Whatever people do to rationalize spiritual beliefs, I suspect most if not all start in a similarly nonrational place.

Krauss acknowledges this:

    As long as the tenets of faith go beyond reason, i.e. go beyond issues that can be settled by evidence or lack of evidence, faith lies in the realm of human activity that has little to do with reason. Going back to my earlier point, if this realm was restricted to religion alone one might have a good argument for trying to squelch religion. But, like it or not, it is a central facet of much of what it means to be a human. All of us share some characteristics with Lewis Carroll’s Queen, who believed six impossible things before breakfast each day. For most people religion is one way of making sense of an irrational world, a world that is not fair, in which human justice is an afterthought.
Which is fine as far as it goes, but Krauss doesn't come to grips with the implications for his project. If believers in scientific method want to win converts, they need to begin by acknowledging that people of faith need their faith. To evangelize or seduce or, hell, persuade people to respect scientific rationalism, they need to work help people reconcile that rationalism with their faith rather than force them into a choice between the two.

As for Dawkins, he will have no truck with the non-rational side of human nature. At first blush, one might ascribe this to the hyper-rational Vulcan like personality Dawkins tries to cultivate. But in fact, when he moves from arguing for scientifc fact to arguing that religion is evil, Dawkins begins to sound as emotional and post-rational as Rod Parsley.

Personally, I've journeyed from Christian to atheist to theistic Unitarian and at every step of the way, I've had a strong emotional reaction to people with different beliefs. I don't know why this is so, but suspect that it drives much of the vitriol the current crop of atheist writers have toward religion. In any event, with over ninety percent of Americans professing a belief in God, Dawkins is unlikely to make much headway simply by telling such an overwhelming bulk of the population that they are deluded.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ohio Redistricting and the Future of Congress

The National Journal is running a story about one of my favorite political junkie parlor games -- Whither Redistricting? I haven't read the premium NatJo piece (because I don't subscribe) but this Openers piece and this by Eric Mansfield each touch on the highlights, particularly the importance the author places on Ohio.

Much of the piece deals with the states like Ohio that are set to lose seats to redder states like Texas and Georgia. In addition, if you go to the front page of the NatJo website and click through the link to the Interactive Graphic, then roll over Ohio you get this speculation about us Buckeyes:

    Elected last November, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland is quite popular. If his job-approval rating remains high, he'll easily win re-election in 2010. Republicans could lose their majorities in the Legislature, although they held them in 2006, a difficult year. The outcome depends on whether Democrats take control of both chambers. If they do, expect partisan redistricting with a vengeance.
While he is right that the Dems can't redistrict with a vengeance without taking the whole General Assembly, I don't think the opposite is true. I don't think the Republicans maintain status quo or saddle the Dems with both seat losses if they don't lose the GA -- which is fortunate because that's unlikely to happen. The snippet on the public section of the site does not discuss the alchemy between Congressional redistricting -- done by the state legislature -- and reapportioning the state legislative districts -- done by the Apportionment Board.

Currently Dems hold a 3-2 advantage on the Apportionment Board with the Governor, Secretary of State and one legislative representative to the Republicans' Auditor plus one legislative rep. While it is true that the Repubs in the GA could screw the Dems out of two U.S. House seats. the Dems on the Apportionment Board could respond in kind and tilt the state legislative map radically toward the Dems.

What we have is actually potentially exciting: a divided government that invites compromise which may lead to more balanced districts. Yes, it may also lead to lots of deal making that protects powerful incumbents and punishes mavericks in both parties, but let me dream a little. I just finished the Potter book and I'm feeling all magical.

Assuming the alignment stays the way it is -- and barring a disaster for one side or the other, it is likely to -- my prediction is that the compromise will zero out one Dem district and one Republican. It may also be balanced geographically, with one gone in Northeast Ohio and one in Southwest.

From there, it's anyone's guess how each party makes the decision about who goes. My guess is that the factors determining who will be the sacrificial lamb will include some mix of the following: 1) Rep. is a weak campainger unlikely to win in a new district, 2) Rep. has a weak legislative record 3) Rep. is unpopular in the state party either because of the the above or
because he/she doesn't dance or both.

Aside from that, I'm less interested in making predictions than hearing what others have to say. Feel free to either speculate on how the decisions are made or who gets cut or both.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bloggapalooza This Weekend

I've mentioned it obliquely and you may have seen the ads on sidebar, but this is it; the week before Bloggapalooza. This year the event is part of Waterloo Arts Festival.

The band line-up this year includes last year's breakout fav Ghetto Wisdom, Scott Bakalar's band Word of Mouth, alt/emo from The Taller We Grow and bluegrass from The Elderly Brothers. Also, Carrie Callahan is bringing stand-up comedy under the banner Chucklef*ckers.

And of course, dozens of your favorite bloggers there for the meeting. Last year was a blast.

Saturday, July 28, 12-7
Beachland Tavern, 15711 Waterloo Rd Cleveland, OH

Kucinich's Primary Challenger: Rosemary Palmer

Dennis Kucinich may not be running what anyone would call a real campaign in his latest run at the Democratic Presidential Primary, but he may need to run a real campaign next year to keep his Congressional seat. He certainly has a real challenger.

Rosemary Palmer has credibility as a candidate of the anti-war left. She runs as a political outsider who tragically lost her son in Iraq. Her platform could be called pragmatic progressivism. In other words, she's more interested in a compromise that makes things better than taking all-or-nothing stand that maintains the status quo.

OK, she certainly has my attention.

Now she's assembled a team of campaign veterans, including BlueOhioan founder Anthony Fossaceca as campaign manager. She also has hired Michael Chaney as finance director and Michael Gillis on communications. Anthony has been emailing bloggers about the race for a couple of weeks now. One of the hoped-for lessons of the '06 campaign is that it's OK to be an outsider if you hire people who really know how to do politics and listen to them. And by the way, Ms. Palmer is currently a student at the Bliss Institute.

A primary campaign poses a number of challenges for Kucinich. While he's currently content to hang with fellow travelers in New Hampshire, Ms. Palmer is campaigning here and has a message that will resonate with those Democrats in the district who vote for Kucinich only because he's the D on the ballot.

And this is a primary campaign so Kucinich can't just wait around for his inevitably national loss and campaign the following fall. He has to

Then there is the matter of debates. As Ben aptly pointed out Kucinich took his hurt puppy act to the cable shows when Hillary and Edwards were overheard supposedly trying to shut him out of debates, but he refused to debate his opponent in '06. After the fuss he just raised, he will be hard pressed to refuse to debate this cycle.

I have no idea if support for Kucinich in his district is soft enough to Palmer to have a shot. But in any event, it's nice to know that from here on when he pulls crap like this, he may suffer actual political consequences.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Blogospheric Observations

A little behind on my blogging this weekend. Um, I'm on page 465.

I've also been trying to keep up with news around the blog world, of which there is an astounding amount.

  • A belated best wishes to Matt Dole at Lincoln Logs who has left blogging and taken down everything but his last post due to the sensitive nature of his new gig. The few times Matt slummed his way to responding to the Pages he was always a worthy adversary. BTW, The last person to dismantle a blog to accomodate a new job was Chris Geidner, but presumably Matt hasn't taken a job with Marc Dann
  • Some bloggers -- OK, most bloggers not nicknamed Pho -- have day jobs. Congratulations to The Word Cage's Penultimatina whose day job alter ego Mary Biddinger won an Individual Creativity Award from the Ohio Arts Council.
  • A couple bloggers are taking time off for the summer. Among notable vacationers are Jeff "Yellow Dog Sammy" Coryell and Village Green. Best of luck to both with your non-blog projects and we look forward to having both back.
  • Meanwhile, new blogs are popping up all over. Terra from The Chief Source announced on GABB that she is leaving to start a new stand-alone blog, Terra (not Terror), concentrating on individual environmentalism. Note that this is an entirely new blog, not a continuation of her side blog of the same name.
  • Akron News Now has bloggers affiliated with the site. They include a wine blogger, a culture vulture and a tech geek. ANN is a solid site that gets better all the time. The blogs add to the site's diversity of subject without diminishing the main page's focus on the latest news. Inspired choices.
  • And if you are nothing but a news geek, ANN's Ed Esposito now has his own blog Letters from the Editor. One by-now familiar complaint about all these -- no feeds, RSS or otherwise. If I can't put it in my Reader, the utility of a blog depends on my memory, which is hit or miss at best.
  • Jill, who noted Terra's new blog, also highlighted This Far . . . No Further, a politics blog from frequent commenter Mark Jablonski, and a new blog devoted to Cleveland's MediMart controversy.
  • New Akron blog Watchdevil is steadily getting in the game. I've been in touch with blogger Alexander who has taken some friendly suggestions to heart and, among other things, enabled comments.
  • Coming soon -- the Cincinnati-area proprietor of Radio Free Newport is moving to Akron in the next week or so. He and I have been corresponding and his blog is definitely worth a look. I'll drop a follow-up post when he is actually in the area and blogging Akron.
  • Canton's De Magno Opere is back in business after a lull. De Magno's Michael put me on to newish Canton placeblog Canton Review who in turn put me on to a slightly older and recently quiet gender theory blog Man in Self-Arrest. MiSA is particularly interesting; here's hoping blogger Andrew gets back at it.
  • Speaking of quiet blogs, The Atheist Mama isn't exactly back at it, but at least has a new post up. AM is a challenging blog, but avoids much of the name-calling More evangelical Atheist than triumphalist Atheist. Anyway, Atheist Mama is another blogger I hope gets back in the game.
  • Finally, a little closer to home, I managed to miss announcing Post 1000 -- this is 1001. Most folks who started around the same time I did passed the mark some time ago as we've had some significant down times here at the Pages. Nonetheless, I wanted to observe the milestone. Thanks to everyone who comments, lurks and otherwises offers encouragement. I wouldn't have made it this far without you.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


Of all these crazy weekdays, Fridays are the hardest. Mostly it’s because we have to get going early and normally mornings when the kids are still sleeping is prime blog time.

AMC is running a summer show called Mad Men about a Madison Avenue ad firm in 1960. It’s been getting mad buzz, so I checked it out last night. It’s good. I wonder about the authenticity of the institutionalized sexual harassment, but overall, it’s good TV.

Tonight is Harry Potter night. We went to Peninsula for the Potter festivities there, but I’m not doing midnight madness. I’ll happily pick up our copy tomorrow morning.

Fashion finally appears to be moving off the bare midriff look. I went shopping with Kid Z the other day and the “in” thing seems to be very long tops to drop well below the tops of low-rise jeans. Kid Z is ten, so we’re feeling happy about the timing here at the House of Pho.

The Dispatch dropped a Breaking News email on me this afternoon to say that their reviewer got a copy of the new Harry Potter. They didn’t reveal the ending, but said it is good. That’s exactly why I subscribe to breaking news alerts.

Since I started blogging Top Chef, I’ve gotten multiple hits from people searching for bikini shots of Camilla and Casey. Things like that crack me up.

I’m worried about C.C. Sabathia. Sometimes you see a guy put together a complete game with lots of pitches and suddenly he’s not the same the rest of the season CC did that twice and now he looks tired.

I’m hoping to write up some detailed thoughts about the independent report on the Vinson case by the Cuyhoga County Prosecutor. For now: I’m underwhelmed.

Now here it is, your Moment of Ten:

1. “Black and White,” Earl Robinson
2. “Broken Train,” Beck
3. “Morning Glory,” Blood, Sweat and Tears
4. “I’m Waiting for the Man,” Velvet Undergroud
5. “Tennessee,” Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys
6. “Poor Boy,” Steve Earle
7. “Another Man Done Gone,” Irma Thomas
8. “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream,” Bob Dylan
9. “Unsatisfied,” The Replacements
10. “Runnin’ Down and Dream,” Tom Petty

Mayoral Primary Debate Scheduled.

Joe Finley won't get the ten debates he wants, but he'll get one more than most longshot candidates get from entrenched incumbents. From the ebag:

    The Akron Press Club and the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied
    Politics will host the Democratic Akron Mayoral Candidate Debate
    between incumbent Don Plusquellic and Joe Finley at 11:45am on Monday,
    Aug 27 at the Martin Center, 105 Fir Hill on the University of Akron

    The debate will start immediately following the luncheon, which is
    open to the public.
Keep an eye here for updates.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Breaking: Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Rules Vinson Death a Suicide.

Just in from the Akron Beacon Journal:

    Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason has ruled in an independent review that 19-year-old Demetrus Vinson took his own life on March 17 after he was shot by an Akron police officer, confirming the Akron police account of events
If you will recall, the case became controversial when the police released a statement saying that they killed Vinson, then had to retract it when the Medical Examiner ruled that the shots they fired were non-fatal and that Vinson shot himself.

AkronNewsNow has the report posted. BTW, as of this writing (1 p.m.), the ABJ does not. In this electronic world, the print organs have to learn to move a little faster. Or they can keep losing their best talent to radio.***

Anyway, I've skimmed the report. Certainly it won't resolve anything in the eyes of the people howling cover-up. The conclusions are based on forensic evidence, much of which was in the M.E.'s report, and Chance Baker's statement the morning of the shooting, which Vinson apologists have a dozen excuses for.

The report does detail a number of additional forensic tests the Cuy. Co. investigators ordered and a number of additional witnesses they tried to talk to, which may explain some of the delay in releasing the report. Also, they discuss the DNA from an unknown person on Vinson's .45. This, presumably, is why they wanted a sample from Chance Baker, the kid in the car with Vinson.

We are still waiting for the separate report from the Summit County Prosecutor's Office. Eric Mansfield has been blogging what he has been hearing from unnamed sources as we've been waiting for the report. You can read his Vinson-related posts here. His posts have hinted darkly about allegations of missing medical information and the possibility that different investigators will reach different conclusions. We'll probably have to wait for tonight to see if he still thinks that.

Meanwhile, Chance Baker's attorney Eddie Sipplen says he still doesn't accept the report's conclusions. The ABJ story doesn't indicate whether he has actually read the report. And Vinson family's attorney Orlando Williams is conducting his own investigation which begins in earnest now as the investigators at Cuyahoga County wouldn't let him access evidence while they were still investigating.

***UPDATE. As of 1:30 the ABJ has the report posted. You can access it through a link embedded on the headlines page, but there is no link on the page on which the story appears. I don't know when ABJ posted the report because I didn't notice the headline on the homepage until now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What is Eric Mansfield Holding Back?

Going through some back posts I had missed, I ran across an Eric Mansfield piece about a story he did not air. You can read the whole post, but here are the highlights. Someone called him saying that officers in a certain local police department were frequently patrolling a certain business. He started investigating.

It started as a story about a business possibly receiving favorable treatment from the local police. But after a spooky cloak-and-dagger phone call, it became a non-story about national security. Here’s an excerpt of the description of the phone call.

    "Then you should know that that business is one of the top Ohio targets for Al Qaida or other terrorists and no I'm not kidding."

    I sat there to compose my thoughts. Shouldn't the public be made aware of this target? Shouldn't people have a right to know what's in their backyard? Shouldn't the federal government be involved here? Wouldn't Bob Woodward jump on this with both feet and never stop typing until it brought down the President?

    "If it's this much of a target," I asked, "why don't they have their own super security or something?"

    "Because the federal government doesn't have the dollars to protect it, so it's up to us," he told me. "I really need your help here Eric."
Based on the phone call, Eric has decided not to air the story because he doesn’t want to alert terrorists to the existence of a high-value target in the area.

I understand Eric’s reluctance to air the story just to tell the world about a target here in NEO. Not only is it tempting fate, it would end up in the vein of “Your sweater can kill you!!! Film at eleven.” Thankfully the Akron newscast has been able to avoid much of that.

But because the story didn’t air, a number of questions remain unanswered. Is this a target because taking it out would kill lots of people or is it an infrastructure target. If it’s a target that can kill people, what is being done to protect the public in the event of an attack. Is there an evacuation plan? Are first responders and medical facilities equipped to handle the disaster?

And who should be paying for security? Is Company X in an industry group that lobbied against regulations requiring facility hardening like the chemical industry did? Does the locality have a case for getting a Homeland Secutiry grant? And did they? And if not, was that decision valid or based on a bias toward New York, DC, etc.?

Right now what we know is that a private company exists, it is a high-value target and the local taxpayers are stuck with the tab for protecting it.

Eric’s decision not to run the story may or may not keep information out of the hands of terrorists. It is definitely keeping information out of the hands of local citizens, and leaving lots of unanswered questions as a result.

Top Chef: Running with Cleavers

As always, spoilers abound.

Close-up Watch. Dale, Joey and Howie are featured in the “Previously” segment, but none particularly strongly. Joey gets an interview up front about how frustrated he is about being a perennial laggard. That means one of two things.

Quickfire. Ninety minutes and frozen pie crust. Sarah is cooking rabbit. I don’t recall seeing that protein on the show before.

I liked Howie’s contrast between chef desserts and pastry chef desserts. By the way, I would be hard pressed to ever eat anything Howie made for me, given the way sweat literally drips off his face while he’s cooking. I kind of like him as a cast member, but I’m starting to root against him based on the gross-out factor. Dude, mix in a headband.

Dale: these are some of the best dishes I’ve made in the competition. Ooh. Not a good look on the judge’s face. And he ends up in the bottom three.

Joey gets the Quickfire win. The Unmotivated Closeup in on a roll.

Elimination: Cook a Latin dish for the cast of a Telemundo soap opera. Why Telemundo? Well, in addition to both being owned by NBC’s parent company, they’ve teamed up to hype Top Chef to the Hispanic audience.

Based on the interviews, I’m guessing that CJ, Sarah M., Dale and Tre will not figure in the final judging. The show spotlights a particularly portentous conversation between Lia and Casey who apparently have become very tight and a mutual support network as Casey puts it.

Padma said at the top of the show that the challenge was about timing. When she introduced the Elimination Challenge, she mentioned that the schedule at the soap opera changes constantly. I knew that would come into play, but I thought that the chefs would have to cool their heels (and dishes) while a shoot went over. Instead Colicchio tells them that the schedule is moved up an hour and a half. So the challenge now is how well can they adjust.

It probably says something good about the quality of the cast that they keep coming up with these gimicky challenges. In past shows, the first few episodes were devoted to clearing out the cannon fodder brought on to round out the cast. This year's cast, if nothing else, has the deepest bench.

Sarah’s going to be in particular trouble because she making seviche and acid takes time to “cook” the seafood – time that can’t really be shortened in any way. Maybe Howie too – he’s not only doing braised pork, he’s cooking yucca which I’ve found to be pretty fussy – cook it wrong and it turns out mealy.

After they feed the cast, it’s clear that Sarah N, Casey and Lia are in the biggest trouble, with possibly Hung rounding out the bottom four. Whichever Top Chef exec thought of doing the eye candy thing has to be hating life as the three prettiest cast members are now on the chopping block.

They’ve especially been playing up Casey’s non-cooking attributes. She had a bikini shot in a preview (but not in the following show) and they did that ridiculous poll last week about whether Joey and Howie hate or want to date her. As if two fugly guys can’t hold both emotions simultaneously.

Judge’s Table

I’m officially annoyed at this bit of only picking two people for the top. Among other things, it keeps us from getting to know the other cast members.

Funny how Howie and Joey are buds and the show didn’t let us know until now -- because they spent two weeks plugging last week’s episode as big drama because the feuding chefs had to work together.

Anyway, despite Joey’s observation that Howie ought to cook something other than pork, he wins with the pig again.

Bottom four and Hung may be the biggest dick we’ve had in three seasons. He’s just absolutely never wrong about anything. If you don’t like his food, get a new tongue. But he really can't say anything when Tom admonishes him about whirling around with a cleaver. Knives are supposed to stay on the cutting board. Even I know that.

The Poll

Every week they conduct a text message poll and this one proves definitively that they haven’t broken out of the chicks-n-gays demographic. Tom Colicchio wins 48% of the vote as sexiest judge. Only because Anthony Boudrain isn’t on the panel. And poor Gail. Only 14%. Personally, that’s where I’d go, but that’s just me.

Elimination Result.

Lia came in from one of the loftiest positions in the history of the show – Executive Sous Chef for the legendary Jean-Georges Vongeritchen. But French-Asian fusion didn’t give her much experience with Latin cuisine. And Casey has had two bad Eliminations in a row and lost her support.

Summer "Vacation" at the House of Pho

Swimming Lessons. Playdates. Gymnastics. Playdates. Swimming Lessons. Tae Kwon Do. Swimming Lessons. Playdates. Gymnastics. Playdates. Violin. Swimming Lessons. Gymnastics. Gymnastics.

Entertain the kids for a weekend.

Start over.

I mention this in case anyone is wondering about the the sparse posting. Or why something I promised -- either online or off -- hasn't been posted yet.

Carnival of Politics # 74 UPDATED

Check it out. Solid job by LisaRenee.

One Two new submitters: One is a Cigar blogger Smoke if You Got 'Em submitted a piece on the Golfing Strippers Scandal in Toledo. I'll put a plug in for more of that. Smoke doesn't do lots of local politics and certainly isn't what you would call a Political Blog, but he ran a story that fits format and sent it in. So again I say: You don't have to be a political blogger to submit and you can submit only occasionally. If you run a post that fits the format, feel free to submit it. We haven't turned down a submission yet.

[On edit] The other is our friend Bonobo at Blue Bexley with some 'Roots News -- an email from Rep. Pat Tiberi's office and a nice essay about it. Quality work. I missed the update from Lisa Renee. Welcome to the Carnival, Bo.

Generally submissions are a little slower than they have been. Not surprising as we approach the dog days. I've always said blogging is a winter sport.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Notes from the Art Museum Ribbon Cutting.

I dragged my children to the Art Museum ribbon cutting gave my children a once in a lifetime chance to see the opening of a building of international import. I won’t give you the full tragicomic rundown of my equipment issues, but suffice it to say that the photo here is not from today. The fact that it is only slightly blurry should have tipped you off.

Anyway. Here’s the highlights of what I saw.

Ø The crowd was pretty good for a Tuesday morning. Over a hundred crowded around the entrance.

Ø Among the VIPs there were Mayor Don Plusquellec, Council President Marco Sommerville, Newly appointed County Executive Russ Pry, former County Executive Jim McCarty, State Sen. Coughlin and Jeril Klue from Rep. Betty Sutton’s office.

Ø In his remarks, Mayor Plusquellec made a point of mentioning the “beautiful parking garage” across the street. Wonder what that was about?

Ø Couglin spoke for a while. Apparently he was instrumental in getting the money that the State chipped in. Money for an art museum seems like the sort of thing that a hardcore fiscal conservative like Coughlin would object to on the Statehouse floor. But in this venue he was more than happy to take credit for it.

Ø It made me wonder about the other lawmakers. After all, the Art Museum isn’t even in Coughlin’s district. So did other lawmakers get elbowed out when Coughlin got out front or did they just not jump on this.

Ø Bill Dyer was walking around when I overheard some Museum guy greet him. He replied “I like the inside better.”

Ø I disagree with the NYT critic about the gallery space. No it’s not very imaginative, but that’s the point. What you get is huge spaces that give the outsized modern pieces by Warhol and Stella and Close room to breathe. You don’t notice much about the galleries, but that’s the point. The space is about the art.

Ø We joined up and got keychains where are limited edition scale models of the zigzag elevator shaft in the lobby. I told the folks at the desk they could do a whole charm bracelet based on components of the two buildings.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Akron Jumping on Gay Tourism Bandwagon

The Akron Convention and Visitors Bureau is trodding the now-familiar path toward pitching the city as a gay-friendly travel destination. They are meeting with gay-owned businesses " to see what incentives, promotions and programs it may offer to gay and lesbian travelers."

And by the way, it's a slow news day in the 'Kron when the ABJ off-leads this story.

This is, as I said, a trend. Which means it amounts to little more than keeping up with the Jonesvilles. In other words, other cities are doing it, so we might as well so we don't appear unfriendly and therefore unattractive.

But let's be real here. Akron will almost certainly not become a destination city in any event. We have a smattering of points of interest (the new Art Museum being the newest and arguably most gay-friendly) and events (Soapbox Derby, Inventers HOF Induction, AA Founders day), all of which draw small, discrete crowds. But we don't have mountains or a beach and we aren't a cultural mecca. We'll never be San Francisco or Provincetown or Jackson Hole. I once heard a New Yorker describe some town other than New York as "a nice place to live, but I wouldn't want to visit there." That's us.

What the CVB can do is put together the information needed so that gays who are thinking of stopping by -- to see the Art Museum for example -- aren't deterred by a false impression that we are the sort of intolerant backwater where they would have nothing to do and would not be safe. Which, for that matter, is what the CVB should be doing for any identifiable market segments.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Art Museum, Pt. 2: Insuffrable NYT Weenie Gets His Facts Wrong

New York Times architecture critic Nicholai Ouroussoff doesn’t much like the interior of the addition to the Akron Art Museum. But he really doesn’t like Akron. More to the point, he doesn’t like his pre-conceived notion of what a city like Akron would be and he certainly didn’t allow any actual facts to disrupt that notion.
Here’s what he has to say about the immediate environs of the Museum:

    The old museum, housed in a 19th-century Renaissance Revival building that once served as a post office, stands on a commercial strip facing an ugly brick-clad parking structure in downtown Akron. This is the dark side of the America recalled by Robert Venturi: a haunted Main Street U.S.A. of decrepit brick buildings, vacant windows and empty storefronts.
If I had moved out of town six years ago and read that in the Times, I'd have wondered -- did they move the whole museum onto South Main? It's as if Ouroussoff traveled to the museum blindfolded, then pulled out notes from a visit to Akron twenty years ago to set the scene. Not only does he traffic in a hoary and wildly overstated view of Akron's plight, he gets basic facts wrong.

Let’s break that paragraph down.

"The old museum . . .stands on a commercial strip" No, it doesn’t. It stands between the new main library and the Summit Art Space which is housed in an old schools. There isn’t any commercial space on that street for blocks in either direction. “. . . facing an ugly brick-clad parking structure . . .” Not to put to fine a point on it, but the old museum faces another old building across Market which was the former art museum before it moved into the building which will now confusingly be called the old art museum. The “ugly brick-clad parking structure” is to the side of the old building, though it faces the new entrance. It’s the new parking deck for the new Main Library not the old, run down parking deck the description makes it sound like.

Parking decks by their nature are hard to make pretty, but this one is about as nice as they come, with a modern façade and glassed-in spiral staircase. I understand why a New Yorker might be weirded out by the idea of being able to park, but we like to take advantage of the little pleasures Midwest life offers. The photo to the left is taken approaching the Museum on High Street, walking beside the Knight Center. The library and parking deck that offended Ouroussoff's sensibilities is there on the left.

I’d have been able to forgive the misstatements about the locale of the Museum without that last sentence. But when he talks about "the dark side of the America recalled by Robert Venturi: a haunted Main Street U.S.A. of decrepit brick buildings, vacant windows and empty storefronts he moves from simply not paying attention to altering facts to fit preconceived notions.

Akron possesses its share of haunted neighborhoods -- as does New York, for that matter. But no observer walking through the area around the Museum could honestly invoke haunted Main Street. The museum is surrounded by new and renovated buildings. The Knight Convention Center is less than 15 years old. The Library less than five. Tony Troppe's Historic District is just down the street. Across the street to the north the Akron Bar Association is renovating an old fire station for their new headquarters.

By the way, the beginning of the next paragraph is bull as well: "Coop Himmelb(l)au treats this history with just the right amount of respect, neither trying too hard to fit in with it nor begrudging its importance."

No, the new wing of the Museum ignores the history of the place around it. That’s pretty much the point. And frankly if the architects had done otherwise, no one from the Times would have been writing about it.

If anyone doubts that Ouroussoff’s cartoonishly cosmopolitan condescension informs his error-riddled description of the area, this passage from further in the review should quell those doubts:
    At street level, a section of the glass wall pops open to create the main entrance, Above, the lobby’s glass enclosure tilts back violently and then lurches out again over the roof of the brick building, as if it were cracking under some invisible strain.

    The sense of compression is more than a visual game. It is a deliberate tactic for injecting a fragment of urbanity — a hint of the social, ethnic and creative frictions that defined the 20th-century metropolis — into an otherwise lifeless Midwestern strip. Coop Himmelb(l)au clearly views the city as a place of intellectual freedom and creative ferment, and an antidote to the supposed repressive conformity of small-town America.
Well gosh-all-darnit when I read that I puttinear coughed mah RC Cola up through m’nose.

Don’t east-coast sophisticates despise cliché and vulgarity above all else? Yet they still cling to their vulgar, clichéd view of Midwestern life.

By the way, I've forged a couple new labels for these posts. Since I hit art-related topics at least occasionally, I lifted "Artsy but not Fartsy" from the author Lorrie Moore. And Phlyover Country will label any post about all things Midwest and/or coastal contempt for the same. Yes I'm using that cloying "ph" for "f" trope, but what do you expect from a hick from Akron?

SummitCo. Campaign Fundraisers

It's that season, though in an odd-numbered year, barebones way. Here's what's coming up.

Friends of Kirt Conrad for School Board

When: Tues July 17 from 5 to 7

Where: Dakota Grill
2727 Manchester Road
Akron, Ohio

Suggested Donation: $25

Keep Lisa Zeno Carano Clerk of Cuyahoga Falls Muni Court
Dog & Suds Fundraiser

When: Tuesday, July 31, 5-7 p.m.

Heritage Barn
5328 Young Road
Stow, OH

Donation: $25 - Individual, $250 - Sponsor

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Art Museum Pt. 1: Reaction Round-Up

The ribbon cutting for the new Akron Art Museum will happen this Tuesday whether Akronites are ready or not. Over the weekend the architecture critics who got a preview look published their mostly positive reviews. If you are just joining us, the Museum addition is a big deal because it represents Austrian firm Coop Himmelb(l)au's first American commission. This is exciting because, well because it is, dammit.

Months before completion, the museum won an American Architecture Award. It's been getting good reviews for some time before now as well.

Of course, it's not been universally embraced. Bob Dyer included a bunch of negative reaction from Akronites as part of his predictable "Ah just a reg'lar guy" take. Mr. Boring predicts that it will look dated in five years. The News Night Akron crew took on the issue on their July 13 broadcast (which you can still catch online.) The exchange between Jody Miller (for) and Ed Esposito is nothing if not entertaining in a "Jane you ignorant slut" sort of way. The site also includes a video tour of the museum guided by Miller.

The recent national reviews include the Washington Post which includes some thoughtful musing about why a town like Akron -- not the center of the arts universe -- ends up with the first building by radical European firm. LA Times goes one better, wondering why they didn't get the first building, given lead architect Wolf Prix's ties to that city.
The WaPo piece offers a nice background on the atavistic ideology at the firm. the LAT background is more about the architecture itself. According to LAT, the firm is known for combining old and new structures, as witnessed by roof-top addition to a 19th century Vienna building pictured at right -- one of the firm's "best-known" buildings.

While WaPo and LAT liked the building throughout, the New York Times balks at the gallery space. Reading the review as a whole, one wonders if the main problem the writer has is that the museum is in Akron instead of, say, New York. In fact that review has enough problems as to be worth its own post.

Closer to home, the Louisville Courier-Journal wonders if Akron will benefit from a "Bilbao" effect, and whether there is a lesson for Louiville there as well. Finally the Beacon Journal runs a well-composed editorial arguing that the wildly incongruous building perfectly sums up the success Akron has had relative to its rust belt neighbors.

Democrats Who Do Not Act Like Sissies

Gay writer and sex columnist Dan Savage recorded a now-classic This American Life piece for their show about “Sissies” a few years ago. His hook was gay personal ads seeking “straight-acting” men. His take was an effeminate man having the courage to act as he is damn the social reprobation is less of a sissy that at least some “straight acting” gays.

As it is with gay personal ads, so it is with politics. If the Democratic party had written a personal ad up through 2004, it would have read something like:

    Curious party (NS) seeks straight-looking, straight-acting gay man/woman for discrete, politically advantageous encounters.
Democrats liked the idea of getting votes and volunteer help from the gay community. But did they have to act so gay and everything? Because it might make people uncomfortable.

Which is why I am enthused about the LGBT Presidential Primary forum co-sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign and Logo TV. The forum will happen August 8 and has now been extended to ninety minutes and will focus on issues important to the LGBT community. So far Clinton, Dodd, Edwards, Gravel, Kucinich and Obama have RSVP'd.

As important as it might be to discuss specific issues, the forum sends the overarching message that the Democratic Party will not be bullied by the far right into marginalizing our gay brothers and sisters. After years of trying to play both sides -- tell the gays we care but we'd really appreciate it if we did have to say it too loudly -- Democrats can be proud of the courage of these candidates. They know the far right will try to pillory them for attending the forum. They know that they won't be in complete agreement with the audience.

And they know that the thorniest issue of the '04 campaign -- that of gay marriage -- will be Topic A. Most of the candidates are not four-square in favor of calling it marriage, which should make for some interesting posturing. Especially since Kucinich isn't exactly shy about taking the absolutist position and beating his opponents over the head with it. (For those of you keeping score at home, my own view is that gays should be allowed to marry but I am willing to get there incrementally.)

As for the guest list, Biden and Richardson are currently missing. Interestingly, both are arguably the most Manly Mannish candidates. Which is all well and good, but it's no excuse for acting like a sissy.

A Couple of Updates

First, my employment situation. My latest contract with The Ohio Fair Schools Campaign has run and we have not renewed it. This was a mutual decision as the Campaign and I are each looking at moving in different directions. I will still work with them as a volunteer and I may possibly take on consulting projects with them again. As for my new directions, more to come.

Second, I've added a new link list on the sidebar -- Summit County News Links. I know this is the major ones, but am happy to take suggestions if anyone thinks something is missing.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Random Notes

Much of what has been going through my head today:

> This has been a trying day. On the one hand Kid T was in one of her Moods. Stop me if you've heard this one before, but my five year old hates to wait for stuff. On the other hand each kid participated in three different activities and I went the entire day without hearing a complaint about boredom which is a first for the summer. Combined, all that made for less, and less substantive posting than is normal even in the lazy hazy crazies. And I’m effing exhausted.

> K-Pho has been hitting my box with the war of words between the United Nations Foundation and . . . Megadeath. Apparently the thrash band’s founder Dave Mustaine sang some ugly things about the UN and the Foundation’s blog offered a stanza-by-stanza response. And now Mustaine has volleyed back. All makes for amusing reading.

> I’ve been doing better about hitting the key so keep an eye on the sidebar. Tasty Links were almost never used, so I stopped posting them, by the way.

> My digital camera is dying. Foolishly I’ve let some stories slide because I couldn’t get a decent picture. Included among those was reporting on the skill game parlors in the Merriman Valley, but Kyle and Ben did a far better job than I would have anyway.

> The death throes of the digital camera also accounts for me not doing any dinner posts. It’s devilishly hard to make a photo of food look as good as in real live, but blurry food never looks appetizing.

> According to Technorati, BizzyBlog is the first to post a Carnival Politics Banner on his sidebar. Props to Biz. If you are second I'll link to you as well. Yes, I'm willing to whore linkage to get the word out. That's how much I care.

> Speaking of the Carnival, Dan Moultrop mentioned it on air on Thursday's Reporters Roundtable since Jill was one of the panelists. It's right at the end, literally the last couple of minutes of the broadcast.

> I have my monthly trek to C-bus tomorrow so you will probably have to do without me until the evening. Did I mention there’s some cool stuff in the feed?

> We had the first Graf Growers corn of the season. Slim pickings in the bin – it really brings you face up with the droughtishness we’ve been experiencing.

> I now know that if my blog ever feels lonely, I need only say unflattering things about Dennis Kucinich to rectify the situation.

> I’ve updated the blogroll again with a bunch of national blogs I more or less follow. I’ve decided that my blogroll always needs one woman blogger who stands well to the left of me politically and writes so well she’s hot. And I’ve decided that Blue Gal ranks higher on the fine writing=hotness scale than Bitch Ph.d.

> The summer is more or less half over. Since my job became taking care kids the summers seem to shoot by much faster. This summer I’ve personally taken on far less than usual and still the time is evaporating.

Now here it is, your Moment of Ten:
  1. "Again and Again," The Bird and the Bee
  2. "Do Nothing 'Til You Hear from Me," Billie Holliday
  3. "Too Much," Dave Matthews Band
  4. "How Blue Can You Get?" B.B. King
  5. "Thin Blue Flame," Josh Ritter
  6. "My Days Are Numbered," Blood Sweat and Tears
  7. "Fu-Gee-La," The Fugees
  8. "Corpus Christie Carol," Jeff Buckley
  9. "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey," The Feelies
  10. "Foolish Heart," The Mavericks