Thursday, July 31, 2008

What bloody dog is this?

What bloody dog is this with ear bandaged? Who could have done such a deed? Was it Lady Macbeth? No, it was Ophelia, gone mad!

I took one look at her guilty face and knew she must have come too near Oberon's dinner bowl. He objected. She slashed the inside tip of his ear. Who would have thought the old dog to have had so much blood in him?

And so it was off to the Animal ER, as I pondered why I hadn't named this dog Macbeth instead of Oberon. It was a matter of his fey eyes and majestic stance. Perhaps I should be asking myself why did I name the cat Ophelia instead of Lady Macbeth.

This particular cat and dog have lived together in harmony since last December. Prior to that, Oberon has lived with other cats without any sort of strife. He's getting on in years now, and the arthritis makes him grumpy. He is home now, with plenty of pain medicine and an antibiotic to take, his ear wrapped up and looking sad.

Ophelia resorts to cute poses in an attempt to make up for her costly attack. $175 -- ouch! And yet, the woman standing in line ahead of me at the Animal ER calmly paid a bill for $750.

Ophelia's eyes are actually both yellow. Oberon has one white eye and one brown eye. They have made peace with each other, it would seem. Or is Oberon plotting revenge? We hope not, having spent a good deal of time cleaning up the blood spatters. Yet here's a spot....

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ray Davies to star in his own musical!

Wow! Breaking news here from Jolly Old England - Ray Davies will star in his own musical, Come Dancing! He will play the role of Terry, the musical's narrator. Hmmm, wondering how many solo numbers he wrote for himself? Will he dance as he narrates? I'm remembering that charming little soft shoe number he did in Absolute Beginners.

The musical is based upon the era of big band music, right before rock and roll. Davies used to watch his older sisters get ready to go out to the Ilford Palais, a storied dance hall long since torn down and paved over, according to the Kinks song "Come Dancing" that has turned into the title of this musical.

I had no idea that Ray would be in this production when I ordered my front row ticket earlier this week! Only 40 pds, which seems not so expensive these days, but I was reminded that the Stratford East is not West End, more like off-B'way here in NYC. Anyway, to say that I am thrilled beyond all imagining that I am actually going to be in the audience for this production is not an exaggeration! Will try to blog about it from the UK if at all possible. I've got until mid October to figure it all out!

Read the full story here. Book tickets here.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hamlet at Stan Hywet

You've got one weekend left to see a really rip roaring good Hamlet performed by the Ohio Shakespeare Festival at Stan Hywet Hall here in Akron. (Tickets for July 31, Aug 1 & 2 can be ordered online here.) Last night was a perfect summer night for contemplating once more the tragedy and comedy of the prince of existential thought, Hamlet of Denmark. We enjoyed the pleasant temperatures, the scenic views of Stan Hywet grounds and the bullfrog chorus from the nearby lagoon. Unlike the prior night, the actors did not have to contend with sudden downpours in the midst of their outdoor performance.

There weren't any program notes to inform us, but it seemed to me that this was a mostly complete version of the text, with characters who usually get cut like Reynaldo and the second grave digger strutting on stage to show us exactly why Shakespeare included them in the first place.

Director Terry Burgler knows his latest Shakespeare-in-performance research and puts it into play in delightful ways. The characters speak to us and include us in the story, and let us in on the amazing comedy that weaves its way throughout the tragic Danish landscape. How else to deal with the horrors of death, than to indulge in graveyard humor?

Andrew Cruse as Hamlet is excellent, certainly up to Barrymore standards (see above image), which I say having never seen Barrymore because his performance never made it to film. However, it remains the legendary performance I can only wish that I'd seen. Cruse's Hamlet does not mope about in slow motion angst, rather he fills the stage with an energy that will not relent until some sort of resolution is reached. We watch in total absorption, even though the ending is etched in our permanent memories. The greatness of the play is that it never matters how many times one has seen it or read it, it is impossible not to get caught up in it all over again.

Noteworthy performances in abundance in this production, enough so that everybody will have plenty of favorites to rave over afterwards. I particularly enjoyed Horatio, Polonius and Osric. The only discordant note was the appearance of a plastic crown, a plastic helmet and plastic body armor. If everybody is clearly dressed in Elizabethan costuming, plastic pieces have to be distressed in some way to disguise the plastic when it appears under the lights.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Greenprint for Akron suggestions

Rather than trying to lease our public utilities, the Village Green much prefers that our city officials put more energy into bringing their "Greenprint for Akron" into being. As I cycle down Kenmore Blvd, I imagine all the great new green services and businesses that could be filling the empty storefronts.

How about a shop selling healthy, sustainable counter tops instead of the trendy expensive radioactive granite variety?

And instead of toxic vinyl window replacements, I'd love to find a local construction business ready, willing and able to install these really cool solar window panels.

It would be nice to have an insurance company offering green car insurance for customers who practice sustainable driving habits.

Our city recently lost a hotel. How about a nice new green one? Certification requirements can be found here.

Any local green event planners available here in Akron? If so, they could find some helpful resources here.

And here's a brilliant idea -- install year-round greenhouses on top of grocery stores. I sure would like to see rooftops like these on every local Acme and Giant Eagle.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Farmers' Markets

The Lock 3 Farmers' Market finally gets going this Saturday. Evidently they got started late this season because of so many weekend events at Lock 3. Out of frustration, I finally went over to Stan Hywet to check out their market on Thursdays from 4 - 7. Very pricey. For example, three small tomatoes for $3.50 -- ouch! The tomatoes in my garden are no where near ripe yet, so I guess that's why I have to pay more.

I realize that a lot of the vendors are from the Cuyahoga Valley conservancy group and are selling heritage veggies,organic and other specialty items. The organic cheese man was there, but alas -- I'm no longer eating dairy products. However, I did pick up some bread from Great Lakes Baking Company, based in Hudson.

Looking forward to seeing who is back at Lock 3 this year and if the prices are better than Stan Hywet's market. Lock 3 is sponsored by the city, and I'm glad they have continued on with it. However, what would really serve the city best would be farmers' markets rotated throughout the neighborhoods. Say, North Hill on Mondays, Ellet on Tuesdays, Kenmore on Wednesdays and so on. Take the fresh produce to the people who normally don't have a chance to get to them, like senior citizens and people who rely on public transportation to get to grocery stores.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ray Davies new musical to open in London

I've been waiting years for this! We've heard hints and promises about this musical over the past ten years. Finally, it reaches the stage this fall. I am madly going over my finances and calendar to make sure I can get there for a weekend.

Latest News: Kinks-y musical at Stratford East
First published: 16 Jul 2008

Ray Davies, former front-man of sixties band The Kinks, has turned his tuneful hand to theatre, creating new musical Come Dancing, which will premiere at the Theatre Royal Stratford East this autumn.

Inspired by the famous Kinks song of the same name, Come Dancing, which runs from 13 September to 25 October (press night 24 September), is set in the 1950s around the Ilford Palais ballroom. Conjuring the innocent, care-free days of youth, it tells a tale of love triumphing over adversity.

Davies, whose hits with The Kinks include Waterloo Sunset, You Really Got Me, All Day And All Of The Night and Lola, has written a host of new songs for Come Dancing, in addition to working with writers Paul Sirett and Terry Johnson to create the book for this new production.

Sirett's work has previously been seen at Stratford East, where his Ska musical The Big Life was a huge hit, prompting a transfer to the West End. Playwright and director Johnson is also no stranger to London's Theatreland, where his previous productions include Dead Funny, Cleo Camping Emmanuelle And Dick and Hitchcock Blonde.

The production is directed by Theatre Royal Stratford East's Artistic Director Kerry Michael, who directed Stratford East's most recent West End transfer, The Harder They Come, which is currently entertaining audiences at the Playhouse.

Come Dancing's creative team also includes designers Harriet Barsby and Jenny Tiramani, musical director Robert Hyman, choreographer Omar Okai and lighting designer Jo Joelson. Casting is yet to be announced.

Show Details: Come Dancing
showing at: Theatre Royal Stratford

previews from: 13.09.2008
opening night: 24.09.2008

Cast and Crew
director: Kerry Michael
producer: Theatre Royal Stratford East

Here's the Kinks video that accompanied Come Dancing back in the 80s:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Issues That Matter -- Save Our Sewers on local cable access

Cable access programming that should be of interest. Set your recording devices if you've got other plans for Friday night:

Citizens to Save our Sewers and Water (SOS)
190 N. Union St., #101 Akron, OH 44304
Phone: 330-408-5409 Web:

Issues that Matter

A special edition of the weekly cable TV program, Issues that Matter, will address our petition campaign, privatization, and the mayor’s proposal to lease Akron’s sewers. Tune in this Friday, July 25, at 10 PM to Time Warner Channel 15.

Issues that Matter is a weekly cable TV program sponsored by the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Barack Tour

Well I'm impressed! Mr. Obama is looking mighty fine in every photo op we've seen so far. Andrea Mitchell did her best to downplay the footage with Obama and the troupes, insisting that since no journalists were allowed into the event, we can't know exactly how staged it really was.

I've looked at a lot of audiences in my time, and in my professional opinion -- those soldiers were not pretending to be thrilled to be in the same space as the Democratic candidate for president oh no, the excitement was genuine. Images of GW Bush meeting troupes and foreign leaders over the past 7 and a half years immediately came to mind in order to compare the performance styles. While Bush goes for the good ol' boy from Texas, he nevertheless delivers from a posture of swaggering superiority. With Obama, there is a warmth that radiates and lights up those around him.

I am imagining this will be the same with the various leaders Obama will be meeting during his Barack Tour. WE know that GW has done precious little listening to other people during his regime. In order to solve conflicts, the parties must be willing to listen to each other, and even look at problems from the other's point of view.

No, I haven't turned into an Obamamaniac, but I do see the potential for his "Change" mantra, if he continues to be direct and open in the way he approaches people. He can be the antidote we need to heal foreign and domestic relations, if we can just keep Bush junior busily occupied with Olympic team photo ops from now until Inauguration Day.

Is there some other guy running for president this year? He has completely slipped out of my mind today!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Vegan blogs

Last summer, I decided to go vegan one more time. Not really a huge jump, as I've been a vegetarian since 1972. But in the past, my few attempts at moving totally away from dairy and eggs had not been successful. With the opening of VegiTerranean, Akron's first vegan restaurant, I felt the time was right to try again.

You may be wondering how I managed during this past year. For the most part, veganism was easy to achieve. Vegetables, fruit, grains, pasta and lots of soy in all its manifestations were my staples. During the school year, I did lots of vegetable stews and soups in the crock pot, so I didn't have to do much food prep after a long day of school plus rehearsal.

I bought some vegan cookbooks to augment my collection of old favorites (Soy Not Oi!), but the most helpful source of vegan recipes turned out to be Google. Every time I had craving for something I used to fix that might have once included eggs or cheese, I'd simply type in vegan plus macaroni and cheese, for example and get a wealth of vegan possibilities. It's much easier to cook looking at a recipe on a computer screen than hunching over a cookbook.

The only problems I had with veganism were away from home on trips to places I'd never been before. I will confess to putting actual dairy cream into my coffee when soy milk was not available. Sometimes at celebrations, I simply ignored the fact that the birthday cake was probably made with eggs and milk. But generally speaking, restaurants will have a vegan option, even if it is only a Bocca burger and a salad.

I'd like to recommend a new recipe I just found online this week at Two Silly Vegans blog for chocolate chip raspberry scones. I had some fresh organic raspberries that I wanted to do something with, so I Googled and arrived at this recipe which I promptly tried out. Soy yogurt provides the binding agent. This recipe also uses a small amount of sugar, and as I halved the recipe to begin with, that turned out to be 3/8 cup. I used whole wheat flower and vegan chocolate chips and they turned out great!

Once I realized that people actually blog their vegan recipes, I did a search and compiled a new vegan blog roll for your convenience and mine! Just scrolling through these blogs gives me all kinds of new ideas for creating interesting and tasty new vegan meals.

So if you have been thinking about going vegetarian or vegan, why not give it a try? You'll be doing the planet and your body a huge favor. And oh, by the way -- a new scientific study shows that vegans and vegetarians live longer than meat eaters.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Not much more Living With War?

I took the day away from the 'puter. Real life activities beckoned! When I finally got online this evening, I was thrilled to read the news that Maliki has publicly endorsed Obama's 16 month plan for troupe removal from Iraq. This leaves McCain's campaign sputtering on about "the Surge" succeeding. Does he honestly think that we will forget the fact that the Iraq war was a mistake? The US lead invasion almost immediately turned into an occupation that brought about ever-increasing violence.

I'm not jumping on the Hey let's leave Iraq so we can send more battalions into Afghanistan. I'm hoping that this is Obama electioneering. In my politics of hope, I'm imagining that Obamba's election actually leads to a focus on peaceful rebuilding in the region along with United Nations oversight. Although I am really excited about finally being able to remove my No Iraq War window sticker from my truck, I really don't want to have to replace it with US Out of Afghanistan.

So in honor of today's momentous news, here's Neil Young reminding us that Living With War is no longer acceptable. As the old sign said, It's not healthy for children and other human beings, and I would add -- does nothing to decrease the planet's carbon and other toxic emission load.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Save our Public Utilities!

Here in Akron, our mayor wants us to lease the public sewer system to some un-named corporate entity in order to fund scholarships so that Akron students may attend the University of Akron or trade schools located in Akron. The goal is to provide a free education so that more young people will decide to work and live in Akron after they graduate.

While I have no problem with promoting further education and encouraging young people to settle in this fair city, I cannot support the plan to sell or lease any of our public utilities to a for-profit company. Public utilities are those that are essential to the health and well-being of our community. We need to be in control of our own destinies, not at the mercy of some multi-national group that could care less whether we have filthy sewer water running into the Cuyahoga River.

To me, this plan comes across as a con game. A noble purpose is put forth to mask a giveaway of a public asset to a private corporation. If the citizens of Akron feel it is important to fund college scholarships, then put a tax levy on the ballot for that purpose. Do not attempt to disguise what the real goal of this move is -- to rid the city of a sewer system that needs a major upgrade and is under EPA watch until it is fixed.

When the mayor announced his plan early in the spring, he stated that the sewer would be sold. Now it is the sewer system will be leased. In spring, the money would be used so that all Akron kids could go to college. Now we are hearing that the money will be used so that all working class kids can go to college. The mayor announced in the spring that he would appoint a task force to come up with all the details. In his latest announcement -- that he will put the lease on the fall ballot for citizens to vote upon -- he accuses those who have doubts of being nay-sayers and "scarerists" (rhymes with terrorists).

Mr Mayor, I take offence at your words. Why should anyone embrace your plan when the parameters keep changing? Why didn't you wait until your panel put forth the final plan with all the details so we could all look and comment at the same time? The tone of your denigrations of those who oppose the plan makes me even more suspicious. Who have you made promises to? Who is going to be making big bucks on this deal? Is it true that corporate high ups have already been given tours of the sewer works here in Akron?

No college education is free. Somebody is going to be paying for it, and it is most logical to think that it will be the rate-payers once the corporation takes over.

A group called Save Our Sewers has collected petitions for a ballot vote this fall. If you've been following the story in the ABJ, you will know that city lawyers sent the petitions back due to a technicality on notarizing each petition. Read further for the rest of the story:

Citizens to Save our Sewers and Water (SOS)
190 N. Union St., #101 Akron, OH 44304
Phone: 330-408-5409 Web:

In less than 72 hours thanks to your incredible help, we resubmitted our petitions to the City of Akron — with more than 400 additional signatures! The grand total (even more than quoted in the Beacon Journal article today — see below) was 5716 signatures on 160 separate petitions!

City Hall’s effort to stall our campaign by claiming we needed to notarize our petitions on separate pieces of paper rather than on the petition itself failed. We responded swiftly and stronger than before. People want to decide! People want to govern themselves! People want to keep public utilities public. Hardly the motives of “naysayers.”

Please note in the Beacon article the very curious comment by Akron Law Director and Mayor Plusquellic appointee Max Rothal — that we intentionally filed the petitions incorrectly to gain publicity. Really? This suggests we had nothing else better to do for the last 3 days than run around the city and state getting petition circulators to re-notarize our petitions on separate sheets of paper. There’s a term for such a charge. It’s called “blame the victim” a means to distract attention from others. Rothal also charged this was at least the third time some of us have had petitions not comply with the city charter. Huh? It’s true that 3 times before some of us have been involved in citizen initiatives in the City of Akron. None of us are aware of any instance of submitted petitions not complying with the charter. Once, maybe twice, we didn’t have enough signatures to qualify at first for the ballot (which we did after gathering additional signatures). More than likely, it’s simply a charge meant to discredit our cause.

Distract and discredit. We’re likely to see and hear much more of this once we get on the ballot and move into the educational phase of the campaign. We must respond to any charges but to also maintain focus on what our grassroots citizen initiative is all about — placing any and all proposals to sell, lease, or transfer any public utility before the voters.

Once the petitions are validated, the petition itself will go before Akron City Council for its formal approval on Monday, July 28. We’d like a big turn-out for that meeting. Details later.

Thank you again for all your help!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Barack Rally for Women's Rights in Akron

Here's something very important to do on Saturday:

On July 19th and 20th of 1848, one hundred and sixty years ago, a
conference was held in the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Seneca Falls
to organize the Women's Suffrage Movement.

Seventy-two long years later, in 1920, women won their right to vote.

On Saturday, July 19th, here in Akron, Ohio, at 11:00 a.m., the Barack
Obama campaign is holding a rally to commemorate the 160th
Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Conference. The rally will be held at
the Sojourner Truth Monument on North High Street.

All women and men and their sons and daughters who support women's
rights and want to celebrate the woman's vote are encouraged to come
and Rally for Barack Obama's Presidential Campaign.

Bring with you everyone you know who values the right to vote, values
equal rights for women, and wants to see Barack Obama in the White
House on January 20th, 2009.

It's just a cartoon after all

Thank you, Jon Stewart, for getting it right once again. His montage of mainstream media creating and perpetuating all the myths depicted in the New Yorker cartoon cover this week should give the critics some pause. Or maybe not. They seem particularly dense when it comes to confronting painful truths:

Well I'm having some problems getting the video footage to embed. So here's a link to the clip. Let's hope this one works.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Obama's American Rhapsody

What with all the fist-thumping alpha male posturing going on in the campaigns today, I feel a need for comedy. I saw this video on MSNBC earlier this week. It still only has a few thousand hits on YouTube, so I'm helping to make it go viral. This video was created by a comedy troupe in Washington, D.C. called the Alliterates. Their web page hasn't been updated since the creation of this video. Hope they are still together and that they consider adapting this video for the general election:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Toddstock part 2

I forgot that I had attempted to take some pictures at the Todd Rundgren concert a couple of weeks back. Not very successful, mainly due to the thick crush of the crowd. I had no desire to push my way up front. When I got to the House of Blues and discovered how uncomfortable the standing situation was going to be, I found a spot next to a rail upon which I could lean and didn't want to give that spot up. Unfortunately, the tallest men in the club decided to plant themselves in front of me throughout the evening. Arggh!

Anyway, this dim shot gives you Todd and Rachel at either end with somebody's head in between. I remembered I'd taken this photo upon hearing from a Cleveland music blogger who attended the show but didn't get any pictures. He says he didn't get a photo pass. I'm assuming that's like a press pass that would give him special access for photographic purposes.

His name is Kevin Conley and he's got a lot of great shots of both local and international musicians performing at various NE Ohio venues on his blog, The Music View. Check them out and see how many of the shows you attended. Kinks fans should note there is a very fine shot of Ray Davies doing one of his solo shows at the Odeon.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Obama and The New Yorker - Inside and Out

The latest New Yorker has a very long and detailed account of Barack Obama's political career in Chicago written by Ryan Lizza. Be warned -- it's heavy on Chicago and Illinois politics, but I rather think that the kinds of characters, scenes and maneuverings depicted in this article happen in every state. Politics ain't pretty.

In the article we get a clear picture of Obama's pragmatic choices that propelled his climb from community organizer to Illinois state senator to US Senator and now on the road to becoming president. There's nothing really disgustingly sleazy there and the only real innovation in his politics is that when called upon to defends his actions, Obama will always admit that this is the way politics is and isn't it a shame that he has to do the things he does in order to get elected. His backing away from taking public campaign financing is very typical of the way he has always operated.

Obama had his eyes on the top job for many years, and we are reminded of that as we follow along his career steps. He stays in one job or position only as long as it takes to get his resources aligned so that he can move up to the next level. We really don't get many clues as to what he will be like when he gets into the job he plans to stay in for eight years. No wonder it is called the politics of hope -- I'm going to be hoping that my vote for him leads to genuine progress and that he is capable of getting things done.

Unfortunately, the New Yorker is pairing this article with what is already considered a controversial cover (see it and read about it here) that might detract from the story inside. I looked at the art work by Barry Blitt and read the artist's statements about it. He wants to illustrate all the lies about Barack and Michelle all at once to satirize "the politics of fear." I get what he was trying to do, but I bet a whole lot of other people won't.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A landscape is the marriage of nature and culture

That was what I learned today at Stan Hywett in workshop 3 of a four part series for restoring your old house. Sponsored by the Cleveland Restoration Society, Stan Hywet Hall and Progress for Preservation, these Saturday morning workshops have been invaluable as well as a lot of fascinating fun as we end up each session by taking an in depth tour of the house and today -- the garden at last!

I took some photos of landscapes within landscapes on Stan Hywett's five acres. Above is the great meadow, viewed from in front of the house. All five acres of the estate grounds were landcaped by Warren Manning. You can find more details about the gardens here.

Here we are looking at the Lagoon, which was created on top of the old stone quarry from which the estate derived its name.

We learned about the differences between rehabilitating and restoring a historic garden. If you want to keep any of the original plantings now grown large, then you are rehabilitating. But to restore a garden to its original state, you have to remove all the overgrown trees and shrubs and re-plant everything according to the original garden plan.

At Stan Hywet, they have a wealth of original drawings as well as photographs stretching back to the years the house and gardens were constructed. Many of the photos were taken, developed and printed in a dark room set up in the house by one of the Seiberling sons. They have become essential primary sources for how anything looked when the Seiberlings resided there.

This the Japanese garden that is languishing while plans are made to either restore or rehabilitate. I really liked the overgrown aspect to it -- it would make a neat outdoor performance space. However, it is not nearly as accessible as the lagoon, which is home to the Ohio Shakespeare Company.

In the stand alone conservatory, a butterfly room has been added. Huge exotic blue butterflies grabbed the eye immediately, but there were many others to be found tucked in here and there among the tripical plantings and the plates full of fruit drenched with gatorade.

To maintain such a house with so many gardens one had to be one rich guy, as was Seiberling, to be able to afford all the servants and workers who certainly put in full days on this job. Here are some garden tools from earlier times.

I arrived home to my tiny urban lot with renewed visions for garden improvements! At least I now know more about landscape styles and influences as I made my garden choices.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Night Shakespeare tip

Patrick Stewart shares the advice given him by Ian McKellan on interpreting Macbeth's "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" speech:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Carousel Dinner Theatre Oz Blog

Sean Cercone, the artistic director at Carousel Dinner Theatre, has started a blog that is focusing on their upcoming production of The Wizard of Oz. You can follow the process from casting of actors, to design of costumes and sets, plus all the special effects challenges. Lots of great pictures too!

The latest entry features a video of Sean trying out a pair of Kangaroo jump boots for the monkeys. If you don't know what a Kangaroo jump boot is, then you really owe it to yourself to check them out. Sean says they are quite pricey, but preferable to working in stilts.

The production opens August 27 and runs through November 1st. Info and tickets are available online.

Go here to read the Oz blog.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Detritus of the Day

I had the cable news-babble going this afternoon.

First, a huge thank you to Senator Sherrod Brown for voting against the FISA bill today. You can see who voted for and against here. Senator Clinton did the right thing, but I see that Senators Biden and Richardson voted aye. Think they are aligning themselves for the VP slot?

Throughout the afternoon, the news people were torn between reporting the very important breaking news about Iranian missiles or the apparently equally important breaking news that the Ramsey family has been ruled out as suspects in the 12 year old JonBenet Ramsey murder case.

According to one earnest news spinner, the Iranian posturing "plays to McCain's strength" ie foreign relations. Why is foreign relations a strength of McCain's? Because he is a hawk? That's the sad truth. People who prefer negotiation can't ever be considered strong. Funny how in school we are all trained to teach our students to avoid aggression in dealings with each other. Punishment is swift for any kid who strikes another. We spend years teaching our students how to work cooperatively. And yet on the international playground, we see grown men drawing lines in the dirt and daring the grown men on the other side to just try and cross this line and see what happens. What happens is weapons blasting, lives lost, atmosphere poisoned. Great way to solve problems, fellas.

I broke away from the breaking news and hopped on the new bike for my first ride to the Acme. Last night's rain cooled things down, so it was a glorious sunny yet comfortable ride through Kenmore. I'm amazed at how fast I can get places on my bike. And how riding it brings me into the community I'm riding through, unlike driving down the boulevard hidden inside the cab of my truck. Tomorrow I'm venturing even further, taking a bike ride over to U of A for a thesis conference with my advisor. Yes, it still isn't finished, but I've put myself on a writing schedule for the summer that will bring it to completion before school starts at the end of August.

Finally, if you haven't read yesterday's post on Greensburg, please do and be sure to check out the comments. Anita, a resident of Greensburg popped in here to update us on how the town is doing. Be sure to visit Greensburg GreenTown for all the latest news on the greening of Greensburg:
Greensburg GreenTown is a nonprofit organization established to provide the residents of Greensburg, Kansas with the resources, information and support they need to rebuild Greensburg as a model green community following the May 2007 tornado. Read more about our programs in the About Us section.
They are seeking a million five dollar contributions to help them achieve their goals. Please consider contributing -- I already did and challenge all my readers to do so as well.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Planet Green -- Greensburg

I've had Planet Green on quite a bit this summer. Formerly the Discovery Home channel, it went to almost total green-themed programming at the beginning of June this year. My favorite show so far is Greensburg, a documentary about the town in Kansas wiped out by a tornado, produced by Leonardo DiCaprio. In the aftermath of the storm, this little town decides to rebuild to the highest green standards.

This is reality programing that is actually real! There are no exotic sets or challenges other than what the tornado wrought. It is fascinating to watch the community pull together. Key players include the city manager, the mayor, high school students, families and business people who step into the camera's eye and tell their stories in front of a background of utter devastation.

A citizens' committee attends a huge green building and construction expo in Chicago. Three of the high school students are chosen to attend as well, and we get to see their wide eyes and growing enthusiasm as they learn about green building advantages and costs. One young man , Taylor Schmidt, lost his grandfather in the tornado's destruction. His narration is particularly arresting, as he expresses his love for the town and its history. Before the tornado, he could not wait to leave the little town. But as he becomes involved in the political process of incorporating green standards into rebuilding the town, his vision for the future changes dramatically, He wants to stay in Greensburg to eventually raise a family of his own. He gets that the green movement is going to make a world of difference in the quality of his generation's life span.

The show airs a new episode every Sunday night. In Episode four, the town prepared for its first Christmas season after the tornado. Episode five is next, and you can undoubtedly catch up with the series as Planet Green repeats programming a lot. Extra webisodes are available online.

If you haven't checked out Planet Green (Channel 156 in the local Warner Cable scheme of things here in Akron). Greensburg is the place to start. Some enviro-bloggers are heavily down on Planet Green. Check out Crunchy Chicken's post and especially all the comments that follow. Lots of those folks are way ahead in terms of greening their lives, living without plastic bags, shampoo, and television and a whole host of other toxic commodities that infest our world. I'm glad for them, but not nearly as far along on the path.

I look to people like No Impact Man, Beth of Fake Plastic Fish and the guy keeping his garbage in his basement for a whole year to see how much he consumes -- and of course Crunchy Chicken whose every post is a manifesto to try yet another way to reduce, reuse and recycle complete with practical instructions included -- as inspiration. The things they learn on their green quests are invaluable and some of their practices are things I can attempt, but probably not all at once!

Here in the "heart of it all" Ohio, most folks are still mindlessly stuck in old habits. This is how slowly we progress: when I started the Village Green blog, I wrote to the local food market chain, Acme, to see if they would either make their plastic bags blue so they could be used to put recyclables out for the city trash collection or at least provide a place where customers could return the bags for recycling. Researching plastic bags lead me to pictures of dead animals who choked on plastic bags and to sites that promoted using cloth bags for shopping. I began to change a habit, training myself to take cloth bags every time I shop, which lead to all kinds of interesting experiences at the grocery store where clerks looked at me as if I were from another planet.

Three years later and now Acme not only provides a collection bin for recycling plastic bags, they also sell reusable cloth bags to encourage customers to bring their own bags. Progress, you might think, but just stand in line and note how many people are using cloth bags. The only one I ever see using them is me! At least the clerks are no longer astonished by my acts of plastic bag refusal. Giant Eagle and Buehlers also now sell cloth shopping bags. Now if they only gave a discount like Mustard Seed does -- five cents for every reusable shopping bag you bring to checkout -- we might start to change more habits.

The point I'm getting to is this -- Planet Green is a means to reach the unenlightened television viewing masses who were all brought up to seek out convenience regardless of environmental impact. They don't have a clue that we are choking on the fumes of convenience. Planet Green, while not a perfectly pure vision, has some information that is useful and that is presented in entertaining forms. This is a good thing!

I will be reviewing more Planet Green shows as the summer goes on. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Green Burials for Ohioans

A must read article in today's ABJ by Bob Downing on a new nature preserve/cometary that will be opening in Sugar Creek -- check it out here. This is the kind of news that brings me hope that Ohioans are getting the message about our impact upon the environment. Bravo to the folks who are starting this preserve -- it sounds absolutely lovely.

For more about green burials, check out this post from a year or so ago. As one who recently went through a death of a family member, I can add that you might try to do the right thing, but the unforeseen shows up at the most inappropriate times. In this case, a cremation was decided upon, thus avoiding the toxic chemicals and the waste of resources that go into caskets. When I went to the funeral home to pick up the cremated remains, they were given to me in a large plastic container. Naturally, I was in no mood to object. I guess I was expecting a cardboard box, which would have been something much more environmentally friendly to put in the ground.

Personally, I really don't care much where my corpse ends up as long as it is not on display or a source of great expense to those who live on. This new preserve might be just the solution to avoid ending up in a plastic box for all eternity! Coffins are now offered made of bamboo and hemp as pictured above. Or you could consider being turned into mulch -- I kid you not! Read about it here.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

My new hybrid!

Some readers may recall that I have been fascinated by the Smart for Two car and put an online deposit of $99 to reserve a car. Thousands of people were waiting in line ahead of me. Months have passed. According to Autobloggreen, 25,000 have been made for sale in the US and they could use 15, 000 more. That was in March of this year. Thousands more orders have come in since March. Most folks on the waiting list are looking beyond 2008.

Smart enthusiasts have formed chat groups and are reporting mileage results that don't match up to Canadian Smart cars that run on diesel fuel and routinely reach 50 mpg. The new American model is a foot longer than the original models that can be found all over Europe. Another problem is that the Smart car is supposed to be fueled with premium gas, so savings are not going to be that big.

Where we save when buying the Smart is that it is smaller and thus uses less resources in the manufacturing process. However, it still burns fuel and is not the ideal choice -- as much as I dig the cool design and the space saving qualities.

The Smart is going electric, as reported here. Toyota has developed a rival to be called the IQ, which will be tested in Japan and Europe before coming to the US. So it looks to me like the greenest choice in automotive vehicles is not likely to show up on our roadways any sooner than 2010. And even then, I would probably wait to hear what people think of them before buying one.

So what to do? The Prius is way beyond my price range. No way will I ever spend 20K on a car! I looked at the Toyota Yaris and the Honda Fit, but for various reasons they didn't excite me. (To check out rankings according to mpg, go here.) Looking at my own driving needs, I'm realizing that the greenest thing I can do is to continue to drive my 94 Ford Ranger until it finally gives up the ghost -- which should be years down the road -- at which point I hope that cleaner and greener personal transportation devices have been invented and are in mass production everywhere!

But I did buy a hybrid this weekend. Check it out:

It's a cross between a comfort bike and a mountain bike and is just the thing for urban commuting and dwelling. Note the clown horn on the handlebars!

I also equipped it with a detachable wicker shopping basket so I can ride it to the farmer's market and the local Acme. There's a rack on the back for carrying books home from the library. And it rides really good on puncture-proof tires designed for urban riding.

True confession time. The truck I drive is the first vehicle I ever owned and I didn't get it until I was 43 years old. Prior to that, I had bikes and I took public transportation and life was pretty carefree. When I finally became a professional teacher and began to earn a bit more money, my world changed. I had to go more places and be more mobile. I had to go back to university and found myself driving to various campuses in the quest to get certified. Teaching is great job but it is very stressful. Long hours too. Long story short -- driving became a way of life that hasn't proven to be very healthy for me. Jump in the car, go here and there, and then get home exhausted with little impetus to get some decent exercise. I've gained weight, I've gotten lethargic, I'm ready for a change!

So this hybrid makes perfect sense for my immediate needs. I'm going to drive very little this summer and use the bike daily for exercise and errands. I'd like to be able to use the bike to commute in the fall, but that is to be determined later. I'll keep you posted!

Meanwhile, I did some riding this weekend out in Granger where I grew up. The weather was perfect, the scenic views incredible:

I found myself stopping to snap pictures at places that took me back to childhood biking days. I had a girl's Raleigh back then, with a wire basket on front so I could ride to Grangerburg every two weeks for the Bookmobile.

In those days, the roadsides all looked pretty much like this, with great fields of corn or hay, beyond which are always far away mysterious woods just begging to be explored.

Here's an old country graveyard, tucked in by the side of a sleepy country road. Some of the stones go back to the early 1800s. You can find lots of these scattered around the rural areas of our counties.

Here is one of the few remaining barns. Most of the farmland has been sold and carved up into McMansion allotments these days. (I chose not to take pictures of those-- maybe another post when I can rant about Americans living in huge houses while the rest of the world is choking on our toxic emissions.)

This barn is particularly special, because it is where we stopped on our way home from the Bookmobile. We had a fort built in the hayloft out of bales of hay, and there we'd eat our penny candy from the Granger store and ready our books during those summer vacations that felt like they would never end.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Bike Summit County With Greg Bachman

Today was the first of 8 opportunities to bike around the county with Summit County Engineer Greg Bachman. He will be inspecting roads -- township by township -- and riding at a "fast recreational pace of 15 - 18 miles per hour. Take part in an opportunity to discuss issues and share ideas with Greg while exercising and enjoying a close-up view of Summit County's scenic beauty." The ride is free and no need to sign up -- but you have to wear a bike helmet.

Although I didn't go on the ride today, I had the opportunity to hear Bachman speak at the last E4S Akron meeting, and I must say I was very impressed with his commitment to greening our county. Here's somebody who is action-oriented. He explained how traffic roundabouts help reduce carbon emissions as well as giving us a safer way to deal with traffic flow and has plans to put in many more roundabouts. If you haven't tried one, you should visit the intersection of Hametown Rd with Ridgewood or if that is impossible, here's a link to a live roundabout cam that shows you how it works in real time.

So if you'd like to inspect the roadways on bike and chat about roundabouts with Greg Bachman, check the schedule below. The bicycle rides start at 8 AM on the designated Saturdays. Bike routes will be posted on the County Engineer's web site.

    July 12, 2008

    31.8 miles

    July 19, 2008

    35 miles

    July 26, 2008

    25 miles

    August 2, 2008

    25 miles

    August 16, 2008

    25 miles

    August 23, 2008
    Boston Twp. Hall, 1775 Main St. (SR 303)

    30 miles

    September 6, 2008

    40 miles

Friday, July 04, 2008

We've just got to learn to economize

We are spending nothing this 4th of July holiday, instead staying home to keep an eye on neighbors with illegal fireworks. The garden hose is out and ready for any fires.

In celebration of the cheap life, let's take a look and listen to the Kinks in glorious form from 1979 in Providence RI. This has outstanding videography, including some quality time focused on Dave the Rave's virtuoso guitar playing.

Ray's on tour this summer, visiting points in Canada and certain NW states of America. Details here. I will not be burning up extra carbon to attend. The show this spring at the Beacon is still reverberating round my brain! But if you live close to a venue, snap up a ticket for a really great show.

Cheap is small
And not to steep
But best of all
Cheap is cheap

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Ten million solar roof tops

I was happy to read that Senator Sanders of Vermont is sponsoring a bill called the Ten Million Solar Roof Tops Act of 2008. IF passed, this act will provide government incentives for that will cover half of the cost for businesses and homes that choose to install solar panels. Sanders is quoted as saying:

"We can reverse greenhouse gas emissions. We can break our dependence on foreign oil. Transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels can be a tremendous boom for the United States economy and create millions of good-paying jobs. This is a win, win, win situation."
Yes indeed, it could be a winning scenario -- except that the idiotic Bush regime just brought all solar projects to a halt, imposing a two year moratorium so they can do more planning. What? These people can't plan and carry out projects at the same time?

Meanwhile, a report card on how the G-8 countries are meeting their goals to reduce carbon emissions to combat climate change reveals that the U$ is in last place. Great Britain has done the most to reduce carbon emissions, followed closely by France and Germany -- however, "none of the countries are making improvements large enough to prevent temperature increases that scientists think would cause catastrophic climate changes." According to the article the UK, France and Germany are only half way along the road to achieving a standard that will actually reduce emissions and put a halt to increasing temperatures.

This is scary stuff. I have to wonder about the wisdom of solar moratoriums in the face of overwhelming evidence that we need to be putting huge focused and united efforts into making radical changes in the way we produce and consume energy.

Ten million solar roof tops is a good start -- but we need many more millions than that to have an effect on global warming. Meanwhile, I hope my rooftop can be one of the first ten million.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Faithless-based initiatives anyone?

Regular readers will note I've taken down the photo of my Obama/Clinton in 2008 bumper sticker (created the day after Kerry lost in 2004) from this blog. My original intent was to annoy the heck out of Republicans driving about with their Bush/Cheney stickers in full display. (Have you seen many of those lately?) I figured an Obama/Clinton ticket would be their worst nightmare. I had no idea how close my fantasy would actually come to reality.

The sticker on my vehicle has faded out completely, mirroring my original luke-warm support for The Candidate for Change -- that support now growing rather chilly observing all the pandering to the center right crowd the past couple of weeks. Wouldn't you know it -- in an act of compulsive conciliation, I actually threw some money Obama's way a week or so after he clinched the nomination. Then suddenly FISA - handguns - capital punishment - Wesley Clark - faith-based initiatives -- have I missed anything? Oh yeah,

For me, Obama's repudiation of was highly ironic, as I had only a few days prior cancelled my online subscription to MoveOn. I'd always liked their populist and creative organisational tactics, but they really pissed me off when they decided to support Obama in the primary. There was so little actual difference between Clinton and Obama in terms of stated policy. Well MoveOn -- are you happy with your decision now? And of course, one has to wonder what issues Hillary would have flipped on in the general election. She'd already taken on some macho hawkish rhetoric in order to be just like the boys. (blech!)

However, it is important to remember that Obama has never been a true progressive. Righties continue to label him a "socialist" or worse, but they are making it up. Progressive Punch provides a scale of progressive voting records in Congress and Obama is at 43. Hillary Clinton is at least in the upper third at 31 and our own Senator Brown sets a high standard at #7. Dick Durbin is the most progressive of all.

Therefore I'm not going all suicidal over Obama's displaying his true colors. I'll probably still vote for him, unless I get so disgusted I decide to vote for the Green Party. Could happen. Mike Gravel is endorsing this guy for Green Party presidential candidate.

Now about this faith-based government funding foolishness. I have no problem with religions doing good works. Let them tithe and pass the plate and continue on with their volunteer work. But why should they get government money on top of that? Isn't it a major point of religious practice that the believer must make sacrifices of time and money for what they believe in? Reverend Barry Lynn was on television tonight making a whole lot of sense about life before any of these faith-based plans were put in place. Charities functioned well, governmental support of community programs happened in the non-profit sector and we didn't have to pay anyone to head up a new agency to make it all happen.

I'm not convinced by Obama's statement that in his plan, there will be no proselytizing or suspect hiring/firing decisions. Who is going to run around policing all these groups to make sure that no proselytizing is taking place? For many religions, proselytizing is part of the practice. And will faith-based groups consent to hire out-of-the-closet atheists and agnostics?

There are plenty of things that the government could be spending money on that will make our citizens healthier and happier, such as low cost dental clinics, local food pantries, medical research and alternative energy systems -- to name but a few. I don't see the need to collaborate with religious groups to provide these services. Community and social services must be secular in nature in order to fairly serve the great diversity that is this country.

But maybe -- in the grand scheme of things political -- Obama's actions are simply pragmatic decisions made to ensure his win in November. Lefties must simply bite our lips and stay cool until our candidate is in office. Then we'll see renewed support for progressive ideals. Sorry, I was born without faith. In other words, I'll believe it when I see it.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


"60 is the new 30" according to the merchandising accompanying the Todd Rundgren turns 60 tour in support of his new elpee worth of tunes called "Arena." Not available yet anywhere as far as I can tell, but definitely one I'm going to purchase. I did pick up a two dollar button with a lovely green guitar on it as a memento. Didn't buy the blue Toddstock lanyard with plastic water bottle attached. Funny, but still needless plastic.

I looked around for reviews of this show online but so far nothing, so I guess I'll leap into the void here with a few comments. The condensed report is: Todd still god. House of Blues has no soul. It's a chain club, a fast food and liquor join with no personality. Lots of products for sale in the "Company Store." That's what it is called and brings to mind the verse from the old blues folk song 16 Tons

You haul 16 tons and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.
Singing Jesus don't you call me
Cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store.

If you want to see your favorite musician on tour these days, most likely it will be brought to you by Live Nation, which is fast becoming the all in one music corporation. A spin off from Clear Channel (shudder), Live Nation is sucking up a lot of profits up and down the music food chain.

The show was 40 minutes late in starting, not a good thing when there is very limited seating, and most of the crowd that is standing in front of the stage is not so young any more. Nobody came out to tell us why the show was late. The live human emcee is a thing of the past evidently in the age of Not So Live Nation. Instead we all stood and watched endless loops of promotional videos for Live Nation and House of Blues.

Finally the video vanished, the curtain opened and there was Todd at center mic, his arms bare and more muscular then I've ever seen them. It was guitar front and center night for sure, and Todd made various short very smart remarks throughout. Including that they'd had to go through "the valley of the shadow of death to get here tonight, Cleveland being the light at the end of the dark tunnel."

Then on with the show, beginning with a stunning full-out Love in Action, followed by a few choice greatest pop hit including a very hallucinogenic Black Mariah. Then Todd announced, they'd be going straight through the new album, which they did, barely stopping except here and there to wipe brows and take a sip of water. You can find the track list here. Can't say that he played every single one of them, as they were all new to me and it was difficult understanding the lyrics in such a crappy club with all the talking and carousing going on. One has to wonder why House of Blues for an album full of songs inspired by arena rock of the 80s?

Well, the best thing for me was having a great view of his hands on the guitar and also hearing his voice again -- nothing lost at all -- in fact, he seemed on top of his game. So maybe 60 is the new 30. That would make me 28 and a half. I feel friskier already!

For the curtain call, we got One More Victory, one of my all time favorite concert ending songs. Todd's band Jesse Gress, Prairie Prince, Mat Bolten and Rachel Haden lined up with him for a final traditional curtain call mid-stage, and arms about each other, bowed in unison. A very fitting finale. Go see them -- the tour is just starting.