Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Move Your Money

I've been contemplating moving all my banking to the credit union. Watching this is very convincing.

Winter settles in

Hamlet against the snow looks like a pastel drawing in cream, black, blue and sable. He would stay out in the snow all day if I let him, protecting our small croft from squirrels and birds.

I've left up a few of the jumps, so he can stay in shape agility-wise over the break. Classes resume in January. Meanwhile, Hamlet has worn a path in the snow around the sleeping vegetable garden. No matter how cold, he is up for a game of chase the ball, return it by jumping over a hurdle and dropping it at my feet.

After a warming game or three of chase the ball and retrieve, dog and human head back in to savor the joys of winter break. Snow muffles the city sounds and promotes hibernation behaviors like wrapping oneself in a comfy blanket to hunker down with a good book, a furry dog and a cup of java at hand.

Monday, December 28, 2009

How to deal with the rising sewer rates in Akron

The EPA finally backed Akron into a corner and made it impossible for the city to continue avoiding cleaning up our antiquated sewer overflow system.

If the city had faced up to its responsibility, oh say 15 years ago, rates could have gone up at a very reasonable increase per year to pay for the huge fix-it project. One local pundit said on TV that sewer system improvements are not beloved of politicians because you can't see what the money bought after it is built. I would say this reveals an utter lack of imagination upon the part of politicians, because I have no problem imagining what is happening without this massive sewer project. Any time of increased water flow, from storms or flooding from snow melt off and the current system can't handle it, the overflow goes straight into the Cuyahoga River. Imagine anything that can be flushed down a toilet or washed down a storm drain and then think about those substances making their way into the Cuyahoga River's ecosystems.

So because the politicians balked for so many years at spending money to fix the problem, the EPA took legal steps to make the city clean up its sewage system. And we citizens are stuck with big increases all at once.

My solution was to give up the land phone line. Sorry AT&T, but your service is superfluous and your corporate ideals non compatible with mine anyway, and costs me almost exactly the same amount as the projected sewer rate increase will per month.

So now we are totally cellular here on the Village Green. My current carrier of choice is T Mobile. They have a cool cell phone made out of recycled plastic bottles, the Renew. And the service plan is half of what I was paying before.

So bring on the sewer bills -- I'm ready!

Senator Brown update on health care reform

Sherrod Brown has this to say about the current state of health care reform:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Agility updated

I've been avoiding politics of late, here at the Village Green. Many things have kept me busy and away from blogging. Work is all-consuming of time and energy, and there is a young dog here who is in training and doing well.

We hit a snag in agility training in September. Hamlet's physique developed dramatically. His center of balance shifted as his chest expanded and lowered into adult form. This messed up his sense of balance on the contact obstacles. He started balking at the A Frame, the Dog Walk and the Table. As you may imagine, this was no fun in the middle of a regular agility class with long lines of dog-human teams waiting to run the course.

So we are now going on a night that is for teams who need to work on specific things. It's much more relaxed and I'm doing as our regular trainer, Terence Cranendonk suggests, which is using turkey and the clicker to desensitize Hamlet to the obstacles that he used to run happily over when he was but a young pup

So tonight I took a big baggie full of turkey, a favorite squeaky squirrel, the clicker and a positive attitude. Hamlet was more comfortable with the new indoor digs. The club is year round and during the cold months, we are in an old factory in Wadsworth. It has lots of room and special flooring so the teams don't end up with leg injuries. But the echoing can be mind-numbing when lots of dogs are barking.

Using the turkey as a lure, I tossed bits of it in the direction of the A Frame. We had it lowered to about three feet at its apex. Clicking his every step toward the A Frame, and creating a trail of turkey bits, I was thrilled when he finally ate a piece that was on the bottom of the frame. By the end of the evening, I had him placing two paws. on the frame in order to reach the turkey. That's some fear that would make a dog hesitate before going for the tasty food!

It's all about patience and remaining calm. Hamlet will not function when forced to do things. He likes to go step by step. As we worked tonight, when I saw that his stress was building at any point along the luring path, I would direct him away to a tunnel or jump which he'd do quite cheerfully.

The other folks there tonight were very encouraging, sharing tales of dogs that refused to do this or that for half a year or more and then suddenly one night the dog was running the course without a problem.

There's another blue merle at the agility club who everyone calls Hamlet's Mini Me. That one is four years old and a champion agility dog. The dog is learning to work with a new human, who is new to agility. Some of the humans there have had numerous dogs in agility over the years. Hamlet and I are entering this as total newbies, however Hamlet is the one in our team with the real talent and potential.

Hamlet loves the tunnels and chutes and is doing great on the weave polls. I've been raising the bar on his jumps here at home and he soars over. He clearly loves jumping which gives me hope for the contact objects, as jumps require nimble foot work as well. All in all, for only 9 months of age, he's dong very well indeed.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Gloom gloom gloom

And I'm not just talking about the steel grey clouds and the damp chill hanging over NE Ohio today. I am living in a state in which the only way ahead for funding public education hangs on the hopes of gambling casinos. That's how much we value education in Ohio.

Here in the city, various recreational activities offered up for seniors and youth have been cut back or eliminated. Gotta have enough money to plow the streets in winter so that those of us who still have jobs can make it in to work.

I read that one county councilman has refused to take a pay reduction for the final two months of the year. It would inconvenience this fellow's plans for bulking up his pension.

...Crawford, who is paid $23,903 a year, said his county check is committed through this year to buying state retirement benefits — a perk afforded to government workers to boost their retirement income and health benefits. His check amounts to $23.50 every two weeks because of the payroll deduction, he said.

The voluntary pay cut amounts to about $60 withheld from each council member's check.

If he agreed to the pay cut, ''I would have to pay the county money to be working,'' said Crawford, who works full-time as an insurance agent. ''I'm not going to write out a check.''

Guess we are all concerned about our pension plans now, aren't we? Everybody in a union is facing reductions and being asked to make concessions. Only the firefighters in Akron voted to make no concessions, and thus sacrificed their most recent hires so that their elders might not face postponement of their longevity bonuses.

I wonder how much will be left of the State Teachers' Retirement Fund by the time I put in my 30 years. Will I ever be able to afford retirement? Check this news report:

The State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) reported that it would take 41 years for its investments to catch up with the costs of meeting its obligations to retirees -- and that was before the worst of the financial crisis.

STRS reported last fiscal year that its valued plummeted 31 percent. The worried word used in its most recent annual report, on how long it would now take for its investments to put the fund back on track, was "Infinity."

Wow -- I don't think I have until infinity before I retire.

Since there will be no health benefits offered until some golden time beyond infinity, a public health plan would make the most sense for me and a whole lot of other people. But it seems that we must spend an infinity waiting while the corporate, governmental and financial institutions, building barricades around their interests, scramble to maintain a system of wealth for the few at the expense of the rest of us.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Todd is godd in Akron once again

A once in a lifetime musical event is happening in Akron this weekend. Why we were so lucky to have Todd Rundgren and most of Utopia with us to present for the first time ever A Wizard a True Star (AWATS) in its entirely is not clear. I'd like to think that it was the beauty of the Akron Civic Theatre that lured him here.

Many years ago, when AWATS was first released, Todd's tour stopped at the Civic and I was fortunate to get a really good seat for that event. Highlight of the performance was Todd singing "Neverland" while perched on top of a towering stack of amps.

AWATS is my favorite of all Todd's work. It contains amazing variety, with Todd at his most clever and beautiful in terms of musical composition. From "Da Da Dali" to "Zen Archer" to "Rock and Roll Pussy" -- the music and lyrics captivate without a single let down moment. "Sometimes I Don't Know What to Feel" is astounding in its emotional liquidity, the song flows over and under you, and you just don't want it to end, but then the recording morphs into something else and you have to finish it and play it all over again to recapture the feelings and images swirling in your head.

I did play that album endlessly, using it as musical inspiration for countless drawings. This was the album that made me "see" music in a visual way and forever after AWATS, music was integral to my creative process as a visual artist. It wasn't just background sound. Musical notes and the interweaving contrasts and harmonies all began to take on a visual life within my work. AWATS also taught me gobs about color and not just lessons learned from staring at the album cover while listening to the recording for the umpteenth time.

So when I heard that Todd was going to be in Akron for two days, I got online at the start of ticket sales and managed to get a row Z ticket for opening night. Months later, and the performance date was here! It was wonderful arriving at the Civic last night, as the sold-out audience flowed through downtown headed toward the brightly lit marquee. This was the way it used to be and ought to be again! What great concerts used to be held regularly at the Civic! 'Twas there I saw the Kinks for the very first time, as well as Todd and many more greats of the day. Let us hope that more and more artists find their way back here.

Opening for Todd was Utopia! Totally unexpected, and what a soaring run through favorite tunes! "Abandon City," "Back on the Street," "Last of the New Wave Riders," "Libertine," "Hammer in My Heart" -- all made me want to run home and pull out the original albums. Yes, vinyl albums, because I never got these on CD. Some I know I bought on cassette tape and played them until the tapes choked. Guess I'll be doing a big download festival of Utopia tunes later today. Roger Powell and Kasim Sultan sounded as good as ever last night! What a treat!

My pix from the concert are not the greatest, as I don't have professional photo gear, but a few shots came out well enough to give an idea of what the concert was like.

AWATS opening with an International Feel.


You Don't Have to Camp Around:


Battery running out of juice and I end up with this hallucinatory vision of Todd at the finale:

Let's all sing "Just One Victory" one more time!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

P L A Y Festival reflections

The final week of the Play Festival coincided with the first week of actual school (real students not just teacher meetings) so blogging fell by the wayside. However, the final week of the festival was highly motivating in terms of focusing on the craft of teaching acting. This being The Year of Grotowski, and having the New World Performance Lab working and living in Akron is indeed cause for massive celebration!

We were given a demonstration of how the company develops their work and a sneak preview of their latest project called "Gilgamesh" which is, in case you didn't know, one of the oldest stories on record. The ensemble have been immersed in their Frankenstein project for over two years now, so it was fascinating to see them working with source material so far removed from Mary Shelley and those surrounding her summer of ghost stories.

Cheers to the company for consistently inviting audiences in to respond to their works in progress. I remember seeing Frankenstein in its infancy, then watching various performances of it over the course of the past two years. By the final weekend of the Play Festival, the actors reached greater depths than ever before, while the flow of the piece was nothing short of electrifying.

The festival ended with a lovely party in honor of Mary Shelley's birthday. A fantabulous time was had by all! Let's do it again next year!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dogstock and Backyard Agility

We've been hitting the dog park at peak times the past few days. Today was huge -- dogs and humans of all shapes and sizes! A veritable Dogstock, a gathering of representatives of the many canine clans.

Some folks were settled at the various benches chatting, while their dogs made their rounds. Other humans were scattered about the park, as dogs swirled around them. Hamlet's mode is to check everyone out and then find one dog to play with, preferably a puppy or any dog that likes to run and play. Doesn't matter how many dogs are running about the park, Hamlet wants one best buddy to romp with.

He's very adept at avoiding conflict, going into Mr Submissive poses when aggressive dogs get too dominant. He'll either roll over on his back to show his literal lack of balls or run behind a bench or throw himself into a down in the grass, his sudden stillness confounding his aggressors. Upon arrival today, a big black dog started following Hamlet around, barging in between him and any potential playmates.

I remembered this dog from earlier in the summer. "Gertrude" (name changed to protect the innocent) had fixated on Hamlet and kept bowling him over. Gertrude's human was armed with a spray bottle, chasing this dog all over the park, spraying it and yelling at it. Intermittently, the human would catch up with Gertrude and force her down onto the ground with some sort of Vulcan dog-pinch. I'd never seen such bizarre dog handling strategies, which obviously were not working at all. Eventually, I realized that this human was operating under the outdated assumption that dogs should be handled as if they were wolves and should be sprayed with vinegar and given regular "alpha-rolls" to teach them who is "leader of the pack."

Gertrude's human didn't have a spray bottle today, and so was forced to run around after the dog helplessly calling after it "no" and "stop." I heard the human say to a companion that Gertrude probably thought Hamlet was a member of her "pack" and that is why she was chasing him ("bullying" would be a more appropriate word) around. Gertrude was one wound-up aggressive .. er .. bitch and I'm sure my expression began to reflect my opinion of her owners, as they finally wrestled a leash on her and got her out of the park -- lightening the mood of everybody there, especially young Hamlet.

After an hour or so of Dogstock, we departed for home and supper. Hamlet was not ready to rest though, so we went out back to do some runs through our new "Agility in a Bag" set up. Yes, you too can set up an agility course in your back yard, even in a small yard like ours. I found the equipment online and ordered it to help increase training opportunities as fall brings a change in schedule for this human and her dog. Back to school means that training opportunities must be creatively inserted into the day. With our own hurdles and tunnels set up in the backyard, Hamlet and I can practice agility at morning, noon and night! Below you see Hamlet as a blur of action leaping across a hurdle. The cue is "hup!"

When I unpacked the set, the first piece that sprang out of the box was the tunnel. I set it down on the floor and Hamlet was instantly going in and out of it. It has an attachable chute so it can be used as the official "Tunnel" or "Chute" obstacle. I will probably give into temptation and get a nice long tunnel to use out at my mom's house. She has a lovely big protected yard area where I can set everything up at proper intervals.

I set up the weave poles inside the house, so that in order for Hamlet to reach the kitchen from the living room, he has to go through the weave poles. I figure a week of doing that -- many times a day -- should imprint the pattern into his body and brain. In a week or so, I'll try taking off the guide wires and see if he's got it. It just took a bit of turkey to get him to go through the weave path the first time and after three times through that way, he was going through on cue for a treat at the end of the poles. That was last night. Today, he automatically takes the weave pole route when going to and from the living room.

Here Hamlet poses at the end of a weave run. He's so good at posing. Just a simple "stand" and "stay" and he remains focused on the camera until the picture is snapped and he's given the "OK" release.

And a final shot, rear view, showing him on the twisting path from living room to kitchen.

Final week of P L A Y! Join in before it ends!

Wow! The final week of PLAY, the international festival of alternative theatre, is almost upon us. Beginning tomorrow night, a wealth of physical theatre events are available for Akron area alternative theatre fans to feast upon -- and you can do that literally at the final event, Mary Shelley's Birthday Party and NWPL Friendraiser on August 30.

Check out the the week's activities:

Join in the fun at PLAY! the Akron International Festival of Alternative Theatre. The schedule for the final week is:

Monday, August 24, at 7:30pm in Studio 194, Guzzetta Hall, New World Performance Lab will present an open rehearsal demonstrating the initial phase of their work on Gilgamesh, the ancient epic. Tickets are $5. Free for University of Akron students.

Wednesday, August 26, at 7pm in Studio 194, Guzzetta Hall, in celebration of UNESCO"s Year of Grotowski, join NWPL's co-artistic directors Jairo Cuesta and James Slowiak, co-authors of the book Jerzy Grotowski, for the screening of a recently released film concerning Grotowski's life and work followed by a discussion of the Polish master director.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday August 27-29 at 8pm in Sandefur Theatre, Guzzetta Hall, NWPL's internationally acclaimed production of Frankenstein returns for three more performances. If you haven't seen this production, don't miss it. If you have seen it, see it again and bring your friends. Critics have called it "a showcase of the actor's craft," amazing, provocative, and compelling.

PLAY! ends on Sunday August 29 with a "Friendraiser" in celebration of Mary Shelley's birthday! For information, call 330-867-3299.

For other tickets: online at www.BrownPapterTickets.com or 1-800-838-3006.

Come out and PLAY! All performances are on the campus of The University of Akron.

Friday, August 21, 2009

P L A Y Festival -- weekend 2

I had to work box office tonight and so couldn't watch Stairway to Paradise -- but I heard every glorious note sung by Megan Elk accompanied by hot jazz sax player Bobby Selvaggio. Tomorrow, I will get to sit inside Sandefur Theatre for the performance. Seating is cabaret style and delicious fruit drinks are available at the juice bar.

Megan has created a program from the songs of Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Kurt Weill. It is a tribute to the journeys made by immigrants to this country early in the 20th century. According to the program notes, " This work is a love letter to my grandparents -- themselves immigrants and the children of immigrants. It was from their living room stereos and kitchen radios that I first heard the remarkable melodies of these four men." Stairway to Paradise can be seen again at 8 PM on Saturday, August 22. Sandefur theatre is located in U of A's Guzzetta Hall.

Also on this weekend is a piece suitable for younger audiences and their older relatives. The Beetlebug and the Bad Worm is created and performed by Faye Hargate and Jeremy Paul of Cleveland's Theatre Ninjas. The perform "original works and interpretations that draw on elements of film, dance, improvisation, physical theater, graphic novels and music." Looking forward to seeing their work Saturday at 6 PM and Sunday at 2 PM in the Daum Theatre, Kolbe Hall, U of A.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

P L A Y Festival-- gushings of a fan girl

Wow, weekend one of the P L A Y International Festival of Alternative Theatre is over and I am stuffed full of amazing theatrical experiences.

Frankenstein finds the NWPL cast in top form, the piece has sharpened its glittering edges and draws the audience in to the core of the creative forces that came together in the making of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Having watched this piece develop over the past almost three years, I can appreciate the organic nature of its creation and see that the flow of the acting has never been more precise with nothing wasted.

If you are looking for a scripted version of the Frankenstein novel, this is not the place to find it. You will find an ensemble of actors who push their own and each other's limits beyond anything you might imagine.

And speaking of the imagination, Looking for Alice is NWPL's ongoing children's theatre piece. I usually have problems with adaptations of Lewis Carroll's masterpiece. This one stayed true to the master of children's fantasy. A cast of five portray the key figures in Alice's adventure underground via the rabbit hole. Again, the acting here is superb. Each character is clearly delineated and utterly charming! Costumes, sets and props were delightfully rendered. I understand this production is ready for touring and available for schools and community groups. Contact NWPL for further information.

Next weekend, P L A Y continues with two different productions. Frankenstein will return for three final performances on August 27, 28 & 29. Hope to see you there!

Stairway to Paradise August 21, 22 at 8PM in Sandefur Theatre, Guzzetta Hall, ($15, $10 under 18 and UA Students)

The Beetlebug and the Bad Worm August 22 at 6PM and August 23 at 2PM in Daum Theatre, Kolbe Hall, ($10, $5 under 18 and UA students)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Opening Night at P L A Y Fest in Akron

New World Performance Lab rocked the audience for Thursday night's P L A Y Festival opening. The applause was long and very appreciative. Lots of great buzz going round the lobby after the show while waiting for the actors to emerge.

The women of the company emerged in fabulous cocktail wear, ready for the opening night reception. Drop whatever you are doing and go make reservations to see what these women do in Frankenstein: a De-monstration. Truly unforgettable mind-blowing work!

Below are from left to right: Megan Elk, Debora Totti and Jamie Hale.

Then on to Bricco's for the after show opening night social event. What a wine list! And very nice buffet as well. Company members mingled with friends, fans and physical theatre aficionados. That's Chris Buck, Frankenstein himself, enjoying a well-deserved liquid refreshment.

Below: Jairo Cuesta, undoubtedly the greatest actor I've ever been privileged to see perform, has a quiet conversation with a NWPL patron in a dark corner of Bricco's. Jairo is a master acting teacher as well, who has profoundly influenced my own teaching. My students spend hours and hours each year working the space and their awareness within it doing exercises I learned from taking many workshops over the years with Jairo.

Tonight at 8 PM -- Frankenstein, a De-Monstration, Sandefur Theatre in Guzzetta Hall, U of A
Saturday at 10 AM -- Looking for Alice, Terrence Cranendonk's adaptation of Lewis Carroll's classic tale. In the Daum Theatre, Kolbe Hall, U of A

Thursday, August 13, 2009

P L A Y Festival opens tonight!

Looking forward to a weekend spent with Mary Shelley, her monster, and her friends with whom she spent one summer in Switzerland trying to write ghost stories. Only Mary succeeded. New World Performance Lab's Frankenstein is a montage of physical actions that grew out of the company's examinations of both the Frankenstein story and the story of the renegade artists who gathered by the lake to spin supernatural tales for each other.

This piece has taken years to create, which is one reason to love NWPL. They create their work from scratch and work it hard and take the necessary time to develop it until they are ready to share it. Every now and then, they let the outside world in to take a peek, sometimes via open rehearsals and then each subsequent showing reveals new layers and depths. I have seen Frankenstein grow and develop as the actors with director Jim Slowiak create, refine, and clarify their work. I posted a 2007 review of it here. Looking forward to seeing how it has evolved in two years.

For those who want to celebrate the opening of the PLAY Festival, $20 tickets will get you into the after show reception. You can order tickets online here.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


We've been taking some agility classes out at the Medina Swarm Agility Club this summer. You can see how we are doing in these pictures taken by my friend Teresa when she was visiting earlier this summer. This was week three of Agility classes, and Hamlet was still on leash for the most part. He's off leash now, and really starting to pay attention.

What I'm discovering is how much agility sharpens communication between canine and human. The skills that are tested for the canine really match up to the evolved characteristics of the Shetland Sheepdog. The small toonie dogs that worked the sheep on the islands would need to be sure-footed to navigate the steep rills and rocks of the Shetland mountain-scapes. Shelties are really good at reading human signals because the crash of the ocean from all sides of the islands could make audible signals difficult.

Here's a shot borrowed from a Shetland island site:

And here's Hamlet, sure-footing it up and across the narrow "dog-walk."

Notice that he is off-leash in this exercise. He's got a hand made "tab" leash on, that is short and hangs from the collar. It's a training devise for dogs who aren't totally there yet with their recall. I am proud to say that at last week's training session, Hamlet was brilliant on his recall. At first, he was all about the other dogs, and would run to any new participant as they arrived. Now he's staying with the tasks at hand with only a few bounces away toward other dogs or humans. And when he did, I didn't have to go chase and capture him by the tab. I called "Hamlet, come!" and he turned around immediately and came back to me. This is a hugely thrilling achievement!

Here Hamlet learns to jump, still on leash. Since he's only 6 months old, he can't do any high jumps yet. His skeletal frame and muscular strength are still developing and we have to take it easy until he's at least a year old in terms of going for height. (At the dog park, however, he routinely leaps over other dogs, like they are hurdles!)

No pictures of the tunnel or chute challenges. Hamlet took to those right away. It's fun to chase down to the other end to meet him and be in the correct position to communicate the next move.

Currently, we are working on combinations of challenges and it is becoming more about me being in the right position. When Hamlet misses a turn or a jump, it wasn't him messing up. I have to focus on getting the signals correct in terms of hand/arm/body positions and also figuring out my own path around the sequences and ultimately of course, it is all about the timing.

We have yet to learn the weave poles and the teeter totter challenges. I think he'll be good at the weave. I've already got him doing figure 8's around my legs and we are working on weaving back and forth through my legs while walking.

All kudos to our personal trainer, Terry Cranendonk of DoGoodDog training here in Akron. And all hail to those animal behaviorists who have developed the science of operant conditioning into the art of positive dog training.

The "tire" jump is difficult for some dogs, but not for uber-Sheltie* Hamlet!

*Uber-Sheltie: my term for over-standard sized Shelties, such as Hamlet. His collie heritage is very evident, but he's not going to achieve standard collie size either. That's ok with me!.. I prefer a couch dog to a lap dog, after a hard night's work of agility training.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Senator Sherrod Brown gets more air time to promote public option plan

Senator Brown on Morning Joe (via the Ohio Dem Blog):

As Akron's neighborhoods disintegrate

On the fourth of July, as reported in the Akron Beacon Journal, a mob of around 50 black youths attacked a white family in Firestone Park, a predominantly white area of Akron. Immediately, a major "hush" overtook the local politicians, police and community leaders. There were short statements, the FBI was called upon to look into the affair, and Al Sharpton contributed a comment in condemnation of this apparently racially-driven act of senseless violence. The police are frustrated because nobody is turning anybody in or giving witness testimony.

The local rag refused to turn on public comments on that story, which was kind of silly because readers high-jacked other threads and have been talking about it ever since, some thoughtfully and others spewing racist ignorance.

Finally this week, one ABJ writer, Bob Dyer wrote this column, an interview with a black woman and her daughter living in one of the youth-terrorized areas of our town:

The 55-year-old woman lives in Akron's North Hill area, in the area between Main and Cuyahoga streets. Her neighborhood is predominantly black, with a sprinkling of whites, Hispanics and Vietnamese. Through the windows of her well-kept home, she has witnessed more bad things in the last year than most of us see in a lifetime. Intimidation, assault and robbery are routine. Not long ago, she says, she watched a crowd of 100 black teens surround an elderly white man who was walking his dog. ''They were blocking his path and cursing him out and taunting his dog,'' she says. The mob dispersed when a police car approached. Another time she saw ''a white girl getting jumped on by all these black girls.''
They speak of how their youth are without adult supervision, often living in homes headed by a grandparent who is working more than one job and seldom home to supervise the youths in their care:
Both women believe the sour economy is part of the problem. 'The government is stretched,' says the daughter. 'There's no money. This economy is jacked up. . . . There's nothing for these kids.' Kids have fewer programs, recreational opportunities and jobs. But the bigger problem, they say, is lousy parenting — or no parenting at all.
They say these teens feel entitled to everything without having any sense of having to work for what they want:
'Kids want nothing but money, and all these electronics. But it's easier to watch that person who just walked out of GameStop, crack 'em in the head and run off with their stuff.''
How much "hope and change" is taking place in our crumbling urban areas?
Although many of us thought the election of a black president would ease racial tensions at least a little, Barack Obama's overwhelming victory apparently is having the opposite effect in some quarters. Both of these women say they are sick of hearing black people shout ''Obama!'' in response to any type of public disagreement with a white person.
The conversation continues today when a beautiful city garden maintained for years by a retired black man to feed the elderly in his community was found vandalized yesterday. I pass that garden multiple times per week. I have admired it over the years. This season it has looked more lush and productive than ever. We are losing out in the effort to maintain a civil society, let alone one that cares and provides for the essential needs of every child that is conceived and born.

I have to wonder about the lives of those who produced the children now running wild in our streets, destroying gardens and terrorizing the elderly and their dogs. Why did the mothers and the fathers choose to have babies when they had no money or ability to raise a child? Did anyone teach them about contraception? Were safe abortions available and affordable? Did the fathers contribute anything other than sperm? What were the lives like for the young girls who became pregnant? What about housing, jobs, health care for the children and the mother?

How do we begin to socialize entire neighborhoods and turn wild children toward productive lives? Anyone have any thoughts?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Senator Brown Gives 'em Heck on Health Care

Sherrod Brown was a guest with Howard Dean, sitting in for Keith Olbermann tonight. Sherrod told it like I've heard very few tell it on health care. I've never seen him so fired up and passionate as he was tonight -- as well he should be. He says that he didn't get elected to bring home some weak Republican influenced plan. You go, Sherrod! I've pasted the entire MSNBC segment below. Hopefully, someone will edit out and YouTube the Sherrod section. Once that happens, send it all over the place and encourage your friends and family to start emailing their federal servants. Give them lots to think about over their summer break.

The good guys won, didn't we? Freakin' Democrats, please seize the moment and turn health care into something that is sane and equitable. Why can't we be like all the other civilized nations that recognize people should never have to go into bankruptcy because of outrageously high medical bills. President Obama's personal physician came out with a strong statement today about public insurance and the need for a single-payer system. Wasn't it just lovely -- the way the insurance industry poured money into the coffers of certain politicians to make sure that single-payer was not even brought onto the various committee agendas?

Just this evening I got a call from a national Democratic party fund-raising group and I listened to the spiel for about two minutes while I gathered my thoughts. Just before the bit where the person was about to ask for money, I interjected: "No, I'm not giving the Democrats any more money until they all back health care reform that turns us all from profit-making tools of the insurance, medical and pharmaceutical industry corporations into citizens who all deserve equal access to medical care equal to that now enjoyed by our federal public servants." Well, no I didn't actually put it in those words, but I did let them know I would not be donating any money to Democratic organizations that allow this opportunity to slip away.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Come out to PLAY! The Akron International Festival of Alternative Theatre!

Some very exciting local theatre news to share with you about an upcoming alternative theatre festival right here in Akron, Ohio! I have been a very absent blogger this summer, but all things must change and I plan on getting back into the writing rhythm by blogging about this festival with some posts about New World Performance Lab, the Year of Grotowski, and reports from festival as it happens!

PLAY! The Akron International Festival of Alternative Theatre coming in August

New World Performance Laboratory to present a festival of exciting theatre on The University of Akron campus

AKRON, OH –The Center for Applied Theatre and Active Culture (CATAC) and New World Performance Laboratory (NWPL) have organized PLAY! Akron’s own International Festival of Alternative Theatre from August 13 through August 30, 2009, on the campus of The University of Akron.

PLAY! includes six exciting theatre events: NWPL’s acclaimed production of Frankenstein; a cabaret performance, Stairway to Paradise: Songs of Sin and Redemption, featuring NWPL company member Megan Elk and saxophonist Bobby Selvaggio; two family-oriented productions (NWPL’s Looking for Alice and Theater Ninjas’ The Beetlebug and the Bad Worm); an open rehearsal of NWPL’s new performance Gilgamesh; and a film and panel discussion with NWPL artistic directors James Slowiak and Jairo Cuesta in celebration of UNESCO’s Year of Grotowski.

Tickets for PLAY!, individual events and festival passes, are available online here via Brown Paper Bag tickets or by phone at 1-800-838-3006

Schedule of Events for PLAY!

Frankenstein August 13, 14, 15, 27, 28, 29 at 8PM in Sandefur Theatre, Guzzetta Hall, ($15, $10 under 18 and UA Students)

Stairway to Paradise August 21, 22 at 8PM in Sandefur Theatre, Guzzetta Hall, ($15, $10 under 18 and UA Students)

Looking for Alice August 15 at 10AM and August 16 at 2PM in Daum Theatre, Kolbe Hall ($10, $5 under 18 and UA Students)

The Beetlebug and the Bad Worm August 22 at 6PM and August 23 at 2PM in Daum Theatre, Kolbe Hall, ($10, $5 under 18 and UA students)

Gilgamesh: An open rehearsal August 24 at 7:30PM in Studio 194, Guzzetta Hall ($5, UA students free)

Year of Grotowski: A Discussion and Film August 26 at 7PM in Studio 194, Guzzetta Hall ($5, UA students free)

Opening Night Reception: CATAC/NWPL will host an opening night reception on August 13 (tickets $20)

Mary Shelley's Birthday Party: a festival closing “friendraiser” to celebrate Mary Shelley’s birthday on August 30. For more information on these events call 330-867-3299.

PLAY! is funded in part by the Pittman Family Fund of the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois. New World Performance Laboratory works in residence at The University of Akron.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Recently, Hamlet and I visited Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens to view the creative exhibit of specially designed dog houses, dubbed "Barkitecture." On Sundays throughout the summer and on thru October 31st, dogs (on leashes) are welcome to accompany their humans for a stroll round the grounds. Admission: Humans $8 and Canines $5. This was well worth the price of admission and is turning out to be quite a nice money-maker for the non-profit museum of life in a rubber baron's mansion. The day we visited, beautiful weather and lots of dogs and people strutting about the place as if we owned it!

My favorite stop was the Frank Lloyd Bite house. Hamlet liked the Not Your Average Joe house, with its dog fountain and cooling design features. The Upside Down house is really clever too. There are many more to explore with your dog pal, so check it out!

Hamlet admires the natural stone work on the Frank Lloyd Bite House, with its green roof helping to keep the interior cool.

The Not Your Average Joe House has a canine accessible fountain with pool and is built to capture cooling breezes plus it provides your dog some agility style training with its ramp up to the top. The shape of the house is that of an abstract sitting dog.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Sounds of the neighborhood

A new family moved in next door awhile back. That means adjusting to a whole new set of sounds. My neighborhood is very much working class bordering on scavenging class. There are plenty of families on the street. Their children contribute to the sounds of summer during the day. There is no convenient playground here, so the kids spend long hours rolling down the slope of the street on plastic toys with rumbling wheels. I hear them pushing their little tyke bikes up past my house, then the roll of the wheels and the delighted squeals as they rush back down the street. Sometimes, the journey ends in a crash to the pavement, and then mighty wails are added to the soundscape, along with accompanying howls from the dogs hidden behind the fence across the street.

The house next door is a rental property. The former family had lived there for more than a dozen years. They were avid collectors of stuff that ended up in the back yard, but on the other hand, they loved to garden and the front yard was always full of flowers. They played top 40 AM radio during the day, and sometimes late in the evening, friends came over for beers round the back yard fire pit. They got loud, but not out of control. Every now and then, voices might be raised in a family squabble, but these were only short bursts that seemed to fade quickly and resolve themselves behind closed doors.

The new family has increased the decibel level of the neighborhood to an alarming pitch. There is a teenage boy with a minibike who roars up and down the block and around their backyard. This is the only place the boy has to ride his bike apparently. The family dynamic seems to thrive on confrontational yelling. Adults yell at children and children yell back and at each other. Calm requests don't seem to be a part of their communication skills. They have three small dogs with high pitched barks. Throughout the day and night, I can hear their mistress order them in loud and imperious tones to "Go potty!" Sadly, I never here the sounds of dog and human play or the happy sound of "good dog!"

The family has many visitors who arrive in pick up trucks with loud motors. This goes on throughout the day. Since we share a driveway, I am always hearing trucks pulling in and pulling out, radios blasting with bass on so loud that my house shivers from the sound.

Their evening party sessions are loud and obnoxious, ending all too often in loud angry tirades. Last night for example, after a session of illegal fireworks being set off way too close to my house for comfort, the neighbors and their guests settled in for an hour's worth of screaming at each other. It was a male vs female battle, with several participants on each side booming and shrieking in tones that would surely upset any of the little children who live in houses up and down the street. So far the violence has been limited to vocal tones, from what I've heard at any rate. However, the potential for escalation sounds real and scares me.

I ponder what to do, if anything. Yell out my window? Call the police? Is it worth antagonizing unstable people? What if they seek revenge? Fortunately, last night was quite chilly, so I could shut all the windows and hide under the covers until the noise subsided some time after midnight and I was able to fall asleep.

The house on the other side of my property was originally purchased by a mom for her daughter to live in while she attended the university. It quickly turned into a party house with ongoing drug dealing 24 hours a day. That lasted for about a year, and then suddenly it all got quiet while a for-sale sign beckoned new owners to check it out. The family living there now hardly makes a sound except when the lawn is being mowed and the garage door goes up or down. Sometimes, kids and a dog show up for the weekend. Their sounds are lively and fun.

Late at night, the train rolls by on the tracks to the south of our neighborhood. It is a comforting sound that signals all is well and on schedule. During the day, a particular sound cues us to look upward to see the Goodyear blimp leaving or returning to its docking site to the east of us. For many days this summer, the sound of rain has dampened the other noises and provided us with an oasis of calm before the next period of sunshine sets off more chaotic sounds of human activity.

Right now the sky is cloudy and a drizzle of rain keeps the firework setters indoors waiting for better conditions. Outside the front window, birds are chirping to one another, while inside the dog and cat snooze, and the human makes clicking sounds on the keyboard.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another dog blog

For the nonce 't'would seem that this blog has gone to the dogs. The blogger is writing other non-bloggy things this summer, and when she is not writing, she is definitely out playing with the dog.

Last night, we tried agility training for the first time -- what fun! There is a place in Sharon township (Medina County) on Route 94 called the Medina Swarm Agility Club. They have two complete agility courses set up, and an ongoing series of classes for teaching humans and dogs how to negotiate all the thrilling obstacles and challenges. Hamlet had a great time and so did I! We are signing up for beginner's agility and look forward to the weekly classes. On weekends, the club hosts competitions, so if you are into observing or participating in Agility, check out this group.

I didn't think to take a camera last night, but I will definitely be taking some agility photos soon. Instead, here are some at-home shots. Ophelia the cat has taken a fancy to curling up on the top of Hamlet's crate. It is a very convenient spot for one of her favorite sports: tail snagging!

A shot showing Hamlet's unusual blue merle markings:

And finally, to get a sense of Hamlet's size -- here he is next to an exercise ball. That's a Kong squeaky toy holding the ball in place.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Walking the towpath by Summit Lake

At long last, city and county leaders have decided to take a look at the Summit Lake area, no doubt due to the recent extension of the towpath corridor along the eastern edge of the lake. A Beacon Journal article announced a public gathering and walk along the towpath from Wilbeth Rd to the Summit Lake Community Center. An impressive collection of politicians and community leaders from the city and the county were there to see first hand what towpath walkers and bikers will be viewing as the towpath nears completion.

The walk attracted a large crowd of people from both sides of the lake. We met in a room in the center, where we were given impressive packets of research submitted by Cazzell M Smith of the East Akron Community House and a Summit County Council member. Entitled "Reclaiming Vacant Properties, Building Leadership to Restore Communities: Transforming distressed neighborhoods into healthy communities of choice and opportunity -- good places to work, do business and raise children," it provides examples of ways other communities have tackled the problems of unstable and grossly neglected neighborhoods.

I have blogged about the problems associated with living next to a toxic lake before. In today's ABJ, Mark Price gives a history of how swimming in the lake was banned in the early decades of the 20th century. (Here and here, for example.) A dumping ground for the rubber factories and an outlet for city sewers, the lake is still a place that nobody swims in.

So what will the passing hiker or biker see as they travel along this section of the towpath trail? Here are some photos from today's walk, with a few comments:

The walk from Wilbeth Rd to Kenmore Blvd was rather like traveling along a narrow strip of scenic pathway with glimpses of a Mordor-like industrial landscape hidden beyond tall fencing and other strategically placed screening.

We are walking through an area framed by industries still belching smoke and who knows what kinds of pollutants.

Who knew that another kind of landscape existed underneath the Kenmore Blvd Bridge? The towpath gives a splendid view of this obviously much-used area, a place for kids to create art, and perhaps a dwelling place for homeless folks. It had a kind of museum-exhibit feeling to it -- it just needed a placard detailing the history of graffiti art of the 20th century and some wax figures dressed in raggedy clothes sitting around a fire.

Trash could be seen everywhere along the walk. Beautiful water lilies and liquor bottles float above a sea of lily pads. I counted exactly one trash bin along the walk, which is one more than can be found on the western shore of the lake.

The lake attracts a large number of ducks, geese and blue heron. Swans usually swim on this lake, but I haven't seen any this year. It is an odd situation, living next to a toxic lake that has been ignored for so long. We can walk along it and observe the wild life, the plant life, and the ripples of the waves bearing plastic detritus to the shoreline, but we dare not participate by swimming in the lake. An occasional boater takes a risk and can be seen out on the lake, and many people fish along the shores. I wouldn't eat a fish from this lake, but there are some people taking buckets full of fish home for family dinners.

Perhaps they are the people who live along the lake. The eastern side is a mix of public housing, decaying cottages from Summit Lake's glory days, and other rotting buildings.

Heading north up the east side of the Lake, the hiker/biker can observe the wonders of nature to her left and with glimpses of a decaying urban neighborhood
to the right. A mighty mullein plant sends its yellow spike toward the sun:

The towpath trail itself is beautifully constructed. The floating dock-like section is wide enough to hold bikers and hikers traveling in opposite directions. Here we see a section of the towpath that edges right along the lake leading toward the community center to the north:

The group arrived back at the center, but there was no formal sit down and respond to what we saw session afterward. More meetings will take place. Stimulus money will be sought and discussion about the quality of neighborhood life issues must take place. This is a high crime area, naturally. To be honest, I have been a bit nervous about testing out the new trail. Today's gathering was my first look at life on the eastern edge of the lake.

The main problem remains the lake itself. It was polluted by people long since dead, and abandoned by city, county and state officials. The state has no money to clean it up properly. Everybody is afraid of stirring up the sediment on the lake's bottom. Meanwhile, it is no surprise that the communities to the east and west of the lake house the city's poorest white and black neighborhoods. The opening of this new section of towpath is an opportunity to reclaim and rebuild. I was very pleased to find other people thinking this way as well. Let's hope today's inspires the pols and the community leaders to take some positive actions. Hell, if we can get some trash cans on both shores out of this, I'll count it a victory!