Sunday, December 29, 2013

Cincinnati Thanks!

It’s livable, mostly affordable, and a combination of Northern Tough and Southern Charm

     It’s that time of year to show our gratitude, especially in the great region of Cincinnati and northern Kentucky.  We hate hearing people knock Porkopolis and its environs because

Thursday, December 19, 2013

American Hustle

Fasten your seat belts – 
it’s a wild, bumpy ride

The Cast of American Hustle
     American Hustle has been highly praised for its electrifying spin through the desperate, polyester, disco days of the late ‘70s and its simultaneous mythic/historic explication of the ABSCAM sting operation, which probably did less good than it

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Christmas Candy Cane

An amazing journey 
from Cologne, Germany to Wooster, Ohio

Cologne Cathedral Christmas Market
      I never thought of the candy cane as having a Christian origin–no more than Rudolph or Frosty.  But, the truth may be that it all came about at the Cologne Cathedral as early as 1670.  That's when the choirmaster became frustrated with all

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The History of Us by Leah Stewart

Leah Stewart: Cincinnati:: Anne Tyler: Baltimore

Leah Stewart*

     I met Leah Stewart at October’s Books on the Banks celebration and The History of Us matches her modest, intelligent, and humorous attitude.  She teaches at the University of Cincinnati and she focuses on Cincinnati in a manner similar to Anne Tyler with Baltimore.  The History of Us starts compellingly in 1993 with a newly hired

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Antique Christmas at the Taft

A few of my favorite things

The Drawing Room Tree
      Bringing out the Christmas decorations is a little bit different at the Taft house than at many others we know.  There it consists of some of the finest antique trees and

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Kill Your Darlings

A sleeper that captures the shock behind a conforming era

     We saw Kill Your Darlings two weeks ago at The Esquire and it’s already gone, but I didn’t want it to be forgotten.  For fans of the Beat Writers (Ginsberg, Burroughs, Kerouac), it’s highly recommended as a look at their student years at

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Rookwood Bar & Restaurant

Fun, historic location with good service and mediocre food

Entrance to The Rookwood Bar & Restaurant
Bar Area and Kiln

     After a charming event at the Cincinnati Art Museum, we decided to eat at The Rookwood Bar & Restaurant partly because it was close by on Mount Adams and because we haven’t eaten at the various restaurants that have occupied the space.  As Katherine said, it’s a place that she’s dropped by for drinks and appetizers.  It’s a historic interior because it surrounds the giant kilns

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

CIncinnati Art Museum Commencement

The how of who's behind those special gallery tours

Undergrowth with Two Figures by Vincent Van Gogh
      Every few years, there are between 25 and 30 volunteers that give up every Tuesday night for a year (and several more hours per week of their personal time) to a cause they find very fulfilling.  We have a friend among that group this past year and we went to her graduation last evening to join the

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Real people facing a profound betrayal with wit and heart

     Philomena sounded like a nice, middlebrow movie about a nice Irish woman looking for the son that was taken from her and put up for adoption.  The previews and TV ads have made it look like she’s sweet and dotty with a deadpan, comical gent, who goes along for the ride.  Judi Dench and Steve Coogan play the main parts so I thought it would be well acted

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Mary Christmas

Mary J Blige heralds the season

     Yes, Kelly Clarkson has released a Christmas album and I know exactly what it will sound like song for song.  However, Mary J. Blige’s A Mary Christmas hauls out a number of surprises.  We’re a little prejudiced because MJB has been the little engine that could with talent to burn for two decades and her modesty is a beacon in our oversaturated celebrity

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Neil and Eric's Special Night at Zula

Entrance to Zula

      The guys told me they were headed to dinner at Zula in OTR.  That was nothing out of the ordinary, as it almost immediately became their favorite restaurant after their first visit in March.  I think they've dined there at least once a month since then. Believe me—I've heard great things about it every time!

      When they returned I met them at the door and Neil picked me up for a hug.  Then they both started to tell me

Monday, November 25, 2013

Tom Jones, Fielding's Novel Transferred to the Stage

A rollicking, classic sex farce in a vigorous presentation at Actors Theatre of Louisville

     Actors Theatre of Louisville (ATL) presents an ace production of Tom Jones through December 8.  Actually, we’ve never seen anything at Actors that wasn’t at least good and generally they’re excellent.  Jon Jory, who started the Humana Festival of New Plays during his thirty-one years as ATL’s artistic director, ‘freely adapted’ Henry Fielding’s 800 page novel, first published in 1749.  In outline, it resembles

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Christmas is Coming – Will It Ever Stop for Thanksgiving?

     When we lived in Panama, José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” started playing on local and Armed Forces radio stations the week of Halloween and my family was so sick of

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Our Fascination with The Kennedys

50 years since Camelot

The Official Presidential Portrait
by Aaron Shikler
      For anyone living 50 years ago, I think most of us would agree that November 22, 1963 changed the world we lived in.  So much has been written that I would be self-asserting to

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

August Wilson: American Master

Please, Library of America, 
publish The Pittsburgh Cycle now!

Playwright August Wilson
     August Wilson, who died too young at sixty in 2005, was one of the five best American playwrights of the 20th century.  I think the other four were Eugene O’Neill, Sam Shepard (grossly underappreciated and deserving of a major revival), Edward Albee, and Tennessee Williams – the greatest

Monday, November 18, 2013


They’ve been number one, 
but where does Paramore go next?

Hayley Williams of Paramore, B.o.B., and Dexter
     A couple of years ago I heard the song “Airplanes” continually on the radio and I wondered who was singing it.  I thought it was Rihanna since she sings for rappers between releasing her own albums every other year or so.  To be certain, I asked one of my students and she said, “B.o.B.”  “No,” I said, “that’s the artist, but who’s the singer?”  “Oh, the lead singer of Paramore.”  This past summer, Paramore’s self-titled CD was the top selling rock album and I’d never heard

Thursday, November 14, 2013

George V. Higgins’ The Friends of Eddie Coyle

Great dialogue masks 
a misanthropic view of cops and robbers

Dexter Joins George Higgins for a Smoke Break
    I picked up The Friends of Eddie Coyle in a 40th Anniversary Picador edition at Shake It Records.  Shake It has a small but stellar book collection – the graphic novel selection is certainly worth checking out – and I hadn’t seen this anywhere else.  With the Whitey Bulger conviction in the

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

French Crust Café

Paris in the middle of downtown

An Authentic French Café
       Eric and I are always searching for a café that will transport us back to France.  It's been a difficult quest in our city.  When Lavomatic first opened, the prepress seemed to point in the direction of an affordable French café but that wasn't the case.  Jean Ro was a vibrant bistro that became

Sunday, November 10, 2013

François Truffaut, Part III: A Conventional Brand

Truffaut in Close Encounters of the Third Kind
     Small Change (L’Argent de Poche, 1976, which is properly called Pocket Money everywhere but the U.S. because of a minor Paul Newman movie.  It would be more evocative as Small Fry) presents a group of schoolchildren in Thiers.  Rather than presenting only one child and his friend as in The 400 Blows, there are about ten children representing a range of stories and family backgrounds.  Truffaut displays discretion in the plot strand about the boy

Saturday, November 9, 2013

François Truffaut, Part II: The Color Period

Denser and deeper, Truffaut took risks

Truffaut Filming Fahrenheit 451
     François Truffaut’s last black and white movie was The Soft Skin (1964), which I haven’t seen.  He then went color in Hollywood with an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1966).  It’s a movie that should have stayed a book even though it stars Oskar Werner and Julie Christie, two of the most sensitive European movie stars to visit Hollywood from time to time.  Werner seems very tentative in it and Christie’s blank in a strange double role, one of her few

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

François Truffaut, Part I: The black and white period

The quintessence of modern French culture:  
intelligent, charming, insouciant, and tantalizingly perverse

Truffaut with Dexter Behind the Camera
     Turner Classic Movies (TCM) focused recently on François Truffaut, one of the architects of the 1960s French New Wave.  The movies will probably be in rotation over the next few months, I hope.  Here’s to TCM for continuing to remind us of

Monday, November 4, 2013


A one-act black comedy electrifies at Know Theatre

      Know Theatre presented Cock in the spring to deserved acclaim and the follow-up Bull, also written by Mike Bartlett and directed by Brian Robertson, opened this weekend.  Cock centered on the competition for love, whereas Bull focuses on

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Cincinnati Art Museum hosts 
some beautiful work through January

Irving Penn's Woman with Roses, 1950
A Recent Acquisition
     Neil and I thought, what the heck we haven’t been to the Cincinnati Art Museum for a while so why not go?  We suggested it to Paul over lunch and, since he was up for it and we promised we could cover the new exhibits in an hour, we were on our way.   There are three exhibits on display through

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Frightening Pumpkin Spice Mania

It's not all that scary when you stick with tradition

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Patch
      Fall arrives each year when I walk through our local Trader Joe's and realize that the store has been overtaken with Pumpkin and Pumpkin Spice products. When did pumpkin

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Pistol Annies: Hell on Heels

Their first album is a primer 
on graduating the school of hard knocks

     Our loyal followers probably remember that we highly regard Pistol Annies’ second album, Annie Up, released earlier this year.  I was talking about them and that album to Kaylee and she said, “Yeah, I really like them, but I preferred

Monday, October 28, 2013

I Used to Be Darker

Kim Taylor displays her excellent 
musical (and acting) chops, but she 
deserves more from this uneven movie

     I wish we’d seen more of that darkness or, rather, the back-story to the movie.  Matthew Porterfield, the director and co-screenwriter, has a great subject for a movie:  a middle-aged married couple who are both talented musicians have

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Captain Phillips

A factual action adventure tale 
serves as an allegory for world conflict

     Paul Greengrass continues his run as the best action director of movies that are either based on actual events or feel as if they could be.  His Bourne movies felt like an update of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books, not the glamorous

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ariana Grande: Yours Truly

The latest graduate of the Ms. Jackson 
Academy of Independent Congeniality

Ariana Grande
     What would a generation or two of American female pop stars be without children’s TV shows?  Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, and now Ariana Grande started on Disney or Nickelodeon shows

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Food Trucks Galore

A festival that’s actually a celebration

Dexter Checks Out the CIncinnati Street Food Festival
     This was the second year of the Cincinnati Street Food Festival in Walnut Hills on McMillan Street.  There were seventeen trucks participating with beer from microbreweries.  The neatest thing was that it wasn’t overwhelmingly huge and

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Enough Said

What does a woman want?  
Does she trust herself to know?

     Nicole Holofcener has written and directed some of the most compelling serious romantic comedies of the past seventeen years, beginning with the loose, laid-back Walking and Talking (1996) and she continues that streak with the delicately calibrated exploration of middle age and

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Holtman's Brings Their Donuts to OTR

Will Busken's and Servatii's have some competition?

      Holtman's has been a name that has been thrown around when anyone in this area discusses donuts.  We had never had their variety until we were picking up some food for Dexter at Pet Wants and noticed they are now across the street from them on Vine Street in the Gateway Quarter.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rapture, Blister, Burn at Ensemble Theatre

Tough, smart, and funny, this comedy 
examines middle age envy with compassion and vigor

     Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn merits the strong production directed by Lynn Meyers at Ensemble.  It’s a high comedy in which the ideals of the academic set in a New England college town conflict both hilariously and

Friday, October 4, 2013

Armistead Maupin’s Mary Ann in Autumn

Like a reunion, it’s comforting but reminds us of mortality

The Set for Tales of the City on PBS
     When Tales of the City was first broadcast as a mini-series on PBS in January 1994, I went ahead and read the whole collection of 28 Barbary Lane novels.  At that point, there were six, published between 1978 and 1989.  A couple of times

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Hollow Crown

Great British actors take on Shakespeare’s Henrys

     Last year, BBC America showed a series about a number of major British actors working on Shakespearean roles either onstage, or television or film.  Some of them – Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston, and Ben Whishaw, among others – were

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Piada Italian Street Food

The scooter finally parks in Cincinnati

The Drink Station at Piada Italian Street Food
      Chain restaurants are usually not our thing, but every once in a while one comes along that merits some standout qualities.  We've been anxious for Piada, with Columbus origins, to migrate south to our city.  It's taken almost two years since our first visit to the Bexley restaurant, but now the light is

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Madeline Miller: The Song of Achilles

A side door into The Iliad that is 
simultaneously contemporary and timeless

Madeline Miller, Winner of the Orange Prize…I Like That!
     When The Song of Achilles came out a couple of years ago, I picked it up in Joseph-Beth and started skimming it.  I really liked it and thought that I needed to read it soon.  Other books battled for my attention and I didn’t think about it until

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Snobbery of Polo…It Just Isn't So

Cincinnati's Polo Club plays the field in Goshen

Cincinnati Polo Club at Wilshire Farm
      We had never been to a polo match so when Carole and Tom asked us to join them, we weren't exactly sure of what we had agreed to experience.  The simple premise of attending

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Miss America, 2014

Finally, it's back to its roots

Nina Davuluri, the Newest Miss America
       After leaving Atlantic City back in 2004 for more glitter in Las Vegas, The Miss America Pageant is back in the city

J.D. Salinger is back, though he’s still dead

Just when you thought it was safe to swim back into the literary waters of the 1950s

J.D. Salinger
     J.D Salinger died in 2010 after staying out of the public eye for over half a century, which didn’t stop various lovers and other writers from dropping tantalizing tales about what he

Friday, September 13, 2013

Village Crêpe

The little crêperie that could—and will

Dex Was Wanting to Check It Out Too
      Eric and I are always on the lookout for crêperies wherever we go.  So when some of our family members started talking about Village Crêpe in Pickerington, OH, we couldn't wait to

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

George Bellows and the American Experience

A broad overview of a major Ohio artist’s paintings 
and lithographs at the Columbus Museum of Art

Entrance to the Columbus Museum of Art
     George Bellows was born and raised in Columbus, though he made his name in New York after dropping out of OSU as a junior.  He’s most well known for his paintings of boxers from

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Cozy and the Hard-Boiled

Yin and Yang or Yang and Yin:  
Broadchurch and The Bridge

     Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. offer two remarkable TV series – Broadchurch on BBC America and The Bridge on FX.  Thank you DVR or I’d never see them.  These shows are polar opposites, even though they are both crime shows.   

     Broadchurch comes out of what is patronizingly referred to as ‘the cozy’ tradition.  This is generally a crime sub-genre, usually by British (not always) fiction writers that concentrates

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Spectacular Now

The imaginary pitch: Cross Say Anything 
with The Days of Wine and Roses

Miller Teller as Sutter Keely, the Functioning Alcoholic
     People who drink – and I don’t mean lightweights or social drinkers – like to be around other people who drink.  As adults, it can become the dividing line in potential relationships.  The moment that Sutter Keely, played winningly by Miller Teller, pulled out a hip flask, my heart sank.  Anyone

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Other Desert Cities at Ensemble Theatre

A solid start to its season

     Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz embodies the essence of the contemporary Broadway drama by being two acts with one set and five characters that reveal various sides of a decades old family conflict.  Thematically, its forebear is the Ibsen play that peels away the surface of the upper-middle

Monday, September 2, 2013

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Greater than the sum of its parts, 
the importance surges

     The number one movie for the past couple of weeks has been Lee Daniels’ The Butler and that gives me hope a studio movie can be political and popular.  However, much of that financial success is probably due to The Oprah Effect.  We’ve missed her for the past couple of years, even though she

Saturday, August 31, 2013

New Orleans To Go

It keeps on truckin', even with a sit-down space

Placing Orders at New Orleans To Go
      Eight years ago this week Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the gulf coast, forever changing the lives of millions.  LaToya Foster was one of those who left her beloved city to settle in Cincinnati.  WIth a passion for creole cuisine, she met her husband, Randy Filson, and together they started

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Candidate: Redford’s Finest?

A cool, laid-back political comedy that turns dark and cold

     Friends have asked, ”Have you seen any good movies this summer?”  Neil and I have had to really think because we can take or leave superhero movies and there haven’t been a lot of compelling indies and we missed Fruitvale Station – our fault since it was at The Esquire for three weeks.

It seems strange to say that “Yes, I’ve seen a really good movie that’s about American politics and it’s as compelling as it probably was when it was released in 1972.”  That would be