Three, And Counting

Russell’s dog Betty celebrates her third birthday today with a trip to the spa. This photo captures her expectant “can you take me for a walk already?” look.

One thing about dogs — they’ll get you off your duff in the morning.

Future Stars

Last night we joined friends at The Art of Jazz fundraiser for the Jazz Arts Group at the Columbus Museum of Art. It was a terrific affair that featured performances by the Columbus Youth Jazz All-Stars, who played a mix of jazz classics and some impressive original compositions by the young performers in the band, and a closing concert by with Byron Stripling, the Artistic Director of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, engaging vocalist Niki Harris, and Bobby Floyd, Andy Woodson, and Jim Rupp.

The music was great, from beginning to end, but the segment that really blew me away featured two of young men from the Fort Hayes high school, Jaxon Dixon and Jack Thompson, getting up on stage to play with the pros and showing great poise and awesome talent as they performed. They fit right in, and their contribution to a memorable evening was a great way to illustrate the value of the educational and youth outreach programs of the Jazz Arts Group.

I love jazz, and it’s great to see that it’s alive and well and in the hearts of young people who will carry the jazz torch forward.

New Depths Of Embarrassment

There’s just something impossibly bizarre about the Cleveland Browns franchise since it returned to the NFL 20 years ago.  Even in victory, over a long-time rival in an important game, it somehow manages to find a way to embarrass its city and its fans.

hi-res-a781c941b1771e4c6158fa6ea697b4f1_crop_northLast night’s win over Pittsburgh, and the dangerous brawl and helmet-swinging episode that occurred as the game ended, reaches a new low for the Browns.  If the incident weren’t so thuggish and savage and physically hazardous, it would almost be comical — the perfect demonstration of how the Browns inevitably snatch utter humiliation from the jaws of victory.

I have no desire to pile on Myles Garrett, the player who swung the helmet at the opposing quarterback’s head.  Garrett has apologized, and I have no doubt that his apology is heartfelt.  But there’s a big difference between losing your cool and doing something that could have caused catastrophic injury.  Somehow, for some reason, this year’s version of the Browns lacks the discipline to restrain on-the-field behavior and keep it in the proper channels.  There have been lots of penalties, and personal fouls, and then last night’s assault reaches new depths of egregious misconduct.

What’s wrong with this team?  Is it coaching?  Is it lack of leadership, or players who will set the right tone?  Whatever it is, something really needs to change.  The Browns have more than a week before they play their next game.  I hope everyone involved in the organization, from players to top management, are doing some soul-searching today, and giving some serious through to how they can fundamentally, and permanently, change the culture of this team and this franchise.  If they don’t, the ranks of Browns Backers are going to grow a lot smaller, and quickly.

Hostile Spaces And Homelessness

In many large cities, public spaces have been modified.  Metal bars and blocks and bolts and even spikes have been added to benches and ledges and other seating areas, to make it uncomfortable, or even impossible, to stretch out and lie down.  In other places, the public spaces have no seating areas of any kind.  The underlying purpose of the additions and modifications seems painfully clear — to keep homeless people from sleeping or otherwise camping out in the spaces.

ae22fd62-197a-42f7-9714-d9d2702dc70c-2060x1236A recent New York Times article addressed this phenomenon of “hostile architecture” in public places.  The article reported that such actions have “increasingly drawn a backlash from critics who say that such measures are unnecessary and disproportionately target vulnerable populations. They have assailed what they call “anti-homeless spikes” for targeting those who have nowhere else to go at a time when many cities are grappling with a homelessness crisis.”  The article quotes an NYU professor who says:  “We’re building barriers and walls around apartment buildings and public spaces to keep out the diversity of people and uses that comprise urban life.”  Supporters of the modifications argue, on the other hand, that this new approach to public spaces is necessary to help maintain public order and safety and security.

So, what’s a city to do?

Most cities are struggling to deal with homelessness.  In Columbus, which doesn’t seem to have homelessness issues to the same degree as, say, San Francisco or Los Angeles, it’s not unusual to see a homeless person stretched out on a bench or sidewalk from time to time.  No one wants that — including, presumably, the homeless person.  Is it wrong to try to discourage that behavior by adding internal armrests to benches that prevent someone from lying down on the bench, but that aren’t going to bother office workers who are sitting outside eating their lunch, rather than trying to sleep? Are we really to the point where taking steps to prevent sleeping and camping out in public spaces are criticized as contrary to “the diversity of people and uses that comprise urban life,” as if dealing with homelessness, aggressive panhandlers, and public sleeping were part of some rich tapestry of city living?  Or, put another way, by not taking those steps, are city planners enabling conduct that also interferes with the real, intended public use of public spaces — because most people aren’t going to want to hang out in a square filled with sleeping homeless people and their stuff?

Proponents of “broken windows” theory would argue that allowing public sleeping and camping out creates an atmosphere of disorder and lawlessness that encourages criminal activity and other improper conduct.  I strongly support trying to help the homeless, but I also think trying to maintain order and promote the personal security of the non-homeless is an important goal, too.

Doughnuttery

I’m getting ready for a morning presentation and asked that an assortment of doughnuts be provided. Doughnuts both help to assure decent attendance — who doesn’t want a doughnut in the morning? — but also an engaged and alert audience that is dealing with the initial doughnut sugar rush.

It’s important to get to the conference room early, to open the doughnut boxes and let that unique doughnut fragrance fill the room. Once a doughnut is sensed, it’s impossible to resist.

There’s a good assortment here, including my favorite — a cake doughnut with dark chocolate icing. Also a few new doughnut options, like one with crumbled Oreos and another with pretzel sticks.

Getting Rid Of A Bad Merge

One of those temporary electric traffic signs has been rolled into place to give Columbus motorists some important news and another reason to be thankful as we head toward Thanksgiving:  the eastbound ramp from Third Street onto the combined I-70/I-71 highway is closing, permanently, on November 25.  Drivers who use the ramp to get from downtown out to Bexley and points east are going to have to find another route.

The closure of the ramp will be an inconvenience for some motorists, no doubt, but getting rid of the ramp will be a really good thing from a traffic safety and flow standpoint.  In fact, the ramp is part of one of those weird, inexplicable, irrational traffic patterns that really never should have developed in the first place.  Drivers leaving downtown come barreling down Third Street, heading south, when the street splits into three different flows, with one lane heading south into German Village, one lane turning left onto Livingston Avenue, and two lanes taking an abrupt left turn down to the highway.  Those two lanes then immediately merge into one lane — which makes you wonder why they were designed to be two lanes to begin with — at the same time drivers are supposed to be merging, on the left, into the traffic rushing past on the highway.

It’s a recipe for a bottleneck, and that’s exactly what it is.  Drivers who don’t know Columbus are baffled about where to go and are regularly shifting lanes at the last minute, the hard left turn means you’ve got people jamming on the brakes and then speeding up to match the speed of the traffic on the highway, and the virtually simultaneous merges while cars are trying to get onto a busy highway always cause delays, and sometimes cause accidents.  Is a driver supposed to focus on the merging lane from the right, or the merge onto the highway to the left?

Columbus is a great town, but some of the core downtown traffic design is desperately in need of updating.  Eliminating the Third Street merge is a good start.

 

Soap Dope

Some shocking news came out of Hollywood yesterday:  the entire cast of the daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives were released from their contracts, and the show is going on an “indefinite hiatus.”  Things are not looking good for fans who avidly follow the comings and goings of people in the mythical town of Salem, located somewhere in the Midwest.

daysBut that’s the problem:  are there really any DOOL fans out there?  In fact, it’s a fair question to ask what was more shocking:  the producers’ decision to give the entire cast of the show the old heave-ho, or the fact that Days of Our Lives, which debuted on broadcast TV in 1965, when Lyndon Johnson was President, was still on the air 54 years later during the Trump administration.  I, for one, had no idea that, in this day and age, daytime soap operas have been carrying on to tantalize the homebound with sordid stories and dramatic pauses and egregious overacting.

There was a time, during the heyday of soaps in the ’60s and ’70s, when a kid coming home from school was likely to find his or her Mom seated in front of the TV, watching Days of Our Lives or All My Children or Guiding Light or General Hospital, waiting for the day’s routine episode-ending cliffhanger that would entice them to tune in the next day to see what happened. Soaps dominated the afternoon TV screen, and were so popular that odd efforts like Dark Shadows — which combined soap operas storylines and horror characters, with the star being a vampire — were popular for a time.  It was all pretty irritating for a kid who just wanted to come home, get control of the Philco, and watch a Three Stooges rerun on channel 43.

Soap operas seem absurdly out of touch with the modern TV world, where reality shows and talk shows and other shows can regularly deal explicitly with the cheating, scandals, and tragedies that were the grist of the mill for daytime soaps.  And, of course, the dramatic shows that are available on HBO, Netflix, Amazon, and many other content outlets are a lot more direct and graphic and ground-breaking in their treatment of murder, rape, and other shocking and controversial topics.  Soap operas seem pretty staid and conventional and old-fashioned by comparison.

TV is an ever-changing medium, and the trends are moving decidedly away from ongoing shows that plumb the depths of the ever-intertwined lives of a few families in a Midwestern town.  In fact, to paraphrase the familiar introduction to DOOL, you might say that, for the soap opera genre, the sands in the hourglass have just about run out.