About webnerbob

A Cleveland and Ohio State sports fan who lives in Columbus, Ohio

Mead, Indeed

Last night Kish and I were out on the town with the Bahamians, and we decided to hit the Brothers Drake — our first meadery.  It’s on East Fifth Avenue, across from The Table and in the rapidly developing area between the ashore North and south campus.  Last night, even with a $10 cover charge, the Brothers Drake was jammed with people eager to quaff a wide range of meads and hear a good band play some live music.

We all got our inaugural cups of mead and took a few cautious sips.  I’d heard that you have to watch the sweetness scale if you’re going to drink mead — it is made with fermented honey, after all — so I’d ordered a spiced mead that that was supposed to be on the lower end of the sweetness spectrum.  Even so, it was too sweet for our tastes — kind of like drinking a dessert wine.  I think I could develop a taste for mead, though, with a bit more experience and guidance on the different varieties.  I’m glad I gave it a shot.

A February For The Ages

We’ve had a run of unbelievable weather lately, and today was the crown jewel –mid-70s and sunny, in the middle of the normally gloomy Columbus winter.  If you didn’t have a calendar, you’d swear it’s May.  The plants on the Ohio Statehouse grounds appear to agree with that assessment.

Weather like this can’t last, so you’ve got to enjoy it while you can — which is why I decided to leave the office a bit early this afternoon.

Nascar In The Age of Trump

If there’s one sport that I would associate with our new President, it’s Nascar.

Both Nascar drivers and Donald Trump like ballcaps with printed messages.  Both Nascar and the new President like to throw in the random commercial plug here and there.  Both Nascar drivers and Donald Trump need a lot of help from their pit crews.  And both Nascar and Trump appeal to older, rural white voters.  It’s no surprise that, last year, one of the Nascar execs endorsed Trump for President.

AP NASCAR TEXAS AUTO RACING S CAR USA TXSo it seems like a counterintuitive cultural disconnect that, with Donald Trump sitting in the Oval Office, Nascar is really struggling — but that’s the case.  Ratings for Nascar broadcasts have been cut almost in half since 2005.  Racetrack owners have torn down sections of bleachers at their tracks due to declining attendance, but the remaining stands still aren’t filled.  TV executives are pushing the sport to make dramatic changes to reverse the decline.  And, according to the linked article, even with two years’ notice Nascar wasn’t able to find a new primary sponsor that was willing to pay its asking price and it therefore had to sell the sponsorship and naming rights on the cheap.

Why is Nascar on the downslope?  The article gets into a lot of inside baseball talk, but I think the reality is simple:  it’s boring to watch cars driving around a race track for hundreds of miles, no matter how garishly painted they might be and how many product stickers they might sport.  I’ve never understood Nascar’s appeal for that central reason — and the generations coming behind mine, growing up with Walkmans and cell phones and social media, apparently have even less of an attention span than I do.  When Nascar people are talking about installing wifi at the racetracks, that tells you all you need to know about the future of the sport.  People just aren’t willing to sit in the stands for hours, drinking beer and hoping for some aggressive driving on the turns and an exciting crash now and then.  Changing the rules of the races and trying to come up with nicknames that make the drivers more interesting aren’t going to change that central reality.

It would be weird if the term of President Donald Trump saw Nascar once again relegated to the status of a small, regional sport — but that may be the direction in which we’re heading.

Jack Is Back

We all could use a little good news these days.  Here’s some exceptionally good news for me:  Jack Nicholson has decided to return to the big screen, after an absence of seven years (!), to star in a remake of the German film Toni Erdmann.

jack-nicholson-to-return-to-movies-toni-erdmannI haven’t seen Toni Erdmann — it hasn’t made its way to Columbus yet — but I’ve seen the previews and read about it.  Nicholson seems well-suited to playing the part of the daffy Dad who intrudes upon his daughter’s life.  But really . . . I think I’d watch Jack Nicholson in just about anything.  He’s been a huge personal favorite since I first saw him, way back when, in Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces.  And while he’s made some clinkers along the way, he’s been brilliant in so many movies — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chinatown, Terms of Endearment, As Good As It Gets, A Few Good Men, About Schmidt, and the list goes on and on — I think he’s clearly the best actor of our time, and certainly one of the top five in history.  Hell, he even made Batman a lot more interesting.

Whenever somebody comes back to work after a long absence, you always wonder whether they’ll be at the top of their game, or whether they’ll be resting on their laurels.  With Nicholson, coming back after such a long absence, I don’t think that will be a problem.  He’s always good, and I suspect he’s want this film to really be special.

More Puppies

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Richard and Julianne are getting a new dog in the near future.  It’s a Lab that has been bred and recently gave birth to a litter of three puppies — who are now two weeks old — and the breeder sent us this photo of the pups.

It’s kind of shameless to post pictures of puppies, but I just can’t resist it.  Is there anything cuter than puppies?

Publishing Actors’ Ages

Let’s say you were concerned about age discrimination in Hollywood, where male stars seem to get roles no matter their age, while female actors — other than the peripatetic Meryl Streep — seem to have difficulty getting cast once they hit 45 or 50.  Would you:

(a) notify everyone in the film industry that you were assigning an extra investigator to specifically focus on enforcing existing laws against age discrimination in the industry;

(b) decide that current federal and state law wasn’t sufficient and therefore enact new legislation directly regulating age discrimination at the movie studios that make the films; or

(c) enact a law preventing internet sites, including specifically the IMDb website, from publishing actors’ ages and date of birth information.

Weirdly — or maybe not so weirdly — California chose option 3.  Yesterday a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against the law, finding that “it’s difficult to imagine how AB 1687 could not violate the First Amendment” because it bars IMDb from publishing purely factual information on its website for public consumption.  And, the court found that although preventing age discrimination in Hollywood is “a compelling goal,” California did not show the new law is “necessary” to advance that goal.  The judge added:  “In fact, it’s not clear how preventing one mere website from publishing age information could meaningfully combat discrimination at all. And even if restricting publication on this one website could confer some marginal antidiscrimination benefit, there are likely more direct, more effective, and less speech-restrictive ways of achieving the same end. For example, although the government asserts generically that age discrimination continues in Hollywood despite the long-time presence of antidiscrimination laws, the government fails to explain why more vigorous enforcement of those laws would not be at least as effective at combatting age discrimination as removing birthdates from a single website.”  You can read the judge’s pointed, three-page ruling here.

This conclusion is not surprising to anyone who understands the First Amendment, and presumably didn’t come as a surprise to the lawyers trying to defend California’s law, either.  All of which begs the question of why California legislators enacted it in the first place — and that’s where the “maybe not so weirdly” comment from above comes in.  I’m sure the Hollywood community is, collectively, a big-time contributor to political campaigns on a California state level, just as it is on a national level.  If you were a politician who wanted to say that you had done something to address age discrimination in Hollywood, but without doing anything that might actually, adversely affect the rivers of cash flowing to your campaigns from the big studios, supporting a law that affects only an internet website that actors hate because it discloses how old they really are is a much safer bet.

It’s nice to know that we have federal judges who understand what the First Amendment means, even if California’s elected representatives are clueless.  And if those legislators are so concerned about age discrimination in Hollywood, maybe they’ll actually do something about it — rather than just taking steps to block speech they don’t like.

First-Class Jerks

Here’s an interesting finding:  when flights attendants were asked whether they would rather work the first-class cabin with its handful of passengers, or deal with the mobs in coach, most of them voted with their feet and chose to work coach.

stm5384a217ee8e720140527Why?  Because the first-class cabin is filled with a bunch of demanding prima donnas, whereas coach is filled with the humble salt of the earth — people who, accustomed as they are to being crammed into uncomfortable seats with insufficient leg room, are happy as hell when the attendant simply flips a packet of peanuts their way and gives them a glass of soda with too many ice cubes.

This squares with my years of personal experience.  I think I have flown first-class precisely once, when I had to get somewhere and the first-class seat was the last one available.  Other than that, I’m a coach guy who simply can’t justify the expense of first-class airfare.  So I skulk through the first-class cabin as they sip their champagne, munch on free cheese and grapes, and talk way too loud on their cell phones, like they’re the only passengers on the plane.  Given my brief, unpleasant exposure to them, I’m not surprised that — with the obvious exception of the Scotsman, who flies first class because he has booked every plane trip on Delta since Reagan was President — first-class air travelers are demanding, first-class jerks.

I’ll share a secret smile with the attendant in coach the next time I’m folded into a seat and she hurls a tiny bag of pretzels my way.