Friday, January 30, 2015

Get a Sneak Peek of Three Short Films Chosen for CIFF

A worldly young man, two mismatched would-be thieves and a pair of curious little sisters star in three shorts selected by Get Shorty attendees to screen at the Cleveland International Film Festival March 18-29.

Film fanatics packed the Capitol Theatre in the Gordon Square Arts District for the Film Feast last night to spend an evening as a CIFF programmer watching 10 shorts and ranking each. The winning  23-minute short, The Hyperglot, is a charming tale that follows a young man who has a unique verbal talent but struggles to communicate with the ladies. 

In second place, the 9-minute Sequestered zooms in on two would-be robbers who wear opposing presidential masks and debate policy matters and cross-the-isle issues. Stars Seamus Dever and Jon Huertas' funny on-screen chemistry will be familiar to fans of ABC's Castle — where they play partners enforcing the law instead of trying to break it.

The third pick is the French 6-minute Dad in Mum, about young sisters who hilariously try to figure out what that thumping noise coming from mommy and daddy's bedroom is. 

Some other standouts that I personally enjoyed were Yearbook, a poignant animated flick about an oh-so-average man charged with chronicling the history of humans, and the quirky French People of Mylonesse, Mourn Thy Queen Naphus about a bumbling actor who just wants to see his bit part through. 

So how do the CIFF staff program the mammoth cinematic fest? Each of the 2,065 feature films and 1,600-plus shorts submitted are rated by at least three viewers. To get an idea of how many make it into the Oscar-nominating festival, 10.9 percent of submitted features were programmed last year as well as 11.6 percent of the shorts.

If you want to feed your appetite for films once more before opening night in March, get in on the Oscar conversation at the final Film Feast Feb. 19 at the Bop Stop with Plain Dealer film critic Clint O'Connor and Cleveland Cinemas marketing director Dave Huffman. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Hackathon Makes Wearable Technology Stylish

We are so glued to technology these days that we might as well wear it on our faces, backs and feet.

The second Kent State University Fashion/Tech Hackathon asks about 250 students from 40 colleges to create wearable technology that is as functional as it is stylish. From Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, students can use tools, such as a body scanner and digital textile printers, to craft what might be the next Google Glass or Fitbit. The weekend features lectures and workshops from wearable technology experts in the projected $30 billion industry. Students will compete for a $4,000 prize.

So how do these creations work? We asked last year's second-place winner Madison Kalson and her group, who made the Glow Shirt, a flossy activewear piece for nighttime riders, to break down her  fashion-tech mashup.

Wheel Ways: The arty bicycles on the sleeves double as a reflector. "They are on your sleeves near the bicep part so if your hands are on the handle bars, people can see the bikes on your biceps," says Kalson.

Light Show: If the reflectors aren't enough to grab attention, the bright LED lights sewn to the back will catch the eye. "The blue light can be set to solid, slow blinking or fast blinking," says Kalson.

Color Theory: Most reflective activewear comes in obnoxious neons. So she chose a sleek, fitted black shirt with a calming blue light for a more fashion-forward look. "This isn't something a construction worker would wear," she says.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

'My Expo Rose,' song of Cleveland's 1930s Great Lakes Exposition, lives again

The Streets of the World

In 1937, the Great Lakes Exposition filled Cleveland's lakefront with carnival barkers, art deco landmarks, a giant water-dance extravaganza, an international village of pagodas and Alpine architecture, sexy dancers, elephants and lions, trapeze artists and a first-class freak show.

In the second year of our almost-World's Fair, Cleveland set a standard for the energy and fun and wonder possible on our lakefront — an ideal we've been trying to reach ever since.

Dudley Blossom Sr.
Dudley Blossom Sr., a businessman, philanthropist and heir to an oil and real estate fortune, served as the fair's chairman. He wasn't content just to be the moneyed guy who kept the midway rides and the front gate turnstiles turning.  In 1937, he penned a song, "My Expo Rose," a sweet and sweeping tribute to the thrills and wonders of the exposition.

In 2006, when I wrote my history of the Great Lakes Expo, "Sex, Celebrity and Carnival Charm," I asked the Cleveland Institute of Music to record a version of "My Expo Rose" off the original sheet music. Soprano Andrea Bargabos and pianist Mark George obliged. We briefly included it on our website along with photos from the expo. But it appeared during a stormy hour in our website's history and was soon lost.

The Midway

Recently, I found the recording again and had it reposted online.

Its soaring melody lifts nostalgic, dreamy lyrics that evoke a long-ago time on Lake Erie. The lines paint a picture of the singer's carefree journey across the expo grounds: the midway, "toy balloons and big festoons," barkers in full cry, the Streets of the World's "peasant girls so fair to see," summertime skaters in "cold Winterland," and the Goodyear blimp hovering overhead. Blossom also name-drops Billy Rose, the famed Broadway showman who staged the Aquacade at the 1937 fair.

Blossom's song can take your imagination back to the Cleveland of 78 years ago.  Please visit my story's page on our website to listen to "My Expo Rose." 

Blimps above the Streets of the World.

Action: Direct a Short Film to Win Tickets to CIFF's Get Shorty

Shorts often get overlooked at the Cleveland International Film Festival. There’s always a hot Sundance flick to see or a film with a cameo from a favorite cult star or an ultra-quirky indie that’s too intriguing to pass up.

But thanks to the Get Shorty Film Feast at 7 p.m. Jan. 29 at the Capitol Theatre, film buffs feed their appetite for shorts. Guests watch shorts exclusively all night and vote on which ones they’d like to see at CIFF. The top scorers join the more than 350 films screened at CIFF March 18-29 at Tower City Cinemas and off-site venues including Playhouse Square, Cedar Lee Theatre and new location, the Cleveland Art Museum. Get Shorty attendees can satisfy actual hunger with food and beverages from Culinary Occasions. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased at

But aspiring short filmmakers can win tickets from Cleveland Magazine by making a 15-second short film on Instagram. We’ll send the best filmmaker and a guest to Get Shorty. Need some reel creative inspiration? Watch our short. 

Submit your film via Instagram tagging @Clevelandmagazine and @CLEFilmFest. Or Tweet us the link @ClevelandMag and @CIFF. Use the hashtag #clesupershort. We’re accepting films until Jan. 23 at noon. Winners will be notified that day. Action!

Different Strokes: Michelle Darvis Paints a Picture a Day for a Year

From soaking up rays on a sweltering day to freezing through near-frostbite-inducing winds, Hudson painter Michelle Darvis endured it all for the sake of art. In 2014, Darvis painted a picture outdoors all 365 days of the year.

“This project was a modern take on painting,” Darvis says. “On Instagram, you’re posting a picture every day, it captures your life, and this project is like an old-fashioned way to do this.”

Darvis’ works are on display in countries from Australia to Italy and also at Hudson Fine Art & Framing Co., where you can see all 365 pieces in the A Year in Plein Air exhibit until Feb. 7. Here is a peek at three of Darvis’ favorites.

Photo Credit: Hudson Fine Art & Framing Co.

Wedding Day Morning
Darvis tied the knot in 2014, but that didn’t stop her from pulling out her easel on her wedding day — a time usually filled with chaos. “It was peaceful. I got a chance to reflect on the day,"says Darvis, who will discuss the experience more during a talk at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Hudson gallery.

Photo Credit: Hudson Fine Art & Framing Co.

Lakeshore Boulevard
As Darvis painted this view of Lake Erie from her grandmother’s house in Madison, fierce winds battered at her. “This was the closest we thought we got to frostbite,” says Darvis.

Photo Credit: Joesph Darvis

Brain Garden
As a drawing major at Kent University, Darvis sat outside and sketched Brain Garden from different angles for a class. "This is a tribute to Kent State in a way," says Darvis. "It's an iconic piece of art by a famous Kent State sculptor."

Update: A Year in Plein Air has been extended until Feb. 7. There will be a closing reception Feb. 7 from 2 to 5 p.m. with coffee and refreshments. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Rhythm Makers: Local Band Mo' Mojo Embarks on a Tour of Central and South America

Dominican Republic workshop
After touring Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Akron-based zydeco band Mo’ Mojo is ready for another challenge of breaking down language barriers and connecting with the locals through music.

The American Music Abroada program of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, has selected Mo’ Mojo as one of 10 American bands to do a five-week tour of Central and South America. Beginning Jan. 20, Mo’ Mojo will travel to Belize, Panama, Barbados, Mexico and Colombia. In addition to performing public concerts, the band will interact with local musicians, give lectures and take part in workshops with students.

The band, which is preparing to release its fourth album, We All Got the Same, in May, has already visited Haiti and Dominican Republic as part of the program. “Every single time — as soon as that energetic zydeco music started — smiles spread across their face and dancing started,” says Leigh Ann Wise, Mo’ Mojo vocalist and percussionist. “It's kind of what zydeco does universally. It makes you smile and dance — or at least tap your toe — no matter what language you speak and no matter what your social status or ethnic background.” Wise chats with us about dancing and jamming out with Haitians and the upcoming trip. 

CM: What is one of your most memorable moments working with locals in Haiti?

LW: We were giving a workshop for the students at The Haitian-American Institute. ... The music started and they started smiling and moving a little. The big shift came when we asked if they want to learn how to dance the zydeco. It’s a two-step. You know, here in the states if you ask high school students if they want to stand up in front of a crowd and learn a dance, it’s likely — in my experience — you’re going to get a lot of resistance. Not these folks. Half the room jumped up and started dancing. By the end of the song, they were teaching us to dance. It was truly one of my favorite moments yet. 

CM: What did you learn in Haiti?

LW: For me, it was my first real hands-on experience of how music transcends language barriers. When we were learning songs with Ti Coca & Wanga Neges, a popular world-traveling Haitian band, no one in their band spoke English and certainly no one in our band spoke Haitian Kreyol, but we gathered outside and just started playing. They learned one of our songs and we learned one of theirs. And you know what was key? Eye contact. If Ti Coca wanted me to learn a lyric I completely did not understand, he’d just keep singing it and looking me in the eye. 

CM: What are you looking forward to the most about the upcoming trip to Central and South America?

LW: The idea that we get to teach kids, to me, is the most fulfilling way to spend my time. Who gets to travel playing music as a mode of communication? It's such a blessing. I feel honored to be a part of it.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Beer for Breakfast

Even hardcore beer enthusiasts don't often get an excuse to drink beer with all the trappings of a hearty breakfast. Thankfully, the Winking Lizard has our backs. On Jan. 29, the Lakewood tavern is hosting a Founders Brewery (Grand Rapids, Michigan) event featuring Founders' seasonal Breakfast Stout, limited-edition Kentucky Breakfast Stout and the extremely rare, "backstage-pass edition" Canadian Breakfast Stout.

What makes a beer breakfast-worthy?

Well, all three are brewed with oats, a blend of coffee and imported chocolate. The Kentucky Breakfast Stout, which is usually only available in April, is also cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels. But the Canadian Breakfast Stout, which hasn't been released since 2011, is a true rarity.

"We were able to acquire a very limited number of maple syrup bourbon barrels about a year ago and decided to age an imperial stout brewed with coffee and chocolate," says Dave Engbers, Founders Brewery president and co-founder. 

When it's available, which isn't often, it's usually listed among the top five best beers in the world and given a perfect 100 rating, according to the popular beer-aficionados site 

Winking Lizard Lakewood is offering all three as a flight of 5-ounce pours for this event. But only 175 flights will be available (at $15 each) due to the limited quantities available. We recommend getting there early. Doors open at 4 p.m. and kegs will be tapped at 5, but after its last release, Founders Brewery CEO Mike Stevens felt the need to apologize to frustrated fans who missed out:

"We make this beer because we are extremely passionate about creating the best liquid we know how to produce. We started this business as home brewers and still look at ourselves as such. We know that some of you might never get your chance at a CBS bottle, but we feel it would be a greater disappointment to have never shared this product at all."

Other Founders Brewery draughts will include Big Luscious, a dark chocolate and raspberry stout; Backwards Bastard, a bourbon barrel-aged Scotch ale; Black Rye rye beer; Dirty Bastard Scotch ale; and All Day IPA, Centennial IPA and Dark Pennance, all pale ales.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Shift Change

Matt Danko and Jonathon Sawyer at Trentina
Trentina, Jonathon Sawyer's new tasting menu restaurant in University Circle, has had a change of leadership in the last few weeks as former executive chef Matt Danko has stepped away from the helm. In the meantime, Sawyer himself is stepping back up to the plate pending further decisions.

Though he didn't return our calls for comment, according to Sawyer, Danko "took some time off" and is not currently cooking. It's a surprisingly common practice among managing chefs who are involved in the opening days of high-profile restaurants such as Trentina.

We're hopeful that Danko will return, if not to Trentina then at least to the general Cleveland dining scene. His accolades — a 2013 James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef nomination, a 2013 Food & Wine Magazine Best New Pastry Chef nomination and a 2012 Eater Young Gun award — warrant the assumption that Danko was born to cook. But before starting out in Cuyahoga Falls' Sheraton Hotels, Danko earned a master’s degree in fine art with a minor in education, briefly working as a teacher.

"It's unfortunate with all the success that's coming right now," says Sawyer of the transition. "But we left the door open [for him]."

Trentina, 1903 Ford Drive, Cleveland, 216-421-2900,