Thursday, January 29, 2015

State of the union

No matter what you think of unions, you'll want to see this film.

The crew was obviously embedded in the '74 Harlan County coal miner strike for so long that they eventually just became part of the ongoing circus as well as the lulls in the action. Hence, no cloying partisan narrator "guides" you through the story; the people living it speak for themselves--the hallmark of top-notch documentary.

As for editing, Barbara Kopple clearly knew what she was doing, and what a job that must have been (your humble hostess reeeaaally loves a good editing job and can spot it like a hawk). The final cut is all about the real moments, not those wherein subjects play to the camera.

The gritty cinematography perfectly captures these people at this point in their lives. This film centers around a strike, but in doing so, it honestly exposes an entire culture. This is 100 minutes of absolutely captivating film.

If all of that is too lofty, go for the cars and the clothes and the cigarettes. Go for the miners' wives, because you really want to meet the miners' wives (seriously BADASS).

No go on and get this one in your queue.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

It's morning in Cleveland

Superior Viaduct, The Flats, Cleveland

Things have been kindling here for a while, but when guys from New York start coming to a town like Cleveland sniffing around for the sleepers, you know you've turned a corner.

"We're not in Cleveland by accident," one NY developer told me for a story I wrote last week. "We're only in markets that we feel are exploding."

Another guy took a risk on a downtown building in 2007, buying the property and turning it into apartments. His 22 units are full-up now, with 80 on the waiting list.

"As recently as 2003," he told me, "the population on our block was pretty much zero and now it's got to be three or four hundred." His inspiration was a stint living in NYC. "I thought we had the same architectural bones as some of those neighborhoods and the potential to do something similar."

Random photo, Lorain Avenue, Cleveland

I've got another story in the can for next week about yet another developer horning in our market, this one from Chicago.

All of these guys are buying big, old, solid, vintage, cool buildings, because this town has a lot of 'em. This guy, for instance.

Metropolitan at The 9, Cleveland

Now this is completely unrelated--or maybe it isn't--this guy is one of about 30 people in the entire country who knows how to operate a mastering lathe, which is imperative in the making of a vinyl record. I do not know what the exact terms of his lease are, but studio space here is dirt cheap compared to the coasts. He's moving into 78th Street Studios, a big, old, solid, vintage, cool building that is one of the hottest studio spots in town.

Watch this space.

Lake Affect Studios, Cleveland

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Goat in paradise and other delights

Dearest readership,

As is obvious I am inundated with work, but I offer you these images. Call it a respite from the violence and frigid temperatures and blistering politics.

Goat in paradise

Lil' OB at the lunch counter

Falling down


Entrance Push

Erin is dumb

Hot gumballs


Pizza sky ...

... and simplify

Ain't that the truth

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Saturday, January 03, 2015

The incredible shrinking Erin

So how did I drop 25 pounds?

Smiling because my favorite blouse fits again ... well, it might still be a little snug ...

As I was writing and researching this article, I became intrigued by the "paleo" diet. I met dozens of people who had lost 30, 40, 80, 100 or more pounds. Many of them were my age and had kept the weight off for a year or more.

But these people weren't like other Diet People, forlornly scanning the menu with big sad eyes. They were having fun. They were eating roasted chicken and carrots sauteed in butter and bacon. They were drinking wine. They were laughing. Most notably, they were not indignantly trying to convince everyone (mostly themselves) that what they're doing is Right. They are not waiting for this to be over.


I started out with the intent to try it for a month. I got the junk out of my diet as well as refined sugar, all grains (wheat, rice, corn, etc.), potatoes and legumes (including peanuts). I pretty much whacked dairy as well, except for the milk in my coffee.

I ate stuff like this.

Perfect potato-free pot roast

Readership, at about the four-week mark, I walked into the kitchen and my pants fell off. I am not kidding.

"Mom," said Lil' OB as I pulled at my jeans, "tell me about your diet again."

So a month turned into six weeks, then six months. Now it's been about nine months and I fit into pants that are so old, they are 100 percent cotton--no stretchy Lycra (the ladies will know why that is significant).

I do not follow a strict paleo diet. I'm more of a clean-living low carb type. I have my cheats, but I limit them. By cheats, I meant pretty much anything, but it's only once in a while and not too much (a serving of ice cream is 1/2 cup, people). I think the big thing is getting the sweets and "daily bread" out of your diet, along with the pasta, potatoes and pizza.

I don't limit fat, but I don't overdo it either. I eat butter, bacon, oils, you name it. I top bananas with pure whipped coconut cream (sweetened with a touch of honey; and yes, that counts as a treat) and literally suck the marrow out of beef bones. I don't count calories or track my food consumption in any way.

You will not believe how discerning your palate becomes. You will not believe how much energy you'll have. You will not believe how many aches and pains and little maladies will disappear. You will not believe how much better you feel when you've got enough proper protein and fat in your diet. You will not believe that you don't get hungry.

Weight loss eases some activities

I couldn't do this if I wasn't loose about it.

I still put beans in my chili (not as many). I still thicken gravy with a little flour. I am most lax with dairy. (Ever snack on a crisp cold apple and blue cheese? Pure heaven.) If I go someplace and there are no low-carb options, I just deal with it, although the only place where I couldn't find one thing to eat was under the Golden Arches (go figure). I still sop up the deep red au jus from the bottom of the steak platter with half a piece of bagged bread. I don't grill a host about what's in his food. I share a bit of the dessert with the Goat, take a small polite scoop of the scalloped potato and skip the bread basket.

This is the only way I can hope to make the change permanent.

Some tips:

--Always have lots of nuts on hand for snacking. I also like sun dried tomatoes, sort of like a veggie jerky. Meat jerkies are (obviously) great as well. This local butcher makes a salmon jerky that rocks my face off.

--Medjool dates and very dark chocolate are saviors. Raisins, dried apricots and figs are good too. Every day, I have a date or a square of chocolate. I eat it with a few of the Goat's Butter Roasted Pecans. I swear I could not have lost this weight without those nuts.

--My salads are wild affairs, loaded with olives, marinated garlic cloves, shredded cheese or grated parm, tons of sweet pepper and cucumber, onions ... you get the picture. Add shredded roasted chicken and it's dinner.

--Read labels. There is sugar, corn and chemicals in everything. I really try to avoid frankenfood, but I am far from perfect. The ingredient list for these beauties is way too long and awful, but I still cannot resist them.

--Um … avocados.

--Best power smoothie: Take ½ banana, ½ can lite coconut milk and a big dollop of SunButter: blend and garnish with a shake of nutmeg. Get an immersion blender if you're going to make a lot of smoothies. This is the best model I've ever owned.

--Instant breakfast: fill a piece of celery with SunButter, eat as is or roll it up in a slice of deli meat for an extra protein punch.

--You will probably be cooking a lot more. Fortunately, there are some brilliant recipes at your fingertips.

--Mashed roasted acorn squash is a perfect stand-in for mashed potato.

--Get creative. I replace noodles in chicken soup with a whole bunch of sauteed diced onions. I top taco salad with crushed dried plantains. I throw a piece of deli ham in a skillet, melt a chunk of cheddar on top and roll it up for a perfect snack.

--I love my pressure cooker. It turns inexpensive cuts of meat into fork-tender dishes in about an hour.

--I cheat almost daily with four Triscuit crackers topped with Velveeta and a dash of salsa or slice of pickle. SO KILL ME ALREADY.

--If you do nothing else, cut the sugar.

--Um ... mushrooms sauteed in clarified butter.

--Weigh yourself frequently. That's how you stop a binge from becoming a five-pound gain.

--Be on your best behavior the day or two before the party, so you can splurge a little.

Full disclosure: I exercise five to seven days a week with a three- to six-mile walk or an hour on the elliptical machine.

The toughest parts of this diet are:

--Getting used to finishing a meal. Your hunger is gone, but you don't have that full feeling, which is really a bloated feeling.

--Having enough of the right food around the house. It's a lot easier to say no to the kids' pizza when you've got a dish of steaming pork stew loaded with carrots and onions in front of you, but you've got to shop for the ingredients, prepare and cook them. I go to the grocery about two or three times a week.

The truth is, while the change is hard at first, it's not that hard in practice. There is no starvation or "rabbit food" limitations. This is the most successful weight loss I've ever achieved, probably because it's not a fad. When you get into it, you'll see how completely sensible it is. You just have to find a way to make it work for you.

I sure hope I can maintain this. I think I can. After all, I made it this far.

Now just think how great it would be to feel and look better on January 1, 2016 than you did on January 1, 2015.

If I did it. You can too.

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Thursday, January 01, 2015

Less for 2015

VPRO's Shot on Location: Leaving Las Vegas
from FrithMedia on Vimeo

The Dutch media outfit VPRO contacted me in summer of 2012 about filming that 30-minute documentary on Leaving Las Vegas. I flew to Las Vegas in December to do the interview and the film came out in 2013. I didn't see it until VPRO sent me a DVD later in the year.

When it became available online, I didn't share it. In fact, I didn't talk at all about appearing on "Shot on Location" to anyone other than Eric and a few other people. This was all I posted about the trip here along with a few photo updates on Facebook and Twitter. As the readership knows, it sometimes takes me a long time to process things associated with my brother John. I'm sharing this now because I'm ready.

There is another reason.

I was none too happy with the way I looked in the film, but I've finally done something about it. I dropped about 25 pounds in 2014. In a day or two, I'll post specific tips on how I did it.

Welcome Erin 2.015

Photo by Bob Perkoski
Fresh Water managing photographer Bob Perkoski took this photo a few weeks ago at the HofbrÀuhaus Cleveland. That's Fresh Water publisher Fran DiDonato, left, and managing editor Lee Chilcote, right. 

So there I am, John, a work in progress on many fronts. Know that I'm trying. I'm trying as hard as I can and I miss you with all of my heart.


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