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Friday, January 28, 2022

Akron's Kofi Boakye To Participate in Upcoming Amateur Night Competition at Apollo Theatre

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2022 at 1:04 PM

Kofi Boakye. - COURTESY OF KOFI BOAKYE
  • Courtesy of Kofi Boakye
  • Kofi Boakye.
A 22-year-old pianist and Berklee College of Music student, Akron's Kofi Boakye will mark his return to the opening night of Amateur Night at the Apollo in Harlem on Wednesday, Feb. 16. This will be the second year the Ohio native has competed in the long-standing historic competition, and it'll mark the Apollo's first Amateur Night since its near three-year pandemic hiatus.

A first round win will give Boakye the chance to return to the quarter round of competition held on March 23.

With the help of his community and local supporters, Boakye was able to crowdfund his first year at Berklee. The unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to his education.

“I had to switch the focus from schooling, to surviving,” he says in a press release about his upcoming performance at the Apollo. "I’m African-American and from a single parent household. Statistically, I’m not supposed to achieve the feats of being accepted into prestigious and competitive colleges like Berklee. But you don’t let the past define you. You can create your own story; all you have to do is write it. This is an opportunity of a lifetime. I relish the change. I relish the college. Most importantly, I relish the challenge. I can’t wait to get back to Berklee and show what another kid from Akron is made of.”

In 2019, Boakye received a regional Emmy nomination for his film Kofi: Made in Akron, a short film documentary created in co-production with Pritt Entertainment Group.

“From growing up in the inner cities of Akron, seeing the yellow tape and police sirens all throughout my childhood, the hunger to strive for greatness and do something positive in my life has always been a motivating factor for myself,” Boakye says.

The Apollo Theater’s season opener will air live via the Apollo Theater's social media pages.

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Rex Orange County To Perform at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica in June

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2022 at 12:35 PM

Rex Orange County. - ALEXANDRA WAESPI
  • Alexandra Waespi
  • Rex Orange County.
Singer-songwriter Rex Orange County will release his forthcoming album Who Cares? on March 11. It’s the artist’s first release since 2020's Live at Radio City Music Hall EP taken from his two sold-out shows at the New York venue in 2020 just before his international Pony tour was cut short in Berlin due to Covid-19.

In support of the new album, Rex Orange County will hit the road this summer. He comes to Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica on June 22.

A presale begins at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, and tickets to the Rex Orange County concert at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 4.

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GTFOH With These Janky NBA All-Star Game Jerseys

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2022 at 12:20 PM

2022 All-Star Game Jerseys - NBA.COM
  • NBA.com
  • 2022 All-Star Game Jerseys

Not much to say about the NBA All-Star Game jerseys, which were formally unveiled Friday morning by the league and their pals at Jordan Brand in anticipation of next month's All-Star Game in Cleveland, Ohio.

But here are a few quick observations: Nobody likes them and neither do we. Gray looks bad on everyone. The central logo appears to be the NBA's answer to the Rob Lowe NFL hat meme. There's nothing remotely representative of Cleveland, unless the gray and red are meant to evoke something like metal and rust to memorialize the region's industrial heritage.

Alas, no.

From the marketing materials: "The uniform’s typography is inspired by the architecture of the city’s bridges and gives homage to classic All-Star uniforms of the late 1980s and early ’90s. The colors are drawn from the silver, prismatic shine of a diamond against the blue and red of the NBA logo in celebration of the league’s 75th Anniversary Season. The blue also speaks to the prominence of Lake Erie, and the red is a variation on the fiery strength and resilience of Cleveland."

The uniform's typography is inspired by the architecture of the city's bridges..." What?

We should disclose here that we initially scoffed at the Cavs' Rock Hall City Edition uniforms last year, but eventually came around. We're much less hopeful that these will grow on us. Why deny it, we're also sore that Darius Garland didn't earn a starting spot in the hometown game. Here's hoping Garland and big man Jarrett Allen are both named to the reserve squads, which will be announced next Thursday.

In the meantime, we can be grateful that the NBA and Converse got some teenagers to design the uniforms for the celebrity game. These are much more fun:

2022 All-Star Celebrity Game Jerseys - NBA.COM
  • NBA.com
  • 2022 All-Star Celebrity Game Jerseys
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Advocates Warn of Gambling Addiction Risks as Ohio Endeavors Into Legal Betting

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2022 at 11:05 AM

1 in 4 sports bettors are at risk for gambling addiction - PHOTO BY BAISHAMPAYAN GHOS/FLICKRCC
  • Photo by Baishampayan Ghos/FlickrCC
  • 1 in 4 sports bettors are at risk for gambling addiction

With the excitement building over this weekend's American Football Conference and National Football Conference championship games, sports betting is increasing as well, but what appears to be fun and games can be problematic for some people.

According to the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio, about one in 10 Ohioans who gamble are at risk for developing a gambling problem. The number increases to one in four for those who bet on sports.

Derek Longmeier, executive director of the Network, said there are other risk factors.

"Males tend to be more active in sports betting than females, and subsequently their rates of being at risk are higher," Longmeier reported. "There's an exponentially higher increase of probability of being at risk for developing a gambling problem if you have a substance-use disorder or a mental-health disorder."

There was an 80% increase in U.S. adults age 21 and older who bet on sports at least once a month in 2021. The rise coincides with the surge of states legalizing sports wagering, which now includes Ohio.

The Casino Control Commission is currently crafting industry rules, including directing 2% of Ohio's sports gaming revenue to gambling-addiction services.

In a recent survey, 10 out of 23 economists said the benefits of legal sports betting in Ohio could outweigh the costs; four of those surveyed expected costs to outweigh benefits and nine were uncertain.

Longmieir pointed out his concern is the largest expansion in gambling Ohio has ever seen.

"Opportunities to sports bet will not only just be the casinos and racinos, but it can be your bar, restaurant, or bowling alley," Longmieir noted. "Through the mobile element, there's going to be plenty of opportunities to bet on sports probably 24/7 in the palm of your hand any given day."

Longmeier explained gambling becomes a problem truly one bet at a time. And it can happen when someone bets to escape stress or depression, views gambling as an income source, or fails to set limits on their wagers. He added there is often secrecy about finances, and sometimes dishonesty.

"I very much am disheartened by the calls that I get of loved ones who didn't realize there was a gambling problem until their house was foreclosed upon, or their car was repossessed," Longmeier lamented. "So if you're wondering about it, then ask about it."

The Problem Gambling Network of Ohio's "Get Set Before You Bet" and "Change the Game Ohio" programs are two resources for help, and the Ohio Problem Gambling Hotline is available 24/7 at 800-859-9966.

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Are Ohio’s CEOs Worth 322 Times the Normal Worker? Of Course They Are

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2022 at 10:55 AM

JANKA RAJA/FLICKRCC
  • Janka Raja/FlickrCC


The results were shocking – if you’re one to fret over the success of another.

A study by Ohio Policy Matters, a non-profit research group, found that CEOs at the state’s 54 largest publicly traded companies earn an average of 322 times their median worker. The hold-my-beer moment came courtesy of Fran Horowitz, head of New Albany’s Abercrombie & Fitch. She earns a startling 6,565 times the pay of her median worker, the largest differential in the nation.

Predictable yowling ensued. There was talk of avarice and inequality, of parasites devouring the nation from within. The CEOs were “exploiting the pandemic to pull even further away from the people who do the actual work of their corporations,” wrote Michael Shields, the report’s author.

Yet amidst this age-old outcry, another interpretation was gaining steam: That Ohio’s CEOs were simply superior human beings; 322 times better than you, to be exact.

That’s the takeaway of a growing chorus of economists, politicians, and clergy who believe the greed narrative has grown stale. “Borrrrring!” say members of chambers of commerce around Northeast Ohio. “Nobody wants to hear another guy with a man-bun whine about greed.”

They’re putting forth a more uplifting narrative to combat these dark times. It’s the tale of CEOs born to humble beginnings. Through occasional work, social connections, and legacy admissions to the finest universities, they develop superpowers for hoarding money, rising to become masters of the economy, thus saving the stock market and therefore civilization.

“They’re generating this enormous bounty, much like the Biblical story of Jesus and the loaves and fishes,” says J. Warren Osteen, pastor of The Fruit of Thy Wallet, a megachurch outside Dayton. “But instead of giving it away like some kind of moron, they’re keeping it for themselves.”

What critics overlook, he argues, are the unique skills needed to run a major corporation. True, CEOs do little to actually produce goods or services. Yet they face the more daunting task of thinking up cool words like “interfacing” and “onboarding,” and pretending a part-time cashier is a “valued team member.”

In private, of course, they’ll acknowledge she’s not even valuable enough to get benefits.

The best executives possess an even greater gift, says economist Judy Sandstone: “A profound sense of no moral boundaries.”

She points to TransDigm Chairman W. Nicholas Howley, who earns $68 million a year — $40 million more than any other exec in Northeast Ohio.

The TransDigm name says it all, notes Sandstone. It’s a collision of two vague words to form utter nonsense, leading outsiders to presume it trades in cutting-edge technology, such as video games involving wizards. Job aspirants arrive expecting foosball and free vitamin water, only to find out they’ll be selling airplane parts to the federal government at price-gouging margins as high as 4,500 percent.

Howley’s superpowers were evident in a 2017 Inspector General’s report, which found that TransDigm “earned excess profit” on nearly every part it sold the Pentagon. A “non-vehicular clutch disc” may have measured just three inches and cost $32 to make. But Howley charged taxpayers $1,443 a piece.

“Your everyday stiff might charge $50, then feel guilty about it,” says economist Sandstone. “What makes Howley Howley is that no one else can deliver $68 million worth of uncompromising shameless, day in day out. When you’re like the love child of Ted Cruz and the Pharma Bro, there are simply no substitutes.”

Such concerns pop up every year: A recent internal Department of Defense auditfound TransDigm made nearly $21 million in excess profits on contracts for spare airplane parts.

Clearly the CEO-as-superhero movement is gaining traction. Last week, a group calling itself Protect Our CEOs From the Haters attracted an overflow crowd of 14 people for a rally at Public Square. Though most were executive assistants of the leaders in question, it was a sign that the greed narrative has fallen from public grace.

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Cheer Live 2022 Tour Coming To Wolstein Center in July

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2022 at 9:52 AM

The fit stars of Cheer. - COURTESY OF LIVE NATION
  • Courtesy of Live Nation
  • The fit stars of Cheer.
Organizers of the Cheer Live 2022 tour just announced the dates of a
North American tour featuring athletes from the Emmy Award-winning Netflix docuseries Cheer. Presented by Live Nation, the tour comes to Wolstein Center on July 2.

Bringing together fan favorites from the two most successful rival cheer programs in the country, Navarro College and Trinity Valley Community College, Cheer Live will feature 14-time National Champion coach and best-selling author Monica Aldama alongside cheer stars such as Gabi Butler and Morgan Simianer. The full cast features Maddy Brum, Angel Rice, Dee Joseph, James Thomas, Jeron Hazelwood, Gillian Rupert and Cassadee Dunlap, with more to be announced.

“I’m so excited to cheer again and to have the feeling of performing and going on tour,” says Morgan Simianer in a press release. “We are all coming together without the competitions and pressure — It’s going to be so fun! I want all of the cheerleaders to see this and think, that can be me one day.”

Various presales begin at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, and tickets to the Cheer Live 2022 performance at Wolstein Center go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 4.

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LeBron James Family Foundation Announces Partnership with ... Crypto.com

Posted By on Fri, Jan 28, 2022 at 9:06 AM

COURTESY LJFF
  • Courtesy LJFF
In a press release Friday morning, the LeBron James Family Foundation announced a new partnership with Crypto.com, the Singapore-based cryptocurrency exchange app that also recently purchased naming rights to the Los Angeles Staples Center, where the Lakers play.

James said the partnership was premised on his promise not to let the people of his community behind. It will give students in LJFF's I Promise program and their families "access to the tools and educational resources needed to participate and succeed in building Web3, the future of the internet."

Web3 is another way of talking about blockchain technology and the so-called decentralized internet. What the tools and educational resources will consist of was not specified, but Crypto.com can be counted upon to promote the idea of token-based economics in a youth-oriented way. (A terrifying thought.)

James remains admirably committed to the people of Akron, and has invested millions of dollars in supporting the youth and those in poverty there. This partnership was framed in those terms.

"Crypto.com and I are aligned on the need to educate and support my community with the information and tools they need for inclusion," James was quoted in the statement. "I’m looking forward to working with them to bring these opportunities to my community."

But this just feels off, a branding effort that does a lot more for Crypto.com than it does for the students in LJFF's I Promise programs.

Crypto.com last week made news when hackers made off with $15 million in Ethereum, a cryptocurrency. It has a commercial out now featuring Matt Damon exulting in the idea of taking risk, likening cryptocurrency investment to summiting Everest and going to outer space and stuff. (Financial risk-taking is of course a fun hobby only for those with money to burn.) As a corporate entity, Crypto.com does not give one iota of a shit about the children of Akron. It does, however, care about legitimizing itself via brand partnerships of this sort. If Akron's own LeBron James is singing the praises of crypto as a financial inclusion strategy, imagine how many people might hop on board!

More broadly, the rise of cryptocurrency exchanges and things like non-fungible tokens is a chilling development during the coronavirus era, as Canadian journalist Luke Savage argued this week, calling the NFT craze a "glorified Pokémon card ponzi scheme." 

The NFT boom, fittingly enough, has coincided quite directly with a period of particularly grotesque collective hardship and surging inequality. As both a threat to public health and an historic economic disruption, the COVID era has been an extraordinarily difficult time for many working and middle-class Americans, but a veritable land of milk and honey for its corporate overlords and lumpen bourgeoisie.

Events of recent years have arguably represented the best occasion in decades to reimagine the fundamentals of American society and transform the economy into something other than a handful of hedge funds and tech monopolies sitting on top of each other inside a trench coat. Instead, the country’s bipartisan ruling class opted to greet mass death with a dollop of inadequate and temporary social protections while its criminally undertaxed ultrarich were left to seek out novel ways of profiting from their own money and new totems of their elite status.

Nothing has been more symbolic of this trajectory than NFTs, the latest symptom of a decadent and increasingly post-democratic consensus resting on little more than predatory rent-seeking and boundless commodification.
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