Popular Culture

Polka runs in the veins of BGSU guest Alex Meixner

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Though Alex Meixner has degrees in jazz and classical trumpet performance from Ithaca College and Penn State, accordion is the instrument that’s closest to his heart and polka is the music he’s devoted to performing.  Meixner will visit Bowling Green State University Sunday, Dec. 9, for A Celebration of Polish-American Polka, from 5 to 9 p.m. in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom in Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Tickets are  $25 for dinner and music and $10 for BGSU students. The university libraries has what may be the largest collection of polka sheet music in the world, Meixner said. That’s thanks to BGSU grad Steve Harris who two years ago donated the library of the Vitak-Elsnic company to the library. Meixner is adding to the stash with a donation of his library. Meixner, who turns 42 the day before the BGSU event, can trace his ties to polka back three generations. His love of music started early. Growing up in the Austrian enclave of Copley, Pennsylvania, he was surrounded by ethnic sounds. His father, who was born in the US but taken care of by his grandparents, didn’t speak English until he was 5. The Austrians were just one of several ethnic groups from central and Eastern Europe to populate the area, and each had its particular twist on polka music. While Meixner was surrounded by music he was never pushed to play. Not that his parents could have stopped him. “I was never forced to do this,” he said in a recent telephone interview.  “I’d drum on anything, from the kitchen table or myself. I was just following in my father’s footsteps and my grandfather’s as well. It resonates with me,” he said. “I’ve been really blessed to have had the opportunity to study and perform in so many different contexts.  There’s just something about that 2/4 beat of the polka that created its own heartbeat for me.” At 3, he started piano lessons, before moving to accordion. By the time he was 6 he was on stage, and hasn’t left since. A track he recorded with his father was included on a Grammy-winning album. He collaborated with Jack Black on the soundtrack for the movie “The Polka King.”  Jan Lewan, the subject of that film, will be a guest Sunday at BGSU. To the extent Meixner made a name for himself, he said, it is for bringing…

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Cousins team up to tell story of family life in the inner city

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Usually book signings don’t include blood pressure tests. Antrone “Juice” Williams, though, always includes the health screening at events he’s involved in. Since he almost died from a stroke while working out back in 2012 he’s been an advocate for stroke awareness. That was the focus of the first book he wrote with his cousin Damien Womack. “A Walking Testimony Stroke Survivor: My Second Chance” was about his recovery, an ongoing process, from his near-death experience. It was meant to be an inspiration and encouragement for others facing this situation, and a warning about the necessity of monitoring blood pressure and other health indicators. The former semi-professional and college basketball player has devoted his life to raising awareness of the dangers of strokes and helping youth. Now Williams and Womack have written a second book “The P.I.L.L.A.R.S.” Originally, Womack said, this was supposed to be part of the first book, the story of how Williams arrived at the gym in Augusta, Maine, where he was felled by a stroke. But the publisher decided, Womack said, it was better to keep the book focused on the inspirational story. “The P.I.L.L.A.R.S.” – that stands for The People I Love, Last and Remain Sacred” – reflects on the families that raised the cousins. While it’s told with love, “it’s more in your face,” Womack said. “It means you’re going to run the gamut of emotions.” The book takes the reader to the inner city streets of Chicago, where Williams grew up, and Detroit, where Womack grew until moving to rural Ohio to be with his father. Each had their strengths. Williams thrived on the neighborhood basketball courts playing street ball. Womack did his best in the classroom. Neither had an easy childhood, coming from working poor families in tough neighborhoods with gangs always off in the wings. Their families were loving, but many of them tried to salve the pains of life with alcohol leading to arguments and break-ups. And, Williams said, there was the shadow of chronic illness that no one wanted to talk about. Williams suffered from a sense of abandonment when his father left his mother, who then had to work long hours to support him. That left him in the care of his grandmother, and feeling his mother had abandoned him as well. Womack’s father had to follow his job to Cambridge, Ohio,…


Poetry in motion – Sandra Faulkner explores link between women & running

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Sandra Faulkner wanted to study women runners, she used poetry as well as footnotes. Earlier this year, Faulkner, a professor in the School of Media and Communication, published “Real Women Run: Running as Feminist Embodiment.” The book is deeply personal scholarship. Early on Faulkner traces her own history as a runner, starting when she was 11 years old, growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta. She ran so hard her nose started bleeding. She didn’t notice until she finished the race, and won third place. But she missed the awards ceremony because her mother couldn’t staunch the bleeding. Her life as a runner has been full of small triumphs, injuries, and frustrations – sometimes at the same time. Though Faulkner says she doesn’t race to place, she’s still competitive. After one race she saw that she was fourth in her age group, but she thought there were only four runners in that class. Only later didn’t she learn there were more than that. Her life as a runner is told in brief journal-like entries, and each is paired with a haiku. One reads: “Don’t call us a girl / don’t call us a girl jogger / fierce women running.” The personal stories are “in service critiquing, discovering, uncovering larger social patterns,” she said. They take us up to Sept. 3, 2016, when Faulkner is 44 and has a daughter of her own, who cheers on her mother and herself has started running. “She’s more of a sprinter,” Faulkner said. This was the right time for Faulkner, an ethnographer, to research women and running. She would never have done this as a dissertation. When she used interviews for her dissertation on Sex and Sexuality at Penn State, where she studied interpersonal communication, it was considered unconventional. But when “Real Women Run” was starting, Faulkner had tenure and was taking the next step of applying for promotion to full professor. She had already completed a much cited book on poetic inquiry, “Poetry as Method: Reporting Research through Verse.” “I’m convinced that this book wouldn’t have happened until that exact point.” BGSU, where she’s been on faculty for 11 years, was the place to do it. “BGSU has been a great place for me.,” Faulkner said. “I have felt very supported in my work. I think this is my best work. I feel very satisfied and…


BG celebrates 4th with symphony of sights & sounds

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green marked the July 4th holiday Tuesday with its annual concert and fireworks display. The Bowling Green Area Community Band and BiG Band BG opened with a concert of patriotic favorites and show tunes. The finale was provided by the orchestrated blasts and bursts of the fireworks. The event, on the intramural fields on the Bowling Green State University campus, was presented by the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce.          


Rossford presents Chautauqua’s ‘Modern Legends’

From ROSSFORD CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU If history was your favorite subject in school, or even if it wasn’t, you will be amazed and delighted when history comes to life before your very eyes in Rossford June 19-23rd.  Northwest Ohio is very fortunate to have Ohio Humanities in Columbus select Rossford as one of its four cities for the Ohio Chautauqua 2018 tour.  The theme for 2018 is “Modern Legends” featuring characters of note including politician and lawyer – Robert F. Kennedy, humorist and author – Erma Bombeck, labor leader and civil rights activist – Cesar Chavez, American writer, activist and feminist Betty Friedan and the first African-American general officer in the US Air Force – Benjamin O. Davis. Chautauqua includes daytime programs with visiting performing scholars as well as a Family Day on Saturday. Two local figures are involved in this year’s program. Robert Kennedy is being portrayed by Jeremy Meier, theater professor at Owens Community College. Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Toledo-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee, will give a presentation on Wednesday, June 20, at 4 p..m,  at the Rossford Library. He will speak about his work with Cesar Chavez an his own ground-breaking work on behalf of migrant workers.  Velásquez received the Bannerman Fellowships for helping organize people for racial, social, economic and environmental justice, was named a MacArthur Fellow (known as the “Genius Grant”), and received Mexico’s Aquila Azteca Award, the highest award Mexico can give a non-citizen.  The living history presentation of Cesar Chavez will be that evening, June 20th at 7 p.m. at Veterans Park. The El Corazon de Mexico Ballet Folklorico will perform at 6 pm. that evening. Building on the 19th-century tradition established on the shores of New York’s Chautauqua Lake, Ohio Chautauqua is a five-day community event that combines living history performances, music, education, and audience participation into a one-of-a-kind cultural event the entire community will enjoy. Each evening, family, friends and visitors gather as live music fills the air in Veterans Park at the Marina, 300 Hannum Avenue with convenient parking and buses from Eagle Point School. Then, a talented performer appears on stage, bringing a historic figure to life through personal stories and historic detail.  With its warm, nostalgic vibe, this truly unique experience is sure to open minds and start conversations. A daily schedule can be found online at www.VisitRossfordOhio.com or www.OhioHumanities.org. Sponsors of Ohio Chautauqua 2018 in Rossford, Ohio include Ohio Humanities, the Rossford Convention & Visitors Bureau, TARTA,…


The Stacked Deck offers gaming fans a new place to gather in downtown BG

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Joe Busch was in high school, playing Dungeons and Dragons had a “Cheetos in the basement” stigma attached to it, so he and his friends used the school chess as a cover. Now role playing games and the card game Magic are more popular and accepted. Busch is out in the open with his love for the games as the new owner of The Stacked Deck, a gaming shop in downtown Bowling Green. Busch said he first got into gaming in junior high. Like many others in his generation Pokémon served as the gateway game. He and his friends heard about Magic the Gathering, which was more complex with deeper back story, so they started playing that. Busch said he loved writing and telling stories, so in high school, he started his own Dungeon and Dragons campaign, conducted under the cover of the chess club, and continued through his college years. The New Jersey native, Busch attended Rowan University where he studied journalism. Summers he’d come home and muster his friends and resume the campaign. That’s the appeal of role playing games in the world of fast paced video play. Video games may have good stories, he said, but those tales are created by someone else. “Dungeons and Dragons moves with you,” he said. “It’s writing a story but with a group of five people all contributing. You can do whatever you want. You’re just having fun telling the story together.” Whether engaged in role playing, another board game, or a Magic, the social aspect of people gathering for fun and camaraderie is part of the attraction. From the beginning Busch knew he wanted to do more than sell games and cards, but wanted to have a place where people could play uninhibited without the questioning looks of people wondering what they were doing rolling those strange dice and talking about fireballs. “It’s not like you’re an outsider doing something like that here,” he said. The appeal is broad. “You can have anybody play with anybody.” Fathers bring in their kids to get their first starter deck of Magic cards. He had a man in his 70s stop by. He’d seen YouTube videos about Magic, and was thinking about taking the game up. When Busch went to the bank to set up his business account, the banker was excited because he played Magic….


Bravo! is a love fest for Eva Marie Saint & the arts at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Eva Marie Saint’s Falcon spirit does has its limits. President Rodney Rogers found this out before he left for Bravo! BGSU on Saturday. Saint, the Oscar-winning actress and 1946 graduate of Bowling Green State University, was staying in the president’s house with her son and daughter, during their visit back to campus. The visit was capped off by her receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the university. (Click for related  story.) Standing at the podium to deliver the award, Rogers said he’d started to leave the house wearing an orange bowtie. “Lose the orange tie,” Saint told him. “Black is classic.” When Eva Marie Saint tells you to do something, he said, you do it. So the president of BGSU appeared at Bravo! BGSU with nary a patch of orange. The awarding of the Lifetime honor to someone Rogers called “our most celebrated” graduate, capped off an evening celebrating the arts are BGSU. Bravo! BGSU now in its fourth year raises money for scholarships for arts students. This year 340 tickets at $125 were sold, more than last year when $75,000 was raised, according to Lisa Mattiace, the president’s chief of staff. Another $9,000 came in  from the silent auction. Students who benefited from those scholarships were evident throughout the night. Performances and art demonstrations were staged through the Wolfe Center for the Arts. Students screened their films and read their poetry. They sang musical theater tunes and art songs. A jazz group jammed and the Combustible Ensemble improvised music for dancers. One of those Bravo! Scholars, Kimberly Tumblin, was painting in a hallway.  She appreciated the scholarship. “It just helps out my family a lot.” She also saw it as “a validation” of her work. Tumblin, who is from Coshocton, came to BGSU on the recommendation of her high school art teacher, who is a graduate of the university. Tumblin intended to study digital arts, but really loved painting. She was intimidated by the medium’s long tradition, especially given she was interested in more traditional styles. But at BGSU she got the encouragement she needed, and switched to painting, studying with Brandon Briggs. The figure painting she was working on was inspired by the art of the Italian Baroque. This was the first time she’d worked in such a public setting, and was surprised how much work she was getting done. In another hallway one…