A Slow Karter Goes Full Throttle

Full disclosure: I like racing. But going fast in a car? Not so much.

My 14-year-old son calls me Mr. Slow. So the day he came home with the fastest lap from a birthday party held at a go-kart track, the challenge was clear. Mr. Slow needs to quit putt-putt-puttering around and pick up the pace. Luckily, Joe O’Gorman offers a solution. 

The 1986 communication arts graduate is a racing enthusiast, self-confessed “serial opportunist” and the owner of Full Throttle Indoor Karting, an indoor racetrack designed to satisfy those with the racing bug and a need for speed. 

But abandon all preconceptions of a mom-and-pop roadside kart track. Full Throttle proclaims itself as “Go Kart Racing Like You’ve Never Experienced.” Built in a 50,000-square-foot structure originally designed as a candy factory, it now satisfies an insatiable speed tooth. Or, as O’Gorman tells me, “We have everything you need. Just arrive and race.”

Watch as author Michael Shaw takes a lap around the track. Slowly.

[lightbox link=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tu7Voogovo4&feature=youtu.be”]speedishracer[/lightbox]

And while 95 percent of customers just show up for fun, many professional drivers now get their start behind the wheel of a kart. “Sam Hornish Jr. was up at the Kentucky Speedway for a charity event. NASCAR invited a lot of the press here to run a challenge against Sam. He was pretty quick.”

So who gets behind the wheel? Birthday parties, leagues, aspiring Formula 1 drivers, boy’s-night-outers, even just someone just walking in off the street. “Our customers run from someone who has never done it before, casual customers who love go-karting, to semi-pro and pro drivers.”

The expertly designed, 14-corner track can accommodate all the skill you can muster behind the wheel. The karts can also be remote-controlled by a transponder, so if you’re naughty and get black flagged—racing lingo for disqualified—someone will flip the switch and literally park you. There are three flag stands located throughout the course that allow employees to get to customers quickly, usually to turn a kart around after a spin or perform a tire-wall extraction.

O’Gorman offers me a little rookie advice: “Passing usually doesn’t happen through the straightaway. At the narrowest it’s just over16 feet and it’s possible to go three-wide at any point.”

FullThrottleMemEmailThe secret to speed? Being smooth and finding “the fast line.” I’m informed that the fast line is not always obvious to a beginner but becomes apparent after a few sessions. Plus my propensity for slowness comes from a sense of self-preservation, which is not usually a bad thing, except for a racer. But these karts are fast, small, precise and designed to be driven full-out. The 270cc Honda engines can hit 40 mph.

Up to 10 karts can race at a time making for a pretty full field. And it doesn’t take long to get lapped—or at least it didn’t for me. Basically, the driving technique lives up to the name “full throttle,” with only three or four turns where braking is needed (and even then only optional). “Make sure you get some heat into your tires. And have fun.”

So that’s what I’m doing. Zipped into my racing suit, helmet strapped, gripping the wheel at two and 10, Mr. Slow takes off. As far as my lap time? Hey, what’s a fast time really matter when you’re having a good time?

Check out the Full Throttle website

Educating Youth…and All That Jazz

Kathy Wade is a jazz icon. For proof, you need look no further than the logo created for the Crown Jewels of Jazz Festival. The highly stylized chanteuse bears a striking resemblance to her.

“Everyone tells me that, but only the designer knows for sure.”

This also is one diva with advanced education—a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in art administration. “I’ve been singing since I was 4 years old. I always sang. It is nice to have a talent. It’s better to have some degrees.”

And to put those degrees to use. Which she does. In 1992, Wade combined her passions for the arts, education and community development by co-founding Learning Through Art, a non-profit using art as a means of creating community engagement and understanding. That serves as her day-to-day vocation.

Learn about Learning Through Art
Learn about the Crown Jewels of Jazz Festival

She also helped launch the Crown Jewels of Jazz Festival, a two-day outdoor festival in Cincinnati celebrating the history, legacy and joy of jazz—including a jazz camp for high schoolers organized through Learning Through Art. That serves as the showcase for the talent that helped lift her into the spotlight—her voice.

When Wade first launched the festival in 1996, it was a one-night-only, black-tie, sit-down dinner cabaret featuring vocal luminaries the likes of Rosemary Clooney, Eartha Kit, Nancy Wilson, Shirley Horn and others. In the past few years, though, the festival itself has undergone an impressive metamorphesis, evolving into a two-day, multi-venue music festival. Wade sees this as part of her mission not only to keep jazz alive, but also to thrive.

“In growing anything, you have to keep the audience growing.”

For Wade, jazz and education produce a parallel passion. As CEO of Learning Through Art she has helped to produce Art Books Alive for Kids, a nationally recognized performing arts literacy program. Proceeds from the festival help fund these programs while promoting a “global jazz village for literacy.”

 So while the “crown jewels” evolve with the times, Wade’s devotion to jazz and education remains fundamental. “For me, in the evolution of music, jazz will always influence the mainstream. It’s America’s classical music.”

A Career of Amusement: Life on the Merry-go-round

Back in the day, most kids wanted to be president when they grew up. Or run away to join the circus. Vic Nolting managed to do both. Sort of.

The 1970 business grad grew up to become president of Coney Island amusement park, making him commander-in-chief of one of the region’s most popular playgrounds as well as one of the softest spots in Cincinnati’s collective heart.

And don’t even think of it as a job, he says. “It’s kind of a calling. Most everybody that works here are not just workers, but keepers of the flame.”

For most Cincinnatians, the flame that has attracted them to Coney for so many generations hasn’t been work but play as they sought the cooling refuge from the summer sun beating down on them in the park’s famous Sunlight Pool. It’s the center of the park’s attractions and the bulk of Nolting’s business.

But Nolting’s typical day doesn’t begin with turning on the pool spigot or making sure chlorine levels are up to spec. “When I arrive, I take a quick tour of the park and see what’s going on, see if all is right with the world. Then it’s back to the office. I kind of bounce back and forth all day long.”

Nolting’s earned his privilege of “managing by wandering around” after bringing Coney back from the brink of extinction. Because of its location along the Ohio River, the park regularly flooded, so its owners, Taft Broadcasting, decided in the early 1970s to all but give up on the park and develop Kings Island in Mason, Ohio. Rides were relocated and shows were shifted. The pool continued to operate, but Coney Island was all but forgotten.

In the mid-1980s, the park was sold and the new owners brought in Nolting to bring it back to life. “I got here in 1983 and we started renovating in 1984. By 1988 we had renovated the entire grounds. And we started to add rides back. Today we have 23 rides.”

The growth has, Nolting admits, made work like a circus sometimes. “In 2000, we had a millennium party and brought in Nick Wallenda who walked a tight rope over the pool before he ever attempted Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon. We also had a trapeze act and Benny ‘Boom Boom’ Koske, the human bomb, who blew himself up three times a day.”

Still, even though his job has an amusement value, Nolting borrows a phrase from Joe Nuxhall when considering what’s next: “I’m rounding third and heading for home.” Even to the point of grooming his own replacement to ensure a smooth passing of the flame—although, he admits, it won’t be one-time headliner Santini Demon who set himself on fire, swallowed swords and made the insanity of amusement parks just another day at the office for Nolting.

Behind the Alter Hall Renovation

Dedicated in December 1960, Alter Hall was Xavier’s class of the classroom.

It was called “the million dollar building” because it featured air-conditioning, a 300-seat lecture hall and 33 classrooms.

Now, rising from the original concrete bones, a new Alter Hall is emerging, even more innovative than the original. One of its key components is its environmental friendliness. One of the principal architects of its transformation, Nestor Melnyk of MSA Architects, presents a quick tour:

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/AlterHall2-300×203.jpg”]AlterHall2[/lightbox]• “Reflective roof materials and a high-performance wall system insulates the building.
Overall, it will consume just half the energy of the average building on campus.”

• “An energy recovery ventilator draws outdoor air into the building to maintain air quality. Carbon dioxide sensors calculate the number of occupants in various rooms within the building and adjust environmental controls accordingly. Plus many windows can actually be opened.”

• “Water from roof drains flows down through several tiers of rain gardens including a bog garden with its own native ecosystem that will be maintained as a biology student project. Using all native plantings means no dedicated irrigation will be installed, just the natural flow of water from the drainage system.”

• “Light sensors measure the amount of daylight coming in the windows and adjust the interior lights accordingly.”

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/alter3.jpg”]alter3[/lightbox]• “The way buildings meet the sky on campus is rarely a straight horizontal line. Alter was transformed so that there’s a lot of articulation at the roofline—ups and downs and cutouts. Glass is used to create an expansive sense of space while stone creates the accents. We’re picking up on the visual grammar of the campus, but using a more sophisticated vocabulary.”

• “Subspaces within the landscaping around the building create natural environments for an outdoor class.”

Touched by an Angel Island

In the late 1970s, all the buildings that remained on Angel Island were going to be demolished because they were in such disrepair.

Then a park ranger wandered inside one of teetering wooden structures and made an amazing discovery—poetry on the barracks walls. Not written, but carved into the wooden walls using classical Cantonese techniques.

Local scholars and preservationists found out about the discovery and organized a committee to preserve the buildings—and the island with its dark history.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/McKechnie-682×1024.jpg”]McKechnie[/lightbox]Angel Island is the largest island in the San Francisco Bay and the lesser-known West Coast counterpart to Ellis Island in New York. But while Ellis was welcoming to immigrants from Europe, Angel Island became an unwelcoming place of interrogations, detention and denial for those from Asia.

In 1882, the U.S. passed The Chinese Exclusion Act that was designed to keep immigrants from China out of the United States—unless, of course, they had money.

“If you were Chinese and came in by boat travelling first class, they let you right in,” says Michael McKechnie, executive director of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation and 1980 MBA graduate. “Second class, you were taken over to Angel Island and interrogated.”

While the actions of Angel Island aren’t a highlight of U.S. history, the site is an important marker of the country’s growth and worth saving. Today, Angel Island—located within view of both Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge—is a state park like few others. And it’s McKechnie’s goal to save it.

“We’ve raised $40 million to renovate the immigration site,” he says. “And we’re finishing the second large building transforming it into a museum and The Center for Pacific Coast Immigration.”

Learn about Angel Island and McKechnie’s effort to save it.

It’ a challenge, he admits, but he credits the same spirit of perseverance that first brought the Chinese to America with saving the site that was created to keep them out decades earlier. “The Chinese were fearless about working hard. The members of our board are five and six generation Chinese Americans and now top attorneys in major firms.”

McKechnie can’t share their past, but thanks to the art carved from misery that has had a much bigger impact on McKechnie’s own sense of mission, he can help preserve it.

Alumni Profile: Jonathan Herman

Jonathan Herman
BSBA in Marketing, 1993
Executive Director, Allan Houston Foundation
New York, N.Y.

[lightbox link=”http://xtra.xavier.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/herman.jpg”]herman[/lightbox]What’s in a Name? | “I’ve been fortunate to develop a variety of philanthropic programs for pro athletes and entertainers including [New York Knicks assistant GM and former NBA All-Star] Allan Houston, [NBA Hall-of-Famer] David Robinson, [actress] Eva Longoria, [NFL cornerback] Eric Wright, [NBA All-Star] Chris Paul, [music industry pioneer] Russell Simmons and others.”

Major Decisions | “I was recruited to Xavier on a soccer scholarship, but ended up not playing. I was attracted to the business school and became a marketing major.”

Playing the Player | “I learned sports marketing with the athletic department, which was producing the ‘T Time’ ads promoting Tyrone Hill. The department became concerned about potential NCAA violations using real players, so I played the role of an XU player in a television commercial. They sprayed me down to look like I had been sweating and used so much water that for years afterward people would ask me if that was real sweat.”

A Real Class Act | “While at Xavier, I founded a club called UNITE, which brought together students of various ethnicities to break down racial and social barriers. I also led the student effort to establish E Pluribus Unum [a mandatory cultural diversity class], so I guess I’m partially responsible for anyone who had to take that class.”

The Law and the Bubble | “After graduation, I was offered a scholarship to go to law school at Northeastern University. I never planned on being a lawyer, but I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity. By my last year, I knew I wasn’t going into practice, so I started a dot-com that provided music and entertainment online. After the dot-com crash, we morphed into a marketing firm. One of our first clients was Houston, who eventually asked me to oversee his non-profit and for-profit activities.

Charitable Credentials | “I managed his foundation for about 10 years and was then asked to work with an organization called Living Cities, which is a collaboration of some of the largest philanthropic organizations in the country, including Bill and Melinda Gates and the Ford Foundations, to provide guidance for celebrities and entertainers who want to do philanthropy the right way.”

App the Expert | I’m also involved with iChannel Media, a mobile technology company working with celebrity experts, major brands like Johnson & Johnson and non-profit organizations to create mobile networks and channels distributed through apps. It’s always exciting to be part of a start-up on the cutting edge.”

Documenting Discoveries

“Go west, young man.” That hoary bit of wisdom still stands up, especially for Connor Lynch, a New York-based videographer.

In fact, he went about as west as he could, filming the documentary Mount Lawrence, the story of Chandler Wild’s 6,500-mile bicycle ride from New York to Alaska.

Luckily, Lynch liked to ride a bike almost as much as make a film. “I discovered a love of biking in the city,” he says. “Ride to survive.” 

A cross-country tour, however, isn’t quite the same as a dash to Starbucks, especially for Lynch, a 2009 communication arts gradute, who wasn’t your stereotypical cyclist. At the start of the journey, he weighed 300 pounds, used to be a pack-a-day smoker, never slept in a tent and only took up bike riding a year earlier to impress a woman. The beginning of the tour, he admits, was rough. 

“The first 10 minutes of the documentary you can hear me wheezing, but it slowly dissipates over time.” He shed about 20 pounds  despite fueling up on a steady diet of classic American road food. His tip for roadtrip dining: “There’s no such thing as a bad patty melt.”

But this is one Xavier grad always up for a challenge and a fresh opportunity. And like a true documentarian, his  longest journey began as a blog: “This trip will change my body in ways that I can’t imagine. My eyes, my mind, the way that I walk through the world will also change and grow, and that’s going to change the way I point a camera at it.” 

When Lynch and Wild hit the road, it was just the two of them. All the gear, on trailers, hitched to the bikes. Lynch filmed as he pedaled from a digital camera mounted on his handlebars. He blogged and posted updates throughout the five-month trip, and even made another great discovery. While en route in Pennsylvania, he came across a beautiful old drive-in theater. 

“The owner came out and talked to us. He took me the projection booth and showed me these old, beautiful 35mm projectors that have been in use since the 1950s.” 

Thus, in the midst of filming one documentary he found his next documentary, Changeover, the story of an independent drive-in and its final screening on a 35mm film print.

Watch the trailer for Mount Lawrence
Watch Changeover

Lynch sums up his recent experience perfectly in his final Mount Lawrence blog post: “For now my bicycling adventure is done…13 states, 40 popped tires, 400 hours of footage, three pairs of sunglasses and one really strange lower back tan… So with open eyes, and a thankful heart, on to the next adventure.”

The Fabric of Her Life



In case you missed the October 2013 issue of The Crafts Report—

or are not staying current with the calico dog-eat-dog world of retail craft art—the magazine’s annual cover contest is over and the results are in.

The winner? A nationally known gourd artist.

And while there was no cover for second place, the magazine noted, “A special mention goes to our first runner-up Pamela Mattei for a great showing.” Mattei, a 2004 art graduate, was a gracious runner-up to the champion, whom she says is “pretty much the Picasso of gourds.” But when it comes to her own art, specifically scarves, Mattei means business.

As founder and self-appointed CEO of her one-person company, DyeSigns By Pamela, she promotes herself as possessing an “eye-catching sense of color, big dreams and
unrelenting determination.” And she’s absolutely right. Her lusciously hand-dyed scarves are so eye-catching they’re sold at art galleries as well as boutiques and gift shops.

Fabrics, sewing and textiles have been a part of Mattei’s fiber almost from the beginning. When most girls became boy-crazy, she was sew-crazy, stitching together pillows and aprons. “I was in middle school when I got my first serger [sewing machine] for Christmas.” So by the time she arrived at Xavier, she could sew circles around her class.

“I was told I could take a fiber course all eight semesters and that’s exactly what I did,”
she says.

She even got a head start, taking a fabric dyeing summer workshop before her freshman year. Mattei enhanced her degree with a business minor, seasoned it with graphic and web design classes and voila, an art-repreneur was born.

Last fall she turned her focus on the magazine cover contest where votes for favorite works were registered on Facebook by clicking “like” on that image. Mattei put together such a strong social media campaign in an effort to garner the most votes that “I was threatened with having my account shut down or suspended from Facebook and Twitter on multiple occasions,” she says. “I was doing so much campaigning they thought I was spamming.”

With the magazine cover past, the next step for DyeSigns By Pamela is celebrating its 10th year in business by expanding its product lines and offering products in all 50 states—which now stands at 35 and counting. So if you’re in Eagle River, Alaska, stop in at the Artworks Gallery and pick up a nice scarf.

A New Edgecliff

edgecliffLike most good actors, Michael Shooner’s LinkedIn profile features a strong entrance:

“40 years of theater here, there and everywhere—L.A., Seattle, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Japan!! In 1998, founded a nifty, kick-ass theatre company, New Edgecliff Theatre, here in Cincinnati.”

What motivates a veteran actor to accept an executive director role and bring an historic theater company back to life? In Shooner’s case, Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll (the play, not the lifestyle). Plus a desire to stick around town.

“When I started New Edgecliff, I had just come back from my 17-year odyssey out of town,” he says. “I was tired of being on the road, working travelling shows. I was regrouping, trying to figure out what I was going to do. I happened to come across Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll. It blew me away.”

Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll is a one-man-show in which the actor plays 11 different characters. Shooner knew he had to perform that play. There was only one problem. “When I contacted the Cincinnati Arts Association they asked me what the name of my company was,” says the 1973 Edgecliff College graduate. “I hadn’t thought of it. Right at that moment, that’s what popped out—New Edgecliff Theatre.”

His one-man play ran for five shows to a receptive audience, good reviews and a best actor nomination from the Cincinnati CEA awards. “We damn-near broke even. I thought I was done. Then Jackie Demaline, [theater critic for the The Cincinnati Enquirer], calls me and asks, ‘Well, what’s up next for New Edgecliff?’ ”

 Demaline has followed Shooner’s quest from the first opening night. “He devoted himself to The New Edgecliff Theatre. It was his desire to emulate all the professionalism and excitement of the original Edgecliff. He’s created something that has a history and a life.”

Through it all, Shooner never relished his role as director as much as a role on stage. “Until very recently, we were in a state where we were just surviving, not thriving.” Now entering its 16th season, with new directors and board members, plus upcoming productions in the Fifth Third Bank Theater at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, New Edgecliff’s plot line is shifting away from a cliffhanger back to center stage in the Cincinnati arts community.

The Office: Karl Stukenberg

A psychoanalyst and his couch.

Perhaps, next to a barber and his chair, no other object is more connected to a profession.

In the case of Karl Stukenberg, chair and associate professor for the Department of Psychology—and practicing psychoanalyst—the couch in his Elet Hall office may also be the hardest working piece of furniture on campus.

“It’s the couch on which we also meet when I’m talking to faculty, or to students in my role as head of the department.” In other words, the chair sees a lot people on his couch.

“The pillow is pretty worn out. In fact, I probably should replace the entire couch, which is getting a little threadbare.” But, in truth, the professor confesses to being rather attached to his faithful leather companion.

For the size of the office, the couch is surprisingly large. The furniture arrangement also follows classic Freudian guidelines—the analyst (the person preforming analysis) should be able to sit at the head, and out of the vision range, of the analysand (the person undergoing analysis).

True aficionados will also recognize that the embroidered throw pillow and blanket are standard issues based on Sigmund Freud’s original couch, now on display in a London museum.

As far as how many hours the couch has clocked psychoanalytical sessions? “Probably a couple of thousand hours. One hour at a time, four days a week, for a few years.”

And still going strong, as is its pilot. “I’m the department chair and a faculty member—that’s my job. I also need to keep my chops up in order to teach what we do. This is an art as well as a science.”