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'ponch' And Local Comic

What do you do when some dumb video you posted on YouTube a year ago becomes a weird pop-culture phenomenon? Make a sequel and get Erik Estrada from CHiPs to star in it, of course!

Since it was first posted on September 10, 2007, local stand-up comedian Mike Polk's Spanglish music video "One Semester of Spanish, Spanish Love Song" has logged 3.3 million hits. The short movie is a traditional Mexican love ballad written by someone with only a single semester of high school Spanish to draw from. Lyrics include: "Me gato es muy blanco" and "No remembro how to say 11." What Polk didn't expect was real high school Spanish teachers using his goofy tune to spark some interest in jaded, fiercely mono-lingual American kids. Several students performed Polk's song in front of their Spanish classes for extra credit and posted their videos on YouTube as well, turning the whole thing into a bizarre cross-cultural echo chamber.

Last week, Polk posted "Second Semester of Spanish, Spanish Love Song." This time out, he's trying to serenade a raven-haired beauty with slightly more complicated lines such as "necesito mucho queso en mi chalupa" and "No leavo, I bego!" Unfortunately, she's not so interested in his bastardizations of her language - until Erik Estrada shows up, that is. "Erik Estrada es mi amigo," says Polk. Then things get really weird. And soon Polk is on the back of a bicycle built for two as Estrada races toward the nearest Sizzler.

Polk is considering filming "One Semester of German, German Love Song," next and hoping to snag Natalie Portman to play his would-be love interest, Anne Frank. What, too soon? - James Renner

LAWSON JONES TO STAY PUT

County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones just drifted past a dream he started nurturing long before attending Harvard, since he was a Shaker Heights kid with aims for political greatness.

Last week, at a podium positioned in the shadow of the county's single experimental wind turbine at the Great Lakes Science Center, he passed on a chance at filling the seat of gone-too-soon Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, a woman he said was more of a cousin than a colleague. Instead, Lawson Jones will continue fighting for his seat at the wobbly table of county government ("Eye of the Storm," September 3).

He grappled with the decision, he said. At the Democratic National Convention, he even sought the counsel of high-placed legislators carrying on long-distance relationships with their families. Through his mind played all the fond memories he had of working and striving on Capitol Hill as an intern before returning to Shaker with a law degree and an itch for service. "Why should there be any hesitation?" he said he was thinking. "Just cast your hat into the ring."

Then, on the plane ride home from Denver, his new political hero, Barack Obama, came to him in the form of a New York Times psychoanalysis of the presidential contender's personality. The article describes Obama, then a new senator, crying in a public setting when asked about the distance between him and his family.

"If I was looking for any signs in terms of the decision I needed to make today, I think that was the sign," said Lawson Jones, who's seen one son graduate to Ohio University, but still has two at home. He rattled off a slew of great Washington legislators who didn't try to go there until after their nests were emptied.

So despite last weekend's Plain Dealer endorsement of his Republican challenger, Debbie Sutherland; despite a crumbling trust for the one-party political machine; despite a persistent call in Lawson Jones' ear for greater, well, greatness … Greater Cleveland is where he's built his reputation and this is where he'll stay.

"I need to be somewhere I believe I can make the greatest difference," he told the gathered cameras and notepads. "I want to see Cuyahoga County and Northeast Ohio once again reclaim the pre-eminence and the prominence that we formerly had." - Dan Harkins

ANIMALS CAN SENSE DICKISHNESS

To paraphrase an old political saying, if you want a friend, get a dog. And if the dog runs away, maybe you really are an asshole.

Former Cuyahoga County Recorder Pat O'Malley's life is quickly turning into a bad country song. First his wife left him (and gave the FBI computers and disks which contained illegal porn), last month his kids ran away from his house, and now his dog has fled. According to a source close to family, O'Malley's dog escaped from his house Friday night and got hit by a car on the street. (Perhaps the mutt heard about the bestiality porn the feds found on O'Malley's computer equipment, according to sources who have seen it.) But don't put away the peanut butter just yet - the dog is expected to make a full recovery.

In the meantime, O'Malley's sentencing date keeps getting postponed. Originally slated for August 22, then September 26, then September 30, now there's another motion to postpone it yet again due to Rosh Hashana. Oy. - Renner

CHALLENGING CONVENTION WISDOM

Even if you're willing to believe that a convention center, tied to a medical mart, is the economic holy grail we've all been searching for, the issue is back with fresh controversy.

Last week, Greater Cleveland Partnership's site selection committee held two public meetings to pitch its preferred site, land behind Tower City owned by Sam Miller's company, Forest City Enterprises. Shunted aside were possible upgrades and retrofits to the existing convention center, 500,000 square feet of public property underneath Malls B and C.

Not everyone is convinced of GCP's choice. Councilman Brian Cummins sees no advantage to the Tower City site other than its attachment to the Higbee Building, where a medical mart might reside. But there are other factors, Cummins says, that Mayor Jackson and Council members need to weigh in on and that GCP needs to consider.

For example: The city's Mall site, with its surrounding streets, offers more space for related development, like hotels, restaurants and shops. Also, the Mall site will need to be redeveloped someday, and if we're not putting a new convention center there, we need to consider what the future use might be. Building the convention center near Tower City might be $47 million cheaper, but the costs to the city and county associated with the Mall might far exceed that savings in the long run.

So when Cummins learned that both of last week's public meetings took place in the 'burbs, he called up County Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones. Cleveland residents make up 34 percent of the county's population; there should be a public meeting in Cleveland, Cummins argued.

So on September 17, Lawson Jones will hold a third meeting at Laborers' Local 310, 3250 Euclid Ave., Ste. 100. Registration begins at 5:30 p.m., and the meeting at 6. - Charu Gupta

THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT

Editor's note: The following is from an article about police suppression of protests outside the Republican National Convention. Read the rest at LEOWeekly.com. Also visit citypages.com for accounts of reporters being maced and arrested.

"The bright white light of flash bombs can be seen everywhere among the scattering crowd now. Loud explosions of concussion grenades mix with the lighter, metallic tinkling of tear gas canisters bouncing along the pavement. Lines of police dressed in full riot gear stretch beyond the sulfur-green clouds of smoke bombs. Shouts come from all directions in the darkness, suddenly lit up like a war zone.

"What are you doing? We're peaceful!" some people scream. "Turn around! Go back!" police shout.

People are scattering now despite cries from some protesters to stay together. As they retreat, demonstrators bump into police lines blocking off escape routes. The police - on horses, motorcycles and bicycles, in squad cars, even driving dump trucks with lowered snowplow blades - attempt to herd the crowd.

"No more tear gas," some people yell as they try to escape, their eyes red and watery as medics attempt to help amid the chaos. Others scream, "Where do you want us to go?" as officers plug them with mace.

Still others are getting angry. "Fuck you, pigs!" they shout in defiance, attempting to hold their ground, at times hurling projectiles at the police as the explosions continue.

Despite the police's attempts to herd the crowd, people are running wild through the neighborhoods surrounding the Minnesota Capitol building in St. Paul. They dart through parking lots and unblocked streets, trying to escape and hoping to regroup. Cars screech to a stop and bystanders are swept into the mass as they, too, attempt to sidestep the onslaught of police now firing from all directions.

Beginning with nearly 1,000 people, this demonstration has been reduced to around 200. It started as an anti-war rally on the capitol lawn several hours earlier, the latest in a week of protests and civil disobedience, a citizen response to the Republican National Convention being held at the Xcel Energy Center here in St. Paul. It is Thursday, which means John McCain will be inside soon, offering his version of the next four years of America.

After tonight, more than 800 people, including journalists, street medics and legal observers, will have been arrested in RNC-related protests, many having experienced a similar use of force by police.

scene@clevescene.com

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