Get Out!

Event picks for this busy week in Cleveland

Thursday | 12


Getting Happy at Noodlecat

The best thing about weekday snowstorms? They're a perfect excuse to stay in town after work and drink! And just in time for our wintry tippling needs, along comes Noodlecat, Jonathon Sawyer's downtown noodle house, with a fun new Happy Hour menu. Among the diversions: 70-cent crispy wings, $2 steamed buns, $5 noodles, and $6 bottles of Hakushika sake. That's in addition to the $4 cocktails, $3 drafts — and for a buck, a can of Black Label beer! Spokeswoman Bridget Rehner admits it's all part of a ploy to spread cheer amid the January gloom. "Plus, the prices are good too." Today's Happy Hour deals are in effect throughout the restaurant from 3 to 7 p.m. and again from 9 to 11 p.m. The same schedule prevails through Saturday, and on Sunday, Happy Hour lasts all day. — Cicora

234 Euclid Ave., 216-589-0007,

Book Signing

Power Politics in Hudson

In less than 10 years, prolific local author Thrity Umrigar has cranked out four novels and a memoir. Yet the Case Western Reserve associate prof insists the well is nowhere close to running dry. "In fact, I find I want to delve further and further into the issue I have been exploring ever since the first book: power. I am seeing the world more and more through that lens." That's certainly true for her brand-new novel, The World We Found. Glowingly reviewed on the Huffington Post as "a sparkling slice of life that ... reflects and illuminates universal truths," the story continues to explore questions of who's in charge. It's a natural obsession for a woman deeply affected by the poverty she saw while growing up in Bombay. "The book helps suggest the unhappy consequences that occur when power inequalities go unseen and unaddressed. My humble offering is to suggest that when civil society doesn't address those disparities, we become rigid, like a hardening of the arteries." The wordsmith's book tour brings her to the Hudson Library tonight at 7 p.m. for a free reading and book signing sponsored by the Learned Owl Book Shop. Plus, there'll be a Q&A session. "My favorite part of a book tour is interacting with my audience," she says. "Engaging with readers about words: That's what I love the best." — Cicora

96 Library St., Hudson, 330-653-2252,

Friday | 13

Amazing Johnathan

One Sick Puppy

When we caught up last week with Amazing Johnathan, the magician-comedian was in his Las Vegas bed with his cat and the flu. After more than 30 years in the biz — much of it on Vegas stages — you'd think the dude would feel entitled to take it easy. But no: Not only did he take our call, he swore he was looking forward to his stop in Cleveland this weekend at the Improv. For one thing, he's working out some new material for an upcoming Comedy Central special. But for another, "Vegas is a different kind of town for audiences," he told us. "It's lower key. There's so much going on here, they get kind of jaded. Taking the show on the road is always much more fun." As for his long-running act — a blend of sleight-of-hand gags, disturbing special effects, and bizarre humor — A.J. says it generally follows the same format, regardless of where he plays. "I go for the shock factor. There's a lot of props, a bloody trick now and then ... mainly, I go for the laughs and try to keep the energy high." Brave talk for a guy with a virus. Then again, they don't call him "Amazing" for nothing. You can catch his act tonight through Sunday at the Improv, where he'll be performing five shows. Tonight's appearances are at 7:30 and 10:15. Tickets are $22, and dinner packages are available. — Cicora

1148 Main Ave., 216-696-4677,

It's All Downhill

Extreme Tubing at Brandywine

Think snow tubing is for tykes? Think again, says Steve Mackle of Boston Mills Brandywine ski resort. "It's intense!" promises the snow man, describing tonight's Extreme Tubing festivities. "Sometimes I even wear my snowboard goggles: When you get going down that hill, it can be very fast, and the tears just start streaming down your face!" Despite the considerable thrill factor, Mackle says the downhill fun is safe for all ages. Plus, with two conveyor surface lifts to take you back to the summit after each run, you can save your energy for gathering 'round the outdoor fire circle or hoisting brewskis or hot chocolate inside the cozy lodge. As for the conditions, Mackle says they're just right these days. "We had a little problem with Mother Nature for a while, but everything looks great now. Depending on the snow, we'll have anywhere from 3 to 20 lanes open, where you can spin around, hit some bumps, and even catch a little air." Extreme Tubing happens tonight and every Friday and Saturday night in January and February. Hours are 8 p.m. to midnight, and cost for unlimited trips down the hill is $25. The Polar Blast snow tubing area is part of the Brandywine resort campus, which you can find in bucolic Sagamore Hills. Find out more at the website, below. — Cicora

1146 Highland Rd., Sagamore Hills, 330-467-2242,

Saturday | 14

Family Fun

It's a Cabin Fever Reliever in Akron

Winter weather got you all caged up? The critters at the 50-acre Akron Zoo can relate. But while the tigers and lions will remain safely confined, zoo staffers hope you'll break out of your doldrums today with the Cabin Fever Reliever. Among the special attractions: kids' crafts, hot chocolate, and a 1:30 p.m. story time in the gift shop. And while you're there, take time to feed the penguins, check out the Sumatran tiger, and say howdy to the snow leopard. Additional Cabin Fever Relievers are set for January 21 and 28. Zoo hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. but Cabin Fever activities happen only between 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. It's free with your regular $6 admission. — Cicora

500 Edgewood Ave., Akron,


Free Flick

Documentary Is a Bitter Sweet

Is nothing safe? First it was "blood diamonds" in our tiaras and "conflict minerals" in our smartphones. Now we have reason to suspect the cocoa in our gourmet chocolate is flavored with children's tears. That was the impetus behind The Dark Side of Chocolate, a 2010 documentary from Danish investigative journalist Miki Mistrati. What he discovered — trafficked kids as young as seven doing hard labor in African cocoa plantations — could leave a bad taste in the mouths of conscientious chocolate lovers. The 46-minute flick screens tonight at 7 p.m. at the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River. Following the movie, experts Mac Goekker and Kat Holtz will be on hand to answer questions and discuss the film. Refreshments will be served — but we're betting brownies and hot chocolate won't be among them. It's free. — Cicora

20401 Hilliard Blvd. Rocky River, 440-333-2255,

Sunday | 15

At the Cleveland Museum of Art

Polka! The Movie

It's not every day that a bunch of Europeans travel to Cleveland to make a movie. It's rarer still that the movie goes on to become a North Coast hit. Then again, the 2010 documentary Polka! The Movie is definitely one of a kind: a love letter to Cleveland-style polka as seen through European eyes. Screenwriter, narrator, and local Slovenian historian Joe Valencic calls the flick — originally made for Slovenian television — a true Cleveland story. "Slovenians are fascinated that their traditional folk music has evolved into an American music style. Director and former punk musician Dusan Moravec, in particular, got a big kick out of the music, and together we came up with the film's concept." Polka! made its local debut last spring at the Cleveland International Film Festival, where more than 1,500 fans saw it. It returns today at 1:30 p.m. to Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art. While the film focuses heavily on the history of Cleveland-style polka — a highly danceable variation that borrows from jazz, country music, and Broadway show tunes — Valencic, co-founder of Euclid's National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum, says the music is still very much alive. With the emergence of younger bands, polka Masses, and nearly two-dozen new polka albums dropping each year, Cleveland remains "the buckle on the Midwest polka belt," he says. Today's screening kicks off at 1 p.m. with a polka jam session led by Frank Moravcik and Linda Hochevar. Afterward, stick around for a Q&A session with Valencic and more music. Tickets are $7 to $9. Get them by phone, online, or at the box office. — Elaine T. Cicora

11150 East Blvd., 216-421-7350,

Elaine T. Cicora

On the Frozen Diamond

Ohio State Meets Michigan

The Ohio State/Michigan rivalry moves off the gridiron and onto the ice today for the final Frozen Diamond Faceoff at Progressive Field. The OSU men's hockey team is having a fine year, ranking in the nation's top five for the first time since 2005. The Wolverines, not so much; they were ranked at No. 20 as of press time. Today's 5:05 p.m. tilt — the first-ever outdoor college hockey game in Ohio — will be played on the regulation-size ice rink situated on the infield. (It's there as part of the Indians' Snow Days festivities, which conclude tomorrow.) The official pre-game warm-up takes place at Tower City starting at 2:30 p.m. Hosted by the Ohio State Alumni Association, the Buckeye Bash features the OSU Marching Band, cheerleaders, and special guests. As for game tix, they've been selling fast at prices ranging from $10 to $200; check out the website for availability. — Cicora

2401 Ontario St., 216-420-HITS,

At Nighttown

Music for MLK

One of the senior statesmen of the Cleveland jazz scene, Eddie Baccus Sr. returns to Nighttown tonight for the annual MLK Celebration. A virtuoso on the Hammond B-3 organ, Baccus is to the local jazz community what the late Robert Lockwood Jr. was to the blues scene: leader, mentor, and soul. Equally adept at jazz, soul, and bebop, Baccus will be joined by an all-star Cleveland quintet that includes Cecil Rucker on vibes, Billy Artis on guitar, and Perry Williams III on drums. The show kicks off at 7 p.m. General admission is $15; make reservations by phone at the number below. — Cicora

12387 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-795-0550,

Monday | 16


A Legacy of Culture

Many of Cleveland's top cultural spots will be marking Martin Luther King Day with special programming and free admission. That includes Severance Hall, where today's free open house happens from noon to 5 p.m. Among the entertainment: performances by the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra and the Oberlin Ebony Collection, as well as DJ-driven line dancing from Terry Macklin's Sounds of Entertainment. At the nearby Western Reserve Historical Society, you'll find free admission to all exhibits from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., along with a special one-day-only appearance by some of the vehicles from the Crawford collection. You'll find special events at other University Circle spots as well, including the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the MLK Jr. Branch of the Cleveland Public Library. For a full schedule of events, check out the website. — Cicora

At the Science Center

Catch Dinosaurs Alive! at the Omnimax

We can't think of a better way to spend a Monday than watching dinosaurs duke it out on a six-story movie screen. If that sounds like a plan, head over to the Omnimax Theatre at the Great Lakes Science Center today for a special screening of 2007's Dinosaurs Alive!, narrated by that ol' dinosaur himself, Michael Douglas. Sure, you have to sit through the educational mumbo jumbo about fossils, museums, and paleontologists. But once the action turns to the computer-generated dinos, the boring bits will seem like ancient history. While today's museum admission is free in honor of Martin Luther King Day, the movie will still cost you. The 11 a.m. showing is $11 for adults and less for students and seniors. Knock off $2 for the 5 p.m. showing. Tickets are available online, by phone, or at the box office. — Cicora

601 Erieside Ave., 216-694-2000,

Step on It!

Music and Dance in Chagrin Falls

Even if you don't know your jig from your reel, you might want to head out to tonight's contra dance in Chagrin Falls just to hear the band: a first-rate quintet of veteran musicians including Paul Kovac from Hillbilly Idol, celebrated jazz pianist Joe Hunter, Akronite Jen Maurer from the zydeco band Mo Mojo, master fiddle player Denny Jones, and percussionist and soundboard operator Will Craig. "What they're doing is really cool," says Craig. "The band is an A-Team, made up of such wonderful musicians. And the sound quality is great!" Of course, if they do their job right, you'll be out on the dance floor quicker'n you can say "allemande left." And if you don't know what that means, don't worry: Caller Kenny Wilson will be walking you through the moves during an introductory session beginning at 7:30 p.m. "The fun factor is high," Craig promises. "If you do every dance, you'll get three great hours of cardio exercise — and you'll be smiling the whole time!" Admission at the door is $8 for kids, $10 for adults, or $25 for the whole family. The dance runs from 8 to 10:30 p.m. at the Chagrin Falls Township Hall. For details, call Craig at the number below, or find more info on the website. — Cicora

83 North Main St., Chagrin Falls, 216-316-0068,

Tuesday | 17

Fit for Foodies

A Celebration of Bruell

Fans of top toque Zack Bruell — the Energizer Bunny of Cleveland chef-restaurateurs — still have time to dig into his newest promotion, running now through January 28: Zack Bruell Restaurant Week, featuring three-course dinners for $30 at each of his four restaurants. At Italian-accented Chinato, for instance, you have a choice of dishes like veal piccata, pork tenderloin, or tuna meatballs with spaghetti. At Parallax, there's duck confit spring rolls, Korean barbecue lettuce wraps, and Thai coffee tiramisu. The L'Albatros menu includes temptations like beef brisket with polenta and braised greens, and crème caramel. And Table 45 caught our eye with lobster bisque, butternut squash ravioli with sage cream spinach, and apple cassoulet, among other options. One caveat: Bruell's Cowell & Hubbard, now looking at a late-February opening, isn't included in the promotion. (You can learn all about C&H in this week's Bites.) For more about menus, hours, and reservations, visit any of the restaurants' websites, including the one below. — Cicora

Wednesday | 18

Smart Stuff

The Theology of Liberation at Baldwin-Wallace College

There are plenty of ways to remember Martin Luther King. If concerts, crafts, and cultural exhibitions don't do it, try today's free speech by internationally acclaimed black theologian James H. Cone. An author, ordained minister, and global lecturer, Cone proffers a brand of theology rooted in the African American experience, and he was heavily influenced by King, whom he considered a "liberation theologian" before the term even existed. "Being black in America has little to do with your skin color," he has said. "Being black in America means that your heart, your soul, your mind, and your body are where the dispossessed are." Cone's free speech takes place at 8 p.m. in the auditorium at Baldwin-Wallace College's Kulas Musical Arts Building. Find directions and parking information at the website below. — Cicora

96 Front St., Berea, 440-826-2325,

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