Half a day at the Hall.

I think it was Dave Barry who, when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was still on the drawing board, suggested its singular feature should be volume. People should always be calling the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, telling it to turn itself down, he wrote, in an observation that goes to the heart of what was always my problem with it. Lots of other people have it, too, i.e., how does a cultural movement which still has youthful disaffection and rebellion at its creative heart warrant a hall of fame?

Pretty simple, that one, and you can tick them off if you like. It’s an artistic movement of decades’ standing, incorporating uniquely American strands woven into an original, and new form. It’s a cultural force to this day, and if you don’t believe me, ask Lady Gaga. And from a purely commercial perspective, like a Kiss concert, it’s going to sell a lot of tickets. Sometimes I think the defining emotion of my generation — not the first to rock ‘n’ roll, it goes without saying — is nostalgia, but that’s what happens when your adolescence gives critical mass to a unique cultural force. What do you do in your 20s? (Go punk.) In your 30s? (Start disapproving of hip-hop, which isn’t even music, with all that scratching and sampling, and you call that singing? You might give a nod to the Seattle sound, but honestly, that’s when you stopped keeping up, right?)

What do professional nostalgists love most? A hall of fame. A museum. Put them both in an avant-garde building by I.M. Pei on the shores of a Great Lake, and it’s no surprise that as a business proposition, the Rock Hall, as it’s known on second reference here, is such a draw.

But that’s being unfair, a little, because it’s not just nostalgia being sold here. My advisor for this trip, Michael Heaton of the Plain Dealer, told me not to miss the introductory film that starts the tour, “Mystery Train,” a 12-minute triptych film montage that shows the roots of rock in bluegrass, Texas swing, country, blues, and (my favorite) the field hollers of Southern stoop laborers. Sam Phillips is famous for what he said about finding a white man who sounded like a black man, but the quote of his that always stuck with me was about the time he stopped for a Co’Cola at some backroad southern watering hole, and saw a woman hanging laundry across the road. She was black, and sang as she worked, and Phillips reflected that these folks were the most naturally creative people in the world. Which is two-thirds paternalistic romanticism and one-third true, and when you see the brief shot of black railroad workers knocking rails into place, making the clack of their tools part of the rhythm of the song they’re singing, you can see it plainly. But the film is only 12 minutes, and pretty conceptual. I got it, but I was traveling with two 14-year-old girls who could have used a little more David McCullough-style narration. On to the permanent collection.

I’m not much of a relic person. One Fender Telecaster looks pretty much like every other one, and with the exception of the exceptions — Bo Diddley’s cigar boxes, most notably — the instruments quickly blurred together. It’s the technique, not the tool. But the rest of it charmed me. The clothes and costumes, the programs and posters, the set lists, the scribbled early drafts of classics — it draws you in, and it helps when it’s intelligently arranged and annotated. Video loops at significant stops along the path detail mini-movements like Motown, psychedelia, grunge, rockabilly. Kate liked Sly Stone’s fringed jacket and Jimi Hendrix’ shirts; I liked the spiral-notebook page with the first draft of “Rainy Day, Dream Away.” By the time we arrived at the best of the stage outfits, with David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust wardrobe, Bootsy Collins’ glasses and, yes, Michael Jackson’s glove, more than two hours had passed. And we’d only seen one floor.

Time was running short, so I made the executive decision to head up to the top floor and check out Women Who Rock, a temporary exhibit about guess-what. It was crowded, and I can’t believe we never saw Lady Gaga’s meat dress, now jerky-fied and preserved for the ages, but we got a taste of everyone from Mahalia Jackson to Aretha Franklin to Joan Jett to Debbie Harry to Madonna, and that was enough to fill out the afternoon and bring us almost to closing time.

Next time: Allow more time.

Worth a visit? Absolutely. Worth several. I’d feared the Rock Hall would show the music I love preserved in amber, instead of a living, breathing art form that continues to evolve (although, admittedly, not as quickly or as creatively as it once did). The professional nostalgist would find plenty to wallow in, but nearly as much that says move along now, there’s still more to see.

Oh, and Dave Barry got at least part of his wish: There are outdoor speakers, but they don’t really boom. The only neighbor who would ask it to turn itself down would be the football stadium next door, and you know how those guys like to party.

No bloggage today; I’m hoarding links for tomorrow. It’s Monday and, as usual, I have to run. Some thoughts on Oslo, maybe, and a few more things worth reading for a week that promises to be nearly as miserable as the last. Until then, stay cool.

Posted at 8:56 am in Popculch |

40 responses to “Half a day at the Hall.”

  1. Suzanne said on July 25, 2011 at 9:17 am

    One thing that has struck me on the Oslo situation is the deafening silence of the religious right.

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  2. Judybusy said on July 25, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Suzanne, did you see Cooz’ quote from someone in the last thread? He essentially accuses leftists of being thrilled that a right-wing Christian did the shootings. He goes on to state that most Muslims are violent extremists, but it’s the rare Christian that is. He apparently has forgotten the Inquisition, persecution of Jews, Sarajevo, etc, etc, etc.

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  3. brian stouder said on July 25, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I would love to visit the R&R hall of fame; really, it sounds like a classic, literal museum, which always trips my trigger. But didn’t I hear that Cleveland is going to lose that institution to NYC? Here’s hoping that I’m woefully misinformed (as usual!)

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  4. adrianne said on July 25, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Brian, they have the induction ceremonies in NYC for the R&R Hall, but I haven’t heard that it’s going to move there.

    Nance, your account of the Hof visit definitely makes me want to put Cleveland on my Midwest visit to-do list.

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  5. Jolene said on July 25, 2011 at 10:07 am

    Reading around the web about Norway this weekend, I found this article from about a month ago re its family policies and how they contribute to the prosperity of the country. (Per capita GDP in Norway is $7400/year higher than in the U.S.) Essentially, they go to great pains to make it possible for women to work and to be mothers, and the support pays off in increased productivity. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to live in a society this rational.

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  6. coozledad said on July 25, 2011 at 10:37 am

    I’m just glad I never listened to Amy Winehouse much. She was a huge talent,and her stuff was gorgeously crafted, but it gave me a bad feeling. Not premonitory: I really thought she’d grow out of her dependence. It was more that her work was an illustration of Rilke’s apprehension of beauty-the thin edge of the unbearable. And there’s a whole lot of unbearable around.
    Speaking of Erick Ericsson and Breivik and the HOF, are these guys there?

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  7. Deborah said on July 25, 2011 at 10:49 am

    I may have told this story here before, forgive me if you’ve heard it before, I have so few stories and I tell them over and over: when I was a teenager my best friend’s younger sister was a serious groupie of Stephen Stills. He had a place in Miami and for a time she was his housekeeper (read between the lines, she was 15 or 16 at the time). After he moved out of town, he had left a number of shirts at the dry cleaner’s. My friend’s sister paid for and collected the shirts and tried to sell them. She offered one to me but I refused. I could kick myself now. They were beautiful paisley shirts made of a light weight wool or silk. I think they were real paisley from Morocco or someplace like that. She was selling them for only about $20 each too, which was a total bargain even if they hadn’t belonged to Stephen Stills.

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  8. Peter said on July 25, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Got a lot of catching up to do – was away for the last few days.

    Jolene – a main reason Norway’s GDP is higher than ours is that they have a decent amount of oil, and in contrast to most other oil producing countries, all of the political parties agreed that the oil money goes into a fund that has open books and uses the money for investment and programs to improve the quality of life. It doesn’t go into dictator’s pockets (most places), or subsidizes ridiculously cheap gasoline (Venezuela), or to reduce taxes (UK), or to give refunds to residents (Yeah, I’m talking about you, Snowzilla), or to fund huge and questionable public works projects (Abu Dhabi et. al.). They use the money to fund items like progressive family leave policies because they believe that will be a good investment with a good rate of return. Which it is. Norway used to be a really poor place; even in the ’60’s it lagged far behind Sweden and Denmark. It just goes to show that when a windfall arrives, some governments can act like adults and do something for future generations instead of just talking about it.

    Cooz – Have to agree with you about the former Ms. Winehouse. Richard Roeper tweeted something about her being 27 and what a coincidence, and then it goes viral with people lamenting the great lost talent ala Hendrix, Joplin, and Morrison. Let’s be honest – I’m sorry she met a tragic end to a too short life, but that creative well ran dry some time ago. She wasn’t Warren Zevon, I’ll tell you that.

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  9. Rana said on July 25, 2011 at 10:58 am

    Hmm. I think this is one of those moments where the generational divide rears its head. I have to admit that I don’t think of rock-n-roll as that rebellious. I mean, I know it was, historically, but it’s been part of my collective soundscape since I was an infant, and part of my personal one since high school. To me it reads more as a signifier of rebellion – classically represented by teenagers starting a rock band – than as actual rebellion, much as a kindergartener’s running away from home isn’t the same thing as genuinely abandoning one’s family. The rock musicians I’ve grown up with, and continue to see, are all part of a big media marketing franchise, so it’s hard for me to view them as rebels, despite what I know about the origins of the genre.

    So, a museum for rock-n-roll doesn’t seem that contradictory me, is what I guess I’m saying.

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  10. Cathy D. said on July 25, 2011 at 11:07 am

    What amazed me about the R&R Hall was how much STUFF the musicians saved. These crazy lifestyles, and they saved everything, anyway. And what I liked the best — besides the music — was the scraps of weird paper with lyrics scribbled on them, creativity on napkins and ticket stubs and hotel note paper.

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  11. coozledad said on July 25, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Cathy D.: In one of Stavinsky’s memoirs he compares the commission he received for Le Sacre du Printemps unfavorably with an offer a relic collector made for his raincoat.
    If I were a rock star, I’d be hoarding my own earwax.

    Some required reading:

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  12. nancy said on July 25, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Deborah, funny story. Stephen Stills has clothing in the Hall, it turns out — the black-and-white patterned poncho he wore at Woodstock. I recognized it immediately. It looks sort of cheap today, like most of the clothes, in fact, with a few notable exceptions. The clothing made me realize how early the Stones sold out to the Man, however — Mick was getting custom-made stage outfits right at the cusp of the ’70s.

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  13. prospero said on July 25, 2011 at 11:53 am

    It is truly repulsive listening to all of the people that a short while ago were so dead sure that Dr. Hasan at Ft. Hood was a died in the wool jihadist, but this Breivik is a lone wolf with no connections to radical right wing politics or Christianity. Nice try, but the guy is obsessed with the Crusades, the Knights Templar, and Freemasons. He’d fit right in at Bohemian Grove.

    I brought room service (Plate o’ Shrimp) to Steve Stills at a HoJos in Athens GA one time, after seeing Mannassas the night before at the UGA Coliseum. Spectacular concert. Pretty trashed motel room, but he was actually quite a nice fellow and great tipper. I got to play a little bit on his Martin 12. And that guitar is worth about $12grand. Met Frank Zappa there once too.

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  14. brian stouder said on July 25, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    The clothing made me realize how early the Stones sold out to the Man,

    I’m still chortling over that line!

    Our almost-16-year-old drummer and I frequently discuss the definition of “sell out”; he detests all the music his almost-13 year old sister likes (I cannot really disagree, regarding auto-tune, etc) and his favorite derisive term is “sell-out”.

    But, by definition, any artist you typically hear on a commerical radio station, no matter how new or head-banger or rebellious they are, is a “sell out”, yes?

    ON second thought, never mind!

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  15. Jolene said on July 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    a main reason Norway’s GDP is higher than ours is that they have a decent amount of oil, and in contrast to most other oil producing countries, all of the political parties agreed that the oil money goes into a fund that has open books and uses the money for investment and programs to improve the quality of life.

    Absolutely right, but, as the author points out, the other Nordic countries don’t have that advantage, and they have pursued similar policies. What’s striking is the level of taxes they pay–42% of GDP. In the “cut, cap, and balance” bill that the House passed last week, the GOP freshman had to be dragged kicking and screaming to specify a spending cap of 20% of GDP. They wanted 18.5%. It’s outrageous that we are engaged in this effort to impoverish our public institutions and programs–all so that the GOP can have a club to beat Obama with.

    A small bit of good news: The death toll for the two attacks has been lowered to 74, although there are still several people missing.

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  16. Jolene said on July 25, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Whoops! I meant 76, not 74.

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  17. Dorothy said on July 25, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Speaking of rock ‘n roll & related topics, this is the Facebook status my son’s girlfriend posted last night from the NewKids On the Block concert: OMG! I touched Jordan Knight!!!! 2nd grade Megan just peed her pants! ! Wonder if NKOTB will ever get inducted?

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  18. Peter said on July 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    And another example of windfalls – lottery profits. Most states use them for education, I can still hear the old Illinois Lottery commercials where they pleaded with you to buy lotto tickets “to help the children”. But it wasn’t a case of giving more money to help the children; it was using lottery revenue to lower the amount taxpayers had to pay for education. So how’s this helping the children?

    Colorado, however, took its lottery revenue to improve state parks and trails, and it’s used in addition to, not in place of, regular funds. They’ve done a world of good to those parks, and I’m betting it brings in as much tourism dollars as those casinos that politicians have such a hard on for.

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  19. Crazycatlady said on July 25, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    I have always heard that Elvis would have never been had he not ‘stolen’ the black sound of the south. True enough.When I took my daughter to Graceland we talked about the powerful black influence in American music, and that Motown is world famous for it’s own black contribution to music. She’s proud to be a Detroiter.

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  20. Deborah said on July 25, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    Taking a late lunch I read something mind boggling about who owns the US debt. 68% of it is owned domestically and China only owns 8% of it, there are other countries too like Japan but, wow, I was flabbergasted, I did not know that. All along I have been led to believe that China owns most of it. Not so. Not by a long shot.


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  21. coozledad said on July 25, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    I’m sorry, but this is a new one in the annals of pure shamelessness.

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  22. nancy said on July 25, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Beck said: “There was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler youth. I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing.”

    Um, Buckeye Boys’ State? Girls’ State? Indiana has one. Most states do. It’s where ass-licking little future politicians get their start.

    I like how that frame capture positions the screen bug right over his upper arm. So it looks like an armband. A NAZI ARMBAND.

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  23. Sue said on July 25, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    “There was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like, you know, the Hitler youth. I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics? Disturbing.”
    Roughly translated, Mr. Beck was saying:
    “Hey, look over here! I’m still important! Look! Here! Here! Remember me? Look! Over here! Hey! Over here!…” and so on.
    And who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics, Glenn? Why, the 912 Project people, that’s who. Your people.

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  24. Judybusy said on July 25, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    In a NYT article about the anti-Muslim crowd in the US: “In the United States, critics have asserted that the intense spotlight on the threat from Islamic militants has unfairly vilified Muslim Americans while dangerously playing down the threat of attacks from other domestic radicals. The author of a 2009 Department of Homeland Security report on right-wing extremism withdrawn by the department after criticism from conservatives repeated on Sunday his claim that the department had tilted too heavily toward the threat from Islamic militants.”

    Read the full article here

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  25. Kirk said on July 25, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    I believe that John Birchers in my hometown sent some of their kids to some sort of summer indoctrination camp decades ago.

    And a few of them were later sent to Bob Jones University, but at least one managed to get herself kicked out, it was such a concentration camp.

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  26. Peter said on July 25, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Glenn, Glenn, Glenn. Seriously, do Jon Stewart and Lewis Black pay you anything for making their jobs so easy?

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  27. Dexter said on July 25, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Honestly, for me, I stopped paying attention when the Hair Bands took over. I was used to unkempt hair on my musicians, not these giant do s and the sort of clothing Queen wore.
    I did like some of the tunes but really, I knew they were going after the young girls’ money, why else would these men dress themselves like that? SO while some of my younger acquaintances were playing Warrant-Sweet Cherry Pie, I was buying Jackson Browne . I guess it was the look that ruined the music for me. I have issues, right? Five guys who all look like girls…yeah, I liked girls that looked like girls instead.
    By the time Nirvana and Kurt Cobain were so big, I was spending so much time in bars listening to juke box tunes that I wasn’t really aware of the grunge movement…in the car at home it was pretty much Dylan and Tom Waits and I was exploring Jazz, and new artists like Marcus Roberts. So yeah, by that time, I had pretty much abandoned pop.

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  28. Dexter said on July 25, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    …and any metal heads out there who might want to catch up and get current on today’s metal scene can’t go wrong with a visit to the fabulous Eddie Trunk’s site.

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  29. Dave said on July 25, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    When our hostess connected us to Michael Heaton last week (I knew he was a Plain Dealer columnist but hadn’t read much of his stuff), I read his column on Lady Gaga and the comments. Of course, many criticized him for his comparison of Madonna and Gaga and I can’t claim to know enormous amounts about both but I found myself agreeing with Mr. Heaton. I suspect Lady Gaga’s defenders are some of her most ardent fans who missed Madge in her heyday.

    Now, I want to go to Cleveland more than ever.

    I only hope that Glenn Beck is slowly sinking back into the lower ranks that Dr. Laura may now be in. But then, I’m sure they both laugh all the way to the bank.

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  30. moe99 said on July 25, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Very bad journalism in my own backyard:


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  31. brian stouder said on July 25, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Glen Beck is beginning to look sane, compared to the elected Republican chuckleheads in Congress.

    We are 15 minutes from President Obama’a speech; I am expecting our former US Senator from Illinois to rhetorically invoke his hero Abraham Lincoln at least a time or two; and to firmly rebuke our dissatisfied fellow countrymen.

    I just cannot escape the fear that we really are at a Fort Sumter moment, wherein a large and powerful cabal of powerful people actually want to do economic and societal harm to the United States.

    Eventually, we might again call treasonous acts… treason

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  32. Deborah said on July 25, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    I watched Obama’s speech on my iPhone, wasn’t able to on my iPad or my laptop. I can’t find any live feeds on-line of Boehner’s reply. I guess I’ll have to wait for the commentary. We haven’t been able to watch our TV for months for some reason and haven’t missed it until tonight. Damn.

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  33. Bob (Not Greene) said on July 25, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Deb, you ain’t gonna like it

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  34. Deborah said on July 25, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Call this number tomorrow morning from every phone you’ve got and tell them what you think about the debt ceiling situation (202) 225-3121.

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  35. Jolene said on July 25, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Both on TV and on the net, I am seeing that Congressional servers are crashing, so perhaps people are acting on Obama’s call to let Congress know how they feel.

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  36. brian stouder said on July 25, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Sorry for being repetitive and redundant above; I was in a hurry and a rush to get done before the president spoke.

    The president didn’t, in my opinion, give a particularly good speech, but it was at least credible. And – although I don’t think I came into tonight hopelessly biased against Boehner – I thought his speech was incredibly terrible!

    If you looked closely, you could just about see the wire in Boehner’s ear, connecting him to Rush Limbaugh, the deaf fat-man who tells him precisely what he can and cannot say.

    Anyway, I have emailed our tea-party member of congress, and implored him to vote to avert this potentially catastrophic, self-inflicted economic crash. Considering that congress jacked up the ceiling 17 times for RWR, and 7 times for GWB, and that it never, ever took anything like the struggle we are now in, I’m not going to believe that this current exercise is anything less than outright political thuggery on the part of congressional Republicans and especially the so-called “Tea Party”…but I didn’t say all that to Stutzman.

    All I did with him was beg that he utilize Hoosier common sense and vote for a clean debt ceiling extension, or else a reasonable compromise that incorporates a balanced mix of spending cuts and revenue enhancements.

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  37. Dexter said on July 25, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Sarah Vaughn was considered one of the nation’s greatest singers for decades. This is my final Amy Winehouse comment:
    Amy Winehouse was in Sarah Vaughn’s league. I think the voice range shown here fits both singers.

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  38. Dexter said on July 26, 2011 at 1:33 am

    Local Muslims on high alert
    Although no threats have been made against Toledo-area mosques following the killings in Norway, local Muslims are on high alert at the urging of a national Islamic advocacy group. The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations advised U.S. mosques Monday to “step up security following attacks by an anti-Muslim, right-wing terrorist in Norway that left more than 70 people dead.” Nihad Awad, the council’s executive director, said in a statement that the suspect, Anders Behring Breivik, had written a 1,500-page manifesto “designed to inspire similar attacks” and that the suspect claimed “there are others who share his beliefs ready to strike.” Dr. Mahjabeen Islam, vice president of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, said the Perrysburg mosque is taking the advisory seriously.
    Updated 59 minutes ago by THE TOLEDO BLADE

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  39. 8th grade mom said on July 26, 2011 at 8:32 am

    A few years ago I took my son (15) and his cousin (16)to the R&R Hall of Fame. Turns out that they were somewhat bored by all the clothing, not interested in the stuff I was interested in, and in general, didn’t get what the big deal was (turns out that they’re more into hip hop and today’s pop music). I would have had more fun if I went alone. I wondered if they’d have been more interested if there was more interactive stuff?

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  40. Kirk said on July 26, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    After spending a few hours with 4 or 5 other people on my first visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of fame, I had the same thought: It would be great to come back by myself and spend a whole day or two.

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