Friday, August 27, 2010

My Alma Mater Wants To Shut Down Journalism

The University of Colorado at Boulder announced two days ago that they are looking into shutting down the existing journalism school so they can create a new program that will address “the realities of modern media communication.” Apparently, they have asked the Academic Review and Planning Advisory Committee (ARPAC) to look into it starting September 1. The ARPAC must then present a report within 60 days and a recommendation to the chancellor will be given 30 days later. So in less than three months CU’s entire School of Journalism and Mass Communication could be history because the powers that be think that the digital age has shaken journalism so hard that we can’t possibly continue the way we have been or just make a few tweaks? You know what? I think that’s bullshit.

No matter what happens with print media we still need people who know how to write and communicate properly and shutting down or “reconfiguring” (or budget cutting) isn’t the answer. People have been saying that newspapers and magazines will be the equivalent of ancient artifacts for years now and as we all know, that’s not the case. While there is no question that technology, the Internet and even blogging have forced us to rethink what it means to be a journalist, some people still want to read the written word on something tangible. Last time I checked, bookstores and newsstands still carried Rolling Stone, TIME, Newsweek, People, The Wall Street Journal, etc. And you know why? Because people spend enough time looking at their computer screens that when they want to read something for pleasure they want to hold it in their hand while sitting on their patio, on an airplane or even on their couch. Not everyone is interested in reading 5,000 word articles on a computer screen.

I find it interesting that all of this is going down at CU while the journalism school is going through the reaccreditation process. Apparently the school’s record over the past six years is subject to review and that accreditation teams are interested in whether schools are considering new ways to teach media. While the chancellor did announce that regardless of the outcome, all undergraduate and graduate schools who are currently admitted to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication will be able to finish their degrees what does that mean for alums who graduated several years ago? I have many friends who have degrees from CU’s journalism school so what does that mean for them? Will their degrees have less value if the very school they earned their degree from no longer exists? And will this end with journalism or will the English department be next?

I hope CU knows what its doing because no matter what happens in the writing world in the future we will need talented writers. Of course I am very aware of the changes that are happening and will continue to happen but there has to be another way. Schools all over the country are “reconfiguring” in order to “respond to the modern dilemmas of journalism.” What dilemmas are we talking about? If schools continue to shut down journalism and writing programs then our biggest dilemma will be how to deal with college graduates who don’t know how to string sentences together or convey a message or an argument. What will we do then?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Everyone Loves Fall

Over the past few weeks it has come to my attention that everyone in Colorado (and possibly the world) loves the fall season. I have had so many people tell me that they can’t wait for fall and that they are ready for summer to be over. When I remind them that fall is just a layover into snow town they say they don’t care and that fall is a beautiful in-between season that they wait for all year.

Don’t get me wrong, I love fall too but I’ve also enjoyed the warmth of summer after the coldest winter I’ve been through since moving to Colorado eight years ago. So since everyone is excited for fall I decided to put together a list of reasons why I’m excited for the next season.

So here we go…in no particular order…

-Watching the leaves change in Colorado should be the eighth wonder of the world.
-Football starts but baseball is still going on.
-The weather is beautiful – not too hot and not too cold.
-People stop looking at me like I’m crazy when I order whiskey.
-New episodes of my favorite shows begin.
-I can wear long sleeve shirts with sandals.
-New albums hit stores/iTunes and they aren’t just “summer songs” with three words and a catchy beat.
-Going to the mountains and taking photos becomes the best weekend activity. (The photo accompanying this post was taken in Minturn, CO in fall 2008).
-Oktoberfest happens in literally every single town in Colorado – it’s like Tour de Oktoberfest!
-The Pumpkin Ale at Bull & Bush makes Rodney very happy.
-It’s a great time of year to travel.
-Hiking with Sedona lasts a lot longer because it’s not 100 degrees.
-September is my birthday month.
-Although the thought of snow right now makes me cringe, snowboarding season is coming soon.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Mile High Music Festival Gets It Done

MHMF finally found its stride this summer after a few missteps over the past two years. In its inaugural year (2008) our fair city’s first musical festival boasted huge names like the Black Crowes, Dave Matthews Band, Steve Winwood and the incredible Tom Petty. Unfortunately the event took place on the two hottest days of the summer which resulted in exhaustion, dehydration and two very long days. There were also some organizational issues that needed to be addressed and the general layout of the venue was not particularly done well. That being said, the festival was a success due the level of talent that was booked.

Unfortunately, the next year (2009) the festival promoters did not make smart choices when booking the talent. The headliners were hippy dippy jam band Widespread Panic and mosh or die metal band Tool. To be fair, both bands have a ton of fans but the fans couldn’t be more different which is a problem when you’re trying to have a cohesive group of people attend a two day festival. The numbers didn’t lie and the second year of MHMF was nowhere near as successful as the first.

When this year’s lineup was released I was very curious to see if the promoters learned from their mistakes. When I saw that the two headliners were Dave Matthews Band (making a return from 2008) and Jack Johnson I was less than impressed. Although DMB and Jack Johnson are extremely talented I had seen both acts several times before and initially didn’t think I would be attending. Then, upon closer inspection, I realized that there were a ton of acts worth seeing including Steve Miller Band (a group I’ve wanted to see for years), Train, Cypress Hill, the Samples, Jimmy Cliff and Weezer. So we decided we wanted to go and my Mom was kind enough to not only get us tickets but to get us VIP tickets. VIP was definitely the way to go as it allowed us to park closer, provided several shaded tents, air conditioned bathrooms (worth every penny), a cell phone charging station, plush seating, reduced food and drink prices and most importantly, the ability to get extremely close to the main stage music acts. It also provided a relaxing home base to come back to after exploring the rest of the festival grounds. Thanks again Mom!

On Saturday, the Samples were a great old school way to kick off the festival and it was fun seeing Blues Traveler’s John Popper play harmonica for one song. (Rod and I would end up meeting him later that night at our local bar, Bull & Bush). Cypress Hill was a surprisingly fun as they played hits like “Insane In The Brain,” “Hits From The Bong” and “Dr. Greenthumb.” True to form they made a huge spectacle about marijuana as they smoked huge joints and pulled out a bong that was over six feet high. Steve Miller Band put on an amazing show, playing all the classics like “Take The Money And Run,” “Abracadabra,” “Living In The U.S.A,” “Fly Like An Eagle” and “Rock’n Me.” Jack Johnson joined them for “The Joker” and then they encored with “Jungle Love.”

On Sunday, our day began with reggae legend Jimmy Cliff who looked extremely happy to be at MHMF as he treated us to gems like “The Harder They Come” and “I Can See Clearly Now.” We then watched Train belt out their hits such as “Meet Virginia” and “Drops Of Jupiter,” along with some new songs. Charismatic lead singer Patrick Monahan sang like his life depended on it and the large crowd that had made their way to the Wolf Stage to see them were more than pleased. Punk rock band Weezer was next and they also put on a show to remember full of favorites like “Buddy Holly,” “The Sweater Song” and my personal favorite “Say It Ain’t So.” There were considerably more people at the event on Sunday there were on Saturday, something that happened in 2008 as well.

In addition to some unforgettable music the logistics of MHMF were much better this year than they were in 2008. The stages, tents, vendors and booths were better positioned and were all closer together leaving less dead space in the middle of the festival. It also helped that the event was scheduled in the middle of August rather than the middle of July which gave us temperatures that were 20 degrees cooler. One aspect that I was glad didn’t change is one of the biggest reasons we attend music festivals: the impromptu collaborations between artists that normally would not happen. Seeing John Popper jump in with the Samples and Jack Johnson singing with Steve Miller Band was very cool. And I’m sure I’ll never see it again.

All things considered, 2010 was a great year for MHMF – maybe even the best year yet. As long as the promoters continue to attract top notch acts and as long as the amenities and the set up continue to be stellar then MHMF will be around a long time. We are lucky to have our very own music festival in our backyard so hopefully that continues to be the case. Because there is no way in hell I’m going to Bonnaroo.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Entourage Digs Deep

Loosely based on Mark Wahlberg’s rise to fame, Entourage debuted in summer 2004 when HBO introduced us to young, A-list movie star Vincent Chase, his older brother and his two best friends from Queens, New York. Over the years, the series has shown the four guys living the good (and wild) life in Hollywood which had included movie premieres, million dollar houses, sports cars and of course, lots of women. While Vince has the face and laid back swagger that makes women, agents, publicists and studio executives swoon, his brother Johnny has had trouble finding his niche as a Hollywood actor. Meanwhile, friends Eric and Turtle have gone from hangers-on to a successful talent agent and promoter, respectively.

As a fan of the show since the beginning, I’ve always enjoyed watching the craziness that is their lives but one of the biggest draws of the show has always been Ari Gold. Played by Jeremy Piven as if the role was written for him, super agent Ari Gold may be the reason why this show was only suitable for HBO. What comes out of his mouth is so shocking and so funny that sometimes you just want to fast forward to his scenes. I also love Ari’s former assistant turned agent Lloyd. He is a breath of fresh air in a cutthroat business.

In addition to Ari and the rest of the guys, the number of celebrity guest stars that have paraded through this show is like a who’s who of Hollywood’s A-list. On any given episode you could see stars like: Luke Wilson, Brook Shields, Lamar Odom, Hugh Heffner, James Cameron, Bob Saget, Edward Burns, Snoop Dogg, Martin Scorsese, Jay Leno, Matt Damon, LeBron James, Jessica Simpson and even Mike Tyson. And this list is just scratching the surface. In the most recent episode of Entourage we saw Lenny Kravitz, Mark Wahlberg and Puff Daddy all in one barely-30 minute show.

Although I’ve enjoyed Entourage since its inception there is no question that the current season is the best yet. Every character is showing more depth and subsequently the plots are much richer and more captivating. I find myself really excited for the next episode and bummed when I have to wait a week to see it. Vince, always the golden boy without a care in the world, is dating a porn star who is luring him into too much partying which is getting in the way of his career. He finally has to deal with real problems rather than his biggest issue being a decision between a Ferrari and Maserati. Johnny, unable to find a job, is finally facing the facts about his acting abilities, or lack thereof, and might have to rely on only his voice to get work. Eric, the voice of reason in the group, has decided to leave the circus that is Vince’s house and be an adult with a real job, home and fiancĂ©. Turtle, who at long last has dropped that horrible NYC accent, is finding his stride both personally and professionally.

While the depth of these characters this season has been a very welcomed surprise, the biggest surprise has been the return of Billy Walsh. A one-time promising director, Billy was so out of control that he was borderline certifiable. He was crude, obnoxious, always drunk and/or high and could always be found screaming at people for no reason. After making a horrible movie that Vince starred in, Billy disappeared and no one missed him. However, this season, Billy has emerged newly sober and is both a husband and a father. He is calm, healthy and even has a very creative and exciting idea for Johnny to get back in the game. As opposed to dreading the sound of his voice in previous seasons, I find myself looking forward to hearing what Billy says next.

With its newfound momentum it’s a shame that HBO recently announced that summer 2011 will be Entourage’s final season. Although the number of episodes has not officially been disclosed, the final season will likely contain six episodes. The good news is that a film is planned after the series ends. Hopefully we’ll have the opportunity to see the four guys from Queens go from skirt-chasing, shot-slinging, egomaniac boys to successful, charismatic men. Cheers to that.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

This Is What Inspires People

In May 2003 Aron Ralston was climbing in Utah when his right arm got lodged under a boulder, crushing his arm and pinning him against the canyon wall. After realizing that no one would be looking for him since he hadn’t told anyone about his hiking plans, he knew that he was in trouble.

Ralston spent the next five days slowly sipping his small amount of remaining water while trying to dislodge his arm but his efforts were futile. He eventually ran out of water, began drinking his own urine, carved his name, birthday and presumed date of death into the canyon wall and videotaped his last goodbyes to his family. Left with no more options and running dangerously low on time and sanity, Ralston used a dull knife to cut through his arm.

Miraculously, he was able to free himself and began hiking to his car in the hot midday sun. While hiking out, he encountered a family of three on vacation who alerted the authorities. Just as the search helicopter was turning around to fuel up, they spotted Ralston and the family.

To say that this story is heroic, ballsy and inspiring is an understatement. Ralston, a graduate of Cherry Creek High School in Denver and a Carnegie Mellon University student at the time, saved his own life against all odds. The pain he must have went through to cut through his own arm with a dull knife must have been unimaginably agonizing, not to mention he hadn’t had water or food for several days and was baking in the sun.

As far as I’m concerned, Bear Grylls has nothing on this guy so it makes sense that someone would want to make a movie about him and that person is Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire). 127 Hours hits theatres on November 5 and James Franco plays Ralston. The movie will chronicle the excruciating period of time Ralston spent trapped alone as his panic and desperation increased.

I’m glad that this movie is being made because my mother actually sat next to Ralston on a shuttle driving from Denver to Vail and he told her all about what happened. My mother then told my grandmother about him and not too long after my grandmother fell in her house in Miami and broke her femur bone. My grandmother later told my mother that Ralston’s story inspired her to crawl to the front door and call for help. If that’s not the definition of inspiration I don’t know what is.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Put This In Your Pipe And Smoke It

While marijuana has been part of pop culture for many decades, the recent “medical marijuana” surge has changed the way we look at this drug. Whether it's positive or negative, movies and music have been making references to marijuana for a long time and there really hasn’t been much backlash.

These references even go back as early as 1938 when Reefer Madness made marijuana out to be the death of mankind as it revolves around the tragic events (manslaughter, suicide, attempted rape, etc.) that ensue when high school students are lured by pushers to try “marihuana.” A general descent into madness occurs and the film, which has the characters making crazy faces as the psychedelic colors of smoke swirl around the room, gives the impression that marijuana will end us all.

In more recent years, marijuana has been taken a little bit more lightly in movies like Half Baked, Dazed and Confused, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, Up In Smoke and The Big Lebowski, just to name a few. It’s also been used in countless songs such as anything written by Bob Marley, Cypress Hill’s “Hits From The Bong,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” Sublime’s “Smoke Two Joints” and Afroman’s “Because I Got High.” And the list goes on and on.

On August 1st, more than 2,000 business hopefuls in Colorado applied for various medical marijuana licenses which led me to find out some pretty interesting facts:

-As of August 3, 2010:

-Over 2,000 Colorado businesses including dispensaries, marijuana product makers and marijuana growers have applied for new state medical marijuana licenses
-Those applicants paid more than $7 million in fees, an average of about $3,400 per business

-As of August 1, 2010:

717 people had submitted applications
271 had filed applications for a marijuana-products business
1,071 applications were filed for marijuana-growing facilities

-As of July 16, 2010:

-Approximately 150,000 people have successful applied to the registry this year
-Of that number, 73,000 applicants are in the backlog of applications still being processed and awaiting their official registry card

-As of March 25, 2010:

- These medical marijuana registry application increases were reported:

Approximately 270 per workday in August 2009
Approximately 1,000 per workday in February 2010

-The turnaround time for applications was approaching six months

-As of November 30, 2009:

-92% of patients in Colorado cited severe pain as their reason for needing medical marijuana
-Overall average age of all patients is 40 years old

Male – 74%, average age 39
Female – 26%, average age 42

-Application fees ranged from $7,500 to $18,000
-Dispensaries have until September 1, 2010 to prove they are growing 70% of their own cannabis

Today I read an article that said 14 states, including Michigan, have legalized marijuana for medical use and that another dozen are considering bills to start medical marijuana programs. Maybe pop culture has a stronger influence than we thought.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Hangover Is Taking Over Pop Culture

Remember that random comedy that hit theaters in summer 2009 about a bunch of friends who go to Vegas for a bachelor party starring nobody anyone knew other than Bradley “I was the asshole in Wedding Crashers” Cooper and the guy who some people vaguely remember from the Nic Cage mystery/adventure movie National Treasure? Well, it turned out to be kind of a big deal. And it wasn’t because it had cameos from Heather Graham and Mike Tyson.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past year, you know that the The Hangover was not only hysterical but that it also made stars out of the people who were in it. Everyone now knows who Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis are and everyone loves them. Additionally, the movie had an international box office gross of $467.4 million, won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and received multiple other awards and nominations. That’s pretty good for a flick about a bunch of dudes who are so hungover that they have a tiger and a baby in their suite and can’t remember why.

In the last few weeks I have noticed that The Hangover has influenced pop culture in more ways than anyone could have predicted. Besides the fact that it’s extremely quotable...

“You guys ready to let the dogs out?”

“Maybe we should tell that to Rain Man, because he practically bankrupted a casino, and he was a reh-tard.”

“Tigers love pepper... they hate cinnamon.”

“Would you please put some pants on? I feel weird having to ask you twice.”

“I look like a nerdy hillbilly!”

...The Hangover has influenced a lot of TV show episodes such as Rescue Me’s “Blackout” and Royal Pains’ “The Hankover.” In Rescue Me, New York firefighter Tommy Gavin gets lit up one night and wakes up to an apartment that looks like a hurricane hit it. When he arrives at the fire station that morning he finds out that his oldest daughter is missing and that he apparently hit his wife. Although those scenarios are not the least bit funny, the rest of the episode is. Tommy’s fellow firefighters help him solve the mystery of what he did the night before by putting together clues and talking to people who he interacted with which include, but are not limited to, the several women he fooled around with and the various bartenders he came in contact with.

In Royal Pains the episode begins with the major characters waking up in a variety of places like a hammock and a cab (the driver being Bill Bellamy), among other places. Some wake up with tattoos while others find themselves in crazy outfits, but everyone has questions about what happened the night before. We then go back 24 hours during which we learn what the hell happened. After watching surveillance footage and piecing a few clues together everyone figures out the events of the previous night.

So how does a movie like The Hangover spawn episodes of television shows that are so far removed from the movie? I guess when a movie is so good that it becomes iconic you have to chalk it up to imitation being the sincerest form of flattery.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Project Runway: My Show Is Longer Than Yours!

Having a 90 minute show has its positives and negatives. On the plus side it demonstrates that people love the show so much that an hour was just not enough and that the network found it so profitable and popular that they deemed it necessary for viewers to spend more time with the people on the show. On the other hand there is of course the question of when too much of a good thing can ruin something great.

For its eighth season, which premiered last Thursday, the powers that be decided that each episode of Project Runway was going to be 90 minutes rather than 60 minutes. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about the extra time for a show that prides itself on featuring strange designers who sometimes become more like characters than real people. But since I don’t have a choice in the matter I thought about which parts of the show I’d like to see expanded.

I know that I like hearing the judges talk. Michael Kors and Nina Garcia are as creative with their comments as they are with their fashion. They don’t take shit from anyone and don’t want to hear any excuses. Also, their metaphors are hysterical. When talking about one contestant’s creation in the season premiere Kors said, “she’s like the mother of the bride who’s a belly dancer.” When describing the same garment, Garcia noted, “It’s almost fascinating but it’s fascinatingly bad.” That being said, Heidi Klum can be one of the most annoying and condescending people I’ve ever seen on a reality TV show. As a judge, and arguably the final word, saying things like “snooze fest” and making fun of people who don’t understand every word of her German accent is both obnoxious and laughable considering she pronounces the name of her show as “Pwoject Wunway.”

So before watching the premiere I thought to myself, what will they fill the extra minutes with? More judge chatter? More workroom banter? Additional Tim Gunn commentary? Or will it just turn into too much airtime that could have been left on the cutting room floor? If we don’t get more time with the judges then of course more time with Tim Gunn would be preferable. Although his repetitive name checking of Garnier and L’Oreal wears thin it’s not his fault since (presumably) the producers and sponsors force him to do this. Even when he’s plugging these companies he still sounds smart, polished and very charismatic.

After watching the first episode I found that the extra time was pretty well distributed but the most noticeable addition was more time with the judges which of course was just fine with me. Whether or not they need the extra time is debatable but maybe that’s because we are used to half hour or hour shows. Maybe Project Runway is the start of a new trend (insert obvious metaphor here) and maybe future shows will be an hour and a half or possibly two hours. Maybe episodes will turn into mini movies and the number of weeks the season runs will decrease while the number of minutes in each episode increases. Whether these extended episodes will be a success or the demise of the show remains to be seen. We’ll see what unravels over the next few weeks.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Things I learned While Packing Boxes:

-My Dad always had a camera with him.
-So did I.
-It’s amazing what families can survive.
-Going through old photos is the best and worst part.
-Time moves on.
-There is something to be said about hanging on to things over the years and revisiting them after so much time has gone by.
-There is nothing like old friends.
-You always have more in closets and storage than you think.
-No one should ever hang onto Grateful Dead stuffed bears that were cool in the 90s.
-Going to dueling piano bars is always a good time.
-Being organized is the key to packing and apparently to life.
-We will forever be grateful to Ber, Julia and Helga.
-You have nothing if you don’t have your health.
-Looking through boxes and seeing your past is exciting. It shows what your family did to make sure your childhood was something to remember.
-Seeing my birth announcement in Billboard Magazine was like being reassured that not only are my parents cool but that doing cool things for kids when they are young so they can see them when they get older is more than worth it.
-The music business used to be the best industry on earth.
-If it wasn’t for a certain wolf I knew when I was four and five years old there would never have been a Cita and there certainly never would have been a Sedona. Thank you Pete and Karen.
-Miami is 1,000 degrees in the summer.
-I can’t wait to revisit 10 years of photos with Carly. We’ve had so much fun.
-We are destined to become like our parents. For better or for worse but mostly for the better… I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive Father and Mother.
-Having people around who have known you your whole life is severely underrated.
-The more things change the more they stay the same. It’s a clichĂ© for a reason….trust me.