Boulder Weekly



Letters 2/21/19

The Green New Deal: It’s about time

As a father, nothing makes me sadder or fills me with more dread than the dismal future of this world that my child will inherit and be living in long after I’m gone. The Green New Deal is a bold plan that aims to tackle the existential crisis of climate change and reverse extreme socioeconomic disparity that currently exists. It’s refreshing to see that some politicians are actually looking at the long-term health of our planet and society instead of their short-term re-election needs. My respect goes to these brave trailblazers as they give me hope for my son’s future.

To those who say it’s only a dream or it’s impossible, I ask you, “What’s the alternative?” It’s a problem that threatens our very existence and it can only be solved through action that is equal in magnitude to the enormity of the problem.

Any politician who cares about the future of their children and the future the communities they have sworn to serve, needs to support the vision outline in this document and needs to put action behind their words. The window of opportunity to save the future is closing fast.

Eric Brown/Louisville

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Changes in Latin America

While Venezuela’s alarming humanitarian and political crisis has rightly grabbed our attention, another disturbing event in Latin America has been forgotten. That event was the New Year’s Day inauguration in Brazil of former Army captain Jair Bolsonaro as president. His ascension marked the most drastic political change in the country since military rule ended more than three decades ago. Bolsonaro is a fervent supporter of the “glorious” military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. It was “20 years of order and progress,” he said.

He is enthusiastic about torture and has threatened to murder and imprison his opponents. He is known for bigoted comments about the poor, minorities, the LGBT community and assertive women. He told a female legislator that she was too ugly to rape. He also said he would rather find out that his son had died in a car crash than learn that his son is gay.

Bolsonaro told his inaugural crowd, “I come before the nation today, a day in which the people have rid themselves of socialism, the inversion of values, statism and political correctness.” He said Brazil is like “a patient whose … whole body needs amputating.” He could reverse a generation of progress instituted by the Workers’ Party.

Bolsonaro wants to open up protected indigenous territories in the Amazon rainforest to mining, cattle ranching and farming. Environmentalists warn that this will speed up global climate change. But his foreign minister Ernesto Araujo has said climate change is a “cultural Marxist” hoax created by the Chinese.

The global financial community was giddy about Bolsonaro’s election. In an investor call, Timothy Hassinger, chief executive officer of Lindsay Corp., the Nebraska-based farming equipment manufacturer, referred to Bolsonaro as “strongly pro-ag,” calling his election a “bullish opportunity for us.”

Bolsonaro’s chief economic adviser, Paulo Guedes, is a right-wing banker, who has promised to deregulate the economy, cut the public pension system, revise the tax code to favor business and privatize state-owned firms. This is the cruel neo-liberal playbook used by University of Chicago-trained economists of the Chilean dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. It caused a great deal of suffering for the majority of Chileans but it was successfully carried out because political opposition and the labor movement were crushed. Guedes is a “Chicago boy” alumnus who taught economics in Chile during the Pinochet era.

Bolsonaro was the keynote speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. At this shindig for the planet’s economic elite, Reuters reported that the Brazilian president “threw out the welcome mat for big business and foreign investors.” He got a warm reception.

This is a big change. It was only a few years ago that progressive governments were in power throughout Latin America. Beginning in the 1990s, there was a “Pink Tide” of self-proclaimed socialist and democratically elected governments in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and Peru. They weren’t communist (or red) but a more moderate version of the left (therefore pink).

Last October, the democratic socialist magazine Dissent hosted a conference entitled “The Future of the Left in the Americas.” Historian Patrick Iber writes that the “Pink Tide” governments were quite diverse. He says, “One point of debate at the conference was how to define the left, given that some governments that describe themselves as on the left engage in authoritarian practices, are overseeing large increases in poverty rates, or have incorporated criminal enterprises into the state.”

Iber notes, “To many international observers, there seemed to be a more radical, self-described ‘Bolivarian’ wing represented by Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and possibly Argentina, with a more social democratic left in Brazil, Uruguay and Chile.” He says that division is somewhat simplistic and that it can be confusing to categorize one of the groups as more left-wing.

“…(W)hat mattered more,” he stresses, “was that in most of the Bolivarian countries the old party systems had collapsed, leading to the quick creation of new hegemonic parties that used charismatic leadership to hold coalitions together. This more confrontational style polarized electorates. It put a primacy on loyalty, and often on lashing out at enemies, many real and some imagined. The social democratic countries operated within more conventional limits of democratic politics, with all of the inevitable roadblocks and disappointments that come with sharing power.”

All of the left-wing governments benefited from one of the biggest commodities booms in modern times. Latin America exports primary products and imports finished products. Iber says, “In the early 2000s, rapid growth in India and China drove up the price of primary products, from oil to lithium to soybeans. This gave governments the ability to spend money on social welfare and development, satisfying — at least in part — the needs of their political bases without making fundamental structural changes to their economies or their position in the global system of trade.”

In 2012, the commodities boom ended, mostly due to a slowdown in the Chinese economy. The governments had to cut social spending and had a hard time staying in power. There was a right-wing backlash by the economic elite. Now with the rise of far-rightists such as Bolsonaro and Trump, Latin America faces the possible return of fascist rule.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

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What’s behind this photo of corporate groundbreaking?

newspaper photograph last June portrayed three guys in suits and ties shoveling dirt. They were Donald Trump, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and the chairman of Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics conglomerate.

They were doing a PR groundbreaking for Foxconn’s new plant that supposedly would hire thousands of blue-collar workers in Wisconsin to make flat-screen TVs. All three hailed the event as the start of a Made-in-the-U.S.A. manufacturing renaissance, but it was actually a corporate scam. Walker, who was up for re-election, was giving away a whopping $4 billion from his state’s taxpayers to lure Foxconn. Still, Trump hailed the deal as “the eighth wonder of the world.”

Less than a year later, though — oops — it turns out the three had been shoveling BS. In January, Foxconn quietly backed away from its promise of all those factory jobs, declaring that “the global market environment… has changed. … In terms of TV, we have no place in the U.S.” Having already pocketed much of Walker’s bribe money, Foxconn was downsizing its project from a mass-production blue-collar factory to some sort of high-tech R&D operation.

It turns out that the Taiwanese giant has a history of reneging on its grandiose schemes, including failing to deliver on a Pennsylvania factory it promised in 2013. Still, Foxconn is right that the environment has changed — Walker was defeated in November, Wisconsinites are in an uproar over both his extravagant giveaway and the corporation’s backaway, the new Democratic governor is asking pointed questions, and Trump’s slaphappy zigzags on tariffs has roiled the whole high-tech market.

So, beware: When you see a picture of politicians shoveling the people’s tax dollars into corporate coffers, the only sure thing is that the people are being played for suckers.

This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

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Radical truth

Every audience member experiences every play — or movie, or performance art piece, or symphony, or puppet show — through their unique lens. A 72-year-old, African-American lesbian from Atlanta will have a wildly different perspective on a theatrical production than a prepubescent Chinese girl, whose worldview will, in turn, differ markedly from that of a twentysomething, MAGA-hatted, Idaho white boy bravely attempting his first keg stand. Point of view is everything and never more so than with regard to the Denver Center Theatre Company’s latest, a dark comedy called The Whistleblower.

How much you enjoy The Whistleblower will vary in inverse proportion to how politically correct you fancy yourself to be.

Those who consider themselves less politically correct will marvel at playwright Itamar Moses’ aware and uproarious study of the effect radical truth has on protagonist Eli (Karl Miller) and his friends and family, the targets of his truth-telling. The more politically correct in the crowd will be too busy composing angry tweets and blog posts about The Whistleblower being nothing more than a white-male-privilege wet dream.

The play opens with Eli and his agent, Dan (Landon G. Woodson), pitching a TV series called The Whistleblower to a producer named Richard (Bill Christ). Richard loves the idea of a show in which the main character infiltrates a new company or organization each week, uncovers all its dirty secrets, and then blows the whistle on them. He’s no sooner agreed to champion and fund the project when Eli, totally unexpectedly and somewhat mysteriously, declines Richard’s golden ticket offer after realizing in a moment of clarity that being a successful TV writer isn’t actually what he wants to do with his life.

How does Eli think he should spend his life instead? He’s existentially uncertain, but he does know that it starts with radical honesty. Eli walks out of the pitch session and heads straight home to break up with his actress girlfriend, Allison (Meredith Forlenza). He then embarks on a journey to drop some unfiltered truth bombs on his parents (Bill Christ in a second roll and Leslie O’Carroll), his oldest friend, Jed (Landon G. Woodson in his second roll), Jed’s girlfriend (Meredith Forlenza in her second roll), and ultimately Eli’s long lost love, the one that got away, Eleanor (Allison Jean White).

Along the way, Eli reconnects with Max (Ben Beckley), a once-driven, now dropped-out paranoiac. As Eli and Max wax philosophical in Max’s boat, the “Barbaric Yawp,” the Denver Center’s Space Theatre’s stage fills with fog. As the Space Theatre is a theatre in the round performance space, the fog ends up lapping at the edges where stage meets seats, creating a mesmerizingly realistic illusion of rolling waves. Hats off to set designer Lisa M. Orzolek and production manager Kate Coltun.

Far from being a one-dimensional wish-fulfillment about a white guy proclaiming what he perceives as immutable truth to the somnambulant masses, The Whistleblower challenges its audience to question Eli’s sanity and motivations. Is Eli enlightened or opportunistic, sane or swinging by a thread? Conveying that uncertainty, that ambiguity, takes a skilled actor, and Miller doesn’t disappoint. He convinces as much when Eli is calmly dismantling his loved ones’ preconceived notions about their places in the universe as he does when Eli is clearly staring into the abyss, and the abyss isn’t blinking.

Seeing Bill Christ on stage once again at the Denver Center is the purest of pleasures. He and O’Carroll couldn’t be more relaxed in their roles, to great comic effect. Woodson, Forlenza and White show exeptional range as they step in and out of their different characters.

Call it the Electric PC Acid Test. Call it a dark lark. Call it what you will, but whether you’re in need of a belly laugh or your daily outrage fix, The Whistleblower has some truth to lay on you.

ON THE BILL: The Whistleblower. Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Space Theater, 1400 Curtis St., Denver, denvercenter.org, $37 and up. Through March 10.

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Pro Musica Colorado looks backward, forward and outward

The next concert by the Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra will look backward, and forward, and outward.

The program, titled “Classical Evolution,” will be presented in Denver on Friday, Feb. 22, and Boulder on Saturday, Feb. 23, and, in a new venture for Pro Musica, in Longmont on Sunday, Feb. 24.

The concert will feature works by J.S. Bach and Joseph Haydn, and the world premiere of a new work by Boulder-based fiddler/composer Max Wolpert. Music director Cynthia Katsarelis will conduct the concert, which will feature harpsichordist Jory Vinikour as soloist.

Bach’s piece on the program, the D minor Harpsichord Concerto, looks back in the sense that it probably derived from an earlier, but now lost, concerto for violin. Haydn’s Classical-era Symphony No. 22 (“The Philosopher”) looks back by starting with a movement in an earlier style from the Baroque period, and forward in the later movements by anticipating styles of the composer’s later symphonies.

And Wolpert’s Baroque in Mirror, a concerto for harpsichord and small orchestra, looks back to some revered folk performers and composers from Baroque times, outward to music of different traditions, and forward by bringing them into a contemporary setting.

“The idea was to look at the Baroque period from the other side,” Wolpert says. “I’m a fiddle player, and a lot of our legendary figures were around at that time. So we’re looking at figures from the traditional music world, and paying homage to their music.”

The first movement was inspired by Daniel Dow, a Scottish fiddle player of the 18th century, and the third by John Perry, a blind harpist from Wales of the 18th and 19th centuries. The second movement, however, had a more serious source.

“It was going to be a tribute to Abraham Caceres, a Jewish composer from Amsterdam,” Wolpert says. “The day I sat down to write was the day of the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre. Hearing that, the movement became a piece in mourning.”

As a fiddle player, Wolpert admits that he had quite a bit of help from Vinikour learning to write for the harpsichord. “There was quite a bit of ping-ponging back and forth,” is how Vinikour describes the process.

“I think I got where Max was coming from, [and] I had some ideas how to use the harpsichord. But the harpsichord is really just one part of the texture. It’s not a traditional concerto pitting one solo instrument against everybody else.”

Vinikour says that Bach’s D-minor Harpsichord Concerto — the best known piece on the program — stands apart from the composer’s other keyboard concertos. “There are complex passages, chordal writing [and] multi-voice writing, where in the other concerti we are looking at very simple writing,” he says.

“In the D minor Concerto, Bach uses much of his arsenal as keyboard virtuoso. The harpsichord never stops, even when the orchestra takes over, so it’s a very challenging work.”

The final work on the program is by a composer that Katsarelis especially loves, and whose music Pro Musica has performed often. “It’s completely impossible to do too many Haydn symphonies,” she says.

For this concert Katsarelis selected one of Haydn’s earlier symphonies, No. 22 in E-flat major, composed in 1764. It was named “The Philosopher” by an Italian copyist in the 1790s, probably because the slow first movement features a somber dialogue between French horns and two English horns over a steady “walking” bass line in the strings.

The slow tempo and the dialogue between instruments evoke a deep conversation. The movement also harkens back to earlier styles, with the steady bass line and the Baroque sounding texture between the voices. Finally, the movement’s philosophical quality comes from the unusual use of English horns instead of oboes, which creates a darker and more reflective sound.

But after this subdued opening, the remainder of the symphony goes very quickly and in a very jolly mood. “After the Socratic dialogues of the first movement, it’s off the to pub,” Katsarelis says. “As it should be!”

ON THE BILL: “Classical Evolution” — Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra with music directors Max Wolpert and Cynthia Katsarelis; Jory Vinikour on harpsichord.

7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, First Baptist Church of Denver, 1373 Grant St., Denver. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, Mountain View Methodist Church, 355 Ponca Place, Boulder. 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, Stewart Auditorium, Longmont Museum, Longmont. Tickets: app.arts-people.com/index.php?show=90559

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Knocking down dominoes

On Jan. 6, Jeff Kassel and Jake Lobel looked out over the crowd at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge. The electronic dance music producing duo known as MTNMen had just wrapped up their set, opening for iconic electro producer Steve Aoki — a pretty amazing feat for a couple of University of Colorado students.

“It was a pretty unreal experience,” says Kassel, a marketing entrepreneurship major at CU. “It was the first time that we got to perform a live set instead of on computers for such a large crowd.”

In their four years playing together as MTNMen, Kassel and Lobel have since seen their names posted on local billboards and printed on flyers all over town promoting their shows at local venues such as the Fox and Boulder Theater. They’ve crossed state and international lines to perform and dropped original singles that have gotten over 230,000 plays on Soundcloud and almost 30,000 on Spotify.

But their story starts long before CU, when the two were just second graders at Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School in Newport Beach. While they went to different middle and high schools, their shared interest in board sports, both on land and in water, kept them close; however, communication inevitably diminished over the years. It was not until they both were accepted to CU in 2015 that their expedition into music began. They would proceed to kick off freshman year as roommates in a Sewall dorm room with just a couple homemade beats and a DJ deck that Kassel brought with him.

“Jake tried all the stuff I brought with me to school, and he was good at it and he liked it,” Kassel explains. “Things just naturally took off from there.”

Once the two artists realized the strength in their dynamic and how it allowed them to maximize their musical abilities in a way that resonated with other people, they figured they should put a name on their talent. After coming up with 75 different potential names and writing them out on paper, they decided to get some outside opinions.

“We had people cross out and circle names that they thought sucked or that they liked and MTNMen was one that the majority of people seemed to be drawn to,” Lobel says. “At first I didn’t particularly like the name myself, but once people started saying how they could really visualize the big letters being on a line up, it really stuck with us as a name that could represent us well.”

It was the beginning of an odyssey.

“When we were freshmen, there weren’t that many people our age at CU who were DJing like we were and that were also so accessible, so we were getting all these requests from fraternities to come perform at these huge parties and we had no competition,” Kassel explains. “And when we realized that we weren’t fighting to be heard and people actually wanted us, we started devoting more time to it.”

Devoting more time to music paied off for Kassel and Lobel — literally. They started making commission off of their shows in no time and eventually were able to pay for their bills with no additional help from other jobs.

“I think we honestly realized our potential to make this a real thing when we made our first $5,000,” Kassel says. “That’s when we thought, OK, we can pursue this as something that pays the bills and also gives you such a high when you are doing it. It’s so much fun to make music, play it on big speakers and see people react to your expression in a positive way. Making that a job is a dream.”

Money is not the only marker of success for these two young artists. Their devotion and ingenuity when it comes to making music has been steadily rewarded with bigger opportunities and better connections. They started out playing shows in front of 400-person audiences. Next thing they knew, they were lighting up the stage at CU’s annual WelcomeFest on Ferrand Field, overlooking the majestic Flatirons and a crowd of 2,000 people. Now they can say that their sound has traveled across land and sea as they have performed multiple times in Mexico, different states all over the country and have even made it as far as Ibiza, Spain.

“It’s like dominoes — you gotta just keep knocking them down one after the other,” Kassel says.

Shane Stolz
MNTMen

Despite their airtight friendship, making music as a team creates the potential for disagreements along the way. Each has their own taste and preference for music.

“I’m more a fan of more indie instrumental vibes, while Jeff likes hard dubstep and dirty beats,” Lobel explains. “But then we’re on the same page about a lot of other things, like we both prefer singers on our tracks and think that it’s more artistic when lyrics are involved. It’s all about finding a balance.”

By choosing to overcome their differences to find a happy medium, they are able to incorporate their own styles in their melodies. This resilience is evident in the evolution of MNTMen’s music. When they first started, they were fully committed to creating dubstep; however, three years later, they are changing the direction of their craft and attempting to embody an “indie future base” feeling instead.

“We used to be the ‘DJ kids’ that we wanted to be, going crazy on stage and playing all these shows and having fun,” says Kassel. “But after being able to get real life experience by living in Los Angeles together for three months over this past summer and solely focusing on music, we were able to get more into the artistic and musical aspect of things and also see how other successful artists got to where they are now by using super original beats to create something no one has heard before.”

Their new song, featuring fellow SoCal musician Griff Clawson, is set to be released on Feb. 27 and represents a huge milestone for the duo. Clawson attended the same elementary school with Kassel and Lobel when they were younger. They reconnected after the singer direct messaged MTNMen on Instagram inquiring about the potential for a musical collaboration.

After being full time DJs over the summer, the two learned more about working with live instrumentation and have been able to incorporate that into their new work. They are replacing synthesizers with live percussion instruments to generate a more acoustic feel. Lobel and Kassel say this new track is the most important in their catalog  because all the lyrics are inspired by their actual lives. They point to the “surfing vibes” that they incorporated in the new track, a musical nod to their shared passion.

Lobel and Kassel seem to be most adamant about staying true to themselves during this learning experience. They want to go through the motions of producing a track that depicts the essence of their souls and the magnitude of their personalities.

“Our overall goal is to be recognized for the qualities of our personality that we try to put in our music,” Kassel says. “We hope that it translates to the audience as something enjoyable and relatable, yet something that screams authenticity and originality — something that we can call our own.”  

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‘To die with something to live for’

On Sept. 1, 2013, Hayao Miyazaki, the imaginative creator of My Neighbor Totoro, Porco Rosso, Spirited Away and The Wind Rises, announced his retirement. Cameras flashed, and reporters asked questions. This wasn’t the first time the 72-year-old animator claimed he was stepping away from the game. But, as Miyazaki told the room, “This time I mean it.”

Well, maybe not. While some welcome retirement with open arms, Miyazaki’s mind would not sit still. And after two years on idle, the Japanese filmmaker decided to get back in the game. Yes, it takes years to animate a movie, and at his age, he might not live to see its completion. But that’s not his goal. Instead, he would like “to die with something to live for.”

Never-Ending Man documents Miyazaki’s return while also addressing his premature retirement. Along with fellow animator Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki, Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli became Japan’s preeminent animation studio with a creative output to rival Disney. But, when Miyazaki decided to step away, he could not find a proper replacement and production ground to a halt. A few films trickled out in the subsequent years — the phenomenal The Tale of Princess Kaguya, the haunting When Marnie Was There and the serene The Red Turtle (a co-production with Wild Bunch). Still, the future of the studio remained uncertain.

Then came an offer too good to turn down: animate a short film for a museum, Miyazaki’s first with computer-generated imagery. Why CGI? Because, “I can’t draw a caterpillar with a pencil,” the old man says with a smile.

Making the short, Boro the Caterpillar, provides Never-Ending Man director Kaku Arakawa a framework. Shot using consumer-grade digital cameras — which gives the movie an intimate feel despite an ungainly appearance — and running a brief 70 minutes, Never-Ending Man feels like a beefy DVD special feature. For die-hard Miyazaki fans, Never-Ending Man is manna, offering a privileged look at how the master sets about his day — from his spare and empty kitchen, where he makes coffee and converses, to his drawing desk, cluttered with paper, pencils and the ubiquitous ashtray.

But the real value of Never-Ending Man is the ability to spend time with Miyazaki, a man who does not take his position in Japanese animation lightly. He is a tough leader, always pushing young animators to try harder and aim higher. Movements are not mechanical, he tells them, and each one has a motivation. Understanding that motivation is the foundation of Miyazaki’s humanism and, in one crucial scene in Never-Ending Man, he wields it like a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting to the heart of a very sticky matter.

Rare is a pleasure as great as watching a master at work. And though there is a little bit of an old dog learning new tricks in Never-Ending Man, the real delight of the movie is the chance to see Miyazaki hunched over his desk, pencil lightly gracing the page, life and personality emerging from just a few strokes of graphite and color. The doctor is in.

ON THE BILL: Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki. Feb. 21–23, Dairy Arts Center, The Boedecker Theater, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7825, thedairy.org

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The bluest sky you’ve ever seen

When head flight attendant Jan Brown told her crew on United flight 232 what was about to happen, she said it clearly and calmly: Soon, in maybe half an hour, the plane was going to make an emergency landing. It would be violent. There would be fire and smoke. Visibility would be low at best. And, if they survived, the crew would need to help other survivors evacuate the wreckage.

It was a beautiful summer day, July 19, 1989, clear and hot — perfect by many firsthand accounts. United flight 232 had taken off from Stapleton International Airport no more than an hour earlier, around 2 p.m., headed first to Chicago and then to Philadelphia. But a malfunction most United engineers thought was impossible left the plane with no controls over Sioux City, Iowa, and the 296 people on board facing death.

It’s a story many around the Front Range have a personal connection with. There were more than a dozen people from Boulder County aboard the plane, including Pete “Dr. Banjo” Wernick of local bluegrass outfit Hot Rize. Wernick, his wife, his son and 182 other passengers survived the crash, but 111 didn’t, five of them from Boulder, dozens of others from the surrounding area.

Deep community connections make telling the story of United flight 232 both compelling and complex, a delicate balance local theater company The Catamounts achieves in its presentation of United Flight 232.

Originally commissioned by The House Theatre of Chicago, United Flight 232 is a stripped-down theatrical telling of the plane crash that relies on light and movement to convey a story of grisly tragedy. With the audience seated in a circle around them, just nine actors fill the rolls of 21 people who were either aboard the flight or communicated with the flight crew that day.

Save a few simple projections, the chairs are the only set to speak of. (Not coincidentally, they are identical to the ones in which the audience is seated.) Scenes change with a gentle swirl of choreography; a move from the main cabin to the cockpit stirs up all nine actors, their chairs bobbing up and down at chest height to mimic the motion of the plane, some actors moving to the periphery, the remaining settling back into their seats in a new position for the next scene. 

Often seated not much more than a foot away from audience members, the cast makes direct eye contact as they tell mostly first-person stories from the crew and passengers. There’s a workaholic mom bargaining with God to be a more attentive mother and wife if He’ll just let her live through this. There’s 9-year-old Yisroel Brownstein, an unaccompanied minor, who teaches the adult passenger beside him the prayer his father taught him. There’s a Vietnam vet who’s survived that hell, plus a car accident, so he expects to walk away from this crash, but not before he helps as many others walk away as possible. Then there are the flight attendants, all women, who, despite individually finding privacy to pray for their lives, never falter in front of their passengers.

The cast works as a singular entity at times, collectively introducing characters before the characters introduce themselves. It’s a gesture that suggests they are all the same — we are all the same, and we’re all in this together.

The bare-bones approach of United Flight 232 results in an intimate experience that places the audience in the cabin of that ill-fated DC-10 jet. In the compact space of the Carsen Theater, it’s easy to see tears forming, in both the eyes of other audience members and in the cast.   

Staying true to playwright Vanessa Stalling’s original script (adapted from a book by Laurence Gonzales) was paramount for director Amanda Berg Wilson, co-founder and artistic director of The Catamounts. In Wilson’s conversations with Stalling, the playwright was adamant that United Flight 232 not be directed “like a drama with a capital D.”

“It’s about common humanity more than ‘these people were heroes,’” Wilson says.

That’s what sticks with flight attendant Susan White, who was 25 at the time of the crash. Today, White lives in Golden with her fiancé, a pilot. She sat in the audience, unannounced, for the preview showing of United Flight 232.

“It shows such an important role that strangers played helping each other,” White says. “It’s so heartwarming to know in a crisis like that, that people do come together and help each other. I had to hold back tears a few times.”

White went back to work five-and-a-half months after the crash. Reliving the story over and over again as she worked with new flight crews, White says she had a breakdown about a year in and went back to therapy. It hasn’t always been easy, but she’s happy. She still talks to Jan Brown, the chief flight attendant on 232, who went on to advocate for increased safety measures for children on commercial flights.

In just a few days White will fly out to Hawaii. She’s still a flight attendant.

Director Amanda Berg Wilson welcomes any survivors of United flight 232 to contact The Catamounts if they would like to see the play or discuss their experience: thecatamounts@gmail.com.

ON THE BILL: United Flight 232 — presented by The Catamounts. Dairy Arts Center, Carsen Theater, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder. Through March 9. Tickets are $20, $18 for students/seniors.

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Ruling the roost

Just a few miles into Weld County, east of County Line Road, there’s a group of old-growth cottonwood trees along Boulder Creek in the middle of several quarry ponds surrounded by a meadow of hay. It’s near-perfect conditions for migrating bald eagles to roost for the winter, a place they can feed, forage and shelter during the short days and cold nights. 

Volunteer researchers with the group Front Range Nesting Bald Eagle Studies (FRBNES) observed as many as 23 traveling bald eagles in 2017 roosting at the site, known as the middle Boulder Creek communal bald eagle roost. Within the last year or so, however, numbers have dwindled. Some winter days researchers see a few, maybe a dozen or so. But if there is any heavy machinery, lights, noise or drill rigs in the area, the count is generally zero. There are a few tanks near the trees, a pipeline going in up the creek, and rigs have been plugging wells nearby.

“What we see is when those rigs are around, there are no eagles there,” says Dana Bove, a retired federal geologist who now spends his time observing and documenting bald eagles in Boulder and Weld counties with FRNBES.

And this kind of disturbance in the area is only likely to worsen, Bove says, with Crestone Peak Resources’ plan to put in 22 wells about one-third of a mile to the east of the historic winter roost. The company’s application was approved by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) in September 2018, although work has yet to begin at the site.

It wasn’t so long ago that spotting a bald eagle in Colorado was a rare event. Although populations in the 1800s are said to have reached 100,000 or more across the U.S., by the 1970s, there were fewer than 450 nesting pairs, resulting in U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS) listing bald eagles as an endangered species in 1978. Only recently bald eagle populations have rebounded, causing the U.S. FWS to officially delist the bird in 2007. Other federal protections, like the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) and Migratory Bird Act, however, still protect the bird. Along with killing, capturing, selling or purchasing of bald eagles or their parts, it is federally illegal to agitate the birds to the extent that it interferes with their “normal breeding, feeding or sheltering behavior.” 

Dana Bove
A total of 13 eagles (eight pictured here) were seen on Dec. 2, 2018 at middle Boulder Creek communal roost. But when there is heavy machinery and traffic in the area, numbers dwindle to zero.

Colorado also has state laws that prohibit the direct killing or harassment of bald eagles, or destroying their nests. And in 2008, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) developed guidelines for buffer zones and seasonal closures around nests and wintering bald eagles in order to protect the bird. The hope is that these recommendations, which aren’t enforceable by law, may prevent reactions in eagles “as subtle as elevated pulse rate or as obvious as vigorous defense or abandonment” of roosts or nests, according to the recommendations.

In order to prevent the impacts of such disturbance, which may not be immediately evident, CPW suggests a half-mile buffer when there’s a clear line of sight between development and the roost, with no human encroachment from Nov. 15 to March 15.

When it comes to oil and gas development, a roost within the half-mile buffer is supposed to trigger a wildlife consultation with CPW as part of a company’s application to the COGCC, but that didn’t happen in the case of the proposed Crestone well pad, known as Dream Weaver.

According to FRNBES maps, the middle Boulder Creek communal bald eagle roost is one-third of a mile from Dream Weaver, and Bove has been submitting maps and data from the roost to CPW for several years. “We feel that the best way to protect and try to conserve [bald eagles] is by supplying rigorous scientific information and data,” he says. “We’ll give our information to CPW, we’ll give it to whomever can utilize it.”

There are also a few other roost areas nearby, although outside the buffer.

According to CPW, when the COGCC considered the Dream Weaver application, the buffer for this particular roost was not accurately drawn on the map the agency uses. “It has since been corrected,” CPW Area Wildlife Manager Kristin Cannon says via email.

Brandon Marette, northeast region energy liaison with CPW, says CPW updates its wildlife maps every month or so. He reviews every application for drilling that comes through the COGCC, comparing the proposals to CPW’s maps of sensitive habitat. He says in 2018, he reviewed 744 location assessments for oil and gas development, notwithstanding another 301 for other energy projects like solar, wind, etc. Still, for whatever reason, the buffers weren’t accurate when it came to reviewing the Dream Weaver pad, and the COGCC approved Crestone’s application without a wildlife consultation in September 2018.

According to Travis Duncan, spokesman from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which oversees both CPW and the COGCC, the site was approved “in accordance with COGCC rules, and will not be suspended or revoked,” despite the mapping mistake.

“The permits were issued following public comment periods during which none were received,” Duncan’s email continues. “COGCC continues to work with the operator to determine what voluntary measures they will take to avoid or minimize impacts to the birds.”

Bove says neither he, nor FRNBES, was aware of Crestone’s application until after it was approved, despite several requests to CPW and COGCC asking about it. Given the amount of time the group spends in the area, and the collaborative work they do with CPW, Bove says, he just figured someone would tell him about the application in time to comment. “Our group is spending all this time working in that area and CPW and COGCC know that. How are you supposed to be made aware of something like that?” he says.

Regardless, he found out about it too late, after the public comment period had ended and the pad had been approved. And for months FRNBES has been trying to get the site reconsidered in order to protect migrating eagles, who use the roost in the winter.

“The information wasn’t there, but it is there now, and COGCC is still leaving it entirely up to Crestone to voluntarily come up with their plan of action,” Bove says. “The way I see it is oil and gas gets their way. They run the game out there … in terms of wildlife, they run the damn game.”

Dana Bove
In a FRNBES map, bald eagle roosts are outlined in blue, the easternmost of which is about one-third of a mile from the proposed Dream Weaver pad in red.

Bridget Ford, a community relations advisor with Crestone, says via email that when the company was made aware of the eagles near the Dream Weaver site, representatives met with the Town of Frederick, CPW and wildlife biologists to “ensure compliance.”

“The additional monitoring showed 1-2 eagles in the area and it was confirmed that eagles were roosting further north outside of our area of disturbance,” Ford says in an email.

Cannon with CPW also says eagles haven’t been observed using the roost site for several weeks, although Bove says his team saw nine as recently as Feb. 5.

At this point, construction on the well site isn’t expected until after the winter roosting season ends on March 15, Ford says, but the company has agreed to limited hours of operation (between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.) if they need to access the site before then.

“Again, that is unlikely to happen given our current operations timeline,” she says.

Although CPW’s 2008 recommendations advise no disturbance within a half-mile of a roost during winter months, there is a provision allowing maintenance activities between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. during winter roosting. Cannon says the extended time (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) agreed upon with Crestone “is more appropriate for this time of year” when the days are longer than in the dead of winter. The Town of Frederick also included these hours in its special use permit for the project, according to planning manager Jennifer Simmons.

But, there’s always the question of next winter, and the one after that, and the one after that.

“The company has told us that work on this well should be completed by the middle of next year so it should only be an issue relative to this roost through next winter,” Cannon with CPW says. “We will meet with them sometime around late summer or early fall to discuss mitigation for next winter. For the long term, we generally ask all companies to restrict maintenance work on wells to protect nests and roosts to outside of our recommended buffers.”

And given that CPW’s recommendations aren’t enforceable, there’s not much more the agency can do than ask, which, Bove worries, may not be enough to help the birds. 

“As defined under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, what we’re seeing in terms of behavioral changes with these birds are consistent with the take of eagles,” Bove says. According to the GBEPA, “take” includes disturbing the birds, which is further defined as anything that causes injury or interferes with normal breeding, feeding or sheltering behavior that could impact productivity or result in nest abandonment.

“COGCC’s continued upholding of Dream Weaver approval completely ignores CPW’s recommended restrictions, which state that such a project will likely disturb federally protected eagles, and thus by ignoring CPW’s recommendations, the state of Colorado and COGCC is sanctioning a likely violation of a federal law,” Bove continues.

Dana Bove
A work over rig works near the middle communal roost in Oct. 2018. Another work over rig was working in this area in late December 2017 and January 2018, which correlated with declines in eagle counts, according to FRNBES.

Although the more restrictive BGEPA laws are enforceable by U.S. FWS, Bove says the law is toothless. When he’s contacted law enforcement in the past about encroaching development’s threat to eagles and their nests, the response has been limited.

So the question for Bove and the researchers at FRNBES remains: Will Crestone’s voluntary efforts to mitigate impact be enough to protect the birds?

“The middle roost is already often-disturbed, and rather than making for more disturbance, it should be even further protected,” Bove says. “The noise and the lights are going to be the major issue.”

Recent studies show that anthropogenic noise, emitted from the oil and gas compressors, have caused increased stress hormones in nearby bird populations, resulting in PTSD-like symptoms. Such stress adversely affects reproduction and survival rates. The noise also jeopardizes birds’ hearing, and their ability to detect danger.

In early December 2018, FRNBES noticed an uptick of bald eagles at the roost consistent with winter traveling patterns. On Dec. 2 there were as many as 13 different eagle sightings in the roost at dusk. Several days later, there were almost none, coinciding with heavy equipment and lights along the roads. One afternoon while a FRNBES researcher was observing, a couple of heavy equipment trucks drove down the road north of the roost and about five minutes later, all four eagles at the site began “vocalizing” before leaving and flying north.

“They’re operating towards the end of the day with lights right near this roost area and you can see what happens to the count,” Bove says. “That [Dream Weaver] pad doesn’t belong there. … They just need to move that thing farther away within CPW’s restricted buffer areas.” 

Not only is the winter roost a concern for Bove, he says there is also a pair of nesting eagles close by that uses the cottonwood trees at the roost site year-round. “Maybe this roost isn’t active in the summer, but this pair uses these perches to hunt and hang out all year long,” he says. “You see them there all the time.”

Through their lawyer, FRNBES is formally requesting that the COGCC reconsider the permit, and look at alternative sites outside the half-mile buffer, with appropriate consultation with CPW.

Whether or not the COGCC considers this request remains to be seen, but so far the Department of Natural Resources has been adamant that the Dream Weaver permit will not be reconsidered. Which raises a major question, according to Bove: “Is COGCC willing to take on the liability of going against their own cohorts who are saying that you could likely disturb eagles that are federally protected?”

Dana Bove
A male bald Eagle flies back to its nest with a Crestone well pad in the background in Weld County.

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With extra lobster

Two weeks ago, a longtime reader challenged me to create a new sexual neologism. (Quickly for the pedants: You’re right! It is redundant to describe a neologism as “new,” since neologisms are by definition new: “ne·ol·o·gism, noun, is a newly coined word or expression.” You got me!)

“Neo-Neologisms, Please!” was too polite to point it out, but my two most famous and widely used neologisms have been around so long — pegging (2001) and santorum (2003) — that they’re practically paleogisms at this point. So I accepted NNP’s challenge and proposed “with extra lobster.” My inspiration: on a visit to Iceland, I was delighted to discover that “with extra lobster” was a menu item at food carts that served lobster. This delighted me for two reasons. First, lobster is fucking delicious and getting extra lobster with your lobster is fucking awesome. And second, “with extra lobster” sounded like it was a dirty euphemism for something equally awesome. I offered up my own suggested definition — someone who sticks their tongue out and licks your balls while they’re deep-throating your cock is giving you a blowjob with extra lobster — and invited readers to send in their own. It was my readers, after all, who came up with the winning definitions for pegging (“a woman fucking a man in the ass with a strap-on dildo”) and santorum (“the frothy mix of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex”).

What follows are the best reader-suggested definitions for “with extra lobster:”

“With extra lobster” sounds to me like going down on someone — regardless of sex — when it’s a little more odoriferous than you would like because they haven’t bathed in a while. For example: “Things were getting hot and heavy with my Tinder date last night, and then I started to go down and was surprised with extra lobster.”

I think I have a good candidate for your “with extra lobster” definition! It could be applied to a man who has an exceptionally large and dangling foreskin (“His penis comes with extra lobster!”) or a woman whose labia protrudes (“I love pussy with extra lobster!”).

When I first started dating my wife, she kept her lady parts waxed clean, and they looked a bit like a lobster claw, even being slightly red if the waxing was recent. We nicknamed her vagina and surrounding area “The Lobster,” or “Lobby” for short. So I would suggest that “with extra lobster” should mean anytime you get some extra lobster in on the act — from normal lesbian sex (two lobsters!), to a standard-issue male fantasy threesome (two lobsters and one cock), to a surprise second go-around after you thought the sex was over.

The area surrounding the vagina already has a name: the vulva. While most people are familiar with the labia majora and minora parts of the vulva, aka “the lips,” fewer know the name for the area between the labia minora. The spot where the opening to the vaginal canal can be found — also part of the vulva — is called the “vaginal vestibule.” According to my thesaurus, lobby is a synonym for vestibule. So this proposed definition of “with extra lobster” is pretty apt. Now, some will quibble with the lobby-ish implication that a vagina is a space that needs to be entered. One can have a good time — great sex with lots of extra lobster — without anyone being penetrated, i.e., without anyone entering the lobby.

“Extra lobster” should be the name for those cock-extender things. Example: “My husband has a small penis. And you know what? The sex is great! He gives great head, and isn’t afraid to strap-on some extra lobster now and then.”

As a vegan, Dan, I strongly object to “with extra lobster.” It reinforces the speciest notion that it is permissible to consume lobsters, sentient life-forms that feel pain, and associating a sex act with the violence of meat consumption further desensitizes us to acts of sexual violence.

Fuck off.

“With extra lobster” should refer to any intimate pleasure where your expectations are greatly exceeded! I’m a gay man in my 60s, and my husband and I have been together for decade. I also have a friend with benefits. One night we were camping and I blurted out, “I would like to cuddle with you.” What happened next was 12 courses — at least — with extra lobster! We’ve managed to rekindle this energy every couple of years over the past 25!

And with that sorted and settled, a bonus neologism to close the column…

— This isn’t a definition for “with extra lobster,” but I wanted to share it. I live in Uganda and many of the streets are lined with stalls that sell BBQ chicken. If you know to ask for the special chicken, they’ll often sell you weed. “Special chicken” has become my favorite euphemism for weed!

On the Lovecast, Dan chats with Eric Leue from the Free Speech Coalition: savagelovecast.com

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Astrology: 2/21/19

ARIES

March 21-April 19: In December 1915, the California city of San Diego was suffering from a drought. City officials hired a professional “moisture accelerator” named Charles Hatfield, who promised to make it rain. Soon Hatfield was shooting explosions of a secret blend of chemicals into the sky from the top of a tower. The results were quick. A deluge began in early January of 1916 and persisted for weeks. Thirty inches of rain fell, causing floods that damaged the local infrastructure. The moral of the story, as far as you’re concerned, Aries: when you ask for what you want and need, specify exactly how much you want and need. Don’t make an open-ended request that could bring you too much of a good thing.

TAURUS

April 20-May 20: Actors Beau Bridges and Jeff Bridges are brothers born to parents who were also actors. When they were growing up, they already had aspirations to follow in their mom’s and dad’s footsteps. From an early age, they summoned a resourceful approach to attracting an audience. Now and then they would start a pretend fight in a store’s parking lot. When a big enough crowd had gathered to observe their shenanigans, they would suddenly break off from their faux struggle, grab their guitars from their truck and begin playing music. In the coming weeks, I hope you’ll be equally ingenious as you brainstorm about ways to expand your outreach.

GEMINI

May 21-June 20: According to Edward Barnard’s book New York City Trees, a quarter of the city is shaded by its 5.2 million trees. In other words, one of the most densely populated, frantically active places on the planet has a rich collection of oxygen-generating greenery. There’s even a virgin forest at the upper tip of Manhattan, as well as five botanical gardens and the 843-acre Central Park. Let’s use all this bounty-amidst-the-bustle as a symbol of what you should strive to foster in the coming weeks: refreshing lushness and grace interspersed throughout your busy, hustling rhythm.

CANCER

June 21-July 22: As a poet myself, I regard good poetry as highly useful. It can nudge us free of our habitual thoughts and provoke us to see the world in ways we’ve never imagined. On the other hand, it’s not useful in the same way that food and water and sleep are. Most people don’t get sick if they are deprived of poetry. But I want to bring your attention to a poem that is serving a very practical purpose in addition to its inspirational function. Simon Armitage’s poem “In Praise of Air” is on display in an outdoor plaza at Sheffield University. The material it’s printed on is designed to literally remove a potent pollutant from the atmosphere. And what does this have to do with you? I suspect that in the coming weeks you will have an extra capacity to generate blessings that are like Armitage’s poem: useful in both practical and inspirational ways.

LEO

July 23-Aug. 22: In 1979, psychologist Dorothy Tennov published her book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love. She defined her newly coined word “limerence” as a state of adoration that may generate intense, euphoric and obsessive feelings for another person. Of all the signs in the zodiac, you Leos are most likely to be visited by this disposition throughout 2019. And you’ll be especially prone to it in the coming weeks. Will that be a good thing or a disruptive thing? It all depends on how determined you are to regard it as a blessing, have fun with it and enjoy it regardless of whether or not your feelings are reciprocated. I advise you to enjoy the hell out of it!

VIRGO

Aug. 23-Sept. 22: Based in Switzerland, Nestle is the largest food company in the world. Yet it pays just $200 per year to the state of Michigan for the right to suck up 400 million gallons of groundwater, which it bottles and sells at a profit. I nominate this vignette to be your cautionary tale in the coming weeks. How? 1) Make damn sure you are being fairly compensated for your offerings. 2) Don’t allow huge, impersonal forces to exploit your resources. 3) Be tough and discerning, not lax and naïve, as you negotiate deals.

LIBRA

Sept. 23-Oct. 22: Sixteenth-century Italian artist Daniele da Volterra wasn’t very famous for his own painting and sculpture. The work for which we remember him today is the alterations he made to Michelangelo’s giant fresco The Last Judgment, which spreads across an entire wall in the Sistine Chapel. After Michelangelo died, the Catholic Church hired da Volterra to “fix” the scandalous aspects of the people depicted in the master’s work. He painted clothes and leaves over the originals’ genitalia and derrieres. In accordance with astrological omens, I propose that we make da Volterra your anti-role model for the coming weeks. Don’t be like him. Don’t engage in cover-ups, censorship or camouflage. Instead, specialize in the opposite: revelations, unmaskings and expositions.

SCORPIO

Oct. 23-Nov. 21: What is the quality of your access to life’s basic necessities? How well do you fulfill your need for good food and drink, effective exercise, deep sleep, thorough relaxation, mental stimulation, soulful intimacy, a sense of meaningfulness, nourishing beauty and rich feelings? I bring these questions to your attention, Scorpio, because the rest of 2019 will be an excellent time for you to fine-tune and expand your relationships with these fundamental blessings. And now is an excellent time to intensify your efforts.

SAGITTARIUS

Nov. 22-Dec. 21:  Michael Jackson’s 1982 song “Beat It” climbed to no. 3 on the record-sales charts in Australia. On the other hand, “Weird Al” Yankovic’s 1984 parody of Jackson’s tune, “Eat It,” reached no. 1 on the same charts. Let’s use this twist as a metaphor that’s a good fit for your life in the coming weeks. According to my analysis of the astrological omens, you may find that a stand-in or substitute or imitation will be more successful than the original. And that will be auspicious!

CAPRICORN

Dec. 22-Jan. 19:  The Space Needle in Seattle, Washington is 605-feet high and 138-feet wide: a tall and narrow tower. Near the top is a round restaurant that makes one complete rotation every 47 minutes. Although this part of the structure weighs 125 tons, for many years its motion was propelled by a mere 1.5 horsepower motor. I think you will have a comparable power at your disposal in the coming weeks: an ability to cause major movement with a compact output of energy.

AQUARIUS

Jan. 20-Feb. 18: In 1941, the Ford automobile company created a “biological car.” Among its components were “bioplastics” composed of soybeans, hemp, flax, wood pulp and cotton. It weighed a thousand pounds less than a comparable car made of metal. This breakthrough possibility never fully matured, however. It was overshadowed by newly abundant plastics made from petrochemicals. I suspect that you Aquarians are at a phase with a resemblance to the biological car. Your good idea is promising but unripe. I hope you’ll spend the coming weeks devoting practical energy to developing it. (P.S.: There’s a difference between you and your personal equivalent of the biological car: little competition.)

PISCES

Feb. 19-March 20: Cartographers of Old Europe sometimes drew pictures of strange beasts in the uncharted regions of their maps. These were warnings to travelers that such areas might harbor unknown risks, like dangerous animals. One famous map of the Indian Ocean shows an image of a sea monster lurking, as if waiting to prey on sailors traveling through its territory. If I were going to create a map of the frontier you’re now headed for, Pisces, I would fill it with mythic beasts of a more benevolent variety, like magic unicorns, good fairies and wise centaurs.

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A hidden province of volcanoes in West Antarctica may accelerate sea level rise

Hundreds of volcanoes could be hiding beneath almost 2,000 meters of solid Antarctic ice, an area twice the size of Texas, according to data collected by a magnetic sensor on an aircraft of Antarctica’s subglacial topography.

If these volcanoes begin to erupt, they could accelerate the human-caused melting of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet (WAIS) that is already worrying scientists. The ice sheet could even melt entirely, raising seal levels up to 3.2 meters, flooding coastal cities around the globe.

WAIS is part of the greater Antarctic ice sheet — the largest single mass of ice on Earth — and one of the planet’s two polar ice caps. Warmer ocean temperatures threaten the entire ice sheet, making it vulnerable to collapse.

John Behrendt, a geophysicist at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at CU-Boulder, hypothesizes as many as 1,000 volcanic centers exist under the WAIS. Behrendt has identified these volcanic “anomalies” given volcanic rock has a strong magnetic attraction. Of the 1,000 or so anomalies, 400 are consistent with the physical form of volcanoes, he says.

Rising ocean temperatures, due to human-induced climate change, is melting the “tongues” of the glaciers that lead from the WAIS into the sea, says Wesley Le Masurier, volcanologist at CU. This is causing those parts of the glaciers to come unglued from the bedrock.

The fear is that if this happens, and if there is actually a group of volcanoes under the WAIS, it would release the pressure of the overlying ice on the volcanoes, raising the risk of eruption and accelerating melting.

Volcanic eruptions in Iceland and elsewhere in Antarctica have already increased due to the melting of the glaciers, according to multiple studies.

University of Minnesota geologist Maximilian Van Wyk de Vries concludes in one study that deglaciation caused the rapid “emptying” of Antarctica’s Mt. Erebus active volcano’s magma chamber plumbing system, causing a rise in eruption rates.

“It’s an indirect relationship to climate change,” Le Masurier says.

But Le Masurier isn’t convinced all of the anomalies Behrendt found indicate the presence of volcanoes.

“There is a pretty good indication that there are some volcanoes down there,” he says. “But what I question is whether there’s as much as Behrendt thinks there are.”

Van Wyk de Vries also believes in the existence of a subglacial volcanic province in the WAIS. The geologist led a study where he identified 130 volcanoes below the ice sheet.

To identify these volcanoes, Van Wyk de Vries looked to see whether he could find signs of volcanic cones in the overlying topography of the ice sheet. He then compared what he found with Behrendt’s magnetic data, and is “almost certain” there are a total of 138 probable volcanoes.

Some scientists doubt these findings. A group led by Stefan Vogel, a scientist at the University of Tasmania, studied samples from under the surface of a glacier recovered from boreholes previously drilled to the base of the WAIS. Of 500 rocks examined, only two were identified as magma erupted from a volcano known as basaltic pebbles.

Le Masurier explains that if there were hundreds of subglacial volcanoes, more basaltic pebbles would have been present in the sediments recovered. Le Masurier says older non-volcanic rocks could give a signal similar to the magnetic anomalies Behrendt found.

But Van Wyk de Vries claims there might be a different explanation. Volcanic rock is more challenging to pull out from drilled boreholes than sediments, sandstones and mudstones. So, the rocks recovered from the WAIS could be loose sediment. Behrendt adds that they did not drill deep enough into the bedrock to get past loose sediment.   

Regardless of whether there are 100 or 1,000 subglacial volcanoes under the WAIS, they could still influence the melting of the ice sheet. And ice sheet melting could cause sea levels to rise approximately three meters, which Behrendt says is “terrible news for a lot of cities right on the coast.”

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Daughters

Sinclair speaks childish antics in her room,
She’s dressed in cotton whites with smiles and laughs.
Sue Anne speaks coy and calm with blushing cheeks,
For when she sighs, those words seep soft and slow,
Two sisters in the garden of their childhood,
Once wombed and peaceful in their mother’s body.
I wish to tell them tall tales from the bedside,
To be the father told about in books,
But autumn passes like the light of day;
The sisters leave their paintings on my heart.
Collected with the trinkets dressed in webs
And all these drawings from their tiny hands,
I cherish all these years of childhood craze
Beneath this autumn sun so come what may.

Alex R. Encomienda is an author of literary fiction and poetry who began writing at age nine in elementary school.

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Not so fast there, Alex Berenson

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been an increasing under-current of anti-marijuana legalization propaganda oozing into the mainstream media lately.

It’s probably a coordinated campaign, with some of the usual suspects involved, guys like Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, Former Drug Czar William Bennett, and some kind-of libertarian Fox News types like Tucker Carlson who ought to know better.

But there’s a new face as well: Alex Berenson, a former New York Times investigative reporter. Berenson has knocked out a book titled Tell Your Children: The Truth about Marijuana, Mental Illness and Violence.

According to Simon & Schuster’s promo blurb for the book, the gist of Berenson’s argument is that there is a “link between teenage marijuana use and mental illness, and a hidden epidemic of violence caused by the drug.

“Most of all, THC — the chemical in marijuana responsible for the drug’s high — can cause psychotic episodes. … Psychosis brings violence, and cannabis-linked violence is spreading.

“With the U.S. already gripped by one drug epidemic, this book will make readers reconsider if marijuana use is worth the risk.”

The book has received a lot of media attention, but as German Lopez concludes in a long, critical review on Vox, “it’s essentially Reefer Madness 2.0.”

Lopez says that while the book is “a compelling read written by an experienced journalist, it is essentially an exercise in cherry-picking data and presenting correlation as causation. Observation and anecdotes, not rigorous scientific analysis, are at the core of the book’s claim that legal marijuana will cause — and, in fact, is causing — a huge rise in psychosis and violence in America.

“The book largely focuses on grisly anecdotes of violent crimes committed under the influence of marijuana, the kind of ‘reefer madness’ stories authorities and the media leaned on when they first prohibited cannabis in the 20th century,” Lopez writes, citing Berenson’s claim that legal pot is already leading to a “black tide of psychosis” and a “red tide of violence.”

Lopez isn’t the only one to call out Berenson’s latter-day Reefer Madness. Last week a group of 75 academics and clinicians released an open letter blasting his methodology and rhetoric.

“In one of his book’s most disturbing passages,” the letter says, “Berenson suggests that one of the reasons that police so disproportionately arrest black people (nearly four times as often as whites) for marijuana use is that marijuana makes young black people mentally ill and violent.

“He writes: ‘Yes, marijuana arrests disproptionately fall on minorities, especially the black community. But marijuana harms also disproportionately fall on the black community… Given marijuana’s connection with mental illness and violence, it is reasonable to wonder whether the drug is partly responsible for those differentials.’”

The letter adds that, “Conveniently, Berenson ignores the fact that black and white people use marijuana at the same rates, and that the reason for the higher rate of arrests is over-policing of communities of color, based on prohibition…” and that Berenson’s allegation regarding black mental illness “reeks of the crack baby and super-predator myths of the ’90s…”

It also reeks of the 1930s racist claims by William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers, like that “marijuana-crazed negroes” were raping white women.

The letter makes two other points about Berenson’s book that should be obvious but apparently aren’t.

First, Berenson “ignores most of the harms of prohibition,” focusing mostly on the harms of marijuana use.

“None would argue that marijuana use is risk-free,” the letter said. “However, weighed against the harms of prohibition, including the criminalization of millions of people, overwhelmingly black and brown, and the devastating collateral consequences of criminal justice system involvement, legalization is the less harmful approach.”

Second, “the vast majority of people who use marijuana do not develop psychosis or schizophrenia, nor do they engage in violence…”

The last point lies at the heart of the argument against alcohol prohibition as well as pot prohibition.

Although an enormous amount of violent behavior is tied to alcohol abuse, the vast majority of alcohol users don’t become addicts, go nuts, or become violent, or even drive impaired.

In other words, the conduct of a minority of users is used as grounds to criminalize the behavior of the majority. That was the basis of alcohol prohibition in 1917 and marijuana prohibition in 1937. And now pot prohibitionists are trying it one more time.

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Cannabis history is black history

Black history happens every day, so delegating its celebration to the shortest month of the year is pretty symbolic of how much we respect black culture in the U.S. (Yes, I know it has to do with Fredrick Douglass’ birthday, don’t @ me). Cannabis history has long been connected with our country’s institutionalized racism, and it started long before Nixon’s failed War on Drugs.

Similar to the rest of this country, the hemp industry was built by slave labor. According to writer and cannabis activist D.M. Blunted, “Just before the Revolutionary War broke out, Kentucky was becoming populated with settlers from Virginia, bringing with them hemp seeds and enslaved West Africans. It soon made Kentucky the largest producer of hemp and one of the states with the largest slave populations. Like cotton and tobacco, hemp was a back-breaking crop to produce that paid owners well and continued to fuel the greedy demand for free labor. Kentucky became set as the nation’s leader in hemp for a hundred years until the demand fell during the Civil War in 1861.

“After the South fell to never rise again, Kentucky became the only state with a relevant hemp industry,” Blunted continues in a post on the platform Medium. “That, of course, relied on scamming newly freed black people with sharecropping.”

Cannabis, the kind that gets you stoned, entered the U.S. through two groups: Mexican citizens escaping the violence of the Mexican Revolution, and people immigrating from the Caribbean into New Orleans.

According to the academic paper “High Points: An Historical Geography of Cannabis,” in the 1930s, Harry Anslinger became our country’s first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. He was the asshole who said things like “this was a drug black men used to seduce white women” that “promotes interracial mixing, interracial relationships.” Cannabis was officially outlawed in 1937, partly due to the racists in the country who shared these sentiments with Anslinger. 

That was only the beginning of racially charged prohibition policies. In 1971, Nixon announced his War on Drugs, a policy designed to disproportionately target black communities, and it created an industrial prison complex fueled by arresting hundreds of thousands of black people for cannabis possession. A study by the ACLU found that in 2010 more than half of all U.S. drug arrests were for cannabis possession only and despite consuming cannabis at the same rate as white people, black people were nearly four times more likely to be arrested.

Since the criminalization of cannabis has proven to be a weapon explicitly used against people of color, it is important to recognize the difference between equality and equity when talking about healing these communities. Restorative justice is in order, and solutions range from some jurisdictions offering no-charge expungements for those with cannabis related arrests (like the one in Boulder County) to equity programs that include no-interest loans, technical assistance, business incubation and allocating half of new cannabis business permits to equity businesses.

As the cannabis industry grows, we need to prioritize support and inclusion for black entrepreneurs. Despite a playing field that’s anything but level, there are some black-owned cannabis businesses that are thriving.

Still, it’s not enough to make up for the centuries of injustice around cannabis that have destroyed entire communities and laid the groundwork for the social and economic oppression that continue to haunt the modern cannabis industry. Acknowledging the past and implementing social justice programs as a concrete way to support future generations is just the start, but we still have a long way to go.

If your idea of honoring black history involves getting stoned to Wiz Khalifa and tweeting out a few Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quotes, you’re doing it wrong.

“The best way to celebrate Black History Month is to acknowledge the plights, tribulations, and triumphs of the Black people around you, all 365 days a year,” Blunted writes. “It’s listening to us when we say, we need more support and y’all giving it. It’s hiring black people for their voices instead of taking them for free and acting like you’re doing them a favor. It’s stepping outside of your comfort zone and speaking out for our rights. Overall these are all simple examples, that you can apply to your life as easily as buying black in the month of June.”

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Ticket to ride

For many who are experiencing homelessness, Boulder County can be something of a vortex. Without a job, a home or transportation, it’s easy to get stuck in a tough situation here and all but impossible to access opportunity elsewhere.

That’s why Bridge House’s Path to Home Navigation program provides relocation services for its clients — regional bus or plane tickets out of town and even out of state. If a person experiencing homelessness needs to get out of Boulder, Path to Home helps them do it.

It’s an essential resource for many, but one that’s also tangled up in a complex, nuanced national controversy: homeless relocation.

Between Oct. 1, 2017 and Dec. 31, 2018, 2,900 single individuals applied for help in Boulder County through the coordinated entry screening process, which is a requirement for anyone seeking homeless services in the area. Of those individuals, 1,790 sought navigation services, which could either be getting local bus tickets around town, or regional tickets to other cities/states for those seeking relocation or reunification.

Unless a client returns to the area, every one of those regional relocation tickets gets counted as a “successful exit” for Boulder County when it comes to homelessness  — regardless of how things actually go for the individual after they get on the bus or plane. But some critics are calling into question the legitimacy of Boulder’s successful exit rate considering there is no follow up and no one knows what happens to a person once they’ve been transported out of town.

Still, people like Isabel McDevitt, the executive director of Bridge House, contend that these services are an essential and largely effective resource for Boulder’s homeless.

“We have seen over the years that there is a significant portion of folks who are experiencing homelessness in Boulder and in most communities, who are looking for assistance to either return to their home community or go to another community where they might have a job, resources, friends or family,” McDevitt says.

The idea is if the only thing keeping someone from being in a stable, safe, housed and happy situation is a bus or plane ticket, Path to Home is there to provide it for them. It’s a win-win situation the way McDevitt explains it — the client has a chance to access opportunities elsewhere and the city has one less person experiencing homelessness on its streets.

This is not uncommon in the U.S. In fact, according to a 2017 report by the Guardian, there were some 21,400 individual homeless relocation journeys across the country between 2011 and 2017. It’s a practice that has been going on for the better part of three decades all over America and one that relies almost entirely on front-end verification.

“Our process is that we actually will go through a checklist, make phone calls and verify that someone has a better option wherever they’re going,” McDevitt explains.

In order to ensure what they call a “soft landing” or a “warm handoff,” when a client requests regional transportation, Bridge House will independently confirm there is an opportunity for them at their destination. Be that a family member or a friend with whom they can stay, a job they have lined up, drug rehabilitation services or a women’s shelter they need to access, someone with Bridge House will make contact and confirm that their client has a connection to their destination.

“Everything we do is focused on what someone’s goals are,” McDevitt explains. According to the City’s homelessness services dashboard, in 2018 alone, Path to Home helped 166 people successfully “reunify or relocate.”

Will Brendza
Recent Data shows 1,790 individuals sought navigation services assistance in Boulder County. People experiencing homeless can get fully subsidized bus and plane tickets to access opportunities outside of Boulder County.

Undeniably, that’s a significant number of people, freeing up shelter beds and resources for others with nowhere to go, making sure fewer people have to sleep outside at night. However, the point of contention for homelessness activists like Darren O’Connor is that there’s absolutely no follow-up after these people are given their tickets out of town. Whether it’s a bus ticket to Denver or a plane ticket to Phoenix, once a client is out of sight, they’re out of mind as well. 

“We need to know where these people are going,” says O’Connor, who works with Boulder Rights Watch. “And we need to know we’re really solving something rather than solving simply that ‘they were here and now they’re not, so Boulder wins.’”

From O’Connor’s perspective, without some form of follow-up it’s irresponsible to count someone’s exit as a “success.” If they just travel somewhere else and end up on the streets again, all that’s being accomplished is shuffling the homeless around — moving people to other places without actually addressing the root problems of homelessness.

“I will say, this is not a solution that should just be disregarded … for some people it may work,” O’Connor admits. “But there’s often a reason that people are homeless in the first place and aren’t with their family.”

Those reasons are many, from drug use to mental illness and domestic abuse. Whatever someone’s reason for becoming homeless or for not being with their family, it’s simply not enough to call ahead and then hand them a ticket out of town, O’Connor argues. Anything could happen to them between Boulder and their destination: drug relapses, incarceration, mental breakdowns and/or psychotic episodes, accidents, or any other number of mishaps. And when these people are traveling on the City’s dime, O’Connor believes that the City has a responsibility to make sure they arrive safely.

“You know, that’s a challenge,” McDevitt says. “We don’t have a ton of resources to do follow up.”

That was a sentiment echoed by Wendy Schwartz, the human services policy manager with the City of Boulder Housing and Human Services department, which provides  funding to Bridge House.

“Bridge House staff does not do that (follow-up) due to resource limitations,” Schwartz says. “But that’s also part of the reason they really do that due diligence and checking on the front-end to really make sure that there’s a really genuine opportunity for the person involved.”

As far as resources go, in 2018, McDevitt says Bridge House provided $30,730 in local navigation services through RTD (bus tickets between Boulder and Denver or Boulder and Longmont, etc.) and they provided $10,645 in regional relocation and reunification tickets. Which is a deal considering that it costs nearly $43,000 a year to serve and accommodate someone experiencing homelessness in Boulder. No matter where someone is going, a bus or plane ticket is going to be a cheaper option than supporting them locally.

McDevitt adds that even if Bridge House did have the necessary funds and personnel to pursue follow-up, a lot of people who are processed through the County’s coordinated entry system and later receive a bus ticket out of town only stayed in Boulder for a short period of time. Specifically, 37 percent of those who were processed through the system were in Boulder County for less than a month, according to the homelessness services dashboard. Many of those people don’t have any connection to this city or the people here and wouldn’t want to stay in touch anyway, McDevitt asserts.

O’Connor doesn’t accept that as a legitimate excuse, though.

“Quite frankly, my opinion is that’s bullshit,” he says. “How much money does it take to get someone’s phone number and call them once in a while?”

Regardless, the City isn’t forcing these tickets on anyone. No one is being shipped out of Boulder against their will. If someone gets a bus ticket out of town, it’s because they asked for it and because they had a reason to leave. And for each and every one of those cases, Bridge House has verified that they had somewhere, someone or some opportunity to go to. 

It’s a complex issue. On one hand, PTHN services offer an essential resource for anyone who wants or needs to get out of Boulder and can’t. On the other hand, how can anyone ever be sure it’s working if there’s no follow-up? The only measure of success McDevitt distinguished was whether or not someone who had been previously relocated from Boulder ever returned to the city.

This kind of homeless relocation program is used widely throughout the country, and Boulder is receiving homeless who have been relocated here from elsewhere. And while proponents of the program see Path to Home as a pressure release valve for that influx, it does raise important questions.

Are the homeless being sent to Boulder successfully staying off the streets once they arrive? If the answer is yes, then that result should offer some support that Path to Home is likely working. If not, then why would Boulder County assume that its exits are successful when its entries from similar programs are not?    

“As a national problem we need to have some broader policies that don’t focus just on cities or even states or regions because it’s such a shared problem,” McDevitt says. Solving that problem will require a cohesive effort — it’s such a far-reaching issue and one that intertwines so many different people and so many cities, that tackling it necessitates collaboration.

For now, Bridge House will continue to offer its PTHN services, relocating homeless individuals, moving them out of Boulder County by bus and by plane, and every ticket out of town will continue to count as a successful exit.

The navigation services may help people experiencing some of the toughest of times get somewhere they might have it easier, somewhere they might be safer and more stable. But without following up, it’s hard to know for sure.  

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From a meningitis-induced coma to a Paralympic gold medal

The first semester of college for any student is an exciting time, full of expectations and new beginnings. But for Jamie Schanbaum, it meant a trip to hell and back.

In November 2008, what started as a Wednesday night hanging with friends on campus in Austin, Texas, ended with Schanbaum in the emergency room, just 14 hours after she developed flu-like symptoms. Schanbaum had contracted a disease that, by the time symptoms appear, is almost always already very progressed.

When Schanbaum made it to the ER, she was cold and couldn’t stand on her own, walking slowly, holding herself up against the walls. She was diagnosed with meningococcal disease, also known as meningitis, an uncommon but aggressive infection that, within 24 hours of onset of symptoms, can be fatal or cause life-long disability.

According to Kaylan Stinson, regional epidemiologist for Boulder County, the disease itself is caused by a bacterium that is found in the nasal passage and throat of one in 10 people. For some, it doesn’t cause any symptoms. For others, “it invades other parts of the body; it becomes invasive and that’s when we get meningococcal disease,” Stinson says. Meningitis can be spread by coughing and sneezing, sharing drinks and eating utensils, kissing and living in close quarters.

Shanbaum’s blood quickly became toxic as the bacteria circulated around her body. These toxins damaged her blood vessels, making Schanbaum 1-out-of-5 meningitis survivors who suffer long-term consequences.

She was put in a semi-medicated coma for the first three weeks of the disease’s onset, and her body decayed day by day.

“When I woke up, I had scars. My hands, my fingers and my feet were black. I just had dead limbs,” she says.

She spent three months in the hospital trying to recover, but by then the doctors knew they needed to amputate. Schanbaum did hyperbaric chamber treatments, a therapy where the body is exposed to 100-percent oxygen at a high pressure to heal wounds. It worked. Because the oxygen rejuvenated her limbs, the doctors were able to “save more than they originally planned,” Schanbaum says. “They amputated below the knee instead of from my thighs.”

Amputation was not an easy decision for Schanbaum. She was young, about to start her collegiate career and not sure how she’d adapt to the different functionality in her limbs.

At first, doctors wanted to see if they could maximize the areas they could save. For a while, every week was a different prognosis, from half a foot to both feet to her leg. In the end, she just wanted to get on with her life. “I felt like a statue in bed. I couldn’t move my limbs. They were swelled up like a balloon,” she says. “That’s when I knew I needed the amputation.”

About 12 weeks after contracting meningitis, Schanbaum lost her fingers and the lower portions of her legs. She had to go back to the basics: re-learning how to walk, brush her teeth and feed herself — things she always took for granted.

“I was faced with a challenge and needed to become a problem solver. It was very frustrating,” Schanbaum says. “But people adapt.”

courtesy Jamie Schanbaum

Sports weren’t a big part of Schanbaum’s life before she got sick — in fact, she only biked to get around campus. But after her amputations, the fear of not being able to do activities she could have done before, like ride a bike, hit her hard. That was, until she met someone who told her she could.

“I met someone at rehab who said, ‘I heard you like cycling. You are going to be on the next U.S. team one day,’” Schanbaum recalls. “I was like, ‘Get out of here. I am trying to figure out how to walk.’”

Eventually Schanbaum was introduced to an adaptive cycling coach, who helped her get a customized bike that fitted her special needs. Once she learned how to ride, she did not stop. Mile after mile, cycling no longer was a way of transportation; it became a source of independence and gave her exciting goals to work toward. With an extensive training plan, she started looking to win races.

In two years she went from learning how to walk, to learning how to adapt a sport without legs or fingers, to riding around 70 miles per week, and, ultimately, to a win at the 2011 Road National Paralympic Championship, which earned her a spot on the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team.

She was now a professional athlete. Being on Team U.S.A. felt surreal for Schanbaum. “It was the most professional thing I’ve ever done,” she says. “Banners everywhere, media interviews, seeing different people with their challenges and how they ride a bike, the podium, the medals, the audience. I was very happy that day.”

Nowadays, Schanbaum only cycles as a hobby. But the memories she made as a member of the U.S. team make her feel proud of her journey. “Walking into the velodrome was powerful. Seeing my teammates training. In that moment I knew I made it,” she says.

But 2011 not only gave Schanbaum a win as an athlete, but also as an advocate. After accepting the fact that she was going to be disabled for life by a disease she did not even know existed, Schanbaum learned that a vaccine could have prevented her from getting meningitis.

courtesy Jamie Schanbaum

While recovering at the hospital, she started advocating for the awareness of meningitis and its consequences. She joined forces with a nonprofit that was lobbying for a law mandating all colleges in the state of Texas require students to get an existing vaccine protecting people against all types of meningitis. In the summer of 2009, Senate Bill 918, requiring meningococcal vaccination of private college students — also known as The Jamie Schanbaum Act — passed after two attempts. In 2011, the law was amended to cover all colleges, both private and public, in Texas. (While Colorado requires education about meningitis for all college students, it doesn’t mandate the vaccine.)

To keep promoting awareness of the impact of meningitis and the importance of vaccination, Schanbaum became a representative for the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline PLC, a job that brought her to share her story at the Colorado Adult Immunization Coalition at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in Denver.

There are about five to six cases of meningitis in Colorado per year, according to Stinson, and in Boulder County it’s less than one case a year. The last case reported was in November 2018, when University of Colorado Boulder announced a 19-year-old student was diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis. He made a full recovery, but, like Schanbaum, he contracted the disease while on campus.

From January 2015 to November 2016, there were 18 cases, including one death, of bacterial meningitis at colleges across the country. The risk of contracting meningitis is approximately 3.5 times higher in college students aged 18 to 24 years when compared with persons not attending college of the same age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Students live in close contact in dormitories, and that’s the risk factor on campus, says Dr. Ann Mattson, CU Boulder medical director. Although hand washing before eating and avoiding sharing utensils can help prevent infection, vaccination is the most effective tool.

“People might not feel pressure to get vaccinated because they don’t think it can happen to them. But when you are in the hospital fighting for your life, you think of that moment when you could have acted, but you didn’t,” Schanbaum says.

With a bill under her name and gold medals as a para-athlete, Schanbaum feels grateful and powerful about how things turned out for her. “What at the beginning was a sad story is now a cool story,” she says. “Ten years after, it stills blows my mind every time I say it out loud.”

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Rewritten

I know it might hurt if you told me what you really think
of me, but I feel a deeper ache to never
be able to know why you vanished

boot tracks in the mud
followed by tire tracks
followed by my pause
two dogs looking with me at the heavy empty space

it will hurt if I ever get to know what you really think of me
it does hurt that I don’t know what I did wrong

a tingling through each finger
believe in a mineral deposit rushing downstream
I am pulled
and still find I am not moving

hurt from what I assume you think of me
hurt that I am wrong

I let the pain wash to the surface
as if I had been anywhere near a beach
imagined my body a shoreline
collecting everything that couldn’t move with the water fast enough
come with me broken muscle
come with me softened shattered glass

you don’t think of me
been wasting so much time

gathering home in lost trinkets
ignoring the barking at my back
as I bend down to examine where I am standing
I have been here before
remembering something…

think

think again

of anything else

Samantha Albala is a Boulder-based poet, gobbling up horizons and babbling about road trips, tea and anatomical hearts. See more writing at samanthaalbala.contently.com.

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A reason to hope

Last year was the fourth hottest year on record, topped only by 2016, 2015 and 2017 in that order, NOAA announced on Feb. 6. The same day, scientists and lawmakers alike took to Capitol Hill in the first hearings about our warming climate in the federal legislature since 2010. Less than 24 hours later, Democratic lawmakers revealed their Green New Deal, a sweeping proposal to forsake fossil fuels for renewable energy in an effort to curb global warming while reinvigorating the economy in the process.

Hardly a day goes by when climate change doesn’t make headlines. And rightfully so, given how greenhouse gas emissions, fueled by the extensive use of fossil fuels, are drastically warming the atmosphere, melting sea ice and changing weather patterns around the world.

We know all of this, in large part, due to Dr. Warren M. Washington, a meteorologist and atmospheric scientist who pioneered computer global climate modeling in the 1960s as a research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

Washington was recognized on Feb. 12 with the prestigious Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement for his “courage and commitment to inform and advance public discourse and policy on climate change, as well as inspire civic engagement to take action to protect the planet and people,” according to the prize committee.  He shares the honor with fellow climate scientist Michael E. Mann and is the first African-American to receive the award.

Washington has worked at the intersection of climate science, diversity and politics for decades, advising six presidents from Carter to Obama on climate change, mentoring countless students in the atmospheric sciences, and continuing to inform our understanding of climate change every step of the way.

Despite advice early in his academic career to give up his pursuit of physics for an “easier” field like business, Washington says he’s naturally stubborn. When it came time to get his doctorate, he was a bit taken aback when Florida State asked him to send in a photograph of himself before they would consider his application. It was 1959, and Washington hadn’t realized the school was still segregated (it didn’t admit its first African-American student until 1961.) Washington eventually attended Pennsylvania State University and became the second African-American to ever receive a Ph.D. in meteorology.

He came to NCAR in Boulder in 1963, and through collaborative work with other NCAR scientists, including Akira Kasahara, took the basic principles of math and physics, along with emerging computer technology, to create climate models of the atmosphere. Later he incorporated oceans and sea ice into his work, and his modeling became the basis for what scientists around the world use today to project both past and future global climate change. Throughout his career, Washington has worked tirelessly to communicate his research to lawmakers and the public, helping to inform major climate policies both nationally and internationally.

“I’ve tried to do my part,” Washington says. “I just always felt like I had to spend some of my time doing these sort of things.”

He became the first African-American to be president of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) in 1994 and he served on the National Science Board for decades, culminating in his chairmanship from 2002-2006, a distinction that makes Washington particularly proud.

The Tyler Prize is only the latest recognition of Washington’s contribution to climate science. He was among the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. And in 2010, President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Science. The Tyler Prize, however, comes with a cash prize of $200,000, which Washington plans to use to set up scholarships for minority students in science at his almae matres of Oregon State and Penn State.

Starting in the 1970s, he’s traveled the country encouraging black, Hispanic and Native American students to pursue the sciences, atmospheric sciences in particular. Now, he says, AMS has more than 100 minority scientists among its ranks, a sign of how far we’ve come, how much progress is being made.

“I think that science has always benefited from having people from different backgrounds and experiences contributing to the overall knowledge that comes out of climate change or science in general,” he says.

Washington has remained unphased by the skepticism he’s faced over the last 50 years, not least of which includes a handful of death threats, some as recent as three or four years ago.

“In science, we always have skeptics and they keep us on our toes,” he says. “There are essentially two types of skeptics: ones that are generally bringing up issues that need to be looked into. But then there are the skeptics who just say anything to support their position.”

Throughout his career, he’s welcomed the first type, and largely ignored the second, relying on the scientific process and not the court of public opinion to confirm his work.

“Additional research usually tries to answer the question of whether the skeptics are right or if the scientific community is,” he says. “That’s the way things ought to be settled.”

And at this point, climate change is more or less settled. Today, he says, citing a recent Yale study, 70 percent of Americans acknowledge climate change, and almost as many understand it’s caused by human activity.

But Washington isn’t one to preach doom and gloom. He’s optimistic, not only about our ability to make drastic societal changes, like the ones proposed in the Green New Deal, but also humanity’s ability to innovate. He looks at the wide range of growing technological advancements seeking to combat climate change — everything from wind and solar technology, to carbon capturing and drones planting trees in record numbers — and sees the potential to reverse course, a reason to hope.

Although Washington, now 82, formally retired from NCAR in July 2018, he recently bought a Tesla and still drives up from Denver several days a week.

“There’s no one thing that’s going to change things,” Washington says. “It’s the contributions of smaller things that grow over time.”

Ultimately, he says, “I’m hopeful for the future.”

And if Washington, a scientist whose life’s work has been to understand climate change, has not given up, perhaps we all have reason to be hopeful, too.

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CU Theatre and Dance Department presents Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods’

“Anything can happen in the woods,” Stephen Sondheim wrote.

That lyric tells one premise of Sondheim’s modern fairy-tale musical Into the Woods, which will be performed by the University of Colorado Department of Theatre and Dance over two weekends, Feb. 22–March 3. Theatre professor Bud Coleman directs the production, and CU alumnus Adam Ewing conducts the freelance orchestra.

The cast comprises students from both theatre and dance and the College of Music. With a large number of characters, there is a single cast, but roles that are sometimes combined are played by separate actors in this production.

“We have a lot of talented students,” Coleman says. “I wanted to share the wealth.”

In addition to all the magical things that can happen in the woods, another premise of the show is the question, just what happens after “happily ever after”? To answer that question, Sondheim and book author James Lapine imagine some very familiar fairy-tale characters all together in a single story. Each of the characters has a backstory before the fairy tale begins, and each one faces the unintended consequences of their wishes.

“You’re going to see Cinderella and her step-sisters, Jack [from] Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, but Sondheim and Lapine take their story past the traditional Grimm fairy tale,” Coleman says. “We’ll actually find out one version of what might have happened to them after they get their wish.”

In spite of being based on children’s stories, Into the Woods is multi-layered and filled with meaningful adult perspectives. Sondheim wrote that for him, fairy tales are “not what’s real, only what’s true,” which means the characters have to be more complex than in the original tales or the Disney movies. We as the audience have to take those characters very seriously.

“At the beginning of the rehearsal period some of the students were mystified,” Coleman says. “Their brains said, ‘If this is Little Red Riding Hood, then it must be a cartoon.’ But the journey of the characters is quite serious.”

As is true of all of Sondheim’s shows, the major characters learn from their experiences and come out very differently than they went in. The characters who survive at the end of Into the Woods “have massive arcs,” Coleman says. “They are in a completely different place at 10:15 than they were at 7:30.”

Coleman points out that Sondheim learned to write musicals from Oscar Hammerstein II, who in shows from Oklahoma and Carousel to The Sound of Music was not afraid to offer a moral.

Into the Woods is very Hammerstein-esque in that community is vital,” Coleman says.

“This is not a show where the message is ‘do your own thing.’ The message is ‘no one is alone. And so be aware of what it means to be a person on this planet.’ It’s pretty darn deep, but I just see Oscar (Hammerstein) smiling from heaven.”

Coleman say that both the moral of the story and the timlessness of the original tales make Into the Woods still relevant more than 30 years after its Broadway debut.

“The message that I feel is inherent in the show, and is very timely now, is, ‘What does it mean to be a citizen of the world?’”

Ewing sees the same messages, and the same depth of expression, in the music for the show.

“Toward the end of the show we have two beautiful numbers, ‘No One is Alone’ and’ ‘Children Will Listen,’” he says. “It’s very easy to just think that they are beautiful melodies spun out over lush orchestration, but it’s much deeper than that.

“There’s a level of detail and specificity in the lyrics that we coach [the singers] to bring out, and really draw upon in their own characters throughout. Our cast has done an admirable job of delving into that world, and I’m looking forward to seeing how much further they go with it.”

He encourages the audience to pay attention to details in the text and music.

“It’s very much a show that you have to be invested in as an audience member,” he says. “Paying attention even from the very beginning, the way the narrator introduces the show, and things that happen in the first five minutes have profound impact on how the show develops.”

But Ewing doesn’t want you to think that seeing the show is a chore.

“It’s very refreshing to come back and see Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk and all of these other fun childhood characters we’ve grown up with portrayed in new and different ways,” he says.

ON THE BILL: Into the Woods — by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, presented by CU Department of Theatre and Dance. Feb. 22–March 3, University Theatre, 1595 Pleasant St., Boulder. Tickets: 303-492-8008 or cupresents.org/event/1660/cu-theatre-dance/into-the-woods/

Based on classic fairy tales, ‘Into the Woods’ contains multiple acts of thievery, murder, accidental death, amputation, infidelity, kidnapping, family arguments and child neglect.

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U.N. calls lethal Brazil dam burst a crime

The latest Brazil dam burst happened on Jan. 26 in the town of Brumadinho in the central state of Minas Gerais, less than a month after the country’s new climate-skeptic government came to office promising a relaxation of environmental laws and inspections to “take the yoke off producers.”

So sudden was the calamity that alarm sirens were submerged by the tidal wave of waste before they could sound. The avalanche of sludge then engulfed hundreds of people aboard buses and lorries or in buildings in its path.

The dam was built in the 1970s, using the “upstream construction” method since banned in other countries. It facilitated the rapid flow of the dam’s contents downhill when the walls collapsed.

The contents included toxic waste from a mine owned by Vale, a Brazilian company which is the world’s largest iron ore producer, and its second largest mining company.

As the death toll rose, so did questions about the failure to prevent Brazil’s second big mining disaster in three years. In November 2015, an iron ore tailings mine owned by Samarco, a Vale joint venture with the Anglo-Australian BHP, had burst its banks, causing Brazil’s worst-ever environmental disaster, contaminating hundreds of miles of rivers with toxic waste, killing fish and other wildlife.

Yet instead of tightening up environmental laws, politicians, many of them funded by the mining companies, have worked instead to relax them.

In the national congress there are a dozen bills designed to loosen the rules for environmental licenses. The same politicians also supported the election of a president who appointed climate skeptics to key ministries.

Climate change deleted

The issue of climate change was removed from the government’s agenda, and departments which addressed it have been abolished or downgraded. A determination to dismantle environmental safeguards and relax legislation seen as restrictive to business was openly expressed and was a key part of the new president’s platform.

On his first day in office, President Jair Bolsonaro signed an executive order creating a special secretariat for environmental licensing, a function previously performed by Ibama, the official environment agency, which has a staff of experienced inspectors. The idea was to fast-track the process.

Environment minister Ricardo Salles even suggested self-evaluation by companies or producers considered low-risk — the classification given to the dam at Brumadinho.

The disaster has also revealed that even before Bolsonaro’s election, mine inspections were being neglected. Brazil has 790 dams holding mine waste, but only 35 inspectors. In 2017 only 211 of these mines were inspected.

Inspections missed

Of the budget allocated for dam inspections, less than a quarter was actually spent, according to the Report on Dam Safety in 2017 produced by the National Water Agency, ANA.

Baskut Tuncak, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and the disposal of hazardous substances, whose requests to visit Brazil after the previous disaster have been systematically ignored, said: “Brazil should have implemented measures to prevent the collapse of these mortal and catastrophic dams after the Samarco disaster in 2015.”

Monitoring of the dam, including the toxicity of the reject material, and the installation of early warning systems to prevent the loss of life and contamination of rivers should have been ensured, he said.

Tuncak, who is championing environmentally sound technologies that adapt to and mitigate climate change, called the dam burst at Brumadinho a crime.

Warnings ignored

He revealed that the Brazilian authorities had ignored U.N. warnings to improve environmental control. “Neither the government nor the Vale company seem to have learned from their errors and taken the necessary preventive measures after the Samarco disaster.”

For Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), one of Brazil’s most influential environmental NGOs, the blame lies with “a continuous process of disinvestment in the environmental agencies at both the national and the local level, leaving them unable to carry out their legal attributions.

“Besides imposing unacceptable risks on the environment and the population, this is bad for the companies themselves, because of the time taken to obtain licenses.”

The way to prevent new tragedies, says ISA, is to strengthen these agencies, not dismantle them. Maybe the terrible tragedy of Brumadinho, with almost 350 dead, will persuade President Bolsonaro to listen to what the environmentalists are saying.

This story previously ran on Climate News Network.

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The lasting mark of art

In any given art gallery, viewers know not to reach out and touch a piece of art, no matter how tempting it seems. But for those who finally want their chance, the Dairy Art Center’s latest exhibit, Touch, invites the onlooker to explore with more than just their eyes. Showing through March 3, Touch features myriad artworks with hands-on opportunities, like pressing buttons, making sounds, rearranging elements and even the chance to step into an artist’s mind.

“It’s been crazy how much it changes the experience,” says Dairy Curator Jessica Kooiman Parker. “People relate to [the art] in a different way. They’re more engaged with it. They think about it longer.”

After spending six years at Longmont’s Firehouse Art Gallery, Kooiman Parker started at The Dairy last summer. For all 2019 exhibits, she chose the theme of connection, with Touch as her curatorial debut. In the exhibit, the tactile element deepens the emotional linkage to the pieces, which was Kooiman Parker’s goal.

“I want you to connect with art in a new way,” she says. “I want you to look at art in a new way. I want to surprise you.”

One element of surprise she’s adding is infusing every free space in The Dairy with artwork. You can find pieces of Touch hanging under signs and in corners; sitting on top of walls, counters and windows; or even on the floor itself. Kooiman Parker even invited Thomas Scharfenberg to repaint the floors of the McMahon Gallery. Scharfenberg created a maze on the floor aptly titled, “Alien feng shui/Imaginary Garden Labrinth.”

Not only is Kooiman Parker engaging new surfaces of the gallery, she’s also opening up new viewing areas. Audience members are welcome to climb the staircase overlooking the McMahon Gallery to give them a new view of the space.

“We’re starting the year off by showing you things you haven’t seen before, sometimes literally changing your perspective,” she says.

And that is, in essence, the function of art.

“You’re able to see someone else’s perspective. I consider myself a perspective collector,” Kooiman Parker says with a laugh.

After growing up in a small town, she appreciates the new viewpoints she’s acquired over the years, saying that the more you learn, the more open-minded and empathetic you become.

Moreover, her goal as curator is to foster a deeper relationship between the viewer and the artist.

“Always my underlying idea is to gain a new appreciation for the artist,” she says. “I find it fascinating how we consume art. We look at it, we judge it and we move on, and that’s fine. But I almost want people to pause a little bit more, just a tiny bit more, and consider the person behind the work and not just the work.”

This is clearly seen in Kenzie Sitterud’s piece “The Wardrobe.” Standing in the middle of the Dairy lobby, “The Wardrobe” is its own portable room. Inside, viewers interact with mirrors, clothing and shoes while Madonna’s “Ray of Light” plays on repeat. The work explores Sitterud’s queerness in a heteronormative binary society. Leaving the wardrobe forces you into direct contact with the idea of “coming out.” Sitterud invites members to literally try on someone else’s shoes and see the world in a new way.

The element of touch in the show questions the audience’s role in art consumption. Mark Bueno’s pieces feature artwork with a lottery ticket-like scratch off medium and small disks to slowly unveil the art underneath. This encourages viewers to leave their impression on the paintings — initials, shapes, even illustrations of their own.

Clay Hawkley plays with that idea more conceptually by questioning the audience’s metaphorical mark on artwork. In “Mona,” “Skull,” “Frida” and “Wave,” Hawkley displays posters of famous images crumpled, faded and ripped.

“Clay was riffing off the idea that the more a painting gets looked at, the more it degrades it in some way,” Kooiman Parker says. “[These images] are just getting more and more distressed.”

In another piece, “Charcoal Touch,” Hawkley covers a sheet of paper in charcoal, luring the viewer to rub their finger on it. By doing so, they end up leaving with a smudge on their hand.

“You touch it, and you’re left with a mark,” Kooiman Parker says. “You can’t just touch it and leave unaltered.”

ON THE BILL: ‘Touch’ — Breaking the barrier between art and viewer. Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, thedairy.org. Through March 3.

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Feeding the world

“How do you like your latte?” Andrew Love asks from across the kitchen island as I settle into a plush couch just a few feet away in the living room of his home in South Boulder. “We really only have one option, so I hope you like almond milk.”

Amber Lily, his partner in life and often in music, laughs from the living room floor where she’s quietly picking through scales on an acoustic guitar. The house — a split level with lots of natural light but not a lot of furniture — is the pair’s new homebase. It’s a big change for the roots-and-reggae blending musicians, who, up until three weeks ago, had called the Hawaiian island of Kauai home for the past seven years.

Kauai is a mother of sorts to both Andrew and Amber, a place that nurtured them and taught them and, when they were ready, sent them out into the world feeling loved and supported. Kauai gave them a musical family, a strongly rooted value system and a deeper connection to the earth — a progenitress in every sense of the word.

Amber called the Big Island home through part of her childhood, and Andrew traveled to the smaller island of Kauai during a time of deep personal exploration as a young man right out of Berklee College of Music.

For Andrew — borned and raised in Savannah, Georgia — living in Hawaii was a part of rewriting his story, as he puts it. In 2012, a musician friend invited Andrew to come to the island and record his first album in a small studio on his friend’s cacao farm. Andrew jumped at the chance.

“I flew out there and spent all my money, did a crowdfunding campaign and flew some of my favorite musicians out there, and we made a record called The Real Thing,” he says. “I actually made three records off of that crowdfunding campaign.”

“Which is one of the themes of his whole story,” Amber adds. “Use what you have, make it work, trust the process, use your last dollar, put it into your art, make good music from one microphone in a garage. That’s how we’ve made most of our records.”

For more than a decade, Andrew has performed and recorded music under the pseudonym Tubby Love, a high school nickname that doesn’t reflect the lean man sitting in the living room today.

But back then, Tubby Love — Tubs to friends — was 100 pounds heavier. 

“I just took [the nickname] and I made it my shield and it became a part of my story,” Andrew says. The first step in rewriting that story “was shedding that layer [and losing 100 pounds]. Now I’m ready to shed another layer of that, which is the actual name, Tubby.”

His upcoming studio album, The Deep South Sessions, will be released as Andrew Love.

“It’s [about] letting go of old stories that have shaped me,” he says of the transition. “I will always be Tubs to a lot of people, a lot of people who love me dearly, and I have expressed a lot of authenticity with [that name]. But [the transition to Andrew is] for me to return to my authentic center and to get to be something more than a character that I’ve created.”

Hawaii, like any good mother, helped Andrew find himself. Hawaii guided him to his musical family — people like Nahko Bear, Dustin Thomas, Trevor Hall and Paul Izak — and toward the socially and spiritually conscious messages that would become the cornerstone of Andrew’s music.

But most importantly, Hawaii guided Andrew to Amber.

“Her entire family, they changed my life,” Andrew says. “They helped me get in touch with real food, with growing food. That helped me step into more of my actual self, physically, spiritually, mentally, all of it.”

Amber lovingly describes her parents as “dream chasers” who fled East Coast suburbia in search of something beyond “traditional mother/father roles.”

“They jumped around looking for the spot,” Amber says. “They were looking for community, for a place that felt right. And eventually my mom birthed her community. She felt like she didn’t find her people until she had her children. We grounded in Kauai. We found a place where we could live the values that we believe in.”

It was actually one of Amber’s brothers who met Andrew first, while Amber was still studying at Pitzer College in East Los Angeles.

“I fell in love with her brother first,” Andrew says with a grin.

“My brother told me, ‘You have to meet this guy, Tubby Love; he’s the best musician I’ve ever met,” Amber says.

The two finally met in 2012.

“I’d always thought of what it would be like to harmonize with a man, to fall in love that way,” Amber says. “And we sang together and it was… wow. I’d never felt anything like that. Just two literal vibrations coming together. It was ecstatic. Fast forward a year or so in and out of seeing each other, and finally we were both on Kauai. I moved there after I graduated, and we had a moment of openness in our lives and again, it happened through a night on a porch singing together and at the end of a song we were like, ‘We just made love.’ We didn’t touch each other. It wasn’t even about each other, but it was through music, through sharing our most vulnerable instrument, the voice, which has the power to share the depth of our soul that we are aware and unaware of. That kind of sent everything catapulting forward. When you experience something that real, that profound, it’s hard to forget it. So we oriented our lives toward growing that feeling, wanting to share it.”

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Their lives were simple on Kauai, but not in the mainland way. Amber’s family had just gotten some land to farm on, but there was nothing there yet but a shipping container that Amber used as a house. She worked on a nearby farm, and Andrew would come and visit.

“I loved it so much that I stayed and unpacked suitcases for the first time in eight years or so,” Andrew says, smiling down at Amber, who’s still sitting in the living room floor strumming the guitar. “I remember that. I remember getting a dresser for the first time.”

They lived small, Andrew says, and it changed the way he saw the world. Amber’s belief that the personal is political, a byproduct of her education at Pitzer, rubbed off on Andrew and found its way into the music they began to make together.

Andrew’s most recent album, 2017’s Waves, takes a direct shot at the overreaching power of the global fossil fuel industry on “Keep the Oil in the Ground,” and asks listeners to practice what they preach on the spoken word track “Walking Each Other Home.” Amber’s most recent album, last year’s Wild, tackles some of the same ideas with a personal touch, using her experience as a young woman to frame topics like social responsibility and environmental stewardship.

“Everything is political — that’s just the way it is,” Amber says. “If we lived in a truly free world where greed and hate and insecurity and the need for power wasn’t ruling things, maybe we could choose to sing about things as we want. But it’s a privilege to not be involved. People who are trans, people of color, women in certain situations, they live in anxiety on the daily. So to not think about that is irresponsible. I feel like it’s absolutely our responsibility as musicians to talk about that.”

“With knowledge comes great responsibility,” Andrew adds. “Some say with power, but I think knowledge is power. It is a big responsibility when you start to uncover that and realize that a lot of what’s wrong with the world comes from a lack of awareness.”

Together with musicians like Nahko and Trevor Hall, Amber and Andrew have contributed to a soundtrack of sorts for the growing movement centered on social consciousness and environmental sustainability. They spent years making names for themselves — together and separately — at like-minded festivals such as Colorado’s homegrown ARISE Festival, where the pair found themselves overwhelmed by the support that greeted them at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland.

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Andrew Love and Amber Lily on the main stage at the 2018 ARISE Festival in Loveland, Colorado.

“I feel [ARISE] really plugged us in here with the community,” Andrew says. “At the end of our second set at ARISE, it was the most insanely loud encore I’ve ever experienced in my life.”

It caught the attention of Colorado-based New Age composer and producer Dik Darnell, who eventually convinced the young musicians to move away from the middle of the Pacific Ocean to the middle of the contiguous United States.

“I don’t see Dik Darnell as the key to our success or even as someone that holds all the answers for us or is going to make us the greatest record of all time and then we’re going to break into the mainstream,” Andrew says. “But he does give me a drive to dream bigger and to allow myself to envision that for myself and take responsibility for that.”

Success in a capitalist system is complicated for any artist interested in maintaining the integrity of their art, and Andrew and Amber are no different. But of course they want to grow successful and — dare we say it? — go mainstream.

“I think that the mainstream is just looking for the next thing, and so we’re here to be the Trojan horse and really infiltrate and reach the largest amount of people possible,” Andrew says. “I don’t think that is selling out. I think that is a great service to the world. I feel like there are a lot of hungry people out there who have been fed food that’s been devoid of nutrients.”

“In every sense of the word,” Amber adds.

“I want to be that food sonically for the world,” Andrew says. 

Catch Amber Lily on tour with Ayla Nereo and Elijah Ray on Saturday, March 30 at Fox Theatre in Boulder. Andrew Love’s new album, The Deep South Sessions, will be out later this year.

ON THE BILL: Andrew “Tubby” Love and Amber Lily — with Bridget Law and Tierro Lee. 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder. Tickets are $20-$25.

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Could Trump get the money for the border wall from El Chapo?

This week’s guessing game in Washington seems to be where will Trump get the money Congress won’t give him to build the border wall. Would you believe from El Chapo?

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the former leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, was convicted on 10 felonies Feb. 12 and sentenced to life in prison (quite possibly Super Max in Canyon City).

The original federal indictment of Guzman in 2016 said that if he was convicted, the feds would seek forfeiture of any property or contractual right derived from his continuing criminal enterprise, “including but not limited to at least approximately a sum of money equal to $14 billion in United States currency.” And now he’s been convicted.

Which brings us to an idea Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) came up with a couple years ago: Use El Chapo’s ill-gotten gains to build the border wall.

Cruz even introduced a bill in the Senate titled the Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order Act (EL CHAPO Act), which called for the use of the $14 billion seized from Guzman to pay for the wall. Somebody must have been stoned when they thought up the name.

“Fourteen billion dollars will go a long way toward building a wall that will keep Americans safe and hinder the illegal flow of drugs, weapons and individuals across our southern border,” Cruz said at the time.

Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), the ranking Republican member on the House Judiciary Committee, proposed similar legislation in the House, which would use money seized from drug cartels generally to fund a border wall.

“This is a way to fulfill the president’s desire to have Mexico pay for the wall,” Sensenbrenner said at the time. “Having the money seized from Mexican drug cartels would mean that the bad Mexicans would end up paying for the wall, and the bad Mexicans have been terrorizing the good Mexicans with crime and kidnappings and murders within Mexico itself…”

That last point — that using El Chapo’s money, or money seized from other drug cartels, could be spun to mean Mexico would be paying for the wall — could certainly cause Trump’s ears to prick up.

And if Trump is planning to divert funds from elsewhere in the government to pay for the wall, the diversion of drug money would probably be easier to justify both politically and in court than funds from most other sources.

Most assets forfeited in drug cases are already used to fight drugs and aren’t earmarked for other purposes, so using them to build the wall would be easy to justify as just another way to fight drugs. Politically it would be tough to object to as well, not that Schumer and Pelosi wouldn’t try.

Still, there are some practical problems here. Starting with the fact that it isn’t clear how much of Guzman’s money, if any, is in federal custody. If the feds don’t already have it, they might have to spend years hunting it down and then extracting it from banks all over the world, or from hiding places in Mexico.

It’s also possible that both the Mexican government and Mexican nationals would have claims on the assets. If so, that could lead to the sort of legal actions that could go on for decades.

In either case, the cash wouldn’t be available for wall-building in either the current budget or election cycle.

Still, the idea of using seized drug money, whether from Guzman or other traffickers, to build the wall has got to be appealing to Trump. It wouldn’t be surprising if he seeks to use some, either through executive action or by getting Cruz and/or Sensenbrenner to re-submit their bills.

The Drug Enforcement Agency “has estimated that the gross receipts of the Mexican drug trade are somewhere between $19-$29 billion a year,” Sensenbrenner said in 2017. “We don’t have to be 100 percent efficient to get the money we need to completely pay for the wall relatively quickly.”

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El Ten Eleven

Chalk it up to good luck or the benevolent hand of Providence, the SoCal duo El Ten Eleven landed safely in Philadelphia (see what we did there?) just in time to miss the polar vortex a couple of weeks ago. Tim Fogarty, a native of Pittsburgh not easily intimidated by stupid-cold weather, found some time with us just before their evening soundcheck at The Foundry there. (The vortex had moved on to cryo-punish the Maritimes.)

We traded notes about Pittsburgh and Cleveland, both proud citadels of Rust-Belt defiance and world-class potholes, and for which we both feel some long-distance nostalgia, and to which neither of us have any desire to move back. Maybe for a steak sandwich at Primanti’s, but that’s a long way to go for a sandwich, even in good weather.

But… music. Approaching 17 years as a working duo, El Ten Eleven is currently trekking the colonies in support of their seventh (or 10th, depending on who you ask) album, Banker’s Hill. Fogarty and guitarist/bassist/soundscapist Kristian Dunn continue their improbable and relentlessly engaging cross-pollination of house, ambient, neo-prog and electronica; shimmering and cascading curtains of sound draped across mid-tempo, sometimes double-jointed rhythms, pulsing drones rising from subterranean nether-worlds, lithe and whimsical odes to forgotten pleasures, musical subtitles to imagined visuals of dystopian alien worlds. At once heavily digitalized and deeply organic, the heart that beats at the center of El Ten Eleven’s music is both warmly human and provocatively androidenal. 

Best cuts here include the title track, a piece Dunn composed for a neighborhood in his current city of San Diego, the marching neo-prog certitude of “Reverie,” which marks its sub-composition break with a broad, “Baba-O’Reilly”-esque cadence, not at the end, but craftily in mid-song, and the skittering chase-scene charge of “Three and a Half Feet High and Rising.” There’s an endearing quality to this music, that the middle of a song doesn’t necessarily validate its beginning, or its end, as if a ghostly train-of-thought drifts throughout, subverting its own precision. The hidden hand of anarchy extends to their live shows.

Fogarty more or less agrees, when asked how, after 10 (or seven) albums, the music ages.

“I don’t think there’s anything we have that sounds dated. Maybe sounds, samples or whatever that we’ll update. There are pieces that have gotten more complex over the years.

“I remember there was a time when we were going to play the first record in its entirety, and we were like, there’s so many parts where there just isn’t a lot going on. So, I thought, this part here, I’ll play an electronic bassline while I’m playing the drums. Just to challenge ourselves. Stuff like that.

“One example is ‘My Only Swerving’ [from their debut album], which we’ve been playing forever and ever. And we’ve probably had 10 different endings to it live.”

But while the band is a steady-working live act, their unique approach has made them a somewhat problematic festival act, though they’ve played a lot of the big ones.

“It’s cool, because it’s not like people don’t get it, we’re just not like the midnight party act, it kind of doesn’t come across that great at 4 in the afternoon, it’s not as dramatic as it would be with lights and the whole thing. We’re not really a festival band.”

But at heart, these two are deep into their own musical fabric, and after the getting-the-press-stuff-right has worn off (Fogarty insists he doesn’t really care if someone calls them ‘math rock’ anymore, even if that dog-end of music-journo speak is stupid and wrong), it’s still a bit of fun for them when they get handed some new “you sound like” mashup.

“Nah, if people say that, I just shrug and say, ‘I dunno.’ I get that you gotta call it something. We’ve been out with Joan of Arc, and Tim from Joan of Arc came up to us one night and said, ‘You guys are like ZZ Top meets New Order, and if I said that to either band, they’d be OK with it.’”

Really?

“I’ve heard a number of those over the years. One was either Radiohead playing Daft Punk, or Daft Punk playing Radiohead.”

Well, alright then.

In closing, we asked Fogarty if he had any musical guilty pleasures — you know, stuff he likes to listen to that would appall his fans.

“I don’t know if it’s a guilty pleasure or not, but I’ve had the song ‘Friends in Low Places’ stuck in my head.”

That’s, uh, Garth Brooks.

“Yeah, I’m singing it in my head every day, all day long. For at least a week and a half. I’m like, get this out of my head.”

ON THE BILL: El Ten Eleven — with Corsicana. 9 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, foxtheatre.com. Tickets are $10-$17

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For now we see through a glass, darkly

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. — 1 Corinthians 13: 11–12,
King James Version

Can randomness be beautiful? Take six numbers, any six numbers, and list them. Nothing particularly beautiful about that, is there? But what if those six numbers also happened to be the six winning numbers of the lottery? Not only are those numbers no longer random but, for one very lucky person, those six numbers might also be the most beautiful thing they ever see.

Numbers, moments, memories, actions — all are similar in Never Look Away, the new period film from German writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

Opening in 1940 Berlin, under the rule of the Third Reich, and concluding roughly 500 kilometers west, in the socially democratic Düsseldorf 26 years later, Never Look Away revolves around painter Kurt Barnett (Tom Schilling), who was charged by his young Aunt Elisabeth (Saskia Rosendahl) to “never look away.” Not from beauty, not from truth and certainly not from all the horrors of the world. Granted, Barnett was but a boy when Elisabeth charged him — his curiosity lay more in the curve of her breast and the softness of her skin. It’ll be a few more decades before Barnett brings Elisabeth’s words to fruition.

Could Barnett have achieved this feat had he not crossed paths with professor Carl Seeband (Sebastian Koch), Berlin’s preeminent gynecologist and a master manipulator of the personal and the political? Probably not. Any hero worth their salt must defeat a villain, and Seeband — a man who has a way of making sure nothing escapes his control — is readymade for villainy. Not exactly the father-in-law Barnett hoped for, but the world has a way of creating resolution even if retribution is not in the cards.

Running slightly over three hours, Never Look Away is an absorbing piece of work, one that is more novelistic in its structure than cinematic. As Barnett moves from propaganda painter in East Berlin to abstract expressionism in Düsseldorf, von Donnersmark presents these changes in geography and time as vignettes. And, like a good book, these chapters manage to be self-contained while still echoing and reverberating the movie’s broader themes — all of it beautifully tied together through cinematographer Caleb Deschanel’s dreamy, angelic haze.

Outstanding as it is, Never Look Away is not without a few faults. Some of the subplots with Ellie Seeband (Paula Beer), Barnett’s wife and the professor’s only daughter, don’t contribute as much to the plot as one might hope, but they do add a great deal of texture to the film, not to mention being a few of the more erotic scenes filmed in the past few years.

The results are sumptuous. Never Look Away is a worthy contender for 2019’s Best Foreign Language Oscar, easily the most stacked category of the lot — a beautiful reminder that some of the best storytelling is happening beyond America’s borders.

ON THE BILL: Never Look Away. Century Theater, 1700 29th St., Boulder, cinemark.com/colorado/century-boulder.

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Spark up and enjoy some love

love Valentine’s Day. Like all the best holidays, it gets a bad rep for its focus on consumerism. It’s usually the haters that end up becoming the most active participants, like, oh boy, the people running around saying “it’s a made-up holiday” are gonna feel so stupid when they find out what the rest of the holidays are also made up.

As I reflect on my dating history today, I’ve come to realize that cannabis plays a significant role in my love life. I haven’t tried in awhile, but I honestly don’t think I could have a serious relationship with someone who doesn’t smoke weed on a consistent basis, mostly because it’s such a central part of my life. Not only do I use it medicinally to replace the five other pharmaceutical drugs I would need to function, but my entire career involves around weed at this point, so I feel like only another stoner would understand and appreciate the relationship I have with the plant. 

For many, cannabis is a lifestyle choice that can make or break someone’s desire to pursue a relationship. Sharing a joint is usually how I get to know and bond with someone, romantic or otherwise. How else do people get their dates to come over if not inviting them up for a bowl pack? I assume you all must have hot tubs full of puppies or something, but for me, weed is usually the gateway drug to making out and dry humping all over my room after a date.

I have my shit together, so I don’t fit the stereotype of someone who smokes weed every day. I love being able to shatter those cliches, because I know so many people who are responsible and well-respected and also happen to be passionate about weed. It’s been an issue for men attracted to me in the past, so I learned pretty quickly to be up-front about it so that they can make an informed decision about whether they’re down to date a stoner chick.

For me, it’s not enough if you’re “cool with it” but don’t actively participate. Getting high with a lover is my favorite — it’s intimate, sexy and overall just sets the tone for the kind of vibes I like to be around. Stoner dudes are usually sweet, funny, kind and, most importantly, not judgemental. The last thing I want to deal with at the end of the day when I’m winding down is the stigma associated with chronic pot use, which is what happens when you’re boning a non-smoker. Weed is always going to be part of the deal when it comes to dating me, so if a boy ever offered me an ultimatum between him and my habit, I would laugh hysterically and blow a gravity bong in his face. Honestly, if you can’t stop yourself from judging and begging your partner to reconsider smoking, you probably shouldn’t try to date a stoner. It won’t work and wastes time for everyone involved.

When dating a stoner, relationship norms — like eating together or having sex — are inevitably done high, and are therefore significantly more fun to do. Not all stoners are harmless, productive hippies. Some have problems and have made it a toxic part of their lives. This is where boundaries are important, especially if you’re enabling each other. I’m a freelance creative who usually dates other freelance creatives, so it’s super easy in the beginning of a relationship for me to drop everything else in my life to get stoned and smooch all day, which I’ve totally done with less responsible boyfriends. So it’s not just about finding someone who consumes at similar rates, but also about finding someone who has a similar relationship and sense of responsibility around weed.

Ultimately it boils down to the fact that it’s hard to maintain a relationship with someone who has wildly different personal habits than you do. I like my weed, and my boyfriend definitely smokes everyday. That said, if he let it get in the way of being intelligent, hardworking and motivated, that would change things.

If Valentine’s Day gets you down, remember it’s a day about love, not coupling up. It’s about celebrating love’s existence and what it means. Maybe it’s the love you have for your friends or family or pets or weed and AOC’s New Green Deal. Regardless, we all feel love in many different ways and in many different forms. It is the best human emotion ever, so spark up and enjoy it.

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Astrology 2/14/19

ARIES

March 21-April 19: When directors of movies say, “It’s a wrap,” they mean that the shooting of a scene has been finished. They may use the same expression when the shooting of the entire film is completed. That’s not the end of the creative process, of course. All the editing must still be done. Once that’s accomplished, the producer may declare that the final product is “in the can,” and ready to be released or broadcast. From what I can determine, Aries, you’re on the verge of being able to say, “it’s a wrap” for one of your own projects. There’ll be more work before you’re ready to assert, “it’s in the can.”

TAURUS

April 20-May 20: In accordance with astrological omens, I invite you to create your own royal throne and sit on it whenever you need to think deep thoughts and formulate important decisions. Make sure your power chair is comfortable as well as beautiful and elegant. To enhance your ability to wield your waxing authority with grace and courage, I also encourage you to fashion your own crown, scepter and ceremonial footwear. They, too, should be comfortable, beautiful and elegant.

GEMINI

May 21-June 20: In 1995, astronomer Bob Williams got a strong urge to investigate a small scrap of the night sky that most other astronomers regarded as boring. It was near the handle of the constellation known as the Big Dipper. Luckily for him, he could ignore his colleagues’ discouraging pressure. That’s because he had been authorized to use the high-powered Hubble Space Telescope for a ten-day period. To the surprise of everyone but Williams, his project soon discovered that this seemingly unremarkable part of the heavens is teeming with over 3,000 galaxies. I suspect you may have a challenge akin to Williams’, Gemini. A pet project or crazy notion of yours may not get much support, but I hope you’ll pursue it anyway. I bet your findings will be different from what anyone expects.

CANCER

June 21-July 22: A study by the Humane Research Council found that more than 80 percent of those who commit to being vegetarians eventually give up and return to eating meat. A study by the National Institute of Health showed that only about 36 percent of alcoholics are able to achieve full recovery; the remainder relapse. And we all know how many people make New Year’s resolutions to exercise more often, but then stop going to the gym by February. That’s the bad news. The good news, Cancerian, is that during the coming weeks you will possess an enhanced power to stick with any commitment you know is right and good for you. Take advantage!

LEO

July 23-Aug. 22: Are there two places on earth more different from each other than Europe and Africa? Yet there is a place, the Strait of Gibralter, where Europe and Africa are just 8.7 miles apart. Russia and the United States are also profoundly unlike each other, but only 2.5 miles apart where the Bering Strait separates them. I foresee the a metaphorically comparable phenomenon in your life. Two situations or influences or perspectives that may seem to have little in common will turn out to be closer to each other than you imagined possible.

VIRGO

Aug. 23-Sept. 22: Virgo basketball star Latrell Sprewell played professionally for 13 years. He could have extended his career at least three more seasons, but he turned down an offer for $21 million from the Minnesota team, complaining that it wouldn’t be sufficient to feed his four children. I will ask you not to imitate his behavior, Virgo. If you’re offered a deal or opportunity that doesn’t perfectly meet all your requirements, don’t dismiss it out of hand. A bit of compromise is sensible right now.

LIBRA

Sept. 23-Oct. 22: In 1992, an Ethiopian man named Belachew Girma became an alcoholic after he saw his wife die from AIDS. And yet today he is renowned as a Laughter Master, having dedicated himself to explore the healing powers of ebullience and amusement. He presides over a school that teaches people the fine points of laughter, and he holds the world’s record for longest continuous laughter at three hours and six minutes. I nominate him to be your role model in the next two weeks. According to my analysis of the astrological omens, you will be especially primed to benefit from the healing power of laughter. You’re likely to encounter more droll and whimsical and hilarious events than usual, and your sense of humor should be especially hearty and finely-tuned.

SCORPIO

Oct. 23-Nov. 21: A study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests that people who use curse words tend to be more candid. “Swearing is often inappropriate but it can also be evidence that someone is telling you their honest opinion,” said the lead researcher. “Just as they aren’t filtering their language to be more palatable, they’re also not filtering their views.” If that’s true, Scorpio, I’m going to encourage you to curse more than usual in the coming weeks. According to my analysis of the astrological omens, it’s crucial that you tell as much of the whole truth as is humanly possible. (P.S. Your cursing outbursts don’t necessarily have to be delivered with total abandon everywhere you go. You could accomplish a lot just by going into rooms by yourself and exuberantly allowing the expletives to roll out of your mouth.)

SAGITTARIUS

Nov. 22-Dec. 21: In the mid-1980s, a California carrot farmer grew frustrated with the fact that grocery stories didn’t want to buy his broken and oddly shaped carrots. A lot of his crop was going to waste. Then he got the bright idea to cut and shave the imperfect carrots so as to make smooth little baby carrots. They became a big success. Can you think of a metaphorically comparable adjustment you could undertake, Sagittarius? Is it possible to transform a resource that’s partially going to waste? Might you be able to enhance your possibilities by making some simple modifications?

CAPRICORN

Dec. 22-Jan. 19: Mongolia is a huge landlocked country. It borders no oceans or seas. Nevertheless, it has a navy of seven sailors. Its lone ship is a tugboat moored on Lake Khovsgol, which is three percent the size of North America’s Lake Superior. I’m offering up the Mongolian navy as an apt metaphor for you to draw inspiration from in the coming weeks. I believe it makes good astrological sense for you to launch a seemingly quixotic quest to assert your power, however modestly, in a situation that may seem out of your league.

AQUARIUS

Jan. 20-Feb. 18: “A freshness lives deep in me which no one can take from me,” wrote poet Swedish poet Gunnar Ekelöf. “Something unstilled, unstillable is within me; it wants to be voiced,” wrote philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. In accordance with your astrological omens, I propose we make those two quotes your mottoes for the next four weeks. In my opinion, you have a mandate to tap into what’s freshest and most unstillable about you — and then cultivate it, celebrate it and express it with the full power of your grateful, brilliant joy.

PISCES

Feb. 19-March 20: According to the Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology, the word “obsession” used to refer to the agitated state of a person who was besieged by rowdy or unruly spirits arriving from outside the person. “Possession,” on the other hand, once meant the agitated state of a person struggling against rowdy or unruly spirits arising from within. In the Western Christian perspective, both modes have been considered primarily negative and problematic. In many other cultures, however, spirits from both the inside and outside have sometimes been regarded as relatively benevolent, and their effect quite positive. As long as you don’t buy into the Western Christian view, I suspect that the coming weeks will be a favorable time for you to consort with spirits like those.

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The doll

Dear Dan: I am a 56-year-heterosexual man, and I have lived with ALS for the past six years. I am either in a wheelchair or in a hospital bed, and I have very little motor ability in my limbs. Like most or all male ALS patients, I still have full sensory ability, including a fully functioning penis. Are there safe websites or groups I can connect with that deal with helping paralytics like me find people who are interested in hooking up? I’m talking about people who have a fetish for paralytics. I know that some people have a thing for amputees; I imagine there’s a fetish for any number of diseases or afflictions. When I was healthy, I was into light bondage. That seems like a redundancy now, but I can still get into dress-up and role-play. I would be cool if someone was into the whole bathing, grooming, dressing thing and whatever baby-doll fantasy they might have. Hell, I’d be happy if someone just wanted to give me a pity fuck!

—Realistic About Getting Dominated Or Lustfully Laid

Dear RAGDOLL: “I struggled to find any specific online groups with respect to ALS and sexuality,” said Andrew Gurza, a disability awareness consultant and the host of Disability After Dark, a terrific podcast that explores and celebrates the sexual agency and desirability of people with disabilities. “But what RAGDOLL is looking for might not be directly related to his specific disability. It sounds like he is looking to engage with a community of people called ‘devotees.’ These individuals are attracted to people primarily because of their disabilities, and that might be what he is looking for. I know a couple who used a devotee website to find each other, who dated and eventually married.”

If you’re open to playing with a devotee, RAGDOLL, Gurza suggests checking out Paradevo (paradevo.net), a website for “female devotees and gay male devotees” of disabled men.

“Many disabled people have also set up profiles on sites like FetLife to explore not only their fetishistic sides, but also how their disabled identities can complement and play a role in that,” said Gurza.

Now, many people, disabled and otherwise, look down on devotees, who are often accused of fetishizing disability and objectifying disabled people. But people who are exclusively attracted to the able-bodied and/or the conventionally attractive are rarely accused of fetishizing the able and ambulatory or objectifying the facially symmetrical. Which is why it has always seemed to me — and Gurza agrees with me on this point — that if being with someone who is turned on by your whatever-the-fuck is good enough for the able-bodied, it’s good enough for people with disabilities. Provided of course that, able or disabled, we’re appreciated for everything we bring to the table or the chair or the bed.

Ryan Honick, a disability advocate and public speaker, doesn’t think you should limit your search to websites aimed exclusively at the disability community.

“It’s estimated that one in five people have a disability,” said Honick. “And when I think about how challenging dating can be anyway — disability notwithstanding — my immediate thought is that RAGDOLL shouldn’t exclude 80 percent of the population from his search. So I would encourage him to use some of the mainstream apps — like Tinder, OkCupid, Bumble or Match — and put what he’s after front and center.”

Honick would caution other disabled people that putting your disability front and center — even on mainstream dating apps — is likely to attract the attention of devotees.

“RAGDOLL doesn’t seem like he would mind being with a devotee,” said Honick. “But those of us who do mind need to be a little more discerning. I’ve inadvertently attracted a fair number of people with a devotee fetish, and it honestly squicked me out.”

Zooming out for a second: Safety is always a concern when inviting a stranger over for sex, RAGDOLL, even for the non-disabled. In addition to attracting the attention of a few good and decent people, devotees or not, your relative helplessness could attract the attention of a predator. So before inviting anyone over, get their real name and their real phone number. Then share that information with a trusted friend — someone who can check in with you before and after a date — and let your potential new fuck buddy know you’re sharing their info with a trusted friend.

Second to last word goes to Honick: “Another option, if it’s available to RAGDOLL and he’s open to it, would be hiring a sex worker.”

And the last word goes to Gurza: “RAGDOLL shouldn’t resign himself to the idea that he’s a ‘pity fuck.’ His desires as a disabled man have full value and worth. And I want him to know, as a fellow disabled man, that he can have a fulfilling sex life and that someone out there does find him attractive.”

On the Lovecast, Dan chats with Eric Leue from the Free Speech Coalition: savagelovecast.com.

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How to become a mashed potato GOAT

For all its culinary hipness, Boulder is really ground zero of the Mashed Potato Belt. You don’t have to look far to uncover the evidence. You’ll find mashers enhanced with manchego cheese (Dagabi Cucina), white cheddar (Boulder ChopHouse), duck fat (Cured) and jalapeño cream cheese (The Roadhouse). The Lazy Dog Saloon has garlic mashed potatoes and at the Boulder Cork, spuds are smoked, then mashed.

Boulder’s 50 shades of spuds range from Flower Child, where organic potatoes are smashed with roasted garlic and thyme, to red-skinned mashers at KT’s BBQ. They are both high-cuisine (roasted leek whipped potatoes at Steakhouse No. 316), and casual (Yellowbelly’s smashed potato fries). That doesn’t include the hundreds of places serving regular mashers and, in some food service cases, reconstituted powdered whipped potatoes with canned gravy.

There are a lot of foods with which we have a casually indifferent relationship… but usually not mashed potatoes. We love them. They speak to us deeply of comfort, mom and gravy, and provide creamy mouth-filling satiation that can be tweaked to fit almost any dietary choice from Keto and vegan to non-dairy… but preferably not fat-free.

For anyone who believes in supporting local, sustainable food sourcing, mashed potatoes are about as Colorado as you can get. Colorado produces about 2 billion pounds of potatoes annually in the San Luis Valley, near Greeley, and some in Boulder County.

If you do the 23andMe search on the russet potatoes in your pantry, you’ll discover Colorado roots. Idaho’s signature spud owes a lot to Lou D. Sweet, the farmer who discovered a great-tasting variation in a field of russets he was growing in Carbondale around 1910. These became bred into the famous russets that are now America’s most popular potato and used for most of the French fries.

Too many of you only enjoy mashed potatoes when you go out to eat. If you perfect the art of making mashed potatoes — if you become the Greatest of All Time — people will love you.

Unlike celery, potatoes come in many varieties and sizes that are best suited for different dishes. Russets are great for fries, as bakers and for making whipped potatoes. Red-skinned potatoes retain their shape after cooking and are good for salads, soups and roasting. Tender fingerlings are perfect roasted.

All Colorado varieties can be mashed in some fashion, but my choice is Yukon Gold potatoes and other yellow and white potatoes. They have a nice buttery taste and moist texture and don’t need to be peeled.

There are several key moments in the mashers-making process that are critical to producing an exceptional side dish.

I start with about two pounds of Yukon Gold (or white) potatoes cut in chunks in a big sauce pan that has cold water a couple of inches above the potatoes. I add at least a tablespoon of salt, sometimes more. It should taste like the sea. Bring the pan to a hard boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat 4 to 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 1 to 1.5 cups milk or cream over low temperature until hot, but not boiling. You never want to add cold milk and butter or you get clumps.

Test the potatoes. They should be very tender, but not mushy. The more often you make mashers, the better you’ll get at knowing when different types of spuds are done cooking. Practice. Potatoes are cheap and you can eat the mistakes. 

As you drain the potatoes, save some of the cooking water.

After draining, place the potatoes back in the warm pan on low heat for a few minutes. This is an important step. This dries the potatoes, allowing them to absorb more milk and butter.

For the best super-creamy texture, you need to use a potato “ricer.” A mixer, a handheld masher or a wooden spoon also works as you add the heated milk and butter gradually to the potatoes in the pan. If it needs thinning, add some of the cooking water. Taste first and then season with salt and pepper. If you use white pepper, the color of the mashers will remain a pristine white. Some folks add a ton of other ingredients but good mashers don’t need accessories, except as optional toppings. Serve immediately in a pre-warmed bowl and sit back and accept the kudos, thanks and applause.

Real Good and Local

Trying to eat locally? Start with this year’s prestigious Good Food Awards, the highly competitive Oscars of the artisan food world, which included honors to 11 Colorado companies. Oak Aromatic Cocktail Bitters from Boulder’s Cocktailpunk won in the Elixirs category, along with Palo Santo Cocktail Bitters from Dram in Salida. Local winners in other categories included: True Blonde Ale, Ska Brewing, Durango; Pepperoni at Il Porcellino Salumi, Denver; Carmen Estate Coffee, Commonwealth Coffee Roasters, Denver; Honey Salted Caramels, Bee Ranch, Lone Tree; Salty Peanut Butter, The PB Love Company, Denver; and Colorado Green Chile Potato Chips, Morgan Handmade Rations, Denver. Colorado scored three Spirits winners: Rye Vodka, Bear Creek Distillery, Denver; Cultura Cask-Finished American Single Malt, Deerhammer Distillery, Buena Vista; and Maryland-Style Rye Whiskey, Leopold Bros., Denver. 

Local Food News

Denver-born Babette’s Artisan Bakery has relocated to Longmont’s Prospect neighborhood. The serious French bakery is famous for darkly baked pastries and crusty breads and also serves pizza, salads, desserts, and beer and wine. … Chef Radek Cerny’s French-inspired L’Atelier has closed in Boulder. Cerny’s previous local eateries have included the European Café and Le Chantecler in Niwot. … Denver Restaurant Week Feb. 22-March 3 offers multi-course dinners at several price points at hundreds of restaurants. A three-course feast at Louisville’s 740 Front can feature deviled eggs (with candied bacon), grilled seabass (with lemon caper butter sauce) and panna cotta (with raspberry coulis). … Plan ahead: Longmont Restaurant Week is March 29-April 7.

taste of the week

Take slices of roasted lamb and beef. Tuck them in a warm pita bread. Add veggies, salty feta cheese and a thick tzatziki sauce and it becomes my favorite gyro sandwich at the Mediterranean Market on 28th Street in Boulder. The Market also makes outstanding fried-to-order falafel and carries a nice selection of Middle Eastern and European groceries, jams, candies and snacks.

Words to Chew On

“February, month of despair, with a skewered heart in the centre. I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries with a splash of vinegar.” — From “February” by Margaret Atwood

John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles on KGNU. Podcasts: news.kgnu.org/category/radio-nibbles

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