Thursday, December 31, 2020

Posted By on Thu, Dec 31, 2020 at 2:55 PM

Tucson Weekly columnist Brian Smith’s article about the late guitarist Doug Hopkins, co-founder of the Tempe rock band Gin Blossoms, is being turned into a feature film. Smith originally wrote the article for the Detroit Metro Times in 2007, before he and his wife Maggie turned it into a screenplay titled "Lost Horizons." The film is now in pre-production and will be produced by Sarah Platt and Mike Tankel. The director and cast have not yet been selected.

"I’ve been wanting to tell this story in a film for many many years, but it finally came to fruition lately with my wife Maggie as writing partner," Smith said. "I knew Doug really well. He was a good friend, the kind who was never not there. I knew the shy, empathic, totally brilliant, cockeyed and writerly side to him. I loved him dearly. As did many people who knew him. He left a long, long shadow. Really, that love for him was the launching point for the script."

Hopkins co-founded Gin Blossoms in 1987. The band rose to fame after the release of their second studio album, 1992’s New Miserable Experience, which eventually went multi-platinum with singles like "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You." Smith’s original Metro Times article detailed Hopkins' songwriting prowess, as well as his alcoholism, interpersonal struggles, and untimely death.

“The alcoholic side of him is there, and it can be brutal, and it is brutal, but there is also the tender, kind, generous, and absolutely witty and brilliant side to the man that needed to be told,” Smith said. “Also, the guy was a genius at whittling down complicated human truths into a three-minute pop song, such sadnesses beneath the surface. So precious few songwriters, before or since, could do that as well as Doug. That’s truth. Yeah, this all makes his story so hard to tell, and also makes it really layered and strangely beautiful.”

Brian and Maggie have collaborated on multiple projects before. Maggie directed a documentary based on Brian’s Tucson Weekly column “Tucson Salvage,” and they have also started a local press, R&R Press.

"Am I excited about the film in pre-production? Absolutely. Maggie and I are really excited because, for one thing, it is really difficult getting a film made," Smith said. "I am also really nervous because Maggie and I really want it to be accurate to Doug’s heart, to capture the essence of the man’s beauty, and tragedy."

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Posted By on Thu, Dec 17, 2020 at 12:47 PM

Scott Kerr, a.k.a The Vinyl Wizard - KMKR 99.9
KMKR 99.9
Scott Kerr, a.k.a The Vinyl Wizard

If you hung out anywhere around Fourth Avenue or downtown Tucson in the past decade, you're most certainly familiar with multi-instrumentalist and KMKR DJ Scott Kerr, a.k.a The Vinyl Wizard.

Kerr, 51, passed away in November.

His friends at KMKR 99.9 FM are celebrating Kerr's beautiful and musical life with a Facebook Live event, featuring DJ sets by DJ Herm Guzman, remembrances from Tucson's creative community and a virtual benefit auction featuring Scott's massive collection of musical gear, instruments, costumes and other mementos. Proceeds will go to the Kerr family and KMKR Radio 99.9 FM.

The event kicks off at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 18.

Click here for more information about the auction and celebration of the Vinyl Wizard's life. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Posted By on Wed, Dec 16, 2020 at 11:30 AM

PHOENIX – Attorney Ehsan Zaffar is leading an initiative to establish a civil rights center at Arizona State University to target inequality in the U.S. To do so, Zaffar envisions a range of products, services and programs – perhaps including Yelp-like reviews of how Arizona companies address social justice issues.

“Inequality is the greatest social, political, economic problem facing this country today,” said Zaffar, a civil rights and civil liberties official with the Department of Homeland Security who will join ASU in January. “I think our country is headed back to a time when institutions were powerless to fix the problems in the country. There’s a lack of trust.”

He hopes the center’s work will help strengthen institutions by encouraging them to be more responsive to the public and to produce more factual information about social justice issues.

Zaffar said his work at the center, which will include fundraising, also could examine how news and social media cover certain communities in ways that affect lawmakers, analyze emergency response times in communities of color and explore the gender pay gap in U.S. companies.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Posted By on Mon, Oct 5, 2020 at 1:00 PM

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Thursday, August 20, 2020

Posted By on Thu, Aug 20, 2020 at 11:00 AM

click to enlarge JEFF GARDNER
Jeff Gardner

The Watershed Management Group is hosting their first Monsoon Film Festival on Thursday, Sept. 24, and is currently seeking film submissions from the public. The virtual Monsoon Film Festival is planned to share audience stories and perspectives from the Santa Cruz Watershed and beyond.

Videos can be submitted to one of five categories:
 - By or For Children: For all videos made by children or created for a young audience
 - College: For films made by any college student
 - We Are One Watershed: For films emphasizing WMG's values of diversity and equity
 - Science: For shorts that emphasize the different scientific disciplines that relate to water, such as biology, ecology, etc.
 - Steward In Place: For films that show what you can do on your own to make positive change for the environment

The only requirement is that the videos are five minutes or less and are received by Monday, Sept. 7. No experience required.

The film festival will be presented in advance of a special screening of the documentary The Beaver Believers and will cap off WMG’s summer fundraising in support of the Release The Beavers Campaign. WMG’s 50-year plan to restore Tucson’s heritage of flowing rivers includes strategies to bring beavers back to the Santa Cruz watershed.

The Watershed Management Group is a Tucson-based nonprofit organization supporting sustainable communities.  

For more information, visit

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Posted By on Tue, Jul 7, 2020 at 10:00 AM

I didn’t like Hamilton the first time I watched it. The music felt unoriginal, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s face and voice were annoying me, and I didn’t follow the plot.

But…I loved the ending and really liked the women in the show, especially Phillipa Soo as Eliza Hamilton. I liked them so much it made me ponder whether or not I had made some sort of mistake. So, I waited a couple of days and watched it again.

Upon second viewing, I loved Hamilton from start to finish, and Miranda grew on me to the point that I found him adorable. Not sure what happened the first time; perhaps I was distracted, perhaps I was just grouchy. This sort of thing has happened only once or twice in 25 years of film reviewing (Most notably, my about-face on Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas).

During the second viewing, my brain clicked on to the Hamilton frequency. I heard all of the lyrics, the melodies jumped out at me, and the choreography was stunning. It’s deserving of all the hype, and boasts a boldly original concept; the founding fathers played by multiple ethnicities, often rapping. The cast is superb, including Miranda as the title character, Leslie Odom, Jr. as friend-turned-enemy Aaron Burr, and a host of performers sometimes playing two parts.

MVP winner for the best comedic turn in the show goes to Jonathan Groff as the sassy King George, so assured the American colonies will be back under his reign and, yes, gloriously spitting while singing in vivid HD.

As good as everybody is, Soo steals her every scene and gives the musical major heart. She’s the reason I took a breath, took the time, watched the show again, and realized my near mistake. Hamilton is the gem it was rumored to be.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Posted By on Fri, Jul 3, 2020 at 11:22 AM

After consulting with writer Casey Dewey and former Tucson Weekly editor Dan Gibson, I removed a 2013 interview with tattoo artist Isaiah Toothtaker from our website.

Here is Dewey's comment on the article:

Eight years ago I wrote a cover story about Isaiah Toothtaker for the Tucson Weekly. The original idea was to write a shorter piece on his musical output, but it turned into something bigger. It became a sit-down “one-on-one” interview, something akin to a “sit-down with one Tucson’s most notorious residents.”

Looking back on it, it was pure exploitation and it stank of tabloid journalism. I haven’t thought about that article in some time, but numerous, horrific allegations about Toothtaker’s behavior have surfaced throughout this past week and that article has been gnawing away at me. If I had scratched under the surface I would’ve walked away from it, or turned it over to someone who was more capable of an investigative piece. I sincerely apologize to anybody who’s been hurt, abused or otherwise victimized by him. If you felt in any way I was legitimizing his behavior, I am truly sorry. I’m not speaking on behalf of the Tucson Weekly, but I will take full responsibility for this ill-conceived article.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Posted By on Mon, May 11, 2020 at 10:35 PM

Some local events and offerings to enjoy that either allow for plenty of physical distancing or don't require leaving the house at all.

Digital Programs at MOCA
. Since you can’t go visit the art on display at MOCA in person, the museum is providing you the tools to emulate these artists yourself. Learn how to make your own flipbook animation, inspired by Diana Shpungin’s drawings and videos, and see her work in action online. Try making a still life with objects from around your house, in the style of Amir H. Fallah. And create your own text blocks in a wordplay game that would make Gary Setzer proud.

Oro Valley Online Concerts. If you were planning to attend the Oro Valley Concert series, the good news is you still can, without leaving your house! The Thursday-night concerts are about 60-90 minutes long, and videos of each show are available at the SAACA website and YouTube channel after they air. This week, Canyon Currents, a bluegrass/swing/country group, is playing a mix of original songs and well-loved tunes. Lex Browning is on fiddle and guitar, Brian Davies is on bass and national flat-pick guitar champion Peter McLaughlin is on guitar. 5 p.m. Thursday, May 14.

Pop-Up Sculpture Park at Hacienda del Sol. This sculpture park is a great way to get an art fix and treat yourself to a trip out of the house, but with the safety of not having to leave your car. Just under 20 popular artists, many of them local, have large-scale sculptures on display in this exhibit organized by Sculpture Tucson. Just drive through the Hacienda del Sol parking lot (5501 N. Hacienda del Sol Road) between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. any day through the end of the month. See the Sculpture Tucson website for artist statements and more information on the displays.

Unscrewed Theater House Party. We could all use a laugh right about now, yeah? Come have one with this beloved local improv group, from the comfort of your couch. They’ll be creating characters, games, scenes, and songs based on your suggestions. Just head over to the website to register and get the Zoom link. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16.

The White Chip: A Live Benefit Reading. If you missed the reading of this dry comedy by the Arizona Theatre Company on Monday, you can still view it online through Friday, May 15. Written by Sean Daniels and directed by Sheryl Kaller, the play tells the story of Steven, who is just about to land his dream job running one of the hottest theaters in the country when his life spirals out of control. Performance is free, but donations, which will support the Voices Project and Arizona Theatre Company, are welcome.

Tohono Chul Online Plant Sale. Looking for some plants to spruce up your work-from-home office? Maybe you just feel like you need another living thing around, even if it’s not sentient? Tohono Chul has got you covered! Purchas plants online through this Thursday, and, when you’re checking out, schedule a time to come do curbside pickup. Just have your order number ready when you swing by, then get your space all spruced up!

The Loft Cinema is offering about a dozen streaming options this week, ranging from a witty rom-com to a documentary exploring wealth inequality to collections of short films from the New York International Children's Film Festival. If every night has become movie night in your household and you're looking for something fresh, check out these titles!

Posted By on Mon, May 11, 2020 at 11:30 AM

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Click here to read their biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

The links to the viral video “Plandemic” started showing up in my Facebook feed Wednesday. “Very interesting,” one of my friends wrote about it. I saw several subsequent posts about it, and then my brother texted me, “Got a sec?”

My brother is a pastor in Colorado and had someone he respects urge him to watch “Plandemic,” a 26-minute video that promises to reveal the “hidden agenda” behind the COVID-19 pandemic. I called him and he shared his concern: People seem to be taking the conspiracy theories presented in “Plandemic” seriously. He wondered if I could write something up that he could pass along to them, to help people distinguish between sound reporting and conspiracy thinking or propaganda.

So I watched “Plandemic.” I did not find it credible, as I will explain below. YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo have since removed it from their platforms for violating their guidelines. Now it’s available on its own site.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Posted By on Thu, Jan 30, 2020 at 11:09 AM

In a power move worthy of Gordon Gekko, Alden Global Capital acquired a near six percent interest Wednesday in media rival, Lee Enterprises, after purchasing a $9.2 million stake in the company on the open market.

Alden’s subsidiary, MNG Holdings (DBA) Digital First Media reported purchasing 3.4 million shares to the Security and Exchange Commission at roughly $2.72 a share on Wednesday. By the final bell, Lee Enterprises stock closed at $2.11 a share. 

The acquisition comes on the same day billionaire Warren Buffett announced he was selling his media empire, BH Media Group, to Lee Enterprises for $140 million, bringing 81 dailies under their control. Lee Enterprises currently owns 46 newspapers, including The Arizona Daily Star. Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway also loaned Lee Enterprises $576 million, at 9 percent interest, to finance the deal and help alleviate Lee’s $400 million debt.

According to Alden’s SEC filing, the company “intends to engage in discussions with management and/or the Issuer’s Board of Directors about certain operational and strategic matters, including, but not limited to the recently announced acquisition of Berkshire Hathaway’s newspaper operations and matters pertaining to the Issuer’s 2020 Annual Meeting."

Alden has built a vulture capitalist reputation after acquiring and gutting media companies, like Digital First Media, and numerous other dailies and weeklies over the past decade. Alden unsuccessfully tried to acquire control of Gannett, Lee’s 50-50 partner in the Arizona Daily Star, by attempting to plant their members on the media company’s board in 2019. Gannett shareholders overwhelmingly rejected the hedge fund’s attempt last May.

Lee Enterprises has declined to comment on the potential acquisition at this time.

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