Tuesday, July 7, 2020

It Took Two Viewings, But Grimm Loves 'Hamilton'

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

Tucson Weekly Removes Isaiah Toothtaker Profile from Website

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

7 Things to Do This Week

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!

I’m an Investigative Journalist. These Are the Questions I Asked About the Viral “Plandemic” Video.

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

  • Bigstock
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.

Continue reading »

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Other Shoe Drops For Lee Enterprises

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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Monday, January 20, 2020

Results-Based Funding: The Haves and Have-Mores

Posted By on Mon, Jan 20, 2020 at 2:16 PM


"This is an impressive crowd - the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elites. I call you my base." George W. Bush
Bush made the comment at a high-rollers charity dinner where presidential candidates poke fun at themselves and their campaigns. Like any good self-deprecating joke, Bush's quip is on the money. In this case, literally on the money.

The HHM, the haves and have-mores. They're as much Doug Ducey's base as they were George Bush's. You see their fingerprints all over Ducey's education agenda. When he favors tax cuts over bringing schools back to their 2008 funding levels, that's all about the HHM. And he was thinking about their children when he created the results-based funding scheme. The way the funding is given out, the HHM's children are nearly certain to come out winners.

In my last post I compared how much results-based funding went to students in TUSD, Vail and the BASIS charter chain. Vail, it turns out, gets more than three times as much per student as TUSD. With one exception, every BASIS school is fully funded. That's because funding is based on the percentage of a school's students who pass the state's high stakes test, which is right in the wheelhouse of schools in high rent areas. For a district like TUSD which draws from many families living below the poverty level, passing the state test and qualifying for the funding is more hit-and-miss.

In a world where Ducey is governor and the legislature is majority Republican, the rich get richer, and their children get a richer education courtesy of results-based funding.

I decided to take a deeper dive into the data to see how the money is distributed to schools with children across the economic spectrum. I found funding inequities everywhere I looked.

Before I lay out the numbers, here are a few things I know for sure.

• A school doesn't deserve results-based funding just because it has no more than 10 percent of its students living below the poverty level.

• A school with 60 percent of its students below the poverty level is not 10 times more deserving of results-based funding than a school with 59 percent of its students below the poverty level.

• Any competent computer programmer could create a system for giving out the results-based funding in a more equitable way.

Continue reading »

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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Results-Based Funding: A Tale Of Two Districts And a Charter Chain

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2020 at 10:56 AM


If Doug Ducey bragged about adding $70 per student to the K-12 education budget, the news would be received with yawns from the vaguely interested and howls of outrage from people who know Arizona needs to add a thousand dollars per student to reach Mississippi funding levels, two thousand to reach Arkansas and three thousand to reach Louisiana. In Arizona funding dollars, that translates to an added one billion, two billion and three billion dollars respectively.

So $70 per student, about $72 million total, doesn't even qualify as small potatoes compared to the funding Arizona needs to equal some of the poorest southern states, let alone the rest of the nation. It's chump change.

But Ducey is getting away with bragging about $72 million for schools by spending it, using words from his State of the State speech, "to reward and replicate success in our best public schools." Those "successful" schools will get either $225 or $400 per student from a program with the impressive-sounding name, results-based funding. True, only a quarter of the state's district and charter schools get any money, but it's supposed to be a reward for success, which sounds like a good thing.

Except that "success" is measured by the percentage of a school's students who pass the state's AZMerit exam, and as most everyone knows, students from higher income families tend to do a whole lot better on the tests than students from lower income families. So if it's all about passing rates, all the money would go to schools in high rent areas, and that would be too obviously, grossly unfair, even for Governor Ducey.

What to do?

Continue reading »

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Laughing Stock: The Sound of Music

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2020 at 9:14 AM

Neil Hamburger is a mess, a joke and a very smart guy. - SIMONE TURKINGTON
  • Simone Turkington
  • Neil Hamburger is a mess, a joke and a very smart guy.

Comedy so outsider it’s insider

Neil Hamburger is an awful comedian. His affect is palpably awkward. A Sartorial disaster, his clothes look like Goodwill rejects from the sixties. His hair needs a hot bath. His singing is like Leonard Cohen’s as it might sound in The Upside Down, which is to say it’s near perfect in spite of itself.

As colorful and character-drenched as his most obvious features are, they say little about the man. They provide cerebrally irreverent Gregg Turkington with cover for his subversive take on contemporary culture and values. If you don’t laugh at your life, you’re not listening. “Some might say this is a lowbrow show,” Turkington says. “but when I’m making doo doo jokes or jokes about Elton John, it's all in service of, you know, making larger points.”

He acknowledges that his Hamburger character requires a little more intellectual commitment than the average club comic. But his fans also expect more music. Turkington’s been recording for Drag City’s venerable indie record label for more than twenty years, from the moment he overthrew youthful punk immersion for fanzine-level commitment to deeply sincere emotional expression and top shelf musicianship.

“It’s got nothing to say,” says Turkington of current punk music. Perhaps it’s enough to say it’s just another genre, now. “I feel like punk became more regimented than just about any other style of music. Now, my favorite stuff to listen to is really well-produced pop records from the sixties. I just want something with some personality.”

Hamburger’s musical performance owes roughly 20% to Tiny Tim and another 20% to Steve Allen. The music, though, is splendid. Drag City, released his 12th record, Still Dwelling, a year ago in all formats. It inspired half a dozen visual artists around the world to create videos for it; four are now available online, including one animation and a puppet show.

“When Still Dwelling came out, people said the music is incredible because of the musicianship,” Turkington says, Songs include compositions by Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Mark Eitzel and Nancy Wilson. Instruments include a sitar, a saw and a clarinet. Jack Black contributes vocals.
“But I’ve got people saying, ‘Yeah, but I don’t know about the vocals.’ I’m thinking 95% of the songs on the charts are autotuned. That sounds like robotic voices.” No one would confuse Turkington or and Hamburger with robots, though. In fact, they are sui generis.

Turkington appears as Hamburger at 191 Toole on Friday, Jan. 17. Tickets are $20 and $25, including fees, at

Funnier than he looks

John Green was named “Best of the Fest” at the Burbank comedy festival, no mean feat in metropolitan area where you can’t swing a blunt without a half-dozen comics taking a hit.
Green was a long time coming back to his childhood dream of standup notoriety. He studied music through school, then trod the path to success as a Phoenix-area businessman. In his ‘30s, he fell in love with improv. First as a fan, then as a talented improviser, he honed the skills and, even more, the confidence to face an audience alone, even with what he calls his “resting murder face”.

Now Green’s set occasionally includes a song improvised at an audience member’s request to embarrass their friend or mate. Mainly, though, Green’s comedy backbone is good, clean fun. He says in his bio, “There seems to be a stigma about calling yourself a ‘clean’ comic, almost like you’re not a true artist. My only mission with comedy is to make people laugh and feel good about laughing.”

Green is featured at The O at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 18. Reservations are $7, $5 in advance via Eventbrite.

MLK Weekend reminder

John Roy’s Jesuit father and psychotherapist mom may have had higher aspirations for him than to be a standup comedian. Alas for them, he absorbed the influence of their diverse, artsy and gritty Rogers Park, Chicago, neighborhood. It gave him the breezy confidence and wide-ranging comic flair that made him champion of CBS’s 2003 Star Search and led to appearances on The Tonight Show, Craig Ferguson, Last Comic Standing and Conan. He’s also performed regularly on cable network TV, independent comedy shows and satellite radio via his record, Dressed for Recess.”

Roy appears at Laffs Comedy Caffe on Friday at 8 and 10:30 p.m., Saturday at 7 and 9:30 p.m., And Sunday at 7 p.m. Reservations are $12.50 and $17.50 via

More Laughs!

Friday, Jan. 17, long-form improv with TIM Teachers Lounge and The Flower Boys at 7:30 p.m. ($5,) and The Soapbox featuring Bryan Sanders (flag shirt guy)($7) at 9 p.m., at Tucson Improv Movement (TIM) (both shows $10). Family-friendly improv with Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed (NBOJU) at 7:30 p.m., Unscrewed Theatre ($5 kids and $8 adults).

Saturday, Jan. 18, Improv with The Ugly Sweater Show and Harold Alpha at 7:30 p.m., and another Ugly Sweater Show with The Dating Scene at 9 p.m., TIM ($5). Family-friendly improv with Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed (NBOJU) at 7:30 p.m., and Unscrewed Double Feature at 9 p.m., Unscrewed Theater ($5 and $8)

Monday, Jan. 20, standup showcase Brew Ha Ha features Leland Long, Jimmy Callaway, Monte Benjamin and Stephanie Lyonga at Borderlands Brewing at 8 p.m., $5.

Wednesday, Jan. 22, standup with Tom Briscoe at the Desert View Performing Arts Center at 7P30 p.m. ($22)

Thursday, Jan. 23, standup showcase Casa de Comedy is at Casa Marana at 8 p.m., free.

Free Open Mics

Sunday, Jan. 19, 6:30 p.m., The O, and 8 p.m., Chuckleheads in Bisbee.
Monday, Jan. 20, 7 p.m., Comedy at the Wench, The Surly Wench Pub.
Tuesday, Jan. 21, 6:45 p.m., Neighborhood Comedy at The Music Box Lounge.
Weds, Jan. 22, 7 p.m., The Screening Room
Thursday, Jan. 23, 8 p.m., Laffs Comedy Caffe and 8:30 p.m., Rockabilly Grill.

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