Friday, April 30, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
In this modern era of 24 hours news cycles, it is nearly impossible to experience a new piece of media without any preconceived expectations. However, on April 20th 2010, I rejected the norm, and entered into Bannan Theater having nonexistent expectations about the upcoming show Cabaret. Cabaret is a musical original released in 1966, which focuses on the happenings in and around a Berlin nightclub during the 1930’s. The main plot focuses on two couples, the first being, author Cliff Bradshaw’s riveting relationship with exotic dancer Sally Bowles. The second focuses on elderly Herr Schultz and his adorable courtship with kind landlady Fraulein Schneider. These storylines are deeply intertwined, and by the end of the show, you find yourself rooting for both ultimately doomed romances. The acting and singing produced by the cast was generally good, however the stand out performance was undoubtedly Amelia Rudnicki’s portrayal of Sally Bowles. Rudinicki’s voice brought a much-needed extra dimensional to a seemingly one-dimensional performance. The only major flaw I found with the performance was the accents. Valiant efforts were made, but ultimately the majority of the accents came across as bad clichés, instead of excellent additions to the characters. However, despite my minor quibbles, this production is one of the best productions I have seen at SI, and is far better than last years showing You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Since the Easter season has just concluded, I thought it would be appropriate to write something seasonal. However, after several uninteresting and meandering drafts, I realized that writing something insightful about the Easter bunny is almost impossible. So in my blind frustration, I entered a Ben & Jerry’s induced coma on my couch, and began watching Danny Boyle’s 2002 zombie epic, 28 Days Later. I’m not sure if it was the copious amounts of ice cream or Mr. Boyle’s masterful use of symbolism, but during the viewing, I began to ponder the merits of two specific types of monsters, vampires and zombies, and how there creation is dictated by the modern day zeitgeist.
It is a well-known fact that throughout human history, we have created monster as a personification for society wide fears. This subconscious urge to blame a fictional being when tangible human cause does not exists, has inadvertently created a highly detailed backlog of human fears. The classic example of this is the vampire. During their existence, vampires have transformed from revolting personifications of death due to plague, into mysterious aristocratic foreigners, to the cast of Twilight, which is inarguably the scariest incarnation yet. Yet, monsters still constantly evolve with the times, we set off a nuclear weapon, the result is Godzilla, have a national debate on torture, we get seven Saw movies, and some parents have trouble raising their children, the end product is the Omen. What will the next generation of monsters bring? My money is on something Miley Cyrus related.
In order to have a good monster, which the hero and his party of compatriots can vanquish in the name of peace, justice, and the American way, it needs to be utterly dehumanized. A perfect illustration of this is the Nazi. Featured in every single World War 2 film, they are the perfect monsters, completely evil; the only line they articulate is a muffled “Die Amerikaner”, and the intimidating uniform makes them all near identical. Dehumanization is also aided by sharing no common interests with the monster; this principle is exactly why no war movie ever showcases how much Hitler loved his cat. Yet, my favorite dehumanized monster is one that literally looses its humanity, the zombie. Zombies have had an illustrious career as an integral part of Voodoo folklore, then transformed into a flesh eating metaphor for social upheaval, and in recent years have embraced the idea of modern terrorism. However, you would be shocked to learn that a zombie equivalent is present in our daily lives. In 1992, Robin Dunbar came up with a concept entitled Dunbar’s Number. Conjuring up a definition for the Internet generation, the idea states that as individuals we essentially have a hard limit on our facebook friends. We have the ability to deeply care for about 150 people, and everyone else is essentially Joe Francis, they sound human, and act human, but we have few reservations about fighting them in a bar brawl. This unattached hatred is undoubtedly far easier then caring, but imagine a world that didn’t consist of 150 survivors and 6,692,030,262 zombies. For one thing, the odds of survival would be much higher.
I need to preface this piece by stating, that I should never attempt to craft a critical piece about Radiohead. In my mind, this group of Oxonian musicians is an infallible musical force, and I can think of no other group, which has had such a profound impact on my life. So in reference to my deep-rooted bias, I shall solely reflect on the performance, rather than attempt at articulating any critical conclusions.
When I learned that Atoms For Peace (The Radiohead Side Project) was playing at the Fox Theater on April 15th 2010, my weekend sleep pattern was forever ruined. The following Sunday, I found myself setting my alarm, making copious amounts of hot chocolate, and plopping myself in front of the computer to refresh ticket master every couple of minutes, just in the name of seeing one of my heroes. Atoms For Peace is a temporary group formed by Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke, in order to play his solo album, 2006’s The Eraser. The group is composed of Thom Yorke, Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the famous producer Nigel Godrich, Mauro Refosco from Forro In The Dark, and Joey Waronker who has drummed for Beck, R.E.M, and The Smashing Pumpkins. The group emerged on stage after electronic DJ Flying Lotus opened the show. Then for the next hour and a half the group played the entirety of Yorke’s solo album, whose lyrics focus on issues of nuclear power and global climate change. During the set, the albums themes seemed to create a lingering sense dread around the venue. The heavy percussion, buzzy synths, and wiry guitars, effortlessly personified many fears ingrained into the zeitgeist of the modern era. Yet, despite this puncturing sadness, I couldn’t help feeling that I was experiencing a true piece of art. Yes, it was entertaining, but more importantly it made me think, it made me feel. After the group finished playing The Eraser, they left the stage, only for Yorke to reemerge alone, and play some Radiohead songs acoustically. I have often described Radiohead’s music with the following phrase “It grabs your soul, and doesn’t let go.” Nothing illustrated this more, than when Yorke played an acoustic rendition of “Airbag”; the opening track on the bands 1997 magnum opus, Ok Computer. During the piece, my stomach twisted, head throbbed, and tears began to fill my eyes. Yorke had my soul, and I cherished every minute of it. After a few more Radiohead pieces and some oddly beautiful new material, Yorke left the stage, the lights illuminated the packed theater, and generic house music began to play over the stereo system. Yet, despite the show obviously being over, the audience did not budge. Everyone just stood up and passionately applauded, truly showcasing the emotional investment every attendant had experienced during the last two hours. Then suddenly the entire band emerged back on stage, playing Joy Divisions 1980 hit “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. This impromptu second encore alone might have been the biggest revelation of the evening. It revealed that a band, which has clearly suffered, is ready to have fun.
On April 10th 2010 I had the wonderful opportunity of seeing Citizen Cope at The Fillmore in San Francisco. Cope is an alternative folk musician hailing from Brooklyn. He has been releasing albums since 2002, and his latest effort Every Waking Moment, peaked at number 69 on the US charts in 2006. The doors opened at 8pm, and the infectious singer songwriter Sandrine opened up the show. I was personally not familiar with much of her material, until she played the hit single “Where Do We Go”, which was featured in the feature film Last Chance Harvey. Her style is clearly pop music, but with some interesting alternative and folk influences, similar to that of Regina Spektor or KT Tunstall. Then after a short intermission, Clarence Greenwood, more commonly referred to as Citizen Cope, took the stage. During the set, Cope played some of his more famous pieces such as “Bullet and a Target”, “Let The Drummer Kick”, and “Sideways”, which was recently featured on the hit television show Scrubs. In retrospect, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Citizen Cope was able to seemingly create a relaxed reggae show atmosphere, while still being very engaging with his sharp lyrics and catchy beats.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Lining up fake plastic trees
Watering them with a red, white, and blue watering can
Drowning my morals
For a couple of grapes
Is that the way the world works?
Destroying my mind
With a head full of pesticides
A wolf is at the door
Asking to eat my body and devour my soul
Is this the way I live?
Judge, Jury, Executioner
Not people but forces unseen
Pillaging no mans land for the fruits of the earth
Crippling lives on all hemispheres
But in order I must surviveI must comply, with the gagging order.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
7:00pm February 24, 2010
We learned just hours ago that CR Johnson, freeskiing pioneer, son, brother and beloved friend of the skiing community tragically passed in an accident at his home mountain of Squaw Valley, CA. We are heartbroken in the Freeskier offices and this loss cannot be calculated in words, photos or moving images. But I wanted to take a moment to share some thoughts about CR. He was a lion. He was an inspiration. He was my longtime friend.
CR and I became friends in Cordova, Alaska, in the spring of 2001. We shared a heli with his dad Rusty at Points North Heli. At that time, I was no stranger to the kid’s talent as a skier. Freeskier had already run a sequence of him two years earlier when, at 15, he spun a 1440 on film and instantly broke into the scene as one of the hottest new names in the sport. But that trip was the first time he and I were able to connect as people and the beginning of our decade long friendship that, so sadly, ended today.
Up in Cordova, by night, he was a high school senior, studying for his final exams diligently at the dinner table. By day, he was the best skier in our crew, confidently airing off things no one else was even looking at with 3,000 feet of AK exposure beneath us. At 17, with little AK experience, he was our point man – always ready to “guinea” what the rest of us would only stare at with unrealistic ambitions. On one run, CR volunteered to ski the untracked fall line over the roll over. He started down and stopped and started rubber-necking trying to see down further. “I’m not sure where to go here.” The rest of us were in casual conversation barely paying attention when Kevin Quinn, Points North Heli proprietor, came over the radio, “Who ever that is, kick turn, and get out of there, you’re about to drop a 300 foot cliff.” Conversation stopped. The kid casually swung his ski around and traversed to safety – then ripped a line to the valley floor. The rest of us didn’t say a word and did the best to stop our sewing machine leg from pogo-ing us off the side of the slope.
CR was a skiing prodigy and a pioneer in the freeskiing movement. He won an X Games silver in slopestyle the year after that trip to AK. He podiumed at the US Open Slopestyle that same year. The following year, 2003, he and Candide Thovex showed the world the first glimpses of what was to come in pipe, boosting ridiculously massive air at the X Games ski pipe comp. Candide got the gold and CR would have certainly been on the podium, maybe even won, if he hadn’t of hit the lip and taken a hard fall. Simon Dumont and Tanner Hall and others weren’t far behind in the months and years to come, pushing the limits of pipe skiing even further. But CR did it first. He was ambitious, confident, brash, young and super talented. I remember partying with him in Boulder one night, probably about 2004 or so, there were girls around, shots, the whole deal. We were going for it. He was on top of his game. A professionally sponsored skier for six years already at 21 already – he was straight-up cocky. He made lots of friends. And he made some enemies too.
At this point, he had opinion about everything – from politics and religion, to his own opinion on who was the “best” in sking. No one was excluded from criticism or evaluation. In his 2003 cover profile he told me, “What Seth Morrison is doing is totally sick. I’d like to see him landing more stuff to his feet, with no body check. I think once he starts doing that, he’s going to be way ahead of everyone else. It’s crucial to land the trick, and Seth talks about that in his interviews. He lands Lincoln loops and back flips off cliffs. That on the tip of it all: incorporating park tricks with style into the backcountry lines. When someone can be really good at both, that’s who will be the best.”
I believe, in this quote, from 2003, he was outlining his own aspirations at that point. To be the best. And he was on his way.
He appeared in Scott Gaffney’s Immersion around this same time. And this is when CR started combining the big mountain skills of that kid in AK with the top X Games competitor – landing technical tricks in the backcountry. He landed himself on his second Freeskier cover floating a huge rightside 360 in the Tahoe backcountry. Just like the 17 year old at the dinner table in AK, he was diligently working toward that goal of being the best by putting those two parts of skiing together. Along with his friend Tanner Hall – he was re-shaping the face of skiing as a pioneer of our sport.
It was that same year, on December 12, 2005, early in the ski season, that CR sustained a severe head injury that changed his life path. He was hospitalized and there was some question as to how, and if, he would recover. We feared for his life. His recovery was well documented over the next several months. Hundreds and hundreds of emails came in to the email address loveforCR@freeskier.com with positive messages. Tanner was there the whole way during his recovery and in his room during some of the most significant
moments of his early triumphs. He spent 34 days in the hospital. He came to the SIA trade show just weeks after his release and I saw him for the first time. He was clearly hurt, but he had that fire underneath.
But the road had just begun for CR. His physical and emotional recovery would take years. But he did recover. And it was with that fire and diligence he came back to the sport he loved. And we all loved him more than ever for it.
It wasn’t even a year after his injury, that next summer of 2006, that he came to Boulder again. We went out to hit golf balls together at the range. Although calmed, a bit of the brashness was back. “Chris, I want to talk about my comeback profile.” We talked about it. But trying to be impartial, despite my love for him, I wasn’t so sure about a profile just yet.
The next few years were hugely challenging for our friend CR. He lost sponsors. He wrestled with not being the same athlete he was before the injury. I think he might have even wrestled with not being the same person as before his injury. Skiing wasn’t the same as it had been. He wanted to come back to the same place he had left off before 2005 – and the reality was harsh. The sport moves so fast now, even a knee injury, much less a traumatic brain injury, can put an athlete behind his peers quickly.
I can say, as his friend, his injury did change his personality a bit. He and I talked openly about this though. That brash, ambitious and aggressive pro athlete had been replaced with a more quiet and gentle confidence. He was developing a calm and a positive attitude of gratitude.
Last year he told me, “Im actually grateful for my injury. It made me realize so many things. Made me grateful for the people in my life. Made me realize it’s about my friends and family.” It was an unbelievable thing to say. That he was grateful for such a huge challenge. But he meant it. And in the last couple of years, it seems he really started living by this new found perspective.
I saw CR for the last time on February 1. I ran into him, unexpectedly, at Winter Park in the cafeteria. He smiled sideways and gave me a big hug, pulled on his mittens and we went skiing for the rest of the day together. He evangelized his new 4FRNT pro model for me (great skis) and brushed the snow off his tips to show me the hidden secret words in the ski’s graphic: “bless,” “cris” and other gems of rasta wisdom he lived by. He told me about how in love with his girlfriend he was, how stoked he was on her cooking and her ability to keep him in line and respectful. He quickly advised me “to be good to your woman, man.” He was amped on a recent 3rd place finish in a big mountain comp, Red Bull Line Catcher, where he placed behind Candide and Sean Pettit and just ahead of Sage Cattabriga-Alosa.
We ducked a rope and tried to find some pow in the low-tide conditions of Colorado three weeks ago we found ourselves thrashing about in some tight trees, hitting rocks, and traversing rotten snow to try and find an exit. “Adventure skiing!” It was so fun to be out there with him, so positive, so happy with his life. Many a ski pro, who I have been with, would have complained loudly. In fact, I think a younger CR would have complained loudly to me. But he was stoked. The positive energy shimmered on the guy.
Today, after I learned of his death, I checked my Facebook page and found this message buried in my inbox from before CR and I met in Winter Park a few weeks back:
Things have been great for me. I just got home from France. I was over there doing the Red Bull Line Catcher event. It was amazing. I ended up in 3rd place, behind Candide and Sean Pettit and just ahead of Sage, so I am stoked. Things are very positive. I have been working on starting my own line of outerwear and clothing as well. Big things.
CR is coming back. I remember you saying, “Focus on coming back and once you have done that then we will worry about a comeback profile.”
Great words of wisdom. Maybe not making as much sense then as they do now but words I have come to appreciate. At that point I just wanted to be back but was unaware of the work ahead of me. Now I am trodding my path that is leading me to a most righteous and positive place in life. Things are going really well and I am on track to be well ahead of where I was in life. Much accomplished, and far more yet to be accomplished. My riding is getting back on point for real, so… when ever you are ready for a killer profile, we can put something together like no one has ever read before. You just let me know.
I hope all is well brother and I will be seeing you soon.
We were in early discussions about his true comeback profile, and it puts a lump in my throat tonight when I think about the fact that he and I will not be able to work on that together now. I was not able to make that profile happen fast enough. I’m sorry for that, my friend.
CR Johnson was a pioneer in our sport, a talent and his skiing legacy will never be forgotten. The movies, the photos, the articles will all live on and stand as proof and a testament to his abilities. But even more important, as a human being, he had come to realize that none of that really mattered. He had come back to skiing for the pure love of it. He was enjoying every minute on snow and to hell with the photographers, the film segments, the profiles. But he was skiing better than he had in years. Being lost in shitty snow and tight trees with a friend had become more important to him than a magazine cover. His woman, his friends, his loving and supportive family were his first focus. These are the things that matter. As I told him about some of the changes in my life, things that seemed like a big deal to me at the time, he advised, ever the philosopher these days, “Change is the only constant in life, Chris.” He was, of course, right. And he had been through more change than most and had come out the other side a more complete person because of it. And a true inspiration to all of the people around him.
I wish that we didn’t have to deal with this change today. Because the world without CR will not be as full and positive as it was with him. It’s hard to see anything positive in the news we are dealing with now. But I think CR would find some philosophy, find some words of wisdom, find a way to make us feel better about it. So I’m listening tonight to hear his voice, and help me feel better.
I am so sad to see you go my friend. I hope there will be another time for us in the trees. Thank you for everything you gave me in our time together.
Love and respect,