All in Columns

50 Years Later: Looking Back on Woodstock

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about 1969 — and Woodstock. And Max Yasgur.

There are a lot of reasons for this. This past weekend, of course, marked the 50-year anniversary of Woodstock. And it also would’ve been commemorated by Woodstock 50 — which, at one point, had confirmed as headliners The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Halsey, Miley Cyrus, Robert Plant, The Raconteurs, Cage the Elephant and Janelle Monáe.

My Grandfather, the Reluctant Warrior

During this past Memorial Day, I was reminded that my grandfather, F.B. Willis, landed on Normandy on D+2 or +3. The waters off Omaha Beach were still red with the blood of soldiers. My grandfather and his company helped toe-tag and dig graves — until they captured German soldiers and made them do the digging. (During my lifetime, I only heard him talk about it a few times. He almost NEVER mentioned it, but he maintained close relationships with his “war buddies” until the very end of his life.)

New Documentary Captures Laurel Canyon’s Magic

There was something purely magical happening in the hills above Los Angeles in the late sixties. 

I have always been eerily drawn to the Laurel Canyon sound. If you don't know what that means, or you can't immediately conjure an example, I understand. But think the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds," or The Byrds or The Mamas & The Papas or Neil Young's early work with Buffalo Springfield. 

Hospital Closures Cripple Small Towns

I was born and raised in Fort Sumner, a small village in Eastern New Mexico. More specifically, I was born at De Baca General Hospital — a 21-bed facility on North Tenth Street in that sleepy town. In fact, I was delivered by the same doctor who delivered my father.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that building this week. Well, to be perfectly honest, it’s not entirely fair to think of it as a “building.” It was an institution; and, in so many ways, it was helping to keep that little village alive.

New Netflix Bundy Film Strikes the Wrong Note

“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” revolves around Bundy’s relationship with Liz Kendall, the single, Seattle mother who was Bundy’s on-again, off-again girlfriend throughout many of the serial killer’s early arrests and incarcerations. It attempts to convey Bundy’s ability to charm and deceive even those closest to him, while exploring Kendall’s own psychological and emotional struggle as she tried to come to terms with the allegations against Bundy.

In Celebration of Local News

About 1,300 U.S. communities have completely lost news coverage as more than one in five newspapers have shuttered in the past 15 years. Many of the nation’s remaining 7,100 newspapers have essentially become “ghost papers” — little more than advertising supplements. Half of the 3,143 counties in the United States have only one remaining newspaper, and most of those are small weeklies.

That being said, I feel like it is important to spend a little time celebrating some of the vibrant local reporting that is still taking place across the nation. As an absolute news junkie, there are a number of ways that I keep up with important local reporting, the quality of which never ceases to impress me.

Facebook vs. the News Desert

Much has been made of the rapidly-expanding “news deserts” across America — mostly rural areas that are no longer served by a local newspaper or television station. It’s a growing problem, and there is nothing that indicates it will get better anytime soon.

About 1,300 U.S. communities have completely lost news coverage as more than one in five newspapers have shuttered in the past 15 years.

Is the Future of Netflix Interactive?

One has to wonder if this is actually going somewhere.

Right around Christmas, Netflix made its first foray into interactive programming with the release of “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” — a sort of choose-your-own-adventure, science fiction film in the popular “Black Mirror” anthology. “Bandersnatch” allows viewers to make decisions for the main character, a young programmer named Stefan Butler who is turning a popular choose-your-own-adventure novel into a video game, at several injection points throughout the film.

The Return of the Musical

I guess I hadn’t really noticed it, but it seems like musicals are enjoying a moment.

While I was vaguely aware of the enthusiasm surrounding “A Star Is Born,” I hadn’t really connected the dots — or even realized that there were more than one dot to connect. But then I read an article in Billboard about John Janick, the CEO of Interscope Records. The record label, it seems, has certainly been able to cash in on the phenomenon.

Cracking Down on Misinformation

New efforts are afoot among some of the world’s leading tech giants to curb the widespread dissemination of misinformation on the Internet. The role that companies like Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter should take in preventing the spreading of inaccurate or misleading information on their platforms has become a hot topic in recent years, but it now looks like some are prepared to take some action.

Is AI the future of school security?

Last week, I told you about new advances in artificial intelligence by a company called OpenAI — an Elon Musk-backed nonprofit research firm — which has chosen not to release the research behind a new AI fake text generator called GPT2, for fears that it may be too dangerous to release.

This week, in keeping with that theme, I’d like to share with you how artificial intelligence is under consideration to beef up security at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

'The Two Killings of Sam Cooke'

I spent part of last weekend watching the documentary “The Two Killings of Sam Cooke” on Netflix. If you haven’t yet seen it, I’d strongly recommend that you do the same. I have to admit that I wasn’t prepared for its profundity. Throughout the week, I have kept returning to it in my mind as I continue to digest it.

Twitter campaign spikes Mariah Carey’s ‘Glitter’ sales by 8,374 percent

When Mariah Carey released the soundtrack to “Glitter” in 2001 — September 11, 2001, to be exact — it flopped. I mean, it was universally viewed as a commercial and critical failure. The album debuted at number seven on the US Billboard 200 chart, it was by far Mariah’s worst first-week performance to date—moving just 116,000 units. At the time, that was abysmal for one of the biggest stars in the world.

Our questionable obsession with royalty

You may have seen it on Twitter — the #UnpopularOpinion meme.

The bassoon is underrated,” for example. Or “Foo Fighters – Everlong is better than any Nirvana song ever recorded.” Or “Tony Stark is overrated.” Or “People overuse and abuse coffee and when they don't have it, they use it as an excuse to be unnecessarily rude.” Or, most abhorrently, “Flat sheets are an unnecessary step that should not exist when it comes to making a bed.”