The all staff’s best of summer

Everyone has a picturesque idea of summer. For some, it’s cold glasses of pink lemonade, lounging by the pool or vacationing with friends and family. For others (like the all staff), this summer was full of concerts, new movies, new books and even a random road trip to the Longhorn state. For those of you who spent your three months away from higher education laying on your couch, eating potato chips and watching too many marathons of “America’s Next Top Model,” here are the sweet things you could have been doing.

Jack Johnson at Blossom Music Center

Meghan Bogardus

For me, the sensory idea of summer is defined by the scent of sunscreen, the taste of watermelon and the sound of Jack Johnson.

Whether it’s the simple melodies of silly love songs or the tongue-tying mash of lyrics in his more socially conscious work, Johnson’s breezy tunes have always been the soundtrack for my summer.

So when I had the chance to see him live (and so near my future home), I was elated. A few friends and I loaded our car with snacks, CDs and enough chatter to make the three and a half hour drive to Cuyahoga Falls seem like a trip to the local mini-mart.

When we finally arrived at Blossom, the clouds of impending doom that had been hovering for hours finally burst, just as Jack took the stage. It was pouring, and yet, as the three of us crowded under the one umbrella we thought to bring, it really didn’t matter.

We had made it there on our own (with the help of a Garmin GPS that recalculated our route often to account for our distracted driving). All that mattered was the upbeat music that surrounded us and the fact that Jack Johnson sounded better live than any of us had imagined.

This concert marked my first road trip and was the launching point to my summer, which was all about gaining independence.

It was a summer that will forever be defined by a semi-epic road trip and the optimistic music of Jack Johnson.

The “Twilight” series

Kristen Kotz

Before this summer if you had asked me what the “Twilight” series by Stephenie Meyer was about, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. That was before I was assigned a story on the Aug. 2 release of “Breaking Dawn,” which is the final book in the series.

The “Twilight” books are set in Forks, Wash., and follow the 17-year-old Bella Swan and her relationships with the teenage vampire Edward Cullen and the werewolf Jacob Black.

When I first read about the books on Meyer’s Web site, my interest in the books plummeted because I’m not a fan of the fantasy genre. I knew there had to be something to these books because they made it onto the New York Times Best Seller’s List and have sold about 8 million copies worldwide.

I wondered why these books were so popular, especially with teenage girls. I wanted to know what made them different from other books about vampires. For some, it was Edward’s “dreamy” character. For others, it was the way Meyer wrote about typical teenage problems.

One thing that stuck out to me was the way one fan discovered the series. She was pulling a book off a shelf at the library when a copy of “Twilight,” which is also the name of the first book in the series, fell off the shelf and landed on her foot.

While I’m still not sure if I’ll read the series, it was fun to talk to fans and find out why they enjoyed it.

The Dark Knight

Chris Kallio

“The Dark Knight” is not only one of the finest films of the summer, but arguably the finest film in the past several years. Avoiding the previous mistakes (though they were few) from “Batman Begins,” Christopher Nolan has crafted an exceptional and resolute masterpiece. “The Dark Knight” is not too long, as many have complained.

Every detail, save a small amount, is not only justification but amplification of the fact that Bob Kane’s hero, created nearly 70 years ago, is the finest comic book creation as well as an essential part of American culture.

The most enjoyable element of the film is Heath Ledger as The Joker. Arguably his most brilliant scene is his first full one, in which The Joker offers his proposition to a group of fraught gangsters who are struggling due to Batman’s crime-fighting success. His first moments feature a haunting laugh evolving into a mocking one, followed by a perfectly delivered line “And I thought my jokes were bad” right before a “magic trick.”

It set the tone for the film as dark, scary and intense. It is, no doubt, one of the finest performances the cinema has ever seen.

If Mr. Ledger is not posthumously nominated for an Oscar for next year’s Academy Awards, then they do not deserve to be watched.


Brenna McNamara

I saw WALL-E three times – once on a date when the human connection aspects were magnified, once while baby-sitting when the playful aspects were magnified, and once by myself when the profound social commentary was magnified.

WALL-E is one of the robots made to collect the trash humans left before abandoning Earth. He is the last one, with only a cockroach as a friend. He longs for personal connection, something made obvious by his fascination with old show tunes, which add a nostalgic, dreamy feeling to the contradictory barren atmosphere, and human trinkets like a Rubik’s cube, adding the goofy youth factor.

Although the film does have strong “Oh-damn-we’re-destroying-our-earth” symbolism, it’s not overdone like many call-to-action films.

When EVE arrives to look for signs of life, the love story takes fold. She is a beautiful Apple-looking robot who is out of WALL-E’s league. He peruses her anyway and eventually wins her mechanical, pseudo heart. The beeping of the other’s name is more beautiful than any love scene I’ve watched.

Every time I saw the movie, I would snap out of my WALL-E hypnosis for a second and notice my head was tilted slightly to the right, my eyes wide, eyebrows raised and my mouth in a slight upward curve. And to think I hate sci-fi movies.

June 3

Joe Shearer

Every once in a while, I meet one of these kids who only listens to classic rock. You know, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, The Who, and on, and on, and on. But therein lies the problem: The music can only go on so long before they run out of it. And so I wonder, how can people like this experience a day as exciting as June 3, 2008 – a day that proves music isn’t dead, and is in fact flourishing?

On this single day, three memorable albums were released, one introducing a refreshing blast of CBGB’s new wave and rivaling Vampire Weekend for best debut of 2008 (The Virgins’ self-titled record); another showcasing a sugary, sexy sensation of electronic noir that has “soundtrack” written all over it (Bitter:Sweet’s “Drama”); and finally, a quirky thought-provoking release showing range while stirring up the masses (Weezer’s “Red Album”).

I’m not going to lie. I cheated and was lucky enough to obtain advance copies of two of these albums a few days before their official release date. So really, June 3 is simply an excuse to cram three of my many favorite summer things into one.

First tattoo

Robert Checkal

It’s never expected that you simply wake up and decide to get a tattoo. Most people plan out what they’ll get for weeks. One day in July, my roommate Tasha and I woke up and left for the tattoo shop.

We went to Defiance Tattoos. Tasha and I told the guys what we wanted and waited on a couch until they were ready. We kept making jokes and laughing while they prepped. We like to have fun and getting tattoos didn’t make us nervous.

Tasha got “Et lux in tenebris lucet” (which in German means “In the darkness shineth the light”) across the top of her left rib cage. I watched as they started Tasha’s tattoo, and it didn’t seem to make her flinch. She was done within a few minutes.

I got a star above each of my Achilles’ tendons. I had to lie down so I couldn’t watch what was happening. When the artist started it stung. I thought he was completely finished after the outline of the first star since Tasha’s had gone so fast, which made me feel relieved. Then he started filling it in. It hurt because the needle kept breaking skin and it bled a lot after he was finished. Later on, it felt like I had scraped the back of my ankles against concrete.

Waking up and deciding to get a tattoo was a memorable experience because it felt like very few people have done it, and sharing the experience with a great roommate made it even better.

Random truck stop

Garrison Ebie

About 50 miles down Route 30 from Little Rock, Arkansas off an exit number that has since left my memory lies a little old truck stop that anyone not from the area would naturally feel like a complete stranger in. The stop isn’t much more than a restaurant simply called “Eat” with a lonely blue phone booth that’s since been abandoned in the age of cellular phones. To the left, a corn field. To the right, a corn field. And straight ahead, a two-lane highway that trails off into the horizon.

Why on earth is this of all things one of the best about summer? Well, for starters the restaurant offered a fat juicy prime rib that you can only appreciate completely in the southern states. The coffee was spectacular, and the feeling of being miles away from anything ordinary brought a relaxing aura to the afternoon that no amount of time in a hot tub can compete with.

Among other things, feasting on this meal allowed my companions and I to refresh our minds and forget that we were completely, utterly lost on a trip to Texas. Sadly, our time was finite and after only an hour, we took to the dusty road, never to return.

John Mayer at Blossom

Nicole Aikens

When you’re with your best friend on a summer night it’s difficult to imagine it being any better. That is, until you add John Mayer. His bluesy, soulful lyrics combined with his killer guitar and remarkable stage presence made his July 2008 show good, but it was the words he spoke throughout that made the concert amazing.

Mayer serenaded the crowd with his hits like “Say,” “Why Georgia” and my personal favorite, “Stop This Train.” He also played his own renditions of Tom Petty’s “Free Falling” and Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.”

During the show, Mayer provided the crowd not only with a medley of his songs, but he also gave something most artists these days cannot be bothered to worry about, let alone provide to their fans. What Mayer gave was a sense of hope. There was nothing that felt false and there was no sense of fabrication. When Mayer spoke I firmly believed every single word that left his mouth. Mayer’s message was tomorrow is a new day, and that new day will be so much better than the last.

What I received from the John Mayer concert was worth more than $70 pavilion tickets. The sincerity and belief behind Mayer’s words couldn’t be stopped from penetrating the minds of his listeners. The seats were remarkable, the music was fantastic, but it was Mayer’s message, which were simply brilliant, that made his show the concert of a lifetime.