December’s Other Holidays



Pity Sir Humphrey Gilbert.





The dashing Humphrey spent years and fortunes enriching Queen and country by pressing England’s colonization of North America in the 16th century only to have his achievements buried under the celebrity of his little brother and publicity savvy clothes horse, Sir Walter Raleigh, whose principal accomplishments were losing track of the Lost Colony of Roanoke and getting filthy rich exporting tobacco from lands Gilbert pioneered.

December’s like that.

Kind of.

From daybreak on the Feast of St. Grwst until the ball drops on New Year’s Eve, our 12th month is chock full of hard-working holidays with a lot to offer a fest-hungry nation if only they could break free from the tinseled tyranny of Christmastide. In fact, there are no end of annual observances packed onto the calendar’s last page, and yet most people still view December as little more than 31 dizzying days of carols, cookies, credit card debt and really bad TV specials followed by a hangover. It just ain’t so, though, and people with room in their hearts and datebooks for something besides a single jingle-bell Juggernaut will find within the merriest month alternative amusements aplenty.

Besides providing an opportunity to recall the many presumed contributions of St. Grwst, for example, Dec. 1 is also National Pie Day and, with a commendable eye toward dietary balance, Eat a Red Apple Day. Falling on the first Friday in December this year, the 1st was also National Salesperson Day, which service-oriented theme flowed naturally into Bartender Appreciation Day, observed on the first Saturday of the month, which one might have appropriately celebrated on Dec. 2 by raising a glass to National Rhubarb Vodka Day.

Since the United Nations has named 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, and since December is designated as Worldwide Food Service Safety Month, value-minded folks who celebrated International Volunteer Day for Social and Economic Development on Dec. 5 could rightly claim a three-fer. Value-minded folks who like to economize on personal cleaning products may have preferred to observe Dec. 5 as the arguably more festive Bathtub Party Day.

On Dec. 6, a few dollars and a few minutes are that’s needed to celebrate both National Pawnbrokers Day and Microwave Oven Day.

Some of the thousands observing Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day each Dec. 8 act as if they’re from the future and treat modern technologies with exaggerated disdain. Other Time Travelers spend the day making like they’re from the past and regarding even dated mechanical contrivances like electric can openers and dumb-phones as objects of reverent wonder. Many others who find dated contrivances genuinely wondrous hold the phone until Dewey Decimal System Day on Dec. 10.

If most of those self-described holidays sound decidedly unofficial, it’s because they decidedly are. Except for the very few national anniversaries so designated by Act of Congress, almost every “Day” of the year is just somebody’s pet obsession that happened to catch some small piece of the public fancy. But if no government agency exists to certify all those half-baked holidays, since Popcorn Day in 2013 the diligent men and woman of National Day Calendar have done their best to impose a veneer of rationality upon an increasingly congested yearbook. The organization currently recognizes well over a 1,000 national days, and if that seems like a lot consider that each year it receives about 10,000 requests for calendar space and typically denies all but a handful. It’s also worth noting that the growing catalog of jump-up jubilees has largely been compiled during the last 25 years and can be attributed almost entirely to the Internet’s ability to connect folks who share a common fixation. That we aren’t plagued by an endless succession of sappy celebrations that start with the words “Hug a…” can be attributed almost entirely to National Day Calendar.

If no parades hindered Centennial State traffic on Dec. 11, it could be because too many people spent National Mountain Day in their kitchens performing whatever arcane rites are expected of the faithful on National Noodle Ring Day. December 13th is enshrined on the calendar as Ice Cream and Violins Day, so named because on Dec. 13, 1903, Italo Marchiony patented a machine to mold ice cream cups, and on Dec. 13 more than a hundred years later rock violinist Ben Lee broke a world record by playing                                              his instrument at more than 14 notes per second.

Conceived and popularized in 2000 by Michigan State University art students Casey Sorrow and Eric Millikin to celebrate “all things simian,” National Monkey Day has grown into a globe-spanning holiday that shares its love equally between all non-human primates including apes, tarsiers and lemurs. Take part in National Underdog Day, Dec. 15, by rooting for the worst team in any league. Get the most out of Barbie and Barney Backlash Day on Dec. 16 by parking your kid in front of the TV and treating yourself to 24 hours free of repetitive sing-a-longs and tedious story re-telling.

Dec. 18 is Answer the Telephone Like Buddy the Elf Day. National Hard Candy Day comes but once a year on Dec. 19, and on Dec. 20 one can observe Mudd Day by telling anybody who’ll listen that Dr. Samuel Mudd, who in 1865 set the broken leg of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth and was sent to prison for it, got a bum rap. Whether or not they celebrate it, most people can appreciate the motivation behind Humbug Day, Dec. 21, and scheduling Re-gifting Day on the Thursday before Christmas is simply good sense.

The twenty-second.

A whole day just for Haikus.

How did that happen?

There are 103 national days in December, a glory-starved gallery of second-string saturnalias culminating with the self-explanatory Leap Second Time Adjustment Day on Dec. 31. Many of them are silly, many others are at least half serious, few require much in the way of time, money or emotional investiment, and none of them get the respect they deserve. If you were wondering why Underdog Day falls during the same month as the year’s uncontested holiday heavyweight, just ask Sir Humphrey.

Mount Evans Rescue

As a volunteer, Paul ‘Woody’ Woodward prefers to do as little as possible.

“I want to be bored,” says Woody. “Boring is good.”

That’s because when Woody and his 84 fellow mountaineers of the elite Alpine Rescue Team (ART) have something to do it usually means that somebody’s in a peck of trouble. ART performed 145 rescues last year, a new record that’s on track to be broken this year, and broken again the year after that.

“As the state’s population goes up, so does the number of people using the back country,” explains Woody, a fifth-generation Coloradan and 29-year ART veteran. “It’s a trend happening statewide.”

Even so, clocking in on the morning of June 13 he had reasonable hopes for a tedious shift. “Tuesdays are usually pretty quiet.” He stopped hoping shortly before noon.

“A 22-year old male had a bad allergic reaction on Mount Bierstadt.”

Woody’s one of ART’s 15 mission coordinators, each one on call two days per month. When somebody gets cross-ways with the great outdoors anywhere in Clear Creek, Gilpin and Jefferson counties, it’s the coordinator’s job to assemble a crew and direct the rescue. An able 19 team members answered Clear Creek’s call to Beirstadt and made tracks for the mountain. As good luck would have it, the problem resolved itself while the team was in transit.

“Right as we got there he hiked out,” Woody shrugs. “So we turned around and came back.”

It happens that way sometimes, and that’s just fine with ART. A second call at 2:30, however, wouldn’t be answered so easily.

“A 31-year-old male fell while rock climbing in Golden Gate Canyon.”

Extracting the unfortunate fellow required that a 22-member team first reach his isolated location and secure him to a litter, and then haul him 400 feet straight up to the ridgeline and painstakingly lower him 800 vertical feet down the other side.

“It’s a lot of work,” Woody laughs.

The four-and-a-half hour operation was a solid day’s duty by any standard, and it was about to look like a milk run.

“Now it’s 7 o’clock and we get the big call. A 16-year-old male is missing, last seen at the summit of Mount Evans.”

The missing teen was from Atlanta, the guest of a Rocky Mountain summer camp, and on that sunny Tuesday a family friend had driven him to the top of Mount Evans to suck up an eyeful of Colorado’s high-altitude grandeur. The young man hiked the short trail from the parking area to the 14,265-foot crest, posed for a few smiling snaps, and things had gone downhill from there.

“Instead of hiking back down the trail to the car, he made a fateful decision,” Woody says. “He didn’t know the terrain, wasn’t familiar with the area, but decided he could walk down to Summit Lake on his own. He told the family friend he’d meet her at Summit Lake and waved goodbye.”

It takes time to organize a rescue. Team members converge on ART’s headquarters in El Rancho from all parts of the Denver metropolitan area, from there heading west into some of the Centennial State’s least-welcoming terrain. It was well after 8 p.m. before rescuers had firmly staged at Summit Lake, and the odds of swiftly locating a boy alone in that harsh wilderness were falling as fast as the westering sun.

On the likelihood that the teenager’s trail led north along the rocky West Ridge connecting Mount Evans to neighboring 13,842-foot Mount Spalding , teams deployed to both peaks while spotters set up at Summit Lake made use of the day’s last, thin light to scan its length from below. Between the two summits stretched a vast bowl, its plunging sides a dangerous jumble of blasted rock and loose scree. The missing boy could have been anywhere within that impenetrable landscape. Or nowhere.

If he’d had a smart phone, his ordeal might have been over in hours. Alpine Rescue could have located him by GPS, or instructed him to turn on his flashlight app and zeroed in for a quick extraction. “We were looking for the only teenager in America without a cell phone.”

The Evans team was met at the top by sustained 60 mph winds, It may have been Spring on the calendar, but it was still winter on top of the Rockies.

“It was 80 degrees in Denver that afternoon,” Woody recalls. “With wind chill, we figured it was close to zero on the ridge. The kid was wearing blue jeans and a hoodie,”

As the Evans team probed west and then north along the ridgeline, their counterparts laboriously worked their way up the steep Mount Spalding trail. They’d nearly reached the summit when they were stopped in their tracks by thin scraps of a cry for help, desperate shouts torn to shreds in the teeth of the gale. Listening intently, the Spalding crew’s best guess put the voice’s owner somewhere far below near the boggy mouth of the creek that feeds Summit Lake.

Immediately, and in full dark, they started descending a sheer and trackless tangle of boulders and scale, bottoming out at about midnight to find the narrow valley floor deserted. They called out, and were answered from somewhere directly above them. Without hesitation the Spalding team started climbing, clawing its way up slope no less forbidding than the one they’d just come down. For three perilous hours the men fought their way upwards through 150 stories of precarious talus and treacherous snow before finally running straight up against a sheer wall of stone. It was 3 a.m., and they were just 200 feet below the voice in the darkness.

“They simply didn’t have the equipment they needed to continue,” Woody says. “They spent the rest of the night right there, yelling up at the young man every five minutes, trying to keep him calm and reassured.”

If Woody now knew the lost teen’s location, he also knew he had a team exposed and at risk on a dangerous slope, and he knew that getting everybody out safely wasn’t going to be easy. He called for reinforcements from Boulder’s crack Rocky Mountain Rescue Group (RMRG), which sent over a team specifically outfitted for the tough jobs ahead.

As the first gray light of dawn touched Summit Lake’s flat surface, ART and RMRG teams deployed along the West Ridge, and the Alpine team began by gingerly lowering a man from the tumbled ridge crest. In a stroke of good luck helped along careful spotting from Alpine members stationed at Summit Lake, he descending in direct line with the shivering hiker. In a stroke of bad, the rope he clung to came down five feet short of the mark.

“The rescuer had to rig personal webbing and cord to safely reach the young man,” Woody says. “But he got him.”

The rescuer immediately strapped the freezing boy into a harness and then plied him with food, water and warm clothing. While the Alpine team above hauled the pair 400 feet to the ridge, the Boulder crew did the same for Alpine’s exhausted Spalding team. By 9 o’clock, Woody’s hoped-for boring shift was pushing 24 hours of non-stop crises. But if ART has accomplished a lot of notable rescues, the Mount Evans mission stood out not only for its uncommon challenges and complexity, but for the real and significant risks it posed the rescuers. That everyone made it home intact is testament to the value of training, experience and iron nerve.

“We had 33 men and women on that mission, and we needed every one of them.”

Viewed in the warm light of day it was clear the boy had initially fallen a short distance from above, landing unharmed, but utterly trapped, on a ledge no bigger than the average coffee table perched above 1,000 gulp-inducing feet of certain death. And yet, with that unaccountable resilience of youth, the lad walked out under his own steam, climbed into his companion’s car and toodled back to Atlanta without a word about how he’d arrived at his terrible predicament. That’s okay though, because everybody at Alpine Rescue Team already knew his story by heart.

“He went up there with a plan, and he changed it,” explains Woody. “hen you’re hiking in the back country, you need to make a plan, make sure somebody knows the plan, and then stick to the plan.

“That kid’s story could have ended a lot of different ways. It was our job to make sure it ended with him alive.”


There is mild irony in that, even as Evergreen Park & Recreation District labored mightily throughout the desperate summer of 2011 to purge Evergreen Lake of waterweed’s leafy scourge, it was clearing a path for an infestation no less persistent.

Unlike elodea Canadensis, the new crop of aquatic colonists has been cultivated by the hand of Man. They thrive on the merest shred of sunlight, exploding across the lake’s placid face and crowding its green shores. They’re re-introduced daily from upstream, from downstream, and from distant watersheds where clear Bear Creek waters do not flow. They’re rootless, restless and relentless. They’re “standup paddleboards”, patiently propelled by a highly adaptable species known as “stand up paddleboarders”, who are engaged in a flourishing activity referred to in common speech as “stand up paddleboarding” and in the dialect of devotees as “SUP.”

As in “’Sup?”


But where waterweed is good mostly for aggravating pedal boaters and confounding fisher-folk, SUP is said to benefit those bestride the bobbing board.

“It’s a good core workout,” explains Heather Allman, who sells pet insurance for a living and drove up from her home in Parker one recent Tuesday morning to stand around on Evergreen Lake for an hour or so. “It’s fairly easy, so we bought paddleboards for the whole family.”

Possessing her own paddleboard, Heather gets to check in with Tyler Garey. An Evergreen High School student with the best summer job ever, Tyler gets to check in folks like Heather before they launch from the private boat ramp.

“I’ll check in 20 or 30 paddleboarders on a weekday, and 40 or more on a weekend,” Tyler says. “They’re mostly adults, and mostly female.” As a dutiful district employee, Tyler has familiarized himself with the nuts and bolts of paddleboarding. “It’s fairly easy,” he says. “And it’s a good core workout.”

Long before it was a good core workout, stand up paddleboarding was simply a way for frustrated surfers to ride the waves in the absence of surf-able swells. The modern sport’s short history credits Waikiki surf instructors Duke Kahanamoku and brothers Leroy and Bobby AhChoy with roughing in SUP’s current dimensions back in the 1940s. By the 1990s it was being taught to Gidgets and grommets in surf schools all over Hawaii. When surf instructor Brian Keaulana added “Beach Boy Surfing” to the prestigious “Buffalo Big Board Classic” at Makaha Beach on Oahu in 2003, it made a splash that hit the mainland like a slow-moving tsunami that finally made landfall in Evergreen in 2011.

“A couple of customers said we should try it,” recalls Lake House director Brad Bednar. “At the time we didn’t know a lot about stand up paddleboarding, but we decided to buy two boards and see what happened.”

What happened is that six years later EPRD owns 40 boards which, on the aforementioned Tuesday, were the responsibility of Tyler’s classmate, Kit Hager. Kit’s summer job – the second best ever – is to rent the district’s sleek armada of foam-core solo paddleboards for $20 per hour, and its handful of larger, inflatable, multiple-occupancy units for $35 per hour. Like an experienced ice cream store clerk, Kit may no longer crave the product, but she’s good at selling it.

“It’s a good core workout,” she points out. “And it’s pretty easy.”

A 2015 report by the Outdoor Foundation named SUP as the nation’s most popular outdoor activity among first-time participants. According to that document, in 2010 about a million people stood up and paddled. There were 2 million stand up paddleboarders afloat in 2013, and by 2014 that number had risen to 2.8 million. By Bednars calculations, the Outdoor Foundation’s figures are right on the money.

“In 2015 we had between 5,000 and 6,000 paddleboard rentals,” he says. “Last year it was about 10,000.”

Fact is, EPRD could probably increase its fleet by another 20 paddleboards and still run a waitlist of a sunny Saturday afternoon. It won’t, though. Add the district’s 40 boards to Tyler’s 40-plus independently-flagged vessels and the regular traffic in pedal boats, canoes and sundry sailing craft, and Evergreen Lake is already approaching…er…standing room only, and Bednar isn’t interested in increasing revenue at the expense of customer experience. By limiting rentals to one hour during peak paddleboarding periods, EPRD is able to assure comfortably quick rotation of inventory and ensure all comers their turn at the oar.

“It’s a good core workout,” Bednar remarks.

That’s by all accounts true, but it’s also true that no sport grows by 75 percent in one year just because it’s good for you. If stand up paddleboarding is hacky-sack for a New Millenium, it’s because humans are hard-wired to love the Earth’s most abundant resource and SUP is as close as you can get to the water without getting in it. It’s purest elemental communion to drift upon the cool deeps, warmed by a generous sun and kissed by whispering breezes, bathed in quietude and insulated from clamoring cares ashore, companion only to curious ducks and clouds mirrored in rippled glass.

On the other hand, there is no activity so benign that somebody can’t find a way to make it dangerous, which is where we get whitewater SUP. And there’s no endeavor so freeing that someone won’t regiment it, which explains the World Paddle Association and a flotilla of subsidiary SUP scolds. And there’s no pursuit so inherently tranquil that it can’t be adapted to serve our more aggressive tendencies, as with the proliferation of SUP contests pitting paddle against paddle in areas of speed, distance and personal peril.

By the same token, any pastime, however restful, restorative and rewarding it may be, is a hollow experience at best if you can’t read about somebody else doing it. Thankfully there are now nearly a dozen publications offering stand up paddleboarders lots and lots of words about the greater SUP-sphere. A recent edition of SUP Magazine, for example, presents “Five Gadgets for Paddlers.” In Standup Paddle Magazine we learn of the joys of bone fishing from a paddleboard. The latest issue of internationally-distributed Stand Up Paddle World Magazine introduces readers to the dark pleasures of late-night river paddling in Munich, and SUP Connect blasts the headline “Giant Squid Climbs on Paddle Board.”

SUPing vicariously may not be as enriching as a quiet hour on the water, but that’s okay. If misery loves company, so does ecstasy, and there’s plenty of room aboard the surging sport of stand up paddleboarding. Indeed, egalitarianism is among SUP’s greatest virtues, right alongside this one touted in Stand Up Paddler’s Forum:

“SUP is a Great Core Workout!”

Red Rocks Reverie








“I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music.”               Johann Sebastian Bach

If music is akin to a religion, then Red Rocks Amphitheatre is surely its most hallowed cathedral.

Red Rocks is ancient, certainly, its soaring stone walls lifted up and dressed by seasons uncounted, its grand pillars reaching up to a magnificent vault as old as Creation. Red Rocks has known the sounds of worship for at least 5,000 years, and solemn Ute chants still echoed across its broad nave when settlers first began arriving from the East. If there anywhere exists a piece of earth so constructed by divine hands to inspire voices raised in reverent and grateful praise, it’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre, still held to be sacred by 32 different Native American tribes.

Known to early gold-seekers as the “Garden of the Angels”, Red Rocks found its prophet in John Brisbane Walker, an energetic entrepreneur and tireless Centennial State booster who purchased the site in 1905 and renamed it Garden of the Titans, an apt nod to the towering demigods of Greek mythology. Walker built a temporary stage, and on May 31, 1906, engaged Pietro Satriano and his 25-piece brass band to baptize the place while listeners arrayed themselves on the rocky slope on blankets and folding chairs. Red Rocks’ first concert was quickly followed by a heavenly chorus of operatic angels including Australian soprano Nellie Melba, who raved “This is the greatest open-air amphitheatre I have ever seen.” Walker staged his first epic on Sep. 1, 2008, an audio-visual extravaganza titled “Feast of Lanterns” and featuring four military bands and brilliant eruptions of fireworks from the summits of four sheltering peaks including Mount Falcon and Mount Morrison. In 2011, after performing a solo set culminating in the religious classic “Ave Maria,” internationally acclaimed Scottish diva Mary Garden declared “Someday, 20,000 people will gather here to listen to the world’s greatest masterpieces.” Time would prove Garden about half right.


Never in any opera house, the world over, have I found more perfect acoustic properties. Never under any roof have I sung with greater ease, or had a greater delight in singing.”   Mary Garden






Busily assembling its visionary system of mountain parks, in 1927 the City of Denver persuaded Walker to part with about 800 acres centered on the amphitheatre for a very reasonable $54,133, about $750,000 in 21st Century scrip. Celebrated architect Burnham Hoyt drew up plans borrowing heavily from the classical Theater of Dionysus at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece, and in 1937 the roughly 200 young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps’ Mount Morrison Camp and a large crew of lads on loan from the Works Progress Administration began earning their dollar a day by removing 30,000 cubic yards of earth by hand, and by sweat and toil transforming 90,000 square feet of red Lyons sandstone, 10 boxcar-loads of cement, 10 tons of steel and 800 tons of quarried stone into a 9,525-seat Temple of Euterpe.




Red Rocks Amphitheatre was formally dedicated on June 15, 1941, with a sublime performance by soprano Helen Jepson of New York’s Metropolitan Opera, and Denver introduced regular concert schedules in 1947 strongly favoring disciples of the classical creeds. But reform was coming to the church of Red Rocks, and in 1959 it landed with a splash.

“It’s an amazing location. One of the most beautiful concert venues in America…or anywhere.”   Geddy Lee, of Rush

Reform’s name was Ricky Nelson, the first rock-and-roll performer to take the Red Rocks stage. A celestial host of itinerate rock preachers has since addressed the faithful from the amphitheatre’s plein-air pulpit. Nearly 2,700 paid concerts have been held at Red Rocks since 1947, the great majority of them of electrically enhanced and sound-augmented. Notable names entered on the Red Rocks rolls include Sonny & Cher, Seals & Crofts and the Blues Brothers. Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Steve Miller and Sarah MacLachlan have all taken their turns, as have jam bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish, legends like Carlos Santana and Peter Gabriel, country heroes like Willie Nelson and Kenny Chesney, pop favorites like ABBA and the Carpenters, and alt-bands like Depeche Mode and Soundgarden.

Of course, any movement toward a new orthodoxy must endure its share of resistance and repression, and Red Rocks’ journey from Mozart to Metal was no different. When the audience grew over-festive during a 1962 Ray Charles concert, Denver officials threatened to ban beer and wine from the venue. When things got dicey again during a Peter, Paul and Mary show in 1964, they actually did it. In August of 1968, Aretha Franklin fell into a contract dispute just hours before curtain and refused to take the stage. A disappointed crowd swept forward and forcefully disarticulated a piano, prompting Denver to impose a one-year banishment of rock-and-roll acts.

On June 10, 1971, nearly 2,000 ticket-free fans showed up for a sold-out Jethro Tull concert. When the sound quality in the parking lot proved poor, the crowd stormed police barricades set up at the entrances. Although the band was not contractually obligated to continue under riot conditions, the band’s front man, Ian Anderson, exhorted the audience to wrap T-shirts around their faces and then played on as thick drifts of tear gas wafted among the ancient stones. Although Anderson’s fortitude likely prevented serious disaster, Denver responded with a total ban on rock-and-roll, a proscription that held for five years until Red Rocks’ high priest, concert promoter Barry Fey, managed to get it overturned in court.

“Red Rocks is the greatest place to play, it’s true…of all the places in the world, it’s the best!”   David Crosby, of Crosby, Stills and Nash

The Beatles played Red Rocks on Aug. 26, 1964, the only stop on their U.S. tour that didn’t sell out. They wouldn’t be back, although Ringo returned 36 years later with his All-Starr Band. Jimi Hendrix’s sole visit in 1968 is notable as the only Red Rocks show for which there is no known audio or visual record. In 1958, Jerry Lewis was the first comedian to play the rocks, and 20 years later Steve Martin taped his “Wild and Crazy Guy” album there.

Speaking of tape, dozens of artists from Stevie Nicks to Robert Plant to John Tesh have turned their Red Rocks experience into video gold. Moody Blues filmed a set with the Denver Symphony Orchestra, and Rolling Stone magazine named U2’s now-iconic “War” tour show and the subsequent “Under a Blood Red Sky” concert video one of “50 Moments that Changed the Face of Rock and Roll.” The lens is often on the other figurative foot these days, as pious devout cinephiles congregate weekly for Film on the Rocks on summer week-eves.

Red Rocks’ most dedicated apostle had to be John Denver, who played 17 shows there between 1972 and 1989, and telecast several of them to a global audience. The gospel according to Red Rocks holds that John anonymously jogged the amphitheatre’s steps (380 up, 380 down) before every performance, a habit now popular with many members of Colorado’s cult of fitness.

Widespread Panic holds the record for most Red Rocks shows played, pounding out No. 51 just last summer. Guitarist Warren Haynes played the Garden of the Angels eight times in one year, performing five sets with the Grateful Dead, two with the Allman Brothers and one with Gov’t Mule. In August of 1985, Huey Lewis and the News set the record for the most consecutive performances, and Reggae on the Rocks has been spreading its message of love and leaf for 26 years and counting, which makes it the amphitheatre’s most durable concert series, if not its most enduring event. That distinction goes to the annual Easter Sunrise Service, which has been getting up with the chickens every year since 1947.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre’s conversion to rock-and-roll is complete, and the ranks of the faithful keep growing. Every year since 2010 the venue has broken its own record for most shows in a year, from 73 in 2010 to 155 last year, and it’s becoming common to witness as many as 20 supplicants in contention for a single day on the schedule.

And as the good news of Morrison’s miraculous minster of music continues to spread across the land, the ancient stone of that wind-chiseled chapel will resound with ever more joyful noise.

“God was having a really good day when he made this amphitheatre for us to sing in.” Emmylou Harris


Military Tech

With no due respect to the Marquess of Queensbury, rules are for losers.

In combat, anyway.

Okay, so we don’t condone chemical agents, or go in for biological weapons, and the nuclear option isn’t really an option, but those few boundaries are more for our own protection than the comfort of our enemies, and beyond them the battlefield is very much the Wild, Wild West. Not even the English stand by concepts like “fair play,” or worry about giving the Hun has a “sporting chance” when the gloves come off. In the practice of warfare, winning fast is the only rule that means anything. An enemy reeling in “shock and awe” is an ineffective enemy, and ineffective enemies don’t shoot straight, or hopefully at all. The ideal of modern military doctrine is to win the battle before your enemy realizes they’re in one.

That’s tough to do, which is why it’s almost never done. Still, a lot of really smart people spend a lot of their waking hours devising ways to minimize “friendly” casualties by maximizing the other kind, and by far the surest way to do that is through the command of superior technologies. The warrior with a sharp stick is at a severe disadvantage against one equipped with bow and arrow, who has little chance against one with a pistol, who won’t last long against one armed with a Browning automatic rifle, who would, theoretically, be a sitting duck for an Imperial storm trooper with a fully-charged blaster. The arms race is as old as the human race, and nobody does it better than the much-maligned American military industrial complex. And if our soldiers don’t currently carry blasters, they eventually will, sure as shootin’, because pulp science fiction’s got nothing on the shock-and-awe-inspiring tools that will be standard-issue in a conflict that’s coming soon to a hot-spot near you.







It’s a lot easier to get the drop on somebody if you know what they’re up to. Trouble is, heavily-armed hostiles tend to be jealous of their privacy. Thanks to the fertile minds at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), one day soon we’ll be able to keep any number of multi-faceted eyes on our enemies at work and at play with HI-MEMS, or Hybrid Insect Micro-Electrical-Mechanical System. It seems that electronic circuits implanted in the bodies of insects in their pupal stage can be used to direct their movements in adulthood. By attaching surveillance equipment to radio-controlled bugs, reconnaissance officers will be able to scout Indian Country at will from the safety of comfy chairs in an air-conditioned mobile command post.






The all-important element of surprise is easier to achieve if they can’t see you coming, which is one reason soldiers wear camouflage clothing. But while modern computer-designed camouflage patterns do a good job of approximating the visual characteristics of various environments, they still leave plenty to engage the searching eye. Enter quantum-camouflage, a marvelous material developed by the Canadian firm Hyperstealth Biotechnology Corp. that purportedly causes light to simply bend around whatever it’s shielding. As advertized, it’s an honest-to-gosh cloak of invisibility, and military authorities on both sides of the northern border have confirmed that relatively inexpensive quantum camouflage is compact enough to be easily carried and deployed in the field, equally effective against infrared scopes, and requires no power to function.






If weapons and ammunition are critical to success on the battlefield, they’re also really, really heavy. And if the average GI is fully capable of marching long distances with 150-pound pack full of 5.56 cartridges, they’re also capable of arriving at the front with their battle-readiness understandably compromised by physical exhaustion. Lockheed Martin is helping the hard-working doughboy take a load off with the fantastical Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC), a powered mechanical exoskeleton that allows its wearer to lug hundreds of pounds for miles on end without undue discomfort or fatigue. An on-board computer fluidly adjusts for motion and load and keeps the light, indestructible titanium frame in constant sync with the wearer’s movements. If not yet ready for action, the concept’s been proven and it’s only a matter of time before the HULC goes to war.






During World War II, American soldiers fired something like 25,000 bullets for every enemy combatant killed. In Vietnam it was closer to 50,000, and in Afghanistan they’ve been expending roughly 250,000 bullets for each insurgent slain. On a purely value-per-bullet basis it would seem that wars are getting more expensive as they get smaller. Determined to get more bang for their munitions buck, DARPA has created EXACTO (Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance), a .50 caliber shell equipped with inbound computer guidance system. Tasting the ambient weather conditions in flight, the tiny computer manipulates small fins on the bullet’s surface to maintain its intended trajectory, and can even track and pursue moving targets on the fly. It’s a smart bullet that’s also smart business.






Nothing overwhelms an enemy like overwhelming firepower. To achieve it, you can either shoot one great-big-giant bullet, or you can get a whole lot of soldiers to shoot regular-sized bullets all at the same time, or you can deploy DREAD, a centrifugal gun that puts a new spin on centuries-old firearm technology. In appearance, DREAD looks a lot like USS Reliant in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In practice, it uses high-speed centrifugal force to shoot 120,000 bullets per second – per second – without a hint of recoil or single spark of muzzle flash. In theory, it can sweep a battlefield clean with a single pass.






The Navy is already using 30 kilowatt laser cannons to bring down incoming enemy UAVs at a cost of about a dollar per shot. Within the next five years, the Pentagon wants to field fighter jets equipped with laser cannons that can zap enemy aircraft from the skies and incinerate flammable ground targets. Work is currently underway on a 150 kilowatt LaWS (Laser Weapon System) that can burn a hole clean through a ship’s hull.

Diplomacy is great, because war is hell. And it’s an essential mark of humanity to show mercy to the vanquished. But when the shooting starts, the fastest way back to peace is dead ahead and no holds barred.