Fly High at Indoor Trampoline Parks

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There’s nothing like waking up Christmas morning to a brand-new trampoline waiting in your backyard. Take that thrill and multiply it by a billion.

Sky Zone, an indoor trampoline park in Atlanta, is a great location for exercise and entertainment. I visited the park during Spring Break with my friend Morgan (pictured above). Morgan and I participated in Open Jump. With Open Jump, participants pay by the hour or half hour and jump on the main court. The main court consists of about 20 trampolines with trampolines lining the walls, allowing you to bounce off the walls and onto the main court. Six tumble tracks run between the trampolines as well. We jumped for 30 minutes ($9) and that was plenty of time to make us sweat.

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You can also reserve Sky Zone for birthday parties and attend jump classes. They have courts for dodgeball and basketball also, which is the only chance I’ll ever have at dunking.

Though there weren’t many “big kids” at Sky Zone when Morgan and I visited, it’s definitely a sport for all ages. If you live in the Atlanta area, I recommend purchasing a membership. It’s more fun than aerobics at the gym.

Safety is a main priority at Sky Zone, so you have to sign a waiver. Before jumping, an employee will give you a safety spiel, and employees monitor the courts. The main rule- only one person per trampoline.

Sky Zones have opened in several big cities. Visit their website to find a location near you.

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Morning Shows Are Worth It Part 2: College Gameday

Herbie takes the stage.

If you followed college sports at all last Fall, November 8 should ring a bell. It was the Game of the Century. Alabama vs. LSU. 1 vs. 2. This game would determine who went on to the National Championship, though both teams ended up facing off again in the Rematch of the Century for the crystal.

ESPN’s College Gameday arrived in Tuscaloosa on Thursday, setting up at the Walk of Champions outside Bryant-Denny Stadium. My friends and I decided we would immerse ourselves in the Gameday experience and go to the set on Saturday morning, something we’d never done before.

We arrived at 3:30 a.m. in matching t shirts, carrying ‘Bama signs.

Our love for the hosts may seem excessive.

Our group opted to stand in front of the side stage, which is something I recommend. You can stand in the center area, but it’s harder to see what’s going on. Plus, there’s a good chance that cheerleaders will be perform stunts in front of you for the entire show. A pro to standing in the center: Chris Fowler and Erin Andrews greeted a few (I stress- a few) audience members on the front row of the center area.

However, if you’re directly behind the side stage on the front row, you’re guaranteed to get your five seconds of fame, at least. All the hosts and guests (except for Lee Corso) do segments on the side stage at some point. Plus, a large screen at the side stage allows you to watch what’s happening on the main set.

L-R David Pollack, Urban Meyer, and Tom Rinaldi

A must do for College Gameday: make a sign. However, security is incredibly strict on signs, especially if you’re near the front. Due to the Tyrann Mathieu synthetic marijuana situation, many signs had marijuana references (Ex: Grass- Les Miles eats it; Honey Badger smokes it), and they were quickly taken away. One of the best moments of the day was seeing Erin Andrews read our sign.

The commercial breaks at College Gameday allowed us to see the personalities behind the hosts. Watching Desmond Howard and David Pollack singing along and dancing to Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” was beyond adorable.

So, if College Gameday decides to come to your city, especially if it’s your college town, definitely get a group of friends together and go. Here are my recommendations

  • Arrive early. As I said, we arrived at 3:30 a.m., but it was the Game of the Century, after all. It’s best to not go to sleep that night and take a quick nap after Gameday.
  • Make a sign. Try to brainstorm something creative and trendy.
  • Bring snacks. We had coffee, Red Bull and Pop Tarts. Mmmm.
  • Bring blankets and/or chairs. It will be nice to have something to sit on.

And, of course, have fun!

Morning Shows Are Worth It Part 1: The Today Show

The gang has a lot of energy, even at the crack of dawn.

Leaving my toasty bed before the sun comes up (or before 10 a.m., really) is not something I particularly enjoy. So, when my family and friends traveled to New York in May 2011, visiting The Today Show was not something I was just dying to do. Though I enjoy The Today Show ( the gang’s chemistry is the best of early morning news programs), I prefer to watch Al Roker give the weather report from the comforts of my queen-sized bed.

When we arrived at NBC (about 2 hours before the show, a good time if you want to be on the first row), a breakfast truck provided free coffee, waffles and pastries to those waiting for program. Don’t judge a caramel macchiato from a van. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had.

My group also participated in the sign-making tradition of The Today Show. The April 27th tornadoes had just struck my hometown, Tuscaloosa, as well as many areas in the Southeast. Our signs reflected our Tuscaloosa pride, one reading, “We will praise You in this storm-Tuscaloosa, Alabama” and another saying, “Roll Tide, Y’all.” Security checks every sign before you enter the gates of the lot, and they are a scary bunch.

Various members of The Today Show gang come out to the lot about five times per show. Roker, the showman, gave everyone on the front row (including myself) high fives. The special guest, who was Glee’s Chris Colfer at our show, also visits the lot.

Needless to say, I was freaking out. And trying not to call him Kurt.

Television screens and speakers allow you to see what’s filmed in the studio, so you’re not bored when none of the on-air talent is outside. The high energy of trying to get on TV is fun if you want your five seconds of fame. As an aspiring member of the media, I enjoyed watching how the producers, directors, assistants and on-air talent prepared for the show. It’s definitely a fast-paced environment, but this group makes it look effortless.

The next time you go to New York, devote a morning to The Today Show. Plus, it’s a free attraction with free breakfast. That’s nearly impossible to come by in the Big Apple.

He Lives In You: Hamlet and The Lion King

Hipster Simba is unforgiving

Shakespeare has influenced uncountable works of art over the years. One of my favorites is the influence of Shakespeare’s Hamlet on Walt Disney Pictures’ The Lion King. 

Hamlet and Simba, are driven to action through the memory of their father.  Though Hamlet and Simba both act on the advice their ghost fathers give them, the key differences between the two tales are in the advice.  The ghost of Hamlet’s father commands him to “revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” (1.5.25), meaning Hamlet must kill his uncle Claudius so his father can exit purgatory to enter heaven.  However, Mufasa’s spirit tells Simba to “remember who you are,” so he can take his place as the true king in the Circle of Life.  Both sons are obedient.  Hamlet eventually kills Claudius, along with most of the play’s cast, and Simba defeats his Uncle Scar to become king of Pride Rock.

Differences arise, however, in how how the princes go about completing their fathers’ wishes.  Hamlet is driven mad with the tragedy of his father and the trickery of his mother and uncle.  This madness causes him to become especially violent in trying to avenge his father’s death.  For example, he stabs Polonius (his girlfriend’s dad, by the way) through a curtain, thinking he is actually Claudius.  This violent mistake leads to the total ruin of Hamlet’s life, basically.  Though he succeeds in murdering his uncle and his mother, Polonius’ son, Laertes, avenges his own father’s death by killing Hamlet, causing the play to end in tragedy. Hamlet’s girlfriend Ophelia also kills herself along the way because Hamlet is supposedly acting like a complete lunatic, but actually becoming a complete lunatic. Simba, however, is not consumed with violence over the death of his father.  While Scar and Simba are fighting, Simba discovers Scar actually murdered his father.  Instead of killing him, Simba tells him to “run away and never return.” It is led to believe that the hyenas kill Scar.  Hamlet’s reactions to his father’s death lead to tragedy, while Simba’s reactions lead to hope.

The female roles align the least in the two works. While Gertrude takes up with her dead husband’s brother (and it’s believed they were having an affair before her husband’s death), Sarabi despises Scar’s malice and evil nature. Both Ophelia and Nala love their respected men, but Ophelia is driven to insanity when Hamlet is too consumed with taking out Claudius to notice her. Plus, he kills her father, which was probably a low point in their relationship. Nala, however, is strong and independent. Though she wants Simba to love her, her duty is to her pride no matter what happens.

Polonius and Zazu both serve as long-winded advisers, unaware/uncaring of their annoying personalities.

Brevity is the soul of wit.

Polonius, Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Other Shakespeare-inspired films: 

  • 10 Things I Hate About You, inspired by The Taming of the Shrew 
  • She’s The Man, inspired by Twelfth Night
  • The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride, inspired by Romeo and Juliet
  • West Side Story, inspired by Romeo and Juliet (obviously)

Forgotten Disney World

When Disney World creates a new attraction, it takes all the control in me to not jump up and down on a couch shouting, “I love this park! I love this park!”

Kind of like this.

Kind of like this.

But sometimes in the heyday of the new, we can forget the attractions of yesterday. Though they may not be around anymore, they deserve to be remembered.

1. Food Rocks

  • Location: Epcot’s The Land
  • Replaced by: Soarin’

Now don’t get me wrong, I would never ask the high-flying experience that is Soarin’ to close, but did the wonder of nutrition and music have to die in order for Soarin’ to exist?

Most of my love for the audio animatronic singing and dancing food of Food Rocks is probably nostalgia, but there was something special about The Peach Boys singing “Good Nutrition” (to the tune of “Good Vibrations,” of course). Food Rocks taught me classic songs like The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.” However, I learned the tune as “Every Bite You Take” by the Refrigerator Police, so you can imagine my confusion when I heard the original number.

2. Skyway 

  • Location: Fantasyland and Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom
  • Replaced by: Stroller Parking

Skyway was composed of buckets that sat about four people, transporting guests from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland. The Tomorrowland station is no longer in existence, but the Fantasyland station still resides across from Peter Pan’s Flight. The outside area is used for stroller parking, while the cottage where guests once boarded the Skyway remains unused. It is rumored to become additional restrooms.

Skyway allowed you a great view of the park and gave your feet a break from power walking from attraction to attraction. Though no official reason was released regarding Skyway, I’m sure problems with rocking the buckets became an issue. Also, it would be difficult to make the ride completely handicap accessible (very small spaces and you end up in a different place than where you started) and limited seating could make wait times extremely long. Practical or not, it was the best view of the park.

3. Teenage Muntant Ninja Turtles

  • Location: New York Street in Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Replaced by: Power Rangers

The Teenage Muntant Ninja Turtles may seem like very un-Disney characters, but they used to roll up in their turtle van (driven by April O’Neal), dance and sign autographs. Though this area is a constantly changing character meet-and-greet location, I miss the turtles. Looking back at characters that used to grace Disney’s Hollywood Studios (then Disney-MGM Studios), most of the characters were actually pretty un-Disney like.

4. Wonders of Life 

  • Location: Future World in Epcot
  • Replaced by: N/A

The Wonders of Life pavillon taught guests about the human body, health and fitness. The Fitness Fairground featured exercise equipment to test your fitness level. My favorite piece of equipment was the exercise bike. The bikes had video screens, making it appear as though you were riding your bike through Disney World, swirling around parades, characters and balloon salesmen.

Body Wars was the only thrill ride in Wonders of Life and Epcot’s first thrill ride ever. Body Wars, like Star Tours, is a motion simulator ride with a video screen. It made guests feel like they were traveling through the body to help Dr. Cynthia Lair remove a splinter. Dr. Lair, however, is carried off by capillary and your crew must venture through the bloodstream to save her.

Other attractions included Cranium Command (an audio animatronic show about the brain), The Making of Me (a video about birth) and the Coach’s Corner (a batting cage).

The building is currently only used for special events, like the Food and Wine festival.

Conservation, Big Business and Materialism: Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not”

-Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax

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Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax takes the story of preservation and ecology from the 45-page children’s book and transforms it into a musical filled with humor, but remains true to its heart of environmentalism.

While the young boy who goes to visit The Once-Ler, the mysterious being who knows what happened to the trees, does not have much of a story in the book, he is given an entire identity in the film. Ted, voiced by Zac Efron, is spunky, brave and absolutely smitten with his beautiful friend Audrey, voiced by Taylor Swift. She is the reason he visits the Once-Ler because Audrey yearns to see a real, live tree.

The film also explores the new, entirely manufactured town of Thneedville, where the trees are plastic and the grass is concrete. The air quality is so poor that O’Hare Air, a company that sells clean, bottled air, is the most profitable industry in town.

Of course, the film features flashbacks to the times when the Truffula Trees grew everywhere and the air was clean and pure. The animation shines in these scenes as the Truffula tufts look soft enough to touch. The animals, like a tiny bear named Pipsqueak, are “painfully adorable” as Taylor Swift said in an interview.

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Enter the young, optimistic Once-Ler, voiced by Ed Helms. He’s ready to prove his family wrong by making his Thneed, showcasing the scarf-hat-rope-rag-whatever in Billy Mays fashion (It’s a Thneed! It’s everything you need!). To make the Thneed, he has to cut down a towering Truffula tree, calling down the mystical Lorax, the speaker for the trees.

Casting could not have picked a better fit than Danny DeVito. Tossing in the appropriate amount of sass and sincerity, the Lorax will make you laugh as he eats nine helping of pancakes, but bring you to tears as he prepares a funeral for the first tree the Once-Ler chops down.

Musical numbers like “How Bad Can I Be” and “Let It Grow” are catchy and light-hearted. I plan on buying the soundtrack as soon as my bank account is not so depleted.

I won’t give away the ending, but The Lorax will make you question the choices you make. Though Going Green has become a trendy topic in today’s society, this film shows you why it’s so important to care for something as simple as a tree. And why it’s important to constantly question what’s going on around you. And why we don’t want a world that’s purely plastic.

Needless to say, I was in tears. Now, go see The Lorax. Seriously, go.

Talking (and listening) for a Living: My Visit with Paul Finebaum


ZZ Top and Aerosmith boomed every morning in my dad’s pickup, but once 2 o’clock rolled around, a droning voice coupled with Southern screams took over the radio waves. As a 6-year-old the endless talking about Alabama and Auburn football on The Paul Finebaum Radio Network tortured me.

I grew to hate Paul Finebaum’s show as his voice continued to dominate road trips and afternoon drives. But, things would change.

When I began studying journalism, I started to understand Finebaum’s impact as a journalist, personality and authority. Love him or hate him, he truly is the voice of the Southeastern Conference. Seeing him in Nick Saban: Gamechangershowcased that he was more than someone who took calls; he was someone who could answer questions.

Though most listeners constantly speculate Finebaum’s bias, I appreciated his honesty in JN 491′s meeting with him last week.

“People say I’m a Saban Worshiper, and I am.” He admires Saban’s way of thinking and coaching, finding him disciplined and obviously effective. With three national championships in SEC football, he appears almost inhuman.

I think Finebaum admires Saban because they are similar. While Finebaum is the voice of the SEC, Saban is the coach of the SEC. Few people feel apathetically to these men. Instead, they pull people’s adoring praise and merciless hate. They represent the insanity that is SEC football.

From the redecorating of Nick Saban’s statue (above) by LSU fans passing through Tuscaloosa to a ‘Bama fan’s touch on I-10 near Slidel, La., (below) things do get pretty crazy here, and Finebaum is in the middle of it.

The hysteria that follows Finebaum is not what makes him successful, though. It is his ability to communicate people. He calls his show “listener-driven.” Some colleagues criticize the nature of his show.

“They’ll ask me why I want to talk to people like that,” he said. But, Finebaum wouldn’t have it any other way. He doesn’t want to work for a larger company, such as ESPN Radio, because they don’t take calls. Instead, their schedule is filled with analysts, and the average listener’s opinion isn’t shared.

Some may only see him as a personality, but Finebaum is one of the greatest sports reporters of our time. He proves that reporting concerns more than good writing or thoughtful questions. It’s about listening, basing your questions off what people are saying.

As someone who rarely takes a vacation or sick day, he does a lot of listening.