R.I.P. Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman, San Francisco, 1973. Photo credit Neal Preston.

From USA Today via the Fort Collins Coloradoan:

Rock musician Gregg Allman – whose work with the Allman Brothers Band set the stage for Southern rock, jam bands and influenced several generations of players – has died at age 69.

A statement on Allman’s official website says the musician “passed away peacefully” at his home in Savannah, Georgia.

Mr. Allman’s work and life is entwined with his brother Duane, with whom he founded the Allman Brothers Band in 1969. Two years later, Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident, but the band soldiered on, and reached new peaks with the 1973 album “Brothers and Sisters,” which featured signature songs “Ramblin’ Man” and the instrumental “Jessica.”

Still, the band found their greatest success as a live act, performing for massive crowds in the 1970s and – like the Grateful Dead – influencing a future wave of concert-focused “jam bands.”

Throughout their five-decade run – which included a few brief hiatuses – Mr. Allman was a constant presence, and his Hammond organ and soulful lead vocals defined their sound as much as his late brother’s limber guitar lines once did.

Urban farming

From The Ringer (Alyssa Bereznak):

The future of agriculture is happening in cities. After years of experimentation, Silicon Valley may finally be making urban farming viable. But will residents be able to afford the crop?

The town of Kearny, New Jersey, is a small industrial desert, populated by warehouses, factories, and twisting freeways filled with hulking cargo trucks. Its natureless landscape and the decrepit remains of 19th-century textile factories make it so uninviting that it was occasionally used as a filming location for HBO’s The Sopranos. In other words, it’s the kind of place where you’d expect to see a mobster toss a dead body into a dumpster — it is not where you’d expect to see a nice man in plaid harvesting baby kale. But the day I visited a warehouse on a concrete lot in Kearny, I watched Irving Fain, the CEO of a new urban farm named Bowery, do just that.

“Are you a kale fan?” Fain asked me excitedly.

I met the 37-year-old Fain, who’s tall with messy brown hair and an enthusiastic grin, in a tidy waiting room at the back of the building. He was wearing a flannel shirt, jeans, and comfortable tennis shoes. But that was not what he wore when we headed into the adjacent room. Instead, we zipped our bodies into papery hazmat suits, tucked our hair into nets, and placed protective booties over our shoes.

The moment we walked into the spotless, brightly lit room, occupied with rows of tall remote-controlled towers that contained trays of leafy greens under LED lights, Fain morphed into a giddy, considerably healthier Willy Wonka. A single attendant had ordered the farm’s autonomous robotic forklifts to lower the portable crops onto conveyor belts and send them toward us. We walked up to their landing table, and with a pair of mini scissors, Fain began snipping leaf after leaf for me to taste. First came the arugula (which he called “crisp and peppery”), then the purple bok choy (“It’s, like, amazingly good”), then the spicy mustard greens that the executive chef at the Manhattan restaurant Craft had specifically requested (the owner, Top Chef star Tom Colicchio, is an investor in Bowery). Each sample was a pristine vision of plant life, with zero sign of the unsightly deformities that come from bugs and dirt — the risks of being grown outdoors.

And then there was the kale.

“One of the compliments our kale gets a lot is: ‘Man, I never liked kale, but I had to like kale, and I actually really like your kale,’” Fain said.

A begrudging kale consumer myself, I took a skeptical bite and was pleasantly surprised. I tasted no hints of the bitter chalkiness associated with the superfood. It was light and sweet and unusually fresh compared with the produce at my local Key Food. All this, without ever coming into contact with the outside world.

But the kale wasn’t delicious simply because it was grown without pesticides, or because Fain, who previously ran a customer loyalty software startup, has a green thumb. The kale was delicious because, in addition to maintaining a mostly autonomous farming system, Bowery uses proprietary software that collects data points about what influences a plant’s health, growth rate, yield, and factors that affect its flavor. According to Fain, it analyzes the information in real time, and automatically pushes out changes to the treatments of crops as it sees fit. I liked the kale in part because its growing conditions were dictated to a microscopic degree by machine-learning software that Fain lovingly calls “FarmOS.”


Aside from the chance to, as one farmer I spoke to put it, “disrupt the industrial food system,” supporting urban farming is especially appealing to Silicon Valley investors. As mega tech entrepreneurs have colonized Northern California over the past few decades, they have internalized elements of its collective environmental conscience and crunchy farm-to-table culture. (After all, it’s hard to snag a reservation at Chez Panisse without first learning who the hell Alice Waters is.) When climate change skeptics questioned Tim Cook’s 2014 pledge that Apple would invest in renewable energy, the typically mild-mannered CEO reportedly became “visibly angry” and told them to sell their shares. Cafeterias at corporations like Google have long offered organic, hormone-free meals made with ingredients sourced from local farms. In 2011, Mark Zuckerberg even announced a new “personal challenge” to eat meat only from animals he’d killed himself. Tech industry titans are so enamored with healthy, tasty, ethical food, that they once invested $120 million to develop a $700 machine that makes an eight-ounce glass of organic juice. Silicon Valley’s decision to invest in urban farming startups is just about as inevitable as Steve Wozniak checking in at the Outback Steakhouse in Cupertino on a weeknight. It comes with the territory…

Agratech.com photo via Todd McPhail

These new-age agricultural businesses have found it helpful to update the language of an ancient industry to emphasize their innovative approach, and better cater to their ideal audience. Along with naming his facility’s operating system “FarmOS,” Fain has also coined the term “post-organic” to describe Bowery’s completely chemical-free produce and elevate its cachet in the competitive world of gourmet salad. The difference, as he explains it, is that the United States Department of Agriculture technically allows organic farmers to use certain pesticides and organic produce is sometimes exposed to chemicals spread from nearby farms, while his product is completely “pure and clean.” Last year, Elon Musk’s brother Kimbal lifted the startup incubator model popularized by Y Combinator and applied it to farming, launching the Brooklyn-based company Square Roots. (In his obligatory Medium post announcing the endeavor, he cited evidence that microwave sales were declining and declared that “Food is the new internet.”)


Not only have these startups modernized agricultural terminology, their marketing teams have also cozied up to the altruistic image of America’s modern-day agriculture movement. The history of urban farming in the United States has always been inextricably linked to the availability of food, and a community’s ability to grow that food itself. The earliest modern American urban farms were plotted in 1893, amid an economic recession. To aid the swaths of industrial workers who had recently lost their jobs, the mayor of Detroit, Hazen Pingree, launched an initiative that provided unemployed residents with vacant lots, materials, and instructions that they could use to establish their own potato farms. “Pingree’s Potato Patches,” as they were known, were so helpful in feeding needy residents that both Boston and San Francisco modeled programs after them until the economy improved. Similar programs were recycled in the 1930s, during the Great Depression…

The latest urban farming startups are not charities, though. They’re businesses. But they have not hesitated to co-opt some of the same talking points about local collaboration and healthy families heralded by their grassroots counterparts. The words “HEALTHY PEOPLE, HEALTHY COMMUNITY, HEALTHY PLANET” appear at the top of the BrightFarms website in all caps. Beneath them is the company’s mission statement: “For the health of the planet, by improving the environmental impact of the food supply chain. For the health of our society, by encouraging the consumption of whole and fresh foods.” AeroFarms goes one step further, declaring “We want to be a force for good in the world.” Square Roots’ explanation of why it exists is fittingly dramatic for a Musk brother’s operation: “Our cities are at the mercy of an industrial food system that ships in high-calorie, low-nutrient, processed food from thousands of miles away. It leaves us disconnected from the comfort, the nourishment, and the taste of food — not to mention the people who grow it. But people are turning against this system. People want real food — food you can trust to nourish your body, the community, the farmer, and the planet.”


So, to what degree can these startups actually help? Even if vertically grown warehouse operations like Bowery, Square Roots, and AeroFarms help supplement a salad shortage here and there, their considerable output thus far still couldn’t come close to feeding, say, the entire city of New York, let alone the United States. (Especially since the average American craves a considerable amount of meat and dairy.) Unlike your average community or rooftop garden, typical vertical farms are located indoors, so they do nothing to help what environmental scientists call the “urban heat island effect,” a phenomenon that shows cities tend to be warmer than their surrounding landscape because of human activities and concrete structures. So far, Santo says the most significant effect commercial vertical farms might have on global food system issues is influencing the culture of food consumption and encouraging communities to learn more about where their food comes from.

@Utah.gov: Rare Historical Photos of San Juan County (and Montezuma County, CO) Now Available Digitally

Golconda Placer Mine, The Afton Watkins Gardner Photograph Collection, ca. 1920s, Date 1893 via Utah.gov.

Click here to go to the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts website to check out the photos.

@SenBennetCO, @SenCoryGardner Public Lands Bills Approved by Energy and Natural Resources Committee

Here’s the release from Senator Bennet’s office:

Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) today released the following statements after five Colorado-specific public lands bills were unanimously approved by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Bennet and Gardner introduced the bipartisan bills earlier this year.

“Our public lands define Colorado and help drive our outdoor recreation economy,” Bennet said. “These bipartisan, commonsense bills will expand outdoor access and preserve and protect wildlife habitat for years to come. The Committee’s approval of these measures is a win for Colorado, and we’ll continue to work to advance these measures in the Senate.”

“Protecting and promoting Colorado’s public lands is not a partisan issue, and I’m proud to work across the aisle to move these priorities forward,” Gardner said. “Each piece of legislation is important to Colorado and I’ll continue to support efforts that will ensure future generations of Coloradans are able to enjoy our state’s natural treasurers.”

Mountains reflect off of Bolts Lake as seen from US 24 S in Colorado. Photo via
  • The Bolts Ditch Access and Use Act (S. 285) would authorize special use of the Bolts Ditch headgate and the segment of the Bolts Ditch within the Holy Cross Wilderness Area, allowing the town of Minturn, Colorado to use its existing water right to fill Bolts Lake. This would solve a problem created in 1980 when Congress designated Holy Cross Wilderness area, but inadvertently left Bolts Ditch off of the list of existing water facilities.
The main entrance is about 30 miles west of Colorado Springs. Photo credit UncoverColorado.com.
  • The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument (S. 287) legislation will allow for enhanced wildfire protection as well as additional habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities for visitors. Established as a national monument in 1969, the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is located west of Pikes Peak and less than 40 miles from Colorado Springs. The monument is home to diverse fossil deposits, maintaining a collection of over 12,000 specimens. It also provides recreational experiences and curriculum-based education programs for its visitors. A private landowner submitted a proposal to donate 280 acres of land adjacent to Florissant Fossil Beds Monument, but due to current law the land donation cannot take place. This commonsense legislation would permit a landowner to donate private land to Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
  • The Wedge Act (H.R. 688) would aid the Forest Service in acquiring several parcels of land adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park. This Act would help preserve critical wildlife habitat, Colorado River headwaters, and a highly visible view shed in the area commonly referred to as the Wedge.
  • The Crags are rock formations located south of Divide, facing the northwest slope of Pikes Peak. It’s a beautiful hike popular with families. Photo credit Colorado Springs Hikes.
  • The Crags, Colorado Land Exchange Act (H.R. 618) is a federal land exchange where the Forest Service would acquire pristine land in the Pike National Forest allowing for more outdoor recreation near Pikes Peak.
  • The Elkhorn Ranch and White River National Forest Conveyance Act (H.R. 698) would correct the discrepancy that took place from conflicting land surveys and require the Forest Service to convey acreage to private ownership that is rightfully private property, according to the Forest Service’s own conclusion and recommendation. For nearly 100 years, 148 acres of land has been used as private land even though it is included in Forest Service survey maps, and this legislation allows for the resolution between the Forest Service and the private landowner.

Busting the tree ring — @HighCountryNews

These bigleaf maples in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest were cut down during the course of an illegal timber harvesting operation. Photo credit the U.S. Department of Justice, via OPB.org.

Here’s a report about fighting illegal logging from Ben Goldfarb writing for The High Country News. Click through and read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

Cutting bigleaf maple is generally legal, with the right permits, on private and state land in Washington. In national forests, however, protections on old growth keep the tree strictly off-limits. But in Gifford Pinchot, the law’s arm didn’t reach too far. Malamphy, who’d served as an officer with the U.S. Forest Service since 2000, patrolled the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District, a rough triangle formed by Mount Adams, Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. His jurisdiction covered 575,000 acres — one cop, responsible for an area almost twice the size of Los Angeles. He cruised the woods alone in a Dodge pickup, inspecting meth paraphernalia dumps, checking hunting licenses, conducting traffic stops. In some ways, the job has changed little since the early 20th century, when Pinchot himself dispatched a ragged band of recruits to help a strange new agency called the Forest Service wrangle illegal loggers and miners. Everyone Malamphy met in the woods carried a gun or a knife, and usually both. Backup was hours away. In 2008, a Forest Service officer was murdered by a tree-trimmer down a remote road on the Olympic Peninsula. Malamphy was a tough customer — he had an offensive lineman’s physique, and hands that could crack walnuts. Still, he kept his Glock .40 close.

R.I.P Chuck Berry

During the video Mr. Berry says that “Sweet Little Sixteen” was dedicated to a young fan in Denver, Colorado.

From The Chicago Tribune (Greg Kot):

Chuck Berry, who died Saturday at 90, was one of the architects of rock ‘n’ roll as a singer, songwriter and guitarist. More than any artist of the ‘50s, his songs exploded with imagery that saw rock ‘n’ roll not just as a fad but as the future — a vision of freedom that transcended generation and race.

Berry’s opening solo on “Johnny B. Goode” blared reveille for subsequent generations of rockers. Every rock guitarist since is in his debt. In addition, Berry wrote and sang at least two dozen rock ‘n’ roll classics, including “Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Back in the U.S.A.,” many of them recorded at Chicago’s Chess Studios in the 1950s and ’60s and later covered by countless artists, including the Beatles, Beach Boys and Rolling Stones.

“If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry,’ “ John Lennon once said…

Born Charles Edward Anderson Berry in St. Louis in 1926, Berry grew up singing in church and listening to blues and country music on the radio. An admirer of Louis Jordan, T-Bone Walker and Nat “King” Cole, he began playing guitar in high school. As a teenager, he was sent to a reformatory after being convicted of attempted robbery. He moonlighted as a beautician in St. Louis and worked on a car assembly line to support his family. While in his twenties, he led a three-piece blues group during regular weekend gigs.

Berry developed a sound that synthesized genres and created the most popular template for rock ‘n’ roll: a small, guitar-led combo performing original songs. A half-century before, country guitarists borrowed riffs and runs from blues performers. Berry flipped the formula; he was essentially a country-music guitarist who added blues inflections and a faster rhythm-and-blues beat. Plus, he played electric guitar, and the amplification enabled him to simulate the sound of two or three guitars playing at once. He thickened the sound by employing a two-string technique, sliding along the frets and bending them to create enormous power and drive. His tone evoked a trumpet.

Berry’s staccato-laced rhythmic drive also derived from swing jazz and the ebullient boogie-woogie played by another St. Louis musician, pianist Johnnie Johnson, who would become his often unsung collaborator. Johnson would sue Brown in 2000 for songwriting credit on more than 50 songs, but the claim was dismissed because a judge determined too much time had passed since the songs were written. Together, they played counterpoint melodies and solos that raised the excitement level of countless classic songs, with Johnson’s strong left hand and Berry’s hard strumming beefing up the rhythmic pulse.

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, who acknowledged that his own rhythm-guitar style was based on Berry’s technique, said the guitarist “always was the epitome of rhythm and blues playing, rock and roll playing. It was beautiful, effortless, and his timing was perfection. He is rhythm supreme.”

The Berry-Johnson partnership was forged on New Year’s Eve 1952, when the guitarist was enlisted as a last-minute replacement for an ailing saxophone player in the Johnnie Johnson Trio in East St. Louis. Berry became a regular in the already well-established band, and soon became the star attraction with a style that included his signature “duck walk,” skipping across the stage in a half-crouch while playing his guitar.

“Every weekend, they’d be looking for Chuck,” Johnson told the Tribune in a 1992 interview. “When he’d play that guitar, the people would form a circle and square dance. Chuck did this song from the Grand Old Opry, ‘Ida Red,’ and the people loved it.”


Berry came to Chicago in spring 1955 determined to become the next Muddy Waters. On hearing Berry’s guitar playing, Waters was impressed enough to introduce him to Leonard Chess, co-founder of Chess Records, who encouraged the handsome, articulate stranger with the big hollow-body guitar to make a demo tape.

The tape included Berry’s bid for blues stardom, the slow, sensual “Wee Wee Hours,” with a lavish Johnson piano line. But Chess much preferred another song on the tape, “Ida Red,” an old country song that Berry juiced up with comically exuberant boy-chases-girl lyrics involving a Cadillac Coup Deville and a V-8 Ford.

“The big beat, cars and young love,” Leonard Chess later said. “It was a trend and we jumped on it.”

Chess liked the song’s upbeat tempo and saw it as a way for his blues label to break into the teenage pop market. He was right. By Aug. 20 of that year, the song he retitled “Maybellene” was the No. 5 pop record in the country.

The song was as distinctive lyrically as it was musically. In the first line of his first hit, Berry coined the term “motorvatin’,” as if he were bent on reinventing the English language even as he invented rock ‘n’ roll. The longtime critic Robert Christgau called him “the greatest rock lyricist this side of Bob Dylan.” Narratives populated with images of cars, girls and school brimmed with humor and underdog charm. At a time when most grown-ups sneered at rock ‘n’ roll as mere juvenilia, Berry invested it with poetic power. Rock ‘n’ roll, in his telling, was more than just a passing fad, “kids music” that would be dismissed and forgotten in a year or two. In the vision laid out in Berry songs from “Roll Over Beethoven” to “Back in the U.S.A.,” rock ‘n’ roll was a world of endless possibility, a promised land where even a poor black kid could be a star.

His lyrics invariably identified with teenagers in their endless struggle with adult authority, and championed the idea that fun was just as much a part of growing up as preparing to be an adult. But he also infiltrated the charts with seemingly upbeat songs that painted subtle portraits of racism (“Brown Eyed Handsome Man”) and satirized the work-day runaround (“Too Much Monkey Business”).

He also celebrated his newborn sound and its break from the past. As an African-American who had his fill of the status quo, there was double-edged meaning when he sang, “Hail, hail rock ‘n’ roll/Deliver me from the days of old.”

The narrators and protagonists in his songs were inevitably thinly veiled alter-egos, never more so than “Johnny B. Goode,” the little country boy “who could play his guitar just like a-ringin’ a bell.” He also demonstrated a feel for Latin music in “Havana Moon,” doo-wop in “Almost Grown” and deep blues in “Childhood Sweetheart.” From 1955 to 1959 he had nine top-40 hits, an African-American in his thirties who embodied the yearning, joy and frustrations of a largely white, teenage audience.