Adventures in Maui and Lana’i

As mentioned in the prior post, Marcia and I were in Hawai’i last week for the Tree Care Industry Association’s Winter Management Conference, and we had a delightful time while we were there. We are already trying to figure out a time and itinerary for a return, as we only got to see two of the islands (Maui and Lana’i) this time around, and they were so very unique and different that we expect each island will bring its own special “wow” moments for us.

On the professional front, I view my annual remarks at Winter Management as my “accountability report” to the owners and senior executives of the many businesses who make TREE Fund‘s work possible with their contributions, and whose employees and customers should ultimately benefit from what we do. We had a lot of exciting TREE Fund news over the past year, so I was glad to share that — and equally excited to share our (ambitious) plans for the year ahead. This is a good gig, and I get to do good work with and for good people for a good cause. Goodie!

On a personal front, it was lovely to have evenings and a couple of extra days with Mine Bestest. We both travel so much in our work that it’s always a joy when our schedules align, especially when they allow us to explore new parts of the world together. One of our principles when we travel is that we like to have adventures — which I essentially define as: “Look at where most of the tourists are going, and then go in the opposite direction.” I tend to consider it a proper adventure only if there’s some accidental trespassing involved, or someone comes home bleeding, or we have to get over/around/through some combination of creeks, walls, fences, tar pits, mud flats, or other exciting obstacles and terrain. Marcia, knowing this is my proclivity, is often a good check on things, and is not adverse to offering a firm “Nope!” when I point down a crumbling ravine and say “That way?”

Click on the photo of Marcia having an adventure below for a link to our trip gallery; I’ll let you decide whether it was my path or hers we were walking here . . .

The Fall: A Top Ten List

A continuation of thoughts from And This Day: Mark Edward Smith (1957-2018) . . .

Marcia and I spent the past week in Hawai’i. On the (long) flights between Maui Kahului and Chicago O’Hare, I spent much of the time with headphones on, deeply appreciating a setlist of about 50 Fall Songs that I’d culled after the unfortunate early passing of Mark E. Smith in January. The (long) travel time provided a good period of focused listening and reflection on the amazing body of work that MES (as he’s regularly referenced among Fall fans — and why I use “JES” in my own short-hand notes) left behind for us all. I was equally moved by “classic” songs composed by a young man full of piss and vinegar, and by latter day works, when mortality had clearly intruded in the songwriter’s consciousness.

MES’s funeral took place while we were in Hawai’i, and his sisters released a statement today on The Official Fall Website that read:

We would like to thank family, friends and fans for all their kind words, condolences and memories about our brother Mark. Also, the N.H.S and staff who treated Mark throughout and Mark’s partner Pam who loved, cared and cherished our brother. Mark fought a long and hard battle after his diagnosis of terminal lung and kidney cancer.  He took every treatment going, which could be brutal at times and left Mark with some horrible side effects. Mark was such a strong man and hated letting his fans down and tried to carry on regardless against all advice. Mark had a great life and loved and lived it to the full and always by his own rules and we, as his sisters were privileged to be part of it too. Mark is at peace now and pain free, but we, his three sisters have been left heartbroken and will miss our big brother very much.

Barbara, Suzanne and Caroline.

 

I was very sad to learn what took Mark away from us, as it made clear the struggle he’d endured in recent months/years — and removed any “he died peacefully in his sleep, and he never knew what was coming” wishful thinking from the mix. His end was hard, and that makes his final album(s) and concert(s) all the more meaningful and amazing, as he was obviously creating and performing with full knowledge that he did not have much time remaining to do so, and was suffering in the process. MES was truly inspiring until the very end. I doff my cap to him, again and again, and I thank him for all the joy he provided me and so many other Fall Fans over the years.

I should note that Fall Fans are a diverse, global lot with myriad interests (musical and otherwise), though if anything binds us (beyond our obvious love for the Fall’s music and the musicians who made/played it), I would offer that it’s a love of list-making, data gathering, analysis and/or debate — as perhaps best evidenced by the ways in which the most seemingly mundane topics regarding The Fall routinely receive deep and thoughtful dives over at the Fall Online Forum (FOF), where I was long a regular contributor. Since MES’s death, I’ve read and digested boodles and boodles of tributes and lists and stories at the FOF and elsewhere, many of which I agree with, and many of which . . . well, not so much.

There are about 520 songs that have been recorded or played live by The Fall over the past 40 years, and as my own final tribute here to Mark E. Smith and The Fall, I offer my personal “Top Ten List of Greatest Fall Songs Ever” below. I’m defaulting to studio album versions for the links embedded in my list, though many Fall Fans will often cite Peel Session or other live versions as definitive. There’s no right answer, ever, when it comes to The Fall.

If you value my tastes and recommendations and want to learn more about The Fall, then these may be good places to start investigating. But if these don’t do it for you, then I most heartily recommend you explore any of the other 510 songs, as I’ll wager there’s a gem in the canon somewhere that will appeal to you, and once you establish that initial connection, it will itch and itch at you, and you will want to hear more (or all) of it, I promise.

 

#10. “Dr Bucks’ Letter” (2000, from The Unutterable)

#9. “Mountain Energei” (2003, from The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country On The Click))

#8. “Who Makes the Nazis?” (1982, from Hex Enduction Hour)

#7. “Weather Report 2” (2010, from Your Future Our Clutter)

#6. “Second House Now” (2017, from New Facts Emerge)

#5. “The Container Drivers” (1980, from Grotesque (After The Gramme))

#4. “Fall Sound” (2007, from Reformation Post TLC)

#3. “Fantastic Life” (1981, from Lie Dream of A Casino Soul (single))

#2. “Blindness” (2005, from Fall Heads Roll)

#1. “Noel’s Chemical Effluence” (1995, from The Twenty-Seven Points)

And This Day: Mark Edward Smith (1957-2018)

Legendary English singer, songwriter and group leader Mark E. Smith of The Fall died this morning, some four decades after embarking on one of the most remarkable careers in modern music history. The Fall’s studio canon is sprawling and epic in its depth, breadth, variety and quality, while the group’s live performances have given generations of rock scribblers fodder and thrilled countless punters with the chaotic, organic greatness the group concocted on their best nights. (Though even their worst nights were delicious chaotic marvels on some plane).

I have long been a big fan of The Fall (very professional), citing them as my favorite band for many years, and I wrote in glowing terms about their last studio album, New Facts Emerge, just this past August. It was their 31st or 32nd album, depending on how one feels about their 1981 release, Slates. (Whether that’s an EP or an LP is a deeply divisive topic among certain sectors of The Fall’s fandom). (Though it is an EP, for the record). The group had announced a (very rare) set of American dates last fall to support their new disc, and played a few English gigs after the album’s release, but cancellations (including all of the U.S. shows) were rife. Smith’s onstage appearance during his final concerts (wheelchair bound, arm in a sling, face terribly swollen) was cause for alarm for some — while others saluted the great man for honoring his commitments, doing his job, and being with the audiences who loved him, doubters be damned. I tend to side with the latter camp.

The Fall have been routinely and tediously cited by the music press for their high rates of personnel turnover over the years, but Smith had worked with a stable bass-guitar-drum lineup for over a decade before his death, and my admiration and respect for those three (Keiron Melling, Dave Spurr, and Peter Greenway) is most high, especially for helping their boss rock hard as his own body was failing him. They had their own unique Fall Sound, and some of their records rate as favorites among the long lines of vinyl, plastic, and digital bits that have entertained and awed me for decades. Bravo, gentlemen. You made a glorious racket and were a very fine Fall group.

Regarding their chief, I have long considered Mark E. Smith to be the same sort of musical genius as George Clinton, or Captain Beefheart, or Brian Eno, or David Thomas. They are all organizers and shepherds with very clear visions of what they want from their songs, along with the persuasive skills to extract stellar performances from musicians who might never before nor ever after ascend to such heights. None of those aforementioned visionaries are ace guitarists, or skilled keyboardists, or deeply technical arrangers, or even particularly good singers, but the players they surround themselves with — their teams — are managed in such deft ways as to spark and deliver brilliance, time and time again, in original and often highly unusual styles.

Mark E. Smith was also that greatest of literary devices: a character. Quotable, irascible, intelligent, badly behaved except when he wasn’t, wearing his opinions on his sleeve, sharing his tastes with anyone who’d talk to him, largely unfiltered, mostly impolitic, deeply irreverent, consistently cantankerous, and entertaining to the Nth degree, always. I just liked watching and listening to him talk, even if I couldn’t understand what was coming out of his mouth much of the time. There’s none like him that I know, and none likely to ever fill such a unique creative niche, for so long, so well, again. Well done, Mark. Well done, indeed.

On a personal front, I’ve spent well over a decade as an active member of the Fall Online Forum, one of the most bizarrely delightful digital communities I’ve ever had the pleasure to haunt, and the depth of commitment and passion that cabal devotes to the group that binds them is extraordinary. (I most recently wrote about the “FOF” in my 2017 Year in Review, here). As it turns out, I had put myself on a sabbatical from the Forum just a short time ago — which is interesting (to me), because I did the same thing in the prior online community where I spent most of my (online) time prior to the FOF, just before its own inspiring light died. I don’t know if my radar is sensitive to that sort of impending change or what, but it’s a bit deja vu and disconcerting feeling for me right now, in any event. I do wish my friends at the FOF well. This is a world-jolter there, and here.

At bottom line, it’s the end of an era for The Fall: who are always different, and now never the same again . . .

Mark E. Smith with the last of the lads in the Fall. They were a good crew, and served him well to the end. RIP.

 

On The Road Again (For The Trees)

At 5:30am yesterday, under what could charitably be described as “wintry mix,” I hopped in our car, cranked up some tunes, and headed down to Indianapolis for the first of my many 2018 speaking engagements on behalf of TREE Fund. In the weeks ahead, I will be in New York, Hawai’i, Iowa, Minnesota, Tennessee and New Mexico . . . and that just gets me to early April. Zoom zoom!

As President and CEO of TREE Fund, my position description says (among other things) that I am to “represent the Fund to its donors, volunteers, partners, researchers, the public and all other stakeholders.” I take that task seriously, and recognize that my ability to do it from my office in Naperville, Illinois is limited, at best; we do good online and virtual communications work, sure, but the face-to-face pitch is core to convincing people to support what we do. Equally important: reporting back to those who have supported us on how their generosity made a difference, and what we were able to do with it.

I don’t know exactly how many people I will stand in front of (in person, or on camera) over the year ahead — but it’s a pretty big number. I’m a reasonably deft public speaker and can expand or contract my core talk to run anywhere from three minutes to an hour, as requested by my hosts, or as a “read of the room” indicates will work best for the people in attendance. (There’s a huge difference in audience response over the course of a typical conference day; I’d say the 10:30 AM slot right after a mid-morning break is the best gig, most of the time, when people are caffeinated, stretched and alert, but not quite restless for lunch yet).

That said, I do have a baseline presentation, and we actually share a generic version of it with our 21 Chapter Liaisons and other key supporters around the country  in case they need to do their own presentations, or want to have some highlights to insert into their own publications, websites, conferences and/or seminars. The Indiana Arborist Association were the first to hear our new 2018 report . . . and I provide a link below to the generic slide deck I used, if you’re curious about what it is we actually do over the course of the year at TREE Fund, beside ride our bikes 500+ miles for research, and solicit proposals for grants:

TREE Fund Report of Activities, 2017-2018

As always, it’s good work for a good cause — and one of the final slides in the deck tells you what you can do to help us out. Feel free to follow our activities by signing up for our monthly newsletter (hit the subscribe button here), share our information, or even invite me to come speak to your own green industry friends and colleagues.

My Road Warrior’s Motto: Have iPod (filled with horrible grindcore, death metal and industrial music that I can’t play at home), Will Travel. And I do it for the trees.

TREE Fund’s Spring 2018 Grant Season is Underway

Earlier this week, I posted about the 2018 fundraising season getting underway at TREE Fund when registration went live for the Tour des Trees. On the very same day, we also went live with an even more important facet of our business: grant-making season. It’s satisfying to see the means to the end (fundraising) and the end itself (grant-making) line up that way, and I’m very grateful to the staff here in Naperville for a lot of hard work required to get both pieces of our enterprise launched at the same time. Thank you, Karen, Monika and Barb!!!

We have three research programs, one community education program, and five scholarship programs accepting proposals and applications between now and March 15, 2018. Specifically, we are offering awards in the following areas during the current grant season; there may be multiple recipients for several of them:

RESEARCH:

  • Hyland R. Johns Grant Program: Established in 1995 to honor one of the leaders in the arboriculture industry and a founder of the ISA Research Trust, the Hyland R. Johns Grant Program funds longer-term research and technology transfer projects that have the potential of benefiting the everyday work of arborists. Projects are expected to be completed within three to five years, with a maximum award value of $50,000.
  • Utility Arborist Research Fund (UARF) Grants: In 2017, TREE Fund and the Utility Arborist Association completed a $1.0 million campaign for the UARF, and first grants will be awarded in 2018. Given the immense scope of annual utility arboriculture work on a global basis, if UARF-funded research can generate even a 1.0% reduction in tree-related outages, customer complaints, vegetation management complexity or emergency tree work, the financial, community relations, and worker safety returns on investment will be immense. Projects are expected to be completed within one to years, with a maximum award value of $50,000.
  • Safe Arborist Techniques Fund (SATF) Grants: SATF is a joint program of TREE Fund and the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), established in 2015 to support research, development and technology transfer on the techniques and equipment that arborists use in climbing, rigging, and working on trees, as well as the means of identifying potential hazards. Safety is a major concern to practicing arborists, especially as incomplete knowledge of potential hazards can be a life-or-death issue for both tree workers and the public they serve. Projects are expected to be completed within two years, with a maximum award value of $10,000.

SCHOLARSHIPS:

  • Robert Felix Memorial Scholarships ($5,000): National program for current college students pursuing a career in commercial arboriculture, entering the second year of a two-year program or entering the third or fourth year of a four-year program at an accredited undergraduate institution.
  • Bonnie Appleton Memorial Scholarships ($5,000): National program for current college students pursuing a career in urban forestry, arboriculture, horticulture, or nursery management, enrolled as a junior or senior throughout the scholarship award year at an accredited undergraduate institution in the United States or entering the second year of a two-year program.
  • Horace M. Thayer Scholarships ($3,000): Program for residents of Pennsylvania or Delaware (may be attending school elsewhere) who are returning to the second year of a two- or four-year program at an accredited college or university and be currently enrolled in a major, minor, option, or program of arboriculture, horticulture, forestry, or urban forestry.
  • Fran Ward Women in Arboriculture Scholarships ($3,000): Program for residents of Pennsylvania or Delaware (may be attending school elsewhere) who are female, returning to the second year of a two- or four-year program at an accredited college or university and be currently enrolled in a major, minor, option, or program of arboriculture, horticulture, forestry, or urban forestry.
  • John Wright Memorial Scholarship ($2,000): National program for high school or college students pursuing a career in the commercial arboriculture industry, entering or returning student at an accredited undergraduate institution in the United States.

COMMUNITY EDUCATION:

  • Ohio Chapter ISA Education Grant Program: Established in 2012, the Ohio Chapter International Society of Arboriculture (OCISA) Education Grant Program funds arboricultural education programs or projects within the state of Ohio. The purpose of this grant is to increase the public awareness of and support the advancement of knowledge in the field of arboriculture and urban forestry to benefit people, trees and the environment. Projects are expected to be completed within one years, with a maximum award value of $5,000.

We run all of our grant and scholarship programs on an open, competitive basis, and as a general rule, applicants from the United States or countries represented by an ISA Chapter are eligible for consideration, outside of the restrictions noted above. There is a strong positive correlation between the number and quality of the applications we receive, and the number and quality of the grants we award — so we are always interested in getting the word about our programs out as widely as we can.

Do you know anybody who might be an eligible candidate for any of these programs? If so, the links below take you to standalone, printable requests for proposals/applications (RFPs) for each of the programs. Please feel free to send them on, print them, post them on your organization’s bulletin boards, or share them (or this web page) any other way that might help get them into the hands of a worthy grant recipient. Tree research matters, and this is the crucial first step for getting it done this year!

I snapped this at the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories near Charlotte last spring. We will be returning to the Bartlett Labs in December 2018. Watch this space for news about that!

Bike The Buckeye State: Tour des Trees 2018

On Wednesday, January 17, 2018, our ace office team flipped a switch (proverbially speaking) and registration went live for the Tour des Trees to Benefit TREE Fund. We’re using a new event management system this year, so the team let me be the test beastie up front to make sure everything was working well and that I couldn’t break anything (since I’m very good at breaking things). All went smoothly, so I officially signed up as Registered Rider #1 for this year’s Tour (my fourth), and I am very much looking forward to seeing who joins me in the weeks ahead, knowing some stalwart friends will sign on, and also that we’ll have some great new folks on the road with us this year.

The Tour will run about 530 miles over seven days: July 29 to August 4, inclusive. The route begins in Columbus, Ohio, works its way up to Cleveland and the shore of Lake Erie, then back to finish where we started. Our last day is a “slow roll” into the International Tree Climbing Championships, which is amazing to experience, for those who aren’t familiar with our industry. Click on the image below for an interactive guide to the planned route; we will be adding stops (one about every 25 miles) and/or community engagement events (a couple-three each day) in the months ahead, so there may be some small tweaks to get us in and out of our interim stops safely and efficiently, but this is the macro plan:

Nah, those aren't hills . . . just lumpy terrain. Easy!

I would love to have people from other eras of my life ride the Tour with me this year — Albanians, Iowans, Cackalackans, NR (“Never Rong”) Folks, Squids, Nucs, Rocky College Peeps, Chops, Engineers, Great Danes, Music Geeks, Blog Readers, Imaginary Online Friends, family members, work colleagues, what have you! We are capping the number of registered riders at 125 this year, and we expect the slots to fill up, so if this sounds like a thing you’d want to do, then please get your registration in sooner rather than later. We are also offering a Virtual Tour option this year that will allow you to ride, run, swim, unicycle or otherwise support the cause at a time, place, and distance that works for you — and at a fundraising level you set yourself.

What will you have to do after you register? Raise or pay $3,500 toward our research program (less if you do not ride the full seven days, or if you choose the virtual option), train so that you can manage at least a 15 mph rate over the course of the Tour (if you’re riding), get yourself and your bike to Columbus — and then relax and ride with full support (meals, lodging, road crews, etc.) from an amazing team of pros and volunteers with years and years of experience in bringing this amazing event to fruition. Our tour director, Paul Wood of Black Bear Adventures, is simply the best in the game, so you’ll be in good hands under his guidance and care.

We hope to raise a total of $325,000 from our riders this year for tree research, with the costs of the event itself defrayed by our corporate partners. (If you can’t ride, but you control the coffers at your place of business and would like to become a partner, holla!) The money goes to a great cause, of course, but an equally important part of the Tour is community outreach and engagement — helping folks of all ages understand why urban and community forests are so important to us all, how scientifically-rigorous research directly benefits the trees we live with, and the roles that our professional arborists and urban foresters play in preserving and protecting the canopy. We visit schools, we stop in community centers and parks, we plant trees — and best of all, we have the great Professor Elwood Pricklethorn with us all week to make sure that we always remember to plant the right tree in the right place and give trees a chance!

Want a peek at what that looks like? Here’s a little video of our traditional tree blessing done at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, where we planted a tulip poplar cultivated from the last of the colonial Liberty Trees — which came down at St. John’s College in Annapolis in 1999 after sustaining irreparable damage in Hurricane Floyd:

Hear the spirit? Feel the fun? Appreciate the camaraderie? See me wearing my yellow NAVY cap, 35 years and 1,000 yards from where I spent plebe summer? Wanna experience it all first hand in 2018? (Well, except for that Navy nostalgia bit). Click here for all the details, and hopefully to take that first step to being a part of a truly life-altering experience . . .