TREE Fund at 15


NOTE: TREE Fund just launched its 15th Anniversary Appeal. I would be humbled and honored if those who follow my piffle and tripe here would consider supporting my work on behalf of the organization. I copy our appeal letter below, with a link to our donation page, should you be so inclined. Or if you’d like to get a jump on your holiday shopping while supporting TREE Fund, we’ve also got a mad “Sequoia Sized Sale” of cycling and climbing apparel and gear at our online store, here

Dear Friends,

As the leaves turn glorious colors across much of the nation this month, we find it a good time for pausing to consider TREE Fund’s roots, which run deep and strong, anchoring us against challenges, both anticipated and unforeseen.

2017 marks the 15th anniversary of the trust agreement signed by esteemed industry titans Allan West and Jerry Morey to create Tree Research and Education Endowment Fund (“TREE Fund”), and we celebrate their foresight in empowering a model that works effectively and efficiently to this day. But our roots go even deeper than that, as TREE Fund is the successor organization to the International Society of Arboriculture Research Trust (ISART, founded in 1976) and the National Arborist Foundation (NAF, 1985), which were established to formalize and streamline the acquisition of knowledge in the fields of arboriculture and urban forestry, and the professional training and certification of businesses and individuals who plan, plant, preserve and protect our crucial urban forests.

Tens of thousands of individuals and businesses have worked together and pooled their resources since those early organizational days to empower scientific advancements and disseminate findings to tree care professionals, municipalities, urban planners and architects, and to property owners and the general public. The power of such partnerships is profound, and has directly contributed a greater understanding of the role trees play in the urban biome, and their benefits to our shared community health, environment and economy.

Our organizational roots are healthy, and they are anchored in the good and fertile soil of scientific inquiry and exploration. But that does not mean our work is done: just as mature trees with strong roots require attention and care to respond to changing situations, so too does TREE Fund depend on faithful annual support for today’s needs, even as we build endowments to secure our long-term work.

One of the 1976 signatures on the original ISART articles of incorporation read “Hyland R. Johns” – and we are honored that Hyland is joining us as co-Chair of our 15th Anniversary Appeal. Please click here (then select “General Operating Fund”) to make a gift that will commemorate this milestone, empower our staff today, and push for our next decade of transformational operations from a position of financial health and stability.

Thank you for your consideration. We appreciate it, and it will make a difference.

With gratitude and best regards,

J. Eric Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer

Hyland Johns, Founding Trustee, ISA Research Trust

ISA remains one of TREE Fund’s most important partners, supporting our operations and endowment via their annual membership dues.


We have great views from our apartment and neighborhood of the Chicago Marathon, which is being run today. As per usual when a big event like this is going on around me, I’ve been snapping away at things with my camera, and posted some photos (copied below) on my Twitter feed. The first photo in the sequence has been going wildly viral as the race is still being run; at one point, it was the first image returned when searching for the “#ChicagoMarathon” hashtag. The image was snapped directly behind our apartment building, and it shows “The Chicago Layer Cake: Commerce and Tourism on top, Elite Sports in the middle, and Homelessness beneath our feet.” Food for thought. And then action.

Ten More Statements

Refute, support, disregard, disparage?

1. If you need more than three consecutive tweets to say something on Twitter, then you should not be saying it on Twitter. Get a blog.

2. People who romanticize or look forward to business travel do not do much business travel.

3. Uriah Heep are a far more entertaining rock band than whoever your cool friends are listening to right now.

4. Not being able to wear a hoodie or a chunky knit sweater comfortably in October is a very, very bad thing.

5. Whenever you hear an airplane, you are required to look up until you spot it. Bonus nerd points if you can identify it.

6. If you curse in a song and then issue a “clean version” to get popular radio or television play, then your cursing was superfluous and didn’t need to be there in the first place. Stand by your profanity, dammit, if it’s integral your art!

7. Human Sexual Response were the most unique, unusual and thrilling American band of the early ’80s, and their two albums would be more than enough for you if you were to be stranded on a desert island with them.

8. Paul Gauguin is not all that.

9. If you don’t like Elvis Presley, and you don’t like gospel music, then you need to listen to Elvis Presley singing gospel music. Right now. Go on. I’ll be here when you get back.

10. Every food can be improved with butter, while every food will be ruined with mayonnaise.

Never Talking To You Again

1. Grant Hart of Hüsker Dü has died of cancer at the age of 56. Sad news. He was a brilliant singer, songwriter and musician in both the band that brought him fame, and in his (less famous) post-Hüsker solo career. While the band is closely associated with Minnesota’s Twin Cities, he is the only member who spent his entire life there, much of it living in his mother’s St. Paul bungalow.

When I think of monumental moments in my musical listening career, side one of Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade (1984) was among the most surprising and transformative. I was a hardcore kid and devoted SST Records follower/buyer, and there were certain rules and sound and structures that you expected from bands signed to that label, including the Hüskers. The first two songs on Zen Arcade (“Something I Learned Today” and “Broken Home, Broken Heart,” both composed by co-leader Bob Mould) complied with these expectations as fine examples of the razor thin, trebly, high speed, screaming, all electric onslaught that SST generally delivered to its listeners, platter after platter. But then came Hart’s “Never Talking To You Again” . . .

Whoa!! Acoustic guitars? Melodic vocals? Wistful sentiments? From America’s erstwhile fastest hardcore band? Can they do that?!?! Is it legal to like it?!?!? Whoa,  again!! By the end of that record’s first side, Hart, Mould and bassist Greg Norton also delivered percussion heavy ragas, backtracked guitar meltdowns, chanting, Bo Diddly beats and more . . . and there were three more sides to go after that, including piano interludes, Hart’s balls-to-the-wall rocker “Turn On The News,” and a 14-minute long instrumental freakout to end the experience.

While Hart had telegraphed his softer, more introspective/narrative side on 1983’s “Diane” (a true story about a murdered Twin Cities waitress), this really was a shocking expansion of the capacity and capabilities of American hardcore and post-punk bands, and it directly led to the emergence of “Alternative Rock” and the transition of bands like Hüsker Dü and R.E.M. to the “big leagues” of major record label stardom in the years that followed. While the general narrative of the Hüskers’ subsequent demise often paints Hart as a the bad guy (drug problems, etc.), by most accounts he was also the sweetest hippie that the hardcore scene produced, and boy oh boy did he leave an amazing collection of songs behind him. A sad and unexpected loss of someone close enough to my age to feel like a peer, which always hurts a little bit more.

2. While I hate to turn my less-active blog into nothing more than an obituary site for fabulous musicians who have flown away, I do also need to note the passing of the legendary Holger Czukay last week at the age of 79. He was rightly and most notably famed for his pioneering work with the German group Can (who also lost his rhythmic partner, drummer Jaki Liebezeit, earlier this year), but his solo career and work since that time with a variety of other collaborators (e.g. Brian Eno, Jah Wobble, The Edge and others) was also always interesting, envelope-pushing and eccentric. There are three facets of his talents and persona that I consider particularly notable. First he was obviously an amazing bass player, half of one of the grooviest rhythm sections ever, as evidenced by this Can cut, “Oh Yeah!” from their Damo Suzuki era . . .

Second, Czukay was also a sonic pioneer in his use of found sounds, radios, tapes, and the radical manipulations of the same. He is often considered one of the originators of sampling, though in pre-digital days, he had to do it with razor blades and tapes and other gee-gaws and gimcracks. During his latter days with Can, Roscoe Gee joined the band on bass, freeing Holger up to work his sonic magic on stage, per this Can clip, “Don’t Say No” . . .

Finally, Holger Czukay was such a delightful character, with his distinctive mustache and hair and smile and mannerisms, coming across like the kooky uncle that every kid would just love to have in his or her life. Check out this interview where he introduces his band mates for proof and confirmation on this piece . . .

So we lost a lot when he passed away in his apartment last week . . . which just so happened to be in the converted theater that Can used as their “Inner Space Studios” all those years ago.

3. On a cheerier (to me) note, I’ve been pleased to see online references and documentation from both Paul Leary and King Coffey that Butthole Surfers are back in the studio this summer, working on their first recording of new materials since they fizzled away acrimoniously and litigiously in the early 2000s. There was a long period of time when I counted them as my all-time favorite band, and I’m thrilled to contemplate their canon expanding in the year ahead of us. Leary is one of my high-holy trinity of guitarists (along with Robert Fripp and David Gilmour), so I’m hoping to hear a lot of rips and riffs from him, and also that bassist Jeff Pinkus (from their most glorious era) is back in the fold along with the core trio of Coffey, Leary and Gibby Haynes. Pinkus has been playing with them on most of their sporadic live appearances in recent years, so that’s promising, at least.

Show Me Where You Are: The Geography of Steely Dan

In my remembrance of the brilliant Walter Becker (RIP) yesterday, I posted a long list of commands and guidance used in the “What Would Don and Walt Do?” (WWDWD) project that I developed online with the also brilliant Wilson Smith (RIP), many years ago. All of those WWDWD directives were culled directly from the Steely Dan lyrical lexicon.

One of the key things that made this project work was the fact that Becker and his songwriting partner, Donald Fagen, used imperative or directive forms in their lyrics, regularly and aggressively. A sample is playing here now, literally as I type this paragraph: “I think you better tell me everything you did, baby” from Royal Scam‘s “Everything You Did.” Not “would you tell me?” or “could you tell me?” or “won’t someone tell me?” They used straight up command forms, directed your way, no doubts about it: “You better tell me.”

Donald and Walter didn’t ask you for your advice or ideas or thoughts or suggestions; if they wanted them, they gave them to you, as orders, or commands, or statements that this was the way it was going to be. You there: “turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening,” over and over and over again. It’s a key part part of their menacing lyrical charm, I think. Check that list I posted yesterday for over 100 other examples.

At some point, Wilson Smith and I also observed another very distinctive facet that we felt was integral to Steely Dan’s lyrical approach: the world(s) that Becker and Fagen created are deeply rooted in very precise places, a huge number of which are specifically named over the course of their nine studio albums.

Steely Dan’s realities aren’t generic ones, but are rather set in their own places, precisely, which always makes them seem more real, more lived in, and more meaningful than less observational fare might have been. They are universal in their precision, and precise in the universality of their messages because of that.

And, of course, because Wilson and I were/are list-making music nerds, we culled the full Steely Dan lyrical catalog at some point in the early 2000s and created an index of all of the place names that Walter Becker and Donald Fagen wanted us to know about, so we could more fully ponder and appreciate their sardonic story-telling.

I present that list we developed below, with the songs featuring the places cited identified in parentheses, once again in honor and memory of the great Walter Becker.

Won’t you sign in, stranger?

  • Alabama (Deacon Blues)
  • Altamira (Caves of Altamira)
  • Amsterdam (Slang of Ages)
  • Annandale (My Old School)
  • Anthony’s Bar and Grill (My Rival)
  • Avenue by Radio City, The (Bad Sneakers)
  • Avenue D (Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More)
  • Babylon (Babylon Sisters)
  • Barbados (Glamour Profession)
  • Barrio, The (Throw Back the Little Ones)
  • Barrytown (Barrytown)
  • Bayside (Boston Rag)
  • Binky’s Place (Janie Runaway)
  • Biscayne Bay (Doctor Wu)
  • Bleecker Street (Almost Gothic)
  • Blues Beach (Blues Beach)
  • Bogota (Glamour Profession)
  • Boston (The Boston Rag, Hey Nineteen)
  • Broadway (I Got the News)
  • Brooklyn (Brooklyn)
  • Burbank (Pixeleen)
  • Cafe D’Escargot, The (Sign In Stranger)
  • California (My Old School)
  • Camarillo (Parker’s Band)
  • Central Station (Blues Beach)
  • Chicago (Your Gold Teeth)
  • China (Bodhisattva, Aja)
  • City of Saint John, The (Royal Scam)
  • Colombia [University] (Hey Nineteen)
  • Columbia (Pixeleen)
  • Cuba (Doctor Wu)
  • Culver City (West of Hollywood)
  • Custerdome, The (Gaucho)
  • Dallas (Dallas)
  • Dean and DeLuca (Janie Runaway)
  • Detroit (Rose Darling)
  • East St. Louis (East St. Louis Toodle-oo)
  • Eden Rock (Brooklyn)
  • Eurasia (Glamour Profession)
  • Fifty-Second Street (Parker’s Band)
  • Fordham Road (Negative Girl)
  • Ghana (Third World Man)
  • Gramercy Park (Janie Runaway)
  • Grand Hotel, The (Dallas)
  • Greece (Green Earrings)
  • Greene Street (Black Cow)
  • Groovetime (Slang of Ages)
  • Grotto, The (Haitian Divorce)
  • Guadalajara (My Old School)
  • Guernsey Fair, The (Showbiz Kids)
  • Gulf Coast, The (Things I Miss The Most)
  • Hackensack (Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More)
  • Haiti (Haitian Divorce)
  • Harlem (Midnight Cruiser)
  • Hollywood (What a Shame About Me, West of Hollywood, Reelin’ in the Years, Caves of Altamira, Glamour Profession)
  • Jane Street (What a Shame About Me)
  • Japan (Bodhisattva)
  • Jersey, The Bogs of (Pixeleen)
  • Joey’s, The Bar At (Green Book)
  • Kansas City (Parker’s Band)
  • L.A. [Los Angeles] (Kid Charlemagne, Glamour Profession)
  • Last Mall, The (The Last Mall)
  • Lhasa (Time Out of Mind)
  • Lost Wages/[Las] Vegas (Do It Again, Showbiz Kids)
  • Lower Broadway (What a Shame About Me)
  • Magnolia Boulevard (Bad Sneakers)
  • Manatee Bar (Blues Beach)
  • Medicine Park (Blues Beach)
  • Mexico (My Old School)
  • Mizar Five (Sign In Stranger)
  • Muswellbrook (Black Friday)
  • Netherlands, The (Slang of Ages)
  • Netherworld (Slang of Ages)
  • New Orleans (Pearl of the Quarter)
  • Nino’s (Lunch With Gina)
  • NYC/New York City (Janie Runaway, Daddy Don’t Live in That New York City No More, Royal Scam)
  • NYU [New York University] (What a Shame About Me)
  • Oregon (Don’t Take Me Alive)
  • Palace, The (Dallas)
  • Palisades, The (Pixeleen)
  • Paraguay (Turn That Heartbeart Over Again)
  • Peking (Your Gold Teeth)
  • Pennsylvania (Janie Runaway)
  • Port Blanc (West of Hollywood)
  • Quarter, The (Pearl of the Quarter)
  • Rio (Gaucho)
  • Rio Grande, The (King of the World)
  • Rome (Josie)
  • Roppongi (Pixeleen)
  • Rudy’s (Black Cow)
  • San Francisco (Kid Charlemagne, Babylon Sisters)
  • Santa Ana (Babylon Sisters)
  • Santa Fe (King of the World)
  • Scarsdale (Hey Nineteen)
  • Scotland (Deacon Blues)
  • Seventh Avenue (Boston Rag)
  • Sheridan Square (Pixeleen)
  • Slow Hand Row (Rikki Don’t Lose That Number)
  • Southland, The (Pretzel Logic)
  • Spain (Janie Runaway, Night by Night)
  • Strand, The (What A Shame About Me)
  • Sunset [Boulevard] (Babylon Sisters)
  • Szechuan [Province] (Glamour Profession)
  • Tampa (Janie Runaway)
  • T.J [Tijuana] (Babylon Sisters)
  • Third World, The (Third World Man)
  • Turkey (Sign In Stranger)
  • USA [United States of America], The (Haitian Divorce)
  • Utah (Pixeleen)
  • Vineyard, The (Things I Miss The Most)
  • Washington Zoo, The (Showbiz Kids)
  • Waterway, The (Sail the Waterway)
  • West of Hollywood (West of Hollywood)
  • William and Mary [University] (My Old School)
  • Willows, The (Slang of Ages)