Sunday, June 20, 2010

Killing Paradise

It's Father's Day and I wasn't intending to go off on an environmental rant today, but after an early afternoon walk down to the banks of my beloved Saint Johns River, I really have no choice in the matter.

The obvious devastation occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, despite it's enormity, is not the only man-made kill-shot aimed at Florida's fragile natural environment this spring. The Saint Johns is one sick river this year -- thanks to algal blooms facilitated by excess nutrients pumped into the river as fatally as BP is pumping oil into the gulf. In some cases, just as criminally, and for nothing but the motivation of pure greed.

The photo above shows the damage. In twenty-five years on the river, I have never witnessed blooms of this extent, nor so early in the year. The fish kills are hideous. I could only spend about three minutes on the bank of the water -- the smell of the dead fish combined with the rotting vegetation and deadly algae was nauseating -- though not as nauseating as the knowledge that this is all preventable. We bring this on ourselves.

I can't help but wonder at the damage blooms of this extent will cause not only to the fish and other river life, but to these grand old cypress trees being strangled at the roots. These blooms (this year's includes a previously unidentified type of toxic algae) are grown by the injection of "point source" and "non-point source" nutrient pollution (mostly nitrogen) into the river. Point source injection comes from industrial effluent -- companies such as Georgia-Pacific, located just north of Palatka, about 30 miles up river (south) of here. The non-point source pollution comes from the rest of use -- millions of Florida residents who live in the Saint Johns drainage plain. With our need to have manicured green landscapes that mimic the northern and English styles (that do not work naturally here), we cover our non-native grasses and plants with chemical fertilizer, waste our dwindling water reserves by watering the pollutants into the lawns, the excess of which is then sent down our storm drains and into the river with every tropical downpour.

I have never observed the above scene when the water in the river has been anything but pristine and clean. The crap afloat as far as one can see is the deadly algae. We are killing the environmental platform that sustains our own very lives by shear stupidity and greed. If you live in Florida -- stop committing time-release suicide. Learn how to use natural methods and native plant for your landscaping (we've just put in perennial peanut to replace the St. Augustine grass and over the years a large variety of attractive native plants that, once established, thrive in the local environment without much attention), encourage your legislators to create laws and enforce regulations that STOP corporate polluters.

It's time to take a stand before we have no viable land to stand on. Happy Father's day -- your mother (nature) is really pissed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Florida Folk Festival, Photoshop, and Topaz Simplify

Combining one's passions is not a bad way to spend an hour or two... Passion #1 is music. Even though it's been almost three weeks since the Florida Folk Festival in White Springs I'm still basking in the afterglow of great performances, by both my own band and the dozens of other acts we had the chance to listen to. Passion #2 is photography. Guitar cases and camera gear can be a load to lug around, but well worth it. I'm always looking for creative ways to capture and present these talented folk, many of whom are largely unknown beyond the borders of the Sunshine State. Here are some of the still photo results, adapted in Photoshop using Topaz Simplify -- appropriate for acoustic music, I think...

The image above is an emerging Florida-based folk / Americana family band called Jubal's Kin. These kids are now touring the greater south -- and will be the next big thing American folk. Keep an eye out, better yet keep an ear out. Their new recording is available for download via iTunes...

This is Chuck Hardwick -- one of the icons of Florida Folk music. A great writer and performer, Chuck is the real deal. Want to know what it's like to be on a Florida cattle drive? With your guitar? On horseback? Ask for Chuck.

This last image is of Florida native, now Nashville-based country star, Billy Dean. Billy has been coming back to his roots at FFF for a number of years, sharing his songwriting tips and performing talent with the rest of us mere mortals. I can honestly say that Billy Dean once opened for me...

Speaking of Florida songwriting talent -- check out the new blog by my musical partner in crime -- my bandmate in the Ashley Gang, Al Scortino. Find the box to the right with Friends and Favorite links and click on "Renaissance Man" to follow Al's adventures from the depths of the economic recession to wherever it is that his musical pursuits lead him... sure to be a fun ride!

Friday, June 11, 2010

One More Video From Florida Folk Festival

Gail Carson at was everywhere with her HD video cam during the 58th Florida Folk Festival two weekends ago... this live performance video of the Ashley Gang performing my song, Duval Nights, was shot at the Old Marble Stage -- the original stage for this oldest American Folk Fest. Yep -- the skinny old guy in the middle doing the singing is me... and the lovely flute player is my wife, Kay... hope you enjoy my little love song for Jacksonville...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Florida Folk Festival 2010 -- Part 2

A quick unexpected interim post -- thanks to Gail Carson -- this is a video of my band The Ashley Gang, at the Florida Folk Festival performing Al's song The River Road. One of my favorites. -- Great job, Gail, thanks soooo much for your creativity and effort!