Kudos to Dave Montgomery, my former Gunn High of Palo Alto school mate, for winning the MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ for his work on soil

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we’ve got the dirt on dave

Soil brother number 1. He’s also a very talented musician, with two bands, Good Bones and Big Dirt.

So to summarize: Mark Weiss, Gunn class of 1982, runs Earthwise Productions a concert company that is a spin-off from Earth Day at Stanford; Dave Montgomery, Gunn class of 1979, who is a professor of science at University of Washington and won the MacFound grant in 2008 after publishing his book on “dirt” or “soil” and plays in two bands.

I caught up with recently by email because Beth Custer is doing a work based on Paul Hawken’s book “Drawdown” and Dave Montgomery contributed a brief chapter to it.

And yeah I admit I cannot grasp the concept enough yet to describe here, but check back.

In music, I have worked with Steve Lacy and Corey Harris, both of whom won that grant.  I don’t recall discussing dirt with either of them, although since Corey’s studies brought him to Africa, I bet he observed something about the traditional farming there.

Also, my mind has flashed to Ana Kagunda a local musician in Oakland whose family I believe still owns a farm in Kenya.

And: Dave Montgomery remembers Mia Levin, my Gunn classmate, who also once played in a band called Mudwimin — when Mudwimin played my Cubberley series in Fall, 1994 we sort of headlined the event, in an ad in the Palo Alto Weekly, “cirque de soil”.

I know that E.O. Wilson enjoyed the tribalism of Alabama Crimson Tide football. I believe he said that not only do the total organic mass of ants exceed that of humans, but they are more critical to the natural processes, earthwise. Yet, wake up to find out that we are the eyes of the world, yo.

Did I mention that Beth Custer’s piece for clarinet, voice, cello, violin and drums based on Paul Hawken’s “Drawdown” has its 650 premier at Palo Alto Art Center, Friday, May 17, 2019 at 8 of the clock, for free, free as the air we breathe and the gas we exchange.

And my understanding, as a special feature, the sound created by Beth will travel beyond the walls of the room and quite possibly expand in every direction for billions and billions of ears.  (If ants had ears, rather: Or, what is the frequency, David?)

and1: I don’t remember when or why I took this picture of Beth Custer, but here it is:


Beth is doing three shows about the environment, on commission from SF Arts and with special help from Circuit Network

Dave’s book is actually called “Dirt: the Erosion of Civilizations” and was published 12 years ago, and a summary of such appears on pp. 70-71 of Hawken (2017)


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I Am Sitting at Lytton Plaza Reading George Packer in The Atlantic

[Photo by Matt and Justin –Matt who models at Palo Alto Art Center –Justin his wingman and also a model of sorts — Or we can rest assured he embodies a human form]


A couple hours later, I have decamped to Coupa Cafe.

I stil have not finished the George Packer cover story about Bosnia and its significance as far as the so-called “American Century” and charting our future. The full title is: Elegy for the American Century: In the 1990s, when Richard Holbrooke ended a war in the Balkans, America seemed poised to reach new heights; instead it began to decline; a report on the decay of Pax Americana.

This is the first George Packer I’ve read in quite some time. I had been checking, fruitlessly, The New Yorker. Yet I had read that George had been hired away by Laurene Powell Jobs, who is investing via her Emerson Project into media of various stripes. Emerson whose offices replaced The Nevada Building in Palo Alto, which at one point had a studio of the California Poet Laureate Al Young. Actually,  in between posting this and fleshing it out a bit, I fist-pumped Ron Conway the investor, who I imagined was on his way to see Laurene Powell Jobs. I told Ron that I recognized him from the Pace Gallery JR show recently (Conway is one of about 1,000 people who sat for the photo-mural, some of whom were at the opening).

But I stopped on page 85 (not 84, mind you) to open my computer and try to reach out to Glen Eberle, the Dartmouth Olympian and combat veteran who I once tape-recorded (literally, on a cassette) about his experiences listening to John Denver at the Sarajevo Olympic games — Glen competed in biathlon. I am wondering what Glen Eberle would think of George Packer’s article.

George, meet Glen; Glen meet George.


I presume this is The Old Boy Eberle, my schoolmate and subject in a winter hunting outfit he helped design with a pack and stock he helped design, fording a stream near Boise.

Here’s Packer’s lead:

What’s called the American century was really just a little more than half a century, and that was the span of Richard Holbrooke’s life. It began with the Second World War and the creative burst that followed—the United Nations, the Atlantic alliance, containment, the free world—and it went through dizzying lows and highs, until it expired the day before yesterday. The thing that brings on doom to great powers—is it simple hubris, or decadence and squander, a kind of inattention, loss of faith, or just the passage of years? At some point that thing set in, and so we are talking about an age gone by. It wasn’t a golden age—there was plenty of folly and wrong—but I already miss it. The best about us was inseparable from the worst. Our feeling that we could do anything gave us the Marshall Plan and Vietnam, the peace at Dayton and the endless Afghan War. Our confidence and energy, our reach and grasp, our excess and blindness—they were not so different from Holbrooke’s. He was our man. (A variation of this runs on the cover, along with teasers for Kamala Harris and “What Your Dentist isn’t Telling You”)

In theory, I will edit to add some actual conclusions about the story, and hopefully a note from Glen (if not his take). I admit I am not good at telling the story of the former Yugoslavia and the Balkans. I had a brief talk about this with the pianist Larry Vukovich. My father sold Yugo’s. I love Caffe Trieste.

Here’s the link to the actual story, but by all means plunk down the $9 at Mac’s Smoke Shop.

andand: this is very self-referential but I also have a post about running into my fellow former editor of The Dartmouth Paul Gigot ’77 at that same Lytton Plaza.


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Beth Custer, Jane Monheit and Bob Margolin headline next three Earthwise Productions shows

Earthwise Productions of Palo Alto announces three confirmed shows this spring and summer.

Beth Custer premieres a commission for clarinet, voice, strings and percussion, based on the writings of environmentalist Paul Hawken, “Drawdown” Friday May, 17 at Palo Alto Art Center Auditorium, 1313 Newell Street. This event is free and starts at 8 p.m.

Jazz singer Jane Monheit appears Friday June 21, 2019 at Mitchell Park Community Center “El Palo Alto Room”. The tickets will be $20 at the door.

On Saturday, July 6, 2019 at Mitchell Park, Earthwise Welcomes blues musician Bob Margolin. Tickets will be $20 at the door.

“I have personally known each of these headliners for close to 20 years. Beth played in her project Donz Luz 30 Bezos at the Cubberley Center in fall, 2000. I first met Jane a couple weeks after she placed in the Thelonious Monk competition for vocalists, at a small club called Zinno’s in New York City. (She headlined Yosh’s earlier this month). Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin was part of a blues package featuring Pinetop Perkins (1913-2011) that played Cubberley in 1998; both he and Pinetop were part of Muddy Waters’ blues band for many years.”.

Fans can RSVP to earwopa@yahoo.com to receive updates about advance tickets.

Earthwise Productions was founded in 1994 by Mark Weiss, after his experience helping to produce the Bay Area Action Earth Day event that year. Venues that have featured shows locally include:TK




This vine is Jane Monheit “Waters of March” Yoshi’s April 3, 2019 (in Palo Alto she will be appearing as a duo with this pianist)

A spear


A spike


A point!!!


Jane Monheit at Yoshi’s, April 4, 2018 — she signed my calendar “To Mark Weiss my latest autograph” Only makes sense because I just told her that in 1998 she signed “Thanks for being my first autograph”

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Self referencing self portrait as chimera leaning slightly towards the luft

89E17C7A-E7B0-447D-9A13-89C3A8DFD78B.jpegHow would I describe this: my head is a bowling ball or is that my hand left arm facing Minneapolis one leg with orange sneakers three hands one holding the other two want to fist want to stop and some words and a table and some other books or patterns or

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I laughed, I cried I kissed $20 trillion goodbye


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Boykin, Booma both Barrett bearers


Dartmouth thing.

This is Keith and his nephew I wonder who is faster I presume the next generation yet Keith as some of his Twitter friends noted looks pretty fit

A2BDF8BF-A1A4-4A80-88BF-BAC59B6BB797The boykinism  is named Brandon Adams and competes for University of Houston track team that apparently is coached by Carl Lewis.

Couple days later I don’t member how I got into the thing about the Dartmouth guy from the 1930s or earlier.

Doesn’t belong here at all but: the governor of Delaware is a former MVP of the Dartmouth football team name John Carney; Why the fuck does this AutoCorrect keep misspelling the name of my alma mater Dartmouth College

Just in case Keith reads this although it’s not a happy story it’s my story: I was recently in a nine way email chain with members of my freshman dorm, Richardson and one of my memories was actually from senior year or the week before senior year when Scott Jamie and I were living in an apartment with bunkbeds.  Just in case Keith reads this although it’s not a happy story it’s my story: I was recently in a nine way email chain with members of my freshman dorm, Richardson and one of my memories was actually from senior year or the week before senior year when Scott Jamie and I were living in our apartment with bunkbeds  and Scott let Keith spend the night but did not tell Jamie or I in fact I didn’t realize Jamie had arrived yet we were there early to work on the newspaper.  I remember Jamie calling me and saying “there’s a black man in the lower bunk”  I admit I pictured anything but Keith Boykin! I wish he had said there’s a future presidential staff for harbor law grad and the outstanding member of his class and that they were someday be a plaque that says Keith Boykin slept here.

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Blues legend Bob Margolin to roll up on The Mitch in July


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