Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Everybody knows: It’s time to give!

Greetings again from Raleigh, North Carolina, where I am attending the International Bluegrass Music Conference and Wide Open Bluegrass  Music Festival.  The event includes a large 3-day trade show where vendors offer everything from folding banjos to buffalo straps.  There are also several non-profit organizations that support bluegrass music, and this is fundraising time for them.  They have a captive audience in Raleigh, and they’re doing what it takes to spread the good word about their organizations.

Every vendor is there to make money, but this post is about all the vendors that stopped their own sales pitches in order to stump for NCPR.  Each of them – from all over the US – knows the value of their own public radio station, and they were more than willing to help nudge NCPR listeners a little closer to giving.  After all, it’s really a way of helping your neighbors.  You don’t want them to have to pay your share too, do you?

I met up with former String Fever host, and old friend, Danny Gotham.  Of course NCPR is dear to him – you still hear him on our airwaves when he makes his semi-annual trek back to his native region.  Here he is with a timely reminder:

TTG Danny

Of course, it’s easy to get sidetracked when you’re surrounded by beautiful instruments and cool new kinds of picks.  Here he is, still strumming for the NCPR bucks:

TTG Danny strumming for dollars

He ended up buying a very cool guitar pick from this guy:

Yes!  These picks cost $30 each because a portion of that goes to support his local public radio station!  Incidentally, they have a lifetime guarantee.   Well, so does NCPR, with just a little help from our friends.

Yes! These picks cost $30 each because a portion of that goes to support his local public radio station! Incidentally, they have a lifetime guarantee. Well, so does NCPR, with just a little help from our friends.

Deering banjos just celebrated their 100,000th banjo!  Yes, that’s one hundred thousand.  Banjos.  Just imagine what that would sound like all together.  Well, that’s music to Janet Deering’s ears… and she would LOVE to see NCPR prosper (because she’s hoping for more banjo music on Thursday afternoons!).

The Deering family (makers of the famous Deering banjos) were recognized with an IBMA special achievement award this week, honoring their dedication to the art of making great banjos that everyone can afford.... just like public radio.  Your help keeps it affordable for all of us..

The Deering family (makers of the famous Deering banjos) were recognized with an IBMA special achievement award this week, honoring their dedication to the art of making great banjos that everyone can afford…. just like public radio. Your help keeps it affordable for all of us..

Deering banjos is based in California, but NCPR is well known to the Boston Bluegrass Union. Meet Stan Zdonik, former IBMA board member, and Boston Bluegrass Union member.  He supports WBUR, but  if he lived in Oxbow, he’d be sending his bucks to NCPR!

Stan Zdonik, incognito.

Stan Zdonik, incognito.

This is Lisa Husted, representing the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival.  She listens to NCPR when she’s visiting the Adirondacks.

TTG Lisa Husted

Check out some of the other public radio believers that I met today in Raleigh:

Bluegrass Today... and every day.

Bluegrass Today… and every day.

 

Yes, that's Ricky Skaggs' label.... but no, that's not Ricky! He's playing a show with Bruce Hornsby here in Raleigh this weekend.

Yes, that’s Ricky Skaggs’ label…. but no, that’s not Ricky! He’s playing a show with Bruce Hornsby here in Raleigh this weekend.

 

Stelling Banjos are some of the finest made.  What do you think they listen to in the shop?  Public radio, of course!

Stelling Banjos are some of the finest made. What do you think they listen to in the shop? Public radio, of course!

 

Meet Tim Stafford, the 2014 Bluegrass Songwriter Of The Year.   He plays guitar and sings with Blue Highway.  They were recently in the north country, performing in Clayton a few weeks ago.  Tim just released a new solo album of original songs, and one track is named for an island in the St. Lawrence River!

Meet Tim Stafford, the 2014 Bluegrass Songwriter Of The Year. He plays guitar and sings with Blue Highway. They were recently in the north country, performing in Clayton a few weeks ago. Tim just released a new solo album of original songs, and one track is named for an island in the St. Lawrence River!

Just so you don't think this convention is only about banjos, there are many guitar crafters at this trade show, and all of them are top notch.  This is one of them.... and he knows the value of public radio.

Just so you don’t think this convention is only about banjos, there are many guitar crafters at this trade show, and all of them are top notch. This is one of them…. and he knows the value of public radio.

And… lest you think that bluegrass musicians  don’t listen to anything but head-banging banjo music:

Driven is a bluegrass band from the mid-west.  Their slogan is "bluegrass without mercy".   There must be a public radio equivalent to that.

Driven is a bluegrass band from the mid-west. Their slogan is “bluegrass without mercy”.
There must be a public radio equivalent to that.

Public radio keeps you company.  Keeps you well-informed.  Makes you a more interesting person, and we hope NCPR can continue to bring out the best in you and our region.  Help us make  beautiful  music together–

by throwing a few bucks in our case.

Thank you from every one of us.

At IBMA: Postcard from the bluegrass trade show

If you’ve been reading the All In Blog this week, you already know that I’ve been attending the IBMA convention in Raleigh, NC.  Wednesday is the middle day of the conference, and one day closer to the IBMA awards gala, followed by a huge outdoor bluegrass street festival in downtown Raleigh.

There’s a lot of meet & greet here.  Cds and business cards exchanged.  Bands get booked.  Festival schedules get filled up for next summer.  Faces finally match up to the names.  Fame brushes anonymity.  Bands audition in every open space, for anyone that will listen.  Jam sessions pop up in every hallway.  Bands actually give concerts in the hotel suites.  Booking agents showcase their stables of talent for anyone wearing a name tag.  It’s bluegrass hospitality week on steroids.

My day was filled with seminars on how to improve your stage presence, your stage sound, your record label, understanding your insurance liability, copyright information, and just about everything else related to music performance and industry.

The bluegrass trade show opened today in the Raleigh Convention Center, and I thought I’d send a few photos along, since it’s impossible to capture it all in words.  There’s a little of everything:

... like bands looking for more exposure.

… like bands looking for more exposure.

... used instrument dealers.

… used instrument dealers.

Magazine subscriptions.

Magazine subscriptions.

 

... the Banjo Museum!

… the Banjo Museum!

 

Custom thumb picks.

Custom thumb picks.

Instrument stands.

Instrument stands.

Leather instrument straps.

Leather instrument straps.

… and a few non-musical vendors:
3 IBMA TRADE SHOW (15)

3 IBMA TRADE SHOW (3)

 

3 IBMA TRADE SHOW (2)

The IBMA has its merch booth here too:

3 IBMA Merch

 

.. and the networking continues on every flat surface in the area:

3 Networking Bulletin Board

I  collected new music from all of these folks:

 

Dan & Caroline Routh, a.k.a. Nu-Blu.

Dan & Caroline Routh, a.k.a. Nu-Blu.

 

 

Scott Anderson with his new cd, Tales from The Swamp.Scott Anderson with his new cd, Tales from The Swamp.

 

John Goad, a.k.a. the Bluegrass Weather Man, who is also a publicist for other acts, and a writer for Bluegrass Today.

John Goad, a.k.a. the Bluegrass Weather Man, who is also a publicist for other acts, and a writer for Bluegrass Today.

 

Tori Gold, from the 3 sisters band, Gold Heart.  Their new album is almost done, but Tori sent along a 2-track sample for you.

Tori Gold, from the 3 sisters band, Gold Heart. Their new album is almost done, but Tori sent along a 2-track sample for you.

Meet Driven - from the midwest - they are 'Bluegrass Without Mercy'.  Oh, Mercy!Meet Driven – from the midwest – they play ‘Bluegrass Without Mercy’.
Oh, Mercy!

Donna Hughes, with a new cd of original songs.

Donna Hughes.  Her new cd is called From The Heart.

Jim and Lynna Woolsey.  Their album is titled, The Road That Brings You Home.

Jim and Lynna Woolsey. Their album is titled The Road That Brings You Home.

It’s been a FULL day of meet & greet at IBMA.  The evenings and nights offer about 60 different concerts in a dozen different venues around Raleigh, with a free bus to take you from one event to the next. It’s called The Bluegrass Ramble…and a stalwart fan can ramble until about 2:30 in the morning, enjoying a different band every 45 minutes at most venues, then ramble off to a hotel suite and jam until dawn.

Thursday night is the biggest night of the week here:  the IBMA Awards.  You can stream the show live on your computer at www.IBMA.org, and tune in next week for the String Fever award winners show for this year.

Thanks for following me to Raleigh.  Wish you were here,  and I’ll see you soon on the radio!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give today, and maybe win the newest iPad tonight

ipadair2

Ooooh! Shiny!

We don’t want to eliminate the Fall Fundraiser, we just want to shrink it down a little bit. So start now and end early. As soon as we make our goal–$325,000–No mas! Done deal! Finito!

If that is before the on-air portion of of our fall campaign begins, great. If we end a day early or two, it’s all good. It’s time to give, right up until it we’re done.

But what’s in for me?” you might ask in your inside voice. Well, how about the newest iPad tablet computer. Everybody we hear from before the drawing on Friday is in the hat for a piece of gear so new it’s not in the stores yet, so awesome they haven’t decided whether to call it the iPad 6, or the iPad Air 2, or “The best thing since sliced bread.”

So here’s the deal:

Make your gift to NCPR now

Get your name in the hat for the latest iPad (and all the other drawings coming after) and help NCPR to be responsible stewards of your earlobes through reducing our self-promotional footprint.

Postcard: opening day at IBMA in Raleigh

I am attending the IBMA Convention in Raleigh, NC this week, and today was the official opening day.  Here are some of the highlights:

The city of Raleigh has made a huge effort to make bluegrass visitors feel welcome in "The City of Oaks".  These decals are strategically placed on the sidewalks in the downtown area, and there's bluegrass music playing from public speakers in  City Center.

The city of Raleigh has made a huge effort to make bluegrass visitors feel welcome in “The City of Oaks”. These decals are strategically placed on the sidewalks in the downtown area, and there’s bluegrass music playing from public speakers in City Center.  This decal is promoting the free city-wide bluegrass festival this weekend.

 

The front of the Raleigh Convention Center is decorated with this 2-story welcome sign.

The front of the Raleigh Convention Center is decorated with this 2-story welcome sign.

 

This is Sir Walter Raleigh - for whom the city is named.  His statue normally is unadorned (except for last year, when he had a huge banjo strapped over his shoulder).  This year, Sir Walter is decorated with an 'installation' of banjo parts - donated by the Deering Banjo Company - and designed by Bland Hoke.

This is Sir Walter Raleigh – for whom the city is named. His statue normally is unadorned (except for last year, when he had a huge banjo strapped over his shoulder). This year, Sir Walter is decorated with an ‘installation’ of banjo parts – donated by the Deering Banjo Company – and designed by Bland Hoke.

 

When I walked by, Bland Hoke was hand ironing the canvas skirting for the base of the statue.

When I walked by, Bland Hoke was hand ironing the canvas skirting for the base of the statue.

 

Here's a close-up of the banjo parts, re-purposed for the sake of art.

Here’s a close-up of the banjo parts, re-purposed for the sake of art.

These are banjo necks - all rejects - from the Deering Banjo Company.

These are banjo necks – all rejects – from the Deering Banjo Company.

Now it’s time for orientation:

IBMA board member Joe Lurgio filled us in on the logistics of the conference venues, music showcase locations, and all the free World of Bluegrass apps that can be downloaded on your phone (not my phone, unfortunately. I'm still carrying the print version).

IBMA board member Joe Lurgio filled us in on the logistics of the conference venues, music showcase locations, and all the free World of Bluegrass apps that can be downloaded on your phone (not my phone, unfortunately. I’m still carrying the print version).

My next meeting is hosted by Becky Buller, a bluegrass fiddler AND radio host.  Here she is, stumping for NCPR:

Becky Buller says, "It's Time To Give".

Becky Buller says, “It’s Time To Give”.

Next up: a couple of interviews, first with James Reams:

James Reams. Tune in to an upcoming  String Fever to hear our interview!

James Reams. Tune in to an upcoming String Fever to hear our interview!

Then Ira Gitlin.

 

Multi-instrumentalist Ira Gitlin.

Multi-instrumentalist Ira Gitlin.

A quick stop for a promo shot in the Convention Center lobby:

Yours truly.

Yours truly.

Then it’s time for the keynote address:

Meet Bela Fleck, world-renowned banjo player and composer, and our keynote speaker for this convention.  His message to all of us:  be yourself, because everybody else is already taken.  He infused his advice with some fun stories about some bluegrass icons.   After a standing ovation, it was time to seek out some more live music, which isn't difficult around here!

Meet Bela Fleck, world-renowned banjo player and composer, and our keynote speaker for this convention. His message to all of us: be yourself, because everybody else is already taken. He infused his advice with some fun stories about some bluegrass icons. After a standing ovation, it was time to seek out some more live music, which isn’t difficult around here!

Everyone seems to be very happy that this event now takes place in Raleigh.  It used to be held in Nashville.  Click on the link below to hear Chatham County Line, depicting the migration of bluegrass fans from Nashville to Raleigh with their song, Living In Raleigh Now…. enjoy:

Chatham County Line: Living In Raleigh Now.

So, the new home of bluegrass seems like a pretty good fit.  Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

Bluegrass is hungry work: in the kitchen at IBMA in Raleigh

String Fever listeners hear a lot about the IBMA — International Bluegrass Music Association.  Every year the trade organization holds a week-long conference and music festival, providing opportunities for artists to connect with agents, DJs,  record labels, and their fans.  It also provides an opportunity for artists, DJs, agents, and other music industry folks to network with each other.

This is my second time around for IBMA week, now held in Raleigh, NC.  Folks here seem very courteous, warm and generous; the traffic isn’t too bad, and the weather is great.

A little later in the week I’ll tell about the people I’ve met, interviewed, and learned from, but for my first day in town, I volunteered to prepare food for a fundraising reception for Leadership Bluegrass, a professional training segment of IBMA which encourages greater participation and promotion of the bluegrass music genre. I’d like to participate in the class someday, but for this year, I volunteered in the kitchen.  This is where Day 1 in Raleigh begins for me:

I’m at the Raleigh, NC law firm of Williams-Mullen. They have offered to host our reception. This is one of the many conference rooms on the 17th floor, with beautiful views of the city.

I’m at the Raleigh, NC law firm of Williams-Mullen. They have offered to host our reception. This is one of the many conference rooms on the 17th floor, with beautiful views of the city.

It’s time to get to work, and the food is almost all set to go:

 

 I’ve been chopping, slicing, dicing (and shopping!). Things are looking pretty good here… and the view is amazing.


I’ve been chopping, slicing, dicing (and shopping!). Things are looking pretty good here… and the view is amazing.

This has been my view for most of today:

This is the catering kitchen - I wish we had one of these at NCPR!!

This is the catering kitchen – I wish we had one of these at NCPR!!

The crowd is gathering in that beautiful lobby.  The food is going over well, and bluegrass players, supporters, and alumni of Leadership Bluegrass are having a great time:

Plenty of networking going on here.

Plenty of networking going on here. These women are from all across the US.

Old friends are just arriving for the conference, and catching up.

Old friends are just arriving for the conference, and catching up.

 

Hey! Isn't that guy in the hat Bill Knowlton of WCnY in Syracuse?  Yes it is!  He's visiting with a friend from the Boston Union, a radio host & bluegrass photographer from Maine, and the band Nu-Blu from North Carolina. You never know who you come to IBMA week.

Hey! Isn’t that guy in the hat Bill Knowlton of WCNY in Syracuse? Yes it is! He’s visiting with a friend from the Boston Bluegrass Union, a radio host & bluegrass photographer from Maine, and the band Nu-Blu from North Carolina. You never know who you’ll run into during  IBMA week.

Meet The Bankesters, aour entertainment for the evening.  They're a family band - that you'll be hearing more of on String Fever!

Meet The Bankesters, our entertainers for the evening. They’re a family band  that you’ll be hearing more of on String Fever!

"Fill The Fiddle Case" was the theme of the reception. With money, that is.  In other words, bluegrass fans - through their love of the genre - have collectively created a 'bluegrass love child" ... and now it's time to pay child support to keep the next generation of bluegrass leaders moving forward.   Sound much like public radio??

“Fill The Fiddle Case” was the theme of the reception. With money, that is. In other words, bluegrass supporters need to keep the next generation of bluegrass leaders moving forward.
Sound much like public radio??

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen….

Meet Mary Burdette, my travel mate and hostess for this opening reception.

Meet Mary Burdette, my travel mate and hostess for this opening reception.

 

Now that the kitchen work is done, I’m ready to dig into some great bluegrass music and meet some new musical friends.  I’ll check back soon with another postcard from Raleigh.

Meanwhile, if you have a favorite musician you’d like me to interview, please email me – Barb@ncpr.org – and I’ll do my best to record it this week.  Check back here for more updates on what happened at the IBMA .

The annual IBMA Awards night is this Thursday — I’ll tell you ALL about it as soon as I can, and you can also stream the show live online via the IBMA website, IBMA.org. There are several other  award recipients that are recognized through the week, including new members of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame.  I’ll keep you posted.

See you on the radio, and thanks for tuning in!

1 IBMA Monday (1)

This blessing called Indian summer

The glory of fall and Indian summer. Photo by Peter Rufi, Creative Commons

A slice of Indian summer from 2005. Photo by Peter Rufi, Creative Commons

What a glorious week! Sunshine and delicious temperatures, against the backdrop of fall colors and the special quality of light that saturates our world this time of year.

This last gasp of warmth is often called Indian summer – more about that name in a second. And it really comes in handy too. A nice psychological boost, not to mention a final window of opportunity for weather-sensitive work.

Case in point: We had a deck repair that concluded the day before a two-week road trip. All that bare wood with winter on the horizon, not good! But no worries, I thought. It can be stained when we get back. Except that our return in mid-September was so cold and rainy people were turning their furnaces on. Darn it!

Thankfully, good old Indian summer did make an appearance. Nearly a whole week of sun, no rain and temps above any danger zone for the task at hand. I spent a few solid days sanding and staining and was very grateful that chance came. Of course, there’s more that needs doing in the garden too. But those chores still happen in the cold or the damp, however less pleasant doing it then may be.

Heres more on that term, from a .pdf supplement by Brian Pierce from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

What is Indian Summer?

The first cold spell of the fall signifying the change of seasons makes many people long for Indian Summer. But what exactly is Indian Summer?

True Indian Summer is a period of abnormally warm weather following the first killing freeze of autumn. A killing freeze occurs when the overnight temperature reaches 28 degrees of cold…and may or may not occur with frost. Indian Summer typically occurs in mid to late autumn and can occur more than once.

In Europe…the equivalent of Indian Summer is termed Old Wives Summer or in poetry as Halcyon Days. In England…it is known as either St. Martin’s Summer or St. Luke’s Summer depending on the date of occurrence.

Apparently the term has become a standard term in English speaking countries. Indeed, the UK is enjoying an Indian summer this with mid-September temperatures that rival or exceed sunny Spain. This generated articles in the British press explaining that the term does not come from India, but (quite probably) from colonial days in North America.

One such explanatory item from the Guardian even cites an article from 1837 that expands on the term and its origins. A quote frequently used to source the term comes from Hector Saint John de Crèvecoeur, who wrote in 1778:

Sometimes the rain is followed by an interval of calm and warmth which is called the Indian Summer; its characteristics are a tranquil atmosphere and general smokiness.

But why call it Indian summer? Here’s what the Old Farmer’s Almanac says on that:

There are many theories. Some say it comes from the early Algonquian Native Americans, who believed that the condition was caused by a warm wind sent from the court of their southwestern god, Cautantowwit.

The most probable origin of the term, in our view, goes back to the very early settlers in New England. Each year they would welcome the arrival of a cold wintry weather in late October when they could leave their stockades unarmed. But then came a time when it would suddenly turn warm again, and the Native Americans would decide to have one more go at the settlers. “Indian summer,” the settlers called it.

A constant problem with Internet research is that so much of what is found simply copies and repeats sources, that may or may not be correct. So I throw this out to the collective and nuanced expertise of All In readership. Where do you think the term came from? Is it possibly offensive, as in the name of a Washington football team?

Whatever you call it, here’s to a grand spell of wonderful weather.

Quebec farm tries exotic crop: saffron

Crocus sativus plant, Peißnitzinsel, Germany. Image HeiWu, Creative Commons

Crocus sativus plant, Peißnitzinsel, Germany.
Image: HeiWu, Creative Commons

Do you cook with saffron? Me neither.

It’s rare and expensive. But then again “expensive” can also be worth growing yourself, or trying out as a cash crop.

I was surprised to read this recent CBC item about a farm in Quebec that’s giving saffron a try.

Pur Safran, located in the small Quebec village of St-Elie-de-Caxton, expects to harvest 450 to 500 grams of the precious spice before the end of October.

“We would like for Quebec to become self-sufficient in saffron production, because we can do it,”  said Pur Safran co-owner Nathalie Denault, who not only produces the spice, but teaches other potential growers the ropes.

Saffron comes from the reddish-orange stigmas of a particular crocus flower and is considered to be the most expensive spice in the world.

Crocus sativus, Atlas des plantes de France. 1891

Crocus sativus, Atlas des plantes de France. 1891

NPR’s food blog, The Salt, had an item in early September entitled: These 5 crops are still harvested by hand and it’s hard work. The foods listed were saffron, vanilla, chocolate, palm oil and cottonseed oil.

The tropical stuff isn’t going to do well around here. But saffron starts as a bulb and is pretty tough. Much of the world’s supply comes from places like Kashmir, which reportedly suffered severed damage to saffron production due to floods this year.

The Quebec saffron farm has a (French language) website Pursafran with more photos and info on their efforts. Saffron is famously associated with the yellow dish paella, but can also be used in many other recipes.

Actually, I did grow saffron from a few bulbs when I lived in Kars. It’s no harder than any other crocus. The hard part (for me) was remembering where I’d planted it and remembering to watch for the flowers and harvest the delicate stigma in the fall.

Having moved to North Gower, I can start that attempt again, if I mail order more bulbs and keep better track of where they are!

Harvesting saffron in Iran. Image:Safa.daneshvar reative Commons

Harvesting saffron in Iran. Image: Safa.daneshvar Creative Commons

The big launch: a whole new ncpr.org

The new ncpr.org is launched. Artist: Carey Rockwell from Danger in Deep Space, a Tom Corbett Space Cadet Adventure, public domain

The new ncpr.org is launched. Artist: Carey Rockwell from Danger in Deep Space, a Tom Corbett Space Cadet Adventure, public domain

If you have visited NCPR in the last few days, you will have found a lot of changes. On Tuesday night Bill Haenel flipped the last set of switches to launch the first complete redesign of NCPR since about 1914 (in internet years). It’s been a little lively around here ever since as we address issues that didn’t show their heads until after we went live, and as we fix up old pages, sections and navigation to work properly with the new design. That process will continue for a while, so I hope you will bear with us during our shakedown cruise.

But the site is working well enough on most devices and browsers to be let out in public and I wanted a chance to brag on Bill’s accomplishments a bit. The first big deal in my mind is the new home page. The old design featured a few curated and promoted items at the top, and most of the rest of the content was brought to the page through whatever happened to be newest in the particular feed that put stuff into that particular box. That meant that most items on our most heavily visited page were there “just because,” and were not selected and curated by a human editor to suit our audience. Some features that didn’t update often carried some very outdated stories, and some contained stories that just didn’t work inside the old site design. Bad robot.

No more. If you go to our home page now you will find at this moment 33 stories, posts, photo features, videos and audio features from NCPR and from our public media partners that were selected from among the hundreds of items available to be the best, or the most important, or the most interesting features available. If you want to see everything produced by NCPR News, go to the news page; if you want just the best and the most timely, you will find it on the home page. And if you want more than these 33 items, you can load in more, and they will still be hand curated from among all the sources we tap.

The other big thing I like about the home page is that you can actually use all the content directly from the page, without going to a different page to read the whole story, or listen to the whole story, or watch the video, or share it with your friends. Using the read, listen, watch, or share buttons on a home page story will bring it all forward into view. This a real innovation and will save visitor’s time and a lot of extra navigation and page loading and backtracking when they want to browse through a number of items.

And unlike the old site, this one will adapt itself to the size of the device you are viewing it on. So win, win, win, in my humble opinion. The media players are based on newer technology. The photos display larger than ever before, if you are on a large screen. Content types we couldn’t display properly before, such as First Listen album previews, video collections and NPR slideshows now work properly for the first time. And there’s lots more to come, including stories from public media network and program sources we couldn’t tap before.

I could go on and on, but the best way to get the idea is to explore for yourself. Play Lucinda Williams new double album, which the rest of world won’t see until Monday. Watch John Hodgman, at the behest of his secret ape overlord, put Tweedy out on the street to hawk their new release door to door. Read the NPR ombudsman’s take on the ethics of language used in reporting on terrorism. Meet an Adirondack couple whose solution to funding high winter heating costs is outside of the box. And more.

This had been a huge job with Bill Haenel doing all the heavy lifting–a full year in the works. And did I say?–It looks simply marvelous.

My friend got a death threat for her reporting

My college friend Zaheena Rasheed is a journalist in the Maldives, a Muslim island nation off the coast of India. Zaheena has fought for basic political freedoms there since she was a teenager. She now writes for an online, English language newspaper, Minivan News. Minivan means ‘independent’ in the Maldivian language of Dhivehi.

For Zaheena, yesterday was scary.

DSC_0685

Zaheena makes Ramadan treats with her family. Taken during my visit there in 2009. Photo: Sarah Harris

“Dark night in Male (the Maldivian capital),” she wrote on Facebook. “I received a death threat at 5:39 pm saying ‘you will be killed/disappeared next.’”

Vandals destroyed her office’s CCTV camera and launched a machete into their door.

Maldives is best known in the west for its high end island resorts and low-lying terrain that’s vulnerable to climate change. But what a lot of people don’t know is that Maldives is a country grappling with the confluence of democracy and religion. The past few years have been marked by political instability and and the ever-growing influence of radical Islam.

The Maldives was governed by dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom for 30 years. During that time,  people left their home islands and migrated to the capital island Male, seeking services. Now, about 100,000 people pack into the capital island that measures a mere 2.2 square miles.

In 2008, Gayoom was ousted in a peaceful, democratic election, and replaced by now ex-president Mohammed Nasheed. I went to the Maldives with Zaheena in 2009. Democracy was an exciting, burgeoning force then — people felt their votes had made a difference.

But in early 2012, Nasheed was forced out by a military coup. And a month ago, Zaheena’s colleague Ahmed Rilwan, a journalist and active pro-democracy blogger, disappeared at knifepoint. He has not returned.

According to Minivan News, a recent report implicated radicalized gangs in Rilwan’s abduction.

I cannot help but contrast Zaheena’s political reality with my own. I have never had to fight for basic political freedoms. I enjoy freedom of the press every day, when I come into work and sit down to make phone calls and write stories. I might occasionally have to deal with a sticky bureaucracy of people who don’t want to talk — but that is very different than a text message threatening death.

On a road trip in Texas during freshman year spring break. Our friend Sam is on the left.

On a road trip in Texas during freshman year spring break. Our friend Sam is on the left.

I’ve spent the day and night worry about Zaheena’s safety. It’s hard not to, especially just after American journalists Fames Foley and Steven Sotloff were beheaded on camera by a militant from the so-called Islamic State.

In college, Zaheena and I spent endless nights giggling and and talking about our families and our boyfriends and our dreams. We both settled into the same career: telling true stories because it’s essential to healthy democracies and healthy communities.

But in the North Country, I can practice my craft without having to look over my shoulder. For me, independent reporting doesn’t have the same personal price.

 

Photo Tour: Lowville Cream Cheese Festival #10 – the best yet

The weather was beautiful -- and the crowd was hungry for all things cream cheese...

The weather was beautiful — and the crowd was hungry for all things cream cheese…

Welcome to  Lowville Cream Cheese Festival Number Ten!  All the wacky games, food, contests, entertainment, and cute pets that I’ve come to expect, plus perfect weather and a fun crowd.

In case you missed it, here are a few of the highlights from the festival.  I didn’t get photos of the wacky pet contests this year, but there were plenty.

NCPR was media sponsor for the day.  Kraft is a major sponsor of the festival, and it highlights Philadelphia Cream Cheese – their main product at the plant in Lowville.  There is a recipe contest that’s world class…. look for some of the winning recipes in an upcoming Philadelphia Cream Cheese cookbook.

The whole town gets behind y this festival, and it really shows. It's my favorite event of the whole year.

The whole town gets behind this festival, and it really shows. It’s my favorite event of the  year.

Kraft Foods once again created the world's largest cheesecake, delivered by refrigerated truck on this special stainless steel trailer.  It was created and served  by a team of volunteers who work for Kraft, and all 4,000 servings were GONE within a few hours!

Kraft Foods once again created the world’s largest cheesecake, delivered by refrigerated truck on this special stainless steel trailer. It was created and served by a team of volunteers who work for Kraft, and all 4,000 servings were GONE within a few hours!

Nothing but crumbs left.  The cheesecake was great.

Nothing but crumbs left. The cheesecake was great.

 

Of course, there was PLENTY of food everywhere at this festival!  I was particularly fascinated with all the foods that you can get on a stick:

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What Cheesecake-on-a-Stick really looks like.

What Cheesecake-on-a-Stick really looks like.

 

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These Taters also come on a stick...

These Taters also come on a stick…

There was also plenty of food that wasn’t served on a stick:

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What does a banjo have to do with BBQ???  I feel a banjo joke coming on....

What does a banjo have to do with BBQ??? I feel a banjo joke coming on….

There was entertainment ALL day long:

... starting with Cubby and Cuddles the Clowns.

… starting with Cubby and Cuddles the Clowns.

The Atkinsons delivered a great set of bluegrass music!  This is Shelene and Dick, matriarch and patriarch of the band.

The Atkinsons delivered a great set of bluegrass music! This is Shelene and Dick, matriarch and patriarch of the band.

The Nelson Brothers - dairy farming brothers from Rome, NY, really had the street rocking with classic country music.  These guys are rock stars!

The Nelson Brothers – dairy farming brothers from Rome, NY –  really had the street rocking with classic country music. These guys are stars!

Here are the Nelsons off-stage... still rock stars.

Here are the Nelsons off-stage… still rock stars.

Next up:  an oldies band called Good Golly (yes, they opened with that song!).

Next up: an oldies band called Good Golly (yes, they opened with that song!).

Of course, the Lowville Cream Cheese Festival is also a celebration of local agriculture and agribusiness.  There was plenty of JD green around:

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Something for everyone.

Something for everyone.

 

Of course, there's nothing like a crowd to draw politicians - and talking heads!

There’s nothing like a crowd to draw politicians – and giant talking heads!

Lowville Academy has a community service requirement for all students.  These girls were doing a stellar job on trash duty, and put in a long day of work.  Other volunteer students set up/took down chairs, hay bales, shoveled, swept, hauled, lifted and otherwise kept the festival ticking throughout the day.  Well done, volunteers!!

Lowville Academy has a community service requirement for all students. These girls were doing a stellar job on trash duty, and put in a long day of work. Other volunteer students set up/took down chairs, hay bales, shoveled, swept, hauled, lifted and otherwise kept the festival ticking throughout the day. Well done, volunteers!!

.. and there were SO MANY WACKY GAMES!  Here’s just a small sample:

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That's right... Cream Cheese Bingo.

That’s right… Cream Cheese Bingo.

Throw the blob of cream cheese at the Bingo board... and that's how it's done.  It's hard to see, but this board is covered with blobs of cream cheese.

Throw the blob of cream cheese at the Bingo board… and that’s how it’s done. It’s hard to see, but this board is covered with blobs of cream cheese.

This is the Cream Cheese Toss -- a lot like baseball... or... soft ball.  Think soft blobs of cream cheese, thrown by your team partner.  See how many you can hit (with the bat) in under a minute.  That's Lowville mayor Donna Smith marking time for this competition.  She's mighty brave -- just look at the ground around her!

This is the Cream Cheese Toss — a lot like baseball… or… soft ball. Think soft blobs of cream cheese, thrown by your team partner. See how many you can hit (with the bat) in under a minute. That’s Lowville mayor Donna Smith in the green T-shirt –  marking time for this competition. She’s mighty brave — just look at the ground around her!  Also note the cream cheese on the left contestant’s nose — she just kept right on swinging!  What a trooper!

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Dauber is the Cream Cheese Man at the festival.  He greets folks who are waiting in line for cheesecake.  He coaches kids who are painting on the cream cheese mural, and he’s sort of a cream cheese ambassador.

Notice how white Dauber is at the beginning of the day....

Notice how white Dauber is at the beginning of the day….

 

... and how colorful he is after being 'painted' by so many kids.  I would not want to drive home in that outfit!

… and how colorful he is after being ‘painted’ by so many kids. I would not want to drive home in that outfit!

The crowds were huge, but happy.

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There was even a Discovery Center (large enclosed area with dozens of child-friendly distractions) for kids:

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... and lots of face painting.

… and lots of face painting.

The Lowville Cheese Store was there in force, wearing their wacky hats and selling GREAT cheese!

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All the cheese sold at the Lowville Cheese Store is made from local milk.  It is part of the local farmers' co-op.  Samples included 10-year-old cheddar, and maple-bacon cheddar... among many others.  You can't miss the store as you drive through Lowville - it's on the south end of town, sporting Miss Lewinda the huge cow in front of the store... often wearing huge sunglasses.

All the cheese sold at the Lowville Cheese Store is made from local milk. It is part of the local farmers’ co-op. They offer samples of every kind of cheese they sell, which makes them VERY popular at this festival!  You can’t miss the store as you drive through Lowville – it’s on the south end of town, sporting Miss Lewinda the huge cow in front of the store… often wearing huge sunglasses.

So… it was a great, full day of festivities and fun.  I’ve been there every year – for all ten of the festivals, and I think this year was the very best so far.

In case you’re beating yourself up over missing it, don’t fret — they’re celebrating Halloween at the end of the month!

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Hope to see you next year at the Cream Cheese Festival!  For more information, visit www.CreamCheeseFestival.com