Monday, December 19, 2011

Patrick Sky, folk music legend

Full disclosure: I had probably worked with Patrick Sky for about six years before a co-worker pointed out that the bearded dude with the wicked sense of humor had, at one point, been one of the most respected folks music songwriters of the 1960s. Seriously.

Thankfully, it didn't take long to prove my co-worker correct. (Thank you, Google.) Yes, before he retired became an "IT guy" (he retired just a few years ago), Pat Sky was a legend in Greenwich Village and beyond.

From Wikipedia:

A contemporary of Bob Dylan and others in the Greenwich Village folk boom of the 1960s, following military service Sky released a number of well received albums from 1965 onwards and played with many of the leading performers of the period, particularly Buffy Sainte-Marie, Eric Andersen and the blues singer Mississippi John Hurt (whose Vanguard albums Sky produced). Sky's song "Many A Mile" became a folk club staple, and has been recorded by Sainte-Marie and others.

Becoming increasingly disillusioned with the music business and politically radical, Sky released the controversial and scabrously satirical Songs That Made America Famous in 1973 (the album was recorded in 1971 but rejected by several record companies before it found a home); to this day he claims to have received no royalties for the album. This album featured the earlier known recorded version of the song "Luang Prabang," written by Sky's friend Dave Van Ronk. Patrick Sky had honed his politically charged satire in earlier albums, but Songs That Made America Famous raised the stakes. The Adelphi Records website describes how the content was, indeed, shocking; yet, how several critics encouraged the public to rush to buy these timely and brilliant "explicit lyrics" while it could. Sky gradually moved into the field of Irish traditional music, founding Green Linnet Records in 1973. Today he is recognised as an expert in building and playing the Irish uillean pipes, often performing with his wife, Cathy. He has also published several books on the subject.

The same co-worker today alerted me to this piece from "Around Carolina" that catches up with Pat and his uillean pipe work (both musically and by trade). Glad to see Pat is still involved in the music business.

The decline of Christmas tree sales

This Wall Street Journal piece is interesting on a couple of levels. One, it's about the sale of Christmas trees, which is vital to N.C.'s economy. Secondly, it references research being conducted at N.C. State University, where they are attempting to create the "perfect Christmas tree."

As sales of live trees decline, Christmas tree growers nationwide are increasingly turning to research and marketing to develop and promote the perfect holiday decoration.

In a greenhouse at North Carolina State University, Christmas tree geneticist John Frampton, tests DNA and blends characteristics of trees from around the world in search of the perfect Christmas tree. "We're trying to find a tree that grows faster, is better quality and has pest resistance," he said.

While about 40 percent of US households, or about 37 million of 94 million homes, bought live Christmas trees in 1991, that percentage declined to 23 percent, or 27 million of 118 million homes, last year, according to the National Christmas Tree Association, a trade group.

The reason is partly demographic. Many baby boomers stop buying live trees as they get older. Many people in their 30s and 40s never developed the habit, having grown up in split households or sometimes with artificial trees.

"I don't want to be all doom and gloom because nobody wants to hear that," said Rick Dungey, spokesman for the National Christmas Tree Association. "But we as an industry have some big challenges."

And when consumers do buy real trees in today's tough economy, they're opting for shorter, less expensive ones -- often four feet or smaller -- which are less profitable for growers.

At the same time, sales of artificial trees made in China have skyrocketed, thanks to quality improvements and other demographic shifts, as many city dwellers opt against the hassle of hauling, maintaining and recycling a live tree.

Consumers will spend about $1.01 billion on artificial trees this year, compared to $984 million on real trees, according to a recent Nielsen survey conducted for the American Christmas Tree Association, which represents artificial tree retailers.

To combat the tough headwinds, growers are putting more of their own money into Christmas tree marketing and research, often on their own farms.

Christmas tree growers are a diffuse bunch, ranging from Pacific Northwest magnates to mom-and-pop shops in the Carolinas. But the growers surveyed by the National Christmas Tree Association said they were willing to pay a 15-cent tax per tree for a coordinated marketing and research program, similar to "Got milk?" for the dairy industry.


Friday, December 09, 2011

Email: 'For NC People'

I'm not sure where this originated, but I received this email from my mother (Hi, Mom!) yesterday. It's pretty darn comprehensive about the many things North Carolinians can be proud of. Enjoy.

(My apologies for the font size differential. That's how it came via email.)

North Carolina is one of the most populated (9,250,000) and geographically longest, in the old South. From Manteo in the east to Murphy in the west, North Carolina is 560 miles long, making it the longest state east of the Mississippi . (Measured east west.)

The Biltmore Estate has the largest privately owned home in the United States . The main house, modeled after a French chateau, has 250 rooms and more than 33,000 square feet of living space. Built between 1885 and 1898 by the George Vanderbilt family.

Before Jamestown Va.(1607) or Plymouth Mass.(1620) was even thought of, Fort Raleigh on Roanoke Island became the first English colony (given the impetus by Sir Walter Raleigh) in the new world in 1585. The first American born in the New World of Caucasian parentage and European heritage, a little girl named Virginia Dare, happened here on Roanoke Island at Fort Raleigh . Dare County, in Eastern NC , was named in honor of her.
Pepsi Cola is ours, developed and first served in New Bern NC in 1898 and unless you have had one in a clear ten-ounce glass bottle, with a slight crust of ice on top, you have missed a real treat. Try pouring about half a pack of salted peanuts into one sometime.

North Carolinians , native or adopted, say "ma'am and sir" and call their mothers "mama" and their fathers 'daddy”. They know that 'y'all' is perfectly good English and never means just one person. ‘Fixinto’ is perfectly acceptable, too. 'Didjaeat' is an invitation to lunch or dinner (or supper as we like to call it and y'all can too...if 'yountoo').

And if y'all don't like the way we talk, you can just jump back into your car and I-95, I-85, I-77, and I-40 will take you right back to where ever you may be from.

We have a Long history of developing some of the world's greatest athletes. We gave the world 'Sugar' Ray Leonard, Michael Jordan, David Thompson, Lou Hudson, Bobby Jones, Bob McAdoo, Walt Bellamy, Jim 'Catfish' Hunter, Gaylord Perry, Jim Beatty, Sonny Jurgenson, Roman Gabriel, Wray Carlton, Charlie 'Choo Choo' Justice, 'Meadow Lark' Lemon, Trot Nixon, Enos Slaughter and Josh Hamiliton. If you don't know who these people are, you ought to find out before you go to bed tonight. Just Google'em.

The Golfing Hall of Fame is located in Pinehurst NC , and the greatest and toughest golf courses in US golf are also found there.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame is also newly located in Uptown (or downtown for non-native Charlotteans). The stock car Hall has some fantastic new digs for the recently State approved Sport of Stock Car Racing as North Carolina 's favorite Sport.

The first powered flight by the Wright brothers happened at Kitty Hawk , NC on the outer banks.
Fontana Dam is the tallest dam in the Eastern United States , at 480 feet high just SW of Asheville high in the mountains.

On autumn Saturdays, every Fall, the Carolina blue faithful will gather in Chapel Hill for another rendition of 'What it was, was football' made famous by Andy Griffin while he was a student at UNC. NC State fans gather in Raleigh to see and hear the Wolfpack howl, while Duke and Wake Forest pull their devilous and demon like shenanigans on the gridiron in Durham and Winston-Salem respectively. In the winter, we play and follow College basketball, where between the three of them, UNC , NC State and Duke share 12 national NCAA Championships in the sport of Roundball.

The highest mountaintops east of the Mississippi are found in western NC with Mt. Mitchell at 6,684' being the tallest among many more taller than any other state east of the Mississippi and if all were flattened, NC would be larger than Texas .

Prior to prohibition NC was the nation’s largest wine producer and it is now rebuilding a huge wine industry with wineries from the NC coastal plain to the NC mountains. Here we come, California !

Yes, we are better than California with which we share everything geographically, except for Redwoods, deserts and fault lines. Thank Heaven.

Charlotte with its more than a million and a half people (sometimes called Metrolina) is the leading banking city in the South and second only to New York in the entire US banking industry.

In 1864, Sherman burned parts of Raleigh and North Carolina on his March to Richmond and Washington after waging his war of attrition in his infamous march to the sea through the Deep South .
We're called the " Tar Heel State " because our confederate troops during the Civil War were said to stick in a fight better than other southern troops by none other than Marse Robert E. Lee. The NC Rebel troops were a proud lot that proclaimed they "were the first at Bethel , the farthest north at Gettysburg and the last at Appomattox "! The last Southern Port closed by the North's blockade of the South's Seaports during the Civil War was Wilmington and Fort Fisher at the mouth of the Cape Fear River in 1865. The Battle of Bentonville NC, fought March 19-21, 1865, was the last full-scale action of the Civil War in which a Confederate army was able to mount a tactical offensive campaign against Gen. Sherman on his way through the Carolinas towards Richmond , Va. .
We do produce the most tobacco and cigarettes, not to mention some of the best peanuts, pecans, and poultry found in this country.
The High Point/Thomasville area is a US leader in the production of famous furniture and it hosts the Annual US Furniture Merchandise Mart.

The best pork barbecue in the world comes from our Carolina pits. We are also the leading pork producer in the US . Yes, God intended for iced tea to be served "sweet." And yes, Grits are one of the major food groups. Mustard, Collard and Turnip Greens are too.

Elvis wasn't ours, but other singer/musicians were, Randy Travis, George Hamilton IV, Crash Craddock, Ben E. King, Thelonius Monk, Ronnie Milsap, Donna Fargo, Earl Scruggs, Don Gibson, Stonewall Jackson, Doc Watson and Charlie Daniels are and so is author Thomas Wolf, who wrote 'Look Homeward Angel'. And Scotty McCreery is 2011's American Idol.

And I still miss Andy of Mayberry every day.

Born in Smithfield , Ava Gardner may have been North Carolina 's prettiest and most famous movie star, .

Every North Carolinian and citizen of the USA needs to visit Salem, the sister city of Winston to see how colonial Moravians put their talent and work ethic to work building this early Carolina city into the treasure it is today. This work ethic turned an entire generation of Tar Heel people into the best employers and employees in this great land developing a great textile, tobacco, and seafood and furniture industry.

Because of our extensive coast line of over 300 miles, and even more extensive shore line of over 1,000 miles, sea oats, pelicans, shrimp boats, shrimp and oysters are held high in our thoughts as peculiarly ours even though many states also share these same attributes. In the seafood industry, a type of southern fried seafood served in southern restaurants, is called Calabash Style and is named after the southeastern most NC village of Calabash .
Proud, decent, honest and unpretentious people are our heritage that is reflected in our State Motto, Esse Quam Videri, which means, " To be rather than to seem."
And lastly, North Carolina ain't exactly heaven - but it will do until I get there.