Sunday, November 29, 2009

300 Million

Two stories this weekend, frustrated me. Both were about the impact of $300,000,000 in the world.

$300 million dollars I wish I could give.

$300 million I wish I could take away.

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal explained in a fascinating story,
"Small Energy-Saving Steps can Make Big Strides," that even as we're working on big improvements in reducing our environmental impact, smaller, less glamorous options can "add up to major environmental progress -- and at a cost more palatable in struggling economies. ...[Options include the] lowly but effective efforts such as improving fuel economy in cars, better insulating homes and helping families in India buy $20 cooking stoves."

It will be challenging to develop and gain adoption of enough plug-in hybrids to reduce oil usage more than about 7% by 2030. But by just improving mileage efficiency on vehicles from 26 to even 36 MPG it could be a 32% savings in oil usage!

But, "if half the families in India began using improved stoves, the Atmospheric Brown Cloud would shrink by about one-third."

Incorporating the low tech while developing and rolling out the necessary higher tech solutions makes good impact and good sense.
"Envirofit International, a Fort Collins, Colo., nonprofit group, has sold some 100,000 stoves over the past year in southern India. The organization [ which, yes, is funded in part by the Shell Foundation, but also Google and the EPA] sells them largely out of vans that roll along dirt roads in rural villages. One study notes that 60 million stoves, if sold in India for only $5 each, would cost $300 million. Even if the stoves cost more, that rollout would be cheaper than most other clean-energy options."
That number came up again tonight, on 60 Minutes, in the piece on "How Gold Pays For Congo's Deadly War." We learned that:
"...even if Congo's gold is less than 1% of the world supply, that still comes to more than $300 million a year - enough to keep the war going forever, mining an inexhaustible wealth of misery."
$300 million is plenty to inspire and fund the warlords and rebels who force men and children to mine for gold for perhaps $1/day in "wages." If they survive. 5 million have died so far.

"Jewelers know about the tragedy in Congo, but it has never been standard industry practice to trace gold to its source. Jewelers buy gold from middlemen; they don't ask where it comes from.

...It was seven years ago the industry banned so called blood diamonds from West Africa. But, up until now, it hasn't done the same for gold. ...And of the major jewelers [60 Minutes] talked to, only Tiffany said it can trace nearly all its gold directly to a mine; theirs is in Utah. Walmart told us it plans to trace the source of 10 percent of its gold products by next year."

At a time of year when we are consumed by consumerism, let's push our comfort level and bring these two issues to light:
  1. Do take on the low tech solutions that will help our world's environment (yes, turning off the lights DOES help!)
  2. Do question the origins of your purchases and think about all the stakeholders and supply chains that go into those items.
And if you have a spare $300 million...well....

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ear Candy IMHO

The beauty of having my blog is the ability to put out there things that have impacted me, or influenced me personally and professionally. In this case, I have to share some about the back to back to back jazz I saw last week -- each performer fabulous and distinct. So, in my humble opinion, do your ears and your brain a favor by checking out the following, if you haven't already...and again, if you are already wise enough to be familiar with these artists:

Sachal Vasandani: Last week there was no way I was going to miss my favorite new jazz singer -- -- at his album release celebration at Dizzy's. I can't stand how much I love this guys tones. And it's not just me.

Sachal Vasandani - EPK from Mack Avenue on Vimeo.

While his self-penned "Royal Eyes" has stayed in my head for days, a stranger who wanted to catch some jazz while in town was seated at our table. At the end of the gig I asked him what he thought of Sachal and he said, "That's the best version of "In my Solitude" I ever heard." I'd been thinking the same thing. And while Sachal worked it on "Old Black Magic," he's just so smooth that after only a couple of listens his original songs start to sound like old standards. The first time I heard Sachal was also the first time I heard Gerald Clayton, maybe two or three years back at a showcase at the Steinway Store during the days of IAJE. I was stunned. I think he was maybe 23 then. Gerald performed again at the teeny but serious listening space, Jazz Gallery on Halloween. I saw him there with Roy Hargrove a while back. Now Gerald, with his new debut album, Two Shade, can be the headliner too.

Right now, though, he's off in Europe for a couple of weeks with Gretchen Perlato. The second he's back, go see this wunderkind. And he's a nice guy on top of it.

Maybe that's because he takes after one of the dearest people I know -- his dad, world-class jazz bassist John Clayton. If you want to weep, listen to him bow Jobim's "How Insensitive." If you want to laugh, my old favorite is his classic version of Keter Betts' "Walkin' Bass." But his Clayton Hamilton Jazz Orchestra did it again. Stunned first timers, and confirmed the smarts of people who already follow CHJO, at this week's Champions of Jazz Benefit from WBGO. Not only did John's orchestra co-leaders Jeff Hamilton on drums and brother Jeff Clayton on sax do what they do so well, but they were in more amazing company. First they brought out the evening's honoree, Paquito D'Rivera, who was completely charming. I'd never heard him -- that I know of. But I'm sure his clarinet was on tracks of some of the albums I've heard, since he has 9 Grammys! Then, they brought out more of the old geniuses: singers Ernie Andrews,

He made us ALL feel like "Lucky So and So"s when he did that song...and Freddy Cole (yes as in Nat's brother) was class incarnate.
(Backstage after WBGO concert with Jon Hendricks, Freddy Cole, John Clayton. Nikki and Sachal. Everyone seems to know each other in the jazz world.)

And the new talent that sat it blew us all away, too.
Stefon Harris on vibes with Milt Jackson flair, and unbelievably, the scatting and sound that came out of 15 year old Nikki Yanofsky was like she was channeling Ella. And I don't say that lightly.
But, all I can do is lead you to the music. You have to drink it in yourselves if you want. But thanks to this post, I can put it out there, and imagine you listening, and sharing IMHO.