Some days are nothing but good

Both of these young folk have pulled their share of  shenanigans, struggled with their own demons and those their parents, sometimes thoughtlessly, dumped on them. Both kids have driven me to hysterics, drink, tears, shrieks and moans. And yet…today, I’m going to take this post to shamelessly parade their accomplishments here. I wrote Abby a short note about the power of vicarious pride parents get from their children, acknowledged my gratitude for her father’s wonderful contributions to their lives and gave her full credit for her achievements because they are truly hers. Same goes for Dan, if not more so.

Tomorrow I start teaching classes, tra-la! I’ll let you know how that goes. Have a great day!

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Honors Student Researches Ecotourism Impact in Mexico
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Filed under Press ReleaseseNews Newsletter on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 by Author: Melanie Marquez.

Abby Bennett Interviews in Mexico(St. Petersburg, Fla.) September 15, 2009 – Motivated by her desire for more Spanish immersion and intrigued by ecotourism programs in the Yucatan Peninsula, USF St. Petersburg senior Abby Bennett researched her Honors Thesis for three weeks this summer in Mexico.

A majority of residents in the coastal villages Bennett visited depend on fishing for their livelihood, but with the industry’s viability in decline, Bennett aimed to learn how ecotourism could provide a supplemental or alternative livelihood for coastal residents and how ecotourism affects the environment. The Environmental Science and Policy major studied in Mexico the summer of 2008 with USFSP’s study abroad program in Merida and longed to return to the country. Her thesis topic allowed her to return to Mexico and stay with the same host family. Bennett received a USFSP Honors Program research travel grant, outlined her interview questions and had support from USFSP professors and advisers, but beyond that her success depended on what she would find once on her own in the towns she wanted to explore.

“I didn’t know how I was going to find fishermen and whether they would participate in the interviews,” Bennett said. “It turns out I was able to find tons of fishermen who were so helpful.”

She interviewed 80 fishermen in Spanish, approaching them at the village ports as they returned from a day of work. She toured a fish house where large boats bring catches later distributed to Miami, Tampa and other parts of Mexico. She interviewed ecotourism program directors and met government officials working on plans for sustainable practices and collaboration. Bennett visited the library of Merida’s Center of Investigation and Advanced Studies of I.P.N, a center focused on studying marine resources, human ecology and applied physics, where she researched articles and theses not available elsewhere.

She asked the fishermen, many of whom barely earned enough each day to pay for the gas for their boat, if they had participated in an ecotourism program. Some fishermen take tourists bird watching, kayaking or snorkeling, using resources they already have to earn income. If fishermen had not conducted ecotourism, Bennett asked why.

“If they didn’t participate many expressed it was because those who do are in an exclusive group and it wasn’t an accessible opportunity for them,” she said.Abby Bennett interviews in Mexico

Ecotourism often helps indigenous people of an area and fosters environmental education for the community and tourists. Bennett first witnessed ecotourism’s impact in Mexico during her first summer there when she took a weekend excursion to a coastal town for a day of kayaking and snorkeling.

For her research, Bennett focused on Celestun and Chuburna, two Gulf Coast towns useful for comparison because Celestun is located in a biosphere reserve through UNESCO’s Biosphere Program and has a large, well-developed ecotourism program while Chuburna is not in a protected area and has a fledgling program. She researched community-based ecotourism programs implemented by the Global Environmental Facility’s Small Grants Programme and state government programs, which focus more on financial mitigation. The Small Grants Programme targets maintenance and conservation of biological diversity.

“This is original, high-quality, international research,” said Thomas Smith, Honors Program Director and associate professor of government and international affairs. “Abby’s initiative and hard work really paid off.”

Bennett will sort her interviews as she completes and defends her thesis this semester. Her thesis adviser is Joseph Dorsey, assistant professor of environmental policy. She plans to graduate in December and will apply to joint graduate programs in law and environmental policy.


Thoughts On A ‘Post-Afrobeat Dance Explosion’: NOMO In Concertnomo_wide

You wouldn’t necessarily call NOMO a jazz group, though as a touring band it certainly could pass for one. A week ago at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, it carried a front line of trumpet, tenor sax and baritone sax, plus bass, drums and a guitarist who alternated between his electric axe and a second drum kit. There were also keyboards, samplers and amplified kalimbas, but the point is that it looked and felt like a jazz outfit. (A free jazz outfit, really.) Its horn players took improvised solos, its rhythm section played busy grooves appropriated from somewhere in the African diaspora and the compositions felt thought-through in an art-music sort of way.

The boundary between jazz and not-jazz has always been fluid, from the hodgepodge that was early 1900s New Orleans, to the sweet dance bands of the Jazz Age and Swing Era, to the sentimental balladeers backed by jazz instrumentation, to fusion or freely improvised music. In this case, there were a few lines in the sand. When pressed to self-identify with category, bandleader Elliot Bergman has issued this statment in press bios: “We are an American band, and in our hearts I think we’re more of a rock band than anything else, but we do love so many different types of music.” Not much of the music had a whole lot of harmonic variation to it; the songs were largely built on one or two chord vamps and pre-programmed electronics. (Which could have grown tiresome if the set had

been much longer.) There was backbeat-heavy rhythm in surplus, though little that came close to swing. And of course, the fact that the homemade thumb pianos, not to mention many of the arrangements, so clearly referenced the trappings of Afrobeat — but don’t call NOMO an Afrobeat band — made it difficult not to think, “Ooh, vaguely African dance music!” But the jazz connection is real here.

I spoke briefly with Elliot after the set, and he said that he and the band had all gone to school together at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. And one doesn’t really go to music school with a tenor saxophone, as Bergman did, to not be immersed in jazz pedagogy. (Baritone saxophonist Dan Bennett had especial control of his unwieldy horn in a way that only comes after much practice learning and inverting jazz.) Today, much of the group lives in Chicago, where some are involved with the thriving improvised music community — NOMO itself has even appeared with AACM stalwarts Fred Anderson and Nicole Mitchell. The band’s dedication to out-jazz is readily evident; with Warn Defever of His Name Is Alive, who produced NOMO’s latest records, it’s recorded a Marion Brown tribute album, and one of NOMO’s first singles was a cover of Sun Ra’s “Rocket #9.”

Live, “Rocket #9” was a clear highlight, with tight, energetic playing coalescing in unison chants: “Rocket Number Nine take off, for the planet / For the planet / Venus!” Another was “Bumbo,” the band’s version of a Moondog tune recorded on the new album Invisible Cities, where a repeating melody fragment was stated only for layers of countermelody, noise and improvisation to overtake it. On songs like “Brainwave,” Bergman turned to his array of samplers, keyboards and homemade instruments for colorful textures which morphed into driving beats once joined by the full band. And when the band’s second drummer, whose name I didn’t catch, went to the guitar, the difference was felt: the group felt fuller, as if a hole in the polyphony had been occupied.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m occasionally interested in where jazz intersects not-jazz for a number of reasons. One is that often really good music thrives in the category vacuum, though it’s looked down upon by jazz people, somewhat unfairly I think. (This sort of thing is often bad music too, but I don’t like to think about those examples.) Another is that I spot jazz aesthetics in a lot of modern music, and I’m interested in spelling out why. Yet another: jazz can learn from the action happening at its “porous borders,” to co-opt Nate Chinen’s phrase.

A smart promoter observing the show might have noticed several things. First, that the bill was shared with Dutty Artz, a wildly wide-ranging collective of DJs Matt Shadetek and DJ /rupture (aka Jace Clayton) with dancehall vocalist Jahden Blakkamoore. “A spectacular co-bill of innovative, African-influenced music,” said the promotional Web page (the same page that aptly described NOMO as a “post-afrobeat dance explosion”). Also, that it was held in a sort of outdoor amphitheater with both seating and floor space. As the crowd filled in, it began to migrate down to the standing room: first the eccentric dancers, then your average revelers. And when the band closed on “Nu Tones,” they paraded out through the middle of the crowd with their saxophones and floor toms, leading a swaying group chant. (I’ve seen drummer Matt Wilson do this before, so there must be other jazz precedents of this sort too.) By then, the band had won over the crowd, slow-to-arrive and hesitant to participate, such that the moment felt oddly cathartic.

The point is that this white-boy instrumental group, steeped in a hairy jazz approach, got people (who paid $25/ticket plus charges) physically out of their seats. Their sound wasn’t quite what you’d find in a sitting-audience jazz club, but it wasn’t entirely hedonistic either; a good deal of rigor clearly went into developing the band’s concept. Perhaps it was the marketing, the billing, the space — for sure it was the music — either way, it made for an entirely satisfying experience.


More on NOMO: a 2008 NPR interview and photo gallery of homemade instruments

8 responses to “Some days are nothing but good

  1. Wow. You must be so proud…busting your buttons. They take after their talented mom.

  2. WAY TO GO, KIDS!!! I know you’re bursting with pride – I would be.

  3. Oh Vicki. This is SO WONDERFUL! Congratulations Abby and Dan!

  4. Excellent … but can THEIR dog word process?

    You should be full to bursting girl. Way to raise ’em!

  5. It so rarely happens that all of our children are well and happy at the same time that I know you are basking in this moment. Congrats all around to children (not really children anymore),mom, dad and stepdad alike. Happy dance, happy dance!

  6. Cathy- you hit the nail on the head with that one- although I’ve always marveled that it’s also rare that they are all coming unglued at the same time, thank goodness. Usually, there’s some kind of split, but today? Today it is all good. And I’m grateful. 😉

  7. Oh, it is wonderful to have talented kids, who find a niche that takes up their hearts. And, I am sure–you helped parent them into that niche.

  8. Good job Vicki. Yours has been a job well done and you are blessed with amazing kids.

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