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Jeff Biggers
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Jeff Biggers is the American Book Award-winning author of Damnatio Memoriae, among other works, including Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland, In the Sierra Madre, The United States of Appalachia, and State Out of the Union. His website is: www.jeffbiggers.com

Entries by Jeff Biggers

Writer Campaigns for County Supervisor in Iowa's "City of Literature"

(0) Comments | Posted May 25, 2016 | 5:19 PM

As the nation's first UNESCO "City of Literature," the sidewalks of Iowa City feature bronze relief panels with the words of famous writers connected to the area.

A graduate of the renowned Iowa Writers Workshop, Jason T. Lewis is aiming to lay out another role...

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Grassley Countdown: Hogg's Senate Campaign Surges as 'Paul Wellstone of Iowa'

(66) Comments | Posted May 13, 2016 | 8:46 AM

Drawing enthusiastic crowds around the state, Democratic challenger Rob Hogg's US Senate campaign to "uplift democracy" and "make Congress work again" is inspiring comparisons to the upset Senate victory of the late Sen. Paul Wellstone from neighboring Minnesota.

As Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley continues to slip in the polls, with his refusal as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing for a Supreme Court nominee and his recent statement that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump would nominate the "right type of people," state senator Hogg has galvanized a cross-section of support with his issues-focused campaign.

"Rob Hogg is Iowa's best hope for replacing Chuck Grassley," said Catherine Crooks, the Franklin County Democratic Chair in Latimer, Iowa. "This is a very important election at a very crucial time in our country. He has shown that he is prepared to do the job, and has the vision to make Congress work again for the people of America. Like Paul Wellstone, Rob has the ability to connect his political voice to the people he is serving. He has brought excitement to this campaign by being positive and listening to the concerns of Iowans about our future. Rob will be the voice we need in Congress."

Eschewing out-of-state fundraising trips, Hogg has barnstormed with a popular clean energy and clean water campaign across a state that now leads the nation in wind energy production, and with the goal of changing the gridlock in Washington with a new era of leadership. Along with the "rock solid" endorsement of 90 current or former legislative colleagues in the state house, Hogg earned the support this month of the Iowa Federation of Labor and AFSCME Iowa Council 61, and has inspired the involvement of new voters and young people.

"I have been talking to people door-to-door and they are excited about Rob Hogg," said Katie Rock, of Des Moines, who was raised on a sixth generation family farm near Muscatine. " For those that have seen his enthusiasm in person they know he's their guy. They are hungry for a strong progressive leader that's ready to get to work. He reminds them of Paul Wellstone in that way."

With his five successful state senate campaigns, twice replacing Republicans in Cedar Rapids, supporters have praised Hogg's grassroots campaign over the candidacy of former Iowa Lt. Gov. and Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge, pointing out her most recent electoral loss in 2010 and out-of-step positions on labor and environmental issues for most Democrats. In the tradition of Wellstone's 1990 campaign strategy, when he defeated incumbent Sen. Rudy Boschwitz in Minnesota, despite being outspent 7 to 1, Hogg volunteers recently produced a campaign video on Hogg's role in "uplifting our democracy" and inspiring a new generation of leadership. A nationally recognized leader on climate change initiatives, Hogg has brought together rural, suburban and urban communities for legislation to assist the rapid growth of Iowa's solar energy industry and clean energy jobs.

"For decades Rob has been vocal in taking action not only nationally and internationally but also focusing on what we can do at home in Iowa," said Anthony Lucio, a first-time voter and University of Iowa graduate student in Iowa City. "It is this kind of work ethic that I want in a senator and is what encourages me to vote. With a congress that has quite literally the worst approval rating in history, I believe Rob Hogg embodies the message young voters are trying to get Washington to hear. Young voters need to find issues they are passionate about and act on them. I think Rob can inspire voters to bring energetic change in the US Senate race."

In his campaign speeches, Hogg has declared "dark money" and negative attack advertisements are turning off an entire generation from the political process, while he wants to "inspire young Americans to get involved in the political process and help transform American politics."

"Understandably, many people and young voters have been focused on the presidential race," said Alyssa Cokinis, a University of Iowa student from Des Moines. "But as the Supreme Court delay shows, we should also turn our attention to the Congress,and elect representatives who we trust, not because they have the money to get there. I'm so glad Rob Hogg is running. So cast your votes for the Senate race because they...

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Roadmap 2020: Iowa Candidate Friese Campaigns on Bike to Showcase Johnson County Sustainability Issues

(0) Comments | Posted May 11, 2016 | 3:50 PM

Nationally known as a pioneer in the local food and farm movement, Johnson County supervisor candidate Kurt Friese is giving a new twist to the old motto of walking the walk in politics. In a listening tour to engage more residents, connect the concerns of sustainable...

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Iowa City Mayor Issues Regenerative City Proclamation For Climate Action

(4) Comments | Posted May 4, 2016 | 10:12 AM

Could Iowa City one day join Copenhagen, Vancouver, Amsterdam, San Francisco and other climate action champions as one of the greenest cities in the world?

Declaring that cities must place "climate action as a central priority in strategic planning," Iowa City Mayor Jim Throgmorton issued a "Regenerative City Day"...

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Iowa's Climate Narrative Project: New Stories on Just Living in an Age of Climate Change

(0) Comments | Posted May 3, 2016 | 12:38 AM

What is just living in an age of climate change?

After a semester of investigative field research, interviews and discussions across the heartland, University of Iowa students with the Climate Narrative Project recently turned to theatre, film, poetry and storytelling to challenge endemic climate cynicism and showcase...

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Ecopolis Iowa City: Mosquito Flats to Pawpaw Patch, Interview with Red Fern Farmers Tom Wahl and Kathy Dice

(3) Comments | Posted March 29, 2016 | 11:35 PM

In the "Mosquito Flats" neighborhood devastated by the historic 2008 flood in Iowa City, can an orchard of pawpaw trees lead to a revival of agroforestry and a food hub along the Iowa River?

As part of Iowa City's regenerative city initiative, nationally recognized Red...

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Ecopolis Iowa City: Interview With Katie Roche, Artists in the Regenerative City

(1) Comments | Posted March 22, 2016 | 9:11 AM

As cities launch aggressive climate action initiatives, including the Compact of Mayors' agreement, how are artists playing a key role in re-envisioning urban planning with new stories and narratives, bringing together diverse communities for lively conversations, and galvanizing local action?

On Friday, March 25th, musician Katie Roche and...

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Spare Me Your Coal Requiems: Time for a Reckoning With Peabody and Coal Industry

(0) Comments | Posted March 21, 2016 | 1:52 PM

As Peabody Energy teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, edging toward a Chapter II reorganization that will most likely allow it to walk away from massive reclamation and mine worker commitments, a flurry of poetic musings and giddy celebrations over of the death of Big Coal has begun to flow....

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Game On: Iowa Democrat Hogg Inspires 'Rock Solid' Support as Grassley's Approval Rate Falters

(0) Comments | Posted March 4, 2016 | 11:16 AM

With Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley's approval ratings faltering in a new poll on his role in obstructing the Supreme Court nomination process as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democratic challengers like state Sen. Rob Hogg are inspiring a groundswell of new support for...

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Iowa City's Solar Tree: 100 Grannies Lead Groundswell for Downtown Public Art Showcase

(0) Comments | Posted February 26, 2016 | 1:15 PM

As a costly and controversial public art project reaches its final vote for funding at the Iowa City council meeting next Tuesday, a game-changing "solar tree" public art initiative launched by the 100 Grannies for a Livable Future has galvanized a groundswell of support...

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A "Grannie" To Be Reckoned With: Iowans Pay Tribute to Rev. Barbara Schlachter, Climate Action Leader

(2) Comments | Posted February 18, 2016 | 1:11 PM

After 35 years of Episcopal parish ministry, the Rev. Barbara Schlachter had an epiphany in her family's homeplace, reading NASA scientist James Hansen's memoir on climate change as her first grandson was put to bed: "I was the grandmother in the room and my heart was wide-open with love for...

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Americana Blues incontra il jazz italiano in 'Cave Sessions', l'album di esordio della Chris Rundle Band

(0) Comments | Posted February 15, 2016 | 9:48 AM

Con un ritmo contagioso guidato dal contrabbasso, il bluesman inglese Chris Rundle apre il brano "Under the Bridge" di Ray Bonneville con il suono molto naturale e sciolto che caratterizza il suo album d'esordio Cave Sessions, portando questo classico del genere Americana in un lungo viaggio da New Orleans alle strade di Bologna, città adottiva di Rundle. Raggiunta poco dopo dai fraseggi suggestivi del chitarrista jazz Enrico Pitaro, la chitarra in pieno stile Americana di Rundle è alla base di questa nuova eccezionale raccolta che è alternativa senza essere pretenziosa, evocativa senza formalità, e che riunisce in sé una miscela unica del blues d'origine con quello più influenzato dal jazz.

La collaborazione tra Rundle - il cui stile essenziale deriva dal blues, roots e country-blues - e le sue controparti italiane provenienti dal jazz non è solo una entusiasmante boccata d'aria fresca, ma conferisce a dei brani blues tradizionali e contemporanei anche un taglio originale, sorprendentemente naturale ed estremamente ben riuscito.

In "Sugar and Riley", la voce di Rundle avanza lentamente a fianco del contrabbasso di Giannicola Spezzigu con leggerezza e fascino, mentre la chitarra solista di Pitaro improvvisa. Con la tradizionale "Midnight Special," Rundle opta per un ritmo tranquillo, quasi calmante, mentre le chitarre creano i loro riff in una dimostrazione di versatilità vivace e senza fronzoli.

Facendo riferimento ai musicisti che lo hanno influenzato maggiormente, tra cui Mike Dowling, Mary Gauthier, Lucinda Williams, Giant Sand, Jeffrey Foucault, John Mellencamp, Gillian Welch, Ray Bonneville, Junior Kimbrough, Daniel Norgren, North Mississippi All Stars, Eric Bibb e Otis Taylor, Rundle mi ha spiegato che il suo scopo è "cercare un'atmosfera specifica: una specie di malinconia catartica che in qualche modo ti porta gioia anche se sta raccontando una storia di dolore immenso." Nella loro registrazione dal vivo di una versione irresistibile di "Can't Let Go" di Randy Weeks resa famosa da Lucinda Williams, Rundle e la sua band si divertono e conquistano gli ascoltatori con una giocosità che porta ad ascoltare la canzone a ripetizione.

I sofisticati fraseggi jazz di Pitaro trasformano "Right Behind Me" di John Mellencamp con sfumature piacevoli e ironiche ben adattate alla voce rassicurante di Rundle.

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La Chris Rundle Band, foto di Chris Rundle

In un certo senso, le melodie spontanee e disinvolte di Rundle fanno pensare a JJ Cale, il leggendario cantante e chitarrista il cui stile ibrido di blues, folk, country e rock suscitò commenti estasiati da parte di star come Eric Clapton per la sua semplicità celata da abile maestria. Come JJ Cale, il suono sicuro e rilassato di Rundle ha il fascino di una chiacchierata con un amico in un angolo del bar a tarda sera.

Una vera e propria vetrina per la loro musica eclettica che fonde chitarre acustiche ed elettriche è il pezzo originale di Rundle "Sonora Requiem", una ballata (arrangiata da Rundle e dal sottoscritto) ispirata da una poesia di Richard Shelton; un brano che valorizza le eleganti intuizioni chitarristiche di Pitaro, il basso malinconico di Spezzigu e l'intensa interpretazione vocale dello stesso Rundle.

"Amo le canzoni molto ripetitive che si impossessano di te e non ti lasciano più andare", spiega Rundle, "in particolare quelle della tradizione del North Mississippi e le variazioni sul genere come quelle di Daniel Norgren."

Il debutto di Rundle con le Cave Sessions promette di impossessarsi anch'esso dei suoi ascoltatori - e lascia intravedere un accattivante anteprima della lavorazione di un vero e proprio album di brani originali.

Traduzione dall'inglese di Francesca Nottola, Noctula Communication

An English version of this article originally appeared in the Huffington Post: Americana Blues Meets Italian Jazz: Chris Rundle Band's Debut Album, Cave...

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Americana Blues Meets Italian Jazz: Chris Rundle Band's Debut Album, Cave Sessions

(0) Comments | Posted February 11, 2016 | 11:06 PM

With an infectious rolling groove led by the double bass, British bluesman Chris Rundle eases into Ray Bonneville's "Under the Bridge" with a natural and deceptively effortless sound on his debut album, "Cave Sessions," taking the Americana blues classic on a journey from New Orleans to Rundle's adopted streets in Bologna, Italy. Soon joined by Italian jazz guitarist Enrico Pitaro's haunting licks, Rundle's Americana guitar underlies a brilliant new collection that is hip without pretension, evocative without formality, and brings together a unique blend of down-home and jazz-laced blues.

The collaboration between Rundle--whose spare style springs from Americana and country blues to global folk roots--and his Italian jazz counterparts is not only refreshing and engaging, but adds an original edge to traditional and contemporary blues tunes that is at once relaxed and incredibly accomplished.

In "Sugar and Riley," Rundle's vocals trundle alongside Giannicola Spezzigu's double bass with an unabashed fun and appeal, as Pitaro's lead guitar improvises; with the traditional "Midnight Special," Rundle opts for an easy, almost calming tempo, as the guitars riff in an upbeat and uncluttered show of versatility.

Referring to a host of influences, including Mike Dowling, Mary Gauthier, Lucinda Williams, Giant Sand, Jeffrey Foucault, John Mellencamp, Gillian Welch, Ray Bonneville, Junior Kimbrough, Daniel Norgren, North Mississippi All Stars, Eric Bibb, and Otis Taylor, Rundle told me his aim is to "look for a particular mood: a kind of cathartic melancholy which somehow brings you joy even as it tells of the most terrible pain." In their live recording of Randy Weeks' irresistibly crafted "Can't Let Go," made famous by Lucinda Williams, Rundle and his band rollick and grab the listener with a playfulness that asks for the song to be played over and over.

Pitaro's sophisticated jazz phrasings turn John Mellencamp's "Right Behind Me" into delightful and witty undertones to match Rundle's steady vocals.

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Chris Rundle Band, photo courtesy of Chris Rundle


In some ways, Rundle's natural and effortless tunes recall JJ Cale, the legendary singer and guitarist, whose hybrid of blues, folk, country and rock drew raves from stars like Eric Clapton for its simplicity concealed by masterful craftsmanship. Like Cale, Rundle's confident and laid-back sound offers the appeal of an after-hours chat with a friend in the back corner of the bar.

As a showcase for their eclectic work, mixing acoustic and electric guitars, Rundle's original piece is "Sonora Requiem," a ballad based on a poem by Arizona poet Richard Shelton (and arranged by Rundle and myself), which highlights Pitaro's elegant guitar interpretations, Spezzigu's plaintive bass, and Rundle's own heartfelt vocals.

"I love very repetitive songs that catch hold of you and won't let go," Rundle says, "particularly the North Mississippi tradition and variations on this such as Daniel Norgren."

The debut of Rundle's "Cave Sessions" promises such a hold on its listeners--and a beguiling glimpse of a full length CD of original pieces in the...

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Iowa's Climate Vote: Sanders Victory Will Put Climate Action Back in National Debate

(0) Comments | Posted January 29, 2016 | 1:33 PM

The road to my caucus location in Iowa on Monday will wind along an Iowa River valley littered with the reminders of record flooding and drought since the last election--and a sea change on voters' priorities on climate action since 2008.

Climate change, like the...

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Climate Summit at Home: University of Iowa Trains New Generation of Climate Storytellers

(2) Comments | Posted December 18, 2015 | 8:38 AM

While global negotiators met in Paris last week to hammer out a climate accord, students with the University of Iowa's Climate Narrative Project had already begun the process of bringing the summit back to campus. Launched in 2014 as a special media arts initiative in the Office of...

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Women and Children Last? Ignoring Syrian Women Today and Their Historical Memory in Ancient Europe

(0) Comments | Posted December 15, 2015 | 12:24 PM

Only a few street blocks from where foreign ministers from the US, Europe and various Middle Eastern countries met in Paris on Monday to discuss the Syrian refugee crisis, the former Syrian "mother of the homeland" of ancient Europe sat on display at the Louvre Museum....

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Reckoning in Appalachia: Why Coal Mining Outlaw Don Blankenship's Conviction Matters

(2) Comments | Posted December 3, 2015 | 12:32 PM

The landmark conviction of former Massey Energy CEO and coal baron Don Blankenship today on a misdemeanor conspiracy charge to violate mine safety laws is a small, but historic first step in holding mining outlaws accountable for their reckless operations. For the first time in memory...

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Ecopolis Iowa City: Interview with Kamyar Enshayan, Beyond Pesticides: Community Models That Work

(0) Comments | Posted November 19, 2015 | 8:25 PM

As a follow up to a community-led victory in the Iowa City school district, which recently enacted a temporary moratorium on pesticide use, members with the Ecopolis Forum and Backyard Abundance are hosting a special forum on "Reducing Pesticides, School and Community Models That...

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Mentre Palmira brucia, noi stiamo perdendo la guerra contro la storia

(0) Comments | Posted October 23, 2015 | 8:03 AM

In mezzo alle continue incursioni aeree e durante il massacro di Siriani innocenti di cui siamo tutti testimoni, la recente distruzione dell'Arco di Trionfo a Palmira in Siria da parte dei militanti dello Stato Islamico non ha semplicemente ridotto in macerie un altro monumento della storia romana. Questo atto ha...

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Iowa City Council Candidates Inspire Vote With Climate Action, Green Economy Initiatives

(1) Comments | Posted October 20, 2015 | 2:52 PM

While the nation focuses on the presidential caucus races, the extraordinary campaigns of four Iowa City council candidates in November's upcoming election have inspired local voters to put the famed "UNESCO City of Literature" in the forefront of flourishing green economy and climate action proposals.

"The old adage 'all politics...

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