Quest Bars – MORE Palm Oil




Bad environmental news is everywhere.  Global warming, floods, famines, deforestation.  And palm oil.  News comes out this week that there is a strong indication that orangutans will go extinct in 10 years if we continue our use of palm oil, etc., at the current rate!  Ten freaking years!  (I’ve been on this palm oil campaign for about 4 years already.)


So imagine my continued horror when I find yet another snack item with palm oil in my employer’s kitchen.  (It seems like virtually everything in this kitchen is marred with palm oil.)  Well, this time it was Quest bars.

So I wrote my usual death, deforestation and destruction palm oil email.  Here’s the response:

Thank you for your email.  My name is XXXX, from Customer Support and I am here to assist you.  Unfortunately, we cannot disclose the name of the supplier but guaranteed, our palm oil is RSPO certified, responsibly and sustainably sourced to protect our environment. Palm oil helps keep the bars softer longer and enhances their taste. We chose palm oil for use in Quest Bars because palm oil has one of the most stable lipid profiles of any fat source available. Fat stability is something we value because of its profound effect on your metabolism. We have gone through very in-depth processes to verify that the palm oils we use are of high quality and are not oxidized or damaged.  Thank you for your inquiry. I appreciate you taking the time to contact us. Feel free to contact us any time.  I wish you well, no matter what your Quest may be!All the best,
Quest Customer Support
+1 888-212-0601
Follow us on Instagram @QuestNutritionSupport!

So I had to get a jab in and wrote back:

Yes, more corporations hiding behind the RSPO, which is nothing but a “greenwashing” organization run by the palm oil companies (and the bought-off WWF).

That does NOT make me happy.


I will post a suitable blog piece on my anti-palm oil blog. 
Man, for the days before palm oil.  The Earth would be a lot healthier, not to mention, orangutans, elephants, rhinos, indigenous peoples, enslaved workers, and the climate.

The very nice customer service rep responded again:

I hear you and I will gladly pass your message into our higher management for review.

We, here at Quest are very open to suggestions and feedback since that is how we can improve our products and our system. That is why, hearing feedback directly from people, like you, is very valuable for us.

Please let me know if there is any way I can further assist you.

Have a good day!

All the best,
Quest Customer Support

So that happened.

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Haribo – Best Gummy Bears Aren’t on Palm Oil


haribo 2

My girlfriend bought a huge bag of Haribo gummy bears recently.  As I dug into them — they really are about the best slightly petrified gelatinous mush of non-essential calories one can buy, I turned the bag over.  The second freakin’ ingredient is palm kernel oil.  Who the F knew?!  Even here?

At my wit’s end with the ubiquity of palm oil, I posted my usual email on Haribo’s Twitter and Facebook pages.  I received NO response.

Then I looked, and the RSPO — that toothless, corrupt “fox watching the hen house” public relations organization that the palm oil industry uses to greenwash their industry — claims on its website that it’s a member.  Who cares?!  That means nothing today.

Then I did a little more digging and saw that something called the Woodland Zoo claims Haribo is part of a group of…

 members of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and are committed to using certified sustainable palm oil. Please support the companies that are doing their best to make a difference for wildlife.

Obviously, this is a bunch of horseshit.  “Certified sustainable palm oil” as a claim is as worthless as the paper it’s written on at this point in time.


So I sent an email to the Haribo info email address.

I’ll publish it when I get a response.  If I get a response.

But for now, NO MORE Haribo products for me.


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Justin’s Doesn’t Get the RSPO & Could Be Helping Cause Deforestation


Another palm oil “horror” story from my employer’s kitchen.   The company means well:  to give employees some snacks to refresh them through their workdays.  However, the company doesn’t exactly do their due diligence on the sourcing of those snacks — or the internal ingredients.

Case in point (again):  Justin’s peanut butter products.  It’s supposed to be this whole organic-y, touchy-feely, nothing-but-peanuts-and-butter slice-of-heaven.  But the second ingredient on the label is freakin’ palm oil.  So I circled it on the label with a big black marker and left it on the kitchen counter for quizzical co-workers to wonder, “Hmmm, why was ‘palm oil’ circled here?”

Then I dashed off another death and destruction email to Justin’s Facebook page, loudly and boldly for all to see (and reposted, and reposted, and again).  If you’re a regular reader of this infrequent blog, you know it involves accusing corporations of being complicit in the death, destruction, displacement, etc., that palm oil cultivation wroughts (is that a correct usage of that word?)

Here’s their well-intentioned but misinformed response. It’s the same canned rationale they tee-up proudly on their website.  (

Sustainable Sourced Palm Fruit Oil.


Our organic peanut butter cups are made with 100% organic palm oil that is sustainably sourced from South America and RSPO certified.

Our nut butter jars, squeeze packs and snack packs contain palm oil that was certified sustainable under the mass balance supply chain model by the RSPO.  Recently, this supplier’s certification expired. We proactively removed the sustainable callout from our label in recent months when we learned the certification was set to expire. We are diligently looking for a sustainably sourced, RSPO certified alternative and will continue to keep our website up-to-date with the latest ingredient information.


They clearly are well-intentioned.  All the greenie bells and whistles are on their website, from “Sustainability Initiatives” to “Giving Back” to “Compassion.”  But they put all of their eggs in the RSPO basket for easy cover.  And, as we know, the RSPO is no knight in shining armor.


Note too, that Justin’s says because their supplier’s “certification expired,” they specifically stopped labeling their products containing it as “sustainable.”  Makes sense, right?  Plaudits to them for having a sense of truth-in-advertising.  But if they’re no longer able to label it as “sustainable,” which from RSPO history it probably NEVER WAS in the first place (since it simply doesn’t yet likely exist (like a mystical unicorn)), and was explicitly drawn from “mass balance” programs (read: offsets), it sure-as-hell isn’t sustainable now.

So, Justin’s, we need to boycott you.  Sadly, deforestation is most probably occurring due to your direct actions.  Do better.  Be a leader.  Don’t buy “mass balance” palm oil.  Because that just means so-called “sustainable” palm oil is mixed with “traditional” palm oil.  Traditional probably meaning that rainforests were razed for agricultural purposes.

And to show just what’s at stake, look at this recent video I saw that shows sentient, soulful orangutans thinking and reasoning – and showing compassion. These precious creatures (along with rhinos, elephants, tigers — and indigenous humans) are being driven to displacement and extinction.  All for palm oil.  Cheap, dirty palm oil.



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Boycott Paldo Foods: Silence is Telling

(Sorry for any formatting problems. The WordPress UI sucks; I tried to reformat it twenty-two (22?) times with only minimal results.)

In my never-ending quest to speak palm oil truth-to-power, my email campaign continues.  My employer’s kitchen is CHOCK-FULL of palm oil-laden products, much to my chagrin (hey, I can’t even get people to stop putting glass and plastic products in the trash!).

One such hugely-processed, quick-lunch meal available to our overworked Silicon Valley techno-geeks is Bowl Noodles, scraped together from palm oil and the dust, bugs and debris left on the factory floor, no doubt.  (Justin’s Peanut Butter, I’m coming for you next!).

Well, I wrote them my usual death and destruction palm oil email:

Your label indicates your company uses palm oil in its noodle soups. Please tell me from where your company sources its palm oil. Is it from certified sustainable sources as many other large companies are shifting toward using? Or is it contributing to the environmental damage occurring in South East Asia, South America, and Central Africa?
The unchecked demand for palm oil is destroying the world’s “lungs,” the last rainforests on earth. Indeed the demand for unsustainable palm oil leads to:
1). The destruction of rainforests;
2). The death (and torture) of critically endangered species who inhabit it, like the orangutan, Sumatran tiger, pygmy elephant, etc.;
3). Displaces indigenous human inhabitats who depend on the rainforest for sustenance;
4). Enslaves of the poor in atrocious, oil plantation working conditions; 5). Exacerbates global warming greatly.
Does Paldo feel it is doing right for the world it is handing over to future generations?!



Nothing from them. So I wrote them again. And Again. Again.

Four (4!) Times I wrote them. No response. Their silence is telling.

So, BOYCOTT Paldo Products — and tell them why.

OK, thanks for listening to my rant.

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UPDATED 6/20/2016: Nutella (Ferrero) One of the Good Guys?!

Deutsch: Ein Glas Nutella-Nussnougatcreme

Deutsch: Ein Glas Nutella-Nussnougatcreme (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UPDATED 6/20/2016:

Just bumped into an extremely smart co-worker in the hallway who told me she was bummed that Nutella is full of palm oil.  I told her that, actually, Nutella, despite not using palm oil until about 2006 or so, is one of the good guys on the issue.  I then ran to my laptop to double-check my source on this.  Sure enough there’s this from Greenpeace on Ferrero’s palm oil initiatives:

Ferrero evaluated by Greenpeace’s palm oil scorecard and comes out as a leader

Greenpeace International has released its latest scorecard, and Ferrero has been categorized as ‘on track’ to ending deforestation for its sustainable palm oil efforts. Having surveyed 14 global consumer goods manufacturers with ‘no deforestation’ policies in place, Greenpeace has analyzed how they are progressing in the implementation of their policies and their direct impact on the ground. Ferrero, in addition to being identified as the only company to be able to trace nearly 100% of its palm oil back to the plantations, was recognized as one of the leading companies with a strong responsible sourcing and industry reform strategy. This affirms the positive and effective progress of Ferrero’s long term and multifaceted palm oil strategy, through which Ferrero is dedicated to only sourcing palm oil that aims to protect forests, their biodiversity and people who get a living from them. As part of this strategy, Ferrero launched its Palm Oil Charter in 2013, it achieved its objective to have products with 100% sustainable RSPO certified as segregated palm oil at the end of 2014, and became a member of the POIG in 2015. Ferrero will continue on its journey towards the full sustainability of its palm oil supply chain, engaged with industry and non-profit organizations through responsible and transparent actions, giving its relentless contribution to the sustainable innovation of the palm oil industry.

Although we wish Nutella would just go back to its original recipe and NOT use ANY palm oil (see below trail), at least they’re leaders in certified, traceable, sustainable palm oil use.


UPDATED:  6/23/2015

[If you’re not interested in the long history I’ve had with the Nutella people, skip write to the bottom’s latest update.]

The second ingredient listed in Nutella is rainforest-destroying, orangutan-killing palm oil! The second freaking one! The company that makes it, Ferrero, is supposedly part of the RSPO, which we know is a toothless greenwashing vehicle for greedy corporations (for the most part). Here’s Ferrero’s response from their website to the palm oil issue :

As a member of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil, Ferrero only uses palm oil which is extracted from controlled plantations in Malaysia.

That’s it!? What if a controlled plantation was developed by first chopping down HCV rainforest, murdering orangutans, displacing humans and increasing global warming? Oh, well that’s not answered by “controlled plantations” now is it?

Well this is not enough. A lawmaker is being slammed in France for what he’s devised: a 400% tax on palm oil in Nutella, which is virtually the symbol of French chocolate guilty pleasure!

There’s this from the Malaysian palm oil lobby:

“The proposal is based on inaccurate claims that palm oil is bad for health and nutrition, and that Malaysia does not respect the environment,” the council said in a statement received here.

Oh really? You mean Malaysia DOES respect the environment? There’s plenty of dead orangutans, clear-cut forests, corrupt government officials, and drained peat swamps to attest to the contrary.

UPDATE: Well, the palm oil lobby — and France’s uniquely weird gastronomic obsession to embrace this ridiculously fatty, palm oil-drenched product — led to the French Senate voting this tax measure down. But, hopefully, the publicity that this proposed tax brought on the palm oil controversy paid off infinitely.

Again, palm oil was NEVER in the original Nutella recipes. So why cling to this dirty, dangerous vegetable oil now in its recipe? Because it’s cheap — cheap because seemingly all of Indonesia and Malaysia is being deforested to plant it.

Nutella gets a C grade for its shoddy sustainability practices. Go here:

UPDATE: I want to give credit where it’s due. Nutella is trying, apparently. Here’s this from Ferrero’s website.

PALM OIL: Ferrero uses palm oil in Nutella for texture and taste purposes.

It is important to understand that Ferrero sources its Palm oil from Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, not from Indonesia where extensive deforestation is taking place.

Since 2005, Ferrero is also a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil organisation (RSPO) ( and our commitment is to source 100% certified sustainable palm oil by 2014. (Emphasis mine.)

Detailed information can be found in the Social Responsibility section of our website located at:

Although 2014 couldn’t come fast enough for the critically endangered species, there is a sustainable palm oil industry in Papua New Guinea NOW. Let’s just hope that Ferrero’s getting most of their palm oil from there until they can source 100% certified sustainable palm oil from elsewhere.

And RSPO membership/certification can’t be entirely trusted either. In fact, many companies just use their RSPO membership to greenwash their environmental destructiveness. Here’s this from Rainforest Action Network:

But the sad truth is, many of the companies that use these[RSPO] labels are in fact still causing rainforest destruction and the clearance and draining of carbon-rich peatlands that release massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

So let’s not be too easy on Nutella/Ferraro just yet. Let them prove that they’re buying sustainable palm oil now, and not just claiming empty promises.

UPDATED:  6/14/2013:  What’s with depending on the kindness of Malaysia in thinking that just because it’s grown there that no rainforests are being chopped down for  palm oil?  Maybe it’s not as bad as in Sumatra or Kalimantan (Indonesia), but Malaysian Borneo has its share of rainforest-destroying, orangutan-killing baggage too.  I just watched the first part of a rather dubious series running now on Fox Business Channel called, “Palm Oil, Nature’s Blessing or Nature’s Curse.”  It was a serious greenwashing of Malaysia’s palm oil business.  Only Malaysian stakeholders were interviewed, like the local Forestry official, the palm oil lobbyist, a business owner, etc.  In the first episode shown last Saturday, I did not see one NGO official interviewed.  Find show times here:

One palm oil goon even cast suspicions on the apparently repeated use of the number “300” in regard to: 1) the number of football field-sized swaths of rainforest that are allegedly cleared each day for palm oil plantations in Malaysia; and 2) the number of orangutans killed in Malaysia in the past year (or something).  His reasoning?  This use of “3oo” coincided far too much with the “300” Spartans that held off the invading Persians during the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, as featured in the CGI boxoffice blockbuster “300.”  I mean seriously?  That’s all you got?

UPDATED 11/21/2013:  Here’s an article about how Ferraro and Nestle has gone further than other confectioners.  That’s good news.  If only the others would follow before it’s too late.

UPDATED 1/9/2015 – FINAL!?

It’s been awhile since I posted, but this seems like some genuinely decent good news.  Though I am always skeptical, the source (Aussie-based Palm Oil Investigations) is pretty good, so let’s rejoice in some good (though apparently confusing) palm oil news for once.

Enjoy your Nutella more with this knowledge!

Congratulations Ferrero!!

Palm Oil Investigations report Ferrero have achieved their 2014 goal to source all of the palm oil in Ferrero products (like household favourite Nutella), from ethical and sustainable sources.

This means 100% segregated Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil certified palm oil.

Confused about what exactly that is? We were too, and that’s because there is little regulation in the palm oil industry, so let’s take a closer look.

The confusion begins because even if a company is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), this does not necessarily mean that they are purchasing certified sustainable palm oil.

It means they have made a commitment to EVENTUALLY purchase sustainable palm oil, in most cases that commitment is to be in place by 2015.

So, it can be difficult when buying a product to know for sure that product uses certified sustainable palm oil.

Before you buy any product with RSPO labelling, you should look to see if it has the word CERTIFIED included. Furthermore, you should ask the brand exactly how much of the palm oil they source is certified sustainable palm oil, as sometimes a brand will mix certified and uncertified palm oil together.

Ideally, labelling indicating certified palm oil should look like this:

  1. -100% Certified Sustainable Palm Oil

  2. -100% segregated

  3. – And, although it is not compulsory for a company to use the RSPO certification logo, it may also be featured. If a different logo was displayed, you could assume the certification claims to be untrue.

Caveat:  Palm Oil Investigations doesn’t agree with boycotts and pretty much supports the RSPO’s Green Certificates Program.  So….

UPDATE 6/17/2015:  Lots of shit flying around today about Nutella in the wake of the French Ecology Minister trumpeting a boycott of palm oil yesterday.   See link here:

Well, one orangutan charity activist got all hot and bothered — SHE DOES NOT agree with boycotts in general and immediately came to Ferrero’s aide.  For what it’s worth, here’s a snippet from the article she posted:

In its latest report, available here, Ferrero announced that it had gone beyond certification to map the sources of its palm all the way back to the plantation. During 2014, TFT assisted Ferrero with this mapping process. As of today, 98% by volume of the palm oil used in Ferrero products can be traced back to plantations where the fruit was grown

TFT and Ferrero have also been working together with palm suppliers to implement improvements in worker conditions and commitments to No Deforestation and No Exploitation, and to further include smallholder farmers. Currently, 5.15% of Ferrero’s palm is supplied from approximately 27.5 thousand smallholders; Ferrero has committed to working with TFT’s new programme Rurality to help empower farmer leadership and rural innovation.

And Greenpeace weighed in too:

And look at this:  Hot off the press, a retraction from the French minister:

[The French Ecology Minister] backtracked on Wednesday afternoon with a tweet offering “one thousand apologies”. She also said she had agreed to flag up the “progress” made by the brand, which has vowed to use palm oil only from certified sustainable sources.


Curious about all the palm oil fuss with Ferrero, I did a little research to endeavor to find out when they first started using palm oil in the first place.

BOOM I!  For instance, in Australia, Ferrero didn’t even start using it until 2006.  This would seem to follow for the U.S. too since that is when trans fats were first given the heave-ho here.

nutella_website_trans_fat                                               (From an old Nutella Australia webpage via the Wayback Machine.

Too bad Ferrero doesn’t just go back to using something other than palm oil, which is high in saturated fat anyway.  But I guess that’s going to be tough with the unintended consequences of the elimination of trans fats in the US recently (and back in 2006).  But my point remains:  palm oil was NEVER even part of the recipe, apparently, until about nine years ago!  Other than the whole trans fat bullshit, they fixed what wasn’t broken.  (Hmmm, wonder if economics (cheap palm oil) played a part in Ferrero’s decision too!)

In all fairness, I called Ferrero to confirm this 2006 palm oil shift and they told me that it was not correct and to “Not trust everything I read on the internet.”  However, it was THEIR OWN website!  I told them I could not trust self-serving rationalizations by palm oil users, despite the fact that Ferrero is in the vanguard of using sustainable palm oil.

BOOM II!  I just confirmed that palm oil was NOT in US Nutella as recently as 2005.  Here’s what it says on an archived webpage.  They used PEANUT oil!

The peanut oil that Nutella contains goes through a hot-solvent extraction process which takes out all the proteins, so you are left with pure peanut oil which is generally non-allergenic. Only oil prepared by the hot solvent extraction process that is commonly used in the United States is known to be free of protein.

In fact, thanks to the Wayback Machine the first available webpage that mentions palm oil isn’t until March 2009!

Is the modified palm oil in Nutella® hydrogenated?

No. The modified palm oil is a mix of the liquid and solid oil naturally extracted from the fruit of the palm. The mix is adjusted to assure the best consistency for easy spreading. The process also reduces the level of saturated fat. Per serving Nutella® has 0 gram transfat (see label).

Does Ferrero support responsible palm oil use?

Yes. As a member of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), Ferrero only uses palm oil which is extracted from controlled plantations in Malaysia.

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments

UPDATED 6/8/2016: What Do You Think About Arctic Sea Ice Now, Denier Coleman?!

Cover of "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Bu...

Cover via Amazon

Updated June 8, 2016:

Deniers like this ridiculous weatherman John Coleman (he’s no climate scientist) maintain that the Arctic sea ice is not decreasing (at least back in 2013).  But look at this latest story now:

Daily extents in May were also two to four weeks ahead of levels seen in 2012, which had the lowest September extent in the satellite record. The monthly average extent for May 2016 is more than one million square kilometers (386,000 square miles) below that observed in May 2012.

In other words, for Arctic sea ice, May 2016 was more like June 2012 — the record-breaking year. Going into the truly warm months of the year, then, the ice is in a uniquely weak state.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Mark Serreze, who directs the center. “It’s way below the previous record, very far below it, and we’re something like almost a month ahead of where we were in 2012.”

The vivid, obvious signs of unsustainable global warming is EVERYWHERE.  Just the way scientists said it would happen — but faster than even they expected.  How do the Deniers do it?  How do they gamble with the future of coming generation, including their own grandchildren’s!?


Original Post:  September 2013

I never watch local news anymore — and haven’t for decades, even when I lived  (up until 2009) with Los Angeles TV channels, which, many would think, would have better journalistic instincts since it is officially USA’s Second City (to New York) these days.

But I had to watch San Diego local news last night, for the first time in forever.  The station I turned to among my flurry of channel-surfing, KUSI, is, first-off, a bit of a local joke, but I was looking for up-to-date reporting because I had just witnessed the aftermath of a car accident near my house — medevac helicopter rescue and all — and had to try all the local channels, even lowly KUSI.

Not only was the newscast just hilariously bad from a quality level, but the weatherman is legendary global warming Denier John Coleman (he, formerly of The Weather Channel).  He used the weather report last night to further his Denier arguments via his absurdly flawed “quiz,” which involved 2013’s Arctic sea ice melt.

Naturally, Coleman’s correct “answer” misled the viewers by implying that global warming isn’t happening.  His quiz revealed only one technically correct fact (that 2013’s ice melt is less than 2012) — and not the bigger picture: that the Arctic ice melt was the worst on record for the past-some 30 years — and was the WORST EVER in September 2012.

I was so pissed I couldn’t hold it in and fired off an email to KUSI. (Apologies in advance for the formatting problems below.)

John Coleman KUSI

John Coleman KUSI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After witnessing the aftermath of a car accident last night, I do what I never do — I quickly turned the TV to local news, hoping to see some reporting on this crash.

After flipping through the local channels, I made the mistake of landing on KUSI — which, first, has to be the most low-grade, bad-production-values news show in all of Southern California.

But what I found more disturbing was the Weather Report “quiz,” administered by well-known global warming Denier John Coleman.

He asked the following question (paraphrased):  Is the Arctic Ice Melt increasing or decreasing this year?

The answers were (paraphrased):  a)  Increasing; b) Decreasing; c) About the same; and d) Has more ice than last year (but “than” was spelled “then” further illustrating KUSI’s bargain-basement quality).

In Coleman’s mind, the “answer” was d), which, while technically correct — 2013’s Arctic ice melt is apparently less than 2012’s which was a record low — was seriously flawed (since it came from Coleman’s skewed Denier perspective).

Here’s the actual data:

“Sea ice continued its late-season summer decline through August at a near-average pace. Ice extent is still well above last year’s level, but below the 1981 to 2010 average year’s level.

Sea ice extent for August 2013 averaged 6.09 million square kilometers (2.35 million square miles). This was 1.13 million square kilometers (398,000 square miles) below the 1981 to 2010 average for August, but well above the level recorded last year, which was the lowest September extent in the satellite record. Ice extent this August was similar to the years 2008 to 2010. These contrasts in ice extent from one year to the next highlight the year-to-year variability attending the overall, long-term decline in sea ice extent.”

Available at:  (NASA/NOAA-sponsored.)

So all this “quiz” did is mislead and obfuscate — what Deniers do — by implying that 2013’s Arctic ice melt is proof that global warming doesn’t exist at all — when the ice melt for the last 30-some years has been the lowest ever on record (especially September 2012), and that there is going to be obvious variability from year-to-year.  KUSI should be ashamed (but isn’t, I’m sure) and probably is politically supportive of denying the facts of global warming since all the KUSI reporters parroted Coleman’s ridiculous notions.  One KUSI on-air anchor-tool even answered, “Well, it depends on what political paper you read,” as if global warming is a political issue (or that anybody under 45 actually reads newspapers anymore).

Suffice it to say I’ll never stop on KUSI again while flipping channels.  Twenty years ago when I was a visiting grad student in San Diego, we used to laugh at KUSI and its ridiculous 1970s-feel (talk about Ron Burgundy).  Now, having moved back to San Diego for the last few years for my career, I know why I don’t watch the local news anymore.  It’s absolutely ridiculous.

UPDATED:  9/20/2013.  Here’s a Yahoo news story that just came out today on the Arctic ice melt, which further casts doubt on Coleman’s ridiculous weather report quiz:

Center director Mark Serreze says cooler air triggered a “considerable recovery,” from last year, while the ocean temperatures were still warmer than normal. But he adds climate change deniers who point to the bounce back from last year — which skewed the trend — would be wrong.

“If you threw out last year, this year would be very much in line of what we’ve seen in recent years,” Serreze says. “We are     not seeing a long term recovery here. No way.”

 Overall, since 1979 Arctic sea ice has been shrinking at a “pretty darn big” rate of about 12 percent a year and “this is not going to reverse your trend, not in the least,” Serreze says.

Available at:

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The Dead, Ornette Coleman, and Harmolodics


Another completely off-topic item for this environmental blog.  (Hey, we could all use the break).  Among other things, I’m a huge fan of jambands like the Grateful Dead, Phish, Widespread Panic, Stringcheese Incident, moe., etc., and their shared improvisatory idiom with the wonderful world of jazz.  I was lucky enough to take a jazz history class via Stanford this spring and got an “A” with my paper, which I’ve posted below.  Enjoy!  (or not.)

“Harmolodics is music for “people who can dig that there is more than one possibility…That’s what Ornette Coleman always represented to me.”[1] –Jerry Garcia, 1989.

After nearly thirty years as a touring band, by 1993, the Grateful Dead were predictable, and had been for years. But that’s not to say that they weren’t still a rollicking good time for a majority of its audience who were adoring and indiscriminating. Even younger fans – pejoratively dubbed “In the Darkies” for getting into the band via its only Top Ten hit, “Touch of Grey” (from their 1987 “In The Dark” album) – knew the routine by now: a short, hour-long first set of composed songs that were a mere warm-up for the more spacey, improvisational second set. Sure, a second set would always be bogged down by the obligatory “Drums”[2] interlude and a drum-less, free-form “Space” jam, featuring somewhat contrived instrumental noodling that hearkened back to the Dead’s historic early days as the house band for Ken Kesey’s legendary 1960s Acid Tests. But, really, though, because of the sets’ predictability, “Drums” and “Space” was the pre-planned informal intermission to hit the bathroom or grab another beer. That’s how by-rote the band had become. The Dead were an over-sized, sluggish touring machine that had to keep going to feed the Dead’s business organization and expanded Dead “family” payroll, even if that meant putting lead guitarist Jerry Garcia in harm’s way; he tended to go back to his drug use while on the road.

But there were still glimpses of promise, innovation, and hope in those final Jerry Garcia years. And many of them involved special guests who could push the musicians in ways that the internal band members could not. Garcia was always a fan of all types of music: bluegrass, funk, and Americana, for instance. But, arguably, he and the Dead were probably the most influenced by the jazz idiom. It’s what gives the Dead their certain– je ne se qua – their whole jam-happy, improvisatory, acid-y 60s mindset. Indeed, rhythm guitarist and vocalist Bob Weir, and bassist Phil Lesh, have often mentioned how they were struck by legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, his approach to “modal jazz style,” and, especially, his memorable take on “My Favorite Things,” a breath of jazz cool from the decidedly un-cool musical “Sound of Music.”[3]

The Dead were blessed to have some modern day jazz masters join them onstage during these final years. One guest was young sax-man Branford Marsalis, who turned the Dead’s joyous “Eyes of the World” into a sacred version on 3/29/1990 at Nassau Coliseum that has become a treasured near-sacrament. The fans noticed how such a fresh infusion inspired the band – and so did Marsalis: “Jerry and I hit it off. He noticed that a lot of things I was playing were based on things I heard him playing. He was grinning,” Marsalis has said.[4]

Another jazz musician who was influential on the band was the legendary alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman. Garcia had already been a long-time devotee of Coleman[5] and played guitar on three songs on Coleman’s 1988 album. Coleman had originated a musical philosophy he called “harmolodics,” which he defined as, “The use of the physical and the mental of one’s own logic made into an expression of sound to bring about the musical sensation of unison executed by a single person or with a group.”[6] To Garcia that meant, “No matter what direction you go in, there’s always going to be other possibilities.”[7] Naturally, Garcia could easily have been sweeping his own band into such a definition.

Coleman joined the band for their February 23, 1993 show at Oakland’s Coliseum Auditorium.[8] Rolling Stone Magazine named this gig as Number 5 of the “11 Greatest Guest Jams at Grateful Dead Concerts.”[9] But listening to the show again after many years it’s a mixed bag of tricks from an older unabashed Deadhead’s perspective.[10] It being the final night of the three night 1993 Mardi Gras run, the band on this Fat Tuesday seem tired in a fairly typical, standard first set (without Coleman). Garcia, as was becoming more normal in those years, forgot lyrics on occasion, and there wasn’t much jamming in this warmup, which was customary. The set-closing “Johnny B. Goode,” of which Garcia once remarked with historical significance, “This is what it’s [rock and roll] all about,” was a boisterous set coda, however, that foreshadowed the possibility to come.

To start the second set, a faux Mardi Gras parade snaked through the auditorium that featured a cool, mellow, long, percussion accompaniment. This teased into a crowd-pleasing, Crescent City-themed “Iko-Iko” that includes Garcia experimenting on his new toy, the MIDI[11] guitar/synthesizer, affectionately named “Wolf.” A couple more crowd-(un)friendly new songs followed, along with a seventeen minute rather conventional “Drums.”

But the synthesizer-heavy “Space” that followed is different. About seven minutes in, a squeaky, reed-thin voice playfully sings over the aural, wordless soundscape. Of course, that’s Coleman’s sax, frolicking like a kite in a heady breeze, in complete incongruence with what’s musically cruising beneath him. One critic noted that this infusion of Coleman’s free form jazz harmolodics into the Dead space “was a pickles-and-ice-cream mix at points, Ornette’s alto venture down harmonic culverts that seem totally off-the-grid.”[12] That’s an apt take. As the musicians segue into the final three composed songs of the night, Coleman’s presence “stretches them at a time [in the band’s history] when the band had a tendency to coast”[13]

But it’s a mind meld that works. From Space’s loosey-goosey sax whines, which almost sound like a downright “plaintive wail” at points,” the free-form gigging leads back into the familiar guitar licks and drumbeats of an older Dead tune, “The Other One,” that slowly builds to an excruciatingly tension-building climax. Coleman’s work here is “out there,” to be sure, but not so much as to be self-indulgent, grating or distracting. Where Marsalis’ sax played with phrases in a bit more conventional fashion in his 1990 cameo, it’s Coleman’s “refusal to merely ‘mesh’ with the band in a conventional manner [here] that makes this [show] so magical.”[14]

The lovely, lilting, contemplative “Stella Blue” follows and features Coleman’s sax in the upper register, almost like a lone voice crying out in the wilderness. His sax very-nearly sounds like Garcia’s higher guitar notes, until Coleman gently harmonizes with Garcia’s passionate, soulful, scratchy singing style, adeptly capturing the sadness of the tune, but giving it a bit of a redemptive spark too. Perhaps Coleman is the “broken angel sings” in the song’s first stanza. Or is he the “song that comes crying like the wind” in the second? Whatever it may be, Coleman’s take on the melody is one of an instrument sort of embodying the lyrics, whether it was intended to or not. The logic of his harmolodics here suits the artistry of the tune.

But the somber, serious nature of “Stella Blue” gives way to the upbeat tempos of, and Coleman’s sax accompaniment on, “Turn on Your Lovelight,” a welcome and rousing, if comfortable set-closer.[15] It’s funny how Coleman can turn on a dime in mood and tone musically, from darkly pensive, to almost frat-party-like exuberance. As Rolling Stone summed it up, [Coleman’s] lonely ruminations on ‘Stella Blue’ showed his tender side, and he got downright sentimental during “Turn on Your Lovelight,” blowing like the old Texas R&B honker he once was.”[16]  Branford Marsalis may have been invited back to the stage after his first set song to play an entire second set with the Dead in 1990. But Coleman’s brief, four-song sojourn is almost as memorable.  It was a needed shot in the creative arm at a time when the Dead really needed it.

[1] As quoted in, David Fricke, “Ornette Coleman’s Time,” ROLLING STONE (March 9, 1989) available at:

[2] Actually titled, “Rhythm Devils” after the bands dual drummer/percussionists. But Deadheads always termed it simply,“Drums” or Drumz” even.

[3] Weir is quoted as saying, “”We felt at that time, when we were listening to Coltrane, that we were hardly fit to grovel at his feet. But still, we were trying to get there – our aims were the same.”  Lesh wrote:  I urged the other band members to listen closely to the music of John Coltrane, especially his classic quartet, in which the band would take fairly simple structures (‘My Favorite Things’, for example) and extend them far beyond their original length with fantastical variations, frequently based on only one chord.”  Author unknown, “DeadEssays,” THE GRATEFUL DEAD GUIDE (July 10, 2011) available at:

[4] David Fricke, “Branford Marsalis On His Unlikely Collaboration With the Grateful Dead,” ROLLING STONE (July 10, 2014) available at:

[5] Ben Djarum, “The Night Ornette Coleman joined the Grateful Dead,” ULTIMATE CLASSIC ROCK (June 11, 2015) available at:

[6] Ornette Coleman at WIKIPEDIA, available at:, citing Prime Time for Harmolodics. Down Beat, July 1983, pp. 54-55. Quoted in Ted Goia, THE IMPERFECT ART REFLECTIONS ON JAZZ AND MODERN CULTURE, 1990, p. 43.

[7] Djarum, supra note 5.

[8] As a distinctive plus of the Digital Age, virtually all of the Dead’s voluminous vault of concerts (and that of many other jambands) is available for free at Internet Archive. A crisp soundboard of the night Coleman joined (minus the catalyzing energy of an “audience tape”) can be found here:

[9] Number 2 being Branford Marsalis on March 29, 1990. See Will Hermes, “11 Greatest Guest Jams at Grateful Dead Concerts,” ROLLING STONE (May 20, 2015) available at:

[10] This commentary is based on the writer’s hindsight experience of seeing over 120 live Dead shows from 1987 to 1995, when Garcia died. Virtually anywhere the band played during this time within an eight-hour drive, or a three-hour flight from Los Angeles, usually meant this writer had to attend, living a young, carefree common Deadhead philosophy derived from the catchy marketing slogan from that old Federal Express commercial of the era, “When You Absolutely, Positively Have to Be There – Every Night.”

[11] MIDI stands for “Musical Instrument Digital Interface,” which allows certain electronic musical instruments to connect and communicate with one another. Andrew Swift, “A Brief Introduction to MIDI,”SURPRISE (Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine) (May 1997) available at:

[12] Hermes, supra note 9.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Hermes, supra note 9.

[15] Which is maybe not so coincidentally the same set-closer that Marsalis played at the 3/29/90 show, demonstrating this tune is perfectly suited to jazz jamming here. Interestingly, though, the two saxophonist’ respective takes on the song and their improvisation is surprisingly similar.  The writer even played them over each other and they fit seamlessly.  Apparently, lightning does strike twice. See video of the Marsalis gig at:

[16] Hermes, supra note 9.

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