Following the tragic accident that killed crew member Sarah Elizabeth Jones (details here) on the set of the Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider, Allman and his manager Michael Lehman were among the defendants involved with the subsequent lawsuits. Today, however, we have learned that Allman and Lehman are to dismissed with prejudice, meaning they will be cleared from all involvement with the accident.Lehman said, “Gregg and I are pleased that the claims against us have been dismissed, but it’s still with a heavy heart. We continue to have great empathy for the pain Sarah’s family is enduring and for the other members of the crew who were injured.” Allman continued, saying, “We know that this news doesn’t bring Sarah back. This was a terrible tragedy. Sarah’s memory must be an ongoing testament to film safety.” The producers and directors of Midnight Rider still face a wrongful death lawsuit from Jones’ family.
This piece originally ran in the Midlife Rocker blog. Writer Steve Houk had the unique opportunity to sit down with legendary rock icon David Crosby recently, to discuss his storied career, his ongoing solo tour, and his relationship with the Grateful Dead. Here’s what Crosby had to say: When you ask David Crosby what he thinks separates the music that he’s done solo, or with those three other guys named S, N & Y, from the rest of the pack, it’s a no-brainer.“It’s the songs, man. Everything is the songs,” an animated and engaging Crosby told me from his home in California as he prepares for his summer solo tour. “That’s what really separates the men from the boys. You can take a mediocre song and do all the production you want on it, and you’re still just polishing an ‘excrescence.’ There’s a polite word. But look, I think that we’re good writers. In whichever combination, either three good writers or four good writers, it gives us a very wide pallet of colors to work from. And I think that’s why the couch album and ‘Deja Vu’ were so strong. There’s a very wide scope of material there that one person couldn’t have written. I think that gave us a huge advantage.”As Crosby, 73, traverses through his 52nd year of creating music — still immersed in a career that has seen him enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, for his work with The Byrds and CSN — right now, his gift is in full bloom. Coming off his critically acclaimed solo release Croz in 2014, his senses are sharp, and his seasoned instincts appear keen. His songwriting spark is in the now, not just the then, the songs are coming fast and furious, and a lesser man might not know what to do with such a rush. But David Crosby does. If anyone knows how to handle a rush, it’s Croz. Take it and go with it.“I’ve always written in kind of bursts of activity over the years,” Crosby said with a twinkle in his voice. “I’ll write two, three things in a row and then a couple of months will pass by before I write another thing. I don’t know why that is, but I’ve been in now the longest most sustained burst of writing that I can remember in probably thirty years. I’m just amazed it’s going this long. I wrote two things this week. So I don’t know what to think. I feel very grateful, I don’t really understand it, but I guess I don’t have to understand it, I just have to work with it. I was stunned by the amount of material that’s coming my way and very grateful. And I’m smart enough to pay attention to it so that’s what I’ve been doing. I pick up the guitar every day several times, and try to work at it and it’s been working.”(L-R) Jerry Garcia, David Crosby, Phil Lesh and Neil Young during recording of Crosby’s 1971 album If I Could Only Remember My Name (photo courtesy Jim Marshall)Although Crosby has been prolific in his songwriting, he has only released four true solo records, beginning with the stellar, star-studded If I Could Only Remember My Name in 1971. That record came at a devastating period in his life, when writing songs was the only thing that kept him going when nothing else could.“That was a life saver, that record man, absolutely a life saver,” Crosby said with a clear remembrance. “I was going through a really rough period in my life there, my girlfriend had just gotten killed in a car wreck. I had no way to deal with it at all. I was in pretty bad emotional shape when we finished ‘Deja Vu’ and the only place I really felt comfortable was in the studio. So I just stayed in there. And that’s the record that happened. Jerry Garcia was a good friend of mine and came almost every night, some of the other guys, Phil Lesh, and Paul Kantner and Grace Slick and people from Santana and the Dead and the Airplane and other bands up there would come by. And sometimes Nash and Joni Mitchell. It was a rough time but that’s how I stayed alive, making that record.”Forty-four years after that album was released, and as the Dead celebrate their 50th anniversary this year, Crosby recalls his relationship with the Grateful Dead band members with much fondness, relationships that continue even today.“I was friends with all of them, and I’m still friends with Phil, we are buddies and have been for a long time and I’m sure we will be for a long time. I love ’em, they are a bunch of great guys, we would jam alot and spend time at Bob Weir’s place in Mill Valley which is right near my place and I would go over there when they were rehearsing, and just interfere and get in the way and pester them. Start jams right when they were trying to learn new tunes and stuff.”David Crosby soars live (photo courtesy David Crosby)Crosby will be back out there with his longtime mates this fall for a CSN European swing — “Why do we do it? I guess we love it, that’s the answer” — but for now, it’s just him and his guitar, naked out there. And that’s just how he wants it to be right now.“It’s more challenging, it’s how I started out,” Crosby said. “One guy, one guitar. But it’s also a way that I can do one of the things I love the most, which is tell you the story of the song. The words really count, and if it’s just you and the guitar, you get to really actually make the words count. And they’re a big deal for me, poetry’s a big deal for me. A BIG deal to me. I love doing it this way, it’s much more challenging, and at this point in my life, challenging myself is a very healthy thing to do.”And as always, when it comes right down to it, it’s all about…the songs.“To carry it yourself, it has alot more to do with the song. If you got a whole band there, you can play something that’s only moderately good and get away with it. If it’s just you and the guitar, it has to be a really good song. That for me is crucial stuff. I really like that. I do have some good songs. It’s a different ball game than playing with the band, completely. Not everybody wants to do it and not everybody can do it. I do really love doing it.”And will Crosby be pulling out any buried treasures from his legendary canon, any big surprises, on this short solo soiree?“Oh definitely, but I’m not gonna tell ya,” he says, laughing. “You have to come to the show, man. I hope you do come, I think you’ll like it. If you like songs, you’ll love it.”
To study extreme conditions related to Dust storms, ionizing cosmic radiation, and extreme cold at night on Mars, the research team of Christophe Craeye, a professor at the UCLouvain School of Engineering, developed antennas for the ‘LaRa’ measuring instrument (Lander Radioscience), which will go to Mars in 2020. The LaRa Measuring Instrument will help research life stability on Mars to help define the conditions that will make the red planet livable.LaRa uses an X-band antenna to communicate with the Earth. The Doppler shifts are measured from the Doppler tracking observations called “Two-way” by comparing the frequency of the radio signal received from LaRa with the frequency of a ground-based reference signal. It is designed to obtain an optimal antenna gain centered on an elevation (angle of the line-of-sight from Lander to Earth) of about 35-45 degrees.On behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA), UCLouvain has developed antennas for the LaRa instrument that will go to Mars in 2020 to study the red planet’s habitability. From concept to creation, the antennas were manufactured in three months – quite a feat! The originality of UCLouvain’s concept: the antennas are produced from a single block of aluminum to achieve lightness (weighing only 132g), miniaturization (hand-sized) and great resistance (particularly to day-night temperature variations of more than 200° C).Prof. Craeye’s laboratory has been producing antennas for more than 15 years, for various uses: road radars, magnetic resonance imaging, tracking objects equipped with radiofrequency identification (RFID) chips. The goal is always the same: retrieve remotely the data sent by a measuring instrument (of a vehicle’s speed, the body’s internal functions, an object’s or individual’s location, etc.).For this expertise, as part of the ExoMars mission, the ESA contacted (via Antwerp Space) UCLouvain. The mission’s purpose is to study the rotation of Mars in order to learn more about the composition of its core and determine whether the planet was/will someday be habitable. How? By means of the LaRa instrument, which will communicate with Earth via radio waves. Thus the importance of antennas: they receive and emit radio waves. By measuring the Doppler effect – the difference between the frequencies of the waves emitted on the way (Earth-Mars) and those on the return (Mars-Earth) – the antennas will make it possible to better understand the movement of Mars and therefore the composition of its core. This is why LaRa is equipped with 100% UCLouvain-made antennas: a receiving antenna and two transmitting antennas (one of which is a backup).Production requirements:Resilience: Earth’s atmosphere protects us from the sun’s rays and limits temperature variations between day and night, which makes our planet habitable. Mars doesn’t have an atmosphere. Temperature ranges from 80° C during the day (when the sun is most intense) to -125° C at night. Not to mention vibrations generated by dust storms.Lightweight and miniaturized: the LaRa instrument will be equipped with multiple components, each for specific use as part of the ExoMars research mission. Its total weight is distributed among its components, which must, therefore, be the smallest and lightest possible.The advantages of UCLouvain’s design:An innovative manufacturing process: antennas of unprecedented shape were created by milling from a single block of aluminum – no welding means increased resistance to vibration and temperature variations, in addition to being extremely lightweight. The receiving antennas weigh 132g maximum, the emitting antennas 162g maximum. And they fit in the palm of the hand. The design’s originality won over the ESA.Exceptional sensitivity: the antennas are capable of capturing a radio signal from any direction, and focus it on the transponder’s electronics – an area of less than 1 cm² in the centre of the antenna – for the strongest possible signal.Applications are being developed in the field of satellite communications. And many industrial collaborations exist in fields beyond space and as varied as medical imaging, radio-frequency sensors, radar, and telecommunications.