Tim McDonnell

Tim McDonnell

Climate Desk Associate Producer

Tim McDonnell joined the Climate Desk after stints at Mother Jones and Sierra magazine, where he nurtured his interest in environmental journalism. Originally from Tucson, Tim loves tortillas and epic walks.

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Book Review: Our Black Year

| Mon Feb. 13, 2012 7:00 AM EST

Our Black Year: One Family's Quest to Buy Black in America's Racially Divided Economy

By Maggie Anderson, with Ted Gregory


During the 1990s, according to the National Housing Institute, less than two cents of every dollar spent by African Americans was going to black-owned businesses. Troubled by this and other stats demonstrating stark economic disparities, Maggie Anderson's family, a well-to-do bunch who attended the Obamas' Chicago church, decided to patronize only black-owned businesses for a year. In the process, they had to put up with gangsta wannabes, racism allegations, and the difficulty—shared by many a low-income urbanite—of finding a decent grocery store. But they emerged with an appreciation for how African Americans' collective $913 billion buying power, wielded with due care, might bring a little prosperity to the hood.

Be sure and read our interview with the author here.

The Wood Brothers Get Back to Their Roots

| Mon Jan. 30, 2012 7:00 AM EST
Oliver Wood, left, got his younger brother Chris, right, started on bass.

Chris and Oliver Wood hadn't played music together since childhood, but that all changed one night in 2004. Oliver's funky rock band King Johnson had opened a gig in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for his kid brother Chris' far-out fusion trio Medeski Martin & Wood. At some point during the headlining act, as Chris plucked lustily at his upright bass, Oliver carried his guitar onstage, plugged in, and melted into the sound.

Despite the brothers having spent years in the musical trenches, it had taken this long for them to strike a chord as professionals. But they share the sort of uncanny chemistry usually only found between veteran bandmates: John and Paul, Miles and Coltrane, Simon and Garfunkel, and now Chris and Oliver. "It was like watching myself play," Chris said at the time. Oliver calls it "a certain telepathy…a supernatural, psychic kind of thing."

Fast forward to last Saturday night at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, and it's clear there's still no static in that psychic connection. After the Winston-Salem show, the brothers whipped up a demo of Oliver's soul-saturated roots-folk songs, sent it off to Blue Note Records, and the Wood Brothers were born. Their 2006 debut album, Ways Not To Lose, was an invigorating reminder of the understated power of the duo; NPR called it one of the year's top "overlooked" albums. Last week, the brothers kicked off a national tour in support of their most recent album, August's Smoke Ring Halo. Along for the ride is another sibling duet, Winnipeg's Sarah and Christian Dugas, a howling chanteuse with a dark blue melodic sensibility and her rhythm guitar-picking brother.

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