Sunday, February 18, 2018

Snow Come Down

I was walking by the Lake in the snow this morning, and blew back over twenty years to hearing this song for the first time. Lori Carson was playing an afternoon in-store at Tower Records in Boston on the day her latest CD came out. I'd bought the CD that morning and this was my favorite song so I asked her to play it that afternoon. (Lyrics NSFW if your work objects to the word fuck.)

Here is her blog where she seldom writes now, but there's a nice one from a few weeks ago.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Henry, Huck, and Scout

If you’ve never been to Walden Pond or you’re never going to be there again, here’s a 25 minute walk in the area and discussion of Thoreau.  At least one statement is wrong, but the scenery is right, along with a couple additions since my time in the area. I felt a shiver of sentiment remembering my visits there. 

It’s an episode of a New Hampshire public television show called Windows to the Wild, and if you go to their website there are over 100 episodes available to watch. (The other one I’ve watched so far is about Boston’s Emerald Necklace, but most focus on northern New England).

It was fun to watch this, and a reminder of a book being published March 13th, The Guide to Walden Pond: An Exploration of the History, Nature, Landscape, and Literature of One of America's Most Iconic Places.

Topics discussed in the program included slavery and racism which ties into a recent event here.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird will no longer be required reading in the Duluth school district because some felt uncomfortable about the word nigger. From my experiences on buses and sidewalks here, I bet many of those uncomfortable have no problem hearing the word in music or saying it themselves. And eliminating the books certainly isn’t going to eliminate racism in the city. Wouldn’t it be better to learn to deal with it in a classroom instead of on a sidewalk? A newspaper editorial and many letters, including some from students, oppose the decision. English teachers were not consulted.

The books aren’t banned; they’ll be in school libraries. I understand that the word could make people uncomfortable; it should. But apparently those people didn’t understand the points of the books. If these kids are going to be taught they’ll live a life without ever being uncomfortable, they’re in for a rude surprise.

And if we are going to eliminate things which make students uncomfortable, why limit it to a single word? Why not eliminate gym class because some are not as athletic as others? Why not eliminate difficult classes and grades? 

I’m currently reading Megafire: The Race to Extinguish a Deadly Epidemic of Flame and Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics. It could be argued that either of those has more relevance to a teenager’s future than the semi-banned unburnt books, but as a former English major who values the arts, I won’t go quite that far.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Why I Love Libraries

First, a Yellowstone aside. I saw an ad last week which momentarily made me fantasize about working in Yellowstone again. Not for either of the large companies I worked for, but in a small building in the center of the park renting bear spray. I thought it would be fun to be there talking about bears all day instead of credit cards and hotel rooms as I did in the past, but it isn’t an option for a non-driver. Meanwhile, my former roommate who has worked there the past eight years, loves the place at least as much as I did, and is one of the nicest people I’ve met, had such a miserable experience with the company last year that he hasn’t applied to return. It’s a shame the way the company treats its employees.

I always have a list of upcoming books on hold at the library but I don’t think the list has ever gotten this long. 

I just finished Bliss(ters): How I Walked from Mexico to Canada One Summer by Gail Francis. This hiker from northern Wisconsin leans socialist, needs solitude, has a sense of humor, and wrote a much more enjoyable book after hiking the entire trail unlike that more famous woman who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. 

I’m 3/4 through Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. This reporting of how the government pushed Indians to Oklahoma where they got rich from oil and therefore were killed is a quick read with lots of photos, but I don’t understand why it has become so popular and highly praised.

I’ve barely started Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump by Allen Frances which was started before the election and focuses more on the country’s values and delusions than on Trump himself who the dedication refers to as a blowhard (and a Mencken epigraph mentions a downright moron in the White House thanks to the plain folks of the land).

I also have Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, the first book of a young adult sci-fi trilogy about our near-future ecologically destroyed country.

There’s a long list of books I’m on the hold list for.

Robicheaux by James Lee Burke is the 21st in the series featuring the title character which I’ve been reading from its beginning in the late 80s. The series was originally set in New Orleans, which is what caused me to start reading, and then moved to more rural Louisiana. At this point the plots are often repetitive and irrelevant as this most literary of mystery series focuses on the character’s morality, alcoholism, and sense of loss, and the country’s racism and decay.

Additional novels include The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce, a highly praised tale of music and love, Heart Spring Mountain by Robin MacArthur, whose book of short stories I read earlier, drew my attention with its Vermont setting and interesting women, Lullaby Road by James Anderson continues the story of a truck driver in rural Utah, Green Sun by Kent Anderson features a Viet vet turned cop in 1983 Oakland, and The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by Denis Johnson is the final collection of stories from a praised author I’ve never read.

Visionary Women: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall, and Alice Waters Have Changed Our World by Andrea Barnet needs no further explanation; nor does Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe. Silence: In the Age of Noise comes from Norwegian Erling Kagge who spent fifty days on a solo hike across Antarctica. I may not actually read Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff since I don’t need insiders to confirm my opinion but I was the 9th person to put a hold on it when it hit the news; at this writing, there are 41 people in line. I think Playing with Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics by Lawrence O’Donnell will be more interesting and one of many books about the fiftieth anniversary of another tumultuous year.

The list of ecological books includes The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan, The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World by Jeff Goodell, Megafire: The Race to Extinguish a Deadly Epidemic of Flame by Michael Kodas, Sustaining Lake Superior: An Extraordinary Lake in a Changing World by Nancy Langston, and Himalaya Bound by Michael Benanav.

Back to fantasy fiction for Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang, and La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust I) by Philip Pullman, first of a trilogy set in the world of his famous previous His Dark Materials trilogy.

There are some books I’m going to have to get through interlibrary loan: Bosstown by Adam Abramowitz is a novel featuring a Boston bike messenger, and The Living Forest: A Visual Journey into the Heart of the Woods is a coffee table book by Llewellyn and Maloof. A couple more music biographies: Lightfoot by Nicholas Jennings (I’m surprised our library didn’t order this one given our proximity to Canada and that shipwreck and that he’s played here many times) and Soul Survivor: A Biography of Al Green by Jimmy McDonough—whenever I play Green’s music, I wind up playing it repeatedly for days.

There are another dozen which I’m not sure yet if the library is ordering. Highlights are The Promise and the Dream by David Margolick about RFK and MLK, This Radical Land: A Natural History of American Dissent by Daegan Miller which sounds like it could be one of my favorites on this list, and Hippie Food: How Back-to-the-Landers, Longhairs, and Revolutionaries Changed the Way We Eat by Jonathan Kauffman.

Not to mention the library’s cds and dvds; I recently watched Westworld which was very good, and the latest season of Game of Thrones (2019 is a long time away, but these books will help me get there).

Thursday, December 7, 2017


An interesting quote from our mayor on the newspaper's website tonight:

"Really, I do believe that he made the right decision for Minnesota, because it's clear that regardless of whether Sen. Franken wants to own those allegations or deny them, they are there. And when they are there, we must believe until there is reason to not believe. That is how our system should work," Larson said.
That's a strange take on the whole innocent til proven guilty theory, but right in line with one of the manias sweeping the country lately. Certainly there are men who are scum who deserve the worst, but anyone who doesn't also acknowledge that some women, like some men, also lie, and that every human interaction has at least two different interpretations, is willfully foolish and or politically correct. Is that redundant? Perhaps they've never quit a job because of the behavior of a woman who told lies.

I don't really care about Franken, but it's simultaneously amusing and pathetic to see the Democrats expressing the need to be moral and righteous, thus proving that they learned absolutely nothing from the last presidential election. Republicans are laughing, not resigning.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Nostalgia and Connections

Post-clots, admitting mortality, not expecting to do any more cross-country trips, I’ve been feeling nostalgic for New England lately. 

It started with creating a folder of New England nature websites of the many places and events which had been important to me: Walden Pond and the trails of Concord and Lincoln, Arnold Arboretum, Mass Audubon’s Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, New England Aquarium’s whale watches and the Boston Harbor Islands, Halibut Point State Park and Dogtown, Cape Cod and Woods Hole where I once imagined becoming an oceanographer.

I also looked at the websites of clubs and theaters I frequented, and all the adult education centers (Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Harvard Extension) where I took classes. There is a good education program here for seniors where I hope to spend a lot of time after I start collecting Social Security in a year or so and can work less.

I got excited recently about the chance to relive some aspects of a whale watch when there was a plan to stream one live but it was canceled due to ocean conditions. A recent snowy owl sighting here reminded me of the one I photographed while I was taking a pre-terrorism tour of the Boston airport grounds. 

The library here gets Yankee magazine which I grew up reading, and I’ve been looking through past issues and found articles about Christmas in Boston, oceanside walks (and the Atlantic sinking of El Faro which for me made a connection with shipping here and the recent anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald sinking on Superior), and Brattleboro and Portland which I visited often. Long ago, I submitted a story to Yankee—it was about a hitchhiker and lost love and Kent State, and I have no idea why I thought they’d be interested in it.

I’ve looked up a few people I knew in Massachusetts, trading emails or finding Facebook pages. Between library books, I’m rereading Sierra Club Naturalist’s Guide to Southern New England, and remembering the Boston bookstore where I bought that entire series. A recent episode of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast included stories of Boston neighborhoods told with a Boston accent. And I still follow a couple Boston sports teams as the Red Sox try to find a big bat for next year and the Celtics get off to a great start despite one of their stars breaking his leg in the first game. Spare me news of the pro-Trump Patriots though. I’m even considering subscribing to the online Boston Globe (well, for the $4 first month only).

All my nostalgia and memories aren’t a thousand miles away though. It was pleasant in the mid-40s this afternoon with no ice on the sidewalks yet, so I strolled around the neighborhood and enjoyed the views of the Lake and thought of all the walking I’ve done in this town since first moving here in 2001. And in a couple weeks I’ll be making a trip over to Marquette where memories go back even further.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Voting is a Fraud and the Country is a Failure

Going to vote in yesterday’s city elections, I had low expectations and thought my votes would go to two winners and four losers. I discovered that moving five blocks had changed my district so I didn’t get to vote for what would have been my only winner and wound up with no wins and five losses. The city’s highest winning percentage went to increasing the sales tax to improve roads and the lowest percentage went to a candidate who pledged to protect Lake Superior—so there are the community’s values, which are certainly not mine. 

In the most recent presidential election, even voting for the candidate who received the highest percentage of votes didn’t get your values any representation. The two party system needs to be replaced by the system common in Europe where multiple parties and their voters are represented, which gives the voters a higher sense of involvement (the Scandinavian countries, which I’ve always felt was where I belonged socially, are near the top in population percentage who vote) and forces coalitions and compromises to govern. In the US, those elected force through their own agendas and the disaffected citizens simply become more ignored. But at least they have easy access to guns.