Monday, July 24, 2017

Don't Go Green!

Usually I'd be fine with the Go Green slogan, but on this map the 17 states in the darkest shades of green are more like gangrene, with the exceptions of a few islands of national parks and New Orleans. Even Texas shows more intelligence!

With the exception of my years on the Yellowstone island and one year in Ohio, I'm happy to have lived all my life in the palest states on the map. As the old saying went, "Don't blame me, I'm from Massachusetts". But it's a few of the states in the middle group which will be the most important when it comes to 2020 vision. Here's looking at you, MI, PA, WI. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Accepting Tender Resignation

I started greentangle ten years ago today and added Hard Wood to Whittle almost seven years ago. There have been many changes since in my life and the blogs, and there are now a lot fewer posts, readers, and comments, and I expect that to continue as I lead a more inward life and write with less frequency and less ability. Emotionally, my favorite period remains the early years’ frequent focus on animal rights issues with a couple regular commenters with whom I felt a strong connection. The creative quality of my blog writing probably peaked a couple years later, and certainly the opportunity to include four years of photos from Yellowstone made for an interesting period.

I used to do an annual post listing my favorite posts of the year, and back in 2014, after I had finished my Yellowstone period, I created a document on my computer of all my favorite posts from both blogs, perhaps wondering if some sort of book could come from it all. When I saw today how long ago that was compiled, I decided that I will go through the past few years’ posts and update the document. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t think of anything I’ve written since which would be included except possibly some of the Autobobography series, and then I read the last paragraph of the last post already in the document, which mentioned that I’d made a rough outline for that very series. So that will be a short new project for me.

I don’t feel that any drastic change has led me to spend less time adventuring or writing, just age and a continuation of the path I’ve been on all along. I am in the early stage of a possible new round of plantar fasciitis and since I can’t avoid being on my feet about five hours a day for my two part time jobs, I’m certainly avoiding any extra walking, but I’d already mostly stopped hiking before this foot flare-up.

I’m sixty years old and have never owned a car; I’ve already done a lot more walking than most modern people will do in their lifetimes, including over 700 miles in Yellowstone alone. The pleasure I got from hiking came from two main sources—first, the combination of getting away from the hectic human world and slowing into the rhythms of the natural world, and second, seeing wildlife. Here in Duluth, the wildlife which provided the strongest encounters for me were deer and bald eagles, but they were rare sightings, not like the everyday elk and bison and much more of Yellowstone. I’m certainly less connected to the natural world than I used to be, but I don’t feel any regret that I’m no longer capable of doing everything I once did. 

These days I mostly get away from the human world by staying in my apartment, which has always been a needed strategy for me at times. Although I’ve seldom disliked anyone as an individual and even enjoyed the company of many people in small doses, being around people has generally been an experience I felt I needed to recover from via solitude. No doubt there are many factors contributing to that, including being an only child and the type of childhood I had, but I also think the major factor is simply that I chose to live differently from most people and felt I had very little in common with them. The company of nonhumans always gave me more satisfaction and pleasure than that of humans.

I still appreciate the creative output of humans and I probably should have developed my own artistic side more deeply in my life. I feel content these days to stay home and listen to music, watch films and television programs (though I haven’t owned a tv since it went digital), and read books. At times, I also read my old journals; I’m currently on 1990, almost half my lifetime ago, and honestly enjoy reading my words more than most books, though I don’t think that would be a widely shared experience.

At that time, I had started working for the college in Boston which would become the longest employer of my life (ten years) but still hadn’t moved to the immediate Boston area. I was taking the commuter train but had already become actively involved in city life, seeing a Boston counselor, taking writing and other classes at adult education centers in Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge, as well as at Harvard Extension. I was talking with the manager of my favorite Harvard Square bookstore about a job there and to city residents looking for a roommate. It was the time of the Robert Bly version of the men’s movement and I went to some of those classes as well. I had just discovered a new New Orleans restaurant in Boston--Dixie Kitchen, run by future great singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier.  I’d often take a midnight train home from the city. That sort of questing is still part of who I am even in my physical inactivity—I bought a couple translations of the Tao Te Ching, important to me long ago, a few months ago.

Reading my own long ago words today provides a warm mix of memory and anticipation, knowing what was still to come during that fertile Boston decade of my life—moves and relationships, exploring more natural areas around the city, a new period of running, time spent with a group which got disabled people out for experiences in the natural world. I’m very glad I lived that life, and glad that I wrote about it so I can recall it more clearly, but I have no desire to be living it now. I’ve reached that point with my Yellowstone memories as well. I think it would take a lottery win for me to ever take a distant vacation again, but if that happens, I’d much rather see Boston or New Orleans again than Yellowstone.

Regardless of where I spend my time, I still care more about the natural world than the manmade one, and of course am disgusted by the current government’s contemptuous attitude toward nature and other species. But the only thing that surprises me is that it’s happening already. I’ve never had any doubt that this civilization would destroy everything else to continue, but it doesn’t even need to be happening yet--this is just evil and childish greed. Wildlife’s salvation still lies not in an election but in collapse.

I recently had a physical with no major problems. One test result estimated that I have a 13.5% chance of having a heart attack in the next 10 years, which frankly seemed low to me—I would have guessed at a higher risk. So we’ll wait and see if any of this is still around for the 20th anniversary.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Bring Me the Head of Donald Trump (Apologies to Peckinpah)

covfefe? Did he have a stroke? How could we tell?

This administration is the last gasp of a dying generation which wants to take future generations with it. 

covfefe? Did Melania finally let him hold her hand?

Except it's not fair to blame the whole generation, or old white men, or even rich old white men. Some of us clearly get it, and are able to think beyond our own greed and insecurities, and don't think everything is about us or this country.

covfefe? The stuff where his brain should be?

Not only is he likely unable to spell the spelling bee winner's name, he probably thinks she's a fake American.

constant negative press covfefe? Russian for bastards?

It's another loud celebration of militarism in Duluth this weekend. Yesterday, I heard and saw a long string of dozens of geese flying towards Canada. That's the kind of air show I prefer.

covfefe? The stuff his followers drink instead of Jim Jones's beverage? 

That would explain a lot about why he has any.


Hillary needs to go away. It's a shame she didn't do it a year ago. We probably wouldn't be in this deep covfefe now.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

RIP Gregg

Overall, my favorite part of the Allman Brothers was probably Dickey Betts's guitar playing. But Gregg Allman wrote at least a couple songs I loved. My college roommate's future wife was named Melissa.

Crossroads, will you ever let him go? Lord, Lord.
Or will you hide the dead man's ghost?
Or will he lie, beneath the clay?
Or will his spirit float away? 

Finally free of the whipping post.

Sometimes I feel, sometimes I feel,
Like I been tied to the whippin' post.
Tied to the whippin' post, tied to the whippin' post.
Good Lord, I feel like I'm dyin'.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Wolf Wars

A moment of unnatural history: watched a gull carrying a rectangular piece of red and white cardboard, maybe part of a pizza box, fly up to rooftop. It looked like airmail.

Finished reading a new book a couple days ago—Wolf Nation: The Life, Death, and Return of Wild American Wolves by Brenda Peterson. It’s a good look at the overall picture, a mix of history and anecdote not limited to Yellowstone as many wolf books are.

It includes a focus on wolf hatred and the fact that giving control of wolf populations to the states amounts to giving that control to the ranchers and hunters whose opinions control state wildlife boards despite the opposition of the majority of the public.

That’s really what this post is about, inspired by a visit to a Facebook page of Gardiner (MT) and Mammoth Hot Springs (YNP/WY). Someone posted there about the reward for catching the recent killer of a well-known Yellowstone (since that post, various groups have listed rewards and donations which now have the total up to almost $30,000). 

Many of the local Gardiner residents proceeded to attack the idea of caring about the wolf and mentioned a Montana cop who’d recently been shot. This is standard practice anytime someone expresses concern over an animal issue—denigrate the concern by bringing up all the issues someone else considers more important, which is almost always some human issue.

Outliers like St. Francis aside, this often comes from a Christian background. Create a god, declare yourself made in its image, and give yourself dominion over all other forms of life. It’s hard to imagine a more arrogant, negative philosophy for interacting with the natural world. This is a major reason I have such a low opinion of people—because they consider themselves more important than anything else.

The other result of that thinking which struck me is that all those Gardiner residents think there’s some big difference between the person who shot the wolf and the person who shot the cop. I think they’re both products of the gun-happy, let’s shoot something culture of this country as a whole and of the states surrounding Yellowstone in particular—a culture which puts those states, along with other pro-gun areas such as the south and Alaska, at or near the top of the list of states in both death by gun and suicide by gun rates. The blue states are generally at the bottom.

During the years I lived in Yellowstone, I spent a lot of money in Gardiner and elsewhere in Montana. This event and these comments have finalized a decision which had largely already been made—I won’t be returning to Yellowstone. Not only because of the negative effects of overcrowding on the park experience, but because I don’t want to contribute another penny to the states which surround it. 

Adding this link to a post by a local with a description of a Gardiner meeting about wolves and poaching.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Arts and Sciences

I strolled for science this morning. I don't like to carry signs, so I wore this shirt instead. The government thinks it's OK to kill hibernating bears? Well,

I haven't seen any news coverage or crowd estimates of the Duluth march but apparently there were over 10,000 people at the St. Paul march. We didn't have that many of course but it was a large crowd--maybe over 1,000. 

I'm not actually a science worshipper--I think being too rational can take a lot of the pleasure out of life. I was there to support sciences such as ecology and conservation biology, but I oppose messing with genes and have no interest in seeing all human disease cured so we can overpopulate the planet and drive species to extinction even faster.

I was in the middle of the pack--here's some of the people in front of me
 and some of the people behind me.
 There were lots of good signs.

Note the NO SCIENCE = NO BEER sign in the corner of that one. This is serious!

After the march I went to a restaurant for lunch and got the following in my fortune cookie. "A different world cannot be built by indifferent people." I'm not gonna get all optimistic on ya, but jeez!

Then I stopped by Electric Fetus for Record Store Day and heard Sarah Krueger sing a couple songs. My current favorite musician Anders Osborne was on NPR this morning talking about the group he started to help sober musicians stay that way. 

There were lots of dogs walking with us today.
 I didn't see any cuter than this pup.
In a few days I'll be taking a much needed vacation from my two part time jobs, leaving Duluth for the first time since I got back from Yellowstone almost a year ago, and heading over to Marquette to see my favorite dog and his human.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


I used to recommend nature related books on greentangle. Unfortunately, reflective of our society’s illusion of removal from nature, as exemplified by a government which favors pollution and greed over ecology and humility and respect, and children and adults who’d rather play games or listen to music on their phone than see or hear the world they’re passing through, there aren’t as many of those books being published now. So now I feel the need to check out any book which involves the outdoors at all, and then write about a book I don’t recommend you read.

The Stranger in the Woods is about a man who apparently spent 27 years living in the Maine woods with almost no human contact, surviving not by living off the land but by stealing from buildings. Most of the people in the area do not believe that he actually lived outside all that time, which was my first reaction as well. He claims he never left his camp during winter to avoid leaving footprints in the snow (he was not in a remote wilderness, but only a few hundred yards away from the closest neighbor). I have a hard time imagining how he was able to steal enough food to stockpile to survive those long winters, and history is filled with false claims of nature fakers. 

But whether or not he lived there for 27 years doesn’t actually matter to me because he offers no explanation of why he did it (claims not to know) and offers no wisdom from his experience. Yet he considers Thoreau a dilettante with no deep insight into nature. Of course, he also considers Bach too pristine and believes people will be listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd in a thousand years. So, clearly not a guy I’d like, and enough about him.

I’m actually much more troubled by the behavior of the author. After the “hermit” (more about that later) was finally captured stealing, the author wrote to him in jail. They exchanged a few letters, but after the hermit stopped replying, the author made the first of many trips from Montana and showed up uninvited and unannounced at the jail to visit someone who obviously didn’t like people around. The hermit’s relatives hung up on him and closed doors in his face, but others in the area spoke to him. On his trips to Maine, he would camp at the hermit’s campsite. Eventually after the hermit was released, he had to tell the author that if he showed up again, the police would be called. It was all much too much of a creepy stalker vibe for me.

For me, there were only two interesting aspects of the book. The questioning of the hermit’s psychological state led me to briefly investigate autism spectrum and schizoid personality disorders to see if either fit me; many aspects of the latter seemed to apply. The book also discusses three types of hermits: protesters, pilgrims, and pursuers. I’m clearly in the first group—“. . . primary reason for leaving is hatred of what the world has become.”

If you’d like a more detailed review and description of the book, see a review in New Republic here. And for a large and fascinating collection of material on hermits and solitude, check out the website which doesn’t consider the book’s subject worthy of inclusion.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

It Can Always Get Worse

I read W said some negative things about 45, and I thought, “Gee, I wish W were President.” Who woulda thunk it? And I remember how disgusted I was when Reagan and Nixon were in the White House. Ah, for the good old days when the GOP created environmental laws instead of letting the robber barons do whatever they wanted.

A couple things I’ve heard. “Rich people like clean air and water.” Presumably true, which makes it lucky for them that they’re able to move far away from the pollution they cause. No mansions by the pipeline or summer homes next to the coal mine for them. “States should have control over environmental laws.” A basic lack of understanding of the way the environment works. Dear Pruitt: Just like the aforementioned rich people, the wind blows and the water flows beyond your imaginary state lines. Also, the same thing occurs beyond your fascist nationalistic borders.

The other day in an email, I wrote about the poor little rich boy’s dreams of gungho militarism, and the program wanted to correct gungho to bunghole. Very appropriate, I thought. He doesn’t just want to be a king, he wants to be a despot, tyrant, dictator. I’ve noticed the Hitler and Third Reich books in the library have been getting used a lot. I suppose it could be folks looking for ideas on how to trash a Jewish cemetery, but if they’re like their hero, they probably don’t read much. A Twitter post is like a long novel for this gang. So I guess these books are being used by folks checking out the similarities between now and then.

A side note on the military fantasies. This is the guy who avoided the draft and all military service by being a student and because his feet hurt, and later had the gall to call avoiding sexual diseases his personal Vietnam because vaginas are like landmines and “there’s some real danger there”. All I can say is, “What a pussy!” Or I could go on about how it’s always the rich old white guys who know nothing about war who are the most enthusiastic about starting one. Or hey, if we build up the military enough, we can start a few.

I just checked my blood pressure and it’s high after writing this. On Valentine’s Day, I had a stress test and echocardiogram. No sign of blockages, so apparently I’d had weeks of a digestive issue and high anxiety. I wonder what could be causing that. The doomsday clock? The dismantling of environmental protections? Endangering the Endangered Species Act? A racist, sexist, xenophobic “leader” who has complete contempt for anyone who disagrees with him and who wants to drag the country back in time?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Week One

This year is the 200th anniversary of Thoreau’s birth, and we need civil disobedience more than ever.

I completely understand why many people didn’t want Clinton to be president. But though I’ve never been someone who bothered voting for the lesser of two evils, I did this time because the vileness of Trump was not only obvious but also something that he was clearly proud of.  At election time, I didn’t understand how anyone who claimed to see Clinton’s corruption and other failings could not see that Trump’s were many times worse. But after a week of him in office, deplorable is much too good of a word to describe anyone who still supports him. This is a man whose behavior and temperament would get him fired from almost any job in the country. Psychiatrists and historians are going to get rich writing books about him and his supporters.

Looking over headlines this morning, I saw the following adjectives for Trump and his policies: cowardly, dangerous, useless, awkward, un-American, and erratic. We need lots of press coverage like that to tell the truth instead of the alternative facts. So much is happening every day that it’s hard to keep up, but we need to stay aware.

The federal employees and scientists at NPS, EPA, NASA and other agencies who are choosing truth over Trump’s agenda, and the secret service agent not wanting to take a bullet for him, are heroes and we need more of them. Every species and the planet they live on needs them. The Doomsday Clock—does anybody really know what time it is? Al Gore has arranged for a conference to replace a canceled CDC conference. Even if all the rogue and alt social media accounts aren’t run by actual employees, we need them. We need the t-shirts and patches and caps they’re all going to be selling—we need to be visible every day.

Trump wants to eliminate support for the national endowments for the arts and humanities. We need more songs and videos like the previous post, more songs like those described in a book I just started reading, 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, from Billie Holiday to Green Day. We need more plays and movies and novels, more dance, more paintings, more support for education and libraries. The arts help people learn there is more to life than the money and power which drive Trump.

Trump wants to demean and control women’s lives, but is finding out that pussy grabs back. I looked for an inauguration day protest here but found only an evening church gathering which didn’t appeal to me. I was working on the day of the women’s march, though I would have changed that if I’d realized there was one here. 1400 people showed up in Duluth, not bad considering the many who went to DC or St Paul for larger marches. 

Honestly, in the aftermath, I thought that although the marches were great as comfort and support for those of us horrified by the election results, they didn’t really mean much because I doubted there were any Trump voters marching, and the largest were in blue states which had already had their larger vote totals declared irrelevant by our election system. But a few days later I was looking through an Amazon forum I used to be a member of, and saw many pre-march comments from middle class women whose screen names I recognized from years of conversations. They wrote about how they were afraid and nervous about going to these marches but felt they had to stand up and be counted to oppose Trump. And so I realized the value of the marches I hadn’t recognized before—we need these newcomers, and we need a lot of them.

Trump wants to directly eliminate support for Amtrak and DC’s Metro, and indirectly for all other transit systems—those city people don’t support him, and they’re not using enough oil. I expect people are going to die at Standing Rock.

Everyone’s going to have health insurance—we’ll start by taking away what they have now. Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare—the hell with those, just invest in the stock market. We need mayors of sanctuary cities and governors of blue states to be strong and creative because we’re all on the enemies list. We need Republicans who opposed Trump during the campaign to now say, “Well, we gave it a try, but this guy really is nuts and we have to stop him.” 

Trump likes to pretend he’s a successful businessman despite his string of bankruptcies. We need corporations to oppose his plans. So far, I’ve noticed complaints from FedEx, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, and Facebook, as well as smaller companies.

We need the world’s governments to oppose Trump, and we need the UN to take our name. We need more religious leaders to condemn Trump as a phony Christian. Several Republican senators and representatives have spoken against his immigration policy and that he has replaced the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence with Breitbart’s Bannon in security meetings (because Trump’s sure he already knows more than anyone else and only wants to hear from those who agree—he’s, like, smart)—we especially need more of those Republicans. We need more judges to stay his orders. When I read about that, I imagined him sputtering, “They can’t do that, I’m the king”, and firing off tweets about fake laws. Supposedly concerned about terrorism, Trump is likely going to create much more, both from abroad and from American citizens.

I could go on like this forever, because every day brings new levels of stupidity. I did reserve the site for the Old, White, and Blue blog I had mentioned, thinking that I might start it at the beginning of the year or after his inauguration, but I decided there was just too much to write about and I didn’t want to spend all my time angry or depressed trying to keep up with it.  We do need every form of resistance we can come up with—overt and covert, written and spoken, broadcast and podcast, in the streets (and airports) and online, but we do need to refresh ourselves as well. 

I’m not a flag-waver—if I had the money to finance the move, I would not be living in this country. That’s not just a reaction to Trump and the type of people who voted for him, although I certainly would have left since the election. I’ve never shared the country’s dominant values of greed and shallowness and religion, and if I’d been a few years older and drafted certainly would have gone to Canada, not Vietnam. I love the land and wildlife here which Trump and his ilk are eager to destroy, but as to the human aspect have long wished I’d been born in Europe. When I researched the continent decades ago, it seemed somewhere in Scandinavia would have been the best fit for me. But rather than moving, I took the easy way out of having as little to do with the mainstream US as possible. Now I’m paying the price for choosing to be a bad capitalist.

My preferred solution to this country’s deep division has long been that the country voluntarily split in two (or more) with each person free to choose where they lived. Whichever side you’re on, what is the point of having constant aggravation in your life? Any marriage with this deep-seated antipathy would have ended in divorce long ago. But it’s too late for that now. 

At this point, I don’t care if it’s a lone gunman or a coup, if we make his thin-skinned head explode from constant opposition, or if Daenerys rides in on a dragon—the country and the world needs to be rid of this asshole as soon as possible. I suspect most people who’ve agreed with me so far would distance themselves here and say no, no, no violence. I’d remind them that this country would not even exist if people hadn’t been willing to be violent when needed, that Thoreau gave speeches in support of John Brown, and that following the rules is what got us here.

My only ambivalence about Trump being assassinated would have nothing to do with the morality of it, just as I think killing Hitler early in his career would have made the world a better place and saved many lives. My concern would be the reaction of his supporters, but I think there will be trouble even if he lives long enough to lose in 2020, or lasts two terms until 2024. I can’t envision the lunatic ever peacefully or voluntarily leaving the White House. He’s not even content to be there via the Electoral College; he needs to keep spouting lies about voter fraud to explain why millions more people voted against him than for him.

What do you think the country will be like in 2062, the 200th anniversary of Thoreau’s death?