Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Until November...

The greys continue: more rain yesterday with the east wind blowing pounding waves of Lake Superior to Duluth, fog this morning, and another big noreaster due tomorrow into Friday when I'm due to fly away. Though I expect to have plenty of time to write during the next couple weeks, I won't have a computer so I'll probably do a lot of typing in one session when I return in November followed by restocking the kitchen and ugh, job hunting, which I usually regard as a lose lose proposition. My long forecast unemployment began Tuesday afternoon with a sigh of relief, unsure which was the frying pan and which the fire; this afternoon I had an interview which was arranged quickly because I'll be out of town during the normal process. I have to call mid-vacation to see if I'm still in the running.

And now, because the cat just sat on this table staring at me and waiting for me to cross my leg to arrange his favorite lap position for him, it's time to sign off and begin 36 hours of quality cat time because I feel horribly about leaving him for so long. If I had a TV show like Ellen, I'd cry for you all about it. Have a good couple weeks.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ecoblog

I and 16,000 of my closest friends are participating in ecoblog day.
Of course, every day is ecoblog day here at greentangle. You'd think they would have consulted me, because I'm too busy to do this properly with links today.

I'm firmly convinced the only thing which could save the human species from the hellish path of a delusional meaningless life removed from a natural world destroyed by us, and the only way to avoid the extinction of most other forms of life, is a major change in attitude and how we relate the natural world around us. More technology and conservation isn't going to save us or keep this way of life going beyond this century. Leaving aside the matter of how likely I think this change is, I'm presenting a list of books and activities to lead toward that change.

Your first stop may be Walden by Henry Thoreau. Questioning "progress" long ago, he was never afraid to speak his mind. A more recent outspoken advocate for the natural world was Edward Abbey. From fiction such as The Monkey Wrench Gang to nonfiction like Desert Solitaire and his many books of essays, he'll make you laugh, fume, and think. Just as he intended.

Stock up on field guides: mammals, insects, birds, trees, flowers, mushrooms, weather, stars. Maybe a book on a specific species, whether a porcupine or an oak tree. Whatever you might have a little interest in, learn some more, and watch. Realize it's not all just a backdrop for your life. You're just one part of something much bigger.

Are you interested in the history of ideas? Try Nature's Economy by Donald Worster, or Nature's Web by Peter Marshall (no, not the Hollywood Squares guy) for an exploration of ecological thought through time and around the world, or The Rights of Nature by Roderick Nash to learn how ideas about environmental ethics have changed. There are also many good books about nature writers, and others which explore the role of nature in religion, psychology, literary criticism...whatever you can imagine is probably out there.

Question consumerism with Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, A Reasonable Life by Ferenc Mate, or The Poverty of Affluence by Paul Wachtel. Learn why it, and our population growth, can't go on in Overshoot by William Catton.

Take a break for some poetry by Robinson Jeffers and Gary Snyder.

Think about the ethical implications of your diet after reading The Way We Eat by Peter Singer and Jim Mason or The Food Revolution by John Robbins. If those get you thinking about how animals are treated, one basic text to explore among many is Animal Liberation by Singer.

Get some inspiration from people acting on their beliefs from Free the Animals by Ingrid Newkirk and Eco-Warriors by Rik Scarce.

Just want to do some good reading without becoming a radical? Try any essay collection by John Quammen or the books of turtle expert/artist David M. Carroll. Two slim but wonderful collections of essays I'll be rereading on my next trip are The Hopes of Snakes by Lisa Couturier and The Abstract Wild by Jack Turner.

That's a lot of reading. You need to get out more. Get out of your climate controlled house, get out of your car. Walk by a stream or the ocean and let the sound of the water soak into you. Lie on your back, feel the earth beneath you, and play the cloud shape game. Keep records of when you see the first skunk cabbage or bluejay of the year...these records will show you the effects of global warming. Watch a migration, be it bald eagles or green darner dragonflies. Shiver in the winter and sweat in the summer. Snowshoe, don't snowmobile. Follow those animal tracks in the snow and see where she goes. Consider that animal not as your meal or an object, but as you think of your pet, as your companion on this journey. Slow down. Breathe deep. Think, but don't forget to feel.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Body and Soul

That's a great song done by Coleman Hawkins, one of my favorite saxophonists. But that's not what this is about.

Spent part of the afternoon going back and forth in my usual decision-making style as to whether to spend a long day (6:30 AM to 10:00 PM by bus) going to the Cities tomorrow for a few errands and delights but after writing up a schedule of plans decided to let it wait for a month when I'll have to go down for an overnight anyway to take a job test rather than rush through things tomorrow. Whew, that sentence (or was it a fragment?) was almost as long as the day would have been. And I deliberately didn't use any commas. So there.

Trying to make a decision involved checking some websites and I kept surfing once I'd decided. Found this article about where I'll be soon:

Seeds of change
Boston Vegetarian Food Festival gives fresh look at meat-free eating
By Kerry J. Byrne |
Wednesday, October 10, 2007 | http://www.bostonherald.com | Food & Recipes

Just because something is labeled “vegan” “doesn’t mean it’s health food,” insisted Colleen Patrick-Goudreau in a telephone interview from her San Francisco home. If you want something healthy, eat broccoli, she said. If you want to spoil yourself with a savory snack or decadent dessert, eat her textured corn bread or her chocolate cake sweetened with plenty of sugar and vanilla.

Patrick-Goudreau is the author of the recent “The Joy of Vegan Baking: Compassionate Cooks’ Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets” (Fair Winds Press, 2007). She’ll be in Boston with scores of other vegetarian vendors on Oct. 20 for the 12th annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival at the Reggie Lewis Center (www.bostonveg.org).

The event is an attempt to “demystify” vegan and vegetarian cuisine, and to shatter the myths that surround the diet, said Evelyn Kimber, president of the Boston Vegetarian Society, which sponsors the festival. Stereotypes abound: vegan and vegetarian diets are bland, limited - all about health and not about flavor. Not true, argues Kimber and other local proponents of the vegetarian lifestyle.

“Look at our menu,” said Cuong Van Tran, owner of the Original Buddha’s Delight, a vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown, pointing to a thick menu of more than 200 items. Meat-substitute proteins, such as wheat gluten flour and a variety of soy products, are marinated in spicy sauces for 24 to 48 hours, giving them plenty of flavor. Tran also offers scores of additional vegetarian options at My Thai Cafe in Brookline.

“I look back on my prevegetarian diet of meat, potato and vegetable as boring and bland,” said Kimber. “There are only a handful of meats you cut out of your diet. There are thousands of plant-based foods to discover.”

Many foods derive flavor from spices, fats and oils. Spices, naturally, come from plant products. But people forget that “there are plenty of fats and oils that come from plant-based foods,” said Patrick-Goudreau. “The vegan diet is healthier than a meat-based diet,” she added. “But you can still spoil yourself.”

Buddha's Delight is the restaurant I long for when I think of my Boston days. I first ate there 20-25 years ago when its edge of Chinatown was still surrounded by the famous Combat Zone, Boston's adult entertainment district which is gone now except for the one strip club whose entrance you can check out from Buddha's upstairs windows. The stairs going up to Buddha's have probably scared many people away. Let's just say people don't go there for the decor. The My Thai Cafe is new to me but I expect to eat there a couple times as well as having my first meal at Buddhist Tea House which is located at a temple in Cambridge.

Surfing onward, I found a couple blogs where people had taken the following test to discover their most appropriate religion:
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/76/story_7665_1.html

My results:

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (93%)
3. Liberal Quakers (83%)
4. Theravada Buddhism (79%)
5. Nontheist (72%)
6. Neo-Pagan (64%)
7. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (60%)
8. Taoism (57%)
9. Orthodox Quaker (50%)
10. New Age (50%)
11. Mahayana Buddhism (47%)
12. Reform Judaism (42%)
13. Jainism (37%)
14. Bahá'í Faith (36%)
15. Scientology (30%)
16. Sikhism (28%)
17. New Thought (27%)
18. Seventh Day Adventist (26%)
19. Hinduism (23%)
20. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (22%)
21. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (21%)
22. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (16%)
23. Eastern Orthodox (15%)
24. Islam (15%)
25. Orthodox Judaism (15%)
26. Roman Catholic (15%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (11%)

Naturally, being the cranky sort I am, I have some issues with that. As far as I remember, I've always been an atheist (at one time a very passionate one who belonged to atheist organizations, hated religion, and had an extended newspaper debate with the head cheese of the Massachusetts Moral Majority...now I'm pretty indifferent to the whole issue) which may be what they mean by nontheist at #5.

But I've never considered myself a humanist. In fact, one of the books I consider most important is The Arrogance of Humanism by David Ehrenfeld. Humans are not my God any more than God is, and the ideas that we're the most important part of the universe or the planet or the ecosystem, or that we can and should do anything that occurs to us, or are capable of fixing all the many things that we've somehow screwed up in all our omnipotent majesty in the past and present...well, frankly they're all repulsive to me. And more important than my repulsion, I think those ideas and values do enormous damage.

As for the rest of the top ten, the only church I've attended which I enjoyed was a politically and socially active UU one, the only religious woman I've dated whose religion I felt at all comfortable with was a Quaker, I've taken classes in paganism and enjoy the nature-centered theme of many of those groups, and I feel a pretty strong attraction to Taoist views. Based on what I know of it, I would have expected Jainism to score higher, but I'm not at all surprised to see my childhood indoctrination of Catholicism down near the bottom of the list. As far as I can recall, I never believed one bit of it for one moment. I did however keep going to church weekly well into my teens, but that was mostly to check out Ellen Smith's ass a couple pews forward. Body and Soul indeed.


Saturday, October 6, 2007

Be careful out there

Living in the heart of hunting country, I'm used to being disgusted a lot of the time, but I was taken by surprise this morning. A free weekly newspaper got delivered and I saw an article headlined Look out Bambi, you're next with an accompanying photo of arrows labeled A Bouquet of Death. The article is a bland pro-hunting advertisement for a local store, but if you need to see it to believe it, you can try Googling "Budgeteer Bambi" to see if it comes up for you; it's one of those registration sites which isn't allowing my link to work.

I fired off a quick email:

“Look out Bambi, you’re next”? “A Bouquet of Death”? It appears you have a teenage boy fresh from a long session at his video game writing your headlines. I consider modern hunting an equally immoral act whether done by an educated naturalist or a drunken yahoo, but it’s clear which audience you’re aiming at. I hope you’ll have an equally amusing headline the next time one of the fools shoots another hunter.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Batting 2nd, HD Thoreau

I was planning to go to St Paul this weekend to attend some lectures on Thoreau, and do the other usual things I do when I visit there: sell as many books as I can carry (no one buys in Duluth), stock up on bagels (my favorite chain's not in Duluth), eat some good veggie restaurant meals (there are good ones in Duluth but the options seem repetitive after 6+ years here). All available in a neighborhood I love and investigated moving to last year before I discovered how tiny the local apartments were and decided that the Twin Cities area isn't very encouraging for public-transiting jobseekers. Too much sprawl and not enough transit, like most of the US between the coasts. And most of the coasts, for that matter.

When I lived in the Boston area, I was an occasional member of the Thoreau Society, as well as spending many days in Concord on my own. The Society is made up of an interesting mix of literature professors, history buffs, and folks who, like Henry, see the world in many unusual ways. Since my long-ago year as a graduate assistant taught me I had no interest in teaching, I qualified through my many unusual ways. The group gathers annually in Concord on the weekend closest to Henry's July 12 birthday, for lectures and various presentations, nature hikes, canoeing, and book sales. I'm much more of an antisocial hermit than Henry ever was (really, he wasn't at all...it's a myth put forward by people who know nothing about him) and this was one of the rare groups of people that I enjoyed hanging out with.

Anyway, some members are giving lectures in Minneapolis this weekend so I had made a hotel reservation. But I canceled that when the Red Sox playoff schedule was announced and I realized the trip would cause me to miss seeing two games.

Baseball is the only sport I still follow, though I wish they'd get all the dead cows out of the game. Pro football and college basketball fell off my radar long ago. At my college, the big sports were wrestling and soccer, which I probably would have gone on enjoying if there had been an easy way to keep up with them. But baseball...baseball's a whole other world.

My grandfather (still a fan at age 102) had some baseball connections and back in 1967, the year of The Impossible Dream, I met one of the Red Sox pitchers who took my program back to the clubhouse for a cover full of autographs. Which came first, following the pros or playing on the wild local lot which was shaped more like a football field? We all learned to hit to straightaway center; pulling the ball landed it in the many pine trees (there was a massive one closest to the field, protecting its young) to the left or through a window on the right. Hitting it out to the street was a home run. It's all gone now, subdivided into more ticky tacky boxes.

I remember pitching with a metal splint on my broken finger and how it curved around the ball when I caught a line drive back to me in that ungloved hand. And playing center, racing in for a sinking curving liner, catching it awkwardly waist high and flipping it to 2nd to pick off the runner for a double play. Innocent memories are often lies though; in cruel boyhood, there was also an unfortunate incident involving baseball bats and toads which I try to repress. When not outside playing, I bought games with cards based on players' statistics from the previous season and rolled dice for hours recreating games and batting averages and pennant races.

Many years later, I worked for a Boston company with a private box at Fenway and caught a game from that elevated vantage point, while some strange coworkers stayed inside the attached room watching the game on television instead. We got a foul ball that night.

So rather than listen to words about Henry this weekend, I'll be watching the games unfold on my computer. But baseball players are not my heroes now if they ever were. Among the Red Sox, there are hunters, Republicans, religious fanatics, the macho and the immature. Not folks I want to spend time with. I just want to see the game.

So when I visit Boston later this month, even if the Sox are still playing I won't be going to Fenway to worship and put more money in their overpaid pockets. I will be spending a quiet day by the side of a Pond and at the foot of a grave of one of the greatest Americans and greatest writers, who dared question American 'progress', who went to jail rather than pay a tax he considered immoral, who would be labeled a terrorist today for his vocal support of John Brown's armed uprising, who valued other species, who thought his inner voice was more important than what governments or religions or neighbors told him he should believe. He'd still be ahead of his time today.

But this week, it's fall ball. Let's play.