Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

Don’t Frack NY – Albany Protest Photos

September 1st, 2012 No comments

Will Cuomo Sell Out to the Frackers?

Will professionals at NY DEC stand up for scientific integrity and the public interest, or allow politicians and industry lobbyists to approve the EIS?

"Father Knows Best"


Last Monday (8/27/12), I traveled up to Albany NY to join the “Don’t Frack NY” protest, calling on Governor Cuomo to block fracking in the Empire State – ground zero in the anti-fracking activism debate.

In addition to the well placed focus on Gov. Cuomo, perhaps the most important development in this protest was the tremendous outpouring of support for a pledge to resist, should Cuomo allow fracking in NY.

Over 3,200 people pledged to actively resist any fracking. Support for resistance is a hugely important and completely unreported aspect of the anti-fracking movement.

My ties to NY are deep and lasting. I love the place.

I am a native of New York, who grew up on the magnificent Hudson River. As a kid, I vacationed in the glorious Catskill and Adirondack Mountains and swam in pristine lakes.

I went to college in NY’s “southern tier” at SUNY Binghamton and grad school in the Finger Lakes at Cornell, high above Cayuga’s waters, incredible places now targeted as fracking “sacrifice zones”.

In a deeply depressing irony, my Master’s Thesis topic was “Local Land Use Controls To Protect Groundwater Resources” in vulnerable river valley aquifers, primarily to prevent contamination from toxic chemicals.

Thirty years later, that is exactly what fracking intentionally does – fracking injects millions of gallons of a toxic chemical soup deep underground!

That thesis work focused on the Southern Tier and I worked with a woman planner with the Southern Tier Regional Planning Board out of Horseheads NY.

Amazingly, 30 years later, a woman scientist from Horseheads spoke at the rally.

My head explodes thinking about it, so I’ll stop writing now and simply post some photos of an outstanding and important event.

Fracktivists converge on the NY DEC Building. Think DEC got the message? Will the professionals there stand up for independence and scientific integrity, or allow politicians and industry lobbyists to approve the EIS?

Categories: Hot topics, personal, Policy watch, Politics Tags:

State Line Trail – AT

December 13th, 2011 No comments

This hike is one of the best – see NY/NJ Trail Conference for info:

I set out from the trailhead just west of (above) Greenwood Lake marina.

Appalachian Trail - at NY/NJ Border

Appalachian Trail - at NY/NJ Border

Perfect day – some ice on rocks in the morning, but it warmed up pretty quickly.

Superb views of Greenwood Lake, and north towards Bear Mountain. Too bad that high ozone haze impeded views somewhat.

Managed to re-sprain my ankle along the AT just about a mile north of the state line (I sprained it a little over a month ago playing soccer with kids next door).

So it was tricky coming down, as I had to “club foot” as I rock hopped along downhill portions of the trail that were flowing streams and/or leaf covered rocks.

After I got back in the car, needed some refreshments, but the Rainbow Inn was closed for the season, so, had to drive home hungry and with a stiff ankle! Check out the show:

Greenwood Lake

Greenwood Lake








Categories: Family & kids, personal Tags:

Ode to a Chainsaw – My “Sleepy Hollow Moment”

December 3rd, 2011 No comments
Pocantico River - North Tarrytown, NY. Site of Washington Irving's classic story:"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

Pocantico River – North Tarrytown, NY. Site of Washington Irving’s classic story:”The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”

[Update: 12/7/11: check out both a remarkable resonance and a remarkable moment. Philip Glass spoke to the OWS at Lincoln Center. There is an echo of themes from the below post. The moral of the below post was about literature, sounds, and our discovery of virtue.The “machine” can “occupy” the “garden”, and encroach on intellectual and artistic space (i.e the pastoral ideal). I believe in the need to restore notions of republican virtue and the public interest. Here is what Glass said, the closing lines in the play Satyagrapha: watch the episode:

“When righteousness withers away and evil rules the land, we come into being, age after age, and take visible shape, and move, a man among men, for the protection of good, thrusting back evil and setting virtue on her seat again.”

Of Chainsaws and Virtue – My “Sleepy Hollow Moment”

I often have “Sleepy Hollow moments” – and am sure you do too.

What the hell is a “Sleepy Hollow moment” you say?

Bear with me as I explain and we explore the meaning.

I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s some powerful and important stuff going on here.

The Sleepy Hollow Moment defined

I hate chainsaws.

They are loud, destructive, and dangerous. Operating one absolutely terrifies me.

Following in the footsteps of the axe, chainsaws – by orders of magnitude – have aided the destruction of countless acres of magnificent forests.

Nothing –  save an all terrain vehicle or the blast of a shotgun – can more completely destroy a tranquil walk in the woods.

Chainsaws are an almost perfect symbol of what Leo Marx wrote about in his masterpiece on the technological sublime and the pastoral ideal: The Machine in the Garden – Technology and the Pastoral Ideal.

Marx (no relation to Karl), prefaces that superb book with a quote from Washington Irving’s 1820 tale “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (I’m an Irving homeboy, from Tarrytown NY, a graduate of Sleepy Hollow High School):

I mention this peaceful spot with all possible laud; for it is in such little retired valleys that population, manners and customs remain fixed; while the great torrent of migration and improvement, which is making such incessant change in other parts of this restless country, sweeps by them unobserved. They are little nooks of still water which border a rapid stream (Irving – 1820)

At the outset of the book, Marx distinguishes two very different forms of American pastoralism – the first he calls “popular and sentimental”, the second “imaginative and complex”.

The sentimental version is nostalgic: “a flight from the city”:

An inchoate longing for a more “natural” environment” enters into the contemptuous attitude that many Americans adopt toward urban life (with the result that we neglect our cities and desert them for the suburbs). Whenever people turn away from the hard social and technological realities, this obscure sentiment is likely to be at work. We see it in our politics, in the “localism” invoked to oppose an adequate system of national education, in the power of the farm block in Congress, in the special economic favor shown to “farming” through government subsidies. It manifest itself in our leisure activities, in the piety towards the out-of-doors expressed in the wilderness cult, and in our devotion to camping, hunting, fishing, picnicking, gardening, and so on.

Marx concludes that this sentimental form is:

generated by an urge to withdraw from civilization’s growing power and complexity. What is attractive in pastoralism is the felicity represented by an image of a natural landscape, a terrain either unspoiled or, if cultivated, rural. Movement towards such a symbolic landscape also may be understood as a movement away from an “artificial” world -¦ away from sophistication towards simplicity – away from the city towards the country – a vehicle of escape from reality.

Marx then contrasts this sentimental form of the pastoral with his “imaginative and complex” form. But he doesn’t use a specific definition or criteria, instead he relies on an illustration from a passage by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Marx develops what he calls “the Sleepy Hollow moment” or motif. To do this, he refers to Hawthorne’s own experience of a place called “Sleepy Hollow“.

The signal event transpires on the morning of July 27, 1844 in the woods near Concord, Massachusetts.

Hawthorne’s notes of that day set out to describe a tranquil moment. Marx interprets the larger significance:

he [Hawthorne] sat in solitude and silence and tried to record his every impression. One incident dominates his impressions. Around this “little event” a certain formal – one might say almost dramatic – pattern takes shape. It is to this pattern that I want to call attention.[..]

Hawthorn is using natural facts metaphorically to convey something about the human situation. From several pages in this vein, we get an impression of a man in almost perfect repose, idly brooding upon the minutia of nature, and now and then permitting his imagination a brief flight. Hawthorne is satisfied to set down unadorned sense impressions, especially sounds – sounds made by birds, squirrels, insects, and moving leaves.

But then, after a time, the scope of his observations widens. Another kind of sound comes through. He hears the village clock strike, a cowbell tinkle, and mowers whetting their scythes.

Without any perceptible change of mood or tone, he shifts from images of nature to images of man and society. He insists that “these sounds of labor” do not “disturb the repose of the scene” … He is describing a state of being where there is no tension either within the self or between the self and its environment. Much of this harmonious effect is evoked by the delicate interlacing of sounds that seem to unify society, landscape, and mind. What lends most interest, however, to this sense of all encompassing harmony and peace is a vivid contrast:[Marx excerpts excerpts Hawthorne]

But, hark! there is the whistle of the locomotive – the long shriek, above all other harshness, for the space of a mile cannot mollify it into harmony. It tells a story of busy men, citizens, from the hot street, who have come to spend a day in a country village, men of business; … and no wonder that is gives such a startling shriek, since it brings the noisy world into the midst of our slumbrous peace. [end Hawthorne]


There is something arresting about the episode: the writer sitting in his green retreat dutifully attaching words to natural facts, trying to tap the subterranean flow of thought and feeling and then, suddenly, the startling shriek of the train whistle bearing in upon him, forcing him to acknowledge the existence of a reality alien to his pastoral dream.  What begins as a conventional tribute to the pleasures of withdrawal from the world – a simple pleasure fantasy – is transformed by the interruption of the machine into a farm more complex state of mind.

Our sense of its evocative power is borne out by the fact that variants of the Sleepy Hollow episode have appeared everywhere in American writing since the 1840’s. We recall the scene from Walden where Thoreau is sitting rapt in a revery and then, penetrating the woods like the scream of a hawk, the whistle of the locomotive is heard; or the erie passage in Moby Dick where Ishmael is exploring the innermost recesses of a beached whale and suddenly the image shifts and the leviathan’s skeleton is a New England textile mill; or the dramatic moment in Huckleberrry Finn when Huck and Jim are floating along peacefully and a monstrous steamboat suddenly bulges out of the night and smashes straight through their raft. More often than not, the machine is made to appear with startling suddenness.


What I am saying – is that Hawthorne’s notes mark the shaping of a metaphorical design which recurs everywhere in our literature. They are a paradigm of the second kind of pastoralism mentioned at the outset. By looking closely at the way these notes are composed we can begin to account for the symbolic power  of the “little event” in Sleepy Hollow”


Since Jefferson’s time the forces of industrialization have been the chief threat to the bucolic image of America. The tensions between the two systems of value had the greatest literary impact in the period between 1840 and 1860, when the nation reached that decisive stage in its economic development which W.W. Rostow calls the “take-off”… In America, according to Rostow, the take-off began about 1844 – the year of the Sleepy Hollow episode – just at they time our first significant literary generation was coming to maturity.  … The locomotive appears in the woods, suddenly shattering the harmony of the green hollow, like a presentiment of history bearing down on the Amercian asylum. The noise of the train… is a cause of alienation …. and so it estranges [Hawthorne] from the immediate source of meaning and value in Sleepy Hollow. In truth, the “little event” is a miniature of a great – in any ways the greatest -event in out history.

That Hawthorne was fully aware of the symbolic properties of the railroad is beyond question. Only the year before he had published “The Celestial Railroad”, a wonderfully compact satire on the prevailing faith in progress.


In its simplest, archetypal form, the myth affirms that Europeans experience a regeneration in the New World. They become new, better, happier men – they are reborn. In most versions the regenerative power is located in the natural terrain: access to undefiled, bountiful, sublime Nature is what accounts for the virtue and special good fortune of Americans. It enables them to design a community in the image of a garden, an ideal fusion of nature with art. The landscape thus becomes the symbolic repository of value of all kinds – economic, political, aesthetic, religious.

The sudden appearance of the machine in the garden is an arresting, endlessly evocative image. It causes the instantaneous clash of opposed states of mind: a strong urge to believe in the rural myth along with an awareness of industrialization as a counterforce to the myth.

My Sleepy Hollow Moment

So, with Marx’s observations in mind, let me rehash my own recent “Sleepy Hollow moment”, and suggest productive avenues of future pursuit.

As I sat on the porch with a contented dog and sipping coffee, it was the incessant whine of the chainsaw that broke the moment and drew me to the woods behind my house on an otherwise fine Saturday morning.

Those woods are preserved and adjacent to a State Wildlife Management Area.

So, could my disruptor of the peace be so bold as to be poaching wood too?

My mind ran wild and my blood began to boil, as I set out into the woods, in the direction of the racket.

Upon arrival, I met “Mr. G”.

No confrontation – after a brief conversation, it was clear that he was no defiler of nature or poacher of wood, but a gentle man of virtue.

I immediately discovered that Mr. G. was a volunteer trail builder.

When I asked Mr. G about his volunteer work, he began by noting that although not many people now hiked in these recently preserved woods.

But he quickly emphasized that “people 50 years from now sure will appreciate this trail“.

Yes, surely Mr. G: “these sounds of labor” do not “disturb the repose of the scene” –  “sounds that seem to unify society, landscape, and mind”.

And therein lies the moral of our tale of our Sleepy Hollow moment:

Our discovery of virtue: consideration for the future, the wellbeing of the landscape and natural world, and selfless work in the public interest.

Mr. G.

Mr. G.

So what went so wrong historically?

Why is the relation between technology and the garden so screwed up today?

To probe those questions, next time, we being that exploration, based on the work of historian Joyce Appleby (Capitalism and a new social order).

We focus on Appleby’s analysis of how the concept of virtue was redefined and perverted in the 1790’s.

Virtue was redefined: from Classical republic virtue defined as selfless public service, to one based on individual private gain.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Categories: personal, Politics, Uncategorized Tags:

Love Gets in the Way

February 28th, 2011 No comments

I’m All Wild in Places I Wasn’t Before

Sorry Joni Mitchell, I still love your work, but this is the best love song ever (beyond dancin’ up a river in the dark).

And No Regrets Coyote,  it’s from a Jersey girl (listen live).

i’ve made love with one eye on the door
i’ve left good rooms with nothing to say
i wanted to love them
but love got in the way
i wanted to love them
but love gets in the way
and so what if everything’s changed
and so what if i’ve held out for more
i’m all wild in places I wasn’t before
i’m wild in places where I wasn’t before
so come on and make a mess of me
I won’t walk away
i’m ready as i’ll ever be
I won’t walk away
i want to be fed by you
i want to be led by you
i thought i wanted freedom
but love got in the way
i went looking for freedom
but love got in the way
so come on and make a mess of me
I won’t walk away
i’m ready as i’ll ever be
I won’t walk away ~~~~ Love Gets in the Way” (Dayna Kurtz – 2002)

Categories: personal Tags:


February 17th, 2011 No comments
View from Bear Mountain - LHT, Hudson River in background

View from Bear Mountain – LHT, Hudson River in background

You’re sick of hangin’ around and you’d like to travel;
Get tired of travelin’ and you want to settle down.
I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’,
Get out of the door and light out and look all around.

Sometimes the light‘s all shining on me.
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me,
what a long strange trip it’s been.  
~~~ Truckin” (Grateful Dead – 1970).

Sorry I’ve been away for the last few days.

I’ve been riding my new touring bike – a Surly Long Haul Trucker. Did a maiden voyage on Tuesday to Bear Mountain.

Perkins Drive was closed, so the climb to the top was superb. But patches of ice slowed down the descent.

The incredible weather and new ride have dominated my consciousness! I’ve done 120 miles in the last few days.

I’ve been fantasizing about training for a few serious long haul adventures this summer – starting with the Adirondack Park Loop.

Hard to work under these conditions!

Perkins Drive, Bear Mountain State Park

Perkins Drive, Bear Mountain State Park


Ice fishing - Lake Titoratti, Harriman State Park

Ice fishing – Lake Tiorati, Harriman State Park

Lake Titoratti - Seven lakes Drive, Harriman State park. Doesn't get any better than this. o

Lake Tiorati – Seven lakes Drive, Harriman State park. Doesn’t get any better than this.

O  aclear day, you can se forever. Manhattan skyline in distance, from Bear Mountain.

On a clear day, you can see forever. Manhattan skyline in distance, from Bear Mountain.

Categories: personal Tags: