Saturday, April 30, 2016

Pearl Jam at Uniondale Anniversary-on This Day in 2003


I have long been a huge fan of Pearl Jam, but I would have to say that my following them reached it's peak in 2003. I had been a fan of the group for over a decade by that point, and had gone to see them numerous times, had read books about the group, collected t-shirts, bootlegs, posters, and other artifacts, and just generally  You might think that I would have tired of them, but it was quite the opposite, feeling I had grown with the band, and they had been a constant presence. If anything, I was an even bigger fan of the band after ten years than I had been at the beginning.

There is a reason for this. I was absolutely disgusted with George W. Bush. I remember feeling absolutely disgusted with Bush. I mean, before he was even elected, when the Republicans chose him as the "obvious" heir apparent to the White House, as if his resume to that point was so commendable and golden. Yet, as Jello Biafra suggested during the NO WTO Combo's show during the "Battle in Seattle", "King George" was already anointed unofficially by 1999. He was the chosen, so to speak, by the powers that be.

Unfortunately, however, he did wind up as President. I remember feeling so depressed at having to hear the words "President George Bush" once again, as he was sworn in on January 20, 2001, following the stolen election (let's remember our history, and call a spade a spade, as well).

I did not like George W. Bush, and distrusted his intentions. That was true before the election, and afterwards, too. That included on September 10th, 2001, and September 12th, 2001, although I tried to suspend my skepticism in hopes that he might show real leadership. As far as I am concerned, he did not, and that included that moment that exhilarated so many, when he stood on the rubble and declared that the terrorists were going to hear the American people. And then, of course, that included the lead up to the war in Iraq, and everything that happened afterwards.

But the atmosphere was so stifling at that time. People tried to intimidate you if you were opposed to the Iraq  invasion at the time, like it was such an obviously good idea. Given that all the stated justifications for the war were proven false, and that the war proved far costlier to Americans than almost anyone had expected or anticipated. Thousands of lives were lost, and tens of thousands more were seriously wounded.

Yet, the biggest outrage, I remember, was when Americans finally heard about the price tag of the war (What?! War costs money?!! Who knew?). That was when the real outrage seemed to hit home, and the popularity of the war plummeted.

I got in numerous heated arguments with quite a few people who were supportive of the war and/or President Bush. I remember some of them well. In particular, I remember urging supporters of that war, my age and younger (I was in my twenties at the time) to go ahead and join the war effort. Why have others do your fighting for you? You think this guy (Saddam) is really an immediate and serious threat to world peace? That he is Hitler incarnate? Then go ahead and go overseas, and join the fight! Why not? If I believed that he was that dangerous and threatening, I would do that!

More or less, that was what I told many of the supporters, particularly male supporters. Usually, that was met with an uncomfortable smile, as if I were kidding. Some challenged me to join the army, to which I replied, simply, that I had not supported the invasion to begin with, and did not believe that the war in Iraq was justifiable on any level.

Yet, the atmosphere was stifling, and you did not hear too much dissent on the television.

So, quite naturally, I looked for outlets. Art has always been an outlet for expression of all sorts, and I have never been one to think that politics is somehow "out of bounds". Some feel that way, including the friend that I was originally supposed to bring to one particular concert of a band that I really turned to quite a bit in 2002-03, during the height of the Iraqi war fever - Pearl Jam.

I saw Pearl Jam a few times that year, and they meant more to me than ever before. It was nice to hear the voice of others who did not think that George W. Bush was the greatest president, or that he, and his views, represented America. That, moreover, he actually represented the worst of America.

Pearl Jam had released "Riot Act". I do not believe that this was the band's strongest effort, although I like it far more than some people. But it was an interesting album, with some solid music. It came to be important to me, also, because it was an anti-war album. The band did not shy away from voicing their opinions, at a time when far too many seemed to be willing to go with the war fever that had taken hold. Note that this title, Riot Act, could be interpreted as having numerous meanings. Riot Act could be taken as a rebellion, or it could be seen as clamping down on rebellion. Some suggested that they had expected the album to be far harder, given the name. But also, if you add the letters P, A, and T to the front of the name, you get something very different, and very relevant, to those times, as well as another reminder of the actions of your friend and mine, George W. Bush.

Of course, it should be mentioned that there was a reason that I felt a need for some kind of "outlet", and that is that the atmosphere politically in the nation was stifling. For far too many people did not question George W. Bush's motives for going to war in Iraq, and accepted his premises unconditionally. I knew quite a few people (probably a good majority of people I knew, actually) who fit this description. But particularly disappointing to me were three people, intelligent people, who fit into this description. They each had shown a strong capacity for independent thinking prior to September 11th. But once that tragedy struck, they automatically assumed that Bush's militaristic crusade was more than justified, it was necessary.

One of those people, when lecturing me for ten minutes in a public restaurant in New York City about the virtues of George W. Bush and the war in Iraq (and mind you, this was a man who could not stand Bush prior to September 11th), calling "those people" (by which he meant, Muslims, or possibly Arabs, or, possibly, even both) savages, and claiming that "we need to civilize them". He must have noticed my silence at some point, because he stopped in mid-sentence and asked if I supported Bush. Now, I did not want to engage in some heated and pointless discussion with someone that was showing an undeniable strand of ignorance (and not a small amount of arrogance). But when a question is posed to me directly, I will usually make a point of answering as honestly as I can.

So I did. I said, simply one word.


I swear, that was the only word I said, although I had quite a few other words in mind that I wanted to say, but held back.

He spent the next ten minutes going off about how naive I was being, and how the war was necessary. He was drunk, and loud. He has somewhat of a hearing problem, so his voice tends to be a bit loud anyway. But by that point, the alcohol and the anger mixed to make sure that the conversation was clearly heard by all of the restaurant's patrons. Ten more minutes, with me silently sitting there, trying to politely listen, mentally taking notes when there was something that I felt he was clearly wrong about (there were quite a few of these). But I said nothing, and that was more or less the way it went until he ran out of steam. His wife had tried to stop him at some point, but he told her to shut up. Sometimes, people have to vent, and even if you do not feel they are right, you have to let them get it out.

Anyway, he was one of three people that I knew like this. Another was my friend, who was at the time the guy that I usually would go to concerts with. He and I must have gone to dozens of concerts together over the years. Hell, he even got me my first ever Pearl Jam tickets, to Randall's Island in 1996, which we went to together, with another friend of mine. In 1998, I paid him back for this by getting him tickets to the show at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, through the fan club. I did not know it then, but those seats were simply amazing! The best seats that I have ever had to see Pearl Jam (or almost any group, for that matter). Second row and just off center! The attendant took out tickets, and we just kept walking closer and closer to the stage. I grew very excited, and when she showed us our seats, it took my breath away! Speaking of "Breath", I still have the one makeshift poster from that show that someone had made, requesting the song "Breath", which is pictures in the book "Twenty". They did not play it at that show, although I would see them play it in the future.

But I digress. Majorly, actually, since this is a post about the Uniondale show, and I have hardly spoken of that at all yet, although I have been trying to set the background up. So, here goes:

My Own Little Ticket Controversy:

It seemed that this was the go to guy for tickets and concerts in general. So, once again, when I got fan club tickets in 2003, I offered these tickets to him. He accepted. And so, it seemed we would see Pearl Jam  for what would have been the third time together (I had already seen Pearl Jam with other people).

But then something happened. Following April 1st, this friend (let's call him Glen) informed me that he would not be able to attend that show. His voice had an edge to it when he told me this, and so, wondering if I had done anything to offend him, asked why. He then expressed his anger at the "actions" of Pearl Jam at a recent concert in Denver. Following "Bushleaguer", many fans (varying accounts range from dozens to thousands) left after the song was played, supposedly as a protest against the anti-President Bush song. Glen was particularly incensed that Eddie Vedder had allegedly "impaled" a mask of Bush.

We talked about it, and I read the conflicting reports from the show, and the response by fans. But he wanted no part of them anymore. He mentioned that he intended to sell the albums that he owned of them, and wanted nothing more to do with the band, ever.

So, obviously, I had to find someone to go with me, and it wound up being my brother, who is likeminded about many things, including George W. Bush.

The Concert

And as it turned out, it was a good thing that Glen didn't actually go with me to that particular show, because as it turns out, the negative response in this show would make the Denver show response look mild by way of comparison. I am absolutely certain he would have been one of the ones booing as they played "Bushleaguer", probably the loudest one booing. Possibly even one of those who were throwing things on stage in anger towards the band.

The thing is, up to that point, the crowd was hugely excited! I think it was one of the loudest Pearl Jam shows that I had seen, and the crowd was one of the wildest and most enthusiastic that I had seen (although Philadelphia ranks close by, too - I think that was an even more enthusiastic crowd, and most of us stayed on our feet literally through the whole show, without pause!). The fact of the matter is, Uniondale's show was highly intense and enjoyable.

They played some really cool tunes, and they just seemed on fire. Everything was clicking, and the crowd was responsive! It was just a very good concert. I recently listened to it again on the official bootleg, and found it apropos, given what was about to transpire, that they performed "Save You", which includes these lyrics:

And fuck me if I say something that you don't wanna hear
And fuck me if you only hear what you wanna hear
Fuck me if I care.....but I'm not leaving here

Well, actually, they did leave there that night, and earlier than expected. Of course, the lyrics obviously have a much wider reference than that, though. But it was the first time that I truly listened to the lyrics (which i was already familiar with from when Riot Act first was released) for that specific song, for that specific concert. Ten years later, and I just noticed the irony of that. Not too quick on the uptake all of the time, I guess.

However, back to the show. it really was fantastic, with terrific crowd response and participation. Everything about it was simply awesome. Everyone in the building was having a good time.

But the feeling all changed almost as soon as the first few chords of "Bushleaguer" were played. The atmosphere changed, radically. it was still highly charged, but now, it was for a different reason. There was anger, and a nervous atmosphere underneath. I'm not sure that anyone knew what to expect, and that probably includes the audience, the band themselves, and the security. It was just....well, it's hard to explain. It was probably the most unique, bizarre ending to a concert that I had ever seen.

Now, it is time for an admission that goes two-fold. I was glad that they played "Bushleaguer". After all, I was no fan of Bush, and will say this about their performance of the song that night: I have never been prouder to be a Pearl Jam fan. They took a stand, knowing there would be strong risks. It was not a popular thing to do, and of course, they could possible raise the ire of Ann Coulter, among others. But they took a stand for what they believed in, and challenged those booing to think. Plus, there is something to be said about being present for something memorable like that.

Yet, it's time to admit something else, as well. I really actually don't like that song that much. I like the lyrical content, and the protest value. But the song itself? Not really all that enjoyable to listen to, frankly. Since Bush left office, I have not made a point of putting that song on. Even worse, I usually find myself skipping that particular track.

That said, it meant a lot to me that night. A lot. Again, I was never so proud of the band as I was at that moment.

The weird thing is, it reminded me a lot of wrestling, back in the old days. You know, you have the bad guy, and he's trying to instigate the crowd, to rile them up against him? That's what it seemed like Eddie Vedder was doing. Hell, Mike McCready even waved his arms, gesturing for more response. It was kind of weird, admittedly. So, yes, it reminded me of watching wrestling as a little kid, and seeing the hated bad guys trying to elicit a reaction from the crowd.

There was energy after the song, but it was a different kind of energy. Whereas before, they were excited and enjoying a great show, now, all that anyone wanted to discuss, or seemed to remember, was the weird, unconventional ending.

Pearl Jam cut their set list short, and Vedder slammed the microphone stand to the ground as they walked off.


My brother and I walked out to the car and, like with everyone else who attended the show, there was only one topic of conversation. What had just happened was just highly unusual, and warranted discussion.

It had been a strange situation. Again, to reiterate, I had never before (or since) been to a concert that ended in a more bizarre manner.

Yet, it was not exactly what everyone thinks it was. Yes, the band was more or les booed offstage. True enough. But there were people there - and quite a few of them - who were applauding Pearl Jam's makeshift protest against Bush. True, they were drowned out, but there were some there (my brother and I being among them, of course).

I was glad that Glen did not go. From that point onward, he took a book out of Vedder's page, in trying to taunt me about how meaningless Pearl Jam was to him. I frankly did not care. Still don't, even though we have lost touch. I know what I like, and it has nothing to do with some sort of show of popularity or not. Certainly, I was not looking for his stamp of approval in order to listen to and enjoy whatever music that I liked, but he seemed to be under that impression. What I was disappointed with was his suddenly juvenile approach.

We had gotten in a few political discussions, and let me just preface this by saying that this guy was quite taken by a certain famous personality (who shall remain anonymous). He emulated this personality in every way, including the way that he looked, and even the way that he talked. The way he told stories, specifically.

Anyway, I noticed that his viewpoint about George W. Bush changed at about the same time as this famous personality began to change his viewpoints. Around the time of the Uniondale concert, he was lecturing me about how the country was better off with George W. Bush, and insisting that I had to admit that I felt "safer" with Bush in charge. (Oh, really?)

Maybe a year later, he had changed his tune, and was critical of Bush (once again, surely coincidentally, making the same arguments as this famous personality). Against my better judgment, I reminded him of his former unconditional support of Bush. He got angry, and apparently, did not remember nearly so much as I did. Perhaps that even included the reasons for why he refused to go to the Pearl Jam show. I laughed as he  told me that he was getting angry. Such a convenient escape from an uncomfortable conversation. My main point was this: agree or disagree, I have my own value system, and judge things my own way. I try and be fair, and not jump the gun on conclusions, but will admit to having strong opinions. Agree or disagree, wrong or right, however, my opinions are my own.

Of course, he was far from the only one just going with the flow of popular, conventional, very unoriginal thinking. A lot of people suspended their doubts about Bush in the aftermath of September 11th. Glen certainly was not the only one. Nor was that other man that spent twenty minutes yelling about how "those people" were uncivilized barbarians, and that we needed to go over there to "control those people".

Obviously, he was in favor of official policy.

Pearl Jam received a lot of flack for their actions, but I always wondered why so many people, Bush supporters generally, were so critical of the actions of a band, yet suspended any critical thinking when it came to the actions of a President, who outright lied about the reasons for an unpopular invasion that most of the rest of the world strongly condemned. There were scandalous headlines about artists like Pearl Jam and the Dixie Chicks, as well as Michael Moore, among others. Everything and everyone was harshly scrutinized, it seemed - except the President.

Excuse my language, here, but what kind of shit is that, anyway?

In any case, I can go on and on about that particular line of reasoning, but this a post about ne particular show, from one particular band. They received a lot of criticism for that, and many people felt that they were wrong. But a large part of their identity from the earliest days was political, and it's hard for me to imagine people going to a Pearl Jam show, and then claiming to be shocked that they would express their political beliefs, and how strongly they differed than what most people tend to apparently believe - particularly in this country. They have opinions, and they were willing to express them in a very public manner, using their art to express these viewpoints. That was a large part of the reason that I became a fan of the group, and remain so to this day.

I remember after the first Pearl Jam show that I ever say, back in 1996 at Randall's Island, thinking that it was likely going to be the most memorable show of the band that I would ever see. But that proved untrue. Every time that I hear the opening chords to "Bushleaguer", a little part of that show lives on.  Also, you can view the entire performance of that song on the extended "Twenty" DVD, which I would highly recommend watching. It's not exactly like being there, but it documents what happened, and much of the reaction.

Looking back, although it made me a bit mad at the time, I am glad that Glen canceled. I would have had to hear his bullshit support of Bush afterwards, and talking crap about Pearl Jam. Our views diverged, simple as that. But it was nice not to hear some neocon rantings against the band at precisely the moment when I felt more pride in them, and what they stood up to and for, than ever before.

That concert, whether you consider it one of their most famous, or infamous concerts, continues to stand out. Today marks the ten year anniversary of that show.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Rivalry Between the Ultimate Warrior and Andre the Giant

Not sure why, but I found myself wanting to watch an old Andre the Giant match earlier.

So, I looked up for one on Youtube, and found this rather strange match, that ended in a surprisingly quick defeat for Andre.

However, this was not one of the one where the Ultimate Warrior managed to slam Andre the Giant, which he did on a couple of occasions, although they are not nearly as famous as the time that Hulk Hogan did it in Wrestlemania III.

These two men had quite a strong rivalry there for a while. And I have to admit, on some level, watching these matches made me feel a bit sad.

Andre, by this point, could not move all that well. And there were some matches that were incredibly short (the video clip immediately below the writing here is a case in point), because Andre's health was failing, and so the two men mutually agreed to a short match like that, as I understand it.

They had quite a few matches together, although again, I do not know exactly how many, and who won the matches. At some point, the Ultimate Warrior was the WWF champion, and to my knowledge, he did not actually lose his belt to Andre the Giant, which means that he probably officially won all of those matches.

Still, it was an interesting match, and perhaps Andre's last stand in the WWF.

As for the Ultimate Warrior, I remember being a fan of his highly energetic style. That intense music that came on as he was being introduced, then his sprinting to the ring, seemingly with boundless energy. He runs around the ring, then jumps up to the sides and shakes the ropes, working the crowd. It was all very intense when I was still a kid, and had a ton of energy myself.

Watching him on those old videos now kind of just makes me a bit tired. I can't imagine how much energy he needed to expend just for that entry alone, and then he had a wrestling match that he needed to use energy for.

In any case, it just seemed like something to share, for any fans of the old WWF wrestling, before it became a circus act.

Here's another match between these two:

Thursday, April 28, 2016

‘Star Wars Episode 8' Clues Revealing Themselves, Slowly But Surely


Not much in the way of spoilers for Star Wars Episode VIII just yet. But they have begun filming, and there are some pictures of some of the characters, although these appear to be brand new characters dressed in colorful garb, which keeps their roles mysterious.

Also worth noting, every major actor from Episode VII is signed on for Episode VIII, which of course means Harrison Ford, who's famous character, Han Solo, was killed off in Episode VIII at the hands of his son, Ben Solo/Kylo Ren. That means that he will likely be in a flashback scene, or perhaps will be in a ghostlike role similar to the ones by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda in the original trilogy.

One thing about Episode VIII: it begins exactly where the last film left off. Rey and Luke are on the island which was the site of the first Jedi temple. The major difference is that this time, it's shot from different angles.

There are other small nuggets that would be exciting for Star Wars fans, although I think it's a bit early yet to go too crazy trying to hunt for every detail regarding this new film.

‘Star Wars Episode 8′: Everything We Know So Far  Nick Cannata-Bowman,April 06, 2016:

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

For Profit Elites Score Big Election Night Wins With Hillary

So Hillary had her big night last evening, claiming four of the five states up for grabs in yesterday's Northeast primaries. She now looks increasingly like the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Still, questions remain. There are investigations on voter suppression in the states of Arizona and New York. And although she does have a lead, it is nowhere near as big as the major media outlets continue to insist that it is. And Bernie rightly pointed out that many independents have been turned away, and that on average, they typically vote in his favor by a 2 to 1 margin. Three million independents were turned away from New York's primaries last week. That, mixed with all of the questions of people being taken off the voting list, raises more than a few eyebrows, particularly since many of the people now benefitting from these situations were the very same ones who felt so outraged by many of these same things during the 2000 election.

Bernie Sanders, in his speech on a disappointing night, reminded Democrats of what is at stake. He did not pull any punches, as the Hillary campaign people want him to do, and reminded them that in the fall, unlike the primary season, it is not a closed election process. Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike will all be voting, and the dislike and distrust of Hillary still runs deep - and with good reason.

He reminded them also that polls showed him faring better - even far better - than Hillary against Donald Trump and the other remaining Republican candidates. Again, this is largely because Hillary remains popular among Democrats, but that outside of these closed circles, people view her, and her history, with considerable skepticism.

One of the major things that the Hillary people want Bernie to tone down are the criticisms from the hundreds of thousands of dollars that she made giving speeches for Goldman Sachs, and Sanders has relentlessly demanded that Hillary release the transcripts of these speeches, which she has steadfastly refused to do, suggesting that it is unfair to demand this of her. But Bernie's point is about transparency among government elites, and ensuring that there is fairness, and no conflicts of interest. After all, he strongly insinuates that her unusually strong ties with the big banks and other Wall Street firms calls into question just where her loyalties would be. Would she truly do what she feels is best for the American people, or will she take care of the hands that take care of her and her financial needs first?

These are the attacks that anger Hillary supporters, because they have hurt her credibility, they say. Of course, another way to look at it is that Hillary's actions have hurt her image, and Bernie is simply exposing these truths, which Hillary and her supports obviously do not want.

Here's the thing: Hillary is for profit on everything. She and her husband clearly took a pro-profit approach for their personal lives, as by their own admission, they are now among the elite 1% financially. She obtains personal profits from Wall Street firms and the big banks, and profits politically from these enormous sums, as well. As a politician, she always seems to vote in favor of shady deals, although she might express regret later on. She did not vote for NAFTA, as she was not an elected official at the time. However, she favored it, although now, she has expressed regret for it. She helped design the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but then expressed disapproval of it in it's present form, suggesting she would favor changing certain aspects of it. How much she would change before bringing it into the law books as president is a mystery. She opposed the for-profit healthcare system in the United States in the 1990's, but now, she defends the system, suggesting that it merely needs incremental change (and oh, by the way, she receives huge sums from healthcare companies and the other firms that benefit from the unfair system). She supported the for-profit prison system that has put so many nonviolent offenders behind bars, although now she expresses regret about it, suggesting that maybe, they went too far. She was for the Keystone Pipeline, but now she hesitates. She was for welfare reform, now regretting that. She was opposed to gay marriage, although now she favors it.

Oh, and there is always the vote to empower President Bush to invade Iraq back in 2002. Yes, there is always that. She expresses regret about her vote these days, looking back.

Alright, well, that might not be so bad, in and of itself, right? I mean, sure, the rest of the world stood firmly against American intervention, and there were plenty of warnings that Saddam's Iraq did not have those WMD's, and yes, over 4,000 American troops and over 100,000 Iraqis were killed as a result of the ensuing war, to say nothing of the injured and maimed. But, she's entitled to change her mind, right?

Well, in 2011, this is what she had to say about Iraq: “It's time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity."

Does that sound like a woman who's truly learned her lesson, after a lot of hand-wringing, and a lot of soul searching over her decision to help make the Iraq quagmire a reality?

I have said this before, and I will say it here again: There is absolutely nothing that makes Hillary Clinton stand out as a major presidential candidate, other than the fact that she is a woman. She might become the first woman president, and that would make history. But literally everything else about her is business as usual, politics as usual. She is the poster child of a tired Washington insider with absolutely no new ideas, and with a proven record of untrustworthiness.

Look again at that list of decisions that she made that she later expressed regret for. In each of those decisions, she put profit over what was best for the American people, and with that quote about Iraq, nine years after she voted for giving President Bush greater power to pursue the Iraq invasion (a de facto pro-war vote, in other words), she has shown that there are no lessons learned with this woman. She transparently reflects the worst character traits of selfishness and narrow self-interest that this country too often gravitates towards politically. She will bring absolutely nothing new to the White House, other than the fact that we finally would be able to claim that we have had a woman as president.

Let's save that distinction for someone more deserving, like perhaps Elizabeth Warren. Hillary Clinton does not deserve the presidency, and if this unusual election year has shown anything, it is that Americans are beginning to tire of establishment politicians only seeking their own interests, at the expense of what is best for Americans themselves. There is clearly growing disaffection towards such politicians, and it seems that the establishment in both parties are increasingly willing to circumvent the spirit of democracy itself in order to retain their power and privilege.

Clinton has suggested that there is more that divides supporters of Bernie Sanders and her supporters, in a transparent attempt to pander to Bernie fans.

But don't you believe it!

There is a reason why Team Hillary has called on Sanders to tone down his attacks, and that is because she is vulnerable, and these attacks expose her weakness. What they want is for Bernie and his supporters to be team players, in order to help get Democrats to win this election, as if it were all a game. But Bernie Sanders wants real change in Washington, and he feels that the American people deserve better than the same old same old. It is an idea who's time has come.

People who believe in this message of hope for the future, and for a turn from the futile and unsustainable greed that has dominated American politics for decades now, cannot simply settle for Hillary. She represents the very worst of American politics, and to be frank, she does not deserve our vote. Neither does Donald Trump. Neither does Ted Cruz, or John Kasich for that matter.

We need something new, and I am standing by my man, Bernie Sanders. He is the only major candidate who presents the possibility of a new reality in American politics. He is not a phony, does not say things to pander to the voters one minute, then turns around and does something else entirely. He has tirelessly advocated for what is best for the American middle class, for average people.

True, Hillary Clinton has taken a more progressive stance in recent months, since she has tried to shake Bernie Sanders. Suddenly, she sounded a lot like him. But how long do you think that will last? I am willing to bet it will not last past the Democratic National Convention, once the general election is underway (always assuming she is the nominee). And I would be willing to place as much money as I can that another Clinton presidency would not see much, if any, of the progressive tone that she has taken be put into action once she would indeed be Madam President, always assuming she does occupy the Oval Office. She has a history of saying what she needs to in order to get elected, and then doing something entirely different, and entirely disappointing, at that, once she has gotten the office that she desired.

Please do not empower this hungry and greedy politician anymore.

It's time for real change. It's still time for Bernie, despite the largely disappointing results last night!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Daniel Quinn Shares What His Thoughts on the ‘Meaning of Life’

Daniel Quinn has a very different way of thinking about this world, it's history, and how we got to the point where we have gotten, than most people do. His way of seeing things is radically different than almost anyone else in this world, and he has a way of writing and reasoning that has greatly influenced many people with simple logic and deduction. He has rewritten the entire history of this global culture of ours, and identified where he believes we went wrong, and how we took a sick idea and not only made it seem normal and natural, but held it high, as the very mission statement of our global culture. Each individual country seems to have it's own version of this myth, but these nonetheless represent an extension of the myth, rather than any degree of real separation.

Quinn's writing is indeed powerful. His deduction of our culture's history, particularly emphasizing the stories in Genesis that we thought we knew so well, and redefining them completely, has been described by quite a few people as the version that finally makes sense of the story. His conclusions about the de facto mission statement of the culture that emanated from that, and which has subsequently taken over the world (which he defined as "Takers" in Ishmael, the work for which he is likely best know) easily identifies the error in our ways of thinking and doing things, with the particular emphasis on our automatic and unquestioning assumption of superiority and entitlement.

In essence, he argues that we are our own worst enemy, and our capacity to be completely convinced of our own superiority in this world, and by extension, of our divine right to rule over it as we see fit, without restrictions or limitations, has led us to a world that is overpopulated by human beings that have collectively exhausted the world's precious natural resources. We are bound for some kind of a disaster, although we tend to conveniently turn this uncomfortable topic of conversation away, to ignore what is increasingly becoming obvious: that what we are doing simply in unsustainable.

He would like us to avoid disaster, to change our ways while there is still time. However, he does not have great faith that we will, and his writings suggest that our managing to avoid disaster is nothing certain.

Indeed, Quinn brings a unique perspective, one hard to ignore once you get acclimated with it.

That makes what he has to say about things fascinating, and when I saw that he had written a couple of pieces on the meaning of life, it was definitely something that would be worth sharing here.

So, here it is, the meaning of life, in two parts, according to Daniel Quinn, one of the great thinkers and writers of our time:

Daniel Quinn: Another Interpretation of the ‘Meaning of Life’ BY NICOLAE TANASE ON MARCH 28, 2016:

Daniel Quinn: Another Interpretation of the ‘Meaning of Life’ (part 2) BY NICOLAE TANASE ON APRIL 5, 2016:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Theodore Roosevelt Identifies the Differences Between Crimes by the Poor Versus Crimes by the Rich

“A man who has never gone to school may steal a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” 

― Theodore Roosevelt

"If we treat the mighty  memories of the past merely as excuses for sitting  lazily down in the present, or for standing aside  from the rough work of the world, then these mem  ories will prove a curse instead of a blessing. But  if we treat them as I believe we shall treat them,  not as excuses for inaction, but as incentives to  make us show that we are worthy of our fathers  and of our fathers fathers, then in truth the deeds  of the past will not have been wasted, for they shall  bring forth fruit a hundred-fold in the present gen  eration. We of this Nation, we, the citizens of this  mighty and wonderful Republic, stretching across  a continent between the two greatest oceans, enjoy  extraordinary privileges, and as our opportunity is  great, therefore our responsibility is great. We  have duties to perform both abroad and at home,  and we can not shirk either set of duties and fully  retain our self-respect. 

"It was ultimately as fatal to the cause  of freedom whether it was the rich who oppressed  the poor or the poor who plundered the rich. The  crime of brutal disregard of the rights of others is  as much a crime when it manifests itself in the shape  of greed and brutal arrogance on the one side, as  when it manifests itself in the shape of envy and  lawless violence on the other. Our aim must be to  deal justice to each man; no more and no less. This  purpose must find its expression and support not  merely in our collective action through the agencies  of the Government, but in our social attitude. 

"Rich man and poor man must alike feel that on the one  hand they are protected by law and that on the  other hand they are responsible to the law; for  each is entitled to be fairly dealt with by his neighbor and by the State; and if we as citizens of this  Nation are true to ourselves and to the traditions of  our forefathers such fair measure of justice shall  always be dealt to each man; so that as far as we  can bring it about each shall receive his dues, each  shall be given the chance to show the stuff there  is in him, shall be secured against wrong, and in  turn prevented from wronging others. More than  this no man is entitled to, and less than this no  man shall have."

Theodore Roosevelt at Capitol Square, Richomond, Virginia, October 18, 1905  

With this election cycle, which has been far from typical, issues of the rich hording all wealth, and being so apparently willing to bend, if not break the rules, in order to do so, has been very much on people's minds. 

Jello Biafra called them "wealth addicts" in the No WTO Combo album, and he said that their excessive greed had simply gone too far, and was beginning to unite people on the right and on the left. That was back in 1999, when the protests against the World Trade Organization were making news around the world. 

Well, people really only seemed to be waking up a bit back then. We still had to endure eight long years of George W. Bush and all of the scandals, political and economic, not to mention the almost eight years of Barack Obama's false progressivism, before we started to see some real evidence that this was indeed so. 

Remember, that album was from a concert at the tail end of 1999, after some disastrous trade agreements that, Biafra suggested, could and should have landed our leaders in jail for treason. Also, President Bill Clinton had recently repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which of course paved the way for the banking scandals that almost sank the economy almost a decade later.   

Indeed, the economic scandals began to become front and center initially during the Bush administration, with the huge Enron scandal. This was obviously soon overshadowed by the 9/11 attacks, and the wars that followed.

However, the no bid contracts of the Iraq war, as well as the corporate scandals involving such huge firms as Blackwater and Halliburton (with obvious ties to Vice-President Dick Cheney)brought these economic scandals back to the fore, and the approval ratings for the Bush administration plummeted.

Too late, of course. And the worst was yet to come, as the economic bubble burst with the so-called Great Recession of 2008, followed by the bailout. 

By now, with living standards undeniably, and quite obviously, in decline, Americans finally began to ask questions about why their standard of living seemed to be in free fall over the course of decades. 

Greater mindfulness of the harsh economic realities were helped by more in depth explorations of these issues, not least of all from Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story, which became the first major American movie which outright questioned our traditional beliefs about capitalism. 

Of course, mindfulness is not a specialty for most people, and so this began to fade for many (too many) as well. The situation started to get better, until at least in terms of numbers, the economy was back to full strength. 

Still, there is now greater realization than probably at any other point in my lifetime that the economic realities remain harsh for a majority of people who struggle just to get by, and have little, and sometimes no opportunities to save to get ahead. And just as Jello Biafra rightly pointed out back in 1999, more and more Americans are feeling the pinch. He said that well before George W. Bush stole the election and all of those corporate scandals escalated, eventually leading to the near collapse of the entire economy during the "Great Recession."

Despite the great headlines suggesting the healthy economy, most Americans no longer fully believe it, because the numbers are not reflective of how well they are doing.

This all appears to be new for many Americans but, in fact, going back in the country's history, there are plenty of examples illustrating that there was some understanding of this in the past, as well. After all, millions of Americans suffered during the Great Depression, and they had learned the importance of fairness and saving, rather than an economy rigged by the rich, and buried in crushing debt.

It took the efforts of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs to help lift the struggling nation from it's knees, and in short order, to become the world's leading superpower, and the envy of the entire world in terms of living standards and economic strength and opportunities.

We have lost that somewhere in the last three decades and change now.

FDR understood what how necessary it was for the country to realize the significance of a healthy economy that boosts, rather than restricts, the emerging middle class. Theodore Roosevelt understood this as well, and also understood the that the rich and corporations simply could not be trusted to do what would be best for the country. Many other Americans came to understand this, as well.

The question, then, is how could we allow ourselves as a nation to forget? Also, are we going to remember these valuable lessons from the past in time to do something about it, before it truly grows all out of proportion, and becomes too big for us to do anything about it?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Post-Earth Day Hike With My Son

Earth from Space with Stars

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey Flickr Page:

The old button from the Environmental Club days which I just happened to find on Earth Day! It is a little beat up (particularly the ends of the ribbon), but no worse for the wear, I think. And it is one of the few items that I have left from those days, so it carries a lot of great memories for me! Nothing Changes Until You Do!

Here is a picture of a very similar logo, with the same message, that was on the t-shirt that I purchased from the BCC Environmental Club and, if memory serves me correctly, may even have helped to make. There were a few projects like that which club members, myself included, were regularly involved with. It has been so long, however, that I no longer recall specifically if I actually helped to make these or not, although I do believe so, since I remember seeing the process of the t-shirts being dyed. In any case, I loved this t-shirt, and have kept it ever since, even if I do not regularly wear it. Since it was part of my experience with the BCC Environmental Club days, as well as more generally having an environmental theme, it seemed appropriate to share it here. 

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed."

~Mahatma Gandhi

"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."
~John F. Kennedy  

No pictures, this time, sorry. My phone's camera has not been working properly for months now, so it is unlikely I could have gotten much of anything.

We went to Norvin Green, off of Glenwild Avenue right in between Bloomingdale and West Milford. This is a piece of relatively untouched woods, which is quite nice, actually. I have been coming here since I happened on it, almost by accident, during a summer vacation from high school. Despite it being a few miles from my house, I made it all the way there, and still had energy to do some hiking!

Ah, to be young again!

Anyway, I fell in the love with the place, and have gone back regularly ever since. This was back in the summer of 1990 (yeah, I'm that old), so that means that it has been a part of my life for over a quarter of a century now.

Naturally, as I like to take my son hiking with me, this was a natural place for us to go, as well. We have gone on several of the trails, with the one that we have most commonly done being across the street from the parking area. It is a decent hike, about forty-five minutes, but it is fairly strenuous. Short, but you really feel like you did a pretty good hike! The highlight there is the makeshift stone furniture, which is pretty cool.

There are other trails that we have done, as well. Today, we went on one that we had not gone to in years. It leads to the waterfalls, which I knew he would love. When I told him about it, he automatically picked that. And so, off we went, not long after a huge group of around 15 people went towards the same destination.

Indeed, there were quite a few people at the park on this day, which is probably a good thing. After all, I remember a time, particularly in the 1980's and even into the 1990's, when you could go to nice parks like this, even on weekends, and see no one else, even on beautiful days. The fact that more and more people seem to be escaping into such natural enclaves for weekend outings has to be seen as a good sign, doesn't it? Especially the day after Earth Day. Hopefully, all of this is a good sign.

Despite the people, we went for the hike. I told him to notice how the whole hike was downhill on the way to the waterfall, and to keep in mind that this automatically meant that the hike back was all uphill. He sounded a bit discouraged, but was once again lost in fun, having imaginary lightsaber duels and asking a whole bunch of questions ranging from a variety of his favorite topics, such as Star Wars and who would win battles between superheroes from Marvel and DC Comics.

The weather was perfect, as ideal as you could realistically ask for. It felt such a blessing, especially given that it was the day after Earth Day. After being asked what yesterday had been, my son was reminded of the significance of the previous day when I turned to show him my t-shirt, which shows a picture of the planet out of the recycling symbol.

He had a blast. It's funny, because he always groans when I mention hiking, as if it were some elaborate form of punishment. Then, when we go, he always has a blast (just as a side not, he objects to my suggestion that he is "having a blast" when climbing rocks, whacking sticks against trees, throwing stones, and pretending sticks are lightsabers).

When we got to the falls, he was excited, and climbed the slick rocks. Typically, he huffed and puffed when I told him to be careful, and reminded me that he is 10 years old (which is, in large part, what I'm worried about). We stayed there for quite a while, until well after the group of 15 people left. Once it was quiet, it seemed like a good idea to start a new Tintin book, since last week, we finished the one we were working on before.

In the end, another great day and pleasant memory of a great hike together, with the extra added significance of this being our de facto Earth Day hike, which seems to be forming into a sort of tradition that the two of us now share.

Earth Day Week: Thoreau on Hard Work


Image courtesy of Art Gallery ErgsArt by ErgSap's Folickr page - vallotton_portrait_henry_david_thoreau_1896: Art Gallery ErgsArt:
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Walden Pond
Image courtesy of Jeremy T. Hetzel's Flickr page - Walden Pond:
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Qreat Thoreau Quote
Image courtesy of Ryan Lowery's Flickr page - Qreat Thoreau Quote:
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"The world is but a canvass to our imagination."

~ Henry David Thoreau

Today, many are beginning to challenge the conventional notion of the merits of hard work and no play. Studies show that a lack of play and free time can stunt the healthy growth of a child, which really should not be a surprise. After all, childhood is the time of maximum imagination and wonder, and play is a way of fostering that. Getting in the way of that with some overly grown up notions of the merits of hard work and an overly serious approach to life is, in fact, detrimental to their creativity and mental health.

Now, we even have people questioning this overly serious approach to life for adults, as well.

Indeed, from my stand point, I understand the need for work. But we should work to live, rather than live to work.

Unfortunately, too many people lose sight of that.

Yet, we had someone who has become hugely influential since warn us of the perils of taking life, and particularly work, too seriously.

Indeed, among many other topics that he tackled and helped our American society, and indeed the world, gain valuable perspective in is that of working too hard, and focusing on leisure time, by way of comparison.

Thoreau on Hard Work, the Myth of Productivity, and the True Measure of Meaningful Labor by Maria Popova

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Anniversary of the Death of William Shakespeare

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Today, April 23rd, marks the anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare on this date 400 years ago, in 1616.

No one knows for certain William Shakespeare's birthday, although the day of his death lives on.

So today, I honor one of the greatest and most influential writers of all time, and give credit to his great body of work that has been passed down and greatly appreciated for centuries now.

400 years later, 4 ways to fall in love with Shakespeare by Kate Maltby, April 22, 2016:

Harriet Tubman Will Replace Andrew Jackson on the $20, as Alexander Hamilton is Spared

Well, Alexander Hamilton's place on the $10 bill is secure. Yes, he will remain on one of the most prominent bank notes for the United States, which is fitting, considering he was so instrumental in setting up the nation's economy.

This bit of news came earlier this week, after long speculation that Hamilton would be replaced by Harrie Tubman.

She is still going to make it onto American currency, but just not the $10 bill. No, now, in a sign of the times, the anti-slavery abolitionist will be replacing Andrew Jackson, who himself was a slave holder. Jackson has long been known to have been a rabid racist, and perhaps Native Americans knew that best. He drove natives from their ancestral lands, and infamously once said that the only good Indian was a dead Indian.


Still, Jackson will not be removed entirely from the $20 bill.

The new bills will be designed very differently, and will feature one prominent person in front, and several people in back. Harriet Tubman will be the featured individual on the new $20 bills, but on the new $10 bills (yes, they are being redesigned, but Hamilton will remain), the women's suffrage movement will be celebrated.

Some interesting changes are afoot!

These new concepts are the most exciting changes that have been made to the American paper money system in my lifetime, so it will be really cool to see them.

Unfortunately, it will take a while, as I heard that the designs will not be ready until 2020, and the actual bills, to my understanding, will not be in circulation until 2030!

Still, at least that gives them enough time to hopefully get it right!

That said, I included a kind of protest against having Harriet Tubman, or any woman, for that matter, on currency. No, it is not a joke, and it is not from a sexist, male chauvinist perspective, either. In fact, it is rather thought-provoking, and that is why I decided to include it. You can click on the link below to see it for yourself:

Tubman replacing Jackson on the $20, Hamilton spared By Ben White and Nolan D. McCaskill 04/20/16

Keep Harriet Tubman – and all women – off the $20 bill by Feminista Jones May 14, 2015

My Earth Day Celebration

Earth from Space with Stars

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey Flickr Page:

The old button from the Environmental Club days which I just happened to find on Earth Day! It is a little beat up (particularly the ends of the ribbon), but no worse for the wear, I think. And it is one of the few items that I have left from those days, so it carries a lot of great memories for me! Nothing Changes Until You Do!

Here is a picture of a very similar logo, with the same message, that was on the t-shirt that I purchased from the BCC Environmental Club and, if memory serves me correctly, may even have helped to make. There were a few projects like that which club members, myself included, were regularly involved with. It has been so long, however, that I no longer recall specifically if I actually helped to make these or not, although I do believe so, since I remember seeing the process of the t-shirts being dyed. In any case, I loved this t-shirt, and have kept it ever since, even if I do not regularly wear it. Since it was part of my experience with the BCC Environmental Club days, as well as more generally having an environmental theme, it seemed appropriate to share it here. 

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed."

~Mahatma Gandhi

"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future."
~John F. Kennedy  

This year, like all other years since 1990, I celebrated Earth Day. However, it was a little different than years in the recent past. I was working during the day, and had to work at night, which meant taking a nap in between jobs which, in turn, meant no hike. And unlike last year, I did not have my son with me, either. So, while wanting to make sure that I continued the tradition of celebrating Earth Day, it was more muted than usual.

That said, I did get to spend some time outside, enjoying the beautiful weather. And I did look up to the budding leaves on several occasions, as the youthful, bright green that marks early spring is one of my favorite scenes. In fact, I enjoyed the lush green of grasses and the splash of colorful flowers here and there where they were to be seen, as well.

Still, it was not quite the Earth Day for me that last year was, and so I will republish my experiences with my son from last year's Earth Day, and hope to repeat them a bit this weekend, when I will have the chance to spend more time with my little boy:

I have made quite a big deal of this particular Earth Day this year. Yes, normally I dedicate a couple of blog entries to Earth Day the last couple of years or so, but I seem to have gone all out this particular year.

There are reasons for it, though. First of all, we have apparently reached a threshold already. We have gone too far to hope for no detrimental impact whatsoever, although we really should try to make a point of minimizing the impact that we will face in the future, due to our own human activities. Now, it feels far more urgent than perhaps ever before.

Secondly, I have a son, so these things feel more pressing than ever. I wanted to make sure to share this special day with him, and to try and teach him a little about why Earth Day is so important. A little more on that later.

Finally, I have a bit of personal history and memories from this day, and for some reason, on this particular year, those memories, and the nostalgia for some of those times many years ago, were far more pronounced.

Also, perhaps as a side note, I had more material to work with for blog entries than in years past. Not sure if this was because I actively sought them out, or because there seems to be more material these days. But one way or another, there seemed to be a lot more material to work with this time around, and in addition, I had an assignment to write about Earth Day for the Guardian Liberty Voice.

So, yes, all of those things seemed to add up to a far more active Earth Day, and really, Earth Week (or Earth Day Week), than ever before, although that hardly seems like a bad thing. That is how this particular Earth Day seemed to grow into a huge event for me, and for "The Charbor Chronicles".

Frankly, I wanted to share these things with my son, so that he can gain his own memories of this day, a well as gain an understanding of why it is so important to be aware of these issues. Of course, he is still a child, and I wanted to keep it positive, and on a level that he can understand, and feel like he can make a positive difference.

This year, I tried to make Earth Day a big event, and asked him right off the bat what he learned about it in school. It was mentioned by the teacher, which is a positive sign. But nothing major.

Still, we went for a mild hike. It would have been nice to have done a tougher hike, especially since he thrives on the challenge of rock climbing, which is cool. But the weather was weird, starting off beautiful and sunny, then getting rainy (even heavy rain at times), followed by cooler temperatures and clear again, with the possibility of heavy rains and even hail possibly for later in the night. Perhaps the weather is indicative of the destabilizing impact of human activity.

It was nice and cool, almost perfect conditions for a hike, except for the slightly slick conditions due to the earlier rain. I tried to talk to him about Earth Day, and explained to him about the delicate web of life, how nothing ever truly dies, because life sustains life. I tried to talk to him, in understandable terms, about the detrimental impact of human activity, which he even seemed to grasp a bit, after pointing out some trash that was evident not far off the trail that we were traversing. I told him about my days with the Environmental Club at the high school and at Bergen Community College, and told him that we had once devoted a day to cleaning the roads of the litter, and gotten many bags full of trash cleared.

When he told me that he could probably karate chop a thin tree in half, I reminded him of what a young man who joined us for a hike a couple of weeks ago told us - to leave nothing but your footprints. Not new advice, but always good advice.

As we were walking, I remembered what I wrote about joining the BCC Environmental Club, and the impression back then, at a much younger age, that most of the people there were far more worldly and sophisticated, and privy to a certain level of understanding the nuances of environmentalism than I could ever hope to be. For a moment, I wondered about the strange path that life takes, how I got from there to here, walking with my son on this hike. Also, what were those people doing now? Where were they? Did they still celebrate Earth Day, too?

We got back to the parking lot after I nearly twisted my ankle - another unpleasant reminder of the toll that the years have taken. After years of hiking and playing tennis and basketball, I had twisted my ankle (never seemingly too seriously) enough that it had made my ankle weak. Sometimes, I will hike and, without even realize it, will nearly twist that ankle without expecting it. There is a fear that, someday, that ankle will twist much more severely, or perhaps even break. Perhaps it will be in the middle of a long hike, forcing me to hobble the rest of the way.

For now, I was able to feel it and take most of the weight off of it before it got serious. Still hurt, and I had to walk a little gingerly for a few minutes. But otherwise okay, for the most part. Okay enough to surprise my son once we actually got to the parking lot. He had insisted that he would get to the car first. Kind of a thing for him, to "win" by reaching the car, or whatever destination he chooses, first. Once we got to the lot, I snuck up behind him, and then ran to the car, watching him turn to me, his eyes widening in alarm as he watched what he assumed had been a sure victory slip from his grasp. He tried to discount it, saying in effect that I cheated, although that did not stop me from thrusting my arms up in victory, like I had just won Wimbledon, or the World Cup. It was a good laugh that we shared over that.

Then, we went to my parent's house, where we had some dinner. I wanted to show him the Angry Birds Earth Day level that was just released, and designed to promote environmental awareness. I promised him that we would make a point of planting a tree together for next year's Earth Day, and he was excited. Excited enough that he decided we would plant on on this day. He ate an apple - impatiently, I might add, rushing - and finally took some seeds. Not sure if it could work or not, we nonetheless went to the backyard and found a spot, dug a small hole, and placed the seeds there. I have my doubts that anything will grow, but the attempt and effort seemed most important.

Even if the effort to grow a tree for Earth Day on this particular year proved half-hearted, together we made every effort to make sure that this Earth Day meant something, that lessons were learned, and that we shall continue to try learning, together, for a very long time to come. That is the enduring memory that should come out of this particular Earth Day. And hey! There's no reason why we cannot plant a tree in the near future, even if the idea came rather absurdly late to me this time around on Earth Day. After all, is not every day Earth Day? Even if those seeds wind up being washed away, or do not take, the seeds planted regarding the significance of Earth Day specifically, and more generally about being a responsible caretaker of our blessed Mother Earth, have been planted in my son, and I will do my utmost to watch over these and take care of them, so that they might grow properly and, hopefully, become strong and self-sustaining some time in the future.

Later, I took him home and tucked him in bed, after he brushed his teeth and all of that, and read some of the fourth Percy Jackson book (we just finished the third one and started the fourth over the weekend).

A good Earth Day overall. Very different than the past Earth Days that I remembered, such as the first one in 1990, when it was unseasonably hot and sunny, to the point that I got a sunburn, as my family visited Jersey City to see the New Jersey Eagles (now defunct) and admire the New York skyline right across the river (then with the Twin Towers still standing). Very different also from those Earth Days at BCC, with concerts and poetry readings and food and responsibility.  Different also from more recent, and less active Earth Days.

Different, but memorable and special in it's own way, to be sure. An Earth Day that II shared with my son, for the future of this planet, on our small level.

My son posing for the camera, wearing a green shirt and my old BCC Environmental Club button during a break for our Earth Day hike in the woods - at Pyramid Mountain.