Since my posts sometimes cluster naturally, I compile them and post them as one long document. Nothing fancy. No images.



(Main blog, daily posts)


Heart Butte School, Montana (Non-fiction, the school and its community.)

Robert Macfie Scriver and Art: An archive. Books by Mary Scriver

ON AMAZON: "Bronze Inside and Out: a biographical memoir of Bob Scriver" and "Sweetgrass and Cottonwood Smoke: sermons for the prairie."

Saturday, October 22, 2016


Rick Bartow
MoCNA/SKYPE with the Curators
Thursday, November 10, 2016 | 12 - 1:30p.m.
MoCNA 2nd Floor Project Lab
108 Cathedral Place Santa Fe NM 87501

Join IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts Chief Curator Manuela Well-Off-Man and Danielle Knapp, McCosh Associate Curator, Jordan Schnitzer Museum as they discuss the impact of recently passed artist Rick Bartow (Wiyot tribe of Northern California) on contemporary Native art, and the exhibition Rick Bartow: Things You Know But Cannot Explain, A Retrospective Exhibition currently on display at MoCNA. Rick Bartow passed away on April 2, 2016, from congestive heart failure.This discussion will happen via Skype, a video phone call when projected onto a large screen allows for dynamic virtual dialogue.

For more information contact: 
Andrea R. Hanley, Membership + Program Manager 505.428.5907 or email: 
IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, 108 Cathedral Place, Santa 
Fe, NM 87501

In the interval between the two sleeps of my nights, the gap between 3 AM and 5AM which is dawn in summer, I was looking at the images by Rick Bartow so I could compose a post here.  At first I didn’t think I knew his work, but after looking at Google Images a while I realized that several were familiar.  They make good book covers because they are often a figure, a persona, that is intense and bright.  They conflate person, raven, bear, hawk and salmon into dream figures, metaphors, self-contained stories.  Feathers and fingers sign-talk while coyote goes passing by, stops to look back.

Richard Elmer "RickBartow (December 1946 – April 2, 2016) was a Native American artist and a member of the Mad River Band of Wiyot Indians, a small tribe indigenous to Humboldt CountyCalifornia. He primarily created pastelgraphite, and mixed media drawings, wood sculpture, acrylic paintings, drypoint etchings, monotypes, and a small number of ceramic works.  

After a number of small shows in the Newport area, Rick Bartow was offered a solo exhibition in 1985 by Portland, Oregon gallerist William Jamison of Jamison/Thomas Gallery, who operated galleries in Portland and New York City. Bartow exhibited frequently at both locations and elsewhere, and his work began to garner national attention. Following Jamison's death in 1995 and his galleries' subsequent closures, Bartow signed on with Charles Froelick of Froelick Gallery in Portland, and a fruitful twenty-year professional relationship and friendship followed. Froelick continues to represent Bartow's estate.

The Responsibility of Raising a Child was designed by Rick Bartow in 2004, cast in 2009, and completed in 2010 before being installed at the intersection of Southwest 5th Avenue and Taylor Street in the Portland Transit Mall. Cascade Fine Arts Foundry, based in Damascus, Oregon, served as the sculpture's foundry. The sculpture depicts several animals and objects being carried on the back of a coyote ("the trickster"), including a grandmother mask with a tattoo that Bartow's mother observed on the face of an elder healing woman in Siletz, Oregon, a pair of salmon, a Pacific lamprey eel feeds, a basket holding a baby (Bartow's daughter), and several birds, including a killdeer, an eagle with outstretched wings, and a raven. A moon mask on the eagle's tail symbolizes women, and a sun mark on its wing represents men.

Friday, October 21, 2016


Kevin Marks, software engineer

Sometimes I long for a parallel internet, not so I can post secret things or criminal things, so the Dark Net is not what I mean.  I mean something simple and intelligible that has not been overwhelmed by the kudzu of commercialism and techie showing off.  (Of course, they’re also trying to make sure there’s enough to do to keep them employed.) was supposed to provide a little relief and make itself worthy of fine writing, but it soon turned into Facebook with hooks and cliques.  Techies added those while evidently never reading the content.  Part of the problem is that techies are often young, still fascinated by how things work.  They would rather have little button zig-zags to chase and make into neat tricks than to settle down to struggle with content.

Nevertheless, one of the subsidiaries/intermediaries of is called “backchannel” and this essay by Kevin Marks really nailed my problem, which is that sometimes  I can’t see the damn screen.  Here’s the link.

Kevin IS a techie from my point of view, though his field of expertise and source of work is design rather than coding.  Here’s what he says:

“It’s been getting harder for me to read things on my phone and my laptop. I’ve caught myself squinting and holding the screen closer to my face. I’ve worried that my eyesight is starting to go.

“These hurdles have made me grumpier over time, but what pushed me over the edge was when Google’s App Engine console — a page that, as a developer, I use daily — changed its text from legible to illegible. Text that was once crisp and dark was suddenly lightened to a pallid gray. Though age has indeed taken its toll on my eyesight, it turns out that I was suffering from a design trend.

“There’s a widespread movement in design circles to reduce the contrast between text and background, making type harder to read. Apple is guilty. Google is, too. So is Twitter.”

I’ve been complaining about this for a while, but only to the cats, who do not care.  

It’s not just that the contrast is reduced, also the font size is often reduced and pale blue fonts that used to be for clues not necessarily seen, like punctuation markers, now become crucial for actions.  The effect is to eliminate or cripple anyone with bad eyesight, small screens, an aging capacity to grasp pattern.  This is aggravated by the use of acronyms, slang, jargon, specialist contexts and so on.  This is ageism — the skewing of access to the young and adept.  It’s also elitism, fencing the Communion, and building treehouses for boys only.  A basic human tendency that should be resisted.

I quote again:   “One of the reasons the web has become the default way that we access information is that it makes that information broadly available to everyone. “The power of the Web is in its universality,” wrote Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web consortium. “Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

Of course, some of this imperceptibility is in service to “nudge,” to make it hard to see the “fine print” that makes loopholes and conditions so you'll do what the site operator wants.  It is predatory, subtly pushing old people, squinty people, and the non-suspicious into the belief that they haven’t missed anything.

Getting access to a screen in the first place, learning how to use it in the second place, and simply figuring out the Big Picture is elusive for some.  My cousin thought they could only find help by asking a smarter neighbor.  It never occurred to them that there were books to check out of the library that would teach them to use computers — they kept books in an entirely different section of their thinking.  An entity like PMUG or any of the many “forums” about programs, computers, and so on?  They would be too shy to attend even if they knew such a thing existed.

Not everyone owns a computer or has access to a provider like a library or cyber-cafe, especially in thinly populated places.  Not every librarian will take time to teach.  Not everyone has learned to use screens, not even TV.  And yet, more and more, the only way to get access to government services or information is through the computer.  The library no longer carries tax forms because it is assumed you’ll download them.  Of course, this is a slick way to get rid of certain kinds of people, like the poor.  Also, people, esp. kids, who are trying to use the Internet to address their deficits, overcome difficulties, like using Spellchecks if you're dyslexic.

The great thing about Marks is that he understands the mathy things like the technical info for techies to use to meet a specific visibility standard and he publishes them in the article linked at the beginning.  He’s able to analyze why so many “authorities” got committed to contrast as the issue and to offer suggestions for better strategies in the language of the people who need to change.  But the same problem rears its head: it never occurs to the people who do this stuff that there’s a problem.  It’s not a problem for THEM.  It’s what “everyone” does.

People with heads that handle a lot of granular coding information tend to lose their grasp on the “big picture” or even their awareness that there is one.  Cultural problems are often circular so that lack of comfortable access leads to the discard of attempts, which means that no one is motivated to pick up the niche market of those who prefer simplicity, dependability.  It has disappeared from cultural consciousness, like the unemployed who no longer seek work.  Everything is controlled by money and "trending", so exploring and venturing and experimenting are cut off by the drive to profit unless someone with vision has venture capital to spare.  I believe there’s money to be made in the less trendy market of people who just want the basics.

Most techies are reaching for the market with money, which they take it will naturally be the big “hip” companies, so they go for the business platforms.  Cloud, Siri.  Humanities people, like writers, are brushed aside.  There is an exception: “Scrivener” which is a program specifically for writers that has boxes for characters, schemes to help plot progression beats, and so on.  BUT like all the others, it has grown in complexity until it’s hard to grasp.  Instead of helping with the intricacies of novel-writing, it imposes another layer of things to learn, so once again there’s a secondary market of things to buy that promise to teach you without grief. 

But the coup d’grace for me is that after I had begun to fill in the schema with ideas, Scrivener produced a “new, improved” version which meant that now my work had to start over because it was inaccessible, since it was written on the old version.  This is the OS trick of always “improving” to force new purchases.  I now keep an old computer so I can access my past work.

it’s not the same problem Marks complained about, but it goes to the same split between those so enamoured of tech that they obliterate the content.  In fact, it is the same struggle in our democracy where we privilege elites, process, appearance and profit over content.  The idea is not supposed to be pushing people OUT.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


Saint Cloaca is an invented persona for good luck with your plumbing.  This time the problem was that the toilet flushed reluctantly and made the drain in the shower bubble, though no water came up — nothing was flooded.  My devotion in the war against dysfunction is watching YouTube with as much time and intensity as any college course.  But it’s a heckuva lot more fun.

For instance this first YouTube about all the crazy stuff one “incredible” particular toilet could flush — gummi bears, dog kibble, little toy soldiers.  I don’t know what the difference in design is, but observation shows it works..  
incredible toilet   by St. Thomas

Then there’s the aesthetics of the presentation, this one using background chanting by the kind of singers used for advertising jingles.  

And this video is part of a whole category called “How Things Work” whose “patron saint” is Rube Goldberg.

I was also rewarded by sitting through a demonstration of a toilet that had been cut in half right down the middle and a sheet of plastic applied to the open halves so we could see colored water flow through — two colors.  It explained how the siphoning action works.

How things work is the key to plumbing.  Twice earlier my “soil stack”— or central big pipe for drawing in air that goes literally through the roof — had sunk, because it’s resting on the ground at the bottom end. Very primitive. I had the idea that was the problem again this time, but I didn’t want to crawl under the house (the bathroom has far less crawl space that the rest of the building because it is an “add-on” and one must go through a small gap in the added-on foundation.  At one point I cut a trapdoor in the floor in the yard-square passage between the bathroom and the closet where the sanitary stack goes up and at another point we cut the soil stack itself and inserted an interval of PVC.  

I tried calling plumbers.  There are very few ACTUAL trained, certified and insured plumbers.  There is no list of them — the Montana Union of plumbers didn’t answer their phones any more than the plumbers would.  They universally hate small old houses with impoverished owners.  

None of the people in town who supply construction had any suggestions, but plenty of kibitzers had “cousins” who “did a little plumbing.”  I tried one of them in the last emergency and he brought the world’s biggest roto-rooter, took up the toilet for maybe the third time, and found no obstacles.  I paid over $300 and was told afterwards by all the curbside experts that one should NEVER roto-root “orangeburg” sewer sections (I’ve got about ten feet of that left) because it rips up in the insides and collapses it.

Finally I stopped at the Shelby plumbing supply place and the clerk there gave me the name of a plumber who answered his phone.  He’s booked solid for the next week or so, but we made an appointment for Sunday evening when we would develop a war plan.  In the store a local rancher became very concerned with my problem, particularly the possibility that I might die from the sewer gas (yes, indeed, a real danger!) esp now that it’s cold and the windows are shut.  He had replumbed his own house, and he was just about to make up his mind he should come home with me.  It’s technically illegal for anyone but the owner/occupant of a house to do plumbing in it, so I escaped.

Back to YouTube and this time I asked it what to do with human excrement if your only toilet won’t work.  I gasped through accounts of what NOT to do, like what some low-rent characters have done in old apartment tenements.  Uneducated but associating poop with fixtures, they filled the toilet to the rim, then the sink, and finally the bathtub.  Then they fled in the night.  Sometimes this happens in cities under bombardment.  Aaauuuugh.

I discovered that thanks to hunters, there is a commercially available alternative.  So you go to your hunters’ supply store or online and buy a little kit that includes a bucket, a seat that fits onto it, and heavy-duty plastic bags with secure closures.  Hunters are required to pack out their poop from camps.  Here’s a deluxe version.  

This is quite easily improvised at home once you think of it.  The problem — like a lot of things — is THEN what do you do with your bag o’poop?  You cannot put it in the garbage.  In theory, it should be buried at least a foot deep away from human habitation.  I think in reality the answer is “don’t ask.”  

But I kept asking about the plumbing system.  Heating systems, esp. when something is burned to generate the heat, need chimneys that vent smoke and gases outside.  BUT they also need access to air in order to burn, so venting IN is an important as venting OUT.  Water systems are the same.  Because that “soil stack” or main cast iron 4” pipe does two things: carry in fresh air and vent out sewer gases, our attention goes to the stink rather than the need to take air in.  But if no air comes into the system, the water cannot leave.  

My shower drain was serving as the stink stack.  I decided that my main 4” pipe had sunk again, which means it forms a p-trap at the bottom where water accumulates and prevents air intake.  We put a rock under it the first time and a board under it the second time.  (I hire muscle.)  One can see the top of the stack where it’s outside the roof so can judge from that about the sinking.  It only takes an inch or so.  This means that the seal around the pipe is broken, but my shingles are so old they’re fragile as potato chips and putting weight on them makes them shatter and tear loose.  I just ignore the seal for now.
Back to YouTube.  Now I discover a nifty little thing called a “riser clamp.”  You clamp it around the vertical pipe just above the floor and it prevents the pipe from sinking.  Also, it gives you something to hang onto to lift the pipe from above the floor.  So I go to the hardware stores in Valier and Shelby to buy such a clamp.  They don’t have them.  So I go online and order one from the first supplier I come to.  A nice lady calls me back and says they can only be ordered in amounts of 500 at a time.  We agree to cancel.  Next I get an email with one of those pesky surveys with twenty questions about how I liked my riser clamp and whether the nice lady was nice enough.

In the meantime I’m still watching YouTubes.  An aggressive plumber comes on in one and practically shouts into the camera, “EVERY FIXTURE MUST HAVE A VENT.”  Every fixture with a drain must have a vent and every vent must have a p-trap, which is a little p-shaped bend in the pipe that holds water to keep sewer gas from rising through it.  Every vent must have a p-trap except the toilet, which is invariably the first fixture up the pipeline from the water. 

I ponder this.  I draw little diagrams.  Finally it dawns on me.  The REASON you don’t have to put in a p-trap for a toilet is because the p-trap is BUILT-IN, except they call it a siphon.  Now I cast suspicious eyes on the toilet.  Ever since the town put in a fourth well — and it was hard to find a place that would access underground water — the water has been harder, more full of minerals.  I get a little white crust on my faucets and the toilet bowl has become a big problem to clean.  I even tried the thing about leaving a cola in it overnight.  (Didn't work.)

So I thought, maybe crud is blocking the p-trap/vent INSIDE THE TOILET.  This would explain why the roto-rooter never found an obstacle.  I bought a $25 jug of CLR and for the next 48 hours I poured in a cup of the stuff, let it sit until the next time I needed to pee, then flushed and plunged heck out of it.  The shower drain went crazy.  But I kept it up until the jug was empty.  Eventually, the good old siphon action under the bowl came back, I renewed the shower drain by taking a shower, and now everything is back to normal.

I lit a candle for Saint Cloaca for smiling at me and keeping me working on the problem.  I called the real plumber, named Joe, and cancelled our war conference.  He’s a pretty nice guy with a good laugh, but I didn't tell him about Saint Cloaca.  

If you want your kid to have a secure future, send him or her to plumbing school.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


Ed Harris and Annette Bening

I’m signed up for the weekly mailings from Shawn Coyne who is a story theorist who has developed something called the Storygrid.  (  It’s very sensible and effective either for the reader who wants to reflect on stories or the writer who wants to turn out a good one.  which come as both sound files and a print transcript.  Here are some quotes from this week’s “talk.”

“Best bet genre for commercial success is the love story.”

“So the thing that moves us from being alone into relationships, with not only romantic partners but in general society at large, is love right? Love stories are so important to us because, I always say this, stories are metaphors that help us learn how to behave. So we got to stories and we attach the stories and we fall in love with stories because we use those stories in our own personal lives to form our own philosophies and behavioral modifications and tactics and all those things to learn how to behave in a proper way.”

“Okay, so the first part of romantic love concerns desire, that’s just physical attraction to another person, it’s a biological thing, you see somebody, you go, “Wow, really, A1, A plus person there. Really wanted me then.” That’s a physical thing, desire’s number one and then the second thing is commitment, right? So once you desire somebody and you start talking to them then if you grow attached to them, you want to make a commitment with them.”

“So you have desire and then you have commitment and then you have the deepest part of love, which is intimacy. Intimacy is the only part of love that is truly truthful.”

“Then ultimately the most truthful part of love concerns intimacy. Intimacy is that moment when you feel the other person understands who you are at bottom.” 

“Usually the obsession story, 99.99% of the time, ends in tragedy. The tragedy is in usually a death. The obsession goes to so far off the negation of the negation as Robert McKee says, it goes so off the rails that one of the lovers ends up dead.”

Robin Williams and Annette Bening

As it happens, my movie last night was “Face of Love,” (2013) full of ambiguity.  Films, unlike books, are group enterprises and even commissioned for specific actors.  I’d love to have been at the table when this script was being developed.  It seems transparently to have evolved from the desire to create a story that showcases three beloved and aging actors.

Robin Williams plays a neighbor, stoic and yearning.  Few lines, little action.  The actor was fated to die a year later of Lowy body disease, a kind of prion dementia.  Five movies he was in were released later than this one, but I suspect they were shot earlier.  There is no mugging, there are no jokes in this one.  This story is about Sex and Death.

The other four main characters are Annette Bening and Ed Harris, who become lovers.  Jess Weisler plays Bening’s daughter, Summer, and Amy Brenneman plays Ed’s former wife, Ann.  Summer is a typical self-centered millennial prone to over-reacting, and Ann is generously loving, non-judgmental.  Most of the reviewers of this film reacted as though they were Summer.  They hated it, found it improper, in violation of their idea of the universe.  They see fetishes and treachery.

I loved it.  The basic gizmo is simply that Bening’s husband was drowned, she was devastated, along comes Ed Harris again — this time as a different man — and she slips easily into the illusion that he is a reincarnation.    As you can imagine, this baffles the Second Ed, who is facing the short time he has left because of a bad heart.  Ironically, he’s the best-hearted person in the story.  (We never find out what the husband was really like.)  The real point is that loving is unreasonable, chancy, a kind of madness, and necessarily so because everyone must die.  But it can be so intense and renewing.

One reviewer was indignant over the elegant house and beautiful things, as though the characters didn’t deserve them.  The writers had pulled in a reference to Harris’ performance as Jackson Pollock.  He clearly loved the paintbrush all over again.  The point of the film was NOT to create some perfect bit of sentimental valentine, but rather to pack the tale with ironies.  Bening’s character is so full of love, but can’t see the man in front of her.  Harris’ character seems so tough but is so very vulnerable.  He depends on his former wife, goes back to her for energy and clarity.  She is willing and able — one wonders what died to cause their divorce?

But the point is just to soak up these familiar, lovely, heart-breakingly aging people who clearly are close friends in real life and put on roles as though they were flattering garments.  Bening still has a Valentine face but her neck is a little, well, “frilled” so there are often scarves wound around it.  Harris’ face is pleated by the sun, but that’s the way we like him.  Both are thin, almost frail; Williams is a little swollen by meds.

The end is ambiguous — both life and death mixed as artists address them— not quite consoling, symbolic.  Commercialized.  In fact, that’s the way the whole film is.  No amount of glamour could interfere with the bone hard reality of loss and they do “face” it — at least the men do.  

Swimming, the sea, drowning, holding one’s breath, floating — they weave in and out the way film writers use them: metaphorically.  In fact, so fluently and even conventionally that the script narrowly escapes being advertising.  Maybe that’s what the critics were reacting to.  They seem to think that some penalties were dodged, that it was all too pretty, that there was too much forgiveness for obsession, for not being SANE and TRUTHful.  They don't see the pain that's honestly portrayed.  Ironic in a hook-up culture: going home with people we just met in a bar, and demanding that movie relationships be pure!  

Behind every story is another story, a story of making, sometimes using art to hang onto an obsession.  Other times only creating a cherishment of people we’ve loved for a long time.  Why shouldn’t it be beautiful and expensive, an architectural gem, with panels of fine painting, romantic vacations in Mexico?  Love has many faces — some of them are skulls.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


The Mayor mentioned, with concern, that many children are transferring out of the Valier schools to surrounding communities.  This means a loss of funding to the school, a major inconvenience to families who leave the school bus system, additional cost for gas aside from winter hazards, and general confusion in new classrooms.  Valier schools have always been considered a safe haven, a place to get a decent, middle-class, college-prep education.  What could “drive” such a thing?  The word is that it’s the prevalence of bullying.

Someone who is able to observe the kids away from the school notes that the kids are responding to media stories without really knowing what “bullying” is.  They mostly see it as being mean, saying resentful or critical things to each other.  Their model is stories about “online bullying” in which someone identified as a “loser” is mocked and accused until they become so intimidated and depressed that they commit suicide.

But observant people also note that the teachers themselves use bullying to control the kids.  It seems to be an attempt to break the conviction on the part of the kids that they know better than any adult, particularly any adult in authority.  They automatically resist any authority from cops to babysitters.  I’m hearing from clinics that nurses bully teens to make them comply with things they don’t like.  The answer on the part of institutions is to raise the level of control and force, like call in the cops.  

This can lead to a runaway — demonstrations, people in jail, and the voter defiance and extremism we’re suffering from now.  Over the decades and even over centuries, these forces can develop the deep-seated inequities and their resulting distrust that is left — for example — from the Civil War, internal citizen migrations (esp. from the south to the north for WWII wartime jobs and the Dust Bowl emptying into the Pacific Coast), and education differences.  All those sons (mostly) intended by their parents to be professionals for the sake of the prestige and security of a better life, left for university and never came back.  The urban/rural split is ever widening as technology responds to population thickness.

Valier is part of true and deep paradigm shift that will change the world in the next decades.  It splits apart the generations, far more now that the young are connected with each other online and media that pander to them.  The evidence they see, the values they have, are often very different from those only a few years older.  

Today’s “Sightings,” which monitors news about religion, is noting that the conservative seminaries are arbitrarily pitching out students and faculty that show the youngster markers of different attitudes: toleration of homosexuality, indifference to racial differences, acceptance of abortion and sex outside of the marriage, and the like.  The kids don’t see these things as issues; the adults in charge see them as deadly sins. Emptying of the pews is also emptying of the seminaries. 

The last time I saw a cultural paradigm shift that so drastically separated the horizontal layers of generations was when the Baby Boomers themselves began to come of age.  Somehow, the major breakthroughs of their teens and twenties (the Sixties and Seventies) have been pushed back — or maybe never really got to the corners of the world anyway.  It seems as though the zillions of workshops and seminars we’ve all sat through have been forgotten.

But since that last culture shift everything has changed even more deeply.  Trump defenders are asking why women are objecting to the man’s behavior now instead of then.  I remember why — it was the norm.  Even in 1991 a principal in the school where I was teaching felt entitled to insist that the lower level employees, young women, go on noontime “drives” with him.  We women faculty talked about it but didn’t understand what to do.  They weren't teachers.  Fate intervened with a killer heart attack.  

In the Seventies at Multnomah County Animal Control a pretty blonde shelter worker was “invited” to accompany the then director to spend a weekend at the beach with him.  He could NOT understand why this was not a welcome suggestion.  He was handsome, wealthy, her boss — where was the problem?  For him, it was Civil Service, but she always got the worst jobs and shifts until he left.

Those who wanted a new world — like that pill that erased worry about unwanted pregnancy — didn’t understand that it would change everything, like allowing women to own their own bodies, and then genetic testing would change everything again. (We know who you are, Pop, and the state wants maintenance money!)  And then the stigma that had restrained some men for fear of pregnancy caused a shift to using unconsciousness drugs and rear entry with condoms so they still could be anonymous, just like their grandfathers had been when they claimed it wasn’t them.  Girls who had considered themselves Vampire Slayers did not understand that if you take a boy into your room, into your bed, and sleep next to him, the result will be sex no matter the protest. We’re not talking short skirts.

So it is that often we’ll get to the point of realizing we need a new system — not warehousing the mentally ill, not throwing everyone in jail, and not maintaining a Procrustian education system (esp. the part that educates teachers to be entry level low-skill people).  Sometimes we even got far enough to dismantle and disperse the old system.  But we NEVER get far enough to compose the new system, even though everyone had great ideas about what we need.

Strangely, the top would mandate the new way, the bottom would clamour for the new way, but it is the middle management — people whose security is wedded to the old ways — who prevent change.  Change scares them.  To them, their authority rests on order and order is just another word for habit.  Change meant the evaporation of authority, because how do they even know what to aim for?

This has affected churches, universities, businesses, small town management, the entire human institutional infrastructure of culture.  The last time around ended the Vietnam War, prompted the War on Poverty, and gave us hard core rock n’ roll plus the realization that the old white God of privilege was dead.  It formed the Gay community into one of the most spectacular and then, necessarily and tragically, one of the most compassionate alliances we’ve ever seen.  My dearest friend (at least he’s dear to me) comes from that last paradigm shift.  Today he works to protect abused boys caught in this one.

Now young people have the Internet, transportation, pair-bonding with the protection of the pill, access to far more friendly information about the Other, and a media that goes for sensation and accusation — which they believe more than they believe their parents.  Assuming that they have parents.  Even the stigmatized and the oppressed are getting little glimpses of what they are excluded from.  It lights their fuses, if they live long enough to explode — not necessarily in good ways.  These times of turnover and opposition are always both peril and renewal.  But they are not a new phenomenon.

Monday, October 17, 2016


I keep a little side-list of articles I want to revisit so I can think about them some more.  A few of them are so startling that I have to wait to settle down a bit.  The quotes below come from an article like that.   I hadn’t read “lithub” before.  I recommend reading the whole article, though it’s misleadingly focused on writer’s block and elves.  I suppose the author was distancing from taboos a bit, and so am I now.  

Here are some quotes to give you an idea.

Question: If you could pick a single writer to make an effective, compassionate statement about identity politics to a divided literary community, who would you pick? Would it be a schizophrenic, autistic person who’d authored an e-book called Space Raptor Butt Invasion?

In 2015, science fiction publications let black writers contribute less than two percent of all published stories. The exclusion extends to the fictional realm: a genre that routinely depicts mythical beings and wild alterations of the human form often inexplicably fails to depict nonwhite human beings.

In the past few years, a right-wing group of sci-fi fans called “the Sad Puppies” have formed to attempt to reinforce the dominance of white males in the genre. More recently, an extremist offshoot called “the Rabid Puppies” have amped up attempts to upset the anti-racist people they call “social justice warriors.” 

Chuck Tingle” is the nom de plume of a Billings, Montana, writer who produces a unique brand of self-published e-books. His stories—he calls them “Tinglers”—are eccentric gay porn packed with bizarre references to dinosaurs, unicorns, and outer space, along with copious uses of the term “buckaroos.” They range from the abstract (Gay T-Rex Law Firm Executive Boner) to the politically up-to-the-minute (Slammed In The Butt By Domald Tromp’s Attempt To Avoid Accusations Of Plagiarism By Removing All Facts Or Concrete Plans From His Republican National Convention Speech) to the exceptionally high-concept (Pounded in the Butt by My Own Butt/).

Whatever else he might be doing, Chuck Tingle clearly applies the seat of his pants to a chair each day and puts words on the page, unfettered by what other people might think.

Eight months ago, Chuck Tingle’s son did an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit. “To answer the first question that I always get, Yes, my father is very real,” Jon wrote. “He is an autistic savant, but also suffers from schizophrenia.”


I haven’t read any of Chuck Tingle’s books, not because I’m afraid of porn but because I’m afraid of Amazon.  And also I’m afraid of Billings, where the UU group is anti-ministerial and there are rattlesnakes in the bluffs.  In the past I have tried to imagine what was beyond Japanese “tentacle porn” which resulted from a prohibition on depicting penises.  Octopus tentacles became the metaphor, but then they became, well, tingly in their own right.

Getting it on with a triceratops pretty certainly tops grabby sea creatures.  That’s what’s beyond.  Once I did write a little sci-fi bit about Godzilla mating with King Kong and producing Bigfoot.  But it wasn’t very erotic.  And then there was the one about the Thunderbird fighting the Water Monster, but that was a takeoff in my Blackfeet legends version of Conan and it was more of a thriller.  Still, those mythic creatures are based on the bones of pterodactyls and plesiosaurs found on the high prairie.

When I returned to Portland in 1973, it was in the midst of a joyful outburst that was culturally released by dropping the fuss about genitalia and just being frank.  It was not some determination to be in the faces of Puritans, but a true joyfulness in the basics of bodies.  I particularly recall mugs with handles that were naked men and women, not shaved as in today’s asceticism, but hairy with strands made by pressing clay through a strainer.  It was boisterous, fantastic and great fun.  

In Old Town a whole building was given over to arts and crafts shops, some randy and some not.  I don’t quite know what happened to this building with so much inspired handcrafting and cooperative art.  I suppose the building itself wasn’t up to code — wretched infrastructure again.  Or maybe the politics went sour.  Or people moved on.  Or the homeless people overwhelmed the project.

So now comes this gleeful Chuck Tingle gently mocking the Romance genre with his book covers, which show the conventional six-pack chests only down to the waists — no butts, just the pretty young men (authors?) that old gays like.  Also mocking the whole puffed-up importance of old-school publishing and their bourgeois regard for pretty bound books with prestigious titles.  The stories are a send-up of powerful old whitemen on the way to extinction, clinging to their Viagra prescriptions.  (Googling did not reveal whether dinos had dicks.  It’s doubtful.)

Hugo Trophy

So in the end (sorry — puns creep in) I had to start the free trial of Kindle Unlimited and read one of these butt books.  It was the one about the Sci-Fi Awards, the Hugo, which are quite phallic.  They’re supposed to be rocket ships, but you know what rocket ships and their launching mean metaphorically.  It looks a bit long and sharp to be comfortable, nothing like the soft plastic technicolor little motorized gizmos one sees in advertising.  I’ve learned to google most “erotic” helpers so discovered that a “tingle” is a modest insertable stimulator as well as separately meaning things like lotions with ingredients that make the skin tingle.  The word is used a lot for various named products.

The thing about butt-play, thinking about it from a tiresomely philosophical angle, is that it comes from behind like a predator; is the “animal” way, “doggie style”, slightly dirty; and cannot make a baby (puppy).  Boys in the classroom are not embarrassed to imitate it or to use it aggressively, sort of same-sex herking or jerking or whatever that suggestive dancing is called.  But it is sometimes demeaning and even deadly, as cop-related incidents demonstrate.  Film scripts seem to prefer it.

I downloaded “Helicopter Man Pounds Dinosaur Billionaire Ass” which mixes corporate technology with sexual predation, with sci focus on nano-bloodstream helicopters and transformation.  It’s Jonathan Swift territory with an Oscar Wilde attitude.  To have such a writer show up in Billings, Montana, tells you quite a lot.  The comments from readers are obsessed with finding out about the author.  So far as I know, no one has identified him as belonging to what is supposed to be the elite and profitable “Montana writer” category, but then those who decide on such things still haven’t caught up with “Montana Gothic” or even “Steam Punk.”

In Billings race obsessions are more about Native Americans than African Americans.  Asian-Americans are another undefined category.  But Billings is tied to Colorado and its resource corporations recovering the Cretaceous era deposits popularly thought of as involving dinosaurs — as the Sinclair logo shows.  The interesting aspect of their mascot is that it’s phallic at both ends.  It would be a mistake to turn your back on one.