Sunday, May 19, 2019

A TERRIBLE NO GOOD DANGEROUS DAY

"I'm feeling scattered, overwhelmed, like there's something important I'm forgetting today, that I'm going to mess up my life by forgetting to…" https://www.instagram.com/p/BxnCum-nIx_/?igshid=vzqlgeze21xc 

Quoting Art Durkhee (artist, poet, musician, survivor) here, though he's describing a state of mind and in my case it's reality because of these factors:

There's an inch of new snow on the ground this morning with more forecast, even though we're only a week away from the beginning of tourist season.

One of the kittens named "Ditto" (two are named Ditto because I can't tell them apart and anyway they are hardly kittens anymore) is sick with the same cat plague that killed the other four kittens and one mother, but it refuses to die.  Instead, this tough Ditto is marking the whole house with the scum from her butt.  The even tougher Ditto is not sick.  The big wash I did to clean up past cat messes stuck to fleeces and bedding is all dirty again. 

The plumber tracked caustic mud up from his wrestling match with my waste line for the kitchen sink.  I can hardly blame him since he did a good job.  Luckily, the back door, the kitchen sink, and the hatch to the underfloor are close to each other.

It's too cold for my summer comforter and too warm to put the winter comforter back on, so I'm never quite sleeping at a comfortable temperature.  Dreams are scary.  I'm reading that sleep is vital, but there are more than those REM, etc. stages.  Some researchers claim twelve kinds of sleep.  When I "wake", it takes a few minutes to figure out that I'm not dreaming.  I can tell because the four cats left are standing on my stomach, meowing.  Which is why I woke up.

The volunteer poplar trees around my house still have no leaves and it's possible that the winter's profound cold and the summer's persistent drought have killed them all.  It costs hundreds of dollars to take them down.  They're on the north side, so they didn't shade my house, but they added grace and delight and protected me from real estate websites.

The attempt to do fall house-cleaning was interrupted by the months of winter storm.  The attempt to do spring house-cleaning is likewise interrupted by the summer storm, but more daunting because all the rugs are outside under the snow. I didn't see this coming.

The national political news is worse and worse.  Some say that Trump's brain degeneration is going fast enough to take him down one of these days.  Someone else pointed out that he's only a prop anyway and Reagan was protected from public knowledge by those dependent on him even after he was incapable of dressing himself.  I wonder about my own brain degeneration.  There's no one to cover for me.  Taking so much OTC pain med for my shoulder meant having to line edit all writing repeatedly.

Now BOTH political parties are stymied: the Repubs because they need the money and secrecy and the Dems because they're afraid of force.  Somehow a third party doesn't form to begin making changes.  I think it's because there are half-a-dozen good organizing principles but they compete.

I believe everything Umair Haque and others propose about the collapse of the English speaking world -- I mean, there it IS -- but I've been believing this since birth in terms of WWII. (Born in 1945.)  I never really believed we won the war, only that it snuck back around through Korea, barely disguised, and here it is again.  Kids are fascinated by the German atrocities, the power of it all.  They love making adults freak.  The reality would terrify them.  Umair lets Canada and New Zealand off the hook, but he's wrong to do it.  He hasn't been following Alberta, for instance, which is really Texas North.   

During my brief decade of optimism, I was a Unitarian Universalist, but they proved me wrong.  Innocently, of course.  There's safety in being small and powerless -- ambiguity disguised as accepting differences.  They go along pretending to be beyond reproach, made of love, but are fascinated by promoters and other bigger authorities on marketing. It's "predatory capitalism", of course.  Learning how to drive up the membership and the pledging so the top can have bigger salaries.  

But this is wrong, too, or at least not enough, because Umair -- seeing that the problem is trans-national -- pins it to "English-speaking."  In fact, nations and cultures and languages are irrelevant now.  This is a global problem that erases our ideas about organizing, while still endorsing and urging them, because it is all about global money and control.  The more we insist on closing the Mexican border and cyber-filtering the Canadian border, the more obvious it is that air, garbage, the internet, satellites, and drugs are like the Holy Spirit -- they go where they want to.  You can't close the beaches to plastic.  You can't stamp out convictions about convenient lies.

There's nothing I can do about my disintegrating household except start at one end with my scrub bucket and spray cans, picking out one little pool of vomit to clean, then a whole swath of mud, then dishes I can wash now since the plumber rebuilt the drain.  ($800)  I keep kosher -- my dishes separate from cat dishes.  Even so, I think I'm affected by cat plague in some subtle way.    But maybe it's just a state of mind and I ought to dump Twitter.  I'll think about it while I scrub.  For now, I'll turn up the radio on classical music or maybe opera to drown out pounding and chain saws in closeby households.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

"THE PRAIRIE M AWARD FOR INDIGENOUS WRITING" (phony)

There are not enough (if any, to my knowledge) awards for writing by indigenous North American authors about indigenous North American characters, so I think I'll just invent one.  At least I can frame the desiderata for such an award.  It would be a start.

This pretend award is for fiction, but the reason it is fiction may be discussed in the manuscript. Being both poetry and fiction is acceptable.

How do we know the author is truly indigenous?  THIS WOULD BE AN EXCELLENT THEME FOR THE MANUSCRIPT. It's a matter of great importance even to people who claim to be indigenous but qualify mostly by claiming to "know" arcane stuff they got from pop anthropology.  The current legal requirements for BQ -- which vary by tribe -- are based on PROVENANCE, descent from people considered authentically indigenous at the time of contact.  

This is a matter of genomics rather than DNA.  If there were truly markers in DNA code for who or didn't inherit them, the markers would not match the genealogy because DNA's function is to vary the genome. One set of descendants with the same parents might not all have the right code set.  It would not be inherited by everyone.  Genetic DNA does not match with genealogies.  It is a great hoax that both words begin with "gen" for "gens" which means people, which suggests that the words are interchangeable when they are not.  

Genealogy is family.  Genomics is about molecules in the nuclei of cells.  Blood cells have no nuclei.  If blood quantum were about blood as a fact instead of a metaphor, it would be empty of evidence of relationship.  The word "blood"is so compelling that it overcomes inaccuracy with emotion. 

____________________________________________________

THE ARBITRARY RULES FOR THE CONTEST

This imaginary award I'm proposing for writing is going to be based on a point system.  The importance of each fraction will be expressed in percentages.

*Thirty per cent will be based on the subject of who is or is not indigenous and what difference it makes.  More points will be awarded for a story about people who are tribally enrolled and live on a reservation identified with them.  At least one character must be authentically indigenous, not necessarily proven by authorities.

Points can be awarded for fractionated inheritances and residence off the rez, maybe even out of the country, so long as it is meaningful in the story.

No points will be awarded for gender affiliation, whether cis or trans or mixed or imaginary.  These matters have impact, but the impacts will be considered rather than the status.  I mean, what is the consequence of the stigma, not the cause.

No points will be awarded for level of education achieved by the author or by characters in the story.  In fact, the narrator or characters need not be human so long as it can be argued that they are locally indigenous.

If groups such as classes, wished to write an entry together, that would be welcome.

No points will be awarded for social standing, whether stigmatized or elevated, chief or slave, historical or contemporary.  No points will be awarded for misery of the characters.  It can BE there, but must be explained as to why it's misery, not just assumed as "life".

No point will be awarded for reviews of the submission by white people or in prestigious publications by white people.  Points will be awarded for those considered by indigenous publishing houses or media.  

*Double points will be given for using the native (natural, tribal) language of the characters.  Triple points if the meanings of the words can be understood by context rather than in a glossary.

*One tenth of the points will be for how well the plot and moments of the story are demonstrations of the point of the whole.  That is, if a wolverine is in the character's experience, the writer must convince us of what a wolverine is really like.  Then a characteristic of a wolverine -- fierceness, tenacity, persistence -- must count as a factor in the story.  But if a character's fatal flaw were rage like a wolverine's, that would be relevant.

High points if we are surprised but still believe in what we are told happens.

Length is an open question.  Long enough to do the job.  Not omitting something that ought to be there, even if it makes the story long.

Maps are fine.  All natural science is welcome.  Myth is okay, but be careful about slipping them from one tribe to another and so on.

Politics are fine at any level: church, council, graduating class, county, state, cosmic.  Practical plans are fine, but are transcendent goals and beliefs.  No need to be upbeat.  

Watch out for the supernatural.  It better not be just a cop-out.  But time jumping is okay if there's a point to it.

**Points may be added or subtracted by judges except for the ones with stars.
_________________________________________________

This blog post is what they call "spit-balling."  Just fantasy.  There is no real competition.  But a tribal college could create one, right?

Feel free to suggest changes or organize your own awards.  The field is wide open.

Friday, May 17, 2019

GETTIN' OLD

In the past I've tried to plan for old age and had the advantage of ten years watching people age in congregations where they didn't know I was watching them.  The years were 1978 to 1988.  I went to seminary at age 40 mostly on the denomination's dime, and rode circuit in Montana from 1982 to 1985 on money from a little pot the Universalists had hidden at merger because didn't want it to be spent on another big urban church.  The congregations in question were "fellowships", an invention meant to support groups with no minister at all.  The first prob I had was convincing them that they should have a minister.  As one man said, "I can listen to better speeches on YouTube for free."  These were progressives who HAD YouTube or the equivalent in early days.

One of the arguments was support for those with health needs, though the only training we got in seminary was Clinical Pastoral Education and a bit of ethics about suicide.  The first thing I learned from actual aging people was that no two were the same.  The second thing was that there was usually no steady decline, but rather a crisis, a struggle, and then a resolution that allowed things to go back to near normal.  In fact, everyone pretended it WAS normal.

The next thing I learned was that UU's are secretive about illness.  Even my own mother resisted the idea of her Presbyterian minister knowing anything about her illness, though she was reassured to have visits and prayers when my father died.  I outwitted her once near her end when I asked for the hospital chaplain and that brisk older woman made a real connection.

My mother's main worry in the last years was that she would die on a sidewalk and her skirt would fly up.  She forgot that at her age she mostly wore slacks.

I was constantly in a bind between people dying secretly (they thought) and their friends and do-gooders insisting that I go visit them and second-guess their treatment.  There was a latent hope that I would know something that would "save" them.  Sometimes connections help -- a big part of a minister's role is connections among clergy and with other kinds of professionals.  (When we HAD real professionals.)  Bob Scriver was saved from blindness by a connection through a PhD researcher/customer connection.  I felt I had to keep up on medical advances.

Sometimes the difficulty was the morality of suicide.  Old highly educated people, who have been married for a long time and have no children, feel that when their work is done, they can simply leave.  They have no illusions about death -- in fact, find it useful.  Usually no one had any idea until the bodies were found.  There might be instructions about the house, like when batteries ran out and where to shut off the water.  They were able to make sophisticated references to historical and literary thought about suicide.  These were a kind of window to what they were thinking.

In the beginning things like AIDS or fatal car crashes were so abrupt that the real task was stabilizing the grieving people.  If the dead were known and loved, efforts might blur or sharpen, depending on one's character and experience.  One's own experience with aging can be research or can be denied.  Or both.  At least most of us were too sophisticated and anti-materialistic to try send people to Disneyland before they died.

Aging is squarely in the middle of the tension between the individual and the community.  I made the choice to be solitary in 1999 but live in a village where the community is always monitoring.  A high proportion is old and many are rock-bottom poor.  Sometimes there is family that helps and just as often there is family that sucks out the last of the prosperity -- not just money but taking up space, creating chaos, playing emotional games.  Earlier restraints slip away, frustration and rage mount up.

At first people looked at a map and saw Glacier Park and (ding, ding, ding) a free hotel.  One visit cured them.  I'm an hour from the Park entrance and this little old house has a leaky shack for a guest bedroom (did then -- now the cots are hidden under storage) which is not free from mosquitoes.  There's no dishwasher, clothes washer, dryer, or enough towels.  The kitchen sink doesn't drain.

But that's what I mean about crises that resolve.  The drain line from the sink to the sewer tie-in had been invented by an amateur in the first place, patched on the cheap several times since (a lot of stove pipe wire and duct tape), took a half-hour to drain dishwater.  One of the advantages of old age is having established a good credit record.  The plumber -- this time a "real" one with two years of trade school -- spent a half-day under the floor.  He used PVC instead of metal.  

Tuxie visited her natal totally dark birth den briefly, and came up with strange things stuck to her whiskers, but shrugged at the non-attraction.  The half-grown kittens, Ditto and Ditto (I can't tell them apart), sat side-by-side and gazed in amazement at the tall plumber.  He gazed back, calmly.  

One of my jobs as an animal control officer was to take into protective custody the pets of people who had died alone at home.  The first time I did it, the dead person was an old man who had fixed breakfast, had a heart attack, and died with his face in the scrambled eggs.  I thought I was calm until I almost passed out.  The supervising police officer was sympathetic but amused.  I put the two old fat dogs in the truck where they, feeling safe and relieved, emptied their bladders which were remarkably big.  I should have walked them around a bit.

I'll be eighty this fall.  I do not look eighty because I never smoked and wasn't out in the sun much -- in the years that I was, it rained all the time --so there are few wrinkles.  I've lost 3 inches in height.  The main prob is diabetes and forgetting to take my pills.  Also, regarding the possibility of
having to pay $1,000 per dose for insulin when a two hour drive to Canada would mean $8 for the same dose. 

This shoulder dislocated on Ground Hog's Day persists in terms of pain and limited use, inability to lift weight or steer properly, plus hints that nerves and veins are affected.  Along with that is the consequences of painkillers -- just aspirin, Advil, Tylenol, etc. but in high doses.  They healed an inflamed spot on one leg that docs weren't interested in.  Few things are all bad, everything will pass, even death.


Now I'm going to go wash dishes and take great pleasure in watching the water go smoothly down the drain.

SITTING TOGETHER TO WORK AND EAT

Probably some of the happiest days of my life were sitting at a battered old table in Scriver Studio, turning the ears of tanned trophy animal capes inside out.  (Capes are what they call the skins of the head and neck that will become something to hang on the wall.)  When Bob Scriver started his taxidermy business in the Fifties, the Al-Can (Alaska/Canada) highway was complete, but still largely gravel as it had been built during WWII.  While the taxidermy business developed, the road was gradually paved.  Hunters were quick to venture north on adventure trips and when they came back, the Scriver Studio was the first (and best) taxidermy shop in the US.  

Most of the few employees were rez folks but for a few years in there, I was a white woman among them.  On certain days we sat around a worktable with a pleasantly warm light, each of us working on a cape with a little sharp knife, turning ears inside out so we could replace the natural cartilage with a duplicate plastic version.  The skins were tanned, clean and rinsed of the mild acid bath that had tanned them for the past few months.  There was no stink or blood, but they were slippery.  I vividly remember the feel of them.

Sullivan Hameline was Cree, a big older man with a belly.  If he were asked to "hold the fort" when Bob and I left on an errand, he loved to stand at the Dutch door to the front with the top open, leaning on the closed bottom, teasing the customers.  "Are we on an Indian reservation?" they asked.

"Oh, yeah."

"Could we see some Indians?"  They never realized they were talking to one.  He wasn't scary, just a big cheerful guy.  He had two bad habits.  One was putting bandaids on the tiniest scratch until he was using up a box every few days.  The other was using the electric knife sharpener so often that the blade of his knife was soon worn down to a sliver.  

He could tell hair-raising stories about winters that were so tough that the poor people on Moccasin Flats in one-room cabins ran out of fuel and pulled up their floors to burn -- maybe even burned the doors, hanging blankets instead.  While he was working with us, one of his children died in a household accident.  I don't remember what happened exactly, but we gave him some money and went to the funeral.

Carl Cree Medicine was our other steady employee, smart and reliable unless he drank.  Then he was scary.  In spite of his name, he was Blackfeet.  "Cree Medicine" is the same as Louise Erdrich's "Love Medicine."  Cree is to Blackfeet as French is to English.  Was then.  Some of his relatives with the same name have become well known.  His son, David, at that time almost a toddler, became Bob's best-ever foreman.  He was valued enough that when Bob died, his widow gave David the house next door to the museum. 

By that time Carl had become the head of the street people's shelter where the cigarette smoke hung from ceiling to knee height and the coffee was always on.  Bob had given him certificates of achievement while working at the Scriver Studio, and Carl had framed them to hang by his desk.  Then he began to create small sculptures, though the circumstances and machinery of promotion were not quite powerful enough to make him famous. 

Bob's management skills came from being a music teacher and he was strict.  I was treated just like the guys except that I went for lunch with Bob and he picked up the check.  I sat at the counter in the little diner eating the best roast beef sandwiches ever made ("Crabby Jack" Higgins slow-roasted the meat overnight.  I've never been able to duplicate the tender richness.)  Usually I was the only woman except for a waitress.  It was a steamy warm place full of laughter and rough jokes.  

I've always  thought it was an innocent time with all sexism, racism, competition pushed away by sharing the work.  But maybe I was blind and not so much innocent as simply dumb.  Maybe Carl and Sullivan were seething with resentment and suppression.  Years later I got like that, but just then I loved being "one of the guys."

Was it feminism for me to be there?  To be working at Scriver Studio?  I asked the question to myself because of a question asked by Umair Haque, who is allergic to sunlight and looks a bit vampirish anyway, all dressed in black, except for his closest companion: a little white fluffy dog of enormous innocence.    https://eand.co/why-do-enough-american-women-still-support-patriarchy-53767f2d7a4

Umair  Haque and his guard dog.

Umair finds this new appetite for punishing women by banning abortion to be demonic.  He is trying to understand where it comes from.  "Why is it that even on the Democratic side, mediocre men with no agendas or ideas save yesteryear’s failed ones are polling at twice, thrice, quintuple the numbers the women — who are the radical, daring, transformative leaders — are? None of that could be happening if American women — enough of them, this time on the Democratic side — didn’t buy into patriarchy, too."

His first conclusion is that we all live in danger of annihilation, and this is used by males (bosses) to emphasize that women need protection and to suggest that only they can provide it.  They say, "If you submit to our power structures, our rules, our ideas, then, yes, you will be subordinate to us — white men. But you will be above everyone else. You’ll be above everyone else: minorities, gays, immigrants, refugees."  All the people Trump fears and demonizes.  Ironically, what men offer women is protection from violence that they say can only be countered by their own violence.  (But there is no evidence that Trump has ever shown violence or force in the masculine mode.  He doesn't even seem to own guns.)

This view endorses women's right to be "fighting for the right to behave like elite white men. It’s the right to be violent, angry, vengeful, ignorant, greedy, self-interested, and vain. It’s Instagram feminism — all butts and boobs and bank accounts."  Sometimes women of color swallow this bait and preen in selfies that are defiant advertising for being secondary to powerful men.

The positive role model Umair chooses is Elizabeth Warren.  She needs no descriptive words.  See for yourself.  She is far from the old granny governor who was put in office by men.  I guess she's a feminist, meaning a competent woman.


Things change.  Umair and the feminists have still not figured out that sex is not binary.  There are more than two choices of gender and more than two kinds of females.  And there are many kinds of power, far more ways to protect from annihilation than we are using.  

Thursday, May 16, 2019

THE SECOND GLOBAL ECONOMY

"There is an entire, second global economy - built on vice.
It was imagined in 1918 and first constructed in 1920 - only to solidify by 1934, and grow.
It is not taxed. 
The mob doesn't spend money to make money. They steal and extort. 
They don't invest. They launder."
(Lincoln's Bible on Twitter) 

I've been following "Lincoln's Bible's" tweets on Twitter for a long time and I find him persuasive, in fact, his is the only explanation that really makes sense to me -- except that it doesn't.  I have these questions:

What IS vice?  Is it what a conforming society with stigmas says it is?  Or is it criminal?  When a crime becomes accepted -- let's say sex without marriage -- is it no longer a vice?  No one is prosecuted for it, though people are bribed not to talk about it.  Whether or not it is stigmatized depends on what your sub-culture is.  We used to say that clergy would not do such a thing, but we know they do and always have, in spite of being living examples of how to live not just legally but also morally.  Is the line not to cross then forced sex with children?  But it is only a "crime" instead of a privilege hidden by secrecy when someone is motivated to oppose and charge it as crime.  Some will even argue against stigmatizing it  -- maybe the force part. It  mostly goes unprosecuted.

This "second global economy" is built around illegal acts, power and secrecy.  Extortion, blackmail, protection rackets, gambling, and so on.  The people who participate are motivated by money but they don't live that differently from the rest of us -- no palaces with privileged plumbing, high end cars driven on our same potholed streets, the same movies, etc.  Their elevated power is demonstrated by money, which some entities spend a lot of time trying to measure.

What IS money?  It's just bookkeeping.  It's cumulative markers.  If it were real, it could not be "laundered".  Even if the bookkeeping disguises it as profits from flipping high end properties, it can be "dirtied" again.  The whole point of a permanent record is that it never goes away and so it can always be traced back, especially now that transactions are by computer.  Why is bookkeeping so important?  Why does money have to be "hidden" in little niches?  This is why they never "invest", except that they DO.  Except only in their own hidden economy to avoid taxes.  

It's in the crossover between two economies, one secret and one at least semi-public and recorded, which is necessary for laundering, that makes the process problematic.  If laundering is done by buying property, all the primary law enforcing economy has to do is seize the property.

But "seize" implies more than bookkeeping.  It involves force and that implies violence.  So when laundering goes wrong, it becomes violent.  People get killed.  This used to be more straightforward.  In 1918, just after war, there were weapons and explosives.  Now those make a lot of trouble, so in some places the preference is for poison, which can look like something else hard to investigate, or maybe suicide.  Open windows on high-numbered stories.

In countries where despots rule finally leaves enforcement for the sake of money, power becomes something flesh-based: torture.  No need for guns when ropes and racks will do.  I won't describe what Syria does to thousands for no immediate reason except to intimidate the country.  We do it ourselves whenever we have a chance to round up and confine people.  Temperature and exposure and rape and starvation.

Shortage of money.  Prevention from the means of getting money for basic life.  That does a good job of intimidating society.  Take the control of women's bodies into the hands (sometimes literally) of men and then take the children to be raised en masse.  Relegate the media to people who make movies and run TV channels that make vice seem normal, or at least far more interesting than ordinary life.  None of this is Mafia.  it's the primary government we elect.

The next jump after 1918 is 1934, the year after Prohibition was repealed.  1929 -1939 was the decade of the Great Depression.  These two government enacted disasters were two great examples of the failure of the Rule of Law.  In the first instance, it was the impossibility of legislating what people actually want, even if the effect is destruction -- as is true of alcohol and drugs.  In the second case, it was proof that the stockmarket is simply gambling, disguised as bingo.  It is this lottery stockmarket and the baloney belief that ordinary people can get rich by betting on it that makes them want Trump.  They have the idea that he knows how to exploit it and that he is making the "value" of their shares go up.

When it recently become obvious that he does NOT, that he is NOT rich, that even though he is mafia he cannot maintain a personal fortune because he exists through the toleration of people who have no limits except loyalty to each other -- not him.  Then the bingo card markers say, "Well, Trump must be talented to have lost so much money.  I hope I have that much money to lose someday."  (An idea that makes no sense.)  He says he can shoot someone in plain sight on 5th Avenue and get away with it.  Evidently it doesn't occur to anyone that HE could be shot in plain sight on 5th Avenue.  He is quite nervous about poison in food, which is said to be his reason for preferring generic fast food.

But Trump is trivial.  To the Secondary Mafia Network, he is expendable, a flat tin shooting gallery version for people with pellet guns at the country fair.  He's not healthy, his clothes are not elegant, his marriages are not faithful, he's too vain to keep from looking ridiculous with his clownish version of hair.  His eyes become more reptilian and his mouth looks more fish-puckered every day.  His mind is going.  He hates living in the White House.  He can't keep his wives happy or his children controlled.  Some people think he wants to impeached and they may be right.  That's one way to leave Mafia control without being a traitor.


He himself must do what he's told.  When he leaves office, he cannot be laundered.  Nor can he launder for others.  There will be no use for him and no place for him.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

SATELLITE CAT

This was like "refrigerator day" when you eat all the leftovers or maybe it's like a jumble sale when you sell all the leftover stuff.  It started for me at 2:15 AM when I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep.  So -- why worry?  Use the time!  The cats had the same thought and after scarfing down some food, ran wild around the house.  Why go outside?  It's dark out there.

By 6AM I'd used up all my ideas and the cats were back asleep.  I followed suit, only to be wakened by shouted obscenities.  Went to the window just in time to see a well-built young man leap over my neighbor's fence across the alley.  More shouting next door.  Storming back and forth.

But I did go back to sleep for a while.  Woke again to sheriff and deputies in the alley.  Now they're talking.  Glints of the pouring bright sun off handcuffs.  Behind backs.  Much talk.  Much walking from one house to another.  Hours.  

Unassignable blame.  Two disorderly conduct tickets.  The two belligerents, who had seemed so big and tough, were feet shorter than the sheriff and deputies.  At least a hundred pounds lighter.  I couldn't tell them apart: jeans, t-shirts and ball caps.  Examples of the American problem: young men, unhinged, idle, enraged.

It was all about the usual noise, which I ignore as much as I can.  Pounding music.

So I decide it's time to go talk to my neighbor.  We haven't talked for a long time.  One woman, problematic, has left.  The new one is from Oregon, named "Summer Rain."  I quite like her.  Dave, the main man, is aging, just like me.  We're about the same age.  He's raising mushrooms and has some extra at the moment.  

He also loves fishing and brought home a nice big specimen to his "man cave".  Filleted it, went to the home trailer for a moment, came back to find an empty plate and a big fat cat.  It was the Mooch, the satellite tomcat who is probably the father of the last litter of five kittens.  They have been dying, one by one, plus their mother.  Two are left of each, babies and moms.  They seem to starve and have trouble breathing, until one morning they're stiff and cold with gaping mouths.

Then there's the news, which doesn't bear repeating.  Maddow helps.  But another conversation with a formerly respected person reveals another fan for Trump.  I don't get it.  I don't get a lot of what goes on, even though I'm no mushroom.  Maybe I'm a bit of a satellite cat.

The sheriff came over to touch base -- we had never met.  He remembered about my shoulder, which is still why I wake up at 2AM.  He hates weeds, he tells me.  Uh Oh.  My grass is tall . . .  His current problem is that everyone has a gripe and everyone wants it fixed, but no one will go to court and involve a judge or jury.  They won't accept subpoenas, are horrified by the idea of contempt of court -- except for the other guy.  What I know from my "rule of law" days is that pretty soon one can't help resenting the complainants.  Not the belligerents.

Tonight the Governor of Montana is supposed to be interviewed by Maddow, but the show is not "on" yet.  I watch a replay -- it has been seen on the East Coast already.  Every time we come to one of these delays, I fear it's because there's been foul play.  It's not an unjustified fear in a country where school shootings are so common. 


We've all gone nuts.  Not a hard case to make.  The Mooch is grinning, fat with fish.  His days may be numbered.

SPHERES OF READING

Demographic spheres are critical when publishing books in any form, indeed, when moving manuscripts between the forms.  But even as delineated a group as "educated white women" can be re-sorted according to where they get their books.  Do they patronize the library or bookstores or used book sources online?  Do they read what their friends read or go by the best seller and prize lists?  Do they read paper or cyberscreens?  Last thing at night or on the bus to work?  Or via audible books in the car while driving?  The answers point out the differences.

Mostly they read novels, I guess, which means they are "living" alternative lives, often historical or class based, either high or low.  The notorious misery lit when I was young was almost always funny.  Does anyone remember "Mrs. Wiggs in the Cabbage Patch?"  The Cabbage Patch was an English place like Moccasin Flats.  If these women who read sociology fiction were to dip into their own children's books these days, they would be liable to be shocked: insanity, non-conforming sexuality, surviving war, race stigma.  Themes may be edgier than their own adult books.

Some spheres are claimed, "owned," by minorities who forbid anyone else to use that context for writing.  There is a schlock "Indian" category of an imaginary land which tries to legitimate paperback sex and violence in the name of power.  It's popular both in and out of indigenous groups.  There is a group that tries to say that DNA means special access to a particular view of the natural world -- "super"natural.  There are not many in the indigenous reading group who have become successful doctors, lawyers, and small business owners.  They can afford books but they are too busy to read.  

The most rarefied category of "Indian" reading is occupied by books written by those who are white but know indigenous people on the rez and write about them.  These often succeed with the award makers and popularity polls as well.  "Ramona," "Stay Away, Joe", "When the Legends Die," "Laughing Boy," "Billy Jack."  "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," "The Education of Little Tree," "The Indian in the Cupboard," "The Light in the Forest."  They range from romantic to slapstick.  As a category, they are never acknowledged.  I am sometimes in that category:  "12 Blackfeet Stories," "Heartbreak Butte," many contemporary short stories.

As these "types" go on through time, they change and their edges become more ragged, less like the central category type.  This gives rise to wars about who is "real" and how to tell.  Some people take it upon themselves to judge what is "in" and what is "out" and often demand drastic punishment for those who don't fit their ideas, raging and raging as a way of claiming their own identity.  But they are rarely readers.  They just hear about books.

The Unitarian Universalist sphere is one gingerly explored by those who want books that help them reflect on free-thinking without becoming secular.  Or maybe so they can identify with one of the "recovering" peoples like "recovering Catholics" or even bigger "recovering Christians", though they often set about forming UU groups that are like what they wanted to lose, what attracted them to the context they are leaving, cussing and loving the lost at once.

"Indians" and UU's both commit to secrecy about shortfalls and tragedies in order to protect the status of the group.  They don't want you to know when they don't succeed because they want failure to seem impossible in spite of racism.  They don't want you to know they are not an elite after all.

Writers can be intrigued by a context from which they are necessarily excluded by their very nature.  For instance writing about the "Other," maybe in sexual terms.  I find sex/gender/roles endlessly intriguing because it is all so very basic and yet is so drastically morphing, changing the taboos and even the laws practically overnight.  Strangely, major fights are about things like plumbing: peeing as him, her or who-knows?  Which comes down to privacy, the ability of persons to defend their own boundaries.  This can be about eating, too, so that some people prefer to eat in their cars and few will sit at long tables with benches for everyone hip-to-hip.  Separate tables, please.

So books can be about this sort of categorizing even without considering the subject matter.  We read separately, maybe privately in bed, and experience the words on unique terms.  Reading, screwing, peeing, eating -- one leaves the primitive indiscriminate mass by using privacy, right?

So what do the sexwork people read?  It's something to do in bed.  I doubt they read porn.  They get enough of that and think they know better anyway.  Probably do.  I expect the young ones like adventure, the same as all young ones.  And the older ones are often pretty sophisticated, esp. since grad school was once partly a sublimation for being queer.  

The hardest part about setting up these categories is that they are soon old-fashioned and tell us very little.  In fact, when I go back over this piece, I see that I keep drifting from "spheres of reading" to "spheres of writing."  I think about writing all the time and don't read much at all.  Locals and people who knew me in the past assume I read "voraciously", but I don't.  When I do, it's often printed out from the computer so I can mark it up, put it in binders, save it for reference.  I'm really looking for ideas, new angles on the structure of the world.


Most books now are repetitious, over-marketed, and clumsily written.  But there is a new category that absorbs many people, which is political history tracing.  Not promoting the issues, because those pretty much stay the same, but long threads of how we got into this trap and how to get out.  (Less so.)  I follow Rachel Maddow every single show, not so much because of her final opinions as that she explains every step and then checks her conclusions with her guests.  I hate haranguing, even if it's in print which is one way to avoid the kind of hate-mongering Warren rightly rejects.  Much of my reading is on Twitter which is another way to chase one's own tail, but there are some people who use the "thread" feature in enlightening ways.  This is where the guys are.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

WHAT GOOD IS BEING THE VALEDICTORIAN?

We are constantly trying to understand the value of what we do and who we are.  In pursuit of this we create categories and prizes, symbols of the reality to make it easier to think about them.  One of these symbols is the idea of the "valedictorian", the best student in a class.  But we don't think about what the reality really is -- IS the "best"student the one with the highest grades?  What is the reality that grades stand for?

My seminary had very small classes, partly because the bulk of the courses were taken at the University of Chicago Div School where the students were graded alongside Ph.D. candidates who would become professors, rather a different kind of person who makes a good minister.  But what IS a good minister?  A flashy preacher?  A church builder?  A voice of love in a time of despair?  Emil Gudmundson was asked to find all the members of his graduating class when they were retirement age.  He never told me who the valedictorian was, but the idea (rather covert) was also to find out how they had fared in the world.

Afterwards he marveled at a classmate who had made no waves in the larger world.  He had not progressed up the pyramid from small church to large church.  He wasn't even serving a very important church in a city.  Rather, for many decades, he had served a stable congregation, without fancy workshops, just doing the basics: hatching, matching, dispatching -- as well as a bit of low-key afflicting of the comfortable.  He didn't write books or raise scads of money -- he just maintained a certain level of being that appreciated everyone and accommodated variation.

David Brooks has an article in the NYTimes that I can't read because I don't subscribe but it is called "The Rise of the Haphazard Male" and is about what a man can do to find an identity if he has no job because that kind of work has disappeared.  Brooks claims it doesn't work to just remain open.  Unitarians have insisted on an "open" denomination though all congregations have a socioeconomic style and theirs had been "educated upper middle class."  This has attracted the attention of ethnic minorities looking for indicators of their value, just as it did the women earlier.  They have changed the denomination.  Just as they changed universities and as we hope they will change politics.

Brooks:  "At the very moment economic forces detach many working-class men from stable careers, the autonomy ethos teaches that it’s right to be semidetached, with your options perpetually open.  It’s not working.   Opinion | The Rise of the Haphazard Self.  How working-class men detach from work, family and church."  Wait!  This is how the NYTimes summarizes the article and it's not what I said at all.  It is the opposite.  Even as some men and many women want to be part of an organization, Brooks is talking about men who are loners.

I am a loner.  I am a woman.  I often want to claim something that is normally gender-assigned to men, like paying my own way.  How do I know it's worth doing?  My thoughtful consideration?  Emotional response? Opinion of others?  (They're mostly confused.)

People who are unassigned, who do not have a cohort that relates to them, might be troubled, may go off into territories that seem damaging or even "evil."  Or we have thought maybe they were good for a gig economy, resourceful, adaptable.  Maybe lucky to have a partner who can accommodate change or maybe lucky to have a partner who is stable, a refuge when things go wrong.  Sometimes partners suggest themselves as someone who can tolerate a loner, and then become someone who tries to build fences, to guarantee relationship.  It's painful.

What about the artist/writer in a society in the middle of uproar?  Does one reflect the chaos, maybe choose the freedom to be obscene?  If this turns out to be "successful", everything will change.  Being a loner faces a determination to capture and share the value by interface managers: agents, sales, customers.  If the work never becomes popular or even known, is the artist a failure?  Is the life a waste?  Some thoughtful folks decry lives cut short by death though the person was promising.  What about the people who fulfill but are never noticed?  No prizes, no TED talk, no publication or exhibit.

If a loner is demonized, which happens rather often, at least then they are "known," even famous.  If Pollock or Basquait had never been so vividly controversial, they would have been invisible.  Probably many worthy creators are simply passed by.  Possibly publicity would have destroyed their creativity.

Loners/misfits sometimes become criminals or addicts, something that destroys the larger community.  "If you can't be the president, become the president's assassin.  You'll be just as famous."  We get a lot of that today.  It is one of the good arguments for a baseline security for everyone, regardless of status.  This lets the "state" become the reliable partner who is a refuge when everything goes blooey.  It prevents the idea of suicide as a cure-all because it promises a chance to regroup.  

The most evil thing we do -- Brooks might agree -- is to "farm" those who have been accused of failing.  I wonder if anyone has done a study of how many "valedictorians" are incarcerated.  I know there are studies of people who utterly failed academically as youngsters, but became successful later in life.  So what good is a grade point average?  Might that be the fault of the school rather than the student?  How does one educate a loner?  Or a person who appreciates loners?


LINK TO A DISCUSSION: