Sunday, November 18, 2018

SCI-FI/FANTASY AS ORIENTALISM


I had not thought about the "Orientalism" of sci-fi/fantasy until I read "The Black Tides of Heaven" just now.  It's an easy conclusion since the author's name and the constructed world both sound Chinese.  "Orientalism" is a particular style that creates a world that is a derivation from a real world, so it is clearly fantasy but constantly sticks to the familiar enough for the reader to know what's happening.  It is also highly ornamented with poetic sensory detail and usually focused on love and war. The restriction to what is basically a stereotype can be political.

from Wiki:  "Orientalism is a term used by art historians and literary and cultural studies scholars for the imitation or depiction of aspects in Middle Eastern, South Asian, and East Asian cultures. These depictions are usually done by writers, designers, and artists from the West."

You can easily check out what I say here by taking advantage of a publisher's offer, just as I did, as follows, from Tor.com, publishers of sci-fi fantasy:  "Each month, the Tor.com eBook Club gives away a free sci-fi/fantasy ebook to club subscribers.  We’re excited to announce that the pick for November 2018 is the Hugo- and Nebula-nominated novella THE BLACK TIDES OF HEAVEN by JY Yang, one of a pair of unique, standalone introductions to Yang’s Tensorate Series, which Kate Elliott calls “effortlessly fascinating."

More at this URL:  https://www.tor.com/2018/11/13/free-ebook-of-the-black-tides-of-heaven-by-jy-yang/

The spine of the story is a feudal world into which are born identical twins.  The ruler is a woman and is their mother.  In this place one chooses one's gender at age six -- one twin becomes male and the other becomes female.  The story then separates as the two fates are followed through various situations, in which warring factions use their skills, including the ultimate: nuclear weapons as grenades rather than bombs.

The plot could easily be translated into the world of the American West or the lawless megacity ghetto, both of which are fun to convert into the particulars of an accepted genre based on time and place.  The "Orientalism" of this story makes it echo an Ursula LeGuin world in some ways, except there are no islands and the gentler anthropological ideas are made more high-tech.  It also has a strong feel of romanticized American indigenous people -- "cowboys and Indians" or trappers.  I don't have enough familiarity with Chinese stories to show how this tale is pulled out of the authentic national tales.  Knowing Chinese stories is not necessary and may be a hindrance if one keeps asking whether something is romanticized or real.

It's proposed that "novels" as a genre are ways of emphasizing particular strategies in life.  The beliefs of the people in this story emphasize family relationship as something special, love as just as special and possibly introducing contradiction between two allegiances, and the inevitability of enemies -- possibly coming out of one's own family.  Gender is seen as a choice.  Danger is real but can be defeated.  Nature is full of known controlled trees and unknown uncontrollable animals.  Animals can be tamed with kindness.  We can save each other with our bodies: transfusions, transplants, medicines.  This is often associated with love.

In this story the charisma of red ("Hang High the Red Lanterns" (a movie), red as Communism) is displaced by saturation with yellow.  All fabrics seem to be silk, rather than wool or cotton. Silk remains luxury.

If you want to "go deep", go here:  https://asianimperialisms.com/about-the-author/  

Quoting Jim Polachek, another author:  "My focus or rather path of over-extension started with Chen Kaige’s Yellow Earth (1984) – a kind of Frontier Country version of Madame Bovary: manipulated feminine fantasy at the hand of a narcissist ideologue, true believer.

"So we have a kind of gestalt: a still trendy anthropological aesthetic attaching higher spiritual status to sound and gesture gleaned from wholly isolated and illiterate hill peoples than to crafted performance of any variety. Old hat for the Soviets and even for Japan, but breathtakingly nouveau for China."  And not that usual for America.

In another essay "Music in Red Sorghum: The Musical Representation of Magical Realism and Dionysian Carnival" includes a clip from "Red Sorghum," the film.  The point is made vividly: that the impulses of the naive people of the land reaching for a religious source that will give them power, confuse transcendence with sex -- related to some of our current movements

In America this realm of thinking and action has attracted people in the search for alternatives to rational "Enlightenment" which -- in a corrupted state -- has dominated our government and business to the point of self-destruction.  Young men now spared war-based draft and boot camp are running in the streets when they aren't conked out in their mom's basement.  But women are also in search of a new way.  Gender roles are all in question.

("Thoughts on Chen Kaige’s Film “Yellow Earth”" is a companion few paragraphs that suggests the consideration of art and primitivism as a principle.)

In their impatience with the current givens of the way things are, young people's authority has moved from the parents to sibs and friends, though the gender divide has faintly remained mostly in terms of romantic love both het and same sex.  There is loss of expertise, but a more unfiltered access to what happens: bonding, fusion.

My guess is that this story was written by a woman, but I don't even know for sure that this person named is real or whether they are Chinese.  Magic realism like this is a classic strategy for political objections to domination, but there is no real political message defined except palace versus temple.  The oppression seems to be Freudian -- mother as all-powerful, all-knowing dictator.  (Maybe a foster mother, though that's not explicit.  No father is identified -- in fact, males in general are mostly missing.)


So maybe it's just a great yarn, a people's romance for the enjoyment of the familiar mixing with the surprising.  I never did figure out the title in terms of the story: "The Black Tides of Heaven."  Is it about an eclipse. like the vid clip from "Red Sorghum" ?   Could be.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

WHY I'M NOT LINKING A COMMENT ABOUT SEX

This is a time of collapsing laws.  Even in doubt are what has seemed like immutable physics as determined by Newton (gravity, inclined planes, the three laws of motion), the sort of thing only defied in cartoons when Wily Coyote runs past the edge of the cliff and is pedalling in thin air.  Marriage had seemed like a basic God-dictated law.

The basic convictions of nation, democracy, and capitalism are now questioned by the very people who benefit from them.  Even deeper are issues we hardly dare think about, the assumptions of invented ideas like money, ownership, and religion -- which we had thought were bedrock.  Along with these travel ideas about love and sex.

Robin Edgar has left a new comment on my post "WHAT WE DON'T WANT TO KNOW": "In order to have irony, one must remain in touch with reality but our problem is that reality has been lost."  Indeed.  

Edgar is still as enraged as any jilted lover about a case against a minister accused in 1993 which Edgar has pursued with the zeal of a Puritan insisting on the historical reality of Jesus the Christ.  What he doesn't want to know is that he's obsessed with something that's not there, a displacement of his hurt feelings when his mysticism was brushed aside.  So I won't make the link of a comment.

I've thought about this issue quite a bit from a lot of different angles except from that of participation.  I mean, I certainly had opportunity to act out from the pulpit when I occupied that formal role, but I didn't do it.  Nor do I now that I'm retired.  I see that many UU ministers find it important to say that they are not just welcoming of the LGBTQ sexual versions but that they freely participate in one or another position.  EXCEPT I've never seen celibate on this list.  No one puts in their ministry packet that they are a dedicated celibate when they are looking for a job.  In fact, the euphemism for monogamy is "happily married" and for those who care, the faithfulness may be to either a same sex or het-sex relationship.  I've never seen anyone advertise they were happily committed to a threesome. 

What I'm saying is that we're just as stubborn about boundaries, but we've moved where they are.  Faithfulness is still open to negotiation, as is fertility or wealth.  The relationship between intimacy and sexual relationship is troubled.  Not everyone is convinced that the two can be separated or sequential or even rejected.  I don't read much about the human wish to comfort other people with their bodies, though they will comfort their pets with intimacy without sex.  Or can find a certain kind of comfort-- or at least relief -- through sex with another human without any emotional intimacy.  Most of the troubles come cross-gender since the male "role" is seen as more sexual and the female expects intimacy unless the relationship is commercial, frankly monetary.  This is structural.

Male clergy who sleep with women in the congregation, particularly when either or both is married already, are stigmatized.  Should they be?  What about female clergy, echoing nuns.

Sex isn't really about the actual sex.  No one really cares about who's too dumb or numb to find a clit or who gave a woman the idea to have her labia cut off or who insists on strangulation.  Nothing but paying attention will create a good lover in that sense.  Sex is really about status, one's role in the world, and intimacy, who you can really trust to understand you.  Sex in the narrowest sense is about human blood-stream molecules -- they are the actual actors reacting chemically.

Masters and Johnson wrote about such things.  Some of the more extreme kinksters show it on video.  Combat veterans hooked on adrenaline and pain have explored it.  To some it's religious.

Protestant therapy-influenced liberal clergy are sort of giving people what they want.  Catholic priests who prey on children are no longer anywhere near either intimacy or sex -- they are simply predatory, sadistic powermongers in a system that gave them a disguise called "celibacy".  That's why no Protestant clergy talk about celibacy, though probably most female versions are in fact celibate.

Many intimate and sexual acts are illegal, meaning criminal to some degree.  A crumby old guy came suddenly out of a dark alley one night and peed on my shoes.  To him it may have been sex (a fetish) -- to me it was just disgusting and should be discouraged, even punished.  Movie stars who nearly decapitate their ex-wives and incidental witnesses should be penalized, as they say, "To the fullest extent of the law" -- which is execution.  If you can convict them.  Celebrity trumps even murder.

My former ex-cop boss at Animal Control, middle-aged, had accepted the idea of female friends with benefits.  That's one thing.  In regard to everything else, he had a simple principal:  law and order are on a continuum with total chaos on one end (think areas of today's Third World wars) and legal bondage at the other.  Think Sharia law.  The principal is that what should be done is what will move human behaviour towards one end or the other, whichever is needed and approved by the culture.

One's sense of which direction should be chosen depends upon one's history as a child and as a young citizen, which are what teaches the limits.  The biggest source of trouble now is the lack of families.  Without a deeply internalized idea of where the "sweet spot" for the behaviour of people might be, it's just too easy to go berzerk and pee on people's shoes.

We are such a mix of styles, families, cultures, and so on that we are forced to consider context as the real content of issues strewn across the continuum.  Even such a hoary and rigid institution as the British monarchy was forced into change based on marriage in the interest of fertility.  In the old days when royalty was considered almost a higher species, prestige and politics overcame the need to bridge the generations so that in-breeding destroyed the goal of continuing a certain germ line.  Sterility and disease prevented the creation of healthy heirs.  But reaching out to the sturdy genetics of commoners opened the door to improper behaviour that was hard to govern.  So now Prince Harry is able to choose an American movie star divorcĂ©e with black ancestors and a balky white father.  The consequences are still unknown.


Marriage as a licensed bonding with certain parameters, such as faithfulness, sharing of property, and rights of descendants, is no longer observed by everyone.  Sequential marriage, same-sex marriage, long-distance marriage, are patterned on the convention, but many people simply move in and out of each other's lives.  Any rules of morality, even inside the church and clergy, are either ignored or reinterpreted.  The indignation of parishioners observing and objecting has become old-fashioned.  Irrelevant.  Irritating.

Friday, November 16, 2018

'THE BLACKFEET, ARTISTS OF THE NORTHERN PLAINS by Bob Scriver

"The Blackfeet, Artists of the Northern Plains" is an out-of-print book by Bob Scriver that includes photos of all the items in the notorious Scriver collection, including Blackfeet artifacts and ceremonial bundles, a collection of RCMP historic uniforms, and an antique gun collection.  It also includes ceremonial bundles that were later returned to the Blackfoot people in Alberta.  $110.  Originally published at $60.  This book contains the specific 12 artifacts used by Mary Scriver (3rd wife of 4) to inspire each of the "Twelve Blackfeet Stories" available through www.lulu.com/prairiemary.  The actual collection is at the Royal Alberta Provincial Museum in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

This book is now for sale through Hodges Fine Art. 122 McLeod Street, P.O Box 975, Big Timber, MT  59011  Phone 1-877-932-6181

Other materials offered for sale include Navajo blankets, silver and turquoise jewelry, bronzes, paintings.  There is a red Stroud cloth Blackfeet child's dress from the 1890s for $950.  A website offers newer materials:  www.hodgesfineart.com.


Different people will have quite different opinions about these things.

REPRINT FROM THE GLACIER REPORTER: OUTSTANDING WOMEN

Elouise Cobell                Mary Lynn Lukin                      Denise Juneau

They touch every area of the university, ranging from Montana State University’s first female mathematics teacher to one of the country’s first Extension poultry experts to MSU’s first female president. And now the public can know more about the stories of the Extraordinary Ordinary women who have molded the history of MSU with an exhibit at the MSU Library and an expansive website.
The 125 “Extraordinary Ordinary Women” who impacted the university were selected this summer by the MSU President’s Commission on the Status of University Women from nominations submitted by the public is part of the university’s year-long quasquicentennial celebration. Three of those women include Elouise Cobell, Denise Juneau and Mary Lynn Lukin, all hailing from Blackfeet Country.
MSU President Waded Cruzado said the list shines a light of recognition and appreciation on women who have been leaders, problem solvers and innovators throughout the university’s history, whether they were widely recognized or were relatively unknown during their time on campus.
“This list, which is not exhaustive, demonstrates how the pivotal contributions of scores of brilliant MSU women made Montana State the dynamic university it is today. It should also give us inspiration and hope for the future about how the daughters of the land-grant university in the future will excel in everything they do,” Cruzado said.
Rebecca Belou, co-chair of the commission that selected the honorees, said more than 400 nominations poured in from across Montana, recognizing those who have had an impact on the status of women at MSU and inspired others by their example. The 125 honorees were picked from those nominations. Women from every era of the university were represented as well as a diverse representation of race, age and academic or service areas.
The women were honored at a private reception on Nov. 2, and were also introduced at MSU’s home football game on Nov. 3 against Cal Poly.
Nika Stoop, a member of the selection committee, said the accomplishments of the women on the list are truly extraordinary.
“The vast array of these women’s accomplishments is amazing,” Stoop said. “When you read what they have done, it blows you away. I am inspired by this remarkable collection of women.”
Denise Juneau
Denise Juneau’s story takes her from Head Start to Harvard and from being a classroom teacher to a national education leader. Juneau is an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa Tribes and a descendant of the Blackfeet tribe. She received her bachelor’s degree in English from Montana State University and did graduate work at Harvard and the University of Montana School of Law. Juneau worked as a teacher, lawyer and director of Indian education before she was elected Montana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. She was the first American Indian woman in the country to be elected to an executive statewide office and was named National Indian Educator of the Year in 2009. She launched “Graduation Matters Montana,” an initiative that has increased Montana’s graduation rate to its highest recorded levels. School and business leaders, community members, students and families worked together to improve academic standards, expanding college and career readiness. Juneau was recently selected the new superintendent for Seattle Public Schools.
Elouise Cobell
Elouise Cobell (NiitsĂ­tapi Blackfoot Confederacy) was a tribal elder and activist, banker, rancher and lead plaintiff in the groundbreaking class-action lawsuit, Cobell v. Salazar (2009). This challenged the United States’ mismanagement of trust funds belonging to more than 500,000 Native Americans. She pursued the suit from 1996, challenging the government to account for fees from resource leases. In 2010 the government approved a $3.4 billion settlement for the trust case. Major portions of the settlement were to partially compensate individual account holders, to buy back fractionated land interests and restore land to reservations. It also provided a $60 million scholarship fund for Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, named the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund in her honor. The settlement is the largest ever in a class-action lawsuit against the federal government. Cobell also founded  the Blackfeet National Bank, the first national bank located on an Indian reservation and owned by a Native American tribe. In 1997, Cobell won a MacArthur genius award for her work on the bank and Native financial literacy. She donated part of that money to support her class-action suit against the federal government. In 2016, President Barack Obama awarded Elouise the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Mary Lynn Lukin
Mary Lynn Lukin, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, received her degree in secondary education in 1967 and worked in student services at UCLA for six years before becoming the founding director of a variety of award-winning Montana State University programs that help underserved students including the Advance By Choice program (now known as TRIO). She also directed or coordinated the College of Engineering Minority Program, Minority High School Apprentice Program, the NSF Career Access Mentor Project and the AISES/NSF Young Scholars Program. She served on the steering committee for Women in Science and Engineering. Under her direction, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society received the national chapter of the year award three times. When she first enrolled at MSU, she thought she’d major in microbiology, but learned she didn’t want to work full time in a lab. Her interest in science, however, has endured as she emphasized science programs for Indian students throughout her career. Lukin was named Montana Indian Educator of the Year, received an MSU Alumni Association Blue Gold Award and was also a member of the MSU President’s Council of Elders. Lukin, who retired from MSU in 2005, now lives in her hometown of Browning.
One of Mary Lynn Lukin’s greatest contributions to MSU is that she was a role model for all students, but particularly Native women.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

WHAT WE DON'T WANT TO KNOW

The phrases "at risk" and "hard to reach" are not usually applied to the President of the United States, but he certainly qualifies for both, though I think he only feels "at risk" (although he has a hard time staying in touch with reality) and thinks he's entirely too easy to reach.  I mean, I wonder if he is afraid of being in the WWI cemetery because of rain (fear of unmanageable umbrellas) or because he knows that the big overcoat he loves makes him an excellent target in a field full of dead marksmen.  I wonder if he wears a teflon vest.  After all, he is no longer useful to the people who had hoped he could still control the nation.  Now he's just ridiculous.  No longer an asset -- only a liability.

Since this criminal sibling-hood. this mafia, has gotten into our government far enough to pretend that a criminal who looks and acts like Lex Luthor can in any way run the Justice Department of the United States, it's clear that the Rule of Law is simply not enough to keep order.  I was fascinated by the clip of a grinning Rosenstein saying that he thought appointment of Mathew Whitaker was "superb" -- a masterpiece bit of sarcasm.  Those who have lost track of reality will think it's an endorsement.  It appears that irony is not dead yet, even in Washington DC.

In order to have irony, one must remain in touch with reality but our problem is that reality has been lost.  We thought "modernism," a subset of the Enlightenment that gave us science, rationality, and the industrial revolution, was the realest of realities.  But (ironically) these are the source of the unavoidable newest conclusion that reality is multiple.  There is no realer-than-real Platonic reality somewhere.  It's all shadows and constructs.

This quote from the anthology website is relevant:
https://medium.com/s/story/learning-to-love-americas-most-reviled-resistance-tweeter-f95e665b1a9a

"If modernism, which flourished in the early 20th century, was animated by a belief in reason, science, and universal truths, postmodernists offered a powerful counterargument: Everything was relative. The grand master narratives were simply myths. Truth was in the eye of the beholder.

"Postmodernism turned out to be as depressing as it was persuasive, bringing on an epidemic of irony, self-consciousness, and passivity for which metamodernism proposes a cure. While it acknowledges that there is no objective truth, it nonetheless chooses to highlight the power of the stories, or “metanarratives,” that we tell about the world. And rather than getting hung up on longstanding dualities — cynicism versus optimism, reality versus fantasy, irony versus sincerity — it dances between the poles instead.

"It’s a heady concept, but those who stumble on it often begin to see examples of metamodernism throughout the culture. It certainly helps explain how Abramson managed to identify the tectonic significance of Donald Trump’s presidential bid when nearly everyone else in the media was laughing it off."

In a sense Trump is innocent -- the idea of any reality other that his own is literally inconceivable to him.  There is himself and his frame that exist -- everything else is shadows, stage-dressing.  Mitch McConnell is NOT innocent.  He accepts that there are many realities and fully intends to take control and make it what he wants it to be.  Both of them pay no attention to worlds that are not their own -- or the hundred or so people they know -- or to worlds that are not human.  

This is one of the major realizations of the post-enlightenment world, that humans of any kind are not the central axis of existence.  At most they are a bit of a hiccup, some collateral events -- sometimes pretty damaging -- that can distort the greater existence of deep time and unlimited space.  That's quite apart from speculation about what would have happened if H.G. Wells' time travelers had not stepped on that bug that was key to evolution.

Far from excusing us from any moral responsibility for what happens, since it might only matter to a subset of people, this idea of ultimate connectedness means that we are all responsible for everything that happens -- living or dead.  In fact, it is the dead who are the most susceptible to alternate understandings, esp the ones so far in the past that we only have molecular traces from one digit from one little girl who died young that convinces us that hominins have always been various and will either die out or evolve.  

Meta-reality, which we used to think was real, is cosmic.  That means that you're not getting anything like the Big Picture through your pinhole of sensory apparatus.  Nor do we have any other access.

In fact, the cherished instrument that is the human mind is not only limited, but in large part uncontrollable.  Humans now are putting a lot of energy into trying to understand and even control the subconscious -- the great body of "thought" that governs us and runs our bodies.  As little of it is conscious as the bit of genome that is devoted to our individuality as opposed to standard issue human bodies of whatever heritage.

As an American group, we are in pain, we prefer to be numb, we are suicidal -- so much for survival.  But there are two kinds of survival: the persistence of the whole "world" embodied and inhabited around us, and our sometimes endangered survival as individuals who last less than a century.  Writing has had a huge impact on this tightrope/tug o'war.  Now the cyber-revolution makes writing and imagery even more powerful.

Clever experiments have proven that what we see is almost always what we expect and what we expect is almost always what we've already experienced.  Therefore, the unknowable future often depends upon what is outside our consciousness, only felt in dreams and sometimes not even then.  Time comes upon us with surprise, which we don't always appreciate and sometimes try to turn back into the past, the knowable, comfortable state of things that we understand how to survive.  We made it this far, didn't we?
Only barely.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A SIMPLE STORY ABOUT CARING

Bryan Washington

My straight Canadian friend, a long time married Mom with two sons and bright granddaughters, said to me via email:  "This morning I read a short story in the Oct. 29 NEW YORKER. . . . it’s by Bryan Washington. It seems to be set in Houston, Texas, and the title is “Waugh” which seems to be the street where they live."  He has a book coming out called "Lot."  This story is from that book, which probably tipped the scales for being published in The New Yorker, since he was "published," a endorsement of prestige.

Here's the issue of the magazine.
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/10/29/waugh

This is an accompanying article about the author and what he does.
https://www.newyorker.com/books/this-week-in-fiction/bryan-washington-10-29-18   by Willing Davidson

This is his website: https://brywashing.com   This is his Twitter: @brywashing

Aside from this story, he sounds like a socially conscious journalist.  I'm sad that the illustration for this story in TNY doesn't identify the artist, since its a beautifully delicate image.  But it doesn't address the story, which takes sex and sexwork as just a fact of life that doesn't need any description or rationalization, except that it's a way to earn a living.  The actual story is about caring for people, either in a blunt way like letting them stay at your place, or in a carefully detailed but simple way about eating.  Then the story, which has been careful and true, goes deeper.

HIV hits everyone, but these people are wary because they are more exposed.  They know to get tests, to use safes, and to take the prevention drugs.  When "the bug" hits them anyway, the only answer they have is exclusion and rejection.  But the protagonist knows there is help in clinics and so on. He just doesn't use them.

What the story is really about is how people organize themselves around some slightly alpha person with more money, occupancy rights to a shelter, or more willingness to impose order.  But that can be smashed.  It has been this way since the beginning of clans, tribes, villages.  But now it happens in this quiet, sad way right in plain sight under bridge overpasses and the wastelands of abandoned industry.  Emil, the fuzzy savior, is from a place where work and loyalty are valued and observed as a matter of course.  We can only hope that Emil will save the protagonist, but he yearns for his earlier special friend, not just killed by the bug, but disappeared, wiped out..

Here's what Bryan Washington says about his writing, which has very little explicit sex in it, except to note the fact as part of life.

"But I think writing about intimacy is really only writing about the dynamics between people, and I’d be tempted to wonder whether anyone with those objections would be tentative about the pure fact of the acts themselves, or just who’s actually engaging in them, specifically."

Intimacy is another fact of human life and to make some forms into taboo secrets is to deny the reality of our differences.  It is to eliminate one form of survival in a murderous world.  How is the hookup between two men that makes the struggle possible -- even makes it bearable -- any different from any other two various genders sticking together?

"That’s what got you a regular, Rod said. You established patterns. Patterns became routines. Routines meant a sure buck most days of the month, and that’s what kept the lights on."

Since I began to be a little more open about writing with and thinking about Cinematheque, Smash Street Boys, Real Stories Gallery, I get some strange looks from locals.  A few are probably wondering whether they could, um, "make contact" but no more than when I was young and teaching, or when I was with Bob Scriver but not married in a legal way.  When I was clergy one man, a respected school administrator, remarked casually, "I'd like to see what you've got."  Even in the accepted structures and institutions of our lives, sex has become a patterned element that suggests special access, acceptance, a special tie, and some kind of weird transcendence through orgasm.  It's supposed to be a source of meaning.

But as I look at the people here, most of them over fifty, it's a good guess that most haven't had sex for years even though they've been married for decades.  They have nice homes and pickups.  Their children went away and are successful in cities.  

Some people have intimacy with others and some do not.  It is as likely to be intimacy based on drinking, shared history, habit, and the probably legitimate expectation that they won't be surprised.  This means that much intimacy is "same-sex," based on activities like fishing.  For a while there was quilting, but that has faded.

Something similar is true of the rez population just a few miles and a lot of stigma away from here.  Some people are attracted by their fantasies about that and some hate themselves so much for craving sex that offers no solution that they kill their partners.  They are often transients who don't belong anywhere, are carrying bugs of many types, and will not survive.  This village shuts them out.  For the most part.

I had funny ideas in the beginning of my clergy career.  (I've stopped calling it "ministerial" since in Canada their government representatives are called ministers and I served congregations on both sides of the line.  Once I told a border official I was a minister and she thought I was a senator so treated me with much more respect and let me through the port unchallenged.) I thought that being clergy would mean I could safely go among strangers, foreigners, criminals and even sexworkers without being in danger.  Now I know better, but it remains true that I can interact through writing without being beat up or infected.

Making contact with writing means a loss of relationship to some degree, although some people are more susceptible to print than others.  What counts is what you do with it, what it gets you to understand.  So Bryan Washington lets us see into one way of life among one kind of male person.  The lesson is as much in sameness as in difference.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

THE ROADS ARE CLEAR!

At last the roads are clear enough to get to the laundromat!  It would be simpler to have a clothes washing machine, but getting a clothes washing machine is complicated.  My waste water disposal vents through the shower.  It's not so much about stinky air coming out as about plain air going in so the water won't lock up.  They tell me the reason is that my house is sinking.  Thousands of dollars to jack it back up.  I have enough credit for a washing machine, but not to jack the house up.  Still thinking.

My main thought is that I don't like having a shower instead of a bathtub after all.  I had thought a shower would work better when I was decrepit but I discover that decrepit people like to soak in very hot water up to the neck.  That means a new hot water heater, too.  Hmmm.  Sometimes I consider a sauna.  Maybe even a sweat lodge.  I discovered via Google that one can buy an inflatable tub that goes in the shower, but it's probably only big enough for kids.

The laundromat, "WashaWay" is in Cut Bank, thirty miles away.  It's in Glacier County where all the county "fathers" are Blackfeet which some people claim explains why the county is millions of dollars in debt.  I stay out of it.  There are people in Cut Bank so oil rich that they could write a single check to pay all of the debt.  No chance that will happen.  Don't ask why they were able to get so much of the oil.  We don't talk about that.

This has been a stop-and-start winter to match our stop-and-start summer and we're all getting whiplash from trying to keep up.  A week that hits zero, now two or three days at fifty.  The snow on the roads is about gone except for spots where the high wind is making it blow-across drifts, tricky slush bumps that can send you off the road unless you're watching.  Intermittent sun bounces off the barely cut crops that left shiny gold stubble with reflected blue sky stripes.  The color-wheel opposites create an iridescent sheen across the long curves of land that no painting ever quite matches.

I had a backlog of clothes and bedding, so it took a long time, but it's not a hardship when I'm talking to the owner who plies me with coffee and graham crackers.  (I heroically refuse the Oreos.)  He's 92 and had a little stroke that weakened his grip, but managed the coffee pot okay.  He just can't understand Trump.  And he believes that being a teacher is a calling, very much respected.  More than marrying a famous sculptor or being on TV as an animal control spokesperson or being clergy.  Even I am not impressed by being a clerical specialist for the City of Portland, though that's where a big chunk of my retirement comes from.

The only other customer today was Ernie Heavyrunner, not descended from the famous Massacre victim, but from the other family with a similar name.  Ernie is the son of Jack, the brother of Tommie, and therefore the uncle of Floyd, known as "Little Man," father of Joshua.  All these people I know very well, have worked with or taught.  Ernie is too old for me to have taught him.  He drives a relatively new bright red crewcab pickup.  I suppose you think he rode in a horse?

History diverted us from the news, but the news is hard to avoid or even forget about this week.  After a funk of a Paris visit where NO ONE was nice to him, not even Macron and Merkel, who have tried to be friendly, Trump is busy trying to think up ways to hurt everyone.  They didn't even let him sit next to the love of his life, Putin.  Someone suggested that Trump will dismantle all American institutions.  Luckily, the French Embassy thought to lay a wreath at Arlington, even though Trump didn't.

How does one dismantle American institutions?  The churches are already dwindled or tearing themselves apart, even the Catholics.  Many of the institutions, like the veterans' organizations that used to be a big part of small towns, are aging out.  Banks and grocery stores are so intent on profit that they have become unpleasant to visit.  Schools are scary places.  Hospitals are understaffed, no time to be reassuring.  The main institutions are the two political behemoths who never listen to the rest of us.  If Hillary runs for President again, that ought to kill them both.  Talk about fantasy.

I'd vote for a turnip.  "Turnip" is on Twitter when he/she talks common sense in short sentences.  (in the Valier grocery store yesterday I saw a turnip, just one plain turnip, for sale for more than $3.)

The good news of the day is that I finally figured out how to get money out of an ATM.  You can't get quarters from anyone without cash and I never had any cash until now, because I did everything with checks.  Sometimes, if I can find someone old enough, I reminisce about silver dollars.  You carried a little bag for them because in your pockets they pulled your pants downward.

In spite of the relief of clean clothes at last, I'm still cynical and wondered whether it were because of the moon.  I've had to explain to my doc that old ladies have ghost menses and cycle through the month without blood, only the electrobiochemical come and go that bodies produce.  (I don't think he has many feminists in his practice, or they're too modest to tell him about female things.)  I get very cranky just before the full moon, then am released to optimism when there is no more shadow.  The computer says we're only about halfway to the full moon.  


Monday, November 12, 2018

GET OUTTA HERE WITH THAT BOOMBOOMBOOM

Spike Jones' popular song is pretty old now, but not dated.  "Get outta here with your (boomboomboom) and don't come back again!"  I tried to find it on YouTube but no luck.  (Lot of other old favs though!)

This link below is to an essay about the constant barrage of updates that are the equivalent of boomboomboom.  https://medium.com/s/thenewnew/why-we-dread-new-software-updates-54abc5b62bb1  Two of the little pests are lurking in my top righthand corner right now and they have been there for weeks.  I've learned to ignore them.  Far from improving performance, they gum everything up with new features I don't need and don't want but must be fun for 14 year old boys who have nothing else in particular to do except school work.

For a while I was positively frothing over a gizmo that forces you to take a photo of your screen, theoretically when you have a problem and want to involve a techie.  Since I'm old and jerky with arthritis so that I sometimes hit keys double or forget steps or punch between keys instead of on just one, the damn thing was taking screenshot after screenshot, to the point of not being able to squeeze in any actual typing.  Then I discovered that one of the cats had pushed down the key for the feature and it was stuck.  I didn't even know there was a key for it.

The notifications often cover up something I'm looking for, like a page number.  I don't know how to shut off the feature and maybe it's blocked anyway.  PBS and my email service both send little one-sentence notifications of news breaking, but they don't leave the squib up long enough for me to read it, brief as it is.  PBS is old and fuddy-duddy like me, but the young techies at Apple urge me to get on the Dark Web.  They're all about trend, which they try to represent as being "bad" as in the slang custom of calling good things "bad" and eschewing all good things.  I was going to say, "the things their parents called good" but in the first place their parents are likely to be young and "bad" and in the second place kids these days are lucky to have even one parent, let alone two of whatever assortment among gender and legality.

I was just notified that Facebook was down for an hour but is back up now.  I consider Facebook the cyber equivalent of La Brea tarpits and would be happy if it disappeared forever.  I try to warn people I care about that it is evil but advertising has taken hold and they don't believe me.  Relatives and churches all sign up and are peeved with me for not being available there.  Even the few who pay attention to the news -- with or without alerts -- and know that Facebook sells and exploits the writing and photos, possibly altered, to enemies and foreign agents, simply block that out of their consciousness.  When Zuckerberg plays footsie with criminals because of his control of huge amounts of money, they just laugh.  The possibilities of a steady stream of messages for piggy-backing illicit information just doesn't register.

When I first began to write on the computer, I used "WriteNow", a just-right program recommended to me by a nuclear scientist at Hanford who had been part of the UU circuit.  Pretty soon Apple bought it and destroyed it, loading it up with gimmicks.  How do I get back to what worked so well?

Something similar happened to my photo program, which now tries to force me to organize by vacations, children and travel -- none of which I have.  They don't even have a category for cats, which I have.  They nag me to import or export, but I never know which is which and where the results will go.  I'm like a fourth grader trying to figure out the difference between "bring" and "take" which many adults still can't manage.

For a while I thought I had the damn schemes outwitted by keeping one computer offline so it couldn't be nagged.  This coincided with the realization that computers don't belong to their owners.  As soon as anything goes online, the line is alive with techies and their automated flying monkeys who evaluate and actively change things, worse than pop editors.  Even if the computer is off for the night, I hear it being turned on by remote control, so now I shut off the power.  The new versions of Pages won't "play" the old versions nor will the new versions play on the separate computer because so much writing is kept sequestered in "libraries" and timelines.  I could upgrade the program on the separate computer but it can only be done online.

Since the internet people have minions charged with frustrating every attempt at control or escape, they just wait until I come on first thing in the morning, then suck out everything I've done privately, and last thing at night when I turn off, they keep the machine on until they've got a copy of the day.  But what do they do with it?  It's like all the phone line monitoring and recording the spy agencies do, but never have enough time to analyze and, anyway, don't have people who can speak some of the languages.

The ordinary English (maybe) we see on our screens is an overlay, a translation, of the coded symbols that traveled over the air or cables.  In the same way as the punctuation and font signals that are controlling from underneath, who knows what other unseen markings and prompts are affecting our meanings?  I'm impressed that very often, unless I double-check, all negatives are removed.  Maybe the original intention was to control the double negatives of people who speak European languages and the feature went rogue, so now it does its thing wherever.


When I was working for the City of Portland as a clerical specialist, the fairly intelligible materials we worked with sometimes went bonkers.  There was only one among us who could go into the code behind Windows (curse Windows anyway) and find the problem.  He was an oddball geek who claimed he had a wife in Thailand where he went every vacation though he didn't speak Thai.  Remembering him is a reminder that there are many worlds on top of each other, interrupting, confusing everything, after goals one might not know exists -- sometimes wicked.