Tuesday, December 12, 2017


In Memory of
Albert "Butch" H. DeSmet

April 25, 1934 - February 25, 2017

Albert "Butch" H. DeSmet passed away on February 25th, 2017, in Vancouver, Washington. He was born on April 25th, 1934, in Valier, Montana, to his parents: Leon and Martha DeSmet. He attended High School in Valier.

In 1963, Butch moved from Montana to California. He spent five years in California, and then he moved to Gresham, Oregon in 1968.

On May 1st, 1980, Butch married Sharon Brown. They were happily married for nearly 37 years, until his passing. 

Butch held a variety of management positions over the course of his career, with the most recent being a Parts Manager at Data Devices. 

While living in Boring, Butch attended St. Michael's Parish. He enjoyed photography, woodworking, war movies, and airplanes (the old Waco planes were his favorite). He will always be remembered as a happy, gentle, and humble man who loved his family. He had a beautiful smile that could light up a room.

Butch was preceded in passing by his sister, Roberta "Ber" Widhalm of Valier, Montana; and his daughter, Charmaine DeSmet of Gresham. He is survived by his loving wife, Sharon DeSmet of Vancouver; his daughter, Michelle Kauffman of Vancouver; his sons, Lane DeSmet of Troutdale, and Rory DeSmet of Oregon City; his stepchildren, Cathy DesRochers of Portland, Steve Brown of Gresham, Ken Brown of Las Vegas, Jim Brown of Gresham, and Kevin Brown of Port Angeles, Washington; his siblings, Gabe DeSmet of Powers, Montana, Betty Meuli of Conrad, Montana, and Toni Dowgiewicz of Rockville, Connecticut; as well as 11 grandchildren, and 8 great grandchildren. He will be missed.

A Gathering of Remembrance for this gentle and great man will be held on Sunday, March 5th, 2017, from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm in the Timberline Room at Bateman Carroll Funeral Home in Gresham.

Memorial Contributions can be made to St. Michaels Church in Sandy, Oregon.

The end of the year, whether one calls it Solstice or Christmas, is often when news comes of earlier deaths.  To fill out this obit a little more, Butch was married to Bob Scriver's daughter, Margaret, and they had four children: Charmaine, Michelle, Lane and Rory.  They were young and the marriage was a temperament mismatch.  At that time, the Sixties, Butch was running the now derelict Texaco station.  Thing blew up and when the Big Flood hit, he had left.  All the roads north were impassable because of washed out bridges and telephone lines were down.  Margaret took the kids to her mother's in Anacortes, WA.

She and Butch divorced and in a year or so Margaret married Ken Paul, part of the Blackfeet community in the Anacortes area.  Too soon, Margaret developed cancer and died.  The four kids went to their father in California.  They remember that period wryly as the time of frozen chicken pot pies.  Butch married a woman named Lois, who also had children, and they furnished the dining room with a picnic table.  That marriage also crashed.  The third marriage to Sharon, a sweet and competent woman, was the one that he should have had all along.

Charmaine, the oldest girl, was killed in a car crash in Florida.  Michelle and her husband run a data business in Vancouver, WA.  Lane does contracting from his home in Troutdale and Rory drives truck for a beverage company.  They remained close to Butch, who was a source of stability and wisdom.

One watches the generations unfold with tragedies and a few great blazing achievements and, if lucky, many days of just getting the work done.  Butch did very fine filigree wood crafting.  Oregon suited him and he and Sharon found quiet places to live in the countryside around Portland.  He kept his high school hairdo all this life.  It went with his smile.

Monday, December 11, 2017


The "Hawaii 5-0" core team

Though I generally nightly watch an episode of “Hawaii 5-0”, I’m never tempted to marathon it.  The attractions are the long sweeps of scenery, esp. the night time-lapses of city lights up high (an established trope for crime shows), and the energy of what goes on. Two things are wearing: one is the bickering in the car between the two main “bruhs” which isn’t always that clever, and the constant justification of force, outside the law strategies, and the arrest trope: “down on the ground, hands on head, etc.”  My fav characters are Kono and Chin and also the Irish actor Terry O’Quinn’s bald, tough and well-aged archetypal secret agent.

But then reality intruded.  I watched the cop’s body camera tape just put on YouTube of yet another shooting.  The victim’s name was Daniel Shaver and this is a link to the tape.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBUUx0jUKxc

Some commentators note that the still photo of the cop, named Philip Brailsford, is often cropped to leave out his sleeve tattoos.   http://www.tmz.com/2017/12/10/philip-brailsford-cop-not-guilty-shooting-daniel-shaver-failed-actor/  This website notes that Brailsford has been fired and that he wanted to be an actor but had no credits.  There was no comment about mixing reality with movies.  (Harrison Ford had to inform Trump that “Star Wars” was just a movie.  Of course, Ford himself did a little mixing of movies and reality when he romanced Carrie Fisher.)  But not even sitting astride a motorcycle in a black leather jacket could make Brailsford look like anything but a high school kid.  In the end I suspect the jury thought he was too stupid to convict.

The stories do not include that Brailsford was part of a SWAT team sent to arrest a man who had been aiming a rifle with a scope out of a high motel window.  He was playing a tape of Las Vegas in his head.  There were other officers present in the hallway, one looking more mature and less gripped by a head-script, but they underestimated Brailsford’s lack of reality.  They didn’t realized he was hypnotized.  Presumably, otherwise they would have intervened.

None of them knew that the victim’s rifle was a pellet gun that Shaver, an exterminator by trade, used to shoot birds that had invaded stores, warehouses, and shopping centers.  You’ve seen and heard them.  I don’t know why traps don’t work.  Playing sniper is more fun.  

Plainly, Shaver had the same Vegas head-script running in his head — until he was on the hall carpet with the bird-end of a rifle aimed at him.  It’s a trope played over and over:  “Down on your knees, hands behind your head, if you disobey I will shoot you.”  Brailsford knows his lines, but he can’t get past them.  So he repeats, the way “takes” for a script are repeatedly “shot” to get it right.  At least they removed the woman.

To keep the scene from sticking in my own head — it will be on “Hawaii 5-0” again tonight anyway because it's stuck in the screen-writer's heads — I went to the other extreme of the assortment of contexts I carry in my own head:  a Unitarian Sunday Morning church service where a writer named Doug Muher (“The Weekly Sift" is his blog.
weeklysift.blogspot.com/)  He’s always reasonable, clear, and irreproachable.  I will not reproach him for that.

His sermon at First Parish Bedford, MA on 11-26-I7 is on video.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8GrGD53uNo   The congregation has always reflected its times, but the congregations I served were at the “founding” end of the archetype.  What I want to point out is the context, familiar to me, once intended to be my lifelong commitment.  

“In her new book “A Meeting House & its People; the Story of the First Parish in Bedford”, author and historian, Sharon Lawrence McDonald, tells about a group of people living in the area now known as Bedford, Massachusetts who grew tired of these Sunday trips [to distant Concord] and decided to do something about this burden."  [It was 1729.]

“They petitioned the Great and General Court of Massachusetts asking to become a separate town from Concord . . . Writing,“Behold what a weariness is it”, they expressed their need to build their own house of worship.  . . “The Court required that the new town establish a school, build a house of worship, and hire “a learned and orthodox minister of good conversation”.”  (Meaning a good preacher in good standing.)

The congregation is not big, nor flashy.  The people sit in box pews which once required subscriptions.  The people are white, many with white heads.  Piano rather than organ accompanies the usual hymns.  There is no choir and the UUA chalice flame is a little glitchy.  Muher speaks from a text on an electronic tablet.  He is a balanced, multi-syllabic speaker who refers to Descartes to stand for rational belief and James to stand for emotional belief (love).  It would be fair to classify this as Christian apologetics.

It’s interesting that he speaks of “three marbles”  I’m not sure he’s familiar with the concept of “subtilizing.”  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7434014  It’s a third way of understanding how we “know” things to the point of elevating them to Truth.  The idea is that if you show an infant a few of something like marbles, then add another or take away one, it will register with the baby as a brain signal proving it was grasped, even though no infant can count.  The limitation is that once a certain number of objects is reached, they’re just “many.”  That’s true of adults as well.

What I’m saying is that the human brain comes pre-wired with some “truths” and unless there’s something wrong with their perceptions (seeing double?), almost all people will agree on them.  (Are you “subtilizing” God?  What about Truth?”  Not.)

This is not the same as the reasoned-out basis of one kind of truth (the Rule of Law), nor is it the truth of emotional response to some human situation.  We would so like that latter to be “love” but it is just as likely to be hate, so as a guide to truth, it’s useless.

To me, the most interesting thing Muher said was a reference to “Percy,” whom I do not know — am not even sure how to spell.  But that person reported that a Buddhist would not say, “I think: therefore I am,” but rather would say “thinking is happening.

In spite of Asian characters on “Hawaii 5-0” and occasional mention of traditional island concepts, the nature of Asian culture in Hawaii is mostly represented by a shrimp fast food truck.  Until I began to research this post, I didn’t know that the Asian actors (Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park) were paid less than the “white” actors and have quit because of it.  The opportunities for new scripts challenging justice would be enormous.  I would have loved to have seen a show in which a Buddhist asks the SWAT team in the hallway,  “Is thinking happening here?”  Meaning the kind of thinking that leads to justice.  (Like equal pay for lesser ethnics?)  I think I’ll skip out on “Hawaii 5-0.2”.  Might Kim and Park find "Hawaii 5-0.3", with a Hawaiian script crew?

Sunday, December 10, 2017


This year the Winter Solstice is at 9:28 AM (Mountain Standard time) on Thursday, December 21.

This time of year on far northern prairie the day opens a eye only for a short time.  It is the Winter Solstice.  The people wake a bit, then begin again their familiar dream cycle, meant to be a spell to make a shell against the emaciated polar bears of death that prowl in the dark, seeking bright blood.  

There are no molecules in the sun, but only elements, their particles, and plasma.  Intense heat prevents the formation of links among the elements that would assemble to create patterns of beginning life.  When the plasmas are spewed out towards earth, we recognize them and call them Aurora Borealis, the sky’s rose-and-green birth garments, dancing in the solar wind, snapping incantations of gauze.

Once we thought the sun was the only source of life, but now we know that within the deep fuming of the planet, both wet and almost dry, the stubbornly craving atoms play hookup with each other and form strange alliances.  

The sun is a bell, ringing out the changes of tilting planet, withdrawing seas.  Swaying mouth, pinioned top, clanging bronze resonant with alarm.  Or maybe celebration.

The sun is a drum, rhythmic and pounding, calling feet to strike the ground, alternating, whirling, lifting bell-encircled ankles high and driving down knees.

The sun is a gong struck to call the eaters to their places at a frosted table where steam is rising in fantasies of hunger and repletion.  When we eat, we are eating the sun through its living intermediaries, first plants, then animals/ first grass, then buffalo.  One year there was a season for swans and we ate one for Thanksgiving.  It was not black.  It did not die when it fell from on high, but ran scurrying, slapping the grass with its flat feet.  There is a place around here where the ground squirrels have mutated but these are not albino, a common lack of pigment, but rather densely black as sable.  People fuss over white buffalo but I don’t know of any all-black buffalo.

The sun is a cerebrum, a cerebellum of connections, linking in the limbic, because this is a fusion bomb, not an atomic bomb which tears apart connections in a madness of destruction.  When all the possible links of hydrogen into helium have formed float balloons, because they were thrown out in paroxysms of long tongues seeking cool black velvet throats, then the molecules, with mechanical folding and poking, create themselves and think of life, whether or not they can define it.

The sun is a felted partly-black swan, “a 30cm tall prehistoric swan - made in felted reindeer wool in the 5th/4thC BC by a Scythian craftsman/woman, perhaps as an ornament, & preserved in permafrost in a tomb in the Altai Mts” — (Dr. Sue Osthuizen tells us so on Twitter.)  The black swans that fly and swim and dive are down under, so how would the felters know about such a bird on the Mongolian plateau?  Because the sun is chiaroscuro working in black and white reversals, after-images on the dark retina of white eyes.  But do black swans migrate the way the trumpeters do?

The black sun is a figure of mysticism because if two things are paradoxically juxtaposed in impossibility, the brain and eye must rise up and struggle to resolve that which is a key to what is only felt and never resolved.  I once knew a man with one grandfather who died a ragged skeleton in Auschwitz and the other who was hung in his gleaming storm trooper uniform, the rough rope stretching him tall in orgasmic death. 

The sun comes up, whether or not you can see it, and it always comes up on the same side because it’s not really coming up at all, it’s only that the ground under your feet is approaching the center, carrying you to your fate, your dreams of beginning again.  No use to protest — better to sing.

We eat the sun through its living intermediaries, first plants, then animals/ first grass, then buffalo.  One year there was a season for swans and we ate one for Thanksgiving.  It was not black.  It did not die when it fell from on high, but ran scurrying, slapping the grass with its flat feet.  There is one place around here where the ground squirrels have mutated so they are not albino but rather black as sable.  People fuss over white buffalo but I don’t know of any all black buffalo.  Inside, all creatures are blood red, including the people.

The Sun is a huge, glowing sphere of hot gas. Most of this gas is hydrogen (about 70%) and helium (about 28%). Carbon, nitrogen and oxygen make up 1.5% and the other 0.5% is made up of small amounts of many other elements such as neon, iron, silicon, magnesium and sulfur.

The temperature of the sun in this layer is about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius). Hydrogen atoms are compressed and fuse together, creating helium. This process is called nuclear fusion. As the gases heat up, atoms break apart into charged particles, turning the gas into plasma.

Plasma is a state of matter in which an ionised gaseous substance becomes highly electrically conductive to the point that long-range electric and magnetic fields dominate the behavior of the matter. It is one of the four fundamental states of matter

Plasma is the often forgotten component of blood. White blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets are essential to body function, but plasma also plays a crucial, and mostly unrecognized, job. It carries these blood components throughout the body as the fluid in which they travel.

The cosmos must be fluid because process is the definition of life, taking in and throwing out, traveling always on the same path but always beginning again.

Saturday, December 09, 2017


Stephen E. Nash has been raving about the Acheulean hand ax for months, thus: 
“To my mind, a well-made Acheulean hand ax is one of the most beautiful and remarkable archaeological objects ever found, anywhere on the planet. I love its clean, symmetrical lines. Its strength and heft impress me, and so does its persistence."

“Acheulean hand ax is the term archaeologists now use to describe the distinctive stone-tool type first discovered by John Frere at Hoxne, in Suffolk, Great Britain, in the late 1700s. Jacques Boucher de Perthes, a celebrated archaeologist, found similar objects in France during excavations conducted in the 1830s and 1840s. The name Acheulean comes from the site of Saint-Acheul, near the town of Amiens in northern France, which de Perthes excavated in 1859.”

He got so carried away with the unique gorgeousness of his tools that I got into an argument with him over whether they were exclusive to Europeans or also present among the stone age Native Americans.  (I have an automatic response privileging the indigenous of this continent.)

This was his answer.  I guess that the “Old World” includes Africa.  So he’s the “Euro-centric” element here.

Well, it would include them, or their ancestors at least, since, by the time the Hand Axe went out of use (c. 100,000 BP), the latter were still living in the Old World. The colonisation of the New World lay at least 80,000 years in the future.
And, of course, as the Hand Axe is found distributed throughout the Old World, "Euro-centric" would be an inappropriate adjective to use.”  

But then this particular specimen is not just useful, but quite beautiful and clearly created as an aesthetic object.

This version, transparent, reveals the flame-shape of the stone with a seashell at its heart, a stone poem.

There are some variations because every stone and every knappers’ hands are slightly different, but the shape is so basic and coherent that if it gets too far out of the pattern, it won’t be a hand-axe anymore.  Yet, since the template is the human hand, the central bulge fitting the hollow of the palm and the edge thinned just outside the fingers to form the necessary blade, even the casual observer can know how to hold it.

These specimens of pink quartz are are not hand axes 
because they are clearly designed to be attached to a shaft. 

I don't know what makes this one seem to glow from inside.

This one seems small, maybe a "lady hand axe"?

Tools of stone take a defining role in the project of rising skill and mental ability because anything else is likely to have dissolved by now.  Surely the first small inventions — rabbit snares, cooking tools, fasteners for holding hides together — were of sticks and animal parts.  Or used the earth itself, like the pits the First Peoples of the New World dug to bury roots so as to build fires on top, creating an oven.  Lined with rawhide, they became pots into which hot stones could be dropped to cook marrow out of bones.  It took a long time to realize what they were when the remnants were found at the bottom of “buffalo jumps.”  No one even noticed them enough to wonder.

Today's efforts to find such a distinct and definitive object doesn’t seem to be particularly predictable, except by predicting where they might be useful, which might have been quite different at the time they were made so long ago.  The primary use seems to have been cutting flesh for food, but what was once animal habitat might now be simply desert.  Since stone is heavy and early people probably hadn’t invented pockets, it seems to have been easier for them to knap a new tool than to carry them along, so they are scattered where they were abandoned, not stockpiled.  

For first peoples, who knew what kind of stone to use, could see how they were vulnerable to the striking that creates sharp edges where the stone is broken, and had the strong dexterous grip to hold and strike, it must have been far easier than it is for us today.  Although, I’ve heard that some knappers can chop arrowheads out of those old thick green CocaCola glass bottles.

Part of the more intellectual interest in flint-knapping is connected to the idea of finding a fault-line or shift in history that distinguishes “human” like us from “missing link” or even the other hominins, who are more like recurring emergent creatures than any chain of descent.  Chimps use sticks for tools and so do crows, so apart from the problem of survival of materials, we already have reason to discredit that particular kind of tool.  Neither animal can create a cutting edge, though they will pound something with a rock or some birds will carry hard-shelled food like oysters or clams up high enough that if they are dropped they will shatter.  That in itself means they can predict and repeat acts.

The next steps after creating cutting edges — and with obsidian as a matrix those edges can be sharp enough to do surgery better than a steel scalpel — might be fire, weaving, and beauty.  I’ve never seen an article about paint on the earliest living bodies, but, having watched children with mud or markers, I suspect it was early.  Certainly it survives even in fashion magazines, an effete recent development.  Or is it an atavistic persisting practice?

Found art like fossil iniskum (buffalo-stone shapes left by primordial sea creatures) and the rubbing of them with fat and ochre is old, a spontaneous response that invites our own sensory contact.  Everything for the autochthonous people close to the earth must have been pages of information.  The hands of the makers stored information right in their muscles and calluses, their joints and wrists, as they felt the little jolts and releases when the flakes were knocked off, saw what the symmetry was creating and the uses of the result.   When we look at these hand axes, we can't avoid seeing the ghostly hands of the makers.

Friday, December 08, 2017

BROOKS AND ROSE: Compare and Contrast

Brooks and Rose

Luckily for this exercise, I watched David Brooks on Charlie Rose just before Rose guttered out.  It was timely.  I hadn’t paid much attention to either of these gents until lately, when I began watching the news regularly to follow the Trump scandals, so numerous, so ubiquitous, and sometimes so unsuspected.  These two men make good material for a “compare and contrast” thought experiment.  It’s about sex only incidentally.  Mostly it’s about class and how it is defined.

This video is a sketch of the character of Rose, who projects a sort of tired gentility with his vulture’s posture and baggy eyes.  He’s a working man’s notion of what a privileged upper class man might be like, to the naive eye the shine of the people Rose interviews rubbing off on Rose.

Rose is only a few years younger than me, but he has had two “open heart” surgeries to repair a valve.  I suspect he had brain damage in the process.  That may be the source of the lack of empathy that resides in the human prefrontal brain and that seems more and more to be the source of humanness, even the evolutionary edge that allows people to cooperate for complex and costly goals like going to the moon.  But I suspect Rose never has been particularly empathetic — calculation lurks in those baggy eyes.

Brooks, who was born the year I graduated from NU (1961) which makes him a generation younger than Rose, suggests that the kind of apologies many of our Congressmen are offering for their bad behavior reflect “an inability to put your mind in the mind of the person you’re pushing yourself all over.  It’s a sort of a moral and a humanist blindness, to another person’s experience.”  I would add that the blindness is not confined to gender-based expectations in the realm of intimacy, but also to most social exchanges and assumptions.  

Rose, speaking in 1986,  says his marriage in 1980 split apart because of “Workaholism . . .It’s the saddest thing. — I lost track of my marriage.  I consider it the biggest failure of my life, allowing my marriage to be a casualty of my own desire for a place in the sun.”  A staffer (undesignated gender) remarked “He’s the most frightening combination of insecurity and egotism I’ve ever come across.”

A friendlier opinion, given in the early 1990’s, was “about Rose’s charm, his ability to schmooze just about anyone into an interview and to lure them into opening up.” . . “His definition of a good conversation is almost mystical.”  As Rose puts it, “questions that get at and reveal who this person is, what makes them tick . . have these people take us on a journey of exploration of who they are, what they’ve done and hope to do, what passion beats in their hearts.”  This is meritocracy, not based on achievement so much as the inspired uniqueness of individuals who are “famous.”  Not earned by hard work nor found through education, but an essential gift of superiority.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h27M6VYV5wQ  This is an edited clip of the Brooks interview with Rose that capsulizes what struck me.  Brooks conveys a sort of boyish wonder that the world is so unpredictable and yet a willingness to watch from the sidelines until he has figured it out.  (Rose is pretty much edited out of the clip.)

https://www.cjr.org/the_profile/the_transformation_of_david_brooks.php  This article begins:  “David Brooks was struggling with sin. More precisely, he was seeking a way to translate the Christian understanding of sin into secular terms for millions of readers. His emerging specialty, whether in his New York Times column or best-selling books, is distilling dense concepts for the mainstream. An ugly word for that, he notes, is popularizing.”  But how could it be otherwise if the subject is populism?

Funt notes:  “Brooks committed to a mission for the rest of his career: to restore comfortable, competent dialogue about what makes a virtuous life.”  Now that we have buried our WWII heroes, what is the source of arete-based examples?  (“Arete” is a moral strategy that uses virtuous people as models.)  Brooks is a University of Chicago graduate, a kind of education that leaves a deep imprint.  Even now the school is ransacking their own resources to answer the question of virtue.  Every issue of the graduate ‘zine addresses morality, character, stamina in times of trial. 

“Comfortable” is not normally thought of as linked with virtue, which Americans tend to define as produced by suffering, or at least denial.  “Competent” is something we don’t seem able to define except in terms of financial success.  Certainly no one on any terms can call our president “competent.”  (If he was ever comfortable, he’s not now.)  Comfortable is a word that brings up undressing which implies sex.  (“Let me slip into something a little more comfortable,” says the vamp.)  Brooks’ mentor, William F. Buckley, always projected ease and comfort in the midst of luxury, but in the background is always the suspicion of moral relativity and a blaming of poor people for not trying hard enough.

Darker, there is always a sense with U of Chicago people that they are talking over the heads of everyone else.  When a U of C person says,  “Have you read So-and-So?” they mean, do you have a grasp of that person’s body of argument?  When most people ask whether you’ve read a book, they mean, “Are you keeping up with what’s popular?”  

There is also a sense of entitlement to discuss anything at all, because it’s based on observation and analysis rather than emotional involvement, a commonality of experience.  This is “group meritocracy” rather than the elitism of individuals, because it is based on belonging to a category of people with a language and set of assumptions, a way of doing things — which used to be true of Congress before Trump threw open the doors and led in a bar-fight, albeit a bar-fight of old men manipulating their sons.  The Repubs were also believers in group meritocracy, but based it on control and wealth, which has taken them far away from merit.  Corruption.

Some have said that the R’s are trying to create a new aristocracy, based on the model of Europe.  Rose might like to be taken for “landed gentry”, though I can’t seem to shake the mental image of him as a child sharing a bedroom with his grandmother, working with her on scrapbooks of the rich and famous.  Brooks remarks on a different “class” based on education, a group defined by legacy admissions to elite universities, but no less a “ruling” class through the manipulation of the rule of law.  They are discrete, even self-deprecating.  (They don’t escape the French deconstructionists, but only the more recent graduates have mastered that body of thought.)

So the image that sticks with me from this article is Brooks working on his weekly column by sorting his research notes, down on his knees on the floor to make little stacks of material that will amount to a paragraph each, totalling 806 words exactly.  Discipline.  If you use it enough, it becomes comfortable.  But it’s a practise that can be dispersed by unanticipated winds.

Thursday, December 07, 2017


We knew that rising population would eventually trigger rat behavior: that is, individual violence and gang raids, drug use, infanticide, and so on — all based on territory and the need to claim a place of one’s own.  We knew that diminishing resources (what happens when we come to the end of palladium for smart phones?) would mean increased deception, racketeering, swindles and bribes.  It has always been true that sex and religion are potent forces in turmoil of this kind — not “real” sex based on appreciation of other human beings and not “real” religion based on cooperative living and spiritual generosity.  But “sword and sandal” gladiator morality in an imagined world is always with us and taken as “truth” by those who wish to excuse their behaviour.

Now women moving in men’s worlds are getting powerful men fired without any trial — the crime of sloppy kissing without invitation.  And we’re told the worst is yet to come.  Not the Trump tapes that were successfully suppressed, but the Russian Trump tapes used for blackmail. 

Rachel Maddow keeps saying, “Fasten your seatbelts.”  And “follow the money.”  Around here the rule is “the way to deal with bad stuff is to deny it.”  Keep rowing or the whip will come down on you.  People worry about teens committing suicide while the rate of old farmers committing suicide keeps rising.  People worry about groping while indigenous women are murdered, coast to coast.

That’s just the social stuff.  I worry about the ecology: climate change, rising seas, and the wheat genome changed by industrial strategies to the point of triggering subtle but destructive molecular poisoning like gluten allergy.

Then there’s private personal examination that a writer does, and the exposure of all the shortfalls, wrong guesses, betrayals, and self-destructive acts that seemed innocent enough at the time.  One’s flesh body, counted on to preserve identity, can head off in some new direction never chosen by one’s mental self.  The good-to-go self that could leap out of bed at first dawn, leaving underwear behind in order to save time, mount a horse in order to move fast, and laugh at any dangers — that person is gone.  

If I did all the stuff I’m supposed to do now for the sake of my health, it would take more than an hour:  the diabetic foot soak and search, the steps of dental hygiene, the protocol for dealing with dry-eye syndrome, the testing and record-keeping for diabetes and for weight control, the exfoliating and moisturizing, the plucking and shaving to control two inch hairs in eyebrows and a luxuriant lady-beard, the ear wax and eye drops — not to be used in the wrong orifices — it’s all humiliating and interferes with thinking about serious matters — like the maintenance of money levels and uses.  

All this without even major trauma damage or serious chronic disease.  So far.  It’s all just a money-sink of maintenance.

Which is symbolic — is that the right word?  Which is participant in the general confusion and preoccupation with national and world events, as scary as during WWII which dominated my earliest years and was only narrowly survived by us all — and yet has imprinted so many people born later as being “good old days” that they want to return to those years.  They obsess even over holocaust images.  Now we see the photos of horror that were never shown at the time they were taken.

When I look over the set of Netflix movies suggestions — presumably “chosen just for me” by an algorithm that no one can remember composing — they are all about humans in extremes, mouths open to howl.  It’s evidently prompted by a conviction that people want to feel something and that the only thing intense enough to feel is ghastly.

The alternative is PBS where the Durrells are reduced to cute little Disney vignettes that will encourage tourism to Greece and gay culture is represented as wrist-flapping and cutting remarks.  An historical account of the Vietnam War faced the reality, but one had a choice of three versions, one with the profanity masked.  And all the while the two arbiters of culture — one for the droll Minnesota folks and the other for the so-sophisticated tabletop conversationalists — had secret lives based on transgression and exhibitionism.

These issues were never discussed when I was the Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow of my high school.  No one ever suggested there was anything to know about when as a teacher dealing with a girl who came to ask me what to do because a boy had demanded sex with her and when she refused, went around telling everyone she did anyway so that all the boys came like dogs begging at the supper table.  She assured me her parents would blame her.  I suspected the school mechanisms for counselling would do the same.  High school rules: conform or suffer.

No one discussed in seminary how to minister to the father whose life was destroyed because he molested his daughter and who threatened suicide as the only possible reparation.

In the end my refuge and healing are those of Antaeus.  (I googled to check spelling and this time, instead of a rock band, it turns out to be the name of a perfume.  (“Anteous” Chanel for Men)  

Google also offered this:  ANTEOUS numerology analysis. This path is a symbol of freedom, change, mobility, strength, adventure and dynamism. But may also indicate frivolity, instability, recklessness, excess and eccentricity. The esoteric meaning is life.

I finally had to go to a book to get the spelling. Antaeus was the son of the gods Poseidon and Gaea, one of the Gigantes, in Greek mythology. He drew strength from his mother, earth, and was invincible while he was in contact with her; he challenged people who passed by his area to wrestling matches, in which he always won, and killed them in the end.”  It’s all part of the Euro-world’s love affair with contention, dominance and control of nature, a subversive reminder that the planet is always the winner in the end and will be, even if we reduce “her” to a radioactive rock.

We’ve reduced our real bodies to a scent of wealth and power, all dressed-up but sterile.  We want spray-on lives.  But I’m afraid that the real Antaeus smells like sweat and dung.  Maybe a hint of fish.

If you still stubbornly prefer the perfumed life, here are some images.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbMFolt5YfA