Sunday, January 22, 2017

"FRONTIER," the streaming series

When I was in Saskatoon, even though I had roots in Manitoba, I wanted to really know about where I was, so I dashed out to buy books written by Sask writers and was careful to watch CBC and listen to Canadian radio.  Those were the days of Peter Zosky, a golden era.  I found a TV series called “The Campbells” about early days Canadian settlers, sort of Laura Ingalls Wilder up North.  Then I would say to the locals,  “Did you see on ‘The Campbells’ where such-and-such happened?”  And they’d give me this pitying look.  

They never watched it.  They were subscribing to American cable so they could keep up with the murders and sex scandals.  To them that was reality, the action, where things happened.  ‘Campbells' was hopelessly square and lame.  Sort of Walt Disney gruel with trees.  They thought it defined them as second-best, dull.  A weak version of Davy Crockett.

So now comes “Frontier,” a Canadian series.  Six episodes this season.
This is the trailer, but YouTube will take you along from that point to other stories and interviews.

If the story follows across the continent, they’ll come just north of me at a time when there was no boundary between countries, just the pushing edge of the Hudson’s Bay Company.  The eastern edge pulled in Iroquois trappers, who later came West, and across both oceans there were outposts:  Samoans and Hawaiians in the Pacific and Brits and Irish roaming the Atlantic.  

“Capitalism in North America” is one of the themes at a time when the exploitation of the high frontier continent was based on furs.  We know about this here.  In fact, Bob Scriver was a fur-buyer.  Our dog slept on a stack of stretched-round flat beaver hides and I was used to the smell of mink skins drying on wooden scabbards whittled from shingles.  PETA be damned.  We knew the families who did the hunting and trapping — they had to as survival and their families had done the same for millennia.  Now many of them have office jobs.

It’s just that the Blackfeet were buffalo-based and had little to do with HBCo because there were no buffalo over there at James Bay.  The Blackfeet disliked canoes, being soaked all the time, and eating what they considered “nothing food” like deer or big birds.  But they would go east to trade for metal.  On what is now the Canadian side of the high prairie, adventurers from Europe came long before Lewis and Clark.  In that strange folded-back way of a round world, there were also people from around the Pacific, including Europeans who had figured out how to get around the various horns of continents.  

So Momoa is not the first Hawaiian fur trader.  His tribe in the story is Cree/Metis.  The wise chieftain is female this time, Tantoo Cardinal.  She wears a fabulous feather cape, not the Hawaiian hummingbird shimmery kind, but a rich earth-colored and moving scrim of feathers.  Tantoo is one of the most enduring and skillful of the indigenous actors nourished by Canadian respect for theatre.  Most of them are aging, even gone, but Tantoo is a figure of wisdom that transcends film roles and supports personal activism.  This is an interview with Momoa, who looks and acts like Conan in movies but surprisingly grew up in small town Iowa, actually Madison County.  He was born in Hawaii (yes, like Obama) and has a good fraction of indigenous blood from various places, like for instance the brutal British Isles.  He’s just learning about Canada, and is one of the few actors who are not Canadian.

In interviews he’s not a lot more talkative than his fabulous character on “Game of Thrones.”  So far he’s not riding horses.  (Not a lot of grazing in those woods.)  But he says he loved the script because it was brutal, violent, bloody, very dark, defiant, and far on the edges where he could lurk mysteriously.  The Canadians will love it.  At last they’re not gray ladies, but up there with the gladiators, though they wear quite a lot of fur since the climate is not Italian.

As side remarks about the costumes, in one of these shows-about-shows there is a “breakdown artist” whose job is to distress, stain, scrape or whatever the costumes and other materials.  They use wire brushes, acid, various pigments, and it’s actually rather dangerous because of the corrosion and force.  Ace Powell’s son, David, did quite a lot of that work, but had to stop because it affected his lungs.  We’re long past the Maidenform bras; now the corsets make boobies pop out the top like rising bread.  I spotted a lot of contemporary off-the-rack leather jackets, but they aren’t obvious.  One of the secrets of survival for the actors was built-in electrical heat, battery-operated.  They said you could buy that off-the-rock, too.  

Living as I do next to the Blackfeet Rez and acknowledging as I do the enormous progress and growing sophistication of the people here, who include a lot of Cree and Metis and are not confined as a tribe to either Canada or the States, I never feel any particular allegiance to the political categories of Montana as a State of America.  Rather, my understanding of the terrain is ecological, both sensuously and philosophically.  I mean, the long horizon and the rippling grass have meaning to me, as well as the ways of living on this high prairie cut through by rivers and swept by blizzard.

I loved Momoa saying that the weather out on the northern Atlantic coast was what in Iowa he had considered a cyclone.  That is, he said, it was “surreal” (his word) when the big blows came ashore in winter full of heavy snow and desperate temps, only to completely vanish in a few days — no trace, only sunshine and songbirds.  We just lived through a sequence like that right here.

This world of “Frontier” that is so much about capitalism in North America is crucially relevant to the prairie today.  “Fur” is no longer the focus — now it’s minerals, fuel, and industrial grain/meat.  The dynamics of murder, corruption, sacrifice of the weak and small, and now — since we are overrunning our ecologies — destruction of the great global commons of sky and sea, all continue on and threaten to wipe away all our troublesome mammal greeds and passions.  This is a chance to watch the entry of European savagery into a new continent, which turns out to be old enough to fight back with equal force and relentlessness.

Saturday, January 21, 2017


Our current politics stimulates my paranoia in ways that would be very helpful to a “House of Cardstype of writer’s task.  

One fantasy is that the act of nominating every wealthy fox to be in charge of his favorite henhouse is deliberate, driving the subtle international corporations — who have been covertly running the henhouses or at least the hen-feed monopolies — out into the open where we can see them and blast them.  Only the truly clever, maybe the wolves, understand that to be known and in charge is to be vulnerable.  Accountable.  Trump certainly hasn’t figured that out.  Probably Putin has.  Trump has not figured out that Putin is only friendly if it’s useful.

Perhaps the point of letting things get this far — I mean, what were the Repubs thinking? — is to drive Trump out onto thin ice where the pressure will force him into a breakdown.  He seems to think that if he becomes president, he will be immune, but in fact the consequences become much bigger because the offences of things like sedition are much more serious, even capital crimes.  He seems to think that forcing his young son to be present and compliant will make people think the boy is not a “retard” as Trump calls him in unguarded moments, but now we’ve all had a chance to see this suffering kid and draw our own conclusions.  What I’m saying is that pretences are more dangerous than reality.

It’s clear that the Republican party will be the object of ridicule for a long time.  It’s also clear that the Dems have become the party of Ouroboros, chasing their own tails like puppies.  Easily distracted, each with a personal toy.  If the third party was “none-of-the-above” they have successfully elected their candidate, evidently have become a majority by turning away.

Trump is a numbers kinda guy — he’s still under the illusion that IQ scores mean intelligence and brags that his cabinet has higher IQ scores than any other cabinet.  Clearly he doesn’t know many Mensa members or he would realize that there’s a lot more to being “smart” than a high score on a paper and pencil test.

Hereditary Alzheimers, which began earlier than seventy, Trump’s age.  His father died of Alzheimers.  This article is pretty clear.  Again, pretence is more dangerous than reality, because in the case of disease it prevents whatever treatment there is.  One of the most obvious symptoms of Alzheimers is fabulizing, inventing great castles in the air to distract from the lack of a simple shelter.

If you asked people in this small town before the election, they shook with rage at Obama and “Hilary.”  But their issues were never national or global or even local — they were personal, each different but each deeply felt.  On some abstract level they were terribly threatened by having to give up individual survival ideas for group survival ideas.  

The last citizens to have a strong grip on the group ethos, working together for a common good and all that, were the WWII people.  We are feeling the loss of that generation, but familiar military uniforms still make us feel a little safer.  We try not to see these shriveled old men in their wheelchairs, but no one can avoid smart phones.  At least George Herbert Walker Bush is now honest about Cheney and Rumsfeld.  We will be burying the last of this generation soon.

There’s part of me that compares this moment with the American Revolution — doesn’t Trump remind you of King George III?  The 1700’s were a turning of mass political revolutions into a reality around the Atlantic nations.  Part of me wants it to be like the Great Liberation of the 1970’s, an emergence from industrial lockstep into a world of new possibility for individuals.  But maybe what we’re looking at is a backlash against that moment of release, from the parent generation who saw their kids on a runaway and vowed to get control again.

What kind of name can we give the ocean of awareness that suddenly illustrated on pocket screens what the African, Asian, and Islamic worlds were doing, fighting their suffering with war that only increased the suffering — besides destroying the great world treasures.  Their world is turning to rubble.  If you ask Trump, so is ours.

In this real-life chess game, some men cannot be knocked off the board.  Sure, they left the bureaucracy peacefully, but they did not leave the world stage.  Obama will live in Washington, DC, only blocks from Ivanka who shepherds her father through his memory gaps and delusional tweets.  Gore lives in SF and Nashville, but he has not left the media stage.  In fact, this electoral college befuddlement links him forever to Trump.

If Trump thinks he is safe in the hands of the Republicans, he doesn’t understand the shattered box of rocks that is the organization.  Not surprising since he never really cared about the party, only his own aggrandizement, so — returning to my point — who REALLY made it possible for Trump to be a candidate at all and what benefit did they get from it.  The most obvious is that he can be steered every which way without ever figuring out what’s going on.  And he can easily be snuffed.

Over the years, mostly after 1961 and esp after 1982, I kept running into a specific type of “manager”.  First in school systems, then in the institutional art world like museums, then in the national humane organizations, again in small UU congregations, and finally in city government.  The type seemed to be created by and dwell in small bureaucracies, the people who had to make policies turn into actual deeds.  People higher up would tell them to “make it so” but not explain how that would work, nor give them tools and budgets to be effective.  They were the foremen, the head nurses, the sergeants of the system.

At the same time the elite insisted on at least the appearance of compassion, efficiency, and nothing that might cause them to be sued.  More and more daily life became enmeshed in rules, oversight, and technicalities — triggering resentment.  I remember guest preaching in a small old-fashioned church where a big computer technician from another group stood toe-to-toe and beak-to-beak with me to shout how much he despised ministers.  I remember keeping bear spray in my desk at the City of Portland because contractors went ballistic.  I remember the boss I had in another department of the city who made so much trouble with her rules (“I forbid you to ever make mistakes.”) that one of the commissioners looked into the possibility of forcing her to take Valium.  I remember the man at the Valier Town Council meeting who said he refused to recognize any state or federal law and didn’t have to.

I remember the principal who had been an army supply sergeant.  He said he wanted me to force the kids to learn.  I said, “You’re advocating rape while I’m trying to seduce them into learning.”  He said,  “Rape is right.  I want you to rape them.”  

In other words, “Grab them by the pussy.”

Fat chance.  This was a reservation school.  They knew a lot about being grabbed and simply disappeared.

“House of Cards” was too subtle and cerebral for most people.  “Game of Thrones” is more appealing.  Watch us sow the whirlwind.  Europe should remember this — the “Thirty Years’ War,” the “War of the Roses.”  All the various clearances because land is wealth.  Turf wars fueled by rules.

That was then.  The water is rising.  Washington DC was built in a swamp, and not a metaphorical one.  Architects should be drawing up plans for a new White House on much higher ground.

Friday, January 20, 2017


I’m back.  I did not watch the inauguration because I spent the morning on the phone with Tier 3 Apple Support people trying to remove spyware that was not detected by my Malware program.  It was messing with my contacts, even trying to invade bank accounts, blocking people even when they were white listed, and other mischief.  I have to say that all the Apple people were patient, cheerful, and a pleasure to work with.  They were also all female.  
This is a long-standing problem and since I depend on my email to make contacts for writing, it’s a problem that can cost me money and make enemies because people think I’m ignoring them.  We may have gotten the problem licked.  It was installed through who claimed they knew nothing about it.  Techies there are hired through some agency elsewhere.  I suspect they were bluffed by a rogue.  Maybe they should be bonded, but bank tellers are and that’s who stole my credit card number.
The next prob on the list is fleas.  We’ve still got them.  The systemic flea med that you put between the shoulder blades of the cat made Bunny allergic and now she’s looking pretty moth-eaten plus spending a lot of time chasing itches.  There are 8 cats that come into the house and four of them can’t be caught except with a trap.  A second kind of flea med “Flea Bully” turns out to be laundry soda.  It says,  “Lather the cat thoroughly and rinse well.”  Right.  The third kind is for carpets:  “Sprinkle on, leave four hours, vacuum thoroughly.”  Seems to work.  The other basic recourse is laundry of bedding and clothing — not the cats.  I don’t have a washing machine and the nearest laundromat is thirty miles away.
The one I visited this time was so degenerated that only four tubs worked — I usually use five.  One failed to drain and, alas, it was the one with the heaviest flannel sheets — which I could hardly lift when saturated, much less wring with arthritic hands.  Luckily the profoundly cold weather has broken so the temp was in the low Fifties because a Chinook wind is blowing.  I slung the sopping stuff onto the clothesline where it at least dried out enough to be draped on the furniture for the last stage, merely damp.  Fleas would have drowned.
The next problem (aside from the temps of twenty below zero F) was that the main town water supply, which goes past my house, broke in the usual place, the corner between my block and the Lutheran church.  This happened in the night and drained the contents of our spiffy new watertower for the second time, this time into the streets.  In order to find and mend the break, it is necessary to dig, but the ground must be thawed first, which means blasting it overnight with propane.  In this case, the break was not where they expected it, but upstream and sending water through the ground next to the pipe.  More thawing, more digging, more days.  Water was rerouted around my block, so only my block had to make dry camp.  The mayor opened city hall so people could get water jugs filled there, but I knew nothing about that.  As soon as Corky had water, he filled my two big jugs.  I bought a couple of packs of drinking water, which is always in the stores because some people think Valier water tastes funny.  This is good training for a major disaster, like maybe a huge earthquake triggered by frakking.
As soon as I realized there was no water, I whipped over to the Mom and Pop store to buy water.  But I should not have driven through the standing water in the street.  My pickup went crazy.  Then it seemed okay but went nuts again when I tried to go out to the trash roll-off.  Peter, a kind Hutterite young man, pulled me out of the drifts and into town.  After drying overnight the pickup worked.  The diagnosis is a wet distributor.  The answer is to take the cap of it off, spray everything with WD40, which drives out water, or even use a cloth to dry things.  Yesterday the pickup was running and I took a load of trash out to the roll-off.
In the meantime I was using up stuff from the back of the fridge and dumped a half-cup of old poppyseeds into a bowl of biscuit mix.  Seemed like a success until a poppyseed got stuck under a gum and raised a huge abscess that lasted through all the rest of this stuff but has finally subsided, I think because the seed finally festered out.
Running parallel was war with pharmacies.  The Shelby one in the ShopKO store has a new pharmacist but still has their old policies (controlled by corporation rules and insurance regulations) that one cannot renew a prescription until four days before the old one runs out and the pharmacy cannot keep on hand enough meds to be sure of renewing a prescription completely.  Over and over, they would give me a half-dozen pills to keep me from dying but promised to send the rest by mail.
I got indignant and moved to the Cut Bank Albertson’s pharmacy.  They turned out to be really OSCO and no different except that they never remembered to send the remainder of the pills.  Anyway, there was a three-day weekend and the weather kept me from driving.
So twice in this month I’ve gone for nearly a week without my prescription.  I hadn’t thought about the implications of corporate pharmacies.  There are three county seats about thirty miles from me.  Great Falls, which is a very small city, is the closest major shopping hub on this side of the 49th parallel.  Lethbridge, Alberta, is a little bigger but in Canada.  My passport has expired and I can’t afford renewal.  To get that done I would need to go to Conrad on certain days.
This time I switched my pharmacy account to Conrad.  It is a locally owned business and when one gets prescriptions filled there, a special niche is established in which they keep your meds in amounts that will cover you for the next period out.  They don’t run short, and they WILL mail meds.  They are in “my” county (Pondera Co. — Pend d’Oreille, earring in French).  Since I went to get my meds, that’s the reason I used that wretched laundry.
So yesterday, just as I settled into my re-boot after lunch nap, I got a phone call that seemed to be from some Montana state oversight person checking up on pharmacies.  She wanted to know if my pills were working, if I were taking them regularly, chatchatchat, until I began to smell a rat and asked bluntly who she was working for:  Osco/Albertsons in Cut Bank.  What she really wanted to know was why I left Osco and her intent was to persuade me back.  I gave her an earful and told her I would NEVER use that pharmacy again because I do NOT want deceptive nanny-ladies calling up to quiz me in a way only my doctor should.  I was yelling.
The Apple Support people were in Las Vegas.  All this stuff — indeed, life itself — is pretty much a gamble.  Three cats are sneezing and snoozing, now that the weather is warm enough to release god-knows-what.  I thought Finnegan had died in the night, but he finally roused for breakfast.  Tuxie is throwing up.  Momo, formerly Mimi, can’t be touched but accepted bits of my frozen waffle.  I never had human children.  Good decision.  But there’s really no escape.

Sunday, January 15, 2017


Too many issues both online and in real life.  Pharmacy and internet are full of bureaucratic rules that contradict each other.  Toothache but my dentist was run out of town months ago because he fought with the management.  

Valier main waterline broke in the same place by the Lutheran church on my street where it always breaks.  For the second time the new watertower drained in the night.  The ground is so frozen it has a propane heat blaster on it but can't be dug yet.  No water until Tuesday.

And now my pickup is broken.  There is no true mechanic in Valier.  I'm hoping the guys at the tire shop can figure it out.

This is what it means to live in a shrinking highline Montana town where most people voted for Trump.

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Java, the country where Obama grew up

Today I’m sort of shell-shocked.  At 4AM I woke up, went to get a glass of water,  but when I turned it on, I discovered very low flow, so I figured my pipes were too cold.  Set up my clamp light to shine under the sink and went back to bed.  So did the cats.  
In a few hours the Valier maintenance man was pounding on the door to tell me that the main water line for the whole town had broken and the new water tower was totally drained.  Isn’t there an alarm system for that?  Didn’t this happen a few months ago?  In fact, the water had flooded everything north and east of me and was gradually freezing, though the air temp is about 35.  At this point there is enough snow to melt it for household water (like flushing the toilet) but it’s warming and will soon be gone.  No restoration of the city water until Tuesday.
Zoomed to the store for bottled water to drink while there was some on the shelves.  Luckily, most people in Valier have connections with families outside the city limits — like on ranches — where they can go to get water from wells.  I don’t have those connections but, worse, I originally replaced the bathtub with a shower, so no place to store large amounts.  I got two large demijohns plus a pack of individual water bottles.
I settled at the computer to see what Trump was up to this time with his outrageous stereotypes and know-nothing threats.
Erik Erikson, a psychoanalyst, wrote two books addressing the idea that a person could be a sort of illustrative result of a specific culture, or at least an aspect of it.  “Young Man Luther” and “Gandhi’s Truth” were about two very major people and anyway, it was an interesting gimmick.  
Dr. Justin Frank picked up a version of that idea to write two books of his own:  “Obama on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President” and “Bush on the Couch.”  Now he’s pondering “Trump on the Couch” and already has a pretty good start.  Here’s what he’s figured out so far:   It sounds to me as though Frank’s got the spine of his theory already worked out and is on target.  If only the voters had recognized what he sees, but he does recognize the voters and doesn’t berate them.
I also thought this essay at Aeon (url below) is pretty perceptive, but a person needs to appreciate Javanese culture to really get it.  As it happens, I went on a Java-jag in high school and did a lot of reading, so I get it.
Good stuff to think about instead of having no water, but this is Saturday and if I didn’t get to the trash roll-off, the pickup wouldn’t be empty enough to do a laundry in Conrad on Monday when the roll-off is closed, so I went for gas and headed just out of town.  Alas!  The pickup went crazy and wouldn’t run.  My thrashing around in drifts got me stuck.  
But “Peter,” a Hutterite young man who works for Curry, whose ranch entrance I was blocking, came along in a 2017 Silverado 2500HD Heavy Duty Truck and pulled me out, towed me to the tire shop (closest we have to a mechanic but it wasn’t open anyway) and drove me home.  I could have hugged him, but I think I sprained my arms hoisting myself into a pickup that tall.  He was a handsome, courteous young fellow, very willing and able.  I salute him!  
We left my runty little pickup in front of the tire shop.  In my experience, if you let balky vehicles sit and think about it, they often repent.  I told Peter I would bake him a pie as thanks except that I could never bake as well as a Hutterite, and that’s the truth.  He said that was okay, he might be the one broke down on the road next time.
I think the trouble with the pickup is just that there’s still ice in the undercarriage from driving through the watertower flood, but since it’s sitting broadside to the sun and out of the wind, and the temp is forecasted to be nearly forty tomorrow, warming alone might work.  Now that I’m safe I have to rebuke myself: I didn’t have my winter jacket on nor boots neither.  I do carry them in the vehicle.
In this weather, but even more in the arctic cold we just had, I think of the woman who lost her key to her house and stood outside in the snow, actually freezing to death because she didn’t want to break a window.  She was so invested in appearances and what was admirable, that she couldn’t save her own life.  Of course, it doesn’t take much hypothermia to make a person’s thinking go bad.  Be prepared is a survival motto.
Other predicaments can create the same pressure.  Dr. Frank, the shrink, remarks on what a number of people have noted:  Trump pretty clearly was as surprised to be elected president as everyone else and hasn’t really been able to do much more than fake it.  He’s totally unsuited but can’t admit it.  Dr. Frank feels the inappropriate Twitters are a way of blowing off steam from an inner volcano about to explode from the pressure.  I know the feeling.  (What else is this but steam with a question mark?)  But if I act and talk wildly, it does not send nations careening off into disaster.
That’s the way life goes, lurching from the stupid to the atrocious to the funny to the exalted.  The trouble is that it’s scary and confusing.  One hardly knows how to prepare.  Maybe it can’t be prepared for.  But then along comes Peter and knows just how to tow my pickup.  I’ve discovered that one can wash one’s hands in snow as well as in water.  And I haven’t thought about fleas all day.  Out in the road the ground heater is purring away over the broken pipe.  At least we don’t have to burn tires.  And I did get the water home before the pickup broke down.


It’s an advantage to be a writer who blogs because every troubling or pesky incident offers plenty of stuff to discuss — and cuss.  The internet alone is a rich inexhaustible problem but I try to stick with what I know, which is my internet “provider” which is which is a rural telephone cooperative that dates back to the days of crank (the kind with a handle) boxes on the wall that were mounted at a convenient height for men.  My aunt always had to stand on tiptoe and shout to transmit.  

My grandfather derived great amusement from using the bell code that signalled who was being called.  The caller used the crank handle Morse Code fashion, mixing longs and shorts.  My gleeful Irish grandfather would add more longs or shorts so the wrong person answered the phone.  Everyone was on party lines then because it was farm land and only one wire reached out along the road.  Soon everyone on that road was mad at my grandfather.  He used to run for office and wonder why no one voted for him.

Things haven’t changed that much since the old days, esp out in the boonies.  There are people here who haven’t adapted to industrialization, still preferring horses to tractors.  Since this is Indian country, there may still be people who prefer dogs to horses.  The telephone system in Valier is not that much ahead of the days when telephone signals were sometimes sent down fence lines in the actual barbed wire.  My computer internet access is landline copper wire, not optical fiber.  I hear various things about the switching system.  So we’ve got two systems to mesh: the old gradually upgrading telephone and the new webbed mix of satellite, microwave hilltop towers, and various kinds of wires, all with their own requirements and assumptions.

But the hardest part to manage is the “wetware” — the part that’s living humans.  Consider the password conundrum that is supposed to provide more security but simply provides more opportunities to game the system.  I was called at the beginning of the workday (which is for me still sleep time since I do my best writing at three or four AM) to ask me for a new password because of problems with security.  

I cannot think of new passwords when I’m still wandering the labyrinths of dreams.  I’d be hard pressed to remember I had a phone call.  Anyway, I’ve already exhausted the supply of names of pets, favorite teachers, preferred foods, etc.  I’m told that there are software programs that can easily discover one’s passwords.  I may have to get one of those programs. When this craze started I designed a form to put into a 3-ring binder.  There are 25 entries per page and I’ve had to change so many so often that I’ve got six pages of passwords.  At least they’re in chronological order so I can tell which is the most recent.

The dark side of being a writer is that I do a lot of online research, which generates a lot of passwords.  Also, I was an ordained minister (still in good standing) and address taboo subjects, which are the ones needing analysis and consciousness-raising.  (Like the Internet.)  But they set off alarms in the minds of rural folks whose worst sin is picking their noses.

This 3rivers office person (very nice person) who called asked for the new password over the phone.  That’s not very secret.  When weeks ago I lost my password for my 3rivers account (forgot to put it in the binder), they refused to give it to me and said I would have to come up with a new one — over the phone.  So if I were an operative of China, I would get my nephew to work in the phone office and every time someone called in to get a new password, I’d write it in a little notebook and have it handy for accessing that account myself or for sending to some official.

Of course, the techies working on email have the capacity to enter and read any account stream at will.  Management stopped letting outsiders into the work space when they realized visitors could see techies running interesting communication through their screens when times were slow.  In fact, to be helpful, a techie often has to come online with you and sort out the glitches.  So I asked what measures are taken to check out these tech people, not just for skills but for honesty in dealing with confidential material.  I mean, I know that most stuff is just boring household chat, but once in a while there must be materials worth blackmail.

Extortion is also a good way to make money, since there are a thousand companies out there capable of creating a “block list” also called “black list” which means they can shut down one’s account.  This is supposed to be because one’s communication is insecure or otherwise faulty.  Most commonly I get shut down because I typed something into the wrong place in the connection software— or didn’t.  Since I’m a MAC user, the techie I get is sometimes stumped because the majority of the systems are Windows.  They take a moral attitude towards this.  

So I have a friend who lives in a narrow forest valley in Idaho.  The only dependable provider for his internet, which is the basis of his business, is the satellite outfit called Hughes or BlueSky.  They have a bad reputation with Barracuda, who blocks them — sometimes.  

Which brings us to two new problems.  These flows of signal are so easy to modify that they can be adjusted to handle traffic density.  This is why I work in the middle of the night:  at that hour all the features of the programs are generally available because traffic is thin.  When it gets thick, features get dropped out.  Capriciously, from my point of view.  When the traffic is overwhelming enough, there begin to be warnings and then even a shut-down.  Users tend to assume that internet service is there and consistent.  Wrong.  In fact, in rural areas the electricity, water, and gas don’t always flow evenly either.

The other issue is sub-contracting, and strangely the security aspects of email are the ones the company sub-contracts.  The nanny filter meant to keep out porn and SPAM is contracted by 3rivers to Barracuda.  When I was having troubles, I went direct to Barracuda, but their contract with 3rivers is entirely separate from individual contacts.  No one had access to both aspects so they couldn’t tell me if there was interference between the two systems.  I set them as “low” as I can since at 78 I’m unlikely to be shocked

The other service contracted out is the hiring of techies which is done in this case by TrueVision Net.  Their focus is on skills, not on honesty or reliability.  Like telephone help-desk answering businesses, the humans might be anyone.  In fact, one little scandal developed (it didn’t involve any of the companies named here) when it was discovered that a telephone business was using prison help.  Some of them had developed a remarkable ability to remember VISA numbers.

Management level jobs are usually a matter of experience and therefore are older people, so that much of the country’s supervision is still done by people who have little or no experience or ease with computers.  But the “kids” on the first line grew up playing vid games and possibly even hacking for fun.  When I called back the office person at 3rivers this morning, she had given me her extension number but the automated phone answering system was not set up to accept it, so I had to be switched over by the human being the machine-algorithm system assigned.  Using an extension number is an OLD device.  For a telephone company to not install it does not inspire confidence.  It makes me wonder whether some of the lines are still barbed wire running along fences.

But my grandfather would love it.  So many break points, so many chances for mischief.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


BBS  1968

Part of the reason Trump horrifies me is not about Trump.  He summons up my father, who had a concussion in a car crash in 1948 and — possibly because of that — became gradually more deranged until a stroke killed him in 1968.  When I say "deranged", I mean he subtly lost his pre-frontal cortex functions: good judgement, contact with reality.  Trump looks like a caricature of him: both have Scots genes.  My father was never comfortable in his skin, was prone to blowing up, and finally subsided into a kind of Parkinsonian reluctance to move or speak.  His birth family refused to acknowledge this.  He was their beloved brother/uncle who made a lot of jokes and knew a lot of parlor magician’s tricks.  

My mother felt responsible for my father’s state and demise.  Also, she felt responsible for world order and whatever else came her way.  Then my father’s brother, who looked much like him and who had been an airline pilot all his life, carefully monitored for health issues, had a bad stroke which made him violent, irrational and suffering.  He also had one of the most competent and elegant wives, whom he began to shove and berate.  My mother breathed a sigh of relief — she concluded it was hereditary, so she was off the hook.

I think Trump has had a stroke or possibly a brain tumor.  We are interpreting him as being morally deficient — scheming, bullying, cheating and so on.  I think his brain is busted.  He's a nut case, to use his level of discourse.  And on some level I feel responsible for not explaining this to the world so they’ll grab him and confine him before he sets off nuclear winter.

Fat chance.

But at least the situation provides me with an illustration of a split in my identity that puts me at odds with my family, my community and with the culture at large.  Let me explain it this way.  Everyone knows about the “fight or flight or freeze” mechanism in brains, the little part evidently in the amygdala that identifies danger.  That isn’t an easy task because looks can deceive.  If one defines oneself as prey, strangeness means get the hell outta there.  If one defines one’s self as a predator, strangeness may mean a new food source, so it’s smart to investigate.  Paralysis only works if one is well-camouflaged.

Trump is a bunny rabbit who thinks he’s a tiger.  Putin and Tillerson are tigers, who assure Trump he’s got the same stripes that they have.  Consult Aesop.  But it’s clear that bunnies inherit money, so don’t need brains.  Tigers are smart and Tillerson is already putting distance between himself and Trump, if one can be said to differ from anyone so incoherent.  At least some senators are also tigers.  Celebrity is a good disguise, until one runs for office.

Here’s an interesting angle.  Trump does not want to sell or otherwise divest his holdings because many of them are simply licenses to use his name, which carries the aura of being smart and glamorous — though most of the glamour is cheap nouveau riche gilt (like the faded imitation European grandeur of Russia) and tall blonde women who’ve had plastic surgery.  In a blind trust, would the Trump name have to come off?  Is the idea of the sons taking over simply a strategy for preserving the Trump name?  If the hotel is renamed “Smith Hotel” or “Nonentity Hotel”, the profit will be lost.  "Trump" is always going to be provocation for giggles.

Trump’s behavior and exposure in this insane bid for the presidency (much aided by Republican sneaking around in the night) has so sullied his own name that owners of hotels, golf courses, et al, are probably even now trying to think of new names.  (I would not suggest Tiger Woods.)  They could at least open negotiations for cheaper licensing fees.  (Also, I would recommend they’d better increase their supply of rubber sheets because, well, “monkey see, monkey do” even if the vids aren’t available yet.)

How about “Carrie Fisher Hotel”?  Here’s an example of someone who can keep a secret for a very long time — just not forever.  (Ask Harrison Ford.)  She fought grandiose self-deception (chemically augmented) all her life — and won.  The value of her memorabilia has already tripled.

Of course, she has the same advantage that I have: the extra leg on the sex chromosome, an X instead of a Y.  I’m hoping that will save me from strokes.  I’m hoping my mother’s genes and epigenes are strong.  At least something impels me to get to the bottom of things, to expand my consciousness to the limits, never to turn away from a challenge. 

Animal control is the most obvious example.  I saw things I never suspected were common in neighborhoods and that I have no wish to see again.  Physical danger, suffering, and vulnerability were everywhere and it was my job to at least report or, better, intervene.  Some of the other officers (all men in the beginning) would find ways to just “not know.”  A few would take action in drastic ways.  (One Vietnam vet simply euthanized any dog he had to catch for the second time.)  But my boss said out loud and in front of everyone that I had “balls.”

The upshot was that when there was a challenge, something horrifying or unresolvable, he sent me.  Usually it was banal and not shocking to a country person, like a dog run over in a way that pressed all its organs out its mouth, preserving their order.  The man who called it in for three days running (no one seemed able to find it) said it was horrifying his wife, not him.  Why he didn’t go out and put it in a garbage bag is a mystery.  So horror can paralyze people.

I went from that to ministry, thinking that it would let me gaze into the abyss perceptively.  Instead, it was the culture’s belief and the ministerial practice to avert their eyes.  They felt the role of Christianity was to “Look at the stars and ignore the gutter.”  Congregations would not tolerate anything but reassurance.  

Ten years of people struggling to control me was enough. They call it “standing on the side of love” but I haven’t been able to keep from laughing at the word “love” since seeing Stephen Colbert’s take down of Trump twittering hatred and signing off with an exaggerated “luuuuuuv!”  The people who think up these easy slogans are naive and limited.  Like the people who block obscene car licenses, they mostly pick up the standard cussing.  (I don't think the UUA will choose yellow t-shirts for their slogan next time.)

The question is always how bad can it get?  Transgressive peeing strikes me as a toddler’s act, hardly sophisticated, not even a Shade of Grey.  Our culture is capable of much worse:

After reading this article, I came to the conclusion that our “entertainment” productions feature far more graphic and more intense images than those being censored from Facebook et al.  They have become the norm.  And yet the population keeps demanding something more extreme, something that will make them feel.  “Watersports” aren’t very extreme.  Nothing like the indecent tortures inflicted on “James Bond”.  Nothing like photos of dead children we see daily. 

But if we can’t be bothered to drum up some concern about conflicts of interest, nepotism, sedition — maybe a little pipi play will get through to some people, because sometimes jokes can penetrate the denial wall.