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



(Main blog, daily posts)


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

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

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

Sunday, December 04, 2016


Clarice van Houten

What is sex compared to love?  Well, um, what is love?  What is biology and what is soul-magic?  How much is cultural role definition and how much is your true self?  What is animal and what is human?

What follows is a lot of rambling through things I’ve learned by reading science blogs and cultural reflections.  I’m going to pursue a different distinction:  what is the limbic brain, the mammal brain, as compared to the pre-frontal cortex brain?  And how are they extended, restricted, distorted and otherwise affected by gender roles.

Two principles:

1.  Everything evolves, even the mechanisms of meiosis, the molecular and higher strategies that unwind that double helix, exchange half, and wind it back up again — then gets the new creature gestated, born, and raised until it is able to do that again, creating the next generation.

2.  Whatever evolves comes out of what went before and will preserve it all as much as possible, but maybe find new uses.

We probably need to start with pheromones, since that must be how the one-celled creatures recognized each other and merged long enough for the exchange of information.  Once the smell was probably a signal for food, but then — when the swallowed one offered a chromosome and escaped — the result was the earliest intercourse, a creative ingestion of a different kind than mitochondria.

Arrangements for protecting eggs and fetuses, and then the hatchlings, have worked out lots of ways.  Seahorses with babies in their pouch.  Overwhelming the predators with sheer numbers like the baby sea turtles.  Keeping the babies in nests and bringing them food.  So on.  The birds added song to pheromones, sound to smell.  We’re told that maiasaurus brought food to her nestlings.  Babies learned to attach to the mother, following in single file.  Even kittens do that.  Mammals stay close to their mother’s milk and thus to mother until they're kicked off the nips.  Cuddling and licking are probably the source of a certain kind of mammal lovemaking, but the shrieks and kicks and grips of necks go back to kinky cats as well.

Behaviors persist in adulthood at a basic level with many names: coupling, attachment, devotion, pairing, bonding.  It’s about the reassurance and increased safety of being with another.  At the basic level it is the pure pleasure of another creature’s temperature, attention, responses, smell and taste, the instant surprise of recognizing their voice when they are unseen, or finding their belongings in a way that triggers one’s knowledge of them.  This phenomenon can happen without restrictions on age or gender or even species.  A cat can get attached to a race horse or a hen can follow a dog.  Humans attach to toys, esp. dolls.  Harlow’s monkeys craved hugging a terry cloth surrogate or each other.  Eating and sleeping together, traveling together, taking risks together, all trigger attachment.

Maybe pedophilia comes out of what was originally a nurturing impulse, or maybe it comes out of the instinct to kill some other tom’s kittens.  Or maybe vulnerability triggers a prey instinct.  They are all lodged in the brain somewhere in the basic mammal configuration, before there were foreheads.  The nearly grown kittens beside me as I type slide back and forth between grooming each other and throttling each other, kicking each other’s bellies until they cry out.

This stuff is hard to think about in part because we are so conditioned to whatever gender roles the culture has imposed or drawn out of the pre-frontal cortex in the forehead, that we assume pretences are true.  Much of sex has nothing to do with fancy stuff.  It becomes blunt, blind instinct at a certain point and any sweet young flirt who thinks it can be turned off by saying “no” is deluded.  One of the deadliest notions among young people is confusing sex with love, which is an enculturated, gender-assigned set of protocols and meanings.

Sex can easily slip from coitus to competition so that a partner becomes a rival and penetration becomes punishment.  What the couple is doing with bodies is almost irrelevant because the real action is in the limbic brain, the autonomic nervous system that without consciousness controls the functions from the waist down.  Rage.  Devouring.  Evacuation.  

Exploration reveals that there are many possible delicate small stimulations of the human body.  Licking.  Blowing.  Persuasive sex can employ them all.  My computer presents me with ads for the internet Onyx and the Pearl, which add vibration.  Interestingly, the new improved versions add voice communication because words are the most erotic techniques there are.  Conversation is also called intercourse.

Words can be rape.

Once sex becomes mixed with love which can be perverted to competition, revenge, punishment, desertion, blackmail and a thousand other human interactions -- the psychological element, the cultural violations, the impulse to pleasurable secrecy (just we two) -- come into play so that the whole field of human interaction spins story after story.  If one can develop a relationship with a pet, why not with a machine; if with a machine, why not with an alien; if with an imaginary entity, why not with oneself, the most portable lover possible, going even into solitary confinement with you.  People who like to flirt with the idea of prison rape entirely neglect the practice of mental self-fucking, which can be a far more tormenting imprisonment.  

But mental fantasizing about emotional bonding can be just as dangerous.  The child’s surrender of all responsibility to the adult can be an invitation to torture.  A failure to pay attention can create bad habits and numbing that will be hard to overcome when it’s time to accept delight.  Money and pain get woven into what originally evolved to be a different kind of reward/punishment system, so that it’s out of proportion and gradually destructive if not soon fatal.

One would expect the gullible to be weeded out, but they are useful.  The sly ones, the betrayers, are the ones we’d like to eliminate.  But in our times it takes strategy and awareness to survive the near-microbial (but not meiosis) bumping up against each other in passing.  Maintaining boundaries, tolerating briefness, never achieving the animal comforts of familiarity, recognition, remembrance.  We are impoverished in the midst of wealth.  Birth rates are falling.  Male impotence resists even pills.  All the wrong people have babies — “wrong” simply because they cannot nurture to survival.

(Disclaimer:  This is written under the influence of the movie called “Black Book” which is not a record of sexual clients, but of betrayal for greed.  The context is WWII, which seems to be rekindling.)

Saturday, December 03, 2016


Parade Matriarchs

Their daughters

The essay linked below is published by Aeon, an online emagazine, which is British based, but was written by Claudio Saunt, who lives and teaches in Athens, Georgia.  Coyly or strategically, his bio information does not reveal whether or not he’s tribally enrolled or has Native American genetic ties.  The illustration in Aeon is a fanned set of Edward Curtis photos, held up in front of Mount Rushmore heads, not just white people but idealized iconic leaders.  Most people will recognize that, but will not realize that the Curtis photos are all from the middle 19th century when photography was invented and the particular versions shown are mostly Plains Indians.  Edward S. Curtis (1868 - 1952)  had a trunk of artifact “dress-ups” that one can spot over and over.

I live next to the Blackfeet Rez in Montana.  Curtis’ early work was sponsored by Grinnell, a local figure, and depicted the Blackfoot Confederacy (which is on both sides of the Canadian/US border) in 1900.  My father-in-law came here in 1903.  Browning, MT, was a white town of traders and agents.  It was already industrialized by the railroad and resource extraction, which are key to understanding the US relationship to Native peoples.  By this time, esp. on the Canadian side, the Blackfeet and Cree were liberally mixed (Metis) with the European traders who had come for fur to make the fashionable hats of Europe.

The point is that populations are dynamic everywhere, but we tend to try to “freeze” them at some point in time when they were colorful.  The development of “reservations” — and variations on that theme — morphs according to the contemporary thought of the governments: at one point (esp. in Canada) the land left for indigenous people was meant to protect them from mixing, the way we think about bison now.  At a far more recent point the idea was to create a tribal corporation with the people as the shareholders.  

Right now there is a strong movement to consider the rez a “nation” with boundaries, whatever that means.  There is no consciousness that modern “nations” in Europe formed about the time photography was invented.  For a notion of what a “nation” was before that, consult “Game of Thrones.”  One could make a case that nations existed to make war.

If that is so, then the native Americans are true Americans because they fought the War of Independence and the War of 1812 right alongside the people who had been British or French only a short time before.  But they are a class of citizens (they achieved legal citizenship earlier than women did) who are constantly supervised by people who have never been here, for the benefit of people who are mostly unrelated genetically.  

The tribal corporation is not just regulated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but must abide by the treaties made by people decades ago who were conforming to the ideas of those times.  Some treaties were never completed, and then they stopped calling them treaties, which supersede national law. No two reservations are on the same original terms, but the MAIN and dominant goal was genocidal by attrition.  The idea was that as they assimilated, they would fade and disappear.

But they didn’t.  They just created a penumbra of low-quantum people and a mosaic of full-bloods from many tribes.

Nevertheless, nationalization is the next main preoccupation.  When I came to Browning to teach in 1961, the oldest people (in their eighties) were born in the 1880’s.  They were the folks who had gone to Washington DC on the new trains to argue for their people.  Some didn’t speak English.  They were born in cabins and lodges.  Quietly, they continued their religious ceremonies in spite of being forbidden.  Even beading was outlawed.  It was not their DNA that distinguished them — it was their memes.  That was here.  

Back east Benjamin Franklin was employing assimilated native Americans in his print shop.  NA people were attending Harvard.  The biggest problem was that they still died too young from white man’s diseases (some of which were African).  The NA Asian-based genome wasn’t adapted yet.  I know of no studies of the interaction of the immigrated modern Chinese mixing with the American indigenous people.  (The modern Treaty 7 people included a Japanese trader in their affairs on grounds that he “sure looks like us.”)

The point I’m making is that the North and South Americans were mixtures of “races” (Some South American indigenous people carry Denisovian genes, but not Neanderthal, which Europeans have in small traces) and — because each local group was adapted to its ecology at a very deep level — their unique world-views, customs, foods, clothing and shelters, fitted to the very forces that killed the white people who came: yellow fever, for instance.  Inability to live in very high altitudes.

So before there was globalization, there was continentalization.  In 1804 Lewis and Clark set out east/west across the continent, but since the way this continental land mass formed means that all the rivers and cordilleras run N/S, it was rough going, impossible without help from locals.  All the men but Clark died years later from STD’s.  (Not HIV.)  They had carefully abstained until they got past the Rockies, but then thought they were safe because there had been so little previous contact from whites, the carriers.  But they hadn’t thought about ships on the Pacific.

Over and over the governmental strategies have blundered.  The reservations were assigned to “empty” lands which turned out to be the location of major resources, not even counting the great value of the space itself, its wind, water and sun.  “The Indians” were treated as a unified similar group twice: once by gathering the young into government schools and once by trying to shift the populations into cities.  Both of these forces helped to create the political unification of all tribes across the US, particularly through marriages.  The families dumped into cities without enough support soon made common cause with the ghetto and slum people.  

This carried over into national organizations which at last began to realize that making common cause, despite ancient animosities and struggle for territories that no longer existed, was their surest route to power.  Today the unification is a kind of indigenous version of United Nations, hands across the sea.  (

I’m pleased to see the moving map that is part of this article in Aeon.  In fact, I’m pleased to see all the moving maps of the world that are possible now with satellites and computer computations.  Life is a dynamic process and to keep the native peoples of pre-contact North America or contemporary life trapped in the triumphalist, crushing, 19th century Prairie Clearances is a misleading and oppressive way of thinking.  In the more than half-century since I first came here, things have changed a lot.  Will some bright BCC computer genius (I know they are there) please making a moving map of the Blackfeet Rez?
     .  .  .  .  

Eloise Cobell's settlement payout is beginning soon.  It is accompanied by workshops and panels about how not to be ripped off and how to invest wisely.  The amounts are big enough to be worth the time and effort.

Friday, December 02, 2016


One of the first motivations for building “big houses” was as a fortification, an echo of castles.  But then in safer times they became the hub of an ordered way of life that supplied materials, work, and wealth under the supervision of the “landed gentry.”  Gardens, pastures, cottages where weavers and blacksmiths lived, woods and wardens, all fitted together to create a social ecology.  What happened after the first creation depended somewhat on where the Big House was.

In England every war and revolution reconfigured who owned which land.  If the religious world was in alliance with the king, they were awarded places for their monasteries.  If a fairly important person was of help to the king, he was suddenly endowed with land, and the reverse.  But as we know from the nostalgia-powered depictions (“Upstairs, Downstairs,” “Downton Abbey,” “The Buccaneers,” “Remains of the Day,” “Revisiting Brideshead,”)  none have shown the actual destruction of the fabulous country houses.  Partly they were done in by economics, like tax structures.  Partly they were miserable places to live and demanded major maintenance.  Partly they were used during wartime as hospitals, barracks and so on, which damaged them.  Partly no one wanted to live that far from shopping.  Maybe the Internet will save them.

For a while social opinion was against big houses in the country, finding them nasty elitism and oppressive of the people on their estates — the ones that were still there, anyway.  Sometimes a more modest house was built on the site, one with decent heat and dependable electricity.

In Ireland  big houses became conflated with the imposed economic domination of Protestant people from England.  Therefore their fate was deliberate conflagration, burned down to drive the people back to England.  Again, the big house was a symbol of being “better.”

In the Southern USA there was no need to resort to symbolism.  Obviously, a plantation mansion with its tall pillars and wide verandas was “better” than a slave’s shack.  As such it was a big white target for both resentful lesser locals and for Northern martial Puritans.  And yet we sympathized with “Miss Scarlett.”

People sort of fail to mention the big houses that industrialists of the north built, often on a hill above the noise and soot of their factories.  But then there are those mansions in Manhattan.

In Oregon the “third rail” of my family was Hatfields, because my aunts all married Hatfield boys (cousins of Mark Hatfield, the governor and senator).  It was their grandfather who built the “big house” that was a symbol of wealth and achievement along South Deer Creek.  When the Howard Hatfields moved into it, it was a claim of primogeniture and being the head of the family.  

The fire that burned it down was traced to electrical causes, probably aluminum wiring, an old technology which was replaced by copper.  “According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), "Homes wired with aluminum wire manufactured before 1972 ['old technology' aluminum wire] are 55 times more likely to have one or more connections reach "Fire Hazard Conditions" than is a home wired with copper.”

This is the “big house” with its many porches, including one upstairs screened for summer sleeping and one off the kitchen meant for dairy and butchering, where the well-head attached to a sink hand pump.  There were three big barns to the left, all in active use when I was a kid, but now pretty much standing empty.  

Unrelated to the fire the family wealth was reconfigured when the generations rolled over and the timber on the land was cut.  But it was even more changed when only one of the Pinkerton/Hatfield marriages produced males.  One was unsuited to running a ranch, and two were fraternal twins, very different from each other.  From the death of the grandfather on, though the complex of land was formally designated a business called “the Hatfield Brothers,” it was the ground of contention over which twin got which house and land.  

The original house where the grandfather was born was modest, the most remote upstream at the end of South Deer Creek road.  The Hatfield house before that, a typical modest porched shotgun plan built when the first settlers came up from the south, also burned, but it was hardly a “big house.”  There was a big barn, though.  The family didn’t have employees except an occasional hired man.

This little homestead place was just a mile downstream of the big house and was where the Howard Hatfields lived when I was a child.  There was no place where I felt more welcomed and sheltered, even more so than at home.  It was a little rickety four-room house with a steep front yard and an orchard to the left in the photo.  It finally failed and had to be taken down.  Both big and little houses were rebuilt as conventional ranch-style one-story houses with sliding glass doors, but both still use woodstoves for heat.  They are well-furnished but conventional.

In my own unconscious, this is the “Big House” that represents power and wealth, but the little house is love and family.  Both have the same political overtones as the big houses in Britain.  Who controls families controls wealth and vice versa.  But there is obligation.  My brother in his last years took refuge with Hatfields.  None of the rest of us had enough resources. 

There are no big houses in Valier with so much emotional valence as the British estate houses, but Helena has a street of them, built with copper fortunes from Butte, mostly, by men who had ties to Boston where men had ties to Britain.  Not that different from Empire.  Quite a bit different from the gold rush galoots who wore themselves down until they could afford hydraulic sluices that left huge piles of tailings just outside Helena.  They do say that when buildings in Helena have their foundations dug, the dirt might contain enough gold to pay for the building.  Poldark would smile.  The fires there were among the crowded Chinese who did so much of the labor and they roared up the gulch in devastating fashion.

When the big house is built, that's a sign of wealth.  When a big house burns, it can't help but leave an emotional mark that can't be seen.  The pattern remains.

Thursday, December 01, 2016


Why do I care about “gay” men?  It depends on how you define them, which is part of what makes them interesting.  They are a “thought category” rather than a species.  The actual phenomenon of sex with the same sex is present in a low percentage of mammals of several kinds, which includes humans, but that’s only part of the story.  The real story is how cultures deal with such a difference.  Some say “Aauugh! kill!”  Some say, “Come sit by me, dahlin’.”.  Some just shrug.

Our still-recent sexual revolution changed everything for everybody, at least those who had access to birth control in the form of a pill, those who had been part of the extreme physical life of war, those who were seeing a heterosexual pattern of hedonism that stiffed families, those women who had been earning a living doing “man’s work,” and close after that the disappearance of hard physical labor that men used to do when machines took over.

I suppose the first grownup gay man I knew personally, if only slightly, was the uncle of a classmate in elementary school.  He was her mother’s brother, a young man quite cultured in the Portland, OR, early Fifties.  He took the two of us to the ballet and briefly we stopped by his apartment for some reason.  It was the first time I’d been in an apartment building that had carpeted halls.  His place was elegant.  In my mind, therefore, gay men were a civilized and elite group.  I did not see them as evil vampires.

In the great chess game of social competition, any “group” is of interest from a sociological point of view.  But then individuals from that group can be of interest from a psychological point of view.  Even more powerfully from a narrative point of view.  Any characteristic that causes a person — esp. a child — to become isolated, search for answers, struggle through ordeals and confusions, and finally find “the others” is engaging in what Joe Campbell called the Hero’s Journey, which is a big part of our American mythic history.  But we don’t like the versions in which the hero dies, suddenly and for no reason.  

Today is World AIDS Day.  The drugs are good but not curative, the cost of them is sky-high, the distribution of them is complicated by extortion and blackmail on an international level, and STILL people don’t know they have it.  The venues of blood-borne contagion — sex and injected drugs — require secrecy, even secrets from oneself.  I don’t have AIDS.  I have Aging.  It is a behavior-related condition, like AIDS.  You can hasten or delay it by what you do.

Beyond that, I’m interested in the narratives about any individual interacting with social groups, particularly individuals in a diaspora, dispersed from their origins but carrying them inside — the way all of us carry DNA and memes from our ancestors.  That means indigenous people, sexually atypical people, red-heads, and metaphor-gifted people.  That last means the visionaries, the writers, the painters, the musicians who crave expression enough to do the daily practice that makes masters.  

Some cultures, fearing dissension, will try to suppress individuals, but when it comes to the artists, authorities can only compress and politicize the objects of their fears.  Persecution teaches them to cooperate, to care for each other, and to keep on going through the dark in the belief that if dawn doesn’t come for them, it will for someone else.

Because this is World AIDS Day, there will be tweets and posts and formal essays.  The group of young men that I’ve been following for the last decade have posted the public service videos they’ve made by matching their stories with images.  Real Stories Gallery.  Don’t look for them if you’re prissy or scared or coping with the world by denying everything outside your local horizon.

Gay people are like indigenous people in that their identifying traits are so stigmatized and stereotyped that those who haven’t been clued in cannot recognize them.  Indians and gays are scattered among us, unrecognized.  The first Indians I knew, Miss Colbert (Chinook) and Mrs. Eagle (Sioux) were elementary school teachers in Portland, OR.  No one thought about it.  Mrs. Eagle was quiet but taught my brother to read at last.  Miss Colbert was a respected tribal elder who wrote books.

Red-heads.  Oh, you know about “Anne of Green Gables,” esp if you’re a liberal who watches PBS.  Although the real story, which was Lucy Maude Montgomery’s story, ended in her suicide.  Her life was one of struggle.  My mother used to ask me why I couldn’t marry a nice Presbyterian minister.  Lucy Maude did that.  He was bipolar and she spent her life trying to feed their family (2 sons) and fend off curious people so he could keep his congregation.  She even preached in his stead if his emotional paralysis were active.  She wasn’t an orphan.  Her father abandoned the family.  She lived with him and his young wife for a little while as a near-adult.  It was loveless.

Back to boys who come to puberty with the realization that their body is not responding to girls but to other boys.  This difference can make them pull off to the side, marking them as vulnerable because exceptional, and attracting those who will exploit that.  How they respond will be unique to the other factors in their lives and might turn out happily.  But in times as chaotic and treacherous as ours, with as many drug-gripped families as ours, with as much floating violence as our culture supports, a boy needs both luck and help.  

A pretty and bold boy can do well for himself, seemingly, if he engages in sexwork.  Until he gets beat up.  Or worse: the usual STD’s and then HIV.  Often contracted in prison while serving a sentence for drug use, used for numbing to do sexwork.

Why should an old woman care?  I’m in a place, a small town next to a rez on the high prairie, where HIV is rare and yet it’s here.  It hits all levels: the low because they’re dumb and the high because they’re gifted enough to be traveling participants in conferences and panels where they are exposed to temptation among the elite.  Once HIV affects people one cares about, how can you turn away?

Some people will say the very fact that I live here and am not an activist except by writing amounts to “turning away.”  But activists don’t have the time to read and ponder that is my antidote for Aging Syndrome.  I’m leaving a snail trail that is probably already fading, but it’s not nothing.  Most of the time I’m not alone — there is a diaspora of people who care.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


The planet we call “Earth” or “Home” includes three dynamic fluids that cause constant change.  When they are proceeding through recurring fairly orderly cycles that interact with each other in ways long-lasting enough for the animal and plant populations to become fitted to them and dependent on them, we are happy and growing.

The three big fluids are:

Molten planet interior, on which the tectonic plates float, carrying continents

Seas, lakes and rivers moving water on and between the continents and also rising by evaporation into the air, then falling back on it

Atmosphere, moving around and around in currents, but also rising and falling

Animals that live in water are of two kinds: those who stay in one place like barnacles and those who travel through the water, responding to the temperatures, like fish.

Animals that live out of water must have a skin or boundary to carry water with them.  If there is not enough, too much, or the wrong kind, the animals die.  

There are other dynamics that make the planet change.  Sunlight sends energy, both the force and feed of light, which travels around and around the planet because the planet turns, creating the cycle we call day-and-night.  The sun’s heat drives the convection winds that create the currents of water and air, forming jet streams that circle the planet and driving the currents in the oceans among the continents.  Because the continents are partly ice, controlled by altitude, they change, which changes the currents of water and air.  If the ice on the planet all melts, the ocean currents will be quite different and climates will change.

Variables create and control life.  And yet humans focus on keeping everything the same.

We know all this though we don’t think about it much.  But now that writing has been invented, we have information over a much longer time period, and realms of knowledge we haven’t had time to digest:  DNA, records drawn from geology that go back to the formation of the planet, self-observation from satellites that are able to image us from far above, molecular and atomic understanding.  There’s too much to think about properly and many people have no access or interest in the conclusions anyway.  Their earth is flat, their people are local, and their possessions are everything.  They live in day-tight compartments.

Watching the news, I consider whether fire is a fluid.  It is certainly a change agent and I suppose observation from satellites would see flames move in cycles across the continents.  The smoke of fires enters the atmosphere, changes the temperatures, and if it is big enough — like the magma-driven fires of volcanoes — changing the climate.

Within all this, as my small self, I try to preserve identity.  I have two strategies:  boundaries and patterns.  These are the essence of life itself, the processes of bodies as they germinate, differentiate, age, and die.  My skull is a planet with a connectome of electrochemical flow fed by the oxygen brought by my whole-body circulation of blood and lymph.  The patterns are ideas and cause acts.

I have a sphere of influence, this blog in particular.  But the spheres I once thought were so important, where I thought I had impact, have dissolved.  No one remembers the animal control skirmishes, the UU fellowship efforts,  or even my part in the Scriver bronzes.  Teaching was only a wandering.  These were institutional contexts.  Institutions are human organized efforts to keep everything the same.  Now I see that nothing can stay the same and it wouldn’t be a good thing if it did.

I’m amused that this new NY Times investigation into Trump’s “empire” have revealed that most of his “holdings” are actually just legal agreements to use his name, deals with other institutions as a short cut for their branding.  It turns out he actually “owns” much less, the same as his nonprofit foundation simply took credit for other people’s contributions and his university taught nothing because there was little or nothing to teach about how Trump got rich.  His achievements are no much more than that little child’s book about a kitten who boasts “I Could Pee on This.”  No wonder he didn’t want anyone to look at his business books.  No wonder he’s suddenly willing to divest — it will be much less of a problem if there’s little actual ownership — just legal agreements.  It’s all paper, bookkeeping.

Money doesn’t exist.  Value changes.  It is a swirl of exchanges recorded by beads, discs of precious metals, printed IOU’s, and now simply computer records in a machine somewhere.  The most potentially valuable commodities, the ones that never lose their value, are water and oxygen, but we do not protect them.  When they are lost, we will die.  They are international, global.  But we pursue money instead and expect nations to protect bookkeeping profit, not the ultimate infrastructure of air and water.

When I try to understand what I should do with the fragment of my life that is left (I’m 77) and try to grasp what I’ve achieved up to this point, I end up only confused.  How much of the lives of individuals is bound up in the far larger swirls of civilization and how much are those huge forces the product of geological and biological changes that we might not even notice.  What could anyone say that would matter?

The Manhattanite political opinionators were shocked SHOCKED that the middle of the USA voted for Trump, because they were still envisioning them as Mayberry rural places where people live on family farms and ranches or in small towns where the values were traditional and conservative.  Surely none of those people would vote for a clown with a naked wife whose wealth came from fancy hotels (with all those lovely private rooms for assignations) and pretentious golf courses which all the men love because that’s where all the real deals are made.

They didn’t see that the families had been bought out by companies who run big industrial ag operations — feedlots and mega-elevators that shift meat and grain around the planet in major deals.  These people are wealth-affiliated because on this scale ag is really capital-based, esp. when one factors in the commodities stock market.  These are the people who constantly check the computer version of ticker tape.  The ones who are American (I’d like to see a percentage) are far more likely to be Republican.

Yesterday I had coffee with a man who had been offered a job on a big ranch.  $400 plus a little old house forty miles from town.  He had no trouble turning it down because he has a LOT of money:  a few years ago when he had an industrial job of some kind and took a violent head injury,  insurance and a lawsuit brought him a big payout.  The only trouble is that beyond buying a new pickup at the top of the line and a humonguous flat-screen on which to watch trash and propaganda, he can’t think what to do with himself.  He probably won’t live very long anyway.

The insight, guidance and just plain morality of religious systems fall short these days.  The pill turned out to be as explosive as gunpowder.  Science tells us all sorts of things, but we pay no attention.  China was crushed by its own overpopulation, so forced people to observe a law mandating one-child-per-family.  If a woman got pregnant a second time, she was forced to abort.  Since couples could only have one child and boys were more likely to make money to help with their parents’ old age, they voluntarily aborted girls if they could determine that before birth or secretly killed them at birth.  

Now China’s major problem is men coming of age with no wives to stabilize them and create new families.  They lean against the walls, yearning for meaning, ready to catch fire in a war, probably more dangerous than nuclear technology.  One solution would be the importation of wives from another country, but wives carry their culture to the children, so they would not really be Chinese and the country would not be an institution that preserved its past.

America’s workforce is not just being displaced by industrialization and major international corporations who “off-shore” industry.  Their work culture has shifted out of their hands.  Now the pride, the allegiance to institutions (labor unions, church, towns) has betrayed them and they are the ones leaning against the saloon counter.

History offers us more examples of power crash than the Roman Empire, which is the one we like best.  The harrowing of plague, of disaster (in 1450 a series of erupting volcanoes dropped average temps below what would grow crops), of invasion (Genghis Kahn and Tamerlane) cause death and destruction.  But then afterwards, when balance is regained, things are often much better for a while.  From a kind of exaggerated point of view, if you think of the Islamic countries as a harrowing recurrence of the Mongols, one should simply survive until the wave passes.  Prepare for a New Order that includes them.  The old white wealthy males are going to die soon anyway.  Even dictators die.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Mary Scriver with nice red cheeks.

When my mother-in-law was in her Eighties, basically healthy but beginning to show signs of age, she was indignant that when she had some disorder with a fancy foreign name (which made her proud because it was distinctive), it always turned out that all her friends had it, too.  Meniere’s syndrome, an inner ear problem which made her walk like a drunk; diverticulitis which made her stomach hurt and so on.  She probably had diabetes 2 by today’s terms, but no one knew about it then.  Likewise, I never heard anyone talk about Sjogren’s syndrome.  

But it appears I have it.  Not that it’s much, just a pesky marginally auto-immune disorder.  No doctor has said I have it, but no doctor in the half-dozen years I’ve been complaining about my eyes has anyone talked about ocular rosecea, though the telltale scaly patch on my bright pink Scots cheeks is right under the eye I complain about the most.  Finally my eye doc talked about “dry eye syndrome”.  In the internet era, that’s enough of a clue to unravel what’s happening.

He didn’t say what to do about it, except use eye drops, but I soon found out about using hot compresses (washrag under the hot water tap, maybe with a bit of baby shampoo) to soften and remove the thread of hard white rime that I’d never noticed before.  Do that morning and evening, use drops, and — hurrah — the eyes are comfortable again.

But then I got to thinking about the fluids of the face.  Sometimes if I’m a bit dehydrated, my skin shows wrinkles.  If I’m pushing water, my skin is smooth.  Under extreme stress, my cheeks get fat.  What I mean by fluids of the face are tears, snot, phlegm, drool, slobber, saliva, lymph, mucus — including both the inconvenient forms like edema (swelling), painful sinuses, or a drippy nose and the proper forms like the film on eyeballs, back-of-the-throat drainage of sinuses, and mouth moisture.  When I googled my list, what I got was Sjogren’s Syndrome.  

Besides a dry mouth and dry eyes, symptoms often included are fatigue and muscle ache.  In fact, this is a systemic disorder that overlaps a lot with other scary stuff like systemic lupus erythematosus (which my mother always insisted I had though I probably didn’t), rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma.  DNA analysis identifies at least five different risk-related major gene regions.  It appears that there are vulnerabilities that are activated by environmental challenges.  My body is programmed for rain and fairly consistent mild temps — not the wide swings of high prairie.

But systemic vulnerability can be subtle and hard to detect though there are tests for all the fluids: blood, spit and tears.  Progression or damage can be avoided by supplying artificial fluids like eye drops.  Eyes are the most vulnerable because the surface of the cornea needs to be lubricated to keep it from being scratched or eroded.  And they are the most obvious because eyes look at eyes and notice small differences, which is why people love eye makeup so much.

Fatigue is so internal, fought so hard when people want one to do stuff but meet reluctance, and so seemingly causeless, that it is another of those disorders that become a moral issue.  “Get off your lazy fat butt!”  This adds the molecules of emotions.

But who knows about the suspected culprits?  Even docs don’t.  Descriptions below are from Wikipedia and therefore anonymous, uncheckable.  I left all the links in since you might be seriously interested.  Also, I recommend the document I’ve got here for reference:  It starts with basics and then gets more complex until it’s for physicians.

Cell adhesion molecules (CAMs) are proteins located on the cell surface[1] involved in binding with other cells or with the extracellular matrix (ECM) in the process called cell adhesion. In essence, cell adhesion molecules help cells stick to each other and to their surroundings.
These proteins are typically transmembrane receptors and are composed of three domains: an intracellular domain that interacts with the cytoskeleton, a transmembrane domain, and an extracellular domain that interacts either with other CAMs of the same kind (homophilic binding) or with other CAMs or the extracellular matrix (heterophilic binding).

Lymphocyte homing receptors are cell adhesion molecules[1] which target addressins. Lymphocyte homing refers to adhesion of the circulating lymphocytes in blood to specialized endothelial cells within lymphoid organs, facilitated by diverse tissue-specific adhesion molecules on lymphocytes (homing receptors) and on endothelial cells (vascular addressins).

Addressin also known as mucosal vascular addressin cell adhesion molecule 1 (MAdCAM-1) is a protein that in humans is encoded by the MADCAM1 gene.[2][3][4]  Addressin is an extracellular protein of the endothelium of venules. Addressins are the ligands to the homing receptors of lymphocytes.[5] The task of these ligands and their receptors is to determine which tissue the lymphocyte will enter next. They carry carbohydrates in order to be recognized by L-selectin.

Free lymphocytes constantly recirculate in blood after their re-entry from lymphoid tissue, via lymphatic and thoracic ducts. This happens so that the full repertoire of antigenic specificities of lymphocytes is continuously represented throughout the body. Homing happens in tissue-specific manner—e.g. B lymphocytes migrate better to mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (Peyer's patches), and T lymphocytes preferentially to the peripheral lymph nodes.[2]

Peyer's patches (or aggregated lymphoid nodules, or occasionally PP for brevity) are organized lymphoid follicles, named after the 17th-century Swiss anatomist Johann Conrad Peyer. They are important part of gut associated lymphoid tissue and usually found in humans in the lowest portion of the small intestine, mainly in the distal jejunum and the ileum, but also could be detected in duodenum.

All this stuff is merely a minute account of how the bazillion molecules of your body interact to make you happen.  Few people will share over coffee that their “Peyer’s patches” are acting up, though they might be and it sounds important enough to have pleased my mother-in-law.  In fact, she was carrying the genes for vulnerability to colon diseases which might very well have involved her Peyer’s Patches.  Most of what our bodies do is controlled by the autonomic nervous system.  (“Auto”=by itself, uncontrolled consciously, and named for that —“nomic.”)  That’s the system that lie detector instruments are using for reference.

I resist docs who want to add more molecules to a systemic mix in hopes of making it do the right thing.  Bodies will often self-regulate if they remain a moving process.  It’s like regaining one’s balance after stumbling.  Pharmaceutic companies don’t like that idea.  

When I watched the film about Brazilian bull riders, I noticed that when mothers sent their children to bed they said,  “Brush your teeth and wash out your eyes.”  We should probably do that.

Here's another video, this time about the body as poetry.