Sunday, July 31, 2011
Two of the most useful diagrams for thinking that I know about are the Venn diagram, which is two or more overlapping circles to show which things are shared and which things are not, and the quadrants -- the four-paned window like the one Joe and Harry figured out and called “the Johari window.” It’s really just two perpendicular variables, like an xy graph, and how they sort things out. For Joe and Harry it was “things you know about yourself and everyone else knows about you/ things you don’t know about yourself that everyone else knows/ things you know about yourself that no one else knows/ things you don’t know about yourself and neither does anyone else.
Today I ran into two new versions of quadrant diagrams. One was about art versus artifacts, how objects get moved from one category to the other (valuable to not-valuable as well as from art to artifacts and vice versa of both). Actually, it was two quadrants, one nested inside the other. I’ll come back to that in a future post.
The other was a thing called cynefin, which is supposed to be Welsh. Here’s one explanation that’s very nice. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mqNcs8mp74
We are so hungry for effective tools that will sort out ideas. The people using this as a sorting mechanism seem to be cleaning up doing workshops among the quizzical, but there IS some value to it. For instance, I’m trying hard to understand Heart Butte, partly because I’ve been working on the manuscript I call “Heartbreak Butte,” and partly because the U.S. post office wants to remove their post office, which is a travesty of an idea since that little hamlet is totally dependent on the post office and suffers even if it has a tyrant for a postmaster. Not having a post office would be a stake through their heart.
I see a strong resemblance between this sorting system and a previous book I’m still digesting, called “Five Percent.” The idea of that book is that most problems might be difficult, but they can be solved. But five percent of them are so complex and hidden in crucial aspects that they are insoluble. Not that that should keep anyone from thinking about them. I thought about taking on the present national politics and decided that was far beyond me. That doesn’t really mean that Heart Butte is less complex or even that much different, so this seemingly small problem is worthwhile. Not seeing it as worthwhile is part of the problem.
The bottom right quadrant (which is where the Piegan Blackfeet reservation is -- the two relevant perpendicular lines being the Rocky Mountains and the 49th parallel) is labeled “simple.” About the only thing that stays in place in Heart Butte is the Rockies, although erosion carved Heart Butte out of its side. The weather is controlled by this cordillera as well as the latitude, so that the “snow line” is often at just about the level of the village, but varies quite a lot. This is a flood plain, which is crucial to the history of development. Next to Heart Butte are national parks and national forest, which allows some people to be guides and to hunt, but also opens up issues about the “ceded strip,” which is more history. The simplest theme is that Heart Butte is a jurisdictional place in a geological place, with the two types of order interacting as two main variables. (There we go again. Another quadrant graph.)
Probably the top righthand quadrant ought to go to that “complicated” issue of jurisdiction: boundaries, sovereignty, education, county/state/federal/corporation/tribal stuff, all interacting and messing with each other. But much of it is written down, at least, in laws and regulations that can be and have been interpreted by courts. I would put in all the issues of infrastructure: the phone, water systems, the school, the clinic, electricity, gas. I would include the institutional churches but not “spirituality.” Law and order. The housing projects.
So then the top lefthand quadrant, "Complex," which is described as “cause and effect coherent in retrospect that repeats accidentally -- but unpredictably." Here’s where history counts: the choice of the location by the old-timers, the relationship with the metis, the impact of personalities like Chief Bull, Mike Swims Under, and John Tatsey, plus that story-loop about the police officer dragged to death, the sequence and personalities of the priests like Father Mallman or Sister Edna, and maybe there ought to be attention paid to the “natural history” of the wildlife and even plants, livestock and irrigation. The Flood of 1964 which moved so many out and then returned so many later is a crucial event. Maybe athletics belong here in a historical way. The theme would be complexity but in understandable terms, at least looking back.
And the bottom lefthand quadrant is supposed to be "Chaos," which was the flood, but that’s past and we have no idea what might come next. We tend to think in terms of catastrophe -- plague, fire, an assassin/terrorist, the loss of the post office. But there might be something good. It will be fascinating to see what the payout secured by Eloise Cobell will do. A wave of drug use and drunkeness beyond compare as the gangs I keep hearing about finally prevail? A village corporation that pools the funds in order to do some remarkable thing? Pondera County signing that corner of the rez over to Glacier County? The reservation becoming a free-standing county of its own? A gold strike in the cemetery? A strong, focused and charismatic personality taking hold? A talking circle that calls the youngsters to account and changes their lives?
Or might it be bigger. The huge earthquake that some say will eventually grip the whole east slope of the Rockies. The breaking apart of the United States into ecologies which are small enough to administer in a far more specific way. A new technology that is a source of free energy everywhere. A cure for diabetes.
Or will it be spiritual, evolutionary, coming out of that lower left quadrant labeled Chaos as pure potential, out of the most chaotic of sources: the human heart.
It’s the perfect time to stage a covert coup. Everyone is so magnetized by the dog fight in Washington, DC, that they’ll never notice some people have never given up their bulldog grip on opposing universal health care. There’s just too much profit in the management of hospitals and clinics or the administration of insurance or the nice deals with Big Pharma for them to let the obfuscating hodge-podge get away. Money disappears nicely now.
If they cut off infant incubators, or kidney dialysis, or even the supply of Viagra, there will be an outcry. But if they cut off HIV-AIDS meds, no one cares about a bunch of lowlifes -- you know who catches that stuff -- and society is rid of them. Stigma is such a wonderful tarbrush because no one will admit they see the tar. Even the liberals say it’s not a crisis anymore. At least one judge has refused to classify AIDS infection as assault with a deadly weapon. Now it’s just malicious mischief to infect someone with a virus that will cost them big bucks to stay alive.
So Tim Barrus calls for his prescription renewals, which takes days of calling back because there aren’t enough people to answer the phone. When the paperwork comes, he drives to the clinic (how many miles did you say?), and there are no pills. The meds which he must take almost hourly in order to stay alive are gone, baby, gone. I never inquire into specifics like how many pills he has left, what will happen if he skips doses, how long before he begins to die.
My diabetes and high blood pressure meds are sometimes in short supply, but they give me a few tablets to tide me over and the next day the main warehouse more than a hundred miles away brings a new supply which they mail to me. They say they can’t keep enough stock on hand because someone might steal the pills. I think it would be more practical for the “someone” to steal the pill money, which is a virtual resource hard to trace.
Anyway, even if a person doesn’t miss enough doses to kill one of their clients, it makes a good tug on the governmental leash. “You mind, hear me? Or no meds for you.” Increasingly those infected are women and children. The meds are not a cure -- they are an addiction. The withdrawal symptom will be death. After suffering.
There once was a time when the media were considered watchdogs who kept government and their big industrial buddies from being too chummy. Now the newspapers have been discredited, the television anchors develop their own popular shows, and the bloggers swarm like flies. We don’t know who’s regulating what or why or how. We’re not even sure there’s a “we” anymore since minorities appear to be turning into the majority. They don’t teach civics in schools now.
Surely if the government opens clinics, promises meds, gets everyone dependent on their protocols and schedules, it ought to keep its word. But if it won’t even pay international borrowing debts, what hope is there for any of us? Teakettle tantrums do not help.
This is happening in different states in different times in a kind of tumbling or hop scotch way. The Obama health plan, which some states do not want and which states can interpret and administer in their own way -- like so much else -- has been sacrificed to the power of certain right-wing, super-conservative politicians who have discovered they can hold everyone hostage by balking. (They say ten percent of white northern Europeans are immune to AIDS. Have you thought about that? Now that WOULD amount to being Chosen.) Until people are aroused enough to fight back, we are all at risk one way or another. There IS beginning to be talk about Mengele.
The WWII holocaust referred to the attempt to sacrifice a whole category of people. Historically, it was the practice of sacrificing a whole animal instead of parts of it. For the person dying of AIDS, the lack of proper medication will kill the whole person, a personal holocaust. Their immune system will have already died, because that’s what the virus does. One by one people slip away, and then they make a new list. Maybe me. Why continue to fund Medicare? I’m just an old tubby lady with diabetes and a big mouth. What makes me think I’m entitled?
We Scream in Silence
The drugs I need to stay alive were not available. They are being rationed. I was told to go away. The line of people behind me waiting to get their drugs was a long one.
Sometimes I wonder how some people can do the jobs they do, and then I remember that I’ve had jobs, too, where I’ve had to bite it.
I don’t know how you can sit behind a pharmacy counter and tell people with AIDS to go away.
I like to think I could not do it. I like to think I would not do it.
Often, people just tell themselves that you gotta do what you gotta do.
There are now waiting lists for people who need AIDS drugs. This is beyond simple public health policy as revenge. This is bad public health policy because it means not that people will die, but they’re dying, and while you can maybe rationalize that, it has to be more difficult to rationalize the mutation of virus that takes place in people infected with HIV who then pass that mutated strain of virus on to someone else already infected where the entwined strains of virus are now becoming more and more virulent, more and more powerful, and thusly rendering antiviral medication less and less effective. Add into this mix the numbers of people in the US who are not aware they have the virus, and let us pretend to complicate the situation even more (this could never happen) by assuming that they might be having sex with people who are unaware they have the virus as well as people who are aware they have the virus.
It is a witch’s brew of pathogen.
And you approach the problem by restricting pharmaceuticals that keep people alive and viral loads of the infected suppressed.
Well, what is the problem.
I will tell you what the problem is in one word. Indifference. Indifference to genocide. Not just the indifference of the uninfected because they typically don’t give a rip about anyone other than themselves. But you simply can’t ignore the indifference of the infected; those of us who stand in line being told to go home who blink and say what? We are to blame, too. We should be out there burning flags and rubber tires in the street. But no. We are powerless because there is something about powerlessness that fits into what we like about our raggedy-ass selves.
So many in line are women. Black. Hispanic. Adolescent. Men on parole. Standing there with kids crawling all over everything. In our exhausted arms and on the floor. The image of the gay male as being the stereotype here is just plain stupid. If that myth is what you think of AIDS it’s because you have been brainwashed by a media more eager to sell you laundry soap and designer clothes than a slightly harder reality.
You are sooooo stupid. Why. Because you think it won’t affect you. Sooner or later, a pandemic affects everyone.
How are publications whose lifeblood is selling SEX going to react other than by attacking the messenger. I know how the scumbags work. I’ve written around them my entire adult life. Not because of them. But in spite of them. I’ve gotten published, too.
I don’t know too many people who lived through the bad old days when there were no antivirals because ALL of my friends are dead. I do not know a single survivor outside of a very small burnt-out group. The screaming of the toddlers with their mothers behind me is so disconcerting that I am almost relieved the clinic doesn’t have my drugs so I can get out of there. Who wants to know these people let alone help them. I literally run for the door.
I’m dying. You have just accelerated the process.
Why SHOULD you care. You shouldn’t. You don’t. I’m tired of fighting this disease. You should simply let this virus spread like wildfire around the planet again so that it rids you of the people you find so problematic. You know, the prisoners, and the blacks, and the poor, and the faggots. Be done with it once and for all.
The last mass burial I saw was in Kenya where they were using bulldozers to cover up the pits filled with corpses. Happy days are here again. Every single scene in a book I wrote and published called GENOCIDE has come true. And they called it science fiction. What science. What fiction. Restricting antivirals is not science. It’s social engineering.
Mary wants to alert the media. But the media only wants scapegoats. Someone to blame.
What would you do.
How about a few corpses on the doorsteps of the GOP. They would laugh. They just don’t give a rip. Those counts would just step over the dead.
The few of us who survived the AIDS crisis (as if it ever ended) are getting older and chances are good we would cost you a fortune since Big Pharma has no incentive or plan to lower prices for drugs no one but no one can afford, and you don’t have a fortune.
Go ahead. Raise awareness.
It doesn’t mean the time of day because people do not CARE.
But, TIM, what can we DO.
Nothing. You can do nothing. The systems you have created cannot be recreated and they are very good at the kind of grinding genocide that is obfuscated by the mythology of kindness. You can do nothing because you are powerless. You can do nothing because no one will listen to you anymore than they will listen to me. And you think the bad news is a sword of Damocles about to drop sometime in an abstract but not too distant future. Your future is here. We are ALL in the same pit of bulldozed corpses.
What the people who run the system have is routine.
But we’re not the bureaucrats, Tim.
Yes, you are.
You run, you pay for, you operate, you construct, you make the rules, you establish the need for both the clinics that keep us alive and the clinic pharmacies (same building, only downstairs) that kill us. You can’t hide behind the illusion of being conflicted. Dead is dead.
Tired as I am of fighting you, and fighting this disease, I know how a black market flourishes. Simple supply and demand. Capitalism at its very best.
How can a black market exist.
The drug companies have been under enormous public pressure, (not by trade delegations -- the thought is ridiculous), to provide these drugs to poor people in poor countries who make less than two dollars a day. The chances that these people will be able to afford tens of thousands of dollars to buy the drugs are not good. So what do drug companies do. Easy. They find markets.
Let’s PRETEND I go to the black market in let us pretend, Bolivia, to get my hands on the drugs that will save my worthless fat white ass. Who do you think I will be buying the drugs from. (In la Paz you don’t need a prescription, you can get the drugs over the counter.) That particular black market is called a pharmacia. And I will be buying the drugs from the same people I would be buying them from in the States. There are other black markets. China would be one. Most antivirals destined for and consumed in the US are made in Shanghai.
I will get the drugs. I am hardly going to tell you how. I am not on any of the waiting lists where people are literally dying to get these drugs. But if the drugs aren’t available, your waiting lists are as redundant as a concentration camp.
I don’t give a rip if you don’t like me. I would rather live than have you like me. I don’t like YOU so who cares who likes who. This isn’t Facebook. This is real life and death.
There is no like button to click.
I don’t answer the phone, and I don’t answer email either, so save yourselves the trouble of attempting to contact me. Chances are good, I won’t be home.
The only real reason I want to get those drugs and stay alive is so I can continue to be in your murderous, indifferent faces.
— Timothée Bârrus
This is the comment of Tim’s and my friend, the poet Aad de Gide in Rotterdam, Netherlands. I asked him whether I could post it for him with a little editing but I hate to lose the flavor by correcting spelling and so on. It was too long for the regular comment format so I put it here.
“The drugs I need to stay alive were not available. They are being rationed. I was told to go away. The line of people behind me waiting to get their drugs was a long one.”
and these were not paracetamol or aspirin or antiacids. these were that huge collection of highly specific and carefully correlatively adjusted dosaged anti-retroviral anti-aids medicins.
the ease with which this message,this deathsentence,was brought, was remarkable in that we are already numbed to it. it isn’t “wir haben es nicht gewusst” anymore. it is just,”business as usual”,or,”the show must go on”,or,”survival of the fittest”. the motive for this shortage is economical. these drugs cost a fortune. pressure is on “big pharma” to deliver these anti-aids drugs to people in the poor countries who can’t pay them. they deliver,but not cheap.
“If they cut off infant incubators, or kidney dialysis, or even the supply of Viagra, there will be an outcry. But if they cut off HIV-AIDS meds, no one cares about a bunch of lowlifes -- you know who catches that stuff -- and society is rid of them.”
the drugs are being rationed. i wonder which profitist scheme exactly prompts the pharmacies and factories to this modus. i guess what tim already stated,that here we have a case of social engineering. as mary says,there was already talk about mengele,i could only but agree. the nazi’s were founding the endlösung. you have to be stupid to not see parallels between this social mechanic and that social mechanic. in rationing these drugs there will be epidemiological holes
inside a continuity of an contra-infectious campaign. with as result persons, times and patches for the virus to mutate into evermore resistent viral war machines. that this then isn’t a local process doesn’t seem to be high on the agenda of the political decisionists. in googling the GOP i never saw “healthcare” under its departments. only derivatively they shall have to say their say about it. maybe they still think derek and shirley won’t catch the virus if they keep wearing those prada shoes and that anne klein twin set. but here we have ever so likely an endlösung.
“The Holocaust (from the Greek ὁλόκαυστος holókaustos: hólos, "whole" and kaustós, "burnt"),also known as The Shoah (Hebrew: השואה, HaShoah, "catastrophe"; Yiddish: חורבן, Churben or Hurban,from the Hebrew for "destruction"), was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler, throughout Nazi-occupied territory.”/w.
“AIDS is now a pandemic. As of 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that there are 33.3 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS, with 2.6 million new HIV infections per year and 1.8 million annual deaths due to AIDS.In 2007, UNAIDS estimated: 33.2 million people worldwide had AIDS that year; AIDS killed 2.1 million people in the course of that year, including 330,000 children, and 76% of those deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. According to UNAIDS 2009 report, worldwide some 60 million people have been infected, with some 25 million deaths, and 14 million orphaned children in southern Africa alone since the epidemic began.”/w.
the correlation between these two horrifying events as they developed,and,are developing,both,still,is that if there is in any which way evidence that the rationing of aids medication has been designed out of some social imperative,to gradually taper off the respective patients not only in distributive modus by denying them their medication,but also in the more overtly,neopostnazist way to taper them off as they are then causally stringent,dying,yes,then mengele, eichman, heidrich, bohr, hitler, göring and goebbels are under us.
“Due to a lack of government funding, the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) crisis is forcing thousands of low-income Americans (to date, over 6,000 people) to go without lifesaving AIDS drugs and the problem is only getting worse, a situation that Obama has done little to address today or, judging from his budget proposal, in the future.
Saturday, July 30, 2011
Patricia Nell Warren is one of the most well-loved Montana writers there is, but I’ll bet you never heard of her. I don’t think she’s invited to the Montana Festival of the Book, that polite little celebration of middle-class folks and NPR celebrities. They might not think of her as “Montana” since she lives mostly in California, but she grew up on the Grant-Kohrs Ranch in Deer Lodge. That was her family. You don’t get more Montana than that. (Of course, some argue that Missoula is not Montana.)
She’s a few years older than me and one year younger than Annie Proulx. She is frankly lesbian. My choices in that realm are quite different, but my politics are quite similar to hers. They aren’t about what party I belong to, but rather about defending free speech, protecting minorities, opposing oppression, preventing predatory behavior, and addressing suffering of every kind.
I’m looking forward to Patricia Warren’s most recent book, just now released. It’s a collection of essays stretching back half a century.
The first Warren book I read was slipped to me by a gay Blackfeet student -- not really closeted but careful. It was “Fancy Dancer,” the story of a priest uncertain about his sexual identity who finds his messenger is an Indian on a motorcycle. It came out in the Seventies. The student didn’t think I was lesbian. He knew I’d been married to Bob Scriver. But he figured I’d be sympathetic and if I read the book, he could talk to me, because it was a BOOK and I was his English teacher. He was right.
I think of the joke about the mother who said to her preteen daughter, “We should have a little talk about sex.” And the daughter says impatiently, “Oh, Mom, don’t you get it YET??” I mean, we worry about corrupting the kids and the kids are all wondering when the adults will wise up.
Warren says, “. . .the short pieces in My West were written over five decades, with no idea that they would ever be side by side in a book. Not until last year and my growing involvement with the Autry National Center's ground-breaking "Out West" program, did I take a second look at that longtime accumulation of Western-themed writings. A single perspective tied them together - and it was an LGBT perspective at that.” [The Autry is a little more cutting edge than Montana Humanities. http://theautry.org/series/out-west]
“It was amazing to realize that a piece about Oriental rugs going west (for the Denver Post in the 1960s) had a common thread with a 1990s piece for Lesbian News about my first closet love in a small Western town. That a history of haying technology had its link to a history of women (including lesbian and bi women) in rodeo.
“Maybe it's the extreme questioning that starts at such an early age for so many of us. That questioning drives us deep into the culture, into ourselves, to look for reasons, for answers, for ways out of the closet. Ultimately the questions are not only about ourselves, but the world we live in - its past, its rules and rhetoric, its religions and spiritual ways, its history and conflicts, and where it's going in future.”
If young gays have a lot of questions, young Indians have even more. I’m tired of pretending that all the gay people are not there or are not gay or are not Indian or are not just as good as anyone else. Where there are mammals, there are homosexuals and that’s a scientific fact. Forget “lifestyles.”
I happened upon Warren when I was looking for publishers for “Orpheus in the Catacombs.” I am accustomed to gays and gay-friendly people (have been since grade school -- grew up reading liberal books, I guess), so what knocked my socks off was her business history as a self-publisher which is a testimony to tenacity and insight. Read and learn at her website: http://wildcatintl.com/ I gather that things have gotten tougher but the thing about being old is that one has resources, being -- by definition -- a survivor.
“After my business partner and I lost our business office/home last year and the economy continued to tank, I decided that the best medicine for fiscal disaster was to say "damn the torpedoes" and publish a new book. The stories were already written. All my team had to do was scan, typeset, edit, get permissions where needed, design a cover and start the process. I scheduled it for June 15 in Pride Month, which also happened to be my birthday. [The launch was in Bozeman, Montana, where the cow college is.]
“In short, My West is a birthday present to myself on my 75th birthday, to renew my conviction that books are what I want to do and that they're still worth doing.. . . I've been hooked on the smell of printer's ink all my life, from the 1950s high-school yearbook printed in a small town to the 1970s Reader's Digest coming off a mammoth web press at the McCalls plant in Ohio.” [Warren was an editor at the Reader’s Digest for a decade.]
I differ from Warren in another way. In high school I didn’t do the yearbook -- I was acting in plays and painting flats backstage. For me the smells that mattered were greasepaint, rabbitskin glue, and hot spotlight gels. Then it was chalk (NOT markers on whiteboard) and then molten bronze and then wet dogs and finally the smell of old churches. Finally back to sweetgrass and cottonwood smoke in Montana. For me writing is a subset of performance, which gets me into trouble. It has nothing to do with romantic preference. The phrase might be “acting out,” though that’s not exactly right. Not quite “act up,” but a defense of identity.
It’s time Patricia Nell Warren was as well-known as A.B. Guthrie Jr. and Norman Mclean. To find out how Deer Lodge and Warren’s parents -- those stalwarts of historical Montana -- reacted to her first book, “The Front Runner,” watch these YouTubes, which are videos of her speech at the Autry.
Friday, July 29, 2011
In 2006 a great hue and cry was raised about Tim Barrus using a pseudonym (Nasdijj) and writing from a pseudo-identity in three books (published respectively in 2000, 2003 and 2004.) Also in 2006 I self-published a book called “Twelve Blackfeet Stories” but there was no hue and cry though I'm white. How come?
Before 2000 Sherman Alexie complained to Tim’s editor (who had previously been Sherman’s editor and who asked Sherman his opinion) that Tim had plagiarized his writing. A panel of experts hired by ICM, Tim’s representing agency, sat down and compared the writing of the two men but found no copying. (IMHO there is no similarity at all, and I’ve read most of both men’s work plus a wall-full of other Native American writing.)
No one accused me of copying “Twelve Blackfeet Stories,” even though most people, in spite of the blurbs, assumed that I had written “my” version of those Napi stories that are rewritten and rewritten, becoming paradoxically more Christian (to please the missionaries) and more obscene (to please the new anthropologists who hadn’t learned Latin so could no longer hide those passages that way). Anyway, there wasn’t much publicity and though I handed out free copies to a few key people, no one actually read it. Books tend to be political objects.
I designed a really nice cover though, bright red with moccasins over the controversial foot/feet vowels. I was not rebuked for it. The locals might have gotten stirred up if they had realized I got the moccasins from “Blackfeet: Artists of the Northern Plains” by Bob Scriver, (which is photographs of his notorious million-dollar collection) and that each of my twelve stories (which are generational tales meant to illustrate historical moments up to and including the present) is prompted by an object from the Scriver artifact collection (a copper tea-billy, a medicine bundle pipe, a horse fetish, a bear-knife, and so on). But they had read neither Bob’s book (a picture book) nor my book. They only spread rumors. They didn’t read Tim’s books either -- just opinions about them.
What’s puzzling is that Tim’s books, which actually were TRUE in the sense of being his real experience, were reviled for being false, and mine was simply ignored, but now if you google it, copies are for sale everywhere: India, Australia. The same copies that can be downloaded as a pdf for free from my Lulu site: www.lulu.com/prairiemary are now sold online around the world but no royalties or evidence of sale through Lulu are arriving. You can find Tim’s books on the used book sites: abebooks.com, alibris.com, powells.com, and even through Amazon. Prices are rising.
I spend a lot of time puzzling over this. Some of it is about category. Tim is a “genre” (people’s popular writing) writer as well as a specialty niche (gay porn) writer. No one cares much who writes genre popcorn so long as it’s a good story. My guess is that when the “Nasdijj” books were promoted in the “literary” context, the rules changed. People get very pretentious about literary writing and want to analyze everything for truth, justice, and semiotics -- like the French who so love Jerry Lewis. In fact, no one in France is horrified by Tim’s scandal, not even the S/M stuff. (It’s seems mild now, anyway.)
I have stigmas: I am female (but not as pretty as J.K. Rowling) and I am local. And I write “literary” as well. I’m dumpy, contrarian, and over-intellectual. But I have discovered a group of women writers somewhat like me, even in my age group. The trouble is that they’re lesbian and transgender. Not that I hold it against them, but I’m not. I wouldn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up. (Sometimes that happened in the ministry. Usually needy guys. I was NOT accommodating. In fact, I got pretty cross.)
Over the years since 2007, which is when I made contact with Tim, thinking he was Nasdijj, I’ve been very curious about what “really” happened in 2006 when Matthew Fleischer’s article called, catchily, “Navahoax,” appeared in the LA Weekly (NOT the LA Times). Aside from a tabloid-type story about a murder, Fleischer had nothing else notable published before or since. Tim himself won’t talk about it much.
Every few days I google three people: Bob Scriver, myself, and Tim Barrus. The great furor of Tim’s “hoax” has sort of died down and a pentimento (I wish it were a REpent-imento) of the causes of the hoax have emerged. Bob Scriver is also no longer “hot,” ironically because of all the entrepreneurs who tried to corner his work and demanded that he make lesser, cheaper work that was easier for them to sell -- thus eclipsing his really fine monumental work. I’m not talking about the Lewis & Clark statues, which were finished and placed. I mean the Blackfeet portraits (“Transition,” “No More Buffalo,” “Return of the Raiders”) that were meant to be the basis for a promenade in Browning. The small pieces churn through the auctions, leaving the impression that Scriver was a minor artist who did trivial work. So much of fame and fortune is simply happenstance.
Blog posts about Tim since he left both writing and the United States to explore videos and continue his work with boys have almost disappeared while, interestingly, the readership of his books sneaks upwards and a new production of “Anywhere, Anywhere” is sometimes mentioned.
And me? I can’t even get arrested, as the saying goes. Although, there’s a certain formerly very friendly male official of the Western Literature Association who was so horrified by the knowledge that I was writing with Tim Barrus that he forbade me to ever contact him again. So much for rough and rugged frontier types! I am woman, hear me ROAR!! Cougars go everywhere! Even Connecticut!
All through this, I can’t help feeling that if I were a man, if I were in Manhattan, or even if I were Queer, everything would be much more advantageous. Because all is platform and people understand those platforms. They do not understand anyone who doesn’t HAVE a platform. If I call myself “Prairie Mary,” I ought to have a prairie platform. (Whatever that is.) If I entitle a book “Twelve Blackfeet Stories” they ought to be Napi tales, the familiar myths, because that’s their platform.
If you do things that have not been done before, if you work with people who are not on the approved list, if you belong to yourself -- well, you’ll just never be rich and famous. Okay. So be it. I’ll put that on the list, along with reviewers who think that smarmy (if patronizing) praise will get them invitations to the beds of minority writers, with liberals who like to keep the books of flashy iconic Indian writers on their coffee tables, and academics who can’t keep up with either the high theory or the low morals of Paris.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
The physical substrate of love is a simple one: skin and brain. In a real pinch, brain only. Love is a learned (I say, LEARNED) response to a sensory understanding of another entity, hopefully a friendly human being. It can be on a continuum, it can be as an interaction, it can be temporary, it can be as close to eternal as humans can get. It can be consummated, but not if the other entity is imaginary, which it might be. It can be blissful or painful or just contented.
The media keep trying to drive it into commodified categories, but they are too dumb to see the variousness of it, so only exploit M and F or maybe GBLTQ in niche markets, and leave the long tail just dangling. They have XO minds and need a little SM to wake them up. Oh, nevermind, they exploit SM all the time. Once you realize what it looks like in diluted form, it’s everywhere. I really dislike this BLT idea of what sex is because yearning is not the same as identity. A mouse can yearn for a lion. (See imaginary above.) Even vice versa, though most people seem to want to trade “up.”
A person can be located who is exactly a perfect match: their gender, their economic status, their looks, their ethnic background, their fav movie/color/sport/food and all that other Facebook trivia, etc. etc. and simply stir no brain cells. While along comes the bearded old scissors-sharpener with his cart and bell, totally inappropriate, and an MRI of the brain would explode from the heat. No one knows why this is, but it makes a lot of good stories.
Some people blame pheromones, a molecular perfume that might not even be detectable consciously but that keys somehow into a memory or a need. (That’s the way smells work: they literally and physically stick a molecular key into a receptor in the nose -- how sexual!) The back of the U of Chicago Alumni mag always has an advertisement for a lab-made pheromone that comes in a bottle. It’s kind of half-consciously based on the image of a guy who spent his summer baiting moths with pheromones and could never really get the smell off him, so he had to give up baseball bleachers for the summer or anything else that couldn’t be accompanied by a cloud of moths.
I have an “ugly dog theory.” If an old dirty ugly dog shows up at your doorstep and refuses to leave but doesn’t really make trouble and you feed him and get used to him and maybe even finally take the garden hose to him, so that a million tiny transactions of “gaze” and feeding and stepping around each other gradually weaves a web of relationship that begins to approach some kind of bonding. A recognition at a deeper level. Affection shading into something more.
I was reading about one of those cultures where a man is assigned a wife chosen by the patriarchs of the family and never meets her, even at the legal ceremony. On the wedding night -- and confinement has guaranteed she is a virgin -- he goes to her in a dark room and inseminates her. At least that’s the goal. He may never really know what she looks like -- just what she smells and feels like, her shape, her body temperature, the taste of her mouth if he thinks to kiss her. And that’s what she learns about him. Seemingly. That way it’s easier to kill her if she breaks the code. Otherwise, they might actually fall in love. If she’s Scherazade, she begins to tell a story, whispering in the dark, so he learns her voice. Better than kisses.
My chaplaincy was at a big midwest hospital where one of the specialties was creating a sex life for seriously disabled or mutilated people. What I always remember was a story about a man who had been burned so badly that only the back of one arm still had feeling. By stroking it, his wife could bring him to climax. She was using memory and imagination. I’m talking about love here, not just sex. (Didn’t Jane Fonda make that movie?)
I have two touchstone sci-fi stories. One is about a woman who died and so her husband had her recreated as gold rings cleverly shaped and magnetized to stay together in her shape and house her brain. When she died, the rings fell chiming to the floor, no longer held together by identity. The other one is about pure sex. On a planet far far away a seductive woman in a turban would pick up space pilots in one of those Star Wars bars. She took them to her “crib” and as soon as they were fairly besotted with her, she took off her turban. She was not exactly Medusa: these were not snakes but something like worms or tentacles that slid and slipped and were faintly electrical and perfumed and long enough to wind around the man, penetrate all orifices, (I suppose maybe women, too, but this is an old sexist story) and send him into such an ecstasy that he went into overload and died. Then she ate him. Some people love like that.
If you sat in the village cafe and drank coffee while observing the locals, you would see no examples of either of these stories -- at least not obviously -- though people often arrive in pairs. Comfortable, accommodating, conventional and faithful. Is that love? One definition of home is that if you go there, they will take you in. One definition of love is if your partner needs you, you will go. In the last ten years I’ve seen some of these local people lose their partner, wait a while, then remarry and go on unchanged. I’ve seen others lose a partner and follow them into death soon, refusing the world. It has nothing to do with how thin, cheerful, ethical they are. Maybe money or number and kinds of kids matter. Rarely is there a whole new phenomenon, a relationship no one has seen before.
I see no need to prioritize love, to say one kind is more valid than another. I see situational relationships. I see the cosmos and the culture pressing in on the individual, insisting, removing options, blasting down gateways to meadows unsuspected. I see an individual finding a way to take the hand of another individual.
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
It’s a great luxury to think about sex in the way I did on the last post, from the point of view of a person with enough resources and freedom to make choices and worry about whether they can find the kind of “fun” partner they want for the weekend. The real place where sex matters is in a place like Somalia, gripped by drought, where sex means a gaunt mother carrying a baby the size of a cat while she staggers slowly over the miles to a refugee camp. The most recent image of a careless world is a temporary camp that is ringed by the bodies of babies dead of starvation that no one has the strength to collect and bury. This sort of thing has happened for millennia but we never had to look at it before or what it means to be human animals dying en masse as though we were elephants or polar bears. We.
The world is pressing on the boundaries of our cultures, our institutions, our consciences. But just wanting to do the right thing is not enough. We must rethink the moral rules of behavior to accommodate the new realities. It’s not just about managing one’s own life and pleasures, but about planetary survival. I’m not talking about sacks of beans and rice. I’m talking about mind maps.
Many of our assumptions and moral premises are meant to keep the babies coming in the face of discouragements like war, plague, poverty. Thus, abortion is wrong, babies out of wedlock are wrong because marriage is the economic system to support them, death of the aged and marginally living must be resisted at all costs -- very high costs that might otherwise go to needy babies. The biological imperative is about one’s own tribe so marriage to an out-group should be resisted. Birth control is wrong because if the sentimentalization of motherhood breaks down, no one will have babies. If the economic systems that can support families breaks down, no one will have babies. If the world is always at war and the risks of young death are high, no one will have babies. Let the other mothers be the ones who leave their dead babies on the ground when they stagger off for food. Our tribe must grow. The pill, condoms, are just genocides trying to diminish us. Let our warriors force their women to have our babies so THEY will have to raise them. The fact that fathers can now be identified and in some cases forced to pay for their babies has been good birth control.
People will turn away from talk like this that is realistic but then go to horror films where the same issues can be safely faced by making “others” into the aliens we think they are: giant ants or robots. “Alien” is the bitch who performs the ultimate face-rape right into the viscera so that her larva bursts from the heart of us.
There’s been quite a bit of attention for women who were forcibly sterilized without their consent or knowledge. They mourn. Poor powerless women from minorities except in China where the minority was the hidden fewer rich. The final consequences are still unknown, esp. in a population now very short of women. But in the US women who become men via surgery and chemicals still want to have babies. Of their own. Despite the many many babies and older children who need nurturing. Among them are little girls who are part of families but who breach their own safety by going online to show off their sexy charms, by dressing like sex bombs when they are still primary school students, by celebrating promiscuity. Emotionally and physiologically they are not capable of producing a healthy child nor supporting it economically.
I’m going to write a sci-fi story in which a third sex has been invented. This kind of person is either both sexes or neither, but augmented with wisdom. Once the ovum has been fertilized, this third sex must add (haven’t decided how yet -- possibly by injecting something through the ear, but they’ll need a new organ for that) his/her own “magic cell” that will allow the fertilized egg to grow. The third sex contributor has full power to decide on emotional stability, physiological maturity and robustness, and economic sufficiency. Imagine the plot lines that develop when people want babies for sentimental reasons that the third sex contributor won’t approve: the blackmail, the lies, the social pressure. So let’s add a little something: the ultimate orgasm, a three-way ecstasy only possible if the wise contributor is in true agreement that a baby is a good thing. The wise contributor cannot fake this “orgasm” or the whole thing will unravel.
Then the plot gimmick would shift to a jealous maladjusted person who hates change and wants bliss without babies but refuses to be surgically interdicted to prevent fertility because he or she has a “right” to be fertile, so begins to stalk the world with a high-powered rifle, systematically murdering wise contributors. People who have been doing studies on the characteristics of wise contributors find their papers rifled.
Or how about there starts to be a jealous movement saying that all wise contributors should be forbidden to have babies themselves because it will distort their judgment and they’ll begin to automatically fertilize each other’s pregnancies. Or maybe the population of the world shrinks so far that the wise contributors must have conventions to discuss among themselves whether it’s necessary to lower their standards. What if there is another movement among non-wise contributors, an ascetic sect that says it is wrong to enjoy conception because it is a holy duty and holy duties should be costly and onerous, not a joyful practice. Or some lab advertises a new drug, ear drops that will validate a pregnancy so it will grow without a wise contributor but there’s some terrible side-effect, like Viagra headaches.
In short, human politics would continue. After all, we used to have “wise contributors” in reality. They were called ministers, judges, counselors, parents. They simply had no power except persuasion. When I tried to talk to people who wanted to get married and mentioned sex, they got very angry. But Mother Nature is the ultimate counselor. She’s far more harsh than I am. Talk about a bitch.
Monday, July 25, 2011
This is my theory of sexuality in terms of my figure of the circle with the dot in the middle and a line running vertical through the dot. NO it is NOT that explicit! What do you think I’m doing here, the biological symbols for male and female? Absolutely not, because my main premise is that every human being is unique because we are animals and products of meiosis. “Uniqueness” is the whole point of the process.
These uniquenesses are generally thought of as two entirely separated circles representing sexual identities X and Y, which is a total distortion, but I can admit the idea that they are distributed in a kind of U-shape or upside-down Bell curve, with male on one end and female on the other with -- in the middle-- a few people who are both, mixed some way. (I don’t know where to put “neither.”) If you’re looking at anatomies. But this is also deceptive, because it turns out that people move back and forth on the continuum, depending on their internal chemistry which varies with stage of life or circumstances. In fact, the key to my schema is that the dot in the middle is the upwelling (the well is the bottom half of the vertical) from the immanence of existence, pure vitality coming from the molten core synergies of life itself. The circumference, the circle, then represents the context pushing in to confine and shape identity.
Individuals live on cultural continuums about what X and Y qualities and roles are. Clearly the Y is supposed to inseminate the X and the X is supposed to carry the baby to term, then nurse it. Everything else is negotiable. If the individual’s personal qualities aside from these are a good fit with what the culture expects, everything is copacetic. If not, cacophony.
The culture messes around with a lot of variables. In some, sterile women are discarded. In others, indiscriminate inseminators might be killed. In a more exotic tribe, a man might believe that an ejaculation is the same thing as a nipple exuding milk. In a very sophisticated tribe, nursing a baby through a human nipple might be replaced by a glass bottle. In an EXTREMELY sophisticated and scientific tribe the baby might be conceived in a glass Petri dish. They’re working on a glass uterus, a la Huxley.
In the middle, that dot where the cosmos is upwelling (Is it nursing us in some sense? It is our Axis Mundi and our Umbilicus.) forms an identity that is self-conscious. It (we) can think about the cosmos, so let’s do. The cosmos is the everything we know of: eternal, edgeless, sourceless, goal-less, sometimes perceptible and sometimes not. It has been a shock to discover that it’s not about us. It cares not about us: neither hate nor love, just a fabulous paisley of dynamic implacable pattern. Now go read the books of Howard Bloom who starts with this stuff and brings it up to the present.
Back to me again. While everything happened by mitosis there was no sex except fusion and separation because there was no change in identity -- only in boundaries. But once there was a genome, the possibility of swapping gene formulas was fulfilled in meiosis, the first sex. Again a matter of boundaries opening and closing, but this time with a resulting “new being.” Around the individual cells with their commotion is an environment that stretches out to the boundary around “my” circle. This set of conditions, pressing against the creature, eliminated those examples that didn’t fit but encouraged those who fit a little better than their predecessors. The conditions are climate, other creatures, geology, available foods, and all sorts of other things. The creature (let’s promote him or her to person) does not determine fittingness: it is forced by the boundary where everything else presses in. Evolution is not something a person does -- it happens to them. They can’t go to the gym to get fitter in this sense. That pressing in is what some people feel as “fate” or even “god.” But it is impersonal. It simply exists and if we fit into it well-enough we also keep existing.
Culture is a boundary inside the boundary above. It is a human-constructed and negotiated boundary based on the desire to survive. It can push out against environment. This extends forward in time through one’s meiotic creations, one’s children, and by sharing the children of one’s tribe who carry this culture through memes much like genes. If the memes fit the larger environment and the genetic characteristics of the children well enough, the culture will survive, the species will survive, the individuals will survive.
“Love” is a meme that enables genes. (Okay, you can have lust, if you’d rather.) It’s partly conscious and partly in a “black box.” If one person finds a way to bond with another person and if it fits the culture memes, great. All is well. Unless the particular variations on the culture memes are out-of-sync with each other or the larger culture frowns on them, or when love causes them to breach their boundaries, so they get lost in each other and can’t form a new shared identity, or are alarmed and slam the boundary shut -- I’m talking metaphors here -- love ends. “Smart” (surviving) cultures leave some room for variation because, here’s the ugly truth: the physical environment is always changing. The premises on which food, shelter and other predictabilities are based will not stay the same. Every time they begin to vary, individuals will freak, form groups, try to preserve the status quo by killing others so they can claim their resources and territory. The ethic will shift from “protection of the minorities” (compassion aside, because they might carry the qualities that fit tomorrow) to “winner take all.” This is why poverty makes people so unreasonable. They will not survive and their children will not survive until they take action, culture or no culture. (So far the trump card of the status quo is drugs, both the mental health kind and the street kind.)
Assuming all is well and calm and there is enough for everyone, the gestating fetus learns that the status quo is warm chemical soup full of nutrients with a heartbeat for a drum. Gradually fetuses find their own heartbeat rhythm. Then the shock of birth and the transfer to arms and nipples. The infant unfolds, partly according to the physical environment and partly according to its inner gene plan and partly according to the awakening emotions of human interaction. Not the mother but the primary care-giver, as they say. Your lover is always, from then on, your primary care-giver. Emotionally anyway. This is your first evoker of up-welling.
(to be continued)
Sunday, July 24, 2011
The old lady is up in the night.............Her hair is floating on end and she wears a long pale nightgown with a man’s tuck-fronted tuxedo shirt over it...............Why a tuxedo shirt? They were on sale once in a basement bargain department and a shirt is a shirt and besides she liked the pleated bib fronts and the funny collar with the bent-over points..... A sweater or fleece shirt or even a flannel shirt is too much on this summer night but a light white shirt is just about right ........ And she can’t sleep........It’s warm but her feet are cold so maybe that’s why....... The people who talk about how to go to sleep say you should get your feet warm..... But cold feet feel nice when it’s this warm.....She sticks her feet out from under the covers but now the cat likes to sleep on her feet, the big wooly hot cat who is welcome in winter...........Moonlight sluices in the windows and..........oh, good thing she got back up because she forgot to close the front door and the hook on the screendoor is broken so anyone could walk in though why they would is beyond her and this is a pretty safe town really...........Oh this hair -- should she just shave her head?.........She’d sit at the computer for a while but the return key is broken and she thinks in paragraphs separated by a space so she can’t think without that return key...........The refrigerator is knocking as though someone were trapped in there which is nonsense because the door is only magnetic, no latch, no child could be trapped in there..............No children around this house..........Maybe they think she’s a witch but the real answer is that all the children in the neighborhood have grown up, children come in waves and cohorts and now the wave is cresting and they’ve all gone off to college..........Pretty soon there will be some more deaths in the neighborhood, several houses are standing empty already waiting to be released into probate and so on, and then sold to young couples who need starter houses and they’ll begin a new wave of children............If she forgot to close the front door, what else did she forget...........Better look at the checkbooks, she was going to do it this afternoon but forgot...........And it appears that she may be overdrawn but there’s nothing you can do about it in the middle of the night and she can’t think about numbers until morning.......The overdraft will be only a dollar or two but they’ll charge thirty dollars for it and that will put her overdrawn again, of course, so another thirty dollar penalty for that and now she’s up to sixty dollars which is more than her discretionary money every month so what budget item will she have to take it out of?.......She looked on the computer to see what a refrigerator that knocks means and it sounded like something that could be fixed, but she’s a little reluctant to take it apart.....The town council says that the recent well exploration cost more than they thought and there was some paperwork that cost money to file that they hadn’t counted on and the village financial books auditor from Missoula that they were required to bring in said that their fees for water and sewer weren’t high enough and they would have to raise them by 12% to come out even, plus another 3% per year for the next few years after that ..............They talked about getting grants which shows that they haven’t been listening to the news because there won’t BE grants now for decades and they’re talking about reducing social security payments to close the deficit............And this other clever thing to evade the cost of living increases that were supposed to keep the payments from shrinking when prices inflated -- now they’re going to figure the cost of living some way that comes out less, which they say is the “real” cost of living......... Weasel stuff to keep people in office.............It makes her stomach hurt so would it be better to eat a little something or to take some meds of some kind? Neither is a good option because gastric reflex -- they call it GERD -- everything has an acronym -- will erode your esophagus and even coffee is becoming a problem but the acid killer meds are really expensive and she takes too many already ........The cats are up now and want something to eat...........The cat food supply is low...............Then the moonlight darkens and there is tapping on the windows as it begins to rain...........This is good, no need to run the sprinkler -- water is metered now -- and she forgets to move it so it runs in one spot until there’s a big puddle which the robins think is great but it drowns some of the grass while most of it bakes..............And will it rain too much to hang out clothes? She ought to do a laundry. She does it once a month at the laundromat thirty miles away. The little local store that used to have a few tubs took them out because they were too much work and didn’t pay even though there has been a good deal of work for out-of-town labor who are living in motels and RV’s and it would be good for them. The same people took out their state fishing license machine because it was too much work and didn’t make money. They don’t believe in service to the community. This is supposed to be a fishing town because of the lake but the locals know to buy their fishing license at the county seat..............This old lady does not care because she does not fish or boat or camp by a lake where the RV’s are lined up side-by-side like a Walmart parking lot.................There was a half-grown raccoon in the garage a few nights ago -- what does that mean?.............The grizzlies have been coming closer and closer to town. Maybe she should be more careful about leaving the front door open in the middle of the night. The grizzlies are coming.
Friday, July 22, 2011
The summer after I was forced to resign from Heart Butte, the Methodist organist rented me his tiny yellow "mother-in-law" house behind his photography studio, separated by a hedge of caraghanas so old that the trunks were as thick as my wrists. In the wind at night they knocked together like warriors' staves and on the long hot afternoons the pods dried and exploded open, making soft fusillades of tiny dry peas against my screen door. I kept the screen door hooked. I was just down the hill from the School District #9 administration building.
First thing in the morning, against the stone retaining wall behind my little house, old men would gather to welcome the sun. They sounded like birds out there, telling stories and laughing. I would stand at the window with my cup of coffee, trying to overhear. Sometimes they spoke, Apikunipuyi.
In the middle of the day middle-aged drunks came to sit under my shady hedge and share Big Bear Bear, fortified malt liquor in quarts. Around lunch time younger men, just out of high school, would come with fast food in sacks to eat and hoot at the high school girls going downtown on lunch break. Cars would speed in and out and dust would settle on my rooms.
Late at night when things had quieted down, a very few older men came to the empty lot next door. They sat at the foot of a big security light pole and "sang Indian," sometimes keeping the beat on a log with sticks. They were my lullaby.
One night at the end of summer, after even the singers had gone and dawn getting close, I woke up and looked out the window. One man was sitting out there, silhouetted against the white stucco hardware store across the street. He was just sitting and gazing, as though he were on empty prairie, one knee drawn up and his arm out straight resting on it. He was autochthonous, indigenous, of the place, the land, and many long times running into each other-- always going on. It was easy to imagine him long ago, relaxed in some high place, watching for a vision or perhaps just watching, wondering if there ever might be a time of no more buffalo.
One of Darrell's recent letters began with quotes from Emerson:
"Everything teaches transition, transference, metamorphosis; therein is human power." "We dive and reappear in new places."
The little yellow house where I stayed belongs to Blackfeet owners now. It is occupied by a young mother and her child. Next door, where the photography studio once housed the negatives of portraits of old-time Blackfeet, the Piegan Institute has a workroom, a think tank. Dorothy Still Smoking works on her Ph.D. upstairs. I wonder if the men drinking in the caraghanas ever look up at her window. I wonder if she ever sees that lone dreamer just before dawn.