Friday, March 31, 2017

THE CYBER POLICE STATE

Trump on his hackable Android 
which he uses to government business at dinner parties.

The most “American” aspect to this unfolding scandal about Trump and the espionage coming from the Russia is the selling of ads for the Rachel Maddow Show — as well as forcing MSNBC watchers onto paid platforms.  Like the Washington Post and New York Times “pay walls,” the first beneficiary of the story of our own danger is booming sales.”

Put that aside.

Senate hearings about the crazy unendingness makes it clear that we’re paying for our own childish neglect of the issues of the cyber world, a revolution of technology (among others) that is as life-changing as the industrial revolution.  The internet is a millennial railroad, an airport that lands on your table, a harvesting combine that reduces a whole crew to one college kid earning summer money.  It was just too subtle to see without re-focusing.  There are two schools of thought:  if you can find the same motives and foibles, it’s the sameold sameold.  The other one is that this is quite different and we need to stretch to get our heads around it.

I was particularly impressed by the Senate Intelligence Committee testimony, though I could only bring up the second half on YouTube.  I normally watch a lot of intense police procedural movies — this felt the same.  It was adult, controlled, technical but accessible.  Nothing else got done at this house except cat feeding so they’d stay out from in front of my screen.
TRUMP with his old Android he uses 
to do government business at dinner parties.

Even the schools who are teaching keyboarding and coding, thinking they are giving their kids the ability to use computers, are not providing the thinking skills, analysis and insight they need to REALLY operate on computers.  (Trump evidently cannot use a keyboard computer.)  What computers can do — besides providing vid games and ordering clothes — is only activated and effective if the person brings a context that is broad and deep.  But we seem to be locked into villages of about a hundred people who hate change, which is the way our biology is programmed.  It takes some effort and even some help to escape that.  All the truly sophisticated testifiers are saying that we just had the wrong focus, weren’t thinking big enough.  That includes the Russians.

This might be a clue:  the trash roll-off manager, a woman I respect, thinks global warming is an invented issue, not real, and her “proof” is that long cycles of global warming and thawing happen all the time and they are natural throughout the history of the planet.  Therefore it is silly to try to interfere.  I quite agree that planetary temperature cycles are natural, recurring, and dynamic, but what I finally realized is that she thinks it’s like the weather cycles that I see happening — like recurrence of what happened in the Sixties which I witnessed.

What she doesn’t grasp is that the global warming (climate change) that I see demonstrated in pictures and data is FAR more extreme, maybe not survivable by most humans.  And our efforts (though effective to some degree) are focused on greenhouse gases (which is good) instead of preparing for the unthinkable consequence of losing all our fine coastal cities, which will mean major changes inland to accommodate those people.  Also, changes in the great gyres of current that warm some countries.  It might happen within decades, not centuries.  This political crisis we’re struggling with is very parallel.  

Over the last half century I’ve seen the institutions that I valued and tried to participate in constructively go straight to near-evil, all the time dressed up and smiling.  The UU ministers used to joke (over their laypeople’s heads) about people who would not admit evil existed.  It’s not a blind “spot”, it’s a whole denial of an aspect of every human culture.  Trump has been acting like Putin through his whole life, but no one nailed him for it.  We have seen the Russian enemy and “he” is us, demanding control and respect by force.

I’m glued to Rachel Maddow, but if the profiteering of her thoughts keep escalating, I will have to decide whether to pay or not.  What puzzles me is that in the comments — when I don’t block them — how many people, usually female, sneer at her and hope something bad will happen to her.  Evidently our reaction, partly competitive, is being so terrified by the news that we try to kill the messenger who says the cops are coming.  If the goal of Russia was to take America down a few pegs, the same is true of these curdled watchers.  In fact, that seems to be the driving goal of, well, one-third of Americans.  “I demand respect!  You think you’re so good!”

This vid discusses whether Trump has Alzheimers.  I’ve been convinced of the diagnosis from the beginning.  I’ve worked in neurology wards that included people with Alzheimers.  It’s a distinctive affliction — not like florid psychosis.  If Trump admitted it, he might plead innocent due to insanity, but except at the beginning, the capacity for self-reflection is gone.  (Assuming Trump ever had any accurate idea of himself, which is appears he never did.)  But what about his staff and family?  So self-involved that they didn’t notice?  Or just tending the goose to get the golden eggs as long as they could?

I can understand Putin deciding Trump was an idiot who could be managed.  The intel people are saying that Putin himself was amazed at how easy it was, and yet how impossible it was to predict what would happen next.  I can also understand that Trump’s daughter wants to be there in case of something wild happening.  She is Ivanka’s daughter and Ivanka is no fool.  Those women KNOW that Trump is losing his mind and they must be preparing for it.  But I cannot understand why one-third of American citizens would vote for an obviously crazy man and still defend him as he is gradually revealed as also a criminal man.

And yet the greatest threat is the cloud of consequences to our lives as we take advantage of this situation (just as we did with 9/11) to become more defensive, rigid and regulation ensnared.  Trump’s fancy flourishes of signing (on an empty desk) have given permission for a lot of people to be hurt, for programs to be destroyed, for invasions of our lives to increase.  Already.

I was impressed by the expert testifying to the senate committee (I’ve got to learn all these names) who said that the identification and access cards swinging from lanyards on the necks of half the people in the room did NOT have a true computer chip on them — only a picture of a chip, ineffective.  A couple of senators hurried to shut him up.  Others were scribbling quickly, probably notes to get real chips ASAP.  We settle for the appearance of security — not real security, which is constant human insight and action.  “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”


This site helps you to guard your info at borders How long before a traffic stop will mean your handheld is plugged into the main computer for download?  When you cross into Canada now, they run your id through their computer to see if you have a record.  Where do you think TruthFinder got their program?  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/31/us-border-phone-computer-searches-how-to-protect?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+USA+-+Collections+2017&utm_term=219834&subid=10790770&CMP=GT_US_collection

Thursday, March 30, 2017

IN THE TEETH OF THE WIND



Myself  

Back in the Fifties when I was still trying to be a proper little girl and feeling the first gut-turning gears of puberty begin to take hold, I would now and then consider a diet.  If my mother figured that out, she would demand “Are you denying yourself?”  

Is a diet denying oneself or fulfilling oneself?  I was mystified, caught between being my natural, spontaneous, and well-guarded self but on the other hand being pressed to recreate myself to suit society so that someone would marry me.  My mother worried constantly that no one would marry me.  I didn’t care very much about marriage.  I thought in terms of love, though I wondered about sex and found no information.  Today I don’t care about sex but I wonder about love.  Often it seems to be a matter of self-denial.

At the same time that I was forming myself and my ideas, I declared (to myself) rules of character that were fairly Presbyterian, my mother’s affiliation, a denomination I abandoned later without leaving the rules, which I suppose were rather self-denying.  Or were they self-defining?  Both, I guess.  They came from the same sources:  books and films, almost never other people.  

I seemed to be invisible to other people, even when I was acting in high school plays and winning prizes:  National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist (one of four out of a class of 500), National Honor Society semi-finalist (one of two), 498th in manual dexterity (being the worst is a distinction of sorts), Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow (one out of the whole school of 2,000, which made my mother laugh so hard she fell off her chair.)  I was thirty-sixth in terms of grade point average and entered NU in the same scholarship program as Ivan Doig.  My IQ was 136 or 140 — I forget, so plainly that ability — if it ever counted as part of IQ — has diminished.

They told us we were attending one of the ten best high schools in the US (Jefferson in Portland, OR) and that we were in the most intelligent 1% of the country.  (We didn’t talk about money in those days.)  No one told us how many people that was in actual numbers, so it was a shock when I discovered in college that EVERYONE there was a National Merit and Honor Socieity winner.  In those days they told us this meant we had a particular obligation to work for the betterment of the nation:  “Ask not what your country can do for you," and so on.  The Peace Corps was just being devised.  We knew nothing about nude presidents who chased naked women down the halls of the White House.

My resolutions were mostly about faithfulness, tenacity, keeping my word, following the thread, not fearing the underground.  My guide was George Macdonald (10 December 1824 – 18 September 1905), a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister. He was a pioneering figure in the field of fantasy literature and the mentor of fellow writer Lewis Carroll.”  His Univeralist Christian beliefs (because God is good, no one is eternally condemned) were smuggled into books, but not disguised enough to keep him from being assigned to ever worse and smaller and more remote parishes until he was nearly starved off the island.  The books included “The Princess and the Goblin,” “The Princess and Curdie,” and "At the Back of the North Wind."  I knew nothing about his adult books.

In those days I was red-headed (it was curly as well) which attracted criticism and amusement.  I took it seriously, as I took being a Scorpio.  They were points of reference.  Sometimes I dyed my hair even redder.  I also wore a lot of eye makeup.  (I miss that, but “dry-eye syndrome” doesn’t lend itself.)

What about all these other people?  My family has disintegrated.  For a while I made an effort to re-connect, but found that we are now so very different that the effort means giving up my principles.  They never left the 1950’s.  They can’t understand the twenty-first century.  They don’t understand that fear is an addictive drug — instead they try to deny.

Linda Hasselstrom is one of a  high prairie circle of female Western writers that includes Sharon Butala, Mary Clearman Blue, Judy Blunt, Molly Gloss, Gretel Erlich.  I relate to Mildred Walker, Dorothy Johnson and Mary O’Hara, but I’m too old for Maile Meloy, Deirdre McNamer — not quite “Indian” enough for Debra Magpie Earling.  I don’t know anyone at this website, self-organized. https://montanawomenwriters.com  Nor do I aspire to.  Reciprocally, they never heard of me unless they search out long-form bloggers.  Different spheres.  Different rules.

But just now Linda Hasselstrom sent me an email asking for a review of her soon-to-be-released book, which is how you promote books.  Watch for  "Gathering from the Grassland: A Plains Journal"  Modern as we are, she sent it in an attachment so I’m already glancing through it, and I’ll blog a review as soon as I can.  I like to help deserving writers.  I’m not sure I want to be better known myself anymore.  

I like being transparent, shadowy, the eyes in the underbrush.  It’s safer in a small town where people fear those who are different, resent those who excel.  Exhibit A is the fate of Bob Scriver, though he brought some of it on himself.  The rock that broke our relationship was — to use jargony and slippery popular terms, “grandiose narcissism” based on mercantile success.  That is, he had been taught that he was way above average (based on sculpture, not being white) so therefore he was entitled to use people who were lesser.  The evidence for his superiority was selling work for high prices.

I agreed with him about the quality of his work.

I had a counter-command internally about fame and money being, you know, the root of all evil.

I resented like hell being used and controlled.  It was against my principles.  And it's nice when the people you love see you for who you are.

What I didn’t understand, but Jesus would have, it doesn’t matter how brilliant or popular you are, how high you score on other people’s tests, how many scholarships you earn — in the end none of it matters a damn.  Time and the shifting sands of humanity will either throw you up high, or destroy you, but they will mostly require a lot of slogging along.  Luckily, that fits with my principles.

The hard part is knowing how to offer a helping hand to others without being dragged down to so much uselessness and despair that one becomes worthless.  I guess that’s sort of a religious problem.  Especially if you're facing a social headwind.  

Not the least part is the hordes who DEMAND help and on their own terms, a good reason for being in an inaccessible and unknown location.  The computers always get it wrong because they are controlled by techies who know nothing but coding.  They say I am “protestant” or maybe “Unitarian Universalist”.  They know nothing about the new “religious” terms that blend science with mysticism to find holiness and amazement in everything.  They’re still “amazed” by a new shoe design.  I’m still amazed by the evolution of feet that will support a walking animal with its arms full.

I’m still self-denying to the extent that I don’t smoke, drink or buy new clothes — mostly read and write.  I try to stay on my diabetes regime.  My arms are already full of ideas and love like stars.  Walking on.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

EIGHT CAUTIONS FOR THINKING ABOUT TWO-SPIRITS




Tony Enos is a Two Culture guy who works at the intersection of music and activism.  I ran across him when I subscribed to “Indian Country Today” online, where he writes.  I thought this article by him, was interesting.


This is a link to him singing and dancing with friends.  


These are his “eight” misconceptions:

1.  Two Spirit is not a contemporary “new-age” movement.
2.  We have proof of Two Spirit individuals in historical photos.
3.  Gay is not an interchangeable term with Two Spirit.
4.  The Two Spirit Road is a road of long held traditions, prayer and responsibility.
5.  Two Spirit people held significant roles and were an integral part of a tribal social structures. 
6.  Two Spirit Does Not Indicate Colonized Boxed Definitions of “L”, “G”, “B”, “T” or “Q”.
7.  Two Spirit is a term only appropriate for Native people.
8.  Two Spirit People face compounded trauma’s on top of inter-generational trauma 

Historical 

Enos says:  “A western mindset categorizes based on standards of ‘norm’ and ‘other’ in a kyriarchal (to rule or dominate) type structure. This mindset imposes a series of boxes to fit into (you’re either gay, you’re a lesbian, etc.) rather than being comfortable with gender fluidity, Two Spirit acknowledges the continuum of gender identity and expression.”

Usually I stay at least ten feet away from opinions about what “Indians” are or should be, and the same goes for “homosexuals”.  But sometimes someone asks me about these issues and I’m never quite sure what to say.  There is, as Enos #8 proposes, often an element of trauma that really needs a decent answer, especially if the person is young.

Contemporary

What Enos is doing is calling out a potential social group of people like himself, by marking perimeters.  I’ll mark mine:  at my age it’s “been there/done that.”  Today for me it’s a matter of engaging minds and often emotions, but these things are not just age-linked, but also generation-linked.  The gay guys I knew in college in the Fifties didn’t know what they were yet.  The gay kids I’ve known on the rez were a little undefined as well.  WWII leathermen were not Oscar Wilde types.  Nor were they anything like the portrayal in “War Party” of a “berdache” acted out by Rodney Grant, who was known — since the movie was shot here — as vigorously heterosexual in real life.  Some people would contest that French word “berdache” which suggests sexworker.  Some same sex relationships don’t even include physical sex.

In fact, in traditional societies there were many opportunities (maybe more than today) to form same sex partnerships, esp. among male hunting or war partners.  Gilgamesh as well as many Biblical examples stand as examples of deep relationships.  Greek and Roman culture included relationships something like apprenticeships or father/son partners, maybe with sex and maybe not.

This is all throat-clearing to clear the table.   Enos is Cherokee, which some people consider mostly “metis” or mixed, assimilated, though not the loosely organized descendants of the Euro fur-buyers and their indigenous wives, nor the early mixes of French and British with the East Coast tribes which were often war-based either against each other or unified to resist the Euro-countries.  Nor is that like the even older Spanish and Portugese mixes of Central and South American people.

What I’m saying is that there are so many opportunities and variations on the planet that there are as many kinds of “gay” as there are kinds of people, and then they are multiplied by the stages of life or the economic situation.  The most deadly danger is from people who see homosexuality as a challenge to their authority or competitors in commerce.

Enos is pretty cute with his rear-pocket foxtail in place of SF bandanna code, switching it around out there in a meadow, not on the streets of Philadelphia where he lives.  He’s kind of a cowboy and not much punk.  Non-threatening.  Not about the F-word.  No mention of AIDS.  Nice little group of friends.

But there is an element of activism that hasn’t been around for a long time.  Maybe it was AIDS that put people in the streets, demonstrating, being identified publicly, writing books, making speeches.  Much of that was enraged, desperate, aware of the sometimes lethal consequences of being known.  If you're marked to die, what matters?  But when you get as far out as Marilyn Manson, where you gonna go next?  Now kids use the F-word all the time, as though they were veteran Marines.  One wonders if anything shocks them.  The truth is that they’re as full of stereotypes and goofy assumptions as anyone else — just different things.

Demographics — age, “gender”, education, ethnicity, etc. — have become boxes, says Enos.  What's probably worse is that they’ve become marketing categories so that targeting customers and voters is based on the formulas and they are hard-edged — meaning that the brand-creators don’t like crossovers.  Techies and their damned design algorithms are even worse.  Apps are boxes and the people who compose them don’t get out much.  

Stereotypes are based on expectations and customs, and accommodations conform to them.  The “soft” ones aren’t much trouble and are sometimes funny, just confusing.  The hard ones will put people in prison and hang a sign on their backs that permits deadly abuse.  The lesson will be that the ultimate orgasm is death, maybe as much for the killer as for the victim.

Here’s another non-threatening video from “Indian Country” media, this one a hoop-dancer, evidently “het” at this point and attractive to blondes with cars.  Just included for discussion.  This is Nakota LaRance.  (French surname)

Young R.C. Gorman


And here’s R.C. Gorman, in youth almost unbearably sexy even with his shirt on, and in old age a majestic artist famous for his portrayal of women. Liz Taylor loved him.

Mature R.C. Gorman

Queens, if you like, but a specific interpretation with infinite variations.  Indisputably indigenous and identifiably Navajo, in a way no one had ever portrayed Indians before.  The lesson is that being deeply unique will make you universal.

www.rcgormangallery.com/




Tuesday, March 28, 2017

THE DISCOMFORT OF EVOLUTION


It appears that as a writer my body of work will be mostly this blog.  I’m grateful that the platform has remained fairly stable.  Blogger is a blog-publishing service that allows multi-user blogs with time-stamped entries. It was developed by Pyra Labs, which was bought by Google in 2003. Generally, the blogs are hosted by Google at a subdomain of blogspot.com.”  I began to post on April Fool’s Day, 2005, intending to record Blackfeet materials I had saved and to promote my book about Bob Scriver, “Bronze Inside and Out” which had just been properly published by the University of Calgary Press.

That’s when I went through the looking glass, though I was more like the “Alice” in the series “Luther” than any little girl who chases rabbits.  One of the first things I confronted was the death of publishing.which I had assumed was a matter of merit, but soon was revealed as a kind of mafia.  I had known that about the art world and the rez, as well as city and county government back in Oregon.  And in the world of liberal religion.

The qualities of blogs are well-suited to intrigue, now-you-see-it/now-you-don’t.  They can be like journals, but the way I do it — which is called “long form,” they are more like anthologies.  For a while I used a lot of photos, both my own and those from sources online.  For a while I had a secondary supporting role in a whole other form that we called “vooks” — where the videos included were really the main thing, composed or “woven” of hot-camera real-life images.  It was a fermented, polemic, sometimes obscene blog.  (Blogger tried to block photos of naked people but in the face of uproar from users, backed off to requiring that they be labeled “adult.”  I don’t know what is adult about a naked body.  Or why it is more objectionable to show a photo than to write a description.)

By now I just write these daily posts of 1,000 words or so.  Sometimes they are true “blogs,” (b-logs) that include lots of links to other blogs or vooks.  (Like the one yesterday linking to Grant Slater’s eloquent work.)  The truth is that it’s quite like presenting a spoken essay (sermon) every Sunday except that in my worldview, every day is Sunday.  And I can’t see your faces reacting.  This is what I wanted to do and what I love doing.  It is very hard to explain, partly because most people have such a narrow understanding of religion, one that I’ve worked hard in seminary to escape, thinking that churches would want that.  It was a hard blow to realize they did not.

In some ways what I’m doing is evading all institutions.  The exchange is accepting near-poverty (I’m just above the line because I own this house, which is a vulnerability as much as a protection.) but doing something that isn’t prevented by aging.  I can’t get the lid off an aspirin bottle, but I can out-think most neo-atheists, mostly because I’ve abandoned their categories altogether, on grounds that their paradigms are old, moldy and destructive.  I’m not the only one thinking this way.  (If you’re interested, see Yuval Noah Harari’s companion books:  “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” and “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.”  They are best-selling books, accessible and based on the paradigm-breaking work of science.  That sounds pretentious but they are easy to read.)

Sapiens” asserts that “Three important revolutions shaped the course of history: the Cognitive Revolution kick-started history about 70,000 years ago.  The Agricultural Revolution sped it up about 12,000 years ago.  The Scientific Revolution, which got underway only 500 years ago, may well end history and start something completely different.”  I take that to mean the cyber-revolution which may make “Borgs” of us all.  

He does not talk about the Industrial Revolution which may tucker out when the organic combustibles (coal and oil) are exhausted, but maybe not if we can get to wind and sun.  Around here, people are poised somewhere between ag and industry.  You might call it “tractor culture.”

There’s another way to look at stages of thought, which are individual stages:  basic infancy to 5 or 6, childhood from then until the onset of puberty, the years of sexual maturation, and then another turn of mind that is based in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain but supported by the whole body from the gut to the skin.  This is where the humanities are born, the weaving symbolism of existence.

Because my first job was teaching in high school here, it’s easy for me to see that high school — which is a fairly recent development in education and meant to prepare for working life — is no longer doing what it’s supposed to, but that small towns in rural areas are still playing by high school rules, supported by a media that isn’t even that mature.  In fact, it looks as though our highest levels of government representatives have never had basic civics education that would have been provided by an old-fashioned citizen-preparing high school.

When brains evolve —EVERYTHING evolves — the tissues must struggle against the confines of the skull.  The prefrontal cortex somehow managed to push that bony wall out to make room for itself, but generally the brain has condensed.  There are hominin skulls that are much bigger in terms of capacity — they just don’t have pre-frontal cortexes.  It appears that the most recent evolutions of the brain have been internal to cells, a particular kind of cell that allows us to share in a secondary way the movements and emotions of another human being: when we watch the dance, our muscles faintly echo.  Some see this evolving right now.  Another evolution is quite different: the ability to think in abstracts, to imagine what is not present.  This is math.  Grad school stuff.

A sad part of evolution is that it evolves in mosaic patterns, so that one set of people might unfold into the full range of human possibility but another might hit limits, let’s say about high school graduation.  One population thinks in terms of concrete experience and the categories they already know.  Another might soar off into the thin air of physics and quantum theory.  The two groups will not understand or even like each other.  What could I say to that archetypal starving Somali woman carrying her dying baby that she could even hear, that wouldn’t terrify her to know about.  The fact that people elsewhere can control fertility, demand clean water (with mixed results), vaccinate against disease, and start riots would mean nothing.

But then when I talk to locals here about global warming— even reframed as climate change — or about Trump, I get about the same result, even though the wall of suffering that separates me from a Somali woman is mostly not apparent.  And here I am, as so often in these blogs, off in the weeds.  I need all my energy to think about the weeds and the paths.  I do not want to waste energy arguing with editors who tell me what won’t sell, nor do I want to obey all the techie demands, though they are in a position to force me to use new petty little features.  I’m not even very appreciative of reader comments.


My friend often uses the image of someone hooded, grasping a staff and traveling the wilderness.  I’m more like the Neanderthal cave inhabitant who crouches in the entrance, scowling at the river below and trying with every bit of energy to grow a pre-frontal cortex above my eyes.

Monday, March 27, 2017

VISIONARY THINKING

Title shot: a film essay

Grant Slater (grant-slater.com) and I share an alma mater, Northwestern University.  More accurately he shares Ivan Doig’s alma mater, since he is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism, as was Doig.  I was in what was then called the “School of Speech,” now called “Communication Studies” and quite different than it was.

Slater calls himself a “moving image maker” and that’s exactly right.  Behind his photography is always a story that is moving, not because it is video, but because it is so deeply emotional, down in the gut where we used to try to reach as actors.  So this blog post will “quote” a lot by giving you links.  It will be what we used to try to define as a “vook,” meaning a book that moved across media to include image, interview, music, and thought.  Some are meant to be marketing persuasion, which is somewhat stigmatized, so I’ll start there.  Here’s a nice piece for VISA.

https://vimeo.com/144914189  You see how appealing it is?  

Here’s the second Slater vid I saw — I only found him this morning — and this one is marketing FEAR.  It’s about Trump, but more than that.  The title is SIC SEMPER TYRANNIS.  The epigram is “Tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy […] the greatest and most savage slavery out of the extreme of freedom.” From Plato’s The Republic.”  


I’m reluctant to post the link because I’m AFRAID some people are going to love this and repeat it a lot.  They will not see it as an advertisement meant to make it easier to drive us into obedience to tyrants, but rather as an advertisement for BECOMING a tyrant, even if only in drinking establishments among “friends.”  Or at home with women and children one can tyrannize.  Maybe it’s safer to provide this link now that Trump has proven what a lying fantasist he is.  But this is almost Leni Resinthenthal, famous as Hitler’s cinematographer who made Olympic Competitors into soaring supermen.

My other fear is that good people will be so afraid of these images that they will try to suppress them so they don’t have to think about them.  We’ve got to have the guts to really look.

Now here’s the link to Slater’s antidote, which is how I came to his work today because Aeon.com picked it up for the day’s set of essays.  I skip a lot of the print essays, but I always watch the short vids.  They never disappoint.  This one is relevant to prairie life, far to the north, where Bob and I once went moose hunting and where my father’s family pioneered for a while.


It’s about global warming, the thawing of the permafrost, in this case in Siberia, but the same phenomenon is happening here in Canadian territory.  The scientist who wants to bring back the woolly mammoth is a visionary.  We are more likely to send out elephants in sweaters, but at Harvard they’re working on reverse engineering elephant genes.  Since there are mammoth carcasses that were flash-frozen with browsed buttercups still in their mouths, the genes of mammoths are at hand.  But this man and his son are not waiting — they’re putting the original beasts: wild horses, musk oxen, caribou, back on the land.  Since these beasts are being crowded out of their habitat in North America, it’s only a transportation problem.  So far no grizzlies, but if we’re sending them to zoos, this might be an excellent alternative.

At a long ago conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (https:asle.org) in Banff, there was a woman called “Barney” whose proper name has escaped my aging brain.  The premise of her talk was that sustainable prairie requires a balance between something like an elephant to knock down trees and something bovine to graze back brush.  The men in the permafrost project are imitating the elephant by smashing trees back mechanically, which is why they want mammoths back.  

They say that when the cities have been bombed to radioactive rubble by the Tyrants, since the glamour and power of humans have been conveniently gathered into targets, what will be left will be grass.  They say that the land around the Hanford Reactor in Washington State is radioactive but that the small animals — the squirrels and foxes — have adapted much better than they did to human doings.  Same in Russia and Japan where radioactivity accidents cleared out the people.

Now I’m going to shut up with the print chatter so there is time left for you to explore Slater’s work.  This long sequence he calls “longtelegram.   http://longtelegram.com

You can also find his work at https://vimeo.com/grantslater



Sunday, March 26, 2017

TRUTHFINDER WON'T TELL YOU THE WHOLE TRUTH

Oliver Sacks in early years

Oliver Sacks is one of my most beloved writers and certainly not mine alone.  Many love his books and did even before Robin Williams impersonated him in order to tell an early part of his story.  As more unfolded, we gaped at the photo of him on his motorcycle, looking very leather, and then again gasped at his exploits as a lifelong power swimmer.  

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/26/bill-hayes-insomniac-city-my-life-with-oliver-sacks-new-york#img-4  Thus I was pleased to discover this lyrical, loving account of his most recent years before death.  He had not had a partner before Hayes and he needed one, as much to explain the world to him as to embrace him, which Hayes must have done both delicately and firmly.

Then I read a story about Bannon in VICE.  https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/steve-bannons-sad-desperate-crusade  My Safari has suddenly gone prudish and refuses to open VICE (among other venues it disapproves of — their checks must have bounced), but I went to Foxfire.  It was worth it as John Saward’s corruscating analysis of Mr. Dark is both entertaining and valid.  Somehow one ends up sort of sympathetic with this resentful, vengeful man, but watch out when googling for Saward because there’s another author by that name who is pastoral, a married man with three daughters who got a special dispensation to become a Catholic priest, which is not granted to anyone like Bannon — nor probably not like the Saward who was published in VICE either.

The next item that popped up on my feed was from Truthfinder, a data base scraper that promises to tell you the real facts about your friends and neighbors and to find long-lost people in your life.  So I entered myself.  It consists entirely of legal records of offenses: arrests, defaults, demographic facts, divorce and marriage.  As you ask about your subject, the website records your own “facts” but provides no way to make corrections.  I’ll say right off the top that I have never used the pseudonym “Skrivner” and Scriver is my married name anyway.  

Yesterday I went to Cut Bank to do the laundry (write that down) and Carl Old Person was there to wash his car.  “Miss Strachan!” he exclaimed, surprised to see me.  He pronounced my maiden name properly.  He was in the Browning High School English classes I taught in the early Sixties, and I haven’t seen him since, but evidently I haven’t changed that much.  You would not find this information on Truthfinder, though the moment would tell you a lot more about me.  

I didn’t pay money to see what my crimes were.  There are two very old ones that might show up, but only one would be in Montana.  Both were speeding: five miles or so over the limit, both on gorgeous Sunday mornings with no traffic on my way to preach.  (Truthfinder doesn’t know that.)  There are no records in Truthfinder about my career as a sheriff’s deputy with the specialty of animal cases ranging from scraping up squashed pets to cautioning a motorcycle gang to stop chaining dobermans to their parked bikes.  I never did get a case of someone using a dog as a deadly weapon, but such cases exist.  I did get rabies shots.  None of this is in Truthfinder.

Nor am I anxious to be found by people I offended in those days in uniform.  I had guns pointed at me twice, but no actual shots.  Also one of the dark sides of the ministry is that people tend to project all sorts of things onto you, esp. if you’re female.  They range from the “Whore of Babylon” to “Mom”.  My years in the ministry do not show up on Truthfinder, nor do my academic degrees.  The most incendiary days of my life, shared with Bob Scriver as Blackfeet ceremonialists, brought me a recent raving comment on my blog, which I deleted unposted.  It was anonymous and evidently a reaction to a paper posted on Researchgate, an open academic online journal.  It did not use Blackfeet terms.

If you really want “truth”, I urge you to buy “Bronze Inside and Out,’ which is my biography/memoir of Bob Scriver.  One local reader was surprised that it had so much about me in it.  They don’t think women or authors really exist, I guess.  I should put them in touch with the local person who said, “I don’t know what you taught these kids, Mary, but they won’t forget you.”  Carl didn’t.

But the most obvious source of info about me is my blog:  “prairiemary.blogspot.com.”  I could never hope to have anyone write about me with the love Bill Hayes shows for Oliver Sacks, but anyway few people are as extraordinary as Sacks.  On the other hand, I have known — still know — people nearly that remarkable and love them intensely.  They don’t show up on Truthfinder, partly because some are indigenous and the website doesn’t compile reservation records — nor reserve records for that matter.  (Reserves are Canadian reservations and some of these people are Canadian.)  Some of my beloveds don’t commit traffic offences or anything else a web-crawler would pick up.

Ten years of daily thousand-word posts like these will tell you more about me that you probably would ever want to know, but you’re on your own when it comes figuring out the Truth in them.  Some of them are plainly labeled fiction, because I post short stories.  (Never poetry — I stash that unpublished.)  But I may have misremembered, may have plumb forgotten some of the story, might have written something that another witness would flatly contradict.  There’s a lot of controversy right now about what’s actually True anyway.

Recently I watched a remarkable film called “Match,” which is a story that reflects the consequences of getting DNA matches to discover relationships.  The idea is that Patrick Stewart (in QUITE a different role from StarTrek) is an old ballet teacher (very convincing, though he doesn’t dance) who is visited by a man and his wife because they think he is the father of the man from an encounter in youth that prevented the deceased mother of the man from having a career in dance.  The story goes along through reversals that change everything.  

In the process the real truthful moment is a short tour de force pas de deux between the old man and the wife, in which Stewart explains that knitting (which he does) and cunnilingus are similar.  (Don’t try to google this on Safari.)  It’s not the subject, but the open understanding between two dissimilar people that is quite wonderful.  A “Truth,” one might say, in an ultimate sense.

In these times, so much a fulfillment of Bannon’s vision of the world, one feels truth fleeing away from us.  But then while doing some mundane task, someone walks in the door and hands you a true moment from the past without so much as demanding a credit card.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

"HOW, TALL MAN?"

Wide Trump with Tall Comey

In the Sixties one of the people who often dropped in at Scriver Studio to gossip and take a little break from selling or inspecting or advising — whatever — there was a big man with a booming voice who loved to break up the monotony of his sales route by coming into a business where he wasn’t known and demanding,  “Who here called for the FBI?”  People immediately assumed he WAS the FBI and hurried around to help him.  He said he could even demand to see their financial books and they would comply, intimidated and probably guilty of something.

By the time Wounded Knee II rolled around in 1973, I was leaving the rez.  By then the image of the FBI was something like Mormon missionary teams, “suits” with shined shoes and stony faces.  They were scary and not on the side of the People.  Even Bob, who disliked authority figures of all kinds, had a tendency to turn to them for information and help in this paranoid time, and they loved to fan the flames, literally.  When some years later the shop was on fire in the night, they assured him it was AIM (the American Indian Movement) who were the arsonists.  It turned out that the cause was fumes from the underground gas tank belonging to an abandoned service station on the block, accumulated through broken sewer pipes into the dark room of the studio and ignited by the water heater.  But the fumes of paranoia were worse.  Bob never recovered.

It’s realistic to say that today’s FBI director, James Comey, is head and shoulders above others.  He is resolute and careful enough to begin to erase the image of J.Edgar Hoover in a red ruffled party dress, calling himself “Mary.”  He is righteous about the persecution of MLK, Jr.  and young enough to be my son.  (He was born in 1960, when I was at NU, earning a BS.).  In 1982, he was just about to enroll at the U of Chicago Law School where I was transcribing professor’s materials, using very early computer “stations” with a big industrial hard drive some mysterious place.  Few professors could operate their own work stations, and we were told to ignore the sounds of “Asteroids” coming from offices, because it was the way they learned to use computer programs.  The internet was not known.

I didn’t know Comey, but I knew some of his professors.  Scalia was still there and sometimes I delivered his mail, but I never transcribed his writing.  Sometimes big handsome men would appear from some outfit like the Rand Corporation and demand help.  Everyone was very conscious of their own importance.  I never met anyone there who knew anything about “Indians.” nor who ever said anything about Wounded Knee II.  In fact, I never met an anthropologist on the U of C campus, not even Victor Turner.

What I’m getting at is that the suits we’re watching on the news are so important that they only deal with other suits.  That means they are ignoring the big picture, the back country, the exceptions and exemptions, the sorrow and the suffering.  These people are from a writing culture, guided by documents.  The exception in the example of the crisis of the moment is that Trump is an oral culture guy, a face-to-face guy.  He plays to the audience.  

The composite accumulations of video moments have impressed me greatly, particularly the one of Trump’s handshakes with people of all kinds.  He pushes them back, he yanks them forward, he squeezes, he evades, he ignores, he pats.  So far the only exception is Trudeau who took Trump firmly by his handshake arm.


It’s enough to make a person want to back off to give a dignified bow or maybe hold up a hand like a movie “Indian” or like Keith Olbermann, Trump’s pursuer on Twitter.  Trump wouldn’t know an “Indian” if he sat on an arrow and he would be easy to scalp: a good yank ought to do it.  But it wouldn’t be much of a decoration on a warshirt.  His own suits flap in the breeze, partly because he’s gaining weight and partly because he feels the heat in that bulky body.

I’m mocking, I’m undignified, I’m using my own life path to claim something, and I’m just sort of heartsick about the whole mess.  It’s all blackened pots and kettles, but no stainless steel.  Unless Comey comes through.  He might.  If he manages this with as much grace and grit as he has shown so far, that will be a beginning in changing a culture of the FBI that’s based on bravado and old movies, the urban pursuit of immigrant gangsters.

Maybe he’ll be able to begin turning things around on reservations where the FBI has jurisdiction over what used to be the “ten major crimes” with murder at the top of the list.  https://leb.fbi.gov/2012/may/indian-country-and-the-tribal-law-and-order-act-of-2010  Praiseworthy attempts have been made to bring the duties up to date from what originated as U.S. Cavalry attempts to keep order among a “foreign” conquered people.  Today the reservations struggle to maintain both casinos and colleges and to resist drugs, which often originate in Mexico with “Indios” who can “pass” on a rez.

Arguably much worse, somehow the mostly male suits of the FBI seem blind to the murders of indigenous women and children by outsiders, particularly when the tribal people are off the reservation and possibly trafficked.  The white culture, especially on the super-conservative mad-dog red-neck end, has the idea that “squaws” and “bucks” are fair game, something like “slopes” and “ragheads.”  These lowlifes are such a slimeball faction of the country that one can hardly bear to think about them.  The FBI’s response seems to have been pulling away.  The main office that used to be in Butte is now in Denver.

The legit media is mostly just unaware and baffled.  Sensational media actively feeds on this stuff.  Respectable middle-class tribal people don’t know what to do, but their children watch the vids, play the games, get the ideas into their systems.  This is subversive.


It’s WORSE in Russia, but not different in kind and dynamics.  It has risen like an oil spill tide until it has come up the Potomac, up the shores of Manhattan, into all our lives.  Even tall Comey will be overwhelmed unless the citizens of all kinds get behind him.  Without the bluster and fakery of Trump the salesman.