Saturday, July 04, 2020


Back in the day, which for me was WWII and just after, Fourth of July was major.  In Portland my family went down to the levees along the Columbia River to shoot off our fireworks.  We sent them out over the water in great arcs and explosions, all colors.  It was a time when we had watched the real life explosions of battle and heard a lot of stories about what guns can do, the smell of gunpowder, and hand-to-hand combat with bayonets.  War was personal in those days — no watching from a satellite while a predator drone killed a family reduced to little green figures.  

Recently someone heard a suggestion that to keep from contagion we ought to watch fireworks on television, which is sort of like modern war — quiet, distant, merely an effect instead of a consequence.  No smell at all.

But it was thrilling to hold a Roman candle while a fireball came shooting out the end or to set up a good-sized rocket by pushing its tail into the sand and then watching it trace a curve almost to the other side of the wide river.  Those things are illegal now.  There’s not enough traffic or tourism to even operate a fireworks stand in Valier.  I’ve heard very few firecrackers go off.  The teacher who used to do fabulous displays has retired and left.

In the Sixties in Browning we didn’t do fireworks, but once we went up to the railroad depot where Esther Becker was the station agent as well as our bookkeeper, and we set off some traffic flares, very hot and very red, but on the tracks where they didn’t start fires.  Our usual trick at the rails was to bend a wire into a word, like someone’s name, and put it on the rail just before the train came through so it got rolled flat.  This made vivid to me what would happen if a person happened to be lying on the tracks.

Ours was a violent and vivid patriotism, celebrated on those terms.  Brass bands were the rage — not rock ’n roll, nor mournful dirges for the lost.  No one pretended to be more patriotic, more in touch with the Truth, than anyone else.  Stalin was our ally.  North Korea was created at the end of WWII and then “given” to Russia with the message that they should go away and not bother us.  We “took” South Korea and made Japan promise not to start any more wars and to admit their emperor was not a god after all.

WE had the monopoly on God and were in his image.  At least the white men of a certain sort were in his image.  Not really the poor, corrupt, criminal or the “obese,” which was worse than being fat.  Women were a different sort, either nuns or moms.  (If you say “virgins or prostitutes” some people will be horrified, but the phrase is about the same split.)

The point is that things weren’t so different from now but the way we divvied up the territory and created the categories was entirely different.  “Family” and “nation” are terms that are always the subject of argument.  What are the those terms now and do they really exist in a time of unmarried parents and international crime?

Maddow said yesterday that we’re past the first half of 2020 now, though we weren’t sure we’d really survive, and that it’s unlikely the second half will be as bad.  One can’t help sourly guess that it might get worse, esp. since the biggest explosion that has obsessed us in the more than half-century since WWII has been atomic.  We aren’t even sure whether that’s what ended the war.  Maybe Japan was already willing to surrender.  Maybe we wanted German technology about rockets and so on and were willing to accept war criminals to get it, so now we ARE them.  Nothing is clear.

Not even what to do on a daily basis.  The laundry piles up and the cats proliferate but they can’t be dealt with via the internet.  To break the lockdown, even in a mask, means to risk Covid-19 and the virus for someone old and diabetic — like me — means courting a death sentence to go driving to another town.  The new cases this week on the rez were nine people, mostly children and older women, one family.  Not reckless drunks.  It’s so easy to see how tempting it was to go shopping.  The rez itself is on lockdown — no tourists.  Businesses closed.  It’s like the Big Flood when all bridges to Browning were washed out.  No traffic all summer.

How do we show patriotism to the nation when White House governance and Senatorial action is missing.  They say let the States do it, but when governors act, they are defunded.  Certain people have frankly announced that their goal is the destruction of the country and the conversion of the military force that won WWII into a political organization serving only one party.

We should line them up and shoot Roman candles at them until they take their loot and leave.  They are so old that they will have little time to enjoy the power and access to the forbidden sins that they think they can buy.

What if the Clintons were to tell all they know?  Surely they know as much as Ghislaine Maxwell, if she survives to tell it.  Trump and his corrupt buddies make lousy witnesses because so many of them are so addled that they can no longer tell the truth because they don’t know what it is.  They never admitted the facts, only skewed explanations.

It was a more innocent but also more stupid time when I was a little kid.  We went for the appearances.  MacArthur paraded past Vernon School in a convertible, sitting up high and waving like a politician, and we all thought what a hero he was, even if Truman was mad at him for something we didn’t understand.

In the Sixties we thought the world was blasting apart because of assassinations and riots, but that we were safe on the rez because the white people who ran things wouldn’t allow real danger.  But they WERE the danger, and now we know.  All without fireworks.

Friday, July 03, 2020


“What an amazing old stone building!”  The two women friends were hiking on the trail through Macleay Park in Portland, a quiet forest walk along a wandering stream.  One had left her car at the old Montgomery Ward building, now housing offices, and the other had parked at the entrance to the park on the highway.  After days of sitting in small rooms trying to help people survive the culture, which they really couldn't do, they were ready for exercise in nature. They started their walk at the high point, almost at the Audubon reserve.  Now they had come to what some people called a “castle” part of the stonework done in the Depression.

“It was far from being a castle when it was built!”  In my childhood it was still a restroom with the traditional two sides, a little spooky to use.  Then for a while it was a notorious romantic spot for gay men to rendezvous.  To end that, the building was buried in dirt for a while.  No one wanted to actually pull it down.”

“Sounds like a good metaphor for the changing sex mores, mysterious and enduring but rejected.”  There was a bench nearby and the two sat down to enjoy the quiet green and leafy valley that guided the stream and its music.

“You were telling me about a patient you say is the most interesting man you’ve ever met.  The combination of the stream and rendezvous remind me of what you said.”

Her friend laughed.  “True.  But I don’t know whether it’s accurate to call him gay.  His desire doesn’t seem to be for the flesh but for the mind and — dare I say — spirit.”

“Would you say ‘soul’?”

“Maybe, but he’s not looking for traditional religious terms at all.  Instead he’s drawn to cosmic and quantum science, the vast theories of what exists.  Not just about who God might be.  He hates God.”

“Because he hates his father, I presume.”  

“Very damaging figure, a source of trauma and pain.”

“Not unusual.  A feature of both myth and religion in Western terms.  Evidently comes out of our social arrangements giving the male dominion over children and women.”

“Right, and the women in this case are rigid and slavish in their devotion to male achievement, both insisting on it on their terms, and criticizing it as never enough.  Their attitude to religion is the same.”

“Which religion?”  

They paused while a rabbit came out of the brush, went along the path a ways, then dodged back into the salal and buckbrush.  They held still quietly until the dodging little creature was safely hidden again.

“Interesting.  A mix of Christian Science and Methodism.  As though the first were an extreme of the other.  Both put enormous emphasis on saving oneself, but might have different terms.  In this case it was the basis of a deep competition between paternal grandmother and the patient’s mother, so he just rejected both.”

“That’s pretty classic.  Maybe it’s the source of the violence of the father — an inability to satisfy his women.”

They stood and began to walk again, the path just damp enough to be soft. Given that it was Oregon and down under the trees, it probably never truly dried out.  “Maybe, but I also think a big part is that the father was too powerful and too intelligent for his life.  If there had been money for university, it would have been well spent to educate either the father or son.  But both women would have balked because they were so dedicated to who and what they were and higher education can change that.”

“Did your patient ever find a way to survive, an occupation?  What about the military or mountain climbing?  Those often have a kind of spirit component.”

A small flock of birds went fluttering ahead of them and then rose into the blue sky that showed between the trees where the stream below made kind of cleft.  It was remarkable that they moved as one, not veering around as individuals.  The women knew that the quiet, even idyllic, Macleay Park had been the scene of attacks.  But they had happened at night.  Nonetheless, they were more alert when the birds might have been displaced by something or someone.

“He found two ways to solve his dilemma and they were entirely contradictory.”

“What can you possibly mean by that?”  

“The military couldn’t happen because of the trauma from abuse — real broken bones and other damage.  So he devoted himself to helping veterans who had been badly damaged — amputations and so on, but also PTSD.”

They walked in silence, considering how early damage causes lifelong trauma.  Their own occupation was based on it.  They knew a lot about it, even questioning their interest and whether it was motivated by trauma.  Then the listener called for a pause while she looked at a ferny bank and pulled out a small fern root.  “It’s a licorice plant!” she explained, and they tasted the little pale twist.  Sure enough it tasted like licorice, a taste they both liked.

“Are you aware of the small culture that developed after the Vietnam war around combat veterans?  A semi-secret group based on extreme physical eroticism because that’s all the men could feel at that point?”

“Yes, but I never had a client who found it either a problem or a solution.  It was a subject for late at night when a little drunk among trusted others.  What I know is mostly from books.”

“That’s the way I was, too, but this client has developed a practice of what I can only call oral porn.  He talks to these men until he understands what they are about — the same as we do — and then he tells them an erotic story that fits their world view.  They often cum.  Even the ones in wheelchairs.  And it gives them some kind of relief.”

"Do you believe all this stuff?"

"Strangely, though it's preposterous and wicked and transgressive, I do.  There's nothing I know that makes it impossible and a lot I know that makes it possible."

"I guess it's sort of like women who act as healthy sex surrogates for seriously disabled people who can't even buy a sex-worker.  Or to gestate a baby for someone who can't.  Our 19th century morality doesn't allow for such things."

“It makes sense for a kind of man who lives in the physical, the sexual as well as the violent.”  A breeze made the trees rush their sounds into the music made by the little creek, a kind of counterpoint.  “But what did he come to you for?  Sounds like he knows what he’s doing.”  But the two women were still unsure, uneasy.

“I think he has lost himself.  He’s so dedicated to listening and controlling others that he can’t feel much himself.  He lives through others and their issues.  But what are his?  Moral? Spiritual?”

"I can seriously understand this problem!  We get a little numbed and needy ourselves."

The two women had emerged at the end of the path and walked in bright sun to the parked car.  “Life is a search, isn’t it?”  They laughed and agreed.

"Yeah, a search for a better culture."

Thursday, July 02, 2020


New thinking, such as Steve Benen’s new book, “Imposters” about how over the last decades the Republican party has left its original premise as representing a school of political thought in favor of achieving raw power for the Senators, has me thinking about religious institutions.  In Christian terms I was originally Presbyterian through family; left that in undergrad years; while living in a village on the Blackfeet rez, casually participated in the Methodist congregation, and finally served as clergy in the Unitarian Universalist; Association, which I left in 1988.  Since then, informed by the University of Chicago Divinity School MA in Religious Studies, I’ve been trying to understand the major changes to our lives because of scientific explosion since WWII.

The untenability of the old Christian anthropology —  in which a big humanoid in the sky had created little puppets on earth who were controlled until an eventual fate determined by virtue — was replaced by the hominin record; by the awareness of species genomes; the functioning of our bodily identities as interaction in societies; “deep history” about demographics and the vast new “map” of the cosmos; the challenges to biology-based families — all these forces have meant we are in a mental and emotional crisis.  Normally, religious institutions such as denominations would have provided stability, but now they seem to be as powerless as the secular organizations like political parties.

My original participation in the Presbyterian church came from my mother’s family, where her father was a strong local participant who became invisible at pledge time because he never did have much economic success as a rural contractor, just enough to keep the family afloat. His wife, a gentle and dependent woman, preferred the Baptist’s emotional warmth and — since that church was next door to the Presbys — she would slip over there sometimes.  My mother chose her father’s side.

My mother was hampered by us being a one-car family in those days so she left the rather massive and imposing Westminster Presbyterian church, joining instead Vernon Presbyterian church which was only blocks away.  Part of my leaving was the character of the minister, J. Arthur Stevenson, who was an ambitious man in the pattern of the educated and admirable man who drove success.  But he was also arrogant and racist, despising the Chinese family next to the building.  Their daughter was in my classes.  My mother, influenced by missionaries, admired Asian people.

In college I first attended the young Presbyterians, but soon left partly because of classes with Paul Schilpp, a major humanist, and because of the lure of theatre.  This latter insisted on the value of all humans and the importance of understanding how their lives shaped them in various vital ways that did not compete except in terms of story.  I formally withdrew from my mother’s church which caused J. Arthur to condemn me from the pulpit.  My mother rose from the pew, walked out, and joined the other bigger church where she had wanted to be a member earlier.  For a big part of her life, she volunteered in their office, and she buried our father from there.  The congregation began to have schisms and quarrels, and by the time she died, she no longer attended and would not accept their ministers in her house.  We could not discuss “faith” peacefully.  She never really made the transition from her original rural and literal beliefs.  

She was the only active church-goer in a family secular on both sides, maternal and paternal.  My father declared himself to be Atheist in the Progressive and early counter-cultural way, claiming Bertrand Russell and science as more enlightened.  He flirted with the UU’s who became hyphenated at a Portland conference in the year I graduated from Northwestern, 1961,

My first job, teaching on a rez, meant that the Methodist church had become the “Protestant” white alternative while the Catholics shepherded the tribal people.  Because of my association and then marriage to a white man born in 1914 and committed to the rez, I was marginally included in semi-secret traditional ceremonies and informed anthropologically.  It was a vivid and persuasive alternative which the Div School accepted in terms of Comparative Religion, the justification of various forms.

This is all preamble to explain why I left the UU’s, though they had purported to be as tolerant of differences as it was possible to be through education and awareness.  The problem as I see it now was the definition and finally domination of the denomination by the socio-economic forces that have also challenged political parties.  The Niebuhr brothers have been eloquent about this.

The UUA is more open to the larger society than many denominations, coming out of the Boston educated classes that uneasily joined with the rural mid-America tradition of Jesus Christianity, avoiding the supernatural dimension and the moral rigidity of some denominations.  This internal friction has been frank.  The stance that the denomination was inclusive and progressive was challenged hard by the war in Vietnam, black empowerment, and the sexual revolution.

When I joined at first in 1975, I was trying to regroup and become respectable after a confusing divorce.  It took actual service in churches to reveal my real problem: I was not socioeconomically the same as the leaders.  Being female was part of that, being older (forty) was relevant, and I was now challenging my dynamic of attaching to powerful males as a helper rather than a wife so as to preserve my independence.  It was very simple: I didn’t know their music, had not participated in their type of gatherings, didn’t cook or eat their way, didn’t read the same books or attend the same movies — little daily stuff that got in the way.  They were as devoted to conformity as any other prosperous people, just in a different way.  I was not.  I was guided by ideas.

The emphasis for clergy was on securing personal prosperity by serving a big church with a major budget and — more than that — making the denomination grow financially and in size.  No different than my father’s task of growing rural co-operatives.  These goals were unachievable — determined by demographics — but the aura of elitism has remained and has attracted People of Color, as a way for them to acquire status, particularly women.  This has pulled the institution to the Universalist side, converted theology to therapy, and challenged the Elite both in leadership and in theological style.

Realizing that entering this vocation was not helped by my excessive idealism and interest in science, which was more culturally approved decades earlier, challenged prosperity as a goal, and pushed social service off to the UU Service Committee (the Quakers did the same), I had to face the likelihood that I would always be at the periphery and in poverty.  I was still just enough Presbyterian to reject that.  But I wasn’t enough of a hippie to go full-blown counterculture.

Conventional religious denominations are shrinking and I suspect the political parties have been doing the same.  Efforts to reinvigorate these structural social forces have had to struggle against the new vision of the world and increasingly intense competition and “re-framing.”  Some are probably doomed.  Do we need to find new sources of structure or is it possible to morph the old parties and denominations into something that works for a new society?  I don’t know.  I’m working on it.  Can one live like Jesus in a society that sells Hallmark love?  Can one think one’s way to safety in a world of sharks and viruses?

Wednesday, July 01, 2020


The larger culture has been working on gender relations ever since the previous balance was destroyed by effective birth control, which threw the fertility basis of marriage off-center, and thus the proper turnover of the generations.  At the same time diligent people have been trying to understand how they personally fit into all this.  This includes me.

I’ve seen how the ag and small town patterns have affected my parents and their generation.  Everything hinged on marriage to an effective provider and the occupations or national framing that controlled their income.  But in the generation that was me, my siblings who were both male, and my cousins, our lives spread out in quite different ways.  The constant was gender assignment and my differentiation was a combination of education and denying conception. It took me right out of the family.

My nuclear family was knocked off-norm in two ways: a concussion gradually destroyed my father and my mother had wanted an education, in compensation resumed her college and guaranteed mine, though a scholarship I earned was a major contribution.  In those days boys owed military service which paid for their college degrees.  The pattern is that the mother provides the culture for a family and the father provides the income.  Our father has been expected to be golden because the family carried him to a Master's degree, the highest anyone had gone. But in a few decades his MA in the economics of potatoes was far overshadowed and he was much diminished.

The conventional ag pattern for a family is that the father’s well-being and success is a priority for the whole family and that the mother is expected to make him a higher priority than herself.  In this instance my father was what we label a narcissist: a man absorbed in himself and his own interests. His occupation (supporting small ag co-ops) meant he was the road most of the time. He lost track of what we were doing and beyond that his subtle brain damage grew so that his temperament and general equanimity were irascible and phony.  My mother did her best to keep him stable, pass her classes, and keep up with child life.  It was clear in a subconscious way that two children (which were planned) were a burden but a third made even more cost and demand, even in the thriving Fifties. 

Reading, esp. the grandmother's novels in the home which were Edwardian (Gene Stratton-Porter, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Harold Bell Wright) and demanded that a woman be exceptional, artistic, and highly idealistic, influenced my understanding that the proper goal was to find an outstanding man so as to contribute to him.  In Browning I did that, choosing an older definitely narcissistic man of considerable skill and accomplishment (sterilized, which helped).  

Maybe because of WWI, there was a feminist movement that urged women to patronize men and develop their own lives. Then the pattern that evolved is the one proposed by Grannon and Vaknin.  A man taught to be narcissistic has in effect a boundary around him. Those women who still expected a partnership based on love in which the man was primary, could not access love because they couldn't get through that boundary.  In the attempt they became hysterical and even psychotic.  In the meantime some of the men so focused on themselves also became psychotic.  Both people were living in fantasy.

Narcissism has come to mean something like “spoiled” or self-centered which is not exactly what the mythic story that Freud used was about.  This means room for a lot of interpretation and switching from good to bad and back.  The myth of the beautiful boy in love with his own appearance does not fit people who are concentrated on their own pursuits — whether artistic or scientific or business — to the point of ignoring everything and everyone else.  This much tight focus might be justified by achievement but the attempt alone would make the narcissistic circle tighter.

Narcissism, confining energy to one’s own self, might be a necessary condition for existence, as a child or toddler finds natural.  Sickness might demand a person’s total control.  Or possibly the context of the person’s life is so hostile and confining that only putting every energy into maintaining a big enough circle will allow existence.  Then in a new circumstance, that extreme defensiveness may have a different effect, overpowering others who were not oppressors and preventing both widening the circle and allowing intimacy..

We say “circle”, assuming a boundary of the person’s identity which is established both by what the individual finds necessary and by what the environment, esp. other people, insists on.  It might be rigid, like that around someone in a religious order based on self-discipline.  It might be flexible in a person confident of their core or wanting intimacy out of desire.  This circumstance asks for a certification of authenticity.  Vaknin is now proposing the narcissism of a person who is uncertain about his real identity and therefore creates a front which is his boundary, something like an avatar in social media — much encouraged these days.

For some the relationship of big to little, top to bottom, S to M, esp as defined in cultural gender roles, is always sneaking around in there according to presumed entitlements or paybacks for gifts.  Grannon points out that  gifts, favors, supports are often attempts to push boundaries in towards someone, or even dissolve them.  It’s so natural in a mercantile world.  Both describe the effort of the one who feels they love the narcissist and want to help him, as a kind of narcisssism of desire, an attempt to get “in” for support and reassurance.

It’s the pattern of the fort and the wild trying to get in for good or bad reasons, which can very much alarm and drive away someone “forted up.”  Then the person outside must increase efforts, invent tricks and deceptions, even become psychotic in assaults, using force and destruction that are quite real.

Vaknin proposes that a narcissistic needs a steady stream of praise, proof, and favors — “a supply” for which he will pay attention and maintain relationship.  Until he finds a better supplier, or unless the person who is addicted to the circle-barrier finds a better goal — a more important narcissist, a way of being independent, or an event that diminishes the narcissist.

When my father became unemployed, barely capable of taking care of himself, my mother treated him as a fourth child, though she despised the habit he had of calling her "Mommy."  But the original pattern of wife irrevocably devoted to the husband held on as a fantasy.  It has persisted as a fantasy in my own life because the narcissist I chose became famously complicated and aged quickly since he was twice my age.  The people who considered him a genius have assumed I would stay in his circle.  But I became my own narcissist with my own circle.  Only once since then has anyone gotten past my boundary.  I must be getting old myself.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020


These are notes from an article in the website called “Frontiers,” and is about the impact of one’s lifecourse in health and well-being.  This is English and contrasted the difference between “high” classes and “lower”, but in terms of countries in Europe so there is no black/white or north/south dynamic.  The “lower” classes socioeconomically were in Eastern Europe.

The point was to discover what could help certain measures improve both the kind and timing of interventions.  

Studies on multiple biomarkers and omics provided credible mechanisms for our conceptual life-course model, including epigenetics, inflammatory markers, allostatic load, and metabolomics

. . . . . . . . .

Nevertheless, changes in self-rated health appeared to be short-lived and were not sustained a few years after the programme ended. On the contrary, improvements in psychological well-being seem to take time and were observed only 42 months after the end of the study. Overall, the findings from this report offer a mixed picture of the potential of CCTs to reduce health inequalities. On the one hand, the findings suggest that conditional cash transfers may improve the psychological well-being of low-income adults, but they also suggest that effects on physical and overall health assessments of adults and children are weak or inconsistent in the short- to medium-term.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Our analyses showed that although compulsory schooling laws increased the length of schooling and in some cases educational attainment, they may also have led to unexpected increases in depressive symptoms, and some negative effects on biological markers of diseases. These results raise questions about simple causal interpretations of the relationship between education and health. Overall, our findings suggest that changes in schooling may not always lead to expected improvements in population health, and they emphasize the need to monitor how specific social policies influence health and aging trajectories of individuals and families. However, these studies were conducted in a French cohort and the results may reflect the specific context and a specific time period.

. . . . . . . . . . . . 

The impact of socioeconomic condition on premature aging is mediated by known behavioral and clinical factors and intermediate molecular pathways that Lifepath studies have revealed, including epigenetic clocks (age acceleration), inflammation, allostatic load, and metabolic pathways—highlighting the biological imprint (embodiment) of social variables and strengthening causal attribution.
Research on the impact of recessions suggests that the economic strain imposed by short-term fluctuations in resources is harmful over the long-term. Social protection systems should be designed to reduce the volatility of household incomes by offering short-term income protection, and, potentially, investment in labor and human capital to ensure long-term income maintenance.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

The term “socioeconomic status” is often used in health research, but it contains a basic confusion between concepts of class, status, income, and wealth. In epidemiology (though not in social sciences) education is also used as a measure of position in the social structure. To make things worse, these different measures may be used as if they were interchangeable. A few studies such as that of Geyer et al. have tested the validity of this assumption. They found that in fact education, income, and an occupational measure of social class were only moderately correlated, and had different strengths of relationship with different health outcomes.

. . . . . . . . . . 

Sociology has traditionally drawn clear distinctions between class and status. But since these dimensions of inequality are often correlated, as they are with income and wealth, it can appear that for descriptive purposes it does not matter which one is used. However, if we understand the conceptual basis of the different measures we will greatly accelerate our efforts of explanation. Once these conceptual issues are clarified, it becomes clear that distinct dimensions of inequality implicate etiological pathways composed of different mixtures of material, psychosocial, cultural, and behavioral factors.

. . . . . . . . . . .

The MacArthur Study of Successful Aging was the first to propose an AL score. Parameters included systolic and diastolic blood pressure (indexes of cardiovascular activity); waist-hip ratio (an index of more long-term levels of metabolism and adipose tissue deposition, thought to be influenced by increased glucocorticoid activity); serum high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and total cholesterol levels (indexes of long-term atherosclerotic risk); blood plasma levels of total glycosylated hemoglobin (an integrated measure of glucose metabolism during a period of several days); serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) (a functional HPA axis antagonist); 12-h urinary cortisol excretion (an integrated measure of 12-h HPA axis activity); 12-h urinary norepinephrine and epinephrine excretion levels (integrated indexes of 12-h sympathetic nervous system activity). Some variants of the original items can be found in the literature, but the markers most commonly used are associated with cardiovascular and metabolic diseases (blood pressure, heart rate, blood glucose, insulin, blood lipids, body mass index, or waist circumference), HPA axis (cortisol, DHEA-S), sympathetic nervous system (epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine), and inflammation (C-reactive protein, IL-6).
These scores of AL have been shown to be a better predictor of mortality and functional limitations than the metabolic syndrome or any of the individual components used to measure AL when analyzed separately

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Epigenetics, specifically DNA methylation modifications, has been proposed as a biomarker of biological aging and as one of the plausible mechanisms through which social exposures become biologically embodied, affecting physiological systems and cellular pathways leading to disease susceptibility. The “epigenetic clock” is one of the main mechanisms contributing to age-related methylation changes. It refers to specific sites on the genome where methylation levels constantly change as the body ages and can therefore be used to predict chronological age with high accuracy. This type of clock can identify deviations between the epigenetic clock and chronological age that may be driven by social exposures. It means that the biological aging of one social group can be compared to another, a useful tool when examining the socially driven differences in healthy aging

. . . . . . . . . . 

This highlighted the need for refining and adapting the socio-economic-related exposures to the system and context they relate to. A good example of that approach involves social differences in the risk of infection by Epstein Barr virus (EBV) in children (N > 12,000) from the Millennium Cohort Study. Authors showed that children from disadvantaged social background were more likely to be infected by EBV, by the age of 3 compared to advantaged children, due to the material conditions to which they were exposed to. In these analyses, social exposures were refined and included environmental factors, and household environment (e.g., temperature in baby's room). The outcome of interest, the EBV infection, is usually benign, but the time of infection can be socially patterned. It was therefore used as a proxy for potential socially-driven differential immune maturation and function which can, later-in-life, affect health.

. . . . . . . . . . .

Associations detected in cord blood in relation to maternal education were not detected in relation to other SEP factors. Similar analyses did not detect any differentially methylated CpG sites in relation to maternal education in blood samples from 7 years old, and found 20 differentially methylated sites in blood samples from 15 years old. Of these no formal overlap was identified across ages but changes in methylation in the SULF1 gene appeared as a possible common target


Many years ago after reading about a scientist who was interested in the many and complex variations on the gene codes we call “viruses” who have escaped the machinery of cells by invading pre-existing entities, and who had dedicated himself to acquiring samples from jungle hunters, I proposed a sort of vending machine at the beginning of each trail.  The idea was that the person emerging by that trail would pause enough to stick his (or her) finger into a hole that would take a blood sample.  Then the machine would spit out some kind of valuable token for exchange or wanted as an object, a bullet or a food.  Even a condom.

Everyone thought this was a ridiculous idea because no one worried about viruses that much.  The reason was that they didn’t realize how much they permeate our lives and how fluid they are.

I’m trying to understand viruses, but no sooner do I figure out one thing than they discover some new aspect.  For instance, I had learned about the four nucleic acids, than it turns out that RNA (single strand nucleic acids) has a different fourth nucleic acid than DNA (double strand nucleic acids).

Nucleic acids are the biopolymers, or small biomolecules, essential to all known forms of life. The term nucleic acid is the overall name for DNA and RNA. They are composed of nucleotides, which are the monomers made of three components: a 5-carbon sugar, a phosphate group and a nitrogenous base. If the sugar is a compound ribose, the polymer is RNA (ribonucleic acid); if the sugar is derived from ribose as deoxyribose, the polymer is DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).Nucleic acids are the most important of all biomolecules. “  (Britannic instead of Wikipedia)

Pictures in the website linked above.  I’ve always thought of viruses as little flecks hardly big enough to have “structure” but I could not have been more wrong.  They are zoomorphic, inventive, invasive attempts at life that went wrong, or maybe primitive life that couldn’t quite get it together.  Or maybe they’re jokes or caught in transit, merely becoming instead of being.  The scientists have a sense of humor about it.  The very largest ones are called “Mimiviruses” or “Pandoraviruses.”  I imagine Mimi and Pandora were not amused.

The point is that they are not necessarily jungle hunters in the traditional sense.  Today’s mega-city IS a jungle and both Mimi and Pandora live there.

Comments from this website follow.

“Ebola, sars, Zika and Rift Valley fever. But it also included “Disease X”.  This illness, caused by a pathogen never before seen in humans, would, the panel said, emerge from animals somewhere in a part of the world where people had encroached on wildlife habitats. It would be more deadly than seasonal influenza but would spread just as easily between people. By hitching rides on travel and trade networks, it would journey beyond its continent of origin within weeks of its emergence. It would cause the world’s next big pandemic, and leave economic and social devastation in its wake.”
. . . . . . . . .  

“The first layer is a worldwide effort to find and track the hundreds of thousands of as-yet-unseen pathogens that might threaten human health. The second is the monitoring of blood samples and other indicators from people living in places where new diseases are most likely to emerge. The third is a concerted programme that employs all the data thus collected to get a head-start in the development of drugs and vaccines that might be used to meet an emerging disease halfway.”

. . . . . . . 

“In 2004, however, a highly pathogenic strain emerged and began to spread across South-East Asia, killing tens of millions of birds. By the middle of 2005 this version of the virus had infected wild geese, which took it into Europe, India and Africa. That year, 98 people were infected, and 43 of them died—a death rate severe enough for David Nabarro, then co-ordinator of the un’s response to influenza, to issue a warning that an unchecked h5n1 outbreak could kill up to 150m people. In 1968 a less pathogenic strain of flu, which had originated in the same area, killed 1m people when it spread around the world. In 1957 a still-earlier relative killed 1.1m. h5n1 was considerably more lethal than either.”

. . . . . . . . . .

“PREDICT ran for just over a decade. Scientists working with local teams in 30 countries collected around 170,000 samples from people and wild animals, mainly non-human primates, bats and rodents. In the process they discovered 1,200 new viruses belonging to families known to have the potential to infect people and cause epidemics. Among these were more than 160 potentially zoonotic coronaviruses.”

 . . . . . . . 

“Among other things, having a registry of such risks might make it possible to identify hotspots where an unhealthy number of the conditions for zoonoses coexist. The predict programme’s risk registry includes virological, ecological and sociological factors. Viruses which store their genes as rna, for example, are categorised as more risky than dna viruses, because of their increased ability to mutate. Viruses already found in more than one host are also flagged up. They clearly have an adaptive knack. And being adapted to a species reasonably close to Homo sapiens matters too. A virus able to reproduce in the cells of one species will, other things being equal, have a better chance of adapting to life in a related species than an unrelated one. siv did not have to change all that much to become hiv. Reptile viruses, by contrast, are less of a threat.”

. . . . . . .

“Besides being the original reservoirs of sars-cov and sars-cov-2, bats also harbour another coronavirus, mers-cov, which causes Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, an illness first detected in 2012. They are also the source of the virus which causes Ebola and of the hendra and nipah viruses which, over the past three decades, have led to small outbreaks of deadly respiratory and brain infections in Australia and South-East Asia.”

Monday, June 29, 2020


[PDF] THE HERO'S JOURNEY IN JAMES WELCH'S SACRED GEOGRAPHY by JHC Vest - 2005 - Using an auto-criticism reflecting the author's ... James Welch's Fools Crow has figured greatly in that odyssey 

Jay came through Browning (I suppose he was actually in Missoula with side trips) at a liminal time -- meaning “on a threshold,” because that piece across the bottom of the door is called the limen. The same word, sometimes spelled “limin” means the threshold of perception, the least amount of sensation that can be detected. Psychologically and theologically, it is meant to be the point of entrance, transition, crossing, often into holiness or at least potential. It was a liminal time for the whole planet as the cultures shifted towards openness and experiment; for me because I was newly divorced; and for Jay because he was just reaching that point in a young man’s life when he’s trying to figure out his identity.

Normally there’s a lot of thrashing around, experimenting, emotion, and risking at such a time and that was certainly the case with Jay. I don’t think I ever exchanged two words with him, but there were conversations about him -- sometimes approving and other times not. He was one of the MANY who came thinking that if they could sort of meld with the Blackfeet, they would become powerful and knowing. The trouble was that they usually picked out advisors who were pretty full of it, to be frank. Tricksters. I won’t name them. Of course, I have a certain point of view which is that of a white female older woman. Sceptical. A little over-experienced. Okay, cynical. After all, I’d known some of these people since they were twelve and my husband and father-in-law were older than most of them, as old as the enrolled grandfather elders and here since 1903. 

Liminal time in the theatre is when the curtain goes up. In church it is the call to worship. At a concert it is the first chord after the tuning up. At that time this country's crossing of the limin into some new way of being was almost to the point of critical mass, the tipping point. Something happened and the whole political scene backed off. I think just became terrified, maybe like now.

Jay was pursuing his degree, now in hand. Both of us have gone through many new spaces since then, stepped over many a limin. My hope is -- and I think there is some evidence -- that the world is again crossing a threshold, but the point is that in a liminal time/space anything can happen. The car is out of gear. There is space to be Dionysian, even with an Apollonian president. But immense destruction can be one result.

The paper about “The Hero’s Journey in James Welch’s “Fools Crow” is competent and engaging, useful in particular for people who don’t have much background in Blackfeet matters. I see that now Jay is claiming his own enrollment in the Mohacan Indian Nation but I don’t know much about that group.

The paper called “The Oldman River and the Sacred: A Meditation Upon Aputosi Pii’kani Tradition and Environmental Ethics” is the one that had me wielding two colors of highlighter and scribbling in the margins. There is really good stuff in this paper, mixing realistic sociology with story and theory. Of course, I like it because it’s theory I can understand.

SOCIOLOGY: “. . .the Pii’kani community was divided in response to the dam, which created a position easily exploited by the outside interests. Since Native Modernists, motivated by poverty, tend to be willing to accept change provided it brings the promise of monetary benefit, they were largely unopposed to the environmental degradation. It was, however , the Pii’kani traditionalists who had the most to lose. In the traditionalists’ identification with place, specifically the Oldman River, these Natives were impacted with a major disruption of their religious ethos and cultural identity.” 

STORY: “According to Campbell, mythology concerns the mystical dimension, for without this you have ideology. Myth also concerns ‘the pedagogy of the individual, giving him a guiding track to guide him along.’”

THEORY: “Elements of this [spiritual] integration include include: first, purification of body, soul, and spirit; second, spiritual expansion in realizing a relationship to all that is; and third, identity or realization of unity in a state of oneness with the totality.” (The reference is to Joseph Epes Brown, “ The Spiritual Legacy of the American Indian,” 1982 p. 113. Vest studied with Brown.)

These ideas have not been exhausted and the development of ecological and scientific awareness of a changing planet makes them sharply useful. I’m a little surprised that Jay doesn’t pick up on some of the more recent thought. Many of the people he quotes have been gone for some years, which doesn’t make them less true and useful, but the torch has not been extinguished -- just handed on. Today the challenge is the Alberta Tar Sands and international high-tension power lines. The corporations are far more dangerous and powerful than anything in the Seventies.

Jay seems not to have heard about the “RENEGOTIATION OF THE BLACKFEET REALITY” . . . strongly challenging the idea of “culture,” which is so obsessed with accuracy that it tries to freeze everything at one point in time when, in fact, the shared lives of people on the land is always dynamic and changes as it goes.” (Quote from the recent history seminar at Piegan Institute.) Nor has he heard about Jack Gladstone’s generous troubador synthesis of song, philosophy, tradition and land.

There is a website where students critique their professors and Jay took some hard comments, mostly having to do with rigidity. I realize that today’s college students tend to be a self-important and contemptuous lot, but it sounds as though now HE’s the Culture Police, quoting a stack of white men’s books and telling about things that happened to him a half-century ago. Why does this happen so often? It seems as though he ought to be here celebrating and growing with the rest of us.

Maybe we should organize a convocation of all those white and low-quantum guys who came through here in the Sixties and Seventies, looking for liminality. Some found it and were transformed. We should find out what it did for them. And see what they can do for us.

Friday, August 27, 2010


In the years between 1492 and 1776, populations grew and crossed over in many ways, most commonly in liasons between European men and indigenous women.  Few mechanisms for recording them existed yet, except as the Catholic church kept records and devout individuals listed their family in their Bibles.  Thomas Conselor (1784-1853) died as the Old Northwest of southern Michigan was filling up, dividing into thrifty farms along the streams.  

Because genealogists have ferreted out the records of wills, censuses, land assignments and sales, for nine generations -- begat by begat -- we know that Elisha Counselor (which might be spelled Counsellers or Councilors or a dozen other variations) had moved his branch of the family to Michigan.  Mitsawokett is a tribal website that has accumulated and organized as much information as they could about that community and have named the individuals in each generation until the present.  Eventually, a descendant of Thomas Counselor married a descendent of Cyrus McCormick in Michigan, but as marriages and children continued, some in the present have lost both patristic names.  Perhaps some genes persisted.  If the causes of schizophrenia are genomic, this is not a happy possibility since several McCormicks suffered it, but they had no descendants.

The Michigan Conselors are descended from Elisha, who could be a son of Benjamin, one of the first to be born in America.  Genealogists are like bird-watchers, obsessed with detail, exerting many efforts, keeping lists and theories,  always provisional, and not really affecting anything.  By the ninth generation the Conselors had met the industrial revolution.  The hard-working farmers were expanding their incomes and know-how by working in the Detroit and Lansing automobile factories capitalizing on Post-WWII hunger for cars, meeting the remnants of the war effort.  One of the ninth generation cleared a field to make a runway and bought a small airplane.  Inevitably, when he had the resources, he moved to California, rather than the New Northwest of Oregon and Washington.   In the nine generations the line of progenitors had reached from one coast to the other.  They had a provenance proving descent, a pedigree. 

The story goes that the first, or at least a very early Conselor was a French pirate. Besides being part of the Lenape complex of indigenous people, at least part of the family was more properly Metis.  Others say that the first Conselor was Spanish.  Mitsewokett was under "Indian control" when that first single man -- however one spells the name and whether or not he was a pirate -- first settled In America.  He married an "Indian".  The next generation all married "Indians."  What lures the researchers on through successions is the usual assortment of scandals, murders, small fortunes, and occasional flares of genius and madness, not counting a small number of religious leaders.  But that small tendril of the family line didn't release their hold on a small Michigan farm along the pleasant stream until very recently, abiding through the generations.

My Twitter feed includes many tribal people from the North and West in Canada.  At this moment at least a few of them are very intense about blood quantum and their status with the Canadian government as well as the Provinces, which have much more control than States.  International corporations, of course, dominate nations.  In spite of the RCMP's story, things get lawless when distances are immense, and powerful international corporations will do almost anything to prevent interference with their hunger for resources.   Values that are present in the laws are deeply based on British assumptions.  For centuries the whole Western half of Canada, though called "Rupert's Land," was essentially the fiefdom of the Hudson's Bay Company which had a mercantile goal.

The identities of the indigenous people on the entire continent were heavily influenced by concepts convenient to slavery, which carried over to the native people as though there were some definitive and universal law about the nature of genetics separating everyone into races.  The idea of culture as also being a trajectory that controls both identity and law was  near-religious in the sense of being a matter of faith in something untrue, rejecting challenge.

Species are separated (until recently) as a matter of definition, meaning inability to cross-breed.  All humans as races can easily (sometimes a little too easily) mix with other races, so humans are all the same species. This is evident but denied by the cultures.  It is also the key to evolutionary "fitness" changing as the environment varied from pleasant to challenging, often unexpectedly.  Only some can cope.

The identities of individuals are created by the pushing of the genome against the resistance and forming of the environment.  Often hard times are the origin of hard people, or at least those resourceful enough to find new ways to live.  It's not a matter of magic, neither things nor stories and songs.  But we rejoice in these familiar things.  Wanting to keep them alive is a near sacred trust.  Even pirates have their uses.