Thursday, October 31, 2019


I spend time reflecting on the harvest of small grains -- since I live where so much wheat is grown -- and think how it relates to my father's birth family who came from Scotland, spend many years trying to raise potatoes, and entered the industrial revolution as agents of the Kovar Kultivator business which was at the time a horse-drawn machine, esp. useful in getting rid of quackgrass.

The Sam Strachan family was educated and Kovar made them prosperous enough to send the oldest boy (my father) to college in Winnipeg and his sibs to trade schools in the same city.  Among his early photos are shots of the college campus just as the main buildings were opened.  The industrial revolution was barely reaching inland North America where transportations was on rivers and canals. Enough men had the right kind of training that small items like sewing machines powered by foot treadles and variations on the theme of horseless carriages were being invented daily.  Some acquired famous names that became generic, like Singer, but Kovar never did, though business with that name persists.

The big small grain reaper name that stuck was McCormick.  This link is to a vid of the 179 year old, still horse drawn.  of the 179 year old, still horse drawn.  This vid tells the story of the beginnings of the machine.

This link shows the "combine" that combined cutting and threshing.  This link is about the next evolution, the use of steam engines.  Until I began to look at these links, I thought a McCormick Reaper was the same as a motor-driven combine, not this early device sitting behind a horse, though some people still harvest that way.  I've always associated the machine with the industrial behemoths that park in front of my house while forming up the Valier Homesteader Parade, monsters that are taller than my house, in the phrase of a poetic writer, "fire-hearted beasts", creatures of fossil fuel.

My father (1903 to 1969) was deeply involved in these machines and took us through the Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI, with all the solemnity of someone visiting the Tyrrell Museum of early life.  We were not as enchanted with Ford's rows and rows of steam engines as our father was.  Anyway, Henry Ford turned out not to be much of a role model.  

But the McCormick family was not exemplary either.  (Wikipedia) "Cyrus Hall McCormick (February 15, 1809 – May 13, 1884) was an American inventor and businessman who founded the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, which later became part of the International Harvester Company in 1902. Originally from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, he and many members of his family became prominent residents of Chicago." They were at the beginning of our modern life as we know it.

"McCormick has been simplistically credited as the single inventor of the mechanical reaper. He was, however, one of several designing engineers who produced successful models in the 1830s. His efforts built on more than two decades of work by his father Robert McCormick Jr., as well as the aid of Jo Anderson, a slave held by his family.  He also successfully developed a modern company, with manufacturing, marketing, and a sales force to market his products."

In other words, he was not an inventor so much as a commercial developer, competing with other reapers, occasionally elbowing them aside from a new stronghold in Chicago.  At age 49 he married his secretary, who had been an orphan, and they had seven children. Two of them, Mary and Stanley, suffered from schizophrenia.  This might suggest how their mother became an orphan.  (Stanley McCormick's life inspired the 1998 novel Riven Rock by T. Coraghessan Boyle.)

The "original" McCormick moved in elevated circles and helped found McCormick Theological Seminary which became part of the University of Chicago, but his son, Cyrus Jr. was the first chair of the Moody Bible Institute, quite a different body.  There was marriage to a Rockefeller, thus Rockefeller Chapel on the U of C campus.  I'd had no idea.

"As wealthy socialites, with two family fortunes available, the McCormicks were prominent in Chicago social and cultural circles, donating large amounts of money and time to causes..   Edith McCormick began support of the Art Institute in 1909 as a charter member and supported it with monetary contributions and loans from her extensive personal art collection. She and Harold, along with other wealthy patrons, founded the Grand Opera Company, the first in Chicago, in 1909.

"In 1913, she travelled to Zurich to be treated for depression by Carl Gustav Jung, and contributed generously to the Zürich Psychological Society.  After extended analysis and intense study, Edith became a Jungian analyst, with a full-time practice of more than fifty patients."

This family web is a weaving of money, brilliance, connections, and mental affliction, suggesting the knife-edge between genius and madness.  It is full of surprises.  One of the most interesting is Katharine McCormick, who worked closely with Margaret Sanger in the interest of birth control.  Once she managed to smuggle in 1,000 diaphragms -- I dread to think how big a mass that was or how she did it.  My father was devoted to the ideas of Margaret Sanger, but I don't know how he was aware of the movement. He got his condoms by mail in a plain brown wrapper. 

She and her husband, Stanley, who had graduated from Princeton before he had to be hospitalized at Riven Rock, had no children nor did they divorce.  It could be said that the invention of the contraceptive pill and the feminist movement of that time have changed the world more than the McCormick reaper.  Katharine also threw much energy and research into the causes of schizophrenia, which remains too complex to be solved, though it can be treated.

So far as I know, there had not been a DNA study of this family. They are not so celebrated these days: people are not alert to the key importance of industrial harvest of small grains, their own DNA, or the quality of the vast expanses of land that they use.  The story is not near completion and probably never will be.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019


A video is going around on Twitter that shows Trump's face.  He is weeping, actively sobbing with tears running down his face.  It's impossible to tell whether it's real or augmented.  That's the way everything is these days.  In on-line magazine Dr.Lance Dodes explains that the President is "psychotic-like" (whatever that means) and that he will probably resign because he remains "wily."  Both the vid and the opinion  are more optimistic than not, except that Dr.Dodes says Trp is the "most dangerous man on the planet."

But what makes this opinion less useful is that Dr. Dodes doesn't take into account the useful of a madman to our enemies and rivals, the widespread repetition of this pattern of useful madman and national disruption, and the circle of sycophants who are perfectly sane but effective in protecting Trp.  What did he ever do for them, might be doing even now?  Bannon is a twisted, vengeful man who explicitly says he want to destroy the world, evidently for the glee of it, but what about Barr?  He didn't even know Trp.  Does he have the illusion that he's important?

Yet we know all these characters from the movies and I have a sinking feeling that we're going to be exposed to a lot of variations on the possibilities, not least because these tendencies and personalities have always been around.  I could name a lot of them if there weren't libel laws, though most had fewer resources. 

It's almost inevitable that we would eventually have a mafia president.  As many remark, Nixon came close.  So did Kennedy and that may be why he was assassinated.  Go around sharing gang mols and that's what you get.  This is not a political factor.  National and international politics just get pushed around.

Some have commented sharply on the derangement of the current culture but this is almost the easiest to have foreseen.  Whenever there is an economic break or technical dislocation -- and  we have a few that are really scarey, like the loss of the industrial complex jobs and the transformation of money by the internet, escaping from the restraints of nations within boundaries, and the shifting of the planet into new climates of extremes.  These were predicted but they are out of any individual or government's control, which means helplessness spreads into our towns and homes.

We have a few people talking about "new religions" -- not so much dogma and artifacts or even institutions, but the kind of change in beliefs about the world that Nick Kristoff or Sam Haselby talk about, esp. among young people.  The talk is not so much about creating babies and more about saving the world.  "As we know it" is not an operant clause.  And the educated middle-class that urges us to treat everyone with tolerance, avoid pain, and enjoy high-class amusement has made us into soft sissies with a professional servant class of medical, legal, and home maintenance people.  (I'm exaggerating, but not that much.)  What was previously professing, educated, and self-disciplined is now swarmed by quasi-professionals, only partly trained and mostly technicians.

We knew all this was coming simply because there are too many people taking up too much space.  We used to worry about feeding everyone.  Now the problem is crowding every other life form off the continents, even the ones that form the ecology that sustains us.  A big part of Trp's life is simply narrowing everything down to what he knew in childhood, not a very well educated one at that.  Anyone outside that circle was like what they call "flat" characters in books, named and labeled, but not signficant.  This makes it easy to deal with too many people: kill all the ones you don't like.  It's an old solution, practiced by chimpanzees.  In a sense they are more advanced because they eat the bodies, recycling.

The rollback in taboos on language has meant that now we hear about things that most of us would never think of and that no other primate is interested in.  Rape and torture may exist among them, even war, but not to the elaborate and imaginative extent that our advanced brains can invent or hear about.  Instead of getting rid of such things, we've simply made them into commodities, each person thinking they are privileged and unique, hiding little trophies of their ability to dominate and degrade, to use their own little fingers to invade the privacy of others.

Even naming and considering all that will not set us free.  Even the most careful rule of law will not protect us.  The people who incite atrocities are not the people who put them on paper as laws and there is no law that cannot be twisted. If it weren't for the rule of law, Trp would have died by now.  It might not have been sniper fire -- just a little extra in his cheeseburger patty.  Even if he had died, it wouldn't make a major difference, though it would be a relief.  The underlying and occasionally fatal problem for all of us is not being able to fit into a newly developing world: no job a person can do, no way a person can live, no peace of mind.

I want to go back to this "religion" thing which most people will not recognize as religion anyway, since we think only Euro-Christianity with it's two millennia of inventing rules and ignoring science is "religion."  We are flooded with images of these new astounding ideas about what is too small to see, only traced in lines under glass, or too vast to see except as a little bundle of instruments falls past it.  It's not hard to imagine.  It's just hard to derive principles of daily human behavior.

I'm not that good at it.  I'm not sure I'll ever discover a group that I fit into.  I've thought I had and turned out to be fooled again and again.  Anyway, that's what protects Trp, Bannon, Barr, et al --  that little "ship of fools" who think they are crossing to a new continent even if the captain is deranged.  Finally, there be dragons.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019


In the struggle to understand what a human being is -- and what hierarchy we can claim among ourselves, if any -- maybe we are ready to watch films about "original" or at least indigenous people.  Such films have been around a long time, for instance, "Nanook of the North" though it was criticized for infantilizing the people with stunts like them pretending  to eat 78 speed phonograph records.  

In a more recent year I once showed "The Fast Runner,"  "(Inuktitut: ᐊᑕᓈᕐᔪᐊᑦ) is a 2001 Canadian epic film directed by Inuit filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk and produced by his company Isuma Igloolik Productions. It was the first feature film ever to be written, directed and acted entirely in the Inuktitut language."  Note the Inuktitut alphabet so the language can be written.  It was Native American Days in Browning and the high school kids meant well, but they were soon bored and snuck away.  Some of this was only possible because of newly invented technology.

Videos are my social life these days so I go back and forth among Netflix, Acorn, and PBS Passport though I resent having to pay for a tax-supported source.  Especially when it Disneyfies to death beloved old classics.  At least I can get at "Grantchester," "Endeavor," "Lewis" and other Masterpiece Theatre classics.  But these are not the kind of films I'm talking about.

On Acorn I look for the Aussie movies and dearly loved "Mystery Road" because it is a Western with more fabulous landscapes than even the American SouthWest and cinematography that rises to appreciate it.  All the indigenous people are "aborigines", some assimilated to modern family and law enforcement woes and some still in the old ways.  The two lead actors, Judy Davis (so white she once played Elizabeth I) and Aaron Pederson, a classic cowboy/cop with indigenous genetics.  An American
audience can easily get into this story, but there's a lot to think about.  It's not "Walkabout" or "The Rabbit Fence" and not meant to be, but if you know those films, they shimmer in the background.

Now and then I get exasperated with Netflix trash  and leave for a while but then I discover that they have a few of what they call "hidden gems" and sometimes fork them over if one stumbles onto a trigger.  

Most recently I found "Green Frontier".  This a very new film (2019) and a murder mystery technically, but it is also meant to awaken us about the Amazon jungle and streams, not as hostile and impenetrable, but as the Mother place.  The story, the crew, the actor, everything was from Columbia.  When I could catch bits of dialogue, they were Spanish, but I don't know whether indigenous languages were included.  The plot didn't make a fuss about it.  Subtitles were English and seemed to reflect what was really said, though there were some gaps.

The plot is very simple:  a tough disciplined female officer comes to investigate the murders of nuns.  Then the rest of the plot unspools until at the end we find out the answers  to everything, including the woman, who turns out to have been born in this obscure undeveloped place.  It's not so much that the plot is remarkable, but the categories of people who are involved, all with the population of Columbia and without drug wars.  Included are the "Uncontacted," the people who puncture low-flying small planes with many arrows.  

As is traditional with tales of the South American world, there is magic but it is not illogical but it carries a lot of weight.  The symbol of  the "heart" (corazon) is strong and vivid.  The foliage is more important than animals -- the "walking tree", the death flower (quite female!), and water everywhere.  I watched uncritically, just letting it all unfold, and that was very satisfactory.

Peter Mattheissen tried to do something like this film, but he was outside.  In fact, "At Play in the Fields of the Lord" offended Tom Berenger, the protagonist, so much that he sponsored an even more Westernized film to show what was "right."  Film, of course, is the art form that pulls us in on the most emotional basis and often crashes into core beliefs that one doesn't even know they are there until the arrows hit them.

Monday, October 28, 2019


On the east slope of the Rockies I survived by accident.  I was in the habit of regarding my marriage to Bob Scriver from multiple points of view.  The first was the culturally endorsed idea of romantic love, being destined, deep relationship, and sex.  No one could ever define these things.  They'd say,  "Oh, you'll know it when it finds you."  But what if I hallucinate easily?

The second was from the outside, a cold investigation into the age mismatch, the workload, the skills required, the value of the achievement, the trade-offs and injustices.  This had a lot to do with family and the idealization/commercialization of art.  Being a third wife in a four wife marriage meant old patterns persisting, but new circles of influence opening that demanded adaptability. 

The third was a major pattern consideration of cultures and the forces that swept up people and put them in situations.  This was esp. salient in view of the shifts in our global-wide understanding of so much, social ways of organizing and on a rez at that.  What do entitlements, advantages, being owed, mean in the daily adjustments of getting work done?  Why should a hundred years of open range cattle raising have so much power over people with a millennium of living with grass and buffalo? Why do they grip us emotionally?  How did the industrial revolution send railroads across it?

Fourth was pretending to be Bob Scriver, which came from intending to write and also acting.  I tried to inhabit him, to know what he felt as he pushed the clay around or expertly skinned out an animal.  I borrowed his clothes, even his jeans and bedroom slippers, which made him angry.  He changed as he aged and as he became famous, which put him beyond anything I could "grok," as did his relationship with Lorraine, a person who had very few happy relationships.  It also put me in deeper touch with the land.  But it pulled him away to nightclubs in Manhattan, a pretend world.

This was curiosity, preparation, and remembrance.  Bob was born in 1914.  His dad was born in 1879.  The oldest of the Blackfeet present in 1961 were approaching or even passing 100.  The Rockies in whose lea we lived, were the third iteration of the continent-long cordillera thrown up by two crashing tectonic plates.  For those of you who like time-lines and statistics, take the following to your next cocktail party.  Consider oil deposits found here and their unfulfilled promises.

"The Canadian Rockies include the Mackenzie and Selwyn mountains of the Yukon and Northwest Territories (sometimes called the Arctic Rockies) and the ranges of western Alberta and eastern British Columbia. The Northern Rockies include the Lewis and Bitterroot ranges of western Montana and northeastern Idaho. These ranges formed along the eastern edge of a region of carbonate sedimentation some 17 miles (27 km) thick, which had accumulated from the late Precambrian to early Mesozoic time (i.e., between about 1 billion and 190 million years ago). This structural depression, known as the Rocky Mountain Geosyncline, eventually extended from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico and became a continuous seaway during the Cretaceous Period (about 145 to 66 million years ago). The ranges of the Canadian and Northern Rockies were created when thick sheets of Paleozoic limestones were thrust eastward over Mesozoic rocks during the mountain-building episode called the Laramide Orogeny (65 to 35 million years ago). Some of these thrust sheets have moved 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 km) to their present positions."

This is a fifth point of view, not available earlier, a whole new understanding of the formation of the world and the hominins in it.  There went most of the Bible, but not the central idea of relationship based on family -- not monarchy -- because kings will start wars. Now attachment comes to the fore and the tension between individual and social group shifts to a pinpoint of existence in all of the cosmos.  We are minute, and yet we are connected.  What we do is infinitesimal and unconscious, but we are each significant in the symphony of stars and dust.

Of course, I'm much influenced by the sci-fi story that speculated about what might be changed if a time-traveler stepped on an ancient bug, breaking the evolutionary chain we believed in then, before horizontal DNA exchange.  All this infinite code may be a more profound moral guide for the future than even the Golden Rule.  To begin a different future what are you doing right now, no matter how insignificant?  Even child-rearing influences, which can change civilizations, aren't really apparent until decades later.

It appears that we have trashed and suffocated the planet without realizing what we were doing when we threw our gum wrapper on the sidewalk.  Writing can ask whether I did that to my own life, my own one-and-only marriage.  Did bad housekeeping have that much impact?  Did I with my child's attitude toward life prevent Bob from creating a final masterpiece?  Or did I make it possible for him to do impressive work?  These are two poles for speculation and philosophy.  And where is my own work?

But there is also a middle ground of both horror and delight.  Put any mass shooting against the enormity of world change. What can any such tragic and fatal striking-out do to change Time?  On the other hand, can we name art or music or dance that can fire our brains with joy?  We could name hundreds and hundreds.  Telling the stories of both ends and the middle are the ground of writing, not what will sell or what editors will buy.

So many terms and categories need to be reworked now.  What IS nation?  What is border?  What is money?  What is owning?  What is race?  What is species now that we know everything is code?  What are we but everything around us that presses us into being?

Sunday, October 27, 2019



This is personal, though it's also theoretical.  I've wrestled with the idea of the "middle class" since I was about  ten or twelve, just before becoming adolescent in the Fifties, and addressed my mother while she was ironing -- which middle class women always did and the only time I could talk to her.  It made her angry.  "You know I can't get away from you now, don't you?"  She didn't like to be pinned because she didn't know the answers to my relentless and often impossible questions.

"Are we middle-class?"  She didn't know.  "I suppose so," she said.  Earlier I had asked, "What is our annual income?"  She didn't know that either and didn't want to say anyhow, because it was beginning to be obvious that my father wasn't providing enough and she was having to hide her little augmentations to save his ego.  She had married him thinking he was an urban man with good prospects.

I was very pleased with Paul Fussell's book entitled "Class" because it told me I was Class X, a concept from the Sixties, meaning highly educated but poor.  Both those aspects are rather more dramatic than in my life, but excused me from the betrayal of my parents' faith that being college-educated guaranteed membership in the middle class, which they believed was a necessity for survival.  For them it was part of making the transition from being farm kids to being salary earners in a time when there were lots of jobs and people could rise through them.

But also, for me, reading my grandmothers' books from the turn from the 19th to the 20th century, there was a moral component to the issue.  What right did I have to get richer and more important than anyone else?  This was a part of the Progressive political movement that we only addressed indirectly.  I mean, my mother defended the rights of Black people but we didn't know any.  My father still said "pickaninnie" and "papoose" with total innocence of the implications.  He just thought they were cute words and he never found out anything different.

In old age when my father had been gone for decades and she had found her metier in elementary school with a protective principal, my mother went on a teachers' tour to Asia, which she had always romanticized.  She had a blast. She also had a genetic Japanese doctor, very trusted, who took her through to the end of her life.  She didn't go to Africa, but Africa came to her, moving into the Albina neighborhood and bringing gangs with them. Next door was a respectable, hard-working Black couple with a daughter my mother sheltered after school until they got home from work.  When the parents died of old age, the daughter got into drugs. Her own daughter was psychotic and dangerous.

When my mother neared death, two ambulance companies were rivals for business and got into a fracas over who would take my mother to the hospital.  They were Black.  She was sick enough that she didn't understand and thought they had come to rob the house.  My brother coped.

My life context was greatly varied.  Attending prestigious colleges did not mean that I got to know the Upper Class.  Nor did the very wealthy attend church or visit governmental offices.  Occasionally they would buy Western art, so I knew a very rich people.  Living on the rez meant that I knew the lower class, the welfare and substance-abuse penniless class.  I mean, they were friends.  And when I was wearing old clothes, I was treated like them even though I'm the least "Indian-looking" person in town.

It's been a long time to bring to consciousness which of my values were middle class and which required money.  Learned in childhood, they come even when unwelcome.  This self-righteous class of people is partly informed by rural and small town values from the 19th century (one can't say "last century" anymore) and partly reflects fragile prosperity.  If one had money, education was the first requirement, though the subject was unspecified.  (My father's master's thesis was about the price of potatoes.)  Second were family, home, and automobile -- a complex.  The modern addition to that list is computer, as a commercial basic rather than a games console..  

Then came the cultural elements: radio, playing an instrument, concerts, photography, books (Book of the Month) and magazines, travel to national sites like Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore, tour ships.  Movies were big, esp musicals, but theatre not so much.  Science entered after WWII when so many advances were made and we went to outer space.  In my first college physics class (1957) we sat listening to the beeps from Sputnik.  Science in its technology aspect quickly became dominant.

Noncompliance was of two kinds.  If it was due to poor self-control or even madness, it was denied, hidden, and pushed away.  If it were due to eccentricity, being an artist or adventurer, every effort was made to bring one back into line.  The point of an individual was to serve the whole, not to go out there being famous unless it brought in prosperity and was honorable.  If a person were going to be Picasso or even Rockwell, that person had better be damned good at it.  But on the whole, most middle class people didn't have a very clear idea of how to judge anything except by money, titles, degrees and awards.  They have been taught to stay within the guidelines, particularly when it comes to religion, so that their rebellion against Christianity is always in terms of Christianity.  Any real new worldview, even buttressed with science, is to them simply not religion.  

We are a people now who are just beginning to know what we don't know, ways of thinking other than what we know.  We still don't know how to react to that.  The idea of classes being in status layers according to income and education is a product of capital as central.  It's only a concept, a way of understanding stability and safety, because those in the "middle" seem to have those.  But that's an illusion.  Any individual is vulnerable to disease, accidents, snarl-ups of employment, crime.  And now, of course, we are ALL subject to climate change without knowing what it will do exactly.

Today the bottom economy is doing a little better world-wide, but the top refuses to realize how endangered they are, how rage is building.  The middle class is still into compliance but seems to be confused about compliance -- to what?  It's a scary time.  My education tells me to keep thinking.  There WILL be a solution.  Some day.

Saturday, October 26, 2019


In spite of whatever force it is that always truncates the end of the Rachel Maddow show, I managed to watch most of her interview with Ronan Farrow.  This dialogue was remarkable, partly because Rachel has a very idealistic notion about sex that is not afraid to be right-up-against-the-worst.  Early on in her own development living in SF, she was an activist, a major force in protecting inmates who had HIV and their need in those days for high grade medical care.  (They still need it, but by now they can be somewhat medically protected and people mostly know it.)  She is tall, physical, lesbian in a strong relationship, and both brainy and funny.  I mean, one would think she could probably hold her own.

Ronan Farrow was on the show tonight (10-25) and Rachel confessed that on first reading his book about his treatment by NBC management she had confidently marched in to her own bosses and asked them to explain why they suppressed Farrow's stories.  The result is on the NYTimes feed, and repeated here:  She is "hot" enough at the moment (in terms of performance but not sexual) that she could dare do this. NBC seemed to react honorably but I would counsel Maddow to watch out.  They can hold grudges for a very long time and take revenge in devious ways.

The massive cultural reversal of understanding the rules about sex is such a potent access to how we think about each other that I also need to know all kinds of stuff, dangerous stuff.  It's not so much physical sex as all the life-rules that derive from the physical.  Certainly, in my own life gender has been the tectonic plate behind major passages from my total resistance to sexual relationships until I was 21, on a rez, and hooked up with a man twice my age (never regretted) to leaving him ten years later when everything had changed (never regretted).  Starting over, I became over-fond of my boss.  I still miss him but like so many major figures in my life he's dead.  I knew there was no place to go with that, so I left to join what I thought of as an ivory tower haven, Div School, and then dedicated service in an ideal context, the UU ministry. 

The Emerson Avenger is a character who was treated badly by a UU minister when he had a vision which the clergyman didn't take seriously.  It did sound like madness with an organic cause.  When two grandiose narcissists attack each other, it doesn't go well.  I was surprised that this accuser who now tries to shame all UU ministers. accusing them of every possible sin, sexual and otherwise, is still insuppressible and even on Twitter.  At one point I tried to reason with him, but that's not his universe.

So I was as naive as Maddow in thinking that simply talking would change anything.  But I had never heard of her when after a decade in the ministry I was saddened by the chicken yard of clergy behavior, both male and female.  I never heard of incidents in which some depraved old man turned up semi-naked and demanded a massage.  But I did hear of a minister who worshipped naked in the Church of Venus while nude women "dusted" him with feathers.  This upset his wife to the point of divorce and caused him to move to the other corner of the continent, becoming a counselor instead of a minister.  No one wants me to tell you this.  Some will say this is proof that people can't believe any old thing without trouble.

American denominations are various institutions of like-minded people gathered on the basis of socio-economics. UU's are generally educated semi-professionals, "nice" people who politely fail to conform.  But behind the curtain between parishioner and minister, things happen that #me-too and the Emerson Avenger consider to be wrong, often because of a plea for counseling.  The personal overcomes the institutional.  My ideals broke when a isolate misfit man (one might say an adult "incel") came into my office and demanded sex, on grounds that I was a servant to his needs.  I told him I was not the temple whore.  He was surprised, saying that his previous female minister had agreed to "put out".  He was telling the truth.  This is not the only case and soon led to denomination-wide but rather private reforms.

Sex is a jumble of ancient/ last century/ future century ideas that get at us deeply through our identities.  The whole world knows that Farrow is working a lode of very personal -- even genetic -- stuff about entitlement, taboos, and practical survival.  He seems to be doing very well with it and provoking some reluctant people to confront the dilemmas.  He is mostly concentrating on the power gradient between men who think that they are naturally entitled to treat women like candy and whose surrounding culture agrees with that, even some of the women. He is working specifically on cases of power gradient where the most powerful person dehumanizes the lesser person.  In our culture old white rich men are likely to be the more powerful.  They almost define power.

My own dilemmas are nothing like that.  I'm asking about how to safely handle nurturing wounded men who ask for comfort in the form of sex, a traditional role of women but not clergy.  I'm asking about what to say to valued male friends who are sex addicts, always seeking.  What about rival women who seek to assert superiority over me by bragging about their exploits deviously controlling powerful men?  What about this culture that in part asserts that sex is natural, pleasant, without consequences -- the guiltless hookup world, esp among gays?  Young tribal women come on Twitter with highly sexualized selfies, defiantly defending their right to do that because they need the power, just before the always-rolling Twitter list of murdered women comes up. To criticize that is to be labeled racist.

My personal intimate thoughts are about attachment, which can happen even without physical contact.  The shocking contemporary situations are about DEtachment, people in passing, armored, acting out, presenting instead of being.  This is "religious" because it is moral, spiritual, a challenge to tradition and social order.  Yet "family", "marriage", and identity in our times are defined by actual fertile sex, even as science proves physical sex to be fluid.  Much thinking is needed.  Even on television talk shows.

Friday, October 25, 2019


This post is about two female lawyers who often speak on television as experts in the labyrinth of contemporary "law" which often seems to have very little "order."  Both have been significant state prosecutors and professors.  For a while I kept confusing the two since their faces and manner are similar, quite UNlike the usual blonde bimbos we are used to as news presenters.  They are deliberate, slow-speaking, conservative-seeming women -- not the nutty feverish apologists for the far right, but sensible moms and wives.

I'm not much of a feminist or #meToo person, because I am a PERSON, not a primarily female or gender-role bound example, though I value brains and good thinking.  Later I'll reflect about this excellent link to research on such matters.
In the meantime, let me say that I've been successful in male-assigned roles, working with males.  I've been less successful as a "sex bomb."

Vance and McQuade recently composed a thought experiment, an example of what an indictment of Rudolph Giuliani would look like.  As the president's lawyer, purporting represent the country and relying on a long history as a political force and a more recent history as a clown, most law people agree that he ought to be brought within the terms of law and order, but no one wants to dirty job of doing it.  These two women laid out a path in case someone gets brave and is entitled.  Following is the link to what they produced.  It would be a good idea to read the introduction as it explains that this is not a REAL indictment but a real one would probably be worse.

You'll see that there are three issues.  First is the illegal forcing of Ukraine to attack Biden through withholding badly needed defense money, Conspiracy to Defraud the United States

Second, forcing the government of the Ukraine to say that they suspected Biden.  Conspiracy to Commit Bribery.

Third, Contempt of Congress because of refusing to present documents demanded by Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States House of Representatives, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Much more could be included, like his video-taped direct contradictions of himself, which amount to lying; his outrageous and unwarranted (without evidence) accusations; his long entwined relationship with Trump/Mafia over many years; and possibly his most recent antic which is claiming that indicting the FBI and CIA employees who identified and undertook the Mueller Report should be subject to criminal investigation, grand jury hearings, and indictment.  He seems to think these should be done in reverse order.  Indictment, first.  Evidence later.  This is one of his most Alice-in-Wonderland ideas.

Giuliani's "reality tunnel," a phrase to describe how a person defines and remembers their life, is very small-bore.  Much of it is secret and full of relationships with criminals.  I know the vid of him with Trump, pretending to be a female perfume tester, was a put-on and kidding around, but the images do cling.  Whatever he was in the past, today he is just another aging, possibly demented, old white man who depends on being outrageous to confuse anyone who wants to hold him to account.

But this is really about two sensible no-bullshit women easily young enough to be his daughters.  If only he really had daughters who could guide him.  There's a considerable amount of poetic justice, excellent material for drama, in the two types, including the fact that one type is two women in rational agreement and the other is wildly and singularly preposterous.

Events like this, ambiguous and troubling oppositions with huge countrywide prospects, always create new famous figures that have little to do with the actual human lives involved -- much more to do with media stereotyping and shallow understandings.  Giuliani seems to make so much more colorful story lines than two clear-headed lawyers.  They don't appreciate the drollery and hilarity as much as their friend Rachel Maddow, who can't say "Lev and Igor" without a hint of amusement, even though their stories include things as melodramatic as the feds exploding the door off a safe to get at evidence.  These two women seem low-key in their discipline in a way that respected male lawyers present, the kind of men we expect to become judges of fairness and wisdom.  No "Judge Judy" antics.  No weird hangups as in TV law shows.  

They are a female version of Mueller's patience coming from strength, skill and knowledge.  These are not traits rewarded or valued in today's American culture.  They used to be.  When I first joined the UU church, that's what most of the congregation was like.  So were the other mainstream churches.  Whacko entrepreneurs of magical wealth who screamed their clichés were for cable TV.

This whole thing is a challenge to sleepy, routine, and maybe quirky courts, esp in the Southern states.  The ground is caving out from under Barr, who seems to have the idea that he is as untouchable as Trump thought he was.  As its core, what's happening is housekeeping, keeping things clean and straight rather than making deals.  These international money bozos don't seem to get that Internet transactions and computer bookkeeping has changed everything.  Anyway, even Manafort's hand-written payment journal came to light from its dark safe.

We chortle over Hannah Arendt's "evil is banal" statement, but in truth almost all the footwork and grinning in this story have been pretty obvious in every school district or municipality or hospital that I've worked in.  It's human stuff, wanting to be a big-shot and thinking adults can be fooled.  But when the adults are women, they often know how to understand childish people trying to take shortcuts.

Thursday, October 24, 2019


Sponsored by the Chicago Humanities Festival, "Conversation with Maddow" got through to me in a big way.  I had thought there were few consequences that could affect me now -- except maybe canceling Social Security and Medicare.  If the piped gas is shut off in Valier, I might not be able to survive.  If they shut off the electricity (and for all I know it is generated as much by gas as by wind though we have forests of wind turbines) I will no longer have use of this computer and therefore access to the Internet, but I can get by, simply by sleeping when it is dark, reading and writing when it's daylight.  But without gas heat, which is much cheaper and more dependable than electricity here, I will not be able to stay in winter.  I could use wood for a while.  Maybe some resourceful person could reopen the pockets of coal that were used historically.

I happened to watch this show, not because I was looking for it, but because the childish Repubs have shut down the hearings I had expected to watch.  As it turns out, the Maddow talk was far more valuable and specific to my life.  Here's the link.

Maddow is wired like me, in that when she begins to wonder about something, she does research which results in writing.  So when she began to wonder what motivates so virulently the politics of Russia and that little modern Mongol jack o'lantern, Putin, she used her expertise in statistics (which I do not have) to look at the geographical area of Russia, post-USSR, their economy and their population.  What she discovered needs to be separated out, but it is not complex.

The area is huge and the weather is severe, so the country has some of the same difficulties as Montana and the other Plains states of the North American continent.  But the population is various, more attached to region and independent culture than to the Russian nexus, in some places (like vast Siberia) more like China than Russia.  More importantly, the people are not educated or experienced in a modern way and the infrastructure for the internet is not there, even if the leadership were not afraid of it.  The industrial revolution depends upon railroads, like the early American West, but without the waterway through the land that was provided by the Mississippi drainage complex when the glaciers melted.

The economy has based almost entirely on oil and gas, which the land has in abundance. Putin is after the "Middle East", not their oil and gas which is abundant (,  but because there is enormous expertise there about how to extract and refine them.  Much of this technological know-how came from the US and some from Alberta -- wherever Texans go.  The article linked is an explanation of why there is so much oil in the Middle East which is a good grounding in time and place.  The causes go back to Gondwana and the Tethys Sea, ur-geological forces.

All along I've been talking about the value of discrepancy: a plus on one side and a minus on the other, underlying trade of resource for money, which creates political forces.  First, Russia has a population way bigger than its economy which is much smaller than the economies of individual European nations.  Second, it has a limited set of resources, mostly just oil and gas.  (Nothing I've read so far has discussed Ukraine in terms of it being a breadbasket, which was what Stalin considered a resource so valuable that he starved the peasants to death in order to capture the wheat.)

Putin, in his horseback belligerence, knows that in order to get his oil and gas out of the ground, he will have to capture European and American expertise.  He has weaponized his resources by letting Europe become dependent on his pipelines and by owning the Russian industry through Russian mobbed-up oligarchs.  America knows this and uses sanctions to control Russia.  Thus Putin reaches out to the US mafia, in which Trump has been embedded since birth to a mafia family, to get control of the politics that motivates those sanctions. Much of it is humanitarian, alien to Mafia thinking.  Alternatively, Putin is trying to extract oil and gas from the Arctic Sea and other sources, but can't do it -- can't get the stuff out of the ground -- without Western equipment and talent.

The American mafia has not had much to do with resource development except for building Manhattan out of steel and cement, which have their own complexities.  They are quick to learn the psychological machinations of the Russian mob, such as controlling fear, rage, and dependence of enemies.  Elections were easy-peasy.

Europe is really a kind of geological extrusion of Eurasia, broken by inland seas, isthmuses, islands, and peninsulas.  Their various eco-cultures grew into nations that --between trade, war, and competition among thrones  -- formed the Western world.  Then, when they managed through Empire to control enormous sources of wealth, they had the critical mass for technological and scientific development that spread through that empire.  The humanities sort of got dragged along in the wake of development.  Eastern Siberia and Western China have rich local cultures, but have not been participants in the planetary story.

So what Rachel with her clear mind and ability to look at these issues from a new angle has given us is a suggestion about where to go from here.  For me, it's a doubling back.  In 1956 I was taking social studies in Jefferson High School in Portland, OR, from Carlie Gilstrap.  Google brings up references to a remarkable woman from a remarkable family.  Here's a link to one anecdote.

Gilstrap had us all deeply involved in the fate of Hungary.  ee cummings was not there, but his poem hit us dead on.  It's still relevant.

Thanksgiving, (1945) 

a monstering horror swallows
this unworld me by you
as the god of our fathers' father bows
to a which that walks like a who
but the voice-with-a-smile of democracy
announces night & day
"all poor little peoples that want to be free
just trust in the u s a"
suddenly uprose hungary
and she gave a terrible cry
"no slave's unlife shall murder me
for i will freely die"
she cried so high thermopylae
heard her and marathon
and all prehuman history
and finally The UN
"be quiet little hungary
and do as you are bid
a good kind bear is angary
we fear for the quo pro quid"
uncle sam shrugs his pretty
pink shoulders you know how
and he twitches a liberal titty
and lisps "i'm busy right now"
so rah-rah-rah democracy
let's all be as thankful as hell
and bury the statue of liberty

(because it begins to smell)