Sunday, May 31, 2020


My experience with cops dates from ’73-’75.  It was marginal, as a “specialized sheriff’s deputy” dealing with animal situations, commonly vulgarized as “dog-catcher”. We worked alongside Portland Police and at one point when I had become an “education coordinator”, I taught a brief introduction to AC for PPD.  The entity was the target of so much accusation, resentment, emotional imaginings, and assumptions with no grounding, that the county took away our “sheriff deputy” status.  We already were forbidden to carry guns, to make arrests, or to impound animals on  private property.  Also, commanded not to run up bills by taking animals to a veterinarian.

Management never goes on the street and usually has no experience with places where animals make trouble. As one writer said, “They don’t believe there are police except as a theory, because in their neighborhoods, cops were never there or necessary.”  They are reacting to movies and TV series with uninformed credibility.  Even the “reality theatre” of a self-aggrandizing Multnomah County sheriff deputy who ran a program supposedly showing real arrests and investigations was never challenged as unreal.  It was absolutely believed by the kids at Heart Butte when I taught there. They DID watch it.  When I was fired and went home, they urged me NOT to go back to Portland because it was too dangerous. ’90 or so.  (Heart Butte on the rez is considered lawless.)

They were right.  I used my old Ford van as a spare bedroom when visiting.  I had just slipped into sleep when there was a shotgun blast nearby. I lay very still so as not to give away my presence by making the van rock.  It turned out that the head of a street gang lived across the street (Blood, I think, which to me was a Blackfoot tribe in Alberta) and rival Crips had driven by repeatedly so they hid in the bushes and blasted them. (I never could understand what Crip was supposed to mean.)  There was no point to gangs except rivalry.

Contrast that with the ’70’s when PPD officers had to have college educations and the whole society was trying to reframe the culture.  There was a poetry reading in Washington Park, which is a hillside overlooking the city, and one of the poets was a cop.  Ken Kesey was there, reading from “The Tranny Man” after it got so dark someone had to hold a candle next to him. Marijuana fumes fogged the many people sitting on the grass.  No one was arrested.  It was cool.

But even then I lived, as always, in a dubious neighborhood where the cops were always nearby.  This time it was one little apartment in a strip of garden apartments and what we didn’t know, partly because the landlord never paid the electrical bill for the security lights, was that a burglar had been stashing what he stole under the building where only part was finished as a basement and there was a long crawl space in the dirt.  Someone spotted him and realized.

My habit is to build a bed that is high enough off the floor to stash things underneath.  This one was so high that the mattress was level with the sill of the window that looked out on a walkway leading into the basement.  This time I was asleep when I heard a man’s voice a few feet away.  It was a cop.  I had already reinforced the screens with quarter inch wire mesh, but when I peeked out there was a young officer with his gun drawn.  I spoke to him, which made him jump.  There was a team of them hoping to catch the burglar.  They didn’t but they recovered a lot of electronic stuff.

The real order keeper on the block was a stalwart, sturdy, but aged Irish woman who had survived her family.  Daily she sat on her front porch and observed, noting everything.  She called me over and confided in me because of my connection to law enforcement.  She was concerned with the behavior of the teenaged sibs next door to me, having come to the conclusion that the older boy was molesting the girl.  What had I heard?  Not enough for a court case. She turned them in anyway and next week they moved.

An old pickup was parked in front of the apartments, the same place every day.  Kids were living in it and it couldn’t run.  They ate by shoplifting at the Safeway two block aways.  I didn’t say anything until white blossoms appeared in the bushes.  They had no other latrine and were picky enough to wipe their bottoms. The pickup was simply towed as a derelict vehicle and the problem ended.

It gradually became obvious that reframing the culture meant that some means of keeping order still had to be enforced by people who had enough power of law and action to make things happen.  In such a large and constantly moving population meant too many gaps where interstitial people like raccoons could make niches.  Even more so where entire tracts stood like bombed-out cities.

But this distracted us from watching out for the real danger, which was authorities who took more and more power into their hands, until they had actually managed to undermine and capture the federal government.  They, in turn, are being foiled because they couldn’t recognize the madness of a demented person aligned with their goals and his inevitable descent into frothing arm waving.  Even fortified with the power lust of Barr and McConnell, the scheme is transparent.

My brother had a concussion and was unable to hold a job so lived with my mother.  Every morning he came out with his cup of coffee and walked the street, picking up brass cartridge cases from the guns of gang warfare.  He generally got a handful.  He taught me that if I heard gunfire, I should turn out the lights and sit on the floor. The street where I had walked to school was patrolled only by double-occupied squad cars and sometimes by two squad cars at once.  Over time, after my mother died, my brother became mad and paranoid, claiming that he was under attack and hiding with rifles.  He was turned out onto the street and died there.  “Evil” is gradual and subtle.  It is internal and familiar. An aged stout Irish woman may see it more clearly than any young officer. 

Saturday, May 30, 2020


The beginning of the Rule of Law was when a lot of subordinate officials got tired of their king acting like a tyrant and changing his mind at will.  After all, he wasn’t God writing on stone with unchanging Commandments.  And by this time a lot of people could read and write, so the idea was to nail down the laws in writing so they didn’t change and everyone agreed on what they were.  This was an overwhelmingly good idea.  In fact, it was the basis of forming a new country that could have its own laws, starting with the Constitution and then expanding it with the Bill of Rights about things that should have been obvious but wasn’t.

The hard thing about the Rule of Law is that even written down at a time when everyone can read, the actual situations that the laws were meant to address and resolve kept exceeding what was written.  Obviously, black people, indigenous people, and women are an example of having to work on the law to make it fit the situation better.  It was much easier when the government was all white men who owned land and had been mostly English.  They already had a shared idea of what life should be like and a Code of Conduct that wasn’t written because it was so deeply believed that it didn’t seem necessary.

But now our President has exceeded every safeguard and has no Code of Conduct except greed.  He has a criminal background and has cleverly wired all the governmental bodies who could just join to throw him out: his political party, his cabinet, his Supreme Court, his Vice President.  They are all HIS and find his behavior a convenient cover for their own criminality.  

We need more laws or rewritten laws.  What can we say that will legitimize just walking that bastard right on out of there?  Otherwise he is likely to end up like Mussolini, dead and hanging upside down from a lamppost.

This is a first proposal for coping with a berzerkly violent and organically damaged president, worse than Article 25.  We need to stop being vague and do the hard work of defining a person who has become a reeking knot of criminality, pretension, viciousness, madness, and faux glamour with the aid of a foreign rival country and the stated goal of destroying the nation.  All proven over and over, even by his own statements.

First: definition. 

“The US Constitution provides instructions for how to remove a president from office if they are unfit to do their job—gravely wounded, for example, or mentally unstable. The instructions were ratified as an amendment in 1967, after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Until that point, the Constitution just vaguely referred to the fact that a president could be removed for “Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of said Office.” . . .

“. . . the 25th amendment is a part of the constitution that gives explicit instructions for how to remove a president who is unfit to serve.

“It does not say when a president is unfit to serve, though. It doesn’t call out specific illnesses, mental or otherwise, or suggest tests of any sort. It just says this, under section 4:
“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

Trump so exceeds the kind of inability that is described in the amendment, that we need to describe it as a new offense. Some have suggested new terms with Latinate bases, like “nationcide”.  It’s beyond treason which might be a reasonable place to start.  He is not just destroying our country but the whole international community.

Second: identifying intervenors.

Already identified are the heads of the executive departments, or whomever Congress may identify by law BOTH the Senate and the House presenting a written declaration. These are already bought and paid for except for the Dems and the House.  The same with the Supreme Court.   Some have suggested a panel composed of all living former presidents — that seems promising.  There is no Pope, alas.  The United Nation was never designed for this.

Third: identifying and disarming collaborators.

This is a tricky one since so many are either inside the government or fired or members of foreign countries.  Since Putin has been part of the problem, perhaps one of the international bodies could be used, even if Trump has tried to pull us out of relationship with them.  If the heads of the former British government were to define Trump as too crazy and criminal to be tolerated, that might work as a beginning.  The criminal armament is money and it is international, so other countries might be interested. If the illegal money of this international crime system were identified and seized, that would sweeten the deal.
Fourth: defining public support markers.

If demonstrations in every major city, the bungled pandemic that is killing hundreds of thousands, lengthy professional recommendations, even the craven and guarded stories on media — if those don’t define public support for removing Trump, it’s hard to think of more.  I don’t trust all the surveys.  Voting is the gold standard, but we don’t seem to be able to guarantee its fairness.
Fifth: quiet physical action since reason is useless. Simply escorting to confinement.

We are going to want something dramatic and the majority of collaborators are likely to simply disappear except for having blackmail material that invites murder to silence them.  Trials and lawsuits will go on for as long as a decade, but there is no other good place to start than to take Trump away to confinement, as quietly and efficiently as his protectors have demonstrated they physically move a president to a safe place when war is threatened.  He will die of dementia in a few years, without anyone killing him.

War IS threatened.  Use this, add to it, correct it, rethink it.

Friday, May 29, 2020


No post today unless I settle into something that's useful later in the day.  I'm just overwhelmed.  Who isn't?  My biggest challenge is tall grass.  It's not as though some one put my life in danger.

Maybe my memoir should be "Walking between the Bomb Craters."  Terrible tragedies happen but not directly to me.

Thursday, May 28, 2020


The last Tweet before I went to bed last night was this video, impassioned, coherent, and entirely justified.

This morning I googled both men involved: the infected Republican, Andrew Lewis at 


the indignant protester, Brian Sims at  

What follows are the thoughts that the situation prompts, not so much about the specific men as about the story.  Evidently Lewis has or had Covid-19 and at the urging of his Republican leadership did not tell the Democrats that he was contagious nor did he quarantine himself while contagious.  This exposed the biparty committees he was on and, indirectly, their families and friends. He and the leaders did warn the Republicans.  No info about masks.

This was a crime of omission meant to protect the reputations and intentions of the Republican party, even if it meant sickness and death of the Democrats.  Rather than treating the political and governing bodies of the State of Pennsylvania with dignity, the Repubs treated it as a “take no prisoners” situation of war.  If they have so little regard for the lives of those they work with, what hope do the residents of the state have?

Lewis is a family man with three business degrees which he earned with the help of the GI Bill.  His campaigning relies heavily on his affinity with the military.

There are already aired Repub complaints about Sims, who was elected as an openly gay man and who pursues Dem issues like protecting Planned Parenthood. He uses “doxing” of people who attack, including the researching of the backgrounds of teenagers demonstrating against Planned Parenthood clinics.  One could see this would have big consequences for a young woman who was there because of personal situations.

“Doxing, or doxxing, is the Internet-based practice of researching and publicly broadcasting private or identifying information about an individual or organization. The methods employed to acquire this information include searching publicly available databases and social media websites, hacking, and social engineering.”  This is widely used in politics now, often presented as transparency.

Sims’ parents were both military people, which gives him a certain point of view.  No one has “doxed” whether or not he is carrying HIV, which can be suppressed to the point of harmlessness but not cured.  But it’s easy to see that he would be supersensitive and highly aware of the danger of the viruses that sweep through our lives over the last century or more.  Larry Kramer’s death has reminded us of how deadly and widespread AIDS has been.  400,000 deaths as opposed to 100,000 Covid-19 deaths so far.

The differences are worthy of thought.  HIV is a virus carried mostly in blood but also other body fluids.  It travels only in intimate contact but gender or age don’t matter. Because intimate contact in this culture means “sex”, which is stigmatized, and “gay sex” which is even more stigmatized,  the demographic of men often powerful and gifted has become active, networked, and -- with the urging of Kramer -- militarized.  That is, the metaphor is war.

From its beginning Covid-19 has been political and not quite militarized.  The economic consequences are devastating.  This virus is highly contagious and the vulnerable population is elderly or handicapped.  There is no effective medicine but only critical care and the invasive respirators that are expensive and in short supply.  Repubs were quick to take advantage of the crisis by using insider information to protect from stock market damage, by cornering all needed supplies and selling them at inflated prices, forcing states to compete against each other, even raiding shipments meant for others, and selling basic supplies to foreign countries while buying shoddy versions to resell in the US.  

In other words, they have treated this wave of death as a marketing opportunity which is the whole purpose of being Republican and staying in power.  They have become monsters and somehow have swindled their voters into compliance, even as their grandparents die.  They had already removed all the regulations that protected nursing homes, children’s insurance and food projects, and vaccination programs.  Their narcissism includes only their bank accounts -- not their neighbors.

Sims’ outcry will be mocked and belittled but it strikes to my heart.  Nothing like working with American indigenous people to understand that a virus can be more effective than an atom bomb and leave all the desirable property up for grabs. After the virus has greatly reduced dependency by killing as many as possible, pinch off their food supply so that the rest die of starvation.  Unless they learn to make common cause and resist.

For decades we will be finding dead people where they holed up, their bodies rotted unfound, because government policies have ripped up families and interfered with bonds that used to create our communities.  The Republican party has been destroyed.  Our election systems are wobbly.  After November we will have to replace almost the entire government, building on what has survived and then figuring out how to safeguard the future.  Punishing these lowlifes is almost beside the point.

These two men make an excellent opportunity for plays and books, debates and vids, to educate what children who are well-fed enough to pay attention to the basic concepts that were taught to me in the aftermath of WWII, the essentials that we fought for.  If these two men confront around what is military, we need to take a good look at what that preoccupation has enabled.  It looks to me like Homeland Security and ICE are private armies for an entrenched mafia, not worthy of a memorial day.

It’s scary to talk this way and may worry people in this town, but I think it’s past time to speak out.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020


Let’s say there are two kinds of bonds between persons.  In order to keep you interested, let’s look at them in terms of sexwork.  These are interactive bonds.  One would be the on-skin and muscle-involved sensations that two people provide each other and that are noted and remembered in the cells that accept the codes of touch.  

The other is soon activated by these actions and physical contacts, but can also stand alone.  It is the brain-conceived but non-physical origin with impact on the organs of the body that generate and remember liquid-carried molecules in-skin.  Though the action can be initiated by images or sounds, the process can be self-kindled and sustained with memory or imagination.  This is the power of story and art.

Winnicott’s assertion of the “play space” that is created between mother and child, Victor Turner’s framing of a space/time that is entered over a threshold, and Porges’ description of  far-reaching empathy for others -- many of us have felt these related but unseen phenomena.  In fact, it may be the evolved possibility supported by mirror cells, and eye beams that has made us uniquely “human” — that is, able to stick together in families, affinities, shared purposes, organizations, nations and as a species.  

The virtual sharing is strongest between two people and weakest as an entire species but can even include different species, as in pets. The trigger is intimacy, time spent together, a desire to protect and prolong, sharing, memory, appreciation. 

This is very difficult to write about, partly because people don’t believe it and partly because it seems to be disappearing.  Jared Diamond suggests that we have lost the ability to connect to each other in person.  He contrasts New Guinea where no one has glass screens.  People stand close, looking into eyes, smelling the other, maybe touching.  We pick up a “thick” way of relating that persists and enriches the memory.

Here’s another approach to the idea of bonds across space and time, the elements of cooperation and progress.

“The mind is more than just the brain. No doubt, the brain plays an incredibly important role. But our mind cannot be confined to what’s inside our skull, or even our body, according to a definition first put forward by Dan Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine and the author of the 2016 book, Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human.
“the emergent self-organizing process, both embodied and relational, that regulates energy and information flow within and among us.”

“The definition has since been supported by research across the sciences, but much of the original idea came from mathematics. Siegel realized the mind meets the mathematical definition of a complex system in that it’s open (can influence things outside itself), chaos capable (which simply means it’s roughly randomly distributed), and non-linear (which means a small input leads to large and difficult to predict result).”

“In math, complex systems are self-organizing, and Siegel believes this idea is the foundation to mental health. Again borrowing from the mathematics, optimal self-organization is: flexible, adaptive, coherent, energized, and stable. This means that without optimal self-organization, you arrive at either chaos or rigidity—a notion that, Siegel says, fits the range of symptoms of mental health disorders. “

I regret that my math phobia (which I blame on Mrs. Rumble in the 4th grade who was very punitive about it) prevents me from getting hold of this idea very well.  Also, the positive qualities —  flexibility, adaptivity, coherence, energy and stability — are cliches, all snap words whose meaning has escaped.  Yeah, yeah, we already know.

Quantum thought proposes that two tiny particles like atoms on opposite sides of something vast as a planet are somehow connected and can act in unison.  This is closer to what I’m trying to talk about, which is more like Vulcan mind-meld except not confined to logical rational thought.  More like the young man who walked into the Scriver Museum in the Sixties, causing an immediate connection with me.  He was headed to Stanford to study philosophy and he left me a contact name and number, but I lost them. Now I would really like to know what his take on existence has become.   This is an interesting “take” on the subject.  Maybe it has something to do with culture.  

I’m going to cut this short and go mow the lawn or the town will be after my hide.  They have no empathy for "intellectual stuff." 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


(Big picture identified “axial” religion and Christian subcategory denominations are determined by socio-economics and become institutions.)

compassion (this is most often the emphasis of women so female clergy tend to push thinking in this direction.)
morality  (this is most often the emphasis of men, so
  patriarchal societies tend to produce this
emphasis but the “morality” is in the favor of the 
most powerful men’s interests.)
maintaining stigma
worthiness (obedience)
see morality
safety (see compassion)
see morality
habits and icons, possibly unconscious
God is Papa — or maybe Mama
participation — access
can you take communion
do you tithe?
sexual  (so powerful and so often unacknowledged)
food/weather (famine, disasters, aesthetics)
terrain: is your god on the mountain or in the desert or on
the sea? Is any god in the jungle?
how big is your circle of inclusion  
what is a human being
uncanniness  (miracles, Jesus face on toast)
worthiness (obedience)
see morality
safety (compassion)
see therapy
righteousness, control

I made the last entry a color to signify that it is my current focus because it is a place where the misleading separation of “religion” from the rest of human life in the name of secularism or science is no longer relevant.  This is a spot of convergence where the only limit is the limit of the person.  Once “religion” and nation were the same. We separated them by creating the “secular” but now it’s time to go the other way.

You see how complicated the references, uses, and meanings of so-called “religion” can be when one person means morality/punishment and another means compassion/therapy.  It’s not just gender that makes the distinction but also the times, particularly whether they are fortunate and generous or severe and depriving.  In times when one situation is exchanging with the other, “religion” is very little help, provoking conflict. 

In any situation the real “religion” is usually Simple Simon’s strategy of doing what worked last time.  It may be fatal, but it feels too dangerous either to ignore the old rules and too impossible to imagine new ones.  Taking “religion” apart is a good reason for a brainstorm list like this.

The problem with “religion” is that when we get to the level of “irreducible structure of the world” (which very few people think about, but act according to) what we actually have is the earliest structure of the specific human brain — what you figured out earliest remains what you think is universally most basic.  The only reason we agree at all is the culture has to be maintained various ways, most significantly child-raising practices that either teach an infant that there is a big being who will protect and please you, or that there is no one there for you.  Or that higher forces are present but what they do depends on whether they are pleased.  Not you.  “Be still and know that I am God.”

The human brain is not able to think in a “feeling” way beyond this earliest structure except through experience.  (Feeling is seen here as a form of thinking in a sensory way.)  We pretend we do this when using logic, but there is no way to confirm many theories.  We end up by saying, “It’s more purple than purple” but still can’t see that color.  Our eyes only evolved to see certain wavelengths and if we don’t have names for something, previous experience with it, we can’t compute it.  The limitation of God is the limitation of human bodies. We only accept the code of our senses.

But there is more beyond that.  We can feel the awe and wonder of existence.  The very forces that dissolved God as a big white man in the sky have given us far more splendour and power than we can process.  Any “religion” that ignores this conflation of science with theories of supernatural existence is not going to survive much longer.  But National Geographic and the Smithsonian are no real substitute for the complex that is a map for living.  Awe and wonder are vital but they are not a system.

One of the main centralities of this new awareness is that it keeps anthromorphs from thinking they are god.  It also prevents the idea of finding a safe perfect place and dwelling in it.  Time is rapids, not the serene stream. And it can cut your life short without warning or cause you torture for years before letting you go like a cat releasing a mouse to death.

Big male experts who constantly argue about God are just stand up comics exploiting old obsessions with bad dads.   It’s strange that it sells books and creates reputations.  It’s a peripheral issue that doesn’t change much.  Mostly it’s about familiar words and pledges, prayers and curses.

The sentiments above, based on science and imagery provided by science, is the inevitable shared understanding of how things work that can transcend all cultures whether based on agriculture, trading, bookkeeping or war.  But no one is willing to call this new vision “religion” yet and the morality that goes with it has not been worked out in terms of life and work for everyone.  It’s still the pressing reality of survival in many different contexts, with or without the help of the rest of us.

There are so many of us and we have constructed so much that we need to do a lot of clearing away, which isn’t easy when it’s metal and concrete.  Still, people go on inventing windmills that are not huge revolving spears, ways of desalinizing water that doesn’t demand major machinery, systems for recycling excrement whether food fiber or exhaled gases.  When it comes to raising children we tend to do too much or too little.  Someone pointed out that we always sacrifice our eldest people when there is a major catastrophe. The first step towards change is facing the evidence and discovering we’re not doing what we thought we were doing.  We might not be progressing at all.  But we keep on keeping on.

Monday, May 25, 2020


Suddenly I was pitched back in time.  It was a vid that did it, about the Popovy sisters.  They are Russian identical sisters who make jointed porcelain dolls.

Some would say the dolls were pornographic, particularly since our culture is so captured by girls on the verge of adolescence who cannot be too thin, too made up, too costumed.  A bit like Lolita, but not trashy, more as though ballet dancers.  The dolls combine porn, elegance, objects of control, and the fascination of the miniature.

For me two things were precursors.  One was the collection of miniature fashion mannequins  “Theatre de la mode” at the Maryhill Museum on the Collumbia River which my family used to visit on Sunday afternoons.  


The other was an endless stream of paperdolls that I drew and its SnowWhite/RoseRed fairytale theme, though I didn’t consciously know it.  I made clothes and devised ways to add hairpieces and earrings.  They were intensely felt and they were about coming into sexuality, with round breasts I copied from the cartoon strip called Winnie Winkle.  People knew about the dolls but not about what they meant emotionally, what they FELT like to me.
Bob Scriver and other Western artists were doing something like the same thing with their tabletop bronzes of riders and warriors.  In fact, David Powell said that when he embarked on a series of doll-like pieces about Piegan Indians, they sometimes sold faster than his paintings and for better money.

Boys used to buy bags of little stamped-out plastic cowboys and Indians with repetitious horses they could clamp onto.  Another version was battalions of soldiers. They all did ritualistic things that involved making gun noises.  We had a sandbox and built forts or trenches.

Humans have the capacity to create selves that are not themselves.  It is an art form, but also a form of play.  It is a kind of control, but also a release from imprisonment in one identity.  Romantically attenuated and fabulously silk-wigged Lolita porcelain dolls with articulated joints are only one kind.  They have a kind of bittersweet quality, halfway between being an unconscious child and an enchanted being, possibly not human. “Pleasure accompanied by suffering or regret.”  Movie stars try to hit that sweet spot.

Another kind of doll with much emotional weight is intensified baby dolls, utterly realistic, quite unlike mass-produced dollies for children.  These grip the gut with the urge to shelter, to soothe, to engage.  They trigger something intense in some people and maybe perverse in hopefully fewer people.

That begins to come close to what these figures evoke: more than empathy, more like fusion or inhabitation, becoming the figure at the same time as interacting with it in an inchoate and unfocused way full of magic — even holiness.  Not everyone feels it.

Bob’s wildlife dioramas were made “inch-to-a-foot” and included no humans at all, but still drew people in.  You could see it on their faces.  Sometimes they forgot they couldn’t reach through the glass and stubbed their fingers.  When the Big Flood hit and there was no tourist business all summer, Bob had just dissected a saddle to copy in heroic scale, “one-and-a-half feet to a foot” for the big Bill Linderman statue in Oklahoma City.  There was a bit of free time and he used it to make tiny replica saddles out of leather lady’s gloves his mom gave him.  I made the cinches from carpet thread. Someone stole the saddles out of the display cases.  Miniaturization makes people yearn for the small world. 

When I was still working in Portland and walking the shops at lunch time, I used to visit a place that carried miniature figures.  Most remarkable was a glass case of tiny Japanese erotic figures.  They were often nude, gleeful, and startling, like an old man bent over, semi-squatting, while two children made his balls swing.  I bought Bob one carved from a hard kind of nut, almost like ivory.  It depicted an ape clasping a naked woman, small enough to fit in a teaspoon.  He loved it and immediately pocketed it.  I always wondered what happened to it when he died.  What happened to the collection after I looked at it closely was that it was moved out of the main store and one had to ask to see it.

Most art dolls are Fimo, polymer clay, and there are magazines filled with them.  The Popovy sisters use cast porcelain parts which are surprisingly durable when they are small.  The women prepare the parts and assemble them in the same way up to a point, but then create unique faces and hair, clothing and accessories. I wonder if the sisters talk to the dolls.  Once the Portland Bureau of Buildings had a Christmas project of making dollhouses for homeless kids.  I made a family of pink Fimo pigs to live in mine and when the fire department came to pick up the houses for delivery, I saw that two big tough guys were making my pigs walk around and talk to each other.

I’ve never had the dexterity or control to make dolls as striking as these, but there have been times when I’ve made cloth dolls and used them for marionettes. I put lead fishing weights in their feet.  Or I made papier mache puppets with taxidermy eyes.  They say that even a paper plate with two dot eyes and a curved mouth will get the attention of an infant as though it were a human face. We see little persons everywhere.

Here is a vid of those fabulous Popovy dolls again.

Sunday, May 24, 2020


Avy asked for recommendations for a good translation of the New Testament to read.  He’d already read and studied the Old Testament.  I answered but I’m not Christian.  I’m “post-Christian” as a good nun diagnosed me.  Then I was “post-Unitarian-Universalist” when I stepped away from the Transcendentalist heresy within that movement and no longer read Emerson and Thoreau or even Margaret Fuller.  So what am I now?

I say I’m not a feminist because I love men.  I’m not a humanist because I love all species.  I’m not putting living things at the center, because I love mountains and the past and planets and stars.  So I say I’m an Everythingist.  A radical inclusioner.  But that’s not very helpful.

At this moment the planet is in the grip of criminal international capitalism we picture as managed by two old white men (one is orange) with China operating ambiguously as a third, which is how they like it.  All want to go back to the past when they were children and the old had all the power and control, which they want.  Always wanted.  But this is a wrong interpretation and their renewed Roman Empire is crashing because of a microbe with no army and no money.  Just death.

So what am I?  In practical terms?  And what should I recommend to read if someone like Avy asks about it?

I’m an ecocentrist.  The category understood that the viral plague was coming and they are still working out its strategies.  They still put humans at the center and their preservation as high priority, but they are reading the molecules themselves because humans are simply a specific configuration of molecules that persist because they fit the world around them.  We ripped open the caves with their bats, the jungles with their other bats, and we knew that we were ripping open the Persephone bats and releasing probable plagues, but we didn’t see this as changing the world order.  Hubris.  Possibly our blunder saved the caves and jungles for a while longer by bringing down much civilization.  And overarching the lockdowns are clear skies, delaying climate change.

Humans stopped fitting their ecosystems.  

A genome is like a long molecular sentence written in atoms.  Living flesh and viruses are the passages we are learning to read.  Our bodies are made of cells governed by that “writing”.  But the constantly renewed “words” that come to us through our senses are electrochemical symbols, both in-skin and out-skin, that become what we perceive as sounds, smells, tastes, and the whole realm of where and who we are.  We are a translation from what we once thought was a concrete literal world.  We are a fantasy.  We are shapeshifters but the shapes are real as chairs even if they are a matter of neurons plugging into each other.

Now that some of us are aware of how many primal versions of hominins have vanished, leaving only genome scribbles, we know that our own version may be gone soon.  The foxes are napping on the airport runways in Chernobyl, a place where we thought we could pull the wings off atoms.

“The genome of the new coronavirus is less than 30,000 “letters” long. (The human genome is over 3 billion.) Scientists have identified genes for as many as 29 proteins, which carry out a range of jobs from making copies of the coronavirus to suppressing the body’s immune responses.”  Our alphabet is 26 letters long; the virus has only 4 “letters.”  

We have a whole other system in emotions.  They can be seen, measured, controlled by facts, but they are spontaneous, sometimes unaccountable, overwhelming.  Attaching.  Morality is driven by desire and can overrule what we are supposed to love. Combustible.  We don’t know why some people are fireproof.  Why some immolate the ones they love.

At a workshop about “reading the landscape” where many spoke of loving nature, a woman feminist minister declared that she loved city pavement, bare construction, impersonality.  Yet she slept with her parishioner.  I asked her why.  She said she needed an automobile and he bought her one. So “religion” is malleable.  So negligible.  So negotiable.  It is just raw need that runs the world.

“In his early psychoanalytic theory, Freud proposed that Eros was opposed by forces of the ego (the organized, realistic part of a person's psyche which mediates between desires). In his later views, he maintained that life instincts were opposed by the self-destructive death instincts, known as Thanatos.”

Some folks call it composting: that the dead things are the source of live things.  All living things eat other living things, except some eat the living sun.  Plants eat soil and can deplete it.  Animals eat both plants and other animals.  Plants eat dead animals.  Existence is a process with complex molecules composing and disintegrating, rearranging into new patterns.  Even the mineral rocks are weathering, then recomposing by chemical action or being made molten.  There used to be a column in the Portland Scribe called “Entropy Increases Everywhere.”  But it has to be thought about alongside the other side — composing and creation increase everywhere.  Both civilization and infections have been bed partners from the beginning.  Birth and death in the same bed.  But right now there are not enough beds so one must give birth at home.

I am a process.  I am an ecology of cohabiting cells.  I live in an ecology of mountains and grasslands.  I have emotions and opinions about all this, which mostly come down to hanging onto the old while trying to get to the new.  But it’s scary.  Avy is right to think of books.  Keep it in words on pages.

But now books are blogs, processes, platforms, images with words, symphonies and plunked out stuff played by cats on YouTube.  Where is yesterday’s dignity, the respect of carrying a scroll in a case, words to memorize for guidance in a world gone mad, light a candle while we chant together.

Thanatos — of course he was a god — was depicted as gentle, a wise old man with a beard.  The violent kind of death was allotted to a group of women who still abide in our prisons, fucking the incarcerated mercilessly. Margaret Mead said never to let women be soldiers because they have no mercy.  She wrote a lot of books.

Similar thoughts about the "pluriverse."

Saturday, May 23, 2020


Stories are coming out about city people moving to rural and small towns.  Two kinds are doing this: people with an income that doesn’t require them to be present, or as we used to call them, “coupon clippers,” usually meaning stock market investors.  We’ve learned recently (again) that this is actually gambling.  But then, farmers and ranchers are always gamblers.  Gambling is just part of being human, right?

The other kind of people are poor and looking for a low-cost, low-rent sort of place where they can make a little money by service jobs or repair gigs.  They would receive the same federal supports as they did in the city, but the hope is that they will go a lot farther.

Twenty years ago I moved to a village and a $30,000 house.  This means that, putting aside the taxes, I’ve been paying $1,500 a year for rent, compared to $395 a month for an equally run-down apartment in Portland. Here’s a list of what I knew and what I learned.

1.  However much you pay for a house, you’d better put aside the same amount of money for maintenance later.  Part of the reason is that it’s liable to be an old house.  A house that low cost might have sheltered an old person right out to their end, which will work better if they have willing relatives who will put in some labor when the old person can no longer maintain.

Another part is that such a house has probably been owned by someone who considered it a rental and knew that renters don’t stay long, are not inclined to put money into a house they don’t own, and can’t afford to be picky about appliances that are marginal or about lack of insulation, etc.  If they have decided to sell, they are inclined to disguise shortcomings or make temporary repairs.  Expect to do a lot of things yourself.  YouTube is very helpful.

2.  People will come as professional assessors to give you a readout of major problems and advise you about whether or not to buy.  I once knew one of these people and he told me that most assessors are corrupt, that they will adjust their opinions according to what the seller wants said.  He was a bitter man who said he never succeeded in this role because he always told the truth. I presume that he wasn’t quite right.

3.  Taxes will be based on the opinion of a county assessor who may never enter the premises but merely drive by, reacting to curbside appeal.  They do not like being questioned.

4.  It’s a good thing to learn the history of the building.  This one was built on spec by a barber in the Thirties as one of a pair who began just alike, but gradually became different because of add-ons and differing tastes.  This means that it was not “over-built” so that spacing and wood sizes were only adequate.

At some point, the house next door was expanded by developing the small attic into enough space for a bedroom.  This required the installation of a steel beam which lowered the ceilings through the house.  The house I’m in was expanded by an attempt to dig out a basement, but this caused one one wall to collapse.  

Recovery meant a weak wall and a dirt space tall enough to stoop in and put the water heater down there, plus a floor heater that hangs into the space and adds weight.  This means that, as one plumber put it, “Your house is sinking.”  This is how I learned about “house jacks” which can be ten or twelve feet long.  But my house is still sinking because I don’t have the money to get it adjusted and I’m too old now to do it myself.

5.  Most help from tradesmen in places like this is self-taught by experience rather than certified by training.  This means it’s cheaper, depends a lot on brute force and opinion, and will not be insured or any of that other fancy stuff. The best people will be nearly overwhelmed by the demand because these small towns on the prairie are all about a hundred years old.  But no one likes to work on old houses. New construction is preferred, which is fine if you’re a successful coupon clipper.

6.  Infrastructure, like water and sewer, is about a hundred years old, either too much or too little for the present size of the settlement.  At the same time the state keeps busy with engineer inspectors who constantly require improvements.  No sewage lagoon is big enough, no one kept records of where the sewer and water lines were installed, and what’s really down there is always a surprise because grounds shifts and because people improvise.  In a seasonal kind of place — snowbirds leaving in winter — there is constant wrestling over turning the amenities on or off.  Internet support — huh?

When I bought this house it had just been flooded again because of cold bursting the water intake for the second time.  It was March so it had seemed safe for it to be unheated.  It was only dirt and only had to be pumped out and dried.  Luckily it didn’t buckle the floors but soaked all the carpets which were all removed.  Thus a low price.

7.  Someone points out that the most crucial part of any environment is other humans.  This has always been true. I am a solitary and wish to be left alone.  This town will allow that, though there are always eyes on me, noting whether the lights go on and off, whether my pickup moves, whether I collect my mail, what’s in my trash.  No one reads my blog or quite figures out what I’m about now.  Some remember me from the Sixties.  I have old enemies here from fifty years ago.  Part of this town is not “Indian friendly” but one-third of the town IS Indian.  My stepdaughter, my age, was a young mother here; for some this is a plus, for others it’s a minus. She left after the Big Flood, an unhealed subject.

I thought this house would last about twenty years and that I had about twenty years to live.  But I’ve outlived this plan.  Now we’re in a pandemic and I may die next week, in more debt than this house will compensate.  All bets are off, but it worked for a while.