REMARKS

Since in my own mind many of these posts have been "chapters," I'm splitting some of them out to separate blogs. But also, my audience is divided and quite different, one part from another. Many have dropped out and many have newly arrived. There are recognizable paper "book" versions of some of the posts that fit together.

I find that some people still assume that a blog is a sort of diary. This one is not. It is not for children, either in terms of subject or writing style. It's not written "down." Think academic magazine or column without footnotes.


SOCIAL MEDIA

My name shows up on google+ and twitter, but I only monitor and will not add you. I do NOT do Facebook though someone with the same name does. Please use plain email. My phone landline is in the phone book. I have no cell phone.

Other Blogs by me

IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE ART OF BOB SCRIVER, PLEASE GO TO: www.scriverart.blogspot.com.

Notes from Alvina Krause between 1957-1961 are posted at www.Krausenotes.blogspot.com


TWO REBLOGS:
Fiction about Indians at www.willowsticks.blogspot.com
Essays about Indians at www.siksikaskinitsiman.blogspot.com



Monday, September 29, 2014

TALK ABOUT FOOD



Food: can we talk?  No doubt.  Even my Sunday morning symphonies have been displaced by recipes and what was once a nicely confined set of foodies in trendy urban places seems to have taken up the work of the Devil that medicine started -- scaring us all, making us afraid to live for fear we might die.   Promising orgasmic ecstasy if we just follow directions and buy exotic ingredients. Yet, there’s a lot of truth in what they propose.  Life is a matter of push against shove-back.  

Most things biological operate on continuums in tension between two extremes.  Mouth and anus are obvious, but I’m thinking more like glucose v. insulin -- the subtle transactions that go on inside bodies all the time.  We are bombarded with statistics, which are translated for our innumerate misunderstanding into percentage warnings.  They would be more effective if they stayed the same, but one month butter is in, then it’s out; one month salt is out, then it’s in; etc.  

The constant war of theories in our media is echoed less consciously in the local grocery stores, which must figure out what they can afford to stock (what there is shelf space and warehouse space for) versus what won’t sell, fresh foods versus how long foods can be held and how, what is appealing enough to bring people in when what is appealing varies widely by age, income, and so on.  To say nothing of advertising and celebrity opinions.

There are men here who packed supply mule trains in Italy in WWII.

Also neglected is the conversation we act out in our daily lives, the binaries of transactions.  This is a stream of consciousness list -- or order or categories.  Unsorted.

Buying local versus buying at a supermarket
Growing one’s own versus standard packaging and transportation
Vegetarian versus meat
Storage: fresh, frozen, canned, dried
Diet proportions:  carb to protein to sugar
Root veggies vs. leafy vs. fruits and nuts
Statistic generalizations vs. the unique individual
Monitoring blood vs. whatever feels good   (a monitor strip a day vs. a1C)
Adjusting diet to respond to blood type (not genome)
Traditional diets with ethnic identity value
Comfort food, what Mom gave you when you had a cold or hurt feelings
Weaning from sweet/fat/salt fast food
Glycemic index v. calories
National holiday foods

Is there such a thing as food that's not organic?
Yes, Twinkies.  Not even biodegradable.

Mechanical problems like bad teeth or trouble swallowing 
Access to cooking and “kinds” of cooking (microwave, convection, electric, gas, wood)
Hydration vs. food
Fish: fresh or salt water, cold water, mercury, other pollution, endangered, 
Regulation of recreational acquisitions, both fish and game. 
Allergies: gluten, peanut
Industrial chemicals:  antibiotics, herbicides, hormones
Human contamination  (e coli)
Abuse of human workers (long hours, poor housing, no washing facilities)
Abuse of animals (unnecessary force, crowding)
Processing of both meat and vegetables
Inclusions:  high fructose, foreign objects, level of tolerated insect parts
Kinds of fat:  Lard, Krisco, oils, butter, margarine
“Taste additions,” dye, preservatives, nitrates, monosodium glutamate

Independent Grocers Alliance is the full proper name of the IGA stores, which are organized as a franchise in 1926 and now exist in thirty countries.  The difference is that each store is independently owned, which means it can develop according to local conditions. What we never see is the distribution network, which can make or break an individual store.  I'm going to leave in the wiki-links, in case you really want to think about it.

Wikipedia says:  “Logistics is the management of the flow of goods between the point of origin and the point of consumption in order to meet some requirements, of customers or corporations. The resources managed in logistics can include physical items, such as food, materials, animals, equipment and liquids, as well as abstract items, such as time, information, particles, and energy. The logistics of physical items usually involves the integration of information flow, material handling, production, packaging, inventory, transportation, warehousing, and often security. The complexity of logistics can be modeled, analyzed, visualized, and optimized by dedicated simulation software. The minimization of the use of resources is a common motivation in logistics for import and export.”

Curry's belongs to Associated Food Stores.  The logo is over the door.

Another wholesale supplier is a cooperative:  "Associated Food Stores was founded in 1940 by Donald P. Lloyd, president of the Utah Retail Grocers Association along with 34 Utah retailers. Concerned with effect that large corporate stores would have on small independent retailers, he felt the only way these small businesses could survive is if they united and faced the competition as one, therefore increasing their collective buying power."

The entry describes eleven different aspects of logistics, which would apply to any kind of system, including schools or the military, but in the small town grocery store, all eleven aspects have to be handled by one owner.  The trouble with the IGA system is that the end-point is at the mercy of the wholesaler, which is a single entity.  In a place like Montana where distribution is always struggling against aging transportation systems and unpredictable weather, the interface network of friends and influence becomes crucial.  Customer populations split between older folks (though most are too young to know how to get through the winter with a side of beef and a barrel of flour) and younger folks who want the latest instant stuff; split between locals who’ve always made pies with lard-based crusts and formerly urban folks who expect frozen ready-made graham cracker crusts.

Gresham Berry Growers

My father’s first job was as a wool-buyer roving the state of Oregon.  Most of his working life was as a field rep for Pacific Supply Cooperative, visiting the small co-ops to drum up business and provide feedback to headquarters.  It was bought out by a corporation, as most of the rural co-ops have been.  Gresham Berry Growers and Tillamook Cheese were on his agenda.  For him, growing up on the prairie, grower co-ops were a kind of religion with granges for churches.  His cathedrals were the elevators that stood along the railroads.

Today convenience and fast-everything has replaced co-ops.  People will pay for time saved.  The big corporations have the capital and tight management that makes such a thing work.  I once accidentally walked down the aisle of an Albertson’s behind a regional man interviewing the store manager.  It was very enlightening.  The local man emphasized that cost was more important than name brands in his store.  Since name brands use whatever leverage they can to get their items into the big corporation stores -- including kickbacks and promotions -- this wise regional man paid close attention.  Now the store carries generic foods at lower prices.  The big names have been saving money by short-weighting packaged foods, so people like me begin to prefer bulk.

In fact, the co-op is bouncing back in the form of Bountiful Baskets, a distribution system with no stores.  Customers must put in the time and the effort of understanding what things are and sorting them.  (Local clerks never recognize parsnips and are puzzled about how to cook them.)  It’s one step farther along than U-Pick, which was my mother’s way of saving money and guaranteeing quality.  It also mean canning, freezing, drying.  We were in Oregon, which is indeed bountiful, but in Montana there are not so many kinds of local food beyond meat and grain.  (If you U-Pick livestock, the ranchers get upset.)


We’re at an awkward spot in the economy where the population is teetering back and forth between having cars that can reach bigger stores easily, using computers to order luxury foods that will dependably arrive by UPS, individually owning washing machines and cell phones -- unless one has slipped below a certain level.  Then there are not enough low-income people to support laundromats and telephone booths, or even a decent bus system, but there are unserved poor people.  Local stores, at their discretion, can offer credit.

Living in Saskatchewan was an education.  Instead of fifty cereal options, there were maybe five.  The same for toothpaste, canned goods, and even basics like flour.  In the States, even on the prairie, one strategy has been to slightly vary something like cola and market it as unique kinds, for the discriminating, a mark of prestige and identity.  Vegetables are sold as organic or gluten-free, even if they’re carrots.  Is there such a thing as a non-organic carrot?  Or one with gluten?
  
A Canadian cartoon

In the small town store the most important feature is the owner and then the clerks.  No order “from the top” can compete with observation “on the ground.”  Brand loyalty can never be more important than friendship and good service.  There's gotta be a sweet spot in there somewhere, but it moves around.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

MARKETING WRITING


Suppose I got tired of producing written content and finally turned to the other half of what the middle-class worshipfully admires as “publishing,” which is the commercial exploitation of content.  I look at that alternative now and then, mostly when the bills mount up.

In the past, sales have been based on the idea of “quality,” dictated by experts, including institutions like the New York Times list of best-sellers (implying that the “cloud” reflex of paying customers is an indicator) or Book-of-the-Month club (without readers understanding that the choices depended as much on unseen contract negotiations as on the quality of the writing).  Today in this huge haystack of available content there are two governing indices:  one is the cult of personality that we are used to because of movies and TV; the other is sales figures, which are partly based on customer studies.

Alvina Krause

I’m using blogs several different ways: one is simply an archive and reflection about a professor of acting, Alvina Krause.  One is a repository of posts about Blackfeet matters for the Blackfeet to ponder.  (They can’t afford books but can get access to computers.)  One is an archive of materials about Bob Scriver.  These blogs are focused on a specific audience but they are not widely read.  

The students of Krause numbered maybe forty at a time, which over the years would amount to maybe 1600 potential readers of a book, many of whom are now dead or elderly.  Outside of her students there is not much prospect of sales based on her teaching.  There would be more if a writer were to focus on the fact that the School of Speech at the time was covertly gay-friendly which stirred up backlash among the righteous administration and ultimately forced out AK.  Then there would be the element of her post-retirement renaissance in Bloomsberg, PA, where her ideals support a fine repertory theatre.  The audiences of Northwestern, Eaglesmere, and Bloomsberg would be another source of sales, but only Bloomsberg is recent enough to amount to many numbers.  Raw population density is the secret of success for theatre audiences and physical book sales, though today -- through video and internet sales -- the world via google and UPS is the only real limit.  Still, people like to read about their own familiar world.  On the other hand, theatre has drastically changed from the “Method” based realism of AK to spectacles involving fire, trapezes and “flying.”

Bob Scriver

Bob Scriver’s case is a little different.  First, he is ambivalently “located” on the Blackfeet Reservation which can’t really decide whether they love him or hate him.  Second, he was on the periphery of what I call the Cowboy Art Cartel, which is based on the marketing of Remington and Russell, rigidly controlled and defending a mythic patriotic understanding of what cowboy art really is.  Third, most people would not be interested in Scriver as a person, except in terms of what makes his work worth money.  His work is ‘trading stock’ and books can increase or decrease value.  The interlocking complex of auctions and “museums” are really semi-religious institutions defending that same myth of cowboys and Indians that Bob accepted and illustrated in his work -- not in his life.  Revelations of reality will hurt sales.

available on www.lulu.com/prairiemary

The blog I call prairiemary (www.prairiemary.blogspot.com) is the closest I come to a personal writer’s platform.  But my life-path is in compartments located differently with different audiences.  Unless I could find enough readers for any one of them, or somehow combine them into a grand theme, they wouldn’t support a readership.  Two other people have tried to develop books about animal control, but were overwhelmed by the great romantic unreality of the Humane Society of the United Society which never saw an animal it didn’t want to convert into a human baby, though it is the American Humane Society that takes on both child-welfare and animal-welfare.  

Valier, MT

Small town infrastructure interests me greatly, since that's where I am, and could be developed if it were properly targeted.  A lot of people are struggling with the issues.  In fact, I think the pressure is great enough and closely enough related to Third World problems that a lot of technical breakthroughs that will change everything are in the pipeline -- not least the breaking up of grids and the most difficult the safety of the water/sewer cycle.  Doing this properly would mean a lot of research and travel.  It ought to be done by a younger, better- financed person.


The religious issues in the world consciousness are so potent and various that it would be fair to call them “fulminating.”  We are about to step away from the dogma, admit to the historical and territorial sources and expressions of religious institutions, and possibly to change the nature of the institutions themselves, finally recognizing them as variations in the theme of “nations” trying to defend and expand boundaries.  I don’t really have the chops to take on such an overwhelming paradigm shift.


My specific interest is reconciling neurological research about how the body operates to create consciousness and identity with what I know from experience as an ordained minister about creating ritual and deep experience.  Things are moving so quickly, partly in response to the chaos and damage of today’s world, that as quickly as I work, I fall behind.  Nevertheless, other people are strung out over a continuum between sorcerers to iconoclasts.  Those who could benefit from an intense spiritual retreat or a steady Sunday morning reassurance include just about everyone on the planet, but sales could only be made to a narrow span of that continuum.  Still, that could be a lot of people.

Available on Amazon

Now step over to the practicality of selling.  I’m told by publishers that they make few sales at the Montana Festival of the Book.  Placing ads in the Montana magazine of Western History produced no sales for me.  Despite a barrage of postcards I sent to them, the institutions that supposedly preserve Scriver’s work failed to realize his biography existed.  Review copies produced nothing. The blogs that monitor such things say that readings at bookstores don’t work, partly because there are too few bookstores, partly because readers cocoon.  Review sections of the major newspapers are defunct.  Magazines?  WHAT magazines?  Radio seems possible.  Both the local radio and regional newspaper are highly political.  I'm not.

Circles of people who know and promote each other are the real source of book publicity but they no longer lunch together. Recently the Missoula bell-mare went into the Bozeman range with mixed results.  Anyway, that foray was about a movie. The NY agents who used to have magic Rolodexes are gone, though a wave of dismissed editors has joined them.  Instead, the conversion of writing into actual books has migrated out to the grass roots, which haven’t existed long enough to form a thick and resilient turf, despite the efforts of a website like www.lulu.com, which represents itself as a printer with benefits, something like a friend with benefits.  (Sex is sales and replication.)  A book may require a bit of professional grooming.

Rhonda Abrams -- see what I mean about grooming?

Today’s business section in the GF Tribune includes an article by Rhonda Abrams of The Planning Shophttp://www.planningshop.com  The topic is marketing.  If you are marketing by using a percentage of your profits, you will need to already be a major, prominent, advantage-generating entity whose simple existence IS advertising.  (Rhonda Abrams’ example is Costco.)  This is a variation on word-of-mouth.

If you are small and unknown, you will need venture capital.  The trick is to prove the product.  The third option is to create such a big controversial stink that people get to know your name and buy the book out of curiosity.  (Many will save money by reading reviews instead.)  For example, Krakauer is always writing about something sensational or purporting to reveal previously unknown and shocking facts -- regardless of consequences.  (Like, hiring big physical ghetto guys with respect-issues to be athletic stars -- and bringing them into a little white self-important town that aspires to be worldly -- will probably result in sexual boundary loss that will inflame a lot of cowboys.)  It works for the newspapers.  And lawyers.


So far, none of these options is attractive.  None of them would generate enough money to tempt me to give up the wealth I have, which is time and freedom.  I can sit here all day and write what I want to write -- immediately putting it out there for you read at no cost to either of us.  If you want print on paper, use your computer printer. Or go to www.lulu.com/prairiemary.  As for the cost to me, I prepaid with my life.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

SEX EDUCATION IS NOT JUST ABOUT FUCKING


EFFECTIVE sex education is not about actual fucking.  The people who provide our present kind of sex ed say they are concerned about health issues, which may or may not include pregnancy or HIV.  The parents just want to know whether their children are physically normal.  (Some still can’t decide whether they themselves are normal.)  The kids want the fabled orgasm, but more than that, they want emotional fusion: intimacy, bonding, attachment, safety -- what they had when they were babies.  They want to know how to be wanted.  So what do we give them?  Graphs, statistics, -- all that stuff that lets us handle hot topics in a cold way.


Sex and “love” are a Venn diagram in which the emotional components of “love” overlap but do not include all the physical functions of sex.  Still, I side with the kids.  The actual act of coitus is largely reflex and instinct if you are talking about physical matters.  “How to do it” varies according to whether you are a missionary or not and willingness to experiment, as well as style and temperament (which is physical) but the emotional and spiritual side of it can be almost destroyed by overbearing moral considerations.  Who cares what God and the angels think about it?  What are they, voyeurs?  What matters is in the two (not necessarily two but usually) people involved before, after and during the act.


Too many people, including but not limited to kids, are tugged in the opposite direction from emotional safety and fusion -- towards danger and exploration.  The trouble is that they may get into the sexual realm beyond their capacity to keep their emotional balance esp when the chemical/physical distortions of drugs are involved.  The education that is needed is how to manage intimate relations: how to read the other person and stay open while maintaining one’s own guard, the limits of your self-respect, how to signal, how to maintain awareness during an act that can close awareness to a pinhole . . . which means that trouble is almost inevitable, which means that the skills of recovery after hurt need to be learned.  Pain is not so bad, but suicide IS and strong sexual emotions can pull towards death or serious trauma.  Many of the young male suicides I’ve known about have been over "love" rather than sex.  For girls, physical pregnancy is added to the equation.


One of the main reasons I’ve never been a “hook-up” person is that I can NOT handle the emotional intelligence it takes to keep from hurting myself and others.  I do not know how to keep from attaching nor am I any good at letting go.  I mistake predation for need, narcissism for focus, and rage for strength.  I cannot keep from becoming engaged with someone who has access to my body.  I can’t shut off everything that goes with a sensory connection.  So if there WERE really good sex education, I’d sign up. 

One of my ways of coping has been to avoid pregnancy in order to avoid parenting.  This is not really coping -- just evading.

Howard Stern

Even on a physical level, much sex education does not tell the truth -- “level with us”, as it were.  Until Howard Stern’s rude contest for the man with the smallest dick, the problem of the microdick wasn’t known at all. (Technically, a little over 2”, erect, when 5” is normal.  .6% incidence in the population -- usually a code glitch obvious at birth.) Stern himself had thought it was a joke reversal of the obsession over penis size and was rocked by seeing those tiny penises -- also rocked again by the quality of the men who accepted themselves and willingly allowed themselves to be measured.  Most were married and some had children.  (Nothing wrong with their testes.)  Not until “A Thousand Wicked Thoughts” did we know there was a category of turn-on that was a female with a penis, which is not just a cartoon but a person, though usually addressed by surgery.  More code glitch. I didn’t know about intersex babies until my chaplaincy in a big regional hospital.  In ten weeks there were two cases of babies with ambiguous genders that the ethics board had to address in terms of what to do.  We are all being educated by the trans and queer people, who are no longer secret.

Making babies is as complex as rocket science, but failures don’t fall into the sea.  Fifty per cent (estimated) of fertilized ova don’t “catch” by implanting in the uterus lining or fail in some other way along the nine-month period of gestation.  Some are close enough to the goal to live, but with shortcomings or unwelcome additions.  (My cousins have the gene for too many fingers and toes.)  Some twins fail to separate but live.  (“Siamese” twins.)  Some of them marry and have children.

The substrate of our bodies, the neurological parts that get “hooked” into paraphilias, are very small structures that have whole-body emotional consequences.  Sexual attachments and preferences are a language, a hunger, a movement, an identity -- flexible, adaptive, persistent, easily conditioned.  Otherwise the species would have disappeared a long time ago.

On the other hand, a body that is exhausted, abused, starving, diseased, drugged, or in terror cannot respond beyond built-in reflexes.  There cannot be subtlety, elegance, creative connections other than what is mindless.  In a healthy person, sex can be a source of many good things that we don’t even recognize as sex: art, friendship, political charisma, growth towards a goal.  That’s so obvious it’s almost claptrap cliché.

The alternative press (people like Dan Savage or Eugene S. Robinson) is now supplying advice for people who are outside conventions, experimenting and curious.  I see that they sound much like any good counselor: “take it slow,” “don’t exceed your own limits,” “dump the crazy fantasies” and so on.  This is great and available online, but I think the need still exceeds the supply.  

Part of the trouble is that we confuse “love” (whatever that is) with sex, a physical act that is connected to a zillion attachments, repulsions, transactions.  We say that “love” justifies any kind of sex, but does anyone ever say “I love you” to a sheep?  Too bad it’s not possible to make love to chocolate, although you can involve it in sex.

Strangely, the graphics for this subject are better on the business sites.

Sex is a lever that can be used for good or ill.  Sex education should include wariness about that, but the “good” side is often neglected.  Sex can heal wounds, bond people together, comfort pain, erase worry, build for the future.  It can lead both into and out of friendship, which might be considered close relationship built on common interests, not necessarily agreement.  Adolescents who are savvy about all this, and capable of managing contraception and disease-prevention, might be free to have sex -- even entitled to it.


Neither good sex nor “love” can be achieved by living the other person’s life.  One must be SOMEBODY before any transaction between parties can occur.  Masturbation is classified as sex, but I wonder if that’s really what it is.  Seems like physical sex should always be about relationship.  But just as arguably, fantasy entities are treated by the brain as though they are reality, so the body reacts as though someone else were present.

Good sex cannot be forced (nor can “love”) but it can be called out, particularly if the party being called has the ability to hear and interpret other people accurately.  I have no idea where the ideas that sex must be forced or that “love” must be impossible and unlikely, ever got their start except that they are obviously self-serving.  Good sex education will keep both “love” and sex from being for sale, esp. not cheap.  Better to buy a ticket to effective sex/love education.

It's all so theatrical.


Friday, September 26, 2014

CHARRED BONES


“Fire Shut Up in My Bones” by Charles Blow is in its debut publicity wave and deserves close attention.  Blow is a strong, inspiring person who lives up to his intention of always being brave and honest.  What follows is not intended to discredit him in any way.  But I want to question the definition of his book as a “Black” book, his life as a “Black” life, his problems with intimacy as “Black.”  I think he is in danger of being ghettoized.  We already think of the "down low" and MSM as Black behavior.

Repeatedly “Black” is used as a way of pushing away issues that are really those of all of us.  But it is also an advantage for Blow because he is part of a solid community, the “Black” one.  Charles Blow is not named Gene Robinson, but he has that community behind him.  Other writers do not.  I’m saying there’s a camel coming into the establishment tent (for which I am glad) and that only the nose of the camel is black.  The rest is camel colored.

Charles Blow

It's not just a white problem.  In terms of demographics, Black keeps overwhelming red.  On the one hand, the AIM movement came out of the street Indians of Minneapolis observing Black Power and following their map.  On the other hand, the Native Americans -- because they are a decimated and diasporia/confined population -- is always on the graphs as a single-digit number.  In fact, there is probably a little Indian in all of us.  Looking at Charles Blow, knowing he grew up in rural Louisiana, I suspect that he’s got more than a little Native American blood in him.  Runaway slaves were given shelter by tribes, captured Indians were enslaved.  Being Native American is not so easily defined, esp. since sometimes death can only be evaded by hiding, even now.

Blacks contact me to ask how they could find out if they were part Blackfeet.  (Don't call -- there's no way unless you've got a family provenance.)  Almost always they are probably not, but it seems to them a way of ennobling their families and evading the Mandingo syndrome. Mandingo is another of those syndrome novels that I would never have read except that I found it as a much-worn paperback in a house I rented.  The building had stood open for several years so I don’t know who had been reading this raggedy copy, but it is about an exceptional slave who is tormented by whites.  Individual versus society.  Mandingo (it’s the character’s name) is forced into a pot and boiled alive, suggesting both the fate of missionaries in the world of cannibals and the proverbial frog in heating-up water.  I've never seen the movie.
from www.beyondthisplace.com -- Black frats

Charles Blow has gone the conventional academic route, submitted to the group (Black frat) in “a trauma of cohesion” -- hazing -- which I presume was not quite like joining an LA gang, but on the same principle.  He has been a public journalist for a long time, a popular and appealing man.  His stories (I haven’t read the book yet) are supposed to be as much about manhood as about black.  Though he began this manuscript as short personal pieces, before he got to publication he had an editor/coach to help him make decisions.  He’s used to that, he can deal with it, he does not need to defy anyone.  Authority has been on his side.

The gay issue turns out to be a bit of a sidebar, but he firmly defends the right of individuals to escape the dyadic coercion of American white society which thinks it is the mainstream, but probably isn’t anymore.  Same as Britain.  We are at least bracketed by immigrants.  The extreme contemporary version is the right wing of the Islamists.  Even the gay movement is now various, and may have lost power because of lack of cohesion, which may be in part due to acceptance into the lives of young urban people.  They just say, "whatever."  Anal intercourse?  Oh, yeah.  Cheaper way than condoms to avoid pregnancies.  HIV?  "You can live a normal life, man."  (For a price.)

But there are still those out there who are not struggling with fire in their bones because their bones are already charred.  Their problem with identity is maintaining any kind of coherence at all.  They would be alone and unknown except for the efforts of a few dedicated people.  The ones I know work through real-stories-gallery.org.  The idea is not for some major handsome strong figure to speak in retrospect about his suffering, but rather to let today’s suffering kids speak for themselves through video.  Many are poly-lingual in an oral world but illiterate in print.  Not all.  And they all speak image -- and dance.  And tech.

I’m not talking to Charles Blow, except to say, “Good on you, man!”  I’m not wanting him to turn into a flag-carrier for abused boys, black or any other color.  I’m talking to all the people who will read Blow’s book and say to themselves secretly the equivalent to NIMB (Not in My Backyard)  which is maybe NTDWM  (Nothing to Do with Me).  Sexual abuse of children, esp when intimacy between adults is described only in terms of sexual desire and violence, is so widespread -- we now realize reluctantly -- that the trouble is not just about the pervie deviants who live across town and don’t look like us.  It IS us.

Looking back over my 75 years I’m embarrassed and grieving over the times I failed to realize what was going on and why.  I probably intervened a couple of times, but nowhere nearly as much as I ought to have.  I’m finding that people are more and more anxious to go underground, actively scared of being identified -- even in the most conventional terms -- not anything they could be criticized or criminalized for being.  This is especially true of Native Americans. Every clue might be followed up by Seizers, the name the NA people gave to soldiers, and then the men who went by contract to grab kids and force them into boarding schools, without even telling their families.  Now they use Facebook.


What I’m saying is that the black nose on this camel can be followed -- I hope WILL be followed -- by the whole animal.  I want the tent to fold.  It’s like the tents put up over crime scenes while the technicians work.  At first it’s a protection but there comes a time to remove it, or it becomes only a way to hide things.  People get too used to it.  It becomes an illusion about polite society.

Blow’s title, "Fire Shut Up in my Bones," is intriguing. It's Biblical: 

Jeremiah's Complaint  Jeremiah 20:9
…For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, because for me the word of the LORD has resulted In reproach and derision all day long. But if I say, "I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name," then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it. For I have heard the whispering of many, "Terror on every side! Denounce him; yes, let us denounce him!" All my trusted friends, Watching for my fall, say: "Perhaps he will be deceived, so that we may prevail against him And take our revenge on him."…

I don’t know whether Blow is aware that for people carrying the HIV virus, one of the most common problems is pneumonia.  One of the last ditch meds for pneumonia is prednisone.  It is generally effective, but in the case of those carrying HIV, it is more likely than in non-poz populations to trigger Avascular Necrosis, death of the bones due to lack of blood supply.  No one knows what causes it, no one knows how to cure it.  For those bones, the fire has gone out -- they don’t get the oxygen that supports fire.  Charred and splintered, they can be replaced by steel. 


I am entertained by the notion that the New York Times is riding on the coattails of their only Black columnist who is now surfing a big wave (I love mixed metaphors) by advocating unique and fluid sexuality in each person, esp. since his life has been an adventure in presenting deliberate and conscious conformity.  He learned table manners and a new voice, but couldn’t make his sexuality conform.  I still wonder whether he knows of any Native Americans in his family tree.  (I don’t see genealogy as legal categories and entitlements -- I see them as being like tree rings, marking good times and bad.)  So now we have three metaphors: coats, waves, trees.  Pay no attention to that camel.  It just wants in.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

THE OTHER GENE ROBINSONS

Eugene Harold Robinson

"Eugene Harold Robinson (born March 12, 1954) is an American newspaper columnist and the former assistant managing editor of The Washington Post. His columns are syndicated by The Washington Post Writers Group, and he is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009.
"Robinson is a board member of the IWMF (International Women's Media Foundation)." 

Booknotes.org  interviewed this Eugene Robinson in relationship to the publication of his book, “Coal to Cream: A Black Man’s Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race.”  The title comes from his grandparents: a very dark man and a very light woman.  He is formally addressed as “Mr.” but the transcript rather curiously put in every stutter, every misspeak, every stopandstart, of what he says. 

This Robinson grew up in an academically centered all-black community, so was only vaguely aware of color-based discrimination until he was assigned to South America as a journalist for the Washington Post.  In Argentina where he lived and Brazil where he often traveled, he became aware of how skin-color interacted with status and class assignment, splintering “black” into a lot of sub-categories, whereas in America, if you were a little bit dark, you were considered black.  This forced unity gradually became a political entity with some real power.  The book is how that happened and the people involved.


Rev. Eugene Robinson

The white Eugene Robinson is MORE controversial.  He is a gay man, a recovering alcoholic, married to another man for twenty years (he had been previously married to a woman and had two children with her), ordained and consecrated as a bishop, though he had to wear a bulletproof vest under his liturgical vestments at the ceremony.  The event split congregation, the American denomination, and world-wide Anglican networks, which roughly follow the British Empire.  He has resigned by now after seven years of turmoil.


He wrote two booksIn the Eye of the Storm: Swept to the Center by God,” and  God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage.”  Basically he is defending the right of an individual to have a relationship with both "God" and social respectability while committing to an unconventional marriage that the group disapproves.  He has been a highest level religious leader, but in a small context (New Hampshire) that stood by him personally.  This is a definitively Protestant stance, which means that the Roman Catholic church and the “high” Anglican denomination find him disruptive enough to label him evil.  

What I’m seeing in these two men is a much more global tension between the individual seeking a personal stance and the category, which in terms of the black community is crucial to the preservation of power.  Since I’m currently feeling very anti-institutional and since the institutions themselves have fossilized and eroded, it seems an important issue, even a central issue to everything else, generating a host of questionnaires and theories of change.  Add in the other two Gene Robinsons, and we’ve got two more versions, one noisily (literally) counterculture and the other quietly but supportively conventional, though progressive. 

Entering Valier

Like most things in life, one must seek balance if not harmony, but how do you do that?  As a flaming liberal thinker whose lifestyle is even more conservative than this Belgian-diaspora irrigation community I live in, but who is affiliated over fifty years with the violently splintered Blackfeet rez community just to the north, and who is merely tolerant of the Southern Baptist congregation at my elbow (If only they were Progressive Baptists!), I am rather urgently pressed to work on this.

All the feminists and enviros will urge me to look to the land: identify with the larger East Slope community but it is also split -- not splintered, but cleaved between those who (religiously) think the point of human life is prosperity and those who think humans must respect their participation in the planetary interwovenness.  Prosperity is individual (unless you’re a Hutterite) and interwovenness is the ultimate in community, without limits unless you consider the planetary troposphere as the boundary.  And we must do that or suffocate ourselves.  ALL of us.

Browning, MT

This week the Eloise Cobell Trust Fund settlement checks are going out to individuals, whose financial fortunes have been separated from each other by the US Government through the Dawes Act and the imposition of the rules of property developed in Britain and spread through their pre-empted empire.  At the same time the Blackfeet Tribe is trying to consolidate and “clean house” as a community in the interest of keeping at home the profits of a new wave of oil discovery (among other things, like fighting poverty).  The next couple of years will be fascinating to watch.  It is important to realize that there are more players than the tribe at this poker table, this bone game, but that the tribe’s players are new, just elected.  The government, the corporations, the underground culture of booze and drugs, and now new categories, local academics, and check-receiving diaspora Blackfeet are all keeping time with their sticks.

At the same time, the issue presented by the land -- water produced by the Rocky Mountains -- is an uncomfortable but real unifying force.  There is a famous experiment in which two summer camps of boys were encouraged to be rivals, to strive hard against each other in competition and make that opposition central to their lives.  It worked, all too easily.  But the two camps were dependent on the same water system.  The experimenters deliberately interdicted the water in a way that could only be repaired by the cooperation of the two camps.  The boys worked together -- carrying rocks, digging, planning, joining pipes.  By the time the water was running again, the boys were a single community, connected by many small friendships.


There are two water systems originating in the East Slope: one runs north/south in a rain and snow run-off belt;  the other is man-made and runs along the boundary between Canada and the US which happens to be high land due to volcanic activity, but not high enough to draw much water.  The pipe and diversion systems run parallel to the east-west railroad which prompted settlement dependent on that water.  Now the system is aging out.

The water coming off the Rockies is regulated by water law, a water master, a water court.  The trouble is that the humans have mostly ignored it and now the differences in development between the rez and the rest must be reconciled.  It will hurt, but there are guidelines.  The water along the High-Line is dependent on non-governmental sources and one-time funds.  The two communities created by water use face different problems.


It seems to me that the same split is between human-dependent systems and land-dependent systems throughout the world.  As much as we are in tension between individual and community, we are also in tension between places that are easy to live in and places that are pretty damn tough.  But the binary is on a sliding scale.  In summer and fall the East Slope and even the High Line are wonderful windswept spaces of light and grass.  In winter you might as well be at the North Pole.  

The easier the environment, the more the emphasis can be pushed toward the self-sufficient individual.  The tougher it is, the more people must unify to address survival.  Tough social conditions produce one kind of “Gene Robinson” and clearly supportive institutions help another sort of “Gene Robinson.”   It’s the transitions and reconciliations that are turbulent.




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

"THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET," MORE RELEVANT THAN EVER

Lawrence Durrell, the reality

Lawrence Durrell as I imagine him.

Today on OZY (my alternative source of news and views that I depend on to balance out the wimpy stuff other places) had a review of Lawrence Durrell, one of my all-time fav writers.  Long ago I found a paperback of the first of his Alexandria Quartet in a beach house where I was ignored enough to read in sweaty peace with an ocean breeze to keep me awake.  


Eugene S. Robinson --Leather Lit with roots in Africa

What’s strange is that the review was written by Eugene S. Robinson.  If you went out of your way to find my opposite -- a massive, black, rock bandsman who writes a sex column of surprising good sense that addresses totally “evil” and transgressive sexual situations (which everyone -- even people in small towns -- seems to think are peak experiences to pursue), who wrote a book about fighting, who is the lead in a band that is way out there -- he's it. 
  
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rRjyJhqnU0   An illustration of what happens if you break boundaries.  And yet the trespasser was not hurt.  The KIND of violence this guy understands is mostly Asian-based, meaning it’s as much psychological leverage as just raw destruction.  Intelligent force.

In terms of the British empire "Downton Abbey" hegemony enforced by mothers (nationhood, class status, dependable income, good reputation, law-abiding, always in control, respect for authority, and oh-yes-romance) my two big deficits are contemporary counterculture music and anything physical, whether dancing, working out, or athletics.  I’d rather watch and think about it.  Eugene S. Robinson wouldn’t give me the time of day, but both of us love Lawrence Durrell.  Maybe it’s the thing about using the weakness of overbearing people to one’s advantage.  Maybe there’s a kind of rural canniness that exists in the rougher parts of mega-urbs.  Maybe it's just Berkeley.  Maybe we like purple writing.  In one interview he says that he doesn’t use the genitalia metaphors that Freudians so cherish, but if he had to, he’d say his band’s mode was more vagina than penis.  Whatever.  Watch his hands.  Especially in the ring or at the mic.


Robinson is an editor of Ozy.  How he got to be such a hip, smart, literate guy, I do not know.  I just respect it.  http://www.bonereader.com/2012/03/08/the-many-faces-of-eugene-s-robinson/  This interview was not much help, because it’s all about how to “play” the music scene and, anyway, I think it’s already a little out of date.  But it’s the best set of clues about how to survive commercially as a writer that I’ve found yet.  I’m just not sure which clues would really work.  The subjects of the song lyrics are far more relevant and dark than anything I see in the emagazine essays about life as a privileged thirty-year-old urban ignoramus.  I think, for instance, that the “religion” (noninstitutional) of the future is forming here -- NOT in any pews or pulpits or books.

https://vimeo.com/58024793  Here's a story song that’s more accessible to me than the wild defiance stuff.


http://www.ozy.com/ozy-tribe/our-team/day-to-day-team/eugene-s-robinson/  This is as close to a bio as I could come.  “No place else in America is even remotely interested in trying the probably near-impossible,” says Robinson. “Which is, in my mind: making the compelling interconnections between what we think and what we do come ALIVE.”  I guess that’s a good description of the passion that made the Durrell family so productive and seductive.  And sex is probably the most intricate and intense sort of framework to describe human interaction -- unless it’s violence.  The trouble with most violence is that it’s stupid, unmodulated, and has no point of focus.  It’s just big explosions with a high body count.  (Writing is too often like that as well.)  The Alexandria Quartet is still alive, still relevant.

Alexandria

My seminary group counselor (and for a summer my employer) was a black man also named Gene Robinson, but in the past every time I tried to google his name, I got Eugene S. Robinson.  (There's a third one, also black.  Maybe a fourth. I'll have to disambiguate.)  The Hyde Park Gene Robinson was not so literary as his namesake but trained in the context of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) which is meant to produce savvy, compassionate, chaplain-type people.  This morning I found him online.  He's done well.  And good, as well.

Eugene Robinson, D. Min

Eugene Robinson, DMin
Manager of Spiritual Health, EWW
Staff Chaplain, Mental Health Services
Education: BS (Chemistry), Paine College, Augusta, GA; MDiv, ITC at Morehouse School of Religion, Atlanta; ThM and DMin, Columbia Theological Seminary, Atlanta
Professional: Certified Supervisor, ACPE; Certified Marriage and Family Therapist, Northwestern U., Chicago; Member, AAPC; Diplomat, American Psychotherapist Assoc.; Licensed AAMFT; Studies in Clinical Psychology, GSU, in progress.
Faith Group: Progressive Baptist of America
Experience: Center for Family Studies, Chicago; Grady Health System and GAPC, Atlanta; Connections Center, Decatur GA
Specialty Training/Interests: Workshops on Family and Marital dynamics, Grief, Personal Growth for Teens and Men, Team development, Communications
He was counseling at the center attached to the First Unitarian Church of Chicago with half or more of his clients coming from the South Side black community, often kids in trouble.  A bit of a Robin Hood, he used the rich people’s fees to subsidize the poor kids.  He was like a stabilized, rather white, version of Tim Barrus (who IS white).  He was fascinated by me because he claimed my pale face kept turning all colors, and they were a giveaway of my emotional state.
  

Part of the cultural switcheroo of the U of C campus is that the high intellectuals all trooped down to the black Checkerboard to hear emotional jazz while other black men tended to the emotional lives of the wives and students of those same brainy white folk.  Good thing, because my “own people” -- relatives, other Unitarians, and Montana humanities folks -- find me totally out of sync, rude, and excludable.  In fact, Gene Robinson had to save me from a CPE supervisor of my own kind who was trying to fuck me over.  These are the kinds of twists and turns that Durrell loves.  They trace the subversive.  The book about Hyde Park has not yet been written.  

It won’t be written by me, because I was at the Seminary Coop Bookstore with my butt on the warm cement floor of the History of Science alcove.  (Better than theology.) And because fascinating as blacks are, engrossing as the city is, my heart is gripped by the Blackfeet Reservation.  A BIG book about this prairie place on the East Slope cries out to be written.  It might never be read.  I don’t know whether I could do it or not, but I’m tempted to try.  The bootlegger culture, the mission culture, the hunter culture, the fort culture, the military culture, the stubborn woman-centered family culture, the college grads,  the PTSD white vets, the drug dealers, the Mexican family men and the kids creating their own worlds.   All still there. Nothing like what anyone thinks, even themselves.  A steady pressure to keep things secret because at this altitude the ultraviolent [sic] light is so strong it suppresses life instead of supporting it.


I try not to be a shadow-rider who goes along watching myself on the wall as though it were a mirror, but it’s hard not to be if one is writing: it's a reflexive task.  My remedy so far has been ridge-riding, following along parallel to the real trench warfare to keep from being captured by the pussy Brit-worshipping hegemony intent on control.  But it does rather make one a target.  It must be nice to be a heavyweight African-American rocker with writing chops.