A PLAN

Since Google is shocked, SHOCKED, by my blogs, I've decided to start dumping them.

These blogs persist:

Prairie Mary
Heart Butte School, Montana
Holding Open the Universe
Robert Macfie Scriver and Art
Valier Infrastructure
Alvina Krause
The Silver Comb
Swan River, Manitoba
The Bone Chalice
Eagles Mere -- the Playhouse

THESE HAVE BEEN REMOVED

L'entretien infini (REMOVED)
Prairiemary's Memoir (REMOVED)
Prairiemary bibliographies (REMOVED)
Twelve Blackfeet Stories (REMOVED)
Merry Scribbler (REMOVED)
Sisikaskinitsimaan (REMOVED)
Willow Sticks (REMOVED)
Linn County Cochrans (REMOVED)
Roseburg Pinkertons (REMOVED)

It will take me a while since I will need to find new homes for some of them since they are used as reference by various scholars and tribal people.

Monday, March 02, 2015

"SLAMMING POWER"


“Slamming” is a drug term.  Look it up.  You’ll have to work at it, since Google is suddenly prudish and hides sexual information that used to be right up front.  The sexual/gay/meth version of slamming is easily relevant when dealing [sic] with power.  It's also a communication system term.  This story is infested with cell phone exchanges.  Sometimes the messages appear on your own monitor screen!  There’s not much sex, not much violence -- it’s like snakes -- quiet danger.  High brow danger that expects the viewer to understand abstract potentials.

Slamming also means switching communication companies without the knowledge of the subscriber.  (The Helena IR just subscribed me to their email feed without my invitation or permission, but that's "spamming," right?)  "Slamming" is also -- says Google who doesn’t think that excretion is sexual --  a big painful bowel movement.  Sounds like a great title for a novel to me, but this is just a little blog post.

So I slammed “House of Cards III”  this weekend and I’m not going to have any mercy about “spoilers” because it’s silly to expect this movie’s pull to be suspense, not knowing what will happen.  All you have to do is check the news right now.  The fascination is knowing what will happen in the end and watching to see what the steps of developments will be.  One of the main strategies of this plot is to set up the expected and then step to one side of it, so that your head is playing the two situations side-by-side -- then the surprise is in there between them.  The point is speculating about which truth seems most authentic -- so far.  Even after watching the whole series, the questions persist.  Cling inside one’s mind.  Make a person laugh.  (How many people will be making “little pickle” jokes for a few weeks, partly because the phrase itself is fun to say?)  So the spoilers that are truly surprises are not that spoiled.

When the moral center, the only person who seems to have both understanding and compassion (some understandings only trigger contempt), is a former addict hustler who writes best sellers (or maybe steals some of them -- he tells it both ways). It’s clear that only a non-judgmental listener like him is going to be able to “get” this tale from either of the principals, both of them deeply hidden even from themselves.  It is the business of the compassionate whore to get to the center of a person and then use it. Then keep the secret.  This is also the task of the honest biographer.  If you ask me, it works.

Paul Sparks as Thomas Yates

In this version one character after another develops cracks if not total destruction, like the Jesus corpus that pitches off his cross behind the altar.  This narrative is never beyond the cheap laugh:  the prez picks up a fragment off the floor and says, “At last I have God’s ear.”  And he does.  Corny, but his cool at a theology symbol makes a catastrophe funny. And somehow more ominous than if the falling statue had put him in the hospital.

Mermaid under a crystal shower

Pay close attention to the production values.  These sets are like aquariums, aquamarine silvery colors with spare set dressing.   Not much furniture, mostly sharp-edged leather.  The opposite of Victorian excess.  The women are light-washed into perfection until they get a bit rucked up by the plot and then their freckles emerge, their eyes clench into wrinkles except for the strange phenomenon of older women with subtly Chinese eyes because of the skin being pulled back by face lifts.  On the younger ones, when the lighting goes harsh, we suddenly see their little I-am-not-fertile mustaches from the Pill.  As the president loses power, his exquisite dark suits become gray hoodies -- like the ones worn by kids who are street shooters, but high-end.  In the end, it is the wife rowing in the boat.

Fly-over country, until there's a election.

Watch the set-dressing paintings hanging on the walls in the “White House”.  In Episode Three, they are all landscapes, very few with human figures, not conventionally pretty -- ochre grass, dark trees.  Like the prairie landscapes at the end of the series.  I’ll not tell you about it -- you deserve one surprise.  But it’s clear that this movie is about America and never clearer than when the Russian is there.  The Russian is quite Danish, tall and blonde with a heavily boned face -- Putin will love it!   But never mind.  The faux Putin makes it plain that he is a macho match and just as “ethical” as the US President.  And he sees that the same is true of the president’s wife.

Annie Parisse as an Iowan modern mommie dearest

At the end of the season, when we look back in our godlike way, what we have seen in this series was the book that  “Thomas Yates”  (Paul Sparks) wrote.  Or would have written.   Still might.  A couple as tightly knit as the Starks, but without the beheadings.  Instead there are de-soulings.  The prom queen finally meets today’s young mother: cynical, narcissistic, considering the murder of her baby on one hand but insisting on breast feeding.  People begin to see and walk away from this power couple, even Freddie the rib king.  The couple itself goes out of balance.  The amorphous but vicious power-hungry man begins to attack and confine the wife who got him to where he is -- “she put me in the White House” -- and it is enough to set her free.  He broke the deal.  NOW who will fuck him back to sanity when he ends crumpled on the floor?

The argument in the end is about the Third Estate, which I also looked up.  (I’m not informed enough to just know this stuff, but I know to look things up.)  The Third Estate is a term indicating the ordinary citizens, not the law school graduate power-mongers in Washington DC.  The Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primaries represent this third element of power.  But the writers also nearly do homage to journalism, which is represented as always after the truth on behalf of the Third Estate.  

I was amused that one reviewer insulted the biographer supposedly hired by the president with full confidence that he would skate the shiny surface and never be a scorpion.  The reviewer clearly wanted the biographer to be a more god-like truth detector instead of just a good listener.  The “tell” is that he doesn’t think the bold woman journalist would ever go to bed with a geek like this guy with a shady past.  Which sounds more like the reviewer's regret than the character's.  So characteristic of critics to be more willing to criticize sexual mojo than writing mojo.

All these complex tales of the city start with aerial shots of the city concerned, but "House of Cards” has the best montage ever.  Maybe I just like it because of the familiar graceful monuments -- I love the lions -- or maybe it’s because of the gorgeous progression through days, nights and seasons.  I sit quietly and watch the titles, unlike my tendency to multi-task during the obvious parts.  The sound track is equally gorgeous and heart-breaking: the distant echoing trumpet, the sorrowing aria.


Phallic or finger?

This vid is the credits titles plus GPS instead of sub-titles, in case you go there.  I'm not being funny -- people from the rez are forever going to Washington, D.C.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/entertainment/house-of-cards/

The online discussion will go on for years, but this was an interesting one.

People around here can comfortably disavow these characters or maybe claim parts.  I would not be surprised if our mayor rapped his ring on the folding table to bring our council meeting to order and ask us to pledge allegiance to the “best country in the world.”  But the real power in the room is always female.  It's just that we don't much go in for dressing up.




TOM FORAL, GIFTED PORTRAITIST


Oh, I know.  It's past but you weren't going anyway and maybe the weather would have made it impossible.  I just like to brag about my association with civilized people back east.    Tom was a classmate at Northwestern, School of Speech, Class of '61.  He was a Navy veteran on arrival, a fine scene designer at Eagles Mere Summer Repertory Theatre in the Sixties, and a Broadway actor and dancer for a decade or so, as well as teaching acting for a while.  He remains fierce and independent.  He and his spouse, Joey Patton, also a Broadway musical actor, maintain homes in both Manhattan and Pennsylvania.


Sunday, March 01, 2015

TWO "NOW-WHAT" PROBLEMS


I’m confronted by two problems, one a problem of what to do with my blogging as a form of publication and the other is a problem of the content that I present on this blog space.  I’ve been using blogspot ( my computer insists on changing it to the word to “bloodspot” and I’m tempted to make something out of that, but it would not be about the evidence of a murder -- which is a MAJOR temptation -- but rather about circulation, getting ideas out there to people who care about them.  I don't write about sex out of porn-mind, but because it is a fascinating human drive that is being changed swiftly and radically by the invention of things like the Pill for contraception, the pill to turn on male performance, the laws about marriage, children, and thus property ownership, and even the nature of sexual identity.  Doctors have always known that some children are born intra-sex -- not quite one and not quite the other.  It's not just autism that's a spectrum.  Maybe nothing is truly dyadic.  We go from taboo to parody to camp to accommodation.

The other problem is that of content.  It’s clear to me that my idea-life has been an entwining of economics and empathy (jobs and affinities), going back to my beginnings as a human being and proceeding through my experience, predilections and education ever since.  That is, I was very attached to the world of natural history and the world of books from early on.  Then I went to dramatics which instilled me with the Antigone principle, which is that it is better to lose your life (like a soldier) in order to risk defending what is good and true (as well as you can know it and even if that puts you in danger) than to conform.  This was not the principle of any church I attended.  It was the ethic of the theatre people I tried acting with.

Then I went to the Blackfeet Reservation where survival was always in question, partly from self-destruction.  As well as teaching, I worked alongside them, learned their physical world -- this high prairie -- and shared much.  Then I had to return to Portland, my home town, where as a  county deputy specializing in animal problems I went from house to house in all of SE Portland, seeing other lives in situ.  That included all the animals and everyone’s “habitat.”  I found the Unitarian Universalist Association which purported to represent the Antigone principle, and thought it did, but it did not.  I went to the U of Chicago Div School hoping to find out what I was missing, but I didn’t find it there -- just better ways to think about Antigone.



Back to Portland where my family was ending, leaving me with a huge set of records of all this stuff.  By now I’m post-family, post-religion, post-institutions of all kinds.  But I have the Internet and time, Beautiful Time, to process it all.  I don't know how much time.

In a small town I can see that capitalism is deforming to both place and person.  What comes after capitalism?   My father, with roots in the great prairie revolution on both sides of the American/Canadian border, committed his life to the cooperative movement.  That meshed with Rodale’s thinking about how to live: ecology, simplicity and localism driven in by the Great Depression.  This in turn leads into one part of the 1970’s idealistic refocusing of living in communes, growing one’s own food, giving the arts high value.  There is another branch that resents all authoritarianism, mocks all definitions of sin, and explores boundarylessness.  I never got into it and, in fact, those folks won’t have me.  I just don’t have the chops for the dark side of the street.  But I do have a lot of empathy for it.  I do not find them valueless.

So I’ve been thinking these order-making things have been kind of exhausted:  churches, rural life, cooperatives, and capitalism.  As capitalism becomes less practical (too many people are thrown out of their lives onto the streets), I become more distressed.  The liberal movements I know (which are all rooted in economic well-being and high education) become more irrelevant and almost punishing, though their t-shirts proclaim “love.”  Their idea of justice is entitlement.  “I have a right to . . .” fill in the blank.  They are only interested in lesser beings they can patronize and "help."


So this morning, still obsessing about what I’m discovering about Social Media, which is that consumers are only high school writ large, I stumble onto Jeremy Rifkin.  Specifically, this vid.


The story begins with empathy, the capacity to feel what others are feeling -- maybe a little more faintly, but truly in the brain cells.  (I’ve been riveted by the research on mirror cells, identity, memory, and what Stanislavski -- way back in my late Fifty’s acting training  -- called “the Method.”)  Says Rifkin, this gives rise to the drive to belong -- which is surely what held me with that theatre cohort -- which then begins to question the nature of one’s self, unless you’re playing by small town high school rules, which means you look around for the richest, prettiest, most successful people and do your best to be just like them.  It’s tribal.

And that means solidarity, like joining a church and marching for causes wearing your t-shirt, and always insisting that you and your tribe are the BEST, NUMBER ONE.  The person survives the humbling experience of leaving home only to discover that there are thousands and millions of others just as good as you and maybe better.  The local kids tend to come home at that point. Or maybe one attaches to a survivor, or one looks around for some way to stun oneself into submission:  sex, booze, drugs, television . . .   


If you do NOT do that, you may find yourself empathizing with others, maybe through the arts: music, painting, film, books.  If education has not espaliered you into robotic usefulness and if you are lucky enough to land in a job where empathy is rewarded instead of suppressed, you will become civilized, a member of Rifkin’s new race:  Homo Empaticus.

Where Rifkin goes wrong, which may only be strategic on his part, is in thinking that religion will encourage a shift to a far larger understanding of your short and fragile life as one strand in a fabulous tapestry of existence.  In my experience, based on the Antigone Principle, the institution of “church” is the cave where Creon walls up Antigone to die.  Church is just another aspect of capitalistic capture, though they vary across a spectrum.  Schools, also, pursue the same ends.  I receive a constant barrage of pleas for money though I am a penniless, solitary old woman in a house so valueless that I hardly pay taxes, because it is assumed that they opened the door to wealth -- they can't grasp that I might not choose to go through.  The local schools teach kids to obey, their school boards constantly de-fund everything that’s artistic, speculative, edgy and put ever more money into sports that literally de-brain them and destroy their knees.  Sports is their religion: their icons, self-worth, moral principles.  Win. Win. Win. Not for the boys.  For the big-bellies in the offices.


Empathically, I understand that this is an expression of fear, isolation, and constricting tribalism (of any color) including allegiance to genetic family.  Around here we still believe in race and inheritance.  We think we are Roundup Ready and that when the ultimate domination (Winter is coming!) finally catches up with us, we can only be safe in a bunker with all the best people.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcPWU59Luoc  Here’s an antidote.  Or is it?  Isn’t this just another bunker?  Rather splendid, though.




Saturday, February 28, 2015

RELIGION IS NOT CHURCH




We get into so many dead end arguments about religion -- generally ending in either violence or ostracism because we consistently start at the wrong end:  the end of the formal institution rather than at the other extreme, which is the emergent meanings of people interacting with the world.

Institutions have only one faith, one demand, one principle, always the same: the perpetuation of themselves.  Beginning with small groups who share a point of view, the origination development path proceeds through buying property (declaring it sacred) and hiring specialists (often granting them “supernatural” power), excluding dissenters (heretics), gathering power through legal status that gives exemptions in exchange for endorsements, and finally justifying war.  The newest wrinkle is claiming to be a virtual person.  Not an iconic person like Jesus or Buddha or Mohammed, but a virtual person, institutional and corporate, with all the rights and entitlements of an actual human being.  At the same time, persons who are not IN the institution are considered non-persons -- animals.


Its helpful to reflect in the terms of "Game of Thrones."  The naked self-perpetuating institution clothes itself in theologies drawn from the local ecology: sky theologies in the desert, tree theologies in the forests, bison valorized on the prairie, axolotl connected to the god of deformations and death -- Xolotl in the Aztec underworld imagery.  The most clever institutions hold up the human family -- sons and kings and virtuous mothers -- because that part of the ecology is always with us.  Hard to explain a tiger salamander to an Inuit, though he’d have no trouble with an Irish selkie who was his mother and disappeared.

"This is the forest primeval."

The evolutionary point of all this is simply survival, but on two levels:  if the survival is meant to save the individual, that’s quite different from survival of the group.  For the individual, abortion or killing is sometimes survival.  For the group, anything that diminishes the total number of members is a threat to survival.  The sin/evil/heresy labels are assigned accordingly: no abortion, no birth control, no morning-after pill, no infanticide except by neglect and poverty.  Kill only "others" or those who break the succession of power.  The civil laws follow the religious thinking, because a civil society cannot afford dissension because it breaks the illusion of consensus that are constitutions and laws. 

But now we realize that the survival of ourselves and other species may depend upon reducing the number of people consuming resources.  How can global religions dependent upon birth as a sacred event respond without revealing that they are derived from different circumstances, different times?  Of course, if there is a major population die-off of humans (pandemic, famine), producing children will be highly relevant again.

She is not virginal -- simply childless.
Thus powerful like Elizabeth I, not II.

The more powerful and protective a nation is, the more patriotism it can muster, the more it becomes a religious institution itself.  If it is destructive and oppressive, or simply chaotic and ineffective, it will trigger movements from both inside and outside that will struggle to replace or control it.  This is the principle of “Game of Thrones.”  The dragons are only window-dressing.  The real power is Daenarys as what a mother is supposed to be, dressed in Della Robbia blue robes.  She’s Pinocchio’s fairy godmother, Dorothy’s Glinda the Good Witch.  In the end she is the only kind of survival that MUST survive because otherwise there will be no babies and there must be SOME.  Same with Gillie.  Violence and strategy are all very well, but in the end there is either creation or transformation or extinction.  Those are the real options of power.

The Catholic church, the Jewish diaspora, the Buddhists, the Amish and so on all know this.  At their best, they guard the basics and discard the irrelevancies.  The Blackfeet are just now trying to understand what is basic and what is irrelevant.  I’m working on myself.  The USA is having a very hard time with it, but remember that Daenarys comes from the most primitive and harsh kingdom. When she steps into the fire, she is purified enough to walk on into the future.  Otherwise, her people would be ended but, like Jesus, she frees the slaves and gains a population.  (India needs to think again -- burning 25,000 women a year won't work.)


So if we want to imitate George W.W. Martin, how do we develop our own philosophical/ecological understanding and where does it come from?  Some is inherited from the great anthropological and literary ransacking of the planet, of course.  Maybe some is from today’s dragon eggs: science as it cracks open the genome, the cosmos, and the paleo-past.  Some of it will be forced upon a person by assumptions from history and family and their genealogies, the locale of your childhood -- which may be multiple -- and the extent of your schooling.  Much will depend on what generation you are.

But the point is that spiritual meaning -- as opposed to institutional meaning -- is EMERGENT.  It doesn’t drop down from the sky, but climbs up from your bowels to your throat and bursts out as song.  It is a relationship with the universe that gives you something to put in your hand, whether a sword, a flag, a cup, a ring, or another human hand.  Possibly a paw.  Some like -- oh, you know -- roses -- but the Inuit hold bones.


You should wander a while, then sit.  You might end up on an outcropping, or floating in a spaceship or at a keyboard, trying to remember to get up and walk around now and then.  Probably not a throne of swords.  Anyway, that bit of furniture is occupied as usual.  (Putin squats there now.)  Maybe you’ll take a seat on an old unmaintained bus on a narrow high road and unsurvivably crash.  Them’s the breaks.  Or lack of brakes.  Living forever is not possible on this planet.  You could have been in the one-fifth of conceptions that barely get past implantation -- not even a zygote before they are resorbed.

Attending a church, joining a denomination, is not necessary for accessing the deep meaning we call “spiritual.”  It wells up now and then, sometimes with no warning and with no message except “you are here.”  It’s not so much the next step in evolution but in the skillful management of the brains we already have so as to step outside our assumptions without freaking.  It is not denying formal religions, but reaching back through them to their creations.  This is the way the brain itself works: the prefrontal cortex reaching back through the limbic brain and the reptile brain, until it grips the spine.

Inuit Shaman Mask

Friday, February 27, 2015

WHEN DOES MY LIFE BEGIN?

I suppose the "trope" of waiting for a letter from a sweetheart doesn't work anymore.  In the first place it was a sort of war-time preoccupation.  In the second place today's communication is via electronic device, which means a constant stream of instant gratification.  In the third place this is a rural photo and no one lives in the country anymore.  In the fourth place people who are coupled up just move in together.  There is no moment of decision to enter "adult life" together, just a matter of one's possessions being moved gradually into the better living accommodations.  Of course, since most of what one owns these days is music and the music can be electronic, then there's no awkward moment of moving out when the albums must be sorted.  Pets are kind of a breaking point, but it's not as though they're actual livestock.


This is my mother in Roseburg, Oregon, a timber town.  She is one of three daughters who were supposed to be boys, but their father claimed they were "just as good" as boys.  (He came from a family-based construction firm of all boys that built the massive dairy barns of the NW at the time.)
There were originally four girls, one of whom was killed in a car accident as a teenager.  This the father handled by declaring that the family would simply pretend she was still alive.  He was not a man who valued reality.  Maybe it was because of his temperament which some would claim was Irish, though others would point out his family was in Kentucky hill country for several generations.


Approaching thirty and still not spotting anyone worthy, my mother made the best of it by becoming a force in the Business and Professional Women's Club.  She sang in the Presbyterian choir (her father's church -- her mother was Baptist) where she attracted the attention of a traveling wool-buyer, my father who was an atheist (he would willingly tell you) but attended church to watch my mother sing.


My father wooed my mother by offering her a house in the big city of Portland, where she had the idea he understood all about culture and politics.  His family did attend a lot of lectures and were major library users beside buying books.  They were quiet people.  But making bread is about the same everywhere.  This kitchen was nothing like what contemporary women expect.  It had a little "cooler," a cupboard with a screened window to the outside, and an ironing board lowered from inside one wall.  

Mama and Paul

Then the babies began to come and that made it all worthwhile, esp. when the second one was a boy.  But there were supposed to be two children.  The third, another boy, wasn't planned, but once arrived was a real charmer.  Still . . . one-third more cost, more effort, more space needed -- my father didn't rise to the challenge.

Lou and Beck

The two oldest girls were close.   (Lucy, called "Lou,"and her sister, called "Beck" for Becky though her real name was Vera.  She had read "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" and was so struck by it that she renamed herself.)  Beck became an RN, trained at the early version of OHSU in Portland, so was often around in the early years of the marriage.  There was a lively on-going debate among the sisters about what a woman's life ought to be.  Lou was the big sister who took care of everyone and ran head-to-head with her father; Beck was liberated and ready for adventure; Allie married her high school sweetheart and worked hard as a sheep-rancher's wife.  She had three little girls, including a set of twins, but on the ranch three were as easy to manage as two.  

Beck was head nurse in the surgery at a Great Falls Hospital when WWII broke out.  She joined up and was stationed in Oxford and Rheims.  She was not a literary woman, but she sent us English storybooks and a French lamp with a silk shade.  When she came back, she married her sister's husband's brother and accepted that life, having four children that included another set of twins but only one girl.  Her health was not good and it didn't help to be a nurse because she tinkered all the time and took docs too seriously.  (My mother's opinion.)

May, Beulah and Lucy.  (They never called her Lou.)

My mother married a man with two big healthy brothers, figuring that they knew how to prosper and it would be safe.  She loved her mother-in-law, though her father-in-law was the one who really clicked with her.  He admired her brains.  Her sister-in-law was beautiful, a bit of a princess though not afraid of hard work, and tightly bonded to her mother.  My mother's efforts to guide everyone were not very welcome.

Ethel Grace Cochran Pinkerton

My mother's mother was a gentle woman, dependent on her fiery husband and a dependable guidance for her four ringleted daughters.  I have her mouth and teeth but not her excellent hair.  She was from a prosperous family (Cochran) and married "down."  Her mother died very young (childbirth infection) and her stepmother was not cherishing or protective.  As an older teen, she was sent to Portland to live with a family friend while all her teeth were pulled and replaced with dentures.  My mother did the same thing about the time her third child arrived.  One of the last things I did for my comatose dying mother was to pry her false teeth out and put them aside.  My own teeth have been saved by constant dentistry.  

Her name was Ethel Grace and my father's mother's name was Beulah.  My mother used to tease me by saying she had originally intended to name me for the two grandmothers:  "Ethel Beulah" or "Beulah Ethel."  Instead I was sort of slantwise named for my father's sister and my mother's dead sister.  

Great Grandpa Cochran

This is my mother's mother's father, my great-grandfather Cochran, holding myself.  This was a bit of family healing, presenting the first grandchild as a sign that old resentments were over and the family generations would go on.  This man was wealthy, proud, a pioneer in Oregon's history.


Mothers should never do this, but the need to feed everyone (or in this case offer water) is strong, along with the temptation to show how brave you are.  It was a small black bear, probably had cubs, and should not have been mooching along the road.  Today it would be driven off with noise and rubber bullets, or simply be shot.


My father's job was circulating among farm communities in the NW to promote Pacific Supply Cooperative and their wholesale products to be sold by small local co-ops.  He also did a certain amount of untangling of organizational problems.  In the photo above he has been pushing a new petroleum by-product, wax, and had persuaded my mother to demonstrate how to make novelty candles so that farm wives would buy wax.  If you saw this audience from behind, photos demonstrate, you would see that the town was so small that there was only one hair-dresser, who gave everyone the same pin-curled  hairdo.  My mother therefore was also demonstrating a short haircut topped with a beret.  

The actual candle she holding is an "Easter egg" made by dipping a water balloon into melted wax and then cut to make a jagged edge which was given a glitter rim.  You had to add a birthday candle to light it.  It was interesting that most of the candles were Christian themed: Easter, Christmas.  I don't remember any Fourth of July candles.


This jolly little group was only one of the organizations my mother belonged to.  It took me a while to figure out who these women were.  Finally I recognized the sweet older lady in front, Mrs. McPherson, my 4H sewing class instructor and a professional seamstress.  So these were 4H leaders entertaining themselves with a contest to see who could make the most fetching hat out of things found in a kitchen. I think my mother won.  I'm sure she tried to.  I would.

If you think all this is trivial and personal,  read this:

But it all stopped with me: NO children.  I thought.  It turns out that other people's children come to find you and fill up the spaces.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE, ALL AROUND THE TOWN

Winter in East Glacier

This time of year in East Glacier things used to get a little, um, exciting.  I’m talking about the post WWII years.  You could read some of the stories in “Dream Chasers of the West” by B.L. Wettstein, (2006, Riverbend Publishing), although the author is writing about the WWI years.  It was so primitive in those days that Clara Augusta Miller Smiley, who had already homesteaded in Minnesota, was repeating the feat in a cabin that could only be reached by jumping off the train when it slowed down to go uphill around a curve.  Not from a boxcar, but from the coach, because there was no depot and no dependable road.  Even when Clara came home from the hospital with her new baby, the only way to get it home in winter with the road drifted shut was to throw the infant off the train into the arms of a dependable man.  The bright side was that if he missed, the snowdrifts would cushion the baby’s fall.  Today you can see that place from the Marias Pass Highway #2 just before you get to Summit. The buildings are gone, I guess.  In old age she moved into East Glacier and her buildings became the Brown House, a pottery shop and bed and breakfast.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g45152-d615664-Reviews-The_Brown_House-East_Glacier_Park_Montana.html

East Glacier is not the same as West Glacier, but they are both born of the enterprises of James J. Hill, Jr, and therefore children of the railroad. The sibs are nothing alike.  East Glacier can be one helluva bleak place in winter, even now, though the Browning teachers often live up there these days.  I rented a house there in the spring of 1971, a two-story yellow house built in the Thirties that I dearly loved, not least because I had just survived a divorce and a winter in our little ranch house on Two Medicine River which I also dearly loved.  But then I’m a nester -- luckily, a serial nester.

The viaduct underpass

East Glacier is bisected by the railroad.  The train only stops there in the summer because it is the feeder for the Big Hotel which is only open in the summer.  There is only one way to cross from the mountain side of town to the highway side and in a really fierce winter (and the one in 1972-73 was worse than this one -- ask the weather stat people) the crossing viaduct under the train tracks can be problematic.  That year, the sewer, which runs under the road, froze, broke, and filled the road with steaming water that instantly froze onto the undercarriage of any vehicle that ventured across it.

Brownie's

In the Fifties when everyone was already dislocated and forced out of their familiar conventional patterns, one side of town would get into a sort of enmeshed quarrel with the other side.  They stole each other’s wives, ran up too-high bills, neglected their children, and -- well, drank too much.  That’s when the two sides are rumored to attempt to burn each other out, though it might be that things just got over-heated in several senses.  Thus there had to be two grocery stores:  “Brownies” in the bottom of an old log dormitory built to shelter the railroad construction workers and “Krska’s” or the “Glacier Park Trading Company.”   They survive today, though “Brownies” is now a youth hostel upstairs and a very rewarding bakery downstairs.  In the old days no Brownie’s customer would trade at Krska’s unless he gotten into a fight on the mountain side of the tracks, nor would any of Krska’s people trade at Brownies unless his wife had run off with someone on his own side.

Krska's

In the Seventies when I was divorced, there was financial trouble and population shrinkage all along the High Line.  Major changes were underway in Browning, the capital of the Blackfeet Reservation.  One was subsidized housing projects which caused the little old houses, like the ones I had lived in, to be demolished.  Moccasin Flats was partly demolished and partly sort of overbuilt so the little log cabins were crowded among newer buildings.  This meant that the white teachers had to find housing in East Glacier.  Until then, the Board would fire them unless they lived in town or on a family ranch.

The other dynamic that stretched along Highway #2 to the east was businesses that had been founded in the boom after WWII when veterans returned to start small businesses and marry Indian ranch women who were enrolled and nicely situated.  These were big handsome white guys with real world experience.  Their mixed-blood children have become major leaders in the half-century since then.  But in the Seventies the parent generation was aging, wanting to retire, selling out, or -- the saddest aspect -- running their businesses to failure because no one would buy them.  That is, they stopped maintaining buildings and inventories, let their tax bills run up, discovered that their children would not stay, and -- well, began drinking too much.  When I came to Browning to teach in 1961, Joe Lewis’ cafe was one of the nicest in town.  Now it is Ick’s, a source of abusable substances and street quarrels.  The image of Napi that Al Racine painted on the wall of the building is still there, but he ain’t eatin‘ no short stack no more. 

Great Northern Railroad, paralleling Highway #2

Things are a little better in Valier, so some rez folks are moving here.  It’s just off the rez so teachers can live here and still teach in Heart Butte.  There is no equivalent to Ick’s, at least where anyone can detect it.  In fact, this time the running to failure is more like consolidating the wealth.  The prosperous ranchers don’t live in town, but own town businesses, often collecting the better ones into the strongest families.  The rich get richer and the poor just hang on.  The churches can’t support a local minister, but protect their buildings.  Ministers and priests travel among three or four congregations, which is what I did in the Eighties.  The bars ran to failure.  Gone.  A few other businesses begin to struggle.

Bob divorced me in the fall of 1970 but I just ignored him for a while.  I was too confused to make decisions, though I’d asked him to get the divorce because he was terrified that I would divorce him and be able to take all his money.  He had bought a little ranch on Two Medicine, a couple of miles from the highway, so I went out there for the winter to let my head clear.  It was a thistle-and-gravel ranch since the flood of 1964 removed all the topsoil, but our horses were fine with that.  Their biggest problem was boredom  -- excluding hay, of course -- which they resolved by watching me move around in the house.  When I went from kitchen to front room, there were thundering hooves outside while they raced around to the window on that side.  Reality TV.   In spring I went back to teaching and moved to East Glacier.

Three developments happened without me really noticing.  One was that the alcoholic woman who took a run at Bob after his second divorce but didn't get anywhere, did better this time.  He was aging.  She moved right in with him and ended up being the fourth wife by common law, the widow.  The second was that the big rodeo series, which I had helped develop and cast, sold as a complete series to the Calgary Stampede or its collateral investors.  It was a LOT of money, enough to buy the Flatiron Ranch.  The third was that the divorce law changed in Montana and was far more generous to wives as well as including common-law wives.  But I just ignored all that.  I wanted a graduate degree and went back to Portland.  People around here were baffled -- one’s CHILDREN went to college and what the hell was a grad school anyway?  Was it worth money?

Flatiron Ranch

Since then Browning has gained a tribal community college.  Valier has a booming library, looking at expansion.  More and more people not only own computers but can operate them, which means that a lot of what happens is invisible, underground, unmonitored except by the internet megamedia.  The sheriff has proceeded upwards to being a county commissioner, our best deputy has left his job, and I don’t know about the other law officers (border patrol, homeland security) who live in town.  We’re not as secure as we were for a while.  The expected boom in housing that was supposed to follow frakking has gone out with the tide, the wind farm somehow doesn’t seem to be connected to us, and the water rights that sustain wheat farming are threatened by the activation of sovereign rights the rez had all along, but never developed.

People are scared.  They act badly.  They fort up and cocoon.  East Glacier still does that, too, but -- maybe because of the tourist summers -- they tend to lean to the left instead of the right and that’s all the difference.  What both communities have in common is that they know sex is fun but money means a lot more.  In the half-century since I came, that has seemed to be about right.  Not so many drink too much, but some have turned to drugs of one kind or another.  Or are hooked on bodice-ripper romance.



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

AT THE RISK OF MY BLOG. . .

Do not read this unless you think Google will approve.

On August 2, 2013, I wrote a blog called “What’s So Bad About Rape?”  The main illustration was a Dolce and Gabbana advertisement of a man holding a woman down while three men stood by watching, possibly waiting.  There was a certain amount of nudity but everyone was “pretty.”  The other images were not quite so suggestive, though there was one in which a man was being restrained by a crowd of men.

This was my pay-off bottom line:

RAPE IS ONLY ONE WAY -- ALBEIT ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL AND DESTRUCTIVE WAYS -- TO INVADE THE INTIMACY OF ANOTHER HUMAN BEING, BECAUSE IT REMOVES MEANING, WHICH IS VITAL TO SURVIVAL.

So just recently a commenter asked me why the media thinks that a woman being thrown down and raped in an alley by a stranger is worse than a man being thrown down in the same alley, beaten into critical condition, knifed, paralyzed for life, etc.  The person doesn’t ask for a pure moral judgment but asks a straightforward question about the way people react.  The commenter does not seem to realize that a man can be raped or that a raped woman might also be beaten, knifed, paralyzed etc.  But that’s not what he asked -- he asked about the way the media differently weights the two events.

The post was essentially a list.  Part of it came from a friend who counsels violent rapists in prison: not to make them feel better about it, but to help them figure out what inner maelstrom or arrogance is motivating them so they’ll stop.  I’ll make another list.

First, I want to note that this inquirer is not gender-identified, age-identified, or, let’s say, “education-identified.”  Following are things to think about.

1.  Either males or females can be raped.  Physiology for both requires lubrication.  Rapists do not normally carry K-Y jelly.  Rape without lube means torn flesh. Rape is access to viscera which are vulnerable.

2.  Raped men can be aroused as easily as raped women.  It is a deep reflex, unconscious, not related to pleasure, often related to violence and death.

3.  All rapes are by definition violent and unwanted.  In a culture defined by pride in one’s individual flesh and immediate space, it is not just physical and not just moral, but also a sanity invasion, forcing the surrender of personal identity.  The brain and nervous system is deeply confused, scrambled, traumatized esp. in an inexperienced person, which is why the idea of raping nuns and children is powerful.  Not just a physical event or even a destruction of innocence, but an attempt to destroy what makes us human.  (For the rapist as well, but they don’t get that.)

4.  Rape is a formally defined war and terrorism weapon.  It is dominance behavior.  War is arousing.  Part of the arousal is terror, contempt, rage.  Playing rape for the sake of arousal is often defended if it is done with consent, but it’s risky business in more than one way.

5.  Part of the confusion about rape is that “statutory rape” is possibly with consent and even real desire, so it’s wanted coitus.  What’s the problem? One is the possibility of conception if it is a female being raped, which is a physical burden she will have to carry as well as a psychological problem as well as a social problem she will have to manage: like how to get a good education, where to find the money for a baby, managing stigma.  In many states if she wants an abortion she will have to find the money to travel to a clinic, maybe a long ways, because there are some people who believe that punishment makes problems disappear.  All for “love.”  In some countries the problem of dealing with a rape victim is solved by killing the victim.  Her family does it.

6. HIV/AIDS is not equivalent to pregnancy.  It cannot be aborted.  It will be far far more expensive than birthing and raising a child.  HIV/AIDS will be contagious.  For the rest of one’s life it means a formal regime that will only keep one healthy with medication IF a schedule is followed, one that means weekly travel which -- in a northern climate in a remote place -- can be life-threatening in itself, requiring constant medical monitoring and invasion, that is simply unpleasant --  the meds are not exactly aspirin.  Only one-third of people in any circumstances who have this disease will have the self-discipline and determination to follow the regime.  But that’s no different from, say, diabetes or the tissue-rejection meds after a transplant.

7.  Self-discipline is a skill.  It is not a moral issue nor a psychological issue -- which it becomes in our authority-defiant society -- but a learned self-management that cannot be acquired from authority-figures imposing monitoring like a parent making you get up in the morning or do your homework.

8.  Historically women and children were “owned” by men the same as if they were horses.  They were domestic animals.  Their labor, their bodies, their ability to produce more humans which would add to the man’s wealth, all belonged to the man.  This conviction still persists and may be part of the reason men rape their own children.  They think they are entitled by ownership.  The women and children “belong” to them and therefore must obey them the same as a horse would have to.  Since rape is a benefit of owning someone, then a stranger who “uses” them is the same as a thief stealing money.  It’s interesting that often the most prudish men are the ones who find money the highest value in their practical lives.  Not sex.

9.  Until recently matters involving sex were hushed up by newspapers.  Now that the internet has enlightened us, the other media can also finally let us know the particulars, the proper terms, and the estimated pervasiveness of problems.  As when Kinsey discovered “men having sex with men” and even homosexual intercourse in stable relationships, we are hearing statistics like 20%, one in three, and even higher figures about sexually abused children, physically invaded women -- so common and accepted that people like Joe Biden and George Bush don’t hesitate to put their hands on women at public, high status, formal, diplomatically significant events monitored by cameras, microphones, and many attendants.  The conclusion has to be that keeping everything secret did NOT persuade people not to put beans up other people’s noses.  Rather it seems to have taught them that everything is as innocent as the ball pit at McDonalds.  But ignorance is not even good for children, who must be taught to keep balls where they belong.

10.  This does not exhaust the topic but it exhausts the writer.  I have a strong suspicion that Google is pursuing what I’ll call the Obama boomerang strategy.  When you are constantly criticized for something hard to defend but which yields a nice profit, if you comply with whatever it is that the controllers want to control, the calculated outcry from the other side may intensify so much that they will provide all the arguments and ammunition that would be useless if they came from you.  Pretty soon the critics will be overwhelmed and have to withdraw.  I certainly hope that’s the case with this sudden moral turn Google has taken.

Oh, and what about Wikipedia?  Isn’t that our marker for what the People know?  Think of something sexual so extreme you don’t know what the term for it means, look on Wikipedia and you’re likely to find a detailed description and a photo.  

And isn’t censorship a form of rape in the sense of wanting to own for profit, take identity where it doesn’t want to go?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

DO YOU KNOW YOUR UNCLE REMUS STORIES?

UNCLE REMUS is from the rabbit stories of Africa, as reframed in the southern US.  They're trickster stories, like the Blackfeet Napi.  I have two favorites.

The story of the tar baby, which I suppose you can't call that nowadays since the "tar" part came from this baby being black.  Maybe you could call it the "pitch baby" which is also sticky.  The point is that this sticky little fellow is left out where Br'er Rabbit comes to it.  Br'er Rabbit is kind of irrepressible (I identify with him) and greets the baby.  'Course the baby don't reply.  Br'er Rabbit keeps coaxing for a while, then loses his temper and socks him.  'Course he sticks to that rude baby.  So he hits him with the other fist and kicks and . . .  I forget how he gets loose.

Well, Google is my tar baby.  I've been trying for an hour to get loose from this little function and that supposedly existing delete.  I've managed to dump some blogs but not yet the things like the "reading list."  I've looked at directions and forums but pieces of the puzzle are just missing.  I don't think that's an accident.  Google has been slippery from the beginning, like when I signed up for advertising payments, but all I got was a card that said I could have $100 of advertising on other people's blogs.  It's so very easy to start a blog.  But then you hit what some people call "the Nudge" and others call "architectural guidance."  A locked door.

Google + is a little harder, but I never could tell whether I were in or out anyway.  I haven't found a story to match that.

The story I like best is when Br'er Fox did indeed manage to get his paws on that rabbit.  Right away the hoppy critter started saying,  "Oh, Br'er Fox, I know you're intending to eat me and I say go right ahead and do it.  Just don't throw me in that there briar patch over there.  I'd just suffer so much if you threw me into that briar patch."

So Br'er Fox began to get the idea that it would be more fun to throw Br'er Rabbit in that briar patch than to eat him after all.  So against the rabbit's screams of protest, that's just what he did!  Wheeeee!  Br'er Rabbit went sailing right into the thickest part of the middle of that huge welter of thorny bushes.

Br'er waits to see if he can hear a thud, but there isn't any.  Instead there's a whistle, and Br'er Rabbit bounces up through a hole in the top of all that impenetrable thorny stuff.  "Thank you, Br'er Fox!  Thank you very much!  I was born and bred in a briar patch, Br'er Fox.  It's my favorite place!"

Foiled again, is Br'er fox.  Saved again, is Br'er Rabbit.

And Google?  It never was born, never was bred, is now being shredded a bit at a time by its own hubris.

I suppose this is probably a little too explicit for them.

In the past, community morality has been a guide to what is or is not objectionable.  In Portland, the prudes went to court to bring down "Deep Throat" which had been running for three years without objection.  The court said that was clearly an indication that no one gave a shrug about it.  It wasn't even a very good movie.  (I know because I went to see it.)  So I reckon, that means "Game of Thrones" is the limit of what the internet can show.  Meaning lots of naked women but no pricks.

Uncle Remus, he laughed and laughed.  But I'm still mad.