Saturday, December 16, 2017

THE VIRAL CAT STORY


A story written by this woman, Kristen Roupenian, was printed in The New Yorker and went viral.

This is her first story in the New Yorker and she is at work on her first novel.  No one really expected this story to take off and there is much speculation about why it did.  This post is a true "blog" (web log) linking my investigation results.

It's interesting that the cats chosen for illustration of the reviews reflect the assumptions of the reviewer.


Fat cats are greedy and narcissistic.


Knowing a cat intimately means eye contact.


This modern liberated story demands an avant garde furless cat.

The kicker is that there is no cat in the story.  It's just about a college girl who lets an "older man" (mid-thirties -- is that even middle aged?) pick her up online and how it turns out.  She must be the cat: wandering, opportunistic, curious, intermittently fond, more attached to peers than parents.  We read her opinion of this man, quite frank and critical.  In fact, a little scary.

I kept thinking about Mary McCarthy's novel, "The Group," shocking at the time.  Privileged girls were more privileged then and we were curious.  I went to college with these types, but was teaching in Browning when I read it.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Group_(novel)

Here's a link to the cat-person story

Here's a link to the author explaining how the story came about.

And here's what I think was behind this story by Roupenian, the fantasy in both people's heads as outlined in our archetypal pheromone-based metaphor for sex:  men's perfume ads.  Except that the point of the story is that it IS fantasy.

The reviews are then like this purportedly "frame-breaking" vid of the making of the fantasy vid -- which actually only extends the vid a little longer.

Treisman, for her part (She’s the fiction editor at the New Yorker), seemed as surprised as anyone by the story’s burst of popularity ― and she couldn’t put her finger on how to replicate it with future works of fiction. “In terms of the way that word spreads through social media,” she said, “that’s still something of a novelty to me at least. I’m not sure how to game it.”  (My emphasis.)  There’s the tip-off of the publisher’s point of view: the gaming point of view.  She offers the example of another sexy “poem” story that went viral, not actually that different but frankly announced as rape.

Many commenters noted that these two stories have a resonance to them now that #metoo is piling up and up.  The hope of glamour and the "deus ex machina" Jane Austen trick of a rich honorable man pulling you out of the typing pool or the adjunct faculty scramble is debunked in these stories.

What they're not saying is that if you choose well, it can work for a single unattached woman; but then only if she can handle the worst consequence which is, as they inelegantly say, "slut-shaming."  Or a bad marriage, hard to escape.  

This essay link takes on the question of whether this story really happened.  I was a little shocked that the author didn't think of The New Yorker as a mag that publishes fiction.

If you were hoping for XXX stuff, here you go.  I didn't read any of it, so I have no opinion.  Use your own judgement.

In a world where this is more or less mainstream, where are the boundaries?  This "Vice" article is more like promotion or consumer research -- anything goes.  But I take the cat story as being the description of one boundary: the "ick" factor in a Dizneyfied commercial world.  Where is the fabulous bed?  (A major requirement for fantasy sex.)  What if this mattress on the floor is unmade, with dirty sheets and real cats who sit up yawning and yowling when "Daddy" comes home?

It's not the fact of sex that forms the boundary in this story, since the cat-girl has already casually been to bed with friends.  It's not the age difference.  It's the aesthetics.


Friday, December 15, 2017

THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD

Actually, Hyacinth

The narcissism of volunteer heroes is not directly selfish, unless you’re sophomoric enough to say, for instance, that people make gifts for their own satisfaction and not to please the receiver.  But do the White Helmets who pull people out of rubble do such a dangerous thing in order to be admired?

We hear a lot about narcissism in terms of selfishness, self-admiration that pushes aside everyone else and demands what it wants.  But I couldn’t think of a variation on the Narcissus story, a different version of the youth who tries to save others, even at his expense.  Of course, this is a thing that women — as preparation for motherhood — are expected to do.  Preventing or aborting dependence on themselves from others is considered unnatural, a toxic sort of narcissism.  If Echo, who in the myth is the female figure devoted to Narcissus, falls into the pool and begins to drown, will Narcissus jump in to save her or will he turn away, complaining that she is ruining his reflection?

Echo

We don’t hear about whether Echo, out there in the brush alone watching Narcissus, might starve or die of the cold or maybe even die from lack of attention.  Or is she so well-fed by this meditation on another being — love, sweet love — that she thrives, radiant with the sweetness?  It’s wonderful fun to take these old stories that live so deeply in us and our culture and rework them into something new.

Here’s a thought:  all toddlers are echoes of the adults around them.  This link below is a nice discussion of the attempts of little ones to figure out what to do.  Their “bad” behavior meltdowns is often due to frustration.  Maybe they need explanation more than punishment.  The best explanations are stories.


So Narcissus is looking at his own smooth face and hyacinthine curls in the mirror of the pool when a little face appears at his shoulder and he feels a small hand there.  They look at their reflections together and the similarity creates a new concept:  “we.”  Now Narcissus has a new feeling, the effort to save this child because he has a special empathy for the little one.  (Echo smiles.)  But what if he doesn’t?  The child may feel it must take care of Narcissus, so he will let the child stay there.

Now I’m changing to a new story source:  Terrytoons as interpreted by the Black Lodge Singers, a drum group that is a genetic family with Kenny Scabby Robe as grandfather-leader.  This is not just a story, but a song, so I’ll put here a link to it on YouTube.

Narcissus considers being Mighty Mouse.  So does the toddler beside him.  Adults are Mighty Mouse for children;  children look for Mighty Mouse among the adults.  If Mighty Mouse comes home drunk and beats little kids, then he’s not Mighty Mouse.  So the little kid tries to be the Mighty Mouse that can fix this.  It could be called narcissism because the child takes it all on himself, in the way a parent would, but this is not about any pretty flower.  This is a small animal trying to survive a big animal.  

To defend the principle of survival, small children will try to act as parents for sibs, pets, and even parents.  One of the stories that haunts me is the mother who died (I forget why) and was lying on the floor.  Her toddler had brought a blanket to cover her and put a glass of water by her head, then sat down to guard her until someone found them.  Little children will intervene in family fights and get killed.

In dysfunctional families where the adults do not protect the children, the children themselves might be expected to fix things — clean house, get food somewhere.  They naturally tend to think everything is their fault and some can be crushed by guilt over feeling they caused divorce or alcoholism.  They take on the burden, trying to save everyone though they don’t have the means or even know what being “saved” might be like.  Or who is to be saved and who should be abandoned.  What I see around me is middle-class youngsters who hardly know their biological or legal parents because they are always at work, but those kids care very much about their sibs or classmates.  Sadly, their desire to help each other exceeds what they know and can really do to be effective.

Wikipedia includes this provocative paragraph:

"Narcissistic parentification occurs when a child is forced to take on the parent's idealised projection, something which encourages a compulsive perfectionism in the child at the expense of their natural development.  In a kind of pseudo-identification, the child is induced by any and all means to take on the characteristics of the parental ego ideal – a pattern that has been detected in western culture since Homer's description of the character of Achilles."  

Achilles was predicted to exceed the fame and value of his father, which might tempt his father to destroy him.  So his mother dipped him in water (some versions) or fire (other versions) to make him immortal.  Unfortunately, to do this she had to hold him by his heel so that spot, undipped, was always vulnerable, his “Achilles heel.”

Following along the reference to Achilles, I come upon surprising bits of story.  “Some post-Homeric sources claim that in order to keep Achilles safe from the war, Thetis (or, in some versions, Peleus) hid the young man at the court of Lycomedes, king of Skyros. There, Achilles is disguised as a girl and lives among Lycomedes' daughters, perhaps under the name "Pyrrha" (the red-haired girl). With Lycomedes' daughter Deidamia, whom in the account of Statius he rapes, Achilles there fathers a son, Neoptolemus (also called Pyrrhus, after his father's possible alias). 

According to this story, Odysseus learns from the prophet Calchas that the Achaeans would be unable to capture Troy without Achilles' aid. Odysseus goes to Skyros in the guise of a peddler selling women's clothes and jewelry and places a shield and spear among his goods. When Achilles instantly takes up the spear, Odysseus sees through his disguise and convinces him to join the Greek campaign. In another version of the story, Odysseus arranges for a trumpet alarm to be sounded while he was with Lycomedes' women; while the women flee in panic, Achilles prepares to defend the court, thus giving his identity away.”

What a great plotline for a novel in our gender-fluid times!  The tale winds on and on, but it is not about a child who is pressed into being a parent.  Rather it is about a childish parent who tries to force a child to be what the father cannot be.  He wants the child to be Mighty Mouse so he can be “Father of Mighty Mouse.”  A child’s efforts to fly can be deadly.  A small-town father’s insistence that his son be a football hero, because his father wanted to be but never was, resulting in brain-destroying concussions of the boy, might be a contemporary version.

This still does not get at the core of people who want to save others selflessly, without reward, even when their powers are limited and even if the “others” are both more powerful and more bent on destruction.  Is this the key story the kernel of “Star Wars”?  Could be.  Superheroes?  Political crusades?  Hmmm. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?


This longform blog, prairiemary.blogspot.com, ambles along attempting to sort out patterns in ecologies and theories, research and experience, mostly just to see where they go — for the pleasure of it.  In the first part of my almost two decades of sitting at this keyboard I've spent the time writing a book about Bob Scriver, a teacher, musician, and sculptor of Western people and animals with roots in Canada.  Though I was with Bob, married to him, and with many pre-existing commonalities, I was too different to continue with him, though I went on loving him.  The book, “Bronze Inside and Out,” was published by the University of Calgary Press in 2007.

What I’m sneaking up on is a question about who reads this blog.  The only analytic I use is “clustrmaps.com" plus what shows up in the software of “blogger”.  I haven’t added software for subscription feeds but 27 folks figured out how to subscribe anyway.  2 subscribers have died, but there seems to be no mechanism for removing their names.  No one is blocked.  

My own email is often “blocked” or “blacked out” by others, purportedly because I have at least one friend who lives in a narrow canyon where he can only use email through a satellite feed.  That satellite feed is blocked, so my friend is, so I am.  My local provider 3rivers.net contracts with Barracuda to protect their subscribers from hacking and obscenity.  It’s Barracuda who messes with my emails.  barracuda.com.  My idea of "obscene"is extremely narrow.

According to clustrmaps.com, in the last month I had 44,594 hits from the US; 8,158 from China; 7,746 from Russia; 3,508 from Ukraine.  France “hit” 5,554 times; German 5,753; United Kingdom 4,441; Canada 4,372.  I have no idea what this means.  Since the info may identify the source town, I can guess who some of these people are: many are former parishioners from my ten year career as a Unitarian minister.  Locals suggest that people around the world are always interested in cowboys and that’s why I get “hits.”  (I don't post much about cowboys.)  My family is somewhat dispersed and rarely reads this blog.

Like many other people, my relatives subscribe to YouTube.  When I question them about why they accept the documented exposure to data-reaping, use of content without permission including photos, and so on, they go blank.  I left Facebook when years ago they eliminated months and months of work done by an art-based group with whom I was working at the time.  Facebook gave no reason.  

I subscribe to Twitter in order to announce the subject of each post on prairiemary.blogspot.com .  Also, I’m following the work of Paul Seesequasis on photos of northern indigenous people as far up as the Inuit and as far south as the Blackfeet here where I am.  Sometimes I’m able to identify individuals or comment on what they are doing.  I belong to a number of organizations and subscribe specifically to medical and environmental newsletters.

In the last year the usual number of hits I get is around 500.  But then I began to see spikes as high as 1,000, which at first seem linked to “hot topics.”  Recently there was a spike over 6,000.  What did it mean?  Have I gone viral?  The next day it all went back down to about 500, which is high for the Christmas season.  When people get busy, they don’t read blogs, esp. not long-form (over 1,000 words daily).

I have a little difficulty following the acronyms and punning names for internet and computer concepts.  (I just found out what a "milkshake duck" is.)  We are living in a metaphorical age more than ever before because there is so much new knowledge.  Part of the problem is grasping the concepts that have acquired neologisms because they were neo-concepts.  This turns out to be true of the spear-point ideas of history, science, and about how the brain works.  They extend far out beyond human knowledge of any previous time.  In fact, the new pressing knowledge is that of how little we really know, but how much it's all connected.  I’m seeing that the younger people are not more informed than they used to be, because they lose info out the back as they accept it from the front.  (Time as a physical progression.  Digestion.)

Sitting in the back bedroom of a collapsing old house in a struggling small town on the high prairie scoured by high winds and scalded by strong sun, I have access to resources worldwide and awareness of layers and diasporas of people I would in reality be shut out of and afraid to interact with.  My age, gender, economic class, are invisible online.   They are misleading when visible. The data-gathering services — who promise to expose “everything” about a person — and the genealogy services — that charge a fee for connecting people with the same family provenance according to both data and testimony — are interesting resources, but full of gaps, mistakes, and mixed motives.  Even the genome investigations that have been taken as solid evidence in CSI shows, as though they were fingerprints, turn out to be complex and full of unpredictability.  Epigenomes.  Chimeras. Methylation.

So much of our political trouble right now is related to the human craving for Truth, not meaning factual but meaning unchangingness, dependability, something to build on.  Some of us begin to understand that there is no bedrock to human thought.  Where you get to depends on where you start from.  But everyone has the choice to begin again.  

“According to Richard Firth Green, the meaning of "truth" changed during the reign of Richard II of England in the late 14th century. Before then, "trouthe" was an ethical concept that resided within individuals, i.e., integrity and dependability. Afterwards, "truth" became an objective reality that existed outside of ourselves, which could be discerned by unbiased observers.

“Interestingly, Green never claimed that an unbiased observer actually existed.”

Dr. Packer is reflecting on the difficulties of understanding Russian doping that has taken their contestants out of the Olympics.  Everywhere, “trouthe” is challenged.  In the background as I write, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is being grilled in an attempt to accuse/defend Mueller as he investigates Russian plots with US help.  Not far away Donald Trump Jr. was being questioned for 9 hours.  Late last night the "true" characters of leaders in Alabama led voters to make a surprising choice.  It turns out they are still able to discern scribes and pharisees.  And Mueller is not a milkshake duck.

What does this have to do with my blogging?  What I began as the searching for the “trouthe” of persons and social events, has turned into an instrument of personal revelation about my own character and life.  That’s religious but not institutional.  There’s not much time left for me to do much about it except make notes.  I witnessed.  Now I testify.

But was this 6,000 “hit” spike of readers something I should note?  Is this microphone on?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

FAMILY ECOLOGY


(From "BETWEEN THE RIVER AND THE ROAD", a longer essay unpublished.)

Human settlement patterns around the world follow the water.  When density reaches a certain point, the road forms along the same route because that is where the people are   -- because that is where the water is.  If you look at the Blackfeet Reservation at night, either from a satellite sky-perch or even by driving through, you will see this pattern.  Each stream-centered valley forms a community.  

The Town of Browning has just been dissolved and the real reason is the water.  Willow Creek does not carry much water and when it gets to the location of the town, it spreads into a sheet that creates a marsh instead of a deep thalwag.  (The thalwag is the course of the deepest water.)  In early days — a century ago — there was neither the knowledge nor the tools for determining this.  Anyway, no one thought about the human dimensions of water use as ecological, because the term “ecology” hadn’t been invented yet, much less the modern understanding of the dimensions and relationships.  Now we think of the ecology of everything, including genetics and including the structure of families.

My aunt said to me, “Never buy land without checking for an adequate well.”  She learned this the hard way, as my grandfather — urged by his birth family to move near to them outside Roseburg, Oregon -- bought hastily.  The prune farm on Roberts Creek had a slow-to-fill low-yield well.  Economics for prune farmers weren’t good anyway, and because the land was slanted and relatively dry, the only practical crop besides prunes was chickens.  So my grandmother stayed there to raise girls and poultry, while my grandfather stayed in the family business of construction, which deconstructed his family.

John Pinkerton, my grandfather, on the far right

The Pinkerton family was parents and three sons, who transplanted to Washington State from Illinois and did well on the construction of huge barns that supported the new dairy industry on high grass wet lands.  Two of the sons were twins.  As adults the family was vulnerable to lung afflictions from the dampness.  

The father and one twin, who was married and had a daughter, moved to Roseburg, acquiring rich land for small crops, like berries.  On that land which was along a high branch of South Deer Creek grew a “council tree” where indigenous people had gathered for many centuries.  

One twin stayed behind to finish up the business there and died of a mosquito-borne swamp fever.  His mother felt the family doomed him and grieved the rest of her life.  The surviving twin was a gentle religious man, but my grandfather, the other surviving brother, was overemotional and judgemental; the tragedy didn’t help.  His fierceness attracted my grandmother, who saw it as protective.

The Oregon prune orchard was where my mother grew up, much aggrieved by what she considered a step down from the previous comfortable home in Washington.  There were two older girls, my mother the oldest, then a break in the sequence — maybe due to moving — and then two more girls about the age of their cousin.  

Lucy Pinkerton Strachan, Mary Strachan (myself), and Vera Pinkerton (later Hatfield)

Here are the two older girls and myself.  My mother, Lucy, is on the left, drawn down emotionally and physically by having babies and losing the career-girl lifestyle which had given her freedom, money and a busy social life.  She had not thought living in Portland would be quite like this.  She had not expected her husband to be on the road all week. 

On the right is the next oldest girl, Vera, who is at this point has finished her nurse’s training at the precursor for OHSU and is serving in the Army, about to go overseas.  History, the catastrophe of war, had intervened.  She signed up as soon as the war started, interrupting her career as the head of surgery operating at a Great Falls hospital.  When she was in Portland, she and my mother were close and my mother accepted her expertise in medical matters.  (Ironically, both eventually had more children than they had planned.)

The three other Pinkerton girls, the young ones, Helen, Aliene, and Nadine (the cousin) formed their own subgroup which was smashed by a high school accident.  Vera was driving herself and Helen back up Roberts Creek to home on a rutted muddy road when she crashed into a stalled-out and dark car.  There was no way to steer around because the ruts had seized the tires. (A fate metaphor.)  Helen went through the windshield which fatally cut her throat.  Their father, that ferocious man, proclaimed that they would ignore her death and go on as though she were just temporarily “away.”  (The legacy to me is contempt for denial.)

Vera did not attend high school the rest of the year.  No doubt this tragedy influenced Vera’s choice of nursing and then her decision to join the Army and serve in London and Rheims.  In London the smog was reportedly so thick that at Harrod’s department store, one could not see the tops of the counters.  I suspect she took inhaled damage, the kind that shows up in old age as derangement and subtle endocrine consequences.  She saw horrors that finally slaked her appetite for compensation and she returned home stunned.  Now we would call it PTSD. 

Vera married the last bachelor Hatfield who was not “mental.”  I learned about the ghost one when visiting her ranch as an adult.  She went through a box of old photos with me, but tried to skip over him.  (He's not in the online genealogy records or obits.)  His features were the same handsome face as Mark Hatfield, the governor and senator, (who was cousin to this set of sibs, but an only child with an intelligent and ambitious mother).  

This South Deer Creek set of sibs was not education-minded, though another set was.  It all depended on the mothers.  There was a thin thread of instability in the family of this mother, but she carried genes for a very pretty girl-face, big eyes and a rosebud mouth.  Roy Hatfield was a strong opinionated father who guided his family firmly.  He did not take John Pinkerton seriously.

Eventually, in old age. Vera and Aliene both died demented, but I don’t think it was either Alzheimers or vascular.  Aliene’s was diagnosed as electrolite imbalances — she was forgetful but sometimes simply dropped in her tracks, unconscious.  The last time she fell she lay in the grass dead, holding the laundry she had been hanging.  I interpret my aunts as suffering from pesticide/herbicide poisoning related to the raising of sheep — in pastures, not in roving flocks, which meant pesky flies.  The sheep had protected the Hatfield men from serving in the army.

Aliene's husband, the Alpha Hatfield, was pretty clearly an Alzheimer’s victim.  He kept taking off in the pickup until “they” hid his keys.  Then he made such a fuss over the empty key hook that they hung keys for some long-gone vehicle which kept him busy inserting them in the lock uselessly.  Then he left for town, puttering down the highway on the riding mower.

My mother died at 89 with no signs of dementia.  When she was angry with me, she called me Vera, and when she was pleased, she called me Aliene, but that was lifelong.  With Vera the relationship was rivalrous or sometimes co-conspiring.  With Aliene it was fond but rueful because she had married a Hatfield.  My mother was the Alpha Pinkerton girl.  She scorned Hatfields, who lived well in the broad and sunny South Deer Creek Valley.  She wanted city.

I suspect that the blood cancer that finally killed my mother was related to her resumption of smoking after my father’s death.  (He was against smoking, drinking and gambling because he spent his money on cameras and 78 rpm records of classical music he didn’t understand.  He may have had a graduate degree and progressive views, but he was irreducibly bourgeois.  His morality was rule-based.)  

I have never smoked.  My early poisons have been heavy metal and acids from the foundry.  When I die, it will be from lack of exercise and maybe inhaled cat hair.  What is my thalwag?  It wasn’t marriage, it wasn’t vocation, it wasn’t urban, it wasn’t even physical.  But it was secretly passionate.  This inquiry must be continued, searching out the threads interacting below my consciousness, but able to weave presumptive assumptions.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

ALBERT "BUTCH" H. DESMET

In Memory of
Albert "Butch" H. DeSmet


April 25, 1934 - February 25, 2017
Obituary

Albert "Butch" H. DeSmet passed away on February 25th, 2017, in Vancouver, Washington. He was born on April 25th, 1934, in Valier, Montana, to his parents: Leon and Martha DeSmet. He attended High School in Valier.

In 1963, Butch moved from Montana to California. He spent five years in California, and then he moved to Gresham, Oregon in 1968.

On May 1st, 1980, Butch married Sharon Brown. They were happily married for nearly 37 years, until his passing. 

Butch held a variety of management positions over the course of his career, with the most recent being a Parts Manager at Data Devices. 

While living in Boring, Butch attended St. Michael's Parish. He enjoyed photography, woodworking, war movies, and airplanes (the old Waco planes were his favorite). He will always be remembered as a happy, gentle, and humble man who loved his family. He had a beautiful smile that could light up a room.

Butch was preceded in passing by his sister, Roberta "Ber" Widhalm of Valier, Montana; and his daughter, Charmaine DeSmet of Gresham. He is survived by his loving wife, Sharon DeSmet of Vancouver; his daughter, Michelle Kauffman of Vancouver; his sons, Lane DeSmet of Troutdale, and Rory DeSmet of Oregon City; his stepchildren, Cathy DesRochers of Portland, Steve Brown of Gresham, Ken Brown of Las Vegas, Jim Brown of Gresham, and Kevin Brown of Port Angeles, Washington; his siblings, Gabe DeSmet of Powers, Montana, Betty Meuli of Conrad, Montana, and Toni Dowgiewicz of Rockville, Connecticut; as well as 11 grandchildren, and 8 great grandchildren. He will be missed.

A Gathering of Remembrance for this gentle and great man will be held on Sunday, March 5th, 2017, from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm in the Timberline Room at Bateman Carroll Funeral Home in Gresham.

Memorial Contributions can be made to St. Michaels Church in Sandy, Oregon.

The end of the year, whether one calls it Solstice or Christmas, is often when news comes of earlier deaths.  To fill out this obit a little more, Butch was married to Bob Scriver's daughter, Margaret, and they had four children: Charmaine, Michelle, Lane and Rory.  They were young and the marriage was a temperament mismatch.  At that time, the Sixties, Butch was running the now derelict Texaco station.  Thing blew up and when the Big Flood hit, he had left.  All the roads north were impassable because of washed out bridges and telephone lines were down.  Margaret took the kids to her mother's in Anacortes, WA.

She and Butch divorced and in a year or so Margaret married Ken Paul, part of the Blackfeet community in the Anacortes area.  Too soon, Margaret developed cancer and died.  The four kids went to their father in California.  They remember that period wryly as the time of frozen chicken pot pies.  Butch married a woman named Lois, who also had children, and they furnished the dining room with a picnic table.  That marriage also crashed.  The third marriage to Sharon, a sweet and competent woman, was the one that he should have had all along.

Charmaine, the oldest girl, was killed in a car crash in Florida.  Michelle and her husband run a data business in Vancouver, WA.  Lane does contracting from his home in Troutdale and Rory drives truck for a beverage company.  They remained close to Butch, who was a source of stability and wisdom.

One watches the generations unfold with tragedies and a few great blazing achievements and, if lucky, many days of just getting the work done.  Butch did very fine filigree wood crafting.  Oregon suited him and he and Sharon found quiet places to live in the countryside around Portland.  He kept his high school hairdo all this life.  It went with his smile.





Monday, December 11, 2017

THE THIRD MARBLE



The "Hawaii 5-0" core team

Though I generally nightly watch an episode of “Hawaii 5-0”, I’m never tempted to marathon it.  The attractions are the long sweeps of scenery, esp. the night time-lapses of city lights up high (an established trope for crime shows), and the energy of what goes on. Two things are wearing: one is the bickering in the car between the two main “bruhs” which isn’t always that clever, and the constant justification of force, outside the law strategies, and the arrest trope: “down on the ground, hands on head, etc.”  My fav characters are Kono and Chin and also the Irish actor Terry O’Quinn’s bald, tough and well-aged archetypal secret agent.

But then reality intruded.  I watched the cop’s body camera tape just put on YouTube of yet another shooting.  The victim’s name was Daniel Shaver and this is a link to the tape.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBUUx0jUKxc


Some commentators note that the still photo of the cop, named Philip Brailsford, is often cropped to leave out his sleeve tattoos.   http://www.tmz.com/2017/12/10/philip-brailsford-cop-not-guilty-shooting-daniel-shaver-failed-actor/  This website notes that Brailsford has been fired and that he wanted to be an actor but had no credits.  There was no comment about mixing reality with movies.  (Harrison Ford had to inform Trump that “Star Wars” was just a movie.  Of course, Ford himself did a little mixing of movies and reality when he romanced Carrie Fisher.)  But not even sitting astride a motorcycle in a black leather jacket could make Brailsford look like anything but a high school kid.  In the end I suspect the jury thought he was too stupid to convict.

The stories do not include that Brailsford was part of a SWAT team sent to arrest a man who had been aiming a rifle with a scope out of a high motel window.  He was playing a tape of Las Vegas in his head.  There were other officers present in the hallway, one looking more mature and less gripped by a head-script, but they underestimated Brailsford’s lack of reality.  They didn’t realized he was hypnotized.  Presumably, otherwise they would have intervened.

None of them knew that the victim’s rifle was a pellet gun that Shaver, an exterminator by trade, used to shoot birds that had invaded stores, warehouses, and shopping centers.  You’ve seen and heard them.  I don’t know why traps don’t work.  Playing sniper is more fun.  

Plainly, Shaver had the same Vegas head-script running in his head — until he was on the hall carpet with the bird-end of a rifle aimed at him.  It’s a trope played over and over:  “Down on your knees, hands behind your head, if you disobey I will shoot you.”  Brailsford knows his lines, but he can’t get past them.  So he repeats, the way “takes” for a script are repeatedly “shot” to get it right.  At least they removed the woman.

To keep the scene from sticking in my own head — it will be on “Hawaii 5-0” again tonight anyway because it's stuck in the screen-writer's heads — I went to the other extreme of the assortment of contexts I carry in my own head:  a Unitarian Sunday Morning church service where a writer named Doug Muher (“The Weekly Sift" is his blog.
weeklysift.blogspot.com/)  He’s always reasonable, clear, and irreproachable.  I will not reproach him for that.

His sermon at First Parish Bedford, MA on 11-26-I7 is on video.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8GrGD53uNo   The congregation has always reflected its times, but the congregations I served were at the “founding” end of the archetype.  What I want to point out is the context, familiar to me, once intended to be my lifelong commitment.  

“In her new book “A Meeting House & its People; the Story of the First Parish in Bedford”, author and historian, Sharon Lawrence McDonald, tells about a group of people living in the area now known as Bedford, Massachusetts who grew tired of these Sunday trips [to distant Concord] and decided to do something about this burden."  [It was 1729.]

“They petitioned the Great and General Court of Massachusetts asking to become a separate town from Concord . . . Writing,“Behold what a weariness is it”, they expressed their need to build their own house of worship.  . . “The Court required that the new town establish a school, build a house of worship, and hire “a learned and orthodox minister of good conversation”.”  (Meaning a good preacher in good standing.)


The congregation is not big, nor flashy.  The people sit in box pews which once required subscriptions.  The people are white, many with white heads.  Piano rather than organ accompanies the usual hymns.  There is no choir and the UUA chalice flame is a little glitchy.  Muher speaks from a text on an electronic tablet.  He is a balanced, multi-syllabic speaker who refers to Descartes to stand for rational belief and James to stand for emotional belief (love).  It would be fair to classify this as Christian apologetics.

It’s interesting that he speaks of “three marbles”  I’m not sure he’s familiar with the concept of “subtilizing.”  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7434014  It’s a third way of understanding how we “know” things to the point of elevating them to Truth.  The idea is that if you show an infant a few of something like marbles, then add another or take away one, it will register with the baby as a brain signal proving it was grasped, even though no infant can count.  The limitation is that once a certain number of objects is reached, they’re just “many.”  That’s true of adults as well.

What I’m saying is that the human brain comes pre-wired with some “truths” and unless there’s something wrong with their perceptions (seeing double?), almost all people will agree on them.  (Are you “subtilizing” God?  What about Truth?”  Not.)

This is not the same as the reasoned-out basis of one kind of truth (the Rule of Law), nor is it the truth of emotional response to some human situation.  We would so like that latter to be “love” but it is just as likely to be hate, so as a guide to truth, it’s useless.

To me, the most interesting thing Muher said was a reference to “Percy,” whom I do not know — am not even sure how to spell.  But that person reported that a Buddhist would not say, “I think: therefore I am,” but rather would say “thinking is happening.


In spite of Asian characters on “Hawaii 5-0” and occasional mention of traditional island concepts, the nature of Asian culture in Hawaii is mostly represented by a shrimp fast food truck.  Until I began to research this post, I didn’t know that the Asian actors (Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park) were paid less than the “white” actors and have quit because of it.  The opportunities for new scripts challenging justice would be enormous.  I would have loved to have seen a show in which a Buddhist asks the SWAT team in the hallway,  “Is thinking happening here?”  Meaning the kind of thinking that leads to justice.  (Like equal pay for lesser ethnics?)  I think I’ll skip out on “Hawaii 5-0.2”.  Might Kim and Park find "Hawaii 5-0.3", with a Hawaiian script crew?