Monday, December 18, 2017

OPPOSITION AND MOCKERY


It is a truism and a scientific principle that for every force there forms an opposite force, possibly equal but maybe not.  The consequence can be evolution to something new, a merging into one or the other, something totally and unexpectedly new appearing from the unknown.  We appear to be politically caught in the middle of this kind of crunch.

It’s revealing to think in terms of generations, with the oldest generations holding out for sameness and the youngest generations having left all those assumptions and perceptions of the world behind.  For instance, the insistence on forcing fossil fuels to be given advantages and priorities — despite the growing bad consequences and diminishing supplies — has prompted all sorts of research — even venture capital — into alternatives.  

Wind, tide, solar sources and even small ingenious sources, like these examples in mashable: small, renewable, household lights.  http://mashable.com/2014/01/13/solar-energy-developing-world/#0P9boW38NiqI  Some of these devices have been handed out in Puerto Rico where the power is still not on for many people.  In Africa they make a huge difference, not least because kids can do homework, an investment in the future that is a different kind of power.   It won’t take long before we’ve all got these gizmos instead of a flashlight drawer or a shelf of candles.  In the parts of the world that are still not wired and the parts of the world where grids can fail (like American airports), these ingenious gizmos can even convert sea water to drinkable water.

A major advantage of youngsters is an ability to “play”, one of the keys to creativity and success.  Chemical light sticks that glow because of reactions when their container is bent are so popular that people wear them to parties as decoration on dark dance floors.  https://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/everyday-innovations/light-stick.htm 

This way of thinking and our ever-deepening understanding of the ordinary potential of the world around us also apply to high computer technology.  Two that I’m trying to figure out are responses to juggernauts of the internet world that are either failing or choked or taking up too much room — depending on monopoly for profit.  One of them is an original founder of Wikipedia, who is now developing a better version, “the online encyclopedia reinvented for the modern age.”

“Everipedia is the next generation encyclopedia rebuilt for the modern age. With over 6 million articles and counting, it's already the world's largest English encyclopedia by content. Everipedia is free from ads and free to use for everyone under creative commons.”  https://everipedia.org  Blockchain based.

The other major event is also a block chain-based internet reiteration.https://steemit.com/technology/@kingscrown/decentralized-and-blockchain-based-internet-coming-soon  “What if we use all those phones to build a massive network? We use my compression algorithm to make everything small, efficient, move things around. And if we could do it, we could build a completely decentralized version of our current internet with no firewalls, no tolls, no government regulation, no spying. Information would be totally free in every sense of the word.”   I still don’t “get” blockchain, but no doubt I’ll figure it out.  Or just use it without knowing how it works, which already is my main practice online.

Here’s another alternative beginning to develop along the same lines.: 

These technological movements are like the historic reactions to oppression.  When swords were used against disarmed poor people in Asia, they developed the strategies of judo and karate.  When the writing of rebellious and dissenting people was punished by dictators in South America, the authors went to magic realism, fiction within fiction that couldn’t be deciphered by outsiders with rigid mindsets.

Ridicule is always at hand.  The cartoons against the present situation in the US are wonderfully outrageous.  And porn is always peeking in from the wings: Trump’s lascivious mind, his fleshy grimaces, are a perfect fit (slash) with a man who demonstrates his manliness by riding a bear “bare”-chested.  The obscenity is part of the fun.

Republicans who barely graduated high school English have the idea they can control people’s thinking by restricting their vocabulary.  This little strategy made George Carlin a hero, which Repubs didn’t know, because it’s something you learn in college.  The words are shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits.  (Frat boys might add fart, barf, and stoned.)  All the things your mom wouldn't let you say at home.

What anthropologists do when describing the surprising indigenous people do (things that Victorians never discussed in public but DID in private) was to translate their notes into Latin, which was assumed to be known only to post-grads.  So Carlin’s words in Latin become:  Excrement, urine, coitus, vulva, Narcissus, Oedipus, quod mammilae.  Alice Kehoe caused a bit of a stir when she translated some Plains Indian ceremony descriptions back in plain English, revealing that the crux of the event was ritual coitus.  (Show those buffalo what they should do!)

It’s not necessary to go that far to evade Trump’s mind control.  After all, he’s a man of shrinking vocabulary.  So I suggest sensible workarounds as follow.  (Actually, this list of forbidden words is not known to vulgarians anyway, since they are still using animal metaphors like “pussy.”)

fetus — Not a person yet
vulnerable — endangered
transgender — gender fluid
entitlement — protection-based
science-based — researched by experts
evidence based — best opinion so far
diversity — reality

Sometimes I fondly remember a complaint that came in when I was working at Animal Control.  A big hulk of a man, a little past middle-aged, came in to report the dog next door, which . . . he couldn’t find the words.  “The dog kept coming over and . . .  

We tried to help but the man plainly could not bring himself to find the words.  Finally, he burst out,  “this dog comes over and tinkles!”  Trying not to giggle, we didn’t seem sympathetic enough.  He added,  “On my PORCH.”  And then, with mounting indignation, “It’s a St. Bernard!”  We finally got it.  

For the rest of the week, if one of us had to use the rest room, we said we were taking “a tinkle break.”  But vocabulary is a serious problem.  The unspeakable can become the unbearable and the unjust.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

TONGUING THE PARADIGM SHIFT


When humans are framed as “meat computers”, it always bugs me, and not just because usually the people who do this are young arrogant male people who refuse to admit that they are not the unique apex and goal of hominin evolution.  They choose to believe they are like computers in their steely capacity to handle information logically -- because no one believes in gods anymore.  They also believe that winning at chess is a valid indicator of intelligence.  

I’m not talking about all men or even all computer-adept males, but only a thread of thought that needs to be pointed out.  Recently a comment to an essay in aeon.co  gave me a major insight.  (Aeon’s stated mission:  “Ideas can change the world.   Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious thinking.”)  It’s not perfect.  Feuds crop up.  It’s male dominated.  A few commenters are windy grampas.  But in general, it’s about the best I know of.

So I was pleased, VERY pleased, that Kathryn Papp, Ph.D, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Alzheimer’s Disease, in the comments for an Aeon article by Ben Medlock said “The body is the missing link for truly intelligent machines“ . . .  “Biological systems are based on an arrayed system of five primary elements.”  This is nothing like the assumed binary system made of silicon and metal that is a computer.  I set off on a search than won’t end soon, trying to discover WHAT five primary elements?  What does “arrayed system” mean?

But the main insight for me is that the body is hydraulic, fluid-based.  The only fluid part of the computer is the electrical current, which acts much like liquid.  “Electrons in a metal can jump from atom to atom, and that way carry negative charge around the circuit. Like a fluid, they are driven by a kind of electric pressure, known as voltage, because it is measured in units known as volts, named after the Italian scientist Alessandro Volta.”  https://www-spof.gsfc.nasa.gov/Education/welectrc.html

There’s a body of theory about this.  Benjamin Franklin was one of the thinkers involved. His ideas are discredited now. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluid_theory_of_electricity  Bodies are more cleverly electrical.

I’ve been off-handedly describing the human body as a “bag of sparking, circulating fluids” and it turns out I was onto something.  There are real fluids (blood, lymph, mucus) that carry and are mixed with an electrochemical set of reactions among molecules that carry code, both the "five-element array of sensing" (if that's a thing) and whatever it is that makes decision and action.

In the process of trying to understand this, I stumbled across a commercial scientific product: an electronic sensing tongue.  The electronic part is what diagnoses what the molecular interactions of a substance indicate about what it is and how a human brain might interpret the information as "taste".  It takes a lot more than a chip or an app.

This is cut-and-paste from the above website.  It describes the equipment necessary to do what a human tongue can do.  This is the part that computer devotees are missing, though they are right about the use of the machine to analyze the results of the sensor information.

An electronic tongue (e-tongue) uses an array of liquid sensors that mirror and mimic the human sense of taste, without the intrusion of other senses such as human vision and olfaction that often interfere with perception. E-tongues are used in liquid environments to classify the contents of the liquid, identify the liquid itself, or sometimes to discriminate between samples. Most e-tongues are based either on potentiometric or amperometric sensors. The “tongue” is analytic in nature and “tastes” either liquid samples or solids that have been dissolved in liquid. It has three main components:
A sampling system
Detection capability
Data acquisition and processing system - statistical software that interprets sensor data into taste patterns

E-tongues are designed to meet or exceed the ability of human senses to “taste.” One application is the beverage industry whereby the flavor of wine, for example, is discriminated by using a combination of a taste sensor and an odor sensor array with a conducting polymer."

. . . Recently, the University of Texas at Austin developed a sensor array functioning as an electronic taste chip. It combines micromachining, photochemical sensing, and molecular engineering of receptor sites and pattern-recognition protocols to detect multi-analyte systems. It effectively rejects other chemical and biochemical species located in the same environment. This solution is becoming popular for several application areas such as:

Human diagnostic testing: The most compelling news here is that several time-intensive and costly procedures can be replaced with common analysis of blood electrolytes. Several benefits result when replacing costly traditional testing with an e-tongue-based solution. The size of the sample is substantially smaller so that discomfort and sample size are both reduced. Monitoring can be accomplished rapidly, which is important given the short time for toxins to become lethal. There is no accuracy penalty with the new testing. Other medical application areas include pharmaceuticals, health and safety, medicine stability (in terms of taste), and veterinary medicine.

Environmental chemistry: The same multi-sensor array is used to provide digital data on compound class and volume in such applications as radioactive pollutants in water, inorganic and organic pollutants, identification of harmful bacteria or substances, chemical and metabolic breakdown patterns, and potentially destination information on pesticides, oil, dioxin, and more. Additional environmental and chemical applications include waste monitoring and chemical /petrochemical processing. 

No matter the application, taste sensors above all else must be consistent in their findings. Simply put, here's how they work: taste sensors have artificial polyvinyl chloride (PVC)/lipid membranes that interact with a target solution such as beverages, blood, caffeine, etc. The membrane potential of the lipid membrane changes – which is the sensor output or measurement. Investigating potential change results in measuring the “taste” provided by the output of the chemical substances. With the array, multiple sensors provide this output and form a unique fingerprint.
E-tongue sensing elements include electrochemical detectors, infrared-based sensors and mass sensitive devices. It is the statistical software , or pattern recognition system, that interprets the sensor data, which is obtained from directly sampled liquids (no preparation) into test patterns.

The use of e-tongue sensor technology is a great example of sensor fusion--extracting data from multiple sources including sensing devices and measurement methods. Intelligent signal processing then is employed to take the responses and extract the taste information. 

Much of my personal thinking about bodies goes back to a physiology class at Jefferson High School in Portland, OR in the mid-Fifties.  I vividly recall the day we learned the "four" (now there are five) different tastes and their location on the tongue.  You can google for this; the assumptions are changing right now both about the mapping and the number of kinds of taste.  

Miss Jean Hill had a volunteer come to the front, actually put a clothespin on that kid's nose to block out smell, and used an eyedropper to do the bitter, sour, sweet, salt.  We had no idea what the kid tongue was interpreting, but the electronic tongue developers did know.  Their knowledge is chemical, not subjective.  But definitely SENSORY.
  • Sour – Created by the hydrogen ions in HCl, acetic acid and citric acid
  • Salty – Registered as NCl
  • Bitter – Includes such chemicals as quinine and caffeine detected through MgCl(2)
  • Sweetness – registered by sugars
  • Umami (deliciousness) – by MSG from seaweed disodium in meat/fish/mushrooms
Human tongues can do far more than this: lick lips, move things around in your mouth, get bitten (eeks), find that hole where a tooth was, and kiss.  Oh, kiss.  Now there's electricity.

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.