A LOOK BACK: THE SHORT AND TO-THE-POINT-EDITION – BY TOM CURLEY

So. 2017 is over. Like any end of the year, the last few weeks were filled with “Year End Retrospectives.”

I hate year-end retrospectives.

Especially this year. A year ago, all anybody could talk about was just how much 2016 sucked. And it did. But then, along came 2017.

2017 said to 2016 “Here, hold my beer.”

So here’s myYear End Retrospective, The Short and To-The-Point-Edition.” And yes, I’m doing it in 2018. Why? Because I’m a rebel, because I’m going rogue, because I only thought of it on New Year’s Eve.  So here it is, 2017 month-by-month.

January. Well, that sucked.

February. God, that really sucked.

March. Are you kidding me? How much more can this possibly suck?

April. This can’t get worse.

May. It got worse.

June. Are you fucking kidding me!?

July. This is just not happening.

August. Well, that just happened. WTF?!

September. This is insane.

October. No, he’s insane.

November. Shit, he is REALLY insane.

December. This insanity has to end.

🎇🎶 Happy New Year. 🎶🎇

At least we still have Betty White.

PS: And to start the New Year off on a good note, I give you two dogs playing “I got your nose.”

WHIPPING OFF A POST FROM YOUR PHONE

This year, I’m resolving to update my blog from the WordPress mobile app. My phone is always nearby, which allows me to blog from wherever I am, and there’s something about the smaller screen that seems to take the pressure off for me. I can whip up a post draft on the spot or publish a photo immediately.” — Sarah Blackstock


This explains the low quality of so many posts I try to read … and give up on before I finish the first paragraph. It’s the complete absence of thought and a sense that this is merely a text made public — a sure-fire way to not have well-thought-out stories or ideas. Or high quality photographs. Or high quality anything. It guarantees that people lured in by promises they can do it all on their mobile phone will be in and gone in less than a quarter of a year. A few weeks, a long silence, and then the posts linger forever in virtual space and no one goes there anymore.

I have long known this is what WordPress has been pushing. I guess they have not noticed the kids who start out on their phones come, send a few messages and when they don’t get followers, they quit. Those of us who write seriously and pursue photography as something other than snapshots … are ignored by their “happiness engineers” because we don’t need to be happy.

Too bad. With nearly 6,000 posts “in the can” and I don’t even know how many photographs, I am reminded how WordPress doesn’t care about me. They are expending all their efforts to lure aboard people who are not serious and will never be worth reading. They made a decision long ago to ignore “these boring people” who’ve been blogging for years, have substantial followings, and care about what they say and to whom they say it.

Every once in a while, I wonder how come someone in their administration or planning departments might at least consider the possibility that they are missing the point, but I have noticed that WordPress — like every big corporation — will stick to foolish decisions, even when they fail. Bad decisions inevitably get pushed ever harder because no corporate manager will admit to being wrong. Even when the ship is sinking.

I’m not suggesting that me and those like me should be the only focus of the organization … but ought we not be included? Respected? Not treated like the least important part of the WordPress group?

Ought not the editing and photography functions be useful to people who write in complete sentences? A text editor with a find/replace function like every other text editor in the known universe, for example? Proper spacing between paragraphs? Fonts that use points, not “small-medium-large-huge” as if we are buying cheap, unisex clothing?

I’m still using the old, old, old interface because the new one is awkward and poorly designed. Maybe that’s because it’s designed for a telephone — and I use a computer. I’ve been working on word processing tools since they were invented, applauding with each advance in the art. WordPress does not advance. They go backwards, stripping out the stuff that might be useful and leaving us with glitches and a baffling inability to recognize what writers and artists need.

Dashing off something on your phone sets up blogging as a kind of advanced texting. A diary of your life? Is that what blogging is? At the risk of asking a dumb question, unless you are a brilliant writer (on your phone?), who cares? Are you writing it for yourself so you can remember every place you’ve been and every cup of coffee you drank? It doesn’t encourage thought, intelligence, or craft.

I suppose I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing as long as they don’t make it any harder than they have. Call me crazy, but I believe in thinking before doing a brain dump through my phone.

THE SADNESS OF HUMOR – 2017

2017 was big with late night comics, but depressing to real people. Like us.

We laughed because comics are funny, but we weren’t really laughing. Wrapped around the humor was the realization we weren’t going to get out of this mess for years to come. Like — three years — if we do it right. Please, let us do it right!Remember way back in 2016 when Clinton said, “Look, I respect his children. His children are incredibly able and devoted, and I think that says a lot about Donald.” She was lying. I knew it. You knew it. I suppose it was the best she could do. She still thought she had to be polite.

We have all learned otherwise in the year since. His children are as awful as he is, though mostly they have a better education … yet they stayed surprisingly stupid. I didn’t know you could get that much education and remain so stupid.

In 2016, I could think about the high points of the year. I don’t believe there were any high points in 2017, except that Roy Moore wasn’t elected to the senate. Otherwise, it’s been a down and dirty year with another one on the way. I’m trying to feel better about it. If we beat the crap out of them in 2018, I might begin to breathe.

Not only does history come around again, but so do cartoons

But here’s a link that brought tears to my eyes. It a video of dreams, our hopes for the future. Check it out. It’s better with music.

This year may turn out to be hilarious at some point in the future, when the world has gone around the sun a few more times.  Maybe very funny. If I live long enough, it’ll be ROTFL for me and mine.

But not yet. My sense of humor needs an attitude adjustment.

THE MOST POPULAR POSTS OF 2017

These are not necessarily my favorite posts, though a few are. These are posts that got a lot of hits — and are not reblogs. I also — with one exception — didn’t include photo-only posts. It was too much like comparing pineapples to raspberries.

DESCENDING FROM THE GOLDEN HORDE – B+ AND ME – MARILYN ARMSTRONG  – Hanging around since 2013, suddenly, in 2017, it took off. No idea why.

THE 7-DAY BLACK & WHITE CHALLENGE- DAY 7 – I haven’t included any other photo blogs, but this one took me by surprise. It is the most popular single picture I’ve ever posted.

NATIONAL ASSHOLE AWARENESS DAY – A multi-year winner because everyone knows a few assholes. I didn’t write this. I created a better insignia and cleaned it up, but I have no idea who really wrote it. It’s one of those things that goes around.

WHERE DO THE SWANS GO? – MARILYN ARMSTRONG – I wrote this in May 2012. Apparently a lot of people wonder where the swans go. The answer is, nowhere. They shiver and sometimes, freeze.

DON’T DRINK THE KOOL-AID – THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE –  MARILYN ARMSTRONG Written in 2012, rewritten each year since, usually on the anniversary of the event (November 18). it’s still worth a read. This is one of the few posts I’ve written which maybe deserves the attention. If I added the numbers for all its versions of publication, this one is probably the most popular post of all time for Serendipity.

INHERIT THE WIND AND THE SCOPES TRIAL – MARILYN ARMSTRONG – I wrote this in 2012. No one paid any attention to it. THIS year, because our political landscape has so altered, it got suddenly popular. It’s not about my writing. It is about Spencer Tracey’s amazing performance with a script largely based on the actual Scopes Trial. If you have never seen the movie — the original with Spencer Tracey — see it. It occurred more than 100 years ago and it might as well be right now.

WE WERE ALL SUCH GOOD FRIENDS – GARRY ARMSTRONG 

REMEMBERING MOM ON HER 100TH BIRTHDAY – GARRY ARMSTRONG 

TIME TRAVEL, PARALLEL UNIVERSES & THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT – ELLIN CURLEY

A VERY HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY, AUNT HELEN! BY TOM CURLEY

PORN POWER – TOM CURLEY How pornography has pushed technology.

CHICAGO “NOW” BY RICH PASCHALL

NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO TALK ABOUT GUN CONTROL … REALLY!? – BY TOM CURLEY

BASEBALL: INTERVIEW WITH LYNN NOVICK – SEPTEMBER 1998 – I wrote it in 1998 and it was published in a very short-lived magazine on Martha’s Vineyard. I was digging through my old stories from before blogging and thought, “Hey, that was pretty good. Why don’t I publish it?” So I did.

TOO EARLY TO BE DRINKING? – GARRY ARMSTRONG

FLY THE W – RICH PASCHALL

A FACE-TIME FUNERAL – BY ELLIN CURLEY

YOU’RE NOT A MAN, YOU’RE A CHICKEN BOO – BY TOM CURLEY

WE NEED TO RUN A LEVEL FIVE DIAGNOSTIC! – BY TOM CURLEY

MEDICARE TO SENIORS: WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE?- MARILYN ARMSTRONG – You’d think this would be very old news by now, wouldn’t you? This is the third year this post has been in the top 25. It shouldn’t be evergreen, but it is.

YESTERDAY IS ANOTHER COUNTRY – GARRY ARMSTRONG

THE KILLING FIELDS OF EASTON – BY TOM CURLEY

THE LONGEST RUNNING TV SHOW – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

IF IMITATION IS THE HIGHEST FORM OF FLATTERY – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

WHAT EMPOWERS YOU? – MARILYN ARMSTRONG

I picked 25 posts. Some of the posts were a redo of others, so I picked one of several. Posts are not listed by their statistics. All were all popular. A few posts that don’t show here were re-blogs that did extremely well, but since none of us wrote them, they aren’t included. Also, photo posts — with one exception — are not listed. They are a different class and deserve their own place.

A lot of posts had very similar numbers, just three or four views separating them. To me, that meant they were all popular. I could easily have included another 25, but I got tired of cutting and pasting and it’s New Year’s Eve.

A big hand for Serendipity’s whole crew! We broke all our records this year. It’s the best year to date as we enter year number six. We are up by almost 60,000 views from 2016 and more than 150 views per day. The credit belongs us all — and you. Everyone who comes to read and comment, the folks who give me great ideas about what to write. Ideas that make me think and grow.

You are my friends. I listen to you, share your words, read your work. Truly, all of you have made my life so much better!

A LEGAL ROMANCE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

In the 1970’s, I was wooed, the old-fashioned way, by a suitor. Because of our circumstances, the courtship took an interesting turn.

Larry and I were both at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. I was in my first year of law school and he was in his second. So the focal point for the romance was, of course, the law library.

Georgetown University Law School law library

Whenever I was in the library (which was often) and wherever I was in the library, Larry would show up. He always knew how to find me. He always seemed to know where I was. That alone intrigued me. Then Larry would sit with me and talk. He’d often help me with homework or explain things to me in very vivid and understandable ways. He ‘got’ the law in a way most people didn’t. He had a brilliant legal mind and he was a very good teacher. For me, at the time, this was positively sexy.

Most of the time we just chatted. Larry had a great sense of humor and fun so we laughed a lot. Too much, in fact. On more than one occasion, we were asked to leave the library because we were laughing too much and too loudly.

Larry when we were in law school

Larry would also send me notes. Not your usual romantic, sentimental stuff. No. Useful notes for someone in law school. Let me explain. All exams and most teaching in law school is done in the form of ‘fact patterns’. These are carefully crafted stories packed with legal issues hidden in them that you had to find and analyze. So Larry would send me notes with ‘fact patterns’ on different legal topics so I could practice the art of legal analysis. To me (and to my study group), that was about as romantic as you could get!

The icing on the cake involved another library. The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. My dad was a published author in the fields of psychiatry and anthropology. One night, Larry called me from the Library of Congress. He had looked up my father! He told me all the books and articles written by my dad that were in the famous library. He asked me to pick one for him to read. He took the book out of the library and actually read it. He later discussed it with my dad. Now that’s dedication!

Library of Congress in D.C.

I had always liked Larry. He was bright and funny and had incredible energy. But at first, I didn’t think of him as a boyfriend. I had just ended an ill-fated quasi engagement with an older man back in New York and was not looking for another relationship yet. But Larry was getting to me.

Over Thanksgiving, Larry’s father announced that he was leaving his mother after 33 years of marriage. Larry was devastated and he opened up to me for the first time. That took our relationship to another level and we started dating.

Me when I was in law school

In December, I went to Connecticut for part of the Christmas vacation. Like in the law library, Larry just showed up at my door one day! He had driven two and a half hours from his home in New Jersey to surprise me. And he wanted to meet my parents. That was the only encounter between Larry and my mother that ever went well. My parents were impressed by him. As was I.

Our relationship blossomed when we got back to Washington in January. We were together almost all the time except for classes. Larry asked me to marry him. I said not yet. Larry proposed again. I still said not yet. In March, I finally said, “Okay, let’s get married.” In typical legal fashion, he said that his initial offer had expired. According to the law, my ‘acceptance’ was now considered a counter offer. So he gladly ‘accepted’ my ‘offer’ of marriage. For 25 years he claimed that I had proposed to him. He was legally correct, but it still annoyed me!

So Larry won me over by persistence and creativity. He used the law to his advantage and got a wife in the bargain.

DEFINITELY STILL ALIVE – GARRY ARMSTRONG

The phone rang. The caller ID flashed, showing one of Boston two major newspapers. I figured it was the sales department. I handed the phone to Marilyn. I heard Marilyn respond “yes” several times and was puzzled. We didn’t need and couldn’t afford expensive home delivery of newspapers. Then Marilyn said “He’s right here. Why don’t you speak to him?” She had a broad smile on her face. I was even more puzzled.

Long story short. The caller was a reporter working on a series about Boston schools and the history of court-ordered school desegregation. She was looking for people who had covered the story in 1974.

forced busing Boston
Photo: Associated Press

Apparently my name came up in her research. I confirmed I had indeed covered the story and shared a few anecdotes about the first day of what some called “forced busing.” I also shared some stories about my coverage of Boston schools over the following 25 plus years before I retired. To give some context, I mentioned that I’d also covered the civil rights movement for ABC Network before coming to Boston.

The reporter seemed impressed. We agreed to meet again for a more detailed interview. I hung up the phone and smiled. I looked at our dogs seated around me. Obviously, they understood. They were grinning at me. I could read their minds. He’s not just any old fart who feeds and plays with us. 

I looked at Marilyn with satisfaction. I wondered what she had said to the reporter when she took the call.

Marilyn smiled and recounted the conversation. “She asked if you were alive. Then she asked if you actually remembered what you used to do. I bit my tongue and didn’t say ‘That’s a matter of opinion.'”

I looked back at the dogs. They were still grinning. How fleeting is fame.