Let’s talk about art and why a “paint by number” kit you bought at a hobby shop is not art, even though it’s “mighty pretty.”

Many things are pretty. Wallpaper, printed by the ream is pretty. Remember all those paintings you could buy in the “art department” of department stores? You could get a blue one, a green one, or a red one. Each “hand-painted” picture was perfectly designed to match your furniture and could often be bought as part of your living room set.

Each picture was “hand painted” because someone’s hand was employed to paint it. Even then, no one said “an artist painted it” because the hand that painted it wasn’t an artist.

Now, with Artificial Intelligence, it won’t even be hand-painted. I’m sure it will be technically far superior to anything a human artist could achieve. Human art is imperfect — intentionally imperfect as often as not. There won’t be a stroke out-of-place and everyone will absolutely agree that it is “mighty pretty,” uh huh, yup, absolutely mighty pretty hanging on your wall there.

Things made by machine can be beautiful, but they aren’t art. Art is wrung from the soul of an artist. Even so, there is good art, better art, great art — and awful art. None of which has anything to do with the mechanical ability of the artist. Art — music, painting, sculpture and so much else — connects feelings, meaning, depth, breadth, vision. The big and the little, the achievements and the broken little pieces. It shows the value of life, the meaning of death, the reason we live, the sadness of loss. It isn’t only something mighty pretty to hang on a wall or pump through your speakers.

If A.I. can totally master the technique of Rembrandt and the “style” of Dali, it still won’t be art because it is without passion. No soul, no heart, no meaning, no depth. The style will not keep changing as the artist’s sensibilities change. It will never evolve into something unique, new, and refreshing because machines don’t evolve or grow.

For those of you who think “art” is a technique of brush strokes on canvas and that any “style” can be reproduced — even improved on — by a more “accurate” mechanical application … or you think if something  sounds like Chopin, it IS Chopin, you don’t understand anything. Not only do you not get it, you will never get it.

Since “fake art” is pretty much always “old or classic art,” consider buying originals from a living artist — the person who actually painted or wrote it. It will be the real deal.

The good news? An A.I. world will be perfect for you. You will be happy in your A.I. world with reproductions that look MIGHTY NICE on your walls. I bet all your furniture will match, too.


Guest author: Marilyn Armstrong – Visions


Over the years, I envied Christians. They always seem so very sure about all the things I doubt.

On August 30th, 2004, sometime between midnight and dawn, I had a vision in that peculiar space between sleeping and waking. I was very near death. The skin all across my abdomen had turned septic. Antibiotics were not working. Even the emergency debridement from the plastic surgery swat team had not fixed it. I knew I was dying. I could feel myself slipping away. I expected death to be more dramatic and certainly more frightening. I was less afraid than sad. I felt I had not done whatever it was I was supposed to do this time around the wheel.

Then came the vision. Unlike a dream, it has stayed clear as crystal. Never has it become faded or confused.

I was a little bird, a sparrow. I was broken and lying, unable to move or fly, on the wet cobblestones of some street in some eastern European city that was in the midst of war. In the background, I could hear the muttering of automatic weapons. As I lay there, I heard a great Voice. I heard it, but not with my ears, and the Voice filled my head.

“Enough” said the Voice.

The guns went quiet. I knew that the people who’d been fighting had ceased to exist, that they had been unmade. I waited in dread. I knew that I had done something bad, although precisely what I had done was unclear. All I could do was wait until the Voice came again.

“As for you, little bird, “ said the Voice, and I thought “There goes the other wing. There goes this fragile bird’s body.”

And then the Voice said, “Little bird, you can fly away.”

I flew away. When morning came, I was fine. The fever broke. My abdomen was clear of infection. A day later I went home. I was going to live.

Nor was this my first “extra throw” of the dice. When I was 19 and had spinal surgery, the spinal cord became infected . I was delirious. The delirium went on for 10 days and nights and I was in a lot of pain. Then, I had a chat with a Voice, who said: “You are in a terrible pain. You don’t have to keep fighting. You can let go or you can choose to stay. If you stay, the pain will continue. It will be a slow, difficult recovery.”

Obviously, I chose to stay. The next day didn’t bring relief from pain, but it brought me out of delirium and into consciousness.

So, that was twice. What does it mean? I don’t know. Something, for sure, but exactly what? Our old Pastor asked me if I was going to ask God for a photo ID. Maybe. That seems to be a problem for me. I want to know who is doing what.

I also would like to know WHY. More to the point, why me?

marilyn birthday 68About the Author

Marilyn Armstrong is a writer, blogger and photographer. She started writing as soon as she could form letters and has never heard a single good reason why she should stop. Marilyn and her husband Garry, as well their son, daughter-in-law, granddaughter and various intrepid canines, live in a setting of rare natural beauty and gigantic rocks in rural Massachusetts.

Marilyn blogs at Serendipity where she offers “memories via anecdotes, observations, occasional fiction, and photographs.”


Find and follow Marilyn

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The Twelve Foot Teepee

Fighting the of demons of an abusive childhood and having given up on traditional paths to personal salvation, Maggie decides to find her own path … by building a teepee in her back yard. It’s a peculiar route, but her goal is simple: offload the cargo of her past and move into a future, sans luggage. Armed with a draw knife and a sense of humor, she peels poles and paints canvas until winter passes and she is free.


If you have had a strange experience or encounter that you would like to share, please get in touch with me at findme@scvincent.com (or my usual email if you already have it) and we can discuss a guest post.

I am not looking for sensationalism or fictional tales… but in light of the response to some recent posts, I think it would be both useful and reassuring to others to realize none of us are alone in these strange encounters and experiences and perhaps we can open discussion on what they may be or may mean.

If you would like to share your story but prefer to remain anonymous, we can discuss that too. If you would like to share your beliefs and opinions on the nature of these experiences, I would be happy to talk about a guest post. Through sharing with respect we may learn to understand our world and each other a little better.

Original article at: Guest author: Marilyn Armstrong – Visions



Layers of airplanes stacked from floor to ceiling at the Tuskegee Airmen exhibit

More layers of flying machines at the Tuskegee Airmen exhibit hall

This old flying machines shows its own layers! See the on-board trunk for carrying stuff. Here is the origin of the word “trunk”which we use in modern American cars to describe the “boot” that holds all our “stuff”

SCHOLARSHIP EVENT SEPTEMBER 9, 2017 – Photography by Marilyn and Garry Armstrong

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017


Share Your World – September 18, 2017

Complete this sentence: I want to learn more about …

How the menus work in my cameras. Every time I think I’ve nailed it, I discover yet another sub-menu to a sub-menu with a list of options that means absolutely nothing to me. Does anyone really use all these options? The explanations are meaningless, too. I’m always afraid I’m going to accidentally change something and the camera will never work again!

I swear they add these options just so they can raise the price of the camera because they’ve given you “extra options”!

On a vacation what you would require in any place that you sleep?

A really comfortable bed. If the bed is sufficiently comfortable, I might never leave.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Camera equipment and dog toys. It keeps humans and furry folks happy.

Today we got four new squeaky toys which are, coincidentally, identical to their other, grungier toys. They were overjoyed. Thrilled. All three of them bounded around the house squeaking their toys until, finally, everything stopped squeaking. But for that two hours, they were the happiest dogs in the world.

My favorite!


Even a new camera doesn’t make me quite that happy.

What inspired you this past week? Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.

My cardiologist inspired me to find someone who teaches Tai Chi. I need to get the body moving, even if slowly.

It turns out, someone in Northbridge gives classes. The price is right, too. I am coaxing Garry to come along. The stretching won’t hurt either of us and maybe we’ll meet other crotchety seniors with whom we can hang.


I went looking in my files for a story — which I didn’t find. Maybe it’s on one of my backup drives. I’ll have to look. Meanwhile, I found this unfinished bit. I wrote it in 2006. Life is much better now. It is interesting seeing how far we have come in a decade and how, despite my pessimism and a lot of setbacks … we’re still here. These days, instead of dunning us for money, the banks want to give us more credit cards and keep raising our credit limits.

The message is SPEND, SPEND! My answer is NO, NO! But thanks for thinking of us. Please send cash, not credit.


My first call this morning was from Discover card, to which entity I owe some thousands of dollars. You can always tell it’s a creditor. Their calls have a special hollow sound. Probably caused by their always using a speaker or microphone.

“Good morning. May I speak with Marilyn Armstrong.”

“Speaking.” Sigh. Here we go again.

“I was wondering if you were intending to make a payment this month.”

“No. I have no money. My unemployment has run out. I have an income of zero.”

“Well, have you considered returning to work?”

I paused for a long moment, pondering the hundreds of resumes I’ve sent, the dozens of phone calls, the days and weeks searching employment websites.

“Actually,” I said, “I have decided I don’t feel like working. You see, ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be poor. Not merely a little short of money. Oh no. I wanted to be so poor that I can only shop at the Salvation Army on half price days. I want to be awakened in the early hours of my weekend by creditors dunning me for money. I want to make choices, like ‘do I eat or do I buy medication? Do I keep the telephone or pay the electric bill?’ You know, miss … what was your name? I didn’t catch it …”

“Tracy …” she replied.

“Well Tracy, even when things were going really well, I was always yearning for the day when I wouldn’t be able to go to the doctor because I have no medical insurance.  So I plotted and schemed until I found a company that was sure to go bankrupt while I worked there owing me three or four months back salary … oh and I also arranged for my husband to be abruptly jobless and for economy to tank… and voilà! I got what I wanted.” And I clicked off.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I’m sure my wit was lost on her, but at least recounting it to Garry made him smile. Everyone keeps telling us that it’s going to get better because it has to. Call me a skeptic. I bet that’s what they told the homeless families as the sheriff evicted them.

Being poor in America is considered a sin. If you are poor, people assume you are also lazy, stupid, and uneducated … unless they are liberals, in which case they assume that you come from a deprived background where your mother was a prostitute and your father is doing twenty-five to life.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

People like us, who were very good earners and lived a decent facsimile of the American Dream — until it turned into the American Nightmare — scare the pants off other people. Our ill-fortune might be contagious. What happened to us could happen to them. They could face ruin because the economy faltered, they got sick, worked for a company that went bankrupt, or were declared obsolete or too expensive  … or worst of all, they got old and were pushed out the door.

People can’t afford to be sympathetic. This is too close. Too many of us are living a paycheck away from financial disaster. In our dreams, we see the glittering eyes of the predators (oops, I meant creditors) watching us from the shadows. So we circle the wagons. Throw another log on the fire and huddle against the dark.

At this point, we’ve gone past that. No wagons remaining to circle and we’re out of firewood.

I have more of a sense of humor about this some days than others.



We are in better shape than we were. Not rolling in the big bucks, but mostly managing to get through the month. Meanwhile, though, too many other people have joined the “we’re poor” party. Which explains that’s why there are so many angry, hostile, hateful people around.

Someone told them they could have a new car or two, a house, and a job that pays a living wage. All they had to do was “the right stuff” to have The Good Life. It didn’t happen that way.

If the good life fails, it must be someone’s fault. It must be Those People. Black people. Hispanic people. Islāmic people. They stole the dream.

Someone stole the dream, right? It can’t be you were working in a business which became obsolete. Or you were under-educated and couldn’t keep up with the how the workforce has changed. Or maybe you just had really bad luck, a thing that can randomly happen to pretty much anybody — with no one at fault.

I know our problems weren’t because of Those People. Other struggling people are not our enemy.  

The rich guy with orange hair is not your friend and he isn’t going to make your world a better place. Maybe he’ll help you hate better, but that’s not going to improve the quality of your life. Maybe you’ve figured it out by now. I hope so.