EXPELIO TRUMPUS! – BY ELLIN CURLEY

David Brooks wrote an editorial in the June 2, 2017 New York Times called “The Axis Of Selfishness.” I just reread it. It really helps you understand where Trump is coming from. It makes his attitudes and actions a bit more comprehensible.

Brooks posits that Trump has a very dark view of humanity and the world. Trump believes that man is motivated solely by selfishness and self-interest. Life is merely a competitive struggle for gain and dominance at the expense of others.

There are only winners and losers. There is a limited amount of ‘stuff’ to be had and everyone has to try to get as much as possible for themselves. You are either on top or you are on bottom beneath someone else’s heel.

There is nothing in the middle. No area of compromise, no mutual interest, no sharing. No neutral zone where people coexist in peace, prosperity and equality.

This explains a lot. He is simpatico with brutal dictators because they share his philosophy of life. They are ‘winners’ who have come out with the most power and the biggest piece of the finite pie. It’s every man for himself, us against them, eat or be eaten, dominate or be subjugated in a dark world with no humanity or humanism.

No touchy feely stuff like morality, good, selflessness, compassion, caring, or justice enter his world. It’s as if those qualities don’t exist for him. That really is sad. If he weren’t screwing up the entire free world I might feel sorry for him — another squishy emotion that he doesn’t recognize.

If this is how Trump sees the world, his behavior almost makes sense. No wonder he’s such a dick! No wonder he’s paranoid. No wonder he thinks all Muslims are out to kill us, that Western European democracies as well as Canada and Mexico are out to cheat us, that all non wealthy, non white Americans exist entirely to mooch off everyone else — and all liberals want only to destroy him.

No wonder Trump can’t let anything go — or stop tweeting. He has to be right and everyone else must be wrong. No wonder he has to demean others. In his mind, the only way you can lift yourself up is by denigrating others.

Brooks says the problem is that Trump’s worldview is self-perpetuating. If you act aggressively, competitively, and selfishly towards all others (people or nations), they will respond to you in kind. Thus your misanthropic attitudes are confirmed and the vicious circle of the worst humanity has to offer goes around and around.

The rest of us acknowledge the existence of greed and venality, but we believe social evolution pushes mankind to be cooperative, empathetic, idealistic, loyal, and righteous. We believe humanity is designed to strive for these ideals in our personal and public lives. We can see the wonderful world we can make if we work together and care for one another.

In our world, Harry Potter beats Voldemort every time. In Trump’s world, Harry Potter is a minor character with little power or even influence. Voldemort is the undisputed king.

I don’t want to live in that world! Neither does most of America.

We have to hope the people who share our better view of life can muster the strength needed to banish Orange Voldemort’s darkness, and bring back America’s light. We have to fight to reinstate compassion, decency, justice, and right as the guiding forces for America.

EXPELIO TRUMPUS!

BRONZE ORIENTAL FIGURINES – Marilyn Armstrong

I decided to try to see if I could get some better photographs of two of my old bronze figurines. I’ve pretty much pinned down the provenance on Vishnu riding Garuda as being most likely 17th or 18th century Chinese — or possibly from Tibet.

He has his original medallion from Chinese authorities indicating his status as an antique. It’s a small piece, as most of these items are. It has been certified by the Chinese government as an official authorized antique.

Bhoddivista buddha – a perfected soul returning to help others achieve perfection. The stuff that looks like gold on the figure is actually gold. Probably 1700s, but possibly 1800s.
Bhoddivista -(Corrected colors) If anyone recognizes this fellow, I’d appreciate the help!

The other item has been harder to pin down. I have no provenance on him. he is a buddha — what is called a “Bhoddivista” — a perfected soul that has returned to be a help to others seeking perfection.

When I talk about provenance, that is the issue. Identical items may come with “official” a government or museum insignia. Even though they are identical to items which do not have the same insignia, their value is significantly lower because without it, proving provenance — where the piece came from and its likely age — is difficult.

This does have the Chinese government insignia. Probably 1700s, but could be 100 years earlier. Possibly from Tibet, but claimed by the Chinese (who are also claiming Tibet)
Vishnu riding Garuda the power of whose wings were said to allow Vishnu to circle the planet in a mere two beats of his wings.

It’s easier when you are dealing with porcelain because porcelain was fired in kilns that often leave specific markings on the base of pieces fired within.  Most of my pieces came without provenance because getting them certified would have cost me at least three more money.

Identical piece, but the seller didn’t want to battle with the Chinese government for their insignia. And who could blame them?

That little metal tag is the Chinese government’s seal of authenticity. This piece is old. How old? I don’t know. 1500s? 1700s? Somewhere in between? Hard to tell with anything made of bronze.

HOW DELL DONE ME IN – Marilyn Armstrong

How a vague idea became real when the company you loved gives you the final boot. Dell, Apple, and why Apple has finally won the endless war.


I have been buying Dell computers for more than 20 years. Not only have I always loved how Dell’s were made, but they lasted a long time.

On the other hand, their customer service which had been great, was on a rapid downhill slide for the past 15 (or more) years. Above and beyond liking Dells because there’s no bloatware on them and they are designed to do a job, was their sturdiness. They were business machines for people who took their work seriously, even if their work was a hobby. I’ve used their equipment for work only, for work and play, for whatever I’m currently doing which you can call whatever you like. Dell did the jobs.

The old 14Z in its youth …

Many Dell’s I bought 10 years ago are still working. Some needed a reinstall of the operating system and a couple needed new hard drives, but that was small stuff, all things considered. I really use my computers. I push them hard, I make them work.

Until the past two — expensive — Alienware — machines. The one Garry has lost its battery after less than 3-years. The only other Dell that ever lost a battery lost it after 7 yeas and it was a cheap machine. I replaced it and it works again, though now it seems to be losing its monitor. It’s old. It doesn’t even have Bluetooth, so it has, I think, hit the end of its road. It doesn’t owe me a thing.

When the little old Dell was beginning to display not having enough video to do what I do, I got a new Dell with the biggest NVIDIA video card I could afford and passed the two-year-old Alienware machine to Garry. After which the battery died. It’s pretty new so the price of getting a new battery is high. The battery replacement was more than most laptops.

The old one works, as long as it’s plugged in, so I suppose you could call it a laptop-shaped desktop. It weighs more than most desktops at a solid 9-pounds including its brick.

My new machine is working fine and does what I bought it to do, but I’m out of service contract. The company got in touch (and back in touch, and back in touch) asking me if I wanted a one-year contract for service on the new machine.

Older Alienware

The price? I kid you not: $850 for a single year of service. I had tried to get service from them during my first two years with the computer and they were useless. No one had a clue how a dual hard drive machine worked and all the advice they gave me was wrong. I eventually doped it out myself, but I’m still not really sure it’s backing up the way it should. There are many things about this computer I love, but also a bunch that I don’t.

One of the problems is weight. The thing feels like two cinder-blocks. I have developed significant upper body strength picking it up and moving it off my lap to a side table. Taking it with me when we travel is just this side of a nightmare.

I’m sure most of the weight are the batteries which basically last for just over two hours. Which means effectively, even WITH a working battery, the machine is still a desktop.

I hate new computers. I hate moving material from machine to machine and moving the material from a PC to a Mac doesn’t sound like fun. I’m sure there’s an app for that and I will have to find it because all my photo and writing backups are for PC and won’t run on a Mac.

I’m not a Mac fancier. The loose style that has been typically Mac/Apple since forever annoyed me. I like orderly computers. I like knowing where stuff is, where it belongs. How to find it. Ironically, the recent changes Mac is making to the operating system is going to make them much more PC-like and PCs are making their OS slightly more Mac-ish. The world comes round and round.

Reality bit. I couldn’t keep hauling the big, brawny, 10-pounds of Alienware and moreover, I didn’t want to. I’m not getting younger. Garry’s machine, now that it has to be plugged in, is developing other signs of flakiness that make me wonder if it will survive.

I knew I could not buy another Dell. I’ve used other bloatware special PCs and I won’t go there. Also, I know what I need, which is a honking big piece of video ram and equipment I can pick up which will not dislocate my shoulder from its joint.

Apple.

Then they offered me the Apple Card. Zero percent interest. 18 months.

I got a Macbook Air — as high-end a version of it as you can buy. It isn’t their top machine but it comes with sufficient USB 3 ports and other connectors, like an SC reader slot. Sometimes, the newest machine on the rack isn’t your best choice.

Meanwhile, Garry needed something. I thought long and hard about what Garry really does. After serious thought, I figured he could live his virtual life on an iPad with a keyboard. And enjoy it, too. Meanwhile, as long as the big Alienware works when plugged in, he has a full-size computer to fall back on.

My only question is why does this iPad have a mouse? You can’t use a mouse on an iPad. Even I know that. Did the photographer just happen to have a new mouse to show off?

In the end, you can’t take two heavy computer users and have only one fully functional computer in the house. It won’t work.

I need to point out to Dell that I was about as loyal a customer as you could find. It took them a decade to get me to where I couldn’t deal with their customer service department again. Ever. They did me in.


Mac/Apple did not win my custom. Dell LOST it. 

I’m pretty sure half of Apple’s new recruits are people who just gave up trying to stay with other companies and were driven screaming into the night.

I am one of them.

MY WATERFALL – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I have a small, but picturesque, waterfall and stream in my backyard. It only flows for part of the year when there’s a lot of rain and/or snow. The summers are usually pretty dry. During those months, you can just make out a ribbon of rocks among the trees that mark the spot where the dormant waterfall sits silently.

Spring waterfall after a big rain

This waterfall plays an important part in my life. As a kid, I used to play with my neighbor in the woods on my parents’ 40 acres of land in Connecticut. We climbed all around the waterfall that was in those woods. We perched on rocks at the spots with the best views of the rushing water. We tried to divert the water into different patterns. This proved difficult, if not impossible. But we had fun trying.

Waterfall today

Flash forward 30 years. My mother has given me a piece of her land so I can build a house, next door to her country house. She wanted to keep me and her grandchildren close. We have to decide where to put the house and how to orient it. My ex husband, the architect and I walked through the woods and came across the waterfall, bordered by old world stone walls. Eureka!

This is where the house has to be! How could we not take advantage of this unique and glorious natural wonder? How many people get to look at something like this every day?

Winter waterfall

So the decision was made to place the house near the stone walls and the waterfall. But there was a conundrum. Most people want their houses to have a southern exposure, for maximum sun and light. But south for us meant that the house would have to face up the driveway, looking at nothing but the driveway and the woods. The waterfall was due west. Not the best exposure for the sun.

Southern exposure view

But for us, views were more important than sun (which bleaches out all your furniture and fabric anyway!) So we designed a house with LOTS of windows and angles that maximized the views of the waterfall. Therefore our living areas face west, not south.

Kitchen bay window to left and round porch to right

I have been grateful for that decision every day for the past 29 years! The waterfall played an important part in the design of my house and continues to play an important part of my life every day I live in that house. It never fails to make me smile when I get to drink coffee and look out at it.

View from my bay windows in the kitchen

Looking at my waterfall, I don’t just get the usual sense of peace and Zen that everyone gets when they experience nature. I also get strong memories of my past. I first set foot on this Connecticut property when I was eight months old, in 1950. I took my first steps here. I am still part of my carefree childhood playing in the woods. I am still connected to my parents and their love of this property. Because of my deep love of this piece of land, I have called it “My Tara,” after Scarlett O’Hara’s beloved plantation.

View of the stream from the kitchen and porch

Growing up, we lived in New York City nine months of the year (that’s where I went to school). I think that increased my appreciation of the country even more. It was a special summer treat for me. Also, my grandparents built a house on the property so I got to see them every day when we were all in Connecticut. That ramped the specialness and joys of the place up to eleven!

I moved to my house in the woods full-time in 1990, when my kids were five and ten years old. My mother, still a city lover, asked me why I could move out of the city after being exposed to all the cultural benefits of city life. I responded: “Because I was also exposed to the glories of country life. And that is what resonated more with me at that stage of my life.”

View of waterfall from my round porch

I’m grateful for all the years I got to spend in New York City. All the theater I got to see, all the museums, art galleries, ballets and concerts. But I can still drive in for those things if I want to. It’s more important for me now to be able to sit and write at my kitchen table, enjoying my view of the woods, of my dogs playing in the backyard, and, of course, of my waterfall.

PREVIOUSLY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS – Marilyn Armstrong

As promised, here are the questions from Willow’s post, sans her answers, but including mine. Just in case anyone wants to answer them for themselves, check out Questions Unanswered on Willow’s site. If you do answer them, please paste a link to your answers in the comments. Thanks!



Do you have a nickname? What do you prefer to be called?

No nickname. But please call me Spike.

Do you have books on your shelf (eReader) that are begging to be read?

Are you serious?

Are you a doodler? What do your doodles look like?

Horses.

What do you do if you can’t sleep at night?

Listen to an audio book and take drugs.

How many days could you think you would last in solitary confinement?

It depends on if I have access to a computer and books. Almost unlimited with enough WiFi.

Do you save old greeting cards and letters or do you toss them away?

Toss them. I am not that sentimental.

Who is the biggest pack rat you know?

My husband.

Were/are you a good student?

Yes.

How often do you look at yourself in the mirror?

Every morning when I brush my teeth, brush my hair, wash my face, put on earrings. Ditto in the evening when I brush my teeth and hair, wash the face again, and remove the earrings.

What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?

That my life was normal.

Do you regift items that have been given to you?

No, because I rarely get gifts. The few that I get, I treasure.

Do you know the difference between a crocodile and an alligator?

Technically, but I probably would miss the subtle differences if I was in the water being dragged away.

Do you still read the newspaper?

No. I was never much of a newspaper reader. Magazines, yes. Newsweek. Time. Life. Look. The New Yorker. But Garry does read papers and he likes to circle articles he thinks I should read. I read them because he’s pretty much always right.

Are there any animals that frighten you?

Big hairy spiders and centipedes.

Are you a collector of something? If so, what do you collect?

I have given up collecting. it’s dangerous to the credit cards. I still, however, have a few hundred antique plastic dolls and several dozen ancient Chinese porcelain pots.

What is something about yourself that you hope will change, but probably never will?

At this point? Nothing, really.

What’s a strange occurrence you’ve experienced but no one believes you?

Nothing I know about.

What’s something that amazes you?

The incredible greed and stupidity of many Americans who, like sheep, willingly follow the worst people in the world.

Do you prefer the blunt truth or would you rather people temper their words?

As long as they are polite, I’m fine with blunt.

What’s one thing you’d rather pay someone to do than do yourself?

Everything involving housework. All repair work. Sewing. Cooking. Cleaning. Grooming. Dusting. Vacuuming. What have I missed? Oh, I know. A professional driver.

What are the qualities that tend to draw you to someone new?

Intelligence, open-mindedness, a sense of humor, loving dogs, and not being afraid of me.

If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?

Delores. Don’t ask me why. I have no idea.

Do you believe ignorance is bliss? Why or why not?

Are you serious?

What (if anything) do you consider unforgivable?

Eavesdropping and rumor mongering. Maybe I should add a lack of commitment to righteousness.

Do you ever break out into song just because you feel like singing?

Yes. Hopefully no one is listening. But the dogs like it and that’s important.

ODD BALLS FROM THE MOB – CEE’S ODDBALL PHOTO CHALLENGE – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge: April 22, 2018


A little light on the party

We went to a party. They aren’t my best pictures, but they were more fun than most.

A word about processing people pictures from parties. I use a lot of creative effects on people pictures because what I want to show is their faces, their laughter, the fun without making every look like they have the neck of a chicken or, as Garry puts it “the chrome dome.”

Everyone wants to look good. Most people our age don’t expect to look young and they don’t mind seeing character in their faces, but they also don’t want to look like they were just unearthed from a grave. Finding a balance is a bit of a trick. I put more time and energy into processing people — especially people in my age group — than I do for anything else.

Trees don’t care if the bark looks grungy, but people care a lot when their skin looks like tree bark.

GUN SENSE, GUNS, AND GUNSMOKE – Tom Curley

I can no longer count all the mass shootings in this country. We’re still into serious protesting about the February 14, 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and I’m rooting for the kids to finally get done what we have obviously failed to do.

Last November there was another mass shooting in Texas. Which was just weeks after really big mass shooting in Nevada. Which was a mere few weeks after the mass shooting in … Oh, I don’t know.

I don’t remember. Pick a state. Odds are, a mass shooting recently happened there, too.


Given the state of the state and since obviously “thoughts and prayers” don’t seem to be getting the job done, this seemed relevant. 


I can look through the posts on Serendipity over the months and years … and instead of becoming dated — because we fixed this or that — or at least moved on to a different issue, we are months and years later dealing with exactly the same stuff. Our “leaders” — such as they are — are spouting the same slogans and platitudes.

So … on the subject of guns …

I’ve been thinking about why this country is so gun crazy. The craziest of the crazies keep saying: “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” This is, of course, ridiculous. Now the right-wing is saying that in the case of the recent Texas shooting, apparently a good guy with a gun did chase the bad guy with a gun. The only thing they left out is he chased the guy AFTER HE KILLED 26 PEOPLE AND WOUNDED A LOT MORE!

Then it hit me. It’s our fault so many people believe this kind of thing. By “our fault,” I mean the fault of those of us who grew up in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Our heroes were cowboys. We grew up watching Westerns in which everybody, men and women alike, had guns strapped to their waists. (Dale Evans was a hell of shot. So was Annie Oakley.)

Everybody had a gun. Good guys. Bad guys. Grandma. But, the world was a lot safer in those westerns than it is now — and not because everyone had a gun. Or two. Or three.

First. The bad guys rarely — if ever — actually hit anybody at whom they shot.

Second. The good guys merely shot the guns out of the bad guys hands. They weren’t trying to kill them.

Third. Grandma just shot people in the ass. Usually with a shotgun filled with rock salt.

Okay, sometimes the good guy would need to be little more extreme, so he’d shoot the bad guy in the shoulder (or “wing em” as we used to say). But it was always just a flesh wound.

BAD GUY:OW! You shot me in the shoulder!”

GOOD GUY: “Oh stop whining. It’s just a flesh wound.”

BAD BUY: “Well if you shot me between the eyes wouldn’t that technically be a “flesh wound” too?”

GOOD GUY: “Hmm. Never thought of it that way. You know, you’re rather astute for a bad guy.”

BAD GUY: “Thank you.”

Another thing. When the bad guy used up his bullets shooting at the good guy, he’d throw the gun at him! I never understood this. Seriously. You just fired a few dozen bullets, each traveling at about 1000 feet per second, at a guy a couple of hundred feet away. You missed every shot.

What exactly do you hope to accomplish by throwing the gun at him? Bonk him on the head?

GOOD GUY: OW! What the hell?! Did you just throw your gun at me!?”

BAD GUY: “Uh, yeah.”

GOOD GUY: “Well that really hurt! Look! I’ve already got a lump! What’s wrong with you?? Why would you do that?”

BAD GUY: “I ran out of bullets.”

GOOD GUY: “And whose fault is that?! If you’re going to a gun fight, come more prepared.”

BAD GUY: “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

At this point, seeing that the bad guy doesn’t have a gun with to shoot anymore … and all the good guy was intending to do was shoot the gun out of his hand, both go home feeling oddly unfulfilled.

I don’t own a gun, but I took a gun safety course. I’ve done some target shooting. So I know guns are REUSABLE! That’s right! All you gotta do is find more bullets for Pete’s sake — and that gun’s back on the job.

FYI, don’t call them bullets. They’re cartridges. The bullet is the lead part you actually fire from the gun. (See? I told you. I took a course.)

One more thing we tend to forget about Westerns. If you went into a town that had a Sheriff, you had to leave your guns at the sheriff’s office. When you left town, you got your guns back. The Sheriff understood the only reason anyone came to town was to go to the saloon. Which, let’s face it, was a brothel with a liquor license. Letting a bunch of horny, drunken cowboys hang out in a confined space with booze, hookers, and guns is not a great idea.

Even if you were in a town where they let you keep your guns, there were rules.

1 – If two bad guys got in a fight, they at least gave everybody a few seconds to move their chairs out of the way, or jump behind the bar.

2 – If a good guy and a bad guy got into a disagreement, they would usually schedule the gunfight for the next day in the middle of town. That way, no one else got shot.

3 – They set it up for high noon.

Why high noon? Probably because it was the lunch hour. Everybody in town could come out to watch. It also made it easier for the combatants. It wasn’t always easy to get time off for a gunfight.

BAD GUY: “Hey boss? Can I get off early today? I have a gunfight at 2 o’clock.”

BAD GUY’S BOSS: “Okay, but I’ll have to dock your pay.”

BAD GUY: (Sighing) “Never mind. I’ll reschedule it for lunchtime.”

Besides, “Gunfight at Two-ish” doesn’t have the gravitas of “High Noon.” So yeah, everybody had guns in old Westerns, but they were more mature about using them. You could argue things were simpler back then. “Things were more black and white,” you say.

To this I reply: “So what? Westerns weren’t more black and white. They were completely black and white.” They didn’t go to color until the mid-sixties.

These days, everything contains infinitely more shades of gray. With a whole lot of color thrown in.