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    July 2021
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    • The Lack of Belief In Good
      Are humans good, bad or neutral? It’s an old philosophical debate, and not just in the West. Confucius thought they were born neutral, for example, while the later Confucian Mencius felt they were good, noting that everyone who saw a child fall into a well would be horrified. Others, including many Confucians and the Christian church, with original sin, have […]
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Sea Salt to Swiss Coffee

This post is about nothing much in particular. Prepare for whinging.

I’ve been repainting my bedroom. It’s a west facing room and gets a lot of warm light in the afternoon. A few years ago, I painted it in the color Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams. It’s a soft, light, greeny blue color. The color is beautiful but it didn’t quite work in this room. During some times of the day, it fades out to a gray, which is not my favorite color. On other days, it just felt cold.

I’ve wanted to repaint for awhile because the color works against me and I end up sleeping on the living room sofa. That’s totally unnecessary because I have two other rooms with comfy beds. In fact, my newly painted office has a daybed and the whole room is painted White Dove by Benjamin Moore. It’s so soft and calming that I thought I’d try a similar color in my main bedroom.

(I’m into colors. Sometimes, I can spend hours flipping through my Benjamin Moore paint deck and online paint visualization tools. I can pick up undertones very easily. But I digress.)

So, I picked up Swiss Coffee for my bedroom. Why not White Dove? I wanted something just a smidge warmer. A teensy bit. Surprise, surprise, every paint manufacturer has their own formulation of Swiss Coffee. I love Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Coffee but it is $$$. I went with valspar’s Swiss Coffee instead. They’re close but I probably should have gone with the Benjamin Moore color instead. Let me tell you why.

My whole second floor is all about ceilings. Yes, I live in a house that was built in the 50’s. I love it but the second floor is not a full 8 ft. everywhere. I guess to save on materials, the builders did what looks like a floor and a half elevation from the front of the house. Maybe it was a bungalow crossed with colonial? Who knows. The house has beautiful spacious rooms so I’m not complaining. Except for the ceilings.

I can’t just slap paint on the walls and call it a day. No. Because the ceilings are curved down to a half wall towards the exterior of the house, there is no natural stopping point for any paint treatment. The ceiling must also be painted.

This has presented all kinds of tricky problems. For example, I painted another room a soft light shade of pink with brown undertones. I got sample pots and swatched it and it looked fine. It was light and delicate. When I got to the ceilings, I realized I had made a mistake. The ceiling bounces more color around the room and seems to absorb any natural light. Instead of light and soothing, I have oppressive pink. If I ever start my own paint line, Oppressive Pink will be in it.

Ceilings will multiple and intensify that color wave frequency all over the damn place so if you’ve got ceilings, make sure you go up about 10 LRV before you start painting. You’ll thank me later.

I bought a paint sprayer for the office room. The whole painting process took about 45 minutes for two coats including the ceiling. It was glorious. The bad thing is the amount of overspray. You need to cover and tape, EVERYTHING. Then there is the cleanup. The whole apparatus must be completely free of paint before you put it away. It’s tedious.

So I thought I’d just paint the bedroom with rollers. I have a Bob Timberlake cherry sleigh bed that I can potentially sell for mucho dinero and I don’t want to get it covered in a fine veil of Swiss Coffee. The walls were pretty easy. Took about an hour.

Then I got to the ceiling. For some reason, all of the other surfaces only needed one coat of paint with some touch ups but the ceiling, the CEILING, needs TWO full coats. The first coat seemed almost transparent. I blame myself for this. I used a roller with a longer extension that is specifically made for ceilings. I thought it would make things easier. Do not do this, people. If you see this product in your home improvement store, run. Run away quickly.

I might have been able to pull this off with Benjamin Moore paint. That stuff is like heavy cream to all the other paint companies’ 2%. The roller glides over the walls with a satisfying smooth completely opaque coat of luscious pigment. It’s so saturated. One coat perfection. (This post is not sponsored).

Today, I am repainting the ceiling. I’m taking a break to give my arm a rest. It’s a pain in the arm.

The good news is I have taken all of next week off. Normally, I would try to go on vacation. But my vacations on the east coast have been ruined by hurricanes (3 of them, two required evacuations and one resulted in me breaking my arm in three places. Don’t ask.). Then there was the “first named tropical storm of the season!” that stalled off the coast of North Carolina. For a week. The same week the almanac swore there aren’t any storms in the outer banks area. (I hated 2020). Then there was the beach vacation that was completely ruined by a super annoying homophobic, rude and disrespectful, relative who was obsessed with Nancy Grace and Casey Anthony. I learned that homicide is never a good solution. Wait… no, it is always wrong.

It has gotten so bad that number one child says that if I really don’t like someone, I should offer to go on vacation with them and that my superpower is conjuring storms.

My vacations for the last decade have been washed out or carelessly destroyed so many times that I have given up. I’m going to try to save my money for a Mediterranean cruise where there are no hurricanes, or a British isles walking tour where the weather is expected to be damp and chilly and I will know that in advance. That should take some time to save for in my Acorn account and at some point, something will break in my house that will require an expensive repair. I know how these things go. My retaining wall is still sitting in a heap at the end of my driveway. The southwest by campervan would have been nice but I’ve heard that rentals are scarce this year. So, staycation {{😢😭😭😭}} it is.

There will be a lot of painting/waterproofing going on this week. I’m going to bust out the sprayer for those projects.

Stay tuned.

Mass Delusion

In Ray Bradbury’s collection of short stories which formed the book “The Martian Chronicles,” the story which I liked the best, and which stayed with me, was one of the first ones. It was about the second spacecraft sent to Mars from Earth. I don’t remember what happened to the first one, but it failed. This one landed, and the captain and his crew climbed out of the plane. They walked away from the plane, and soon were met by Martians.

The captain tried to explain where they were from, and what they were doing there. They were taken nearby, to meet with some kind of higher Martian official. He was fascinated, and kept saying things like, “Incredible!” “I have never encountered anything like this!”

It became apparent that this official did not believe any of their story. He thought that they were Martians suffering from some kind of extensive hallucination or psychosis. Apparently, such psychoses were fairly common on Mars, but the Martian official had never seen one which had such complex descriptions, a whole back story. The captain tried to convince him that they were sane, and from Earth, but he did not believe any of it.

So finally they convinced him to walk with them to see the ship. The Martian told his assistants that when they see that there is no ship there, maybe they then could take these psychotic Martians in for treatment. When they showed him the ship, he was astounded. He said that he had never, in all of his years of working with mental illness, seen such a manifestation of psychosis, these people being able to actually create the delusion of a spaceship, and being able to transmit it to sane people like he was.

He became so unsettled at his inability to make the delusion go away, that he thought that these Martians who said they were from Earth, had developed a new form of mental illness, and had to be stopped before it spread. So he shot all of them, as they pleaded for him to believe them. And then he expected the illusory ship to immediately disappear, with the extinction of the insane people who had created it. But it did not. He then became terrified, and said that these people had somehow infected him with their psychosis, which continued even after they ceased to exist. So he shot himself. The last sentence of the story said that the ship rusted away, and eventually the parts were sold as junk.

The story was so memorable to me, because of the frustration of seeing the space travelers from Earth not be able to convince the Martians that their ship and their story were real. And every time they tried to show them more concrete proof, the Martians rejected all of them, being convinced that it was all due to the claimed Earth people’s mental illness. And every further evidence was assimilated into the original belief, which nothing could alter.

Today, I heard a story about a state senator from Michigan named Ed McBroom. In an interview with Tim Alberta for The Atlantic, McBroom explained that he had looked to find election fraud in his state during the last election, and despite extensive probing, found nothing, and concluded that there was no fraud. McBroom comes from a very conservative district in his state, has been admired, is considered as a “choirboy” type, owns a dairy farm, just seems like a genuine “down home” guy. But as soon as he expressed his opinion that there was no voter fraud, he received threats, and they continue. Some people accuse him of taking money from the Chinese, whom various Republicans in his area seem to believe somehow changed the ballots or the vote count.

So McBroom is now being declared “an enemy of the people,” as in the famous Ibsen play of that title. That play was about a well-respected citizen of a town, who discovered that a new bath system which had been installed in the town and which meant money and jobs, was seriously faulty. First he is respected for his views; then, as the town leaders believe that he jeopardizes the financial success the system would bring, he is criticized, and eventually attacked verbally and then literally, and he and his wife are driven out of the town. My first experience with that play was seeing it live, and it had a very powerful and thought-provoking theme.

These are three examples, two from fiction, and one real and from right now, which are really about a similar theme, which is the psychological need of some people to reject any evidence which is contrary to what they believe, or want or need to believe. No facts or evidence will wrench them out of their belief system. They become like religious zealots who need to not only disparage the facts they are given, but who will try to destroy the reputation and even existence of anyone telling them an unwelcome thing.

What do we have in this country now? A cult? A bunch of deranged people who believe anything they are told by Trump or his acolytes, or by someone who calls himself “Q”? They believe that somehow the election was stolen from Trump, who won in a landslide, despite a vote count that showed that he lost by over 7 million votes? Why do they believe this? Because Trump told them that he won? That is certainly part of it. But that gives Trump too much credit, because these people, or their immediate forebears, have believed lies and idiocy for decades.

When I was a boy, we lived in a nice suburb in the Los Angeles foothills, which was mostly filled with right-wing people. My parents moved there because I had allergies, and our allergist strongly recommended that we move there, so they did it for me. We were one of the few politically liberal families. But the people were mostly nice, and it was no problem, until I became aware of strange beliefs. Somehow fluoridation of water became a big controversy. There were dire warnings circulating around among the other students and their parents, people trying to ban the use of fluoridated water in homes or offices. I had no idea; was fluoridated water really dangerous? No, but there was this group which were convinced that it was a Communist plot, to fluoridate the water and get people to drink it.

Then there was the PTA (Parent Teachers Association) ridiculousness. Some people in the area claimed that it was some kind of Communist front organization. My mother was a member, and I was too young to know much about what was going on, except that it was an issue, and there was the question as to whether the meetings should go forward. That went away, but it gives you an idea. That was near the era of the John Birch Society, and all the weirdness of Right-Wing California politics. Most of it centered on looking for Communist plots. Former California Attorney General Stanley Mosk once sarcastically referred to some of these people as “little old ladies in tennis shoes.” They were in some way the forerunners of the right-wing zealots now, but the current ones are weirder.

The Far Right in this country has always been full of weirdos and crackpots. So to give Donald Trump credit for being this brilliant Svengali-type figure, is ridiculous. Many of these people were already completely eager to embrace a view where they were always right; where people who did not look like them were dangerous; where there were all these plots to subvert democracy. The Tea Party had all sorts of fanatical people in it and we saw some of them in the campaigns of 2010 and 2014. If there hadn’t been Trump, they would have latched onto someone else. Cruz, or Rand Paul, or Tom Cotton. Trump was more successful than they would have been, but the willingness to latch onto insane conspiracy beliefs was already there.

We know how amoral and anti-democratic the so-called mainstream Republicans are. They are determined to win at all costs. We saw that in the McCarthy witch hunts; in Watergate, Iran-Contra, the 1988 and 2000 elections, the Benghazi hearings. Their side will never accept defeat, and they will cheat and game the system to win. Trump was made for them. Fox News had poisoned the airwaves before Trump ran. The typical Republican who is not one of the very few billionaires and corporate heads in this country, is a low-information voter who professes a religious belief system where there is no middle ground; they are good, and their foes are evil incarnate.

So they cannot lose, in their minds. They either win, as they are supposed to, or someone has cheated them, fixed the ballots, mailed them in from foreign countries, altered the signatures by the millions. They will never even consider the inanity of these ideas; they think, as did the people who killed so-called witches in Salem, that there are mysterious evil forces, which it is up to them to unearth and destroy.

How can you rationally discuss anything with millions of people who insist that Trump won in a landslide, and that there are all these Democrats sneaking into polling places with carts full of ballots; Chinese and Venezuelans taking out the Trump ballots and putting Biden ballots in. And they are proud that Republicans won 15 or so House seats, and how do they account for that? The Democrats and Fu Manchu were clever enough to only change the Trump votes, and to either leave in the downballot votes, or actually give some of them to Republicans to trick people, but they did not manage to trick these smart people, devoted believers in “QAnon,” who realized their fiendish scheme?

The biggest question, is what do we do about these certifiably insane people, who number in the tens of millions? Many of them are eager for a Civil War. They will never accept defeat in any election. They would rather shoot people. They will not stop, and the Republican dark money people goad them on. There are not nearly enough insane asylums to hold them. There is no chance that they will slowly be converted away from their madness. They desperately need their beliefs, it is all they have. They avidly read “Q” and Trump, they love Greene and Gosar and their new McCarthy.

We saw the hate on their faces as they swung weapons at police officers and shouted obscenities. Trump may have helped galvanize them, but their warped fantasies and violent belief systems have been around for many decades. I don’t have a brilliant plan to immobilize them, but I know it is going to take more than hope and kindness, though those are good things. And trying to convince a substantial amount of them out of their beliefs is about as likely as in the Ray Bradbury story. They feel like if they give up these beliefs, they will fall apart and lose all purpose. So they hold onto them. It is worse than cognitive dissonance, it is fanaticism which no facts or data or arguments will displace. They feel that if they do give them up, they have no identity.