Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Daytime talk shows... oh how they seduce me with trash!

In 1988, Geraldo Rivera was the KING of daytime TV...

I remember being a high school junior when the above episode of his show aired and he got his nose broken in a brawl that was filmed and showed to the masses.

Daytime TV exploded after that and there were shows by Oprah Winfrey, Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, Montel Williams, and Sally Jessy Raphael.

Here, Oprah gets called a "monkey" by a racist in her audience.  Check out her hair!

Here, Jenny Jones ambushes some guy who didn't know he was the object of a gay man's crush.  Later, the man ended up murdering the gay guy who liked him so much.

And this episode of Jenny Jones' show features both Dana Plato and Lani O'Grady, both of whom are now dead due to drug use.

And now we have Dr. Phil...  Actually, I have to say, today's episode of Dr. Phil was totally creepy.  His guest was this woman whose boyfriend was totally smothering and possessive.  It was obvious that the man was abusing her and he seemed to be completely clueless as to how the things he said to her were totally abusive and creepy.

I didn't start watching a lot of daytime TV until somewhat recently.  In the 80s and 90s, I was too busy. For part of the 00s, I lived out of the country or didn't have cable TV.  Now I watch because I don't have anything else to do.  I have to admit that I get hooked on these shows because they are so sensational...

I am continually amazed by how shitty people can be.  I know part of this is encouraged by the show's producers, who want an interesting and controversial show.  On the other hand, there must have been something to these cases to get these people on the show in the first place.  It just points to a serious lack of common sense.  Even if you are in serious trouble, why would you volunteer to go on Dr. Phil's show for the world to see?  I am especially amazed by Jessica Beagley, the Mormon hot sauce mom...  Did she really not know that pouring hot sauce down her son's throat and forcing him into a cold shower would not be construed as child abuse?  She must have been out of her mind.

Anyway, in a matter of days, I'll be getting a reprieve from the trash when we get to Italy.  I'm really looking forward to it.  I need a vacation from daytime TV!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sexism in Advertising...

Today's post is yet another re-posting of an Epinions review I wrote in 2004.  It's about the author and speaker, Jean Kilbourne.  A lot of what I'd have to say about Jean Kilbourne is within the body of my review, which unfortunately is "greyed out" on Epinions and impossible to find with a search engine.  I'm putting it here because I think Jean Kilbourne's work is worth publicizing.  The video at the end was posted on Facebook this morning.  It was a project done by Canadian students and very cleverly shows how ridiculous and sexist advertising can be.

Warning: advertising can be hazardous to your health and your wallet...

 Written: Aug 10, 2004 (Updated Jan 31, 2005)
Rated a Very Helpful Review by the Epinions community
    The Bottom Line:Protect yourself from the deadly persuasive tactics of advertisers.
    About eight years ago, when I was in the Peace Corps, serving in the Republic of Armenia, a fellow volunteer introduced me to Jean Kilbourne by showing her 1979 movie, Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women. Kilbourne had filmed one of her lectures about how ads seductively affect the public in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Later, when I went to graduate school at the University of South Carolina, I had the opportunity to hear Jean Kilbourne speak in person. I went to her lecture and watched and listened as she showed slides of advertisements, pointing out the fascinating and horrifying subliminal messages that are presented in cigarette and booze ads. I found her to be a dynamic and intelligent speaker. I was impressed. While I was at the lecture, I had the chance to buy her 1999 book, Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising, but unfortunately I was economically challenged and the book was hardcover. Then the following year, a social work professor showed another one of her films. That settled it; I had to read her book. I purchased it and couldn't put it down, even though some of the material presented within the book was stuff that I'd either seen in her movies or heard at her lecture. Kilbourne's message is very important; luckily, it's also fascinating.

    According to her book, Jean Kilbourne holds a doctoral degree and has produced several award winning documentaries, and she's been a visiting scholar at Wellesley College. She's also served on the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and she's been an advisor to two surgeons general. Her academic pedigree is impeccable; but she's not just brilliant and remarkably astute, she's also very funny. The passion she brings to her work has served to alert scores of people to the dangers of advertising and the media.

    Jean Kilbourne starts off her book with the following anecdote:

    In 1968 I saw an ad that changed my life. One of the many mindless jobs I had that year was placing ads in The Lancet, a medical journal. This particular one was for a birth control pill called Ovulen 21. It featured a smiling woman's head and the caption "Ovulen 21 works the way a woman thinks-- by weekdays... not 'cycle days'." Inside the head were seven boxes, each one day of the week. And inside each box was a picture of that day's activity: Sunday had a roast, Monday a laundry basket, Tuesday an iron, and so forth. I realized that the ad was basically saying that women were too stupid to remember their cycles but could remember days of the week. And the days of their weeks were an endless rotation of domestic chores. (pp. 17-18)

    Kilbourne put the ad up on her refrigerator and soon found herself noticing other ads that insulted and demeaned women. She kept putting the ads on her refrigerator and realized that while some of the messages in the ads were degrading to women, others were violent. She started to recognize patterns in the messages and the images within the advertisements and saw that in many of the ads, only parts of women were shown-- in other words, just breasts, noses, or legs, were pictured instead of the whole woman. She noticed that "women were often infantilized and that little girls were sexualized" (18). This was how Jean Kilbourne got started as she began her pursuit of her life's vocation, by looking at magazine ads in the late 1960s.

    Kilbourne realized that everything she had done, from work to finding mates, was influenced by her appearance, although her book makes it plain that she's very intelligent, too. Although Kilbourne had won a hometown beauty contest as a teenager, and learned how to drink and smoke from a friend, she also went to Wellesley College on a full scholarship after earning a perfect score on the verbal SAT. At Wellesley, Kilbourne earned an award that allowed her to spend a year living in London, working for the British Broadcasting Corporation. While in England, she worked as a secretary, smoked, drank, and modeled; she even dated Ringo Starr and a knight, and partied at Roman Polanski's apartment. When she came back from Europe, Kilbourne found herself unable to find meaningful employment. It was during this period that Kilbourne really seemed to find herself in trouble with alcohol, although a doctor had told her "Don't worry, honey, you're not the type to be an alcoholic." (22). She was told that she should be a model and she did work as one, until a designer told her that in order to be really successful, she would have to have sex with him. Al Capp also hired her to be a ghostwriter, but he too wanted sex in exchange for a job. With everything that happened to Kilbourne when she was coming of age, I find it no wonder that she became so focused on the women's movement.

    Jean Kilbourne makes the statement "If you're like most people, you think that advertising has no influence on you" (33). How many of us have watched a commercial on television or looked at a print ad and felt we that we had thought nothing of it? Kilbourne points out that advertisers want the public to believe that they aren't being affected, but they must be. Otherwise, she asks, why would advertisers spend in excess of $200 billion annually on advertising? Why would they spend half a million dollars to produce and air a commercial, or spend a couple of million dollars to air their ads during the Super Bowl or other high profile television shows? Kilbourne notes that during the 1999 Super Bowl, Victoria's Secret aired commercials featuring scantily clad models and one million people logged onto their website, which was promoted on the television ad (33).

    Kilbourne outlines why good television shows, the kinds that attract viewers of all ages, get canceled. It's because advertisers want to attract people in the 18-49 age range; those are the people who have the most money to spend on their products. And television producers need to be able to pay their bills by commanding high advertising rates for shows that will interest people in the 18-49 age range. In fact, Kilbourne points out that most television networks have stopped aiming for the middle class and are instead trying to hook people between the ages of 18-34. It's at that age range the advertisers theorize that they are most likely to influence people to establish brand loyalty.

    Throughout Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising, Jean Kilbourne has included pictures of print ads. Some of them are from advertising journals and those are the ones that are truly sinister. One picture, an ad for an entertainment group, depicts a young bald man facing away from the camera wearing earphones. The caption, which is spread over the image of the man's head, reads "When you've got them by the ears, their hearts and minds will follow." (36) Another one shows George W. Bush (after his re-election as the governor of Texas) and the caption "If you have high ambitions, hire us. He did." (37) The caption on the ad continues, "If we can create advertising that persuades Hispanic Democrats to vote Republican, we can get them to buy your product" (38). Pretty heavy words, especially given where Bush went after his time as governor.

    So why should women and girls be worried? Kilbourne points out that "commercialism has no borders" (59). Advertising is EVERYWHERE: on billboards and trucks, on television and radio, on the internet, and in magazines and newspapers. A person would have to be blind and deaf not to be somehow affected by advertising. And the messages they promote are not always positive. In Chapter 5, Kilbourne shows ads that are associated with food. She points out that

    "while men are encouraged to fall in love with their cars, women are more often invited to have a romance, indeed an erotic experience, with something even closer to home... the food we eat... and the consequences become even more severe as we enter into the territory of compulsivity and addiction" (108). 

    Chapter 5 includes pictures of women who look as if they are on the verge of ecstasy as they are teased with food. Kilbourne has included the insidious captions of ads that imply that food equals love and women need to be comforted by food. Kilbourne explores the psychology behind tag lines like "I thank me very much for Andy's Candies" (110) and "From you to you" (110). The commercials show women either consoling or rewarding themselves with food. But everybody knows that women are supposed to be thin. What does advertising tell us about women who don't meet society's expectations by being thin enough? We aren't told that we should be happy. We're told that we should eat the latest fat free or low carb food. We get the message that being heavier than the woman in the magazine is unacceptable and wrong and we should do something about it by joining a gym or going on a diet. Advertising is a medium that thrives on people who are either dissatisfied or unsatisfied with some aspect of themselves or their lives. But more than that, it actually encourages people to be unhappy so that they'll buy the latest product.

    But why does this theme of dissatisfaction especially apply to women and girls? Kilbourne further addresses this concept in Chapter 6. She explores how adolescents are particularly vulnerable to advertising and how advertisers are on the prowl to get them buying their products. How many 22 year olds do you know suddenly decide one day to pick up smoking? I would venture to guess that you don't know many... but plenty of teens pick up the habit so that they can appear older or cooler than their friends. The same goes for alcohol and sex. But aside from the messages delivered from advertising, teenagers, especially girls, also must cope with other issues that may weaken their resolve when it comes to advertising. What happens to a lot of girls when they become adolescents? Their self esteem plummets and they are liable to be less secure about who they are. They might engage in behaviors that will threaten their health, like binge drinking, eating disorders, smoking, or having unprotected intercourse that results in a sexually transmitted infection or an unintended pregnancy. This chapter includes some startling photos of ads that may not have caused the average person to to think twice... until they encounter the points that Kilbourne brings up. For example, there's one picture of a young woman with a turtleneck pulled up over her mouth (139). On first glance, the average person might think that the girl was just keeping warm on a cold day (she's also wearing a winter cap). On second glance, the person may understand the underlying message-- that women should be seen and not heard. It's not just pictures that convey this message. Kilbourne also writes about a perfume ad with the slogan "Make a statement without saying a word" (138). Hmmmm...

    Chapters 7 and 8 are about alcohol and cigarettes. Kilbourne's message is that no matter what the tobacco industry wants the public to believe, it's in the business of getting young people to smoke. After all, people often die from health problems related to smoking, or if they're lucky, they quit before they die. Somehow, those people who die or quit must be replaced. As I pointed out before, it's a lot easier to get a teenager to start smoking than it is to get an adult into the habit. This chapter is full of good information about how teens get and stay addicted. Joe Camel is featured prominently in this section. I remember in Kilbourne's lecture, she pointed out the many penis references on Joe Camel. I had never noticed them until she showed them to us, and now they're plain as day.

    The rest of Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising addresses how advertising itself can inspire violence, addiction, and disconnection. The chapter on violence is particularly interesting and scary. Some of the pictures included are those of familiar ads that actually call women b-itches, and promote violence and sexism. It's a real eye-opener that might make you angry, especially if you're a woman.

    So do I have any complaints about this book? Yes, I have a couple of minor ones. One is that if you have ever seen Jean Kilbourne speak or watched one of her films, you will already be familiar with some of the ads that are included in Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. On the other hand, this is not necessarily a weakness, since having the ads in a book and reading her words will reinforce Kilbourne's message and you can also revisit that information over and over again and perhaps enjoy a better understanding of it. The other is that sometimes I get the feeling that she overstates her case a little bit and makes ALL advertisers out to be villains. Yes, some of their messages are dangerous and demeaning, but I don't believe that all advertising and the people that create it are inherently evil. Kilbourne highlights how advertising can be dangerous, but at times I feel that she also goes a little bit too far and lumps all advertisers together as bad. Sometimes ads can be helpful and even positive. And I think it's important for me to point out that I don't believe that Americans should be subjected to thought policing. Awareness about the hidden dangers of advertising is a good thing, but I also believe that people should be allowed to make up their own minds about what advertisers are saying to them. I fear that too much control will lead us to a slippery slope that could erode our freedoms as Americans.

    Nevertheless, if you're interested in women's rights, the media, and psychology, I think it's a sure bet that you will enjoy reading Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. And I believe that Jean Kilbourne has truly created a masterpiece with this book. She has no doubt helped millions by opening their eyes to the potentially destructive influences of advertising and the media.

    I want to end this review by sharing an experience that I had the other night while watching television. An ad came on for M&M Cookie Bars and a little boy was shown pocketing FOUR of the bars, then tearing up the box they came in. He ordered his labrador retriever to lie down and stay, covered the dog with the torn up box, then called out, "Mom, the dog ate all the M&M Cookie Bars again!" while the dog looked up innocently.

    This ad bothered me because first, it sends the message that it's not only okay, but also cute and funny to lie and steal. Apparently, this wasn't the kid's first time lying and stealing, either, since he said that the dog had eaten the bars AGAIN. Second, our nation is coping with a growing population of children who are obese and developing Type 2 (formerly known as Adult Onset) Diabetes, a disease that used to typically affect adults over the age of 40 and was almost unheard of in children. And third, this ad depicts a child pretending that his dog has eaten chocolate and it's a cute thing. Chocolate is very toxic to dogs; it contains a chemical that can kill them if they ingest too much of it. Unfortunately, different dogs handle chocolate in different ways and some chocolates are more dangerous than others. But kids who watch this ad are probably not going to know this. The ad does have a warning about giving chocolate to dogs, but it's tiny and doesn't stay on the screen long enough for people to read it-- plus some kids who see the ad will be too young to read.

    There's no doubt that Jean Kilbourne's book, Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising, has inspired me to look at advertising more closely and be a smarter consumer. I believe it can have the same positive effect on other people and I encourage others to read it and learn as much as I did. And if you have the chance to see Jean Kilbourne speak, I also encourage you to take the opportunity. Your eyes will open.

    The paperback edition of this book is entitled Can't Buy Me Love. 

    Sunday, April 28, 2013

    "None of your business..."

    Today's post is especially for stepparents... especially stepmoms.  I don't really consider myself a stepmom anymore, but I think this issue will resonate with people who marry someone with kids.

    Yesterday, I posted about RfM and certain posters who get treated like "sages".  One poster in particular likes to talk about how she used to work with family courts and therefore considers herself an authority on dysfunctional families as they pertain to divorce.  This poster was recently called out for lacking empathy.  I have to agree with that assessment.

    One day, long before I started this blog, I was posting about my husband's situation with his ex wife and how she was causing so much havoc in our lives.  The resident family court "sage" on RfM basically posted her "credentials", then proceeded to tell me that I "didn't have a dog in the fight".  My husband's issues with his kids were solely between him and his ex-wife and I needed to "butt out" because it was none of my business.  I was also told the same thing by my husband's stepmother.

    Okay.  First off, when I married my husband, I became his wife.  And the issues pertaining to him and his ex wife and ex kids started to affect me personally.  I certainly think I had a right to an opinion when the issues affecting my husband and his ex wife started to affect my life.  The ex had opinions about me and our lifestyle.  She had no trouble expressing them and told my husband that she was "glad" that they had everything in writing so I wouldn't try to keep him from supporting his family.  She even expected me to spend the holidays with her after she invited herself to my in-laws' house.  Why is she afforded a right to an opinion and I'm not?  Is it just because she gave birth?  I think that's bullshit.

    But let's just say for argument's sake that I really should have butted out and had no right to have an opinion.  In that case, then no one in my husband's family had any right to expect anything of me regarding my husband's relationship with his kids and his ex.  If the stepkids were not my business, then there should have been no expectation that I would have any responsibilities toward them.  It should have been perfectly fine that I skipped the ex's holiday bash with the in-laws because clearly I wasn't considered a family member with feelings and a functioning brain.  The ex made it clear that she thought of me as an interloper who needed to be put in my place.  I was expected to show up and, most importantly, shut up.  Sorry, but life doesn't work that way, at least not in my world.

    If the stepkids aren't my business, then no one should expect me to love them as I would love my own kids, had I been afforded the opportunity to have them.  If I am not allowed to have an opinion, then I should not be expected to have to interact with my husband's ex wife and kids at all.  My life should be completely separate from theirs.

    But, in fact, many people do expect stepmothers to love their stepchildren as if they themselves gave birth to them.  They also expect them not to have an opinion and not to step on the mom's toes.  There's an inherent cloud of guilt that surrounds being a second wife and stepmother and I think that's why so many women end up being on the receiving end of disrespect from family members.  No one wants to be thought of as a "wicked stepmother".  Stepmothers are often expected to take whatever abuse their stepkids hurl at them, all the while accepting the stereotype that they are homewreckers who broke up a "happy family".

    News flash-- I didn't break up my husband's marriage; but even if I had, it couldn't have been a happy union.  I think it's incorrect to blame the other woman when a man has an affair because the other woman isn't the one who made a commitment.  It's generally impossible for a woman to literally "steal" another woman's husband or boyfriend.  He had to come along willingly, for whatever reason.  Besides, in my husband's case, the ex was the one carrying on.  She had shacked up with her current victim before their divorce.  You can't tell me they weren't having sex.

    In our situation, the ex basically got what she seemed to want.  She got plenty of child support every month and my husband let her raise their daughters as she saw fit.  I think she wanted him to fight with her more, though.  She claimed she didn't want to cause issues for us, but she did.  When she tried to force me to spend the holidays with her at my in-laws' house, she tried to involve me in what she had made clear was "none of my business".  When I sidestepped her attempt to involve me, she didn't like it.  Evidently, I had no right, even though it was made clear that I wasn't part of their lives anyway and wouldn't have a meaningful role in their upbringing.  But--- I am an adult and I have seen the end results of a lot of the ex's decisions.  I have seen a lot of innocent people get burned in the wake of her bad decisions.  I think I have every right to protect myself from that.  Indeed, I have a responsibility to myself to protect myself and my future from the ex and certainly I had the right to sidestep being exposed to her abuse.  The fact that she happened to have kids with my husband is irrelevant.

    I want to tell all the stepmoms out there that they certainly do have the right to have an opinion, especially if anyone expects them to do anything for their stepkids.  Moreover, you are a human being who has a brain and feelings and you have the right to expect a certain level of respect from other people as a fellow human being.  Maybe your stepkids don't respect you.  The way I see it, respect is a two way street.  If they don't respect you, then you shouldn't be expected to love them or do anything for them.  Because, as I'm sure it's been pointed out to you, they are none of your business.  ;-)  So enjoy it.  If the ex or the stepchildren tell you your opinion is meaningless; you don't have a horse in the race or a dog in the fight; it's none of your business; or you knew what you were signing up for; feel free to divorce yourself completely from anything having to do with your stepchildren, if that's what you'd rather do.

    Of course, a lot of stepmothers are perfectly nice women who do want to be involved in their husband's kids' lives.  And that's fine, too, especially if the relationship is mutually desired.  But don't let anyone tell you that they aren't your business as they also tell you you have to love or care about them.  That's ridiculous.  They can't have it both ways.  You are not an emotional punching bag.  It's hard enough to be a stepparent, particularly a stepmother, without someone "helpfully" telling you that issues that affect your life are none of your business.

    When I pointed out to the sage RfM poster that this step shit was affecting my life, too, she sort of backpedaled a bit and agreed somewhat, even as she maintained that I still didn't have a "dog in the fight".  All I was doing with my post was venting a bit and, I suppose, looking for some validation and support.  Stepmothers rarely get much of either.  I notice that when a woman with kids marries a new man, people admire the man for taking on daddy duties.  But if a woman marries a man with kids, she must have been somehow responsible for the divorce and "knew what she was getting into".  Granted, a woman who marries a guy with kids is an adult with choices, whereas the minor children have no choices.  But that doesn't mean the stepmom knows what she's getting into.  Every situation is different and most human beings deserve at least a basic level of empathy and respect.  Besides, I was 30 when I married my husband ten years ago.  How many people my age are out there who don't have some kind of past?

    Bottom line... if it affects your life, it certainly is your business.  And if anyone expects you to do anything or feel anything for your stepchildren, you do have a right to an opinion.  And you deserve basic respect and empathy, especially if anything is expected of you.  I'm very fortunate in that my husband gets it and doesn't expect me to kowtow to his ex or his ex kids... or anyone else, for that matter.    

    Saturday, April 27, 2013

    More RfM "fun"...

    A couple of days ago, I posted about an unpleasant encounter I had with a guy on RfM.  Lately, I've been lurking less there because I'm finding that Mormonism is less interesting to me... probably, because I'm caring less about my husband's ex wife and ex kids.  However, I did stop by this morning and noted, with interest, a thread dedicated to the guy I had my "run in" with...  The thread referenced another thread in which the condescending jerk I had my run in with had yet another altercation with Raptor Jesus, a very popular RfM poster.  Here is part of the exchange...  Raptor Jesus is addressing another member of the board who brought up religious rights.

    It has nothing to do with your thread.

    At no point did you ever imply that you wanted to threaten anyone's rights to belief.

    It's a statement that is completely off the topic of what you are saying because the two have nothing to do with one another.

    You want to know how someone can continue to believe after they've gained certain knowledge.

    That has nothing to do with religious rights whatsoever. In fact, I'm having a really hard time understanding why anyone would bring that up within the context of what you were posting.

    It's a complete distraction to the topic at hand.
    Options: ReplyQuoteFollow TopicReport

    Posted by: snb )
    Date: April 26, 2013 05:38PM

    "In fact, I'm having a really hard time understanding why anyone would bring that up within the context of what you were posting."

    It was probably brought up within the context of this thread because someone else wanted to bring it up. They most likely wanted to talk about it and insert their own thoughts and comments.

    I might be going out on a limb here, but I'm fairly certain that is one of the main reasons why all of us post comments here.
    Options: ReplyQuoteFollow TopicReport

    Posted by: Raptor Jesus )
    Date: April 26, 2013 05:51PM

    That makes even less sense.
    Options: ReplyQuoteFollow TopicReport

    Date: April 26, 2013 05:53PM

    Options: ReplyQuoteFollow TopicReport

    Posted by: snb )
    Date: April 26, 2013 05:55PM

    [name redacted] wanted to bring it up. That is why she posted it. You claim that you didn't understand why someone would bring it up, however it is very simple. She wanted to do it and that is why she did.

    At the risk of repeating myself I'll say it again. The reason why most of us post anything is probably because we want to.

    Edit: Ahh...I think I get where we were not communicating.

    When I said that "someone else" brings it up I meant "someone else (ie, not you RJ)" wanted to bring it up.

    Does that clear it up a bit?

    Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/26/2013 05:57PM by snb.
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    Posted by: Raptor Jesus )
    Date: April 26, 2013 05:58PM

    OP: How do people live with cognitive dissonance?

    [name redacted]: I am passionate about rights.

    Raptor: That doesn't make sense in the context of this thread.

    SNB: [named redacted] can say whatever she wants to because we all want to say things.

    Raptor: None of this makes sense given the OP.

    SNB: But we can say whatever we want to!!!

    Raptor: Have fun not making any sense and arguing over the right to not make any sense.
    Options: ReplyQuoteFollow TopicReport

    Posted by: Raptor Jesus )
    Date: April 26, 2013 06:08PM

    Other people can compartmentalize.

    Incredibly well.

    Mind bogglingly well.

    However, I think at some point you have to put up defense mechanisms around your dissonance.

    Where if someone points out to you that something doesn't make sense, you instantly go to those mechanisms.

    This thread is a hilarious example.

    Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/26/2013 06:09PM by Raptor Jesus.
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    Posted by: snb )
    Date: April 26, 2013 06:05PM

    Ahh...so now you get it.

    Good, I'm glad. You said you didn't get it earlier.

    Wait a second! Were you pretending not to get it for rhetorical effect? Holy cow!

    Here is the thing RJ, you pretend not to understand things and I think you do that as a way to try to hurt others. You do it as a way to mock others. It isn't very nice. I made sense, so did [name redacted] and to pretend otherwise is only a tactic that you use to win internet points. You objected to what she wrote and objected to what I wrote and this is how you handle it.

    Yes, we have the right and the ability to post however and whatever we want within the rules that the administration gives us. It doesn't matter if you or I or anyone else deem it relevant.

    Edit: Ugh, typos.

    Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/26/2013 06:10PM by snb.

    Interestingly enough, snb is the very same person who made the comments post below to me.  Like the poster he was defending in his online skirmish with Raptor Jesus, I was just "inserting my own thoughts and comments", which were actually not directed at him.  However, he felt the need to tell me that my thoughts and comments weren't necessary because he had already cleared things up and because I was a volunteer so long ago, his comments are more valid.

    Moreover, because I served in the Dark Ages of the mid 1990s, I can't possibly know how the Peace Corps operates today.  News flash-- a college degree was almost 100% necessary back then, too.  My comment was in support of the poster who said that technically, you don't have to have a degree, which is also true.  Realistically, you do have to have a college degree and sometimes even a master's degree if you want to be a Peace Corps Volunteer-- and I pointed that out in my response.  But technically, it is possible not to have a degree and still serve.  The other poster, who had served recently, actually knew one who did, which means that his point was entirely valid.

    RfM is full of people like this who say one thing and do something entirely different.  It's also full of shit stirrers who get their jollies posting inflammatory things that get people riled up.  Then they sit back and watch the show.

    I was a PCV too. You just have to be 18 to serve in the Peace Corps. A college degree really helps, but if you have skills that are in demand, technically you don't have to have one. Realistically, though, if you're very young you'll need a degree.

    Peace Corps definitely has its problems, but you will learn about your host country and they do give you a small stipend, health care, and a readjustment allowance. It's a great opportunity to see the world, too. I spent a month bumming around Europe on a train when I was done with my service. Had a blast!

    Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/23/2013 03:56PM by
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    Posted by: snb )
    Date: April 23, 2013 06:18PM

    I know you were in the PC :)

    Things have changed a lot since you were a PCV. It is nearly 100% mandatory for PCVs to have a degree now.

    Friday, April 26, 2013

    "I'll never forgive you..."

    Watching Dr. Phil this morning and there is a teenager named Callie on there who is out of control.  She smokes dope and is angry and hateful to her parents.  How they've been able to deal with this out of control kid for as long as they have is beyond me.  She's crying and screaming and has said several times "I will never forgive you!"  She has said that she will never come home and will take a drug overdose and die.  She has said that she hates her dad and wants her parents to get a divorce.

    Listening to this, I hear that this poor, troubled girl feels like she has no control over her life.  And her parents have to do something about her behavior before she really does kill herself.  She's sitting in a room screaming that she wants her mother, the very same person she just said she would never forgive.  She's clearly unhappy, but doesn't want to go to Turnabout Ranch, which is where Dr. Phil sends all the troubled kids on his show.

    I have no idea if Turnabout Ranch is a good place or not.  About ten years ago, I did a lot of research of so-called "teen help" programs and found that quite a few of them really were abusive prison-like places where kids were being indoctrinated and forced to endure unhygienic conditions.  I doubt Dr. Phil would send kids to places like that, because that would effectively end his career.

    Anyway, part of me is outraged on behalf of Callie's parents, who have had to endure her abuse for a long time.  Part of me is outraged on Callie's behalf, because somewhere along the line, the people in her life failed her by allowing her to turn into what she's become.  Part of her problem is that she's a teenager, which is when hormones and emotions run amok and make kids do crazy things.  She's physically mature, but emotionally immature... and she thinks she knows what she wants and needs, but has no way to help herself.  So I can see why she's crying and screaming and saying things she probably doesn't really mean.  When a creature is backed into a corner, the first instinct is to come out fighting like a wildcat.

    I was never even close to as out of control as Callie is, but I remember having my share of emotional outbursts with my parents.  I remember getting to the point of hyperventilation during our many fights.  They'd hand me a paper bag and we'd just keep fighting.  It makes me sad to remember those days, which were often fueled by my dad's drinking and need to control and my penchant for being a smart ass.  

    Once incident in particular happened when I was 20 years old.  I was about a week or two shy of my 21st birthday and my family had rented a beautiful beach house in Corolla, North Carolina for the week.  I had brought my then best friend with me and my brother-in-law's brother was also there.  My sister had also brought a friend.

    One night several days into the "vacation", we all went out to dinner, and my dad was really getting on my nerves.  I made some snarky comment that was directed at my dad.  I don't remember what I said, but my sister's friend heard it and apparently thought I was talking to her.  Suddenly, all hell broke loose.  The next day, my sister's friend suddenly decided to leave.  I remember she had given me $10 because I had planned to make dinner the next night and she asked for the money back.  At the time, I didn't understand why she was leaving.  I had no beef with her.

    All that day, my sister was being shitty to me.  She wouldn't tell me what her problem was.  I finally lost my temper and confronted her.  She said she was mad at me.  My dad, who had been drinking, decided to break us up.  He took me into a room and proceeded to berate me for two or three hours.  At one point, he hit me in the face, HARD.  I was shocked and told him that if he had been someone on the street, I could have him arrested for assault and battery.  And then I told him that if he ever raised a hand to me again, I would have him arrested.

    He exploded.  His face turned beet red and he said, "You go right ahead!  Call the police!"  Then he made some comment about how I lived in his house and I could just pack up and leave.  At some point, I hit my arm on something and developed a really nasty bruise.

    I remember that no one helped me during that confrontation, which left me really upset and feeling completely worthless and stepped on.  And then, it turned out I'd started my period, which is probably why I was so irritable and made that rude comment in the first place.

    My sisters later came in to talk to me.  The one who had been mad at me explained what had upset her so much that this huge blowup happened.  I told her that I hadn't been talking to or about her friend and if she had just asked me, we could have avoided this whole thing.  The scene was embarrassing and traumatic, especially since there were a couple of people there who weren't family members and had witnessed this Mommie Dearest moment between my dad and me.  The worst part of it, though, was that the next day, my dad acted as if nothing had ever happened.  For her part, my sister ended up losing contact with her "friend", who turned out to be not such a good friend after all.

    It took a long time for me to get over that incident.  Five years later, my dad lost his temper again and threatened to hit me.  I reminded him of the last time he hit me and what I said to him.  He backed off and then started screaming at me.  I ended up leaving.  Unfortunately, at that time, I was kind of paralyzed.  Though I was 26 years old at the time, I was living with my parents and had nowhere to go for more than a night or two.  Not long after that, I got on the right depression meds and finally managed to start making plans to get out of my parents' home.  I needed to for their sake, but especially for mine.

    Now that I'm much older and in a better place emotionally, I understand the dynamic more.  My dad is not a bad person, but he was abusive at times.  He was also a control freak about a lot of things.  Oftentimes, people who grow up with controlling parents have a hard time breaking the cycle.  My mom is not controlling and always encouraged me to get out on my own.  But she rarely did things to help me in that department, so I had to figure it out for myself.  And I ended up doing things like going to Armenia and graduate school to make the break.  There are worse things I could have done, of course.  I could have turned out like Callie and started smoking pot and drinking and whoring around...

    This isn't to say I think Callie's parents are control freaks.  Actually, I think they tried to be friends with her, until she started getting out of control.  And then, apparently, her dad started trying to lay down the law, which caused her to rebel.  Somehow, I realized that being self-destructive ultimately hurt me more than it hurt my parents.  Callie hasn't learned that yet.  She doesn't seem to understand that many aspects of life are just elements of a big game.  You have to play the game to win.  Once you get to a certain level, you can start making your own rules.  But when you're a minor, you don't really have any control over your life.  It sucks, but it is what it is... and in many instances, it's for the best.

    Anyway, my dad is now 80 years old and no longer has any control over his life.  I know it depresses him and makes him feel disenfranchised.  I don't have the anger toward him that I once did.  Now, I feel kind of sorry for him.  He's become pitiful.  But even during our worst fights, I never said the things to my dad that Callie said to hers.  I never told my mother to divorce him, though there were times when I kind of wished she would, mainly because there were times when he just plain acted like an asshole and made life unpleasant for everyone.  He'd lose his temper and say whatever came to mind, lose control and act like a child, strike out physically, and maintain a different set of standards for his own behavior than he did for mine.  

    One of my sisters seems to hang onto the idea that our immediate family should have family reunions.  She has this fantasy that we can all get together and hang out as a family.  Long ago, I came to the conclusion that it's not realistic for our immediate family to have reunions where we all share the same space.  Every time we try to do it, there's a big fight.  I don't know how these fights affect the rest of my family of origin, but they always take days for me to get over.  I've been through enough of them to last the rest of my lifetime.  So I continue to be a stick-in-the-mud and refuse to jump on the reunion bandwagon, which annoys my sister to no end.  She often makes cracks about it, which I don't think are very funny.  I have long been the one who gets crapped on because I'm the youngest and the rest of my family apparently thinks I don't deserve respect.  I have to teach them that I have a mind of my own.

    I don't approve of Callie's behavior, but on some level, I sort of understand where she's coming from.  I hope she gets the help she needs and realizes that she doesn't really mean it when she says "I'll never forgive you..."  She says that because she feels like she's lost control.  And when you're in that state of mind, you'll say anything to regain some semblance of control.   

    Wednesday, April 24, 2013

    I think I need an RfM sabbatical...

    As much as I love the Recovery from Mormonism Web site, there are people that post there that annoy the piss out of me.  One guy in particular comes off as the type of guy who sees himself as the alpha male.  He likes to argue with people, sometimes about ridiculous things, and frequently comes off as a condescending dick.  And no, I'm not writing about the resident jerk, who picks fights with everyone.  I'm writing about another guy.  I've noticed that he's gotten into it with several people and seems to want to prove to everyone that he's #1 and most informed about everything.

    If there's one thing that bugs me, it's people who discount other peoples' opinions and experiences.  It's the mark of a person who is insecure, arrogant, and lacks perspective.  I find that we can often learn from other people if we just take the time to listen to what they say.  I'm not impressed by loudmouthed, pushy blowhards who are rude and flippant to other people and have to be right.

    In this case, my run in had to do with Peace Corps service.  This guy and I, along with several others on RfM, have been Volunteers.  Someone posted about having just gotten their mission call and not wanting to go.  Another poster suggested the Peace Corps.  Our resident blowhard wrote "Peace Corps requires a degree".  Technically, that's incorrect.  A person can serve as a Volunteer if he or she is over 18 and has experience that would be useful to one of Peace Corps' many projects.  But realistically, yes, you do have to have a college degree and that was true even back in the old days when I was a Volunteer.  It was even true when my sister served in the 1980s.  Then another former Volunteer cited someone he had served with who had dropped out of school in 7th grade and was a successful Volunteer.  Our resident jackass came back and snidely commented about how that was a rarity that didn't apply to 99.9% of the people who serve.

    I addressed the original poster, the one who was worried about his mission call, and actually agreed with both posters.  But the blowhard came back, made a snarky comment about how he knew I had been a Volunteer (though I wasn't responding to him) and that things had changed a lot since my day.  And I wonder, since this dickhead doesn't know me personally, how does he know what I know about the Peace Corps?  Could it be possible that I've been following what's going on since I terminated service?  I think so.  To add insult to injury, he left me a patronizing little smilie... :)  What a fuckhead.

    Ah well.  It's kind of my problem.  But I notice I'm not the only one who thinks this guy is a jerk.  People like him rarely change, so I won't be directly addressing him.  I just think it's very disrespectful to discount people.  This guy reminds me of Judge Judy, only he lacks her intelligence and charm.      

    Interloper continued... (especially for Alexis)

    If you knew my husband, I think you'd understand even more why I take the position I do.  There are a lot of jerks out there who probably deserve some of the vitriol lobbed their way.  My husband is not one of those guys.  He's kind, decent, considerate and very loving.  He's responsible and nurturing.  I would have loved it if my own father had been more like my husband is, although my dad isn't really a bad guy, either.  He's just an alcoholic with a temper and lots of personal problems he's never dealt with.  My parents never divorced, so I'm also one who has never had to deal with being a child of divorce.  I did have to deal with being a child of an alcoholic, though, which in many ways may be worse.

    Growing up, I had friends who had divorced parents.  A couple of my friends were being raised by parents who'd had previous relationships, so they had half and step brothers and sisters.  Most of my friends seemed to get along with their parents and stepparents, though I do remember a few who, when they turned 18, suddenly decided to change their names.  I didn't know what that was about back then, but I do now.  I'm sure a lot of it has to do with kids punishing their bio dads for not being there for them.  I can understand wanting to do that, I guess... especially if their father truly wasn't around for them.

    My husband's ex wife got her son's name changed to my husband's when her boy was little.  Then, when she and my husband split up, she tried to get my husband's daughters adopted.  My husband would not allow it and we made it clear that we would know if she tried to do it on the sly when we busted ex stepson as he tried to change his name while collecting child support from my husband, his ex stepdad (who was never legally his father).  When the younger daughter turned 18, sure enough, their names changed to their stepdad's.  I don't know if they got adopted by him or not...  Since younger stepdaughter called my husband's dad and apparently still sees him as family, I'm guessing it was just a legal name change.  Adoptions are more expensive and final and I'm sure ex thinks we will eventually divorce.  Most of the people in her sphere eventually split up.

    Besides, if the girls are faithful Mormons, they'll probably get married before long.  And it also really wouldn't surprise me if my husband's daughters one day contacted him.  Their brother contacted his dad (a true deadbeat who quit paying child support when the boy was 6) 15 years after their last visit.  Ex seems to put people back in touch when it suits her agenda and she feels things have blown over.  Of course, as long as I'm around, she'll probably be less inclined to send them my husband's way.

    For me, coming from a very solid family with little divorce, all of this is very bizarre, especially since the ex and her kids are all Mormons, a church that preaches that family comes first.  Before I knew my husband, I had a positive view of Mormons.  Most of the members I'd met had seemed like nice enough people.  But then, once I got involved with my husband and started learning more about the church, it seemed very toxic and culty.  Ex did her best to use the church as a tool to break up the family.  While I know that not every Mormon does what my husband's ex did, I do know now that the "families are forever" mantra only applies if everyone stays in the church, pays, prays, obeys, and believes.  So it's easily used as a means of control and, in fact, makes an excellent tool for parental alienation.  That's one of the main reasons why I don't like the church.  It's very rigid and doesn't allow for people to live and let live.

    A woman I "know" in my online life is LDS and has often indignantly explained to me that the church has no doctrine that calls for parental alienation.  She is herself a stepmother to her husband's five kids.  She had two from her marriage to a Catholic and has had two more with her current husband, and is now pregnant again at age 43!  Her husband's kids are pretty messed up; their mother also seems to have a character disorder.  But they've had contact with the kids, so their situation is different than ours is.  And this woman is quite entrenched in the church and doesn't seem able to see things from my perspective.  She's actually a pretty good person, from what I can tell.  But she's got a blind spot when it comes to Mormonism.  She thinks I hate Mormons.  I don't.  It's the church I don't like, even as I know that what happened to my husband would have happened regardless.  Like I said, the church was just a tool.

    This video was made by my online friend, Weird Wilbur...  This is the first video of his that I ever watched; someone had posted it on RfM.  I later moved on to his comedy songs, which are pretty hilarious.  Wilbur made this video when he was married to his former wife, whom he recently divorced (very long story there).  I think he makes some very good points about Mormonism, though admittedly in not a very respectful way...


    Anyway, I think if I had known my husband's daughters and things were more normal... i.e. their mother was sane, I probably would have been a decent stepmother.  That's not to say there wouldn't have been occasional spats; but from the beginning, I recognized that I wasn't their mother and had no wish to take on that role.  I understood that time with their dad would be precious.  I would have been willing to step back and let them visit; and, in fact, sent my husband to spend Christmas with their kids alone (which I was later slammed for doing).  Unfortunately, our situation is such that no matter what I did, it would be wrong and twisted to be used against me.  I love my husband and I don't think I could find another like him, so I'm willing to deal with it.  Occasionally, I do need to come here and vent, though.  I don't have a shrink anymore.  And I know my friends are tired of hearing about it.  Fortunately, the older we all get, the less this shit matters.

    Tuesday, April 23, 2013

    Me... the "interloper"...

    A few years ago, I read and reviewed Stepmonster, a book by Dr. Wednesday Martin.  This book is about the experience of being a stepmother, a much maligned and misunderstood role in American society.  I must admit, Wednesday Martin's book really spoke to me on many levels, even though by the time I'd read it, I couldn't really call myself a stepmother.  After all, I have only met my husband's offspring once.  They disowned their father and have nothing to do with us.  It's been a very hurtful thing to have to go through, though I think I've finally reached a point at which I can look at it logically and realize that my husband's ex wife probably did us a solid by keeping her kids away from us.

    Anyway, I am subscribed to Wednesday Martin's Facebook page and today she linked to a column written by Mary T. Kelly, M.A.  The article is about childless stepmoms and how they are often made to feel like an interloper by their stepchildren and everyone else in the world who wants to remind them that they have no idea what being a mother is like.  Adding further insult, they remind stepmothers that they are intruding on an established relationship based on biology.  As I read this article, I had to admit, I never really felt that much like an interloper because I was spared the experience of being an actual stepmother.  My husband's ex wife kept her kids from their father and me, so I never had to endure insults from them.  Of course, the ex did try to give me the interloper experience when she invited me to my father-in-law's house to spend Christmas with her.  But since I refused to take part in that fiasco, I haven't really felt like an actual stepmother.

    The funny thing is, when I read that column, I honestly came away from it realizing that in many selfish ways, I was lucky.  The ex didn't actually mean to do me a favor; but in fact, she really did.  Keeping the kids from their dad was her idea of a punishment.  But what she doesn't realize is that keeping them away probably made it possible for her ex husband and me to have a great marriage.  We are tremendously compatible and without the stresses of trying to blend families, we've bonded very well.  Our lives are surprisingly drama free and peaceful, despite my occasional ranting on this blog.  We don't fight and we don't have to deal with step drama.  I should probably write the ex a thank you letter.

    Mind you, I don't approve of parental alienation.  I think it's cruel and harmful, especially to the children involved, who are involuntarily enlisted to help a toxic parent fight a battle with the ex spouse/significant other.  What I'm really trying to say to all those out there who think it's appropriate to engage in parental alienation and have delicious thoughts of how it will hurt the other parent, is that parental alienation can sometimes actually be a blessing.  Because as hard as it is for your kids to bond with the stepparent who, if they play their cards right, can turn out to be a valuable ally, it's just as hard for the stepparent to bond with your kids.  Kelly writes in her column that 67% of remarriages with kids fail...  and I'm assuming she's referring especially to women who marry men with kids, since a lot of women who remarry end up replacing their kids' fathers with another man.  If that requirement to bond or even just co-exist is taken away, it makes things a lot easier... a lot simpler.  And the ex has just pushed us closer together, cementing our bond.

    Ladies, if you really want to punish your ex, maybe you should let your kids hang out with their stepmother.  It's likely that the hell of trying to bond and blend may just be more strain than the marriage can handle.  Keeping them away is hurtful and mean, of course; but one day your kids will be curious about the other side and may seek out their long lost dad.  And their long lost dad may or may not want to have anything to do with them.  After all, dads and second wives are people too... and they have feelings.  Once everyone is an adult, the playing field is leveled somewhat.  I no longer feel like I have to do anything special to spare my husband's daughters' feelings because they are now grown women who need to be accountable for being hateful PAS zombies who act like jerks.  Do you want your kids to hurt when their long lost dad is as alienated from them as you made them toward him?  Is it really your goal to hurt your kids?

    In my husband's ex wife's case, I don't think it really matters.  I think she just feels like she has to act on every feeling she has.  I don't think it ever even occurs to her that she's hurting anyone besides the people she thinks have done her wrong.  If her kids are hurt, it's just collateral damage that they'll have to get over, all for the "privilege" of calling her mom.  She thinks she's special and her kids are lucky to have her.  In reality, she's a toxic, extremely self-centered person who doesn't think of anyone but herself.  She makes a show of caring about what her kids want, but the reality is, if they don't want what she wants, they're SOL... just like anyone else who has dealings with her.

    So yeah, I'm now kind of glad she kept the kids away from us.  I actually posted this on Wednesday Martin's page, after she tried to comfort me with the prospect that my husband's kids might want to reconnect.  Honestly, at this point, I'd rather they didn't.  Any contact with them means we have to have contact with their psycho mother.  And it's entirely likely that they are as fucked up as she is.

    I suspect that this post might invite indignant comments from the peanut gallery.  If you feel the need to post about how selfish and wicked I am, go right ahead and tell me.  I've heard it all before.  I know the truth about what really happened in our situation, though, and I know that I'm not a bad person.  And what has happened to me and my husband isn't even personal, since the ex would have done this no matter who my husband married.  She doesn't know me and sadly, neither do her kids.  If they did know me, they might have a legitimate reason to hate me.  Or maybe they'd love me.  She couldn't take that risk, though, so she kept them away.  And that pretty much guarantees that one day they'll be back, if only to satisfy their curiosity or perhaps to punish their mother for some reason.


    Monday, April 22, 2013

    I had a little fun today...

    This actually took a lot of practice and it's still not quite right... but it was fun to sing it.  I figured it was a good song for a Monday.

    Met Life Dental sent me a note to let me know the issue with my cleaning was that the provider needed to update his licensure information.  He has evidently done that, so the claim will be processed after all.

    And my train tickets from Venice to Florence are squared away, too.  I still don't know why Novica.com hasn't cleared payment for some stuff I bought, but I suppose they'll get in touch with me if there's a problem.

    I learned today that the lotion I've been using has a derivative of pee in it.  I wrote a review of it and in the course of writing the review, made the discovery that one of the chemicals that moisturizes is a form of urea.  Awesome.

    I've had a decent Monday, I guess.  The weather is sunny, but chilly.  If it warms up slightly, I might even be arsed to cut the grass this week.

    At least my Monday is not as bad as this guy's...

    Yes, he was fired.

    They gave him his walking papers...

    Sunday, April 21, 2013

    Remember that crazy attention whore I wrote about in February?

    Back around Valentine's Day, I wrote about a woman who was stirring up shit, getting people riled up, becoming pissed off herself, and deleting people from Facebook.  I noticed she had been keeping a pretty low profile lately.  I'd see her name on posts by mutual friends, but she hadn't been posting on RfM or getting people in a tizzy.

    Then today, someone posted a stats call out and our humorless attention whore popped out of the woodwork.  Here's the pertinent thread...  I decided to copy and paste it before it gets deleted.  The first post was written by the woman who caused such a ruckus.  Notice she admits to being insane and bitchy.  Then, after causing such a big stink about sexism in Sports Illustrated, she writes "Big tits".  Now... this is the same woman who accuses the world of being such a misogynistic, sexist place, yet she points out that she has big tits.  Dr. Tara Palmatier of Shrink4men.com warns us to pay attention to the clues cluster Bs give us.  If they say they're bitchy and insane, you should believe them.

    My friend munchy couldn't resist calling her out... which I'm sure gave our humorless poster a cold sweat.  She then accuses munchy of "not understanding her".  I think the issue is that we DO understand her and her ilk all too well.  ;-)

    I'm not surprised to see her pop up again.  I think the last two months must have been very hard for her.  She obviously craves attention.

    Female, single, 45, kid-free, happy, slightly insane and a bit bitchy. Big tits.

    Options: ReplyQuoteFollow TopicReport

    Posted by: Dave the Atheist )
    Date: April 21, 2013 01:37AM

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    Posted by: Beth )
    Date: April 21, 2013 02:28AM

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    Posted by: munchybotaz )
    Date: April 21, 2013 11:20AM

    and the whole sexist/misogynist-calling and unfriending thing. Wow! Did not see this coming.

    Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/21/2013 11:23AM by munchybotaz.
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    Posted by:
    Date: April 21, 2013 11:33AM

    Of course you didn't see it coming. You don't understand me.
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    Posted by: munchybotaz )
    Date: April 21, 2013 11:34AM