Sunday, November 30, 2014

Back to Germany...

We fly out at 6:55pm tonight and arrive in Paris at 8:30am tomorrow.  Then we fly to Stuttgart at 8:00pm and get there an hour or so later.  Then we drive home, which will take another hour.  I should be good and exhausted by Monday night.  Wish us luck.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dad's memorial...

It went off without a hitch.  We had beautiful sunny weather, though it was very cold outside.  My uncle made a beautiful box for my dad's ashes.  We buried his ashes on a hillside overlooking the house he grew up in.  Later, there was a church service.  I sang my solo and it turned out beautifully, though I did feel a bit emotional as I was singing and tears threatened to overcome me.  My sister made a video that showcased a lot of photos... many I had never seen, including some from his time in Vietnam.

Bill and I went out to dinner and enjoyed a very nice meal and good wine.  We went back to the house for the barn party, which was preceded by a fireworks show put on by my cousin, who is a professional pyrotechnician.  A bluegrass band played live music and there was dancing and singing, and I got to join the band on a couple of songs.

I gave my sisters and cousins hugs...  and there was no fighting or sniping or bitchiness.  It was really very nice.  And then Bill and I got back to the inn after 1:00am.  I slept like a rock until about 7:00.

Today, I plan to see my old friends from college.  Maybe later, we'll go back to the house and hang out with the relatives that haven't left yet.  Then tomorrow, it's back to DC and the airport for a long ass flight to Paris.

I have had a lot of fun, though I am ready to go home and see my dogs again.  It's great to be in Virginia again.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A review of Way Below the Angels by Craig Harline...

Here's yet another book review about a story of a Mormon missionary.  If you read this blog often, you know I am a sucker for stories about people giving up time and money to serve the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Because my husband is an exMormon and has a rather negative opinion of Mormonism (which he has passed on to me), many of the books I tend to read about these experiences are somewhat negative.  This time, I read a book that was mostly positive about the missionary experience.

Craig Harline, author of Way Below the Angels (2014), served as a missionary for the Mormon church back in the 1970s.  He went from his hometown of Fresno, California to Belgium, one of my favorite places in the world.  There, he made an attempt to learn Dutch, get along with his ever changing companions, and maybe attract some Belgians to the LDS church.  Harline's time in Belgium was concentrated on Flemish speaking areas, namely Antwerp and Brussels.

Although he wasn't all that successful in wooing beer loving Belgians to the "clean living" of Mormonism, Harline seems to have come away from his mission experience with a deep affection for Belgian people.  Given that I went to Armenia for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer and left my service with sort of a love/hate relationship with Armenia, I could sort of relate to Craig Harline's story somewhat, even though we went away for different reasons.  I think that's another reason why I like missionary stories.  I am interested in other peoples' cultural experiences because I have a number of my own.

He writes one story about trying to drive one of the mission's cars and almost running over a small Belgian man because he neglected to check his blind spot before backing out of a parking space.  Naturally, bystanders who witnessed Harline hitting the old man were shocked and horrified.  And Harline was also horrified and pictured himself being hauled off to court.  But no... it turned out the old man was in a hurry and just wanted to get on his way.  I witnessed a similar event once in Spain, when an elderly lady fell down at the bottom of an escalator.  Many people wanted to help her and get her seen by a doctor, but she was very focused on catching her train!

Like many young men who go on Mormon missions, Harline had fantastic visions of converting people.  He was sure his superior sales training, personal charm, and newly acquired language skills, along with the very appealing Mormon values and lifestyle, would be enough to win him many conversions for the "one true church".  Reality soon came crashing down as Harline learned that Belgians were mostly fine with Catholicism or atheism or any other belief system that allowed them to drink what they wanted and smoke cigarettes.  What was really pretty cool about Harline's story, though, is that he was open to experiencing Belgian culture.  He visited Catholic churches.  He made Belgian friends who were kind to him and open to visiting as long as he didn't talk religion.  He learned to be more humble and, more importantly, be himself.  Those are valuable lessons that so many people could stand to learn, especially when they're still young.

Craig Harline has an entertaining writing style that is fun to read, though it took me some time to finish his book.  I think the main reason it took so long is because I've been gearing up for the holidays and don't have as much time to read and focus as I usually do.  I tend to be tired and distracted when I go to bed and that's when I do most of my reading.  And yet, when I was able to focus on Harline's book, I was definitely entertained.  I write this even though Harline's writing tends to meander a bit.  His sentences are long and wordy and it may seem like he takes awhile to get to the point.  Fortunately, reading Harline's long sentences was well worth the effort for me.

I enjoyed Way Below the Angels and would read it again.  In fact, it might be a good thing to re-read it at a time when I can devote more mental energy and attention to the task.  I think this is the kind of book that needs to be digested in larger portions.  Craig Harline currently teaches European History at Brigham Young University.  Though this is the first book I've read by him, I see that he's written quite a few others.  If you like missionary memoirs, particularly by Mormon authors, I highly recommend Way Below the Angels.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

LDS Business College student ashamed to wear beard permission card...

Yes, you read that right.  According to, Paolo Quezada, a student at Salt Lake City's LDS Business College was humiliated because he had to wear a card on a lanyard around his neck showing that he had the school's permission to wear a beard.  Mr. Quezada was involved with making church films and so was growing a beard for that purpose.

Because beards are typically not allowed at LDS owned colleges, those who have them for health reasons must carry a card that explains their condition.  Evidently, because Mr. Quezada had a beard for non health related reasons, he was required to wear the lanyard in a place where people could see it easily.  He was also required to dress in a suit and tie while he had the beard to "compensate" for not being clean shaven.  The card listed the terms and conditions for wearing said beard.  He wasn't allowed sideburns or a goatee, for instance.

Quezada says his classmates made fun of him, which caused him embarrassment great enough that he decided to shave.  My question is...  are you really 23 years old?  And you're at a school where your classmates laugh and point at you for wearing a stupid lanyard?  And you're wearing the lanyard for a ridiculous rule at a school you presumably pay to attend?  Really?

I only hope this fellow grows a set and finds his way to a happier existence.  Willfully paying to attend a school that dictates facial hair (aside from, say, military schools) and getting an education at a place where classmates make fun of you for wearing a lanyard per school policy just goes to show the maturity level of the people who run and attend your alma mater.  I hope the humiliation and the media attention garnered from it will inspire Mr. Quezada to see the light of a freer existence.

Back in the States...

And I'm really tired, so I'm just stopping in to say we made it... and we hope to stay ahead of the Nor'easter that's on the way tomorrow.

Air France rocks... at least so far.  So does being off the plane.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Here it comes...

Bill is going to take our dogs to the Hunde Hotel this morning because they have to be dropped off either between 10 and 11 or 4 and 5.  He needs to work, so he's going to take them in earlier.  Tomorrow, we'll get on the plane and fly to Virginia.  I will do my best to stay calm and unflappable.  Maybe I will succeed.

I have mixed feelings about this trip.  I love the Shenandoah Valley.  It's beautiful there and that's where my family is from.  I look forward to seeing some of my relatives, too.  On the other hand, there are other people I'd just as soon avoid.  It's going to be an emotional trip.  I've come to enjoy quieter gatherings with just Bill and the dogs.  And I'm also not looking forward to the long plane ride and jet lag.  I am determined to go, though, and will try to enjoy myself as much as possible.  A week from today, we'll be in Paris...  God willing.  Then we can come back and start planning a fun trip somewhere we really want to go.

Yesterday, someone on RfM posted about Merrill Osmond.  I took particular notice because I think Merrill Osmond is the brother who weirds me out the most.  It's probably because I watched a BBC documentary about The Osmond Brothers and learned that on his Web site he offers to call people.  Yes, for $35, you can order a phone call from Merrill Osmond.  That, in and of itself, would be weird.  But according to the BBC documentary, which at the time it was made, Merrill called people for $27.99 for 8 minutes (@5:30), Merrill claimed that most people who want phone calls from him are suicidal.  So instead of encouraging them to call a suicide hotline or a private counselor or get themselves to an emergency room, Merrill offers to charge them $35 for an eight minute phone call during which he might talk them out of doing themselves in.  Merrill was bulimic and evidently suicidal himself (@4:20) at one time, so he "gets it"... and for $35, you can get it too.

It's a little sad, really.  I mean, there was a time when the Osmonds were very popular and worth a lot of money.  Maybe they are still popular in some circles and may still have a lot of money.  But they are no longer flavor of the week.  I get the sense that that's a tough thing for a couple of the brothers, Merrill especially.

I do vaguely remember when they were really popular.  I was a mere tyke when they were at the top of their game.  I think my older sisters had a couple of their albums.  I have very faint memories of them owning albums on vinyl by the Osmonds.  I distinctly remember hearing Donny Osmond sing "Go Away Little Girl".  Sometimes I think I really should have been born in the 60s.  But then I'd be even older than I am now.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Don't go away mad...

Back when I first started writing this blog in 2010, I used to regularly bitch about a woman I referred to as "Ms. Overly Helpful".  I had regular interactions with her because we both used to hang out on a message board for second wives and stepmoms.  A couple of years ago, the message board tanked, so most everyone took to Facebook.  Realizing that I don't really qualify as a stepmom anymore and also realizing that some of the ladies annoyed the hell out of me, I backed out of the groups formed on Facebook.

Ms. OH was originally a Facebook friend, but one day she really irritated me.  I decided to unfriend her.  Unfriending her worked very well for a long time.  It may be that she didn't even know I dropped her off my list, since we have some common friends.  I went out of my way not to engage her because she very often says things that piss me off, whether she means to or not.

Back in the old days, when we'd butt heads, she'd feel free to send me private messages or even email me.  Her private messages were usually reproachful and condescending, though couched in motherly niceties.  Sometimes she'd get weird and try to psychoanalyze me in an Earth mother kind of way.  That was also irritating, since I already have a mother and am not looking for another one.  People who are condescending and give me unsolicited advice generally aren't folks I want to be friendly with.  Ms. OH's messages were always peppered with cutesy little smilies that annoyed me almost as much as her messages did.

By contrast, I have never once initiated an email conversation with her, nor have I ever sent her a private message to take her to task over anything.  When I've confronted her, I've done it openly.  And every time I've done it, I've thought it through beforehand, because contrary to popular belief, I am not really a fan of conflict.  Ms. OH usually gets offended and it turns into a dramatic hissy fit very quickly.  I ain't got the time for that.

Anyway, it's been several years since I dropped Ms. OH from my Facebook friends and I don't participate in any groups she's part of.  And aside from the occasional run in on mutual friends' Facebook postings, I haven't had to deal with her bullshit in quite awhile.  I was fine with letting her be her and letting me be me... until a couple of nights ago, when a friend posted about marijuana.  She wanted to know if we thought it should be legalized.  I said it should; that way, I could smoke it next week while hanging around my family.

Ms. OH pipes up with a quip about how some laws were meant to be broken, insinuating that smoking pot is no big deal.  And maybe it's not if you don't have a job where drug testing is done.  I wrote that I don't have a problem with recreational pot use, but Bill doesn't like marijuana because he used to live with a couple of potheads in college.  He didn't like that the pot seemed to make them less than ambitious.  He also doesn't like smoke.

Ms. OH comes back with "He's never lived with alcoholics? ;) ;)"

That comment annoyed me because it came across as a less than subtle dig.  Why would you add winkie smilies if you aren't implying that you "know" Bill has had "experience" with drunks?  If it were an honest and serious question, there wouldn't be any winking going on.  

I think if she'd left off the winkie smilies, I probably wouldn't have gotten so aggravated.  Alcoholism is a very sore subject for me and I don't think it's funny.  Alcoholism has personally caused me a lot of pain.  People I love have also been hurt due to alcoholism.  I grew up with an alcoholic who abused me.  Moreover, some might even call me an alcoholic because I really do like my booze-- though Bill says he doesn't think I'm abusive or mean when I drink.

But even if alcoholism weren't a sore subject, I don't like her and I don't enjoy interacting with her.  This week has been stressful enough for me, dealing with people who are crazy makers.  I feel pretty certain I don't want to interface with Ms. OH again.  So I decided to block her.

I told Bill that I thought I'd soon get an email from her.  Sure enough, I did.  She wrote that she didn't understand and wanted to know what she'd said to offend me.  Seems to me that if someone blocks you on Facebook, it means they don't want to talk to you.  But she can't accept that and has to know why... and she seems to think I owe her an explanation, as if we were actual friends.

It is possible that her comment about alcoholics was innocent, but I am guessing it wasn't.  I've been around her enough to know that she's one to be snarky.  She has a way of looking down on people.  I don't think she was intending to be funny or even friendly.  Besides, I honestly think she's an asshole; so this decision was years in the making.  To be clear, I didn't block her because of one stupid comment; I blocked her because she has a very long history of irritating me and most interactions I have with her raise my blood pressure.  And when I have told her why she gets under my skin, she gets pissy.

She just rubs me the wrong way and either can't or won't modify her behavior.  And I would be wrong to ask her to modify it.  She obviously has friends and loved ones who love her just the way she is.  I'm obviously the one with a problem, so I just decided to quietly walk away so I don't have to read her shit anymore.

But she apparently doesn't want us to part company... or she wants to engage me in some dialogue as to why I don't like her.  I just want to say to her, "Don't go away mad.  Just go away."

Not everyone is going to like you.  Lots of people don't like me for whatever reason.  Not even a mild mannered, even tempered guy like Bill is universally liked by everyone.  You're not a bad person, Ms. OH.  You just get on my fucking nerves.  So please just leave me alone.  There are a lot of people out there who will happily be buddies with you.  I am not one of them.


Reposted review: Faith and Fortune: A Mormon Family in Hollywood by Kimball Jacobs

A few days ago I was on YouTube, watching an old Pop-Tarts commercial from the mid 1970s.

Someone asked who the little girl in the ad was.  I knew, because I was an avid fan of Diff'rent Strokes back in the day.  There was an episode in 1979 that featured a cute little girl named Rachel Jacobs as Arnold's "girlfriend".

This is part one.  Part two is not available because YouTube blocked it.  But watch the video and you'll see the little girl is the same as the one in the ad.  She went on to act in a number of TV shows, as did her brothers, Parker and Christian.  Their father, Kimball Jacobs, went on to write a book about his kids and their show business careers.  I read and reviewed his book.  It wasn't good.  But I am reposting the review anyway, because I know I have a lot of Mormon and exMormon readers who might be interested.

Proof that you, too, can be a published author!

Jan 13, 2006 (Updated May 15, 2008)

Review by knotheadusc in Books

Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:  A little bit of gossip. Probably the only book about the Jacobs kids.

Cons:  Horribly written. Typos and grammatical errors galore. Preaching.

The Bottom Line: Writing this review might be my one good deed for today.

Since I am an aspiring writer, I take a strange form of comfort from the sheer suck factor of the 2002 book, Faith and Fortune: A Mormon Family in Hollywood written by Kimball Jacobs. This book is probably the worst one I've read in a very long time. But before I get into how hard this book sucks, let me explain who Kimball Jacobs is and why I read Faith and Fortune in the first place. After all, as I quickly found out, Jacobs' book is not on any best seller lists-- thank heavens!

Kimball Jacobs is the father of three former child actors who worked mostly during the late 1970s and 1980s. His daughter Rachel, and his two sons Christian and Parker Jacobs, were in a number of commercials, television series, and movies. I am a child of the 1970s and 1980s. That means I remember a lot of cheesy television sitcoms from that era. Sometimes, I can be persuaded to watch re-runs of shows that aired during that time. Anyway, the other day, I was watching a re-run of Diff'rent Strokes and remembered the episode in which the character Arnold (played by Gary Coleman) gets a case of appendicitis. He goes to the hospital and shares his room with an adorable little girl named Alice, played by Rachel Jacobs. They become friends, much to Alice's bigoted father's (Dabney Coleman) chagrin.

What transpires in the Diff'rent Strokes episode is not important as it relates to this review. Suffice to say that I became curious about the little girl who played Alice, so I went off to the Internet Movie Database and found Rachel Jacobs' bio. It was there that I discovered that she had two brothers who were also in show business and she's a Mormon. Besides being a fan of crappy 80s sitcoms, I'm also the wife of an inactive (now resigned) member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka the Mormons). Being married to Bill has led me to learn more about the LDS faith, especially since Bill's children are still members of the church. I noticed that Rachel Jacobs and her brothers were the subjects of Kimball Jacobs' book. I looked up Faith and Fortune on and found that it got two one star ratings. One of the ratings appeared to be from a disgruntled family member, perhaps his ex wife. Apparently, this book was unauthorized. Now that I've read it, I can see why.

Actual review from Amazon: This is a totally unauthorized version of exploiting your own family. Each child involved feels used. Each child involved requested that it not be printed and Dad went right ahead... not only that, even if the story is interesting, it is terribly written and tweaked in its approach ...Mom thinks this is unforgivable.. (This review was written by someone named Rebecca.)

Some of you might be wondering why I read this book if it got such poor ratings. Well, Bill has been out of town all week, so I needed something to do. Besides, I've been reading entirely too many decent books lately. Against my better judgment, I went to and downloaded Faith and Fortune. Thank God I didn't pay full price for the paperback edition. The ebook version of Faith and Fortune runs for 120 pages. Actually, that's not an entirely true statement. It runs for about 113 pages. The ebook was 120 pages long, but for some reason, quite a few pages were left blank. As I looked at all of those wasted blank pages, I was even happier that I didn't buy a paper version of this book. What a waste of trees!

Faith and Fortune starts off with Kimball Jacobs explaining how he and his first wife, Rebecca, met at Brigham Young University's drama department. In his very affected writing style, Jacobs explains that it was his older brother, David, who introduced the two, because David felt he was too old for Rebecca. Kimball and Rebecca Jacobs were married and they moved to Ririe, Idaho to embark on their lives together. Kimball Jacobs got a job as a teacher and wrestling coach and his wife became a teacher's aid. It wasn't long before Rebecca Jacobs gave birth to their first child, Rachel, the adorable little girl I saw on Diff'rent Strokes. A year and a half later, Christian Jacobs was born. Then, the family moved to Ogden, Utah, so that the Jacobs' family could try their hand at running a restaurant, an adventure that lasted a year, during which time Parker Jacobs was born. It's at this part that I'm starting to think that perhaps the exuberance of youth had gotten the best of the Jacobs family. Here they were with three young children, trying to launch a restaurant, a stressful venture under the best of circumstances. It sounded like a recipe for disaster and apparently it was. But Jacobs doesn't dwell too much on this part of the book. He has bigger fish to fry.

While Kimball and Rebecca Jacobs were trying to launch their restaurant business, they remained active in local theater. Little Rachel showed a talent for acting, so her parents started looking for an agent who could launch their cute daughter's acting career. They got in touch with Hollywood child star agent, Mary Grady, who told them that they should be living in Los Angeles for best results. The young family left their safe Utah haven for Los Angeles, literally living on prayers. They used their formidable connections within the church to secure an apartment in Los Angeles. Then Jacobs got himself a minimum wage job, while his wife got their three children hooked up with Mary Grady, the Hollywood agent. In fact, the whole family started looking for show biz work in Hollywood, but the kids saw more action.

What follows is Kimball Jacobs' story of how his three older kids (youngest son Tyler was born after Rachel, Christian, and Parker had become established actors) became child actors. I won't call them stars, though, because none of them ever really made it big. Jacobs points out that at one point, all three kids were regulars on network series, but that success was short-lived.

In my opinion, Jacobs really comes off like a stage dad. It looks like he was really wanting his kids to become big stars and perhaps, ride on their coattails. This book reads like a poorly written resume, with Jacobs' kids accomplishments listed and little else besides a gratuitous amount of self-important preaching. Faith and Fortune is also riddled with typos and grammatical errors. Jacobs uses awkward sentence constructions and seems to have a particularly irritating penchant for writing in the passive voice. It's clear to me that this book was never edited by a professional or even its author, for that matter.

Faith and Fortune does not include any pictures, which would have made this book a little bit more worthwhile. Instead, it's full of testimony bearing for the LDS Church and moralizing. Jacobs continually states that he and his family have high conduct standards and were constantly butting heads with agents and Hollywood types over the lines their kids would say, the products they would endorse, and how they would dress. I don't really fault them for having standards, especially when it comes to how their kids were portrayed, but I got the feeling that Jacobs was expecting his family to make it big. And they weren't willing to play by Hollywood's rules in order to achieve that end. As it stands now, none of the Jacobs kids are still working in Hollywood (ETA: As of 2014, it looks like Parker and Christian may be back in the biz). What's more, I got the impression (though I may be wrong about this) that the Jacobs kids were completely financially supporting their parents!

Faith and Fortune does include some interesting gossip about other kid stars from the 1980s. Jacobs dishes a little bit about Ricky Schroeder, who apparently had a crush on Rachel. He shares a little bit about jobs that his kids had on popular sitcoms like Family Ties, Growing Pains, Silver Spoons, and the short-lived All in the Family spinoff, Gloria. But the information that he provides is not very worthwhile and it is, very much, gossip. It's not even firsthand gossip, either, since most of what he writes about are things that he heard about from his kids.

I think that Kimball Jacobs could have written a decent book, had he taken the time to expand his story a bit, added some pictures, and included more insight into his experiences as a Hollywood dad. I do think that this book is more about his experience as a Mormon Hollywood dad than it is about his children's experiences as child actors. And, while I'm not knocking Jacobs for having great faith in his religion, I do think that he pushed it a little too much. I think he could have written about his faith without constantly beating his readers over the head with it.

Yes, Faith and Fortune: A Mormon Family in Hollywood has a high suck factor. Fortunately for you, dear readers, this book takes some effort to find. It's not likely that you'd buy this book by mistake. I'm offering my opinion so that anyone who might be curious about reading it on purpose will think twice about it. Unfortunately, it's garbage like this that give print on demand books a bad name.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Pat Boone style Christmas...

Pat Boone is sounding a little haggard here...  You should watch this commercial and hear Pat Boone fat shame Santa Claus.  That may be the closest he comes to showing what family holiday celebrations can be like for some folks...

As Christmas is just around the corner, I started watching old Christmas specials on YouTube.  I happened to run across a clip from a Pat Boone Christmas special.  Unfortunately, I can't embed that particular video in this post, but I can link to it...

I guess this was done in the early 80s, based on the way the family looks.  Pat's daughters are still young and beautiful and harmonize perfectly.  But who's that I spy in the video?  Norman Fell of Three's Company?  Really?  I can't imagine Pat Boone inviting Norman Fell over for dinner, though...  

I watch that video and see the perfect family scene, but those of us who have followed Pat Boone and read books by his daughters know that there were some significant family issues underneath that perfect holiday facade.  Cherry Boone O'Neill suffered from anorexia nervosa and is obviously still very gaunt in that video.  Debby Boone famously wrote about her many squabbles with her father and how he didn't hesitate to spank her even after she became an adult.  To watch this video, though, you'd think they were a perfectly harmonious family with no problems.

When I was coming along in the 70s and 80s, televised Christmas specials were very common.  The Osmonds did one every year.  The Carpenters did them a couple of times.  

These specials make Christmas seem so perfect and magical...

And yet, who really has such perfect holidays?  I know I don't.  I doubt Karen Carpenter did, either.  She had anorexia nervosa too, and holidays were probably hellish for her, since there is such a focus on food.

Bill and I were talking about our upcoming trip because I am very apprehensive about it.  I anticipate drama, even as I promise myself to avoid it.  We were discussing where all this stuff comes from and why I never seem to get much resolution.  I think it's because going home for the holidays can be a little like visiting a poorly cleaned latrine.

Have you ever been to a restroom where someone has fouled the air with gaseous emissions or perhaps forgotten to flush a big turd down the commode?  Or maybe the commode is overflowing, but no one has tried to fix it?  And then, instead of cleaning up the mess, someone comes in and sprays Lysol or some other cloying air freshener that does a poor job of covering up the stench?  That's kind of what going home feels like to me sometimes.

There's a lot of people hanging out, trying to have a good time.  But underneath all the forced cheer and laughter, there's a big pile of "shit" that never got cleaned up-- alcoholism, depression, cliquishness, eating disorders, hurtful gossip, mean-spirited comments...  And instead of cleaning up the mess or flushing the toilet, someone sprays a metaphorical sickly sweet "air freshener" and barely covers up the "stench" of bad memories.  So the air never gets cleared and instead of just smelling shit, we smell shit covered up with the suffocating fake aroma of sweet smelling chemicals.

Here's Pat Boone on a David Letterman Christmas special back in 1984...  Check out his boots.  You'd need 'em for holiday bullshit.

A friend of mine posted this article on Facebook.  I suspect it'll be timely reading for many people.  It offers good advice for getting through the holidays.  I really only have to worry about Thanksgiving.  A week from today, I will hopefully be visiting my friends and preparing for a long ass flight back to Europe.  Time to take a chill pill... it'll be over soon.  Then I'll be enjoying my beer advent calendar.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bill Cosby, the salesman...

I am as shocked as anyone else is about the emerging reports of Bill Cosby's alleged rapist tendencies.  I grew up watching him on TV.  First it was Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids and Picture Pages on Saturday mornings and The Electric Company in school.

Picture Pages

I still love the theme song to this show...

Bill Cosby and Skip Hinnant on The Electric Company...

And then there was the family friendly Cosby Show, which was a huge smash hit for my generation and widely hailed as "good TV".  I still love watching old episodes of that show, even remembering how Lisa Bonet basically got fired for being pregnant at age 20 with Lenny Kravitz's daughter, Zoe.  How family friendly was that move?

A classic scene from a classic show...

Of course I also remember the many product endorsements Bill Cosby did for Jello and Coke.

Man... I loved those damn things...

He even pitched "New Coke"...  a colossal flop!

It wasn't until years later that I read Janice Dickinson's book, No Lifeguard on Duty, that I had an inkling that Bill Cosby might not be the wholesome, lovable, family guy he was always portrayed to be on television.  I mean, sure, he starred in Leonard Part 6, which was a shitty movie, but I figured that was the worst of his sins.  But Janice Dickinson, who strikes me as a woman who has led a very painful existence that has hardened her somewhat, alleged in her book that Cosby was a jerk.  What she wrote in her book surprised and even shocked me.  I remember writing about it on Facebook and one of my more reasonable friends who is also my age defended Cosby.  

Three years later, Dickinson and several other came out with fresh accusations against Bill Cosby and his alleged penchant for drugging and raping women.  This comes at a time when 77 year old Cosby was trying to launch a new series on Netflix and had several projects that are now "on hold".  Cosby has never been one to shy away from controversy.  He famously pissed off a lot of people of color when he berated them for not "stepping up to the plate".  Below is a speech he made, but he also wrote an op-ed about this subject for the New York Post.  

Bill Cosby SPEAKS OUT about BLACK PEOPLE!!!! by rollingoutTELEVISION

But when it comes to addressing these serious accusations from women who claim he drugged and raped them, he has nothing to say.

Now, I get that his lawyers have probably told him not to talk about these accusations.  On the other hand, these women can't exactly prosecute Cosby in a court of law now.  There's no way any of their accusations can be proven.  However, I think that it's rather uncanny that they all seem to have similar stories.  And why would they come out of the woodwork now, when most of them have launched successful careers despite Cosby's alleged sexual attacks against them?  I doubt there will be much of a financial payoff for all of this, other than 15 minutes of fame.  And who wants to be famous because they were raped?  

Granted, there are some women who can parlay a bad situation like being raped into something positive.  Elizabeth Smart comes to mind.  Would she be in the place she's in now had she not been a victim of Brian Mitchell's and Wanda Barzee's?  Probably not.  I suspect she would have been very successful regardless, but I think it's very likely that she is doing the work she's doing now because of what happened to her when she was a young girl.  Her work is no doubt doing a lot of good for many, but she paid a huge price to get there... a price that no woman wants to pay for money, fame, and influence.  And besides, Elizabeth Smart has youth and beauty on her side.  The women who are accusing Cosby may still be beautiful, but none of them are really all that young anymore.

Not everyone thinks Cosby is guilty, either.  Here's another clip from The View, which shows Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie O'Donnell squaring off over the allegations.  Interesting that they brought up the n-word debacle that temporarily messed up Paula Deen's career.  I'm not sure dropping the n bomb, which Paula Deen did freely admit to doing, is quite the same as being accused of raping over a dozen women, which Cosby has not admitted to doing...  At the same time, I respect Whoopi's point, which is to be careful about jumping on bandwagons and rushing to judgment.  On the other hand, Cosby is probably one of Whoopi's friends and he is still a powerful man in the industry.  It may be in her best interest not to come out against Bill Cosby.

This situation also reminds me a little bit of Woody Allen's situation, although in that case, I side with Woody.  I think if he were really a child molester, there would have been many more victims than Dylan/Malone Farrow.  Moreover, Mia Farrow strikes me as a bit "cluster B", though I certainly can't say for sure that she is.  Anyway, in Woody's case, a timely investigation was carried out and there was never any evidence whatsoever that he ever abused his daughter.  He even took and passed a lie detector test.  Bill Cosby, by contrast, won't even discuss these accusations.  He acts as if he is above a response and these women are just trying to cash in.  And maybe he has a point, though this also reminds me a little of the whole Bill Clinton debacle with Monica Lewinsky and Paula Jones.

And we know that Bill Clinton did, in fact, have relations with Monica...


The women who are accusing Cosby right now were mostly people who wanted to work in show business.  When Bill Cosby reached out to them and acted as if he thought they were talented, beautiful, and had a shot at the big time, they responded.  And maybe he felt like doing sexual favors for him was the price they needed to pay in order to hit the big time.  Or maybe he just saw them as dumb women.  Regardless, even if he's not guilty of these sordid accusations, he's definitely not the person he's made himself out to be.  How sad it is that he's being disgraced at this time of his life.  

Bill Cosby shills for Texas Instruments...  Does anyone still own one of these computers?  Bill Cosby claims "this is the one"...  Clearly, he's full of shit about that.

I'll say this for Bill Cosby.  He may have a doctorate in education, but deep down he's really a salesman.  And he sold America a load of bullshit for over five decades.  What a shame.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Military Brats or C.H.A.M.P.S?

After the heavy topics of yesterday, I have decided to write about something a little more lightweight today.  A couple of days ago, I was reading the Stars & Stripes online and came across an article about two children's authors who wrote a book for kids about growing up in the military.  The book is entitled "Little C.H.A.M.P.S" and it was written by Debbie Fink and Jennifer Fink.

Apparently, these two ladies think the term "military brat" is outdated and derogatory, so they have launched a campaign to get people to stop referring to military kids as "brats".  Instead, they think kids who grow up with military parents should call themselves C.H.A.M.P.S, which stands for Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel.

I posted the article on Facebook with the caption, "How dumb."

One of Bill's friends and former co-workers wrote "My kids aren't brats."

I wrote back, "No one ever said they were."  And I will admit, though I have not yet met his kids in person, this guy's kids-- especially his daughters-- are just adorable.

Then he wrote, "I don't like that term for military kids."

And I wrote, "Then don't use it."

Several of my other friends, themselves "brats" like me, piped up about how proud they are of being military brats.  While I understand that the term "brat" is somewhat derogatory in that it's used to describe an unruly, impolite, obnoxious child, I don't believe the term "military brat" refers to that particular usage.  And we should all be using common sense in realizing that the term "military brat" is not meant to be offensive and shouldn't be taken that way.

According to the article I was reading, the term "military brat" started out as an acronym, albeit now an outdated one.  It dates back to the British Empire and originally stood for British Regiment Attached Traveler.  The name stuck and now the many thousands of people who grew up with a parent in the military identify with it.  Books have been written about the military brat experience.  There are online forums and groups for brats.  A lot of people genuinely like thinking of themselves as "military brats", even if they are long past being children.

I was curious, so I went to the authors' page on  I wasn't all that surprised to see that as of this morning, their book had gotten 279 one star "reviews".  I highly doubt any of the people reviewing the book actually read it, but they definitely have an opinion about the assumption that we need to change the terminology for kids who have grown up with a parent serving in the military.

I was very young when my dad retired, so I didn't have the experience that other "brats" have had.  I didn't have the experience of constant moves until I married Bill, and even that didn't start until our fifth year of marriage.  But I have been around the military my whole life and grew up in an area with many "brats", most of whom are proud to be called that.  To someone who is not a part of the military community, the term "brat" might seem offensive and derogatory.  To many of us who have lived with the reality of military life, it's like being in a much beloved club.  And we don't see the need to change the name of our much beloved club.

Aside from thinking it's dumb to change the way we refer to military kids, personally, I think the term  C.H.A.M.P.S is disingenuous.  Not everyone can be a hero and certainly we shouldn't refer to children as heroes just because they happened to be born to a military service member.  A true hero is a rare individual who goes above and beyond the call of duty for a noble cause.  Unless you happen to subscribe to certain nutty religious beliefs, children don't choose their parents.  They are born to them by chance.  And certainly, not all military kids are heroic, though quite a few of them can legitimately be called "brats" using the more derogatory meaning of the word.  I was a "brat" myself, both literally and figuratively.

Yes, it's true that being the child of someone in the military can be very difficult and challenging, but it can also be difficult to be the child of a doctor or a lawyer or a cop...  how about preachers' kids?  How about growing up the child of someone who is chronically unemployed?  At least military brats have a parent who earns a steady paycheck and has access to medical care for themselves and their families.  Moreover, I can think of no other employer that offers as many programs devoted to families and recognizing their sacrifices and contributions as the military does.  Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, though.

I appreciate what these two authors are trying to do, but I think their efforts are misguided.  Judging by the comments on and the Stripes article itself, I think this is one movement that's going to be flushed straight down the toilet.            


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Woman who cuts man's penis with box cutter doesn't get jail time...

Meet Bonita Lynn Vela.  She's 35 years old, lives in Indiana, and apparently enjoys smoking weed.  She has kids.  One of her kids is a daughter who, back in December 2013, was dating an 18 year old man.

One night, Ms. Vela apparently smoked some marijuana, after which she suspected the 18 year old man of molesting her toddler aged son.  So Ms. Vela and two other people trapped the 18 year old in a trailer for three hours and cut his penis with a boxcutter.  She allegedly said that she wanted him to see the scar every time he has sex.

The reason I'm writing about this today is because someone posted a link to a story about it on Facebook.  Apparently, Ms. Vela will not serve any jail time for assaulting this man and cutting his dick with a boxcutter.  Instead, she will serve ten months of home detention followed by six months of probation.

I have yet to see any indication that the 18 year old whose junk was cut was ever actually found guilty of molesting Ms. Vela's son.  He denied the charges vehemently and his identity was not revealed in the news articles about this case.  Moreover, Ms. Vela admits that besides the pot, she may have ingested other drugs at the time the altercation occurred.  Isn't raging paranoia one side effect of marijuana?  Is it possible that the drugs influenced Ms. Vela's fears that her child was defiled by the 18 year old?  I think so...  but I am no expert and only know what I've read.

Now it seems to me that if the situation was reversed and it was a father cutting a woman's vaginal area with a boxcutter, he'd end up doing some hard time in prison, even if he caught her redhanded in the act of molesting his child.  Ms. Vela never saw the young man harming her boy.  She merely "suspected it", and only after ingesting mind and mood altering substances.

Imagine how that young man must have felt with a crazed woman and two friends threatening him.  During the attack, Vela apparently told him he had a choice between his "manhood" and his life.  Tough choice, under the circumstances.

What disturbs me about this case is that many people are hailing this woman as a heroine.  People think she's awesome for unlawfully detaining this young man and assaulting him with a boxcutter, even though there is currently no proof that he even did anything to warrant this attack.  Even if he did do what she claims, it's not her place to exact vigilante justice.  Justice should be up to a court of law.

I get that parents are protective of their kids and we all like to think that if someone harmed them, we'd fight like a wild animal to protect them.  But in a civilized society, we shouldn't be condoning what this woman did, unless she happened to walk in on him hurting her child.  At that point, she'd have the right to protect the boy, but I doubt the situation would allow for her to torture the attacker by cutting his penis with a boxcutter.  Instead, we'd expect her to do something to get the man away from her son, even if it meant killing him with a gun.  It looks like she meant to hurt and humiliate her victim, not stop him in the act of harming someone else.

Based on her violent actions, I have a feeling that Ms. Vela may have herself been a victim of sexual assault of molestation.  If that's true, I have a lot of empathy for her.  But that doesn't give her the right to victimize other people.

I think people need to rethink their knee jerk reactions to these kinds of stories.  Nobody likes a pervert and we all like to hear and read about heroes.  But I don't think Bonita Lynn Vela is a heroine in this situation.  She's a violent criminal who ought to spend some time cooling off in a prison cell... preferably with some intensive therapy thrown in.  It doesn't even look like she got in trouble for using illegal drugs.

"Wanna get high?"


My husband, my hero...

So last night, after a day of fretting and ruminating over what might happen next week, Bill told me that he plans to have my back if anyone gives me any crap during our USA trip.  I wouldn't expect anything less of him, though he's generally very gentle and non-confrontational.  It was important to me that he said this directly, though, because talking to my immediate family can feel a little like crazy making.

I was wrong to bring up the past while talking to my sister the other night because she will not take responsibility when she says or does hurtful things.  I take pains to take responsibility when I know I've truly hurt someone, but I will not take 100% of the blame when I am not 100% responsible for something.  What we talked about the other night was an incident that occurred at Christmas time in 2003 that changed my life.  I was trying to be positive when I brought it up-- I thought she might have matured enough to discuss it.  I was wrong, though.  What I got from her was more of her claiming to be an innocent bystander and a "victim".

I'm not going to rehash Christmas 2003 in this post because it's a painful memory.  My sister told me to just "let it go".  Maybe she's right.  I should just let it go.  I should probably let her go, too.  Because she seems to be intent on discounting my feelings and not hearing or respecting me.  My purpose in bringing up that incident was intended to be positive, because that fight turned out to be very constructive.  I had finally had enough shit from my family, so Bill and I just decided to leave and go home, where we could celebrate Christmas in peace and sleep in a bed instead of a foldout couch.

We did leave my sister stranded at my parents' house.  She absolutely deserved to be left there.  While the fight that pre-empted her being left was not her fault and didn't involve her, her insane behavior when we told her we were leaving absolutely warranted her being left without a ride home.  And besides, even if the whole thing was my fault, it was still my car she was riding in...  I don't remember her giving us gas money or even offering it.  I didn't ask her to pay, either, which means that I was truly doing her a favor.  When you ask for a favor, you should understand that it's a favor... and if you act like an ass or throw a temper tantrum, you run the risk of having said favor revoked.

In the months preceding that dramatic incident, this particular sister used me on several occasions.  On my 30th birthday in June 2002, I spent the day driving her to doctor's appointments.  She couldn't drive herself because she had taken Valium.  At the time, she was a bit phobic of doctors and the Valium helped calm her down.  I was happy to help her out, though Bill and I did have dinner reservations early that evening.  We needed to rush to get back to her place so we'd be on time for our reservation. My sister decided she needed to stop at Applebee's first-- she said she wanted to pick up food to take home with her.  I pulled in and instead of getting take out as she'd promised, she gets a table.  It ended up being okay, but only after I rushed us back to her apartment when she was finished.

In May of 2003, she asked Bill and me to drive our parents to her graduation at American University.  I doubted she really cared about us being there.  I think she just wanted us to shuttle the parents around so she didn't have to worry about it.  While what ultimately happened at that graduation wasn't her fault, it did turn out to be a horribly traumatic experience for me.  My dad, who at that time was probably suffering from early dementia, ended up humiliating me publicly.  Memories of that incident were still fresh in my mind at Christmas 2003, when I had my big fight with my two middle sisters.  Naturally, I got blamed for the whole thing.

In July 2007, our grandmother died.  My sister hung around me the whole time.  I had brought my dogs with me, but was otherwise alone because Bill was in Iraq.  One night, we were in my hotel room talking and my sister said she thought maybe I wasn't our father's daughter because he was nastier to me than he was my other sisters.  She brought the fact that I don't look like him and we apparently had a neighbor who resembled me that mom supposedly liked.  Imagine just attending a funeral for your beloved grandmother-- your father's mother-- and your sister makes a comment about your potentially not being related to her after all.  I never actually believed what she said, though I did think it was pretty toxic that she said it, especially at Granny's funeral.  And I guarantee that if I mentioned it to her today, she'd get very angry and somehow make her nasty and offensive comments my fault.

Now... I understand that I am not perfect.  I know I have a temper.  I know I can be obnoxious and annoying.  I know not everybody likes me.  But I am tired of being the one who gets dumped on.  I'm tired of being involved in conflicts and feeling afterwards like it was all my fault.  I'm tired of people feeling like they can say anything they want to me.  Before I knew Bill, I had no one on my side.  But he's been there and he's witnessed a lot of this stuff, which helps me realize that I'm not insane and imagining things, which is what people have proposed in the past.

So yesterday, after thinking about the whole phone call with my sister-- two hours of her going on about our family and being weird and culminating with that conversation about Christmas 2003, during which time my sister chastised me for bringing it up and told me to "let it go"-- I've decided there will be no drama.  I bet she wants me to let it go because she behaved like a perfect asshole and an ingrate.  She tried to manipulate Bill into getting me to change my mind about going home early.  When that didn't work, she threw a massive temper tantrum.  My other middle sister later told me that they thought it was funny that I'd left her there, even though I was very upset about having to do that.  When I told her that our other sister had said she thought the incident was funny, she claimed our other sister was being "toxic" because she didn't think it was funny that I had finally stood up for myself.

This is how I felt when I left my sister at my parents' house...

I don't know who to believe.  It probably doesn't matter.  I have been around both of them long enough that both stories are plausible and both sisters are toxic people.  Honestly, though, who cares?  I now see that event as a positive thing, even though it was painful to go through.  I learned how to be a lot more assertive and less willing to take abuse from other people and that was my only point in bringing it up.  I thought she was mature and evolved enough to hear what I had to say, but I was clearly wrong.

I am determined not to deal with that during this trip to the United States because I don't plan to come back to the US again for a run of the mill family gathering.  I will probably come home when our mother dies.  Other than that, I likely won't... and we could be in Germany for awhile.  This may be the last time I'll see some of the people in my family.  Moreover, it takes two to tango.  If I don't engage or don't make myself available, there can't be any fighting.

Friday night, which is when we have our big party, I am going out to dinner with Bill.  We'll have a few courses and some wine.  Afterwards, we'll go back to our inn, lock the door, and go to bed.  There will be no family drama.  I have decided.  And Bill, God bless him, will back me up on this.      

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Yet another creepy colonel in the National Guard...

A few years ago, I wrote about a colonel Bill had the misfortune of going to war with in 2007.  This guy was a total narcissist and he put Bill through hell.  In 2010, he went to Iraq again, this time with a brigade.  He proceeded to abuse many more people and was eventually outed as the abusive leader he was.  He ended up having to leave the Army as a colonel instead of the general he was slated to be.

Last night, I found out about yet another colonel Bill used to work with.  I'm not sure if I ever met this guy.  I might have, back in the days when we lived in northern Virginia.  He had a pretty good reputation and wasn't known to be abusive to people who worked for and with him.  However, he apparently has a pretty serious "zipper problem" that led to him abusing his mistress.

Apparently, between 2009 and 2011 Colonel Jeffrey Pounding was carrying on a sexual relationship with a woman to whom he was not married.  They allegedly had a lengthy affair, which in and of itself wasn't a good thing.  What made it worse is that Pounding is HIV positive and he neglected to tell his mistress about his disease.  They did not use protection.  Pounding's lover eventually found out about his HIV status from a public health worker.  She has been since tested for HIV twice and has so far come up negative for the disease.    

Pounding may very well end up behind bars for his misdeeds.  If this story is true, I think he should be seriously punished for exposing this woman to HIV, even though she probably knew he was married.

Bill worked with this man and told me that he never would have guessed he was capable of such a thing.  Apparently, Pounding is a psychologist by training and has several daughters.  I wonder how he'd feel if some guy treated one of his daughters the way he treated his mistress.

It'll be interesting to see how this case ends.

Repost of my review of When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People...

In a week, I'll be on my way to Virginia for Thanksgiving... and right now I kind of feel like Lloyd Bridges in Airplane!

The holidays are rapidly approaching.  A week from today, I will board a plane that will take me to the United States via Paris, France.  I'm going home for Thanksgiving for the first time since 2010.  The reason I'm going home is two-fold...  to celebrate Thanksgiving and to give my dad's ashes a proper send off.

There was a time when I loved going to my family's Thanksgiving celebrations.  I have a large extended family and most everyone is decent and fun to talk to.  However, my immediate family is a bit on the toxic side.  And I write this knowing that I contribute to the toxicity myself sometimes.  As the weeks have passed toward this upcoming reunion, I have been feeling more and more stressed out and apprehensive about it.  Things kind of got to a head yesterday, when I got a phone call from one of my sisters.

She and I had been emailing about the festivities.  One of our cousins is organizing the event and has been bugging people to help out with Thanksgiving dinner, Friday night dinner, clean up, and various other chores.  Last month, she sent me an invitation to our usual reunion from "the grandchildren".  It pissed me off, because I happen to be one of the grandchildren.  I tried not to let it bother me, though, because I figure she was just thoughtless and really meant no harm.  It still bugged me, though, and didn't really make me feel great about spending a couple of grand to go to this gathering.

This week, she and her mother signed up one of my sisters for kitchen duty on Friday night.  Friday happens to be the day we are memorializing our dad and burying his ashes.  It's going to be a stressful situation.  I'm supposed to sing at the service, which I am happy to do... though I'm also afraid that I'm going to be very emotional.  My sister doesn't really enjoy the Friday night meal because it's too crowded and noisy, so she wrote to our cousin and asked her to sign her up on Thanksgiving instead.  The cousin then asked me to take her place and do duty with one of my other sisters, whom I can barely stand to be around anymore.  I wouldn't want to do kitchen work with her on any day, let alone the day we bury my dad's ashes.

So anyway, I got a phone call from my sister and lo and behold, we ended up quarreling.  And this adds to the stress I'm feeling about going home, especially since this sister is staying in the same lodging as I am.  I woke up at about 4:00am this morning and had a good cry because I feel very stressed out and pressured.  What the hell is wrong with me?  It's just my family, for God's sake!  I love most of them.  Yet I am really dreading this visit and am going only because I feel obligated to.  I want it to be over.  I ended up opting out of the Facebook group for my family's reunion after posting that I think I'm going to opt out of the Friday night party altogether.  I have a feeling I won't be in the mood to celebrate.

I know I'm not alone when it comes to feeling stressed out about the holidays.  Back in 2006, I read a very good book about how to deal with relatives that drive you crazy.  In light of last night's traumatic phone call, I'm reposting the review I wrote of Dr. Leonard Felder's book, When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People.  I think I gave it four stars out of five.

Does your family drive you nuts? You're not alone.
Jan 9, 2006 (Updated Feb 15, 2008)

Review by knotheadusc

Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:  Practical advice on how to get through stressful moments with your family.

Cons:  Skewed toward Jewish readers.

The Bottom Line:  Stay sane during the holidays in 2006. Read Dr. Felder's book!

I realize that since the holidays of 2005 have already passed, this review of Dr. Leonard Felder's 2003 self help book When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People: Surviving Your Family and Keeping Your Sanity might be a tad tardy. On the other hand, the month of January has always seemed to me to be a time custom made for personal change. With the idea of personal change in mind, consider the following questions. Do your relatives make you crazy at family gatherings? Do they harangue you about the way you look, your job, your marital status, or your place in life? Do you find it unbearable to spend more than a few hours with your family? Do you feel like you're out of the loop when it comes to important family decisions? Do you dread the holidays because it means you'll be expected to hang around your family for long periods of time? If you can answer yes to one or more of these questions, Dr. Felder's book might be a big help to you.

Dr. Leonard Felder is a Los Angeles based licensed psychologist and co-author of another family oriented book, Making Peace With Your Parents. I had never heard of Dr. Felder prior to finding this book, but he's appeared on Oprah, CNN, CBS' The Early Show, NBC News, A.M. Canada, National Public Radio, and ABC Talkradio. I discovered When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People quite by accident. I got an email from Barnes and Noble alerting me to a large post holiday sale. I'm a sucker for sales and I'm always looking for new books. I managed to pick up a brand new hardcover copy of this book for about $4. Considering the fact that I'm a public health social worker by training and someone who has a hard time hanging around my own family, I figured it would be a fine addition to my personal library. Having just read When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People, I can understand why Felder is so popular. He has an easy to understand, conversational writing style that I found easy to relate to. He also offers advice that is both easy to follow and practical, while still reminding his readers that they can't control other peoples' thoughts or emotions, but they can control how they react when relatives start to pluck their nerves.

Dr. Felder uses interesting and realistic scenarios to get his point across to his readers. I often found myself nodding my head as I recognized some of the situations that I've found myself in when I've dealt with my family. For example, I have three older sisters who are driven career women. All three of my sisters keep themselves looking beautiful and polished most of the time, as they pursue their lofty professional goals. I've often caught a lot of grief from my family because I'm more of a housewife than a career woman. I work as a freelance writer on an occasional basis. I'm more comfortable in sweats with my face unpainted and my hair unstyled. My lifestyle works for me and my husband, Bill, but that doesn't always stop my family members from harassing me about the fact that I'm not like them. Consequently, I often find myself avoiding family get-togethers and hating every minute of them when I can't avoid them. I love each individual member of my family, but not when we're all together and personalities start to clash. Dr. Felder offers constructive ideas on what to do if you have a sister who is narcissistic and obnoxious, or a father who gets on your case about your employment status, or a mother who picks on you about your weight. He also offers assurance that family troubles are not unusual. There's no reason to feel like a freak because you can't get along with the people who created you. It happens to a lot of people. Dr. Felder's book offers hope and a chance to make those visits with family more bearable and constructive.

One thing I did notice about When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People is that it does seem a little bit skewed toward those of the Jewish faith (which I am not). Dr. Felder is himself a Reform Jew, so he sometimes uses examples that will be more familiar to those who share his religious preference. However, I will note that Felder is careful to explain whenever he includes a cultural term with which his audience may not be familiar. For instance, when he uses a Yiddish term like mensch, he explains to his readers who may be unfamiliar with the term that mensch is a Yiddish word for "good person". Felder's explanations make the book accessible to everyone, but they also reveal that the book is slightly bent toward people of a certain culture. It's only natural, though, that writers tend to write best when they focus on writing about what they know; Judaism is certainly something about which Dr. Felder knows.

When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People is divided into ten chapters that are dedicated to certain common issues. For example, Felder devotes whole chapters on dealing with religious disagreements, family battles about food, weight, clothes, and appearance, getting past drugs, alcohol, and other addictive behaviors, and relatives who are just plain intolerant. At the end of the book, there's an appendix as well as a list of suggested reading and sources. I was happy to see that Dr. Felder suggested a book that I read and reviewed last year on, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood inside the Fortress by Mary Edwards Wertsch-- an excellent book for people who have family in the military.

The 2005 holiday season is now a memory. If you're currently breathing a sigh of relief that the holidays are over because you found hanging out with your family stressful this past year, I urge you to read Dr. Leonard Felder's book, When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People. Even if none of the scenarios in this book apply to you, you may find yourself comforted at least in the knowledge that you're not alone. There's no need to feel badly just because your family makes you crazy. As Dr. Felder points out in his book's title, it happens to the very best of people.


Monday, November 17, 2014

A repost of my review of Kink: The Shocking Hidden Sex Lives of Americans by Susan Crain Bakos

Here's yet another old review reposted for your pleasure and edification.

If you're looking for cheap erotic thrills, skip this book and surf the net instead

Jul 18, 2003 (Updated Oct 22, 2011)

Rated a Very Helpful Review by the Epinions community

Pros: It's a book about kinky sex.

Cons: It's not a very interesting book about kinky sex.

The Bottom Line: Kink is what some folks might call a tease. It promises to get you all hot and bothered but ends up leaving you cold. Skip it.

I think I bought my copy of Susan Crain Bakos book, Kink: The Shocking Hidden Sex Lives of Americans (1995) back in 1999, when I was waiting for my first semester of graduate school to start. It was hot, I was bored, and let's face it, reading a cheap paperback book about kinky sex looked like it might be a fun way to spend an afternoon. Shoot, it was a non-fiction book and I could even justify it. I was, after all, getting my education in the health field, wasn't I? So I plunked down my $7 and took the book home to my little apartment.

Bakos interviewed single people and couples in cities nationwide. She got in touch with most of the people she interviewed through advertisements she placed in bondage publications.

After an introduction in which Bakos tries to give a history and commentary about kinky sex, Bakos divides the book into five parts. The first part details what Bakos seems to consider "garden variety" kink. It's entitled "Almost Every Sexually Adventurous Person Has Tried...", and there are three chapters. They include topics such as spanking, basic bondage, and most telling, "What's the One Thing He Says She Won't Do That He Really Wants To Do? Heterosexual Anal Sex" Sigh... Well, that title alone sort of implies that only men are kinky, doesn't it? Read the book and you will find that it's certainly not true that men are the only sexually kinky people out there. In each part of the book, Bakos details interviews she had with different people who answered her ads. In each interview, she is very descriptive about the surroundings and the mood of the occasion. Each meeting, especially those with the men, seems to have an underlying sexual conquest theme to it-- the men all seem to be trying to get into Bakos' pants (if she says so...). I found myself getting bored just reading the first part, but I kept reading because I had nothing else to do.

The second part of the book is entitled "Pushing the Limits". Hmmm... Bakos is getting more daring now, so I read on. The chapters in this part include such subjects as S/M as foreplay, advanced bondage, Master/Mistress and Slave, Homosexual S/M and Lesbians, and one telling title, "Who's Really in Charge? Topping, Bottoming, Bottoming from the Top-- and the Switch". Sound juicy? Well, it should have been. But to tell you the truth, like the last part, I found the writing pretty dull. Bakos includes more interviews from people she's found through ads she placed in bondage publications. Throughout them all, however, there's no sense of wonder or fascination on her part. Instead, there's an overwhelming aura of arrogance. I wondered why she bothered writing on the subject because she didn't seem to learn anything from it; what's more, she seems to think that everyone wants her.

Part three is entitled "Getting it Your Way" Oooh! Now we're going to find out how we're going to get kinky sex! Well, this might be the part of the book everyone should skip to, right? The two chapters in this part are entitled "Finding a Partner" and "S/M for Sale: The Doms". In this part of the book, Bakos writes of the Dominatrices she meets who discipline men for a living. There's not as much about men who discipline women, although there are do seem to be a surprising number of a men who are into being dominated. Bakos theory is that they have so much responsibility on the job that they need to give some up for awhile to a Dominatrix. Apparently, these ladies make good money, too... Maybe I ought to supplement my Eroyalties... (kidding!). She treats this subject as though it were some kind of really bizarre sickness-- as it perhaps these folks belong in a side show at a circus. Yet in her own introduction, she writes that sex is getting kinkier all the time. If it's so bizarre, why are so many people kinky?

Part four is entitled "Other Kink". This is by far the "kinkiest" part of the book. Here we have chapters that address videos, fetishes, gender bending, body piercing, and multiple partners. Part four consists of inane discussions offering explanations as to why people indulge in kinky behavior. Was it child abuse? Do they pierce themselves for some kind of weird endorphin rush or is it a throwback to an African rituals? What makes a man decide to wear women's clothing? A special relationship with mom, maybe? Why would a man want to be dominated by a woman? Does he have too much responsibility on the job and need someone to take the control out of his hands for awhile? The discussions would be interesting if they were well thought out and developed, but Bakos doesn't bother with trying to answer those questions. Instead, she is heavy-handed with lurid details and light on providing the reader with any kind of intelligent analysis that might lead people to believe that she really is the "expert on sex" that she is credited to be on this book's back cover.

Part five wraps up this appalling piece of trash. It's entitled, "The Therapeutic Opinion" and contains the following chapters: "Working Within the Kinks", "The Dysfunctional Perspective" and "How Far Will It Go?" It is in the part of the book that Bakos offers the opinions of so-called sex experts-- that is, people with PhDs. In this section, there's more speculation that the kinkiness is caused by child sexual abuse or parents that taught their children that sex was somehow dirty or wrong. As a reader, I was left with the impression that Bakos feels that kinky people are sickos that really need a lot of help. Bakos concludes that as a sex writer, she thinks about sex all the time. However, though she claims she was titillated by what she saw and heard at the bondage clubs she visited and the people she interviewed, she also claims that writing this book did not turn her on because the subject matter was too weird for her. Then why does she write about sex?

I got the feeling that Bakos was looking down her nose at anyone who veered from the straight and narrow path of "vanilla sex", although she was apparently trying hard to convince her readers of the contrary. She seemed to think that all of the men were lusting after her (although if you look at her picture in the book, you will most likely be inclined to think otherwise) and all of the women, especially those who were submissive, were worthy of nothing but pity and shame. YAWN... Why buy a book when you could go to a conservative church for that attitude?

While the book is a quick read that offers a few interesting facts and stories, there's nothing here that you can't find for free on the internet. In fact, you'll probably find better written and much more interesting free articles about sex on the net. Do yourself a favor. Save time and money. Surf the net and leave this book on the shelf. It promises a lot but doesn't deliver.