Sunday, May 31, 2015

Getting yourself kidnapped? That's one way to jumpstart a journalism career

This review originally appeared on  I see a lot of people looking for the review that I linked to there, but the review is no longer available on that site.  I am reposting it here for your perusal.

I can appreciate a young person's desire for adventure. I can also appreciate the desire and drive to kickstart an exciting career.  When she was 24 years old, Canadian cocktail waitress Amanda Lindhout felt ready for adventure, having spent her childhood reading tattered copies of National Geographic.  She started using her earnings waiting tables to finance trips abroad to exotic and often dangerous countries.  Lindhout wanted to be a journalist, but found the competition stiff, especially since she didn't even have the benefit of a university degree.  Nevertheless, Lindhout was determined and willingly traveled to dangerous war torn countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and finally, Somalia.   In her 2013 memoir A House in the Sky: A Memoir, co-written by Sara Corbett, Lindhout describes what led her abroad and ultimately to the experience of being kidnapped by a group of teenaged boys who held her and her ex-boyfriend, Australian Nigel Brennan, captive for 460 days.

This was Amanda Lindhout's second experience as a hostage...

While in Iraq, trying to launch her journalism career, Amanda Lindhout was abducted by Iraqis in Sadr City.  She was held for a few hours until she was able to pay a ransom for her own release.  One would think after just one abduction, a young woman might think twice about visiting dangerous countries without proper security.  But Lindhout was stubborn and ambitious.  She decided to try her luck in Somalia, inviting her former boyfriend, Nigel Brennan (who also wrote a book-- click the link to read my review), to join her for the ill fated trip.  The two were on their third day in Somalia when they and their Somali translator, Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, their driver, Mahad Isse, and a driver from the Shamo Hotel, Marwali,†were captured by insurgents from the Hizbal Islam fundamentalist group.

460 days of hell 

With help from ghostwriter Sara Corbett, Lindhout describes how she and Brennan, who was a photographer, were on their way to conduct interviews for a story when they were stopped by gunmen.  It was August 23, 2008.  The insurgents were demanding a ransom of $3 million for their release, a sum that neither Lindhout's nor Brennan's families were able to pay immediately.  The ransom was eventually reduced substantially and was raised by friends, family, and strangers of Lindhout's and Brennan's alike.  Meanwhile, Lindhout and Brennan found themselves doing all they could to humanize themselves in their captors' eyes, even going as far as to convert to Islam.

My thoughts

A House in the Sky is, on many levels, a fascinating story.  I found myself relating to Lindhout, since when I was her age, I had a desire to launch a career and visit exotic countries abroad.  On the other hand, I never had ambition strong enough to make me want to visit a place like Somalia.  In 2008 and 2009, Somalia was always in the news because desperate pirates had been attacking ships that got too close to the Somali coastline. 

Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan were beaten and starved.  Lindhout was repeatedly raped, gang-raped, and tortured.  100 days into her captivity, Lindhout was taken to a remote location, where her captors threatened to slit her throat.  After an unsuccessful escape attempt, Lindhout and Brennan were separately kept isolated in chains in a pitch black house, where Lindhout relates being forced to lie still in the dark for months.  I made the mistake of reading about the bulk of Lindhout's experiences as I was trying to fall asleep last night.  It took a long while to be able to relax enough to drop off, even after I took a couple of Advil PMs. 

Even as Lindhout describes how she was treated by certain members of the insurgent group, Lindhout also manages to allow glimpses of their humanity to color her story.  In fact, Lindhout even relates how one very brave and kind-hearted Somali woman tried to save her when she and Brennan managed to escape.  Lindhout's ability to see the more positive aspects of her situation gives her story an interesting complexity and makes it more compelling.  Frankly, some of the more graphic stories in this book were difficult to read. 


While I can't decide if I think Lindhout is very brave or just very foolish, I can't deny that her experiences being held hostage have certainly led to an exciting career.  In 2010, Lindhout founded the Global Enrichment Foundation, which offers scholarship opportunities to Somali women.  She has also been back to Somalia; in 2011, she returned with a large convoy with enough food for 14,000 people in the southern Somali town of Dobely.  She is now a respected public speaker and has won awards for her humanitarian efforts.  I know this experience has helped Lindhout launch a career, but I wonder if it was worth it, given all she went through.

I think Amanda Lindhout's book is definitely worth reading, though I would not recommend reading it before bedtime.  I think it rates a solid four stars-- and I think my next book will be something a bit lighter.

Click for more information about Global Enrichment Foundation.

Repost of my review of Under A Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania

Just found another book review I wish to save...  This one is about growing up in Romania during the communist era.

A memoir from a Jewish girl in Communist Romania

Pros: Well-written, interesting, sometimes funny and charming.

Cons: Abrupt ending.

Recommended it? Yes

The Bottom Line: A fascinating look at life as a Jewish girl in Romania, post World War II.

I recently downloaded several books written by people who lived through post World War II communist regimes. Last week, I reviewed a book about a woman who saw firsthand when her homeland, Latvia, was overtaken by the Soviet Union. Today, I'm going to review Under a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania (2010), a book by Haya Leah Molnar, a Romanian Jewish woman who saw Romania turn communist after World War II. I decided to download this book because it got very good ratings on and I love a good true story.

Eva's story

Haya Leah Molnar explains that she grew up the much beloved only child of Romanian Jewish parents, who called her Eva Zimmermann. She lived with her parents, grandparents, and an aunt and uncle, all of whom had escaped the Holocaust. Her family was very anti-communist, but were unable to leave Romania due to the travel restrictions imposed by the government.

Though Eva's family is Jewish, they hadn't shared the faith with her and she didn't know she was Jewish. At the tender age of seven, Eva finds out about her religion, but doesn't understand what it means. Though her family loves her very much, they don't help her understand Judaism. Her father makes some vague references to his experiences during World War II, but Eva remains confused about what makes her different.

As Eva grows older, she joins the Young Pioneers, a group for all youngsters that teaches them how to be good communists. A non-Jewish couple is moved into her family's home, which makes it difficult for them to speak freely with each other. Eva's father, a photographer, doesn't feel free to practice his craft. In 1958, Eva learns that her whole family has applied to immigrate to Israel, which they consider their true "home". Eva and her family endure interviews with government officials, give up all their worldly possessions, and must travel a less desirable route to Israel.

My thoughts

I was surprised to find out this very well-written and complex book is marketed to young readers. It's an easy enough book to read and understand; in fact, it reminds me a little of The Diary of Anne Frank. But it just doesn't strike me as adolescent literature. I'm 40 years old and I found it very relevant and interesting reading, certainly appropriate for adults to read and enjoy.

Parts of this book are funny and charming, while other parts are sobering. One part is gruesome, as Eva relates the story of how two Nazi officers her mother's family had been forced to house had saved them from being killed at a slaughterhouse. Reading that account was alternately fascinating and horrifying, as it also cast a rare positive light on Nazis. It was interesting to read that bit about Romanians during the Holocaust, since I had read a lot about Jews in other parts of Europe during World War II.

Eva mentions the Securitate, Romania's secret police force that terrorized Romanian citizens during the Ceausescu regime. But she never mentions Ceausescu or really explains what the Securitate is, other than to infer that they kept everyone in line. I would think that young people who know nothing about World War II or communism would benefit from discussion about what it was and how people lived.

One thing I didn't like about this book was the rather abrupt ending. Toward the end of the book, Eva explains how she and her parents took a train into Bulgaria and her father realized he had left his camera behind. He needed the camera to make a living, so he went back to get it. Eva and her mother ended up waiting for her father to return; then they took a ship from Istanbul to Israel. That part of the book seems a bit rushed and I was surprised and disappointed when suddenly, the book was ending. I would have liked another chapter or two about how Eva and her family settled in Israel.


This is a great book for adolescents and adults. I would highly recommend it to those who are interested in memoirs about life during the communist era in Romania. I would caution parents about that one gruesome passage about the slaughterhouse, though it wasn't as graphic as it could have been.

For more information:

More problems...

I wrote about our trip to Calw on my travel blog.  We had a good time, so I won't rehash what we did on this blog.  I only want to write about my free floating anxiety.

When we got back from our brief day trip, we came home to what appeared to have been a fight between two friendly hounds.  Zane was shaking and had a few minor wounds.  Obviously, Arran took a couple of plugs out of him, probably over the peanut butter filled Kongs we give them when we go out.  There were two spots on one of my ugly rugs where someone threw up.  My guess is that Zane is the puker, since he throws up more often than Arran does.  It occurs to me that maybe the peanut butter is too rich for him, though he never had problems with it up until now.  I also had to clean up some pee, which may have happened after the fight.

More disturbing is the recent trend of Arran being aggressive toward Zane.  I think they are closely matched in terms of dominance and Arran, who has now been with us for for two and a half years, is starting to try to take the boss role.  Zane is a fairly easygoing dog about a lot of things, but he's not particularly submissive.

I need to take Zane in for his allergy shot this week, so I guess I'll talk to the vet about it.  Hopefully, nothing more serious than sibling rivalry is going on, though the dogs both enjoyed a nice long walk this morning.  Now they are both napping.  They seem to have forgiven each other.  Hopefully, my car will also be fixed so I don't have to worry about the clutch failing on the way to or from the vet's office.

I am constantly fretting about stuff.  I get one problem solved and then another one crops up.  It's usually not a serious problem, but I make it into one by worrying incessantly.  Now I worry about leaving the dogs alone.  I've done it plenty of times and I know I can't allow them to make me housebound, but I don't want them fighting and possibly hurting each other.

I love my dogs.  They are like my kids.  They sure do make me fret, though.



Saturday, May 30, 2015

Squatting can be dangerous to your health...

The other day, I discovered a news item about a woman in Reno, Nevada who testified in a court case about a "trespass killing".  Having lived in the Atlanta area a few years ago, I was interested in reading more.  Atlanta, along with a number of other cities in the United States, has had some serious issues with so-called sovereign citizens and squatters trying to take over abandoned housing.  The sovereign citizens movement is particularly galling, since it basically involves people engaging in "paper terrorism".  They try to get paper documentation proving residence in an abandoned property and basically rip off the owners, who may have a lot of trouble getting them to vacate.

Anyway, the article I read about about a woman named Janai Wilson.  On February 13, 2014, Wilson was squatting in 74 year old Wayne Burgarello's run down rental duplex.  She'd been living there illegally off and on for about three years and was trying to establish "squatter's rights" by listing the property on her driver's license.

Apparently, Burgarello was sick and tired of people burglarizing, vandalizing, and living illegally in his house.  He had told neighbors that he planned to arm himself and wait for people who were damaging his property.  Burgarello apparently felt he had the right thanks to Nevada's "stand your ground" law, which allows people to use deadly force against attackers who pose an imminent threat.  It does not allow for the person standing their ground to be the initial aggressor.

Wilson had picked up Cody Devine at a casino the night before the shooting.  She had brought him back to the duplex, where Wilson injected methamphetamines.  Devine had tried to join her, but was unable to find a vein.  They eventually fell asleep, but were awakened by Burgarello, who stormed into the dwelling and demanded, "What are you doing in my house!"

The two trespassers woke up.  Devine said, "We were just sleeping."  Devine then apparently stood up and, according to Burgarello, appeared to be armed.

Burgarello responded by opening fire.  He killed Devine and seriously wounded Wilson.  Wilson explains that she knew she was trespassing, but Devine didn't know they were in someone else's house.  She says it wasn't his fault they were trespassing... and yet now he's dead.  Burgarello has now been charged with murder and attempted murder.

I don't think Burgarello was right to shoot these people.  I think he should have called the police and let them handle it.  On the other hand, I can definitely understand his frustration and anger.  People who illegally take up residence in other peoples' homes and then try to basically steal the property from rightful owners are infuriating.  Our legal system doesn't do enough to help the property owners reclaim what is legally theirs.  I also imagine a guy like Burgarello waiting for the criminals in his house, not knowing if they are armed or not.  I would be scared to do such a thing.

Burgarello may get off based on the stand your ground law.  His case is not clear cut, but he did have a legal right to be at the property.  His victims had no right to be there.  Before he pulled the trigger, he wasn't doing anything illegal himself, while the victims were doing something illegal.  It's debatable whether or not Burgarello is the original aggressor, since Wilson and Devine were unarmed.  But if you're scared and two strangers are in your house, you may be inclined to shoot first and ask questions later.  Burgarello is elderly and may not have the powers to perceive that he once had.

The bottom line is that these folks would not have been shot if they hadn't broken in to Burgarello's home.  I find it difficult to muster a whole lot of sympathy for them.

ETA: Looks like Mr. Burgarello is not guilty.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Public urination...

I don't know why, but I have a special knack for catching men in the act of peeing in public.  It's happened to me I don't know how many times.  In fact, it even happened today as I was walking my dogs in the woods near where we live.

I think there's some kind of camping thing going on in a field in the nature park near where we live.  I've noticed a bunch of tents set up in the field and lots of people have parked their cars there.  Anyway, I was walking Zane and Arran past this campground and happened to see a couple of teenaged guys standing in the tree line facing the road standing there unabashedly peeing right there for all to see.  They were having a conversation as they whizzed and were completely unperturbed that I was walking by and could easily see them peeing.

Now, I'm no prude.  God knows I've done the peeing outside thing a few times.  I just find a private place to do it so it's not so obvious.  But man, I've lost count how many times I've seen some guy on the side of the road, pissing for the whole world to see.

Nudity is just not a big deal here in Germany.  Indeed, there are places where it's perfectly fine and even required to be naked.  Last time I took a SeaDream cruise, I saw a German guy's nether regions when he decided to change clothes while on deck.  I wasn't the only one who saw it, either.  A woman from Northern Ireland also got a load of this guy's junk as he flashed us while slipping out of his trunks under a towel.

On one hand, I kind of admire Germans for being so comfortable with their own bodies.  On the other hand, as an American, it's very odd to me.  I certainly never expected to see some guy's dick while walking my dogs today, though... and definitely not TWO guys' dicks.

Last week, when Bill and I were on our way to Triberg, he tried to pee in the woods.  Some lady interrupted him as she passed with her little white dog.  He didn't finish.  If I were him, I would have let 'er rip because it's just not an issue here.  You see guys peeing on the side of the road all the time in traffic jams especially.    

I'm writing about public urination today because I'm trying really hard not to write about a certain family with 19 kids.  I'm just tired of it... tired of reading about it, too.  But give me a few days and I bet I'll write another post about that confounded group.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

My review of Say Goodbye To Crazy by Paul Elam and Dr. Tara J. Palmatier

In November of this year, I will have been married to my husband, Bill, for thirteen years.  We have had a great marriage for the most part, except for dealing with his former wife and the two kids he had with her.  Those adult children are extremely alienated and haven't spoken to Bill since 2004-- with the exception of letters they supposedly wrote in 2006, formally disowning him.  One might think that Bill is an utter failure at being a parent, but I know the truth about what happened and I know that had he not chosen to have kids with a crazy woman, he would have been a much beloved and highly successful father.  In fact, he was much beloved by his kids until he got divorced and married me.

Before anyone asks-- no, I am not the cause of Bill's first marriage breaking up.  I did not meet Bill in person until 2001, almost a whole year after he and his ex wife legally split.  I did meet him online prior to that, but Bill's marriage was already in a death spiral by that time.  Moreover, we were strictly platonic until the divorce was final (and really until we actually met in person).  Ex, on the other hand, had a boyfriend and was quick to move him into the house Bill was paying for right after they separated.  Boyfriend is now Ex's third husband.  She has five children with three different men, and after each of her divorces, the resulting children ended up alienated from their fathers.

It's been a few years since Ex last directly harassed us, though every once in awhile she rears her ugly head and does something to remind us that she's lurking.  Overall, things have gotten much better for us, though.  It's sad that Bill lost contact with his kids and former stepson, but letting go of them ultimately proved to be the best thing he could do for his sanity, his wallet, and our marriage.  Even though Ex mostly leaves us alone now, I am still fascinated by people with high conflict personalities.

A few years ago, I found Dr. Tara Palmatier's excellent Web site,  Dr. T's blog is written for men who are involved with abusive women and the non abusive people who love them.  While many might scoff at the idea of an abused man, I know for a fact that there are a lot of guys out there who have suffered abuse at the hands of a woman.  I think Dr. T's Web site is an important resource that serves an underserved group of people.  There are plenty of places for abused women to get relationship help if they need it.  Men, by contrast, often have to go it alone.

This year, Dr. T and noted men's rights activist Paul Elam teamed up to write a book called Say Goodbye To Crazy: How to Get Rid of His Crazy Ex and Restore Sanity to Your Life.  This book, which was released on Mother's Day, is primarily written for women like me, married or in a relationship with a man whose ex is toxic and abusive.  Why?  My guess is that it's because women are more likely to read self help books than men are.  Look at all the heavy hitting books out there that have been popular like Women Who Love Too Much and Men are From Mars; Women are From Venus.  These are books directed to women about relationships with abusive men.  They were hugely successful with their easily quoted titles.  Even though both of those books been around for decades, people still remember their titles.  I think Elam and Dr. T were smart to recognize who their audience really is.  

Though Say Goodbye To Crazy is a great book for men trying to reclaim their lives after being involved with a destructive, "crazy" woman, the authors write as if it's the man's new wife or girlfriend reading, rather than the abused man himself.  They refer to the destructive ex wife or girlfriend as "Crazy", as if that's her name.  Using a conversational, empathetic tone, the authors explain what and who "crazy" is and describe some of the destructive antics women with high conflict personalities will stoop to in order to get their way and wreak havoc on other peoples' lives.

Reading about things "crazy" does was like reading Bill's life story for the ten years he was involved with her and the few years immediately following their divorce, as she struggled to keep him bending to her will.  As I read, I often found myself nodding in agreement, both in terms of our experiences dealing with Bill's ex wife and the things we did that finally got her to leave us alone.  It is unfortunate that in Bill's case, saying goodbye to crazy meant also saying goodbye to his kids.  On the other hand, not having contact with the kids and not letting Ex use them as weapons means that we also have no contact with Ex.  And that has meant peace, harmony, sanity, and prosperity.

Say Goodbye To Crazy helps men choose appropriate and effective attorneys and therapists.  For instance, the authors explain what kinds of questions to ask therapists and attorneys before hiring them.  They point out ways to spot biased and/or ignorant therapists and lawyers before wasting time and money.  They also explain the differences between counselors and their training.  Indeed, they even take a shot at social work, the profession I was trained to enter before I became an Army wife.

Dr. T and Elam explain that social workers tend to be female centric and biased toward feminism.  As someone who has a master's degree in social work, I have to agree with them.  While there are social workers out there who are open minded about gender, the profession is female dominated and people within the social work profession generally deal with women's issues.  There was a time when this strong emphasis on feminism was needed.  Unfortunately, I think in some situations it's gone too far in the other direction and some men are being treated unfairly by social workers due to their gender.

Please don't get me wrong.  It's not that I don't think women need champions or that women aren't victimized by men; it's more that if you are a male who is dealing with an abusive woman, you don't need someone telling you to be more empathetic and tolerant toward her crazy behavior.  You need someone to be YOUR champion and help you escape the abuse.  If you can find a competent social worker who can do that for you, by all means, take the help.  Just remember who the patient/client is.  

Elam and Dr. T also write about the concept of "parallel parenting" and why it's so important when you are trying to raise a child with a high conflict parent.  They offer advice on how to find mental health and legal professionals who will support the idea of parallel parenting to minimize the post divorce craziness in your life.

Dr. T and Paul Elam write about the many ways "crazy" will try to manipulate and control people-- anyone who is within her sphere of influence.  I can speak from experience that Ex tried very hard to get me under control, even to the point of inviting Bill and me to Bill's father's house for Christmas one year.  She expected me to go along with her wishes in the interest of "making nice" and showing the kids that we're all a big happy family.  She did not ask me if I wanted to go.  She did not speak to me about it at all.  Instead, she told Bill this was how we'd all be spending our holidays and just expected that I would acquiesce.  She thought I would be desperate to try to win over the kids and the in-laws.  I understood that the kids had no interest in seeing me and the in-laws just wanted to hang out with the grandkids, so that made it easy to say "no" to her crazy and ridiculous demands.

I stayed home while Bill visited his kids at his dad's house.  He booked a hotel while Ex and her current husband stayed with Bill's family.  Ex ended up looking like a gigantic asshole as Bill sat alone at the Christmas table with a hotel reservation and a rented car.  Bill's dad and stepmother initially blamed me for not coming and tried to get Bill to stay with relatives.  He declined, since he'd already paid for everything and he wanted his family to understand that his ex is an asshole... and by allowing this spectacle, they aided and abetted her asshole behavior.  

Of course, what Ex was really trying to do was force me to bend to her will and get me on turf where I'd feel forced to tolerate her abuse.  To achieve that end, she used her own children like human shields.  I suspect she figured I would not want to risk upsetting or alienating them or my husband's father and stepmother, but she made a serious miscalculation in her assessment of me.  I understood that I could never take her place as the mother to her kids and wouldn't want to try.  I have my own family and I don't even tolerate much manipulative bullshit from them anymore.  Why would I take it from my husband's former wife?

In the short term, I got a lot of crap from Bill's dad and stepmother for not going with Bill and standing by him while also enduring Ex's toxic bullshit.  However, in the long run, not going was the best and smartest thing I could do.  Crazy, high conflict people are masters at finding peoples' hot buttons.  Had I exposed myself to Bill's ex wife, she would have gotten information about what makes me tick.  She would have then used that information to drive a wedge between Bill and me and others in his family.  At the very least, that holiday would have been completely ruined and, God forbid, had it gone well, Ex would have a reason to make it an annual event.

You may think I'm being dramatic.  I'm not.  I am deadly serious about this.  High conflict people, males and females, live to cause drama and love to destroy friendships, romantic relationships, and family ties.  Bill's ex wife successfully alienated him from his two daughters.  But that wasn't enough.  She also tried to turn his own parents against him.  She told them bald faced lies about the kind of person he is, twisting situations and things that were said to make it look like their beloved son is a monster who hates women.  She went on a campaign to turn his extended relatives and friends against him.  And she did all of this despite the fact that he really is a decent guy who bent over backwards for her and their kids.

I am aware that there are a lot of men who walk away from their parental responsibilities.  Bill is not one of those guys.  He paid a lot of child support for his two daughters and Ex's son from her first marriage (whom Bill never adopted).  He frequently tried to set up visitations and phone calls.  Ex successfully did everything in her power to thwart his attempts to stay in his kids' lives until they finally sent him hateful letters disowning him just in time for his birthday.  Ex also sent adoption papers, which she invited Bill to sign so that her current victim could legally become "daddy".  Bill didn't sign, though the temptation was certainly there.

While I have pretty much written off Bill's kids, Bill has not.  He still loves them and would see them if they asked to meet.  I, on the other hand, don't care if we never see them again.  As far as I'm concerned, they've revealed to us who they really are.  They claim we don't deserve to know them?  I submit that the opposite is true.  I would never tolerate that behavior from people I don't know.  As far as I'm concerned, Bill's kids are strangers, not family members.  I have only met them once and I am not their mother.  In fact, I barely qualify as a stepmother.  And I am not the one who made them strangers to us; that was their mother's and their own decision.  Understandably, Bill has different feelings about his daughters.  If and when they eventually contact him, he will handle the situation as he sees fit and I will do my best to stay out of it.

I realize that not all men who have been married to crazy women have situations as extreme as ours has been.  For those guys (and their girlfriends or wives), Say Goodbye to Crazy is an excellent guide.  For me, it was just more affirmation that as "crazy" as Bill's ex has always seemed, there are many more people like her, male and female.  In fact, many people have it much worse than we ever did.  We are not alone.  If you have the misfortune of being in a relationship with a high conflict person, you are not alone, either.

I highly recommend Say Goodbye To Crazy.        

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Pariah du jour...

I know I probably should't write about the Duggars right now, but I can't help it.  They're on my mind.  This morning, I was thinking about this huge scandal that has erupted over the past week.  Suddenly, I was reminded of Paula Deen two years ago.  She got raked over the coals for using the N-word.  She lost her Food Network shows, product endorsements, and lots of fans.  And all because she used a racist word.

Josh Duggar allegedly molested his sisters and another girl when he was a teenager.  By all rights, the records of that crime should have been sealed, if not because he was a minor when it happened, then because the victims were all minors too.  At the same time, the fact that this information has come out has put the Duggars in a more realistic light.  For years, they've come across to so many people as such a *perfect* family.  Now people know they aren't perfect.

Of course, I never thought they were perfect.  I've watched their show because it's fun to make fun of it.  Maybe I shouldn't snark so much, but I can't help it, especially when JimBob Duggar is the one begging to be made fun of.  The man is a tool.

I am not as outraged about this as a lot of people are.  Maybe it's because I grew up in a rural county in the south.  I don't see this situation as something that should ruin anyone for life...  I hate to think of anyone having that kind of power, to ruin someone for life because they've done something offensive or even criminal.  Maybe I'm just an old softie.

I see that a lot of advertisers have decided not to sponsor 19 Kids and Counting anymore.  This is the same thing that happened to Paula Deen two years ago.  It took some time, but then she seemed to bounce back somewhat.  I don't know if the Duggars will be able to recover from this the way she did.  Using the N-word is not quite the same as molesting girls, even if you were a teen when it happened.  Still, Deen's fall from grace is a lot like the Duggars'.  Their show may be cancelled.  Or maybe it won't be.  A lot of people still love the Duggars anyway.  Others won't want to punish the sisters for what their pervy brother did.

Last night, I watched the earliest Duggar specials, which came out in 2004 and 2005.  It's amazing how much the family has changed.  Josh is featured in those early shows, looking so young and awkward.  He was even younger when the incidents with his sisters took place.  Had this all come out when he was a teen, his family probably wouldn't be in the spotlight.  On the other hand, a lot of people probably would have forgotten about it.

I think what has most people so outraged is not so much that he touched his sisters and another girl inappropriately, but that he and his family have been so vocal about being good Christians.  They are hypocrites.  Americans love to hate on hypocrites.  I think people still would have been good and pissed off had Josh and his parents not been so holier than thou, but the level of outrage would likely be much less than it is now.

I actually feel really sorry for Josh's victims.  It wouldn't surprise me if they were blamed for this getting out there for the masses.  It was presumably one of the sisters who dared to write about it.  Had she not done that, it would have stayed a secret longer... long enough for more of the kids to grow up, anyway.  While it was Josh who did the dirty deeds, it was one of the sisters who told on him and opened up the investigation to be discovered by the public.  That sister didn't keep the number one rule of an abusive relationship... don't spill secrets.  And now the whole family is going to suffer the consequences...

Or will they?  How many of those kids would prefer the dog and pony show to end?  How many would rather they not have to be on TV all the time?  How many wish they weren't held to impossible standards?  They probably will still be held to their religious standards, but at least it won't be on TV anymore...

I'm sure Boob has invested his money.  They'll probably be okay.  But it just goes to show you, most role models have a fall from grace.  The Duggars are going through theirs right now.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Caught in the crossfire...

Yesterday was rainy and cool, but we were invited to a cookout.  We had a fairly busy weekend because we visited a couple of places.  The dogs were left alone more than usual and I think the dogs were feeling a little pouty about it.  I got down on the floor to hang out with them and was sitting between Zane and Arran.  Arran started showing his teeth and then went for Zane.  He got my forearm instead.  The bite barely broke the skin and all I have is a little soreness and bruising.  Afterwards, I could tell he was really sorry for what he did...  I know he's a dog and I shouldn't attribute human feelings to him, but I could tell he didn't mean to bite me.

We probably should have taken them with us.  The lady who hosted the cookout had dogs of her own.  I think they would have enjoyed themselves, except she doesn't have the most secure fencing in her yard.  Zane is a little shit when he gets loose.

Bill was the only guy at the cookout, aside from my friend's daughter's male friend.  The teens weren't hanging out with us, though.  It was a lucky thing Bill was there because my friend needed some help with her grill.  It got really hot and melted her rolladen.  A rolladen, for your edification, it a plastic shade that rolls down over windows.  They are very common here in Germany and in other parts of Europe.

I'm glad this time I'm making some actual friends.  Last time we lived here, I didn't know anyone other than a few Germans.  The Internet can bring people together, but it can also be very isolating.  It's easier to type on a computer than actually go out and use in person social skills.

Last night, I had a long conversation with a local who gave me some insight as to what it's like to grow up with alienating parents.  Talking to her made me feel more empathy toward Bill's daughters. On the other hand, I think both of her parents were jerks.  Bill is not a jerk.  He is a genuinely good man who was shafted.  His crime was being too nice and too trusting... and not having enough self-esteem to choose a better partner when he was young.  A lot of people have that problem.  It's often women who end up in situations with selfish, narcissistic men.

Anyway... we had a good time last night.  It was fun seeing people and socializing.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Mama June is pissed off...

Fallout from the Duggar sex scandal continues as Mama June of the defunct TLC reality show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo claims she was treated much more harshly than the Duggar family was.  Her show was cancelled just hours after TMZ posted pictures of her with her convicted sex offender boyfriend, Mark McDaniel.  Now that the Duggars are in trouble thanks to eldest son Josh's confession that he molested his sisters and a friend of the family, Mama June is demanding that TLC put her show back on the air.  If they don't, she's planning to sue for $1 million.

I have never actually seen Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.  The ads and constant Internet articles were enough to keep me away from that show.  I don't get the sense that the world really misses Honey Boo Boo, although I'm sure Mama June misses the money, fame, and notoriety that came from the show.  In fact, I bet even if Mama June hadn't been dating a child molester, the show would have run its course.  I don't think it was as compelling as the Duggars' show has been, mainly because the Duggars are a lot easier and much more fun to snark on.    

I think I would get a kick out of seeing Mama June sue, though.  I doubt she would prevail in a lawsuit, but the ensuing carnival would probably be a lot of fun to watch.  Maybe it would even merit a reality show.  It amazes me what people will sue over.

In other news, I just watched the heartbreaking video by Rachael Farrokh about her battle with anorexia nervosa.  Bill caught the end of it and said he wanted to donate to her cause.  I have to say, just looking at that poor woman and being able to count every bone in her body breaks my heart.  

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How the Duggar girls could stick it to Dim Boob...

Bill and I were enjoying breakfast this morning.  I was telling him about my Lyle Lovett post that was just written an hour ago.  He was reminiscing about his ex wife's cooking.  And then suddenly, our conversation turned to the Duggar family.  Bill wanted to know if TLC had permanently cancelled their show, 19 Kids and Counting.  I said I didn't know.  It's my guess that they're waiting to see if this scandal involving Josh Duggar eventually blows over and perhaps weigh the public's opinion before they make a permanent decision about killing the show or keeping it going.

I told Bill that I thought what TLC might do is make a spin off.  This year, they have been very focused on Jessa and Jill.  They are both pretty young women who married men that seem to be somewhat well received... perhaps Derick Dillard is better received than Ben Seewald is (by the way, we actually passed signs for the German town of Seewald yesterday).

Jessa and Jill do seem very popular.  I could totally see TLC making a spinoff featuring Jessa and Jill and pushing the rest of the Duggars into the background for occasional visits.  Jill and Jessa are presumably victims of their brother's vile misdeeds, so the public should be empathetic to them.  It helps that they are attractive and have cute babies to exploit.  Their husbands are relatively camera ready, too.  There are plenty of people who are still going to be interested in Jessa's pregnancy and Jill's new baby... and any subsequent babies.  I think the public would still embrace them as long as Josh was kept off camera.

I don't think a spin off starring his daughters would make JimBob happy, though he could probably be persuaded to accept it if it meant the gravy train would continue to roll.  What I would love to see is a deal that allows Jessa and Jill and their husbands to get more money and creative control than Boob and Michelle do.  I would like to see Boob and his wife marginalized and taking a backseat to their kids.  I really think they'd deserve it for so many reasons.

It might be difficult to get the Duggar ladies to accept a deal without their parents' approval.  For one thing, they were not raised that way.  I could see Jessa bucking the trend.  She is more willful and less compliant than Jill is.  However, I don't think Jessa is as likable as Jill is.  Jill is very warm and seems genuinely sweet, while Jessa has a bit of a pretty girl bitch thing going.  They could totally play off those differences in their personalities and become big stars in their own right.

I don't think either of them would be successful with their own shows, but I do think together they could be compelling... especially if they start disobeying Boob.  A lot of people would love to see that.  Moreover, Jessa and Jill are different enough that the show probably wouldn't be too boring.  Of course, an arrangement like that could lead to hard feelings between them.  From what the tabloids have been reporting, they have already been bickering a bit.

A spin off could also be potentially satisfying to fans of the show who want to forgive Josh.  They could still get a Duggar fix and TLC might be able to appease some of the people calling for the Duggars to be kicked off the airwaves.

I could see Jinger being added to the spin off too.  Remember how she said she wanted to live in a city?  Michelle claimed Jinger meant she wanted to live in a town that has a Wal-Mart.  What if TLC gave Jinger the chance to move to a city and spread her wings?  If it meant the Duggars would still have relevance, maybe Boob would sign off on it...  I'd include Jana to the line up, but it seems like she doesn't want to be on the show anymore.

I can't say I'm too surprised by this sordid news about the Duggars.  Seems like every wholesome male role model out there eventually gets in some kind of sex scandal.  Bill Cosby and Stephen Collins both played "good guy" father types and both have been struggling with sexual scandals lately.  Joe Jackson, patriarch of the Jackson family, was accused of being a child molester, as was his son, Michael.  Even the Osmonds have had to deal with their share of scandals, though none involve sexual abuse that I am aware of.  Someone can correct me if I'm wrong.

I think there's a risk when you try to promote yourself as wholesome, clean living, and family oriented.  People look for skeletons in the closet and the public can be very harsh.  On the other hand, I think people have the right to be harsh when someone is guilty of abuse, especially when the guilty person is also a holier-than-thou hypocrite.  Josh Duggar certainly qualifies as a holier-than-thou hypocrite.  But I don't see why TLC should throw the baby out with the bathwater.  I could see a spin off featuring the Duggar girls being a ratings winner, as long as Boob is not given full editorial control.  In a weird way, I think being on TV kind of normalized the Duggars.  I think it exposed them to people they would not have been exposed to had they not had their show.  They could still be wearing jumpers and sporting mullets if it weren't for TLC.  Of course, I also suspect the last few kids were born just to keep the show going.

It'll be interesting to see the long term effects of this situation.  For now, I must admit that it's fun to think of the Duggar ladies taking control and making more money than Boob does.  If they really wanted to do that, I bet they could.  I'm sure Boob will do everything in his power to prevent that from happening, though.  He's probably wanting to save his show, which I am afraid might be permanently damaged by the latest scandalous revelations.  Time will tell.

The day I discovered Lyle Lovett...

Last night, I was eating an incredibly spicy Indian styled meal with Bill and listening to my rather eclectic southern rock mix when a song by Lyle Lovett came on.  I remarked to Bill how much I like Lyle Lovett's music.  Everything from his quirky lyrics to the fusion of jazz, gospel, blues, rock, country, and Americana in his music is a turn on for me.

As the excellent tracks on Step Inside This House played, I remembered the very first time I ever heard him singing.  I was in the Peace Corps in Armenia.  The Mormon couple in my group, who lived in the capital city with me, had invited people over for a pot luck meal.  They played music on their cassette player.  I didn't pay much attention to the music until I heard the chorus of a song...

"Hallelujah!" it went.

My ears perked up and I listened closer.  The male singer had silky vocals and a disarmingly soulful style and really appealed to me.

"Who is this singing?" I asked the host, a bearded guy from Washington state.

"That's Lyle Lovett." the host said.

He and his wife had been Mormon missionaries before they were Peace Corps Volunteers and their travel experience had been very useful when our group was just arriving.  At the time, I didn't know much of anything about Mormonism and had no opinion about it one way or another.  I liked this couple very much.  They were (and surely still are) cool people.

I don't think I asked what the name of the song was, but I do know I kept listening.  When I was later back in the States, I started buying random Lyle Lovett albums until I finally found the one I was looking for.  The song is called "Since The Last Time" and it's on Lyle's 1992 album, Joshua Judges Ruth.  Before I finally stumbled on the right album, I had bought most of his others... and I found that I really liked his music a lot.

Lyle Lovett sings "Since The Last Time"...

Years later, I met Bill.  When I met him, he was a Mormon.  Not long after we started dating, he went inactive.  A few years after we married, he officially resigned from the LDS church.  He is now also a committed Lyle Lovett fan.  I introduced Bill to Lyle and a lot of other musicians he had never been exposed to.  His ex wife was more of a Shania Twain aficionado and used to chastise and berate him for listening to anything that wasn't mainstream.  She claimed he was trying to be "hip".  She encouraged him to listen to her more pedestrian musical selections.  He said she liked EnVogue and TLC... and pop country singers.

I'm not sure if Lyle Lovett's music is considered "hip" or not.  I think he's very cool, but I do remember a lot of snarky comments about his looks.  He has a very unconventional style and appearance, especially for a popular musician.  I think that's why I like him, though.  He's not a conformist; he's intelligent; he's very talented; and he's funny to boot!

A couple of nights ago, Bill and I were eating dinner that I cooked.  I made a pot of chili because it was cold outside and we had some stuff that needed to be eaten.  Bill was raving over my chili.  He loves it because I make it spicy.  I'm not actually a fan of spicy food myself, but I do make spicy chili.  I asked him if his ex was good at making chili.  He said her "thing" was fried chicken.

Then he told me about how he went to Arizona to see his kids at Christmas 2001.  She was shacking up with her now husband and Bill came over for dinner.  She waited on her husband hand and foot and made an elaborate (for her, anyway) sun dried tomato pasta dish.  Bill knew the whole thing was an act... He'd been married to her for almost ten years and this was her trying to impress him or even woo him back.  She seemed to be silently telling him that "all this" could be his if he'd just get over his "pride" and come back to the fold.

She didn't know he and I were dating.  In fact, after he came back from Arizona, he called her and told her he planned to propose to me.  That was when she said her current husband had proposed several times and now she could say "yes"... after she reminded Bill that marrying a non-Mormon and not getting me to convert would mean he'd suffer in the afterlife.  But he didn't fold to the pressure and conform to ex's expectations.  He ditched Mormonism and his ex wife for a less conventional life with me.  For that, he gets exposed to Lyle Lovett... and yesterday's outing.

I'm not sure if the story I've written has much, if anything, to do with my love for Lovett and his music.  I was a fan of his even before I met Bill.  I guess I was just thinking about how I heard Lyle the first time while visiting a LDS couple in Armenia and found Bill in a very unlikely place while he was LDS.

I have found that many ex Mormons have great taste in books and music.  A lot of them are smart, brave, and curious.  They are also, for sure, non-conformists.  I admire that, even though Bill's job has required him to be an expert conformist.  There's enough of him that isn't like the others that makes us very compatible.  So here's to many years of non conformity and listening to Lyle Lovett... and anyone else who rings our chimes.

This song alone is enough to make me love Lovett for life...  heard it for the first time at a concert in Germany back in 2009.  I don't think the locals got it.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

How to use a toilet...

So I think we've determined that the upstairs toilet in our house is what's causing the plumbing problems.  The plumber cleaned out the blockage.  Afterwards, the landlords took me to our upstairs bathroom and gave me a lesson/lecture on how to use the toilet.  Imagine being almost 43 years old and being taught how to operate a German toilet.  It was quite a ridiculous scene.

Apparently, the toilet in this house is a "water saver" model.  The tank is made of plastic and you have to hold a button down for the water to swirl.  If you don't hold it down long enough, the shit and toilet paper doesn't go all the way down.  Of course, you don't have the ability to see that when you're doing your business.  You find out three months later when you end up with a big clog.  So, even though we have a "water saver" toilet in the house, we have been advised not to try to save water.  Water is cheaper than plumbing bills.

I understand the landlords being upset that this has happened three times.  They say none of the other Americans who have been here before ever had this issue.  On the other hand, I have been successfully using toilets for over 40 years and I've never had this problem, either.  Moreover, we don't enjoy having the sewer line clog any more than they like calling and paying for the plumber.  Bill told them he'd pay the bill this time.  Hopefully, that will chill them out.  I guess we'll also try different toilet paper and using a lot more water when we flush.  Maybe that will end our shitty problem.

Last night, we went out to dinner and drank lots of wine.  Then we came home and passed out.  This morning, on the suggestion of some online friends, Bill went to Google images, typed his name and the word "meme".  He was supposed to post the first meme that came up.  The first meme that came up was this...  He refused to post it online because it's so offensive.  Unfortunately, I have no qualms about being offensive.

This is pretty sick gallows humor...  and yet, much to our shame, we both laughed.  Actually, it took me a couple of minutes to get it because I was half asleep.  When I did get it, I was shocked.

I tried the same trick with my name.  My result wasn't quite as offensive.

Although, this probably is the truth... I do have my "bitch" moments.

We have beautiful weather today.  Hopefully, we will go do something fun and I can forget about the backed up sewer line.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Josh Duggar has skeletons in the prayer closet...

Last night, just as I was about to drift off to sleep, I did a final Facebook check.  God forbid I miss any news or gossip from 488 of my closest friends, right?  Someone had posted an article about Josh Duggar and his sexual proclivities toward girls.  I will warn that the link I posted is definitely not highbrow journalism; but then, if you are reading my blog on a regular basis, you may already be used to that!  It was just the first report I read of Josh Duggar's sordid past and, indeed, it does include a link to the verified police report that confirms that Josh has skeletons in the prayer closet.

Apparently, what happened occurred when Josh was fourteen years old.  The year was 2002 and Josh was apparently indulging in urges by "forcibly fondling" five minor girls.  Some of the girls in question were his sisters.  Some of the alleged offenses were felonies.  Some took place when the girls were sleeping while others happened when they sat on his lap as he read them stories (eeew).

I woke up this morning to find more news stories about Josh Duggar, including some from more established sources.  The Duggars have been quick to respond to the allegations.  There's even a statement on  Naturally, Josh is being very contrite and has even resigned from his position as an executive at the Family Research Council.  I don't know if this means he and his family will be moving back to Arkansas.  If I were in his shoes, I think I'd break away from the Duggar family business entirely and strike out somewhere new.

Many people are publicly lambasting Josh Duggar.  He's even being called a pedophile and being compared to people like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski.   Of course, I have already written about what I think of Woody Allen.  I don't think Josh Duggar's situation is even remotely comparable to Allen's situation.

Here's what I do think.  Based on the police reports, Josh Duggar was committing his pervy acts as a fourteen year old, which would make him a child himself.  Some folks have wondered if maybe Josh was himself the victim of a child molester.  I don't know about that.  He was fourteen, which is adolescence.  That's when people start to discover sexuality and explore.  Given the Duggars' repressive lifestyle, Josh wouldn't have been able to explore those feelings with people other than his sisters or friends close to the family.  Sex is forbidden fruit to them.  While I don't know for certain, my guess is that masturbation and fantasizing is off limits.  They don't even listen to music with a beat or dance because Boob is afraid dicks will harden.  Is it any wonder Josh acted out inappropriately?

Josh's sexual acts were never reported when they happened, but about four years later, when Josh was 18.  The only reason this stuff ever got out was because the Duggars were going to be on Oprah Winfrey's show and someone sent an email about Josh's alleged assaults.  Staff members on Oprah sent the email to the appropriate authorities and suddenly the skeletons started to fall out of the closet.

Somehow despite the Duggars' notoriety, this stuff was still covered up until yesterday... over eight years later.  The Duggars are more popular than ever and Josh has been making a name for himself in Washington, DC.  I guess someone out there decided they needed to be brought down a peg or two.  Josh has issued a statement calling his actions as a teenager "inexcusable".  Of course, Ma and Pa Duggar are doing damage control, as is Josh's wife, Anna, who has said she knew about what he did and praises him for his humility (surprising to me, since Josh isn't exactly known for that quality, hence his nickname "Smuggar").

In my mind, the cover up is usually worse than the original offense.  What makes this revelation so shocking and upsetting to so many people is that the Duggars are very outspoken about their family oriented Christian views.  Last summer, Michelle Duggar got involved in a phone campaign to prevent transgendered people from having the right to use the public restrooms for the gender with which they identify.  Michelle Duggar was apparently concerned that allowing transgendered people to use public restrooms might open the door to perverts and pedophiles.  How surprising it is that her eldest son was sexually inappropriate with his sisters and no one stopped him.  She apparently had a pervert living in her own home that she and her husband did little about.  Even the "counseling" Josh supposedly got was pretty bogus.  He ended up being sent to live with a friend of the family's who owned a home detailing business.  I wonder if Josh's victims got any "counseling" after they were forcibly fondled?  Somehow, I doubt it.

JimBoob and Michelle Duggar speak incessantly about political issues like abortion and welfare and seem intent on taking the moral high ground.  They speak of the importance of dating with a purpose,  courtships, and chaperones for their adult children in romantic relationships.  And yet, here they are with a son who has committed a grievous sexual sin.  Instead of repenting and asking forgiveness, and perhaps losing out on their big career, they covered it up.  Now, more than ever, they look like massive hypocrites.

Of course, there is a lot of wisdom in the saying, "Let him without sin cast the first stone."  The Duggar family has had no problem casting stones at people they think are sinners; yet they haven't cleaned up their own backyard.  Apparently, no one was chaperoning Josh Duggar closely enough when he was a teen.

It suddenly makes perfect sense why Josh was married so young.  He married Anna Keller when he was just 20 years old.  Surely, JimBoob wanted to keep him around the compound, which he did.  But with a wife, he'd have somewhere to appropriately direct his sexual urges, right?  Son Josiah Duggar, who has always seemed a bit high strung, emotional, and perhaps a little "swishy" is only 18, yet he is now courting.  My guess is that JimBoob hopes Josiah will get involved with being a husband and father and settle into the rigid Christian role Boob has in mind for his children.  The Duggars have also sent some of their boys to the ALERT Academy in Texas, a place that teaches military style basic training with a Christian bent.

It must be very difficult and exhausting for the Duggars to exert so much control over their enormous brood, especially when they are in the public eye as they are.  Boob's influence seems to be slipping.  I predict this is just the tip of the iceberg as to what will come out about this family.  Every family has skeletons in the closet.  The ones that end up on TV often have more than your garden variety family living a private life.  If this kind of thing keeps up, no number of cute Duggar babies being born or Duggar weddings will save that family from the harsh and often unforgiving court of public opinion.    

In other news...

The landlords came over last night to talk to us about our sewer blockage.  Bill felt so bad about this happening, the he's offered to pay for this plumbing call.  My husband is such a mensch.  I have a feeling the issue could be our toilet paper.  We use Charmin, which is supposed to be guaranteed against causing clogs.  However, this is the third time this has happened and according to our landlords, they have never had issues like this before.  Maybe we'll switch to a less comfortable toilet paper in the name of keeping the water flowing.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

#problems... or, here comes the flood...

Today has gotten off to a shitty start.  Earlier this week, I noticed some water on the floor in the basement.  I told Bill about it and he was immediately upset because it means having to call the landlords about yet another problem.  He is very sensitive about costing them money and causing them problems.  I yelled at him about it because I thought they needed to know.  He said he'd talk to them.

Yesterday, I noticed a little more water on the floor.  It seemed to be coming from the wall.  I told Bill about it.  He said he'd tell the landlords.

This morning, I went down to the basement because I had a feeling it was going to be flooded.  Sure enough, it was...  I went into the basement and found my washing machine full of water which had spilled out all over the floor.  I emptied the grey water out of my washing machine... it was still warm from Bill's shower.  I sent Bill an email about the flood.  Still haven't heard from him.  He must be in a meeting.

This weekend is a holiday, so I have a bad feeling that we could end up dealing with this mess until next week.  I can't take a normal shower when we're dealing with this flooding problem.  If I do, the water backs up into the washing machine.  So that means using the downstairs shower with the drain plugged and then baling the water out.  What a huge pain in the ass!  Click here for photos...

Then Zane didn't want to eat his breakfast.  Sometimes, he wakes up with an upset stomach and wants to fart and eat grass.  Sometimes, he's just very picky and doesn't want to eat dog food.  It took about three tries to get him to eat.  He finally started when I told him he was annoying me.  I don't know if dogs know the word "annoyed", but it seemed to work.  Of course, I was also annoyed by the large pile of shit Arran left in the hall.

Bill finally got my phone unlocked and working, so that's a good thing.  And he also got my car an appointment at the Mini dealer for services and possibly a new clutch.  Unfortunately, it won't go in for services until June 3, so I'm not going to drive it.  Then, when it does get fixed, there will be a big bill to pay.  As of now, the car works, but the clutch is giving me problems and the last thing I want to do is have the damn thing go out on me and leave me stranded on the side of the road.  I have had a clutch go out before and it's not a fun problem to have.  

The next problem that needs addressing is my tooth, which has been in need of addressing since last fall.  Enough said about that...

At least someone shared this very funny video with me.  It made me laugh on an otherwise shitty morning.  Needless to say, it's NSFW.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

He's still workin' on me...

I get a kick out of corny Christian songs.  One song that's in my head this morning is a song called "He's Still Working on Me".  The first time I ever heard it was when I was watching a documentary about a child beauty pageant contestant named Swan Brooner.  The film is called Living Dolls and it is available on YouTube.  At one point in the film, Swan visits her pageant coaches, two very southern gay men in Dallas, Texas.  One of them plays piano as he sings "He's Still Working on Me."  It's a surreal look into the weirdness that is kiddie beauty pageants.

3:30 is where the guy starts singing...

Living Dolls is a very poignant film and if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it.  I never understood the appeal of kiddie beauty pageants.  Sadly, both of Swan Brooner's parents have died.  By now, she's a young woman.  I hope she's doing well.  

The next time I heard it, it was being sung by Lil' Markie...  

I stumbled across this a couple of months ago and blogged about it...     

Lil' Markie is supposedly a rip off of Howie Mandel's "Bobby" character.  I probably ought to be familiar with that, but I'm not.  I am, however, familiar with Lil' Markie thanks to YouTube.  

Here's a more sedate adult version of this song done by a southern gospel quartet called The Cathedrals.  This is from 1986, so obviously this is a pretty old song...  The song's composer probably could have had a nice career in jingle writing.  It's a catchy song with relatable lyrics.  I can see why evangelicals like it.


This sounds like a big hit on the evangelical circuit...

Upon further investigation, I have discovered that the author of this song is Joel Hemphill, father of Candy Hemphill.  I wrote about her a couple of months ago, too.

Joel and his wife sing his song together...

I don't know if it's a coincidence or not, but it seems like contemporary Christians who are on television have a kinship with kiddie pageants.  It's all a big show with lots of glitz.  People find the music uplifting and the songs usually have lyrics that people can relate to, not like hymns written with old fashioned melodies and archaic words.  

My guess is that a lot of people get involved in Christian shows because they are frustrated performers.  They can find an audience in evangelical Christians and make a living.  So that's where a lot of talented musicians with faces for radio go, although if you happen to be good looking, that's also a plus.  If you've ever seen the 1992 film, Leap of Faith, you might understand what I mean.

The soundtrack for this film is, not surprisingly, pretty damn good.  

How in the world could a guy like Ernest Angley end up on television for decades on end?  He's got charisma and a talent for speaking.  It's certainly not because of his looks.  And he's managed to build an empire with his talents for speaking and charisma... all because he can relate to a certain group of people and give them what they want.  He doesn't mind asking for money, either, which is also a big part of his success.  People think they are getting free entertainment.  They don't realize there is a price tag until they are already invested emotionally.  That's when they are asked to take out their wallets and make a love gift offering.

In Lil' Markie's case, I think his decision to start a ministry had a lot to do with a bad homelife.  He happens to have musical talent and doesn't mind speaking to large groups.  So he gets up on stage, plays piano, sings, and spreads a message that on the surface sounds wholesome and good.  But deep down, it seems to come from a dark place of pain...  and it ignores the realities of life.  He wants divorce to be illegal, probably because he was hurt by the (apparent) divorce of his parents.  But making divorce illegal won't make childhood idyllic.  Neither will getting more daddies to "date" their daughters.

Anyway, enough delving into religious stuff for me this morning.  It's cloudy and kind of cool... and I feel like making some music myself.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Growing up...

Piggybacking on yesterday's post about my lack of class, it occurs to me that I'm almost 43 years old. You know what that means, right?  I am an adult.  I've been one for over half my lifetime.  That means I have the right to get upset about things.

That may seem like a ridiculous statement.  Children have the right to get upset about things too, right?  Actually, I wouldn't know.  It seems like things have changed so much since I was a child that I don't really know what the consensus is on how kids should behave.  Back in my day, a lot of people seemed to think that children should be seen and not heard.  Adults were to be respected, even if they were behaving like jerks or were just plain assholes.

Yesterday's incident may have affected me the way it did because when I was in college, I still felt like a kid.  My old accompanist turned music professor is only seven years older than I am, but when I was 20 or 21 years old and she was 27 or 28, it seemed like we were worlds apart in age.  I felt this way, even though she had asked us to call her by her first name.  I think she now goes by her professional doctoral title.  I notice that her students call her "Dr." instead of by her first name.

But, you see, now I am almost 43 and that seven year difference is no longer as significant as it once was.  That woman who used to seem so much older and wiser than I am is now no longer that far apart in wisdom or life experiences.  So why did I feel like I had been sent to the principal's office when she left me a negative comment on Facebook yesterday?  I'm not a child.  I wasn't a child in the early 90s, either.  I guess this incident just goes to show you that growing up goes on beyond one's 20s.

I am reminded of an old episode of The Golden Girls.  Dorothy's old English teacher, Mr. Gordon, comes into town and reconnects with her.  She'd had a crush on him when she was his student; he wasn't much older than she was.  Even as a "golden girl", she still respected and looked up to him as if he was still her teacher.  But then she finds out he has a serious character flaw and it becomes very obvious that teachers are regular people too.  They aren't perfect and sometimes they can behave in a disappointing way.  Sometimes they aren't worthy of the respect they are given, although my guess is that nowadays, most teachers don't get the respect they deserve.

The situation I was in yesterday isn't quite the same as Dorothy's situation is.  My situation was a lot less serious and doesn't involve romantic feelings or plagiarism.  All that happened is that I caused offense to someone who was once someone I considered my "better" and I felt weird about it.  But, like the character of Dorothy, I have come to realize that former authority figures are now more like my peers.  I am now a middle aged adult rather than a college kid.  Perhaps to some people, I could even be considered an authority figure myself.  

It's just weird to feel this way, though... because if she were any other person seven years older than me, I probably would not have hesitated to fire back.  The fact that I once considered her an authority figure made me less inclined to respond to her in a way that seemed disrespectful.  Instead of feeling indignant at being publicly chastised as I might be if one of Bill's co-workers called me out, I felt embarrassed and ashamed.  And she's not the only one I hesitate to "talk back" to.  Old professors, teachers, family friends, aunts, uncles, older cousins, and even my old riding coach make me feel like a kid, even though I'm definitely not one anymore.  I have as much right to express myself as they do.  But I still feel weird cussing on Facebook, though it doesn't stop me from doing it.

Ah well... Zane the needy beagle is acting like a seatbelt chime and is incessantly whining at me for something, so I better close this post and take care of him.  Happy Tuesday, everybody.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Sometimes, I wish I were more of a lady... or, everybody's a critic!

I'm feeling a little sad and ashamed right now.  I probably shouldn't feel that way, but I do.  I shared something with a woman who used to be my accompanist in college and is now a music professor.  I thought what I shared was kind of funny, if not a bit irreverent.  She didn't appreciate it and told me so publicly.  I chose not to respond to her comment.  At first, I thought maybe I should apologize, but that seemed wrong since I would basically be apologizing for how she feels.  I can't help how she feels and had no way of knowing she would be offended.  And then, after thinking about it, I also realized that I'm also a little pissed off, so an apology from me right now would not be very sincere.

I have to admit, the public rebuke stings a bit because it's embarrassing and she is generally someone I like and respect.  On the other hand, it wasn't my intention to upset her and I didn't know this would be her reaction.  This is also not the first time she's shamed me for something I've said or done that she's found offensive.  I remember once when I was in college, I used the term "brain fart" in her presence.  She said she thought that was a disgusting thing to say.  Of course, I felt humiliated by her shaming comment, although I could see her point.  At least it was in a private studio, though, and only my voice professor had heard what she said.    

I have to admit to feeling chastened right now.  There is something about being shamed by an authority figure that has a way of making me feel like crap.  Twenty years ago, this situation might have even had me in tears.  Today, I can look at it a little more objectively and realize that I really can't help how other people feel.  Besides, when I knew this person offline, she wasn't even actually an authority figure to me, although her husband was one of my professors.  And today, she is definitely not an authority figure because I am twenty years past college.  If she weren't someone I knew from a teacher/student relationship (though she wasn't actually my teacher), I might have even fired back.  

Sometimes I wish I had a more ladylike and less irreverent sense of humor.  I wish I swore less and behaved in a way that was less potentially upsetting to other people.  My personality sometimes causes me pain because I just can't seem to help myself.  I say things that cause offense to others, yet I am so sensitive that their offense upsets me.  On the other hand, I also say things that make many people laugh.  They tell me so.

I suppose I could look at this in another way.  At least this person is authentic and isn't fake about how she feels.  After living in Germany for a year, I suppose I should be used to that.  At least she is comfortable enough with me to speak up, although oddly, I guess I can't really say the same thing.  I mean, I don't feel comfortable leaving a comment that I don't appreciate public shaming.  But then, it now occurs to me that we don't really have that kind of relationship and never did.  And that also makes me sad.  I miss having real friends.  Not that I don't have them, mind you.  It's just that they're not around me.  Like I have written before, sometimes Facebook can be disastrous because incompatible people end up mixing.  My liberal friends mix with my Christian friends.  I say something to someone that offends them, but wouldn't offend 90% of my other friends.

The Internet makes it very easy to connect with people, yet it makes it hard to connect with them in a way that is personal.  And so, at a time like this, when I'd like to talk through my feelings with someone, there's no one here.  I could talk about it online, but that seems wrong too.  So I'm blogging about it online, which maybe I shouldn't do... Or I could sit here and stew and let Bill deal with it when he comes home... which I definitely shouldn't do.

Oh hell... I'm almost 43 years old.  Why should I give a fuck about what other people think?  Most of them don't care what I think, right?  People feel free to tell me how they feel.  Why shouldn't I respond in kind?  So with that... it's 5:23pm.  Prost!




Meet Brian and Shannon Gore... the parents from hell

My old friend and I used to ride horses together in Gloucester, Virginia, a pretty county not far from the historic triangle of Yorktown, Williamsburg, and Jamestown, Virginia.  I didn't like Gloucester that much when I was growing up, but I grew to appreciate it as I came of age.  It was a place where serious crimes didn't seem to happen too often.  Of course, with the advent of the Internet and the growing population of Gloucester, true crime became more common.  Now I keep up with this friend on Facebook.  This morning, she posted a news article about a notorious crime that happened in our hometown.

On April 28, 2011, a Gloucester County deputy visited Brian and Shannon Gore's home to investigate a burglary.  While he was in the couple's single wide trailer home, the deputy discovered a filthy, emaciated, naked little girl kept in a makeshift cage created by an upturned crib.  She was covered in feces and unable to extend her legs owing to long term incarceration in the cage.  The child didn't speak and was observed eating her own skin.  

Although she was about six years old, by the time she was found, the girl weighed only 15 pounds.  When she was later examined by doctors, it was determined that she likely would have died of malnutrition within a week.  The now ten year old has been adopted by loving parents.  I don't know how she's doing physically and emotionally, but I do remember when this case was first brought to light, it was said that the child would never completely recover from the horrific abuse and malnutrition she had endured in her short life.

It was horrible enough to discover the starving little girl, who had apparently been malnourished for most of her six years.  But police made an even more grisly discovery when they found the little girl's brother, the extremely decomposed remains of an infant boy who was about seven months old when he perished.  He, too, had been starved to death.  Brian and Shannon Gore also had a third child, a relatively healthy baby boy who was about a month old when the police found him.  

I am particularly interested in the circumstances that led the deputy to the Gores' home.  In April 2011, I was living in Sanford, North Carolina.  In fact, we had just moved there on April 1.  Tornados ripped through North Carolina and Virginia on April 16, 2011.  I happened to be living about a quarter of a mile from one of the twisters that tore through Sanford, destroyed many homes, and decimated the local Lowe's hardware store.  Later that day, the same storms destroyed the school I attended in Gloucester, Virginia for 7th and 8th grades.  They also ruined quite a few homes in Gloucester.  Apparently, the Gores took advantage of the gaping holes left in some of the homes in Gloucester and decided to loot.  One of the items stolen was a gold bullion, which Shannon Gore had sold at a local pawn shop.  That was the event that led the police to her door and shattered the secret she and her husband had kept for seven years.  In a weird way, those tornados on April 16, 2011 that devastated so many homes actually saved that little girl's life.

Two years ago, the Gores were tried and convicted of starving their daughter when they abruptly entered guilty pleas.  They are both serving thirty year sentences for malicious wounding and child abuse.  Now, they are going to be tried for killing their infant son.  Originally, they were not charged with his death because his remains were so decomposed that a cause of death could not immediately be determined.  It took a special examination at the Smithsonian for investigators to conclude that the baby died of malnutrition.  Experts at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History did a full anthropological analysis of the baby's remains and could not find another reason for the baby's death. 

Like many people from my hometown and the surrounding areas, I was horrified by this case of extreme child abuse and neglect.  While I never got the chance to really use my social work training the way I thought I would, I have done home visits in the role of a social worker.  This is the kind of scene I could have stumbled on in my career.  I am sure the police who were involved in this case are still haunted by it.  Hell, just looking at the couple's mug shots in the paper is traumatizing to me.  Shannon Gore appears completely out of it-- very tired or drugged or something.  Brian Gore's eyes look almost dead.  

I still follow Gloucester's news by reading The Daily Press, which is the regional newspaper that covers Gloucester and the surrounding areas.  When this story was fresh news, it seemed like Brian and Shannon Gore's mug shots showed up on my news feed every day.  It got to the point at which those faces were kind of etched on my brain.  I am particularly haunted by the tired, defeated look on Shannon Gore's face.  She looks like she's so far removed from life... like she's a walking dead person.       

I wonder what led this couple to do what they did to their children.  What caused them to have so little regard for the lives of their son and daughter?  I can only imagine that had their third child spent much more time with them, he too would have died.  Based on news reports, the girl was apparently fairly healthy for the first two years of her life, though no one knew she existed.  What happened in 2006 that caused her parents to neglect and abuse her to the point at which she almost died of starvation while in their care?  Brian Gore says he quit feeding her because he "got tired of it".  Why?  He also claimed that she had cerebral palsy and Down Syndrome.  Doctors did not find evidence of either of these disorders.  But then, it's not as if the girl was ever taken to a real doctor.  Indeed, she was apparently never even allowed out of the confines of that single wide trailer home.  No one knew she or her brother existed, though the birth of the third child was apparently celebrated openly among neighbors.

At this writing, Shannon Gore hasn't even reached her thirtieth birthday.  She will almost surely never leave prison.  I wonder if she's still as cold and dead looking as she appears to be in her mug shot.

Another blogger has written a far more detailed post about this couple.  I have written about all I can stomach for right now.