Sunday, June 17, 2018

Naked misogyny...

Yesterday, I happened to read an article posted by the Navy Times about a toxic leader.  The Navy's inspector general is currently investigating its top enlisted sailor, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, Steve Giordano, because there are allegations that he had created a "toxic work environment" inside his small Pentagon based staff.


Apparently, some guys in the military know more about this stuff than I do...

I was interested in the article because my husband, Bill, went to Iraq with a toxic boss.  He spent six months in a war zone with a man who took great delight in micromanaging his staff.  The colonel who was Bill's boss would insist that Bill eat meals with him, learn the basics of playing golf, and put up with his constant insults and threats without saying a word.  The guy would refuse to give Bill any peace.  I knew things were bad when Bill called me from Iraq and told me he felt like he was back with his ex wife.  I was pretty livid, since being in a war zone is stressful enough without having an asshole boss who gets his thrills terrorizing his staff members.

A few years later, Bill was gratified to find out that his former boss had been very publicly fired.  Once again, he'd gone to Iraq, this time with a brigade.  He abused people within the brigade, particularly the women.  The whole thing was reported in the Army Times.  This guy, who had been slated to become a general, was basically kicked out of the Army six weeks before he would have come home to the States and pinned on his new rank.  I must admit, it felt good seeing him get his richly deserved just desserts.

It sounds like this guy, Giordano, is similarly abusive.  People who have worked with him claim that he's verbally abusive, has a "ferocious temper", and a bullying leadership style.  He is also accused of being "passive aggressive", which doesn't seem to jibe with also having a "ferocious temper".  Maybe he's passive aggressive until he finally loses his shit and explodes.

Giordano allegedly thinks of himself as akin to a three-star admiral and has reportedly tried to get the same privileges of someone at that rank.  For instance, he supposedly demanded that his staff ask the Navy to issue him his own fine china for when he hosts formal dinners in his home.  Many sailors have either voluntarily left or been fired by Giordano, simply because he allegedly makes the work environment so unpleasant.  Working for him has been compared to "working for a pop star or a Hollywood diva".

I have read a few stories about people in the military with this particular leadership style.  Recently, I read about a high ranking female officer at Fort Eustis in Newport News, Virginia who wanted to fudge the results of her "tape test".  A tape test, for those who don't know, is an alternative way, other than measuring BMI, to determine if a servicemember is too fat.  If a servicemember is, say, unusually short or stocky, the BMI might not be the best way to determine his or her fitness.  Colonel Glenda Lock, known for being an "abrasive" leader, supposedly demanded that she be held to different body composition standards and measurement procedures.  She was fired from her prestigious job as commander of McDonald Army Health Center (a place where I spent many hours as a kid, getting routine medical care-- it was still an inpatient hospital in those days).

Abusive and/or toxic leadership is a topic that I find intriguing, so I usually read the articles about asshole bosses, especially when they are in a military uniform.  But what always bewilders me are the comments.  I almost don't dare to comment on any article by a military publication because I've found that a lot of people, particularly male servicemembers, can't stand it when a civilian, particularly a female civilian, voices an opinion.  However, I couldn't resist yesterday when I read the comments posted below.


The first guy basically insults anyone who has a complaint about abusive leaders by implying that they're weak and need "Vagisil dispensers".  I have to wonder what such a big strong man who doesn't cry knows about Vagisil.  That's like a guy knowing a lot about maxi pads or tampons.  On the other hand, Bill knows which brands I prefer and doesn't mind buying them for me.  That makes him a *real man* in my eyes.

I was bewildered by the guy's comment on so many levels.  First off, what the hell does he know about Vagisil?  It's not a product marketed to men, which leads me to believe this dude either watches a lot of commercials on television-- and Vagisil ads would typically air on a female centric channel like Lifetime, Oxygen, or We-- or he has a mother, wife, sister, or daughter who has used it.  If the latter is true, I wonder if he treats them with disdain for being female.  And if he has, has it ever occurred to him how much tougher a female's genitalia is than a male's?  Sheng Wang says it best...


People often attribute this to Betty White, but actually Sheng Wang said it...  I suppose it's funnier if it seems to have come from Betty White, but she has publicly said she didn't say this.


And Sheng Wang supposedly got his routine from one by Hal Sparks, who also notes that vaginas are much tougher than dicks and balls are...

Anyway, enough with the fact checking.  The point is, there are a lot of misogynistic creeps out there, especially in the military.  And I maintain that guys who make misogynistic remarks are pretty fucking stupid.  I want to ask that man if he has any women in his life that he cares about.  And if he does, would he like it if some random guy made nasty comments about them simply due to their gender?  Why is it okay for men to refer to "weak" males as "pussies", "bitches", or "girls", or sneeringly refer to feminine hygiene products being used by men as a statement of their strength, or lack thereof?  Seems to me, most straight men would love to have free access to the parts of a woman that make her female.  Maybe the fact that they don't is the reason why these frustrated male types feel the need to make such disgusting comments about all things feminine.

I mostly don't mind the military culture.  I've been around it my whole life.  However, I have to admit to getting tired of dumb comments made by guys who don't do a lot of thinking.  Especially when these same guys feel emboldened to continue spouting off their bullshit to women, most of whom would quickly bury them in a battle of wits.  I don't usually engage with those types of people because it's a waste of time.  But I did feel compelled to ask the guy what he knows about Vagisil.  If he's so "manly", why is such a female centric product even on his radar?  

I would also love to see how the guy would hold up if someone pitted him against a woman in a crotchkicking contest.  Hit a man and a woman in the same spot between the legs.  Which one do you think would be bent over, howling in agony?  Not the woman.  Think about it.



Saturday, June 16, 2018

The clarinetist who dodged a bullet...

I just read an infuriating story on the New York Times.  Eric Ambramovitz, a gifted clarinet player from Canada, was just awarded $375,000 Canadian dollars from a lawsuit he filed against his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lee.  Why?  Because she crushed his dream and cost him two years of a promising music career.

In 2013, Ambramovitz and Lee were dating.  Both were music students and Abramovitz had dreams of studying under Yehuda Gilad at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, California.  But the manipulative and sneaky Ms. Lee did not want her beau of a few months to leave Canada.  So when Abramovitz received the rare, all expenses paid, highly prestigious acceptance to study under Gilad, who only takes on one or two new students per year, Lee intercepted the email, impersonated her ex boyfriend, and turned down the offer.  Then, she sent a fake email to Ambrovitz, indicating that he had not been accepted to study under Gilad at the conservatory.  Instead, he could attend the University of Southern California with a $5000 scholarship, which Lee knew would not be enough.  Abramovitz could not come up with the rest of the $50,000+ tuition charged at USC.

Lee and Ambramovitz eventually broke up and Ambramovitz finished his bachelor's degree in music at McGill University in Montreal.  Then in 2016, he traveled to Los Angeles to re-audition for Professor Gilad.  But Gilad was confused, because he remembered that Ambramovitz had already auditioned and turned down the chance to study with him.

It was at that point when Eric Ambramovitz came to the sickening realization that his ex girlfriend had committed some major league relationship fuckery.  He asked Mr. Gilad about the email he had received from “giladyehuda09”.  Gilad said that was not his email address.  At that point, Ambramovitz filed a police report.  Just an aside here, I'm not sure it would have occurred to me to file a police report if I had been victimized in this way, but now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense.  What Ms. Lee did was akin to identity theft.


God, he can really play...  I listened to this and immediately got a lump in my throat.

Fortunately, Ambramovitz won acceptance to the University of Southern California, where Mr. Gilad also teaches.  He completed a two year certificate, not on scholarship, and studied under the professor part time.  Professor Gilad testified in court that Ambramovitz made excellent progress studying under him.  However, Ms. Lee's dishonest hijinks cost the gifted clarinetist two years of his career, as well as missed professional opportunities.  According to the article, 80 percent of clarinetists in North American orchestras consist of Gilad's former students.


Just breathtaking... 

Ms. Lee did not respond to the lawsuit and had no lawyer listed in the suit.  It's doubtful that Ambramovitz will ever see any of the money he was awarded.  He has, however, found success as a professional clarinetist.  He just got a job working for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra after having previously worked with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra.

A few things come to mind after having read about this case.  First off, I'm amazed that Ms. Lee had access to her ex boyfriend's email account.  I wonder why Ambramovitz wasn't able to log into some kind of school account to see what his admittance status was.  Seems like when I applied to graduate school at USC, I had an account that showed what documents I still needed to submit.  That was in 1999.  I guess that's not how they do things at all schools.  I see from another article (a much more complete one) that Ms. Lee also did the same thing with Mr. Abramovitz's successful application to Julliard.

I guess it just goes to show you that you can't trust anyone.  According to another article about this case, Ms. Lee moved fast.  Within a month of their first date, Ambramovitz was staying at her apartment almost full time.  He let her use his laptop and she obviously had access to his passwords.  Actually, if she's got cluster B tendencies, this makes perfect sense.  They tend to overwhelm their victims with whirlwind romances.  Then, once the poor victim is hooked, they turn into horrible people.  

I'm glad Ambramovitz broke up with that miserable bitch.  What an awful thing she did to him!  I hope karma kicks her ass.  But... at least he didn't marry her.  This kind of sabotaging behavior is what Bill experienced firsthand when he was married to his ex wife.  I liken being in a relationship with someone like that to being chained to a dead tree.  A dead tree might eventually rot enough so a victim can escape, but it could take years of soul crushing before that happens.

Bill suffered damage to his career, his relations with his family, and his finances before he was finally able to break away from his psycho cluster B ex.  While Ambramovitz's situation is heartbreaking on many levels, at least his story has a happy ending...  as does Bill's.  Not everyone is so lucky.

Friday, June 15, 2018

A very brazen spam approach...


Today's spam was even saltier than usual...

Well hello there, friends and neighbors in Internetland...  Here I sit on a cloudy Friday morning.  The sheets are in the washing machine and I am on my second cup of coffee, lovingly made for me by my husband, Bill, who has just left for work.  As I ponder what today's blog post will be about, I notice there's a pending comment.  I open it up to find this...


Wow...

I gotta give credit to Mixtix.  This is a full on ad, complete with conversational language.  It's not the usual generic statement left by spammers who simply put a link in their comments.  This could be a late night TV commercial.

I have to wonder, though, how successful these spam ads are.  I suppose they must get some people taking the bait, since they continue to spam.  I can't imagine buying something like this from an obvious spam ad, though, particularly one that is in the comment section of a blog that has nothing to do with the ad.  Actually, I can't imagine buying something like this, period.  Not only do I not have a penis, but I am also quite satisfied with the one Bill has.  Another inch, let alone three or four inches, is liable to kill me.

I wonder, though... is this issue really as big of a problem as the person who wrote this post claims?  Are there really men out there who are agonizing about the size of their members?  Are they that concerned their manhood is so inadequate that they won't be able to satisfy a woman?  Is that really what having a big schlong is all about in the first place?  And are the men who are so angsty about their penises desperate enough to buy products from a spam comment?  It seems kind of strange to me, but there must be a market for it.


Maybe Carlin was onto something...  Perhaps "bigger dick fear" is behind these spammy ads for penis enlargement products...  Actually, this clip is pretty funny, given Trump's recent dick waving session with Kim Jong Un.


On the other hand, this fundie preacher apparently thinks girls have no minds of their own.  Maybe that's why this product is such a "hot commodity".

I posted the above comment, by the way, simply so I could get a screenshot.  Then, I deleted it.  I do not allow spam comments on my blogs.  In fact, spam comments are one reason why I now moderate comments on older posts.  The other reason is because sometimes people get pissed off about things I write and leave me nasty or threatening comments.  I don't want to allow people to do that, so I moderate comments on all posts of a certain age.  I have noticed that since I started moderating, I get a lot fewer spam comments and nastygrams.  That makes everything nicer.

I'm glad it's Friday.  The week has flown by.  I'm not sure what we'll be doing over the weekend.  I think Bill has homebrew to bottle, plus I have a feeling we'll be calling Ticketmaster in Ireland about our missing Paul Simon tickets.  Other than that, who knows?

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Don't want no short people...

Back in the 70s, Randy Newman came up with a hilariously witty song called "Short People".  I remember it used to play on the radio all the time.  I even remember one time, the Harlem Globetrotters did a number featuring Goldie Hawn... someone who is literally short, especially when compared to professional basketball players.


I'm sad to say that I'm old enough to remember when this originally aired on TV.  I'd post Randy Newman's version, but the publishing companies are anal retentive and force you to watch it on YouTube.  I figure if you really want to hear the original song that badly, you can navigate there yourself.

The song, of course, is not literally about "short people".  It's about people who are small-minded and short-sighted.  I see a lot of those people, especially on the Internet.  Hell, there are times when I'm a "short person" in the metaphorical sense.  I think everyone is like that from time to time, although some people are "shorter" than others.  At 5'2", I'm also literally a short person.  I'm finding that I also have a short temper, which makes me a little mean sometimes.


Nah... actually, I'm really not that mean.  I just don't have a lot of patience for bullshit.

Speaking of feeling "mean", Bill and I are planning to go to a bunch of concerts this summer.  So far, I have tickets for four shows from June 30th until October 31st.  Well... actually, I have tickets for three shows.  I had tickets for Paul Simon in Dublin, but I can't find them at the moment.  So last night, I sent an email to Ticketmaster in the hopes that duplicates can be made.  I doubt it'll be a problem, since they weren't general admission tickets.  In fact, they were rather expensive good seats.  The show is just under a month from now.  

I know I got the tickets, because I ordered them right after I bought tickets to see Elton John in May of 2019.  Those tickets haven't arrived yet, because I got special ones that won't be dispatched until two weeks before the event.  Ticketmaster likewise claimed that they wouldn't be sending out Paul Simon tickets until later, so I was surprised when they showed up in the mail three days after I ordered them.  I distinctly remember putting them on Bill's desk, because Bill is not as big of a slob as I am.  However, I can't find them, now... and neither could he.  

Bill apologized and said he feels responsible.  To be honest, I was kind of irritated as I searched through the piles of papers on his desk, some of which were things that should have been tossed out a long time ago.  I even found a shitty letter and a bill from our blessedly former property managers in Texas because we couldn't get hot water in our kitchen without letting the faucet run for several minutes (during a drought, no less-- and the "hot" water wasn't all that hot).  I remember the day I got that bill.  I got so mad that I called up the property managers and yelled at them, which I very rarely do unless I'm super pissed... and I definitely was.  Just seeing that bill and the attached letter again raised my hackles.  It should have been shredded at least four years ago. 

We still have all that crap from Texas, yet, somehow Bill has misplaced concert tickets worth a grand total of about $400.  I'm sure it'll be alright, although that show is sold out and it's the one I'm looking forward to the most.  So this shit better get sorted... although we will be going to Dublin regardless.  Next time I buy concert tickets, I'm going to put them in a drawer and make an alert on my phone to remind me where they are.  Meh... I'll probably forget to do that, too.

I'm feeling slightly less moody and anxious today, despite our ticket mishap.  I like it when my mood lifts a bit.  Strangely enough, I think I'm feeling less anxious because it's cloudy outside.  When it's rainy and cloudy, I feel less apprehensive about making music.  People are less likely to be milling around outside my house if it's raining.  Making music is a natural stress reliever for me and it lifts my mood.  Hopefully, it doesn't annoy our neighbors when I go into music mode.  On the other hand, I'm not the only musician in this neighborhood, so it's probably all good.  

Another reason why I like it when it's cloudy is that at this time of year, my "office" gets unbearably hot.  When the clouds are out, I'm not sweating like a whore in church.  And during the morning, which is when I like to write, the sun shines directly into my face.  This is the only room in my house not equipped with Rolladens.  So, when the sun is out, I have to fold a blanket over the window to block it.  Then the wind invariably blows the blanket off the window.  When there are clouds outside, I don't need shade.  This is only a problem during the warmer months.  During the fall, winter, and early spring, I don't have to worry about it.  I know... first world problems!

I'm glad it's Thursday, even though Thursday is when I do my most hated chore of the week... vacuuming.  But I'm very slack about vacuuming, so that will be done in about a half an hour, tops.  I can say I did it, even if the house is still dusty... which is the main reason why I hate to vacuum.  It feels so futile, especially when you have dogs that shed non-stop.

Hopefully, I won't have to call Ticketmaster in Ireland.  I'm not a fan of calling customer service lines... and I'm sure they're not fans of taking my calls.  Actually, I'm not really that mean, though... I just have an aversion to bullshit and incompetence.  It's a wonder Bill can stand to be around me.

By the way... today's post is #3001.  I've been writing this crap for a really long time now.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Tennessee woman arrested for putting kids in dog crates...

I read an article in The New York Times about Leimome Cheeks, a 62 year old grandmother who put her 8 and 7 year old grandchildren in dog carriers in the back of her Ford Explorer and drove with them around Memphis.  A bystander took video of the children getting out of the carriers last Saturday and posted it online, where it went viral.  Ms. Cheeks was later arrested for child endangerment.  She was released on bond Sunday and arraigned Monday in Memphis.


I kind of wonder about the backstory on this...

Evidently, there was no room in Ms. Cheeks' SUV, so she told the children to get in the kennels.  It appears that the doors to the kennels were closed as the children were riding in them, which would mean they would have been trapped in them if there had been an emergency.  Moreover, it was 95 degrees in Memphis on Saturday and there were no air vents in the back of the SUV.  Bystanders called the police, who investigated the reports of the children in the carriers.  Ms. Cheeks drove to her home as police were at a nearby house.  By that point, the kids were riding in the backseat of the Explorer.

The comments about this case were pretty interesting.  On the Washington Post's article, plenty of people noted that back in the good ol' days, lots of kids rode in the backs of pickup trucks completely unrestrained.  During my childhood, it wasn't unusual for children to ride in the backs of station wagons, camped out luxuriously.  I even remember my hardcore redneck neighbors letting their kids ride on the hood of their car as they drove home from the bus stop on our dirt lane.  The ride was maybe a mile and the kids thought it was fun, even though it was also extremely dangerous.    

Today, things are a lot stricter and children are expected to be properly restrained in the backseat.  At least, that's how it is in the United States, anyway.  In Europe, it's not unusual to see children in carseats riding in the front.  In fact, I saw one last weekend.

I also noticed a lot of comments comparing the kids in the dog carriers to the children of undocumented immigrants who are being separated from their parents and allegedly locked up in cages... or so the media has reported.  I'm not exactly sure where the truth lies.  There's one picture that has been circulating around the Internet showing a sobbing toddler who appears to be in a cage.  But then I looked up the photo on Snopes and see that the photo is actually misleading.  The child is at a protest and the "cage" is actually a mock up.  He's crying because he can't figure out how to get to his mother.


This picture has been circulating lately.  It appears that the boy is locked in a cage, but he was actually at a protest about the children of illegal immigrants being separated from their parents.  Just as this picture is kind of misleading, so might be the video of the children in the dog carriers.  Either way, I will agree that seeing children in cages or dog carriers is disturbing and needs to be investigated.

I've mentioned before on this blog how difficult it must be to raise children in America nowadays.  I certainly don't condone what this grandmother did, but I do kind of wonder what exactly happened.  What were the circumstances that led up to her decision to have the kids ride in the dog carriers instead of in the backseat?  A lot of people were wondering if Grandma shouldn't try to get a job working for ICE.

Everybody's got a cellphone these days and there's always a chance that someone is filming.  I've read about plenty of cases of people turning in videos to child welfare agencies and families being haunted for years by CPS.  Sometimes, it's good that CPS is involved.  Other times, it's a nightmare.

Regardless... I think especially nowadays, it's really a stupid idea to do anything like this that might be misconstrued by people passing by.  Grandma probably should have figured out some other way to make room in the car.  Perhaps whatever was on the backseat should have been put in the carriers instead.  Or maybe Grandma could have collapsed the carriers to make more room.  Unfortunately, this is another case of really bad judgment that could lead to serious legal consequences.  On the other hand, maybe the kids are in an abusive situation.  Perhaps more information will come out about this case.  I'll be watching.




Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Choucroute Garnie... one last tenuous connection with Anthony Bourdain...

A couple of weeks ago, Bill and I went to Ribeauville, France for Memorial Day weekend.  Since January 2017, Bill and I have visited Ribeauville, in Alsace, four times.  We've found a sympathetic apartment owner who doesn't have a problem welcoming Zane and Arran.  Aside from that, Alsace is a very beautiful area that isn't too far from where we live.  It makes for a convenient place to get a weekend away.

Last Friday, Anthony Bourdain killed himself in Alsace.  He was staying in Kaysersberg, a town Bill and I had been hoping to see during our last visit.  We never got around to going to Kaysersberg on our last trip, but it's definitely a must see the next time we're in Alsace.  Especially since last night, Bill showed me Anthony Bourdain's final Instagram post...


This is a screenshot of Anthony Bourdain's last Instagram post.  He put it up exactly one week ago.

I know a lot of people who read this blog regularly might not necessarily read my travel blog.  Those who haven't read the travel blog probably missed my recent tale about the dish pictured above, Choucroute Garnie.  

Choucroute Garnie is a very popular dish in Alsace that includes Alsatian style sauerkraut, sausages, charcuterie, other salted meats, and potatoes.  Many restaurants in Alsace serve it, and my husband, Bill, happily enjoys it.  In fact, below is a picture of Choucroute Garnie he ate when we visited the quaint town of Eguisheim, France in February 2017.


Bill enjoyed Choucroute Garnie at Caveau Heuhaus in Eguisheim.

Although a lot of people like this particular dish, it's not something I would voluntarily order.  I don't like sauerkraut very much.  Actually, I don't really like cabbage because it upsets my stomach and makes me fart a lot.  I will eat cabbage to be polite, but I don't care for it and would avoid ordering it in a restaurant.  While I do like sausage and other pork products fine, I also wouldn't necessarily order a big pile of them as pictured above.  One sausage is fine for me.  I don't need to eat a big plate of pork.

On the first night of our most recent trip to Ribeauville, Bill and I decided to have dinner at a restaurant we had not yet tried.  Our experience at this establishment was disappointing from the get go and continued to get worse.  I had decided on an entrecĂ´te (rib eye steak) for dinner, but our waiter somehow heard "choucroute" instead.  I was a bit suspicious when he didn't ask me what sauce I wanted or how I preferred the steak cooked.  However, he took off before I'd had the chance to say anything and we didn't see him again until his colleague tried to deliver the dish pictured below...


The Choucroute Garnie I didn't order.  Bill says it wasn't as good as the one he had in Eguisheim.

Unfortunately for our waiter, I was tired, hungry, and way over the bumbling service we had already experienced at that point.  He came over to argue with me about what I'd ordered and actually had the nerve to say, "You couldn't have ordered entrecĂ´te.  If you had, I would have asked you what sauce you wanted and the temperature."

My acid reply was, "That's right.  You didn't ask and I wondered why."

He scurried off with the choucroute, but then came back and tried to get me to take it, since cooking what I'd ordered would take time.  I really didn't want the choucroute, but I was especially exasperated that the waiter had accused me of lying about my order and was trying to sell me something I didn't want.  

Bill, prince of a man that he is, took the choucroute and I took his dish, which was potato pancakes with smoked salmon.  I had actually been eyeing the potato pancakes anyway, so it was initially no big deal.  But then I realized that one of the potato pancakes was very scorched.  I didn't bother to complain because, at that point, I just wanted to get the hell out of there.  But I did turn the experience into a snarky blog post and a few people in my local food and wine group thought it was funny.  When I saw Bourdain's final Instagram post last night, I was reminded of my own recent experience with Choucroute Garnie.  It was just something else, besides depression, I've had in common with the late chef.

People who read this blog and those who know me personally may know that I have suffered from depression for years.  It's not nearly as bad now as it once was.  I no longer take medications for it and I don't have the same distressing symptoms I used to have.  However, I do sometimes get very pessimistic and "down".  I think about suicide often, although never to the point of making plans or carrying them out.  It's more like fleeting thoughts of how life is kind of wasted on me, since I don't really enjoy it much.  I see people with warm, loving families who are dealing with life threatening illnesses or injuries and they just want to live.  Here I am feeling kind of apathetic about my existence.  Although I do enjoy many aspects of living, I don't necessarily have a zest for life.

A lot of people probably think I have a pretty charmed life.  If I were looking at me, I might think the same thing.  I have a wonderful, patient, indulgent husband; I'm basically healthy; and I get to travel a lot.  While I don't really make money, I do have a vocation that I'm free to pursue with no hassles with editors or people paying me to create content.  I don't know if anyone cares about my writing or music, particularly on this blog, which doesn't bring the hits it used to.  However, writing it gives me something to do with my mind and a reason to get up in the morning.  It gives me reasons to read books so I can review them.  Believe me, although I'm frequently bored and sometimes depressed and anxious, it's not lost on me that some people might envy my freedom and ability to see the world.  I agree, those are wonderful things.

I really don't know why I have these deep seated feelings of shittiness.  I think there are probably a lot of factors, some of which are hereditary and some that are situational.  I usually feel worse when I express something negative and someone tries to be "helpful" by telling me how wonderful my life is.  I probably ought to keep my negativity to myself, but that's not necessarily helpful, either.  Whenever someone, especially a person like Anthony Bourdain, takes his or her life, people are shocked and wonder why they never "reached out".  I have found that reaching out often annoys other people, most of whom would prefer it if you'd just get over yourself and didn't involve them in your problems. 

I do want to express one thing that I've recently realized.  Despite feeling insignificant most of the time, I know I have made a difference to a few folks.  When we moved here in 2014, I decided to promote my travel blog in the local community.  I've gotten some negative feedback from a few people, but for the most part, my posts are well tolerated or even outright appreciated.  I notice the ones I write about things to do locally and/or local restaurants are especially popular.  I recently wrote one post about places to go to "beat the heat" in Stuttgart.  That one has really taken off.  I've seen a number of people come back to it repeatedly, since it offers enough suggestions to last a good portion of the summer.  It makes me feel productive when I see that people are inspired by my experiences.

It occurred to me the other day that while I may never know who has been affected by my writing, in a way, I will have helped some people make priceless memories of their time in Europe.  The people who read my posts about obscure places like Ruine Mandelberg, Glaswaldsee, or the Burgbach Wasserfall, especially if they take the time to see them for themselves, will have memories that, in a small way, I helped them make.  I know that may sound like an egotistical statement to some people, especially since I have also been affected by other people's writing.  However, knowing that a few people are taking my suggestions and making memories of their own does give me another reason to keep writing and going to new places on the weekends.  It gives me a purpose for being here, other than just to wash Bill's underwear and make him laugh.  I'm always looking for new things to see and write about.  In the process of visiting and writing about different places, my own experiences in Europe are also enhanced.  I'm never sorry after having explored somewhere, even when something goes wrong.

When I lived in Armenia in the mid 1990s, I often felt like I was wasting my time.  I got a lot of negative feedback from my Peace Corps bosses as well as my local counterpart, who felt I wasn't doing enough.  I was in my early 20s, hampered by depression, and kind of overwhelmed by what I was supposed to be doing.  I didn't feel assertive enough to start, say, an English club or hang out with the kids.  I remember the summer of 1997, as I was planning to finish my assignment, going through some rough times all around.  I couldn't wait to leave Armenia, and yet the prospect of going home was very scary.  When I did finally get home, the homecoming I had eagerly anticipated was pretty much ruined by my dad's entrance into rehab.  As bad as I felt in Armenia, I felt even worse in the year after I returned home.  I felt like such a burden to my parents, especially since I wasn't even sure my time in Armenia had been productive.  I started becoming very despondent and hopeless.  That was when I finally got treatment for depression.  

Things gradually got better.  I learned how to wait tables and about fine dining.  I studied voice and attended to my depression for the first time.  I made some friends.  Finally, I landed in graduate school at the University of South Carolina, which was fulfilling, although it didn't lead where I thought it would.  I earned a MPH, MSW, and ultimately an Mrs....  

Before I decided to go to USC, I remember interviewing at Western Illinois University and telling the director of a Peace Corps Fellows program that I knew that I'd made a difference simply by going to Armenia.  He visibly recoiled at that statement.  I think he thought it was an arrogant thing to say.  Actually, though, it was a statement of fact.  I was in Armenia at a time when there were few Americans there.  There were people I met there who had never seen an American in person before.  I know a lot of them still remember me and always will.  Even knowing that, though, didn't erase my feelings that I hadn't done enough and that my time in Armenia didn't amount to much.

It wasn't until almost twenty years after I left Armenia that I found out that-- for real-- I actually had made a difference.  Facebook put me in touch with my very first Armenian teacher, who still works for the Peace Corps, as well as one of my best former students, who is now a high ranking director in the Peace Corps Armenia office.  I didn't have anything to do with his decision to work for the Peace Corps, but the fact that my former student remembered me and I didn't permanently turn him off of Americans means that my time in Armenia was well spent.  Maybe I wasn't the most hardworking or dedicated Volunteer, but I still made a difference.  And maybe people in Stuttgart think I'm annoying, obnoxious, and arrogant, but there are people who like what I do and it's affected their experience here in a good way.  So that keeps me going... at least for now.

If you've managed to read this whole post... which is a lot longer than I'd intended it to be... I want to thank you.  Thanks for giving me a reason to get up in the morning.  Thanks for reading about how Anthony Bourdain and I tenuously have a couple of things in common, even if it's just being served Choucroute Garnie in Alsace and visiting a few of the same places, like Alsace and Armenia.  Knowing that even a few people like what I'm doing means a lot more to me than you'll ever know.  And maybe someday, in Bourdain's honor, I'll order the Choucroute Garnie in Kaysersberg...  But I'll be sure to take Gas-X, too.

Monday, June 11, 2018

A review of Flory Van Beek's book, Flory: Survival in the Valley of Death

Every once in awhile, I go on a book buying spree on Amazon.com.  A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing Amazon's suggested books for me and I noticed one called Flory: Survival in the Valley of Death.  Originally published in 1999, this book was written by Flory Van Beek, a Dutch Jew who survived the Holocaust thanks to good-hearted Christians who sheltered her and her husband, Felix, during World War II.  I downloaded the 2009 version of Van Beek's book, never having heard of it before I read it.

Flory's story...

Flory Van Beek was born in Rotterdam, The Netherlands in 1924, the youngest of four children.  She was her parents' youngest child by quite a few years, and her father died in an accident when she was five years old.  Flory's parents were Orthodox Jews who were close to both sides of their family.  After her father's death, her mother moved to the town where she'd grown up, Amersfoort.  There, young Flory enjoyed a good education and proximity to her mother's side of the family, which was reportedly much more religious than her father's side had been.  Flory writes that everyone had faith in the Dutch royal family, led by Queen Wilhelmina.  Her mother reassured her that Holland would stay neutral and remain unaffected by Hitler's hostility toward Jewish people.  She describes an idyllic upbringing in The Netherlands with plenty of exposure to music and sports.

As Flory grew into a young woman, political tensions developed between Germany and the rest of Europe.  Hitler had taken charge of the German government and was inexorably invading surrounding countries and systematically exterminating people who threatened him.  Jewish people were at the top of Hitler's list of people to hate.  Flory Van Beek describes what it was like as Hitler gradually took over, confiscating businesses and homes of Jewish people and deporting them to concentration camps.

Sixteen year old Flory met Felix Van Beek one day while she was hanging out at the tennis courts; he had asked her to play a doubles set with him.  Felix was a twenty-five year old German man who had immigrated to Holland with his brothers and worked for an import-export grain company.  Felix and Flory became friends who eventually developed romantic feelings toward each other.  As their relationship bloomed, the Germans continued to threaten Holland.

Many Jewish people tried to flee Europe.  In May 1939, the S.S. St. Louis, a large passenger ship, left Germany.  Some of Felix's family members were aboard the ship, which was destined for Havana, Cuba.  Cuba had granted visas to German refugees; however, when the ship approached Havana, it was not allowed to dock.  The ship turned back toward Germany, with some hoping that the United States would allow the refugees to disembark in Miami.  Unfortunately, U.S. officials also refused to harbor the refugees.  Many of them eventually died in concentration camps, although some European countries did take in some of the refugees.  Among those who landed in Holland was one of Felix's relatives.  By June of 1939, it became clear that Jewish people were no longer safe in Europe.

Felix decided he no longer wanted to stay in Holland.  Felix convinced Flory's family to let him take her by ship to Argentina by way of Chile.  In November 1939, the two were booked in separate cabins on the S.S. Simon Bolivar.  One night into their trip, the ship collided with a German mine.  Felix and Flory were both seriously injured, but they were among the 274 of the 400 passengers on the ship who were rescued.  The couple recuperated in England for several months before they went back to Holland, where the political situation had become ever more dire.

The Nazis had demanded that Jewish people start wearing Stars of David on their clothes so that they could be easily identified.  One day, Flory went to the grocery store, against her mother's wishes.  The family needed food to eat.  She'd had to go during the two hours per day when Jews were allowed to shop.  At the store, she met the man who would save her and Felix from extermination.  A man named Piet, who had been riding a bicycle, stopped Flory and said, "What the hell are you doing here with that damned star on your blouse?  Take that damned thing off and follow me."  Flory did as the man ordered.

Piet Brandsen and his wife, Dina, were a Catholic couple raising four young daughters.  He led Flory into his house and asked her to tell him her story.  He told his family that Flory was a Jewish girl who needed help, since the Germans were systematically executing Jews.  Piet said it was the family's duty to help and that they must take her in and hide her.  Piet took Flory to her home, then returned the following morning to speak to Flory's mother and take her to his house.  Felix had gone to Amsterdam in an attempt to get paperwork that would give them a stay before they were sent to Germany to "work".  In June 1942, Flory had received a summons to Germany and Felix was trying to get her an extension.

While Felix was in Amsterdam, among throngs of many desperate Jews trying to obey the insane laws put in place by the Nazis, the Germans arrived and started herding people to concentration camps.  Felix managed to flee and made it home, just in time to join Flory at the Brandsens' home.  Since the Brandsens' were observant Catholics, they insisted that Felix and Flory marry before they were allowed to share the one room they had available.

Three heroic families...

For the next few years, Felix and Flory remained in hiding, sheltered by kind and patriotic Catholic families who protected them.  Throughout those years, they quietly worked with the resistance against the Nazis.  They survived illnesses and dental traumas, thanks to compassionate healthcare providers who were willing to look the other way.  Piet was even arrested and sent to a camp at one point, although he was eventually released.  Flory lovingly writes the story of how through the efforts of decent people who cared, she and Felix were able to survive the Nazi occupation. Sadly, many members of Flory's and Felix's families did not live.  Several perished at Sobibor, including Flory's mother.  A few died of illnesses.

In 1948, Flory and Felix were able to immigrate to the United States.  They lived in Newport Beach, California, where Felix co-founded a Jewish temple.  Both died in 2010.

My thoughts...

This book was fascinating to me on many levels.  First of all, it was very hard not to see the parallels of what is happening in the United States with what happened in Europe during the 1940s.  While I'm not sure Donald Trump is going to be able to accomplish what Hitler did, there are a lot of similarities between his leadership style and Hitler's.  Flory's vivid descriptions of how Jewish people were rounded up and deported are eerily similar to some of the stories I've read about how illegal aliens in the United States are being treated now.

Secondly, my heart was warmed by the courageous Catholic families who did their best to resist the Nazi regime and help Jewish people who were being persecuted.  These families were fine examples of real Christians.  I was particularly moved by how close Flory and Felix were to the people who helped them.

Thirdly, more than once, as I was reading this book, I couldn't help but look at the place where I'm currently living and shake my head in disbelief.  It's hard to reconcile the way Germans were in the 1940s to how they are now.  It just goes to show you that countries are made up of all kinds of people.  There is a pervasive sense of shame among Germans today about what happened during World War II.  They do not joke about those days.  And yet, as Flory said, "[The Holocaust] is history, and it should never ever happen again.  War, I don't know. But persecutions? . . . If you die for your country, it is one thing. But to be persecuted because you have a certain religion is unbelievable.  What the Germans did, it can never be made good--ever, ever, ever, no matter what they say."

I have noticed in the wake of Trump's disastrous G7 meeting, many media reports of other countries getting fed up with Trump and his antagonistic policies.  Americans are commenting on those posts, hoping to remind people in other countries that not every American is an asshole.  Fortunately, it seems that many people understand that, despite the Twilight Zone political climate we're in right now.  Still, I can't help but worry about what's going to happen if Trump's bullshit isn't reined in soon.

Finally, Felix and Flory were an amazing couple.  They were married for over sixty years and managed to touch so many lives.  They were not able to have children of their own; a baby girl Flory delivered in 1946 was stillborn.  However, they did eventually adopt a son, Isaiah, who sadly died of brain cancer in 1970.  He was just sixteen years old.  They named the temple after him.  

Flory apparently tried many times to write her story, but each time she'd start her manuscript, she'd have to stop because emotion would overwhelm her.  In 1997, she finally decided once and for all to write her book.  It was published in 1998 and remains a very relevant book twenty years hence.  I'm so glad I had the chance to read Flory's amazing story.  I hope you'll read it, too.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Maybe the Internet really is for porn...

Yesterday, I noticed someone read a book review I wrote about a gay Mormon missionary who served in Japan.  I read and reviewed the book last year and totally forgot about it until I saw the link in Statcounter.

I was about to click away from the review when I noticed the Amazon ad in the top right corner.  It was for a novella about a gay man who seduces a Mormon missionary.  I'm not altogether surprised that Mormon themed gay porn exists.  I've seen it before.  It was just strange to find it advertised on my blog in relation to a book about a gay missionary in Japan.

The book is called Big Joe and the Mormon Missionary.  It's priced at $2.99 and, so far, gets 3.5 stars on Amazon.  Apparently, the author of the book, Keegan Kennedy, has written a lot of these kinds of books.  They aren't all Mormon themed, but they do appear to all be gay porn.  All of Keegan's books feature buff looking shirtless white guys in underwear that shows off their packages.

Keegan is evidently a resident of the Bible Belt.  He was brought up in Mississippi and lives in Memphis... and apparently, he really does subscribe to the Avenue Q song, "The Internet is for Porn". He sure has cranked out a lot of books.  Maybe I should do the same thing.  It used to be fun to write fiction.  I don't think I'd want to write Mormon themed gay porn, though.


Trekkie Monster is right...

So far, it's got three reviews.  One was written by a woman who didn't bother to read the whole thing. Her review is kind of amusing, though.


Wonder what Megan was doing reading Mormon themed gay porn...

Last night, Zane and Arran got into a fight over a rawhide bone.  Zane usually doesn't care too much about them, but Arran had one and left it unattended.  Zane went for it and a fight ensued.  Zane ended up winning the fight, but now has a swollen bite on his face.  I'm hoping we don't have to take him to the vet.  I hate it when the dogs fight, although I'm glad Zane was feeling plucky enough to defend himself.

I'm a little worried about Zane and I'm not feeling all that well today, so I don't know if we're going to do anything this afternoon.  We probably should, though, especially since I can't be arsed to write anything of substance this morning.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Depression is not the "common cold" of mental illness...

This week, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, two much beloved, highly successful, incredibly talented people, suddenly decided to end their lives.  The news of both suicides came as a total shock to me.  I was especially blown away when I heard about Bourdain.


This was Bourdain's show about Armenia that aired just a few weeks ago.  It made me one of his many admirers.

There's a trite saying that depression is the "common cold" of mental illness.  I usually cringe when I hear that, though, because most people don't die of the common cold, which can cause temporary misery, but usually goes away without any lingering effects.  Depression can be serious enough to cause death.  When depression is a factor, I don't think of suicide as someone selfishly taking their own lives.  I think of it as a terminal event, much like people who have cancer or diabetes have terminal events that kill them.  What's more, depression can go on for many years unabated.  It doesn't necessarily clear up in a week or two like a cold does.

At this point, I don't know why Anthony Bourdain committed suicide.  Kate Spade's husband has publicly come out to say that his wife had struggled with depression for many years.  Maybe Anthony Bourdain was also depressed.  I hesitate to assume I know why Bourdain decided to end his life.  The truth is, at this point, I really don't know.  Most likely, he also suffered from the so-called "common cold" of mental illness.  Except depression is not really like the common cold at all.  

When Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014, many people were angry and outraged.  Initially, it was said that he'd had terrible depression, and he most assuredly did.  Many people felt he was simply weak and gutless for taking his life.  Then, some weeks later, it came out that Williams had been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia.  A lot of people don't know anything about Lewy Body Dementia.  It's not one of those diseases that gets a prominent face in the media.

My father had Lewy Body Dementia with Parkinsonian features.  I watched it take him from being an independent man with a sharp mind and a strong body, to a frail shadow of himself.  My dad was in his 70s when he was diagnosed with it.  It was devastating for him and for my mom, who spent at least six years taking care of him.  In the weeks before his death in July 2014, he was getting so debilitated that my mom was considering putting him in a nursing home.  It was becoming too hard for her to take care of him, even with the home health aides she had helping her.

Robin Williams was 63 when he died and, according to his wife, his case of LBD was very severe.  Although Williams died by his own hand, it was really the LBD, co-morbid with depression, that killed him.  Perhaps Bourdain was also facing a health situation that led him to kill himself.  Or maybe not.  Maybe he was just very depressed and simply decided that living was too painful.  I don't know.  I actually couldn't blame him in any event.  I have no idea what he was dealing with in his personal life and could never fully understand it even if I did.

I read that Bourdain died in Kaysersberg, France.  Bill and I were in Alsace two weeks ago and had made tentative plans to visit that town while we were there.  We didn't end up going, but resolved to visit on a later trip to France.  It's strange to think that this man, whose innovative food and travel journalism I only recently discovered, was just a mere two hours away from me when he died.  The area where Bourdain exited this existence is absolutely beautiful.  Given that he had very French roots, it almost seems fitting that he chose to die in France, even if I'm sorry it happened the way it did.

I only recently-- like within the past three weeks-- started watching Bourdain's show, Parts Unknown.  I started watching it because he had visited Armenia and I was curious about what he thought of it.  I was so impressed by the show he did on a country where I spent two years of my life.  If I'm honest, my years in Armenia were pretty difficult.  In fact, my own issues with depression worsened significantly when I was there.  However, twenty-one years beyond my time in Armenia has left me with mostly good memories.  I don't think as much about the profound feelings of worthlessness I experienced there... and so many years hence, I realize that my time there was not at all wasted.  It only seemed that way at the time, partly due to my life inexperience and partly due to the distorted thinking that comes from being depressed.

One thing I've noticed all week is that some people are sharing their own stories about depression.  Other people are imploring their friends and loved ones to "reach out" if they feel suicidal.  Many people are also sharing the suicide hotline.  I'm going to be frank and say that the repeated posts about the suicide hotline kind of get on my nerves.  It's not because I don't think people should know about and use the hotline.  It's more because simply sharing that phone number is about as effective as offering "thoughts and prayers".  Besides, not everyone who is depressed actually realizes they are depressed.  I didn't know I was depressed until it had been going on for years.

Clinical depression causes a host of symptoms that make "reaching out" extremely difficult.  Depression robs people of their self-esteem and energy.  You might encourage your withdrawn friends to "reach out" and remind them that you're always there to listen.  But in the mind of a depressed person, you're not really talking to them.  Even if you were specifically talking to them, reaching out takes energy and courage.  And sometimes people say they want their friends to reach out, but then they aren't actually available or interested.

Sometimes, instead of really listening and empathizing, well-meaning people try to cheer up their depressed friend by telling them about all the "good" things they have.  Folks, let me just say that telling someone who is depressed to "buck up" and "get over it" is pretty much the worst thing you can do.  It's very likely to backfire.  Someone who musters the courage to reach out, especially to someone who has encouraged them to do so, does NOT need to hear about all the apparently awesome things they have to live for.

Please don't tell your depressed friend that they are being selfish, overly dramatic, or self-centered, either.  Shaming doesn't help.  It only makes things worse.

What depressed people really need is someone who listens to what they have to say and assists them in finding their way to a person who is qualified to help them.  Listen to your friend without interrupting.  When they tell you what's on their mind, say something that validates their feelings and indicates that you understand that they need help.  You could say something like, "It sounds like you're very overwhelmed right now."  If you can't help them yourself, you could say,  "Let's find someone who can help you with these problems."  That's certainly better than, "I can't believe you're depressed.  Look at all this cool shit you have!  I'd kill to live in your house with your hot wife (or husband, as the case might be)."

On the surface, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain had everything to live for.  They were both very successful in their careers.  Both were parents of young daughters.  Both had achieved financial success and had friends who adored them.  They were adored by strangers, too.  Still, somehow they both still made the decision to commit suicide.  They aren't alone.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is on the rise in the United States.  Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain no doubt had access to medical help that too many people in the United States don't have, yet they still died by suicide.  Common colds don't usually end that way, at least not in people who are basically healthy.    

I may have to watch more of Bourdain's shows.  I'll have to read at least one of his books.  He left behind so many gifts.  I can't say that even though he died by his own hand, he wasn't a very generous person to share his talents with the world.  While I don't own any of Kate Spade's quirky creations, I've seen a lot of pictures of handbags my friends own.  They've been sharing those pictures all week, letting everyone know that Kate Spade mattered to them.  Sadly, when you have depression, you don't notice that you matter to others... and when they tell you that you do matter, you don't necessarily believe what they say.  Depression is a major mind fuck.  It's really nothing like a cold.  And getting over it takes time, effort, money, and the ability to give a damn.

Friday, June 8, 2018

I can't... it's against my religion...

Yesterday morning, Bill and I were chatting before he headed off to work.  I told him that I got into an online discussion about the Word of Wisdom.  A person had shared this meme on Facebook and it prompted discussion.  I'm pretty sure this meme was posted in response to the recent Supreme Court ruling that a baker can't be forced to make wedding cakes for gay couples.  A lot of people are very upset about the ruling and feel it opens up a slippery slope toward legalized discrimination.


Naturally, a person who knew about Mormonism had to come along and take exception to what was posted about the LDS example...

Coke was never officially prohibited by the LDS church, so the person who said it would have been better if the meme had mentioned alcohol instead of Coke was correct.  However, a person claiming to be an ex Mormon then said that Coke was prohibited because of the caffeine.  Sorry, exMo, but you're wrong.  The actual prohibition in the Word of Wisdom was either "hot" or "strong" drinks.  When the Word of Wisdom was created, there were no cola drinks.  So technically, the prohibited drinks are coffee, tea (black), and alcohol.  

I have heard that many Mormons will drink herbal teas.  I have also heard that many Mormons don't drink caffeinated soft drinks.  For many years, caffeinated sodas were not sold at Brigham Young University.  However, it was supposedly not because caffeine was specifically prohibited, but because the beverages wouldn't sell enough to make stocking them a good business decision.  In fact, if Mormons had a real issue with caffeine, they would ban chocolate, because chocolate contains caffeine.

The ban is against "hot drinks", but most Mormons also don't drink iced tea or iced coffee.  But they will drink hot chocolate or broth.  So go figure that one.

Bill and I were discussing all of the rules that active Mormons must follow.  The subject turned to that of temple garments, which "endowed" church members wear under their clothes.  Mormons are certainly not the only religious people who require believers to wear certain articles of clothing.  Some Jews and Muslims also adhere to certain dress standards.  However, Mormons are the only religious people I know of who dictate what kind of underwear members are supposed to wear.

I have never worn temple garments myself, but I can tell you that the prospect of wearing them under my clothes during the summer in Virginia would make me think twice about my beliefs.  Bill has worn garments and he says they are very hot and uncomfortable, especially in certain climates.  I also like drinking whatever the hell I want to drink.  

Although my dad was initially concerned that Bill would convert me to Mormonism, he needn't have worried.  There is no way I'd ever allow a religion to dictate something as personal as what kind of underwear I wear or what I will eat or drink.  Other people feel differently about that, though, and they're fine with a religious leader telling them how to dress and what to eat or drink.  To be clear, I don't have an issue with that.  Whatever floats your boat.



However, there is one thing I have noticed among the faithful.  A lot of people seem to take great pride in following these strict rules.  It's as if following the rules makes them better people.  

I used to know a devout Mormon woman who often accused me of being "confused" about Mormonism.  She said I didn't understand the sacred covenants behind the church's teachings, because if I did, I would not have anything negative to say about them.  I noticed that she was very proud of the fact that she avoided things like alcohol, coffee, tea, and tobacco and willingly wore her garments, even when it was uncomfortable, inconvenient, or unpleasant to do so.  

I think it's fine for people to follow those rules if it makes them feel better about themselves.  However, in my view, life is tough enough as it is.  I don't need to wear special garments or avoid certain substances to make me a better person.  I'm not particularly religious, but the faith I was raised in taught that Jesus Christ has already paid the price of salvation.  Maybe my church got it wrong, but then, maybe other churches also got it wrong.  I don't know... and I don't necessarily care.

Strangely enough, Mormons often preach about the importance of "free agency".  Basically, that means that people have choices and they will be held accountable for their choices.  However, it seems to me that having a long list of rules to follow makes it harder to exercise free agency.  And then there's this promise that following the rules could mean getting to a higher echelon of Heaven.  But what if the Mormons got it wrong and Heaven isn't divided into three sections?  What if Heaven doesn't even exist?

Anyway... what a person chooses to eat or drink or wear is of no concern to me, as long as that person doesn't try to force his or her beliefs on other people or turn their beliefs into laws.  Personally, I think sometimes trying to avoid the appearance of evil is less character building than indulgence is.  Allowing an organization to tell you to wear certain underwear or avoid certain beverages may be harmless or even beneficial in some ways.  However, it also deprives a person the opportunity to make those choices for themselves.

It may be healthy for many people to avoid alcohol, coffee, and tea.  On the other hand, enjoying those substances in moderation can be very enriching.  Most adults will do just fine in deciding for themselves what they should or shouldn't drink or wear.  They don't need to be given rules to follow.

Incidentally, this topic comes up on RfM, too... only there, someone has posted about people who avoid R rated movies, even if the content is important.  They allow a church leader to tell them they can't watch Schindler's List or Saving Private Ryan because those movies, excellent as they are, have been rated R.  The leadership has said not to watch R rated movies, so some Mormons won't.  It doesn't matter how excellent the film is or the reason why it's been rated R.  So much for free agency. 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Hillbilly antics...

Today may turn out to be a two'fer Thursday.  I have two topics in mind that beg to be written about, even if no one reads but me.  I also have nothing on the agenda today except vacuuming, and that is a chore I hate with a fiery passion.  It's 6:24am in Germany right now and the sun is already shining bright.  I don't think I'll ever get used to how lopsided the days are in the summers and winters in Europe.

Anyway... yesterday, after I wrote my sad post about Samantha Smith and Ryan White, I started messing around on YouTube and somehow I came across jessie31's channel.  Jessie (don't know if that's her name, but that's what I'll call her in this post) lives in Florida, I think... or somewhere with palm trees and people who have rocks for front lawns.  She has a very eccentric neighbor named Billy Sue.

I actually love videos involving irate people, especially when the crazy is brought.  I have found quite a few gems over the years and, a lot of times, they involve neighbors or landlords.  Well, I'm here to tell you that finding the Billy videos is like hitting the motherlode of crazy.  In fact, they're so crazy that some commenters think that they're faked or staged in some way.  I'm going to go on record to say that I don't think the videos are fake.

I have actually met some people who remind me of Billy, and while it's probably not nice for the neighbor to film her antics and put them on YouTube, it's pretty clear that Billy knows she's being filmed.  In fact, she deliberately puts on a show for the camera, complete with middle finger.  Behold...


Notice how calm Jessie is as she films Billy freaking out. 

Billy always wears cut off jeans and t-shirts.  She has kind of an extreme mullet and always carries a sippie cup.  I'm not sure what's in the cup, although Jessie suggests that perhaps it's an alcoholic beverage.  She always has that cup, though, and she often has a cigarette dangling from her lips as she dances around, making obscene gestures and kicking her legs in the air.  The way she behaves certainly suggests substance abuse.  

Jessie is good at editing these videos.  I noticed as her video blog progressed, she started adding music to Billy's antics.  I particularly enjoyed the video below, mainly because the music reminds me of the 1985 film Girls Just Want to Have Fun.  In fact, Billy looks like she fell out of 1985 herself.


I applaud Jessie for thinking of this song.  It's perfect for Billy's little crazy dance in the street.

If I were a psychologist, I'm sure I'd have an interesting time trying to determine what's behind Billy's behavior.  She is very hostile and has quite the potty mouth, which she doesn't mind flushing regardless of who's listening.  In the video below, she waves a flag and her middle finger, then holds up a message for Jessie.  Some viewers think it reads "Donald Trump".  Well, that figures, doesn't it?


How can Jessie stay so calm?  Billy would drive me nuts.

She also has a sense of entitlement.  In the video below, Billy's in trouble for breaking into the backyard of a neighboring property with a pool.  The neighbors had moved, so Billy took it upon herself to trespass and go swimming in the private pool.  Someone called the police and she was busted.  Curiously, the cop let her go before taking her downtown.  He probably didn't want to hear her squawking, either.


"I was just takin' a swim, okay?"  How would she react if someone broke into her backyard and started messing around with her moonshine?  Notice her boyfriend comes to the rescue...

Speaking of swimming pools and booze...


She's making shine in this video... and some commenters think perhaps she's into meth.  I don't have any experience with meth, so I don't know...  However, she does sound to me like she's a bit drunk and, with that, I do have experience.

And again with the pool, although the neighbors' 50 pound pit bull probably scared her off.


I love the music on this as Billy hits the ground.  She's pretty athletic.

Who needs cable or Netflix when you have this regularly going on in your cul de sac?


Jeez...  Wonder what this was all about?  


And this?  She's going in circles, getting nowhere fast!

Some people might wonder why Jessie films Billy and puts her on YouTube.  Some might even feel sorry for Billy.  If I were still working as a social worker, I'd probably disapprove... officially, anyway.  However, having grown up around rednecks, I'm familiar with Billy and her ilk.  Also, crazy, foul mouthed, disrespectful neighbors are no fun to share borders with.  To be honest, I'm impressed by how level headed Jessie is.  If I had to live next to Billy, I'd probably need blood pressure meds at the very least.  She would drive me batshit crazy.


She hates dogs.   She hates kids.  She threatens dogs with violence.  This would make me want to declare war on Billy.


Poor kid gets yelled at by crazy Billy...  


I think the only thing worse than having to live next to Billy is sharing a jail cell with her.  Drugs are bad, mmm'kay?

I honestly don't know if these videos are fake.  I really don't think they are.  I think Billy has some addiction issues and probably at least one mental illness of some sort.  Maybe I shouldn't laugh at her, but hell... sometimes if you don't laugh, you'll cry.  I can't blame Jessie for finding the entertainment value in having to live next to Billy and sharing the pain.  If I thought Billy's problems were wholly due to a mental illness beyond her control, I would not find these videos nearly as funny.  But I think many of her issues are self-inflicted.

I do think that if TLC gets wind of Billy, they might give her a show of her very own.  Seriously, one can make big bucks in the United States by acting like this for the cameras.  We can't pay our teachers a living wage, but if you're entertaining, you can make some coin.  I need a friend like Jessie... I'm glad I found her videos.


The music makes the video...



Damn...  I really don't miss America.  In my neighborhood, if you're lucky, you might see a helicopter land in the field behind our house or maybe a brass band or something.  Someone acting like Billy would probably be arrested on a regular basis.