Monday, April 30, 2018

Pitchforks and torches? Or instant karma?

On April 14, 2018, Bibb County police in Georgia arrested 71 year old Judy Tucker (who by now, might have turned 72) after she and her son, Robbie Tucker, attacked two female soldiers at a Cheddar's restaurant near Macon.  Tucker and her son were apparently angry that 27 year old Treasure Sharpe and 34 year old Stephanie Mitchell had gotten in their way as they were trying to park.  Tucker and her son told the women they should "learn how to park", then referred to them as black lesbian bitches.

While Tucker and her son were confronting the two women, one of them pulled out a camera, which enraged Judy Tucker.  She tried to grab the phone and ended up pushing Sharpe, who exclaimed that she's pregnant.  Tucker was arrested on a simple battery charge and led away in handcuffs, sobbing.  Her bail was set at $650 and Tucker was apparently left bleeding after the brawl.

Now, it seems that both Judy and Robbie Tucker are paying dearly for their racist and violent actions.  Robbie Tucker either owns or owned a used Corvette dealership called Corvette Classics.  Now, it appears that his business has closed.  Judy Tucker used to teach art classes at Mercer University, but that gig has now ended, thanks to the violent scene at Cheddar's involving her and the soldiers.  The Yelp! page for Judy's art restoration business has been overrun with nasty comments and fake one star reviews.

And Darden Restaurants, which owns Cheddar's, has evidently banned Tucker and her son from the premises.  I wonder if that includes all of their restaurants (because Darden owns a lot of them) or just the Cheddar's location in Macon.

On the surface, these turns of events seem like just desserts to a lot of people.  Judy Tucker and her son behaved horribly.  They made vile, racist comments, battered a pregnant woman, and disrespected two women in uniform.  I used to live in Georgia.  I know how much the military is respected there.

However, having thought about this issue a bit, I think it's wrong for people who have never done business with the Tuckers to try to ruin their livelihoods.  I mean, I totally get the sentiment.  I can completely understand the disgust toward them.  But I think ruining the Tuckers' ability to work is ultimately the wrong thing to do.  If they can't work, how can they pay their bills?  And if they can't pay their bills, who's going to take care of them?  I think it's better to let the law handle situations like these.

On the other hand, while I'm not sure these kinds of stories make hateful, racist people stop and think before they act, they do tend to lead to acts of public ridicule and shaming that can be horrible and personally devastating. People on social media can turn into a pitchfork and torches waving crowd without considering the second and third order effects of their actions.  I mean, sure it feels good to see shitty people get their just desserts, but is it really right to serve as judge, jury, and executioner?  And will this kind of karmic action actually teach them anything?  Or will it simply make them more hateful?

This incident reminded me of one that involved me a few years ago.  In 2012, I decided not to see a P.A. (physician's assistant) at Fort Bragg because I looked her up online and didn't like what I saw.  It's not that I didn't think she was competent (although Bill did see her and wasn't impressed).  It was more that I didn't think she was mature enough to deal with my special needs when it comes to healthcare providers.  I told a few online friends, some of whom are no longer friends.  I was promptly roasted for daring to base my decision not to see a healthcare provider on what I saw on the P.A.'s social media profile.  Lots of people told me they thought it was wrong that I would judge the P.A., who would have been seeing me in a state of undress and touching private parts of my body, based on what she'd put on her Facebook and MySpace accounts.

However, as we can see from Judy Tucker's situation, many people have no qualms whatsoever basing their opinions about people solely by what they see online.  Most of the people leaving reviews on the Tuckers' businesses have never actually done business with them and are only trying to punish them.  At least in my situation, all I did was opt not to see the P.A.  I never left any bad ratings, called her bosses, or left an online review of her services.  That wouldn't have been right.  I simply chose not to deal with her.  

Likewise... while I may personally dislike what Judy and Robbie Tucker did at Cheddar's, and while I might not give them my business because of it, I don't think it's right for random people to try to destroy their businesses.  People have to be able to work.  Otherwise, they become criminals and/or mooches.  Moreover, Mrs. Tucker presumably still has to deal with the actual judge.

Also, once again I notice that when people leave their bad reviews, the worst insult they can think of is calling someone "fat".

People need to come up with more intelligent insults.

Anyway, I'm not sure what got into the Tuckers on that fateful day in Macon.  They behaved badly and are now paying the price... literally.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

A compliment, a complaint, and a command...

This morning, I listened to a duet a guy from Sweden did with me on SingSnap.  He left me a short comment that included a compliment, a complaint, and a command.

I have a feeling he meant well...

Clearly, his English isn't perfect, although he does have a fairly nice singing voice.  I was left a little puzzled by this comment.  I have many open duets posted on SingSnap.  He could probably spend all day on them if he wanted to.  There are probably thousands there, because I rarely delete the stuff I post.  I will admit that I haven't done any new duets lately.  For some reason, I haven't felt inspired to make much music this month.

When I recorded the duet he joined me on, I did it in the original key.  Sometimes I do change the keys on certain songs-- usually the ones that were originally done by men.  This one was recorded by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, so I didn't change the key.  And since I recorded it a long time ago and this was my first encounter with him, I certainly "didn't make it hard for him".  That kind of implies that I did something on purpose.  I don't know this man from Adam and he made the choice to join me.  If I had known him, and he had specifically asked me to sing with him, and then I deliberately chose a key that would be hard for him, then he could legitimately claim that I'd "made it hard for him."  In this case, he really can't.

Yeah, this is just another one of my quirky posts about strange comments I get from people.  I'm sure it makes me sound anal retentive or whatever.  I don't mean to sound that way, even though I probably am that way.  I just find language interesting, kind of the way Flula does.

Flula is a German guy who parodies American idioms with stereotypical German literalness...

I think this "blaming thing" is kind of a European concept.  It's like the cultures here have this fault finding feature built into their languages.  I noticed it a few years ago, when Bill and I were subscribed to Germany's version of Hello Fresh.  I had a problem with my very first order.  I tried to subscribe to the service, but their Web site kept sending me error messages.  I thought the orders weren't going through, so I tried again repeatedly, using different credit cards until I finally got a message indicating success.  What I didn't know was that Hello Fresh was getting the orders, but their Web site was fucked up.  Consequently, the following week, I ended up with four meal boxes and three fruit boxes from Hello Fresh.

This problem led to a lengthy customer service dialogue with Hello Fresh staffers, who inadvertently pissed me off by blaming me for the problem with THEIR Web site.  The representative had asked me to "be sure it doesn't happen again", as if the issue was my error.  But then, it could be a function of translation.  Sometimes language discrepancies and different constructions can lead to misunderstandings.  I also think there is a serious blame culture in Germany.  Someone has to be at fault.  It's like they don't believe in accidents.

Maybe it's the same in Sweden.  If a key is too high in a song, it's my fault for recording it in too high of a key, rather than your fault for not choosing another partner or asking me to record it in a lower key.  But honestly, I do think the Swedish guy means well.  I was mostly pleased by his comment.  It just made me think of different language situations I've run into here in Germany that I might or might not run into in America.  But at least in America, I'd know it was less of a culture thing than an asshole thing.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Graceful aging...

Yesterday, while I was waiting for Bill to come home from work, I found myself watching Megyn Kelly interviewing celebrities.  I generally don't pay a lot of attention to people like Megyn Kelly, but I grew up watching Christie Brinkley in movies, commercials, and in music videos.  Of course, being a child of the 70s and 80s, I love her ex husband, Billy Joel's, music.  So when Kelly interviewed Christie Brinkley, I watched.

Christie Brinkley is still gorgeous at 64...  but look carefully and notice she's hiding some things.

Check out the red dress.  It's high necked, so we don't see what her neck looks like.  Instead, we focus on Christie's impossibly young looking face.  I'm no expert, but it's obvious to me that she's had some work done.  And yet she claims that her super toned skin comes solely from a meat free/part time vegan diet and special night cream.  Yeah...  my ass.

Next, I noticed the long sleeves on her dress and how she had them pulled down over her hands.  I noticed the sleeves before it occurred to me why she'd want to hide her hands.  One of the sad side effects of getting older is that hands become bony and covered with age spots.  My own mom looks young for her age, even though she's almost 80.  I remember when she was about Christie's age, maybe a little younger, and she was pushing my niece in a swing.  A kid said she was surprised that she was my niece's grandmother.  She said, "She looks too young."  

Her brother said, "No she doesn't.  Look at her hands."

Fortunately, my mom has a great sense of humor and laughed it off.  She even told me about it in a comical way.  At the time, my mom was still a church organist and owned her own business selling knitting and needlework supples and teaching classes, so her hands were pretty important.  But yeah, once she went through "the change", her hands changed.  Christie's have, too.  Not that it matters.  She's still beautiful and has a fantastic figure.  I just think it's sad that her interview with Megyn Kelly was basically an ad for beauty products.  

Next, I watched Megyn Kelly interview 66 year old Lynda Carter.  I found Lynda's interview to be more entertaining and empowering.  However, there was something I noticed about Lynda, too...

Is it me?  Or does Lynda Carter's voice sound different?
Actually, both Christie and Lynda sound a little different when they speak, but Lynda also seems to be lisping, which is something I never noticed of her before.  She almost sounds like she's either missing teeth or she's wearing dentures and they're slipping.  A couple of people on YouTube commented that she sounded "tipsy".  I know tipsy, and she doesn't sound tipsy to me.  She sounds like she has a slight speech impediment.

Here's Christie in 1980.  Christie face moves more freely, so her speech sounds more natural.

And Lynda Carter in 1980.  She does not lisp here.

Both of these women are still striking and would be regardless.  They both hit the genetic jackpot, and they take good care of themselves.  I don't think Lynda has had any plastic surgery, but to me it's obvious that Christie has.  I do wonder why Lynda's speech sounds so different.

Anyway... none of this is that important, except I realize that pretty soon I'll be experiencing the same changes myself.  Some would say that's better than the alternative...  I have days when I wonder if that's true.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Bill Cosby headed for the big house? Goodbye, Cliff Huxtable.

Last night, I got the news that "America's Dad", Bill Cosby, was found guilty of three counts of sexual assault against Andrea Constand, a former Temple University employee.  The year the assault happened was 2004, but Constand was just one of dozens of women who accused Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them.  Now, in 2018, it looks like 80 year old Cosby will finally get what's coming to him.  He could get up to ten years in prison for each of the three counts he was found guilty of, although given his age, it's doubtful that he will serve too long.

I saw many comments last night from women who wondered why he was only found guilty of three counts when so many women had accused him.  It's because the other assaults happened so long ago that the statute of limitations has run out.  Cosby cannot be prosecuted for those assaults, even though they were surely devastating to the women involved.  In any case, it's amazing that this man, who was EVERYWHERE in the 1980s, has fallen from grace with such a mighty thud.  In my mind, this is much more shocking than when O.J. Simpson fell out of public favor.  In Simpson's case, it seemed like he let everyone know exactly who he was once he fell out of respectability back in 1994.

It was a lot harder to believe that Cosby's wholesome facade was as fake as Dolly Parton's bosom.  He really knew how to pull off the respectable family man act.  I think Matt Lauer, who was also known as a "nice guy next door" type before his unsavory sexual hangups were exposed, might have taken some lessons from Cosby.  Both Cosby and Lauer seemed untouchable, although at least Lauer is reportedly taking some responsibility for what he's done.

Cosby continues to deny and disclaim, and even felt entitled to swear in court when District Attorney Kevin R. Steele expressed concern that Cosby had access to a private plane and may be a flight risk.  Cosby's response was, "He doesn’t have a plane, you asshole.”  What would Cliff Huxtable say about that?

This verdict will have ripple effects that reach far and wide.  At about two o'clock this morning, I was awakened from sleep by my wayward beagle, Zane, who kept crawling under the covers and overheating, then jumping off the bed.  Because I wasn't immediately dropping back off to slumber, I picked up my iPad and scanned the news.  I ran across an op-ed on the New York Times, written by Wesley Morris.  The piece, entitled "Cliff Huxtable Was Bill Cosby's Sickest Joke", was mostly about how Cosby had everyone fooled that he really was "America's Dad".

Morris, who is evidently about my age, was also growing up when Cosby was on TV every Thursday night.  It was impossible to miss references to him if you had a television set or were exposed to any media whatsoever.  Cosby had books, albums, movies, commercials, and the hottest show in America.  And Morris, who is a black man, absorbed all of Cosby's influence.  Here was a great role model who made everyone laugh each week on his wildly popular sitcom, then sold them New Coke and Jello Pudding Pops.

I mostly enjoyed Morris's take on what's happened to Cosby.  I thought his article was well-written and did a good job of explaining why Cliff Huxtable was a "sick joke".  But then I ran across something that irritated me somewhat.  At least twice in his article, Morris uses the word "vertiginous".  That, my friends, is more than a 50 cent word.  In fact, in my 45 years on the planet, I don't think I've ever come across that word before early this morning.

I told Bill about it and he said, "I think it means 'dizzying'."  Bill came to that conclusion even though, like me, he had never run across the word "vertiginous" before.  It turns out he's right.  The word is akin to "vertigo", which is the condition of being dizzy.  Bill credits his year of Latin for being able to figure out that word-- he was taught to look at the roots.  It got me to thinking, though.  That's the kind of word one learns for the SAT and then waits for the perfect time to use it.  I wonder how many people reading Morris's article took the time to look up that word.  Why couldn't he have just used a more familiar word or expression, like "dizzying" or "head spinning"?

It's my guess that Cosby, with his hefty academic pedigree and once lofty image as a successful black man, really did inspire Morris to rise above the ordinary.  And so, instead of using words and language that the everyday reader will readily understand, he throws in less common words like "vertiginous".  It's as if he has to prove himself.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm all for the correct usage of advanced vocabulary words from the SAT.  In fact, I thank Mr. Morris for teaching me a new word today.  It's just that I don't think the average person will be instantly familiar with that word or take the time to consult a dictionary.  And, it seems to me that if your aim is to communicate-- which is what I think all good writers should want to do-- your message should be clear and accessible to everyone.  In fact, I remember that very lesson was taught on an old episode of The Cosby Show that aired during season 5.

Former child actress Grace Johnston, who memorably played little Victoria in the 1988 film, Beaches, was guest starring as one of Rudy Huxtable's friends.  She had come over to the Huxtable residence to spend the night.  Rudy's big brother, Theo, was frustrated because he got a D on an English composition, along with some very critical remarks from his professor.  Rudy's friend, Caroline (Johnston), tells Theo that her dad is a newspaper editor and it sounded to her like he was using "big words" to try to sound smart.  Caroline says, "that never works" and that "big words are for small minds."

I'm not sure I'd go quite that far.  After all, Morris does use the word properly and the rest of his article is easy enough to understand.  It just struck me as a bit pretentious that he'd choose that word-- one that obviously isn't widely used or understood by the everyday man on the street.  But then, maybe that's another symptom of his having seen Cosby as a role model.

A very controversial speech...  turns out Cosby is a massive hypocrite.

For years, Cosby has held himself above the average person.  Who can forget how, in 2004, he dared to berate black people in his infamous "Pound Cake" speech?  He spoke of people who "cried" when they saw their son in an "orange suit".  Cosby asked them where they were when their son was two years old... when he was twelve... when he was eighteen?  He wanted to know why the parents didn't know their son had a pistol.  He lambasted them for giving their children names like "Shaniqua" and embracing their African heritage when they don't know anything about Africa.  Many people of color were offended by Cosby's high-falutin' speech, which seems especially ironic now, given that Cosby may soon be wearing an orange suit himself.  On the other hand, I remember a lot of conservative white people liked what Cosby had to say... the same way they like what Donald Trump says.  

I did like the way Morris ended his article.  He ends it with a thought provoking question.

We’re in a moment of cleaving terrible people from their great work. It’s a luxury conundrum, one that feels like a mockery of tremendous human suffering. With Mr. Cosby, though, these are questions worth seriously considering. How do I, at least, cleave this man from the man he seduced me into becoming?

How do any of us reconcile the legend of Cliff Huxtable and who Bill Cosby really is?  How is it possible that this man, who preached about education, hard work, and being respectful and respectable, may soon go to prison for committing vile sexual crimes against one woman... the only woman who was able to pin a rap on him before he inevitably passes away?  I'm not sure what kind of sentence Cosby will get.  I think he deserves to go to prison, but if he does go, he probably won't last long.  

I think prison will be tougher for Cosby than it was for the Huxtable girls...

On the other hand... this verdict against Cosby, and the dire consequences being faced by people like Matt Lauer and Larry Nassar, do offer some hope to the many women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted by men and were forced to just simply shut up and take it.  It will be interesting to see what kind of time Cosby gets and how he does it.  And... I also wonder when it will be Donald Trump's turn.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

A review of Kathryn Casey's In Plain Sight: The Kaufman County Prosecutor Murders

True crime writer Kathryn Casey has just published her latest book, In Plain Sight: The Kaufman County Prosecutor Murders.  I purchased it on April 2nd, just a few days after it was first made available on  I make a habit of reading Kathryn Casey's books.  Her writing reminds me a little bit of the late Ann Rule's.  While Ann Rule focused her books mostly on cases in the Pacific Northwest, Casey's mostly focus on Texas.  In Plain Sight is no exception.  This book is about three murders that took place in Kaufman County, Texas.  

On January 31, 2013, former attorney and Justice of the Peace, Eric Williams, shot and killed Assistant District Attorney Mark Haase.  Two months later, the day before Easter, Williams murdered prosecutor Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, as they slept.  On April 18, 2013, Eric Williams and his wife, Kim, were arrested for all three murders.  Eric Williams is currently on death row.  His wife was sentenced to forty years in prison.  She will be eligible for parole starting in 2033. 

On the surface, Eric Williams had seemed like a very solid, dependable, and most of all, intelligent, man.  He was a member of Mensa and had served in the Army before he worked for a well-known judge who encouraged him to go to law school.  Williams became a lawyer and worked on a lot of cases involving child custody.  For years, his career seemed to hum along, despite the fact that he had been diagnosed with diabetes.  

Williams married his wife, Kim, and for the first three years, their marriage seemed to be going well.  But then Kim developed medical problems that left her in pain and disabled.  She quit working and soon began taking a lot of medications that caused her to sleep all day.  The couple experienced financial problems when Williams' custody and CPS cases were curtailed.  Meanwhile, Williams carefully hid a dark side.  He collected weapons, ammunition, and even had homemade Napalm.  He never forgot a slight, even though in person, Williams looked rather harmless.

Williams eventually decided to run for Justice of the Peace.  Against the odds, he won the election.  Six months after the election, Williams ran afoul of procedure when he was caught on video surveillance taking $600 worth of computer monitors with plans to use them in an unauthorized manner.  Williams was arrested, and Haase and McLelland zealously prosecuted him after Williams refused to plead guilty to a misdemeanor.  Because he was found guilty, Williams lost the right to practice law.  He also lost his health insurance, which was very important because both he and his wife had serious health problems.  While he didn't quite lose everything, Williams lost enough that he was left enraged.    

Many people felt the zealous prosecution against Williams did not fit the crime.  Williams' legal career was pretty much ruined, which gave him a motive to murder Haase.  Williams gunned him down in broad daylight.  For weeks, it was assumed that Haase was murdered by members of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, since Haase was a tough prosecutor who had sent many people to prison.  But then there wasn't a break in the case.

Haase's boss was District Attorney Mike McLelland, who, like Eric Williams, had been in the Army.  McLelland was also a gun enthusiast.  With Haase dead, Williams had a score to settle.  He got his wife, Kim, to drive the getaway car to McLelland's residence.  There, Williams massacred Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, even though Cynthia had done nothing to Williams.  In fact, Cynthia was a well-respected and much loved nurse who suffered from Parkinson's Disease and enjoyed quilting.  But because she was with her husband when Williams decided to kill him, she died too.

Kathryn Casey has done a really good job with this very interesting and convoluted story.  It's a classic tale of a psychopath with a well hidden dark side.  Williams was a self-proclaimed genius, yet he made many stupid and careless mistakes that led to his downfall.  Many people who are super smart make the mistake of assuming that they are smarter than everyone else is.  They get overly confident and that causes them to trip up.  In Williams' case, his wife, Kim, also testified against him. 

Casey interviewed both Eric and Kim Williams in prison and she describes Kim as someone who is embarrassed and remorseful about where she is.  Although she was heavily under the influence of narcotics when the crimes were committed, she now only takes medication for rheumatoid arthritis.  The clarity she has now, thanks to being off the drugs, has made her realize that she made a terrible mistake.  As for Williams, Casey writes that he has a wry sense of humor and seemed somewhat impatient when she'd ask him to repeat himself.  It's like he's impatient with people whose intellect doesn't match his... or the intellect he thinks he has, anyway.

Anyway, if you like true crime, I think In Plain Sight is well worth the read.  It's well-written, well-researched, and very compelling.  And it also shows just how nuts about guns a lot of people in Texas are.  Some pictures are also included.

Morbid curiosity...

There's a guy I know from my hometown who has a habit of occasionally sharing gruesome videos on Facebook.  Most of the videos he shares are of people being injured in a violent way.  A few weeks ago, he shared a very graphic video of a guy taking a fall and breaking his leg.  The video was on autoplay, so I couldn't help but see it as an unfortunate man's lower leg suddenly went into a ninety degree angle below the knee.  It was shocking and sickening to watch, so I hid it from my timeline.

A couple of days ago, this same guy shared a video of a man being attacked by a small shark.  The shark had a hold of the man's arm and was tearing it to pieces while someone stood by filming.  That video was also shocking and sickening, not to mention scary.  I hid that one, too.

I haven't seen this guy from my hometown probably since 1990 or so.  He now lives on the other side of Virginia and works as a firefighter.  He has two daughters, one of whom is a very successful scholar/athlete.  I believe she now attends Brown University.  He occasionally brags on her, which I can't blame him for doing.  Other than that, most of his posts indicate that he might, perhaps, have a morbid curiosity about some things.  I think maybe he assumes the rest of us share that curiosity and want to see graphic videos on autoplay that show people getting hurt.

I guess if you're a firefighter/EMT, it's probably a good thing to be fascinated by gore.  I find healthcare very interesting, but I don't think I could stand to work as a nurse or a doctor.  I'm way too squeamish.  But this guy probably enjoys watching horror movies and must figure the rest of us enjoy them too.  He probably sees all kinds of gross things in his line of work.  For some reason, it hasn't occurred to him that the rest of us are not as morbidly curious.  Or maybe he just doesn't care.

That shark video was especially distressing.  It didn't seem to end.   It was bloody and distressing, but I take heart realizing that perhaps it wasn't real.  I guess if the guy had someone filming it instead of helping him, maybe it was staged.  On the other hand, maybe more and more people in our society would rather video things and take pictures than offer assistance.  

I just visited my old friend's page and I see the shark video is still up there, along with a new video about a family who gets caught on their security camera as one by one, they each slip and fall on black ice.  What kind of a person enjoys watching this stuff?  I'd rather watch porn.

Ditto to people who post pictures of their injuries...  I don't mind them as much as I do violent videos.  Like, I have a couple of friends who have had surgery and they have no qualms posting photos of their wounds for all to see.  I don't get as creeped out about those pictures, since I know the wounds were made in an effort to heal.  Surgical wounds are also usually neat and tidy instead of torn open.  Still, I know some people who really get upset when people post graphic photographs of their bloody injuries or surgical wounds.  They probably cringe like I do when I see a pissed off shark obliterating some guy's forearm.

I guess I should be grateful that at least this dude hasn't posted any videos of people being beheaded.  I'd probably have to draw the line at that.  I remember back in the early 00s, when beheadings were kind of a weekly occurrence, there were some people who got off on watching them.  I don't think I could stand to watch something like that.  Not only would I find it completely revolting, but it seems like it would be disrespectful to the person being executed.  Thank God Facebook wasn't a thing in those days, because that's the kind of thing I really don't want to see... and can't unsee.  It would probably give me nightmares.

All of this makes it seem especially crazy that I once sent an application to the Central Intelligence Agency and they actually called me for a phone interview.  I only sent in the application because Bill thought I'd be good at "intel".  I never expected that they'd actually call me.  But sure enough, they did... it was on April Fool's Day, too, which made it seem especially crazy.

Fortunately, I failed the interview, especially since they seemed to want to consider me for "operations" work.  That would have meant I would have traveled to other countries, trying to convince locals to spy on their country for the United States.  I think I'd have a hard time doing that.  You have to be kind of fake in order to pull that off.  A lot of people have no trouble being fake, but I am what I am and what you see is mostly what you get.  Moreover, it seems immoral to me to try to convince people to commit treason.  I wouldn't want someone to do that to me.

My guess is that a lot of people who work for the CIA are probably not people I would enjoy hanging around with, although I do have a friend whose dad worked for the Agency.  His dad was an interesting guy who wrote books and moved his family around the world, under the guise of working for different consulates.  He did the same work that State Department employees do, but was actually a CIA officer.  I like my friend's dad fine, but I also realize that in order to do that kind of work, there's got to be a side of you that lies with ease.

Having read up on what CIA officers do, I also don't think I would enjoy the work very much.  It's true that I am very good at research and finding out about people and things, but I like to share what I know.  If you work for the CIA, you aren't allowed to share things.  You have to keep secrets.  And I would hate having every single person in my life scrutinized by the Agency.  I'm sure that had I worked for them, I'd also end up watching videos of people being beheaded, among other things.  No thanks.  I don't want to do that; not even for money.

Still, it was a hoot that they actually called me...  It was also probably the only job interview I was ever greatly relieved to have failed.  I wonder if my old friend would enjoy that kind of work... looking at disturbing, violence, or gruesome videos for America.  Somehow, I have a feeling he just might.  Unfortunately, he might also be a poor fit for the CIA, because he evidently likes to share those videos with others.  As they say, loose lips sink ships.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Reach out and touch someone...

Back in the 70s and 80s, AT&T had a very successful ad campaign, complete with a memorable jingle.  It was called "reach out and touch someone."  If you were around during that time, you'd hear lots of cultural references to that campaign.  For instance, I remember in the 1985 film, National Lampoon's European Vacation, the character Audrey misses her boyfriend in the States.  She tearfully sings, "Reach out, reach out and touch someone.  Reach out, call up and just say 'hi'..."

For some reason, that ad campaign was on my mind this morning.  I actually went looking for the ad that was on the brain.  I didn't find the one I was looking for, but I did find one from 1984 that I had long ago forgotten.

Hey!  Peeper!

It wasn't so long ago that communicating with people who didn't live near you meant sending a letter or calling them long distance.  We had no email, Facebook, Skype, or cell phones.  Sometimes, I think I'm lucky I got to live in a world without those modern conveniences.  Hell, sometimes I feel lucky that I experienced what it's like not to have electricity or hot water.  I won't say it was the most pleasant thing in the world, especially since I don't actually enjoy roughing it.  I will say that I know I can survive it.

Sometimes, I think all of the conveniences we have for communication have actually made communication more difficult.  I spend a lot more time alone today than I used to before the Internet. I don't have to go out to see anyone.  I can sit at home and type on my computer, post on my blog, put pictures on Facebook... and get into some really ridiculous arguments that are ultimately pointless and aggravating.

On the other hand, if it weren't for social media, I would have less reason to write.  I get inspired by it almost every day.  Maybe instead of writing blogs, I might be doing something else with my time.

Speaking of reaching out and touching someone...  yesterday, someone shared the below post.

Some guys are hunters, and they aren't hunting game.

This post reminded me a lot of a story I read in one of the local Facebook groups.  A father was upset because his daughter was being harassed by a man as she was trying to walk home on post.  Most everyone was supportive of the man's anger.  But there was one guy who questioned the father's story and gave him a hard time about it.  

Later, I noticed the guy, who had been so unsympathetic to the man who was posting about his daughter's harassment, had a very disdainful attitude toward women.  I had a run in with him myself.  I almost wonder if he's the type of man who hangs out on message boards like the one above.  I noticed a lot of the guy's posts gave off a misogynistic vibe.  He's probably the kind of guy who enjoys scaring women as they're trying to walk home.

I almost wonder if there is an "instinct" in some people-- males especially.  They enjoy stalking and hunting animals.  Maybe some feel the same about women, for whatever reason.  They like unnerving them; it gives them a charge.  Some people enjoy the feeling of power they get intimidating other people, even innocent people who are just going on about their lives.  At least now, people who are stalking and harassing others run the risk of being photographed, videoed, or having the police called on them.  So maybe for that reason, the advent of cell phones and the Internet was a good thing.

I guess the moral of this post is... "Reach out and touch someone... but only with your words."  Otherwise, you might be labeled a creeper.  Unfortunately, Facebook is full of people who are a little off kilter.  In fact, a college friend told me last night that one of my Facebook friends, a guy I don't know offline, was "stalking" her.  The guy does have a habit of excessive PMing that is very annoying.  He mostly leaves me alone now and my friend has him blocked.  But it does make me wonder about some people.  The Internet makes it easier for everyone to reach out and touch someone... and sometimes in places they don't want to be touched.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Births and deaths...

So yesterday, Britain gained a new prince when the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to her third child and second son.  And today, I just read that George H.W. Bush is in intensive care.  He came down with an infection that became septic.  Although doctors say he seems to be improving, I think this development is a sign that he may not be around for much longer.

Have you ever thought about how lives overlap?  Babies being born are just beginning life, as elderly people slip away... their lives having been full.  I don't know what the future holds for the newest prince, but it seems that he has an auspicious life ahead of him.  People around the world were waiting for his birth, which occurred just days after Barbara Bush died after 92 years of living.

I really don't know how long Bush Sr. will be around.  I have a feeling that it won't be much longer, mainly because he so famously adored his wife and his health has taken such a sudden downturn after her funeral.  He's also very old.  At 93, he's led an amazing life, but everyone has to die sometime.  93 years is a very good run.

My dad, who was 81 years old when he died in July 2014, really admired George H.W. Bush.  Bush Sr. was well-known for skydiving and even went one last time on his 90th birthday in June of 2014.  Like Bush Sr., my dad was a bit of an adrenaline junkie.  He loved roller coasters, hang gliding, and jumping off of steep cliffs into frigid water.  Also like Bush Sr., my dad had a form of Parkinson's Disease.  Actually, my dad had Lewy Body Dementia with Parkinsonian features.  It seemed to come about in 2008, after he had back surgery.

Prior to 2008, my dad was still pretty much coherent.  I remember Bush Sr. jumped out of an airplane and, I think, one of my sisters actually had a t-shirt made for my dad with a picture of George H.W. Bush in mid air.  It was captioned, "Old guys can still do fun things.", which I think was what Bush Sr. said of his leap into the atmosphere.  I don't know if my dad ever skydived, but I bet he would have loved to have tried it.  My dad was always game to try things that might get him killed.  That's probably why he enjoyed being in the Air Force.

As for the new prince, I foresee a long life of being in the public eye for him.  There's no telling what he will do in the coming years.  Who knows if he will be the last baby for Prince William and Duchess Catherine?  It's interesting to be here to see history taking place, knowing that this is my time in the world.  If the world is still here in a thousand years, people will think of this time period as primitive.  It's kind of mind boggling, actually.

Two of my friends also recently had baby boys.  And Natalie MacMaster, who is a week older than I am, just had her seventh child, a daughter named Maria Bernadette.  Natalie MacMaster, by the way, is a wonderful fiddle player from Canada who is married to the equally awesome fiddle player, Donnell Leahy.  And they have a marvelous brood of children who have inherited their talents.  It's exciting to see these new souls coming into the world as old ones depart.

This clip from Designing Women pretty much says it all in a more poignant way than I can manage this morning...  It never fails to make me cry.

I wish I had a little bit of a clearer topic in mind today.  I didn't sleep too well last night.  I woke up with a backache and couldn't get back to sleep immediately.  Then, when I finally did drift off, I had really vivid dreams.  Zane woke me up by whining, which sounded a lot like a small child's voice.  I wasn't sure if I had dreamt it or it was just the dog.  Turned out he needed to poop.  Zane is such a good boy that he tells us when he needs to go, rather than just crapping on the floor like Arran does.

Anyway, my brain is a little fuzzy this morning and nothing has gotten me outraged enough to write anything profound.  This post probably could be profound if I thought about it some more... but I don't really feel like it.  The sun is up and I need to walk the dogs before Arran poops on the floor.

Maybe the fresh air will open my head up a bit...  

Monday, April 23, 2018

That joke isn't funny anymore...

Another day, another shooting...

That joke isn't funny anymore...  It's too close to home... And it's too near the bone...

Last night, I read about the latest shooting, this time at a Waffle House near Nashville.  I learned about James Shaw, the 29 year old man who managed to disarm the shooter, identified as 29 year old Travis Reinking of Morton, Illinois.  To be honest, there have been so many shootings in America that I don't even bother to read about most of them anymore.  I think I read about this one because James Shaw, the hero who stopped the shooter from taking more than the four lives he did, is a black man.  And for once, the headlines aren't about an unarmed black man being shot.  This time, they are about a brave black man who saved lives.

I shared the story on Facebook and my former shrink, a very cool guy who does great work, made this comment.

I can't decide which would be the better headline: "Unarmed black man disarms white man with AR-15" or "Good guy without a gun overcomes bad guy with a gun" or "Man with AR-15 and no pants disarmed by man wearing pants but no gun".

I often hear gun enthusiasts say we shouldn't limit access to weapons because, they reason, criminals don't obey laws.  If we outlaw guns, they'll still use them, but so-called "good guys" will then be unarmed.  And yet, here's a story about an unarmed man who disarmed a "bad guy" with a gun.  Granted, Shaw was remarkably lucky, quick to think, and even quicker on his feet.  The shooter had to stop and reload, and that's when Shaw made his move.  Had he hesitated, the story might be very different.

Another friend made this astute comment...

I hate to say it, but I'm just glad he didn't get shot by the police by mistake. That was my first thought if they pulled up and he was holding a gun.

That thought hadn't immediately occurred to me, but she's right.  Quite a few people, young black men in particular, have been shot for less reason.  I'm just relieved that this time, the police got it right and Shaw was left with just a bullet graze on his arm.  And all because he decided to have waffles at 3:20am.

The funny thing is, right before this story broke, Bill and I were riding in the car, listening to my wildly eclectic music mix.  A song by David Wilcox came on called "Waffle House".  I hadn't heard it in, literally, years.

As we were listening to this, Bill said, "This is a really cool song."  Actually, if you read the lyrics, they're almost surreal, in light of what happened at the Waffle House in Tennessee.  

At the Waffle House
At the edge of the dark abyss
The confusion decends like this
Just deeper and denser 

This morning's post comes courtesy of a random memory that popped into my head.  I belong to a Facebook group dedicated to 70s and 80s nostalgia.  My friend Joann is also in that group.  She posted a picture of her and a couple of friends at their senior prom in 1989.  I was suddenly reminded of a novelty song by Julie Brown that was popular when I was about 12 or 13 years old.  It was called, "The Homecoming Queen's Got A Gun".  I remember that whenever that song came on the radio, I'd get very excited... and then I'd be sad because my tape recorder wasn't prepped for recording the novelty hit, which would only come on during morning radio shows when people need a laugh.

Julie Brown's video about the gun toting homecoming queen.

In the early 90s, I finally got a chance to tape that song and I listened to it enough times to memorize the lyrics (and later bought a legit copy).  In those days, the idea of a homecoming queen on a shooting spree was absolutely ludicrous.  That's what made the song so funny.  When I was younger, we didn't hear about so many people going on shooting sprees.  That might have been, in part, because we didn't have the Internet and the news wasn't necessarily a 24/7 thing.  Sure, we had CNN when I was 12 or 13, but not everyone subscribed to the news channel, and not everyone watched it.

Even so, it just seemed like people weren't as unhinged back then as they are now...  So a song about a crazy homecoming queen killing people at the prom, a la Stephen King's Carrie, seemed especially laughable.  I wouldn't think to be sad because the song was about a murderous, batshit crazy homecoming queen who killed people in the prime of their lives.  I'd be sad because it was a very funny song (at the time, anyway) and I wasn't prepared to tape it off the radio.  How innocent I once was!

But at least no one has yet developed telekinetic powers...  But there are plenty of weird religious folks running around, probably more than there were in 1976.

As I thought about Julie Brown's song this morning, I was reminded of that old song by The Smiths, which titles today's post.  Although I haven't been personally affected by a shooting, at least not yet, it's getting to the point at which I realize that one day, jokes about shootings will "hit too close to the bone".  And maybe I'll think of Morrissey singing...

I've seen this happen in other people's lives
Oh ...
And now it's happening in mine

That is, if I'm still capable of thinking.  The world gets weirder every day.  Incidentally, in 2015, I wrote a much shorter post on this same topic for my music blog.  That particular post was inspired by yet another shooting, that time at Northern Arizona University.  It seems that no community is immune to this insanity.  

Thank God James Shaw was there at the Waffle House and ready for action.  I'm sure quite a few people are grateful to him today, realizing that had he not sprung when he noticed the opportunity, more people might be injured or dead.  But how sad it is that the bright side of this situation is that only four people are dead and the unarmed black man who stopped the shooting wasn't mistaken for the perpetrator.  Morrissey is right.  That joke really isn't funny anymore.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Ernest Angley gets away with enslaving his employees...

About four years ago, I wrote a blog post about a sex scandal that was going on at Ernest Angley's Grace Cathedral.  Former members were accusing Angley of some very unsavory stuff.  Some said he encouraged them to have abortions or vasectomies.  Church members who left were apparently publicly disdained in church services.  And... then there was the scandal regarding the Cathedral Buffet.

Angley was accused of getting church members to work at his for-profit restaurant for free or less than minimum wage.  Apparently, Angley told the members that they were doing the Lord's work when they worked at the restaurant he's owned since 1971.  in 2014, one former member, Greg Mulkey, said he worked for the church's station, sang with one of the groups, gave voice lessons to choir members, and worked at the buffet for minimum wage ($4.25 an hour at the time).  And he was not paid for overtime, yet was expected to work as many as sixteen hours a week, every single day.

In 1999, a Cathedral Buffet volunteer worker was stabbed to death by another volunteer worker.  Because of the crime committed, authorities got a glimpse of what was going on at the restaurant.  The use of volunteer workers at for-profit restaurants is prohibited, so the Department of Labor got involved.  Church leadership agreed to stop the practice, but after the heat was off, they resumed using volunteers at the restaurant.  Managers were also asked to get rid of documentation that would prove the illegal practices were happening.

The music in this ad was popularly used in commercials from the 1980s... as well as a McDonald's training video!

Since the 2014 scandal, Ernest Angley's ministry has been scrutinized.  A lawsuit was filed by former church members who were stiffed by the ministry.  In late 2016, a U.S. District Judge ruled against Angley and his church and ordered them to pay back wages of about $388,000.  A month later, the restaurant closed.

Naturally, Angley appealed the ruling.  This week, a three judge panel for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the original ruling.  The basis for overturning the original ruling was that the volunteers knew they were working for free and did not expect to be paid.  Therefore, the law was not broken.  So... that means that the people who worked for Angley, doing the "Lord's work" for free, are going to be stiffed again.

On the surface, maybe it sounds like the judges were right not to order Angley to pay.  After all, we live in a free society and the workers chose to work for free.  Except there is good evidence that maybe they didn't.  I have read a bit about Angley's ministry.  To me, it sounds awfully culty.  All kinds of weird shit was going on, according to Bob Dyer's excellent series about Grace Cathedral posted in October 2014.

A news item about the 2014 scandal.

People who are in a cult-like environment are vulnerable to being brainwashed and coerced.  That doesn't matter, though, because apparently the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals says there is a difference between economic coercion and spiritual coercion.  The workers at Cathedral Buffet were being "spiritually coerced", so that kind of coercion doesn't count.  It doesn't matter that the oddly charismatic Angley was threatening them with God's wrath, rather than threatening them financially.

A news item about Bridget Pollard.  Ernest Angley took advantage of her mental illness.

Angley is pretty much a scumbag, anyway.  Last year, he managed to swindle an elderly woman with dementia out of $340,000 by talking her into signing a check.  76 year old Bridget Pollard, who is under the care of the Cook County Public Guardian, gave Angley her life's savings.  The government agency has sued Angley to get the money back, saying he took advantage of her mental incompetency.  Although Pollard had only been to Grace Cathedral a few times, somehow Corliss Whitney, a singer at the church, managed to get power of attorney to act on Pollard's behalf.  Although Pollard was living in filth and should have been moved into a facility where she could be properly attended, Whitney used Pollard's life savings as a church donation.

I do wonder how it is that people still listen to Angley, who is 96 years old and has the worst rug I've ever seen on a man.  What is it about him that makes him so attractive to his followers?  It's hard to tell.  He really is a sleaze, though.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Fat, ugly, and opinionated are the worst things a woman can be?

Yesterday, after I read the disturbing misogynistic comments on an article about Randa Jarrar, I Googled "fat, ugly, and opinionated are the worst things a woman can be".  I wanted to see if other people had written about that phenomenon.  The very first thing that came up in my search results was an article about "Overweight Haters Ltd".  Prior to yesterday, I had not heard of this London group, whose members were known for passing out cards on The Tube to people they deemed to be too fat.

Three years ago, health worker Kara Florish was riding the subway when someone handed her a card.  On one side of the card was the word "FAT".  On the other side, Florish read about Overweight Haters Ltd's disgusting philosophy.  The card read:

Our organisation hates and resents fat people. We object to the enormous amount of food resources you consume while half the world starves. We disapprove of your wasting NHS (National Health Service) money to treat your selfish greed. And we do not understand why you fail to grasp that by eating less you will be better off, slimmer, happy and find a partner who is not a perverted chubby-lover, or even find a partner at all.
We also object that the beatiful (sic) pig is used as an insult. You are not a pig. You are a fat, ugly human.

I told Bill about this "group" last night and fantasized about the best way to strike back against these vile people who think they have the right to humiliate other people.  The first thing that came to mind was to start screaming "Rape!"  Imagine how that would go over, especially if the ballsy git was still trapped on the train between stops.  People who are mean and hateful are usually also massive cowards.  They probably wouldn't enjoy having the tables turned, especially since their aim is to embarrass and shame people they despise on sight.

We didn't linger too long on this topic, though, because we then started talking about Randa Jarrar and all the comments she got about her looks and weight.  So many people were focused on Jarrar's sex appeal (or lack thereof) rather than her comments.  It seemed to me that Jarrar probably made those statements because of where she's from and what she's seen.  She grew up in Egypt and Palestine and likely has personal experience with the Bush family's policies.

Bill and I were reminded of last December, when Bill, his mom, and I went to Berlin and met an Egyptian man who vented about the state of things in his home country.  The man made some anti-American sentiments that probably would have offended a lot of people.  To be honest, that conversation was kind of uncomfortable, although it did provide food for thought.

I read that Randa Jarrar is much beloved by many of her students, who describe her as very kind and caring.  I see on, she gets an overall rating of 4.8 out of a possible 5.  She is described as "engaging", "funny", and "encouraging".  Moreover, she does have tenure, which means she must have been doing something right before her rant about the Bush family.  Does she deserve to lose her entire career because of her admittedly mean comments about Barbara Bush's death?  Is she still an excellent professor, even though she posted some crass tweets about the Bush family?  I think she probably still is.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  It seems like for some people, the worst thing a woman can be is "fat", "ugly", and "opinionated".  I don't really have an opinion about Randa Jarrar's looks.  I focused more on what she tweeted.  I'm sure she has personal reasons for posting as she did.  Her reasons are probably rooted in experience, the same way our Egyptian bartender in Berlin had personal reasons for his comments.  Randa Jarrar may not be "eye candy" for everyone on the planet, but what person is?  And why does her appearance matter, anyway?  If you're not interested in her romantically or sexually, how is that relevant to what she says?  Is her intrinsic value as a person or lack thereof only tied to how "hot" she is?

If you happen to be a woman who doesn't fit a certain beauty standard, some people feel that they have every right to tear you down, even if they don't know you personally.  A few will go as far as presenting you with something truly hateful, like a card from "Overweight Haters Ltd."  I have to wonder what damaged these people so much that they feel they have the right to do this to innocent folks going on about their business.  In Kara Florish's case, she wasn't even daring to speak out about anything.  She was simply riding the train and living life.

Florish wasn't the only one who got a card.  Below is an account from another news article.

“Young man just got on train at Oxford Circus, gave printed card saying YOU’RE FAT to overweight girl. He jumped off. She read it, [and] cried.

“Am 99.9% sure this wasn’t staged. She didn’t even realise I was watching at first. Her stunned, desolate reaction was very real. Then tears.”

Knox described the man who handed over the card as a “hipster.. smartly, trendily dressed” with a beard. “Perhaps it was a piece of conceptual art,” he tweeted

“It lasted a few seconds, but the card in that photo [Florish’s] is the same card I saw, in the girl’s hand. And her shock was real.”

I can't help but conjure up delicious fantasies of turning the tables on cruel people-- particularly men-- who hold women in such deep contempt that they feel emboldened to make comments about the woman's looks.  Personally, I have a feeling that men who do this are extremely frustrated and threatened by women.  Most straight men I know are captivated by the parts of a woman that make her female.  Some of them seem to think a woman who dares to be unattractive, yet has a vagina-- which many men are obsessed with accessing-- needs to be set straight.  It's like some of these guys only value a woman for the parts that will make them feel good.  She's no good for anything else.  If she has the nerve to have and express her opinions, she needs to be knocked down and put in her place.  And some of these men lack the intellect to be able to go head to head with an intelligent female.  So instead of trying to engage her with their minds, they make personal, sexist, demeaning, and humiliating comments about her appearance.  I think it's sad.  

Anyway, after Bill and I started discussing Randa Jarrar, he went on a long-winded lecture about religion and how religion paints women as "temptresses" who need to be covered up, controlled, and shamed into submission.  For the record, Bill disagrees with that mindset.  It's at times like these that I really appreciate my husband, who is truly smarter than the average guy.  He's smart enough to know that even the most beautiful woman will one day grow older and will likely gain weight.  She'll see her breasts sag and her skin wrinkle.  Her hair will turn grey and she might lose her libido.  He's smart enough to understand that the sexiest part of a person is their mind.

Randa Jarrar obviously has a fine mind, even if I question the wisdom of tweeting her thoughts about Barbara Bush.  But despite the fact that I disagree with her comments on the Bush family, she did at least inspire me twice.  So, for that reason, I'm glad she voiced her opinions.  More women should speak up and out against men who value women solely for sexual purposes.  And more women should call out cowardly men who dare to try to humiliate them publicly simply for living life in a body that they don't find attractive.

Suicidal parents...

Yesterday, someone shared a heartbreaking story about a four year old girl whose father killed himself on the day after her very first ballet lesson.  The story was accompanied by a picture of the gorgeous little blonde girl, her eyes bright and shining with excitement.  She wore a black leotard and matching skirt.  She looked like a perfect angel, full of hope and great expectations for the future.  She had no way of knowing that the very next day, her beloved father would die by his own hand.  Her face was probably a lot dimmer for a long time after that sad occasion.

I read the story and connected with it, mostly because of the beautiful picture of the little girl who now grieves for her daddy.  The girl's mother, Nik Tebbe, implored suicidal people-- particularly parents-- to "stay" for their children's sakes.

This morning, I saw that a Facebook friend shared the below photo.  It might have been because she saw the story I shared about the little girl whose father committed suicide and the pleas for suicidal parents to "stay" so their children won't have to grieve.  I could be wrong, but I'm going to assume this is a passive rebuttal to Nik Tebbe's viral post.

To be honest, I kind of agree with this... but...

I guess I'm lucky because at this point, no one I've ever loved has killed themselves.  However, I'm also not lucky, because I have struggled with suicidal ideation myself.  I have been clinically depressed and I understand the feelings of hopelessness and despair that can come from extreme depression and anxiety.  I also understand that most people who are suicidal are not necessarily in their right minds.  I don't mean they're "crazy" per se-- it's more that they don't see the big picture.  I think people who are severely depressed develop a kind of single-minded tunnel vision that convinces them that there's nothing beyond the bleakness of crippling depression.  I can understand why my Facebook friend shared the above post.  I don't think that most people who kill themselves are necessarily "selfish".

Of course, there are some people who commit or attempt suicide for truly selfish reasons.  My husband's ex wife, for instance, reportedly attempted suicide when Bill's younger daughter decided to leave home.  I don't believe for a millisecond that she was truly suicidal.  I think she did that for manipulative purposes, to get the attention and control she craves.  Sometimes people attempt suicide because they want to control others and they end up succeeding, against their best laid plans.  That didn't happen in Bill's ex wife's case, but it could have.  I'm sure her children would have been devastated, even if they do seem to be onto her ploys.

But-- those who are suffering from clinical depression, and aren't just narcissists looking for attention, truly don't see suicide as a selfish thing to do.  In fact, a lot of suicidal people either think everyone would be better off without them, or are in so much psychic pain that they simply just want it to end, the same way a person with extreme physical pain just wants it to end.  They don't see any way to stop that pain other than hastening their own deaths.  So yes, I get that suicidal people need love and support and should be encouraged to "stay" for themselves instead of for other people.

I can also understand why Nik Tebbe wrote what she did.  She has a beautiful little girl who will never really know her father.  That girl is now seven years old and has lived almost half her life without her dad.  I'm sure it's absolutely heartbreaking to see such a young child grieve.  I see from the comments left on Tebbe's post that a whole lot of people commiserate.  Many people have lost a parent to suicide and have had to deal with that pain.  Some wrote that they lost a parent to suicide at a time when there was no support available to them.  They had no one with whom to talk about it and were left to muddle through as best they could.  So yes, I can also see why someone would be inspired to post about how suicide affects those left behind.  And I understand why people get angry at those who kill themselves and think of them as "selfish".

If you haven't been extremely depressed and obsessed with the idea of checking out early, you might not understand why suicide looks like a good idea.  It's hard to fathom that level of despondency if you haven't experienced it firsthand.  I don't believe I ever truly got to the point at which I started developing plans to die, but I do remember feeling very hopeless and helpless.

There were nights I drove home from my job in Williamsburg, crossed the Coleman Bridge and had fleeting thoughts of simply driving off of it.  Fortunately, I never completely lost my sense of self-preservation before the right antidepressant did its work.  I also had a great therapist and the ability to pay for his services.  If I hadn't, I don't know if I would have "checked out early".  I probably wouldn't have, but I can't say that for sure.  I did go through some very dark days.  I don't have any children and, at that time, didn't have a husband or a boyfriend.  I couldn't see the point of sticking around.  Now that I'm better, I guess I'm glad I didn't off myself, although sometimes I still have days where I wonder what the point of living is.  I would probably feel differently if I had a child...  or maybe not.

I know I've mentioned this on my blog before, but for this post, I'm going to repeat it.  Taking Wellbutrin taught me that clinical depression truly is a biological illness.  Four days after my first dose, I started feeling better.  Within a few weeks, I was able to set plans in motion to change the course of my life.  Within six months, those plans were in action and things were improving.  Within nine months, I met Bill online for the very first time.  Three years after that, we were married.

It's been a long time since I last felt really depressed and suicidal, but I haven't forgotten the feelings that come from it.  I have not forgotten how scary and overwhelming the prospect of getting help was, how paralyzed I often felt, or the hell I went through before we found the right drug.  Some people never find the right drug.  Sometimes depression, like any malignant cancer, is deadly.

So... while I agree with the sentiments in the above picture, I also understand why Nik Tebbe pleads with suicidal parents to think once more about the children who will be left behind before they do anything drastic.  It will have an effect on them.  They probably won't be "better off" without their parent.  I say "probably" only because I think there are some very rare situations in which the death of a parent truly can be a blessing.  However, even in those cases, there will very likely be ripple effects that will impact future generations for years to come.

And I guess I'm glad I'm still here to be able to ponder this.  

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Farewell, Barbara Bush... too bad people are so rude...

I'm continuing on this week's "rudeness" theme with a story I read last night.  Randa Jarrar, who teaches creative writing at California State University at Fresno, had a very rude reaction to former First Lady Barbara Bush's recent passing.  The professor tweeted "Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal.”

The professor then began to deal with the immediate backlash in the Twitterverse, engaging for hours in online arguments with people who took exception to her harsh criticism.  When more than 2000 people responded to Jarrar, she made her Twitter account private.  Some people were upset that Jarrar had insulted a much beloved American First Lady.  Others were upset that she had spoken ill of the dead.

Jarrar then pointed to the backlash as an example of what it's like to be an Arab American Muslim woman spouting an opinion.  Then, she taunted her critics by telling them she has tenure at the university and "will never be fired."  She also revealed that she makes over $100,000 a year, which probably doesn't go very far in Fresno.  But then, I've never been to California, so what do I know?

Randa Jarrar certainly has every right to speak her mind.  But what she says makes me question the wisdom of the university's decision to grant her tenure.  While she might have talent as a teacher of creative writing, she doesn't seem to have very much common sense.  However, I give her props for her practical joking skills.  Jarrar offered a contact number that turned out to be Arizona State University's suicide hotline.

Joseph Castro, president of Fresno State, clarified that Jarrar's comments were "beyond free speech."  He also said, "A professor with tenure does not have blanket protection to say and do what they wish.  We are all held accountable for our actions.”

So... it may turn out that Jarrar will eat her words.  It already appears that she's paying a price for what she tweeted.  Jarrar was scheduled to be the headline speaker at this Saturday's LitHop 2018 in Fresno, but it appears now that she's decided not to attend.  That may be because she's gotten threats due to her comments.  No matter what Jarrar said, it's wrong for people to threaten her life for saying them.  In fact, I'd say death threats over free speech are distinctly unAmerican.

I'll be honest.  When Donald Trump kicks the bucket, I doubt I'll shed a tear.  However, I think it's very crass to publicly denigrate people who have just died.  Barbara Bush may have been the mother of one of the least popular presidents in U.S. history, but she was herself a very classy and gracious woman who spoke her mind with intelligence and wit.  Moreover, while the Bush family is not universally adored, they are a hell of a lot classier than the people who are currently installed in the White House.  Of course, that's just my opinion.

I noticed a lot of my friends posted about how much they admired Barbara Bush.  To be honest, I didn't have any really strong feelings about her one way or the other... at least not until I read some of the stories posted about her in the news.  I read about her little daughter, Robin, who died of leukemia when she was just three years old.  The New York Times reran an op-ed about Mrs. Bush, inspired by comments from Jenna and Barbara Bush, George W. Bush's twin daughters.  Both stories reveal a classy woman who did things her own way.

I think Professor Jarrar's comments are indicative of how civility is eroding in the United States.  I often post about conservative rants I get from my relatives or see posted on social media and just how tacky people can get when it comes to politics.  But I see that liberals can be just as tacky as conservatives are.  Even if there was a scintilla of truth to Jarrar's comments, Barbara Bush was still a human being who had family and friends who will no doubt miss her very much.  Jarrar should have shown more class.  It may turn out that thanks to her decision to throw shade on her university, she might end up with less class.

I see that many people bashing Jarrar are referring to her size and calling her names like "fat cow".  The comments below are just a few I found on one article about the professor's ill advised tweeting.  Why is it when people want to criticize a woman for saying something controversial, they attack her looks?  Isn't it enough to condemn Jarrar's statements?  Why is there even a need to mention what she looks like or comment on her sex life (or lack thereof)?  These comments certainly drive home that the worst thing a woman can be is "fat", "ugly", and "opinionated".

A fat, repulsive cow - ugly both inside and out. No man in his right mind would ever touch her. Thinks making 100K at Fresno State is something amazing.

she sure is a "full figured" hippo

No Doubt....underlaid and overpaid....poster child for a spoiled, snively BITCH!

A "double burka" for sure!

She could use a burka to improve her appearance somewhat.

Water retentive bitch leaves a trail of slime everywhere she goes

Wow what a fat discusting piece of shit she is. Hopefully, her enlarged heart gives out before she can spew her bullshit again.

I couldn't resist adding my own comment.  I'll probably regret it.  Some loser will probably send me a hateful private message calling me fat and ugly.  But here it is, for those who are curious.

Interesting that so many people (mostly men) feel the need to comment on the professor's looks and weight. Isn't it enough to condemn her mean-spirited remarks without calling her "fat", "ugly", and "repulsive"? These comments really drive home the point that, to some people, "fat, ugly, and opinionated" are apparently the worst things a woman can be. Personally, I think Jarrar was absolutely wrong to post her disgusting rant about Barbara Bush, but these comments about her appearance and sex life offer a clue as to why she's so hateful.

Anyway...  I hope Barbara Bush is now enjoying her reward.  If there is something out there beyond this life, I hope she's found it... and perhaps is back with her lost daughter, Robin.  Rest in peace, Mrs. Bush.  Godspeed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The other "n" word...

Another issue came up during the discussion about people who "ghost" others after unsuccessful dates and get billed.  This issue is kind of related in an oblique way, and I have a feeling that the person who is prompting this post might be annoyed that I'm writing about it.  I'm going to do it anyway, because it's on my mind.

During the early part of the discussion about the woman who was billed after she ghosted her date, a man I'll call "PC" commented that the guy who billed the woman for ghosting him was acting like a "Neanderthal".  I thought that was an interesting remark, mainly because PC has said on more than one occasion that he thinks it's important to be "PC" (politically correct).  In that situation, PC was writing about a guy who had unfriended and blocked him on Facebook because their political views didn't align.  Apparently, the un-PC guy was using language that was objectionable to the PC guy.

PC and I had a Facebook discussion about political correctness.  I wrote that I don't believe being "PC" is always the best thing.  I still feel that way.  While I think it's good to be mindful of language and not use it to hurt other people, I also think sometimes you can go too far when you try to be too politically correct.  It can be very stifling to the freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas.  I think it can also dumb down society.  However, I also don't like hypocrisy or double standards.  So, when PC referred to the guy who billed his bad date as a "Neanderthalic idiot", I decided to speak up.

You see, according to 23andme, I have a LOT of Neanderthal ancestry.  In fact, they say I have more than 89% of their current customers.

You see?  I discovered this about myself in September 2017, four years after I wrote a post referring to certain types of men as "Neanderthals"...

Although I am myself guilty of referring to certain types of people as "Neanderthals", I have since come to learn that the term is actually based in ignorance.  Back in the 19th century, when the skulls of Neanderthals were first found, the thinking was that the shape of a person's skull gave clues as to his or her intellect and morality.  That idea was even pushed by the physicians of that time.  Since Neanderthals had oddly shaped skulls, people thought they were primitive and simple.  More modern research has indicated that Neanderthals were not "stupid", "backwards", or "uncivilized".  From the link in this paragraph:

“To use the word [Neanderthal] to mean ‘brutish and stupid’ is really kind of baseless.” As we learn more about Neanderthals, the opposite picture emerges—recent studies indicate they likely used materials from their environment to start fires faster, hunted large animals, and cave-painted with the best of them, all signs of cognitive complexity. Besides, we mated with them for tens of thousands of years. Neanderthal contributions to the human genome have been “really useful,” especially immunologically..." 

Evelyn Jagoda, who at the time the article was written in 2016, was a Ph.D. student at Harvard University's Human Evolutionary Biology Department.     

Since I am myself full of Neanderthal heritage, it would be stupid for me to continue to use that term as a pejorative.  I'd basically be cutting myself down.  And since I don't like double standards and hypocrisy, it would be against my policy to not speak up when someone else uses it, particularly when he or she has been very vocal about other folks using certain racist pejoratives.  

To be honest, my initial comments to PC about Neanderthals were intended to be funny.  I wasn't seriously busting his chops about using the term because I knew what he meant, and I was sure he wasn't actually being hateful.  Lots of people-- and I mean otherwise very intelligent folks like journalists and bloggers-- use that term.  It will probably continue to mean "caveman-like" for as long as I'm living.  And, hey, at least there aren't any true Neanderthals still walking the Earth that will be offended by the reckless use of that term.  I'm not on a mission to squelch the word or even to shame people who use it.  I was really just having a little fun.

However, PC did get upset that I called him out... or, at least that's how it seemed.  His tone turned pissy and sarcastic and, frankly, it annoyed me.  It was especially annoying when he accused me of wanting to "jump" on him about his comments on being PC.  I promise, that is the last thing I want to do.  I really don't enjoy drama or confrontation that much.  But I also don't enjoy hypocrisy or people assuming they know what's on my mind.  Chances are, if you stick around long enough, you'll find out exactly what's on my mind, whether you want to or not.  And if you're really lucky, I'll write a blog post about you.  :-)

Anyway, he later came back to resume the discussion.  It was after nine and I'd had dinner and a couple of beers.  I'd pretty much forgotten about the discussion and was looking forward to going to bed, so when he left another comment, I responded, "Fine.  I don't care."  Because at that point, I really didn't.  In fact, I had actually posted earlier that I don't care if he uses the term, "Neanderthal".  I was simply making a point about the careless use of pejoratives.  He regularly preaches about not using hateful terms like the "n-word" for black people or the "k-word" for Jewish people.  In the same vein, lots of folks have Neanderthal roots and aren't "loutish, primitive, or backwards."  When you call someone a Neanderthal or refer to Neanderthal behavior, you may be insulting someone who is completely innocent.  

For the record-- no, I don't think the term "Neanderthal" is as hateful as the "n-bomb", the "k-word". the "r-word", or even the "c-word", but if you think about it, it's just as ignorant and wrong to use that term as it is the better known pejoratives.  And now that more people are learning about their actual origins, the term "Neanderthal" as an insult might even become taboo someday.  

It really hadn't been my intention for this discussion to blow up as it had.  Originally, I was pretty much joking.  It annoyed me to see it turn into something ugly and I was relieved when it died, as PC evidently had to go to work.  So then later, when PC wanted to know why I posted my comments, I responded in an admittedly bitchy way... because to me, it was kind of obvious, and I was done with the topic.  It had been seven hours since the last comment, I was about to go to bed, and frankly, it wasn't really that important-- certainly not important enough for me to continue discussing it and messing up my peace before bedtime.  

To add insult to injury, about an hour later, I was lying in bed reading and another guy wanted to get me into a discussion about the woman who had "ghosted" the guy.  I feel pretty sure that he didn't see that I had just told PC that it was bedtime, so I responded thusly.

Hey. It’s 10:00pm and I’m trying to read. I do not want to argue about this right now, okay? And I am not obligated to. Leave me alone.

I don't know why, but I've run out of patience with a lot of people recently, especially on social media.  It could be that I need a vacation or maybe my hormones are out of whack.  But, for some reason, I'm caring less about whether or not I offend people.  I might find myself with fewer "friends" soon, which might not be a bad thing.  I'd rather have a couple of good friends than a lot of friends with whom I can't be honest.

At the same time, I think people in America forget that I'm at least six hours ahead of them.  When they're just getting off work, I'm about to go to sleep.  Since I read on my iPad, I get Facebook notifications.  I should probably turn them off or, better yet, go back to reading actual books.  Or even better than that, get off of Facebook...  but that probably won't happen.