Friday, March 1, 2019

No more encores...

Sung to James Taylor's version of "The Water is Wide"...

My "Blogger" has died...
Time to cross over.
And try again on a brand new space.
No need to haunt my former site.
Don't try to fish, cuz I won't bite.

There is a place...
Where I've settled in.
I've paid the price
WordPress for the win.
I've locked down posts
that might cause me grief.
I'm turning over
A brand new leaf.

Oh, write I must
it keeps me sane.
I love to vent
in sunshine or rain.
The time has come
to make this change.
A brand new blog
I've now arranged.

So come along...
if you feel you must.
This blog is gone...
turning to dust.

This blog is done...
it's going bust.

Apologies to all James Taylor fans and anyone else who loves his version of "The Water is Wide".  I just felt like making my last post on this blog more creative than usual.  If the player doesn't work and you want to hear my creation, click here.

I'd like to explain my sudden departure here, but unfortunately, Blogger simply isn't secure enough.  I'd actually been wanting to change venues for awhile now, but a recent issue has forced my hand.  So yes, it's true.  I've moved this blog to a new site.  For the time being, I'll leave my travel and music blogs on Blogger.

Many thanks to the "regulars" who are still visiting every day, looking for an update.  I appreciate the hits.

Thursday, February 21, 2019


This blog has moved.  If you want to know where, hit me up on Facebook.  New comments are no longer allowed here.  If there's something you wish to comment on from this blog, feel free to do so on the official Overeducated Housewife Facebook page.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Suicide brings out the assholes in people...

A couple of days ago, I came across an article in the Army Times about the tragic death of a soldier.  21 year old Private Aaron Mitchell had come home to Nebraska from South Korea after his husband, 21 year old Rich Rosa, committed suicide.  Mitchell was granted leave for the funeral.  Twelve days later, on February 5th, Mitchell was found dead in Valley, Nebraska.  He had also committed suicide.

Mitchell had only been in the Army since May 2018.  He was stationed at Camp Henry in South Korea, where he worked as a mortuary affairs specialist.  As far as I know, there's no explanation as to why Mitchell and Ross killed themselves.  That's not really the point of my post today, anyway.  As usual, I made the mistake of reading some of the comments.  A few were respectful and expressed condolences to the family.  Too many were mean-spirited and hostile.

The very first comment I read on Army Times was this one:

All you people with an opinion on this, if you've never served, you are outside your lane. You often live with lots of other people at very close quarters, little things get magnified, and whether you think so or not, or want it to be, being a homo is a big deal in the military. Less so in some kinds of units maybe, medical units have anecdotally always been an area they gravitate to. The Infantry is a different world from the world the REMF's live in.

There's enough BS in the military without having to deal with this kind of crap. The military does not need the freaks, the freaks need the military to prove to themselves they are normal. In most cases it does not work and becomes an issue for everyone involved. Who thinks the military benefitted by letting Bradley Manning enlist? No one, probably not even him.

Notice this person, who claims to have served, refers to "homos", "freaks", "REMFs", and people needed to "prove to themselves they are normal."  It was this comment, along with others, that caused me to remark on Facebook that I think it's a shame that there are so many people affiliated with the military who are homophobic and/or think suicide is funny.  

One of my friends, married to a general, commented that she doesn't know anyone in the military who is like this.  Unfortunately, I have run into quite a few service members who behave this way and have this despicable attitude.  I also have a gay cousin who honorably served eight years as a Marine officer in the infantry.  Being gay doesn't make a person unfit for military service, nor does it make someone a freak.

This is another comment someone left:

Hey Army Times, don’t pee on my head and tell me it’s raining. Notwithstanding the fact that Oblammer did much to destroy the Espirit de corps of the armed forces with nonsense that you now promote, or what former Justice Kennedy says about the institution of marriage, this homosexual relationship was NOT marriage. It is a moral deficiency now compounded by 2 more moral failings. Suicide is not an option that we should promote...unless and until our betters give their blessing. Then...wa-la, problem solved!

Suicide is a huge problem in the military.  It doesn't just affect homosexuals.  However, if you happen to be gay and in the military, you run into assholes like the above commenter who thinks he's a bad motherfucker being a homophobic moron.  I was glad to see some commenters taking the assholes to task over this, but I am also sad to see that the above comment got five "likes" from like-minded, small-minded bigots.  

I don't know what comes first with these people.  Are they heartless assholes before they get indoctrinated, or does military training turn them into these people?  My guess is that they're ignorant and heartless when they join, since I do know a lot of service members who would never make these kinds of vile comments in the wake of someone's suicide.  What a shame the military doesn't screen out these people... but then, there are quite a few stupid folks who join up because they can shoot a weapon and blow up stuff.

My heart goes out to the family and friends of these two men who died much too young.  Shame on those who lack the humanity to feel compassion for other people who are hurting.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

In France...

We found a quiet little town to spend President's Day weekend.  I suspect we'll spend some time shopping for wine and gourmet delights.  Hopefully, we'll find something interesting in one of the bigger towns near here.

The house we're in is historic and adorable, but all there is here is a bakery, convenience store, and a butcher.  I think there might be a school, too.

Our drive here was mostly pleasant.  We had great weather.  I think we'll continue to have good weather this weekend, although the house is pretty cold because it's old and I don't think anyone's been in it recently.

I'm going to try to enjoy our weekend... because when we get back to Germany, we have some business to attend to.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Is speaking Spanish in Montana illegal?

This morning, as I was basking in the afterglow of last night's fabulous meal, I started reading the news and came across a report out of Montana.  It seems that last May, Americans Martha Hernandez and Ana Suda were at the grocery store buying eggs and milk at a store in Havre.  While they were shopping, they spoke Spanish to each other.

Border Patrolman Paul O'Neal, no doubt descended from Irish people who were once not very welcome in America, approached Hernandez and Suda and demanded to see their I.D.s.  He wanted to know if they were citizens because he'd heard them speaking Spanish.  And, he claims, Spanish is not widely spoken in Montana, which must mean these two women aren't Americans.  But then, the state’s name, Montana, is derived from Spanish, is it not?

The ladies filmed O'Neal, who said that he hadn't racially profiled them.  But the reason he detained them was because they were speaking Spanish.  And that, apparently, was reason enough for him to interrogate them.

Not surprisingly, the American Civil Liberties Union, affectionately known as the ACLU, has now sued the U.S. Customs and Border Protection on behalf of Hernandez and Suda.  The language in the lawsuit reminds us that the United States has no official language and the country is multi-lingual, multi-cultural, and multi-ethnic.  Furthermore, plenty of American citizens lack fluency in English, just as plenty of non U.S. citizens speak English with ease.

As I was reading about this case, I wondered if Mr. O'Neal would have stopped me for questioning if I had been in Montana speaking Spanish.  I don't speak Spanish fluently at all, but what if I did?  What if I spoke German or Armenian, two other languages I've studied.  What if I had chosen to speak any of those languages with someone else at the grocery store?  Would Mr. O'Neal have detained me and asked me where I was born?  My guess is that he wouldn't.

I have blonde hair, blue eyes, and apparently most importantly, white skin.  However, according to 23andMe, my origins aren't actually American.  I am 99.8% European, which means that I am actually living in the land from where my ancestors came-- although I'd need to be in the United Kingdom or Ireland to really be where I "belong".  Of course, I'm not a U.K. or Irish citizen, despite looking and speaking the part (albeit with an American accent).  I have never been stopped or asked for my papers in either of those countries, though, apart from when I was at an actual border checkpoint at the airport.

You can't tell me that O'Neal stopped those women for any reason other than racial profiling.  They speak fluent Spanish and they have the darker features that come from having a Latin heritage.  And yet, Suda was born in El Paso, Texas, and Hernandez was born in El Centro, California.  And, as we all know, thanks to the 14th Amendment, being born in the United States automatically makes one an American citizen.

It really is troubling to read so many stories of people being harassed as they go about their daily business, simply because of Donald Trump's wide sweeping racism toward people who come from south of the border.  I think Mr. O'Neal could use more training on the policies of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which forbid stopping or detaining someone solely based on their race or ethnicity.  I wonder if border patrol officers are being rewarded for how many "illegals" they bring in.  Are they really so gung ho to round up people who aren't citizens that they round up anyone who just happens to look different from a stereotypical American?

I think the saddest thing about this story is that these women have now been facing harassment in their neighborhoods.  And Suda's daughter was so upset about what happened to her mother while shopping that she is afraid to speak Spanish.  That's a real shame, because God knows Americans could use more multi-lingual citizens... especially those who aren't completely ethnocentric.  Shame on Paul O'Neal.  I hope these ladies win big in their lawsuit.

We're off to France today... hoping for a good time.  I doubt we'll be profiled while we're there, either.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

People who don't answer the question...

A couple of days ago, I was lurking on the Cruise Critic messageboards when I noticed a thread called "Baby Mama".  A poster named lyannea explained that her nephew has a son with a woman with whom he is no longer romantically involved.  The woman wants to take their son on a cruise that will take place during the first week of school.  For some reason, the son and the "baby mama" have never drawn up any legal paperwork detailing the boy's custody.  After she set up the scenario, lyannea asked "Does Baby Mama need any papers from nephew, the father - okaying the trip?"

I must admit, as someone whose husband has two daughters he was not allowed to help raise, I was curious about this thread.  I have noticed a lot of people in divorce situations ask about taking children on cruises.  Cruise lines and airlines have rules and procedures in place for good reason.  They don't want to be a party to kidnapping in a child custody dispute.

Sometimes public forums bring out people's "Dr. Phil"...

I was not surprised, though, when many posters offered judgment and commentary on the nephew's situation rather than simply answering the question.  The first two comments were somewhat reasonable, but the third one was posted by someone making assumptions.  Poster "dolittle" wrote this:

Tell your nephew to get over the ''I was not asked first's'' and do what is best for his kid .Give them what they need and wish them a good time . Missing the first week of school is not a big deal . In these situations it is best to be the bigger(better) person.

I was rather impressed by lyannea's measured responses, as poster after poster passed judgment on her and her nephew.  Very few people simply answered her question.  Instead, they added other, irrelevant shit or made comments and assumptions about a situation that doesn't involve them personally and is really none of their business.  lyannea does continue to add a bit of information and some of her comments indicate her personal feelings about the situation.  For example, she writes that the mother is "unstable" and has "been known to lie" on occasion.  Maybe she shouldn't have posted those details, since they seemed to be bait people who felt the need to pass judgment.  

dolittle comes back with this:  

Maybe I am off base but it seems like you and he are looking for reasons to say NO to this trip . I hope you do not spoil the fun of a 10 year old and his new family. As Dr. Phil says sometimes you need to be the hero.

I must admit, anyone who quotes Dr. Phil as they offer advice is not exactly someone I would consider a font of wisdom.  And actually, I think missing the first week of school is a big deal.  Education is important.  

Another poster wrote this:

Why isn't your "nephew" seeking to establish his legal and parental rights himself? You seem to be more interested than he. "The mother is unstable". "The mother lies". Well, it seems to me that the father is uninterested and irresponsible.

It seems to me that the poster doesn't know the people involved.  I know a lot of people have read my blog posts and think I'm just a bitter, angry second wife, and they assume my husband is an irresponsible asshole (which he is so not!).  I can admit to being bitter and angry.  On the other hand, my husband's ex wife really is certifiably crazy.  I think I have a good reason to be bitter and angry toward my husband's ex wife because she denied him access to his children and tried to mess up his relationships with his own family.  The same could be true for the nephew in this situation, too.  There's really no telling.  We don't know the people involved.  To her credit, lyannea very patiently posts this response:

Thank you for answering my question about what papers, if any, he would have to submit for the cruise.

It’s difficult to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, as we all know, without judgement

Have a great Sunday

I give her credit for not losing her cool.  She may have ranted offline, of course, but her response to the judgmental bullshit is admirable.  I am impressed.

But then, more judgment follows, and lyannea posts this...

She very diplomatically calls people out for passing judgment and even self-criticizes her choice to provide too many details.

And still, the judgment continues... and this is on Cruise Critic, of all places!

I think the commenter should "butt out", but that's just me...

Interestingly enough, the other posters start to come to lyannea's defense.  Check this out.

After this comment, lyannea says that they are not worried that the mom won't bring the child back.  She has a job that she won't want to lose.

And someone else besides me notices how civilized lyannea is.  

Although she might think twice about asking such a question on Cruise Critic.  It's a huge community and some people are more contentious than others are.

But then someone blames lyannea again... and she kind of throws a little shade.

This topic comes up because I notice in a lot of online communication, people don't simply answer the question.  For example, yesterday, someone the mast cell cancer Facebook group I'm in asked if anyone had ever used Hemp My Pet.  I was the first one to respond.  I wrote that I have given both of my dogs Hemp My Pet and it's a good product.

The people who responded after me, however, suggested other things.  No one answered the original question about Hemp My Pet.  Instead, it was suggestions to use frankincense or other CBD or hemp products.  What is it about online communication that prevents people from simply answering the questions asked?  I don't know.  Maybe the woman in the Cruise Critic thread who pointed out that messageboards and Facebook tend to bring out people's inner Dr. Phil or Dear Abby.  I'm sure we're all guilty of posting too much information or getting too judgmental.

I know I add too many details sometimes because I like to write and I think details are what provide an accurate picture.  I also think details are interesting.  But I know that the more detail you add, the more likely someone will get a picture you weren't trying to paint.  

Years ago, people on Recovery from Mormonism were pretty brutal whenever I posted about Bill's situation.  But then, after time passed and people got to know us, the responses softened.  A few people got to know me on Facebook and have actually seen pictures of Bill.  I think the ones with him and our dogs especially show what a kind, loving, decent, and reasonable person he is.  But with no context other than what's written, people tend to assume the worst.  I fear that must have been what happened with lyannea and her posts about her nephew.  He could be an irresponsible and uninvolved father... or he could be in a situation more like Bill's was.  But people love to project their shit onto others and get things twisted.

Well... it's Valentine's Day and I'm not sure we have anything going on.  Tomorrow, we're headed to France for the weekend.  We're bringing the dogs.  Hopefully, we'll have fun... or, at least a few croissants.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Rose McGowan's BRAVE...

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, before I read her 2018 book, BRAVE, I wasn't at all familiar with Rose McGowan's career.  Rose McGowan now bills herself as a "former actress".  Now that I've read her book, I can see why she's supposedly left Hollywood. Her book, BRAVE, is mostly a tale about an industry that abuses and exploits women.  As I was reading the last pages of her story, I recognized the crescendo that can come from a person who is gathering steam, telling off someone whose had it coming for a really long time.

Rose McGowan was born September 5, 1973 to her American parents, Daniel and Terri McGowan, in Certaldo, Tuscany, Italy.  Her parents were members of the sex cult, Children of God.  The late actor River Phoenix, and his famous siblings, Summer, Joaquin, Liberty, and Rain, were also in the Children of God.  I was interested in reading more about this cult, which seems to have attracted so many talented people and enticed them to live a life of poverty and exploitation for its charismatic leader, the late David Berg.

McGowan's family left the cult when she was still a child.  Her parents were abusive and neglectful, and after they left Italy, she had a very troubled upbringing in the Pacific Northwest and Colorado.  She was shuffled between her parents, both of whom were apparently kind of "fucked up".  Her mother was a writer and her father was an artist.  It was through her father that Rose McGowan got her break into show business, first as a child model when she was still living in Italy.  When her parents divorced, McGowan's lifestyle became more troubled.  For a time, she was a runaway and associated with drag queens.  At 15, she became emancipated, and moved to Los Angeles.  She had her first credited film role in 1992, playing Nora in the movie Encino Man.

Despite her rather unconventional upbringing, McGowan was able to break into Hollywood.  She modeled and acted, appearing in Scream, and eventually becoming the "face" of the clothing brand Bebe.  She also made music, starting while she was dating Marilyn Manson.  

This sounds like the career of dreams for many ambitious people.  Rose McGowan has led a life of fame and fortune, rubbing elbows with legendary actors and musicians and having her face displayed on the covers of many magazines.  And yet, according to McGowan's book, BRAVE, the lifestyle apparently makes her miserable.  Actually, apparently, it's the men in the lifestyle that make her miserable.

Starting in the early 90s, when she was still somewhat unknown, McGowan dated a man who bought her exercise equipment and encouraged her to lose weight.  She writes that she felt like a "failure" when she couldn't manage to get below 92 pounds.  As she became more famous, she ended up in more abusive relationships with men, including one she refers to as RR (Robert Rodriguez).  She describes him as very possessive and obsessive.  One time, after working very hard all day on a movie set, she came home to find what appeared to be a man in her bed.  RR had put a male dummy in her bed with a cowboy hat, apparently to scare her if she'd come home with another man.

McGowan describes working with the director Quentin Tarantino on the film Death Proof.  She writes that Tarantino hates women.  Apparently, all of the women in his films, particularly the powerful ones, end up dying horrible, violent deaths.  McGowan writes that she tried to give her character, Pam, an "angelic" quality so that audiences would feel something for her when she inevitably dies.  I haven't seen Death Proof, so I have no idea if McGowan was able to pull off that quality in her character.  But I did find her comments about movie directors interesting.  She says you can tell how a director feels about women by how the female characters in their films are treated.

Of course, Rose McGowan also starred in the series Charmed, joining the cast after actress Shannen Doherty departed.  She played the long lost half-sister Paige Matthews.  I only saw a few episodes of Charmed, and I don't think they were the ones that included McGowan.  Still, I grew up with Aaron Spelling's television shows, so McGowan's comments on working on Charmed were interesting to me.  They kind of made me want to watch Charmed.  McGowan was not herself a viewer until she was asked to meet Aaron Spelling.  She writes that she watched the show's pilot while flying, and she has never seen Charmed offered on any other flight since then.  Apparently, being offered that role was like "kismet".

I would say BRAVE reads a bit like a manifesto.  McGowan rails against sexism in Hollywood, even comparing it to a cult.  She apparently doesn't like the constant pressure to be thin, beautiful, and accepting of the way women are treated by the men in charge.  It doesn't surprise me that Rose McGowan experienced sexism and sexual harassment in Hollywood.  And yet, so many people would trade places with Rose McGowan.  Regular people dream of being stars, even though she makes it sound like a miserable experience.  People don't realize that stars work very hard.  The hours are long and not that glamorous, and there's constant pressure to measure up to physical standards that are very difficult to maintain.  McGowan's disdain for the way her image was marketed to the masses is palpable.  This book is her way of calling out the industry.  She flat out writes that she "despises" Bill Cosby, and claims she faked an orgasm with Harvey Weinstein.  Both of these men have been accused by many women of exploiting them sexually.  For what, though... a career the women wanted in Hollywood?

To be honest, it took me awhile to get into BRAVE.  From the beginning, it's a very confrontational book to the point of being kind of unpleasant.  McGowan uses raw language and seems very angry, which isn't the most soothing thing to read before you go to sleep.  I usually read before sleeping, so McGowan's style was kind of jarring to me.  But then, as I kept reading, I found her book more interesting.  I think she really was brave to write it, given that she's been in an industry that blackballs people.  In fact, she writes that she was "blacklisted" at least once.  On the other hand, there were times as I read this book that I kind of felt like she had a choice.  Rose McGowan had a choice to leave Hollywood.  It wasn't like she was forced to be an actress or a model.  Like anyone else, she could choose to go a different way.  I suppose she kind of has with this book... but I won't be surprised if she eventually stops referring to herself as a "former" actress.

Anyway, if I were rating BRAVE, I'd give it 3.5 stars out of five.  I see that it's a pretty controversial book on Amazon, with people seeming to love it or hate it.  I thought it was reasonably well-written and interesting, but the writing is very much "in your face".  Some people will like that and others will not.  My guess is that Rose McGowan is a complicated and, probably, a very troubled woman.  McGowan seems to think all men are the same, which I think is a shame.  Not all men are abusive bastards.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

I've never been "prone" at the dentist's office...

I am currently reading actress Rose McGowan's book, BRAVE.  To be honest, I didn't know who Rose McGowan was before I picked up her book.  I never watched her on Charmed; I wasn't a fan of the movie, Scream (and don't even remember if I ever watched it); I don't follow Marilyn Manson; and looking at McGowan's page on, I don't even recognize anything she's been in since 2011.  I have heard of Law & Order, but have never watched the show.  I probably should watch Law & Order, because I probably would like it, but not because Rose McGowan was ever in it.

I picked up her book because someone in the Life is Not All Pickles and Hairspray Facebook group mentioned that Rose McGowan had been in the Children of God cult.  I recently wrote a couple of posts about that creepy sex cult that was big in the 1970s.  Rose McGowan is about my age, and she was born in Tuscany.  Why?  Because her parents were in that cult.  The Children of God sent members around the globe in an effort to recruit new people.  McGowan's parents must not have been as closed in to the compound as others in the Children of God cult were, as McGowan has actual memories of Italy instead of just the Children of God compound.

Fortunately for Rose McGowan, she wasn't forced to stay in that cult until she was an adult, as some others have been.  Her parents eventually moved to the Pacific Northwest, which McGowan hated after her time in Italy.  I can't blame her for that.  Italy is a magical place and the food is insanely good there.  I had to chuckle as McGowan described the first lasagna she ever encountered in the United States.  My very first memories are of England, not the United States (although I was born in Virginia).  I think it permanently affected my world view, just as Rose's world view seems to have been affected by having been born and spent her earliest years in Italy.

So anyway, I don't have too much longer to go before I'm finished with Rose's book.  I'm kind of glad I've been reading it, particularly since I also just read Justine Bateman's book about fame.  McGowan kind of echoes Bateman's comments about how fame isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be.  There is a definite downside to it.  Unfortunately, at this point, McGowan's comments about her experiences in show business are not what is sticking out the most to me about her book.

A few chapters ago, McGowan wrote about having visited the dentist, who was pressuring her to get her teeth the "Cadillac" treatment.  You know, a lot of people in Hollywood have perfect teeth that are straight and brilliantly white.  And this is part and parcel of being in show business, since people are always looking at your teeth when you're in a movie or on television, or even if you're photographed for a magazine or album cover.  McGowan's point was that this dentist was trying to pressure her into spending big bucks to repair her perfectly serviceable, but not quite perfect, teeth.  It's toxic to women, particularly those in entertainment, that so many of us are pressured to look beautiful all the time.

But... as she was explaining this very good point about how women in show business are objectified and pressured into staying as young and gorgeous as they can for as long as possible, McGowan wrote something along the lines of, "There I was, lying prone at the dentist's office..."

I had to stop and scratch my head at that.  In 46 years of life on this planet, I have never once been asked to lie prone at the dentist's office.  If I ever had been, I'd be concerned about the dentist's competence.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is what it looks like to be "prone", if you are writing or speaking about lying flat and you want to be accurate.

If you're lying flat, but face down, you are in a "prone" position.  I would hope your dentist wouldn't want you lying like this during your checkup.

I think the word McGowan was looking for was "supine".  

Yes... you want to be lying on your back so your dentist has access to the right hole.  I have altered the original version of this photo, which was generously made available in the public domain by user Asanagi.  Many thanks!

I will admit, I get hung up on these kinds of "trivial" things all the time.  It probably annoys a lot of people, especially on Facebook.  In fact, I remember recently getting into it with people in the Life is Not All Pickles and Hairspray Group about the proper way to spell HIPAA.  People got snippy with me about it, claiming it's not a big deal.  

Maybe it's not a big deal to you, but it is a big deal to me.  Words have meaning.  Spelling is important.  Word knowledge and proper usage is important.  If I ever get to a point at which something like this doesn't make me twitchy, it may be time for me to see a physician.  I know some people don't care about this, just like I don't care about dog hair in the doorway and my ex landlady does.  It's one of my quirks.  I also hate it when people use the word "utilize" when they could just as easily and more accurately employ the word "use".  Or when they write or say "jettisoned" when they actually mean "rocketed".  The word "jettison" is not akin to the word "jet".  Look it up.

Remember this photo, especially next time you see your dentist.  If he or she asks you to get into a prone position, you may wish to switch doctors.

Incidentally, this morning I became aware of a new book that I've decided I must own.  Although I doubt I'm quite the guru professional copywriter Benjamin Dreyer is, I think we may be spirit animals.  

I hope to finish Ms. McGowan's book today and perhaps I'll review it later today or maybe tomorrow.  There's more to it than just an improper use of the word "prone".  If I know myself, though, I will probably think of her next time I get a cleaning.

Monday, February 11, 2019


Bill is home and very jetlagged, but he went off to work this morning. I, too, and feeling a bit out of sorts on this Monday morning.  I probably need to finish reading my latest book so I can blog.  This morning, I'm not really feeling any burning topics to write about.

On Friday, we're headed to Robert-Espagne, France.  It's between Lorraine and Champagne, but I'm not sure what there is to do there.  I suspect we'll just enjoy a change of scenery.  I desperately need one.  In fact, I'd love to take a proper vacation somewhere, just Bill and me.  I need to get out of this rut I'm in.

It'll help when the weather gets better.  Yesterday, it rained all day.  We had a beautiful lunch in Wiesbaden, then hung out in the living room and enjoyed the lovebombing from the dogs.  Arran, in particular, was delighted to have Bill home again.

Anyway... I am ready to have some fun.  February in Germany is a bummer, mainly because of the icky weather.  Bring on spring flowers.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

How a Facebook chat convinced me to get VPN access...

As I write this, my husband is probably taxiing to the gate at the Frankfurt Airport.  He's been gone all week, and I've been filling my time with whatever I can.  I was completely sober all week, although I was feeling tempted to drink last night, mainly because I was bored.  I decided I'd rather not indulge, so I wouldn't wake up parched and achy.  Instead, I watched more movies, including Small Sacrifices, which killed about three hours, The Ryan White Story, Right to Kill, and Catherine: An Anorexic's Tale.  I also watched the premiere episode of Glee, which aired when we lived in Germany the first time.

I was able to watch Glee and The Ryan White Story because I decided to purchase access to a VPN, and that gave me access to American Netflix.  I decided to get the VPN because I'm tired of dealing with geographical restrictions on news stories.  I like to keep up with what's going on at home.  Unfortunately, the paper I grew up reading, Daily Press, is behind in complying with the privacy laws of Europe.  Consequently, whenever I want to read something on their Web site, I get a message that the content isn't available in my location.

I used to have a VPN account.  I got it when we first moved back to Stuttgart in 2014, mainly so I could watch Netflix.  But then Netflix started cracking down on VPNs and German Netflix was offering some pretty good shows, anyway.  I cancelled the VPN and mostly didn't miss it.  What prompted me to get a new account with a different company was a conversation I had on Facebook.

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about all of the made for TV movies I've been watching this week.  One movie I watched was called Without Consent.  It starred a young Jennie Garth, and was about a privately owned psychiatric hospital for teenagers that basically abused them for insurance money.  I mentioned in my post that this was a big issue in the late 1980s and early 90s.  Psych care for "troubled teens" was a very big business in those days.  It probably still is, but I will admit that I don't follow that issue as much as I used to.

One of my friends mentioned that she had spent time in one of those facilities.  I got the impression that maybe my description of the movie, Without Consent, had offended her.  I had intended the post to be kind of silly and fun, but you never know how you'll come across, particularly to people who are sensitive to an issue.

Anyway, as we were chatting, I mentioned Charter Colonial Institute, which was a private psychiatric hospital in Newport News, Virginia.  I grew up not far from Newport News, and I knew of a few of my peers who went there.  It always had kind of a mystique about it.  Sometimes, when I worked at Busch Gardens in James City County, Virginia, I'd take a route to work that caused me to pass that hospital.  I knew its tree lined campus was secure, located very close to Warwick Boulevard and the river.  Charter was such a ubiquitous company in those days; young people would simply speak of "going to Charter" and people would know what they were talking about.

A vintage ad for one of Charter's many private psychiatric hospitals.  Charter Colonial Institute aired similar ones in my area back in the 80s.

Several years later, Charter's burgeoning business began to falter.  The hospital changed hands and it was known as Colonial Hospital for a few years.  Then Colonial Hospital went away... and for the past few years, that same "secure" building has been known as Newport News Behavioral Health Center, which is a privately run facility.  I was curious to learn more about what was going on there, so I started searching.  I ran across a couple of news articles from the Daily Press.  Of course, they were blocked in Germany, so I used the cell access on my iPad to start reading, which makes it look like I'm in New York.  But then I ran out of free articles...

I found some news about a young woman named Raven Nichole Keffer.  She was seventeen years old last June, when she arrived in Newport News for treatment for an addiction to heroin.  Born in Montgomery County, Virginia back in 2001, and in the custody of rural Giles County, she had recently spent time in Arlington, Virginia getting treatment for her drug problems before she was sent to Newport News.  For at least a week, she'd complained of feeling sick, but the staff evidently ignored her symptoms and complaints.  Keffer had trouble walking, breathing, and eating.  She even vomited blood at one point.  Still, for some reason, the staff at the center did nothing for her, and she apparently languished for just over a week before someone finally did something.  It came out later that some staff members felt Raven was drug seeking, and that's why they didn't call for help. 

On June 29th, 2018, Keffer collapsed at Newport News Behavioral Health Center.  An ambulance was called, and Keffer was taken to Bon Secours Mary Immaculate Hospital in Newport News.  It was there that she died a few hours later, officially at 10:33pm.  A staff member at the center mentioned to one of the first responders who had picked up Raven that she'd been sick all week and nothing had been done for her.

After I read about Raven in the Daily Press, I found a more detailed account on WAVY TV 10's Web site.  That site was also blocked for me in Europe, but thanks to the VPN, I was able to hear her family members speak on video about what had happened.  To add insult to injury, Raven's body was cremated about ten days after she'd died.  Her family was notified after the fact.

In October of 2018, investigators determined that staff members at Newport News Behavioral Health Center violated 13 state regulations in Raven Keffer's case.  From the beginning, it appears that her even being at the center was inappropriate.  Raven Keffer had been recently hospitalized before she was admitted to the Newport News Behavioral Health Center and, according to its own admissions guidelines, Keffer should not have been admitted there.  The center's admissions policy states that it doesn't "accept patients who are addicted to drugs and need medical care for detoxing".

Officially, Raven Keffer died of natural causes stemming from complications from lymphocytic adrenalitis, an auto-immune disorder that affects glands that produce adrenaline.  But she also had a serious heroin addiction that had required her to seek hospital care just prior to her admission to the center in Newport News.  Discharge instructions from the hospital where she'd been on June 13th indicated that she would need a follow up visit and perhaps surgery.  However, it's clear that no one in Newport News did anything to arrange follow up care for Raven.  Her initial admissions paperwork was never even completed; there were several items left blank.

Video surveillance footage shows Raven being helped to see a nurse practitioner.  She had a registered nurse and a fellow patient supporting her, since she couldn't walk unaided.  Once they reached the nurse practitioner's office, the nurse walked away, leaving Raven to lean on the patient.  The nurse later left the unit and the other patient was shown on video dragging Raven across the room on a comforter.

In the wake of this fiasco, there's been re-training at the center.  The nurse who abandoned Raven has been fired.  However, in November of 2018, the Newport News Behavioral Health Center was in the news again.  This time, it was because Child Protective Services in Newport News reported that a juvenile male at the facility was assaulted by a staff member.  The employee allegedly "punched the patient about the face, pushed him, and grabbed him".  Other staff members tried to intervene and the patient was treated for injuries.  CPS noted that he had bruises on his face and marks on his neck and on an arm.

According to the news articles I've read, Paul Kirkham is the CEO of Newport News Behavioral Health Center.  I'm sure that his job isn't easy, as teenagers in trouble are not an easy population.  However, if I were him, I'd be sweating bullets.  It really appears that extreme negligence is a problem at his facility.

Managed care is one reason why private psychiatric hospitals have gone down the tubes.  In the 80s, psychiatric medications were not as good as they are today.  Nowadays, many people who would have been hospitalized years ago can be treated outpatient.  You have to be pretty sick to wind up in a hospital, for any reason.  Managed care also pays less for fewer days.  But Charter's woes also came about due to a public relations situation.  In 1999, an unflattering news report was aired regarding Charter's business practices.  Terrance Johnson had a master's degree in social work, but he took a job as a mental health technician.  While he was on the job, he wore a tiny camera, which recorded everything going on as he worked at his $8.35 per hour position.  People were paying thousands of dollars a day for "treatment", but they were being watched over by "big guys".  Really, being "big" was the number one qualification for the job.  Johnson's size was more of a prerequisite for being a mental health technician than his MSW was.

I'm not sure if what Terrance Johnson encountered at a Charter hospital is still how these kinds of facilities are run.  I have read a few horror stories.  But it does sound like at least at one former Charter hospital, it's business as usual.  My heart goes out to Raven Keffer's family and anyone else who has suffered at one of these places.  And now that I have a VPN, I can read all about it.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

13, 14, 15... a continuation of yesterday's post...

Although it wasn't looking like I'd manage it, I did see two more movies yesterday.  I also saw a film a few days ago that I forgot to add to yesterday's list of twelve.  The two movies I watched yesterday both featured Molly Ringwald.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I've even mentioned them in this blog before.

13. Fatal Love (aka Something to Live For: The Alison Gertz Story)-- I was in Armenia the first time I saw this made for TV movie starring Molly Ringwald sporting black hair.  We were in the U.S. Embassy restaurant and AFN was tuned to this film from 1992.  Alison Gertz was a New York born Jewish socialite, the only child of wealthy, doting parents.  In 1982, when she was sixteen years old, she had sex with a bartender she met at Studio 54.  The barkeep, who looked suspiciously like a less muscled version of Fabio, happened to have AIDS.  He was the type of guy who screwed everyone who came across his path, too.  Six years after their unfortunate encounter, Alison got sick and spent a nightmarish time in a hospital.  Her family doctor never thought to test her for HIV, since she didn't fit the profile of someone with HIV.  Once Gertz was well enough, she started visiting high schools to tell her story.

Fatal Love-- a pretty good film, with very stark, jarring background music by David Shire.  I think the film would have been better without the horrible music.  The story is very compelling, and Molly Ringwald is a crowd pleaser.  I remember an early episode of Beverly Hills 90210 was based on Alison Gertz's story.  It was made before this film was.

14. Surviving-- This is another Molly Ringwald made for TV vehicle.  It aired in 1985, but I remember seeing it for the first time in 1987 or so, because I remember being a sophomore in high school.  I distinctly recall a woman who was in my homeroom class talking about this movie, because River Phoenix was in it.  River Phoenix, as you may know, was quite the hero to people of my generation.  Heather O'Rourke, the angelic blonde girl from Poltergeist, was also in this movie.  Both River and Heather died long before their times.  River's death was due to a drug overdose and Heather's was due to a very bad intestinal infection that caused her to go septic.  She went into cardiac arrest.

The fact that these two very talented actors died so young seemed kind of ironic to me, since this movie is about teen suicide.  Lonnie (Ringwald) and Rick (Zach Galligan) have well off parents and live in a beautiful neighborhood.  Their parents are best friends.  Lonnie attempts suicide and is hospitalized for months, then comes home and starts a relationship with Rick, whose father is pressuring him to become a doctor.  Rick is interested in opera and photography, not medicine.  And his father, who is a doctor, is a liar and a cheat.  With his burgeoning camera skills, Rick has managed to get clandestine pictures of his dad with another woman.

Rick and Lonnie begin spending a lot of time with each other.  Their parents object, and try to forbid them from dating.  Naturally, this means they have to commit suicide, which they do sitting in a running car in a garage.  The teens' suicides threaten to break up friendships and marriages.  It's all very emotional and powerful.

In all seriousness, this is a very good movie about teen suicide, even though River Phoenix is a bit of a ham in this film.  The cast is particularly talented.  Ellen Burstyn plays Rick's mom, while Marsha Mason plays Lonnie's mom.  They have a big fight that is raw and believable emotion.  I had forgotten what a wonderful little actress Heather O'Rourke was.  It's such a shame that she died at just twelve years old.  She was so talented.  Even though this movie is 34 years old, it's truly excellent.  And... as a bonus, it offers good music, too.  Burstyn plays a concert pianist and she's always playing beautiful pieces on the piano.  They also threw in some good rock songs of the day.

15. Keeping Secrets--  Actress Suzanne Somers wrote a bestselling memoir about growing up the daughter of an alcoholic.  Naturally, it needed to be turned into a made for TV movie by the same name.  I grew up watching Suzanne Somers playing Chrissy Snow on Three's Company.  That show made her a sex symbol, even if as a woman, I never saw her that way.  But behind Chrissy's snorting laugh, there was an intelligent, talented woman who was abused by her alcoholic dad.  I probably should have liked this film more than I did, since I grew up somewhat similarly.  My dad probably wasn't as big of an asshole as her dad (portrayed by Ken Kercheval of Dallas fame) was, but I heard a lot of the same messages she did.  Suzanne's father told her she was nothing but a big "0".  My dad once told me I'd never make more than minimum wage.  

A pretty good movie about being an adult child of an alcoholic, Keeping Secrets also stars Michael Learned and Kim Zimmer (who was on Guiding Light for years).  I like Suzanne Somers less in dramatic roles, but this is a good story for those of us who know the pain of having an alcoholic parent.  I remember reading the book years ago and liking it better than this movie, but movies are more convenient than books are.

I've got one more day to go before Bill is scheduled to be back.  In about 24 hours, he could be here drinking coffee with me.  And then, he'll no doubt be exhausted, which will suck.  But, in a week, we'll be back in France, drinking wine and eating croissants.

I may spend today reading or maybe watching more films... if I can find Small Sacrifices or The Burning Bed, I may have yet another addition to his list.  As it is now, I kind of miss where we lived before... I don't miss the house, but I miss knowing my way around.  

Friday, February 8, 2019

My week of eleven (actually twelve) cringeworthy made for TV movies...

Hallelujah!  It's Friday morning, which means Bill will be home in about 48 hours... I hope, anyway.

I've been passing the time by watching some pretty cringeworthy old made for TV movies.  Since it's Friday, I thought it would be fun to list all of the crappy movies I've watched this week.  Okay, so they weren't all crappy... some of them were okay.  It's just that a lot of them were of the "disease of the week" genre that was very popular when network TV was all we had to watch.  Almost all of them were on YouTube, which made viewing a cinch.

1.  Death of a Cheerleader (the 2019 version)--  This is the only movie I downloaded off iTunes.  The only reason I watched it was because I well remembered the 1994 version starring Kellie Martin and Tori Spelling.  Both movies are based on a true story from the 1980s in which an insecure Catholic girl from modest means becomes desperate to befriend a popular, but mean, cheerleader.  When her efforts to become popular failed, the insecure Catholic girl flips out and murders the cheerleader.

Here's a clip from the new version, which I just viewed the other day.

And here's a video someone made from the 1994 version.  Damn, I feel old!

Kellie Martin, who had the lead in the 1994 version, plays a detective in the new version.  Actually, the newer version of this story wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  What threw me, at first, is that it was set in the 80s.  In the '94 version, it was set in the present (at that time).  The 2019 version wasn't obviously set in the 80s, but then I started getting clues like the lack of cell phones and the cheerleader uniforms with the pleated skirts (which you don't see much anymore).  Anyway, it wasn't bad.

2.  For the Love of Nancy-- I saw this movie when it originally aired, back in 1994.  It stars Tracey Gold, William Devane, and the late Jill Clayburgh.  In the 90s, Tracey Gold memorably suffered from anorexia nervosa, and her real life struggle gives her a pretty solid idea of how to portray Nancy, an 18 year old girl who is graduating high school and going to college.  The changes prove to be challenging and she develops a dangerous case of anorexia.  Because she's over 18, she's able to resist hospitalization, which causes her father to get medical guardianship of her.

This is a compelling story, but I find both Tracey Gold and Jill Clayburgh extremely grating, especially together.  Another annoying character is Michael MacRae, who plays "Uncle Tommy", a recovering alcoholic and restauranteur.  Somehow, he knows about "Parker Pavilion", which is where the eating disordered go for help.  Parker Pavilion is run by very annoying people, especially the long haired Canadian psychologist, Dr. Partana (Garwin Sanford).  

3.  Kate's Secret-- I think this might have actually been the first movie I watched.  It was prompted by my recent Family Ties binge, as it starred Meredith Baxter (then going by Meredith Baxter Birney), Tracy Nelson, and Ed Asner.  This film, made in 1986, is another one I watched when it originally aired.  It's about a beautiful, wealthy housewife named Kate, married to a high powered lawyer.  Kate's meddlesome mother is a big part of the picture, as is Kate's eight year old daughter, Becky, played by Summer Phoenix.  Kate denies Becky sugar, waters down her orange juice, and pressures her child to stay thin, but Kate has a devastating case of bulimia, which lands her in treatment.  We see her stuffing herself with sweets, eating tons of fast food, and shoplifting junk food.  Mackenzie Phillips plays a bit role and Ed Asner, looking positively porky, plays the therapist who leads Kate back into the sunlight of reality...  

I used to like Meredith Baxter, but I now find her acting style to be a bit... I don't know... insincere or something?  She's kind of annoying.  I liked Tracy Nelson's performance more.  And Ed Asner as the shrink is also kind of a weird choice.  

4.  Someone to Love Me-- This 1998 film stars Lynda Carter and Jessica Bowman.  Bowman plays a pretty teenager, named Kaley Young, newly bereaved after her father's sudden death.  Kaley and her mom, Diane, played by Carter, move to a new town.  Pretty soon, Kaley gets a reputation for being promiscuous.  When she gets raped by the school jock, no one believes her.  It takes the jock's girlfriend's testimony to get justice.

This is one of a few "Moment of Truth" movies I watched...  The very notion of a "Moment of Truth" movie tells you that it's probably going to make you cringe.  But actually, this was a pretty good movie, as made for TV movies go.  What's sad is that Julie Patzwald, who plays the girlfriend of the date raping jock, died a few years ago.  Apparently, she committed suicide due to chronic pain.  She was only in her early 30s.

5.  A Secret Between Friends (aka When Friendship Kills)-- This 1996 film starring Lynda Carter, Marley Shelton, and Katie Wright, is yet another "Moment of Truth" movie.  This is another eating disorder flick.  Teenager Lexie is forced to move from Chicago to Seattle when her parents divorce.  Lexie takes the divorce and the move hard, but dives into the school volleyball team, where she meets beautiful Jennifer Harnsberger, who teaches her how to drop weight the easy way.  It's not long before Lexie has a full blown case of anorexia nervosa, while Jennifer is bulimic.  They are co-dependent together until Lexie has a medical crisis and winds up in the hospital.  As she's recovering, Lexie tells her mom, Kathryn (played by Carter), about Jennifer's problem.  Kathryn tells Jennifer's mom, who tells Jennifer... and Jennifer gets pissed at Lexie and says she hates her.  Then she gets hit by a car and dies.

This is not a bad movie, except for Kathryn's line about "reparenting" Lexie, which never fails to make me cringe.  That, and Lexie's dad, who is an overbearing bully who forces Lexie to be tube fed... and Kathryn barging in on Lexie in the bathroom and demanding tampons.  Lexie doesn't have any because she hasn't been on the rag.  Come on, mom.  Do you really use the same tampons your teenaged daughter does?  And then she takes her to a scary and clueless gynecologist, who is of no help at all when Kathryn asks about eating disorders.  Hmm... if I really wanted to, I could devote a whole post to the many cringeworthy moments in this movie.  The story, however, is kind of compelling.

6.  Shattered Innocence-- I stumbled across this gem from 1988 by accident.  It's the story of beautiful, but troubled Kansas teen, Pauleen Anderson (played by Jonna Lee).  Pauleen isn't much for small town living and she keeps getting into trouble.  She and a boyfriend decide to go to California, where Pauleen promptly falls into nude modeling and porn.  This was based on the real story of actress, Shauna Grant.

This was one of the best movies of the week.  Not only was the story very compelling and different from all the eating disorder and date rape films, it also had a great soundtrack.  Peter Frampton and Fleetwood Mac feature.  And again... not too many movies of the week about porn stars!

7.  Little Girl Lost--  Another 80s gem, also from 1988 and based on a true story.  Four year old Tella, nicknamed "Beans", is the much beloved foster daughter of a nice couple who want to adopt her.  But Tella's sexually abusive bio dad won't allow the adoption to happen.  Although Tella tells people that her real father abuses her during visits, no one believes her and they accuse her of being "spoiled".  Then, a judge decides to send her to live with her father permanently, which is a disaster.  Will Tella's foster parents get to welcome "Beans" back into their family before it's too late?

This was another of the best movies of the week.  Marie Martin, who has curiously not done a whole lot, according to, is very talented and meshes well with Tess Harper, who plays her foster mom, Clara.  I also got a kick out of how things were in the 80s.  Tella is shown riding in the front seat of a car, unrestrained (except maybe with an unseen lap belt).  The movie is actually set in the 1970s, when times were definitely less child centered than they are now.

8.  The Best Little Girl in the World-- There was a time when I would have given anything to see this flick, which originally aired in 1981.  My former best friend saw it and told me about it.  I was insanely curious about it in the days before YouTube.  I actually ordered a video cassette of it twenty years ago.  It stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Eva Marie Saint, and Charles Durning as yet another family in crisis.  Seventeen year old Casey Powell is the ignored younger daughter of demanding parents.  Her older sister, Gail, is pregnant, causing Casey to be even more ignored than usual.  She develops a terrible case of anorexia nervosa, which lands her in the hospital.  This was based on eating disorder therapist Steven Levenkron's novel of the same name, which I read obsessively when I was a teenager.

Jennifer Jason Leigh does a good job portraying Casey Powell, although this adaptation is kind of loosely based on Levenkron's book.  It's pure Aaron Spelling magic, though, and probably the first "movie of the week" about eating disorders.  It's interesting to me if only because it reminds me of how things were in the early 80s.  Charles Durning, as Casey's dad, Frank, is strict and borderline abusive.  In Levenkron's book, the father is named "Hal" and, I think, has a drinking problem.  Actually, I think Steven Levenkron's book is very triggering, but it's also a lot better than this movie is.

9.  Nadia--  An entertaining but largely fictionalized "legend" of gymnastics great Nadia Comaneci's life.  I have read Nadia's own life story and I think this 1984 movie is very sanitized... however, it's pretty family friendly and so cheesy it's almost good.  George Clooney's ex wife, Talia Balsam, also stars.  And Johann Carlo, who played the older version of Nadia, is way too old for the part, but kind of looks like Nadia...  kind of, that is.  Actually, now that I know more about what really went on in Bela Karolyi's gym, this movie seems even more like bullshit.  But it was filmed in what used to be Yugoslavia, so that's cool...

That Joe Bennett... can we say "overacting"?  Say it with me, now!

 10. Dying to Dance-- Here's a 2001 movie starring Kimberly McCullough, Mary-Margaret Humes, and Rick Springfield as a family unit.  Kimberly McCullough plays Alyssa Lennox, an aspiring ballerina who lands in a toxic ballet company.  The ballet directors are brutal and cruel, telling the 104 pound woman that she needs to cut about ten pounds from her slight frame.  Alyssa takes it to heart and spirals into anorexia nervosa.  Rick Springfield plays her dad, which is very weird...  I mean, I know he started out as an actor, but he'll always be a rock star to me.  Mary-Margaret Humes is annoying as the mom.  Every time I see her, I think of her as the mom on Dawson's Creek.  And Kimberly McCullough is not at all convincing as a ballerina.  Yes, she's tiny, but she just doesn't look like a dancer... and based on how the film is shot, isn't actually a dancer.  Seems like they could have found someone a little more convincing.

At the end of this movie, Alyssa talks to a bunch of admiring little girls, dancing in front of them.  I swear, at one point, it looks like she's doing jumping jacks.  And the female "madame", Verchenko, is not very convincing, either.  She looks the part, but isn't much of an actress.

11. Rearview Mirror-- Back in 1984, I watched this thriller when it aired on network TV.  I was 12 years old.  For some reason, I never forgot it, and was delighted when I found it on YouTube yesterday.  I will admit, part of the reason I was delighted is because it stars the late Lee Remick.  My mother-in-law thinks I look like Lee Remick, which is a huge compliment, even if it's not really true. Rearview Mirror also stars Michael Beck, who regrettably starred in the movie Xanadu, which Olivia Newton-John.  I was obsessed with Xanadu when I was a kid.  Not only did I love Olivia, but I also loved the music and special effects in that very cheesy film.  

Anyway, in Rearview Mirror, Michael Beck plays an escaped convict named Jerry Sam Hopps.  Jerry Sam and his impressionable teenaged cousin abduct Terry Seton (Remick), a pretty, middle-aged nurse, and a baby boy.  Beck is surprisingly convincing as a convict at times, although the story itself is pretty cliched.  Damn, 1984 was a long time ago.  This film was shot in South Carolina, which is also a place dear to my heart.  Terry is driving a beat up camper and she passes Jerry Sam, who's hitchhiking.  He somehow recognizes her, even though she speeds past him in her big camper.  Later, Jerry Sam and his cousin steal a car, in the back of which a baby boy has been left while his parents buy diapers.  Not realizing they have the boy, the two take off in the car.  When they hear the boy cry, they decide to ditch him, but then stumble across Terry.  They kidnap her and she has to figure out how to get herself and the child out of a fine mess.

Michael Beck terrorizes Lee Remick in a thriller... Remick pulls out all the stops to try to outsmart him.  He doesn't come off as all that smart, but he keeps foiling her attempts.  Will she get away?

I can't swear to not having seen other movies this week, but off the top of my head, I can't think of any I've missed.  Anyway, I think these eleven make for a fine number for this post.  I will probably watch more crappy movies today, and if I watch enough of them, maybe I'll make a sequel to this post.  I don't know why I feel so compelled to watch these cheesy movies, especially when I've seen most of them more than a few times.  Maybe they give me comfort.  Also, they keep me from getting bored, which makes it easier for me to stay away from wine and beer.  

I was a little tempted to have some white wine last night, but distracted myself with karaoke and bad movies.  Then, I did some reading.  I must admit, my skin is starting to look noticeably better after this booze sabbatical.  There's less redness and dryness.  I actually did a double take when I looked in the mirror this morning.  I definitely need to take breaks from drinking more often.  

I notice a lot of the newer films are made in Canada.  I guess Canada offers cheaper talent and filming locations.  I also notice that no matter how old or new the movies of the week are, they're all a bit corny and contrived.

Ooh!! I lied.  I just thought of a twelfth movie I saw this week.  I don't know how I forgot this one...

12. Without Consent-- Here's a 1994 film starring Jennie Garth.  It's about a troubled teen who winds up being committed to a for-profit psych hospital for teens.  These facilities were kind of all the rage when I was a teenager.  I knew of a couple of people who went to them.  I think they are still around, although they aren't as prevalent today as they were twenty years ago.  Well-heeled parents would send their troublesome teenagers to "hospitals" where they would be drugged, restrained, and abused by incompetent staff.  Then, once the health insurance benefits were exhausted, the teens would be kicked out.  Jennie Garth, playing seventeen year old Laura when Garth was herself 22 years old, illustrates this phenomenon in this film...

This isn't too bad... and at least it's a fairly original subject.  A lot of "teen help" schools and hospitals have been shut down because they were unregulated and abusive.  But in the 90s, this was a real problem.  In fact, I remember reading an article about it back in 1991, when I was a college freshman.  Nowadays, I think the model is less hospital and more school... and they are a much tougher sell than they once were.  The Internet has done a lot to shut down certain abusive industries.  "Brat camps" are one such industry not helped by the Internet.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

I guess it was worms, after all...

I'm pleased to report that Arran is feeling much better now.  The rampant, rancid farting has, thankfully, mostly ceased.  He looks a lot happier and even played a little bit with Zane last night.  I'm so glad I took our previous vets up on their suggestion of buying wormers for the dogs before we left our last town.  I saved them for when we'd need them.  Granted, he could have picked up those worms in Unterjettingen and probably did.  It takes awhile before worms become symptomatic in an adult dog.  Hopefully, that treatment did the trick and he won't need another hit.

Ahh...  the joy of healthy bowels!

If we were in the States, this probably wouldn't have happened.  In the US, we kept our dogs on heartworm preventative, which included medicine against intestinal worms.  Here in Germany, vets don't routinely prescribe heartworm preventative.  Although it's not unheard of for dogs to get heartworms here, it happens very infrequently because there aren't so many mosquitos.  That may change as the planet warms, though.

If we were using the vets on the military installations, like we did during our first Germany tour, we'd still be getting heartworm preventative.  The military vets are all American.  But German vets are a bit different in their approach.  Actually, it's been really interesting to use German vets.  I'm glad I've done it, because it broadens my perspective in how to take care of my dogs.  A lot of what American vets do is geared toward the business side of things.  They are a lot more uptight about vaccines, for instance.  Although I am no anti-vaxxer, I do think Americans vaccinate pets too much.

Europeans are also a lot less likely to spay or neuter.  However, there is a lot less need to spay or neuter, because there are a lot fewer stray dogs running around here.  For the most part, people are very responsible about pet ownership.  Animal shelters do exist here, but they aren't like US animal shelters.  I don't believe there is such an emphasis on euthanizing unwanted animals, either.  And Germans are big on training their dogs, so they can go anywhere with them, including the trains and the restaurants.  That doesn't mean their dogs are always perfectly behaved, but they tend to be better behaved than American dogs are.

In any case, I am cautiously optimistic that Arran is on the mend.  That will make the next three nights easier to take as I wait for Bill to get back to Germany.  I've spent the week cleansing my body by eschewing booze and eating a lot less meat.  I mainly do this because I'm too lazy to cook.  I used to be a really good cook.  I was even paid to do it!  But when I'm by myself, I can't be bothered.

Last night, I cooked the last of this annoying ziti we bought.  I think we found it in Italy.  I liked the ziti, except it was really long, like spaghetti.  Picture really fat drinking straws made of dry pasta.  That's what this ziti was like.  It tasted good, but it was hard to get it to fit in a bowl, even when it was full cooked.  Consequently, it was kind of messy to eat.  It's not easy to break the ziti, either, because it's so fat.  You have to break each piece of ziti individually, which causes little shards of pasta to break off and stick to the bottom of the pan.  

I boiled the last of it last night and slapped some jarred pesto on it, which I put in the bottom of the bowl and heated in the microwave.  Why?  Because I couldn't be bothered to heat it in another container so I could pour it over the pasta.  That would be one more dish to wash.  I didn't break the pasta last night, which made the process take longer.  It still broke in the process of cooking, anyway. Why don't they sell it in shorter "straws"?

An example of long, uncut ziti.  I used Barilla brand, though.

As I was sitting at the table, which was actually impressive, since I usually just eat at my desk or even in bed when Bill isn't home, I thought to myself that this meal looked like shit.  I was momentarily ashamed, because I used to pride myself on my cooking abilities.  When I lived alone, I used to make proper meals with a main course and sides and everything.  Sometimes I'd make dessert and I often had wine, too.  I even did that when Bill was deployed to Iraq.  But I don't do that when Bill is simply TDY.  It's just not worth the bother.

Two nights ago, I had a terrible tuna sandwich for dinner.  I usually make a yummy salad with walnuts, Italian tuna, a little mayo, and green apples, a little trick I learned when I worked at a really nice restaurant.  Trust me, Italian and Spanish tuna is way better than Chicken of the Sea or Starkist.  The other night, I didn't even bother with that.  I had plain tuna with a little mayo on white bread.  And the bread was a little stale.  I didn't even finish the sandwich because it sucked.

Bill gets upset when I tell him these things.  He's so funny.  Like, a couple of weeks ago, when he went TDY, I had popcorn for dinner.  I was watching a movie and just didn't feel like eating anything else.  The next night, I kidded that I would have ice cream.  He actually got really concerned and said, "You're not really just going to have ice cream for dinner, are you?"  It's like he's afraid I'll die of malnutrition.  That ain't happening.  I didn't end up having the ice cream, anyway.

Bill used to try to stock up the fridge with stuff before he'd leave town.  I'd have to tell him, once again, not to bother.  I don't know why I don't feel like cooking anymore, but I don't.  It's not fun to eat alone, nor is it fun to cook alone.  And drinking alone isn't fun, either.  I try not to do it, and I'm relieved to say that it's really not that hard for me to abstain.  I come from a long line of alcoholics and I drink a lot more than I should.  So these breaks are good for the body and soul... although I do hate it when Bill is gone.  Three more nights until he's back... then another work week starts.  I'll just keep watching bad Lifetime movies in the meantime.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Is Liam Neeson guilty of a "hate crime"?

I believe that old song in Avenue Q.  I think everyone's a little bit racist, even though some people believe that you can only be racist if you're a member of the "dominant" racial group.  Actor Liam Neeson is a white man who recently confessed that after a friend was violently raped by a black man, he prowled the streets with a club, looking for a black man to beat up.  He said he was actually "hoping" to be approached by someone giving him an excuse to beat the shit out of him with a "cosh" (British word for club).

Neeson's violent revenge fantasy occurred about forty years ago.  He never did beat anyone up. He was simply very angry about the violent crime committed against his friend and he wanted to avenge her.  He says he's ashamed of how he reacted to the rape and sorry for having those violent impulses to hurt other people.

Naturally, the papers have been having a field day with the story.  Lots of people seem to think Mr. Neeson needs a good public flogging for something that happened 40 years ago.  I don't condone Neeson's violent feelings or the impulses he had to hurt just anyone who happened to be black.  However, I feel like he should be commended for his honesty.  It's not an easy thing to do, admitting those feelings publicly, as hateful and hurtful as they are.  It's awful to hear about them, but it does get people thinking and talking.  Is that a bad thing?

Neeson eventually came to the conclusion that violence begets violence.  He found more constructive ways to deal with his rage, to include power walking for two hours a day.  He spoke to his friends and a priest.  He also said that if the man had not been black, he still would have had those same feelings of primal rage and wanting to get revenge.  In this case, it was apparently a black man who perpetrated the crime against his friend.  It could have been anyone, though.  Also, consider that this happened in Northern Ireland forty years ago.  It was a pretty violent time all around, particularly between English people and Irish people.  I'm sure that contributed to Neeson's state of mind.

In my mind, Liam Neeson's situation isn't really the same as Governor Ralph Northam's situation in Virginia.  He's under fire for having been in a racist photo 35 years ago.  Governor Northam is in a leadership position, though, and is a physician.  The photo was taken when he was in medical school.  And it had nothing to do with being justifiably angry.  That photo was about simple mockery of people not like him.  To my knowledge, it wasn't prefaced by violent crime or anything that would cause a person to feel "passionate".  It was just plain stupidity.

I can understand being so angry that one becomes blinded by rage.  I don't condone acting on that rage and, it turns out, Neeson never did.  Is it awful that he had those fantasies?  Yes, I believe it is.  Is it awful that he publicly admits to having those fantasies?  I don't know.  Why punish the man for simply being honest?  At least he's worked on his issues.  At least he acknowledges them.  Apparently, that incident from Neeson's past has also been used as a tool in his movies, like Taken and Ransom.  That just goes to show that even the worst impulses can be used for something positive if we're careful.

I do think people should be able to live down the things they did in the past, particularly if they acknowledge them and show that they've tried to make amends.  I think Neeson has taken steps to do that.  Northam, to my admittedly limited knowledge, has also apparently tried to change his ways.  He supposedly has a good reputation as a physician and as a governor, aside from this unfortunate relic from his past.

Of course, now there's been talk of a sexual assault claim against Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, who would be poised to take Northam's place if he resigns.  Personally, I think the hullabaloo in Virginia is more about people upset about Northam's comments on abortion and desperate folks wanting to get the Democrats out of office in Virginia.  The timing of this is just too funky.

As for Liam Neeson... I think people should stop and think before they pick up their torches and pitchforks.  Should we be more concerned about people who are honest about having racist feelings or those who hide them?  Truly, I think everyone has prejudices.  No one is immune to preconceived notions about other people.  I, for one, think Neeson was brave to share his story, knowing how public backlash can happen and what it can lead to.  It's good to think and talk about these things.  But then, Liam Neeson is probably in a position where he can talk about these things and not fear losing everything.