Good morning, all. So begins a new day in this new, fucked up world we’re living in today. I read a couple of ridiculous stories about how infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, has been getting death threats. Why? Because certain brain dead right wing pundits are convinced that Fauci is behind a plot to get Donald Trump kicked out of the White House. He’s been targeted by these mental midgets. They’ve sent him death threats, prompting the government to enhance Fauci’s security. At the other end of the spectrum, Fauci has also gotten disturbing communications from ardent admirers, which is also a problem that merits more protection from the nuts among us.
When I first read about these wingnuts spreading vitriol against Fauci, I just shook my head at the sheer stupidity and arrogance. Some extreme Trump supporters think that liberals are so desperate to get Trump ousted from office that they’d stop at nothing, including launching a coronavirus plague! And I just have to wonder, do these folks even see beyond the two feet in front of them? The coronavirus is a worldwide problem. It’s affecting people ALL OVER THE GLOBE! I know the United States is a big world power, but it’s certainly not the only country. PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD ARE DYING FROM THIS VIRUS! Why would its spread be only about American politics and dismantling Trump’s “leadership”? What an arrogant viewpoint!
I do think the coronavirus could ultimately be Trump’s undoing, if United States citizens do, in fact, still get an election in November, and enough of them wise up and vote him out. Although I have read that some “independent” voters think Trump has handled this crisis with aplomb, a lot more people seem to think it’s time we got someone competent and compassionate in the White House. However, it’s plain that there are also a lot of scary people out there who think Trump was sent to us by God. They ignore his disgusting behavior and the vile things he says and praise him as if he was an actual representative of the Almighty.
I don’t understand this thinking. I can’t fathom where it comes from. I mean, I have an idea, since my people are from hillbilly country themselves. I grew up in a conservative county in Virginia and I know a lot of white people are desperate to stay on top. They see Trump as someone who can guarantee that they stay in power. They want at least four more years of his “leadership”. And when he finally dies, they’ll want someone just as bigoted and patriarchal to take his place. Strangely enough, I know a lot of these folks think America is “great” because it’s so “free”. But they don’t want to play fair, and they want to force their extreme, white supremacist, “Christian” ideologies on the American public.
On the other hand… maybe it’s the Russians who are doing this. Maybe they are planting disinformation so that they United States is destabilized and they can be in power. Having met Russians when I was in Armenia, I’d rather not think this way… but then, I suppose it’s fair to remember that just like the United States, Russia is full of people, and they don’t all think or behave in the same way. I already know that a lot of rabid Trump supporters are closed-minded and not the deepest of thinkers. It would probably be easy for Russian trolls to get them to believe that the coronavirus is a liberal ploy to rid the world of Trump and his ilk. And because they aren’t deep thinkers and can’t see beyond themselves, they think undermining Trump is dangerous to their way of life, which they seem to want to foist on everyone else. These folks are not people who believe in science. They are religious nuts who believe in sky daddies and think that white Christian people should rule the world.
Anyway… count me among those who believe in Fauci and his vast expertise. Fauci has more than proven his capabilities, having been a world leader in studying infectious diseases since 1984. He graduated number one in his medical school class at Cornell University. I’m glad to see that even Trump is finally listening to someone competent. Maybe even Trump realizes that if he doesn’t put his faith in someone who knows what they’re doing, he’ll have a lot of blood on his hands.
Trump took much too long to respond to this crisis. He really fucked up. And frankly, I pray that it will be the thing that removes him from office before he does even more damage. However, the coronavirus is a real thing, and people should listen to Dr. Anthony Fauci and other experts. They know what they’re doing; it’s their life’s work to study diseases. The coronavirus is a real threat. People are dying of this disease. He may be one of the few people who can save us from Trump’s idiocy. People are upset because Dr. Fauci facepalmed as he listened to Trump’s moronic comments? Hell, many of us facepalm daily as we watch the country we all knew and loved turning into a macabre three ring shitshow, complete with deadly clowns and a president who reminds me more and more of Chucky.
The other day, I was messing around on YouTube and I noticed that I was getting suggestions to watch videos by Dhar Mann. I don’t really know who Dhar Mann is… I can only surmise after watching a couple of his videos that he’s some kind of guru who teaches people to be kind and compassionate and gets people to attend his talks by giving them money.
Don’t get me wrong. This video is, overall, sharing a good message. I have been in Chelsea’s situation, although I’m not nearly as big as she is, and no one was ever that overtly nasty to me. It happened to me about eleven years ago, when Bill and I were in Germany the first time. We went to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, because Bill had to go to a conference at the Edelweiss Conference Center down there. I entertained myself by taking “field trips” with the tour service.
Although I had been on the tours before, prior to that summer trip, we had always visited in the winter, and the tours were a lot less populated. Consequently, I was surprised by how packed they were when I took them during that week we were in Garmisch. Every seat on the bus was taken, except for one by me. Some guy sat next to me and barely made eye contact with me all day. He seemed to radiate hostility, just because he didn’t get to the bus early enough to get a seat with his family and he had to sit next to me. I remember thinking he was a major asshole. I wondered how he would felt if some random guy treated his wife the way he treated me that day. And, just because I’m admittedly not always such a kind person myself, I wished for him to get a flat tire on his way home.
Anyway… since I watched the above video, I see I’ve been getting more of Dhar Mann’s stuff on YouTube. They all seem to have the same theme and use the same actors. The mean bitch in the above video plays a selfish, skanky homewrecker in another video. Dhar Mann presents scenarios that depict people making selfish, short-sighted, mean spirited decisions that bite them in the ass later. Or the characters gain new perspective somehow when new information comes to light– things are not always as they seem.
I can kind of relate to the video below. I can see why Evelyn’s ex divorced her. She’s nasty and vindictive. But when the ex husband gives his ex wife a bit of perspective, she simmers down and the video ends on a (probably unrealistic) optimistic note.
Evelyn is nicer than Ex is, by a very long measure. Ex literally hates me. She wishes me ill. For a long time, I pretty much felt the same way about her. Now, I’m at the point of not caring about her anymore. I never thought I’d get there, but Bill’s ability to reconnect with his daughter has “softened” my heart somewhat. I still think she’s awful for alienating her children and using them as weapons. I still think she’s done a lot of reprehensible things, not just to Bill, but to her own offspring and even her current husband and other family members. But I don’t think about her very much anymore. I think karma has had its way with her… and that’s kind of what Dhar Mann seems to be preaching in his many YouTube videos. They’re kind of cheesy and simplistic, but they convey good messages, on the whole.
Being kind is a good thing. I think it’s better to be kind and understanding whenever possible. On the other hand, sometimes it’s necessary to be less understanding and kind. You don’t have to go out of your way to screw someone over, but you can be assertive and let people experience the natural negative consequences when they do something shitty. Sometimes, that’s the best way to teach people how to behave. My husband is one of the kindest, most considerate people ever, but if you cross his red line, there will be consequences. Fortunately, it takes a long time to get to that point. You really have to mess up on an epic scale. And he’s never nasty about it, either. He just defends himself, as anyone who’s made a living fighting wars will do. People are fooled by him because he’s so nice and accommodating, but he’s had a successful career as a soldier. When it comes down to it, he will do what soldiers are trained to do.
Dhar Mann’s videos are obviously very popular. He has a lot of followers and a whole lot of videos that show how it’s best to be kind and decent. Sometimes, there’s stuff you don’t know about going on that makes a person seem one way when they aren’t really that way. On the other hand, sometimes a hat is just a hat… and a hate is just a hate. And you don’t have to be nasty to combat it, but you shouldn’t be expected to turn the other cheek for that kind of treatment. Paybacks can be a real bitch.
Sometime in the early 1990s, it became popular to answer people with a single word– “Whatever”. I remember being in college and people were suddenly saying, “whatever” in a sarcastic tone of voice when someone said or did something stupid or rude. This morning, I’m reminded of that as I just finished watching Dr. Les Carter’s latest video about the one word all narcissists hate. Can you guess what it is?
Dr. Carter is right. Narcissists hate to be dismissed by the word “whatever.” Frankly, it’s not a word I use very often, except to people who really deserve it. I used it the other day, when someone was giving me grief over sharing a Rolling Stone article about Donald Trump. She basically said that Rolling Stone isn’t a valid source of information about the world. I responded that it’s a legitimate magazine with real journalists. When the teasing continued, I wrote “Whatever.” Fortunately, this friend isn’t a narcissist. However, there have been times when I really upset someone because I said “whatever” to them.
I was listening to Dr. Carter talk about how narcissists behave– they want you to dance to their tune and jump when they say “jump”– and if you don’t, there’s an implied threat that there will be hell to pay. But if you respond to them like a grey rock, in a bland, detached, unaffected way, it drives them crazy. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, since narcissistic people are infuriating.
Back in October 2013, I wrote on my old blog about the word “whatever” and its significance. Because it was a pretty good post, and includes an anecdote from my past about the use of “whatever”, I’m going to share it again now.
One of my Facebook friends asked what the word “whatever” means in her friends’ hometowns. My friend is presently in Oregon, visiting her husband who is there on business. Her husband said “whatever” to someone out there and they were very offended. My friend and her husband are from the Philadelphia area and in Philly, saying “whatever” is not that rude. I mean, yeah it’s kind of snarky and dismissive, but it’s not the kind of thing that would bring that much offense to most normal people.
The responses to my friend’s query were interesting. Most of her friends said it was a little disrespectful, but not “fuck off and die” territory. A couple of folks commented that it would depend on the tone and the context. One mother said she would wash her kid’s mouth out with soap if she ever heard her say it. Apparently, out on the left coast, “whatever” is highly offensive and actually is akin to saying “fuck off and die”. Someone can correct me if my friend’s impression is wrong.
Anyway, I was suddenly reminded of an incident that occurred back in 1998 or 99… can’t remember exactly when. I was working as a waitress at a nice restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia. It was dinner time and someone in my section had ordered a cheeseburger, an item on the dinner cafe menu, while everyone else was having food off the regular dinner menu. The crappy computer at the restaurant had a course numbering system that usually worked fine. However, for some reason, burgers were not automatically designated second or main courses. You had to enter it manually.
In my haste to take the order, I forgot to designate the burger as a main course; so I had to go back and talk to the chef. I went to the kitchen and explained that I had forgotten to course sequence the cheeseburger and that I wanted to note that it was intended to be a main course. The chef was very rude about it and made some nasty or sarcastic comment to me. I no longer remember what he said, but it was offensive. And I said in response, “whatever”. Actually, given my emotional state in those days, he’s lucky all I said was “whatever”. At that time, I was trying to find the right antidepressant and was even edgier than usual.
Well… the chef got pissed, and complained to the manager that I had been “rude” and disrespectful to him. So she cornered me and bitched me out, which got me really upset. I was pretty non-functional for about an hour. I’m kind of surprised I never got fired from that job, actually… though I was generally a hard and dependable worker. Once I got my meds straightened out, I was a lot more even tempered. For some reason, a couple of the managers actually seemed to like me and kept me around. Also, they were chronically understaffed. Anyone with a high enough tolerance for abuse and decent work ethic could work there as long as they wanted to.
Later, I told my shrinks about what happened. The psychiatrist, who was a bit of an ass and used to patronize me by calling me “kid” and constantly harassed me about my weight, asked me if I had apologized to the chef. And my response was that the chef should have apologized to me. I had made a simple error and immediately went back to fix it. I was polite when I approached him. He got shitty with me first. It wasn’t even like the error was a big deal. All the chef had to do was make a note of it on the order chit, but instead, he decided to start shit with me when neither of us had time for the drama.
My psychologist, whom I suspect was not really all that impressed with the drug pushing psychiatrist, applauded me for being so assertive and said the chef was acting like a prima donna! A couple of years later, his daughter worked at the same restaurant. I’m sure he heard even more horror stories from her.
Restaurant work is hectic and frustrating and, if you work in a nice place, it’s likely you’ll have to deal with egomaniacal chefs who act like assholes… and that chef who was rude to me was a major asshole who thankfully rarely worked on the line because he had been promoted to “executive chef”. I vividly remember the few times he did work on the line and he would throw tantrums that, if you were sitting in a dining area close enough to the kitchen, you could easily hear. He was very unprofessional and would often get weeded because he was out of practice and easily overwhelmed. And when he messed up, he took it out on the staff, who were forced to address him as “sir”. No, I’m not still bitter… 😉
I actually hated that job, but I’m very grateful for the experience. I learned so much there and it did propel me to a better life. I made several good friends working at that restaurant, too. Some of them are still friends today. Indeed, 17 months of misery in fine dining literally changed my life for the better and, I think, made me a much higher quality person. At the very least, I learned to have respect for people who work in the service industry. I will never purposely stiff someone who works as a server, unless their behavior is so egregiously rude and unprofessional that they make it obvious they don’t care if I tip them.
That restaurant experience also gave me a lot of stories… and taught me a bit about fine food and wine. It helped me find a very easy and decently paying job when I moved to South Carolina and needed something that wouldn’t interfere too much with grad school. I ended up working at a country club where I didn’t have to rely on tips, had flexible hours, and they would let me take home leftovers. I also learned to try new things and enjoy really good food instead of processed boxed crap or casual dining chains. I may not be skinny, but at least I get fat on the good stuff.
In 2020, I still have a lot of friends from that restaurant job. Some of them are chefs. Not all chefs are assholes, but restaurant work is a stressful job which can lead to some bad habits like smoking and drinking way too much. The chef who was rude to me had worked his way up to executive status, so he was no longer used to expediting. I always hated it when he had to work, because he would often throw tantrums that involved yelling, screaming, and occasionally throwing things. He’d had to work that night because one of the regular chefs got sick and needed to take the night off. The executive chef was pissed off that he had to work as a lowly expeditor, and he took his angst out on me.
Incidentally, the chef who called in sick is still a friend of mine. He was one of my favorite chefs to work with back in those days, because although he did occasionally throw the odd tantrum, he didn’t smoke or drink and very rarely fucked things up. He was also very funny. At the time, he had a mohawk, and he enjoyed my raunchy sense of humor. I still like him today, although it looks like he’s now a manager, rather than a chef.
I recently read that the restaurant where this happened, which had opened in 1980 and had once employed my sister back in its earliest days, closed for good just a couple of weeks ago. The restaurant that existed during my employment there actually ceased to exist in 2009. The original owners sold it to another local chef. The “new” owner was never able to get the restaurant to the level it was back in its heyday. So now he’s going to start over, and turn that restaurant into an Italian eatery. Williamsburg, Virginia actually has a number of Italian restaurants… but this new place will have a lower price point and be more family friendly. It will also have a retail side. We’ll see how it turns out and, if indeed, it survives the COVID-19 nightmare.
As I posted on my travel blog– which is now more of a German social isolation lifestyle blog– I’m picking up new skills every day.
Back in April 2014, I posted the following essay on my music blog, Dungeon of the Past. I don’t post on that blog very often anymore. It’s mainly a place where I write about obscure songs from the 70s and 80s, as well as some musical book and album reviews. I love music, but I don’t really enjoy writing music reviews, so there aren’t too many there. Anyway, since we are all on house arrest, lately I’ve been doing a bunch of new recordings. I was reminded of how my very first voice teacher, an adjunct professor at Longwood College (now Longwood University) changed my life. I’m going to repost that essay, along with some updated thoughts.
I have a few friends who are college professors. One of my teaching friends is a woman I met while we were both working as waitresses. She later earned higher degrees in English literature and now teaches at a small college in Virginia. Yesterday, she shared an article from The Atlantic about how some adjunct professors at colleges are living at poverty level. While the article itself was shocking reading– it’s hard to imagine a college teacher being forced to sleep in their car— it also made me realize that an adjunct professor changed my life in a profound way.
In the fall of 1990, I was a brand new college student. I had signed up for the usual general education classes… math, English, history, music appreciation, etc. One course I had signed up for that was kind of a surprise was voice class. I chose it because I needed an arts class for my general education requirements. Of the four disciplines offered– theatre, art, music, or dance– music was the art that spoke most directly to me. I had never sung before, except in the car when I was alone. I knew I had a pretty decent singing voice, though. My parents were musicians as are a number of my extended relatives. I have a cousin who is a professional musician in Nashville. My mom played organ professionally for over 50 years. My dad was a much celebrated singer in many local ensembles.
So I signed up for voice class, which was a one credit course that met once a week and was taught by an adjunct professor named Ann Brown. My father happened to know Ms. Brown’s mother, who is a concert level pianist and was the accompanist for one of the many singing groups of which he was a member. He was excited when I told him Ms. Brown would be my teacher. He knew she was very qualified because he’d met her through her mother. Ms. Brown had attended Westminster Choir College near Princeton, New Jersey and, like me, had perfect pitch (I found out about mine during a brief period during my childhood when I studied piano). Besides teaching at college, Ms. Brown was also a professional singer.
On the first day of voice class, about five students met in the choir rehearsal room at my college. Ms. Brown was there, looking like she’d jumped off the pages of a Spiegel catalog. She wore colorful, stylish clothes and had long, curly hair. She was very tall and seemed serene as she sat behind the grand piano in the rehearsal room. She immediately put me at ease.
The five of us each had a copy of the required textbook for the class, Basics of Singing. It was basically a songbook that had a nice selection of songs for beginning voice students. I actually wish I still had that book. I see it’s listed on Amazon and very expensive… it also gets low ratings. Well hell, I liked it at the time. I sold it back to the bookstore, no doubt because I needed beer money.
Ms. Brown asked us each to choose a song. We would be learning three each that semester and performing it in her class. Basics of Singing had a number of familiar songs in it, which was a good thing, since I never did learn how to play piano and was too poor to buy the optional accompanist tapes. The first song I chose was “Summertime”, from Porgy & Bess. I sang it with relative ease and Ms. Brown was apparently impressed. She took me under her wing.
Sometime near the end of the course, Ms. Brown took me aside and told me she thought I was very talented. She said I should study voice privately and encouraged me to audition for Camerata Singers, which was our college’s “better” choir. I had never sung in a choir before. My dad’s obsessive devotion to his choirs had turned me off of them. Besides, my mom was an organist, which meant she was always at choir practice, too. I grew to enjoy the couple of hours with the house to myself.
Studying voice would entail an extra expense. I would have to hire an accompanist and pay an extra lab fee. However, given my parents’ devotion to music, I knew they would agree. They did… especially after they heard me sing for the first time during a beer enhanced Thanksgiving celebration (but that’s another post).
The audition for Cameratas didn’t go quite as well because I was nervous and, at that time, wasn’t such a good sight reader. Dr. Trott, the director of the choirs, asked me to join the non-audition group, Concert Choir, instead, which I did.
The following semester, I took private voice lessons from Ms. Brown. Her class quickly became my favorite, even though I was an English major. I found studying voice challenging, yet relaxing. I enjoyed exploring this part of me that I had just discovered. I felt like I’d found a new super power, because seriously, before I took voice class, I almost NEVER sang in front of other people, not even in church. My parents had no idea I could sing.
I grew to really like Ms. Brown as a person, too. She became more than a teacher. She was a friend. While I was her student, I got to go with a bunch of music majors to Richmond, Virginia, to see Cosi Fan Tutte. After the show, we visited Ms. Brown at her home and looked at her college yearbooks. She had attended Westminster Choir College at the same time Dr. Trott had and it was fun to see them when they were college aged. With Ms. Brown’s help, that semester Dr. Trott welcomed me into Cameratas when I demonstrated my uncanny tonal memory, which also makes for a fun party trick.
Besides teaching me the basics of singing and showing me that opera can be beautiful, Ms. Brown introduced me to the wonderful music of Kathleen Battle. She gave me a copy of Battle’s CD, Kathleen Battle Sings Mozart. I became a big fan of Kathleen Battle’s crystalline voice, even though she has a reputation for being a bit of a prima donna. I now own many of her albums, but before I met Ms. Brown, I had never heard of her. Because I listened to Kathleen Battle, I started listening to other singers and developed quite an appreciation for classical music.
My exploration of classical music enhanced my study of literature, which made me a better writer and a more cultured person. I can’t even count the number of poems and literary works I became familiar with because I first encountered them set to music. The very first Robert Burns poem I ever heard was set to a lovely melody in four part harmony. When I went to Scotland years later and enjoyed my first taste of haggis, I appreciated Burns’ gift of language even more than I might have, for I associated him with music. It made his “Address to A Haggis” much easier to swallow.
I took lessons from Ms. Brown for three semesters. Unfortunately, after the third semester, the college decided to lay her off. It turned out another professor, one who was tenured and had been working in the Office of Continuing Education, had decided to come back to the music department. There was no longer room for Ms. Brown and her very special style of instruction. I was very sad when I got the news, especially since I had already signed up for lessons the next semester. The next professor didn’t make as good an impression on me at first, though I eventually grew to like her. But let’s just say, the initial transition was very rough.
A year later, Ms. Brown was asked to come back to my school. Rumor had it she declined, because as an adjunct professor, there was no guarantee that she wouldn’t be laid off again. Another very competent adjunct professor was hired. I wanted to take his class, but by then the tenured professor had claimed me as her student and changed my schedule back to her class. At the time, I lacked the assertiveness to raise hell about that… in the long run, it probably wasn’t a big deal anyway. I eventually grew comfortable with Ms. Brown’s successor and learned from her, too. The last time I saw Ms. Brown, she was on a stage in Richmond, performing the starring role in The Medium. She was outstanding, of course!
Adjunct professors can and do make a huge difference in the lives of their students. I think it’s shameful that so many of them are struggling to survive. If it weren’t for Ms. Brown, I might not be a singer today. I might not be writing about music. I might not be as fierce a competitor as I am on SongPop because I know more about opera and art songs than I might have. She truly did change my life and enhanced my college experience in the most amazing way. If I had never taken her voice class almost 24 years ago (now 30), I couldn’t have made this video.
Ms. Brown was the first of many teachers I’ve had who have helped me develop a part of me that, until I went to college, was completely undiscovered and undeveloped. I may not be a professional singer, but being able to sing has improved my life exponentially. I have an adjunct professor to thank for that. Yes, she really did change my life for the better. I sure hope she’s not sleeping in a car these days.
Now– back to 2020… Thanks to the coronavirus, I’ve been thinking about ordering a guitar and picking up a few chords. I can’t go anywhere, and my piano is in storage in Texas. I can’t play piano particularly well, but I have zero guitar skills. But guitars are more portable than pianos are, and lots of musicians are generously offering video tutorials. And hell, I’ve got nothing else to do.I have always regretted not sticking with music lessons when I was growing up, but horses gave me a lot of joy, even if I wasn’t the most talented.There’s probably a reason things turned out the way they did.
I’m so glad Ms. Brown was there to help me discover a part of myself that went hidden for 18 years. Learning to sing and becoming willing to do it in front of others has changed my life on many levels. It’s a skill I’ve been able to use worldwideand helps me connect to people even when I don’t speak their language. Just last week, the memorial video I made for our dog, Zane, helped me convince locals how much I treasure our canine family members.Yes, the pictures helped, but I think the emotional music was also useful in conveying how I felt about Zane.
As I’ve been making more music lately, I’ve thought about my very first teacher, and how if it weren’t for her, I probably would have just taken that one voice class and left it at that.She truly cared about her students and took an interest in developing their skills. I will always remember her, and feel much gratitude for what she did for me.
One of my friends from college shared this hilarious video with me, knowing that I would love it…
It took some doing to figure out to whom I should credit this video. Looks like it was done by the guy who runs the rekording channel on YouTube. Chris Franklin wrote the lyrics. They are too funny. I think my favorite line is “it spreads faster than a hooker’s legs.”
As I was fucking around on YouTube, I heard him do another song… Check him out. He’s got chops!
Just now, a brand new friend shared this with me…
Shit. Now I’m feeling inspired to write a song parody. Why not? It’s cloudy and we can’t go anywhere anyway. And music gets me in less trouble than rants do…
We are blessed to have plenty of toilet paper and wine… Bill made homemade ravioli last night. Maybe I’ll write about it on my other blog. Why not? Hope you all enjoy these numbers. If I find any more, I’ll add them to this post.