bad TV, healthcare, social media

Things I try not to say on Facebook…

When I stop myself from responding to some comments on social media, I think of my conscience as Dorothy Zbornak, covering Sophia Petrillo’s mouth before she says something everyone regrets…

It’s Thursday, and I’m currently in allergy hell. Yesterday, I went outside briefly, hoping to enjoy the warm, sunny weather, and had to come back inside within minutes because my nose was running like a faucet and my eyes were swelling. I took a couple of Benadryl, which really helped, but not before my eyes took on the appearance of two cherries in a glass of buttermilk. They still look pretty bad today, and I’ve been coughing, sneezing, and sniffling since I crawled out of bed.

I mentioned this issue to some of my Facebook friends, many of whom responded with empathy. A lot of us are suffering right now. One person said she was ready for the trees to stop having sex. Yes, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? I think a lot of men should stop having sex, too. They obviously can’t handle what sex can cause. Aside from that, there is currently a formula shortage in the United States, and a lot of men seem to think it’s a simple thing for women with starving babies to simply start breastfeeding.

Spotted this on THE BEER PARTY’S Facebook page. Too funny!

Guys… not all women can breastfeed. Start with the fact that some women don’t have breasts because of cancer or some other health issue. Some people take medications that would make breastfeeding dangerous for the baby. Some don’t make enough milk for their babies; that was an issue for my sister, who had to switch to formula when her son was a baby. There are any number of other reasons why breastfeeding doesn’t work for everyone. Aside from that, this is simply another issue that the vast majority of men don’t have a clue about. But, even though they don’t know about periods, pregnancy, or PMS, a lot of guys think they can offer a simple fix to the baby formula issue. Just pull out your breasts, ladies. Right. I wish I could lactate at will, and squirt some of these guys in their faces with some breast milk. A lot of them would enjoy it, though.

I decided to go to the original source of the above post, put on social media by a comedian. A cranky old man took him to task. I noticed that both the comedian and the cranky old man use misogynistic terms in their comments about feeding babies. Old guy refers to “bitching”, which is anti-woman, since in the human definition of the word “bitch”, bitches are usually either women or effeminate men. Comedian uses the term “d-bag”, which is an abbreviation of a word that refers to something women use to clean out their nether regions. While I do like the comedian’s “meme”, I do think he might want to consider that when a man uses misogynistic language like “bitching” and “d-bag”, especially when they are claiming not to be sexist, as they discuss issues that mostly pertain to women, they kind of lose a little credibility. But, that’s just my opinion.

I do think cranky old man needs to get a clue and realize that many women are tired of men trying to tell us about what it’s like to be female. The last comment, by the way, wasn’t made by me. However, I do agree wholeheartedly that on this subject, a lot of men need to STFU.

I don’t usually take offense to the words “bitch” and “bitching”, even though I probably should. However, I truly don’t like the word “douchebag”, or any incarnation of it. I think it’s nonsensical to call someone a “douche”, especially when one claims to be sensitive toward women, or a feminist. To me, using the word “douche” as an insult is also stupid, because in many countries, a “douche” is a shower. But in America, we know that douching is kind of nasty, and douchebags are mostly used by women. So if you’re a comedian commenting on the cluelessness of “Trumpanzee pro-lifers” and calling them “d-bags”, maybe it’s better to choose a different insult than one that is basically sexist.

I’m not going to point out this logic discrepancy on Facebook, though, because it will only invite eyerolls and comments about how I need to “rent a sense of humor” or “lighten up”, or whatever… Moreover, the vast majority of people aren’t going to change their minds from reading comments on Facebook. Actually, it seems to me that a lot of people, based only on what they post on social media, are miserable jerks who are more interested in being rude and insulting, than actually contributing to a discussion, or being social. I can admit to being kind of a jerk myself sometimes, but it’s often in response to some of the snark I read daily. I do stop myself from posting a lot of times, though. It just isn’t worth the butthurt.

Last night, for example, I found myself commenting on an article about COVID, and how some people think face masks could save humanity. I pointed out that in Germany, we have only JUST started being allowed to be in some places without masks. And here, people were expected to wear the oppressive FFP2 masks, which are akin to N95s. People still got COVID, in spite of the “high quality” masks. COVID is going to spread, whether or not we wear masks. That is a proven fact. Given that most people do NOT wear the masks properly, replace them frequently enough, wash their hands, or cover their eyes, we should expect that infections will continue. What is more important is keeping people out of the hospitals, which is where effective vaccines come in. Vaccines are helping in that regard.

I know I should have kept that thought to myself, but it was late in the evening, and I lost my resolve. Sure enough, a bunch of people jumped on my case about it. One woman proudly told me I was wrong because she works for the CDC. My response was, “Good for you, working for the CDC. I have a MPH myself, so I respect your work.” (as someone who works for the CDC, one would hope that she might realize that not every educated person is going to agree).

Another person commented that Germany’s COVID infections are among the highest in Europe, and implied that it was because the mask rules were mostly dropped in April. He or she might be right. To tell you the truth, I didn’t bother to check. However, Denmark dropped masks weeks before Germany did. I would have been more impressed with their comment if they had brought up how Denmark is faring, coupling it with more than just anecdotes. Denmark has been maskless longer than Germany has. Moreover, I assume this person is in the USA, where masks were dropped even longer ago.

My point is, Germany still has plenty of COVID infections, in spite of more people masking with higher quality masks, and more mask compliance as a general rule. People in Germany still got COVID, in spite of wearing masks. The masks had nothing to do with whether or not the resulting sickness was more or less severe. Masks are supposed to stop viruses from spreading; but if you get the virus in spite of masking, you might still get deathly ill, if your body isn’t prepared to handle the infection. The goal shouldn’t be preventing infections, so much as it should be keeping people from dying and/or taking up all of the hospital beds. And again, vaccines do help with that. At this point, I am sure I will eventually get COVID, and it might be really bad. But I suspect I won’t get so sick that I die, because I am triple vaxxed. To read some of the comments, the minute one person takes off their mask, disaster will certainly strike. As the old song goes, “it ain’t necessarily so.”

A third person blessed me out for daring to doubt the efficacy of wearing face masks forever, then signed off with the hashtag, #wearamask. To which my very southern response was, “Bless your heart.” If I’m not hanging out around people and I’m fully vaccinated, there’s much less of a need for masking, right? Staying away from people is a guaranteed way to lower the risk of getting sick. I’d say it’s much more effective than wearing a stupid mask. Aside from that, I don’t live anywhere near the vast majority of these people, anyway, so my conclusions and decisions stemming from them, won’t affect any of them. Why be so rude? Critical thinking skills are nonexistent among some people these days, aren’t they?

Finally, a woman told me to “take a hike” because she got sick from the Astrazeneca shot. So I replied, “Taking hikes is a healthy thing to do. I wouldn’t mind taking one; thank you.” Especially if it means getting away from the likes of her. Based on her online persona, she’s probably not someone I’d want to know. I don’t particularly enjoy hiking, but I’d probably rather do that than have a conversation with someone who is rude to me right off the bat.

I think people should be able to wear masks if they want to. I also think it should be a valid personal choice not to wear them. There are reasons why masks are problematic for some people, and those people should be allowed to contribute to the conversation, too. It would be nice if people would be more open-minded about these things, and think longer about the issue, instead of immediately shooting down those who have a different viewpoint. Except, of course, when it comes to “pro-life Trumpanzee” men, who continually refer to abortion as “murdering babies” and try to comment with authority on things with which they have no possible personal experience, like having periods, birthing babies, and breastfeeding.

Incidentally, I finally lost my most recent Facebook red badge of shame today. I got dinged a month ago for referring to “dumb Americans”… but my God, it sure is hard to resist when there are so many fine specimens of homegrown American stupidity on the prowl.

And finally, there’s one last subject I want to bring up today. This has nothing to do with the rest of this post. I just found it amusing.

While I was waiting for Bill to come home from work, I started watching a mid 80s episode of the medical drama, Trapper John, MD. Now, I know Trapper John, MD was not the most factually or medically accurate show. However, I did do a double take on the episode, “Going, Going, Gonzo…”, in which Gonzo Gates (Gregory Harrison) has a stroke. While he’s recovering, they show a montage of him getting therapy. In one shot, a doctor is using a Hitachi Magic Wand on him. See below…

I would not expect a physician to be doing physical therapy on anyone, even if it is the Great Gonzo Gates. And that massager he’s using is clearly a Hitachi Magic Wand, which many women use for sexual stimulation purposes. I used to own one myself, having purchased it when Bill was in Iraq. I got a huge kick out of it, especially since the directions never indicated that the wand was a sensual device, but one could buy attachments that were clearly for that purpose. Also, the person who wrote the directions was obviously not a native English speaker, so some stuff got lost in translation.

Incidentally, I got rid of my “magic wand”, because it didn’t do anything for me.

In that episode, Trapper John also lectures/shames stroke ridden Gonzo for wanting to take antidepressants. I don’t know about you, but I would think that having a stroke would make a person depressed. So I would not fault Gonzo for wanting to take medication to help him deal with his new reality. Trapper mentions the “side effects”, which in fairness probably would have been bad in the 80s, since the drugs we have now were not available in the 80s. I didn’t take antidepressants in the 80s, but it’s my understanding that the side effects were pretty brutal. However, those drugs also saved people’s lives. Trapper ends his soliloquy by putting down the pill cup and telling Gonzo that if he wants to take them, he will have to do it by himself. Seems like a strange attitude for a doctor to have. I guess it was good for the story, though.

Anyway, now I have to repost my blog entries about the Hitachi Magic Wand. Hopefully, they won’t inspire any unwanted correspondence. Stay tuned!

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bad TV, celebrities, funny stories, true crime

Chris Rock’s “squirrel joke” ends with a slap heard ’round the world…

I don’t follow awards shows at all, and haven’t even been to the movies since 2018. Nevertheless, I woke up this morning to the news about how actor Will Smith smacked comedian Chris Rock at the Academy Awards last night. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard the story, here’s what happened. Chris Rock was hosting the Oscars show, and he made a tasteless joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, Will’s wife. Jada Pinkett Smith has a condition called alopecia areata, which causes patches of hair loss. Consequently, she’s almost bald.

Chris Rock made a crack about the alopecia, making reference to the film G.I. Jane, which starred Demi Moore, who was sporting a very short haircut. He says he expects to see Jada in G.I. Jane II. Jada Pinkett Smith’s response was simply to roll her eyes, but Will Smith went a whole lot further when he marched up on the stage, hauled off, and slapped Rock across the face.

That is what you call a bitch slap. He definitely didn’t hold back at all.

I’m sure Chris Rock felt his teeth rattle after that blow to the face. I have to give him props for shaking it off and carrying on. Especially as Will Smith then tells Chris Rock to keep his wife’s name out of his “fuckin’ mouth”.

I’m sure a lot of people had this reaction…

I’ve seen a number of reactions to this incident, and I’ve gotta say, I’m kind of shocked by how many people think it’s okay that Will Smith reacted with violence to Chris Rock’s crappy joke. I certainly agree that the joke was in very poor taste, and it definitely wasn’t funny at all. However, while I can understand Will Smith’s impulse to strike Chris Rock in the face for publicly insulting his wife, I don’t think it was the right thing to do. Smith committed a crime when he hit Rock, and there are literally millions of witnesses to what happened. Moreover, it just isn’t civilized behavior to give in to violent impulses, particularly in a setting like the Oscars. It was supposed to be a dignified occasion, not the fucking Friday night fights. These two men turned what was supposed to be an honorable and dignified occasion into something that was decidedly not family friendly.

If Smith had just kept his cool, Rock would have looked like an asshole. We probably would even be talking about what a lame, mean-spirited joke Rock made at Jada Pinkett Smith’s expense. Instead, we’re all talking about Will Smith’s thuggery, perhaps even taking a side as to which man behaved worse. And then, Smith wins an award and gets up to talk about “what God wants him to do” and “protecting” his family. He blames his violent actions on “the devil”, which I think was quite a cop out.

He says he wants to be a vessel to love… but first he needs to learn to keep his hands to himself.

There are times when a violent reaction to an action is completely justifiable. For instance, if Chris Rock was physically attacking Jada, I could understand Will Smith smacking Rock in the face… or Jada herself decking him. But Chris Rock is a comedian, and it’s his job to make people laugh. Sometimes, comedians go for cheap laughs by making demeaning comments and insults about other people. I’m not saying it’s right, but I do think it often comes with the territory of being a comedian. I mean, even Spongebob Squarepants once got laughs by insulting Sandy Squirrel, right?

I think Chris Rock could learn from Sandy Squirrel’s lesson for Spongebob.

I just rewatched this clip from Spongebob Squarepants and, seriously… it really is quite a lot like what happened, except Spongebob didn’t get his beating in public like Rock did. And Rock, astonishingly, somehow managed to keep his composure and the show apparently went on. But a better comedian can make jokes without hitting below the belt with comments about things other people can’t help. It’s not cool to make fun of another person’s body. So I think Will Smith should have just let Rock’s joke stand for the poor comedy it was, and kept his hands to himself. Or, if he really wanted to hit him, he should have done it at a time and place where the world wasn’t watching.

Chris Rock could press charges against Mr. Smith, and it’s pretty likely that the law would be on Rock’s side. I’m sure a lot of judges would have some sympathy for Smith, but it would be wrong to condone violence. I mean, we learn in kindergarten not to go around hitting each other, right? It’s one of the first lessons children learn in school.

Moving on…

We had a really nice weekend. The weather was perfect, and we got out a couple of times. And on Friday, I ordered new sheets for our bed… first ones since 2015, when I bought Comphy microfiber spa sheets. I remember writing about that purchase on my original blog. Those sheets have started developing a hole, so Friday, I decided to get new ones. I love Comphy sheets. They are my favorites.

Comphy doesn’t ship to APO addresses, so I originally wanted to purchase them and have them sent to my mother-in-law. I was able to do that in 2015. This time, I couldn’t do it, so I had to have them shipped directly to me. I ordered Friday morning and they have already gotten here! The credit card charge hasn’t even posted yet!

Granted, I paid a lot for the sheets. I bought an extra set of pillow cases, and a throw, so that all amounted to a pretty big bill. Customs and shipping were also pricey. BUT… they really are the best sheets I’ve had. They’re super soft and comfortable; they don’t wrinkle or pill; and they are very durable through hundreds of washings. So I don’t mind that they cost more than a month’s rent in my apartment in grad school.

I’m now giving them a preliminary wash and I heard the chime go off, so In an hour or so, I will be putting them on the bed… and I suspect, thanks to DST taking effect yesterday, in about three hours, I’ll be napping on them.

Yea!

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bad TV, nostalgia

A hairstyle for all people…

Good morning, blog fans. Today, I’m going to write a short post, because I’ve been inspired to make some music and I want to get to it as soon as possible. I want to take advantage of this feeling while it lasts. Lately, I haven’t been as enthusiastic about my melodic pursuits, although I have been practicing guitar. Sometimes I venture onto SingSnap for a short while, but I haven’t done any YouTube videos recently. Maybe I’ll get a new one up today, now that I have some new photos.

Since I want this to be a short, but sweet, posting, I’ve decided that today’s topic will be on the lighter side… and it will appeal to anyone who was around in the 1980s and watched The Facts of Life on TV. You know, back in those days, we didn’t have so many options, even if we did have cable. That’s probably the only reason The Facts of Life lasted nine seasons. I just finished the 7th season and, I gotta tell you, it really did jump the shark. Aside from that, the show completely veered away from its original premise and became kind of silly. I mean, it was always “silly”, but the writers tackled some important issues. In the waning seasons, the show just became lightweight and kind of farcical.

One really notable thing about the later seasons of The Facts of Life, though, is that George Clooney was briefly a cast member. And in the mid 1980s, he had a mullet. You know who else had a mullet? Nancy McKeon did. She played Jo. Nancy was a very pretty young woman, but poor thing, when she was on The Facts of Life, they really made her look mannish. Actually, a lot of the clothes worn in the later seasons were just hideous. There was a lot of synthetic fabric and humongous shoulder pads… loud colors, and overalls. Most of the cast members had visible weight struggles at certain points during its run, and those shoulder pads were not helpful at all. Especially for Mindy Cohn (Natalie) and Kim Fields (Tootie).

Anyway… I was pretty amused when I noticed that Nancy McKeon, George Clooney, and Michael Damian (he played Fly Man, and was also on The Young and the Restless for years) could have passed for siblings. They all had an affinity for hairspray and mousse, too. Have a look.

And then, I noticed that Lisa Whelchel, who had beautiful blonde hair and tumbled in golden curls past her shoulders also got the same haircut… And she colored her hair sort of a yucky reddish blonde. It really aged her, in my opinion. I noticed that she wore skirts in most episodes when the show was very popular. Then, in the later seasons, it was dressy suits, pants with angora sweaters, and the odd dress. Meanwhile, poor Mindy Cohn and Kim Fields were put in really ugly, frumpy outfits. Thankfully, Lisa has reclaimed her “crowning glory”, as evidenced in her recent recap of her most famous role…

She can still pull off the uniform!

I’m glad I never had a mullet… Actually, I think I had a short haircut very briefly in 1985, but it didn’t last. And then in the late 90s, I had a short cut. But then when Bill and I got together, I grew out my hair again, because he preferred it long… and, well, I HATE going to get haircuts. I always have. I haven’t seen a professional hairstylist since 2010. I usually cut my own hair… and often while drunk. No wonder I don’t like being on camera. 😉

Incidentally, 20 years ago today, Bill and I officially got engaged. We were unofficially engaged in January 2002, but I got my ring on March 13, 2002. The time has really flown by.

Taken the evening Bill and I officially got engaged, March 13, 2002. This was back when I got haircuts. I think I colored my own hair, though.
And this is us last week, just before we went to France.

Well… I guess that’s about all I have to say today. Going to see if I can make some pretty music. Have a great Sunday!

Edited to add… Here’s a new video.

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bad TV, education, funny stories, nostalgia, religion, sex

Repost: Sex education, Irish Catholic style… 

Here’s another repost from Blogspot. This time, it’s from July 15, 2016. The videos are hilarious!

My friend, Donna, posted this article from IrishCentral’s Web site on my Facebook timeline.  It’s about a very weird sex education video that was apparently distributed to Irish Catholic schools in the 1980s.  As weird and awkward as sex education can be under the best of circumstances, the video highlighted in this article kind of take the cake.  Behold!

If I had grown up in Ireland and Catholic, I might have seen these videos as a teen. Angela looks like a nice lady, but I’m not sure I would want to talk about sex with her.
Jim Bob Duggar would not like this video because of the music with a beat… that leads to beating off.

The videos are pretty funny because they are obviously from the 80s.  Had I been born Catholic in Ireland, I might have watched them in school.  What really makes me laugh is the way Angela, the lady in the videos, expresses herself.  She uses some pretty funny slang to refer to parts of the body as well as going to the bathroom.  I laughed out loud when she talked about “doing a big job” in reference to taking a dump.

The rest of the video either made me cringe and blush or exclaim disbelief.  Seriously.  She’s an old lady talking about fucking and relating it to God.  I guess, on a superficial level, it’s cool that she’s not making sex out to be dirty.  Of course, the only sex that is okay is that which occurs within the bonds of marriage between two heterosexuals.  But once you’re married, have at it and make some babies!

I wonder if the Mormon church ever put out a sex ed video.  I doubt the Presbyterians– which is the church I was raised in– ever broached such a subject.  I think they expected us to learn about sex in school.  But Catholics are a different breed.

I actually kind of like Catholics, even if I would not make a very good one.  And these videos, along with Van Morrison, make me want to get on a plane and visit Ireland.  I want to see if I can find an Irish lady to tell me about the facts of life.  Too funny!

ETA in 2022: Later in 2016, Bill and I took our first trip to Ireland as a couple. We celebrated our 14th anniversary there. We had an amazing time in a cottage right by the sea. I wish I was there now. Especially now that I know I have some Irish ancestry.

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bad TV, fashion, good tv, memories, nostalgia

The “facts of life” one learns while watching The Facts of Life…

A few weeks ago, I got a wild hair up my ass and decided to buy a few box sets of favorite TV shows from the 70s and 80s. I bought The Bionic Woman, One Day at a Time, and The Facts of Life. I’ve actually only seen a few episodes of The Bionic Woman, since it aired when we lived in England, and I don’t remember it being aired in syndication much. I did used to watch One Day at a Time when I was a kid, but missed the earliest episodes because I was too young when the show started, and then it really jumped the shark. I was a BIG fan of The Facts of Life, which was a spinoff of Diff’rent Strokes.

Most every kid my age loved Diff’rent Strokes, but I guess the powers that be decided that Charlotte Rae should have her own show. So they had her get a job at Eastland School, Kimberly Drummond’s boarding school in Peekskill, New York. Boom… suddenly, we had a successful sitcom revolving around the lives of girls who went to boarding school and wore frumpy uniforms all the time. The Facts of Life started off with a large cast of beautiful young girls with flowing hair… except for Molly Ringwald, of course, and Kim Fields, who played Tootie Ramsey, the token Black cast member. After the first season, the size of the cast was slimmed down, as the girls progressed through puberty and gained weight.

I loved the first few seasons of The Facts of Life. I liked it less when the girls were moved out of the school to work at Edna’s Edibles. Also, as is so common on shows about school, the students didn’t graduate on time. It seemed like they were Eastland students forever. And then Charlotte Rae left the show, and they brought in Mackenzie Astin, George Clooney, and Cloris Leachman. The last couple of seasons were practically unwatchable! I didn’t like it when the plot moved away from the school, though, because the school was so central to the show. Also, I think they made boarding school look like a lot more fun than it probably is in reality.

I kind of find the theme song annoying, catchy as it is. Alan Thicke and his ex wife, Gloria Loring, helped compose it, and Loring belts it out in an over-the-top, obnoxious way… not unlike the characters’ personalities.

But there were a few really good years on that show, I’m in the thick of them right now. The writers took on a number of ambitious topics that were very important in the 1980s. Imagine my surprise this week, as I waded through the third and fourth seasons, realizing that subject matter that was timely in 1981 and 1982, is still timely and important today. In seasons 3 and 4, The Facts of Life tackled:

  • suicide
  • abortion
  • book banning
  • underage drinking
  • rape and sexual assault
  • teen pregnancy
  • breast cancer
  • mental retardation (this is what it was called on the show, rather than one of the more politically correct terms of today)
  • physical handicaps (again, how it was described on the show)
  • racism
  • fanaticism
  • crash dieting
  • religion
  • sexism
  • cross cultural issues
  • bullying
  • adoption
  • marital affairs
  • teenage prostitution

The list goes on, as I have only just started season 4, and there were a total of 9 seasons before NBC finally pulled the plug. But as I was wasting the late afternoon hours yesterday, watching the episode about book banning, it occurred to me that, in some ways, we haven’t really gotten anywhere in the last 40 years. The plot was about how a bunch of parents got upset that their daughters were able to check out books like Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, which they felt didn’t promote the right message or values. I was suddenly reminded of the recent controversy surrounding the book, Maus, by Art Spiegelman, which has had the effect of causing a bunch of people to buy and read the book in protest. I read Maus a few weeks ago, passed it to Bill, who finished it last weekend, and just today, he took it to work to lend to one of his co-workers.

If I recall correctly, I believe I decided to read Slaughterhouse Five when I was in high school, in part because it was mentioned on The Facts of Life as a banned book. I knew I liked Vonnegut’s writing, having read his short story, “Harrison Bergeron”, in the 9th grade. Sure enough, I enjoyed Slaughterhouse Five very much. Then later, I decided to read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, because it was a banned book. My love for reading continues today, although it’s not as easy as it used to be, as my eyes aren’t as young as they once were.

Ditto, the episode about abortion, which was about how the character Natalie, played by Mindy Cohn, made up a story about a girl at Eastland who had an abortion. The story had the whole school buzzing, and soon parents were calling, demanding to know who the girl was. Natalie was threatened with expulsion, until a girl told her that she’d had an abortion. Natalie could have told the headmaster the girl’s name and saved her job as editor of the school paper. But she came clean and admitted she’d made up the story, protecting the girl’s identity. As the credits were about to roll, the headmaster said that he was relieved to “know” that abortion wasn’t an issue at Eastland. Of course, the audience knows better. Forty years later, we’re still fighting over abortion.

I even learned something about capital punishment in France, watching The Facts of Life. The character Geri, played by Geri Jewell, is the cousin of snobby rich girl, Blair Warner. She has cerebral palsy, and works as a comedienne. In one episode, she develops a romance with the school’s French teacher. He asks out Geri, and she says something along the lines of, “I don’t want to get my head chopped off.” She was referencing France’s famous guillotine, which was used to execute people. The French teacher says that France did away with the guillotine in favor of hanging.

I was surprised to hear that the guillotine hadn’t been abolished many years ago, so I decided to look up the device’s history, as well as the general history of capital punishment in France. I was very surprised to learn that the last time France used the guillotine was in 1977! I was five years old! The man who was executed was 27 years old and was originally from Tunisia. He was also missing part of a leg, due to a tractor accident in 1971. He was put to death in Marseilles in September 1977 for torturing and murdering a young woman, and forcing a couple of other women into prostitution. Oddly enough, I actually visited Tunisia in 1977. We lived in England at the time, and went to Tunisia to celebrate New Year’s.

In 1981, then French president Francois Mitterrand declared capital punishment illegal in France. It was formally abolished on February 19, 2007. But, up until 1981, the French constitution actually dictated that anyone who was executed in France would be killed by decapitation, or barring that, firing squad. Never having studied French myself, I don’t know much about its history, other than what I’ve seen personally, heard about in the news, or heard from friends. I have had the opportunity and great fortune to visit France many times, which is something I never thought would have happened in 1982. It seems like France was especially popular in America in the 80s! Back in those days, people didn’t travel as much as they do now… or did before COVID-19, anyway.

Even Russia and Ukraine were subjects of The Facts of Life back in the 80s. During the third season, Natalie’s Russian Jewish grandmother, Mona, came to visit her at school. Mona said she was from Ukraine, even though the name of the episode was “From Russia with Love”. In 1982, Ukraine was still part of the former Soviet Union, which, in those days, seemed like it would exist forever. Natalie found Mona overbearing and annoying, but once she and the other girls got to know her, they found out that she was a fascinating woman with many stories to tell. Watching that episode, especially given what is happening in Ukraine right now, and after having read Maus, was surprisingly poignant. Mona references being confronted by a rapey soldier in a corn field in Ukraine, as the Bolsheviks invaded during the Soviet-Ukranian War from 1917-1921.

Seventy years later, Ukraine decided to leave the Soviet Union, and there’s been trouble ever since. I have never been to Ukraine myself, but I have a friend whose wife is from there, and still has a lot of family there. I know that he and his wife and children are terrified for them. It seems that history is repeating itself. At the same time, I have known some fabulous Russian people, thanks to my time in Armenia, which is also a former Soviet Republic. In fact, that’s where I met my friend, who was working there after having served in the Peace Corps in Russia, back when Russia was briefly less menacing.

I remember that The Facts of Life was controversial to some people, especially during its most popular years. My former best friend’s mother would not let her watch the show. I seem to remember her mom was against the show because she happened to see the episode during the first season that referenced marijuana use. The show certainly didn’t promote the use of marijuana, but my ex friend’s mom was very conservative. She didn’t want her kid exposed to anything she was personally against. I seem to remember my ex friend was often doing things behind her mother’s back, and she was a lot more “experienced” in things than I was. My parents, by contrast, pretty much let me raise myself. We used to talk about how different our parents’ styles were, and we agreed that it would have been nice if there could have been a happy medium. My parents didn’t pay enough attention to me. Her parents, especially her mother, were too strict and intrusive. On the other hand, I don’t think her parents used corporal punishment as much as my dad did.

One thing I have noticed about The Facts of Life is that the characters could be very annoying, as well as very funny. My favorite character was probably Natalie, who was quick witted. I used to not like Jo (Nancy McKeon) much, because she alternated between being angry and snide, and being “vulnerable”. Now that I’m older, I appreciate that character more. I used to like Blair (Lisa Whelchel) more, although I still like Whelchel did a good job with her caricature of a spoiled princess. Tootie (Kim Fields) was pretty much always annoying to me, although she was pretty cute in the first season. During the show’s third and fourth seasons, Tootie did a lot of shrieking and whining. Some of the clothes were pretty hideous, too. Especially the knickers and gauchos… they brought back sad memories of childhood fashions.

But mostly, I’ve just noticed that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I really have been surprised by how forty years after The Facts of Life was a hit show, we’re still talking about, and arguing about, the same things. But nowadays, we have many more than than three networks on TV, and audiences are more sophisticated. A show like The Facts of Life probably wouldn’t last today, even though the writers tackled some courageous plots back in the day. Maybe it would be a good thing for today’s youngsters to watch that show. Maybe they’ll learn its lessons better than we did. But really, the best seasons were the earliest ones… as is the case for most long running shows.

Well, I guess it’s time to wrap up this post and get on with my Friday. Last night, Bill made a “stuffed meatloaf”, which is a dish I cooked for him when we were dating. It was one of the many tricks I had up my sleeve that helped me win his heart. It came out of a great cookbook called Virginia Hospitality, which was a gift given to me when I graduated college in 1994. It was put out by the Junior League of Hampton Roads, and since I was born in Hampton, it really is a relic from my hometown.

My husband’s younger daughter is pregnant, and when Bill told her he was making a stuffed meatloaf, she said that sounded so delicious. She had questions about it. So I sent her a copy of the cookbook, which also has a great recipe for cheese souffles. Below is a link for those who are curious about it. It’s definitely my favorite way to make meatloaf. I’m glad Bill learned how to make it, too. I hope she enjoys the book. It’s a gift that is uniquely from her long, lost stepmother. She really doesn’t know me at all, but maybe a cookbook from my origins will be a place to start getting acquainted.

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