family, Reality TV, TV

I finally found my way to “Plathville”…

Recently, I started following Fundie Fridays, which is a YouTube channel run by a woman named Jen who does her makeup while talking about fundamentalist Christians. Sometimes, Jen is joined by her social worker boyfriend, James. I like her channel very much. She’s funny, and she’s great at applying makeup. I’m often amazed at the looks she achieves as she casually discusses people like the Duggars, the Bates, and any other weird-o-rama fringe religions out there.

It was on Jen’s Fundie Fridays channel that I discovered the Plath family. I mean, sure, I had seen references to them in the Duggar Family News Facebook group. I just never paid any attention to them, despite their impossible to ignore blondness and musical chops. Anyway, they have been on TLC for two seasons, and I recently happened to catch Jen’s video about them. In this video, she’s joined by James, as they describe this Quiverfull family who live in southern Georgia and work in Florida. Parents Kim and Barry Plath have nine living children. Their toddler son, Joshua, died in a tragic accident. Kim accidentally ran over him while driving on their farm. He was seventeen months old.

At this writing, two of the Plath kids have gotten married. Eldest son, Ethan, is married to Olivia Meggs, who could easily pass as one of the siblings, since she’s tall and blonde. Eldest daughter, Hosanna, is married to Timothy Noble. They live in Ohio and aren’t on the show.

This video led me down a TLC rabbit hole yesterday.
About season 2.

Kim and Barry both went to college. Kim didn’t finish her music degree at Florida State University. Both parents left college with tons of debt and remember that their college mostly consisted of getting drunk and partying. Consequently, they aren’t fans of college, unless it’s to study something for which a college degree is necessary. All of the Plath kids were homeschooled. They didn’t eat sugar, watch television, have social media or cell phones, or listen to popular music. Both Plath parents are strictly against drinking alcohol, as Kim grew up with an alcoholic single mom who traumatized her.

The Plath kids are musically talented and have had a family band. They played southern gospel music. On their TLC reality show, Welcome to Plathville, we see the adult kids wanting to branch out and listen to and play secular music. Mom and Dad Plath are against that, as well as their other worldly habits, such as drinking Coca-Cola and beer, wearing immodest clothing, and visiting “liberal” cities like San Francisco. The Plath parents have been criticized for being too controlling and for sheltering their children so much that they can’t function in the world.

Here’s a documentary about the Plath family. You can hear their music on this. I think they’re good musicians… certainly better than the Duggars!
Not bad at all, although the girls look a little sad.
Timothy and Hosanna Noble. They aren’t on the show, but Hosanna clearly has the musical genes and blond hair.

I think the Plath kids are absolutely gorgeous. They’re also very talented. Yes, it’s true, they’ve had a very unconventional upbringing. I’ve read a lot of harsh comments about Kim and Barry Plath and, while I haven’t yet finished the series, I feel the need to speak up. I think people are being kind of tough on the Plath parents… at least based on what I’ve seen on the show. Kim and Barry Plath are strict, conservative, and sheltering parents, and some might think they’re hypocrites for making their children live a lifestyle so different from the ones they had growing up. But… when I watch the Plaths, I don’t get the icky feeling I get when I watch the Duggars. And when you compare the two families, I definitely think the Plaths are more “normal” than the Duggars are.

It’s true that the Plath parents discourage their children from being too “worldly”. They don’t approve of drinking alcohol, consuming sugar, wearing immodest clothes, or visiting liberal cities like San Francisco. However, the kids are doing those things and they haven’t been disowned by the parents. It’s true that eldest son, Ethan, kind of went no contact with his parents because of the rift between them and his wife, Olivia. He objects to the way the parents talk to and treat his wife. But I think Olivia kind of brings some of that treatment on herself. She deliberately does things to undo the Plath parents’ “work”. We see her encouraging Ethan to drink alcohol and try a Coke, and hiring sixteen year old Moriah to help her with her wedding photography business so she can “break out” of that sheltered environment and visit San Francisco. The Plaths don’t necessarily approve, but they did allow Moriah to go on that weeklong trip. They could have vetoed it. I think Jim Bob Duggar would have forbidden his daughters from going on a similar trip with a more “worldly” sister-in-law.

I do think Olivia, who is absolutely beautiful, by the way, instigates a lot of problems. It’s understandable that she would, though. She’s still very young and had a different upbringing. I can see why Ethan wants to protect her and have her back. That’s admirable. I can also see why Ethan is a little bit “annoying” to her, too. He’s very childlike and a bit stunted. It’s entertaining to see him drink a mixed drink for the first time. But then, I can see how that reaction to so many new experiences could get irritating, such as when Ethan is shown trying to make pancakes while Olivia is trying to work. It’s as if Ethan is trying to cram a lot of experiences normal people would have had way before marriage. It’s exciting for him, but old hat for his wife. I hope their marriage survives.

Getting back to Kim and Barry– it is true that the Plath parents “kicked out” their son, Micah, and seventeen year old daughter, Moriah, because they didn’t want them influencing their youngest children. But I look at the way Moriah dresses and Micah’s career as a male model. Moriah and Micah visited them to confront them about their upbringing. Moriah was wearing what I think is a bit of a scandalous outfit– red and black leggings, a skimpy top, and tons of makeup. I don’t see her parents forcing her to cover up around the younger kids. I think Jim Bob Duggar would have probably refused to let Moriah come over dressed like that, if she were his daughter. I also doubt that Moriah would have dared to do that, because I have a feeling Boob is heavy on corporal punishment.

I can also understand why two religious parents would not want that in their home, even if I personally disagree with their religious views and policies. I do agree that the Plaths are too strict and too sheltering, but I don’t think they’re as controlling as Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar are. And I don’t think their lifestyle is all that weird, to be honest.

Also… I think people forget that Kim Plath is clearly very traumatized by her upbringing. I grew up with an alcoholic parent myself. I know what that was like for me. I was fortunate enough to have another parent who wasn’t an alcoholic, though. Kim’s mom was all she had, and she grew up in chaos. It makes sense that she would be controlling and try to offer her children something she didn’t have growing up. She probably finds comfort in offering that very orderly, strict home environment, because growing up with an alcoholic can be quite the epic shitshow. I think anyone who doesn’t understand this should read up on adult children of alcoholics, and how a parent’s alcoholism affects children.

Remember, too, that Kim Plath lost a child directly due to her own negligence. She faced a horrifying situation. I don’t even know how someone recovers from causing their own child’s death. I would assume that losing a child in that way would make any parent neurotic and obsessively overprotective. Can you even imagine the guilt and horror of that? She probably has some PTSD going on after that experience. And Barry also lost a child, and as Kim puts it, a wife. She says she wasn’t “present” in the months after Joshua was killed. I would be very surprised if she ever got any mental health counseling, either, to help her process such a terrible loss.

Sad…

I actually had a childhood neighbor who ran over and accidentally killed her daughter. The incident happened in 1995, when my neighbor was 24 years old and her daughter was 2. They were at Walmart and, for whatever reason, my neighbor let her daughter stand up behind the seat of the car as she coasted forward with the door open. The girl fell out of the car and was under the car’s tires. My former neighbor is now dead herself, because she had Huntington’s Disease. I’ve wondered if maybe the disease was starting to be symptomatic when that accident happened. She had three children, only one of whom is still living. Her eldest child, a son, died at age 21 in a car accident. Sadly, because of Huntington’s Disease, it’s possible that the little girl wasn’t destined to live a long life in any case. I have always been haunted by the sad circumstances of that family and wondered how my former neighbor and friend could go on after that accident.

I don’t necessarily agree with Kim’s and Barry’s parenting decisions. I can understand why their children chafe at the way they were raised. I can see why they want to go their own ways so soon after they become adults or, in Moriah’s case, even before then. But I also can understand on one level why Kim and Barry are concerned about their older children “corrupting” the younger ones– even if I don’t agree that the children should be that sheltered. When it comes down to it, they’re the parents, and they should have the right to raise their children according to their beliefs without having to worry about Ethan’s wife overriding their decisions. The time will come soon enough that the youngest kids will be making their own decisions. We can see that the Plath parents have allowed the oldest children to be adults and make those choices. I didn’t see Ma or Pa Plath yelling at Ethan when he drank beer at the “surprise party” Olivia arranged (unbeknownst to them) for Moriah. Imagine if one of the Duggar sons had done that! Jim Bob would have thrown a huge fit. The Plath parents just shot a disapproving look at Ethan, rather than making a scene.

It’s supposed to rain today, and I’m expecting a package from Apple. Bought myself an Apple Touch because the 160 GB Classic iPod I have is becoming obsolete. The Touch will handle a lot more music, too. Since I don’t want to go out before the delivery gets here, I’ll probably go watch more of the Plathville episodes. I might change my mind about Kim and Barry Plath after seeing more of season 2, but at this point, I think people are being pretty tough on them. I don’t think they come close to being as dysfunctional as the Duggars are. At least they allow some dissension and will even discuss issues with their children, even if it’s uncomfortable or unpleasant. That, in my book, makes them healthier than some of the other families that have been presented on TLC. However– I do think that any family that agrees to be profiled on TLC is probably a bit on the fucked up side, regardless. But then, that would describe a lot of families, whether or not they are on reality TV. In the Duggar family’s case, I think maybe reality TV helped make them a little more “normal” than they might have been otherwise. But then, some of those kids might not have been born if Boob and Michelle hadn’t needed storylines to keep the gravy train rolling.

Anyway… I think as TLC families go, the Plaths are probably more real than some. And at least I can understand why they are the way they are, to some extent. I’m sure their faith in God helps them deal with the pain of what they’ve been through. Of course, I write all of this realizing that what we’re seeing is a heavily edited TLC product. I’m sure off camera, things aren’t always necessarily the way they appear.

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ethics, healthcare, Reality TV

Repost: Is it ethical to deliberately pass on genetic anomalies?

I am reposting this content from June 4, 2017, because it goes with yesterday’s reposted content about Huntington’s Disease. This post appears mostly as/is.

This morning, I read an interesting article about Zach and Tori Roloff of the TLC series Little People Big World.  I have seen the show before, but it’s been several years.  I didn’t know that Zach and Tori were expecting a baby, but the news popped up in my Facebook feed.  When I read it, I learned that their new son, Jackson, has achondroplasia, like his father, Zach.  That means that Jackson, like his father, has dwarfism.

Many different people shared this story.  I happened to read the version shared by George Takei.  Given the type of people who follow Mr. Takei’s Facebook page, the comments were a bit more controversial than they were on other places where this news was shared.  One guy– who was either really brave or stupid– posted this, along with an angry smilie.

The only species on earth that perpetuates its mistakes in genetic material on purpose.

Naturally, this comment prompted a number of outraged responses.  People were angry that this poster had the nerve to state that dwarfism is a “mistake”.  One lady posted this.

Excuse me? Being a little person is not a mistake.

Later, the lady who posted the above comment that identified her as a “little person” posted this…

No eugenics is also advocating that only people with “good genes” reproduce. Deciding whether or not to reproduce is a personal decision. My parents knew they had a probability to have a dwarf and still chose to have me. I am not genetically inferior. My birth and life are not a strike against us. Do you not understand what you are writing and how offensive it is to tbose of us who obviously do meet your criteria for being genetically correct.

I am not genetically inferior. I am shorter than average. Who decides what is a genetically superior height? I don’t need longer legs so I can hunt for food. My legs work well enough to walk through a grocery store, drive a car, and get me from point a to b. I don’t need strength to draw a bow. Science and technology keep me from needing to be a hunter and gatherer. I can type 130 wpm. I have a college degree and an IQ of 150. What is your idea of good genetics? Should I be 5’10”, white, blonde and blue eyed. I wear glasses. Should people with non 20/20 eye sight not reproduce.

I will grant that the poster who made the first comment was harsh and insensitive.  I can understand why people were offended.  At the same time, I wonder how many prospective parents are overjoyed to hear that their child has a genetic anomaly.  Do parents pray that their children will be born “different” somehow?  Do parents wish for their babies to be born with special physical, mental, or emotional challenges that might make their lives more complicated and difficult?  My guess is that the vast majority of them do not.  So, on one level, the first poster makes sense, even if the way he expressed himself is very objectionable.

This particular debate went on for a bit, so I’m not going to post the whole thing.  I will say that I noticed this subject brought out the emotions in a lot of people.  Many people seemed to be commenting from their hearts rather than their heads. 

It reminded me of an article I read in the Washington Post about fifteen years ago.  Bill and I were dating and, in those days, it was his habit to go out on Sunday mornings and pick up a paper for me.  I remember sitting on the floor in his shitty studio apartment and reading it over coffee and doughnuts.  I came across this featured piece about couples in the deaf community deliberately trying to have deaf babies.  I remember reading outraged comments about this movement.  Many people were offended that deaf parents would want to intentionally inflict deafness on a child.

From the article:

Several months before his birth, Sharon and Candy — both stylish and independent women in their mid-thirties, both college graduates, both holders of graduate degrees from Gallaudet University, both professionals in the mental health field — sat in their kitchen trying to envision life if their son turned out not to be deaf. It was something they had a hard time getting their minds around. When they were looking for a donor to inseminate Sharon, one thing they knew was that they wanted a deaf donor. So they contacted a local sperm bank and asked whether the bank would provide one. The sperm bank said no; congenital deafness is precisely the sort of condition that, in the world of commercial reproductive technology, gets a would-be donor eliminated.

So Sharon and Candy asked a deaf friend to be the donor, and he agreed.

From what I’ve read so far about Zach and Tori Roloff, which is admittedly not much, they didn’t necessarily plan to have a baby with dwarfism.  I’m sure they knew the risks and were okay with them.  And really, thanks to TLC shows like Little People, Big World and The Little Couple, more and more people are becoming acquainted with dwarfism and the challenges it presents, as well as the fact that little people can lead normal lives, perhaps with a few alterations of their environments.  I remember watching Jen Arnold on The Little Couple go about her business as a doctor.  I watched Jen and her husband building a house that was custom made for people who aren’t a normal height.  

Hell, the other day, I even started watching a German TV show (filmed in Stuttgart, no less) called Dr. Klein.  Klein is the German world for small and the star of the show, actress Christine Urspruch, is herself a dwarf who plays a doctor with dwarfism.  She wears a sexy red dress and red high heeled pumps.  She drives a little red car.  She has a family– including kids, although if memory serves, the kids on Dr. Klein are all normal height.

So yeah, a lot of people are being exposed to people who are different and realizing that they can have normal lives.  But does the fact that people who have congenital “defects” (for lack of a better word) mean that we should, as people, be actively trying to promote them?  Is it fair to deliberately pass on genes to a child who may have a hard time adapting to that condition?  Is it fair to handicap a child on purpose?

I have seen videos of hearing impaired people who hear something for the first time in their lives.  The looks on their faces are unforgettable…

This deaf lady hears music for the first time…
Grayson hears his father speak for the first time.

I’m sure it’s different for little people, although there are so many different types of dwarfism and they seem to affect people differently.  A person with a normal sized trunk and short arms and legs might have different challenges than a person whose body is proportioned, but very short or small.

In any case, regardless of how a person feels about this particular issue, I will go on record as saying that I agree that people must make their own reproductive choices, although I do think those choices should be made with much thought and consideration.  In the past, I have written about my neighbors whose family was heavily affected by Huntington’s Disease, a congenital and ultimately fatal disease that causes people to lose control of their bodies and eventually their minds. 

I remember my neighbor, who died at age 39.  She’d been a mother of three.  When we were children, she told me that she had a fifty percent chance of developing Huntington’s Disease.  I remember her father and her brother, both long dead now, who were very sick and disabled.  My neighbor’s father was forced to move into the local psychiatric hospital when he was in his 30s.  At one time, he’d been a perfectly normal man who was able to father two children.  When I met him, he was 32 years old and wheelchair bound.  He couldn’t speak normally or walk.  His son, then about 13, was also very sick.  He drooled constantly, required home care, and could not ride the shiny red bike parked in the garage.  My parents later bought that bike and gave it to me after the boy died at age 14.  I don’t think he’d ever been able to ride it, so it was like brand new.

Many years later, the boy’s sister, my neighbor and a friend, was afflicted with the same devastating disease.  Two of her three children are now dead, though neither died of Huntington’s Disease.  Both died in car accidents.  My friend’s daughter, aged 2, was tragically killed when her mother accidentally ran over her.  Her oldest son died just a couple of years ago in a more normal car accident.  They left behind a brother who has a fifty percent chance of getting Huntington’s Disease, and now he has a son of his own.  I wonder what it must be like for him, knowing that he might die at a young age of a cruel disease that his mother knew full well she was at risk of passing on to him.

Maybe dwarfism isn’t the same thing as a disease like cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s Disease.  Maybe being a little person is more like being born with one blue eye and one brown eye (I knew someone with this genetic “anomaly”, too).  Maybe it’s like being born with perfect pitch, which I have– although I’m not sure that is necessarily a genetic thing, since I don’t know of anyone else in my family who has it.  Maybe being a little person presents few challenges other than being really short and perhaps disproportionate.  Or maybe there will be challenges.  I don’t know.  But I must admit that article and the comments really got me thinking today.   

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Duggars, Reality TV

Appearances can be deceiving…

I hope you’ll indulge me one more Duggar related posting. It comes on the heels of yesterday’s post about young Spurgeon Seewald, whom many people in the Duggar Family News Facebook group think is “doomed” to live his whole life as a fundie Christian doormat for his grandfather, Jim Bob Duggar, not so affectionately known as “Boob” in some circles.

Today’s post is going in the opposite generational direction. I want to discuss Boob’s late father, Jimmy Lee (JL) Duggar. I’m going to refer to him as JL in this post, because that’s what Grandma Duggar called him.

As I was talking to Bill about four year old Spurgeon Seewald, and the people who think his future is “doomed” to fundie drudgery, I wondered out loud how this whole dynamic came to be in the first place. Jim Bob Duggar, after all, was raised in a God fearing Baptist church, but his mom only had two kids– Boob, and his sister, Deanna. Deanna had only one child, Amy, who is not at all like her fundie Christian cousins. And Boob and Deanna went to school; they weren’t homeschooled.

Jim Bob had a somewhat “normal” upbringing. What happened in Boob’s life to turn him into the narcissistic cretin he is today?

Suddenly, I remembered Boob’s father, JL, who died of brain cancer in February 2009. JL was featured on the original Duggar show just before he passed away. My memories are a little bit fuzzy, but a Reddit post explains that he was on the show for his birthday, which was February 3, 2009. He passed away on February 9, 2009. In other words– six days before this man’s death of brain cancer, he was trotted out for the cameras and a “birthday” celebration. He appears in the episode “Duggars on Ice” lying in bed, obviously very close to death, as well as another called “The Big Thaw”, in which the Duggars celebrate his birthday six days before he died. Two episodes later, his death was covered in an episode called “Duggars Say Goodbye”.

This is the clip in which the banana cake was served… It was filmed six days before Grandpa passed away.

I remember seeing that episode and thinking it was in incredibly poor taste. And I write this knowing that I’m not exactly known for being tasteful and classy myself. The Reddit author agrees that the way JL Duggar was treated before his death was pretty shitty. Here’s a screen shot of the post.

Here was JL Duggar, obviously very sick and frail. His son, Boob, apparently didn’t think very much of his father, who only had two kids instead of 19. JL was known as “fun loving”, and perhaps wasn’t a particularly strong church leader or patriarch. I wonder if someone in the church Boob went to made comments about JL that caused shame to Boob. Perhaps someone Boob admired disparaged his father to the point at which Boob was just fine in showing him off for the cameras, just days before his death. It kind of felt a bit like a “fuck you”, even though it was not really scripted that way. It was like, “Look, even though you weren’t a ‘godly’ father and I’m kind of ashamed of you, I’m going to show everyone– and I mean EVERYONE– how amazing a son I am by filming your exit from Earth for my reality show.”

Edited to add– I actually have the episode about JL’s death in my iTunes library. Gonna watch it now to refresh my memory.

I see Boob is picking out a casket for his father, saying that JL didn’t want anything “expensive” and would be fine in a pine box. Indeed… these were the years when the Duggars were constantly preaching about being thrifty. Buy used and save the difference… and there’s a scene involving food brought by neighbors, and a close up scene showing one of the youngest Duggar daughters picking her nose.

Charming screenshot of some kid! In another clip, a woman says, “I’d better not see this on TV.” So much for that!

I remember on one episode, which aired just before JL’s death, Jana made him some kind of banana dessert. JL was rolled out in an office chair, rather than a proper wheelchair. I highly doubt JL could enjoy the sweet confection made by his granddaughter, but it looked “good” on camera. I can’t find that clip anymore, and now I wonder if iTunes scrubs scenes, because I distinctly remember other clips that were controversial and somehow “disappeared” (ETA: I later found the clip, which is posted above, on Daily Motion). I also notice that at least one episode on iTunes is two minutes shorter than others from that season. Here are a few more comments from Reddit about JL’s last days…

As I was remembering this scene, I remembered my own father’s last days. I didn’t enjoy a harmonious relationship with my dad. I did, and still do, love him very much, but we had a lot of conflict in our relationship. I remember seeing him for the last time, and how heartbreaking it was. He was in a hospital bed, hooked up to machines. I remember hoping that his passing would be quick and dignified, and blessedly, it was.

A few days prior to my last visit with my dad, one of my sisters chose to send me a photograph of my father on his death bed. He was covered in an enormous CPAP mask and hooked up to machines and tubes. I remember being outraged that she sent the picture of him like that. I feel very sure that our mother would not have approved of it, and it was just a very manipulative, underhanded, disrespectful thing to do. Not only was it disrespectful to me, since I certainly didn’t need to see our dad on his death bed to know that it was time to come to Virginia and say goodbye, but it was also very disrespectful to HIM. I feel sure he would not have wanted anyone to take a picture of him in that shape and then send it in an email, where it could wind up in anyone’s possession. But my sister evidently felt that I “needed” a visual to drive home how serious the situation was. It really pissed me off (ETA: but mentioning this now doesn’t mean I’m STILL pissed off).

When that happened, I was very tempted to tell off my sister. But then I realized that if I told her off, it would make an already stressful situation much worse than it needed to be. So instead of telling her how I really felt at the time, I sent her a response that said something along the lines of, “Thank you for the update.” Then I wrote a scathing blog post, which I later deleted, because again– I didn’t want to create trouble, even though I felt justifiably pissed at the obvious emotional blackmail and completely unnecessary manipulative tactics she was, once again, employing. It was, yet again, another instance of someone being inconsiderate and disrespectful to me, while expecting me to accept that treatment without complaint. There must be something in my personality that makes people think this is alright to do. Then, when I stand up for myself, they treat me as if I’m the asshole.

And yet… as tacky, disrespectful, and distasteful as my sister’s choice to send me that picture of our dad on his death bed was, it was not nearly as awful as the undignified way JL Duggar was treated as his own death approached. I only hope he was even less conscious than he appeared to be in those last scenes of his life. Despite all the comments about how “wonderful” Grandpa was, in the end, it was all about the ratings and the money. And now, it seems like it’s all about maintaining control… as the Duggar children have all inevitably gotten much older and are wanting to live their own lives. We’re seeing that much of what was said in the early years of the Duggars on television was a lot of scripted lines. But then, that’s how it is in most families in which there is a narcissist at the helm. Everyone is trained to say and do the right things, or there will be hell to pay.

I know there are people out there– people within my family, former friends, former landlords, former employers and roommates and others– who don’t think highly of me. Many of them don’t like that I speak my mind– or “write my mind”, as it were. They would prefer that I didn’t remember, speak, or write about these things, because they are unpleasant and cast them in a bad light. I don’t go looking for information about what people think of me. I mostly assume that what people think of me is not my business, and looking for that information will only cause me pain. Moreover, I know that there are a lot of really great people in my life who can accept and love me for who I am and don’t expect a well-scripted “show”.

I guess the whole Duggar funeral dog and pony show kind of affected me on that level because it really felt so much like a big fake “show”. And while there’s no way I can know what kind of relationship JL and Jim Bob Duggar really had, what was presented on television did not feel very authentic. It reminded me of some of my own relationships, and how I’ve always been pressured to be someone I’m not for the sake of keeping up appearances.

It’s interesting how a discussion about four year old Spurgeon Seewald could lead me to think about JimBob Duggar’s late father, and then my own father. I still have a lot of baggage to unpack, I guess. It’s a wonder I have any friends, let alone an understanding husband. 🙂

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Reality TV

Rediscovering Solitary…

In the wake of all this social distancing and self-imposed isolation, I have rediscovered a game show/reality series that I used to love. Fox Reality used to be a real thing, and although they have been dark for years now, they had a great show called Solitary. I discovered it when Bill was in Iraq, back in 2007, and I became a big fan.

I downloaded all four seasons of Solitary to my Apple TV, and I’ve been watching the bizarre tests and treatments “VAL” put contestants through. I’m amazed at what these folks endured, all to win $50,000. One thing I noticed is that the ones who won were universally young. All but one were males. Two of the winners were Asians. Historically, the Asians who competed did very well, regardless. I’m now watching season 4, and the guy who came in second place was a karate champion of Asian descent.

Here is a few video from season 3 of Solitary. I highly recommend watching the show if you’re able. I see some episodes are available on YouTube. It’s a pretty entertaining and exciting show. I have a crush on Tyler Tongate, too. He was on the show twice– seasons 2 and 4.

I can’t think of anything else I feel like ranting about right now. I’m a little depressed about the state of the world. I worry about what’s going to happen, and how long this is going to go on… But again, we’re luckier than a lot of people are. For now, anyway.

Maybe I’ll bake cookies or something.

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Reality TV

Binge watched Below Deck’s 6th and 7th seasons…

Bill is now back from his business in Stuttgart, and I am now caught up on reality shows. After downloading the truly revolting show, My Feet Are Killing Me, I decided to catch up on Bravo’s Below Deck. I was really into the first five seasons of that show and I think I even watched one season of the Mediterranean edition. For some reason, I decided not to watch season 6. I think I got tired of it because it’s the same formula every season.

Basically, young, hot, TV ready people work on a luxury yacht with Captain Lee Rosbach and his head stew, Kate Chastain. There is always a temperamental chef, a hotheaded deckhand, an emotional stewardess, and lots of sexual tension mixing with annoying guests who can afford to drop six figures to charter a yacht for three days in an exotic location. Until yesterday, I wondered what would compel someone to charter a yacht so Bravo can put them on TV and the staff can badmouth them. Basically, it amounts to a fat reduction in the fare, although guests are still expected to tip on what the original cost would have been. You know these folks are loaded if they can afford to tip $15k to $20K on a three day cruise. I’m kind of surprised there aren’t people in the luxury yacht charter industry who aren’t screaming about this show and the way it depicts people who work on the vessels being unprofessional and rude about the guests.

At least one guest was pissed off because of the way they were portrayed on the show. However, because they also signed a lot of waivers, they were powerless to sue for defamation. Another woman was shaded because she refused to share a room with another guest, causing the captain to have to give up his room and sleep in the Sky Lounge.

Anyway, though I had obviously gotten bored after the fifth season, it was kind of fun catching up on the series again. There’s something about it that appeals to me. It’s like a combination of nostalgia for my two summers working at a church camp mixed with my three SeaDream cruises. The exotic locations and beautiful ships remind me of our luxury cruises, while the extreme, non-stop work for six weeks reminds me of camp. Of course, at camp, we got paid a pittance. But there was a lot of sexual tension and bonding, too, and we worked constantly in a very beautiful location. Camp Paddy Run is in beautiful Shenandoah County, Virginia, just a few miles from the West Virginia border. It’s absolutely magical there.

I’m glad to be done watching, though, because once again, I ended up getting kind of bored with the concept. The show has annoying background music along with constant bleeps because people swear so much. But they really only bleep out the words “fuck” and “shit”. Everything else is fair game. As I’ve said before, I don’t mind curse words, but sometimes it does get tiresome to hear them over and over again, particularly when they’re bleeped. I wish American TV would get with the program and let people swear.

I had a surprising reaction to one of the deckhands, too… Rhylee, the redhead from Alaska who had worked as a fisherman. When she did one of her confessionals, she explained that her mother and stepfather moved her and her sister to Florida and opened a bed and breakfast. The sisters were forced to be silent, since her mom and stepdad didn’t want them bothering the guests. So now, she has a bit of a psychological sunburn when it comes to certain treatment. I relate to that myself. I don’t tolerate abuse very well anymore, either. But she was really profane and, at times, kind of unreasonable. It was sort of painful to watch (and hear).

Ashton, who was a deckhand in Season 6 and the bosun in Season 7, was an interesting character to me, and not just because he had a gorgeous body. I enjoyed listening to his South African accent, especially since it sounded like he said “dickhead” when he was really saying “deckhand”. He seemed like a guy with a big heart, except when he got drunk. I didn’t like the drunk version of Ashton… but the rest of the time, he seemed like someone I would enjoy knowing.

I actually have a lot of empathy for people who work on boats. It’s very hard work and the crew must live in tight quarters, sometimes with people they can’t stand. Yes, the people who work on charters make insane tip money, but they work their asses off to get it, and the work can be dangerous. Ashton, who came back in season 7 to be a bosun, got his leg tangled in a rope and was pulled off the ship. He could have easily died. And if you get sick or hurt while you’re working, good luck getting time to recuperate. But if you can hack the long hours and dealing with different personalities, and you’re young and healthy, you can make serious bank.

I will also say that watching that show has made me want to book another trip somewhere nice. We have a long weekend next week, but it’s also the weekend of the wine expo in Strasbourg, France. We haven’t yet been to the wine expo and, who knows? This could be our last chance to go. But I am also kind of tired of France and would like to go somewhere else…

Well… we’ll see what happens. We have a lot of stuff to do that doesn’t involve having fun. But I must admit that I started looking for trip ideas as I watched that show.

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