modern problems, technology, YouTube

Keeping it simple, stupid…

This week, I mentioned that I’ve been trying to make my home “smarter”. I’m not a particularly tech savvy person, so making my home smarter mostly entails doing very simple things. I replaced twelve light bulbs with smart bulbs. Now, I have twelve lights that can be controlled by an app on my phone. Not only can I turn them on with my phone or iPad, but I can program them to turn on or off, light up in different colors or intensities, or even set them to music. Cool, huh? Well… this new “upgrade” hasn’t come without glitches.

For the past two nights, one of the lamps in my bedroom has been inexplicably turning on at midnight. I don’t know why. I can’t see any evidence that I programmed the lamp to turn on at midnight. I don’t even use that lamp very often.

Bill has had trouble adding all of the lamps to his app. Yesterday, he called up to me and asked me to use my phone to turn on the light for him, because his phone wouldn’t load the bulb into his app, for some reason. Now… I have discovered that we can turn the lights on and off the old fashioned way, but that may cause them to go “offline”, which potentially means adding them to the app again. I don’t know… I’m still learning. At my age, learning this kind of stuff is a challenge.

I remember when I was a teenager, my parents bought their first VCR. For the longest time, I was the only one who could program it. Now I know how they felt.

I bought some smart power strips and outlets, too. From what I can tell, I can use these to shut off power when we aren’t using something without having to unplug the device. That can be an energy saver, which means lower electric bills. I can also program things to turn on and off by using my app. Like, if I wanted to, I could set up the coffee maker with ground coffee and water every night and program it to turn on at a certain time. I could come downstairs to fresh coffee every morning, rather than waiting for Bill to make it. Cool, huh?

It is kind of exciting to be able to direct appliances to work from my phone. But there’s also a beauty to watching Bill make coffee every morning. He does it so well. In fact, he takes great pride in making coffee. Automating the process wouldn’t necessarily change the process. He’d still have to grind the coffee and put the water in the tank. All the power strip would do is hit the switch remotely, so the coffee gets made while we’re doing our morning routines. It sounds convenient, but it could be more trouble than it’s worth.

Yesterday, I read a distressing article written by a professional copywriter. He says his job is now threatened by AI (artificial intelligence) technology– specifically ChatGPT. ChatGPT was able to create good copy in thirty seconds for free. The same copy would have taken the human being hours to create and he would have charged over $500. Henry Williams, the author of the piece wrote:

The developers admit that the software still has limitations. It tends towards the verbose and repetitive (“honing my craft and perfecting my ability to craft”), and minor changes to question phrasing can be the difference between an amazing response and no response at all. The more we use it, however, the better it will become. As ChatGPT told me, it can already “replicate the writing styles of different authors” and “even be trained to mimic the tone and voice of a particular brand or organization”.

I use YouTube daily, and it’s scary how many channels use AI to create robotic sounding content. Every day, it seems like fewer human beings are involved in the process of writing articles and making videos. Some of the AI generated content is downright horrible, but I have run across some videos that are almost indistinguishable from content made entirely by a living, breathing, human. It’s also been used for creating music “in the style of…” How creepy it is to think of a computer program creating music that sounds like that made by a real person?

This morning, Bill told me about how AI has now managed to pass state bar exams– the tests that actual lawyers often fail with ease. And just now, I found an article about how AI was almost used to fight parking tickets in court. Angry lawyers protested. Who could blame them? That technology could put their livelihoods in jeopardy! I’ve also read about how students can now use AI to write papers, which makes a teacher’s job more difficult. Isn’t it bad enough that teachers have to worry about being shot while they’re teaching? Do we have to add AI to the mix, too?

I have nothing against technology. There are some things robots do better than people. I’m sure, for instance, that robots might be better at certain surgeries than humans are. There’s less worry about human frailties or failures, like shaking hands, fatigue, or emotions getting in the way. But as intelligent as machines and computers can be made to be, they have to be mastered by humans. Otherwise, what good are we?

It used to be that people had to go places to go shopping. They had to interact with other people. There was a human being to ring up the sale and bag the item. Now, a lot of us shop online, and our interaction might come if we happen to see the delivery person… and no one steals our stuff from the porch. Automated cashiers have made it possible to go shopping for groceries and check yourself out. That might seem convenient enough, but it also means that one less person has a job. I don’t like using self checkout lanes, either, because I find that they often mess up the transaction and the process ends up taking longer

I’m sure my angst is for nothing. People have been lamenting “progress” forever. As a writer and musician, though, it does kind of disturb me that AI is getting “too good”. If AI can do in seconds what I do in hours, what’s the point of getting up every day? Are we living in The Jetsons age, now?

One more thing… My friend Thomas, who frequently comments on my posts, informed me that he’s not been able to like or comment on my most recent posts. I have been investigating the issue this morning. It seems I’m having trouble with a “nonce verification error”. I’ve tried disabling plugins, which is a real pain, because it messes up the settings I’m used to using. I tried changing the theme, but that also didn’t work. I did find that I could comment if I did it on my desktop or laptop computers, using Chrome. But I can’t do it on the desktop with Safari, or from my iPad. I tried commenting with Safari on my laptop and it worked.

This is very weird, and I don’t know how to fix the issue. So if you’ve wanted to comment and can’t, all I can tell you for now is to try using Chrome. Hopefully, this issue will be fixed at some point. I have emailed support. Maybe they can straighten this out for me.

I’ve read that Jetpack can cause “nonce” issues. I’ve tried to disable Jetpack, but WordPress won’t let me. Apparently, I pay for it with my subscription. Sigh…

Maybe it’s better to just keep it simple, stupid… The K.I.S.S. method has alway served me well in the past. But then, I think about my mom, who has steadfastly refused to learn how to use the Internet and now has to get one of her daughters to Google for her when she needs help. I don’t think I want to get to that point. I’ll try to keep learning the new methods. I just hope all of these new things we have for convenience don’t end up being too much of a good thing.

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blog news, musings, nostalgia, YouTube

It’s New Year’s Eve, and I don’t have much to write…

I just wrote a post for the travel blog that I was going to put on this blog… but then I realized that the content fits better with that blog than this one. The travel blog needs a little love, because most weeks I only update it a couple of times, rather than every day, like I do this blog. So I moved the original post that I was working on for this blog to that blog, and now I’m sitting here wondering what interesting things I might write today.

I see this New Year’s Eve writer’s block thing is kind of a chronic problem, as last year I did a “cross post”. That means I put the same content on both blogs, which I do on occasion. Not everyone who reads this blog reads that one, and vice versa. I’m hoping that in 2023, I can get the travel blog up a bit in hits, so I don’t reach cash out status for my ad revenue after I’m dead. As I pointed out in yesterday’s post, I don’t make big bucks writing these things. 😉

I could probably do a cross post this year, too, and this year’s post is more interesting than last year’s was. Or, at least I think it is. But I’ve got nothing better to do than write this stuff today… Otherwise, maybe I’d play Sims 4, which I don’t do very often anymore, even though I keep buying all the content. Or I’d read more of Jamie Lynn Spears’ book and cringe. She’s definitely no Paulina Porizkova, or even Matthew Perry, in the memoir writing department.

I see that last year, like this year, I’ve been doing chores today. I don’t know what it is about New Year’s Eve that makes me want to do household chores. Last year, I finally managed to get rid of the horrible chalky limescale in our bathrooms. Citric acid works wonders, not just for descaling the taps and the backs of the toilets, but it’s also great for cleaning the coffee maker. I notice that last year, I also hauled my ass up on the stepladder and knocked the scales off the shower head. I think I’ll do that today, too, as it needs to be done. Getting rid of the chalky limescale makes for a nicer showering experience, as there’s nothing to block the jets or cause the water to spray awkwardly.

I guess I do this cleaning because it feels like I should do it for a fresh start. Tomorrow is the beginning of a brand new year. It will bring with it the usual challenges, victories, and disappointments. I usually start the new year with some optimism, even though January and February are, weather wise, the most depressing times of the year, in my opinion. Up here in Hessen, it stays pretty wet and cloudy, and sometimes it gets cold. I would mind it less if we got more snow here, although even snow can get tiresome after it hangs around for weeks and gets all saturated with dog pee and frozen poop. I try to keep the poop cleaned up, but it gets buried, and then it gets all mashed up with the soil.

One thing I do look forward to this year is the prospect of more travel. Hopefully, we’ll go to more interesting places. Fingers are crossed, anyway. Maybe I’ll even take a trip “home” to the United States and see my mom, who hasn’t seen me since 2015. There are some places I haven’t yet been to that I would like to visit… and of course, I would love to go back to Armenia, just so I can show Bill where I used to live, half a lifetime ago.

I see from last year’s post that I hoped for a better year in 2022. Personally, I think I got that, but that’s just me. We did find out that our beloved Arran has lymphoma, but this year, for the FIRST time ever, we were able to do something about it. I know we will lose Arran eventually, but man, it’s such a good feeling to be able to do something, for once, when one of our boys gets cancer. It’s been a learning experience for us, and those of my friends who have been following our experiences.

I have no doubt whatsoever that if we hadn’t done chemo, Arran would be long gone by now. But right now, he’s downstairs snuggling with his favorite person, Mr. Bill. I know that some critics would say that chemo only delays the inevitable, and that the cancer will probably come back with a vengeance… but the alternative would have been that we would have lost him weeks ago. What’s the difference between treating cancer and treating a disease like diabetes? If it can be treated, isn’t too expensive, and isn’t too traumatic, why not? But, I also know that in the United States, this would have been a harder decision to make, because healthcare for people and pets is so goddamned expensive! And it really shouldn’t be. Affordable healthcare should be a right, at least for human beings. Living in Germany has taught me that Americans have gotten this policy so wrong. I hope the onerous high cost of healthcare for Americans can be rectified someday before I’m dead.

I also see that last year, I mentioned my guitar skills. Well, this year, they are better than they were a year ago. I still don’t play super well, but I did manage to post a few songs on YouTube with me on guitar. I’m still a much better singer than guitar player, but in 2019, I couldn’t play guitar at all. So that’s a good thing… I try to practice most days every week, although I do usually take off the weekends, unless I get inspired.

This year, I finally got brave and sang on camera on my YouTube videos, which I never did before. I get very camera shy, and I don’t like putting on makeup or getting dressed. I also don’t want to read rude comments from haters. I have to admit, though, people have been very kind. I get more engagement when I sing on camera, even though I’m not as beautiful as some of the places we’ve visited. And I’ve tried some songs I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, too. I’m hoping for more of that in the new year. Even if no one pays attention to my channel, I do enjoy the process of making the videos. Or, at least making the musical part. I often find myself wishing I’d started when I was much younger than I was. Ah well. Maybe someday, I’ll be reincarnated and get the chance for a do over… except maybe the new me won’t have a knack for music. Maybe I’ll be a soccer player, instead. 😉

My latest… it’s a good song for the New Year. Cheers!

I finally got multifocal contact lenses, too… which I had been needing for ages. I still don’t have bifocal glasses, but I think those are coming, if I don’t have surgery. Next year might be the year I’ll finally visit a doctor… German or otherwise. I haven’t seen one for medical reasons since 2010. That could change in 2023. We’ll see. I am getting old, after all. My body doesn’t seem to recover as quickly as it used to. German healthcare isn’t expensive, so I don’t even have that as an excuse. It’s just that– well– thanks to a terrible Air Force doctor from my younger days, I am a bit phobic of doctors. The older I get, the less I think it matters… except I know Bill would miss me if I weren’t around to make him laugh.

Maybe in 2023, I’ll try something else on YouTube. Maybe I’ll v-log. But again, I hate being on camera, and I like to write more than I like to speak. I also like to watch other v-loggers. If I become one myself, I’ll have less time to watch people like Beau of the Fifth Column, Farron Balanced, or even Trevor Coult, with whom I often disagree politically, but I find hilarious, thanks to his thick Northern Irish accent. I also think I’d go a bit nuts trying to make videos where I speak, because I would invariably mess up, which would mean do-overs, which take a lot of time. I’m kind of a perfectionist, too, so that would be a problem. I suspect my channel will mostly stick to music. At least I don’t attract as many rude comments when I make music. 😉 Perhaps this year, I’ll finally write an original song and sing it on YouTube. That would be something different. A year from now, maybe I’ll be writing about that. Who knows?

Well, it’s time to wrap this up… It’s about 1:45 PM and time for lunch… the very last one of 2022. So, I will now close, and wish you all a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year. Let’s cut this cake and take this year home… so I can take down the fucking Christmas decorations. 😉

See you tomorrow!

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dogs, music, YouTube

Shirley Horn and Paulina Porizkova are both inspiring me today…

Today’s featured photo is of the new Toilight I got for Bill as a stocking stuffer. It lights the toilet at night, which we both find very handy… it also makes the water look really cool as it gets flushed. We gotta have our fun wherever we can find it.

Yesterday’s post was surprisingly popular, for my blog, anyway. I think sometimes people love a good rant, even if it’s petty and kind of stupid. I actually had fun writing that post. It gave me a lot to think about. I ended up doing a few edits after the initial posting, because I spotted some things that needed clarification, along with the usual typos. But anyway… I do love it when someone gives me a topic for my blog by way of inspiration.

This morning, I’m somewhat less inspired. Yes, I could write about how Donald Trump’s legal woes are getting worse by the day, and he’s being exposed as the crook that he is. But I don’t feel like writing about that today. The end of the year is looming, and that means it’ll soon be 2023. I realize I’m getting older and certain things just don’t matter the way they used to.

I just started reading Paulina Porizkova’s latest book. So far, it’s kind of a page turner. I liked her when she was on America’s Next Top Model and was annoyed when Tyra Banks fired her from the show. That was about when it became unwatchable for me. I think I hung in there for a couple more “cycles”, but soon gave up on it. I though Paulina was awesome on that show. In fact, I think she should have her own show. She’s very intelligent, and I like how plain spoken she is… but not in an obnoxious, narcissistic way, like Tyra is. Tyra Banks, I’m afraid, went from being a relatively pleasant host to an over-the-top nightmare.

I woke up at about 3:00 AM, thanks to Arran’s need for a potty break and demands for food. Bill took care of that, while I took a bathroom break myself. By the time I got back in the bed, I was wide awake. My stomach was annoying me, too. So, since I wasn’t going back to sleep for at least another hour or so, I opened Paulina’s book and started reading. I predict (but can’t promise) I’ll finish it quickly, and will be ready to review it by the end of the week.

I also got an alert from my favorite backing tracks Web site that Shirley Horn’s luminous version of “Here’s to Life” was available for download. I love that song, and to date, have recorded it three times. I don’t expect people to know it, but I fell in love with it in 2005, just after Hurricane Katrina. The Jordan Family did a very poignant version of the song for a fundraiser. At the time of their performance, they were still missing their father from the storm. I would actually love to record their version of the song– with the same key and arrangement. Shirley Horn’s comes closer to that than either Barbra Streisand’s and Bob Stewart’s versions do. So that’s why I decided to do the song one more time, but in a different manner. I prefer the jazzier style to the more Broadway interpretations I did before.

I couldn’t think of a pressing topic for this morning, So I spent about two hours recording Shirley Horn’s “Here’s to Life” in two different keys. I tried her original key, then went a step up. I think the higher key is better for me, so that’s the one I put on YouTube. I think both turned out pretty well, although it’s kind of a challenge to get the video right. I’m struggling with coughing, a runny nose, and an itch, too… not from a viral illness, but probably more from allergies or my lack of attention to dusting.

I’m glad I don’t look like I’m climaxing in this still.

When I last sang “Here’s to Life”, I wrote a post about it on this blog. I wrote a bit about who composed the song, as well as some personal philosophies and other assorted stuff. It’s not a super exciting post, because I also wrote about a Facebook argument I had some time back with a cop friend of mine, and Amy Duggar King, who had just given birth at the time. And I wrote about sweet Zane, who had, at that writing, been gone from our lives for a matter of weeks. I was missing him a lot then. I still miss him, especially when I see old pictures and videos that remind me of what a sweet soul he was. I truly do hope the Rainbow Bridge is a real thing, and I can see him again someday after I’ve departed the mortal coil myself. I noticed that I wrote that post on October 10, 2019, which also happened to be the 16th anniversary of the loss of our first rescue beagle mix, CuCullain, who had bright blue eyes. He was a special soul, too. Sometimes, he seems to visit us through Noyzi.

Our very first beagle rescue, CuCullain (C.C.)… He was a really cool dog.

I don’t even have those things to write about today. My dogs are impatiently waiting for me to finish up and take them for a walk. They’ve learned that when I quit doing music, it’s walk time. Usually, I play guitar before we walk, but today it was singing… which I tend to do much better. I did learn to play the rhythm version of “Maggie May” by Rod Stewart yesterday. It was surprisingly easy, with open chords that are fairly easy to tease out, even with fingers as unpracticed as mine are.

I suppose I could write about the cop videos I watched yesterday, which were surprisingly outrageous. I never understand people who get loud and belligerent with cops and expect them to cut them a break. I’ve also noticed that American cops aren’t as professional as German cops appear to be. Here, you can get a huge fine if you cuss at the cops. In the United States, people say whatever… even threaten cops and their families. The lady in yesterday’s video told one cop she hoped his wife got raped. Horrible! And then she moaned and cried because she was in handcuffs and about to be charged with a felony.

Um… you shouldn’t involve yourself in things that are none of your business…

The other video involved a very bellicose drunk driver who cussed non-stop. He actually made ME blush… and I cuss like a sailor! I feel sorry for the people in this man’s life. He’s a mess. He’s got a very foul mouth, too… and if I’m saying that, it means something.

“What are you talking about, dude?” Enjoy your Christmas in the jug, guy.

But really, I think I just want to walk the dogs before they have a fit… and then maybe go back to reading my latest book. I wish I felt more inspired to write something compelling, but I think recording a song kind of took it out of me. Maybe I’ll be back later… but I probably won’t. So have a happy hump day.

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celebrities, expressions, music, musings, YouTube

“I’m glad to be so lucky to make you feel yucky everyday…”

Before I get started on today’s post, I want to state upfront that I’m not upset about anything. I don’t need advice or consolation. This post is meant to be a matter-of-fact look at a phenomenon I’ve noticed when it comes to people who dare to “put themselves out there” or share their creative pursuits. It certainly doesn’t just affect me, either, from which I take some solace. I’m just hoping that people who read this will stop and think about it a minute. The world needs less cynicism and meanness, and more kindness and compassion, don’t you think?

James Taylor annoys Oscar the Grouch with one of his more upbeat songs from the 70s.

Have you ever noticed that some people delight in watching the whole world burn? They enjoy taking a big dump on other people’s joy. They live for raining on everyone else’s parades. They love criticizing anything and everything, even if it’s just someone’s creative expression. They lack the ability to simply “scroll on”. Instead, they feel the need to be negative, judgmental, insensitive and, sometimes, downright MEAN.

As a blogger and very occasional musician, I’ve run into this particular phenomenon more than a few times. When we lived in Stuttgart, I used to promote my travel blog. I did so because I truly thought some of the posts might be helpful for some people in the community. It was our second time living in that area, and I was pretty seasoned as a military spouse, even though Bill had retired. While not everyone likes what I do, writing has sort of become my vocation. Being a writer can be a tough road to hoe, as one chagrined author recently found out when almost no one showed up for her book signing. She tweeted about it, and was soon consoled by the likes of Margaret Atwood, Jodi Picoult, and Stephen King, among others, who were similarly dissed at early book signings.

Many people seemingly liked my blogs and, for awhile, they were pretty popular. I had a lot of regular readers. But there were also people in the community who seemed to hate my blog and apparently resented me for sharing it. Some didn’t like the name of the blog, assuming that I was “bragging” about my education. For the record, I’m not. I literally am overeducated for what I’ve done with my life so far. I spent seven years and many thousands of dollars on formal education that I’ve never gotten to use in a professional arena. While I don’t regret furthering my formal education, I mainly went to school out of a perceived need to do it– so I wouldn’t be waiting tables for the rest of my life. I’ve got nothing at all against people who wait tables for a living, but that’s a job that I really didn’t enjoy, even though I made good money doing it.

When I went to graduate school, I was hoping to launch a career that didn’t involve being abused on the daily and surviving on tips. I ended up meeting Bill, instead. The realities of life as a military spouse made pursuing my field problematic. I’ve always liked to write, so that’s what I do. I’m not the best writer, but I try. Some people enjoy my stuff. Some people don’t. I’ve made some money as a writer… actually more than I ever made doing social work or public health. And yet, I think if I’d been a public health social worker, I’d probably get a lot more respect for what I do.

I stopped sharing my blog in military communities, though, because I’ve found that people are triggered by it, for some reason. A lot of people– especially in military communities— find bloggers annoying, especially when they dare to call themselves “The Overeducated Housewife”. Personally, I think it’s because a lot of people in military communities are sexist, and too many of them disdain the spouses (really the wives). The more educated and accomplished the wives are, the less the servicemembers tend to like them, especially if they’re also liberal. And sadly, a lot of the spouses also buy into that limited mindset, willingly referring to themselves by derogatory monikers, like “dependa” instead of insisting on being treated with the basic respect one generally extends to human beings. So, because I don’t enjoy being ridiculed, and I don’t like to bother other people, I’ve decided that it’s better to let people find the blogs on their own.

I also stopped sharing my travel blog in military communities because of the weird, intrusive, psycho landlady situation we’d had in Stuttgart. A former tenant, who had lived in our home just prior to us, had found her way to my regular blog, and was using it to cause trouble with our ex landlady. The ex tenant got upset with me about one of my creative writing projects, which she had freely CHOSEN to read and falsely interpret. She’d actually been following my blogs for over four years, even though it was evidently a negative experience for her. She sent me a nasty message, mocking me for “intruding on my space” and interfering with my “creative pursuits”, clearly indicating that she didn’t appreciate my efforts, and basically calling me “crazy”. It was at that point that I decided to close the Blogger version of this blog and move it to WordPress. Then, I went right back to doing what I do. She, on the other hand, went on to commit suicide. I don’t know what led her to take that action, but I did realize, at that point, that I wasn’t the one with the worst issues. I don’t want a repeat of that bizarre situation, though, so I’ve gone back under the radar.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m not looking for sympathy when I write about this. I’ve come to understand that no one bats 1000 every time. Not everything a person does is going to be well-received. And even if you aren’t a creative type, chances are excellent that someone is going to dislike you, for whatever reason. Even if you’re the nicest, most considerate, most tolerant, least offensive person on the planet, there will be someone out there who is going to find fault with anything and everything you do. As painful as that kind of rejection can be, I’ve found it helpful to realize that in those situations, it’s almost always not about anything you’ve done or said. The negativity is usually about something intrinsic to the critical person– in other words, you might remind them of something negative, so they respond to you with negativity, even if you haven’t specifically done anything to them to cause that reaction.

Here’s an example. My sophomore year in college was rather traumatic. I spent it sharing living space with a woman who drove me crazy. We were very incompatible roommates. A few years later, I met another woman who reminded me a LOT of the first woman who drove me batty my sophomore year in college. Upon meeting her, I instantly had a negative reaction, even though we didn’t know each other. As time went on, I still disliked that woman, partly because she reminded me so much of someone I used to know who drove me nuts. It wasn’t her looks that reminded me of my ex roommate, but more her behavior that I found reminiscent. In spite of those similarities, I know she was, and still is, a good person. However, even if I had never gotten to know the first woman, I probably still would have found the second one annoying. The difference would be that I would have found her annoying solely because of things she’d actually done or said, not because she reminded me so much of someone else I hadn’t liked.

The same thing can happen in creative pursuits. A lot of people love the song, “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” by Meat Loaf. I don’t like that song, although it is in my musical catalog. It’s not that I don’t think Meat Loaf had talent, or even that the song isn’t entertaining. If I’d heard it in the 70s, I probably would have liked it a lot more. But it reminds me of an awful night in 1994, I spent at a party with my cousin. She had abandoned me to make out with her boyfriend, while her boyfriend’s extremely drunk father kept hitting on me. Before the evening went into full swing, I heard “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” for the very first time, while we were waiting for my cousin’s boyfriend in that yucky drunk man’s house. Drunk dad had wanted me to go back to his house with him, alone, to wait for his son and my cousin. He was so drunk he could barely keep his eyes open. When I refused, he called me a “bitch”. So now, whenever I heard Meat Loaf’s best known anthem, it reminds me of that guy. I am only now getting to the point at which I can disassociate that song with the memory of that gross guy who went to high school with one of my uncles and apparently wanted to deflower me.

Last weekend, I was feeling inspired to make music. I made two videos in one day, which is unusual in and of itself, especially since Bill was at home. I usually prefer to make music when I’m alone. I uploaded the videos. One has me on camera, and the other is set to photos. I don’t like to sing on camera, but I’ve found that people tend to find the videos with me in them more engaging. They don’t even seem to mind that I’m not wearing makeup or a bra.

One of the songs I did last week was James Taylor’s version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” I was inspired to make the video by my former therapist, who loves James Taylor’s music, just as I do. He had mentioned that “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is his favorite Christmas song. So, I made a recording of that song and dedicated it to my former shrink. He shared it on his personal Facebook page and tagged me. One person commented, and said “I love that song too, but no one does it as well as Judy [Garland] does.” I noticed that the person hadn’t even listened to the song, and apparently never considered that I would read her comment, which was actually kind of thoughtless and rude. I wonder if this person thinks that no one should ever sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (a Christmas standard), simply because “Judy did it best”.

An old friend of mine said the same thing about “The Rainbow Connection”. I had used the song on a tribute video I made for our dog, MacGregor– Willie Nelson was singing it. I love Willie’s version, and the fact that I used it for a tribute video for a beloved dog makes it especially poignant to me. My friend, who even knew MacGregor, said that no one but Kermit the Frog should ever sing “The Rainbow Connection”. I found that comment thoughtless and insensitive; yet knowing her as well as I do, I realize that her thoughtlessness was entirely unintentional. I didn’t call her out about it. Still, it would have been nicer if she’d kept that thought to herself.

At this date, this video has fewer than 50 hits, but it means a lot to me, because it’s about MacGregor… and Willie Nelson’s version of “The Rainbow Connection” really fit his personality, even if my friend doesn’t think anyone but Kermit should sing the song.

I later noticed that my Christmas video for my ex shrink/current friend, which hasn’t done nearly as well as the other one I did last weekend, had one dislike rating. Two people liked it, and one disliked it… giving it a score of 66% (a failure if we were going by school grading scales). It occurred to me that the “dislike” button is kind of worthless, since there’s no way to know what the person disliked about the video. Was it because I wasn’t on camera? Was it the music? Were they just being mean to me? It’s impossible to know. But I had made the video with love and good intentions, and had dedicated it to someone who helped me a lot when I really needed help.

I’ll admit, those two negative reactions to my version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” kind of hurt my feelings. But the wiser side of me realizes that the negative reactions weren’t really personal, since the people involved don’t know me. Everyone’s a critic, and even the best people get criticized sometimes, and the better a person is, the meaner the critics tend to be. Even James Taylor gets mean tweets! See the hilarious video below…

Someone called James Taylor a douche! I admire how most of these musicians accepted the not so constructive criticism they’ve received…

I’ve also noticed that some people feel like creative pursuits shouldn’t result in anyone making money. I’ve ranted many times in this blog about people who don’t think they should have to pay to read newspapers. They don’t seem to realize that journalists have bills to pay, just like they do. It takes time, money, and training to skillfully deliver the news. They bitch and moan about paywalls.

My mom ran a knitting and needlepoint shop for many years. She is very talented and skilled with needlecrafts. Lots of people felt that her time and talents weren’t worth paying for. Mom was also a church organist for 50 years, and some people felt that she should just be willing to play for the glory of God, rather than money to pay her expenses. It took a lot of time and energy to learn how to play the organ as well as she did… I’m sure she could play beautifully today, too, but she’s pretty much retired from playing the organ now. She’s still stitching, though. Below is my mom with one of her more recent creations, done even though she’s in her 80s. I love what my mom does, although I could never do anything like this myself. I’d rather write or sing… two things my mom doesn’t do.

I didn’t inherit my mom’s gifts with a needle. I look a lot like her, though. Mom is now working on another project like this one.

Anyway… to wrap up this post, I’d like to add one more observation I’ve made. At this writing, I have 109 YouTube subscribers. That’s not a lot of subscribers. I’ve had my channel since 2009 or so, but I’ve never really promoted it. When I first started the channel, I mostly used it for uploading videos from our travels or other random stuff. It wasn’t until I’d had it for about three years that I started making music videos, which I never really shared. And it wasn’t until last spring that I ever showed myself on camera.

YouTube recently told me that I gained 20 subscribers this year, which is a pretty amazing thing. I recently uploaded a video and promptly lost two subscribers. I was feeling kind of sad about it, since I had only recently surpassed 100 subscribers, and YouTube had congratulated me for that. But then, I got seven more subscribers! I guess that just goes to show you that sometimes, even if someone takes a dump on something you put out there, other people will still like what you do. So the best thing to do is keep going and ignore the “haters”. Their negativity is usually much more about them, than you. And creative pursuits, especially when a person feels compelled to engage in them, aren’t for anyone or anything else than satisfying that itch to create… put something out there. Maybe it won’t be what everyone likes, but you still made the effort. And I guarantee, there’s an appreciative audience for everything.

Maybe a couple of people decided to crap on my version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, but the person it was meant for got it… and apparently enjoyed it. So that’s really all that matters. The rest of them can take a cue from Miley Cyrus’s reaction to “mean tweets”… See the featured photo.

Bwaahahahaha… they are good sports. The haters are probably just jealous.

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bad TV, good tv, modern problems, nostalgia, politicians, politics, Russia, Trump, YouTube

TDY weeks are made for made for TV movies…

As I mentioned in today’s first post, my husband, Bill, is gone this week on a business trip in Bavaria. I don’t have any local buddies to hang out with, so that means I have a lot of empty time on my hands. When Bill was deployed to Iraq back in 2007, I spent a lot of time watching reality TV. At that time, we lived in the States on Fort Belvoir, and we had FiOS (fiber optic cable TV and Internet– which is just becoming a “thing” here in Germany). This was before Apple TV, so I couldn’t spend my time watching relics from my childhood, the way I do today. I’m glad for Apple TV and YouTube, because now I can watch stuff I missed back in the day.

Back in February 1987, I was fifteen years old, and very busy with school and taking care of my horse. I wasn’t at all interested in politics, religion, or current events. I was kind of “dumb” then, as we didn’t have all of the news and information sources we have now. In those days, the Soviet Union was still very much a thing. People worried about nuclear war to the extent that it was a topic on sitcoms, like The Golden Girls. There were a number of Soviet themed films that were released for the big screen. I remember the movie, Red Dawn, came out in 1984, when I was 12 years old. It was the very first PG-13 rated movie, mainly because it was, and still is, a very violent film about Soviets invading the United States. I remember being very “fired up” when I saw that movie the first time. I was young and impressionable, and thought the height of patriotism would be to join the military and fight for my country. Hell, when I was 12, I might have even made the military’s weight standards. 😉 Actually, I’m kidding. As a teenager, I thought I was fat, but I really wasn’t. Like I said… I was kind of dumb in those days… dumber than I am today. But today, I am fatter than I was in the 80s.

Since the Soviet Union was still so threatening, the American Broadcasting Company, otherwise known as ABC, made the mother of all miniseries. It was a seven night EVENT, which even in the era of network TV, was a big production for a miniseries. Most miniseries lasted two or three nights. I was interested in very few of them, because like I said, I was BUSY then… and not interested in politics, religion, or current events. But other people were interested, so ABC made this miniseries called Amerika. It was set in 1997, in a fictional midwestern town called Milford in Nebraska. It starred, Kris Kristofferson, Mariel Hemingway, Cindy Pickett (“Ferris Beuller’s mom”), Christine Lahti, Robert Ulrich, and a very young Lara Flynn Boyle, among other people who are now either dead, or more or less famous than they were in 1987.

The premise of Amerika was that the Soviet Union’s leaders had messed with our elections and that had led to a “bloodless” coup. The United States was no longer. Instead, it was broken up into smaller areas. The flag and national anthem were changed, and the idea of communism was introduced to our capitalistic society. The miniseries was about how the country changed. It wasn’t a pretty sight, and it was obviously based on the propaganda of the time. Remember, the Soviet Union ceased to exist in December 1991, so a lot of today’s adults weren’t around when it was still in existence. But some of us old farts remember it very well.

Well, I completely missed seeing Amerika when it originally aired. It only aired once, because it caused a lot of issues with leaders in the Soviet Union, who were outraged by it. It was also a really long television event that was probably expensive and disruptive to air. In the 80s, we had our “must see TV”, and these kinds of special shows would usurp our old favorites. And then, after just a few years, Amerika seemed over the top and ridiculous, as the Soviet Union literally fell apart, and formerly closed borders started opening. Hell, the movie was set in 1997, but I was actually finishing up my Peace Corps assignment in Armenia, a former Soviet country, in 1997. So, as you can see, it didn’t make a lot of sense to air the program again. It was later released on video, but it doesn’t look like a DVD set was ever released. However… someone did upload the entire series to YouTube. I watched the whole thing in several sittings, as the program is over fourteen hours in length. Even couch potatoes like me need to get up and move sometimes.

A trailer for Amerika.

I don’t want to get too much into the specific plot of this series, because frankly, it seems like an overwhelming task. As I mentioned up post, the series was set in a fictional town of Milford, which was named after the enterprising American family that helped build it. Some of them still lived in Milford, only to watch their town being overrun by Soviets and American politicians who figuratively “got in bed” with them in a bid to seize power. We watch as people with private businesses can no longer offer what they used to have. A woman who ran a cafe for over thirty years was forced to serve soy products instead of the comfort food she used to offer. Later, everyone is forced into a curfew and heavily armed Soviet soldiers bust the woman’s neon sign, which had been lit for decades. She cries as she’s forced into the back of a truck to be driven off to God knows where.

We see a talented young dancer (Boyle’s character, Jackie Bradford) being ignored when she auditions for a show because she’s too good and would ruin the uniformity of mediocrity of the others. By the way, while I can see where the writers were going with this point, years of watching Soviet athletes and listening to Soviet trained musicians tells me that the culture certainly embraced the talented. They were showcased! Just watch any 70s or 80s era Olympics or a Russian ballet! But the point is, communists didn’t give anyone an incentive to excel, since everyone was “treated equally”. Except they actually weren’t. There were certainly people in communist countries who had it better than others did, due to their stations in life.

We see dissidents being forced into “re-education” camps. Kristofferson’s character, a former politician and 1988 presidential candidate named Devin Milford, had been imprisoned in Texas for trying to fight against the regime and speaking out against corruption. At the beginning of the series, we see him being released and sent into exile in Milford, where he is to stay within 25 miles of his property or risk being jailed or shot. He watches as families lose their homes as Soviet squatters are not recognizing the former Americans’ rights to own land. Children in school are being propagandized with communist principles, which they spout off by rote.

Devin’s eldest son is sent to a psychiatric hospital to be “treated” for thought crimes. He and his fellow patients are shown propaganda while hooked up to electrodes, drugged, and kept in cells. His middle and youngest sons are kept from him. The middle child is bright enough to see through what is happening, but the youngest child becomes very indoctrinated, to the point at which he turns on his father, with a literal gun. Devin’s ex wife, Marion Andrews (Wendy Hughes), is becoming a government leader who wants her ex husband killed.

Fellow Milfordite, Peter Bradford (Robert Ulrich) becomes president, with his wife Amanda (Cindy Pickett) as his first lady. Amanda is very disturbed by all she sees, and tells Bradford that she can be his wife, but not his first lady. Sounds kind of like Melania Trump! Except Amanda is nowhere near as narcissistic and vacuous as Melania is. 😉

And then there’s Kimberly Ballard (Mariel Hemingway), who was very young and beautiful in 1987. She plays a musical theater actress whose work is affected because of censorship. She also gets involved with a Soviet military leader– well… she falls in love with him, and he falls in love with her. But their love can’t survive, because she’s an American through and through, and he’s a Soviet. And politics always take precedence over love.

Mariel Hemingway “sings” as Kimberly Ballard… or does she? This is disturbing.

Like I said, this is a very long series, and to be honest, it was a bit of a plod to get through it. It starts off rather slowly, but then gets more interesting. The musical score may be familiar to some people, too, as the composer of much of the music was Basil Poledouris, the same guy who did the music for the original Red Dawn. In some ways, this film reminded me a bit of Red Dawn, minus most of the violence… at least at first. As Americans start waking up to the reality of communism, a la a frog in slowly heated water, there’s more violent action. Some of it was kind of chilling to see, even by today’s bloodthirsty standards. There are a lot of “dead” people shown– eyes frozen open in shock and horror, as fake blood runs down their faces. In 1987, it was still uncommon for Americans to see mass shooting events.

In some ways, Amerika still seems far fetched and ridiculous. It’s now 2022, and 1997 was a long time ago– 25 years! But realizing that this movie was made in 1987, it’s kind of interesting to see what we had in 1997 that wasn’t yet conceived of in 1987. So, for 1997, Amerika seems pretty quaint and antiquated. However, I moved to Armenia in 1995, which was only about 3.5 years after the Soviet Union fell apart. Things were still very antiquated there in 1995, and things were still pretty much run like they were in the Soviet era. In fact, conditions were worse there at that time, because they were on their own. We had no electricity most of the time; some places had no running water; and almost no one had hot water from a tap. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Armenia in 1995, I took bucket baths with water heated on my kerosene heaters or propane stove. I read books at night by kerosene lamp light. Anything I wanted to buy was behind a counter. And I lived in a series of ugly Soviet era cookie cutter apartments.

But, in other ways, Amerika is scarily prescient. The miniseries was probably conceived of by right wing political conservatives, as it has a very anti-communism message. BUT… as we all know, in 2016, the Russians fucked with our presidential elections. We had a “Republican” leader in Donald Trump, who doesn’t really resemble an old style Republican at all and, in fact, isn’t one. Trump is a fascist, dictator wannabe, and he’s spawned a bunch of power hungry acolytes who would love to follow in his footsteps, even though he’s clearly against freedom and outwardly said the Constitution needs to be “suspended” so he can be put back in power.

This bitch needs to be voted out… but Georgians are too wedded to being “Republicans”. She says that if she and Steve Bannon had been “in charge” of January 6th, they would have “won”. What a fucking loser she is. How DARE she?!

Yesterday, there was news about how, on January 17, 2021, South Carolina Republican Ralph Norman sent a text message to Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, calling for Trump to institute “Marshall law”. He means “martial law”, of course. But he was actually calling for Trump to use military force to overturn the legal and fair 2020 presidential election, to prevent Joe Biden from taking his rightful place as the US President. Can you fucking believe it? These are Republicans! Aren’t they supposed to be about smaller government, the Constitution, and freedom for everyone (except women of childbearing age)?

How dare he? These MAGA motherfuckers need to be run out of power. Especially Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is among the worst of the lot.

I saw a lot of comments on the Amerika videos. Many people were trashing Biden, and saying that America is headed for the scary communist dystopian reality presented in Amerika. And yet, I lived in a former Soviet country, and I learned that the people living there weren’t bad people. They really weren’t that different than I was. They just came from a poorer country in need of assistance. In the 25 years since I left Armenia, I have been really heartened to see how far the country has come. It’s truly become a cool place to be, in terms of the incredible culture and the insane talents of its citizenry. Meanwhile, the United States is starting to look more like it could go the way of the old Soviet Union, as Trump and his minions try to take over and force us to accept his “leadership”. I’m actually not that afraid of Trump anymore, because he’s old and has been revealed for what he is. BUT… I am afraid of the younger, smarter, more polished, power hungry types in his wake who claim to be patriots and fans of the Constitution, but want to do away with fundamental American principles like separation of church and state, the right to privacy, and not having the military running the government so that the overall unpopular extremist, dictatorial types like Trump can stay in charge.

Peru and Germany DID something about their dictator wannabes. Let’s get with it, America, and put these dangerous people away, before they ruin the country.

This week, there was a coup stopped in Germany, which is where I live right now. The people involved in that are now in massive legal trouble. They have been arrested. In the United States, Donald Trump is still a free man, in spite of showing us who he is, and what he wants to do. For some reason, Republicans think their party is still what it was years ago, when it was about keeping government out of people’s private business and keeping taxes low. Do these folks really believe that Trump and his deplorable minions won’t be trying their best to take what’s yours? Trump just wants money and power. But there are people inspired by him who want more. They have shown us… and there are a lot of awful people in public office who care more about being re-elected than doing what is right for the citizens of the United States and running free and FAIR elections, without corruption.

One thing that I did learn, having lived in Armenia, is that abortion wasn’t really a big deal in the Soviet Union. I met many women who’d had them, mainly because birth control wasn’t freely available, and their men didn’t want to bother with condoms. And when you’re making the US equivalent of $10 a month, it’s hard to have enough money to raise children. But, it hasn’t escaped my attention that a lot of Republican business owners who don’t want to pay a living wage, nor do they want to offer birth control coverage on health insurance policies provided through work, are very much against allowing abortion. At least for now. 😉 Some of those folks might eventually realize that religion makes it harder for them to control the masses, as people have a power higher than the state. I think with time, religion and the so-called morals espoused because of “God” will become much less fashionable among Republicans, just as the Constitution apparently has.

Yeah… she’s all for church, until she realizes that people are giving money to churches that they could be giving to government officials, like her. What an un American idiot she is. And no, the church is NOT supposed to direct the US government.
It’s UNBELIEVABLE to me that people are so blind to WHO these MAGAts are!!!!

Anyway… just like I was in 1987, a lot of Americans are concerned about other things. And they aren’t paying attention, even though we have a lot more ways to pay attention now, than we ever had in the past. I hope some people wake up before we start seeing America turn into Amerika. I don’t even want to say that all Republicans are bad, per se. It’s just that the old school ones are being replaced like MAGAts… like cancer cells, they are taking over.

So, although Amerika was a “plod” to get through, I am glad I took the time to watch it. It made me think. If I had taken more time, I probably could have written a much better blog post about it. But if I manage to inspire someone to watch it and draw their own conclusions, maybe I will have done my good deed for the day. It was eye opening for me, but not in the way that other viewers saw it, apparently. This is the type of thing conservatives would tend to watch, because of that dirty word– communism– and Soviet Union style politics. They don’t see the similarities between Soviet Union style communism and Trump style fascism that I see, like the Trump style desire to suppress the media— something very much in the Soviet playbook. As someone who has experienced life over there, and has voted on either side of the spectrum, I see other, more frightening things. We, as a nation, need to collectively wake up and do something about these deranged, fascist, violent people before it’s too late.

WHEW… I meant for this to be about two movies. Guess I’ll be writing another post, which seems fair enough, since it’s snowing outside right now.

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