Last night, I was practically bored out of my mind and listlessly searching the Internet, when I decided to Google my Internet nickname. Sure enough, I found a list of places I’ve been on the Internet. But then I noticed an unusual hit– it was to Google Books. That was when I discovered that a fellow former Epinions reviewer and I were both quoted in what appears to be a scholarly book about the Middle East.
This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself quoted or linked somewhere interesting. For instance, some years ago, I found that someone had cited me in what appeared to be a college paper about Alyssa Milano’s charitable efforts. The person who wrote the paper had made some rather unflattering comments about me that I don’t think are really based in truth. However, having been a college student myself– albeit before there was Google– I can kind of understand what they did. They probably never thought I’d read what they wrote about me.
I don’t like to Google myself for that reason. I don’t want to know what strangers on the Internet think of me. I figure no good can come out of my looking for their opinions. I happened to find the Alyssa Milano paper by accident.
As for last night’s discovery, it was also purely by the accident of boredom. I was watching more Audit the Audit videos on YouTube, and noticed a thread on Facebook about obscure phrases people don’t use anymore. I mentioned the term “knothead”, which is what my parents used to call me. Just for fun, I looked it up online, and before I knew it, found myself adding the “usc” I’ve used as my Internet handle since around 1999 or so.
The book reference, made by someone named Silke Schmidt, PD Ph.D., was based on an old book review I wrote for the now defunct review site, Epinions.com. I was a “Top Reviewer” for books, music, and hotels & travel on Epinions, so I was a pretty prolific poster on the site. In those days, I reviewed all kinds of things, but mostly those things in my “hatted” categories– the ones where I had special designations and, therefore, made more money. And because I was a Top Reviewer for books, I read a lot of books– some of which I probably wouldn’t read today.
It seems that Dr. Schmidt found my Epinions review of a book called Howling in Mesopotamia by Haider Ala Hamoudi, which was about an American-Iraqi and the Iraq War. Ordinarily, I probably wouldn’t choose to read such a book, especially at the time at which I read that one. Google tells me I bought a physical copy of it in May 2008, which means I probably reviewed it soon afterward. We lived in Germany at the time, and I specifically remember reviewing it in our very first German house.
I don’t know anything about Silke Schmidt, and it appears that (she?) doesn’t know anything about me, as she refers to me with male pronouns in her book. I see she also quotes my Epinions colleague, Bryan Carey, who was a legend on Epinions because of the vast number of “very helpful” reviews he wrote on the site, and the money he made there. Schmidt misspells his name, which is natural enough, given that she doesn’t know him. In two footnotes, Schmidt explains:
If I recall correctly, I read Howling in Mesopotamia for a number of reasons, the first of which had to do with my Soldier husband spending time in Iraq. In 2008, Bill was still on active duty, and had been in Iraq the previous year. I also used to live in Armenia, which isn’t very far from Iraq. My time living in that region piqued my interest about the Middle East, although Armenia is a Christian nation that used to be part of the Soviet Union. It borders Iran and Turkey, and while Iraq isn’t a direct neighbor, it’s not far away at all.
In 2008, I was a lot more politically conservative than I am today, although I haven’t gone totally liberal. Today, I’m not sure I would have made the same comments about my impressions of Howling in Mesopotamia that I made in 2008. I also never dreamed my comments would be immortalized in a book. I’m not upset about it, though. It doesn’t look like that many people have read the book, anyway.
I guess if I were going to characterize how I feel about finding myself quoted by my Internet handle in a book about the Middle East, it would be “bemused”, “perplexed”, “surprised”… And I wonder why Schmidt didn’t leave a comment or send me an email asking for clarification before quoting my review. When I was on Epinions, it was easy to reach me by email, as it was listed right there on my member page. But then… I know that writers often work under deadlines, and academics are forever reading.
I see that Dr. Schmidt was born in 1983 and teaches at the University of Marburg. Schmidt’s book was written in 2014… and since Epinions died in February of that year and the vast majority of the reviews disappeared soon afterwards, it’s a lucky thing that Schmidt could even find the reviews quoted in the book. Most of them are now long gone from the Internet by now.
Well, color me amused that my review of a long forgotten book captured the attention of a German scholar, especially since I now live in the scholar’s homeland. I guess it just goes to show how everything a person does can affect someone else. You just never know who you’ll touch, or where you’ll touch them… 😉 I don’t remember my review of Howling in Mesopotamia as being one of my more successful reviews, in terms of views or Epinions income share earned (Epinions reviews sometimes generated real money for reviewers– although typically not a lot of money, especially in the categories for which I usually wrote). It’s nice to know I did at least help out an academic by writing my opinion of the book.
I was thinking I might write about some of the totally batshit Republican proposed policies I’ve seen bandied about today, all of which I’ve read about since waking up this morning at about 4:00. But, I think I will save that topic for another post, on another day. No sense getting riled up today, as I watch it snow and rain and contemplate taking Arran in for yet another vet appointment this evening.
The weather is depressing enough without another commentary about completely wacko right wing religious nutjobs (Bryan Slaton) in Texas trying to secede from the Union and proposing to give traditional Christian families with at least four children tax breaks. Or Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ potentially signing a bill that would remove the need for work permits for children in Arkansas… so that children can be put to work instead of sent to school. I’m so sick of these crazy extremists in the United States… they make me want to stay away, even though I am still a Texas resident. I just want things to be more moderate again. Is that too much to ask? Arggggh!!!!
Oh… and I did manage to make new music videos yesterday. Indeed, they are posted under the same handle Silke Schmidt found on Epinions.com. I think when Bill goes away, I get inspired to sing sexy songs.
I think I’ll end this post now, practice guitar, and consider a visit to the local Rewe for some beer… It’s too shitty outside right now to walk the dogs, and I have a cold sore.
Regular readers may have noticed that yesterday, just before I wrote about Bill’s needless alarm over Friday’s phone call, I reposted my review of Alyssa Milano’s embarrassing 1988 era exercise video, Teen Steam. I reposted that review because I originally wrote it for the now defunct review site, Epinions.com, and had reposted it on my dying music blog, Dungeon of the Past. Some of my most faithful readers are folks I “met” (in person in a few cases) on that site. I like to preserve my old Epinions reviews whenever I can. As I’m getting close to the $100 in ad revenue I need to cash out on AdSense, I’m thinking about discontinuing my music blog. If I end up doing that, it might mean some of the most popular and personally amusing posts will get rehomed on this blog. I do like writing about music, but I don’t have the desire to update that blog often enough to keep it going. Plus, I simply don’t like writing on Blogger anymore.
As I was reposting that review, I watched bits of Alyssa’s godawful Teen Steam video again. I hadn’t seen it in a long time. Indeed, I initially wrote that review in 2009, and while I probably looked at the video again when I reposted it on Dungeon of the Past, I had forgotten how absolutely and shamelessly rotten it is. It’s an exercise video directed at teenaged or prepubescent girls, put out at a time when Alyssa Milano was starring on Who’s the Boss with Judith Light and Tony Danza. Besides being in movies and starring on TV shows, Alyssa Milano also had a burgeoning pop music career in Japan. Obviously, she was striking while the iron was hot, as when she was a teenager, Alyssa Milano was absolutely beautiful. Or, at least I think so… and I say that as an objective, heterosexual female who doesn’t have aspirations of having sexual relations with other females.
I took a fresh look at the Amazon reviews for Teen Steam, and I quickly noticed some of the comments were not coming from the video’s intended audience. I distinctly remember back in 2009, when I originally wrote the Epinions review, there were a lot of men commenting about how watching Alyssa’s workout caused them to be sexually aroused. They might have also enjoyed watching Alyssa’s two hired actress friends, who used the premise of being upset with their parents as a reason to let off “teen steam”. For them, it was “teen steamy” indeed.
Back in the 80s, things were different than they are now. In those days, kids were pretty much allowed to run wild, especially compared to today. There was a lot less concern about child welfare back then, although laws were starting to be made about what children could, or could not, do… and some parents had enough common sense to know what they shouldn’t be doing and actually prevent them from doing those things. I’m sure in the 80s, Alyssa Milano’s workout tape seemed very innocent and cute. I think society, as a whole, was blissfully less aware of the bad stuff in the world.
As Bill and I were listening to music and drinking beer last night, I read aloud one of the Amazon reviews that was posted about this video:
Does anyone else find it creepy that the top of the “What similar items do customers ultimately buy after viewing this item?” is a movie called Jailbait? I guess if you’re not creeped out by the other reviews, that shouldn’t add much.
Bill had just taken a big sip of beer right before I read that actual Amazon review to him. He thought I was joking and almost spewed beer out of his mouth as he choked back laughter. Then he said, “I should be careful drinking beer when you’re making a joke.”
Except I wasn’t joking. That was a literal review on Amazon. We both started cracking up over that. But seriously… below is another honest to God Amazon review of this video:
This is the beautiful girl, turning into a woman right before you’re [sic] very eyes, through each stretch and musical number! Guys who buy this may have to buy another later, so don’t use that still frame button and slow motion button so much!
The music is terrible. The Fashion is horrible. The dancing is awful. The workouts are laughable. But it’s badness is the genius of its greatness. A must for any Alyssa Milano fan because you won’t be able to take your eyes off of her.
What can I say about this rare, late 80’s gem? I had to have this, I just had to. I remember “who’s the Boss” as an interesting if silly family show, if a little strange because it had a single parent who was a somewhat befuddled dad, most single parent families, by far, have a mom and no dad, but I guess they wanted to be different. Lets [sic] start with the star of this show, Alyssa Milano. She is as close to perfect as the good lord makes girls her age, her face is flawless and her well toned body is unparalleled. She is also barely 16. I am not 16. I have not been 16 for a long, long, long time. Shame on me. But wait…I didn’t produce this, I didn’t set up the exercises or tell this young nubile to do stretching exercises in a sports bra and nothing else on top. It wasn’t my idea, why should I be ashamed? I just am. Alyssa Milano is a fascinating individual, like an onion one peels and peels and still there is more. She had a colossal career in Japan, lots of Americans did, but not Like Ms. Milano. She had 4 or 5 albums, albums which must be heard to be believed, I confess to downloading some of the songs, shame on me again. If you can listen to one of her songs all the way through, you are stronger then I am. She sings the theme, the lyrics stick in ones [sic] mind like a chicken bone in a dogs throat, “My parents want an angel, my teachers want a brain, my friends all want to party and it’s driving my insane” Oh the horror, the horror. It is painfully obvious that no teenage girl penned these lyrics but some older male, as was much of her stuff in those days. She wears outfits selected for her to please someone else, she poses for hundreds of photo’s [sic], (check out her fan sites) some of which would make Nabrikov [sic] blush, whatever she did it was top quality, done with true heart and spirit and always a little creepy. Who was the audience for this? Young girls? maybe, but many other demographic groups would enjoy her stretching and bending, and squatting and lunging and squatting some more, and leg lifts…….shame on me. She poses in a nighty for a grown women, she is barely 13, time and time again Alyssa Milano puts the “pro” in “age inappropriate”, but is she to blame? or credit? I just don’t have an answer.What I will say is she takes her exercise very seriously, as do the camera men who constantly leer over her teenage body, and her friends too, what to say? The dance number is done very well, the credit list goes on to name many professionals who worked really hard on this, yet like any of her stuff it is horribly dated, her hair and music scream 1988 and no other year, sadly that was a long time ago, and it shows. I, and many other’s [sic] will always think of Alyssa Milano as our adorable if annoying little sister, or the neighbor girl who we see walking down the street, who we should not be looking at….then we take our camcorder and…..shame on me.
Side note. Alyssa was probably 15, not barely 13, when she made this video. She and I were born the same year, and she was a December baby. This was released in 1988, meaning that her 16th birthday would have been in December 1988. But yeah, I did notice how incredibly and naturally beautiful she was back then. She’s still beautiful today, too, and I have read that, yes, of course she cringes today when she remembers making this video. It apparently sold well, though, and she and her parents probably made some bank with her version of an exercise video. They were all the rage back in the 80s, thanks to Jane Fonda.
What does Teen Steam have to do with National Lampoon’s European Vacation? Bill and I share a lot of private, inside jokes. One of our most enduring private jokes involves the scene in European Vacation when Rusty Griswold is watching a newlywed couple making out at breakfast. While Clark and Ellen Griswold are talking to their daughter, Audrey, Rusty suddenly blurts out, “Dad, I think he’s gonna pork her!”
Clark responds, “He’s not gonna pork her, Russ.”
“I think he is, Dad”, Rusty says, raising his eyebrows and smiling admiringly.
Sometimes, when Bill says something that strikes me as funny, I’ll say, a la Rusty Griswold, “I think he is, Dad.”
And I think our exchange regarding the scandalous, yet cheesy, 80s era teen video, Teen Steam, is going to end up being another one of our private, inside jokes. I’ve mentioned before that we’re about to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and it really does my heart good to know that we still have a lot to talk and laugh about privately. It makes me feel good that we’re still such good friends, and we not only love each other, but we also really like each other. We laugh over the craziest, dumbest, and most obscure things. I think that Teen Steam Amazon review is going to go down in history as one of our many private guffaws. I’m delighted that we still have them… because God knows, if we don’t laugh, we’re probably going to cry over the state of the world today…
Here’s an old review I wrote for Epinions.com about Alyssa Milano’s laughable Teen Steam workout video. I reposted it on my Dungeons of the Past blog, but I’m also going to post it here so it doesn’t disappear. I like to preserve my Epinions reviews when I can, and I am probably going to discontinue the music blog at some point in the near future. This review is AS/IS– it has not been edited or updated. So please read this as if it’s 2009, not 2022.
Did you know Alyssa used to be a pop star in Japan? I like her better as an actress.
Plot Details: This opinion reveals everything about the movie’s plot.
Ah 1988… What a year that was for people born in 1972. Our birth year may be the one and only thing Alyssa Milano and I have in common, besides being female. As a kid, I used to love watching her on Who’s The Boss, an ABC sitcom in which she played Tony Danza’s daughter, Samantha. And, of course, I’d seen her play Arnold Schwarzenegger’s daughter in the 1985 film, Commando. Back in 1988, all the girls admired her and a lot of the hormonally crazed boys wanted to do her. Naturally, that meant she should put out an exercise video. Perhaps that’s how Teen Steam, starring Alyssa Milano, produced by her mom, Lin Milano, and featuring music by her dad, Tom Milano, came to be.
I will be honest. Back in 1988, when this video was selling via television ads, I wasn’t the slightest bit interested in it… not even for the “stylish” Teen Steam digital watch that was thrown in to sweeten the sale. All I remember was seeing Alyssa Milano on those ads, dressed in a spandex shirt and torn up jeans, hawking her exercise/dance video and singing a very annoying but catchy theme song. My curiosity finally got the best of me and I finally ended up getting the chance to watch the thing. And now, some enterprising soul has posted the whole video in its entirety on YouTube for the whole world to see.
Teen Steam is definitely a low budget affair. Currently only available on VHS, it’s now out of print. Used copies are available on Amazon.com. Judging by some of the comments left by reviewers on that site, I’m guessing that this video might have been meant for teenaged girls, but actually appeals more to adult men. It runs for 30 minutes and is not rated. Below is the actual video, which is still available on YouTube.
Okay… actually, Teen Steam doesn’t have much of a plot. Basically, the video starts off showing Alyssa in her bedroom, dressed in spandex biker shorts and a tight fitting white tank top that ends just below her budding bosom. She’s listening to her answering machine and gets a message from a girl named Tiffanie (Tiffanie Poston) who claims she’s having a major problem and asks Alyssa to call her back. Then the phone rings and it’s a girl named Michelle (Michelle Simms), who evidently tells Alyssa that she’s also heard from Tiffanie, but Michelle’s problem is even worse than their mutual friend’s. Alyssa, obviously the most level headed one in this group, invites them both over to her house so they can “work it out” together. Given that this video is a “workout” video, I guess that was sort of a lame play on words. On the other hand, maybe it was an unintentional play on words.
Alyssa heads over to her “hi-fi” stereo and puts in what looks like a mix tape. She presses play and suddenly the room starts to pulsate with some 80s era techno dance music. Alyssa says forlornly, “Another one of those days. I can feel the steam rising.” Suddenly, she’s joined by Michelle who complains that she can’t go out that weekend because she has to babysit her little brother. Then Tiffanie gripes about being grounded for bringing home a D on her report card.
Alyssa turns to the camera and says she likes to work out the stress by working out. Then she rattles off an obviously scripted spiel about how warming up is the most important part of the workout. The three girls start to work out to the increasingly lame techno music as Alyssa directs them, gamely trying to sound just like a pro.
I’m not a horny teenaged guy, so I don’t get into watching Alyssa Milano work out. I suppose I might have gotten into watching this if, as a teen, I really looked up to Alyssa Milano. But she’s my age, so I didn’t see her as a role model back when this video was on the market.
The girls do some obligatory chit chatting as they do stretches and basic dance moves to a soundtrack that sounds like it was inspired by the jungle. I don’t really get the feeling that these girls are friends in real life, but they look nice enough on camera. Speaking of the camera, it pans around to show Alyssa’s face as she sweats and gyrates to the music. Just when I think it can’t get any cheesier, Alyssa and her buddies start to rap sort of half-heartedly. Afterwards, Alyssa giggles and says the next exercise is hard to explain, so we should “follow her”.
Alyssa then leads her buddies in floor exercises. She claims she’s already done her exercises for the day, so she’ll just play coach. Alyssa sits between the two girls and counts, offering constructive criticism every so often. It’s at this point that the music threatens to overtake the girls’ chattering. Between the music and the constant giggling, it’s hard to make everything out. Although Alyssa does a good job of keeping things moving, she’s not very convincing as an exercise leader. But I get the feeling that most of the people who would seriously want to watch this won’t care about that.
When the floor exercises are over, Alyssa joins her buddies in stretches. She begins with an exercise she calls “pretzel thingies”. Then she tells her audience that if they still have energy left, they can “dance it out” with her and her friends. She faces the camera and reassures viewers that the steps are easy and they probably do them all the time when they’re dancing with their friends. Then she tells them if they get lost, they can either rewind the tape or come up with their own steps. Finally, she offers a half-hearted encouragement, saying “Let’s do it!” as she walks through her bedroom mirror. Real helpful, Alyssa!
The next part of the video is the dance segment. As Alyssa walks through her mirror, she ends up in what looks like a dark alley. She’s dressed in ripped acid washed jeans, high tops, a pink spandex shirt that shows off her midriff, and a jean jacket. She’s joined by a bunch of dancers who gyrate to the cheesy electronic music, but Alyssa’s workout buddies are nowhere to be found. This part of the video is sort of set up like a music video, complete with a loosely told story. It’s really pretty hokey. Alyssa Milano isn’t the best dancer in the world. In fact, she sort of emulates Tiffany’s “hand jive” moves that were kind of popular back in the day. But I’m guessing that most people who would really want to watch this video won’t care about that.
When Alyssa’s done dancing, she walks back through her mirror, once again dressed in her biker shorts and tiny tank top. Suddenly, we see Alyssa’s friends again. They appear to be doing exercises in fast forward. Alyssa says “Oops” then snaps her fingers. The friends act as if they were stuck in some kind of time warp. At this point, Alyssa does something truly cringeworthy. She appears to try to emulate Dana Carvey’s Church Lady as she sneers, “Well… wasn’t that effect… special?” It’s enough to make you want to jump out of your skin.
At this point, we’ve seen Alyssa work out, play exercise coach, and dance. Now it’s time to hear her sing. That’s right, folks. Alyssa Milano sings too. Apparently, she had a number of hits in Japan back in the day. She walks over to her tape deck and turns over the cassette. I’m suddenly surprised that she doesn’t have a machine with auto-reverse. I would think with the way her career was going in the 1980s, she could have afforded it.
The punchy electronic theme song to the video starts and suddenly Alyssa’s in the recording studio, dressed in her ripped jeans get up. Holding an earphone to her ear, Alyssa starts to sing the following prize worthy lyrics:
“My parents want an angel, my teachers want a brain, my friends all want to party and it’s driving me insane”
She looks like even she thinks the song is stupid, but ever the professional, she sells it as best she can. The lyrics to this song are pretty inane and seem inappropriate for a girl Alyssa’s age, but she has a passable singing voice and the melody is catchy enough. If you’re not careful, it’ll be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. After about three minutes of this, the credits mercifully start to roll, the irritating theme song playing all the while.
I don’t think I would have liked this video when I was a teenager. I will admit it’s kind of fun to watch it 21 years later, but only as a lark. To be honest, it’s not a very interesting video and Alyssa doesn’t seem that invested in it. I got the feeling that she was doing it just for the money. Come to think of it, she probably was.
That being said, I will comment that this video seems to be popular among men, especially those who admired Alyssa Milano when she was a teenager. She was a very good looking girl and has blossomed into an attractive woman. I’m sure this exercise video was meant for adolescent girls, but I think it’s more appealing to men… and that makes me wonder what the hell her parents were thinking when they got involved with this project! In fact, I also wonder why Alyssa Milano needed to do an exercise video. She hasn’t seemed to have gone through that cursed transition to adulthood that a lot of childhood actors do. I don’t think she ever had an ugly duckling phase.
Anyway… I don’t think I’d recommend this video to anyone who plans to take it seriously. It’s fun to watch for nostalgic purposes and, judging from some of the comments on YouTube and Amazon, some people also watch it for sexual purposes… but remember, Alyssa was only 15 years old when this video was made. Tsk tsk tsk…
Recommend this product? No
Not that I think many people want a VHS cassette of Alyssa Milano’s cheesy exercise video, but here’s the link to Amazon in case anyone does. I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.
Today’s semi-fresh content comes, in part, courtesy of the video below, which recently came up in my Facebook memories.
I found today’s repost about a LDS woman getting slammed for breastfeeding in public a couple of days ago, after I saw the above video in my memories. I made a mental note to repost that blog entry from 2018. As I was doing that this morning, I also remembered Alyssa’s interview with Wendy Williams, and realized that it kind of went with the public breastfeeding repost. I was going to just include it with the repost, even though Alyssa Milano isn’t LDS and her campaigning for breastfeeding acceptance isn’t based so much on religious bullshit.
But then I remembered something else. Years ago, someone quoted my blog in a college paper about Alyssa Milano. They basically claimed that I was an Alyssa “hater”. I was pretty amused by that revelation. I certainly don’t hate Alyssa Milano. I never have. I don’t love every acting project she’s ever been involved with, but I most definitely respect her as a peer and an actress. I loved watching her on Who’s the Boss when I was a teenager, and on the original Melrose Place when I was a young woman. Hell, Alyssa Milano taught me about hickeys! And I got a huge kick out of watching her workout video, too!
So why did someone claim that I don’t like Alyssa Milano? It was because they found an old Writer’s Corner piece I wrote for Epinions.com many years ago and later rehashed on my original blog. In fact, I want to say I wrote that piece in January, because along with weight loss ads and gym membership plugs, January is also the prime time for various charities to run their guilt tripping fundraising campaigns.
In January 2012, eight years after I wrote my original Writer’s Corner Epinions piece about people like Sarah McLaughlin, Sally Struthers, the late Bonnie Franklin, and yes, Alyssa Milano, begging for donations for organizations like UNICEF, Christian Children’s Fund, and the ASPCA, I retooled the original essay into something semi new. A lot of people read it. The original stats for that rehashed post about charities netted almost 1700 hits, which for me, is a lot. To give you some perspective, most of my blog posts never crack 50 hits, although I seem to be getting more popular lately. I guess people are reading blogs more, given that they’re being encouraged to socially distance.
Anyway, I had written this retooled post about the annoying charity ads. In that post, I snarked on Alyssa Milano’s shilling for UNICEF, in which she begged viewers to send in “just 50 cents a day” to save children in developing countries. I found the ad very annoying and dared to say so in my rant.
Now, I never said I didn’t otherwise enjoy Alyssa Milano’s work, nor did I say anything disparaging about her as a person. I don’t even know Alyssa, after all. If I did know her, I’m sure I’d like her fine. I just didn’t like that ad, nor do I enjoy viewing others like it done by other celebrities. I’m all for raising money for good causes, and am happy to help when I can, but I don’t enjoy guilt trips or emotional blackmail, even if they are often employed as effective fundraising methods. I know January is when people start thinking about their taxes, and maybe that’s why these ads tend to hit a fever pitch in January. I just don’t like the melodrama.
In my 2012 post, I included a portion of my original 2004 era Writer’s Corner rant, which I will admit was a bit snarky and obnoxious. I was trying to be funny, I guess, since a lot of people enjoy a good snark fest. The Writer’s Corner pieces on Epinions were strictly done for fun and entertainment. We didn’t get paid for them. So I was just cutting loose a bit. I do remember that the 2004 post generated some really interesting comments and discussion. Epinions was good for that, since there were some genuinely talented writers there back in the day. In 2012, my blog wasn’t all that popular and, like today, I was probably searching for a compelling topic. That was during the time at which I didn’t even share it with anyone I knew. How was I to know that post would generate so much controversy several years later?
Anyway, fast forward to January 2016. I decided to check my hits on Statcounter. In those days, I would type in the first letters of my blog to find the Statcounter Web site. Although it’s not my policy to look for comments about me or my blog, on that particular day, I decided to look for results beyond the first two. I noticed that there were a few other blogs called “The Overeducated Housewife” or something similar, all of which were aborted after the first few posts. Those blogs were all started by women who, like me, had gone to school for a long time and wound up keeping house for whatever reason. I guess they all eventually got “lives”.
Then I noticed a few hits down, my blog was mentioned on a Tumblr fan site called CharmedXConfessions. It appears to be a fan site for the old show Charmed, starring Alyssa Milano, Rose McGowan, and Shannen Doherty. I noticed that the mention of my blog on the Google results indicated that I’m “snarky, sarcastic, and condescending”. Then I discovered that someone had written a college composition called Alyssa Milano College Essay- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. Below are portions of the essay, cut and pasted exactly as I found it, that pertain to me and my controversial blog post.
In contrast to this positive publicity, Alyssa Milano’s television pleas for UNICEF have also drawn detractors. One blog particularly singles out her commercials and those of Sarah McLachlan for the SPCA as “melodramatic pleas for donations…when I watch those ads I feel manipulated, emotionally blackmailed…even shamed” (Overeducated Housewife 1). This blog dissects and raises issues about the pictures/techniques used by UNICEF and other international children’s charities that form the backdrop for Milano’s and other pleas. The blog says these commercials show:
—the depiction of fly-covered, malnourished children with large eyes and anglicized names
—the plea for only 50 cents or the cost of a cup of coffee daily
—the shaming technique of repeatedly asking what’s your excuse for not calling
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This blog questions the use of charitable dollars to pay for expensive television advertising. It also asks whether the celebrity spokespeople are paid for these commercials. Finally this blog raises the question of whether these celebrities personally donate substantially to the causes they are asking others to support. A defender of Milano on Overeducated Housewife points to her $50,000 donation to UNICEF and challenge to corporations to do the same. But questions about the appropriateness of wealthy celebrities pleading for the disadvantaged, the use of charitable dollars for self-promotion, and the lavish staff salaries paid to the leadership of some of these charities (i.e. the CEO of UNICEF makes $454,855) remain and are echoed on UNICEF’s Facebook page, in other blogs and in circulating emails. Milano’s association with UNICEF could, in some circles, taint her as minimally naive or even worse, as complicit in these questionable uses of charitable dollars.
The Overeducated Housewife blog in general features a number of snarky, sarcastic and condescending articles on a broad range of topics. The majority of articles seem to be critiques of writers, celebrities or other public figures who the blogger does not like. The blog links to a Facebook page with the name “Knotty” (a pun on Naughty? A reference to the knotty issues it covers?). The face is blurred on a number of images including the profile picture so it appears this blogger is choosing to remain anonymous. Her motto on the blog is “just another boring blog about being a boring housewife.” This motto and the blog’s tone seem to define its audience as educated women who feel they are overeducated for the boring job of being a housewife. The critics of Milano’s involvement with UNICEF, in general, come across as whiny, rude, privileged and nit picking people who are criticizing both a charity and a celebrity who are seeking to impact some of the world’s most pressing and recalcitrant problems. They are not seen as positing positive alternatives, but simply as critiquing and seeking to tear down others’ efforts.
Back in January 2016, I was pretty amused by this person’s observations about me and my blog. It appears that he or she was really offended by my comments about celebrity fundraising ads. I don’t think the person spent very much time reading or exploring my blog. It’s hilarious that this person felt it was appropriate to use my comments in an attempt at writing a “scholarly paper” for a university course. I guess I should be flattered… or maybe I should just feel sad. Anything you say or write can and will be used for something, right?
For the record, I certainly didn’t devote an entire post to how annoying I think Alyssa Milano is. On the contrary, for many reasons, I admire Alyssa Milano very much. In fact, I also admire UNICEF and the good work it does to make the people of the world healthier and happier. I just didn’t like that particular UNICEF ad. I also think the commenter completely missed the point of that post.
It’s not that I object to celebrities who do fundraising for charities. I object to the manipulative ways they go about doing that work. As a rank and file viewer, I find those types of slick ads tasteless and shameless, even if I do think the cause is overall a worthy pursuit. When I wrote that post, years before I was quoted in that paper, I didn’t even think anyone cared about my opinions. I certainly never thought they’d wind up quoted in a paper. I have since found myself used as a reference in multiple Wikipedia entries, too. Isn’t it funny that someone listed me in a bibliography as “knotty” the Overeducated Housewife? I have finally arrived!
My apparently controversial thoughts about Alyssa Milano, which were eventually mentioned in a college paper, were written before Alyssa Milano helped coin and popularize the #MeToo movement, I will admit, I was not initially on board with the #MeToo movement at all. I don’t like catchphrases, and I thought that hashtag movement would peter out, much like the pink vagina hats did. I was wrong about #MeToo, though, and I have since changed my mind about it, and its relevance. Like most women, I can definitely use that hashtag myself, as I have been harassed by men on occasion. I think Alyssa Milano is great for using her platform to give women a voice in that regard. And I applaud her for raising awareness for breastfeeding, as well as money for children in poor countries. I just don’t like guilt tripping, manipulative ads. What’s wrong with saying so on a personal blog? I AM still allowed to share my opinions as a regular person, aren’t I?
The following paragraphs appeared in my January 2016 rant about being misunderstood by a college student who thinks I’m “snarky, sarcastic, and condescending…” They are still how I feel in 2022, and include some information as to why I call myself “knotty”, why I named by blog what I did, and why my picture is “blurry”.
Celebrities who do good deeds are to be commended. I think it’s great when someone with money and influence is able to effect positive changes in the world. I don’t have a problem with anyone involved with charitable organizations, especially if they happen to be public figures. However, as a bored housewife who sometimes watches too much TV (at least when I’m stateside), I am often irritated by the melodramatic, guilt-mongering, begging commercials for charities. That’s just my opinion, and I feel free to state it on my personal blog.
I didn’t realize it was my duty to always be uplifting, positive, and looking for ways to make the world a better place. But I am flattered that the person critiquing my blogging efforts apparently feels that I am important enough to have that role. It’s funny, because only on my blog has anyone seemed to care much what my opinions are. Past commenters have chastised me for being too negative and reminding me that I have a “wide audience” out there in Internetland. According to them, I have a “responsibility” to always be fair, kind, honest, and positive when I write my posts. Ha! Actually, I find the above comments about my “overly critical” attitude toward Alyssa Milano’s UNICEF commercials kind of rich. Isn’t the author of the English composition guilty of the same thing?
My nickname “knotty” is short for knotheadusc, which is an Internet handle I came up with around 1999 or so. Originally, I just wanted to call myself “knothead”. That was what my dad used to call me all the time when I was a kid and it seemed appropriate to call myself that at the time. Others had the same idea, since I frequently found that name taken when I tried to register it on different Web sites. Since I was a graduate student at the University of South Carolina at the time, I added the letters USC to the end of “knothead”. After awhile, people who got to know me online started calling me “knotty”. When I started this blog, I was trying to stay somewhat anonymous, mainly because I didn’t want trouble from my husband’s ex wife or others I vent my spleen about. So I called myself knotty on my blog. The nickname “knotty” is not a play on the word “naughty”, though some people might think it fits. They’d probably be right. Honestly, had the paper writer just asked me, I would have gladly explained it.
Anyway, now that my husband’s kids are adults, I don’t care so much if people know who I am. My real name is Jenny. I have even mentioned it a few times on this blog. Call me that if you think it’s more appropriate than “knotty” is. The blurred pictures the commenter mentions are probably more because I’m a shitty photographer and feel too ugly to show my face, than a real desire to stay anonymous. But even now that you know my name, wouldn’t I still kind of be anonymous to most people? What difference does it make what I call myself or if I show my photo, if you don’t actually know me personally? This blog was never intended to be used as a professional source for anything or anyone. Moreover, it doesn’t look like the paper writer was interested in knowing the real me, since he or she made many disparaging assumptions about my character and never bothered to engage me to find out if they were valid.
As for the title of the blog, I named it so because I spent seven years in college and I am a housewife. It’s not because I think I’m “too good” to be a housewife. On the contrary, I actually feel like even if I wanted to find a full time job, no one would want to hire me. And yet, I do have all this formal education, which is not required for me to do what I do every day. I am not bragging about my education. As a matter of fact, I sometimes wish I’d been smart enough to just stick with my bachelor’s degree. It would be nice not to have to pay so much for degrees I don’t use (although Bill paid off my education loans in 2018). I surely don’t look down on housewives. How could I? I have been one myself for a long time. I’m not even a very good housewife.
Most people who read this blog are drivebys looking for information on specific topics. The person who thinks I’m snarky, condescending, and sarcastic clearly only read my post about UNICEF, and maybe glanced at a couple of other posts to get a very basic idea of what this blog is about. This blog has existed since 2010, and has posts about a huge array of topics. I don’t think the commenter got the most accurate picture of The Overeducated Housewife’s contents, nor did they seem to care much about fairness or accuracy.
I was a student once, too, and I’m pretty sure the author’s ideas about me and my blog were not at all personal and were gleaned very quickly. Shucks! He or she probably just wanted to finish their paper, and used my comments about charities as something to flesh out their required essay. And it’s also not lost on me that I’ve done the same thing with today’s blog entry.
Folks, let me remind you that I’m just a regular middle-aged woman living life. If I come across as snarky, sarcastic, and condescending and you find that offensive, I do apologize. I am just being myself. Not everyone likes me, but that’s true for every living person because it’s impossible to please everybody. This blog was more or less originally meant as a place for me to vent. Contrary to apparent belief, my blog is not that popular. I do have some readers who lurk and read everyday, but there really aren’t that many. Even fewer bother to comment.
I hope the composition earned a good grade, though if I really wanted to be snarky, sarcastic, and condescending, I could probably rip that paper to shreds using my overeducated English lit skills. I won’t bother, though, because I have better things to do with all the time on my hands. I think I’ll go troll YouTube and see if there’s anything there begging me to write one of my “snarky” blog posts. Bonus points for something I can rag on posted by a public figure. For those who are curious, below are a few somewhat recent pictures of me. I don’t put on makeup very often these days, so I usually look more like the third picture.
This scenario is why I don’t make it a habit to look myself up on Google. Most people think the worst of others, and never take the time to learn the whole truth. But, just in case anyone wonders, no, I don’t hate Alyssa Milano. I think she’s basically an excellent actress and role model. But I am glad I am not in the US, watching her ilk beg for 50 cents a day, either. What’s wrong with that?
Yesterday, right after my daily nap, I happened to run across a funny video someone compiled of a Christian aerobics teacher who had a show called Believercise. The compilation was all kinds of crazy. It made me laugh out loud to see the 80s era outfits, hairstyles, and crazy eyes. Then there was the music… Check this out!
In this clip, she looks like Sandy Squirrel or something. Look at those shorts and socks!
Not for nothing, though… I like Amy Grant. I think she is genuinely a very talented musician. I like her even better since she went secular and married Vince Gill. Some of her Christian songs are genuinely good, even though I don’t generally like Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) at all… especially 80s era CCM.
The compilation video was even funnier than these clips are, mainly because whoever did the editing found the craziest of the crazy parts and strung them all together.
After I watched a few of these cringeworthy videos, I went looking to see if any other “Christian” aerobics videos from the 80s exist. Sure enough, I found one. It’s called Blessercise, and it stars the ever perky Mary Chapian. I’m not sure if her name is Mary or Marie, because when I went looking for more information about her, I found a lot of references to a Christian writer named Marie Chapian. Marie looks a lot like Mary and is about the right age to be making this video (she’s 80 now)… but maybe they’re twins.
I wonder where this was distributed. Was it shown on a Christian TV station like CBN or PTL? I grew up near CBN’s headquarters and we had a local channel called WYAH that aired on regular TV. They did air exercise shows. I seem to remember they used to have “Morning Stretch” with Joannie Greggains on in the wee hours of the morning. They did not air this show, as far as I can remember. Seems like this would have been perfect, though. Christians could get up in the morning and get their Jazzercise on, listening to peppy God inspired tunes. On an unrelated note, I miss independent TV stations. You never knew what you’d see. Same thing with independent radio stations. Nowadays, everything is owned by a big corporation and syndicated.
It looks kind of like Mary and her minions tried to dress modestly, but I don’t think they quite pull it off. The leotards they’re wearing are really not much less revealing than regular leotards would be. But back in the 80s, it seemed like people were more moderate than they are now. Or, at least that’s how it seems to me.
I wonder if JimBob Duggar has considered having his daughters make an exercise video? I wonder what they’d wear. They’ve released an album, written books, had TV shows that bored the masses, so why not have an exercise video for Christians who want to work out with fundies? It would be interesting to see what they’d wear… and what music they’d use. Boob doesn’t like dancing or music with a beat that might lead to anyone beating off. But banning those things in his household didn’t stop his son from molesting Boob’s daughters. Why not loosen up on the music “standards” and get the girls in leotards? I bet some guys would buy the videos simply so they could watch them, a la Alyssa Milano’s video from 1988.
Ahh… the 80s were a fun time to be alive… I think my favorite of the Christian aerobics videos is the one done by the Believercise lady. Her name is Cathi Stout and she’s from Texas. She made her videos in the 80s, starting in her living room. They went “viral” 80s style. I guess people took them seriously back then. Maybe some people still do. They just make me laugh. Exercise is a good thing. So is laughter. I think I’d rather take a walk, but if some people want to Blessercize, Believercise, or Take Charge of Their Lives, more power to ’em. I’ll just sit here and giggle.
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