education, lessons learned, music

Is teaching activism a “bad” thing?

Brace yourselves, y’all. I have a new topic to discuss today!

I am a proud graduate of Longwood College, now known as Longwood University. It’s a medium sized liberal arts college in the dead center of Virginia. When I was a student there, it was smaller than it is now. In fact, I know I would be shocked by the huge changes to the campus since I attended in the early 90s. Not only has the campus changed significantly, but apparently, so has the curriculum. Longwood is offering what I think are some very exciting and innovative courses.

Longwood is the kind of school where students are nurtured and encouraged to try new things by professors who really care. I graduated from Longwood in 1994, and 28 years later, there are still people there who remember me when I was a student. I also have so many real friends from my years at Longwood. It’s at Longwood that I started developing my gift for music, and was allowed– and even strongly encouraged and recruited– to study music, just because I have a knack for it. The faculty at Longwood is, by and large, first rate. And while it was not my first choice college, it turned out to be an excellent choice for me. My four years at Longwood truly changed my life for the better.

Naturally, because I am such a booster, I follow Longwood on social media. And this morning, I noticed a post about a new and exciting course that is being offered this spring. Longwood now offers a Civitae Core Curriculum, which did not exist during my college years. Back when I was a student, we called the core curriculum “general ed”. But things have clearly changed, and now freshmen can take a course called Citizen 110– Music Identity and Social Change. This class, which is taught by Honors faculty member, Dr. Kevin Schattenkirk-Harbaugh, will explore how music can inspire people to take action. It will look at artists such as Billie Holliday, George Michael, Marvin Gaye, Paul Simon, and others, to see how music motivates people to take interest and action in the world.

Now… as a music lover who took many music electives at Longwood to supplement my major in English, I know that this class would intrigue me. I haven’t taken a close look at Longwood’s Civitae Core Curriculum, but my guess is that this class is just one choice of several that students can take to fulfill their degree requirements. Based on the class description, I can state with certainty that I would have wanted to take this class myself. It sounds exciting and interesting. And based on the Facebook comments I’ve seen so far, I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who would be interested in taking this course.

Still, there’s a critic in every crowd, and this post was no exception. A woman, who apparently isn’t even a Longwood alum, wrote this:

Activism? This is what parents are paying for?

Another commenter wrote:

The history of activism inspired by music. A unique and interesting examination of how music has inspired some…

And the original commenter responded with:

I get that. But to what purpose? To incite more activism?

I couldn’t help but get the idea that the poster thinks activism is a “bad” thing. And while I usually try not to respond to people on social media, and had already passed my self-imposed one comment per day quota, I felt compelled to leave a response. This is mainly because the person’s comment irked me on many levels, but also because I know I would have LOVED a class like this in the early 1990s:

No. To teach students about how music inspires people to take action. What’s wrong with that? A lot of positive changes have come out of activism. Aside from that, not everyone who takes that course will eventually wind up taking to the streets.

Not all college students are having college paid for by their parents, either. When I went to Longwood, I knew a number of people who were older students and paying for their own education. Or they were in school on scholarship. As legal adults, Longwood students should be trusted to choose electives that interest them. If the course turns out to be inappropriate or unpopular, that will be reflected eventually.

I don’t know this poster at all, but her comment really troubles me. From the implied assumption that all students in college get their tuition paid for by their parents, to the idea that teaching adults about how music inspires action could potentially be damaging, I feel personally affronted by this person’s comment. However, I am not sorry she posted, because her comment did lead me to do some thinking and writing about something besides my current pet topics. I do enjoy reflecting on my time at Longwood, and all of the things I learned there, as well as the many good times I had when I was a student there.

When I was a Longwood student, Virginia was a more conservative state. There was a Confederate statute that stood just off campus. I remember watching many drunken fraternity brothers climbing it at night. While there were some innovative classes offered during that time period, I don’t remember ever seeing a course with such a provocative title on offer at Longwood during my era. I think this new class is a sign that my alma mater is evolving, and I think that’s a really good thing.

Longwood has a long, storied reputation as a school where great teachers are trained. It makes sense to me that new courses with exciting subject matter would be offered. My only hope is that this class allows for constructive discussion from many different perspectives. I hope and expect that the professor who teaches it will allow students to explore the topic from all angles. There will be some students in that class who are conservative, and not politically correct in their opinions. There will also be some students who will take a much more liberal view. I hope that all sides will have a voice, and it won’t be a course in which opinions are taught as fact.

BUT– after my own seven years’ experience as a university student at two different schools, I have found that course quality often has a lot to do with who is doing the teaching. Having spent four years at Longwood, I have every expectation that this class will be taught in a way that encourages reflection and broad thought. It sounds like it will be a treat to take this course. I truly wish I could take it myself, and it’s exciting to me that it’s being offered now. I wish I had a son or daughter I could have sent to Longwood. I have to be contented in seeing some of my old friends’ children deciding to attend college there.

Below is a screenshot of a description of this class:

It sounds great to me!

One of the great things about getting a liberal arts education is having the opportunity to broaden one’s perspectives. When I got to Longwood in 1990, my world view was mostly shaped by spending ten years living in a very rural part of Virginia. Although I had the benefit of living in England and the multicultural D.C. area when I was very young, when I was growing up, I was mostly surrounded by white, southern, Christian, conservative people. My upbringing really showed when I got to Longwood, and in fact, after I graduated, I still had some limited views that could have used some informing.

My mind opened up a lot when I joined the Peace Corps and went to live in Armenia for two years. I still cringe a little bit when I think about how sheltered I was when I was in my 20s, not having been exposed to that much of the world. I remember more than a couple of times when I sounded truly idiotic– perhaps even more so than I might today. 😉

Yes, people can choose to take paths that will broaden them at any stage of life, but it would have been great to have had the chance to start the process when I was in college, rather than after I graduated. College is a time for exploration and evolution in a safe place. I think these kinds of courses are crucial for young adults who are coming of age. And they also spice up the usual basic 101 courses that are typically required for freshmen students.

And– by the way– most college students are legal adults, whether or not mom and dad are paying their tuition. Legal adults should be encouraged to take charge of their education, since they will ultimately be the benefactors of it. I know that some parents who pay college tuition bills think they should have a say in what their dollars are paying for. However, I think that’s something that needs to be handled within individual families, not at the level of parents complaining about curriculum offerings. In other words, if you– mom or dad– don’t like what Junior is taking at college, take it up with Junior. Don’t try to take educational opportunities away from everybody by assuming that you, as a parent, should get a say in what courses the university offers when you’re not even a student there. Granted, this one class might not lead a student to a great job, but it might help a student become a person with a heightened awareness and broadened perspective, which could lead them to places they never dreamed of going.

So… count me among those who are cheering about this class, and others like it, that are now being offered at Longwood University. I see nothing wrong with teaching young people about activism, or how certain things– like great songs– can inspire and motivate people to take action, for better or worse. I don’t think the students who are exposed to this course are necessarily going to grab picket signs and stage protests. Some of them might do that someday, but they would probably be the types of people who would have done that, anyway. Rather, I think this class is going to make students aware that they have the power to effect change if they want to– and it doesn’t necessarily have to be for causes that are liberal, conservative, or whatever. It’s just a look at the ways music can inspire and help foster change– for better or worse. I think it sounds like it’s going to be a very stimulating and fun class, and the students are lucky there’s a professor at Longwood who had the vision to create this course. If it turns out to be a flop, that will become clear soon enough.

We shouldn’t be afraid to expose young people to new ideas or exploration of old ideas. We shouldn’t assume that they’ll go astray simply because we encourage them to reach out and learn more about things that might be controversial or against the establishment. I have great faith in the students at Longwood, and I suspect this class will be very successful. Bravo, Dr. Kevin Schattenkirk-Harbaugh! I look forward to hearing more about this course offering.

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sex, sexism, silliness, stupid people

Woman freaks out when confronted by a trans woman in a locker room…

The featured photo is of the Friedrichsbad, perhaps Germany’s most famous nude spa… where everyone is naked. They do have days when the genders divide by sides, as well as co-ed days, when people can go through the spa on either side. Bill and I went on a co-ed day, and had a blast. No one bothered us.

One of the things Bill and I have come to enjoy, since we’ve been living in Germany, is the availability of nude spas. I will admit that it took us a long time before we got brave enough to try them. We never tried them when we were here the first time, and it took us almost three years to go naked once we moved back here. Once we finally did the deed, there was no turning back. Now, being nude at a spa is just not a big deal anymore. Not all spas in Germany are nude, but quite a number of them do have nude areas. Saunas and steam rooms all require patrons to be nude, and there are a lot of wonderful spa facilities here where bathing suits aren’t allowed at all.

I guess, in this way, Bill and I have kind of gone “native”. I don’t think we’d mind a nude beach. I know I wouldn’t. I don’t worry about perverts. Here, I’ve seen many people– especially men– urinating in public, although it’s technically illegal. But get caught in a Stau on the Autobahn, and if it’s bad enough, you can count on seeing someone pissing on the side of the road. They just don’t care. I’ve seen a lot of public urination at rest stops, too, whether or not facilities are available. Many of the rest stops over here require payment. Some people don’t want to pay, so they don’t.

I’ve also seen women openly breastfeeding. I’ve seen children change clothes or simply undress in the open air at Freibads. I’ve even seen kids in the nude spa areas, which personally I don’t agree with, because people go to spas to relax. Almost nobody cares. Maybe my ex landlady would. I don’t know. I would think she’d be smart enough not to go to a spa where there might be nudity if it bothered her.

To date, I’ve been to eight different spas in Germany, most of which had optional nude areas in them. Three of the spas were completely nude, meaning no bathing suits were allowed there at all. People carry towels and robes for sitting on things. Most of the dressing rooms at the spas are also unisex. They do have cubicles that allow people to change in private, but the lockers are all in one big room accommodating everyone. And in the nude spas, once you go to where the pools are, everyone’s nude, except for the people who are working there. And nobody cares.

There are people of all shapes, sizes, ages, genders, and persuasions running around at German spas. You are liable to see people sucking face in the pools. They’re mostly young people– teens or young adults– who can’t keep their hands off of each other. But I promise, the spas are mainly for health and relaxation purposes. It’s not a place where perverts hang out. If they are there, they’re below the radar.

Americans, as a whole, are very prudish about nudity. They aren’t the only ones. Brits are pretty shy about baring all, as are Swedes… or, at least the spa we went to in Sweden was very much bathing attire required. But here in Germany, I’ve seen signs with bathing suits and red lines crossed through them… and I’ve also seen signs that say “proper bathing attire required.”

Today, I read an article in the Washington Post about a customer at the Wi Spa, a facility in Koreatown in Los Angeles, who was “traumatized” when a trans woman changed in the women’s dressing room. The trans woman evidently still had male equipment, and the sight of it really upset another customer and her daughter. She confronted the spa staff about the intrusion. The spa manager asked the client if the trans woman had done anything specifically inappropriate. The client responded that the person’s genitalia was displayed, and that was “traumatizing”. This, in a spa where the “lack of modesty” is disclosed ahead of time. I wonder what the hell the upset client was doing checking out other people’s junk, anyway?

For some reason, many Americans seem to equate nudity with perversion. There’s this pervasive fear that child molesters and creeps are lurking at spas, just waiting to rape someone. Those who subscribe to this fear especially seem to believe that perverts are wanting to pose as transgender people so they can prey on women and girls.

I can’t pretend to be an expert on transgender people or sex offenders. But from what I do know, trans people aren’t necessarily sexual deviants, just as cisgender people are not necessarily sexual deviants. And I don’t think that hanging out in bathrooms or spas and pretending to be transgender is a reasonable MO for a person who is sexually deviant. I really don’t think a trans person in the locker room is the issue, anyway. I think it’s the attitude among many Americans that there’s no such thing as transgender people.

In any case, I haven’t seen or heard of a lot of people being victimized at German spas, where modesty is not the word of the day. I just don’t think transgender people are out there attacking people. They simply want to change clothes or do their business in rooms where they feel safest. I don’t believe most men are rapists. I think even fewer people of the transgender persuasion are sexually deviant. And I cringe when I read the many frightened and angry comments by ignorant people who seem to think that people who are different than they are are somehow dangerous.

Sadly, the incident in Los Angeles led to a protest, which eventually turned violent. Transphobic people brought guns to the protest and brandished them at counterprotestors. Another person was hit on the head with a lead pipe at the protest. Personally, I’m a hell of a lot more frightened of all the American idiots with weapons than I am of a trans woman in the ladies room. I think they are a much bigger threat to my safety than people who identify as a non-binary or transgender.

The woman who caused this ruckus made an Instagram video and said she wouldn’t be at the protest, because she’d heard Antifa would be there and she worried about her safety. Um… Antifa isn’t a group. It’s a movement. It’s an idea. This lady is grossly misinformed.

Thanks to my friend, Julie, for sharing this.

It would be one thing if someone actually saw another person doing sexually inappropriate things at the spa. It’s quite another if someone is just minding their own business, changing their clothes or using the toilet. Every single one of us has sex parts. The presence of those parts aren’t what make someone a deviant. Germans have figured this out. Why can’t we figure it out in America, the land of the free and the home of the brave? Grow up. And stop looking at other people’s private parts. Frankly, I think the woman who complained is the pervert in this case.

I hope the German nude spas reopen again soon.

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mental health, modern problems, true crime

Americans are both awesome and awful people…

There has been quite an interesting array of news stories lately. Last night, I read a truly heartwarming story about a young man in Alabama who showed up to work the morning shift at a Waffle House on his graduation day. He’d had the day scheduled off, but his mom had to work and couldn’t take him to the ceremony, and he is not in touch with his dad. So he went to work, instead.

The 18 year old, whose name is Timothy Harrison, wanted to walk across the stage to get that diploma he’d worked so hard to earn. But since there was no way to make it happen, he resigned himself to going to work and making some money, instead. Timothy’s boss, Cedric Hampton, wasn’t having it. He and the assistant manager, as well as other co-workers and a couple of customers banded together to see to it that Timothy could have that rite of passage experience that is so important for so many.

By the time I’d finished reading this uplifting story, I had tears welling in my eyes. I was truly moved to read this story about good people doing great things. Americans love to help an underdog, and they are capable of great support and largesse for people who have a good story. Timothy Harrison’s story was so good that he also got a full scholarship from Lawson State Community College, whose faculty members got wind of his work ethic. Now, instead of following his plan continuing to wait tables at the Waffle House and, perhaps, later joining the military (which isn’t actually a bad plan for many people), Harrison will be going to college to study business and computer science.

As you know, I have nothing against people who join the military. It’s a great career for plenty of folks, my husband included. BUT– it’s not for everyone… and thanks to the kindness of Timothy Harrison’s “Waffle House work family”, Harrison will have another choice that could potentially change his life’s course forever. And that change could have significant ripple effects for other people in Timothy’s life. Thinking about that made me feel great and hopeful for the future.

But then I woke up this morning and read another sad and senseless story about violence over face masks… I was reminded that Americans can be awesome. They can also be awful!

Although a lot of people are ditching the masks as COVID-19 infections are waning among the vaccinated, not all areas are yet finished with the mask requirements. Such is the case in Decatur, Georgia, where Victor Lee Tucker, age 30, had stopped to pick up groceries at a Big Bear Supermarket. Mr. Tucker was not properly wearing a mask when he approached the cashier (now identified by police as Laquitta Willis, 41) to pay for his items. Tucker and the cashier got into an argument about how he was wearing his mask (according to the Washington Post, Tucker was wearing a mask, but not correctly). He got pissed off and left without buying the items. But then he immediately came back and shot the cashier, killing her.

Tucker also shot 54 year old Danny Jordan, the off duty police officer who was moonlighting as a security guard at the store. Fortunately, Jordan was wearing a bulletproof vest, which probably saved his life. Another cashier was slightly wounded by a bullet that grazed her. She was treated at the scene, while the cashier and Tucker, who was shot by the guard, were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. Tucker is listed in stable condition. Deputy Jordan, who was shot twice, went to Atlanta Medical Center, where he is also listed in stable condition.

I have not made it a secret that I despise the face masks. I think that while they are helpful in preventing the spread of virus particles, they also cause a lot of problems for many people. For that reason, it’s my hope that they go away soon. Too many people are being inconvenienced by the masks, but more troublingly, people are also DYING over enforcing their use. Imagine trying to avoid getting COVID-19 and dying anyway because you asked someone to wear a mask properly and they shot you! Edited to add, June 16th– the indoor mask mandate was in effect in Decatur, Georgia on Monday, when Willis was killed. It’s due to expire next week.

But people definitely shouldn’t be killing and dying over the face mask issue. Of course Tucker was absolutely wrong to kill the cashier over something so utterly stupid. He probably shot her because he felt the need to “protect his freedoms”. Maybe he felt like the mask was oppressive and was finally fed up with being “oppressed”. Maybe that was why he felt justified in killing an innocent person. But that was an erroneous notion on his part. And now, he will lose his freedom and be forced to wear a prison uniform and, it’s very likely, a face mask, along with all the other stuff prisoners are forced to wear.

In all seriousness, it does make me sad to think about Tucker going to prison over this. He’s a 30 year old man, who had his whole life ahead of him. I don’t know what kind of a person he is when he isn’t losing his cool and blowing hourly wage earning cashiers away over face mask rage. I’d like to hope he’s not all bad, as I don’t think most people are all bad. But it’s hard to understand why someone would be so unhinged that he’d just callously snuff out some innocent lady’s life because of a face mask. It’s tragic and ridiculous on so many levels.

Personally, I think if I were in the States, I wouldn’t confront anyone over the masks. It’s just not worth it. Our culture is so strange– people are encouraged to be “nice”, and we hate confrontations and conflict. And yet, so many of us are carrying weapons! And so many are apparently on the edge of insanity! Would Tucker have killed anyone two years ago, before COVID-19 face mask requirements was a thing? I honestly think that the risk of getting the virus may be lower than the risk of being shot in some parts of the USA. There have been so many stories about people killing and dying over face masks! It’s crazy! It baffles me that so many Americans seem to enjoy busting people over the masks. The New York Times called it a “new American pastime.” I think I’d be too scared to say anything to someone about the masks. I’d rather just get away from them.

I don’t know if the cashier was required to enforce the mask policy or she just decided to on her own. I would certainly never say that she shouldn’t feel free to enforce the mask requirements in a private business. BUT… there is a real danger in doing so, as her story, as well as so many others, have shown. I hope there will come a day soon when the mask requirements go away so this particular issue won’t be something people continue to die over.

And that makes me think of something else… does it seem to you like America has gotten way more extreme? It seems like fewer people are moderate nowadays. I feel like I run into more extremely “woke” people and extremely conservative people than I used to. I still tend to be pretty middle of the road– leaning a bit more left lately, but not extremely so. But the past five years, which I have not spent in the States, make me a little scared to go back home. I feel like today’s America is not the America I knew.

According to the Washington Post, 2020 was the deadliest year for shootings and, so far, 2021 is even worse. Within the first five months of 2021, 8100 people in the United States lost their lives to gun violence. Much of the violence seems to come from frustration and anger over the pandemic situation and all of the problems that are affiliated with it. The Washington Post reports that the violence started to edge upwards from April 2020, when the virus started to become a real problem. I don’t know if we’ll ever get back to “normal”… but it sure is sad to me that a deadly virus killed so many people and so many citizens are also dying because of gun violence… or they’re being hit and run, like my old friend Matt was last month. The week Matt died, another person was also killed in a hit and run in the same area. It’s also a problem on the rise, perhaps caused by very angry people who have no regard for other people.

Well… at least I was able to start this post with a feel good story. I wish Timothy Harrison much luck as he embarks on what could be a very bright future. I hope he avoids gun violence and the virus. I hope he goes to school and sets the world on fire as he puts his promising work ethic to the test in a tough world. I, for one, would not want to be young again for anything! But I have high hopes for Harrison and his Waffle House family. His story, coupled with the cashier’s story, really show how awesome and awful Americans can be.

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book reviews, narcissists

Repost of my review of The Narcissism Epidemic by Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell

Another repost of a book review. I originally reviewed this book on Epinions.com in 2009. I reposted it on my old blog and am reposting it again as/is, because narcissism is a hot topic.

Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way… I can’t wait to look in the mirror, cuz I get better lookin’ each day…” (Mac Davis, “It’s Hard To Be Humble”)

According to authors Jean M. Twenge Ph.D and W. Keith Campbell, Ph.D, Americans have a serious self-esteem problem that needs prompt attention. Look around and you might see what they’re talking about. Today’s babies wear bibs that say “Supermodel” or “Chick Magnet” on them. Today’s children win sports trophies just for showing up to play the game. Today’s adults live in huge, well furnished homes and drive luxury cars, yet they’re drowning in consumer debt. Yes, many Americans have a self-esteem problem, but despite the conventional thinking that our collective self-esteem is too low, Twenge and Campbell, authors of the 2009 book The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, propose that it’s too high. They write on page 14, “American culture has embraced the value of self-admiration with a big, warm hug.” And now that I’ve read their book and considered their observations, I’m inclined to agree with them.

I purchased The Narcissism Epidemic while shopping for Stepmonsters, the subject of my last book review. Amazon.com quite brilliantly offered The Narcissism Epidemic as a suggestive sell and I took the bait. I am fairly pleased with the purchase, since psychologists Twenge and Campbell have written a very timely book about a problem that plagues a lot of Americans and may well be causing our downfall.  A growing number of people in our country think that rules don’t apply to them because they are somehow exceptional.  Too many people lack empathy and are too willing to put their needs above everything else.

Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell, former fellow postdocs at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, first started thinking about the narcissism problem back in 1999, when they were both working in well-known social psychologist Roy Baumeister’s lab. The authors claim that there’s not much to do in Cleveland, especially in the winter. One day, as they were chatting with a fellow postdoc, the two came up with the idea of looking at trends related to narcissism. However, in 1999, the standard measure of narcissism had only been around for about ten years, which wasn’t long enough for them to do a solid study of change over time (6). They both eventually became college professors and decided to revisit the idea in 2006. The end result is this book, which focuses much of its discussion on narcissism in the United States, but also explores global trends of the narcissim epidemic in Europe, Asia, and Australia.

What this book is about

This book is about the collective “me first” attitude demonstrated by so many people today. Twenge and Campbell point out how the “me first” can attitude start out in the womb, as parents go to great lengths to come up with “special” names for their unborn children. When their babies are born, they’re photographed and fawned over and dressed in little t-shirts that point out how cute and “special” they are. As pre-schoolers, they sing cute little songs like “I Am Special, Look At Me”, a song that no doubt was written as a way of celebrating individuality and self-esteem, but may actually result in cultivating narcissism.

As kids come of age, some of them may be overvalued by their parents, who may refer to them as “little princesses” or “little princes”. Young girls may find themselves wearing makeup and attending spa appointments before they’ve left elementary school. Kids of both genders may aspire to be rich and famous over anything else when they grow up.

The authors explore how reality TV shows can entice ordinary people to dream of fame and fortune. Public figures like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears promote the shallow message that it’s more important to be rich, beautiful, and famous than it is to be a decent person. MTV’s highly obnoxious show, My Super Sweet 16 gets a lot of discussion, as the authors show how teenaged girls are encouraged to be shallow and haughty, as their parents scramble to throw them the best sweet 16 party ever, complete with $100,000 cars, exclusive invitations, and top of the line entertainment.

The authors even step into the church sanctuary, pointing out how megachurches take a tradition that once reined in narcissistic impulses and turn it into something that promotes it. For many people, going to church used to be a humbling exercise, where people came to be reminded of the consequences of acting like jerks. People drank bad coffee or Kool-Aid, ate stale donuts, and depending on the faith, might be given a stern warning about how sinners will end up in Hell. With the advent of megachurches, that warning message may well have gone away for a large segment of the population. Parishoners can listen to messages inspired by the prosperity gospel, where they will be told how special they are and how much God loves them. They can listen to high quality music, drink high quality coffee, and later purchase feel good books from the church bookstore. The prospect of going to Hell barely gets a mention.

I wasn’t surprised to see the authors take on college students. They write about students who have the audacity to demand better grades and expect passing grades simply for showing up to class. They quote students as having said to their professors, “You work for me.” On the other hand, they also explore how being a college professor can promote narcissism, too. After all, people tend to take notes on everything a professor says.

After college, it seems a lot of young people expect to get a fulfilling job that immediately pays six figures a year. Many of them lack the ability to fail with grace and handle disappointments. Some of them may sink into depression. I have to admit, having been through that myself after college and graduate school, I can relate. On the other hand, I have never expected to make a six figure salary in my lifetime.

Along with the expectation of a high paying job after graduation, some of these young people also expect to be able to wear the very best clothes, drive the best cars, and live in fine homes. They may succumb to easy credit, running up huge debts in their efforts to look successful and live the sweet life… only the sweet life is soured by the burden of huge bills they can’t hope to pay. No wonder America’s economy is in the toilet.

What I liked about this book

The Narcissism Epidemic is a good example of how research doesn’t have to be presented in a boring way. The authors present their case in a clear, logical, and very entertaining manner, often adding cleverly pithy comments that are fun to read. I liked the fact that the authors explored many different aspects of society to make their case about how narcissistic we’ve become. They cover everything from the adulation kids may get during early childhood to the school shooting sprees perpetrated by young people who felt the world owed them something. They also devote a lot of discussion to how the Internet promotes narcissism through Web sites like YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook… hell, I guess even Epinions could be included in that list. How many of us reviewers live for ego-boo through this site?

What I didn’t like about this book

As much as I enjoyed reading The Narcissism Epidemic, I couldn’t help but realize that the authors may be a little guilty of narcissism themselves. After all, their lofty academic achievements are clearly presented on the book’s dust jacket. They presume to offer suggestions on how people might become less narcissistic. I thought their suggestions were good ones and was glad to see them attempting to “solve” the problem. The irony is, in their attempt to solve narcissism, they seem to perpetrate it themselves. But again, I guess it really is hard to be humble sometimes.

I also felt the authors got a little carried away with this book. They include a huge range of examples, which while interesting to read about, made this book a little longer than it might have been. Some topics got mentioned more than once. For instance, I remember reading about the babies with the “Supermodel” bibs, Paris Hilton, and My Super Sweet 16 more than a couple of times as I made my way through this book.

Nevertheless

I really did enjoy reading The Narcissism Epidemic, especially since I happen to agree with a lot of the authors’ points. Even if most Americans aren’t suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, a lot of us could stand to take a good look at they way we’re living. We work so hard to protect ourselves and our children from hardship and disappointment. We surround ourselves with useless toys and status symbols. We may even start to look at fellow human beings as “trophies” of sorts, caring more about what another person can do for us rather than who they are as people. All of this can lead to depression over a dull, meaningless, existence, not to mention the potential shame of bankruptcy and foreclosure when the fantasy of artificial wealth comes crashing down into reality.

I think The Narcissism Epidemic is a fine book and hereby recommend it with four stars.

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musings

A welcome few days off…

Wow… it’s already Friday! This week really flew by, thanks to our trip to Cologne. It was our first time in the city in seven years. We were last there in 2012, when we took our very first Space A “hop” to Ramstein Air Force Base and decided we wanted to try to get a “blind booking” from what was then known as Germanwings (and is now Eurowings). During that trip, we stayed at the Ibis Hotel in the train station. This time, we stayed at the Excelsior Hotel Ernst, which is a really nice property.

Because of our trip, I haven’t had much time to write. It’s not such a bad thing, though. I think I’m just settling back into the routine I maintained before my friend Alexis visited my blog every day and left me comments. Alexis is busy with her medical training, so she doesn’t visit as often… ergo, I have less inspiration to write. Also, some of you know, a few months ago, there was some drama on my original blog. Actually, it was one of a few unwelcome dramas that erupted since we moved back to Germany.

In spite of what some people might think, I don’t like drama very much. I simply like to write what’s on my mind. Sometimes, what I write gets people upset; they send me nastygrams, and it causes angst that I’d rather not have to deal with. It’s never my intention to upset people when I write, even though I know it’s inevitable. I think it would be hard to be interesting if I didn’t sometimes get people upset. However, I would be lying if I wrote that I didn’t care about other people’s feelings, because I do care, and I mostly regret it when people have a negative reaction to my writing. It’s exhausting and stressful to deal with other people’s angst when I have so much of my own.

Sometimes it’s really good to take a few days off, though. I’m glad I did that this week, even if it has knocked me off kilter a little bit. You see, one thing I did while we were in Cologne was lay off the news. I mean, yes, I heard about the headlines. I read about Jessa Seewald’s new baby girl, Ivy Jane (yea for a normal name, Jessa!) being born, and I heard snippets about Trump badly explaining his potential connection to Russia. I’ve seen braindead comments from Trump supporters, who can’t see that their dear leader is a narcissistic whack job. I even got a private message from one– a total stranger– who felt the need to call me “deranged”. Really? I mean, you could call me a lot of things, but I’m not deranged. I think anyone who believes Trump cares about them is deranged. The man is a very obvious narcissist, which means he can’t care about anyone but himself.

And I did see Mitch McConnell’s unfortunate mealy mouthed face in a couple of articles that indicated that he intends to obstruct any progress we try to make toward fixing the United States after Trump’s sorry term is history. I used to really dislike seeing pictures of Paul Ryan, because he always looked so tragic– like he wanted to burst into tears or something while he systematically worked to turn the United States into a right wing utopia. Just seeing Ryan made me want to clock him. Well… I now have the same– perhaps more intense– negative feelings about Mitch McConnell. But he’s not worth going to jail over, so I mostly just stifle them and thank heavens that I’m not in the United States right now.

My Italian friend, Vittorio, has often described American culture as “weird-o-rama”. I didn’t used to agree with him. Now that I live abroad, I can see what he means. It really is a strange culture, where people are so obsessed with forcing women to give birth, yet don’t care at all about the resulting babies born who need food, education, healthcare, and healthy parents who can nurture them. I do not understand pro-lifers who are not actually pro-life as much as they are pro-birth, and pro trying to force women to stay pregnant at all costs. It makes me think more people should read up on Romania during the 1970s and 80s and how the pro-birth attitude ending up working out for them.

On my old blog, I once notably wrote a post about how I dislike it when people attribute quotes to people who never said them. That particular post was about George Carlin, who happens to be one of my heroes. Someone had posted a meme falsely claiming that he said something he hadn’t. It irked me, so I wrote about it and caused a huge drama when the guy got pissed. He thought that I was busting on him. I wasn’t. I was busting on the practice of sharing memes with incorrect information on them. He wasn’t the only one; he just happened to be the catalyst. Well… someone shared another Carlin meme yesterday, but theirs was accurate… and I think it’s a pretty good statement on where we are today, even though Carlin said it in 1996.

“If you’re preborn, you’re fine; if you’re preschool, you’re fucked.”
Yup. He was right. What would he say about our current situation? I think there would be comedy gold.

Anyway, I think I like being a little less visible to people. I like it up here in Wiesbaden, where things are less dysfunctional and Facebook is less important. Stuttgart is a very dysfunctional place, even if it will always have a piece of my heart for being the one place Bill and I have lived the longest. My former blog still gets a lot of hits. I keep thinking maybe I should delete it. What stops me is that, despite the drama, some people find it useful, mainly for the book reviews and true crime posts. As for me, I just want a place where I can be myself, for better or worse.

Well, maybe this weekend, I’ll think of something more specific to vent about. Right now, I’m finishing a very poorly written book about growing up in Christian Science. I’ll probably review it soon. Maybe someone will inspire me to write something with more focus. Or maybe today will be a music day. It’s been awhile since my last one of those.

Hope everyone has had a nice week and a good May.

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