business, modern problems, money

“You left me… just when I needed you most…”

When I was a youngster in the late 1970s, there was a popular song by the late singer-songwriter Randy Vanwarmer called “Just When I Needed You Most”. I am reminded of that song this morning, just after I called USAA to report fraudulent activity on my debit card. Some of my most faithful followers might remember that on March 8, 2022, I wrote a post about exasperating issues with USAA involving “heavy handed” fraud detection alerts. For the past few years, USAA has been shutting my debit card down at the drop of a hat. Every single time they did that, the charges they were detecting as potentially fraudulent were legitimate.

This morning, as I was checking my bank balance, I noticed that I had three weird charges that I know didn’t originate with me. One was for Insomnia Cookies, which I have learned today is a cookie bakery chain in New York City that, evidently, delivers at all hours. I had never even heard of Insomnia Cookies before today, but I have a pending charge from them on my debit card. One fraudulent charge was for Uber Eats, which does exist in Germany, but not in our area. I have never ordered from Uber Eats in my lifetime. The third charge, which was evidently reversed, was for Uber. I have also never in my life used Uber.

None of those wonky entries tripped USAA’s fraud alert system, even though they were “in person” charges for goods and services obviously made in places where I don’t live, and have never told USAA I was, or ever would be, visiting. And yet, last week, when I was bitching at USAA for denying my legit charges in Europe, they were questioning a charge to an Armenian Brandy Boutique in Belgium that I have ordered from multiple times over the past several years. What gives?

Sigh… I relate.

I spoke to a USAA member representative at 5:30am, who began the dispute process for me. Now, I have to wait until the new debit card gets to me, which will take some time. And I have to change all of the payment methods for which I’ve been using the USAA debit card and use credit until I get the new card. I don’t like using my credit cards unless it’s absolutely necessary. I spent too long getting myself out of debt to feel comfortable using credit cards for everyday purchases, even though I can and do pay them off immediately. It is annoying that I’ve had to call them so many times about having my card erroneously shut down, but now they’ve missed actual fraud. Clearly, USAA’s security system isn’t working to its fullest potential.

Meanwhile, last week, I made a request to PenFed that they open a new checking account for me. While I was talking to them, trying to get the new checking account set up, their computer system went down. I was told they would send me information about opening the account. It never arrived, so I’m going to have to call them again today.

When we first moved to Germany, I told Bill that I thought we should get a local *German* account. He disagreed, and got one at the credit union on post. Now, he’s changed his mind, and we’re going to look into opening an account that can be used locally so that this kind of crap might be less of a pain in the ass for us.

Dolly Parton did a very nice cover of Randy’s song. Looks like she’s being joined by Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski.

A number of my friends have told me they’ve stopped using USAA. I’m beginning to think maybe that would be a good idea for us, too. This decision is probably going to be painful and inconvenient. We’ve used USAA for so long that it feels like dropping them would be like divorcing a spouse we’ve been married to for decades. I have been a customer since 1994. Bill has been one since 1984. But unfortunately, it looks like the time has come to reconsider this business relationship. Or, at least start moving some of our business to more secure/less irritating outlets. I actually wanted to ditch USAA years ago, but deferred to Bill, since he’s the breadwinner. I think maybe he’s starting to see the light.

I also checked the Corona Warn app to see if I’m still getting a “red tile”. As of right now, I am. The tile is supposed to expire today, though. I haven’t been sick with COVID-19. Or, at least, I haven’t shown any symptoms of illness, other than my usual asthma cough. So, I guess the bright side is, I still have my health. At least for the time being.

I might be back later with a rant about current events or something else. For now, I think I’ll practice guitar and walk the dogs. That will help me blow off some of this irritation and tension.

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dreams, Ex, family, music, narcissists

Welcome to my nightmare… (with special thanks to Dolly Parton)

Warning– this is a rather personal rant… It may not be of any interest to people who don’t know me. Or, on the other hand, maybe some of you strangers can relate. Either way, I won’t accept any nasty or shaming comments from anyone who doesn’t know the backstory.

I had a bad dream this morning, just before I woke up. I feel pretty sure I know what prompted the nightmare, much of which I was able to remember. I haven’t historically paid a lot of attention to my dreams, but since Bill started studying Carl Jung, who was very much into analyzing dreams, I’ve been trying to pay closer mind to my own dreams. Bill likes to analyze them. Since I’m also a born storyteller, it makes sense that I’d pay mind to the “movies in my head”, even if they’re horrifying.

Perfect mood music for this post… and one of Dolly’s latest songs off her brand new album.

Here’s what I remember from this morning’s dream. I had just arrived at my alma mater, Longwood University. Or, that’s what I assumed, even though it didn’t look like Longwood’s campus. I was there with my roommate, a non-descript female. I was on basically friendly terms with her, but we weren’t best friends or anything. We were walking around the campus. It was hot and dusty, and in a weird way, the campus kind of resembled an open air airport terminal (no idea why). Maybe it’s because my adulthood took off from my years at Longwood.

We passed a business that looked like an airport bar, except there was no roof. My roommate needed to use the restroom, so we parted ways, and I was left alone. I decided to take a shortcut across campus. I was dressed in my usual outfit during my college days… shorts and a t-shirt, with tennis shoes.

Just as I was about to head into a hilly, wooded area, a huge, fat, anaconda type snake streaked out in front of me. It didn’t stop; it raced past with astonishing speed. It was quickly followed by another anaconda that was just as fast and slick. One might expect a person to pause continuing to walk into the woods after seeing two huge snakes. For some reason, I continued onward, in spite of being startled by the snakes.

I took a deep breath and stepped beyond the trees of the dusty street where I had been walking with my roommate. After I’d walked a few steps into the woods, I noticed there was a lot of detritus and junk in the woods. It was kind of trashy and uncultivated, with a lot of sticker bushes and weeds. It was not an area where a lot of people walked, but obviously, people threw a lot of trash in there. I don’t know why I thought it was a good idea to try to take a shortcut that way, but then I suddenly got this feeling of dread and danger…

What do you know? I swear, this is the first time I’ve heard this song… but it fits right in with what happens next in my nightmare.

As I was about to take another step, I was confronted by this very attractive woman in a long dress made of black satin. She had jet black hair and very pale skin. Her hair was perfectly arranged in a poofy bun. She wore bright red lipstick. The woman in the featured photo looks a little like her, except the woman in my dream had much paler skin and didn’t have bangs. Her face looked a bit more like the photo of Carmen Miranda, below… She was very attractive, but was also clearly evil and toxic. She immediately started attacking me.

Carmen Miranda kind of looks like the woman in my dream, minus the smile and sequins.
Based on my dream, I share this trait with Dolly…

I started fighting back. The woman in black gave a good fight, but in the end, I killed her with my bare hands. There was a lot of blood, and despite the fact that she fought back vigorously, it wasn’t actually that hard to kill her. As she surprised me with her attack, I found some kind of superhuman strength I didn’t know I had in me. And while I felt some pangs of regret at killing this attractive, beguiling, but very dangerous woman, I felt kind of vindicated and exhilarated…

She looked like her, except her hair was black, and in a bun.

Then I was attacked by a second woman. She seemed to be the sister of the first woman. She had a similar hairstyle– jet black hair in a bun, red lipstick, and a bun. But she wore a red sequined dress. I killed her with my bare hands, too. It was easier to vanquish the woman in the red dress, though no less bloody or horrifying.

I stepped out of the wooded area, breathless, panicked, and terrified. I am not a violent person at all, but I killed both of these women with surprising speed and strength fueled by rage. Of course, they attacked me first. But there I was with blood on my hands, having dispatched these attackers with my bare hands.

Then I woke up…

I told Bill about the nightmare, and together we figured out what it was probably about. Yesterday, we discovered that Ex, older daughter, and Ex’s daughter with #3 all went to see Bill’s stepmother this week. Ex just had a birthday, and has been clamoring for money in a crowd funder. At this writing, she’s managed to raise $500… but it was her own money that was contributed. She claims she needs the money to build a fence for her youngest child, a teenaged boy with severe autism. According to her fundraiser, the boy can’t go outside without at least three people surrounding him, because he runs away and winds up in dangerous situations or meets with “inappropriate people”– ie; homeless people, when he’s not wearing anything but his underwear. I swear, this is a story we’ve heard from a couple of good sources. I don’t know where the boy is right now, with his usual “caretakers” away from home. Maybe #3 is taking time off work, or they found a place to put him. Evidently, he did not go on the trip with Ex and two of her daughters.

Anyway… I figure that Ex decided to visit Bill’s stepmother, because she’s trying to maintain ties to Bill’s family, not because she loves them, but because she wants to exploit them. And Bill’s stepmother is an immature, needy person who will quickly condemn or forgive people on a whim. So, while Ex refused to let Bill’s daughters have a relationship with him, or his parents, she would, on occasion, let the girls and her eldest son see Bill’s dad and stepmother, as she told them lies about Bill. Stepmother told us during my last visit, which was years ago, that Ex had a habit of showing up at their house, letting her kids run amok, and treating her rudely. Stepmother and late FIL would give her expensive gifts or spend money on her, and Ex never appreciated it. She would make rude comments about Bill’s stepmother’s religion, or other things. Remember, Ex actually staged her divorce demand at the in-laws’ house over Easter in 2000. The in-laws have aided and abetted Ex in her schemes on many occasions.

I don’t get along well with Bill’s stepmother. I don’t think she’s as toxic as Ex is, but she is very manipulative and needy, and she will do things like send guilt mongering text messages to Bill, demanding that he come visit. She won’t visit people herself; the onus is on them to come to her. She used to do it to Bill all the time, but now she’s doing it to his youngest daughter, who is a busy mom of two young kids with another one on the way. Youngest daughter lives several states away from SMIL, and doesn’t really have the time or energy to drive several states to visit her.

Adding to this is the fact that SMIL’s adopted daughter doesn’t have children and has recently reconnected with her birth mom. I don’t know how much time they’re spending together, but if I know SMIL, I figure she’s probably feeling alone and betrayed… which would make her a sitting duck for Ex. FIL died in November 2020, so I’m sure SMIL has lost some of her resolve. And Ex needs money, and wasn’t invited to FIL’s funeral. I would not put it past her to try to get SMIL to give her money and/or give older daughter something from FIL’s estate, even though they shunned and disowned Bill and, off and on, his father and stepmother. They shunned Bill’s mother completely; younger daughter is only just now getting to know her grandmother, and they’ve apparently really hit it off.

Now… none of this is any of my business. I only know about it because younger daughter told Bill, and Bill told me. And, frankly, as far as I’m concerned, Ex and SMIL probably deserve each other. SMIL made it pretty clear that she’s on Ex’s side, even though Ex was extremely abusive and exploitative to Bill, and has done some things that, frankly, should have landed her in a prison cell. I know this upsets Bill, though, because it’s like Ex has hijacked his family. Ex wouldn’t even know Bill’s stepmother if they hadn’t been married. But he thinks that his stepmother has always resented him, because as a child, he needed and demanded attention from his father, on occasion. SMIL is a very possessive person. She’s immature, fickle, and treacherous. And even though she told me outright that she’s “just the stepmother”, she feels that Bill’s daughters are her grandchildren, when they’re really Bill’s mother’s grandchildren. The difference is, MIL was more than willing to share… SMIL wasn’t. She, like Ex, hates Bill’s mom. I think she probably hates me, too.

SMIL told me, years ago, that none of this was “any of my business”, since I was just Bill’s wife. However, I would submit that Bill’s kids and grandchildren are even less SMIL’s business, since she’s just the “stepgrandmother”. And she chooses to be involved with Ex, in spite of all of the truly nasty shit she’s done over the years. It wasn’t her husband’s income that went into keeping Ex’s household afloat while they were simultaneously and illegally denied any contact with the children. Why is it that SMIL can be as angry as she wants with anyone she pleases, but the rest of us have to cater to her bullshit and aren’t supposed to be upset with her?

So why is it me who “killed” the two women in my dream? Because I think they blame me for the divorce, even though I didn’t have anything to do with it. The truth is, I didn’t even know Bill when he and Ex split up. They had been separated for three months before I knew Bill was married, plus we were chatting online. I didn’t meet him in person until almost a full year after the divorce. However, Ex told her kids that Bill cheated on her with me, when actually, she cheated on Bill with #3. She also cheated with Bill on her first husband. And yet, I’m the one who is painted as a whore and an interloper.

I think SMIL resents the fact that I married Bill, making it impossible that he would get back together with Ex. She has trouble with change. She also doesn’t like my personality, because I don’t cooperate with her manipulative ploys or give in to her childish bullshit. I have a strong personality that a lot of people don’t enjoy. However, you will always know where you stand with me. I am who I am. I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I am basically a decent person.

SMIL asked me, last time I saw her, if Bill was ever abusive to me in the bedroom. She asked this, because Ex told her that he was abusive to her. I laughed and said, “no”… because Bill doesn’t have a single mean bone in his body. Anything they did in the bedroom was consensual on her part. However, it wasn’t always consensual on Bill’s part. More than once, Ex told Bill she should slit his throat and, in fact, she did violently sexually assault him at least once, and left scars that a doctor noticed during an exam. Still, even though I told SMIL that Bill isn’t an abuser, at least not to me, she chooses to believe Ex, who has taken advantage of her and FIL for many years.

Why were the two women in my nightmare so attractive? Ex and SMIL are not exactly sexy women, especially not these days. Well… I think it’s because even though I am horrified and angry about their conduct, particularly toward supposed loved ones, I find both of them fascinating characters. Like I said, I am a natural storyteller. I like to write fiction. I used to do it a lot, until a certain unrelated “snake in the grass” decided to get into my business. If I weren’t Bill’s wife, I think SMIL and Ex would make excellent villains in a novel. But, trust me, neither of them are the type to wear satin or sequins.

There’s nothing we can do about Ex and SMIL cozying up to each other. We don’t care about any inheritance from Bill’s dad. However, I do think it would be a real shame if Ex manages to swindle SMIL for money or property she can sell. She is not above doing that. She’s done it repeatedly in the past. I see her posting all sorts of shit on the Internet that makes her look like an empath, but she’s anything but that. She is a true wolf in sheep’s clothing… and some people, like SMIL, will simply never learn not to tangle with her. They deserve each other. They really do. I just hope younger daughter realizes that she doesn’t have any obligation toward them. She’s an adult with her own family, and she has plenty of her own problems to worry about. I hope the next time SMIL sends her a “guilt” text, but then refuses to answer the phone with younger daughter calls her, younger daughter just blocks her number. She doesn’t owe her, or her mother, a goddamned thing.

Hmm… maybe I’m in some of their nightmares, too… It wouldn’t surprise me. I’m everybody’s favorite scapegoat.

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book reviews, celebrities

Repost: A look at Linda Gray’s The Road to Happiness Is Always Under Construction

Here’s an as/is repost of a book review I wrote for my original blog. It appeared on February 6, 2017. I was reminded to repost this review after watching The Love Boat, yesterday. Juliet Prowse was a guest star and they showed off her fabulous legs. I was reminded of Linda Gray, writing about her “stems”.

Lately, I’ve been watching old episodes of Dallas.  They offer a flashback to my youth, a time when I didn’t care about things like politics.  I was very young when Dallas first started airing and a young woman when it finally went off the air.  So, I guess for that reason, Dallas is a comfort.

Many people know that actress Linda Gray played a pivotal role on Dallas.  She was Sue Ellen Ewing, J.R. Ewing’s long suffering alcoholic wife.  Later, Gray starred in Models Inc., an Aaron Spelling spin off of the 90s hit Melrose Place, which was itself a spin off of Beverly Hills 90210.  Models Inc. flopped and was cancelled after one season.  But in 2012, a reboot of Dallas came along and Gray was able to be Sue Ellen again for three seasons.

I like life stories, so that’s probably why I decided to download Gray’s 2015 book, The Road to Happiness is Always Under Construction.  I finally got around to reading it and finished it yesterday while in my sick bed.  It’s basically Linda Gray’s life story mixed with the odd recipe, cute anecdotes, and Gray’s self help philosophies.  I understand the book was written to commemorate Gray’s 75th birthday.  She still looks good.

I learned some new things when I read this book.  I never knew that Gray had polio when she was a child.  She spent several months in bed and almost ended up in an iron lung.  Fortunately, that treatment ultimately wasn’t indicated and Gray eventually recovered.  Gray is also the daughter of an alcoholic.  Her mother, who was apparently a very talented artist with a great sense of style, drank to numb the boredom of simply being a wife and a mother.  I’m sure growing up with an alcoholic mother gave Gray some cues as to how she should play alcoholic Sue Ellen.

There are a few anecdotes about Dallas, as well as a couple of funny stories about Larry Hagman, who was one of Gray’s dearest friends.  Gray also writes about how she came to capture the part of Sue Ellen.  Although she’d been a model and commercial actress for years, at the time she got her big break, she was married, 38 years old, and the mother of two kids rapidly approaching adolescence.  Her husband had not wanted her to work, but Gray was finding life as a housewife unfulfilling and boring.  She went against her husband’s wishes and soon became a star.  The marriage fell apart, but Gray finally found a purpose other than being a mother and a housewife.  She thrived.

I did take notice when California born and bred Gray wrote about learning how to speak like a rich woman from Dallas.  She writes that she met Dolly Parton, who told her to just emulate her.  Gray said Dolly didn’t sound “Texan”.  She asked Dolly where she was from and claims Dolly said “Georgia”.  Um…  Dolly Parton is not from Georgia!  She’s from Tennessee!  I guess Gray isn’t a fan of country music.  Gray ended up finding a voice coach who taught her some tricks.  She also hung out at Neiman-Marcus in Dallas a lot, to see how rich women from Dallas behaved.

I mostly enjoyed Gray’s book.  It looks like she wrote it herself, with no help from a ghost writer.  I think she did a fairly good job, although there are a few small snafus like the one I mentioned in the previous paragraph.  I liked that Gray came across as very normal and approachable. 

On the other hand, toward the end of the book, she offers some advice to her readers that I don’t think she herself takes.  For instance, she writes about how off putting it is when people brag.  She kind of does some bragging herself.  Not that I wouldn’t have expected her to brag somewhat; she is a famous actress who has had an unusual life.  But it does seem disingenuous when an actress tells her readers about how annoying she finds braggarts right after she writes about her “come hither” eyes and “amazing stems” (legs).  Acting is not exactly a profession for people who aren’t a little bit self-absorbed (although I am sure there are exceptions).  Self help advice from a celebrity often rings hollow anyway.  A little bit goes a long way. 

At the end of the book there are pictures.  Many of them are too small to see, at least on an iPad. 

I probably could have done without the self help sections, with the exception of Gray’s life “principles”, which were cleverly conceived and included funny anecdotes.  She also includes a couple of recipes– one for a conditioner she uses on her hair and another for some kind of meat pie she made for her kids, which doesn’t seem to jibe with her advice to eat clean.

I give this book 3.5 stars on a scale of 5.  It’s not bad, and parts are interesting and enjoyable.  But self help advice usually puts me off, anyway.

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book reviews, celebrities, music

Repost: Kenny Rogers shares his life in a memoir…

Here’s another reposted book review. This one was written for Epinions on October 8, 2012. It appears here as/is, although Kenny died on March 20, 2020. I miss him. His music was a big part of my childhood. So was his acting.

The other day, I ran across a news article about country singer, actor, and photographer, Kenny Rogers.  The article was about his brand new book, Luck or Something Like It: A Memoir (2012), and his publisher’s demand that he remove a chapter about his experiences with plastic surgery.  Having grown up in the 1970s and 80s, and having a mother who loves his music, I was already pretty familiar with Kenny Rogers as a singer.  I had heard a little about his photography and business ventures with Kenny Roger’s Roasters, a chain restaurant he lent his name to, and I had seen him act in Six Pack and a couple of television movies.  And I had noticed the dramatic change in his appearance after he got his eyes done…  I knew I wanted to read his story, even if there wouldn’t be anything about who botched his surgery!

Kenny Rogers… a man of humble origins  

At the beginning of Luck or Something Like It, Kenny Rogers writes about his humble origins in Houston, Texas.  He’s one of many children, born in the middle of a big brood.  His father, who died in 1975, was an alcoholic who spent all his extra money on booze.  His mother was a practical woman who worked hard.  When Kenny was young, they lived in the San Felipe projects in Houston, but were later able to move to a better part of the city when the family’s finances improved. 

Kenny Rogers attended Jefferson Davis High School in Houston and eventually got into music as a means of getting girls.  He was also athletic and went out for sports teams, but it turned out he was better at making music than playing sports.  Oddly enough, Rogers didn’t seem to come from a particularly musical family, though he does write that his older sister, Geraldine, taught him how to sing harmony when they were in church.  Rogers writes that he was immediately hooked on harmony and it became a defining feature of his sound.  He loved being part of a band because of that sound.

Speaking of bands… 

Kenny Rogers has been in quite a few of them.  Perhaps his best known band was The First Edition, which was the band he was in when he became famous.  Rogers explains how he moved to Los Angeles and rubbed elbows with some very talented folks.  He learned how to play folk, jazz, and even a little psychedelic styled music.  He learned how to alter his image so he could fit in.  And he even writes briefly of auditioning Karen Carpenter for The First Edition when their lead singer decided touring wasn’t for her.

He also writes about his famous duet partners, particularly Dolly Parton and Dottie West.  He very graciously explains why he owes Dolly Parton a great debt, since their famous duet “Islands In The Stream”, helped keep his career going after he signed a deal with RCA that seemed destined to ruin him.

Speaking of songs

I really enjoyed reading about Kenny Rogers’ hits.  He takes the time to explain the stories behind some of his biggest songs, like “Lucille”, “Reuben James”, and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town.” 

Married five times…

Kenny Rogers claims that he loves being married.  In fact, he loves it so much that he’s walked down the aisle five times.  Granted, his first wife was the result of a shotgun wedding.  Rogers seems to have gotten the hang of marriage, though, having now been married to his fifth wife, Wanda, for twenty years.  Besides being a prolific husband, Rogers has also fathered four sons and a daughter.  He writes a bit about his kids.  I was heartened to read about how he managed to heal his relationship with his eldest son, a product of his third marriage and the victim of parental alienation.

His photography

Kenny Rogers is well-known as a singer and an actor, but did you know he’s also a photographer?  Rogers writes about how he became interested in taking pictures and some of the projects he’s undertaken with his camera.

My thoughts

I really enjoyed reading about Kenny Rogers’ life.  He comes across as a nice person, suprisingly down to earth and candid about his successes and failures, and gracious to all who helped him get to where he is today.  I didn’t even miss the missing chapter about his plastic surgery. 

Kenny Rogers has been around for 74 years and had some amazing experiences.  I never got the sense he was bragging about his good fortune or whining about his misfortunes.  He just comes off as someone who came from humble origins and had a rare combination of drive, talent, and luck that propelled him to success.  His story is the kind that has the potential to give people hope.

He includes photos in both color and black and white.  Just as an aside… In case anyone is wondering, no, Kenny doesn’t include the roasted chicken recipe made famous in his restaurants.

Aww… his widow and sons still really miss him.

Overall

I would definitely recommend Luck or Something Like It to Kenny Rogers fans or even people who just enjoy a good life story.  I read this book on my iPad and am pleased to report that I had no issues with that method.  Even the pictures looked great.  Five stars.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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complaints, News, rants

You don’t work for free! Don’t expect journalists to work for free!

It’s a shame that today’s featured photo/meme is so truthful. Journalism shouldn’t be a “joke” profession.

Today’s rant is inspired by a comment I read on The New York Times’s Facebook page. The comment was in response to an article about Dolly Parton’s attempts (and unfortunate failure) to motivate Tennesseans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The person had cut and pasted the op-ed article, written by Margaret Renkl, into the comment section on Facebook. Then she left another comment directly under it that read, “F*ck paywalls!”

A little mood music. Like Rodney Dangerfield, writers don’t get no respect…

I left her a comment that read, “Do you work for free?” Someone “laughed” at that. I’m not sure why it was a funny comment. Maybe she saw my point, or maybe she thinks paying for news is crazy. I don’t think it’s an outrageous concept at all. Many people go to school to learn how to write the news. I also know for a fact that plenty of people can’t write for shit. They can’t formulate ideas in a coherent way, produce grammatically correct material, or even spell worth a damn. I’m glad there are actual writers with talent, education, and skill who write for publications like The New York Times. The average person should have more respect for what journalists and other writers do, and stop expecting them to work for free.

It really bugs me that people complain about having to pay for newspaper subscriptions. Do people really not understand that journalism is a legitimate and extremely important profession? That’s right, it’s actually WORK to write something of good quality, especially something that is considered publishable in a respected newspaper. It takes time and money to gather the news, and it takes talent to write a piece that is enjoyable enough to finish. Why do so many people think it’s acceptable to “steal” content? Would these same people walk into a store and steal a book or a printed newspaper?

Journalism is a time honored and vital profession. We rely on journalists to deliver the news in a timely and accurate fashion. Newspapers also offer opinions, which give us something to think about and discuss with friends and loved ones, or even in blog posts like this one. They contain recipes, reviews, and classified ads, all of which are useful and valuable to the public. The people who deliver the news– yes, even online– have to eat, just like you do. They have to gas up their cars, pay for housing, and keep the lights on. They deserve to be paid for their work. One way that can happen is when people purchase subscriptions. That’s how newspapers stay afloat.

Sadly, newspapers are dying. According to The Guardian, which doesn’t put its content behind a paywall, but does welcome donations, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that “the newspaper industry has lost more than 50% of its employees since 2001. While several big national papers like the New York Times are healthy, more typical are the closures, bankruptcies, and extreme downsizing that increasingly leave cities, towns and rural communities without local news.”

The Internet has been very tough on the newspaper industry. People can pick and choose from so many different papers or other news sources. It used to be common to subscribe to the paper in one’s community. But now, we can all go online and read from an endless array of newspapers from around the world or watch an array of news on television or the Internet. While more people than ever are reading the news, there’s a lot less money to go around to support the papers. And so, a lot of newspapers have died or are dying. If too many of them die, it could lead to the death of freedom itself. Journalism is vital to providing unbiased information to the masses.

I understand that newspaper subscriptions are expensive, especially if you don’t have a lot of money. There are “free” sources of news, that rely mostly on ads to get revenue. Some papers also offer a few free articles per month as a public service or incentive to subscribe. So often, though, I read rude comments from people who lament about having to pay to read. I’m sure you don’t work for free. Why should journalists and publishers? If people don’t pay for a subscription, how can we expect them to keep writing high quality content?

What’s the alternative to not paying for news? The abolition of the free press is one alternative, but that would come at a high price. It would likely mean we’d mostly be getting news that is heavily slanted by bias and the preferences of the benefactor. I don’t generally rant a lot about communism or socialism in this blog, but in this case, I think it makes sense. If the government alone provides the news, how truthful do you think it would be? The same thing goes for a businesses that provide the news. There needs to be a healthy balance of news sources available in a free society. Without money, it’s not possible to maintain news sources. Writing for news outlets can be a stressful, dangerous job, too. Plenty of journalists have put themselves in harm’s way to get stories for the world. Sometimes, those career decisions end in tragedy.

At this writing, I subscribe to several newspapers. I get The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Irish Times, and my hometown paper, the Gazette-Journal. I also subscribe to an online periodical called The Local: Germany, which provides news about Germany in English, and The Atlantic magazine, which regularly depresses me, but does provide some food for thought. Most people don’t want or need to subscribe to as many papers as I do. I like to have the subscriptions, though, because they help me write my blog.

I don’t get paid to write this blog, but I am a big believer in accuracy and quality. I like to be able to quote sources. It’s much harder to do that if I don’t have newspaper subscriptions that allow me to read and research as much as I need or want. So, while I personally get something out of my subscriptions, I’d like to think that anyone who reads my blog might also get something from them, since this blog doesn’t cost anything to read. Of course, this blog isn’t a news source, nor is it particularly highbrow journalism. No one should be reading my blog for anything more than entertainment value, even though I have found myself quoted in undergraduate and high school academic papers and on Wikipedia. 😀 I get a kick out of that, especially since they refer to me as “The Overeducated Housewife”. Just this morning, I found myself quoted in a term paper offered for sale on a site called Course Hero. I guess I’ve arrived… or education standards have really slipped.

Since I don’t like hypocrisy, I just contributed 50 euros to The Guardian, since I do use that paper sometimes. I used to be a regular patron, but I accidentally unsubscribed when I tried to turn off auto-pay. I did that because I don’t like auto-pay deducting money from my bank account. I prefer to do it manually and consciously. That way, I can be sure there’s enough money in my account and I still want or need the subscription.

I also like to contribute money to causes and needy individuals, although I’ve found that a whole lot of people neglect to say “thank you”. I just gave a dog rescue $200 through their donation link. I’ve never even adopted from this outfit. But so far, I’ve not gotten so much as a “thanks” from them. So that will probably be the only time I send them any money, since I know there are so many other rescues in need. Ditto for people– sometimes even “friends” on GoFundMe– who ask for money and then don’t even express appreciation.

Newspapers are different, though, because they truly do offer a valuable and VITAL service, particularly in a free society. I think the availability of quality journalism is very important and worth paying for, so I will continue to chastise people like the woman on Facebook who wrote “f*ck paywalls” underneath the content she stole from The New York Times. I’d like to tell her, “Lady, you’re not Robin Hood, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Newspapers NEED your financial support. So fuck you for saying ‘f*ck paywalls’. I hope someone stiffs you sometime. Maybe you’ll learn some empathy.”

I don’t like to be preachy or shaming, but really… think about this for a moment. Consider paying to subscribe to at least one news source. The press needs your support, and your mind will be better off for actually reading, and paying for, your news.

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