communication, complaints, Duggars, LDS, politics, religion, YouTube

Sometimes it’s okay to be a “karen”… but we really need a new term for that!

Guten Morgen, y’all. Two more days before we jet off to Norway. I will probably bring my laptop with me, but I don’t know how much or how often I will blog. I expect to be busy, and I may not have the best Internet access. And anyway, it probably would be a good idea for me to take a break from blogging. Maybe it would improve my outlook on things.

Yesterday, I recorded a couple of new songs. I think they turned out pretty nicely. I mainly did them because I felt like it. Singing makes me forget my troubles and helps me express my creative side. It literally makes me feel physically better to sing, especially when what I’m doing turns out nicely. This week’s songs are pretty good, if I do say so myself.

I got a comment on one of the songs from someone I “know” from the Recovery from Mormonism messageboard. I have been actively avoiding that site since March, when we lost Arran and I had an unpleasant interaction with a couple of people on the board. Although it certainly wasn’t the first time that had ever happened on RfM, I was feeling a bit “fed up” with being disrespected by total strangers. That was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I decided to take a break from ex Mormons for awhile. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever be back to RfM, since there are a few people on that site that I find insufferable and it’s hard to avoid seeing their posts. I did need the break, though, because I was finding RfM a toxic place to be at a time when I couldn’t handle the toxicity. Still, it was hard to stay away from that site at first, since I’d been lurking there for about twenty years. After a couple of weeks of concerted effort, I did fall out of the habit of wanting to visit RfM. I won’t say I completely forgot about the site, but I did find other places to go, and other things on which to focus my energies.

Anyway, I figured that since I got a comment from a prominent RfMer, someone must have mentioned me there. And, because I was feeling pretty strong yesterday, and because I’m about to go on vacation, I decided to take a peek. I noticed that someone did, indeed, link to one of my new songs on YouTube.

One person said they’d thought of me recently, which I found kind of surprising. I don’t think I was one of the more popular posters on RfM, especially recently. Mormonism means somewhat less to me now, even though Bill’s daughter is still a very active member of the church. I used to blame Mormonism a lot for Bill’s situation with his ex wife. I still think she misused the church in her parental alienation campaign, and some of the church’s policies facilitated her ability to do that. However, I no longer feel as angry at the Mormons, because ultimately, it was church members who helped Bill’s younger daughter get away from her abusive and manipulative mother.

On the other hand, although I no longer really care as much about the LDS church as I used to, I have noticed a lot of traffic on an old book review about an ex Mormon that I reposted here, on this blog. I had originally posted my review of Lynn Wilder’s book, Unveiling Grace, on Epinions.com. There was a time when I read and reviewed a whole lot of “ex Mormon lit”, and I had a huge list of book reviews with brief synopses and links to full reviews. When Epinions went defunct, so did many of those old reviews that I worked so hard to write. But I did manage to preserve some of them through the magic of reposts.

I reread that book review yesterday and thought it was pretty good. I guess the book’s author has launched a somewhat new Web site. She’s an evangelical Christian now, and thinks that people who are LDS are deceived. I disagree with her, but I respect her right to share her views, and I appreciated being given the chance to consider and express how I felt about her story. And lot of people do agree with her opinions, even if I don’t. That is certainly okay… especially in supposedly free thinking countries. Unfortunately, I don’t think the United States will be considered a free thinking place for much longer.

Which (finally) brings me to the title of today’s blog post…

I have never made it a secret that I don’t like the trendy “karen” moniker. I think it’s a very stupid and tacky thing to take someone’s first name and hijack it, turning it into an insult. And the “karen” insult now gets thrown around “willy nilly”, to describe anyone who has a complaint, whether or not it’s valid. You don’t like someone’s take on things? Just call ’em a “karen”. I think it’s a lazy, unfortunate trend that ultimately isn’t going to lead us to better places. Silencing people who speak up about issues, whether or not we agree with their viewpoints, is not productive. Moreover, it kind of goes against the spirit of freedom, doesn’t it? Aren’t we supposed to feel free to express ourselves?

Yes, I know that in a free society, a person is always allowed to react as they choose regarding someone else’s opinions, even to the point of name calling. I just think that it’s unproductive to issue a response that is intended to squelch freedom of thought and expression. Instead of having an honest examination and discussion, leading to considering whether or not the views have any merit, a lot of us simply call the person a “karen”, and call it a day.

I think we should be allowed to maturely examine and discuss all viewpoints, even the ones that are extremely unpopular or distasteful. Of course, people should do their best to consider the appropriateness of the time and place when they speak up. But sometimes, speaking out at an inappropriate time and setting is a person’s only opportunity to be heard.

This morning, I was in the Exploring Virginia Facebook group. Someone had shared photos of old coins he found while using a metal detector at a Civil War campsite. I own a few very old American coins from the 1800s myself. I inherited them from my dad. I don’t know where he got them, but he had them when I was a very young child. I was interested in the guy’s coins, since I had a few myself. Then I read the comments.

Quite a few people wrote that it’s illegal to take things from state and national parks. The guy hadn’t indicated that he got the coins from a park, so I have no idea where he actually found the coins (if it was on public or private land). The people who made the comments about the parks– maybe they were “party poopers”. But they were also labeled “karens” for speaking out about the laws regarding taking things found in parks. I don’t even think that was an appropriate use of the “karen” insult, as “karens” are supposedly middle-aged white women of means who act in an entitled way, and demand to “speak to the manager” over something considered trivial. There was nothing entitled or trivial about speaking up about laws regarding national parks. I guess if I were going to criticize, I’d say that the comments about “theft” from the parks were kind of negative, which was a pity in a group about the beauty of Virginia. But the people who made them weren’t being “karens”.

Note the rampant “karen” accusations… so pointless and unproductive!

But then it went further south, when someone brought up Joe Biden. Below is a sample…

Um… why does EVERYTHING have to be about politics? This was a post about Civil War era coins. I wish people would keep more of their political bullshit to themselves in discussions that aren’t about politics. Maybe that makes me a “karen”.

Another example of this “anti-karen” no complaining trend has to do with Christians. Over the past couple of days, Katie Joy on Without a Crystal Ball has posted two videos about reactions to the new Amazon docuseries, Shiny, Happy People. I get the sense that Jim Bob and company are terrified that more people within their repressive belief system are going to wake up to the truth about the IBLP and abandon the movement that keeps them in power and money. So, in response to the new docuseries, “pastors” within the IBLP movement– one of whom is Jim Bob’s son-in-law, Ben Seewald, are preaching about how it’s wrong to “gripe”, “complain”, or “whine” about problems in the church, or life itself. However… that message is one of “toxic positivity”, which is the idea that a person must be positive at all times, even when a situation doesn’t warrant it.

I dare say that being a child sexual abuse victim of one’s perverted brother is something to complain about! But these folks in the evangelical movement are saying that the abuse should be forgiven and forgotten and swept under the rug. As I have pointed out before, sweeping stuff under the rug will eventually make a mess that people will trip over.

Speaking up about being mistreated or abused is NOT being a “karen”. Being silent about abuse is not a sign of strength, and it isn’t helpful. These pastors in the IBLP are saying that good Christians turn the other cheek and maintain a “contented attitude”. But when doing that means submitting to being exploited and harmed, it’s simply WRONG, and it allows abusive predators to keep doing evil things to good and innocent people. It amazes me that, to these supposedly Christian people, Jill Dillard is “toxic” and “dangerous” for speaking up about being abused, but Josh Duggar deserves grace and forgiveness for doing the abusing!

Even people who follow Duggar Family News have criticized Jill for speaking out, claiming that what she and her husband, Derick, are doing is just a “money grab”. Well, first off– what the fuck is wrong with that? Jill and her siblings were exploited for YEARS by her avaricious father, who didn’t even deign to pay them for their work! People need to make money to live! Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar did NOT prepare their children to be able to have thriving and fulfilling careers. They were trained to be Jim Bob’s SLAVES! Most of Jill’s siblings are still practically enslaved by Jim Bob.

I have absolutely NO ISSUE with Jill making money off of her story. She totally deserves whatever windfall comes her way, especially since she and Derick had to live on food stamps for awhile, thanks to her greedy father. I don’t understand people in the USA– especially those who are Republicans and all about making money– calling what Jill is doing a disgraceful “money grab”. Isn’t that kind of the way of Republicans? Especially the Christians!

Anyway… I’ve ranted for awhile now, so I guess it’s time to close this post. I just wanted to point out that sometimes it should be perfectly okay to complain. No one should fear being called a “karen” for speaking up about legitimate issues, even if speaking up does spoil someone else’s fun. That doesn’t make someone a “karen”. But “karen” is a stupid insult, in any case, and it needed to go out of style yesterday. People should be allowed to complain if they feel so inclined to do so. And then we can all determine for ourselves if we believe their complaint has any merit. We can’t make any progress if everyone acts like things are always “hunky dory”, when they’re clearly NOT!

If you want to see someone who epitomizes the stereotypical “karen”, you can watch the below video… I wouldn’t call her a “karen” myself, because I hate that term. But she sure is acting like an entitled bitch.

Dreadful…

Have a good day, y’all.

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blog news, lessons learned, money, overly helpful people, YouTube

Time to say farewell to the Blogger platform?

I’m sitting here thinking about what I’d like to write about today. I originally thought maybe I’d breathe some new life into an old post from 2016. It was about an interaction I had with someone I used to “know”, who regularly gave me grief on the now defunct review site, Epinions.com. Regular followers who knew me on Epinions know that sometimes I write about a man I like to call “Papa Smurf”. I know at least one person, who knows of whom I write, has also co-opted that nickname for him. He’s one of those people who tries to be all wise and act like other people’s “daddy”, and shit…

Papa Smurf is not who I was thinking of writing about this morning…

Instead, I was considering writing about an unpleasant run in I had with …tom… And if you followed me on Epinions, and are still following me today, you almost certainly know who …tom… is. That’s how he signs his “name” on just about everything on which he leaves his mark.

I long ago left …tom… in the dust, mainly because of the annoying interaction we had seven years ago today that prompted today’s memories. That incident wasn’t the last straw, but it was the beginning of the end of my tolerance for his highly obnoxious and unwelcome input. Most of my followers who know …tom…, also know of what I write. A lot of us had the same complaint about his irritating and provocative comments, even though he could be entertaining sometimes.

So this morning, I went to the Blogger platform to have another look at that old post and decide if I wanted to rehash it today. But, before I made it there, I decided to look at my AdSense earnings. I knew I was getting close to the necessary $100 level that would allow me to finally cash out, probably for the last time– ever– on Blogger.

I signed up for AdSense years ago. Back when I was using Blogger for my three blogs, I even got paid somewhat regularly. In order to cash out on Blogger, you have to make at least $100. I think I cashed out a few times during my blog’s “heyday”, which was when we still lived in Stuttgart, and a lot of people were reading about our travels. Some folks had also started reading the main blog, which attracted the most hits out of the three.

The nice thing about AdSense is that users can put all of their blogs on one account. On WordPress, users must have separate ad revenue accounts for each blog. I have already been paid once for the current version of OH, but I will probably die before I get anything for my travel blog. The travel blog hasn’t made ad revenue in a few months. I’m actually thinking about removing ads from it.

If not for a certain meddlesome reader, I’d probably still be posting on Blogger, conveniently getting AdSense revenue on the three blogs. Back in 2019, the Blogger version of my blog went through a crisis of sorts, when we were having trouble with our former landlady. Her ex tenant, a fellow American, brazenly admitted to “monitoring” me, even though she claimed she didn’t enjoy my writing.

I suspect she had enjoyed the blog for awhile, but then started to dislike it when I started to vent about the unfair way ex landlady treated me. I don’t know for certain if the ex landlady is mentally ill, or if we simply had a personality clash. But she was driving me crazy with her entitled, intrusive, and disrespectful attitudes toward Bill and me. She was especially rude and abusive to me. On rare occasions, I would vent about it on my blog. Yes, I now know that was unwise… but then, it never occurred to me that anyone, including the former tenant, would care about such things.

In retrospect, I think the former tenant knew full well that the former landlady is the way she is. She just wanted me to deal with it in silence, because my speaking out about it made it unpleasant and inconvenient for her. I think she flat out lied to us. And instead of just minding her own business and moving on, grateful that she got out of that situation relatively unscathed, she decided to monitor me, and attempted to shame me into being quiet.

It was an especially bizarre form of gaslighting– ex landlady was insisting that Bill and I are awful people who made her life hell by renting her duplex and expecting to actually live peacefully in it. And how dare we expect her to act like a mature businessperson, rather than some warped, dysfunctional version of our mamas?

Former tenant was insisting that ex landlady is always a sweet, fair, and kind woman, and if she was acting like an entitled harridan, it MUST be all because of me. Never mind the fact that she and her husband, themselves, only lasted about 18 months in that house, while Bill and I were there for a little over four years.

Never mind that ex tenant was insisting that I respect her privacy, while she totally shat all over mine, and encouraged an actual smear campaign. And never mind that former tenant, who was trying to make me out as some kind of crazy, mean-spirited, disruptive person, exited life on her own terms last year.

Prior to therapy, I might have kept quiet about the unpleasant and uncomfortable situation we were in, but as a confirmed truth teller, I don’t keep abusers’ secrets anymore. Because of those circumstances and the ensuing small claims lawsuit over the deposit that was predictably and illegally withheld from us, I moved the original OH blog to WordPress, which offers functionality that Blogger doesn’t. Now, I pay to post my blog, and it doesn’t make me any money. But I have a lot more security here than I did there. Moving the blog meant starting over, which was hard for me, since it had taken several years to build a meaningful readership on Blogger. Thankfully, it took a lot less time to get this blog going at full speed.

In the wake of the minor blog stalking incident, I decided to keep my music blog going on Blogger. The music blog had very little personal information about me, and practically none about the situation we were in back in 2019. The other two blogs– this one, and my travel blog– were relaunched on WordPress. Once the situation with the landlady was settled, I made my old travel blog public again, but no one really looks at it. It’s not connected to AdSense. The old original OH blog is still hidden and probably always will be, since there’s some dated, useless stuff on there that doesn’t need to be public.

I told myself that once I hit $100 on Blogger, I’d discontinue the music blog, which is mostly about the campy music I loved when I was a kid. I haven’t updated it since New Year’s Day 2023. Most of the traffic comes from a handful of posts, mostly about Richard Carpenter’s daughter, Mindi.

It’s taken me ages to finally hit the last $100 I needed to cash out. Most of that $100 was made from the original OH blog prior to February 2019, before I moved it to WordPress. So… that means that to get those last painful bucks from Blogger, I had to wait several years, earning pennies from AdSense every month. As you can see from the featured photo, I finally managed to reach that goal today… and it’s exactly $100! How often does THAT happen? I figure it must be a sign.

Now… do I delete Dungeon of the Past, or just leave it up for posterity? I do still get comments on it, but they’re mostly bizarre comments from Carpenters’ fans. There’s one person who has repeatedly posted that Richard Carpenter and his wife, Mary, are biological first cousins. Their official story is that Mary was adopted. I don’t know if she was adopted or not, but I figure it’s none of my business. They’ve had five healthy children together. What difference should it make to me, or anyone else, if they’re biologically related? I occasionally get other comments. Like, I wrote a review of Belinda Carlisle’s book and reposted it on my Dungeon blog. I got a comment from one of her half sisters, which I thought was interesting. I have since moved that post to this blog.

I may decide to move some of the more interesting Dungeon posts over here, and just delete my Blogger account. Life is short, and even though I have lots of time on my hands, that account is just one more thing to keep track of. I don’t think I have any true regular readers there, who eagerly look forward to new posts, though some content continues to attract hits. I’ll take some time to think about it, as Bill and I also decide where to go on vacation, and whether or not to get another dog… and when it should happen.

Lately, I’ve been having some fun on YouTube. I don’t know how long it will last… but it’s fun for me to make videos of songs I want to try. My latest video is actually doing surprisingly well. I think some people get a kick out of women who sing Led Zeppelin songs.

This was fun to do. I just have trouble lining up the video and audio parts.

Music is less controversial… except people like to see singers on camera, and I’m not very comfortable on camera. Still, I’m kind of proud of some of the videos… and they seem to attract a lot fewer idiots. So maybe instead of writing about music, I’ll just make it. I hope at some point, I can write my own song and play it. Baby steps… however, although the friend who encouraged me to record a couple of Zeppelin songs thinks I should dance and wear a boa, I won’t be doing that. I won’t dance. Don’t ask me. 😉

Maybe later I’ll actually write about the post that ultimately led me down this divergent rabbit hole that took me in a totally different direction. Or maybe not. The sun is out today. Noyzi might enjoy a longer walk.

Edited to add: I see that almost a year ago, I wrote about being paid by WordPress for the first time. In April 2022, I had $98 on Blogger. So, you can see, it took me a year to make $2. I hope certain people will remember that the next time they try to accuse me of exploiting anyone for money on this blog. 😉

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condescending twatbags, music, slut shamers, YouTube

“No… You don’t know me…”

Today’s featured photo was taken in November 2011 on SeaDream I. It’s probably the most flattering photo of several bad ones taken of me without my knowledge or consent on that night… I looked pretty terrible, because besides being overweight, I had a terrible blistering sunburn, and the heat and humidity made my hair frizzy… but apparently, my heartfelt love songs to Bill made me look “prettier” to at least one person…

Yesterday, I was looking through Statcounter and noticed someone hit a post with the tag “Hilltop Hotel”. Inwardly, I kind of groaned, because I remember the hotel experience Bill and I had in 2009 that spawned the original post with that tag. It was a rather peevish, negative review of an Army run hotel that we were forced to stay in as we were leaving Germany the first time.

Because of the particular circumstances we were in, back in September 2009, I was upset on many levels when I wrote my hotel review for Epinions.com. Now that I read the review again– after also having reread it and posted about it last year— I realize that maybe I could have toned it down a bit. I probably wouldn’t have written such a piece today. If I had toned down the review, though, I probably wouldn’t be writing today’s post, which I hope will be more constructive and interesting.

My 2009 review of Hilltop Hotel for Epinions.com went unnoticed for about a year. Then, someone apparently decided to join Epinions specifically so they could tell me off in the comment section. You can see what they wrote in last year’s post, linked in the previous paragraph. The person’s comments were very offensive to me because they were personal attacks on my character and totally dismissed my opinions. That really pissed me off, and I had a lot of time on my hands, so I decided to respond in a really “over-the-top” way. I basically took the person’s comment and deconstructed it, answering each piece.

I noticed today, as I reread last year’s post titled “Who cares what they think?”, that several times in my rebuttal to the woman who told me off, I wrote “You don’t know me.” And I was then reminded of the famous love song, the lyrics of which appear at the bottom of this post. I can sing the hell out of that song. I’ll probably do that today, since I don’t have any big chores to do and Bill is scheduled to come home tonight. He likes it when I sing. In fact, he shared the songs I did earlier this week with his boss, who was reportedly very pleasantly surprised by them.

When Bill was telling me about sharing my covers with his boss, and his boss’s favorable impressions of them, I wrote “Oh good! For once, I can shock someone for positive reasons!” Before Bill’s boss heard my recordings, he didn’t know me as well as he might today. Because that’s one aspect of me he had never seen (or heard).

I’ve noticed that when most people hear me sing, their opinions of me often seem to change, for better or worse. Some people seem to like me more. Some seem to like me less. I think even my own mother’s opinion of me changed after she heard me sing the first time (when I was 18 years old). In her case, her opinion seemed to improve. In other cases, the opposite seems to happen. But rarely does it seem like their impressions of me remain static after they’ve heard me lift my voice in song. 😉

For example, in November of 2011, Bill and I went on a cruise in the southern Caribbean. One night, early in the cruise, we were in the piano bar. It was just Bill and me and the piano player. I started singing to Bill, and this single guy we’d met earlier walked into the bar, mouth agape. And he said, astonished, “Now I can see why you’d love her.

I don’t know what my exact reaction was to that comment. I might have looked hurt or embarrassed… or maybe I kept stone faced. The guy, who had been drinking heavily, then realized he’d said something very offensive. He grabbed me in an awkward hug and made some more clumsy comments that made things worse. Of course, he was judging me on the external. Like the person who dressed me down in the comment section of my Epinions piece, he didn’t know me, either. He might not have liked me if he did know me, but he was clearly judging me purely on surface stuff. I guess it doesn’t really matter, though. Bill knows me, and he loves me for who I am. That’s what counts.

When I was studying for my MSW, I had a field instructor who accused me of not being very introspective. He really didn’t know me, other than having interacted with me in our weekly briefings. I think he thought of me as obnoxious and opinionated, which I certainly can be. But there’s a much deeper, more insightful side of me that people who take the time to get to know me have actually seen, and most of them now have a different opinion.

I’m sure there are many people who also have that impression of me as a purely obnoxious person, based on what they’ve seen of my personality. But they don’t really know me, either. People who take the time to get to know me often find out that there’s more to me than what they immediately see and hear… as is the case for any person. I just think it’s too bad that so few of us seem to want to know other people, other than what they see on the surface. I will even admit that I’m as guilty of this tendency toward shallowness as anyone is.

I think, especially in today’s hyper Internet driven world, people don’t really take the time to get to know others. They have a lot of shallow acquaintances, but very few deep friends. And a lot of people make erroneous and occasionally embarrassing assumptions about others that prevent them from making true connections.

Here’s another example. Last night, I read in the Washington Post about how France’s president Emmanuel Macron, wants to enshrine the right to abortion in France’s constitution. Naturally, there were many dumb comments from Americans, particularly from incel type men who simply want to lecture women about how immoral they are to want the right to have dominion over their own bodies.

One guy– someone who is probably young enough to be my son– posted this response to a pro-choice woman:

“No right to snuff out the unborn. Stop being a garden tool and you’ll be fine.”

I couldn’t resist responding, so I wrote this:

“Stop using your garden tool to fertilize our gardens and we’ll all be fine.”

I thought that was a pretty banal and kind of funny response… but the guy was apparently wounded by it. He came back to me with a comment that showed that he really doesn’t know me at all!

I’m not to begin with.

Lol you don’t even know who’s in your garden. You invite so many dicks in your garden, you automatically think every guy on Facebbok you come across has been in your garden😅🤦‍♂️

SMH

I responded thusly… So far, he has not responded.

OMG…. You think that’s a comeback? Seriously, dude… some woman obviously hurt you, and you can’t get over it. Nor can you get over the fact that you owe your life to a woman. The power we have really pisses you off, doesn’t it?

Hilarious! 😂

Now, I don’t know him, either. However, I do know that, like everyone else on the planet, he owes his life to a biological female. And I conclude that immediately assuming that I “invite dicks in my garden” is a sign that someone who owns a vagina must have hurt him deeply. I could be wrong, though. I took a peek at his profile, and it looks like he’s probably not a bad person. He was sharing pictures of dogs needing homes. I can appreciate that.

If that guy and I were to meet offline, he’d probably be someone I’d like. He might even like me. But, because I pointed out that unintended pregnancies aren’t just a woman’s fault, he went really ugly and made a totally baseless comment that isn’t rooted in reality. There’s a whole lot you can say about me, but I am not at all promiscuous. And immediately inferring that someone is a “slut”– only because they support abortion rights– is a sure sign that someone female has wounded them somehow. So now, they take out their pain on all of us.

I notice a lot of men are very opposed to abortion rights, and I really think it’s rooted in a deep fear that men have that they will soon be obsolete. After all, a woman can get pregnant without a man’s physical input if she can afford to go to a sperm bank. And she can raise the child without a man, too.

A lot of men also resent that if they impregnate a woman, while having what they’d only intended to be a fun roll in the sack, and she decides to keep the pregnancy, he’ll be on the hook for child support. So, they don’t think it’s fair that a woman can decide to have an abortion, and they can’t fathom why an abortion might be necessary. They seem to forget that pregnancy is a whole lot more involved for women than it is for men… kind of like that ham and eggs anecdote I’ve written of. When it comes to ham and eggs for breakfast, a pig is fully invested, but a chicken is just “involved”. Same thing goes for pregnancy. I don’t know why there are so many men out there who can’t understand that pregnancy isn’t a 50/50 situation, but alas, here we are…

I traded comments with a couple of other guys, one of whom wisely bowed out kind of early. Another engaged me longer, and I think ended up regretting it… because he eventually outed himself as a slut shamer, and I called him out on it. Notice in the below exchange how he goes into the “personal responsibility” speech, as if any woman who might need an abortion is automatically “irresponsible”. I didn’t see him commenting on how people get pregnant in the first place, and how those folks need to be responsible, too.

I didn’t mean to wind up writing about abortion again. It just kind of fits in with today’s theme. A lot of people judge people and situations they don’t know. They aren’t at all curious about who the other person is, or what their story is. It didn’t used to be this way. We had fewer friends, but most of the people we knew, actually knew us in person. And if they didn’t like us, it was based on something more tangible than what they read online.

I suppose it can work the other way, too. I met Bill online, and we got to know each other through nightly chats for about 18 months before we met in person. If he had met me offline first, he might not have liked me. I can be off putting to those who don’t know how to take my personality. He might not have given me a chance. I might not have given him a chance, either. But he liked my erotic fiction, so we got to know each other. As you can see, 20 plus years later, it still works. And no one knows me as well as Bill does.

Anyway… I try to get to know people when I can. I hope others will try to get to know me. I may not have the most genteel or appealing personality when you meet me in person, but if you get to know me, you’ll eventually find a deeper, softer, more empathic side. And no, I’m not really a spoiled snob, a fat, lazy, slovenly slob, or a slut with a dirty mouth… All of these characteristics have been assigned to me by people who made snap judgments based solely on the shallow external. Only one sort of changed his mind– the one who thought I was a fat slob– and that was because he heard me sing and liked it. Suddenly then, I had some worth, and he could then see “why Bill would love me”.

Wow.

It’s really not fair, is it? Well, I think I’ll record this song, because I feel like it. Maybe some people will like it. Maybe some won’t. But at least you can see, there’s more to me than self-indulgent blog posts. 😉

Here’s my cover of “You Don’t Know Me”, as promised… I think I would prefer a slightly different key and arrangement, but this turned out okay.

You give your hand to me
And then you say hello
And I can hardly speak
My heart is beating so
And anyone can tell
You think you know me well
Well, you don’t know me

No, you don’t know the one
Who dreams of you at night
And longs to kiss your lips
And longs to hold you tight
Oh I’m just a friend
That’s all I’ve ever been
‘Cause you don’t know me

For I never knew
The art of making love
Though my heart aches
With love for you
Afraid and shy
I let my chance go by
A chance that you might love me, too

You give your hand to me
And then you say good-bye
I watch you walk away
Beside the lucky guy
Oh, you never know
The one who loves you so
Well, you don’t know me

For I never knew
The art of making love
Though my heart aches
With love for you
Afraid and shy
I let my chance go by
A chance that you might love me, too

You give your hand to me,
And then you say good-bye
I watch you walk away
Beside the lucky guy
Oh, you never know
The one who loves you so
You don’t know me

You never know
The one who loves you so
Well, you don’t know me

(written by Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold)

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blog news, book reviews, Military, music, Texas, YouTube

I never thought I’d be quoted in a scholarly book…

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.

Silke Schmidt quoted me by my Internet “handle” in this book…

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:

Right… because Epinions was a review site. We were writing reviews, not scholarly articles.

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.

People encouraged me to sing on camera. Well, here I am…
He does… one of the few and proud who does, actually. But he’s not a Marine.

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.

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family, musings, relationships

Sometimes going ugly early works out for the best…

I have a few things on my mind this Tuesday morning, the last day of February 2023. These things are kind of loosely related to each other, but maybe I can make them fit in today’s blog post. I beg your indulgence, because I probably won’t have a second original post in me today. On the other hand, it’s only 7:30am, so who knows?

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about how a picture of a defunct brand of beer led me to an unexpected place. That post hasn’t generated a lot of reads. At this writing, no one has commented on it. I suspect maybe one or two of the few people who read it might have quit before they got to the end. I can’t blame them for quitting. I quit things, too. Like, sometimes I’ll start watching a YouTube video and quit because something about it is annoying. Maybe the announcer isn’t human and speaks like a robot. Or the content might not be what was seemingly promised in the title.

Time is money for a lot of people. Sometimes, if a person takes too long to get to the point, the point will be missed. The receiver will stop engaging and walk away.

When a person quits too soon, they might miss out on something they might not have expected. My guess is that those who finished the post from a couple of days ago might have been surprised by the ending. The ending is not like the beginning, which was, admittedly, kind of ugly. I reread last night, wondering if I should cut some of the ugly part out. Maybe people would get the wrong idea about me. But then I decided that the ugly should stay, because it was part of the story.

Nowadays, people are so quick to dismiss others without a second thought. I think the response to the quick dismissal has been that people are more reluctant to be authentic. They’d rather quickly say what the other person wants to hear than be rejected or dismissed.

I could weigh in on the recent controversy involving cartoonist Scott Adams, who writes and illustrates a comic strip called Dilbert. I have never read that comic strip myself, so I can’t call myself one of Adams’ disappointed fans, dismayed because the cartoonist is in the news due to his recent racist tirade. I didn’t even see the rant that is getting him canceled right now. It sounds like it was pretty bad, though, and now Dilbert is being dropped by many newspapers. Maybe it’s inappropriate for Scott Adams to have platform anymore, since the job of cartoonist is one that is kind of dying. He’s been very privileged to be able to turn his talents into such a successful career.

Still, to me, it’s sad that an artist’s work is being dismissed because he said or wrote something people didn’t like. Sad that he uttered hateful, racist remarks that were hurtful to others, and sad that the backlash has been so brutally instant, seemingly without a second’s hesitation. I don’t agree with what little I’ve read about Scott Adams’ views, but I do realize that he must have done a lot right to be where he is today. Obviously, he was also very lucky. I don’t like to think that a person’s total worth is less than an unfortunate or unpleasant action. I’m sure Scott Adams, as a whole, is much better than his very offensive comments.

Since I don’t read Dilbert and know very little about Scott Adams or his political views, I think I’ll just say that I find cancel culture disturbing and kind of dystopian. Regular people can and will vote with their wallets. I think allowing them to make up their own minds is better than encouraging everyone to pick up figurative pitchforks and torches and actively seeking to kill someone’s livelihood. At the same time, I can see why some people are now completely turned off of Scott Adams. I don’t blame them.

That post that I wrote the other day, started off kind of “ugly”, because I wrote about how I got unceremoniously kicked out of my very first dorm room during my first week at college. My former roommate of just a few days, “Margaret”, went “ugly” early. At the time, it was devastating on several levels. I was brand new at Longwood, living in a room that was just as much mine as it was hers. And yet, I knew that if I tried to stand my ground, Margaret and her fraternity loving friend would make my life a living hell. So there I was, 18 years old and brand new to college, just days after arriving at Longwood, having to move to what was considered the “worst” dorm on campus.

You know what? A lot of the people I met after that move are still my friends today. That ugly, unpleasant, humiliating situation all worked out well in the end. In the long run, I was better off for moving across campus. If I had stayed in that room because it was “half mine”, it would not have been a good thing. Margaret was the type of person who would have done all she could to drive me out. Maybe I would have even ended up unhappy enough to transfer to another school , or quit altogether.

I could even say that about attending Longwood in the first place. It wasn’t my first choice college. And yet, it turned out to be a great school for me. I did very well there. I discovered talents and passions I had never explored before I went to college. I made some incredible friends. I only have a few regrets about going to my last choice school, and they are pretty minor, in the grand scheme of things.

Here’s a more recent example of this theme of “going ugly early”… Three years ago, Bill and I tried to adopt a dog from a German dog rescue. Our attempt to give a dog a new home ended in tragedy, when a disastrous string of events led to the dog escaping his transporter and getting killed on the Autobahn. That was a senseless and devastating event, and it made Bill and me feel like shit. But then, Noyzi the Kosovar street dog came into our lives and stole our hearts.

The fact that we have Noyzi doesn’t negate how awful it was that the other dog got killed thanks to the sheer negligence of the pet transporter. That was still a terrible thing. But if it hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have our Noyzi, who reminds us every day how thrilled he is to have a home in Germany with us. Noyzi was destined to be in our family. I really think he was, especially since his rescuer, Meg, is a student of Carl Jung’s, just as Bill is. What are the odds?

And now for the last part of this post… This part might not seem like it fits very well, but I feel compelled to write about it, anyway.

I often read Lori Gottlieb’s advice column in The Atlantic. I knew who Lori Gottlieb was many years before I read her advice column. About twenty years ago, she wrote a book about her experiences with anorexia nervosa. It was titled Stick Figure. I read and reviewed that book for Epinions.com. Since then, Lori has become a therapist, and she writes articles for the magazine.

Last night, I read the following letter in Lori’s column, which caused some people to immediately react with disgust…

Dear Therapist,

When I married my husband, he had two adult children, and I had none. We both wanted to have a child together, but my husband had a vasectomy after his second child was born—too long ago to get the procedure reversed.

We didn’t want to use a sperm bank, so we asked my husband’s son to be the donor. We felt that was the best decision: Our child would have my husband’s genes, and we knew my stepson’s health, personality, and intelligence. He agreed to help.

Our daughter is 30 now. How do we tell her that her “father” is her grandfather, her “brother” is her father, her “sister” is her aunt, and her “nephew” is her half-brother?

My husband and I are anxious, confused, and worried about telling her. This is also hard on my husband, because he wants our daughter to know that he will always and forever be her father.

Thank you for any advice you have to offer.

Anonymous

Most of the people commenting were completely turned off by this scenario. I suspect most didn’t make it beyond the “ugly” headline, “Dear Therapist: My Daughter’s ‘Brother’ Is Actually Her Father”. Of course, most didn’t read further because they don’t subscribe. Plenty of people who didn’t read the letter had plenty to say about it, though. Quite a few folks were judging the letter writer for making this decision, and now being in a situation in which she was asking Lori Gottlieb for advice. After a few minutes’ thought about this situation, I came to a few conclusions.

In my opinion, it really makes no sense to be disgusted by this scenario. This woman’s daughter was born in the early 1990s. In those days, we didn’t conceive of things like Ancestry.com or 23&Me being a “thing”. Childless couples who hoped to conceive via sperm donor weren’t encouraged to know much about the donor. This couple wanted to have a child together. Using a sperm donor was probably the most expedient way for them to get what they desired.

The letter writer’s husband happened to have an adult aged son who was willing to serve as the sperm donor. Unusual? Yes. I wonder about his mother and what she might have thought about this scenario. As the stepson was an adult when he made his donation, it wouldn’t have been her business. Or, perhaps she’s dead. We don’t know. It sounds like stepmom never played a maternal role to her husband’s son, though. She sounds more like his father’s wife than his “stepmom”.

This isn’t a case of a stepmom having sex with a teenager. This situation involved sperm donation between two consenting adults who happen to know each other better than other donors and recipients might have. Would it have been better for the woman to conceive a baby with a stranger? Maybe in some people’s minds, that’s better. In my opinion, it’s not really ideal, though, because the other bio parent is much more of a mystery.

Moreover, since the letter writer’s stepson was obviously an adult when he donated sperm, stepmom could have married him, instead of his father, and had the baby the “natural” way. Far fewer people would have batted an eye at that scenario.

After thinking about this some more, I remembered a high school friend, whose mother was actually her grandmother. Her older sister was her bio mom, because she got “knocked up” in high school. Mom/grandma raised my friend instead. I pointed this out, and a woman conceded that that scenario is kind of common, but this one involving a sperm donor is somehow “different” because it was done deliberately, rather than being the result of an “accident”. I can tell you, having been an “accident”, albeit to an adult married couple, it kind of sucks.

And yet, nowadays, it’s not that uncommon for family members to do extraordinary favors for their relatives. I’ve read more than a couple of articles about mothers carrying babies for their daughters, who aren’t able to maintain pregnancies. I’ve seen sisters or cousins acting as surrogate mothers for their relatives. People often frame the women who do those kinds of favors as heroic. How is a stepson donating sperm to his father and his wife that much different? At least it doesn’t involve morning sickness.

Then I started thinking about how I would feel if I were the daughter in this case. I imagined that, for 30 years, I didn’t know the truth about my origins. I’m completely healthy and otherwise normal, except all my life, my biological father has been posing as my half brother. Now, perfect strangers on the Internet are grossed out about how I was conceived. If you think about it, that’s a lot “ickier” than the unusual circumstances of how I was conceived. Again… stepmom could have used a stranger’s sperm, and I wouldn’t know much of anything at all about my bio father. At least, in this situation, the young woman will be able to ask questions and have a chance at getting some honest answers.

Finally, I arrived at my conclusion. This situation sounds, on its surface, kind of “weird”. But, at the end of the day, what matters is that this couple desperately wanted to have a child together. They’re still married. Their daughter is still much beloved and was very much wanted. That, in my view, should be the focus. We should all be so lucky to have parents who wanted us that badly. The main idea is that this couple wanted to raise their daughter, and they chose the stepson as the donor, because they knew that he was healthy. It was a way for the father to contribute to his daughter’s genetic heritage, since he could no longer get his wife pregnant.

Instead of focusing on the “ick” factor of this situation, consider these points:

  1. Everyone involved in the donation was a consenting adult.
  2. It wasn’t a situation in which the stepmom and her stepson had a physical relationship. He simply donated sperm.
  3. Mom could have just as easily had a relationship with the stepson and gotten pregnant. No one would have cared.
  4. Mom could have used a stranger’s sperm and been faced with a lot more mystery regarding her daughter’s genetic heritage and potential medical or educational issues.
  5. They made this decision before the advent of home DNA tests and probably figured they could keep the secret forever.
  6. Thanks to reproductive technology advancements, family members are doing things that would have been unthinkable in previous generations. We’re seeing moms carrying their daughters’ children, for instance. Sperm donation, to me, is less earth shattering than being your sister’s or your daughter’s gestational carrier.
  7. THIS WAS A WANTED CHILD. Her parents love her. She’s grown up healthy, well-provided for, and very much beloved by her family. That should be more important than the source of her father’s genes. I hope the couple broke the news to her gently, and she was left realizing that her family loves her.

To sum things up… things that begin negatively or distastefully can eventually lead to things of beauty. Sometimes, when we “go ugly early”, we can end up in unexpected and amazing places. I could even say the same thing about Bill and me, and our marriage. We met under unexpected and unusual circumstances, but it all worked out beautifully. Sometimes when something starts out “ugly”, it might just be a situation in which the ugliness just needs to be chipped away from the surface and polished until it becomes something better… and beautiful, like the stone in my featured photo.

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