book reviews

Repost: A review of The Price of Life by Nigel Brennan, Kellie Brennan, and Nicole Bonney…

I wrote this post for my original blog on November 26, 2013. I am reposting it here, as/is.

Ordinarily, I would review this book on Epinions.com, but at the moment, there is no reviewable entry for ThePrice of Life  there.  So I will review it on my blog… and it will probably get more hits here anyway.

The Price of Life (2011) is a book that was written by Nigel Brennan, his sister, Nicole Bonney, and his sister-in-law, Kellie Brennan.  It’s about Brennan’s abduction in Somalia back in August 2008.  I recently read and reviewed Amanda Lindhout’s book, A House In The Sky (see previous post), which was her side of the same story.  Amanda Lindhout is Canadian and Nigel Brennan is Australian. 

They were both photojournalists and originally met in Ethiopia in 2006 and had an affair while Nigel was still married to his English wife, Janie.  Nigel and Janie eventually divorced and Nigel took up with a Scottish woman named A.J., who worked as a chef off the west coast of Scotland.  Nigel was feeling restless, so when Amanda invited him to join her in Iraq, he gave it serious consideration.  But travel to Iraq proved to be too expensive and risky, so Nigel ended up passing on going to Iraq.

Some time later, Amanda asked Nigel if he’d like to visit Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia.  Nigel wasn’t so worried about Kenya and Ethiopia, since those two countries had some semblance of a government. Somalia, on the other hand, was another story.  Nevertheless, somehow Nigel was eventually convinced that visiting Somalia was both doable and a good idea.  They basically falsified documents that identified them as members of the press who had been invited to the country to work with a larger news organization.

On their third day in Somalia, August 23, 2008, Amanda and Nigel were kidnapped by a group of teenaged insurgents who then demanded a ransom of $3 million.  Nigel’s book, which was published two years before Amanda Lindhout’s side of the story, is told from three different perspectives: Nigel’s, his sister’s, and his sister-in law’s. 

While this book is basically the same story as Amanda Lindhout’s, I think I enjoyed it much more than I did her book.  I enjoyed the Aussie sense of humor that is prevalent in this book.  You’d think a book about being kidnapped and brutalized in Somalia would be short on comic relief, but I actually found Nigel and his sister and sister-in-law to be entertaining writers who use profanity and Aussie slang liberally.  It added a certain authenticity to the book and gave it an interesting flavor. 

Nigel also didn’t endure quite what Amanda Lindhout did.  He was not gang raped or tortured as she was, so I found his book less traumatizing to read… even though Nigel did hear Amanda being brutalized and does describe what that was like for him.  Nigel and Amanda were held for over 460 days, so there were many days when Nigel was just plain bored.  Meanwhile, his large, close knit family in Australia was going crazy, pining for his release as they frantically raised money to pay the ransom for Amanda and Nigel.

I did find Nigel’s book interesting because it discusses communications between Amanda’s family and his family.  Things were pretty tense because Nigel’s family raised most of the money to pay the ransom.  Amanda was also heard tearfully asking her mother to use what money was collected to pay for only her release.  Nigel quite chivalrously recognizes that Amanda’s ordeal was literally more painful than his was.

One thing I found interesting was Nigel’s description of using the toilet, which he does a couple of times.  I guess it’s natural, since he’s a guy.  Anyway, I thought his account was more “real” and somewhat more entertaining, if you can call a book about being held hostage “entertaining”.  I would give it five stars and recommend it over Amanda’s book, though both are worth reading.   

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book reviews

Repost: A review of A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout…

This book review originally appeared on Epinions.com in 2013. I am reposting it here, as is.

Getting yourself kidnapped… that’s one way to jumpstart a journalism career.

I can appreciate a young person’s desire for adventure. I can also appreciate the desire and drive to kickstart an exciting career.  When she was 24 years old, Canadian cocktail waitress Amanda Lindhout felt ready for adventure, having spent her childhood reading tattered copies of National Geographic.  She started using her earnings waiting tables to finance trips abroad to exotic and often dangerous countries.  Lindhout wanted to be a journalist, but found the competition stiff, especially since she didn’t even have the benefit of a university degree.  Nevertheless, Lindhout was determined and willingly traveled to dangerous war torn countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, and finally, Somalia.   In her 2013 memoir A House in the Sky: A Memoir, co-written by Sara Corbett, Lindhout describes what led her abroad and ultimately to the experience of being kidnapped by a group of teen-aged boys who held her and her ex-boyfriend, Australian Nigel Brennan, captive for 460 days.

This was Amanda Lindhout’s second experience as a hostage…

While in Iraq, trying to launch her journalism career, Amanda Lindhout was abducted by Iraqis in Sadr City.  She was held for a few hours until she was able to pay a ransom for her own release.  One would think after just one abduction, a young woman might think twice about visiting dangerous countries without proper security.  But Lindhout was stubborn and ambitious.  She decided to try her luck in Somalia, inviting her former boyfriend, Nigel Brennan (who also wrote a book– find my review of his book in the next post), to join her for the ill fated trip.  The two were on their third day in Somalia when they and their Somali translator, Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, their driver, Mahad Isse, and a driver from the Shamo Hotel, Marwali,†were captured by insurgents from the Hizbal Islam fundamentalist group.

460 days of hell 

With help from ghostwriter Sara Corbett, Lindhout describes how she and Brennan, who was a photographer, were on their way to conduct interviews for a story when they were stopped by gunmen.  It was August 23, 2008.  The insurgents were demanding a ransom of $3 million for their release, a sum that neither Lindhout’s nor Brennan’s families were able to pay immediately.  The ransom was eventually reduced substantially and was raised by friends, family, and strangers of Lindhout’s and Brennan’s alike.  Meanwhile, Lindhout and Brennan found themselves doing all they could to humanize themselves in their captors’ eyes, even going as far as to convert to Islam.

My thoughts

A House in the Sky is, on many levels, a fascinating story.  I found myself relating to Lindhout, since when I was her age, I had a desire to launch a career and visit exotic countries abroad.  On the other hand, I never had ambition strong enough to make me want to visit a place like Somalia.  In 2008 and 2009, Somalia was always in the news because desperate pirates had been attacking ships that got too close to the Somali coastline. 

Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan were beaten and starved.  Lindhout was repeatedly raped, gang-raped, and tortured.  100 days into her captivity, Lindhout was taken to a remote location, where her captors threatened to slit her throat.  After an unsuccessful escape attempt, Lindhout and Brennan were separately kept isolated in chains in a pitch black house, where Lindhout relates being forced to lie still in the dark for months.  I made the mistake of reading about the bulk of Lindhout’s experiences as I was trying to fall asleep last night.  It took a long while to be able to relax enough to drop off, even after I took a couple of Advil PMs. 

Even as Lindhout describes how she was treated by certain members of the insurgent group, Lindhout also manages to allow glimpses of their humanity to color her story.  In fact, Lindhout even relates how one very brave and kind-hearted Somali woman tried to save her when she and Brennan managed to escape.  Lindhout’s ability to see the more positive aspects of her situation gives her story an interesting complexity and makes it more compelling.  Frankly, some of the more graphic stories in this book were difficult to read. 

Overall

While I can’t decide if I think Lindhout is very brave or just very foolish, I can’t deny that her experiences being held hostage have certainly led to an exciting career.  In 2010, Lindhout founded the Global Enrichment Foundation, which offers scholarship opportunities to Somali women.  She has also been back to Somalia; in 2011, she returned with a large convoy with enough food for 14,000 people in the southern Somali town of Dobely.  She is now a respected public speaker and has won awards for her humanitarian efforts.  I know this experience has helped Lindhout launch a career, but I wonder if it was worth it, given all she went through.

I think Amanda Lindhout’s book is definitely worth reading, though I would not recommend reading it before bedtime.  I think it rates a solid four stars– and I think my next book will be something a bit lighter.

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Repost: Whateverland, co-written by Martha Stewart’s daughter, Alexis…

Here’s a reposted book review that was originally written for Epinions.com in 2011. It appears here as/is.

I love a good tell-all, especially when it comes to celebrities and their offspring.  I don’t really care that much about Martha Stewart’s show.  But I have seen plenty of evidence in the media that she’s a difficult person.  So I have to admit rubbing my hands in glee when I learned that her daughter, Alexis Stewart, and Alexis Stewart’s former radio show partner, Jennifer Koppelman Hutt, had written a book called Whateverland: Learning to Live Here (2011).  I had heard the book described as a “tell-all” about what it was like to have Martha Stewart as a mother, so that was what I was expecting.

As it turns out, this book is not really a tell-all about what it was like to grow up with Martha Stewart as a mom.  It’s really a book consisting of anecdotes and short snippets about what Alexis Stewart and Jennifer Koppelman Hutt think about various aspects of living and loving.  Interestingly enough, Stewart and Hutt appear to be diametrically opposed in just about every facet of life.  And yet they’re apparently still friends.

These two forty something authors spent six years working together on a radio program.  Both had privileged upbringings, though Stewart claims that Martha only lavished her when it suited her.  She writes in one chapter that she never had the money to buy a crappy stereo, but tradition loving Martha Stewart would fork over $10,000 for a ball gown.  Alexis Stewart comes across as difficult and bitchy, taking a great deal of personal pride in being painfully blunt and obnoxious.  She’s very thin and takes a dim view of overweight people and anyone who eats meat.  In all honestly, Alexis Stewart seems like an unhappy, unpleasant, narcissistic person.  I will admit, however, that I did inwardly laugh at some of her caustic comments, which often have a ring of truth to them.  Stewart reminds me a bit of one of my sisters, who can be hilarious in her nastiness.

Hutt, by contrast, was raised by parents involved in the entertainment industry.  She grew up chubby.  Her mother, who died of pancreatic cancer in her 60s, used to hassle Hutt about her weight.  Hutt finally got svelte as an adult and comes across as warm and sincere.  She seems very likeable, thoughtful, and kind and it’s amazing that she and Stewart have enough in common to sustain a friendship.  I found myself drawn to her warmth and sincereity, even as I was often repelled by Stewart’s bitchiness.

This book includes a few photos.  They are sprinkled throughout the book somewhat randomly and were quite clearly visible on my Kindle.

My thoughts

I’m of a mixed mind about Whateverland.  It’s well-written and somewhat entertaining.  It’s easy to read, mainly owing to the short snippets written alternately by Hutt and Stewart.  I’m sure a lot of people will buy this book for Stewart’s take, but I actually enjoyed more of what Hutt had to say.  Hutt seems like someone I would enjoy having as a friend, while Alexis Stewart comes across as selfish, cold, and neurotic.  Some of Stewart’s revelations are interesting and funny… even though I don’t think I’d enjoy having her as an acquaintance.  I actually doubt she has many real friends… unless she is very different in person than the way she comes across in this book.

Anyway, I will caution those who are tempted to buy this book to get the scoop on Martha to reconsider.  If you want to read what Alexis Stewart and Jennifer Koppelman Hutt think about life, you will probably be happier with Whateverland.  As for me, I enjoyed the book somewhat, even though it wasn’t really what I thought it was going to be.  I give it three stars.

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Repost: A review of Jean Kilbourne’s book, Deadly Persuasion…

And here’s another repost, this time of a review I wrote for Epinions.com on August 10, 2004. I will be posting it as/is, so please keep that in mind when I refer to time. I originally titled this review, “Warning: advertising can be hazardous to your health, and your wallet.

When I was in the Peace Corps, serving in the Republic of Armenia, a fellow volunteer introduced me to Jean Kilbourne by showing her 1979 movie, Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women. Kilbourne had filmed one of her lectures about how ads seductively affect the public in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Later, when I went to graduate school at the University of South Carolina, I had the opportunity to hear Jean Kilbourne speak in person. I went to her lecture and watched and listened as she showed slides of advertisements, pointing out the fascinating and horrifying subliminal messages that are presented in cigarette and booze ads. I found her to be a dynamic and intelligent speaker. I was impressed. While I was at the lecture, I had the chance to buy her 1999 book, Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising, but unfortunately I was economically challenged and the book was hardcover. Then the following year, a social work professor showed another one of her films. That settled it; I had to read her book. I purchased it and couldn’t put it down, even though some of the material presented within the book was stuff that I’d either seen in her movies or heard at her lecture. Kilbourne’s message is very important; luckily, it’s also fascinating.

According to her book, Jean Kilbourne holds a doctoral degree and has produced several award winning documentaries, and she’s been a visiting scholar at Wellesley College. She’s also served on the National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and she’s been an advisor to two surgeons general. Her academic pedigree is impeccable; but she’s not just brilliant and remarkably astute, she’s also very funny. The passion she brings to her work has served to alert scores of people to the dangers of advertising and the media.

Jean Kilbourne starts off her book with the following anecdote:

In 1968 I saw an ad that changed my life. One of the many mindless jobs I had that year was placing ads in The Lancet, a medical journal. This particular one was for a birth control pill called Ovulen 21. It featured a smiling woman’s head and the caption “Ovulen 21 works the way a woman thinks– by weekdays… not ‘cycle days’.” Inside the head were seven boxes, each one day of the week. And inside each box was a picture of that day’s activity: Sunday had a roast, Monday a laundry basket, Tuesday an iron, and so forth. I realized that the ad was basically saying that women were too stupid to remember their cycles but could remember days of the week. And the days of their weeks were an endless rotation of domestic chores. (pp. 17-18)

Kilbourne put the ad up on her refrigerator and soon found herself noticing other ads that insulted and demeaned women. She kept putting the ads on her refrigerator and realized that while some of the messages in the ads were degrading to women, others were violent. She started to recognize patterns in the messages and the images within the advertisements and saw that in many of the ads, only parts of women were shown– in other words, just breasts, noses, or legs, were pictured instead of the whole woman. She noticed that “women were often infantilized and that little girls were sexualized” (18). This was how Jean Kilbourne got started as she began her pursuit of her life’s vocation, by looking at magazine ads in the late 1960s.

Kilbourne realized that everything she had done, from work to finding mates, was influenced by her appearance, although her book makes it plain that she’s very intelligent, too. Although Kilbourne had won a hometown beauty contest as a teenager, and learned how to drink and smoke from a friend, she also went to Wellesley College on a full scholarship after earning a perfect score on the verbal SAT. At Wellesley, Kilbourne earned an award that allowed her to spend a year living in London, working for the British Broadcasting Corporation. While in England, she worked as a secretary, smoked, drank, and modeled; she even dated Ringo Starr and a knight, and partied at Roman Polanski’s apartment. When she came back from Europe, Kilbourne found herself unable to find meaningful employment. It was during this period that Kilbourne really seemed to find herself in trouble with alcohol, although a doctor had told her “Don’t worry, honey, you’re not the type to be an alcoholic.” (22). She was told that she should be a model and she did work as one, until a designer told her that in order to be really successful, she would have to have sex with him. Al Capp also hired her to be a ghostwriter, but he too wanted sex in exchange for a job. With everything that happened to Kilbourne when she was coming of age, I find it no wonder that she became so focused on the women’s movement.

Jean Kilbourne makes the statement “If you’re like most people, you think that advertising has no influence on you” (33). How many of us have watched a commercial on television or looked at a print ad and felt we that we had thought nothing of it? Kilbourne points out that advertisers want the public to believe that they aren’t being affected, but they must be. Otherwise, she asks, why would advertisers spend in excess of $200 billion annually on advertising? Why would they spend half a million dollars to produce and air a commercial, or spend a couple of million dollars to air their ads during the Super Bowl or other high profile television shows? Kilbourne notes that during the 1999 Super Bowl, Victoria’s Secret aired commercials featuring scantily clad models and one million people logged onto their website, which was promoted on the television ad (33).

Kilbourne outlines why good television shows, the kinds that attract viewers of all ages, get canceled. It’s because advertisers want to attract people in the 18-49 age range; those are the people who have the most money to spend on their products. And television producers need to be able to pay their bills by commanding high advertising rates for shows that will interest people in the 18-49 age range. In fact, Kilbourne points out that most television networks have stopped aiming for the middle class and are instead trying to hook people between the ages of 18-34. It’s at that age range the advertisers theorize that they are most likely to influence people to establish brand loyalty.

Throughout Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising, Jean Kilbourne has included pictures of print ads. Some of them are from advertising journals and those are the ones that are truly sinister. One picture, an ad for an entertainment group, depicts a young bald man facing away from the camera wearing earphones. The caption, which is spread over the image of the man’s head, reads “When you’ve got them by the ears, their hearts and minds will follow.” (36) Another one shows George W. Bush (after his re-election as the governor of Texas) and the caption “If you have high ambitions, hire us. He did.” (37) The caption on the ad continues, “If we can create advertising that persuades Hispanic Democrats to vote Republican, we can get them to buy your product” (38). Pretty heavy words, especially given where Bush went after his time as governor.

So why should women and girls be worried? Kilbourne points out that “commercialism has no borders” (59). Advertising is EVERYWHERE: on billboards and trucks, on television and radio, on the internet, and in magazines and newspapers. A person would have to be blind and deaf not to be somehow affected by advertising. And the messages they promote are not always positive. In Chapter 5, Kilbourne shows ads that are associated with food. She points out that

“while men are encouraged to fall in love with their cars, women are more often invited to have a romance, indeed an erotic experience, with something even closer to home… the food we eat… and the consequences become even more severe as we enter into the territory of compulsivity and addiction” (108). 

Chapter 5 includes pictures of women who look as if they are on the verge of ecstasy as they are teased with food. Kilbourne has included the insidious captions of ads that imply that food equals love and women need to be comforted by food. Kilbourne explores the psychology behind tag lines like “I thank me very much for Andy’s Candies” (110) and “From you to you” (110). The commercials show women either consoling or rewarding themselves with food. But everybody knows that women are supposed to be thin. What does advertising tell us about women who don’t meet society’s expectations by being thin enough? We aren’t told that we should be happy. We’re told that we should eat the latest fat free or low carb food. We get the message that being heavier than the woman in the magazine is unacceptable and wrong and we should do something about it by joining a gym or going on a diet. Advertising is a medium that thrives on people who are either dissatisfied or unsatisfied with some aspect of themselves or their lives. But more than that, it actually encourages people to be unhappy so that they’ll buy the latest product.

But why does this theme of dissatisfaction especially apply to women and girls? Kilbourne further addresses this concept in Chapter 6. She explores how adolescents are particularly vulnerable to advertising and how advertisers are on the prowl to get them buying their products. How many 22 year olds do you know suddenly decide one day to pick up smoking? I would venture to guess that you don’t know many… but plenty of teens pick up the habit so that they can appear older or cooler than their friends. The same goes for alcohol and sex. But aside from the messages delivered from advertising, teenagers, especially girls, also must cope with other issues that may weaken their resolve when it comes to advertising. What happens to a lot of girls when they become adolescents? Their self esteem plummets and they are liable to be less secure about who they are. They might engage in behaviors that will threaten their health, like binge drinking, eating disorders, smoking, or having unprotected intercourse that results in a sexually transmitted infection or an unintended pregnancy. This chapter includes some startling photos of ads that may not have caused the average person to to think twice… until they encounter the points that Kilbourne brings up. For example, there’s one picture of a young woman with a turtleneck pulled up over her mouth (139). On first glance, the average person might think that the girl was just keeping warm on a cold day (she’s also wearing a winter cap). On second glance, the person may understand the underlying message– that women should be seen and not heard. It’s not just pictures that convey this message. Kilbourne also writes about a perfume ad with the slogan “Make a statement without saying a word” (138). Hmmmm…

Chapters 7 and 8 are about alcohol and cigarettes. Kilbourne’s message is that no matter what the tobacco industry wants the public to believe, it’s in the business of getting young people to smoke. After all, people often die from health problems related to smoking, or if they’re lucky, they quit before they die. Somehow, those people who die or quit must be replaced. As I pointed out before, it’s a lot easier to get a teenager to start smoking than it is to get an adult into the habit. This chapter is full of good information about how teens get and stay addicted. Joe Camel is featured prominently in this section. I remember in Kilbourne’s lecture, she pointed out the many penis references on Joe Camel. I had never noticed them until she showed them to us, and now they’re plain as day.

The rest of Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising addresses how advertising itself can inspire violence, addiction, and disconnection. The chapter on violence is particularly interesting and scary. Some of the pictures included are those of familiar ads that actually call women b-itches, and promote violence and sexism. It’s a real eye-opener that might make you angry, especially if you’re a woman.

So do I have any complaints about this book? Yes, I have a couple of minor ones. One is that if you have ever seen Jean Kilbourne speak or watched one of her films, you will already be familiar with some of the ads that are included in Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. On the other hand, this is not necessarily a weakness, since having the ads in a book and reading her words will reinforce Kilbourne’s message and you can also revisit that information over and over again and perhaps enjoy a better understanding of it. The other is that sometimes I get the feeling that she overstates her case a little bit and makes ALL advertisers out to be villains. Yes, some of their messages are dangerous and demeaning, but I don’t believe that all advertising and the people that create it are inherently evil. Kilbourne highlights how advertising can be dangerous, but at times I feel that she also goes a little bit too far and lumps all advertisers together as bad. Sometimes ads can be helpful and even positive. And I think it’s important for me to point out that I don’t believe that Americans should be subjected to thought policing. Awareness about the hidden dangers of advertising is a good thing, but I also believe that people should be allowed to make up their own minds about what advertisers are saying to them. I fear that too much control will lead us to a slippery slope that could erode our freedoms as Americans.

Nevertheless, if you’re interested in women’s rights, the media, and psychology, I think it’s a sure bet that you will enjoy reading Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising. And I believe that Jean Kilbourne has truly created a masterpiece with this book. She has no doubt helped millions by opening their eyes to the potentially destructive influences of advertising and the media.

I want to end this review by sharing an experience that I had the other night while watching television. An ad came on for M&M Cookie Bars and a little boy was shown pocketing FOUR of the bars, then tearing up the box they came in. He ordered his labrador retriever to lie down and stay, covered the dog with the torn up box, then called out, “Mom, the dog ate all the M&M Cookie Bars again!” while the dog looked up innocently.

This ad bothered me because first, it sends the message that it’s not only okay, but also cute and funny to lie and steal. Apparently, this wasn’t the kid’s first time lying and stealing, either, since he said that the dog had eaten the bars AGAIN. Second, our nation is coping with a growing population of children who are obese and developing Type 2 (formerly known as Adult Onset) Diabetes, a disease that used to typically affect adults over the age of 40 and was almost unheard of in children. And third, this ad depicts a child pretending that his dog has eaten chocolate and it’s a cute thing. Chocolate is very toxic to dogs; it contains a chemical that can kill them if they ingest too much of it. Unfortunately, different dogs handle chocolate in different ways and some chocolates are more dangerous than others. But kids who watch this ad are probably not going to know this. The ad does have a warning about giving chocolate to dogs, but it’s tiny and doesn’t stay on the screen long enough for people to read it– plus some kids who see the ad will be too young to read.

There’s no doubt that Jean Kilbourne’s book, Deadly Persuasion: Why Women and Girls Must Fight the Addictive Power of Advertising, has inspired me to look at advertising more closely and be a smarter consumer. I believe it can have the same positive effect on other people and I encourage others to read it and learn as much as I did. And if you have the chance to see Jean Kilbourne speak, I also encourage you to take the opportunity. Your eyes will open.

The paperback edition of this book is entitled Can’t Buy Me Love. 

Jean Kilbourne’s TED Talk…

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A grateful thank you to all of my readers…

Yesterday was somewhat less annoying than Wednesday was. There were no unexpected visitors; Aunt Flow vacated; I didn’t get involved in any online pissing matches; and as of this morning, I crossed the threshold allowing me to be paid for writing this blog. And so, today’s post is going to be focused on gratitude for everyone who has been reading this rag. Some of you have been surprisingly faithful readers, and I really do appreciate it. I know sometimes I can be cranky, negative, and gross, but it does my heart good to know that some people don’t seem to mind. Or maybe they just read so they can snark. Either way, I make a few pennies when people read, and they’ve now finally added up to enough that I can actually get paid.

Love me some Andrew Gold.

I’m actually impressed by how quickly this happened on WordPress. I moved my original OH blog from Blogger in February 2019. It was one of three blogs I had on that site, and all three were earning spare change through AdSense. During my heyday, I usually made enough money on Blogger from all three blogs to cash out every nine months or so. To do that, I had to earn at least $100. Remember, I had THREE blogs going, so they weren’t earning much individually. The original blog was the fastest earner, but the travel blog was also pretty popular before we moved to Wiesbaden. None of them were making big bucks, though.

At this point, I only have one blog left on Blogger. That would be my Dungeon of the Past music blog, which is mainly about music from the 70s and 80s. I don’t update it very often anymore, and right now, I have almost $98 sitting in AdSense. As soon as that blog earns the last two bucks I need to cash out, I’ll probably discontinue it. However, at this point, earning those last two bucks could take years! I usually only make a few pennies a month from just the music blog. This past month has been an exception. Looks like I made about 60 cents this month.

In July of 2019, when I moved the travel blog to WordPress, I immediately set up ads for that blog only. At this writing, the travel blog has made a grand total of $5.09. That amount is the whole total since the blog was created, having collected ad revenue since July 2019. COVID-19 was pretty devastating to my travel blogging, since we’ve been locked down and unable to go as many places. I suppose I could have been creative and come up with other travel related content, but to be honest, I had kind of lost my motivation. Happily, since COVID restrictions are loosening, I think we’ll be traveling more soon. In fact, next weekend, we will be on vacation. I am delighted to report that the travel blog is now consistently earning more than it ever has.

This blog has only been running ads since July 2021. In nine months, I’ve earned enough revenue to be paid. As of today, the “new” OH blog has made $109.61. That’s got to be because people are actually reading this stuff. So thank you! Writing is really all I ever wanted to do with my life, anyway, and while $109 isn’t enough to live on, it’s still money that I made, doing something I love doing! I do love to write, even if I do complain a lot about first world problems. I probably won’t be getting the $109 payout until June, which is fine. I’ll possibly get it just in time for my 50th birthday!

I didn’t want to run ads when I first started writing on this space. Like most people, I find ads annoying, and sometimes I want to write about topics that advertisers don’t like. But I was curious to see if this blog could make any money, which was why I turned on the ads. At first, I did it as an experiment, but then when I noticed that this blog made a lot more than the travel blog did, I decided to keep the ads going, just to see how long it would take before I made enough to cash out.

I know I have some readers who met me on the now defunct review site, Epinions. Those people are also writers, and they know the pleasure of seeing monthly “income share” come in. I remember my first month on Epinions, I wrote a rant about my cell phone service provider. I was really just looking for a place to vent, because I was pissed. I didn’t even know I could make money writing on Epinions. But when I saw that the review made 19 cents, I decided to write more. I spent almost eleven years writing on Epinions, and I made about $12,000, just reviewing stuff I was using anyway. Considering that I usually wrote in low paying categories like books, music, and travel, I think I did alright!

Sometimes I still miss Epinions, but that site became decidedly less fun as it was dying. I like writing on my own site now, since I can curse with wild abandon, add photos and videos, and don’t have to worry about obnoxious advisors, leads, or just oddball members lowballing ratings or leaving petty criticisms. 😉 That’s not to say that I can’t take legitimate criticism, per se. It’s just that some of them wanted to criticize things like how often I wrote, or disagreed with my review… or, in some cases, they would try to correct me when they, themselves, needed to edit.

I remember one particular Epinionator felt just fine about leaving me a low rating because she felt that instead of using Preparation H on my asshole, I should be using apple cider vinegar. And, as she commented, she signed off with the annoying phrase, “sharing the light”. I ranted about that incident on the original version of this blog. I’ll probably repost it today because, what the hell… I know some readers will get a kick out of that little taste of nostalgia.

Those kinds of comments and ratings were not supposed to happen. We weren’t supposed to downrate because we disagreed with the review; we were supposed to rate based on the quality of the review. Like, the rating was supposed to be based on how informative and well-written the review was, not someone’s personal opinion about the product or the reviewer. Anyway, not long after that “asshole” incident, in which I was advised to use vinegar instead of a soothing cream on my bum, I ran across a review by this particular writer. I gave her a slightly lower rating (helpful vs. very helpful). I think she genuinely earned the rating I gave her. She sent me a pissy email full of excuses as to why her review was the way it was, and why I should give her a higher rating. I couldn’t help but shake my head. A few weeks later, the site went belly up. It made me sad at the time, but then I realized that it was for the best. If Epinions were still going, maybe you wouldn’t be reading my first world rants here, and I would still be dealing with people like that person!

$109 is not a lot of money. In fact, it’s not even enough to pay my subscription fees for this site. But it’s a good start! It feels good to make money again. I do, on occasion, get weird, rude, or mean comments from drive by visitors; but this blog, by and large, attracts far fewer crazies than Epinions did. Like, for instance, the woman who went absolutely batshit nuts because she was posting rubber stamped reviews of her Canon camera under multiple listings and getting tons of “not helpful” ratings. Even though people tried to explain to her how the site worked, she didn’t get it… and she raised holy hell. It caused quite a drama! I don’t think she ever did learn how Epinions worked. After a weekend of rampaging with inappropriate comments and ratings, she was kicked off the site.

Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with that kind of nonsense here. Most everyone who reads this blog is perfectly nice. Or, at least they are basically respectful, which is really all I ask. It’s a bonus when people come back for more, even when I’m in one of my crotchety moods. So, once again, thank you! Thanks for reading and commenting– no need for ratings, here. And thank you all for being a friend. Thanks for helping me turn my opinions into something that has actual worth. It means more to me than most of you will ever know.

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