While I’m reposting blog entries, here’s another book review I wrote for the now defunct review site, Epinions.com, on September 17, 2013. Just reposting it so I don’t lose it forever.
Yesterday, while hanging out on Facebook, I lamented to my fellow books top reviewers here on Epinions that my latest reading project, Melissa Mohr’s 2013 book Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing, was taking forever to read. A few hours later, I had finished the book after a couple of weeks of reading. Though I did complain to my husband, Bill, about all the profanity in The Big Lebowski when we watched it the other night, I have to admit that I enjoy swearing. I don’t understand why so many people get upset over so-called filthy language. For me, the swearing in The Big Lebowski had gotten annoying because it was the same words uttered over and over again and had become boring. It wasn’t so much because the “f-word” itself is offensive to me.
Melissa Mohr, whose book was introduced to me on Facebook by famously foul mouthed singer, producer, and radio host, Red Peters, has attempted to explain where swearing comes from. In her book, Holy Sh*t, she explains the history behind some of the dirtiest words in English, linking history, literature, and even art and providing a comprehensive and scholarly explanation behind words like f*ck, c*nt, sh*t, and even the “n-word”.
The curious student in me lapped up all this new information enthusiastically, though not without effort. I appreciated the way Mohr married history and current events to write a lucid discussion of the origin of swear words and curses. This is a great book for foul mouthed nerds.
I was surprised that the overall negative attitude about cursing seems to have evolved relatively recently. I was particularly interested in Mohr’s discussion about the so-called n-word, which has gotten a number of people in trouble lately. We’ve become so sensitized to that word that even using words that sound similar, like niggle and niggardly, neither of which have any racist connotations at all, can get a person fired or forced to resign from their job. Mohr relates that scandalous word to hate speech and provides an interesting discussion about court cases in which using that word could be considered “hate speech” that is not protected under the First Amendment, and when it’s simply rude.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, it took me a long time and considerable effort to get through this book. While I did find Mohr’s writing scholarly and competent, I didn’t find it especially entertaining. Holy Sh*t really is an academic look at cursing. Mohr did an admirable job researching and providing notes so readers who want to study more about the phenomenon of swear words can read on in other scholarly books. It’s not so much a book intended to entertain as it is to inform, although I’m sure many readers are able to be both as they read Mohr’s history of swearing.
Frankly, I have done a lot of studying in my lifetime and am somewhat less interested in academic books than I might have been when I was younger. On the other hand, I can’t deny that I learned a lot reading Holy Sh*t and it was ultimately worth the effort. There was a time long ago when people thought nothing of cursing. Mohr explains why we suddenly had “words we couldn’t say on television” and why some people determined that people who cuss are “lazy”, “uneducated”, and “low class”. She enlightens those of us who wonder why we have “bad words” and who determined that those words are bad.
This is a good book for people who love language. If you have any English majors on your Christmas list, this might be a great book for them to read; if they aren’t offended by profanity, anyway. It certainly was good reading for this former English major, even though I’m trying to read less lofty books these days.
I give it four stars.
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It’s a beautiful spring day here in lovely Wiesbaden, Germany. The sun is shining and the air is fresh, crisp, and cool. I can see my neighbors’ trees heavy with flowers. Later, when I walk my dogs, I expect to see plenty of beautiful blooms in well-tended gardens. I probably should enjoy being outside more, especially since the weather in this part of the world isn’t always as nice as it is right now. It’s always so nice to see spring arrive in Germany, since the earliest months of the year are usually pretty crappy, when it comes to the weather. Making things even nicer is that on April 2, 2022, Germany finally lifted face mask requirements and vaccine checks in many venues, although they remain on public transportation.
Because masks are still required in airports and on public transportation in Germany, Bill and I will be driving to Italy next week. Actually, we might have decided to do that anyway, since we will probably be buying wine, cheese, and other groceries and it’s easier to transport that stuff in a car than on a plane. I like road trips, as a general rule. In my opinion, one of the best things about living in Europe is having the option to drive to so many beautiful places.
My countrymen aren’t so fortunate when it comes to traveling abroad. A person in the United States can’t drive to Europe, Africa, Australia, or Asia. In fact, it’s not so easy to get from coast to coast in the United States by car. It takes awhile to drive from, say, Virginia to California, and a lot of Americans prefer to fly, because vacation days are precious in the US and flying takes less time. So yesterday’s ruling, made with a stroke from federal Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle’s pen, has caused a big ruckus among Americans. Public reaction to her decision has been decisively split. Judge Mizelle’s ruling makes it okay to forgo face masks on domestic flights, although it’s my understanding that they are still required on planes that are flying to places where the masks are still required.
Many people are hailing Judge Mizelle for setting them free from face masks on public transportation. Others are cursing her and calling her “incompetent” for allowing people to suddenly take off their masks mid flight yesterday. The facts that she’s from Florida, is somewhat young and attractive, and was appointed by Donald Trump, don’t help some people’s negative impressions of her worthiness as a judge. Some public health and medical experts are very concerned about this restoration of facial freedom the judge has bestowed upon the public. And some people are feeling more emboldened than ever to shoot the finger at people they regard as sanctimonious virtue signalers.
If you read this blog regularly, you know that I’m liberal about a lot of things. But you may also know that I’m not a fan of face masks, even though I am a master’s level graduate of an accredited school of public health. I was never really in favor of them, even at the beginning of the pandemic. I don’t think a lot of people wear the masks properly. Here in Germany, we’ve been forced to wear heavy FFP2 masks (like N95s), but the infections continue, probably because no one is forced to cover their eyes. And so, I conclude that a lot of the masking is basically theater, although I can certainly understand why they are important in certain medical settings.
Two years ago, before we had vaccines and most people had zero immunity to the virus, I could see why they were initially necessary, even though the masks most people wore at the beginning of the pandemic were pretty useless. As the variants have become milder, and fewer people seem to be getting quite so sick and dying, I can see why the masks are being phased out. For the most part, I think it’s time. It’s been two years, and while I’m sure there are some people who would love to see everyone masked forever, that’s not a very realistic goal.
Many people legitimately hate the masks because they can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. They do cause legitimate problems for some people, particularly those who suffer from anxiety, are hard of hearing, or have sensory processing disorders. They aren’t a good long time solution, in my opinion, because they are so polarizing, and because they hinder communication. Even if face masks were the best idea ever, it would take some time for people to accept them as normal. I am old enough to remember when a lot of Americans didn’t voluntarily wear seatbelts in their cars. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that they became normal for most people. At least that was how it was in the United States. In most countries in Europe, mandatory use of seatbelts for all passengers has been the rule for a lot longer, and fines are pretty stiff for non-compliance. But even a lot of Europeans are over the masks.
I still live in Germany, where public health ministers are still wanting to limit freedoms and impose COVID restrictions. A lot of Germans seem to be fed up with the rules, too, although they do seem to be a lot more willing to submit to them than Americans are. What I like about Germany, though, is that people seem to be somewhat less insulting, whichever side of the mask debate they’re on. And Germans, as a rule, are more community minded about most things. Many people here are still wearing masks, even though they are no longer legally required to wear them. Those who don’t wear masks mostly don’t get harassed for not wearing them. Maybe they get the side eye from one or two people, but no one is getting belligerent or aggressive about it, and there’s a lot less violence all around. I doubt if the mask rules were relaxed in the middle of a Lufthansa flight, that people would be whooping and hollering like they reportedly were on US flights yesterday. But yes, there would probably be people gratefully removing them.
As usual, I took a look at the comments on the news articles. It didn’t surprise me that a lot of people were whining about their fears regarding this decision, while others were being really offensively belligerent about their “freedoms”. I suspect that if the mask mandates are reinstated in the United States, there will be even more of an uproar and possibly, more violence. I have noticed, as many have, that since the mask mandates were in place, the behavior of people on planes was more violent and unruly than it’s ever been. After all, flights in economy class are uncomfortable enough as it is. The masks made them even less pleasant for a large number of people, even though some people don’t mind the masks and never found wearing them “onerous”.
One thing that I’ve noticed and don’t really like from either side of this issue, is that people aren’t willing to compromise or concede. Why can’t the pro-maskers, for instance, understand why people hate wearing masks? Why do they feel it necessary to insult, belittle, and berate people for their valid opinions? Being nasty and sanctimonious to people does not inspire their cooperation. Moreover, I don’t find it very convincing when a person in a mask brags about “caring for other people” as they verbally abuse those who don’t share their opinions and dare to express themselves. I’ve seen more than one comment by a supposed “concerned mask wearing humanitarian” indicating that they think anyone who disagrees with them deserves to die. That’s not a very caring and kind attitude, in my opinion, and it doesn’t necessarily make me want to wear a mask for the sake of others. In fact, I think it’s the height of hypocrisy.
Conversely, I also think it’s awful that there are so many anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers out there who feel the need to laugh, gloat, and insult people who are genuinely afraid of getting very sick from the virus. I happen to agree that masking should be a choice, even though given a choice, many people won’t choose to wear a mask. Having the right to choose is part of living in a free society. But I also empathize with people who are afraid of COVID, or are concerned that they will spread it to vulnerable loved ones. Unfortunately, this was a problem even before COVID, and it will continue to be a problem. Forced mask wearing is not going to make the basic challenges faced by immunocompromised people go away, even if they appear to make things safer. I do agree, however, that we could all stand to be kinder and more considerate about this problem.
I read an op-ed on the Washington Post this morning about the relaxed rules. Robin Givhan, who wrote the opinion piece, demonstrated the attitude that, personally, I’ve found very off-putting throughout the pandemic. Her piece, titled “Whoops of selfish delight”, lamented that people were cheering about the suddenly dropped mask mandates. The mood of her opinion was that people were behaving badly for being visibly happy to be rid of the masks. This was Givhan’s sarcastic comment about the midflight announcement:
“They reveled in the knowledge that while they might be required to buckle their seat belt, turn off their cellphone, put their seat backs in the upright position and refrain from smoking on their grueling one-hour-and-20-minute flight, the one thing they would not have to do was wear a mask. The long, torturous nightmare of government overreach, which is how so many aggrieved passengers viewed the mandate effecting public transportation, has come to an end.”
I just want to ask her what the hell she was expecting. Of course people in their tight airplane seats with no leg room, strapped in and masked up, while their neighbors eye them suspiciously and with hostility, are going to be delighted with the prospect of being free to breathe unmasked. A lot of people– and I’m sure many in the travel industry, especially– are thrilled not to have to wear masks or enforce the wearing of masks, temporary as it may end up being.
Now, maybe it was rude to “whoop” about it, if only because yelling can spread viruses faster, and there are people who are legitimately terrified of being around maskless people. But I don’t think people are being selfish when they’re happy to be allowed to unmask. It’s perfectly natural, especially after two years of this weird, dystopian, plague we’ve been enduring. And if the mask mandates are reimposed, be prepared for backlash. I suspect it could be even worse after people have gotten a taste of freedom. No amount of shaming, virtue signaling, and berating is going to cow certain people into compliance. I just hope there won’t be more violence.
Anyway… count me among those who are for putting away the face masks, although I probably won’t be flying or taking transportation anytime soon. I never liked the masks, and I’m not going to submit to peer pressure to be a cheerleader for them. I’ll wear a mask if I’m asked to, but I certainly don’t want to do it. Not wearing a mask doesn’t make me a shitty person, especially since I don’t hang around people much, anyway. I also don’t care if other people wear masks. They can wear as many as they want to. It’s their choice, and I respect that. It would be nice if we could respect each other’s choices, since we all have to breathe. When it comes down to it, COVID is just another one of the many, many risks we face on a daily basis. Over the past two years, I’ve lost several people in my life, all of whom died years before perhaps they should have. Not a single one of them died of COVID… most of them had cancer or another chronic disease that might not have been adequately addressed, partly thanks to this virus. One died of suicide, and another was killed in a hit and run. I think that’s something to consider.
In other news…
I got another “restriction” from Facebook yesterday. They claimed I posted “hate speech” for referring to “dumb Americans”. My “punishment” is having my group posts filtered to the bottom for a month. I’m annoyed by this new ding, but I guess I should have expected it. Facebook must have a quota of sanctioning people for posting “offensive” content. What I find especially stupid is that people can and do post all sorts of offensive stuff toward strangers, but I refer to Americans as “dumb” because they won’t allow a children’s author to read his book about unicorns, and I get accused of posting “hate speech”.
Just as I would like to ditch masks, I would also really like to ditch Facebook. I may end up doing that at some point, although it’s the best and easiest way to stay in touch with people. But I resent their stupid bots making false accusations about my posts that are taken out of context. The other day, someone referred to me as a “baby killer”, complete with vomiting emojis because I support the rights of people to get abortions. But that’s apparently okay– to call an individual stranger a “baby killer” as you react with puke emojis. Call Americans “dumb”, and your account gets restricted. It’s very aggravating. But, based on the comments from friends, at least I am in good company with these inane “punishments”. And at least this time, my offensive post was only a few days old, instead of four years old, as it was the last time I got slapped on the wrist. And this time, Facebook said I could appeal their decision. I don’t care enough about this particular issue to do that, though. I’ll just put up with another month of wearing a red badge of shame.
This post originally appeared on my Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife on November 27, 2013. I am reposting it for posterity because the issue that prompted me to write the post came up in Facebook memories. The discussion I had with friends about this situation was interesting.
because I posted the following video in an exMormon group on Facebook…
I have posted Weird Wilbur’s “Most Mormons are Jackoffs” video on my blog before. It was the very first video I ever saw him do. Someone had posted it on RfM and it garnered a lot of discussion. I thought what Wilbur said, while neither particularly respectful nor gracefully stated, was largely based on truth. Wilbur made this video several years ago after an exasperating visit with his now ex-wife’s family, who are LDS. It wasn’t based on just one contact with them. Wilbur’s opinions formed after many observations and interactions.
I posted the above video in a secret exMormon group last night with the note that Joseph Smith was a “flim flam” man. And frankly, in my opinion, he was. What else would you call a man who sells a ridiculous story about golden plates with “reformed Egyptian” writing on them that he “translated” by looking at them with “seer stones” in a hat? This same man went on to “marry” girls as young as 14 and the wives of other men.
Anyway, the first comment from a male member of the group was that Wilbur is an “asshat”. I responded that I don’t think Wilbur is an asshat. Then several other males piled on, calling it hate speech and saying that I “should have picked a ‘better video’.” It soon became very condescending and sexist. That thread went on all day, and eventually turned into a discussion about Mormons and sexism, mainly because a number of the men in that group were trying to “school” the feisty women-folk who stuck up for me. I opted out of the group soon after the men started becoming offensive, because I ain’t got the time for that shit.
I was suddenly reminded of an awful interaction I had with an otherwise nice LDS couple I met while in the Peace Corps in Armenia. They, too, were serving in the Peace Corps and had impressed me by being attractive, hard-working, and basically nice people. I happened to mention to them that I had read the book Secret Ceremonies by the late Deborah Laake. I didn’t know it at the time, but that book was very controversial to Mormons. The male half of the LDS couple basically shamed me for reading “trash” that was full of lies about their religion.
At the time, I was shocked. I hadn’t meant to offend them. Yes, I read the book, but at the time I didn’t have negative opinions about Mormonism. I didn’t know enough about it to have negative opinions, despite having read Laake’s personal account about her experiences growing up LDS. I didn’t say to them what I should have said… or really, should have asked. And that was, “Have you read the book? If not, how can you tell me it’s full of lies?” They hadn’t read the book. They wouldn’t read it, because church officials had condemned it and they were told it was trash. Then they shamed me for reading it, even though I am not LDS and didn’t get the memo… and even if I had, I still have the right to my own thoughts and opinions.
Deborah Laake was an outstanding, award winning journalist. Years after that encounter, I re-read the book with Bill, who is a former Mormon. He confirmed to me that what Laake had written was true, though much of the book was full of uncomfortable aspects of Mormonism that church leaders would have rather kept under wraps and away from the wondering eyes of those who “can’t understand” Mormonism. Laake was invited to many talk shows and at every taping, a group of Mormons would show up and try to drown her out. She later died by her own hand, because she had breast cancer that was resistant to treatment. She chose to kill herself rather than wait for cancer to kill her. Some may think she was crazy for making that choice. Having never had cancer, I don’t feel it’s my place to judge.
Now, I have read Secret Ceremonies twice. I reviewed it on Epinions and, I think, gave it a fair rating (if I recall correctly, it was four stars, although I can no longer check). The truth is, Deborah Laake’s book heavily emphasizes sex… and sexual problems that she specifically had. She blamed her issues on the LDS church. Some of her issues probably were caused by religion. Many of her problems probably weren’t. However, the book she wrote is not full of lies.
As for Wilbur’s video, I will admit and agree that what he says, and the way he says it, may be hard for people to hear. But at least his opinion is an informed one, and isn’t based on just one interaction. The group of guys who accused me of posting “hate speech” based their opinions on just one video Wilbur made after a frustrating encounter with Mormon in laws. Wilbur later took the video down, but someone else reposted it.
A couple of years after Wilbur posted his “Mormons are jackoffs” video, he posted another one to Mormons because he needed help from the “families first” church. At the time, his son and daughter-in-law were having troubles with CPS and Wilbur asked Mormon viewers, who supposedly support families, for help in fighting child protective services on behalf of his grandchildren. The video he made was later taken down and, to my knowledge, is no longer posted anywhere. I remember being dumbfounded that he was asking for this help from Mormons, since Wilbur does not live a Mormon friendly lifestyle. He smokes, drinks, swears, chases women and doesn’t attend church. I imagine most devout Mormons, meeting him once, would never support him in his bid to “save” his grandchildren from CPS. I bet most of them would base that opinion on just one encounter. It wouldn’t take the repeated run-ins Wilbur had with his former in-laws that prompted his frustrated “hate” video.
I got to know Wilbur after he posted that video and we’ve sort of become friends (ETA: in 2021, I no longer hang with Wilbur– he went too far down the Trump rabbit hole). I most certainly do not agree with all of his opinions, especially pertaining to politics. But I don’t think he’s guilty of posting “hate speech” when he says that “most Mormons are jackoffs”. If anything, Wilbur is guilty of negatively painting a large group of people with a broad brush, which is something that a lot of people do, especially when they are angry or frustrated. I think if I were subjected to repeated visits from people in my own home, self-righteously lecturing me about my habits and repeatedly trying to invoke a church I’m not a member of, I’d come to a similar conclusion.
What’s more, I think it’s somewhat hypocritical that several people in that group were so deeply offended by Wilbur’s thoughts when members of that very same group recently made a game out of disrespecting the church… to the point of having sex in church parking lots and taking photos of themselves flipping off temples, then awarding each other “points” for doing so. I don’t remember people screaming about hatred and asshats when that was going on… but I guess since I’ve never been LDS, I’m held to a different standard.
*Sigh*…. well, at least it’s Thanksgiving weekend and I’m not visiting my parents. I’ll have to post about that next.
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And now from 2021…
Here’s a link to a news story about Deborah Laake’s infamous book, Secret Ceremonies, which I first read in 1994, when it was first published. At the time, I knew nothing about Mormonism, and was five years from meeting Bill. I didn’t have negative opinions about the church, even after reading that book. In fact, it wasn’t until I saw firsthand the damage done to families by the church that I started having a less positive opinion about Mormonism.
In the below video, you can hear a formerly devout ex-member explain why he left Mormonism. In the video, he explicitly says that not believing in the church threatened to end his marriage. And I have seen how families fracture when people decide they don’t believe anymore. You see families become estranged– children threatened or actually cut off from their parents or their siblings or both… and marriages falling apart. That’s pretty fucked up.
Most LDS church members have never read Secret Ceremonies, yet they claim it’s full of lies. Bill, who has been LDS, confirmed to me that it’s not full of lies. Moreover, the church does have a lot of “issues”, which are easily discovered on the Internet. I, personally, no longer have such strong opinions against Mormonism as I did in 2013. I still think it’s a crock of shit and needlessly complicates lives, but I am grateful that LDS church members helped Bill’s daughter escape the mini cult run by her mother… who is responsible for getting the family involved in the church in the first place.
Anyway… I just thought it was interesting to re-read the Facebook post that prompted me to write the above post in 2013. The thread is too long and convoluted to add to this post, but it was quite a shitstorm.
I woke up this morning to yet another Facebook threat in the form of a “warning”. When Facebook warns you, they send you a warning that takes up your whole screen and shows off the offending post. In this case, it was a post I made on May 22 about a really offensive game Facebook was advertising. Behold:
The game “Imperial Beauties” is not the only offensive and racist game I’ve seen pimped on Facebook. I’ve also seen games involving Middle Eastern female characters who want to be the chosen ones of a sultan. I recently saw another game advertised about a woman who gets pregnant by a rich man. I also see, from the game’s Facebook page, that I’m not the only one who thinks this game is offensive. But I’m the one who gets tagged for being hateful. Check out these comments:
This game has a lot of issues, the topmost being that there is no response from their customer service. They used to at least respond, now they don’t even bother anymore.
I am not happy with seeing ads about this chauvinistic stuff in my field. I must have “hidden” this ad a million times. Thumbs down, leave me alone!
The video I saw advertising this game depicted an Asian woman with a black eye who was supposedly “ugly”. Note– I don’t really think she’s ugly, but the premise of the game is that she’s not beautiful enough for the emperor. She has to impress the “granny” in order to become the “chosen one”. But if you make the wrong choices for your concubine wannabe, you end up in jail. The video implies that the ugly Asian woman dies in jail. I originally thought she was beheaded, but upon looking at the video again, it appears that she just dies.
Here are a few screenshots:
If Facebook does “ground” me for “hate speech”, I think I’ll just ditch it altogether. It is the source of a lot of my blogging content, but it’s also the source of a lot of stress and stupidity. This is one of the more stupid things that has happened recently, and it’s mainly because there aren’t as many human beings working at Facebook right now due to the fucking coronavirus. Consequently, content that isn’t actually offensive gets tagged. I disputed that what I posted was “hate speech” and nine minutes later, it was denied with no explanation from a human being. They simply closed the case.
The funny thing is, if I ever did decide to quit Facebook, I know from personal experience that Facebook will continually spam my inbox trying to get me to log in again. It’s like being in a cult. They will “punish” you when you’re an active member, but if you eventually decide to quit, they’ll relentlessly bug you to get you to come back. What’s more, I get offended on the daily by some of the things posted on Facebook. I once got a private message inviting me to commit suicide. I reported it, and was told by a fellow human being that there was nothing they could do about it. And yet, this is not the first time a post has gotten wrongly flagged over a month later and I’ve been threatened with being put in Facebook jail for something completely arbitrary and stupid.
So what’s going to happen next month? Even if I am on my “best” behavior, am I going to wake up one morning in late July with a notification that something I posted weeks earlier has landed me in “jail”?
In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t really a big deal. God knows, I lived most of my life without social media and, on a daily basis, I remember those times fondly. I can just as easily read a book and watch Little House on the Prairie or something.
In other news, Arran is sulking because he wasn’t allowed to have breakfast. We’re getting his teeth cleaned today. They really need to be done because they are just caked with tartar. I know how he feels. I need to have my teeth cleaned, too. Maybe we’ll do that next month. Especially if I end up in Facebook jail and have the time for a trip to Stuttgart.
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