book reviews, narcissists, politics, religion

Reviewing Off the Deep End: Jerry and Becki Falwell and the Collapse of an Evangelical Dynasty, by Giancarlo Granda and Mark Ebner…

As many of my regular readers know, I was born and raised in Virginia. I grew up in the Hampton Roads area, in the shadow of Pat Robertson’s Christian empire, and both of my parents are/were from the Shenandoah Valley, near where the late televangelist Jerry Falwell reigned before his death in 2007. Falwell was one of the mightiest pillars of the city of Lynchburg, where he based his ministry and Liberty University, the enormous evangelical school he co-founded in 1971 with Elmer L. Towns.

Not being a very religious person myself, I never gave a thought to attending Liberty University when it was time for me to choose a college. I did know people who went there, though, and I ended up going to school at Longwood College (now Longwood University), which is about a 45 minute drive east of Lynchburg. When I was in college, I remember passing Liberty University as I drove through Lynchburg, a city where I still have many distant relatives I’ve never met, on my way to Rockbridge County, where my grandmother lived. I remember feeling a bit creeped out by the place. Strict religions have always given me the willies.

Imagine how I felt, then, a few years ago, when it came out that Liberty University’s former president, Jerry Falwell Jr., was living a lifestyle that was, in every way, against “The Liberty Way”— the strict code of conduct that students were expected to live by at all times. Falwell Jr. was in the news, as photos of him on a private yacht with a woman, pants unbuttoned, bare stomachs sticking out, as they sipped a “black liquid” of some sort. Or… when Falwell Jr. donned a face mask with a picture of former Virginia Governor Ralph Northam as a medical student in the 1980s, wearing blackface. Then came the biggest bombshell of all. Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife, Becki, were involved in a sex scandal due to their activities with a so-called former “pool boy” from Miami.

The pool boy in question, Giancarlo Granda, has now written a lurid account of his experiences with the Falwells in a book, with help from ghost writer, Mark Ebner. Although I hadn’t been closely following the news of the scandal as it was happening, I did feel compelled to read Granda’s story in Off the Deep End: Jerry and Becki Falwell and the Collapse of an Evangelical Dynasty, which was published in October 2022. I just finished reading the book this morning. It’s definitely generated some thought and discussion, as well as a few conclusions.

The first thing I want to mention about this book is that it encpasses an amazing array of players. Everyone from comedian Tom Arnold, to televangelist Paula White and her husband, Jonathan Cain (keyboardist for the band, Journey), to Netflix, to Donald Trump are mentioned in this story. And yet, Giancarlo Granda’s descent down this hypocritical hellhole started kind of innocently.

In 2012, Granda was an ambitious almost 21 year old man, working at Fontainebleau, a famed Miami hotel frequented by the stars. Granda, who wanted to pursue a career in business and make a lot of money, had taken a job as a pool attendant. It was his job to cater to wealthy guests and make sure their needs were properly attended to as they lounged in the sun. Jerry Falwell Jr. and his wife were frequent guests at the hotel, and one day, Becki spotted Giancarlo working a shift. She approached him and asked him if he’d like to get together with her for sex. Then she added that her husband would want to watch. When Giancarlo looked shocked at the suggestion, she reassured him that her husband would hide in the corner.

In that moment, Giancarlo Granda was conflicted. Becki was very alluring and charismatic, and she was stroking his ego with compliments. It was also clear they were wealthy, and it probably crossed his mind that they might reward him somehow with money or connections. But it was also a strange invitation to do something he’d never done before. Nevertheless, the intrigue won out, and the “pool boy” met the attractive middle aged woman and her husband at a nearby Days Inn, ostensibly so they wouldn’t run into trouble with hotel management, since Granda worked at the Fontainebleau. Then, it all began… about ten years worth of a sordid affair that included sex, power plays, religion, politics, and most of all, big money.

A few days ago, I wrote a post about this book. I felt compelled to write about Granda’s assertion that he and some of the other males who were roped into sex with Becki Falwell were akin to Monica Lewinsky. Personally, I don’t think he and other “fellas” have had it nearly as bad as Monica did. However, there are some similarities in their situations, as even before Giancarlo found out who Jerry Jr. and Becki were, there was an obvious imbalance of power. They were clearly a wealthy couple, staying at an expensive hotel, and he was a guy working hard for tips so that someday, he might hope to live a lifestyle like theirs. And he was a young man, in his sexual prime, being invited into bed with a fit, beautiful, cougar. So he said yes to Becki, and that was a terrible mistake… Or was it?

Granda’s story is extremely convoluted, but if you have any interest in learning about narcissism and power plays, Off the Deep End makes for fascinating reading. Because before long, after that first tryst at the Days Inn, Granda found himself stuck in a never ending emotional affair with the wife of the president of a hugely powerful and influential Christian university. The Falwells offered Granda money, jobs, and prestige in exchange for sexual favors, emotional stroking, loyalty, and silence. Meanwhile, thousands of students at the university Falwell was leading were being required to live their lives in a “Christian” way. No sex, no drinking, no foul language, or inappropriate dress… and they were expected to go to church and, apparently, vote for conservatives.

Liberty University is certainly not the strictest Christian college there is. I know of quite a few other schools that demand much more obedience of their students. And, thanks to Falwell Jr.’s expansion of the school’s online program, a lot of students don’t even attend Liberty in person, so they wouldn’t be expected to adhere to the school’s lifestyle codes.

Jerry Falwell Jr. clearly isn’t religious like his father was; he’s evidently more like his grandfather, Carey Falwell, who was a well known bootlegger and moonshine peddler in Lynchburg. Falwell Jr.’s brother, Jonathan Falwell, is the pastor of the family. I’m surprised he wasn’t made president, if they were going to engage in nepotism. Maybe if Jerry Falwell, Jr. had been encouraged to live life on his own terms, rather than get involved with the family business, none of this sordid stuff would have ever happened. But, honestly, I find it hard to take Liberty University seriously, especially in the wake of this scandal. For years, it was being led by a man and his wife who were evidently complete hypocrites.

As for Granda, I do have some empathy for him… however, I also think that he should take a harder look at his own responsibility in this situation. Yes, he was an ambitious and somewhat naive young man when this saga started, but he was also a legal adult, and he obviously knew better. He let his desire for sexual gratification and money get in the way of his own morality, and it led to his being “in bed with” the worst kinds of people. Of course, now he’s made a name for himself and written a book, and I did see some evidence that he learned some good lessons from this experience. But the sad thing is, I think he would have gone far, anyway, if he’d just done the right thing and not gotten involved with Becki Falwell and her husband.

As I was finishing Off the Deep End this morning, I came across a rather profound quote, pictured below…

Indeed…

Granted, at almost 21 years old, Giancarlo Granda might not have known that much about narcissists, but he did know enough not to get sexually involved with married people. Becki’s invitation gave him pause when she issued it. Like so many other people, he ignored his gut feeling and decided to go for instant gratification. And he’s been paying for that decision ever since– financially, romantically, and through a loss of self respect and personal dignity.

I do think the book is basically very well written, albeit with a number of fifty cent words that I had to look up. I’m sure that was Mark Ebner’s doing– kind of a way of showing off an advanced vocabulary. I’m all for developing one’s vocabulary, but I suspect that many people would not bother to look up some of the fancy words he uses, which will mean that they likely won’t get the full meaning of his writing.

I also thought the beginning of the book was a bit long winded and dull, although after the first few chapters, the tale does get very juicy and interesting… before it becomes disgusting and infuriating. As I was finishing reading, I looked at Bill with new gratitude and told him I was so glad to be with a man who is so normal and decent. Money and power are exciting things, but they are also craved by the worst kinds of people… some of whom claim to be followers of Jesus Christ as they do many distinctly unChristlike things.

Anyway… if you want to read the book, below is the link. I’m not sorry I read it, but it also makes me glad I never considered attending Liberty University. Yuck.

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

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complaints, condescending twatbags, narcissists, scams

Apparently, she’s playing social worker now…

The featured photo was taken May 10, 2002… the day I earned dual master’s degrees in social work and public health. Fair warning about this post… it’s probably going to come across as rude and offensive to some readers, because I’m “processing” again. Read with caution after the first two paragraphs. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I am a little disappointed in myself today. It’s already almost 11:00 AM and I’m still sitting here in my nightie, listening to an old Conway Twitty song, and typing a blog post. I had such big plans for the holiday weekend. There are so many places around Wiesbaden that we haven’t yet explored. But we’re not doing that right now, because while we were having breakfast, Bill complained about how “shaggy” his hair is. And looking at it, I had to agree, his look was missing a certain sharpness. It had been awhile since his last haircut. I can cut his hair, but I don’t do as good of a job as the barber does.

So Bill went off to get a trim, and I’ve been migrating more music to my newer computer. I’ve been a bit surprised this morning. I had no idea how much Ella Fitzgerald I had in my collection– well over 700 songs! Ella was born in Newport News, Virginia, which is right next to where I was born, in Hampton, Virginia. I think that’s kind of cool. She was such a wonderful singer. I can’t say she’s one of my idols, but I sure do admire her a lot.

So anyway, it’s been awhile since I last upbraided my husband’s ex wife. She’s been pretty quiet lately, and I’ve had other things on my mind. I was actually thinking that maybe she decided to get off social media, but nope. She’s back on Twitter. And I couldn’t help but notice that, once again, she’s showing off her false persona to the masses. This time, she’s acting like a social worker.

Someone on Twitter was lamenting about being 45 years old and having to take care of both of her aging parents. The original poster shared a photo of herself looking really tired, yet still quite beautiful. She posted that she was having to take care of mother’s most intimate needs and is now exhausted.

Ex, in her attempt to fool everyone with her fake caring facade, posted this…

You absolutely must get home health care immediately or you will lose your sanity from lack of proper rest. I know you love themโ€ฆ but you cannot be their o my caregiver. Medicaid is another option to get assistance. Check with your local area agency and they can help, too! (she ended her advice with a couple of heart smilies)

All I can do is shake my head at this shit. Last year, she tried to get my husband’s stepmother to move in with her. I know she’s “hosted” her mother and her husband’s mother, too. And she has a “severely autistic” son, as well as two more “children” she claims are autistic and need her. Ex’s youngest child, by the way, will be 17 years old this year. But she doesn’t actually take care of any of these folks. It’s left to her adult daughters, especially to include older daughter, who will be 32 years old this year and still lives with Ex. She takes care of her brother. I get the impression that Ex just sits on her ass and watches Outlander.

Granted, I’m not there to see this in person. However, I have a pretty good idea of what goes on, because for years, I’ve heard about it from very reliable sources. I think Ex has a lot of nerve playing social worker/advocate to people on Twitter, when she doesn’t do fuck all for her own family! She just pays lip service about being there for her family. It’s a facade, and one that she only trots out to strangers. The people who actually live with her never see this kind, loving, wise side. She just tells them to figure everything out for themselves and then does her best to sabotage them and hinder their progress.

I probably wouldn’t be writing about this today, except we were reminded once again of how Ex insisted that she was the better parent and knew best… and yet my husband’s younger daughter had to find her own way to college out west. Younger daughter left home with two suitcases and nothing else. No money, no dishes of her own, no sheets for the bed… NOTHING. And if not for the intervention of a kind family from her church, she would not have been able to move out on her own. The way younger daughter tells it, the family arranged this without her input. They saw she had a need and fulfilled it. She never even asked them for that help. The fact that the family did that for her, tells me that Ex was acting in an obviously dysfunctional way in public.

Ex didn’t even want younger daughter to get a job when she was in her late teens. She did nothing to teach her about how to find work and make her own money. Instead, Ex made younger daughter get a GED, take online college courses for the financial aid (the excess of which she ripped off for herself and left younger daughter to repay), and never taught her the first thing about the world of paid employment. Learning how to earn money for one’s self is a basic life skill. Ex failed to teach it. And younger daughter frequently worked for free, doing babysitting and other jobs.

I remember back in 2006, Bill paid child support for Ex’s eldest son, who is her first husband’s child. He was an adult at the time– 18 years old. Ex was the one who had drawn up the divorce papers, and she had put in the language about Bill paying support until the kids were 22 years old, unless they met certain conditions. He paid for former stepson, but then it later became clear that the young man was just using Bill for money. Bill had planned to pay support for his daughters, too, but Ex– having seen how her son moved out with the money Bill was paying him directly– realized that would give her daughters too much autonomy. And she also knew Bill would not pay her directly anymore, once the kids were over 18. So she made it impossible for Bill to contact them, and then did her damnedest to clip their wings.

I can only sit here and shake my head in awe at younger daughter’s incredible resilience. She is a very kind and thoughtful person, and she obviously impressed people, because some folks from her church in New England helped her by “hiring” her to be a nanny in Utah. They paid for her to go on vacation with them and help with their kids– and the end of their vacation ended at just about the time school out west started. The church angels gave her some money, wished her luck, and friends helped her get from Utah to Idaho, where her college was. The whole thing was basically a ruse to free her from Ex’s clutches, so she could go to college.

Younger daughter showed up at her school with nothing to set her up for success. EX DIDN’T DO A GODDAMNED THING FOR HER OWN DAUGHTER! And she wouldn’t let Bill do anything for younger daughter, either. By that point, Ex had quit communicating with Bill and was doing her best to obliterate him from his daughters’ memories. Bill would have been there in person to buy things like sheets, dishes, and school supplies. Now, here Ex is on Twitter, playing the part of a kindly social worker for strangers, advising them on elder care and Medicaid. What complete bullshit!

I know some people will read this objectively and think Bill is at fault, too. And I wouldn’t necessarily blame them for coming to that conclusion. I wish to God Bill had never met her, let alone married and procreated with her. I wish I had been his first and only wife. I would have done so much better by his daughters. I wish we could have taken her to court and insisted on a change in custody when they were kids.

But the circumstances at the time made it seem impossible. There was no money for lawyers, nor the ability to take time off work to go to court. What sucks even more about this is that people tend to think that the parent who has custody is the better parent. It ain’t necessarily so. Bill absolutely would have been a better parent to his daughters than Ex was, because he has the capacity to love, and he genuinely cares about them. Ex only cares about herself.

I’m just glad that at least younger daughter will talk to Bill now. I’m glad he can help her now. Wish her older sister would get out on her own instead of giving her best years to her mother, doing the household chores, and taking care of Ex’s youngest kid.

It blows my mind that Ex feels so free offering kindly advice to people on Twitter, when she won’t even help her own children take care of their most basic needs. She didn’t even teach them the most basic life skills, like how to earn money. Like it or not, people need money to live. But Ex didn’t want her kids to have money, because money equals power… including the power to walk away. Thank God there were good people in the LDS church (which was another one of Ex’s ideas) who saw what was happening and were moved to help younger daughter.

This is narcissism. Ex could be the poster child for it.

I just needed to get that out. Maybe it’s not appropriate for me to be writing about this, but it really does gall me, and this is how I process it. I truly don’t care if what I write is embarrassing to Ex. Abusers thrive in secrecy. I suppose some of Ex’s egregious bullshit is down to legitimate mental illness. However, I think she knows very well that her conduct is wrong… because she doesn’t show the ugly side of herself to the masses. Her public persona is not what the people closest to her see.

You know, I realize that I’m not the most likable person myself, but at least what you see is what you get. I would not blame younger daughter for being extremely bitter, and yet she somehow manages to stay kind and genuinely caring. She’s like Bill in so many ways.

Sigh… rant over. I probably should go read my latest book for some new subject matter. If you managed to read this and maintain some objectivity, thank you for putting forth the effort. I appreciate it.

For you, Ex. Because your daughter is way too kind to do it.

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celebrities, controversies, music, YouTube

Casting my “Angel Eyes” downward on Good Friday…

I’ve been reading some rather disturbing headlines this week… Lots of people are claiming to be Christians, but they aren’t acting in a very Christ-like manner. I’ve written about this phenomenon a few times… and I always feel a little strange when I do so, because I’m not a particularly religious person myself.

I guess it just perplexes me when I see so-called Christians in a fear fueled war on people, simply because they’re different in some way. I don’t understand issues surrounding gender identity. I truly don’t. I am a woman, and I have always identified as such. I feel fortunate that I’m so comfortable in my own skin. I can’t really sympathize with someone who identifies as transgender, but I can try to empathize. It must be a very complicated problem to have, especially in today’s very polarized world.

There is a difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is an expression of caring that is often more about pity, while empathy is more about compassion and understanding. I can’t know how it feels to be transgender, but I can try to have compassion for someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with their “assigned sex” and is more at ease presenting in another way.

I don’t know much about the current controversy surrounding Anheuser-Busch’s decision to use a transgender model for their latest advertising campaign. Although I once worked for Anheuser-Busch, when it owned Busch Gardens, I haven’t been a consumer of their products in at least a couple of decades. So, even without the current controversy, I wouldn’t be buying their beer. I live in a place where vastly superior beer is readily available. In fact, if I want to buy Anheuser-Busch beers, I have to go on post, and I’d pay more for the privilege of drinking inferior beer.

Travis Tritt is a conservative “artist” who says he’s boycotting Anheuser-Busch products at his shows because Anheuser-Busch used transgender activity Dylan Mulvaney in an ad campaign. He thinks that his boycott will make a difference. I respect Travis’s talent, but I think his efforts are misguided and polarizing, and while I don’t know what his beliefs are, I’d say that if he claims to be a Christian, he’s not acting in a very Christ-like fashion. Ditto to Kid Rock, who is similarly banning certain beers from his concerts. What a couple of tools.

This reminds me of how, back in 2003, supposed “freedom loving” conservatives boycotted The Dixie Chicks (as was their name at the time) because they publicly announced their disdain for former President George W. Bush. The Dixie Chicks responded by changing their name and their style of music. Honestly, fuck these conservative Christian rightwing zealots! They are enormous hypocrites! If you love freedom, and you consider yourself a Christian, trying to silence people and ruin their livelihoods isn’t in keeping with those values.

I’m tempted to go buy some Bud Light, just because I’m disgusted by so-called Christians and far right conservatives being hateful and bigoted. It’s all because they’re terrified of evolution and change, and the idea that not everything is black or white. And honestly, what the hell difference does it make who’s modeling for Anheuser-Busch?

Why hate on someone simply because of their gender identity? Why boycott a product simply because a transgender model is promoting it? If you’re secure with yourself and your own identity, I don’t see why the model is any threat to you? I really don’t get it.

Frankly, I’m just happy to see a live person is being employed as the model instead of some artificial intelligence generated thing. It’s getting more and more difficult to tell what talent is real, and what’s not anymore.

Anyway, since it’s Good Friday, and we’re about to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, I think I’ll just ponder on this crazy bullshit for another day. This morning, I feel like recording something kind of moody and jazzy, to match the rainy weather. The song “Angel Eyes” has little to do with this post. I just feel like recording it. Why does YouTube always pick me mid high note for the stills? I look like I’m having an orgasm.

Angel Eyes…

Hope you all enjoy your Friday. I’m going back to bed so I can do some more reading.

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art, controversies, modern problems, musings

“Legitimate artists” and the value of their work…

Welcome to Sunday, y’all. I’m going to try to keep today’s post short, simple, and non-controversial. Yesterday’s post was a rant, because I was really angry and emotional for a lot of reasons. I’m less so today, because when it comes down to it, some people just aren’t worth the energy. Or, at least to me they aren’t. Maybe they are worth the energy to others. I’m sure plenty of people wish I’d drop dead. Other people think I’m incredible. It’s kind of like art, right? What one person likes, another person hates. There’s no accounting for taste.

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos about so-called constitutional “auditors”. These are people who get involved in police interactions as a means of testing their knowledge of the laws and finding out if they respect rights outlined in the Constitution. I see there are Brits who also do these videos.

Personally, I don’t think I’d want to do that kind of stuff, even for YouTube, because I don’t enjoy unnecessary or unpleasant confrontations with people. However, I do think the videos are interesting and informative. They’re also very popular, as I’ve noticed a lot of people are making them. I’m sure the auditing videos make it harder to be a cop, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Some police officers do get off on power trips and need to be brought back down to Earth.

Today’s post isn’t about those videos. Rather, I would like to address an attitude that I saw promoted by an officer in Richmond, Virginia. An auditor confronted him and said he was an “independent journalist”. And the cop basically made some snarky, dismissive comment about how the journalist was just going to put something up on YouTube.

The guy on the far right in the glasses basically dismissed the person who made this video. He doesn’t see the value in the auditor’s creations.

As a blogger and occasional music creator, I’ve often run into the dismissive attitude demonstrated by the cop. A lot of people don’t think what I do is “legitimate”.

Former tenant, who was stalking my blogs for four plus years before she departed this life on her own terms, once made a very disrespectful private comment to me about what I do. In retrospect, it was not surprising to me that she had secretly harbored a disdainful opinion of me, as she was monitoring my activities and, apparently, reporting my activities to our former landlady, as she also insisted on her privacy being respected. I found her discounting attitude disappointing, hypocritical, short-sighted, and depressingly typical.

Former tenant claimed that she didn’t see any value in what I do, yet she was apparently watching me obsessively. Obviously, there was some value in my activities, if only that she and ex landlady and ex landlady’s daughter could sit around, gossip, and laugh about it, right? At the very least, they got intel from it… or insight… or maybe even something to talk or laugh about that might have even made them feel better about themselves.

Former tenant had once claimed that she liked reading about our adventures and seeing photos, especially of the old neighborhood she and her husband had lived in before they abruptly moved mid tour. If that’s the truth, then there was value in my blog posts about my activities. If it wasn’t the truth, I guess she was lying to me, as she was sanctimoniously lecturing me about my occasionally “problematic” content. Or… she wasn’t lying, but just wanted to be mean to me because she thought it was her place to define what constitutes creative pursuits. She didn’t see the value in what I was doing, and didn’t have the integrity to just go away and leave me alone. It didn’t occur to her that maybe other people valued my “work”, and they get a vote, too.

This morning, I noticed that Janis Ian was on a tear about the author, Flannery O’Connor. She had recently used one of O’Connor’s quotes as her “quote of the day”. People in the comment section were up in arms about it, because Flannery O’Connor had some objectionable personal beliefs that many modern audiences would find distasteful or just plain wrong.

This quote apparently caused a bit of a shitstorm.

Janis Ian claims that she doesn’t support censorship, and she writes that we should separate artists’ personal lives with their works. This is what she posted on her Facebook page:

Re the discussion about Flannery O’Connor’s work, a note of clarification – I wouldn’t have intervened if the discussion had centered around her work. However, it quickly became involved in personalities (mostly hers), her letters, her journals. Those were not her work. Her work lies in the short stories and novels she left us.

As an artist, I will always stress that there is a marked difference between the life of an artist, and an artist’s work. Discounting or banning an artist, or refusing to engage with that artist’s work, because you disagree with their personal life, politics, or behavior, is something I find absurd.

Like every artist I know, I hope to live up to the best of my work – and know I never will. What do I want my art, and that of artists I admire, to do when someone experiences it? I want them to feel elevated. I want them to have cause to think, and reflect, and be moved, for good and for bad. Mostly, I want to make them FEEL something.

I believe most artists think this way, though it might not be conscious.

I won’t change the words of another artist to suit the times, or peoples’ perception of what is hurtful to them. I am resolutely against changing a single word or image or movement in any piece of art; instead, I expect people to take it in context, look at it historically, be educated by parents, teachers, and themselves (indeed, educating yourself is an obligation, IMHO, because most people don’t have the luxury of parents, teachers, society teaching them all they need to know).

If you are on this page, keep in mind that civility is expected. Snarky comments are removed and, after a certain point, that profile is blocked. Rudeness is not tolerated and yes, I define what is rude. And co-opting a quote to discuss an author’s personal beliefs because you disagree with them is not okay.

The QOTD (Quote of the Day) is for discussion. Not whether the author or their views are likeable.

In the spirit of the discussion, then, I found this interesting article on line. https://dspace.calstate.edu/…/121/completethesis.pdf…

A good and absorbing (though long) read for anyone interested in O’Connor and her work.

Additionally, as someone pointed out, there is a huge difference between “racism” and “prejudice”. For what it’s worth.

I have written about Janis Ian a few times on this blog. I want to make it clear that I highly respect her as an artist. She’s written and sung some beautiful songs. I think she’s smart and funny, and she deserves all of the accolades she gets. However, I also think that sometimes, she’s quite hypocritical. She writes in the above post that she doesn’t support changing artistic works to suit the tastes of modern audiences. But then, she also lays down very strict rules about what people can post as a response.

Janis Ian writes that she doesn’t see Flannery O’Connor’s letters or journals as artistic works. However, there are many artists and academics who would beg to disagree with her. Personally, I disagree, because I know there’s an element of creativity in blogging. There’s also creativity involved in writing letters. Maybe it’s not the same significance as writing a novel or composing music, but it’s still a work of art, in a sense.

I’m very proud of some of my blog posts. I wrote one a couple of years ago that I reread this morning. It was titled “The Red Scare”. It started off being about how, back in 1981, people were terrified of a Soviet invasion. By the end, I had segued into a discussion of puberty, with a dash of musical theater. It sounds like the parts wouldn’t connect, and yet they did. I thought it was a really creative and interesting post, although it’s definitely not one of my most popular. My most popular posts tend to be about true crime, which I find a lot less creatively challenging.

I’m sure someone like Janis Ian wouldn’t find what I do very significant, artistic, or creative. Hell, the troll on RfM yesterday took a big dump on my post about Arran. And yet, that incident inspired yesterday’s blog post. At this point, it has just one “like” and five hits, and yet I’m rather proud of it. I like the title, and letting my feelings out in a rant can be very liberating, and even fun.

I was legitimately angry and upset when I wrote that post, and yet I don’t regret writing it. Maybe someone out there in Internetland can relate to it. Maybe it would even change someone’s life. I will never know. A few people did tell me that my video tribute for Arran made them cry. That accounts for something, doesn’t it? Isn’t the point of putting stuff out there to make someone think, or feel something, or maybe even change in some way? Isn’t that what art on all levels is about?

A person named Laurel left a comment for Janis that I found very interesting:

The Tennessee Williams Estate agrees with you. When we staged 2 of his one act plays, we asked about updating the word he used to refer to black people, and were told no, and that if any actor chose to replace that term with a more modern one, the production would be fined for any instance of a changed word. They felt the term was appropriate in the time the play was written, and carefully chosen for the overall “lyrical” flow of the various passages. And I personally did not disagree with their choice or their reasoning. 

Art is not necessarily meant to comfort; it is more often meant to disrupt thought patterns, open minds, and sometimes even disturb for effect. Creators often edit numerous times to find the perfect word to fit THEIR visions. If it disturbs you, well maybe that was the intent.

And yes, an artist and that artist’s art are 2 very different things. Most artists are imperfect. Their art may reflect that.

Apparently, Laurel then left a couple of follow up comments that Janis didn’t like. She wrote this:

“tone it down. I’m hiding both your responses.”

So… Janis Ian doesn’t see all writing as “artistic” or creative. But then another commenter wrote this, and Janis heartily approved:

“there is a huge difference between “racism” and “prejudice”. 50+ years ago in Dallas a friend of Mexican descent taught me the difference between: bigotry (racism), prejudice and discrimination. He spoke from experience. I’ve shared his wisdom many times since then. It has helped me put a lot of things in perspective. Mainly: we all have prejudices (in favor and against many things); we can legislate against discrimination (an action) but unfortunately not bigotry (a belief).

Janis wrote: “so stealing…”

The commenter misunderstood Janis and wrote, “sorry I missed the mark there. Your last comment in your post took me off on a nostalgia tour. Thanks for the memory – I’ll try to do better in the future.”

Janis clarified, “I’m not sure what you’re referring to? I’m stealing what you posted, to use later!”

And the commenter wrote, “lol. I get confused so easily any more. Feel free to “steal”.

From that exchange, I take that sometimes Facebook comments can be “works of art”. Or, at least they can be so good that Janis Ian wants to “steal” them to use later. But someone else writes something that she doesn’t like, or uses a “tone” that she alone finds objectionable, and then it has no value and “censorship” is okay.

The troll who left me the mean spirited comment on RfM yesterday really hurt my feelings and, I’m sure, meant to make me feel terrible. Or, at the very least, they didn’t care about my feelings, even though it was clear that I was mourning a huge loss and expressing myself on a “recovery site”. Make no mistake about it. I still think that person is a massive fuckwad and I’d happily fantasize about rendering them sterile with a well placed drop kick to the gonads.

But, at the same time, that person’s mean comments provided fuel for yesterday’s post… which some people may value on some level, even if it’s just to laugh at me for making the effort to write it. Also, it’s not lost on me that some people might have agreed with that person’s very mean comments. So maybe I shouldn’t have reported them. In fact, I could have probably turned that person’s post into a plea for sympathy and gotten even more views on Arran’s video… if that was my ultimate goal. It wasn’t my goal, by the way. I don’t share things just to get likes or views.

When it comes to published works, I agree with Janis Ian that it’s wrong to “edit”. In fact, I don’t like cancel culture at all. I think people should have the right to decide for themselves what is, or what is not objectionable to them and vote with their wallets. I also think that people should have the right to make their own rules in their own houses, so to speak. At the same time, there does seem to be a level of hypocrisy in the idea that some “offensive” writing is okay, and some isn’t. And some things are “art”, and some things aren’t.

So far as some people’s ideas of what is, and what is not “offensive”, is somehow better than other people’s ideas are… well I think that’s how we end up with extremist loudmouth assholes like Donald Trump in the White House. People don’t like to be told what they can or can’t say, think, or believe. They will vote for those whom they think will protect their right to be an asshole.

I do kind of like how Janis handled this person, though…

Vote with your feet… or your wallet. But you’re not always going to be able to do that, so getting all high and mighty about what people like or dislike is kind of futile… and hypocritical.

Meh… well, I guess I’m glad that most people don’t value what I do. I don’t think I’d want people to “expect more from me”, just because I made a living creating things. Everybody’s human, and everybody’s shit stinks. Whether it’s former tenant being rude and dismissive about my creative pursuits, while also obsessively stalking me… or Janis Ian telling people not to judge artists by their personal lives or support censoring them, as she censors and steals people’s posts… or commenters feeling that their decision not to buy things made in China as they also pay taxes to governments that have policies that harm people… Or a cop thinking an “independent journalist” isn’t a “real” journalist, and there’s no value in what they do… Some people would beg to disagree, right?

And some people think that in order to be “legitimate” as an artist, one must be formally employed by someone else. Some of those independent journalists on YouTube are actually making enough money to live on, though.

People are always going to be offensive and inappropriate on some level. Sometimes, I’ll admit I get upset about stuff, but then it leads to a good rant that might make people think or feel… or even just laugh. I think as long as people learn and grow from their experiences, that should be our focus. I think we should all keep creating, whether or not someone else thinks it’s a valid pursuit, or the creator is a “decent person” whose views should be promoted.

But isn’t it nice that we can still disagree? For now, anyway. And isn’t it nice when people are doing something constructive with their time? It reminds me of the trash scavengers/dumpster divers in Texas who raided people’s trash for metal they could turn in for money. To them, that was a job that actually helped them keep the lights on, even if some of us didn’t appreciate them rifling through trash we were throwing out, just so they could make a living off our discards. Some people think certain art is “trash”. Other people think that same art is “brilliant”.

And no matter what you might think of what I do, I still think of myself as a writer and a singer. You gotta start somewhere, right? Lots of people like me didn’t become “legitimate” until they were already dead. Think about it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

ETA: So much for keeping this post short and non-controversial. Oh well.

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celebrities, communication, overly helpful people, rants, social media

The utter futility of trying to direct conversations on social media…

Last night, after our “mandatory fun” party in Mainz, Bill and I were on our way home, and I noticed a Facebook post by singer-songwriter Janis Ian. To be totally frank, I probably shouldn’t follow her. I like her music and respect her talent, but I often find her abrasive and hypocritical to her followers. A year ago, I even posted about this… The below status update is from me on February 11, 2022.

I was annoyed because Janis Ian had wished Roberta Flack a happy birthday, and one of her followers called her out for being kind of ageist. Janis responded by insulting the woman who had chastised her. Granted, the woman’s comments were kind of annoying. Basically, she was upset because Janis wrote that Roberta was “85 years young” instead of “85 years old”. The woman wrote that using “young” instead of “old” in that context was offensive. Janis, who often requests that her followers be civil and respectful, responded in a way that I thought was pretty rude.

A couple of my friends weighed in on my observation. I see I also blogged about this incident a year ago.

However… I can see why Janis gets irritated. She is the master of her social media presence. Lots of people follow her. She makes requests that they conduct themselves in a certain way. People ignore her. That is very annoying. It happens to me, too. And when you have kind of an “artistic temperament”, it can be even more annoying. Creative people often have issues with mental health problems, learning disabilities, trauma, or any other manner of challenges to their psyches. I’m not saying ALL artistic/creative people are like this, but if you look at the people of the world who have talents in the arts, you find that they tend to experience some things on a more intense level.

I can be pretty cranky sometimes (especially when I’m hungry). I have a sister who’s an artist and can be extremely cranky and snippy, too. I’m sure there are even tempered artists in the world… but I haven’t met a whole lot of them. And I can see why Janis gets annoyed when she specifically posts about something and clearly points out the conversation she hopes to have, and people don’t bother to read before they comment, or they just flat out ignore her.

Below is last night’s post, which apparently caused Ms. Ian to sigh a lot…

When I stumbled across this post, all but one of the comments were about Madonna’s distorted face. Janis wanted to have a discussion about the “Nazi” looking outfit Madonna was wearing. Personally, it looks less “Nazi” to me than Dominatrix. But I didn’t watch the Grammys, so I didn’t really see it in context. This also isn’t a subject about which I personally care that much. I would rather talk about Madonna’s tragically bad surgery, frankly. I didn’t comment on Ms. Ian’s post, though. It was more interesting to see how many people ignored Janis’s comments about Madonna’s outfit and just wanted to talk about her age and her bad cosmetic surgery/Botox attempts.

Below are some comments people made, along with Janis Ian’s rather peevish “cut and paste” retort. I’m not going to edit the names out, because Janis’s page is public, and you can easily go to the post and see this for yourselves.

And this was Janis’s frustrated comment, beseeching people to read more carefully before they comment. On this, I agree with her. I get annoyed when people chime in before reading, too.

I think most people are in such a hurry nowadays. They don’t take time to read and digest before they offer a view. That can be very frustrating to other people, especially those who have a bent toward leadership. Maybe it would be more effective if Janis Ian wrote a song about this topic. People might listen more carefully then, although some would probably still misinterpret. Besides, Janis has said she can’t sing anymore. Or, at least she can’t sing and sound like “herself”.

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about something I read in the Irish Times. It was about a woman who got very publicly fat shamed at a restaurant. Although I have experienced that kind of shaming myself, and could relate to the post because I’ve been where the author was, that post wasn’t about me. I wasn’t looking for advice, consolation, or anything of that nature. I simply wanted to have a discussion about what happened to that woman, in that article. But I did get a comment with advice for me…

I thought it was a little ironic, since the commenter mentioned how annoying it is to get unsolicited advice, particularly about something as personal as one’s weight. And yet, there was unsolicited advice in the comment. I kind of felt like the point of the post was entirely lost… which was a little discouraging. Perhaps the answer is to write very short posts with simple sentences to discourage skimming.

On the other hand… as annoying as this particular phenomenon is, I don’t think it’s ever going to go away. People are often going to miss the point because they aren’t necessarily focused on the person who sends them messages. They are focused on themselves, and their reactions. Or they feel like they should be “helpful”, even if no one is asking for assistance. Sometimes, all that’s wanted is just a simple discussion.

I feel like that’s an easier thing to request on a blog than on Facebook. Certainly, it’s easier to request that on this platform, which has maybe a couple hundred visitors a day, than Janis Ian’s Facebook page. She has many thousands of followers from many different walks of life, cultures, and countries. So many different perspectives are represented. I think it’s a lot to expect people to respond in exactly the “right” way. But I understand that the desire for that is still there… It probably feels a bit like pissing into the wind.

Well, I think I will wrap up this post. My new VESA monitor arm is here. Time to see if I can get the new computer up and running. The one I’m typing on now… possibly for the last time on this blog… has been annoying me all morning. But I do hope this post gives people some food for thought. I agree that trying to direct conversations on social media is very difficult or impossible. Maybe it’s like herding cats. But I also agree that people should read and think for a moment before they post. Chiming in without thinking first is often unwelcome and, frankly, kind of insulting and rude. However, I also know that most of the time, that kind of thing is actually more of a thoughtless action than anything else. It has a lot to do with people’s own egos on both sides.

I still think I need to unfollow Janis, though. I did unfollow a couple of other problematic public figures this week. Who knows? Maybe that will result in cheerier blog posts from yours truly.

Edited to add… the expensive VESA arm I bought was a complete piece of junk. Bill and I wasted a couple of frustrating hours trying to get it to function. I have ordered another one. It was significantly less expensive and, I hope, much more functional. Meanwhile, I have had a new computer for days now, and I can’t fucking use it yet.

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