blog news, home, musings

One hit wonders in the blogosphere…

Good Thursday to you all. Bill arrived home yesterday afternoon, just as I was baking a refrigerator clearing casserole. You know the kind, right? When you have a bunch of stuff in your fridge that needs to be used up before it rots, you think of creative ways to use the stuff. In yesterday’s case, I made an Italian inspired baked pasta dish of sorts.

I boiled half a bag of penne pasta, then cooked the last bit of breakfast sausage and a little bacon, added some peppers and a smidge of onions and garlic, then added tomato sauce and cheese. I mixed all of that stuff together with some basil and oregano, and a little dash of cayenne pepper. Then I threw the mixture into my cast iron pot, sprinkled with cheese, and baked it. It turned out very nicely, and was ready just as Bill was changing his clothes.

Last night, we put a new mattress topper on the bed. I don’t know what got into me last month. I decided I was tired of waking up with a sore back, so I ordered a new foam rubber topper, which I figured would be better than the featherbed we have. It took a lot to decide which one to buy, but after the first night, I can say that my back was not nearly as achy this morning. I also put the featherbed on it, mainly because I don’t have anywhere to put it.

The new topper and featherbed makes the bed very tall. Arran was already having difficulty when the bed was made up with the duvet. Now, it’s impossible for him to jump up there by himself. I ordered him some steps yesterday, although I don’t know how long he’ll get to use them. The vet found another mass on him yesterday. But again… he’s still bright eyed and hungry, so we’ll keep taking care of him. I’m sure the steps will come in handy again eventually.

I also ordered some new lighting for my office and the bedroom, after watching Katie Wenger on Meet the Wengers yesterday. Her daughter has this really cool night light that lights the room up with stars. I never had a night light when I was a child, but my former friend did. I didn’t like them back then, but as an adult I can now see their value. And I like the idea of stars on the ceiling without actually having to use glow in the dark stickers. 😉

Now… what’s today’s title about?

Lately I’ve been getting a lot more blog traffic. Once again, it’s because someone must have shared my post about Amber and Daniel Carter. Most of the traffic is going to those two posts, the first of which happened to come up because I watched a French documentary about the “half-housed” in the United States. The second post in which I mentioned Amber was after someone left me a comment wanting an update. I don’t actually know anything about Amber or Daniel Carter, other than what’s available online. I have no connection with that case. I’m just as curious as everyone else is. Actually, I’m less so, because I’ve long since moved on from that post. People are intrigued by true crime, though.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written a “one hit wonder”. I guess, technically, that doesn’t make me a one hit wonder. 😉 Nine years ago, I wrote a post on my music blog about Richard Carpenter’s daughter, Mindi Carpenter. That post, on my least popular blog, is probably far and away my most popular post, EVER. At this writing, it has well over 122,000 hits. It also has 31 comments, several of which comes from someone who INSISTS that Richard Carpenter and his wife, Mary (who is also his cousin), are closely blood related.

The official story is that Mary Carpenter was adopted, so she and Richard, though legal first cousins, have no blood ties. This person who has commented several times, insists that she was not adopted. I don’t know Richard or Mary, and as they’ve had five healthy children who are now adults, I don’t see why it’s anyone’s business if they’re blood relatives. Richard and Mary maintain that Mary was adopted. As far as I’m concerned, that should be the end of it.

I think the main reason why inbreeding is frowned upon is because of the possibility of birth defects. It’s pretty plain to me that wasn’t an issue with Richard and Mary and their children. So, honestly, who cares? They’ve been married since 1984, so obviously, the marriage works, even if some people think it’s “weird”. I say leave them alone.

The funny thing is, the original post was about Mindi Carpenter, who is a singer. I’m sure a lot of people come to the post wanting to know if Mindi sounds like her Aunt Karen. In my opinion, she really doesn’t. To me, she sounds less like a pop star with an extraordinary voice, and more like someone in musical theater. Some of the comments are about Mindi’s voice, but too many come from someone who seems obsessed with the “truth” about Richard and Mary.

I’ve noticed that post getting so many hits over the years. I wanted to try something a few years ago, when Merrill Osmond’s son, Troy, died unexpectedly. I wrote about him, and noticed my post got a lot of hits. So I wrote a post about what Troy and Mindi had in common. Sure enough… lots of hits. But then I moved my blog, and decided not to move that post… at least not at this point in time. I didn’t move it because I didn’t see the point. I had written it as an experiment. The experiment is over now.

One final post that I notice gets a lot of hits is one I wrote about Karen Carpenter and Christy Henrich. I noticed that Dr. Todd Grande on YouTube did a video about Karen Carpenter. I wondered if maybe he shouldn’t do one about Christy Henrich, since she was a fascinating person who died much too young of anorexia nervosa. Henrich, for those who don’t know, was a very promising gymnast in the 1980s. She missed the Olympic team by the tiniest of margins, and then tragically fell very ill with her eating disorders. Her story is a very sad, cautionary one… and I just thought it would make for a good topic for Dr. Grande to cover. Lots of people hit my blog to read my post about that subject, which kind of proves my theory that it would be interesting and successful. But then, I don’t know… maybe it wouldn’t. I write a lot about eating disorders, and get a lot of hits on my posts about that– and fundie Christians, too.

It always intrigues me to see what people on the Internet want to read. On my travel blog, I get tons of hits on the few posts I’ve written about nude spas. I also get a lot of hits on my posts about the differences I’ve noticed between living in Wiesbaden and Stuttgart (and there are surprisingly many). Some people also arrive wanting to read about living here as a contractor versus someone in the military. I can only offer opinions as an observant spouse with a husband who isn’t reticent about his experiences working with the military in Germany. But people are interested in those posts, too. They don’t care about my experiences on day trips or vacations. 😉 I think that’s a shame, since Bill and I have had some pretty amazing experiences.

Besides my posts on Amber Carter, this blog also gets a lot of hits on my posts about domestic discipline and corporal punishment, as well as book reviews about sex related subjects. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised… What I find interesting, most other people don’t! Story of my life!

Well… anyway, I just think it’s interesting. Obviously, people come here for the subject matter, not the writing. Maybe I should relax and stop editing as much as I do, hours or days after I post.

Oh… and I also notice where people come from. I have a surprising number of European readers, although I also get hits from the States. It always intrigues me when someone hits from a place I used to live… especially when they come from the town where I was raised from the age of eight. The other places, I didn’t live in long enough to make that much of a difference. But I still have lots of friends in Gloucester, Virginia, even if I have long since moved on from there, and so have my parents.

I didn’t get around to practicing guitar yesterday, so I think I’ll sign off now and play my instrument… maybe I’ll even do a music video. Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, so perhaps I should honor my Celtic heritage. We shall see.

Until tomorrow, y’all. Sayonara.

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condescending twatbags, law, Police, politicians, racism, safety, social media

“Let’s start properly shaming these people [for calling the police…]” Really?

Here’s one of my random “deep thoughts” pieces… I know they’re getting rarer lately. Special thanks to Wikipedia user, WanderingMogwai for use of the spotted lanternfly photo, which appears here unaltered.

A few days ago, I read articles in both the Washington Post and The New York Times about 9 year old Bobbi Wilson, a brilliant and community minded Black girl who lives in New Jersey. Last summer, Bobbi had heard about how lanternflies, an invasive species, were threatening the environment. The lanternflies, which came to the United States via China, ruin crops and damage trees.

Bobbi decided she wanted to help. So she mixed a solution of dish soap, apple cider vinegar, and water, then went out into her Caldwell, New Jersey neighborhood, resolved to spray as many of the insects as she could. The goal was to disarm them, so she could collect them in a jar, or with her mother and sister, stomp on them. Scientists and state authorities had launched a campaign, urging people to stomp on the bugs when they see them, and if possible, destroy their eggs.

Bobbi was hard at work when she was confronted by a police officer. Her next door neighbor, reportedly a White, Republican, former local councilman by the name of Gordon Lawshe, had called the non-emergency line at the local police department to report that a “real tiny Black woman” was in the neighborhood, spraying things. He said she was wearing a hood, adding, “I don’t know what the hell she’s doing,” he said. “Scares me though.”

The cop who spoke to Bobbi asked her what she was doing. She showed him her jug of solution and explained her project. The officer quickly realized that she wasn’t a threat. Bobbi’s mother, Monique Joseph, asked the police officer why he had come, and he told her that a neighbor had called about the child. Bobbi asked if she was in trouble, and the officer said, in a kind voice, “No, you’re not in trouble.”

When the officer told Lawshe was Bobbi was doing, Lawshe’s response was “What a weirdo, huh?” Lawshe later reportedly apologized to Bobbi and her mother, but now complains that he’s getting death threats.

Glad this was a relatively positive interaction with the cops…

Bobbi has recently been honored by Yale University for her work. The Yale School of Public Health also thanked Bobbi for donating her personal lanternfly collection to the university’s Peabody Museum. Dr. Ijeomi Opara, an assistant professor at Yale’s School of Public Health invited Bobbi and her family to visit Yale for a campus tour and to see Yale’s laboratories and meet other Black female scientists. Dr. Opara explained that Black children are often described as older than they are.

From The New York Times article:

Ijeoma Opara, an assistant professor of public health at Yale who also directs its Substance Abuse and Sexual Health Lab, said she found Bobbi’s story especially compelling. It closely aligned with her research interests — the impact of racism on Black girls and other children of color. It represented a phenomenon that she and other researchers have called the “adultification” of Black girls, who, they say, are more likely to be seen as more criminal and less innocent than white children.

“Often our society, we don’t view Black children as children,” Dr. Opara said. “We view them as much older than what they are. They end up getting less protected; they end up getting judged more. They end up not being forgiven for mistakes.

Dr. Opara asked her Twitter followers to help her find Bobbi in November after watching a video of her mother and older sister, Hayden, 13, speaking about Bobbi’s experience during a borough council meeting. She offered to give the family a campus tour so she could visit Yale’s labs and meet other Black female scientists — a small group on campus whose members now call themselves Bobbi’s “Yale Aunties.

In addition to the honor from Yale, Princeton, the American Museum of Natural History and a host of other universities and state and local officials have recognized Bobbi for her lanternfly solution. In July, both Wilson sisters will attend a summer research program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology on scholarships in science, technology, engineering and mathematics for young scientists.

Although this situation could have turned out tragically, Lawshe’s call to the authorities has turned into something potentially very positive and life changing, not just for Bobbi, but for other kids like her. I was very touched when I read this story. I literally had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I honestly feel very happy and proud of Bobbi, and I know she’ll go far.

But then I read some of the comments from people… I know. I know… big mistake!

The first thing I noticed was the assumption that the person who called the police must have been a “Karen”. If you read this blog regularly, you might already know how much I hate that particular pejorative. People trot it out anytime someone does something they consider overly entitled, and generally speaking, it implies that the person who’s done it is a privileged, White, middle-aged woman.

I find the term “Karen” to be pretty offensive on many levels. I mainly dislike it, though, because there are many fabulous people named Karen– male and female (Karen is a masculine name in Armenia)– who don’t deserve to have their name hijacked and turned into a catch-all synonym for a clueless, racist, entitled asshole. As we all know, people who behave in that way are not necessarily always White women of a certain age. Moreover, because it’s kind of a “quaint” name that has fallen out of fashion, its use as an insult is also kind of ageist.

The second thing I noticed was the attitude that the person who called should be “properly shamed” and harassed for calling the police. Now… don’t get me wrong. It’s pretty obvious, in this case, that Gordon Lawshe had no business calling the cops on Bobbi. She certainly wasn’t a threat to him. She clearly isn’t a “tiny woman”, either. She is a child who was doing a great thing. Moreover, Lawshe’s comments about Bobbi are very offensive. By all rights, Lawshe should be very embarrassed about his actions, but he probably isn’t. He should also be formally reprimanded in some way. I might even support a large fine for him for wasting the police officer’s time and resources.

However… I do think people should be allowed to call the police if they legitimately think they need help. The police are supposed to protect and serve. I know it doesn’t always turn out that way, particularly in situations involving people of color. But when it comes down to it, it is the role of the police to investigate when people feel like they are in danger. There should not be any shame in asking for police assistance. And police officers should not behave in a way that make the public distrust them.

I do understand that regaining the public’s trust is a big problem facing the police today, especially since a lot of them have proven they aren’t worthy. I also understand that policing is a very difficult and dangerous job. We live in a world where even children can threaten people. I noticed many people in the comment section suggesting that Mr. Lawshe should have just come outside and spoken to Bobbi himself. Many people asked, “Who’s afraid of a nine year old?”

I’d like to remind those folks that only a month ago, a six year old child shot his first grade teacher in a classroom in Newport News, Virginia. The sad reality is, we really don’t know who’s packing heat these days. Granted, the vast majority of children don’t have access to weapons, but last month’s incident is a reminder as to why some folks would rather not be confrontational, even when a situation involves a child.

Police officers see violence every day. I don’t personally know a lot of police officers, but I would imagine that repeatedly being exposed to the criminal elements of society might make them less trusting and, perhaps, even hostile toward the public. Cops have a very dangerous job. It seems natural to me that being exposed to that kind of stress on a daily basis might change who a person fundamentally is… or perhaps have a negative psychological effect on them.

I think, instead of shaming citizens for calling the police, we should be doing more to make police work safer, so that fewer police officers feel compelled to react so violently. The goal should be to reduce the number of deaths and injuries suffered by people when they encounter the police, not to stop people from asking for help when they need it. And yes, there’s also a lot of work to be done to dispel racism, too. That is a huge part of the problem.

Finally, it is never justified to send death threats to people, no matter what they’ve done. Gordon Lawshe was absolutely wrong to summon the police over what Bobbi Wilson was doing. The fact that he was an elected public official is very dismaying. Personally, I think we must hold our leaders to a much higher standard than some of us do. Both major political parties have issues with this, but lately it seems like Republican elected officials, overall, behave with less humanity than Democrats do. We should choose better leaders, and not allow people like Lawshe to get in power. His conduct, along with that of people affiliated with Donald Trump, is one reason why I don’t plan to ever cast another vote for Republicans in my lifetime.

I do think that people who feel okay about calling random folks “Karens” when they disagree with them are the worst kinds of hypocrites. Because, as they are on their moral high ground, using a proper name as an insult and encouraging shaming, they are basically stereotyping others. In this specific situation, most of the people condemning the police call by using the term “Karen” are assuming that it was a certain type of White woman “of a certain age” who harassed this child. That turned out to be untrue. So, instead of addressing the behavior, they’re busy trying to come up with a similar pejorative name for a man (some use Ken or Kevin). Since when does name calling serve a real purpose, or do anything to solve a problem?

I am absolutely delighted that Bobbi Wilson’s police encounter turned out to be so positive. She is getting the recognition she richly deserves for wanting to be helpful and caring about her community. And it’s a great thing that she is being encouraged to study science and will be mentored by high achieving Black women who work at one of the world’s most prestigious universities. I hope Bobbi never loses her drive to learn new things and be genuinely helpful to others.

I also want to commend the police officer in this situation for being kind, courteous, and extremely professional… although that should be expected of ALL police officers at all times. The cop who spoke to Bobbi Wilson is clearly a credit to his profession. Based on the huge number of police related videos I’ve been watching on YouTube, I’ve come to learn that some cops aren’t much better than the people they arrest. Cops are human, of course, but we should be striving to make all of them worthy of the trust the public puts in them. Society depends on it.

So, to recap…

People should be allowed to call the police if and when they feel they need help. The police should be expected not to hurt or kill people as they carry out their duties, unless a situation is life threatening. There is no use in having a police force if people don’t feel comfortable calling them because they might go viral.

Recent history has shown that children are not inherently safe to approach, just because they are young and small. Yes, we all should be able to talk to a child who is doing something “strange”, but if someone doesn’t feel safe in doing so, they shouldn’t be shamed for asking for help. There are a lot of guns in the United States, and some children are, sadly, getting their hands on them.

The pejorative term “Karen” is ageist and sexist, and people who use it are usually being very hypocritical, especially when they are complaining about racism. Calling someone a “Karen” is negative stereotyping, which is pretty much the crux of what makes racism such a cancer on society. It’s also lazy, uncreative, rude, and disrespectful.

Sending death threats is NEVER okay. It’s acting as judge, jury, and potentially executioner. People who send death threats should face legal consequences.

People should never use the police to harass their neighbors. Those who do should face legal consequences.

True racists or other offensive “ists” are not going to be “properly shamed” by random people on the Internet. It’s not really up to the public to do that, anyway. They should be handled by the criminal justice system, not private citizen vigilantes.

I’m really happy for Bobbi Wilson and the extraordinary opportunities she’s getting because of this disgraceful incident with her neighbor. She absolutely deserves the recognition and the honors. But I also think that it should be a given that Bobbi, or anyone else, would be basically safe in any encounter with the police. That is a goal we, as society members, should strive to achieve.

Just my opinions, y’all.

Edited to add… forty years ago today, we lost this wonderful Karen… She’d probably be sad to know that her name is now used as an insult.

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dreams, music, politicians, politics, slut shamers, social media

Strange morning dreams, and rude comments from MAGAts….

I’ve been having some interesting dreams lately. Yesterday morning, I dreamt that Richard Carpenter had quit playing music and become a dentist, and he was MY dentist. I don’t know how good Richard is at math and science, but based on his looks alone, I could totally see him as a dentist. But, because I do admire his piano skills so much, and I’m sorry I dreamt he changed careers, I decided to download a few of his solo albums. As I write this, I’m listening to this year’s Richard Carpenter’s Piano Songbook, in which he plays intricate piano instrumentals of his biggest hits with his sister, the late Karen Carpenter. And, as I write this, I realize I’m turning into my dad. This is the kind of thing he’d probably enjoy himself. He used to play Carpenters albums in the car when I was a kid. If I was lucky, that’s what he would play… otherwise, it would be straight up Muzak. Thankfully, I’m not that bad off yet. If I ever become a Muzak fan, please just put me out of my misery so I can be beamed out of this existence.

Then this morning, after I fell back to sleep after waking up at 4:00am, I had a dream that I went back to my parents’ former home and place of business in Gloucester, Virginia. Somehow, I had forgotten that they had sold it to Deborah, the lady who worked for my dad for about 20 years before he finally let her take over the business. Before Bill and I went to my old house, I dreamt we were at some kind of pond in Germany. I was standing on the shore, looking for fish. I saw a whole lot of them. One was a giant goldfish– size of a frying pan, which jumped out of the water and bit the air. A German woman standing next to me managed to get a shot of the magnificent leap. I was about to try to do the same, when all of a sudden, an iPad came flying through the air at me. It was somehow magnetized with a powerful force, causing it to stick to me and push me to the ground. I couldn’t get up.

Then, I was at my old house– Deborah’s current house– walking around, noticing how my mom’s needlework shop was full of kids’ bikes, and there was a water slide made of foam rubber cushion installed near the front porch. Just as I was about to try out the slide, I remembered it wasn’t my house. I figured we better leave, but as we were about to leave, a bunch of people showed up, claiming they were Deborah’s friends. They were an odd group– people who would be considered “weird” in many circles. I have no idea if Deborah has any friends who resembled the ones in my dream. There were also cops, and they wore black uniforms instead of the brown ones they wore when I lived in Gloucester. I should also note that Deborah, herself, was not in attendance.

That’s when I woke up for good… and I looked at Facebook on my iPad, and saw a bunch of notifications for comments people made to me last night, after I dared to post to Nancy Pelosi that I had already voted straight blue and wished her husband, Paul, a speedy recovery. Now… on the surface of it, I don’t see why this statement should have attracted rude and angry comments, and inappropriate reactions, from MAGA trolls. I don’t understand, either, why they are hanging out on Nancy Pelosi’s Facebook page, harassing her supporters and well-wishers. Even if I still voted Republican, I would wish Paul Pelosi a speedy recovery from the injuries he received at the hands of David DePape, an unhinged QAnon supporting person who broke into the Pelosis’ home and attacked her 82 year old husband with a hammer. Why wouldn’t I wish him, and his wife, well? That’s called just being a decent human being, don’t you think? He’s not in office himself. He’s just married to a high powered Democrat. No one deserves to be violently attacked, especially in their own home, but I don’t see why I should wish Paul Pelosi ill, simply because his wife is a powerful woman who pushes Democratic policies.

As for my votes, I figure I have every right as an American person over the age of 18 to choose the people I think will do the best for the country. I do not think that Republicans, especially as they are today, will do the best for America. Even if I believed that voting “red” would improve the economy and help people with their bills– and I don’t believe that, by the way– I have seen way too many people with questionable morals and narcissistic personalities running for office. Decent humans who actually care about others and want to do what is best for America are in very short supply in the Republican Party. Sorry… I just can’t align with folks like Lauren Boebert, Ron DeSantis, Marjorie Taylor (Greene), Matt Gaetz, Glenn Youngkin, Kari Lake, Greg Abbott, any Trump family member (besides Mary), or any of the other truly disgusting and hateful people who are stumping for the Republicans right now. I won’t do it, even if it means my stocks will finally go up again. Voting for decent, professional, caring people in leadership matters more to me than money does. I’ve been broke before, too… so I do know how important money is. But if bad people run the country, do you really think they will want me to hang on to money? My answer to that question is “no”.

I simply don’t believe that if the Republicans get all the power, they will make American better, let alone great. They are interested in enriching themselves and staying in power, PERIOD. So, because I have the ability to do so, and a functioning brain, I’m choosing NOT to vote for Republicans… probably ever again, if I’m honest. As a legal, law-abiding, adult American, that is MY call to make, just as it’s your call to vote for Republicans, if you want to do that. Leaving me horrible comments, especially on a Democrat leader’s Facebook page, is NOT going to change my mind. Laughing at me will only cause me to use my block button, because by laughing, you’ve shown that you don’t have any respect for me, anyway. So why would I want to read anything you post or see your profile picture? We have nothing in common.

I don’t make a habit of following social media pages made by Republicans. I don’t sit there and harass Republican voters for leaving supportive messages for their candidates. Frankly, I’ve got better things to do with my time. In fact, as an American, I believe that everyone has the right to vote their conscience. I am also smart enough to know that if I was inclined to try to change people’s political beliefs, I’d likely get further by being nice about it, rather than being insulting. Too bad some of these MAGA trolls aren’t busier making their lives more fulfilling somehow. Maybe they should go to church or something.

I totally agree with Beau on this. The Republican Party is not about helping the people. It’s about money and power, and they WILL come after yours, even if you vote for them.

I was telling Bill about my strange dreams, and he was especially interested in the one about the iPad that was so powerful that it was holding me down to the ground. What a concept! I spend too much time online, and way too much time being irritated by social media. I don’t like all liberal ideas, and would actually rather have the choice to vote for more moderate candidates who have chances to win. But I prefer liberal agendas to the truly distasteful fascism I’ve seen coming from the right wing these days. I’d rather vote for “woke” policies, even if I don’t really like the whole “woke” thing, where women have privacy and bodily autonomy, than align with people who cheer for guns as they try to force women to gestate at all costs. And as they force women to stay pregnant when they don’t want to be, can’t afford to be, or it’s not safe for them to be, they offer no solutions or support to those women, or the babies they will birth. All they do is slut shame. I think access to abortion and healthcare privacy are both very important, so I will always vote for candidates who support that. I care much more about already BORN people. The MAGA trolls can just fuck off.

I am glad to spend another year abroad. This year, on Election Day, I will see James Taylor perform. I have had tickets for his Frankfurt show for awhile now. We were going to see him in February of this year, but COVID numbers were too high then. It looks like the show will still be going on this Tuesday, and we have second row seats. This may be my last time seeing James perform in person, so I look forward to that. It will be a nice diversion from the disasters at home in the United States. Hopefully, my dreams then will be inspired by James Taylor, rather than MAGA morons.

ETA: Sadly, James Taylor had to postpone again. COVID has invaded the band.

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book reviews, celebrities, music

Repost: Two book reviews about Karen Carpenter’s life…

These two related book reviews, written for Epinions in 2007 and 2010, are both about books written about Karen and Richard Carpenter. They appear here as/is.

The almost complete Carpenters story…

The cover for the paperback version of this book. I have the hardcover edition.

For years I’ve enjoyed listening to music by Richard and the late Karen Carpenter, popularly known as The Carpenters. The Carpenters will forever be known for their ability to create and cover 70s era pop confections like “Top Of The World”, “Close To You”, and “Superstar”. Richard Carpenter provided his considerable arranging talents and piano playing. Karen Carpenter contributed her unforgettable voice. Together, the Carpenters were a musical force who reached fame and fortune while they were still in their 20s.

In April 1994, the late Ray Coleman published an authorized biography called The Carpenters: The Untold Story. I was quick to purchase a hardcover copy of this book and I’ve read it several times. Unfortunately, it seems that Coleman’s very comprehensive and informative biography is no longer in print. Nevertheless, I think it’s a must read for anyone who is interested in the Carpenters’ careers.

Coleman includes brief information about Karen and Richard Carpenters’ ancestry and childhood, as well as information about the time they spent in New Haven, Connecticut before they moved to Downey, California to pursue their music careers. The biography continues with the story of how the Carpenters were discovered, their meteoric rise to fame, and Karen’s and Richard’s legendary demons. Karen Carpenter was, of course, afflicted with anorexia nervosa, whereas Richard developed a drug addiction which led to a stay at the Meninger Clinic in Kansas. There are two photo sections with pictures of the Carpenters as kids and adults. There’s even a copy of an essay Karen Carpenter wrote for school.

The Carpenters’ story has been told and retold by different sources. The television movie The Karen Carpenter Story was shown for the first time in 1989. There is also an independent unauthorized film called Superstar available, which was made with Barbie dolls. Check out YouTube and you’ll find plenty of news and interview clips documenting the rise and fall of the Carpenters. In my mind, Coleman’s book is the only source that really provides a glimpse into who Karen and Richard Carpenter were as people. Although this book was written with the Carpenter family’s cooperation, it doesn’t cast the family in a perfect light. Though Karen had the voice of an angel, she didn’t always behave like one, especially when it came to Richard’s love life. And Richard Carpenter, talented as he is, also comes across as a bit stodgy and demanding.

This is not a short book, but I always enjoy reading it; Ray Coleman had a way with words. The only drawbacks I can think of are that this book is not as easy to find as it once was and the story ends in 1994. Richard Carpenter is still around, having married his cousin Mary Rudolph (she was the adopted daughter of his aunt) in 1984 and fathered five children. He still performs and he’s always tweaking the Carpenters’ sound and repackaging their music. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who wants the lowdown on the Carpenters’ career.

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

And now, my review of Randy Schmidt’s book, Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter…

Karen Carpenter’s life and death…

The cover of Randy Schmidt’s book.

It’s hard to believe that Karen Carpenter, who had one of the most recognizable voices of the 1970s and early 80s, has now been dead for 27 years. I remember quite clearly the day she died, February 4, 1983. I was ten years old and riding in a car with my dad to visit my sister, who was at that time a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University. An announcer came on the air and said that Karen Carpenter had died that morning. I asked my dad what had killed her and he said “Starvation.” He didn’t elaborate, but it wasn’t much longer before I first heard about anorexia nervosa, the eating disorder that plagued Karen Carpenter’s final years and eventually led to her sudden death at age 32.

Karen Carpenter was, of course, part of the brother-sister pop duo the Carpenters. The other half of that duo was her older brother, Richard. While Karen had that magical voice that made their music so appealing to so many listeners, it was Richard who was known as the “brains” behind the outfit. He wrote and arranged songs, occasionally sang, and played piano like a genius. And in their very close-knit family, Richard was apparently the most important child, especially to their mother, Agnes Carpenter.

Author Randy Schmidt has just published Little Girl Blue: The Life of Karen Carpenter (2010). I happened to find it two days ago, while playing with the Kindle my husband Bill just gave me for my birthday. Karen Carpenter’s story has always fascinated me and I do enjoy the Carpenters’ music, saccharine as it often is. I downloaded it and managed to finish it within several hours of dedicated reading. Considering the fact that this book is well over 300 pages long, that was quite a feat and a testament to my interest in the book.

Overlapping biographies

Back in 1994, the late author Ray Coleman wrote The Carpenters: The Untold Story. Coleman was a well known biographer of rock worthies as well as the editor-in-chief of Melody Maker magazine. Coleman’s book about the Carpenters was very comprehensive, so I was somewhat surprised to find Schmidt’s new book. Having read Little Girl Blue, however, I did notice that Schmidt had consulted many of Coleman’s works in Melody Maker and Coleman’s biography of the Carpenters in order to write this book. In fact, I even recognized a couple of paragraphs that appeared to come verbatim from Coleman’s book, which I have read several times since 1994. Coleman’s biography of the Carpenters, which Schmidt does list in a very comprehensive bibliography, obviously served as a major source for Schmidt’s Little Girl Blue. Why, then, if Ray Coleman had already written the Carpenters’ story, did Randy Schmidt need to write another book specifically about Karen Carpenter?

What I think Little Girl Blue offers…

What sets Little Girl Blue apart from The Carpenters: The Untold Story is that Schmidt managed to get information from sources other than those approved by Richard Carpenter. In particular, Randy Schmidt interviewed Karen Carpenter’s close friends, Frenda Franklin, Olivia Newton-John, and Karen Ramone. Karen Ramone was also interviewed for Coleman’s book, but from what I gathered in Little Girl Blue, Schmidt got more details, particularly about the time period when Karen Carpenter was in New York City in 1979-80, recording her one and only solo album, Karen Carpenter, with Karen Ramone’s husband, Phil Ramone.

Schmidt also updates Carpenters fans on things that have happened since Coleman’s book was published. For one thing, Karen Carpenter’s solo album, which had been shelved back when it was created, was finally released in 1996. For another thing, Richard Carpenter has become the father of five children– only three of them had been born when Coleman’s book was published. Schmidt also writes about why the Carpenters’ remains have been relocated from their original resting place at Forest Lawn in Cypress to Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village, California.

What’s good about Little Girl Blue

Besides the fact that Schmidt updates fans on all things Carpenters, this book includes some photos– a few of which I had not seen before in Coleman’s book. Schmidt writes well and I appreciated the fact that he spoke to a lot of different people in order to give readers a less whitewashed version of events. Schmidt provides more details about Karen Carpenter’s ultimately doomed marriage to Tom Burris, making him out to be an enormous gold-digger.  If what Schmidt writes about Burris is completely true, it’s tragically ironic that she married him.  One of Karen Carpenter’s biggest fears was, allegedly, marrying a man who was a gold-digger.

Schmidt also makes Karen Carpenter’s mother out to be an extreme control freak, who refused to let either of her children grow up and be normal adults. Schmidt even interviewed actors Mitchell Anderson and Cynthia Gibb, who famously played Richard and Karen Carpenter in a 1989 movie of the week called The Karen Carpenter Story, which played on CBS on January 1, 1989.

What’s not so good about Little Girl Blue

Like I mentioned before, Ray Coleman had already written a superior biography about the Carpenters. I am very familiar with Coleman’s book, which is unfortunately now out of print. I do think there’s room for two biographies about the Carpenters– but– it was pretty clear to me that Randy Schmidt leaned on Ray Coleman’s work quite heavily. In fact, there were a couple of instances in which it appeared to me that he’d actually copied some paragraphs or at least paraphrased them to the point at which I knew I had read them several times before. I didn’t have Ray Coleman’s book next to me as I read Schmidt’s efforts on my Kindle, but I feel pretty confident that I’d be able to find the text in question. Reading Schmidt’s work pretty much felt, to me, like the literary equivalent of a re-run.

Should you read Little Girl Blue?

If you are a diehard fan of the Carpenters’ music, you may already know a lot of the information Randy Schmidt reveals in his biography, especially if you’ve already read Coleman’s work. However, if you missed Coleman’s book and can’t get a copy of it, Little Girl Blue is definitely worth reading. Personally, I think I liked Coleman’s book better, though Schmidt does offers some new information, particularly on things that have happened since 1994. And I do think his interviews with Frenda Franklin give this book a perspective that is lacking in Coleman’s book. I do wish, however, that I didn’t feel like I had already read parts of Little Girl Blue.

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athletes, celebrities, mental health, psychology, tragedies, YouTube

Partial repost: Christy Henrich and Karen Carpenter, and discovering Dr. Todd Grande…

Recently, I watched a video done about Karen Carpenter by YouTube shrink, Dr. Todd Grande. Dr. Grande does videos about mental health topics in a trademark “flat” kind of way. When I first encountered him on YouTube, I didn’t like his videos that much because his delivery was so dry. But I kept coming back, because he chose interesting topics. After awhile, I realized that I enjoy his videos and even his “flat” style… especially when he throws shade in kind of a bland way. In the video he made about Karen Carpenter, Dr. Grande remarked that in terms of her musical talent, Karen was “like a Ferrari stuck on a go cart track”. He implied that she was much more talented than her brother, Richard, is. I got a kick out of that observation.

Karen Carpenter… Dr. Grande implies that her wings were clipped by her brother… Frankly, I think her mother was more of a wing clipper.

Personally, I disagree with Dr. Grande that Karen’s talent was that much more impressive than Richard’s is. They had strengths in different areas. Richard is a fantastic pianist, and he’s a great arranger. He knew what songs went best with Karen’s vocals. Karen was a magnificent singer and drummer. Together, they worked well. Both of them worked apart with somewhat less success. I do think that Karen and Richard had a very controlling mother, and personally, I think if anyone should be blamed for what happened to Karen Carpenter, it could be her mom that deserves the most shade. Agnes Carpenter was overbearing and overreaching… and she didn’t want her children to be independent adults. Moreover, she obviously favored Richard, which probably took a toll on Karen’s self esteem. Maybe that had to do with her development of anorexia nervosa. I don’t know.

Anyway… I enjoyed watching Dr. Grande’s video about Karen Carpenter and realized he’d done a bunch of similar videos about other celebrities. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to hear his thoughts on Christy Henrich, a brilliant 80s era gymnast who famously perished from anorexia nervosa in 1994. So I left him a comment. Maybe he’ll read and heed it. I really think it would be interesting to hear Dr. Todd Grande’s deadpan views about Christy’s public struggle with anorexia. She had a tremendous work ethic, which extended to her illness. At one point, Christy’s weight fell to 47 pounds. It’s not that I admire her for being that emaciated. It’s more of a comment on her sheer will power and relentless pursuit of her goals, self-destructive as they were. I’m sure a mental health expert would have a lot to say about her.

A video a YouTuber made about Christy Henrich.

In the meantime, below is a repost of an article I wrote in February 2014 about Christy Henrich for my original blog. It was inspired because Bill and I went on a “hop” to Spain and Portugal in January of that year. On the way back to Texas, we landed in Missouri and drove through Christy’s hometown of Independence, Missouri. I thought of her as I realized how much Missouri reminds me of Virginia. As usual, the repost appears “as/is”.

Remembering Christy Henrich

Back in the late 1980s, I had a brief but intense obsession with watching gymnastics.  I would catch meets on ESPN or Home Team Sports.  In those days, ESPN only had one channel and I believe HTS is now defunct.  I remember seeing very old footage of Shannon Miller when she was just 12 years old.  I remember watching Brandy Johnson and Phoebe Mills.  I could never so much as turn a cartwheel myself, but I really enjoyed watching the tiny girls compete.  I admired them for being so tough and strong.  I was into horses myself, though.

I also remember Christy Henrich, who was less than a month younger than me.  When I first saw her, she reminded me a bit of a soccer player.  Short and muscular without an ounce of fat on her, she didn’t have the long, graceful limbs of the Russian or Romanian gymnasts.  But she was very strong and had an amazing work ethic.  Her coach, Al Fong, even called her E.T. for extra tough. Sometimes, that extra tough work ethic worked against her, as you can see in the video below.

This may have even been the first meet I ever saw Christy in… This performance was not very good. The commentators say she “looks tired” and “doesn’t look right”. They also mention that she was warming up way before everyone else was.

Not being privy to anything going on in gymnastics that wasn’t aired on TV, I didn’t know about Christy Henrich’s eventual slide into anorexia nervosa and bulimia.  Back in those days, I had a bit of an obsession about eating disorders, too.  I knew a lot about them and even flirted with them.  If I had known about Christy, I might have even admired her for her anorexia.  That’s how dumb I was at 16.

Christy Henrich at 17

I remember watching the very intense 1988 Summer Olympics gymnastics trials.  I was kind of rooting for Kristie Phillips, an adorable strawberry blonde who had seemed poised for gymnastics stardom.  A growth spurt and weight gain had sidelined her in 1987 and she was back to try to win a spot on the team.  She placed 8th and was named a second alternate.  She would not be going to Seoul unless someone got hurt.  Christy Henrich missed the team altogether by .0118 of a point.  There was no hope for her at all, unless she set her sights on 1992 in Barcelona.

About Kristie Phillips, who also suffered from an eating disorder.
Kristie Phillips was on Oprah, along with Christy’s mom and boyfriend. Here, she talks about her suicidal ideation after she missed the Olympic team.

In 1990, a judge supposedly told Christy Henrich after a meet in Budapest, Hungary that in order to be a serious contender for the Olympics, she would need to lose weight.  At 4’11” and 93 pounds, Christy didn’t have much weight to lose.  But she took the judge’s words to heart and went on a serious diet, quickly shedding five pounds.  She was praised for the weight loss at first, but then she slid headlong into a battle that would eventually cost her her life.

Christy Henrich in 1990

By January 1991, she had lost so much weight that her coach, Al Fong, kicked her out of the gym.  A week after he kicked her out, she came in to tell him she was quitting the sport.  Though she had a loving family and a boyfriend who wanted to marry her, the eating disorders had taken hold of her.  On July 26, 1994, she died of multiple organ failure.  She had just turned 22 years old and she weighed less than 60 pounds.  At one point, her weight was just 47 pounds.

A clip from a 1995 episode of Oprah in which Christy’s mother and boyfriend talk about her struggles with eating disorders.  

I remember reading Joan Ryan’s book, Little Girls in Pretty Boxes.  In fact, I read an excerpt of it in the Washington Post just days before I left the country for Armenia to serve in the Peace Corps.  When I got home in 1997, I bought the book and read it.  It was about female gymnasts and figure skaters.  In 2000, Ryan updated the book, including discussion about Dominique Moceanu’s desire to be emancipated from her parents because her father was spending her money. 

I don’t know what made me think of Christy today.  It’s not her birthday or the anniversary of her death, though in July of this year, she will have been dead for 20 years.  That amazes me.  It seems like yesterday, we were 22 years old.  The older you get, the faster time flies.

Last month, as Bill and I worked our way back to Texas from our trip abroad, we drove through Christy’s hometown of Independence, Missouri.  We stayed a night in Kansas City, which is where Christy died.  For some reason, I even thought about Christy’s mother as we passed through.  It was frigid during our brief time there and, looking around, it didn’t look like the kind of place that would excite me.  On the other hand, I did notice how nice and folksy everyone seemed to be.  It seems like the kind of place you could get to know your neighbors.

Christy Henrich in 1987.

I’m sure that the last twenty years have been tough for all who knew and loved Christy Henrich.  What happened to her was just gruesome.  I still like watching gymnastics today, but remember Christy’s story reminds me that the sport has a bit of a dark side.  To read more about Christy Henrich, I recommend the book Little Girls in Pretty Boxes.  

An eye opening read.

Edited to add: in 2014, I still had no idea how dark gymnastics can be… that was before we knew about John Geddert and Larry Nassar.

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