memories, musings

Repost: Ghosts of writings past… and so-called fake news

I am reposting this article from January 24, 2017 as I reflect on some changes that may be coming about soon. Ever since I moved this blog from Blogger, my “income” from writing, such as it was, has dried up. I don’t mind so much, since I never wrote for the money, anyway. It’s just something I’ve always been compelled to do. But, you know, no good deed goes unpunished. I just think this is an interesting look back, so I am sharing it again, as/is.

For about eleven years, I wrote articles for a variety of online publishers.  I was like a lot of people, making a few extra bucks writing about what I know or about subjects that captured my interest.  I sold a number of articles and, for awhile, writing served as a steady source of pocket money.  Then all the content mills dried up.  Now I only write on my own blogs and make whatever Google pays me every few months after I earn over $100 in ad revenue.

Every once in awhile, I find old articles I’ve written on the Internet.  They are always credited to “contributor”.  It’s weird, too, because they always have a copyright sign next to them, even though I’m the one who wrote them.  Some of the articles that turn up include my own stories.  I’ll give you an example of what I mean. 

Many years ago, I remember reading an article about a celebrity who engaged in a practice commonly referred to as “chew and spit”.  I want to say it was Glen Campbell, but I can’t be certain, since I’m pretty sure I read the article in the 80s.  Anyway, I absolutely do remember that in the article, “chew and spit” was referred to as oral expulsion syndrome (OES).  Both terms refer to the practice of chewing up food and spitting it out rather than swallowing it.  
In the 80s, I was fascinated by the idea of chewing and spitting food.  In those days, I flirted a bit with eating disorders myself and was always looking for tricks to shed pounds while indulging.  Eventually, I mostly grew out of my obsession and completely forgot about OES, having never tried it myself.  

Then, maybe six or seven years ago, I was a featured health and wellness writer on a Web site.  I had to write three articles a week and was trying to come up with an original topic.  That obscure memory of OES suddenly popped into my head.  I scoured the Internet for articles about it and came up with only a few very obscure references.  Jackpot!

So I started writing my article, aided by the fact that I’d recently read Dolly Parton’s 1994 book My Life and Other Unfinished Business after a trip to a thrift shop.  That was during a time when Bill and I were broke and I was getting a lot of reading material at used book stores.  I’m sure at the time I read Dolly Parton’s book, it was long off the best seller list and most people’s radar.  But then, I was also writing book reviews on a site where I could even make money if I reviewed old books, as long as the review drew readers.

In her 1994 memoirs, Dolly had included a passage about dieting.  One of the techniques Dolly suggested was the practice of chewing and spitting, though she didn’t refer to it as such.  So I wrote my very anecdotal piece and quoted direct passages from Dolly’s book in which she recommended chewing and spitting.  I found information as to why this technique might be more harmful than she let on.  I added links from reputable health related Web sites.  Voila!  A new resource was born to be used and abused by the masses! Below is a passage from the article I wrote for Associated Content about ten years ago. My original text from that article is in bold.

Those of us who have been around awhile know that Dolly Parton used to be significantly heavier than she is today. Indeed, in the 1980 film 9 to 5, she was downright plump. But several years after she made that film, she lost a dramatic amount of weight and now sports a thin body to go with her famously large bosom. Parton doesn’t share too much specific information about how she lost the weight, other than a passage she writes on page 255 of her autobiography:

One other hint I’d like to pass on has to do with chewing. Our taste buds are only in our mouths, after all, and we don’t really taste the food when we swallow it. You can get a lot of the satisfaction from the taste of things you love by just chew, chew, chew, chew, Chattanooga chew-chewing and then not swallowing. “Wait a minute,” you’re thinking. “If I don’t swallow, won’t I have to spit the food out?” You’re right. “That’s disgusting,” you say. That may be, but what’s more disgusting? Spitting out food or being a lardass?

As Dolly Parton puts it, “If you’re going to lose weight, you’re going to have to eat less food” (254). According to her book, Parton believes that heavy people are heavy because they eat a lot and, while she agrees that exercise is important, Parton seems to think that the real trick to weight loss is to not eat much. But even as she encourages eating sparingly, she admits that eating is pleasurable.

After she passes along her tip about chewing up food and spitting it out, she adds:

I’m not suggesting for a moment that you spit up food. That’s very dangerous, but it doesn’t hurt to spit it out. I know for a fact that many stars and models chew and spit. The first time somebody told me that, I was so shocked I dropped a whole Styrofoam cup of chewed doughnuts.

I’m pretty sure I sold that article to the publisher for a paltry sum.  Then, a few years later, the publisher went under.  But that article and others I’ve written are still out there, attributed to “contributor”.  What’s even funnier is that I’ve found that article referenced in other places, or hacked up by people who are claiming it as their own.  In fairness to the person whose article I just linked, I suppose it’s possible that she also read Dolly Parton’s book and decided to write about chewing and spitting, too.  It just seems eerily reminiscent of what I had written several years before.  Besides that, Dolly’s book was twenty years old by the time this person wrote about OES.  

I guess it doesn’t bother me to much to know that a lot of my work is out there and I’m no longer credited.  I think I’m more amused than anything else, especially since that article I wrote about OES was hatched from a very old memory and obscure details.  This is not to say that what I wrote wasn’t factual.  I did do as much research as I could for the original article.  I would not have published it if all the information I had found were anecdotes or blog entries about chewing and spitting.  It’s just that my article wasn’t exactly peer reviewed or vetted by experts.  And now I see that information is being disseminated by others.  Maybe I’m partially to blame for “fake news”.

Reality TV

This is an intervention…

Yesterday, I thought I might watch a movie or something. I like to watch old films from the 70s and 80s. I find them oddly comforting. The last time I watched TV, I watched a Canadian cop show called Under Arrest on Netflix. I ended up watching a couple more episodes of that, even though I had seen them before. Then I noticed that Netflix has Intervention available.

Intervention was a show that used to air on A&E. It was on for some time, and I went through a time of watching it a lot. I’m not sure what attracted me to that show, since it’s frequently very depressing. You see these young, often beautiful, talented, beloved people in the throes of horrible addictions of any stripe. The addictions are usually deadly or are going to lead to ruin, and if the addict doesn’t get help, he or she is destined for an early death. Although Intervention episodes often end with the target going to a treatment program, a lot of them quit treatment or relapse. Quite a few people who were on Intervention have died.

Last night I was watching episodes from 2008. Looking at my iTunes collection, I see that I could have watched them on Apple TV, since I purchased the episodes I watched last night when we lived in Germany the first time. I also notice, now that I’m looking at my library, that German Netflix has omitted a few episodes. No matter, though, because almost all of them are downers. It’s just that some people have more compelling stories than others.

I watched the episode about a woman named Brittany who was born five years after her sister was abducted, raped, and murdered. Brittany’s sister, Terri Sharee Jones, was apparently my age. She was just nine years old when her killer took her from her bedroom while she was sleeping. Naturally, her parents were appalled and devastated by the crime, and Brittany’s mother, Diane, apparently blamed herself. Baby Brittany, born in 1986, gave Diane a new lease on life… but the whole time she was growing up, people compared her to her dead sister and acted as if Terri had been reincarnated through her. Then, one of Brittany’s father’s friends molested her. It seems that sexual abuse and death of a sibling often lead a person into the hell of addiction, and Brittany got a double helping of that.

Brittany became addicted to Dilaudid. Her mother and grandmother were supporting her habit, and Brittany, who had been such a beautiful, happy, talented child, fell into prostitution. But she did agree to go to treatment, at least, even if she didn’t stay the course.

I was curious about Brittany after I finished watching. I went Googling, and found that Brittany was arrested a couple of times and looked absolutely horrible in her mug shots. And then, in September of this year, she finally died. Her obituary was very sad. I noticed that besides her sister, Terri, Brittany was predeceased by another sister, Tracy, was just 44 years old when she died, and her father, who had seemed so loving on the show. I don’t know why Brittany died at just 33 years old, but I could see by her mug shots that she’d had a tough go of it. I can’t even imagine the grief her mother deals with having lost three out of her four daughters.

I watched another episode about a woman named Nicole who had an eating disorder called dysphagia that caused her to use a feeding tube for many years. She was unable to swallow, so she would constantly spit into cups… saliva and chewed up food, mostly. Then I was reminded of how, back when I was writing content for a few content mills, I wrote an article about Oral Expulsion Syndrome (OES), otherwise known as “chew and spit”. I first heard of OES in the 80s. It was a very obscure disorder, and I want to say I read about some celebrity that suffered from it. Years later, when I needed a fresh topic to write about for a freelance project, I wrote about OES.

I sold the article to Associated Content, which included passages within it about Dolly Parton, who had written about it as a diet technique in her book, My Life and Other Unfinished Business. Dolly had promoted the idea as if it wasn’t dangerous. She wrote that a lot of celebrities keep thin that way, even though it actually is a harmful habit. I happened to read Dolly’s book by chance. Back when Bill and I were broke, I used to buy books at the thrift shop on Fort Belvoir. I’d read and review them on, and sometimes make money if the reviews were popular. Over about eleven years, I made roughly $12,000 writing there, which isn’t bad when you consider that a lot of my reviews were about books, travel, or music (not typically well paying specialties). I probably paid a quarter for Dolly’s hardcover book and made many times that using it as a resource for writing projects, including my article about OES.

Well… I have found that article about OES floating around on the Internet, although it’s no longer attributed to me. There’s not much I can do about it, since I did sell the rights to it (for not enough money, apparently). I guess now, I’m just amused by it, since back when I wrote the article, I could barely find any information about Oral Expulsion Syndrome or its other names. Now, if you Google Oral Expulsion Syndrome (also called Rumination Syndrome), you will find a lot of references to it. I guess I hadn’t imagined that obscure article from the 80s, after all. Here’s another Web site that uses hacked up bits of my writing about Dolly and her OES habit.

I have to be careful not to overdose on Intervention, though, because sometimes the stories on that show make me want to write/vent, and that gets me in trouble. One episode I watched in 2010, when it was new, and several years later, was about a woman named Jackie. She lived in North Carolina and had been married to a doctor. She had a beautiful daughter and was well off financially. But then she became an alcoholic and got a divorce. I’ve seen that episode twice, and after both viewings, I felt compelled to write about it. I was absolutely disgusted by the way Jackie’s family treated her. She was a very sick woman and, it was plain to me, that most of the people in her family were also sick. But they treated her horribly. I was particularly horrified by the heartless way Jackie’s sister and daughter treated her. So I wrote an angry rant about it…

After some time, I got a comment from the mother of the daughter’s boyfriend, who was angry that I was writing about Jackie’s daughter. She suggested that I “lock down” my blog and that I had gotten the girl all wrong. Ultimately, I deleted the original post and rewrote it, slightly softening my stance… but ONLY because Jackie’s daughter was a minor when the show was taped, probably had no choice in being on the show, the hour was obviously edited for entertainment purposes, and she was clearly manipulated by her aunt. Above all, I changed the article because when it comes right down to it, she lost her mother, and that’s a tragedy. It didn’t change how I felt about the family or the girl’s behavior. She’s now a grown woman and, I hope, less selfish and callous than she appeared to be on Intervention.

Anyway… last night, I had originally planned to watch something less intense than Intervention is, but you know what they say about good intentions. I’ll probably watch a few more episodes today, and maybe do some shopping for the holidays and planning for our big trip to France. I joined The Fork yesterday, which is a Trip Advisor owned reservation service that appears to be popular in France. I kind of hesitate to use it, though, because it gets bad reviews. Also, I don’t know when we’re going to get to Beaune. I just hope we can find something there… although I guess there’s always the Carrefour.