ethics, healthcare, politics, rants

“My body, my choice…”

Just to be clear… I am not in agreement with today’s featured photo. I’m just posting it because it’s an idea I’ve seen floating around since COVID-19 started. I don’t think being in favor of allowing abortion of an unintended pregnancy is at all the same thing as the prospect of potentially making a vaccine mandatory is, especially during a global pandemic. Maybe I’d be more in agreement with the comparison if pregnancy could be caused by breathing.

This morning, I read an interesting comment thread on an article in The Washington Post. The article was about how so many people have gotten vaccinated against COVID-19 and hoped that things would be getting back to “normal”. But, as the Delta variant continues to spread, and people stubbornly refuse to get vaccinated or take other protective measures against the virus, no one is able to “relax”. Sadly, the vaccines are not proving to be as protective against spreading the illness as we’d hoped, although evidence suggests that the vaccines help prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death.

The comment thread was full of the usual finger pointing and nastiness. But then I saw a comment that echoed a common refrain during this pandemic. It was about being “pro-life”, and how people who refuse to take COVID-19 precautions aren’t really pro-life. The last comment in this thread belongs to me. Because I’ve seen the lame responses from Republicans about how vaccine mandates violate the idea of “my body, my choice”.

I am truly baffled by this.

Do I really need to explain why someone who is considering having an abortion is not in the same situation as people who want others to get vaccinated against a disease that spreads through the air? Okay… I’ve got nothing better to do, so here goes.

Everybody has to breathe. There is not a single person in the world who can live without respiring. But COVID-19 primarily spreads through aerosols in the air, and the virus is proving to be extremely wily. Every one of us needs all the help we can get to avoid getting seriously ill. Each new incarnation of the virus is proving to be more contagious than the last, and while many people have gotten COVID and survived, there’s a significant number of people who are winding up in hospitals, seriously ill and dying. Healthcare workers and undertakers are EXHAUSTED, and families are being devastated as family breadwinners are suddenly dying. These are people who are young and were previously perfectly healthy. And they are leaving their spouses and children bereaved and struggling.

An unintended pregnancy, or a pregnancy that threatens a prospective mother’s life in some way, is not a threat to anyone except the person who is gestating. A developing fetus takes up residence in another human being. I’ve heard and read many Republican legislators referring to pregnant people as “hosts”. As distasteful as the word “host” sounds, there is an element of truth to that concept. A pregnant person is “hosting” a developing person, and that fetus relies entirely on the “host” until it’s born. Many times, the pregnant person is happy to be gestating, but sometimes the pregnancy comes at a bad time. Maybe the person isn’t prepared to be pregnant and is dealing with health and/or economic issues that make pregnancy an insurmountable challenge. Maybe the person is pregnant due to being a crime victim. Maybe the developing fetus has a serious birth defect that would make being born crueler than being aborted.

Lots of issues can come up that would make someone consider ending a pregnancy. Any of the issues that would make someone consider having an abortion are, frankly, no one else’s business. Time and again, I’ve read disgusting comments by conservatives about personal responsibility. So many of them seem to think someone who unintentionally gets pregnant should have to “lie in the bed they made for themselves.” I’ve got news for them, though. NO ONE unintentionally gets pregnant without another person’s participation. That other person isn’t the one whose health is affected by the pregnancy, nor are they the ones whose names are on the medical bills.

Other, uninvolved people don’t want to be responsible for making sure the gestating person gets proper medical care and financial assistance, if it is needed. A lot of the people who think the pregnant person should be forced to gestate against their will also believe they should be shamed and humiliated for being in that situation. Meanwhile, the person who got them pregnant frequently gets off “scot-free”. I might be more willing to accept the pro-life stance if more people actually cared about those babies once they’ve been born. But a lot of people truly don’t care, especially if the baby turns out to have special needs and needs a lifetime of financial and medical assistance.

COVID-19, unlike unintended pregnancy, is spreading like wildfire among unsuspecting people. And no one knows how the virus will affect them. Some people get it and never know they had it. Others get it and are dead within days or weeks. So, to me, it makes perfect sense that the so-called “liberals” are pushing for everyone to be vaccinated. At this point, vaccination seems to be our best hope at arresting this menace before more people die. Maybe someone will come up with an effective treatment, but at this point, that silver bullet hasn’t yet been discovered. People are exhausted by the depressing COVID-19 lifestyle because, for a lot of people, it just plain sucks. So they heap on the pressure for others to do their parts to end the pain. That’s where all the finger pointing and demonizing come into play.

Personally, I’m not a fan of blaming others. COVID-19 is a notoriously easy to spread virus. I don’t think the vast majority of people mean to get infected. A lot of people are doing “everything right”, and they’re still somehow getting sick. But people are frustrated and angry, so they point fingers at others. Finger pointing doesn’t seem like a helpful thing to be doing, in my opinion. But you know human nature… It would be better, of course, if we all came together and cooperated. Fat chance of that happening.

If COVID-19 weren’t so easily spread, I think I would be much less concerned about who’s been vaccinated. I read this morning that the current version of the virus is as contagious as chicken pox. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that having COVID-19 gives anyone permanent immunity. The vast majority of people who get chicken pox will not get it again, although they can get shingles (varicella zoster), which is also pretty shitty. I had shingles when I was 26 years old. It was a mild case, but I sure didn’t enjoy it. It would have been better if I could have avoided being exposed to the varicella virus; that way, I wouldn’t have to worry about getting shingles next time my immune system is on a downward spiral.

I think today’s youngsters, who can get the chicken pox vaccine, are very fortunate. My generation was lucky to get the measles and mumps vaccines. I don’t know anyone who had measles when I was a child, although it was a pretty common childhood illness in previous generations. Lots of people got measles and survived just fine. Others got it and died! Some years later, when being “anti-vax” came into fashion, measles cases went up as some parents, who had never known the horror of measles, stopped vaccinating their kids. Guess what? Some unvaccinated kids started getting measles, got really sick, and were sometimes dying again.

The measles vaccine made what used to be a common childhood illness so rare that people forgot how dangerous it could be. I suspect the same could be true for COVID-19 as it continues to develop and mutate and vaccines and treatments improve. Hopefully, COVID will eventually turn into something much less threatening than it currently is.

Pregnancy, you see, is not spread through the air. People get pregnant, most of the time, by having sex, and one doesn’t have to have sex in order to live. A lot of times, the sex is consensual. Sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes, the sex is consensual, but the birth control fails. Sometimes, the sex is consensual and the pregnancy is wanted, but the developing fetus has catastrophic birth defects or the mother’s life is in peril. In no case, is another person’s decision to have an abortion harming anyone else or threatening their very life. The only person who is truly affected by the decision to have an abortion is the person who is gestating and doesn’t want to be, FOR WHATEVER REASON. I get that sometimes the father is distressed by the abortion decision, but it’s not his body or health on the line. It’s not his name on the medical bills. It’s not his bladder being danced upon or his blood sugar or blood pressure being raised. ALL of that stuff solely affects the pregnant person.

Unintended pregnancies really only threaten the person who is gestating. I know some might argue that the fetus is also threatened, but the reality is, over 90 percent of abortions occur early in pregnancies, and at that stage of development (under 13 weeks), the fetus is unconscious. Abortions that occur later in pregnancy happen at a much rarer rate, and the ones that happen at beyond 21 weeks gestation make up about 1 percent of the total… and they usually happen because there’s a serious medical issue involving the pregnant person or the fetus.

COVID-19 affects everyone. COVID-19 threatens everyone. People who don’t take precautions legitimately put others at risk.

I don’t think the “my body, my choice” argument often heard from people who rally for abortion rights really applies when it comes to COVID-19. I recognize that not everyone can safely take the vaccine, and some people have had adverse or allergic reactions to it, just as some women have adverse reactions to being pregnant. The difference is, you’re not going to get pregnant if a pregnant person breathes on you. Exposure to a COVID-19 positive person might cause you a serious illness, and you might even get sick enough to die or suffer permanent disability, or spread it to someone else who will get very sick. A COVID-19 positive person might not be recognizable, since he or she can be asymptomatic. And again, every single one of us has to breathe, or we’ll die. COVID-19 is spread through breathing. COVID-19 causes people not to be able to breathe anymore.

“My body, my choice”… when it comes to this virus, there really is no such thing. So, until we come up with an effective treatment or something else that greatly reduces the risk of spreading this disease, I am going to be on the vaccination bandwagon. I think it’s our only hope at this point. And I pray more people join me, although I feel a bit pessimistic about the future. This is probably going to get worse before it gets better.

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Biden, politicians, politics, Trump

“Joe Biden sucks…”

Yesterday, I noticed a complaint on social media about gas prices. It was posted by Republican Idaho gubernatorial candidate, Janice McGeachin. At this writing, according to Wikipedia, McGeachin is currently Idaho’s 43rd lieutenant governor. And based on the gas receipt she posted, and her snarky jab at Joe Biden, she thinks Biden is to blame for higher fuel prices.

Um… is Joe Biden really responsible for this? Seems like a cheap shot based on emotion rather than facts.

Now… don’t get me wrong. It sucks to have to pay a lot for gas. Over here in Europe, we’re well acquainted with high gas prices. Here, you pay by the liter, and it’s a lot more expensive than what you pay in the United States. That’s why Americans who live in Europe under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) are entitled to buy gas on military installations and/or use coupons at participating Esso stations, where they get a substantial break on fuel prices.

I remember in the late 90s and early 00s, just before 9/11, gas hovered at around 99 cents to $1.10 a gallon. It was a blessing for me, since I was in grad school and had little money, but had to do client home visits in my car. You’re damned right I’m glad gas didn’t cost then what it costs now, even in the US.

But– can we really blame Joe Biden for higher gas prices? According to multiple sources, the answer to that question is “no”. There are a number of reasons why the price of gas has gone up. One major reason is that the demand has increased as people leave lockdown and go back to commuting or leisure traveling. Another major reason is because there’s less fuel available because people weren’t working. It’s the same reason why, when you go to McDonald’s, you may be facing a skeleton crew and things take longer. People are expecting things to be like they were pre-pandemic. But things aren’t like that, and probably won’t be like that for a good, long while, if ever again. Seriously, though… gas has gone up because the demand is up, and there’s less to go around. That’s got nothing to do with Biden. In fact, isn’t reopening the economy what Republicans wanted?

Aside from that, gas prices aren’t something presidents can easily control. According to the CNN link I posted in the previous paragraph, “the price of gas is determined by four major factors: taxes, the cost of marketing and distribution, refining, and the cost of crude oil. Biden’s enacted policies have not currently had a significant effect on any of these four factors.” It surprises and saddens me that as a lieutenant governor, particularly one who would like to be governor, Janice McGeachin doesn’t understand how this works. I suspect that if she does win the governor’s race in Idaho, she may be in for similar treatment, though. People will blame her for shit she can’t control, either.

Which brings me to the title of this post. Some woman, in response to the lieutenant governor’s post, wrote “Joe Biden sucks, and y’all know it!”

I was feeling cheeky, so I wrote “But Trump swallows.”

The lady wrote back something along the lines of, “Ooh, what a creative response!”

To which I wrote, “I could say the same thing about your comment. Besides, Donald Trump DOES swallow. Especially Big Macs and Whoppers!”

If you think about it, we ALL swallow, don’t we? Unless we have a feeding tube or something. That’s a function of healthy living. Does Biden literally suck? Maybe… although he probably doesn’t suck as much as he did as a baby. But that’s true for most of us, too.

Does the commenter mean Biden “sucks dick”, which is what “sucks” used to mean? I don’t know. But I’ve seen no evidence that Biden likes to suck dick. I HAVE, however, seen plenty of evidence that Trump is a lover of sexual conquests and exotic sexual acts. He probably HAS swallowed, in the nastiest meaning of that saying. But then, he’s in good company with other people who have hung around with the likes of Jeffrey Epstein… Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, and plenty of other rich and famous men. There’s no telling what kind of shenanigans went on back when Jeffrey Epstein threw his wild parties on his notorious, infamous, “private island”, teeming with teenaged girls brought to him by Ghislaine Maxwell and company.

There’s no denying what kind of company Trump keeps… and when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.. (thanks, Mary Beth).
“Donald Trump is the Hugh Hefner of the 90s”… Seriously, he probably does swallow.

But even if he doesn’t “swallow” in the sexual sense, he definitely DOES like fast food. And he clearly does swallow that, based on his “figure”. So what I wrote wasn’t a lie. Saying that Joe Biden “sucks”, is probably more of a lie by most counts.

There’s no doubt that Trump likes his Whoppers… is he also the “home of the Whopper” like the pervert neighbor I used to have? The jury is out. This is so embarrassing for the United States.

In any case, Joe Biden has been in office for about six months. I’m feeling somewhat better about a lot of things than I did a year ago– at least for right now. A year ago, I woke up every day feeling dread about what new craziness would be in the press regarding Trump. Now, I worry less about Trump and his embarrassing bullshit, but I do worry that someone else is being groomed to “MAGA”.

I get that a lot of people think Trump’s “awesome” and his polices are “great for America”, as one Trump loving friend (who incidentally lives in Thailand) enthusiastically told me this morning. I wonder what my friend is doing in Thailand. I think he married a Thai woman, and he probably gets to enjoy a decent standard of living there… if Trump was so “great”, though, wouldn’t he have wanted to move back to the States during Trump’s tenure? Wouldn’t he have wanted to live in the USA, basking in all of Trump’s MAGA splendor? And yet, he didn’t. He’s been in Thailand for awhile.

I, of course, live in Germany and managed to miss ALL of Trump’s presidency. I haven’t set foot on US soil since November 2014. I have a feeling that when I do go back, it’ll be a shock. And that will be true, even if Biden doesn’t get pushed out in 2024. Lord help us all.

In any case, allow me to state on record that, so far, I don’t think Joe Biden sucks. I do, however, know for a fact that Trump swallows. But maybe someday we’ll get lucky and he’ll fail his swallow test. Perhaps that will keep him out of our hair so we can make sure no one worse picks up where Trump has left off. I think Joe Biden is a decent man, and I’m glad to see someone decent in the White House. Trump is not a good person who cares about other people. That, in an of itself, makes him unsuitable to run anything involving other people, let alone a country.

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movies

A review of The Way I Spent the End of the World…

This week, I watched three Romanian films. All three were in Romanian, and all three were made around 2006 or thereabouts. Why was I watching Romanian films? Simple… because they’re interesting, and surprisingly entertaining, even if I do have to read the subtitles. I also find Romania’s recent history fascinating.

A few years ago, after I saw a couple of Romanian films and mentioned them online, my Italian friend, Vittorio (whom I never talk to anymore because he got disgusted by Facebook), recommended that I see The Way I Spent the End of the World. This film, made in 2006 and directed by Romanian Cătălin Mitulescu, is about the love between two siblings, Eva and Lilu Mattei, born ten years apart. The story is set in a village near Bucharest in 1989, just before the Romanian Revolution, when former dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife, Elena, were run out of power and publicly executed.

A trailer for The Way I Spent the End of the World.

Eva (Dorotheea Petre) is 17 years old and, at the beginning of the film, is a student at a high level school– probably akin to a Gymnasium in Germany. One day, her boyfriend gets a fake note from the principal sent to her so he can steal a few minutes with her outside of class. The two of them are typical hormonally charged teenagers, horsing around in the school’s hallways, when they accidentally knock over a bust of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s head. It shatters, causing them to fear for their lives. It wasn’t unusual or strange for them to be so frightened. At that time in Romania, people were terrified of Ceaușescu’s secret and brutal police force, the Securitate.

Naturally, Eva gets in trouble and winds up being expelled from her hoity toity school– voted out, no less, by her classmates, who probably just wanted to avoid getting into trouble themselves. She gets sent to a technical school, where she meets a rebellious young man named Andrei (Cristian Vararu), the son of a dissident. Eva hooks up with Andrei and the two decide they want to cross the Danube into Yugoslavia and escape to Italy.

Meanwhile, Eva’s seven year old brother, Lalalilu “Lilu” Matei (Timotei Duma) has already figured out that Ceaușescu is bad news. He loves his sister, Eva, who is more motherly to him than their actual mother is. In a sweet scene at the beginning of the film, Lilu has a loose tooth the family is trying to help him lose. Lilu says he’ll never open his mouth again and Eva tempts him with delicious cherry jam. With much coaxing and sweet talk, she manages to yank the loose tooth. This scene always sticks with me, because it sets up just how close the siblings are, even though they are ten years apart in age.

Lilu has a lot of friends and they all talk amongst themselves about their leader. They whisper about what happens to dissidents, such as Andrei’s father, who is punished for speaking out against Ceaușescu. Moreover, Lilu is convinced that Ceaușescu is the main reason his beloved sister, Eva, wants to defect from Romania. So Lilu and his friends hatch a plan to kill the leader. Lilu tricks his way into a children’s choir scheduled to sing for Ceaușescu as he addresses the nation on what would turn out to be his very last day terrorizing Romania.

My thoughts

I have watched this film several times, having invested in my own copy a few years ago. I find it fascinating on so many levels. First off, there’s the fact that Eva and I were both 17 years old in 1989. I grew up hearing about the Eastern Bloc nations, the Soviet Union, and how terrifying communism and socialism supposedly are. In 1989, it was never in my dreams that I would one day live in the former Soviet Union for a couple of years and then, after that, move to Germany and visit so many nations that were once closed to Americans. I have not been to Romania yet. Bill went in 2008, when we lived in Germany the first time. I have visited Bulgaria, though– back in 1996, when it was still pretty recently open to westerners. Those experiences in the 90s really blew my mind and have made me want to know more about what it was like before the fall of the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain.

Secondly, I love watching the chemistry between Eva and Lilu. I am much younger than my three siblings are. When I was a child, they seemed more like my aunts than my sisters. When I lived in Armenia, I briefly lived with a young woman who was my age and was raising her nine year old brother, since their parents had died. I only lived there for two months, but I remember how she took care of him. I don’t think she was as affectionate to her brother as Eva and Lilu were… and Eva and Lilu still had their parents. But it’s clear that Eva takes care of her brother as if he was her child. The actors portraying these two characters did a remarkable job of connecting and being convincing– so much so, that I didn’t even really need subtitles to understand it.

Thirdly, I like the music in this film, along with the imagery. In one scene, when Eva is at her new “reform”/technical school, she’s asked if she can sing. She starts singing a lovely folk song. The song leader stops her and says, “That’s pretty, but it won’t do. Do you know anything else?” She answers that she only knows similar songs– she was not taught the pro-Romanian nationalist songs the song leader is looking to perform for Ceaușescu. It’s at that point, that everyone realizes that Eva had been a student at a much better school before she was sent to “tech” school, and it causes the other characters to wonder about her. Why is she going to an inferior school, where she will be forced to sing boring nationalist songs rather than the complex, beautiful folk songs she was taught at a school with a much better reputation? I thought that scene lent an interesting layer to the story. Eva doesn’t belong– she’s at the lower school because she’s being punished for having a “bad attitude”, not because she’s got a poor intellect or no talent. It’s like an unspoken warning to the others to behave.

And finally, I really liked the way the Romanian people were portrayed in the Mateis’ neighborhood. There was a time when neighbors knew each other and mingled. We don’t see that so much today, especially in the United States. I’ve seen it a bit more in Germany, although even here, people are kind of distant and keep to themselves. Before COVID-19, our village had a biweekly wine stand, where we’d all gather in the “Dorfplatz” and drink wine. Although Bill and I are far from German speakers, that wine stand provided a chance for us to mingle with others in our neighborhood. Wine is a good social lubricant, when consumed in moderation. There’s a nice scene in The Way I Spent the End of the World where all the neighbors are eating and dancing, drinking plum brandy, and bonding. It kind of warmed my heart, especially after our year of “social distancing”.

Scenes from Ceaușescu’s last speech are included in The Way I Spent the End of the World. It’s cool to see how Mateis and their neighbors react as the dictator is taken down. It’s beautiful!

This film ends on a triumphant note, too… as Lilu and his friends are preparing to carry out their “diabolical” plan to execute Ceaușescu so Eva won’t have to leave home… and the public takes care of the deed for him. Later, we see Eva dressed in a Holland America Line cruise uniform as she reads a letter from her beloved brother. She’s earning money to send home to her family– quite a realistic ending, as I have encountered a number of eastern European nationals on my cruises and from reading the excellent book series Cruise Confidential by Brian David Bruns, an American who worked for Carnival cruises as a waiter, then an art dealer. At the time he wrote his first book, he had the distinction of being the only American to actually complete a contract waiting tables in the cruiseline’s history. And he also dated a Romanian waitress named Bianca. I have reviewed several of his books and referenced one of them in this post. Maybe some of us wish Eva had stayed in Romania with her brother, but she looks happy and somewhat regal in her uniform… and she has escaped to see the world, something that would have been unfathomable during Ceaușescu’s regime. She would have been expected to bear babies for the state, instead.

I do think it’s helpful to have some understanding of Romania’s recent history– particularly as it pertains to Ceaușescu’s era. Younger people who weren’t around during the Iron Curtain times might not appreciate this movie as much, because they will be less able to understand the context. Also, because it’s in Romanian, you have to pay attention to the subtitles to get what’s happening, unless, of course, you know the language. I suspect that Europeans would enjoy this more than Americans would, because a lot of Americans have no concept of life outside of the United States. However, as an American, I will happily state that I love this movie, and I think it’s worth the effort to watch it, if you’re willing to try to understand it. At the very least, it might encourage younger folks to learn about why charismatic wannabe dictators, like Donald Trump, are so dangerous.

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book reviews, housekeeping tips, lessons learned, movies

“Well-fed butts!” Barbara Ehrenreich and C. Thomas Howell have something in common.

Like today’s title? I wish I could claim it as my own quote, but I actually read it first in a book by Barbara Ehrenreich. Back in 2001, I was a second year graduate student in a state where I had few friends. I went to the local Barnes & Noble, looking for something interesting to read. I found Ehrenreich’s book, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. At that time of my life, I still considered myself fairly conservative in my politics, although looking at today’s right-wingers, I see that I’ve always been more of a moderate. But back then, I voted Republican.

I picked up Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, not knowing anything at all about her. I read about how, at different times from 1998 until 2000, she tried being a member of the “working poor”. She worked at Walmart, Menard’s, a hotel maid, waitress, cleaning woman, and at a nursing home. She moved from Florida to Minnesota, taking the cheapest lodging she could find and whatever jobs she could find. And she tried to live on the wages she was paid. In the course of her research, she lived in trailer parks and at residential hotels. And, at one point, while scrubbing a toilet while working as a cleaning lady, Barbara came up with that beaut of a phrase… “well-fed butt”. She was referring to the comparatively wealthy white people who employed people like she was pretending to be, thinking nothing about what it was like to be a member of the “working poor”, surviving on minimum wage and “not getting by”.

This was the original book cover and the one that is on my hardcover copy. The cover on some editions now look different, because in 2007, the woman in the picture, Kimmie Jo Christensen, sued Ehrenreich’s publisher for using the image without her permission. The photo was originally taken for an unrelated 1986 cover of Fortune magazine. The suit was eventually settled out of court.

At the time that I read Barbara’s book, I was a social work and public health student. In 2001, my focus was exclusively on social work. Oddly enough, I really hadn’t known anything about social work when I applied to the program. I was mostly looking for a way to be employed, making more than the low hourly wages offered at big box stores and waiting tables. I’d had my fill of dealing with the public and wanted to do something less taxing… because, as Barbara Ehrenreich had discovered, there’s no such thing as “unskilled labor”. Even working in food service at Busch Gardens was physically and mentally taxing, on hot days when the park was full of people, lines were long, and tempers were short. For that, I made $4.75 an hour during my last year, back in 1992.

Eight years later, as a graduate student editing and writing about the CDC’s Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, I made $10 an hour. But I only worked ten hours a week, so I had to supplement that money waiting tables at a country club, where I earned $8 an hour, the odd (and rare) tip, and occasional free meals. The rest was paid for by student loans. If only I had discovered Epinions.com back then. I could have made a nice side income writing product reviews. I didn’t discover Epinions, though, until 2003. Sadly, Epinions is now defunct, as are a lot of the other online writing gigs where I used to make my own money.

For some reason, I thought of the phrase “well-fed butts” as I was vacuuming today.. I always vacuum on Thursdays. I hate doing it. This morning, I joked to Bill that I wish I had a riding vacuum cleaner. It just seems like such a pointless activity, since as soon as I’m done sucking up the household dirt and dog hair, one of the dogs or another human invariably tracks more dirt, dog hair, or grass clippings into the house. On the other hand, I am always kind of gratified when I see the canister fill up with debris, which I can later dump into our “black bin” (trash that goes straight to an incinerator, rather than being recycled).

When Barbara wrote of “well-fed butts”, she was leaned over a toilet bowl, scrubbing shit stains and urine splashes. She wrote a snarky comment about how she was making low wages, cleaning up the residue left from “well-fed butts” belonging to rich people who had no appreciation whatsoever for her low paid labors. She had been vacuuming the carpets in a company patented fan style, leaving marks in the pile so that the customer knew that the cleaning woman had properly cleaned. Barbara confessed that the techniques were actually just cosmetic, since the cleaners weren’t using a lot of water or soap as they mopped floors and scrubbed grout. They were under pressure to be fast, so a lot of things got missed. She wrote:

“The first time I encountered a shit-stained toilet as a maid, I was shocked by the sense of unwanted intimacy. A few hours ago, some well-fed butt was straining away on this toilet seat, and now here I am wiping up after it”(54).

It’s interesting to look at Amazon reviews of Nickel and Dimed. The book gets an overall score of 4.3 stars. Many people liked it and learned from it. Others considered Ehrenreich preachy, judgmental, and occasionally racist. More than a few mentioned that as a well-educated woman who was merely acting as a low wage worker, she had no idea of how difficult it really is to be a member of the working poor, especially since she could scrap her experiment at any time. For whatever it’s worth, The Guardian ranked Nickel and Dimed 13th in its list of the 100 best books of the 21st century. Since we’re only 21 years into the 21st century, it seems kind of premature to be ranking books for this century. But writers are always looking for ways to make content, aren’t they?

A trailer for Soul Man… wow… things were cheap in 1986!

Barbara Ehrenreich’s book reminds me of Soul Man, a 1986 movie that was kind of popular, but today would likely be taboo. C. Thomas Howell, who was prior best known as one of the “Wolverines” in the anti-Soviet propaganda film, Red Dawn, played a rich White guy whose family cuts him off from the family fortunes. Howell’s character, Mark Watson, wants to go to law school at Harvard University, but as a rich White person, he doesn’t qualify for financial aid. So, his solution was to take tanning pills and pose as a Black student so he can qualify for a scholarship that is only available to Black people. Naturally, this role required that C. Thomas Howell wear blackface, which led to protests against the film’s release.

Worth watching for this scene. I like James Earl Jones a lot.

Today, Soul Man probably would not have been made, although I remember many television shows and movies where blackface was used in the 80s. In fact, I was watching The Kids in the Hall, a hilarious 90s era CBC/HBO comedy show last week, and noticed that at least two characters were in blackface. James Earl Jones and Rae Dawn Chong were both in this movie. And while many people think Soul Man is “racist”, the last scene kind of sums up things nicely. In that scene, Mark Watson is talking to his law school professor, Professor Banks (James Earl Jones), who tells Watson that now he’s learned what it’s like to be Black. But Watson reminds the professor that he doesn’t actually know what being Black is like, because he could always “escape” it. Real Black people can’t do that. Likewise, Barbara Ehrenreich could have bailed on being a member of the “working poor”. She was a successful writer with education and notoriety who had money. But she didn’t bail, and managed to write a book that was compelling to a lot of people, despite the “woke” naysayers’ complaints.

I think it’s too bad that so many people are so “woke” that they miss the main point sometimes. Our society has gotten to the point at which if you’re not spouting off politically correct rhetoric, you will get shouted down by the masses, many consisting of people who don’t stop to think about anything for more than a minute or two. They read or hear something, have a knee-jerk reaction to it, and just drive on without another thought. They don’t always stop to see the other sides of an issue and think critically. And if you dare to bring up the other sides, they get all ragey about it, which is why comment sections are often useless and reading them does nothing more than raise my blood pressure and occasionally provide fodder for my blog.

Soul Man is kind of cringeworthy on its surface, because it shows a clueless White person pretending to be Black– and frankly, not very convincingly, as I don’t think C. Thomas Howell really pulls off racial appropriation. To me, he doesn’t really pass. But that final scene, in which he talks to his Black Harvard law professor about the trick he pulled, the main idea of the movie is spelled out. And I think a lot of people miss that, and just want to crap on the film because they think it’s “racist”. If it was meant to be a racist film, that last scene would not have been included. That being said… Soul Man is not a great film, in my opinion, although I do think the people who made it had good intentions. But thinking about Barbara Ehrenreich’s book this morning made me remember it.

Rae Dawn Chong, who is mixed race– Black, White, and Asian– reportedly was very offended that Spike Lee took exception to Soul Man. She said:

“It was only controversial because Spike Lee made a thing of it… He’d never seen the movie and he just jumped all over it,” she added, recalling that it was a time when Lee was coming up in his career and making headlines for being outspoken.

“He was just starting and pulling everything down in his wake,” Chong asserted. “If you watch the movie, it’s really making white people look stupid.”

That was my take, too… although my favorite part of Soul Man was the music. The soundtrack was pretty excellent, if I recall correctly.

In any case… I hope my days of being a member of the working poor are over, for I know that is not an easy status. But one never knows what the future holds. I have been very lucky, but as Don Henley pointed out in his song, “New York Minute”, everything can change in an instant. One minute you’re here, the next minute you’re gone… So I try to keep that in mind as I clean up after the two well-fed human butts and two well fed canine butts in my household and feel great relief when my vacuuming chore is over for the week.

Bill managed to get his second Moderna shot yesterday. He was feeling okay until about 3:00am, when the shot kicked in. He woke up this morning feeling achy and flu-like. I’m glad we washed all the bedding yesterday, so he can enjoy clean sheets while he recovers. He worked so many hours in Bavaria that he’s taking most of this week off. I wish we could have used the time off to see some of Europe, but the weather has been positively horrible lately. It’s currently 54 degrees outside and cloudy. Yesterday and Tuesday, it rained for most of the day. I did catch a rainbow, though…

I hope this is a good omen.

Well, it’s time I got on with the rest of the day. I don’t know if I recommend Nickel and Dimed. I liked it a lot when I read it, but at 20 years old, it’s now a bit dated. But I do like that turn of a phrase, “well fed white butts”… and I hope Barbara Ehrenreich meant it when she expressed empathy for the working poor… just like I hope C. Thomas Howell learned something from his turn as “Mark Watson, Soul Man”. I guess Barbara Ehrenreich and C. Thomas Howell really do have something in common besides having well-fed butts of their own.

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celebrities, complaints

Now, I know why…

Happy Monday, everybody. I, for one, am glad the weekend is over. I spent it alone again, although it wasn’t without a little excitement. As I wrote in my travel blog, on Saturday night, our dog Noyzi was a naughty boy who ate part of a brand new toy. I explained the drama involved with that situation, and I’m happy to report that everything turned out fine. Noyzi is totally okay after that experience. It was upsetting and frustrating on many levels, though, because I unexpectedly found myself somewhat helpless in that situation. There was so much to think about that, two or three years ago, I wouldn’t have needed to consider.

Two years ago, my biggest issue would have been getting Noyzi into the back of the car for a trip to the vet’s office. But thanks to the pandemic, there was so much more to prepare for, right down to making sure I had a fucking face mask. In the end, it wasn’t necessary for me to rush Noyzi to the vet on Saturday night. It’s still unnerving that doing so would have been difficult. I guess if it had come down to it, I could have tried to get help from the neighbors, although I know the next door neighbor wasn’t home when this was happening.

COVID-19 has made things infinitely more complicated for everyone. I’ve noticed that people have less patience than they used to have. There’s also a marked decrease in civility across the board. I’ve noticed that people are a lot less willing to listen to opinions they don’t happen to share. And instead of just quietly scrolling by, they get into arguments that quickly get heated. Sometimes, those arguments are also offline. Which brings me to the title of today’s post.

Last night, I noticed I got a bunch of hits on an old post I wrote about the actor, Ricky Schroder, I had written for my old Google blog. I reposted that piece some time ago, mainly because I thought it was interesting. I know not everyone shares my opinions about what’s interesting and what’s not. When I repost things from the old blog, I notice they don’t tend to be read right away. But then, if something comes up in the news, people will find those reruns. Sometimes, that leads to interesting connections. For instance, I got a comment on the contact page last night from someone who had read a repost of a piece I wrote about seven years ago. I especially tend to get these kinds of comments on true crime posts– from true crime buffs, crime writers and researchers, and sometimes even friends and families of the victims or perpetrators.

So anyway, Ricky Schroder is in the news again, which has caused people to search for info about him. That’s led some new people to my blog. Ricky Schroder is notoriously conservative. He was a Mormon convert for a number of years. He helped bail teen Kenosha killer Kyle Rittenhouse out of jail last year. He’s a big proponent of gun rights. And evidently, he’s now in the news for being against being forced to wear a face mask at Costco.

Ricky Schroder posted a video to his Facebook page showing him confronting an employee at Costco, who wouldn’t let him in the store without a mask. Evidently, in the wake of the CDC’s recent announcement that face masks are no longer necessary for fully vaccinated people, Costco dropped its face mask requirements. However, the new rule only applies in places where local ordinances don’t still require masking. In Los Angeles, which is where Ricky wanted to shop at Costco, masking indoors still applies. That’s why Ricky was confronted by a Costco employee named Jason, who would not let him pass the front door. Jason sounds very much like he’s been well-trained by his corporate leaders. I sympathize with him, and commend him for keeping his cool, under the circumstances. But I guess if you live in Los Angeles, you might be used to seeing 80s era TV stars every day.

Ricky says that people should boycott Costco. He’s come to the store to get a refund and, I guess, to drop his membership. Bill and I had a Costco membership when we lived in Texas. It wasn’t very useful for us, since there’s only two of us in the house. I also don’t like shopping in big warehouses. However, I know that a lot of people love Costco and it’s a company that is reportedly very good to its employees. And, to be honest, I hate wearing face masks, so I wouldn’t want to shop at Costco right now, anyway. On one hand, I agree with Ricky that the idea that we should all wear masks indefinitely is not a good one. On the other hand, I also respect the rights of business owners to run their businesses the way they see fit. Costco is a private business, and especially as a Republican, Ricky Schroder should have respected that, and their right to set policies that work for their business. He doesn’t have to shop there, and it sounds like, from now on, he won’t.

As someone who used to have to deal with the public, I have a lot of empathy for Jason and his cohorts. And as someone who votes blue, but sometimes leans right, I understand how Ricky feels, too. I hate that COVID-19 has made everything so complicated and political. This should not be a political issue at all. It’s about avoiding getting sick and dying or spreading diseases that can kill other people. I think a person can be cooperative with policies and not be pro or against an issue. I know it’s trendy for people to make assumptions about a person’s politics by how they feel about masking or other hot button issues. Hell, I’m even guilty myself of figuring out who is pro Trump, simply based on their behavior. I remember a couple of years ago, I correctly surmised a couple of guys were Trump supporters because they got drunk and decided to test out a bullet proof vest. That’s just not the kind of thing the average liberal does… although I suppose it’s possible a Biden fan might try such a stunt.

What put this on my mind today? It’s partly because last night, I was reading a news article about how the new mask guidelines have caused mass confusion and strife in the United States. The CDC director, Rochelle Walensky, is now having to defend the new guidance as people have gotten up in arms about it. For approximately the last year (because the mask habit was slower to pick up in some areas than others) the overwhelming advice by public health experts has been to wear face masks. Just a couple of months ago, some experts were advising people to “double mask”. To be honest, that idea was not gonna fly with me at all. I found the idea of wearing two masks really horrifying. The idea that the air is so fouled with pathogens that I need to cover my face everywhere while wearing two masks? That just sounds dystopian to me. Nope… I will wear only one mask, and only where they are required and I can’t avoid going.

After the double mask fad that was going on a few months ago, it was very strange to hear the CDC suddenly reverse course. It was even stranger to hear the people who were begging people to listen to the experts at the CDC suddenly changing course, telling people NOT to listen to them. As I read that news article last night, I was reminded of how annoyed I was last year when people kept sharing the “public urination” meme, comparing wearing a mask to wearing pants and not peeing on people. I lost my temper with more than one person who shared that with me, partly because unlike many people who were sharing it, I’ve actually taken courses in epidemiology and worked in the public health field. The comparison of spreading COVID-19 to public urination was just non-sensical to me. They aren’t comparable situations. Who goes around peeing on people? Even if they did, avoiding pee is much easier than avoiding airborne viruses or other microscopic microbes.

So glad to see this meme died, at long last.

Last night, I read an angry comment from some guy who compared going maskless to driving drunk. Once again, I was shaking my head at the lunacy. Driving drunk is something that only people who drink alcohol and drive cars do. Not everyone drives. Not everyone drinks alcohol. And not everyone chooses to drink and drive. We all have to breathe, though, and until COVID-19 showed up, breathing uninhibited by a face mask was completely appropriate and okay. Moreover, even those who wear masks can spread the virus or catch it, even though the risk is much lower. But if you don’t breathe, you will die. Breathing is necessary for living. Driving a car and/or drinking booze or both are not necessary for living. The masks aren’t normal, and we shouldn’t normalize this situation. This is a temporary condition and it should be treated as such.

Ditto to the seatbelt argument. To me, the masks aren’t like seatbelts. Seatbelts are only worn in the car or on the airplane. They don’t inhibit communication, breathing, eating, drinking, socializing, vision (because of fogging up or the mask riding up), or hearing (because of the ear loops that sometimes knock out hearing aids or make lip reading hard). Moreover, we’ll probably all be wearing seatbelts for the rest of our lives… at least until cars are obsolete. The masks, on the other hand, I hope are temporary. Even if we can’t get rid of COVID, I’m hoping someone will come up with a way to temper the virus so it’s not such a threat anymore. Car accidents, I fear, are always going to be a threat to human life, no matter what.

Mark my words… someone will come up with some kind of HVAC system that kills viruses… or some other system that eventually makes the masks unnecessary indoors. A year ago, I was worried that the masks would become trendy forever, but now I know that people really do want to be rid of them. That’s comforting to me.

Noyzi this morning. He’s in fine fettle.

In any case… none of this drama affects me personally. I’m still in Germany, where vaccinations are finally picking up, but aren’t as widespread as they are in the United States. The Rewe is still only letting 35 properly masked people in their stores at a time. Things are still shut down here, although there is talk that fully vaccinated or recovered people will be allowed more freedoms. Actually, that is currently the case in Germany, although I can’t enjoy it myself until next month. I don’t get shot #2 until June 9th, and I won’t be considered fully vaccinated until the 23rd. However, it is comforting to see that widespread sickness is going down in the USA. The vaccines are working. With any luck, things will get markedly better soon for a lot of people. Frankly, I’m just glad that in a few days, Bill will (hopefully) be home… and if Noyzi eats another toy, we can handle it together. As for Ricky Schroder… I hope he finds a retailer whose policies are more in line with his right wing politics.

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