music, musings

50 years and counting… Belgian style!

Well, I have officially made it to my 50th birthday. Technically, I entered the world at 11:40am eastern daylight time, having been born at the now defunct Dixie Hospital in Hampton, Virginia on June 20, 1972. I turned 40 in Hampton, since Bill had business trip, and we lived in North Carolina at the time. We visited my parents, and I got to see an old high school friend of mine, who treated me to lunch at a pub. I turned 45 in Alveringem, Belgium, and now I’m turning 50 in Antwerp. Antwerp has turned out to be an awesome place to celebrate.

This morning, I was surprised with a delicious mascarpone strawberry tart and champagne, coffee, an orange juice, and absolutely no room for anything else. Half the tart is being saved for later. Bill just handed me a birthday card. I usually get a mushy one from him, but this time, it was a funny card.

As I sit here looking at Bill, I thank God all of the crushes I had in my earlier years never worked out. I can’t imagine a more perfect man in my life. A lot of women dread turning 50, but I have to say, it’s not such a bad thing… at least not yet. I feel pretty good, and I have most of what I would ever want or need… and I get along great with Bill. So life is pretty okay right now, in spite of everything that’s happened since… well, since birth.

I may not be as young and pretty as I used to be… not that I was ever particularly pretty… but I did used to have a nice figure, smoother skin, and better eyesight. I do think I’m saner than I used to be. Things don’t upset me as much as they used to. I don’t have panic attacks anymore, and I don’t often have crying jags, unless it’s because I’m listening to beautiful music or watching a particularly moving scene in a movie, or something. It’s usually music that makes me cry, though. Especially live music. That’s better than crying because someone was mean to me or I’m overwhelmed by something.

And I’m grateful that I’ve been blessed with basic good sense and better health. I’m especially grateful that when I met Bill, even with all the challenges he was facing at the time, I knew he was the right person for me to spend my life with. I never thought I’d be that lucky, given that I don’t have tons of friends and never dated much. And yet, there he was, just when I thought I was going to be single. He’s perfect for me, and the best gift I could ever have.

As we were sitting at breakfast this morning, enjoying the strawberry tart and bubbles, I mused once again about how I somehow found the right person in the least likely place, ever. I have never met anyone who makes me feel more comfortable and at ease. The miracle is, I think he’d say the same thing about me.

Belgium has wonderful strawberries!

This point was driven home over breakfast, when another couple showed up. They barely spoke to each other and seemed dissatisfied and unfriendly. Here we are in one of Antwerp’s best hotels. The staff is super friendly and helpful. And the lady is complaining about the coffee and cutting the crusts off her bread. She sent the coffee back twice, then the two of them sat at the table in silence, making it seem awkward for conversation even among ourselves. Who knows what was going on, though. God knows, I have my days, too. It was just something we both noticed. Maybe they’re both just very introverted… or they have the Monday blues.

Anyway… I’m sure the day will be full of surprises. Time to get off the computer and celebrate. Going to go home tomorrow and write up our visit, which has been a lot more fun than I was expecting. Antwerp truly is an awesome town… as long as you aren’t driving. 😉

By the way… just discovered this album. If you like jazz and Sesame Street, it’s fun!

Fun birthday find!

I think we’re going to do some shopping today… and probably more beer drinking. I can’t think of a better way to spend my first day of being 50. Nor can I think of a better person to spend it with.

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communication, complaints, condescending twatbags, rants

Just WTF does that have to do with the price of tea in China?

Well, it finally happened. I now have a topic to discuss today that isn’t about the Duggar family. Prepare for an epic rant.

Years ago, I was a big fan of Mad Magazine. Unfortunately, I was introduced to Mad by the neighborhood pervert, who had a son who was a few years older than me. I suspect the pervert’s son was the Mad Magazine fan. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. I’m just glad he gave me something to look at besides the men’s magazines he usually showed me back when I was a wee lass. Even though I can’t look at a copy of Mad without remembering the Home of the Whopper (as the neighborhood pervert occasionally referred to himself), the fact remains that it was a funny magazine, especially when I was an adolescent. And after all these years, I have managed to maintain my adolescent sense of humor.

Not that anyone really appreciates it…

Back in the early 1980s, Mad Magazine did a parody of public television telethons. I don’t remember exactly what the spoof was about, but I do remember that Big Bird was a participant. The clever cartoonist had drawn Big Bird as he would have been on Sesame Street, introducing the letter for the day. In that particular article, the letter for the day was “P”, and Big Bird introduced it by saying “P stands for ‘prance’ and ‘pad’ and ‘punch’ and ‘puss’ and ‘please’. As in, ‘I’m going to prance over to your pad and punch you in the puss if you don’t please give us money.'”

The eleven year old version of me thought that was just fucking hilarious. I remember laughing my ass off, mainly because I didn’t know that the word “puss” is not akin to the word “pussy”. I had a grand time picturing Big Bird prancing, let alone prancing over to someone’s “pad” and punching them. And of course, because I had never been exposed to the old fashioned word “puss”, and was picturing Big Bird punching someone in the pussy, I laughed even harder.

My laughter is distinctive, and some people find it irritating. My parents were among those who criticized me for the way I laugh. My dad especially hated it, and would tell me I sounded like a cackling witch.

Anyway, after I read that article in Mad, my mom asked me why I was laughing so hard, so I told her. Her response was to get annoyed with me and crankily inform me that the word “puss” refers to someone’s face– hence the expression “sour puss”. In fact, she had a distinctly sour puss as she edified me with that information. I still thought the mental image of Big Bird prancing to someone’s pad and punching someone in the pussy was hilarious, and continued to laugh like a banshee. Years later, I still think that mental image is funny, and I occasionally still laugh about it.

Of course, not everyone thinks the idea of Big Bird punching someone in the pussy is funny. I probably still annoy people, too, even when I’m doing something as innocent as laughing at a ridiculous mental image. For some reason, a lot of people seem to think I’m an asshole, even when I’m seriously not trying to be an asshole.

So what’s that story got to do with today’s title? Keep reading, and I think it will be clearer. Or maybe not. My mind works in strange, tangental ways.

My old friend, Jamie, posted a couple of pictures of himself yesterday. He currently has long hair. I’ve never known him to have long hair, because I haven’t seen him in person in many years. When I knew him offline, he had short, conservatively styled hair. But we have known each other since we were very young, having graduated from the same high school and worked at the same amusement park for a few summers. Naturally, neither of us still looks the way we did in the late 80s, early 90s.

Anyway, Jamie has long hair now, and he wanted to know if he should wear his hair up or down for the occasion of attending his son’s graduation. I’m assuming the young man has just finished college. I didn’t have an opinion on Jamie’s hair or how he should wear it, although I am impressed that he apparently still has so much of it at his age. Instead, I was struck by the rather dour expression on his face in his pictures. I didn’t remember him to be so somber looking when I knew him offline. So I posted, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” That’s a song from Annie, by the way, and it was intended as a lighthearted joke.

Some time later, a mutual friend of Jamie’s took me to task for making that comment. She might have been surprised to know that I actually hesitated before posting it, because as a woman, I don’t necessarily like it when someone suggests that I smile. But I figured Jamie and I have known each other for a long time and he wouldn’t be offended. It never crossed my mind that anyone other than him would raise an objection. I certainly never thought I was going to be confronted about COVID-19 when I posted it.

When Jamie’s other friend initially came at me, I figured it was because she’s apparently a woman, and like a lot of women, she doesn’t like to be ordered to smile. But no… somehow, she got the impression that I was making a statement about mask mandates and COVID-19. She left me a second comment about how she lives in New Mexico, where mask mandates have been reinstated, and is fully immunized and boosted and wears masks and yadda, yadda, yadda. I was initially confused by her laundry list of COVID-19 prevention tactics. Then I got a bit irritated.

I should add that it was late at night when I saw her comments. I was about to go to bed, having enjoyed dinner and libations. And I just didn’t get how she took my statement as being about the fucking pandemic, or why everything has to be about the goddamned pandemic. I never mentioned COVID, vaccines, masks, or anything. I just made a simple comment about Jamie’s joyless expression. It never even crossed my mind that his smile would eventually be covered by a face mask, although I’m certain it probably was. But somehow, this lady seemed to think I was making a statement about the pandemic when I was just reacting to pictures posted by an old friend.

So I responded to her that I live in Germany, am fully vaccinated, have an appointment to get a booster, and mask mandates never went away here. I also have a master’s degree in public health and another in social work. And I’ve known Jamie since I was about 17 years old, and was just kidding.

I didn’t add this, but I could have also told her that my comment had absolutely NOTHING whatsoever to do with COVID-19. And I don’t know how she conflated a comment about smiling to being about masks, especially since prior to my peevish response to her comment, she didn’t know a fucking thing about me. I also didn’t add that, given my background, of course I understand how serious the pandemic is. Of course, we’ve never met, so she wouldn’t have known before I told her. But my initial comment wasn’t even about the pandemic. She read a lot more into it than was really necessary.

She came back with “Good to know.”

WTF? I’m not the one who was being rude. She chose to engage me, by chiming in with an inappropriate and nonsensical comment. Why can’t I add a simple response on an old friend’s Facebook status without some stranger assuming the worst about me and putting words in my fingers? I don’t even know this person from Adam, and she doesn’t know me! She might as well have come up to me on the street and started talking about thermonuclear physics, or something equally as irrelevant.

This isn’t so much a rant about the clueless woman in New Mexico with a Ph.D. who works for the Army, as it is that trying to communicate on social media just sucks. People have lost the ability to be civilized. We all sit behind computer screens and deliver the snark first and ask questions later. I’m as guilty of it as anyone is, I guess. We all seem to read more into things than we should, or we make erroneous assumptions that someone is being rude. Or we put words in people’s fingers– make assumptions about points they never even made. We don’t simply take things at face value. I see it in comment sections all the time, which is why I try hard not to respond in them. Too often, making comments ends up being involved in a pissing match with a complete stranger. No thanks.

Communicating with someone online can sometimes be downright weird, especially when you compare it to talking to someone in person. Imagine having an in person chat with someone you know, and suddenly your friend’s mutual friend, a total stranger to you, suddenly butts in to your exchange with a completely irrelevant comment about socks or something. That’s what it’s sometimes like to communicate with an old friend online. But, of course, communicating online, especially on a public forum, is NOT like having an in person conversation, precisely because total strangers and outsiders to the conversation can butt in with something off topic.

Maybe I am perturbed right now because I really miss offline communications, and actually getting to know people. It annoys me that I wind up interacting with complete strangers just so I can exchange a few words with a legitimate old friend from back in the days before the Internet.

I suppose I could have simply ignored her. Maybe next time, I’ll just do that. Ignoring her doesn’t solve the issue that has so irritated me this morning, though. On the other hand, maybe if we have occasion to interact again, she might have a better understanding of who I am before she pops off with something completely useless and irrelevant. Or maybe not. My guess is that she’s already forgotten about me and our unpleasant exchange.

Adding to my moan this morning are a couple of other things. First off, I somehow managed to break the business end of the Type C thunderbolt cable for my iPad. I don’t know what happened, but the end managed to come loose and now it no longer works. So I had to order a new cable, and that cost me some euros. I ordered early in the morning and Amazon.de said the replacement would get to me today. But, I see that it will probably get here tomorrow, which sucks because Saturday is the one day of the week I might hope to get out of the house and do something fun. Sundays in Germany are often pretty dead… at least if one wants to do any shopping or anything. Delivery people here don’t always leave packages like they do in the States.

And then, another person– someone I don’t know offline, but “met” through Epinions– decided to add a rude comment to a discussion my friends and I had a couple of days ago about Josh Duggar. This dude felt the need to post “YAWWWNNN…” on that topic.

My response to him was to “keep scrolling.” I mean, if you have nothing of substance to add to a discussion on someone else’s Facebook page, and you think what they’ve posted is boring, why not just move on? There’s no need to leave a rude comment that does nothing more than irritate people. Again with the uncivilized behavior, right?

That guy has a tendency to be a grouch sometimes, but he’s not the worst offender. In fact, he rarely chimes in on things on my page. He probably has better things to do than hang out on social media. Given that, he doesn’t need to leave a random comment that he thinks my discussion is boring. But at least he’s not like …tom… Some of my regulars know all about …tom…

…tom… could not resist leaving insulting comments to any and all topics. He was another person I “met” on Epinions. I never liked him much, but decided to try to give him the benefit of the doubt. After awhile, when he would leave those kinds of rude and useless comments, I would respond with profanity. Usually, I would tell him to “fuck off” or “go play in traffic” or something like that. I will admit that’s not very civilized behavior, either. I mainly did it because he was such an insufferable jackass, and it was sometimes fun for me to be unabashedly profane when he asked for it. Remember, I wasn’t on his page; he was on mine.

One day, I finally got tired of the bullshit and kicked …tom… off my friends list. That was kind of sad for me, because he gave me a lot to blog about– or at least vent. On the other hand, trying to have a meaningful conversation with him was a complete waste of time. He would chime in on things, often without having the slightest notion of what the discussion was about. He would leave rude, critical, condescending comments. He had no respect for me, so trying to be friendly with him was not productive. And while cursing is something I do as if it’s my job, I don’t feel good about swearing at people. Not unless I know they enjoy it. I don’t know how …tom… felt about being asked to “fuck off”, but he once told me he wasn’t “unfriending”, even though he seemed to find my page so worthy of criticism. So I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Maybe that’s the solution. I should just tell people who annoy me to “fuck off” and use my block button. Not caring about how other people perceive me might even be the key to happiness. Another key to happiness is to stop trying to engage with strangers, especially those who make assumptions before they know any facts. And maybe someday, I’ll log off of social media altogether and simply read books, like I did in the days before I joined Facebook. It doesn’t sound like a bad idea.

People need to learn to come at people where they live… or simply shut the fuck up.

And just to bring this topic back around to where it started before I seemed to go wildly off on a tangent, I’d like to announce the letters for today. Big Bird says, the letters for today are “F” and “U”. As in, “feeling fed up”… and of course you know what else. 😉

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education, memories, nostalgia

“Aggressively influenced” by the public TV of my childhood…

Growing up in the 70s and 80s was an interesting experience. It seemed like back in those days, things were evolving somewhat. Computers were becoming more popular, as were synthesizers, and we had all these cool movies about outer space, like Star Wars and Flash Gordon. I don’t think I’ve ever watched Star Wars in its entirety, but I have seen Flash Gordon many times. I used to watch it on HBO all the time, even though I wouldn’t call myself a science fiction buff. I actually love Flash Gordon for its campiness and funny British humor moments.

One thing I remember a lot from being a kid in the late 70s was how much public television I watched. In those days, we’d watch educational TV in school, especially when I lived in Fairfax County. I remember being in first grade and exposed to The Electric Company for the first time. Of all of the public education shows I used to watch at school, that one was definitely my favorite. A couple of days ago, I had “Silent E” running through my head…

This song, and many like it, helped me learn how to read as I watched every episode of The Electric Company and other shows created by the Children’s Television Workshop.
This song still gets stuck in my head.

Tom Lehrer is a genius. He just turned 93 years old on the 9th, and his witty, entertaining songs have helped so many children, particularly of my generation, become better people through education. Lehrer is probably best known for his witty songs for children’s shows on PBS, but he was also a brilliant mathematician and satirist. After the 1970s, he got out of public performances to focus on his love of teaching math and musical theater history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. When I listen to Tom Lehrer’s entertaining songs and realize that he had so many other, diverse interests, it kind of makes me feel humble. How can just one person be that gifted?

What brings on this topic today? Well… for one thing, it’s Monday, and I don’t feel like writing about the depressing state of current events right now. I figure we don’t need another article about social justice, my (many) pet peeves, my personal problems, or the pandemic. For another thing, I woke up with a song stuck in my head. It’s been stuck for years and I’ll probably never figure it out. Technically speaking, it’s not even a song, since I don’t think it has any words. In the late 70s, it was played all the time on PBS… basically funky “groove” music that serve to prevent dead air caused by a pause in programming.

During that time, my family lived in Northern Virginia, where over the air television was easier to watch, because we were near Washington, DC. There was a lot of money in Fairfax County, too, so the public television stations as well as the local independent stations, WDCA (channel 20) and WTTG (channel 5) got a lot of support. There was some good TV on in those days… probably better than what I saw on British TV when we lived in England. Although we did live in base housing at Mildenhall Air Force Base, I distinctly remember getting British TV instead of AFRTS (or AFN, if you prefer), which is a conglomeration of American TV shows condensed into a channel and made available for government and military Americans living abroad.

I always liked watching TV, but I really got into it in Fairfax, and I specifically remember loving PBS… along with this psychedelic identification flourish…

Hearing this brings back so many memories of being a young kid in elementary school.

According to the comments on this particular video, this particular identification flourish was composed by Paul Alan Levi. He wrote a comprehensive and technical explanation of the musical components of this creation:

Paul Alan Levi

4 years ago I am the composer of the PBS logo. I created it using a Putney VCS3 Synthesizer, not a Moog, as is claimed on various websites. The final chord is a G major 9th (major triad, major 7th, major 9th). I was working in a music/sound effects editing studio; all the equipment was in mono. No multi-track recorders. The descending scale was probably a sine wave (can’t remember exactly 46 years later) frequency modulated by a square wave to create the trill effect, then that sound frequency modulated by the descending part of a sawtooth wave from a low frequency oscillator. In order to synchronize the 6 final notes with the video, I had to record each note separately, then use a Moviola to synchronize each one with one of the popons. The result was 7 analog tracks all running at once, which multiplied the hiss that Glen Tindal remarked on earlier. It was odd for many years to be a composer whose music was heard by millions of people, none of whom knew I had composed it. There has always been a small subset of people who were terrified by the logo, which mystifies me. My two-year old daughter would hear it before or after Sesame Street and say happily, “Daddy’s tune.” My theory about this is that the sounds of the pure sound waves produced by the Putney were quite aggressive, and some people reacted to the intensity of those sounds.

Based on his explanation, I can only assume that Paul Alan Levi is some kind of a genius, too, who not only knows music, but is also a technology wiz. Or, at least he was a wiz in the late 70s and early 80s! I got a kick out of the comments from people who wrote that this thing “scared” them. I can kind of understand why. It has kind of an aggressive tone to it… harsh, loud, and unmistakable. When that thing came on before a program, you knew it was time to shut up and sit still… and maybe eat a Hostess Ho Ho or something. We were allowed snacks at Oak View Elementary School, and in those days, no one cared if they were full of chemicals. To this day, when I hear the PBS psychedelic chimes, I think of the processed snack cakes kids ate back then. No wonder so many of us are fat!

I ‘ve always loved the theme song for 3-2-1 Contact. It reminds me of “Goodbye Stranger” by Supertramp.

I remember watching 3-2-1- Contact at school, but I never enjoyed it as much as I did The Electric Company. I liked science, so I don’t know why I didn’t love this show more beyond the awesome theme song. I still remember the video montage shown during the credits, as well as the musical intro for the Children’s Television Workshop– again with the synths! We loved synths in the early 80s!

I especially remember this one.
See?

And I think I liked Sesame Street’s funky horn infused end credits even more than the official “Sesame Street” theme song. They hold up well even in 2021!

I love the opening credits and theme…
From 1:53, you can hear some funky music as the end credits roll!

Today’s youngsters have so many things to occupy their attention. I wonder what they’re going to be like when they’re in their 40s? One of the things I like about my generation is that so many of us had very similar experiences, simply because the Internet didn’t exist. We were all allowed to run wild in our neighborhoods and people weren’t calling CPS at the drop of a hat, every time some kid dared to venture beyond the front or back yard. I can remember doing things as a young child that I would never dream of allowing a child of today to do, like walk to a mall by themselves. When I lived on Portsmouth Road in Fairfax, I used to walk to University Mall by myself all the time. I was six or seven years old! I’d collect old glass bottles and turn them in for money, then hit the High’s Convenience Store and buy a candy bar for 26 cents. Nowadays, a child wandering the mall that young would be picked up by the police.

A memorable tune from The Electric Company… this one sounds a little inspired by Jim Croce.
Glad I don’t wait tables anymore.
I once shared this video on my original blog and got a blatant spam comment from a plumber. At least he took the time to try to make his comment someone on topic, remembering this from his childhood, too. I notice the person who uploaded this got spam links from plumbers, too.

When I wrote a post about The Electric Company on my original blog, I was inspired to do so because the sink in the kitchen of our rental house was not putting out hot water. The property management company sent someone over to check into it. He was in the middle of a spiel about how cheap the plumbing fixtures were when finally, after about five minutes, we got somewhat warm water. The property managers billed us $80 because they said it was our “responsibility” to check the water before complaining. I remember calling them up and chewing them out, since we were in Texas and there was a pretty severe drought going on. I asked them how long I was expected to let the water run, waiting for it to get hot, when the city was telling us to conserve. Then I bitched at them for not fixing the garage door, which was dented when we moved in.

The original property managers who set up the rental had said it was going to be fixed, but two weeks into our lease, another company– one that I had tried really hard to avoid– took over. They lived up to every one of their bad reviews, and tried (and failed) to screw us out of money at the end of the lease. I was so glad to get out of that house a year later. Of course, I didn’t know that when we moved to Germany, we’d be running into the first landlady we’d have to sue. She is now officially the worst landlord we’ve ever had, but prior to our experiences with her, the rental company in San Antonio was. If we ever do move back to the States, I hope to God we buy our own home. It may suck just as much to own a house, but at least it will be ours!

Cool theme song!

I never did get into Mister Rogers Neighborhood. For one thing, I was probably too old for it. For another, I found Mister Rogers annoying. He was probably too nice, and the way he spoke got on my nerves. Of course, in these troubled times, a lot of people probably would love to still have him around. He was gentle and calming, and he promoted being good to others. Same as Bob Keeshan as Captain Kangaroo, although I never watched much of that show. It always came on during early school hours. And The Great Space Coaster did, too, although that show wasn’t on PBS. It just had a groovy theme song and a cool animated intro.

Supposedly, this aired on PBS… it’s a little ridiculous. We sure were scared of the Soviets back in the day.

I see one of the kids in the show above was Leslie Weiner, who played a young Nadia Comaneci in the 1984 movie, Nadia. And the little girl in the still is Toni Ann Gisondi, who played Molly in the 1982 film version of Annie. April Lerman is also in this (ETA: I don’t see April listed anywhere, but on IMDB)! She was also in Annie, as well as a guest on Growing Pains, and a terrible Schoolbreak Special about bulimia called Little Miss Perfect. I remember that in the early 80s, everybody was afraid the Soviets were going to invade and turn us all into communists. Fourteen years later, I lived in Armenia, which was once a Soviet country. It’s now an independent country, and putting out some very fresh ideas. Having had that experience, I can say that our fears were probably a bit overblown.

Well… I have probably journeyed along the nostalgia path long enough. Guess I’ll get dressed and take the dogs for a stroll. I could watch these videos all day, though. I miss being young.

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