social media

“Shame, shame… everybody knows your name!” When people of today, shame others over events from the past…

Back in the 80s, I used to love watching sitcoms on television. One of my favorites from those days was Alice, which, over several years, starred Linda Lavin, Vic Tayback, Beth Howland, Polly Holliday, Diane Ladd, and Celia Weston. A few years ago, I downloaded the entire series and watched all of the episodes. As I was watching the show, I had forgotten that Alice, along with many other TV shows from that era, wasn’t always “politically correct” by today’s standards.

I remember one episode featured cast members from The Dukes of Hazzard, which was a huge hit in the early 80s. I was still a child in the 80s, and I grew up in southern Virginia, where people proudly displayed Confederate battle flags. Consequently, when Alice originally aired in the 80s, I wasn’t shocked when an episode featured Boss Hogg and Enos, of The Dukes of Hazzard. Mel Sharples (Tayback), crotchety owner of Mel’s Diner, welcomed them by putting little Confederate battle flags on all the tables. In those days, seeing that flag was pretty common and even considered “normal”, especially in the South. I was about ten years old, anyway, and at that time, didn’t know anything about racism, or any of the issues surrounding that topic.

Yes, Enos and Boss Hogg visited Mel’s Diner.

I would later learn much more about racism, and why the Confederate flag is so offensive to many people, but I’m probably still pretty ignorant about the subject. What I know is mostly based on book learning and conversations I’ve had with people of color. I did happen to live in South Carolina when the Confederate flag was finally taken down from the top of the Statehouse dome. Because I was living on the campus at the University of South Carolina, I could actually see the flag come down from my apartment, as it was also being televised on CNN. The flag was moved to the Statehouse grounds, where it was guarded by a state trooper for some time. I believe the powers that be in South Carolina eventually removed the battle flag from the Statehouse grounds altogether, although I can’t swear to it, since I haven’t been in Columbia in years.

This certainly wouldn’t fly today… but it was considered perfectly fine in the 80s. We can’t change that by shaming people.

One thing I remember from Alice was that the character of Vera, played by Beth Howland, was famously ditzy, “dinghy”, and batty. One of Vera’s best remembered taglines was “shame, shame… everybody knows your name!” She would always say it with the appropriate level of disgust and disdain, which usually got a laugh from the studio audience. That old line is in my head this morning, as I reflect upon a shaming comment I received this morning from a complete stranger. It’s actually one of a few unpleasant interactions I’ve had with complete strangers on Facebook over the past 24 hours.

I’m in a Facebook group called “Exploring Virginia”. It’s mainly a “feel good” group in which people share beautiful photos and memories of Virginia. I spent most of my childhood and a good portion of my young adult life in Virginia. It’s my home. I was born there, and both sides of my family of origin have been there for generations. I spent my childhood riding horses, and since my discipline was “hunt seat”, that means I went on the occasional fox hunt. Virginia, being one of the original British colonies, does have a lot of traditions that are British. Some people are continuing those old traditions, even if they seem wrong now.

Yesterday, someone shared a photo from a fox hunt in Middleburg, Virginia. Middleburg is horse country. I never lived in Middleburg, but I do know that’s where a lot of really stellar hunter jumpers are born and bred. So, it stands to reason that there would be fox hunts in Middleburg. I thought it was nice that someone shared a photo from a hunt, and posted:

“I used to go on fox hunts in my youth… Was a lot of fun!”

I haven’t been fox hunting since, oh, around 1986 or so… at that time, fox hunts weren’t necessarily considered politically incorrect. They were even still legal in the United Kingdom, which banned them in 2004, because they are considered “cruel” . Fox hunting is still permitted in Northern Ireland. I believe they are still popular in Ireland, too, based on the YouTube videos I’ve seen. Anyway, it’s been many years since I last partook of that sport. In fact, I haven’t even been riding since the mid 90s, and riding used to be a huge part of my life. Seeing that fox hunting photo brought back good memories of when I spent most of my free time with my horse.

Most follow up comments to mine were friendly. Several other people also wrote that they used to enjoy fox hunting. Others just expressed appreciation for the photo, which again, wasn’t my photo. But then, this morning, I got a comment from someone who felt the need to single me out, and shame me, for fondly remembering my fox hunting days. She wrote, in direct response to my comment that hunting was fun, “not for the fox.”

I decided to reply to her, which I think I managed to do in a somewhat measured tone. I wrote:

“In all of the years that I hunted, I never saw any killing. We mostly chased deer, who also weren’t killed. Think trail ride while wearing fancy riding clothes. I think I saw one fox in all the times we hunted. We all said “tallyho”, and that was it.”

I understand that fox hunting is no longer considered “politically correct”, because many people consider it to be cruel. However, when I went fox hunting, I was a child growing up in rural Gloucester, Virginia, where my classmates would routinely bring rifles on school grounds so they could go hunting after school. That’s how things were in the 80s, and it was normal for me, and my classmates. Maybe fox hunting wouldn’t be considered “right” by some people today, but when I was a young horsewoman, it was perfectly fine, and part of taking riding lessons. I also competed in horse shows and went on competitive trail rides. Doing all of that helped keep me physically fit, taught me responsibility, and sportsmanship. It also kept me occupied and out of trouble. Moreover, hunting– of all kinds– was part of the culture in Gloucester.

In fact, when I was in middle school, I remember having to take a hunter safety course as part of our health and P.E. curriculum. Teachers actually taught us about how to safely handle firearms, even though I have never actually owned a weapon. Enough people in my community had guns, that the school board felt it was a good idea to teach school kids about gun safety. In light of all the gun violence in schools today, maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. Should I be ashamed that I took a hunter safety course, too? I don’t remember having a choice in the matter.

Anyway, the actual kind of fox hunting we did was more of a ceremonial thing. It genuinely was fun, on the mornings when it wasn’t absolutely frigid outside. It basically boiled down to people putting on breeches, long johns, black boots, turtlenecks, and coats, and riding through the woods on fall mornings. After a few spirited canters through the woods, and a few jumps over ditches, fallen tree trunks, and fences that were put up by the hunt club, the adults would pass around a flask of Jack Daniels. It seemed to be more about camaraderie than a bloody sport involving wild animals being torn apart by dogs. I never once saw that happen, but even if I did, it’s not as if people weren’t also using their guns to kill wild animals in those days, and now.

While I probably wouldn’t choose to go fox hunting now, I don’t feel offended when I see a picture of a man in hunting attire on horseback with his dogs. Hunting serves a practical purpose. Some people get their meat that way, and actually hunt because that’s partly how they feed their families. Many people are going to choose to eat meat, no matter what animal rights activists say about it.

I don’t think I should be shamed because I once enjoyed fox hunting, especially since I was a kid at the time, and nothing was ever actually killed. What’s the point of shaming someone for something like that, other than trying to make them feel like shit? I can’t change the fact that I used to fox hunt and mostly enjoyed it. It was part of growing up in rural Virginia around horses. Given that Exploring Virginia is supposed to be a “feel good” group, I think that lady’s comment was out of place. As I was writing this, some other lady gave me a “sad” reaction. Seriously? I decided to just delete my comment, because I don’t want to spend my Friday being annoyed by shamers. I’m sure that reaction was not what the group creators had in mind when they started their group.

For more reading about fox hunting in Virginia, here’s an excellent blog post by someone who describes exactly what I remember from my “hunting days”.

Cue the judgmental responses from the vegan crowd…

I’m not the only one who’s gotten shamed, though. Singer-songwriter Janis Ian shared the featured photo yesterday. Janis Ian regularly posts things that get people riled up and snarky. I like her music, and often agree with her views. She can be funny, too. But I rarely comment on her posts, mainly because I’ve noticed that she can get quite testy in responses to people and, at times, she’s a bit hypocritical. On the other hand, some of her fans are pretty obnoxious. One person commented,

“Yes! I didn’t realise that you are a vegan!”

To which Janis posted, “I’m not.”

The post then became inundated with comments from a preachy vegan who shamed those who enjoy eating meat. There were also a couple of comments about people who feed their cats a vegan diet, which I think is a cruel practice. Cats are true carnivores, and they shouldn’t be forced to be vegans because some humans think hunting is cruel. Even the ASPCA agrees. Cats hunt. It’s in their nature. No matter how many human beings think killing and eating animals is cruel, there will always be creatures who kill their food. It’s part of life.

That being said, I totally agree that factory farming is horrible, and too many of us eat way too much meat. But a holier than thou exchange on Facebook with a complete stranger about veganism isn’t going to make me change my diet, nor do I think the complete stranger really cares. I think it’s more about them feeling superior and more “evolved” than other people.

Personally, I truly admire vegans, but I don’t think I could be a vegan. I might be able to be a vegetarian, if I really desired to make that change. But I will tell you one thing… being preachy and judgmental is not going to make me want to join the vegan cause.

When it comes to animal rights, there are varying degrees on what some people think should be reality. Some animal rights activists, for instance, don’t think humans should even have pets. I’d love to know what they think we should do with all of the dogs and cats and horses who depend on their relationships with humans for their survival. You can’t tell me that my dogs don’t love Bill and me, either. I refuse to feel guilty and ashamed for loving my pets, who also eat meat.

I guess what it comes down to is that everybody has an opinion. In a just world, people would respect other people’s rights to express their opinions without resorting to shaming or climbing up on a moral high horse.

And finally…

Yesterday, I got shamed for “not being fertile”. Some guy in a discussion about abortion commented that he thinks that since half of a developing fetus’s DNA belongs to the father, the father should be allowed to force the mother to gestate. It’s as if this guy thinks of the fetus as his property, even though it’s not developing in his body.

I wrote that it’s too bad that MALES aren’t the ones whose health and life are on the line. And the guy responded by saying “most men prefer women who are fertile.” That struck me as a totally stupid comment. I actually laughed out loud. I considered offering a snarky rebuttal, but then decided that the guy’s comment was so incredibly dumb that it was better to block him. I don’t want to have anything to do with an asshole like that. 😉

But seriously… on so many levels, that comment was very offensive. First off, how does he know about my fertility, or lack thereof? I don’t look old in my photo. Secondly, why is he speaking for all men? And thirdly, it’s those kinds of misogynistic comments that make a lot of women not want to have anything to do with men. I can totally understand why my cousin decided to conceive using donor sperm, rather than being involved with a man. For one thing, she’s a lesbian. For another, so many men are just assholes. I truly hope that no fertile woman lets that dude get within fifty yards of her vagina.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I need to get off of Facebook.

Standard
business, complaints

“Don’t worry, I’ve got another suit like it at home…”

A few years ago, while spending a few days in Lesa, Italy, I wrote a post called “Bullshit frosting”. It was inspired by the LuLaRoe, which was in the news a lot at the time. I happened to run across an epic blog post written in 2017 by a former LuLaRoe “consultant”. She was mad as hell and not about to take it anymore, and she used her blog post to soundly dress down LuLaRoe founders, Deanne Brady and Mark Stidham, for taking advantage of all the “moms”, who were busting their asses to sell LuLaRoe and going into massive debt to make LuLaRoe’s founders richer. Brady and Stidham, as well as higher level LuLaRoe leadership, thanked those women by criticizing and blaming them for all of their failures and disappointments in the business. I began my post with the paragraph below:

Have you ever run across someone who reeks of bullshit?  I mean, all you have to do is look into their eyes and take a close look at their overly enthusiastic smiles and you just know they reek of shit?  These are the kind of people who will appear to be happy all the time, yet they’ll be grinning big as they brutally cut you down in front of your peers.  They are astoundingly and overwhelmingly full of shit, yet people still clamor to get on their boat and kiss their asses.

In my post about LuLaRoe, I included a screenshot I found on the woman’s epic blog post. It was about how the LuLaRoe consultants were expected to dress and conduct themselves at a LuLaRoe event…

Lots of expectations for people who don’t actually work for the company, but are themselves the company’s “customers”, reselling their shoddy crap to their friends and family members.

I thought about reposting that post that I wrote in those days, since it was a pretty good and, I think, an entertaining rant. But instead, I think I’m going to revamp my theories about “bullshit frosting” with a new issue. Not that many people are talking about LuLaRoe now, even though that whole phenomenon remains fascinating to me. However, as I noticed on Twitter last night, a lot of people are talking about USAA, and not in a nice way. And like LuLaRoe, USAA has been resting on its laurels and coasting along on a prior “good reputation”. Historically speaking, lots of people have sung the praises of USAA for years, and people want to “get on their boat”. But if you look beneath the surface, you’ll find that something rotten has been covered with a lot of “bullshit frosting”.

If you’ve been reading my blog over the past couple of days, you might have noticed that I have had some recent trouble with USAA– the huge insurance/banking company so popular and widely used by military servicemembers, retirees, and government employees. Just click on the “USAA” tag, and you’ll see that I’ve had repeated issues with them blocking attempts to make purchases and locking my account arbitrarily. This practice, supposedly done in the name of security, has caused me to have to call USAA to get things unfucked.

It’s a real pain to call USAA, because they’re in Texas, and I am in Germany. Most of their offices aren’t open 24/7– as I wouldn’t necessarily expect them to be, if they were a “normal” bank. However, a lot of USAA’s customers live abroad, so it seems like they could come up with ways to make things easier for those people. One would think they would have online systems that would allow me to confirm or deny questionable charges without my having to call them. For one brief time, it seemed like they did have that option. I could just go on the app and mark things “yea or nay”. Now, they will send a text, but as I have to unlock my devices, am sometimes “indisposed” in some way, and don’t always have my phone, watch, or tablet with me, sometimes I’m not able to answer quickly enough.

So… the blocks on my account and having to call to straighten them out were annoying enough. But then, a few days ago, I noticed that I had three actual fraudulent charges on my debit card. It was about 5:00am when I saw these charges, so I had to call the fraud department while half asleep. They blocked my card. I told the representative about the fraudulent charges, one of which never successfully posted. USAA gave me a “temporary” refund on one of the charges. The other one– for Insomnia Cookies– remains. The funny thing is, a USAA representative gave me grief over a vendor in Belgium I’ve made purchases from lots of times, but they allowed a charge from Insomnia Cookies… which has a Web site that, as someone who lives outside of the United States, I can’t even access without a VPN! I suppose I could have ordered cookies for a friend, or something, but why wouldn’t that charge be suspicious over one that originated in Belgium, which is only a couple of hours’ drive from me?

And then, because I had to update my payment info on revolving accounts, another false fraud alert was triggered, this time on my credit card. That issue led me to have to call the rude “gentleman” at USAA who has left me with “shell shock” bad enough that I actually feel traumatized.

Yesterday, I thought about calling USAA again, but my last call to them was so shockingly unprofessional that I just couldn’t stomach it. The charge for the cookies was about $43. Today, I can easily cover that amount, but there was a time not so long ago that losing $43 would have devastated me financially. ETA: as of 3/20, USAA has “temporarily” refunded the $43.

USAA has me feeling like a “castaway, an island lost at sea…” But I’m not the only one by a long shot!

I went to Twitter, where I was surprised to find that just like in the song, “Message In A Bottle”, I was one of many, many people “sending an S.O.S. to the world” about problems with USAA. And some of the messages people were leaving led me to believe that I was actually kind of lucky I’m just out $43. Moreover, a lot of people who really have been screwed, have reported that they’ve been on hold in USAA’s annoying phone maze for hours. For hours, they’ve been forced to listen to USAA’s God awful jingle over and over again, which I found myself commiserating about with a fellow disgruntled member. Below is a screenshot of one of the USAA jingle hater’s recent tweets, which indicates that, like me, she was exposed to the jingle because of some fuckery at the bank.

Exactly! Who’s got time for it?

I directly tweeted USAA myself the other night. It was while Bill was busy tending to personal business. I was sitting alone at the kitchen table, drinking wine and feeling sassy. I almost never use Twitter, except to engage with one of my anti-Facebook friends. But I was doing it on St. Patrick’s Day, because I had my Irish up. I let USAA know that I was shopping for a new bank, which we found yesterday. They invited me to PM them with my name, contact details, etc. I declined, since I have already gotten those phone calls recently, and they haven’t fixed the problem. Aside from that, I don’t want to call them, because I run the risk of getting “serviced” by the mansplaining jerk I encountered the other day, who refused to listen to me and, instead, was talking louder over me, and wasting my time. He flat out didn’t care about my issue. He needs to be fired, but since I don’t know who he is, I can’t complain to anyone who can actually do something. And again, as I noticed on USAA’s lively Twitter account, I am not the only one who has woes… nor am I, by any stretch, one who has been fucked over the worst. Have a look at these tweets.

Of course, yesterday it was reported that USAA was just hit with $140 million in fines because for “bad money laundering controls” that they had a chance to fix and didn’t. According to the New York Times article I linked:

“As its customer base and revenue grew in recent years, USAA F.S.B. willfully failed to ensure that its compliance program kept pace, resulting in millions of dollars in suspicious transactions flowing through the U.S. financial system without appropriate reporting,” FinCEN’s acting director, Himamauli Das, said in a statement. The bank “received ample notice and opportunity” to fix its anti-money-laundering controls, he added, “but repeatedly failed to do so.”

This doesn’t sound good at all, does it? So I told Bill that I wanted to open an account at another credit union, since I’ve also had unrelated issues with PenFed lately, trying to get a checking account with them. Bill was a little hesitant, since he’s done business with USAA for so long, and so many military people have drunk the USAA Kool-Aid. I’ll admit it, I used to drink it myself. But he finally started the process to open a joint account at the other credit union.

Then, after he started that process, I suggested to Bill that he should refinance his USAA car loan, noting that the credit union’s APR is more than a percentage point less than USAA’s is, and USAA won’t even allow us to get a car loan from Germany anymore. They quit allowing Germany based car loans in 2019, which was when we got ours. I guess we just got in under the wire. They’ve also stopped allowing us to open new CDs from here. I read that it has to do with licensing in Germany, which probably involves money and oversight.

I told Bill that it made sense to refinance, since we have already successfully financed two cars together with a credit union, and I financed a car on my own with them before Bill and I met. I have always been very happy with that institution’s service regarding loans. And USAA, quite frankly, doesn’t deserve our business anymore. He can keep paying the higher payments he’s already been paying USAA, and it will ultimately result in a cheaper loan, paid off faster. Again… he was reluctant, but ultimately acquiesced. I don’t think he’ll be sorry.

USAA has always promoted this idea of “family” and solidarity. Likewise, the same “family concept” was promoted in LuLaRoe. As I mentioned in my “Bullshit frosting” post from 2018…

Keep in mind, the people who sell LuLaRoe aren’t company employees.  They buy clothing from LuLaRoe and sell it, and they make their money based on what they sell.  In essence, they are LuLaRoe’s first customers.  And yet, here’s a “coach” lecturing them about what to wear and how to wear it.  Above that post was another one by the coach.  She’s in a van with her sister and their kids, headed to a retreat in Wyoming.  She implies that she and her sister had dropped everything to attend this function because “Aunt Deanne” said so.

Notice that she calls the founder “Aunt Deanne”.  I’m sure the company promotes the idea that they’re all one big family.  On the surface, it sounds good.  If you’re family, you’re “loved” and cared for, in a sense.  Family members are supposed to have your back.  We love our family members and don’t want to disappoint them.  That’s what makes it easier to trust family members, and more devastating when family screws you over.  Lots of people think of a business that treats people like “family” as a good thing.  But there is a downside to being a figurative “brother”, “sister”, “aunt” or “cousin”.  Sometimes when you think of someone as “family”, you let your guard down when you really shouldn’t...

“One big happy family” sounds great… until you realize that some of the most toxic relationships a person can have are with family members.  Family members have that advantage of being in the group… they have access to you that other people generally don’t.  They know you better than most people do.  And when something unpleasant needs to be done, family members feel okay about asking other family members for help.  If you go against the grain, you run the risk of being cast out… lovingly, of course, because you need to see the error of your ways.  While I don’t know for sure, I get the sense that LuLaRoe and some other multi-level marketing businesses are kind of culty like that.  You toe the line so you won’t be towed outside of the group. 

It’s not that I think USAA and LuLaRoe are that much alike in terms of what they do, or even their business practices. I would not, for instance, equate LuLaRoe’s seemingly disastrous business practices with what’s been going on at USAA. Rather, what I’ve noticed is that both organizations are kind of “culty”. I remember, when we lived in Texas, people acted like USAA was just the greatest company to work for and bank with, and people stick with them, even when the writing is on the wall that things aren’t good.

When Bill was looking for a job in 2014, he approached a USAA recruiter, whose eyes very quickly glazed over when Bill confessed that he didn’t know anyone who worked at the company. The guy encouraged Bill to consult USAA.com… This, even though USAA supposedly values its members above all else. And yet, here was Bill, a guy who’s a retired Army officer and has been a member since 1984, and the recruiter treated him like dog shit. Of course, now I am delighted that Bill doesn’t work for USAA. I don’t think he would have enjoyed the experience. Things turned out fine for us, anyway.

Incidentally, I wrote a rant about Bill’s USAA job hunting experience, and USAA had its public relations firm stalking my blog for months. But this time, after having written about them several times this week, I’m not getting any attention from USAA’s PR firm. Not that I mind not being stalked by USAA. I just think it’s kind of telling… it’s like the leadership just doesn’t care about the company’s reputation anymore and has given up on trying to satisfy its members.

I tweeted a couple of responses to people who tweeted last night. USAA was tagged in those posts, and both times, they sent demands that I send a PM with my contact information. When I didn’t do as they asked, they posted this:

No thanks… you’ve done enough already.

My response to USAA’s request for cooperation was, “That’s okay.” I no longer expect them to help. And based on their Twitter feed, it looks like other people need their assistance much more urgently than I do. What a sad state of affairs for what used to be a great company.

So now, about the title of this post… When I wrote my original “Bullshit frosting” post in 2018, I was reminded of a classic episode of the 70s and 80s sitcom, Three’s Company. Have a look below:

Back in 1980, there was an episode of Three’s Company called “Lee Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother“.  Jack Tripper (played by the late John Ritter) was very upset because his very good looking, financially secure, egotistical brother, Lee, had come to visit.  Lee spent the whole time trying to impress people and making Jack feel small.  When Jack accompanies Lee and Jack’s roommate, Chrissy (Suzanne Somers) to a restaurant for dinner, he accidentally spills wine on Lee’s suit.  Jack is feeling horrible, but Chrissy consoles him by correctly predicting what Lee’s going to say after he cleans up in the bathroom– “Don’t worry, I’ve got another suit like it at home.”  Chrissy also says, that guys like Lee are like cakes with too much icing.  Jack, on the other hand, is all cake with a lot of layers!  I think that’s a very apt analogy of a fake person who’s full of shit as opposed to a person with depth, character, and substance.

I think the same could be said for certain businesses who have allowed themselves to become “culty” and too big for their britches. Before long, the quality product that helped them make their good name and form their reputation turns into nothing but “bullshit frosting”…. all icing, and no cake, as Chrissy says. So now, like quite a few others, I’m looking for financial services provided by an institution that is “all cake, with a lot of layers”, instead of just a bunch of pretty frosting.

Standard
book reviews, celebrities

Repost: What’s it like to be Arnold Jackson’s best friend? Shavar Ross gives us the scoop on being “Dudley”!

Here’s a reposted book review from March 6, 2018. It appears here as/is, as I consider what the subject of today’s fresh content will be. Lately, I’ve been watching tons of 80s era sitcoms. I find them oddly comforting.

Today’s title probably only means something if you were around in the late 70s and early to mid 80s and watched TV.  That period of time happened to be during the prime years of my childhood, when we had no Internet and TV was the thing rotting everyone’s minds.  I was a big fan of the sitcom Diff’rent Strokes, which was an enormously popular and successful show during that time period.  It’s been really sad for me, and for a lot of my peers, to watch the cast of that beloved show die off, one by one.

As of 2018, Conrad Bain, Dana Plato, and Gary Coleman are all dead.  So are Mary Ann Mobley, Nedra Volz, and Dixie Carter.  But we still have Todd Bridges, Janet Jackson, Danny Cooksey, and Shavar Ross, who played Arnold Jackson’s (Gary Coleman’s character) best friend, Dudley Johnson.  To this day, the only other Dudley I know of is Dudley Moore.  I don’t think “Dudley” is a very popular name these days.  According to Shavar Ross, his character “Dudley” was named after someone on the Diff’rent Strokesproduction crew.  I learned that little tidbit and a handful more when I read Ross’s book, On The Set of Diff’rent Strokes.

The theme song for the famous sitcom that Gary Coleman so hated…

Ross published his book in 2007, when Gary Coleman and Conrad Bain were still alive.  Nevertheless, the cast of Diff’rent Strokes did seem to have a bit of a curse.  Dana Plato died of a drug overdose in 1999, having previously fallen into an abyss of drug addiction, porn, and crime.  Nedra Volz, who played housekeeper Adelaide, had died years earlier of old age.  Todd Bridges is still living, but he had some serious problems with drugs and was even tried for the attempted murder of Kenneth “Tex” Clay, a Los Angeles area drug dealer.  And Gary Coleman just plain seemed pissed off at the world.

At the beginning of Ross’s book, he explains that the book isn’t about all of the scandals that plagued the cast of Diff’rent Strokes.  Instead, he focuses on his experience getting cast in the role of Dudley.  He also explains that he likes to write the way he speaks, so the book won’t be as grammatically correct as it could be.  That made me twitch a little, but it’s fair enough, I guess.  I only spent about $3 on the book, anyway.

I managed to read Ross’s book in a couple of hours.  The only reason it took longer than an hour or so, is because I had to take a brief nap while I was reading.  This book is only 36 pages and contains no pictures.  It starts off with a brief history of Ross’s family of origin.  He was born in the Bronx and his parents separated when he was six years old.  His dad was an actor who decided to move to Los Angeles.  His mom took Ross and his half sister to Macon, Georgia so they could be close to family while his mother went to college. 

Ross went on a vacation to California to see his father at Christmas time.  During that visit, he was discovered by a top children’s talent agent named Evelyn Shultz.  Shultz noticed him when he was watching a play starring Kim Fields, who later became famous in her role as “Tootie” on The Facts of Life, which was a highly successful spinoff of Diff’rent Strokes.  Ross writes that he was a fan of Diff’rent Strokes and had watched it in Georgia on a black and white portable TV.  When the opportunity came up for him to audition for a part playing Arnold’s best friend, Dudley, he jumped at it, beating out about 250 kids.

Ross’s first appearance on Diff’rent Strokes was on a 1980 episode called “Teacher’s Pet”.  His father was one of the extras on that episode, which was about Arnold’s dad, Phillip Drummond, asking out Arnold’s teacher after meeting her at a parent/teacher conference.  The teacher began to dote on Arnold, causing his friends to tease him.  The chemistry was good enough on that episode that Ross was asked to be a recurring character.

Basically, that’s about it for Ross’s story, which I think is a real shame.  I appreciate that he didn’t want to share any dirt on the series.  I imagine it would have been tempting to do that, since the show was so popular.  He does offer a few superficial insights about Gary Coleman and the rest of the cast, but a lot of what he wrote was stuff I already knew.  Like, for instance, Coleman loved trains.  If you watched the show, you’d know that.  He basically says Dana Plato was “nice” and Todd Bridges was “cool”.  Janet Jackson was very “sweet and shy”.  I think he could have gone into more detail without stooping to spreading gossip.

Also, while I think the book is basically well-written, especially for someone who flat out writes that he isn’t concerned with proper grammar, there are a lot of typos and some misspellings.  I understand that editing is a chore, but it really wouldn’t have taken much to polish this book a bit more and give it a more professional air.

A funny rehash of Diff’rent Strokes’ most special episode, ever.

Finally, I can’t believe Ross didn’t write more about the episodes themselves.  Anyone who watched Diff’rent Strokes knows that Ross was featured in a very special two part episode called “The Bicycle Man”.  That episode, in which the late LDS character actor Gordon Jump starred, was about child molestation.  The show handled the subject in a rather G-rated fashion, but it was still pretty shocking material at the time.  It would have been interesting if Ross had dished a bit about that episode.  But maybe it was too traumatic for him. 

I do know that Ross eventually became a pastor, so maybe some subjects are taboo.  He’s also been married for a long time and has two kids.  It would have been nice if he’d written more about his family and his life beyond his acting career.  That would have been interesting reading and he wouldn’t have been guilty of spreading dirt.  He could have written more about how he broke into acting.  The way the book reads now, it sounds like he went on vacation, lucked into meeting an agent, and *poof*, he was an actor.  I think he could have offered more details and a more accurate accounting of his time.  What did his family think of his success?  Did his mom stay in Georgia with his sister?  Did Shavar Ross live with his dad?  He addresses none of this in his very brief book.

Although I appreciate that Shavar Ross took the time to write his book, I think On The Set of Diff’rent Strokes could have been a whole lot better.  I don’t think it’s terrible as much as it is incomplete.  It’s just a very short book and doesn’t reveal much at all.  I think if a person is going to go to the trouble of publishing a book, he or she should make the book worth reading.  This book probably doesn’t reveal anything that a determined researcher can’t find online.  But, on the positive side, it’s cheap, and Ross straight up says he’s not going to dish much.  At least I didn’t spring for the paperback version, which sells for $7.95.

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ethics, healthcare, law, TV

Some men just don’t get it, do they? Women aren’t incubators!

Darn it… I’m writing yet another post about abortion. I’m writing this post, even though Roe v. Wade was settled in the early 1970s. People are still trying to deprive American women of their right to bodily autonomy. And men… even men who claim to be “pro choice”, are still trying to force women to incubate developing fetuses for them.

I just so happened to download the first season of the hit 70s era sitcom, Maude, yesterday. Maude was a spin off of the great Norman Lear show, All in the Family. The show starred the wonderful actress, Beatrice Arthur, as a caricature of an extremely liberal woman of the 70s. The character, Maude Findlay, was the cousin of Edith Bunker, from All in the Family. Edith, as many people know, was the dimwitted wife of extremely conservative and racist Archie Bunker. If Archie was obnoxiously conservative, Maude was ridiculously liberal.

As a 70s era TV buff, I was sitting there in awe yesterday, as I realized just how many great sitcoms spun off of All in the Family or its spinoffs. There’s a total of seven shows– Maude, Gloria, The Jeffersons, Good Times, Checking In, 704 Hauser, and Archie Bunker’s Place. Granted, some of those shows weren’t very good and didn’t last long at all. But some of the spin off sitcoms were truly groundbreaking… and as I watched Maude yesterday, I realized just how timely and relevant that show still is, almost fifty years in the future. Maude premiered when I was about three months old. I’ll be 50 in 2022. And yet, we’re still fighting about racism and abortion. In fact, I think we’re even less reasonable about both of those subjects today than people were in the early 70s!

In any case, I happened to catch a double episode of Maude yesterday, called “Maude’s Dilemma”. It originally aired in November 1972 and was on the subject of abortion. Roe v. Wade would be a landmark Supreme Court decision the following year.

In “Maude’s Dilemma”, the character, Maude, had just turned up pregnant at age 47! Over the two part episode, Maude agonizes over whether or not she should try to have the baby, even though she was ancient for a pregnant person. Her grown daughter, Carol, who has a son of her own, encourages Maude to have an abortion. In the end, Maude decides to have an abortion, although that’s done off screen. Even still, CBS got many letters of protest. Some network affiliates never aired those episodes again after the initial airing. A couple of affiliates never aired them at all.

I was sitting there with my mouth agape as the characters on the show tried to talk Maude into having an abortion, since it wasn’t “wrong” anymore. And her fourth husband, Walter, even said he would have a vasectomy, although in the end, he chickens out.

Interesting discussion with Norman Lear… Rue McClanahan was on that episode. Years later, on The Golden Girls, Rue’s character, Blanche, would think she was pregnant, but it would turn out to be menopause.

Who would have thought, back in 1972, that people would still be arguing about abortion in 2021? Who would have thought that so many people– men, in particular– think that it’s right to force a woman to be pregnant when she doesn’t want to be?

Yesterday, my first cousin once removed, Liz, shared the below image.

I thought this was pretty awesome.

Liz is one of the few liberals in my family. Her dad is my cousin, and he is very conservative. Her mom is very liberal. They had three kids, two of whom are more like their liberal mom than their conservative dad. I’m sure it must be rough for Liz, especially, since most of the rest of her dad’s family is dyed in the wool Republican. I used to think my dad was conservative, but actually, he was probably one of the more liberal of my grandparents’ brood of nine children.

Anyway, I liked the image Liz shared, so I shared it myself. I noticed a lot of my liberal friends liked it. I decided to go to the original post, just to see what people had to say. I was quite amused to run across this thread…

Eileen said, “…there are many reasons for abortions. Maybe men should take responsibility for a change.”

Mike responded, “…men do take responsibility just as much as women do lol; it takes two people to make that pregnancy happen. I’m all for pro -choice, but the one thing that I think sucks sometimes is that, let’s say my fiancé gets pregnant and wants an abortion and I don’t want one, it’s ultimately her decision on whether to get one or not regardless of what I want.”

Um… I have to interject here. He’s all for “pro-choice”, but only if it involves some other woman besides the woman with whom he’s in a relationship. He thinks he should be able to force her to stay pregnant if he gets her pregnant. I wonder if he’s willing to pay her medical bills. I wonder if he’s going to get up with her in the middle of the night when she can’t sleep because she’s uncomfortable. I wonder if he’s going to go through all of the physical inconveniences and outright dangers pregnant people go through. My guess is that he hasn’t thought about it that much.

A woman tries to educate Mike, writing, “…because she’s the one who has to carry the useless parasite. Not you.”

Mike says, “…and that’s where the pro-choice reasoning gets absurd, that it’s ultimately the woman’s decision whether to terminate a pregnancy regardless about what the father would want. Again, I’m all for abortions and such, but if one person wants the potential baby and the other does not then have the baby for that one person and sign over your rights. Just because biology says a woman has to carry the baby does not mean the man is utterly useless and has no say about the potential baby.”

DUDE! Mike just doesn’t get it, does he? He’s “all for abortions and such”, but he doesn’t see that the burden of pregnancy and childbirth is unequal. He’s involved in the fun part of having a baby. His role is pretty much done until she gives birth. No one should be forced to have a baby. No one should be forced to be pregnant, for ANY reason. I get that some men think it’s unfair that biological women can bear children and men can’t, but that’s just life. I’m sure a lot of women would love it if men could have babies. But that’s not how we’re made.

Yet another woman peevishly writes, “…we aren’t incubators, waiting for men to plant their seed, find a person who wants children with you instead of trying to force someone to carry the child for you.”

Seems to me this point is pretty obvious. But Captain Clueless then says, “…the fuck are you talking about?

How is it that Mike still doesn’t get that men aren’t impacted by pregnancy in the same way women are? Where did he get the idea that it’s okay for him to force a woman to bear his child? Sounds to me like he needs a simple business fable to get the point across. I wonder if Mike has ever heard the story of the chicken and the pig.

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.

The Chicken says: “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”

Pig replies: “Hmm, maybe, what would we call it?”

The Chicken responds: “How about ‘ham-n-eggs’?”

The Pig thinks for a moment and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved.”

In other words, men are “involved” in making babies. Women are “committed”. A man deposits his sperm during a few moments of passion, then waits nine months for the fun to begin. His body won’t change, and for the most part, he won’t be experiencing any health repercussions. A woman experiences those nine months completely differently and, at the end, will be going through significant pain and potential risks to bring that particular project to fruition.

Even on Maude, though, the pregnant character was talking about having the baby at age 47, not because she wanted to have a baby, but because she wanted her husband to have a say. I do think that is an admirable attitude, as long as Maude can love a baby she didn’t actually want to have. On the other hand, trust me. As someone who was born in 1972 (the year before Roe v. Wade) and heard many times how unwelcome the news was of my impending arrival, it’s probably kinder to terminate unwanted pregnancies. My parents did love me, I guess… but if my mom had had an abortion, I would not have been any the wiser. Maybe my mom would have been happier. I doubt she would have considered having an abortion, though, even though it was clear she wasn’t actually up for having me. Fortunately, I managed to grow up okay, anyway. Or, at least some people think so.

As someone who is 49, I have a feeling that pregnancy would probably be very difficult, even if I can technically still get pregnant. The risks of having a baby with extreme special needs would also be high. But even if I had a healthy baby, I can’t even imagine being a woman in my 60s as my kid started high school. I’m sure there are kids out there who face that reality, since medical science has advanced since the 70s. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I don’t think that’s an ideal situation. Life is tough enough.

I don’t think anyone should be forced to be pregnant, particularly since few people want to help when the baby comes. I don’t think adoption should be presented as the best alternative option, either. Realistically speaking, carrying a baby for another couple (or person) to raise is still a lot to ask, and it remains potentially dangerous. Fewer people die from abortions than full term pregnancies. It’s also not right to expect people who are unexpectedly pregnant to solve other people’s fertility issues.

I am still really sickened by the new anti-abortion law in Texas, which deputizes private citizens, encourages them to use the legal system to police women’s bodies, and inspires people to act like it’s East Germany in the 1970s. I ran across another argument yesterday in which a man all-knowingly wrote that the law in Texas includes a proviso for women whose lives are endangered by pregnancy. All I could think of was a case in Texas that came up during the year Bill and I were living there. See the video below:

This poor woman was forced to stay on life support at John Peter Smith Hospital for many weeks, simply because she was pregnant. But she was already pretty much already dead, and her family was forced to watch her rot, against her will and theirs.

In the end, Marlise Munoz was taken off life support. Her developing fetus would not have survived, in spite of the over eight weeks Marlise Munoz spent on a ventilator. The fetus had catastrophic birth defects. And the family, no doubt, were presented with huge medical bills after this debacle. They also had to watch their beloved family member’s body degrade to the point at which she was just a living corpse. Imagine how traumatic that was!

What a horrifying ordeal this woman and her family endured!

Given what happened to Marlise Munoz, I have no confidence that doctors in Texas will respect a mother’s life over that of a developing fetus’s. And quite frankly, it’s just not right to force people to give birth, or be living incubators. It’s a violation of privacy and civil rights.

So count me among those who pray this law is overturned quickly. And really, we as a country need to settle this issue, once and for all. I’m sorry for the men who are truly devastated that they have no say in a woman’s decision to have an abortion… but my guess is that the vast majority of them just want to control people.

When the shit comes down, as it always does when there’s a baby around, I highly doubt most of the men will be interested in doing the heavy lifting of parenting, just as they physically can’t do the heavy lifting of gestation. The reality of parenthood is probably more than a lot of them can bear, anyway… certainly people who are as immature and unreasonable as “Mike” is, anyway. I mean, if Mike really thinks that making babies is a 50/50 proposition, he’s probably not someone who ought to be breeding. Maybe Mike should watch Maude for some perspective.

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silliness

Reposted: I was a teenaged Tina…

Here’s another repost from my original blog. It was written December 13, 2017, and I’m reposting it because I think it’s funny. Enjoy!

Last night, while enjoying copious amounts of wine, chocolate, and pizza with my mother-in-law and Bill, I told them that when I was a kid, people often said I looked like Tina Yothers.  For those who don’t know, Tina Yothers played Jennifer Keaton on the hit sit com Family Ties.  I loved that show, as did many of my friends.  It was the show that really put Michael J. Fox on the map as an actor.  It’s also where he met his wife, Tracy Pollan. 

In the 1980s, Tina Yothers had long blonde hair and bangs.  I never had long hair, but it was definitely blonde.  I also had bangs until I was about twenty-five years old.  They were a bitch to grow out.

This is a picture of Tina Yothers when she was a child.

This is a picture of me when I was twelve.

I probably looked the most like Tina when we were younger.  As she grew older, her hair got bigger. 

Teenaged Tina

Teenaged knotty…

I believe Tina has since colored her hair black.  I have never had black hair.  In fact, nowadays, my hair is pretty blonde/white.  I’ve been letting it go natural because I hate the process of coloring it and feel like it’s a waste of time.  Even if I were inclined to color my hair, I wouldn’t want to go black.  I think it’s a rather harsh look for someone with really fair skin like mine.  Tina seems to wear it well, though.  It probably helps to have professional hairdressers, which I never bother with.

Like me, Tina Yothers is musical.  She’s in a band and, I think, has pretty much given up on the acting gig.  The last I saw of her, she was on Celebrity Fit Club or was it Celebrity Wife Swap?  I don’t remember.  I don’t know what she’s like off camera, but Tina’s personality on Family Ties was somewhat like mine, too.  We were both sardonic wiseacres.  

Tina sings on Family Ties…

I’m not sure what prompted me to post about this today.  I could easily write about police brutality or Alabama’s election results.  But, for some reason, I wanted to write something kind of silly.  This is some pretty silly stuff.      

Incidentally, my very kind mother-in-law thinks I look like Lee Remick now. There’s a reason why I love her and her son now. They are much too kind. 😀

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