book reviews, celebrities

A review of No Filter: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful, by Paulina Porizkova…

Those of you who read this blog regularly, probably know that I grew up in the 1980s. As a child of that era, there are certain cultural phenomenons that are etched in my personal history. Personally, I think the 70s and 80s were great decades for coming of age. Most of us were too young to remember Richard Nixon. We got to be kids at a time before everybody was so plugged in to their electronic devices. We had a lot of freedom to come and go– I can remember running all over my neighborhoods— even when I was very young— and exploring to my heart’s content. And there was some really great– non auto-tuned— music in that era, to include an iconic band called The Cars, fronted by the late Ric Ocasek.

Ric Ocasek was 80s model Paulina Porizkova’s long time husband. When Ocasek died in September 2019, they were in the beginning stages of getting a divorce. Although they were splitting up when he died, Ric and Paulina still shared the house they purchased together when they first got married in August 1989. Paulina had envisioned them staying close and being “best friends”, maybe living in apartments near each other. But it was not to be. As Ric recovered from surgery for “stage 0 cancer”, he suddenly and unexpectedly died in the bedroom he and his third wife used to share. He’d also been suffering from heart disease and emphysema.

It was Paulina who discovered him, as she carried a cup of coffee to his sickbed at about 11:00 AM. It was made just the way he liked it, with three quarters of a teaspoon of sugar and just enough milk in it to turn it a very specific shade of beige. This part of the story resonated with me. My husband, Bill, knows how I like my “beige” coffee, too, although I prefer half and half over milk.

My sisters read fashion magazines regularly, but as an adolescent, I spent most of my time in a barn, tending to my horse. I’ve never had the figure, the bank account, or the desire to wear high fashion. I will admit that I used to like to watch America’s Next Top Model, and I did learn about models and fashion in the process of watching that show. But I really watched ANTM more for the drama, not because I care about haute couture. When Paulina Porizkova became a Top Model judge during Cycle 10, she quickly became one of my favorite people on the show. I liked that she was down-to-earth, intelligent, and basically kind… or as kind as she was allowed to be, anyway. As a music fan, I admired The Cars, and thought it was cool that Paulina was married to one of the co-founders of that band. I was pissed off when Paulina was fired from ANTM after Cycle 12. I thought it was a huge mistake. In my opinion, the show went downhill after she left. Paulina was also very briefly on Dancing With the Stars, but she was voted off very early. I didn’t watch her on that show.

I don’t know why she was voted off… This was a great performance, in my opinion.
Paulina Porizkova talks about being a new judge on ANTM in 2009.

As someone who grew up at a time when a lot of us were terrified of being invaded by the Soviet Union, I also find Paulina Porizkova’s personal history very interesting. Paulina was born on April 9, 1965 in Prostějov, Czechia, which was at that time, Czechoslovakia. In 1968, when she was three years old, the Soviet Union invaded and occupied her country. Her parents, Anna and Jiri, did not like the idea of censorship, being forced to work menial jobs for little pay, or standing in line for hours for a loaf of bread. So they left the country on a motorcycle and settled in Sweden, leaving Paulina behind in Czechoslovakia with her grandmother.

Life was difficult in Paulina’s homeland. The Soviets decided the house her grandfather had inherited was too large for one family. They divided it into three apartments and moved in a single lady and another family. There was one toilet for the whole house, and it was on the veranda. Meanwhile, Paulina’s parents were making a lot of noise about their daughter, who was separated from them. The sympathetic Swedish press wrote a lot of stories about Paulina, causing her to become famous. Still, Paulina didn’t mind, because she didn’t know what she was missing. She loved her grandmother, and wanted to be a good communist, as she was being taught in school. She even had aspirations of visiting Lenin in his tomb, and becoming a “Young Pioneer”, complete with a red kerchief. Below is an anecdote of something she and her cousin did in an attempt to win one of those red kerchiefs…

There are quite a few funny anecdotes like this in Paulina’s book.

When Paulina was seven, her pregnant mother, Anna, came back to Czechoslovakia in disguise. She wore a wig and glasses. The police found out who she was, and she was jailed. But she was seven months pregnant, and the Swedish press continued to put pressure on the Czech government. Anna was then given house arrest with her family. The police moved into an apartment across the street, so they could watch her and make sure no one visited. Anna told everyone in the family about the good life in Sweden, which was diametrically opposed to everything the Soviets reported. Anna spoke of how clean, beautiful, and safe the country was, and how she could eat a banana or an orange anytime she wanted one. Paulina wasn’t sure if she should believe her, but she soon found out firsthand, as the Czech government deported Anna, Paulina, and her baby brother from the country. She was told she could never return to her homeland, and was forced to leave her beloved grandmother behind. Then, when she got to Sweden, her father decided to leave the family and marry his girlfriend.

Life in Sweden was also challenging for Paulina. She was bullied in school because she was different. Unlike the blonde girls whose families had plenty of money, Paulina was tall with dark hair. She wore outdated clothes from thrift stores. Some of her classmates called her a “dirty Communist”. One Swedish girl, in particular, was especially mean to fourteen year old Paulina, who one day dared to wear new clothes she’d bought with her own money after working hard all summer. I wonder how that Swedish girl felt the following year, when fifteen year old Paulina was invited to Paris by model scout, John Casablancas, and launched her career as a bonafide top model. I hope she felt like the dumbass she obviously was.

Modeling was a lucrative career for Paulina, but she didn’t particularly enjoy the job. Sexual harassment toward the models was rampant among the photographers and clients. She had to wear hot clothes when it was hot outside, or strip down to nothing when the weather was freezing. She saw a lot of beautiful young girls wash out of the business before they even got started, many times owing a lot of money to the agencies who had paid for them to get their teeth fixed or skin issues treated by dermatologists. Paulina was fortunate, as she was successful and made a lot of money. And, in 1984, when she was 19 years old, actor Timothy Hutton, who was directing The Cars’ music video for their hit song, “Drive”, cast her as the love interest. That was how she met Ric Ocasek, who was married to his second wife, Suzanne, at the time.

My God, she was gorgeous! No wonder Ric was taken with her.

Paulina was struck by Ric’s turquoise eyes, which she describes in great detail, as he often wore dark shades that hid them from public view. She writes reverently about his naturally slender body and extreme height, and his shocking mop of black dyed hair against his pale skin. She immediately noticed his Czech surname, even translating it for readers. It was more poetic than her own surname, which she also sort of translates, as much as possible, anyway. She agreed to date him, even though he was married and had two young sons at the time… as well as two older sons with his first wife. She was still in her prime when they married in 1989, but she decided to mostly give up her career to be Ric’s wife and the mother of their two sons, Jonathan Raven and Oliver. She would occasionally model and take approved acting gigs, always approved by Ric, and never interfering with his schedule. Even though she made a lot of money when she was a model, she let him be the breadwinner… and they did not sign prenuptial agreements, even though their financial advisors strongly recommended it. That decision came back to bite Paulina firmly in the ass when Ric suddenly died, having disinherited her for “abandoning him”, as well as his two eldest sons. She had to go to court to get what was hers and, for a time, was left quite destitute and dependent on friends as she rebounded, now as a woman of 54.

My thoughts

I found No Filter to be a very quick and engaging read. I managed to finish this book in less than two days, and yet I came away with a lot of fresh thoughts and new perspectives. Paulina’s story has given me a lot to think about for many reasons. I could relate to much of her story, simply because of the time I’ve spent in Europe and the former Soviet Union, and because, like her, I’m now a woman of a certain age. 😉 I realized in reading Paulina’s book that we really aren’t that different, even if no one wants to take pictures of me in the nude. 😀 Also, she displays a fine sense of humor, and provides some comic relief in the form of wry anecdotes that are very disarming and show her humility. I do not get the sense that Paulina is vapid or arrogant, at all. In fact, she seems to be quite the opposite!

Paulina Porizkova has an evocative writing style, and she uses a lot of vivid and vibrant language to bring her story to life. In fact, even though I don’t typically read a lot of novels anymore (with the recent exception of A Stopover in Venice, by James Taylor’s second ex wife, Kathryn Walker), I decided to download Paulina’s novel about modeling, A Model Summer. I actually think she might be even better at writing novels. She uses a lot of colorful imagery and descriptive devices such as similes and metaphors to figuratively “paint” a picture in readers’ minds. I suspect A Model Summer might also be revelatory, because I have a feeling it’s based on her story, just as A Stopover in Venice is obviously based on Kathryn Walker’s marriage to James Taylor.

I remember on Cycle 12 of America’s Next Top Model, a very successful contestant named Marjorie Conrad commiserated with Paulina, as Marjorie is originally from France. Other contestants would rag on Marjorie, and fellow European contestant, Elina (from Ukraine), for being too “negative”. Paulina understood why they were like that, as she’s Czech, with dual U.S. and Swedish citizenship. And, having lived in Europe/the former Soviet Union for about fifteen years of my life, I kind of understand it, too. Europeans have a different mindset than a lot of Americans do. They aren’t as “toxically positive” about everything, and take a more realistic, and often pessimistic, view of most things. I mention this, because I noticed that Paulina is often quite negative in this story about her life, in spite of all of the money, fame, and success she’s had.

Again, life was legitimately hard for Paulina as a poor little girl in Czechoslovakia. It was hard for her as a transplant in Sweden, where she stood out for being too tall, too dark haired, too poor, and coming from a “commie” country. It was hard for her as a model, who was quite successful, but didn’t really enjoy the industry that much for a lot of reasons. It was always “just a job” for her, and not a very interesting one, at that. She caught a lot of shit for frankly stating that, too. I’m sure Americans, in particular, think she should appreciate having been a model, even though she was expected to tolerate egregious and outrageous sexual harassment and very personal and often negative comments about her body. Below is a quote from early in the book:

How sick is this?

Life was also hard for Paulina as Ric’s wife, as it turns out that he had some rather controlling behaviors that young Paulina had misconstrued as love. She was very young and inexperienced with men when they met. She’d had a tumultuous and difficult childhood that was fraught with abandonment, poverty, and abuse. She probably would have been better off going to college and finding work in which she could use her formidable brain. Instead, she fell into work that exploited the genetic jackpot she inherited by sheer chance. At one point in the book, Paulina writes about how people will usually encourage children who are smart and/or talented to develop and use their gifts. A smart child will often be encouraged to study hard and earn higher degrees, for instance. A musical or artistic child will be encouraged to improve their techniques so that their arts can be shared with the world. Beautiful women, though, are often judged harshly for using what they have, especially when they are “older”. Below is a quote Paulina got from a follower on her Instagram:

Easy for you to complain about the system now that you aren’t an “it” girl—but you had no problem making millions of dollars, enjoying your celebrity, and making millions of young girls feel ugly and unworthy for decades. NOW you are aware of how fragile self-image is???? You played a big role in creating the machine that makes people feel worthless if they aren’t “magazine beautiful,” and now you are crying because the system is making you feel like you made everyone else feel. The hypocrisy is incredible.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (p. 97). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

In her chapter, “The Responsibility of Beauty”, she writes:

People seem to understand that being beautiful is neither an accomplishment nor a fault. It is a gift. Generally, if you are given a gift or something of great value, your responsibility is to make use of it. When a person is born with an athletic or artistic ability and becomes a celebrated athlete or artist, we don’t shame them for using their gift. If a child is intelligent, we encourage them to get an education, to study hard, to develop their gift of intelligence as much as possible, and then use that gift out in the world. Developing their gift is seen as their responsibility. Wasted talent is a waste of potential. But when your gift is beauty, developing it is considered vain and narcissistic. Trying to maintain it is likewise shameful, whereas in athletics it’s practically heroic. An older athlete who strives to maintain their athleticism and compete with younger athletes is regarded as brave. An older model who strives to maintain their beauty and compete with younger models is often regarded as unnatural, embarrassing.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (pp. 99-100). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I think the above commentary is very astute. It’s true that Paulina Porizkova was part of an industry that causes a lot of girls and young women heartbreak and misery. When she was in that industry, Paulina was, herself, young and arrogant, and unaware of her “responsibility” as a model. She writes about a reporter who asked her what she thought her “responsibility” should be. Would she model fur, for instance? Or “blood diamonds”, just for the money? At the time the question was asked, young Paulina didn’t know how to answer. Over thirty years later, the question still haunts her, but in spite of being a “dumb” model (which she obviously never was), she manages to write some very intelligent commentary about the subject. I found it very intriguing, so I’m including a few samples below:

I had become a model at fifteen and made a great deal of money because people thought I was beautiful. I was also an arrogant asshole. Give a teenager loads of money, no rules, and lavish praise for her ability to look stunning and fit into sample-size clothing, and moral responsibility probably isn’t what she spends most of her days thinking about.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (p. 98). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

And…

…somewhere along the way, we pick up the message that we can’t be beautiful and intelligent. That if we want to be taken seriously for our intelligence, we have to downplay our beauty. Right before I moved to Paris, I thought of myself as ugly and smart. Once I started working as a model, I was suddenly beautiful and stupid. When I called my dad to tell him I was staying in Paris to model full-time, he said, “Oh, now you’re going to be a dumbass.” When I arrived in Paris I got a reading list from a university and decided to read all the books listed in the English literature syllabus, not because I necessarily liked them or would choose them on my own, but because I wanted to make sure people knew I was intelligent.

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (pp. 99-100). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

She continues…

I struggled with shame across my forty-plus-year career as a model. While a woman seeing a photo of me in an ad might have felt shame for not looking like me, I had been shamed for not having the body of Elle Macpherson. And the boobs of Cindy Crawford. And the teeth of Christie Brinkley. When the standard you are being held to is physical perfection, none of us can compete. I just quietly envied those other models and decided I surely had other, more important attributes. I was smarter, I could play the piano and draw, and I was certain I read way more books. I cut other women down in my mind so I could feel, if not superior, at least equal. I turned around and shamed those women after feeling shamed myself.

In my experience, no one shames a woman as often and as effectively as other women. We are all in the same boat, wanting to go the same way, yet instead of working together to get there, we knock one another off the boat. Do we not understand that the fewer of us there are to paddle, the slower we advance?

Porizkova, Paulina. No Filter (p. 102). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Yeah… this is not a dumb woman, at all! I can see why Paulina is sometimes negative about her life. She’s being honest, but a lot of Americans can’t respect honesty. They’d prefer bullshit. I also loved what she wrote about fame, and how people want to project themselves onto famous people. She explains that famous people are very well known, and yet very few people actually know them at all. Reading her comments reminded of how, when I was at James Taylor’s concert last month, some guy yelled out that his father “loved” him, and James reminded the guy that his father didn’t even know him. I got the sense that, like Paulina, James might be uncomfortable with people calling him by name and acting as if they’re somehow friends. If you think about it, it really is pretty weird, because we only know about the “famous” parts of these well-known people. We don’t actually have a personal knowledge of them at all, other than how what they do makes us feel. Paulina also reminds us that people in the press often make up or embellish things to sell their wares. I was also reminded of actress Justine Bateman’s book about her experiences with fame and how strange it must actually be for famous people… at least the ones who aren’t complete narcissistic assholes. Below are a few more quotes from the book to highlight what I mean…

On the other hand, Paulina Porizkova is also a believer in palm readings, tarot cards, and psychics, and she writes a bit about her experiences with her beliefs in her book. I don’t judge her negatively for that, especially since, in her experiences, they’ve actually been correct. Or, at least that’s what she claims. I know some people will probably think that’s kind of dumb or sacrilegious, though… or too much “woo”. And I know some will also judge her for being “the other woman”, and for the fact that she dated another man while she was still technically married. But, in fairness, Ric was also seeking the company of other women.

To sum things up…

I’m sure you can tell that I really enjoyed Paulina Porizkova’s book, No Filter. I am probably a bigger Paulina fan now, than I was when she was on ANTM. I hope this book helps her make some money, since she was left in quite a legal pickle when Ric Ocasek suddenly died. I still admire him as a musician and love his music, but now I think he was a bit of a narcissistic jerk. It’s too bad Paulina didn’t use her formidable common sense to protect herself from the situation he left her in when he died in 2019, but she trusted him and, sadly, he got to her when she was very naive and inexperienced.

There’s a lot more to this book that I didn’t cover, in spite of the long length of this article. So, if I have piqued your interest, I would highly recommend reading about Paulina Porizkova’s life. She’s led a very interesting one, so far… And I do hope that she will, one day, find that true love and acceptance she thought she’d had with Ric Ocasek. There are still some very good men out there. I know, because I managed to marry one myself, even though I am definitely no model. Like Paulina knew how Ric loved his coffee, my Bill knows how I love mine. I bet he’s not the only guy out there who’s like that… I think Paulina deserves someone who will fix her some coffee the way she likes it, and appreciate her very fine mind over her still gorgeous body.

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lessons learned, social media

Never argue with a fool…

Now, more than ever, I think it’s important for people to stay out of other people’s faces. For obvious reasons, it’s a good idea to be distant. But since it’s also election season, I’ve seen a lot of people figuratively getting up in other people’s faces. I wonder if these people have given any thought to how they come across to others… or if they even care.

Here’s an example of what I mean. I have a bunch of cousins on my dad’s side of the family. One of my uncles married a very opinionated woman who is now deceased. My aunt was one of those people who loved to argue, even if a lot of her opinions were very one-sided and lacked perspective. My uncle, likewise, enjoys arguing. Both of them were heavy drinkers back in the day. My uncle is probably still a drunk. I don’t know, because I haven’t spoken to him in over three years, mainly because the last time I did, he called me a “nut case” because I disagree with him about Donald Trump making America great again.

My aunt and uncle produced four sons, all of whom are also very opinionated. They have cousins on their mother’s side who are just as opinionated. When I was still Facebook friends with most of that part of the family, I used to regularly see heated arguments, as my aunt’s family has a lively mix of extremely liberal and conservative people within it and they would publicly clash with each other on social media.

My cousin’s daughter, my first cousin once removed, is intelligent, sensitive, and very liberal. Lately, she’s been posting a lot of things about #BlackLivesMatter. That has inflamed her family members on both sides. Her grandfather’s side (my uncle’s side) of the family is conservative enough, but there’s also a cousin on her grandmother’s side (my aunt’s side) who is extremely conservative and has no problems opening verbal fire on anyone who enters a discussion with her.

I left a comment on this meme my cousin shared…

Another cousin had angrily posted that the above meme was “wrong”. This was his comment:

This is ridiculous. Race and audience are irrelevant and this insinuates police did this out of malice and there is no justifiable reason that this could ever happen. Garbage.

An argument ensued, and the same cousin posted this additional comment to the one above:

…there are justifiable reasons to shoot a man in the back. For example, someone running and firing a weapon at you.
Or, in a case like this, fending off police with a knife to keep them at a distance then saying you’re going to get your gun out of your car and running out of an area they can deter you non-lethally.
Having your kids there does not protect you from their right to self defense.

He has demonstrated the means and intent to kill the police and every second they didnt take action put them further at risk. 

If it was about blasting a black man in front of his kids, they wouldn’t have had to wait until he said he was going to get his gun to shoot them.

You can call me a coward on the street, but if someone told me they were going to get their gun out of their car and shoot me after threatening me with a knife, i wouldn’t wait for him to turn around with a pistol.

My comment was this:

I have a hard time imagining someone running AWAY from someone while also trying to accurately fire a weapon. That sounds like something on TV or in the movies, not something from real life. Either way, shooting someone in the back SEVEN times is excessive.

I based my comment on my own experience firing weapons. It’s pretty hard to be accurate with a gun, even when you’re standing still. Imagine being scared, loaded with adrenaline, and running away from someone while also trying to fire a weapon and actually hitting the target you want to hit. It doesn’t seem plausible to me.

I noticed I got a notification from my cousin’s female relative on my aunt’s side. I didn’t even read it until just now, though, because I had been observing the way she was interacting with other people who weren’t on her team. This was what she posted to me. I wholeheartedly disagree with her comment, but I’m still not going to respond, because I’ve seen her in action with other people. I know it would be a waste of time. I will give her credit, though, for not calling me “honey” or going ad hominem, as I have seen her do with other people.

“excessive” perhaps, but imagine if you were one of the officers trying to subdue this man. He told them he was getting his gun from his car to shoot them. Now imagine the 14 yr old that he raped was your daughter… he wasn’t an upstanding citizen. He resisted arrest. He should be thankful he’s still alive.

Regardless of what the man said, or my hypothetical 14 year old daughter who might have been raped, I still don’t think police officers should be killing or seriously injuring people as often as they do. This isn’t a huge problem in other countries. It shouldn’t be a problem in the so-called “best” country in the world, either. I understand the reasons why it’s a problem. We have a huge issue with racism in the United States, as well as free access to guns and a society where many people glorify violence.

I’m sure my cousin’s relative, who wants me to consider my hypothetical 14 year old daughter being raped, is not upset that Mr. Turner got out of jail so early. She already supports a president who brags about grabbing women by the pussy.

We have a political party that is all about protecting the right to bear arms as it also wants to force women to stay pregnant, while not making pregnancy and childbearing feasible and affordable. This party hates the idea of killing the unborn, who aren’t even conscious and have no concept of life, death, or terror; but they have no issues with killing the babies who have already been born, by employing their pro-violence, pro-racism policies.

And if you’re a white guy with a bright future, like former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner, you get a pass when you rape someone who is drunk and unconscious. All because you might one day make a lot of money, and no one wants to see your bright future “ruined” by something as “trivial” as raping an unconscious woman behind a Dumpster. /sarcasm

If Brock Turner had been a man with darker skin, you bet your ass he’d still be in prison. Perhaps he might have even been killed as he was caught red-handed by two Swedish graduate students, sexually violating Chanel Miller, who was intoxicated and unconscious at the time. But he wasn’t. He was arrested, tried, and spent a laughably short amount of time in jail. Funny I should mention Sweden, too. That’s a country where police brutality is quite low, despite the fact that many refugees from Middle Eastern countries have settled there. Yes, it’s different in Sweden for many complex reasons that I don’t want to get into in this particular blog post. But the main difference I see is that basic decency among citizens and their leaders is expected.

Swedish police officers vacationing in New York City break up a fight without killing anyone.

In a news article about the off duty Swedish cops who, back in 2015, subdued a homeless guy in New York City, Swedes were reportedly unimpressed by the cops’ heroics. Here’s a screen shot from the news article, in which Swedes explain that it’s part of their culture to help rather than harm.

Why can’t more Americans adopt this attitude? Why can’t I have empathy for a man who was shot seven times in the back by police officers? Why is it necessary for me to excuse violence from professional cops, even if the man who was shot seven times in the back by them might have raped my hypothetical 14 year old daughter?

I read, with much disdain, comments made by Abby Johnson, a “top” RNC speaker and rabid anti-abortion activist, who not only thinks it would be good to have household voting with the husbands being the ones to cast the votes, but also thinks cops should be excused for racially profiling one of her sons. Johnson said,

“Statistically, I look at our prison population and I see that there is a disproportionately high number of African-American males in our prison population for crimes, particularly for violent crimes. So statistically, when a police officer sees a brown man like my Jude walking down the road — as opposed to my white nerdy kids, my white nerdy men  walking down the road — because of the statistics that he knows in his head, that these police officers know in their head, they’re going to know that statistically my brown son is more likely to commit a violent offense over my white sons.”

“So the fact that in his head, he would be more careful around my brown son than my white son, that doesn’t actually make me angry. That makes that police officer smart, because of statistics.”

Wow… so she thinks that people with brown skin are automatically going to be more violent and more likely to commit crimes, simply because of the color of their skin? She’s never heard of “gentle giants”? She’s never heard of nerdy white guys who sit in their mothers’ basements and eventually get so antisocial that they decide to shoot up schools? I could probably fill another blog post with many paragraphs about the “nerdy white guys” who have killed innocent children– former unborn babies that Johnson supposedly wished to protect before they entered the world as separate beings.

Think about Sandy Hook– 28 six year olds who just wanted to learn something in school– murdered by a nerdy white guy named Adam Lanza. Adam Lanza was just one such “nerdy white guy” of many, who have toted weapons into schools and killed innocent children. But Abby Johnson thinks her brown skinned son, Jude, is a bigger threat “‘cuz statistics”. Okay, then. If cops haven’t figured out that “nerdy white guys” can be threatening, then the cops are pretty damned stupid. And, by now, I’m sure people like Dylann Roof and Adam Lanza, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, and Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, and all the other “nerdy white guys” should have leveled the statistics about nerdy white guys and “being dangerous” somewhat by now!

Anyway… I could certainly get into it with my cousin’s relative on her grandmother’s side about this… and it would likely get very heated, and one of us might resort to sarcastically calling the other “honey” or “punk assed bitch” or something stupid like that. It becomes uncivilized and unproductive in a hurry and raises my blood pressure.

In fairness, it’s not just the right wingers who are like this. On RfM, once one of my favorite places to hang out when I need a break from Facebook, there are several posters who are aggressively liberal. One of them recently called me a “rape apologist” because I have empathy for the late Mary Kay Letourneau and her former student and ex husband, Vili Fualaau. Whether or not I condone with Mary Kay Letourneau did, she and Vili were married, and he apparently still had much regard for her. I don’t know why he loved her. But he evidently doesn’t consider himself her victim, even if other people do. I think his opinions about Mary Kay Letourneau are much more important than mine are. Moreover, even though these women think his life was “ruined” by Mary Kay’s actions, it’s clear that HE doesn’t think so. And his opinion is more important, in my view. How would those people like it if some unknown stranger in Internetland declared their lives “ruined” without even knowing them personally? I know I wouldn’t like it. Acknowledging that Vili Fualaau might be genuinely sad that his ex wife died, doesn’t make me a “rape apologist”. That’s ridiculous.

You can see two of those posters at work in this recent thread on RfM. Personally, I immediately got what the OP was posting about… people going around “baiting” other people into behaving badly, getting it on video, making the video go viral, and then trying to score a payday or fifteen minutes of fame. I think it does happen. But God forbid someone point this out in a forum on RfM, where a few prominent posters seem to have taken over with their overbearing points of view. I won’t even engage with them anymore, because I simply don’t have the time for it.

Ditto to the COVID-19 mask crusaders who are extremely rude and intolerant toward people who object to wearing face masks. They routinely shut down any discussion whatsoever, even if it has merit (for instance, my example regarding the man who was missing parts of his ears due to going to war). You can’t have an exchange with them without being attacked, insulted, and vilified. So I just don’t bother with it. I’d rather just write a blog post where I can write my thoughts on my own space. But some people don’t even like that I do that, even though they’re in the business of working for the United States government, where freedom of expression is supposedly a “thing”. Only if you express what they want to “hear”, right?

Well… this post is causing me to have to repost a couple of old blog posts/book reviews, so I’ll stop here and get to that. Suffice to say that I have my opinions. I will share them, but I don’t have to defend them or argue with other people about them. I still have a right to them… and other people might think I’m stupid or clueless or call me things like a “rape apologist”. But if I see someone habitually going on the attack or am on the receiving end of an attack, I won’t be wasting my time in the fray.

As the Bible says…

Words to live by.

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stupid people

Why all the “Greta hate”?

Yesterday, I ran across today’s featured image. At first, I thought maybe it was shared by a Trump supporter. But then I looked closer at the photo. It looks like the driver of the truck is from Europe, or at least lives in Europe. Those appear to be EU license plates on the truck belching filth into the air and displaying a sign that reads, “Fuck you, Greta”.

Greta Thunberg delivers an emotional speech… and people are calling her a “brat”, among other things.

I can only assume “Greta” is sixteen year old Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who recently visited the United States for the first time and delivered a scathing speech to the United Nations. Greta did not fly to the United States. Instead, she arrived on a zero emissions boat. Greta doesn’t fly anymore because of the emissions poured into the atmosphere by the aviation industry. Greta’s mother is an opera singer who has quit flying for the same reason. She now performs in musicals instead of operas in a bid to help save the climate.

“I won’t be alive then, so screw it…” Yeah, that’s probably why some people are hating on Greta. Older people don’t feel threatened by climate change the way young people do. Greta is not only brilliant; she’s also hilarious.

In her lilting British accented English, Greta chastises world leaders for “stealing her childhood” and being more focused on money than saving the planet by protecting the environment. I think she’s very impressive. I remember being sixteen years old and, at that age, I could not conceive of doing what Greta is doing. She’s clearly very upset, yet she maintains composure enough to clearly tell off the world in a language that isn’t even her mother tongue.

Naturally, because Greta is so articulate, some people seem to hate her. A few seem to pity her, claiming that she’s being exploited by older people who are pushing a false agenda. Plenty have mocked Greta Thunberg on social media, questioning her mental health and motives. Some have even put derogatory signs on their personal vehicles. Quite a few have their heads firmly lodged in their assholes, denying that climate change is a real thing. Below are just a few of the memes I’ve seen on social media, slamming Thunberg for standing up against climate change deniers. Some of the memes I’ve seen are truly offensive and hateful.

I’ve been around for 47 years now. When I was a child, we had regular snow in the winter. By September, temperatures in Virginia were coming down. We didn’t have so many devastating hurricanes, and the idea of visiting Antarctica or the Arctic Circle was a pipe dream for most people. The climate was just plain too brutal. How things have changed since my childhood. Every day, I read about ice melting, starving polar bears who can’t find food in their natural habitats, ever more powerful hurricanes that destroy lives, and ever warming temperatures in places that used to be more temperate. Hell, even twelve years ago, when we moved to Germany the first time, I remember we had snow in November. Even though that was strange for someone from Virginia, my first German neighbor said that when she was a child, there was a whole lot more snow. It’s noticeably warmer here now.

But people don’t want to believe the warnings. They want to label Greta Thunberg as “crazy”, a “spoiled brat”, or a “puppet” controlled by adults. How can people listen to this amazingly articulate, brave, intelligent young woman and come away with the idea that she doesn’t think for herself? My guess is that the haters simply haven’t been exposed to anything beyond their own bubbles out there in Trumpland. Don’t these people enjoy breathing non-polluted air, eating good food, drinking clean water, and being comfortable? Don’t they care about anyone but themselves and their own convenience? I guess not.

I don’t expect to live as long as my grandmother did. In fact, I hope I don’t. I had always wanted to have children of my own, but having seen the state of the world these days, I’m kind of glad I never did. I would worry very much for them. I don’t blame Greta Thunberg for wanting to do something about climate change. I think she is extraordinary, even if her efforts don’t amount to anything substantial in terms of law changes, although personally, I think she’s already influencing people. She’s clearly extremely intelligent and has shown tremendous resilience… and best of all, she is not a hypocrite. She practices what she preaches.

I think the “haters” should pull their heads out of their asses and wake up. Sadly, it may already be too late.

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true crime, Uncategorized

There is NO EXCUSE for this…

This morning, I became aware of a scary situation that occurred in Phoenix, Arizona on May 29, 2019. Dravon Aames, and his pregnant fiancee, Iesha Harper, visited a Family Dollar store with their children, London, 1, and Island, 4. Without their knowledge, Island took a doll from the store. The police followed the family to their babysitter’s apartment complex, where they intended to drop off the children.

A police officer approached their vehicle, gun drawn, and opened the door. He screamed and cursed at the family. Although the police officers were not wearing the body cameras required by the police department, passersby filmed the incident and it’s now all over the Internet. And… while I do have empathy for officers of the law, who don’t know what or whom they will face on a given day, there is NO WAY their conduct here is acceptable. Take a look.

The vile language alone should get them fired.

It’s easy to hear the officers threatening to shoot the family, swearing at them, and screaming at them. And while I don’t know what prompted them to react in this extreme manner, it really looks bad for the Phoenix police department. There’s no reason to use words like “fuck” and “shit” in front of citizens, especially when there are small children around. Those kids were probably terrified, especially Island, who at age four will likely be able to remember this incident. The child is reportedly wetting the bed and having nightmares, now.

Once they had Aames cuffed and put in the back seat of a patrol car, the police zeroed in on Harper, who was holding her baby. The police officer grabbed her around the neck, then demanded that she put her baby on the hot pavement. London doesn’t yet walk, so her mother was unwilling to do as the police officer demanded. Harper eventually passed the child to a passerby; then the cop pushed her head first into the patrol car and cuffed her.

This extreme response was all over an alleged shoplifting perpetrated by a four year old child. Bystanders have claimed that Aames stole underwear and threw it out of the vehicle, refusing to stop when commanded to, and driving on a suspended license. However, the store manager declined to press shoplifting charges and, though the couple was detained, they were neither ticketed nor arrested. The car was impounded, though, and Aames, who is now limping due to being injured during this incident, has to walk to work.

Naturally, the couple has a lawyer and, frankly, I hope they sue the hell out of the city and win big. They have made a claim of $10 million. I doubt they’ll get that much, but they have every right to sue and, I hope, prevail in their lawsuit. This was a case of extreme overkill, unprofessionalism, and straight up terrorism. It looks like these officers have lost their damned minds! To their individual credits, Mayor Kate Gallego and Police Chief Jeri Williams are “disturbed” by the videos that have surfaced regarding this situation. The officers involved are now on desk duty while an investigation is conducted. Frankly, I think the cops involved in this should be fired and face some legal action. They exhibited the lowest degree of professionalism and provided an excellent example of why people now fear the police so much.

I do understand that today’s police officers, especially in the United States, have a very difficult job to do. The work is stressful, and there’s no way to know what or whom cops will face on any given shift. However, I would expect the police to be in control of themselves, first and foremost, before they attempt to take control of a situation. Yes, they need to take charge, and that means being intimidating, but there’s a difference between confidence and assertiveness and plain old aggressive thuggery. These cops are no better than criminals themselves, based on their behavior.

The police officers who wrote up this report left out a lot of key details, which were all caught on film. For instance, they failed to mention that they swept Aames’ leg, resulting in an injury.

It’s really disheartening to read and/or see videos of American police officers acting this way… or, in the case of Scot Peterson, former resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, not at all. We’ve got to do better than this. Hell, in 2015, four off-duty unarmed Swedish police officers visiting New York City were able to break up a fight without acting like psychopaths.

American cops should take a lesson.

I feel horrible for Aames and Harper and, especially, the two children who witnessed this. I hope they at least get their car back and some compensation for what they’ve endured. Unfortunately, their four year old may have permanent psychic scars because of these rogue cops.

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musings

Reclaiming The Giving Tree: here is where the story ends…

A little mood music… I just like how it sounds, and the title fits.

Back in January 2018, on my old blog, I wrote a post about how my husband, Bill, hates Shel Silverstein’s classic children’s book, The Giving Tree. People are usually surprised whenever I mention that Bill doesn’t like that book. The Giving Tree is a poignant story about a marvelous, loving, giving tree who provides so much to a selfish, thoughtless little boy who grows up never appreciating the gifts the tree bestows on him, even when he’s an old man. A lot of people love it and think it’s a beautiful story. For Bill, it represents a bad time in his life that he’d sooner forget.

I was familiar with the story before I met Bill. As a child, I liked Shel Silverstein’s books, and as a music lover, I enjoyed the lyrics he wrote for Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show. I never had any personal reasons to dislike The Giving Tree until Bill told me about how his ex wife, in a classic moment of projection, accused Bill of being like the boy in The Giving Tree, always taking from her and leaving nothing behind. Ex had an unfortunate propensity of using children’s literature to make her points. Consequently, Bill has significant issues with Silverstein’s classic, as well as several books by Dr. Seuss. It’s a real pity, although entirely understandable.

I included this in my older post about The Giving Tree. I am also posting it here, for those who don’t want to go there.

Having known Bill for almost twenty years, sixteen of which I’ve spent as his second wife, I know that if anything, Bill was the “tree” in their relationship. Hell, he’s probably the “tree” in our relationship, too. He truly is a very selfless, thoughtful, considerate, empathetic person. Sometimes, his kindness works to his disadvantage, although I do my best to appreciate all he does for me.

When Bill and I met, he was at the beginning stages of recovering from the financial ravages of his first marriage. He lived in a super cheap efficiency apartment on about $600 a month, $200 of which went to pay his rent. Ex had claimed most of his paycheck and had done her best to ruin his credit. Unfortunately, he was so beaten down by his years with her that he put up little resistance to her unreasonable demands. Consequently, at age 35, Bill was living like a recent college graduate. So was I, since I was in graduate school. In retrospect, it was a good time for us to come together, since we were both at similar crossroads. One of my uncles noticed how good Bill was and told me I should do my best to look after him. I have taken that advice, which, along with my late grandmother’s advice to marry him, is probably among the best I’ve ever received.

Bill ate a lot of beans and rice in those days, and slept on a futon at a time when his career should have been taking off. His nightly chats with me were probably 90% of his entertainment. He experienced bankruptcy and foreclosure and had joined a church that demanded 10% percent of his gross income for tithing. He was BROKE– financially, spiritually, and emotionally– although he still had his health. One could say that much like the tree in The Giving Tree, Bill was left a dried up stump… with maybe a single struggling branch that was still marginally viable.

We got married in 2002. The first few years of our marriage were fun, but kind of stressful due to our lean finances. I was looking for work and he was paying child support for three kids, one of whom wasn’t even his legal responsibility (his bio dad was pushed out of the picture and quit paying). Still, we made it through those years. I remember one sunny Saturday morning in early 2005, we were sitting at the card table that served as our dining room set. I told Bill that this was a temporary condition and that I could see us living a good life. It would take awhile, but we’d get there. Then we ate our pancakes on our wedding china and probably had sex, since it was free.

Later that year, I scored a freelance writing gig that paid pretty well. I bought us a dining room table, chairs, and a couch and a loveseat. The table is in storage and has been replaced by a German Eckbank Gruppe. The couch and the loveseat are here with us in Germany, and they have been well loved, especially by our dogs. I think when it’s time to leave, we’ll be leaving them here.

We’ve come a really long way since 2005. Just as I predicted, things got a lot better for us. In 2006, we bought a new RAV 4, financing it through Toyota Finance Corporation. It was an expensive loan, although I had used Toyota to finance my first car. I later refinanced my first car through Pentagon Federal Credit Union. One of the best gifts I received when I graduated college in 1994 was a savings account at PenFed. One of my sisters started it for me. Ever since then, I’ve kept it going, and used some of their other products. I saved significant money when I refinanced my car loan with them. I also used PenFed when it was time to finance my grad school education, although those loans got sold a couple of times.

In 2007, Bill went to Iraq, which resulted in extra pay. I took the opportunity to retire all of the debt on the high interest credit cards he was carrying. I started paying down my credit cards and my student loans. When he came back six months later, his cards were paid off and I was ahead on my debts. We moved to Germany the first time, where we were able to get further ahead due to tax laws and money for utilities we didn’t need, but were allowed to keep. We used it to pay off more debt. Eventually, USAA, which had taken a loss when Bill declared bankruptcy, decided to trust him again. He’s now rebuilt his credit so that it’s almost as good as mine is, and I have never had any significant financial disasters.

One night in 2008, I noticed that PenFed was offering cheap rates for refinancing loans. I pitched the idea to Bill that we should try to refinance the loan on our 2006 RAV 4. Bill was reluctant, because he didn’t think they’d approve his application. He’d been through the shame of financial disaster and his credit rating was still improving. He didn’t want to hear the word “no”. I reminded him that my credit rating was excellent and I had already paid off a car loan with PenFed. He could be a co-signer for a loan in my name. After a few minutes of cajoling, Bill and I Skyped PenFed from Germany. Two minutes into our call, they agreed to refinance our high interest car loan. It would save us about $150 a month. I will never forget the look of gratitude on Bill’s face that PenFed trusted him. He was on his way back… the dried up stump’s one surviving branch had sprouted a couple of leaves and they were turning green!

In 2009, as we were leaving Germany, we decided to order a Mini Cooper for me to drive. By that time, two of the children he’d been supporting had become adults, so we had an extra $1700 a month. Since we’d been paying PenFed for a year, they trusted us with another car loan, again at a very favorable rate. The loan was in my name, with Bill as a co-signer. Eventually, I got my Mini, and in 2011, the last kid came of age. We used the extra money to shave down the loans and both cars were paid for ahead of time. We had a few more twigs greening on our tree!

In 2014, Bill retired from the Army. We worried about what he would do after he left the military. He was turning 50, and though he looks young for his age, he’s definitely not a whippersnapper anymore. He had a couple of interviews at companies that clearly wanted someone younger and cheaper on the payroll. Fortunately, the timing was just right for us to come back to Germany, and Bill happened to run into a contact who was able to help him get his resume in front of the right people. It turned out he was just the man they were looking for, and on my 42nd birthday, Bill got a job offer.

It was expensive to move here, mainly owing to skimpy relocation package his first company offered. Still, we were successful in our bid to move. Once again, we worked hard to pay off debt and eventually got to the point at which we had very little. I was socking away money in investments and savings accounts. For the first time ever, we had money saved in multiple locations. The green limb had branched out into a few new green limbs. The “tree” was getting taller, stronger, and healthier. The dried up stump was being overcome by renewed growth. It was quickly rotting into the Earth as our new tree grew more robust.

In 2017, Bill started working for a new company that paid him better. We had several months of extra money that allowed me to throw huge payments at my student loans. They were retired nine years early. Then, just as I had visions of saving up lots of money for our own house someday, we had to move. That was a setback, since the new house costs a lot more rent and moves are always expensive. However, in the long run, the move has proven beneficial to Bill’s career, and I am much happier in our new house. Now, it’s time to buy a new vehicle and send our trusty RAV 4 on to its next owner. Our old RAV 4 will probably end up in Africa. Supposedly, for cars as old as that one, Africa is the most common ending point.

This morning, as we were enjoying breakfast, Bill was talking about the new car he ordered yesterday. It’s a beautiful Volvo and we will be going to Sweden to pick it up. Yes, we are financing it. Maybe it would be better not to, although Bill prefers to buy new cars rather than used ones. Used cars are cheaper, but you always know where new cars have been. Since Bill isn’t the handiest guy in the world, that’s a selling point. We’ll probably keep the new car for a long time. My Mini is now ten years old and we aren’t ready to part with it. This time, Bill got a substantial car loan offer without my help. The offer was a lot more than what we’ll need, and Bill was very excited that they trusted him with that much of a loan. It’s so nice that he was finally able to make a full financial recovery. He’ll probably use about half of the loan amount USAA offered.

Somehow, over fresh strawberries and hot coffee, we got on the subject of The Giving Tree. Bill was reminded of how he’d been left so depleted in 1999, when he and his ex wife split up. He thought he was finished. I said, “All you needed was some fertilizer in the form of a little shit like me!” I think one of the reasons Bill and I get along so well is because he laughs at my ribald jokes. That, and he does listen to and respect me, most of the time, anyway.

Although things can always change, we’ve made a real commitment to work together for common, positive goals. In 2002, it seemed like it would take forever to become financially solvent. Yes, for a few years, life was tougher, although conditions gradually improved. We made decisions that would help the tree regrow into its former glory. I’m not just talking about finances, either. I’m also referring to health and happiness. In a way, maybe this story is less like The Giving Tree and more like the Christmas Tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Bill is fortunate because he chose a career that offers a lot of opportunities. He took advantage of educational benefits and, despite having once been sucked dry, didn’t become completely bitter and shriveled. He made better choices, learned about trusting the right people, and started standing up for himself against thieves and bullies. Everything is different now… everything is better. Even the “bitter fruit” from that old tree has ripened into the form of one previously alienated daughter who has reconnected with her dad and is sharing her life. Hopefully, someday, the other daughter will come around. Maybe, just maybe, Bill will also stop hating The Giving Tree, too. Especially since we’ve changed the ending!

I’m looking forward to our trip to Sweden. I don’t know exactly when it will occur. I suspect it will be in July or August. We did manage to get to Sweden in 2009, just as we were about to leave Germany the first time. Unfortunately, it was via a short Baltic cruise, and we barely got to see the port and the airport in Stockholm before we had to fly back to Germany so Bill could attend a conference in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I remember those weeks as being a lot of fun as I visited a bunch of countries in one last blast before we moved back to the States. We probably won’t get to see Stockholm on this trip, but we will drive through Denmark and northern Germany to bring home our new vehicle.

I have a tendency to be negative, cranky, and even downright bitchy at times. I do still suffer from anxiety and depression. But there’s another side of me that’s positive and “evergreen”. Things often work out, particularly if you keep the right mindset and work for change. Small changes, long range vision, and good decisions can lead to growth in all aspects of life.

At the risk of sounding corny, I just want to say that even when things seem totally shitty, small, positive changes, good decisions and mutual cooperation, and a little love, luck, and fertilizer can breathe new life into what once seemed like a lost cause. Bill’s “tree” is back and thriving, and we’re both reaping the benefits, without taking anything for granted. So maybe Shel Silverstein taught us a valuable lesson after all…

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