controversies, disasters, technology, the environment

The latest viral post…

Yesterday, I noticed a couple of my friends shared the post that serves as today’s featured photo. The quote has been attributed to the author, Marguerite Quantaine. Although I am an avid reader, I’m not familiar with Marguerite Quantaine’s work, so I’m not sure why I would be influenced by her over anyone else. Nevertheless, she (or her social media “person”) makes a pretty good point about individual choices most of us have the power to make as the costs of gas and other products rise. I saw her post being shared by different people on my friends list, who had also seen it shared by their own friends. In reading the comments on her original post, I noticed that Quantaine’s comments were actually made by a “cyber-liaison”, as Marguerite herself has been “indisposed” since October 2021.

However, while I agree with Quantaine’s statement about what we can do to mitigate high gas prices, I’m not so sure the higher gas prices can only be attributed to the war in Ukraine, at least not in the United States. Gas in the US mostly comes from sources other than Russia. Now, here in the European Union, it’s a different story. A lot more of the gas supply comes from Russia. But people over here are used to paying a lot for gas. That’s not to say they like to pay so much for gas, but at least there’s a trade off. For instance, generally speaking, it costs much less over here to get medical treatment than it does in the United States.

I clicked on one the posts that was shared by someone who apparently shared from Marguerite Quantaine’s page. There were a few dozen comments there. The very first one came from a man who is clearly a conservative voter. I just went back to the original post to re-read what the guy wrote, only to find that the post was apparently “cleaned up”. The “hater” comments were deleted. So I decided to visit Quantaine’s page, to see if there were any similar comments. There were, but none that made the statement that inspired me to write this post today. I’m going to have to rely on my memory. Fortunately, my memory is still pretty awesome, in spite of my wine habit.

So this guy, who appeared to be a “boomer”, basically wrote that all he cares about is being able to buy affordable gas. And he thinks that we should just exploit all of the resources we have in the United States. Another poster shamed him, reminding him that fracking and drilling will ruin what little is left of the natural beauty in our environment. The guy came back and wrote that the damage would be “minimal”, and he would be able to run his car.

I had a look at the guy’s profile picture and noticed that he appeared to have a family. There was a woman with him who appeared to be his age, and several attractive adults and kids. It looked like he loves his family very much. Unfortunately, the first thought that came into my mind, was that he must not actually love them that much, if he’s not concerned about the state of the environment and our dependence on fossil fuels. He’s only concerned about what’s happening right now. He probably won’t be around for that much longer, so the lasting damage to the environment likely won’t affect him too much. But it will definitely affect those grandchildren of his. He seems to love his grandchildren, yet he’s not concerned about what lies ahead for them.

I’m going to turn 50 in June. As winter is ending here in Germany, I’ve thought a lot about how different the climate is in 2022 compared to what it was like in the 80s, when I was a teenager. I remember back in the 80s, some people were concerned about the environment. I even remember there was a 1989 episode on this topic on the hit NBC sitcom, Family Ties. In the episode, “Rain Forests Keep Fallin’ on My Head”, the character, Jennifer (Tina Yothers), is studying ecology in school and gets fixated on making changes that would protect the environment. She encourages her family to adopt more Earth friendly lifestyle choices, to the point of being very annoying. But ultimately, she gets very depressed and has to see a counselor. I watched that episode maybe a year or two ago, and remembered how Jennifer’s family tried to console her. Now, 33 years later, that episode seems very prescient.

A couple of days ago, I noticed a picture an acquaintance posted on Facebook of her little daughter. The girl was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. It’s not even mid March yet. I remember when I was a child, March was still a pretty cold month, even in Virginia. I asked her what the temperatures were in North Carolina, where they now live. She said it was in the 80s.

Here in Germany, I’ve noticed there’s less snow that there was even fifteen years ago. The winter in Wiesbaden was rainy and chilly, but not particularly cold. When we lived here the first time, I would not have dared go outside with bare feet in the winter. I could and did go out barefoot sometimes over this past winter. Granted, I don’t think Wiesbaden gets as much snow as Stuttgart gets, since it’s not as elevated. But I would have expected at least one good snow in which there wasn’t immediate melting. We really didn’t get any of that this year… or since we’ve been here. I’m pretty sure this is global warming in action. The guy who made that comment about not caring about anything but gas prices probably denies it exists. But how else can we explain why the weather has been so much warmer in recent years?

I do understand that Quantaine’s suggestions in her viral Facebook post might not be feasible for everyone. I’ve had the experience of living in parts of the United States where public transportation is scarce. I’ve worked at jobs that required lengthy commutes. Moreover, I am not a fan of “preachy” Facebook posts in the form of memes that can be passed around like a plate of stale hors d’oeuvres. I guess it just shocks me that so many people are self-centered to the point at which they brazenly state it outright. The guy who was enthusiastically responding in that post really came off as a selfish asshole. And yet, it’s easy to see that he’s a much beloved person, with many family members who evidently appreciate him.

In another example, I noticed a thread by a friend who is also former fellow Epinions writer. This person has a lot of people on his friends list that are no longer on mine, for whatever reason. He posted a statement about how the United States can be more energy independent by encouraging people to buy fuel efficient vehicles and vote for using more renewable resources. He got a lot of responses from other former Epinions members. One response came from a guy I used to have a lot more respect for than I do today. This guy is one of those “me and mine” types– as in, “I’ve got mine, and that’s all that matters to me.” I unfriended him several years ago after his relentless pushing of his conservative views became too obnoxious on my page. This guy had a habit of shaming me for being pro-choice or having opinions that were progressive. I used to refer to him as “Papa Smurf”, because he often tried to act like everyone’s daddy and lecture them when their views didn’t align with his. It got to be very annoying. In fact, I believe my parting words to him were, “Fuck off, Phil.”

Anyway, I noticed that Papa Smurf posted a response to my friend’s suggestion that everyone should use more Earth sustaining vehicles and adopt practices that preserve the environment. Below are his comments, which I think kind of echo the entitled “fuck you all” attitude I noticed the “boomer” stranger had shared on Marguerite Quantaine’s post.

We used to have a RAV4 ourselves. It was a good car, and we kept it for 13 years. But I wouldn’t say it was particularly fuel efficient.

The above comment isn’t as bad as others I’ve seen him make. Like I said, there was a time when I didn’t see the conservative “boomer” side to his personality. I liked him fine when we could just talk about travel. I got a first inkling that he was kind of a jerk when we happened to be at an Epinions social event and he was openly talking about undertipping the wait staff because he had to wait for his dinner. Then years later, we’d clash on Facebook when I would be snarky and “tasteless” (in his opinion) in my comments about certain current events and political ideals. He would chastise me on my own page, which is a “no no”. You ain’t my daddy, Papa Smurf.

Anyway… to me it’s just a reflection of a tragic attitude some people have regarding the environment. They don’t seem too concerned about how today’s practices and policies might be paid for by tomorrow’s adults. Once again, I’m glad I didn’t manage to have children. I look at my husband’s daughter’s adorable son and daughter, and think about the little boy who will soon join them. I worry about what it might be like for them… and I’m glad my life is likely at least halfway over. This war in Ukraine, coupled with the coronavirus, are probably going to change life as we know it… and likely not for the better. Not unless we work together to come up with ways to mitigate the damages done. I think humans are technically capable of adapting our practices for the better… but unfortunately, selfishness and greed often get in the way.

I’ve noticed that electric cars are increasingly popular in Europe. There are a lot of places where one can plug in their vehicles. When we bought our Volvo in 2019, we were told that very soon, Volvo will stop making gas powered cars. I have been giving some serious thought to making my next car a hybrid or an electric. But I rarely drive much anymore, anyway. Unfortunately, I think it will take more time for electric cars to catch on in the United States. They are expensive, and it’s a concept that may be hard for some people to embrace. People tend to like to stick with what they know. For instance, it took me a long time to switch from Windows to a Mac. 😉

I do think, though, that if our species is to survive in relative comfort, we’re going to have to make some changes. And while I don’t think the higher gas prices are entirely caused by the war in Ukraine (the pandemic also contributed), I do agree that at this point, those of us who aren’t in Ukraine are lucky… for now. However, I also think that this thing could actually turn into yet another global event very soon if something lasting is not done about Putin. He’s gone much further than people thought he would… perhaps he sees this stunt as a way to ride out of this world in a blaze of glory. Frankly, I wouldn’t be averse to that… as long as he makes an exit from the world stage soon.

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politics, rants, religion

“Christians” who complain about gas prices have missed the plot…

Last night, my former tenth grade homeroom teacher, now serving as president of a Christian university located in the American South, posted a shoutout to people who live in his community. My former homeroom teacher– a truly awesome guy and inspired leader, by the way– shared the news that a local gas station owner had announced that he still had gas priced at $3.68 a gallon. The gas station owner was encouraging people to fill their tanks while the “cheaper” gas was still available. As soon as the next shipment of gas arrived, the gas prices would have to go up.

Naturally, a lot of people were commenting about that, because Americans aren’t used to having to pay so much for gasoline. One person wrote a bitter complaint about the high gas prices, ending her rant with “Let’s go, Brandon.”

Before I knew it, I had responded “That’s not his fault.”

A minute later, she dashed off a response to me, as did someone else. I’m pretty sure there were a couple of “laughing” reactions, too. I didn’t bother to read the comments the people left, because I had a feeling they would be snarky and argumentative in nature. It was time for bed, and I didn’t want to get charged up over politics before trying to go to sleep. Also, I really respect my former tenth grade homeroom teacher, and I didn’t want to get involved in an argument on his Facebook page. Especially since I know he’s a devout Christian, and I have a tendency to be salty sometimes. Particularly when it’s later in the evening. 😉

I know I should have probably kept scrolling… because these folks have made up their minds about Joe Biden, and they truly believe he’s the cause of everything wrong in the world. There’s nothing I can say or write to change their minds. They think Joe Biden is responsible for the high gas prices, even though they are just plain WRONG.

I don’t think Joe Biden is the most charismatic leader we’ve ever had, but I do think he’s basically a decent person who cares about others. That’s a lot more than I could ever say about Donald Trump. And– before anyone points this out to me– I want to make it clear that I never thought Trump was responsible for everything bad in the world, either. I think Trump is an inherently bad person because of proven bad things he’s said and done, not because of his so-called political party. I don’t believe that all Republicans are evil. I do think quite a lot of them are selfish, ignorant, narcissistic, and completely out of touch with other people. But I know that not all of them are that way, and in fact, many Democrats are just as out of touch. I think today’s Republican Party, on the whole, is a bastardization of what the Republican Party used to be, years ago. A lot of people identify as Republicans and don’t think twice about it. They just keep aligning with the party they’ve always aligned with, even though quite a few Republican leaders are truly reprehensible people. But again, there are some truly crappy Democrats, too.

But anyway, I didn’t want to get into a political argument on my old teacher’s page, so I removed the notifications that the people prompted for me, turned out the light, and went to sleep. However, before I fell asleep, I noticed that an Epinions buddy from Texas, a man who is a doctoral level Christian minister who seems to really practice what he preaches, shared today’s featured photo on his Facebook page.

I thought about it for a minute and shared the same photo on my page, with a reminder for Christians in the United States who are bitching about gas prices. Right now, in Germany, gas is the euro equivalent of about $8 a gallon. Gas has always been significantly higher priced in Europe, which has much better public transportation systems and higher taxes than the United States has. I can remember being shocked when I heard that Germans were paying the equivalent of $5 a gallon. Of course, over here, gas is sold by the liter. Someone pointed that out to me on my page, and I explained that I had put my comment in terms of gallons because I’m addressing Americans, many of whom don’t travel abroad and have no concept of the metric system. My overall point is, gas is expensive in a lot of places, and that’s not Biden’s fault.

Then I thought about it some more, and it suddenly struck me as totally ridiculous that Christians are complaining about gas prices. Where is the outrage over the high prices of housing, food, and medical care? These are basic necessities for every person on the planet. Whenever a politician wants to tackle the high prices associated with basic needs, they get accused of pushing socialism. Most Republicans don’t like paying for social safety nets for people who are in need. Many Republicans assume that anyone who is poor, or sick, or food insecure is that way due to their own fault. They preach about personal responsibility, and push laws that are designed to punish or humiliate people who are in need. They lament the prospect of socialized medicine in the United States that might make healthcare more affordable for everyone. But God forbid they have to pay more for the gas to fill up those monster sized trucks and land yachts they drive to jobs that enrich other people…

I think Christians who are more concerned about high gas prices, than they are outrageous healthcare, housing, and food prices, have extremely fucked up priorities. Christians are supposed to follow the example of Jesus Christ, aren’t they? So if you’re really a Christian, shouldn’t you actually be concerned about people in need? Didn’t Christ care about hungry, sick, tired, and suffering people? Wasn’t Christ humble and gentle? Would Jesus complain about high gas prices and blame the U.S. president for something that is happening mostly due to world events?

Everybody needs housing, healthcare, and food. Not everybody needs to gas up cars. Granted, in the United States, cars are generally a lot more necessary than they are in Europe. However, even though Americans need cars more than Europeans do, they still aren’t necessary for living. I think in the coming weeks, we may all collectively discover why our dependence on cheap gas makes us weaker in so many ways.

What really amazes me, though, is this sudden understanding and affinity some Republicans have for Russia, and for Putin’s complaints about Ukraine. A lot of these people– Trump supporters– have #Pray for Ukraine posts on their social media pages. But don’t they realize that Donald Trump is Putin’s fan boy? Don’t they know that if Trump were still in office, Trump wouldn’t say much about what Putin is doing to Ukraine? Trump and Putin have a lot in common… although I think Putin is a lot smarter and, unfortunately, even more sociopathic than Trump is.

When I was a kid, the 1984 movie Red Dawn was released. I remember watching that movie and thinking– DAMN!– if the Soviet Union ever invades the United States, I will be signing up to fight! I was brave and naive when I was twelve! That movie was loaded with right-wing, God bless America, anti-Soviet propaganda bullshit. It was a very violent film that made Russians out to be terrible people as a whole. In 1984, a lot of Americans were legitimately worried about nuclear war. In the 80s, many Americans openly disdained communist Soviet Union and its people, even though most of us knew very little about the Soviet Union. It was a closed society, so it wasn’t easy to mingle with people from there. But watch television from the 80s, and you will see MANY references to nukes and how awful Russia is… and a lot of that propaganda was promoted by Republicans.

Then came 1991… and the Soviet Union fell apart. A few years after that, I went to live in the former Soviet Union. It changed my life. I now count some former Soviets as friends. I started seeing things from a different perspective. I no longer saw the Soviet Union as one big country. I now see that it was comprised of fifteen diverse republics full of amazing people who mostly want and need the same things I want and need. For a couple of decades, it looked like maybe we could finally be friends with people from Russia and other former Soviet countries. Maybe our governments could cooperate with each other and act for the benefit of humanity. Then came Putin… and he’s acting like a domestic abuser punishing his mate for refusing to marry him. Ukraine doesn’t want to be in a relationship with Russia anymore. Russia won’t take no for an answer and is forcing itself on the Ukrainian people… like an abusive ex who won’t go away. I must credit Bill for providing me with that imagery. Bill understands the abusive spouse dynamic better than I ever could… but when he presented that example to me, it struck me as how insightful it is.

Someday, maybe this ugly Soviet era building will be rebuilt into something more akin to Ukrainian tastes. But for now, this picture represents profound loss and suffering… and people who have lost everything.

I saw a photo of a burning building in Ukraine this morning. I noticed how ugly and depressing that building was. I remember living in a couple of buildings that looked just like it when I lived in Armenia. As I looked at the above image, it occurred to me that someday, that burning building will probably be rebuilt. It might even be rebuilt into something much better on all levels. That will probably take years, though, and for now, the fact remains that this ugly building on fire was home for some people who have now lost everything. And in America, we have a bunch of so-called Christians blaming Joe Biden for the fact that they have to pay more for gas. It’s ridiculous, short-sighted, and shameful. And now, Republicans seem to be on Putin’s side, even as they “pray for Ukraine”. I guess they pray for Ukraine to hurry up and submit so they can get cheap gas again, and the stock market will rebound. Perhaps they think Ukraine should just “make the best of a bad situation”. Maybe Ukraine should just lie down and “enjoy” the rape, as some anti-woman Republican legislators have suggested to sexual assault victims. I think a lot of Republicans are as naive and uninformed as I was when I was twelve.

A lot of these folks probably think Ukraine should also “make the best of a bad situation”. But if Russia invaded the United States, what would they say?

Nobody likes to pay high gas prices. I hate seeing our stock values plummet on a daily basis. It would be so great if things were peaceful and prosperous and the economy was humming along. But that’s not how it is… and the fact that it’s not how it is isn’t solely Joe Biden’s fault. He’s not invading Ukraine. He didn’t cause COVID-19, which also had an effect on gas prices and the economy. And he doesn’t control gas prices. He doesn’t have that much power. So if you are a “Christian” who is complaining about gas prices and blaming Biden, maybe it’s time to reevaluate your priorities. Do you think Jesus would be concerned about filling his gas tank over the pain and suffering of other human beings? I sure don’t.

Edited to add: A fellow American in Germany shared this…

Americans don’t have it so bad when it comes to gas prices.

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musings

More French hospitality…

A bigger organ than Putin’s…

We will be going home tomorrow. I have to say I’m ready to go, not because we haven’t had fun, but because I’m worn out. I am not used to so much hospitality. Today, after we visited Obernai and Saverne, we came back to our room and I promptly fell asleep. Now, I’m up, but only because we booked dinner again in the restaurant. Last night, we did the big tasting dinner. Tonight, I hope for something simpler and shorter in duration. I am ready to go to bed, get up in the morning for one more excellent breakfast, and go home to Germany, so I can write up all of our fun and share pictures… and of course, see my dogs. I have missed them, too. French people love dogs, and they are everywhere.

Right this minute, I’m watching French news about Ukraine. I have a lot of thoughts about that situation. I have a friend whose wife is from there, and she still has a lot of family members who are trapped in Kiev. I get highly irritated listening to Putin and his threats. He really is a nasty character… one of those people who probably ought to be blown straight back to Hell. However, I am very grateful that my husband is no longer in the Army. I have a feeling the Army will be getting involved eventually, although I hope they won’t.

I do get kind of tickled when I notice the difference between French news and US news. A couple of nights ago, I happened to watch the news when the death of a famous French presenter was being reported. The anchor was openly crying as he spoke about it. He kept saying “Je suis desole!”

I notice that they spell Putin’s name “Poutine”. So now, when I see him, I think of a giant deep friend cheese curd.

And tonight, I saw a protester holding up a poster of a hand drawn tiny penis. It had a caption that read, “Putin: 3 centimeters”. I find it outrageous that one, very toxic man, can hold the world hostage this way with his threats. At the same time, while I don’t think Joe Biden is the best person to handle Putin, I do thank God Trump isn’t in office. He’s a moron who thought Finland was part of Russia. You bet your ass he’d just let Putin do what he wants. Putin probably has dirt on him.

It’s a little scary watching this stuff happening in Ukraine. It’s not that far away. I fear it could get much worse. I am old enough to remember the Chernobyl accident… and I remember that the effects from that crossed over Europe. Bill’s first landlady in Germany died because she got cancer from Chernobyl. The fallout affected the whole continent.

But I guess Putin doesn’t care about that. He just wants land and power… and it doesn’t matter how much humans suffer. For once, I think I agree with Lindsey Graham. I hope someone takes him out.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, News, rants

“If someone is going to be examining your junk, you have the right to exact high standards…”

I didn’t sleep very well last night. I woke up to pee, probably because Bill got up to pee. He was on the potty when I went into the bathroom. After our encounter, I couldn’t get back to sleep. I started reading the news. There was an article about how hospitals in Ukraine are dealing with shortages of oxygen, thanks to the Russian invasion and the high number of COVID patients. I was kind of awestruck by the picture of the hospital interior. I was reminded that Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, because the photo reminded me of the inside of an Armenian hospital I once visited in 1996. I was surprised that the Ukrainian facility still looked like a 90s era post Soviet hospital.

Then I went to the comment section, where some guy was complaining about the paywall. It always irks me when people bitch about having to pay for newspapers, as if they would be willing to work for free or give away their valuables. The complainer maintained that all coverage about COVID should be free of charge, in the interest of health promotion. For many months, The New York Times provided plenty of free coverage on COVID. Moreover, there are lots of news sources out there. The New York Times isn’t a free publication. It never has been. One doesn’t go into a store and read a print edition, as if one would at a library. Why should it be any different online? And how do people expect journalists to do their jobs if there’s no income stream with which to pay them for their work?

I’ve complained about that phenomenon more than once in this rag of a blog of mine. I’m not wanting to do it again today. I’m just building up to my point, which I’ll get to in due time. Suffice to say that people who whine about having to pay for quality journalism really get on my nerves. I didn’t leave a comment for the whiny bastard. Someone else kindly did it for me, and in good style. However, one thing I did notice, was that the whiny bastard left an entitled response when someone recommended that he block The New York Times from his feed and/or find another, free or cost-effective, news source. This is what he wrote:

1. I will not block them from my feed. Even the headlines are of some value. 2. I certainly didn’t need you to tell me there are other sources of information. I’ve examined dozens just today. 3. If they could publish free articles about COVID, then they certainly could do it in this case, for the same reason – to preserve human life. (Profit took a backseat to doing the right thing then, and so it should now!)

Then, when the person who engaged him advised him to stop complaining, he wrote:

The NYT seems to have a purpose behind this article. To provoke empathy for the suffering people. And, knowing the long reach of their newsfeed, it will get the notice of people who could help. So why put a speed bump in the way, an impediment to humanitarian aid. It doesn’t make sense. (And to remind you, I have a right to express myself – remember America is a land of Freedom of Expression. So I’ll complain all I want, for as long as I want! Many times in my past my complaints have produced real change, sometimes they’ve just changed people’s minds. Either way, Not Going Anywhere !)

I still don’t understand why his points about the shortage of oxygen in Ukrainian hospitals entitle him to read the paper for free. It sounds to me like he’s just cheap. He even admitted that “even the headlines are of some value.” So he admits that the paper is valuable. He just doesn’t want to support it by subscribing. Either way, I guarantee that complaining about paywalls in a comment section on Facebook won’t make a happy damn to the bean counters. They offer a valuable product for which many people, myself included, are willing to pay. I use The New York Times every day. It’s worth the money to me.

I was still somewhat exasperated after reading that exchange. That guy is an example of a person I can do without, although he’s probably a nice enough fellow when he isn’t bitching about paywalls. As Bill and I were enjoying breakfast, I somehow got on a tangent about other people who get on my nerves. I was suddenly reminded of a woman I used to regularly rant about years ago. She was just one of those people who irritated the ever living hell out of me. I think that guy’s comment reminded me of that woman, whom I used to call “Ms. Overly Helpful”.

In the years before social media, I used to hang out on a messageboard for second wives and stepmothers. I ran into some really great ladies. I also ran into a few assholes, although in fairness, I’m sure some of them thought of me as an asshole, too. In any case, Ms. OH was just one of those people with whom I can’t mesh. I know she has many friends, fans, and loved ones. I’m just not among them.

There’s no shame in that, by the way. Even the most likable people in the world have some people in their lives who can’t stand them. Bea Arthur, for example, famously disliked Betty White, of all people! I don’t know why, but it was widely reported that Bea didn’t like Betty at all. Even Betty, herself, admitted it. I read that Bea found Betty’s unflappable optimism annoying. To be honest, I think that would annoy me, too. I remember on The Golden Girls, there was even an episode about how Rose Nylund annoys a work colleague by incessantly trying to be his friend, when he didn’t want to be friends with her. Below is an exchange from that episode.

Roger doesn’t want to be friends with Rose. I can relate.

Ms. OH was a little like that sometimes. She fancied herself an “Earth Mother” type, and would offer me unsolicited advice and opinions. Every time I made a comment, she would contradict me in the most patronizing and infuriating ways. And I would try to hold back on the urge to be rude to her, because her comments would almost always rub me the wrong way. Like, for instance, she would question things like whether or not I should buy a new car (used is sooo much cheaper), or a new computer (have I done everything I can to make the old one last)… or whether or not I should be concerned about a strange man loitering by my mailbox (maybe he’s perfectly harmless– stop being so suspicious!). See what I mean?

I remember one time, we had a row that got quite contentious. I commented to her, quite frankly, but as politely as I could, that whether or not it was her intention to be offensive, I found her contrary responses to be disrespectful and condescending. I really tried hard not to be as nasty as I felt like being, while still making it clear that she was pissing me off, and asking her to cease and desist. I didn’t tell her to “fuck off”, though. I just clearly informed her that her comments were offending me. Ms. OH’s response was to send me a private message angrily berating me for “insulting her”. All I really wanted was for her to just leave me the fuck alone! I couldn’t block her on the message board, because we were both “admins”.

So anyway, once we all migrated to Facebook, one day I quietly dropped her from my friends list. For awhile, it was fine. I didn’t have so many encounters with her, and that made my life better. But then I got added to a Facebook group for second wives and stepmothers. It was 2012, so I had just turned 40. I got a message from the local Army clinic that it was time to schedule my first mammogram (which I still haven’t done, and I’m now 49). The clinic had also assigned a primary care manager to me; someone I hadn’t chosen and had never met before. I knew that if I went in to see the physician’s assistant assigned to me, she’d probably want to do other stuff, and quite frankly, that was very scary to me. I have a real “phobia” of medical providers, particularly the ones who want to examine my junk. It’s because I had a traumatic first experience with an OB-GYN.

I looked up the P.A. online, and found some public photos of her that made me think she wouldn’t be mature enough to deal with my issues. She was quite young and inexperienced. So I casually mentioned to my friends in the group that I thought I would be changing my primary healthcare provider, because the one the Army had assigned to me was a poor fit. Ms. OH, and a few others, were offended by my decision. In Ms. OH’s case, it was because her daughter is/was a young healthcare provider who likes to party. She was sure to tell me that her daughter would give me “excellent” care if I went to her, even though she has a “personal life” and likes to party sometimes.

Of course, I had to sigh at that response… because my situation with the Army P.A. I’d never met didn’t have a fucking thing to do with Ms. OH’s daughter. However, I also knew that I would never voluntarily choose to see Ms. OH’s daughter for healthcare, simply because she is Ms. OH’s daughter. I would rather see someone who doesn’t have such an intimate connection to someone who gets on my last nerve. And that choice should be okay, since there are plenty of people in the world who would happily see her daughter for healthcare, just as the P.A. who was assigned to me had a whole shitload of people on her list who would have no issues whatsoever seeing her.

I was just a name on a piece of paper to the P.A., so it’s not like my choice not to see her was even a personal affront. She wouldn’t be losing any money or prestige by my decision. In fact, she wouldn’t even be the wiser about it. I just wanted someone older and more experienced. What the hell is wrong with that? Like I said… if you’re going to examine my junk, I have the right to exact high standards. I honestly couldn’t see why this was such a big deal, and I never expected the controversy to arise the way it did in that group.

Well, the whole controversy was finally blowing over, until Ms. OH chimed in again, and then the issue blew up anew, with new people berating me for having my standards. They were more concerned about my not offending the healthcare provider by being “prejudicial” due to her public social media posts, than my own comfort and sense of trust. I was pretty flabbergasted, since I didn’t realize my choices regarding healthcare providers was up for debate. I mean, wouldn’t “friends” want me to be comfortable with and confident regarding my healthcare providers? But it soon got very ugly… so I quietly removed myself from the group. Ms. OH noticed, and sent me an email, which was, for once, not totally offensive. She wrote that she was glad I was “okay”. Fine.

Incidentally, Bill did end up seeing that P.A. and it turned out my instincts about her were correct. Bill has hypertension, but his case is unusual because he also has congenital hyponatremia (chronically low blood sodium). The P.A. gave him the usual spiel about avoiding stress, exercising, eating right, and not salting his food. However, because of Bill’s unusual and unique blood chemistry, actually he has been told by physicians that he should use salt. In his case, not salting his food is bad advice, in spite of his having high blood pressure. I’m sure the P.A. has plenty of textbook knowledge, and by now, she’s probably very experienced. But my instincts to avoid her were good, because in 2012, she was still pretty “green”.

A couple of years later, I ran into Ms. OH again on social media, and she made another passive aggressive dig to me regarding alcoholism, which is a sensitive topic for me. Having interacted with me for years, I think she was very aware that it was a delicate topic for me. I didn’t think her snarky comment, along with winkie smilies, was innocent, nor did I appreciate it at all. She also had a laugh at my expense, which angered me.

This time, I decided enough was enough, and I blocked her. Then I told Bill, “You wait. As soon as she sees that I blocked her, Ms. OH will send me an email.” Sure enough, I was right. Within a couple of hours, she’d sent an irate email DEMANDING to know why I blocked her. It was as if she felt I had no right to disassociate with her. My decision to block her was a personal affront, kind of like Rose Nylund trying to force her co-worker to be friends with her, when he didn’t want to be friends.

I was still really pissed off, and frankly, very surprised by her nerve. Usually, when people block you on social media, it means they DON’T want to talk to you. If you’re a basically decent person, you understand that the person doesn’t want to talk to you and respect that. And yet, here was Ms. OH, feeling quite entitled to bother me with an angry and demanding email. Part of me felt like ripping her a new one. But I thought better of it, and simply ignored her. Several years later, I unblocked her on Facebook. She took the first available opportunity to apologize to me, which was nice enough, although still kind of controlling– kind of like Hoovering. It was her way of getting the last word, I guess. I was gracious about it, and thankfully, that was that.

Anyway, I guess that commenter on The New York Times reminded me of Ms. OH, with his complaints about paywalls. How dare The New York Times expect payment for services rendered? And how dare a fellow reader take him to task for his whining, which he mistakenly believes will amount to anything more than laughing reactions and irritated comments from other Facebook users? And how dare I have standards for people who have intimate contact with my medical history and my body? How dare I make decisions about with whom I will communicate? People like the guy on The New York Times thread and Ms. OH are entitled twits. I don’t know the commenter at all, but I have to say that expecting to read newspaper content for free makes him appear to be pretty narcissistic, if not a bit deluded. But, since I don’t know the guy, and I feel that people should get the benefit of the doubt whenever possible, I’ll just assume he simply hasn’t thought very much about how journalists make a living.

Well, the dogs are demanding a walk, so I better wrap this up. Have a nice Monday, y’all.

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bad TV, fashion, good tv, memories, nostalgia

The “facts of life” one learns while watching The Facts of Life…

A few weeks ago, I got a wild hair up my ass and decided to buy a few box sets of favorite TV shows from the 70s and 80s. I bought The Bionic Woman, One Day at a Time, and The Facts of Life. I’ve actually only seen a few episodes of The Bionic Woman, since it aired when we lived in England, and I don’t remember it being aired in syndication much. I did used to watch One Day at a Time when I was a kid, but missed the earliest episodes because I was too young when the show started, and then it really jumped the shark. I was a BIG fan of The Facts of Life, which was a spinoff of Diff’rent Strokes.

Most every kid my age loved Diff’rent Strokes, but I guess the powers that be decided that Charlotte Rae should have her own show. So they had her get a job at Eastland School, Kimberly Drummond’s boarding school in Peekskill, New York. Boom… suddenly, we had a successful sitcom revolving around the lives of girls who went to boarding school and wore frumpy uniforms all the time. The Facts of Life started off with a large cast of beautiful young girls with flowing hair… except for Molly Ringwald, of course, and Kim Fields, who played Tootie Ramsey, the token Black cast member. After the first season, the size of the cast was slimmed down, as the girls progressed through puberty and gained weight.

I loved the first few seasons of The Facts of Life. I liked it less when the girls were moved out of the school to work at Edna’s Edibles. Also, as is so common on shows about school, the students didn’t graduate on time. It seemed like they were Eastland students forever. And then Charlotte Rae left the show, and they brought in Mackenzie Astin, George Clooney, and Cloris Leachman. The last couple of seasons were practically unwatchable! I didn’t like it when the plot moved away from the school, though, because the school was so central to the show. Also, I think they made boarding school look like a lot more fun than it probably is in reality.

I kind of find the theme song annoying, catchy as it is. Alan Thicke and his ex wife, Gloria Loring, helped compose it, and Loring belts it out in an over-the-top, obnoxious way… not unlike the characters’ personalities.

But there were a few really good years on that show, I’m in the thick of them right now. The writers took on a number of ambitious topics that were very important in the 1980s. Imagine my surprise this week, as I waded through the third and fourth seasons, realizing that subject matter that was timely in 1981 and 1982, is still timely and important today. In seasons 3 and 4, The Facts of Life tackled:

  • suicide
  • abortion
  • book banning
  • underage drinking
  • rape and sexual assault
  • teen pregnancy
  • breast cancer
  • mental retardation (this is what it was called on the show, rather than one of the more politically correct terms of today)
  • physical handicaps (again, how it was described on the show)
  • racism
  • fanaticism
  • crash dieting
  • religion
  • sexism
  • cross cultural issues
  • bullying
  • adoption
  • marital affairs
  • teenage prostitution

The list goes on, as I have only just started season 4, and there were a total of 9 seasons before NBC finally pulled the plug. But as I was wasting the late afternoon hours yesterday, watching the episode about book banning, it occurred to me that, in some ways, we haven’t really gotten anywhere in the last 40 years. The plot was about how a bunch of parents got upset that their daughters were able to check out books like Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, which they felt didn’t promote the right message or values. I was suddenly reminded of the recent controversy surrounding the book, Maus, by Art Spiegelman, which has had the effect of causing a bunch of people to buy and read the book in protest. I read Maus a few weeks ago, passed it to Bill, who finished it last weekend, and just today, he took it to work to lend to one of his co-workers.

If I recall correctly, I believe I decided to read Slaughterhouse Five when I was in high school, in part because it was mentioned on The Facts of Life as a banned book. I knew I liked Vonnegut’s writing, having read his short story, “Harrison Bergeron”, in the 9th grade. Sure enough, I enjoyed Slaughterhouse Five very much. Then later, I decided to read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, because it was a banned book. My love for reading continues today, although it’s not as easy as it used to be, as my eyes aren’t as young as they once were.

Ditto, the episode about abortion, which was about how the character Natalie, played by Mindy Cohn, made up a story about a girl at Eastland who had an abortion. The story had the whole school buzzing, and soon parents were calling, demanding to know who the girl was. Natalie was threatened with expulsion, until a girl told her that she’d had an abortion. Natalie could have told the headmaster the girl’s name and saved her job as editor of the school paper. But she came clean and admitted she’d made up the story, protecting the girl’s identity. As the credits were about to roll, the headmaster said that he was relieved to “know” that abortion wasn’t an issue at Eastland. Of course, the audience knows better. Forty years later, we’re still fighting over abortion.

I even learned something about capital punishment in France, watching The Facts of Life. The character Geri, played by Geri Jewell, is the cousin of snobby rich girl, Blair Warner. She has cerebral palsy, and works as a comedienne. In one episode, she develops a romance with the school’s French teacher. He asks out Geri, and she says something along the lines of, “I don’t want to get my head chopped off.” She was referencing France’s famous guillotine, which was used to execute people. The French teacher says that France did away with the guillotine in favor of hanging.

I was surprised to hear that the guillotine hadn’t been abolished many years ago, so I decided to look up the device’s history, as well as the general history of capital punishment in France. I was very surprised to learn that the last time France used the guillotine was in 1977! I was five years old! The man who was executed was 27 years old and was originally from Tunisia. He was also missing part of a leg, due to a tractor accident in 1971. He was put to death in Marseilles in September 1977 for torturing and murdering a young woman, and forcing a couple of other women into prostitution. Oddly enough, I actually visited Tunisia in 1977. We lived in England at the time, and went to Tunisia to celebrate New Year’s.

In 1981, then French president Francois Mitterrand declared capital punishment illegal in France. It was formally abolished on February 19, 2007. But, up until 1981, the French constitution actually dictated that anyone who was executed in France would be killed by decapitation, or barring that, firing squad. Never having studied French myself, I don’t know much about its history, other than what I’ve seen personally, heard about in the news, or heard from friends. I have had the opportunity and great fortune to visit France many times, which is something I never thought would have happened in 1982. It seems like France was especially popular in America in the 80s! Back in those days, people didn’t travel as much as they do now… or did before COVID-19, anyway.

Even Russia and Ukraine were subjects of The Facts of Life back in the 80s. During the third season, Natalie’s Russian Jewish grandmother, Mona, came to visit her at school. Mona said she was from Ukraine, even though the name of the episode was “From Russia with Love”. In 1982, Ukraine was still part of the former Soviet Union, which, in those days, seemed like it would exist forever. Natalie found Mona overbearing and annoying, but once she and the other girls got to know her, they found out that she was a fascinating woman with many stories to tell. Watching that episode, especially given what is happening in Ukraine right now, and after having read Maus, was surprisingly poignant. Mona references being confronted by a rapey soldier in a corn field in Ukraine, as the Bolsheviks invaded during the Soviet-Ukranian War from 1917-1921.

Seventy years later, Ukraine decided to leave the Soviet Union, and there’s been trouble ever since. I have never been to Ukraine myself, but I have a friend whose wife is from there, and still has a lot of family there. I know that he and his wife and children are terrified for them. It seems that history is repeating itself. At the same time, I have known some fabulous Russian people, thanks to my time in Armenia, which is also a former Soviet Republic. In fact, that’s where I met my friend, who was working there after having served in the Peace Corps in Russia, back when Russia was briefly less menacing.

I remember that The Facts of Life was controversial to some people, especially during its most popular years. My former best friend’s mother would not let her watch the show. I seem to remember her mom was against the show because she happened to see the episode during the first season that referenced marijuana use. The show certainly didn’t promote the use of marijuana, but my ex friend’s mom was very conservative. She didn’t want her kid exposed to anything she was personally against. I seem to remember my ex friend was often doing things behind her mother’s back, and she was a lot more “experienced” in things than I was. My parents, by contrast, pretty much let me raise myself. We used to talk about how different our parents’ styles were, and we agreed that it would have been nice if there could have been a happy medium. My parents didn’t pay enough attention to me. Her parents, especially her mother, were too strict and intrusive. On the other hand, I don’t think her parents used corporal punishment as much as my dad did.

One thing I have noticed about The Facts of Life is that the characters could be very annoying, as well as very funny. My favorite character was probably Natalie, who was quick witted. I used to not like Jo (Nancy McKeon) much, because she alternated between being angry and snide, and being “vulnerable”. Now that I’m older, I appreciate that character more. I used to like Blair (Lisa Whelchel) more, although I still like Whelchel did a good job with her caricature of a spoiled princess. Tootie (Kim Fields) was pretty much always annoying to me, although she was pretty cute in the first season. During the show’s third and fourth seasons, Tootie did a lot of shrieking and whining. Some of the clothes were pretty hideous, too. Especially the knickers and gauchos… they brought back sad memories of childhood fashions.

But mostly, I’ve just noticed that the more things change, the more they stay the same. I really have been surprised by how forty years after The Facts of Life was a hit show, we’re still talking about, and arguing about, the same things. But nowadays, we have many more than than three networks on TV, and audiences are more sophisticated. A show like The Facts of Life probably wouldn’t last today, even though the writers tackled some courageous plots back in the day. Maybe it would be a good thing for today’s youngsters to watch that show. Maybe they’ll learn its lessons better than we did. But really, the best seasons were the earliest ones… as is the case for most long running shows.

Well, I guess it’s time to wrap up this post and get on with my Friday. Last night, Bill made a “stuffed meatloaf”, which is a dish I cooked for him when we were dating. It was one of the many tricks I had up my sleeve that helped me win his heart. It came out of a great cookbook called Virginia Hospitality, which was a gift given to me when I graduated college in 1994. It was put out by the Junior League of Hampton Roads, and since I was born in Hampton, it really is a relic from my hometown.

My husband’s younger daughter is pregnant, and when Bill told her he was making a stuffed meatloaf, she said that sounded so delicious. She had questions about it. So I sent her a copy of the cookbook, which also has a great recipe for cheese souffles. Below is a link for those who are curious about it. It’s definitely my favorite way to make meatloaf. I’m glad Bill learned how to make it, too. I hope she enjoys the book. It’s a gift that is uniquely from her long, lost stepmother. She really doesn’t know me at all, but maybe a cookbook from my origins will be a place to start getting acquainted.

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