dogs, healthcare, politics, rants, royals, social media

Yesterday was a particularly crappy Monday… mind if I vent?

I knew yesterday was going to suck when I woke up at 3:30am needing to go to the bathroom. It wasn’t just a quick pee, so when I was done, I was wide awake. I instinctively knew yesterday was going to be very difficult for a few reasons. I knew I was going to watch the Queen’s funeral, and there would be beautiful music, bright colorful uniforms on stalwart men and women in her service, somber people in black who came to pay their respects, and wise words from religious leaders. That would provoke an emotional response under the best of circumstances.

Then I knew that we would be getting the results of Arran’s cytology report. I knew that they would not be the results we hoped for, and I was right. Arran has been diagnosed with lymphoma, and our time with him is growing short.

We have dealt with lymphoma before. Our dog, Zane, had it in 2019. He was diagnosed on the Saturday after we came home from vacation, and was gone a week later. He wasn’t as strong as Arran is, and his disease was found later. We were in Scotland on a cruise when Zane’s symptoms appeared, and had no idea he was ailing. Unfortunately, canine lymphoma can sneak up quickly and work devastatingly fast. My one comfort in Zane’s situation was that his last week was relatively pleasant, as cancer goes. He was able to enjoy the weather, lie outside in the sunshine, and even take a walk the day before we said goodbye. Steroids kept him relatively comfortable until the end.

Arran is still quite strong and vital. He still eats, sleeps, walks, jumps, and engages with us. He’s also around 13 or 14 years old, which makes him elderly. Dying is part of life, and as lives go, Arran has had a pretty good one with us. So I’m not particularly sad that it’s getting close to the end of his life. I will miss him very much, and it will hurt to say goodbye. But I know this is a simple part of life.

I made a social media announcement, and wrote this for a friend who expressed preliminary condolences:

…I kind of look at this as I do the death of the Queen. Unfortunately, dying is part of living, but we’ve had almost ten wonderful years with Arran and so many fond memories. We’ve been able to give him a very loving home and a pretty luxurious lifestyle in two countries, plus the ones he’s visited with us. After being passed around a few times when he was young, he finally landed with the right people– especially Bill, who is his favorite person. 

It’s always hard to lose a beloved family member, but some situations are worse than others. At least we know kind of what to expect, and this isn’t a particularly painful cancer. I think he’s got some time left to enjoy… and when and if the time is right, we can give a home to another dog who needs one. In my experience, the successors seem to be sent by the predecessors. I feel very sure that our old dog, MacGregor sent us Arran in January 2013. 

As the Queen once said, “Grief is the price we pay for loving.” But that doesn’t mean it won’t be hard to say goodbye when the time comes.

After we lost MacGregor in 2012, I started making memorial videos for my dogs. I made one for MacGregor, and two for Zane, because I had so many great photos and another song to use. On Zane’s videos, I even sang the songs that accompanied the photos, while I used Willie Nelson’s version of “Rainbow Connection” for MacGregor. Yesterday, I made a recording of a song I might use for Arran, when his time comes. I decided to do that, because I suspect I might be too emotional to do it later. In Zane’s case, I already had the recordings done, just because I had wanted to try the songs. I find that making the videos helps me process my grief, since it requires me to look at photos from years ago and see the progression of the time we spent together. I have tons of videos and pictures of Arran, so I think there could be two videos.

MacGregor’s video.
Zane’s video.
And more photos…

The timing for this diagnosis comes at a bad time. We are supposed to go to the Black Forest next weekend for a much needed five night break. We’re close enough to the reservation that I can’t cancel without owing 80 percent of the cost of the room, which is very expensive, because it’s at a five star resort with half board. We’re talking about 3800 euros… but it’s a special hotel. I do have travel insurance with cancel for any reason coverage, but I would rather not have to use it. Of course, I had no idea Arran was going to have lymphoma when I reserved. We are also going to see our dentist. Fortunately, the resort is in Baiersbronn, which is only a couple of hours away. If it comes down to it, we can probably still deal with Arran if he goes downhill during that trip.

Then, soon after we come back, Bill has to go on another business trip. It’s in Germany too, though, so he can get back if he has to. Still, it would be good if we can keep Arran going until that stuff is done– at least a month or so. I think we can do it, provided we have some chemical assistance. But lymphoma can go south really fast, as we found out from Zane’s experience. Or, dogs can be treated and go into remission… We’ll have to see what the vet can do for Arran’s situation. He did try to chase a squirrel yesterday on his walk.

The next thing that sucked about yesterday is that I spent the day feeling physically bad. I threw up breakfast because my stomach was all messed up. I have a burning, pinching feeling on the left side of my stomach. I think I have gastritis. I feel somewhat better today, since I tee-totaled last night, and drank herbal tea for breakfast instead of coffee. Bill made me eggs, which seemed like they would be the least offensive. I didn’t eat much yesterday anyway, and that tends to be bad for me. But I had no appetite or inclination to prepare anything. And when you’re 50 and you have these kinds of aches and pains, it gets harder to shrug them off, especially when you’re phobic of seeing doctors, like I am– and especially when you’re in a country that isn’t home.

And finally, I made the mistake of posting a comment on Amy Klobuchar’s Facebook page the other day. It was an innocuous comment– nothing that should have invited controversy. I wrote that I live in Germany and got a phone call from a German about voting in the US elections. I explained about that incident here on this blog, too. Naturally, I got several laughter reactions from MAGA trolls, which is irritating enough. But then some old bat left me a pissy comment about how I should post my address so she and her MAGA friends can send me their bills.

Already annoyed because of my gnawing stomach ache and the news about Arran, I responded “Grow up.”

She came back with more vile piss and vinegar about how she’s “grown up” and yada, yada, yada. I blocked her, and then ranted a bit to Bill, because for the life of me, I don’t understand why people feel the need to mock and harass perfect strangers for having different opinions than theirs.

Then this morning, I saw this very “literate” comment from someone else:

How could they get your phone #? Please, if you you make up stories, make them at least more believe label. Do you write fiction novels?

So this was my more eloquent retort, which I probably shouldn’t have bothered with:

I’m not making this up. They had my number because I signed up for Democrats Abroad. I just didn’t expect to get a phone call when I did that. My guess is that the guy who called was either a dual citizen or spouse of an American, or he might be a German who cares about American politics because our leaders affect Europe, too. Nevertheless, I am done voting for Republicans because of Donald Trump and his ilk. 

I don’t see why stating this on a page for Amy Klobuchar should invite rude, derisive, comments from anyone. You are free to vote your conscience. I expect and deserve the same consideration. And when you “laugh” at me and accuse me of lying, you just show us all that you don’t stand for American values.

This photo alone is one reason why Trump needs to go. People actually believe this shit!

She’ll probably laugh at me again, which will prompt me to block her. Seriously… I ain’t got the time for it. I like how the woman can’t fathom how someone over here would call me about voting… There are LOTS of Americans in Germany, and we are affected by our country’s policies. But so are Europeans, and folks, from over here, America looks like a three ring shit show.

I was surprised too, about the phone call, which is the only reason I decided to post about it. Why can’t people simply be civilized and decent? Especially when a stranger posts something pretty innocuous. It’s one thing when someone posts something obviously incendiary or obtuse, but I didn’t do that. I want to ask that person if she’s that much of an asshole in person, too. But that would only reduce me to her level, and I don’t need to go down there.

Oh well… no need to fuss over it. I’ve got bigger issues to deal with. At least the weather is nice today. I’ll walk the dogs and try to enjoy our precious time with sweet Arran… and maybe my stomach will calm down. At least the funeral for the Queen is over… I know not everyone loved her, but I will miss her. Overall, I think she was an exceptional person, and she did many good things, in spite of the many controversies surrounding the monarchy. At the very least, her funeral was a masterfully presented show for the world to see. Nobody does pomp and circumstance like the Brits do.

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celebrities, reviews, videos, YouTube

Repost: Teen Steam! Teenaged Alyssa Milano works out!

Here’s an old review I wrote for Epinions.com about Alyssa Milano’s laughable Teen Steam workout video. I reposted it on my Dungeons of the Past blog, but I’m also going to post it here so it doesn’t disappear. I like to preserve my Epinions reviews when I can, and I am probably going to discontinue the music blog at some point in the near future. This review is AS/IS– it has not been edited or updated. So please read this as if it’s 2009, not 2022.

Did you know Alyssa used to be a pop star in Japan?  I like her better as an actress.

Yikes! I’m sure she’d like to forget about this project.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals everything about the movie’s plot.

Ah 1988… What a year that was for people born in 1972. Our birth year may be the one and only thing Alyssa Milano and I have in common, besides being female. As a kid, I used to love watching her on Who’s The Boss, an ABC sitcom in which she played Tony Danza’s daughter, Samantha. And, of course, I’d seen her play Arnold Schwarzenegger’s daughter in the 1985 film, Commando. Back in 1988, all the girls admired her and a lot of the hormonally crazed boys wanted to do her. Naturally, that meant she should put out an exercise video. Perhaps that’s how Teen Steam, starring Alyssa Milano, produced by her mom, Lin Milano, and featuring music by her dad, Tom Milano, came to be.

I will be honest. Back in 1988, when this video was selling via television ads, I wasn’t the slightest bit interested in it… not even for the “stylish” Teen Steam digital watch that was thrown in to sweeten the sale. All I remember was seeing Alyssa Milano on those ads, dressed in a spandex shirt and torn up jeans, hawking her exercise/dance video and singing a very annoying but catchy theme song. My curiosity finally got the best of me and I finally ended up getting the chance to watch the thing. And now, some enterprising soul has posted the whole video in its entirety on YouTube for the whole world to see.

The video

Teen Steam is definitely a low budget affair. Currently only available on VHS, it’s now out of print. Used copies are available on Amazon.com. Judging by some of the comments left by reviewers on that site, I’m guessing that this video might have been meant for teenaged girls, but actually appeals more to adult men. It runs for 30 minutes and is not rated. Below is the actual video, which is still available on YouTube.

I read a comment from one guy who said this video made him shoot “huge loads”. Sounds like he’s using Teen Steam for “off label” purposes.

The “plot”

Okay… actually, Teen Steam doesn’t have much of a plot. Basically, the video starts off showing Alyssa in her bedroom, dressed in spandex biker shorts and a tight fitting white tank top that ends just below her budding bosom. She’s listening to her answering machine and gets a message from a girl named Tiffanie (Tiffanie Poston) who claims she’s having a major problem and asks Alyssa to call her back. Then the phone rings and it’s a girl named Michelle (Michelle Simms), who evidently tells Alyssa that she’s also heard from Tiffanie, but Michelle’s problem is even worse than their mutual friend’s. Alyssa, obviously the most level headed one in this group, invites them both over to her house so they can “work it out” together. Given that this video is a “workout” video, I guess that was sort of a lame play on words. On the other hand, maybe it was an unintentional play on words.

Alyssa heads over to her “hi-fi” stereo and puts in what looks like a mix tape. She presses play and suddenly the room starts to pulsate with some 80s era techno dance music. Alyssa says forlornly, “Another one of those days. I can feel the steam rising.” Suddenly, she’s joined by Michelle who complains that she can’t go out that weekend because she has to babysit her little brother. Then Tiffanie gripes about being grounded for bringing home a D on her report card.

Alyssa turns to the camera and says she likes to work out the stress by working out. Then she rattles off an obviously scripted spiel about how warming up is the most important part of the workout. The three girls start to work out to the increasingly lame techno music as Alyssa directs them, gamely trying to sound just like a pro.

I’m not a horny teenaged guy, so I don’t get into watching Alyssa Milano work out. I suppose I might have gotten into watching this if, as a teen, I really looked up to Alyssa Milano. But she’s my age, so I didn’t see her as a role model back when this video was on the market.

The girls do some obligatory chit chatting as they do stretches and basic dance moves to a soundtrack that sounds like it was inspired by the jungle. I don’t really get the feeling that these girls are friends in real life, but they look nice enough on camera. Speaking of the camera, it pans around to show Alyssa’s face as she sweats and gyrates to the music. Just when I think it can’t get any cheesier, Alyssa and her buddies start to rap sort of half-heartedly. Afterwards, Alyssa giggles and says the next exercise is hard to explain, so we should “follow her”.

Alyssa then leads her buddies in floor exercises. She claims she’s already done her exercises for the day, so she’ll just play coach. Alyssa sits between the two girls and counts, offering constructive criticism every so often. It’s at this point that the music threatens to overtake the girls’ chattering. Between the music and the constant giggling, it’s hard to make everything out. Although Alyssa does a good job of keeping things moving, she’s not very convincing as an exercise leader. But I get the feeling that most of the people who would seriously want to watch this won’t care about that. 

When the floor exercises are over, Alyssa joins her buddies in stretches. She begins with an exercise she calls “pretzel thingies”. Then she tells her audience that if they still have energy left, they can “dance it out” with her and her friends. She faces the camera and reassures viewers that the steps are easy and they probably do them all the time when they’re dancing with their friends. Then she tells them if they get lost, they can either rewind the tape or come up with their own steps. Finally, she offers a half-hearted encouragement, saying “Let’s do it!” as she walks through her bedroom mirror. Real helpful, Alyssa!

The next part of the video is the dance segment. As Alyssa walks through her mirror, she ends up in what looks like a dark alley. She’s dressed in ripped acid washed jeans, high tops, a pink spandex shirt that shows off her midriff, and a jean jacket. She’s joined by a bunch of dancers who gyrate to the cheesy electronic music, but Alyssa’s workout buddies are nowhere to be found. This part of the video is sort of set up like a music video, complete with a loosely told story. It’s really pretty hokey. Alyssa Milano isn’t the best dancer in the world. In fact, she sort of emulates Tiffany’s “hand jive” moves that were kind of popular back in the day. But I’m guessing that most people who would really want to watch this video won’t care about that. 

When Alyssa’s done dancing, she walks back through her mirror, once again dressed in her biker shorts and tiny tank top. Suddenly, we see Alyssa’s friends again. They appear to be doing exercises in fast forward. Alyssa says “Oops” then snaps her fingers. The friends act as if they were stuck in some kind of time warp. At this point, Alyssa does something truly cringeworthy. She appears to try to emulate Dana Carvey’s Church Lady as she sneers, “Well… wasn’t that effect… special?” It’s enough to make you want to jump out of your skin.

At this point, we’ve seen Alyssa work out, play exercise coach, and dance. Now it’s time to hear her sing. That’s right, folks. Alyssa Milano sings too. Apparently, she had a number of hits in Japan back in the day. She walks over to her tape deck and turns over the cassette. I’m suddenly surprised that she doesn’t have a machine with auto-reverse. I would think with the way her career was going in the 1980s, she could have afforded it.

The punchy electronic theme song to the video starts and suddenly Alyssa’s in the recording studio, dressed in her ripped jeans get up. Holding an earphone to her ear, Alyssa starts to sing the following prize worthy lyrics:

“My parents want an angel, my teachers want a brain, my friends all want to party and it’s driving me insane”

She looks like even she thinks the song is stupid, but ever the professional, she sells it as best she can. The lyrics to this song are pretty inane and seem inappropriate for a girl Alyssa’s age, but she has a passable singing voice and the melody is catchy enough. If you’re not careful, it’ll be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. After about three minutes of this, the credits mercifully start to roll, the irritating theme song playing all the while.

Overall

I don’t think I would have liked this video when I was a teenager. I will admit it’s kind of fun to watch it 21 years later, but only as a lark. To be honest, it’s not a very interesting video and Alyssa doesn’t seem that invested in it. I got the feeling that she was doing it just for the money. Come to think of it, she probably was.

That being said, I will comment that this video seems to be popular among men, especially those who admired Alyssa Milano when she was a teenager. She was a very good looking girl and has blossomed into an attractive woman. I’m sure this exercise video was meant for adolescent girls, but I think it’s more appealing to men… and that makes me wonder what the hell her parents were thinking when they got involved with this project! In fact, I also wonder why Alyssa Milano needed to do an exercise video. She hasn’t seemed to have gone through that cursed transition to adulthood that a lot of childhood actors do. I don’t think she ever had an ugly duckling phase.

Anyway… I don’t think I’d recommend this video to anyone who plans to take it seriously. It’s fun to watch for nostalgic purposes and, judging from some of the comments on YouTube and Amazon, some people also watch it for sexual purposes… but remember, Alyssa was only 15 years old when this video was made. Tsk tsk tsk…

Recommend this product? No

Not that I think many people want a VHS cassette of Alyssa Milano’s cheesy exercise video, but here’s the link to Amazon in case anyone does. I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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true crime, videos, YouTube

I found a new “true crime” time drain on YouTube…

A few days ago, I was watching YouTube, and I noticed that I got a new channel suggestion. I often try to ignore new channel suggestions, because sometimes they turn out to be really lame AI generated videos that aren’t very interesting and basically exist just to generate ad revenue. A lot of channels dedicated to covering reality TV D-list celebrities like the Duggars, for instance, are obviously made by bots. Or, at least they’re narrated by bots, who can’t even properly pronounce names.

I also try to avoid finding new channels, because if they’re good, they turn into obligatory rabbit holes that I fall down and get hooked on. I end up wasting a lot of time watching stuff when I could be doing something more constructive. Or, I end up inadvertently getting sucked into dramas generated by YouTube creators. Like, for instance, this morning, I watched a video by Katie Joy from Without A Crystal Ball that was about how her “stalker”, a British woman named Natalie Kennett, finally got arrested.

Scary stuff!

And Katie Joy’s spawned another video by a different content creator whose channel I discovered a few months ago…

I’m sure there are other videos, too.

If I wanted to, I could spend all day watching this stuff, and while I am definitely a bored housewife with too much time on my hands, I don’t need to spend all day wasting time on this crap. I’ve still got some semblance of a life, right? 😉 On the other hand, I can sympathize with Katie Joy, since I had an issue of my own with a “stalker” (of sorts) a few years ago, who was making offline trouble for me. Some people don’t like content creators, and I’ll admit, I don’t always shy away from controversy. I wish I could be a really pleasant person, like v-logger Katie Wenger of Meet the Wengers, who has a great channel on YouTube. Her videos are almost always upbeat, uplifting, and positive. But I suspect that even Katie has haters, somewhere out there, and I know that I have some, too.

I have seen a lot of people on YouTube posting negative stuff about Katie Joy. I don’t pay attention to most of it, because that drama is not something I want to be involved with, nor do I have an opinion about Katie Joy as a person. I’ve got enough of my own problems, and my own dramas. 😉 Still, it was interesting and scary to hear about how this random woman in Britain has been stalking Katie Joy and causing her some real life, offline issues that even involved the police! Crazy!

The other day, I noticed that I had a new channel suggestion on YouTube, and against my better judgment, I ended up watching the first video… Sure enough, I got hooked. I spent a couple of hours on Wednesday, and most of yesterday afternoon, watching Code Blue Cam, which is a channel that features body cam videos from police officers in La Crosse, Wisconsin. I have to admit, this channel has some very compelling content, and while I wouldn’t have expected it, I’ve actually come away with a very positive impression of the police officers in La Crosse. At least on the videos featured on Code Blue Cam, they’ve all seemed to be kind, easy going, and professional, even treating the most egregiously badly behaved suspects with decency and fairness. Have a look at the videos below to see what I mean.

They’re actually really nice to this girl, even though she’s “absolutely nuts”.
And this officer is actually pretty kind to this lady, even though she was doing 137 MPH. Yes, she was arrested, but the cops were surprisingly polite as they put her in cuffs. In fact, they even seemed concerned about her.
Here’s a lady who clearly has mental health issues and she screams at the cops, calling them filthy names… and yet, they stay calm and collected. They even offer to crack the window down for her.
Cody, in his Garfield sweatshirt, told his girlfriend “I got this, babe” before he totaled his car.

These are just a few of the more entertaining videos I’ve watched on Code Blue Cam. I will warn that they don’t censor the language on these videos, and some of the people who get arrested use filthy words– like, the worst words you can think of, to include the n-bomb, the f-bomb, and the c-bomb. Personally, I don’t mind that they don’t censor, since I think censoring words is a stupid practice. And I mean that for ALL words… especially when we know what the word is, anyway. What’s the point of bleeping? You might as well just let it out, so we all know what was actually said. I’m surprised that YouTube doesn’t bust Code Blue Cam, though, since I notice that Katie Joy and other content creators don’t use certain words. Like, for instance, instead of saying words like rape, porn, or even “stalker”, they’ll use the first letter, or spell it out. What’s the difference? We know what they mean, right? How is it better not to say the word?

Code Blue Cam does occasionally mute what people say, probably for legal reasons, and they do sometimes censor video to prevent getting strikes on YouTube. That makes sense. But, if you choose to watch this channel, be advised that you might hear language that is highly objectionable, or see people doing things that are outrageous. Below are a few videos that show what I mean about that…

Kudos to the cops for not knocking the shit out of this woman. Seriously!
Is she wearing men’s underwear?
And this woman acts like she’s going to put the cops in time out, or something. What the hell? Glad she can count to three, at least.

I’m not a huge fan of cops who act like bullies, but by and large, the police in these videos are very patient and decent. They are a credit to their community. And, honestly, it’s unbelievable what they have to tolerate. People don’t seem to have any respect for anyone anymore.

I don’t know if the videos on Code Blue Cam are representative of all of the police dealings in La Crosse, but I think they are a good public relations tool. It’s nice to see videos that depict police officers acting very professionally. Even when they get to the jail, the cops are decent. Sometimes, they even show up with wheelchairs for the less cooperative folks. Kudos to these cops… and thank God I don’t do police work for a living.

Anyway, it’s a nice Friday today, so I think I’ll end this post and take the boys for a walk… and practice guitar, and read a book… and maybe take a nap. My own YouTube channel got a new video yesterday, which is not controversial or offensive in the least…

Yes, that’s me… and since I was drinking wine, I’m a bit flushed.

Hope everyone has a great weekend… See you tomorrow, unless I get arrested.

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nostalgia, travel, videos, YouTube

Pan Am flight attendant training videos are so very entertaining!

A couple of weeks ago, I happened across a YouTube channel for the Pan Am Museum Foundation. Pan Am, for those who were born after the early 1990s, was a much celebrated American airline. I remember flying Pan Am a couple of times in the 1970s, when my family of origin lived in England. Everyone used to rave about the high service standards. In 1988, Pan Am’s reputation took a hit, when one of its fleet, Flight 103, was bombed over Lockerbie, Scotland. 243 passengers and 16 crew members perished. I was sixteen years old at the time. Just a few years after the bombing, the legendary airline went bust, but people still remembered it fondly.

I remember in 2011, there was a television show called Pan Am that was a dramatized series about the early years of the airline. It was kind of a cool show. I was sorry when it was canceled after one season. I also read an interesting self-published book called Pan Am Unbuckled, written by a woman who was a flight attendant for Pan Am. I’m not sure if the author knew about the TV show when she published her book, but I’m sure the show helped her pick up some sales.

The boss giving Pan Am flight attendants a pep talk.

I love to watch cheesy employee training videos, especially the ones that were made in the 70s and 80s. The Pan Am Museum Foundation has a whole bunch of these videos on YouTube, which are great for killing a few minutes and getting some laughs. Most of the videos are rather poorly acted. I can think of a couple that would be considered offensive, or politically incorrect, today. Check out this 50s era video about serving food. At one point, the golden voice narrator adopts a generic Asian accent as he describes serving Asian food.

I have never seen airline food that looks like this…
This one is kind of nice. It reminds me of those hygiene films we used to watch in school!

The videos also remind us of what flying was like in the past. Years ago, it was possible to smoke on a flight, and one of the videos even addresses how to deal with people who light up in the no smoking section! In another, a smoker is yelled at by a flight attendant for sitting in her jump seat, while she smokes a cigarette. And this is deemed perfectly okay!

I like how the passenger is calmly smoking when she gets busted by the flight attendant.
You can’t smoke here! The smoker wants to shop for furs in London, too!

And here is a video about an uppity woman who thinks she should get a free upgrade to first class. It’s really too funny! It’s hard to believe that people want to work on airplanes, especially since most of them don’t get paid until the plane starts taxiing. Yes, when they are greeting you as you board the flight, they are working for free! I did read that that policy is probably going to change, thanks to the hell flight attendants have had to deal with during the pandemic.

I fly Pan Am all the time… you need to treat me like I’m special.

The below video was less interesting to me… But it does remind one of how service used to be much more important than it is now. He shows how to serve champagne and carve roast beef, which they used to do right at the person’s seat. Nowadays, even in first class, flying feels like a lowbrow affair.

I wonder if this guy was this helpful at home.

And here’s a video depicting a rather unpleasant flight attendant confronting other flight attendants. She’s quite testy. I can’t blame her.

Linda doesn’t like a disorganized galley. There’s about to be a cat fight!
Flight attendant listens to a man who is upset about missing a connection.

It really is fun to watch some of these videos, although they are a painful reminder of how old I am. I wish I’d had the opportunity to fly Pan Am more when it was still in service. I very vaguely remember flying them to Tunisia. I think we also flew Pan Am when we moved back to the States from England. I remember their mascot was a panda bear named Pierre, and they gave all the kids cool schwag to keep them busy. In those days, there weren’t a lot of entertainment options.

Wouldn’t it be funny if someone turned these videos into a live acted comedy show? I’ve seen other people write about them, so I’m definitely not the only one who finds them fun to watch. They are also a reminder of a bygone era, never to return. And that IS kind of sad. At least we still have the videos!

Oh my… this is so SOVIET!! It’s awesome! Both the airline and the country ceased to exist in 1991.
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law, memories, nostalgia, YouTube

Repost: Our “senior trip” to the Virginia State Pen…

It’s spring, and when I was in high school, that meant taking field trips. When I was a senior in high school, my government teacher, Mr. Eccleston, took us on a trip to Richmond, Virginia. This was something he did every year, although I’m pretty sure our class was the last one to go to the Virginia State Penitentiary. That’s because they closed the “Pen” in 1991, and tore it down. Here’s a repost of my 2013 blog post about my experience visiting Virginia’s old state prison… Meanwhile, I’m still thinking about today’s fresh topic.

Most high school kids go off to some interesting or exotic place when they become seniors.  I guess, in my case, the place my senior class went for the “senior trip” was exotic and interesting enough, though it wasn’t an overnight trip.  My senior year of high school was actually full of interesting field trips, to include a trip to a local medical school, where my biology classmates and I saw cadavers.  We also went caving, and visited the National Zoo in Washington, DC.  I skipped at least three other field trips because I didn’t have the money to go.  But probably the most interesting of all the trips we took was the one that took us to the State Penitentiary in Virginia.

Here’s an interesting talk about the former penitentiary, which was demolished just after our visit in 1990. If this subject interests you, I highly recommend watching this video. The speaker, Dale M. Brumfield, is very engaging and this is a fascinating subject.

The Virginia State Pen was a very old structure that had received its first prisoners in 1800.  If you click the link, you can see some photos of the place, which was eventually demolished.  It sat next to the James River in downtown Richmond, Virginia. 

In the spring of 1990, when we had our field trip, the Pen was about to be closed down.  There were still inmates there when we came to visit the place.  I remember how my classmates and I were each frisked, then shown into this huge cell block that had several tiers of tiny cells, which you can see in the featured photo.  The place was painted light blue and there was a smell of human filth, sweat, and detergent in the air.  The building was obviously very antiquated and unpleasant.  It definitely needed to be torn down or renovated.

Gazing up, I could see the huge windows allowed birds to come in.  They flew near the ceiling and probably mocked the inmates with their ability to come and go at will.  On the floor, I spied a dead mouse that looked like it had been there for awhile.  A heavily muscled guy with a mullet wore a wide leather belt with a set of handcuffs prominently displayed in a case as he led us through the facility.  He didn’t wear a uniform, though he obviously worked at the prison.

The inmates were in a different part of the prison when we visited.  I remember looking at the first big cell block, which was apparently vacated as inmates were transferred to other facilities.  We also visited death row, which had also been vacated.  Some inmates were in a yard nearby as we made our way to the death house.  They shouted and jeered at us.  I remember the death row cells were a whole lot larger than the ones in the cell block.  They had bars all around them and a lone television set was mounted on a pole that would have allowed all of the inmates to watch it.

At the end of the hall was the electric chair, which Virginia used to execute a lot of men until lethal injection became the preferred way to put condemned people to death.  Several of my classmates sat on the big oak chair, outfitted with heavy leather straps with big metal buckles.  I remember one teacher actually pretended to strap a couple of students in.  Back then, it was kind of a joke, but today, it seems kind of inappropriate and not that funny.  Virginia is a notorious death penalty state.  (ETA: Thanks to former Governor Ralph Northam, the death penalty was abolished in Virginia last year. I never thought I’d see the day.)

I remember after we saw the penitentiary, we went to Virginia Commonwealth University for lunch.  Two of my sisters are VCU graduates, so I was somewhat familiar with the place.  By then, I knew I was headed to Longwood for college. 

It was an eerie day… and probably the day that I first started to have ambivalent feelings about the death penalty.  

Edited to add in 2022: In his amazing talk in the above video, Dale Brumfield, talks about the kinds of crimes that would land people in the penitentiary. At one point, he talks about how Black men could be arrested and imprisoned for being caught on someone else’s property. They could get up to ten years for just appearing to LOOK like they were going to commit theft. As he was talking about that, I couldn’t help but think about the Ahmaud Arbery case, and how he was gunned down by three White men who thought he was a thief. It’s so sad that we haven’t evolved much since the early days of the Virginia Penitentiary’s history.

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