book reviews, celebrities

A review of Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir by Wil Wheaton…

As a card carrying member of Generation X, I grew up watching a lot of cable TV. Sometimes, I also went to the movies. In fact, I went to the movies a lot more often in those days than I do today. In any case, at some point in my adolescence, I saw the 1986 Rob Reiner film Stand By Me. Based on a spooky novella by Stephen King, Stand By Me was a coming of age film starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell. They were four 1959 era twelve year old boys from Castlerock, Oregon, who set out on a mission to see a dead body. On their way to find the body, the boys bond and have some near misses with both nature and technology.

Stand By Me also had a great soundtrack.

As most of Stephen King’s stories are, this one– originally known as “The Body”– was very poignant, compelling, and sometimes even funny. It also had four teenaged stars in it who were about my age. Most of my peers loved River Phoenix, who was an up and coming star. Tragically, he died in 1993 at just 21 years old, a victim of a drug overdose in Los Angeles. I was telling Bill last night that if River had lived beyond young adulthood, he would have been an enormous star.

I liked River fine, but Wil Wheaton’s performance in Stand By Me was the one that always stuck with me. He played the sensitive, thoughtful, aspiring writer, Gordie Lachance. I identified with Gordie, because I had my own aspirations of becoming a writer. In those days, I wrote a lot of fiction. Also, my journalism teacher in tenth grade was named Mr. LaChance, and I liked him, and that class. I probably should have stuck with journalism.

Stand By Me was probably the only vehicle of which I’ve seen much of Wil Wheaton’s acting, except for maybe guest spots on 80s era television shows. I see he was a guest on Family Ties, which was one of my favorite shows, back in the day. He was also on St. Elsewhere, although I didn’t really watch that show, because it was on past my bedtime. He was on Tales from the Crypt, which was a great HBO show I watched when I had the opportunity, and he voiced Martin in the film, The Secret of NIMH. Wheaton also famously played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Apparently, Wesley Crusher was aptly named, because based on Wheaton’s book, Still Just a Geek, it seems that he wasn’t very well received in that role. I have no opinion on that, since I never watched the original Star Trek, let alone the reincarnations. I don’t know why I never watched it. Bill is a huge fan. Star Trek just never appealed to me.

Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher.

Some time ago, someone turned me on to Wil Wheaton’s Facebook page. I started following it, and decided I kind of liked Wil. He seems like a basically normal, decent man who happens to work in the entertainment industry. He’s also a writer and award winning narrator. And, as a fellow child of 1972, I relate to a lot of what he posts on social media. We’re from the same era.

I was following Wil’s page when he started promoting his book, Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir. I ended up downloading it around the time it was released last spring, but I didn’t get around to reading it until I read Jennette McCurdy’s book, I’m Glad My Mom Died. I figured Wheaton’s book would be a good follow up to McCurdy’s book about her “crazy” mother and chaotic upbringing in show business, against her will. Wil Wheaton has openly said that he went “no contact” with his parents, and had never actually wanted to be a child actor. Wheaton has maintained that it was his mother who had wanted to be an actress, and she pressured her children to go into the business. Wil happened to have talent, just as Jennette McCurdy did, and in the mid 80s, he was a household name. But what he really wanted to do was be a kid. He’s also found that writing is his true passion, just as Jennette has.

So anyway, it was Jennette McCurdy who prompted me to read Wil’s book, Still Just a Geek. Still Just a Geek is based on Wil’s first book, Just a Geek, which came out in 2004 and apparently didn’t sell well. He includes the original book in this book, along with annotations– explanations, contextual notes, and sometimes revised opinions of his that have changed since 2004. After the first book, Wheaton continues with chapters about his life today. A lot has changed since 2004, which it’s bound to do. In 2004, he was a young man, married to his wife Anne, and stepfather to her young sons from another relationship. In 2022, he’s still married to Anne, and has legally adopted Anne’s now adult sons, Nolan and Ryan. They changed their last names and everything. Wil has also stopped drinking alcohol– circa 2016– so some of what he wrote in 2004 doesn’t apply to his lifestyle today.

To be honest, I’m left with some mixed feelings about this book. I thought it was mostly very well written. I appreciated how candid Wheaton is, although there were times when I wish he’d shared more of the original stories that prompted some of his conclusions. For example, in the original book, it’s clear that Wil sees himself as his sons’ stepfather. He refers to himself in that way, although he also mentions that their bio father was a real jerk. He vaguely mentions that their bio father kept taking Anne to court for custody, and implies that he’s a shithead for doing that. Now… I don’t know much at all about Anne, other than seeing her in some photos with Wil, and reading his gushing comments about her. And, God knows, I totally understand about being the second spouse of someone who has a narcissistic or abusive former spouse.

Because I’m a second wife, I am not so quick to automatically accept what people say or write about their exes (and just to be clear, I get that not everyone believes me when I rail about Ex in my blog). In my case, I wasn’t allowed to be a stepmother to my husband’s daughters, and he wasn’t allowed to be his kids’ “everyday dad”. And he was painted as a horrible, abusive monster to his daughters, which just plain isn’t true at all. Wil never explains much about Anne’s ex, other than to write that he’s a bad person. And, for all I know, he really is a shitty person, and Nolan and Ryan were totally right to ask Wil to be their legal dad.

On the other hand, Wil is himself estranged from his own father, claiming that his dad has always been abusive and negligent toward him. He doesn’t write a lot about that, either, at least not in this book. However, Wil did write a few passages that indicated to me that his father wasn’t all bad. Like, for instance, he wrote about his father’s touching reaction to Wil’s grandfather’s death, and how Wil realized that one day, he would be mourning his own father’s passing. That was in 2004, though, before he had ceased contact with his dad. So, I guess I just wish he’d provided more context to both of those stories, and the one involving his stepsons who are now his sons. Maybe it’s not my business– but if it’s not my business, it probably shouldn’t have been included in this book. I can, by the way, also relate to Wil’s having a rocky relationship with his dad. I had a rocky relationship with my dad, too, although we were never really estranged. I understand that going “no contact” is sometimes necessary for one’s sanity, but I also think it’s something that should be done as a last resort.

The footnotes were a bit distracting for me, although reading on Kindle gives readers the choice to read them or not. I enjoyed Wil’s notes, especially when they were funny or provided context. Sometimes, though, I found some of Wheaton’s comments a little annoying and self- indulgent. It stands to reason that people try to present themselves in the best possible light, even when they admit to not being their best. Wheaton provides quite a few examples of when he sometimes acted like a jerk, as we all do sometimes. However, there were a few times when I wanted him to just state, “I was a jerk,” and not make any excuses for being a jerk. He apologizes a lot for acting the way most of us did in less enlightened times. It gets tiresome after awhile, and doesn’t always ring as sincere. Sometimes, it felt like he was trying too hard to be sensitive and “woke”, and it came across as a little fake to me. I sense this on his Facebook page, too, especially when he posts about certain issues– like the pandemic, and how we should all be handling it. Some of his comments come across to me as more like what he believes he “should” be thinking instead of what he actually thinks, if that makes sense.

But that early career helped launch his current career… if he hadn’t been a child star, where would he be today?

I did enjoy reading about Wheaton’s experiences making Stand By Me, which I still think is a fabulous film. I couldn’t relate to his comments about Wesley Crusher, although I do know who William Shatner is. Reading about his encounter with Shatner made me cringe a bit for Wheaton… Shatner was allegedly quite the asshole to Wil. Reading about his encounter with Shatner made me glad I was never a Star Trek fan. I also liked reading about Wil’s experiences being a computer geek in the 80s. I wasn’t a computer geek then, but I did have a friend who was one. And some of what he writes about his experiences with BASIC and other computer languages remind me of the time when I still counted my former friend as my best friend. Those were fun times, before reality set in, and I realized she wasn’t actually a good friend, after all.

At the end of the book, Wheaton includes some interviews and speeches he’s given, along with a couple of “Ask Me Anything” posts he did. To be honest, I kind of skimmed through most of that stuff, because speeches are meant to be heard, and aren’t that much fun to read. I did notice that the fresh content of this book comprises only about thirty percent of the book. The rest of it is old stuff cobbled together into this volume. That was okay for me, since I never read the first book, and I’ve not followed his career closely. Super fans who pay a lot of attention to what Wil’s been doing his whole life might be disappointed by Still Just a Geek. I see some Amazon reviewers have given Wil low ratings and claimed he’s not a good writer. I disagree with that. I think Wil’s writing is fine. I just wish he’d written something fresh, and included fewer footnotes, which can be very distracting. And I wish he’d just write his story and explain why he has so much animosity toward his parents and his wife’s ex. I get that they’re personal stories, and maybe he’s already explained elsewhere. But in Still Just a Geek, he makes many references to those people without really explaining his feelings behind the negative comments. I was left a little confused and wanting more information.

And finally, I admire Wil for reinventing his career, doing what he wants to do, making healthy choices, and loving his wife and sons so much. I’d give this book 3.5 stars out of 5 and would recommend it to those who haven’t read Still a Geek and are interested in Wil Wheaton’s story. I think it will particularly appeal to those who care about Star Trek, which I don’t. But I was sincerely interested in the parts about Stand By Me, and enjoyed reading those sections.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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blog news, book reviews, celebrities, LDS, mental health

Then again, maybe I won’t… at least not today.

At the end of yesterday’s post, I shared two videos by Mr. Atheist. On those videos, Jimmy Snow, aka Mr. Atheist, reacted to videos put out by anti-abortion activist, Kristan Hawkins. I watched the videos and cringed pretty hard. I thought maybe I would offer my own thoughts on them today, but I think that maybe I’ll postpone that plan. I had written I would comment on them if people were interested. It seems that no one was… or, at least no one is at this point in time. And frankly, I just don’t feel like writing about Kristan Hawkins today. I don’t think I can stomach listening to her talk about why abortions should be outlawed in all cases. Besides, Jimmy already does a pretty good job of explaining why Kristan’s opinions are wrong.

Nope. Today, I think I’d rather write about the book I’m reading right now. I’m finding it much more compelling than I did my previous book, The Case for Heaven, which really didn’t interest me much at all. I was glad to finish Lee Strobel’s book about what comes after death. I moved on to my favorite type of book– a celebrity memoir. I’m currently reading Jennette McCurdy’s new book, I’m Glad My Mom Died. The title alone is very compelling, isn’t it? You just KNOW there’s gonna be a trainwreck.

Meet Jennette McCurdy… she is fascinating.

I’m not quite ready to review this book yet, as I’m only about halfway through it. What I will say for now is that Jennette McCurdy’s story reminds me a little of Melissa Francis’s book, Diary of a Stage Mother’s Daughter: A Memoir. Melissa Francis is, of course, much older than Jennette McCurdy is, but the two have a lot in common. They both suffered stage mothers from hell. Both were actresses, not necessarily because they wanted to be, but because their mothers wanted them to be. Both suffered extreme abuse on all levels. I think Melissa’s mom was more sadistic, while Jennette’s mom was more manipulative and emotionally abusive. Also, to my knowledge, Melissa’s mom is still living, while Jennette’s mom succumbed to breast cancer in 2013.

Before I bought her book, I didn’t even know who Jennette McCurdy is. I’m well beyond the years of watching new Nickelodeon shows– not that the show she was famous for is all that new anymore. Jennette was on iCarly, but she also did guest roles on other shows, commercials, and other stuff. McCurdy’s story is also interesting to me because, besides being raised LDS, she also had problems with eating disorders (which her mother enthusiastically encouraged), anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder. The chapters are very short, so even though I’m only halfway through the book, I’ve already gotten to chapter 44 or so. And each chapter is more shocking than the last, as McCurdy shares the sheer nuttiness of her mother, the craziness of being a child actress, her mental health issues, and the religion aspect that complicates everything. The crazy thing is, she NEVER even wanted to be an actress. She just happens to have a talent for acting, and her narcissistic mother exploited it to the hilt.

I have never been LDS myself, but Bill was LDS for awhile. His daughter is still a very active church member, and the LDS church– which was Ex’s idea– has had an impact on my life. I know a lot about the church, its practices, and what its members believe. However, I have never been a member, nor would I ever be one. McCurdy seems to have gotten a lot of comfort from church when she was growing up. I relate to that, because I know Bill’s daughter has also gotten comfort from the church when things were especially crazy as she was growing up. In some ways, I also see a lot of similarities between the way Ex behaves, and the way Jennette’s mother did. She is extremely manipulative, possessive, controlling, and just plain weird. But I’ll get more into that when I review the book, which at the rate I’m going, should be within the next few days. I’m finding the book a real page turner, but in kind of a trainwreck sort of way. I’m simultaneously fascinated by the story and horrified by what this poor young woman had to cope with when she was a child.

I know some people will take issue with the title… It sounds horrible. However, I can totally understand why she used that title. Her mother sounds like she was true nightmare to have to deal with. For just an example– imagine your mother sending you dozens of emails, text messages, and voice messages after she’s seen pictures of you on TMZ, taken by a paparazzo. You are an adult, in Hawaii with your boyfriend, but you feel you have to lie to your mother about where you are. You come up with a ruse to trick her, only to have it foiled by a photographer, hungry for a sale. Your mom sends you all manner of abuse, accusing you of giving her cancer, bringing her shame, and calling you things like “filthy whore” and “all used up”. Then, as she signs off with “love”, she adds a P.S.– “Please send money for a fridge. Ours broke, and the yogurt is going sour.”

Imagine your mother explaining how to engage in eating disordered behaviors when you’re still a child, in the midst of becoming a woman. Imagine being fourteen years old and still sitting in a booster seat in the car. Imagine your mother insisting on showering you when you’re sixteen, sometimes also with your brother; her excuse is that she’s a former beautician and wants to make sure you wash your hair “correctly”, so it will impress a casting director. Imagine your mom using your money to pay the mortgage, and being forced to sleep on a mat in the dining room, because the bed you purchased for yourself is covered in your mother’s miscellaneous crap.

I know that Melissa Francis and Jennette McCurdy aren’t the only ones with stage mothers from hell. Wil Wheaton has also spoken openly about his own abusive, money hungry, fame whoring parents, who forced him to act when he didn’t want to do it. I’ll probably read his book next, since it’s been in the queue for awhile, and it will probably dovetail nicely with I’m Glad My Mom Died. I love a good tell all memoir, especially when it involves questionable parenting. Shirley MacLaine’s daughter, Sachi Parker, wrote a pretty good one some years ago. It seems the kids who grew up in show business had it the worst, especially in the days before child welfare advocacy was less of a thing than it is today. If a parent was also a celebrity, then the chances for massive dysfunction go up exponentially. Christina Crawford started it when she wrote Mommie Dearest, but there have been some real whoppers since her book was published in 1978. Gary Crosby wrote a pretty shocking book, too.

Anyway… I am looking forward to finishing the book and writing a review of it. I think it will be interesting on many levels to several of my regular readers, as well as new ones who haven’t found my blog yet. So stay tuned. I’ll sign off now and get back to reading.

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Bill, divorce, Ex, LDS

Lessons never taught– or, how to camp like a champ.

Morning, y’all. I hope all of you had a nice weekend. I know not everyone celebrates Easter, but if you did celebrate “resurrection day”, I hope it was a pleasant experience. Bill and I had a nice quiet day at home. I did some writing, of course, and afterwards, picked up my guitar and played “The Old Rugged Cross” with surprising ease. I was inspired by Rhonda Vincent’s beautiful live version, which is easily found on YouTube at this writing. Although I don’t play the song perfectly, I do play it reasonably well, especially for someone who has learned everything from Fender Play at this point. I might be a fairly decent player by now if I had an in-person guitar teacher. Maybe someday, I’ll get around to investing in one. For now, though, I am really glad I used the pandemic as an excuse to expand my musician skills/cred. I hope to eventually get good enough that someone besides Bill will want to hear me play.

After I played my guitar, I tried and failed to finish my custom made puzzle by Collage.com. My mother-in-law gave me a puzzle by them for Christmas. She found a photo I took in Slovenia and had it made into a one-of-a-kind jigsaw puzzle. I was so impressed by it that I ordered another one of a photo I took in Croatia. Unfortunately, I was not finished with the Slovenia puzzle when I made that decision, and didn’t realize that the quality of the puzzle wasn’t quite 100 percent. So, the Slovenia puzzle had five pieces that didn’t fit properly. I must have made a mistake, but obviously, there were pieces in the puzzle that were very close and fit convincingly. I had an even worse problem with the Croatia puzzle. Now, it could turn out that I put the puzzle together again someday, and somehow get the puzzle right. But I won’t possibly be doing that for some time, since I have several to do that I haven’t done yet.

Bill cooked baby back pork ribs on the grill that were delicious. We enjoyed some adult beverages and listened to music. We did some talking about current events, some of which have been pretty sad and dramatic, if you read yesterday’s post. Bill and I both feel kind of cut off from our families, and yet we do talk a lot about how completely dysfunctional some of our experiences have been. In fact, last night, we were talking about a post the actor Wil Wheaton shared by a Facebook page called The Holistic Psychologist, that we both could relate to with ease. Bill probably related more than I did.

Wil Wheaton, as many people know, has said that his parents were abusive to him. He describes them as “emotionally immature”. I’m sure Wil Wheaton’s observations are perfectly accurate from his perspective. I liked the link he shared, and commented that maybe it would be even more useful for younger daughter. There were many examples of “emotionally immature” parents included, and descriptions of how a child who was raised by such a parent might respond by their behaviors as an adult. Wheaton also shared another link by The Holistic Psychologist that might also be useful to anyone who has grown up with parents who never quite matured properly– at least in the emotional sense.

This morning, Bill got a video message from his daughter. She looked pretty, wearing pearls… like maybe she had come from church. She was talking about things she did on Easter and for her kids on Easter. Younger daughter is about seven months pregnant right now, so she’s pretty tired. She yawned a lot as she talked about her celebration, which somehow segued into talking about her experiences as an older teen.

Younger daughter says she doesn’t like to camp. She doesn’t find it appealing to pack up stuff, go out to the country, unpack, and sleep in a tent. As someone who worked for two summers at a Presbyterian church camp, I can understand why camping might not be so appealing. I lived in a platform tent for both summers, as I was the cook, and didn’t have camp programs to lead. It was rustic living for sure, although there were aspects of that experience that I really loved. For one thing, the camp where I worked was in an absolutely stunning area of Virginia. I would love to own property in that place– it was so tiny, unspoiled, and just pristine… We had so much fun there! Some of the fun included staff training, which included a short campout/canoeing experience– one or two nights in a tent, if I recall correctly. The first summer, we canoed on the Shenandoah River. The second summer, we canoed on the Potomac. I remember at another time, outside of our camp sessions, some of us got together and canoed down the Rappahannock River, but that was just a day trip.

I do remember learning how to pitch tents, cook food over a fire, and enjoy nature. But, to be honest, as fun as those experiences were– and as amazing as it was to be PAID to do that– I can admit that camping isn’t for everyone. It’s not always comfortable to sleep under the stars, even though it’s something that people ought to try. Yesterday, I even read about 8th grade kids in Alaska who camp out as part of their science class. It’s a learning project, yes, but it’s also taught because Alaskan kids, more than other American kids, may really have an actual need to use survival skills. But even though I think youngsters should learn outdoor skills, I know that not everyone wants to camp.

Younger daughter says that she went camping as part of her LDS church indoctrination. I wasn’t surprised to hear that. I know, for instance, that part of the LDS church experience for young people includes going to camp. From what I’ve read, those experiences are very “churchy” and religious, and they include a lot of emotional bonding around a campfire, testimony bearing, singing church songs, and discussing passages from the Book of Mormon. I don’t know how skilled the people leading younger daughter’s camping experiences were, but from what I’ve read on RfM, the people who lead the camp experiences in the LDS church aren’t necessarily super well-schooled on camping outdoors. In fact, from what some ex members have said, the camp experience is more about creating meaningful church experiences, in remote places where outside influences are few, than teaching youngsters the joys of camping.

Likewise, I’ve heard and read that a lot of the Boy Scout troops affiliated with the LDS church are not led by people who are very skilled outdoors. I know that wouldn’t apply to every church affiliated Scout troop, but apparently, it did apply to more than a couple. A lot of former members have shared horror stories about their times camping with the LDS church. Of course, since the Scouts are now letting girls in, I think the church is less invested in encouraging boys to be Boy Scouts.

Anyway, younger daughter says that her experiences at LDS Girls Camp led her to realize that she doesn’t enjoy camping. If her experiences were like what I’ve read on RfM, I can understand why camping doesn’t appeal. But what’s really sad is that her perfectly good father, who was not allowed any access to his daughters when they were growing up, knows a whole lot about camping and how to make it enjoyable. Bill is a retired Soldier, and he’s spent a lot of time in the field. He could have taught his daughters how to camp effectively. Maybe, if they had been allowed to go camping with Bill, those girls would have ended up loving camping. Or maybe younger daughter might not have liked camping, even if Bill had taught her how to do it properly and used good equipment. One of younger daughter’s complaints, for instance, was that she had to sleep in a leaky tent and didn’t get any rest. I’m not surprised, as people on RfM have written that the tents used at the camps were basically Army surplus variety– circa the Vietnam era. But she would have had a bonding experience that she might not have forgotten. I had a couple of camping experiences with my dad (in a pop top VW van, rather than a tent)… but then, my dad wasn’t as good of a father as Bill is.

I don’t know if Bill would have taken his girls camping if he’d been allowed to raise them. But there would have been the opportunity to camp. Maybe, if they came back after girls’ camp complaining about being outdoors, Bill could have showed them a better way. He was denied that opportunity, though, because his ex wife is a selfish person who is more interested in punishing people than doing the right thing by her children. And so, Bill and younger daughter have a lot of years to make up for. I’m glad they are, at least, getting that time now. As we’ve learned recently, tomorrow is never guaranteed for anyone. Ex meant for Bill to NEVER see or speak to his children again, all because– over Easter in 2000– Bill didn’t grovel enough. Bill didn’t succumb to her demands that he humiliate himself to an LDS bishop and confess to hating women… which he certainly doesn’t, and never did. Worst of all, in her mind, was that instead of refusing to divorce his abusive ex wife, who used his parents’ home to, once again, emotionally abuse and humiliate Bill, Bill decided to accept Ex’s proposal to split up. She very clearly did not expect Bill to say “yes” when she proposed a divorce; it injured her deeply that he agreed. She had expected him to fight for her, and the fact that he didn’t want to fight anymore deeply disappointed her. She was so aggrieved that she decided to try to destroy Bill’s relationship with his own children.

Now, we’re seeing the result of that decision, and Bill’s choice not to insist on having contact with his kids. In retrospect, he probably should have involved the court system and law enforcement. Or, better yet, he never should have gotten involved with her in the first place. Hindsight is 20/20, I know.

It’s hard for me to understand how a parent can be so hateful, selfish, and misguided that they would deny their children’s access to another loving parent. I mean, yes, if a parent is severely abusive and harmful, it makes sense to limit contact. Bill is not an abusive person. He’s a very kind and loving person, who simply couldn’t tolerate his ex wife’s abuse anymore. Now that younger daughter is an adult, we’re finding out that he was not the only one who could no longer take her shit. It sounds like she simply reached saturation. I relate to that. I am pretty saturated by abusive people, too. I can’t tolerate them like I used to.

As I was listening to younger daughter, living in Utah, and not long from adding her third child to her family, I felt sad that after her parents’ divorce, she never had a chance to go camping with Bill… or eat at a fancy restaurant… or visit a museum. And now, thanks to the way our lives have gone, she may never have that chance. On the other hand, at least they can exchange videos and talk on Skype. And now that the world has reopened, maybe Bill will go back to Las Vegas for TDY and take another side trip to Utah, to see his daughter and her family. Ex had wanted to deny Bill that. Thank God they’re no longer giving her that power to divide and drive wedges.

Every time I think I’ve evolved beyond the mess that is Ex, and the massive damage she’s wrought, I see evidence of more damage that was done. But again, I am grateful that she wasn’t able to permanently destroy Bill’s relationship with his younger child. There remains hope that maybe someday, the older one will wise up and reach out. Even if she doesn’t, though, Bill never thought he’d have what he has with younger daughter. So we can be grateful for that… and the fact that thanks to what happened on Easter 2000, Bill can still enjoy life.

However, I doubt he’ll convince me to go camping. 😉

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communication, complaints, Military, rants, social media

“Educate yourself!” Most of us would be wise to follow our own advice…

The featured photo is a meme that was posted by a popular veteran’s page on Facebook.

Happy President’s Day, everybody. We had a boring weekend at home, as is par for the course in these pandemic times. In ordinary times, we would have gone away for the weekend, but I’m actually glad we didn’t do that. The weather has been downright crappy. This weekend was cold, windy, and rainy. There was some sun on Saturday, but the temperatures weren’t very pleasant. And since Germany still has COVID measures going on, that makes me not want to go out. I don’t enjoy being indoors with a FFP2 mask strapped to my face and people watching my every move to make sure I follow the rules.

Does that sound paranoid? It probably does… but this is an attitude I’ve noticed over the past couple of years. People are watching. I generally do follow the rules, but I don’t like the feeling of being surveilled by strangers. My desire to go out and see the world isn’t strong enough to deal with that kind of scrutiny, so I just stay home.

I spent several hours yesterday creating a new “AM Gold” playlist for my music library. I downloaded quite a number of albums and spent some money I probably shouldn’t have. But, as I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post, ordinarily we would have gone out of town and spent the money anyway. We will be taking a trip next week to see our dentist in Stuttgart, then we’ll go spend the weekend in France. Hopefully, the weather will be somewhat better for that. I hope the COVID rules will be less onerous in France, too, but I’m not holding my breath.

We’ve come to a turning point in the pandemic, as was inevitable when this shitshow started in March 2020. Even cautious Germans are discussing dropping some of the rules. As of March 20, which would mark the second anniversary of the plague, most COVID restrictions are set to be rescinded. Masks are still going to be required, which I know makes a lot of people happy because they feel safer when people wear masks. If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I hate the masks with a passion and will be delighted to see them go. But I generally follow the rules, so all I do is complain and avoid being in situations where masks are needed. Other people are much bolder about their rebellion, which sometimes leads to trouble.

Yesterday, I noticed a thread on Wil Wheaton’s Facebook page. He wrote a very kind and caring post about how he hopes those who haven’t been vaccinated will get the shot(s), because pretty soon, it will be every person for themselves. I appreciated Wil’s thoughts on this. I think he’s reasonable and well-informed.

I wish all famous people were this decent.

Not surprisingly, Wil got a few rude comments about how this is all a conspiracy to make money for politicians and “Big Pharma”. I was impressed by Wil’s reasonable and calm responses to the people who pushed back against his rational thoughts on the vaccines. And there were also comments from the other side of the spectrum. Several people lamented about how no one cares about them or their lives because they are immunocompromised. They are legitimately scared that when the rules are rescinded, their lives will be in danger.

On one level, I can sympathize with people who are immunocompromised. It is scary to think that soon there could be a “free for all”. However, on another level, I want to tell them that this is the way it’s always been. It’s really every person for themselves. For two years, people have lived with rules that have upended lives and caused significant problems. Some people have died during the pandemic, not because they got the virus, but because they suffered from mental health issues or delayed necessary healthcare. Or they’ve been in accidents or been victims of crimes. The sad reality is, life is about risks. COVID presents another one of many risks that we all face every day.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect people to go on living with these rules and restrictions indefinitely. I also don’t think it’s realistic to assume that the whole world is going to get on the same page when it comes to their behaviors regarding the pandemic. Politics and religions, as well as cultural mores and personal needs, play into how a person behaves. I know that some people will choose to wear face masks for the rest of their lives. I don’t think there should be any issue with that. It doesn’t hurt you or me if someone chooses to wear a mask. On the other hand, other people will not want to do that. I think that should be okay, too.

I noticed one sanctimonious comment by a guy on Wil’s post who wrote he has a “needle phobia”, but still managed to get vaccinated. Someone else added, “I would tell anyone with a needle phobia to consider how many needles they’ll be subjected to if they are hospitalized because of COVID.” To those two people, I would say that neither of them understand phobias. The first person probably doesn’t have a legitimate “needle phobia”. The second person clearly doesn’t understand what it really means to have a phobia. People who have a phobia have an irrational fear, and even downright terror, of something that doesn’t ordinarily cause people to be scared.

For instance, I have a phobia of mushrooms. No amount of telling me how delicious they are, or how their flesh feels like a rubber ball, or how they are beautiful or cute, will make me want to see them, touch them, smell them, or eat them. I freeze up when I’m confronted by mushrooms. I know it’s ridiculous and irrational. That’s what makes it a phobia. Trying to scare people who have needle phobias, with mean spirited comments about what they will face if they are hospitalized, isn’t helpful. All it does is scare them even more, and it shows a stunning lack of compassion, as well as great ignorance. People have laughed at me for my whole life for having a phobia. I wish I could help it, but I can’t. Fortunately, avoiding mushrooms due to a phobia is not a life or death issue, as avoiding the vaccines might be.

One attitude that I’ve gotten really tired of is the constant need to shame people and discount their opinions. I’m not saying it’s wrong to express disagreement with someone. I’m saying that I’ve gotten tired of the derisive and downright rude responses people have toward each other– people they don’t even know– simply because they disagree. It’s on both sides of the pandemic issue. I don’t think it’s helpful, for instance, when someone writes a negative opinion about, say, vaccines, and a stranger posts a GIF of a crying toddler. Someone did that to me at the beginning of the pandemic. My response was to tell her to knock it off. That shit doesn’t help, and it’s rude and disrespectful. I won’t be having a dialogue with someone who does stuff like that. It doesn’t change hearts or minds, either. All it does is cause people to double down on their opinions.

This image is a false equivalency that really isn’t helpful.

Above is a photo that appeared on VoteVets, which is a left leaning Facebook page for people in the US military community. I know what the intent of sharing this was, but I don’t think these kinds of snarky, shaming posts are helpful. I also don’t think there’s any comparison between the two situations. One photo involves an adult person who presumably chose to join the military for whatever reason. Another involves a person who needs to go shopping for essentials. Everybody has to shop, and some people legitimately have good reasons why they have difficulties wearing face masks. Not everyone is suitable for military service or would willingly make the choice to serve. Moreover, I think it’s tasteless to use servicemembers to guilt monger others.

Sure enough, there were plenty of shitty comments posted about this image, with very few people changing their minds. It was just an echo chamber of negativity, wasted time arguing with people with diametrically opposed opinions, and plenty of virtue signaling thrown in for good measure. Actually, I’ve come to expect that in a lot of groups or pages devoted to the military community. Disrespect toward others seems to be a guiding principle, as long as there isn’t rank involved. It’s like they take out having to salute their leaders online, directing their rudeness toward perfect strangers. I’m so glad Bill isn’t like that.

Just a few days ago, there was an excellent editorial in The Local Germany written by someone who thinks Germany should be more tolerant toward people who can’t wear masks. The author cited his friend, an artist with autism and severe sensory issues that cause debilitating physical symptoms when she wears a mask. The artist lives in Britain, where people can get medical exemptions to wearing masks. Here in Germany, her experience was mostly very negative and unnecessarily nasty. Zero tolerance policies often lead to innocent people being punished, or people getting punished when they shouldn’t be, due to unforeseen circumstances. Since the article is behind a paywall, here are a few snippets:

What I think is especially sad is that whenever someone expresses an opinion, he or she is liable to be personally attacked by someone they don’t know. This is someone who doesn’t know a thing about the person they are insulting. They don’t know or care why someone has the opinion they have, nor do they care about the person they are insulting. They just spew aggression and insults. I know this is borne out of frustration and fear, not to mention the very real fatigue that comes with daily bad news about the rogue virus that keeps mutating and making people sick and/or killing them.

But… I’ve got news for those who think this COVID-19 lifestyle should go on forever. People die every day for a huge variety of reasons. Since March 20, 2020, I have lost three family members and a dear friend. Three of the four of them were pretty young to be dying, but not a single one of them died of COVID-19. COVID is just one of many risks that we face every day. A person who wants to go back to a more normal lifestyle isn’t a bad person for wanting that after two years of lockdowns, face masks, and limited travel. Yes, it would be great if every single person on the planet had 100 percent regard and consideration for other people, but unfortunately, that isn’t the way of the world. I wish it was, but it’s not. So instead of fretting about what’s going to happen when mask and vaccine mandates go away, I think it might be more prudent to take the steps that will mitigate risks and hope for the best.

There are always going to be people who think it’s too early to relax the rules. There will always be at least one person who will say the pandemic isn’t over yet. They probably won’t even be wrong. I commend those who are committed to being disciplined, as long as it makes them happy to be that way. I don’t think it’s right to condemn other people who choose a different path. This simply can’t go on forever, and there’s never going to be a situation in which everyone will be satisfied. That’s because we all have opinions, and those opinions are shaped by our own perspectives. If you want people to respect your views, you should probably try to respect theirs, even if you think they are dead wrong. I strongly doubt that we’ll ever have a situation in which everyone agrees. Part of living in a free society is having the ability to disagree.

I know it’s a pipe dream that people will be nicer about disagreements. I sure wish it weren’t so, though. For all of those who are screaming “educate yourself”, I would like to say that they should follow their own advice. Stop and think about it for a moment. Maybe that person does have a valid point. Either way, you probably don’t have to be an asshole to them… at least not at first. I know it’s easier said that done. So often, I’ve been tempted to leave a snarky or rude comment for someone. Then I’ll approach with more respect. Finally, I usually just delete my comment, because unfortunately, I’ve found that commenting on social media is just a waste of time. That’s mainly why I blog.

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complaints, condescending twatbags, poor judgment, rants, Trump

Tennessee school board bans book on Holocaust due to “objectionable language”… now the book is on backorder!

Have you ever heard of the “Streisand effect”? It’s a phenomenon named after the famous singer, Barbra Streisand, whose last name, I notice, is not counted as misspelled as I type it in the editor. I guess she’s arrived, since the dictionary recognizes her name as an actual word!

Anyway, the story goes that back in 2003, Barbra Streisand got good and pissed at the California Coastal Records Project’s decision to photograph her residence in Malibu, California as they were documenting the effects of coastal erosion The photos were intended to influence government policy makers. Streisand was apparently more concerned about her privacy, than the environment. She attempted to suppress the photograph of her estate via legal means, suing photographer Kenneth Adelman and Pictopia for violation of privacy. Before she filed her $50 million lawsuit, meant to get the aerial photo removed from the collection of 12,000 photos of the California coastline, the photo of her mansion had only been downloaded six times. Two of six downloads were by Streisand’s own lawyers.

Word got out about Streisand’s attempts to quash the photo, and over the course of the month following news of the lawsuit, over 420,000 people visited the site where it was posted, and downloaded the picture of Streisand’s coastline property. Instead of managing to suppress the image, the public became much more interested in the photo than they would have if Streisand would have just STFU about it.

That amusing end result of Striesand’s privacy case caused a writer named Mike Malsnick to coin the term, “Streisand effect”, back in 2005, when another notorious photo made the news and became much more popular than it otherwise would have. In that case, the owners of a holiday resort objected to a picture taken of a urinal at their resort, which was uploaded to a site called urinal.net. They sued, and the urinal pic became a lot more noticeable. Malsnick wrote:

“How long is it going to take before lawyers realize that the simple act of trying to repress something they don’t like online is likely to make it so that something that most people would never, ever see (like a photo of a urinal in some random beach resort) is now seen by many more people? Let’s call it the Streisand Effect.”

The phenomenon of controversial or “objectionable” things growing in popularity or notoriety after someone has tried to repress or quash them, is now known as the “Streisand effect”. And now, we’re seeing the Streisand effect at work again, thanks to some extremely conservative and misguided school board members in McMinn County, Tennessee, who are in the news because they banned a Pulitzer prize winning comic novel from their school’s 8th grade curriculum. I don’t think their school board vote actually went the way they intended it to go. Now, the Streisand effect is in full force, once again.

Put it this way. Much to my shame, twenty four hours ago, I had never heard of author, Art Spiegelman, nor did I know anything about his much acclaimed 1996 comic novel Maus. As of this morning, not only have I heard of the book, but I have just purchased a copy of it, and it’s now on the way to my house. I will have to wait a short while, because probably thanks to the recent controversy surrounding the McMinn County school board’s decision to ban Maus, there’s been a run on copies of Maus, even in Germany. This means that I am not the only one who felt moved– disgusted– downright pissed off enough about this news to buy the book. I have a feeling Mr. Spiegelman and his publisher will be enjoying the Streisand effect, as people rebel against censorship by purchasing, borrowing, and reading Maus.

I feel really good about buying this book. I am always interested in learning more about the Holocaust, especially since it was not an event that was extensively covered when I went to public school in Virginia, back in the 80s. I have learned a lot about the Holocaust on my own, having read a lot of true stories about it and watched many videos made by survivors and their descendants about that very dark period in world history. I don’t usually read a lot of novels anymore, mainly because I prefer non-fiction. However, as a former English major, I know that novels can and do have their place in teaching people about the human condition. This is a graphic novel, so that means there are comic illustrations, which I know Bill will appreciate. I probably will, too, although I am not as much into art as he is. Spiegelman has used cats to depict Germans and mice to depict Jews during the Holocaust, which I think is a very intriguing concept.

But even if it turns out I don’t learn from or enjoy reading Maus, I still feel fine about buying it, because seriously, fuck that school board in McMinn County. Below is the passage from the news article I linked that made me say to Bill, “That does it. I’m buying a copy of the book!”

As reported by The Tennessee Holler and The Guardian, the McMinn County School board voted 10-0 to ban Maus from all of its schools, citing the book’s inclusion of words like “God damn” and “naked pictures” of women. Apparently, the school board discussed the possibility of simply redacting words and images it found inappropriate, though ultimately opted to ban the book outright. When reached for comment by The Tennessee Holler, the board claimed that the book being about the Holocaust had nothing to do with why it was banned.

“Why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff, it is not wise or healthy… I am not denying it was horrible, brutal and cruel,” one board member said. “It’s like when you’re watching TV and a cuss word or nude scene comes on it would be the same movie without it. Well, this would be the same book without it… If I had a child in the eighth grade, this ain’t happening. If I had to move him out and homeschool him or put him somewhere else, this is not happening.”

I am so sick of these types of small-town, power-wielding, world-perspective limited people, who feel like they need to censor or ban things for everyone, because they are personally “offended” by language or nudity or things they consider “gross”, “inappropriate”, or “pornographic”. Especially when it turns out that the things they wish to ban aren’t actually any of those things, but instead offer real opportunities for education and enlightenment. Instead of trying to understand the “objectionable” viewpoint or perspective, they opt to just ban it and label it indecent or offensive.

Regular readers of my blog may recall that last month, I got good and fired up when popular YouTuber Mama Doctor Jones got mentioned in an Alaska school board meeting because a progressive educator linked to some of her videos as a means of teaching youngsters about sex. People in that meeting were equating Mama Doctor Jones’ very informative and scientifically based videos to porn! It was outrageous and offensive to me, and if I were a parent in that school district, I would be raising all kinds of hell about it locally, instead of just on my blog.

What really puzzles me is that these folks in Tennessee and Alaska, so outraged by books like Maus, which is a comic representation of Art Spiegelman’s father’s experiences in the Holocaust, or videos by actual board certified OB-GYN Mama Doctor Jones, are NOT AT ALL OFFENDED by Donald Trump’s disgusting treatment of women, minorities, employees, or anyone else who can’t do anything for him. Seriously, y’all… their hero, Donald Trump, had no trouble whatsoever offending the world with his narcissistic, misogynistic, racist, lying bullshit. Where was their outrage when they heard about Donald Trump grabbing women by the pussy?

The conservatives in Alaska and Tennessee who are clutching their pearls over words like “God damn”, nude illustrations, and frank and fact based discussion about sex, pregnancy, birth control, and abortion, don’t care at all that their orange, tiny-handed, hero would happily grab the younger and prettier women in their midst “by the pussy” if he felt like it, because he’s a “star”. Below is an actual transcript of what former President Donald Trump said in 2005 about a beautiful married woman he once pursued:

Donald J. Trump: You know and …

Unknown: She used to be great. She’s still very beautiful.

Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.

Unknown: Whoa.

Trump: I did try and fuck her. She was married.

Unknown: That’s huge news.

Trump: No, no, Nancy. No, this was [unintelligible] — and I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping.

She wanted to get some furniture. I said, “I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.” I took her out furniture —

I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.

Billy Bush: Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit. In the purple.

Trump: Whoa! Whoa!

Bush: Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!

[Crosstalk]

Trump: Look at you, you are a pussy.

[Crosstalk]

Trump: All right, you and I will walk out.

[Silence]

Trump: Maybe it’s a different one.

Bush: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s, it’s her, it’s —

Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

Am I really to believe that Maus is more offensive and inappropriate than Trump is? Am I to believe that thirteen year olds, who have already heard all of the bad words from their own former president, no less, and are now at an age at which they can reproduce, should be “protected” from Mama Doctor Jones’ content because some claim it’s akin to “porn”, or Art Spiegelman’s brilliant book about one of the worst tragedies in human history, because of nudity and words like “God damn”? Um… I’ve got a news flash for these people. Censorship does not prevent people from being exposed to objectionable content.

Look at Josh Duggar. He grew up in a famously conservative family that was chronicled on reality TV. His parents were held up as paragons. They claimed to be very strict about keeping their children from objectionable content in television, books, music, and yes, the Internet. Need I remind everyone where Josh Duggar is right now and why he’s there?

Seriously…

I’m not trying to imply that Josh Duggar wouldn’t be a sex offender if his parents hadn’t been so controlling. He might just be wired that way. What I am saying is that banning “objectionable content” tends to make it forbidden fruit– more attractive to the masses. Perverts are gonna perv. I think it’s better for parents and educators to be open-minded and provide constructive and supportive guidance to their children when they are presented with challenging or potentially offensive material, rather than just quashing it. And that goes for both sides of the spectrum. I don’t like the “cancel culture” so often embraced by left wingers, either.

Censorship doesn’t work. Throughout history, people who have championed book banning are not remembered as the “good guys” who truly have everyone’s best interests at heart. The timing of this decision is especially offensive, as yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day.

I expect to have Maus in my hot little hands next month. I look forward to reading it for myself and sharing my thoughts about it. I’m glad that, at least for the time being, I still have the right to make that decision for myself. And I am heartened by people like Wil Wheaton, who have pledged to make this book available to people in McMinn County by buying a couple of copies and asking the book store owners to give them freely to people who ask for them. It was Wil Wheaton’s thoughtful post on this situation that got me to learn more about it this morning.

Many thanks to Wil Wheaton for being one of the “good guys”.

So cheers to the Streisand effect. I hope Art Spiegelman enjoys the unintended consequences of small-minded people serving on the school board in Tennessee. Like Wil Wheaton, I get pissed off by “authoritarian bullshit”. I try to fight the power whenever I can. I hope many other people will join me. I’ll help by providing an Amazon link to Spiegelman’s masterpiece, Maus. If you purchase through the link on my page, I will get a small commission from Amazon. That would be nice for me, but even if you just want to check it out of the library, I would highly recommend doing that. Fuck the powers that be!

A little mood music for this post.

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