Monday, June 30, 2014

Blogger writes "You Should Not Leave Mormonism For Any of These 5 Reasons"… Here's my rebuttal.

First thing's first.  I have never been Mormon, so I won't ever be leaving the faith.  However, I am married to an ex Mormon.  Granted, he was a "convert", which may make him less credible to some people.  He was active in the faith when we met and fell away from it while we were dating.  He formally resigned after we'd been married a few years and he doesn't miss it in the slightest.  The truth is, Mormonism never really spoke to Bill and he was pretty much going through the motions in an attempt to maintain his relationship with his kids.

Because I have witnessed Bill's disaffection with Mormonism and have gotten to know a lot of ex members of the LDS church, I have become very familiar with the cliches that "explain" why people leave the "one true church".  Greg Trimble's blog post, "You Should Not Leave Mormonism For Any of These 5 Reasons" is chock full of cliches that even I, a non member, can recognize.  

First on Mr. Trimble's list is "Being Offended".  For some reason, a lot of Mormons seem to think people leave the church just because they've had a spat with someone.  Truthfully, sometimes people do quit things because of petty disagreements with other people.  But I think if anyone does quit the church over a petty spat, the church must not mean much to them and they probably have bigger problems with it than just wanting to avoid someone who annoys them.  In other words, I think being "offended" and quitting Mormonism is more likely to be the "straw that broke the camel's back" than an actual "reason" for leaving.  If someone quits the church simply because they're annoyed with someone, it's likely that they weren't particularly "devoted" members to start with.  I also think "being offended" is a rather insulting accusation to hurl at someone who decides the church isn't for them… and honestly, even if a person is offended, they have a perfect right to be offended and act accordingly.  Telling people how they should feel is very culty and controlling behavior.

Next, Mr. Trimble tackles the issue of "Not Understanding The Doctrine".  Many devout Mormons I've talked to have told me in so many words that if you see anything negative within the church, you "don't understand the doctrine" or are "confused".  If you disagree with church policies or interpret something negatively, they assume that you're thinking too much and advise you to put your concerns on the proverbial "shelf".  But don't the Mormons often say that the "glory of God is intelligence"?  If that's true, why would you criticize someone for thinking too much or studying their way out of the church?  If God gave you a functioning brain and you use it to think critically, you should be commended.  That's more than a lot of people, in or out of the church, manage to do with their brains.

The third cliche Mr. Trimble addresses is "It's Just Too Hard".  A lot of Mormons seem to take great pride in wearing a hairshirt.  By this I don't mean that they literally wear a hairshirt, unless you count the temple garments; I mean that they take some sort of perverse pleasure in living by the church's strict rules, giving their spare time, talents, and money to the church, and forcing everyone in their families to share the same beliefs or be ostracized.  Some members seem to revel in being controlled by the church to the point at which they wear the special underwear as a badge of honor, even if it's uncomfortable, unsexy, expensive and inconvenient.

In my opinion, allowing a church to dictate: what you drink, when, with whom, and how you marry and have sex, how you spend your free time and money, how you vote, what clothes you wear, and whether or not you smoke or use drugs is actually taking the easy way out.  If the church is telling you what to do in most every situation, you don't have to make decisions for yourself.  If the church is keeping you busy with callings and meetings and you're giving it a large chunk of your income, you likely don't have the time or the money to get "in trouble".  You don't have time to sit and think about what you want out of your own life.  If you have a group of people telling you how you should behave, how you should dress, and what you should look like, you don't have time to think about your own opinions.

So no, I don't think being a Mormon is particularly hard, despite the onerous rules.  In fact, I think it's attractive to many people because it's a blueprint for getting into Heaven…  the only admission price is your money, your free time, your will, and your ability to make your own decisions about important things and insignificant things, like what kind of underwear to wear.  Follow the rules without question; pay your tithing; and pray, and you will make it to the Celestial Kingdom.  That's not hard… it's just time consuming, expensive, and exhausting, and I think the Mormons have made it that way on purpose. 

"Anti Mormon Literature" is the fourth reason on Trimble's list.  He writes that "no anti Mormon literature is unbiased".  That may be true, but as he also points out, neither is any "literature" that comes from an official church source.  I think he also fails to realize that a lot of people leave Mormonism after reading things from official church sources that cause them to start thinking about why the church may not be true.  While many people do love Mormonism and claim that the church brings them joy, other people do not have that experience and want to write about it.  Those who don't have positive experiences are automatically discounted and told they either "don't understand the doctrine" or are "thinking too much", while those who testify for the church are praised and affirmed.  How is that an unbiased reaction?

I have read a lot of books written by people who have left Mormonism and have found that by and large, a lot of people who choose to leave the church aren't rabidly "anti Mormon".  A lot of them are very smart and brave, especially since so many who leave the church end up being ostracized by friends and family members and have to find new social connections with people outside of the church.  That's not an easy thing to do and I would think most sane people would prefer to avoid it if possible.  I would guess that simply reading anti Mormon literature would not, in and of itself, be enough to lead the average person away from the church.  For many people, there's simply too much to lose if they quit the church simply due to reading an anti Mormon book or two.  

And finally, Trimble trots out the last cliche chestnut when he claims that people who leave "Just Want To Sin".  Everybody sins, though.  To live a life without sin is to be perfect and no one can claim to be perfect.  And trying to be perfect is an unrealistic and unattainable goal.  Someone who truly is a bad person and deliberately decides to sin is not likely to leave Mormonism over that choice.  Leaving the church only because you want to sin is, in a way, kind of an honorable thing to do.  I think it's much more likely that true sinners will stay in the church and maintain a convincing facade that they are devout and faithful.  Someone who leaves the church just because they want to sin probably ought to commended for their integrity.  An egregious sinner won't give up their social and familial connections just so they can do "bad" things.  In fact, they're much more likely to be cowards who hide in the shadows, showing up for church every week and looking down on the less obviously faithful while they do their dirty deeds behind closed doors.                 

Trimble's blog post is making the rounds on Facebook.  Most of my ex Mormon friends who are sharing it seem to think it's a bunch of bullshit, but they're spreading it like manure and giving Trimble some time in the spotlight.  I have to say, as someone who has never been LDS, I can see a lot of reasons why I would never want to be a member of that church.  I see many logical reasons for people to be offended by Mormonism that have nothing to do with "petty spats" with fellow church members.  

Those who are happy in the church and can live with its policies and practices should enjoy their happiness without worrying too much about those who decide it's not for them.  Everybody has a path to follow and for some, the path leads away from religion.  That's no reason to chastise or condescend to those who don't feel about Mormonism the way Mr. Trimble does.  Trust me… the people who leave aren't doing it because it's "the easy thing to do", especially if they have friends and loved ones who remain church members.  My husband lost his daughters, in part, because he realized Mormonism is a crock.  In the end, he had to be true to himself.  I hope his daughters are able to do the same thing.         


Sunday, June 29, 2014

More Mormon hijinks!

Remember months ago, when I wrote about the Mormon Boy Scout leaders who tipped rare rock formations at a famous Utah park?  Well, it seems that a group of younger but similarly destructive Mormons have taken it upon themselves to alter nature at a federally owned state park.  Hikers at Mount Olympus came upon handiwork perpetrated by a group of eight missionaries.

The young men erected an eight foot flagpole with a U.S. flag and a t-shirt bearing the last names of the "elders" who were involved with the vandalism.  The shirt read "Go Baptize! Only Utah Salt Lake City EAST Mission."

Likely annoyed by the illegal spectacle, the nature seeking hikers removed the t-shirt and brought it to authorities.  A Forest Service spokeswoman said the missionaries probably violated federal law, since installing a flagpole on federal land requires a permit.  Moreover, the area where the flagpole was erected may be designated as wilderness, which would mean no mechanized equipment or permanent "improvements" are allowed at all.  The idea is to keep some parts of the country looking pristine… you know, the way God made it?

I'm sure these young guys were just feeling the spirit of youth and burgeoning testosterone.  At least they're still young guys and not husbands, fathers, or Boy Scout leaders.  Still, one has to wonder about the incredible lack of respect for nature that these guys had when they used concrete to erect the flagpole and raised a t-shirt on it, proselytizing their religion just under the U.S. flag.

What right did they have?  Clearly no one ever taught them to respect federal property.  But then, while I have noticed that Mormon youths seem more into church than a lot of young people are, this may just be a sign of typical poor judgment among young men of any stripe who get an idea that "seems like a good one at the time".

It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, happens to these guys.  The "Goblin Tippers" I posted about last fall were eventually charged with felonies and ended up getting fines and probation.  Here's another thing, though.  These missionaries-- known as "elders" in their church-- did something very typically dumb.  And yet, here they are going door to door, trying to establish authority over people who are often much older, wiser, and generally smarter, asking them to join a religion that involves quite a lot of lifestyle changes and may ultimately divide their families, since not everyone wants to join the "One True Church".  But then, I think maybe these guys felt they could improve on what God made… by erecting a flagpole, which thinking about it, is kind of a phallic looking thing.  Maybe it was the ultimate "fuck you"?  Indeed, one of the boys even wrote "America!  Freak yeah!" on the flagpole.

What these guys did is like any prank played by young guys their age… but they did it as representatives of their church.  It takes a lot of audacity and a grand sense of entitlement to pull off such a stunt.  I did have to laugh, however, when I read about this on RfM and someone asked, "Aren't all missionary erections illegal?"  Maybe the frustration stemming from not being allowed to masturbate and spending all one's time wearing a geek squad outfit and hanging out with another "elder" led to the urge to damage federal property.  They should have stuck to playing basketball.

In other news...

Bill looked up his former stepson and it seems the lad and his bride have moved from New Hampshire back to Arizona.  He still works for the Boy Scouts.  Given that the Scouts employ my husband's morally bankrupt, scumbag, ex stepson and, let's just say the goblin tipping Mormon Boy Scout leaders aren't exactly paragons of propriety, my respect for that organization continues to dwindle.  It's my guess that the idiot's young wife prompted the move because I have a feeling Ex was driving her crazy and/or meddling too much. I wonder if she remembers that I warned her...


Fretting...

We went out and got carriers for our dogs yesterday.  Just before we got in the car, I listened to a voicemail from my sister.  My dad had to have emergency gallbladder surgery yesterday.  Apparently, he wasn't feeling well and had abdominal pains.  He didn't want to eat.  Mom called an ambulance and they took him to the nearest hospital where they ran blood tests and discovered that he had a high white blood cell count.  They removed the gallbladder, which turned out to be very inflamed.

When I talked to my sister yesterday, my dad was becoming more coherent.  He was slow coming out of the anesthesia, though.  Hopefully, he'll heal quickly, but that was just one more concern to add to the list.

I'm still kind of worried about the whole big move ahead of us.  I think I'll feel better when we start getting stuff done.

I'm still not 100% over this sickness I got a few weeks ago.  I wake up with a clogged right ear that seems to become less clogged as the day wears on.  I still have a bunch of gunk in my chest that has to be hacked up and usually gets me so agitated that I puke.

I'm watching a travel show about Transylvania and the Isle of Man.  They are featuring a town in Romania that is highly influenced by Germany and it reminds me that very soon, we'll be back in that beautiful country to live again… hopefully for longer than a year.  Something tells me we might have a longer sojourn this time.

Watching shows about Europe reminds me that living there again will be a great experience.  Living abroad has its challenges.  Like, last time we lived in Germany, I felt kind of lonely at times.  But then, sometimes I feel lonely in America, too.  And life in Germany can be less convenient than life in America is…  On the other hand, sometimes that less convenient lifestyle can be pretty awesome.  Germany has some rules that make it better for everyone… like quiet hours on Sundays.

On the plus side, Zane and Arran seem happy to try out their carriers.  Our last dogs, Flea and MacGregor, were not big fans of hanging out in their travel carriers.


We put these out yesterday and Arran was the first to claim one…

I wish we had a little more time to get this going.  I wish we could move in September instead of August.  But it is what it is…  we'll figure something out somehow.  I'm kind of half dreading/half looking forward to this big move.  I dread the long flight and worrying about the dogs… and looking for a new place to live.  I look forward to the travel, the food, the new people we'll meet and experiences we'll have, four seasons and trees, and driving my Mini on the autobahn.

By the time we're back, it'll be just shy of five years since we left.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Scary police...

I got into an argument on Facebook last night with a friend who is a cop.  It stemmed from a news article I read about 27 year old Sean Kendall, whose young Weimaraner dog, Geist, was shot by the police.  On June 18th, the cops were looking for a lost child and went on Kendall's property to search for the boy when they encountered Geist in his backyard.  One of the officers felt that Geist was acting in a threatening manner, so he shot and killed the dog.  The boy was later found sleeping in the basement of his home and was never actually lost.

Naturally, I was really pissed when I read the story and my cop friend started arguing with me over the police's "rights" to kill peoples' pets.  Having just read about the poor 19 month old child in Georgia who was just blown open by a flash bang grenade as he slept in his crib, I wrote that I'm getting tired of reading or hearing about cops hurting or killing innocent bystanders.   My cop friend then accused me of painting all cops with a broad brush and accusing them all of being trigger happy, which I didn't do.

Here's a story about a man who was killed by cops when he became agitated.  His wife had called for medical help because her husband was mentally ill.  Instead of medical help, the cops pumped the guy full of lead and his wife, who had sought refuge in a neighbor's home after police refused to let her talk to her husband, had to hear him dying in a pool of blood in their home.  Why did they shoot the man?

In another story I read this morning, cops arrested a father because his son decided to skip church.  The guy apparently has a bunch of children who got on the bus to go to church.  His eight year old son had other ideas and decided to go play in the neighborhood instead.  He ended up walking to a Family Dollar store half a mile from his home.  The police were called and they took the kid home, then arrested his dad, who promptly lost his job when the story ran in the local paper.  When I was a kid, I used to walk to the store by myself all the time.  I know times have supposedly "changed"--  actually, I don't know that they've changed, I think we've just gotten a lot more paranoid.

My cop friend kept telling me that cops have every right to act like thugs as they perform their duties.  Maybe, under the law, they officially have that right.  I think the policy should be changed, though.  If someone kills a police dog, that's akin to killing a human police officer and the person can go to prison.  Yet other dogs that happen to be pets are just property to cops and they can shoot them for simply showing their teeth.  Private citizens can't fight back against the police, but cops can throw a flash bang grenade into a private citizen's house and seriously hurt a sleeping toddler with no apparent fear of legal repercussions.        

I know there are good cops out there who do their jobs honorably and professionally and they do their best not to hurt people.  I'm sure the work is difficult and scary.  But it seems to me that there have been a lot of egregious mistakes made in police work lately.  As devastated as I would be if some trigger happy cop killed my dogs, I would be absolutely beside myself if I had a loved one who was badly hurt or killed because the cops made a mistake.  How does one apologize for something like that?


 

   

Friday, June 27, 2014

Dogs in the air...

So, we just got the last active duty paycheck and we're still waiting for the official job offer letter, which outlines the relocation deal Bill is getting.  Meanwhile, I've been researching moving Zane and Arran.  I'm not all that worried about the process of moving them-- as in making them fly on a plane.  Bill and I moved to and from Germany with our other two dogs, Flea and MacGregor, and they came through the actual flights with no problem.  In fact, Flea even had prostate cancer on the flight home and we knew his time was short.  He did fine on the plane and was with us another two months before it was time to say goodbye.

But since our last doggie aviation adventure, the rules have changed on the American carriers.  Delta Airlines has an embargo during the summer months, meaning you have to send your animals through their cargo program.  United has a program they call "PetSafe", which is also a cargo program.  Supposedly, it's better to send your animals this way, but based on comments I've read from servicemembers and others who have been using them, I'm not so sure they're that awesome.  They cost a lot more and, from what people have written, aren't necessarily safer or more convenient.

People who are traveling on the government's dime usually have to use an American airline for as far as they can get.  Fortunately, since Bill will not be flying on military orders, he is presumably free to use a carrier that isn't American.  That means it's possible we could fly on Air France or Lufthansa instead of Delta or United or American Airlines.  It appears that the European carriers can handle animals and will allow you to fly them as baggage, which I would prefer, since it would mean I'd be on the same flight with them and could get them directly afterwards.  The bad thing is that the flights I've found on Air France and Lufthansa are leaving in the middle of the afternoon, when it would be hot outside.  But then again, Air France and Lufthansa also supposedly have facilities that can handle pets and take pains not to load them into the aircraft until it's time to go.

This leads to another issue we've encountered.  A lot of people think it's cruel to fly with their animals.  They read the horror stories on the Internet about dogs who have died while flying and automatically think it's unsafe.  Actually, the cargo areas of planes are pressurized and temperature controlled; when pets on are a plane, the pilots are supposed to be notified and will take measures to make the experience less traumatic for them by making sure their area is lit and properly heated or cooled.  And the animals that die or become ill are statistical outliers.  The vast majority of pets who fly on planes come through the experience just fine, but the people who have good experiences are less inclined to write about them.  People tend to write when something goes wrong.

My dog, Flea, was a very vocal beagle and he howled and whined in protest when we flew with him both ways, even when he was declining due to cancer.  People actually came up to me and chastised me for flying with him because he was so upset.  But what the hell am I supposed to do?  My options were to put him down weeks before he was ready; try to rehome him; or just dump him in Germany.  That's no way to treat a family member.  It's nine hours on a plane.  Flea was better off flying with us and spending his last weeks with us.  Our other dog, MacGregor, had no problems whatsoever on the plane and never made a peep coming or going.  As it turned out, on the way out of Germany, we were delayed a day because a plane landed with faulty landing gear and it messed up the tarmac, which cancelled our flight.  We ended up having to spend a night in a hotel and flying out the next day.  Delta Airlines took very good care of the dogs-- so did a very kind lady at the Stuttgart Airport who even got us some dog food, since we had to spend the night in a hotel and most of our dog stuff was checked.

All of this is coming as we need to vacate this house, make plans to ship my car (which we have to pay for ourselves), make plans to store the other car, and fill out shitloads of paperwork coming and going.  At least I don't have to worry about getting an official passport or physical exam, like I did last time we moved.  I probably could use both of those things, but they take time and effort to get and we have to get this process moving within the next month.

Somehow, we'll figure out all this crap…  It'll be worth it, too…  In the meantime, ARGHHHH!!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

It's about to begin...

Moving is becoming an annual ordeal for us.  A year ago, we were planning a move to Texas.  Now we're planning another move to Germany.  This time, it's not on military orders, so the process will be somewhat different and potentially more of a pain in the ass.

I talked to my mom last night, who rather hilariously told me to stop worrying.  I told her that's easier said than done.  I didn't tell her that when you grow up in an alcoholic home, you get rather intolerant of chaos and uncertainties.  I'm not as nutty as I could be.  As I get older, I realize that worrying doesn't really help.  It's still kind of hard not to envision all the things that could go wrong instead of all the amazing opportunities that are being presented to us because Bill has been invited to work in Germany again.

We've been wanting to go back to Germany to live since we left five years ago.  And yet, here I sit, fretting about all the logistics of moving… everything from finding a decent place to live to getting our dogs there… to dealing with all the crap we have that needs to either be stored, ditched, or donated… or sent over to Germany with us.  We don't know how long we'll be there.  It could be just a year, or it could be five years or even longer.  We can put stuff in storage for a year on the Army's dime and then ask for extensions each year.  At first, I was thinking maybe we should send more stuff than not… and now I'm thinking we shouldn't do that.  Hopefully, nothing will get stolen or broken…

Jeez… it's not like we have a lot of really great stuff anyway.

I went on Toytown Germany, which is a great site for English speakers living in Germany.  I discovered it the last time we were there.  I started reading threads about the shit contractors deal with in Germany… like getting all your shit back to the States after your contract is over.  And that makes me think it's better to leave a lot of stuff at home.

I know in the long run, this will be worth it.  We love living in Germany and we know a bit about what is involved with being there.  If anything, we'll have the chance to travel more, which is something I love to do.  And we'll have the chance to save up some money for when we get back and decide to buy a house somewhere we really want to be.

I have such a bad habit of borrowing trouble when I really need to relax and go with the flow.  But telling me to relax isn't helpful.  I come by my neuroses completely honestly.

In any case, nobody else seems interested in hiring Bill stateside, so we might as well go to Germany and make the best of it.  I mean, whatever happens, we'll likely survive the experience, right?  And again… we've done this before.

  

    



  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The log jam breaketh….

Yesterday, I posted this on Facebook…

Things bugging Bill today…

1. He's supposed to have his retirement ceremony tomorrow, but hasn't heard anything about when or where it will take place… which means that it probably won't.

2. He's supposed to be getting an award, but no one can tell him if it's ready yet or even if he actually got it.

3. He's still getting over the nasty bug I brought home and it's worse for him because it's making him cough all night and he can't get any sleep. His eyes look like roadmaps.

4. He just had a sleep study done and they say he doesn't have sleep apnea. However, he got some referral in advance based on a diagnosis of a sleep disorder and now the center can't get paid because they need a different diagnosis code. Bill can't track down the person who needs to give him the right information and keeps playing phone tag.

5. He's finishing up a cyber security course and applying to a degree program so he can get another master's degree. The person he needs to talk to about that is MIA.

6. He's waiting on a decision as to whether or not he's going to get a job in Germany. Meanwhile, our lease expires at the end of next month, so we need to plan to move, either abroad or to some short term housing solution.

7. He's about to turn 50 (but doesn't look it).

8. None of these issues are progressing to his satisfaction. Hopefully, he'll have a breakthrough… much like someone getting over constipation. Of course, that might mean things will start happening very quickly, which will make me a wreck.

9. We're out of tequila.

Little did I know that my comment about things happening quickly would come to pass so soon.  

Yesterday, the property managers sent us an email asking us for a decision as to whether or not we'd be staying in this hovel.  Bill sent a note back saying we'd be leaving.  He had gone to Housing 1 Source to find out about short term rentals after we determined that it would cost significantly less to stay in one of those over this mammoth house.  We decided that if a job didn't come through, we'd just store our stuff and bide our time in an apartment.  

Bill finally got in touch with some lady who was able to help him with the sleep center stuff.  But then she told him that we were "kicked out of Tricare" last week while we were getting new ID cards.  Apparently, when we got our new IDs that required a manual reboot, the system handling Tricare still thought we were getting Reserves benefits.  So Bill has to go back to Fort Sam to try to fix that mess so we'll have health insurance.

I got a bit upset last night, mainly owing to the stress of the unknowns.  All of the stuff has been piling up into a big log jam.  As of this morning, the log jam broke.  Bill called Germany to find out if there's a job offer in our midst… 

The answer was "yes".  So it's adios, Texas… Guten tag, Deutschland.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

SWAT team blows a hole in a child during bungled drug bust...

The first thing I read this morning was an article on Salon.com written by an anguished mom.  I know I said I needed to swear off reading Salon.com articles, but this one was on my Facebook feed and I was haunted by the picture of a 19 month old boy holding a club in his tiny hand.  Alecia Phonesavanh writes that the home in Wisconsin she shared with her husband and three kids burned down.  They moved to a town 90 miles outside of Atlanta to stay with Alecia's sister-in-law for awhile.

Apparently, the sister-in-law's son was in trouble with drugs and the police were looking for him.  They had been told by a source that the young man was living in the sister-in-law's home.  They were also supposedly told that there weren't any kids in the house.

The SWAT team threw a flash bang grenade, a device used in combat to temporarily blind and deafen targets.  It landed in Alecia's son, Bou's, crib, where it exploded and left the boy with a hole in his chest.  When Alecia wanted to hold her son, she was screamed at by the cops, who told her the boy had just lost a tooth.  It wasn't until hours later that they found out their son was in a medically induced coma in an intensive burn unit at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.  Incredibly, though the police were told they had the wrong house, they claimed they did nothing wrong.

Stories like this one scare the hell out of me.  This family had already endured hardship due to their home burning down.  Now they have a son in intensive care thanks to the police.  I've been reading way too many stories about cops harming people in the name of justice.  Aside from this story, there's the story about the guy in New Mexico who got pulled over on a traffic violation and ended up having his colon forcibly explored for drugs… which were NEVER found!


And this was one of two cases where guys had their anuses probed in the search for illegal drugs…



In other news...

Our landlord wants another $100 a month for us to have a month to month lease.  We're going to look into short term housing, in case Bill doesn't get a job offer before our lease expires at the end of July.  This house isn't worth what we pay for it now, let alone an extra $100.  Besides, while living in an apartment or extended stay hotel room will put us in cramped quarters, it wouldn't be the first time we've done it.  When we first moved to Germany, we lived for six weeks in a crappy hotel room with no kitchen.  We can do it again if we have to.  It would cost less and we wouldn't be stuck here.

  

Monday, June 23, 2014

American exchange student gets trapped in a giant vagina sculpture in Tubingen, Germany...

Bill and I used to live very close to Tubingen, so I know the city pretty well.  That being said, I was not aware that there was a giant vagina sculpture on the campus at the university there.  If we move back to Germany, I will have to seek it out.  I won't be crawling inside of it, though… that would be dangerous, as one American student recently found out while trying to pose for an unusual camera shot.

It took 22 rescue workers and 30 minutes to extract the 20 year old from the artwork.  Forceps were not required for the operation.  I have a feeling the American dude will be getting a stern reprimand for his foolishness.  It won't surprise me if he gets fined, too.  Germans are big on fining.



Sting won't leave his fortune to his kids...

And I, for one, applaud Sting for making that decision.  I've written about how I feel about inheritance a few times.  I don't expect to inherit anything from my parents other than sentimental items.  In fact, while I know money is important, I think the expectation of inheritances can be very damaging to people and their families.  Those who come from wealthy families may waste their own potential in the expectation that they'll have money given to them once a relative passes on.  While many people do enjoy working, the expectation of a windfall can encourage laziness, which may ultimately damage a person's self-respect and ambition.  They may end up squandering their talent and brains, which may ultimately lead to resentment and depression.  No one wants to feel like a loser who can't get by on their own.


Dudley Moore's turn as the spoiled shit Arthur Bach in the 1981 film Arthur is a good example of how the expectation of sudden wealth can ruin people...

I've also seen how the expectation of an inheritance can complicate family relationships.  Siblings feud over perceived slights if they think one child has gotten more money or property than another has.  Children may resent their parents for decisions they make regarding how money or property is divided, especially if their parent has remarried and there's a stepparent involved.  The expectation of money or property can even leave some potential heirs hoping for a benefactor's death.


Prince Hakeem's wakeup routine...

I've seen too many dysfunctional people on Dr. Phil alone, hashing it out on TV over wills.  Recently, there was a rerun involving a woman, her daughter, and her granddaughter.  Grandma was quite healthy and spry and wanted to decide for herself as to what was written in her will.  Daughter and granddaughter were not okay with it and actually wanted to take mom to court so they'd be assured of inheriting her land after her death.  I can't imagine how I'd feel if I had a child who did that to me.  I can only guess that it would feel a lot like a betrayal.  Of course, maybe that's how the daughter feels, too.

On another episode, there were two sisters fighting over a sixty year old house that their father had left. The house wasn't even particularly valuable, except that one of the sisters wanted to live in it.  Unfortunately, their argument over it came down to sheer jealousy and greed.  One sister felt slighted by their father's gesture and that envy influenced her to seek legal remedy against her sister.


Vanessa Huxtable gets into it with schoolmates because they think she's "rich"...

At the same time, I've seen some parents try to use inheritance as a means of controlling their offspring. They might say, if you don't go to a certain college or major in a certain field, I will disinherit you.  If you don't stay a member of my church and practice the faith, I will cut you out of the will.  If you don't live your life in a way that conforms to my expectations, I will leave you high and dry.  I read about these types of situations all the time on RfM.  While parents may truly have their children's best interests at heart, what that kind of coercion boils down to is not letting their children make their own decisions and making their relationships conditional.

I think people who have money and property should feel free to do whatever they want with it.  If that means they want to leave it to family, that's fine-- though I would hope they would do so in a way that won't cause issues.  At the same time, if they want to spend the money or sell the property or donate everything to a charity, that should also be their prerogative.  People shouldn't expect anyone to leave anything to them in a will.  And if someone is thoughtful enough to bequeath anything to them, they should be wholly grateful for it and not have an attitude of expectation or entitlement.  

Sting has six kids and could definitely afford to make each one of them a millionaire several times over without even feeling it if he wanted to.  I, for one, think it's good that he expects them to help themselves.  Yes, he's said he'll help them if they're ever "in trouble", but that's not the same as just handing them a windfall.  Ultimately, Sting's kids will have advantages other people will never have just for being who they are, anyway.  Life isn't fair.

In other news, Bill just learned that he doesn't have sleep apnea.  He just doesn't sleep well.  I had a feeling he wouldn't be diagnosed with apnea because he doesn't snore very much.  My dad has apnea and snores loudly enough to wake the dead.  

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Icky songs...

I usually confine my posts about music to my music blogs, but since this blog gets a lot more attention than the other ones do, I decided to write about icky songs here.  I was actually inspired by this topic the other day, while riding in the car with Bill.  We were listening to my iPod when an old Kenny Rogers song came on.  Here are the lyrics…

I stood outside the Lucky Star
Staring at the flashing sign
It read: come on in and watch young
Scarlet´s body come alive
Let her dance for you and catch your spell
You´ll swear you can believe her
Be careful not to catch the scarlet fever.

So I paid my fare and walked down front
And found an empty chair
As I settled in young scarlet took the ribbons from her hair
The moves her body made while the music played
Were the likes I´ve never seen
And she became the envy of my dreams.

One by one her teasing movements
Brought the crowd out of their seats
And all at once young scarlet
Danced straight up in front of me
From the moment that her eyes found mine
I´ve never been the same
Scarlet locked another heart upon her chain.

Now I get scarlet fever every time I see her
But she´s a night club teaser
Not paid to notice me
Yes, I get scarlet fever
If she knew how much I need her
She´d place her hand in my hand
And dance away with me.

She looked 25 but I was told
That she was just 16
She had a way of making a man believe
She danced for only him
As she tantalized I fantasized
And felt the sound of my heart beat
And every night I´d dream
She´d fall in love with me.

Then one night while driving in
My eyes begun to tear
´cos the sign outside the Lucky Star said: scarlet isn´t here
She´d left that day to find a life
Of bigger and better things
And she left behind my chain of broken dreams.

But still get scarlet fever
In my mind I still see her
Out there dancing somewhere
To another fool like me.
Yes, I get ….




This song was released in 1983.  In those days, it didn't seem like such a big deal for a country singer to croon about lusting after jailbait.  Nowadays, this song would probably be considered "icky" because even in the 80s, Kenny Rogers was a middle aged dude singing about watching a teenager dance in a strip club.  Yuck!

Another song that gives me the willies is "Only Sixteen", by Dr. Hook…

She was only sixteen, only sixteen
But I loved her so
But she was too young to fall in love
And I was too young to know

We'd laugh and we'd sing, and do funny things
And it made our hearts glow
But she was too young to fall in love
And I was too young to know

So, why did I give my heart so fast?
It never will happen again
But I was a mere child of sixteen
I've aged a year since then

She was only sixteen, only sixteen
Oh with eyes that would glow
But she was too young to fall in love
And I was too young to know

So, why did I give my heart so fast?
It never will happen again
But I was a mere child of sixteen
I've aged a year since then

Now, she was only sixteen, only sixteen
Oh but I loved that girl so
But she was too young to fall in love
And I was too young to know
Yes she was too young to fall in love
And I, I was too young, I was much too young to know


Granted, this song was written and recorded by Sam Cooke in 1959 and the words reveal that the guy in the song was also a teenager.  But Dr. Hook was a band with a bunch of older guys in it and when I hear them sing this, it kind of makes me go "ick".  Yeah, I know if they've aged, she's aged.  Still… eeew!

I loved Nick Gilder's song "Hot Child In The City" when I was a little kid in 1979.  Now that I'm older, it sounds a little predatory.

Danger in the shape of somethin' wild
Stranger dressed in black, she's a hungry child
No one knows who she is or what her name is
I don't know where she came from or what her game is

(Hot child in the city)
(Hot child in the city)
(Runnin' wild and lookin' pretty)
(Hot child in the city)

So young to be loose and on her own
Young boys, they all want to take her home
She goes downtown, the boys all stop and stare
When she goes downtown, she walks like she just don't care, care

(Hot child in the city)
(Hot child in the city)
(Runnin' wild and lookin' pretty)
Yeah
(Hot child in the city)

Come on down to my place, baby
We'll talk about love
Come on down to my place, woman
We'll make love!

Hot child in the city
(Hot child in the city)
She's kinda dangerous
(Hot child in the city)
Young child
(Runnin' wild and lookin' pretty)
Young child, runnin' wild
(Hot child in the city)
Hot child in the city
(Hot child in the city)
(Hot child in the city)
(Hot child in the city)
Hot child in the city
(Hot child in the city)
Hot child in the city
(Hot child in the city)




And finally, there's the totally gross song "Into The Night" by Benny Mardones…

She's just sixteen years old
Leave her alone, they say
Separated by fools
Who don't know what love is yet
But I want you to know

If I could fly, I'd pick you up
I'd take you into the night
And show you a love
Like you've never seen, ever seen

It's like having a dream
Where nobody has a heart
It's like having it all
And watching it fall apart

And I would wait till the end of time for you
And do it again, it's true
I can't measure my love
There's nothing to compare it to
But I want you to know

If I could fly, I'd pick you up
I'd take you into the night
And show you a love
Ooh, if I could fly

I'd pick you up
I'd take you into the night
And show you a love
Like you've never seen, ever seen
Yeah, ooh




I'm sure there are other icky songs out there that I haven't thought of yet.  I just wanted to write this down before my brain gets too bogged down in minutiae of the day.  Seems like sixteen is the year guys of the 70s and 80s started thinking it's okay to look at a girl as a woman.  What's funnier is in this day of twerking and raunchy stage antics, these songs would seem icky.  Strange how cultural mores change with the times.

We're hoping next week is good.  I'm ready to make some plans for the next stage of our lives.




Saturday, June 21, 2014

Another birthday has come and gone...

After our doggy drama yesterday morning, my birthday was mostly like any other day.  Bill is still sick and he's pretty tired of the hacking and plugged ears.  I'm mostly over it, except for a slightly plugged right ear.

To celebrate my birthday, we decided to opt out of the retirement party Bill's soon to be former boss threw last night.  Bill wasn't feeling up to it.  Instead, we drove to Boerne, which is a really nice town outside of San Antonio.  Last year, when we were in the midst of moving to Texas, we strongly considered moving to Boerne.  I regret not moving there now.  It's a really pretty town near Hill Country, a bit of a drive from the city, but so much prettier and less obnoxious than our yucky suburb is.  Bill took me to The Creek, which is a really nice restaurant that overlooks a creek area in Boerne.  We had a very pleasant meal served by a great waiter.

While we were eating, Bill got a phone call.  It was from the sleep center where he had a study done at the beginning of the month.  They must have found something, but by the time he called them back, no one was answering the phone.  That means he'll probably need to go back for another test because they told him he wouldn't hear from them unless there was a diagnosis of some sort.

I called my mom, who actually sent me a card that arrived on the right date this year.  In previous years, I got cards on or around the 13th, since two of my sisters and my mom were born on the 13th.  We had a nice chat.  I also got a box of toilet paper.  I have to test it for a week.

We got a weird phone call yesterday.  At around 10:30am, some guy calling himself "Mr. Liebowitz", called form an unavailable number for "Mr. Garcia".  He said he'd be out to either Mr. Garcia's residence or place of employment with the sheriff's office to serve a court summons.  He left the number 844-636-5396 as a call back.  The number leads to an outfit called Ideal Direct Solutions.  Bill called the number, which comes from Michigan.  Apparently, it's a collection agency.  

It's kind of funny that this guy left that message.  For one thing, it seems counter intuitive for someone to warn ahead of time that they'll be serving a court summons.  Though I have never been on the receiving end of a summons, it seems to me that they thrive on the element of surprise.  They don't speak to the people they're serving, either.  They just ask your name and hand you the papers.  The guy also said that if he didn't see the guy yesterday, he'd "see him Tuesday."

A quick Web search led to this forum, which describes similar calls others have gotten…  Basically, it's bullshit, but they got the wrong name anyway.


Obviously, I'm impressed.


  

Friday, June 20, 2014

I think there's a new birthday trend going on...

Last year, my birthday got off to a bad start because I rolled over on a piece of shit Arran left in the bed.  This year, I awoke to a puddle of lukewarm dog piss in the kitchen, right by the back door.  I opened it to let the dogs out, not knowing that the pool guy left the gate to our backyard open.  Naturally, the dogs got loose.

Arran was quickly corralled, but Zane went on another one of his little joy runs.  I hate it when he gets loose because he makes us chase him.  He never leaves our sight, but it's like a big game for him and he runs like a fool, which makes us nervous because of the idiots in this neighborhood who drive like maniacs.  Zane almost got hit by one guy coming home from work.

I asked the guy if he'd mind just grabbing Zane's collar and he was just clueless or didn't care.  I don't think he was dog phobic.  He looked more amused than anything else.  That, of course, is his prerogative, I guess.  Not everyone cares about animals and it's not his fault Zane got loose.  Still, it just drove home how much I detest this neighborhood.

Fortunately, because Zane ran to the guy's house, we were able to corner Zane in the alley near the fenced in yards.  I'm now trying to simmer down and clear my right ear, which had unclogged somewhat yesterday, but is clogged again today.


Someone on Facebook shared this photo.  I was reminded of the time I left my dogs, Flea and MacGregor, alone in the car for a couple of minutes while I went to pee.  I was driving alone to my parents' house.  Now-- before anyone gets pissy with me about leaving dogs alone in the car, let me make it clear that the weather was temperate.  I opened the windows a bit, but really didn't need to because it wasn't at all hot outside; in fact, it was the middle of February.  Both dogs are deceased now, but they died several years after this incident.  I don't make a habit of leaving them alone in the car and, in fact, rarely take them with me unless they're allowed to go in wherever it is I'm going.  This incident was an isolated case that occurred over ten years ago.

Anyway, when I got back to the car, my dog Flea was standing on the front seat, honking the horn.  He'd drawn a rather sizable crowd.  He was a small, striking beagle who apparently was ready to get back on the road.  If you'd ever met him, you'd know that was very much like him to be impatiently honking the horn for his mom.  He was quite a domineering character.

I shared that story on this photo, and some guy self-righteously wrote that he once drove home from Florida with his two labs and never left them alone in the car.  My response was that I couldn't take the dogs with me to the restroom because they were expressly forbidden from entering the rest stop.  And since I don't have a penis, it's not so easy for me to just go behind a bush.  He said he wasn't criticizing me, but I could have just "ignored" the signs and taken them with me.  And maybe I would have done that had it been really hot outside or had I thought I would have been longer than a couple of minutes.  I understand that it's not good to leave animals or kids in a car alone, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.  Just use your best judgment and make it quick.

On another note, maybe state rest centers could rethink their policies about not allowing people to take their animals with them to the bathroom.

Anyway, hopefully my birthday will improve.

Speaking of major jackasses...

This evening, I ran across this blog post about Adam Richman.  Until today, I had no idea who Adam Richman was, though I was dimly aware of his show, Man vs. Food, which was on the Travel Channel and is now apparently "retired".  Apparently, Mr. Richman recently lost a lot of weight and took to Instagram to show off his new body.  He used several hashtags to tag his photos.  One hashtag he used was "thinspiration", which was controversial because it's a term often used in the "pro-ana" and "mia" communities.

If you've never heard of "pro-ana", allow me to educate you.  There are communities of people suffering from anorexia nervosa and bulimia who claim it's a lifestyle choice and teach others tips and tricks on losing weight and staying thin.  "Thinspiration" refers to photos and other items people with eating disorders use to inspire them to lose weight.

Granted, anorexia and bulimia are not the only eating disorders.  They are the two that get the most press and probably cause the most physical damage.  Anorexia nervosa is the most lethal psychiatric illness there is.  5-10% of anorexics die within ten years of developing the illness.  Naturally, because of these mortality rates and the way eating disorders can destroy lives, many people are sensitive about promoting them to young people.

Perhaps some of the folks reading Adam Richman's Instagram hashtags were being too sensitive when they told him that "thinspiration" may not be the most appropriate term to use after achieving significant weight loss.  To be honest, I probably wouldn't have thought to have commented about it even though I know about the whole "pro-ana" and "pro-bulimia" movement that has become so popular these days.  However, had I chosen to comment to Adam Richman, I never would have expected him to respond in the over-the-top way he apparently did.

If you click on the link to the Adipose Activist's blog, you will read about how Adam Richman invited one critic to "eat a bag of shit".  He told another to "grab a razor blade & draw a bath" because "I doubt anyone will miss you."  He wrote to one user that "only fuckup it seems was [their] Dad's choice to go without a condom" and called other Instagram users "cunts".

I am all for free speech on the Internet.  God knows I've gone off on people a few times myself.  I try to be mostly civilized to people who comment on my blog unless they really ask for a dressing down.  Usually, the people who end up in my crosshairs are people who try to tell me what kind of people Bill and I are.  That's when I might drop the f-bomb.  However, I don't have a TV show.  I'm not a public figure and will likely never be one.

Adam Richman has a perfect right to freedom of speech, but abusing that freedom could lead to negative consequences.  I know there have been several emails to the Travel Channel about his conduct on Instagram.  Since it doesn't look like his show is produced anymore, they may have no effect whatsoever.  On the other hand, the Travel Channel might think twice about featuring him again.  In any case, even if I thought I'd enjoy his show, which I understand was mostly about him eating unhealthily, I definitely wouldn't want to watch it now.

    

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My review of Fatal Vision...

I wrote this review in the spring of 2005, not knowing that years later, I'd live pretty close to Fayetteville, North Carolina.  Joe McGinness did a great job writing the suspicious story of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, a Princeton educated Army physician who was accused of murdering his wife, Colette, and their two young daughters, Kimberley and Kristen, on February 17, 1970.  Dr. MacDonald was ultimately not tried by the Army because the investigation of the crime was a fiasco.  In 1979, MacDonald asked McGinness to write a book about the case, as he was being brought up on charges in North Carolina.  In 1979, MacDonald was living in California, making big bucks as an ER doctor.  The murder charges cramped his style.  McGinness wrote the book…  and ultimately, he became very suspicious...

Did he do it?

 Apr 14, 2005 (Updated Jun 28, 2005)
Review by   
Rated a Very Helpful Review

    Pros:Very well researched book about a controversial murder case.

    Cons:Long book... could use a few more pictures.

    The Bottom Line:Whether you believe MacDonald is guilty or innocent, Fatal Vision is sure to keep you turning the pages.

    Here's another review of a book about murder. I don't know what's gotten into me lately. Last year at this time, I was writing reviews about books on managed care... Hmmm, now that I think about it, maybe the two are connected! Anyway, I managed to pick up Joe McGinniss's book, Fatal Vision. The original version ofFatal Vision was published in 1983. I just re-read the 1989 version, which includes an afterword that was written in 1985 and an epilogue that was written in 1989. Needless to say, this book has been around for awhile. According to Amazon.com, it has been updated as recently as 1999. Since this book has been reissued so many times, I am left with the impression that it's still very intriguing to people besides me. The first time I read Fatal Vision was sometime in 1996, when I was overseas in the Republic of Armenia. At the time, I looked at it as just another book in English. I was desperate for ANYTHING written in English, so I didn't pay much attention to the subject matter. Little did I know that I would be so riveted by this story.

    Fatal Vision is the tale of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, a Princeton-educated physician and former Green Beret soldier who was convicted of murdering his young pregnant wife, Colette, and their two daughters, 5 year old Kimberley and 2 year old Kristen, on February 17, 1970. The murders were particularly brutal. While in their beds, all three murder victims were savagely clubbed and stabbed with ice picks. MacDonald himself was also injured. It was he who had summoned the military police early that morning to come to his quarters. MacDonald claimed that the intruders who had murdered his family were acid crazed hippies who were mimicking Charles Manson's murderous spree. For his part, MacDonald managed to escape the fracas with only a few scratches and a partially collapsed lung. He even told the bystanders what they should do if he went into shock while they were waiting for the ambulance to take him to Womack Hospital on Fort Bragg.

    When MacDonald came under suspicion for fabricating the story about the hippie intruders, people began to suspect that he was the one who committed the murders. MacDonald vehemently denied these accusations, but he was still subjected to investigation. The Army investigation was badly botched and the subsequent hearing was a fiasco; as a result, MacDonald ended up not being tried by the military because of a lack of evidence. MacDonald then tried to get on with his life.

    Joe McGinniss came into contact with MacDonald when MacDonald asked him to write a book about the case. McGinniss and MacDonald met in June 1979, in Huntington Beach, California. Dr. MacDonald was living the sweet life as head of emergency services for St. Mary's Hospital in Long Beach. At the time, MacDonald was thirty-five years old, deeply tanned, and muscular, and lived in a $350,000 condominium (remember, this was the late 1970s!). He drove a rare Citroen-Maserati with the vanity license plate JRM-MD and owned a thirty foot yacht called the Recovery Room. MacDonald was to go back to North Carolina to face charges of murder. He was surrounded by friends in California who didn't believe that he was capable of murder. Before MacDonald left California, they even hosted a charity dinner in his honor to help raise money for his legal fees. McGinniss, who initially believed that MacDonald was innocent, agreed to come live with MacDonald in North Carolina, get to know him, and write a book about the case. I'm sure that MacDonald thought that the book would help clear his name... in fact, it had just the opposite effect. McGinniss ultimately came to the same conclusion that the jury did, that Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald killed his pregnant wife and children. Dr. MacDonald was ultimately sentenced to three consecutive life terms in prison for murdering his family.

    Fatal Vision is meticulously written and researched. McGinniss does a fantastic job of walking readers through the case and laying out all of the details of what happened on February 17, 1970. He includes pictures that were used as evidence in the case, as well as a floor plan of the quarters where MacDonald and his family lived. More tellingly, McGinniss also includes passages that are written in MacDonald's voice. If MacDonald actually spoke the way he comes across in this manuscript, I think my suspicions would have been aroused, too. The sections in MacDonald's voice seem to be very telling about the man's character. They read as if McGinniss transcribed them word for word, right down to his stammers and gratuitous use of "ums and uhs". McGinniss came to know MacDonald well, and that was why he changed his mind about MacDonald's innocence.

    One potential drawback to Fatal Vision is that it's a fairly long book. The paperback version of Fatal Vision runs at just under 700 pages. But I found that the book was a fairly fast read because it's so interesting. I couldn't put the book down and found that I was able to read it within a few days. I also wish that there had been a few more pictures included. The picture section in my copy of Fatal Vision includes only black and white photographs. I don't normally need pictures to enjoy a good book, but I do find them helpful in books about true crime. They help me get a better sense of what happened.

    True crime fans will almost certainly find Fatal Vision a fascinating read. Fatal Vision is true crime writing at its best and I found it very informative and interesting. In fact, I believe that anyone who is a serious true crime fan is most likely to have already read Fatal Vision because it's become a classic in the true crime genre. It truly surprises me that there are only two reviews of this book on Epinions.com.

    Information about the Fatal Vision case...

    http://www.crimelibrary.com/macdonald/mac/macmain.htm

    Data collision...

    This may be a long and confusing post for those who don't know about military bureaucracy...

    I just learned that term today as Bill and I spent hours at the In/Out Processing Center at Fort Sam Houston.  We were there to exchange our ID cards.  Bill needed a new one signifying his retired status and I needed one showing that I'm the spouse of a retiree instead of an active duty soldier.  The official retirement date is July 1st, as in on July 1st, Bill will officially be out out of the Army.

    Originally, Bill had us scheduled to do this tomorrow, but I told him I didn't want to spend my birthday trying to get a new ID card.  So he changed the appointment.  We got the the center about ten minutes early for our 10:00am appointment and immediately had to go to the next office to get a copy of a form that Bill didn't bring because no one told him to.  The copy of the form Bill got from the office next door was not as detailed as the one Bill had left at home.  That was a bit of a problem.

    For some reason, the computer system had Bill down as a member of the Reserves instead of a full time active duty soldier.  Actually, what Bill is is a member of the Army National Guard out of Arkansas, but he's not the classic National Guardsman.  He is what is known as Title 10 "AGR", which basically means he's the same as a regular active duty soldier, only he works on a federal level at the pleasure of the state of Arkansas.  I'm pretty sure the state of Arkansas is also where his salary has been coming from.  There aren't too many guys like Bill-- maybe 1500 or so.  Additionally, there are folks who work full time in the National Guard for their state.  They are known as Title 32 soldiers.  A lot of time, they spend their careers in their states rather than moving all over the place like Bill and I have.

    Anyway, what this means is that Bill was mistakenly classified as a part-timer instead of a full-timer.  So when the guy made my ID card, it was pink instead of tan.  Pink cards go to people who get limited benefits because they were in the Reserves or the National Guard.  I noticed that it also had him listed as Retired Reserves.  I called attention to the discrepancy, which Bill initially tried to explain away...  My mom is also a retiree's wife and her card is tan (like mine has always been).  I turned over the card and it said I only get medical benefits if Bill has active duty orders for at least 30 days, which we knew was wrong.

    The guy who was helping us was very patient and surprisingly nice.  He had to make a couple of phone calls to straighten out the issue.  It turned out there was a "data collision" and the computer was confused as to what Bill's status was.  The system would not allow the guy helping us to change the status manually.  The SNAFU required help which involved the guy helping us being placed on hold, listening to patriotic hold music, and being transferred to different offices around the country.  As it turned out, a whole lot of people nationwide were trying to get new IDs today, which made the entire system extremely slow.  The man helping us was timed out twice as he was trying to straighten out the data collision issue.  We sat in his cubicle for about two hours.

    Finally, the system crashed altogether… or was manually shut down temporarily because it was about to crash.  We were advised to go to lunch and come back later, with the promise that we would be called directly once we came back.  We went to Tomatillos, a local Mexican restaurant, where we had a nice meal.  Poor Bill is really suffering from the sickness I brought home to us last week, so he wasn't enjoying the afternoon.  Then we had to go back and get the IDs made.  They finally were after about twenty or thirty minutes or so.  Bill finally got his correct blue ID card and I got my tan one, which means we are both entitled to full benefits.

    The whole process from start to finish took over four hours.  It was quite an ordeal, trying to get this bit of business done.  But now it's done… and all that's left is the retirement ceremony.

    While we waiting, I saw a very cute little girl wearing her shorts backwards.  It's a little surreal, leaving the Army.  I'm hoping for bigger and better things.   

    Wednesday, June 18, 2014

    Modern Menstruation Modules...

    Back in the fall of 2012, I wrote a post here on my blog about how I learned about menstruation.  Until today, as far as I knew, that was how prepubescent girls learned about the big curse.  Imagine my delight today when I ran across these two hilarious videos from Hello Flo about girls going on the rag for the first time…



    Girl gets her first period at summer camp and becomes the "Camp Gyno".

    I so remember this time in my life, though I got mine later than my friends got theirs…



    It never occurred to me to try to fake my period, though… and even if I had, my mom would not have thrown me a party.

    And now that I've gotten a regular visit from Auntie Flow every month since I was 14, I can't say the prospect of having periods is all that exciting for me anymore.  Still, these ads are pretty hilarious and very cleverly written.  If you want more information on the witty people who came up with this snarkfest, have a look at the link.

    In other news…

    This morning, Mr. Bill got a phone call from Germany.  Actually, he sent an email to his contact/former co-worker there, asking for an update.  Then he got a phone call from the recruiter from the contractor…  I think it's a pretty good bet we could be moving back to Germany in about six weeks.  There hasn't been an offer made yet, but Bill's resume has floated to the top of the heap and jobs are available.  He wants to go and he got a good recommendation.  The logistics of another international move is a bit disconcerting, but we've done it before and can do it again.  So we'll see.  It would make a nice 42nd birthday gift for me, if only because I won't have to worry about going to the poor house.  I'll keep you posted.



    A truly non-sensical act on America's Got Talent...

    Last night, while hoping my right ear would pop already, I happened to catch America's Got Talent.  I noticed that this year, it seems like they're focusing less on silliness (which is really the reason I like the show) and more on legitimate acts.  However, there was at least one act that was truly ridiculous…



    Meet Maggie Lane.  She's a personal trainer.  She has a bangin' body.  She is also a singer.

    Last night, while wearing a wrap dress, she sang "O Mio Babbino Caro", Giacomo Puccini's lovely soprano aria from the opera, Gianni Schicci.  Being a soprano myself, I have also sung this song.  It's a beautiful piece of music that really needs no gimmicks.  All you really need is the ability to sing it, which Maggie has.  But instead of just singing the aria and letting it sell itself, she decided to seal the deal by…

    removing her dress!  

    What the hell?!

    "O Mio Babbino Caro" is a song sung by Lauretta to her father, Schicci, begging him to let her go buy a ring so she can marry her lover.  If Daddy refuses, the lady will throw herself into the Arno.  I'm guessing that if she can't swim (and given the time and setting of the opera, Lauretta probably never learned), that means a swift and certain death from drowning.  And yet, here's 'ol Maggie Lane, wearing a tiny bikini and looking like she can swim the fucking English Channel.

    It… does… not… compute.


    I'm guessing this slideshow is also starring Maggie Lane…  

    Maggie did get invited to Vegas, though Howard Stern did very correctly chastise her for the obvious gimmick.  Everybody else seemed to miss how little sense Lane's act made.  To be honest, I found Lane's performance kind of disrespectful too, not just to the audience, but to herself.  Basically, Maggie was telling us that her vocal abilities alone weren't enough to get her on America's Got Talent.  She has to distract everyone by tearing off her dress.  What happens?  Now everyone's looking at her body instead of listening to her sing a beautiful song.  And today, instead of talking about Maggie's vocal performance, they're talking about her body.  I think that's very sad.

    I'm sure Maggie did what she did so she'd stand out and be memorable.  But now that she's torn off her clothes on stage, I have to wonder what her follow up act will be.  As she progresses, will we continue to see more nudity or will she come up with something equally shocking but less revealing?  Can I expect to see her wearing pasties on her nipples in the next round?  How about a g-string?

    Frankly, I wasn't all that impressed by Maggie's singing, either.  I mean, she does technically have a fine soprano voice, but I've heard other voices that sound more lyrical and prettier on that particular aria.  Most sopranos would probably lack Maggie's physical prowess, but it's really not necessary to have a bangin' body to do "O Mio Babbino Caro" justice-- especially if you know the story and can interpret it vocally.  The singer is impulsively threatening to drown herself, which means she wouldn't be singing to Daddy while smiling and wearing a bikini.

    I hope Maggie cleans up her act and shows herself, Puccini, and her audience more respect next time.
      

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014

    Drugs are bad, 'mmmkay?



    Here's a very short clip from the propaganda film, Reefer Madness.  Much to my surprise, I don't think I've ever seen it, though I've sure heard about it over the years.  Apparently, marijuana makes you go crazy.  Just ask Reverend Camden…



    If anyone could use a joint, it's those poor kids living in RevCam's house.  What an uptight son of a bitch he was.  Stephen Collins, the guy who played RevCam, probably enjoys a little weed now and then.  I've read his two novels and they are about as anti-RevCam as you can get.

    I have never so much as smoked a joint in my lifetime, though I once lived in an apartment complex where a lot of people were smoking dope.  I've also seen it.  I don't get the big deal about it.  I've heard it makes you mellow and hungry and relaxed.  I've heard it also has some pretty good medicinal benefits.


    As a kid, I often heard that drugs are bad...

    I remember watching lots of propaganda films in health class about how drugs will fuck you up.  I don't deny that illegal drugs like cocaine, crack, meth, LSD, and the like are not good.  But a little MJ?  I think it's not much worse than having a drink.  One could argue a lot more people die due to alcohol than cannabis.  I'm sure smoking weed isn't good for your lungs, but you can always bake it in a brownie.

    I'm not planning to partake in any drugs soon, but I do have to admit the propaganda surrounding their use-- especially pot-- is pretty funny.



    Helen Hunt gets some bad stuff at school…

    The above clip comes from a 1982 propaganda movie of the week called Desperate Lives.  I actually managed to review this film on Epinions.

    A delightfully campy 80s anti-drug flick starring young Helen Hunt...

     Jun 26, 2012 (Updated Jun 27, 2012)
    Review by   
    Rated a Very Helpful Review
    • User Rating:OK

    • Action Factor: 
    • Special Effects: 
    • Suspense: 

    Pros:Unintentionally hilarious.  Strong performances by Doug McKeon and Helen Hunt.

    Cons:Totally laughable.  Some editing glitches.

    The Bottom Line:This might be watching if you want to see Helen Hunt as a teenager...

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

    I grew up in the 1970s and 80s, which means that my childhood was inundated with anti-drug propaganda.  One of the most memorable made for television films from my youth is 1982's Desperate Lives, starring Doug McKeon, Diana Scarwid, Diane Ladd, and a very young Helen Hunt.  This film has some unintentionally hilarious moments in it, which is why I would ever think of it 30 years later.  Though it has been available on VHS in the past, it eventually went out of print.  I see it's now being offered for $19.99 on Amazon.com, or you can see it for free on YouTube, which is what I opted to do.  Or, you can just read this review, which will be very snarky and includes all of the major details of the plot.

    The plot

    Guidance counselor Eileen Phillips (Diana Scarwid) is new blood at a high school where the kids are all stoned.  She wants to do something about all the blatant drug abuse, but the teachers and administrators don't care.  Can a couple of special students help Eileen convince the kids to stop doing drugs?

    A blow by blow... (cuz are you really going to watch this?)
    *Spoilers-- skip this section if you don't want them.*
    Diana Scarwid, who famously played the adult version of Christina Crawford in Mommie Dearest, plays Eileen Phillips, a young guidance counselor.  Just eight years out of high school herself, Eileen Phillips has an annoying, odd, southern accent that sounds like it inspired Eric Cartman fifteen years later.  On her first day on the job, Eileen runs into Scott Cameron (Doug McKeon) in the parking lot.  Scott appears disoriented because he and his sister, Sandy (Helen Hunt), have just taken a ride in a van where other young folks are doing drugs.  Scott apparently has a bit of a contact high.

    Eileen immediately takes a shine to 15 year old Scott and asks another guidance counselor if she can trade one of her students for Scott.  Later, we see Scott in Eileen's office and she tries to talk to him about his future.  But he's coming down from his high and is angry and irritable.   They have a bonding moment when Eileen implores her new young charge to trust her.

    At a pep rally, Eileen is enjoying the band and the cheerleaders until she looks around and spots some unruly boys up in the bleachers shoving stuff up their noses and smoking pot.  The football coach stirs up cheer by telling students they "have to get high".  As everyone roars approval, he quips "That's not what I mean..."

    Eileen corners the principal, Dr. Jarvis (William Windom), and immediately takes him to task for all the druggies in his school.  Having only been on the job two weeks, Eileen sure doesn't mind upsetting the apple cart.  Dr. Jarvis doesn't seem to care.  He continues greeting students as Eileen tries to talk to him about trying to stop all the drug use.  The good principal just can't be bothered.  Later, we discover that Dr. Jarvis will soon be retiring, which explains his apathy.  He warns Eileen not to rock the boat too much.

    Eileen is in the pool with the students when she spots one of them floating.  She shouts for someone to call the paramedics because the young lass isn't breathing.  Miraculously, after a few seconds of CPR, the young girl starts breathing again.  When Eileen asks what happened, the only response she gets from the other kids is that the girl is just a "dumb doper".

    The music turns sad and ominous as we end up at Scott and Sandy's house, where their mom, Carol (Diane Ladd), is setting up for dinner.  Scott starts complaining to his mother, who tells him he hangs out with "a bad class of people".  Scott gets p!ssed and storms out of the house as Carol calls to him to come back.  But Sandy tells her to let Scott go out and blow off some steam... or maybe just to score some blow.  Later, when Sandy tries to talk to Scott, he calls her a b!tch and accuses her of being a doper, too.  But Sandy says she only "experiments"; she's not a drug fiend.

    The familiar strains of an 80s era arcade play and I hear the sounds of Donkey Kong.  Scott's there to pick up a stash from his dealer, Ken (Sam Bottoms).  Ken apparently sees himself in Scott and recruits him to help him sell drugs.  He shows Scott his car and apartment, offers Scott a beer, and tells him to open a briefcase he got handmade in Italy, which Scott pronounces as "gnarly".  The dealer doesn't drink or drug, but he likes his money.  He sees the same qualities in Scott as he introduces him to a lucrative life in designer Jordache jeans!  

    There's more ominous music as the scene shifts.  Poor Carol is in bed with her husband, John (Tom Atkins), lamenting about how crappy Scott is.  The parents are losing control of their kids and hating it.  Dad can't reach Scott, but he can keep a 16 hour a day job at the post office so he can pay the bills.

    Scott is soon approached by a pretty 15 year old girl named Susan (Tricia Cast) who's heard he sells drugs.  He doesn't want to sell her any drugs, but she tells him "everybody else is doing it".  Ahh... famous last words.

    Eileen busts a group of b!tchy teen girls in the girl's bathroom, who are sitting in there getting high.  They tell her the same thing... that everybody does it.  But Eileen isn't having it.  Her voice is low with disapproval as she reminds the teens that she's been around and knows what's going on.

    Next, we see Sandy in the chemistry lab with her boyfriend, Steve (Grant Cramer) a cutie pie football player.  He's got some PCP and wants to celebrate their six week anniversary.  Sandy tries to resist, but Steve lays on the peer pressure.  She snorts; he kisses her.  Then we flip back to Scott as he asks out Susan, the cute girl who wanted to buy drugs from him.

    Suddenly, we hear ungodly screams and shattering glass as we see Sandy jump out a second story window!  Under the influence of that PCP, Sandy has landed on the ground, screaming and writhing, miraculously with no apparent broken bones, cuts, or even bruises.  Scott wrestles Sandy to the ground and she goes limp as she passes out.  When a student says that only the crazies act like this, Eileen screams that she's glad everyone's so sane.  Yes, this is one of the unintentionally hilarious parts of this film.

    Eileen Phillips is now lamenting that the problem is overwhelming.  Her boyfriend, Stan (Art Hindle), is annoyed because Eileen is too much into her job.  He's especially irritated when Eileen asks Stan if he minds if Scott joins them on their bike date that weekend.  Eileen wants to show Scott a "new way to get high".  And Stan reluctantly agrees to being cock-blocked by a drug addicted adolescent.

    Eileen takes Scott fishing and finds out that Scott has a sense of humor.  Then they're with Stan as appropriately cheesy 80s music plays while they ride their bikes without helmets and take crazy risks doing stunts.  They have a good day, but Scott still has a dark side.

    In the very next scene, he's snorting a couple of lines of cocaine just as he's about to practice swimming.  He does a lap, then his cute little girlfriend, Susan shows up.  They talk about drugs and Scott is annoyed that she's on something.  It seems the young lady has a complex about being like "Little Bo Peep" and thinks drugs will help her grow up.  

    Next Ken, the nasty drug dealer, is shown roughing up Julie (Michele Greene) one of his female teenaged clients, who begs him to supply her with something.  But he heartlessly shoves her aside, refusing to hook her up.  Then, just as Ken is about to leave, Scott shows up and confronts the drug dealer, telling him to stay away from his girlfriend.  I'm wondering if Scott is just hoping there will be more for him.    

    Eileen Phillips, still taking her job very seriously, tracks down the drug dealer and confronts him.  I can't help but think Eileen is a dummy, messing with a drug dealer without any backup.  These were the days before cell phones after all.  But the dealer is surprisingly mellow... until the two of them find Julie, the shrieking young girl the dealer had kicked out, dead on the floor of his apartment.  She has committed suicide.

    At swim practice, Eileen pulls Scott aside and reads him the riot act.  They have an argument as Eileen tells Scott that he's a doper.  Scott finally breaks down and tells her he has to do something to get away from "all the crap".  And Eileen, in all her wisdom, tells Scott to try a movie or a book.  Somehow, I can't imagine that advice is going to go very far with the average drug addict.

    Then at a faculty meeting, Eileen delivers a sermon about all the druggie kids at the school, and poor dead Julie is a good way to raise the issue with the kids.  Here, we see Dr. Joyce Brothers in a cameo, playing Mrs. Watson, a woman who couldn't care less about the drug problems and wants to discuss band uniforms.

    Over Thanksgiving dinner, Scott's family is trying to engage him.  But he passes out, his face landing in his plate full of turkey and mashed potatoes.  Then as Eileen and Stan have a picnic, they argue because Eileen is too hung up on the druggie teens and doesn't care enough about their relationship.

    Sandy, now sporting black eyes and casts on her arm and leg, takes Scott out for a walk.  He tells her he's taken Quaaludes and that's why he passed out over dinner.  Sandy tries to talk Scott out of using drugs, but Scott takes off on his skateboard, leaving poor gimpy Sandy standing there.

    As Scott is angrily skateboarding down the street, the music turns hopeful.  Susan pulls up in her car.  She's fifteen, so she's clearly driving illegally.  The window rolls down and Scott calls her "Sandy" instead of Susan.  Oops!  She invites him to get in the car with her.  They decide to go up to the mountains.  While they drive, Susan tells Scott to open the glove compartment, where she's stashed some primo angel dust.  Susan reassures Scott that this angel dust is "clean" and they can enjoy it without worrying about freaking out like Sandy did.  The two have an annoying conversation, peppered with some very contrived sounding teen lingo.  They light up while Susan is driving and the two of them are completely out of it as the road grows curvier.  Finally, Susan is stoned out of her mind and still driving... neither is wearing a seatbelt, mind you, as Susan's car goes through the guard rail and down an embankment.  Another unintentionally hilarious moment happens as we see a very cheesy special effect.  The windshield cracks, but it looks like it was done in cartoon rather than for real!

    Eileen comes to the hospital.  Thunder rolls and it's pouring outside.  Eileen introduces herself to Scott's parents, who have gathered around their son's hospital bed.  We see Scott looking out of it, his hands restrained in leather straps.  Scott has a nasty concussion and doesn't even ask about Susan, his darling girlfriend who has perished in the crash.

    It's Christmas time, two weeks after his Thanksgiving accident.  Scott still doesn't know what's happened.  Eileen visits him at his home.  Scott asks what happened.  Eileen tries to change the subject, but he presses her for details.  Eileen tells Scott that "God has a way of blocking painful memories from our minds so that we don't replay them over and over again..."  Not sure God has a lot to do with it, but it sounds good.  Eileen talks to Scott's mom and I have to say, Diane Ladd does a good job playing the anguished mom, wondering how she ended up with two druggie kids.  Later that night, Scott wakes up screaming like a banshee as he realizes his cute girlfriend, Susan, is dead.  He's hysterical as he throws a chair through the window.  Is it the drugs or grief?  The paramedics come to take Scott away, presumably for a shot of Thorazine.

    Eileen reflects on what's happened to her favorite student.  She has finally had enough.  During a Christmas assembly, Eileen goes through a bunch of lockers and collects a bunch of drug stashes.  She puts it all on a cart and pushes the cart into the gynmasium, where she proceeds to burn the drugs in front of everyone.  I can't help but wonder how the burning drugs don't make everyone high,  but I guess the writers were going for a dramatic effect.  On another note, the fact that there's a Christmas assembly and the choir is singing a religious song really shows how dated this film is.  In any case, after Eileen collects all the drugs, I'm left thinking this was one stoned school!

    Eileen delivers another unintentially hilarious speech in front of the student body as she lists all of the students who have been maimed or killed thanks to drugs.  She's presumably sober when she does this.  Just say no, kids!  And shockingly, Eileen's speech seems to get through to everybody!  One by one, the students come up to the burning cart with drugs on it and drops more into the flames, apparently just because of Eileen Phillips' speech.  A round of applause erupts as the kids decide to go straight.  I wonder if they'll still be straight tomorrow or the next day, but the ending does at least allow this film to end on a triumphant note.

    My thoughts    

    Desperate Lives was obviously meant to be a very serious film.  I know it was shown at schools in the 1980s as a way to dissuade students from taking illegal drugs.  But I have to say, Diana Scarwid's performance is pretty trippy.  I was impressed by some of the other actors, namely Doug McKeon and Helen Hunt, who are clearly much too talented for this tripe.

    I don't think this film is particularly effective, despite its strong anti-drug propaganda bent.  The dramatic moments go way too far, which makes this movie too over the top to be taken seriously.  Yes, it's true that some people ruin their lives over drugs.  But Desperate Lives only shows the most drastic and dramatic pitfalls to drug abuse peppered with the Valley Girl speak that was so popular in the early 1980s.  From the moment we see Helen Hunt jumping out of a window, screaming her head off, it's very clear some of these scenes are intended to shock and scare straight.  And what they ultimately end up doing is making viewers laugh.  Or at least they make ME laugh.  At least we're spared seeing these kids in rehab.

    Overall  
    This is your typical 80s era movie of the week.  I watch this and wonder if people were really that simple in the 80s.  I can't imagine today's teens taking this movie seriously at all.  If you watch it, you will probably laugh.  I certainly wouldn't spend money on this film, but it's fun for a laugh on YouTube.