Friday, March 08, 2019

Pretzel Bites: What to Read on International Women’s Day 2019, Part 2

*Please note: I cropped down the cover for “Fire Road: A Memoir of Hope,” as I was pretty sure Facebook would take it down. It is about the life of the woman known for the famous photograph known as “Napalm Girl.” 

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Pretzel Bites: What to Read on International Women’s Day 2019 Part 1

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Saturday, March 02, 2019

Pretzel Bites: The Myth of the Inverted Cross as Satanic Symbolism

*I had an epiphany recently: I spend far more time commenting than I do blogging...and then feel guilty about it. Then it came to me: why not combine the two? Maybe elaborate or add photos and so on? So, here’s the first Pretzel Bite. Enjoy! 

SUBJECT: Entitled Parents become angry when they think a teen’s surgical scars are inverted crosses.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

TimeHop Tales: Wolfgang and I

One of my favorite daily-use apps is TimeHop. This app shows you what you posted on various types of social media sites on this date in history. I love it for a number of reasons, but today’s TimeHop Tales addresses the reason it exists: to walk you down Memory Lane. As I get older and the MonSter continues to wreak havok upon me like I talked smack about its mama, I am more and more appreciative for this app’s ability to jog my memories.
One of the features I enjoy in this app is called “Retro Video,” and it is a short video by YouTube’s Watch Mojo featuring notable pop culture events taking place on that day in history. I particularly like the part where they show a clip of the #1 song of that day.

Today’s Retro Video #1 video did a great job of exercising the ol’ noodle:

That is Falco’s iconic “Rock Me Amadeus,” the #1 song on this day in 1986. I remember it well: I won the vinyl single of it!

I was in the sixth grade at Moraine Meadows Elementary School at the time, which was sadly closed in 2010, much to the dismay and ire of all of those (present company included) who loved our little school. But that is a topic for another day...

My teacher was Mrs. Henshaw: the very first person who encouraged me to write. In fact, the first two people to ever recognize any sort of talent in me whatsoever was from that wonderful school (the other being Mrs. Oldham, my orchestra teacher). The fact that I am working on various creative writing projects (including this blog) is the direct result of the confidence and support I received from Mrs. Henshaw, my mother, and my grandmother. Once again, a topic for another day...

During that sixth grade year in 1986, Mrs. Henshaw held a contest: for every non-assigned book you completed, you got points per page. At the end of the year, those points could be used in an auction for a number of various items which could only have come out of her own pockets (something I didn’t appreciate or understand at the time). The biggest prize was a Sony Walkman...and as both a voracious reader and a music-obsessed preteen who could not afford to buy a Walkman of my own, I was bound and determined to win that prize. And win it, I did. It became a cherished posession of mine for years. That’s no exaggeration; I vividly remember going on a camping trip in Tennessee with my family and using the headphones (and R.E.M.’s tragically underrated and difficult to find first EP, “Chronic Town”) in a desperate and ultimately fruitless attempt to drown out my dad’s infamously loud snoring whilst in high school, more than five years after first winning it in the Reading Auction.

But the Walkman wasn’t the only item I won that day. I got some neon-colored paper clips (that I used to make earrings with), a book of “Encyclopedia Brown” trivia, and a vinyl 45 single of (you guessed it) Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” (I’d tried winning the single for Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All,” but was outbidded, as I was saving points for the Walkman). 

For those of you unfamiliar with this song: it is a very 80’s New Wave tune about the life of genius composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Like another 80’s classic, Nena’s “99 Luftballoons,” it was sung mostly in German.

I must have played that record a thousand times. The B-side was the same song, but with a long, spoken intro (in English) that wasn’t included in the music video and was rarely played on the radio, as it lengthened the song considerably. It quickly became my favorite version:

I don’t speak German, so I was mostly in the dark about what exactly Falco was singing (ah, those pre-Google days when we were left wallowing in ignorance about foreign pop songs with no inferior English versions available...looking at you, Nena). That changed when my brother, who was stationed in Germany when he was in the Army, came home a few years later. Imagine my joy to find out that Falco named Mozart the first punk rocker ever!

Many years later, my online support group expanded a list called “You Know You’re an 80’s Kid When...” My contribution: “You know you’re an 80’s kid when you took German just so you could sing along with ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ and ‘99 Luftballoons’!”

This is a song near and dear to my heart, thanks to all of the good memories associated with it (although in all honesty, I like “Vienna Calling” better). So thank you, TimeHop, for letting the late, great Falco rock me once again.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

MS Awareness Month: Did I Have Pediatric MS?

It’s #MSAwarenessMonth once again. So for the next few days, I will share some info on MS and my journey with it. I’ve officially had MS now for about 23 years, and MS-related trigeminal neuralgia for around 20. However, my doctors think there’s a good chance that I actually had a pediatric case. It couldn’t be diagnosed, as next to no one believed you could have it that young back then. Two incidents make me think they might be right. 

The first happened in 1990, when I was 15, during a time when the summer heat was unreal (MS is heat-reactive). I found myself unable to stay awake, especially during the afternoons, and I started to get frequent, unexplained bouts of pleurisy, amongst other weird symptoms. Then all the weirdness stopped just as abruptly as it had began. 

The second time was at Miamisburg High School. I did some work on programs for a public access channel, and on this occasion, I was operating a boom mic during an interview. As before, it was during a heat wave. Before I knew it, I passed out. Just fainted, right then and there...a mortifying experience when you’re 17! For a few weeks after, I was utterly exhausted, plagued with ear infections, nausea and vertigo, and completely incapable of coping with the heat. As I did during the first bout, I slept during the afternoons, whether I wanted to or not. But once again, it went away as quickly and mysteriously as before.

Fast forward to 1995. I took a hot shower, walked towards my bedroom, and BAM! I fell. I could not stand up or even move: my legs felt like they suddenly turned into Jello. For 20 of the longest minutes of my life, I sat on the floor, with no feeling whatsoever in my legs. It was terrifying. After that, a veritable cascade of symptoms started to appear. The MonSter was unleashed. And this time, there would be no years of remission afterwards.

On my next post, I will talk about how I got diagnosed, and how very hard it is for most people (including yours truly) to get that diagnosis...which included doctors insisting I had postpartum depression, and a doctor laughing at me when I told him I was concerned I might have MS! 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Remembering Sonya: The Origin Story of a Beautiful Friendship

A year ago today, I lost the best friend I have ever had, Sonya Bastian, after a long fight with lung cancer. She was just weeks away from her 42nd birthday.

I remember quite vividly the first time I met Sonya. It was the summer of 1990. I was with some friends, shopping in the Oregon District, when I spotted my old friend Jasmine sitting on a little grassy hill near the overpass. I had known Jasmine since second grade; we’d been neighbors and best friends back then, but drifted apart when my parents moved. By sheer coincidence, we both ended up in what was called “the Dayton punk scene” and re-connected. By then, we’d each had new best friends, as kids will do. I’d heard a lot about her bosom buddy, enough so that when I saw her that day, I immediately thought: That must be her. Sonya Bastian.

She was wearing a long, black dress and gorgeous boots with fishnet stockings. Her hair was jet black and cut in a bob, her face adorned with perfect Goth makeup, her long, black nails holding a clove cigarette. She looked beautiful, very much like Siouxsie Sioux, whom I adored. She was talking with Jasmine, and suddenly put a hand on her midsection and threw her head forward in what I would later think of as her signature laugh.

I hated her almost instantly.

It was the kind of hate that’s practically a major food group in young teen girls: pure, unadulterated, drama-fueled envy. Given the circumstances, it was just inevitable. She was the best friend of the girl who had once been my best friend. She had once dated the guy I was then dating, and he always spoke of her as if she were what we’d now call a perfect Manic Pixie Dream Girl. His father even talked of her as if he wished she was still dating his son. Another guy I had once had one of those quintessential unrequited high school crushes on never noticed it because he had his own unrequited crush on her. So I was already pretty biased against even the idea of Sonya Bastian long before ever laying eyes on her.

And when I did finally lay eyes on the famous Sonya Bastian, I went from minor bias to full-blown jealousy in record speed. She seemed to be everything I wished I could be. I had always been a tomboy, and rather unremarkably plain. My older brother once accused me of having embraced the punk look because it was the only way I could get any attention on my appearance, and there’s probably some truth to that. Deep down inside, though, I wanted to be goth...but I simply couldn’t pull it off. I didn’t have the talent necessary to do the makeup properly, nor did the look suit me at all. On the rare occassions when I tried to dress in the goth fashions I loved, it looked like a very poor attempt at a cheap Halloween costume. I was, to my occassional disappointment, the kind of girl who was best suited to a punk rather than a goth aesthetic: more Joan Jett than Morticia Addams.

But Sonya could not only pull that desirable goth look off, she did so perfectly, managing to make it look both glamorous and effortless in the process. I remember looking her, and then at myself, in my tattered cut-off jean shorts, torn black tights, a “Die Die My Darling” Misfits t-shirt ironically borrowed from a mutual friend, and my older brother’s old Army combat boots. Next to Sonya, I felt scruffy, boring, invisible.

There’s an old movie from 1980 that HBO would play on Saturday afternoons called “Midnight Madness,” and it was a favorite in my family. In it is a scene in which the antagonist, Harold, asks his father to stop comparing him to the film’s hero, Adam. He begs his father to just “see me as I really am.” The dad then looks at Harold from toes to top and says, “Blech.” That’s how I felt as I compared myself to Sonya the day we met: she was Adam, and I was Harold.

Our relationship did not improve after this, due to an incident engineered by my ex/former abuser/stalker, and compounded when I tried to help a mutual friend get back into a relationship which unbeknownst to me had been toxic. The latter occurance led to the first phone call we ever had, and boy did she let me have it! It was the first time I got to see how fiercly loyal and protective she was, when it came to the people she loved. It wouldn’t be the last.

The last time I saw Sonya before moving to Oregon was much like the first: jealousy-inducing. It was at a nightclub called The Palace. She was dancing, looking gorgeously goth. She was the mother of two children at that point, and yet looked as fierce as ever. I can still see her dancing, in my mind’s eye. The song was New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle.” I still think of her every time I hear it.

A few years later, I joined a group on MySpace for punk parents. In that group, there was a mother identified as Sonya from Dayton. I quickly realized she was the very same Sonya I had a not-so-great past with. As I became more and more involved in the group, I began to feel increasingly in the wrong: I was anonymous to her, but she was not anonymous to me. It was time to come clean. So I sent her a message, telling her who I was and offering to leave the group if my presence there made her uncomfortable. After all, she had belonged to the group first. It seemed only fair.

Her response: “I don’t have time for high school drama. We were kids: I was a little shit, you were a little shit. How have you been?”

We began regularly messaging each other on MySpace, then chatted via AIM, and finally exchanged phone numbers. The very first time we talked on the phone in ages, she apologized to me for the incident with the ex. As it turns out, she soon realized he was manipulating her, and the guilt had eaten away at her for years. He had played on her extraordinary sense of loyalty and protectiveness, then betrayed her (AKA his regular MO).

My response: “He was a master con artist, and you are far from the only person who’s apologized to me over the years for believing in him. I don’t hold it against anyone. Besides, we were kids: I was a little shit, you were a little shit.”

She laughed. I laughed. And thus began the greatest friendship of my life: by two women agreeing they were little shits as teens!

We also soon learned that we were eerily alike far beyond shitty adolescence. “We’re basically the same person,” she would say. It was likely the reason we didn’t get along when we were kids: we were just too much alike. That was anathema to two teenagers in the punk scene...just admitting to ourselves that we were so much alike would have been utterly unthinkable. Ah, the fragile ego of youth!

But as adults, it no longer felt like felt like kismet instead.

She was surprised when I told her how jealous I had been of her, because when we’d first met in the Oregon District that day, she had been jealous of me! After all, I’d been the first best friend of her best friend, I was dating the guy she still inexplicably had some feelings for, and while I was envious of her dancing, she was envious of my singing.

This lead to an epic conversation I recorded in my journal later that same day:

Me: YOU were jealous of ME?!? Why?
Sonya: All I ever heard was, “Have you heard Angel sing?” Ugh, it was too much!
Me: know my last name is Singer now, don’t you?
—long pause—
Sonya: That. Is. Fucking. HILARIOUS!

We laughed so hard, we nearly choked.

There were ways, of course, in which we were not alike, but that never seemed to matter. Issues that would have torn other relationships to shreds was never an obstacle for us, for reasons I could never hope to adequately explain. We were polar opposites when it came to politics and religion, for example. Yet it never mattered. We were still “basically the same person.”

As the years went on, that incredibly unlikely friendship grew stronger and stronger. The closest equal in pop culture can be found in the show “Boston Legal”: She was Denny Crane, and I was Alan Shore. The Female Flamingos. Different, but somehow the same. And just as fiercly devoted and loving. I never lacked a companion, a confidante, or a defender, with Sonya by my side.

The woman whose beauty I was so jealous of came to call me “Pretty Lady.” Every conversation we had, every voice mail she left, always started with, “Hey, Pretty Lady! It’s me again.”

I called her “Dear Heart.” I ended every email and message and email with, “I miss you, Dear Heart.”

And so I can think of no better way to end this post than to say:

I miss you, Dear Heart.


Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Trump: The Diva Unleashed

It has become increasingly obvious that Donald Trump sees the Presidency as being no different from his reality tv days. When you think of his time on the campaign and in office, it's pretty clear that he doesn't think of himself as a politician, he thinks of himself as a superstar. And not just any superstar: Trump is a Hollywood Diva. And like any true diva, he can't abide being told what he can and cannot do by anyone...and this includes his newest babysitter, General John Kelly.

When you look at Trump's candidacy and presidency through the lens of a B-level boob tube star, a lot of what he does suddenly makes sense. Trump's Divahood is why he:

*Refers to his military staff as being from "central casting"
*Is obsessed with ratings and crowd sizes
*Is fond of frequently and wholeheartedly ranting to his "fans" on social media
*Focuses entirely on himself, no matter what, in order to protect/promote his brand
*Is fond of fan merchandise, even wearing it frequently himself
*Spins negatives into positives, and if that isn't possible, labels it as tabloid-like "fake news"
*Feels the need to keep holding rallies about the election nearly a year after the election
*Cannot accept blame for any failed projects
*Uses his platform of leader of the free world to promote his and his family's business ventures
*Treats staff & Secret Service officers as his personal gophers and errand-boys
*Thinks nothing of having White House aides carry his wife's designer luggage en route to an area ravaged by a hurricane and horrific flooding
*Thought a photo opp and looking at a map in Houston counted as "firsthand outreach" during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey
*Considered negative press, personal grudges, and tv personalities he dislikes as being more Tweet-Worthy than cop shootings, Charlottsville, and Hurricane Harvey
*Doesn't want to risk alienating any segment of his fanbase, regardless of how repulsive their words and actions turn out to be
*Is obsessed with stopping leaks to reporters, despite a long history of cultivating gossip news coverage himself under pseudonyms
*Frequently 86's publicists when his popularity wavers, as it couldn't possibly be his fault
*Hates any form of media that criticizes him
*Considers himself to be too busy to read more than one page of daily itinerary per day made up of short, Twitter-like sentences, plus plenty of photos and graphs
*Blames staff and/or "fake news media" for any and all mishaps
*Never hesitates to say/tweet nasty things re: people who don't fawn over him
*Refused to host the White House Correspondence event that he attended as a guest in the past
*Believes his fame entitles him to treat women like objects
*Feels entitled to expensive perks that he doesn't pay for
*Has a wife who considers the role of FLOTUS to be a unique marketing opportunity despite refusing to live in the White House and instead staying at Trump Tower at the taxpayer's expense and the family's gain
*Has no understanding of what it is like to be poor or middle-class in America
*Isn't at all concerned that his nearly weekly trips to his golf resorts have left the Secret Service without funds to pay the highly-skilled agents whose job it is to take a bullet meant for him
*Hasn't bothered with the many job positions he's required to fill, as he's apparently run out of friends, family members, and people he wants to impress or do business with to hire
*Prefers to surround himself with cronies and family members, even hiring them for jobs they aren't even remotely qualified to do
*Has nearly Gwyneth Paltrow-level batshit health claims (such as believing exercise is unhealthy because it depletes your body's "batteries")
*Was obsessed with his old tv show and repeatedly denounced its new host and ratings, because he apparently has nothing better to do
*Enjoys writing sweeping memos and executive orders as a way to reap benefits for his donors and his own projects
*Is an afficianado of weird conspiracy theories such as his home being wiretapped on Obama's orders and climate change being a Chinese hoax
*Isn't concerned with issues that don't affect his brand and/or the all-important ratings
*Doesn't seem to have noticed the difference between "tv ratings" and "job approval"
*Viciously mocks those who question or oppose him, or might be seen as more popular than himself
*Puts a weird amount of emphasis on catchphrases and sound bites
*Doesn't consider Camp David to be good enough for his precious and frequent vacation time, having declared it being "boring" and only using it after public complaints (perhaps because trips there won't benefit his businesses and brand)
*Is enraged when his "tremendous" ideas are shot down by Congress or the Supreme Court to the extent that he actually questions why the checks and balances system that is one of the essential linchpins of our democracy even exist
*Blocks and bans his critics or citizens who ask questions he doesn't like on social media
*Uses aggressive handshakes in an attempt to prove he's the biggest star in the room
*Brags constantly about his achievements and popularity
*Refuses to take security briefings in favor of watching five hours of television daily
*Photo ops and cable news mentions are crucial to him (this is a guy who once showed up at a charity fundraiser uninvited, stole an actual guest's chair at the head table, had tons of publicity photos taken, and then left abruptly without giving the charity a single dime)
*Makes sweeping declarations and promises he has no intention of keeping, because the promises will be page one and the lack of follow-up will be page 5
*Views the media as the enemy, complete with memes that seem to be promoting violence on reporters and sweeping statements hostile to the American ideal of freedom of the press
*Uses speeches to complain about his perceived mistreatment by the press, even at ocassions where that is inappropriate (ie the Boy Scout Jamboree and the Phoenix rally after Charlottsville)
*Feels he deserves frequent holidays and breaks to luxury resorts he owns, complete with Secret Service and White House staff on hand to tend to his needs on the taxpayer's dime
*The scripts written for him are good, but his ad-libbing is a mess
*Had fake Time Magazine covers hanging up in his resorts
*Still focuses so much on winning the election, as if it were a Primetime Emmy Award
*Pretends to be a philanthropist in speeches and interviews for publicity, despite not even donating to his own foundation in more than five years and charging his own son's charity to use his facilities for fundraisers for children's cancer hospitals
*Surrounds himself by staff--and family on staff payroll--that will applaud his every decision, no matter how disastrous or self-serving, and fires anyone who won't follow suit
*Throws tantrums when he doesn't get his way of the sort you'd expect from seriously-out-of-touch Hollywood Diva or an over-exerted toddler up three hours past bedtime
*Is reportedly about to lose a member of staff whose star he created, Omarosa, because senior staff is concerned about her frequent attempts to "rile him up" by bringing him negative press coverage (AKA "covfefe"), that without fail triggers a temper tantrum in the Oval Office and on Twitter
*Likes best those who will publicaly and enthusiastically support him, and never cease to tell him how beloved and great His Divaness is.

Trump's presidency to date is best described as The Larry Sanders Show character Hank Kingsley with worse hair. They both spent years isolating themselves from the real world, dedicated only to furthering their brand and padding their wallets. It's been going on for so long, Trump/Hank doesn't know how to function without the "star treatment."

And just like Hank, Trump has a long history of stamping his name on any piece of shit product that comes his way (Trump University, Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, etc.) Also like Hank, Trump reportedly has staff screen his mail and give him only the truly fawning, hero-worship examples. And just this past week we learned that Trump had hired a man whose sole (and very well-paying) job was to research, print out, and screenshot positive reports and mentions of the Orange Diva Supreme in the media (or lacking that, photos of himself "looking powerful"), to be delievered to him twice per day. We only know about this job because this employee is the latest in what is perhaps the most recognizable and consistent bit of Trump's now-legendary Divahood: when under fire, fire under you.

That truly is the single biggest proof that Donald Trump doesn't see himself as a leader, but as a star: his now-infamous and shockingly frequent firing of staff when his "ratings" get low or they try to reign in his lunacy. After all, firing people made him the huge star he has convinced himself he is. It worked wonders with his popularity on his last job, so he thinks it surely it will work similar wonders now in his new one. We're talking about a guy who tried to trademark his catchphrase, "You're Fired!" (and bitterly complained when his application was denied). The fact that all the "tremendous" shit-canning of staff in the White House isn't garnering the same adoration as it did on "The Apprentice" is clearly mystifying to him...much like the job of POTUS itself.

Donald Trump really seemed to think playing President was just another role that would result in huge ratings and brand enhancement. He's already admitted to not realizing how much work is involved in being the leader of the free world, and how "complicated" it all is. As time goes on, his complaints about the work involved as POTUS grow more and more frequent. It surely doesn't help that as of yet, he's not made much of a political impact. His campaign promises have gone ignored or are torpedoed outright. His executive orders (which he thought gave him some sort of untouchable and unilateral power, similar to the dispatches of a CEO) are routinely overridden by Congress or the courts, much to his chagrin. This is the man who insisted and continues to insist that he is the only man who can make America great again. But the only thing he's done thus far is prove someone else should have been casted for this role.