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I’m feeling schadenfreude over the firing of Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly. For the past few years I had been growing tired of going to the local Target store and seeing new books with his byline being released every few months that have titles like Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, Killing Jesus, Killing the Rising Sun, Killing Patton, and a whole bunch of other historical books with the name Killing in the title.

One of the reasons why I’m enjoying his downfall is that this piece of shit once threatened one of my friends with assault.

The friend in question works for an organization that’s concerned with issues regarding the separation of church and state. From time to time he has appeared on various cable news talk shows where he has discussed these issues. Bill O’Reilly’s show is among the shows that he has made more than one appearance. My friend has plenty of stories about Bill O’Reilly, including what went down the last time he appeared on that show.

Since my friend lives and works in the Washington, DC area, whenever he was invited to appear on any Fox News show as a guest, he usually went to the studio of the local Fox affiliate in downtown DC where he made his appearance via satellite. That notorious night he appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s show was no different. He appeared via satellite and debated Bill O’Reilly about a certain hot issue at the time. When his segment ended and the show went to commercial break, Bill O’Reilly was still able to communicate with him via satellite, even though their exchange wasn’t being aired live at the moment. Bill O’Reilly told my friend if he ever sees him in person he was going to beat him up.

Since that incident wasn’t filmed, there is no evidence that Bill O’Reilly has threatened my friend with violence. But I have no problem with believing my friend’s account because Bill O’Reilly has a history of less-than-respectable behavior. His daughter has alleged that she saw her father choke her mother and drag her down a flight of stairs by her neck. Of course that marriage ended in divorce but that didn’t stop Bill O’Reilly from suing his ex-wife for $10 million last year on the grounds that she had fraudulently misled him into signing a separation agreement while having an extramarital affair.

And then there is this classic video that comes from his pre-Fox News days when Bill O’Reilly was an on-air presenter for the TV show Inside Edition.

It took a bunch of women accusing Bill O’Reilly of sexual harassment to finally get Fox News to cancel his show once and for all.

I’m happy that he’s off the air. If he has any common sense, he should keep a low profile. (Of course that’s assuming Bill O’Reilly ever had any common sense to begin with.) Maybe he can take advantage of his free time by writing a new book: Killing My Fox News Career.

UPDATE (April 21, 2017): If you think Bill O’Reilly’s assault threat against my friend after appearing on his show was an aberration, think again. This link has a couple of paragraphs about how Bill O’Reilly issued a similar assault threat against one of his guests, the son of a 9/11 victim named Jeremy Glick. Why? Because Glick had opposed the Bush Administration’s invasion of Afghanistan. That’s right, Bill O’Reilly had simply disagreed with Glick’s opinion on a certain topic. On top of it, O’Reilly spent months demonizing Glick as a “traitor” on his program. (In contrast, my friend got off relatively easy with just a single assault threat.)

Which proves my point that American discourse will be better off in the long run if Bill O’Reilly simply takes that $25 million severance pay that Fox News gave him and retire in obscurity. I don’t ever want to hear about him again until his death.

Passover

A week ago or so a friend of mine who knew me when I was still married mentioned that he saw my ex-husband and found something disturbing about him. Yesterday I ran into another friend on Easter Sunday who also expressed similar concerns about my ex-husband after seeing him and his second wife at a local cafe.

I’m not going to elaborate on what their concerns are other than to say that I’m not surprised that they are shocked at what has happened to my ex-husband. Since he left me he has gone through a complete personality change that I can’t explain. (I’ve read plenty about personality disorder, psychopathy, narcissism, and sociopathy but I lack the credentials to diagnose my ex-husband or anyone else.) After all, my husband never told me he was unhappy in our marriage until he abruptly left me just three days after Christmas in 2011. (He left me three months after I underwent hip surgery.) He abruptly went from being a loving, caring husband to someone who became cold and distant. He refused to talk to me or to meet with me in person other than to bark out orders over email and text demanding that I adhere to a schedule where we would separate our finances and if I raised any kind of resistance, he would threaten to sue me. I found out from friends that he had left me for a woman whom I thought was a friend of mine but I now know better. She had been open about her mental health issues that became so severe that she had an experimental pacemaker implanted in her brain. She qualified for SSI disability just weeks before my husband left me for her.

If all that weren’t enough, my husband sent divorce papers in a .pdf format that was attached to an email message that was dated December 24, 2012. (Yes, he did this on Christmas Eve.) I later found out that he and the other woman got engaged just eight months after he left me. He married her two months after our divorce was final.

Sure I’m sad over what my friends have told me about him but here’s one thing I learned through both attending meetings of a divorce recovery group and seeing a therapist—the only person I can control is myself. I can’t control anyone else. Sure, I can give advice to someone but it’s up to the person to decide whether he or she will follow my advice or not.

I made the decision to have no contact with my ex-husband because of his cyberbullying threats of taking me to court if I didn’t do what he told me to do. My ex has never said that he was sorry for the pain he had put me through or even acknowledge his role in what happened between us. He once told me that it was my fault that he had to leave me so he could date that mentally ill friend of ours. (For the record, I never once told him that he should hook up with that woman. I would never recommend dating a seriously mentally ill person to anyone.) And the reason why he felt he had to leave: The day before my hip surgery I had gone to the American Girl Place in Tysons Corner, Virginia and I purchased this doll named Julie, who is part of the American Girl dolls’ historical line and she’s supposed to represent the 1970’s, mainly because her default outfit is similar to an outfit I once wore when I was growing up in the 1970’s. My ex wrote in a letter that he left behind that my purchase of this doll added to the clutter of our home and he had to leave because of it.

webfriendlyversion

That’s right, my purchase of this doll is the main reason my husband cited for leaving home, hooking up with a woman whom he knew has serious mental health issues, getting engaged to her while still being legally married to me, divorcing me, and marrying her just two months after the divorce was final.

Unless my ex makes a sincere effort to make amends to me for the hurt he has caused me, there is no way I’m going to contact him to see if he’s okay or if there is anything I can do to help him.

I’ll admit that I haven’t forgiven him at all. I learned through my divorce recovery group that forgiveness is a process that can’t be rushed and that there are some situations where it’s impossible to forgive a person. I can’t say I’ll never forgive him but I am just honestly not emotionally ready to do that right now.

Even if I was still in contact with him as a friend, there are limits as to what I can do. Any advice I give would work only if he wants to take it. If he decides against taking my advice, there’s nothing I can do about it because it’s his life and he’s the only one who has a direct say in over how he’ll live it.

If my friends raise their concerns about my ex with me again, I’m going to have to tell them “Sorry but I can’t do anything about it.” Because it is the truth.

I’m only writing a post about this because I know that there are people dealing with loved ones who have their own level of dysfunction—whether it’s due to drugs or alcohol or they are in a dysfunctional romantic relationship or they have mental health problems that they refuse to do anything about or they tend to gamble excessively or they have some other problem that have seriously impacted their lives. Many of us were raised in religious traditions where you’re taught that you’re supposed to be your brother’s (or sister’s) keeper and you have to be the hero to save that person from self-destruction. What I’m telling you—which flies in the face of most religious traditions—is this: you have no control over that person or anyone else other than yourself. If that person wants your help, then fine. You should help that person. But if that person refuses your offer of help, you have no other choice but to just let that person continue on his/her self-destructive path.

This was a lesson I learned through my divorce recovery group and it’s a similar message that other self-help groups, such as Al-Anon, also convey. The bottom line is that you can’t help anyone else unless that person wants your help.

However you can educate yourself so you can learn how to respond to someone else’s drama without getting consumed by it. I’m going to end this post with a short list of books I read that helped me learn how to deal with and respond to my ex-husband’s actions without losing my own mind.

Runaway Husbands by Vikki Stark. This was the first book I ordered from Amazon.com in the days after my husband left and I did a Google search on “my husband ran away from home.” That book helped me prepare for what would happen next since my husband had followed the same path to our divorce that the other husbands Stark profiled in her book went.

Psychopath Free by Jackson MacKenzie. This is a book that was invaluable in helping me to decide not to have any further contact with my ex-husband until he makes a sincere effort to make amends with me for what he has done to me.

The Language of Letting Go and More Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie. Both books are daily meditations that are designed to help the person with breaking away from a codependent relationship into living a well-integrated and independent life that’s free from codependency.

Recently an executive at Marvel made this statement where he claimed that the reason why the sales of Marvel comic books have gone down is because there is too much diversity among its superheroes. Not surprisingly that executive’s quote has literally lit up social media as comic book fans of all stripes weighed in on this matter.

As someone who has been reading comic books off and on since childhood, I have my own reasons why comic book sales have gone down and none of them have anything to do with increased diversity in the number of superheroes who are female, LGBTQ, and/or people of color.

1. Price.

I’m old enough to remember when comic books used to cost 25 cents per issue. They were cheap enough for children to buy with their own allowance money or convince their parents to buy one or two issues. I fell out of reading comic books when I hit the fourth or fifth grade only to briefly pick up an issue or two of Howard the Duck which I found at a local pharmacy for around 35 cents when I was in middle school. (At least the reprinted volumes of the 1970’s Howard the Duck comic books, which I wrote a series of reviews about last summer, had the 35 cent price on the covers.)

I put comic books behind me after that until college when I dated my future ex-husband and he was the one who was into collecting comic books. By then comic books were priced at around 75 cents per issue, which still wasn’t too bad because they were still affordable to kids, college students, and people who either were unemployed or worked low-paying jobs. My husband and I continued to read them after college and during the first few years of our marriage until the prices shot up to $1.25 per issue and we grew tired of shelling out so much money for comic books. By that point we had also gotten more involved with our jobs and other activities so we didn’t have as much time to read comic books as before.

I started checking out comic books again over the last few years but nowadays prices have risen to an astronomical $3.99 per issue. That high price has definitely put a damper on resuming collecting comic books to the point where I’m extremely picky as to which comic book I’ll purchase. That has an effect because in the past, when my ex-husband and I collected comic books early in our marriage, we used to buy an extra comic book or two on impulse because we liked the cover. Thanks to that $3.99 price tag, I tend to pass on the comic books that have awesome covers, especially if I’m not familiar with the characters or storyline, because it would be incredibly easy to drop $75 or higher on a pile of comic books. In fact, not too long ago, I saw a young couple at the cash register buying a stack of around 25 comic books. They reminded me of the days when my ex-husband used to buy a stack of around 25 comic books. The big difference is that we used to pay something like $25 for that comic book stack. In contrast, I nearly gasped when I heard the store clerk charge the couple $100 for that comic book pile.

2. Too many knock-offs of the same character or concept.

This started while my ex-husband and I collected comic books. My ex had turned me on to The X-Men, which was a well-written series about a group of mutant superheroes who try to do good deeds even though much of society are prejudiced against mutants because it’s a classic case of hating/fearing those who are different. Many of the storylines were analogous to the racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and Islamophobia that occurs in the U.S. The X-Men led to one spinoff called Dazzler, which was about a mutant who was more into using her mutant light creation powers to entertain people than becoming a superhero but she frequently was dragged into situations where she had to use her mutant powers to defend herself or help someone else. Then there was Alpha Flight, about a superhero team in Canada—some were mutants and some were regular humans who wore special suits that enabled them to have powers. In addition, there was The New Mutants, about a team of mutant kids who were essentially X-Men in training. I think there were a few more spinoffs from The X-Men but I don’t remember. All I know is that the storylines in these mutant comic books began to overlap with each other to the point where we had to read all those series in order to get the entire story. It was also around the time when comic books began to be priced at over $1 per issue and it just got too expensive for us to keep up.

Since I started looking at comic books again I noticed that this trend has gotten more ridiculous. One example: There’s the currently popular comic book series Guardians of the Galaxy. Two of that group’s most off-beat and popular characters—Groot and Rocket Raccoon—not only appear in Guardians of the Galaxy but they also appear in separate solo titles. In addition, there’s also a Rocket Raccoon and Groot series for those readers who can’t get enough of either one and want to see them together without the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Anyone who wants to get all four series would have to pay $16 per month.

I remember a time when there was only one Iron Man comic book. Now there are at least three or four separate Iron Man comic books and each one has a different person wearing the armored suit. I remember when there was only one Spider-Man comic book and there are now something like three or four Spider-Man comic books plus two or three other comic books featuring female versions of Spider-Man that are sold under titles like Spider-Gwen and Silk. Here’s a photo of a shelf full of different Spider-Man related titles—all of which are separate comic book series—that I shot at a comic book store a few years ago.

Numerous Spider-Man Titles at a Comic Book Store

All these variations of the same superheroes tend to confuse comic book newbies and casual comic book readers plus there’s the $3.99 price per issue. It just makes those who aren’t hardcore comic book nerds with deep pockets end up just saying “The hell with this!” and walking out of the store empty-handed.

3. Limited distribution.

There were no comic book specialty shops in my area when I was a kid. But that was no problem because one could find comic books being sold at newsstands located in pharmacies, grocery stores, five and dime stores, and book stores. Seeing those comic books in plain sight encouraged kids to beg their parents to buy them a comic book. Parents had no problem with obliging because the prices were pretty cheap.

Nowadays if anyone wanted to read a comic book, that person has to go to a comic book specialty shop because the vast majority of comic books are no longer distributed in grocery stores and other non-comic book specialty shops (with the exception of Archie comics, which I can still find at the supermarket checkout line). I’m lucky enough to live in a populated urban area plus I live near a college town so I have no problem with finding comic book stores to browse in. But people who live in rural areas just don’t have that option unless they happen to live in a college town. Limited distribution is just as short-sighted as charging $3.99 per issue because people living in areas without a comic book specialty shop but who would be interested in buying a comic book just don’t get that opportunity.

Limited distribution just results in lost opportunities. Here’s one example: When I was trying to get rid of my ex-husband’s comic book collection that he left behind, I ended up making coasters with them because I couldn’t find anyone willing to buy them. While I was looking through various issues while deciding which comic book panels to cut up for my art projects, I saw a notice in one of the old Marvel comic books gleefully announcing that one of their newer comic books at the time, Power Pack, was being distributed exclusively in comic book specialty shops.

I remember my ex and I reading Power Pack in the latter days of our comic book collecting before we gave up on it altogether. It was about four young siblings between the ages of 5-12 who were given superhero powers. These kids had to juggle taking on the villains with other things like going to school, doing homework, and adhering to curfew. I thought it was incredibly short-sighted of Marvel to not distribute Power Pack more widely because most kids going to the local grocery store or pharmacy with a parent would have gone crazy over the idea of superhero kids their age and begged their parents to buy them that comic book. Thanks to that corporate bone-headed decision, the vast majority of kids never knew that the comic book even existed and that series no longer exists. (Or at least I haven’t seen any latest issues of Power Pack on sale at a comic book specialty shop.)

4. Too many large corporate-wide comic book events that are hyped as “THE MARVEL/DC UNIVERSE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME!”

This started back when my ex and I still collected comic books when Marvel came up with a special limited series called Secret Wars where a variety of superheroes from Marvel’s bigger-selling comic books at the time (such as The Fantastic Four and The X-Men) were taken to a planet by someone known as the Beyonder and forced to undergo a series of battles. That series affected the storylines of the regular comic book series. I don’t remember much about the Secret Wars other than feeling annoyed that the storyline of The X-Men had them dealing with being alienated by the other superheroes in the Marvel Universe while two X-Men ended up ending their budding romantic relationship over what went on during the Secret Wars.

Now Marvel and DC go to the well frequently by coming up with a corporate-wide events where limited series are released under names like Rebirth, Civil Wars, and Civil Wars 2 that literally changes the storylines of the regular comic book series. Hardcore comic book fans are asked to spend even more money on these limited series in order to keep up on what’s going on with their regular favorite series while confusing casual fans so much that they pass on the entire event.

The comic book companies will more likely gain readers if they quit doing these stupid events that tend to cater mainly with the small minority of hardcore comic book fans while screwing up the storylines of regular comic books so much that the more casual readers are turned off.

5. The comic book industry caters to the hardcore comic book fans at the expense of kids and more casual readers.

When I was a kid comic books were mostly action-packed series with very little of the “I have a lot of personal problems that are wearing me down” storylines. They were pretty escapist for the most part.

Recently I heard of an uproar when Marvel decided to turn Captain America into a fascist. Never mind the fact that the comic book first came out during World War II and Captain America was depicted as an active Nazi fighter. I remember reading Captain America as a child when he was basically a good guy fighting villains. Only the hardcore comic book fans would be okay with this sudden change in character.

One of the reasons why I quit reading The X-Men besides time and price is that I grew weary of the dark dramatic storylines depicting the team as being persecuted for being mutants while continuing to fight bad guys and save the same people who would love to see them get discriminated and/or annihilated simply because they are mutants. I don’t mind dark dramatic storylines if they are well-written but after reading such storylines for years I began thinking that if I was a mutant superhero defending people who would want me dead, I would reach a breaking point where I would just say “Bye, Felicia!”, give up being a superhero, and pursue something more quiet like gardening. What’s more, these dark depressing storylines tend to appeal more to hardcore comic book fans with deep pockets who have no problem with spending years keeping up with various convoluted storylines about persecuted mutants.

The main reason why I haven’t resume reading The X-Men or any of its many mutant superhero spin-offs is because of the fact that if I wanted to spend my time reading dark stories full of prejudice, death, and general mayhem, I’ll go online and read BBC News or Al Jazeera without being charged $3.99 per issue.

The only Marvel superhero series I even follow these days is The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and that’s because the stories are more lighthearted and full of humor. Squirrel Girl is a mutant and she doesn’t let it get her down as she juggles fighting super villains with being a college student. More recently I checked the Batgirl of Burnside graphic novel out of the public library and I found that one to be in a similar vein to The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl as Batgirl learns the hard way the folly to taking selfies for social media while battling crime at the same time. Like Squirrel Girl, Batgirl is smart, hip, and is very comfortable with the latest technology. If more comic books were a similar vein, they would gain the attention of casual fans and even increase sales. Plus parents would feel more comfortable buying such comic books for their children instead of a comic book series with an ongoing dark and depressing storyline about a persecuted superhero mutant with major personal problems.

Which leads to the issue of appealing to deep-pocketed hardcore adult comic book fans at the expense of children. Sure it’s a cliche to say that children are the future but in the comic book industry it’s vital to gain the interest of children because these kids will grow up to become future comic book fans. If children don’t live in an area with a comic book specialty shop they won’t see comic books being sold in their local store so they won’t ask their parents to buy them an issue of Superman or Captain America. If children can’t afford the $3.99 per issue price tag, they will grow up without reading comic books. And if the dark storylines are too adult for the kids to read or if the kids are so confused by the numerous separate comic book series about Spider-Man or Iron Man that they end up not even picking a comic book, then they won’t grow up to become adult comic book readers nor will they buy comic books for their own children when they become parents.

Ultimately children who don’t read comic books will end up not reading comic books as adults so they won’t be there to replace the current crop of adult hardcore comic book fans when these people start to die off. This will put the comic book industry in a total death spiral to the point where some of these comic book companies may eventually go out of business.

In a nutshell.

The problem with the decline of comic book sales isn’t too much superhero diversity. It’s the price, the numerous knock-offs of the same characters, the limited distribution, the comic book events, and the constant catering to hardcore comic book fans at the expense of everyone else that are all slowly killing the comic book industry. Unless the comic book industry takes a hard look at these issues and do something about them instead of blaming diversity, it will recede further into irrelevance over the next few decades.

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This year is the 60th anniversary of the publication of what has got to be the strangest yet most unique children’s book ever published. The Lonely Doll by Dare Wright was a New York Times bestseller right alongside Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat when it was first released but, unlike the Dr. Seuss book, The Lonely Doll has gone out of print only to get reissued years later. It also hasn’t aged as well as The Cat in the Hat due in large part to the notorious spanking scene, which I’ll get to in a little bit.

Here’s a personal confession: I had never read any of The Lonely Doll books as a child. I know that for sure because those books have such a unique design that I would have remembered reading them if I did. I still have memories of reading those Little Golden Books that my mother used to pick up for me when she went grocery shopping, mainly because those books were priced pretty cheap. I also remember reading books written by Dr. Seuss and other books featuring characters like Clifford the Big Red Dog, Curious George, and Babar the Elephant. But I definitely don’t recall reading The Lonely Doll.

I first learned about The Lonely Doll as an adult when I read reviews of Jean Nathan’s biography of Dare Wright called The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright. I read that book years ago and I found it fascinating. That book initially got the cooperation of Wright’s sole heir, Brook Ashley, who has since disavowed it. You may want to keep that in mind if you decide to read Nathan’s biography.

I finally found The Lonely Doll and one of its sequels, Edith & Mr. Bear, in a store. Having read both books, I’m basically of two minds. Artistically they are lovely but the stories that accompany them basically had me going “WTF?!?”

The Lonely Doll is the spiritual ancestor of all those doll photostories that one can easily find on the Internet in places like SuperInky.com,  DeviantArt’s bjd-club, and the Instagram #AGIG group. The big difference is that The Lonely Doll was created in an era when there was no World Wide Web or social media. In fact the forerunner of the Internet—known as ARPANET—wouldn’t go online for the first time until 1958 and access to ARPANET was limited only to government workers with high security clearances. That book initially received wide attention mainly because Dare Wright managed to convince a major book publisher to publish and distribute it in schools, libraries, and bookstores.

Film photography was the only photography option that was available at that time, which meant that a photographer was limited to—based on film length—12, 24, or 36 exposures. In addition, a photographer didn’t know if a picture turned out correct until after the film was developed. Many photographers routinely took several shots of the same subject from different exposures and different angles in the hopes of getting at least one perfect photograph. Black and white photography was still common in 1957 mainly because it was less expensive than color photography.

The Lonely Doll was published in 1957 and it became an immediate sensation due to its unusual design. Normally a children’s book would feature illustrations done in a variety of media (such as ink, watercolor, mixed-media, etc.). What stands The Lonely Doll apart from the others is its use of black and white photography to illustrate the story. The photographs are quite effective in that they bring out an expressive quality in the doll and two teddy bears who are depicted in the story. Here’s a typical photograph from the book.

The accompanying story is incredibly full of WTF?!? Here’s the basic gist: There was a doll named Edith who lives in a nice townhouse in New York City. She has everything that a doll could ever want except for one thing: friends to share it with. She spends much of her time wishing and praying that God or someone would just send her a friend or two.

One day two teddy bears show up to the front steps of Edith’s home out of the blue. The larger teddy bear is known as Mr. Bear while the smaller one is known as Little Bear. The two teddy bears say that they would like to move in with her and be her friends. Edith is so overjoyed that her wish has come true that she never wonders where these teddy bears have come from or how they found out that she existed or how they knew that she needed their friendship. It’s obvious that the two bears have a father and son relationship even though Little Bear always calls the bigger one Mr. Bear instead of Dad, Daddy, or Papa.

Little Bear treats Edith as an equal and they frequently play together and have a good time. Mr. Bear, on the other hand, proceeds to take command of the house by bossing Edith and Little Bear around and scolding them if they do something that Mr. Bear does not approve of. Never mind the fact that Edith was the one who had the house first and Mr. Bear is someone who has just moved in instead of the other way around. Edith seems to tolerate Mr. Bear ordering her around.

One rainy day Mr. Bear grabs an umbrella and tells Edith and Little Bear that he has to go somewhere. He doesn’t tell them where he’s going or why he’s going without taking Edith or Little Bear with him. He tells Edith and Little Bear to not get into any trouble then leaves.

Edith and Little Bear are frustrated because Mr. Bear has left the home without them plus they can’t play outside because it’s raining. Little Bear suggests exploring around the house and they come across a dressing room with a mirror, clothes, shoes, jewelry, and other accessories. Edith and Little Bear play dress up by trying on various clothes and jewelry while making a mess in the room. At one point Little Bear grabs a tube of lipstick and writes “Mr. Bear is a silly old thing” on the mirror. He encourages Edith to put lipstick on even though she says that Mr. Bear had previously told her that she’s not allowed to use lipstick. Edith puts on the lipstick at the moment that Mr. Bear has not only returned home but he’s standing at the entrance to the dressing room. When Mr. Bear scolds the two for the mess that they’ve made and especially scolds Edith for trying on lipstick, she briefly gets a backbone and stands up for herself by saying that she has the right to use lipstick while calling Mr. Bear a silly. That brief bit of Edith standing up for herself leads to the notorious spanking scene where Mr. Bear first puts Edith over his knee and whips her bottom then he does the same to Little Bear.

After spanking both Edith and Little Bear, Mr. Bear tells the two to clean up the mess and orders Edith to stop crying before leaving the room. Edith continues to cry to the extent that even Little Bear is getting annoyed. Edith tells Little Bear that she’s afraid that Mr. Bear will leave and take Little Bear with him and she’ll become (gasp!) a lonely doll again!

Little Bear encourages Edith to help him clean up the mess. Both Edith and Little Bear apologize to Mr. Bear, who says that they can all forget about the incident. Edith asks Mr. Bear if he’ll stay and the story ends with Mr. Bear and Little Bear assuring Edith that they’ll stay with her forever and ever. Never again will Edith ever have to worry about being a lonely doll.

It may be that story’s idea of a happy ending but, for me, it would be a total nightmare.

Ever since my marriage imploded in late 2011 I’ve gotten involved with a divorce recovery group where we’ve discussed codependency, how destructive codependency can be, how to identify a codependent relationship, and how to avoid getting into one in the future. This book basically sends a message to kids that it’s better to be in a codependent relationship with someone who orders you around and even spanks you if you get too far out of line than to live alone. That’s totally messed up thinking.

Then there’s the spanking scene itself.

Notice how Edith is dressed in a short slip with her panties showing. Then there’s the “ooh-la-la” expression on her face that makes that scene look like a sexy BDSM scene with a doll and teddy bears. And Mr. Bear’s face seems totally fixated on Edith’s butt.

I once did a photographic parody of that spanking scene for an art exhibition a few years ago. I used a Volks Dollfie Dream as a stand-in for Edith. I picked this doll because she has a very mature sexy body, which is the complete opposite of the child-like Edith doll. I used a panda bear that I once owned but I’ve since given away when I was downsizing after my marriage collapsed. I even included The Lonely Doll book that was opened to that spanking scene.

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At least I had no pretense that I was doing this with children in mind. This photo was part of an exhibition series called Kitsch. (Link is definitely NSFW.)

The success of The Lonely Doll has led to several sequels. I’ve only read one of them, Edith & Mr. Bear, which was published in 1964.

Once again this book includes photographs that are very well-composed and expressive.

In some ways I think the story in this book is far better than The Lonely Doll because it’s a basic morality story that tries to teach a lesson. By this point Edith and the two bears have been living together for a while and they have been joined by another member of the household—a tiny flesh and blood kitten named, well, Kitten, who has a minor role in this book.

The story begins with Edith and Little Bear waiting near the front door for Mr. Bear to return home from a shopping trip. Mr. Bear arrives with three presents. One is a dress for Edith and the other is a toy boat for Little Bear. The third and biggest package is one that Mr. Bear has purchased for himself—a clock. Edith becomes fascinated by the new clock but Mr. Bear decides to put the clock high upon the mantel so neither Edith nor Little Bear can reach it, play with it, and risk breaking it.

Despite Mr. Bear’s efforts to keep the clock out of the reach of the other two toys, Edith becomes fascinated by the clock to the point of obsession. One day, while she was home alone, Edith drags a pile of books over to the mantel until the pile is big enough for her to reach the clock. Edith climbs up to the mantel and, at long last, she’s able to play around with the inner workings of the clock.

But then she loses her balance and both she and the clock comes tumbling down along with the books. The clock breaks into a lot of little pieces. Edith tries to sweep away the evidence but Mr. Bear finds the pile of broken clock pieces. He brings Edith and Little Bear into the room and demands to know which one of them broke the clock. Edith lies by saying that she didn’t break the clock while Little Bear also denies it as well, except he is telling the truth.

Initially Edith thinks she has gotten away with her lie. But then she begins to feel intense guilt over her lie and her efforts to keep the truth a secret starts to weigh in on her. She’s afraid that Mr. Bear will hate her if he ever knows that she broke the clock. The guilt stresses her out so much that she isn’t able to enjoy her own birthday party and she begins to act cross around Little Bear. Edith attempts to tell Kitten the truth about the broken clock but that wasn’t enough to get rid of the guilt because Kitten never had anything to do with that clock and Kitten can’t say anything beyond “Meow.”

One day the guilt over the clock weighs in so heavy that Edith takes her stress out on Little Bear by ruining his drawing and Little Bear calls her “horrid.” After he leaves in a huff Edith realizes that she has become horrid and she decides that the best thing she can do is run away from home.

So Edith runs away and ends up spending the night on the streets. She goes down to the docks the following day and thinks about boarding one of the boats but then changes her mind when she realizes that if she does so, she’ll never see Mr. Bear or Little Bear ever again.

Edith decides to return home and tell Mr. Bear the truth. After she comes clean about the clock, Mr. Bear tells her that he suspected that it was her all this time and that he knew that it was an accident that she broke the clock. He tells her that he would never have punished her for an accident. He also decides not to punish her for lying because he feels that she has already punished herself with the constant stress and spending the night on the streets. Edith goes to bed happy that she has come clean about what she did and Mr. Bear has forgiven her.

Had the book ended there, it could’ve been an excellent morality story for children showing how telling a lie can have a negative effect on the person telling the lie in the form of guilt and additional stress.

But, sadly, the story continues from there. Edith continues to get into various mischief (such as digging up flower bulbs to see if they have sprouted then replanting them upside down). One day Edith decides to bake something special for Mr. Bear and she starts making a mess in the kitchen while she’s mixing the ingredients. She gets Little Bear to light a match so they can heat the gas stove, despite the fact that Mr. Bear has forbidden the two from even touching matches. Mr. Bear catches them in the act and it leads to another spanking scene.

You get a clear view of Edith’s panties while she’s rubbing her freshly spanked butt.

The book ends with the three of them walking to a nearby park with Little Bear bringing his toy boat to float in the pond.

After reading those books, one could be forgiven for wondering what kind of person would write a series of books like this. Looking at Dare Wright’s life provides all kinds of insights as to why she would write them.

Dare Wright was born in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada in 1914 as the younger of two children in a dysfunctional and deteriorating marriage. Her father, Ivan Wright, was a theater critic while her mother, Edith “Edie” Stevenson Wright, was an artist.

Her parents’ marriage was strained by Ivan’s descent into alcoholism and his frequent job switching. Edie tried to make ends meet by painting portraits. The marriage ended in a divorce that grew so divisive that each parent ultimately took custody of only one child while cutting off all further contact with the former spouse and the other child. As a result, Dare would never see her father again since he died a few years later. She wouldn’t be reunited with her older brother, Blaine, until after both siblings were well into their 20’s.

Basically Dare Wright was raised as an only child of a divorced single parent long before that kind of family unit was common.

Edie and Dare settled in Cleveland when Edie found that she could make a living painting portraits of that city’s wealthy elites while Dare attended Coventry Elementary School. At one point Edie purchased a doll for her daughter. It was a felt doll made by the Italian company Lenci. The doll was known as the Lenci 109/14 series and she originally had brown curly hair. The doll was named Edith after the mother but I was never able to find out whether it was a name that Dare gave to the doll or if Edie had insisted that the doll be named after her and Dare went along with it.

Soon after the doll purchase Edie sent Dare to begin the fourth grade at the Laurel School, an all-girls’ boarding school in Cleveland. Dare attended that school all the way through high school. After she graduated from the Laurel School in 1933, she migrated to New York City where she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Her stage acting career reached no further than landing a small part in a touring company production of Pride and Prejudice. She switched to modeling where she had better luck landing jobs. At some point, probably as a result of her modeling jobs, she became fascinated with photography and she obtained her own camera. She became so adept at photography that she became a fashion photographer.

Her career took a new turn when she was reunited with Edith the doll during one of her visits with her mother. By this point she was also reunited with her brother Blaine, who purchased two teddy bears for her from FAO Schwarz. The larger was a Schuco bear while the smaller was a Stieff. The three toys served as the basis for The Lonely Doll books.

Dare replaced Edith the doll’s original brown hair with a new blonde wig with bangs that can be worn in a ponytail. That doll wig is similar to how Dare Wright wore her own hair in real life, thus fueling speculation that Edith the Lonely Doll is a stand-in for Dare Wright in these books.

Blaine Wright was a lifelong bachelor who never had children of his own. Dare Wright was once engaged to one of Blaine’s friends until her fiancee broke off the engagement. Otherwise, Dare never married nor had any children. Both siblings became alcoholics. One doesn’t have to be a psychiatrist to guess that their parents’ devastating divorce that separated the siblings for many years may have had something to do with what became of them later in life.

One also doesn’t have to be an expert to guess that The Lonely Doll series probably portrayed an alternate reality in Dare Wright’s life as she tried to explore what would have happened if she had ended up growing up with her father and brother instead of her mother—including a scenario where she gets spanked by her father whenever she’s bad.

Should parents buy this book for their children? My only suggestion is for you to read the book before giving it to your child so you can decide for yourself whether it’s something that’s appropriate for your child to read. All I can say is that The Lonely Doll books are definitely a far cry from Dr. Seuss.

Last November my Unitarian Universalist church joined the many other houses of worship across the United States in putting up a Black Lives Matter sign.

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My congregation did one better with this sign. It also added the heart logo of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign and a rainbow banner indicating that it’s a welcoming congregation for the LBGTQ community. My congregation voted to erect this sign despite the fact that other houses of worship who have put up Black Lives Matter signs and banners have had them either defaced or stolen outright.

This morning I learned that my congregation has had the sign stolen. Yes, it’s distressing but, no, my congregation is not deterred. The word is that we will get a new identical banner and put it up. My congregation refuses to cower to the forces of racism, homophobia, and other types of ugly prejudice that has especially sprung up in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election.

Last year I briefly worked for a start-up that was founded by a housemate of a friend of mine. (At the time I wrote in this blog that he was a friend of a friend. In reality the two of them share the same house. I didn’t want to go into too many details about my friend because I didn’t want his home life to be adversely affected by whatever I write in this blog.) Basically the start-up would sell disposable jumpsuits that were pre-sprayed with Sawyer Permethrin spray. I did the administrative tasks, including manually spraying these jumpsuits with the permethrin spray and packing them into plastic bags.

There were weird things about the start-up from the beginning, such as the owner’s insistence on using my Square reader card for all credit card transactions (even though it was connected to my PayPal account and not the start-up’s) instead of getting one for the start-up. But I had let my bullshit guard down mainly because he was my friend’s housemate. On top of it this person was dealing with his own struggles with Lyme disease while also simultaneously dealing with a partner with dementia. If it weren’t for my compassion and softheartedness, I probably would’ve walked out the door way sooner because I grew weary of dealing with the frequent reprimands for any slight mistakes while being discouraged from taking any notes on procedures so I can do my job better. (He expected me to just retain his instructions in my head instead of taking notes.)

Even though I tried to encourage the founder to get a free blogging account, he talked me into writing a post in this very blog instead and I foolishly went along with it. I wrote this post about what I was doing and I included a selfie of me wearing one of the jumpsuits.

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We were preparing for formally rolling out the jumpsuits at the Loudon Lyme 10K/5K/1K Fun Run. When the founder asked me about other events, I mentioned the Greenbelt Green Man Festival that took place the weekend before the Loudon event. By that point it was too late to get a vendor booth but he talked me into wearing one of the jumpsuits to that event and sell them from a large Aldi recyclable shopping bag. Even though I got plenty of attention, I failed to sell a single jumpsuit. The start-up owner wasn’t too concerned about the lack of sales and he assured me that we would sell more at the next event.

I naturally assumed that we would have a vendor booth for the Loudon Lyme event where we would sell the jumpsuits. In fact I even helped out with designing promotional materials that I assumed would be displayed at the booth along with the jumpsuits. It wasn’t until two days before this event I was told that there wouldn’t be a vendor booth. That was how I found out that the founder had this sales plan where you never register for vendor booths at events. Instead you would just show up to these events wearing one of the jumpsuits while selling the others from backpacks—just like I did at the Greenbelt Green Man Festival.

Anyway we failed to sell a single jumpsuit and the person sent me a text message a few days later accusing me of self-sabotage. I was pissed at that point because I had written that blog post promoting the start-up and it was basically too late for me to delete it since it’s common knowledge that what you put online lasts forever. So I wrote a retraction post where I announced a new policy where I would no longer write about work I do for other people until after a project is finished and I provided details as to why I’m no longer with the start-up that I previously wrote about. I basically put that start-up behind me after I wrote that post.

I would occasionally hear from my former boss on Facebook but we didn’t interact very much. A few days ago he tagged my name to a Facebook page that was a sales page selling permethrin-treated jumpsuits. I took a look at that page. It looked like it wasn’t even completed and it didn’t look like it was a real business page. There was no email address, phone number, nor any other information about that business other than the name. There was one post on that page that said “Don’t tick me off” but that was it. Here’s is why this page raised my ire: This page was using my selfie as an avatar, implying that I was the owner of that company. Which meant that the one post on that page had my selfie next to it, implying that I was the one who wrote that.

I sent a message to my former boss asking him if that was his page but he didn’t respond. The next day I decided to send an email my friend asking him if he knew anything about this since they are still housemates. My friend promptly responded with an email where he said that his housemate had not mentioned reviving his jumpsuit business at all nor had he seen any evidence that he had done so (such as seeing an excess amount of jumpsuits lying around the house). I began to think that some unknown sleazy asshole was trying to start some bogus business on Facebook while using my selfie as the face of that fake business and that was why my former boss tagged my name.

So I reported that page to Facebook. After I did that, I sent a message to my former boss thanking him for letting me know about this page and I had reported it to Facebook for using my photo without even telling me. At that point he finally responded saying that, yes, it’s his page and he doesn’t know how to remove my photo that he uploaded on that page without even telling me. He offered to pay me for the use of my image.

Six months after I wrote my original retraction post, I made an update at the end of that post because the founder finally paid me the rest of the money he owed me and I wrote that update to reflect that fact. At the time I wrote:

Would I work for him again? I don’t know. It really depends on a lot of things (such as whether he would do things differently now or not).

After his latest shenanigans with using my selfie as the face of that Facebook page without even telling me fist, I have decided that there’s no way in hell I would work for him again. It was bad enough how he ran that start-up last year. What he recently did is totally sleazy and unethical and I want no part of that.

A few weeks ago I attended my first-ever focus group movie screening. The deal was this: a local filmmaker was having a free screening of his movie at the Greenbelt Theatre. In exchange we were asked to fill out a survey after the movie ended. It sounded like a good deal to me so I went for it.

The movie was a documentary called Victorious and it’s about the DC Divas, an all-female football team that plays in the Women’s Football Alliance. I found it quite interesting, even though I’m not a football fan. I was amazed at the difference between how female football players are treated compared to their male counterparts in the NFL in terms of everything from sponsorships (you won’t see advertisers hire female football players to appear in their ads hawking beer and other products) to being taken seriously as athletes. The documentary was still a work in progress when I saw it (there was one scene where stock footage of an airplane taking off from the runway that still had the “Shutterstock” watermark in the middle) but I found it quite interesting.

I took a quick photo of the survey that I was given at the end, along with an attached Fed-Ex box.

All I had to do was just fill out the survey and give it and the attached box back to the filmmaker.

It was a pretty interesting experience. I think this documentary has a lot of potential to be something that gets rave reviews in papers like The New York Times. Only time will tell regarding this film’s ultimate fate. If you ever get a chance to attend a focus group movie screening, go for it. At least you’ll get to see a free movie.

Glen Burnie Mall used to be one of my favorite places to hang out as a teenager. It had this awesome video arcade place where I played many of the popular pinball machines and video games of the era (i.e. Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Joust, Ms. Pac-Man, etc.). I loved the Record Bar, which was this large glass kiosk that was placed in the middle of the mall where people could buy albums, 8-tracks, and cassette tapes. Plus there were the Chess King and Merry-Go-Round stores, both of which sold trendy clothes for the teens and young adults of a certain era. One of the mall’s big anchors was Montgomery Ward’s, where my mother used to occasionally find clothes for me. (She bought the bulk of my clothes from Hutzler’s and Hochschild-Kohn’s, two now-defunct department stores.) The other big anchor was—and currently still is—Toys ‘R’ Us.

In the years since I left Glen Burnie that mall had undergone major changes, especially after Montgomery Ward’s closed when the entire department store chain went belly-up back in 2001. For a time it seemed like the mall was thriving because it had managed to lure Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and a few chain restaurants. The mall even changed its name to The Centre at Glen Burnie.

It wasn’t until I visited that mall in person in 2014 when I discovered the real story. Despite the arrival of these newer stores and restaurants, they were not only built as separate structures around the mall but whoever designed these newer structures failed to provide a back opening that went into the mall itself. So if a shopper goes to—let’s say—Target and that shopper decides that he/she wants to visit the rest of the mall while he/she is there anyway, that person needs to exit Target then walk some distance outside until that person finds a door that directly leads into the mall. From what I saw, it looked like Toys ‘R’ Us is the only major store that still has a mall entrance and that’s because it is located in a store space that originally was built with the rest of the mall back in the early 1960’s.

As a result of that stupid building plan that didn’t provide mall entrances to the newer stores and restaurants, the mall itself started going on this downward spiral where fewer people actually went inside the mall, which led to more and more stores gradually closing. Here is what the mall looked like when I was there in 2014.

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That entire mall was a shadow of its former self, which made me feel sad since it was once a popular mall to shop at in Glen Burnie.

I didn’t return to The Centre at Glen Burnie until last year, when I had to make frequent trips to Glen Burnie because my mother was staying at a hospital there. I tried making the most of a stressful situation by checking out some of my old haunts before and after my visits, among them was The Centre at Glen Burnie. I rued my decision to visit that mall again because it had deteriorated further than my last visit because more stores were closed. Here are the photos I took during that visit.

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Today I was checking out the I remember Harundale when there was a Mall… group on Facebook and someone posted a recent photo. According to that poster, all of the stores inside the mall are now closed. A security guard is seated in the middle of the mall and, according to that poster, his job is to discourage people from taking pictures inside of the mall. (It’s obvious that this person managed to sneak in one photograph since he posted it.)

It’s sad that this mall from my childhood is now pretty much gone. The whole demise could have been prevented had the newer stores and restaurants been built with back entrances into the mall so people would be encouraged to shop at the other stores located inside of the mall. Sheesh! At least I still have the memories of that mall’s glory days. 😦

Today is International Women’s Day. In honor of that occasion, I’ll begin this post with an old photo of my Volks Dollfie Dream doll. I chose this photo because the doll has a mature woman’s body and she’s wearing an outfit that has red in it, which I’ll explain further under the picture. (In case you’re wondering, I did the doll’s faceup and I made the outfit as well.)

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Today a major international strike—called “A Day Without Women”—is being held all around the world. The women in each nation are striking for different reasons that are local to their area but a strike is going on today nonetheless.

Here’s the short answer for why women in my country are striking today: President Trump. There are other reasons for this strike as well, which Bustle has helpfully posted online as a resource for strikers when they are asked why they are on strike today.

The local schools in my area are off today because so many teachers and employees have taken personal leave. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t ventured outside yet but I will soon so I’ll see how many people are really observing this.

As for me, I don’t live with anyone at the moment so it’s irrelevant whether I sit out on doing the housework today or not. I already have a red shirt in my closet so I was able to wear that in solidarity. I also haven’t found a new day job yet so I’m home regardless of whether there’s a strike or not.

The one thing I can do is not spend any money today, which is another thing that the organizers have called for. I made an effort to go to the Verizon store to pay my latest cell phone bill yesterday so I wouldn’t have to spend money today. The word is that if it turns out that we have to buy something we really need today, we should frequent local small businesses that are owned either by women or minorities and avoid the corporate chain stores entirely. The convenience store near my home is a family-run store that’s owned by a Chinese immigrant family so I could go there if it turns out I need something in a pinch.

Today one of the local women-owned businesses is sponsoring a Craft-In at her shop where people can bring either their latest craft project or, for a fee, buy some craft supplies and do some crafting. I’m going to check that out later.

If I had a day job, I would have a difficult time with going on strike because I would not have been employed too long and it’s generally harder for recent hires to get time off than longtime employees. For other people who are in the same boat, Bustle.com has some helpful tips on other ways people can observe this day if they are unable to take time off from work.

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