Baby Boomer's social commentary on life in OUR sixties for those who rocked life in THE sixties.


The News. Was it good for you?

It's not hard to feel discouraged and helpless.

It’s not hard to feel discouraged and helpless.

Where do we draw the line between morbid curiosity and genuine concern? Each morning as I read the newspaper and then watch the news on television later in the evening, I find myself torn. On one hand I want to remain informed but on the other hand it’s making me feel ill. Watching the horror show on the American political scene is like driving past a fatal car accident. Should we just politely look away and drive on (after all, we’re Canadian and it’s not our problem) but we find ourselves wondering how two cars driving in the same direction on a sunny day on a straight stretch of double lane highway could possibly have created such a tragic mess.

Then, as I watched the news on television last night, they described a vicious racial attack on a young woman and her mother who were shopping at Hurontario and Dundas Streets in Mississauga, not far from my own home. The young woman, who had spent her entire life in Canada, was physically assaulted while verbal racial slurs were repeatedly shouted at her and her mother, traumatizing them both.

immigrants1Every single one of us is the product of immigration, regardless of whether we are white, brown, yellow or any variation of colour. Even our indigenous people once crossed the Bering Strait or the Pacific ocean to populate this continent. The Greater Toronto Area has tripled in size and prosperity since I moved here from small-town Ontario more than fifty years ago. We have immigrants to thank for fostering this growth by providing the human resources to run our farms, provide us with service workers, teachers, health care providers including doctors, scientists and technicians, for launching small and large businesses and for building a country of tolerance and acceptance.

I’m very concerned that the new order south of the border is bringing the haters, racists and extreme right wingers out into the light of day in our own country as well. The alarming new attitudes and policies being accepted as mainstream in the once-free United States is a cancer that must not allowed to take root. An extreme right Catholic television station is gaining traction and expanding in Ferndale, Michigan near Detroit. Their anti-gay, anti-climate change, anti-feminism, anti-Muslim message is within broadcasting distance. And thanks to the internet the spores of hate, intolerance and racism jump across the border and infect our own country

welcomeAs Canadians we can no longer politely look away and drive on. Much as I’m tempted to take one of my regular news sabbaticals, I realize I have a moral responsibility to no longer simply look away. We have to stop the car and provide assistance. While we may not be able to provide medical aid to the injured, we can redirect traffic and provide comfort to the victims. We can make it known that inaction is not an option. The racist policies launched in Nazi Germany began with subtle changes that quickly escalated while the German people opted to look away in the mistaken belief that they couldn’t do anything about it. Given to understand they were “making Germany great again” they soon forfeited their rights and the cancer ran rampant. Hate often stems from a lack of understanding. We have to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. Promote tolerance and understanding before it’s too late.

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If you love your pets you’ll read this

petfooledYesterday I watched a documentary film titled Pet Fooled about the dirty secrets of the pet food industry that confirmed my worst suspicions. Commercial pet food is not as advertised and we’re the victims of false advertising and misleading labeling, all with the approval of the FDA. Or, more appropriately, our pet dogs and cats are the helpless victims. Not long ago there was a recall of dehydrated chicken and duck cutlets that were being sold as healthy pet treats. After a great deal of public pressure and undeniable evidence, it was proven that these products were not one hundred percent chicken or duck as indicated on the packaging but in fact contained a number of deadly chemicals including melamine which is used in paint, laminate and other commercial inedible products. I personally know someone who lost their little Shihtzu dog whose kidneys failed after eating these treats. And these products are still on store shelves.

It’s not just treats. Most commercial pet food contains a shocking proportion of useless and in fact harmful, potentially lethal ingredients. Dogs and cats are genetically engineered to eat fresh meat and fish, just like wolves and big cats who lived in the wild for millenia. Most commercial dog and cat food including so-called high-end premium and organic brands is made up primarily of grains and animal by-products. Veterinarians receive their nutritional training from pet food companies which is like letting the fox loose in the hen-house; their only concern is the bottom line. Dogs’ and cats’ digestive systems are not designed to process carbohydrates and will suffer from obesity, cancers, skin disorders and diabetes as a result of being fed a diet high in carbohydrates, corn, wheat, soy, DHA and filler.

About thirty years ago I watched a program on television (60 Minutes or a similar program) that featured a veterinarian who was also a breeder of large dogs. She fed her dogs a diet of “top quality” premium commercial dog food, both dry and wet. Despite her best efforts at providing a healthy diet and trying various brands, her dogs suffered a variety of ailments including allergies, skin diseases and other problems. As soon as she took them completely off commercial dog foods and started serving them real meat she bought from the butcher, all their problems disappeared.

As beloved members of our family, our pets deserve the best.

As beloved members of our family, we want our pets to live long, healthy lives.

I never forgot that and subsequently, over the years I have always given all my dogs a lot of “people food” including real chicken, beef and other natural foods, being careful to not feed them corn or other grains. This goes against common advice from veterinarians who are trained by the pet food industry. When I mix real food with high quality commercial canned food purchased from my vet, my own dogs consistently carefully separate the canned dog food from the real chicken and beef and only eat the canned dog food if they are desperate. Dry kibble is the worst and cats should never be fed dry food; always add a lot of water if you insist on feeding your cats dry kibble. Remember, cats are naturally inclined to eat rodents, bones, blood and all. While we all appreciate the convenience of commercial pet food, be very discriminating about what you buy; research it and preferably restrict it. I am now feeding my dog primarily meat from our table.

Pet foods labelled “organic” are also a hoax. FDA documents specifically state that the designation “organic” may include rendered by-products, chemicals and specifically corn and other dangerous ingredients. Never, ever believe pet food package labeling. We know already to avoid pet food and treats from Asia but Made in U.S.A. or Made in Canada is no guarantee of safety or quality either. There are no practical controls over what goes into pet food and pet treats. End of story.

I couldn’t find a free copy of “Pet Fooled” on YouTube or even a copy on Netflix but it can be rented or purchased through Amazon and Amazon Prime or iTunes. I watched it at a showing by one of the members of our neighbourhood dog park community. The documentary includes a number of helpful websites that can be consulted for more information. I’m including a copy of an information sheet handed out at our meeting which will enable you to (after reading the ingredients on the package) calculate the percentage of carbohydrates in your pet’s food. This documentary is shocking but not surprising. Please watch it and take a stand against what the commercial pet food industry is passing off as healthy, organic and nutritious. Your pet’s life depends on it. The bottom line? DO NOT BELIEVE THE ADVERTISING OR PRODUCT LABELING. I urge you to share this information with other pet owners.

Having a sick pet is heartbreaking and often preventable.

Having a sick pet is heartbreaking and often preventable.

Here are links to some resources:

Pet Fooled Video on (rent or buy)


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5 reasons why Melania will never occupy The White House

If I smile, he said he'd pay my American Express bill.

If I smile, he said he’d pay my American Express bill.

Now that the inauguration festivities are over and President Trump no longer has to fake respect for family values (five children with three wives), First Lady Melania has retreated to her ivory tower in Manhattan, under the guise of being a “full-time” mother. After all, she does have her hands full with making all those wardrobe and accessory decisions while her only child is away all day at private school. But she’s not fooling anyone.

Here’s this Boomer Broad’s take on the real reasons we no longer see the presidential arm-candy around Washington:

      1. gloria2She’s busy packing his things and hauling them to the curb at Trump Tower, dancing around in her gold stiletto’s singing I Will Survive and I’m going to wash that man right out of my hair extensions, at the top of her lungs.
      2. Let’s face it, Ivanka will do a much better job of First-Ladying, having a wee bit of a brain and all.
      3. She got tired of all that orange hair and spray tan in the bathroom sink, and she no longer has to share her makeup.
      4. Her girlfriends on Fifth Avenue provide a much more realistic support system when it comes to making tough decisions about whether to wear the Valentino or the Dolce & Gabanna for her weekly trophy-wife support group lunches.
      5. Life in The White House might require doing some actual work such as pretending she enjoys hosting the King of Tonga or organizing the annual Easter egg hunt. Living away also means she doesn’t have to get behind a worthy cause such as anti-bullying (oops! bad choice) or mental health (sorry, not that one either).

trump2Maintaining security and housing the Secret Service in Trump Tower will conveniently provide a much-needed revenue stream for the financially challenged first family. Former Presidents’ wives have also been known to earn their keep by whispering common sense into the President’s ear when he needs a dose of reality. We’re hoping Ivanka will fulfill that role although her reality is not even remotely anything like that experienced by ordinary citizens. Not much hope there. And, his emperorship listens to reason from no one. So, all in all, having an AWOL first lady is not entirely a bad thing. Perhaps there is an upside to this administration after all. We will survive.

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Mike Myers is our very own symbol of true patriot love, with a touch of class

mike1I know I have a tendency at times (sorry!! it’s a Canadian thing) to gush about books I love, so brace yourself; this is a huge gush. We all know and love fellow Canuck Mike Myers for his Second City and SNL characters as well as his movie roles in Wayne’s World, Austin Powers and Shrek. The Wayne Campbell character was based on his own teenage self. Being funny requires also being smart and Mike Myers displays an abundance of both in his new book about his love affair with Canada appropriately titled Canada.  At nearly four hundred pages, it contains a lot of material but is such a wonderful read I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down (sorry . . . did it again). I read it in less than two days.

Myers’s book is a combination memoir and layman’s guide to all things Canadian. He describes growing up in North York and Scarborough (suburbs of Toronto) with such clarity and relatability that we can practically feel the winter cold, taste the ketchup-flavoured potato chips, hear the shouts on the street of  “game on”, and smell the Tim Horton’s coffee. I once lived in the same neighbourhood around Fairview Mall and can easily picture him and his friend as young boys trying to score hockey stickers from hapless customers at the Don Mills Road and Sheppard Avenue gas station, or envision his family life amidst the white brick high-rise apartment buildings that dominate the neighbourhood.

Like Wayne Gretsky, Myers is endlessly gracious, tossing out dozens of “thank you’s” to everyone along the way who made a positive contribution to his or anyone’s life. His modesty and lack of ego are typically Canadian. The book explains some of our history, our cultural touchstones like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Canadian Tire and Tim Horton’s. He also references our more sophisticated British-influenced sense of humour which is heavy on irony and understatement. As an actor and writer, he’s tuned in to the nuances of language and provides examples of how Canadians, Americans and Brits differ in speech patterns. He has an amazing ear for subtleties.

His Wayne Campbell character was totally based on his teenage self.

His Wayne Campbell character was inspired by his teenage self growing up in “Scarberia”.

His observations of life growing up as a typical Canadian boy are entertaining and enlightening. For many years before cable and satellite, we could only get three television stations in Toronto and as a result of watching Irv Weinstein, Buffalo’s answer to Walter Cronkite (Buffalo: the city of endless fires and shootings), Myers and his friends were always baffled when the eleven o’clock news started with “It’s eleven o’clock. Do you know where your children are?” We all remember that tagline and coming from safe and sane Canada, Myers and the rest of us were left wondering, “What’s going on? Where are the children? Should we get in a car and go down to Buffalo and help find the children?”

After I finished reading the book I checked some of the reviews on Amazon and several people suggested non-Canadians wouldn’t “get it”. I totally disagree. In fact, Canada by Mike Myers should be required reading for every Canadian within and outside our borders. I’ll even go further and suggest it should be required reading for every American whose lack of general knowledge about the world outside their borders, particularly their northern neighbour, is shocking and profound. Myers, who spent the first twenty years of his life in Canada before moving for short time to England then the United States to further his career, agrees. “I live in the States. And you never hear any news about Canada when you live in the States.” Canada, as the title suggests is not an autobiography so there’s a lot of personal information missing about his marriage, family life and what he’s being doing the last few years. It’s a self-described love letter to growing up in Canada, intertwined with history, cultural and political observations of our country. It will warm your heart, just like Mike Myers has done for us for many years now. Schwing!

To order a copy of CANADA by Mike Myers from Amazon, click here.

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Do you suffer from opioid constipation?

constipationApparently it’s no joke.  In this latest twist in the commercialization of drug use, I actually saw an advertisement on TV that recommended a prescription solution to an apparent prescription problem. “If you suffer from constipation as a result of opioid use, talk to your doctor about . . . xyz.” I first learned of this problem when I read Papa John, an autobiography by John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas many years ago (which is an interesting read, by the way). He educated me to the fact heavy drug users suffer from severe constipation and intestinal gas. Lovely.

I know there are opioid users who are not drug abusers and are in fact genuine pain sufferers who need prescription painkillers. Obviously, many drugs are good and life-saving but that’s not what I’m talking about here. How would we ever survive without the drug industry to monitor our ailments and develop a pill to eliminate them. American television advertising is sustained and supported by Big Pharma. I’ve actually counted up to fifteen commercials during a break in television programming with thirteen of them about drugs, either over-the-counter or prescription.

Whatever your problem, Big Pharma has a solution, or is it just another problem?

Whatever your problem, Big Pharma has a solution, or is it just another problem?

There are pills to put us to sleep, pills to counteract the sleeping pills and wake us up, pills to loosen our bowels, pills to tighten our bowels, pills to dry our allergic eyes and pills to relieve dry eyes. We have pills to improve our eyesight, our hearing and even our brains. Along with commercials about four-hour erections, anal leakage and troublesome psoriasis, it’s obvious the entire population over the age of fifty, including all baby boomers, is plagued with a shocking number of ailments that require immediate and ongoing pharmaceutical intervention. And if we’re not popping enough prescription and over-the-counter meds, the “wellness” industry is relentlessly promoting our dependency on vitamin supplements, protein shakes and nefarious diet regimes that could actually endanger our health. Those futuristic space-age predictions we all watched on our snowy black and white televisions in the fifties and sixties have come to pass. Our meals are now a handful of pills.

Despite the billions of dollars spent each year on developing, marketing and purchasing pills and potions from Big Pharma we still don’t have a cure for the common cold, for diabetes or more tragically, cancer. That’s because there’s no profit in eliminating these diseases. With all those billions being spent by consumers to support the treatment of symptoms, there’s no incentive to treat the cause. So if you’re suffering from constipation caused by opioid use or conversely if you’re a victim of anal leakage, stay tuned. There’ll be a commercial for pharmaceutical help regardless of your real or imagined ailment within the next few minutes on a television or digital feed near you. And that’s no joke.

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Scotiabank’s 2016 Giller Prize winner for fiction is indeed a winner

madelaineI don’t always agree with the judges’ selections for the annual ScotiaBank Giller Prize for Fiction, but this year they nailed it. Book lovers can relate to the delicious feeling of being so engrossed in a good book that the rest of the world ceases to exist until that book is finished. That’s how I felt reading Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Canadian author Madelaine Thien. On one hand I feel I’m wasting time buried in a book, but how is that possible when that same book is taking me to foreign countries, immersing me in other cultures and expanding my world far beyond any of my everyday life experiences.

The story begins in the first person narrative with Marie describing her life in Vancouver living with her mother following the suicide of her father in Hong Kong several years earlier. Then, an enigmatic relative by the name of Ai-ming who is only slightly older than Marie arrives under suspicious circumstances from mainland China. Her presence raises questions, unfolding the story of Marie’s family history that is reflective of the various cultural, economic and social purges instituted by Mao Tse Tung in the mid-twentieth century.

Written in memoir style along historical fiction plot lines, we are introduced to Marie’s distant family in China. Their struggles, secrets and suffering are described in exquisite detail to the degree we feel like we’re reading non-fiction. This book reminded me of Wild Swans, a wonderful non-fiction book about three generations of twentieth century women in China by Jung Chang which I read several years ago. Both books bring home the cruel and senseless denunciations, murder, starvation and relocation of millions of people under Chairman Mao Tse Tung for decades.

The characters’ lives are strongly shaped around their love and participation in the world of classical music which was at various times banned in China. The author writes sensitively and with a deep intellectual understanding of music that is far above and beyond anything I possess. Some readers will find the detailed references to the deeper meanings of music to be tedious (I certainly did) but it’s worth slogging through the boring bits. The fact that Beethoven’s fifth movement does not refer to his bowels is the extent of my understanding of classical music but that does not preclude readers enjoying the references. The characters are complex, relatable and beautifully detailed with colourful names like Big Mother Knife, Little Sparrow and Old Cat. Thien imbues certain characters with a sense of humour and their wisdom is displayed in dialogue with strong, clear metaphors. She also makes use of Chinese symbols to explain and help the reader understand the nuances of language. Personally, I think the book could have used some tighter editing but overall I enjoyed it and plan to read more by Madelaine Thien.

Click here to order Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madelaine Thein from Amazon:

Click here to order a copy of Wild Swans by Jung Chang from Amazon.

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What’s the deal with Canadian weather?

weather1Have you ever known a group of people more obsessed with weather than Canadians? Perhaps it’s because we have such a range of weather extremes and so much of it is shitty. From melt-your-smartphone humid summers to freezing sub-zero winters, we get it all. Maybe it’s a throwback to our agricultural heritage when our farmer ancestors constantly agonized about whether it was too dry, too wet or too cold.  We all know farmers are never happy and they passed along the worry gene to future generations.

The weather report and discussions about the weather are guaranteed conversational ice-breakers and common denominator for all Canadians. “Did you get stuck in that snow storm last Tuesday?” Even when there’s no particular weather to discuss, we discuss it, “Mild isn’t it?”. We are addicted to the weather report and never get dressed in the morning without consulting the radio so we’ll know whether to dig out the long underwear or break out the flip flops. The evening weather reports on television are as vital to our daily functioning as the latest NHL scores and four-wheel-drive vehicles. This genetic imprinting has resulted in certain coping mechanisms unique to Canadians.

Top ten strategies Canadians have developed for coping with our weather:

  1. Tim Horton’s, founded by a former NHL hockey player from the sixties, is our cultural touchstone and year-round mecca for escaping life.
  2. weather4We invented hockey which is played on ice twelve months a year and in the driveway or on the road in July and August.
  3. Insurance companies’ default no-fault policy guarantees no-pay if your vehicle slips on black ice and rear-ends a public bus. Get over it.
  4. Ontario Liberals can claim the usurious price of Hydro electricity is the result of previous winter weather caused by the previous Conservative government.
  5. Icicles are permanent appendages on the noses of Canadian children. Never break one off.
  6. Permanent salt stains up our pant legs make Canadians instantly recognizable in airports around the world. That means we’re not carrying a gun so there’s no need to worry about us hijacking a plane—ever!
  7. Washing your car between October and May is just a waste of money.
  8. We spend $500.00 on winter boots to leave them at the door and walk around in our stocking feet when visiting friends. And, we design the world’s best, most waterproof boots.
  9. Canadians carry ice scrapers and road salt in the trunks of their cars year-round.
  10. Canadian males’ external plumbing is indispensable for thawing frozen car door locks. For those with new vehicles equipped with electronic door locking systems, as we frequently say in Canada . . . sorry!

weather3If a local radio or television station broadcasts fake news of a suspected flurry in mid-July, traffic jams will immediately bring all movement on Highway 401, Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway to a halt. (This can also occur without a snow warning.) And, the snow plow is guaranteed to come down your street and send a four-foot snow bank into your driveway right after you’ve spent the morning shoveling it out. Canadians also take pride in eating in TGI Friday’s outside patio in any kind of weather, enjoying our poutine and latté alfresco year-round.

Perhaps because my husband spent his early years on a farm, he’s a weather junkie. He’ll inform me on a Saturday morning that the “wind and rains are going to start on Sunday at 2:00 p.m.”. I’m expected to mentally file that information and immediately start securing the hatches, tie down the patio furniture and make sure I’m safe and sound inside a hurricane-proof facility within twenty-four hours. He has temperature and humidity monitoring devices everywhere—next to his LaZBoy, on his Blackberry, on his laptop, even next to our bed— so, without ever looking out the window he knows what’s going on, can report to me and prepare us for any potential apocalypse.

weather5I don’t think the great creator really intended her people to actually live above the thirtieth parallel but those hearty adventurers who slogged through thigh-deep snow to inhabit what eventually became Canada evolved into strong, resourceful people. Although why immigrants would choose our shitty winters over a country with year-round warmth and sunshine is beyond me. But, then again, perhaps that’s why we’re so strong and resourceful. Not to mention proud and thankful we live in one of the best countries in the world—despite the weather. But if global warming proceeds at its current rate, we’ll soon see our endangered polar bears vainly foraging for food and habitat on the streets of Toronto and winters will be a non-issue. Now, that’s a truly scary forecast.

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