BOOMERBROADcast

The voice of baby boomers, the silenced majority. Rants and reflections on lifestyle, fashion, current events, books and more . . .


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For a good time . . . read Adam Resnick


I’ve just finished reading Adam Resnick’s autobiographical Will Not Attend, Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation. Resnick, who dislikes socializing (hence the title) and considers himself a misfit sounds like a downer but it’s laugh-out-loud funny. His writing reminded me of David Sedaris. The author’s self-deprecating humour and gift for understatement leaves the reader sympathetic and understanding of his struggles in life, while at the same time rooting for him throughout his misadventures.

Children from large families often have correspondingly large personalities. Perhaps it’s the result of competing for parental attention or simply from competing to be seen and heard at all. Adam Resnick is the fourth son in a non-practising Jewish family of six boys. Life for him while growing up was a constant battle to survive the bullying, subterfuge, thieving and general anarchy that characterized his family of six boys. Their mother Joyce was loving, often oblivious to the conflicts and at times completely overwhelmed. Merv, their father, was a strong patriarch, prone to voicing his strong, politically incorrect opinions and displaying a quick temper. How could life be anything but interesting and colourful in such a family.

Adam Resnick with former boss, David Letterman.

Reading about Resnick’s struggles to maintain a place in the family’s hierarchy while accommodating his personal neuroses and peculiarities makes for hilarious reading. Whether trying to catch the attention a favourite little girlfriend, plotting to lose his virginity or describing the odd assortment of people who pass through his life, Resnick is brilliant. A former writer for SNL, Late Night With David Letterman and a variety of television series and sitcoms, he’s deserving of a rating of 9 out of 10. If you’re looking for something to make you laugh out loud, read this book. I loved it.

To order Will Not Attend by Adam Resnick from Amazon, click here.

To order BOOMER BEAT by Lynda Davis from Amazon, click here.


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The solution to problems at General Motors and Conde Nast


What affects GM workers affects everyone.

The media has been very unkind to General Motors recently, and rightfully so. They marked the American holiday of Thanksgiving by closing plants and laying off thousands of workers. While I sympathize with those negatively affected, I’m also pragmatic. I’ve been downsized; my husband’s been downsized; nearly everyone I know, at some point has been the victim of reorganization, restructuring or whatever euphemism you wish to employ. Jobs-for-life and careers with one company are a thing of the past, gone the way of company pensions, rotary phones and carbon paper. We should not be surprised.

What does strike me, however, is the pattern of arrogance in major corporations that results in these drastic measures. Something has been ignored and it’s called (sit down; this is a biggie) “Listen to your customers”. Large corporations like General Motors and so many others like them have long regarded themselves as invincible, even omnipotent. Sears, American Motors and Blackberry are prime examples of big business paying the price for not paying attention to who actually pays their bills—not the company, the customer. General Motors was too slow off the blocks in recognizing that their customers now prefer SUVs and pickup trucks with their improved safety and fuel efficiency over conventional sedan cars. Sears’ executives kept flogging the same old haberdashery while they were falling apart at the seams. Tragically, their senior executives got big bonuses and golden parachutes while they raped the pension plans of their minimum wage hourly workers.

No longer relevant.

According to The New York Times, Condé Nast, the giant media organization and publisher of such magazines as Vogue and Glamour is also now trying to mitigate the effects of bad management. They’ve fired Chief Executive Robert A. Sandberg Jr. and shuffled various editors. Some publications like Glamour are going to digital only, ignoring old ladies like me who like to rip pages out of magazines for my inspiration file. Which brings us to the core of the problem. There’s little to no inspiration in fashion magazines these days. Vogue is particularly irrelevant and my commitment to my subscription is hanging by a thread. Have they ever considered asking what their readers would like to read? I’ve been a subscriber for years and no one ever checks with me. Seems pretty obvious but not to those occupying the exalted thrones at the top of corporations. Now, I’ll move on to the auto industry.

General Motors: Here’s your lifeline

Help wanted. Apply Oshawa.

It’s simple. Go into competition with Bombardier. They seem to have more business than they can handle, very little competition, a guaranteed source of financial handouts from various levels of gullible government (taxpayers) and no particular business or management skills. Anyone can do better than that with a little business savvy, some creative thinking and an already available source of skilled workers. The recent news that Bombardier is laying off 7,500 workers worldwide including 2,000 in Canada prompted me to revisit a piece I wrote earlier.

During my lifetime, I’ve watched automotive manufacturing plants grow and expand to meet new technologies, then retreat and ultimately close. I worked for the construction company that built a major portion of those Ontario plants. To see Oshawa’s General Motors operation go from almost thirty thousand employees to zero is heartbreaking. Ford has also closed facilities in southwestern Ontario.

As we know, Bombardier, the manufacturer of subway cars and streetcars is a perpetual sinking Titanic-sized case study in bad management. Taxpayers keep futilely bailing out the chronically mismanaged privately owned corporation like it’s a giant money pit. Despite this, Bombardier continues to be awarded new contracts for transit vehicles which they are guaranteed to not deliver on time. They’re years behind on delivery of stock for Toronto and other major cities. Obviously there’s not enough competition in the business of manufacturing transit vehicles.

The workers and the plants are in place. Do the work.

The answer is simple. Retool the automotive plants to produce subway cars and transit vehicles. Put the workers in Oshawa and southwestern Ontario back to work and let them show Bombardier how it’s done. Small fortunes were spent updating auto manufacturing plants in Ontario and they’re now sitting empty waiting for weed growers to lease the space and sell the equipment for scrap metal. The problem of trucks encountering insurmountable traffic problems moving stock across Toronto’s choked highways would be eliminated. At the risk of sounding immodest (!!), I think my solution is brilliant. Does anyone have any influence with GM President Mary Barra or the UAW? Put in a word. Better still, put the kettle on and sit down at the kitchen table and make this idea work.

It’s a perfect storm and has all the ingredients needed to launch a successful business enterprise—strong market demand for both present and future products, skilled, available workforce, existing manufacturing plants available for retooling, tested financial metrics and business case, shortage of reliable manufacturers. All that’s needed is a smart team to pull it together and we’re in business.

 

 

Bombardier is a train wreck of back-ordered stock on a track to disaster. For years we’ve been enduring the ongoing saga of mismanagement, government bailouts, law suits and failure to deliver. They’re being sued for failure to deliver public transit vehicles on schedule. Toronto Transit Commission is at their wits’ end trying to get delivery of long overdue streetcars and could face similar difficulties with future transit vehicle deliveries. Yet Bombardier keeps accepting new orders because buyers seem to have nowhere else to turn.

Well, dear readers, I have the solution. We did it during World War II and it could work again. Re-open the General Motors and Ford plants throughout southern Ontario that closed when manufacturing jobs went south, and tool them up to build streetcars, trains and other heavy industrial mass-transit vehicles. Get Oshawa, Windsor, Talbotville, St. Thomas and other automotive plants making streetcars and trains. If Bombardier can’t do the job, then give the work to those who can.

 

Imagine the jobs that could be created in Oshawa, Windsor, Talbotville, St. Thomas and other Ontario towns. Let’s talk.

I’m sick to death of hearing about the incompetency of Bombardier and failure to meet their obligations when half of Oshawa is collecting employment insurance benefits and would love to be back to work. If automotive plants could switch to making tanks and fighter planes during the Second World War, I’m confident Canadian ingenuity could make it happen again for trains and streetcars.Set up a conference call or better still, a meeting at Tim Hortons somewhere along Highway 401, between the automotive execs, the UAW, the Quebec and Ontario Government Ministers of Economic Development and Bombardier and let’s get this show on the road. I’ll buy the Tim-bits if it helps sweeten the pot. Time’s a’wastin’ and jobs are waiting. Let’s put the kettle on.


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French Exit nearly had me exiting the book, but I’m glad I didn’t


Any book set in Paris is irresistible to me. French Exit by Patrick deWitt, who also wrote The Sisters Brothers, is a contemporary novel that reads like a 1930’s farce. When I first started reading, the language struck me as peculiar; the characters were caricatures and the plot implausible. But the further into it I got, the more intrigued I became. French Exit was short-listed for the 2018 Scotiabank Giller Prize, so there were obviously people much smarter than I am who thought the book worth finishing so I soldiered on.

The story begins with Malcolm Price and his widowed mother Frances living in New York City. After the death of her husband, Frank Price, Frances sets about blowing through their considerable fortune as quickly as possible. This is where the implausible comes in. Why is she doing this when she will need money to live on? When her banker informs her she’s broke, she’s forced to liquidate her remaining assets and sets off for Paris with her son Malcolm and their peculiar old cat, Small Frank.

Frances, Malcolm and Small Frank borrow a friend’s Paris flat and their little threesome soon grows to include an eccentric assortment of characters. We learn more about Malcolm’s’ unconventional childhood and his mother’s unconventional approach to mothering during a story-telling game conducted one evening under the influence of much wine.

I always enjoy authors taking me on a descriptive journey through the streets of Paris and deWitt accomplishes this beautifully. The narrative picks up speed as it nears the end which comes rather quickly as the book is a fast read. I was tempted to stop reading shortly after I began the book but my curiosity about where the story was going keep me going and I’m glad I did. It was fun, quick and quirky. It didn’t win the Giller but, as they say, being nominated was an honour and justifies reading it. Patrick deWitt (born on Vancouver Island and living in Seattle) has a strange imagination, reminiscent of another Giller nominee, Heather O’Neill. I’d give it 7 out of 10.

To order French Exit by Patrick deWitt from Amazon, click here.

To order my new book BOOMER BEAT in time for Christmas, click here.


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Anna Porter’s memoir is a gift to Canadian readers


If you’re a lover of Canadian literature, then you’re in for a treat. Anna Porter, author of In Other Words, How I Fell in Love with Canada One Book at a Time, is an author and former publisher extraordinaire with a pedigree spanning decades in the book business. I first became aware of her in the early seventies when she was profiled in Canadian magazines and newspapers as someone to keep an eye on. As a baby boomer and working mother of two young girls Anna Porter moved in the exalted circles of the rich and powerful—someone we followed in hopes we could learn from her success.

Born in Hungary, Anna Szigethy escaped during the revolution with her mother (separated from her father, a survivor of the Russian gulag) to Austria where they then emigrated to New Zealand as refugees. As soon as she finished university, she left for London, England, mecca for young baby boomer women looking to begin exciting new lives. Her fluency in several languages and appreciation for literature landed her an entry-level job in publishing. When Anna Szigethy arrived in Canada from the U.K. in the late sixties in her mauve mini-dress and white vinyl boots, she’d already chalked up experience working with Collier Macmillan International’s UK office.

When she joined McClelland and Stewart, the company was already experiencing serious financial problems. Working long hours for little pay under irascible patriarch Jack McClelland, she helped grow the company and despite their stable of famous Canadian authors, M&S was constantly on the brink of bankruptcy. When she married high-profile Toronto lawyer Julien Porter, her struggles with balancing a career and young family will ring familiar to any boomer woman trying to do the same thing in the 70s and 80s. There’s no magic solution. It’s hard work, both at home and on the job.

Authors like Margaret Atwood, Peter C. Newman, Margaret Laurence, Farley Mowat, Marian Engel, Conrad Black and Pierre Berton were regulars in the offices of Anna Porter as she juggled not just the publishing of their new books but their fragile egos and creative personalities. The famous names are too numerous to list here. As an early feminist, she challenged the old boys’ network and supported women writers like Doris Anderson, Naomi Wolf and Sylvia Fraser.

Author/publisher, Anna Porter.

In Other Words is a literal “who’s who” of Canadian literature. It’s beautifully and informatively written by a publishing giant who witnessed and was part of an amazing period in publishing. By the time she launched her own business, Key Porter Books, McClelland and Stewart was going down for the third time and is now owned by Random House Canada, a division of German media giant Bertelsmann.

On a personal note, M&S’s financial woes made me feel guilty about not returning half a dozen hardcover books they gave me once on approval. I clearly remember sitting in the grim, dark offices of M&S on Hollinger Road in Scarborough one day in the 1970s when I went there to research a suitable corporate Christmas gift. We ordered several dozen copies of Peter C. Newman’s The Canadian Establishment but I really should have returned the books we didn’t order. I now feel guilty, although I know my keeping those books would not have meant the difference between financial salvation for M&S and their ultimate demise.

I can’t recommend this book enough—perhaps it’s because I’m a book lover, a feminist and a fan of Canadian literature. Anna Porter’s In Other Words is a must-read. I give it 9.5 out of 10. I absolutely loved every single page.

To order In Other Words by Anna Porter from Amazon, click here.


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One ringy dingy lights up my world


A gracious good afternoon. We need to talk about the use of your instrument.

Remember when Lily Tomlin’s character Ernestine ran the entire phone company single-handedly? From her little PBX switchboard she efficiently dispatched installers and repairmen while simultaneously providing harried customer service, challenging delinquent bill payers and dispensing unsolicited advice to business and world leaders. I actually worked for the phone company in those days and understood her loyalty and determination, not to mention her romantic crush on Vito, her favourite repairman. Back then, I too had a favourite repairman. In fact, I married him. But that’s another story.

Then, along came new technology, a.k.a. cell phones. I’m not a complete Luddite; I bought one of the early ones—the size of a brick—in the nineties. Over the years I’ve tried to keep up as new ones came along but I’m rapidly losing ground. In fact, I’m ready to revert, and I don’t think I’m alone. It requires far too much time and effort (not to mention money) to keep on top of all the newest features and apps, and still have time to pluck my chin hairs.

Jake Howell of The Globe and Mail is on my side. His recent article Dumb, but happy perfectly summed up my position when he confessed to giving up his iPhone 5C in favour of one of the old no-frills, basic phones. When he found his addictive use of the smart phone “akin to a glorified fidget spinner”, he went cool turkey—not completely cold, but severely curtailed. When Candice Bergen produced a ‘flip phone’ on the first episode of the new Murphy Brown recently, it was the source of much laughter and derision, but Jake (I presume) and I empathized. We know a good thing when we see it.

Sadly, the world as we know it.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids in school or a cheating husband whose emails and browsing history I need to monitor, but give me that old-time phone service any day. I’ve gone entire weeks without using my cell phone and the sky didn’t fall in. I never have to worry about exceeding my data plan. I’m baffled when I see groups of people sitting together having lunch or dinner and everyone’s looking down thumbing their phones. Young people are going to entirely miss out on the art and joy of unencumbered personal conversation.

I’ve had a smart phone for awhile now but I’m seriously thinking about tossing it and digging out my simple old flip-phone that I bought at Walmart for $14.99 back in the aughts. I’m never sure if my so-called smartphone is on or off and just last week I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off in the dark at the movie theatre. Maybe it wasn’t even on; I can never tell. And, I can never figure out how to access WiFi in public places (my problem, not the phone’s). I haven’t set up the voice mail because the phone’s never turned on and frankly I don’t know how. I keep the phone only for emergencies. Imagine that! My monthly cell phone bill from CARP (Canadian Association for Retired People) costs me a whopping $18.31 including taxes.

Many people have ditched their land lines in favour of cell service only. That’s fine if you want to carry it around in your hip pocket 24/7 (which it seems most people actually prefer), take it to bed with you, into the shower, into the hospital labour room and while having sex. I just don’t get it.

I expect smart phones will soon be implanted as a microchip into our wrists. Until then, if you need to reach me, you’ll probably get no answer. Whether or not I respond immediately is not crucial to world survival. I’m probably on my lunch break splitting a six-pack with Ernestine. And if this is the party to whom I am speaking, then I’ll get back to you when I’m good and ready, after our break.


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My queendom for the perfect eyeliner


Is this too much to ask?

Things change as we get older. I won’t go into detail as you know what I’m talking about, but one issue that I haven’t been able to resolve is finding the perfect eyeliner. Back in the olden days (the 60s and 70s), I could execute a perfect swipe of eyeliner faster than . . . well, the blink of an eye. My eyelids were taut, receptive and beautifully enhanced by whatever I applied, in whatever colour. And I applied plenty.

As we age, less is better. We no longer apply foundation with a spatula, mascara with a broom or blusher with a mop. A delicate touch is now the order of the day. But boomer gals still like makeup and we have a sizeable inventory to back this up. Every so often I purge my supplies while trying not to calculate the money invested/wasted on products that didn’t work for one reason or another. Sometimes when I go through my ‘retired’ makeup and skin care products, I discover I own multiples of the same thing.

Eyeliner is my current challenge. While my eyelids are not exactly ‘crepey’ yet (I’m sure that’s not far off), I can’t get the exact result with eyeliner that I used to. Liquid eyeliners are just too difficult to control and the result is a bit too harsh, even after smudging. Pencils scratch, pull and refuse to stay put. I’ve had the most success with wetting a brush and using cake eyeliner or eyeshadow to apply a line that can be softened with the finger or a sponge wand. But even careful application doesn’t give me nearly the result I used to get when my eyelids were . . . well, you know, young.

Can you believe . . . nothing in my vast inventory works.

While I keep searching for the definitive, perfect eyeliner solution, I decided to go through my existing inventory and was shocked at what I already own. Any thoughts of purchasing something new were immediately wiped out by the humiliating sight of an entire tray of assorted eyeliner products. You name it—I’ve tried it. What I’ve invested in eyeliners alone would probably pay off the national debt of a third world country. And that doesn’t include skincare products, hair products and makeup. I’m not proud of it. Just stating the facts.

I recently had my eyebrows microbladed which will hopefully take care of the brow pencil issues. And don’t even suggest getting my eyeliner tattoo’d on. There are just too many downsides to that procedure for me to even consider it as an option. In the meantime, I need to figure out what I’m going to do with a queen’s ransom in eyeliner pencils that I don’t use. I’d be interested to know what brand of eyeliner works for you, my fellow boomers? Let’s share.