When I left the theatre after seeing Mindy Kaling’s new movie Late Night, I was struck by how much I thought boomer gals would enjoy seeing it, especially since there are so few movies that appeal to us. Then, it occurred to me that men would equally benefit from the movie’s message, although don’t tell them that or they’ll never accompany you. It reeks of ‘chick, flick’ but the message is universal and delivered through clever humour. At times it was a bit soppy, but given Kaling’s excellent writing, it can be forgiven.
Kaling wrote “Late Night” with Emma Thompson in mind for the lead role of Katherine Newbury. It’s the story of a late-night talk show host who is past her prime and the network wants to replace her with a youthful, male comedian who dispenses a steady stream of frat-boy humour that they think is more ratings-friendly. Sound familiar? Much of the action takes place in the television writers’ room where the politics, sexism, ageism and other ism’s that unfold are universally familiar to anyone who has worked in an office environment or anywhere else, for that matter. Listen carefully to the quick dialogue early in the movie and you’ll hear a number of familiar references to the unfairness of pay scales, cultural diversity, and sexism.
Kaling plays Molly Patel, a version of herself, a smart, brown-skinned, ambitious writer and standup comedy aficionado who works at a chemical plant. Through her own ingenuity, she uncovers a job opportunity for a writer at a late night talk show owned by their parent company just at a time when the show’s star, Katherine Newbury demands more diversity in the all-male writing staff. It’s a bit formulaic but fun nonetheless thanks to Kaling’s strong writing and skill in observing human behaviour. It’s a fun movie with some laugh-out-loud moments.
John Lithgow plays Newbury’s supportive but ailing husband, with dignity and intelligence. Reid Scott is a nice piece of eye candy as Tom Campbell, the writer of Katherine’s daily monologue. (I loved him in his earlier role of Dan Egan in HBO’s VEEP with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.) There are a couple of fun cameo appearances by Bill Maher and Seth Meyers which ups the ante a bit. And Emma Thompson has a killer wardrobe.
I went into this movie already a fan of Mindy Kaling. As one of the former writers and stars of The Office” and The Mindy Kaling Project and author of two books (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?and Why Not Me?), both of which I’ve read and reviewed, Kaling deserves credit. She’s smart, funny and talented. Great combo. Late Night is a nice way to spend an afternoon. Show your support for women writers, actors and feminist themes and go see Late Night with a couple of girlfriends. And, if you can trick the men in your life into thinking it’s not a chick flick, they’ll learn something too. I’ve always maintained that re-educating men on privileges and issues they take for granted is good for everyone. And that is one small step for women at any time of the day or night. Late Night (2019) – Rotten Tomatoes
Call me old-fashioned but I love getting mail, the kind now referred to as snail mail. If a day goes by that I don’t get a magazine or something personal in my mailbox, I can get downright cranky. Is it because my life is so utterly lacking in excitement that the mail is a big deal to me? Even my little dog jumps up and down spinning with excitement when I announce, “Let’s go get the mail”. She understands.
Yesterday I was thrilled to find my mailbox stuffed with magazines, mail order catalogues, a couple of personal envelopes and even (praise be!) an envelope that obviously had a cheque enclosed. But my joy soon turned to disappointment when, upon closer examination, I realized the mail carrier had mistakenly put our neighbour’s mail in our box. Our neighbour was the recipient of all this wonderful bounty. I was tempted to score a couple of the mail order catalogues for myself thinking she wouldn’t miss them, but honesty prevailed and I reluctantly stuffed them into her mailbox.
Remember when we used to regularly get newsy letters, written by hand in loving cursive with a fountain pen? As kids we had pen pals in England who sent us letters on those thin blue airmail forms, telling us all about their lives far across the ocean. Even Christmas and birthday cards are rare these days as people either don’t bother or they opt for e-cards. Email has totally replaced hand-written letters. Will the love letters from war veterans of today have the same cachet and impact when they’re lost in the ether of email or Skype? Somehow the old sentimental letters our fathers, uncles and grandfathers wrote home from overseas in fountain pen or scratchy pencil seem so much more meaningful, more enduring and more historically significant because they were written by hand, addressed, stuffed into an envelope with a stamp to be saved in a book, slipped into a mailbox, then bundled and tied with a ribbon to be saved by the recipient.
I was saddened and disappointed to learn that many people now object to “Amber Alerts” because they also land in the middle of the night. So many people now sleep with their phones by their bedside that it’s become impossible to even have a peaceful night’s sleep without feeling the need to be connected via electronic devices. Other than doctors and firefighters, who among us is so important that they need to be ‘on call’ during the night? If keeping your phone alive while you sleep means Amber Alerts disturb you, then shame on you.
Our addiction to personal electronic devices means we now get mail 24/7. That familiar ping announces the arrival of requests from friends to meet for lunch, a reminder that we have a dentist appointment at 2:15 tomorrow and less welcome notices such as bill payments due or worse, overdue. Mail is no longer fun. It’s something to be given the once-over, reviewed, culled, acted upon or dumped. Another time-consuming chore in an already busy day.
We have a “No Junk Mail” sign posted on the mailbox on our front porch which greatly lightens the load in our paper recycling bin each week. That means most of what lands in our mailbox is the real thing and I look forward to receiving it each day. Sometimes there’s a hand-written thank you note from a friend or a birthday card when it’s time for the annual celebration. Most often it’s statements, announcements, promotions and printed material that actually qualifies as junk mail but the marketers were able to circumvent immediate disposal by enclosing it in an envelope with a first class stamp. Their trickery works as I open each one and read it before tossing into recycling.
My passion for print publications like magazines ensures my mailbox has regular deposits of good stuff though. A couple of years ago I received a three-page hand-written letter from someone (another baby boomer) I stayed with on an American army base in Germany in 1968 when I was travelling around on a Eurail Pass. I’ve kept that letter in my desk ever since, a relic of times gone by when people actually hand-wrote letters. They’re so rare and so precious now, they’re like collectors’ items. I’m afraid to part with it in case I never get another one in this lifetime. Even wedding invitations are now getting the electronic treatment. No more embossed cards to be saved in a scrapbook.
I still buy little boxes of illustrated note cards at the stationery store in hopes that I’ll have an excuse to write and send one to a friend. I take special care when selecting and mailing (by snail mail) birthday and anniversary cards to the special people in my life. I can’t help feeling they enjoy receiving them as much as I do—a little ray of sunshine in a gloomy pile of flyers and junk. Much as I appreciate and enjoy receiving instant photos and news from friends by email, I’ll always save a little spot in my heart for the old-fashioned kind that the nice letter carrier from Canada Post drops into the mailbox on my front porch every day around noon. It could be a letter, a card or even a cheque. Whatever it is, it’s special because it was delivered personally, by hand. Still.
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My girl gang went to the movies this week to see Rocketman, the biopic of Elton John, and we really got our money’s worth. Encouraged by how much we enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody we expected a spectacle just as great. It was a bit of a surprise when, a few minutes into the movie, the child Reggie Dwight pulls off to the side and sings a song. So, be clear, the movie is a musical, not just a movie about a musician. Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of musicals (even though the music in both Mama Mia movies was great, I hated the first movie and didn’t even go see the second) so that coloured my viewpoint somewhat. I always find it offputting when a character drifts off into a solo at a critical point in the scene. Obviously, most of the world doesn’t agree with me based on the popularity of musicals, but that’s just me.
About a week ago, I was fortunate enough to see lead actor Taron Egerton who portrayed Elton John in the movie interviewed on The Graham Norton Show (a favourite BBC talk show). Learning a bit more about the behind-the-scenes activities and the actor himself cast a deeper meaning on the entire experience. Egerton is drop-dead sexy, a great actor and to be commended for doing his own singing in the movie.
The storyline recognized the valuable contribution made by song-writer Bernie Taupin in the overall success of Elton John. Giles Martin, look-alike son of the famous George Martin who produced much of The Beatles music, was the music producer and his skill and sensitivity to the subject matter are evident throughout the movie. A fair bit of time in the movie is devoted to his troubled boyhood with a detached mother and an uncaring father who eventually left the family. His grandmother was supportive and encouraged his musical talents. He admits right at the beginning of the movie in a group therapy session that he has addiction issues with drugs, alcohol, anger, sex and shopping. The movie’s approach to his reformation is rather well done and stops there, long before (Canada’s own) David Furnish came into his life.
There’s been a fair bit of pre-release chatter about the movie already and boomers grew up with Elton John right from the beginning, so it came as no surprise that his drug-use, drinking, partying and promiscuity were a major part of the early half of his career. The story is handled really well and some of the scenes were stunning in their drama and extravagance. At times, I found the English accents a wee bit hard to follow but that’s not uncommon in British productions. Rocketman was great delicious fun and not only because of the warm theatre popcorn. Taron Egerton was amazing. Me and my gal pals really enjoyed it and we’re sure you will too. And since there aren’t many movies produced that appeal to our age group, don’t miss it.
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When I received the June/July 2019 issue of Chatelaine magazine in my mailbox this week I was a little taken aback—at first. Featured on the cover of the annual swimsuit issue (a cliché if there ever was one) is a full-bodied woman of indeterminate age wearing a coral-coloured swimsuit, a straw sunhat, and a huge smile. The more I thought about it and went through its pages, the bigger the smile grew on my own face. It takes courage for a major magazine to turn the tables on the media’s narrow definition of beauty.
Canada’s own Chatelaine magazine and Dove soap have joined forces to recognize that even though we’re not all six feet tall, blonde, blue-eyed and weigh less than a single maple leaf, we’re still beautiful. Dove has been running this campaign for many years. They’ve earned kudos for their marketing and women appreciate their efforts, but this is the first time I’ve seen a national magazine take it a step further.
Just as I was considering canceling my decades-long subscription to Chatelaine, they’ve totally redeemed themselves. I still prefer most of my mags in print version so I can rip pages out to save recipes or inspirational fashion pics. The spread on page 20-22 is a summary of book recommendations for summer which is always appreciated, especially when it includes Canadian authors. I like the way they’re categorized—Best Character, Best Dystopian Thriller, Best History Lesson and so on.
They’ve also included their Drugstore Hall of Fame picks for makeup, skin, body and hair care products. It’s always fun and somewhat reassuring to read what others are using and prefer, especially when we don’t have to lay out $400.00 for an eye cream. There are the usual fashion items, sensible advice on health issues and a Winners’ Spotlight on everyday household products preferred by Canadians. I haven’t had a chance yet to read the extensive piece about Chrystia Freeland written by Leah McLaren but it’s on my to-do list.
There’s plenty more great material in this issue but I don’t want to spoil all the fun for you. Do yourself and print publications a favour. Please pick up a newsstand copy of the June/July edition of Chatelaine. The cover appearing at your newsstand or grocery store may not be the same as mine as Chatelaine has published its June/July issue with a series of different covers featuring pictures real women can identify with and relate to. Imagine that! Show your support for their brave editorial step. It’s also a vote for a more diverse definition of beauty, something long overdue in media. Put the June/July 2019 issue of Chatelaine on your grocery list and pick up a copy while it’s still available.
It’s a common cliché here in Canada—we have only two seasons—winter and road construction. As I drive around the city and surrounding countryside I’m experiencing my annual surge of anger and frustration with the state of our transportation system. Once the snow melts, roads and highways are cordoned off, lanes reduced and then nothing happens. IF there’s any activity on the site, two bored-looking workers are wandering around with a shovel in their hands but most often there’s nothing going on. I realize road and highway maintenance and improvements are necessary and we need the end result. I just wish some actual work would take place and more quickly. How much can two lowly workers achieve by themselves, even with a backhoe?
The answer to the problem is simple. I learned it from watching home construction in Florida. Blitz the job with workers and get it over with. In Florida, I’ve watched the concrete trucks arrive early in the morning, pour the slab, then the (Mexican) workers finish it and leave at the end of the day. The next day another crew of a couple of dozen workers arrives, erects the block structure followed the next day by different crews who frame the entire house inside and out, and then they go home at the end of the day. Finally, a roofing crew arrives—well, you get the picture. We once had our entire property including, sod, trees, and shrubs landscaped in a day. There were probably twenty workers on the job. Everything was planned out in advance and the work fell into place like clockwork. The secret is careful planning and scheduling and maximizing the use of labour. Why can’t road and highway construction be done the same way? The same amount of labour is expended and the cost is the same; it’s just compressed into a much tighter time frame. Bring in crews of dozens of workers and git ‘er done.
Does it take a genius to properly plan a construction project far enough ahead to maximize resources in the shortest possible time period? Having worked in the construction industry for most of my 40-year career, I witnessed fifty-storey office buildings go up and be occupied in less time than it takes to rework an intersection. If major hospital construction can proceed concurrently with the performance of health care and surgeries without closing services, why can’t altering a street or road? Part of the reason for this is the total absence of actual work happening on road construction sites most of the time.
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This problem is a positive argument for immigration. In the 1950s, thousands of Italians immigrated to Canada and were the heart and soul of the construction industry building major cities like Toronto. They worked hard, contributed to the community and raised a generation of equally hard-working offspring who went to college and university. And, now the industry is suffering from a lack of tradespeople. Construction unions and employers have been waving the red flag about worker shortages for years. Our blue-collar workforce is shrinking and young people are being encouraged to ignore high-paying trade jobs in favour of going to university for degrees in dubious careers like psychology, kinesiology or women’s studies. Not everyone is well-served by going to university.
While I’m on the subject, it’s not just hands-on tradespeople who are needed in construction. The industry is crying out for estimators, schedulers, software developers, project managers, field engineers, superintendents, health and safety professionals, mechanical and electrical coordinators, project accountants, proposal writers, draftspeople, and on and on and on.
So, what are we to do while we negotiate around blocked off streets and construction bottlenecks? Maybe we should be sending those illegal immigrants who are sneaking across rural borders down to the union hall and putting them to work instead of providing free winter parkas and housing. Those people fleeing political terror in Central America who are being rejected at the Mexican border would be welcome in Canada, if they’re willing to work to rebuild our infrastructure and go through proper legal channels.
I realize my rant will change nothing. Until I’m in charge of running the world, I’ll have to put up with all of life’s frustrations and inconveniences. I’ll avoid my usual Walmart because Dundas Street has been a sewer construction nightmare for two years. Thank the heavens above that I no longer live near Kipling subway station at Dundas and Bloor Streets. A long-overdue rework on that intersection (Six Points) will be a local traffic disaster for who-knows-how-long.
I’ll also steer clear of the 427 and QEW interchange because heaven knows how long that project will last. And we won’t even discuss the 401 across the top of Toronto; it’s beyond words. I had to change my doctors from North York to Mississauga because traffic getting to their offices was such a nightmare. Just getting across the city and back took the better part of a day. Imagine all the unreported lost productivity incurred by businesses when their people are sitting in traffic jams.
It’s a shame Toronto and the provincial government were so short-sighted in keeping our subway system and transportation networks robust and up to date over the last few decades. Highway 407 is great, but, dang, it costs a fortune to drive it, unless you can expense the costs, which only adds to the net cost of doing business. As retired seniors on a budget, we avoid it.
As boomers age and lose our drivers’ licenses, we’re going to increasingly rely on public transportation that probably won’t be completed in our lifetime. Hopefully, our children and grandchildren will get it figured out and fix the mess. In the meantime, encourage them to have lots of babies because the construction industry needs workers. And hopefully one of them will be smart enough to reinvent and re-engineer the approach to road and highway construction. Unfortunately for us boomers, by then it’ll be too late. We’ll be dead. The upside is that my rants will be silenced.
Despite the proliferation of helicopter parenting these days, there are still far too many children who are unloved, unwanted, mistreated, and, tragically, abused. Mental illness often plays a major role in the lives of many parents and children who through no fault of their own are unable to negotiate a happy, fulfilling life. Canadian author Yasuko Thanh’s Mistakes to Run With: A Memoir is such a story. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began reading her memoir but as the story unfolded I was alternately appalled and transfixed.
Born in 1971 to a Paris university-educated Vietnamese father who spoke several languages and a German mother, Thanh’s life was difficult from day one. Her parents had immigrated to Victoria, British Columbia and were immediately cast into poverty in their new country. Two years later, a baby brother joined the family and became the preferred child, the golden boy. Despite getting top grades in school and excelling in whatever she undertook, Thanh was never good enough in the eyes of her parents. Coupled with this challenge, as she grew into a teenager, she displayed all the signs of borderlinepersonality disorder. This manifested itself in destructive behaviour, dropping out of school and eventually living on the streets.
Thanh’s description of her life is shocking and graphic. From the age of fifteen, she lived rough, sleeping wherever and with whoever passed through her life on a daily basis. Her friends were bikers, drug addicts, criminals and prostitutes. She sold her body for money and traded her soul for whatever love she tried to extract from friends, pimps and addicts. Always feeling unworthy, she attached herself to a series of bad choices in men, always searching for the words she never heard from her parents: “You are good. You are worthy. You are valuable.”
Living on the streets was a daily challenge to survive. She risked beatings, rape and even death from her “dates” but she turned all her earnings over to her pimp in a vain attempt to earn his love. One particular pimp by the name of Kyle was a coke addict and a part of her life for several years. Before they finally parted ways, he’d blown through more than half a million dollars she’d earned for him.
Reading Mistakes to Run With reminded me of another book I read a few years ago by Montreal writer Heather, O’Neill, Lullaby For Little Criminals”. Thanh’s story is also similar to that of another Vancouver author Evelyn Lau, whose life story was featured many years ago in a television movie starring Sandra Oh. The tragic lives of young girls who fall prey to street life are truly heart-breaking. Very often, all these young girls want is to be loved by someone but they do not have the resources or mental acuity to make better decisions.
After ten years of life on the streets of Victoria and Vancouver, Thanh, who constantly journaled and submitted writing for publication, decided her life would be more fulfilled as a person and a writer if she had a child. She was making enough money from a grow op to provide a living without working the track. Her first baby girl is followed a couple of years later by a second. Then, she discovers how truly difficult life can actually become when all of a sudden she has three people to take care of, not just herself. She naively dreams of a future life with a loving family and home of her own. Naturally, these ambitions are always beyond reach.
Moving from one ill-chosen partner to another, Thanh eventually graduates from life on the street to an unhappy life with a series of dead-beats. Fortunately, there are mental health and medical services available to street people which enabled her to get help when she needed it. She eventually is able to sell some of her writing but as her professional life develops, her personal life takes a series of tragic hits. In her forties, her mental illnesses are finally properly diagnosed and she struggles with assorted treatments that have limited benefit. The book does have a happy ending but it’s a hard-won battle. Her writing is wonderful and despite the frustration of reading about a life-time of failures, the story is gripping. We’re constantly rooting for her, hoping her obvious intelligence will pull her up and out of the depths to which she descends. Be prepared for a tragic story, graphically told. It’s an amazing book and I rate it 9 out 10.