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Enjoy, laugh, disagree or simply empathize with those who lived life in THE sixties and are now rockin' life in THEIR sixties, and beyond.


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Trip into the light fantastic


When I saw that I was number four on the waiting list at the library for Meg Wolitzer’s current best seller The Female Persuasion I decided to try another of her books while I waited for Persuasion to become available. The Uncoupling was written in 2011 and it turned out to be an interesting choice. I had no idea what to expect but it’s sort of a fantasy that wouldn’t normally have been my kind of book, however it turned out to be a really fun read. The plot follows the inhabitants of Stellar Plains, New Jersey as they fall under a spell that is reminiscent of a Greek play being performed by students at the local high school. If someone you know is a teacher, they’ll really enjoy this book.

We are first introduced to Robby and Dory Lang who along with their teenage daughter Willa form a perfect Stepford family. Robby and Dory teach English at Eleanor Roosevelt High School and Wolitzer’s descriptions of the students, teachers and the assorted members of the community is razor sharp. The Spanish teacher is called Señor Mandelbaum; Leanne Bannerjee, the school psychologist is having an affair with Principal McCleary; two of the students wear tee shirts that read SLUT I and SLUT II.

When a new drama teacher, Fran Heller arrives on the scene, the established social order is thrown off balance. As expected of a drama teacher, Heller is unconventional and paints her house in southwestern Arizona colours that are completely incongruent with the northeastern community. Her husband lives far away in Chicago and her precocious son Eli becomes a classmate and BFWB of Willa Lang. The play Fran Heller finally selects for her students to perform in their annual February event is a Greek comedy, Lysistrata, the Aristophanes comedy first performed in 411 B.C. Fed up with their testosterone-loaded men spending all their time killing and fighting in the Peloponnesian War for the past twenty years, the women in the play stage a sex strike to deprive their men of what they want the most in life—SEX—until they stop warring.

Coincidentally, a cold wind blows through various homes in Stellar Plains around the same time and deprives all the local females of their sex drive. They turn away from husbands and lovers creating an atmosphere of confusion, anger and resentment. As you can imagine, this action has grave repercussions. The drama culminates in a keystone cops kind of conclusion during the students’ grand performance of Lysistrata that made me think of a toned-down version of Jack Nicholson’s comeuppance in Witches of Eastwick. Except, there’s a solid moral to this story. Really fun read and I plan to check out more books by Meg Wolitzer.

Thought for the day:

What if American women staged a similar strike until the men got rid of their guns. Imagine . . .

 


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Timmie come home. We miss you and we need you.


Bring back the old Timmies we knew and loved.

We knew it would happen didn’t we? It was a predictable outcome when American/Brazilian-owned Restaurant Brands International (who also owns Burger King) bought Canadian icon Tim Hortons in 2015. When the Canadian-themed commercials disappeared from our televisions, so did the level of service and quality of the products. It’s now strictly a numbers game for the big business that owns Timmies.

I may be going out on a limb here but I’m pretty sure Canadians wouldn’t mind paying a few pennies more for their daily double-double and maple glazed donut to have them freshly made in-house and promptly served by happy people who receive benefits. We don’t ask much. After all, we’re Canadian. But the natives are restless and unless Tim Hortons takes drastic steps to improve service and quality of their products without penalizing their employees’ benefit plans, we could be screwed—by foreign owners. Oh, that it should come to this.

What can we do?

We hate to say “We told you so” but . . . customers are unhappy; franchisees are unhappy; employees are unhappy. Stock prices are going cold. Under American leadership, Timmies has lost its basic Canadian flavour, its essence. Being a good corporate citizen is about more than the bottom line and we are sure that bottom line would bounce back up if they treated their customers, employees and franchisees with more respect. Taking care of each other is the Canadian way.

Should we pass the toque and buy back what should still be ours? We could have bake sales (ironic!), get the Leafs to play a charity fund-raiser game (after all, do they really deserve to get paid for what they do?), get little kids in red mittens with donation boxes around their necks to stand in their skates outside Beer Stores, ask Justin and the missus to put on their Indian costumes and pray?

There has to be a way we can bring Tim Hortons home again. It’s our heritage, our right and should still be our Timmies. The CEOs in charge in 2015 should have never sold out and now all Canadians are paying the price. Get out the old handbook—the one that spells honour and flavour with a “U” and films its commercials in places like Grande Prairie and Chicoutimi—before the Yanks messed with our special formula, our secret recipe. We’re dyin’ here. We need to buy back our Timmies.

Here’s what I posted in 2015 when Restaurant Brands International took over:

Is Timmies still a Canadian cultural icon?

For better or worse?

For better or worse? No longer Canadian.

Canadian Baby Boomers remember the real Tim Horton—the handsome young hockey player who helped the Toronto Maple Leafs win four Stanley Cups back in the sixties. Tim Horton was killed in a tragic car crash in 1974 shortly after one of his entrepreneurial endeavours had just started up. Tim Hortons was originally just a system of franchised donut/coffee shops in Ontario and grew to become a national icon, representing everything Canadian. In fact, I think they should change their corporate colours to red and white.

Is there a Canadian alive who hasn’t at least once walked down the street with the iconic brown cup in hand? Over the years, customers have supplied the material for Timmie’s feel-good commercials showing young kids and parents getting into the car on freezing winter mornings to drive to the hockey rink; our soldiers enjoying Tim’s in faraway desert postings, and seniors meeting over a newspaper for an early morning assessment of the world situation at their local Tim Hortons.

The upside. Mmmmm.

The upside. Mmmmm!

When American-owned Restaurant Brands International (owner of Burger King) purchased Tim Hortons, Canadians were collectively horrified, nervous and skeptical that our national identity would continue being treated with the respect it had earned over several decades. I think enough time has elapsed now that we can make a fair evaluation. I haven’t really seen any major change in the quality or choice of food and beverages being offered. They offer menu items that are fast and affordable, with seasonal promotional treats. I am concerned, however, that they might diversify too much into fast food menu choices which are bound to affect the culture.

What I have noticed, however, is that the always-slow lineups are growing longer and slower. Where there would generally be eight or ten people ahead of me, there are now eighteen or twenty. I recently waited so long in a line at Tim Hortons on Mavis Road in Mississauga that my roots need retouching. If there’s a lineup of cars extending down the street waiting for the drive-thru, I often opt to park the car and line up inside only to find that the drive-thru is still moving faster. I do miss those feel-good Canucky commercials though. Please tell me they’re not using an American ad agency now too. Where are the scenes of red maple leaf mittens hugging a hot chocolate, the maple donuts, all the pedestrians cradling a cup of Tim Hortons as they make their way through daily life?

The downside of Tim Hortons - the #@$%^&$ lineups.

The downside of Tim Hortons,

the #@$%^&$ lineups.

While I am politely (like any good, true Canadian) waiting in the Timmies lineup for the seasons to change or my Canada Savings Bonds to mature, it gives me time to look around and appreciate the common denominator that brings every ethnicity together under that ubiquitous brown and cream-coloured logo every day. It’s a reminder to be thankful I’m living in the best country in the world where we don’t have to clutch our precious children and flee down railroad tracks, over mountains or cross seas in leaky boats to simply be safe while drinking our morning coffee or steeped tea. We are fortunate that we’re not living in refugee camps because our lives were at risk in the place we once called home.

Every single one of us now living in Canada is the product of an immigrant. The next time I’m tempted to become impatient with the lineups at Tim Hortons, I’ll stop and think about those millions of people lining up to flee terrorism in their own homelands who would give anything to be in my place. The fact that many Tim Hortons are owned, staffed and frequented by immigrants is a testament to our tradition of welcoming newcomers to our country. We can only hope that the world leaders will soon get their act together and come up with a solution that will allow these families to rebuild their lives in safe, new countries such as Canada, or better still, to live safely in their home country.

Maybe we should export Tim Hortons to the Middle East, invite opposing sides to sit down and talk over a steeped tea or dark roast with some Timbits, and perhaps they would see that we’re not so different after all. We can all get along. Under that iconic logo we’re polite to each other; no one’s packing a gun; we’re not ducking mortar shells, and we’re sharing warmth and friendliness in a place we all love. You can’t get more Canadian than that—unless we bring the Stanley cup back to Toronto. We can only hope.


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Got a problem? Get an enemy.


It’s a page right out of The Handbook for Dictators. When you’re in deep doo-doo, find someone else to blame. It’s an effective distraction tactic as old as time itself. When you sleep in and are late for work, blame traffic. Stalin blamed the intelligentsia and packed them off to Siberian labour camps when things didn’t go his way. Hitler wrongly blamed the Jews and other minorities for all Germany’s problems. We know how tragically that turned out. During the Cold War, the United States blamed communism for the world’s ills. That rationale gave them the green light to invade foreign countries and impose their own political agenda on local populations. Failing at school? Blame the teacher (that one never worked particularly well for me). Can’t lose weight? Blame menopause—well, bad example because that one is actually true. The point is, find a scapegoat and push your agenda until your perceived enemies are kneecapped.

Donald Trump has seized on this principle with amazing tenacity. In the bizarro world, he has the Midas touch. Everything he touches turns to disaster. So he blames fake news. He blames Mexico, China and Canada. He blames the NFL, FBI and immigrants. Autocrats need fake enemies. In a further manifestation of this philosophy, Donald Trump has now set his sights on Amazon and in particular their use of the United States Postal Service who handles a large portion of their deliveries.

Someone has to explain this business case to me. I do not have an MBA. In fact I can barely calculate the tip in a restaurant so I’m not exactly the brightest light on the tree. But it seems to me that when a business attracts more paying customers, especially ones with the power of Amazon, the result is usually:

Amazon also creates thousands of jobs.

  • more business, which equals
  • more revenue to grow the business, which equals
  • more jobs created to support the business, which equals
  • more sales revenue, which equals
  • more profits, which equals
  • more taxes paid, which equals
  • more happy people

Except for Donald Trump. Do you suppose his beef with Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon has anything to do with the fact Bezos is a known critic of Trump? And this from the guy who said not paying taxes is just “smart business”.

Full disclosure here. I’m a big fan of Amazon. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t have an Amazon box arrive at my door—a book, an item of clothing or a kitchen gadget. I even took Warren Buffet’s advice and bought stock in a business I understand and have some knowledge of or experience with, which means I also own shares in Amazon. They were purchased as a long-term investment and I’m holding on to them. In fact with their market price now low, I’m tempted to buy even more shares because I believe in the business. They’re certainly not perfect corporate citizens but we have to accept progress while remaining cautious in our choices.

Working through the blame theory to its natural conclusion

The basic strategy of blaming others for our shortcomings is perhaps something I should investigate on a personal level. It certainly has advantages. That means the dairy industry’s marketing is responsible for my passion for butter pecan and black jack cherry ice-cream. That’s why I weigh more than I should. Not my fault. Martha Stewart set impossibly high standards for entertaining. That’s why I am incapable of making decent hors d’oeuvres and generally do not like cooking. Not my fault. Five Guys’ french fries? Probably laced with cocaine. Not my fault I’m addicted. Same thing with Tim Horton’s steeped tea and peanut butter cookies. Fake news and not my fault?

Hey—that was easy. Donald Trump is on to something. I’m sure he’s well aware of it and we can expect to see and hear a lot more ‘passing the blame’ as time goes on . . . and on . . . for nearly three more years. That should be all the time I need to convince myself that this approach is not fake news and my failings are not my fault. Will it work? What do you think?

Footnote to Mr. Jeff Bezos: Want to put Mr. Trump in his place? Locate your planned new Amazon distribution centre in Canada! Canada Post would be happy to work with you and your employees would get health care, work in a country that doesn’t worship guns and respects the hard work and contribution of immigrants.


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Shame on the Saints and other NFL teams


We all know professional sports organizations are chauvinistic but what’s shocking is how much they’re still getting away with. An article in today’s New York Times by Ken Belson reminded me of an earlier blog I posted about the disgraceful way the NFL treats its cheerleaders. Former New Orleans Saints’ cheerleader Bailey Davis was recently fired for posting a picture of herself in a one-piece outfit in her private Instagram account that went against the cheerleader’s rule book. Her breach of contract for such a minor infraction is typical of the rules enforced by the team. They apply to cheerleaders but not players. Cheerleaders are not allowed to fraternize with players and are even forbidden from entering a restaurant where a player is dining and must leave immediately if a player enters the restaurant. The same rules to not apply to players.

Recent court cases have attacked team organizations for discrimination against cheerleaders and resulted in minor improvements. Saints’ cheerleaders now receive $10.25 an hour and many teams’ cheerleaders have to pay their own travel expenses to games. Compare that with what the players receive. When I read about Ms. Davis’s plight, I thought I’d repost the piece I published four years ago. Think about this the next time you watch an NFL football game.

Buffalo Bills Blow Big-Time

There is probably not another person on this planet who has less interest in or knowledge of football than I. buffalo2From my vantage point it’s simply a game of run, bump and fall down. Am I missing something? As I was listening to the Ward & Al show (Channel 167) on Canada Talks SiriusXM satellite radio the other day, however, I heard something that immediately spiked my interest in the world of football.

buffalo3The Buffalo Bills who share a home team fan base with Toronto have a six-woman cheerleading squad called the Buffalo Jills. Five of the six members of the squad are suing the Bills’ organization for unacceptable working conditions. This is where it gets interesting and I learned something I did not know. These women are not paid for their work nor are they reimbursed for expenses incurred in the performance of their responsibilities. Their love of football should suffice. Some of their complaints include having to pay from their own pockets for their $650.00 “uniforms” for which they have to show receipts to verify that the uniforms are dry-cleaned at least once a month.

  • They are expected to attend numerous community and promotional commercial events for which they are notbuffalo5 paid.
  • They are not reimbursed for their travel and parking expenses for events or games in town or out-of-town.
  • They are required to attend rehearsals three times a week and are subjected to “jiggle” tests to ensure they are maintaining a strict level of physical condition.
  • There is an extensive list of requirements to be adhered to involving such things as personal hygiene, hair styles and even how often they must wash their feet. 
  • They are expected to sell calendars they have to pay for in advance and are not reimbursed for any they do not sell.
  • And for all of this they are expected to be grateful for being allowed to see football games free and be groped.

This is a shameful, disgusting, unforgivable, indefensible, distressful, deplorable situation and the Buffalo Bills should be ashamed. Rarely have I heard of such exploitive work practices—and this from an organization worth billions of dollars that pays its players millions. Even the ticket collectors are treated better than the Buffalo Jills. Imagine the reaction if it were suggested the players not be compensated and be satisfied with the privilege and enjoyment of being part of the NFL.football money If the cheerleaders were male, fair wage and expense contracts would have been negotiated decades ago.

I understand this situation is not limited to just the Buffalo franchise. There is no doubt in my mind that the treatment of the cheerleaders is sexist and should never be tolerated. How many of the fans are aware of this situation and do they condone it?  Would you let this happen to your daughter or granddaughter? If I didn’t hate football already, I certainly have good reason to do so now. They have absolutely no concept of fair play and should be severely penalized. This is not the third world and such practices are not acceptable there either.

For what it’s worth, Bailey Davis and all the other NFL cheerleaders have the support of this non-fan of football and the NFL in particular. It’s been four years since my earlier posting and little progress has been made. Obviously the NFL doesn’t follow BOOMERBROADcast.net. They should. In these times of #metoo and the struggles by women for equal rights and recognition, the NFL and its teams should be ashamed.

Click here to read Men Play by Own Rules, Fired Cheerleader Says In Filing Against Saints New York Times article.


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It’s March madness time again


For the benefit of new readers I’m reposting my annual March Madness message.

march-madnessPlease tell me I’m not the only person in the world who thought March Madness was about special annual retail sales—like Black Friday or Boxing Day. For weeks leading up to the big event and for the duration, I’ve been waiting for the flyers from my favourite retailers to arrive in my mailbox. With visions of bargain-priced sugar plums dancing in my head I couldn’t wait to hit the mall to stock up on half-price bras and underwear and my favourite jeans. Surely all the big cosmetics companies would be having extra-special promotions with yummy new shades of lipstick in their give-aways.

Excitement turned to disappointment when my husband gently explained that the “real meaning” of March Madness was about sports— the narrowing down of basketball teams competing for ranking in their respective cups—as in athletic. Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus, but not in March.


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Airlines versus animals . . . what to do?


Airlines maintain that companion animal privileges are getting out of hand.

Commercial airlines are raising a stink about the legitimacy of ‘companion’ animals being allowed in the cabin during flights. Pets and other animals are required to fly cargo unless special dispensation for passengers with medical conditions allows them to accompany their owners in the cabin. It’s become a touchy subject because so many people are abusing the privilege with negative consequences. Pets with bad manners are causing problems for flight crews and other passengers. Behaviours such as aggressiveness and soiling are marring the original good intentions of the policy. Pet owners are understandably stretching the rules rather than check their beloved pet with baggage. What’s the solution? Anyone who has ever tried to fly with a pet on a commercial airliner can attest to the multitude of problems involved.

Pets have to be really itty bitty and practically comatose to tolerate this for several hours.

Small pets that can be crated and stuffed into the six inches of foot space under the seat are allowed. But don’t try to open the cage door or unzip the top a bit to let the poor animal stick it’s cramped head out or you’ll be threatened with eviction. So you’re forced to listen to your pet whine (or worse) for several hours while they’re cramped under the seat. Sedation is a last resort and often results in unpleasant side effects. The alternative, checking your caged pet with the baggage in cargo is even more disturbing. It’s extremely stressful for both pets and their owners.

While I sympathize with the concerns of fellow passengers with allergies or asthma, as a pet owner I don’t see why the airline can’t sort out the problem. People will always want and need to travel with pets and something has to be done. I know space on airplanes is limited but couldn’t a bit of cabin space be designated to accommodate crated pets? Perhaps a special locker in the rear of the plane could be designed with shelves, like open luggage racks for stacking crates where owners could check on them and pets would not be subjected to being squished under seats or banished to dark, cold cargo spaces. Pet owners also pay fares for their pets to fly and they deserve to be treated like the paying passengers they are, not incidental baggage.

Why can’t they be transported in a special cabin area closer or visible to pet owners?

This week United Airlines stashed a puppy in the overhead bin despite protests by its owners and the animal died. The way airlines treat pets is long overdue for changes. Pets regularly get lost, ill, misdirected and sometimes die. I know many Canadians who winter in Florida and cannot fly back and forth because of concerns for flying with their dogs or cats. It doesn’t take a genius to come up with a workable solution. I’m just a simple pet owner who has suggested a simple solution. Are any of the airlines listening?

P.S. And while we’re at it, here’s the solution for abuse of excessive carry-on baggage. Make checked baggage free and charge for carry-on. It’s not that complicated.


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Sleeping on Jupiter is a clash of dreams and reality


This book first came to my attention when I heard the author of Sleeping on Jupiter, Anuradha Roy being interviewed on CBC Radio. Listening to the background story of a young girl from India being told in the author’s lyrical accent prompted me to immediately put it on my ‘To Read’ list. The characters’ stories are linked by their common voyage to the seaside temple city of Jarmuli. It’s beautifully written with many sensory touch-points that take the reader deeper into the scents, sounds and texture of India.

Two story lines run parallel. Three grandmothers have decided to make a pilgrimage to Jarmuli for what baby boomers would call a girls’ week. They have never been away from their families and this act of independence allows them to communicate and explore their separate and different personalities. Latika is slender, not religious and the most modern of the three. She dyes her hair deep burgundy and is the most adventurous. Gouri is devout, traditional and the most conservative. She’s also in the early stages of dementia and its ravages are becoming evident to the point her two friends realize they have to keep close tabs on her to prevent her becoming lost or worse. Vidya is the intermediary and the one least inclined to rock the boat. During their travels and excursions their different personalities both irritate and reassure each other, which is common among old friends.

The fourth woman Nomi’s story begins with a guerilla attack on her family in their local village when she was only seven years old. Her father and brother were killed while her mother managed to escape with Nomi on her back. After days on the run, her mother turns Nomi over to an unknown man on the beach who embarks on a journey with a dozen other young girls to a distant ashram where they are left in the care of a famous guru. They are told he is God and they are to be fed, clothed and educated while in his protective care. Nomi meets the three traveling grandmothers as an adult when she shares a cabin on the train at the beginning of their trip to Jarmuli. As their lives intersect we are introduced to secondary characters whose lives are equally complicated and challenging.

Sleeping on Jupiter is beautifully written. The narrative alternates between first person (Nomi) and third person, and times in Nomi’s life as a child and an adult. The characters and their experiences are described in language that is compelling and descriptive. The darker side of life in India such as child sexual abuse and poverty are handled with sensitivity and understanding. My only complaint with the book is that it ended too soon. There were loose ends and unfinished story lines that I would have liked to be wrapped up. But life does not always have happy endings and satisfactory answers; this book is a slice of life.

To order Sleeping on Jupiter from Amazon.com click here.

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