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Why Canada should annex the United States

When Donald Trump expressed interest in buying Greenland, it was suggested that Denmark buy the United States in order to finally provide Americans with decent universal health care and an improved education system. Touché. That got me thinking about how much more practical it would be for Canada to take over the United States.

  • We’re geographically united and they wouldn’t have to start a war with us over access to our Arctic shipping routes and resources. Being the benevolent beings that Canadians are, they would then be one of us and free to share in our bounty without bullying.
  • Americans would benefit from learning that democratic socialism is not a bad word. It means we take care of each other by spreading the cost of social services equally among the population. It’s overall more economically viable and just the right thing to do.
  • Unlike Americans, most Canadians do not worship, need or possess guns. We acknowledge that the bad guys are still a problem but we’re working on that and we recognize that possessing guns to protect our families is an unnecessary and counter-productive approach to solving the problem.
  • If Americans became Canadian, security at airports would be vastly different. We don’t carry guns.
  • They would benefit from having a Tim Horton’s on every corner. It’s a place to meet and understand new people while waiting in the endless lineups. And some of us even “pay it forward” by buying coffee for the person behind us. We’re nice like that.
  • While Canada is not free of racism, we’ve embraced multi-culturalism as a benefit to be enjoyed by every race our country welcomes to our country. Having a country populated by so many different cultures and ethnicities has enriched our society immeasurably.
  • That Electoral College thingie just has to go. Where’s the equality in having a state with 40 million people represented by the same number of senators as a state with one million people? They’ll be better off with our parliamentary system and more than two parties.
  • No walls required. I remember the time when we could enter the United States from Canada without a passport. Our word that we are Canadian and live in Toronto was good enough. The border guards used to ask us to recite the phone number for Pizza Pizza (967-11-11)to confirm our national identity.

And the list goes on. There are so many reasons why Americans would be better off being Canadian. Contrary to what Americans are constantly told, they are not living in the best country in the world. Many, many surveys, polls and studies have determined that Canada is currently the best country in the world to live in, but most Americans aren’t exposed to international news on their regular networks so how would they know that. Last year it was Denmark with the United States consistently much further down the list.

COME FROM AWAY is a proud example of the Canadian way of life.

That’s not to say we don’t love our American cousins and friends. We do, very much. If you’ve ever doubted this, go see  COME FROM AWAY at the theatre (which we just did) and you’ll be forever reassured. It’s the true story of 7,000 airline passengers being forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland in the wake of 911, doubling their population in a few hours. In fact, take your President to show him that generosity and kindness are far more effective in building relationships than tariffs. Although it might be tempting to annex the United States and show them the light, I think we’ll just remain very modestly Canadian and keep our heads down, our eyes on the road and our sticks on the ice. It’s our wonderful little secret . . . and it’s not our nature to brag.

 

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The Silent Patient was a step outside my reading comfort zone

Murder-mystery-thrillers are not my usual choice for reading material. But, after reading The New York Times best-seller The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, I’m thinking perhaps I should expand my horizons. I stayed up until after midnight last night to find out “whodunnit”, then couldn’t sleep thinking about all the plot twists. It’s a psychological thriller written mostly in the first-person voice of a psychologist so if you’re a fan of pop psychology then you’ll love all the references to mental illness.

Alicia Berenson is a temperamental artist with a troubled past who kills her husband Gabriel by shooting him in the face several times. Her actions seem incongruent with her obvious love and adoration of him. Why would she do such a thing? All the evidence points to her as the killer but did she really do it? Immediately after the crime is committed, Alicia goes silent, never speaking, even to defend herself in the much-publicized trial that follows. Her silence lands her in a mental institution instead of prison and for years she endures many attempts at reaching inside her psyche to determine the chain of events that led to the murder but she remains steadfastly silent. Several violent attacks on others by Alicia while institutionalized seem to confirm her darker side.

Theo Faber is a psychologist with a troubled childhood similar to Alicia’s. He has struggled with his own demons to rise above his abusive childhood and become a healer himself. Because of his own journey, Theo thinks he is uniquely qualified to unlock her secrets. Much of the narrative is written by Theo with intermittent extractions from Alicia’s diary before the murder. There are many characters in the story who have the potential and personality profile to harm someone and frame Alicia for the crime. Just when I think I’ve picked the right one with the appropriate motive, we’re introduced to another character who is similarly culpable.

Did Alicia really shoot her husband? Or was it her husband’s brother Max, a disagreeable bully and a lawyer who inherited Gabriel’s estate. Or was it Alicia’s mean, aggressive aunt who hated her. Perhaps it was her unfortunate cousin, son of the mean aunt who knew all her childhood secrets? Was it Alicia’s jealous business partner Jean-Felix with whom she was in the process of ending their relationship. Theo is committed to getting to the source of Alicia’s mental illness and setting the record straight on who was the true murderer.

The storyline and the writing are captivating. It’s a definite page-turner and Michaelides’s manipulation of the reader is masterful. We’re taken on a thrilling roller coaster ride with a surprise splash-down at the end. Yep! I definitely need to step outside my world of reading so much historical fiction and get into some fun whodunnit’s. Even if you’re not a fan of the genre, give this one a try. I’m pretty sure you’ll be as gobsmacked as I was. I’d rate The Silent Patient 9 out of 10.

 

 

To order a copy of THE SILENT PATIENT from Amazon, click here.

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Chelsea Handler is getting ready for love

Chelsea Handler with her rescue dogs Bert and Bernice.

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 affected comedienne, writer and late-night talk show host Chelsea Handler so profoundly she altered her entire life to cope with the implications. If you’ve ever watched her late night show Chelsea Lately, listened to her standup routine or read any of her books, you’ll know Handler is smart, beautiful, opinionated and abrasive. Turning forty and the election of Trump forced her to address an inner turmoil that she’d been ignoring her entire life. She suddenly realized that America and herself in particular were going down a very dangerous road. In her own words, “The news was giving me diarrhea.” I can certainly empathize—the news gives me stomach pains.

She put her career on hold for more than a year to focus on leveraging her celebrity status to get women elected in 2018 and increase the turnout of apathetic voters. This transformation happened with the assistance of an effective therapist whom she credits with finally helping her see life through a different lens. Her new book, Life Will Be The Death Of Me” is a recounting of this journey.

Reading Handler’s book reminded me of the special dynamics inherent in families with many children. Handler is the youngest of six children. Her oldest and favourite brother Chet was killed in a hiking accident when she was nine and she never recovered from that loss. As I read about the Handler family’s experiences I was reminded of the colourful childhood of David Sedaris who also grew up with multiple sisters, a brother and parents trying to cope with a demanding family.

Handler was unhappy with her life, always being on the offensive, sabotaging relationships, both romantic and otherwise, and being generally frustrated with the state of the world. She took great pride in her independence and the fact whatever she had achieved had been done without the benefit of a college education, connections or financial support. She’d worked hard and apologized to no one. After the November 2016 election she was so depressed she felt she had to take some responsibility for the state of things. “How could Americans have turned their back on decency, and why was I so misinformed? How did I not know this outcome was even a possibility?” she says early in the book.

Recognizing herself as a privileged white elitist, one of the entitled one percent who was incapable of managing life’s simple chores by herself (despite her blue collar upbringing), she concluded she was part of the problem and set about remaking herself. “I couldn’t carry on the way I had been carrying on, just coasting and cashing checks for essentially being a loudmouth.”

Previous attempts at therapy had not been successful, mainly because, like so many troubled people, she hadn’t connected with the right therapist. Then, she met Dr. Dan Siegel who patiently introduced her to new possibilities, perceptions and an action plan for moving forward in a more positive way. Through intensive psychotherapy, Handler identified the source of her anger, defensiveness and frustration. What could easily descend into psycho-babble does not. The science is intriguing and it’s worth reading about the process she underwent. It involved a lot of time building trust in her therapist, then slowly uncovering and mitigating the causes of her anger.

Chelsea Handler’s first rescue dog, Chunk, flew first class.

With her typical humour and intelligence, Handler not only walks us through her transformation but throws in many bits about her personal life that were enlightening and funny. Her drug and alcohol problems have been well documented in her earlier books and this time around she is once again frank and honest about her use of cannibus in particular. Like many people without children, she has enthusiastically adopted a series of rescue dogs to satisfy her need for nurturing and love. The stories about her various canine pals are hilarious and she is equally generous in exposing her shortcomings in stories about her relationship with her domestic staff and family members.

This book also describes her handling of the death of both her mother and father but the early death of her oldest brother when she was nine years old was particularly significant. She also recognizes that her failures in romantic relationships are completely the result of her unwillingness to accept other people’s shortcomings while acknowledging no one is perfect. Part of the purpose of this book is to right this wrong and in typical Chelsea Handler fashion she dedicates the book to “My Future Husband”. She prefers older men and in particular has a crush on Robert Mueller.

Matchmaker me

C’mon! You’d be so good together.

If we were real life BFFs, I’d be encouraging a relationship with Bill Maher. I’m a hopeless (and probably the world’s worst) matchmaker. I know how difficult it is to meet “the right person” so I’m always trying (unsuccessfully) to fix people up. I know Handler and Maher have been friends for years and I’m hoping now that she’s done all this work on herself she’ll open her eyes to the possibilities of my suggestion. Just once I’d like my matchmaking to work. She prefers older men and Bill Maher’s about 20 years older than her; they’re both political and very smart; neither wants children and both love dogs; they both are passionate about the environment—and weed. Bill—pick up the phone. I think she’s ready.

I loved this book and read it in less than two days. In my opinion, it’s a 9 out of 10. Let me know what you think.

To order Chelsea Handler’s “Life Will Be the Death of Me . . . and you too  from Amazon, click here.

Disclosure: If you order from the Amazon link shown here you will receive Amazon’s best price and I may receive a teeny tiny commission. Thanks.

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Here’s how to win an election

The promises that accompany every election campaign are piling up. The provincial Liberals are promising universal child care and increasing debt/deficit. They’re trying desperately to cover up the great smoldering pile of doo-doo they’ve created over the last few years.  NDP’ers say they’ll take back Ontario Hydro, as if it’s not enough of a joke already in business management case study circles. They’re also promising free drugs and better healthcare (that mean free facelifts?) for everyone. The Conservatives are going to give us the subway and public transit system of our dreams, but with absolutely no fiscal accountability. Just like Trump promised a wall between the United States and Mexico and to reopen the mines in West Virginia, or the Labour Party in U.K. promised Brexit, the political rhetoric and hollow promises are flying.

One thing is guaranteed about election promises. They’re all lies. Bait to lure in gullible voters. Why do politicians keep doing it to us? Worse still, why do we keep falling for it? We’re not stupid. Right-wing Americans fell for it big-time, to their everlasting peril. Britons are now questioning their choices. Canadians are left to cope with the unfortunate shortcomings of Trudeau’s hollow election promises and growing debt/deficits and Ontarians are wondering how in hell we’re going to make a decision among three disastrous parties running for election, four if we factor in the impotent Green Party. It baffles me how political parties can be so phenomenally inept at representing the best interests of the people.

The only blessing in this cesspool is that our election campaigns have a time limit of a few weeks, unlike in the United States where the agony never ends. We should be thankful we live in a democracy where we have free elections but the politicians treat voters like idiots and corporate lobbying makes a joke of the laws they enact. Let’s be clear on one thing: politicians are in it for their own personal interests not in service to the people. After a mere six years sitting part-time on those comfy seats in parliament, members of parliament get full, pork-barrelled pensions for life. Who in real life gets benefits like that? Don’t raise your kids to be doctors; being an MP or MPP is the best gig going. And don’t even get me started on The Senate.

Economic disaster, social disaster or track-record of disaster? Take ‘yer pick.

We’re now getting down to the nitty-gritty in the Ontario election campaign. The personal insults and hollow promises are flying like confetti at a wedding. Whoever makes the most outrageous promises in sucking up to voters will probably win. And don’t forget—all that cash they keep promising to buy our favour with is our hard-earned money that we pay through taxes. Government money is not fairy dust; it’s mine and yours.

Keeping those promises will inevitably be pushed aside by the winning party as “things were worse than we were led to believe” or “the situation has changed so we’ve had to adjust our position”. The rhetoric is so predictable. As a concerned citizen I’m frustrated and angry. I’ll definitely be voting, because, tempting as it is, a protest vote is useless. I’ve made up my mind about which of the incompetents I’ll go with but as a proud Canadian and a conscientious citizen I’m not a happy voter. But who cares? After all, we just pay the bills!

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The Book Club is a pleasant way to pass a couple of hours

It’s been eight long months since I’ve been to a movie theatre as there’s simply nothing I’ve wanted to see. And boomers are traditionally big movie fans. We have so many memories of wonderful Saturday afternoon matinées as kids watching westerns, Looney Tunes and The Bowery Boys. Our movie memories probably also include steaming up the car windows at drive-ins or covertly holding hands with high school crushes in a dark theatre on Saturday evening.

Image resultSci-fi, monsters, violence and super heroes are just not my thing. So, I was delighted when The Book Club was released starring four wonderful boomer broads—Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen and Jane Fonda (although at 80, Fonda’s technically not a boomer). It’s about time a movie was released that appealed to our demographic. It opened against Dead Pool and Avengers on a long weekend which gives you an idea of popular movie fare these days and cinemas are wondering why box office sales are down.

The Book Club follows four sixty-something women who have been friends and fellow book club members for several decades. Candice Bergen plays Sharon, a divorced federal court judge whose ex-husband is predictably engaged to a blonde twinkie half his age. Nothing new or innovative here. Diane Keaton plays herself and a character coincidently also called Diane, an attractive, widowed mother of two grown daughters who treat their mother like a frail relic. A trite premise and not particularly convincing with Keaton in the role, but so the story goes. They’ve decided it’s time she moved away from her friends to occupy a granny flat in the basement of one of her daughters’ homes. Carol, played by Mary Steenburgen is a frustrated wife in need of some lovin’ from her husband played by Craig T. Nelson. Jane Fonda’s Vivian is a wealthy career single lady who owns a successful hotel and allows men into her life only as needed for recreational sex.

When Vivian presents Fifty Shades of Grey as the book club’s new reading assignment the other three women are skeptical. I was worried the movie might treat reading this book as too shocking for the group and was prepared to be indignant. Baby boomers, as you recall invented the sexual revolution in the sixties and that line of thinking would just be incongruent with reality. To the script writers’ credit, the group’s disapproval stemmed from irrevelance which was more believable and credible. Reading the Fifty Shades series ignites some minor reevaluations of their lives. Sharon the judge tries online dating; Carol tries Viagra on her disinterested husband; Vivian tries keeping her distance from an old lover, beautifully played by Don Johnson; Diane conveniently meets a handsome single man on a plane, which is a rather gratuitous twist considering how remote the chances of something like that happening actually are.

Jane Fonda, playing Vivian was the least impressive of the four book club members.

The movie had some genuinely good belly laughs and although a bit predictable, was overall rather enjoyable. Candice Bergen was by far my favourite of the four actresses. She looked like a more beautiful version of most of us—no longer the svelte character she played in Murphy Brown and her Book Club character was the most believable and appealing. Diane Keaton was Diane Keaton and her character was damn lucky to meet Mr. Right. Mary Steenburgen was OK but I’m personally not a huge fan of her style and delivery. Jane Fonda was the least agreeable of all four characters. Fonda played Vivian much the same way she played Grace on TV’s Grace and Frankie—tense, angst-ridden and over-acted. Despite her excellent plastic surgery, Fonda could barely move her upper lip which was distracting.

Famous movie stars don’t necessarily guarantee stars by movie reviewers.The Globe and Mail gave The Book Club only one measly star which I thought was a bit harsh. On the way home from the theatre, a radio review I listened to was similarly dismissive of the movie. But the radio review was offered by two young guys which explains their take on its appeal. Hardly reliable or fair. My boomer gal pals and I had a nice afternoon. The movie was light, funny and entertaining. It won’t win any awards but there was plenty to relate to and we considered it great fun. Giant kudos to whoever for having the courage to produce a movie with all four leading ladies over the age of 65. Take that, action hero fans. I only hope I don’t have to wait another eight months to find another movie that has even the remotest appeal for baby boomers. Remember, we’re still here!

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Tara Westover is proof we can rise above adversity

Tara Westover’s best-selling memoir Educated is a success story similar to J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy and Jeannette Walls’s The Glass Castle—and I loved them all. Stories by people who rise above disadvantaged circumstances fascinate me and are an inspiration to those who struggle. When we look at several children raised by the same parents in the same environment, we wonder what makes some seek higher meaning while others remain satisfied with the status quo.

Westover was the seventh of seven children born to devout Mormons in Idaho. Their strict devotion might not have been so much religious as just plain bizarre. While father Gene quoted the bible extensively and purported to listen only to the word of the Lord, we have to wonder whether his take on God’s word was what God intended. He was supported unquestioningly by his wife. They were intensely opposed to formal education and did not want their children corrupted by outside influences or potentially ungodly guidance in the public school system. So the children were pseudo home-schooled, which in reality meant they were taught basic reading and writing but beyond studying the Bible, they were totally ignorant.

Father Gene was convinced the day of reckoning or ‘illumination’ was imminent and kept the family a high state of alert and constant preparation. They canned home-grown fruit and vegetables, stored gasoline in a giant tank buried in the yard and salvaged whatever they could for survival. He earned a basic living by running a junkyard and doing minor construction jobs building barns and sheds in the community. He operated under the misguided assumption that the feds were out to get them and destroy their family. Westover’s mother earned money as an unqualified midwife for the local Mormon community and she had a side business making herbal medicinal potions.

The children all worked in their father’s junkyard and construction businesses incurring numerous injuries which never received proper medical attention. Westover was subjected to extreme bullying and physical abuse by an older brother while the parents failed to protect her. Both maternal and paternal grandparents, who were also Mormon did not share the family’s strict dogma and constantly tried without success to intervene on behalf of the children. Two of her older brothers escaped their toxic home environment by studying and qualifying to go to college. At the age of sixteen, Tara Westover wanted the same for herself so she spent a year self-educating and after two attempts, succeeded in passing the multiple choice entrance exams. Using money she had saved, she entered Brigham Young University and was confronted with how little she knew of the real world. Her basic life skills were abysmal. She had no conception of spelling or grammar. Even personal hygiene was something that not been practised at home growing up and her college roommates had to educate her on regular bathing, cleaning up her kitchen messes and dressing appropriately.

Tara Westover is a remarkable person with a remarkable story.

While surrounded by fellow Mormons at BYU it became obvious her father believed in a different God. “I’d been aware that although my family attended the same church as everyone in our town, our religion was not the same.”  Westover had no conception or knowledge of geography. She didn’t know Europe was a continent or that France was a country within Europe. She’d never heard the name Margaret Thatcher, FDR or even the meaning of the word ‘Holocaust’. Her general knowledge of life outside the community she grew up in was shockingly inadequate. Despite a rocky start at college, Westover, worked extremely hard to catch up, persevered and finally excelled. As a result, she was awarded a scholarship to attend Cambridge in England where she studied before being further recommended for study at Harvard University.

Writing a memoir at the age of twenty-five may seem a bit premature but as proven and documented by author and psychologist Catherine Gildiner, many young women have lived remarkable lives in the first quarter of their lives. Westover ultimately earned a BA from Brigham Young University, a MPhil from Trinity College, Cambridge and a PhD in history from Harvard University. That’s quite an accomplishment for someone who was practically illiterate at sixteen and suffered significantly at the hands of her family. I’d give this story 9 out of 10.

To order a copy of Educated by Tara Westover from Amazon, click here.

To order a copy of Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance from Amazon, click here.

To order The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls from Amazon, click here.

To order the third book in Catherine Gildiner’s trilogy, Coming Ashore, click here.

 

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