BOOMERBROADcast

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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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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Sharing a simple story


Inside the Dieppe theatre which has been preserved as a memorial museum to Canadians soldiers.

In October 2014 my husband and I toured former battle sites of World War I and II in northwestern France and Belgium. It was a trip that touched us beyond description. A dear family friend, long since deceased, had been a veteran of The Battle of the Somme as a teenager in World War I and my own family includes many veterans of World War II including my uncle, Jack Glenn, who was a prisoner of war in Japan for nearly four years after being captured in Hong Kong on Christmas Day in 1941. Two thousand young Canadians were offered as cannon fodder that day in a futile display of defending the territory against 10,000 Japanese.

The following year, in August 1942, another six thousand brave, young Canadians were dispatched on another ill-fated mission to Dieppe in France. More than nine hundred were killed, and two thousand taken prisoner. When we were in Dieppe in 2014, we walked the route those Canadian soldiers followed after they landed on shore. Some reached a theatre across the road from the beach. That theatre, long ago abandoned, has been lovingly preserved as a memorial and museum to those young Canadians. A special guide and historian came in at 8:00 a.m. the day we were there to give us a detailed account of the day. The museum is full of memorabilia, uniforms and equipment from that terrible day.

Edwin Bennett of the Calgary Tank Regiment meets the angel in 1982 who intervened on his behalf in 1942. From a picture posted in the museum.

One of the stories our presenter related is about a wounded Canadian soldier named Edwin Bennett. He had been blinded in one eye and was about to be dismissed as being beyond help by a German doctor. But a young French nurse by the name of Sister Agnès-Marie Valois, who later became known as ‘the white angel’ insisted he be treated. Bennett remembered the voice of the young nun who had intervened.

In 1982, for the fortieth anniversary of the Dieppe raid, some of those same soldiers returned to France for a commemoration ceremony. Sister Agnès-Marie was in attendance that day and her voice was once again recognized by Mr. Bennett, forty years later. It was an emotional reunion of the former nurse and the old soldier.  I read in today’s Globe and Mail that Sister Agnès-Marie Valois passed away at the age of 103. R.I.P.

This symbol created for the fiftieth anniversary of the Dieppe raid left an indelible impression on me.

When we visited the battle sites and particularly at Juno Beach and Dieppe, we were struck by the proliferation of Canadian flags and memorials that are still highly visible and on display even today. Take a few minutes to think of the young men you know, perhaps your grandchildren who are 19, 20 or 23 years old. That’s the age of thousands of young Canadians who went to Europe during both wars to protect the values and freedom we now take for granted.

Merci beaucoup à eux tous.

 


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What’s your take on the Facebook fiasco?


Mark Zuckerberg came prepared but he remains unaccountable.

We’ve all been following the back and forth about the ethics of Facebook and sanctity of the data they collect. If you’re like me, your response has probably been somewhat ambivalent—while I feel I have a minor stake in the issue, I’ll leave the solution to the geeks who are probably smarter than I am. Today I changed my mind. It happened while I was reading the accounts of Mark Zuckerberg’s well-rehearsed testimony to the United States Congress; I began to see the light.

It’s very rare that I post anything about my personal life on Facebook. I use it primarily as a platform to co-post my blog, BOOMERBROADcast.net, or perhaps share something about a particular social cause that I feel strongly about, like gun control or animal welfare. Otherwise you’ll see no pictures of me, my family, my lunch (except for that one time at Five Guys) or my vacations. That’s personal and anything along those lines that I care to share with specific friends, I feel more comfortable doing via email which has a greater level of privacy. I really don’t want the world knowing when I’m away from my home, on vacation or what my friends and grandchildren are up to—that’s their business to share as they wish.

I do, however, really enjoy following certain general information Facebook postings like the one about my hometown which features all sorts of historical photographs of days-gone-by. Wonderful memories. I also like to follow certain baby boomer fashion blogs and specific interest groups. Facebook definitely provides an amazing and wonderful service of filling a need but in the current climate an immense degree of discretion is required because we have no idea how our data is being mined and manipulated.

Be very very careful. You’re not the custodian of your personal data.

The recent American election tampering is not an anomaly; it’s the way of the world. I once ordered a black cardigan on-line through Amazon (another stalkable database) and now I’m forever inundated with ads and announcements of sales of sweaters. I’m a fan of on-line shopping; I just don’t like my preferences being shared without my permission so I spend a lot of time clicking on “Unsubscribe”. Sharing the fact I love Five Guys’ fries may seem innocuous but it could land me on some unethical mailing list or demographic study that I have no control over and did not consent to.

The way I see it, information that we post on Facebook should be treated the same way banks manage our personal account information. It should be private, sacred and inaccessible to anyone we do not wish to share the information with. Despite its so-called privacy settings, that’s currently not the reality. I wouldn’t want my bank selling details of my Visa purchases to interested third-parties for marketing purposes, and the way Facebook is currently set up, that’s exactly what they’re doing. Facebook should be our safe repository for personal information but it’s not and that’s just plain scary. 

I’m no longer ambivalent about Facebook, Amazon, Google and other on-line giants. Mark Zuckerberg and his gang have sold us down the road and made personal fortunes doing it. It is my strong contention that whatever we post on Facebook and other sites should remain in the vault unless they have my specific permission to do otherwise. Their business of making money by selling our personal data is just wrong and should be illegal. They’re a data bank for proprietary information and its contents should be treated accordingly—as personal and private.

Banks, television and radio are governed by strict federal regulations and codes of conduct. Giant media platforms like Facebook, Google and Amazon should be as well. Citizens are entitled to privacy and the law should guarantee that basic right. It’s time for some accountability and oversight. They’ve abused our trust.


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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.