Essays, rants and reflections on life after sixty for baby boomers who rocked life in THE sixties. And lots of book reviews too.


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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In the world of television, everything old is new again

Remember when we only received three channels and we all watched the same television?

It seems inconceivable that with more than a thousand television channels we still can’t find something we like to watch. The inroads made by Netflix, specialized cable and streaming sources have expanded our options beyond our wildest imagination but there still seems to be a gap, something missing. Remember growing up in the fifties and sixties when we could only get three black and white channels and reception on two of them was so snowy we could barely watch them? So, the media experts are doing what soap company marketers have been doing successfully for more than a century—re-release a “new and improved” incarnation of the same old thing, the proven formula, but now with extra strength, power boosted or special additives.

Just as good second time around.

It started with the revival of Will & Grace which was soon followed by Roseanne. And now I hear there’s a remake in the works of Mad About You with Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt, and Murphy Brown with Candice Bergen. What to make of these remakes? Personally, I love the new Will & Grace for the same reasons I loved the original series. The writing, although a bit formulaic, is brilliant. The Jack and Karen characters played by Sean Hayes and Megan Mullaley are as sharp and outrageous as ever and could probably even carry their own show. Will is deftly played by Canadian Eric McCormack. Debra Messing’s Grace is still zany, albeit rather less appealing than first time around. But all in all, it works and I look forward to watching these characters every week.

The new Roseanne is slightly more political than the original.

What do you make of Roseanne? The new show is not under the complete control of Roseanne Barr as it was two decades ago, which in my opinion is a plus. More stable minds prevail. The show retains its original edge and attacks sensitive and timely issues faced by us ninety-nine percenters. The first couple of episodes packed a lot of material into the scripts to bring us up to speed and introduce us to the Connor’s new millenium challenges, which seemed a bit strained. Darlene is broke and with her sexually ambiguous son and defiant daughter has moved back home. D.J. (who’s had practically no lines this time around) has a bi-racial daughter and Becky is spinning her wheels going nowhere. Jackie fancies herself a life coach and is as irritatingly full of angst as ever. Dan and Roseanne represent the stable status quo. Imagine that! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Roseanne’s character soon sees the light concerning her support of Donald Trump. We’re hoping those saner minds referenced above kick in.

Rehashing old stories is not new. Movie remakes rarely have the same magic as the original but Hollywood keeps pumping them out in the absence of new material. Overboard, originally released more than thirty years ago with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell has been remade, although I haven’t seen the redo and not sure I want to. Unless you’re a fan of sci-fi, extra-terrestrial beings or blood and guts, you’re SOL when it comes to finding a good movie. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to find Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland’s The Leisure Seekers on Netflix, On-Demand or Amazon Prime. No luck.

I just wish I could figure out how to slash my monthly telecom bill enough to make watching what I want more affordable. An old boomer is screwed without a live-in grandchild to manage our on-line and computer issues. I diligently note upcoming movies or TV shows that might appeal to our demographic and then can never find them. The same thing happens with my car keys and my cell phone (which I rarely to never use).

Movies relevant to baby boomers are rare and impossible to find in local theatres. The excellent British releases are considered ‘foreign films’ and relegated to obscure subterranean theatres in inaccessible corners of downtown areas that boomers find inconvenient to find and get to. Or they never turn up on the streaming and other options. I have a whole list of movies and television shows that I can’t find anywhere.

Spare me. Please.

Cineplex shares have registered a six-year low thanks to poor box office sales. Imagine how that could be improved if movie makers recognized there’s an entire generation of baby boomers who love to go to the movies and aren’t fans of blood, violence and special effects. What if television and movie producers rediscovered baby boomers and once again recognized us as a viable demographic? Now that’s what I would call a legitimate revival and something I would definitely line up to buy into.

Back to the future

The Globe and Mail’s Barry Hertz recently described these 10 movies as “summer blockbusters everyone will see”.

Solo: A Star Wars Story: No explanation required.Image result for emoticons

Jurrasic World: Fallen Kingdom: No explanation required.Image result for emoticons

Incredibles 2: Disney film for children.Image result for emoticonsImage result for emoticons

Deadpool 2: R-rated superhero sequel.Image result for emoticons

Mission Impossible: Fallout: No explanation required.Image result for emoticons

Manhunt: Action flick with lots of bad guys.Image result for emoticons

Disobedience: Drama about same-sex relationship in ultra-orthodox Jewish community in London. “Foreign film”Image result for emoticons

Hereditary: Horror filmImage result for emoticons

Under The Silver Lake: Mystery about missing neighbourImage result for emoticons

The Wife: Another “foreign film” starring Glenn Close as betrayed woman.Image result for emoticons

Do any of these appeal to you? I might catch the Glenn Close one. I’ve been waiting all winter for The Book Club with Dianne Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenbergen. It’s been eight months since I’ve been to the movies because I can’t find one I like. And the movie theatres wonder why they’re going broke!! Just ask a baby boomer.


Why do some people soar under adversity and others stumble?

It’s been several years since I read The Glass Castle an autobiography by New York journalist and author Jeannette Walls and it still ranks as one of my favourite books. Walls grew up in a creative but highly dysfunctional family. Her mother was an artist and her father, quite simply, a dreamer who kept promising his family he was going to build a marvelous home for them out of glass and spent an inordinate amount of time working on the plans for his unrealistic scheme. Both parents were intelligent people but totally unequipped and unsuited to raising four children. As a result, Walls and her siblings frequently went hungry, lived an itinerant, unstable existence and were forced to parent themselves. Surprisingly, they all survived and surpassed their parents in making a success of themselves. How that happens and why some people rise above their beginnings while others fail is a subject of endless fascination to me.

Jeannette Walls’s personal story has now been made into a movie of the same title as the book starring Woody Harrelson as her alcoholic father Rex, Naomi Watts as her misguided mother Rosemary and Brie Larson playing the adult Jeannette. The movie is true to the book. Unfortunately two hours is not enough time to cover all the details of her complicated and erratic life but it still does an excellent job. Anyone who has lived with alcoholism in the family will understand the pain and uncertainty that accompanies loving a family member with an addiction. The story also serves as inspiration for those who are trapped in a difficult family dynamic. Jeannette Walls learned that her only escape lay in getting an education and extricating herself from her family. In a pact with her siblings, they agreed to support each other and build a better life for themselves. Which they did. Go see the movie and you’ll understand why I recommend it.

P.S. As if I didn’t get my fill of child neglect for one day, I doubled-down and because there was nothing else on television that night I watched Angela’s Ashes. The true story by Frank McCourt of his neglectful and abysmal childhood growing up in Ireland is eerily similar to that of Jeannette Walls, in a different decade in a different country. No money. Poor parenting. Alcoholic father. Vulnerable siblings. Blessed are the children.

Click here to read my original review of the book The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

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Maud Lewis respectfully recognized in superb Canadian film

I find it impossible to look at a painting by Maud Lewis and not feel uplifted.

Art is subjective and very personal. Sometimes it leaves us cold; other times it touches us deeply. I’m certainly not an expert but over the years I’ve discovered that the work of certain artists draws me in, makes me feel connected and engaged when I view their work. French Impressionist Augusto Renoir and Quebec artist Marc-Aurèle Fortin both have that effect on me. And, so does Nova Scotia primitive folk artist Maud Lewis. Simply looking at one of her paintings of a spring scene with bursting, colourful flowers, blue skies and puffy white clouds, happy cows grazing in bright green fields bisected by a meandering country road fills me with joy. It’s easy to disparage her work as it resembles the happy, brushwork of a young child. That’s the secret of its enchanting beauty.

Her world was small but her reach expansive.

Like so many artists, Maud Lewis didn’t gain a lot of notoriety and respect until after her death in 1970.  Born in 1903 with multiple birth defects Maud faced challenges right from the beginning, leaving school in the fifth grade. Her protective parents died when she was a young woman and her older brother refused to accept responsibility for her care and support. Destitute at the age of thirty-four, Maud responded to an ad in a local store by 44-year-old bachelor Everett Lewis who was looking for a live-in housekeeper. Maud presented herself at the door of his 12 ft. by 12 ft. cabin and never left. And now there’s a movie about their life called Maudie.

The movie stars Sally Hawkins as Maude and Ethan Hawke as her husband Everett. Before I saw him in the role, I couldn’t imagine handsome Ethan Hawke playing Maud’s contrary, awkward husband, but he was amazing. Sally Hawkins’s portrayal of Maude’s common sense, inner strength and sense of humour was exceptional. Maudie accurately depicts the life of Maud Lewis from early womanhood in Digby, Nova Scotia until her death in 1970. There were credits attributed to several Canadian organizations and it was gratifying to see the woman and her work represented in such a sensitive, respectful movie. There are so few films that the Boomer generation can enjoy (unless you’re into endless sci-fi special effects fantasies) and Maudie nailed it. I loved the movie. The girlfriends who went with me also loved it and if you go see it, I’m sure you will too.

Footnote: A few years ago I visited a Maud Lewis art show of her original work at a small gallery in Yorkville in Toronto. I was totally captivated and would have loved to buy a piece but the most affordable one was $16,000.00. Considering certain pieces now sell for upwards of $100,000+, I should have sold some RRSPs and bought it. Although it might have been a better investment, I probably wouldn’t have been able to part with it. I’ve also visited her tiny cabin which was dismantled and reinstalled in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in Halifax. If you’re ever there, don’t miss it.

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Mike Myers is our very own symbol of true patriot love, with a touch of class

mike1I know I have a tendency at times (sorry!! it’s a Canadian thing) to gush about books I love, so brace yourself; this is a huge gush. We all know and love fellow Canuck Mike Myers for his Second City and SNL characters as well as his movie roles in Wayne’s World, Austin Powers and Shrek. The Wayne Campbell character was based on his own teenage self. Being funny requires also being smart and Mike Myers displays an abundance of both in his new book about his love affair with Canada appropriately titled Canada.  At nearly four hundred pages, it contains a lot of material but is such a wonderful read I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down (sorry . . . did it again). I read it in less than two days.

Myers’s book is a combination memoir and layman’s guide to all things Canadian. He describes growing up in North York and Scarborough (suburbs of Toronto) with such clarity and relatability that we can practically feel the winter cold, taste the ketchup-flavoured potato chips, hear the shouts on the street of  “game on”, and smell the Tim Horton’s coffee. I once lived in the same neighbourhood around Fairview Mall and can easily picture him and his friend as young boys trying to score hockey stickers from hapless customers at the Don Mills Road and Sheppard Avenue gas station, or envision his family life amidst the white brick high-rise apartment buildings that dominate the neighbourhood.

Like Wayne Gretsky, Myers is endlessly gracious, tossing out dozens of “thank you’s” to everyone along the way who made a positive contribution to his or anyone’s life. His modesty and lack of ego are typically Canadian. The book explains some of our history, our cultural touchstones like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Canadian Tire and Tim Horton’s. He also references our more sophisticated British-influenced sense of humour which is heavy on irony and understatement. As an actor and writer, he’s tuned in to the nuances of language and provides examples of how Canadians, Americans and Brits differ in speech patterns. He has an amazing ear for subtleties.

His Wayne Campbell character was totally based on his teenage self.

His Wayne Campbell character was inspired by his teenage self growing up in “Scarberia”.

His observations of life growing up as a typical Canadian boy are entertaining and enlightening. For many years before cable and satellite, we could only get three television stations in Toronto and as a result of watching Irv Weinstein, Buffalo’s answer to Walter Cronkite (Buffalo: the city of endless fires and shootings), Myers and his friends were always baffled when the eleven o’clock news started with “It’s eleven o’clock. Do you know where your children are?” We all remember that tagline and coming from safe and sane Canada, Myers and the rest of us were left wondering, “What’s going on? Where are the children? Should we get in a car and go down to Buffalo and help find the children?”

After I finished reading the book I checked some of the reviews on Amazon and several people suggested non-Canadians wouldn’t “get it”. I totally disagree. In fact, Canada by Mike Myers should be required reading for every Canadian within and outside our borders. I’ll even go further and suggest it should be required reading for every American whose lack of general knowledge about the world outside their borders, particularly their northern neighbour, is shocking and profound. Myers, who spent the first twenty years of his life in Canada before moving for short time to England then the United States to further his career, agrees. “I live in the States. And you never hear any news about Canada when you live in the States.” Canada, as the title suggests is not an autobiography so there’s a lot of personal information missing about his marriage, family life and what he’s being doing the last few years. It’s a self-described love letter to growing up in Canada, intertwined with history, cultural and political observations of our country. It will warm your heart, just like Mike Myers has done for us for many years now. Schwing!

To order a copy of CANADA by Mike Myers from Amazon, click here.

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Funny girl Amy Schumer serves up more than humour

amy1Amy Schumer’s autobiography The Girl With The Lower Back Tatoo” is her personal vagina monologue. Anyone who has watched her television specials or her movie Trainwreck” understands that Schumer’s humour isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. She’s smart, talented and totally unfiltered which not everyone appreciates. As a Boomer reading her account of growing up in a blended family where both parents had multiple marriages, we see her living and enjoying a moral freedom we did not experience growing up in the fifties and sixties. Our generation laid the groundwork.

Schumer’s descriptions of the progression of her thirty-something life cover the spectrum from innocence to humour to lessons learned and as with anyone’s life story, some pain. While her humour is obvious, her smarts and work ethic rise above. Top comediennes make it look easy but years of being on the road, living in uncomfortable conditions, working for little or no pay and enduring more than their share of insults and rejection go into developing a career in comedy. The title of her book refers to her regrettable decision while still a teenager to get a massive tribal tattoo on her lower back which ultimately became infected, left keloid scars and is lopsided. We all make mistakes. I once had kakki green hair but that was fixable.

One surprising piece of Amy Schumer’s life that she shares is her experience as a victim of domestic abuse. She warns that despite being a strong, smart woman, she was not immune to believing “It’s not abusive if they feel really bad afterward and promise to love you the rest of your life, right? Right? Wrong.”  Sharing her story and the conflicted feelings surrounding the experience will hopefully make other women aware of the insidious and dangerous path to abuse. This chapter was particularly enlightening and provides valuable insight into the issue.

Another topic worth reading about in this book is Schumer’s position on body image.  She condemns body shaming that drives innocent little eight-year-old girls to go on diets or should-know-better big girls to aspire to heavily Photo-shopped images of unrealistic, unnatural models in magazines and social media. I share her beefs in this regard and hope someday we will see a return to more realistic role models. She also had her only one-night stand with a guy who sounded a lot like Prince Harry (but he wasn’t).

And for anyone doubting the effectiveness of on-line dating, she has some good news. Her boyfriend of several years is a guy called Ben whom she met on a dating site. She and a girlfriend signed up on a lark, were members for forty minutes, got four matches and Ben was one of them. Don’t expect a joke book; it’s a memoir. Overall, I really enjoyed The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo. It’s a fast, easy, informative read written by a savvy, entertaining and hard-working woman. I had to wait a long time for my name to come up on the waiting list from the library, but it was worth the wait. If you don’t want to wait, click here and order it from Amazon or download it.

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Where are real women in the media?

The feminist perspective is relevant and slowly disappearing.

The feminist perspective is relevant but sadly it’s disappearing.

It’s a man’s world in the media. Earlier this year I wrote about SiriusXM radio cancelling my favourite women’s programs (The Judith Regan Show, What She Said and The Martha Stewart Channel, click here to read Sirius, we have a problem). I’m seriously fed up with Sirius and wish they paid more attention to their women listeners. Then, in April of this year my favourite magazine MORE (for mature women) ceased publishing due to lack of advertising revenue (click here for It’s time for some Boomer backlash). The dragnet is widening as Chatelaine and Macleans Magazines are reducing their frequency to bi-monthly and monthly respectively. And Canadian fashion mag LOULOU has ceased publication altogether.

It’s no secret that the advent of digital media has hurt print publishing. My daily newspaper is getting thinner and thinner. With print ad revenue diminishing in favour of on-line marketing, print publishers are laying off columnists and sourcing material from freelancers, shared news sources and, horrors, click-bait. That makes it harder for readers of any gender to enjoy exclusive, original, well-researched, intelligent material. Our information comes in the form of homogenized sound, print or on-line bytes. There are more sports channels on radio and television than I can count and while women have the ubiquitous HGTV option, our choices are painfully limited. It may surprise the men running media operations that women are interested in issues far beyond fashion, decorating, weight-loss and beauty tips. Women in the media is about more than pretty blondes with toned arms in sleeveless dresses reading the news. Women entrepreneurs and success stories have always been a subject of fascination for me but like great women world leaders, composers, artists, scientists and writers of centuries ago, these women and their accomplishments are buried in history, their stories never to be shared.

media1We’ve lost a number of print publications as well as radio and television programs. While the reasons cited are bottom-line related, it concerns me that quality programming for women is disappearing. I don’t know what the solution is. I already subscribe to more than a dozen magazines each month and heaven knows I support their advertisers by buying product but it doesn’t seem to be enough. It seems I’m constantly chasing diminishing sources of sharp, women-centric news and information but I feel like a dog chasing a car. I’ll never catch it and no one hears me barking. But I’ll keep doing it because I’m afraid I’ll get run over. Or perhaps I have already. Hello? Is anyone listening?

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