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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Take David Sedaris to the beach or cottage this weekend


The only problem with reading a book by David Sedaris is—it ends. I love his humour and whenever I start one of his books, I try to take my time, savouring each word, each sentence, each paragraph in an attempt to make the deliciousness last as long as possible. But inevitably I can’t put it down and before I know it, I’ve reached—The End. I try to deconstruct what makes his writing so brilliant while appearing so simple. He’s sweet but slightly raunchy, honest and endearingly self-deprecating. His latest book, Calypso is a collection of autobiographical essays examining his life from the perspective of late middle-age. All his books have weird titles with the meaning buried in some obscure reference within the book. I’ll let you find this one yourself. The cover is an hommage to a friend who interprets natural plywood as art. It takes all kinds.

Some of the issues he confronts in Calypso include his perceived physical shortcomings, his three-decade relationship with his partner, Hugh, the tragic suicide of one of his sisters, Tiffany, the interesting people he meets while touring to promote his books, and minutae of his daily life with Hugh. Thirty years after the death of his alcoholic mother at the age of 62 from cancer, he’s still strongly affected by the loss.

I particularly enjoyed his descriptions of shopping for eccentric clothing, like a hat shaped like a toilet brush (shades of the chapeau worn by Princess Beatrice at Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton?), that he and his sister Gretchen like to buy at a store called Kapital when they’re in Japan. He describes shopping expeditions with his sisters as like being ‘in a pie-eating contest, only with stuff. We often felt sick. Dazed. Bloated. Vulgar. Yet never quite ashamed.’. I know the feeling.

Read any book by David Sedaris and you won’t be disappointed.

Sedaris has a respectful and sometimes fraught relationship with his 92-year-old Trump-loving father. The senior Sedaris refuses to leave the five-bedroom family home despite being unable to maintain it or properly cook for himself. He has a propensity for hoarding and uses a flashlight to find his way around the house at night, thereby saving on electricity. Sound familiar? The challenges faced by the family dealing with a stubborn, aging parent are something most boomers can relate to and Sedaris delivers a humorous perspective on the issue.

Calypso is a joy to read from start to finish. It’s a wonderful escape on a warm summer day or a pick-me-up if you’re feeling down. I’d rate it 9 out of 10.

To order Calypso by David Sedaris from Amazon click here.


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Who doesn’t love a good spy story?


There’s nothing more compelling than a great story about espionage especially when it is written by a real-life former intelligence officer who was part of the C.I.A. for more than thirty years. The movie industry thought so too and produced a movie based on the book “Red Sparrow” by Jason Matthews. Although I have not yet seen it, the movie is rarely as good as the book. Movies can never capture the nuances of the thought processes of the characters or the subtle and delicate intertwining of various plot lines that comprise a book of several hundred pages. Books are infinitely more fascinating even without special effects and big-name movie stars.

When beautiful young Dominika’s ballet career is permanently derailed by a broken foot inflicted by a jealous fellow dancer, her entire life’s plan is erased. At her father’s funeral she is approached by her Uncle Vanya, an unscrupulous General in the SVR (formerly KGB) who makes her an offer she can’t refuse. In return for becoming a special Red Sparrow agent, her mother will be able to stay in her large Moscow government apartment and their lives can proceed as comfortably as before her father’s death. Red Sparrow is the name given to Russian agents, predominantly female but including a few males, who are trained in a so-called ‘whore school’. They are schooled in the finer arts of seduction which produces agents given special assignments requiring them to elicit secrets through old-fashioned pillow talk.

Real life spies operate closer than we think.

Meanwhile, the security of Nate Nash, a young American agent stationed in Moscow is compromised and he’s forced to relocate to Helsinki. Although he’s a relatively junior agent, he is the primary liaison between the CIA and a highly placed Russian double-agent called MARBLE and the Americans want to maintain his relationship with MARBLE (who is incidentally one of the few sympathetic characters in the novel). The Russians are aware of a deep mole in their network and assign Dominika, code-named DIVA to coerce Nate into exposing the Russian traitor. Naturally, a love story develops between the two agents and the plot becomes extremely complicated.

As we work our way through the various plot lines, the reader is educated about the CIA and espionage jargon, dirty tricks and political struggles. We feel like part of the team and I started feeling rather clever when I started to put two and two together, until things didn’t add up to four. I often became impatient with the clumsiness and weakness of Nate and wanted to yell at him to smarten up. But the secondary characters were fascinating and kept me engaged. The story line is current and Vladimir Putin makes periodic fictional appearances.

In real life, the author lived and served as a foreign intelligence agent in countries around the world so he has intimate knowledge of the cities where the action unfolds. He embraces local cultures and includes descriptions of meals enjoyed by the various characters, followed by a recipe at the end of each chapter. This book is part one of a trilogy and I will no doubt be checking out the next two. As I was reading, I was blown away (but not really surprised) by the level of intrigue perpetrated by the CIA and SVR and the overwhelming degree of corruption that exists.

Red Sparrow is a hefty read but well worth it. The author’s technical knowledge is impressive and we’re constantly kept in suspense about where the story will go next. The dialogue is intelligent and at times humorous, and I’m left wondering if there really is such a thing as a Russian “whore school” for secret agents. If I ever meet Jason Matthews I’ll be sure to ask as he’s bound to know for sure. I may even check out the movie starring Jennifer Lawrence, but think I’ll wait ’til it comes on television as it’ll probably be a disappointment after reading the book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Red Sparrow and give it 8 out of 10.

Click here to order Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews from Amazon.


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David Sedaris’s humour has a raunchy edge


The brilliance of David Sedaris’s writing is his ability to make it look so effortless. Having read most of his books over the past few years, I’m always amazed at how he can take the most seemingly ordinary situation and turn it into something hysterically funny. It’s a skill shared by Jerry Seinfeld—although Sedaris is raunchier. He’s a master of understatement and innocent observation. Growing up in a completely normal North Carolina family that included five siblings (one brother and four sisters) he’s versatile and wonderfully flawed. Sedaris has parlayed his weaknesses and ordinariness (is there such a word?) into a lucrative career as an author and humourist.

In his latest book, Theft By Finding Dairies 1977-2002, David Sedaris edits twenty-five years of entries from his personal diaries into manageable bite-sized excerpts. A large part of his material is drawn from his own experiences doing mundane jobs and his encounters with the peculiar people who pass through his daily life. With a history that includes drug and alcohol abuse, working at a variety of odd jobs including as a painter (not the artistic kind), Santa’s elf at Macy’s in New York, a teacher and part-time cleaning ‘lady’, Sedaris has lived a colourful and varied life. An aficionado of IHOP, he shares numerous stories from years of taking his meals at the famous pancake chain.

Eventually Sedaris met his partner Hugh, got his life together and now owns homes in London, Paris and New York thanks to his successful writing and speaking career. When Hugh bought him his first laptop, it required some adjustment to get used to the modern technology. “On a typewriter, when you run out of things to say, you get up and clean the bathtub. On a computer, you scroll down your list of fonts or make little boxes”. Who among us hasn’t wasted hours playing with useless functions on our laptop or personal devices. It’s those simple observations we can all relate to that make Sedaris’s writing so enjoyable. Fortunately he got the hang of his laptop and provides hours of reading for us to enjoy. I can’t say this is his best book, but it’s certainly fun to read. David Sedaris’s writing is not everyone’s taste but I read everything by him that I can get my hands on. He makes it look so easy and always puts a smile on my face. That’s good enough for me.

To order a book by David Sedaris from Amazon.com, click on book cover below:

 

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Here’s how you can help me


Writing a blog has been a lot of fun for me but I would like to increase my readership. Not being particularly technically inclined with no knowledge of code and other techie insights puts me at a bit of a disadvantage. Lacking the necessary vocabulary and skills for SEO (acronym for search engine optimization which means capitalizing on Google’s ability to attract followers), Boomerbroadcast is not casting as wide a net as I would like. I’ve just learned that search engines’ ever-changing algorithms are affected the number of “Likes” a site gets. This means, that the more people who take the time to click “Like” on Boomerbroadcast or on Facebook, the higher I rank in search engine optimization.

Soooo, my loyal readers and followers, I would really appreciate it if you could take the time to click “Like” on one or some of my postings if you enjoy reading them. And feel free to share. Thank you.

Lynda

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Dear Margaret: I was wrong. I’m sorry.


It was a scramble to finish reading the book Alias Grace before the television series aired as I didn’t want to preempt any of the deliciousness of the story line. Written by Margaret Atwood more than twenty years ago, it took me a long time to get to the book because I’d been put off by her later writing, including The Handmaid’s Tale. I disliked The Handmaid’s Tale as I found it too dystopian and weird when I first read it in 1986. Times have changed; the world is becoming scarier and The Handmaid’s Tale is no longer as remote from reality as it once seemed. I’m loving the television series and can’t wait for the next season.

Alias Grace is historical fiction (my favourite reading genre) based on the true story of Grace Marks, a pretty, young Irish immigrant housemaid in Toronto in the mid-1800’s. Put out to work by her alcoholic, abusive father at a young age, Grace secured employment as domestic help in a well-to-do Toronto household where she made friends with Mary Whitney, another young employee of the household. Life was not easy for domestic servants and they were frequently exploited by their employers. When Mary Whitney dies from a botched abortion, Grace is tainted by virtue of her friendship with Mary and is forced to leave and accept a position further north in rural Richmond Hill working for a bachelor ‘gentleman’ Thomas Kinnear. His relationship with his existing housekeeper, Nancy Montgomery soon becomes evident and presents complications for the entire household. Nancy is mercurial, swinging from overly friendly to mean and jealous.

In July 1843, while Kinnear is away from home, Nancy informs Grace and the handyman James McDermott that their services are no longer required and she intends to dismiss them before Kinnear returns. Then the story gets muddy. Thomas Kinnear and Nancy Montgomery are murdered but no one is sure who did it; James? Grace? Or both? The resulting murder trial is a major scandal in nineteenth century Upper Canada. McDermott is condemned to death by hanging and because of Grace’s vague testimony that was highly manipulated by her pro-bono lawyer and her young age (she was only fifteen), she receives a life sentence in the harsh federal penitentiary in Kingston, Ontario.

The complex characters of Grace Marks and James McDermott make it difficult to get at the truth.

During her incarceration, a number of well-meaning citizens and professionals attempt to extract the truth from Grace about the day of the murders but without success. Many people feel she is innocent and lobby for her release. Famous novelist Susanna Moodie even took a stab at getting to the truth (sorry for the bad pun) in her book Life in the Clearing but it was generally acknowledged that Moodie’s tendency to exaggeration and belief in spiritualism heavily coloured her account. After fifteen years of incarceration, Atwood introduces a character called Dr. Simon Jordan who specializes in studying mental health issues (such as they were at that time). He undertakes interviewing Grace over a period of months in an attempt to extract the truth once and for all. Although uneducated, Grace is obviously highly intelligent and articulate which makes it difficult to sort out fact from fiction.

Atwood’s story alternates time frames and narration. We’re often presented with the story in Grace’s own words as well as from the perspective of Dr. Jordan and a third party. I’ve never understood why some writers eschew quotation marks when employing dialogue some of the time but not all of the time. I suppose it’s a technical issue beyond my uneducated grasp but it does make for a bit of confusion at times sorting out conversations. Whoever said Canadian history is boring is just plain wrong. Just as I was wrong in discounting Margaret Atwood’s writing after The Edible Woman published in the mid-sixties and still my favourite Atwood novel. Alias Grace is a wonderful read. You’ll find plenty of touchstones you can relate to and the mystery surrounding the double murder will keep you engrossed in the book beyond the last page into the “Afterword” by Atwood. Millions of book buyers can’t be wrong.

To order Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood from Amazon.com, click here.

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Does The Widow know more than she lets on?


Ordinarily I’m not a reader of psychological thrillers. Historical fiction is more my thing. And I had already started reading another book when I received an email from my local library that my copy of The Widow by Fiona Barton was ready to download. I was anxious to dive into The Widow so I put the other book aside. Two days later I was finished. I really enjoyed Barton’s style of writing and this book was a page-turner for sure.

I have mixed feelings about the book though, which opened with the widow’s husband getting killed by a passing bus in a London suburb. Right up front it’s clear she is relieved to be rid of him and what she describes as “his nonsense”. The title’s namesake Jean is a naïve young hairdresser when she meets and marries tall, dark and handsome Glen Taylor. She can’t believe her good fortune. Soon, she becomes slightly uncomfortable with his micromanagement of their marriage and Jean finds it easier to assume the role of Stepford wife to keep their perfect union rolling along. Then, a toddler is kidnapped and her perfect husband is one of the main suspects. She’s shocked and disappointed to discover he’s an on-line troll with a preference for kiddie porn, but true to form, she plays the role of supportive wife throughout a lengthy investigation, judgement and incarceration.

Jean Taylor’s life is no longer what she thought and she finds herself and her husband ostracized by friends and neighbours. The character of the investigating police detective is a bit cliché in his dogged determination to prosecute the offender but we soldier on expecting an eleventh-hour surprise revelation, that never happens. Barton presents the story from three perspectives, beginning as Jean written in the first person, from the point of view of the detective, and through a female journalist who tries to ingratiate herself to Jean in order to get to the truth. It was a fun summer read for a couple of days and kept me away from wasting money at the mall. That’s good enough for me.

To order a copy of The Widow from Amazon.com, click here.

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Is the fashion media still relevant?


As someone who is not rich, not thin and not young, I am not exactly in the cross hairs of the editors at current popular fashion magazines. Nevertheless, I love fashion and I love to critique Vogue’s annual  ‘September issue‘. Once a year I put on my probably-not-stylish bitch hat and go to work. The September issue is always a biggie—almost 800 pages—and requires an extra effort on the part of my mail carrier to get it my door. To his credit he also delivered my Restoration Hardware catalogues the same week so I’ll owe him a compensatory tip at Christmas. So many times I’ve been tempted to cancel my subscription to Vogue but it’s fashion eye candy and who doesn’t love candy.

So, Boomerbroadcast readers, here is what I see as relevant and irrelevant in the September 2017 issue of Vogue:

  • Overall, I’d rate it higher than last year’s edition, which came as a complete surprise to me (click here to read my review of the September 2016 issue). I was all set to be majorly disappointed but there were a few nice surprises along with the usual clunkers.
  • It was their 125th anniversary edition. The cover fold-out included reprints of vintage covers including a July 1967 one of Twiggy with flower power painted eyes which I particularly liked.
  • Absolutely every brand in existence bought ad space congratulating Vogue on their special anniversary. Just in case we forget their names.
  • Dior’s all-navy spread a few pages in had definite merit and was appealing. And I’ve never seen a Dior bag I didn’t love.
  • Ralph Lauren showed a Glen plaid suit for women with a nifty watch chain draped from a belt with silver padlock that is totally do-able. I could repurpose a silver chain and charm I already have without having to buy the pricey real thing.
  • Gucci’s metallic makeup and glitter overload were just too over-the-top to find anything I could relate to. Boomers and anyone over thirty simply do not do iridescent or shiny. For perfect pubescent skin only. #gucciandbeyond
  • Tiffany rarely disappoints. Their new line of horse-bit styled chain jewelry is to die for. Sigh . . . as if I could ever afford it.

    What’s not to love about this? Sigh!

  • Neiman Marcus advertised a fun Calvin Klein (205W39NYC) full-length coat that looked like a quilted Mennonite bedspread with Glen plaid arms that I actually liked. Cool!
  • Canada’s own Holt Renfrew sprang for a two-page spread of retro painted-lady dresses. Wear once. Bored. Toss. Disposable clothing with a big price tag.
  • Stella McCartney’s people were truly innovative with their two-page spread showing a prone young woman in a green turtleneck dress lying on top of a pile of recyclable garbage, alongside a couple of Stella’s leather-free purses. Says it all. Simply. Green. Absolutely loved everything about the concept.
  • Anne Klein’s black and white ads were rather introspective with memes like “My worth is not defined by other people’s perception of me”. Honourable intentions but I’m not sure it’ll induce me to look for Anne Klein in stores.
  • Page 382 was all about yummy belts. Ouch! If only I still had a waistline I could resurrect that drawer full of gorgeous belts I already own.
  • Buried in the barely there pseudo editorial content was a half page blurb on the latest face-brightening non-thermal laser technique called PICO (page 462) which promises to banish rosacea and broken capillaries. If there were an effective treatment for rosacea I’d be first in line to try it as I’ve had no luck with anything so far. False hope?
  • Eternally tasteful St. John showed a gorgeous soft pink (looked like cashmere) open coat with matching turtleneck and grey pants that I would love to buy when I win the lottery.

    Yummy coat by St. John, but at $2K Canadian it won’t be keeping this boomer warm any time soon.

  • The GAP’s double-page spread of denim jeans and white tee shirts is perhaps indicative why their business is slipping. Nothing new. Nothing original.
  • The book page (616) usually grabs my attention but the selection of books, all focused on young characters should come as no surprise from an editorial staff of young people who have no awareness of generations beyond twenty-somethings. No range.
  • Hallejuliah for the “Good Jeans” (play on words) section featuring ‘older’ super models like Amber Valetta, Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista—some photographed (by Annie Leibovitz) with their daughters. The dark lighting smoothed out imperfections but we know we’ll never age as well as they have. The inclusion of Kendall Jenner totally pissed me off though as I’m so sick of the Kardashian klan. Sick, sick, sick of them.
  • I did notice that most of the models in this issue wore minimal makeup which was interesting.
  • Oprah’s Bliss provides an update on her current state of mind which is a slice of welcome editorial content.
  • For tennis fans who care, there’s a piece about Serena Williams photographed in all her pregnant glory. I’m not interested in tennis, Serena or motherhood so I skipped that one. Purely a subjective choice on my part that not everyone would agree with.
  • Other interesting women were featured. Nicole Kidman turns fifty; Megyn Kelly turns to NBC, Chelsea Manning turns over a new leaf, and Calvin Klein (obviously not a woman) turns heads.

    Really?

  • Every issue of Vogue includes a fashion spread toward the end that I never ‘get’. That’s where the creative people get über creative and go crazy with arty concepts that I think are supposed to win awards or something. This issue’s theme is post-war boom years in suburbia with retro-fifties fashions photographed in caricatured suburban settings like back-yard barbecues with swing sets and white picket fences, the Sunday roast, console televisions as the focal point in living rooms and models channeling June Cleaver. Cute. Sounds so much like it’s finally something that should appeal to boomers. Perhaps I missed the point but there was not a single inspirational visual takeaway for this old boomer. Nice idea but where’s the beef?
  • Lena’s Dunham writes about becoming a redhead. Good writing. Universal theme. Read it yourself (page 728) to see how it turns out. You’ll like it.

Where do you get your fashion inspiration? When I canvassed my own circle of friends, it seems we prefer to scope out what we see other women wearing in the malls, on the streets, at the grocery store (well, maybe a bad example). Observing street style from a sidewalk café is great fun. I’ve often approached someone in a store and asked them where they got a particular item they’re wearing that I love, or asked who cut their hair. Some people refer to Instagram or they collect pictures on Pinterest. Another source of my own fashion inspiration has increasingly come from on-line blogs such as:

There are some excellent fashion blogs such as Lyn Slater’s Accidental Icon targeted at boomers that are infinitely more relevant than mags.

Some of these sites are far better than others and I have my favourites but fashion is subjective and you can pick for yourself which ones you would like to follow.

The reason we’re turning away from the fashion magazines is because they’ve become irrevelant to so many people. Who among us can relate to pouty, stick-thin genetic mutant teenagers wearing faux fur vests with combat boots, ripped leggings and carrying five thousand dollar handbags? The same logic applies to the media’s myopic worship of celebrities. We don’t expect to see an entire issue of Vogue devoted to lumpy baby boomers (or do we?) but a few more Helen Mirrens, Diane Keatons or Isabella Rossellinis would be a welcome addition. Long live Iris Apfel. We do have an interest in fashion and a few bucks to spend.

It annoys the hell out of me that we continue to be so invisible to the fashion industry. Do they ever ask their readers what they like? Really? We want fashion media to succeed but when are they going to produce material that actually inspires its readers to go and buy what they’re selling? The September 2017 issue was better than I expected it to be but imagine what they could do if they acknowledged a broader market. Just imagine . . .

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