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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The Girl With Seven Names had nine lives


If someone on your Christmas list enjoys books, I have a great recommendation and it’s not too late to have it delivered from Amazon. The Girl With Seven Names is the true story of how a young woman, with no foresight or planning escaped North Korea and became an international advocate for human rights. The book is a beautifully written, first-hand account of life for the average person in North Korea by someone who later came to experience the world beyond the Kim Jong autocracy. During her escape and resettlement, Min-young assumed a series of seven different names as part of the strategy needed to hide her past and create new identities to protect herself and her family still in North Korea. Hyeonseo Lee is the final name she retains.

Min-young was born and grew up in Hyesan, a North Korean town on the northern border with China. Hyesan was separated  from Changbai in China by a narrow river. Locals could wade across the river in waist-deep water or over ice in the winter when border guards on both sides were looking the other way or were sufficiently bribed to look the other way. This arrangement resulted in a brisk black market trade of superior Chinese consumer goods and food items coming across the border that were unavailable to most North Korean citizens. This trade supported Min-young’s family.

As a rebellious teenager of seventeen, Min-young made a decision to cross the river one night to visit the Chinese side, planning to return a few days later. Because of her age and naivety, she gave little thought to the gravity and consequences of her decision. If she had been caught coming or going, she and her entire family would be executed or at the very least deported to a labour camp. A series of decisions resulted in her being unable to return to North Korea. She traveled to visit distant relatives on the Chinese side who provided her with accommodation and help. She was constantly under threat of being exposed as an illegal immigrant which would result in her deportation and execution. An arranged marriage with a Chinese national seemed the only solution but Min-young got cold feet and fled. Over the next few years she assumes various identities and moves across the country trying to stay one step ahead of authorities, criminals and traitors. Through a complicated set of manoeuvres, Min-young eventually manages to escape to South Korea where life is not as she imagined it would be.

Who doesn’t love finding a good book under the tree? For you or a book-lover you know.

Most of us think we live in the best country in the world. Canadians are certainly entitled to feel we won the lottery being born in Canada. Americans have traditionally considered the United States to be the best country in the world, although, in fact, they fall further down the list. Canada consistently ranks as number two and the best is Switzerland, Germany or Denmark, depending on the source of the research. Citizens of North Korea have also been indoctrinated by the Kim-Jong regime to think they’re living in the best country in the world under the benevolent leadership of three generations of the Kim family. Despite famines, starvation and deprivation, North Koreans have no sense of context to compare their lives with the rest of the world. They grow up worshiping their ‘Great Leader’ or ‘Dear Leader’ as a god and their source of life. Those who escape quickly learn that things in the outside world are very different from what they’ve been told.

I absolutely could not put this book down. The author employs a literary J.R. Ewing cliff-hanger at the end of each chapter that further induced me to push on which I often did into the night. Hyeonseo Lee as she is now known has achieved local, national, then international acclaim for her human rights advocacy work, sharing her experiences to help others in similar situations. To be able to view life in North Korea from the perspective of someone who grew up there and compare it with a new life in a once-forbidden world is a rare insight. It’s a harrowing story of injustices suffered by citizens who live in countries without the freedoms we take for granted in Canada—a real eye-opener that will make you further appreciate our Canadian way of life and values. There wasn’t a single page of this book that I didn’t love and in view of the current tensions between the United States and North Korea it’s a timely read.

To order The Girl With Seven Names from Amazon.com click here.

 


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Are baby boomer women becoming less invisible?


Is it a mirage or are we gaining ground? The October issue of Italian Vogue, The Timeless Issue was dedicated to ‘mature’ women and featured Lauren Hutton on the cover. I was hoping to share some of their wisdom and bounty with Boomerbroadcast readers but I tried everywhere and couldn’t score a copy so we’ll just have to take their word for it. The good news is that when I was in Chapters/Indigo in October I did spot the British magazine woman&home (which sounds rather mumsie but is actually refreshingly ‘broad’) and it was all about us. Yes. It’s true. A magazine targeted at and about our generation—the smart, educated and hardworking demographic with a bit of experience under our elastic waist belts and some disposable change in our purses to spend on fashion and lifestyle. Imagine my delight. If you can find a copy of the October edition of British woman&home I assure you it’s worth the hefty $9.99 price tag as it was cover-to-cover full of relevant material for baby boomer women.

Lauren Hutton’s back on the runway and from time to time I see great fashion coverage on the internet of Ali McGraw in all her boho splendiforousness. I don’t normally look to celebs for fashion and style inspiration but Diane Keaton is a major exception along with the amazing Helen Mirren. Maye Musk is high-profile these days and although these ladies are all stick thin (which most boomers are not), the recognition is definitely encouraging.

Kudos to CITY-TV’s CityLine and CTV’s The Marilyn Denis Show for including mature and normal-sized women along with the requisite skinnies in their fashion presentations. Seeing an amply proportioned mature woman confidently walking out in stylish fashion is inspiring and gratifying. Blogs and websites for women our age are proliferating. I enjoy perusing these sites and try to share the good ones with Boomerbroadcast readers. It’s where I get most of my personal fashion inspiration since magazines are totally bereft of anything we can relate to. If you come across something you like and would like to share, please do so. We’re all in this together. Stay beautiful mes très chères.


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It’s the most glamorous time of the year


Everyone is busting out their sparkles now for the various seasonal celebrations. There are office Christmas parties—his and hers, black tie charity fund-raisers, family get-togethers and of course, New Years’ Eve. I’m no longer a young party animal. I’m now enjoying retirement and prefer a quiet evening in my LaZ-Girl chair with my little dog in my lap and a nice cup of tea at my side, binge-watching the latest Netflix offerings. Since retiring I’ve passed most of my sparkles and evening dresses on to better causes, tossed the stiletto’s and said farewell once and for all to small talk with business associates and people I hardly know over lavish dinners under mirrored disco balls.

Despite entering this quieter phase of my life, I still can’t resist admiring the bling and excess that confronts us at this time of year whenever we enter a store or mall. I marvel at the gorgeous sequined cocktail dresses and evening bags displayed on the mannequins in store windows. Those strappy silver heels that would cripple this old boomer’s feet after one step still emit their siren’s call. I imagine my former twenty-something body in those shimmery mini party dresses, then sigh at the realization I’ll never look that great again. The upside of the current state of affairs is knowing that I was never as happy then as I am now, so all’s well.

Give me strength, for this too shall pass.

November and December are when the major cosmetics companies bring out their big marketing guns, the AK47’s of the beauty business. Promotions, gift sets and purchase-with-purchase collections abound and I’m a sucker for all of it. Forty or fifty years ago I got a ‘free’ Frosted Apricot lipstick as part of an Estée Lauder promotion at Eaton’s and I was hooked. Miraculously, they still make that colour and it’s my go-to lipstick for all occasions and outfits. Those freebies were so much fun and introduced me to products that I soon incorporated into my ‘beauty’ routine. That’s the genius in their marketing. My biggest weakness with the most potential for being sucked in are those giant makeup and treatment kits offered by Clinique, Estée Lauder, Lancôme, Elizabeth Arden and other cosmetics behemoths in the weeks leading up to Christmas. You know the ones—buy this incredible assortment of products valued at $450.00 for only $65.00 with any Estée Lauder purchase. A dizzying array of blushers, eye shadows, multiple lipsticks (in colours I would never wear), mascara, eye liners, full-size bottles and jars of skin care products are all seductively displayed in a faux-croc travel case (usually in red) for my greedy pleasure. And I love it all.

. . . and visions of sugar plums.

Several years ago I caved and bought one of those purchase-with-purchase combos. Most of the products didn’t suit me so it languished in the drawer for months before I finally tossed or gave away its contents. And the travel case turned out to be neither efficient or practical. Even now, I have an embarrassing inventory of makeup and skin care products in my bathroom that mostly collect dust. As we age, we find that less is better and I no longer need or use so much of what was once part of my regular routine. Smokey eyes, facial contouring and iridescent shadows are and will remain distant memories. Moisturizing eye drops, industrial strength retinol and biotin are now front and centre.

So, if you happen to spot me drooling in front of the Estée Lauder counter with my credit card quivering in my hand, give me a smack and tell me to get myself off to Tim Horton’s and cool my heels. But first, I have to pick up a new Colour Envy lipstick in Defiant Coral at Estée Lauder and a Lancôme Hypnôse mascara with the corresponding eye makeup remover. That should qualify me for the cute promotional bonus. How’s that for step one in my 12-step programme to correcting my wanton ways and creating a better me?

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I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!


Satan made me do it. My first mistake was picking up the President’s Choice  300-gram chocolate bar with hazelnuts (actually I bought three but who’s counting) at The Great Canadian Superstore (just sounds so patriotic doesn’t it?). Thought they’d come in handy over the Christmas holidays. For the record, these chocolate bars are a product of France (good); they’re 3¼ inches wide by 11 inches long (better), they cost only $4.95 (best) and are amaaaazing. The chocolate was so fresh it melted in my mouth and crunching the hazelnuts allowed me to make it last longer. And, as everyone knows, like Halloween candy, holiday treats purchased ahead of time rarely make it to the home stretch. It’s a predictable and unfortunate fact of life.

The problem arose when I opened the package for just a “little taste”. Less than twenty-four hours later, the entire chocolate bar was gone. If I were Catholic I could go to confession and God’s representative would absolve me of my sin. In his great magnificence, he would probably wipe out the accompanying calories too. But because I’m not Catholic I’m forced to live with my transgressions in a seething, swirling vortex of shame, guilt and self-hate.

Forgive me for I have sinned and will probably continue to do so. Seeking salvation.

In my defence, I’m convinced the manufacturers of those chocolate bars include a highly addictive narcotic in the ingredients so we mere mortals are powerless against its pull. I can personally confirm that the same ingredient is also present in red licorice twizzlers (as evidenced by ninety little bags disappearing from my house a few days after Halloween), and Black Jack Cherry ice-cream. My rationale is the sooner I dispose of it (i.e. eat it) the sooner it’s no longer a temptation and household hazard. I realize I should know better than to even allow these goodies into the house, but sometimes a healthy diet of oatmeal, fruit, vegetables and  organic food just doesn’t cut it. It’s hard to avoid those special sweet-loaded holidays like Halloween and Christmas. And there’s nothing wrong with buying your own Valentine chocolates—I’m just confirming that in advance. Some diet advocates say we should allow ourselves little treats on a regular basis so we don’t feel deprived and won’t binge. That’s exactly what I was trying to do—just a little taste. While my intentions were honourable, my little slip-up turned into a major pig-out and I’m now considering converting religions so I can continue to live in peace with my conscience. I think those Catholics are on to something.

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What would you do if you had $800 million lying around?


Soon to be Scotiabank Arena for only $800+ million? By comparison, Rogers bought former SkyDome for a mere $25 million.

Scotiabank should be ashamed. They recently had a bit of extra change overflowing their vaults from all those service charges to customers so they decided to invest it in marketing. They’ve purchased the rights to have the Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team and Raptors basketball team, renamed Scotiabank Arena. I find this business decision to be an appallingly poor use of nearly a billion dollars. Let’s face it. We have five banks in Canada and because of excellent federal regulation our banks are strong and all five pretty much play on a level field. One’s as good as the next and they’re all pretty good. They pay reasonable dividends to investors and are less prone to financially raping their customers with dodgy lending schemes than the greedy American financial institutions. Therefore, how much do they need to market to a captive audience? To the tune of more than $800 million?

Off to a hockey game at Scotiabank Arena.

As a retired Corporate Marketing Manager I totally understand the merits of marketing and attaching your corporate name to a high-profile sports venue. Let’s leave that to the McDonald’s, the Coca-Cola’s and other brands like the beer companies who have a stake in the business. In the case of Scotiabank, their name on the Air Canada Centre would be flaunted in the faces of hundreds of thousands of commuters and visitors who drive past the old hangar on the Gardiner Expressway every day. Their head office tower in downtown Toronto with the reflective windows containing real gold is already an icon on the Toronto skyline. Do banks really need to promote to a captive audience with the kind of exposure offered by a sports and concert facility?

Imagine what else Scotiabank could have done with such an enormous amount of money if they put it to better use within the communities where they sell mortgages, finance car loans and invest our life savings. Have they ever considered a network of shelters for victims of domestic violence and homelessness? Scotiabank Shelters. Or what about investing in after school programs in economically and socially challenged neighbourhoods? Scotiabank Investing in Lives  programs. Many young people go to school hungry every day. Scotiabank Healthy School Meals. A large segment of our population is financially illiterate and have no hope of climbing out of the poverty and/or debt cycle. Perhaps support for education, mentoring and interning in financial institutions for young people? Scotiabank Banks on Futures.

Just imagine . . . Scotiabank Cancer Treatment Centre emblazoned on the front of the building.

More significantly, what about emblazoning the Scotiabank logo on a dedicated new cancer treatment facility? One billion dollars would fund one heck of a fine building. It could even include accommodation for family of out-of-town patients affected by onerous accommodation and parking costs at Toronto Hospitals—something like Ronald McDonald House for families of adult patients. Or they could build smaller facilities in rural communities that don’t have access to local treatment centres. I found Scotiabank’s choice of allocating nearly one billion dollars to having their name attached to a sports venue that charges hundreds and even thousands of dollars for tickets to events affordable by only the elite to be shameful and inappropriate. Banks have a greater corporate responsibility to serving their community and Scotiabank could have done so much more. It’s just wrong. Or am I?

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There’s no business like shoe business


While we can understand Carrie Bradshaw’s appetite for shoes, most of us don’t have her budget.

You’ll definitely feel less guilty about what you spend on shoes when you learn that design mogul Michael Kors Holdings Ltd. just shelled out $1.5 billion to buy Jimmy Choo Ltd. I know I felt vindicated when I compared that shoe purchase to my own weakness for buying too many pairs of FitFlops™. At least my brand of choice provides a level of comfort. Fabulous shoes are like little magic carpets. When we’re wearing great shoes we feel like we can soar above the crowds. We achieve a level of fabulousness that is unmatched and unrelated to size. Yummy shoes are works of art, transporters of emotion, a reflection of our personality. Regardless of our waistline, when our feet look great, we feel great.

It’s obvious to women that most shoes today are designed by men. The styles offered are tantamount to foot binding and even that’s illegal in a certain country not known for a strong history of human rights. Do the stores actually sell those five-inch heels to real women, of any age? So many shoes today are not designed to actually walk in but should be displayed in a curio cabinet or alongside the crystal decanters on your diningroom buffet. And who uses crystal decanters any more. They’re obsolete; their practicality has been usurped by their lack of practicality, which is why I see so many Louboutins, Valentinos and Jimmy Choos on a resale site I like to spy on (my guilty pleasure), with the notation “worn once”.

This must be what heaven looks like.

Boomers are past wearing stilettos. We had our day several decades ago when we could run to work in high heels, eschew arch supports and gad about town in flat-footed cheap sneakers. Who among us hasn’t fallen off our platforms and twisted an ankle? We’re now in the market for industrial strength arch supports and deeply cushioned soles. Many of us swear by Birkies although my foot doc isn’t a fan saying Birkenstock soles are too hard. Others prefer sneakers. I’ve had good luck with Eileen Fisher shoes (only when I can get them on sale) while anything by Franco Sarto cripples my feet. One thing I have learned over the years is that good shoes are worth the extra money. They’re more comfortable; they last longer and they generally fit better. Quality leather is flexible and it breathes. If you’ve ever been afflicted with plantar fasciitis (an inflamed ligament running from the ball of the foot to the heel which generates severe pain when you put your heel down) or other foot ailments, you’re forever diligent about footwear.

With some research and consultation with friends, stylish, comfortable footwear can be found. The internet and various fashion blogs for baby boomer women are helpful in finding what is comfortable and fashionable for our generation. It’s not mission impossible. My personal favourite brand is FitFlop™ designed by a British foot doctor. I own several pair of the sandals and now that they’ve started producing sneakers and other shoes and boots, I’m expanding my inventory. The soles are soft with a slight rise at the heel and good arch supports. I normally wear a size 7 shoe but FitFlops fit large so I wear a size 6 in the sandals and a 6.5 in shoes. Absolutely love ’em. Here’s a link to Amazon if you want to check them out. Click here for FitFlop on Amazon.

I’m not sure Michael Kors got good value for their $1.5 billion investment in Jimmy Choo but we’ve all made our share of mistakes in shoe purchases over the years and have the dust collectors in the backs of our closets to prove it. Shoes evoke such intense attachments, even our mistakes are hard to part with. I’d love to hear your comments on what footwear works and doesn’t work for you. Tell me your stories (click Leave a Comment, above, top left), the good, the bad and the ugly so we can share and learn from our experiences.

What shoes work best for you?

 

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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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