BOOMERBROADcast

Baby Boomer's social commentary on life in OUR sixties for those who rocked life in THE sixties.


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Trump was right. Who knew it could be so complicated?

Sometimes, we just need the noise to stop. The Syrian crisis, the threat of nuclear war with North Korea, Putin’s crimes against humanity and the ongoing terrorist threats scare the crap out of me. Then, we have escalating trade wars, racism and climate change denial. Not to mention Trump’s lies and regressive new laws that completely disregard the ordinary person and the future of our planet. When the news starts I get a knot in my stomach so I turn off the television or radio. As I sit looking out my window into the yard watching the trees move gently in the breeze and the new flowers coming to life, listen to the birds, my mind melts into a more peaceful state.

Has the world really become so much more complicated or is my memory failing me?  In the swinging sixties while we were wearing mini-skirts, dancing the night away to Creedence Clearwater or worrying about whether “he would call”, there were still serious issues. We had the the horribly escalating Vietnam War, Bay of Pigs, Khrushchev, and of course, Richard Nixon. We were convinced the world was constantly on the brink of nuclear attack. Later on, Bush Jr. baffled us with his stupidity, lied to the world about false threats and sent innocent young members of the military to their unnecessary early deaths.

Since the beginning of time the world has been in state of turmoil and seemingly on the brink of some war or another. Catastrophic economic depressions in the seventies and to a more serious degree in the nineties wiped out financial security for large segments of the population. AIDS, SARS and other chronic diseases were front page news. Every so often I have to take a sabbatical from the news. Electronic media can simply be turned off. Reading print media requires I just skip over the bits I find distressing. Talking about issues with friends sometimes means changing the subject when we get too frustrated and angry about current events. Despite his stratospheric ego, Donald Trump doesn’t know much which is truly frightening. But the world is a complicated place and the further away I get from his noise the less complicated it becomes. That’s one thing I can do to make the world a better place, at least for me.

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The Price of Illusion exposes flaws in the life of luxury

A popular song from 1969, Where Do You Go To My Lovely (click here to listen) by Peter Sarstedt played in a steady loop in my brain as I was reading The Price of Illusion, a memoir by Joan Juliet Buck:

“You talk like Marlène Dietrich
And you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire
Your clothes are all made by Balmain
And there’s diamonds and pearls in your hair, yes there are

You live in a fancy apartment
Off the Boulevard Saint-Michel
Where you keep your Rolling Stones records
And a friend of Sacha Distel, yes you do. . . ”

Joan Juliet Buck. Been there; done it; got the Chanel bag.

That song, although written long before Joan Juliet Buck embraced the lifestyle it describes, could have been her life. The Price of Illusion, a memoir by the former editor of Paris Vogue is a fascinating read. The story of her childhood drags a bit in the beginning but picks up when she becomes a young woman and begins her peripatetic transcontinental life. Buck was the silver spoon only child of Hollywood producer Jules Buck who was responsible for such memorable films as Lawrence of Arabia and Goodbye Mr. Chips starring newly discovered Peter O’Toole. She lived a transcontinental lifestyle in Paris, London, New York and Los Angeles, spending much of her childhood in Ireland at the home of her godfather, John Huston. There, she formed a life-long friendship with his daughter Angelica.

Moving in such illustrious circles obviously positions her to name-drop many famous people in the worlds of entertainment, politics and business. At first I found this off-putting but soon I was enjoying the rare first-hand insights into a world of wealth, glamour and superficiality. I learned the high life is not all glamour and glory. While Buck was an enthusiastic participant in all forms of pleasure, her highest highs were achieved while overseeing the rebirth of Paris Vogue from its traditional, staid format to a more edgy, avant garde publication. Under her stewardship in the nineties, the magazine doubled its readership and appeal.

Paris Vogue presented itself as being all things representative of French women.

Buck is an excellent writer and her brutal honesty combine to produce a wonderful read. I was halfway through the book before reaching her Vogue years but it was worth the wait. Being close friends with such icons as Yves St. Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Charlotte Rampling, Lauren Bacall and Angelica Huston, Buck transports us into worlds we would otherwise never be able to access. Like any human being, her life is composed of extreme highs and correspondingly debilitating lows. When she was sabotaged by a business associate at Paris Vogue and sent to rehab on false charges of addiction, her life unravelled. Losing her job along with its corresponding salary and benefits meant she could no longer support her ailing father. No matter how charmed one’s life may seem, no one escapes pain, loss or disappointment, even the privileged.

The Price of Illusion is obviously the story of a woman who lived most of her life in a superficial haze of privilege. As a life-long journal keeper and a keen observer of human nature, Joan Juliet Buck treats us to a view of the glamorous life that undoes many of our misconceptions. Her recollections and challenges along the way make for a fascinating read. As someone retired from the corporate world, I found the business and political challenges she encountered along the way to be particularly interesting, especially since I plan to be a magazine editor in my next life. Although I was unsure I would enjoy the book when I first began reading, I was soon swept up in the excitement of a life lived in realms beyond what any ordinary person would ever experience. And, ultimately, that’s the essence and joy of reading. I escaped into another world and thoroughly enjoyed the adventure.

To order The Price of Illusion by Joan Juliet Buck from Amazon, click here.

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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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From this day forth, all male citizens will be circumcised

Imagine if Parliament passed a law that required every male in the country to be circumcised. Or, what if getting a vasectomy required the written permission of the local Catholic priest, regardless of your religion. What would the reaction be if every male in the country was forced to undergo a rectal exam before he was allowed buy condoms. As bizarre as this sounds, that’s exactly the kind of obstacles and unwarranted control over their bodies that women in the United States are now facing compliments of a reactionary, misogynistic government.

There are reasons the original fathers of the American constitution insisted on separation of church and state.  Removing funding from Planned Parenthood has eliminated access for millions of women to assistance in health-related services like breast and pap examinations, STD testing, birth control and other counseling. Students, low-income women and minorities are not the only beneficiaries of services related to women’s health and particular segments of the population are totally dependent on them.

It’s difficult for men to comprehend the challenges faced by women on many levels in everyday life. We cope with lower pay, gender discrimination and general lack of support for “women’s issues”. Many men are oblivious and it’s our responsibility to educate and inform the men in our lives about the importance of fairness and equality. I wish I’d been more vocal when I was younger. If I had, I would have made more money and had a much fatter pension plan waiting for me upon retirement. But, it’s still not too late to make our voices heard.

This won’t hurt a bit. Trust us. We know what’s best for you.

Fortunately, as a Canadian, I live in a more enlightened society. We take care of our sick through universal health care and are more progressive in recognition of women’s issues than our southern neighbours. Canadian women are able to access maternity and health care services our American sisters only dream of.  Perhaps they should start lobbying for reciprocal restrictions on males in health, economic and social issues. Many health plans reimburse men for the cost of Viagra but do not reimburse women for birth control pills. Imagine the backlash if men earned just seventy-six percent of what women made? How would they react to being told they had to get the approval of a fusty old doctor before they could father children or alternatively, choose not to father children. The threat of mutilation or something physically invasive happening to their little boy private parts might get the attention of the alpha neanderthals running the country. Only then will they truly understand what it feels like to have a third party have the final say on what happens to their body, i.e. to be a woman. Religious dogma notwithstanding, men as well as women are the beneficiaries of freedom. America’s founding fathers understood this, but unfortunately the current government can’t read.

Tracey Ullmann captures the essence of women’s struggles brilliantly.

If you haven’t seen it already, you’ll understand the imbalance when you watch this YouTube Video by British comedienne Tracey Ullmann. Click here.

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Now’s the time for a great American President

Where’s a John F. Kennedy or a Franklin Roosevelt when the American people really need one. After watching the Trump/Clinton debate last night, I came away with one thought: thank heaven I don’t have to cast a vote in the American election. I wouldn’t want to bear any responsibility for the future of the United States based on my choice on election day. Whatever the outcome, the results are going to be scary for the American people, although I would love to be proven wrong.  It’s amazing how they arrived at two equally disliked candidates, but that’s democracy at work. I can see the book just waiting to be written: “The Rise and Fall of the United States of America”.

Then, this morning I burst out laughing when I read the editorial cartoon in today’s Globe and Mail called “Pick one” by Brian Gable. I couldn’t have said it better.

cartoon1

 

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Are you as fed up with Hydro One and the Ontario Liberals as I am?

I thought extortion was illegal.

I thought extortion was illegal.

When I clicked to open my on-line hydro bill this morning, I nearly went into cardiac arrest. While clutching my chest, the first thing I had to do was check to see if the bill was for hydro or gas as the names sound the same and I’m always getting them confused—Enersource is for hydro electricity. Enercare is for gas. My bill has doubled in the last year, in part to pay for the gas plants fiasco. There’s been a lot of backlash about mismanagement of this resource by the Ontario Liberals and the situation is not improving. In fact, the problem is escalating. Everyone is aware of the fat-cat culture that has endured for generations at Enersource, Hydro One or what we used to call Ontario Hydro (and what we recalcitrant Boomers still call it), not to mention the pervading lack of accountability. Who hasn’t watched an idle field crew of six or seven Hydro One workers standing around on the ground next to several trucks watching one person up a pole or down in a manhole doing something. Do we even have an opposition leader these days? Where is whats-‘is-name when we poor taxpayers need someone to advocate on our behalf?

hydro3Does it not strike you as peculiar that Ontario is so blessed with abundant electrical resources that we end up dumping it to outside markets at cut rates just to meet our contractual obligations to Enersource/Hydro One? We’re all doing our best to conserve. I do my laundry on Sundays when the rates are cheapest and hang clothes outside whenever possible to save running the dryer; I run my dishwasher late at night when rates are lower; I go around turning off lights and try to be as efficient as possible in my daily use of power. The reward I get for this conscientious behaviour is the highest, most expensive electricity rates in North America while our government sells cheap surplus power to outsiders who don’t pay taxes here. My father lives on the Eastern Ontario border where they import electricity from Quebec and his bills are one-third of what I pay in the GTA.

Cut off their power and redirect it to those who will use it wisely.

Cut off their power and redirect it to those who will use it wisely.

It’s time to storm The Bastille. Emperor Kathleen Wynne and her gang of dilettantes must be brought to justice. Likewise, the lazy fat cats running Hydro One or Enersource or whatever they call themselves these days. We keep reading about the outrage experienced by Enersource customers but we all feel impotent to do anything about it. Let’s get the ball rolling with some suggestions: I’ll start.

  1. Turn off the air conditioning/heating and hot water at Queen’s Park and all the MPP’s homes including Premier Kathleen Wynne until they understand what it feels like to choose between paying your Hydro bill or buying groceries to feed your family.
  2. Send our laundry and dirty dishes to our MPP’s homes so they can pay for the increased costs of keeping our province clean. Perhaps we should shower there too.
  3. Launch a petition on Change.org demanding a transparent audit of Hydro One operations and the Ontario Government’s mismanagement of same.
  4. Slash the fat at Enersource by whatever method is the fastest and most effective. Put a single mother on a fixed income in charge of things there and task her with cleaning house. When she finishes there, she can go after Queen’s Park. (I realize this is sexist but since single mothers on average earn only seventy-six percent of what single fathers earn, mothers tend to be more creative and conscientious in their spending habits.)
  5. . . now it’s up to you.

Click on the Comment section of this blog and give me your suggestions on how we can stop the insanity. Answer this question:  “How can we fix the mismanagement by Hydro One and the Ontario Liberals?”. I’ll collect your feedback, publish it and we’ll see what happens. If the responses have merit, I’ll forward them on to Kathleen Wynne.  Power to the people.

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Aboriginal problems are not theirs alone

aboriginal1After reading an editorial in The Globe and Mail this week written by a member of the Tyendinaga Mohawks of Bay of Quinte reserve near Belleville, Ontario, my knee-jerk reaction was a lack of sympathy. In writing “Why I won’t leave my native home” the author mourns the loss of her aboriginal community when she moves to Hamilton, Ontario for a month. Describing her feelings of displacement associated with being taken away from her native fishing and hunting grounds and the proximity of family, combined with the shock of living in a noisy, crowded city, Susan Bardy presents a naive view of life in the twenty-first century.

I grew up in a small community of thirty-five-hundred souls about twenty miles north of where Bardy resides on the shores of Lake Ontario. Growing up, I shared her love of nature’s proximity, having family and relatives living within walking distance, and the support of a community. It was an ideal childhood. But not sustainable. Most of the young people in my high school knew that upon graduation they would have to leave—for post-secondary education, to work at General Motors in Oshawa, to work in an office in Toronto, a factory in Peterborough or, in fact, to work at all. Jobs in small communities are limited and that’s a fact of life. And we need to work to live.

Expecting to continue a lifestyle that was sustainable when big businesses made buggy whips or ice boxes is no longer real life. Generations of family farms have been sold and redeveloped for this reason. Fishing families in the Maritimes have faced this reality. Hunters and trappers understand their days are numbered. That doesn’t mean they’re happy about the situation but it is a reality that must be faced. New enterprises have grown to replace former ones. Computer coders and programmers are in short supply as are health care workers, service providers, construction tradespeople and even entrepreneurs. Some of these jobs can be operated from home but most require moving to where there is the demand.

Don’t get me wrong. I am totally sympathetic to the problems of the native communities across Canada. The issues are painfully obvious and complex. But the blame and onus for providing solutions must not be borne entirely by the government. Growing up non-native in an isolated small town is not unlike growing up on a “rez” but without the influx of government (taxpayers’) money and social programmes. The government requires that natives live on reserves to reap their full benefits, which limits their mobility. If these benefits were portable, perhaps some people would choose to expand their horizons beyond isolated reserves and become part of a larger community. Former residents of small towns do this. Farmers do it. We love where we came from but life intervenes.

The destructive lifestyles and suicides inherent in many native reserves across Canada is a horrifying social problem. The status quo hasn’t worked and I’m hoping that people much smarter than I am can come up with the solution. I have ancestors who were native Canadian (I am, in fact, one-sixteenth aboriginal) and chose to look beyond the reservation for a sustainable lifestyle. Maintaining invisible walls around those living on reservations doesn’t work. Walls didn’t work in Berlin. The Iron Curtain didn’t work. Trump’s wall won’t work. The world is getting smaller.

While I understand and sympathize with Susan Bardy’s position, I do not condone it. We are living in the twenty-first century and life for her is no longer about hunting and fishing any more than it is for me about living in a small town with no hope for employment to support my family. Non-natives also left our culture and traditions, our community, our loving families, our closeness with nature, the graves of our ancestors. Non-natives also have to travel outside their communities to schools, health care, social services. It has nothing to do with race. There’s no hate involved. That’s just reality.

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