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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Want To Be A Golden Girl

The Golden GirlsImage via Wikipedia
In the last few months I have been enjoying old episodes of The Golden Girls online.  There is a GoingGoldenAgain channel on YouTube which has most of all of the seasons.  But it doesn't matter if I've seen them before, I can watch them over and over.  When the series first broadcast on television in the late 80's, my daughters were just babies and I imagined that one day it would be wonderful living in a house full of old friends in my golden years.  Especially THOSE old friends.  These days, I'm realizing how close I am in age to them now.  How did THAT happen??  They were so ancient to me back then.

Well if I thought they were funny then, the jokes and stories are even funnier and more relevant now.  The writing is so quick and witty and, of course, the lines were delivered by some of the best in the business.  I can't decide which character I'd like to be most.  'Blanche', played by Rue McClanahan, was the resident sex pot and might be the obvious choice...who wouldn't want to have all those men on your date calendar?  I didn't get that concept when I was younger, but I sure do now.  I also love 'Dorothy', the character portrayed by Bea Arthur, because of her brains and brawn and that dead pan sarcasm delivered with such impeccable timing.  And Estelle Getty's 'Sophia' got away with saying whatever the hell she wanted because of her stroke.  Who wouldn't want that pleasure? 

And then there was 'Rose', played by the only surviving member of the cast, Betty White.  Who doesn't just adore Betty White?  Did you know that she actually has some Scandinavian blood, just like her ditzy, St. Olaf-born character?   The pseudo-Swedish phrases, the names of the St. Olaf residents and their food specialties make me laugh every time.  And those St. Olaf stories...how did she keep a straight face?  How did they all keep a straight face?  I would love to have been there to watch a live episode.

I'd like to be a mix of all of those wonderful characters.

I've been watching Betty White's recent re-emergence on television with absolute delight.  She's  88 years old and she still has amazing comic timing and enormous energy.  I joined the Facebook page that began to encourage Saturday Night Live to have her on as host and was astounded at the fact that she took part in pretty much every skit that night, with not one flub or sign of being tired.  Since then she's done TV ads and appearances on talk shows and award shows, always with that beautiful smile and wonderful sense of humour.  She is tireless and timeless.

Come to think of it, I'd like to be Betty White.
IJ
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tiger's Demise

Tiger Woods during a practice round at the MastersImage via WikipediaI watched a documentary on CBC's Fifth Estate the other evening called "Tiger Wood's Rise and Fall" by director Jacques Peretti.  I've seen other documentaries by this fellow, most notably one on Michael Jackson after his untimely death more than a year ago.  Peretti does have a pattern to the way he tells his stories which is compelling but maybe just a little bit tabloid.

He took us through Tiger's childhood where this kid was quite isolated and controlled by his father, a Vietnam veteran who was portrayed as fearless and full of himself and very much a womanizer.  The documentary creates an image of a young boy who had his life planned out for him even before he was born, and who never really had any other option...whether or not he wanted one.  He was kept out of the public eye when he started to play junior tournaments, protected and groomed and made to practice hours and hours on end.  At one point his only friend was a much older golf pro who was also interviewed for the documentary.

It almost felt as if Peretti was painting a portrait with his own colours, trying to create a reason for Tiger's behaviour, behaviour which was, to put it simply, just plain bad.  He was a well-groomed, gifted athlete who had, as it turned out, a seedy side.  A really seedy side, according to this documentary.  He traveled to and from tournaments with his large entourage, and in between gigs (and sometimes even during them) he would go to Vegas and sleep with countless prostitutes, sometimes all night and one after the other.

A great life, some of you guys might say :-).

But of course, Tiger was married and had children and eventually this secret seedy side was going to come to the surface as it did in a sudden and dramatic way back when he had the accident with his SUV.

I have a good friend who was a great admirer of Tiger until all of this happened.  She decided that she couldn't forgive him and would never again watch him play or root for him.  A lot of people felt that way, while others suggested that he should be forgiven because he is human, even though his public persona made him seem pretty much god-like.

If this documentary is true, then Tiger had a very bizarre upbringing.  But then, so did Michael Jackson.  And so do countless other "stars" and athletes and people in public life.  You can't help but think it must be the weirdest thing living the way they do.  But is this lifestyle because of who they are or because of who they are taught to be?  It must be strange to have everyone willing to do anything for you; a person could easily lose sight of reality and a true sense of one's self.  The Paris Hiltons and Lindsay Lohans give us a kind of moral measuring stick to compare ourselves to, but is that really fair?  We don't live like that, we don't have more money than we know what to do with and a lifestyle that is nothing but parties, appearances, and perks.  It must be difficult sometimes for these people to know which way is up.

We, the public, are guilty of wanting to watch these train wrecks-in-the-making too.  We secretly envy their money and talents, while otherwise enjoying their eventual demise.  I watched those two documentaries with a kind of disgust, and yet I didn't turn them off either, did I?  I'm as guilty of gaping at these misunderstood misfits as they are of thinking they're above and beyond reproach.

Tiger's life will no doubt never be the same.  He'll probably find his legs and get his game back on par, pun intended :-), but most of us won't forget that he isn't the perfect spit-and-polish pro we once thought.  Don't get me wrong, I don't think he's a victim either, except maybe of our gawking stares.

And he sure can play.

IJ 
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Becoming A Caregiver

Older Elderly sister looking down - bangkokImage by Sailing "Footprints: Real to Reel" (Ronn ashore) via FlickrI stood at the door of the men's washroom in the specialists office yesterday, waiting for my Dad to come out.  We were there for his quarterly checkup, and Dad had to go to the washroom.  It's not that he can't go to the washroom by himself.  Actually, it IS that he can't go to the washroom by himself.  Not at the doctor's office.  Because every time he comes out the door, he gets lost.  The first time it happened, another man found him wandering down the stairs.  It scared the heck out of me.  So now, every time he has to go, I wait by the door so I can walk back to the waiting area with him.

Yesterday was like any other visit, except for the fact that I suddenly realized how I've become somewhat of a caregiver to my parents whenever I am there.  My father is in a care facility because he has Alzheimer's and my stepmother lives in a townhouse, blind as a bat with a bum heart, a pacemaker, recovering from two broken hips.  I travel over at least once a month to spend two or three days, to help out wherever it is needed.  My sister interacts with them more regularly and deals with more than I do because she lives closer. And between the two of us, we have become their support system.  They have friends who help out as well, but the main part of it is up to the two of us.

It speaks to that reversal of roles that happens once parents become elderly, and I guess the whole transition happened gradually.  But it started to change about six or seven years ago when my stepmother had to have open heart surgery and my father thought she was going to die.  I traveled to the mainland to provide support for my Dad during my stepmother's surgery and recovery.  He was confused about her condition, and that confusion eventually lead to the diagnosis of dementia, "probably" Alzheimer's.  My stepmother recovered from her heart surgery, but one thing after another kept happening;  first one broken hip, then the other, then a diagnosis of macular degeneration which slowly blinded her, then a pacemaker, then a hernia operation.  And my father's dementia was eventually accompanied by kidney disease and prostate cancer.

I found myself going over quite often at first, every two or three weeks as my stepmother recovered.  I kept thinking it was only temporary, but as they both began to struggle through their various physical ailments, I eventually came to realize that traveling there was just going to become part of my routine.  And so it has.

When my father came out of the washroom at the doctor's office and we sat down in the waiting area, I watched an elderly woman come out of the office and prepare herself to leave the building.  She sat down carefully, placing her cane beside her, and gingerly fingered her purse, looking for the zipper.  It took her awhile to find it, her fingers shaking slightly at the exertion, but when she did, it took her another while to feel and see what she was looking for.  It was a change purse, and she was likely trying to set aside change for the bus.  She had to count through the change several times to make sure she had it right.  Then she began the process of putting her change purse back where she could find it, and slowly zipped up her purse.  When that was finally done, she fumbled for her cane, and eventually was able to lift herself up out of the chair.  Then it was the slow, careful walk to the elevator.

I looked at her and marveled at how much this old woman was doing for herself, how even though it took her so much time and patience, she managed to get herself to and from an appointment in downtown Vancouver.  Who knows how far she had to come and how early in the morning she had to get herself going JUST to GET there.  In the last few years, watching my parents grow older and more dependent on us, I've found an appreciation for just how much work it takes to be old. I looked at the elderly lady again and saw myself some day.  I hope.

IJ
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Monday, September 13, 2010

A Rant About Stuff

The audio cassette greatly increased the distr...Image via WikipediaWith all the hoopla about Apple's latest iPhone problems, I've been thinking about things that get re-designed or "upgraded" and end up being less than satisfactory.  And what do we do with the old ones?  Okay, some of the stuff I'm going to talk about may not seem as fancy schmancy as the iPhone 4, but IT'S MY BLOG!  Dammit.  But I really did have to stifle a laugh when I saw the disaster that became the iPhone 4.  All of that hype, all of that excitement, and all it would do is drop calls.  Yeah, put all of your attention into the appearance and these things called "apps" and "oooh, it does this! and it does that!".  And forget that it's supposed to be a PHONE, you idiots.

First of all, why change something that works just fine the way it is?  I spent a long time looking for a bra the other day because all a person can find these days are these foam type cups that are supposed to "smooth" out the look of your bust, I guess.  But all they do for me is make me feel like I'm a massive, over-stuffed double D.  I hate them.  And since when are subtle traces of nipples on a person's top so disgusting or unappealing?  I mean, they're BREASTS for pete's sake.  They're supposed to have nipples!!  Personally, I believe that the truth is that young women simply want to look bigger.  Of course they do.  I guess I was exemplifying exactly that when as an 11-year-old, I got a bra from my Aunt in Denmark who had never seen me and didn't know I was flat as a pancake.  I put it on and stuffed it with Kleenex, like any girl would do, excited to have her first bra.  Two boys asked me if they could come to my house after school.  I guess it worked.

But I'm 53 now, for crying out loud.  I have no desire to lure anyone with the size of my boobs anymore.  It would be disturbing if someone wanted to come to my house after seeing me in one of those foamy bra things.  I'd be calling 9-1-1.

Well, after hours of searching I finally found what I was looking for at Sears.  The real slap in the face was that the bras that I ended up buying actually cost three times as much as those foam-stuffed things.  Hopefully they'll last three times as long.  Things are just not made to last anymore.

For awhile now we've been using a crappy old microwave that my husband inherited from work because our "new" one pooped out on us after only a couple of years.  The very first microwave we got was given to us as a wedding present 26 years ago.  It lasted almost 24 years.  Stoves and fridges and washers and dryers are lucky to last 10 years, if that, anymore. 

My father calls it "built in obsolescence".    And it makes sense, doesn't it?  Why would a company want to make ANYTHING that lasts 24 years?  That means it's going to take 24 years for them to get any more money out of you.  That goes for anything electronic.  In this case, it's not even that they can't make something as good as they used to.  It's that they don't want to.  And I won't even go into this madness for the next "great" technology that has taken over the universe.  Holy crap, how many 2- or 3-year-old cellphones are there out there lying around unused because their owners don't actually even care to use them for their expected (short) life spans, because the next iPhone has come along?  Sheesh!

Okay, I'm calmer now.

But where do we put all of this stuff when it stops working or suddenly doesn't suit us anymore?  For me, it's in the basement.  There are a couple of old TVs down there, a gazillion cassette tapes (nobody uses those anymore!), some old books of my Dad's, wires, boxes of boxes, two space heaters that barely lasted two years each, two fans, same thing, a dead coffeemaker, a couple of old computers and monitors, boxes of my daughter's stuff (hopefully they going to take it with them when they move out?), some of my brother's stuff, and the rest I can't remember because it's been so long since I've even looked through it all.  A few years ago, I convinced my husband to spend the money to hire one of those junk hauling companies to empty out the garage and some old stuff from the basement.  I was so relieved to get rid of it all.  And then, much to my horror, it seemed only months before the basement filled up again.  How did that happen?

Tomorrow I have to go to Richmond and pick up my mother's secretary/desk, a beautiful piece of furniture that I always loved because it was hers.  And I have no idea where I'm going to put it.   Years ago I fantasized about having that piece of furniture, and now it's just another (rather large) thing that I don't have room for.  I guess when I was younger, it was all about acquiring stuff.  You moved out and took your stuff with you, and when you could afford it, you bought more stuff to fill your place with.  And you dreamed about the "big" stuff like a car or a house, until you could at least afford a car loan or a mortgage.  And then you filled your new house with more stuff, until your kids came along and you had to move into a bigger house to be able to fit them and their stuff...

Okay, that's how it happens.

But I don't want all of these things anymore.  And having to deal with my parents' stuff because they are at the point where they can't take care of it and don't have room for it leaves me (and my siblings and many others I'm sure) with this enormous pile of someone else's stuff that I've never even wanted. I guess my parents didn't plan on being stuck with so many things either.  We don't realize when we're younger, that the things we think we want will eventually just become the things we have to find a way to get rid of.  I put that in bold so that when I read it again later, I will remember.

How did I get on this whole rant?  Oh yes, cellphones.  Well, the last several months I've been at the end of my contract with my cellphone company and had nothing but offers for the "newest" and "latest" new cellphone.  Complete with another 3-year contract of course.  My old cellphone works just fine, but like all other technology geeks I am tempted by these new offers.  Except, unlike younger geeks, every time I think about a new one, I can't think of what to do with my old one.  Nobody in my house wants it and it's such an old model that I know for sure it isn't going to become one of those "refurbished" ones.  This particular cell provider talks about recycling your old phone...but what do they really do with it?  I have hellish visions of poor people in third world countries working for next to nothing taking these electronic things apart and breathing in and handling horrible toxins from their components.

I call it my old cellphone, but is it really?  After three years, oddly enough it hasn't died on me.   Crap.

IJ
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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

An Otherwise Ordinary Day

We're having a bunch of friends over this Saturday for a barbecue.  Not a big deal, and certainly not something I'd report here necessarily except for the date.  When I announced the date, one of my daughters asked if it was such a good idea to have a barbecue on Sept.11th.  It's certainly not that I am insensitive to that date being synonymous with such a horrible event, but sometimes I wish it had another name.  You know, like D-Day had a name.

But I guess we're kind of stuck with it, and Sept.11th or 9/11 will likely never just become an ordinary date in the foreseeable future.  So it shouldn't have come as a shock for us to hear that nutcase pastor Terry Jones is planning a burning of the Qur'an on Saturday...my first thought was that maybe someone should burn a few bibles on his lawn.  But that would be exactly the opposite of what really needs to be done.  He should be given no attention whatsoever.  He is simply ignorant.  Ignorance is more dangerous than hate;  if we weren't so stupid, we wouldn't hate at all.  If only we would take a moment to learn the facts and the truth;  Muslims didn't take down those towers, some misdirected, uninformed and ignorant people did.  And that's what Terry Jones and the 9/11 hijackers have in common.

I'm kidding myself.  The media (and remember, I am also indirectly a part of the media) loves this kind of stuff.  And the wackier, the better.  But you think that giving Terry Jones publicity is bad?  Here's another example of using that date as a way to get some attention.  Only this time, it's to sell a product.  And it's from France (Americans will just love that fact): 

Can you believe it?  This courier company is promoting the idea of learning to "anticipate", by building the twin towers shorter so the planes won't hit them.  Not only is it not funny, it's shocking.  This idea of tastelessly using real disastrous events like 9/11 to sell products has been branded "adploitation".  And, I'm sad to say, it's not the first ad agency using that date and/or exploiting those images.  Believe it or not the WWF was also presented with an ad by an agency in Brazil using manipulated 9/11-like images.  It was rejected, but the word got out and the WWF had to explain themselves.  The Moscow News had one too and it actually got past the approval process and into the public.

So there you are, the two extremes:  over-sensitive and not sensitive enough.  I hope in the next few years September 11th will become less of a target for adploitations and, at the same, not such a holy date that we can't plan barbecues.  But I'm not holding my breath.  That date is just never going to be the same.

IJ

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Monday, September 6, 2010

God or No?

NASA StarChild image of Stephen Hawking.Image via WikipediaI'm pretty sure Steven Hawking's publisher or promotions people were the ones who decided to promote his new book "Grand Designs" by proclaiming "God Did Not Create the Universe!"  I mean, if anything is going to get attention, especially in these times of religious warring (has there ever NOT been a religious war going on?), it's that phrase.

The predictable has happened...religious leaders are already up-in-arms (is that not an oxymoron?) fighting for headlines to dispute, refute and protest their outrage at any such notion.   And so it begins again, this age old "I am RIGHT and you are WRONG" argument.  Haven't we, as human beings, figured this out yet?  Just because I prefer the red shirt, doesn't mean you have to wear it too.

Years ago, I used to think that one day science might prove the existence of God in some way...maybe not the man in the beard God, sitting on some kind of throne or however you visualize it, but some evidence of a form of energy that was the beginning of our universe.  There is even something in physics called the Higgs boson, or the God Particle that is considered to be a singular elementary particle, possibly predating every other known particle.  What I visualized was a coming together of two very separate trains of thought, science and religion, eventually merging onto the same track.  Since then I have come to the conclusion that even if it was possible and there were people out there willing to explore this potential fusion in that way, it ain't gonna happen anytime soon.  Too many people are threatened by anything outside of their belief to listen to something different.  And too many others are hell bent (sorry for the pun) on convincing the rest of the world to believe what they do.  Religion, and ironically also the lack of it, is killing us all!

There are many, many people of different religions, and atheists and agnostics in the world who are perfectly willing to peacefully accept those of other religions or non-religious thought, with no feeling of threat to their own beliefs.  But we don't hear those stories because they aren't tabloid enough I guess.  I personally know Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and Buddhists who would not for a moment attempt to convert me or anyone else around them.  And I know there are regular meetings between religious heads, and even organizations like the World Council of Religious Leaders, who are trying to mend fences and work together to end all of this religious conflict.  But their calls for peace are like whispers in a thunderstorm.

There's a point you reach when studying Buddhist teachings, when you realize that most people on this planet have as long a road to inner peace (never mind world peace) as you do.  Many have not even recognized their need for self examination yet, so how are we ever going to get "there"?  It's overwhelming.

So as much as I admire Steven Hawking's amazing knowledge and understanding of the workings of the universe, by reducing his book to a phrase that only adds fuel to an already blazing fire of disagreement, he is doing more to separate us than pull us together.  And that is truly a disappointment.


IJ

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