Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Real Housewives of Vancouver

Just when we thought things could not get any more ridiculous ... they did. Introducing here, The Real Housewives of Vancouver. The show previews on Slice television with a two-hour premier event on Wednesday, April 4th.  Oh, the drama...!  Okay, I have lived in Vancouver my whole adult life, and I don't know any housewives like these. Where did they even find these women? They are described in the press releases as follows:

Christina Kiesel: A twice-divorced blonde bombshell, spinster who enjoys jet-setting across the globe and only has her hairdresser “Kevin” to confide in.

Jody Claman: A single mom and fashionista who built her own empire and apparently likes to call herself “Martha Stewart on acid.”

Mary Zilba: A former recording artist (her bio says she had “numerous songs” on the Top 40 chart) and Miss Ohio, she’s on the prowl for a Vancouver man, but isn’t optimistic on her choices.

Reiko MacKenzie: The “multicultural” one who claims both Canadian and Japanese heritage. It shows off in her love of mixed martial arts and sports cars. Good thing her husband’s rich. Together they have nine cars, including a very un-Japanese Ferrari.

Ronnie Seterdahl: Behind the gates of her waterfront West Vancouver community, Ronnie has everything she needs — a yacht, a private jet and her own personal vineyard. Her cast photo reveals she was doing the Angelina Jolie leg pose before Jolie even knew it was cool.

Blonde bombshell spinster? Martha Stewart on acid? Private jet?

Personal vineyard?

I'm just waiting for the fur to fly -- you should pardon the expression -- when these five women get together.  Actually, it will be fun to see some of the local scenery and "hot spots" that I can't afford never get to see, and to watch how the other half of Vancouver lives.  But real housewives of Vancouver?  I don't think so.

Monday, February 27, 2012

An Open Letter To Phinnaeus And Marigold...

Dear Phinnaeus and Marigold, this is a picture of your mother, taken when she graduated from high school, and she was not much older than you are now. She will probably be upset with me for putting her picture on my blog, but I wanted you to see who she is.  She graduated at the top of her class, by the way. In fact, she was at the top of her class all the way from grade one until she graduated from university with her Master's degree. She won numerous scholarships, including one of the most prestigious scholarships her university offers, and she was highly respected by her professors and her peers.  Your mother is not only very intelligent, but she is very, very funny with a wonderful sense of humour.  Everyone loves her sense of humour.  Someone once suggested your mother should have her laugh tape-recorded, and the recording played for people when they are feeling sad.

Phinnaeus and Marigold, you should know that one of the most interesting things about your mother is that she walks to the beat of a different drummer. The expression comes from a quote by Henry David Thoreau, "If a man loses pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured, or far away." Basically, it means that you cannot make your mother into something that she is not. People have tried. It doesn't work. She has tried, and it just frustrates her. She will never be ordinary. Gambie recognized that fact when your mother was just a little girl. She has inherited the DNA of all the unique, unconventional and slightly eccentric people in our family tree.

You may never understand or appreciate how lucky you are, Phinnaeus and Marigold.  Your mother was never the type of woman who was concerned about "yellow waxy buildup" on her kitchen floor, or whose only perspective on life was the view from her kitchen sink.  There are people who wanted nothing more than that from her, and it made her very angry and almost killed her spirit.

Your mother is the person who has taught you about art and literature and music and travel and history and science and philosophy, and so much more.  You have no idea how fortunate you are to have had that experience from such a knowledgeable, well-educated person.  Your mother is the person who has sparked your intellectual curiosity and encouraged you to follow your talents, and for that you should be grateful.    There is a huge world out there with all sorts of people, and you have to accept people as they are, and not make the mistake of trying to turn them into something you think they should be.  Accept their eccentricities; because those are what make them interesting.  You are both on the edge of adulthood, and you are still not yet old enough to realize what an amazing person your mother is, but one day you will, and you will be very proud of her.  I guarantee it.

Love, Oma

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Viola Davis

Which of these women is not Viola Davis? Well, you're way ahead of me. You know they're all Viola Davis, and she is not only one of the best actresses in Hollywood, she is also one of the prettiest.  Who knew!  She is my pick for best actress this year, or as it is now called "actress in a leading role".  I have not seen the four other performances by Glenn Close, Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams or Rooney Mara, and to their credit, I'm sure they're all amazing.  Meryl Streep's performances have bordered on caricature recently, but I think that is because lately she has played iconic figures of the 20th century -- Julia Child, Margaret Thatcher.    And I'm sure Michelle Williams is wonderful as Marilyn Monroe, another iconic figure of the 20th century.  But in my opinion, Viola Davis deserves an Academy Award not only for her performance as Aibileen Clark in The Help, but also as Mrs. Miller, the beleaguered and trusting mother whose son was befriended by the Catholic priest in Doubt.  Viola Davis is a chameleon who can change her appearance and in fact her whole persona at will.  That's genius.

I predict, or at least hope, that Viola Davis will win the Oscar for her nomination in the category "actress in a leading role".  In my opinion, she's the best actress, by far.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

That's Why The Lady Is A Tramp...

Well, I just know I'm going to get voted off the island for this post. Sometimes my ideas about things are just slightly out of step with pretty much the whole rest of the world, and this is one of those times. Yesterday after work I went for dinner with a friend of mine, and music was playing in the background as we chatted. A song came on that quite literally hurt my ears and gave me an instant headache, accompanied by nausea. There was something about the voice that was actually painful to me.  I asked my friend who that was singing, and she said, "Don't you recognize her? She's everywhere now. That's Adele..."  I had heard Adele singing a couple of her award-winning songs, and I had an awful feeling that somehow I was outside the candy store.  I wanted to like her, but I just didn't.  There was something about the timbre of her voice that to my ears was jarring. Several years ago there was a strange case of a woman who had "a four-year history of recurrent episodes of a feeling of pressure in the head, epigastric distress and mental confusion" and seizures that were "triggered by the voice of a female cohost on a popular television entertainment program." "Systematic testing revealed that the seizures were precipitated only by the voice of the female cohost and not by visual stimulation, emotional anticipation or background music; by other programs with a similar; or by other female voices." That co-host was Mary Hart on Entertainment Tonight. Adele's voice has that effect on me. It actually causes physical pain to my ears.  I wish it didn't; I want to like her.

This morning I was thinking that, somehow, Adele and Lady Gaga's voices got switched, and they were put into the wrong bodies.  Adele is a classic beauty, and Lady Gaga is ... well ... Lady Gaga.  But the difference is, Lady Gaga has an exquisitely beautiful voice, and she sounds natural and not at all forced.  Her voice suits Adele's face, and vice versa.  I think once Lady Gaga gets a bit older, and gets past her "shtick", she is going to become one of the classic singers of her generation. She can sing anything. When Lady Gaga did a duet with Tony Bennett, he later said, "She came in so prepared and so knowledgeable about what to do. She’s as good as Ella Fitzgerald or anybody you want to come up with."

Music for my ears...

Monday, February 13, 2012

An Elephant Never Forgets...

I am always surprised by the interesting people that I meet in the most unexpected places.  We just never know about people, do we?  They continue to surprise us.  Today, being a Monday morning, I just couldn't face doing the bus thing to work, so I decided to grab a taxi. The taxi pulled up, I hopped in and the driver turned around and said, "Hi! Nice to see you again."  I said, "Hi, nice to see you again too.  How have you been?"

I had no idea who he was.

"Well," he said, "I've been to Thailand".

"Oh," I replied, feigning interest.

He continued, "My father gave me some money, sent me to Thailand, told me to buy some land, and rescue some elephants.  So, I went to Thailand, bought some land, and rescued some wild elephants that were going to be put down."

Suddenly it occurred to me how supercilious I had been behaving towards this pleasant young man, who was clearly more than just a taxi driver. He had spent the last few months in Thailand setting up an elephant sanctuary.  He told me that he had hired some veterinarians to give each of the animals a complete medical examination.  There were 11 elephants, and one of them was pregnant, so now there would be an even dozen.  He said the land he bought was next to a jungle, and there was plenty of water for the elephants to drink and bathe in.  He said several of the elephants were from different herds, but that they were all getting to know each other. "Did you know," he said, "that elephants have greetings when they meet their friends?" "And did you know," he continued, "that elephants cry, play, and have memories ... like ... well, like elephants?" He said that elephants are very much like human beings in that they reach puberty at around 12 or 13, they can have offspring until they're almost 50, and their lifespan can reach over the age of 70.

I asked the taxi driver if he had given the elephants names, but he said he wanted to get to know them first, because they all have distinct personalities.  He said he is working in Canada long enough to save more money so he can go back to his animal sanctuary in Thailand and visit his elephants, but in the meantime his father is funding the sanctuary.

He said there is too much animal poaching, and beautiful animals like tigers and rhinoceros are being decimated.  Animal parts are sold on the black market, and there is a huge market for them in North America.  I had no idea.  Well at least now there are 11 12 elephants in Thailand that can live out their natural lives, safe from being destroyed.

We meet the most interesting people in the most unusual places.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Greatest Love Of All

The Greatest Love of All has always been one of my favourite songs. It was written by song-writer Linda Epstein and originally recorded by George Benson for the movie biography of Muhammad Ali. At the time that she wrote the song, Ms. Epstein was suffering from breast cancer.  She wanted to express her feelings about dealing with challenges in life and being strong, and passing the strength on to children. Linda Epstein died of breast cancer at the age of 36, just as Whitney Houston made the song an international hit.

When my daughter and I were in New York, Whitney Houston was very popular and her music was playing everywhere. I remember being in a taxi on the corner of Central Park South and Fifth Avenue, near the Plaza Hotel, and this song came on the radio. Occasionally there is a song that almost transcends reality for a moment, and that is what this song did for me. I looked around at New York and the wonderful buildings, with Whitney’s beautiful voice filling the air, and for me it was almost a surrealistic moment. Whenever I hear this song, I am back on the corner of Central Park South and Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Whitney Houston had one of the most beautiful, pure, clear voices of any singer. She never had to resort to warbling, but could belt out the song with strength and power. It’s beyond tragic that that beautiful voice has been silenced at the age of 48. I hate substance abuse. With a passion. It robs and it kills.

Rest in peace, Whitney. We will still have your music.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

To See Ourselves As Others See Us...

The internet is a very strange place, almost an alternate universe, where people can be whomever they want to be.  I'm not very good at alternate identities, so with my blog, it's pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get.  I don't post as often as I used to do, because sometimes I feel I have nothing interesting to say.  There is no point in posting just for the sake of it.  I like to write about things that interest me, and often days will go by without anything tweaking my interest, and then other days I want to post about everything.  I'm not particularly humourous, or ironic, and my blog is not a blockbuster, it's just my boring-little-blog, and I enjoy it.   I have come to know some very nice people through the cyberspace of the internet, including some really nice folks here in Vancouver.  It has been a fabulous experience for me, and has opened a lot of doors to a whole new world. There are some wonderfully interesting people out there.  And I always enjoy having a good discussion or debate.  People can agree or disagree on all sorts of issues, without personally attacking the folks with whom they disagree.  What a boring world it would be if we all had the same thoughts and ideas.  That would be no fun at all.  If people disagree on various issues, it's not personal.

So I was a bit taken aback to read the attached comment on my most recent blog post. I'm about as boring as anyone could possibly be; I have no extraordinary talents, nor do I have any extraordinary vices. I'm sort of like tapioca pudding -- bland, squishy and a little bit lumpy. It always surprises me when folks log on anonymously and leave snide remarks that are aimed at me, and really have nothing to do with the post. It puzzles me, and the first thing that comes to my mind is that the comment says more about the commenter than it does about me.  Why would anyone -- even under the guise of anonymity -- want the whole world to know that they're really a nasty person?  It makes no sense.  I don't make a habit of intentionally hurting people's feelings.  I'm sure I have done it unintentionally, but never with intent.  It would not make any sense to me to do that, and as Data on Star Trek used to say, "That does not compute".   Do folks who leave snotty comments get some sort of a rush?  "Oooh, that was a zinger..."

Beats me...

To whomever left the comment, I was never imitating anyone -- just so you know.  Often people feel self-conscious when they're speaking into a recording device, and we never really sound like ourselves.  I am always shocked to hear my voice.  "That's me?" And often we don't recognize ourselves in photographs or videos. "Who's that?" For that reason, I will never use Skype. No thenk yew...

It's always difficult for us to see ourselves as others see us; often we are not what we think we are.  But when it comes to personal comments about other people, a little kindness goes a long way.  Or as Thumper said in Bambi, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all".

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Once Upon A Secret

Raise your hands, any of you folks who have ever heard of Mimi Alford. None of you?  No, I hadn't either until now. She is the latest woman to come out of the woodwork to write a book about her affair with President Kennedy.  Mimi Alford (then Beardsley) was a 19 year-old intern in the White House, who claims to have lost her virginity to President Kennedy, and says she had an ongoing affair with him for a year and a half.  She is now a grandmother, a retired church administrator, and has written a book called Once Upon a Secret.  Odd name for a book, if it's a secret.  And why did she write about it now?

I have never been able to understand how some people feel perfectly comfortable airing their soiled laundry.  Maybe I'm sort of obtuse, but whatever happened to discretion?  What does this woman have to gain, writing a book about an extra-marital affair she had with a man 50 years ago?  It can't just be about the money.  It's no secret that JFK was a womanizer, so there may be dozens, perhaps hundreds of women out there who have similar stories to tell as Mimi Alford, but in my opinion, the ones to be respected are the ones who have actually kept their mouths shut.

On the flip side of the coin, for Christmas I received Jacqueline Kennedy, Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy.  What a wonderful book. It comes with a set of CDs of her interviews in her breathy voice.  The conversations are with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and they took place a few months after JFK'S death. In one interview, Schlesinger asked Jacqueline about a pre-inaugural gala that Frank Sinatra had organized, with Hollywood stars such Nat King Cole and comedian Alan King. Jacqueline replied:

"Oh, it was all right. You know it was such a festive evening and I thought the snow was so pretty. The gala -- I didn't really -- and I had to leave half way through it. I remember one -- parts of it I liked -- I remember one thing I thought was so awful, it was a man named Alan King. He was telling all these horrible jokes about marriage -- I mean the wife is a shrew and the -- I just thought that's so sad when comedians do that. But otherwise, you know, everyone was excited."

The book is filled with candid conversations about informal dinners with Sir Winston Churchill, conversations with Nikita Kruschev, Indira Gandhi, Charles de Gaulle, and so many more.  Apparently Kruschev was a clown and a joker, and it was difficult to have a conversation with him, he joked around so much.  Who knew.  President Kennedy was particularly fond of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, and they were very close friends, but neither President nor Jacqueline Kennedy liked Indira Gandhi.  These people are all icons of the 20th Century, and Jacqueline chats about them casually as if they were the folks down the street.  It's wonderful.

Mimi Alford should be just ever so slightly embarrassed to write a book about an affair she had with President Kennedy, if only for the fact that any woman he was involved with must have been held in bas relief as a very distant second -- or third, or fourth -- to the gracious Jacqueline Kennedy. What woman would even want to admit to that?

Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame, Mimi. After half a century, you have managed to make Jacqueline Kennedy look even more refined, gracious and elegant than we remember her.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Ballerinas...

I promised my family I would not post photos of them here on my blog, but I could not resist sharing these with you.  The girl on the left is the mom to the girl on the right.  They are so similar, aren't they?  Look at the feet.  Isn't that a hoot?  Lately I have been feeling rather nostalgic for my family.  When I was a little girl growing up on Vancouver Island my family was everything to me.  I could not imagine my life without my Mom and Dad, my big brothers and my Granny and Grandad.  And yet, as time goes on, my family has been dispersed to the four winds, and creating their own lives and having their own families.  That is the natural way.

As parents, we live in a sort of uneasy trepidation about our children's lives.  We want the best for them and we somehow vicariously project that they would want all the things we didn't have.  But, sometimes it turns out that those are not the things they want at all.  My father, for instance, loved living in a small town, and all the feeling of community that he enjoyed.  When I moved to the city, he said to me, "You won't like it.  In the city, you won't even get to know your next-door neighbour".  He couldn't understand why I didn't want to stay in a small town.  In hindsight, I realize now that he worried about me.  A lot.  Now I find myself doing the same thing about my family.

When our children are growing up, we can protect them from the bogeyman and all of the threats of childhood.  However, when they grow up, we cannot protect them from that big, bad bogeyman known as life.  We can only hope they live well and make the right decisions, not only for themselves but for their families too.  Eventually the time will come -- sooner than they realize -- when their families will spin off into their own independent lives with their own families.  The best we can hope for is that they have a good foundation for this before they do.